Monday, October 16, 2017

ACL 2017

Hey!  Hope everyone is doing okay!  Another year of the Austin City Limits Festival has come and gone.  We went to weekend two this year.  I attended ACL once again this year with bandmate, friend, and co-conspirator, Frank.  This was, I believe, the 16th year that I've gone to the festival.  I started this blog sometime after the festival in 2004, and probably first mentioned or documented my ACL experience for the first time in or around 2005, so this makes about my thirteenth annual entry on this blog regarding ACL in some form or fashion.
That makes for a lot of blogging over the years about ACL and artists and the whole experience.

There were a few changes this year.
They moved a stage to the other side of Barton Springs Road, thereby expanding the festival into the south side of the park for the first time.  I thought it was a nice change.  It seemed to spread the crowds out a little more, and it definitely helped to alleviate some of the congestion over near the food stands on the other side of Zilker Park.  It also seemed like it helped to cut down on some the sound bleeding between stages.

In fact, overall, the sound production was really good this year.  For an outdoor festival with multiple stages, they really did an amazingly good job.  I remember years when the sound would be terrible during particular shows or where the volume from one stage was overpowering the music at a different stage.  I didn't really experience any of that this year.

It's worth noting that the festival occurred this year in the shadow of the worst mass shooting in American history, an event which occurred at the Las Vegas Route 91 country music festival a week prior to weekend one of ACL.  Needless to say, security at the festival this year was pretty tight.  All in all, I thought they managed the traffic flow fairy well, though.

Frank and I had a good time at ACL.  As with the past couple of years, Frank drove over to our house, and we took the bus to Zilker from our place.

I'm just gonna go ahead and list the bands that we saw.  I know that most people aren't interested, but I like having this stuff documented so I can look it up down the line.

The Bishops
Liz Cooper & the Stampede
(Sandy) Alex G - we only saw a little bit
Valerie June
The Lemon Twigs
Eagles of Death Metal - partial
Bonobo (Live)
Ryan Adams
The XX

Striking Matches
Car Seat Headrest
The Black Angels
Ice Cube
Red Hot Chili Peppers - just a bit
Chance the Rapper - just a bit

Middle Kids
Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Songhoy Blues
Dram - a little bit
First Aid Kit
Portugal the Man - very little

As far as standouts, I'd say that on Friday I was pretty impressed by Liz Cooper & the Stampede.  The Bishops were pretty good.  Strong female lead singer.  They're young, but they're probably up and comers.  Valerie June was cool.  I really dig her voice.  She's got an interesting style to her music.  Lemon Twigs are cool, but I'd seen them previously at SXSW.  Vulfpeck were good.  Funky and fun.  Great rhythm section.  Great bass player.  Bonobo was really good.  They were electronic, but with a drummer and enough live instrumentation to keep things interesting on stage (keyboards, bass guitar, a singer, etc.).  The XX were pretty good, too.
Friday had some good music.  The sun got a little intense at times, but it was pretty fun.

Saturday I liked Striking Matches.  Male/female guitar duo.  Slightly gimmicky, but they were both good guitarists (including some good slide guitar), and they both had good voices.  Car Seat Headrest sounded pretty good, but they aren't exactly the most charismatic live band to watch during a day show in a festival setting.  Maybe at night in a smaller venue might be different.  Dreamer ended up being fun.  They sort of had a latter day sort of Queen vibe going on.  Or maybe that was just the voice and style of the lead singer.  I'm not sure.  The Black Angels were pretty cool.  They rocked.  Ice Cube was... well, he was Ice Cube.  He laid down mostly gangsta rap, and he did it very well.  After a few songs he commented on the fact that people nowadays forget that he started out in music, not as an actor.  But he still brings a ton of energy to his shows.  Good ol' gangsta rap fun.
Spoon was also good.  I've seen Spoon a number of times over the years, with some shows being better than others.  This was a good one.

