Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NYC Day One: The Light in Traci's Eyes

Joseph Beuys' felt suit: Allison's favorite display at the MoMa

Eating Greek food outside the MoMa, when a bearded 20-something approaches us.

BEARDY: [To all] Do you like my clothes?

ALL: Uh, yeah.

BEARDY: [To me] Do you like my hair?

ME: It's okay, I guess.

BEARDY: [To all] Do you like my shoes?

NOAH: Yes.

BEARDY: They're just normal shoes.

BEARDY: [To Traci] What is your name?

TRACI: Traci Sutherland.

BEARDY: What are your parents' names?

TRACI: Drew and Cathie.

BEARDY: [To Traci] You have a light in your eyes. [Walks away.]

ALLISON: [To Traci] He just stole your identity.

TRACI: My parents' last name is not Sutherland. Ha! Joke's on him.

NYC Day One: Bright Lights, Big City

After the Harbor Tour, we met up with the Riley's at Radio City Music Hall, about a block away from where they work. We stopped for dinner at a little Greek food cart for gyros and kebabs (this was my favorite meal of the trip) and then headed to the MoMA.

SIDE NOTE: Noah and Allison are hosting guests nearly every week. So you have to imagine they do alot of these touristy things over and over. Noah escorted us to the museum, despite it being his millionth time. Allison headed off on her own to do a bit of baby shower shopping. I was shocked by Noah allowing Allison to leave, as I couldn't imagine either Traci or me being alone in the city for one second without being kidnapped. Apparently, when you live in New York you don't have to fear for your life all the time. Phew.

Friday night is free (my favorite word) night at the MoMA. We did a whirlwind one-hour tour before it closed. Highlights included Van Gogh's "Starry Night," Warhol's "Car Crash," and the exhibit on Dutch artists.

There's also a lot of how-can-that-be-art art at the MoMA. Here's Noah standing in front of three paintings that are just white:

After the museum, we cruised down 5th Avenue, stopped by Rockefeller Center, checked out Grand Central Station, and ended at Times Square or, as I like to call it, the place where marketing goes to vomit.

We survived our first day! As a congratulatory guesture, the Rileys offered us ice cream and homemade limeade. We did it.

NYC Day One: It's Go Time

We couldn't celebrate our successful trip to Harlem forever. After nap time, it was back to the subway. It's funny that after just a couple of hours in New York, I was already feeling disappointed that I hadn't seen any of the things TV had conditioned me to hope for in the Big Apple--e.g., spontaneous rap battles or, I don't know, a mugging. (My boss Tami gave me plenty of advice about what to do if I was mugged. "Give the wallet, but throw it on the ground. Throw it on the ground and run!")

Luckily my disappointment quickly dissolved, when on the way to BatteryPark, a troupe of breakdancers came into our train, turned on their boombox and started showing their stuff. I wanted to take a picture but was too busy trying not to get kicked in the head as one of the dudes was backflipping one inch away from my nose. (Click here for a similar performance.)

Even better, over by the harbor boats, I watched as a half dozen fake-designer-bag salesmen deftly rolled up their entire inventory in seconds and took off running down the street when the cops headed their way.

I also ate a subpar, street-vendor hotdog (Traci had a pizza pretzel. It was the most disgusting thing either of us had ever eaten), so I was able to knock out most of the NYC cliches in just one afternoon. Oh, and I also watched two harbor tour security employees get mad at each other, with the female employing yelling, "Somebody better hold me down. Hold me down!"

Once on the boat, we had a very nice trip past the Statue of Liberty and a enjoyable visit to Ellis Island. We found that Traci's great grandmother passed through there. Traci thought about paying to have the folks at Ellis Island print her off some genealogical records, then felt guilty about not just going downtown and doing the same thing for free at the Church History Library.

Before heading back to Midtown to meet Noah and Allison, we walked past the construction site that is Ground Zero and to the storefront "WTC Memorial Preview," where there are some 9-11 tribute pieces as well as some renderings of what things will look like when all is complete in 2011.

NYC Day One: Hazy and Lost in the Subway

I'm not good with directions. ("Not good," is probably a little weak. "Atrocious" may be a better fit.) To make up for this, I like to have plenty of explicit written instructions. I made Noah (and my coworker Tim) walk me step-by-step through every detail from landing at JFK to getting to his house in Harlem. When we finally landed, after a sleepless, neck wrenching night on JetBlue's redeye, I felt confident that I could get us there.

That confidence dissipated the second we left the airport.

We struggled with buying our AirTrain card, then we struggled with getting our week-long Metro card. (The helpful train helpers weren't so helpful.) And then we headed for the train. We had two choices: Manhattan or Far Rockaway. Noah confirmed over the phone that we were to head toward Manhattan and we on our way.

The travel book I'd been consulting for our pre-trip planning said something like "Gone are the days of dirty subways and neon-lit stations." Seemed like that must have been a typo. We entered the old, dank train car with our heavy luggage and took an even heavier breath.

After we'd been on the train for a few minutes, I started looking for signs that we were actually going the right way. None of the stops were on my little map and I was starting to worry we were headed in the wrong direction. Since my map only showed Manhattan, my mind started telling me we were just getting further and further from where we needed to be. Which, in addition to getting us lost, would also us make us late for the key-pickup that needed to happen before Noah and Allison headed to work. Panic-y, panic-y Spencer, who kept singing The Ramones' "Rockaway Beach" in his head.

After ages, we finally saw a stop we recognized. Hallelujah! We were on the right path. (I didn't know how far JFK was from Manhattan, way on the other side of Queens.) We successfully transferred to the D Train as Noah had instructed and lugged our stuff up the stairs when we made it to Harlem.

Once outside the subway, we quickly learned that we were the whitest people on the planet.

We successfully turned right, went under the bridge, turned right again, went past Jimbo's Famous Hamburgers and to the Riley residence. We were greated by two smiling Rileys and Noah's famous German pancakes.

We did it. We made it from the airport to our first destination without dying. My first fear had been overcome. Our hosts left for work and we passed out on their bed, exhausted. Hello, New York City. You haven't gottent the best of us, yet.

(Come to find out later, we kind of took the wrong route to the Rileys, going all the way to the bottom of Manhattan and then back up again. That's why it was taking so long and why we were on the rundown train. We found out on the return trip that the E Train cars are a lot nicer and the helpful helpers are much helpful-er.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tweet Tweet

I've added my Twitter feed to the right hand side of the Manifesto, which means the posts won't show up if you're reading this in Google Reader or the likes. If you want to follow my tweets (and, I'm sure you will, since they're about music and, you know, The Hills) on Reader, subscribe to

Trip is Officially Over

Back to the grind.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Heading Home

Couldn't have asked for a better trip or better hosts. Excited to see the kids.

Are you ready for us, Dave?

Freedom Flight

Traci has held onto my arm this entire trip as to not get stolen. Magically, the second we enter the H&M, she lets go.

Top of the Rock

Sunday, September 27, 2009

We Love You Conrad...

John Stamos was not much of an actor, but Uncle Jesse still has a special place in our hearts. Plus we saw the Naked Cowboy right after, so it was a good trip to Broadway.
trip to Broadway.

On the Edge of Her Seat

Bye Bye Birdie is about to begin, marking Traci's most anticipated moment of the trip. I hope to stay awake.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Boy are my legs tired

Noah and Allison walked us across all of Manhattan today. Excellent tour. Traveling is much less stressful when you just have to walk behind the guy in the blue shirt and the girl in the red jacket.

Friday, September 25, 2009

One Day Down

We survived our first day in the city. Details will follow about fake bags, break dancing, and transvestites. Too sleepy tonight.

Mission 1 Complete

After a very long train ride, we made it to Noah's house. You don't scare us, New York (but you have made us very tired).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Still Friends?

