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Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl

So, I’ve been really into The Crown lately…probably because it’s a welcome distraction from the hot mess that is the United States right now. Also I like looking at fancy interiors and rooms with impossibly high ceilings.

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Previously, the only knowledge I had about the royal family was from many years of watching Beatles footage. There’s actually quite a bit of relevant material. First there was the Royal Variety show in 1963, where the Beatles played for the Queen Mother and John got cheeky:

Then there were multiple instances of the Beatles meeting Princess Margaret (“Priceless Margarine” in John’s words). Fun fact: she and Lord Snowdon both attended the premieres for A Hard Day’s Night and Help! (spoiler alert: the Princess doesn’t marry Peter Townsend).

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And of course the MBE debacle, in which the Queen made the boys members of the British Empire, fans stormed Buckingham Palace, a bunch of people got mad, and the Beatles just got super high and gave a somewhat incomprehensible interview about it:

Fast forward to the 90s and you have Paul and George Martin being knighted by the Queen herself. And, a gazillion years later, Ringo’s finally a knight too!

Anyway, it’s been fun learning more about the monarchy and all its drama by way of a Netflix original series. Compared to American scandal, it’s all very dignified drama. Also, I’ve learned that I kind of have a crush on King George VI and I’m cool with that.

To end, here’s an adorable picture of Paul and the Queen:

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(Bonus picture – I find this one even more adorbs.)

HSB 17 Highlights

Before I ramble about some of my favorite parts of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 17, I wanted to make sure I wrote down something that’s been on my mind:

Seeing as the worst mass shooting on American soil took place at an outdoor music festival just 5 days prior to HSB, I was more than a little paranoid about going to a large-scale, free concert in the park last weekend. I even packed a first aid kit in my bag and had a few fleeting concerns about how to use its contents without fainting, which is a bummer because no one should have to be fearful of going to a music show.

But thankfully, nothing awful happened, and in fact almost every artist I saw made some sort of comment about the feelings of peace/love/brotherhood/sisterhood floating around the festival throughout the weekend. Maybe it sounds a little silly, but there is something special about HSB that you don’t get at Outside Lands or any other festival. For one, it’s completely free and non-commercial—no corporate sponsorships, no “Heineken House,” no admission price. Attendees range from babies to baby boomers (and also lots of dogs), and everyone respects one another. There’s an immense amount of trust involved in letting 750,000 people walk into Golden Gate Park with unchecked coolers and backpacks, but if there’s any place you can pull it off, it’s here. So thanks, San Francisco, for once again proving that you’re a city of peace and love and (literal) harmony.

Now, with that out of the way, here are my highlights from the festival.

The War and Treaty

This Michigan-based couple were billed as a supporting act to Buddy Miller, but umm, they definitely stole the show. Their love for each other practically radiated off the stage during their set; it was wonderful. (Fun fact: Michael Trotter Jr. was a soldier in Iraq who wrote his first songs on a piano owned by Saddam Hussein.) They just released their first EP this summer, called Down to the River. Check ’em out playing the title track below (so much energy!!). I feel lucky to have seen them, and hope they come back to the Bay Area soon.

Dan Auerbach

I never really got into The Black Keys, but while listening to HSB playlists in the past month, it was Dan Auerbach’s stuff I kept coming back to. Also, I really like his music videos – they’re so fun (and a little bizarre). See: “Shine on Me” and “Stand By My Girl”, both of which have a bit of a George Harrison/All Things Must Pass-era vibe to me.

So seeing Auerbach on Saturday evening was definitely a highlight. We were right up front (my dad has a friend who makes a point to stake out front-row spots at the beginning of each day) and it was awesome. I had no idea who the guys in Auerbach’s band were—none of them looked younger than 65—but turns out they’re kind of a big deal: Gene Chrisman drummed on “Respect,” “Sweet Caroline,” and “Son of a Preacher Man,” Dave Roe was the longtime bassist for Johnny Cash, Bobby Wood and Russ Pahl have played with some of the biggest names in music. Cool!

Here’s the video for the opening song Auerbach played at HSB, a nostalgic mini-movie complete with a John Prine cameo:

The Secret Sisters

I got to the festival early on Sunday to catch The Secret Sisters, and they did not disappoint. If you like First Aid Kit (another sisterly duo, whose performance on Friday I sadly missed), I would definitely recommend checking them out! They performed a whole bunch of lovely original songs (like this one) but the video I chose below is an a cappella version of a 1920s song, because I just loved their rendition so much.

Lampedusa

Thank goodness I tagged along with my parents to this one, because I’ll probably never get to see Patty Griffin, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, and Lucinda Williams (and Bob Weir!) on the same stage together ever again. Lampedusa is a group of musicians currently touring to raise awareness of the worldwide refugee crisis. My heart melted as soon as they started singing (appropriately) “Refugee” and continued to melt all the way through “Love Hurts,” “I Know You Rider,” and “Pilgrim”. Not to mention the Blue Angels were flying over our heads throughout their set, which made for some sweet pictures. Can’t find any high quality videos from the show, but here’s one of “I Know You Rider” which is fun because you can see me and my parents over on the left side near the front (Dad’s in a green shirt and big hat, mom’s in a white shirt, and I’m in red).

Also, can I just say how amazing Emmylou Harris is? She was the first act I ever saw at HSB, and one of my favorite singers. She continues to play the festival every year, and her voice is just pure magic.

Other noteworthies

  • Although Alex and I were about a football field’s length away from the stage during Randy Newman’s set, it was still great fun. Obligatory “You’ve Got A Friend” video (“That guy looks like Tom Hanks…”).
  • Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile were good from what I heard, but by that point it was so packed at the Swan Stage that I couldn’t really get a solid look/hear. Ah well, maybe next time.
  • Same as above for John Prine; I really would’ve enjoyed being up close for his set, but the crowd was too much so unfortunately I just heard a few songs.

In previous years, I found HSB to be a bit overwhelming, but this year was so enjoyable that I’m really looking forward to the next one. Also, kudos to my parents for hanging out at the festival all weekend; if they can do it, I guess I can too. :p

What story are we watching?

You know that feeling after waking up from a strange dream…those few seconds of disoriented, uneasy confusion? Having to parse reality from your mind’s own creations? Welp, the finale of Twin Peaks: The Return has managed to pinpoint that feeling and make it last indefinitely.

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Man…David Lynch and Mark Frost really made me think we were getting a neatly packaged resolution with Parts 16 and 17, then just shattered everything to pieces with Part 18. I still have no idea what to think, and my new favorite pastime is reading all the speculation in the Twin Peaks subreddit. (I think it’s safe to say that there’s enough material to fuel discussions for at least the next 25 years.)

Since I don’t ever post on Reddit except when one of my favorite people is doing an AMA, I’m going to dump all my thoughts/half-baked theories here instead (it’s about time I got use out of this blog).

BEWARE! Lots of spoilers and rambling ahead.

Continue reading “What story are we watching?”

Monday Night Feels: The Who Edition

Oh hi. It's been a minute, hasn't it?

Sorry for the lack of posts on here. I'm happy to say it's because I've been doing a lot of writing elsewhere, although I certainly don't want this blog to die. Where else can I blab about my favorite classic rock bands, silent movies, and TV shows?

Speaking of which, I have some thoughts about The Who that I want to share.

Continue reading “Monday Night Feels: The Who Edition”

Those good good Beatles harmonies

Last week, after a particularly long bus ride in which I listened to “Yes It Is” (a severely underrated song, IMO) no less than five times in a row, I was inspired to compile the perfect playlist of Beatles harmonies. Or at least, perfect to me.

This is by no means comprehensive…just a few of my favorites, arranged (mostly) chronologically because I always think it’s so interesting to hear how the Beatles’ songwriting/recording techniques evolved over time. You can hear them getting more comfortable singing together with each song, until finally you get to “Because” which 100% always blows me away with those goosebump-inducing vocals.

(If you don’t have Spotify, I’m sorry. It’s impossible to make a Beatles playlist on YouTube.)

I had to include “The End,” because 1) the other Abbey Road songs kinda leave you hanging, and 2) they do sneak some great harmonies in there.

