My first visit to Austin the beginning of Dec for a wedding (not mine). Took Thursday and Friday beforehand in order to soak up all that is, according to everyone I spoke with there, the only city in Texas a liberal would want to visit. My people indeed run a very nice burg. Thursday night was swank, 3-course dinner night at Congress. Post bar-hopping plans were cancelled due to too much good food. No matter. The next morning was donut breakfast at Gourdough's then a walk through the Barton Creek Greenbelt. The internet speaks of great swimming holes but, even though it was too cold for swimming, the creek was bone-dry. I learned later from a local at the wedding that the drought of the last two years hit the Greenbelt hard. Still, it was a nice, alien, southwest landscape to walk through.
Continue to post-hike drinks at Trudy's (no food, still full from Congress and donuts) then on to the entertainment of the trip: a Doug Loves Movies podcast recording at the Alamo Drafthouse. Buy the podcast and you'll probably hear Lisa cackling at one point in the background! Sadly, they weren't doing their Trapped in the Closet Sing-Along while we were in town :-(. Wander the strip and people-watch until time for our second swank locale of the trip: drinks at Midnight Cowboy Modeling and Oriental Massage. Thanks to the name on the apartment buzzer that gets you into the bar, I now know who Harry Craddock is. More wanderings, eatings at a pizzeria, and drinkings to finish our undirected tour of Austin. On to the wedding.
We checkout of The Driskill in downtown Austin and drive to the Barton Creek Resort a few miles out. Beautiful, but to quote Al Czervik
Golf courses and cemeteries are the biggest wasters of prime real estate. The wedding proper was at a ranch a few miles away and it was the pinnacle of swank for the trip. Among the appetizers offered before the wedding were a whole pig on a spit. I got to speak to many fascinating guests including a lawyer for Texas teachers unions. Usually, I attract rabid conservatives (one of the gay guests we were chatting with declared me at first sight as Mr. Conservative, so I guess I give off a vibe), so it was nice to be immersed in a gaggle of liberals.
Sunday brunch with our only live music of the trip (I know, I know), a visit to Waterloo Records where I got a replacement copy of Tales from Topographic Oceans, then home.
Genesis tribute-band extraordinaire, The Musical Box, performed for the last time ever the seminal concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. As much as Einstein on the Beach--seen live in London at the beginning of 2012--this was an iconic work for me growing up. I'd always heard of TMB and their faithful interpretations, but never made the effort. With the range of music, costumes, and sets, this was a stunning show. Memorable: "The Lamia" where the singer was hidden within a glowing cloth tube for the entirety of the song; pulling off the metrically manic solos for "In The Cage" and "Riding the Scree"; "Cuckoo Cocoon" where the singer lies on stage with his head towards the audience during his flute solo. More than any concert, I'm sad I'll never see it again.
The Cheatham's first holiday bash in their Decatur digs; my first holiday party with my current company; A Christmas Carol at Shakespeare Tavern; our (usually) annual holiday dinner with friends, this year at The Optimist; our soon-to-be annual holiday dinner with Bob&Lisa, this year at no246 in Decatur; annual holiday party at The Barry's. Special weekend in Blackberry Farm as a gift from the mom-in-law with the Foley family. Cold days in the mountains with fireplaces, amazing food, nano-brewery tour, and a failed attempt at our first geocaching foray. Finally, a visit to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens--my first--with Lisa and Theresa for their garden lights display.
This is the first weekend in a long time that we're doing nothing.
Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! at The Fox on Thu 20 Sep. Panelists were Roy Blount, Jr., Faith Salie, and Mo Rocca and the sharp CDC Director Thomas Frieden. After was dinner at the new Proof and Provision in The Georgian Terrace building (along with everyone else from the show). The following two days were the second annual return of Music Midtown. Our Saturday brunch till 1 turned extended into much later, but we made it in time to see Garbage. Other highlights were Foo Fighters on Friday (covered Pink Floyd's "In The Flesh?" from The Wall), Adam Ant and his band's crazy get-ups, and Girl Talk. By then, we were too tired to stay for Pearl Jam, so we ended up at Gilbert's for drinks+food. Sunday was Lisa's b-day dinner at Il Localino.
