Monday, May 13, 2013

Music guest blogging for the Scottish Album of the Year Award

A couple of days ago James of the fab Scottisch band The Twilight Sad (just back from the US were they played several shows as support for the awesome Frightened Rabbit) posted a link to the great blog post he wrote for the website promoting the Scottish Album of The Year Award
The topic of his and quite some more amazing posts is "the album" - meaning the whole record vs single or even single track - as a format to enjoy music. The posts are an absolut pleasure to read and I shared the link via Facebook and Twitter.
Only a few minutes later then I was more than thrilled when the SAY Award team asked me to contribute to the blog as well with my thoughts about "the album".

My blog post went live on the SAY Award blog page today and here is a teaser:

... As positive most of this is, there is one thing that really bothers me and that is the short attention span that a lot of people now seem to have for music. It is awfully popular to pick only a single track out of albums with investing just a pound or even less and ignoring the fact that there are more tunes to a record than the radio single just downloaded. I mean it’s easy, it’s fast and it is fun to purchase and consume this way – I get it. But folks:  You are missing out! Badly!

Let me tell you how I listen to music, how and why I am still listening to albums.

I will start with a surprise:  I hate having a new album. Boom!

It is actually not that I dislike the thing itself – it’s the opposite. I have my heart racing when the brand new release of one of my favorite bands is sitting in front of me sealed and un-listened. But what I hate is the fact that at this point all the songs are new to me. It is like finally meeting this one person you adore for a long time and then you are finally getting introduced and it’s really awkward ...

Please read the full blog post here:  Scottish Album of the Year Award - Blog

PS: Scottish people rock - just in case you did not know :)!!! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Drop the puck Vol. 4 - Pens 3 : Islanders 4

Nothing is more old news than the review of a lost playoff hockey game, when the next one happened already and the one after that is only 22.5 hours (yes, I am counting down) away, but let me have a short look at this one anyway and focus on some things beyond the score. 

The Pens lost this game out of stupidity. The first period was a case of pure beauty and another gorgeous Sidney Crosby comeback, but the they forgot to show up after the intermission and let the Islanders just do their thing although I was yelling down from my fantastic section 120 row N seats that they should dare to ruin my last night in Pittsburgh so badly, but they were just not listening. SIGH! 

Although that was really a downer I would not for a million $ give up the experience of being at the Consol Energy Center that night. 

Alone the pregame countdown would have been worth it. The first highlight is usually the warmup - always a good chance to watch the players and take great pictures. 


The traditional Kris Letang shot 

And ..... the first standing ovation of the night for Sid coming out with his special helmet 

After the warmup comes what turned out to be my favorite part of the two playoff games I went to - the pregame countdown. It is beautiful and emotional and made me cry. 

And this the best of all moments. The light points through the darkness to the Pens' tunnel. The scoreboard screen quickly shows the waiting team, the sirene starts and "THEY CAN HEAR YOU" comes out of the speakers to tell the fans welcome their team .... and then the place goes BATSHIT CRAZY! 

I can confirm with all seriousness that playoff hockey is on some completely different level of awesome than a regular season game (and those are huge fun already).

Sid did not play the first shift, but when he finally jumped over the boards on the ice the whole CEC was on its feet celebrating the return of the Captain and undoubtly best hockey player in the world.
It all started well and when Sid scored it was a LOT of towel swirling fun

The net was in the way for the best shots on game action (a problem made out of the luxus of gorgous seats) but I could snap some good ones. 

Flower - Do  not blame him for the loss. The last goal was bad for him, but he blocked so many shots and the real bad stuff did not happen in the goal but in front of it.

Time out Pens

Sid and my man Douglas Murray



Fun in the stands with ...


And Benstonium's giant Potash head

And finally some random observations:

  • The Pens lost stupidly. I  have no idea why they just left their brains in the locker room, but somebody needs to fix this.
  • Geno started okay, but in the 2nd and 3rd his performance was horrible. He turned the puck over a million time. It is obvious that there is no chemistry between him and Iggy and without James Neal it is not working at all. In game 3 it was significantly better especially in the PP, when he could play along Sid though. Today James Neal praticed with the team and I hope he can play in game 4. Geno needs him more than it he should.
  • Sidney Crosby does not know fear. If the strange helmet would not be  there you could not tell that he is still recovering from a difficult facial injury. He takes all the physical risks a fully healthy player would.
  • Sidney Crosby is the best hockey player in the world and it is a mindblowing experience to watch him play in person. It was the 2nd time I had the chance to see him and I hope many, many more games are in Sid's and my future.
  • Brenden Morrow plays for the Pens like he never played for another team ever and puts his heart and energy on the ice. Probably he should even take it a bit more easy to use more his experience and smartness to further improve the results, but I really like him.
  • I want to hug Iggy and Iggy to hug me one day.
  • Jussi Jokinnen knows faceoffs - it's really cool.
  • Watching Kris Letang skate is still such a pleasure.
  • I love watching my man Douglas Murray defending the room around Flower with his life (and back, shoulders, elbows and whatever it takes). That is some physical, defensive perfomance in front of the goal we missed quite a long time. He also takes more and more responsibility. Douglas was extremely pissed when the first Islanders goal happened when he was out on PK. When the next PK came up he talked to all other defensemen on the ice like the boss and put them (it at least looked like that) in place. This PK was killed easily. He seems to also get along very well with Tanger although this is the most opposite defensive pairing you could think of. 
This team has it all. Now they need  to make it happen!  LET'S GO PENS! 

For a last dance in the Strip District

When we were planning this trip and doubled the time we would spent in town we thought that would give us finally enough time to do all the things we would like to do and meet all people we know and love in Pittsburgh. That was of course very naive and did not work out - at all. 

Nevertheless we were diligent workers and filled some of the important gaps in our Strip District project. One of those missing parts was learning more about the dancing people of the Strip

At first we met with the team of the Attack Theater. When we arrived the they were sitting in the sun (smart people) right between their studio in the former Westinghouse Air Break Factory (where you find also practicing and administrative space of  the Pittsburgh Opera) and a second studio they use close by. We chatted about the Strip and how Attack spreads out into the neighborhood they calll their home with performances and events before we went to one of the studios. 

Between the decoration pieces from the just celebrated legendary Dirty Ball and - mostly custom made and self developed - requisites Peter Kope and Michele de la Reza let us have a fascinating look into the creative work of a dance company and especially one that is closely connected with Pittsburgh. It was wonderful and made the idea of going back home to my so much less creative and a lot less physical (aka sitting whole day on my butt starring in my computer) daytime job a little more difficult than it already is.
If you have a chance to see Attack performing - go and let them kidnap you from your "real" world into a world of music, dance and story telling!

Only a few blocks away on Liberty Avenue we could experience a more classical take on dance theater right the next morning when we went to visit the Pittsburgh Ballet. Similar to the Opera the Ballet performs Downtown in the Cultural District but moved in the 80ies to a wonderful old building in the Strip.
The Ballet does not only hold practices for their breathtaking professional performances in this facility but also has a huge dance school. There are classes for kids of all ages - from small kids mostly from Pittsburgh and the communities around up to young dancers from all around the country and international students just one step away from a professional dance career. As you can imagine the house is buzzing with talented, young and beautiful people. 

Just like the other performing artists we talked to artistic director Terrence Orr pointed out how much he and his staff, dancers and students love to be in the Strip and how the centrally located facility close by but yet out of Downtown suits the company. 

Saying good bye

After our take on the performing arts in the Strip District the rest of our time ran out fast. We met with friends, went to another hockey game and took a last heavy hearted stroll in the Strip. Pittsburgh was of course showing off all its beauty in the crisp spring sunshine and made it even more difficult to leave, but we had to. 

After the traditional final breakfast in our "living room" Espresso A Mano (I miss the place already!) and huge farwell hugs we drove to the airport - without GPS of course (we won't take one next time, we really do not need it anymore) and started the trip home. The flight was long but smooth and now it is the jetlag we have to fight and the urge to go back right away. 

We would like to thank everybody we had the chance to meet along the way. We feel incredibly spoiled by the love and support of our friends, who ignored their own schedules to make time for us, opened their hearts and homes and made impossible things possible for us ALL THE TIME!  It is YOU who create the breathtaking magic of Pittsburgh.

We also are very grateful that again so many people all over the city and especially in the Strip took the time to show us around, tell stories about the neighborhood, share their point of view and encouraged us to keep working on our project.
We have now the materials we need, got the next steps lined out and feel encouraged and empowered to make it happen. 

Pittsburgh, we love you every time a little more. We'll be back as soon as possible! 

All polaroids by Gabrijela Obert

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Drop the puck Vol. 3 - Pens 5 : Islanders 0

It is late at night and I am pretty exhausted, but I want to share the experience of my first LIVE playoff game before I go to bed. The good news are: 

- PENS WON (and what a win it was!)
- I survived without having a heart attack although right before the game it was a close call

But let's tell the story in pictures ....

It was an absolutely stunning day in Da Burgh and the city looked so pretty from the CEC parking lot:

Even prettier - the CEC itself with its playoff dress on: 

Pregame totally rocked and that was when I lost it and had to cry - just a little (okay more than just a little ... anway):

Then we were under way *squeeeeee*.  The scroreboard says "ARE YOU READY?"  Ahem ...  YES!!!!

