An Open Letter To My Morning Jacket

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Jim James at One Big Holiday. Photo by Kory Johnson

The Polar Vortex has hit Louisville hard, but I feel like it involves more than just the weather. I feel like I’ve been sucked into an alternate world with all these snow days and delayed openings. I love my kids, but I need them to be in school so that I can get stuff done!

However, for the first time since I became a Mom (11.5 years ago!), hubby and I got away from it all for  5 nights/6 days. It was incredible for so many reasons! I am pretty sure we wouldn’t have gone without the extra incentive from Louisville-based band, My Morning Jacket. They put together a music vacation named after one of their songs, One Big Holiday. They brought along their friends, The Flaming Lips, Mariachi El Bronx, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Rob Garza (of Thievery Corporation) and surprise guest, Bob Weir (of The Grateful Dead) to the all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya in Mexico from Jan 26-30.

It goes without saying that it was an unforgettable time! And I felt compelled to let MMJ know how much I appreciated it. You can read my Open Letter To My Morning Jacket on the LEO Weekly right now! I just hope that MMJ hears this so they are encouraged to do it again next year…and if they do, I advise that you get yourself there!!

photo by Kory Johnson

“…cups of who cares…”

My kids are at wonderful ages (10, 8, 7, 5). They are out of the baby phase, but not yet to that scarey teenager territory. They also GET things. You know….the older two boys are into sports and were totally into the NCAA Basketball Championship this year (woohoo…shout out to our favorite DI team, the Louisville Cards!!). My daughter also was excited to follow the sucess of the Lady Cards. And my youngest little man is still my music lover and he is forever asking if a show is ‘for grown ups only’.

One of the joys of parenting is watching your child’s face light up when they meet someone they admire. And what is even better is when those idols are friendly and approachable. I am forever grateful to all of the current and former Bellarmine basketball players and coaches (especially those connected to the 2011 National Championship team) who have made my oldest two feel like a million bucks when they invite them into the locker room before a game or make a point to call them by name and say hello to them. I like to think of these people as accessible idols.

My youngest has had a major thing for Josh Ritter ever since we saw him play an in-store at ear-X-tacy. He was only 2 and in a sling but kept yelling ‘lalas’ during Josh’s performance because that was one of the few ‘words’ he said at the time. We were able to meet Josh afterwards and he was amazing with the kids. They all got high fives and guitar pics from Josh! And it made a lasting impression on my budding musician.

My little man has a room full of music posters…including one of Josh’s. He is learning to play guitar and has even composed his own song. When asked who his favorite musician is, he always says “Josh Ritter”. Not that I don’t love Josh, but it always comes as a surprise because he has met and hung out with other talented musicians, like Ben Sollee, The Head And The Heart and Patrick Hallahan (drummer of My Morning Jacket). It isn’t like Josh is the only musician he has met….but Josh clearly stand out in his mind.

We surprised our newly turned 5 year old with tickets to Josh’s April 19th show in Louisville for his birthday. He turn five at the beginning of April and (not knowing we already had tickets), he asked us if he could change his birthday to April 19 so that he could see Josh for his birthday gift. So sweet. We will be sitting in the 2nd row and I will probably spend more time watching my little man’s face instead of enjoying Josh’s usual smile, but I am pretty sure they will both be sporting big smiles!

 I hope to have a fabulous post-show update where I can gush about those smiles meeting and talking again, but you will just have to stay tuned. If you haven’t already listened to Josh, you should do so now. He has a great voice and I am really digging his new album, The Beast In Its Tracks. This new song, Joy To You Baby, is one of my all time favorites of his. (You will also “get’ the title to this entry…yes, it is a song lyric. 😉 )

If you can’t make the show or just want some good lunch time music on Friday, you can also tune into 91.9 WFPK, where Josh will be playing on Live Lunch at noon (you can stream it live from their site or app, in case you aren’t in Louisville!).

Christmas Memories and a Playlist!

Somehow, it is that time of year again! Not sure how it happened so fast this year. I can remember when I was a kid, it took FOREVER for Christmas to get here each year and now, it is like I gained a magical power somewhere along the line because all I have to do is blink and Christmas is here. Honestly, if I were doing the choosing, that is not the magical power I would choose. I think I would go with something along the lines of ending world hunger or maybe even a power that would stop my kids from fighting for just 10 minutes. But, no one asked me, so I guess I am stuck with the blink-and-before-you-know-it-another-year-is-gone power.

And this year at our house, we have reached that delicate age where our eldest “knows” about Santa, but the younger 3 still believe. I am very proud of my son…he understands that he is now one of the helpers and he does whatever he can to make sure the younger ones feel the magic of the season. But, that puts more pressure on me, because I want him to feel that magic, too….I don’t want my baby to grow up so fast!! It takes me back to when and how I found out about Santa. I gotta say, I don’t remember being traumatized by the discovery and even now when I think back on it, it doesn’t bring on any ill feelings…although it probably should, as you will see!!

I was almost 6 years old and my older brother, who was 12 at the time, insisted that Santa was actually our parents. I refused to believe him, therefore he put a plan into action. He woke me up ‘in the middle of the night’ (which probably equates to 11pm!), so that we could sit on the top steps and silently watch as my parents put out all of our Christmas gifts. Thanks, big bro! Like I said, I managed to survive and honestly don’t recall hours of tears or anything like that. The funny thing is that our parents never knew that story until recent years.

Well, I have put together a playlist of Christmas songs to help you get through the craziness of the holidays. There are some classic versions of songs, but most of them are song by our favorite musicians of recent times, such as The Head And The Heart, My Morning Jacket, fun., and She & Him. This list includes 65 songs and over 3 hours of musical holiday enjoyment, but I am sure I have missed some good ones….feel free to share your favorites with me!! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my family and friends!

Edward Sharpe: review & ticket giveaway!!

A few months ago, I heard the song Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros for the first time. Around the same time, I heard that the band had recently stopped in Louisville, sans show, and hung out with Jim James and Patrick Hallahan of My Morning Jacket. Apparently, they were chilling at the Holy Grale. If you have ever been, then you know how small it is (if you haven’t been…shame on you!!), so it is pretty amusing that Edward Sharpe party of 12, plus Jim and Patrick decided to hang there. That’s right, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are made up of 12 people, including 2 drummers. I never really understood the whole 2 drummers thing, but it totally works for them! I immediate bought tickets to their show at Iroquois Amphitheater and then ordered their CD.

My Morning Jacket isn’ the only band who has taken notice of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.  In April 2011, the band joined Mumford & Sons and Old Crow Medicine Show on the Railroad Revival Tour

Well, fast forward a few months and real life has jumped in the way of fun and it was looking like the show wasn’t going to be in the cards. But then musical magic happened and all things were good again! Hubby and I headed down to the Southern Ground Food and Music Fest in Nashville (another post is coming on that!), and to our pleasant surprise, we were going to get to see Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros after all. And not just see them, but be close enough to touch them!

All I could think about was that Louisville was in for a treat and I was doing to do whatever it took to make sure I saw them again at Iroquois. They were incredible live! It was fabulous to see Edward and Jade singing, dancing, running, and interacting all over the stage. They had everyone in the audience on their feet dancing…their youthful enthusiasm was definitely contagious and I can’t wait to catch it again in a couple of days.

I find it very fitting that their song, Man on Fire, starts with the following lyrics, because you can tell that those lyrics are also the philosophy of the band.

I’m a man on fire
Walking through your street
With one guitar
And two dancing feet
Only one desire
That’s left in me
I want the whole damn world
To come dance with me

And lucky for you, I have two tickets to giveaway for the show so you can experience their spirited singing and entertaining for yourself! Just post on the Last Bit of Sanity facebook page that you want to win. To double your chances, share this on facebook and/or twitter (and while you are at it, check out some of the amazing pictures I got)! A winner will be announced on Wednesday by noon! Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are playing at Iroquois Amphitheater on Wednesday Sept 26th at 8pm. They are being supported by Clap Your Hands  Say Yeah! Tickets are $30.

Forecastle ticket giveaway!

