Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: music (page 1 of 4)

Happy Thoughts for a Foggy Morning

I nearly forgot to write something for the blog this week – I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather, which has scrambled my brain enough that I’m a little more scattered than usual. But here I am, on the bus, riding through the fog, so let’s talk about a few happy things from the past week. 

  1. I started taking a guitar fingerpicking class last week. It’s kicking my ass already, but in a way that’s motivating me to practice more. I’m excited to add some new skills to my rather slapdash guitar-playing repertoire. 
  2. It’s starting to feel like fall. Granted, the next few days are supposed to get hot again, but generally the weather has been getting cooler. We’ve had several lovely days that have allowed me to pull some hand knit sweaters out. The only downside of fall is that my allergies tend to flare up again, so I’ve spent most of the week not sure if I’m getting sick or am just allergic to all of the outdoors. Still, it’s pretty, and I like not feeling disgusting every time I go outside. 
  3. My tattoo is healing nicely. I am still super happy with how it turned out. It makes me smile every time I look at my arm. 

Song School 2017

Last week there was no blog, because my partner and I were at the Rocky Mountain Song School at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, CO. I spent the week almost entirely unplugged: away from my phone, not thinking about work, not focusing so hard on the news. It was…

Well, it was incredible, really. I didn’t get a lot of writing done (there are classes pretty much all the time, and they’re all fascinating, and it’s impossible to get to all of them), but I learned so much. I met so many amazing, beautiful people doing amazing, beautiful work. We talked about songwriting generally, but also about songwriting as survival, as resistance, as revolution. We held space for each other, cheered each other on and pushed each other to do better. 

I’ve never been in a new place around so many new people and felt so safe to be myself. 

It was an amazing experience. I don’t have adequate words to describe it. 

The road trip there and back was pretty great, too, although we did have some moments in small towns where we didn’t feel so safe (being an obviously queer couple in small town rural America can be frightening). I remembered, once we were finally in Colorado, that getting out of the city and into nature sometimes is essential to my mental health. It’s a thing that’s easy to forget in the convenience of living in Chicago, where I can get everything else I need, but it’s important. 

I’m going to be processing what I learned and working on the new songs I started for a few months, I think. I can’t wait to go back next year!

Adventure Calls

This past week has been a fun one. Sunday, I got to take a class on hand-sewing bow ties, taught by the fabulous Franklin Habit. The bow tie I made turned out a little snug, but I’m already gearing up to make more (with some adjustments to size so I don’t strangle myself when I wear them).

My partner was visiting his family in Minnesota for a few days, so I got some time alone in our apartment, which is a weird and rather uncommon thing. I definitely missed having him there, but it was nice to be a hermit for a few days, too.

I’ve been struggling to focus at work this week, after a couple of weeks that felt uncharacteristically (but refreshingly) productive. I don’t really mind that I’m a little scattered right now, though, because tomorrow, I will be on vacation.

My partner and I leave tomorrow for a grand adventure we’ve been wanting to take for years now: we’re headed off to a week-long songwriting camp in Colorado.

I was feeling pretty anxious last week, mostly, I think, because I started worrying that the experience wouldn’t live up to expectations, since we’ve been looking forward to this for so long. I feel like yesterday I finally hit the point of accepting that the journey is just as important as the destination, and that even if it isn’t perfect (which it probably won’t be, because life is messy), it will still be a new experience and a thing worth trying.

Besides, my partner and I love road trips, and this will be the biggest one we’ve gotten to take together.

There will be no blog next week, because I’ll be busy making music and ignoring my phone/the internet as much as possible. Catch you all in a couple of weeks!

Resisting Misery

It’s a pretty miserable day in Chicago. It’s raining hard: streets and sidewalks are flooded, and despite my umbrella, my pants are completely soaked after walking the four blocks to the bus. It’s so dark it feels like I’m heading to work at 5am instead of 8am. This is quite possibly my least favorite weather to be out in. 

On top of that, I’ve been inexplicably nauseous for most of the week. I don’t know if it’s anxiety or a stomach bug or something else entirely, but it’s been annoying and exhausting and demotivating. 

Still, I’m trying to push past my inclination to succumb to the miserable weather and my miserable stomach and get lost in a sea of misery. I don’t know how much of it is optimism and how much is pragmatism: there’s life that needs getting on with, and misery isn’t really conducive to that. 

So here are a few happy things that have happened this week:

  • I got to have a Skype date with my best friend and catch up for the first time in too long. We’ve both been busy lately, so the moments when we get to connect feel particularly special. 
  • We went to a preview reading of The Civility of Albert Cashier. Chicago folks, you want to go see this when it premiers here in September. It’s an incredible (and true!) story, with a great cast and music by our friend (and folk musician hero) Joe Stevens
  • I’m finally getting a new work computer! This seems like a silly thing to be excited about, but I’m the IT guy and my computer is at least five years older than the computers of most of my coworkers who I’m assisting. It should’ve happened months ago but kept getting pushed off. I’m tentatively hopeful that this new machine will freeze less often and be a less frustrating user experience overall. 

