Thursday, April 7, 2011

Concert trip to Tuscaloosa

So we traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., last weekend for the first time to see Band of Horses and The Avett Brothers. Not only was it a fabulous concert but also a very impressive overnight trip to T-Town, otherwise known as the home of the University of Alabama.

We decided to buy tickets for this concert, the first in the history of the beautiful, new Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, because my wife and I both are really into Band of Horses and had been growing into fans of The Avett Brothers. We made it to town two hours before the show, just enough time to quickly check into our motel purchased pretty cheaply off Priceline followed by a quick visit to Hooligan's, a little Greek restaurant in Downtown, about six blocks from the venue. I had found it through my usual pre-trip research and when I discovered it had been recommended to my wife by a colleague familiar with Tuscaloosa, I decided it was definitely worth considering.

Ideally, we would have arrived to town much earlier with plenty of time for a meal and pre-show drinks. But because we were so pushed for time we opted for Hooligan's because reviews on Yelp mentioned how quick it was. Of course arriving after 6:30 p.m. found us waiting in a decently long line (akin to Central Barbecue in Memphis before a U of M football game).

Let me just say if you ever make it to Tuscaloosa and are looking for a quick meal, a cheap meal or a Greek meal, head over to Hooligan's on University Avenue. It is fabulous. We shared the Falafel wrap and Gyro plate. Was it as good as the Greek food I had a couple of years ago at this all-night diner in Brooklyn? No, don't be stupid, but man this was good. Especially considering it came at a college dive of a restaurant.

So after a very quick dinner we walked quickly to the amphitheater where, as we stood waiting in line at security to enter, Band of Horses started their set, five minutes early. But hey, at least we could hear them while quickly moving inside. I won't bore you with reviews of the shows other than to say that truly, this was the best concert I can remember. Band of Horses didn't waste any time, getting through a very solid, loud and entertaining set before moving aside for The Avett Brothers, an energetic and fun show.

A few thoughts on the facility: You would think that sometimes the first event at a facility would provide some hiccups but I didn't see any. One of my favorite parts about this place is that no matter where you are there is a huge video screen showing the stage. Want to get in line for a beer or something from the impressive concession stand? There is a screen just behind you while you wait in line. All in all, it was an awesome experience for a live show.

Afterwards we walked back to the car, strolling by several lively bars that all seemed to have live bands, cover charges and crowds of college kids. Not really our scene. But I had high hopes for what I had found to be billed as a solid beer bar for the town, Alcove. We pulled up and found a crowd outside, but it was a low-key gathering of non-students sitting on the bar's front patio. We went inside the narrow bar where there was no cover. It was full of beer drinkers and, probably more importantly, no smokers. It was smoke-free on the inside.

And, as a visitor to a major SEC college town it was very refreshing to find that at 34, I was definitely not the oldest patron there. Sure, there were college students there. But plenty of people in their 20s, 30s and beyond. You know you've found a beer bar when you look at the chalkboard listing what's currently on tap and it's nothing but regional, obscure and fantastic beers. It's not a wall of taps, but six or seven rotating taps with beers that all sounded intriguing. Better yet, the bartender answered questions about the beers, providing samples of all of them. And, the guy sitting next to us knew his beer as he gave a fabulous recommendation of a Canadian beer with a hint of apple in it for my non-drinking beer wife. She loved it.

All in all it was a great 15-hour visit to Tuscaloosa, Ala. Great concert venue, solid affordable meal and fabulous beer bar.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kings of Leon -- Am I becoming a fan again?

So as I sit here going through our houshold budget B.S. I've stumbled upon a little documentary about Kings of Leon on Palladia. Instead of continuing my Netflix obsession with "Lost" I decided to check it out for a few minutes. And I'm hooked.

I will say a couple of years ago I was really into their music. Now, not so much. Sure, they're talented and have some really good songs. But there's just something about the evolution of their music that I just haven't found myself being into.

Anyway, I really liked these guys a few albums ago. Now on their fifth album, I find myself being the least interested. The cleaner their sound the less I like them. God, am I becoming a Hipster?

Uh, no, but my tastes in music continue to evolve and thankfully that means I'm enjoying more and more the raw sounds of today's independent music scene.

But as I continue watching this documentary I'm digging these guys. They seem real. And as more of their songs are played I'm realizing that at one point I enjoyed them. And not to mention the fact these guys really dig wine. I mean, every scene shows them either holding a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. I'm OK with that.

Am I going to listen to their music tomorrow while I sit at work instead of The Strokes' new album? Well, I wouldn't go that far. But they might be worth revisiting again. And who knows, maybe I will go see them when they play FedExForum in a few weeks after all.

And holy crap, as I finish this a Black Keys video is coming on. Now that's a band I continue to be into. Music videos? Did I wake up in 1985?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Where have all the Young Professionals gone?

Where have all the Young Professionals gone? Well, nowhere, at least not necessarily and certainly not all of them. Memphis is full of Young Professionals, a thriving group who is active in making the city a better place.

But some of them do leave the city for reasons too many to count. Or maybe not. Maybe the reasons are simple and trivial. Discovering why YPs are leaving the city, that's the mission I now find myself on.

As a board member of MPACT Memphis, an organization devoted to fostering civic, social and cultural engagement in the Memphis community among YPs, I'm on a fact-finding mission to discover why these people important to the betterment of Memphis are leaving. YPs are leaving the city, whether it's for family, jobs, to be closer to the beach or who knows what other reason.

Some are quite valid. How could I possibly argue with someone who needs to live closer to a sick family member? Or maybe someone grew up in Memphis, attended college here and decided they just wanted to try out a different city for a while? I actually did that myself. But I came back.

What about those people out there who moved because of a perceived lack of jobs, lack of confidence in government, concerns over high taxes or unsure about property values? Maybe they were concerned about crime rates.

If we can discover some of the reasons YPs have been leaving Memphis, not to mention some of the reasons others have chosen to stay, maybe we can figure out ways to keep more YPs in town. After all, Memphis can use their creative juices and energy to make this city a better place.

I need your help on this mission. The only people who can tell us why Young Professionals leave Memphis are the YPs themselves. So I need contact information. Your friends, former coworkers, fraternity brothers, cousins, brothers, sisters -- anyone in the 20- to 40-year-old range who has moved from Memphis I need your help in getting in touch with them. If I could send them just a few questions asking their thoughts about leaving the city, it could go a long way in helping us find ways in the future to keep YPs like them here.

So post on this blog, tweet me or send me an e-mail at or

Monday, February 14, 2011

The importance of Arcade Fire's GRAMMY win

Good for Arcade Fire.

I’m reacting to Arcade Fire’s win for best album at last night’s GRAMMY Awards while I sample a live album of The Avett Brothers. Yes, I own and like Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” album. It’s really good, actually.

I’m not here to write about the quality of “The Suburbs” or anything against the artists’ work that Arcade Fire was up against. What I am here to say, and it is apropos as I listen to The Avett Brothers, is that this was a major win for independent music.

I refer to The Avett Brothers – and Mumford and Sons might fit this as well – because if you think about it, what radio station does a band like The Avett Brothers fit? It’s a bit folk, a bit rock at times, lots of banjo and some strings mixed in with wonderful lyrics and solid voices.

I wonder how many GRAMMY viewers were familiar with The Avett Brothers last night. But there’s a lot of great music out there that “mainstream” music listeners are never exposed to. And that’s too bad.

Let me say there is nothing wrong with listening to “mainstream” music if that’s what you enjoy. I mean, I love U2 and they’ve been pretty mainstream through the years.

But my point is by awarding this Best Album GRAMMY to Arcade Fire it opens the conversation to the many wonderful independent artists out there making great music.

Sure, some of it might seem pretty wacky. I certainly am not a fan of all indie music. But the majority of what I do listen to is not found on mainstream radio. I hear it on satellite radio – Sirius XMU and the Loft mostly – and read about it on music blogs and magazines.

The funny thing is I own Arcade Fire’s album and do enjoy it. But it was not my favorite of the year. But that’s OK. I’m just happy this band from Canada was recognized last night.