Standouts on Sunday included Songhoy Blues.  They are a sort of African "blues" band from Mali.  They have a lot of energy, a unique sound (at least to American ears), and good musicianship.  Frank and I both really enjoyed their set.  First Aid Kit was also really good.  Great harmonies and catchy songs.  BadBadNotGood might have been the most technically talented band that we saw all weekend.  They're essentially a jazz quartet, although incorporating enough funk to keep a festival audience engaged.  Both their bass player and their drummer were amazing.  Frank said during their performance that they had to have studied music at some kind of conservatory or something, and sure enough, the founding members met while studying music at Toronto's Humber College.  Anyway, they were badass musicians.  Really good show.  See again.  We finished out the festival with Gorillaz, and they were great.  They have a pretty impressive stage show.  The basic band with the backing singers seems like it incorporated a dozen people, and then guest vocalists cycled on and off the stage throughout.  On the screens behind them were the famous animations that the group is known for, along with a crazy lighting display.  On top of that, the music is catchy and powerful and kept the crowd fired up.

So that was our ACL this year.  The weather got better and better each day.
I had a really good time (although I'll admit that I slept hard each night).
Thanks to Frank for going!

In the mornings I got to hang out with Amy and Raylan each day.  We went out to breakfast, and I got to play with Raylan and take him for a ride on his tricycle.

I took Monday off, and on Monday morning I went up to Raylan's school to play guitar and sing some songs for his class.  Amy came as well, to do an art project with the kids (they did Halloween ghost hands out of palm prints).  We sang a couple of Halloween songs (Ten Little Monsters and The Monsters Stomp Around the House) as well as Wheels on the Bus and Six Little Ducks.  The kids seemed to enjoy it.  Amy and I declared it Toddler ACL Fest.

From Austin: The Bishops 

Liz Cooper & The Stampede

Valerie June

Frank gets SUPER excited when someone offers to take our picture!



The XX

Breakfast at La Posada with the fam

Striking Matches

Uhhh.... Dreamcar?

Ice Cube is up there somewhere.  And he sounds pissed.



Songhoy Blues

First Aid Kit

Swingin' by for some music


Finding out that Garba Toure, lead singer for Sonhoy Blues, is
apparently a big Gorillaz fan!


Amy helps the kids make ghosts

Steanso brings music to the (little) masses.  You may not think Raylan is in
this picture, but if you look closely you may see his foot sticking into the frame
along the left edge.  Rylan, having heard me play plenty of times before, was
the only kid to quickly bail on my performance and return to playing with blocks.
I think he was, by far, the least impressed by my attempts to entertain.
But then again, he's wise to my tricks...

So that was the weekend.  This afternoon I took the rest of my vacation day and snuck out to go see It.  I thought It was not only the best adaptation that I'd seen of a Stephen King book (except The Shining, which is amazing, but arguably as much of a Kubrick work as an adaptation of King's novel), but also one of the best horror movies that I'd seen in a long time.  It had a great balance of empathy, humor, and genuinely scary material.
I enjoyed it, but Amy probably wouldn't have liked it, so it was a good one for me to see on ACL recovery day.

That's it.  Have a great week!

Sunday, October 08, 2017


Hi!  Hope your October is off to a good start!
We had a pretty good (albeit busy) week, followed by a nice weekend.
Friday night we played with Raylan and goofed around.  I think we ate some Indian takeout, and we watched some of that Vietnam War documentary.  We've also been watching American Vandal on Netflix, so we watched an episode of that.  I'm always sort of reluctant to recommend comedies to people because I find that your  mileage varies greatly depending on whether the show or movie appeals to the particular sense of humor of the person watching, but we're really enjoying American Vandal (which is a sort of parody of any number of true crime "documentaries" from recent years).

Raylan unwinds on a Friday afternoon with a ride on his trusty steed.
While he was up there he also picked some acorns from our
oak trees.

The important thing to remember about catching a ride on Mom is
to keep a good grip on her face...
On Saturday morning we got up fairly early and ate breakfast at Juan in a Million.  We hadn't been there in a while.  Raylan seemed to enjoy his taco.
Afterward we drove over to Butler Park to wander around.

"Should we go to Butler Park?" she asked.
"Is Raylan going to get wet?"  I responded.  "I'm not sure he needs to get all wet."
"The splash pad won't even be turned on!"

"I'm having funnnnnn!!!!"  (actual Raylan quote)

Into the great, wide open.

So we went to the Liz Carpenter splash pad, watched the turtles swim around the Butler pond, climbed Doug Sahm Hill for a glimpse of the skyline, and wandered over to Auditorium Shores to see the dogs swimming in Ladybird Lake.
Afterward we headed home.  We went to the grocery store.  We played a little bit at the house, and had lunch.  Raylan napped, and we worked out.
Amy made some tasty pumpkin bread with chocolate chips.
Saturday evening Shelly and Kit came over to watch the UT v. Kansas State game.
It was good to get a chance to hang out with them, and the game was pretty good, too.
UT ended up winning in overtime, but Shelly and Kit missed the end because Shelly thought she might be going into labor (false alarm!).

UT is looking pretty good, but we've got Oklahoma next week, and I have a bad feeling about that one.  They may end up being the best team that we've played so far, and we're barely clearing the hurdle with some of these unranked teams.  I still like Sam Ehlinger as a quarterback.  He's not all that much better than Shane Buechele in terms of stats, but he's just more fun to watch.  He's also a true freshman, and I think he might develop into an even better quarterback.

On Sunday we got up and walked over to Central Market for breakfast.  Amy didn't really eat anything (she claimed she was full from the day before- although I'm not even sure that's really a thing), but Raylan and I ate a lot and stared at her (not really, we had a nice time and Amy got a bit of Raylan's large fruit cup).

Raylan demands that his mom make a hermit crab out of her hands.
Raylan has a story book at home with a farmer's market in it, and he keeps asking, "What is that?"
So, after breakfast, we climbed into the car and took him to a farmer's market over in Mueller.

They were still setting things up when we arrived, so we wandered over to the nearby playground for a bit.  The playground is next to the Thinkery, and it's pretty nice.

Raylan waiting for his turn on the swings. 

Totally worth the wait.
We hung out at the playground for a while and then wandered back through the farmer's market.
We didn't really buy anything other than a fruit drink.
There was a lady who was selling pony rides, and Raylan loudly announced, "I NEED to ride on those ponies!"
So we sat him down and had a long talk about the difference between wants and needs, emphasizing the importance of patience and deferred gratification.

Just kidding.


"I'm riding!!"

Seriously, Raylan might have been upset if I didn't let him ride the pony, but Amy would have been really upset if I didn't let Raylan ride the pony.
Raylan was a natural.  He didn't seem scared on the pony at all.
Of course, now that I think about it, when he rides on my shoulders he's about six and half feet off the ground with a bumpier ride.  Maybe being on a pony hasn't been his scariest riding experience.

Anyway, afterward we went home for lunch and nap.  Amy and I took turns going to the gym.
After nap we hung out at the house and played.  Ryan stopped by with a multicolored, light up, happy ghost toy for Raylan.

In the evening I went to band practice.  Reed, Eric, Frank, and I were there, but Jim had to skip.  We played a number for Tom Petty songs in honor of his passing this week.  I thought we pulled them off pretty well.  We also talked about the shooting of 58 people at the music festival in Vegas this week and the madness of the gun situation in this country, and played "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World" as a sort of punctuation mark for that conversation.

I got home, and had spaghetti dinner with Amy.  It was really good.
Stayed up too late reading a book.

And that was it!

Hope everyone has a nice week.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Update- Boys' Weekend!

Hey!  How's it going?
Things are going pretty well over here.
The weather has been pretty nice, and we've been pretty busy.
Amy flew out for Arizona on Thursday to go visit her family.
Raylan stayed here with me.

