Family Christmas card 2018

BK Bulletin – December 2018: Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! Just wanted to share some year-end notes and share some things I’m looking forward to in 2019…and some other odds and ends.

Support me in the 2019 Eagles Autism Challenge

 

Sorry to start this email out with a fundraising plea, but this is time-sensitive. Beginning today, Wednesday, December 19, the Eagles – thanks to the generosity of The Kelly Family (see graphic below) – will match, dollar for dollar, the first $15,000 in online donations raised by participants such as myself. So if you support my 5K run in the 2019 Eagles Autism Challenge with a small donation now, it will be doubled for greater impact.

Donate Now!

Eagles Autism Challenge - Kelly Family Match

Donate Now!

Visit to Morris Arboretum

Morris Arboretum

Earlier this month, we reserved free tickets from our local library and made the trip to Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. While it’s obviously not the season for flora, the grounds are still interesting with sculptures and trees, etc. The big draw these days is the Holiday Gardens Railway, which can be seen in a couple of the pictures above and below.


My Ensoniq ESQ-1 Lives!

I recently reset my keyboard setup in our basement after it was moved around a bit as the result of some flooding a few months ago. In doing so, I decided to try to turn on my Ensoniq ESQ-1 synthesizer, which was the first pro-level keyboard I ever purchased back in 1987. The last time I did this a few years ago, the display showed a “low internal battery” message and went dark. But this time, after showing the “low battery” prompt, it took me to the screen showing the sound patch options and I was able to hear it again for the first time in about 20 years! Some keys don’t work, but there’s a place in North Jersey that specializes in vintage synth repairs so, someday, I may bring it there for a battery replacement and keyboard repair. But the fact that I now know for sure that it’s salvageable made me so happy.

Here’s a short video taken minutes after I realized the ESQ-1 still works.

And here is a photo of my keyboard rig, which consists mostly of instruments purchased between 1987 and 1989 (the only exception is the Alesis QS-6.1 in the foreground, which was purchased around 2004 or so). The ESQ-1 is at bottom left. (And, yes, they’ve gathered a bit of dust over the years.)


Remembering a Rider legend…and a reunion, of sorts

Longtime Rider University journalism professor, Willard E. Lally, passed away in November at the age of 96. I attended Rider long after Lally’s retirement in 1985, but his influence and presence within the department and at The Rider News, where I served as news editor (1995-96) and executive editor (1996-97), are still felt even today. As part of The Rider News legacy, I felt I should attend a memorial service held on campus December 15, and I’m glad I did. First of all, it was great to see some of my former professors for the first time in ages. Second of all, it is always great to hear the stories of so many journalism students who came before me.

After the service, there was a luncheon in one of the academic buildings, where I was reunited with the Frederick L. Ferris Award (see photo above), which is named after the “father” of Rider’s journalism program (Prof. Lally replaced Prof. Ferris) and awarded to the graduating senior for their accomplishments in the journalism program over their four years at Rider. I won it in 1997, even though I transferred after graduating from Ocean County College and only spent two years at Rider.

The Ferris Award used to sit in a display case in a hallway near the journalism faculty offices (and likely still does), but I had not seen it in years and it was nice to hold it again. And that’s when I realized something…21 years after winning it, I noticed my last name is spelled wrong. As it turned out, there was another former Ferris Award winner in the room that day who had the same problem. Of course, I complained about it, but it was mostly for comedic effect.

So, yeah, look at 1997…my last name is missing the second “e” before the “y”.

The cool thing was, because there were so many former Ferris Award winners in the room, including its first-ever recipient, Stuart Gellman ’57 (more on him later), and the most recent recipient, that all of us there gathered around the trophy, which somehow I wound up holding, for an epic and historic Rider journalism department photo. It was really an honor to be included in that. I’m not sure when or if I’ll see that photo online, but I’ll be sure to grab it when I do and share it in one of these updates.

OK, back to Stuart Gellman. I had communicated with him back in 2000, when I was working at Rider. Two of my former professors asked me to help them track down Rider News alumni for a homecoming event celebrating the newspaper’s 70th anniversary. I found Stuart in Arizona and talked to him, but he was unable to attend. He did, however, send a letter that I read at the event (I wound up serving as moderator for a panel of former Rider News editors). The following year, in early or mid 2001, Stuart was visiting campus with his son. He stopped by my workspace and introduced me to his son by saying “he writes for The Washington Post.” Of course, I didn’t realize at the time he was THIS BARTON GELLMAN!

