Another Chapter

January is a time to look back at the previous year and also to look ahead to the new year.  I’m determined to put some effort into MKinMotion.com in 2012 and get back to my blogging roots a little.

Since my last post here, I’ve moved from Anchorage to Austin, Texas. Quite a transition, indeed! While I’m considering the climate a definite improvement, I can’t say that the transition has been smooth or enjoyable. I’d come to the realization that I was comfortable, but wasn’t happy with most everything to do with my life in Anchorage. Luckily, my move to Austin came with a promising job and a healthy relocation package, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. There was plenty of stress surrounding closing out my time at my job in Alaska, packing, and leaving. I’m getting closer and closer to feeling like I’ve settled in, but there’s still plenty of transition to be done.

That being said, I’m excited and hopeful about where I am now. I see a lot of promise in my new job, the company, and I enjoy the people I work with. I’m living just across Lady Bird Lake from Downtown Austin. Being the “Live Music Capital of the World”, I will have plenty of opportunities to get back to one of the key features of the old MKinMotion blog; telling you about great music. Austin is a new chapter in my life and I look forward to sharing some of it with you.

These aren’t New Years resolutions, but they’re goals I’ve made for myself to focus on in 2012. Maybe you can help me with them.

Blog Long Form
Back before Twitter and the short bursts, I took the time to write out entire sentences and paragraphs about things. I’d like to get to back to that. This should go hand in hand with a few of my other 2012 goals. Long form blogging may have gone out of style, but I still think there’s value in putting some time into it.

Be More Social
With all the tools available to keep up with friends and family, I do a terrible job of actually keeping up with friends and family. 2012 will be a year of Skyping, returning emails, phone calls, and generally connecting more with people.

Take More Photos
If I tell my Apple TV to stream the last 500 photos I’ve uploaded to Flickr, photos from 2009 show up in the slide show. While I’m not going to put a number on it, I want to take more photos in 2012.

Explore
This is the furthest East and furthest South I’ve ever lived. There’s a whole new territory of the US to be explored down here. Daytrips, long weekends, road trips, etc. Airfare is so much cheaper than Anchorage, that I’m putting more short trips on my calendar for 2012 to see new and old places. With the photo goal and the long form blogging goal, this should make for a great subject.

Be More Active
With very mild Winter temperatures in Austin, I’ve noticed that I do a lot more walking. I’m not committing to running a 5K or anything, but I am committing myself to do a lot more walking, biking, and paddling (heck, I live on the banks of a lake…) and raise my activity level.

