April 14, 2016

For those in the service/retail industry (and loving it), this one's for you.

This is a topic that I've been wanting to get to for awhile now because it's something I think about nearly every day. For the past two and a half years of my life, I've been employed at a Bakery. While this may not seem like it hold an impact, or even necessary to talk about, it holds more weight because I'm 28 years old and have no real plan of switching up the game.

Here's how it went; I moved to the city (Chicago) 3 years ago. My transfer with a job that I loved fell through. I ended up having to hit the pavement and look for something I could do, yet enjoy in the meantime to make money. I didn't want a "suburb" job, meaning I didn't want to work at a major chain, or something that I could have done staying in my same location back home. I had worked at a slew of jobs where I had a nice supply of experience in management, customer service, and other elements of retail work. I had a real knack for it, and found that if I truly believed in the product at hand, I could sell it with ease.

So here I was, in the city and on the job hunt. I applied at a local bakery. I had experience in that department before, though limited to certain products such as cupcakes or cookies, however, this was much more extensive, an institution if you will. It's been one of the best bakeries in Chicago since 1922 and it's still owned by the same family. It's a tourist hot spot and a local favorite. Since I've been employed there, I've come across some of the most fantastic people and really have served people from all walks of life, from Tom Skilling to Tim Meadows, to the folks that have been going there since 1949 who have made it a part of their family tradition. The opportunities to grow here personally have been astounding. It's rounded out my customer service in a fantastic way; I've made the regular customers (or any customer) a part of my life, learning their name, and calling it out as they roll through the door. I have learned to take so much pride in my position there and try to make a difference in not only my co-workers lives, but my customer's lives as well. Getting to know the people who support the business is always rewarding. It's extremely valuable for everyone involved. Every job is going to have it's downsides now and then. While retail is retail, and at times you find yourself beating your head against the wall questioning why you're there, more often than not, it's extremely obvious why you're there, for me at least.

Last summer, for 6 months, I took a position as an assistant to a Real Estate Broker. I thought that this would be a great growing experience, a much needed change of pace, and a nice increase in my bank account. For the most part, it did entail those very things, but with some serious downfalls. I had scaled back to one day a week in the bakery, that was limited to decorating cookies for the store, a task that I love, but one that separates me from the rest of the staff. I missed my team, hell, I missed my customers. I was working in a home office, at times alone, or at other times in situations that were less than ideal, making me miss those vital connections that I had made each day at the bakery. While certain circumstances lead to others, I ended up leaving my position as an assistant, and kind of took some time to float. In that period of 6 months, I had enrolled in a Real Estate class and completed that course with ability to sit for the state and national exam. No, I still haven't done that yet. Yes, I've still been studying and have retained a great deal (and yes, I do want to get licensed). Anyway, I needed some time to figure it out, what I wanted and what made me happy, but in the mean time, I decided to ball up some pride, walk over to the bakery, and see if they were be able to give me a few days a week. I was pleasantly surprised when they when they gave me more than just a few. I headed back in for the full-time haul, and it fit like a glove.

Before I had taken the assistant position, I had always actively avoided that "office-y" environment, (or any environment than involved sitting), but couldn't deny that job route seemed to pay more and have some benefits in the mix. I hadn't really considered what I was doing at the bakery a "real job", in the sense that it wasn't a career. Of course, I cared about my work, my customers, and my co-workers a great deal, but there wasn't the same level of pride. I suppose that my time away taught me a surprising amount, as time always does. I had to enhance certain skills as an assistant that hadn't necessarily been required of me at my other job, therefore, when I came back, I made sure those strong points transitioned over and became part of my renewed position. Just because it didn't feel like an "important" job, doesn't mean that it wasn't. It only grew from there, my desire was to create an environment where people loved to come to work, a place where customers can come in and it feels like home. I talk to so many people each day; it is such a magnificent opportunity to get to chat to those who have vastly different careers from one another, a valuable insight and marvelous way to grow communication skills. Making connections has always been vital to me, I suppose it's because my dad always "knew a guy" and I've always found that to be extremely cool. The more you talk to people, especially ones that differ so much from one another, the more opportunities you'll have, the more you'll find.

But it wasn't just that; it was the ability to have a staff that is impressionable, the ones who are just starting their interactions with customers. You can make a huge impact on how they deal with people not only at their place of work, but how they treat people in their daily lives. Likely, if you give great customer service, you're a pleasant person outside of your work environment, because you know how to work with people. When I was 18, I was lucky enough to have a fantastic boss who saw my strength in customer service and really pushed it and made me grow even more. A woman who taught me how important it was to be enthusiastic about your job and truly care about your not only your work, but your staff. My brother was another huge way I modeled my teamwork; create an atmosphere where it feels like you're working whilst hanging out, where everyone gets along, a true "team". No one gets left out, everyone has a good time, and we all work our asses off. We can shoot the shit, talk about absolutely anything, get a little dancing in, but if we're not working hard, we can't play hard.

That's another aspect of importance is the physical labor. I love being on my feet; constantly moving, cleaning, organizing, working on production, or lifting something. I like to feel like things are getting done. It's not like I'm just slingin' doughnuts here, folks (I mean, well, I AM), I dabble in a lot of different tasks within that establishment. It's huge. It's an actual production. We crank out so much product it's crazy. There's never a dull moment, there's endless amounts to do, and there's always someone to share a laugh with, and frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm happy.

Money is definitely important, don't get me wrong. However, I'm not about to put myself in a position that I disdain at a company I don't believe in, to have a larger bank account. The ideal would be feeling absolutely secure enough to pay my bills and have a nice lump sum to sit on for safety, but what fun is that? I take the money I earn pretty seriously, because it's not like I have a ton to go around (like, if we could accept tips, I could put a down payment on a house), but because I work hard for it and because if I am going to have a job I love, I may have to pay for that in the long run, but that's okay. It's not my only source of income (hey, hey) and the benefit of not taking my work home with me is remarkable. There's a reason why people stay in their retail positions for the length of their lives. Some of us actually love it. I have other pursuits, I have things I want to accomplish, Hell, I'm working towards them now, and I'm lucky enough to have enough time outside of work to pursue them on the side. How awesome.

