Oh, hi there… 2017 Update

So, yeah. I suck at updating my blog. Maybe one day, I’ll be better about it.

As I was driving around running errands yesterday, I was thinking about the post I made back in December. You know, the one where I said that I was going to be better about updating the blog? And talked about all my big plans for the year?

Surprisingly, I’ve actually accomplished a bunch on my list. There’s still more red  ❌ than there are green ✅ … and a couple that remain to be seen, but let’s be honest – it was a pretty aggressive list.

  • Train for and run my first half marathon in five years ✅
  • Lose weight  ⚠️
  • Travel to Australia to see Shelia and Wales to visit Caroline and Lee  ❌
  • Go to Denver and see Red Rocks  ❌
  • My first Montana trip to see Libby  ✅
  • Send a letter or card a week  ✅
  • Write at least one blog post a week  ❌
  • Conduct a massive, soul-cleansing closet purge (trust me, this one is LONG overdue – there are clothes and shoes in there that just shouldn’t be)  ✅
  • Maybe go on date or two  ❌
  • Reduce the amount of Sugar Free Red Bull and Coke that I drink  ❌
  • Go to 125 concerts in a year  ⚠️
  • Get back into taking real photos  ❌

Let’s talk about the half marathon. It wasn’t pretty. I didn’t train nearly as much as I should have. And I walked a bunch, and I was slow…but I finished. My awesome cousin, Meg, ran the race with me and cheered me on the whole way. If anything, it was awesome to spend time with her where we grew up. We both had challenging years in 2016, so I think it was probably an emotional win for both of us.

I’ve traveled a BUNCH this year, at least for me. I didn’t make it to Wales to see Lee and Caroline, but… I did squeeze in an unplanned trip to Las Vegas to see them for Lee’s 50th birthday. Caroline and I plotted behind Lee’s back…he had no idea that I was coming, so the look on his face when I showed up there at 11 PM at night was priceless.

I said that this year would be my year to do the things I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, and I wasn’t lying. I finally got to attend Mile of Music in Wisconsin – over my birthday, no less. On top of that, I got to spend it with my best friend of nearly 30 years, Steph, who I haven’t seen in so so long. So many great moments, but one of the highlights? Dancing on stage Courtney Cox-style with my buddies in Wild Adriatic during the Bruce Springsteen tribute session on my actual birthday. Lots of new artists to love. The music and the company were just what my soul needed, and I’m going to make it a yearly thing now.

Two weeks after that trip, I hopped on a plan to Montana to visit Libby. It was so great to be with her on her home turf and check another state of my visit list. I got to see a show at Live at the Divide in Bozeman, took an amazing couple of hikes, and Libby and I even had a day where we vegged on an air mattress watching the Golden Girls and snacking. We live so far apart, and when we do see each other, it’s usually on The Rock Boat, so there’s no time for just… friending. The cherry on top was the Flagship Romance house show at Libby and Jake’s beautiful new home. Montana is stunning, and I would totally move there tomorrow if it wasn’t cold seven months out of the year.

Just this last month, I flew to Chicago to see Mighty Oaks. If you’ve not been following along for the last seven or so years, they are a band based in Berlin, Germany, that I have the biggest musical crush on. I’ve only seen them once, in an opening slot. So when they announced a short headlining tour in the States this year, I knew I had to go see them. Chicago won as the closest… and, bonus, one of my closest musical friends who lives in Chicago, joined me for the show.

My concert calendar has been pretty full this year, and I’m 20 shows ahead of where I was at this time last year. I’m not sure I’ll get to 125. I’ll get close. Right now, if I go to everything I have planned, I’ll be around 110. Squeezing another 15 shows in seems pretty impossible, but I’m going to try. Keep your fingers crossed. That said, if I were to hang it up today, it would be an amazing year of fantastic shows. I’ve seen Quiet Hounds more this year than I’ve ever seen them in a year before; saw Mighty Oaks; had lots of face time with my Wild Adriatic fellas (and more to come); got to see Third Eye Blind’s eponymous record’s 20th anniversary tour; kicked off my birthday celebration with Future Thieves at my very favorite venue surrounded by some of my best friends; went to my first SoFarSounds show; have seen SUSTO a bunch; knocked out another four Will Hoge shows (trying really hard to get to the 100th Will show); saw Quiet Hollers for the first, second, third and fourth time; fell in love with Judah and the Lion; got to have The Brevet back on the East Coast for a show at The Evening Muse; and sooo much more. And there’s still a little less than three months to go!

