Two They Might Be Giants Shows, Twenty Years Apart

I went downtown to see They Might Be Giants this week.  The show was at a venue called The Beacham, which is a large and venerable concert space right on Orange Avenue.

TMBG did a rollicking two-set show, where they served as their own opening act.  They made jokes about Clippy the paperclip and Phil Collins, and kept their audience thoroughly entertained while doing a combination of their classic hits and their new stuff.

While I was listening to “Whistling In The Dark,” I was thinking about the last time I saw this band- twenty years ago, at another show in Orlando.  They Might Be Giants played at the Embassy Music Hall in 1998.

When I lived in Orlando twenty years ago, the Embassy Music Hall was part of my regular rotation of clubs to go dancing; they had a Wednesday night (as far as I can recall) with lots of 80s and new wave music. I have loads of great memories of dancing there with friends.

The Embassy was a nondescript looking place, situated on the side of a big shopping plaza off Lee Road.  It was kind of nondescript, even when it was open.  This picture is long after the Embassy closed, but it didn’t look much different than this:

The Embassy had a regular rotation of amazing concerts.  While I was looking up details about the club for this post, I found information about shows by Love and Rockets, KMFDM, Green Day, Primus, The Damned, Collective Soul, The Lemonheads, Snoop Dogg, Marilyn Manson, Anthrax, and Iron Maiden, all from the late 1990s.  I got to see TMBG there in ’98, and I also saw Project Pitchfork and Front 242 there.   The Embassy Music Hall was awesome.

Sometime in 1999, Embassy shut its doors and was re-imagined as a sort of after-hours raver club called Cyberzone.  Cyberzone had problems right away, including multiple drug arrests and the deaths of two people.  I never went during the Cyberzone era, and the club closed in early 2001.

I hadn’t heard much about the place in a really long time, so while I was getting ready to see They Might Be Giants for the first time in two decades, I checked in on the old place with some Google Map action.

It’s a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Grocery now.

Yup, that sounds about right*.

*There’s a song on TMBG’s 1992 album Flood called “Minimum Wage.”  It uses a whip-crack to hilarious effect.   Seems about right.

What happened to your favorite places from years ago?

Bob’s Burgers Live, and the Los Angeles Intro.

Up until the middle of this month, I’d never set foot in Los Angeles, not counting layovers.   When I found out a few months back that Bob’s Burgers was doing a live show, I could not resist.  I bought tickets right away.  The first night sold out and they added a second night, but we didn’t need to go twice even though I’m sure it was just as awesome on the second night.

The show was on Saturday evening.  We flew in Thursday night and out Monday morning, so that gave us a full three days to explore sunny California.  We covered Hollywood, Long Beach, and various points in between.  I took 810 photographs in three days, and distilled them down to 121 for the blog.   102 of the photos were from the Walk of Fame, but those stars are really all kind of the same, so I’m only going to post one of ’em.  There were 118 photos at Madame Tussaud’s, because that place is just fun, but that’ll be one whole post with about seventeen selected pictures.   Nobody needs to see every photo I take.

I’m not going to put all 121 of the finally chosen photos in one post though, that’s just nuts.  I’ll break it up a bit.  This is the first of many California posts.  I’m gonna start with the show that initiated our trip to California, Bob’s Burgers Live at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

The Orpheum is a lovely old theater 2000 seat theater.  It was originally opened February 15, 1926, and was reuilt in 1989.  It has a “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ installed, one of the last three pipe organs in Southern California venues.  I wish I’d heard it while we were there. I bet that thing sounds cool.  I also just learned that Taylor Swift filmed her video for “Mean” at the Orpheum.  Neat!

We were there for Bob’s Burgers, and that’s what we saw!  Each of the primary cast members is a comedian on their own, so the first half of the show was a series of comedy routines from the cast members.  The second half of the show was where it got really good though-  they did music from the show, along with Matt Berninger and the National. (Bonus!  Now I’ve seen the National in concert!)

All of the primary cast members were present for this gig.  The next picture is Eugene Mirman (Gene), Kristen Schaal (Louise), and Dan Mintz (Tina) singing “The Fart Song!”

Eugene did Gene’s masterpiece, “The Snake Song.”  I’m so happy they did this one.  In the left part of the photo, you can see the giant puppet snake that wound its way through the theater during this song.

Here’s the short version of The Snake Song, for your enjoyment:

On this next photo, sisters Louise (Kristen Schaal) and Tina (Dan Mintz) sang “Bad Girls.”  I love the keyboardist from the National to their left.  He was having a great time for the entire night.

Near the end of the show, there was a giant puppet Tina and a giant puppet for “Electric Love.”  Alas, no Kevin Kline or Megan Mulally were present to do their parts.  That would have been quite nifty!

This was the finale, though, with the entire cast on stage.  From left to right:  H. Jon Benjamin (Bob Belcher) in the yellow and blue shirt to the left, Larry Murphy (Teddy) in the suit, Dan Mintz (Tina), Eugene Mirman (Gene), Kristen Schaal (Louise), John Roberts (Linda Belcher) in the white t-shirt, and Matt Berninger from the National in the red suit.  Not visible in the photo, but sitting in with the National, was Loren Bouchard, the creator of the show.

The merchandise line at this show was run by a bunch of people who severely underestimated demand for their wares, and it took a long time to get out of the theater.  By the time we left, I had a new t-shirt or two, and Amelie had some official Louise ears.   Success!

Who’s your favorite Bob’s Burgers character?

Love is love is love is love.

Since the last time I posted on the blog, I moved from South Florida up to Orlando.  I meant to do a whole post about the transition up here, but this is not that post.

This post is about the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.  It happened one year ago today, June 12, 2016, and 49 people lost their lives, not counting the shooter.  Another 58 were injured during the shooting.   I didn’t live in Orlando at the time, but this city has always had a special place in my heart.

There have been vigils and remembrance events all over Orlando for the last few days, but today was the biggest set of events.   Amelie and I were out running errands in the afternoon, and our route took us directly past Pulse during their afternoon ceremony.  The traffic was our first clue that something was going on, followed immediately by the presence of a fleet of news vans.

There have been people standing in front of Pulse every time we’ve driven past-  the entire site is a memorial now, with a constant flow of mourners and people leaving things behind like flowers or a small token of their memory.  Today it was jammed, of course.

Later in the day, the crowds started to gather for the big Orlando United event at Lake Eola.  I didn’t realize it until this afternoon, but the city shut down many of the streets around the Lake for the event.   A little past 4:30 in the afternoon, this is what the traffic pattern looked like downtown:

On top of that, there was rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  Once most of the rain leveled off, I grabbed my old MIX 105.1 umbrella and walked over to the Orlando Public Library to catch the last few minutes of Drag Queen Storytime.  My timing was off; this picture was just a few moments after a spectacularly photogenic twirl by our storyteller.

After Drag Queen Storyteller wrapped up, I walked the remaining block or so to Lake Eola, and wandered around the event.   This mural by Yuriy Karabash and Michael Pilato was put up earlier today- I’m not sure where the mural will ultimately reside after today.

People continued to gather for the Orlando United event- it was supposed to start at 7pm, but weather delayed it somewhat.  Still, more and more people arrived. I’m somewhere in the upper left part of this photo from the Orlando Sentinel, wearing a bright red shirt:

You can see the top of the bandshell in this next photo-  that’s as close as I was really able to get to the bandshell.  It was broadcast throughout the park over speakers all the way around the Lake, though, and Disney had put up a pair of large overflow screens so that people could watch from the larger part of Lake Eola Park on the Eastern bank.

Once the event started, I could hear what was going on, but I couldn’t see it- until someone near me mentioned that some of the local news media were streaming it live, and everyone has a cell phone…  I caught the video of a drum and bagpipe corps, and some other musical acts.

During the show, I walked around the lake so that I could get out of the thicker part of the crowd for a bit, and I was treated to some pretty spectacular views from the Northern side of the lake. The band-shell was dressed properly for the occasion…

Lake Eola’s iconic fountain was also beautifully lit in rainbow colors for the occasion.

It’s difficult to express exactly how something like this makes me feel-  I don’t know anyone who was directly affected by the Pulse shooting, but I have such strong ties to Orlando through friends and friends of friends that I see the ripples outward.

It hits especially hard because it could easily have been someone close to me.  When I was twenty-five, I lived in Orlando.  I was attending UCF for my degree, but in my down time, I went dancing.  Some weeks, I would be out five nights out of seven-  Two of those nights were Club Zen, Wednesdays were at the Embassy Music Hall, one night was at Barbarella or at Cairo, an Egyptian-themed club a few blocks over, or the Blue Room.

Most of those clubs are gone now, but this was my circle.  Except for a few cherished friends from the university, my entire social scene was based around where we could find good music.    If I had lived in Orlando one year ago today, it’s possible I would have been out, dancing.

I’m happy to see that one year later, Orlando is still strong, still loving, and still dancing.

