Thursday, July 26, 2007

Post Backlog

I know I've been very negligent in (not) posting in the past couple weeks. But I intend to make up for it next week -- with a glut of posts about Heidelberg, my new apartment, and Budapest. In the meantime, I carved out 8 hours last night (it was a long night) to read the last Harry Potter book. I'd like to read it again when I have more time, since I was mostly motivated by the urgency to find out what happened before I accidentally found out from other sources. My first reaction is that it's a good solid read, but not exactly mind-blowing.


Sunday, July 08, 2007


This is it. All four labels: one ultimate post. I must say, I'm quite proud of myself. And on the day after my birthday. (By the way, I've decided that if 27 is the year of 'perfection', the motto for 29 will be 'all business.' Watch out world.)

Yesterday, on my birthday, I went to the Rheinkultur music festival: one day, 5 stages, free entry. The plan was to meet some people at the Ollenhauerstr. stop of the S-bahn at 5:30pm, a few stops before Rheinaue, the festival location, and walk the rest of the way. It's a five minute ride from the Hauptbahnhof (the main train station) which is a few minute walk from my apartment. When I got the station, it was packed (average age of the crowd: 19, and in typical German fashion, they're all drinking bottles of beer) and they weren't letting people onto the platform. My friends called and I said I thought I'd be 20 minutes late. I waited for 30 minutes before I got onto a packed train. At each stop, the train would briefly stop and the people standing on the platform would look sadly at the packed train as it started again without picking up a single person.

At Ollenhauerstr., the train stops briefly and no one moves and I'm 20 people away from even attempting to get off the train. I have just enough time to wave to my friends as the train starts again and takes me to the next stop. When I get there, the doors actually open and I manage to push my way off the train. I try calling: no luck. I wait for the next train: nope. I walk the few block back to Ollenhauerstr.: there's no one there. This is not promising.

I'm pretty far from home and I need to use a bathroom, so I figure I might as well keep on going and see what's what. I follow some people in the vaguely right direction until I'm there.

I'm at the top of a bowl, where there are a bunch of biergartens and people picnicking on the lawn. You can see that one stage is behind the trees on the left and another stage is further on the right. Between the stages are food and drink stands and off to the left is a crane that takes people up for bungee jumps. All in all, the crowd is pretty mellow -- I didn't see any people who had a few or 12 too many and I didn't smell any illegal substances. And after weeks and weeks of rain, it was clear and 70 degrees the whole day. After a visit to the port-a-potty (I chose the line with the prissiest looking girls, figuring it'd be slow but less vile) and wandering a little bit, I come to a decision. I've been to the 4th of July at the Esplanade in Boston and I've been to the Taste of Chicago and I've never totally lost everybody. 150,000 is not a problem. The easiest way to solve a math or physics is to guess the right answer. The easiest way to find 2 people in a crowd of 150,000 is to go to where they would be. It's 7:30pm and I stumble upon a guy handing out maps. I snag one. They're not biergarten or picnicking peple. And I know that at very least at 8:50pm, they're going to be at the blue stage watching Calexico. There are people sitting on the grass, while people closer to the stages are all standing. They're standing sort of people. I wander to the blue stage, close enough to get to the people standing. And there they are. They, by the way, had run from our meeting point to the Rheinaue, assuming I wouldn't be able to get off before then.

We catch part of the set of Lambchop, an alt-country group from Nashville, and a little bit of Mother Tongue (at least I assume that the right link).

For me, the highlight was probably Calexico (and here, or here to listen), an alt-country band from Tucson, AZ. I tried to take a picture, but I guess it didn't turn out (there's a bunch of pictures of the crowd, Calexico, and the last act, die Fantastischen Vier, here). And for being 5 foot tall and living in Germany, I could actually see the stage at least part of the time, which I think is good for me. They sounded excellent and I'd highly recommend seeing them live. They have a little Mariachi in them, featuring a couple trumpets and/or horns. Here's two of the songs they sang (recorded at other events, though, and linked here and here):

From Lambchop to Calexico the the last act, the crowd steadily grew. The final act was die Fantastischen Vier, a German rap group. My understanding is that they're a big deal. They've been around for 18 years and the crowd knew the lyrics to most of their songs. Here is a video (up on YouTube today, taken yesterday) in which you can hear part of a song and see what it was like being there but not see the group:

And here's one of their videos (It's very old; don't worry, they weren't dressed like that live, and it turns out at least one of them must work out a lot).

The crowd was incredible: jumping up down and singing along and packed like sardines (by the way, when you're wedged against 4 people and they're jumping up and down, you'd better be jumping up and down too). I couldn't see anything and some girl was grinding into my right hip. Air temperature was probably 60 degrees, while crowd temperature was approaching 85. Crazy.

The concert was over at midnight, but all the food and drink stands were still open (guess they're not worried about drinking and driving) and all the public transportation packed. We ended up walking to one person's apartment and then he drove me most of the way home. By the time I got home at 1:30am, I'd been standing for 7.5 hours and had nearly nothing to eat or drink since I left at 5pm.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Feast or Famine

I finally caved and created a 'music' label for my blog. For a long time I figured it was unnecessary, but if I can have 6 posts labeled 'random videos,' then 7 posts for 'music' should be justified. Now, of course, decisions must be made about what qualifies for labeling. The Eurovision Song Contest? Well, it has the word 'song' in the title, so I suppose it has to be included. And who I am to give the OK to the Eurovision Song Contest and deny singing football players or a rap about George Washington? So I guess I'm going with an inclusive (non-judgment-valued) definition. Enjoy.

Anyway, the title of the post refers to (for a record third post! I'm not obsessed, I swear) Cotton Mather. A month ago, I had a measly two mp3s of their songs in my iTunes. Today, I have a robust 41. Wikipedia has even stepped up its game: someone created a page for them 2 weeks ago. Per the post below, the floodgates opened for me two days ago when a copy of Cotton is King showed up in my office. It's a fun album and the best track is still "Payday" which I discussed previously (and thankfully comes right after one of the weakest tracks). But Cotton is King is their first album; how could I rest without the second album, Kontiki, the album that the guys from Oasis were reportedly obsessed with? Retail seemed out (every place that lists it at all has it on 'back order'), no current eBay auctions list it, and it goes for approximately $30-100 on Amazon. Thankfully, I stumbled upon this blog and this blog post. The post is over a year old, but people (like me) keep finding it and commenting. It's definitely worth a read and when you're done you can download the French tour version of Kontiki, including the bonus tracks you hear on this myspace page, and some other rarities. The sound quality seems pretty poor (although maybe that's just a byproduct of their DIY ethos and not the rip of the CD), so I'm still going to keep my eyes open for a hard copy of it or stuff from their later work (they have a third album and a couple of EPs). They never stop sounding like the Beatles, which is a little uncanny, but the songs are good: "My Before and After" (the other song I mentioned previously) is a great song but not even my favorite. And the bonus tracks (mostly alternate versions) are as good or better than the album tracks, so don't skip them thinking they're filler. I was going to say a few more things about Kontiki but I would need to take a couple more listens.

After this odyssey, I feel like I should share the wealth, so if any of you, my friends, have a burning desire for some Cotton Mather in your life, drop me a line (you could probably also bug my partner-in-crime, Eugene, too) and I'll see what I can do.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Go Eugene!

Eugene Lim has a PhD in astrophysics, a spiffy new job lined up in NYC, and a trip to Iceland in his future, but most importantly he tracked down a copy of Cotton Mather's Cotton is King and mailed it to me for my birthday. This Herculean feat involved searching through a pile of old CDs at Cutler's in New Haven, some sort of interlude involving a supplier in Australia, and a spin through eBay. Go Eugene! (Might you be 'da man'?) Kick back, relax, and bop along to "April's Fool." You deserve it.