Sunday, March 29, 2015


Rock & Roll Hotel
October 18, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – I have to admit, I was a fan of COIN, Kopecky’s opener, before I was a fan of Kopecky. That being said, I always knew how good Kopecky was since high school, prior to their name change. They were a band that always topped my long list of bands that I needed to check out, but I never got around to checking out. So when I found out they were touring at Rock & Roll Hotel with COIN, I was stoked.

Since I was introduced to Kopecky as “Kopecky Family Band,” I expected a lot of strings and a strong folksy/country vibe from the band. They brought those things, but with an update. Combining country with synth elements, like an electric cello, Kopecky proved that they’re not your average family band. But on the outside, they still looked like one, wearing cuffed jeans and cracking lame jokes your grandpa would come up with.

Though the first couple of songs were pretty good and sported excellent basslines reminiscent of Arcade Fire’s “We Exist,” it felt like the crowd was asleep until “Birds,” a pretty song featuring whistling and xylophones. Singer Kelsey Kopecky bobbed her head a little too hard throughout the song, but not enough to take anyone out of the track’s funk. Actually, the crowd really enjoyed “Birds,” and danced the whole time. Kopecky followed “Birds” with “Animals.” For this song, Kelsey was bathed in blue lighting, which made her look like a Nashville goddess.

Next, the band launched into one of their most popular songs, “Heartbeat.” The song itself is addicting, and the band really owned this one. They must know it’s one of their most recognizable tunes, so they put their hearts into it. It also showed off cellist Markus Midkiff’s skills, and it was hard to take my eyes off of him shredding that electric cello.

“Heartbeat” really set the tone for the energy of the rest of the show, and ushered in instrumental versatility – keyboards, trombones and cowbells are some of the odd ones that stuck out to me. Of course, there were some interesting discussions on their part as well, what with them being kids in their mid-20s who have not yet mastered the art of stage banter. Some of this banter included singer Gabe Simon telling the audience that Nicolas Cage is a national hero, so they wrote a song inspired by him. This marked the middle portion of the set, which featured soft slow dance songs such as “A Casualty” and “Change.”

Things sped up again with “Are You Listening,” a song off of 2012’s Kids Raising Kids. They also handed out lollipops, which was bound to wake up anyone who drifted off to sleep during “A Casualty.” Things came to a close quickly after “Are You Listening,” with COIN joining Kopecky onstage for an energetic finish that involved Simon playing trombone in the audience and bananas being thrown by the band (and caught by those with the fastest reflexes). Overall, Kopecky provided the Rock & Roll Hotel audience with an entertaining night, though they should really work on that stage banter. I highly doubt Nicolas Cage inspired any of their songs.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tennessee Travels: Road Trip to Nashville

{fried chicken galore}
      During my week in the underrated state of Tennessee, my friend Saher and I went on two amazing road trips. This was pretty exciting in and of itself, since neither of us had previously been on a road trip without our parents and because we've proven to be pretty good at entertaining ourselves for hours on end (Saher spent a lot of our drive to Atlanta singing along to Broadway songs). But what was even more fun was being able to see new places (and old faces) at the end of our long drives.
{signs for sale in Pangea}
      On one of our trips, Saher and I drove down to Roswell to visit my cousins. We had an amazing home-cooked Indian meal and got to spend some relaxing time with my family, but decided to skip the sightseeing in nearby Atlanta. We had both been there before, and couldn't find much left to do or see, so after a quick breakfast at the legendary Waffle House (my first time there!) we headed back to Knoxville.
      A few days later, we headed to Nashville, which was easily my favorite of the three cities we visited on our trip. It has a much more indie vibe than what I’ve seen of the rest of the South, but still manages to keep that Southern charm. We started off our visit with a leisurely walk around Baylor University. 
{Belmont Mansion}
      Afterwards, we spent a lot of time shopping (and window shopping) before grabbing popsicles at Las Paletas and the most amazing dinner and dessert at Pinewood Social. We started off thrifting through Local Honey, but found nothing we wanted. Next we went to Pangea, which is one of the coolest shops I've ever been to, and I'm so glad we stopped by. I also loved A Village of Flowers and had to remind myself multiple times that succulents cannot be taken on planes.
 {local honey}
 {thrift shopping}
 {lovely flowers, lovelier words}
{baby succulents}
      After dinner, we drove around downtown for a bit before heading back. On a side note, there is a Kanye Avenue in Nashville, and I may or may not have screamed upon seeing so. But what's even better, THERE IS A KANYE AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH (not to be confused with the Kanye Westboro Baptist Church), AKA THERE IS A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN FIND YEEZUS. Needless to say, I kind of love Nashville. Good food, cool shops, and Yeezus are really all I need in life. I don’t think I’d ever live in the South again, but Nashville is definitely worth traveling to.
      Here are a few more photos from our Nashville day trip: 
 {dinner & bowling}
{you know you're down South when}
 {vases galore at A Village of Flowers}
 {staircase between the salon and shop}
{Belmont Mansion}
 {walking around campus}
      What are your favorite spots in Nashville? Let me know!
Thanks for reading!
~ V

