Garbage @ The National 07.25.16

Garbage is back! Shirley Manson is back!

Thank goodness!

 

Monday night saw Garbage’s ‘Strange Little Birds’ world tour make a stop at The National, and the evening proved to be a revelation. After taking a six year hiatus, the band returned to the recording studio in 2012 with ‘Not Your Kind of People.’ Now, four years later, the band has produced what many consider to be their strongest record since their debut album twenty years ago.

 

Lead vocalist Shirley Manson is a tour de force on stage, equal to any male lead singer in stage presence, talent and charisma. She showed the ability to be all at once sexy, sincere and, most importantly SUPER BADASS on stage! Yes there are three other members in the band (Duke Erikson, Steve Marker and Butch Vig, though he’s not touring due to illness, replaced by Eric Gardner), but there’s a reason that the spotlights follow Shirley and the other members are predominantly in silhouette; from the opening number, it’s impossible not to watch her.

 

She’s the epitome of confidence, self-assuredness and ‘Grrrrrrl Power’, which makes it that much harder to believe a decade ago, Manson considered herself ‘finished’ as a performer because, in her words, she ‘wasn’t young or pretty enough’ anymore. Her fans are so glad she was convinced otherwise.

 

Some notes:

• The set was a nice balanced representation of their career, beginning with two songs from their debut and one from ‘2.0’, but the last two records were strongly represented as well, proving that Garbage is not simply a 90’s nostalgia act.

• This show saw the tour premiere of ‘Beloved Freak’ and a dedication to the LGBT Community before launching into a ferocious version of ‘Sex Is Not The Enemy.’ Both songs are very appropriate for the times, given the current political climate.

• The debut single from ‘Strange Little Birds’, ‘Empty’, is a track that stands up well next to any other song in their catalog, and had a hyper energy to it in the live setting.

• I would have loved to see drummer Butch Vig play live, but Eric Gardner filled in admirably. I really hope Butch is able to tour with the band in the near future and his health issues are but a memory soon.

 

The setlist (from setlist.fm):

Supervixen

I Think I’m Paranoid

Stupid Girl

Automatic Systematic Habit

Blood for Poppies

The Trick Is to Keep Breathing

My Lover’s Box

Sex Is Not the Enemy

Special

Beloved Freak

Even Though Our Love Is Doomed

Why Do You Love Me

Control

Blackout

Bleed Like Me

Push It

Vow

Only Happy When It Rains

Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)

Encore:

Sometimes

Empty

#1 Crush

Anything else I write will not convey how great this show was. I’m not one to take pictures at a concert because I don’t like to see a show through a viewfinder or a phone screen. On this night however, I took several hundred pictures with my phone. So, as words now elude me, here are some pictures. 

Girls with guitars ROCK!!




If Garbage stop in your town, go see them. They are proof that rock is not dead. 

Thanks for reading,

Barry

Close Encounters with Graham Nash (07.21.16 @ The Birchmere)

Graham Nash is not someone I had ever planned to see in concert. I knew he was touring behind a new solo album (“This Path Tonight”) but that was it; I never bothered to check for a show nearby. Last month Dana and I were at The Birchmere to see Al Stewart, and that’s where Dana found out that Nash was coming to The Birchmere on July 21. She insisted we go, and even though I knew very little of Nash’s work outside of his nearly fifty year collaboration with Crosby and Stills, I agreed, mainly because I’m always up for a show.  

The evening was all about Dana; she was the Superfan for this show, so whatever she wanted, she got. We arrived just as the doors were opening and then waited indoors for the General Admission seating to begin. On both previous trips to this venue, I’ve asked to be seated before the doors open, so as to avoid a mad rush. Since Dana was insistent on sitting “close”, and even though I was probably the youngest person in the building, I was more than happy to make the same request again. 

Only I didn’t have to. 

As the clock neared six, one of The Birchmere staff (Walter) came up beside Dana, pointed at me and told her “I’m taking him back [to the seating area] now, so follow me!” Suddenly I was being whisked to the back entrance, following two female VIPs, and taken to the main stage entrance. 

Normally when we attended shows at The Birchmere, Dana and I would sit in a booth in the second section of seats, about halfway between the stage and the back of the seating area. On this night, however, as we entered, I told Dana to “lead the way,” and she walked past our normal booth, and kept walking…closer and closer to the stage. She finally stopped when she arrived at a table at center stage and claimed the very first chair as her own. It was literally less than three feet from the front of the stage. 

I was still standing by our usual booth and saw where she was. 

“You really wanna sit that close?”

“Told ya I was gonna get close!”