Just a few months later, Barton Gellman became a household name (for those of us who follow journalists, anyway) for his reporting on 9/11. He later went on to report on the false intelligence regarding WMDs in Iraq, Dick Cheney (which turned into a book) and NSA overreach (he oversaw The Washington Post’scoverage after the newspaper received documents from Edward Snowden), winning multiple Pulitzer Awards for individual and group reporting for The Washington Post.

Even last week, when I re-introduced myself to Stuart after so many years, he remembered bringing his son to campus and, again, he just said “he was a reporter for The Washington Post.”

I left it at that.

Oh, one more story from this day. One of the Ferris Award winners not present was the late Herb Wolfe, who went on to be the president and CEO of Showboat Atlantic City. He is always listed as a ’64 grad, but I discovered years later when I was working at Rider and preparing to interview him that he left Rider a few credits short of a degree and that he was actually taking courses at the time – about 40 years later – to complete his degree requirements. But the university considered him an alumnus, most likely because he was a great success story and a benefactor. Anyway, he was the editor of The Rider News for the 1963-64 academic year, which meant he was overseeing production of the newspaper on Friday, November 22, 1963. Despite the grief and despair brought on by the assassination of President Kennedy, Wolfe rallied his staff to produce the paper as scheduled so it could be printed over the weekend and delivered on campus the following Monday, November 25. The bound volume of newspapers including this issue was also on hand so I took this photo…

Anyone see what’s missing on this front page…and in the rest of the paper (trust me, it’s not there)?

Yep, they were so focused on assembling the issue they had planned before Kennedy had been assassinated during its production, that they didn’t think to include any coverage of the assassination in the newspaper itself.

Amazingly, there is a photo in the Rider archives showing Dr. Lally critiquing this front page with Wolfe, but doesn’t mention this fact. And you really can’t see the date in the photo. When I interviewed Wolfe for a Rider University magazine feature 18 years ago, he let the cat out of the bag. I can’t remember his exact words, but he said to me, “This photo shows Professor Lally saying to me, ‘Herb, it’s great that you got the paper out, but you should have probably included something about Kennedy.'”

That particular photo accompanied the article I wrote, but I can’t seem to find that magazine among my archives. If I find it, I will post it somewhere. It’s a classic when you know the whole story behind it.


WXPN Best of 2018

Below is my contribution to WXPN’s Best of 2018 list. While most of what I listen to is popular on WXPN, there is still quite a bit that escapes even their attention. Young Gun Silver Fox’s first album from a couple of years ago got played a bit, but the station ignored their superior 2018 release, which was a shame. And even though I discovered the band Field Music through WXPN’s Indie Music Hit Parade on a Friday night in 2016, they have just never made it into regular rotation. In fact, that may have been the only time Field Music has ever been played on WXPN. But I loved the band because they sound like Talking Heads, XTC, Peter Gabriel/classic Genesis and Prince (yes, Prince…who posted then deleted a tweet approving of their song “The Noisy Days are Over” a few weeks before his death) all rolled up into one. So I doubt they’ll make the list, but I still wanted to acknowledge those acts as the Best of 2018.


China Crisis in Asbury Park

China Crisis

A very underrated and overlooked band from the 1980s is China Crisis. I first became aware of them when “Arizona Sky” from their 1986 album What Price Paradise received a bit of airplay on MTV. Oddly enough, when I first heard that song, a big attraction to me was that I felt they sounded like if Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had grown up in late 1970s/early 80s Liverpool. It wasn’t until much later that I learned CC’s Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon were, in fact, huge Steely Dan fans and that Becker had produced their previous album, 1985’s Flaunt the Imperfection, and was considered an official member of the band at that time.

To this day, I find myself humming “Arizona Sky” at random parts of the day.

Anyway, China Crisis just wrapped up a small tour of North America, which included a stop at Asbury Park, NJ’s The Saint on Sunday, December 9, that I attended (they also played at Randy Now’s Man Cave, a tiny record store/novelty shop just 15 minutes away from me in Bordentown, NJ, which I didn’t know about until after the fact). Below is a not-so-great video of China Crisis performing “Tragedy and Mystery” at The Saint. The person who took and posted the video added a somewhat offensive “death metal” intro to it and, for some reason, thought we would want to see periodic shots of him instead of the band. But it’s a taste of what I saw at The Saint. I configured the link to hopefully bypass the disturbing intro part, but I’ve found those configured links only work some of the time so who knows? Also, I think the guy who shot this video is the same one wrongly singing Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” when the band briefly goes into Chic’s classic “Good Times” during the bridge.

