Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Homecoming - The Afghan Whigs at Bogart's

I have to admit that once it became clear the show at Bogart's was over on Thursday night, I was disappointed. As the house lights were turned up and the road crew started breaking down the set, I almost couldn't believe it. This was supposed to be an epic show. It was their HOMECOMING damn it. After 13 years, they were back at Bogart's. In Cincinnati. I kept replaying in my mind how I had imagined the show to be and it wasn't this. In reality, they had played the exact same set as they did in Carrboro, NC, although with a shorter encore. Maybe it was a combination of the truncated set and the letdown of knowing my flurry of AW concerts had come to an end, but I felt let down.

Let down after this? Really? How spoiled have I become?!

Thankfully, I was there with Erin who has this perfect way of cutting through crap to reality. They sounded great. The energy was great. It was a great show. So what if they played songs I had already heard live. So what if the set moved fast (quite possibly due to running up on a curfew). So what if there wasn't a lot of banter. So what if it was a shorter set. The band was tight and they were having fun at the hometown show. I was in the midst of enthusiastic fans who were singing and dancing right along with me. Erin jolted me back to reality and got me thinking about all the great parts of The Afghan Whigs in Cincinnati.

Waiting with Erin for the show to start.
So glad she was there (her 4th AW show! What a trooper!)
First was the deep connection to Joe that I experienced by being at that venue. It was so overpowering in fact that there were several times I just had to stop and "be" with him. When we arrived at the venue there was a long line outside even half an hour before the doors would open. As we walked along the sidewalk, I felt the tears pooling in my eyes and a lump growing slowly in my throat. Even though I knew how impossible it was, I fully expected to see Joe in that line just as I did 13 years ago on September 25, 1999. The feeling started to overwhelm me and just when I was sure I couldn't contain it, I heard a friendly voice say my name and saw a bunch of smiling faces. I love that I've been able to count on my Congo friends throughout this tour - whether it's a tissue or a stiff drink or a hug and a smile. The ladies who "saved" me at that moment won't even know what they did until they read this blog post. They are wonderful people and I'm thankful for them and our connection through the Whigs music. There were other moments once I was inside the club when I literally felt Joe there. I've become used to these moments over the past 10 months and I've learned to embrace them and roll with them and cherish them. They made the show at Bogart's very special.

It was also special to be there with Erin. She is a perfect concert companion and a strong support for me in my "Joe" moments. Over the past few years especially we've done a good job together just enjoying life and creating memory after memory. This was another one of those memory making moments and I'm thankful we experienced the show together.

And then there was the music itself. I have heard some complaints about sound at this show, but I have to say that from where we were the music sounded great. There were even some songs that I felt were the best live versions I had heard to date: Crime Scene, When We Two Parted, Into the Floor, Retarded, and Fountain & Fairfax were all excellent performances at this show. Greg was hitting all the vocals with gusto and it felt like the rest of the band had a special Cincinnati energy too. There was an emotional edge to this show for me (although nothing will come close to what I experienced at the Terminal 5 show) and I think that edge enabled me to really enjoy the music.

The crowd singing "Fountain & Fairfax" is always great,
but here it was awesome.
And then there was the encore and Greg Dulli's white shirt. Seriously, people, Greg Dulli had a costume change and ditched his traditional all black get up for a white shirt. Maybe you feel this petty, but I wasn't the only one who took note of it. Trust me that the Twitterverse and the world of Facebook were equally interested in the Savior of Misbehavior's changed look. It made for a fun (although short) encore and left me itching for that moment 66 days from now when I will ring in the New Year with Mr. Greg Dulli and The Afghan Whigs (& Scrawl!). Thankfully, rumor has it that we won't be stopped by a curfew that night!

Proof of the white shirt.

For the setlist from this show, check out the list from NC up until the encore and then add Miles Iz Ded and Into the Floor.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Afghan Whigs - NOLA, Carrboro, & Memories of 1999

This past weekend found me for the first time ever in New Orleans, LA and Carrboro, NC. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has been reading my blog posts that I was there primarily for a healthy dose of The Afghan Whigs.

There's just no way I could communicate all of the amazing that was packed into those 4 days of travel - and it wasn't all about the shows. In NOLA, we had a blast rocking and bowling at Rock N Bowl, kicked back with a beer at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop on Bourbon Street, and grabbed a cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe Du Monde. We cried at the Louisiana State Museum as we watched and listened to the stories of Hurricane Katrina and we treated ourselves to some delicious food at Lilette and Restaurant August. Oh, and I also had my longest run ever - a relaxing 8.6 mile jaunt through the Garden District and Uptown areas. In Carrboro, I shared dinner with two great friends who I don't see often enough - Aubrey, a friend from high school and Christon, a friend from college - and I finally got to meet Christon's adorable dog Churchill. (He's even sweeter in person than he is on Instagram.)

