Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Maroon 5 Concert

Adam Levine has become a very lucrative brand.  He is on the wildly popular show The Voice, is introducing a clothing line and tours extensively with his band Maroon 5.  This past weekend Maroon 5 stopped off at Mohegan Sun along with Owl City and Neon Trees.  Now Adam and I go way back.  I originally saw him eight years ago when Maroon 5 was the warm up act for the Rolling Stones; the best band in the world.  I wasn’t that all impressed with Maroon 5 back then partly because I was way too anxious to see Mick, Keith and the rest of the Stones and I had ACL surgery the week before, and was in a bit of a Vicodin haze because I was in excruciating pain.  Fair enough. 

Fast forward to a few months ago when I saw the tour schedule.  I really wanted to see Neon Trees and Maroon 5 was going to be a bonus.  As for Owl City, their contribution was that sappy song “Fireflies,” which I spent the better part of last year changing the channel whenever it was on the radio.  Their only redeeming quality is “It’s Always a Good Time;” a collaboration with cutie Carly Rae Jepson. 

The whole process of buying tickets is one that I despise.  When the tickets went on sale I hit the buy button at exactly 10 AM, only to be told the tickets were sold out.  Huh?  How is that possible?  Did I hit it at 10:00:02?  How did ten thousand other people beat me to a good seat?  I will never know because I reluctantly went to the dreaded and much cursed secondary market and bought some overly inflated tickets, but in my favorite section. 

The night of the concert my wife and jumped into the Mustang and enjoyed an exhilarating high-speed jaunt to the reservation.  We get there and it is mobbed.  Ten thousand concertgoers plus the gamblers, conventioneers and other assorted people packed into the casino.  We take our seats and wait. 

The guy on the PA system goes through the usual exit door speech and ends with “In the unlikely event of an emergency, please calmly exit the building…”  Calmly exit?  People can’t stand on a bank line without getting a murderous look in their eyes, calmly exit?  I think not.

Owl City takes the stage and jumps into their first song.  I’m not sure what it was because it is so FREAKIN’ LOUD!  Now, I know what you are thinking.  Barry, you are of a slightly advanced age and getting more crotchety all the time.  This has nothing to do with that.  It was, bone shaking, diaphragm punching, lousy sound engineering, I couldn’t hear the lyrics, my ears where bleeding loud.  A few years ago I saw The Format.  The Format was Nate Reuss’ band before he formed the Grammy Award winning band fun. Again, way too loud to the point of being uncomfortable.  Their sound guy went to the Spinal Tap school of one louder audio engineering.  Maybe that’s why Nate Reuss formed fun.  Nobody could figure out what The Format was. 

Mercifully, Owl City ends their set and we wait for Neon Trees.  We somehow ended up in a row of people with the appetite of great white sharks and the bladder capacity of tsetse flies.  I mean up and down, back and forth; I got a complete lower body workout during the show.  Here is my advice.  Sit the F@#$ down and watch the F$%^ing show.   One gal, we’ll call her the carb queen, back and forth with beer and pretzels, Beer and nachos, and beer and a bag of King Arthur flour.  Surprisingly her svelte 275-pound body carried it well.  Perhaps Ticketmaster could sell a new type of ticket.  Food and bathroom only; that would free up more seats for those of us who actually want to go to a concert and see the band. 

Finally Neon Trees take the stage. I first saw them on TV and was very impressed.  Catchy tunes, great lyrics and a girl drummer.  I’m a drummer myself and I always enjoy seeing a woman’s interpretation of rock and roll.  She also sings, which is no easy feat when drumming.  Try walking, chewing gum and juggling.  Got it?  Didn’t think so.  Oh, oh, the tsetse flies are back.  The mom is pushing forty and wearing black leather pants. Really mom?  I think leather pants should be illegal on anyone over eighteen.  Just sayin’.  Neon Trees played a fantastic set.  Tyler Glenn, the lead singer has phenomenal stage presence.  They even threw in a cover of “Don’t You Want Me Baby” by the Human League. 

A bit past ten Maroon 5 takes the stage.  They opened with Payphone.  Adam Levine talks a lot about selling the song on The Voice.  He does put it into practice.  Every song he sung was authentic and honest.  He worked the stage like, well, Mick Jagger.  He sincerely thanked the audience for their support.  The videos, lighting and staging were awesome.  Did I mention the lasers?  Yikes, they were amazing.  He brought out Rozzi Crane, his protégée for a duet on “Wake Up Call.”

  She also returned during the encore for “Moves Like Jagger.”  For the encore a bridge descended from the ceiling and connected it with a smaller stage in the middle of the audience. 

This time around Maroon 5 blew me away.  They are very tight and precise.  Really superior musicians.  I highly recommend seeing them if they come around to the area again. 


Makes Me Wonder 
Lucky Strike 
Sunday Morning 
If I Never See Your Face Again
Wipe Your Eyes 
Won't Go Home Without You
Harder to Breathe 
Wake Up Call 
One More Night
Hands All Over
This Love 


Stereo Hearts 
She Will Be Loved
Moves Like Jagger

Monday, February 18, 2013

Turn Junk Into Treasure; Weekend Project

A while ago, my wife and I were looking for a small blanket chest to put in our living room.  We looked in some moderately priced stores, on-line and even in second hand shops, but nothing struck our fancy.  We ended up buying a small chest from an unfinished furniture place.  The Mill Stores sell a wide variety of pieces ranging from very good to pretty bad quality.  I used to build furniture, so I know a little bit about woodworking.  The piece that we got was in the pretty bad quality category in terms of build, but the dimensions were good, the price was right and we were going to antique it anyway. 

Since it was a pretty plain box to begin with, we thought we would add some decorative trim.  We went to Home Depot and browsed the lumber and millwork section.  We came away with a pretty nice sunburst medallion and some half inch beaded trim.  We then went to JoAnn Fabric to get some decorative rope to replace the twine handles that was currently on the piece.  Now we just needed some time to do it.  Well lo and behold the calendar said we had a free weekend, so we decided to bang this out. 

A few years ago we came across a pretty neat finishing technique using artist gesso and pigment.  Gesso is an acrylic mixture that artists use to prepare their canvases. You apply a thin coat as primer followed by a thick coat to add texture.  The pigment we used to accent the piece was burnt umber.  We previously had finished a few pieces with technique and they look gorgeous.  One was an old Yield House armoire and the other a headboard that I made from scratch. 

Chest, duh that’s what we are working on
Length of chain
Tack cloth
Putty knives of varying widths
¾ inch tacks
Tack hammer
Masking tape
Mitre saw
Nail set
Drill and 3/32 in bit
Wood glue
Accent color
Latex paint

The chains, hammer, nails and chisels were used to distress the piece.  I like to smash it a few times with the chains to add some depth to the piece.  Be careful when swinging the chain.  It may bounce off the piece and smash you!  Just sayin’.  I use the awl to add some “worm holes.”  I use the chisel to shave down the corners and any other places where “wear” would occur.  Use your imagination; there is no right or wrong way to distress a piece.  I also use the sandpaper to relieve the edges of the piece and to smooth the inside.  My wife would have a fit if a blanket caught on a stray piece of wood sticking out!

After distressing and sanding the piece, run some tack cloth on it to clean up any dust or debris.   We removed the hinges and lid bracket.  Carefully place the hardware in a plastic bag and SEAL it.  Nothing ruins a project faster that a lost screw or hinge. 

We measured out where we wanted the trim pieces.  We drew pencil lines to mark the spot.  We then measured the trim and cut the corners with a miter saw.  Trust me when I say this measure three times and cut once.  We applied a thin coat of wood glue to the back of the trim and held them in place with masking tape.   I then drilled some pilot holes in the trim and gently tapped the  finishing nails in place.  I then set them with the nail set.

Now the fun begins.   We painted the interior of the piece with some leftover latex paint from another project. With the interior dry (you did wait right?) pour some gesso into an old margarine container (my wife never throws that stuff out) and lightly brush on a coat, covering the entire piece.  It dries fairly quickly.  

We waited a few hours to go to the next step.  We next applied a thick coat of gesso using putty knives.  We took a hefty dollop of gesso and swirled it on the piece.  We then used different sizes of putty knives to form tiny ridges.  If you make a mistake or don’t like the pattern; no problem.  Smooth it out and try something new.  Again, there is no right or wrong way, only the way that looks best to you. 

We let the second coat dry overnight.  I took the blade of the putty knife and ran it over the bumps and ridges of the gesso.  This knocked down some of the high points to make it look a little more “worn.”  At this point we reassembled the piece. 

Next, take the artist color and dilute it with some water.  We tested in on the back of the piece until we got the color we where looking for.  We took a rag and washed the color on. Waited a minute and wiped it off.  Wax on wax off, or in this case, wipe on, wait, wipe off.  In some of the lower areas like “wormholes” and places I trimmed with the chisel we applied more of the color to give it more of an antique-y feel.  We also worked some of the dark stain into the beadwork of the trim.  This gave us a nice contrast.  We also made sure that the stain was matched so one panel wasn’t darker than the other. 

After waiting another few hours, we applied two coats of satin polyurethane.  For the finishing touch we replaced the original twine handles with some really cool braided rope.  Voila, a beautiful antiqued piece that was fun to do and looks fantastic. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Help! I'm A Prisoner of Nemo/Charlotte! Or Is It Charlotte/Nemo?

One of the perks about being a teacher is when the weather gets iffy, especially when it involves snow; you can always depend on a mini-vacation. Delayed openings are always welcome because it gives me a chance to finish the paper, check out my Facebook feed and have yet another cup of coffee.    The early dismissal, while welcome, usually involves driving home in crappy weather.  Not too terrific, but better than nothing. The favorite of this guy is the cancellation.    Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, but I occasionally need a day off.  Ever since I was a kid I would get up at five in the morning and turn on the radio while simultaneously doing my snow dance.  It worked most of the time!  Now that I’m grown up, I don’t do my snow dance, at least not in public and it usually is more of a boogie or a hop. 

Teachers who are experts in math, writing, reading, science and social studies are positively PhD’s when it involves weather.  I mean a butterfly flaps its wings in Bolivia and already we a calculating the odds of having school next Wednesday.   Debating the odds of delayed opening versus a cancelation puts Vegas bookies to shame. 

When the weather people on TV were predicting the snowfall for Storm Nemo/Charlotte or Charlotte/Nemo we were positively ecstatic.   “Just heard 6 to 12 inches!”  “Well I saw 12 to 18!” And so on.  Well, the storm came and dumped record amounts on us.  School was cancelled on Friday and Monday.  So much snow came down that towns couldn’t clear it fast enough and had no place to put it. 

The downside of days off due to weather is the “be careful of what you wish for” syndrome.  Yeah it’s great to have a day off but we have to make it up in the summer.  So now I have two feet of snow on the ground with freezing rain adding to the mix.  The newscaster is talking about another snow event for the weekend and I haven’t left my house in four days.  I think I need a vacation.