Monday, April 23, 2007

A point that was reinforced today is that Monday is actually much worse when I’ve had a full weekend away from work. I also experienced this feeling after Easter weekend. I guess my body and brain have too much time to unwind before they have to rewind [?] and get back into work mode. The legislative session is heading into the home stretch with the last 30 days ahead. And these last 30 can be pretty intense days as we try to finalize the appropriations bill and the Lege tries to push other “important” legislation through before it dies on the vine. Last week was slower than normal, and it seemed sooo long. I would normally welcome a slow week, but it made me realize how fatigued I was. The session may only be 100 or so days gone, but my colleagues and I started the intense work back in September of last year. So it’s really been 7 months of long hours and late nights. I’m seriously considering taking off most of June if I can swing it.

The “long” weekend was worthwhile. On Saturday night I went to the Bill Callahan [a.k.a. Smog] show at the Mohawk on Red River [formerly the Caucus Club during the (thankfully) gone daddy days of the late 90’s swing revival fad; later Le Privelege; and probably some other club before and after that]. My two previous experiences at this location were an acoustic set by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and a SXSW day party where The Wrens played. Both experiences were disappointing either because of the chatty crowd [former] or because of the chatty crowd and poor sound [latter] in such a small space. So, I was a bit apprehensive about the Bill Callahan show at this new club at the same old venue, imagining another crowd of chatty hipsters talking above the music. Plus, I don’t stay up past 11 PM much these days, so I was afraid I wasn‘t going to be able to hang. But my motivation for going was to see a friend perform in Callahan’s backing band, and I did not regret it. Saturday evening couldn’t have been better: 70 degrees with a light breeze; there was a decent opening band; several friends showed up; and I had plenty of beer money--all important ingredients for Good Times. It reminded me of why I still love living in Austin.

I wouldn’t call myself a Bill Callahan fan. I own one Smog album, which I do like; but I don’t really know the songs that well. That didn’t matter, since Callahan played mostly new material from an upcoming album. However, if your familiar with Callahan’s style, you know it’s not generally upbeat [“Rock Bottom Riser” isn’t really jumpin’]. But I really enjoyed the show: the sound was surprisingly good for the small outdoor space, and Callahan’s music worked much better live than I expected [thanks, in part, to the band]. And, even better, it seemed like the crowd was there for the music. I may have to pick up the new album [at Backspin Records].

The Mohawk has a lot of good potential if they can continue to book good bands. It seems like the previous clubs at that location always booked shitty bar bands. The venue has a nice terrace that overlooks the stage [where you can go if you don‘t want to mix it up with the riff raff], which is perfect for a spring night like last Saturday. I may have to check out another show there to see if it’s the real deal.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007


Unbelievable. It’s Easter weekend in Austin, and it’s 34 degrees outside an drizzling. I can’t really complain. This will be the first weekend in since February that I didn’t go in to work. Even better, I was able to take this Friday off. The weather on Friday was beautiful [high 60’s] , and Kim and I spent most of the day working out in the yard. Pruning hedges, pulling weeds, and mowing the yard doesn’t sound like much fun, but it was very relaxing compared to the long, stressful hours I’ve put in at work during the last couple of weeks.

During the weekend of SXSW, we had guests in town and we hosted a birthday party for a friend. Unfortunately, I had to work on Saturday and Sunday. But I would be damned if I didn’t get to spend some time with friends and eat some good food and have a couple of drinks. So, I went to work for while, came back home to party with friends, and then went back to work for a 7 PM meeting with some budget committee members. I ended up staying at work until 1 AM. Last week, I was at work past midnight, again, when the House took up the appropriations bill. Luckily, the budget work slowed down enough, this week, that our bosses were able to let us off on Friday. That doesn’t mean we’re not busy still. It just means the most important work has reached a temporary lull. We will be extremely busy, again, in a week or so.

The legislative session ends on Memorial Day. So close.

I don’t do album reviews . . .

Since I wasn’t able to take in any shows during SXSW, this year, I got a couple of new-to-me “album samples in advance of purchase (pending)” to listen to on my commute to work.

Peter Bjorn and John - Writers Block. It sounds like lots of stuff I’ve heard before. It sounds like indie rock. It’s poppy and DIY sounding, and I like it. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s working for me at the moment. I find myself whistling the tunes at work a lot. Currently on heavy rotation in the car and in the home.

The Shins - Wincing the Night Away. The Shins are among my Top 5 Bands I Discovered after College. I like every song on new the album, and if I ever do a Top Ten Albums of the Year, again [not likely], I wouldn’t be surprised if this was #1 or #2. Currently on heavy rotation in the car and in the home.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Some Loud Thunder. Simply because I got hooked by The Shins and PB&J albums before I played this one, I haven’t really given it a fair listen. So far, I’m a little disappointed. CYHSY’s first record hooked me instantly, and I liked every tune. Some Loud Thunder hasn’t held my attention on the first few listens. None of the songs have hooked me.

The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible. Also a victim of neglect, but I think it’s growing on me. After the first few spins, I still think Funeral is better. I think it’s because the new record has fewer hooks. It’s not the kind of album that I’m going to “get” while listening in the car. Actually, I was just listening while surfing the web, and it seems to be sinking in a bit. This one definitely deserves more of my attention.

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