Then we had goals - a lot of them:

Beau Bennett scored the first goal and the kid played a badass awesome game the whole night. BEAU KNOWS HOCKEY!

Goals for everybody - even for Tanner Glass (congratulation!)

Jussi is really good with these face offs! 

All of these guys were awesome all night but most of them had to go to the locker room 2 minutes early:

And that was because of the Islanders being pissed about Jussi's awesomeness, which lead to an awful hit on our poor fin (please, please be okay): 

Immediatly after the hit Iggy, Duper and Murray cornered Marty Reasoner, who had kneed Jussi, and "told" him pretty clearly that this is a NO GO. They all had to leave the game after this, but: GOOD BOYS! 

Here you can watch the whole thing:

Not so good news also:  James Neal had to leave the game with a possible ankle injury (rumors (!) say he is okay,  but was taken out precautionally - no need to risk something with a 5:0 lead). Up from that point poor Geno passed  the puck in to the free room several times and nobody was there to pick it up. 71 really needs 18 and vice versa. 

Five goals are something really fantastic, but five goals and a shutout are SUPER AMAZING and the main credits for the shutout part of the awesomeness go to these two gentlemen: 

The one and only Mr. Douglas Murray *swoon* (could not suppress this - sorry ;) ) 

And the No 1 star of the night: FLEURY, FLEURY, FLEURY

See you on Friday when it is time to swirl the towel again!

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood - Lawrenceville Vol. 2

Today we had beautiful summer weather - warm, sunny, light winds ... simply perfect. I had to pick up a couple of things around Lawrenceville and just took the camera with me. So here you go with some more impressions from our hood

Sadly did not make it here this trip - hopefully next time:

The probably most convincing political ad I have ever seen:

Not only for the playoffs! 

A double taco date and more Pittsburgh awesomeness

After visiting the Carrie Furnace we drove over to Homestead for lunch at the wonderful Smoke Taqueria with our friends of Rivers of Steel. We were a bit tired after the photo session but a pork taco, queso, black beans and a Mexican Coke later we felt refreshed and ready for an adventure:

We went just accross the street to meet Olivia Crocker at the building site of her upcoming bar / restaurant / club "DOROTHY 6 - Blast Furnace Cafe".  Dorothy 6 was one of the first blast furnaces that was shut down although the steel workers had done everything to safe her (Read more here). Her legacy should come alive again at the new restaurant Olivia is planning to open. With lots of love, energy and money the historic house, that will be the home of "Dorothy 6", is restored and revived at the moment. Carefully the old stairs, walls and ceilings will be renovated and some pieces like a giant chandelier in the entrance area already give you an idea of what is coming. We also had a peak at the upper floor that is full of wonderful antiques. The beautiful pieces will be contrasted later with gritty but pretty leftovers from the furnaces like original steel worker lockers from the Carrie Furnace and custom made modern art works

Olivia plans for an opening in October and I can tell you already that the "Dorothy 6" will be awesome and one more great step in the revitalization of Homestead

From there we then rushed to Oakland to catch our friend James Rich and his PGH Taco Truck in the parking lot of  the local TV station WQED. We were a little late but James and his sous chef Dan were so nice to make me a super delicious jerk chicken taco that filled the little open slot in my belly which was left after having a taco at Smoke just shortly before (but isn't there always space for another taco?). 

took a picture of Gabi and me, commented it with the fact that we traveled over 4,000 miles for this taco and posted it on Instagram and Twitter. 30 seconds later a silver haired gentlemen stormed out of the WQED building telling James he would not believe his last tweet about the taco travelers. And that is how Pittsburgh magic got in full swing again, because the gentleman was nobody else than Pittsburgh TV legelnd Rick Sebak!  And here we are (James, me and Rick - from left to right):

Realizing that we are really from Germany and in love with Pittsburgh Rick invited us into the TV station (WOW!) and was showing us Mr. Rogers' tree (!) at the studio where the show was filmed and the radio station. We could even have a look into his office, which is probably also the biggest liberary of Pittsburgh related books and DVDs the city has to offer. On top (Christmas???? Looks like it.) we got a lot of Pittsburgh documentaries to watch in Germany to fight the "homesickness". Could there be any better way to spend a Pittsburgh afternoon? I guess not. THANK YOU, Mr. SEBAK!

On top of all this awesomness we finished the day with an outstanding dinner at E2.  The restaurant is nicer than I thought it could be and we LOVED the food! If I would live in Pittsburgh I would have a table with my name on in a corner of this place. 

What a crazy wonderful Pittsburgh day  ... Thank you, lovely city! 

All polaroids (location "Dortohy 6") by Gabrijela Obert