‘This Moment, Capture It. Remember It!’:Taylor Swift @ John Paul Jones Arena 03.20.10

The job of a critic is to be an objective observer and report on the events going on around him with an unbiased opinion.

Nope. Sorry, can’t do it. Stop reading right now if that’s what you’re looking for. I paid for my ticket and I am unabashedly, unashamedly a Taylor Swift fan, so what follows is a review that is anything but objective…and very biased.

I’ll start at the beginning, because if I start writing about the headliner, there really is no point in talking about anything or anyone else.

Glorianna is a new band that, through a stroke of luck and with the help of a great sounding debut, landed the spot as the opening act on Taylor’s Fearless tour. They’ve played almost every show, and thus their audience has increased exponentially in a way that can only happen by playing in front of people. Lucky for them, the houses are mostly packed when the show begins. I originally wrote Glorianna off as a ‘minor league version of Little Big Town’, but I came away very impressed by them. They played a tight quick five song set, starting off with their latest hit ‘How Far Do You Wanna Go?’ and ending with their biggest hit, ‘Wild At Heart’. In between they managed to play a few Zeppelin riffs, even fitting in a chorus of ‘Black Dog’. All in all, a good start to the evening.

Kellie Pickler is quite a story. She has come a very long way from the gawky, naïve sounding contestant on American Idol. She’s now a full-fledged star, with the songs and the talent to back it up. Looking gorgeous in a black tank top, very tight leather pants and extremely high silver heels, she sang her hits and talked to the crowd in the same easy going manner she’s always had. It seems that no matter where she is, be it on a TV talk show, on a tour bus or on a stage in front of thousands, she seems very approachable and appreciative of her success.

The first surprise of the night came during her set when she sat on a stool center stage to sing the song ‘I Wonder’, written as a note to her mother who abandoned her when she was two years old. I’d heard the song several times before, but hearing it live, with the audience almost quietly singing along, it was a very moving moment that caught me off guard. She closed her set with the crowd favorite ‘Red High Heels,’ thanked the crowd and made a quick exit.

Now, a word about the crowd. I knew going in that this crowd was going to be made up predominantly of young girls and their parents and, yes, that made up about 80 percent of the audience. Do you remember the first artist or band you liked as a child? You never forget your first favorite band, and the fans in attendance last night are at that age where, for them, Taylor Swift means an awful lot to them, and her songs say things that they identify with and can’t say themselves. Fandom at that age is at an intensity that probably is never matched as you grow older. The crowd last night was full of fans with homemade ‘band geek’ shirts [as seen in the ‘You Belong With Me’ video] and signs professing unending devotion, love and thanks. And then there were the screams.

Ah yes, the screams. Nothing matches the sound of over 12,000 young fans shrieking in unequaled excitement. The chants of ‘Taylor! Taylor!’ started right after Kellie Pickler’s set ended; for the next twenty minutes there was chanting, shrieking and screaming, all in anticipation.

And then the lights went down and I’m pretty sure the roof flew off.

Starting with a brief movie describing what it means to be fearless, while also showing a quick montage of Taylor thanking her fans during her numerous award acceptance speeches…at least I think that’s what she was saying, I really couldn’t hear over the screaming, the curtain then rose up, revealing a huge stage with a massive hi-def screen behind it…and then slowly Ms. Swift appeared stage left in the now infamous band uniform to open the show with her hit [and my personal favorite song] ‘You Belong With Me.’

The screams were the loudest I will ever hear, but luckily the band was louder, and the sound mix was impeccable. I admit that I was a bit nervous about what her voice would be like in a concert setting, because her most recent TV appearance [The Grammys] was a train wreck, plus she had done two nights in a row in Philadelphia so, this was the third show in three days.

No need to worry, her voice was in excellent form, with no pitch issues or unsure moments. If there is one thing that Taylor Swift is, she is sure of herself onstage.

After an onstage costume change [the first of many], song number two was ‘Our Song’, and it set the tone for the evening: This was going to be a mutual admiration society sing-along. For the rest of the night, the audience sang along loudly. [I did a bit as well, but honestly I was just happy to watch and listen and take it all in.] Several times, after a song was over, Taylor would stand center stage, twirling the hair and flashing that smile while the audience screamed and applauded. This went on for minutes at a time and, if allowed, I’m sure it could have gone on for hours. She seemed sincere in her response to the adulation. Maybe it’s all choreographed, but I’m not quite cynical enough [at least when it comes to talking about Taylor Swift] to wanna believe that yet.

There were countless highlights for me, but the moment I’ll take away is this: Taylor sung the song ‘Hey Stephen’ on a small stage to the right of the main stage on the ground floor. At least I think that’s where she was, I couldn’t see because she was so low and everyone was standing so, the sight line was obscured. After that song, while her band played an instrumental interlude, Taylor walked from the front of the stage all the way to the back of the arena, where a small mini-stage was setup. Now, I’ve seen other bands do this. KISS did it starting in 1997. Martina is also using a mini-stage on her tour as well. The difference here is, while Paul Stanley [of KISS for those that don’t know] and Martina ‘fly’ above the crowd to quickly reach the back of the arena, Taylor walked all the way back there, hugging and kissing everyone she came in contact with. I timed the return trip, after she performed two songs [‘Fifteen’ and the first half of ‘Tim McGraw’], she took a good fifteen minutes to make her way back through the crowd to hug, kiss, high five and shake the hands of her fans. A woman behind me complained that it was ‘taking too long’ but I could only stand there in awe at this gesture, on a scale I have not seen before. [Yes, Martina does walk back to the stage but she is usually only shaking hands and moving much quicker. Not a diss on Martina at all. This was very different.]

Those fans who were lucky enough to get a hug, especially the young ones, they are going to remember that singular moment for the rest of their life, and I don’t think it’s far-fetched at all to say that those fans are now Taylor Swift fans for life as well. And I bet many of them now will ask mom and dad for a guitar or a keyboard so that they can write what they feel, like Taylor does.

That gesture can’t be topped with any marketing strategy or media blitz. It really was a moment where the wall between fan and artist came down and mega-platinum superstar Taylor Swift was just ‘one of the girls’.

Taylor has learned well from those who came before. She commands the stage and demands your attention, and she keeps it and won’t let go. She’s a pro as a front-woman…and she’s not even twenty-one yet! I’ll also mention here in case you’ve just arrived from another universe…she’s beautiful.

This show truly had everything, and hit a range of emotions. I was happy to see that ‘You’re Not Sorry’ [another personal fave and one of the sadder songs in her catalog] was still in the set and was ‘mashed up’ with a cover of Justin Timberlake’s ‘What Goes Around.’ On those rare moments when I wasn’t watching Taylor, I loved watching the band interact. Fiddle player Catlin Evanson and backup vocalist Liz Huett were dancing around and having fun the whole night. Bass player Amos Heller and banjo player Mike Meadows are both from Charlottesville, Guitarist Grant Mikelson had a stand out solo moment, and guitarist Paul Sidoti has worked with everyone it seems, including KISS. [See, it’s all connected in some way]. Plus there was confetti, a castle and an onstage waterfall.

It was an unforgettable night, one of the best shows I have ever seen by any artist in any genre. It had the excitement of a Springsteen show, and the spectacle of a Vegas show. I had high expectations going in that were met and exceeded.

I already know I was very lucky to have been there, and luckier still that I get to see it all again in June.

Thanks again Eddie for everything.

Setlist from website setlist.fm:

1. You Belong With Me

2. Our Song

3. Tell Me Why

4. Teardrops On My Guitar

5. Fearless

6. Forever & Always

7. Hey Stephen

8. Fifteen

9. Tim McGraw

10. White Horse

11. Love Story

12. The Way I Loved You

13. You’re Not Sorry / What Goes Around

14. Picture to Burn

15. Encore:

15. Today Was A Fairytale

16. Should’ve Said No

Thanks for reading,

Barry [A Taylor Swift fan for life…even though I didn’t get a hug.]


