Free Time

Stephanie and I had the rarest of occasions this past Wednesday – 24 hours of free time together. As you may be experiencing yourselves, depending on who is reading this, a period of 24 hours of completely free time happens about as often as Tom Cruise actually being in a movie that is good.

Planning in advance for these things, of course, is useless. We tried to plan two weeks before, but the only day it could possibly work was a day when I had jury duty. The following day would work as well, but how can you book a room at a hotel or plan anything when you’re not sure if you’re going to get called back for a second day of jury duty? Then there was the time we planned an overnight in NYC – and we went! Ah, but there was that little problem of me laying in the bed whole time with the flu. Theres nothing like laying bed having soup for a day or two in nyc. See? Planning these things is useless.

So we rolled the dice and assumed that something would be available the day before or even the day of. I wasn’t as worried about a hotel as Steph was, but then again, Stephanie’s personality is one where she is only truly comfortable when everything is known and planned. That is the way everyone should be, actually, but I’m not wired that way, which probably drives her nuts, the poor thing. I always think that last minute is possible and for hotels at least, we’ve been ok.

But when you get one of these free periods of time, you can sympathize with wanting to make sure everything is planned and happening. I get that.

Anyway, we found a great little hotel called The Copley Square Hotel and other than our absolutely tremendous meal at Stella in the South End, that’s where hunkered down until about 11:30 the next day. We did nothing. NOTHING. Steph slept until 10! I read! We ate. That is about it. I’m not sure we’ve done that since the stork showed up. What a time!

When we checked out, we then visited Flour Bakery, sticking to the South End, and we were not disappointed at all, most especially when we were stuffing our faces with their spectacularly delicious sticky buns. After that it was off to the movies! Are you kidding me? A movie too? We headed off to the Kendall Square Cinema, a place we used to visit quite often when we lived just outside of Davis Square and it was a different world.

The movie of choice was called Please Give, a Katherine Keener, Oliver Platt and Amanda Peet movie about middle age and grasping for reason and satisfaction. It was very very good, much like the remainder of our respite.

By the way, back to Stella – if you’re remotely interested in food, Stella is your place. They put a grilled Halibut over corn/onion/potato salad entree in front of me that hasn’t been equalled anywhere else in years. Seriously. I don’t think I’ve had a better meal in years. So go there.

Tapping Fingers…..

I remember back in the 1980’s when there was a huge hullabaloo across New England about the fact that Boston (the band) was finally going to release another album. The buildup to it was immense. It had taken them something like seven years to complete “Third Stage,” and in the months leading up to it, you would have thought the Pope was coming. Then the first single, “Amanda” hit radio and everyone flipped out, even though the song itself wasn’t exactly what we wanted to hear as freshman in high school. I mean, come on. Where was “Smokin’?” 

So the album came out. And of course, it was a disappointment, despite its huge sales numbers. I don’t even know that it was bad (ok, it was bad), it was just that so much was made of the wait that it became totally impossible to satisfy the buildup. 

I just heard the first Guns ‘N’ Roses single from their upcoming album, which took – get this – FOURTEEN years to make. Are you even kidding me? The last time they released an album, Bill Clinton had just taken office. Today, full albums mean nothing, sadly. We are, more and more, a music society built on single songs. Part of me thinks this is perfectly logical, as it’s very rare to come across an album that is packed front to back with quality. The other part of me, the sentimentalist, dearly misses discovering a full album – the joy of a great song here and the drag of a weak song there. Those days are pretty much over.

So anyway, Guns ‘N’ Roses don’t have a chance. Oh, people will go see them because they want a sniff of the old stuff, but the new album will be received exactly the same way “Third Stage” was. It’ll sell nicely, then after about five minutes it will hit your dustbin. Doesn’t even matter how good it is, the buildup has already destroyed it. Oh – and the single? Not. Good. At. All.

And who cares? I don’t. Not when Built To Spill and Band of Horses keep hitting home runs like they do.

Here’s an applicable song to today’s post by Built to Spill, called “The Wait”


Nada Deceptione

Two things can happen when you catch a band at the end of a tour: you either get a terrific show that has been sharpened and improved for the whole tour, or you get a tired band, mailing it in because they know home base is just 60 feet away. Luckily for Steph and I last night, we got the former with Nada Surf here in Boston. Here’s a band we had been waiting at least three years to see and I had heard from more than one person that seeing them as a trio is good, but not as good as their records sound. Lucky us again – this time they were traveling as a quartet, with a keyboard and horn player (from Calexico) pitching in as #4. It made a hell of a big difference. I always prefer a fuller sound, especially live, so that made it all the better. I knew it would be good, but I could have never guessed how great they would be live. Wow.

After the show we were trying to figure out what our favorite song of the night was and we just couldn’t. Because other than our unanimous choice of worst song (“The Fox”), there really wasn’t a bad one in the bunch. Lead singer Matthew Caws (whom I interviewed here back in August of 2004) is a force to be reckoned with live – his voice, which comes off as more powerful and soaring than on record, truly carried the night. Plus he comes off as just a regular guy having a good time, which made the crowd participation numbers (“Inside of Love,” “Blankest Year”) seem not as cheesy as other bands tend to be with that stuff.

As mentioned, the band is super-tight and has everything clicking on all cylinders right now. Hard to believe for a group who had such a big hit in the 1990s with such a terrible song. Here’s one case where a one-hit wonder actually benefits the band – their work since that mid-90s success has been nothing short of sensational and their show last night only reinforces the notion. A true home run. For you fans, highlights for me (other than the whole damn show) were “Always Love,” “I LIke What You Say,” “Beautiful Beat,” “Whose Authority,” “See These Bones” and “80 Windows.” Thankfully, the big hit was left out of the set.

Way better than staying home and watching the Bruins lose!

Check out “I Like What You Say” from their new album: