Category Archives: First Aid Kit

Today’s Top 5: The Freewheelin’ First Aid Kit

There is much to be said about Tuesday’s presidential election, but the biggest takeaway is this: For the second time in 12 years, and only the fifth time since America’s founding, the candidate who received less votes won.

The outcome is a result of the arcane Electoral College and per-state approach of the founders, who had little faith in the will of the people. As Alexander Hamilton explained in The Federalist Papers, the final decision on who should be president was the domain of “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.” He and his brethren wanted to insure that “the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

(That same lack of faith is why senators also weren’t directly elected. Until 1913, state legislators selected them.)

In practice, however, the Electoral College is a rubber-stamp vessel whose voters almost always cast their lot with the will of their states. And that’s why crooked carnival barker Donald Trump will be the next president of these United States.

It is what it is, unfortunately.

While there is much more that I could say, I’ll leave it with this: the first order of business Trump and the congressional Republicans should do is to dismantle the Statue of Liberty and ship it back to France. Their America is not about liberty, freedom or welcoming “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” As I wrote last week, to them, it’s not a land made for you and me; it’s a land of us versus them.

Anyway, for today’s Top 5: Freewheelin’ First Aid Kit.


(I borrowed the photo from FAK’s official Facebook page.)

1) First Aid Kit – “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”

2) First Aid Kit – “With God on Our Side”

3) First Aid Kit – “It Ain’t Me Babe”

4) First Aid Kit – “One More Cup of Coffee.”

5) First Aid Kit – “Subterranean Homesick Blues”

And one non-Dylan bonus:

First Aid Kit – “America”


Heaven Knows: Concert Etiquette 101

My first concert, the Kinks at the Spectrum, was in 1983; my last, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Wells Fargo Center, was this past Friday. In between, I’ve seen more shows than I can count. Yet, I’ve only witnessed two headliners deliver truly wretched sets – the Singer-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, who was drunk off her ass, and a flu-ridden Kasey Chambers, who should have postponed the concert.

Mind you, I’ve seen a number of so-so shows. (The memories of most of those have been buried in the crawlspace of my brain, never to be dug up unless and until served with a warrant.) It’s understandable to an extent – the grind of touring, not to mention life, takes a toll. Living out of a suitcase gets old fast, in other words, especially if you’re staring out at a sea of empty seats.

As a result, Diane and I generally head out to concerts with our fingers crossed – as all fans do, I’m sure. In recent years, however, we’re hoping not just that the artist delivers the goods, but that the other attendees won’t impinge on our enjoyment. Not that those concerns weren’t with us, say, 20 years ago, but it seems that, more and more often (and especially at larger shows) some folks just don’t know what is and isn’t rude. So, here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you venture out to a concert…

First, though: Concerts are not live playlists packed with just your favorite songs. There are exceptions, of course, but performers generally map out their sets with several things in mind. They think of pacing, transitions and thematic or sonic similarities; and, too, if they have more than a few albums in their catalogs, they aim to balance audience favorites with songs from their latest release as well as, on occasion, a few “obscurities.” Sometimes the new or lesser-known material is gold. Sometimes it’s pyrite. Often, the difference between the two depends on just how receptive you are to it.

In other words, unless you’re a diehard fan, odds are you’ll hear a few songs that you’re not familiar with. Which leads to my first, and most important, point of order:

1) Conversations with friends during songs aren’t cool. Period. Maybe you’re not familiar with whatever’s being played, but – trust me – someone around you is or wants to be; and we do not want to hear you and your pal(s) talking about whatever petty thing is on your mind. That’s not to say you can’t speak or scream or shout. “Wow,” “amazing” or any number of superlatives are appropriate after a killer guitar solo, for example, just as clapping mid-song in appreciation of said guitar solo isn’t just acceptable, but encouraged.

You’d think that would be common sense. Likewise…

2) Up-and-down, up-and-down. Beer runs and bathroom breaks are commonplace. Hey, thirst and nature calls – it’s understandable. But, please, pick the proper moment to disrupt those around you. If you’re in the middle of a row at an arena or concert hall, mid-song is not a good time to leave your seat. Wait for a between-song moment; and do the same when you return. The same holds true, more or less, if you’re in a standing-only venue (or section of the arena). Be respectful of those around you.

Above, I explained the difference between a concert and a playlist. In a similar vein, a concert venue is not your car. That is to say…

3) Singing. Hey, everyone sings along to certain songs – it’s one of the cool things about concerts, when hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of voices join together as one. But. Not. Every. Song. Is. A. Sing-along. Those around you didn’t pay to hear you, but the artist on stage.

This next point, like the first three, really comes down to one word: Respect.

