Sara Shepherd

Coachella Band Preview: St. Vincent

February is finally almost over. It seems like winter tends to drag on because life moves slower. It does for me at least. There are less shows, barely any festivals, and the snow sucks. Thankfully, Coachella and the rest of festival season is inching closer and closer. This week to prep for the Coachella Valley’s finest I’m previewing an artist who goes by the name of St. Vincent.

Anne “Annie” Erin Clark, better known to the world as St. Vincent, began her music career as a member of the choral rock band the Polyphonic Spree, after attending the Berklee College of Music for 3 years. Before starting her own group in 2006, she was a member of Sufjan Stevens touring band too. During her childhood, Clark began playing guitar at the age of 12 and was a roadie for her aunt and uncle, jazz duo Tuck & Patti. She got her stage name of St. Vincent from a lyric in Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ song “There She Goes, My Beautiful World”.

In 2007, St. Vincent released her debut album Marry Me. After extensive touring for the album over that year, Clark began her second album in 2008. The album, Actor, was then released on May 5, 2009. It was more well received than her debut as it peaked at 90 on the Billboard 200 Chart as well as 9 on the Independent Albums Chart and 5 on the Tastemaker Albums Chart.

Strange Mercy, St. Vincent’s third album, was released on September 13, 2011 receiving tons of critical acclaim and peaking at 19 on the Billboard 200. Clark toured worldwide through 2012 then it was back to the studio to work on her next album. In 2012 she also released a collaborative album with with former Talking Heads lead guitarist and vocalist and fellow Coachella 2018 performer David Byrne.

Her fourth album, St. Vincent, was released in February of 2014. A few months prior she announced a world tour in 2014 and released two singles in anticipation of the self-titled album. Again the album was well received and ranked highly in multiple publications. The album earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album which she subsequently won. Her touring for the album continued into 2015.

Her most recent album to date, Masseduction, was released on October 13, 2017. It was Clark’s first album to peak in the top 10 of Billboard’s 200 Chart upon release. It reached the 10 spot. It also sold close to 30,000 copies in the first week of its release with 25,000 of those being traditional album sales.

St. Vincent has a very unique music style. You may classify it as indie rock, but the sound often uses complex arrangements and an array of instruments. Sometimes it sounds pretty wild and almost like music in the background of a horror movie. It’s music in a true artistic form and complemented by lyrics that often diverge into madness. Clark’s voice is that of a former choir girl and adds beauty to the mixture of sound.

I first heard of St. Vincent while reading one of the Pretty Little Liars novels. In the book, it mentioned one of the girls on a drive listening to St. Vincent’s “Actor Out of Work” and singing it at the top of her lungs. I decided to listen to the song after reading that part of the book since I had never listened to St. Vincent before then. I really liked it and decided to download it. Since then I had only downloaded “Digital Witness” after hearing it in 2014. I never really got into Clark’s music as a whole, but for some reason, I began listening to the singles released for her most recent album “New York” and “Los Ageless” over the summer. At the end of November, I worked one of her shows on her “Fear the Future” Tour. I was also able to listen in on some of her VIP  Q & A and stay for most of the show after I finished work. I always appreciate a Q & A because I feel like you get to learn a bit about band or artist. This was no exception. I developed an appreciation for St. Vincent and Annie Clark. Not to mention, I had recently purchased Masseduction. The show was overcrowded though. I couldn’t see much from where I was standing and I ended up leaving a little over halfway through to make it home. I did enjoy it though and would love to see her again if I had the opportunity.

Coachella would be the perfect opportunity if I was attending this year. She would definitely be on my must-see list for Friday. She’s listed as a highly billed act this year so I would expect a late afternoon-evening set. If you’ve never seen her or listened to her music before, it’s pretty artistic. I think that element alone can make people curious to hear her and/or see her live. She also has plenty of visuals during her performance that add to the artistic nature of her music. To get you prepped for her third Coachella performance here’s a few staples you should check out:

  1. Digital Witness
  2. Cruel
  3. New York
  4. Masseduction
  5. Actor Out of Work
  6. Marry Me
  7. Cheerleader
  8. Birth in Reverse
  9. Los Ageless
  10. Surgeon

 

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A is Everywhere: An Ode to Pretty Little Liars

7 years. 20 days. That’s how long the television show, Pretty Little Liars, which airs its 2 hour series finale tonight at 8 p.m. ET will have been on the air for. I wrote about “PLL” once before, but it didn’t seem right to let today slip away without saying a proper goodbye to a show that has been a part of my life for over the last 6 years.