And here is the song that launched my China Crisis fandom in the late 1980s, “Arizona Sky.”


“Christmas Must Be Tonight”

My friend Christian Beach recorded this cover of The Band’s “Christmas Must Be Tonight” for a holiday compilation CD in 2009. It’s one of our favorites to listen to this time of the year.


“It’s Christmas Time Again” (Live, 2014)

So I shared my Christmas song last month. This month, I’m presenting this live version from a performance at the 2014 GSP Holiday Party. The video isn’t great and the audio was really weak, as were my vocals, so I added the audio from a rehearsal recording into the mix.


2019 Scheduled Races

I have already lined up my key races for 2019. They include another marathon, which will be my fourth (2 New Jersey Marathons, 2 Philadelphia Marathons), and my return to the Olympic-distance Atlantic City Triathlon (1-mile swim, 22-mile bike ride, 10K run). I did the Tri AC in 2014 and finished in 3:04:34, but that year’s edition included just a 20-mile bike ride and 5-mile run (although some that year believe they low-key added about a 1/4 mile to the swim portion).

New Jersey Marathon
Sunday, April 28, 2019

Broad Street Run
Sunday, May 5, 2019

Eagles Autism Challenge 5K
Saturday, May 18, 2019

Atlantic City Triathlon (Olympic distance)
Saturday, August 10, 2019

Philadelphia Half Marathon
Saturday, November 23, 2019

I am also interested in doing the Crest Best 10-Miler on October 13, but registration isn’t open for that yet. The same is true for the Broad Street Run on May 5, but by signing up for the Philadelphia Half Marathon using the “Philadelphia Challenge” option, I will be emailed a special registration link for a guaranteed spot in the Broad Street Run.

Of course, now that I’m also doing the Eagles Autism Challenge 5K on May 18, that means I’m doing two running events in the three weeks following the New Jersey Marathon. That should be interesting for my legs. So much for recovery time!

Other than these, there may be another 5K or two added to the race calendar. Barring any conflicts, I would like to do the WXPN Musicians On Call 5K in Philly in early October. I missed it this year because it was the same day as the inaugural Crest Best 10-Miler, which I opted to do instead. However, I think they will be a week apart in 2019.

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Just like that, race season is here

So…since Facebook is a trash fire platform run by a trash fire of a human being, I deleted my old account back in June (and Twitter is hanging on by a thread). I do still have a profile there through a secondary account I set up years ago in an aborted attempt to use that one to manage my podcast pages. But it basically exists solely to interact with other pages that handle things like sign-ups and notifications only through Facebook. I don’t plan to return to posting there at all.

Therefore, I have returned to posting here and on my long-dormant Tumblr account for sharing links, musings and other things, like weather updates. So feel free to check that out every now and then to see what I’m up to. 

Upcoming Races

This has been a weird year for me. I don’t usually do too many races during the spring and summer months. But for the past few years, I’ve taken part in Philly’s 10-mile Broad Street Run in May and a 5K held at my alma mater, Rider University, in June.

This year, however, I wasn’t able to run Broad Street because of an all-day, all-hands-on-deck work commitment — even though my job was eliminated through a reorganization about a month later (yeah…more on that later). And the Rider University 5K didn’t happen either.

Even worse, my favorite annual race, the Trenton Half-Marathon — a race I’d done every year since 2014 (after doing the event’s 10K component in 2013) — that was supposed to take place in late October or early November was canceled earlier this year.

Basically, I haven’t taken part in an organized race since last November’s Philadelphia Marathon. Now, I have been training (running, cycling and swimming) for a good chunk of the past nine months, but it just seems odd not having any events to prepare for during that time.

But now, the events I have been training for are suddenly just weeks away. First up, is the Hightstown (N.J.) Triathlon on September 9. I’ve done this sprint triathlon every year since 2014 (it was my first triathlon) because it takes place about 20 minutes away from where we live.