Monday, March 16, 2015

Down South Photo Diary: Knoxville

 {distant view of the Tennessee Theater}
      I am currently in denial about the fact that my Spring Break has ended. I usually spend my breaks at home, avoiding all responsibility in favor of Netflix, cookies, and bed, but this year I joined my friend Saher at her home in Knoxville, Tennessee. We spent the week traveling all around Knoxville, and even fit in two road trips: one to Roswell, a town near Atlanta, and the other to Nashville, which I liked even more than I expected to. Here are a couple highlights from my time in Knox-Vegas.
 {Saher and our food at the Tupelo Honey Cafe}
      Saher and I love, love, LOVE food, so much of our trip was centered around fitting in the best meals in the fewest days. We started with brunch and shopping in Market Square, where we had a great meal at the Tupelo Honey Cafe. They have the softest biscuits and sweetest jam, which went great with my sweet potato pancake (with peach butter and spiced pecans!) and orange juice.
 {my amazing meal}
 {Market Square during Mardi Growl}
      After our meal, we explored downtown for a bit, window-shopping and walking off our meal. I love traveling, and one of my favorite things about going to a new city is being able to see what locals appreciate about the places they call home.
      Saher took me to a old-style general store and to a couple shops in Market Square. There were a ton of dogs all around us, which completely made my day but still confused me. After a few minutes of walking in a sea of puppies we saw a Mardi Growl sign, which explained all the dogs and booths selling dog toys and treats.
{Mardi Growl in Market Square} 
 {street art outside a cafĂ©}
 {alley graffiti}
{can't decide if this is meant to represent moonshine or a jar of popcorn kernels}
{view of downtown Tennessee from the car}
      The next day, we caught up on the latest SNL episode and hung around the house before going out to dinner. Saher, her sister, and I went to Taste of Thaiwhere I had the best Thai iced tea and Massaman curry of my life. This is not a statement I make lightly; Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines and Thai iced tea is one of my favorite things in the world, so needless to say, my day was made.
{Massaman curry and Thai iced tea at Taste of Thai}
      I also had my first Chick-fil-A experience during this trip. As a vegetarian and perpetually-aspiring vegan, I was hesitant at first and skeptical of there being options for me, but the iced tea is among the best I've had and the waffle fries are great, too. Saher tells me the iced tea isn't quite the same in their D.C. locations, so I made sure to drink my fill before we left. Seriously, if you are ever going to be in the South, do yourself a favor and get some of this tea. I'm already sad I won't get to have any here.
      But don't worry, not everything in our trip was centered around food. For one, I now officially like country music. I've lived in New Jersey for most of my life, so this is certainly very new (and, to a lot of my friends, very strange), but I'm starting to love how passionate and catchy country music often is. I'm currently listening to Blake Shelton's "Lonely Tonight" and "Colder Weather" by the Zac Brown Band (both of whom were on SNL recently!), among a couple others. I'd love to hear recommendations if you have any! Also, while our trip to Nashville did include some amazing food, we did much more shopping and sight-seeing there as well. I'll be sure to put up a post about it all soon! Above all else though, I think a major reason this Spring Break was the best I've had yet was because of the company. Saher and her family were so kind, welcoming, and hospitable and made sure I was comfortable and enjoying myself throughout the week. We didn't have the traditional Cancun Spring Break, but I honestly wouldn't have it any other way.
      Did I miss anything big on my trip to Tennessee? Let me know in the comments below!
~ V

Monday, March 2, 2015

Bombay Bicycle Club

Bombay Bicycle Club
9:30 Club
October 19, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.  Seeing Bombay Bicycle Club for the first time felt euphoric. Not only is Flaws one of my favorite albums of all time, but this band is also one the few that defined high school for me. Cue my waves of intense nostalgia at 9:30 Club.

Also cue six circular LED panels featuring animated sequences from the cover art of Bombay Bicycle Club’s latest album So Long, See You Tomorrow, because that’s how the concert began. And then those waves of nostalgia turned into a tsunami of high school fangirling. I am not ashamed, mostly because everyone else was screaming as well when the quartet took the stage and lead singer Jack Steadman walked up to the microphone. Cutting through the extended intro of the song “Overdone,” Steadman’s offbeat voice filled the packed venue. Cue more screams from the pit.

As the band transitioned smoothly into “It’s Alright Now,” the crowd went nuts. After all, it’s repetitive beat-wise and lyrically, so the crowd can sing along, and it’s one of the band's danciest cuts from So Long, See You Tomorrow. Fans knew every word  you’d think they might be joining a cult led by a gangly British guy than seeing a concert, but no. They came to worship the British quartet as well as bask in the glow of a band that should be equally popular in the U.S. as they are in the U.K., but somehow aren’t yet.

Continuing with the piano-driven track “Shuffle,” Bombay Bicycle Club marked the following portion of the concert with songs from A Different Kind Of Fix. They flowed together nicely, but it was obvious newer fans didn’t recognize the songs from the lack of singing along.
After three or four songs, the band delved back into their most recent stuff, including my personal favorite off the new album  “Home By Now.” Liz Lawrence, the band’s female touring member, filled in for Lucy Rose and did an excellent job  her vocals floated over the audience delicately in spite of all the dancing and jumping around taking place. Another stunning piece that followed shortly after was “Eyes Off You.” The upbeat audience was silent as Steadman and Lawrence sang their duet; it was really beautiful to witness.
Then, in the middle of the set, it was like Steadman read my mind. Seguing into Flaws, he started with “Rinse Me Down,” and then teased the audience with an extremely long intro to another song. Which one could this be? I knew immediately, because it was the song I’d been waiting for all night, the song that I’ve loved since I was 16  “Ivy & Gold.” Now, it was my turn to sing every lyric like I was at a Beatles concert, but I didn’t care. Seeing a song I’ve been attached to for so long performed live was a life-fulfilling experience. I only wish that they performed more off of Flaws. Out of all the material performed that night, Flaws was the most underrepresented album.
Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the concert was a blast. The rest of the setlist mostly included songs from I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose and So Long, See You Tomorrow, and I liked that I could hear a development in Bombay Bicycle Club’s sound between 2009 and now. Though the latest album is bit of a departure from the rawness of their original sound, there’s been a positive development  the Bombay Bicycle Club of today have refined their sound in a good way. By the time they played “Luna,” one of the final songs of the set, I found myself appreciating the new Bombay Bicycle Club. As much as I love Flaws, I realized that Steadman and the gang were also growing up with me; as my tastes and sound preferences have changed, so have theirs.
Finishing the concert with “So Long, See You Tomorrow” and a brief two-song encore featuring “Carry Me,” Bombay Bicycle Club went out with a bang. For the former song, audience members in the pit formed a circle and swayed to the soft, whimsical song; during the latter, crazy dancing (and kissing, as far as I could see) ensued all around me. This band definitely had an effect on its audience  maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe they’re one of a kind. Either way, they sure know how to get people to dance.