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Silverbacks vs. Fire – US Open Cup

July 10th, 2014

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This has been the summer of soccer. The World Cup has been on TV in our house all month and I, like most everyone in our country, was held captive by the US Men’s National Team as they advanced into the Round of 16.

In a couple years, the MLS is coming to Atlanta and we will have a team in the big leagues to root for. Until then, our local NASL club, the Atlanta Silverbacks are doing a pretty good job themselves. In the US Open Cup, they had already defeated two MLS clubs and were looking to get a third scalp from Chicago Fire. I rode over to the stadium with a friend and saw my first game in action. The impressive run ended with a loss to the Fire, but it was really closer than the 3-1 score indicated as it was tied up until the 82nd minute and Atlanta held possession for large parts of the game. I had a lot of fun and maybe when the NASL kicks off again in the fall I’ll try to get to a game or two.

In the meantime, enjoy my photos from the game!

Cornerstone Memories (Again)

July 3rd, 2014

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It’s the week of Cornerstone Festival again and there is no Cornerstone. I am looking forward to a weekend in Savannah with my family and think we will have a good time, it’s a different fourth of July celebration that what I’ve been used to, but we will enjoy it.

In the meantime before we leave, I need to get my mind off everything else on the Internet today. So, since I’m feeling the ache of an empty cornfield in Illinois, I thought it would be fun to write up a quick take about every year I went to Cornerstone Festival.

1998 – My first year at the festival! My friend Joel and his friend Elaine were my guides to aid me as a newbie. My biggest memory, other than just taking it all in for the first time was the Rich Mullins Tribute as his friends played his songs for three hours.

2000 – David and I drove up together in my little car for this one. Of all the years I went, I think this year might have had the best lineup. There was a great mix of old bands and new bands. I remember having to make the agonizing choice between Over the Rhine and The Choir on the final night and I’m glad that I now have full recordings of each show.

2001 – This is the first year that I rode up with Jerry and I rode with him every year after this one. I remember Stryper on the last day was the big topic of discussion. I’m not a huge Stryper fan and I actually ended up skipping the show to see The Violet Burning (who were freaking amazing.) I was really into Over the Rhine at this time and this was the third festival in a row that they were the final show of the festival for me.

2002 – Adriene went with me this year, the only year she went with me to the festival. It was a total sauna. My favorite memory from this year was on the last night at the Sixpence None the Richer show. Adriene and I relaxed on a blanket on the hill and looked at the stars while they played and there was not a care in the world for one evening.

2004 – There was a lot of rain this year, so much that the rain leaked between the seams of the tent during Over the Rhine’s show. I remember the pyro-technics from the P.O.D. show. I also the remember the last day at the Gallery stage had a fantastic lineup of Denison Witmer, Unwed Sailor, and Ester Drang. The tent was full and buzzing with teens and I remember thinking this must be what it’s like to be with the cool kids.

2006 – This was the year where Mute Math broke Chuck’s brain. This was also the first year I started to blog for the festival and I really enjoyed getting to know the organizers of the festival and learning how the festival worked from the inside.

2007 – The sunsets this year were the most of amazing of any year I went to Cornerstone. In between shows I couldn’t resist standing outside and taking picture after picture. One of my favorite memories was between shows. The sound crew played Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and kids that weren’t even born when the sound was popular were singing right along, even taking over when he cut the volume.

2009 – I skipped 2008 due to the birth of my girls, but in 2009 Adriene and her mother held down the fort so I could go. This year was weird because it was so cold and windy. This was also the year the generator stages started to take over. I saw a lot of bands I didn’t recognize at all. The deluge of rain on the final day sealed the fate of the location of mainstage down by the lake, but it also gave us a surreal final day of hardcore music on the normally mild-mannered Gallery Stage.

2010 – Switchfoot kicked off the new mainstage location and did a fantastic job starting off a new era at Cornerstone. I also remember Paper Route having the best show at the festival, leaving everyone speechless and amazed. I was also sick for a majority of the festival so now I guess this is what it’s like to go to a music festival under the influence because I was pretty incoherent for most of the festival.

2011 – The Jesus Music day was pretty special this year. I got to see a lot of artists that I had never seen before and might never see again. I also remember getting a call from home on the last day that my grandmother’s death was imminent. Michael Gungor’s worship music was a healing for me as I prepared for a week of grieving.

2012 – The last festival was a particularly poignant one. Even with only two main stages and a bunch of generator stages, there was still a lot of good music to remember. The heat this year was oppressive and it was hard to think about anything other than the heat. When the festival was over, it was hard to process the mourning of the end of Cornerstone because I was just so glad not to be subjected to the weather. The Viking Funeral was a strange, but totally Cornerstone way of having closure and The Choir, the first band at the very first Cornerstone, gave a nice bookend as the last band at the last festival.

Those were my memories in short takes. Please, share your memories of your years at Cornerstone!

SHEL at Decatur Court House

June 5th, 2014

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I haven’t figured out the right age or band for my daughters’ first concert. I heard about a free concert in downtown Decatur by the Colorado band named SHEL and I thought that would be perfect. However, we played pretty hard during the afternoon and by the time the evening came around they were already starting to wear down and I decided it would probably be smarter to leave them with the grandparents. It was probably the right decision, I think they would have enjoyed the show but I don’t think they would have had the patience for the whole thing.