Next is the inaugural Crest Best 10-Miler in Wildwood Crest, N.J., on October 7. This new race is presented by the awesome Wildwood-based DelMo Sports (who oversee a bunch of events in South Jersey, including the Atlantic City Triathlon I did in 2014…and hope to do again next year) and I’m really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, that conflicts with yet another race I usually do, but won’t be able to do this year — WXPN’s Musicians on Call 5K.

Finally, I’m returning to the Philadelphia Marathon for a second year in a row. I finished in 4 hours, 51 minutes, 22 seconds IN 2017. I’m shooting for between 4:30:00 and 4:40:00 this time out.

Cough Wars: The Recycling Strikes Back

Of course, with all these races now within a few turns of the calendar, I seriously messed up by back a couple of weeks ago. Not during training, of course. But by being taken by surprise by a violent coughing attack as I was bending awkwardly to pick up a piece of wayward recycling while taking it out to the curb one morning.

Ugh! I have never been in so much pain in my life (and that includes slamming my shoulder into the back of a Chevy Suburban during a bike ride in 1986). What’s not helping is that I’ve been trying to train through it. In fact, a few hours after it happened, I went out for a triathlon brick training session that included an 11-mile bike ride and a planned 5K-distance run that I had to cut back to a mile because I just couldn’t handle the pain. Shortly after that, I drove out to a local swim school to do a little more than a half-mile in the pool.

The next day I tried to go out for a 5-mile run, but struggled just to get through four.

Even worse is that it has led to an apparently related leg issue that crops up when I’m sitting. It seems when I put pressure on my left lower back/butt, it leads to pain in my thigh.

I’m mostly OK when I’m standing, though. I even managed to get through my first 10-mile run since January a few days ago. The only thing that’s really bothering me on my runs right now is the lingering cough that sneaks up on me.

So, yeah, training has not been ideal for the past two weeks. Hoping things are better by this weekend.

Looking for Work

So, as I alluded to earlier, I’m no longer working at George Street Playhouse. I was let go in early June as part of a reorganization that eliminated my position. They are in the process of streamlining operations ahead of the move into the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center next summer. Honestly, I had been trying to find something closer to home anyway. Despite how it ended, I’ll have mostly great memories of my four seasons there.

Cruisin’ 

The big news is that we’ll be going on a Disney Cruise while school is out in early November. I have never been on a cruise before and not sure what to expect. It will be the first time on a plane (our cruise originates from Port Canaveral) with our boys, as well. That’s kind of making us a bit nervous, especially since Benjamin doesn’t like to be contained for long periods of time. Hopefully, we can work it out so that he’s sleepy for both the departing and return flights. But the vacation is a gift and we are very grateful for it. Our boys will definitely enjoy it.

Music Moments

Although nothing much became of the musical aspirations I had as a teenager, this year does mark the 30th anniversary of what I consider the first real song I ever wrote, “Time Takes Over.” I recently documented the full story behind the song, and added vocals and some other light instrumentation to the original instrumental demo I recorded to cassette back in October 1988, which you can listen to here:

I’ve also dipped my foot back in the songwriter’s pool recently with some creations I consider “sketches” to use in possible future works. The most recent of these was something I did completely in GarageBand on my iPhone and is more or less a complete song, from a structure standpoint. I’ve been listening to The War on Drugs a bit recently and I’ve become rather obsessed with how their songs really don’t do much structurally, but tend to stick to a groove and just build/add or subtract elements to create atmospheric ebb and flow patterns. Here’s an untitled project I recently recorded using this approach. Again, this was more of an experiment in structure, so the patterns and melodies here are essentially placeholders…but I still kind of like it as a starting point.

I haven’t been to many concerts this year. Alison and I saw my favorite current band, Lo Moon, in March. I had seen them in November 2017 on my own and then saw them again at WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival in late July, so I’ve already seen them three times. I really love their sound…lead singer/band leader Matt Lowell is very much influenced by the greatly under-appreciated Mark Hollis of Talk Talk. Matt is also a huge fan of The War on Drugs (with a couple of members of that band appearing on Lo Moon’s self-titled debut album) so that’s why I have become a little more interested in TWOD recently.

