Monday, February 28, 2011

Going Gaga

It's rare these days to go to a concert and really feel a connection between yourself and the artist. After all, you're surrounded by thousands of screaming people and (if you're me anyway), the performer is usually far away and little more than a speck in the distance. But every so often, you can just feel that a person is giving 100% of themselves to the audience, that their sole purpose is to put on a great show, and that they would run themselves into the ground just to make sure you get your money's worth. What's even rarer is the combination of this feeling along with the sensation of being absolutely blown away by a person's talent. Sure, a lot of people can work hard during a performance, but to do it and just be really really great is kind of the perfect storm for a concert experience.

So when people ask me, "how was the Lady Gaga concert last Thursday?" I guess I should just point to the above paragraph and say "right there. All that. Only with profanity, lots of flesh, wacky outfits, and a great self-esteem boost."

Because if there is one thing that going to Lady Gaga concert will teach you is: DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE GAGA.

I've had a lot of conversations with friends where I try to explain why I love her. Sure, she's got great catchy pop tunes that are fun to dance to and sing along. But if that's all it was, I don't think people would seriously refer to her as The Next Madonna or really care. I mean, Ke$ha makes catchy songs, but does anyone really think she is a cultural icon or will be around for more than a few years (except for maybe Brittany on Glee)? No.

But there is something about Gaga that I think will guarantee her a place in the pop pantheon for the long haul. She is amazingly, sickly, grossly, talented. Say what you want about her being wacky and crazy yadda yadda yadda, that bitch can SING. For 2 straight hours she sang completely live, danced, and rocked out on the piano, standing bass, keytar, and organ. Oh, and she just happens to have written all those great catchy pop songs. And you know what? She sounded even better than on recordings. And trust me, that's rare.

But whatever, you want to hear about the concert, right? There was a kind of basic plot to the proceedings, I guess. Gaga and her friends (i.e. scantily clad dancers) are trying to get to the Monster Ball, but along the way they have all these mishaps and adventures. These provide opportunities for set changes, costume changes, and of course Gaga sharing with us her philosophy...which as far as those go, is pretty awesome.

"What is the Monster Ball?" someone asks. And Gaga answers, "it is a place where you can be free." You can be as strange, as weird, as YOU as you want, and you belong. "I don't want you to leave here loving me more," she said. "I want you to leave here loving you more." And that's basically what she is all about: no matter how much of an outcast you feel, Mama Gaga loves you. And remember: she will always be weirder than you.

The show opened with Gaga silhouetted against a dark backdrop singing Dancing in the Dark. We then cut to a large city set, with a truck in the middle of the stage. During Glitter and Grease, Just Dance, Beautiful, Dirty,Rich, and The Fame, we learned that she was on the way to the Monster Ball, but oops! Her truck broke down. Cue discussion of what the Monster Ball is and why it's awesome. And why we as the audience were awesome.

Then we get a new set: this one of a subway. I guess since the truck didn't work out, Gaga and her friends decide public transport is the way to go. She goes right into Love Game (dressed in a nun's habit, natch), and makes her way through Boys, Boys, Boys, before rising off the stage with her huge keytar for a little bit of Money Honey. After that, she called a fan in the audience (seriously) to thank her for making a huge donation to her tour-sponsored charity (a halfway house for LGBT teens who have been kicked out of their homes) and invited her backstage after the show. The woman gave $20,000 and seemed excited, but her teenage daughters were seriously freaking the fuck out. As anybody would. After finishing the call, Gaga performed Telephone and the rocking out got really under way.

Dorilyn: What is she holding?
Me: A disco stick?

At this point, Gaga was in a black and sparkly bikini so I guess it seemed like a good time to settle down at the piano. Which was on fire. She performed a song from the new album called You and I which was along the veins of Speechless, meaning it was more of a singer/songwriter kind of vibe rather than glam pop. And this is where she is really impressive: for most of the song it was just her and piano and it was awesome. And in her own words, "I hate having to cut my nails to play the I don't."

She was on fire! Not literally though. But she did play the piano with her feet.

