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Thursday, August 22, 2013

In Which Some Thursdays Are Far More Perfect Than Others (spending the day with the Spring Standards)

Okay, so the first time we ever ventured into Kickstarter, a crowdfunding source for music, arts and tangible objects, was to help fund an EP by a Brooklyn-based band called the Spring Standards. I had stumbled upon them and their music via my love of Rhett Miller who happened to produce their first CD, No One Will Know. Both Geo and I fell instantly in love with their harmonies, depth and full sound. We have subsequently backed all of their Kickstarter efforts.

One of the charming things about funding sites like Kickstarter is the clever way bands put together premiums for levels of support. The Spring Standards (James Cleare, Heather Robb, James Smith, heretofore referred to as JHJ), have done some very creative incentives like calling supporters from the road, creating custom videos of thanks, and creating a mix CD of their favorite music. They are youthful, resourceful and understand the importance of connecting with their burgeoning fan base.

As a special thank you for loyal supporters, JHJ (sounds like a law firm, doesn't it) sent an email offering to play house concerts for what they dubbed the Live From Your Living Room series. Needless to say, Geo and I jumped at the chance. Having hosted Francis Dunnery at the house twice over the past several years, we knew exactly how we'd set it up.

As luck would have it, the Pirates were in town playing the Marlins at 12:45pm. JHJ and Noah graciously accepted our offer to treat them to the baseball game at PNC Park. It's still amazes both of us that they readily agreed. I mean, WE know we aren't malevolent, crazy stalkers, but they took it on faith we were made of good stock. Which we are.

Anywho, after a minor miscommunication about the size of their Sprinter, Peggy Sue, we met up with them downtown and hopped in their oversized vehicle to help them find a place to stow Peggy Sue. Again, the four of them could not have been more gracious. I had a great time in the back talking with Heather, while the men-folk hunted for parking. P.S.: These Sprinters are HUGE inside.

Having no luck finding a space in an open air lot downtown, we ended up finding a random lot on the North Shore near the Heinz plant. Fortunately there's a lovely path which hugs the river providing a beautiful vista of Pittsburgh.

Burgh Beauty from the North Shore trail

We had terrific seats on the first-base side, high enough up to be out of foul ball range, but close enough to see the action clearly.

We noshed on salty ballpark fare, drank a variety of liquids, dissed on Barmes for picking Don't Stop Believin' as his walk on music, tried to catch hot dogs and t-shirts shot from cannons, and sweat our asses off. You know, the usual stuff.

selfie before we watch our limbs swell from ballpark sodium overload
(Heather, James Smith, Geo)
(Noah, moi, James Cleare)

just chillin', baby
(Heather and Noah)

I even got to meet up with Jimmy McParkway who happened to be in town and at the game.

nice cock...a doodle

i love this doofus

The Buccos staged an exciting come back mid-game and tied it for extra innings, winning it in the tenth for a sweep of the Marlins.


this never gets old
burghers will understand this
i swear this silly-ass composite is our lucky charm

We all parted ways to sandblast the stench of sweaty humanity from our collective epidermis before the evening's festivities. The band brought along a film crew to document each house concert for a project they plan to submit to Sundance and other festivals.

crew member avec curling stone chapeau
(we have lots of goofy shit)

They interviewed several guests on our big ole nasty porch. Geo and I gave our two cents at the end of the evening, so hopefully through creative editing, we won't sound so drunk and/or incoherent. 

"We like band. They sing pretty. *grunt belch snort*"

The trio of filmmakers were professional, unobtrusive and a lot of fun. I appreciate they took the time to chat with our teenage nephew, Alex, a budding journalist in his own right, and share some of their insights. Alex wrote a terrific blog about the evening here. Give it up for Blogger 2015! Woot! Woot!

The cool thing about house concerts is the lovely sense of community it generates. There's something about food, friends and music that just fits together organically. A modern day salon with far less pretension. 

Lizzie and Heather bonding over juicy melon 

It was a gorgeous night which lent to people sitting on the deck soaking up the remaining sunshine of the day. The band were cool about mingling, noshing and drinking with guests prior to the show. Heather and Regi talked at length about each other's world travels. Later Lizzie and Heather discovered they had a Guster connection in common. While other party goers plotted their own mutual connections. 

Everything fell together. I can't tell you how happy it made me to stand back and watch everyone eating, drinking and getting along so effortlessly. It made my heart full. Geo and I are blessed with amazing friends with whom to share equally amazing opportunities like this particular evening. We are two lucky sons of beeyatches.

Most attendees were unfamiliar with The Spring Standards, but all present were music lovers. They were a giving audience for JHJ's intimate performance. And boy howdy were the Standards OUTSTANDING!!! They joked together, played with the audience and sang beautifully. 

(This was Geo's special request, Sharks. He finally got to hear it live. Thanks, Heather!!)

(courtesy of Amy Crawford, concert photog extraordinaire)

Our Fat Head Joe Biden even made an appearance. Fitting considering two thirds of JHJ are from the great state of Delaware. 

Last year, the lovely blue-eyed one released his fourth solo effort. On it was a song originally penned by JHJ called Picture This. They gave it to Rhett who tweaked it to make it his own. The kids kindly dug into their memory banks to sing their original version, share the story behind it, and launch into some hysterical banter.

(P.S.: I have the aforementioned tote bag. I know. You're shocked. Shut up.)

Here's Mr. Miller's version with Heather as back up, purely for comparison's sake. I swear. ;-)

*le sigh*

And here's the first song I heard that sealed my love for them, Goodbye Midnight.

In concert they each play several different instruments at once. I'm not even kidding. They are tremendous musicians, open and sincere as hell. SEEK THEM OUT, PEOPLE!! You will NOT be disappointed.

cross-dressing Joe Biden says
"If you love America, support the Spring Standards!"
Listen to Joe Biden. It will do your soul good to help these young people realize their life's work. And you might even feel an unbearable lightness of being again. (the BEST Daniel Day-Lewis movie evah!)

Thanks again to James, Heather, James, Noah and the film crew for one truly unforgettable Thursday. Consider us signed up for the next round of house concerts. I'll make mango salsa...

the entire band of jolly men and women

Yeah. Like I said earlier, Geo and I are lucky SOBs.

Monday, August 12, 2013

In Which Vacation Week Starts Off With A Bar Crawl

Okay, so I have to admit that I really like my job. The hours are taxing sometimes, much like the management, but I still love the work itself and those with whom I toil day-to-day. That said...


This past week has turned out to be one of my favorites. Back-to-back weekends packed with friends, family and a mini out-of-town jaunt all wrapped around an amazing mid-week house concert in our dining room. But I'll get to that in the next post.

I hit the vacation gate running on Friday with a trifecta of social activity. First up, the weekly breakfast with my sister, Toni. We've been going to breakfast together nearly every week since she retired last June, to catch up while shoveling egg products in our faces in as many different diners as possible. It's been truly a blessing, and something I look forward to every week. This time we dined al fresco at Pamela's, made famous by President Obama's campaign stop.

i never noticed the person prepping to hurl
in front of the board before

Sufficiently stuffed, we sat on the deck yakking almost until Koffee Klatch time with two of my old college girlfriends. Another weekly event that has become essential for my well-being. We cover all kinds of topics, but mainly we laugh, I get my doggie fix and there's always something chocolatey to go with Heidi's incredible coffee blend.

ghost of klatch past
we are the Billy Jo, Bobby Jo and Betty Jo of Javaville
(ten points extra if anyone other than fellow
dinosaurs get that pop culture reference)

And finally, the finishing touch on the first day of vacation was a pre-wedding bar crawl for one of my favorite coworkers, Kitty. I love her. She fits right in with our goofy, adolescent sense of humor. Kitty is our on-air traffic report/fill-in anchor. She's super talented, and deserves far better than the treatment she receives at the hands of our misguided management. I know we'll lose her one day, and it pisses me off.

Whatever. Anywho, Friday night was our night to cruise the South Side, drink in hand, because I was on vacation the next day and ultimately, it is ALL about me. What? Shut up! I plan it, I make the rules.

Wisely, we booked a hotel room for overnight. First order of business...jumping on the beds, because we're classy like that, yo!

beets, jumping from one bed...
to another

warning: weak bladders ahead

oh c'mon. you knew we'd go there

Then off to what has become my FAVORITE bar in the entire city, Nadine's on 27th. 

middle-agers mecca right here
(that's right. i'm living to 106, a-hole)

It's basically a narrow rectangular bunker, but Holy Hell, it's fun and cheap. Like, three-Ketel-One-vodka-drinks-for-$9-TOTAL cheap. TOTAL!!!! Come to Momma. 

It attracts a yinzer crowd, but fun yinzers who aren't afraid to hunker down at the bar, blast Journey from the jukebox or make friends with a bunch of chicks less than an arms length away. 

second round's on Donny
(seriously have not had anyone pick up
drinks for decades)

with Donny, our benefactor for the evening

glasses are smaller than they appear
(but not the eyewear)

drop it! drop it!
kitty, trying to stop hiccups
you thought it was about farting, didn't you?

pirate parrot headgear pilfered from a patron

We were having a blast and had a nice buzz going on thanks to Big Donny buying us drinks all night, but it was time to move on. In hindsight, we should have just stayed at Nadine's. By the time we found a place to park near 12th three hours later, or so it felt in drunk-time, we were famished.

mmmmm... pizza good

This ratty pizza shop is a veritable gold mine at 11pm on a Friday. I couldn't even tell you what it was called, but DAAAAMN it was tasty! The perfect pit stop before Bar 11.

ladies and gentlemen,
the sensory overload that is bar 11

Bar 11 is a place one should only walk into once one is sufficiently inebriated. Otherwise it would just seem cacophonous and stupid. The drinks are large, the surroundings are overstimulating and Dude, they give you free candy necklaces.

As soon as we got near the bar, a twelve year-old came up to us and asked if we were all sisters. He should have stopped there. But no, no he didn't. He then asked Kitty if she was with her mom. Kitty looked him square in the eye and told him we were lesbians, thinking that would get him to leave us alone. But nooooooo. Instead he started screaming to the strangers around him, "Hey! They're lesbians!!"

And that's when we knew we should have stayed at Nadine's.

kitty's new lesbian third eye

fraudulent lesbo-a-go-go

stealthily place stick on random dumbass's dumb ass

screw all y'all youngsters
i'm having a big ass cocktail, heavy on the plastic toys

Making the best of it, we picked up blank name tags from the bar and scribbled on them with black light reflective marker, Gay (for Beets), I'm with my mother (for Kitty) and I'm the Mutha (for me). Not to be outdone, a fourteen year-old came with this highly effective pick-up line:

14y-o: You look like my Aunt Debbie from Shaler
Me: Oh. Okay.
14y-o: She's really cool.
Me: Okay.
14y-o: No really, you do. Hrhusg gurble hrshyul blah blah mrysufsh
Me: What?!?
14y-o: Rhsurhgah hmnshry
Me: WHAT?!
14 y-o: By the end of the night, you and me are gonna get a tattoo!

Because of course I would get a tattoo with him, a total stranger who thinks I look like his decrepit old Aunt Debbie from Shaler. Why not. It makes perfect sense.

the aforementioned 14 year-old
with "Aunt Debbie" and her friends

In spite of the toddlers giving us shit up front, we managed to have fun the brief amount of time we spent at Bar 11. The main thing was Kitty had a blast at her girls' night bar crawl. But seriously, the next time I get the brilliant idea to move on from Nadine's, slap my ass and call me Aunt Debbie.