That’s too bad, because SHEL probably would have been the ideal band to see. The band is composed of four sisters with bluegrass influenced pop. I compare them to a less technical, more whimsical version of Nickel Creek. That’s not an indictment on their talent. There’s not any Chris Thile-like fretboard runs, but they still make beautifully interwoven music on mandolin, piano, violin, and drums. The youngest of the sisters even adds a little bit of beat-boxing, which makes me laugh for some reason. Their songs range from light-hearted songs like “The Latest and Greatest Blueberry Rubber Band” to the more serious “Try To Scream.” There was a short intermission and while the sponsors raffled off some prizes, the ladies milled around the stage, even posing for pictures and letting little girls try on their custom designed hats.

Atlanta is not as quirky as a city like Austin or Portland, but if there is an unusual part of town, it’s Decatur. I enjoyed people-watching during the show. There was a guy with the Coors tall boy dancing around by himself and I was afraid there was going to be an incident when he approached the stage. He asked the mandolin player a question and I don’t know what her response was but he laughed and walked away. There was a bride and groom that emerged from the courthouse, going around the building and back in, presumably to their reception. In the middle of the concert he shouted out to everyone, “WE JUST GOT MARRIED!” I also like spotting the people who were on “date night.” There were the couples that were on that Date Night, the one you get every couple of months thanks to the babysitter. Then there were also the couples that clearly weren’t married yet and were still dressing to impress each other.

The only complaint I had was that the band wasn’t really visible in the gazebo (as seen in the picture above.) The fence around it made it difficult to see very much unless you walked right up to the stage, and I wasn’t going to be that one creepy guy standing at the front staring at four teen/20′s girls. That’s a small complaint though. The night seemed certain to be rained out but instead I enjoyed a pleasant night on my own on the square in Decatur.

On Losing Heroes

April 19th, 2014

I don’t want to go into all the lurid details, but within just the last month I’ve had more than person that I’ve looked up to been exposed for infidelity. People that I’ve respected that spoke strongly about the bonds of marriage have been exposed as liars. In my 20′s, I think this would have sent me into a bit of an existential crisis, but now that I’m in my (nearly) 40′s I don’t know what to do other than shrug. Maybe I’ve been around too long and seen too much of the human condition.

It’s been a very rough month to have heroes. I’m not one to idolize people, but I do like to draw characteristics from various people to emulate and it also helps my cynicism that maybe not everyone is a horrible person. Yet, the pattern seems the same for people around me. The idealistic twenties descend into the depressing thirties,forties, and even fifties and whatever standards existed are bent, eluded, and eventually broken in our weaker moments.

I think about my children and now that they have started becoming more aware of the world around them, I am still one of their biggest heroes. At least for now, daddy can do no wrong and that is a terrifying thought that someday that won’t be true. I’ve tried my best to be honest and answer “I don’t know” to questions that I don’t know (and I get a lot of questions, so I say “I don’t know” a lot.) but I fear one day I will exposed as a fraud, too. I’m going to fight as hard as I can to keep that from happening.

All of these thoughts come bubbling to my head on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. The disciples’ hero was dead and gone. What was there worth living for? It feels much the same as this dark time in my life and I am quietly waiting for the sun to rise when our hero, our Savior will make all things right.

Spring (Online) Cleaning

March 20th, 2014

It’s the first day of spring and winter is thankfully, mercifully over. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, in fact you can probably find this opinion echoed a million times across social media, but I hated this past winter. This winter was awful. Good riddance winter. I was hit hard with a sinus infection between two snow storms in the middle of February and it took me weeks (weeks!) to recover to full strength. I felt rotten for several days and operated at about 80% for a couple weeks, it was the longest-lasting illness I’ve ever fought. I also had several days of caring for children (which, honestly just meant re-filling their drinks while they watched TV now that they are six) who were stuck home because school was cancelled while I tried to work at the same time. This is not a prescription for getting back to health.

Thankfully, we are done with all that, at least until next year and it is now spring. That means it’s time to do some spring cleaning. We will likely been sending the children to the grandparents for a couple of days and doing some actual deep cleaning of the house soon, but here in Internet-world I’m going to be doing some spring cleaning of thedirtroad.net over the next month or so. I’ve got a little more free time than normal, so I’d like to work on the following projects:

  • Re-architect the NIT Pick-em web site. FOR REAL. I’m using the same architecture designed and written around 2005. Every year I think I ought to redo the NIT site, but I always forget about it when the tournament is over and then by the time I think about it again I realize the tournament is upon us again and I have to go with what I have. This year I’ve got access to a couple more resources and I’d like to redo the site with a real back-end database using MySQL and rewrite the site code with something like PHP or Ruby on Rails. Then I’ll use some new front-end Javascript to make a nicer looking bracket that’s better than current ugly model. I’ll start on this soon as this tournament finishes.
  • Relaunch The Instant Family. Now that the girls are six years old, I don’t feel as comfortable sharing as much about them as when they were young. On the other hand, we do have fun events and pictures to share about them, but I’d like to do it in more of a “gated community” style, so we’ll be looking at restricting access to the blog and maybe tying it in with Flickr authentication. I’ve been using Facebook to share photos of the girls and that’s fine I guess, but I want more control over the content.
  • This blog. What should I do with it? It’s always been a hodge-podge of topics and I feel like I waste my best material on Facebook or on pithy comments on Twitter. What should I be doing here? More video links to old Cornerstone concerts? More sports commentary? I don’t go to concerts as much anymore, but I’d like to keep doing concert reviews here. Photography discussion? I’m not sure. Of the three topics here, this is the most undefined goal, but I’m thinking about how I want to improve this site.
  • So, let’s move on into spring and see how much of this actually gets done!