(No Longer) Dead To The World

I am still alive! I have not been taken down by my foursome. It isn’t for a lack of trying! My pre-teen likes to remind me daily of my ‘great parenting’ (in case your phone isn’t displaying the font correctly, that is written in the oozing sarcasm font), my 2nd boy has perfected the playing of the middle child card, my daughter is 7 going on 17, at least in her mind, and my baby has up and left me to enter Kindergarten. Oh yeah, and the start of the school year also brought us the gift of the stomach bug. All except my darling daughter got it. My theory is that she is so mean that she scared it away.

The point is, I am still here. Still listening to music. Still going to live shows. Still writing about parenting and music. Well, okay, you got me on that one. In my head, I have written hundreds of posts. Unfortunately, they haven’t gotten out of my head nor can you read my mind. So they have done no one any good. Part of me feels like a slacker, but you know what, the other part of me says screw it. I am a busy Mom of 4 who is trying to balance parenting, wife-ing, working, socializing, and everything-else-including-the-kitchen-sink-ing. Speaking of sinking, I realize lately this blog has been totally lacking my attention. I miss it. I miss you all. I miss talking about music that I love. I miss finding new bands to share with you all.

So, I am back. Part of the reason I had to come out of my blog-ernation (I was going to say hibernation, but if you have seen me around, hibernation couldn’t be further from the truth. It only pertains to the blog…hence the cute, made up name), is because one of my all time favorite bands in coming to town this weekend. And you shouldn’t miss it. And I apologize for all the shows I failed to tell you about. Wow….there were some good ones, too. Anyway…back to the show this weekend….

Ha Ha Tonka is playing at Headliners on Saturday night. These guys are just amazing. I’ve written about them a ton! They are extremely talented musicians and vocalists as well as downright nice guys. Come one now…they pulled me on stage at Uncle Slayton’s a few birthdays ago to sing me Happy Birthday!! There is no video (that I am aware of), but many of you were in attendance and can confirm this wasn’t just a happening in one of my dreams! They also win the title of hottest concert I have ever attended. It was in Lawrence, KS (we just happened to be visiting good friends out there). Actually, now that I think about it, they are in a tie with My Morning Jacket at The Palace for that title. Anyway, good times were had by all and we left with a glistening that you normally acquire from the sauna.

Ha Ha Tonka is out touring in support of their new album, Lessons. Brian Roberts, lead singer, has said that he got inspiration from the album after hearing an NPR interview with the late illustrator and renowned children’s author, Maurice Sendak (you know – Where The Wild Things Are and Little Bear, amongst others). These guys will get anyone moving. They rock hard. I have written about them a number of times. I like their new stuff. It’s one of those albums that really grows on you the more you listen to it. And I have been listening plenty!

Also, these guys are BIG St. Louis Cardinal fans and this girl, who is a BIG Yankees fan will be cheering on the Cardinals with them this week! 😉

This is a video of one of their new songs – Dead To The World. And I glad that I am no longer dead to the (blogging) world! I can’t wait to feel their energy Saturday night at Headliners!! See you there?


escaping to the garage with Ha Ha Tonka

As I prepared for my first official artist interview, I realized that I had no place where I could conduct the interview without the constant threat of the interrupting foursome.  You know how it is–everyone is totally settled and content, but the moment you pick up the phone, there is something that needs your attention.  And it is always something of the life or death nature….”I can’t find my water!” “Mommy-he won’t stop smiling at me.” Really?

I was started to get seriously worried about it when the interview-saving idea hit me – I could hideout in the garage! Hence the name of my interview series (I’m being optimistic that there we will be more this one!!): escaping to the garage with….

Ha Ha Tonka comes from the hills of the Ozarks and got their name from the Missouri state park by the same name.  Their sound is unique and fresh, yet comforting and familiar at the same time.  There is a strong sense of classic Southern Rock, yet with an edge of newness.  The result is music that is foot-stomping good which will entice you to sing and dance along!

So, I sat in a folding chair, praying the foursome hadn’t perfected their hide & seek skillz (don’t worry–there was actually another adult in the house with them at all times!!).  When Brian Roberts, lead singer and guitar player for Ha Ha Tonka called, my surrounding were quickly forgotten.  If you couldn’t make it to the last Waterfront Wednesday (I tried to convince you to go!!), then you missed out on seeing his amazing smile the entire time he was performing.  And I could hear that same charismatic smile making its way through the phone.  Brian says that one of his biggest pet peeves is cynicism and I can tell why – it seems to be the opposite of  his outlook on life! Even as he describes the harsh reality of life on the road – averaging maybe 8 hours per city, often having to drive a few hours after a show to ensure they make it to the next city – he emphatically declared that he was not complaining and he felt immensely fortunate that they are able to make music for a living.

It is a long way from where Brian started.  He is from a small, rural town in Missouri where music was a constant in his life from an early age.  His parents were both musicians and he was raised in the Church of Christ, where all church music is a capella.  And that is how Brian started his singing career.  He joked that it wasn’t very good singing on his part.  I say he has gotten pretty far on ‘poor singing’!! If only we could all be so lucky with our poor singing.  He said he was about 15 or 16 before he picked up the guitar, even though his Mom really wanted Brian and his brother to try the piano.  Brian and his brother ‘won’ that battle, yet now he says (with that smile in his voice) he totally missed out because playing the piano is the sure way to get the girls. 😉  However, he was serious when talking about the regret of not learning the piano.  This next part was music to my ears…parents listen up!! Brian claims that his parents were his biggest musical influences.  They both played and encouraged Brian and his brother to follow suit. Yay…score one for parents!!

It is always fascinating to me to hear about who bands are listening to.  Brian said Arcade Fire has been on heavy rotation.  But then he got very animated when talking about J.Roddy Walston.  Both Ha Ha Tonka and J. Roddy Walston & The Business played at the Austin City Limits Festival last weekend.  Brian could not stop talking about how talented J. Roddy Walston is and how they were the ‘best unknown’ group out there. And so lucky for us, J.Roddy Walston & The Business are playing at Waterfront Wednesday tonight with the talented local group, The Deloreans, and highly recognizable, They Might Be Giants.

Brian said Ha Ha Tonka hopes to make it back to Louisville in early 2012.  I will keep you updated as I hear more because this is a genuine group that plays amazing music and you don’t want to miss them!

a soft criticism

Ah sweet concert remorse, you have shown yourself again! The first time on May 19, 2007 when Ryan Adams headlined a special WFPK show at The Brown Theatre.  I was pumped…his Gold album was on heavy (and loud) rotation at my house (well, okay…car).  The theatre went dark – seriously, lights turned way down – and someone, who we all assumed was Ryan Adams, came out with a skull cap pulled down so low, it could have been your brother and you wouldn’t have known it.  He played a few songs and vanished. Gone. Lights on, game over.  I’ve heard a few explanations from a skateboarding induced injury to a later- diagnosed (serious) illness. Whatever.  Still love him and looking forward to his new release (due out in October).  But, I could do without that empty feeling of performance disappointment.  You walk in, excited and filled with anticipation for a great night ahead. And it is just a cruel reality when your expectations weren’t met – not even close.

Well, last night at Waterfront Wednesday, I should have done myself a favor and left at 8:30pm, just as Ha Ha Tonka was ending their AMAZING set (more to come on them!!).  When Sarah Jaffe walked onto the stage at 9pm the mood suddenly and drastically changed. The exact same thing happened in April at Headliners.  I had pushed her last performance in Louisville out of my head, because how could someone who has such an amazing voice, strong lyrics and a group of talented musicians backing her fail so miserably at live music?

Note-as a Mom, I have a hard time tearing someone apart unless they do something inexcusable – like take the last donut at the bakery when my kiddos were already salivating over their treat 😉 – and then watch out because Mama bear will come out!  These days, there are so many musician who don’t succeed at live music because their voices have to be re-re-mastered on the cd.  This was absolutely NOT the issue with Sarah.  It seems as though she just needs a little help with the show. The two times I have seen her live, she has slowed her songs down so much that it was hard to recognize  when they started. I am all for the nature of the live show and how songs can develop from that.  However, usually it goes the other way–artist add energy and enthusiasm to a set and songs start to take on a personality of their own.  There was little personality last night.  The audience quickly picked up on the collective energy suck during Sarah’s set and just as quickly started peeling out.

Will I continue to have Sarah’s Suburban Nature on heavy rotation?! No doubt! It is incredible and one of my favorite finds from the past year. Do I encourage you to find a copy? Of course!! You will love her voice and songs.  Will I see her live again? Umm….maybe if it is another free show, but then again maybe not.  All was not lost last night with my new infatuation with Ha Ha Tonka after they killed it! Over all, it was a  great Waterfront Wednesday and we are so lucky to have these concerts in our community! And who knows, maybe Sarah’s performance will grow and I will be happily surprised the next time I see her!

Ha Ha Tonka…it’s a band, not a toy

Don’t you just love it when you are doing something and something happens to make it extraordinarily better?  Like the time we were having a family dinner on vacation in Charleston, SC and as we were leaving the restaurant I nearly bumped into my friend from when we lived in Cleveland, OH (a mere 7 years ago and 722 miles from Charleston)! Talk about random! Or the time we were living out of town and I had to take our newborn to the eye doctor because he had some infection…talk about worried and stressed…and I walked into the waiting room to see a Julius Friedman poster hanging up.  You see, growing up Julius lived at the end of our street and he was just a friendly neighbor and it wasn’t until we were older that we realized how accomplished he is. But, that moment of seeing his poster brought me so much happiness and comfort.

Recently, I was watching a favorite show of ours, No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, and a song came on that I immediately recognized.  He was in the Ozarks in MO and he was sharing a meal and some good tunes with the band Ha Ha Tonka.  You may know their song “Usual Suspects” as it has been getting some decent air time on WFPK for good reason…it just gets in your head and they just happen to be playing Waterfront Wednesday with Sarah Jaffe tonight.  Funny how all that works out! 😉  I am also kinda of digging that the lead singer, Brian Roberts, has curly, reddish hair.  Reminds me of my little rocker, L.  Plus, Brian is a cancer survivor…what’s not to like?! I bet you will find yourself stomping your foot…its hard to hold back with this song!


Now when I am listening to music, I prefer to ‘get away’ and not be reminded of the daily humdrum of being a stay at home mom. Clearly, the band didn’t get that memo nor consult me on their choice of name.  How can I think of anything else besides those little yellow trucks that have invaded my house over the past 9 years and 3 boys when I hear their name.  I will work on getting past that issue, because I think they are worth it.  Side note…their name came from Ha Ha Tonka State Park in MO (that state park name is almost as good as Big Bone Lick State Park in KY!).

So, just another great reason to get out of the house and head to the river tonight!!  See ya there!!