Month: October 2014

Breathe in for Luck

Very rarely do we get the chance to see our favorite bands sharing the same stage while touring together. Fortunately, I happened to experience this 8 years ago tonight.

I was a senior in high school. Music was life (let’s be honest…it still is). Going to shows made me whole. I was such an emo kid. I followed the scene. Warped Tour was a must every summer. Band tees were a standard in my wardrobe. I constantly looked for new bands/songs that professed the words of every single solitary feeling my teenage body elicited. I wasn’t always this way though. I followed the mainstream radio pop for years until my freshman year of high school, specifically in the spring, when I went through what I like to call a musical enlightenment.

For many people out there, myself included, there’s always a band/musician/song/album/some sort of musical element that changes your life. For me it was a band. During my freshman year of high school I became exposed to music other than what was on the radio. It sort of started with Something Corporate when a friend of mine had me listen to Punk Rock Princess. At that point I liked just one or two alternative songs and I still listened to the radio. My enlightenment didn’t occur until I was first introduced to Dashboard Confessional in April of that same year. It was 2004, shortly after Dashboard released A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar. They weren’t up and coming. They had previously released albums like The Swiss Army Romance and The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most (arguably their best). They had been around for a couple years and were known by those in the emo/indie/alternative fan base. But, they were the first band I ever really got into that wasn’t part of the radio pop/rap/R&B (cringe) stuff I liked at the time. It was huge for me.

A friend had recommended them and I gave them a shot. I really liked what I heard (pretty sure the first songs I listened to were “Screaming Infidelities”, “The Swiss Army Romance” and “Hands Down”). I went out and bought their third full length (A Mark, A Mission…). I listened to it on repeat trying to memorize the words to all the songs on that album, especially “Hands Down”. That was THE song. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say everyone wanted a night like the one described in “Hands Down”. It became my anthem that spring. The local hockey team (referenced them in a previous post) ended up making it to the finals of their respective league that year and I played the song before every game. I played it so much that my mom learned all the words and would get into it too (we used to bang on the car dashboard during that break in the chorus). That June my family planned a trip to Disney World and I found out Dashboard was playing the night of our arrival at the House of Blues in Orlando. I tried so hard to get my mom to allow me to go. It didn’t work out in my favor, but that entire trip was still amazing even without seeing my favorite band. The spring of 2004 was a special time in my life for so many other reasons, but this musical enlightenment was a part of that and I owe it to Dashboard Confessional.

That sounds like such a great ending to the blog post but I never even mentioned why 8 years ago tonight actually mattered. Well obviously it had something to do with Dashboard. But before I get into that, let me say the first time I saw Dashboard Confessional was in the Spring of 2006. A local college sponsored them as their spring concert and my friend Megan and I went to see them. It was everything I hoped for and my mom was happy I finally got to see them since she didn’t let me go in Florida. Then, less than a year later, you guessed it, they came back.

This time they were touring with Brand New, another one of my favorite bands that I fell in love with shortly post-Dashboard (told you Dashboard changed my life). This tour was probably the coolest thing ever for me at the time. My top two favorite bands in one night, are you kidding me? Who gets to see their favorite bands perform in the same night. Me. Duh. I was definitely going. I’m not sure how it happened either but I convinced my friend Shannon to attend this show with me (Megan..same friend from above…came along as well). It was pretty incredible that Shannon decided to come along because Shannon did not listen to the same music as me. She wore cardigans. She never cursed. She listened to all the radio stuff (she still does…extreme T-Swift fan). She just wasn’t the same emo/punk rock/indie/alternative kid as me, but I introduced her to Dashboard from a mix tape I made her (I made/make the best mix tapes I swear). She loved them from that. Plus this was going to be her first “real” show (general admission, pit, the works).