One of the two female VIPs we came in with heard Dana, then looked at me and said “I guess that’s where you’re sitting tonight.”

“Wow. I never got this close, even for bands I managed!”


Soon after we sat down, we were joined by three fans from Maryland: Vince, Leslie and Roz. We had a great time getting to know them over dinner (Another plus for The Birchmere: if you are there early like we were, you have enough time for a meal and dessert before the show begins.). 
As showtime neared, Dana got anxious and nervous, and left the table twice to “collect herself.” 
How close were we? Dana was able to read the set list resting on the floor in front of Graham’s accompanying guitarist Shane Fontayne’s microphone. 

How close were we? Even when the house lights went down and the stage lights took effect, our seats were so close that Dana and I were bathed in light from the followspot (or spotlight). That marked a first for me. 

Graham walked onstage just after 7:30 and joked “Wasn’t I just here ten minutes ago?” Nash and Fontayne opened with “Military Madness” from his 1971 album “Songs for Beginners”, and followed with a set that included new songs from his latest effort, as well as pop classics he performed with The Hollies. 


Nash didn’t talk much between songs except for the occasional intro. The exception to this was a wonderfully hilarious explanation of the inspiration for the song “Cathedral”, which involved a Rolls Royce, an acid trip and a graveyard. It was moments like this that made the show so enjoyable for me, as someone not terribly familiar with his work, but someone who appreciates a good lyric and a great story. 

If you just simply read the lyric to Nash’s best known composition, “Our House”, you might think it’s not that great:
‘Our house is a very very very fine house

With two cats in the yard

Life used to be so hard…’

But, the reason the song became a hit is both because of the melody and the absolute sincerity in Nash’s vocal delivery. Say what you will about him (and lots has been said), the man means what he says and he believes it. 

Watching Dana watch the show was a lesson in fandom. As she admitted after the show, she ‘cried through the whole thing.’ (Direct quote). I was not aware that Graham Nash was able to induce that type of reaction, but it was fun to witness. 

Vince, Leslie and Roz are all members of the Bowie-Crofton (Md) Camera Club, (www.B-CCC.org) so Roz and Vince had “real” cameras and took some amazing pictures. Also, at show’s end, Roz managed to snag the two page set list on stage in front of Shsne’s microphone. 


Graham Nash is still a singer and writer with something to say. He’s still a protest singer in the classic 1960s model, and these times need the voice of the protest singer, now more than ever. 

Thank you Dana for taking me to a show I would’ve missed out on had you not insisted on going. And thank you for the closest seats I’ll ever have for any show, ever. It was a fantastic experience. 
Thanks for reading 

Barry
(Photos by the author, taken on his phone, not by a member of the B-CCC)

The Sound of Silence — My Broken iPod

No lie, every year for me, the longest week on the calendar is Major League Baseball’s All Star Game week, where no regular season games are played from Monday through Thursday. I survive without baseball in the offseason because I have to, but to yank it away for almost a full week in the heart of summer to play an exhibition game makes for a long week. This year though, this week has been one of the longest ever.

If you know me at all, you know that one of the few things I love/need more than baseball is music. Since 2005, I have primarily used a digital music player to listen, selling almost all of my CDs and vinyl to convert to the digital age. In 2005, I bought a Nomad Zen Xtra Jukebox after my dear friend’s then-current boyfriend brought his to a party. I was fascinated by it and ordered one from Amazon the very next day. I loved it. It was built like a brick, withstood drops (which didn’t happen often) and was reliable and stable. At about 30GB of memory, it took a while to fill up, and I was careful not to repeat songs on the player; if I owned a record by a group and then bought a Greatest Hits collection, any songs from that record that were on the Greatest Hits collection did not get transferred a second time onto the player’s hard drive. Eventually though, in the spring of 2008, the player became so full that it would skip during playback on almost any song. I had pushed it to its limits and I knew I needed something else; a digital music player that had at least three times the capacity of my little Zen Xtra Jukebox.

At first I intentionally tried to avoid purchasing an iPod. Keep in mind, I worked on PCs, had a PC at home, and was a newly Certified Microsoft Technician; seemingly everything in my life was Anti-Apple. But as I did research and asked friends what they recommended, the answer was unanimous: ‘Get an iPod!’

So in July 2008, I bought a 160GB iPod. And thus began my love/hate relationship with Apple and, most importantly, iTunes.
From day one, my iPod was with me, in my pocket; as necessary as my wallet, phone and house keys. I babied it, making sure not to scratch the screen or scuff the case. I think I only dropped it a handful of times, and it never got dropped outside, so carpet was usually the worst surface it hit at high impact. Going from 30GB to 160GB was quite a jump, and I remember spending most of the summer of 2008 in front of my PC, converting my CDs to digital files for iTunes.

