Live music, lately

2014 is a crazy good year for live music in my world. In addition to Paul Simon & Sting and the highlighted shows below, I’ll be seeing OK Go twice (in SF and SLC), Tom Petty at Outside Lands, and Paul McCartney at Candlestick Park (the last show ever! …Candlestick’s that is, not Paul’s). I’m pret-ty pumped, to say the least.

Here is a glimpse of my May and June in music….

Kishi Bashi @ The Fillmore. 5/17. 

I’d been wanting to see Kishi Bashi in concert since I became obsessed with him last year. So I was stoked (yes, STOKED) to hear about this show. It ended up topping the list of my favorite concerts ever, even with the very drunk couple next to us who kept elbowing me and stepping on my feet. Kishi Bashi and his band put on an incredible show (special shout out to Grizzly Bearded Banjo Man, you sir are wonderful). I thought I already loved KB’s new album, but of course the songs are that much better when played live. How can a song about a piece of steak be SO delightful?
I also loved how genuinely excited KB was to be at the Fillmore. He made a point to mention that it was his biggest show so far, and that he never would’ve thought he’d be playing there two years ago when he was touring with Of Montreal. It made me feel lucky to live in the bay area, where the venues are just as exciting as the acts. :)
Video: Atticus in the Desert

Nickel Creek @ The Fox. 5/19.

Nickel Creek is from my hometown of Vista, California. Which is noteworthy because no one famous ever comes from Vista, California. But these guys happened to make it! It took some recollection, but I realized that I’d seen Nickel Creek before, like 10-15 years ago at the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina, Kansas. Pretty sure that’s the only time that a band from my hometown has played a show in my dad’s hometown, but I could be wrong.
Anyway, they’re a really awesome bluegrass trio whose mandolinist Chris Thile you might’ve heard of (if you are a mandolin fan). Plus, they hadn’t played together in 7 years so it was a pretty epic reunion.
Video: Hayloft (couldn’t find a video of this one from the Oakland show, but it was one of my favorite songs so this is a vid from earlier in the tour)

The Spencer Owen Timeshare @ The Starry Plough. 6/7.

I’ve been to a lot of T.S.O.T. shows in the past year, but this one might just be my favorite so far. I’m not sure I can even pinpoint why…but I loved it, the crowd loved it, there was dancing, and there was saxophone. What else could you ask for? Also, the venue was really fun too. +1 for The Starry Plough!
The band is going on tour this July, and although I have work and don’t want to be all groupie status (well, I kind of do), I’m going to try my hardest to go to as many shows as possible. So exciting!!
Videos: My Troubled Past and Deserve You More (I’m lame and only start recording halfway through each song)

The Mountain Goats @ Bottom of the Hill. 6/14.

I saw the Mountain Goats in December of 2012, and became an instant fan. They played at the Fillmore in 2012, but this time the show was at Bottom of the Hill (a much smaller venue which has also hosted the Timeshare!). I loved how intimate/informal the show was: it was just John Darnielle and Peter Hughes playing acoustic guitar and bass (except when a string broke on JD’s guitar and he had no backup so used the opening band’s electric guitar).
Can I also just reiterate how awesome the crowds are at tMG shows? Probably the most attentive and dedicated fans I’ve ever seen. There are people that know every word to every song, even the deep cuts on cassette tapes from 1993 (I know this because they played the entirety of Transmissions to Horace and there were people singing along to every song). These shows are so much fun that I think whenever the opportunity comes up to see a Mountain Goats concert, I will make it a point to be there.
Video: California Song (same venue, but 6 years ago)

That’s it for now. But stay tuned for my OK Go/TPetty/Macca follow-up in August. Until then, I hope you find good music to listen to and I sincerely hope you check out OK Go‘s new music video which debuts TOMORROW!

Land of temples and towers

Recently, I went to Japan.


I don’t usually use this as a personal blog-type thing, but I feel the need to write about how much I absolutely loved this trip.

Tokyo is an amazing city, the kind of place where you can get lost and not even mind, because everywhere you go there is something incredible to see.

It’s also the only place I’ve ever wanted to explore more at night than during the day, which says a lot because I am not a nightlife person at all. But I had so much fun walking through the neon-illuminated streets of Shinjuku and drinking sake out of funky glasses and admiring the red glow of Tokyo Tower from 52 floors up. These are the things I’m going to look forward to when I go back someday.

We took small trips to Kamakura (a beach town kind of like the Santa Cruz of Tokyo) and Kyoto, which is full of historic temples and monuments and also full of schoolchildren on field trips. One of my favorite parts was when we were asked (twice) by groups of kids if we could take a picture with them. They were genuinely excited to meet Americans, for some reason! Some of the kids were practicing English for school, and had a list of questions that they had written out to ask us. One of the questions was, “What do you like about Japan?” My immediate response was “It’s beautiful!” (an answer I certainly stand by), but I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and wanted to share a few more reasons…

Reasons Nikki loves Japan:

  1. I’m half Japanese so…I love it by default.
  2. It’s so clean. I love clean places. There is zero litter and people sweep their doorsteps and wipe down their windowsills every day.
  3. It’s safe. Being a tourist usually means guarding your belongings with your life and constantly avoiding peddlers who try to take advantage of you. Not here. I felt like I could trust everybody.
  4. There are Japanese traditions that have been around for centuries, which are still upheld in everyday life, even in a huge metropolis like Tokyo.
  5. Getting around is so easy. Wherever you want to go, there is always a subway, bus, or train that will take you right there. And when you find yourself accidentally in the wrong car of a train, or your ticket doesn’t have enough money on it, you will be helped rather than reprimanded. Little things like that make a difference when you’re unfamiliar with a place. Along those same lines…
  6. The people in Japan are the most polite, helpful, and respectful I have ever met.

And in order to (kind of) relate this back to my blog, here are a couple of pre-made playlists that were the soundtrack of my trip. You know, in case you want to hear a little time capsule of what I was listening to in May of 2014 (let’s be real, I’m the only one who’s ever going to listen to these):