A Handful of Happy Thoughts

It’s been a week. Work is overwhelming (my first big project of my still-newish project management job launches into our live environment on Monday, and I’m scrambling to get the last-minute details nailed down). I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water. In theory, things will lighten up next week, but that doesn’t really make me feel less overwhelmed right now. 

Still, the past week has brought with it some happy moments. A lot of what’s kept me relatively sane has been music. 

Last Thursday we saw Minnesota duo The Home Fires. It was a great show. 

Friday we saw another musical group hailing from Minnesota: The New Standards. My partner’s parents bought us tickets for my birthday, and it was so much fun!

Tuesday my partner and I set aside time to play music together. It was fun to work on some songs and start to get a feel for how our voices work together. 

I’m taking this session off from classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music, because I knew I’d have to miss the last couple of classes. In August, my partner and I are going to Song School, a week-long songwriting summer camp for adults out in Colorado. Knowing that trip is coming up is a large part of why I’m managing to hold it together at work. Just a month and a half until a creative vacation!

One of my short term goals is to start setting aside regular time each week to work on music. Particularly when other areas of my life feel unmanageable, music is a really great grounding activity. 

Birthday Reflections

As I mentioned in last week’s post, my birthday was on Saturday, and as a present to myself, I took a five-day weekend. I feel like I managed a pretty good balance between packing in the things I wanted to do and taking time to take it easy. Here are some thoughts and highlights from my birthday week:

  1. I got a ton of things done around the house. Not quite as many things as I was initially planning on, but I still made some significant progress. I’m pleased with and proud of the work I did.
  2. Friday was the day of celebrating with friends. I got breakfast with a friend from work who had also taken the day off. In the evening, I met up with some friends for drinks, and then some more folks joined us for pizza and sangria. It was fantastic, and I felt (still feel) very loved.
  3. Saturday was the day of celebrating with my partner. It didn’t go quite according to plan (the weather was threatening thunderstorms that never came but that made us want to stay closer to home), but it was a really lovely day.
  4. Sunday, I went to see Wonder Woman. I have so many feelings about Wonder Woman, but a lot of them are summed up in this lovely tweet that’s been floating around the interwebs:

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    “I’ve lived to see my childhood princesses become generals.”

  5. Monday night, I had the privilege of playing an Acoustic Explosion show at Sylvie’s here in Chicago, along with three of my songwriting classmates and a couple of other cool acts. Four of the seven performers had June birthdays, which added to the fun. I went last (at 10:30 pm – way past my bedtime), which meant I was two drinks into the evening before I got up on stage; apparently, that is the magic number for me to relax enough to perform my songs at a reasonable pace. I actually had to cut a song out of my set because I hadn’t blasted through all of the things I’d prepared! Below are the two new songs I played in my set; the rest of the set was older material that’s already elsewhere on my SoundCloud page.

Where Did the Week Go?

It’s been a busy week. Possibly not much busier than weeks usually are, but the fact that it’s been in the upper 80s and humid in Chicago the past couple of days has made everything feels pretty overwhelming. In any case, here are a few of the highlights from the past week, complete with photos:

  • I got a tattoo on Saturday! An apprentice tattooer I’ve been following on Instagram had posted some flash that I thought looked great, and now I have a happy little plant on my ankle:

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    It’s my first color tattoo, and the first one somewhere other than my forearms. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out, and it’s healing nicely.

  • We got to see one of our favorite folk duos twice last week! Wednesday night, we went to a songwriting workshop put on by Mouths of Babes titledĀ The Political is Personal. It was inspiring and got me halfway to finishing my assignment for my regular songwriting class. Then on Sunday, we got to see them play at SPACE in Evanston. It was (predictably) a fabulous show.

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  • I finished another nearly-two-year-old knitting project, though this one was much smaller than a sweater. A couple of summers ago, I bought a tiny owl kit from MochiMochiLand at our local yarn store. I knit the body of one owl at knit night the evening I bought it, and hadn’t picked it back up since. Over the weekend, I dug it out. I finished the first owl, and then started on another one:

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    I finished the second owl last night, and found a spot for them with my favorite old wooden owl (that used to belong to my grandparents) on the shelf we refer to as our owlery:

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    They were a lot of fun to knit, and I’m glad to finally have them done!

I’m Back!

