Get It While You Can

Listen up, kiddos, and I’ll tell you a sad, sad story.

The hubby and I have a very short list of performers we will pay top dollar to see. Prince was one of them, so when he announced he would be playing two shows at the Fox here in Atlanta, I battle planned, logged on, and scored two tickets as an amazing early birthday present for myself. I then went to the Fox to pick up those tickets in person on the day of the show. And by the time I got back to my office with the tickets in hand, Prince had cancelled due to illness.

The rescheduled show the following week conflicted with a work trip, so those two tickets went to another lucky couple. No big deal, I told myself. He’ll play another concert here soon.

But he didn’t.

He never played again after that night. Because he died. On my birthday. I can’t make something like that up. (David Bowie died on my husband’s birthday, so 2016 was rather calamitous.)

So I made a vow to myself. If there was a performer or band I wanted to see, I would buy the tickets without hesitation. After all, few of the artists I like are getting any younger. (Truth be told, neither am I.) So along with my husband, Wayne, and a couple of gal pals, I embarked on a year of musical delights.

***

Concert One — Duran Duran
Chastain Park Amphitheater (4/8/17)

For our first concert, we selected a band we’d both liked for a long time, and not just for the 80s stuff either. “Ordinary World,” which I’ve shared here and some of their stuff from the 90s is stellar. And have you listened to Paper Gods yet? Holy Jim Croce, that’s a good album! It was a perfect night weather-wise, and we had an absolute ball. Oh, and we decided that we would need to bring earplugs to future shows, which made us feel old at first. However, I’m glad we decided against vanity because, after nine or ten shows, the ol’ eardrums would have been pretty well used up.

Concert Two — Red Hot Chili Peppers
Phillips Arena (4/14/17)

These were actually the first tickets we bought for the “Year of Concerts” as we came to call it, and the hubby was probably more excited about this one than I was. He was the bigger RHCP fan in high school and college, but I was still really jazzed about seeing them. Plus, Babymetal was the opening act! My friend Ed is a huge fan of theirs, and he introduced me to their stuff years ago. It was amazing to hear those ladies live and in person.

They’re not 20-somethings anymore, but dang if the Red Hot Chili Peppers don’t put on a high-octane performance. I chose a slower track from them to share with you, “Under the Bridge,” but they brought it all night long. We got a great show for our money, which had yet to run out. That part comes later….

Concert Three — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Phillips Arena (4/27/17)

I knew the minute the show was over that this one was going to be my favorite. Every man and woman on that stage was on fire that night. (I was especially blown away by the Webb Sisters who sang backup.) Everything sounded great, and the audience was locked in. Some shows I took in this year were much less enjoyable than they could have been because people weren’t there for the music. They were there to socialize and take pictures for social media. But not this show. Everyone there was listening, singing, cheering, and having fun. It was a great great night, and having Joe Walsh as the opening act? Top notch!

And then Tom Petty became the reason I was glad I started this whole concert-going madness. When he died on October 2, 2017, Wayne and I both knew that we’d been lucky to see him and the entire band together. We now have some wonderful memories from the 40th anniversary tour, something later generations will miss out on. Of all the folks who have died this year, Tom Petty has hit me hardest, both because I love his music and because I know from first-hand experience what a great talent we lost.

Concert Four — Billy Joel
SunTrust Park (4/28/17)

Yes, you read that right. The night after Wayne and I saw Tom Petty, I went to the first-ever concert at SunTrust Park, the new Braves Stadium, with a couple of girlfriends. The sound was way outta whack to say the least, but Billy managed to shine through it and put on a super fun show. (I wish I could say the same for his opening act who was so awful that I’ve forgotten his name out of sheer spite.)

The best thing about the night was the fact that Billy improvised quite a bit, brought in a lot of other folks’ music, and told a lot of great jokes and stories. He’s probably best in a smaller venue just for that fact alone. He also let us vote when it came down between two equally popular songs, so some of the tracks I never expected to hear like “Vienna” and “Zanzibar” were performed. Two of my favorites —“Leningrad” and “Allentown”— didn’t make the cut, but with a catalogue as big as Billy Joel’s, it’s a wonder we got past the greatest hits. (And for the record, this was the concert where a bunch of chumps two rows ahead of us talked and snapped pictures the entire time. What a waste.)

Concert Five — Tears for Fears 
Daily’s Place (6/10/17)

These tickets are the quintessential definition of an impulse buy. We were on our way down to Jacksonville for vacation and heard a commercial for this concert on a local radio station. Before we had reached my parents’ house, I’d already bought the tickets on the Ticketmaster app. And, with ready-made babysitters eager to take the kids, the next night, Wayne and I were once again awash in 80s/90s bliss. We also got to see the new Daily’s Place concert venue, which is part of the EverBank Field complex (where the Jaguars play). It’s not a bad little joint to take in a show, and they have a solid set of concerts coming up in the future!

Concert Six — U2 
Raymond James Stadium (6/14/17)

Of all the shows we saw, this one was the most logistically complicated. In fact, we planned our entire vacation around it! (I even became a one-year member of the U2 fan club to get early access to tickets because I knew they were going to sell out.) They did a lot of their early stuff from War and Rattle and Hum as well as a few tracks from Achtung Baby, but the big draw was the fact this tour was put on to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree. And they played the entire album…in order. My favorite song from that wonderful record (which was one of the first I ever bought) is “Red Hill Mining Town,” and I never actually thought I’d get the chance to hear it live. Totally worth all the hassle and travel to see them in Tampa.

After this one, Wayne thought I’d be about done, but oh no….there was more music to be had. So the credit card came out for three more shows!

Concert Seven — Chicago and The Doobie Brothers 
Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (6/23/17)

This was our second time seeing The Doobie Brothers (in the same venue no less). We got the chance to see them and Don Felder in 2016, and they were great both times. It’s amazing that they still have the range and can create those amazing Doobie harmonies that I grew up loving. This time around, I got to hear “Eyes of Silver” and “Dark Eyed Cajun Woman,” which was pretty satisfying.

This was the first concert we got rained on, which put a damper on things for Wayne, but I just jammed on through it. After all, part of the reason we started all this concert nonsense was to remember that just because we’re working full time jobs and raising two kids, we’re not too old to have fun (even if we were soaked.)

And then, holy crap, came Chicago. Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, and Walter Parazaider (four of the seven founding members) are still in the band. And let me tell you kids, they haven’t lost a step. Those chops held up for more than two solid hours of playing time, and they sounded absolutely fantastic. The licks were hot, the rhythms tight. It was a super impressive show no matter which way you cut it. Wayne is on the record as saying this one was his favorite.

Concert Eight — Blondie and Garbage 
Chastain Park Amphitheater (8/6/17)

This is the only concert we bought more for the opening act than for the headliner. I have long been a fan of Garbage. In fact, back in the day when every other girl wanted to be Gwen Stefani or Courtney Love, I wanted nothing more than to be the sexy Scottish songstress, Shirley Manson. This was the second show where weather got in the way, and Garbage had to stop in the middle of their set, but “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” did eventually get played, and Wayne finally after so many concerts finally decided to dance for the first time thanks to “Push It.”

A funky little duo called Deap Vally kicked off the night’s fun, and I was really impressed with them. It’s nice to see that a new generation of female rockers is alive and well.

Blondie was also stellar and sang all the songs you’d expect. But the most amazing thing about it didn’t hit me until we were leaving….Debbie Harry is 72 years old. Seriously! And she still rocked the house and performed “Rapture” in its entirety. The great ones really do go the distance.

Concert Nine — Eagles
Phillips Arena (10/21/17)

Glen Frey was the other great one we lost this year, so I jumped at the chance to see the Eagles with Vince Gill and Deacon Frey playing in his stead. I saw the Eagles back on the Hell Freezes Over tour in Cleveland in the 90s, and it was just as wonderful the second time around. Gill was superb as lead on some of the older, country-leaning tunes, and Deacon held up rather well for a young fella. Joe Walsh (who we were seeing for the second time in one year) stole the show on more than one occasion. He. too, is a rock god that refuses to act his age. What made this one great was the fact I got to see it with Wayne, my friend Amy, my aunt and uncle, and my parents (who introduced me to the Eagles when I was knee high to a grasshopper).

