Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A New Sweet and Tender Hooligan

 Sweet and Tender Hooligans at Anaheim House of Blues

My nephew, Cody, attends school at Tustin High, where Roland and I teach. Yes, I know it must be a "boost" to his social life! Lately Cody has been riding with me, Miguel and Oliver in the mornings to school and naturally, I listen to Morrissey or The Smiths every now and again. Naturally. Cody said that he liked Morrissey's music especially Years of Refusal having never heard of The Smiths or Morrissey before. As a Christmas present and to encourage an awesome taste in music, I took him to see the Sweet and Tender Hooligans at the House of Blues in Anaheim. Roland and I decided to see them again during our break. Let me rephrase that: I decided that we were going.

It must be a nightmare being married to someone like me sometimes.

The gig was in Anaheim so no adventure stories trying to get there. No detectable wierdos. Pretty dull.

The Sweet and Tender Hooligans were supported by a Depeche Mode tribute band called Strangelove.  They were excellent. Technically, they had every move and every note and piece of syth equipment down-just like DM. Problem: its no longer the 80's and Depeche Mode seems kind of boring for an hour or more. They are very "of their time" in my opinion.

Let's face it. How many times can you watch Dave Gahan twirl around with a microphone stand? I kept waiting for him to accidentally hit one of his band mates. I kept imagining it. Not quite hoping.

On the other hand, DM were extremely popular in Southern California back in the day. The audience at Anaheim HOB seemed to know the words to nearly every song.

Gig Legs
It was difficult watching Cody, a mere seventeen year old, at his first gig hanging onto the wall so that he could stay on his feet. It made me impressed with my own 46 year-old legs and feet. That they were seemingly stronger!! My gig legs.

We were kind of situated near a corner by the bar and a door leading to the stage, I guess. It had a pretty good view, but the down side was that everyone and their dog had to pass by us to get to the bar. It was an All Ages event and we saw a child or two younger than Oliver there but I couldn't imagine taking anyone younger than Cody unless they had such a keen interest in Morrissey and the Smiths that they could withstand the noise, the drunkeness and the debachery.

The gig itself was like one big singalong with fellow Morrissey/Smiths people. Jose Maldonado is a spot on performer and the band is obviously extremely talented. Jose has a great voice and he dances like Morrissey used to back when we were younger. I wanted to dance like that again, but I was self-conscious. My gig legs could do it though, I'm sure.

Roland and Cody leaning on the wall

A good tribute band gig is like receiving Holy Communion. I've noted this before when seeing this band. Its like all the lonely people have crawled out of their holes and decided to not be so lonely for an hour or so. Not in a sad way. In a celebratory way. Its reassuring to know that lyrics like Morrissey's speak to so many people. And you aren't alone in your identification with the meanings.

While it was awesome for me, I am not sure what Cody made of it all. He does not know the lyrics to any of the songs except for Throwing My Arms Around Paris. Although I think he appreciated it, it was not great fun for him. He really did have a hard time staying on his feet.

Therefore, we ended up leaving a little early so that I could get my coat easily from the coat check and we could get out of the parking lot without hassles. On our way out, I spotted the performer from Strangelove who impersonates Martin Gore. He had on an amazing outfit and he kindly let me take a photo with him. Wish you could see his shoes in the photo.

We complemented his voice since he really does have a fantastic one, only to learn later that he is a classically trained opera singer. I am glad we complemented him, but he probably knows this already.
Me with Brent, otherwise known as Martin

Love Ya, Jose. But . . .
I only have one tiny bit of criticism for Jose of Sweet and Tender Hooligans: when addressing a crowd from the OC, instead of changing the words in Hairdresser on Fire from "all around Sloane Square" to "all around Manhatten Beach", maybe say "Newport Beach" instead. Its not a big deal, but it shows awareness of our plight as people in the OC. Trust me, we exist and have existed next to some snobby- ass rich people. You don't need to drive clear to Los Angeles to find them!

Dance with Morrissey
I began to think of my Morrissey fantasy. Strange as it may sound I just want to dance with him in that twisty Smiths/80s kind of way. Perhaps one day . . .
Inspired Dancing by Jose Maldonado

Not So Shriney
So. it was interesting finding out that Moz did not enjoy singing to a "mass of hair" at the Shrine-according to True to You.net. Morrissey's official website. I was so overjoyed to simply be there and then wondered why there was no encore. Well, I know now. Its understandable. Interesting to get a new perspective.

