Janelle Monae and a Great Weekend!

Thornton Beach Overlook hike

This past weekend was a mix of study and play as I worked on a paper for my “Strategy and War” class but also did several fun things with SMS.

Friday night, we headed out to Antolian Kitchen, a Turkish/Kurdish cuisine restaurant.  I had the broiled whole fish, which was really delicious.  I’m on the tail end of a Whole 30 month so I’m trying to go to places that fit within those strict parameters.  I’m sure I’ve inadvertently broke the rules with a tiny bit of added sugar, butter and oils but nothing major.  SMS had a baked meat-stuffed tomato eggplant dish that was awesome.  I think we’ll be back, even off of a diet!

Saturday was a study/paper-writing day.  SMS and I started the day with the I’m taking my course through the Naval War College Distance Learning program and it’s interesting to learn more about military history.  Some of the books are very dry so focusing is tough, but that’s what blog entry writing breaks are for!

Hanging out!

The next day was Sunday Fun Day.  SMS and I went up to San Francisco to the Stern Grove Festival.  It was opening day and Janelle Monae was the headliner.  I saw her at Coachella a few years ago and she was fantastic.  We were supposed to go with friends but their son was sick so they bailed.  The show was amazing with a great setlist:

  • Suite IV Electric Overture
  • Dance Apocalyptic
  • Sincerely, Jane.
  • Q.U.E.E.N.
  • Electric Lady
  • One Fine Day
  • I Got You (I Feel Good)
  • I Want You Back
  • Cold War
  • Tightrope
  • Yoga
  • Let’s Go Crazy Come Alive (The War of the Roses)

 

 

Sitting on the stump!

Our concert seats were…interesting.  The place was packed!  We arrived at 1:15, 45 minutes before the start of the show.  We climbed up the hill and found an awesome tree stump.  We stayed there through the opening act Midtown Social and then headed down the hill for most of Monae’s set.  The sound was better and the energy level higher.  It was great!

Thornton Beach

Afterwards, we went out for sushi at a place with a TV so we could watch the first half of the Warrior/Cavs game.  It was Game 7 and I think most of the Bay Area was watching!  It was a great game- very competitive.  We didn’t want to stay for the whole game so we headed back home and listened to it on the radio.  I even streamed the last few minutes on Periscope with mixed success.

Thornton Beach

On the way home, we stopped at Thornton Beach Overlook and hiked down to the beach cliffs.  It was so beautiful and a good impromptu hike along the Pacific.

Beyonce! Levi Stadium 5/16!

After such a busy weekend, I was feeling a little peaked.   All I wanted to do was relax but… Beyonce was in town! After getting married, SMS and I walked down the aisle together to “Love on Top” and we have always talked about seeing a concert together.  I missed buying tickets through LiveNation so I sort of wrote it off.  But, a few days prior, I started looking on StubHub and I realized that tickets were being sold below face value.  So I started thinking…

 

By mid-Monday afternoon, I was decided.  We were going!  SMS and I met up after work and bought our LightRail VTE tickets.  After dinner at home, we went to the train station and took the packed train to Levi Stadium.  It wasn’t packed to Japanese standards but a couple people really smooshed their way in and would definitely fit in during Tokyo rush hour!
We got to the stadium and, small annoyance, no bags bigger than 4 x 6 inches are allowed into the venue.   Argh, I really wished I knew that before I left home!  After checking my bag, we went into the arena where DJ Khaled had a good set.  I’m sure it was very cool since I didn’t know any of the songs.
After his set, we waited.  The show didn’t start until 9, which I somewhat suspected would happen because the focal point of the stage is a 5-storey LED screen.  By waiting until it was dark, the effect was much more dramatic.

 

The show was amazing.  Beyonce sang a lot and sounded amazing.  Some songs were arranged differently than the studio version, which always makes a live show a treat.  A few songs were more dance numbers where Beyonce wasn’t singing but instead, the studio track was playing.  There was no attempt at trying to lipsync, which I appreciated.

 

Although we had good seats, the highlight of the show was the last four songs.  SMS and I were between the main stage and a smaller stage that was at the end of  a runway.  Every time the group went down the runway and performed on the smaller stage, so many people from our section ran forward like the Running of the Bulls.  Finally, I decided I wanted to join the crowd so I asked SMS if he wanted to go too and off we went.  It was amazing timing because it was near the end of the show and the staging was great.  First, the smaller stage had been transformed into a large, shallow pool that Beyonce and her formation danced and stomped through.  Also, we were so close!    I felt like such a fan girl!  Finally, we were super close for the last song “Halo,” which was absolutely gorgeous.

After the show, we got home fairly easily.  I left my bag (on purpose) and will pick it up from lost and found this week.  The VTE was crowded but not unmanageable. If Beyonce comes to a city near you, I highly recommend the show!

Bay to Breakers 2016 weekend

This past weekend was amazing and packed with fun events.  There was even a special bonus on Monday (teaser alert!).

Pretty Mountain View Garden- not ours though!

On Friday, we picked up our keys to the new place and did our walk-through.  The house is absolutely lovely.  The property manager spent two weeks between the two tenants fixing up the place- and it had already been quite nice!  There’s new paint, completely clean interior, new recessed lighting and a backyard drought-resistant landscaping, aka, mostly gravel.  SMS and I love the place and are so happy!

SMS moves rocks.  Literally.

Saturday was a little less glamorous as we rented a truck, bought and picked up a couch on Craigslist and moved SMS’ stuff from storage to the his new garage!  We met a neighbor building an electric go-kart and overall, we’re looking forward to our new place.  It was really a very lucky find!

Beautiful SF day!

After moving, I headed up to the city to pick up my Bay to Breakers bib.  The expo was pretty cool and absolutely mobbed.  Thanks to the power of Facebook, I messaged and met up with two friends from San Diego.  We belonged to the same book club and they are so much fun.  They had originally come to San Francisco for the Spartan Race but when they heard B to B was going on, they signed up for that too.  I was so happy to meet up with CL and Beth!

This is how I will take my coffee from now on!

Plus, we met up at The Buena Vista Cafe, famed for its Irish Coffee.  The cafe has been on my “SF List” and through serendipity, I ended up there with two great friends.  The coffee was delicious and I highly recommend.  Well, actually, there’s a caveat because we actually went to two places with Irish coffee.   The second was one that Darren, SF native, knew about called the Gold Dust Cafe.  Here, hidden in plain sight among the tourist traps in Fisherman’s Wharf, is San Francisco’s “best and cheapest” Irish Coffee.   Unlike the Buena Vista with its white-tiled, bright interior, Gold Dust is more lounge-y with lots of crushed red velvet.  Both are awesome and really, can you ever have too many Irish coffees? Yes, I’m sure the answer is actually yes but if you have two spaced out over a few hours, you should be alright.

Yummy shabu shabu!

After leaving CL and Beth, SMS and I met up for a late shabu shabu dinner at Shabuway in Mountain View.  It was pretty tasty and brought back good Japan memories!

The Ladies!

 

Costumes from Bay to Breakers
More Bay to Breakers photos!

The next day, I met up with CL and Beth for Bay to Breakers.  They were actually fairly hungover thanks to several Irish Coffees (see above) with more drinking after that.  But they rallied like champs!  We jogged/walked the race and had an amazing time.  There were so many people with costumes to see.  It was an incredible event and I’m so glad I did it.  I’ve been wanting to do it for years and since this is the year I live here, I made it a priority.

Costumes included: a group of chickens, men in Franzia boxes, a Pintrest-worthy homemade rocket pack, male Disney princesses, oompa-loompas, many Princes with a heavy “Purple Rain” contingent, a few David Bowies, old naked people (not technically a costume) and so many more costumes that it was hard to remember them all.  It was costume overload!

I wore my Japanese fuzzy monster costume from our Amazing Race days.  I’m glad I had something because I would have felt out of place in normal running clothes although there were many people in just that.
Andytown

After the race, we met up with SMS and headed to Andytown Coffee for a Snowy Plover.  Oh man, that drink is so delicious.  Since it’s been awhile on the blog, I’ll remind the reader that a Snowy Plover is espresso, Pellegrino and whipped cream.  Delectable!

Then we headed out to Lale cafe in Inner Sunset.  It was very good and best of all, no line for brunch!  I got an egg scramble with a homemade English muffin, which was delicious.

After brunch, we dropped CL and Beth off at their house and went to Glass Key Photo where SMS sold a camera.  It was a cute shop with a lot of old cameras.  We headed home and relaxed for the afternoon.

Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires

That evening, we went to Mountain Winery for a John Prine concert.  He’s an excellent performer with great songs, although I want to listen to some of his older recordings since his voice was a little clearer when he was young.  The opener was Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires.  They were excellent and a new-to-me find.  I also want to seek out some more of their work, which shouldn’t be hard since Jason Isbell is a very well-known performer in his own right, even though I hadn’t known about him before the show.