Oh, and if you want to know what love is, my friend Julie let me use her AMEX to buy the tickets early. The first show sold out, and AMEX cardholders got early access to the second. I wasn’t about to miss out, so I called in a favor. But letting someone charge $800 to your card? That’s trust on a biblical scale.

Bonus Show — James Armstrong
Blind Willie’s (11/17/17)

I also love shows in dives, bars, and dingy clubs, so I jumped at the chance to see James Armstrong live this month. I’ve just recently discovered this cat, and I think he’s rather dishy. He just put out a new album in October that’s doing really well, and he puts on a great live show. Blind Willie’s is a great place for live music in Atlanta, and I’ll definitely be back in there soon.

***

So there you have it. One year. Ten shows. Twelve different bands and performers I’ve always wanted to see. We’re a little poorer (okay, a lot poorer) for it, but I honestly say that I’ve never had more fun than I have in the last twelve months. Going to these concerts, experiencing all these unforgettable performances, helped me remember that I don’t have to settle for a humdrum life. It’s so easy to do!

I don’t want my nights to evaporate in a haze of Netflix binges and bottles of chardonnay. Like Billy Joel says, “But you know that when the truth is told, that you can get what you want or you can just get old.” I’ve chosen to get what I want, which to live, to make memories, and to use up every minute of my life (and dime in my pocket if that’s what it takes) in a way that makes them precious. To that end, we’ll continue the concerts in 2018 and beyond….just on a slightly smaller scale. What’s next? The Foo Fighters on April 28th at the Georgia State Stadium. Another concert for another birthday, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate turning 40.

ROCK ON!

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Life Imitating Art Imitating Life

Today, I treated myself to a visit to the High Museum here in Atlanta to take in the new exhibit titled Picasso to Warhol: 14 Modern Masters. Like all the exhibits on the special second floor space, this one didn’t disappoint. I didn’t like it as well as the Dali exhibit they put on last year; however, I think that was due to the different depth of each. Trying to cram fourteen artists into a space that served previously to feature one made the current exhibit feel a bit rapid—like a stone skipping across the lake rather than plunging in, which is what I prefer.

However, it was nice to see these fourteen men and women near one another; it was easy to see how one influenced the other or how one used his or her predecessor as a springboard into a new creative sphere. It was also a nice exhibit because it included multiple mediums–painting, photography, film, sculpture, collage, and many others. It was arranged chronologically by the artists’ ages, and it flowed beautifully from one mini collection to the next. Many of the sculptures were stationed on slightly raised platforms in the middle of their respective spaces, and that meant patrons could walk around them and take each in from multiple angles and perspectives. It was crowded but never felt that way due to the exceedingly well-designed layout and spacing between pieces.

The audio tour, which can be purchased for $6 ($4 if you’re a member!), is well worth the cost as it allows you to gain greater insight about several key paintings in the collection and enriches the experience as a whole. The High also created a pretty excellent app called ArtClix, which allows those who have downloaded it to snap pictures of paintings, access audio/video information about them, post those photos on social media sites, and interact with both museum staff and other patrons nearby via comments. It’s free, which is always nice, and it can also be used once you leave the museum.

I discovered several things about modern art and myself during the two and a half hours I spent touring the exhibit, first with my audio tour and then again with my iPhone as my guide.

1. With the exception of Nude Descending a Staircase, I really do not care for the work of Marcel Duchamp. Say “Shame on you!” if you want, but I toured the space featuring his work twice–very slowly–looking for something that spoke to me. I got bupkis.

2. I did discover that I have an affinity for Giorgio de Chirico, an artist about whom I knew very little about before today. The dream-like quality of each of his works is utterly compelling, and while he only painted everyday objects, the manner in which each is presented makes them seem totally foreign.