What actually sparked this post (and it's length), was this article I came across just a couple hours ago. I look at this list and think, really?! Those jobs seem pretty damn essential to me, and while they may be the "worst", they all hold a pretty important factor of how we get shit done in this country. So why are they such low paying wages? To me, those jobs aren't the "worst", they are some act of selflessness. all of those jobs directly help someone else in a different way; a DJ delivering music to a large base of people and sharing valuable insights to music (what's up, WXRT?!), a firefighter saving lives whilst risking their own, pest control making our environments livable and helping the city's food establishments stay clean, military protecting, fighting, and serving for our country and it's citizens, retail associate helping you place an order or purchase an item, and newspaper journalists reporting on local news that impacts the lives of those in the area. Jobs and careers where the pay not be high, yet the value is astounding. THAT'S why people work these jobs. A firefighter is a firefighter because that's what they've wanted to do their whole lives, Wages aren't going to deter dreams, you just find a way to work around it. If the passion is there, you may simply find a way to make the money you need, but if you're lucky, you'll find a way to make what you need and beyond.

All in all, I've given up the mindset that I don't have a "real job". I damn well do and it's a pretty great one too. Service jobs of any kind can be extremely rewarding. If you're good at something, find a way to become better. If you're great at something, teach someone else how to be great at it too. You can choose the level of pride you choose to take in a job and you can indeed change your mindset and how you approach your position, ANY position. It doesn't matter what the hell you do, as long as you're doing it the best you can, as long as you believe in what you're doing, because if you don't, than what's the point?

April 2, 2016

Currently Taking The Cake;

Hello, Hello!

I hope everyone's been enjoying this week! Here's what's goin' down;


Follow-up Celebrations;


Each year I order a cake that really sets the tone for that age or that has some sort of meaning to me, yet something that's a bit humorous. This is even easier because I work in a bakery. For our birthdays, our gift is a cake on the casa. Keeping in theme, I had to go with a Bloody Mary/NOLA theme, because how was I to resist? It was between this or a dachshund eating a hot dog and the Bloody Mary (with the pizza garnish) kind of took the cake on this one. I ordered this to share with my parents last weekend. Needless to say, they were amused.


The Jams;

Now this will be my third time in a row mentioning Flume, but I simply just cannot help it. This album has different ways of hitting me and I fall for certain songs at particular times (I mean, isn't that sort of always how it goes?). Right now it's all about 'What You Need'. This song hit me full force on my walk home the other day and it's made it's way into my daily rotation of listening. It makes me even that much more exciting for my "gymnastics ribbon" to get here so I can crank some serious waves and grooves to this tune (yeah, I ordered one and yeah, Siri calls me Missus President.)




Oh, The Lumineers, they've done it again. They've released yet another song that sort of wrecks me. When I heard they were back with a new album, I said "Huh, Why haven't I ever really gotten into them?" and then I remembered that I dig their music, but it's a bit too cathartic for me, in the same way that Bon Iver is. I find when that happens, I avoid it more than choosing to embrace it. 'Stubborn Love' has me crying by the second verse and I couldn't even tell you why. That's happened the first time I ever heard it and has happened ever since. There are no associations, no memories that flood back, just raw emotion. The problem is, I really love the song, I just avoid it because of the reasons previously mentioned. When WXRT announced that they'd be playing their latest single, 'Ophelia' from their latest album Cleopatra, I was a bit nervous. Yes, I was actually nervous. (SIDENOTE: 'Ophelia' by Natalie Merchant is one of my all-time favorite songs) I liked it right away, but it was drenched in that emotional tone that gets me every time. I'm definitely looking to see what else this album churns out, but will not be attending their show when they roll through. Although, I would pay a pretty penny just to hear 'Ophelia' played live.

Fitz and The Tantrums are back with a new single, 'HandClap' that is not on their usual wavelength but one that works well for them. Normally, this is not a sound I would go for, as it has that ultra-pop vibe to it, but the first time I heard it, it was a Friday night (the day it dropped), I was just about to get out of work, and I had dancing on the brain; the right state of mind to hear this song. It made me feel something, and therefore, it wins me over. However, I do hope they have some songs on this album that ring true to their classic sound. Sometimes, there is no room for the old sound on a new album. I absolutely loved this band when they came around on their debut, Pickin' Up The Pieces and still think that those songs are incredibly solid and some of their best. I have a feeling there are good things to look forward to with this upcoming release.


Wolf Alice isn't new to the game, however, like Flume, and a million and one other artists and songs, music hits me at certain times. When it drops isn't necessarily the important factor here, it's when it makes you feel something is when you bring that song into your life as something more permanent. A memory stake in the music game. Thier single, 'Bros' dropped in 2013 for their EP Blush, however, was reworked for their debut album, My Love Is Cool. I love this song, and I think the music video does well for this. So many people miss the mark on their videos, making me regret watching them. However, it works well for the visual. Definitely a great tune for a long walk and a sunny day. I am guilty of not hearing this entire album yet, but no worries, it's on the to-do list and I'm sure there will be more songs to fall in love with.

Throwback

Another one in the daily rotation? TURN IT UP. It's 'Heated Heavy' by Krayzie Bone. This song hits me so well - I heard it the other day and it was a glorious refresher. 


#Cookies;


So this is a thing. These are on sale at my bakery that I work at. Yes, I decorated them. I really couldn't resist. What else would I do with the chick cookies after Easter time? You can most often find me saying #blessed after nothing at all significant and is a running joke at work (and among 1/3 of the world). Will people get it? I don't know. This one was for me (for all of us, really). It's like the time I Bowie-d everything; PURE SATISFACTION. If you've read this blog for awhile, you all know how much cookie decorating means to me. I am so jazzed that I get to decorate them once a week. It is a marvelous way to get out my creative side whilst getting paid. That's the real glory. #Blessed

The day after his death. Everything was going to get Aladdin Sane-d.
 




As usual, I've got more up my sleeve, but that's for next time. Have a great weekend, kids! TG








March 23, 2016

28 and Feelin' Great!