The venue was absolutely gorgeous.  It was also so cold!  There was a mountain breeze and the temps were in the low 50s/possibly high 40s.  Yuck!  We were definitely not dressed for it.

Vance Joy Oakland Concert

Vance Joy, with opening acts Jamie Lawson and Elle King, played a sold-out show at the art-deco Fox Theatre in Oakland on Saturday, 27 Feb.  It was an all-ages show and as Elle King said, “Raise your hands if you’re over 21….What are you doing here?!”  All three acts had solid performances, although I definitely had a favorite.

SMS and I walked in just after Jamie Lawson had started.  He had a small, self-supported background  of his name separating him from the rest of the stage, which had a huge backdrop of VANCE JOY.  He played an acoustic set composed of mid-tempo songs with very sweet lyrics.  The cynic among us would use slightly more negative words such as “saccharine” or “sappy” but boo on that person!  Who wants a negative vibe 😉  Jamie Lawson has done well in Great Britain and hopes to break into the US scene more.  He’s got a good start by having a solo tour starting in May so best of luck to him.

Elle King totally rocked.  She was extremely adept at sassy stage banter and really livened up the crowd.  She opened up with “Where the Devil Won’t Go,” which was awesome and high-energy.  She free-styled a little musical interlude while waiting for the banjo to be trouble-shooted since initially, it wasn’t miked properly (a replacement cord fixed the problem).  Everyone thought her lyrics were great, mostly because “Oakland” was rhymed with “rule” and “cool” so the concert-goers felt good about themselves.  Seriously, it was a pretty funny improv and definitely a testament to her stage presence and showmanship.  It was fairly clear that she’s a little over singing “Ex’s and Ohs,” but she still delivered.  I heard one of my favorite live mash-ups ever from here, which was Nick Jonas “Jealous” and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face.”  It was excellent!  It does reveal my slightly embarrassing pop-music tastes though.

Then, it was time for Vance Joy.  He had a confident stage presence and an excellent back-up band.  His songs are similar in style to Jamie Lawson and without the power of the back-up band, it would have had the same mellow energy.  The thing that struck me the most about his songs is that he uses a falsetto in almost every one to convey vulnerability.  The thing is, his falsetto is not really that good.  I haven’t heard enough of his recordings to hear if it does better in the studio environment, but in the live setting, it’s almost cringe-worthy at times just listening to the vocals alone.  It veers towards a pitchy vibrato that if I was sitting in a coffee shop open mic night, I’d look around for his cheering section and hope that one of them would pull him aside afterwards and say, “Great lyrics, great chord progression….maybe lose the falsetto?”

Vance Joy played an hour-long set, which included an encore of two songs, one unaccompanied acoustic and finally, “The Fire and the Flood,” the tour’s namesake and really well done.   Another highlight was “Call Me Al,” which showed the strength of the back-up band since they did a great job with the back-up vocals and horns, even though the horn section was a lot smaller than Paul Simon’s.

So, overall, solid show.  I wouldn’t buy marked up scalped tickets, but face value would be ok.   I love the Fox Theatre and we don’t go out to concerts that often so it was a nice treat.

Tokyo Concert

After a great day at work with my first “real” surgery as a staff, I was on my way to Tokyo for The Killers concert. Now, if you want to feel like a big weird-o, buy tickets via a Japanese translator for a band named “The Killers.” I swear, it’s just rock, not death metal!

I headed out to Studio-Coast in Shin-Kiba using my trusty Hyperdia directions. I love that website. When I reached Shinagawa, I had a quick bite to eat at Soup Stock Tokyo. The dinner was amazing! I had two delicious soups: a lobster bisque and a tofu soup. Both were so tasty and served at the absolute perfect temperature. They were hot, but not too hot. I hate when soups are lukewarm because I don’t think they’re as flavorful and I worry about germs growing – yuck! But this dinner reminded me of how good food can be in Japan. I also had a tasty roll and a small mug of honey lemon tea that was also perfect. 
Then I got on the Yamamote line followed by the Tokyo metro. I sped-walked to the venue because as I learned the hard way with Arcade Fire in 2008, concerts in Japan start on time! 