This trip will be the most uninterrupted time with Traci in like 4 years. We'll see how long it takes for her to get sick of me.

On our way

We made it to the airport after 8 hours of cleaning the house for grandma. Traci shed a few tears when we ditched the kids. It's a little tough leaving the monsters behind.

Meet My Friend Dave

I got a call from my friend Dave Letterman this morning. Well, not Dave himself, but Lisa, his lovely audience assistant. After correctly answering the trivia question (Allen Kalter's red hair) we were awarded the tickets.

Lisa then went on to ask me about our travel plans and even helped me arrange the quickest way to the airport after the show. (That's why I'm worried about missing our flight--we're heading straight from the Ed Sullivan Theater to JFK, in rush hour, with all our luggage. Pray for us.)

Anyhoo, watch Dave on Monday night and look for us. I'm sure we'll be on the front row.


Packing for four days of vacation is much easier than packing for four days of your kids staying home.

New York City Bound...

Tonight we head to the big city. This will be my first trip to NYC, a second for Traci. As Traci is mourning (and I will soon be) the end of her 20's, combined with an invitation to sleep on the floor from our good friends The Rileys, it seemed like the perfect time to go.

I've always wanted to see New York and my excitement is only rivaled by my usual travel anxieties. Cross your fingers that we don't miss any flights (my number one fear) or get lost on the subway (number two). And while you're at it, say a prayer that Paige and Curtis do well with the many Pearsons and Sutherlands who will try to entertain them while we're away.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recent Reviews

Pearl Jam - The Back Spacer
Funnest Pearl Jam album in many years. Still not amazing. I am, however, in love with The Fixer [MP3].

Jay-Z - The Blue Print 3
Jay's getting a bit lazy, but the girls (Alicia Keys, Rihanna) do a good job. Check out Run This Town (feat. Rihanna, Kanye) [MP3].

Lymbyc Systym - Carved By Glaciers
If you love ambient, lo-fi electronica, I'd highly recommend this one.

fun. - Aim and Ignite

Lead singer of The Format is good, but not as good, without his old band.

The Used - Artwork
The Utah emos are still angry, but not angry enough for my taste.

Brave World Travelers

Traci and I are heading to New York with the terrorist alert as high as its been since 911. Hope no one bombs Bye Bye Birdie.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Traci goes to preschool.

We were worried that 3 hours of school would be too long for Paige. She's been fine. Traci, however, has to volunteer at the school today and once again thinks 3 hours is way too long. Hopefully she (Traci) will get a treat at the end.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dreaming of NYC

Literally. Hopefully I'll sleep better tonight.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Itchy & Scratchy

This afternoon Paige has been scratching her head. She seems to be okay but now I'm paranoid that I have lice all over me. So itchy.

Props to Chris Walla

Everyone knows that Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla is a great producer (Nada Surf, Hot Hot Heat, Postal Service), but I wasn't so sure I was going to like his songwriting/singing. Turns out his album "Field Manual" is really good. I was reminded of this fact when "Two-Fifty" just popped up on my shuffle.

Two-Fifty - Chris Walla (FULL SONG)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rock plus roll

Pretty good band practice tonight. The new songs we muddled through at our last show are starting to take shape. I'm sure they'll be radio hits any day now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Welcome to Public School

On just her second day of preschool at our neighborhood elementary school, Paige came home with a flyer that said "Lice has been identified in our classroom." Sweet.

So far no creepy crawlers in Paige's hair. Say a li'l prayer for us.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Here's to You, David Bazan

Attending Traci's fourth and final birthday party of the year and writing record reviews before I go to bed is a bad combination. I dreamt last night that David Bazan was dating my sister Sarah and we were all staying at my parent's house for the weekend.

He was pleasant enough and even furrier than in real life. We had a pretty good talk about his new album (I, of course, told him it was too country). I also told him he couldn't swear in front of my parents. He obliged.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Review: David Bazan Curse Your Branches

David Bazan
Curse Your Branches

For years, David Bazan (formerly under the name Pedro the Lion) has been weaving stirring tales of man’s relationship with God. But these are no hallelujah Christian rock songs. The fictitious tales tend to revolve around fallibility of both parties and are filled with constant questioning and disappointment.

Topically, his first full-length solo release follows a similar pattern. There’s just one big difference. For the first time in his career, Bazan himself becomes the main character. “Curse Your Branches” chronicles, both painfully and beautifully, Bazan’s own questioning, doubts, and beliefs.

Lyrically, this is the best piece in Bazan’s stunning catalog. He sings of losing faith in front of his wife and daughter, his family fasting for his salvation, and drinking to stop thinking about all of it. The only drawback is the countrified arrangements take away from the amazing weight of the message. And with so many solo versions of these songs floating the internet, it’s hard not to yearn for the stripped down performances.

Nevertheless, a nearly perfect release from one of rock’s most engaging songwriters.

For fans of: Pedro the Lion, Death Cab for Cutie

Rating: 4 of 4

Fall Showers

Today is a rainy day September day in Salt Lake City. But before fall, it was summer, and before that it was spring. I just found this self-portrait of 3/4ths of the fam from May, back when we were gearing up for all the excitement the sunny days would bring...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Music Roundup

As usual, lots of music writing going on in my world. I talked with Matt Pryor of The Get Up Kids about hating The Wiggles (him, not necessarily me), Taking Back Sunday about loving Transformers (the toy, not so much the movie) and Matt & Kim about Kim's problem of sweating on fans' t-shirts.

I've thrown in a handful of CD reviews as well. Enjoy.


The Get Up Kids
Taking Back Sunday
Matt & Kim


Owl City - Ocean Eyes*
Modest Mouse - No One's First, And You're Next
Ramona Falls - Intuit
American Steel - Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts*
RX Bandits - Mandala
Moby - Wait For Me*

*Manifesto Recommended

Traci's birthday week continues on...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Competitve World of Pre-K Athletics

Paige and McKenzie listening intently to the half-time speech.

Paige had her first soccer game this morning. I don't think it was that big of deal for her, but for Traci and I, it was yet another anxiety-ridden momentous occasion.

For all of her incessant chatter around our house, Paige is incredibly shy around others. Luckily, she has really taken to the idea of "teacher" lately, which has made for good experiences in both preschool and primary. But she is still really timid around other kids. So something like soccer can go either way--a ton of fun for or an endless amount of tears. And that means a lot of stress for mom and dad.

Fortunately, I was able to get most of the worries out of my system on Wednesday when I took her to her first practice. To my delight, we got to the field and she ran right over to her team. She started stretching out with the others (that's the sign of a great coach, he has a bunch of 3-year-olds stretching out before practice) and didn't even look back at me.

She did really well through much of practice, save the few times where she and her buddy Mackenzie had to stop and throw grass or hold hands and skip. So I was expecting her to be a regular Christian Ronaldo at the game today.

Um, not so much. She seemed to be having fun, but every time the ball (or the swarm of kids around the ball) came her way, she headed the other direction. She was, however, very happy when her team scored a goal and just as happy when the other team scored.

Paige on a breakaway? No, she's running away from the other kids.

Her favorite parts of the game were when she got to sub out because she got to come sit next to me and pet the coach's wife's dog.

The coach is really good to include all of the kids and gave Paige a chance to kick off after a goal. She walked up the ball in super-slow motion, tapped it about one inch and then ran away.

But she had a great time, which is all that matters. (She wasn't nearly as good as the girl on the other team who was about a foot taller than everyone else and kept scoring all the goals. Clearly a ringer.)

Curtis trying to sneak onto the team.

Curtis loved it as well. When he wasn't running out on the field, he was stealing the corner-kick cones and using them as bullhorns.