Also, keep your eyes and ears open for emerging soul/R&B singer-songwriter Devon Gilfillian. He played the Marina Stage on Day 3 of this year’s XPoNential Music Festival, just before Lo Moon were to hit the River Stage. I didn’t plan to watch his set, but I went over to take some photos (which came out terrible). And it wound up taking a lot of effort on my part to tear myself away to get over in time for a good spot for Lo Moon. Devon was far and away my vote for biggest surprise of the entire festival — and he’s also caught the attention of Rolling Stone. Great band, great performer, great set. The Philly-area native who now calls Nashville home has one EP out and is working on his first full-length album in Los Angeles. Here he is performing his latest song, “Troublemaker,” at the XPoNential Music Festival:

In June, I had the awesome and rare opportunity to catch music legend Midge Ure (Ultravox, Rich Kids, Visage, Slik, Thin Lizzy and — nearly — Sex Pistols) perform an intimate acoustic set in the tiny room at Randy Now’s Man Cave in Bordentown, N.J. You might not know the name, but Midge Ure has been Bob Geldof’s right-hand man with all matters associated with Band Aid and Live Aid over the decades. In fact, Midge wrote and produced “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (Geldof gave him a snippet of a discarded Boomtown Rats song at the beginning of the writing process, but has said in at least one interview years later that it’s really Midge’s song) — a song with which he’s had a love-hate relationship over the years, but he seems to have come around to embracing it more recently. Here’s the first part of an amazing documentary, narrated by Midge, about the making of that historic record.

I will be seeing Simple Minds at The Basie in Red Bank, N.J., in late September, which is going to be incredibly awesome.

Anyway, here are photos of me with Midge Ure and Lo Moon to close out this update.

My Year in Running: 2017

Just wanted to end 2017 with a quick look back at my running achievements during the past year.

654315_254682350_XLargeMy most important running milestones in 2017, of course, were running in the first two marathons of my life — first, the New Jersey Marathon on April 30 and, then, the Philadelphia Marathon on November 19.

Although I was thrilled to finish my first 26.2-mile race, I was generally disappointed in my marathon debut at the Jersey Shore.

On top of that disappointment, I had to prepare for the 10-mile Broad Street Run the following weekend. Two days after the New Jersey Marathon, I went for a 5-mile workday run during lunch and began experiencing excruciating pain in my right knee at about mile 3. I stretched it out a bit and was able to continue, but it kept on happening during my runs that week.

I tried to doing some things to mitigate the knee issue (ice, stretching, massaging, etc.) and had to resign myself to the fact that I may — for the first time — be unable to finish a race.

But — wearing a knee brace not at all suited for running (because it was all I had at the time) — and fighting through some discomfort the final five miles, I wound up finishing the Broad Street Run in a personal-record 1:27:03.

After the Broad Street Run, I took a three-week break from running to get my knee right again. I would have taken more time off, but had to tune up for a 5K held at my alma mater, Rider University, each June to benefit women’s athletics. Even with my knee issues and the heat that day, I managed to complete that in a respectable 25:02.24.

The next race I did was one that I wasn’t sure I would do until about a month before the event, and that was the Hightstown (N.J.) Triathlon, a sprint-distance tri held each year not too far from where I live. Amazingly, even though I didn’t do any open-water swim training and squeezed in only two or three training rides on the bike, I still finished 76th overall in the event with a personal-best time of 1:21:21. Somehow, despite the 1/4-mile swim and 11.2-mile bike ride preceding it, I ran what was likely one of my top-10 5K times to set that PR with a time of 25:49 during the run portion.

At that point, I turned my attention to training for the Philadelphia Marathon, with the lone exception being one last short race — the WXPN Musicians On Call 5K in early October. Even though the course may have been short by a bit, I finished that race in 23:39.69 — and then got to stay for the ever-popular post-race 80s dance party!

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Crossing the finish line

Then it was back to the Philly Marathon. Sadly, I was only able to get in two really long-distance training runs — a 16-miler and an 18-miler — leading up to the race. But I had done a lot of pacing work on my shorter runs and felt ready to vindicate myself from the disappointing marathon debut in April. I just wanted to finish in less than five hours.

And despite wet, brisk conditions and ridiculous, swirling 40+ mph wind gusts, I managed to do just that, finishing in 4:51:22.

So that was my year in running. Oddly, except for the Hightstown Triathlon (the event I made a last-minute decision to do each of the last two years), I don’t have any events lined up yet for 2018. But I’ll be running somewhere. Just trying to figure out what races to do.

Happy New Year!

Artist to Watch: Passion Pit

Passion Pit

Passion Pit

As someone who uses Pandora as a tool for new music discovery and listens to WXPN, the great radio station operating out of Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania, and to the emerging artist channels on XM Radio, I sometimes hear a band I like and think to myself, “You know, I wish I blogged about them sooner. Now they’re everywhere.”

