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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Best of January, 2014

It is Super Bowl week here in NJ.  For the first time ever the big game is being played in a "cold" weather City.  The irony is my beloved Seattle Seahawks are participating.  Ok, beloved might be a bit strong.  I am not one of those body painting, stats obsessed, maniacs.  Let's just say I have an allegiance to them.  I have followed them since a little past their inception (1976.)  For whatever the reasons they were broadcast a lot on the East Coast way back when.  The old AFC West battles were mesmerizing to me.  Don Coryel's Chargers.  Madden's Raiders.  Dan Reeves Broncos.  And my boys (and their dazzling colors and raucous Kingdome.)  I even looked past Brian Bosworth and the 12th man's wave.  Sunday they battle one of those old rivals, the Broncos, will battle them for pro sports greatest prize.  

I don't get too worked up over it.  Its a) kinda cool they are in it and b) even cooler that the game is about 20 miles from my house.  But I have no interest in all the hype.  I mean seriously, a toboggan in Times Square?  Its a little much, no?

What bothers me most is how the host State is (again) short changed.  It's easy to talk of corruption, mob hits, swamp pollution, and the endless negative cliches that stigmatize and mostly discount the Garden State and its inhabitants.  But I have spent the majority of my life in this State- and have grown to love it.

True, we have a huge amount of sleaze bags.  But show me a state that doesn't. 

I like to think of New Jersey as an accurate example of a melting pot.  We have some big cities, with a mostly storied past.  Jersey City and Hoboken are now more Yuppie suburbs than urban wastelands.  Where others like to poke fun at Camden, I am quick to think of Princeton.  You say Trenton, I say Asbury Park.  Newark has never been the same since the 1968's race riots.  However Newark and the majestic Prudential Center were the site of Tuesday's bloated Media Day.  Newark is a tough town.  Its a blue collar town.  Yet, underneath the dirt and grit there some shine remains.  The Ironbound section has several notable Portugese restaurants and a distinct charm.  Seton Hall and Rutgers have both locations in town and a calming influence.  City Hall and Penn Station, a classic structure and major transportation hub, are impressive to say the least.  

And all this does not speak to the good, good people that live here.  

They are our doctors, artists, small business owners, tycoons, housekeepers, teachers, drivers, union carpenters, bodega workers, bankers, musicians, housewives, brothers, sisters, friends.   Did I forget attorneys?  Ha.  I guess they count too.

We talk a lot about what's wrong with the State.  How about what's right with it?

It's the folks still digging out from Sandy and never relenting when the chips are down.  It's a good Taylor Ham bagel sandwich or a Rutts Hut dog.  It's a quiet breeze walking the boardwalk.  It's digging your neighbor's car out of the snow.  It's good, honest work.

For those who brave the train, or traffic at the Helix, or pay the astronomical real estate taxes a toast to you.

We are hosts to the greatest spectacle in sports.  Hell, maybe the greatest spectacle period.  The World's eyes are on us for a few weeks.  Sochi take notice.

We know about security.  We see Ak-47's on our walk to work.  We are used to elevated threat levels.

No problem.  We put our collective heads down and get the job done.

Oh, our families tend not suffer much as a result.  All the sacrifices are for them anyway.  Because we try and give our kids every advantage possible.  We send them to the best schools we can.  We coach their sports teams.  We make every effort to be engaged.

And it's perfectly fine if the media makes this "New York's" event.  When the dust settles New York City is built with New Jersey DNA.  We built their buildings years ago, and work in them now.  We support Broadway and those 2 NFL teams that put NY on their logos.  Hell, most of Wall St fattest cats call New Jersey home.  No shame here.  

We are comfortable in our own skin.  Maybe that is why everyone laughs at it.  Honesty makes them all very uneasy.

In terms of the game, this Seahawks fan is objective.  How can I not be?  Jim Zorn and Steve Largent were my boyhood heroes.  My neighbors were busy rooting for Terry Bradshaw/Lynn Swann or Roger Staubach/Tony Dorsett.   What did they know?  All those guys did was dominate and win titles.  What fun is that?

So my team is here for just the second time.  In 2005 they faced the America's franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Now, they face the American quarterback icon Peyton Manning.

Tall task.

Their defense is good enough to keep them close.  But in the end Manning will do enough to win.  Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is still too young, too small and (nothing to be ashamed of) not Manning's equal.

Broncos 27 Seahawks 17

Don't get me wrong, Richard Sherman and his LOB are a live dog.  If Manning gets off to a slow start it could be interesting.  

Also, Manning has way more on the line than Seattle.   Should Peyton lose this game and never get back he will be forever questioned.  True, he will still have 1 Super Bowl win(something Dan Marino never got.)  But so does Trent Dilfer.

This should be his coronation.  This should cement his legacy.   

To the business at hand.   January was a soft month for live music.  Earlier this month we took in Against Me!

Last week was Dr Dog at Terminal 5.  Long one of my least favorite venues, it again lived up to its reputation.  Is it oversold?  Are there just too many young people?  Or is it all about the poor sight lines?  Those blasted columns are a good way to kill a buzz.

The crowd was enthusiastic and for the most part engaged.  Dr Dog were way more jammy than I expected. That is not to say they were bad, it was just unexpected  In fact, they sounded pretty darn good.  

Fact is dinner and drinks earlier in the evening were a lot of fun.  

Next time a smaller venue.  Or a warmer night.  

Dr Dog Term 5 1.25.14

VIP at Term 5 is really the only way to go.  Now how do I get it for every show?

Below please find this years first installment of "Best of…"

We try to find 10 songs for you to put on your Sunday cruise, workout or whatever floats your boat playlist.  Lots of new material coming later this year from artists like Foster the People, St Vincent, and, GASP, Eels!  CAN? YOU? DIG IT???

Have a great month all.  

Courtney Barnett "Avant Gardener"

DIY Aussie singer/songwriter/record label creator has two EP's under her belt.  Late last year this track started making the alt radio rounds.  Now it is just about everywhere.  Sardonic lyrics performed with deadpan goofiness.  If Steven Wright had an Aussie niece who grew up on Liz Phair it might sound like this.  A very catchy song to say the least.

The War On Drugs "Red Eyes"

Philly guitar rock Indies will release their 3rd LP, Lost in the Dream, in March.  Moody and melancholy not unlike their Philly counterpart Kurt Vile.  Lord Huron shares this sound too.  Our next band too…   Its roots are in 70s Fleetwood Mac and the California sound.  If you listen close enough you can hear Lindsay Buckingham nod his approval.  Imitation as flattery.

Real Estate "Talking Backwards"

Like The War on Drugs, these kids from New Jersey will release their 3rd LP, Atlas, in March.  Singer/guitarist Martin Courtney is in fine form on this, the first single.  Breathy and soft melodies play along with dreamy, laid back guitar licks.  If you need a soundtrack for a sleepy Sunday morning this would be a lovely track 1.

Lydia Loveless "Really Wanna See You"

Columbus, OH folk country gal Lydia Loveless is ALSO releasing her 3rd LP, Somewhere Else,  this year.   Geez, what is with all the 3rd records?  We remember catching her in 2012.  This new track is fiery and adrenaline pumped.  Where the last couple bands borrow from the 70s California sound, Loveless channels Linda Ronstadt a bit.  Keep a look at for the new record.  This girl rocks.

Lily Allen "Air Balloon"

Amy Winehouse, Adele, Kate Nash are among the British wave that hit America about 10 years ago.  Lily Allen was in that mix for sure and found some radio play with hits like "Smile""The Fear" and her anti-Bush anthem "F*** You."  She is 28 now and has seen it all.  She too has started a label.  She opened a clothing store with her sister a few years back.  The limelight, which once seemed to anger her, has softened a bit.  That might explain her new music.  It is time.   Expect a new record from her this year.  The lyric video above is worth a look.

Against Me! "Fuckmylife666"

This band has been covered a bunch here.   Their new record just arrived and tells the story of singer/guitarist Tom Gabel's transition to Laura Jane Grace.  This ain't no Ziggy Stardust thing either.  Laura is all in.  The voice is the same.  So too is the narrative- raw, edgy and deeply exciting.  It's punk rock with an all inclusive message.

Wooden Shjips "These Shadows"

Hard to find much online about these SF based "space rockers."  What I can tell you is this song kicks a little ass.  The guitar has a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young thing going for it.  The long solo at the end and keyboard fills have a certain nostalgia like a warm blanket (on such a winter's day!)

Reputante "Deep Set Eyes"

NYC rockers Reputante have some nostalgia too.  This time its 80s emo.  The Cure and Morrisey come to mind on this synth laden, baritone chirping gem.  Somewhere Andrew McCarthy is snapping his fingers to this.

Skaters "Miss Teen Massachusetts"

More NYC punk and rock represented here.  Skaters are the trio Michael Ian Cummings, Noah Rubin and Joshua Hubbard.  They will hopefully release their debut LP later this year.  We saw them way back when (when they opened for Caveman years ago.)   This new single pops with energy.  The video has a sardonic charm.  Enjoy.

The Orwells "Who Needs You?"

The Orwells are a Mid-Western (Illinois) trio who formed in high school.  It seems like they have been around forever, but they are still like 23 or something.  The song above is from an EP released last year.  But it is picking up steam.  Simple and straight forward punk rock.  Take a look at the video above for David Letterman and Paul Schafer's reactions.  The whole episode is odd.

Foster the People "Coming of Age"

California darlings sophomore record, Supermodel, will be out in March.  Both the song, and highly entertaining time lapse video, are worth visiting.  The album was delayed and there is talk of label interference.  That is, "Where is the single?"  The debut record and the buzz that surrounded them in 2011 was so epic you cannot help but expect some letdown.  This track however does not indicate anything less than groove, heart and positivity.

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