There’s all the “stuff” that still isn’t where I want it to be. I remain way too caffeinated, I don’t write nearly enough, still haven’t gone on any dates, still haven’t lost any weight…blah, blah, blah. Those things get to me, of course, but I’m a work in progress. There are still some things I’m working on fixing, things I’m working on about myself, things I’m trying to love about myself. I’m my own worst critic…maybe that’s my biggest accomplishment of this year…learning to let go and give myself a break.

So there’s the update. Stay tuned to see how 2017 closes out….

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2017 > 2016

Let’s face it, 2016 has been a big, festering wound of a year.

My personal stuff is well-covered territory: My mom died. My job changed dramatically. Really, when you think about it, those are really hefty things and the fact that I am sitting here at 12:15 am on December 27 in my sister’s living room and not a complete puddle of tears is an accomplishment in its own right.

Beyond the personal dramas, there’s a whole slew of collective world stuff that has been weighing on all of us. Syria. Brexit. Small-scale terrorist attacks that maimed and killed hundreds and threaten our daily routines. North Korea. A divisive and horrid U.S. election cycle. Donald Trump being elected. More celebrity deaths than any of us want to count (David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, and just yesterday, George Michael – are you kidding me?). Zika virus. It’s A LOT to handle.

But here we are, December 27, on the verge of a new year. Like everyone, I’ve got my goals for the year. Among them:

  • Train for and run my first half marathon in five years
  • Lose weight
  • Travel to Australia to see Shelia and Wales to visit Caroline and Lee
  • Go to Denver and see Red Rocks
  • My first Montana trip to see Libby
  • Send a letter or card a week
  • Write at least one blog post a week
  • Conduct a massive, soul-cleansing closet purge (trust me, this one is LONG overdue – there are clothes and shoes in there that just shouldn’t be)
  • Maybe go on date or two
  • Reduce the amount of Sugar Free Red Bull and Coke that I drink
  • Go to 125 concerts in a year
  • Get back into taking real photos

My list is probably too long and someone, somewhere will tell me that I should pick one or two of them and focus on small goals. But that’s not the way I want to do it. I either want to win big and revel in glory or fail just as spectacularly and learn from my mistakes. That’s a bit out of character for me, but something in me broke in 2016 (and it’s a good thing), and it’s time for me to stop living on the sidelines of my own life.

People say to me all the time, “You have the best life.” They say that because they see the world through the lens of my Facebook and Instagram pages. Pictures of concerts and cocktails and me out with friends, posts about bands that I love, and my adorable nephew, and things that bring smiles and happiness. And I do love all those parts of my life.

But I think that for a lot of people – including me – only show the world the highlight reel on social media. You see all the good stuff, and none of the bad stuff. Most of those people that tell me I have “the best life” don’t realize that I probably go to 75% of those shows by myself. That I see the staff and the bartenders at my favorite venues more than I see my friends. What most people don’t realize is that I am scared to death 99.9% of the time about what other people think of me. People don’t see that when I’m at home, I curl up in the corner of my couch wearing leggings and sweatshirts and eat salt and vinegar potato chips and watch endless reruns of The Big Bang Theory. I’m lonely, but I have built freaking fortresses around myself to keep from getting hurt (and that, my friends, keeps people out). Half the time, I’m sitting there berating myself that I should be doing something … running or cleaning my closet or reading or writing something. But I haven’t done ANY OF IT. Because I’m so frightened of winning or failing or anything other than things that keep me on an even keel.

And I’m tired of it. So, in 2017, I’m going to change it, and it starts with that great big list of things I want to do. Writing it down and putting it out there in the world is my version of Andy Dufresne’s “Get busy living or get busy dying.” It’s here now. For everyone to see. So there’s no turning back (because now you all know that I worry about what you think of me).