The big weekend is almost here….it’s been a long time coming and Louisville is ready! I’ve only been looking forward to this forever and can’t wait to see my favorites, The Head And The Heart, Abigail Washburn, Ben Sollee, Justin Townes Earle, Cheyenne Marie Mize, Lucero, My Morning Jacket, Sleigh Bells, The Features, and Walk The Moon. I am also excited to check out some new (to me) groups like Real Estate, Moon Taxi, Beach House and Andrew Bird.

After a near scheduling disaster (darn my son for being selected to that all-star baseball team!) that nearly made me decide between my son and music, it is all good! And I don’t want to hear “oh, I can’t believe the easy choice wouldn’t be your son.” Of course, I love him more than anything. But, Mama’s gotta have a life too…otherwise Mama might not be so pleasant to be around!

Anyway, I have a general admission Forecastle ticket to give away for Sunday. Go to my facebook page, Last Bit Of Sanity, and like it. Then answer the question posted (who are you most excited about seeing this weekend?). A random winner will be picked on Friday.

hot off the presses…do not miss this!!!

If you like the sounds and energy of Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers, then you do NOT want to miss one of the best new bands of this year when they are in town this spring. It has just been announced that The Head And The Heart will be playing at Headliners on March 6th. The Head And The Heart has been on my radar for a while and I fell in love the very first time I heard them on a youtube video. This is the band that I made my hubby travel down to Nashville to see when they OPENED for someone else last year! They are that good!!!

I am not the only one who thinks so, even though I knew about them before they were even signed to a major label! A lot of people are noticing. Dave Matthews noticed and had them open for him in Washington. My Morning Jacket noticed and had THATH open for them on their European leg of the tour as well as sing with them on a couple songs for their 2011 Christmas album! They are also on numerous ‘best of 2011’ lists…. #5 in Paste Magazine’s Best of 2011, The Best Music of 2011 in The Huffington Post, #21 in The Best Albums of 2011 on Amazon.com and #1 on Kentuckyseven.se’s list of the best (they are Swedish music bloggers, who happen to love Kentucky…how awesome is that?!).

Their performances are so powerful that they bring me to tears….even when it is just on TV!! The energy and enthusiasm that they bring to the stage is unparalleled. I could go on and on, but watch this and decide for yourself. I promise it will be a night you won’t forget. Don’t miss the opportunity to see one of the hottest upcoming bands in a small venue! Warning: You WILL see me singing and dancing my ass off, so prepare yourself!!

it’s really gone.

It’s gone. And I am totally devastated. Is it weird to have that kind of reaction to a store closing? Maybe. But, ear X-tacy was so much more than a store in Louisville for the past 26 years. It was a community of music loving people and now I feel like our home has vanished without warning. No time to prepare our hearts or say one last goodbye. My head understand that it is a reflection on the changing times in the music industry, but my heart is aching.

I could go on for days about what ear X-tacy meant in my life.  But what hurts now more than anything is that my kids won’t get to grow up with the embracing, supportive, local music store. Our family has experienced some amazing moments there. One that stands out strongly in my mind was when Josh Ritter played an in-store  on May 17, 2010.  I had to sign my eldest, who was in 1st grade at the time, out of school early to make it to the show on-time. It was one of those ‘good Mom vs. music Mom’ moments and I am so glad to say that music Mom won out! My youngest and strongest rocker was just over 2 years old at the time and strapped in the front pack, so that he wouldn’t rush the stage and take Josh down with hugs! We played Josh Ritter’s music on a regular basis at the house (still do!), so the kids all knew it and my little guy just kept saying, “lala”. He was a very late talker and when he said “lala”, it meant he wanted to listen to Josh. So, to see him perform in the intimate setting of ear X-tacy was mind-blowing for my little 2 year old! But, there is more. We stayed after and got to meet Josh. He was gracious, patient and unbelievable. He got down on his knees to meet each of the kiddos and talked directly to them. He gave them guitar pics. And high fives. My little rocker still talks about the high five! He signed our CD: “to a rock n roll family”. It was an experience my family will never forget.