It was a fun night. At the time it was the best show I had ever been to (it’s still probably in my top 10 favorite shows). There were plenty of things that happened. Shannon wore converse (they were pink though…go figure) and screamingly confessed her love for Chris Carrabba. A classmate of ours almost got in a fight with a drunk girl. Brand New didn’t play Seventy Times Seven (teenage anthem forever…I was heartbroken). I sang along to so many songs that I knew and loved (“Vindicated”, “Bend & Not Break”,” Screaming Infidelities”). Most importantly, as the standard for Dashboard in those days, they always closed their shows with “Hands Down” (I wouldn’t have it any other way). That night was no different except for the fact that I got so pumped during the song I decided to jump up and down and ended up twisting my ankle when I landed on a bystander’s foot. It was a memorable night for sure. Can I say that it was hands down the best day I will ever remember, always remember? No. I’ve had some better times and no one kissed me like they meant it, but it was pretty damn good enough to come close.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite Dashboard Confessional songs that I recommend to the world besides all those listed above aka “Hands Down”, “Bend & Not Break”, “Vindicated”, “Screaming Infidelities”, and “The Swiss Army Romance” (that means listen to these too cause they are also my faves):

1. The Secret’s in the Telling

2. As Lovers Go

3. Saints & Sailors

4. Again I Go Unnoticed

5. The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most

6. The Sharp Hint of New Tears

7. Age Six Racer (in particular listen to this on the day before the first day of school, Labor Day, or whenever the last day of summer is for you)

8. Rapid Hope Loss

Just to give you a head start on listening…the song of all songs:

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Qualified. Not Satisfied.

In 223 days, the 2015 Women’s World Cup kickoffs in Canada and the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) will be a part of it. For the past week and a half the team has been competing in the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament which allows three teams from the CONCACAF region to qualify for the World Cup. With a win against Mexico last night the USWNT became one of the three. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the match in Philadelphia where the U.S. put up a 3-0 victory to secure their spot. The win also guaranteed them a spot in the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament championship match on Sunday at 6 p.m.

When I was growing up, I never would have guessed that I would become a soccer fan. In fact I remember thinking and saying to myself at one point several years ago while flipping TV channels and landing on a soccer game that I would never attend a pro soccer match or ever be interested in a game. Now, here I am, a day after attending a soccer game. Things change. I guess the only thing to point out is that the game I attended was a women’s soccer match but that game on TV was all men. I’m sure there’s a difference between men’s and women’s soccer but I don’t watch the guys so I wouldn’t know (aside from some of the World Cup this past summer). I love watching the women play though, but especially this group pulled from all areas of the United States.

Thanks to the internet, social media, Youtube and other technology I was able to learn a lot about the players on the USWNT. I don’t just mean facts about them either. In this technological age you really get a feel for what kind of a person someone is by what they say on social media, how they act, or what their interests/opinions are. It’s super incredible. At the same time though, it’s only half the story. Someone could be entirely different from how you expect them to be. Even if that is the case, I would still have to argue that we’re better off finding out more about people than we were before all this technology happened, especially with social media. U.S. Soccer has done a great job with their youtube channel to introduce/interview players and show their personalities through special videos that don’t just show highlights from the last match (although they have those too). Because of the youtube videos, instagram, twitter, tumblr, and other internet sources, I really fell in love with this team of individual athletes since I first started to pay attention to them in July 2011. There’s nothing I want more for them than to win the World Cup next year.

It’s evident that they want it too. The United States hasn’t won the World Cup since 1999 which made players like Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, and Julie Foudy household names. The route to the final in 2011 put this current group of players in the eye of the sports world, but they fell short. Next year a large majority of those same players will be playing in front of the world trying to achieve what all but one have yet to accomplish, winning a World Cup (Christie Rampone was the only current US player on that 1999 squad). Ever since the loss to Japan on penalties in 2011, these women have been training to make it back to the World Cup final and come out victorious. At this point though the 2015 Women’s World Cup may be the last for many players on the squad. This amazing group might not look a lot like they do now in 2019. Abby Wambach has spoke of retirement. Christie Rampone plans to retire after the tournament (she’ll be 40 when it’s over). Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, and Ali Krieger are already in their 30’s. Becky Sauerbrunn and Heather O’Reilly will be 30 before the World Cup begins June 6th. Megan Rapinoe turns 30 the day the final is scheduled to be played. Lauren Holiday, Kelley O’Hara, Amy Rodriguez, and Tobin Heath will also be in their 30’s by the time the next world cup comes around. All the players mentioned above were with the team in 2011. That’s a large chunk. With age, health and fitness issues can come into play. Not only that but players may even want to start families and pursue other opportunities. So for me, for other fans, and for this team, the time is now. It’s win the World Cup or bust.

Of course who knows, maybe in 2019 a lot of those players will be around, but I just have this feeling like that won’t be the case. They know 2015 is the year. They’ve been ranked as #1 in the world for quite awhile and the 2015 Women’s World Cup is the time to prove it. So last night when the final whistle blew, I could feel the good vibes flowing from the field, but it was only for momentary celebration. They made it. They’re going to Canada. They qualified, but there’s no way they’ll be satisfied until the World Cup trophy is in their grasp and gold medals hang from their necks.

(As a side note, if you didn’t pick it up by reading this, the USWNT plays in the championship of the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament tomorrow at 6 p.m. ET. It’ll be on Fox Sports 1 if you’re interested in watching. I promise they’re fun to watch.)

Right before kickoff of the USAvsMEX Semi-final match last night. Sorry for the iPhone quality.

Right before kickoff of the USAvsMEX Semi-final match last night. Sorry for the iPhone quality.

Sometimes I Doubt Your Commitment to Sparkle Motion

Warning: R-rated movie = R-rated blog post for some strong language.

Sometimes movies make us laugh. Sometimes they make us cry. Sometimes they make us feel like a total badass. And sometimes they give us an insane mind fuck and make us think about them for a while after. That’s exactly how I felt after I saw the movie Donnie Darko in the late summer right before my junior year of college.

I had this intense feeling of confusion after I watched it. I wasn’t even sure if I liked the movie or not. I sort of felt numb to the world too. It was so strange. After watching a movie that involves time travel though, maybe it wasn’t. A few hours and days later, I realized I did indeed like and then love the movie.

Donnie Darko was first released in 2001. It had limited box office success which may be attributed to the fact that it was released shortly after the 9/11 attacks. It gained popularity through a series of midnight showings that began in New York City and caused other theaters to follow suit. Once the DVD was released, you could say sales surpassed expectations.  A director’s cut of the film was also released 3 years later. If you look back on it from a 2014 perspective, the cast was pretty stellar as it included Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead character Donnie Darko, his sister Maggie Gyllenhaal who also played his sister in the film, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Jena Malone, Seth Rogen, and countless others who I’m sure you’d recognize from other film and television productions you’ve seen.

Believe me when I say this though, you will either love or hate this film. I really don’t think there’s an in between unless of course you’re a supernatural apocalyptic drama connoisseur. It’s an odd movie and if you do end up liking it, you’ll probably watch it a few more times trying to figure it out (I remember reading something after that compared Donnie to Jesus so see if you can make that connection). Hate it or love it, either way, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend watching it at some point in your life. Maybe you’ll end up like me, love it, decide to dress up as Donnie for Halloween (the skeleton suit, gray hoodie combo…I was awesome), and learn a few things from the movie along the way, such as:

1. Cellar Door is the most beautiful phrase in the English language.

2. Following and listening to a giant, scary talking bunny named Frank could lead to your demise.

3. The world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds.

4. It’s impossible to suck a fuck.

5. Smurfs are asexual.

6. You may not always get caught if you flood your school and commit an arson.

7. It’s worth telling people off who are full of shit because they are probably in the child porn business. (Jim Cunningham was “the fucking anti-Christ” and we all know it.)

8. The giant, scary talking bunny might just be a man in a costume with a bloody missing eye who is trying to help you save the world or face your fate, whichever perspective you want to take.

