Last night, A. and I drove to Easton, Md., to see singer/songwriter David Berkeley play at a tiny venue called Night Cat. We drove an hour-and-a-half each way, over the Chesapeake bridge, so we could sit at round tables in an intimate coffee shop and enjoy a small concert. And wow, it was more than worth the drive.
Berkeley is not only a talented singer, but he’s hilarious. A. and I were both laughing out loud every time he told stories between his songs — including about how he was on a This American Life episode called “Going Big” (which I have listened to and also found uproariously funny).
There were only about 20 people in the dimly-lit room strung with white lights. So when Berkeley asked if anyone had requests, I yelled out “High Heels And All”! A. and I have listened to “High Heels And All” over and over together, and have even analyzed the words. As Berkley played it, I put my hand in A.’s and, a little buzzed off of pumpkin beer, I couldn’t help thinking how happy I was — to be with A., to be on an adventure on a work night, and to be listening to one of my favorite artists.
In December, my coworker on NPR’s music team told me to listen to the new band Blind Pilot. Knowing that I have the same music taste (from listening to the songs he picks for Song of the Day), I listened to the album. And I liked it. But I didn’t think much more about it.
Fast forward to last weekend — I went to Texas for a wedding on a ranch. It also happened to coincide with the SXSW music festival in Austin. And, Bob Boilen picked Blind Pilot to be one of the bands to watch among the thousands there. So I brought the album for the drive from Austin to Comfort, Texas. It was one of the only albums we had in the car, and we listened to it over and over again as we drove on the open highway.
Then, yesterday, my coworker told me last minute about a performance chat at Studio 4A. Ari Shapiro was interviewing Blind Pilot for Morning Edition. And I stood in the control room with literally a handful of people and listened to the independent band from Portland, Ore., tell their story about how did first tour from Vancouver to San Francisco on bicycles (if that’s not cool, I don’t know what is). They were down to earth. They told jokes and laughed. And they played their acoustic tunes, and I was so moved, I nearly forgot about my 1:30 meeting.
Last night, I rallied a few friends to see them play at a small venue in Virginia called Iota. It was $12. I rarely have the energy to cross the border into Virginia, much less when it’s raining. But we got there at 9 p.m. just before it sold out. And they were incredible. And afterward, the band stood near the bar chatting with my NPR coworkers — accessible and open. The lead singer Israel Nebeker was obviously shy, but smiley and grateful we were impressed by them. I came home and fell asleep to their melodic voices. And today, as it drizzles outside, I can’t stop listening to the album, especially the song “3 Rounds and a Sound.”
My love for this album has been a slow progression. It wasn’t overnight. I needed exposure to it. And as I listen to it, I discover the layers to the harmony. The depth of the instruments. The complexity of the lyrics. The beauty of their voices. I can’t wait till they play in D.C. again.
Today, my job was to learn how to use Dalet, a system to produce, cut and listen to audio clips. It’s the program correspondents and reporters use to put together shows.
I also watched the trailer and clips for Sarah Jessica Parker’s new movie “Smart People” (also with Juno’s Ellen Page and Dennis Quaid), picked out what we might want to run on the NPR site to accompany an interview with Sarah Jessica (it was recorded remotely) and had it encoded. I didn’t do the encoding, the fancy production people on the fifth floor do that.
But still. It rocks.
And then. And then at about 6 p.m. I heard on the overhead speakers “We have five bins filled with free CDs if anyone wants them, come to the fifth floor.” So I went. And I dug through the CDs with about 10 other greedy NPR employees (and more came and went). And I walked away with 14 CDs, including “Fulano Individual,” which was a 2007 Grammy Nominee for “Best Latin Pop Album.”