Now, Now / Daddy Issues @ Mr. Smalls Theatre (April 23, 2019)

Wind the clocks back to 2009, if you will. I’m 16 years old, and like many a mid-aughts teenager, much of my life revolves around MySpace. In its heyday, the early social network was the place for music. Big-name artists and local basement bands alike could showcase their songs to a worldwide audience, where new discoveries were often just a few clicks away. On MySpace, regardless of your personal taste or talent, music was king; the track you chose to feature as your profile song was oft considered the most important part of any page.

Of the bands that once dominated my own MySpace (and believe me, there were a lot of them), Now, Now is one of only two that I’m still listening to a decade later.

A lot can change in ten years. That’s certainly true for Now, Now, who in that period of time have shortened their moniker (dropping the latter half of their original name Now, Now Every Children), welcomed and parted ways a third permanent member, and took a five-year hiatus between albums to regroup, reevaluate, and ultimately evolve their sound.

Where 2012’s Threads is heavy on guitar (and references to sleep), the band’s most recent release, Saved, trades fuzzy emo riffs for bright, unabashed pop hooks (and manages to restrict the sleep references to the opening track). Largely unburdened by an instrument, KC Dalager is free to roam the stage in a way she never has before, alternately jumping around, crouching, high-fiving bandmate Brad Hale, and tossing a middle finger in the air whenever the music calls for it.

It’s striking, how confident the band has grown, especially compared to the first time I saw them. That show, funnily enough, was also at Smalls—opening for hellogoodbye in early 2011—and featured a young, uncertain duo too shy to look the audience in the eye, much less hop off stage to serenade the crowd from the floor. Seeing them here again in their current iteration certainly makes it feel like their journey has come full circle.

Daddy Issues, meanwhile, is a band I’ve seen three times in the past year alone. And you know what? I wouldn’t hesitate to go see them another three times. They exude the kind of easy energy that makes going to shows fun, and it doesn’t hurt that they’ve got some rock solid jams too.

(And for anyone wondering… yes, this show was co-headlined by Foxing, but I had to skip their set to not miss my last bus home. Yay, Tuesdays.)

Lady Lamb @ Club Cafe (April 13, 2019)

I sometimes have difficulty talking about things I love without feeling disingenuous. It’s not that I make things up—it’s just that the words I use can feel so insignificant compared to huge things they’re meant to describe.

I’m going to try here anyway, though, because holy hell do I love Lady Lamb.

The first time I saw Aly play was two years ago in Cleveland, in the back of an antique shop, strumming a banjo to a roomful of floor-dwelling strangers on her Tender Warriors Club living room tour. It was beautiful and intimate and everything I tend to look for in a live music experience, and solidified her position as one of my favorite artists making music today.

The Even in the Tremor tour is different. This tour gets the full band treatment, and it goddamn rips.

Aly’s music isn’t easy to categorize, which is one of the very best things about it. She can rock an acoustic jam with the best of them and then shriek and shred her way through six minutes of intricate indie rock goodness in the very next song. (Looking at you, “Bird Balloons”.)

What remains constant throughout is her empathy and intensity. She isn’t afraid to meander, to observe, to dig deep into the crux of a problem until she reaches a point of irrefutable, poetic clarity. In this, we are kindred spirits.

From my experience, you tend to weave in and out of infatuation with the things you love most. It’s not that you ever stop loving them; it’s that they become such a part of your life that you stop noticing so much, as familiar to you as the steady rhythm of your own heartbeat.

It took seeing Lady Lamb live again to remember just how much her music means to me. It brought me back to that very first listen, which I still remember distinctly after several years: walking home in a light rain after a string of emotionally devastating weeks, feeling the first few plucked lines of “Crane Your Neck” immediately cut through to a deep, animal part of me and open the door to healing. For that, I’ll always be grateful.

Aly Spaltro’s brand of vulnerability is something the world could use much more of. I’m happy to take those small moments of tenderness wherever I can find them.

Creative joy

When I first picked up photography in earnest, I took pictures of everything.

My camera went with me everywhere, and anything that caught my eye was fair game. It didn’t matter if anyone but me would find the subject interesting; what mattered was having fun and learning new ways to look at the world around me.

Then, slowly, other people began taking notice of my photography, and I started to feel like I had something to prove.

There’s an assertion within certain online photography communities that you should only ever share your best work. For a long time, I bought into this as an absolute truth.

The assumption of disinterest quickly became a burden, to the point where I would hesitate to take certain shots in the first place. If the shot didn’t have portfolio potential—if there wasn’t an obvious “wow” factor, if I couldn’t get the light to fall exactly the way I wanted it—then I tricked myself into thinking it wasn’t worth the effort.

My big mistake here? I wasn’t factoring my own opinion into the equation.

It’s easy to get caught up in megapixels and sensor size or whatever other camera specs are hot at a given moment, but at the end of the day, none of that is what photography is about.

Photography is so much more than technical ability or aesthetic appeal; it’s a visual language that knows no lingual or cultural barriers. The story a photo communicates may vary from person to person, but it has something to say all the same.

Each image I create—even the bad ones—says something about me as a person. The images I choose to post each mean something to me, even if it’s something small, like remembering the way a certain light filled me with calm.

That’s what makes them worth sharing. That’s why the “boring” shots matter.

This is what I meant when I talked on Instagram recently about uninhibited creation: to do something for the joy of it, pure and simple. If there’s a certain “rule” or assumption that’s keeping you from doing something you love, toss out that damn rule.

You don’t have to change the world with your art. You just have to do the work for yourself.

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