Also, yesterday was George’s birthday! Happy birthday, dear George.

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February music roundup

All of these artist discoveries have been thanks to my latest A Song A Day curator (Janet Choi, YOU DA BEST). I’ve enjoyed listening to this music so much that I had to share some of it here.

Kaia Kater. Beautiful lyrics and Americana sound (even though she’s Canadian)! Love love love.

Jacob Collier. Holy smokes, this kid! Apparently he writes/arranges, records, produces, and performs everything himself. The song that got me hooked was his cover of “In My Room” but honestly, everything he does is pretty phenomenal.

The Lemon Twigs. I listened to their album Do Hollywood and concluded that they’re trying to be the Beatles, Queen, and The Who all at once, and it is great. Also, they’re only 17 and 19 years old!

MAGIK*MAGIK. Beautiful new music straight from San Francisco (well in this case, the Fox Theater in Oakland).

Hello, my treacherous friends

Ok, so I’ve been seeing this Top 10 High School Albums thing circulating around lately, and since I’m all about lists…and albums, and high school nostalgia…I figured I should probably do it (and then not post it on Facebook, because wow, apparently everyone else had much cooler musical tastes than I did as a teenager).

You might think I chose period-appropriate albums when I could’ve actually named a bunch of 60s/70s albums, but in fact, I did listen to a lot of current music in high school. :P These are the albums that will forever remind me of beach bonfires, driving to the Krikorian, coming home from band tournaments with my CD player tucked in my jacket pocket…basically, a time capsule of high school in Southern California circa 2002-2006.

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Ahhh, so many awkward, acne-filled memories…
  • OK Go, OK Go. I think I listened to OK Go and Oh No equally, but picked the former because it has a cooler cover. One of the two albums was always in my car stereo.
  • Make Up the Breakdown, Hot Hot Heat. My pitfriends and I were really into this album during the summer of ’05 (I think Alie even made screen-printed Hot Hot Heat t-shirts for us, although maybe I’m thinking of OK Go). Whatever happened to these guys?
  • Give Up, The Postal Service. For when I wanted to feel moody and introspective.
  • Rooney, Rooney. One of those “all my band friends are listening to this so I’ll listen to it too” albums. It was my personal soundtrack to Hawaii ’05.
  • Live at Leeds, The Who. I went a little Who-crazy the summer before senior year (like, writing-fan-letters-to-Pete-Townshend crazy). This album is unique because 1) it’s a live album, and I’m not usually a fan of live albums, and 2) it’s one of the few classic rock albums that does remind me of high school. Still a favorite.
  • Hot Fuss, The Killers. This has senior year written aaaallllll over it.
  • Catalyst, New Found Glory. An album that I bought solely because my crush liked it. As a result, I listened to it more than I’d like to admit.
  • Ocean Avenue, Yellowcard. I mean, who didn’t listen to Yellowcard in 2004??
  • Strong Bad Sings (And Other Type Hits). My years in high school coincided with the golden age of homestarrunner.com. As a result, my friend Kyle and I both bought this album, and sampled it heavily in our Music Tech class. I still regularly find myself singing “The Cheat Is Not Dead” and the Sweet Cuppin’ Cakes theme song.
  • Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack. Not even embarrassed at how much I listened to this. Ok, maybe just a little.
To end with, here’s an 8tracks playlist I made a few years ago that pretty much sums it up:

The past harmonizes

Oh, hello. Apparently it’s almost 2017.

November and December sped by so fast that I wound up at home in Vista the week before New Years, feeling like the holidays never even happened. While I’m here attempting to soak up some Southern California sunshine, here’s a quick(ish) update.


It has been a strange year, hasn’t it? If you follow me on Twitter, I already mentioned it there, but I just finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63, a novel about JFK’s assassination and the consequences of time travel. In the book, the main character goes back in time to try and prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from killing JFK, but because the past doesn’t want to change, horrible things keep happening to keep him from doing it. And now I’m convinced that a bad guy has come back in time to 2016 to change history and make Trump president (what other explanation could there be??), and as punishment, 2016 is taking away all of our favorite people.

David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Glenn Frey, George Martin, Maurice White, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Anton Yelchin, Florence Henderson, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Harper Lee, Elie Wiesel, Muhammad Ali, John Glenn…

The list, sadly, goes on.

Some of these deaths could be predicted, others were an unexpected punch to the gut. Especially David Bowie and Leonard Cohen, who each released incredible albums this year, and Prince, who was still performing up until his last days. What a simultaneously great and depressing year in music.

But let’s also remember that in 2016, the Cubs won the World Series, Leo won an Oscar, and my overcrowded, underfunded high school won a $10 million grant. This, plus the list above and the presidential election, goes to show that just about anything—no matter how unbelievable—is capable of happening. Hopefully 2017 gives us more of the good stuff and less of the awful.


On a personal note, 2016 was pretty surreal (in a mostly good way). I quit my comfy career in recruiting operations to become a full-time writer, which has always been my dream. I also started volunteering for the drum corps I was a member of in ’07-’08. Alex and I moved to the Outer Richmond, and as part of my work for Hoodline, I’ve gotten to know so many wonderful people in my neighborhood and throughout San Francisco. Instead of going to NYC in October as planned, we ended up spending 4 days in the hospital (don’t worry, all is fine now). And over Thanksgiving break, we adopted a 6-month-old kitty named Cooper (as with any modern cat, you can follow his adventures on Instagram). So it’s been a rewarding but extremely busy year! I have some personal projects I want to work on in 2017, and I can’t tell yet if that’ll mean more or less blog posts. Either way, this will always be where I go when I have a new obsession or want to fangirl over the Monkees, so you can at least count on a few new posts.

Byeeeeee 2016, we won’t miss you.

On Neurosociety and Meeting Idols

The other week we got to see David Byrne(!!) and collaborator Mala Gaonkar talk about their new project Neurosociety. The discussion took place in a 100-person lecture hall at Stanford, and started off with David giving a short presentation about the exhibition. (Side note: I’m inexplicably delighted by the fact that I got to sit 20 feet away from David Byrne as he stood at the podium with his glasses on, clicking through powerpoint slides and explaining each one in earnest. If only I’d gotten to attend this lecture.)

The project takes various scientific studies and adapts them into a more theatrical, interactive setting. You’re taken through three different rooms in groups of 10, and basically become test subjects, although in a less clinical, more entertaining way. We learned more as the discussion went on, but David’s first explanations were perhaps the best (“…and here, you’re in the body of a doll…”). Apparently the first iteration that just opened in Menlo Park is a bit of a test run, with more locations and experiences to open in the future.

After a discussion between David, Mala, and two Stanford professors, there was a Q&A with the audience. I knew after the first question that there was no way I was going to embarrass myself by trying to speak up, even though part of me desperately wanted DB to acknowledge my existence. These audience questions were thoughtful, academic statements about cognitive biases, data analysis, science as theater, theater as science, etc. Given the chance to talk, I would’ve just blurted out something like “DAVID WHERE’D YOU GET THAT COOL VEST?”

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Either this picture was taken that same day, or DB just really likes that vest. (Photo: Gabriella Angotti-Jones)

I also had the realization that I’m terrified of meeting people I greatly admire. I could’ve very easily gone up to DB afterward, given him a handshake, and said a polite hello. But as a sweaty, awkward fangirl in a room full of scholars and scientists, I was verrrry intimidated.

I’m a little miffed at myself for not being more brave in a once in a lifetime (see what I did there) opportunity, but part of me prefers to not ruin the fantasy. I mean, instead of having the meaningful, eloquent conversation that I’d carefully concocted in my head, I’m pretty sure I would’ve mumbled something unintelligible and completely blown it (this is why I write words, not speak them). So for now I’ll keep admiring my idols from afar, dreaming about hanging out with them at the mall, hoping for the eventual chance encounter on the street where I might actually have the courage to say hello.

And as for Neurosociety, I was super excited to go to the opening weekend in Menlo Park, but received an email last week that my ticket had to be rescheduled to after November 22nd. :( So now we’re going on December 10 in case anyone else wants to join!