it’s monday! what are you reading?

It’s Monday, what are you reading? I’ve sort of been reading. I listened to Missoula by Jon Krakauer on audio this week (review coming soon). I am DNFing Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance. Other than that I’ve been dabbling a bit with a few books: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen KingHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, and The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood (but I had to return my library copy before I was done, tears!)

I also have a couple audiobooks on tap next for our Thanksgiving travels: One More Thing by B.J. Novak and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (a reread for me, new for Nick). Looking forward to that one ready by Tony himself!

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We’ve been getting out and about a lot since Nick’s last trip. We hung out in the 39th Street restaurant row area last night, and today we had lunch with friends at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que (Nick will insist it’s “Oklahoma Joe’s,” forever and always… but I like the name change! anyway). Last weekend I played a Civic Orchestra concert, and we saw comedian Chris Hardwick perform live at the Midland. He’s the host of Talking Dead and The Nerdist Podcast, and we especially love him on @midnight. We had fourth-row seats—awesome to be so close! I had never seen stand-up before. It was really great and hilarious! At one point, Chris was talking about the Walking Dead at one point and I was laughing out “haha no! haha”… I caught his attention and he asked me “No? What no?” uuuhhhhh…. I was reacting to something about Glenn’s fate and Maggie being pregnant, and I yelled out something stupid about it, of course…! It was ridiculous and I loved it.

Anyway! What are you reading this week? Happy Thanksgiving!

set this world on fire

Slash (© mylittleheartmelodies), 10/16/15, Fillmore Auditorium, DenverNick and I celebrated our 5-year wedding anniversary on October 16. Concerts were a big part of our anniversary always, starting on our actual wedding DAY; after the courthouse ceremony and dinner with family and friends who were in town, I played a concert with Civic Orchestra. The second year… I played a concert with Civic! The third and fourth years we were apart—I was at a funeral one year and he was away at a composer residency the next (and I went to a Yo-Yo Ma concert in KC). So THIS year, for our fifth, we decided we needed to do something awesome, and seeing SLASH live in concert was absolutely the most perfect way to celebrate.

Nick got World on Fire last summer, Slash’s latest CD featuring his new band, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Nick was a composer fellow at a music festival for the month of July, and for some reason I just felt like giving this CD a spin. I fell in LOVE. Seriously just went crazy for it and could not stop listening. I had it in the car on repeat for weeks. I played it at least once a day in full at my desk during work. I watched all the YouTube videos I could find. It’d been a long time since I was so obsessed with an album—years. I couldn’t help look up Slash online and saw he was still touring World on Fire, but sadly he wasn’t coming through KC (of course we missed him at the Voodoo Lounge here in summer 2014! We didn’t know about the album then, though). The closest options were Louisville (midweek, not good), Minneapolis (weekend, but sold out and we had a conflict in KC anyway), and Denver… ON OUR ANNIVERSARY, Friday, October 16. We looked at our calendars and saw no conflicts, so we went for it.

That Friday night, we got to the Fillmore Auditorium at 5 pm and got in line. We were among the first people there—the doors didn’t open until more than two hours later. First things first, as soon as we got in there we bought matching tour shirts, then found a spot close to the stage. The opening band, Raven Eye, was decent but we were just so pumped for Slash we could barely hold onto our patience.

The Conspirators set was SO AMAZING. Again it’d been years since I’d been to a concert like this, getting as close as possible to the stage; this was a much-needed night of rocking out. The band played a lot of tracks off World on Fire, of course, but also mixed in songs from Apocalyptic LoveSlash, and several Guns N’ Roses tunes and even a Velvet Revolver tune, too. Here’s the set list:

1. You’re a Lie | 2. Nighttrain | 3. Avalon | 4. Standing in the Sun | 5. Back from Cali | 6. Wicked Stone | 7. Too Far Gone | 8. You Could Be Mine | 9. Doctor Alibi | 10. Welcome to the Jungle | 11. Beneath the Savage Sun | 12. Mr. Brownstone | 13. The Dissident | 14. Rocket Queen | 15. Bent to Fly | 16. Word on Fire | 17. Anastasia | 18. Sweet Child O’ Mine | 19. Slither (with Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love”) | Encore: Paradise City

One major thing I loved about this show was that Slash didn’t play everything just exactly as you hear on the albums. He would start off a solo with the familiar strains we all know, but soon would expand on those ideas in epic improvisations that I could have watched and listened to all night. It’s hard to put into words! He really let loose the most during a several minutes-long solo on “Rocket Queen,” which was just incredible.

