I am not a huge concert person. I go to maybe one or two shows every other year. They're just not my scene. I hate the crowds. I hate how loud it gets and I especially hate when there's more than one opening act. Nobody wants to get to a concert only to listen to D quality sound and a sloppy stage set up for more than twenty minutes. Get out of here with opening acts.
However, when I do want to go to a concert, it's for a band that I absolutely cherish. Such as the Florence + The Machine show I went to earlier this year. That was a perfect performance and I wish every concert I attend from here on out is just a Florence show. I got to sit down, her one opening act (Of Monsters and Men) didn't last very long and killed their set. Plus the entire thing wrapped up by 10 o'clock.
So when Bastille released their second album entitled Wild World back in September, I kept an eye out for concert dates. I enjoy this band so much and Wild World is just as good, possibly better if I'm in the right mood, than their first album Bad Blood. So I told myself that I needed to make it a priority to see the British band if they ever made it over to Chicago*.
Then came this past Monday. I got an alert on my phone that Bastille had announced a Chicago show at the Aragon Ballroom for April 3rd, 2017. I was beyond excited. Immediately I added to my calendar the earliest date that I could buy tickets as a reminder so I wouldn't miss out. I figured I would buy two tickets and just worry about who to take by April - that maybe I would be dating someone by then who likes Bastille as much as I do or at the least can tolerate me enough to humor my weird obsession with this band.
But like I said, I don't go to many concerts. I've never been to the Aragon. Your favorite author of a book about being a neurotic mess avoids certain places that trigger his anxiety. Places like standing room only concert venues. Those places are anxiety breading grounds for someone pushing thirty and with bad knees. Once I saw that the show was my nightmare of standing room only, I bellowed out an audible "goddammit" in my office at the decision I had in front of me.
Should I see one of the few artists that I let into my rotation that I really haven't changed since 2011 in a cramped, eardrum shattering room where I'll probably have just one beer then have to hold in my pee out of fear I'll lose my decent view of the stage or just sit at home where I'm comfortable and search Live Bastille on Youtube?
The last time I went to a standing room only concert was in 2009. I was twenty-one and borrowed my roommate's early 90's Thunderbird. I drove through country roads on bald tires to a cornfield encircled town outside of Rockford. My eternally favorite band, Thrice, was playing at an obscure dive bar. I bought my ticket months in advance and was literally first in line outside so I could get a great spot right up front. Once I was in, I had to stand through three opening acts that I didn't know and couldn't care less about. Then Thrice finally came out and I went ballistic. I belted out every lyric and completely lost myself in the show. However, being a dumb twenty-one-year-old at the time, I didn't think to bring ear protection and ended up with a roaring case of tinnitus for four days. After that I figured my days of standing room only shows had wrapped itself up with 96 hours of ear splitting, high-pitched ringing.
With all of that taken into account, I am so sorry, Bastille and future girlfriend that I was hoping to bring to the show. I wanted to go. I really did. I wanted to sing Way Beyond as loud as my terrible singing voice would go. However, I think that I am officially too old for standing room only. At this age and this level of crustiness, I need a comfortable chair, ear plugs and twenty minutes of an opening act tops.
Can't wait for Florence to come back to town.
*They were here earlier this year for Lollapalooza but that doesn't count because I'm too crotchety for outdoor music festivals.
President Obama published an intriguing op-ed today*, exclusively with CNN on his desire to see NASA and the private sector work in tandem to send astronauts to Mars and back. While his proposal is outlined loosely, the president touched on what technologies are being developed that will allow astronauts to remain in space for an extended period of time. With a target of America becoming the first nation to traverse between Earth and Mars by the 2030s, President Obama has set a lofty goal in which I believe is not that crazy of an idea.
For what it's worth, I am forever a space exploration optimist, so perhaps my takes aren't grounded in measured detail like they should be, but it's my blog and I don't really give a damn. Let's go to Mars!
My initial thought when reading President Obama's post was about damn time. When the president retired the space shuttle program early into his tenure, I was disappointed. I was deeply worried that his campaign promises of putting more effort into science and technology along with introducing STEM careers to women and minorities was nothing more than pandering to silicon valley money. But the more I thought about it, the more his plan made sense. The idea of blasting a shuttle into low Earth orbit and going around the globe a few times doesn't really advance our understanding of the solar system and its contents. It sparks interest and public support, but honestly, It stalls planetary sciences tremendously and is incredibly wasteful. Instead, the time and resources devoted to the shuttle program would be allocated to exploring deeper, interplanetary space. More specifically, figuring out hot to conquer the fuck out of Mars.
So I've been waiting. Since 2011, when Atlantis docked for the final time, I've been waiting for any progress that'll help get us to Mars.
Slowly, they rolled in. Some of the more famous missions were Curiosity in 2012, Rosetta in 2014, New Horizons in 2015, ISS Year Long Mission in 2016. At the same time SpaceX and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos' private space enterprise Blue Origin made stunning advancements in reusable rockets that will one day bring explorers to and from the red planet. These have been monumental achievements in space exploration and have kept space enthusiasts more than happy. But we've still been waiting for a concrete plan.
Now getting to Mars is going to be incredibly dangerous. The first problem is that Mars' and Earth's orbits have to align in a way that will get the astronauts to the planet in the most efficient way possible. That means letting the Martian gravity to do the work which may bring the travel time to a factor of just under one year. Moreover, once the astronauts are safely on Mars, they'll will have to wait about 24 months for the orbits to align properly again to be able to come home. That is if we're even talking about a trip home unlike Elon Musk's initial plan. So that introduces a different problem.
