Monday, April 25, 2016

Concert Review: Good Charlotte

Last week I went to the 9:30 Club to see Good Charlotte. I saw them perform in 2004 (or 2005?) at HFStival, an awesome rock concert that the radio station WHFS used to organize*. I figured it would be nostalgic to see them perform again; it would be like I was back in high school!

The opening band was called Waterparks, which I had never heard of. But I thought they were pretty good! The lead singer, Awsten Knight, was quite funny, joking about dying on set when he started choking on his water; he also quoted Jackass: The Movie ("I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed.") The guitarists, Geoff Wigington and Otto Wood, were total headbangers with their long hair, and the band encouraged crowd-surfing (I had to cover my eyes; I thought for sure someone was going to get hurt!). Their music seemed inspired by bands like Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy. They're really young, so they still need some time to create their own sound; a keyboardist would really help fill out the band! It was pretty cool that Knight hung out by the merchandise table to meet fans. I feel like only new bands ever do that!

Here are some of the songs they performed:

Mad All the Time



Then we had to wait close to an hour before Good Charlotte started. But once they got on stage, the sound from the crowd was deafening! Everyone was so excited to see them, and people tried to start a mosh pit almost immedately (I was glad to be safe up in the balcony!). The band said they had performed at the 9:30 Club for the first time in the late 1980's, and they were clearly aware that most of the people in the crowd were born after that time. Good Charlotte is from Maryland, and it was fun to have them give shout-outs to MD, DC, and even Virginia. Throughout the concert, Joel had his idiosyncrasies: giving the photographers two thumbs up, taking selfies with crowdsurfers once they reached the stage, and spitting constantly (ew). The band has four albums (who knew?), but I only knew their older stuff. I don't think I was alone: the crowd kept requesting to hear songs from their first album. The group performed a lot of songs, but in general did not sing them completely. They would sing a verse and a chorus of one song, and then move on to the next one. This is a good way to fit in a little bit of everything, but when you like a certain song, you want to hear the whole thing! Here are some my favorite Good Charlotte songs:

Little Things

Girls & Boys

Festival Song
The Anthem
Hold On

Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous

*While doing some research for this blog post, I came across this piece about Benji's MD pride, and I learned that HFStival was resurrected in 2010! But then I couldn't find anything about it after 2011, so maybe it has died for good? Not sure...

Friday, April 15, 2016

Concert: Luke Bryan at Royal Farms Arena

I have been wanting to see Luke Bryan in concert for YEARS! Usually he performs at Jiffy Lube Live, but I've only heard bad things about that venue, so I've never gone. But when I saw he was going to be performing at Royal Farms Arena, a venue in Baltimore that is much easier for me to get to, I immediately bought tickets!

I had never been to this venue before, but is it great! It's right in downtown Baltimore, and there are tons of parking garages (which give Parking Panda passes, too), so it's quite convenient. Also, it's much smaller than other stages (for example, the Verizon Center) so as long as you're not squished in one of the corners, you really can't have a bad seat. I was very pleased, and I'll definitely be going back for another show sometime!

This was the only photo I could get when he wasn't jumping and dancing around!
The show started on time, which amazed me! Dustin Lynch was first up. He has a lot of energy! He bounced around the entire stage, even in those tight pants! I thought he did a nice job and is a good fit as an opener for Luke Bryan. Here are some of the songs he sang:

Where It's At

Hell of a Night
Cowboys and Angels

The next opener was Little Big Town. They started off by singing Dolly Parton's "Jolene," which I thought was pretty cool. They sang a lot of songs that night, but I only recognized a handful of them.They're one of those groups that I don't think about when I think of country music, but they do have some hits I like. Here are the few songs I recognized:


Boondocks (which always makes me think of my ex from college. Ugh.)

Day Drinking

Little White Church

Pain Killer

Girl Crush

I will say that I didn't like the special effects that Little Big Town used on the monitors during their performance. They were a little gimmicky and didn't really add to the show. Actually, they were quite distracting! And the blonde, Kimberly Schlapman, is the weakest link of the band; her solo was so high-pitched that I couldn't understand a word she sang! (And when looking her up, I just realized she's 46 years old! And so is Karen Fairchild, the other leading lady of this group!)