And while many people were asking on Twitter “who the hell are these guys” I bet at least some of those same people today are looking into the group. Who knows, maybe it will then turn those people onto some other “obscure” bands they’ve never heard of.

And discovering new artists and expanding our horizons is one of the great joys in life. Or at least I think so.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

D#@mn I hate sports!

No, not really, but I often wonder why I suffer as a sports fan.

As I write this I'm watching my childhood university (and home state) University of Arkansas lose to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. Sure, I'm a Memphis grad, former Tiger athlete and current season ticket holder. But I grew up a Razorback, something that never leaves you.

And I must admit it's a little embarrassing that in the history of The Ohio State University, they've never won a bowl game against the SEC. Sure, it's still early in the second half and the Hogs are doing some nice things, but if the Buckeyes pull this out for their first bowl win against the SEC, yes, it's embarrassing.

It's been an interesting few months for me as a sports fan. The Tigers football team stinks, but at least it was the first time in 15 seasons that I did not attend the majority of their games. My beloved Dallas Cowboys are pathetic, my fantasy football teams stink, the Tigers basketball team is still trying to find its way, the Memphis Grizzlies ... well ... not a whole lot I can say there. They did beat the Thunder tonight after blowing out the Lakers in L.A. on Sunday.

That leaves my Texas Rangers, who miraculously made the World Series and gave me the greatest October as a sports fan I could ever dream to have. But then they only won one game in the World Series.

So why do I, and every other sports fan for that matter, put up with this? Well, I have no clue. But this time tomorrow night I will be in front of my TV, putting myself through more of this misery, as I watch the Tigers take on the UT Vols on the hardcourt.

And yes, the pessimist in me feels that they're headed for a loss. But I'll still come back for more.

Friday, December 31, 2010

A Memphian dreams of Buffalo on New Year's Eve

It's New Year's Eve, so what's on my mind?

Well, this Miami-Notre Dame game (I was a Hurricanes fan as a kid), this pint of Ghost River Golden (I love beer), the exhaustion in my legs (I ran nine miles today), the approaching thunderstorm (I sometimes obsess about the weather), an upcoming day trip to Nashville to celebrate my 34th birthday and the potential of an exciting trip this summer to Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York State and possibly Ontario.

Really, that last one is what has me most excited. We plan on visiting family in Columbus, Ohio, this summer and talked about a day trip to Cleveland to experience my biggest travel regret so far: not visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I got to thinking last night, though, about attempting to extend the trip to other areas: the UP of Michigan, maybe Detroit, the Finger Lakes region of New York, Niagra Falls and Buffalo, the wineries of Ontario, maybe even Toronto.

My mind is literally like a wheel chugging along at 100 miles per hour as I think about all those possibilities. I LOVE to travel, and possibly even more so, love to think about and plan those trips. I'm excited about the idea of visiting new places.

So as I watch bowl games before going to friends' to enjoy dinner tonight, the potential of this new trip has me most excited as I think about the new year. I'll keep you posted.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

MSO Pops rings in Christmas season with 'Home for the Holidays'

I had my first experience with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra's "Home for the Holidays" Pops concert on Saturday. It was also my first MSO performance to attend with new conductor Mei-Ann Chen in charge.

Let me just say she's great. I won't pretend to be able to rate her performance as a conductor compared to other conductors. But I found her to be charming and fun. Yes, I said fun. I thought she was having a blast on stage while leading the MSO in several Christmas songs, from the traditional to some modern twists based on a couple of seasonal movies to a few sing-along songs. She even mixed in a Chanuka Suite.

Soloist Ashley Brown, who apparently originated the title role in "Mary Poppins" on Broadway, was enjoyable to listen to. I would gladly watch her in a Broadway show.

I look forward to attending again next year and maybe even bringing along our son, who will be 5 then. He's really starting to enjoy everything related to the Christmas season. And there were a number of kids in attendance.

I'm usually too stressed at the beginning of December planning for parties and the like so it was really great to start the Christmas season with a relaxing night of holiday music.

Here's a link to a survey I just received from MSO. I encourage you to take it if you attended on Saturday.