As some of you noticed, there was no blog post last week. My apologies for that! Last Tuesday night the blog went down for some reason, and in trying to fix it Wednesday, I inadvertently deleted the whole thing. Thankfully, the folks at my web host were able to restore from an earlier backup. Lesson learned not to try to fix this sort of thing by myself!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Some highlights:

  1. My octave mandolin arrived. She needed new strings, but since fixing that I’ve been having a blast with her. She still needs a name. 
  2. A new person started on my team at work, to take over the bulk of my customer service responsibilities so that I can focus on my new job. She’s very eager and determined to learn, which is great. 
  3. We rearranged our apartment over the weekend, then went on a trip to IKEA on Monday to pick up new shelving. Wednesday we put everything together, and it looks so nice in our apartment now!

Happy Moments in Mania

My apologies for the slightly late post today, friends. I have been feeling under the weather, and forgot until late last night that today was Thursday and that I should have written and scheduled a blog post earlier in the day.

Despite the fact that I have a cold and am allergic to everything outside, and despite the fact that this, combined with the stress of the new job, has been making me feel very tired a lot of time, I seem to be on a bit of a manic upswing. In recent history, mania has often been marked by uncontrolled anxiety and has not been very fun, but this time around there have been some happy things happening. Here are a few of them:

  • I ordered a new octave mandolin. A few years ago, the octave mandolin that I had met a very sad end (my failure to properly humidify it combined with a too-long stint outside waiting for a bus doing a polar vortex = some major cracks in the top). I’ve missed having one around ever since, but a new one has been quite a ways out of my price range. I found one on eBay this last week by an American builder who’s known for his eccentric designs that are a bit rough around the edges but that sound very nice. So that should be coming sometime next week; I’m very excited!
  • I have a new musical guilty pleasure: the punk-pop band PWR BTTM. (Yes, that is pronounced the way you think it is. Yes, they are super gay and gender transgressive, and it’s wonderful.)
  • Last night, I joined my partner and one of our good friends at the recording of Greg Proops’s podcast, The Smartest Man in the World (AKA Proopcast). My partner and the friend we went with listen to the podcast regularly. I sometimes listen, but rarely to an entire episode (they’re long…funny, but long), and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do sitting through the recording of a whole show. I enjoy his humor and his social commentary, but I definitely tend to zone out after a while when listening to the podcast. The live show was super fun, though, and I stayed engaged the whole time. If you ever get an opportunity to go to one of Greg Proops’s shows, I’d recommend it.

Performance Anxiety

Monday night, I had a gig.

It was not my first gig. It wasn’t even my first gig at this particular venue. But I was really, really nervous.

Now, I have stage fright. It’s a thing, but I expect it, and I know it’ll usually be gone by about ten minutes after I get off the stage. Usually it doesn’t hit me all that hard or for all that long.

But Monday night was different. Maybe it was because I’ve been so damn anxious about everything else lately. Maybe it was because I was playing a set comprised entirely of brand new songs. I don’t know. But I was barely able to eat dinner, and I felt sick to my stomach, and I really had no idea how I was going to make it through all seven songs in my set.

Still, I got up on stage, and I did it. I got through everything. I rushed through almost all of it, but since no one else in the room had ever heard the songs before, no one was really the wiser. The last song in the set, I had to start over after a few measures when I realized I had started singing it up to high, but by that point I was determined to just get it done, so I didn’t let it bother me too much.

I stayed nervous through at least half of the next musician’s 25 minute set. I’m not sure if the anxiety faded on its own, or if it was aided by the Jack and Coke I was drinking, but thankfully, I was able to enjoy the rest of the evening’s performances.

People occasionally tell me they could never get up on stage and perform something they’d written. Now, I’m not a seasoned performer by any means, but I’ve played a fair number of class showcases and a handful of small gigs, which is apparently enough to impress people. The truth is, though, every time I’m going to get on stage, I wonder what the fuck I think I’m doing. I don’t do it because I really enjoy it. I write because I enjoy it, and I enjoy whatever positive feedback I might get after a set, but the actual process of performing is not a thing I find particularly fun. I do it because it makes me uncomfortable. I do it because writing songs just for myself sometimes feels unsatisfying, and while I’m terrified to put my soul out on display by performing what I’ve written, I like knowing I’m not creating in a vacuum.

So if you’re a creative person who’s been wondering if they should share their creativity with the world: the decision is ultimately up to you, but I recommend trying it at least once. It might not be a thing you enjoy doing, but you might find that you and I have something in common, that doing a thing that scares you precisely because it scares you can teach you a lot about yourself and the people you surround yourself with.

But enough of me rambling. How about some weird music? For the curious, if you follow the links to the SoundCloud pages for each song, I’ve posted the lyrics in the descriptions. Here’s the playlist of the whole set, which for whatever reason SoundCloud has ordered backwards:

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