John Mayer’s D.C. stop on the Battle Studies tour

So my love for a certain guitar-playing, loud-mouthed, tattooed and sensitive rocker has been welldocumented by yours truly in the past. I know he often blurts out inappropriate and offensive things and that’s definitely not okay, but I’ve spent so much time with John Mayer — almost ten years now — that, you know, I kind of feel like I know the guy.

Know him through his music, anyway. And during last night’s stop in Washington, D.C. on the Battle Studies tour? The man did not disappoint. Crooning some of my favorite tunes like “Why Georgia,” “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room,” “Assassin,” “Perfectly Lonely” and even old favorites like “Comfortable,” John bounced around the stage, interacted with the audience and generally seemed like an appreciative musician. Which I appreciated.

Having seen John five times before last night, some of my over-the-top spastic behavior has ebbed away — leaving me better able to enjoy the show without screaming my head off, bouncing up and down like a lunatic or screaming in my sister’s face. All of which I have been known to do! No, the Battle Studies tour featured a much more subdued Meg as an audience member — and that’s okay.

Because not dancing my rump off and moving the entire time? Let me snap a few, um, hundred photos. Here are some of my favorites! If you’re interested in the full set (and one shabby video I took during “Belief”), visit my Flickr page.


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Dancing with Mr. Brightside

the_killersIs there anything better than wrapping up the summer at a concert, sweating and laughing and singing along at the top of your lungs to one of your absolute favorite bands?

No. No, there isn’t.

The Killers performed at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., last night, and my sister and I were there — in the second-to-last row of the venue, sure, but most definitely there! They were spectacular . . . even better than I had dared to hope.

I’ve been an enormous fan since I first heard “Mr. Brightside” back in 2004 and somehow really connected with the lyrics. Their album “Hot Fuss” became my summer anthem, pouring through my car windows as it lived in my CD player for almost a year. Thankfully, I got my sister Kate in on the act — and it became a band we both love. Follow-up albums “Sam’s Town,” “Sawdust” and “Day & Age” all have a special place in my life — and my heart! — too.

So I love going to shows, but somehow I’d never managed to see The Killers live! This is especially disappointing considering I have a massive, heart-stopping crush on lead singer, pianist and lyricist Brandon Flowers. (Yeah, he’s married with two sons, but a girl can dream!) He was in fine form last night, wearing an all-black ensemble and singing/dancing his heart out, but unfortunately I was way too far away to get any decent shots. I’ll just have to burn those mental images into my brain forever!

They sang all their big hits — “All These Things That I’ve Done,” “Somebody Told Me,” “Bones,” “When You Were Young” (for the encore) and, of course, “Mr. Brightside.” I don’t really remember what my life was like before that song . . . and when the first riffs started, I’m pretty sure I went temporarily insane. Like, insane. You don’t want to be seen with me or be associated with me in any way sort of insane. Luckily Kate is used to my antics and thought nothing of me screaming my head off, dancing around in an aisle and throwing my arms up like I was hurtling down a rollercoaster! Hearing that song live was just it. Amazing. I closed my eyes and couldn’t stop jumping . . . I had to move, and keep moving. I can’t listen to that song and stand still.

Another definite highlight? The refrain of “All These Things That I’ve Done” that’s become synonymous with the band, even getting printed on T-shirts: “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier.” As I had hoped, Brandon let us sing it for a while . . . and the entire audience seemed to join in. It’s rare you see a group of, oh, 50,000 people completely in a moment as much as you did just then. Watching everyone’s faces staring up at the screen, looking at the hands reaching toward the sky, hearing the voices of a massive crowd all risen and pitched together to sing the very same notes — it’s like religion.

That’s why I can never get enough of live music — it feels holy, sacred. The feeling of unity you get at concerts is unparalleled . . . exhilerating, exciting, consuming, fantastic. And when the music you’re listening to right then, with that very band before you, has been your personal soundtrack through countless life changes, it makes you feel . . . invincible.

I know I’m really jumping off the deep end now, getting all pseudo-philosophical on you. Suffice it to say it was an incredible experience — an unforgettable one — which has to rank up there with the ever-growing Greatest Moments of Meg’s Life Ever.

Below is a video clip of one of my favorite songs, “A Dustland Fairytale,” captured by an awesome fan at my show! Have I mentioned lately how much I love the Internet? I can relive my exact fantastic evening through a series of YouTube videos and photos posted by others. Life is magical!



I need you so much closer

death_cab_for_cutieI’ve had boyfriends introduce me to all sorts of music — artists I probably never would have listened to, or appreciated, had I not sat in their cars as songs blasted through our open windows or let the tunes lilt over us on lazy Sunday afternoons. To me, these artists are synonymous with the relationships — and when I think of a man I once loved, I invariably hear the opening chords of Death Cab For Cutie.

Yes — Death Cab is my Break-Up Band Du Jour.

First, their songs are just . . . sad. And melodic. The lyrics are haunting, and they have a tendency to bury themselves in my skin and reappear at strange, unexpected moments. And despite being years removed from the first time I fell in love, I can still close my eyes and let “A Lack Of Color” or “Title And Registration” basically incapacitate me. It’s easy to feel confused and heartbroken anew with the same soundtrack blaring in the background.

So, despite the fact that I want to bawl my eyes out every time their songs pop up on my iPod, why do I keep listening to them?

Well, I love them, first of all. Their music is complex but straight-forward — filled with simple tunes constructed in a unique way. The lyrics seem to pluck right at the heartstring I most don’t want plucked at a particular moment — and remind me why it is I fell in love with their songs — and one man — all over again.

Would I have become so attracted to their music if I hadn’t been introduced to them by someone else? Probably not. His presence in my life — and his absence since — has shaped me far more than I would typically admit. And the music he exposed me to has been my companion since he left.

Is that the rock-hard truth here — that I listen to his music to feel close to him?

This is the part where I’d probably curl up inside myself, shake my head furiously and deny it — probably spouting out a snarky comment or two, rolling my eyes and babbling self-righteously about how I’ve “moved on.”

But that’s dishonest.

So I’ll just play “Transatlanticism” a little louder, burying the speakers deep inside my ears, and go on with the day.

Meg’s top five ‘real’ love songs

pink_heartHappy Valentine’s Day! The illustrious — and infamous — day of love. However you’re celebrating (or uncelebrating) today, I’m sure some music is swirling around lovebirds everywhere. In honor of this festive occasion, I present: my favorite ‘real’ love songs of all time! Yes, another of my “lists.” I love lists.

I’m picking based on certain very unscientific data: what I feel! And a “real” love song, to me, isn’t something that sings about birds chirping or the sun shining in your eyes or . . . well, anything that sappy. I have felt that cheesy before, sure, but most of the time love is about a lot more than chocolate-covered kisses and close embraces and all-encompassing passion. Those things are super, I agree, but they do not a tried-and-true love make. So my top five “real” love songs, in random order:

The Beatles, “I Want To Hold Your Hand”

However you feel about it, I think Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist got it right: Love is all about wanting to hold hands. It’s about the small and quiet moments, the simple gestures, the desire to be close — without any need for anything more, or anything less. It’s about just being together.

“And when I touch you, I feel happy inside . . . it’s such a feeling that my love, I can’t hide, I can’t hide . . . Yeah, you got that something, I think you’ll understand. When I feel that something — I wanna hold your hand . . .”

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The Fray found me

The Fray's new albumAfter a false start or two with my iTunes (which was quickly resolved by Terry, a kind-hearted and professional Apple support team member!), I finally have The Fray’s new album! I went through the whole “to download or not to download” quandry for a day, then decided that it’s 2009, I usually throw jewel cases out anyway and I really, really wanted the album right now — I’m big on instant gratification! So I paid my $9.99 and let that puppy magically appear on my laptop.

This morning I bounced around in my car on my way to work, excited and happy and exhilirated! I love the Fray. I’ve seen them in concert twice, and each time was a borderline religious experience for me! Music can do that, and be that for people. It’s like that for me.

I’ve only quickly skimmed through all the tracks to get a “lay of the land,” if you will, but so far my favorite is still their single, “You Found Me.” It’s haunting and catchy, if that’s possible, and proves to me all over again how genius they are! I read a review on iTunes saying that this sophomore album is basically “How To Save a Life, Part II,” but I’m more than all right with that — and the reviewer was, too. They have a sound, a following, a message and have had success with all of that — I wouldn’t want to mess up a good thing, either!

“You Found Me”
The Fray

I found God
On the corner of First and Amistad
Where the west
Was all but won
All alone
Smoking his last cigarette
I said, “Where you been?”
He said, “Ask anything.”

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Booking Through Thursday: Sing a song

booking_through_thursLet’s go Booking Through Thursday! It’s not about books, but it is about words . . . so we’ll go with that!

“If you’re anything like me, there are songs that you love because of their lyrics; writers you admire because their songs have depth, meaning, or just a sheer playfulness that has nothing to do with the tunes.

So, today’s question?

• What songs … either specific songs, or songs in general by a specific group or writer … have words that you love? Why?
• And … do the tunes that go with the fantastic lyrics live up to them?”

Wow! I frequently blog about my favorite lyrics, great artists, sad and happy songs and just artists I love in general. I can’t think of a song in which I like the lyrics but don’t really like the tune. What’s so great about music is that deft combination of the two. Even now, typing out the lyrics to the songs I love just isn’t going to do any of them justice. You have to hear them! Otherwise, they’re a little like scrambled poetry. All of these songs “speak” to me in some way, usually because they deal with growing up, making decisions, falling in and out of love and basically becoming an adult. Many of them were songs I listened to in high school and college, so they remind me of a very specific time in my life. It’s fun to let music take you back.

Jumping in, my usual response to questions like this features me rambling on about the awesomeness that is John Mayer, my favorite musician of all time. He’s incredibly talented songwriter, guitarist and performer, and I’m usually in some ceaseless amazement of his . . . hotness. Yeah, I think the man is gorgeous.

Some of my favorite JM lyrics?

“Stop This Train”

So scared of getting older, I’m only good at being young; So I play the numbers game to find a way to say my life has just begun; Had a talk with my old man, said ‘Help me understand’; He said, ‘Turn 68, you’ll renegotiate’; Don’t stop this train; Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in . . . And don’t think I couldn’t ever understand; I tried my hand; John, honestly, you’ll never stop this train . . .

“New Deep”

I’m so alive; I’m so enlightened, I can barely survive a night in my mind; I’ve got a plan — I’m gonna find out just how boring I am, and have a good time; ‘Cause ever since I tried, trying not to find every little meaning in my life; It’s been fine; I’ve been cool with my new golden rule . . . Numb is the new deep; Down with the old me . . . I’m done with the analyzing tonight; Stop trying to figure it out; It will only bring you down . . .

“Why Georgia”

I am driving up 85 in the kind of morning that lasts all afternoon; Just stuck inside the gloom; For more exits to my apartment, but I am tempted to keep the car in drive; And leave it all behind . . . ‘Cause I wonder about the outcome . . . Am I living it right? Am I living it right? Am I living it right . . . Why, Georgia, why? . . . I rent a room and I fill the spaces with whirling places to make it feel like home, but all I feel is alone; It might be a quarter-life crisis, or just the stirring in my soul; Either way, I wonder sometimes about the outcome . . . So what, so I’ve got a smile on. Well, it’s hiding the quiet superstitions in my head . . . Don’t believe me, don’t believe me when I say I’ve got it down.

And now I’ll go ahead and branch out — I’ll hit you with a little Sara Bareilles!

“Morningside”

I’m not scared of you, no, or so I say; There’s no reason to run, although I may; Not as sure as I seem, this much I know; What does it mean when you leave, and I follow? Well, I try to forget what you do, when I let you get through to me; But then you do it over again; Like a rage, like a fire . . . Keep my distance, I try; No use, no; No matter the miles, I’m back to you . . .

And some of The Killers?

“All These Things That I’ve Done”

If you can hold on, hold on . . . I want to stand up, I want to let go — you know, you know — no, you don’t, you don’t . . . Another head aches, another heart breaks; I’m so much older than I can take; And my affection, well it comes and goes; I need direction to perfection . . . You know you gotta help me out, oh, don’t you put me on the back burner — you know you gotta help me out; And when there’s nowhere else to run, is there room for one more son? These changes ain’t changin’ me — the gold-hearted boy I used to be . . .

And, for good measure, Ben Folds, another of my favorite artists!

“Still Fighting It”

Good morning, son; I am a bird; Wearing a brown polyester shirt; Do you want a Coke? Maybe some fries? The roast beef combo’s only 9.95; It’s okay — you don’t have to pay; I’ve got all the change . . . Everybody knows it hurts to grow up; And everybody does; So weird to be back here; Let me tell you what: The years go on, and we’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it . . . And you’re so much like me. I’m sorry . . . Good morning son, twenty years from now, maybe we’ll both sit down and have a few beers. And I can tell you ’bout today, and how I picked you up and everything changed . . . There was pain, sunny days and rain, I knew you’d feel the same things . . . You’ll try, and you’ll try, and one day you’ll fly away from me . . . Good morning, son; Good morning, son . . .

Play me a sad song

Music is worthless unless it can make a complete stranger break down and cry. — “The Dumbing Down of Love,” Frou Frou

Everyone has those surefire sad songs — the tunes you put on when you’ve had a really, really rough day and no, you don’t want to be comforted or cuddled or uplifted. You just want to be sad, all right?! You just want to lay down on your bed, shove your little iPod earbuds in your ears or flip on the radio and be . . . upset.

Though I’m happy to say I don’t have many days like that, I do have my go-to sad songs for those moments I just want to feel sorry for myself. So I present a random assortment of my very own Pity Party Soundtrack.

My top choice? “Tiny Vessels,” by Death Cab for Cutie. I won’t even explain it — I’ll let their lyrics do the work for me. It would help if you could hear the haunting melody playing behind it, but I’ll leave that part ot your imagination for now:

This is the moment that you know that you told her that you love her, but you don’t. You touch her skin, and then you think — she is beautiful, but she don’t mean a thing to me. Yeah, she is beautiful, but you don’t mean a thing to me . . . I wanted to believe in all those words that we were speaking as we moved together in the dark . . .  All I see are dark gray clouds in the distance, moving closer with every hour. So when you ask, Is something wrong? I’ll think, You’re damn right there is, but we can’t talk about it now. No, we can’t talk about it now . . .

Next up? “Hearts In Pain,” by Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. Never heard of them? That’s okay — they’re pretty, uh, underground? I can’t describe someone as “underground” without feeling like a tool, so strike that from the record. But you catch my drift. I’ll give you a taste of my saltwater tears on this one:

You know when a heart’s in pain, there’s nobody you can blame. The only light under the doctor’s knife is that we’re the same — hearts in, hearts in, hearts in pain . . . Who’s to say the muscle’s dead? I gave it up to her when we got married. There were things I never said . . . But I’m an idiot, and marriage is scary. And what you would say if I told you so true that I love her more now that the marriage is through?

Ray

Ray

Ouch! And moving right along to Ray LaMontagne’s “Empty.” Yeah, I felt sad just typing that little title! It’s haunting, sparse, melancholy. Perfect for crying your eyes out.

I never learned to count my blessings; I choose instead to dwell in my disasters . . . I walk on down the hill through grass grown tall and brown, and still it’s hard somehow to let go of my pain . . . Will I always feel this way? So empty, so estranged . . . Well, I looked my demons in the eye; Laid bare my chest, said ‘Do your best, destroy me.’ See I’ve been to hell and back so many times, I must admit you kinda bore me . . .

Poor Ray. He generally seems to need a hug and a cuddle — but that’s why I love listening to him!

And my final sad song choice of the moment? I’m going to have to go with John Mayer’s “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room.” I was in love with the tune the first time I heard it — which happened to be live at a show in September 2006. I know I’m a nerd to know that, but I love JM! Even when he makes me depressed (like with the whole Jennifer thing, but we won’t go into that now!).

It’s not a silly little moment; it’s not the storm before the calm. This is the deep and dying breath of this love that we’ve been working on. Can’t seem to hold you like I want to, so I can feel you in my arms. Nobody’s gonna come to save you; we’ve pulled to many false alarms . . . We’re going down, and you can see it too. We’re going down, and you know that we’re doomed. My dear, we’re slow dancing in a burning room . . . Go cry about, why don’t you.

Fine, John — I just might!