A Day In The Life of a High School Teacher [What I Do, By Meg Thompson Dolle]

I found this note posted on my friend Patrick’s page. I thought it was such an eye opener I wanted to post it here on my page for you to read. Here’s Patrick’s introduction to Meg’s note. –Barry

My very good friend, Meg, teaches English at a high school in Richmond, VA. She recently detailed a typical day in her work life. With her (albiet tacet) encouragement I am trying to get everyone on the planet to read it. This is dedicated to every conservative douchebag who pretends teachers don’t really deserve to be well paid (or are in fact overpaid) because they have “easy jobs.”

Enjoy. And distribute.

“What I Do” by Meg Thompson Dolle.

I often try to explain to non-teachers just what we do that is not teaching. I think I haven’t been able to explain it any better than “planning, grading, and paperwork” in a fairly abstract way. I tend to say things like “all this work piles up” or “dealing with discipline” or something similar. I know I have no idea what BJ’s talking about when he starts talking about ENCOE logs (a name which I’m sure I’m misspelling and probably getting wrong)—so why would anyone else know what I do besides teach?

I have a student teacher who is working quite well independently, so I am now freed from teaching, most planning (I still write the plans for the SAT Prep class, though my student teacher actually teaches them), and I have caught up on grading. And yet, I have have been working constantly for the three weeks I’ve been out of the classroom. Today, I decided to document what I did.

6:30-6:35 Arrival—pick up mail, pick up copies of project description, unlock door to classroom and deliver a library notice for 1st period student

6:35-6:36 Hole punch copies of project

6:36-6:39 deliver holepunched copies and copies of school newspaper to class

6:39 start logging in to the school network (computer is fully logged on at 6:48)

6:40-5:52 pull together parts of today’s SAT plan—partially printed from a plan I typed at home last night, partially taken from a Teacher’s Guide. I pull the plans together to present to the student teacher.

6:53-7:01 discussed the day’s plans with the student teacher

7:02-7:07 respond to a parent email regarding student research paper over confusion the child had about grading of her research paper draft—the child has a 504 plan which extends her deadlines for long projects

7:08-7:12—search for scotch tape for the next thing on the to-do list. There is none in the department work room supply closet. I looked for glue-sticks as an alternative—I find a couple; they are dry.

7:12-7:15—search for scotch tape in my classroom. There is none. No glue either. I find an almost-used-up roll of packing tape.

7:15-7:25 stood in hall (monitoring duty expec ted between all classes. Thanks to my tape-search, I was five minutes late.)

7:25-7:26—arranged makeup study hall session for student who passed me in the hall who was absent yesterday who has not completed ANY steps of his research paper. If he doesn’t do the paper, he has no chance at all of passing the class, and since he’s a senior, that will mean he won’t graduate.

7:26-7:45—used the packing tape to attach statements to index cards—an item needed for an SAT class activity.

7:45-8:00—went to Guidance to follow up on a student who has been accused of sexual harassment in the club I monitor

8:00-8:10—filled out Student Assistance Team referral notice for a student who has been displaying excessive anxiety—she excels on tests but never seems happy about it, doesn’t do major assignments, and I spoke to Guidance about her a couple weeks ago, but she seems maybe worse since then

8:10-8:15—went upstairs to put a sign on the lab door—some kids who missed yesterday’s study hall session in there might try to go there today, and I don’t want them wandering in the halls with no direction

8:15-8:50—Study hall—First, I enter 1st period’s attendance into the computer system (the student teacher doesn’t have access to it.) I pick up the absentee note one student had turned in from yesterday’s absence. Then, I help two students who are far behind on the research paper go step by step through the requirements, how to find research, how to create a Works Cited page, how to organize the assignment.

8:50-8:55—standing in hall (monitoring duty)

8:55-9:03 Bring Student Assistance Team referral to guidance and absentee note to the Attendance office (absentee notes need to be brought physically to the office daily)

9:03-9:23 Writing passes to be distributed for next Tuesday’s study hall session for students who have turned in research paper drafts that were woefully inadequate in regards to the minimum requirements.

9:23-9:28 checked work email. None needed reply, 2 had to be forwarded to student teacher, one with notice about early dismissal of some 1st period students on Friday had to be printed for student teacher.

9:28-9:43 Prep for conference with student and parent this afternoon—pull up grade report on computer and print it out, highlight 0’s and F’s, compile attendance, analyze patterns to discuss with parent

9:45-9:48 Guidance—looking for counselor for above kid, because he currently has a 22% average for the year, and his nine-weeks grade is currently 17%, AFTER I conference with him about needing to show a complete turnaround in order to have a chance at passing. Counselor wasn’t in her office.

9:50-10:00 prep for a conference with a student and parent for tomorrow—same process as above. Patterns are bad, but not as alarming. Looking at the grades and analyzing what assignments are not turned in, and which are failed, I determine the kid does most of his work, but doesn’t do makeup, and appears to simply not put effort into the assignments.

10:00-10:07 Email study hall teacher and counselor regarding the student for today’s conference. I had arranged for him to meet with me in study hall today regarding the research paper, but he didn’t show, and I wanted to know if he were even present in his regular study hall class.

10:09 filed student-teacher-related paperwork

10:10-10:20 Figured out who, of those who missed yesterday’s emergency study hall session, are in the Success program, then checked their grades to see how doing or not doing the research paper was likely to affect their chances to pass the course.

10:20-10:25 standing in hall (monitor duty)

10:25-10:27 discuss research paper with a student, then escort her to class so she won’t be marked tardy

10:27-10:29 check with the Success teacher to ask for a good time to talk with one student—he was in the library, but would come to see me soon

10:30-10:34 discuss progress of student teacher with her university supervisor

10:35-11:00 student from Success program arrives—I discuss with him his goal of passing the class, the fact that it is possible but not without completing the research paper, his frustration with the project (he had not kept track of what the paper was even about), then leading him through the basic steps he needs to complete the paper.

11:11:20—[time not directly spent on teaching tasks—discussion with colleagues regarding current political issues as they impact our school]


11:48-12:05—grading 2 research papers that had various irregularities—they had only been turned in in the proper format today.

12:06-12:15 check work email. Contacted administrator about today’s conference student with all the zeroes, replied to colleague’s question about student teacher, scheduled a parent conference for next Thursday.

12:15-12:20 standing in hall (monitor duty)

I do not have data for the rest of the day—this was then my actual “Planning” period, and I spent this time discussing with my student teacher the day’s lessons, successes and concerns, lesson plans, upcoming requirements, today’s and tomorrow’s parent conferences, how I was making arrangements for coverage for today’s Anime club meeting when we also have a parent conference, as well as dealing with a couple more emails regarding that student and entering the day’s attendance into the computer system.At the end of the day, we had the parent conference with all his teachers, his counselor, and his administrator—which the parent ad the kid didn’t show up for.

A look back at 2009, my year of Taylor Swift [Or, how did this happen?]

[This was written in January, and I figured since I’ll be seeing Taylor Swift in concert this week, I’d post the story of how I became a fan. I edited one name out of the original writing, and the psudeonym chosen is not meant to be disparaging or mean in any way. I just can’t think of a good ‘fake name’ that fit.]

I have been meaning to write this story down since November but, it wasn’t until two friends asked me over Christmas break the direct question, ‘So, how did you become a Taylor Swift fan?’ that I decided to actually get this down on paper.

As usual, it’s a rather involved tale. I’ll do my best to keep it interesting. First, we have to go back a bit.

The first time I became aware of Taylor Swift was actually sometime in the summer of 2007. I was visiting my friend Eddie and his family and, the TV was on one of those Country Music Magazine shows, like Entertainment Tonight dedicated exclusively to the country music genre. There was a brief interview with Taylor on a video set [years later I would come to realize it was for the vid ‘Picture to Burn’ but at the time I was clueless]. I just remember seeing footage of her with her guitar, lip-synching to the audio. I thought, ‘Wow, she’s cute,’ but that was it. The vision and the thought left my mind as quickly as it came.

Fast forward to September 2008; I had begun to watch country music videos very late on Friday nites, just as something to pass the time. It’s been well documented in other notes that I grew up around country music, so, while it was never my first choice, it wasn’t foreign to me. On one of these evenings while watching videos, I saw the video for Taylor’s then new single ‘Love Story.’ I thought again, ‘Wow, she’s cute, and that’s a really good song.’ I saw the writing credit on the video listed her as the only author, so I was impressed, but again, the song didn’t stick with me so nothing more came of it. Life went on as usual.

Now, we move to April 2009. I am in Vegas at a conference for work. The very first seminar I attend is a ‘Think Positive’ motivational piece. It was Tuesday April 7. The speaker handed out sheets of paper and said ‘I want you to take five minutes and write down everything that is important to you and your life, the things you care about, the things you want and desire…the goals you have in your life and your career.’ I sat there and immediately wrote down the words ‘Maddie, mom, Brian and baseball’ and then the only other thing I wrote down, and kept tracing over was the name of a girl I’ve known and loved for years [heretofore, referred to simply as ‘The Girl’ because writing out ‘the girl I’ve known and loved for years’ takes too long]. That’s when it hit me as clear as anything I’ve ever felt before. Not to be cliché, but it was like the line in ‘When Harry Met Sally’:

‘When you find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.’

Only problem was, The Girl was living with someone. So, I kept the revelation a secret from everyone.

Now, we move to May 14, 2009. I am in the office of a retinal specialist. It’s up to him to determine if my retina will be able to withstand the needed eye surgery I was hoping to have in June. I don’t usually get nervous at a doctor’s office but, knowing I would have to find other alternatives to surgery if this doctor said ‘No’ had me on edge. They ran tests, they dilated my eyes…and they had piped in music I couldn’t control. So, I sat there in the dark waiting for them to come back to run more tests…nervous and on edge just a bit. I heard a radio DJ say, ‘and now the latest hit from teen pop sensation Taylor Swift, You Belong With Me.’’ At that point I was pretty much a captive audience.

As I listened, I remembered the two other instances where I ran across Taylor Swift, and I thought, ‘This is another catchy pop tune, good stuff.’ Then, the song got to the bridge…and my entire relationship with The Girl was summed up in five lines that took 18 seconds:

‘Oh, I remember you driving to my house in the middle of the night / I’m the one who makes you laugh when you know you’re ‘bout to cry / I know you’re favorite songs and you tell me ‘bout your dreams / Think I know where you belong / Think I know it’s with me. ‘

The song stuck in my head for the rest of the day, then for the next week, what I could remember of the song played on an incomplete loop in my ‘cerebral jukebox’ so much so that at the end of that week, I downloaded the album ‘Fearless.’ I decided to download the album instead of just the single ‘You Belong With Me’ because ‘Love Story’ was also on that album. I figured if I liked at least two of the songs, it was worth checking the other 13 songs out.

Now we move to early June. At some point the first week of June, I saw the video for the song ‘You Belong With Me’ and I loved it. That same week, The Girl and I had a conversation [via text as we always do] that changed things. I asked her point blank if she was happy with her current relationship. She said she was. Even though I didn’t believe her, I took her at her word, and did my best to move on.

Suffice to say, it became clear that, of all the things The Girl and I may be to one another, we would never be a couple. Despite my hopes and my best effort, it wasn’t going to happen. It took me a few days to get over that, and the one thing I kept going back to and listening to, was Taylor’s “Fearless” album. There’s a journal entry of mine from July that says simply: ‘My relationship with The Girl in three songs. 1) What it started out as: ‘You Belong With Me’. 2) What I wanted it to be: ‘Love Story’. 3) How it ended: ‘You’re Not Sorry’. It’s no coincidence that those three songs, in that order, remain the three most played songs on my iPod, by a wide margin.

So, the relationship I wanted with The Girl was more or less over at that moment and I needed something else to focus on, something positive that made me smile. And that’s when I threw myself into being a Taylor Swift fan. I downloaded her debut album, bought the Christmas EP on eBay [it was out of print in the summer, only to be re-released this past October]. I bought the out of print ‘Beautiful Eyes’ CD/DVD package from a seller on Amazon and downloaded any videos I could find on YouTube and iTunes. Was it an obsession? Some might think so but I prefer to think of it as a needed distraction when I was dealing with a broken heart and a bruised ego. And, in the end, if the songs weren’t any good, I really don’t think I would still be listening to them. Luckily, most of them are very good.

In late August, I was looking at Taylor’s tour itinerary. Every show was sold out but tickets could still be obtained thru StubHub. She had a show scheduled for Labor Day weekend in South Carolina. I already had a trip planned to visit a friend in Jacksonville, Florida that same weekend, with plane ticket bought and plans made. I ended up going to Florida, but for several days, I thought long and hard about bagging that trip and going to South Carolina instead to see Taylor in concert.

Happily, her management, knowing a good thing when they saw one, decided to add dates to the tour starting in February. Tickets went onsale in October for two shows relatively close; Charlottesville in March and Washington, DC in June. I was lucky enough to get tickets to both shows, and both shows sold out in less than five minutes. I thought I would have to convince a friend or talk someone into going with me, since I don’t drive, but once Eddie [who was there at the start of this whole thing when I first saw Taylor in 2007] heard about the shows, he was eager to attend.

This past year, really since Christmas 2008 when I asked for a Buck Owens box set for Christmas, I have listened to a lot of country music that in the past I would have ignored. Some people, including my brother, don’t get it. That’s okay. I still listen to my first love, KISS, but since that day at the doctor’s office in May, I’ve had a steady diet of Taylor Swift music. It got me through a very rough patch and, no matter my mood, it continues to make me smile.

What more can you ask of music?

Thanks for reading,



Martina McBride and Trace Adkins @ Richmond Coliseum 03.12.10

I wrote at great length about the first show I saw on this tour back in January, so I won’t add a lot. I had another great time with Eddie, and the shows were more or less the same, except for some minor changes.

It’s no secret that I bought tickets to see Martina, but I have to say that I truly enjoyed seeing Trace Adkins put on a show. I’ll gladly see him in concert if he comes back around by himself or as part of another package tour. He had one setlist change from the Fairfax, VA show, omitting ‘All I Ask For Anymore’ and playing ‘Hillbilly Rich [with a chorus of the hit ‘Hillbilly Bone’ thrown in]. Trace also played a brand new song that has not been recorded or released yet called ‘Hell, I Could Do That’. I’m sure it will be released on his next project.

Martina is still amazing to see onstage, and she’s truly come into her own as an arena performer, able to engage everyone no matter where their seats are. Still though, it’s her voice that dazzles. Be it blasted through a loud PA with guitars and drums behind, or sung quietly with a single acoustic guitar, her voice never disappoints. Her setlist didn’t change much, except the order was moved for two numbers and, for the encore we heard two covers [‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and ‘Summer of ‘69’] while in Fairfax we heard only one [Livin’ On A Prayer’].

Thanks again to Eddie for seeing this show with me. Happily, the travel to this one was far less eventful than the last time, and we got home at a decent hour!

Thanks to Martina and Trace for not skipping Richmond, a town that loves its country music.



They Might Be Giants @ The National 03.11.10

Thanks to my friend Patrick, I’ve seen They Might Be Giants [TMBG if you’re in the know] at least 15 times since the mid 1990’s, maybe more but I lost count. I had not seen them in concert though since a show at the now defunct Toad’s Place in October 2007, so, I was really looking forward to seeing them again at what I consider to be the best live music venue in the city, The National.

That it was a show where the classic ‘Flood’ album would be played in its entirety was simply a nice bonus.

John Flansburgh and John Linnel and their bandmates opened with ‘Meet The Elements’ and then, in a truly strange move, they played the opus ‘Fingertips’ second! Now, if you’re familiar with the album ‘Apollo 18, you know that ‘Fingertips’ closes that record, and is actually twenty-one ‘songs’ that are each about ten seconds long, so it makes for a very disjointed but fun listen. I’ve seen TMBG play ‘Fingertips’ as an encore several times, and the crowd is usually in on the fun and singing along. Hearing it as the second song in a set though left me with my jaw open in surprise; I know and love the medley, but it was just played so early I don’t think the crowd knew what to do with it.

After a few more songs from newer albums, it was time for ‘Flood’ to begin…or in this case end, as the band decided to play the album in reverse order, starting with ‘Road Movie To Berlin’ and ending with the hit ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’. That made things interesting.

Anytime you play an album in its entirety that’s not a concept album, it’s going to lead to some strange pacing for a live show, but to their credit, TMBG always kept it fun and entertaining, even if they may be tired of playing these songs [which are now twenty years old] when they’ve written material since then that, in some cases, is better.