I watched Pretty Little Liars for the last 6 years and 3 months. In that time my life has changed tremendously. In a way, I like to think that PLL brought about some of that change. Truly it did though. It brought initial exposure to situations I needed to see to help me accept myself and for that I am eternally grateful. It goes beyond that too. I’m thankful for Pretty Little Liars for a lot of reasons and at this point it’s necessary to share them.

So here goes to the show full of secrets and lies:

Thanks for the laughs. Thanks for the headshakes. Thanks for the eyerolls. Thanks for the screams. Thanks for the scares. Thanks for the shocks. Thanks for the excitement. Thanks for the feels. Thanks for the smiles. Thanks for the crazy. Thanks for the madness. Thanks for pushing boundaries. Thanks for the music. Thanks for the nights spent watching with my two friends and the pizza orders, snacks, Hefty Hanna cookies, “Do you have a fork?”, and numerous other laughs and memories. Thanks for the pumpkin decoration idea. Thanks for the days spent trying to figure out the mystery of A’s identity and who killed who. Thanks to Warner Brothers for housing the show and Rosewood for existing during my first trip to California so I could see where all the magic happened. Thanks to Marlene for your creativity and to the rest of the producers, writers, and directors for making this show possible. Thanks to Troian, Shay, Ashley, Lucy, Sasha, Janel, Ian, Tyler, Keegan, Laura, Holly, Chad, Lesley, Nolan, Nia, Lindsey, Tammin, Andrea, Torrey, Drew, Brendan, Cody, Brant, and all the other stars and guest stars of this show for telling this story so well, for introducing me to cool things along the way like LCD Soundsystem, alt-J, Suits, tumblr, Amoeba Records, Crumbs, “Crave You”, Spring Breakers, Dimepiece, All Saints and the Virginia Beer Company to name a few, and for sharing a small part of your lives along the way. Thanks to the rest of the crew for doing all the small things to make one big incredible thing. Thanks for crazy story lines and hilarious one-liners. Thanks for the memorable scenes. Thanks for the tweets and being a social media game-changer. Thanks for the Season 1 binge watch. Thanks for the Halloween costume. Thanks for the coffee mug and key chain. Thanks for never wearing winter coats except in that one Christmas episode. Speaking of, thanks for the Christmas episode, the Halloween episodes, and the Noir episode. They were all special ones. Thanks for making Toby A so we were able to have the moment where Owen was proud of himself for calling it the first time he watched the show. Thanks for the hashtags. Thanks for the drama. Thanks for creepy Cousin Nate. Thanks for “Bitch can see!”. Thanks for “This next song goes out to Hanna from your best friend A! “I Don’t Need You Anymore””, or something like that (still my favorite moment of the show)? Thanks for the ships like Spoby, Haleb, Ezria, Paily, Emaya, Emison (Emily’s really had the most), and most importantly SPARIA! Also most importantly thanks to Sara Shepherd for your creativity, for your books, and bringing this world of a small town on the Philadelphia Main Line to life. Thanks Spencer Hastings, Hanna Marin, Aria Montgomery, and Emily Fields for being the OG liars through thick and thin from Seasons 1-7. Thanks to Alison DiLaurentis for dying, but not really. And finally, thanks to A and everyone who was A (and A.D.!) because without you none of this craziness would exist even though you’re all creepy stalkers. Most of all thanks for being my favorite TV show for the last 6 years and 3 months.

To quote Spencer, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” That’s what tonight will be for me, but it’s undoubtedly time to move on for everyone. Yet I know many people out there, fans, cast, crew, and creators alike will always hold a piece of Rosewood in their hearts, me included and we all know that regardless of the show ending, A is everywhere. Goodbye Pretty Little Liars. Thank you for everything.

 

Two Can Keep A Secret If One of Them is Dead

In the television world, every once in a while there’s a show that has a greater impact on its viewers than the rest of programs on TV. I guess if you’re a fan of any TV show you could probably make a case for that to be true. That being said, I might be a little biased here but the numbers and TV ratings don’t lie. Since its pilot episode 4 1/2 years ago, Pretty Little Liars has continued to change the television game.

The show is based off a book series by Sara Shepherd, set in the fictitious Philadelphia mainline suburb, Rosewood, which tells the story of four best friends, Spencer (played on the show by Troian Bellisario), Aria (Lucy Hale), Hanna (Ashley Benson), and Emily (Shay Mitchell), who get stalked, bullied, and tortured through a series of mysterious text messages and notes from an anonymous person who refers to him or herself as “A”. Of course the girls started to receive the messages after the body of their other best friend, Alison, who was missing for a year was found buried in her own backyard. Sounds like an interesting plot line right? Well it only gets better from there. This show is filled with more than just secrets and lies as it confronts the topics of sexuality, adultery, mental illness, drugs and alcohol to name a few. Pretty Little Liars, or “PLL” as referred to by some (myself included), pushed these risky topics over the last 4 years and almost 5 full seasons since it debuted in June of 2010. It most likely won’t stop either as the show has already been picked up for two more seasons making it ABC Family’s longest running original series.

While touring the Warner Brothers lot in September 2013, I caught some of the outside sets.

While touring the Warner Brothers lot in September 2013, I caught some of the outside sets.

I began watching the show one late afternoon in March 2011 while I was flicking channels on the TV for something to watch. A Pretty Little Liars marathon happened to be airing that day in preparation for the first season finale later that evening. It caught my eye and reeled me in shortly after. I ended up watching about 4-5 episodes to the point where I was dying to watch the season finale at 8 p.m. that night. The season premiere of Dancing with the Stars also aired at 8 that night and my plan before any of this happened was to watch that (yeah I watch Dancing with the Stars…thanks mom). Luckily I saw the finale aired again at 10 and was able to watch it then. I didn’t realize it at the time but watching Pretty Little Liars was a complete game changer in my life for multiple reasons.

That same evening of the finale it was announced that the second season of the show would be premiering in early June and I did everything in my power until the premiere to watch the entire first season of the show. The first season wasn’t available on DVD yet so I ended up purchasing the first 6 episodes on my Playstation. I planned to eventually buy the first season on DVD so purchasing all the episodes was entirely unnecessary. That’s when I was finally able to find some internet site that had the episodes available to watch. So watch them I did. It was also my last semester of college and I used to reward myself for studying/doing schoolwork by watching episodes. I couldn’t always binge straight through either because the website I watched them on would make you take a half hour break or so before it allowed you to watch another 90 minutes or something like that (I forget the exact amount of break and watch time now as you can tell). It was a pain but still it allowed me to get caught up on Season 1.

During those 2-3 months until the premiere I also convinced my very close family friend, Sarah (aka Beans) to get into the show. She had friends who watched it but never gave it a chance until I explained how good it was and showed her the first few episodes. She got into it too. We planned on watching the premiere together/getting together every week to watch Pretty Little Liars. Thus, PLL nights were born. Towards the end of that summer (mid-season of season 2) I invited our mutual friend Owen to join us in watching the show since we hung out a lot on Tuesdays and always had to take him home before Pretty Little Liars (he never watched it until then). That night he became a mainstay in our PLL nights and we’ve been getting together to watch the show ever since.

Another outside set on the WB lot.

Another outside set on the WB lot.

Pretty Little Liars has had a huge impact on my life and the lives of many others. It’s nothing short of amazing as it’s continually referenced as the most tweeted about show on television. With an average audience of over 2.5 million viewers, it’s easy to see why. The season two finale which promised a reveal of the true identity of “A” grossed around 3.69 million viewers and generated around 645,000 tweets at a peak rate of 32,000 tweets per minute (we lost it when the first “A” was revealed). The dedicated fan base consists of mostly girls and women between the ages of 12-34. To pull in this crowd, there are many romantic moments and relationships (the ships…Ezria forever) and an emphasis on fashion despite the plot focus on the mystery surrounding the death of Alison and the stalker “A”.

As Pretty Little Liars gets set to begin the second half of its 5th season this evening its audience can only be set to expect more mind-blowing plot twists, steamy moments between the show’s most loved couples, and maybe a final reveal of this “A” character who was thought to be revealed several times before (but probably not as there will be at least two more seasons of this creeper’s antics). You really never know what can happen on Pretty Little Liars. Two things about the show are for sure though. The first is that Pretty Little Liars’ cultural impact through digital and social media and the risky issues it wasn’t afraid to cover will be remembered by its viewers for years to come (not to mention it will be remembered by all the fun nights I shared watching it with my two favorites) and the second is that “A” is everywhere.

The famous PLL pink golf cart. (Bitches is censored)

The famous PLL pink golf cart. (Bitches is censored)

(FYI if you were wondering where those numbers came from:

Bibel, Sara (March 20, 2012). “Monday Cable Ratings: ‘WWE RAW,’ ‘Pretty Little Liars’ Top Night + ‘American Chopper,’ ‘Basketball Wives,’ ‘Lost Girl’ & More”. TV by the Numbers. Retrieved March 20, 2012.

http://www.thefutoncritic.com/ratings/2012/03/20/abc-familys-pretty-little-liars-finale-generates-the-most-social-media-buzz-in-television-history-networks-number-1-telecast-ever-in-women-18-34-144411/20120320abcfamily01/ )