Archive for September, 2008

The Gaslight Anthem: “The ’59 Sound”

September 29, 2008

Remember when The Killers were all, “Hey, we’re listening to lots of Springsteen and we’re going to go into the studio and record the sequel to ‘Born to Run'” but they came out with “Sam’s Town” which had its moments but was wildly inconsistent? And then The Hold Steady were like, “Thanks for playing” and then they quietly came out with “Boys and Girls in America”?

Well, The Gaslight Anthem has released “The ’59 Sound,” which is what I totally thought “Sam’s Town” would sound like but didn’t (although they come by the influences a bit more naturally, being from Jersey and all). They deliver a solid set of 12 songs, all a pop-friendly 4:15 or less. On the first listen, I was in the middle of the third track when I knew that I’d be starting all over again when I reached the end of the album. It’s melodic and wonderful, and it’s tough and soft in all the right places. Their lyrics evoke an earlier time, and some of the hooks remind me of music from the ’60s and ’70s, but the sound is still modern.

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McNally Smith River Rocks Festival on Harriet Island

September 22, 2008

We left the house not once, but twice this week. This event was on a Saturday evening, and we waited until the day of the event to make our decision to go based on the weather. But the weather was absolutely perfect for a night of music outdoors.

I’d never been to Harriet Island, even though I’ve lived in the Twin Cities for 15 years. (I didn’t feel badly, though– the last time my husband was there, he saw New Kids on the Block at the height of their popularity in 1990.) It’s a great setting for an outdoor show and there’s a nice view of St. Paul and the Mississippi River.

The weather, as I mentioned before, was perfect. No rain, no humidity, few bugs, not too warm, not too cool even when the sun went down. The slightest hint of a breeze, temperatures in the upper 70s. September is my favorite weather month in Minnesota, and this night demonstrated exactly why.

We arrived at the festival in the middle of The Roots’ set. They were energetic and fun, although their music was more of a backdrop for us as we explored the area.

We found a place to sit for Mike Doughty’s set. There were several people standing near the front of the stage, then there were several people sitting on the ground farther back, which is where we planted ourselves. Some guy brought hacky sticks (better demonstrated on video here, although what we saw was just one guy and it wasn’t nearly as entertaining, except for the part when one woman walked by and tried to knock the sticks out of his hands).

Doughty began his set with “The Grey Ghost” and played other familiar songs like “Janine” and “Circles”. He finished with “27 Jennifers”. In between, he debated whether or not to remove his sunglasses (he didn’t want to seem distant, but didn’t want to look squinty), made light of Al Franken’s swearing, did plenty of swearing himself, encouraged people to request Semisonic to play “It’s Raining Men”, and had other fun banter with the cello player, whom he referred to as “Scraps”. It was enjoyable, but we felt disconnected because we were sitting so far back, and people around us weren’t as into the music.

We moved closer to the stage for Semisonic, and were about 20 bodies back from the stage. There were no surprises in the set, but it was comforting and familiar. They started with “F.N.T.” and ended, appropriately, with “Closing Time”. They had an interesting take on “Sculpture Garden”, slowed down and a little more funky with the bass line more prominent, but I loved it. They had the crowd singing along to “Delicious” and “Singing in my Sleep”.

The always available Ken Chastain (he pops up at a lot of local shows) joined them on percussion and keyboards and made a solid contribution. It was enjoyable to see Dan and John rock out (a departure from Dan’s singer-songwriter solo performances and John’s jazzy covers with The New Standards), and it was great to see Jake. The set seemed slightly more mellow than some of their previous shows (perhaps the influence of their more recent projects), but it was still fun to see them shaking their collective thing.

Journey and Cheap Trick at Target Center

September 20, 2008

We occasionally leave the house. Sometimes, we’re even crazy enough to do it during the week.

You know you’re in your late 30s when the day of the week is a deciding factor in attending shows. Saturday? Absolutely. Friday? Most of the time. Thursday? I can usually slog through one day of work. But anything other than that is risky. I’ve gotten to the point where I start to feel jet-lagged (and all kinds of cranky) if I don’t get to sleep at a certain time and if I don’t get a certain amount of sleep. Yes, I’m old.

So even though it was a Tuesday night, we ventured out. We’ve both seen Cheap Trick many times and we knew we were in for a solid rock show. Neither of us had seen Journey, but we’d heard good things and we wanted to check out their new lead singer. If anything, we’d find some unintentional comedy.

I was hoping for more interesting people-watching, but the only outfit worth mentioning was the woman in the glittery aqua blue halter top with the strip of lace fabric down the back. Otherwise, everyone was dressed pretty normally.

