hozier at liberty hall

On Monday night I headed back out to Lawrence, Kansas to see Hozier perform at Liberty Hall. I’ve been a fan ever since I first saw his Tiny Desk Concert on NPR last May. When I saw he had a concert coming up just a 40-minute drive away I had to get tickets!

My friend Lee and I got to Lawrence around 5 p.m. After a quick bite we waited in line (which snaked around the corner and down the block) for about an hour. It was pretty cold, but not unseasonable for late February—some kids in line were snuggled up on the ground in sleeping bags! Not quite as cold as a Packer game, though ;)

hozier 2pic 1The opening band, Ásgeir, was okay. A band from Iceland, its sound and vibe was in the same vein as sigur rós and Bon Iver. It was a pleasant enough 25-minute set, but I wasn’t blown away. All the pieces pretty much sounded the same. Today I read more about this band and discovered its kind of a big deal in Iceland, so I’m a little surprised they didn’t have more of an impact.

Hozier and his six-piece band took the stage at about 9 p.m. “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” opened the set, followed by four more uptempo songs including Lee’s favorite (“From Eden,” surely Hozier’s next radio hit) and my two (current!) favorites, “Jackie and Wilson” and “Someone New.” Hozier’s stage presence at a live show is completely different than what I’ve seen on TV—he’s much more energized and engaging live, though still possessing a modest, earnest demeanor.

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The pacing of the concert was just a little awkward in spots, especially placing a few solemn and solo tunes right in the middle (“In a Week,” “Like Real People Do”). “In a Week”—a voice duet plus acoustic guitar, Hozier performed this one with his cellist Alana Henderson—was stunning and held the crowd spellbound. “Illinois Blues,” a Delta blues legend Skip James song which Hozier explained was an inspiration to him when he first started learning music, unfortunately was a dud in the eyes of the crowd. I loved it, though! It really showed off Hozier’s fingerpicking skills and depth of musicianship. I think I might have been the only person in the room singing along to that one…

Saving the pièce de résistance for last, closing his set with his massive hit “Take Me to Church.” The crowd with bananas for it, as expected. Personally, I can take or leave this song by now—I’m over it, and judging by his slightly phoned-in performance it appears Hozier might be as well. It’s certainly not the best song on his debut album! Not even close.

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After a short break, Hozier returned for a short encore set, which included “Cherry Wine,” “Run,” and the Amerie cover “1 Thing.” Is there anything this man can’t turn to gold?? His cover was better than the original by leaps and bounds. If Hozier doesn’t have time to come up with new material because of his ridiculously intense touring schedule this year he could release an album of covers next—I’d buy the hell out of that.

It had been a long time since I attended a rock concert like this, and I while I had a blast on Monday night and Hozier put on a great show, I remember now why I don’t go out of my way much for them anymore, especially for new, hot artists. Hozier is so much more than the pop machine through which he’s currently being fed. That voice—swoon! I think he has real, natural talent and depth that you just don’t really see much in pop anymore.

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But, you have to play the game, and you “have to give the people what they want,” as the saying goes, so Hozier did just that. He played every track off his debut album, plus a couple of extras associated with the album, in exactly the way you hear them on the album. I just wanted a bit more performance-wise—he’s obviously got the guitar and vocal chops, why not rock a wailing guitar solo or two? Why not spice up a last chorus with some melodic variance? Of course, that said, I don’t know him and I don’t know whether he likes or wants to improvise at all, but I’d be surprised if not given his propensity for traditional blues, gospel, and old-school soul and R&B.

He was really fantastic in person, and I loved seeing more personality come out in his live show (and I LOVED that he totally ignored the ridiculous, desperate shouts of “I love you, Andrew!” “I love you more!” HAHAH shut down!) He was classy, charming, and an excellent showman. If you have a chance to catch Hozier on tour this year, don’t hesitate!!

top ten tuesday: heroines

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, a fun way to get yourself thinking and sharing about books and bookish things.