9. Gary Jules does a much better version of “Mad World” than Tears for Fears even if it was their song.

10. The more committed you are to Sparkle Motion the more likely you are to die in a plane crash. (Unless time travel somehow comes into play)

As you can tell, these are important life lessons. But on a serious note, if you’re looking for a movie to watch this Halloween season that isn’t necessarily scary and still relates to this time of year (the movie is set entirely in October up until Halloween), I recommend Donnie Darko. I mean you can probably combine it with The Rocky Horror Picture Show and truly have a science fiction double feature. It’s one of those movies that has different meaning for everyone and can spark a philosophical discussion. It’s worth it for the occasional comedic relief and even for being able to see some early work of these great actors. Most of all, it’s worth all the confusion and thoughts that you won’t be able to wrap your head around the first time you see it.  So I hope that when you do see Donnie Darko, you can breathe a sigh of relief, because there will be so much to look forward to.

Fall Playlist

So this week I was pretty stuck on what I should write about. I could have easily made a post about the USWNT and the CONCACAF qualifying tournament, but I feel like I’ve written too much about sports so far (I’ll probably still write about it at some point in the next 2 weeks though). There’s been nothing in TV or movies currently that has really peaked my interest. I didn’t feel like writing about one of the shows I’ve been watching for a while or a favorite movie. I wanted music, but no new bands struck me recently. Plus, I already have something planned to write in 2 weeks about a band I’ve loved for 10 years. Then yesterday as I was driving on what turned out to be a gloomy fall afternoon, just as most of the leaves on the trees have hit their peak to turn colors, I heard a song that fit this time of year so well.

It hit me at that moment. There are tons of songs that remind me of specific seasons including fall so why not make a playlist? Some songs may be totally irrelevant to fall. I most likely associate them with the season because I probably heard them for the first time during the fall and listened to them repetitively. Other songs just sound right to me for this time of year because they either have an eerie tone (that Halloween vibe) or they’re my ideal fall indie folk style music.

So here’s my playlist for you. It’s almost like I made you a mix tape without the whole giving you the actual music thing.

1. Asleep   -The Smiths

2. Coney Island   -Good Old War

3. Come As You Are   -Nirvana

4. So Much Trouble   -Matt Pond PA

5. Blackbird   -The Beatles

6. Mad World   -Gary Jules

7. Ships   -Lady Danville

8. Pretty Girl at the Airport   -The Avett Brothers

9. New Slang   -The Shins

10. Pale Blue Eyes   -The Velvet Underground

11. Follow Suit   -Trent Dabbs

12. The Cave   -Mumford & Sons

13. Freaks   -The Hawk in Paris

14. That’s Some Dream   -Good Old War

15. Gypsy   -Suzanne Vega

16. World Spins Madly On   -The Weepies

17. Skinny Love   -Bon Iver

18. Landslide   -Fleetwood Mac

If you’ve ever heard or know all or some of these songs, you can probably tell that this playlist doesn’t seem very upbeat. It’s not. Musically, to me, that’s how fall is represented. It’s always seemed like a sad time of the year to me because where I’m from, the days get colder, the night’s grow longer, and all the life that was once flourishing seems to be sucked out. The fall also reminds me of long drives to Pittsburgh. I’ve listened to a handful of songs on the playlist on those drives while passing elegant fall landscapes. The fall is Halloween and all things creepy. The fall is my favorite book which I read for the first time in early October as a high school junior. This is what fall is and what my fall playlist represents. So enjoy it. I highly encourage you to listen to these songs. Even more so, listen to them while taking a drive and being immersed in the season.

A Great Day for Hockey

When I was in 5th grade, a big change occurred in my hometown. It was the opening of a brand new arena that planned to bring new forms of entertainment to the area. One of those forms of entertainment was the addition of a minor league hockey team. I attended the first ever game for this team at the new arena. It was a big deal for the community at the time and little did I know, it was also a big deal for me. The new team started my interest in hockey and along the way made me into a hockey fan.