Yay, sports.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Review: Matt & Kim at Club Sound

At the Johnny Tightlips show on Saturday night, friend Brian and I were talking about how much cleaner and generally less disgusting bars/clubs are now, thanks to the new no-smoking laws. I spoke too soon. Last night I found that Club Sound/In The Venue is just as sweaty and gross (and a bit smokey) as ever. Nevertheless, I had a great time at Matt & Kim.

Matt & Kim
Club Sound

So many choices on Monday night. Should I give into my late-90s nostalgia and head down to Orem for Blink-182? Or should get my boogie on to Matt & Kim in Salt Lake? Since I’d seen both bands before, and have been impressed by both, the tie breaker went to my dancing heart.

Though I’m sure that Blink was filled with plenty of spectacle, power chords, and pooh jokes, I have no regrets about choosing Matt & Kim. I'm guessing the 300 or so fans sweating to death in the unventilated Club Sound would agree.

The set was short and sweet, lasting just under an hour. Despite the brevity, the smiling duo managed to play the majority of its two-album catalog as well as throw in a fist-pumping rendition of the made-famous-by-hockey "Hey Song" and the greatest song ever written--that's right, "The Final Countdown."

With so many great songs, it's hard to pick favorites. However, both the rapid-fire instrumental "Cinders" (played in double time as a reward for "such a great crowd") and the heartfelt "Light Speed" were outstanding. "Daylight," the set's closer, was also welcomed with shrieks of delight.

Matt & Kim's second most endearing quality (right after their perma-grins) is their gratitude. No matter the size of the venue or the length of the set list, they play as if it was their most important gig and they thank the audience profusely for their support. The usually-silent Kim even took the mic to offer her sincere appreciation to the ever-growing Salt Lake City fan base.

In many ways, Kim managed to steal the show. In addition to her incessant drum pounding, she lent vocals to "Lessons Learned," threw in a few keyboard notes on "Turn This Boat Around," and showed off her Beyonce bootyshake during a couple of between-songs dance parties.

There was not a dull moment to be had and every face in the crowd left sweaty and almost as smiley as the band itself.

Monday, September 07, 2009


Had to choose between Blink 182 and Matt & Kim tonight. Chose the latter. Club Sound is stickier than I remember.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

3 Hours til Rock

Already a little nervous as usual. Traci is coming for the first time in years, which is cool. We're playing every song in the catalog tonight. Cross your fingers.

Friday, September 04, 2009

You Ain't Just a Whistlin' Dixie

Oh, Randy. Lainee's first boyfriend was sooo cool. Blond mullet. Maroon jeans. And a 1970's Chevy Monte Carlo.

To 8-year-old, brother-less me, having a dude hanging around the house was the best thing I could have ever imagined. Randy would wrestle with me and go to my baseball games. I loved it. And because Lainee was the first dater in the family, my parents were more than happy to let me tag along with them (Lainee was not so happy).

More than just the memories, Randy left behind The Bellamy Brothers. Every time we were in the Monte Carlo, Randy would blast his Bellamy Brothers Greatest Hits 8-track and sing along to "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me?), "Redneck Girl," and "Old Hippie."

Listen to a bunch of tunes here.

To this day, that greatest hits album is the only country entry in my entire collection. So of course I jumped at the chance to interview Howard Bellamy for IN. (I'm sure my editor thought I was crazy when I volunteered to take it. )

He was a totally cool old dude. He talked about living on the same farm where he grew up and still having his 85-year-old mom still sign their performance contracts because it's always been "a family business."

Here's the article in its entirety. This one goes out to Randy.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Johnny Tightlips @ 5 Monkeys - Sept. 5

I hate writing song lyrics. But once again, we have a show coming up and a bunch of songs with no words. Rather than mumble incoherently through them all, I frantically tried to come up with something tonight. Surprise, surprise, there was a bit of success. Come hear for yourself:

Johnny Tightlips
w/ Josh & the Dream Killer, Michael Gross & the Statuettes
5 Monkeys (21+)
Saturday, Sept. 5
9 p.m.

Don't worry, they'll still be a few mumblers. We don't want to get away from our signature sound.