When you walked into ear X-tacy, there was always such a welcoming feel. I am sure I often looked like a spectacle bring my foursome in, but some days I just needed some music to make it through and ear X-tacy was the answer. I was always greeted with a friendly smile and hello. In fact, if I miraculously entered by myself, I was usually asked where my crew was. They provided such a special place that never made me second guess bringing my kids to in-stores. It is because of them that my kids have been exposed to so many very talented bands in a live setting. Usually, kids aren’t welcome in the concert setting, but ear X-tacy opened a whole new world. And I will never be able to repay my gratitude. It was at the Abigail Washburn in-store that my little guy became enthralled with her super-sized banjo! He had never seen anything like it before!  Another one of our favorite in-stores was when Daniel Martin Moore and Dan Dorff performed at the Loop and we got a very up-close view of some outstanding music when the Dans stepped off stage and right in front of where we were sitting…kids were hooked!! (the redheads briefly shown are mine!)

ear X-tacy was so supportive to the local music scene. Sure, they got some great national artists in. I loved seeing Matisyahu and Dawes perform there earlier this year! But ear X-tacy was always there to help the local artists. It was a great family event when we got to see our cousins’ band, Adventure, play there. And even more fun when we walked into the Loop store shortly after it opened and found our cousin, Alex Clark‘s CD on display, with Adventure in the background.

I had recently asked Ben Sollee what ear X-tacy meant to him…this was before the closing, but his elegant words sum up how many people thought of ear X-tacy and are too good not to share:

“As an independent musician I spend a tremendous amount of time working with social media, blogs, online magazines, and every other kind of virtual community you can imagine. But there’s a lonely quality to those adventures. There’s still nothing like walking in to my favorite record store and seeing what’s on the shelves… seeing handmade displays constructed lovingly for an employee’s favorite artist, getting advise on new music, finding old recordings that no one else cared to listen to… it’s all tangible. It’s personal. It’s a place we’re a physical community gathers to share ideas and passions. It may not always be profitable to sell recorded music, but there will always be a place for a record store that can curate and share essential art in the communtiy.” – Ben Sollee

It is a little hard to watch this movie trailer for Brick and Mortar and Love, knowing that ear X-tacy is no longer…it is exactly what they were trying to prevent.

I, too, wish it weren’t time for ear X-tacy to die. RIP. You will be missed more than anyone realizes. You have been an influential factor in the lives of so many and I wish Louisville didn’t have to let go. I am sure I will get to the point where I can look back and be happy about my time and experiences at ear X-tacy, but right now, I am just too sad to think of anything other than the hole ear X-tacy’s departure is leaving in the community and future. I was counting on my little rocker growing up with ear X-tacy and fulfilling his often talked about dream of performing on their stage. It was one of the first things he asked about when I told him it was closed…”what about the stage? I want to play there. Will bands still play?” No, my sweet boy, they will not.  I hope somehow that the Louisville music scene can come together and move that stage so that it doesn’t get lost forever.

I’ll let Jim James, of My Morning Jacket, have the last word since I agree with it all. Jim and the other members of MMJ have always been very vocal with their love and support of ear X-tacy and he says it so well.  This was posted on MMJ’s website earlier today:

“there is a tear in my eye right now as i hear about the closing of one of my favorite places on earth- ear-xtacy. i send thanks and healing vibes to john and everyone who has worked so hard at the store over the years…the presence of that sacred place will be sorely missed. people-let this be a big wake up call to us…we need these place to gather as a community and share ideas about music and art and love and life and…for the love of god…it cant all take place online…or i fear that one day we will all wake up bleary-eyed and hung over from our technology binge and find the real world long gone…let us be inspired by places like “please and thank you,” “carmichaels,” “pops retails and consignment,” “heine brothers” and all the great independent ma and pa stores around the globe- leading us into a new era of what a creative business can be…we need to support these places and help create more…the mp3 has killed the idea of what a traditional record store used to be, but that should only be cause for us to re-invent and support things the computer can never kill…we need these real place…where you can still buy a record from a local band or a hard to find label or root thru stacks of used vinyl…or get a cup of coffee…or buy an old stereo system or synthesizer or a pair of jeans…or learn a new skill…or teach a new skill…and love your fellow human in person and face to face to face and all in the same place. lets brainstorm. lets build more of these places. lets stick together. lets support each other. lets figure it out.” -jim james



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