But then I realize the artist isn’t everywhere…just everywhere I go for new music. So even though “those in the know” are raving about a certain artist, when I bring that artist up in a conversation about music, I’m always stunned to hear that most of the people I’m talking to have no knowledge of said artist.

So while I may be late to the party among those who pay close attention to the music industry, that shouldn’t stop me from writing about certain artists. After all, if my blog post connects just a few more people to a deserving artist, it’s worth the time to write it.

For instance, in this piece — my first “artist to watch” post in ages, I’m going to take a look at Passion Pit, an electronic group out of Cambridge, Mass., fronted by songwriter Michael Angelakos. Their first full-length CD, “Manners,” was released back in May, but there was buzz about the band after the ecstatic reception to their 2008 EP, “Chunk of Change.”

Passion Pit also has an interesting “from out of nowhere” back-story. “Chunk of Change” actually began as a four-song CD that Angelakos — who was attending Emerson College at the time — made for his then-girlfriend as a Valentine’s Day gift. The CD, however, wound up becoming quite popular on the Emerson campus and soon Angelakos was getting attention from record labels and promoters.

That resulted in the formation of Passion Pit (which currently consists of Angelakos, Ian Hultquist, Ayad Al Adhamy, Jeff Apruzzese and Nate Donmoyer) and the production of the “Chunk of Change” EP, which included the original four songs on the Valentine’s Day CD plus the tracks “Sleepyhead” and “Better Things.” Additional exposure for Passion Pit came from the use of “Sleepyhead” in a Canadian commercial for Sony’s PSP game system and spots for MTV’s “What the Flip?” promotion.

Passion Pit was named one of the top bands at the 2008 CMJ Music Marathon in New York and placed ninth in BBC’s Sound of 2009 list of emerging music acts. The band was also XPN’s Artist to Watch in June 2009.

Built upon electro-pop bass grooves and punchy synth-based hooks, the tracks on “Manners” draw from a number of musical influences. One can clearly hear touches of Brian Wilson/Beach Boys (“Let Your Love Grow Tall” and “Seaweed Song”), early Prince (“Eyes as Candles”) and even U2 (“Moth’s Wings”). For a taste of “Manners,” check out the video for “The Reeling” (my favorite track from the CD) below.

But Angelakos and Co. manage to incorporate those various influences into a cohesive collection of songs on “Manners” that makes for a enjoyable listen throughout. The one issue I have with “Manners” is the sequencing. While the first track, “Make Light” is a decent enough song, it isn’t quite successful as an album opener. If I hadn’t already heard many of the tracks that were to follow, I’m not sure “Make Light” would have drawn me into the rest of the CD on its own.

But if you like intelligent electronic pop music suitable for dancing or just driving around, pick up a copy of “Manners” by Passion Pit.

More information: Passion Pit on MySpace


Passion Pit – The Reeling

A look at New Jersey’s summer music festival scene

2008 XPoNential Music Festival

2008 XPoNential Music Festival

Summer is around the corner and that means it’s almost time to enjoy multi-day music festivals here in the northeastern United States, especially here in New Jersey.

The biggest summer music festival in these parts is All Points West, which returns to Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J., from Friday, July 31, through Sunday, August 2, 2009. The second-annual APW festival features 65 artists on three stages, including the Beastie Boys, Vampire Weekend, Tool, Neko Case, the Ting Tings, MGMT, Echo & The Bunnymen, and Coldplay. A lot of great acts will be there (although I’m not a fan of Coldplay at all), but APW is very pricey. Three-day tickets for APW cost $199 + applicable fees (for a limited time, so that rate will go higher as the date gets closer) and single-day passes are $89 plus fees (again, for a limited time). However, I did read on the APW web site that tickets can be purchased in installments. Not sure if that was the case last year, but that is a nice option if you really want to go.

For the third consecutive year, I plan on attending WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival at Wiggins Park on the waterfront in Camden, N.J. This year’s XPN festival takes place Friday, July 24, through Sunday, July 26, and features headlining acts like They Might Be Giants, Aimee Mann, Peter Bjorn & John, Robert Cray, Shemekia Copeland, Guster, and Steve Forbert on the main River Stage. In addition, many local and up-and-coming acts like Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles, Hoots & Hellmouth, John Gorka, and Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby will be showcased on the Marina Stage.

