Punk Rock Princess

I’ve always been pretty transparent about the fact that I’m a total poser. While other people use style to make a statement or express who they are,  I use it to act like a giant dress-up doll. I love dressing up to the occasion, whether it is heels and dark jeans for a night in the city or pearl-snap shirts and camo hats for shooting guns and drinking crappy beers in the bed of a truck. At a recent dress-up party though, I failed miserably.

I went through a phase in my early college years that I started to mold into a total hipster. I’m talking skinny jeans, TOMS shoes, floppy knit hats, flannel shirts, the whole kit and caboodle. I dyed my hair black with a touch of purple, I went to DIY shows all the time (I knew what DIY shows were, which was bad in and of itself), I listened to tons of Indie bands and went to music festivals. I’m not going to lie, I had a blast doing it! It was a fun, healthy phase.

It was during this phase when I discovered my favorite band, Deas Vail. So all of my fondest memories of watching Laura Blaylock play keys (#girlcrush #notevensorry) along with the rest of her adorably talented band performing my favorite songs took place at music festivals or crappy bar stages. Every time I hear White Lights or Shoreline, it takes me back to a time of moccasins and plaid shirts (that I obviously bought at Forever 21 instead of Urban Outfitters — I’m a poser, remember?).

I hadn’t seen Deas Vail in while, but when I learned that there was going to be a Deas Vail Oh Christmas Tour, there was no doubt that I was going to be there. It had been several years since I’d been to a Deas Vail concert, but I thought showing up in jeans, my sparkly TOMS and a solid red top (it was Oh Christmas Tour!) would suffice. 

I could not have been more wrong. I felt like I stood out like a giant sore thumb! I know this was probably exaggerated by the fact that I have these annoyingly high standards for fitting in, but still. 

The first thing that I noticed was that everyone looked like they weren’t a day older than 15. They didn’t just look it, most of them I’m pretty sure actually did not have driver’s licenses. Most of them didn’t have wristbands and stood in the crowd with these little baby faces making me feel like a grandma. I’d say with 98% certainty that I was the only person in that room with a full-time job requiring business casual instead of a guitar. Crap. Did I look that young? I was convinced that when I went to shows at bars when I was underage, I totally looked at least 22. 

The next thing was the shoes. I thought TOMS were cool and Indy and hip! It turns out that might not be the case, at least not the sparkly ones. Fail! Everyone there had kicks that looked like they came straight out of a 1920’s issue of Vanity Fair! The people who did have TOMS had the Cardones or the boots or any kind that was not brown and sparkly. Whoops!  

The last thing was a rookie mistake. Here I was, at this hole-in-the-wall bar on the Northside wallpapered with band posters with all these band-aids and I’m standing there with my hot pink Coach purse. What is this, amateur hour!? Not only was I probably the only one there with anything pink, but I was certainly the only one with a purse made out of anything other than organic wool and costing over $15. 

I was this old lady with stupid shoes and a disproportionally great bag. I clearly didn’t belong. But I knew every lyric to every song, darn it! Who’s the poser now!?

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Music Showcase

I’m a sucker for live music. Unfortunately, I’ve been pretty broke lately so my show seeing has been kept to a minimal over the past few months. Luckily, my adventure Sunday at the Dave Barnes show reminded me just how much I love seeing live music. On top of that, I read a single, very short blog post that planted a very lovely thought in my head. 

“One of the most gratifying things for me as a songwriter is hearing a crowd sing a song back to me. The thing I love about simple pop songs like “Best Thing” is its ability to release people’s inhibitions and unite a group of otherwise strangers.” — Steve Moakler

Other than music being the soundtrack to our lives, music is capable of bringing out so much more in people. It can make this girl dance, and that’s no easy task. The point isn’t to tell you about how great music is or it’s impact on our lives, because everyone already knows that. The point is to share with you to a few artists that I’ve developed a soft spot for, and how recent events have led me to new loves and reminded me of old ones.

Steve Moakler
Steve (yes, we’re on a first name basis) opened for Dave Barnes at the concert last week and ended up to be a great find! I still haven’t been able to come down from the high of seeing him play live. Be sure to check out “Best Thing,” “This Ain’t Rock ‘n Roll” and “Hesitate” for the full range of his awesomeness. 

Angels & Airwaves
On Valentine’s Day 2010, the former (and I guess kind of still) punk rocker Tom DeLonge released an album rightfully called LOVE with his band, Angels & Airwaves. Not only is Angels & Airwaves by far the most amazing band name ever, but they also happen to be my favorite band ever. They are intelligent and constantly questioning what music is and what it means. The best I can describe them is “spacey.” On November 8, LOVE II was released and I can only image how epic it is bound to be. (I don’t have it yet because I thought it didn’t come out till 11/11 because I’m silly.) I will definitely keep you posted. In case you live under a rock and haven’t heard AvA, check out “Young London,” “Distraction” and “Everything’s Magic.”

Deas Vail
This adorable band that I used to be head-over-heals obsessed with actually fell off my radar recently. However, after announcing an upcoming tour called “Oh Christmas Tour,” you bet your bottom dollar that they jumped straight to the top of my list! A little back story on these guys is in store. The pianist is the cutest girl on the planet and married to the lead singer, and they wear their rings on chains around their necks when they play! Adorbs! Think it can’t get cuter? Look at this band pic!

Despite being adorable, they’re also incredibly talented. Bordering on indie-hipster music, Deas Vail breaks out of that mold with a dynamic song selection and an unmistakably unique voice. I’d recommend “Shoreline,” “White Lights” and “Birds.”

I’ll leave you with that for now! I want to be sure you actually listen to all these bands/artists, so I don’t want to overload you! Who should I check out!? (Other than the new AVA album, obviously.)

Friends with Good Taste in Music.

My biggest concern about moving to Chicago wasn’t navigating public transportation, surviving snowpocalypse or even getting decent 3G downtown (although it probably should have been). I had a job lined up, an apartment picked out and I had located the nearest Irish pub and Starbucks locations to both my work and home — I had the basics covered.

But no — my biggest concern was making friends. I am terrible at making friends! I tend to assume that people don’t like me until proven otherwise, and I think I’m pretty awkward in most social situations.

I got lucky though. I happen to be accepted into a very elite group called the Wolf Pack. It’s one of those can’t-tell-you-gotta-kill-you kind of clubs. Okay, well not really at all, but we’re a pretty close knit group. The two other girls in the Pack happened to my first (and only) friends I’ve made in the city. (So yay, me!) I couldn’t have asked for better people in my life.

I got even more lucky, and one of them happens to be equally as awkward as I am. She’s pretty great actually, but if she asks I’ll deny it. I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate any sappiness, and let’s be honest, that could make for an awkward Monday morning, so I’ll just cut right to the chase.

She taught me how to move a candidate through Taleo, schedule a final interview and where to get the best lunch ever for under $4 (Pizza Hut for breadsticks, obviously). Most importantly though, she got me hooked on a great artist (the singing kind, not the painting, one-ear kind), which is probably the best thing a person can give you. The funny thing was that I actually knew a bunch of his songs, but I didn’t know they were by him. 

And by “him,” I mean David Barnes, a.k.a. my friend’s future husband (just to be clear). So tomorrow, we’ll be taking to the streets of Evanston, IL to see the lovely Mr. Barnes in S.P.A.C.E. (well, “at“ S.P.A.C.E., but “in” sounds way cooler). I couldn’t be more excited! 

I’m trying to get an extra large dose of DB to prepare myself for the show. Everyone knows that concerts are so much more fun when you can sing along! Sorry, girl, but I will definitely be singing!

I haven’t been to a live show in a while. I used to get paid to go to shows a few years ago, which looking back, was a pretty sweet gig. However, even then, I had the same problem that I know I’m going to have tomorrow: I have nothing to wear! I’m not very fashionable and I pretty much exclusively own solid colored v-neck Ts. This is a serious problem. I feel like at concerts, you’re supposed to strive for a very particular look. You have to look subtly pretty, a little classy and a little sexy, all while looking like you absolutely, 100% didn’t try at all. 

Damn. 

My solution for this problem is my solution for every social situation that has any fashion requirement: my favorite go-to, black, v-neck T. Problem solved. Add some tousled hair, a long, silver charm necklace and a good pair of skinny jeans and I’m ready to rock. Literally. 

So I’ve made a friend, learned enough Dave Barnes songs to not look like a total poser and mastered the art of dressing to impress for under $5 and in less than five minutes. I’d say I’m set up for success! 

Here’s to a lovely Saturday night!

Blink 182 – Neighborhoods

When I was a freshman in college, I applied to be a reporter for the music section of buzz magazine — the arts and entertainment weekly at the University of Illinois. As part of my application, I had to write an album review of my favorite album (which back in 2007, was of course Boys Like Girls’ self-titled debut). I remember writing that review like it was yesterday. I sat in my dorm room, door locked, music blaring, typing away feverishly at my chunky desktop computer. I had no idea what I was doing, but what I did know was that I was going to a music reporter for Rolling Stone within the decade.

I got the job.

From the moment I got hired as a music reporter, I was planning my next steps to reach that goal at Rolling Stone. The first step was to be music editor at buzz. So I applied, I put together a (fairly pathetic, looking back) resume, poured my heart and soul into my cover letter, put on a pair of heels and went to my interview. 

I didn’t get the job. I ended up having to do that three times before they finally hired me, but come January of 2010, I got my access card and I was (finally) music editor. I was living the dream. 

I wrote a lot of album reviews, went to a ton of shows, developed some decent writers and a great (or at least much better) taste in music — and then I realized I didn’t love it. My heart wasn’t in it and I realized I didn’t know enough about the mechanics of music to be great music writer. What I did know was that whatever I did with my life, I wanted to be great at it. If music writing wasn’t it, I was going to cut that chord early and figure out what “it” was. 

That was all well and good until I picked up the new Blink 182 album, Neighborhoods. The gears started turning and familiar questions started coursing through my veins. I started reading up on the album, Tom DeLonge and the influences of his other band, Angels and Airwaves, on the album. So I wanted to write an album review for old times’ sake. Let’s see if I’ve still got this…

Blink 182 – Neighborhoods

By the time you’re 30, you better fucking know who you are and have something to say, otherwise you’re going through life not doing anything. — Tom DeLonge

If ever there was an album that so clearly demonstrates growing up, it would be this one. While victim of much harsh criticism (we’ll come back to this later), the album is much less “fifteen” and a lot more “thirty.”  The album doesn’t just explore new lyrical depth, it boasts experimental musical qualities (clearly remnants of DeLonge and side project, Angels and Airwaves) previously much less common with Blink.  It’s clear right off the bat that the punk-rock boys of Blink 182 are now men. 

It’s worth noting my relationship with Blink 182 and Angel’s and Airwaves, as it’s led to a fairly neutral perspective on both bands, especially in the aftermath of Neighborhoods and the soon-to-be-released Love Part II. I was hardly a punk-rock kid — despite my short stint with some pink hair in college — so I never had that connection with Blink 182 growing up. In fact, it was probably late high school/early college before I truly became a fan (2006 – 2008 range), and by that point, AvA was already alive and well. At the time, the two bands had a fairly clear line between them that has since grayed a bit.

This is important because I didn’t love Blink for helping me find myself as a lot of punk-rock kids did. I didn’t love Blink for being punk rockers, I loved them for songs like “I Miss You” and “Feeling This.” I loved blink for their edge that I so clearly did not have. They said “fuck” a lot and I didn’t — they were cooler.  Then I looked to AvA when I wanted some thing more, something a little deeper both lyrically and musically.

 Neighborhoods is this weird mesh of them both. There’s songs like “Hearts All Gone” that is very classic Blink, songs like “Ghost on the Dance Floor” sound like they belong on the new AvA record and then “Natives,” that sounds like a perfect offspring of both bands. Any teenager who wanted another hardcore album was naive if they seriously thought that would come out of this band after what they’ve gone through over the past few years. They’re not the angry, screw-the-corporate-system kids that made Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. After the break up, they hated each other! While that’s all over and done now, you can’t go back to where you were before that without changing. To produce another album that was the same would denying the years that they’ve been through — no one stays fifteen forever. 

People didn’t like that though. Fans wanted the old Blink. To those fans, I suggest reading a great interview with DeLonge on Absolute Punk. Basically, he reiterates the growth that went into the new album, the purpose behind it and the relationship between Blink and AvA. He’ll say it better than I could.

Despite the critics, who will always be there no matter what you do, the album cuts to an important truth. The purpose of music as a whole is to give people something to think about — use a lot of words, notes and rhythms to bring meaning to things we can’t always understand, things like “love” and “pain.” While this album might not be as hard or ground breaking as their old albums, it still has the same purpose that Blink has always had: helping people figure shit out. It’s honest, which at the very core, is what Blink has always been about.