We had a good time!
My parents were taking care of Raylan during the day on Thursday (including taking him to his swimming lesson), and they drove Amy to the airport.  Thanks, Mom and Dad!
Thursday night Raylan and I went out to dinner with Mom and Dad at La Posada.  We had a nice dinner.  Raylan was in a good mood, and I got a chance to talk to my dad a little bit about that Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War.
On Friday we did our usual routine, really.  Raylan went to school, and I went to work.  We played a little bit after work, ate dinner, took a shower, and then Raylan went to bed.
On Saturday morning we got up and went out for breakfast.  Raylan asked to play the claw machine.  I put a dollar in, and before I had even realized that the machine was on, Raylan started mashing buttons.  I was right in the middle of telling him that he was doing it wrong when the mechanical claw scooped up a stuffed crocodile and dumped it into the chute.  During various trips to La Posada we've played this machine probably a dozen times without winning anything, and usually I'm the one controlling the stupid claw.  Raylan basically won by himself on his first solo attempt.  There was a lady watching us who was dying with laughter at the whole thing.
I asked him what he wanted to name his new friend, and he went with "Mr. Crocodile".

Breakfast with Dad

"Dad, I do not understand why you have not gotten me a new
animal every time on the claw machine."
After breakfast we picked up Uncle Ryan and Aunt Jamie and headed to the zoo.
The weather was pretty nice, and we had a good time.  I think Ryan and Jamie gained a new understanding of what it means to go to a place like the zoo with a two year old.  On our previous trip to Portland we'd gone to the zoo with my folks, and at the Portland zoo there had been various speaker hidden throughout the zoo that were piping in music.  Raylan had been fascinated by them.
Well, Raylan dedicated most of his time during this trip to the Austin Zoo to looking for speakers.  There really aren't any music speakers at the Austin Zoo, so we sort of implied that the security cameras might be speakers.  He was sort of satisfied by looking for those "speakers", but he was a little confused as to why they weren't saying anything.  And he kept mentioning that they might be cameras.
He was also excited to see any and all air conditioning units and fans.
Anyway, he did manage to feed some sheep and goats.  He also roared at a lion (to show it who was in charge), and he covered his ears when the black bears started loudly growling while they were playing.
He had fun hanging out with Ryan and Jamie, particularly when we stopped to eat a snack, and in the car on the way home when he sorta tried to steal Jamie's Cubs hat.

"I'm a duck!  I'm a duck!"

Everyone comes to the zoo for different reasons. 

In his defense, Ryan did warn Raylan that he would steal his crackers
if Raylan wasn't careful.
After the zoo we dropped Ryan and Jamie off.  We went home and had lunch and took a nap.  I got to work out.  I also pulled a few of our Halloween decorations out of storage, in anticipation of October 1st (Sunday).
After nap we ran an errand or two and went for a short walk and tricycle ride.  Little by little, Raylan is learning to pedal.

Headed home.
Jean sent me this really great picture of Amy out hiking with her up in Munds Park.  Amy will be getting back tomorrow, but it sounds like she had a good trip.  Hope she had a nice visit with her family.
Meanwhile, in Arizona...
On Sunday we ate breakfast at home.  Afterward, I tried to see if Raylan wanted to go to the park or something, but he kept saying he just wanted to play in the yard.  We played in his sand box and with his Cozy Coupe and with his bubble wand and his lawn mower, and he watered plants with his watering can.

"And you know what we can do next...?"
Afterward we went to Target and did some shopping.  We got some groceries and household supplies. Raylan got a jack-o-lantern cup and some Hot Wheels trucks.
Then lunch and nap.
After that we got up and played some more in the yard.

Very excited about the implications of the Halloween cup

Got Boo, the ghost, and Dad's flip flops.  All set.
After nap we played some more.  We did some sidewalk chalk and played with some toys in the house.


Later, we met up with my folks at Waterloo Icehouse out on 360.  They have a playground and picnic tables, and the weather was beautiful.  We had a really nice time.  Raylan was happy to see them and had fun.
Raylan went home to spend the night with them afterward so I could straighten up the house a little.

And that's about it!
We've missed Amy a lot, but it's been a really good experience to hang out with Raylan for a few days.  He seems like he's been happy to hang out with me, too, and it's been a good bonding experience in both an emotional and practical sense (it's good for Raylan to be able to come to me and speak up when he needs something, and to realize that I will take care of things for him).
At the same time, hats off to the single parents out there who do this sort of thing on a solo basis all of the time.  Just these few day have been a little tiring, and it's hard to get stuff done when you have to constantly divide your attention between tasks and kids and plan things in a way that can accommodate your kiddo (there's really no such thing as a "quick trip to the store").
All of that being said, I really did value the time with Raylan.  When it's just the two of us, we have a slightly different dynamic, but he seems to be okay with it, which is reassuring as a dad.  It's nice to have him switch from constantly looking for or yelling for his mom, to instead, coming and taking my hand and asking for something when he needs it.
I'm excited for Amy to come back, and life feels weird without her.  I've also really enjoyed my time with Raylan, though.  It's been really good.