Not only was Slash super awesome, the whole band was fun to watch as well. Myles Kennedy has just the right type of voice for this music—versatile, melodic, emotionally charged—and it’s clear that he and Slash have an indelible musical chemistry that I hope lasts for many more years. The other members of the Conspirators were equally cool. Bassist Todd Kerns stood out, though, singing lead on “Doctor Alibi” and “Welcome to the Jungle.” I really wish we had been able to catch one of his picks he tossed out to the crowd!

It was a night to remember—I was still buzzing about it for days after (still now, even!). I almost can’t believe I finally got to see Slash, a living guitar legend that, as a musician and guitar nerd, I’ve admired for years. It was such a thrill. And I couldn’t have imagined a better way to mark our fifth anniversary; there’s no one else I would have rather experienced it with than my rock star husband. 🙂

it’s monday! what are you reading?

WELL. How is it possibly the end of October already?? So much has happened and IS happening. This time of year is always busy. I have been reading a bunch, but hardly finishing anything. One thing I did finish that I’ve been working on the past month is this drawing, a gift for my husband for our 5-year anniversary on October 16:

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Not bad for my first drawing in like six years, eh? Just pencil and paper, nothing fancy. I think it took me about 30 hours. This is a portrait of Werner Herzog, an influential, esoteric filmmaker whose work we enjoy. Nick was at a composer residency the whole month of September, and he said he drew something for me, so I was inspired. It was a great way to pass the time while he was gone, very cathartic and fun to draw again. I realized I had never done a drawing for him, it was about time! I want to draw more!

Rehearsals have started in full, taking me out of the house a few nights a week after work. I’ve also had two family visits and a few concerts these recent weekends… either playing in them myself or ones I’m working for my “day job.” And LAST weekend, my husband and I went to Denver to celebrate our anniversary… with a SLASH concert. It was epic! I have forthcoming posts about the concert and trip planned for this week, stay tuned!

Watching…

ROYALS! It’s so exciting to see them back in the World Series again! Game 1 is tomorrow night here in KC. While I was working on that drawing, I “rewatched” (had on in the background) almost all of The Sopranos on DVD. Damn, that was a great show. Nick and I also recently saw The Martian in 3D at the cinema—better than the book, and the book was great! We’re also getting back into The Walking DeadAmerican Horror Story, and The Last Man on Earth. Happy to see Tandy’s beard is back this season! I have EverestSelma, and Black Mass (even though I didn’t finish the book yet) on my list.

Reading…

Speaking of Slash, I’m still reading his autobiography, Slash. About halfway through at the moment. It’s a bit of a chunkster! I’ve also dabbled a bit in Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot (I don’t kid myself that I’ll be anywhere near finished by the end of the #SalemAlong), and I have a copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last from the library that I’m going to have to renew here soon since I’m only a few pages in so far. Nick and I also listened to the audiobook version of Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari during our Denver road trip.

Listening…

Still really enjoying our turntable. I have a bunch of classic rock records, and Nick is building a decent collection of all sorts of metal on vinyl. Stuff by Slash, of course, with his new band Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators (Apocalyptic LoveWord on Fire), his eponymous first solo album, and revisiting Guns N’ Roses albums like Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion.

This past weekend I dug out my copy of the Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and gave it a listen, after seeing that Friday (October 23) was the 20th anniversary of its original release. I still remembered all the lyrics! My dad took me to see them on this tour in October 1996, their stop at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. What a great show, great memories!

I wanted to jump in on this week’s It’s Monday, what are you reading? despite my not exactly reading (or rather, finishing) much lately. What are you reading this week?

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 went 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!!

john legend

Last night, Nick and I went to see John Legend perform during his #AllOfMeTour at the Kauffman Center here in Kansas City. It was a fantastic performance! I’m so glad I splurged on the tickets a couple months ago. Worth every penny.

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I’ve loved John Legend’s music since my brother introduced me to it about a decade ago, with his first album Get Lifted. I loved it so much Nick and I used “Stay With You” as our first-dance song at our wedding in 2011 (d’aaww). I was thrilled to hear Legend play it live!

Legend’s two-hour set covered tunes from all four of his albums, with the most from his latest, Love in the Future. It was wonderful to hear songs from his previous recordings too, though, and the simplified instrumentation (string quartet, one guitarist, and Legend on piano/vocals) was great. I loved that we had a chance to hear Legend’s piano chops emphasized more in this setting than on the albums—some versions I even liked better! I was glad when the balance was corrected pretty quickly—it was just a touch loud at the start of the concert, and the guitar was completely drowned out.

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Despite Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Center seating 1600 and this concert being sold out (although there were a few criminally empty seats!), Legend was able to make the room feel intimate. I’ve been to other shows in Helzberg where this has been achieved, too, like my recent attendance at Regina Carter’s March show there. He was so charming and down to earth, even trying to coax the audience into a couple of sing-a-longs… however from my vantage point the crowd was a little hesitant and shy on those.

A couple of covers were included (a soulful rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” and gospel-tinged “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel), as well as Legend’s track off the Think Like a Man soundtrack, “Tonight (Best You Ever Had).” Legend introduced “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with an anecdote about musical influences in his childhood, specifically his late grandmother who played organ at their church, and then dedicated the song to her. After all I just went through losing both my grandmothers in the last six months (my last one just a couple weeks ago), this really touched my heart.

Legend saved his biggest hit, currently Billboard #1, “All of Me” from Love in the Future, as his solo encore. So so good. He’s just a solid, expressive songwriter, especially on ballads, but also has range thanks to influences of funk, R&B, soul, gospel, Motown, hip hop, and more. It was an awesome concert!

Top photo: John Legend [source]; other photos © my little heart melodies / Kristin Shafel Omiccioli

first friday look forward: september

Hey there, dear readers! Well, I waited all day yesterday for the Booking Through Thursday prompt, but didn’t see a new one. So I was thinking about what I could possibly post instead… but I haven’t finished a book lately and no new concert reviews at KCMetropolis.org. Hmm. What to do?

So I figured today I will talk about a few things I’m looking forward to in September. In no particular order:

1. Rehearsing with Kansas City Civic Orchestra
We just started rehearsing again a couple of weeks ago after summer break, and this year we have SEVEN BASSES. Seven. I can’t believe it! We are lucky to get four, usually. This is truly unprecedented for a community orchestra around here! Our first concert on October 12 we are playing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, which I haven’t played before. It’s a workout, for sure! (That’s me, principal of the section: front right)

2. Concert season has started!
[Check out all the performing arts happening for the fall at KCMetropolis.org, including my previews for large ensembles and jazz and world music. I wish I could go to everything!] After a long semi-boring summer, I’m really excited concert season has started up again and I can get out to some shows. The last couple of nights I’ve attended Charlotte Street Foundation events, since my husband got a 2013–14 studio residency from CSF. On Wednesday CSF had an event to introduce all the residents, and last night at Paragraph Gallery was the opening night of one of the resident’s projects, an eight-week new music festival. For the rest of the month, I have planned seeing the Uptown Mandolin Quartet at the Lawrence Arts Center, newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, and Owen/Cox Dance Groups performing Petrouchka, at the very least. I’m also checking out what to see on my…

3. Trip up to Madison, Wisconsin
My mom is hosting a little family gathering later this month and Nick and I will drive up for it. I haven’t seen much of my mom’s side this year—I had to miss the other family events for various other obligations, so I’m glad we have a chance now. AND my best childhood friend just had her first baby a couple weeks ago, a little girl, so I’m excited to meet her little one! Also, it has been a while since Nick and I just hung out in Madison anyway. Usually when we go up we make the rounds all over the state to see my grandmothers and other family. That weekend in Madison it looks like there are some great local artists playing around town too like Paul Cebar, the Cash Box Kings, the Madison Symphony Orchestra season-opening concerts, and also some…

4. Festivals!
I LOVE festivals. Didn’t get to nearly enough of them this summer. In Kansas City this month, though, I plan to hit up Art Westport this weekend and the Plaza Art Fair in a couple weeks, and possibly also McCoy’s Oktoberfest (McCoy’s is one of my favorite restaurant/pubs in KC). The festivals we might have a chance to go to in Madison include the Monroe Street Festival and the New Glarus Oktoberfest (New Glarus Brewing Co. Spotted Cow… <drool>). [ETA I just learned that KC is holding its first-ever Cyclovia Festival tomorrow, right near Art Westport. I think I’ll stop by that one, too!]

5. Reading plans
I feel like I’m short on leisure time for reading a bit lately—just getting back into the rhythm of the school year and concert season amping back up—but I do have some reading plans for September that I hope to accomplish. I would like to finish the two I just started, A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison and Big Brother by Lionel Shriver (audio) in the next week or so, and then I have my KC Library Stranger than Fiction book group September pick, About this Life by Barry Lopez to read before our next meeting on Sept. 25. I also bought Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam, which I should get in the mail soon… of course I have to read The Year of the Flood first. AND I am three books behind on my TBR Pile Challenge and one behind on my Eclectic Reader challenge… starting to think I might not complete them :-/ oh well, it’s all about having fun anyway, right?

So that’s what I’m looking forward to this month. Do you have anything fun and exciting planned for September?