But, these are the songs the fans want to hear [except maybe for ‘Hot Cha’, but that’s just me]. Highlights included ‘Sapphire Bullets of Love’, a song I’ve only heard them sing live at a ‘Flood’ show. Really, this song should be featured in their live set more often; one of my favorites by them. Also, before they ‘flipped’ the album over to play side one in reverse order, they played ‘What Is A Shooting Star’ with the help of two very cute sock puppets. Perhaps though the highlight of the show and the memory I’ll take away from the night was when they began ‘Lucky Ball and Chain’, and Flansburgh truly forgot the words. They tried it twice and each time he sang the last verse lyric instead of the opening verse lyric. ‘Should we move along?’ Flans asked Linnel. ‘Yes we should.’ And with that they tore into ‘Birdhouse.’

So, it may not have been the entire ‘Flood’ album [hopefully Flans gets the teleprompter he asked for in time for the next ‘Flood’ show] but it was a very fun, nostalgic evening.

I must also mention the opener for the evening’s show, Jonathan Coulton. He played a great set of humorous songs with lyrics featuring robots, zombies, dolls and the pains of adolescent love. I did not know who he was before the show, but now I wonder how I missed out, and I’m a fan for life. I bought his live CD/DVD at the merch table, and I can’t wait for him to return.

So it was a great show, with two great acts at a great venue. Seems since Richmond got The National, more and more of those kinds of nights are happening. I can’t wait for the next one.



Theatre Review: CRUMBLE (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake) by Shelia Callaghan

Now playing at The Firehouse Theatre is a production that I promise you is unlike anything else you’ll see in the city of Richmond. The Firehouse has always been a haven for funky, thought-provoking theatre and, ‘CRUMBLE (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)’ carries on in that fine tradition.

At its heart, ‘CRUMBLE’ is a story of neglect and disrepair. Janice [Christina Billew] is ‘a cantankerous, tedious pre-teen with bad hygiene and a mouth like a trucker’ and her Mother [Jen Meharg] is a woman ‘so deep in sorrow she can’t see past her nose.’ Janice escapes daily to her room to listen to music on headphones, dream of Justin Timberlake [played by Matt Hackman] and argue with her dolls. Mom busies herself cooking gourmet meals that her daughter won’t eat and dreams of Harrison Ford. They live in a rundown apartment house that at one time was a mansion but is now in great disrepair [personified by Frank Creasy]. While they all share the same space, each character almost always speaks in monologue, which suits the isolationism and alienation that every character is dealing with.

The Apartment speaks of past tenants and past glories while tolerating Janice and her mom. Janice and her mom are dealing with the loss of a loved one and, basically they don’t speak when they don’t have to. Mom leans on her sister Barbara [Lisa Kotula] for advice on how to ‘handle Janice’ but Barbara is as broken and lost as her sister.

The show is dark and it will make you think, it might even make you cringe. But, it’s not all bleak and dreary. The show has some very funny moments…just don’t expect the froth and sugar you might see at another local theatre.

I’ve not seen anything quite like this show. I highly recommend this if you’re a daring sort who’s looking to be challenged and pushed. The performances were great. Creasy provides the comedy just when the audience needs a moment to exhale, and Billew’s Janice is achingly nuanced and yet child-like in her excitement and wonder.

The overwhelming lesson I took away from seeing this show is quite simple to say, but at times difficult to execute: Parents, TALK TO YOUR KIDS!! No matter their age, or if you think they’re ‘fine’ and handling things well, TALK TO YOUR KIDS. You never know what they might be doing alone in their bedroom. And, the advice goes both ways: Kids, TALK TO YOUR PARENTS!! No matter how uncool you may think they are, or how unfair you may think they treat you, talk to them. They need you, and even if you don’t believe it now, one day you’ll realize you need them.

Say something before it’s too late.

[Directed by Bill Paxton. Playing weekends now thru March 20. Tix $25. Curtain at 8pm Thurs-Sat and at 4pm Sunday. http://www.firehousetheatre.org or 804.355.2001]

Barry Hall