And because WXPN is the home to the weeknight kids program, Kids Corner, there is also a Kids Corner stage away from the main festival area that will include family-friendly acts like Skip Dennenberg and Miss Amy on the Saturday and Sunday of the event.

What’s especially nice about the XPN festival is that, if you buy your tickets before July 11, you get nearly three days of music for just $40. And if you are a member of the station (based at the University of Pennsylvania), the cost is just $30 for the three-day pass…PLUS, you get access to the ever-popular “members only” area where you can get free water, iced tea and lemonade AND meet the artists performing at the festival. After July 11, the three-day ticket prices go up to $40 for XPN members and $60 for the general public. Still a bargain for such a great music festival, but there is no reason not to buy your passes at the early-bird rate.

If you are more into the club-hopping type of festival, Asbury Park, N.J., offers the fourth-annual Wave Gathering Festival from June 19-21. Although the schedule and artists have not yet been announced for this year’s Wave Gathering Festival, last year’s event featured more than 180 artists at 23 venues throughout the city…so that should give you an idea of what to expect. The Wave Gathering Festival has been a big part of Asbury Park’s recent rebirth as both a city and a local music scene, and has featured the likes of Ingrid Michaelson, Ben Arnold, Val Emmich and Nicole Atkins & The Sea.

Three-day passes for the Wave Gathering Festival are also a very affordable $40.00, while single-day passes are $25. You may also purchase admission to individual shows at prices set by the venue (and many of those are typically just $5 or $10).

There are many other music festivals going on in New Jersey during the coming months, but these should be a good starting point before you go looking for others.

Valentine’s Day recap featuring Ben Folds, blurry pic police and temporary dining rooms

UPDATED 2/17/09 to include YouTube video…


Ben Folds performs “Fair” in Dallas, Texas, during an October 2008 performance (link).

Because Ben Folds was playing at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia last night, my girlfriend, Alison, and I basically celebrated Valentine’s Day on Friday night. We exchanged gifts, she made me dinner and I gave her flowers…you know…all that stuff.

But we had made reservations for an early evening dinner Saturday at Copper Bistro in the Northern Liberties section of Philly since it is close to where the Electric Factory is. We get to the front door of the restaurant and there is a greeter outside…and nobody in the restaurant. After asking if we had reservations, he informs us that a problem with the restaurant’s oven hood meant the place was full of smoke. However, the owner was good friends with the owner of a small art gallery across the street, so the Copper Bistro staff moved all the tables and chairs over to the gallery, which served as dining room for the night. It was very resourceful and it was nice to see area businesses working together, especially in these times.

And the food was pretty good overall. The desserts were a bit of a let down, but the coffee was good and that’s all that matters to me after a meal.

Anyway, after dinner, we headed to the Electric Factory. Now, I am not one of those people at concerts who are constantly taking pictures — mostly because my photos usually turn out awful. But I like to take a few just to post on the ol’ blog. You may notice, however, that there is no photo to go along with this blog entry. I will explain that in a bit.

Knowing that I have received some pretty serious pat-downs upon entering the Electric Factory, I gave Alison my camera and my Flip camcorder to put in the bottom of her purse. In the past, it always seemed that women breezed through the security check while I was getting scrutinized for the various contact lens solutions I always carry around with me. This time, it was different…they didn’t even touch me, but they were going through all the women’s bags. Fortunately, Alison got through without the staff confiscating either camera.

However, they must have confiscated a lot because an announcement was made just before the night’s opening act, Miniature Tigers, took the stage that told people where to pick up their cameras before leaving.

So I wasn’t even going to attempt to take out my digital camera or the Flip. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt if I attempted to get one or two pics of Ben with my Blackberry.

Ben Folds and his band — now a five-musician unit — hit the stage around 10 p.m. and opened with “Fair” (see video of October 2008 performance above) from the Ben Folds Five CD “Whatever and Ever Amen”…a song I love that I haven’t heard Ben play live in quite some time. About a minute into the song, I noticed that everybody around me had their camera out taking pictures, including a few who were using flashes. Because I know any pic I take with the Blackberry is going to be crappy without using the flash, I figured I would try to take the photo and try to blend in with the 50 people or so around me who are taking pictures.

