Friday, March 22, 2013

The Dulcet Tones of Americana

First, I would like to apologize for the large gap between my last post and this current one. My last few weeks have included a tour of the best bands Americana has to offer. As the name suggests, Americana includes music that reflects traditionally "American" styles of music. My tour included a trip to Cologne, Germany to see The Lumineers, a visit to a local venue in Vienna to witness Mumford & Sons, and a hasty weekend trip to Munich, Germany for The Avett Brothers. These adventures were all great, but they all are symbolizing a recent trend in my musical habits since arriving in Vienna.

Spoiler Alert: If you don't want me to alter your expectations of any of these live bands, you may not want to read the following section. Skip down past the section break for my conclusions and analysis (No Spoilers).

My trip to Cologne was plagued with illness. The night before I left for Cologne, I had come down with cold. In retrospect, I should've probably stayed in Vienna, but I was determined to see The Lumineers. I boarded my plane and flew off to Cologne. A summary of my time in Cologne would be occasional trips to the Cathedral (one of the largest in Europe) and walks around the Rhein river, but mainly trying to recover from my new bout with disease. So I ended up spending a great deal of time sleeping and reading in the hostel. After a two days of rest, I had finally come to the expected climax of this journey, the concert.

The Lumineers were everything I hope for. At the concert, I had met other two other Americans on break who had also decided to make the same pilgrimage. They were studying in France of the semester, so we exchanged our European experiences and notes. It was definitely comforting to meet others like me, after traveling by myself in an unfamiliar place.

The band was excellent. I had been listening to their self titled album for most of the last eight months, and they certainly delivered. Their sound blends together a delightful mixture of acoustic guitar, gentle cello, and an eclectic and folksy tones. I had a really nice spot under the lead singer Wesley Schulz. A majority of the concert included him stopping around the stage. At one point of the concert, they had move into the middle of the crowd and performed their major hit Ho Hey. They did something I respect, which was to tell everyone to put their cameras and phones away and sing with them. As they began, the cameras began to pop up, so they proceded to stop and point everyone out who disobeyed. Eventually, the crowd began singing along and it was definitely an awesome moment. In my opinion, their best performance was Stubborn Love. It's one of their songs that is very easy to sing and dance to. Overall, it was an eight months dream come true. The conclusion to this adventure was a short flight back to Vienna, and a week of recovery in bed.

A week later Mumford & Sons rolled into Vienna. They had just come off a best album of the year award at the Grammy's, and they didn't disappoint. I got there an hour early to get a good spot, and thanks to the easy concert going nature of the Europeans, I got relatively close. When they eventually got onto stage I was right by the upright base. He great to watch because he made some excellant faces throughout the concert, and was really interactive with the crowd, mainly chatting with us. They are very passionate, especially for Broken Crown and Dust Bowl Dance. During Dust Bowl Dance, Marcus Mumford basically knocked down all of the drums and microphones in a rage. What I appreciate about them is the poeticism and rawness of their lyrics. Marcus Mumford won over the crowd by saying that Vienna has the most beautiful architecture, he had ever seen. Classy move. It was really cool and an fun experience.

The weekend before I saw Mumford & Sons, I had spent some time watching the Little Desk Concert put on by NPR. I had already heard a great deal about The Avett Brothers. But when I had watched them in that performance on the podcast, I had decided I wanted to see what they were all about. Coincidentally, they were touring through Germany that same week. I quickly snatched up those concert tickets, and bought a train ticket to Munich. So, the day after Munford & Sons, I took a morning train from Vienna to Munich through the upper Alps. 

I spent the day walking around the city, then I went to the concert an hour before the gates opened. I was once again surprised, by the ease of European concert goers. I was first in line! In line I met some huge fans of The Avett Brothers. One was from Hamburg, Germany, and the other from California. They were touring with the band throughout Germany, and had already seen them two times before. They were really kind and let me join them for the concert and breakfast the next morning.

As for the concert, I had probably the best spot in the house. They were super electric and enthused to be playing for us. They brought a certain presence to the stage that I've never quite experienced at a concert. Even though I had only heard a few of their bigger hits, all of their songs were super accessible. At one point in the concert, the brothers performed Through My Prayers and Backwards with Time. They both wielded acoustic guitars and sang into one microphone. And all of this happend literally right over me! I felt that their best performance of the evening was At The Beach. It is a really upbeat, peppy song, and very danceable as well. Even though, I wasn't really familiar with them as much as the previous two bands, this was my favorite experience of the three. 

To reason out my recent habits, maybe you should know a little about where I'm at personally. I've definitely been feeling a bit of homesickness. I believe this stems from the mindset I have been operating under. I feel that during my time in Europe, I've been operating under a "vacation" mindset. For me this includes: the excitement of the unfamiliar, the shock of removing oneself from the normal, and the idea that I soon return. But that last idea isn't true. I'm not going to be home soon, I've got three more months left. So, I've been trying to change that mindset. It needs to change from one of a visitor to one of a resident. That change hasn't been easy or quick, and it is still underway. It is definitely a time of reflection, uneasiness, and a slight feel of loneliness, but I feel that none of those things are necessarily bad, their just different. It's a time that I've spent trying to understand what makes me tick, and what's really important to me.

During this time, I've turned to things that are comfortable. This does include a bit more Facebook than usual. It also includes more effort in maintaining relationships through electronic communication, than I may have spent in the past. And, It definitely includes listening to Americana music.

The concerts haven't been exclusive to my music experiences in Europe. Whenever I do any traveling, I listen to music as my primary form of entertainment, mainly from the Americana genre. It's almost a subconscious choice to listen. I've come to the conclusion that it has a comforting effect on me. In this new place, it is something that is familiar to me. It  may be because it is in English, or reflects on ideas on home and some existential ideas. It's most likely a combination of both. What I do know is listening to music has a strange effect on how I feel, especially during my time here. 

I know some of this will sound strange, weird, or over analytical, but I've had a bit of time to think of it. Also don't feel that I'm depressed or unhappy because that is untrue, it's just a new time in my life.

God Bless,