A couple of big things went down over the past couple days (and then I bought some makeup);


I turned 28;


HOLY MACKEREL! It feels good, it feels great! I like being this age. I like being older and I think for me, the journey will only get better, or at least that's what I'm hoping for. I'm enjoying gaining a bit of wisdom along the way and having different opportunities and experiences to look forward to. For the first time, perhaps ever, I worked on my birthday. I normally was always able to weasel my way out of it, but this year was different. While it's a fact I couldn't pass on the cash, I also wanted to surround myself with my work crew. They've become such an important aspect of my life, as I work with them each day the ones I share the most laughs with. You all know how it goes; your work friends have the ability to know you on such a different level and I really value that aspect of the relationship. I also have a lot of spectacular regulars that I've become well-acquainted with by now, and some of them stopped by for my birthday with a small gift in hand, and others were there just for the sake of being there, and I got to say hi and pass on a little birthday cheer. The best birthday gift is being around those who bring you joy, who fill your life with that much more purpose, those are the faces I want to see, those people are the ones I want to celebrate with. 

Scofflaw;

Oh, what a lucky duck I was. It was my choice for dinner (birthday brat). While there are SO many places I want to go, sometimes you just want to go somewhere you love and are familiar with. There's little room for error on such days, and I knew Scofflaw wouldn't disappoint. A friend highly recommended this place to me over a year ago, and last night, it was my 5th time heading to the swanky gin joint and every time it hits the mark. I'm a huge fan of their "Swizzle" series. It's always a tropical-based tiki drinks, finely tuned with things I typically really go for in cocktails; coconut, lime, & pineapple. Any one of those three items listed in a drink will typically result in me ordering one. HOWEVER, last night was all about kicking it off with a Red Snapper. I needed to settle the score with my Bloody Mary craving, it was simply just too far ahead in the game and I had to get my fix before it totally took me over. In all honesty, you really cannot go wrong with any drink you order; they are all made extremely well and while each one is unique, they each taste superb. 

The kick of that drink was fantastic. The perfect amount of spice, and while there was no garnish (duh, it was a Tuesday night), it was exactly what I needed. The vibe was there and that's all that matters. But you best believe I followed it up with not one, but two Swizzle #15's.

Me with my Red Snapper!

Besides having on-point drinks, Scofflaw has a bangin' menu; it's chocked full of goodies at extremely reasonable prices. Mixing, Matching, Pairing, & Sharing is the name of the game at Scofflaw. Charcuterie, kale salad, braised short ribs, liver mousse, and of course, a cheeseburger, will all be found on their menu, along with plenty of other things to fill in the gaps. The environment is unique and the vibe is always a good one. Head over there when you get the chance and head into the back room.


Lollapalooza line-up announced;


Ay yi yi. This day has the ability to make me or break me. I get so anxious around Lolla lineup/ticket time that I hardly know what to do with myself. Last year's line-up blew it out of the water, almost every act was someone I wanted to check out or was an act I needed to see. I didn't know what to expect this year. Once the headliners had crept out into public knowledge, I was thirsty for this festival. I LOVE Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, & Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I couldn't come up with who else would round this fest out. While up early for work, I took a peak at the dropped announcement this morning and just kind of went "huh, alright."

I wasn't that stoked about it, and while I would absolutely be tickled pink by the opportunity to see Radiohead again, I couldn't justify spending $120 on another time around. While there are other artists I could see that day, sometimes I just prefer the venue show, and perhaps that will be my chance to check out pre-shows/after shows when they roll through. Same with Red Hot Chili Peppers. Would I love to see them? Hell yeah, but not for $120. What I DID do was get a Sunday ticket so I can groove my little heart out to LCD Soundsystem - that to me was extremely worth it. Also, Flume?! That was another artist I was pretty hyped on who also happens to be playing on Sunday, along with Haim. Hell yeah!

I'm almost relieved. I was a bit stressed about making the money work. I'm glad that the line-up isn't all I wanted it to be this year, because frankly, now's not the time to be spending money on festivals or be filled with sorrows over missing killer acts. I am very glad I get to enjoy the glory for a day, there's a lot to look forward to.


The mini makeup haul;

I'm not going to act like this is suddenly a make-up blog, but you get the idea.

1) Physician's Formula mineral wear 2) Maybelline BB cream 3) Essence XXXLShine 15 True Love 4) Essence liquid lipstick 5) Essence black gel eyeliner 6) Maybelline Pumped Up! Colossal Mascara 
For makeup and me, it's been a journey. Needless to say, it was pretty vital that I hit Ulta in March for double points, the $10 off coupon, and of course, to get the freebie gift (Benefit roller ball mascara #blessed). I was also equipped with $30 in gift cards. It was the perfect time to reload on a few things that had been running low, plus, you know, birthday treats.

While I always go with Physician's Formula powder, my other items have an ability to shift. I like trying out new products and brands, and today I was extremely curious about Essence. Keep in mind I've been seeing this brand for a long time, but for whatever reason, at that particular moment, it piqued my interest. So much so that when an employee came by, I asked her about it and raided her brain of everything she knew about the line. What it boiled down to was that the brand had actually gotten some great feedback from users, but certain items were more reliable than others (so I figured). 

Based on appearance only, it seems as if it's branded similar to a Korean makeup company- very cute and unique packaging, but they're not, they're based out of Europe.What I really wanted to know if their products were cheap (like, really cheap) because they was shitty or cheap because sometimes you just get lucky and can come across great products that aren't marked up. I like to take a gander and see where certain things are made. XXXLShine is made in Germany, as where the liquid lipstick is made in Italy, which holds some validity. Essence even has little ingredient guides for their products off to the side, which is always nice to have on hand. I am looking forward to seeing how these items play out.

I've tried a lot of different brands at this point, and sometimes for certain items, I just keep coming back to the "mass product" side of the store. While I do believe there are certain things worth paying more for, there are a handful of things you can get in this area of the store. This time around, I wanted to get the most bang for my buck, whilst getting the best quality at that price range. A lot of time was spent at Ulta, comparing different products and shades, which was nice versus just making impulse buys, because that is so easy to do in such an environment. I'm happy with my new stash, but don't look for a review anytime soon, unless it's some life-changing shit.