4) Standing vs. sitting. Some songs and entire shows are designed for folks to be dancing in or on their seats; others are a tad more laid back. Common sense dictates that if everyone else is on their feet, by all means, you should be on yours, too. (Feel free to stay seated, however, if you so choose.) But if you’re the lone person or persons standing in your section, the only thing you’re doing is pissing off the people behind you. If you’re cool getting dowsed with beer (and I’ve seen that happen), hey, by all means…

And that’s it.

Some folks, I’m sure, are wondering about cellphone usage. The most important thing is: Set your phone to silent. We’ve been at too many (smaller) shows where, during an intimate song, someone’s ringtone blares through the room, killing the mood.

Beyond that – is it cool to record a song or three? Some folks are actually adamantly opposed to the practice, but – as evidenced by my YouTube channel – I have no problem with it. (But make sure to turn off the flash and dim the LED screen.) In fact, here’s one of my favorite said videos, from a First Aid Kit concert in 2014:

I smile wide every time they get to the “straight to hell” line; it takes me back to that particular moment in time. I love it, just love it. (And when I recorded that clip – as is often the case – my eyes weren’t on the LED screen, but Klara and Johanna. I rarely look at the phone when filming, just hold it up and hope for the best.)

As far as texting or checking one’s Facebook or Twitter feeds – we live in an ADHD/multitasking world, and many folks are simply incapable of focusing for any length of time. Many, including me, may look askew at you for doing so. But. It. Doesn’t. Impinge. On. My. Enjoyment. Nor on anyone else’s. So, if you feel the need, by all means… (And, to be fair, sometimes there’s a good reason for such stuff – checking in with the babysitter or kids, etc.) 

Today’s Top 5: Classics, Old & New

Humans have lived, longed, loved, lost and loved again, forged wars and fought peace, and argued about politics familial, social and cultural, since the dawn of time. Such is the grist of poetry and song, of course, and while many lyrical laments litter the byways of history, forgotten, much has stuck around – thanks to the advent of, first, paper; second, recordings; and, last, the resonance of the works themselves. Whether they come from the pen of Wallace Stevens or piano of Carole King, or the hills of Appalachia, expressions of the heart, soul and psyche have remained constant through the ages. It’s why music, like all art, doesn’t come with an expiration date. We, as a people, live, long, love, lose and love again, and argue amongst ourselves, forever and ever. Amen.

I mentioned in my last post that I sent my niece CDs for her 21st birthday. (A few more than I intended, actually, but the prices on two were obscenely low.) Three harken back to the 1970s and the others hail from the past few years. The lines that lead from those of yore to the present are right there, to be heard.

One thing that I did, and I have no idea if it worked as intended, was to turn Amazon’s free gift cards into short notes about each album. So, for today’s Top 5: Classics, Old & New, here are the picks with my notes (and a bit extra) included.

1) Carole King – “So Far Away” from Tapestry, 1971. King, of course, is one of the all-time greats; and this album is, too. I wrote in the note, “Blue, Rickie Lee’s debut and Tapestry are stone-cold classics that have influenced many, including Diane Birch, FAK & the Staves.“ In retrospect, I should have singled out Tapestry specifically, as it was the top-selling album for 15 weeks in a row during the winter and spring of ’71. Rolling Stone rates it the No. 35 Album of All Time.

2) Joni Mitchell – “River” from Blue, 1971. I wrote: “This is rightfully considered one of the greatest singer-songwriter albums of all time, and has influenced generations of artists. ‘River’ is amazing.” Rolling Stone rates it the No. 30 Album of All Time.

3) Rickie Lee Jones – “Chuck E.’s in Love” from Rickie Lee Jones, 1979. I wrote: “Rickie Lee’s debut was and remains a stunner, building upon the blueprints laid down by Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro and Patti Smith, among others.” I’d add: Rickie Lee radiates utter coolness on everything she does, which is why she’s the Duchess of Coolsville. (Her most recent album was one of my favorites from last year, too, for what that’s worth.)

4) Diane Birch – “Nothing but a Miracle” from Bible Belt, 2009. I wrote, borrowing an observation from my Diane: “This album, in many ways, is a modern-day Tapestry.” That’s a tad over-the-top, granted, but there’s no denying the charm of this modern-day wonder. I remember reading the review of it in Rolling Stone a month or so before its street date; it sounded like something I’d like, so I looked her up on Facebook, where she’d posted four of the songs from the album. Within a few minutes, Diane called in: “Who is that? I really like her!” We’ve been fans ever since.

5) First Aid Kit – “Cedar Lane” from Stay Gold, 2014. I wrote: “This was my favorite album of 2014 – FAK are two sisters from Sweden who mine an Americana sound.” Notes, of course, can’t include hyperlinks, so I’ll include one here instead: my Albums of the Year, 2014 post.

6) The Staves – “Make It Holy” from If I Was. 2015. I wrote: “This album is a gem – my favorite from last year.” (Here’s that post.)