In 2010 though, I had my first issue with iTunes. I woke up one day, got ready to sync my iPod before going to work, and my entire iTunes library was gone! Deleted! Erased!! I had to head out the door to go to work, but I was distracted all day, wondering how it happened and how it could be corrected.

The way iTunes works is as follows: iTunes is the master and, when a device is synced to iTunes, whatever is in that iTunes library will be synced to the device, so if your device has more songs than the iTunes library (which was absolutely the case after my iTunes was mysteriously wiped out) the songs on the device will be lost. Had I synced my iPod without noticing that I had zero songs in the iTunes library, my iPod would have been erased as well. Thankfully, I still had my entire library on my iPod. I’ve had a few issues with iTunes through the years, but the iPod device has always been stable and withstood the heavy use I put it through. I eventually repopulated my entire iTunes library by using a great program, ‘iPod to PC’ which takes what is on your device and copies it to iTunes. I have needed to use that program quite a few times to overcome iTunes issues that caused loss of data.

Remember, this is an iPod with the ‘click wheel’ or disc. The Play/Pause button is at the bottom of the wheel and, about a year ago, the Play/Pause button started to fail to respond intermittently. It was bothersome, but after a few clicks, the button would engage and I would go on with things as usual. That was the biggest issue, having to sometimes use a remote to pause the iPod when it was connected to my portable speakers.

Until this week.

Tuesday morning, as I went to connect the iPod to the portable speakers, it was completely dark. Hitting the MENU or SELECT buttons would usually bring it back to life, but it remained dark. I plugged in the speakers and put the iPod in its slot so that it had a power charge. Then the screen lit up and I could see the ‘LOCK’ icon was lit, even though the actual lock button was in the unlocked position, and I have never used the lock feature. I knew instantly that the device was now permanently locked, and no matter how many times I toggled the lock button or attempted to do a ‘hard reset,’ the iPod was not going to respond. I knew this, but even so I kept trying all day at work, hoping letting the battery run down would release the lock (it didn’t).

The iPod: Lit up, but dead inside

The iPod: Lit up, but dead inside

So, for someone that listens to music via my iPod for a minimum of six or seven hours a day, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were very long days. I intentionally removed 90% of music from my phone, mainly because I didn’t want to use iPhone space for things that were already on the iPod. So, earlier this week, going from having 16,500+ songs to about 40 was quite a drop!

Thursday I did some research and discovered that Spotify has an ‘Offline Mode’ where you can listen to music without using data. At work, I don’t have Wi-Fi so Pandora was out as an option. I found out (thankfully) I did not have to listen to music in real time in order to add them to my Offline Library. I had to sign up for a premium membership (which has a free trial) and then I could just pick out albums and click a button to download it to my phone.

I’ve been out of sorts all week, first with no baseball and now no iPod. Spotify is helping a lot, and made Friday at work go by faster than the other days of this week had. I’m still debating what to do next; get my iPod repaired or buy a used iPod Classic on eBay. This weekend I will do a “Factory Restore” which erases all data on the iPod, and then re-sync my library back to the iPod, assuming a Factory Restore removes the LOCK mode. If it doesn’t, then my decision is made, and if it does remove the lock, it will take a minimum of 30 hours to transfer all of the data from iTunes back to the iPod.

What infuriates me about Apple in this instance is that they no longer make any iPod with a hard drive bigger than 64GB. So, since my iPod has 132GB of data, I would need to buy two iPods in order to have all of my music/videos available, and that would leave no room for growth, which is what makes the 160GB iPod so perfect; it holds everything I have and it still has a considerable amount of space left for new music to be added.

I resisted the ‘Culture of Apple’ for a long time, but after the iPod purchase in 2008, I got an iPad in 2010 and finally an iPhone in 2013. Now I am all in, just as the company moves away from devices to the iCloud (and don’t even get me started on the nightmare that is Apple Music and iTunes Match). I feel like I am the owner of a broken down 1968 Mustang. It was a classic at one time, but it doesn’t run and, while I’ve been using the Mustang, the world has moved on to smaller, more fuel efficient cars. My iPod Classic is not only a classic, it’s an antique, and this week, it’s an antique that only functions as a paperweight.

As I say daily at work, ‘Technology is great when it works.’ When it doesn’t work, it really sucks. And it leaves its owner out of sorts.

Thank you for reading.