Friday, April 17, 2009

Lily Allen, Ting Tings, Britney (& Jocelyn)

What a fantastic week! I will call it chick concert week 2009! In the past week, I went to see British pop stars Lily Allen and Katie from the Ting Tings, and the American equivalent in Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears. Brace yourselves, this gets wordy.

Wednesday April 8th: We went to see Lily Allen play at a local club called "In The Venue" in downtown Salt Lake City. Lily had a cute stage presence and as a fan, you have to remember that she is only 24 years old. She has a cute way of connecting with her fans and I personally could listen to her talk (and swear) in her cute little British accent for hours. It was refreshing to see a girl become a pop star with her music and without the typical pop star Jessica Simpson image. She’s like the girl next door who ends up really liking drugs. Her songs and lyrics were great and her voice sounded amazing live, but she ended her show with a cover of Britney Spears’ Womanizer, which is a weird choice for an encore finale.

Thursday April 9th: The very next night, we were at the same venue. But this time it was to watch a fun, electric pop duo called The Ting Tings. We decided to arrive early so that we could get great stage positioning. With a general admission show, we wanted to fight for the best position. We got there an hour before the doors even opened and were amongst the first twenty people in line. By the time the doors opened, we were within the first fifty people in because of all the line-cutters ahead of us.

We got right up to the front of the stage, which is quite a feat, considering that we had about 18 people in our group of friends. We watched the opening band called "Hot Tub" which looked like an even more ghetto version of Salt n’ Peppa. That’s right, the GHETTO-er version! It was three super nasty chicas who rapped with some of the craziest, dirtiest lyrics ever introduced. Luckily, they rapped so fast and hard, it was tough to make out all dirty things said.

They had this nasty, stinky guy who was just their dancer. The craziest part of their act was that they would jump into the crowd and get up on both guys and girls. My second cousin Jen was brushed upon by the stinky dancer guy-thing and she had this look of being violated on her face for the next hour. It rubbed its stink right up on her and it lingered. I felt so bad for her. I too was attacked and it was weird seeing dorky white guy get violated by nasty girl with unshaven armpits. Ughhhhhhhh.

After the grodiness was over, we waited for almost an hour for the Ting Tings to perform. I dunno if their dinner got delayed at Denny’s or what, but for only a two-piece band whose equipment was already on stage, they sure took their time. I was even a little angry by the time they took the stage, but I got over it as they pumped up the crowd with their first energy-filled piece. I wish Katie (the lead singer British blond chick) would have talked in her sexy British accent as much as Lily Allen did because, again, I could listen to her for hours!

The energy of the show was awesome, and the drummer Jules (a dude in sunglasses) was a lot of fun to watch. I was drenched in sweat from being right in the front, dancing, and fighting off the masses behind me. It’s been awhile since I had been in a crowded GA (general admission) show, but the tug and tow of the pit wasn’t half as bad as some of the rock concerts I’ve been to over the past 15 years.

Tuesday April 14th: The show I’ve put off for a decade finally came. Trust me, I am straight, but I love Britney. I’ve been a fan since I found out about her on my mission in Brazil ten years ago. I even buy her CDs and listen to them on a regular basis. I love it when people will look through my CD collection. They browse through Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, Green Day, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse, Primus, Weezer and then they find the Britney page full of CDs. They just give me this look of "Whaaaaaaaaaa!?!?!?!?!?!?!?" I have nothing to hide. I like her music.

So, long story short, I never could afford a Britney concert when she came last came to Utah in 2001 as a poor college student. Plus, her fans were much younger back then and it would have been weird with all the 7-year olds there. The 2009 Britney is a much different Britney. She passed the "Not Yet A Girl, Not Yet A Woman" stage two husbands and two kids ago.

This concert was titled "Circus" after her new album and it truly was a circus! But first, let’s go pre-concert. I mulled over paying a premium for the tickets back when the Salt Lake show was announced. I was not spending $200 for anybody in person. The most I have ever spent on a concert was $45 and I was going to keep it close. But who was I kidding... It was Britney, and probably the last time you could see her in her twenties.

I finally found a deal where I could get two front-row tickets with no Ticketmaster charges for under $200. Now I needed a date. Who to take? I didn’t have anyone special on the horizon. Besides, it probably wasn’t a good idea to take someone I liked more than a friend to a Britney show only to drool on her while staring at Britney and the Pussycat Dolls. I joked with a few of my friends who happen to be girls (technically more correct than typing girlfriends) that whoever put out the most would win the ticket like an Ebay auction. I had some good offers, but I knew none of them would cash in.

But one of my friends took the joking around a little too seriously and she decided she wanted my extra ticket. While I was away at work, she came through and put up 32 pictures of Britney on the walls of my bedroom and made a cake with a picture of Britney and me (photoshopped) in the frosting. It was all very flattering, like an old school prom date, so Margie won the Britney tix sweepstakes thanks to her creativity and effort.