The weekend starting Thu 27 Sep was in Chicago to continue our year of music with the Peter Gabriel So concert. Too much mayhem to relate, starting with this:
Curse you, gay bar above that Armenian restaurant! We made it to the concert afterwards, but it wasn't our most shining moment. The next day, Friday, was the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA!). Highly recommended and digestible in a single visit. It will be included in any return visits. Evening was science silliness with Radiolab's In the Dark show at a beautiful old theater. Saturday was a jog along the river where I did a 53-minute 10k--personal best! Later, walking along the Navy Pier (right next to our hotel) before seeing the National Theatre of Scotland performing "The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart" at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This was an impulse event that caught both of our attentions and we struck gold: half of it read like lit crit cool and the other like a Three Stooges short. Five performers swapping roles and instruments as they tell a tale that both is a Scottish ballad and is about Scottish ballads. Hoping it comes on tour. Dinner at the amazing MK Restaurant. You are not as cool as us. Hell, we're not as cool as us.
[ updated 4 Jan 2014 ]
October involved Lisa travelling for LSU games, so I went out a lot for soft-serve ice cream from Checkers down the street and took pics of my feet on Marta:
More social events included Silversun Pickups at The Tabernacle w/ Lisa&Mason and the L5P Halloween Parade with Tedra&Bill. My first Halloween parade; there was so much craziness and fun that it must become a habit.
November has continued our Year of Music with the long-awaited Quadrophenia at Gwinnett Civic Center. The show and spectacle were outstanding, and we had the bonus prize of running into two of my coworkers. How random. Julia visited for a weekend and we nearly got kicked out of The Vortex (not really (well, maybe a little)). And the Monday after we late-in-the-day bought impulse tickets to Asia performing their first album at Variety Playhouse. We were wiped out but the battle of regret vs. exhaustion found us with the rest of the old folks once again in L5P. A week before, I swore that Quadrophenia was the last classic rock concert of the year and that the only thing that would change my mind would be if Genesis reunited and restaged their Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour. Cut to the Variety Playhouse lobby with posters advertising the Genesis cover band The Musical Box's upcoming performance of LLDoB the 12th of next month, sanctioned by Genesis and Peter Gabriel. Tickets purchased. You win, fate. Post-concert was the L5P Vortex where we chatted with the bartender who caught me trying to leave the Midtown location with a beer in my jacket two evenings prior. Yes, I am 14 years old.
Including our regular Atlanta Symphony concerts, this year's live music experiences have been more varied than usual. All of it reveling in older bands or bands of our past. Sorry, new guys.
Rammstein at Philips Area on 23 April was a ridiculously odd and entertaining show. The fireworks, the flamethrowers attached to their faces, the 40-foot-wide fiery wings (see below), and the skit where the keyboard player--exchanging his mirrored body-suit for leather--was cooked alive in an over-sized cauldron by the lead singer. Memorable.
The Beastie Boys tribute band Ill Communication at Vinyl at the end of May. Could have been cheesy. Was instead awesome. Over the past year or so, I've been meaning to listen to the canonical hip hop albums that I should-know-but-don't. Coincidentally, Matt turned me on to A.V. Club's recent series reviewing 90s rap. Timely.
Roger Waters performed The Wall at Phillips Arena last night. Tremendous show even though, at times, a little over-angsty for my post-teen psyche. It was also extremely political but moving. It's been years and years since a full listening, so the tracks were both unexpected and familiar. Oddly, the hits from the album that I liked less at the time the album came out shined through for me during the show. "Mother" was acoustic with video of Waters performing the song in 1980 projected behind him. I still love the quiet pair of songs "Nobody Home" and "Vera". I was reminded of the musical and structural parallels between the first and second album and realized (with the prompting of an inflatable pig) that "Run Like Hell" could have been an unreleased track from Animals. Well known trivia: the Animals tour was when Waters came up with the idea for The Wall.