Dance Me to the End of Love*

Damn it, 2016, knock it off already.  You’ve already taken Alan Rickman, Prince, Abe Vigoda, George Gaynes, Jerry Doyle, Gene Wilder, and David Bowie.  And now I see in the news that you’ve also taken Leonard Cohen from us?  This will not stand!

Leonard Cohen was beloved by many of my friends. I loved him too.   Leonard has been actively writing and performing music for almost sixty years.  Almost everyone knows his work, even if they don’t realize it- he wrote “Hallelujah,” one of the most covered songs ever sung.  Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, and countless others have done  hundreds of versions of this song, but the original is still the best.  Leonard Cohen originally wrote around 80 verses for the song, and different artists sometimes choose different verses, which means that almost every version is just a little bit different.

My first exposure to Leonard Cohen was in 1990, when I was seventeen years old.  A group of us (including Jade Walker and our good friend Chris Pine, who is now deceased) went to see the Christian Slater movie, “Pump Up The Volume.”  During the movie, Christian Slater’s character spun up “Everybody Knows” and “If It Be Your Will.”  I was transfixed, and I’ve been listening to Leonard Cohen (and the ridiculous number of covers of his work) ever since.  Those first two songs are still among my favorite songs of all time.

A recent Rolling Stone article mentions that when he finished his “Grand Tour” in New Zealand on December 21st, 2013, he had been touring for five years and played 387 shows. He came out of that tour with serious physical problems.  Leonard Cohen had multiple fractures of the spine, and severe mobility problems.   His final album, “You Want It Darker,” was recorded from a makeshift studio in his house.  His son set up a Neumann microphone on the dining room table, and set the living room up with recording gear, a laptop running Protools, and a set of speakers.    Much of that album was recorded with Leonard in an orthopedic medical chair.  “You Want It Darker” was released on October 21st,  just a few weeks before Leonard left us.

leonard_cohen-rollingstone-nov-17-2016(Editor’s note:  I accidentally acquired a subscription to the Rolling Stone a few months ago.  I’m still not entirely sure how this happened, but every once in a while the magazine is really entertaining.  If you’re interested in reading this fascinating look at the production of Leonard Cohen’s final album, I scanned the page from the November 17, 2016 Rolling Stone.  Here you go.  Click the thumbnail on the right to embiggen.  )

Leonard was 82 when he died, which means he was about 79 at the end of his final tour.  Six months before the Grand Tour ended, I was lucky enough to see him at the SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany.  I was thrilled to finally be able to see him live, and I had no idea that he was on the last tour of his career.  Even then, in late June of 2013, he was spry and witty and a master of his craft.

Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I can show you what it was like to see him perform Hallelujah live in Mannheim, Germany, about three and a half years ago.

I’m tired of 2016 taking my musical idols from us.  Someone keep an eye on Cyndi Lauper, Martin Gore, Andy Bell, and Vince Clarke, ok?

*If you’re not familiar, “Dance Me to the End of Love” is one of Leonard Cohen’s songs.  There’s a live version on the 2009 Live in London recording you can get from Amazon and iTunes.

What’s your favorite Leonard Cohen song?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

`Twas The Weekend Before Thanksgiving…

The weekend before Thanksgiving was a most eventful one for me.  I spent most of the day on Saturday at the car dealership with my brother, going through the motions of the dance that is car salesmanship.   After nearly four hours, a deal was struck for a car which had to be retrieved from another dealership.  We confirmed the theoretical arrival date was sometime Monday or Tuesday, and I went on my way.

That night, Amelie and I went to the Mardi Gras Casino to see Air Supply play a live show.  They basically played their greatest hits album, but they sounded fantastic.

airsupply

After the concert, there were delicious pancakes and eggs at the local IHOP restaurant.  I really missed IHOP in Germany. Check out Amelie’s pancakes- they look pretty happy they’re about to get eaten, don’t they?

happypancakes

Cut to Sunday, and I got a call from the sales manager that my car was already here, minus the tint (which will be installed in a week or so) and the backup sensor, which will probably be installed after thanksgiving. The car has a backup camera, but I wanted the doo-dad that beeps when you’re approaching an object too.

For the first time since 2011, I own a car.  It feels damn good to get that purchase ticked off of my repatriation to-do list.  This is what I looked like right after I drove the car off the lot.  The car is a Mazda 3 hatchback in a nice light blue color, and I’m very very pleased.

newcar

To cap off the weekend, we quite literally rode off into the sunset.  Ok, so we actually drove away from this, but it’s a really pretty sky, don’t you think?

intothesunset