It decided to rain the day of Britney, but inside it was perfect. Right at 8 p.m. sharp, the Pussycat Dolls ran out on stage to put on a performance. I know very little about the group, but I was mesmerized by their looks, the lead singer’s vocals, and their stage presence. I even got Ashley (the hot blond Doll) to wave and smile at me. That, in and of itself, made the concert worth the price of admission!

Then the Circus started. Britney had her real circus performers put on a show to keep the crowd entertained in between acts. There were real jugglers, dancers, and trapeze artists! The quality of the stunts matched a real Barnum and Bailey circus act or a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas.

And then, the screaming started. Britney was coming on. The pandemonium rose to a peak at the curtains lifted and Britney came down from above on a swing singing her title track "Circus." The show was an absolute spectacle. A pure show!

About every two songs, she would disappear below the stage to change outfits, while the music blared little interlude songs and her stage dancers performed. They showcased many of her songs from her most recent albums “Circus” and “Blackout” and stayed away from the songs of her past. Even “Hit Me Baby One More Time” was all techno-d out to match her new style.

There were parts that were extremely provocative and something I would NOT want my 5-year old daughter watching (as we had a family of four with two young girls sitting right behind us). I wouldn’t let my own daughter see that until she was at least 17 or 18.

But the showmanship was spectacular from the costumes, props, lighting the stage in a ring of real fire and flames, up until the fireworks at the end. You definitely got your money’s worth because it was more than a concert. It was quite literally, a circus (minus the live elephants.)

One last note: As we were waiting for people to file out, I saw my favorite Jazz dancer Jocelyn who I met three weeks ago. I said hi, and that I recognized her from her blog on the official Jazz website. She pretty much had no recollection of me (as she shouldn’t) and we had the same brief conversation that we had the first time when I had the stones to say hi.

I didn’t try to ask for her phone number or anything but now that we have met twice, a third time would be destiny (in my stalker-ish mind) and I will have to attempt to get some digits.

Sorry, this may be the longest post I’ve ever written, but this past week summed up a decade of expectations of Britney. I hope now that I can finally move on in my daydreams to something a little more realistic.

Britney, thanks for memories...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Jazz Playoff Preview

After our atrocious loss to the d-league Warriors at home on Saturday, I say the Jazz lock up the No. 8 seed in the playoffs and lose to the Lakers in five.

With that said, it will be a good thing for this team. The front office will not be content with keeping this same soft team together, and we will see some changes with this “young” team that we thought would be so good two years ago after our unpredicted run to the Western Conference Finals in 2007.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Churchball: The Final Year?

Another season of churchball has come and gone. Churchball is the annual event of awesomeness that brings joy to the cold and drab winter. I’ve been playing in the annual church leagues since I was 12. I may be retiring after this past season.

I remember my first experience playing churchball. My team has never been dominant, but I remember busting out for almost 20 points (at least that is how I remember it in my brain) back in the deacon leagues.

Once I turned 14, I was able to play in the highly competitive church leagues that were composed of 14-17 year olds. Each season after I would get cut from the high school team, the church leagues offered a bit of an escape from the harsh reality of how good I really wasn’t.

One of my happiest basketball memories was hitting a game-tying three pointer to send a game into overtime back when I was 16.

During my college years, churchball was transformed into intramural basketball at BYU (since churchball wasn’t offered). I remember the excitement of coming back to school after Christmas break to sign up a team to compete from January until March.

My freshman team, I put together a sweet team that actually made it to the Final Four. The irony was that the team was so good, that I eventually ended up riding the pine, even though I was the one that hand-picked the team. After that incredibly awkward experience, I made sure to pick a small enough team that I would get to play as much I wanted to, but those teams were never any good.

Fortunately after my college years, my singles stake at the University of Utah still participates in the annual rite of churchball, so once again I had something to look forward to after Christmas. We had some good teams these past five years, but we always seemed to choke like the Utah Jazz in the playoffs.

In 2009, our team was so bad! We lost every single regular season game and finished like 0-8, including two games where we lost as the opponent hit a buzzer-beater to win the game.

We entered the tournament in last place as the No. 9 seeded team. We were able to have a play-in game last week with the winner facing the No. 1 team in the stake if we won.

Needless to say, we finally won a game, and I was able to sink my first three-pointer of the season as the time expired at the end of the third period. Later that night, we faced the top-seeded team and we actually were able to have a lead after three quarters. In the final period, the better team won, but they were the worst bunch of jerks I had seen all season. They treated us with such disrespect (in their defense, they had beat us by 30 the first time we played them) and were talking trash even though they were losing most of the game.

In the end, we didn’t finish the game strong and ended up losing as they caught fire in the 4th quarter. It felt good to see my team finally play up to our potential in the final night of the season.

It’s been a good run, but with my 30th birthday approaching, I’m soon going to join the old man leagues, and that’s not going to be pretty.