All in all, this has been a great start to the week. I've got a couple tunes up my sleeve to get out to you guys next time. Get out there and do something awesome! TG

March 21, 2016

A few things worth mentioning...

It's been a minute and it's time to do something about it.

The look of this blog has transformed, it was time for a change and I'm so glad I finally got around to sprucing this sucker up. I feel like a lot of shows have slipped by that are absolutely worthy of talking about. The truth is, I'm not amped on the idea of drumming up feelings about a show I went to in November.

Not only has there been a decent amount of concert-going over the past 5 months that I've neglected to post about, the amount of phenomenal music I've come across, both new and old, has been overwhelming, and you should probably know more about that.

I want to focus more so on what's going on at the moment; products I've come across that I love, food I cannot get enough of, songs or albums that won't leave my head, and concepts or ideas that mean something to me right now.

There is no theme, there is no style, it's just a vibe that has the ability to change at anytime.

While concert reviews will definitely still be a thing, there needs to be some sort of focus that captures more of what I love and things that I fill my life with on the daily, because it's really all about the little things, yeah?

Let's delve in;



Things I currently cannot get enough of;

That NEW ORLEANS soul.

I took the trip down to New Orleans in late February on a particularly "great weather" weekend. It was my first time going and I had picked the destination. I fell in love, as so many do, with the spirit and soul of that city, the feeling was absolutely spectacular. There is so much more I can say about that trip; the music, the dancing, the mindset. I experienced so many great things during my time spent there and every day I wake up saying "TAKE ME BACK!" I long for that NOLA spirit, hopefully I can head back sooner than later. It is quite the hot spot this year as so many close friends and acquaintances made their way down there over the past couple months. I don't blame them one bit.




But more importantly, let's zone in on something very particular that I took home with me from that trip;
The constant BLOODY MARY cravings.

Current Drink Vibe:

I kicked off the flight on the way to Louisiana with a bloody, ordered one wherever I could during the trip, and of course, I rounded off the trip with bloody sips on the way home. Now I long for the primo experience of sippin' whilst strollin' down Bourbon St.
TAKE. ME. BACK.

From Daisy Duke's on Bourbon St / NOLA Bloody Mary

Now, wherever I go in Chicago, at any hour, if I CAN order a Bloody Mary, I will order a Bloody Mary.
I've even started putting pepper and hot sauce in my orange juice...

Needless to say, the hype is real. This is my go-to drink right now.


Tune-age;

For the mellow moods; Over the past month or so, I've been particularly amped on Four Tet. I'm not new to his music, but the album in reference, Pink, I hadn't heard before, even though it was released in 2011. A close friend was listening to 'Locked' and I had a stellar reaction to it. It was the perfect song to hear at that particular moment, which had then sparked my interest in the rest of the album. It makes beautiful chill/study/creative music.

Flume is another artist who I became rather amped on semi-recently. I use the self-titled album as a go-to for music to put on in the background for almost anything. I cannot wait to take this album into a dance studio. The range is fantastic and I think there's something for everyone on this album. I really enjoy the latest single 'Never Be Like You' ft Kai.


 

Another huge winner for me in recent months has been Sia's latest, This Is Acting. I'm a fan of most things Sia puts her voice on, and this was no different. I definitely recommend giving this album a listen, it has an uplifting, vibrant tone to it mixed with softer jams. A great album for getting ready.

Favorite Tracks: 'Bird Set Free', 'Alive', 'Move Your Body', 'Reaper'



Hey, are you into EL VY yet? You probably should be. Matt Berninger of The National teamed up with Brent Knopf of Menomena to crank out this album. Return To The Moon was released in October and I was lucky enough to see them play The Metro in November. I've been diggin' (and dancing to) their record ever since.

Favorite Tracks: 'I'm The Man To Be', 'No Time To Crank The Sun', 'It's A Game', 'Return To The Moon'.


Skincare;

I don't think there is a worse time in my life for me to give such a damn about skincare, but if the time is now, so it goes. With my birthday just around the corner (tomorrow), I all of a sudden feel the need to really start giving a shit. In the past few years, I've been faking it by using coconut oil as an initial facial cleanser, dabbling in Maracuja oil sporadically, and then passing myself a skin goddess. It's time to actually want to have good skin, and not just think about the immediate outcome, but to realize that how I treat my skin now, will show immensely in the future. While I was doing some of the proper steps ensure this in years previous, now's the time to drive it home. Of course, I've turned my interest to Korean philosophies and techniques, which fascinate me. While this is not the time for me or my wallet, I can adapt certain principles using products that work for me, although there's always room to try new things and switch up the routine. Over the past few weeks, I've been near obsessed with taking in as much information about skincare; different practices and advice.

A few items I use in the daily game;
1) Whole Foods 365 Coconut Oil for an initial cleanser 2) [not pictured] Elemental Fusions Coconut/Aloe soap bar for additional removal. 3) Alba Even Advanced Sea Kelp Toner 4) Tarte's Maracuja or Olive Oil as a light mositurizer/under-eye care 5) Heritage Store's Rosewater Mist 6) Elemental Fusions or Lacura Q10 Night Cream for under-eye/mouth/forehead moisturizer

Not only am I more conscious about my skincare regimen, I'm more conscious about my health overall and what I choose to consume. Certain outcomes only happen if you commit to multiple lifestyle tweaks. Not only are the benefits there for my skin, but they are there for my whole body. My water intake has increased dramatically (at least 1 gal/day) and my consumption of sugar has decreased. Being keen on nutrition is not new to me, however, I phase exceptionally hard when it comes to my diet and habits that fall into this category. Sometimes I care, sometimes I don't. Weight isn't my focus when it comes to my what I eat necessarily; overall nutrition, body/brain function, and aesthetic benefits are more of a priority. While I'm loving the transitions I've made, I can't promise they will be around forever, but for now, it's workin' for me.


Good Eats;

TODAY'S BRUNCH: treated myself to some delicious avocado toast & fresh OJ at Mortar & Pestle.
And while I have a picture of it, I might as well talk about it. THIS TOAST. I like avocado's, but I'm not bonkers about them. Most of the time I can handle a few slices here and there, however, they are so ridiculously good for you, it's hard to find a reason not to eat them even if  you're not the biggest fan. After reading some reviews about Mortar & Pestle, I see everyone is raving about this avocado toast. It's delicious AND it has plenty of magnesium?!  Okay, cool. Now I wanted it.

The flavor blend is divine; the green glory is topped with lemon, cumin, chives, sea salt, and aleppo pepper, which pretty much equates perfection. Those people were right. I was right for ordering it. I was craving it so hard yesterday that I felt as though I needed to go back today to relive the delight. And back in I went - that glory was mine. While I only got this today, I ordered more during my last visit. Their menu is excellent and gives me that heavy Portland vibe in the sense that the ingredients are rather simplistic, but they're accentuated in ways that make the dish more unique and flavorful. I highly recommend heading to Mortar & Pestle for brunch. TG




October 23, 2015

A Dose of Sweet Spirit / The Empty Bottle / Chicago

On Wednesday night, I got a righteous dose of Sweet Spirit.

Here's the story;

A buddy of mine, Robbie, messaged me earlier in the month about this band I needed to check out, along with the link of upcoming tour dates. They were a band from Texas called Sweet Spirit. He had seen them open for Spoon, as they opened on a number of their shows, and he had fallen in love with them. I was informed that Britt Daniel was a big fan of the band and would come out and jam with them during their sets. I love Spoon & I love Britt Daniel. I also trust the hell out of Robbie's musical opinion. I went ahead and purchased the tickets and decided to trust him even further by not even listening to them. He was completely confident that I'd dig the hell out of them. I wanted to walk in without having heard their music and fall in love on the spot. I am normally not that kind of girl. Normally I like to be really familiar with what I'm about to go and see. I even go as far as looking at set-lists ahead of time, which is horrible. I don't know why I cannot seem to go with the element of surprise anymore. I suppose it just depends on the show.

I was able to go without listening, with bubbling curiosity for weeks, until HOURS BEFORE THE SHOW. I CRACKED. I could not resist. I needed to know what was about to go down. I put on Cokomo and fell in love instantly. Check out Bandcamp for their EP, and donate some extra money, would ya? I went from excited to stoked and continued to play them until it was time to head over for the show, which was over at The Empty Bottle. This is a great little spot to go and check out artists that are rolling through Chicago for the first couple trips through and/or get exposed to new music of both local artists and those on tour.

SHOWTIME:
We got there early and were able to see the two bands that went on ahead of them (there were four bands playing that night); Skip Church, which had this really incredible raw sound that made me think they were on the brink of something real good. The Mad Doctors were there reppin' Brooklyn and throwing around sound (and toilet paper), and third was Sweet Spirit, and sweet it was.

Now, I like to be hospitable for artists I love, along with those rolling through Chicago early on. This was a tasty combo of both. They were here back in April at The Burlington, but unfortunately was completely off my radar. I am glad I was able to catch them on this tour, while it's still nice and intimate. Next time they come through, I doubt that will be the case. I decided to bring them some boxes of cookies from my work. I figured I'd likely be able to leave them somewhere that they would be able to get them or pick them up, but then I realized it would also be a possibility to actually just hand them off to them. I wanted to make sure that they got some of that sweetness back and had some good to enjoy on the road. Luckily, the plan went off without a hitch and it was totally worth carting them around all night. I was able to hand them to Sabrina during their setup, which resulted in a quick, yet nice exchange. I didn't want to hold them up during their time to get prepared, but they sat on stage through the duration of the show and she even came back over to make sure I got a picture of them with her boots (they were some pretty rad boots).

   



They kicked up the set up with 'Poor' which is such a great starter jam, gets you right into the thick of the groove. The dancing started immediately. The kind of music that just kind of takes you and moves you. The stage presence is fantastic, definitely engaging and full force. Sabrina has a wonderful way of entertaining the crowd and taking command of the environment. Her vocals are right at home on the stage and they hold a unique sound. She belts out fantastic lyrics whilst dancing and throwing her body around in wonderful ways. The rest of the band compliments everything so well, they have a rather large group, and they all work together so well. There was this phenomenal energy that really takes you in. The crowd was definitely feeling that momentum and others joined in the fun of making their bodies move about.




Mid-set she says from the stage she gives me a shout-out from the stage and notes the cookies and gives a shout-out to the Bakery. It was a lovely moment and totally unexpected, since she had already thanked me and had chatted briefly. Hell yeah.

Highlights for sure included 'Chained & Tied'. 'If You Wanna', & 'Take Me To A Party'. It was such an enjoyable experience from beginning to end. I had such a great time and really absorbed everything that was being thrown down musically. I was lucky enough to snag their set-list, which was HANDWRITTEN! Oh, the glory!

We also bought a fair share of merch; a tshirt, 10" EP, & their 7" single with Britt Daniel (!!!), and we were more than happy to give our money to that band. I ended up going back and trying to get a picture with Sabrina and she was more than happy to comply. It was the cherry on top of a rockin' night and it was all exactly what I needed.



All in all, it was a great show that left me ridin' high. My ears were ringing and my brain was shaken about, rattled up by righteous tunes. I am so thankful that Robbie got at me and told me to check them out. I look forward to seeing where they go from here. They have such an awesome support base and I know that they have some real solid ability. Cannot wait to see them next time they swing through.

Their tour has pretty much wrapped, however, keep and open eye and ear to what is going on with this band. They will be well worth your time and energy! Here's to 'em! 

THANK YOU FOR ROCKING MY FACE OFF, SWEET SPIRIT! COME BACK SOON!

-T


October 14, 2015

[REVIEW] The Musical Journey: Joan Armatrading

Last Wednesday night, the musical glory was all mine.


I saw THE Joan Armatrading at City Winery. It was the first show of her three scheduled for Chicago. I believe it was her 197th show of this tour. Also, THIS TOUR IS INSANE. I doubt I will ever see a concert shirt like this again.


The anticipation for this show was incredible since I had bought my ticket so far in advance. I never thought that would happen. I remember tweeting;

can we please rally for a Joan Armatrading concert??

I had NO CLUE she was on tour. I assumed she would remain on my artist bucket-list and that I would never have the glory of seeing her perform live. When I decided to see if this was a possibility and then saw that she was actually on tour, I lost it a little (okay, a lot) and frantically looked up tour dates. However, her Chicago shows in April had already been sold out and I could not afford what they were going for from other sources. I also expressed this anxiousness via twitter (yeah, I know) and was informed by Ryan Arnold (THANK YOU!) over at XRT that she would indeed be coming back to City Winery in October. Assurance was mine and I realized that this could actually happen. I snagged the ticket when they went on sale and let the excitement build. I had planned to go solo to this show for a multitude of reasons, which really just consists of the fact that no one I knew had really ever heard of her or wanted to spend the money to do so, but also, I figured it was something I needed to do on my own. I knew it was going to be an emotional night and wanted to just soak it all up without any distractions. 
Six months later, the time had come. October was just getting into gear and the 7th rolled around as quickly as I had wanted it to. I was absolutely over the moon for this show. I had been excited for plenty of other shows and artists before, each one holds their own bit of magic and unique talent. This felt different. I never thought this would happen. I had grown up with her music and then came back to it at a later age and re-connected with it. The songs that were once words and melodies became entangled with meaning and emotion. I needed to see her play those songs live before me. I needed to have that musical closure, the pleasure of seeing it happen.
If you haven't noticed, shows mean A LOT to me. For some people, it's just something they do. For me, it's some serious shit. I want to experience the hell out of that band. I want to dance, I want to feel the vibe of the crowd, and capture the energy in the room. I want to dress according to artist and venue. It's a lot of preparation, mentally and emotionally. So while I'm already rather giddy about shows in general, having a bucket-list show is something I can't necessarily put into words, but here's me trying.
I had never been to City Winery before this event. I had no idea what to anticipate or really where or how I'd be sitting. First of all, I don't like sitting at shows. It's just...sad. Initially, I had purchased a ticket near the back of the venue so I COULD dance. I thought "Perfect, this way, I will only disturb this back group of people!" I arrive and find that the seating is extremely close together, like, airplane style. I was squeezed in there pretty good and knew that this would simply not be my thing. I immediately asked where I could stand or if there was some sort of "groove spot" because dancing, or, well, moving, would not be happening in that seat. She pointed me to an area and I decided to check it out (don't worry, I ordered wine first). It was the most ideal space; tons of room, groovy lighting, and high-top chairs lined along the sides. It was also way closer and had a killer view of the stage. I decided this would be my spot for the show. I had gotten there much too early, it started later than I anticipated, but that's my own fault for not actually looking. When it's Joan Armatrading, you don't have time to read, you just find out a date and a location, and you just show up there. I had two glasses of wine, a fantastic staff, and a lovely crowd of people to keep me company in between sets.
The opener, Kristina Train, was quite fitting for Joan Armatrading. I love when opening bands blow me away. It's such an unexpected feeling, because you're pretty much just there to be there, and then you walk away getting wrapped up in a new artist. Satisfying feeling for sure. That girl was great.
It was requested that no photography took place, and I figured I'd respect that. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the actual concert, but I'm glad didn't have my phone out. I've learned to leave that to the professionals and to just enjoy the experience as it is. Take it in as it's happening.


Once the opener left the stage, Joan's guitars were polished, and the lights were dimmed, the show was ready to start. Joan took the stage to the sound of worthy applause and I dropped to my knees in excitement. That's just some of the random occurrences that will happen for me at a show ("I'm up here!", "I'm down here!", "I'm crying!", "I'm dancing!"). She was about to strum and sing her way into magic.
I had been sincerely hoping that she'd come out and play 'All The Way From America'. It's just the perfect intro song and what I always imagined she'd open with. AND SHE DID. It was absolutely what I had wanted. It reminds me of when I listened to it as a kid, a musical comfort for sure.


She continued to play all of my favorite songs, especially 'Love & Affection', 'The Weakness In Me', & 'Down To Zero', with the exception of 'Prove Yourself''. It was a killer set and it consisted of her doing it all herself. I would have loved to have seen her with a band, but it was nice seeing her up on stage, cranking it out solo. As expected, I cried, I danced, and I sang along. 'Down To Zero' was the one that tugged at my emotions the hardest. I was not expecting that, which made it even better, cathartic even. The range of emotions this show took me on was just as I expected. I'll refer to it as the emotional slap"I was in complete awe the whole time. I could not grasp the fact that it was happening, but I am so glad that it did.



Set-list chocked full of stellar tunes. I was so happy she played 'Rosie' and 'Drop The Pilot' back-to-back. That was a righteous little groove session. We all sang along to 'Willow' for the closer and it was a beautiful experience from beginning to end. Her fans are lovely people and I had some marvelous encounters. I always meet the best people at shows and it's an experience I am grateful for; great conversations about music and life, which for some, is one of the same.



I do have to say, that this time, unfortunately, I did NOT get the set-list. I was caught up in conversation with an awesome woman who stood next to me during the show and missed the chance. And so it goes... There was only one set-list and it belonged to Joan. The guy who got it was just as into the set-list game as I was and beat me to it. While it would have been the cherry on top, it was easy to be happy for him, for I knew how much it had meant to him. I even went to the sound check booth before the show started to see if they had one available and if they'd put it aside for after the show. No such luck. Oh the downfalls of technology (as I write an ONLINE blog)...
Once everything had fully wrapped, my t-shirt was purchased, and the building had cleared, I decided it would be worth it to stay after and try to meet her. I had gotten lucky at shows before and met some of my absolute favorite musicians by doing this. I went out by the tour buses to discover, luckily, that there were a few other people waiting already. I really didn't want to wait that out by myself, but figured that no one there would be into it. I believe I was the youngest one there. People literally came up to me after the show and thanked me for being there and for dancing (my pleasure, folks). I waited amongst some really rad people for a solid 90 minutes with no such luck. She seriously snuck out of that building stealth-style. There were so few of us, so it was a bummer that there wasn't a quick hello or a meet n' greet, but I completely understand that some artists are simply not into that vibe at all. While I understand it, I still wanted it to happen. I do not regret the time waiting one bit. The people I shared that time with made it so much fun. I love the bonds that come from the shared love of music and shows and hearing about show experiences from other enthusiasts.
A top-notch occurrence! At this point, it's like, "Who do I see now?!". I have seen so many musical artists that I never thought I'd get to see live and now I'm just filling in spaces. Trying to see any show and add on to the long lists of artists I've seen. Here's to the next wave of show excitement!

ON DECK;
Oct 21. Sweet Spirit @ Empty Bottle
Nov 20. James Bay @ The Riv
Jan 22. Vance Joy @ The Riv

-T

August 4, 2015

The Lolla Laydown / 2015

Ah, what a weekend! What a glorious weekend that has so many aspects that I absolutely live for; sunshine, live music, groovin' amongst the people, and SO MANY GOOD VIBES. Yes, Lollapalooza took place this past weekend and it's safe to say that it is my ultimate happy place. While I've only attended three years now, I feel that I've made the absolute most of them, soaking up every ounce of the glory. The glory is always mine!


Easily one of the best line-ups ever for me.

The line-up came out in, oh, I don't know, March? I remember that day. I remember thinking that it was something I needed to check immediately at work and did not care of the repercussions of checking material that was not relevant to the job itself. When I saw who was expected to play, I believe I literally squealed, or made some unbearably loud noise for being in a store-front environment. Then I think I took it to another level by running around and verbally expressing my excitement in words that probably didn't make sense, very likely I was just attempting to string sentences together involving Florence and drooling on myself in the process. IT WAS HAPPENING, MY QUEEN WAS HEADLINING! FINALLY.

However, while Florence + The Machine sealed the deal, SIR PAUL McCARTNEY?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Alabama Shakes? Oh yeah! Alt-J? For sure! Glass Animals? Sign. Me. Up. The bands looked solid and I needed to be there. Luckily, all went well with acquiring tickets and I knew I had a way into the happiest weekend on earth, well, two tickets. I decided that Friday and Sunday were my best routes to go and they certainly did not disappoint.

See, the thing about Lollapalooza, is that it serves as something you look forward to all summer. It's something you endure, something you do in the name of loving music. So many amazing artists come together and beat the heat to give us some of the best festival performances we've ever seen. We meet new people while running into old friends. It's the range of options you have before you, the different types of music, where there's truly something for everyone. It is the best feeling to be under that skyline whilst observing and taking in everything that is going on around you. LOLLAPALOOZA IS MAGIC.

But it's also unbearable heat and humidity in between the evacuations from the festival due to thunderstorms. It's going with the flow, checking out artists you've never heard of, and finding a place to groove in the lawn. It's planning your bathroom breaks accordingly so you don't have to leave your favorite artist when you're near the front in a sea made up of thousands of people. It's having to deal with the Bud-Light only beer options. It's grabbing a slice of Lou's deep dish or a pulled pork sandwich from Smoke Daddy and sittin' on the curb promising yourself that this is all totally great for your immune system. It's all part of the glory, the MAGIC.


______________________________Friday, July 31st

2:15. Glass Animals: YES. I am so glad I got to see them in time. I was actually quite worried because I wasn't sure how early I was going to go and whether or not I was going to go solo. I ended up going early to catch them because I knew I could not miss them. I got EXTREMELY lucky with timing. I walked up as they played my three favorite songs; 'Gooey', 'Pools', and 'Hazey' - they also threw a Kanye cover in there 'Love Lockdown'. They did a hell of a job making it their own style, it was delivered exceptionally well. I wish I could have seen them in a more intimate setting, like the Bottom Lounge for their pre-show, but groovin' in the field to their tunes was quite fantastic, and groove I did. Things got funky.

3:30. Father John Misty: I checked him out for the sole purpose of checking him out. I have heard a lot of wonderful things about him but have never given his music a fair chance. I figured seeing him live would be a wonderful way to do that. I dug his grooves; definitely something you see with a best friend or a sweetheart, and not necessarily solo unless you're more familiar, but that's okay. He was fucking hilarious. He said some of the funniest stuff from the stage that made it that much more worth it.

::crowd member shouts out question::

FJM: "Oh, so you wanna ask questions, do you want like a fucking Q & A session? Is that what you want? Okay, what?"

Random crowd member: "Do you want to go to brunch?"

FJM: "They asked if I wanted to go to brunch. I don't eat brunch. ::long pause:: I eat lunch twice. Let's hear it for that!"

::crowd cheers::

FJM: "This is way too easy."

The crowd waiting for Alabama Shakes against that glorious skyline.

5:45. Alabama Shakes: OH, HELL YES. This was just one of the reasons I was so revved for this festival. I saw them back in March at my beloved venue, The Chicago Theatre. I even was lucky enough to meet Brittany outside after the show. She is a beautiful human being. Despite being blown away by them in that venue, I knew that they thrived in an outdoor setting. QUEUE IT UP! I hadn't heard Sound and Color before the previous show from a few months ago, but now, having become very familiar with it (okay, in love with it), my excitement was on point. As usual, they were phenomenal. They experienced some technical difficulties, but was fixed in a matter of minutes and seemed even better when Brittany boomed "BROKE THE FUCKIN' P.A. SYSTEM!". Perfect.




7:45. Sir Paul McCartney: I can tell you right now, that going in Friday, I never expected to get rocked that hard. I mean, I was expecting him to be awesome, I just didn't fathom that it would be as life-changing as it was. The crowd around us was chocked full of beautiful people who were looking to groove, share the spirit, and soak up every ounce of what was happening before us. We danced endlessly, sang along to every song, and LOST OUR MINDS.

Let me tell you, my number one show will always be Florence + The Machine, December 4th at Chicago Theater, HOWEVER, this was just a different circumstance and experience.

I have never had an experience like this at a show before, and that could be for a few different reasons. I am so grateful that I was there that night. So many tears of sheer joy. It really took so much out of me in the best possible way. Let's not forget how he pulled Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes on stage to accompany him in rocking the hell out of 'Get Back'. MINDSPLITTING.

Me and Dan were happy clams watchin' Paul McCartney.
(except, yeah, we're not actually watching him in this picture, I get that)


_____________________________Sunday, August 2nd

YAY! FLORENCE DAY!

While the weather looked nice and tasty that morning, people who had looked at the weather (it's Chicago, so EVERYONE), knew we were expecting storms. I saunter in with my two friends just as they announced evacuation. BEAUTIFUL! Of course, you could see the storms brewing to the west, getting ready to charge at the "Lollapalooz-ums (thanks, Paul)." We all dealt with it, found some shelter somewhere, and came back in at 3:30 after standing unbearably close in humid conditions at the gate front. Crowd mentality at its finest. They got things moving real quickly though. You can't blame them for taking such precautions. This jived up the schedule a little bit, so times below may not be accurate, just going off memory. Sunday was really just vibing with what my friends wanted to do. There's a handful of bands I wanted to see, but there's always only so many you can get to. Sharing the experience with friends makes these shows that much better it seems. 




3:30. Moon Taxi: Okay, sure. Why not. We were there, we wanted a field to sit in, and the tunes sounded good. REALLY good, actually. I was pleasantly surprised. That's what I love about festivals. Your ability to never hear of someone, decide to check them out on a whim, and fall in love with their tunes. Our goal was to sit in the lawn, I ended up groovin' instead.

4:30 (give or take). Angus & Julia Stone: a friend in the group wanted to see them and I wanted to ride their vibe for awhile. They ended up being pretty rad. Of course, everyone was over the moon when they played 'Big Jet Plane'. I loved that song without paying proper attention to who it was. It will happen when it keeps coming up on your Rdio playlists when you aren't paying attention.

5:15. Odesza: Okay, we really just wanted to sit down and hang out because someone in our group wanted to see A$AP Rocky, who was playing on the same stage a bit later. I think we just really wanted to hunker down in one area, which was perfectly acceptable in yesterday's heat. However, they were rather engaging, and I liked them, and if I wasn't trying to preserve my legs for Florence, then I would have been womp, womp, wompin' all around that lawn.

6:30. Gogol Bordello: Watched his set from a distance while we sat in-between both stages. He's always a funky performer. Of course, I was quite stoked when he played 'Start Wearing Purple', because, well, who can disagree with that?

7:15. A$AP Rocky: Initially, I did not think I'd be seeing him, however, when you have a friend who really wants to see with it, you go, and you're more often than not, pleasantly surprised. While this would have been something I don't think I would have gone to other wise, I'm glad I did. It's just a fun time, especially when you're with two girls who dig the groove.


Bre, Me, and Bailey waiting for ze Queen!

9:00. FLORENCE + THE MACHINE: WHAT I WAS WAITING FOR! MY SIXTH FLORENCE SHOW! I always get extremely anxious and emotional when I see Florence. I don't know why, but I think I just want everything to go really smoothly and enjoy every minute of it without anything getting in the way of that. Basically I treat it like it's a damn wedding day or prom moment or something.

I wanted to be really close in the crowd, but not so close that I wouldn't be able to move or dance. I require plenty of that, especially room to cry and get down on the ground in fetal position. Weird things happen for me at Florence shows, but they're always epic. Last night was no exception.

By the time she had come on, the sky had turned into a tumultuous mix of gorgeously dispersed lightning, strong winds, and distant storms. Here is the thing, Florence is really her own force of nature, and having the meteorological spectacle going on behind us as she performed was just, well, electrifying to say the least. She never fails to bring full force energy when she comes to Chicago, hell, when she goes ANYWHERE. I was so happy that SO many people got to be exposed to her live performance last night. So many people were absolutely blown away, and as usual, so was I. The real cherry on top was when she said she'd be playing 'St. Jude'.

That song carries so much weight for me. I have been listening to it constantly for weeks straight and am absolutely in love with the song and the music video (it's rare to have both). It's just heavy. It's pure emotion. The first chord played, and I lost it. Immediately burst into tears and just rocked back and forth, taking in the musical glory. Of course, during this, I fell to my knees and sobbed a bit more. I love when this happens at shows. This is pivotal. One moment you're up dancing around and singing having a great time, and the next song has you completely caved, on the ground, sobbing. THAT IS THE BEAUTY OF MUSIC. Your favorite artists should be able to move you like that. That's what Florence does for me. And I am so grateful for that.

That moment where she mimicked the video and put her fingers in her mouth and extended her hand outward toward the crowd - THAT WAS EVERYTHING.

While the lightning provided a glorious backdrop in addition to our city skyline, it's ultimately what ended up cutting the show short. She was going to play until 10:30 with the schedule re-do, but due to the approaching storm, got cut off around 9:45/50. This meant only 45 minutes versus the 1hr 30min that was planned. However, even seeing her at all was a such a treat. They played a glorious array of songs and the ones they did play were quite perfect and fitting for the setting. She kept spirits and energy high by bursting into the crowd, running through the aisle, and of course, taking off her shirt during 'Dog Days', making the security guard sprint for his job. So. Glorious.

1) What The Water Gave Me 2) Ship To Wreck 3) Shake It Out 4) Rabbit Heart 5) Cosmic Love 6) Delilah 7) St Jude 8) What Kind of Man 9) Dog Days Are Over

Florence's Scoreboard (taken from her Facebook)


All in all, this weekend was fantastic. I am so glad that I got to experience another wonderful year at Lollapalooza. I really don't have too many pictures; I tried to experience as much as possible without taking pictures or trying to get video. There were some things that I do feel had to be captured, and of course, I always need a picture of me looking overly excited in a field!


I hope everyone who went had an amazing time this weekend and had some sort of life-changing musical moment. I certainly did. Here's those who live for the music!

-T