Sunday, April 20, 2008

If you're going to travel by Greyhound...

Better make sure the trip is worth it.

Luckily it was. The Mraz concert was fantastic. There's a reason I've seen him in concert 5 times now. It's because the concerts are really worth seeing. The excitement doesn't come from him being there "live and in person," the excitement comes from him making it a true performance, something truly worth watching. And he has such a great positive energy and it just flows all over the audience and everyone is just so happy to be there and we're all enjoying the music together and it's beautiful. And it was really great to be in Richmond, which is literally just down the road from his hometown of Mechanicsville, VA. The "hometown crowd" energy was a great thing to be a part of.

While I was walking there from my nearby hotel I was astonished at how QUIET Richmond is. Seriously. That is the quietest city I've ever seen. Okay, granted, it has under 200,000 people in it so that's going to make it quieter than Boston or Portland. But seriously, downtown Grants Pass is consistently more active than that city was at 7:30 on a Friday when I was walking to the concert. For those of you not from Oregon, Grants Pass has a population of about 30,000. Truly a small town. I think maybe Richmond has too much area for too few people. Their downtown looked pretty spread out from what I could see, about as spread out as Portland, maybe more. And Portland has over 500,000 people so it makes sense to have some spread in the downtown area. There I think it would be more active if it were more compact. But, even though it was quiet...I liked it, it was cute. I wouldn't live there, I need a more active city, but it was fun to visit. Really cute Southern colonial buildings. I managed to forget my camera (I realized on the bus...) so I have no pictures of the cute buildings I saw (or the show) but I might go back for a real visit sometime. This time with my camera. It's too hot there for me to live anyway. 80 degrees in April is just not allowed. 80 degrees in July is something I have to accept as a fact of life unless I want to live in Alaska, but April is not okay. I know many of you out there would love it, but heat makes me cranky.

So anyway, I walked the roughly 10 blocks to the show, and there was a pretty big line, it wrapped around the corner of the building. So I went back to the end where the bouncers were checking IDs and putting bracelets on people indicating whether they were over or under 21. The guy had to stare at my Massachusetts license for a while. Imagine if I'd still had my Oregon license. Then the father in this family in front of me turned to his daughter and said "you know what this reminds me of? Portland." My ears perk up when I hear that and out here I often wonder if they're talking about Maine or not, because Portland, OR is much bigger so it's possible they are talking about my home. Anyway, so I sort of listened for a bit and the dad continued to say, "You know, that place on Broadway, where the line wraps around the corner, with the big marquis..." and I started thinking, okay...that sounds familiar... and then he goes, "oh, the Shnitz, right??" Which means the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, which is, in fact, in Portland, OR and is exactly where he was talking about. So I decided to go ahead and let them know I overheard by saying, "Wait, you're talking about Portland, Oregon?" To which they said yes, and I told them that I grew up there, and they said they lived there for 13 years. What a small world. Anyway, so then once we got inside they went their way and I went mine and I went into the bar where they were serving food. Good thing because apparently people in Richmond don't eat. Or if they do it's not in restaurants. The whole walk to the venue I saw no food, and that was what I was hoping to find while walking so I was starving. So I had some chicken strips and I was sitting there with my food and my vodka cran when the dad came in, ordered some nachos, and asked if he could sit with me. The mother and daughter were nowhere to be seen, must have been holding seats. Anyway, at first I was thinking, "hmm...awkward...where's your wife and daughter?" but I let him sit anyway. We just chatted about Portland and why I moved and I guess they lived in LA before Portland and then moved out to Virginia. And he told me to look for these take away shows where Jason's just playing on the streets in France. Really cool. Then it was about quarter to nine and the show was about to start so he went to find his people and I went to find a seat. Luck was with me, I found a single seat right in the front row of the balcony so I had a great view without having to be in the midst of the crowd downstairs on the floor.

Anyway, so the show opened with the Makepeace Brothers who I'd never heard of before but they were truly fantastic. Really great sound, a unique blend of a lot of different styles. Then we had Bushwalla, who I'd also never heard of but was great as well. I loved that it looked like he'd just stepped out of the 70s, in his leisure suit and his afro. Fantastic. And in between sets we had Justin Kredible, a magician who kept us entertained with jokes and tricks while the bands set up. So there wasn't that lull you usually get at concerts when one band is done and the next one is getting ready to come on which was nice. And Justin Kredible was, in fact, just incredible (haha) so it was great to watch.

And then Jason came on. Actually, Justin produced him from a tent. And then they made some punny tent jokes. And then Jason started playing some music. The set was basically the same as what Jenn described in her blog about another show in PA that I wasn't able to get tickets to (hence the reason I went all the way to Virginia...). As for my reactions to the songs, I agree with Jenn, this time 1000 things really moved me. It was interesting. I know all the words to the song, but this time, I don't know if it was the way he played the song or just the mood I was in or what it was but it was the first time I'd ever really LISTENED to the lyrics.

"Suddenly the thousand things I've seen were nothing more than dreams of you and me..."

As for the differences in the set, one thing was really sweet. This girl down in the front had a sign that said it was her 16th birthday that day. Since I was up in the balcony I didn't see the sign, but he saw it and he talked about it. He asked her name and everything. He also talked about how he used to work at some local craft store where she probably bought all her supplies. And then he sang "happy, happy, happy, happy, birthday" a few times, which was really sweet. I'll bet that just made her day. And I sat in the balcony and pretended he was also singing to me since this was officially part of my birthday celebration, the whole trip was funded by my wonderful parents as a birthday present since it was just a week ago. So that was really cool. That just really shows how much he really cares about the fans. He's not just up there singing at us, he's up there feeding off our energy and making sure we're enjoying the music WITH him.

He also added one that he said was for his friends and family that were up in the back (another fun thing about a hometown show) and did Love for a Child instead of Sleep All Day like in the show Jenn saw. Which I preferred, Sleep All Day isn't one of my favorites and Love for a Child is really sweet and could easily become a favorite so that was cool.

He also didn't actually do the fake ending that bands always do where they go off stage but the houselights don't come back on so you know if you've been to enough concerts that they're coming back. And the "encore" is so well-rehearsed that you know it's not spontaneous. But since the show started at 9, when the time came for them to do the fake out he just said, "Okay, now is the time that we go off stage and take a break, get some water, call our moms, but since the show started so late we're just going to keep playing." Well, that's the basic gist of what he said. He did say "call our moms," that I'm sure of. And at the very end instead of just singing "You and I Both," he said we were going to do a sing along because that's what we were all there for - to enjoy the music together. So he had the whole audience singing it with him...and then somewhere in the middle changed some words, then sang, "yes I changed the words just to fuck with you" and then sang some more different words then went back to what we all knew, and we all just fell right back into singing along. So that was really cool, to just feel so connected to him and the rest of the audience and just singing together.

Then the show was over and I walked back to my hotel. It was much cooler then. Very nice walking temperature...but when the nice evening walking temperature doesn't hit until's still too hot. =P

Anyhow, so that was the concert. Now, for the trip. I have decided that the only time I'm taking Greyhound for a trip ever again is JUST to go to New York and back. I did that before, it's not so bad. The bus takes about the same amount of time it would take to drive there, and then you don't have to try to drive among the New York drivers. Definitely worth it. And while the trip itself was worth all the trouble to see Jason Mraz, any other show would not have been worth it. Changing buses is a hassle, if the bus is late (which is easy to do with traffic being as unpredictable as it is) you have to just hope they let you on the later bus because you missed the one you were scheduled feel gross and dirty and tired and hungry and cramped and the other travelers have no respect even though the drivers tell them to please keep their music to themselves and talk quietly and don't use the "walkie talkie" feature on their cell phones and in general RESPECT OTHER TRAVELERS. So, the next time I'm going farther than NYC, I'm taking a train or I'm flying. At least on a train you can get up and move around and they have a snack car. And you don't get stuck in traffic so you know if you're scheduled to be back in Boston at 10 pm you'll be back in Boston at 10 pm. Not 1 am because your first bus was an hour and a half late getting into NYC so you not only missed the 6 pm bus you were scheduled to be on but you also missed the 7 pm bus after that and the next bus wasn't until 9.

Okay, that's my vent about Greyhound. The trip down had no missed buses because I left Boston at 12:30 am so the bus had no problem getting to NYC on time to switch buses. Besides, it's a four hour trip between the two cities and the bus to Richmond didn't leave until 7 so even if it had been late I would have made it on the Richmond bus. So the whole crankiness really came from the trip back up to Boston. And I was probably cranky because all I wanted to do was just get home at that point and I had nothing really to look forward to other than studying when I got there.

I do have a fun list of random things from the trip down at least.

First, apparently I can sleep in public places, even on a bouncy Greyhound bus...I just have to be tired enough. Apparently leaving Boston at 12:30 am makes me tired enough - I slept the whole way to New York.

Second, I had my first random conversation with a random New Yorker while waiting for the Richmond bus. I was in line at this little greasy food place in Port Authority that was right next to the line for the bus. Some woman got in line and this guy asked her if she was getting food or just coffee and told her if she was just getting coffee she should move up to the front. So I asked him if I had to wait in line for a bagel and cream cheese since the place made breakfast sandwiches and eggs and stuff. He said I probably did have to wait, and then he just started talking, asked where I was from, where I was going, just random chit-chat. It was interesting. And he was very, very much a New Yorker. He interrupted a lot. I think I listened more than talked. I was amused by the whole experience.

Third, I have decided that Newark is to NYC as Vancouver, WA is to Portland. Trying to be part of the other city but still trying to have their own identity.

And is nearly impossible to relax enough to pee when you're in the bathroom on the back of a very bouncy bus. I normally wouldn't even try but I'd had a very large coffee right before getting on the bus and we had about 3 hours before we'd arrive at the travel center that the bus was stopping at between NYC and Richmond.

So, those are my random observations. And, for future reference, no one let me even say the word Greyhound unless I'm just going to New York! I'll try Amtrak next time. Or a car. Or something. I'll learn to apparate. Oh, but I will say it was cool on the way back, for some reason the bus went through DC even though it wasn't stopping there so I saw the Washington Monument sticking up know. Really, it does, there are no tall buildings nearby so it's just...there. And I think I caught a glimpse of the Lincoln Memorial, that was when we were still on the highway so it went by pretty fast. So...that was cool, although I think that going through DC was probably a large part of why we were an hour and a half late to NYC. I can't imagine that the most efficient way through traffic is to go through the nation's capital on a Saturday when all the tourists are out. And I mean THROUGH. The driver literally went on the streets of DC, not just on the highway nearby. I did learn that apparently the streets are named after all the states. Well, I only saw New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Montana, and South Dakota, but I feel like that's enough to assume it's intentional and that the other 45 are represented somewhere.

Alright, well, I should get to studying. I brought my stuff with me on the bus, but instead I chose to finish reading "Dexter in the Dark" by Jeff Lindsay (the third one of the books that the TV show Dexter is based on) and then got through most of Toni Morrison's "Paradise." In between naps and staring out the window. I knew that would happen, but I thought I'd at least make the effort and pretend I was going to study on the bus.


Bridgete said...

Oh, one more thing. Best quote of the night was "please put your children on silent or vibrate..." right as the show was starting. =)

Chucka Stone Designs said...

LOVE IT!!! What an awesome recap of your entire experience up to, including & after the show. It is always so nice to hear about travel stories from others, especially when it comes to the bus because it just reaffirms why I have never taken one (& after reading this probably never will lol!). How long was the ride down there from NYC?

Sounds like you had one heck of a birthday celebration in good old VA :) Glad to hear he mixed it up a little bit, maybe he is relaxing into a groove of this tour finally :)

Trayce will be uber jealous he did Love For A Child, although Sleep All day was good (groovy funky kind of disco esque) LFAC is one of my new favorites. Every time he gets to the last verse I actually tear up. I can really relate & it is just such a beautiful song.

Bridgete said...

Yeah. No more buses. The ride from NYC to Richmond was 8 hours total, including the 1/2 hour break when we stopped at a sketchy travel plaza in Baltimore for some food. Ugh.