13 October 2009

It ain't libel if it's true...

And yes, Novaya Gazeta was the paper Anna Politkovskaya worked for.


Tomorrow: the grandson of Adolf Hitler insists that Auschwitz was all Eichmann's idea.

"I Took the Walk!"

As part of their social activism, Hanson's been leading walks with fans before each show on their last two tours. They worked on much of their album The Walk in Africa, and became really motivated to contribute to the fight against AIDS. So people show up, walk a mile barefoot, and Hanson donates a dollar to one of five differently focused charities (providing people with shoes, general healthcare, clean water and schools for children, or AIDS medication for pregnant women).

So today, I took the Walk. It was pretty cool. Erin and I were a little late, but we caught the mass of people leaving the UIC quad.

We walked about half of the mile, and then stopped for a bit, while Taylor told us about the concept behind the Walk project, and how with over 30,000 people having taken the Walk, we're working on (the equivalent) a second lap around the world.

He speaks well, and looks quite comfortable with a megaphone. He'd make a good grassroots organizer (which, I guess, he kind of already is).

Then we finished our mile. Some of the time, I walked fairly close to (a few feet away from) Zac, and I got to hear him talk about how much fun he had playing with the guys from Cheap Trick, and how he hopes that after he and his brothers have been playing for as long as Carlos and Nielsen have, that they'll be that good. I love musician-talk, in general, but especially musicians talking about other musicians. He was also encouraging the fans around him to independently organize Walks in their communities.

They even treated us to an acoustic version of "Great Divide"!

The Walk was the perfect ending to my first experience of seeing Hanson live. The concert reminded me of how much I love music, and want it to be a part of my life, but the Walk allowed me to step back from the intensity of the concert, and refocus on the power of social justice. As I've said, Hanson's always been exactly where I needed them to be, and that proved even more true today.

11 October 2009

A Song to Sing

I don't know where to start. So much has been happening, and it makes me want to explode with joy.

So I guess I'll focus on one thing, and we'll start at the very beginning. Not Chicago, not knitting, not the MN Twins and how much I'm beginning to like laundromats. The beginning is music.

There was always music in my house growing up, but Hanson was the first band to whom I really became attached. It was frustrating, because while they were popular for a while, their success was followed by a whole string of boy bands, who somehow managed to convince the general populace that Hanson was a bunch of gay, talentless girls. Well, I heard such bullshit opinions constantly throughout fifth and sixth grade (from two different sets of best friends), and they eventually convinced me to hate Hanson for a while. However, by the release of Hanson's second album, This Time Around, they pulled me along musically, and I grew to love them again.

(Since then, everyone who disparages my musical taste can shut their piehole. I don't take it anymore. (So if you didn't get enough Hanson bashing out of your system 10 years ago, grow the hell up. They did.))

The remarkable thing about Hanson is that they have always been exactly where I needed them to be. This Time Around warmed me to a pop-rock sound I hadn't been completely ready for. And by the time they came out with the Walk, independent labels and social activism was right where I was at.

For some reason, I never made it to one of their shows until tonight. Tonight's been twelve years coming, and it was incredible.

Their set at the House of Blues was preceded by those of three bands: Sherwood, Steel Train and HelloGoodbye. Sherwood was neat. Their lead singer plays bass, which was unusually cool, and their keyboardist has figured out a way to play keys like a rock star. Steel Train was high-energy and fun (they covered Mamma Mia), and their lead singer has more energy than any frontman I've seen play, with the singular exception of that guy from The Legendary Shack Shakers. HelloGoodbye was chatty, but pretty cute, and there was a little mandolin and ukulele action going on.

Sherwood. You can barely see it, but that reddish figure in the middle by the keyboard is having a grand time.

Of course, Hanson played last (and Erin and I even made it on to the main floor for their set), and they played for a long time, about 18 or so songs. Highlights included "Worlds on Fire" (from the new EP, and their set opener), any of Isaac's guitar solos, "A Minute Without You", and "I Want You To Want Me", which was the encore that brought Bun E. Carlos and Rick Nielsen (of Cheap Trick) to the stage.

Left to right: Isaac, the bass player, Zac, and Taylor.

But really, whenever you have three people on stage that are clearly having so much fun, the entire show is memorable. (It was kind of like watching Kirby Puckett play baseball.) The whole thing makes me want to perform music and write songs, and learn to play drums. (It also makes me miss my electric guitar and bass.) These three have always been where I needed them, and they're still fulfilling that role: playing the hell out of their instruments, loving every minute of it, and reminding me of how powerful and joyous music can be.

We didn't participate in the Walk that happened this afternoon, but that was a result of confusion about the time. Fortunately, they're doing another show tomorrow, so I've got another chance at walking in the morning. Which means I should probably head to bed. (As if I can fall asleep after tonight!)