My family has had season tickets for this team for the last 14 years (it’s the team’s 16th season), but I really didn’t start getting too into it until about the 4th year or so that we had the tickets. Still, it’s been a long time. Long enough that I feel like I need a change when it comes to hockey, but that’s a whole different story. Anyway, the point is that this week is the start of both the NHL and AHL (the minor league that our local team is in) seasons. Tonight in particular is the start for the NHL. I most likely won’t be making blog posts every year for the start of hockey. Since I just started posting though, I figured there’s no better way to introduce my love as a fan for the sport.

So am I here to analyze all the NHL teams and give you a break down of how I think they’ll do? No. Not at all. If this was solely a hockey blog, I might do that. Instead I’ll let you know what I know about my favorite team and maybe throw in some things I’ve heard. My favorite NHL club is the Pittsburgh Penguins (our minor league team is affiliated with them so they became my favorite by default). Basically the story for Pittsburgh this season goes like this, new management, new coach, new staff, same core superstars, and a few new off-season additions. As a fan I’m hoping all this newness translates onto the ice. Hopefully it will be in the form of some changes in the style of play because in recent years it’s been effective during the season but not in the playoffs. In the past few years the Pens played a dump-and-chase style of hockey, meaning they would toss the puck into their offensive zone and try to win possession of the puck by engaging in puck battles. I’ve heard the style is effective if executed well, and it has been, but only at times. In the playoffs it seemed that the Pens played a much slower game than opponents using this style of play. As a result they haven’t made a Stanley Cup Final since 2009 when they actually won the holy grail of hockey (the dump-and-chase was effective then). I hope the new organizational changes translate to the minor league team as well. We’ll see what happens. So far I haven’t noticed many style changes at least from the minor league team perspective (I saw a pre-season game), but that could change.

As I got into hockey I started to notice some other teams/players that I took a liking to. One of those was the Chicago Blackhawks. It didn’t end up being a bad choice to like them either as the year I started paying attention to them they won a Stanley Cup (2010). It was their first since 1961. They also won another cup in 2013 and have been making the playoffs since the 08-09 season. In general though, the teams that I like other than the Pens tend to be more Western Conference teams (the Anaheim Ducks and the LA Kings are pretty fun to watch). That might be because as a Pens fan I dislike a lot of rivals from the East (the Philadelphia Flyers, the Washington Capitals). Either that or I’m just a big fan of the west (if you know me you’ll say this is the reason)?

Okay so 2014-2015 season here’s a little of what I’ve heard.

1. The Washington Capitals seem to be going through some organizational revitalization after many promising seasons with no championship results.

2. Look to the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers to do better than they have the past few years.

3. The Toronto Maple Leafs will still suck.

4. (Opinion) I expect something big out of the Minnesota Wild after the playoff run they put together last season.

5. (Opinion) I also expect the Flyers to be better than in the years since their Finals run in 2010. They might not make playoffs, but I expect them to at least push for a spot.

6. The NY Rangers will suck (okay I didn’t hear this, nor do I think it but I’m sure if I asked my friend Mike who is a Rangers fan this is what he’d tell me).

7. Expect good years from Chicago, LA, and Anaheim.

For now, that’s all I’ve got. If you know something I don’t about these teams or any other teams please let me know (comments please!). I like hockey and I definitely love to hear some hockey talk.

Finally I think I should at least do a Stanley Cup Finals/Champion pick just for the hell of it. Overall, I expect the Western Conference to reign superior once again. Their style of play seems way more fast paced and goal-scoring oriented than the Eastern Conference teams, but who knows maybe the Pens will put some sort of crazy run together so I can purchase another championship tee shirt.

Cup Final: Anaheim Ducks vs. Washington Capitals (Dream Final: Any team (okay maybe except the Hawks as I would feel conflicted) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins)

Champion: Anaheim Ducks (Dream Champion: Pittsburgh Penguins)

So good luck to all the pro hockey teams out there starting their seasons this week/tonight. According to “Badger” Bob Johnson, “It’s is a great day for hockey!” I agree. And so is tomorrow. Let’s go Pens!