Monday, September 25, 2017


Hello!  We had a pretty nice, but sort of low key weekend.
We have a lot of stuff coming up in October (and November, for that matter), so our general plan was to try to take it sort of easy.
Friday was the first day of fall, so I got in a long-overdue bike ride to work.  It wasn't too hot, but it was a little muggy in the morning.  (Notice the low-hanging clouds that are obscuring the tops of the buildings in the picture below).
(South First Street Bridge)
On Saturday morning we got up and went out to breakfast at Kerbey Lane.  As usual, when we were leaving Raylan insisted that the whole family sit together for a moment on the benches out front.  I'm not sure why he always does this.  The boy loves a good bench.

Saturday was pretty laid back. We played outside with Raylan a bit.  We worked on learning how to pedal that tricycle (he's getting there, but pedaling is still a little tricky).  We did some art.
I went to the grocery store.
Amy and I got exercise.
In the afternoon we went to Costco.
We had salmon burgers for dinner and went to Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone.

"Oh my gosh, I love ice cream.  I can eat this ice cream cone even better
with this spoon.  I don't know why no one else eats them this wa-"

"You gotta be real careful when you eat an ice cream cone with a
spoon, Mom...."
Saturday night we watched some more of the Ken Burns documentary, The Vietnam War.  It's a good documentary.  We're only a couple of episodes in, but I've already learned a lot of things that I never knew about the events that led up to the war.  I look forward to talking to my dad (who's a Vietnam vet) about it.

Sunday got sort of mucked up a bit by the dead car battery situation.  I initially thought that I could just buy a new battery and swap it out, but the guy in the battery department at Pep Boys told me he thought I ought to have my alternator checked before putting a new battery in (because my car was pretty new to already have a dead battery).  I ended up taking my car into a Firestone service center on Sunday, and the alternator turned out to be okay.
I guess the battery that came with the car just wan't a great battery.
Anyway, there was some maneuvering (and toddler wrangling) to get the car to the mechanic and to pick it up again.  It wasn't a huge deal, but it made the day a little bit more complicated than we'd planned.
We still got to work out and do some stuff.
Raylan got up a little late from his nap in the afternoon.
We weren't sure what to do with him, but we wanted to get out of the house for like an hour or two.
We ended up taking him to place called Hoppin' House over in the Brodie Oaks Shopping Center.
Hoppin' House is just a big retail space that someone has filled with inflatable bounce houses and soft, indoor kids' playgroung equipment.
When we first got there Raylan seemed sort of nervous and apprehensive.  It seemed like we might have spent a little money to watch Raylan refuse to go into any of the bounce houses.
Eventually Amy climbed up into one, though, and sort of showed him how it worked.  He started playing with some other kids after watching what they were doing, and eventually he started to really enjoy it.

"You can bounce AND crawl through a tunnel?!"
A couple of the bounce houses had climbing walls with handholds for kids to climb up and then go down slides.  At first Raylan couldn't figure out how to climb up, and he kept falling back down.  He got frustrated, but he didn't give up, and I have to admit that I was proud of him when he finally figured out how to climb some of the walls and reach the top.  It wasn't that big a deal to climb the wall, necessarily, but I was happy to see him stick with something that started out being a little scary until he figured out how to do it and started enjoying it.

The long climb.

Enjoying the vista from the summit.

The graceful descent.

The graceful descent continues.


Anyway, Raylan ended up really loving Hoppin' House. He played until he was sweaty and winded.   By the end, we literally had to carry him out of there (while he yelled, "Raylan needs to stay at Hoppin' House!!!!").

In the evening I went to band practice.  We were all there.  Decent practice.

And that was the weekend!  It was nice.  Hope everyone has a good week.