ACL Recap Day Three: A Few Jaw Dropping Moments

Sunday was bittersweet. The bitter in that it was the last day of ACL, but the sweet that it promised to be a great day. On the agenda for Sunday were Blind Pilot, Dawes, The Morning Benders, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Band of Horses and The National.
I loved Blind Pilot’s set. It was solid and had a great turnout despite being so early in the day. They played mostly from their 3 Rounds and a Sound album, but mixed in a few new songs. The new songs have a new sound to them, lots of energy and fun, makes me really optimistic and anxious to hear what’s next from Blind Pilot.Dawes was a great follow-up. Wherein Blind Pilot brings a Portland feel to the folk/rock, Dawes brings a Southern California feel. Their 2009 release North Hills is really good, some standout songs are “That Western Skyline” and “When My Time Comes.” I felt a great feeling of hope when listening to Dawes.
We made our way down to the far corner stage for The Morning Benders. I didn’t and still don’t know much about The Morning Benders except that they’ve always reminded me a little of early Weezer and that they covered The Cardigans’ “Lovefool” a few years ago. They brought their energy and A-game mixing in power pop, and lots of guitar. The crowd was into it, and that goes a long way in a festival. Check out “Excuses” from Big Echo, their 2010 release.
There was a bit of a break in the action after The Morning Benders, knowing that the next two bands on the list would be near each other, we grabbed some food and beverages and camped out for a bit while Robert Earl Keen played. Keen is a Texas legend, an old friend of Lyle Lovett and quite good at what he does. It was a nice break and really gave a chance to gather energy. For some examples of Robert Earl Keen’s music, I’d recommend checking out “The Road Goes On Forever.”
What can I say about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros? Fact one: There is no one in the band named Edward Sharpe. Fact two: if you know nothing about the band, you’d probably recognize their song “Janglin’” from the surreal Ford Fiesta commercials. Fact three: they might just be insane…insanely good. The energy, and artististry that they brought to their set was incredible. I walked away jealous, uplifted, and with both “Janglin’” and their song “Home” stuck in my head for days. Check out their self-titled album, you will not regret it.
Band of Horses were up next on the stage directly behind us, but also the stage that the overall headliners of the festival, The Eagles, would be playing on to close the festival a few hours away. It was flooded with people camping out. Rather than deal with the crowd too much, we found a nice place to plop down on the grass and be able to clearly hear Band of Horses crank out great song after great song.
Because we jumped out of the mess that was the main stage a little early from Band of Horses/The Eagles we lucked into being very close for The National. This was at the top of my list of bands I was looking forward to and also planned on it being our last band of the festival. It could not have been better. The band ran onto the stage the moment that The Flaming Lips ended their set on a nearby stage (with “Do You Realize?”, of course) and lit right into a set of mostly songs from their 2010 release High Violet and their wildly popular Boxer from 2007. They mixed in some old songs, but blazed through energetic, loud versions of songs I’ve come to love. There’s an emotion that their music touches that makes them unique; maybe it’s singer Matt Berninger’s brooding baritone voice, or the power of twin brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner on guitars, but part of it is the energy that comes from a great rhythm section driving their melancholy songs. If you don’t already have Boxer AND High Violet in your collection, run don’t walk to however you get your music and add them. Despite a lack of what is traditionally perceived as “good stage presence” the band wears their emotions on their sleeves and in this performance they slit their wrists and let the blood spray all over the crowd. They played well beyond their time limit citing permission from Glenn Frey of The Eagles to play for an extra few minutes. It was easily on my top 5 list for moments of the trip. Exhausted, dirty, sun burnt, hungry, and sore we allowed The Eagles to serenade our walk to the taxi stand with “Hotel California” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” it couldn’t have been better.

ACL Recap Day Two: A Long Day

Saturday promised to be another long day at the festival. On the agenda were Pete Yorn, The Gaslight Anthem, Broken Bells and The Temper Trap at the festival with the much anticipated Black Keys aftershow.
We got to the stage where Pete Yorn would be playing a little early which not only meant we had a decent view, but also that we got to hear Grace Potter and the Nocturnals on the next stage over. She was a late addition to the lineup and was on my list as a tentative because it would have meant getting to the festival fairly early. Her performance was great. Lots of energy!
Pete Yorn is another artist that I’d seen perform live prior to ACL. The last time I saw Pete play live was at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Yorn released a new album (Self-titled Pete Yorn, recorded in Salem, OR, produced by Frank Black) right before ACL and is in the midst of touring the late night TV circuit. His set was made up of several new songs, but some great renditions of some of his older material. A favorite was the version of “Lose You” he played. It’s one of my favorite songs of his, and not one I would necessarily expect him to play live. By the end of his set he had the crowd fired up with songs from Musicforthemorningafter.
I recommend checking out “Rock Crowd” on his latest album and anything off of his debut.
The Gaslight Anthem had a great album in 2008 that showed up on lots of critics’ year end lists. Often confused with a pop punk band in the vein of a Good Charlotte or Fall Out Boy, but don’t let their look confuse you. Most people are drawing comparisons to Springsteen and those are legit comparisons. Their ACL set was solid with several songs from their 2008 release ’59 Sound and from this summer’s American Anthem. Check them out!
Broken Bells pairs Dangermouse of Gnarls Barkley fame with The Shins’ James Mercer. Their live performance was fantastic! Playing nearly their entire album plus a great cover of The Black Keys’ “Everlasting Light”.
I know very little about The Temper Trap, but I know that their album Conditions reminds me of U2 in the Unforgettable Fire days. It’s one of my favorite new albums and you should have it. Their live performance was solid playing most of their album and mixing in a few new songs.
After Temper Trap the decision needed to be made of whether to cross the festival grounds and pack in with all the hipsters to see LCD Soundsystem play as planned or take advantage of some extra time and make a break for the cab stand and get ready for Black Keys at Stubb’s. We elected to make a break for it.
Tickets for the Black Keys aftershow sold out within a few minutes of going on sale. With Foals opening it was certain we wouldn’t have a repeat of the Strokes two and a half hour wait…at least without proper entertainment. Foals are good! I’d listened to them a little in prep for the festival, but probably got lost in the mash of trying to catch up on the dozens of bands I knew very little about. Their performance made me think of a cross between the Smiths and the Cure, not too shabby.
The format of The Black Keys set was similar to their festival set, but longer. The two-piece then four-piece then two-piece combo worked really well. Again, as I said these guys are one of the hottest acts in music right now and based on their amazing performances, it’s well deserved. Spotted in the packed house was Britt Daniel of Spoon sneaking in the back door and through the crowd, and allegedly James Marsden stood a few inches in front of me (and several inches shorter than me) and let a girl light a cigarette off of his cigarette. I watched the transaction take place, but wouldn’t have recognized his X-Men powers. Couldn’t have asked for a better performance out of The Black Keys and a fitting end to a long day.