The Congregation pose for a photo outside Tipitina's before the show.
And then there were the shows. Oh, the shows. On Friday night, we were treated to a kick ass time at Tipitina's Uptown, a cool venue with a lot of great history. Unlike the too-cool-for-school hipsters who were mixed in the crowd at MHOW in NY, this entire crowd came to party and weren't afraid to show it (only a few instances of crazy scary fans!). It was invigorating. The extra special treat for the night was that the band wasn't just the band - they were joined by Steve Myers and Susan Marshall. And it was phenomenal. The highlights for me were John The Baptist (which I had never heard performed live) and Neglekted (which was one of the hottest live performances I have ever seen). Greg, Susan, and Steve were electric every time they shared the stage, but when Greg and Susan moved from 66 (the first song of the encore) into Neglekted, I could hardly contain myself. They moved together like magic and their voices melted into each other as if they were one. I was lucky enough to snap my favorite photo of the night during this song. I literally caught the "she blew a kiss..." moment and every time I look at the photo it makes me smile at the memory.

"She blew a kiss..." Susan Marshall and Greg Dulli on Neglekted
The NOLA show was exactly what I hoped it would be - nonstop energy in one of the most exciting cities in the country. Even having beer repeatedly spilled on my head and back couldn't dampen my spirits at a NOLA Afghan Whigs show. Next to me during the show were a husband and his wife who had traveled from Texas (NOT the ones spilling the beer!). He had seen The Afghan Whigs in Austin and Dallas and several times before the band broke up, but this was his wife's first time seeing them live. He was a nice guy and they both seemed to really enjoy the night. I'm glad they were the ones standing next to me as it was a gentle reminder of my Joe and our love. More than once during the show I glanced over at them and couldn't help but think about Joe and what it would have been like to be there with him. He would have LOVED that show and I'm convinced that if things had happened differently it would have been the two of us enjoying that NOLA show together - although with Joe we most certainly would have been standing in the balcony instead of on the floor.
More from Tipitina's - Greg with Rick McCollum, Dave Rosser, & Susan Marshall
After the show Friday night, my friend Erin and I were exhausted. Knowing that we had lots of plans for our last day in NOLA we decided to skip any post show drinking festivities in exchange for some heavenly sleep in our sweet apartment. On our last day together in NOLA we had a knockout breakfast at Surrey's (a recommendation from the owner of our rental), rode the ferry across the Mississippi River, walked down Bourbon Street, visited the Louisiana State Museum, hung out at Cafe Du Monde, went shopping on Magazine Street, and had a delicious dinner at Lilette. It was a full day and went by much too fast. We both plan another trip back to NOLA, this time for at least a full week. With any luck, the same apartment will be available next time we go...
Looking in to the main bedroom from the living room.
The back bedroom & bathroom where I stayed.
It was an old speakeasy (entrance off to the right).
Early Sunday morning, it was off to the airport for me to begin the MSY-IAH-RDU trek. After a short delay in IAH, I finally arrived in RDU and happily got a big hug from my college friend Christon. We got to spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon together watching football, catching up, and hanging out with her dog, Churchill. Then, it was off to dinner with my friend Aubrey at The Spotted Dog in Carrboro before the quick ride up the road to the Cat's Cradle.

Waiting in the line with Christon at The Cat's Cradle.
While we waited on line to get inside, we reminisced about the last Afghan Whigs show we attended together. It was at the Birch Hill Nite Club in Old Bridge, NJ during our junior year in college. We were not even 21 yet. Joe was with us. I kept busy taking pictures which I would later develop myself in my college photography class. I distinctly remember Greg Dulli smoking a lot, having the most fun I had ever had at a concert, and that, in general, the Birch Hill was a dump. The Nite Club is long gone (it's condos now), but the memories of that night are still very strong. It didn't hurt that almost immediately after coming home from my recent trip I came across a scrapbook I had created during college which contained 4 "Afghan Whigs" pages:
I absolutely love this page.
Photos are mine from the Birch Hill Nite Club (Old Bridge, NJ).
Ticket stubs from Bogart's (9/25/99) & Birch Hill (2/23/99)

A Q&A with Greg Dulli I had clipped and put in my scrapbook.
My favorite part:
What are 3 things every man should know about women?
They're always right;
you need them more than they need you;
and when you hang up on one, you'd better mean it.

Pretty sure this is the setlist from Birch Hill 2/23/99
Including a photo I took at the show.

My favorite photo from Birch Hill (2/23/99) - Rick McCollum on guitar.

But enough reminiscing. Back to the Carrboro show.

Here, the opening band is worth mentioning because Wussy had a genuinely fun set. I enjoyed them in NOLA, but even more so in NC. There was an older man standing near me while they played who was clearly there for them which made me enjoy it even more than I would have otherwise. His enthusiasm was contagious and the band sounded especially tight. When their set was done and the setlist was passed my way, I kept passing it right on and gave it to the Wussy fan guy. He took it happily and made his way back out of the crowd. At the end of the night when we left, Lisa Walker was out front loading their van and I made sure to let her know how much I enjoyed their set. I definitely plan on adding at least a few of their songs to my iPhone shuffle.

Wussy bassist Mark Messerly. Love the shirt.
Wussy vocalist/guitarist Lisa Walker.
Lots of talent + a cool look.

Wussy is joined by John Curley for Yellow Cotton Dress.

And just like that it was time for Christon and I to enjoy our first live Afghan Whigs show together in 13 years. The crowd energy was great and in true Afghan Whigs fashion, when the crowd is ready to party, so is the band. Highlights for me included the Best of My Love lead in to 66 and Heaven on Their Minds (from Jesus Christ Superstar) which was the first song of the encore. Christon's favorite AW album is 1965 so we sang extra loud and danced extra hard during those songs. During an especially high energy version of Gentleman, Greg met Christon with one his famous "points" and as he returned from the crowd on See & Don't See we cleared the path and he walked right between us to get back up on the stage. It was all very cool. The final two songs of the encore were Omerta/Vampire Lanois, which I had first heard performed on this tour at MHOW. This performance was just as magical with the yeah, yeah, yeahs of She Loves You literally sending a chill down my spine. I even managed to catch a photo of John & Greg to go along with the one of Rick & Dave I took at MHOW.

At the end of the show, the setlists were going fast and furious so I was convinced we weren't going to get one this time around. I had started looking for someone with a list so I could snap a photo when more lists were brought out from backstage. I was lucky enough to be passed one of the lists so after allowing some nearby fans to snap photos, I gave it (a little misty-eyed) to Christon. With that list we had come full circle in our Afghan Whigs journey - I with my old setlist from NJ and she with the new one from NC. Just perfect.
Christon showing off her setlist from Cat's Cradle (10/21/12)

It seemed like the band was having a blast all night.
My favorite was Dave singing the "Steve" parts.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah...with Greg and John.

Finally caught a good one of Rick Nelson.
And, now it's time to catch some ZZZZZs since tomorrow (today!) is another show, this time at Bogart's in Cincinnati. When I arrive there, I expect it will bring back a flurry of emotions since it was there I ran into my then ex-boyfriend, eventually-to-be-husband Joe just a little over 13 years ago. In anticipation of Thursday night's show I went searching for the setlist from that night (9/25/99) and came across this blog post which lays it out. If this next show follows in the same light, we are in for quite a night in Cincinnati!

Bogart's 1999 Setlist:
01 The Boys Are Back In Town
02 Superstition - Going To Town - In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
03 Uptown Again
04 Come See About Me
05 Be Sweet06 Neglekted - Do You Feel Like We Do - Nasty
07 King Only
08 If I Were Going
09 Debonair
10 Bad Girls - Title Unknown - 66 - Little Red Corvette
11 I'll Be Around
12 Somethin' Hot
13 Crazy
14 Bulletproof - Baby Love
15 People Get Ready - Faded
16 Who Do You Love - Hot For Teacher
17 Fountain And Fairfax - All You Need Is Love
18 Omerta - The Vampire Lanois - She Loves You
19 Into The Groove - Rebirth Of The Cool - Express Yourself 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Strength & Love - Living the Fall

I've spent a decent amount of time these past few weeks thinking back over life this time last year. For me, that has involved revisiting both my personal journal and the CaringBridge site I maintained for friends and family during the last two months of Joe's illness. I am now more thankful than ever that I was finally able to convince Joe in October of last year to let me to start the blog on CaringBridge because looking back on it is very meaningful. Joe was always relatively private about what was going on with him to the point that even some of his close friends and family members didn't realize exactly how serious his illness had gotten by the time the fall season was in full swing. Part of my hope in integrating these posts with my current blog is not so much to recall the difficulties of last fall, but to really remember the sweet moments, those times when even in the midst of pain, love was shining through in our lives.

I have found looking back on these blog posts to be a cathartic part of my grief journey because they are a way to remember Joe and how much strength and love he showed throughout his illness. Those things about him continue to be a model for me in my own life. It's so easy to lose perspective and call this my WORST day or complain about how EXHAUSTED I am or get ANGRY about the traffic or an issue at work. Revisiting these posts reminds me to re-focus on strength and love. So, I've decided to share some of these posts that had previously only been available on our protected CaringBridge site. I don't think I will necessarily share them all, but as I walk through this fall season which will inevitably lead to the cold winter and the one year mark of losing my Superman, I know I will somehow find comfort in walking through this season "with Joe".


Written Oct 13, 2011 3:12pm by Anne Luck-Deak

Many times over the past year and a half I have told Joe that he is my Superman and I think there is no time that has been more true than these past few weeks. After powering through intense radiation on his spine, he had surgery this past Tuesday to deal with the accumulating fluid in his lung. In the end, more than 2 liters of fluid was drained both through the surgery and using the catheter that was placed. (Imagine, a 2 liter bottle of soda - that's a LOT!) It's no wonder that he is now breathing easier!

In the midst of it all, we celebrated a very HAPPY 1ST BIRTHDAY with our little man and enjoyed all the love and support from family and friends. Domani enjoyed his birthday cupcake on Tuesday although he seemed more interested in eating his party hat (he'll learn)! The time has just gone by so quickly and we are looking forward to celebrating with the whole family this Saturday.

Joe started back with his chemo treatments today after a long hiatus for his radiation. Here's to hoping that this helps him find relief for some of his symptoms and that he is able to fully enjoy the party on Saturday.

Hurry Up and Wait

Written Oct 15, 2011 1:40am by Anne Luck-Deak

On Thursday, Joe resumed his maintenance chemo with the hope that it will get him back on track after a month and half with no chemo treatments while he received radiation to his spine. He is tired and still experiencing some side effects from being off the maintenance chemo for so long, but we are hopeful this will start to get the tumors back under control. We will just have to wait and see.

Thanks for all your support over this past week especially - it has not been an easy one for us. What a blessing though that in the midst of a tough week like this we were able to celebrate the birthday of our own little miracle. Domani is growing up so fast and we treasure every moment we get to spend with him. Extra hugs to you all today!

Happy Birthday, Domani

Written Oct 17, 2011 12:35am by Anne Luck-Deak

Well, it finally feels official. Now that we have celebrated Domani's first birthday with a proper party it finally feels like he is REALLY one! 

What a blessing it was to be surrounded by family and friends, to watch Domani running around the firehouse shrieking with his cousins and friends, and to even have Naomi join us via Skype! Domani is a bit slow on the unwrapping so we still have some unopened presents for him to get through, but it's just a way for his celebration to last even longer! We are truly overwhelmed by the generosity shown to Domani and to us.

While the party was a lot of fun it was also exhausting (for all 3 of us!) We have spent most of the time since then resting and enjoying some leftover goodies.

While Joe's appetite is still not great and he is experiencing some pain, Domani's birthday celebration went a long way towards lifting our spirits. We are so thankful for our little man and the joy he brings to our lives.

Looking back on these posts, I am reminded why I got my Superman tattoo back in March. I am also reminded of Joe's sheer joy at being able to be with his son at his 1st birthday party and that Domani's party was the last time Joe drove himself anywhere alone. And I laugh at the fact that just like last year, Domani still has a stack of birthday presents to open several days after his party. I remember our optimism that somehow this next chemo treatment would turn the tide in the cancer battle and buy Joe some more time with us. I remember the happiness of Domani's birthday celebration and how blessed I felt and I remember how completely and totally tired we were when it was all over.

I missed Joe incredibly when we celebrated Domani's birthday this past Saturday. It was a lovely day and I just know he would have had a blast following our 2 year old around and showing him all there was to do at Von Thun's Farm. Joe would have had so much fun with Domani and his cousins and there were quite a few moments when that realization took over my thoughts and emotions. For me though, the moment when I missed him the most that day was back at home, during the afternoon family nap time that followed the party. Because this year, Joe's nap couch was empty and that still has a sneaky way of yanking on my heart strings.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


So I've been finding a little bit of healing this week in a TV show. Somehow, I think that Joe, my TV junkie husband, would have gotten a big kick out of that. I honestly cannot believe that I didn't know about Go On before it started airing, but thankfully I heard about it from someone in a grief group I attend. I went home that night and was happy to find all 5 of the show's episodes available on Verizon Fios On Demand (and the 6th one airing that night).

So, I began watching. I figured I would watch one or two episodes and then get some sleep. Four episodes later I decided that I really DID need to sleep if I was going to wake up for work the next morning. I laughed and cried and laughed and cried. For me, it was perfect.

With gems such as...

"If I'm watching the Daily Show, can I call you and repeat funny things that Jon Stewart has just said?"
"I should just get a t-shirt that says Janie died. Or vanity plates that say dead wife." (Followed by a whole discussion about how "dead wife" is too many characters for a license plate and "ded wyf" is already taken in their state according to the online DMV database, etc etc.)

...this show just says all the right things at all the right times and I am finding it very true to life.

There is one moment in particular though, that captured me and hasn't let me go since. It's from the 3rd episode. In the midst of a discussion about when they each experience their most difficult moments, Ryan (Matthew Perry's character) shares with his support group that he still wakes up every morning at 1:23am because his wife always used to sleep smack him at that time.

Ryan: 1:23am
Lauren (group leader): That's...very specific.
Ryan: Every night at 1:23am Janie used to roll over in her sleep and slap me in the face and scare the living hell out of me. So I used to wake up at that exact moment every night, you know, to brace myself, and I still do. Only now, when that oddly strong little arm doesn't come, I realize that she's gone...again. And it's lonely, you know. It's 1:23am. There's no one to call.

In the final scene of the episode, a truly beautiful scene unfolds:

Ryan once again wakes up at 1:23am and looks over at his alarm clock.
Then he hears the doorbell. He opens it to find all the members of his support group standing at the door saying hello.
Ryan: What are you guys doing here?
Group Member: It's 1:23, right? Isn't this when you need someone?
Ryan: Hi. Come on in.
Lauren: They showed up at my house and told me they were coming here.

This was one of those "cry" moments in the laugh and cry, laugh and cry continuum. It reminded me of all the people in my life over the past 10 months who have been there for me in my "1:23am" moments. Joe did not have a habit of hitting me in his sleep, but we did have our own habits and routines and things we liked to do together which leave big empty spaces now that he is gone. So, for all of those who have called, texted, emailed, messaged, posted or tweeted and especially those who have hugged, socialized, partied, babysat, or relaxed during those "1:23am" moments...thank you, thank you, thank you.

In case you are wondering, I didn't spoil all of the funny (or sweet) moments in Go On. There's still the part where Ryan follows a random single guy around the grocery store buying everything he buys because he does not know what or how much to get. And the part where he leads the whole support group out of the meeting to dress up in crazy costumes and chase the Google Maps car. And the part where he throws random condolence fruit at Terrell Owens in his Escalade because T.O. is texting and driving. Maybe now I've got you curious enough to join me on Tuesday at 9pm eastern for the next one.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

An Epic Weekend - The Afghan Whigs in NYC

This was an Afghan Whigs weekend, which if you've been reading my blog should come as no surprise. After all, my favorite band was playing in NYC - on Friday night in Manhattan and on Saturday night in Brooklyn. There's a long roundabout story as to how I almost didn't go to one show or the other, but as I sit here on Sunday evening I can't imagine having missed either one of the shows.

The venues were very different as were the set lists and as a result I think the fan experience was different too, but the two shows together made for a truly unforgettable weekend.

On Friday, the show was at Terminal 5 with its notoriously bad acoustics that had fans complaining from the moment it was chosen for what was at the time the only NYC concert on the tour schedule. I had never been there, but I must say from the FRONT ROW everything sounded JUST FINE! Friday was anything but a typical day for me. It was October 5 and therefore, exactly 10 months since Joe died. I knew it would be an emotional night and was thankful that so many members of The Congregation would be there at the show too.

American Express Soundcheck Party with Malinda & Melissa
Mother Runners & Congo Members!
The fun on Friday started even before the doors opened for the concert. I survived an emotional drive through the Lincoln Tunnel into the City (very strong memories of taking Joe to his chemo appointments) to arrive in plenty of time for the 5pm American Express AW Soundcheck Party. Now I admit that I don't have an American Express card, but I was fortunate enough to be invited by my Mother Runner/Congregation friend Malinda to attend as her "plus one". The event included a small crowd of serious fans (including many Congregation members), an open bar, delicious food (served by some very attractive young men), and, of course, the Afghan Whigs. Shortly after the soundcheck party I texted a friend calling it "quite possibly the coolest musical thing I've ever been to". I would modify that now to include this whole weekend's experience as my "coolest musical thing".

John Curley on bass during the soundcheck.
The band came out for the soundcheck set relaxed and all smiles. They played 4 songs for the set: 66, Kiss The Floor (they hadn't yet played it live on this tour), Crazy, and Little Darling (Thin Lizzy cover that didn't get played during the show). We watched from the front row and enjoyed every second. Once the set was over, it was time to eat, drink, and hang out until they kicked us out at 7pm. To our surprise (and sheer pleasure) we were joined after the soundcheck set by John Curley (bassist) and Dave Rosser (guitarist) who were more than happy to chat it up and take photos.

With fellow Congo Member Chrissy and bassist John Curley
American Express Soundcheck Party
When we left the venue to wait in the concert line, I was already on Cloud 9. How could this night possibly get any better?

How about front row for Eagles of Death Metal and the most electric set from The Afghan Whigs I had experienced to date? Yes, that happened. I didn't know anything about EODM before they took the stage Friday night, but their live show blew me away. The music was loud and kick ass and the stage show was over the top fun. The lead singer, Boots Electric, worked his ass off and the drummer was literally breaking his drum set up he was going so strong. They were a perfect primer for the Afghan Whigs show that awaited us. It was also cool to notice that even AW were fans of EODM as John Curley came out from behind stage to sneak some photos and Dave Rosser later posted some photos taken of the band from the balcony.
John Curley taking photos of EODM. Very cool.

Boots Electric kills it right in front of us.
By the time AW took the stage, Terminal 5 was packed and it felt like every single person in that place, from the floor to the 3rd level balcony, came with the feeling that this would be one of the best concerts of their lives. The result? The crowd gave it to the band and the band gave it back. It was my first true front row experience for an Afghan Whigs show which made each song that much sweeter.

John Curley (& Cully Symington) in the midst of some kick ass lighting.
Steve Myers dancing (& singing) his ass off at the T5 show.
Love Crimes happening right in front of us at T5
The highlights for me included Turn On The Water which is becoming one of my favorite AW songs and When We Two Parted which Greg dedicated to Renee, a superfan Congo member who was with us at the show in May, but passed away over the summer. It was a powerful show for me personally as song after song reminded me of my Joe and our love story and that overarching 10 months. What I was not ready for though was the intense emotion that overcame me while Greg was singing Faded. It was truly spiritual. It may sound wacky for someone who hasn't had an experience like this, but it was as if Greg, Joe and I were IN that song together. I cried and cried and cried and it felt good. It was the 10 month date. It was the connection Joe & I shared through the AW. And it was this chorus and the passion with which Greg sang it:

This I feel
Behind the blue clouds
I remain concealed
Lord, life me out of the night
Come on, look down
And see the mess I'm in tonight

It was a little shocking to me how deeply I felt that song and Joe's presence during it. I was still stuck in it when the band started their encore with Retarded. 66 snapped me out of it though since it is one of my favorites and also one that brings up warm memories of Joe. It was rocking to hear that whole crowd singing "Don't Forget The Alcohol....Ohhhh Baby, Ohhhh Baby" on Miles Iz Ded and they wrapped the show with Into the Floor, the new, original song they've been playing on this tour. I will never forget how Greg ended the show. After singing Into the Floor, he simply said "you never know..." Profound and thrilling at the same time. If Faded was my theme song for that night, "you never know" became my mantra. (Many of us are hoping "you never know" was a not so subtle hint to what may lie ahead after this tour.)

Once again, how could this night possibly get any better?

How about getting the AW set list that was used by John Curley? Yes, that happened. For the prior 4 AW shows I attended on this tour I had settled for photos of the set list that someone else got to take home. But this time, on this special night, I got my very own. A little cosmic good luck which was much appreciated.
John Curley's Terminal 5 set list & my Soundcheck badge
Surely, that marked the conclusion of an epic night, right? How could it possibly get any better?

Well, how about the conversation I've been waiting for 10 months to have with Greg Dulli actually happening after the concert? Yes, that happened. I'm so glad that fellow Congo Elissa was there and wanted to try catching Greg for a chat after the show. I would have never stayed otherwise. We didn't talk with him long, so as not to keep him from whatever he had planned for the rest of the night, but the time we did spend talking was profoundly meaningful to me. Elissa thanked him for once again dedicating When We Two Parted to Renee and let him know how special it was to those of us who knew her. He shared some of his own thoughts on her passing and the last interaction he had with her. It was that conversation and his openness that made me feel comfortable sharing my own perspective from the evening.

With Greg (obviously) and my friend Cindy (a brand new AW convert!)
I told him that the show tonight was particularly special to me because it was exactly 10 months since my husband had died and he was the one who introduced me to The Afghan Whigs when we were in college. I described to him the intense emotional experience I had during Faded that night and he shared that it wasn't surprising given that he had written that song about a personal loss in his own life. He said it was cool that I was able to connect with the song in that way during the live show and that I felt what he was putting into it. Then, I told him about how Joe and I had chosen the name Domani for our son who was born after Joe's diagnosis. (We actually found out I was pregnant just days before Joe was rushed to the hospital and then told he had Stage IV colon cancer.) It was a Dulli song that made Joe think of the name but it was the meaning and his own Italian heritage that cemented it as the name for our son. Joe's mom has a beautiful post about the little guy's name which captures well why we chose that name and Greg apparently found it equally sweet. He told us that "tomorrow" is the most beautiful word in the English language and he thought it was a moving and hopeful choice. We also talked about the song Domani and how he didn't really remember it when asked about it in an interview, so he went back and listened to it afterwards. The truth is that I can't remember all the details of the conversation, but I do remember how it made me feel on that particular night: peaceful, hopeful, and connected to Joe. It was truly a special moment for me and I'm thankful both for Greg's incredible musical talent and his graciousness to chat with an appreciative fan.

When I finally got home that night (aka the next morning) I remember thinking that there's no way the Brooklyn show could possibly be as amazing as the night I just had. In fact, after a very rough Saturday which included losing Joe's wedding ring which I had been wearing since he died and a mildly traumatic trip to urgent care, I *almost* skipped the show. I'm so glad I braved the "Brooklyn Bridge is closed so 278 is a parking lot" traffic and made it to the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night. I would have never forgiven myself had I missed THAT set list in such an intimate venue.

Both opening acts were excellent, but seeing Mighty Fine was something extra special. I'm a big fan of Steve Myers and his dancing (& singing) skills. It's impossible to not have fun when he's on stage. As their set went on I felt the pain and stress of my day just melting away, one song at a time. If you ask me, that's exactly what really great music should do for you.
Mighty Fine rocking out at MHOW on 10/6/12
Once again, the opening bands served as the perfect primer for the epic night that was to come from The Afghan Whigs. The set list from this show... well, let me just say that if I quoted what some folks I know said about it, then I would have to treat this post like that censorship episode of Family Guy. In my opinion, it was the best set list they have played so far on this reunion tour.

I didn't get to take this one home, but a friend of mine did!
The best way I can think of to describe the show at MHOW  is a huge house party with Greg, John, Rick, Dave, Cully, Rick and Steve as the fun-loving hosts. I was lucky enough to find myself perched directly in front of Rick and Dave with my hands resting comfortably on the stage (when they weren't raising the roof anyway). I was joined by Chrissy & Susan, two other Congo members, as we gasped and screamed with joy as the set list was slowly revealed.

There were four HUGE moments for me.

1) BAND OF GOLD. Did you catch earlier how I had lost Joe's wedding ring earlier that day?! HOW DID THE BAND KNOW? Seriously, though, Band of Gold is a favorite song of mine period and the AW cover is pretty much perfect. If I were the panty throwing kind, that song would have made me do it and we weren't even halfway into the show.

2) NEGLEKTED. Since my first show this year at the Bowery Ballroom, I've been itching to hear this song live. It does, after all, contain one of the best Afghan Whigs lines of all time (kids, cover your ears) - "You can fuck my body baby, but please, don't fuck my mind." As if it wasn't enough that the band played this song, Greg chose THIS song to make his way down into the crowd and do some dancing with the ladies. There were plenty of Congo ladies who got some attention from him during this song and I was close enough to sneak a really cool photo.

Hello, Mr. Dulli! Singing Neglekted.

Greg Dulli partying with the crowd at MHOW.

3) CITE SOLEIL. Another one that I was patiently waiting to hear live. Not only did they play it, but Greg went through a story about how the lyrics for the chorus came to be (word for word what a cabbie said to him) and then riled up the audience participation on the chorus to a fever pitch. It was just as electric as the "Fountain & Fairfax" part of Fountain & Fairfax. Of course, it also didn't hurt that he sang a significant portion of the song standing right above us, yielding this fabulous photo.
Cite Soleil at MHOW - 10/6/12
4) The YEAH, YEAH, YEAHS. During the last song of the encore we got Greg Dulli leading the crowd on "She Loves You....Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" resulting in one of the coolest endings to a show I have ever experienced. My favorite part of it though was Rick & Dave coming over to one mike and singing the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs (and Rick accidentally bumping his guitar into Dave's) and John over at the mike with Greg. They all just seemed so relaxed and like they were having a genuinely good time. In that moment, it felt like they weren't just performing, they were making music. And I love that.
She Loves You....Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
The buzz after the show was that this was the best one yet, which is particularly good news for those of us who still have shows to attend during this tour. They really do just keep getting better and better. Can you all just IMAGINE what the New Years Eve show is going to be like?

Can't forget Cully on drums. This was the 1st concert I had a good
sightline of him - what a treat to watch him play!

Always a special treat whenever Steve Myers joins AW.

I would be remiss in this post if I didn't thank the amazing people who made my Afghan Whigs mania possible this week. My sister Karen and her husband Chris took care of Domani while I jetted off to Toronto on some overnight fangirl craziness (my post on the Toronto show). Joe's mom Lynda and her husband Ross hung out with the little guy while I rocked out in Manhattan (see her post about Domani's time with her here and marvel at how the "tomorrow" theme worked its way into both our lives that day). And, for the epic Saturday night show in Brooklyn, my parents amused Domani with many books and the movie The Princess and the Frog (he LOVES frogs!) I could never fully express my thanks to those who have enabled me to have these life-changing moments with some of the most fun people I know and the band that can send me over the moon with a single chorus.

Before the Brooklyn show, I tweeted: "What a day. Happy to be ending it at church, er, an Afghan Whigs show. Almost the same thing for me these days. #AfghanWhigsLive"

In many ways, these shows have been church for me. It's not always as obvious as my experience with Faded during Friday night's show or the rapturous joy of hearing Band of Gold on Saturday, but man, for me there is always at least a little bit of church up in any Afghan Whigs show.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

More Afghan Whigs

The Afghan Whigs in Toronto, 10/3/12
I can't speak for the guys who go to the shows, but the amazing thing about being a chick at an Afghan Whigs show these days is that you are bound to have at least one moment in which you are absolutely CONVINCED that Greg Dulli is looking right at you. Or singing those smoldering or angry or sad lyrics right at you. Or shaking his quite lovely goods right at you. Or directing some of that classic Dulli banter to you and you alone. Or (heart be still) making YOU one of the "points" in Gentleman.

Set list from Toronto, 10/3/12
Last night I went to my 4th Afghan Whigs show of the year and it did not disappoint. The crowd was hanging on every note from Crime Scene to Faded and although there were, of course, a few crazy drunks and a little friendly jockeying for position, it was the perfect mix of old school fans and AW Live virgins. One of my favorite parts of these shows has become the exchanging of fan stories just before the band takes the stage. It always seems to happen so spontaneously, born out of the unquenchable anticipation we all share. Last night it was a guy who was in high school when AW were first making music together and a woman who had seen them at ATP and gotten a sweet autograph from Greg for her 9-year-old son. And those crazy drunks? Well, they were long time AW fans who had never seen them live and just really, really, really wanted to hear Bulletproof.

But I digress from my initial point of being a chick at an Afghan Whigs show these days. The truth is, for this single mama, there is nothing like the release that comes with dancing my butt off under the smoldering gaze of Mr. Greg Dulli. It's unadulterated fun that leaves me without a voice and, on a really good night, without much ability to stand on my own two feet. Last night, for the 2nd show in a row, I was, without a doubt, one of Greg's "points" in Gentleman (you and you and you...) and I was definitely part of his crowd scan while he was talking about "all the beautiful girls here in Toronto" and how they are just as beautiful as the ones in LA where he lives. He went on to introduce You, My Flower by commenting on how he was sure all these beautiful women had boyfriends and he hoped none of them ever wrote a song like this about us. Anyone who can make me swoon while introducing a song like You, My Flower....well, that's a special kind of gift.

Greg works the crowd during See & Don't See
By that point in the show, I probably could have left happy, but there was still so much more. Greg made his way down off the stage and into the crowd while singing See & Don't See, dancing with whoever was around and, I'm sure, making every woman in the crowd feel like he was looking right at her. After the sweet high of See & Don't See, he once again nailed a cover of Frank Ocean's Love Crimes and the whole band rocked out like I have never seen them before on 66 then Debonair, then Fountain & Fairfax.  By the time Greg relented to the crowd to shout "Fountain & Fairfax", I felt outside myself, knowing the encore we would get if the band felt our energy just half as much as we felt theirs. The band's final three songs, Bulletproof/Summer's Kiss/Faded, have taken on a little bit of church for me over the years, but especially now as they've been doing them on the tour. The lyrics are just amazing and the movement between the songs is masterful. I have never heard a better succession of songs anywhere and performed live, well, there's just nothing like it.

I don't even want to think about how much I will miss these shows when they are over. Perhaps during "church" tomorrow night at Terminal 5, I should start praying for some AW studio time and a new tour. Now, that would be some Christmas gift.
My favorite shot of Greg from Toronto.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Grief Observed - The Right Thing at the Right Time

I'm a big fan of those times when circumstances just "happen" to bring you to the perfect place. Today was one of those days. I was at the airport for work and had some down time in between meeting with workers there. I had down time because my iPad was not cooperating in giving me access to the website I needed to do my ACTUAL work. My iPad was not cooperating because I am horrible about remembering to update the software as needed. All of this led me to about an hour of nothing to do while I updated my iPad with iOS6.

The solution?

An iBook I had downloaded months ago called A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. It was the only book I had on the iPad that was still unread so I gave it a go. Within minutes I found myself fighting back tears as I read through the framework of a story much like my own - and that was just the Introduction. By the time I got to the actual book I stopped trying to fight the crocodile tears and just combined wiping them away with pretending to fix my hair. (I'm so slick.)

Thankfully, it wasn't until I got home and finished the book that I reached the part that really ripped out my heart, mostly for its raw honesty. (He refers to his wife who died as "H.")

Summer 2005
"I think I am beginning to understand why grief feels like suspense. It comes from the frustration of so many impulses that had become habitual. Thought after thought, feeling after feeling, action after action, had H. for their object. Now their target is gone. I keep on through habit fitting an arrow to the string, then I remember and have to lay the bow down. So many roads lead thought to H. I set out on one of them. But now there's an impassable frontierpost across it. So many roads once; now so many culs de sac."

"For a good wife contains so many persons in herself. What was H. not to me? She was my daughter and my mother, my pupil and my teacher, my subject and my sovereign, and always, holding all these in solution, my trusty comrade, friend, shipmate, fellow-soldier. My mistress; but at the same time all that any man friend (and I have good ones) has ever been to me. Perhaps more. If we had never fallen in love we should have none the less been always together, and created a scandal."

He had me at suspense. It's a place I've inhabited for the last (almost) ten months but never really had a word to explain it. That constant mode of waiting for the other shoe to drop, of wondering if something the customer service rep will say or something waiting in that stack of mail at home will bring on the wave and lead me to yet another dead end. There are still days when I get in the car to drive home from work and instinctively reach for the phone to call him. And still, ten months later, when I give Domani a bath I sometimes must remind myself that I don't need to leave the extra space for Joe to sit next to the tub. There are thousands of places where I drive that remind me of thousands of things about him or about our relationship. There is an abruptness and a distinct pain when I hit the culs de sac where roads of love and life used to be.

One of the things that I have heard from numerous sources during my own grief journey is that part of dealing with the loss of a loved one is recognizing the "secondary" losses that come with it. Lewis' list reminded me of that. I did an exercise while a member of my Griefshare support group this past spring where I began listing the many things that Joe was to me. It was an incredibly helpful thing to do as I realized that I did not *just* lose my husband. I lost my fellow Mets fan, my handyman, my Sunday afternoon sports watching buddy, my source of laughter, my lawn mower, my cuddler, my back massager, my fellow Giants fan, my source of patience, my Scrabble challenger, my travel buddy, my music expert, my confidant, my leaf raker, my snow shoveler, my bug killer, my bill payer, my drinking buddy, my encourager, my fellow Greg Dulli fan, my concert company, my perfect gift giver, my voice of reason, my adventure companion, my mechanic, my shoulder to cry on, my eating out company, my tech expert, my peace, my pop culture/TV/movie guru, my lover, my best friend, and an amazing father for our son.

To varying degrees I've been grieving each of these losses in their own way and if you've been following my blog you have gotten glimpses into many of them over the past 7 months. There are some days, weeks, or months when these losses stand out more than others.

Last week I especially missed my fellow Mets fan as Domani and I watched R.A. Dickey notch his 20th win with much fanfare at CitiField. Joe was an R.A. fan before it was cool and one of my big regrets is asking Joe to wait until after we finished breakfast to approach R.A. for a photo and autograph when we saw him in DC last year. He was gone by the time we went back out to the lobby.

This week it will be my fellow Greg Dulli fan and concert company that I will miss the most as I get to enjoy the Afghan Whigs in Toronto and NYC, including an opportunity to sit in on their soundcheck in NYC (thanks to my fellow Mother Runner & AW fan, Malinda).

Next week, as we celebrate Domani's 2nd birthday, it will inevitably be Joe the father that we will miss most of all.

Today, though, I am just thankful for the seemingly random circumstances that led me to A Grief Observed and a new way to be at peace with my own journey, however rocky it may feel.

"For in grief nothing 'stays put.' One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?"

All quotes from A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis