Trade-offs

Something that I’ve come to terms with as an adult is that life is often about trade-offs. The freedom of (single, childless) adulthood is awesome, but often it comes at a cost. That is, awesome things regularly require an exchange for something not-so-awesome. The catch is knowing what the trade will be going into the situation, and accepting the terms. Time? Money? Relationships? Fun? Sleep? You gotta know what currency (and amount) are you willing to pay for the awesome thing!

As I mentioned in my last post (two in two weeks!), the benefit of having my four jobs is flexibility, while the downside is making up work and/or not getting paid. Next week, I’ll head up to Nashville for the Americana Music Festival, where I’ll get to see a ton of great live music, see a bunch of awesome people, and also help out with the Backyard Bash (sponsored by Bloodshot & Pandora).

I’m super excited about this, but it also means that at well past midnight on a weeknight, I’m putting together an online quiz for some of my Music Appreciation classes.1  

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However, it also means that I get to email (and receive email from) some really cool musician-types about the party next week.

I am totally willing to trade my “free time” to do work right now (even though it’s a little bit stressful, and honestly, annoying, and really, I’d much rather be in bed…) for the fun and freedom of heading to AMA next week. It’s an adult thing, I guess.


1. It also probably has to do with the fact that I have been known to put things off until, well, later.

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SXSW, Take 5

I started this SXSW recap WAY back in March… like, in a very timely manner. Good intentions and all that… but I’m still a procrastinator at heart. So as I gear up for my second AmericanaFest with Bloodshot in September, let’s throw it back to March.

2017 marked the the FIFTH time I’ve been to SXSW! Fifth. As in, five years.

Like last year, I opted to go wristband-less; unlike last year, I was not showered with gifts and love by Airbnb.1  Instead, I was greatly concerned about transportation since Uber & Lyft were voted out of Austin this past year. Thankfully, many companies have stepped into the ride-sharing vacuum, and for the most part, I was able to get around town without any trouble.

The awesome thing about having four part time jobs is that there is a great deal of flexibility in one’s schedule. The downside is that you generally have to make up anything you miss, and/or you don’t get paid. This means, I opted to teach my Tuesday morning class and stress myself out getting to the airport on time for my flight. I made my flight, and got to Austin (via St. Louis) in time to catch a few things Tuesday afternoon/evening. And then, the week was in full swing.

The basic components of my schedule are now standard, including the Bloodshot showcase at the Continental Club on Wednesday, the TwangFest/KDHX Day Party at the Broken Spoke on Thursday, and Bloodshot’s Yard Dog Day Party on Friday… and whatever else I can get to in-between and around all that. This year, I was pretty pleased with the “in-between” stuff I managed to get to.

  • Tuesday
    • Ha Ha Tonka at the Back Alley Bash by Tequila Mockingbird
    • Jon Langford & the Far Forlorn at the White Horse; I caught a few songs by Corinne Rose before Jon went on.
    • Roky Erikson at (Historic) Scoot Inn2 
  • Wednesday
    • I finally made it to one of the best restaurants in the world: Bouldin Creek Cafe. And then headed to El Mercado to catch Whitney Rose & Sunny Sweeney. They’re both great, but I loved Sunny Sweeney.
    • From there I landed at a super hip coffee shop, Seventh Flag Coffee, to get some work done (including filling out my brackets).
    • The Bloodshot showcase featured: Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, Ha Ha Tonka, Banditos, The Yawpers, Scott H. Biram, and of course, the Waco Brothers. The Wacos played well past 2 a.m., and folks were still there and totally into it
  • Thursday
    • I need to just come to terms with the fact that I will never see the opening bands (or more) at the TwangFest/KDHX Day Party at the Broken Spoke. This year, I missed Patrick Sweany, Ha Ha Tonka, and High Plains Jamboree, but DID catch Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, Band of Heathens (although I wasn’t entirely paying attention to their set, because food…), Secret Sisters, and Lillie Mae.
    • I left the Broken Spoke and booked it over to Yard Dog to catch a solo Cory Branan set, and then I made my way to the Saxon Pub to catch a band called Churchwood, and to interview Bill Anderson, who happens to play in that band, but was also in the Bloodshot band, the Meat Purveyors. I interviewed Bill, on the record, and then after some much need late-night food, headed home.
  • Friday
    • The Bloodshot Yard Dog party start with Zach Schmidt (Nashville-based guy, cute, and charming as heck), followed by The Yawpers, Ha Ha Tonka, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, Cory Branan, Banditos, and last, but certainly not least, the Waco Brothers.
    • After a quick stop at Guero’s, we headed to the New West showcase at Cooper’s BBQ, and caught Sara Watkins, the Deslondes, Andrew Combs, and Aaron Lee Tasjan.3 

A few items of note….

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers are the most recent band (at the time) added to the Bloodshot family. And they are great. I met Sarah in Nashville at AmericanaFest, and though I didn’t hear her play then, she was highly recommended by a friend & former Bloodshot employee, so I took his word on things. He was right.

I always meet new folks during this week, and this year, I met a few people with connections to Bloodshot, and a couple of gals who are good contacts for my academic and scholarly pursuits. But I also got to hang out with all my Austin pals, and got to share some music & a drink with folks that I know from ICMC!

South by generally affords a few (or more) wild and crazy moments, (of varying degrees). This year was no exception. For instance, I found myself in the backseat of a car with Jon Langford (which is exciting in and of itself, and no, we were not making out; but I’d totally support that rumor…) listening to a track off his upcoming album (Four Lost Souls recorded in Muscle Shoals) from his iPhone.

As an old lady, it is inevitable that at some point I find myself thinking that SXSW might not be worth it and/or I’m just too old for it. But of course, looking back at the great music I experienced throughout the week, along with all the folks I get to hang out with… I’m guessing you’ll find a similar recap here next year.


1. I did have a heck of a time booking a place to stay, including TEN confirmed bookings & NINE cancellations via Airbnb, but that’s another story for another blog post… one that likely won’t get written.
2. I was only vaguely familiar with Roky, but it was pretty cool to see him perform at this super cool and historic venue.
3. I admit that due to being an old lady, I left before Aaron’s set was finished. However, I managed to catch him playing in Athens at the 40 Watt in a New West Athfest kickoff show. I was greatly disappointed that he was not wearing a cape at the 40 Watt show.

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Aaron Lee Tasjan sans cape/fancy suit at the 40 Watt

Another year, another South by


Since I have all but abandoned the blog, I’m not sure why I feel so compelled to post an update of my most recent and fourth SXSW experience.1  But I do. And it appears to be happening.

Perhaps it’s because I feel like I’ve got the South-by thing down now, and I want to brag about it. Or maybe it has to do with my crazy experience with Airbnb that resulted in me realizing a company can totally buy my love (through great customer service and well, buying me stuff). Or possibly because this was the year I felt most like an insider & realized how many people I know only through this annual trek to Austin. Likely, it’s all those things, along with the fact that I should be writing a conference paper.2 

This was the first year I went without a wristband of any sort, and the second time I did not rent a car. I did not miss the wristband at all, and thanks to a $50 Lyft credit that was available to new users during SXSW, I spent around $90 in transportation (including getting to/from the airport). Last year, I got a great deal on my car rental, but with the rental fees plus parking fees, I spent over $300. Even without the Lyft credit, $140 is way more manageable than $300!

I booked my Airbnb & flight pretty early this year, and was SO pleased with myself – great deals & a great location! And then… at the sort of last minute, my Airbnb host cancelled on me. Like any good disgruntled customer, I tweeted about it & tagged @Airbnb. Nearly immediately, Airbnb customer service contacted me via Twitter, email, and a phone call. They offered to find me a replacement place, but as soon as I could, I started searching for another place & eventually found something pretty close to my price range, and in an OK neighborhood. Airbnb customer service followed up again, covered the price difference between the two bookings, and then gave me a $100 credit towards my next Airbnb. They also had a gift bag waiting for me at my place when I arrived in Austin, gave me $200 towards a pair of boots at Allens Boots, and a free two-stepping lesson at the White Horse. Consider my satisfaction and love bought, Airbnb.

Enough of all that – how’s about the music?!? For the past couple of years, my South-by plan has been go to all the Bloodshot things I can, and then hit anything else, if possible. This year, I did the following (pics to follow):

  • Tuesday
    • El Mercado3  for James McMurtry, Robbie Fulks, and the Grahams
    • A bit of the Swollen Circus at the Continental Club
  • Wednesday
    • Gingerman for the Blurt showcase, including Freedy Johnston, Brett Harris, Robbie Fulks, and the Supersuckers
    • Continental Club for the Bloodshot Records showcase, including Al Scorch, Banditos, Yawpers, Lydia Loveless, and the Waco Brothers
  • Thursday
    • Broken Spoke for (the last song by the Wacos), Luke Winslow-King, Robbie Fulks, and Corb Lund
    • Gingerman for the Wacos, Banditos, it’s not true to say I really paid attention to Churchwood, but I certainly heard some of their stuff, and a song or two by Bad Luck Jonathan
    • Thursday night, I may have gone to watch the UK-Stoneybrook basketball game & made friends with some folks from Kentucky who now live in Austin.

And of course, Friday was the Bloodshot Yard Dog party, with Possessed by Paul James, Rosie Flores, Robbie Fulks, Luke Winslow-King, Lydia Loveless, Al Scorch, Banditos, the Yawpers, and, of course, the Waco Brothers.

Some general thoughts? Any time the Wacos play it’s a blast, and I’m continually amazed that Jon Langford always remembers me. I saw Robbie play a solo show, but the rest of the time, he was playing with a full band, including pedal steel, and it was all awesome. The Yawpers are crazy. Like, seriously crazy, and you need to see them live. Al Scorch, another new Bloodshot signee, is just as charming as heck. The Banditos have gotten even better since I last saw them. At Ginger Man, when they played their cover of “I Put a Spell on You,” Mary Beth ended up singing on a table in the middle of the crowd, and we were basically all dead. It was possibly one of the best live songs I’ve ever seen.

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Here’s a version, if you’re curious, but that day at Ginger Man was way better. I promise.

Finally, when I saw the Supersuckers play at Ginger Man, I noticed their bass player looked a lot like Danny, the bass player for Banditos (or Danny looked a lot like him). When I heard that the Supersuckers had been added to the guest list at the Continental for the Bloodshot Showcase that night, I knew what I had to do. I put a few folks on the lookout, and managed to snag a photo. It was as awkward as you’re thinking it might have been, but the guys were pretty good sports about it.

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And finally, finally, one of the best parts of the week was seeing all my Bloodshot pals and South-by friends.


1. My previous SXSW blog posts had been sad and sorry excuses for updates, but there are some photos. You can check them out here, here, and for my first year, here and here.

2. Yeah, you know it’s really because of that… professional procrastinator and all that.

3. You should not be surprised to know that El Mercado is a Mexican restaurant with a venue in the back.
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Favorites bands and favorite chord progressions

My favorite band is the Old 97’s. However, Freakwater would also be an honest answer (as would Gillian Welch). I can thank a super cool friend from high school for introducing me to the Old 97’s, a Bloodshot compilation for introducing me to Freakwater, while one of my college roommates properly introduced me to Gillian Welch.1  

A (not very good) photo of Catherine Irwin & Janet Bean from a Freakwater show in Atlanta (November 2005, I don't remember the venue)

A (not very good) photo of Catherine Irwin & Janet Bean from a Freakwater show in Atlanta (November 2005, I don’t remember the venue)

Freakwater appeared on Bloodshot’s first compilation album (way back in 1994), and subsequently was on Thrill Jockey for years. BUT coming in February 2016, according to the Freakwater Facebook page, “We will be releasing our eighth studio album this fall with our dear friends Bloodshot Records!!” So… since I wrote a dissertation on Bloodshot Records and all, and what with loving Freakwater, I’m really, really, REALLY excited about this.2   As Bloodshot noted today, you may have thought that Freakwater was already on Bloodshot, but this upcoming studio album is, in fact, the band’s first with the record label. You can hear the first single from the album here, and you can pre-order the album and/or get the 7″ single here.

The announcement of this single inspired me to listen to pretty much the entire Freakwater catalogue throughout the day today. As I listened to the song “Cricket Versus Ant” (Thinking of You, 2005), I was reminded of my most favorite chord progression, which is in this song: V/vi – vi, or III – vi, or a major three chord to the minor six. This song is in D Major, so the chord progression is F-sharp major to b minor. The first time it happens, the lyrics are “If it all goes terribly wrong” at 1:27 in the video below.

I have done absolutely no research on this progression; I just know that I always love it when it happens. I think I first noticed it when I had to play chord progression for a piano proficiency exam or something equally dorky, but I remember first LOVING when I heard it in a Dixie Chicks song, “Tonight the Heartache’s on Me” (Wide Open Spaces, 1998).3   This song is in F Major, and in this case, the magical chords are A major to d minor in the chorus. The first time it happens, the lyrics are “Bartender, pour the wine” at 0:47 in the video below.

Isn’t it great? Sure, there are other secondary dominants that are nice, but this one is by far my favorite (and the best). Hooray for a new Freakwater album & hooray for V/vi – vi! Feel free to share examples with me!


1. The same high school friend likely introduced me to Bloodshot, or at least I was with her at CD Central (a fantastic record store in Lexington, KY) when I bought that compilation album.

2. At this point, I’m probably more excited about the album, rather than the research possibilities, but that’s a topic for another post.

3. This is the first song I look for if/when I ever karaoke. Seriously. Feel free to judge me.

Oh, hey there!

I think it’s safe to say things have been slow here at the blog. A long time ago, I started a post-SXSW post, but… didn’t finish it. Good story, right? It seems dumb to recap all of that in detail now since it was so long ago, but some pics/highlights are below.

***Regarding the Talkable Vegetables, you can watch a video here.

Upon returning from South By, things got hectic fast. I know I have been way busier other times in my adult life, but for some reason, the second half of this semester seemed more challenging. Maybe it’s because I’m an old lady, or maybe it’s because I’m still recovering from the dissertation.1  In any event, everything pretty much wrapped up this past weekend, and I’m glad. Also, there’s still a hole in my ceiling, which will hopefully be repaired in the next year month.