ACL Recap Day One: Black Keys, Vampires, and Monsters Oh My!

Thursday was an off day from the Festival. I got to have lunch with my former boss who moved back to Austin. I got to take a tour of his offices and facilities in West Campus of University of Texas. His company is doing some exciting things and growing like crazy, it reminded me of the old days when we worked together in what was essentially a start-up.
Friday marked the opening day of the official festival. Having been to ACL before I understood that there needed to be a little bit of planning and strategy to the day. With 130 bands on 6 stages over 3 days, there are plenty of bands that overlap other bands and deciding when and where you want to be to see who. Compromises have to be made when two bands you want to see play at the same time. On the list for Friday was The Mountain Goats, The Black Keys, Spoon and Vampire Weekend at the festival and then catching Monsters of Folk and Blind Pilot at Stubb’s for two aftershows.
I didn’t know much about Mountain Goats going into the festival, other than that they’d been around for quite a while and a few of their songs consistently show up in my iTunes. John Darnielle is a great front man. The primary songwriter is funny and engaging. At one point he said, “To the dude who keeps yelling [song title I can’t remember], I have heard your cry” and also talked about the fact that singers don’t go into music business if they don’t have an ego issue to work out on stage.
For a great Mountain Goats song, download “Woke Up New” from 2006’s Get Lonely
The Black Keys are one of the hottest American bands out there right now. The crowd that was stacked up to see their ACL set was definitely proof of that. We got relatively close, but knew we’d have a chance to see them the next day play a full set at Stubb’s, so fighting the crowd wasn’t necessary. They started off with several songs with the traditional two-piece lineup of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, brought a bass player and keyboard player out for some of the songs off of their new album, and finished the set as a two-piece. It was loud, tight, and got the crowd moving; exactly what you want out of a rock band!
Check out “Everlasting Light” and the rest of their near flawless album Brothers.
Spoon is one of the bands in the ACL lineup that I’ve seen before. I love their upbeat music with a driving beat that almost commands that you bob your head and tap your foot. Being from Austin originally, Spoon drew quite a crowd. Highlights for me were seeing a handful of songs off of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and Gimme Fiction.
Check out “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
The thing about Vampire Weekend is they are madly popular…and very good. Put those two factors together and you’d be as confused as I was to see that they were scheduled to play on of the smaller side stages. Having thousands of people mash in to see Vampire Weekend caused quite a mess, and with a long sweaty day and an aftershow to get to, we decided to bail out after a few songs and head back to the hotel before walking to Stubb’s.
I’m more of a fan of Vampire Weekend’s self-titled album than their latest release, check out “A-Punk“.
The Monsters of Folk aftershow was certainly something I was looking forward to. The “supergroup” made up of Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes, and M. Ward promised to be great with the freedom of a full set, rather than a pared down festival set. The combination of all three voices, haunting in their own way, made for 2 and a half hours of spectacular music. A highlight for me was them playing My Morning Jacket’s “Golden“, one of my favorite songs.
Check out their album and don’t miss “Ahead of the Curve“.
By the time Monsters of Folk finished their set, it was 12:30, Portland’s Blind Pilot were scheduled to start playing at 1:20AM. My cousin-in-law drives the tour bus for Blind Pilot, and before Monsters of Folk, we had a chance to chat and I jumped at the chance to take a tour of the tour bus. It’s a antique school bus that’s been converted. Other than the fact that there is a governor that keeps it from exceeding 60 mph, I think it would be a great way to tour the U.S. Check out his tour blog. After a long day of standing, and burning in the sun, the 1:20AM Blind Pilot set ended up being too late and too crowded to deal with, and I knew I’d be seeing their festival set on Sunday, so we bailed on the set. In hindsight, I guess I regret it, but at the time with aching feet, back, and cramped into the basement of a building full of people it was certainly justified. More on Blind Pilot on Sunday’s recap.

ACL Recap Day Minus One: Getting There From Here

I went to the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2005 and every year since I’ve seen it come and go wishing I made the effort to get there again. 2010 was the year. The lineup was solid, not as much in the headliner department, but the mid-major and small time bands made up for the lack of power at the top. Tickets were purchased, travel was arranged, it was on.
2005 is rather legendary in ACL lore because the festival was happening as Hurricane Rita (the follow-up to Katrina) was threatening to hit Houston. Thousands of people had already flood the gulf coast for Houston and along with thousands of Houston area residents, they flocked to Austin. The temperatures in Austin in September of 2005 were already smoldering, but adding the hot air blowing in off the the gulf it was unbearable for this guy from Alaska. The 2010 festival was scheduled for October and promised to be be cooler…and no hurricane.
Technology has come a long way since September of 2005 too. The phone I carried and the roaming service I had allowed only for voice calls while roaming. No texting, no data. Fast forward to 2010 and not only do I have texting and data, but I’m tweeting, uploading pictures, and keeping all my non ACL-attending friends jealous of my trip.
Traveling to Austin from Anchorage consisted of 3 flights. Leaving Anchorage in the middle of the night, landing in Portland too early in the morning for Coffee People to be open, a terribly turbulent flight in to San Jose, and a pretty uneventful hop from San Jose to Austin. Arriving early in the afternoon on Wednesday, the only thing on the agenda was to catch some sleep and get up and out in time to catch The Strokes play an official Pre-Show Show at Stubb’s BBQ.
There was very little information about The Strokes’ show, I had been to the venue before and knew exactly where it was, but there was no information about any opener or what time the band would start playing, only that the doors opened at 7. We arrived at Stubb’s shortly after 7 and there was a line wrapped around the building of people waiting to get in. My days of being early, camping out, or pushing my way to the front of the stage are long behind me, but even with the line ahead of us, we managed to be pretty close to the stage in the standing room only backyard of Stubb’s.
The crowd continued to grow and grow and get more and more restless as minutes and hours passed without any sign of when The Strokes would take the stage. All in all it ended up being 2 and a half hours after the doors opened that they finally took the stage. The moment they ran onto the stage the crowd abruptly shifted. I’m no small guy and I was not in control of where I was headed as what felt like the entire crowd jumped 20 feet closer to the stage. Between the smell of humanity, the tiredness of having traveled all night, and the dust cloud that was created, fairly quickly into their set, we retreated towards the back of the crowd where there was not only more oxygen, room, and access to beers, but higher ground to see the stage better.
The Strokes are good. They’ve never been a favorite band of mine, but I like their music. I recommend seeing them if you have the chance; but don’t worry about being on time and don’t bother being close to the stage, the 19 year old hipsters have that market covered. They are a solid live act, even acknowledging the crowd a few times… At the end of their ~hour-long set they ran off of the stage as quickly as they ran onto the stage to start. And finally it was time to sleep.

“See, people they don’t understand…
No, girlfriends, they can’t understand…
Your Grandsons, they won’t understand…
On top of this, I ain’t ever gonna understand…”

The Strokes “Last Nite”