Monthly Archives: April 2011

Getting Real about the Railroad Revival Tour

The Railroad Revival Tour kicked off last Thursday right here in Oakland, and I was lucky enough to score a ticket: Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show, traveling exclusively in vintage rail cars, playing concerts at six unique outdoor locations along the route.

The scene: Middle Harbor Shoreline park in West Oakland. The patches of grass brimming with hipsters and hippies. I stood in a sea of cowboy boots, feathers, and frayed  suede. Behind the stage, the famous Oakland cranes towered in the distance. To my right the the San Francisco bay, the water shimmering as the sun descended, the Golden Gate Bridge aglow in the distance.

Old Crow Medicine Show kicked off the show with a high energy set which had me two-steppin’ up a storm. Out of the three bands, I’m least familiar with their music but boys can break it down. Their energy is contagious and their musicianship undeniable. I also was surprised to learn that there are in fact no women vocalist in that band. Listen to the harmonies in Wagon Wheel and you will know what I mean.

Next to take the stage was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, which was the band I was most looking forward to seeing. They eased from sound check right into Up From Below, and so the magical journey began. Maybe they didn’t really have a set list in mind when they began and that’s why they kept asking the audience what they wanted to hear. Maybe lead singer Alex Ebert wasn’t sufficiently warmed up and 40 Day Dream literally came to a halt as he tried to reach for the high note. And maybe he stumbled on stage disoriented as if a large lily pad had unfurled and he had just dropped down from it. His hair was barely contained in a messy high ponytail and it threatened to topple down every time his lanky body swayed from side to side. He was dressed like a cross between a guru and cult leader. But none of that mattered. It was impossible to take your eyes off of him. I was ready to follow. And so he led me through all of my favorite Edward Sharpe songs, he slowed them down, he sped them up, he changed the words, he tweaked the melodies. And I followed willingly singing and dancing my little heart out.  It all ended with Home. They knew the audience was waiting for it and they delivered. The backdrop to that famous whistle intro happened to be the sunset on the water so yeah only mildly epic.

Mumford and Sons closed the show. Their harmonies were pitch-perfect. The lead singer’s voice is sultry and scratchy and smooth all at once. Like buttah. My only complaint with this band is their songs start to sound the same after a while. There is the slow start, then we speed it up, crank up the banjo, crescendo and then back down then up again. It’s a bit predictable and formulaic, having said that, they have absolutely perfected the formula. The lead singer asked us several times if it would be alright if they played us some new songs. The British, they are so polite. The new songs were actually a highlight for me, demonstrating that they are in fact beginning to stray from the formula and it’s fantastic. The best part of their performance however, was the banjo player’s hip thrust. I’ve never seen such suggestive dancing from a man with a banjo.

you have no idea what I can do with this banjo

The show ended with all three bands on stage singing “This Train”. You could tell they were having such a fun time with each other, and it was so fun to watch I didn’t want it to end. I was ready to jump on that train and follow them across the country. Best concert of the year thus far.

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Getting Real about turning 27

27 is not usually considered any sort of special milestone. At most it marks the official entrance into the “late 20s” category, which of course is nothing to write home about. I also had a co-worker tell me that I should really hurry up and line up some sort of husband situation soon because, “21, 22, you look nice, boys like you, 25 pretty good still, 28 (insert something like a fart noise here), over. no good.” So I guess in addition to entering my late 20’s, I’m also now one year away from my “expiration date”. Luckily since I still get mistaken for 19, I think that technically means I have 9 more years?

Jokes aside, 27 feels pretty in-between. Cue Britney’s, “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman”.

I’m over the novelties of marathon drinking although I still haven’t learned to say no to that last drink of the evening even though I know I will be sorry…but at least I have stopped eating burritos the size of a small child at the end of the night.

My collection of “going out” shirts has dwindled and on a related note I no longer set foot in Forever 21. Now a nice little Saturday shopfest consists of accompanying my girlfriends to West Elm to help them pick out throw pillows for their couch (based on a carefully selected color scheme). Maybe swing by Ikea afterward, I don’t know, don’t know if there will be enough time.
(But who are we kidding there is always time for Swedish meatballs).

I still tear it up on the dance floor in my skinny jeans on a Thursday night when the opportunity presents itself, but I don’t feel bad staying at home in my soft pants to watch Hulu on a Saturday night. And let’s face it, while I like to cut loose, footloose, my favorite kind of party these days usually has the word ‘dinner’ in front of it.

I haven’t quite found that empowering sense of self-awareness that comes in the 30’s (or so I’m told), but I’m starting to feel comfortable in my skin. I realize that this schema I have in my head for what it means to be a responsible well-adjusted adult is not actually far from my reality. And it does not have to include cubicles and business casual attire or lack mid-day ice cream runs and office practical jokes.

But perhaps the best gift of all that my 27th year has brought is that I have finally shed my early 20’s, post grad, what-am-i-going-to-do-with-my-life?!!? angst. I feel comfortable with the idea that it’s not going to be some great epiphany that comes if I just think or work hard enough. It’s not like I will decide who I want to be and what I want to do and then life starts. It’s an evolving concept. And that no longer scares me, it excited me. So here’s to 27, you only get to be a cube three times in your lifetime, you gotta enjoy it.

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Getting Real about April Fool’s Day

April Fools’ Day is like the worst amateur night ever, except instead of a night, it’s the entire day and it’s not limited to a two-drink minimum comedy club. I’m sure you think you’re so clever, you friends who change your relationship status or birthday on Facebook, you professors who decide to say you’ve lost all the midterms and they’ll have to be retaken, you parents who tell your adult children that you’re getting a divorce (not cool, even today), you girlfriends who tell your boyfriends that you’re pregnant, and you coworkers who put signs on the coffee saying “Decaf”. I regret to inform you, but none of that is hilarious and none of that will earn you any high-fives (contrary to unpopular belief, high fives are awesome and never excessive [Ed. note: excessive high fiving is stupes…central]).

As someone who loves playing practical jokes throughout the year, even at the expense of friendships/relationships, I’m just saying, this is the one day of the year when people expect to be tricked. Some people forget throughout the day and still get fooled, I know, but there’s no accomplishment in getting them to believe something stupid for five seconds. If you’re going to try and live up the true spirit of April Fools’ Day, do something above and beyond the bare minimum (example: instead of putting a sign on the coffee, actually switch the coffee in those pots to decaf. It’s not much, but it’s something). If you can’t think of anything to do on that level, don’t do anything. It’s better to not pull a trite practical joke than to, for five seconds, convince your girlfriend that you have herpes.

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