Mr. Chair considers the Fourth of July as his own personal New Year and I've long considered the end of the first half of the year a time fit for reflection (ignore the fact that it's mid-August as I actually get around to this review).
So what news is there to report from 2007's waxing half? Now that's a damn good question.
I had a weekly basketball game starting in January until it got too hot, plus I teamed up with some work dudes on a softball team that ran from March through May, so this year started off on a greater athletic note than anytime in the last decade. And man, my knees did a lot of hurting for a while. Of course, since softball ended I've been uber lazy, so I don't think that athleticism is a fair way to characterize this whole 2007.5. But it felt great to be back on the court and the field, even though I have next to no quickness or jumping ability any more, and my swing is in need of professional help (hey, at least I'm still slick in the infield).
I had a couple of great trips to Phoenix-land ("you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy") visiting friends, a couple of whom have since taken off for Orlando. I had a tremendous trip to Flagstaff and even hit P-Town a couple of times, most recently a month ago to collect a wonderful coffee mug in honor of being unrecognizable.
I had a terrific week in Portland, lured in by offers of a Son Volt show. The first few hours of my visit have been rightly labeled a "trainwreck of a night at Ladd's." Lots of great food and bars, a trip to the coast and one out to the Columbia Gorge. I got to spend time with a childhood friend I'd lost touch with (it turns out myspace is in fact good for something) and hadn't seen in 10 years.
I mentioned the Son Volt show in Portland (which was fantastic - I've always been a Farrar fan and hadn't seen him play in almost nine years), so here's some thoughts on other live music highlights so far this year: Stephen Malkmus was absolutely on fire, playing mostly new stuff to a packed Plush; Robyn Hitchcock and his new band (including Peter Buck) brought a great rock 'n' roll sound I was thrilled to hear after seeing him twice solo; Alejandro Escovedo and the Drive-by Truckers were a super double bill; the Hold Steady are even more incredible now that I know a couple of their albums; the Riverboat Gamblers drew me out for the first all-out punk show I've seen in years; and finally, there are few things better in life than spending time with an absolute legend like Arlo or Dylan (and a fellow fan like Josh).
I've also spent a lot of time checking out the stellar local bands: The Swim (who paired with the New Drakes in a double bill I absolutely loved), Chango Malo (thanks for playing my birthday), Fourkiller Flats (who unfortunately appear to be on hiatus again), Little Morts (moving to Austin doesn't mean you're not still local as far as I'm concerned boys) and my favorite new local crew, Mostly Bears. I can't wait 'til next Friday's Chango-Stock.
So for recorded music, I say run out right now and buy the new Wilco and Okkervil River albums. Also highly recommended are new ones by Modest Mouse, Feist, Arcade Fire, Shins, Son Volt and White Stripes. And for the rest of the year, I'm eagerly awaiting Band of Horses, New Pornographers, Iron & Wine and Steve Earle. Plus, I'm really intrigued by this Dylan bio-pic and its soundtrack.
And thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I've spent a lot of time digging early Neil Young records, old soul like the Delfonics, Tom Waits bootlegs from the mid 70s and a slew of great Dylan covers. Plus I've been able to track down seven versions of "St. James Infirmary," a spellbinding New Orleans folk tune I first heard Arlo perform.
As far as the cinema goes, I didn't go to a single movie until two weeks ago, when I caught the Simpsons, a not-quite-great-but-good-like-you'd-expect-because-it's-the-Simpsons type of a flick. Then last weekend I caught Knocked Up at the cheap theater, where I'm likely headed again either tonight or tomorrow, for either Shrek or Oceans 13. So there.
I hosted two pairs of friends visiting town as part of long moves. I acted in my first feature film. I caught some ball games. I went to Peter Piper Pizza on Tuesday. And thankfully I have neither the mess or the nonsense that were running me down when I last made a half-year report.
So that's a quick run down of the year so far. What'll come next? Hell if I know much. There's that Chango Malo show on Friday, plus the annual Club Congress festival over Labor Day weekend that has none other than Okkervil River on the bill.
I've come across some great old black and white photographs of the Dodgers, circa 1950s and 1960s, so I'm gonna frame them.
I'm hoping to orchestrate a trip to the East Coast sometime this fall.
And overall I just hope things keep going at least OK. And same wish for y'all.