Cheap Trick delivered an energetic, solid set of mostly greatest hits (The Flame, I Want You to Want Me, Voices, Surrender, Dream Police). Robin Zander’s voice is amazingly strong after many years. Rick Nielsen still has an amazing selection of guitars, and the rhythm section of Bun E. Carlos and Tom Petersson provides a steady backup.

During the set change, my husband commented on the contrast in drum sets. The Journey drummer’s set looked like Neil Pert’s kit compared to Bun E., who uses a very basic set.

They needed two people to bring out the board for Neal Schon’s guitar pedals– seriously, there were at least 50 different ones. It was the most complex setup I’d ever seen.

Before the band entered the arena, the video screens displayed a giant ad for their new album Revelation– available at kiosks now! The image was replaced by a video of the band backstage singing along to AC/DC’s “Back in Black”.

They began the set with one of their new songs, “Never Walk Away”. The new material sounds extremely similar to their old material, which isn’t a bad thing. It still has lots of melodic hooks and they’ve stayed true to their sound.

The singer’s voice was unbelievable. The band recruited Arnel Pineda from the Phillipines after seeing him on YouTube, and he did not disappoint. His voice filled the arena, and he had a ton of energy and a fun-loving stage presence. He used the steps in front of the drum kit as a launching pad for several jumps, and he looked like he was enjoying himself, as he was smiling almost the whole time. Apparently he has a huge Filipino following that turns out in every city, which I think is very cool.

The rest of the band was quite good as well. Even though every song had a guitar solo, it was a treat to see Neal Schon play– he was pretty amazing.

The crowd was really into the show, on their feet for most of the set. During a new ballad (“After All These Years”), the audience sat down except for one guy in the next section, who was swaying back and forth to the beat of the music with his arms in the air. I applauded both him and the band when the song ended. That guy ruled.

I was worried that they wouldn’t play “Separate Ways” but they did not disappoint. Unfortunately, they didn’t reenact some of their moves from the video.

My favorite moment was when they played “Don’t Stop Believin'”. After the song ended, on the video screens there was a giant “Journey” graphic in the style of The Sopranos’ logo, with the “r” in the shape of a gun. It was funny and cool at the same time.

Near the end of the main set, there was a small glitch when Jonathan Cain was making the “cut it” motion after one of the songs, trying to signal the end before the encore. The lighting guys didn’t see it and neither did the rest of the band, but my husband did. He said that Jonathan just threw up his hands and went back to the keyboard. I didn’t see it, so I didn’t notice any awkward pauses in the show.

All in all, a fun evening out and definitely worth leaving the house.

Adventures in Bacon

September 13, 2008

Inspired by Bacon Today, I attempted to make some Bacon Cinnamon Rolls. Here are the things I learned:

  • Be careful when choosing your cinnamon roll package (I used Pillsbury cinnamon rolls with cream cheese, if that helps). The idea is to unroll the dough and place the bacon on top before reassembling. If you select dough that doesn’t lend itself to this (like I did), it’s not going to work as well. Everything had squished together in the package, creating tidy cylinders of dough that were impossible to pry apart.
  • It’s important to pay attention to the cooking time. Otherwise, you’ll burn the bottoms of the rolls. It’s safe to say I will not be appearing on Iron Chef anytime soon.
  • When all else fails, improvise. I cooked the rolls and the bacon separately, placed the strips of bacon on top, then sealed the whole deal with icing.
  • Bacon + cinnamon rolls + icing = sweet and salty and spicy goodness.

My Husband’s Least Favorite Outfit

September 13, 2008

The Cheap Chick is having a challenge, where each item in your outfit has to cost less than $20.

As well as serving as my my entry, I would like to use this post as a chance to display my fashion inclinations vs. those of my husband. And to show my complete dorkitude when it comes to shopping, especially when I find something on the clearance rack.

(Apologies in advance for bad lighting, bad photography, and lack of Photoshop skills. I’m still learning how to take and edit indoor pictures. Bear with me. It took me half an hour before I realized that I looked like I had only one leg. Then the dogs decided to “help”. Also, note the way I’m contorting my body five different ways in order to look slimmer yet still face the mirror– I’m like a living hieroglyph. But I digress.)

The skirt and purse were purchased this year. The earrings, shirt, and shoes are from 2007. The belt is vintage ’90s. I knew if I held onto it long enough (or forgot about it in the back of my closet), I would find a use for it again.

This is one of my favorite shirts. But my loving husband thinks that I’m missing part of my sleeves. I want to think he’s only voicing concern that I might get a cold, but I know better.

I presented him with the evidence that I wore this to work the other day, and no less than four people were kind enough to compliment me on it, including a woman I didn’t even know who pulled me aside in the hallway. Thus is the fabulousness of this shirt.

He’s not having it. When I was taking these pictures, he asked if I was going to send them to “What Not To Wear”.

Let’s break the outfit down, shall we?

  1. Brown 3/4 sleeved shirt with cutout sleeves, Ann Taylor Loft. $12.99
  2. Earrings, H&M. $4.99
  3. Orange clutch, Naturalizer.com. $16.50
  4. Black patent belt, NY and Company (Lerner New York). $4.99
  5. Bronze slingback sandals, Naturalizer (courtesy of the Herberger’s clearance rack). $12
  6. Black skirt, Ann Taylor Loft. $17.5

Grand total: $68.97

But you can’t put a price on repeatedly bugging my husband. He’s just lucky I didn’t include a scarf.

Minnesota State Fair: It’s Bacon-tastic

September 5, 2008

On Sunday, we visited the Minnesota State Fair, lured by the promise of bacon. And the promise was fulfilled, several times over.

I carefully constructed an itinerary, mostly based on going to the State Fair’s online Food Finder and typing “bacon”.

Sadly, I didn’t have my camera out for this, but we passed a woman pushing a stroller (not an uncommon sight at the Fair). Her male companion was wearing an “I’m with the MILF” shirt (available on the internet for the cost of $19.95 and your dignity). Nominations for Father of the Year, anyone?

Our first stop was Axel’s. When I mentioned to my husband that we were heading into the Food Building, he immediately made me cross it off the list because it’s smelly and hot in there. And I had a brief flashback to last year when we stood in line for cheese curds, and I got a little queasy remembering that the curds were the fourth fried food item we’d consumed that night, and it was indeed stinky and warm inside. However, as we were walking past the building, we noticed that Axel’s had a convenient stand on the outside, so we didn’t have to endure the stench and heat to get our meaty delights. Hooray!

We ordered the Bull Bites ($7) and the Tater Tots on a stick ($4).

Bull Bites (blackened tenderloin tips with horseradish sauce)

I’ve had the Bull Bites as an appetizer at Axel’s Bonfire restaurants, and they never disappoint. Unless you’re a vegetarian.

Tater Tots on a Stick (hash browns formed with cheddar cheese, bacon, green onion, and sour cream)

The tots had an aura of comfort food (which wasn’t a bad thing at all), but the sauce had a little kick to it to make things a little more interesting.

Our next stop: Big Fat Bacon ($3)

Big Fat Bacon booth

Big Fat Bacon booth

According to the Food Finder, Big Fat Bacon is “1/3 lb slice of bacon, fried and carmelized with maple syrup, served on a stick with dipping sauces”. There were no dipping sauces that we saw, but we didn’t care.

Big Fat Bacon was crispy and sweet on the outside, but tender and salty and juicy on the inside. It was ham-like in texture, but much more savory. It was quite hot, so we let it cool off for a few seconds before diving in.

Bacon on a Stick

Big Fat Bacon on a Stick, and my hand model

They also had some clever signs on their booth.

Eating bacon is patriotic.

Eating bacon = patriotism.

Bacon in popular culture

Bacon in popular culture

The Sausage Station was located next to the Big Fat Bacon booth. And yes, I have the sense of humor of a ten-year-old boy.

Insert joke here.

Insert juvenile joke here.

Our final stop in our meat trilogy was Famous Dave’s, home of the infamous Pig Lickers ($5). These alone were worth braving the crowds and the heat. They were served cold so the chocolate wouldn’t melt and make a mess, although it was hard to avoid that in 90-degree weather.

I’ve had Mo’s Bacon Bar from Vosges, which is predominantly chocolate with a few salty bacon chunks mixed in. Here, bacon is the star and chocolate is the sidekick, with a special guest appearance by some sea salt. I enjoy the bacon bar, but this is on a whole other level of bacony pleasure. I was somewhat relieved that we went to the Fair on the second-to-last day, because I might have stopped by this booth more often.

Heaven in a cup. And hand model.

Heaven in a cup. And hand model.

Even though we’d had bacon as an appetizer, entree, and dessert, we decided to finish our culinary adventures with an old standby, malts in the Dairy Building.

On the way, we saw this Midway ride, which looked like the entrance to Harrah’s Las Vegas.

midway rides with gambling?

I get a little twitchy at the thought of penny slots nearby.

Even though we’d entered the Dairy Building, we couldn’t escape the pork references.

Note the bacony background.

Note the bacon-like background.

We walked past the display of award-winning meat to the Butter Heads. My favorite Princess Kay memory? Back in 1999, we were bored and watching the coronation on cable access, and one of the contestants talked about bringing dairy into the next “moo-lennium”.

Yup, this is what we do for fun around here.

Yup, this is what we do for fun around here.

After hastily procuring a carmel apple malt, we headed for the exit. Thanks, State Fair, for a bacony good time!