February 24: Top ten heroines

What a great topic for Top Ten Tuesday: favorite heroines! The ladies at Broke and Bookish said your heroines could come from books, movies, or TV, but I decided to go with books because I missed this topic last time around. I sort of stretched my choices too—it’s hard for me to call a fictional character a “hero” for me because, while they can be heroic in their stories, real-life inspires me so much more. I enjoyed these ladies in the literature realm but they’re heroes to me beyond their books. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

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Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance (my review). She is just the best. I loved her book and I love her tenacity and dedication to her causes.

Rachel Maddow, Drift (my review). Okay okay, she’s not in the book—it’s not a memoir. But Rachel is also amazing in how she tells it like it is and calls BS when she sees it.1

Lizz Winstead, Lizz Free or Die (my review). Her memoir had me crying at the end. Lizz co-created The Daily Show, and she’s an activist for women’s rights. So awesome.2

Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist (my review). Reading Roxane’s collection of essays a couple months ago opened my eyes to differing perspectives of issues I’ve wanted to learn more about, and I really admire her coolness and style in handling haters.3

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Julia Child, My Life in France. Who doesn’t love Julia Child? She had a fascinating life and is an inspiration to people finding their true purpose later in life.

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Maya has a way to be both moving and funny, describing a difficult early life with dignity and grace.

Tina Fey, Bossypants (my review). Brilliant and hilarious! Tina is the greatest and so endearing. I loved reading about her blossoming from a nerdy, awkward kid to an amazing powerhouse comedy writer and actor.

Amy Poehler, Yes Please (my review). Same sentiments as Tina’s book! The best part of Amy’s book for me was how she learned from and rose above her mistakes. It’s hard to admit being in the wrong and ask for forgiveness, and she does so with class.

Who are your favorite heroines (in whatever media)?

[Photos from Goodreads, except 1 / 2 / 3]

it’s monday! what are you reading?

It’s Monday, what are you reading?—a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Wow, last week of February already. It’s been kind of a tough month, just super busy and stressed out. Surprisingly, I’ve been able to squeeze in a lot more reading than I expected. I’m still working on Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley and Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler, but started a couple of others anyway… somehow I ended up with four books on my plate at once again!

Continuing my Ebook Challenge this month I chose Rivers by Michael Farris Smith, a post-apocalyptic novel set in the near future, taking place in the South (US) ravaged by near-constant rainstorms and hurricanes.

Finally, to keep up with the KC Library’s Love on the Rocks Adult Winter Reading Program, I picked up Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. It’s a free-form sort of novella that is taking a little bit of getting used to but I’m compelled to find out to this unnamed protagonist in her marriage and experience of motherhood.

What are you reading this week?

sweetland

The first of several books I put on hold at the library to come through (at the same time…) was Sweetland by Michael Crummey. I was pretty surprised I got it so fast since it was just released a few weeks ago! From Goodreads:

The scarcely populated town of Sweetland rests on the shore of a remote Canadian island. Its slow decline finally reaches a head when the mainland government offers each islander a generous resettlement package the sole stipulation being that everyone must leave. Fierce and enigmatic Moses Sweetland, whose ancestors founded the village, is the only one to refuse. As he watches his neighbors abandon the island, he recalls the town’s rugged history and its eccentric cast of characters. Evoking The Shipping News, Michael Crummey, one of Canada’s finest novelists, conjures up the mythical, sublime world of Sweetland’s past amid a storm-battered landscape haunted by local lore.

There was so much I loved about this book. The characters are all, well, real characters! I was rooting for Moses Sweetland the whole time, and his hesitance about all the change on the island of Sweetland, where his family has lived for generations. It was easy to empathize with Sweetland and his stubborn refusal of the government deal. Change is hard! Especially when you don’t want it. Also, there is something profoundly sad about traditions and a certain way of life dying out. It’s a heartrending story.

I thought the writing was fantastic, too—a certain gentleness to it, poetic almost, while being totally believable. I’m not Canadian, but I imagine the language must be idiosyncratic; it felt genuine and relevant. I thought the story was down to earth and wistful without being overly sentimental. The characters are complex, eccentric, and wholly individual. The first half immerses you in life on the island, and the second half builds to a stunning climax with existential realizations.

The atmosphere of this one also was acutely perfect for the cold, gray weather we’ve been having here lately. I don’t usually have the chance to read brand-new books but I’m really glad this one came through so quickly.

Read from February 13 to 16, 2015.

voice

KCMetropolis.orgA little more about my latest review on KCMetropolis.org:

Last Saturday night, Valentine’s Day, my husband and I went to Overland Park to hear Voice perform on the Performing Arts Series at Johnson County Community College (one of my favorite presenters—it always has a fantastic, fun season). Voice, a British all-women a cappella trio, was a lovely choice for Valentine’s Day. I’m no fan of Valentine’s Day—mostly I think it’s saccharine and disingenuous. We should be showing our love to each other year-round! February 14 is not a significant date in our relationship, at least. Anyway! Voice’s program was neither too sweet nor too sappy; it had just the right kind of earnest sentimentality making for an affecting evening. I enjoyed it and would love to see them perform again one day!

Read my full review at KCMetropolis.org:

top ten tuesday: book-related problems

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, a fun way to get yourself thinking and sharing about books and bookish things.

February 17: Book-related problems I have

Today’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday is a fun one—nothing is perfect, not even reading books. (I know, right??) Here are some book-related issues I face being a bibliophile, in no particular order:

All your library holds coming in at once
This is a new one for me—I wanted to go easy on buying books in 2015, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up reading new books! I went a little hog-wild last month with holds at my local library and wouldn’t you know it, almost all of them became available at the same time. PANIC!

The ever-expanding TBR pile
Forever and always. I’m trying to pare this down thanks to the TBR Pile Challenge but haven’t completed it yet once. Third year’s the charm? Here’s hoping…

Ebooks
I loved having an e-reader at first. All the books in my pocket?? And just a buck a book? So amazing! But sadly I just end up forgetting about them on there—I’m much more of a physical book kind of person. At least science is showing that I’m not alone, but still. I want to knock down my ebook collection a bit this year too, with a challenge to myself. I think I need to be done buying and reading ebooks though, and move entirely back to physical books.

Indecision
What to read next?!? I want to read ALL TEH BERKS at the same time! This one? That one? I really want to love this one, what if I don’t love it? This one is too long for right now, but this one is too short. The struggle is real.

Too busy to read
Regular visitors to this blog know I’m super busy most of the year: I have a FT job, a PT job, and three orchestras in which I play bass, not to mention a family and home stuff and working out and friends and everything else people do on the regular. I often have weeks where I barely can squeeze in 30 solid minutes during lunch to read, especially in the fall and spring.

Interruptions
Now usually it doesn’t bother me all that much to be interrupted in public while reading—like, if they ask what I’m reading or keep it really brief. You’re out in public, after all. But once I was reading during an orchestra rehearsal break (just 10 minutes—you see how desperate and sparse my reading time can become) and another musician came up to me and started a conversation about what a big reader he is and how he tries to read any spare moment he has… oh really? Then you’d know not to interrupt! (smh)

Moving
You know what I’m talking about. The never-ending boxes. Box after box after box. HEAVY boxes. Sometimes rolling luggage bags. Ugh what a hassle. Here’s where ebooks have the advantage.

So many books, so little time
The existential crisis every book lover faces a few times (or more) in their life. Isn’t it both depressing and wonderful to know you’ll never live long enough to read everything you want to read? Isn’t it freeing to realize you can quit a book you’re not loving? (Yes I just figured this out in the last year or so.)

What are some book-related problems you experience?

it’s monday! what are you reading?

It’s Monday, what are you reading?—a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Last week I was able to finish All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and get my review posted yesterday. This was not my favorite read of 2015, to put it kindly. It was well written, just didn’t hold my interest and attention the way I wanted it to. Sigh! After All the Light, I started Sweetland by Michael Crummey right away (it’s due back to the library tomorrow!) and I’m pretty sure I can finish before I have to return it. Hopefully I’ll have the review up by the end of this week.

Next, I need to keep on top of my TBR Pile Challenge! I want to read Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley. My dad bought me a copy when we were visiting Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii last summer, and anyway this has been on my list for a very long time. The author is from the same town in up-north Wisconsin as my dad, Antigo.

Concurrently, I just started Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler on audio for my rehearsal commutes. Set in Wisconsin! I must be a little homesick. ;) I’m only about 15% in but I like it a lot so far.

What are you reading this week?

all the light we cannot see

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr has been a hot book since last summer, and has been on my radar ever since several bloggers I follow started raving about it. This past Christmas I got a copy as a gift, and once I saw Katie at Words for Worms was having a readalong I decided to get to reading it next. From Goodreads:

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

You guys… I don’t know. I wanted to love this so much. I typically enjoy historical fiction, and I really thought this was up my alley. Unfortunately, All the Light just didn’t hold my attention very well. Maybe it was the slow start, maybe it was the length, maybe it was the short (even one-page short, sometimes) chapters, the time-jumping, the alternate perspectives, maybe it was just the timing of this read for me (lots of work/life stuff on my mind at the moment), but I just never got into it.

That said, I loved Marie-Laure. What a great character, as well as her family! I loved the relationship she had with her father, Daniel, and with her great-uncle Etienne. I loved that Daniel was so protective of his daughter, that he didn’t pander to her blindness and dumb things down. Despite her disability, she was able to achieve many great things (usually because she had to, but still). I could have read one book just entirely on Marie-Laure’s story. Werner was a brilliant, conflicted character, but again his storyline somehow just didn’t compel me as much. How is that possible!? The premise is so amazing! Sigh. I wanted more about Werner’s sister, Jutta. She was a dominating presence in his thoughts but barely in the book at all.

The Sea of Flames (the jewel)… yeah. Again, great premise, but just fell short for me. I just didn’t care about Von Rumpel’s quest to find the gem or his obstacles along the way; it all felt like “extra” stuff to me. I wanted to get back to Marie-Laure!

However! All the Light is indeed beautifully written, and I believe it does deserve its many accolades. If you love slow-burning historical fiction, and stories set in Europe during World War II, you’ll like this one.

Read from February 1 to 12, 2015.

mark morris dance group: acis and galatea

KCMetropolis.orgBack in the saddle of reviewing stuff again after the holiday hiatus. Also, I’m pleased to realize last night that this week is my 5th anniversary writing for KCMetropolis.org! A few extra thoughts on my latest review:

On Saturday night Nick and I went to the Kauffman Center for Acis and Galatea, staged by Mark Morris Dance Group. The Harriman-Jewell Series is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season, and so to mark this occasion went in on co-commissioning this production from Mark Morris. It was spectacular! I’m not usually very into Baroque music—I respect it and everything, and it’s pretty fun to play, but I can’t say I sit around and listen to it in my leisure time much. But I was really pleased by the fine treatment of Mozart’s arrangement of Handel’s Acis by the orchestra and choir, made up of Kansas City-area musicians. You would have thought they played together all the time, not just assembled for this one gig.

Acis was pumped up as one of the top events to see this season, and it lived up to the hype. It was a really fun, accessible production that reached across genres—dance, music, art, theatre—that I think almost everyone could enjoy. Congrats to HJS!

Read my full review at KCMetropolis.org:

it’s monday! what are you reading?

It’s Monday, what are you reading?—a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Happy Monday! Well, I tried my best but was not able to finish All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr in time for the Fellowship of the Worms. I still have about 180 pages to go… yikes. But I somehow have the evening free tonight, so I could potentially finish and get in on the discussion tomorrow or Wednesday.

On Thursday last week I finished up the audio for In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell, and posted my review on Friday.

Once I complete All the Light We Cannot See, I’m moving on to Sweetland by Michael Crummey, which I actually got at the library a week or so ago. I’m really looking forward to this one, I’ve heard great things! Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in some reading time this week.

What are you reading this week?