Thing I Love: Mumford & Sons

Last night I needed to cheer myself up. I have lots of ridiculous ways that I go about this (a lot of them involve Cheetos and Days of Our Lives or Emmerdale clips on YouTube.) But sometimes there is nothing that will break me out of a funk, other than listening to the Mumford & Sons album Sigh No More from beginning to end.

Since it is not 3 years ago, and Mumford is no longer a secret thing that my friend Julia and I can use as a litmus test on people. (“If they’ve heard of Mumford they must be cool.”) I don’t think I need to spend anytime explaining who the band are. (As was mentioned on a recent episode of Emmerdale in fact “that Mumford and his sons” are “big time” now. I promise that’s the last soap opera reference – for this entry anyway.)

So instead I will just share a couple of reasons why their, often slow and melancholy-sounding, album always lifts my spirits:

1. It was the soundtrack to one of the best nights of my life. Their concert with King Charles and Cadillac Sky, Halloween night 2010 at The Riv here in Chicago, was unforgettable. I buzzed with happiness for 3 straight days afterwards.

This is the only non-blurry picture, my crappy camera took that night.

 2. They, in addition to being talented muscians and very attractive men, are smart and have a sense of humour about themselves. I mean their album title is a quote from Much Ado About Nothing. Yes, this is potentially pretentious, but when he was asked about it on MTV, Marcus Mumford replied that Shakespeare was great because his works were in the common domain and he didn’t have to pay copyright on it. 

3. They have a bookclub on their blog. (I don’t think I need to explain how much I love that.) 

4. They have a banjo. Now I am not particularly into bluegrass as a genre, though I do love country music, but there is a certain type of modern folk band, many of whom tour and collaborate with Mumford, that has made me fall in love with the Banjo as an instrument. It just makes me happy. 

5. Their songs sound likethisfor God’s sake:  

Also they wear suits a lot, which I think is cool. And one time in Austin two buskers saw Julia’s Mumford & Son’s bag and played an impromptu song for us:

Classics from the Queue: Annie Hall

I love movies – and I love things that are delivered to my apartment. So I naturally love Netflix. I also love lists, so I have over the course of 5 years managed to fill my queue (that means there are 500 DVDs on it for those of you that don’t use Netflix.) I fully acknowledge that this is ridiculous, but it has allowed me to start to work through the list of movies I have been lying about having seen for years.

I love movies and I love talking with people about movies, but I get really frustrated the way that those conversations always derail if you haven’t seen the movie. So if I’m remotely familiar with a well-known movie I’ll generally just say that I’ve seen it. Yes this creates awkward situations sometimes, but generally it works well for me.

The latest catch up classic that arrived in my mailbox was Annie Hall. Which I could tell from the opening scene I was going to love:

I had high expectations from this movie, not only because it’s one of the few comedies to ever win the Best Picture Oscar, and because I basically want to grow up to be Diane Keaton.

It took me a long time to give Woody Allen a chance, because by the time I was old enough to really be aware of him, he had already left Mia Farrow (whom I adore) for her daughter (which is still probably the creepiest tabloid story I’ve ever had to force myself to get over.) But whenever I heard a quote from Annie Hall (which was often it gets quoted a lot) I felt like I was going to love it.

And I was right…there is something incredibly charming about Allen’s neuroses and the universe he has created which makes them seem utterly justified. There’s a great blending of honest emotion and craziness. I especially love the scene towards the end where he starts talking to random people on the street about how much he loves and misses Annie and they all just know what’s going on. It’s absurd of course, but it also fits so well with the worldview Allen has put forth; for him everything revolves around his own personal problems so naturally the passerby know where Annie is.

It also is chock full of amazing cameos. Definitely worth the classic distinction!

Weekly Adventure: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater

I love Shakespeare. (In fact my only other semi-successful attempt at blogging was structured loosely around my attempt to read all of Shakespeare – I’m still working on it. I’ll be writing about it here from now on, but if you’re interested here’s the first entry about All’s Well That Ends Well.) Sometimes I wonder if this is because I think I’m supposed to love Shakespeare. As an English major with an interest in theater it is practically prescribed, but then I return to a play like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I remember that I genuinely love him.

Anyway I went last night to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, which is awesome for many reasons, not the least of which the fact that they used to employ my friend Julia (and when you do an image search for them you still come up with two pictures of her in publicity shots for a past show.) They also have a really cool modern theater on the end of Navy Pier, which means it has this view:

Gray skies - just like last night (though I took this last spring)

 and that you have to fight through crowds of screaming tourists to get to the shows, but once you get there – there’s a really cool mini-pub in the back corner of the lobby. On to the actual show. Full disclosure: Midsummer is one of my favorite plays, so I both was delighted to hear the words aloud, and had unreasonable expectation for certain characters. Overall, though, I really enjoyed the production. I had cheap “Under-35” seats, so was naturally sitting in a corner where most of the set was blocked from view, but I could see all the actors, and for the most part they were fabulous. I’m really glad I read the director‘s note before it started, so that I was a little prepared for the Freudian interpretation of the show. I’m not a huge fan of Freud, but with the exception of the strange choice to disguise Puck as the doctor during the Athens scenes, it really didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the show at all. I have to admit, that usually for me this play is about the fairies. (When I was in 4th or 5th grade I played a baby fairy in high school production, and for the longest time though that Titania and Oberon were the A-plot.) But last night I really had the opposite experience. The actors playing Puck, and the fairy King and Queen, did an admirable job, but they were accompanied by an odd soundtrack of over-dramatic “swshhs” and “booms” that took me out the scenes. Also the fairies (Cobweb, Mustardseed, etc.) were played by men in striped pajamas with flower headresses and I really just couldn’t wrap my brain around that, but I think that may have been the point.

 But if I was a little disappointed by the fairyland sections, the lovers and the players more than made up for it. The farce of the Helena-Lysander-Hermia-Demetrius quadrangle was played to perfection and the women avoided sounding shrill and grating (a major pitfall I think for a lot of the women in the comedies). I know the plot, and lot of the dialogue, of this show inside and out but they still managed to surprise me with their choices, and at a couple of moments I even laughed out loud.

Speaking of laughing out loud, the players, especially Peter Quince (played by Tim Kazurinsky) and Bottom (Ron Orbach – who brags in his bio about being the DMV tester inClueless AND is related to Jerry Orbach), were hilarious. Honestly, usually by the time the play-within-a-play comes at the end of the night I find it a bit tedious, but last night I was laughing so hard the bored teenager next to me (who repeatedly informed me during intermission that she was there because she had to be for school) was giving me dirty looks. Overall I would say if you’re looking for something to do in the city before April 8th, it’s a really enjoyable night. (You can get tickets and read the official stuff about the production here.)