Gaga then got sucked up by a tornado (just go with it) and performed So Happy i Could Die dressed as a cracked out Glenda the Good Witch. The tornado ended up dropping her in a dark and very expensive forest, where her dancers promptly ran away and left her alone (those bitches). But they were back to help out with Monster, Teeth, and Alejandro. And to smear fake blood all over Gaga, of course. Another great quote from this set: Gaga stretches out on the stage covered in fake blood and notes, "I was bullied a lot in high school....some people thought I was strange." Finally, she went into an awesome version of Poker Face which took us right into....

Paparazzi. And a giant freaky angler fish that is set up on stage and eats Gaga. I guess the fish is what gets her to the Monster Ball? Because the next number finds us at the Ball with Gaga encased in a shiny metal ball thing (just go with it again) and bringing down the house with Bad Romance. This was clearly the song of the night, or would have been, except for the encore of Born This Way. I don't think any other song really encapsulated the theme of the night as much as Born This Way which is basically saying, let your freak flag fly. Gaga and three of her back-up singers came out and sang some verses a cappella before busting into a recreation of her recent Grammy performance minus the egg and ponytail.

All in all it was probably one of the best (if not the best) concerts I have been to and was more than just a show. It was kind of an experience. If you get the chance to go see her, DO IT. At the very least you will get the chance to say you saw Lady Gaga live, and I have a funny feeling she is going to be around for a very long while. Even my Dad admits that she's talented and for us to agree on something like is amazing in and of itself!

Oh, one last quote. Before the show, you could text a message and it would appear on large screens around the arena. Most of the texts were things like, "your little monsters love you!!1!" or "Mama Gaga you are the best!"But one text really stood out. "Where are my keys? I lost my phone" Guess all you can do is just dance.

PS: Thanks to the Gagapedia for the set list!

Monday, February 21, 2011

No wonder they call it La-La Land.

People in LA are crazy. And I have documented proof. Don't get me wrong; I love visiting Los Angeles, especially now that my brother and sister-in-law live there. And I can't complain about the 75 degree sunny clear blue sky weather in February, but seriously folks there are CRAAAAZY.

How do I know? They are trying to live in a Dr. Seuss-land.

This is a typical tree on a typical street in a typical LA suburb. And yet, it looks like it belongs in Whoville or the like. Sure, you see other plants that have a lot of Asian influence and other interesting shapes, but this? This is just ridiculous.

Also, people there like to sculpt their shrubs into shapes. In a single yard, this is a delightfully quirky expression of creativity, but when it comes a full-blown epidemic it just gets kinda creepy. This one house that I walked by was working on some huge shrub swans, and had the beginnings of a giraffe in the works. Weird.

When swans attack...

Another house (which alas, I forgot to get a picture of) had its front yard shrubs in some vaguely humanoid blobby shapes. It looked like something out of an anime...something that starts out cute but then quickly morphs into something that bites your head off.

I think this is all a function of the weather in Southern California. After all, when flowers can bloom all year round and every day is perfect (well, almost perfect), your yard becomes more than a hobby and is a full-blown status symbol. I don't think anybody there does their own gardening; everyone has a service that includes some hardcore landscaping. Bushes and trees in ridiculous shapes are the new SUV.

Coming up next: more adventures in LA including LEGOland and a vegan night out.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Ah, Valentine's Day. The one day a year dedicated to love--when you are supposed to shower your significant other with chocolate, flowers, hearts, balloons, wine, and kisses and hugs. Oh, and don't forget the greeting cards. Well, I say screw that. Except for maybe the chocolate. And also the wine.

I am not, however, one of those bitter single people on Valentine's Day. You know what I mean--the ones who sit around kvetching about how it's just a corporate holiday meant to boost sales at Hallmark Stores and for chocolate companies and how it's all a scam and dumb. Maybe it is, I dunno. But I guess I can't really find anything wrong about setting aside a day to make sure you let the people you love how much you appreciate them. But that doesn't mean I am going to get all weepy about not having any Valentine's Day plans. Actually, I should clarify: I had a plan, but filling in for a significant other was my couch.

The point of Valentine's Day is to do something you love, right? So I came home from work, watched Supernatural and Vampire Diaries. And it was awesome. I also made sure I told my family I loved them, sent internet hugs to my friends, etc. etc., but really the best part was the pizza. And the couch.

So happy (belated) Valentine's Day, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful day and spent it doing something (or someone) you love or at least like. And just remember: any holiday that uses chocolate as its main means of celebration can't be all bad.