Hamilton.

I’ve never been a huge fan of American history. I had a hard time getting invested in it; it always seemed so dry compared to happenings across the pond. Of course, there were bits I liked, the revolution being one of them, but I always felt like everything just tapered off into cowboys eventually, and I found that supremely uninteresting.

Enter Alexander Hamilton. I have been listening to the cast recording of Hamilton: An American Musical pretty much nonstop for nearly a week. It is SO GOOD. That does not encapsulate how I feel about this play. I haven’t felt this way about a play in a long time. I haven’t felt this way about anything in a long time. I am consumed. Obsessed. It’s kind of nice actually.

If you are unaware, Hamilton is the story of Alexander Hamilton’s life, “the ten dollar founding father without a father,” as it were, inspired by the biography by Ron Chernow. It was written and composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who stars as Hamilton. The music is unreal: a beautiful fusion of hip hop, rap, and musical theater. It is everything I did not even know I wanted.

I have not seen this play, but the music is so visceral and alive I almost feel like I have. As the people of the present, I feel it is our duty to re-imagine the past. My mistake when it comes to American history, it seems, is that I wasn’t hearing the right stories. Dry facts are just that, dry. But a story: stories are interesting. Stories are compelling. Miranda takes Hamilton’s story and makes it absolutely fascinating. It is no small wonder that  he received a MacArthur Genius Grant. The writing and arrangement of Hamilton is nothing short of brilliant. The use of leitmotif is on point both lyrically and musically. It’s so artfully done. I want to rave about how perfect it is.

The cast of characters is a host of revolutionaries and founding fathers: Alexander Hamilton, of course, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, the infamous Aaron Burr. But also Hamilton’s wife Eliza Schuyler and her sister Angelica Schuyler, Marquis de Lafayette, John Laurens, and Hercules Mulligan, among others. There is this whole cast of characters I never knew much about, that they never really touched on in history class. I love it so much.

I also love how it turns history on its head. It allows you to look at it from a different point of view, with a more modern interpretation. Burr is a huge part of this play. In our history books, he’s seen as a villain, the man who shot Hamilton. But in the play, we get to imagine a bit of his side and see his potential regrets.

I have maybe listened to the full 46 tracks five or six times. It’s not enough. Even so, it’s on a loop in my head all day long. Also without fail the second act slays me. It’s no secret how the story ends: it’s history. Burr shoots Hamilton in a duel; Hamilton falls. But Miranda takes this snapshot of history and breaks your heart. I can’t hear It’s Quiet Uptown or Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story without crying. I am not just talking about a little sniffle: this is ugly sobbing, like clutching Neil’s shirt and wailing about how sad and beautiful this play is. It all just swells into this emotional moment; the music and lyrics call back to everything that comes before. It makes you think about the future and the past and your legacy and his legacy and the fruitlessness of everything and the importance of trying. It’s a lot. It really is a lot.

I would pretty much give up a limb at this point to see this play in real life. I can see the staging in my mind’s eye but I want to know what it really looks like, what choices the director and choreographers made. I want to see it really happening. I want to try to get tickets but man they are so expensive! Every single day I listen to this album I think it might be worth it to dip into my savings. I swear, if I lived in New York I would be in line every day trying to get in that lottery!

I find everything about this musical inspiring. The way it takes a topic I couldn’t imagine being adapted in this way and makes it so extraordinary. It must have taken an enormous amount of hard work. I am in awe of what Miranda and his cast and crew have accomplished. The play works so well it is uncanny. I know I am gushing. I don’t even know if this review is coherent. I just have a lot of feelings right now.

If you haven’t heard this soundtrack, do yourself a favor and LISTEN TO IT. It’s available on iTunes and Spotify. 10 out of 10, I would absolutely recommend. Also see the Hamilton website for more information or to stare longingly at ticket information, as I’ve been. It’s a pastime.

Until next time!
xx

EDIT: UPDATE! I BOUGHT TICKETS. I’M GOING IN APRIL. NO REGRETSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

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Seeing Conor Oberst

Ten years ago or so, when Bright Eyes was touring for I’m Wide Awake/Digital Ash, I was about thirteen and totally oblivious. I find this very unfair, looking back. The odds of me (as the person I was then) being in a place where I would have been receptive to the wonder of Bright Eyes were slim, had I discovered their existence. I didn’t know who I was or what I liked. Taste was a thing of the future, something I was still developing. I wish I could say I was a savvy teen, but I was most certainly not and my taste in music was inadequate to say the least. I didn’t have a cool older sibling or a friend that smoked cigarettes and listened to obscure rock music to take me under their wing. The timing did not work out for me. I didn’t get into Conor’s music until much, much later. And so it was that I found myself on Friday night, clutching the bar in the very front of the House of Blues, inches from the stage, hardly containing my excitement to see the man himself on his solo tour.

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Conor Oberst has a mysterious appeal for me. His moody, poignant music is the kind of stuff that gets my blood pumping: exciting, devastating poetry, just the right amounts of angry and sad, upbeat when it’s appropriate, slow and steady when necessary, all with that signature, unmistakable voice. I get it’s not for everyone, but it is definitely for me. I am perpetually sad that sixteen-year-old Jordan never found this stuff. She would have LOVED it. She would have been obsessed. The thing I like most about Conor’s work is that it makes me feel like a teenager again. His music makes me feel a frantic enthusiasm that’s difficult to rekindle these days. I like that feeling.

So when I was waiting in this rowdy crowd for a musician I found more legend than man, I was losing my mind with anticipation. It was great. It was a really great show. He played some new stuff. He played some old stuff. He played some solo stuff and some Bright Eyes stuff. I sang. I danced. I stared adoringly. It was so surreal to actually see him in person. I know I probably sound like a loon, but I’ve built him up into such a larger than life character in my head. His story from Omaha to now is a fascinating one; he was this boy genius, this amazing lyricist and musician at such a young age. When I think of all he’s achieved, it makes me want to weep. He started Bright Eyes when he was like fifteen and it’s been all uphill, musically, from there (with some personal dark patches). It was something else to actually see him performing, singing and playing that music I’ve learned to love so well. I think my favorite song that night was Lover I Don’t Have to Love. That was an unexpected surprise of awesomeness.

Would I see him again? Absolutely. I’m going to see Desaparecidos in August. I would still kill to see Bright Eyes. My friends assure me seeing Bright Eyes is a lot like seeing Conor playing solo except they might play more songs from Lifted, less solo stuff, and Mike Mogis would be there. All in all, that sounds pretty good to me.

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I managed to snag the setlist, which I’m pretty psyched about. It was an excellent night. Can’t wait to do it all again and soon.

Until next time!
xx

Review: Sufjan Stevens and Carrie & Lowell

Last Monday, I went to see Sufjan Stevens. It was an experience. We saw him at the historic Wang Theater, which was the ideal environment. It’s a gorgeous concert hall, all lovely carvings and gilded chandeliers. It seemed so appropriate for what he was playing. This was not a show to hoot and holler at. This was a respectful observation of a master at work. Neil, Mike, and I were up in the cheap seats, but I didn’t  much mind being in the balcony (the theater has a really excellent ceiling). That high up, I felt like I could absorb the performance as a whole.

It’s hard to describe the experience of seeing him live. It was like living inside his music. It would rise and swell in such a way that it felt like I was absorbing the notes straight into my pores and the music was just becoming a part of my bloodstream. It was a very intense concert going experience. There was very little audience participation. From what I could tell, no one was singing (unless you count me mouthing the words quietly to myself). For the most part, we all sat in a hush, spellbound and hypnotized by what was happening on stage, pausing only to clap and scream wildly in approval. For most of the show, I could scarcely breathe. My eyes kept welling with tears. Everything was just so incredibly moving; the music was so amazing and genuine. It touched my soul. I don’t know how else to describe it. Also, the use of light and projection was fantastic. I felt like I was in another world. It was one of the most intimate concerts I have ever attended.

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The Mountain Goats Live! and Beat the Champ Review

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I first got into the Mountain Goats because of some guy in my nonfiction workshop in college. I thought he was cute and I knew he liked the band. You put two and two together. The crush didn’t stick, but my admiration and affection for the Mountain Goats long has. So thanks cute guy in my nonfiction workshop! I appreciate the heads up!

On Tuesday (14 April), I went to see the Mountain Goats perform live at the House of Blues for the second time. They are very good live; John Darnielle has so much energy, playing hard and dancing about, getting quiet and sensitive on the piano or acoustic guitar. They do not disappoint. On this particular occasion, they were accompanied by a talented saxophonist/clarinetist(?), which really filled our their sound. The venue was packed with people, bodies thick in a throng. There were these guys in front of us, large, burly men who crashed their way up front. I was prepared to be annoyed with them all night, but they were in such genuine raptures over the band playing, I couldn’t help but grin at them all night. Imagine, these very large men, just flipping out over the Mountain Goats. It was precious.

Of all the musicians I’ve ever seen (which is no small number), Darnielle seems the most delighted that people have actually showed up to listen to his set and furthermore that said people actually know the lyrics and are singing along (sometimes violently so). His beaming gratitude is very endearing. Despite my best efforts, I still didn’t recognize all the songs on the set list. They have such a long discography! I find I am able to always find new things to enjoy in them, which is nice. Clearly, I need to give Transcendental Youth a closer listen.

The band just released a new record called Beat the Champ, a concept album about professional wrestling. I know. That sounds super weird. I also thought like you when I first heard about it, BUT you have to trust me when I tell you this is an excellent album and worth listening to. The album is honest in a way you wouldn’t expect. The album is less about the gimmicks of wrestling and more about the personal lives of the wrestlers. One song is about John’s admiration as a child for real-life wrestler Chavo Guerrero. With John detailing the rise of the wrestler and what he personally meant to a kid in need of justice:

“He was my hero back when I was a kid/You let me down but Chavo never once did/You called him names to try to get beneath my skin/Now your ashes are scattered on the wind” (The Legend of Chavo Guerrero, Beat the Champ).