Merry Christmas
My family had a very Merry Christmas and hope you did too! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Am I Still Well?

Oliver at Anaheim Stadium for CIF Championship game Tustin vs. El Toro

 I have quite a few things to talk about this week. Firstly, I am off school for the holidays. Friday was our last day. Although we are off from school, we have been busy doing fun things. Unfortunately, Miguel and Oliver got sick. That was the only bad thing. Somehow, I have not become sick . . . yet. I eyed the Airborne in the cupboard a minute ago and I think it might be a good idea to take it.

Meat is Still Murder
Secondly, I finally gave up eating meat altogether. I have never been a big fan of meat, but I feel disgusted when I think of the loss of life. In all honesty, I think that writing this blog about my feelings on the issue after seeing the Morrissey gig, kind of did it for me. It emblazoned my feelings on the meat industry and animal rights and then gave me the will to give it up. My new motto: LIFE TASTES GOOD!

Young the Giant (Still)
Roland and I went to the Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana to see Young the Giant. It was a perfect night to see them as they are all from the OC and it was the last night of their tour this year-although they play the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles in February. Another reason it was a perfect night to see them is because the concert was actually a benefit for the Irvine Public Schools Foundation. The proceeds help to keep music programs up in the public schools in the Irvine area. What a generous gift of their time and talents!

You may (or may not) recall that Morrissey likes this band saying they have 
"the perfect tone ... and Sameer's voice is unbreakable. If there is any justice in the world (and we all know there isn't) Young The Giant will own most of it by August. It's so easy to fire out remnants of snobbery where new music is concerned (in fact, I find it VERY easy), but once every three thousand years, a band comes along who restore that precious component of faith. Had I the gift of adequate words I would express more than mere thanks."

Because it was a "hometown" gig, we had special treats. High school friends and orchestra members came up to play a song. Also, there was a competition between classes in the three different high schools in the Irvine district to use a song by Young the Giant in an advertising campaign for the foundation. We were able to see the winner. Great job, high school kids! But the most important reason for the hometown gig being so very good, was that the audience was so into it-after all, they are OC heroes!!!

It was a charity event for public schools, so there were many teachers as far as I could tell. Whenever I saw anyone looking slightly middle-aged and wearing comfortable shoes, I suggested to Roland that they were teachers. Who knows? They could have been record executives, I guess. Dare I mention the fact that they were in all likelihood, saying the exact same thing about me?

To drive the point home even further, I saw a student that I had last year in my senior AP class. I grabbed her hand as she walked by. But I can't say whether or not she recognized me. It was undeniably dark in The Galaxy and she was probably wondering what in the hell this middle aged woman was doing. She looked embarrassed. So, either she was embarrassed because she did not know what to say since she did not recognize me or else she really didn't want to recognize me. I mean, she was holding hands with a guy-possibly a boyfriend. Let's face it, you don't exactly grow in estimation in the musician/band/gig goer circles when you are best buddies with a high school English teacher.

I forgive her.
Back to the actual gig. It was energetic and lively. Again, lots of kids. The opening act was a band called Tapioca and the Flea. They, too, were lively and fun. Very different. I wasn't sure what to make of them. The lead singer looks like your average  guy you might see at the grocery store and then he moves his butt around and sings groovy lyrics into a microphone. Fun. The only thing I did not like at times was the distortion of the vocals. It was different, but I could not understand the lyrics at all. I just wanted to be able to at least know what the refrain was.

As far as the lead act, as I stated before, it was a home town gig so they did not need to win the crowd over. The audience just anticipated what the next song was going to be and sang along in unison. As Morrissey more eloquently said, Sameer's voice is strong and amazing. The rest of the band is obviously very talented. Great tuneful melodies.

Here is a recording somebody there made. No doubt a young person barely hanging on to her camera but it gives the feel of being there rather accurately.

Other News Still

Tustin High School's football team has won the CIF Championship. We attended the final game at Angel Stadium and were not expected to win at all. Our team was awesome. Really proud of those kids. First championship win since 1948.

You may not know this. While Irvine hails Young the Giant, we (Tustin) have the most former NFL players from our school than any other school in the nation. I know it isn't academic. But its interesting. I have a good friend and fellow English teacher who has stopped teaching to write a book about our coach. I am excited for her and, well, slightly jealous.

My day will come. My day will come!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shine at the Shrine

Morrissey from our actually awesome seats at the Shrine in Los Angeles
 My Evening with Morrissey (and a few other people)
I have to disappoint you this time. Nothing bizarre occurred on our drive to Los Angeles to see . . . BUM BUM BUM BUM . . . HIM. It was totally uneventful. Roland and I had a very necessary conversation about Enrique's grades that have dropped a little. (Although, he likes to be called Joe now).I will not bore you with it, but even had we glanced up, we would have seen nothing but cars, trees and lights. Not a sign of Jesus this time.

We did see a lot of USC fans when we exited the freeway.

We arrived early. I knew we needed to since UCLA and USC were playing in a football game and they are HUGE rivals so it was pretty busy along the road. We parked up and then made our way downstairs to the street and to find a bite to eat.

We ended up at an Italian place to eat. It was one of those places that is kind of like fast food, but isn't, where you have to place your order and then they bring it to your table but the food is not cheap and horrible like in a real fast food place. You got the sense that it was family owned and not a part of a huge chain. So it had kind of neighborhood charm, if you know what I mean.

USC vs. Morrissey
When we made our way to the Shrine, we saw quite clearly that all the people in black were heading to the Shrine to see Morrissey and all the people in red and yellow were headed to the Colosium to see the game. It was almost striking as we turned the corner and the USC people kept going straight.

I was probably the only Morrissey fan wearing USC colors. Silly me. I did not even realize when I left.

Waiting at the Shrine in USC red (me)
The Building
The Shrine has in interesting history and like most historic buildings, is lovely to look at. I did not take a photo because I only had my phone with no flash so its kind of difficult to take decent pictures. To take a good picture I would also need to be further away from it-not standing right in front of it.

Its actually a building that houses a branch of the Masonic Temple, which was why there was a huge picture of a man wearing a fez on the wall when we walked in. I tried to take a picture but it did not come out very well because it was one of those pictures that has a light behind it. Again, I had poor photo equipment. Anyway, part of King Kong was filmed in the theater and the Academy Awards were held here for a time as well. The Shrine has been there since the 1920s, which isn't very long if you are from Europe but undeniably long if you are from California.

Don't Leave Home With . . .
Before we entered the Shrine there was a huge list of things we were not allowed to bring in the venue, I mean HUGE. Basically, you could bring your wallet and some lipstick. I had some Halloween candy in my purse and I had to throw it away-it was for Oliver. I also had to throw away my water but I gave it to a palm tree who might have been thirsty. Then I had to be frisked in case I brought in any contraband, This was another reason it was good to get there early. I can't even imagine how long the wait would have been to get in when they had to frisk people one at a time. They had more than one line, but still. It was sold out and the venue holds over 6000 people! Eeek!

 7" Vinyl
We shaed a glass-or plastic cup-of wine before looking over the PETA table. They had some cool stickers so I stuck on a Meat is Murder sticker since I thought it was most appropriate. Then I wanted to check out the merchandise. Here is where I show I am not that great of a fan since I did not buy anything. It came at the end of the month before Christmas and I have three kids. I just didn't see the point. Roland and I laughed because there was a huge cardboard cut out of Morrissey naked except a 7" vinyl record that was autographed and someone asked where it was signed. The guy working had to look it over so carefully to find where Morrissey had signed it. We thought it would be great if the 7" vinyl were removable Velcro and he had signed it under the record.

One piece of merchandise I loved was the shopping bag that said, "Shop lifters of the world unite." But I just did not want to spend money I don't really have. Perhaps I should have done the most ironic thing and shop shoplifted the bag.

Our Seats
I knew we were in the nose bleed section and that there is no way that I would make any sort of eye contact with Morrissey from where I was, but it turned out that while we were up on the balcony, we were just above where the man who operates the projector was set up. There was nothing in front of us, therefore, when other people were standing, we were able to see perfectly. We even had an iron bar in front of us to lean on. Life is good.

Shrine on
 We were earthquakingly close to the giant chandalier. Didn't want to think about it.

Kristeen Young
I love getting to a gig early not just to take in the atmosphere and avoid ugly traffic, but to see the opening act. In this case it was a beautiful and talented woman by the name of Kristeen Young. She is kind of avant garde in her demeanor and yet kind of retro. I am mainly referring to her appearance but perhaps the same can be said for her music although only those two words could not do her justice.

I feel kind of sorry for the opening act. After all, most of the time people aren't there to see them. They are like the appetizer to a large entree. And out walked this extremely brave woman playing keyboards on her own with no band. Just her and her voice.

It was kind of 80s like Kate Bush, I guess. An amazing voice. When I saw that she just had keyboards I grew concerned. The last time I saw a solo performer with keyboards was at Tiangle Square in Costa Mesa with Roland. There was a kind of sad closet musician playing electronica from the 80s. Bad electronica in a sad voice. It was like he had been locked away in his room listening to the stuff he was singing and decided to venture out one night on a whim. He mustered up enough courage to perform live (for free) at this soon to be abandoned shopping center. The people in charge probably thought they'd give the place one last hurrah before bailing. Anyway, you get the picture of my hesitation towards Kristeen Young.

She was fun to watch and she had some incredible songs lyrically and musically. This may not sound like a complement but she was not sad at all. She was energetic. Big contrast from Sad 80s Man.

Video Treat
While Kristeen was putting away her keyboards, etc., we were treated to some videos from the past-no doubt either chosen by our hero or else selected by someone who knows his taste well. Some of the artists were The New York Dolls, and Bridget Bardot. It culminated with an interview with author Shelagh Delany who recently passed away. She wrote the screenplay for the movie A Taste of Honey and she is a prime influence in Morrissey's life. I can't remember all of the artists since its been a few days now (I am writing this portion on 12/5). I can tell you that it was getting us filled with anticipation to see Morrissey. We knew he was up next. 

The Main Course
I can't tell you how happy I was to finally see Morrissey. There he was. Only 100 feet away from me. I thought about how long I have wanted to see him, be in the same room-all the near misses-and there I was. There we were. 

I don't want to go through the set list because I think that's pretty boring. But he started appropriately with I Want the One I Can't Have. Its difficult to pass unbiased judgment on your hero. I mean, he could have sauntered in and sang horribly off key and told me to go screw myself and I probably would have thought it was amazing. But he wasn't anywhere near that. The first song was quite energetic which was perfect since we had pent up energy ready to unfold with all our anticipation.

Oddly enough, as he was singing this first song, one of my colleagues from Tustin High happened to be there sitting nearby and she saw us and said hello. I am pretty amazed because the Shrine was sold out. We were packed into our seats like sardines. Hmm. Maybe if she saw me, Morrissey did!

I think the most memorable songs for me were Throwing My Arms Around Paris, Satellite of  Love, and Meat is Murder. But every song had something in the performance that made it special. Satellite of Love is a song by Lou Reed (of The Velvet Underground). I just like the way Morrissey sings it. Then, Meat is Murder, well, its just a powerful song. I couldn't actually watch the images in the background. I know they were images of slaughterhouses and what happens to your "food" before it arrives in your kitchen or on your plate. I just can't look. Some people were offended by Morrissey's comments about Thankskilling, but if you are there to see Morrissey you should know his stand on this issue. What harm is there in knowing where your food comes from? Perhaps we would be more grateful on Thanksgiving if we knew the sacrifices animals endured for our consumption. Its something we have a responsibility to think about.

Typically, Morrissey performs no more than an hour and a half. He says because his voice begins to get thrashed since he does all the singing pretty much. Its too hard on his vocal chords. So, he stopped and sadly there was no encore. I think it may have been because the security was not keeping most people off the stage during the last song Still Ill. No encore-no shirtless Morrissey tossing his sweaty shirt to the crowd although he did change his shirt. Good intentions, but no follow through.

Roland and I just sat in our seats starring at the stage as people began to clear it. Mouths agape. Lights on. Finally a security man reminded us that we needed to leave now. So we did.

To Mal or Not to Mal
Although we were tired, I wanted to attend an after concert event near the Shrine at a place called Mal's. It was DJed by Jose Maldonado, who heads a great Smiths cover band and a radio show on Indie 103. Roland was not interested, but I felt like, Hell, we've got a babysitter. When was the last time I stayed out until 12? But when we arrived in a very secluded part of town-complete with industrial businesses and trash containers perfect for tossing bodies, we discovered that we did not have money for the cover charge. No ATM close enough and we did not want to fight that USC traffic so we hopped on the freeway and headed homeish.

I was beaming even days after. It was such a memorable event for me.

On one of the Morrissey pages on Facebook someone posted that Morrissey had been to The Olde Shippe in Santa Ana (very close to me). I guess I would have felt worse had I not been to the concert. After all, I suspect its possible, just barely possible he was looking right at me . . .

Someone with better seats filmed the concert. Here is Satellite of Love: