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Wednesday, March 15, 2023

More Blog Updates: Music + Travel

Every couple years I check back in here on the old blog and share what I've been doing.

These days, I'm still in Seattle, blogging and freelance writing for a living.

I've revived my old music site, Total Music Awards, which focuses on the Grammy Awards and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Check out my Rock & Roll Hall of Fame predictions, and my extensive list of music award shows.

Back on the travel blog, recent posts include 85 tourist activities in Mexico City, the Crazy Horse monument in South Dakota, the 23 best road trips from Seattle, and visiting wild polar bears and Churchill, Manitoba.

Concerts on my itinerary for 2023 include Beyonce, Caroline Polachek, Duran Duran, and Shania Twain. Woohoo!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

New music blog posts on QTG

Checking back in here with an update on my writing and blogging endeavors. These days, almost all of my efforts are focused on the travel blog, Quirky Travel Guy, which is now my full-time job.

I've published several music-related posts over there that are worth sharing:

-How to visit Graceland for free
-Visiting Freddie Mercury's Birth House in Zanzibar
-50 photos from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
-The Jimi Hendrix statue in Seattle
-RCA Studio B in Nashville
-Sun Studio in Memphis
-The Best Road Trip Songs
-Review of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles

In terms of concerts, the best shows I've seen recently include Father John Misty, the 1975, and Amanda Palmer, all in my current home of Seattle. I am super excited to see Elton John this fall for the first time!

Happy travels!

And check out my guide to Isle Royale National Park!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The annual life and writing update

Checking in with updates on my concert life and my freelance writing career. Last fall, I attended several great shows in Chicago, notably Sigur Ros and Stevie Nicks with the Pretenders. I also saw Kishi Bashi, who is a very underrated performer.

For the first time in 10 years - since before I started this blog - I no longer cover music for any outlet. I dropped my freelance position with axs.com to focus solely on my own niche websites. Writing for AXS was a nice gig, and I got to attend the 2016 Grammy Awards as a member of the press, something I will always consider a great career achievement.

I recently sold one of my biggest websites, so now I'm focusing on a few new ones. My latest is Broomball Universe, which covers the niche sport of broomball (amateur hockey in tennis shoes on ice.)

I'll be in Pittsburgh for a few weeks this summer and hopefully will get to attend some Arts Fest shows.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Weird Al Yankovic interviews posted here for archival purposes

For a brief time before I started freelancing for professional outlets, I covered music for examiner.com. The site is closing down this week, so here I'm copying the text of my two interview posts with Weird Al Yankovic so they do not get lost.

This interview took place in May 2011 just before he released the Alpocalypse album.

“Weird Al” Yankovic has been recording hit parodies for more than 30 years now, becoming the highest-selling musical comedy artist in history. He’s about to release his 13th album, “Alpocalypse,” which features the Lady Gaga spoof “Perform This Way.”
Yankovic will be performing in Waukegan, Illinois this Saturday at the Genesee Theatre and in St. Charles, Illinois on May 31 at the Arcada Theatre. His live show is a multimedia extravaganza with enough costume changes to rival Cher.
I spoke with “Weird Al” earlier this week. On Wednesday, I posted part 1 of the chat. Now for the rest of the discussion …
Hi, Al. I know you’ve started your new tour. How have the first few shows gone?
The first few shows are going really well. We had some server difficulties. We have a computer server that runs the films and the track for our drummer to keep everything in sync, so if that goes awry, it’s a real big problem for the show. But today we’re starting with a brand new server, so we should be pretty bulletproof from here on out.
Are you playing a lot of new material from your new album?
We are. It’s not the full-on Alpocalypse Tour quite yet, because I want to save some surprises for when the album’s actually released. We’re obviously playing “Perform This Way” and we’re playing several of the “Internet Leaks” tracks like “CNR,” “Craigslist” and “Skipper Dan.” And the polka medley, “Polka Face.”
“Perform This Way” is electropop, which is kind of a different genre for you. Did you record that song with your band, or was it all done electronically?
Well, my band did it, but here’s the thing, there’s no “real instruments” (laughs). My drummer had presequenced all his stuff in his home studio. My guitar player did all the synth tracks at home, so they walked in the first day of recording and both presented me with a DVD with digital files on it and said, “Here you go!” And then I just sang for a couple days.
It’s getting to the point where a lot of pop music … you don’t put up a drum set, you don’t tweak your guitar amp. It’s all done with keyboards and computers.
When might we expect to see the “Perform This Way” music video?
It’s going to be out about the same time as the album. We shot it last weekend. I just finished doing the offline edits and now it’s in post. I don’t want to give away what we’re doing, but it is a fairly post-heavy video. We’re gonna be working on post for about four weeks. The record label will have it in their hands on June 15 -- that’s the deadline we were given.
We know the story behind the Lady Gaga mix-up. I’m curious: How often do you actually reach the original performer for consent, versus going through their people?
More often than not, it is going through their people because I don’t happen to have Lady Gaga’s phone number, for example. And usually that’s not an issue. If we ever have a problem, then I will make every effort to contact the artist directly, but that’s not always possible.
You tweeted about the Lonely Island recently. What do you think of those guys and does their success sort of help you and the whole genre in general?
I think they’re extremely funny and they’re great at what they do. Their videos are amazing. I think that their success only makes comedy in music more accepted on the radio and in the zeitgeist, and I look at it all as a very positive thing, so I wish those guys all the best.
You had to cut short your vacation to record the Gaga parody. Do you find it a challenge to balance family and work?
It always is. I’m certainly not unique in this. Thankfully now, with Skype, I can look at them every night and talk to them over the computer, which I understand is not the same thing as being there in person, but we do what we can to stay close.
My wife and I have a deal where we try not to go more than two weeks without seeing each other. She’ll pick spots on the road to fly out with our daughter and have a little bit of quality time. It’s not ideal, but touring is an important part of what I do and we try to adjust where we can.
Your daughter is 8 now. Is it time for her to put out a single, like Willow and Jaden?
(Laughs) She’d better get on that! She’s slacking!
Your last album gave you your first Top 10 album & single of your career. Do you have any specific milestones left you’d like to achieve?
Oh, I’m sure I could make up some (laughs). I’ve done pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I guess there’s a few things I haven’t gotten around to yet. Maybe at some point I’ll do something on Broadway. I did my own movie a couple decades ago (“UHF”) and it was a cult favorite but it wasn’t what you’d call a blockbuster hit, so I’d like to have another shot at that and do it right.
I think my dream job would be to be a voice in a Pixar movie. That would be a personal achievement for me. Other than that, I’ve had a pretty blessed life and career so far and I’m very happy.
“Weird Al” Yankovic will be performing in Waukegan, Illinois on May 28 at the Genesee Theatre and in St. Charles, Illinois on May 31 at the Arcada Theatre.

PART 1, posted a few days earlier:
Weird Al" Yankovic will be performing in Waukegan, Illinois this Saturday at the Genesee Theatre and in St. Charles, Illinois on May 31 at the Arcada Theatre. I spoke with Al by phone to discuss these shows and his current concert tour. I'll be posting that interview in the next day or two (Click the Subscribe button above to receive an email when the interview publishes!) In the meantime, here are some excerpts regarding his new album.
"Weird Al" Yankovic has a new album coming out in June called "Alpocalypse," featuring the much-discussed Lady Gaga parody "Perform This Way." Now, he's opening up about some of the other parodies on the record, which include spoofs of Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus.
Though the 51-year-old prince of pop parody generally prefers to keep a lid on his songs until they're released, he did open up (a little) about some of the new tracks.
"Weird Al" Takes On Taylor Swift
I asked Al if "TMZ," a parody of Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me," is an attack on the paparazzi culture.
"Well, it’s certainly about TMZ, the website and the tv show," he said. "I don’t want to give away too much... Like a lot of my songs, it’s a gray area in terms of its viewpoint. I think once you listen to the song, you won’t really be able to tell if I’m siding more with the paparazzi or siding more with the celebrities.
"It’s a little like 'Don’t Download This Song.' People listened to that and weren’t sure whether I was on the side of the RIAA or the downloaders, so it’s up to you to make up your own mind on that."
"Weird Al" Yankovic's Miley Cyrus Parody
"Alpocalypse" also features a track called "Party in the CIA," a send-up of the insanely-catchy Miley Cyrus hit "Party in the USA." Yankovic parodied Miley's dad Billy Ray back in 1993, with "Achy Breaky Song," a takeoff on the country smash "Achy Breaky Heart."
Does this mark the first time "Weird Al" has parodied both a father and his daughter?
"That may very well be," he says with a laugh. "That particular song ('Party in the USA') was extremely popular and the video got something like 150 million hits on YouTube. And that song’s having a bit of a resurgence now with recent events, so I guess the song is a bit topical, although that was nothing that I anticipated."
Don't expect to hear Al yelping his parody in Miley's high register.
"My vocal range isn’t as high as Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus. So we have had to change the key of some of these songs just so I can sing in a comfortable range, which is something I prefer not to do, because I try to make my recording sound as close to the original as possible."
Taylor Hanson Helps Al Sound Like Hanson
"Weird Al" fans are familiar with the singer's "style parodies," which are original compositions done in the style of a particular artist. Yankovic said he invited Taylor Hanson to play on one track because it's a Hanson style parody:
"He plays keyboards on a song called 'If That Isn’t Love.' It’s an original song, but when I wrote the song, I was trying to give it a Hanson vibe. So when it came time to record it, I thought, who better to play keyboards on it than Taylor Hanson?"
Stay tuned for more of the "Weird Al" Yankovic Interview
Yankovic also talked about when you can expect to see the music video for "Perform This Way," whether he sees himself in competition with artists like The Lonely Island, and his remaining career goals (another UHF movie?) Those details will be posted in the full interview, coming in a few days

Friday, May 15, 2015

Latest summer concert and personal updates

The 2015 Three Rivers Arts Fest is now only a month away, and I'm super excited that I'll be in Pittsburgh for part of it to catch some of the great music. Here's who I'm most looking forward to seeing:

Hurray for the Riff Raff (right): I love, love, love this band! I published a feature on them on AXS last summer. They had one of last year's best albums with their folky debut and they perform on June 9.

Benjamin Booker: This guy opened for Jack White last year and was every bit as loud and raucous and intense as the headliner. He's one of rock music's fastest-rising guitarists. Don't miss the boat - check out his Arts Fest performance on June 14.

Neko Case: See Neko on June 13 to check out her solo performance, which will hopefully include a lot of great tracks from last year's acclaimed album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.

As for me personally, I'm still hanging out in Chicago, and this summer might be my most exciting concert lineup yet. I've already secured tickets to see U2, Billy Joel, and the Rolling Stones! Also on the slate are a Weird Al concert and a free Weezer gig in the park. Good times.

I'm still adding websites to my online empire. Right now we're at about a dozen sites, including a brand new one focusing on pet toys called Doggie Fetch. I still have my Chicago Camping resource, plus my Seattle freelance writer site and my yoga products site, which just added a page on the best yoga blocks and another on yoga towels.

I hope to see you at the 2015 Arts Fest!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Concert and personal updates

The 2014 Pittsburgh 3 Rivers Arts Fest lineup looks pretty solid. You can't go wrong with Jeff Tweedy, Amos Lee, and the Kaiser Chiefs. I’m especially excited about the weekend of June 14-15, when Lucinda Williams and Jake Bugg play on consecutive nights. I’ll be back in the Burgh that weekend and hope to check out both shows.

I've been a big Bugg fan since last year, when I discovered his Buddy Holly soundalike "Lightning Bolt." This kid has potential. And I've always wanted to see Lucinda but haven't had the chance yet.

And the personal update for anyone interested - my online empire continues to expand, as I’ve now created websites for Boston Camping. In addition, I started a yoga mat buyers guide called Yogauthority and Total Music Awards, where I write about where to buy replica Oscar and Emmy statues.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summery concert stuff and latest updates

A few updates for the summer...

I'll be attending Lollapalooza once again. This year I'm most excited to see Tegan & Sara, the Postal Service, Band of Horses, Emeli Sande, Lianne La Havas, Cat Power and Matt & Kim. I'm a little disappointed by how many retreads are on the lineup, bands coming back for a third or fourth Lolla appearance. Also disappointed by how many unknown bands are at the bottom of the lineup, but I suppose that means I have some research to do.

I'm also shocked at how poorly Lolla did in terms of snagging buzzy indie acts. Look at Bumbershoot in Seattle. That's a much smaller festival, but they have much cooler acts, like Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, Icona Pop, MGMT, Deerhunter, the Breeders, and !!!,  not to mention the '80s awesomeness of Heart.

My favorite albums from 2013 so far are: Kveikur by Sigur Ros; We the Common by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down; and Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, which is pure genius. The electronic wizards threw everyone for a loop by recording an album with live musicians and few computerized effects.

It looks as though I'll also be attending the Dawson City Music Festival, a remote music festival way out in the Yukon, Canada. I'm heading to the Yukon as a guest of their tourism board for my travel site Quirky Travel Guy, so I'll get to experience a festival hundreds of miles from anywhere. I don't recognize any of the names on the lineup aside from Bonnie Prince Billy, but I'm sure it will be a great time.

Friday, December 14, 2012

More music updates from around the web

I'm popping in again to point to some music news and info on my other projects around the web.

My new site Total Music Awards is starting to step into high gear with predictions for the 2013 Grammy Awards, as well as a Grammy Awards winners archive that, very soon, will list every winner and nominee in the 54-year history of the Grammys. It's an epic undertaking and it's going to be amazing. Head over there and follow TMA on Facebook and Twitter!

My Top 10 albums of 2012 are almost exclusively indie rock this year, topped by Leonard Cohen's Old Ideas, Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, and my #1 pick, Bat for Lashes' The Haunted Man. See my full Top 10 alongside the lists of the other writers on Diffuser.

My favorite songs of 2012, which I haven't yet published anywhere, include Of Monsters and Men's "Little Talks," Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars with "Safe & Sound," Bat for Lashes' "Laura," Frank Ocean's "Thinkin Bout You," Ed Sheeran's "The A Team," and Chiddy Bang's "Mind Your Manners."

Oh, and completely randomly, I've created a new website about campgrounds near Chicago. By the spring, it will be the #1 resource for finding a place to go tent camping around the greater Chicago area, which can be difficult since there's not a lot of forest in the area. Here's to diversifying my online portfolio!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pittsburgh's 3 Rivers Arts Fest Lineup for 2012 is Solid!

I just caught the lineup for the 2012 3 Rivers Arts Fest in Pittsburgh, and it's a very good one. Kathleen Edwards, the Wailers, and Bruce Hornsby are solid scores.

There's not as much indie rock as I'd prefer, but Dawes on June 5 is a nice addition. And there's a bluegrass day! Bluegrass is perhaps the most underrated genre of music.

Of course, all the shows are free, so you can't go wrong. Here's the lineup so far courtesy of the PG, with additional acts to come:

June 1: The Wailers
June 2: Kathleen Edwards
June 3: The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
June 5: Dawes
June 8: Carolina Chocolate Drops
June 9: Bluegrass Day with the Del McCoury Band, Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band and Greensky Bluegrass
June 10: Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers

In other unrelated news, I'm continuing to build up my new site Total Music Awards, which is currently focusing on the Billboard Music Awards. I've also started a site dedicated to Chicago camping, which could come in handy for those heading to Lollapalooza!