Astronauts are going to be on Mars for a very long time - years in fact. How does one survive on a planet with an absence of a magnetic field to deflect harmful radiation, an average temperature of -67F, an atmospheric pressure of 1% of Earth's and, oh yeah, no air, water or food that grows in the ground?
Well, that's why the President is emphasizing support for STEM careers and the cooperation between NASA and the private sector. Because the problems with landing on Mars are not insignificant ones and need creative innovators to solve.
I know that sounds like political nonsense and that it glosses over vast and complex problems with life or death consequences. I get that. However, it's important to think about the challenges faced during the Apollo missions and how they were overcome. These challenges with life support, mass reduction and communication were monumental at the time but they were ultimately solved. Not only did these solutions get us to the moon and back, but that they lived on as spinoff technologies that crafted new industries. It's not improbable to think that it can be done again.
Writing a blog for CNN isn't exactly how I pictured the president announcing the plan to go to Mars. I pictured Obama on the same platform as JFK with a charismatic and empowering speech on America's spirt for exploration. But I'll take whatever I can get because I am so ready for us to get off this dumb planet. I love Earth, but we've trashed the living hell out of it and I think it's going to take something drastic to fix it. My hope is that landing on a new planet and experiencing nature in a whole new spectrum will get us to appreciate the world from which we were forged.
I feel incredibly optimistic that we'll get to Mars by the 2030s. It is beyond imperative that we go. To become a binary planet species would not only alter the course of human evolution, but it would perhaps put an end to climate change here on Earth. I believe this because we previewed the profound effect of leaving our planet once before.
On Christmas Eve, 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission, a photograph of Earth was taken that altered the way people thought about our home. This picture was gifted to us and, for the first time, showed humanity how blue and how beautiful we truly were. It suddenly gave us an appreciation for the Earth and the diversity amongst its inhabitants. It reminded us how incredibly vulnerable life on our planet was and how in such a short evolutionary span, our species temporarily left it. This photograph transformed the way people thought about the planet and our role in protecting it. So much so that it would only take one short year for the National Environmental Policy Act to be enacted by congress.
The journey to Mars will not be without tragedy. It will be filled with failures and gargantuan setbacks. We will question if this is worth our focus but the drive to explore is so deeply engrained in our species that we will eventually get there. I am undoubtedly with the president on this. We can not afford not to go. Mars will save us.
*This is probably just a coincidence about President Obama dropping this on a Tuesday, but here's a fun fact. The seven days of the week are named after the seven celestial bodies believed to all be planets by the ancient Romans and inspired by Hellenistic astrology.
Sunday (Helios/Sol) Monday (Selene/Moon) Tuesday (Ares/Mars) Wednesday (Hermes/Mercury) Thursday (Zeus/Jupiter) Friday (Aphrodite/Venus) Saturday (Kronos/Saturn)
As a diehard Florence and the Machine fan, I'm pretty embarrassed that Wish That You Were Here was available for download back in August and I'm just now getting to it in October. That's a big mistake on my part and won't happen again. However the movie, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, was released over the weekend and most people are just now hearing the song too. So I'll forgive myself.
I first heard Wish That You Were Here while driving back to my apartment from the grocery store. I was stuck in weird headspace that morning. That's because a dancing homeless man flicked me off and a commercial brainwashed me into buying pancake mix at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday. Receiving an unprovoked middle finger that early in the morning and cruising the isles of Jewel when maybe 75% of the shoppers are still drunk can put you in a funk. So when I heard Florence's new song, it allowed me to slip out of that headspace and into an even stranger place - the place you go when a song conjures up vivid memories of a past relationship.
When I got home, I immediately downloaded it and blasted it on repeat - completely forgetting about being the middle finger to my face and the fact that I wasn't still in bed like a normal person. The great thing about this song is that it doesn't feel like it belongs to a movie soundtrack. That's because soundtracks are always terrible and shouldn't count as music. They're ads that are brimming with a nauseating amount of tackiness and branding. For God's sake the new Justin Timberlake song is literally called CAN'T STOP THE FEELING! (From DreamWorks Animation's "Trolls"). Kill me.
Wish That You Were Here actually sounds like a Florence and the Machine song. So much so that I was completely befuddled (that's definitely a word people still use) when I first heard it. I honestly thought she pulled a Beyoncé and dropped a secret album over night. There's actual substance in the lyrics and passion in her voice. This is enormously better than the mailed in soundtracks other artists usually dump on us. Is this the first time that a title track is way better than the actual movie it's from? I feel that she could slip this track into Ceremonials somewhere between Breaking Down and Lover to Lover and it would still flow perfectly.
Which brings me to a rather important side note, which is a hot take that I've been making for a few years now...
Ceremonials is one of the top 10 greatest albums of all time. It's unequivocally flawless and I will die on this hill defending it. To me, an album needs to have great flow. If its tracks are scattered randomly throughout the album, the whole thing will sound horrendous and be completely jarring. Just go back and listen to your mixtapes from junior high if you don't believe me. It needs to be able to transition from song to song smoothly and effortlessly. Not only does Ceremonials execute its transitions perfectly, but it combines lyrical brilliance with Florence's celestial voice into a generational masterpiece. If you're not convinced, listen to just one track, All This and Heaven Too, and tell me that it doesn't completely change your life.
I write the words I'm too uncomfortable to say.