I take the pic and almost immediately, an Electric Factory staff member comes up behind me and tells me to delete the photo and to put the phone away…and that I would be thrown out if caught taking another photo.

So that was the end of my picture taking. But what bothered me was that, for the remainder of the night, there were people in my immediate vicinity who were obviously raising their cameras up to take photos and video. BUT NOTHING WAS SAID TO THEM. And since the LCD screens on these cameras were so freakin’ noticeable, I could see these photos and videos were coming out 50 times better than the piece of crap blurry pic that existed on my Blackberry for about 15 seconds. AGAIN, NOTHING WAS SAID TO ANY OF THESE PEOPLE. I think the “camera police” guy busted me and, possibly, the guy to my left, and that was it.

Hopefully, I will eventually find these better pics somewhere on the Interwebs and I will, as Mike Doughty says, gank one to accompany this blog post.

OK…so now that my rant is over about that, how was the show?

First, Miniature Tigers opened with a pretty decent set. I had listened to a couple of their songs on their MySpace page to familiarize myself a bit with them and didn’t really like what I had heard. But they sound much better live. And, even though Miniature Tigers are apparently gaining popularity among the young folks (they will be at South By Southwest next month), I don’t think I’ll be jumping on the bandwagon any time soon…just not my cup of tea.

In between Miniature Tigers and Ben Folds, the all-female Gracenotes a cappella group from West Chester University performed two original songs and then a version of “Fred Jones, Part 2” from Ben’s “Rockin’ the Suburbs” CD, which the group recorded with Ben for an upcoming disc featuring 18 a cappella groups from various colleges, universities and high schools performing songs from both Ben’s solo catalog and those from the Ben Folds Five days.

And, like I said, Ben Folds and his four fellow musicians hit the stage around 10 p.m. and knocked it out of the freakin’ park. Aside from nearly getting tossed out for taking a blurry picture with my Blackberry, this may have been the best show I have seen Ben play…especially with a band. He did an incredible solo show a few years ago in Princeton, N.J., that I hold in high regard. But last night’s show may have topped it.

By my count, he played 26 songs that covered a lot of musical territory. I don’t remember the setlist in sequential order, although I am trying to find an accurate setlist on a couple of the Ben Folds-dedicated forums that are out there. In the meantime, I have put together this list of songs based on what CDs they appeared and which were from the Ben Folds Five days:

BEN FOLDS – WAY TO NORMAL ( 2008 )
Effington
Brainwascht
You Don’t Know Me
Hiroshima
Before Cologne/Cologne
Free Coffee
Kylie From Connecticut
Dr. Yang
Dr. Yang (from the “fake leak” version of the CD)
Bitch Went Nuts (from the “fake leak” version of the CD)
Way to Normal (from the “fake leak” version of the CD)

BEN FOLDS – SONGS FOR SILVERMAN (2005)
Bastard
Landed

BEN FOLDS – ROCKIN THE SUBURBS (2001)
Annie Waits
Zak and Sara
The Luckiest (which he dedicated to his wife…contradicting an article published online just two days earlier stating that his fourth marriage, to Fleur, had recently ended)
Not the Same

BEN FOLDS FIVE (in order I remembered what songs were performed):
Fair
Alice Childress (with a credit to WXPN for making it an early “hit” for BF5)
Eddie Walker
Army
Lullabye
Underground
Philosophy (including Misirilou and a bit of Theme from Dr. Pyser at the end)
Kate
Emaline

Any Ben Folds show that features “Army,” “Emaline,” “Philosophy,” “Underground” and “Alice Childress” are considered freakin’ sweet by default. “Fair” and “Kate” made it that much better.

UPDATE (1:47 p.m. ET/2-15-2009):

Here is a setlist, courtesy of thesuburbs.org.uk:

onstage 10:00 PM

1. Fair
2. Effington
3. Brainwascht
4. You Don’t Know Me
5. Annie Waits
6. Alice Childress
7. Way To Normal
8. Lovesick Diagnostician (fake Dr. Yang)
9. Dr. Yang
10. Hiroshima
11. Bastard
12. Landed
13. Free Coffee
14. Eddie Walker
15. Lullabye
16. Emaline
17. The Luckiest
18. Kylie From Connecticut
19. Army
20. Underground
21. Not The Same
22. Cologne
23. Bitch Went Nutz

encore:
24. Zak and Sara
25. Kate
26. Philosophy

offstage 12:05 AM