Giorgio de Chirico’s “The Enigma of a Day”

3. I have underrated the work of Jackson Pollock. Granted, it is not as technically masterful as Johannes Vermeer or Rembrandt van Rijn, but there’s something more to it than squiggly lines and splashes of paint. Today, I learned that he didn’t paint on a canvas that had been stretched on and stapled to a frame. Instead, he laid it flat on the floor and walked around it do to his work using a method called Drip Painting. (As a result, he became known as Jack the Dripper in certain circles.) He said it made him feel more connected to the work because he could approach it from all sides, be on the same level as it so to speak. He would paint using sticks and other objects rather than simply paintbrushes and perform a sort of choreographed dance around the canvas, slinging paint according to his mood, and then repeating the process again with another color to create a multi-layered work that seems simple but becomes more interesting once you start looking at it and trying to trace the origin, source, and rhythm of that movement. In a way, the canvas is a map of that dance he did to create it. The creation (and creator) of it is still “alive” inside of it in a manner of speaking. You can even see his hand prints in the upper right hand corner.

Jackson Pollock’s “Number 1A”

4. Museums might just be okay for kids…some of them at least. For this piece, there was an Artclix info page, a track on the adult audio tour, and a track on the family/kids audio tour. I listened to mine, stood there contemplating, and then noticed this cute little girl staring at Number 1A the same way I was. She was moving her arms, imitating Pollock’s movement as best I could tell, and she was really into it!

I’m not normally a fan of kids at museums. Often, they’re bored by the second painting, and the remainder of the time they’re there, they’re whining or trying to touch the art. Most curtain climbers who I’ve come into contact with don’t have a volume control on their voice boxes either. Museum rules be damned! They see no problem telling everyone around them, especially when they have to go to the bathroom (including which “number” they have to do of course) or what they think when they see a naked person. Generally, they ruin the artistic buzz of everyone else in the gallery until either their parents give up and take them home or they fall asleep in a sweaty heap on someone’s shoulder.

However, this little one made me re-evaluate my stance. She was obviously digging on what she saw, interacting with it in a way that I think Pollock would have enjoyed. She stood in front of that large canvas, braids flopping and boots thumping on the floor, and embraced it as best as her little arms and growing mind could. Simply put, she couldn’t get that same experience from simply reading about him in a textbook or from a photograph of the artwork. I’ll put up with the others who beg for juice boxes they can’t have in order to afford kids like her the opportunity to experience art as a young-un.

I snapped a few photos with my camera phone, but they really don’t do the moment justice. However, I hope you enjoy looking at them almost as much as I did taking them!

I knelt down to take this one and am glad that no one arrested me as a creeper. I’m pretty proud of how it came out considering my low tech camera and my lack of skill.
Taking it all in.
Channeling Pollock…
Yep, that’s life imitating art that’s imitating life!

Reacting to the Writing on the Wall

Having recently moved into Atlanta, the first truly metropolitan area I’ve ever lived in, I can say that there are some adjustments I’ve had to make. Some of the changes that come from moving from a rather idyllic suburban area to an urban zone have been positive. Others, well, not so much.

Photo by the Associated Press

On the negative side, with my poor sense of direction, learning my way around has proven to be a challenge. For those who have never visited the ATL, half the streets have “Peacthree” in their names, and none of them meet up. It’s like the street were titled by the same five-year-old who calls all her pets and stuffed animals “Kitty.”

I’ve ended up going the wrong way down more than a few one way streets, calling my husband to help me get somewhere after I’ve gotten lost, and generally crying hysterically for a few minutes once I get home. On the plus side, my prayer life is much richer for it. Also, once I do reach my destination, I have to determine where I can park because “parallelin’ it” is often out of the question, and only so many of the parking garages take debit cards. (I’ve also learned the value of the word “validation,” which has NOTHING to do with my self esteem.)