In addition to the ceiling, I have one more project to complete that I’ve been putting off for months. Of course, my plan was to knock that out tonight, which is why I’m blogging (er, professional procrastinator, anyone?). ICMC is at the end of the month, and I’ll also head up to Kentucky to see the Very Tall Nephew graduate from high school (!!!). After that, it will be the first summer in many years that I won’t have degree-required academic work to do.

I can’t wait.


1. It is just as likely that Kentucky’s loss to Wisconsin in the Final Four was to blame. Sigh. Go Cats.

Back to Chicago (plus, a random guy discounts my research!)

I went to Chicago last week. It had been over a year since I visited the city, so I was very glad to be back. The purpose of this trip was to attend the American Music Festival at FitzGerald’s Nightclub in Berwyn. I’ve been before, and it’s a really great festival – and this year, several Bloodshot bands played to celebrate the record label’s 20th anniversary. It wasn’t the only 20th anniversary event, and it won’t be the last, but it was certainly a great excuse to get back to the city.

I got to see friends (thanks as always to the wonderful folks who let me stay with them–and their ridiculously cute one-year-old), and I managed to spend some time wandering around downtown. I ate at a couple of my favorite vegetarian restaurants – Pick Me Up Cafe and Handlebar. Even though I had a definite plan to eat lunch at the Chicago Diner, I planned rather poorly and ended up not making it (which only means I can’t wait a full year before I visit Chicago again!). Oh, and I also did some research/follow up work at the Chicago Public Library.

The trip was fun, productive, and tiring, but I have to share one particular story, if only because of its absurdity. The short version is that I had a complete stranger (older, male) discount my dissertation and research after hearing approximately five sentences about it. His general take on my work was, “That’s not gonna cut it. That’s just not gonna work for you.”

As I was in Chicago at a music festival devoted to American music when this conversation took place, I initially thought for a moment that I was being schooled by a senior scholar in musicology or ethnomusicology from a Chicago institution. As this person continued to speak, I realized he was not in my field, but was likely in a related academic field, such as history or anthropology. But then he kept talking. And then I asked him point blank, and he told me, no, he was not a PhD, nor was he in academia. After I told him Advisor was in disagreement with him about my work “cutting it,” as it were, not to mention my committee, he said, “That’s just one person’s opinion – or just a few people… it’s really not gonna cut it. You’ve really got to do more.” At this point, I replied, “It seems you don’t know how folks go about getting PhD’s. I really would like to pay attention to this band now.”

So, basically, I had my dissertation mansplained to me by a person who was not an academic AT ALL. He was not a musician, nor was he really familiar with Bloodshot, alt.country, or country music, or even academia. After I walked away, I had at least 80,000 other wonderful and witty and clever things that came to mind that I wish I had said to him. And of course, I wondered why in heavens I even spoke with him for as along as I did.

In any event, I’m glad that guy’s not on my committee.

 

Guitar Slide Wednesday and Other Stuff…

According to that calendar over on the right of the home page, I updated this blog twice in March and once in April. To keep the bar low, here’s at least one post in the this lovely month of May. And in the interest of efficiency, here are some things I would be writing about here on the blog, were I not at least moderately concerned with writing a dissertation.

1. Writing a dissertation and the exciting adventures of revising chapters1 

2. My second trip to SXSW that happened way back in March

3. Alumni weekend at my undergrad alma mater. I went because a.) it was my 15th year reunion (!!! #oldlady) and b.) our choir director/music history prof of 41 years retired & we had an alumni choir.

Finally, since it’s Wednesday, here’s a guitar slide for you. This song is called “Kerosene” by a band called Big Black, and the big guitar slides occurs at 1:05 and 3:45 or so.2  You might not be probably are not familiar with Big Black, but this band was a hardcore punk or industrial or post-punk band out of Chicago in the 1980s, and one of Steve Albini’s early bands. Albini is a Chicago-based musician and recording engineer, likely most famous for recording Nirvana and the Pixies, but has done, you know, lots of other things. This song appears in my dissertation, and I say a lot more about it there, but I know you only care about that guitar slide.3  http://youtu.be/HuO3wwLuF0w  


1. Just kidding. The process is pretty miserable, and I’m certain you don’t really want to hear/read about it at all.

2. As I write this post, I’m imagining the sort of feedback Advisor might provide and how she probably would disagree and/or not like it. This might be a sign I need to graduate soon. If you would like me to update the blog more frequently, perhaps you could let Advisor know that she should let me graduate in August.

3. I have listened to much of this song at least 200 times in order to transcribe it, well, because apparently, that’s what musicologists do. I really should have been a journalism major.