The album is an intimate listen, detailing moments of despair, gore, pain, and fear. The song Heel Turn 2 talks about the conflict in knowing you ought to take the high road, but wanting to save yourself:
“Get stomped like a snake/Lie down in the dirt/Cling to my convictions/Even when I get hurt/Be an upstanding well-loved man about town/In your child’s mind that’s how it goes down/But I tried/The losing side/I don’t want to die in here/I don’t want to die in here” (Heel Turn 2, Beat the Champ).

It goes into the sheer violence professionals face, the bloodlust involved in that kind of life:

“March through the red mist, never get my vision clear/Learn to love this kind of atmosphere/Strike funny poses, keep my weapon hand low/Whip my head around a little, get blood on the front row/Gonna jab you in the eye with a foreign object” (Foreign Object, Beat the Champ).

It also documents fleeting moments of sweetness and strength:

“That was when we were young and green/In the dawning hours of our team/Some things you will remember/Some things stay sweet forever” (Animal Mask, Beat the Champ).

“All gone, all gone/Watching it go up out front on the lawn/Stay on my feet somehow/I’m strong now/Stuck there, no air” (Luna, Beat the Champ).

The album is upbeat, some songs strong and driving, others sweet and tender. It’s a personal and compelling album. I would say, even if you have zero interest in professional wrestling you can get something from this album. Darnielle is just a hell of a good songwriter. Some of those lyrics are so good I could weep. The best way to gauge if you’ll like the album is to give it a listen. Go ahead! Do it. I doubt you will regret it. If you like other Mountain Goats albums, you will like this one.

Until next time!
xx

Late Night Fright, Watsky, & Updates

It’s the middle of the night and I’m in my childhood home and everyone is asleep. I can hear my parents snoring (not so softly I might add) through the thin walls. It’s the soundtrack to bedtime that I’ve listened to most of my life. It might be the reason why I can’t fall asleep without a little white noise. But then, out of nowhere, my dog starts barking like a crazy. He is an old man who can’t really get around anymore. We have to lift him onto the bed so he can sleep with my parents, but regardless of his impediment this evening he launches himself off the bed with a thud and runs out to the back door barking all the while. He kept sniffing and barking, like he was tracking something (he is a beagle after all). Meanwhile, I’m trying to shush him and keep him quite because my mum needs to work at five am. Eventually he calmed himself and I put him back to bed. And now all’s quiet again.

I think there may have been a skunk outside. I don’t know how he knew it. Animals and their weird sixth senses. But it was unnerving, knowing he knew something I didn’t. We always joked that if we were robbed Sam was so friendly he’d show them where we kept the good silver, but maybe not.

It’s been an odd few days. I’ve been catching up with friends from high school and catching up on YouTube. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries had a thrilling conclusion and I’m finally caught up on Squaresville! It makes me want to start vlogging again. I have been toying with the idea of Vlogging Every Day in April, but I don’t want to commit to it unless I go all the way.

I’ve written a little bit the past week, all random things. It feels good, but like not enough. I feel so funny these days. What on earth do I want? What am I looking for?

I’ve been listening to a lot of George Watsky. His new album Cardboard Castles blows me away. I’m not a fan of a lot of rap, but he’s one of the few rappers that I really appreciate (there are a few). I like rappers that make me think. Good beats are important, but I like an interesting story and clever lyrics. Plus some of his stuff is just plain poetic. Or just funny and amusing. I really like Ugly Faces, Hey Asshole (which is featuring Kate Nash – SO GOOD), and Tiny Glowing Screens, Pt. 2 (which is just utterly fantastic lyrically that it pains me). But nothing on that album is bad. I think it should also win for album with the absolute BEST transitions. They are out of this world.

I went for a run today and I listened to Cardboard Castles while I did. It was awful (the run, not the album). I always have really great intentions with running and then I start moving and remember that it feels like I am suffocating very, very slowly. I felt like I was going to be sick, but I did it anyway. I guess that just means I need to do it more often.

I’m reading Jane Austen’s Emma. It’s one of the last few Austen novels I have left to read. I decided to dive into it because I’m looking for comfort, literature to wrap me tight and also inspire. So far I’ve just been annoyed with Emma Woodhouse. She may be clever, but she’s no Elizabeth Bennet. Hopefully Jane can turn me around.

This has been a life update with Jordan. Until next time.

xx

P.S. If you have any interest in Giant Squids check out this video and this article from the Mental Floss website. I recently subscribed to the e-newsletter. I have no regrets. Also, the Giant Squid is simultaneously terrifying and fascinating.