And the TRAFFIC. I’ll save my discussion of that for another blog post. It truly

Photo by Jack Kurtz

deserves its own. I’d like to find the person or persons who thought it would be a good idea to merge I-75 and I-85 together through a major city and to do so in such a way that it is impossible to ever widen it. I would have a reasonable discussion with them about civic planning, like Sampson, smite them with the jawbone of an ass.

However, for all the drawbacks (i.e.–not as many people say “Hello” when they pass you, personal safety is of greater concern, and it gets hecka cold here in the winter for a thin-blooded Florida girl like me), there are a great many positives. For example, I live five minutes from an amazing arts center where I can visit the museum, take in a show, or listen to a concert just about year round. There’s a botanical garden close to it as well. There are unique bookstores, restaurants, and music shops straight out of High Fidelity I can peruse at my leisure. Broadway’s best shows come here, as do the biggest bands while on tour. All major sporting leagues (except hockey…sorry Thrashers) have teams here I can follow, and there are beautiful historical sites and festivals going on all the time. There’s never a shortage of new things to experience; I just don’t always have the funds to indulge in all of them!

I’ve tried to balance out these two diametrically different forces in my life. Sure, I’m farther away from my family than I’d like. However, moving to Atlanta gave me the opportunity to leave education and jump feet first into the print industry. I’m writing and editing for a living, which is something I NEVER could have done back home. The many long and painful things Wayne and I had to endure on the path that led us here were worth it, both spiritually and financially.

People have been doing the “Thirty Days of Thankfulness” thing this month on blogs and on Facebook, posting one thing a day for which they are truly grateful be it family, a flush toilet, or flavored dental floss. I think it is an excellent exercise, one we should practice the other eleven months of the year. After all, we’re blessed year-round, not just during the one month the holiday happens to fall on the last Thursday.

I can tell one thing I’m grateful for.

His name is Onk.

Me and My Buddy

You’ll notice that I didn’t name him; the “artist” who created him did. Granted, he’s just graffiti, a spray paint squiggle defacing a wall separating a train station from the street. I see him each morning when I leave for work as the road I take out of our neighborhood runs into the one where he’s stationed. There’s something about him that makes me smile. Perhaps it’s the “whomperjawed” eyeballs that sit, off kilter from one other, or the bucktoothed grin. Maybe its just the mystery of why someone would take the time to create such a thing (and name it) on a random Atlanta wall. I’ve come to think of Onk as “home.” I know I’m in my place when I see his familiar teeth, and I can use him as a guidepost for others who need directions to find me. Sure, time and the elements will eventually erase him, but, to a Southern girl like me, that’s no different than knowing how to get somewhere based on where “such and such building used to be.” There’s a comfort in distinctly human things like this, a quirky thing that decorates an otherwise soulless wall. I’m willing to bet hundreds if not thousands of people drive by him every week and never notice he’s there, but I do.

Imagine my surprise yesterday morning when, on the way to church, my husband and I saw this!

Onk Has New Friends!

Yep, Onk has a roommate! (Or two—I can’t tell if the squiggles in brown are a word or a design.) There’s now a vivid blue mouse wearing a turban (or a ninja hood) a foot or two away from my old friend.

Unlike the sanguine Onk who sits tranquilly on the wall, his eyes glazed in half sleep, the blue mouse (who I have to name on my own some day) seems flabbergasted to be where he is. His wide eyes and acute eyebrows betray his panic to oncoming traffic, as if he’s afraid we’re going to choose neither left nor right and plow straight into the wall where he’s stuck. I was actually delighted when I saw it for some reason, and I stopped to take a picture this morning.

Perhaps I clapped my hands in delight because yet-to-be-named-blue-ninja-turbaned-mouse reminds me that I live in a world of constant change. Nothing stays the same, but I can choose how I react to it and be thankful that I’m around to experience it.

I can either get angry because A.) Someone is defacing a wall or B.) I liked Onk just the way he was -or- I can see it as a positive. It’s just another guidepost, a thumbtack on the topographical map of my life. I think I’ll choose the latter.