Up next: Yes at Verizon Amphitheater at the end of July. Peter Gabriel in Chicago at the end of September. If I could just get Genesis and King Crimson in there, I'd have my teen years pinned down.
London last weekend for the Barbican Center's production of Einstein on the Beach. Planned a couple of months prior.
Before we get on our flight, we realize that the tickets are to Gatwick instead of Heathrow. Derp. The change was pretty harmless, and we just had to pay a little extra for an express train in. Slept maybe 30 minutes on the flight. In London proper, we passed by Battersea Power Station. Because it's used on the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals, this was actually a scheduled destination for Sunday. Instead, I snapped a pic from the Monday morning train ride on our return to Gatwick.
Check in at The Metropolitan across from Hyde Park. Quite posh. We scored an amazing deal at Hotwire (but made up for the savings by closing every evening at the hotel bar). Late breakfast at The Breakfast Club; an excellent bohemian restaurant that gave me beans with my breakfast. Beans?! Our first hint of foreignness in a city that felt at first like New York. After was our shopping trip around Carnaby Street which has a bunch of hipster/Mod clothing shops. Lisa spotted a shop called The Face (Mod slang for the coolest of the cool kids) down a side street. Jacket purchased there with matching shirt from a Ben Sherman down the street. Hour 26 of our first day and my EotB outfit was achieved!
Just watched The Who's Quadrophenia on YouTube to relive all that was the Mods. Brilliant!
Prepping for our trip, Verizon told me that my new phone (HTC Rezound) wouldn't work in the UK, so I got a temporary HTC Incredible 2 for Internet and photos. Sadly, it had no SD card to store said photos, so I had to grab one at the local Vodaphone shop. Vodaphone?!? More foreignness! Vodaphone guys get the honor of IMAG0001:
Next stop: London Eye, delicious street vendor ice cream, general walking and gawking, plus our first pub of the trip: The Camel and Artichoke. A perfect little neighborhood spot that quickly filled up with end-of-the-work-week locals and presented us with our first pub questions: How do we tip the bartender? What are all these beers I've never heard of? And why do they all taste flat? More foreign madness.
Top of the world! Battersea is visible right above the British flag.
All of this walking wiped us out, so a 60-minute power nap brought me up to 90 minutes of sleep by hour 30 of our first day. Dinner was French cuisine at a two-star Michelin restaurant The Square; a short walk from our hotel and still in the Mayfair district proper. The three-course meal was insinuated with what seemed like dozens of amuse-bouches. The portions were appropriately small and the flavor was subtle and varied. We have never done wrong with French restaurants and this was the pinnacle. Walk back to the hotel with closing drinks at the bar where the more acrobatic bartender spun a bottle upside down in the palm of his hand. In bed at hour 36 of our first day, right well exhausted.
This is the day. Everything revolves around Einstein on the Beach.
First, a trip out of Mayfair and up Audley Street towards the Sherlock Holmes Museum, prompted by my interest that started seven (!) years ago. Breakfast of pastry and coffee at The Richoux on the way. The museum was three floors of miscellany and wax figures of major characters.
Left: Trying but not buying. Right: Sherlock's violin!
Nearby was our second pub of the trip: The Volunteer. Glasses were replaced with plastic in anticipation of a contentious football match later in the day. After drinks, a quick walk to The Beatles Museum a few doors down then the underground to a walk through Green Park and Buckingham Palace.
Change of the guards, change of key.
Taxi to Barbican via Fleet Street for pre-concert late lunch early dinner at Vinoteca. I had mussels and Lisa had their special of the day: hot dogs. Walk to Barbican, pick up tickets at will call, find our seats.
EotB opens with the female "leads" simultaneously reciting a different block of text, sometimes intersecting with homophones or bouncing with accidental call and response, overtop a choir singing numerals to the meter. Prior to the official start, they sat on stage intoning their parts without choir. My heart was racing for the moment and when the choir started, starting the opera, my throat constricted with the feeling that I could hardly believe where I was. 5:30 PM to 9:50 PM. At around three hours in, I finally looked at my watch and decided that an intermission wasn't necessary. There were too many moments that were genuinely unique and varied to express without the mundane "you had to be there." Music, dance, and theater. I have little sense of the meaning of the opera, but the beauty and humor and structural brilliance were enough. I may go again this fall in Brooklyn; I recommend you do too.
After was our third pub of the trip: Two Brewers just up the street from Barbican. We chatted with the owner, his wife, and the bartender after the owner playfully mocked my mod, mod Carnaby jacket. They were, perhaps, the friendliest people we met during our entire London trip, and we'll definitely go out of our way to return during our next London trip. Underground back to the, now very packed, hotel bar and final drinks. The bar was filled with young Euro-punks, flashy dressers, and families (?!?). Female DJ was awesome.
The Tate Modern is obviously a product of the same architect that did Battersea. Good omen. Inside was enormous. The Hirst show contained a stunning collection of every style that he's worked in, beginning with a reproduction of his first gallery show (although, that was the weakest piece). Photography was not allowed because--I'll safely assume--Hirst is a manic businessman when it comes to marketing his art. The most stunning pieces were The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (i.e. the shark piece), A Thousand Years, and Black Sun. A Thousand Years consists of two glass boxes. One contains a smaller white box in which flies hatch from maggots. The other contains a decomposing cow's head which the flies fed on. Above it, a bug zapper. Oddly, the the boxes appeared to be sealed directly against the wood floor of the museum so that the head bled and rotted on the same floor the visitors walked across. We were safely separated from the cycle, yet a shared surface transported us into the piece. The tactile aspect was more moving than expected. Black Sun is a 12-foot circle six-or-so inches deep, jarringly black with an undulating texture. It is made from layers of dead flies. The concept is disgusting, but the result is beautiful (much more so than its images suggest). For the Love of God was impressive but, much like the Mona Lisa, difficult to separate image from icon. The most humorous pieces were his hundreds of "facsimile pills" which were replications of actual pills, to scale.
After was a walk next door to tour the Globe Theatre. No chance for a guided tour, but we walked through the museum and discovered that an American actor championed the effort to rebuild the theater. After walking the Tate and the Globe, we were ready for our first meal of the day at around 4 PM. We ended up at our fourth pub of the trip: The Ring in Southwark (pronounced SUTH-erk, you tosser). Nothing remarkable, but I had the cottage pie and now have ambitions to make it at home. At one point, the music playing was Carol King's "I Feel the Earth Move"; lyrics used prominently in EotB.
There was some further wandering around the city, resting at the hotel and packing, then a long walk through Middle Eastern neighborhoods to dinner at our fifth and final pub: The Windsor Castle in Marleybone. Thai food! Hotel bar, early morning express train, and arrival home at 6 PM Monday night. Plans to return next year during The Proms.
Spending five days in London from May 10th through the 14th (more like three days) centered around tickets to a production of Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach at the Barbican Centre on Silk Street. There was short internal debate on cost, then Lisa & I decided it was too ideal to pass up and impulse-bought the opera tickets the same night I found out about the show. Grooveshark playlists:
It will be an intimidating work to attend. Although it's only five hours long--reasonable for an opera--it has such a discursive nature that I'm not sure how the absence of narrative will affect us. The music is at times beautiful and others, numbing. Listening to the opening now with chills. It's grouped with Satyagraha (which we saw as a Met HD theater broadcast back in November) and Akhnaten as the Portrait Trilogy. I have yet to warm up to Akhnaten, but Satyagraha is solidified for now as my favorite opera of any composer.
We've had several friends who've traveled once or more to London, so advice will be more than three days can bear. My first trip there!