The concert was amazing. I stood on the steps to the main floor so I was close and had a great view. The venue is about 2000 people and has a wide, shallow floor so there really isn’t a bad vantage point anywhere. The whole band has a great stage presence although Brandon Flowers is definitely the focus, apart from the instrument solos. The concert was similar to X-fest last December. They played “Mr. Brightside” with the lights up, which felt like I was watching a band inside a school auditorium. The rest of the concert was darkened with lighting for effect. “Human” was awesome, both in the piano intro and full-song version. “A Dustland Fairytale” was a new-to-me song and I really liked it. Battle Born has some great songs and I loved the live version of “The Way It Was” and “Runaways.” It was just an overall awesome show. 

During “Read My Mind,” a Japanese fan in a green dragon costume was invited on stage. He was great! He danced and sang the “Read My Mind” line a few times. He was also very hug-gy. Flowers got 3 hugs from him and several deep bows! I later found out that the guy was dressed as Gachapin, a character that shows up in the “Read My Mind” video. Ah, so desu. 
Here’s the set-list: Mr. Brightside* Spaceman* The Way It Was* Smile Like You Mean It* Human (piano/vocals)* Bling(Confessions of a King)* Shadowplay (Joy Division Cover)* Human* Somebody Told Me* For Reasons Unknown* From Here On Out* A Dustland Fairytale* Read My Mind* Runaways* All These Things That I’ve Done* Encore: Jenny Was a Friend of Mine* When You Were Young (The Internet tells me that on 10/9, they also played Under the Gun, Prize Fighter, This is Your Life, Battle Born, but minus Jenny. Neither show had Miss Atomic Bomb.)

JazzFest, Part I

 

Our recent vacation was so much fun!  It was a vacation in two parts.  The first was our JazzFest experience with Tawnne and Sean and our second was our epic 1830 mile roadtrip in 4 days to visit Mechen’s grandmother.

Queen and Crescent

We flew out Thursday morning and arrived in New Orleans that afternoon.  We stayed at the Queen & Crescent on Camp St, near the French Quarter.  Despite some HORRENDOUS reviews on TripAdvisor, the hotel was quite nice.  It wasn’t a luxury hotel but it was clean and functional.  The only recommendation I would have is that a person bring earplugs.  The doors are rigged to close firmly/borderline slam shut and that can be loud at night.  The insulation is likely not all that great but it also happened at the Bellagio in Vegas.  I think doors are the weak point for sound.  I’m a sound sleeper but sudden noises in a strange place can startle me awake.

After changing, we headed over to the fairgrounds and saw Jimmy Buffet’s acoustic set.  It was awesome!  He rotated through some killer guitars and had hilarious stories between the songs.  We figured out where to catch the bus to head back from the grounds, which we did for the rest of the concert series.   This was an awesome find since public transport was $1.25 one way.  Cabs were about $20 and there was a hotel-sponsored shuttle that was $18/person one way (<–crazy).   In case you ever go, you want buses 47/48 if you’re catching them from Canal St adjacent to the French Quarter.

Jimmy Buffet
Bus friends!  We didn’t know the girl but we all helped her finish her fishbowl.

Disgusting, I know.  It made sense at the time.

That evening, we walked up and down Bourbon St and I had my first (and only) hand grenade.  The sugar and alcohol content is ridiculous!  But I had always wondered what they were like so…wonder no more!

Friday was a pretty spectacular day.  We slept in and then walked over to Cafe du Monde for beignets and coffee.  Then we walked over to Confederacy of Cruisers, a bike tour we had signed up for a few days prior.  It was awesome!  We cycled through Faubourg Marigny and the Bywater, early 19th century neighborhoods settled mainly by Creoles and Free People of Color.  Then we biked along the pretty, but traffic-heavy, Esplanade Ave and over to the Treme neighborhood.  We biked through the Louis Armstrong park.  We learned a lot about the history of the people who settle New Orleans, jazz/music history and civil rights.   We passed the area of the train tracks where the incident that led to Plessy vs Ferguson occurred.  Although that was actually a setback for civil rights, it was eventually overturned by Brown vs the Board of Education of Topeka.  On a lighter note, we also stopped in at Marie’s, a local bar where we had a Bloody Mary.  The Bloody Mary was ok.  It was a classic case of a “spicy” Bloody Mary = lots and lots of hot sauce.  In my mind, a spicy Bloody Mary = lots and lots of horseradish. The latter is delicious, the former is, well, still a Bloody Mary but not as awesome.  

We ended the bike tour with obtaining lots of recommendations from our tour leader, to include what to do later that night.  We headed over to the Fairgrounds and caught the last half of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, whom I loved.  “Medicine” is going to be my new closing music at the end of my cases.  Then, we saw Rodrigo and Gabriela.  That’s when I got a little ridiculous.

Why am I so far back?!?

I was fortified with a little (but not a LOT) of booze and decided that I wanted to get closer to the stage.  People were standing with lots of space in between so I quickly made my way up to the first barrier between general admission and the pricier VIP tickets.  I was pretty stoked.  And, again to clarify, I didn’t push by anyone or slip in between people- there was really tons of space.    At the barrier, I decided that I would try to hop it since there was no security around. 

This is nicer…
Here, I am actually in the photographer pit.

So, up and over I went.  There was a little seat/step on the other side so I imagine that I looked exceedingly graceful and smooth…like a cat!  (<– this is likely debatable).  Then, I saw that there were bleachers on the side of the stage.  So, I walked around the stage, told an older security volunteer that I left my badge up there and walked onto the side bleachers.  I am still not sure how I got by on that one.  It was probably a low threshold of caring and hearing on the part of the volunteer security.  Once up on the bleachers, I noticed that people were in the wings of the stage!  I belonged there too!  (I did not).  So, I went to the front of the bleachers, ducked under the rail and made the two foot jump onto the stage.  I did hesitate before executing this plan but it was flawless!  Cat-like!  Regardless, I did not fall onto the ground. 

I want to be where the blond woman is!
On stage!  Success!

So, then I enjoyed the rest of the concert in the wings.  It was so cool and I took many pictures.  I would have loved to try the stunt again with another band but I think I used up my luck with this escapade so I didn’t try again.  Later that night, we went to the Joint for delicious pulled pork BBQ sandwiches, which was the only thing left on the menu they were serving.  Finally, we ended up at a bar called BJs where we listened to Little Frankie Walker, a trombone player with his bands.  We were happy that we had such a full day with so many sights and sounds, to include a late-night concert after JazzFest, which is sort of the second part of the day for a lot of attendees, both musicians and concert-goers.

Coachella 4/15-4/17

Coachella was AWESOME! I knew that I would have a good time, but the whole experience exceeded my expectations. We went with two friends and camped at the Polo Grounds. Camping was great, although we lucked out with our site in a few ways. Our neighbors were all pretty mellow and quiet, but not too mellow in a blasting Marley or the Beatles (seriously?) during the day type of way. We were also in the middle of a row, away from random foot traffic and, more importantly, large floodlights.

But the music, you say! Stop being so crochety and old and talking about where you slept. Boring!

So the first day, I saw CeeLo Green who had the plug pulled since he was 30 minutes late into a 40 minute set and was really mad at the organizers. Lauryn Hill’s set was AMAZING with Fugees and “Miseducation” songs seamlessly flowing and she sounded great. A new discovery (for me) was the Cold War Kids who are a great rock band and I downloaded several songs immediately- “Royal Blue” and “Bulldozer” stand out. Brandon Flowers set was terrific and I had never really heard his songs before. I now have his whole album thanks to Jenny! In addition, the Killers came out for “Read My Mind” and “Mr Brighteyes.” The only disconcerting thing about Brandon Flowers is that his voice has a shitload of strain in it. I kept thinking his voice would crack and I’m sure he has singer nodules in his future. I loved Robyn and am working out to several of her songs all the time. Finally, we say Floggin Molly that night, super late (until 130). They had an amazing amount of energy. Other bands we heard that day were The Black Keys, Crystal Castle and Ozomatli.

On Saturday, we saw The Joy Formidable who have a guitarist/singer who is this really bad-ass pixie. Sean saw Two Door Cinema Club, whom he said were awesome and the “Irish Killers” so I definitely want to check them out at some point. New Pornographers and Bright Eyes were very good. Bright Eyes was followed by Mumford and Sons and they were awesome! We were really close to the stage for their show and the energy was through the roof! They played two new songs- “Blinded by the Light” which I heard at Belly Up and another that I’m blanking on right now. Finally, the night ended with Arcade Fire. They were great and I finally got to see them after my frustrating near-miss in Tokyo 3 years ago!

The last day was more mellow for us. We saw Twin Shadow, Jack’s Mannequin and Best Coast which were all new finds for us and sounded great. Nas and Damian Marley were great and Wiz Khalifa had really energetic fans especially considering there was a pot smoke cloud over the crowd the entire time. We ended our night with The National then headed home, totally tired but so happy.

The concerts were amazing. There were a few folks we weren’t as fond of but more due to our tastes rather than lack of musical artistery. I missed the advance sale for 2012 (boo!) but I’ll definitely be looking for tix in Jan, 2012!