It was like some bad music video!
Shattered glass? Not sure what's going on here...
No show would be complete without a disco ball, right? And not just one, but two!
Karen Fairchild looked like a disco ball herself in all those sequins!
Then it was onto Luke, the man everyone came to see! He did an amazing job! I love all of his songs anyway, but they were even better live! He has a fun energy, and Karen Fairchild had warned the crowd ahead of time about Luke's hip-shaking (like Elvis' pelvis!). He sure had some moves! Here are some pics from his show:

There were some fun light effects, though not as impressive as the ones at the Verizon Center.
I don't know what was going on with this jacket, but it is UGLY!
I loved this backdrop!
Yep, Luke was having a good time performing with Little Big Town!
Luke teaching Dustin how to dance!
I really liked this backdrop, too!
You can just barely make out the Orioles hat that Luke put on after a fan threw it to him!
Luke had several wardrobe changes (like most stars), but he mainly just switched T-shirts and ball caps.
Usually before a concert, I like to look up an artist's songs so I can listen to them and learn the words. But with Luke Bryan, I'm already such a fan of his music, so I didn't need to "practice" the songs: I already knew them all! He played so many, but here are a few of my all-time favorites:

I Don't Want This Night to End

Drunk on You (essentially the "sequel" to the video above)

Play It Again

Crash My Party

 I See You
During his song "I See You" (I think it was that song...), there were silhouettes of women, James Bond style.
 Home Alone Tonight
It was pretty cool that Karen Fairchild was actually there so that they could sing "Home Alone Tonight" together!
Drink a Beer
Luke encouraged people to take out their phones for his song "Drink a Beer."
There was one part of Luke's act that I really didn't like. He called Dustin Lynch back to the stage to sing a cover of an oldie country song (something by Brooks & Dunn I think?). While they were up there, somebody rolled a cooler onto the stage, which was full of beer. Then Luke and Dustin started throwing beers into the crowd! This is so dangerous, for several reasons:

1. They clearly were not carding people, so they could easily be handing them to minors, which is illegal.
2. They could have hit someone in the head and hurt them. A beer can to the head could certainly leave a large bump, if not something worse!
3. Luke actually opened some of the beers and drank from them before handing them into the crowd. Think of the germs! People could get sick! (Although I suppose that might be unlikely, since if Luke were sick, he probably wouldn't be performing.)
4. In general, they could have just been pissing people off. I know I would be LIVID if I got hit with a full beer can or if beer spilled on me during this whole charade. And if I got hurt, you know a law suit is right around the corner...

I think the only other really annoying thing that night was that I had three big men surrounding me during the concert: my friend Mike next to me, another guy on my right (who kept leaning over so I couldn't see!), and then a third guy in front of me. It was sometimes hard to see anything, let alone take pictures! I'm only 5'3"!

But other than those few things, I had a really good time. I was pleasantly surprised by the venue, the music was great, and I finally go to see Luke Bryan in concert. What a fun night!

PS: We ate at a cute pizza place called Forno before the concert, and it is so good! The calamari is served as a huge portion, and the white pizza is delicious. I recommend it!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Comedy Show at DC Improv

Image found here.
This past weekend, I went to the DC Improv to see Gabriel Iglesias ("Fluffy") perform stand-up. I had seem him on Comedy Central and always wanted to see him live, and I finally got my chance. This was actually a last-minute show for Gabriel's 19th anniversary of doing stand-up; I bought a ticket as soon as I saw the email from DC Improv, and supposedly it was sold out within a matter of hours! So I was lucky I got mine early!

Image found here.
His long-time friend Martín Moreno was the opening act. He is quite the character, and I think his jokes were the most memorable! He joked about smoking weed, visiting the "Orchard Towers" in Singapore, and excused women for being moody during their periods because men would be even worse about it if things were the other way around. 

Image found here.
Next up was Alfred Robles. He joked about his cat and moving in with his girlfriend (begrudgingly). I don't remember much of his act, but I do think he had it the worst growing up (he mentioned that he didn't finish school and he had to go to school with people who were criminals in a program in which he got paid to go to school), so I think he had the most to gain from touring with Gabriel. So things are turning around for him for sure!

Image found here.
Then it was G. Reilley's turn. I liked that he straight-up said that comedy isn't supposed to be PC, so people should just deal with the jokes. I was surprised that he told a joke about farting in the men's room, because just a few years ago, Godfrey told the same joke. I honestly don't remember much about this guy besides the fact that he had a mohawk and wore dark glasses. At the end of the evening, he sat next to me at my table! He talked to me a little bit, but I couldn't really understand what he said, so I just nodded and smiled.

All of the openers expressed so many thanks to Gabriel. He helped them start their careers, supported them financially by hiring them to go on the road with him, etc. They were all so thankful, and it was really touching to see how all of these men consider Gabriel not only a friend but a family member, a brother.
Image found here.
Onto the main act! I didn't think this performance was as memorable as the ones I have seen on TV, but he did tell funny stories about his son (who is 18 but doesn't have a driver's license and doesn't seem interested in college), and told us that because he has a pilot out with Disney, he has to be really careful about the things he does and says ("The mouse is always watching."). I liked how he engaged with the crowd, and most people were good sports, including one man who is from Nigeria but said he was Arab (to which Gabriel responded, "I get that. Like, I'm American, but I'm Mexican."); one woman did ask how his mother was, which was awkward because his mom passed away five years ago...After he performed for 45 minutes (what he was contractually obligated to do), he invited people to leave before things got real. From that point on, he was throwing back Patrón tequila shots (I think he had at least ten of them?!), getting to the point that he had to sit on a chair on stage because he could no longer stand up by himself. While he is a funny man, at that moment, I couldn't think about his comedy; all I saw was someone with a drinking problem who needs help. I'm glad he's lost some weight (He said he was 440 lbs at one point and now he's down to 325 lbs), but he should really start thinking about all aspects of his health if he wants to continue to have a long career! While sitting at a table with some strangers, they told me about all the comedians who had died recently, and I had no idea! Greg Giraldo and Mitch Hedberg were so young, and they're gone! I hope Gabriel does not face a similar fate! 

Throughout the performance, the show "Fluffy Breaks Even" was mentioned several times. So I might have to check it out on Fuse. Make sure to look up videos online from all these guys: they were all really funny, even if this blog post doesn't do them justice!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Play Review: 1984

Image found here.
Last week I saw the Shakespeare Theatre Company perform a play version of the famous George Orwell novel, 1984. I read the book in high school (or maybe even middle school?), so it had been a long time. I really didn't remember much about the book, except that it predicts a dystopian future when "Big Brother" is always watching you.

I am not sure this play version did justice to the book, only because the stage can be so limiting compared to what your imagination can do with words on a page. The majority of the play takes place in what looks like an office, with a group of people whom we assume are rebels of sorts against the government. The program for the play included little bios about each of the characters, none of whom I remember from the story (except perhaps Julia, though I had forgotten her name).

From the play's program.
They are all talking about the government, the different "ministries," and so on, but the scene happens over and over again. It's repeated several times, and it seems that the main character, Winston Smith, is the only one aware of this. This sense of déjà vu leads the audience to wonder what is real, what's not, and how much of an impact the government has on what's going on in reality. I was also annoyed and bored with the repetition, quite honestly.

The main part I did remember from the book is that the main character and some girl do take a train out into the wilderness (a meadow? forest?) and have sex. That did happen in the play, except you have to imagine the characters out in nature (since the set didn't really change). These two people also find a little room where they think they can be safe without being seen, but we learn that there are even cameras in that storage room. In this story, sex is meant only for procreation, not pleasure, so both of them are arrested for "sexcrime."

Then comes the most memorable yet terrifying part of the play. The set changes to be a completely white, sterile room, which is Room 101 (the place where criminals are taken). There Winston is tortured for having independent thoughts. The example they give is this: when the man in charge of his torture asks him what 2+2 equals, Winston says 4; even when the man says that the answer should be 5 if the government chose it to be so, Winston denies that, saying it must be 4. Because Winston is disobeying the brainwashing that the government is trying to accomplish, he is tortured. First his fingertips are burnt off, then his teeth are pulled out, there was fake blood everywhere...It was very difficult to watch, even though we knew it wasn't real. The last straw was when they attempted to have rats eat off Winston's face. This is when he shouts, "Do it to Julia!" This pretty much means that he is willing to sacrifice the woman he loves to save himself. The torture ends, and we learn that Julia turned on him as well.

Although this one part was not even half of the play, it's what stuck with me the most. It was so gory and horrible. I can't even remember the actual ending of the play. I just have this image of this man on the ground, covered in blood and spitting fake teeth out. I'm not sure this is what Orwell would have wanted to be the main message for his story, but then again, perhaps he would appreciate the warning about a government that controls EVERYTHING, even one's thoughts.