Maybe it’s hopeless optimism, stupidity, or perhaps even that Liz Gilbert book I’m reading, but I feel like even if that checklist above has zero checkmarks on December 31, 2017, 2017 is still going to be a good year. I feel it in my gut.

We’re all due for one, don’t you think?

It’s been awhile, Internet.

There was a time when I would write on my blog…a lot. Good ol’ jrzygyrl.com has been around in some way, shape or form since 2001. Back then, I wrote on it daily, like a diary. I look back on those entries now and cringe a little, seeing what I thought was okay to put on the Internet. Yikes.

Then I met some friends who loved music like I did. They introduced me to bands and artists I didn’t know, and started going to shows, buying more music, getting outside of my musical boundaries. And I loved talking about it. So I wrote. Slowly, jrzygyrl.com morphed into a music blog. And it was pretty good for awhile there.

Then my job got all adult and my Mom got sick, and I found myself wanting to be online less and less. I was tired of writing by the time I got home from work. I was worried about my Mom, stressed out about something at the office, wanted to blow off steam by grabbing a beer at a show, rather than sitting down and writing. Nights would come when I knew I should put out a blog post and I would half-ass something and throw it up. I didn’t even proofread or spell check. The horror.

And I hate how the page looks, but web designer I am not. So there’s that, too. It’s like going into the room in your house with the ugly wallpaper. You hate being in there because it makes you feel bad with its ugliness.

The worst part? I stopped reading other people’s blogs. Blogs I love. Partly because there aren’t enough hours in the day, partly because it depressed the shit out of me that I knew I could be doing it, too…and I just didn’t have it in me.

This year has been pretty tough. Mom got really sick; she passed away in August. I think it’s just now really starting to hit home. I cry a lot. I watched “This Is Us” tonight and about lost it when one of the characters started talking about losing his Dad. I wrote a little bit about the stuff with work before; it’s been a challenging 14 months, to say the least. I let some friendships go. Hard, but let me tell you, when your life feels like it is falling apart, you realize who will be there for you. And it’s not always the people you think. Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, I’m starting to find myself again. Or maybe a new version of myself. The hard stuff changes you.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot…writing. I actually miss it, which I suppose is a good sign.

And now, here I sit. Cursor taunting me. A double-dog “I dare you to write.”

But what in the blue blazes do I write about? Two nights ago, I actually contemplated that I should write a message to door guys everywhere to learn how to put on freaking wristbands. Then Shelia posted an Instagram photo of her wristband last night, and I knew I had to write it.

So tonight I’m going to show. And because I have to make myself write SOMETHING, I will be back tomorrow with proof of my hack job wristbanding.

Ya gotta start somewhere.

P.S. To be completely honest, I did not proofread or spell check this blog, either.

Memories: My First Rock Boat Moments

Last night, I found myself at Target in the “travel size” aisle, which can only mean one thing: THE ROCK BOAT IS NEAR!!  With just about 75 days to go until TRB14, I am in two states of mind:  1)  Sheer panic that I haven’t gotten back on that work out train that I promised myself that I would this year so I will love myself in pictures and 2) Utterly excited for what is always the best week of my year.

I went on my first Rock Boat in 2003 with a group of 10 friends that have these days scattered due to marriage, kids, and life.  Anyway, I had no idea then that The Rock Boat and the community that surrounds it would ten years later be the source of my favorite memories, turn me on to ridiculously good music, introduce me to people all around the world who have become my best friends, and ignite a passion for “discovering” and helping to promote unknown bands.

There’s a lot I remember about my first Rock Boat, but there are two vivid music memories that today I would call “Rock Boat Moments.”  The kind of moment that is so awesome that everything else around you goes quiet.  When you catch yourself holding your breath because you literally forgot to breathe.  So because it’s almost Christmas and you can never have enough nostalgia (and for Miranda, who I am trying to convince to come on her first Boat)… My first Rock Boat moments.

1)  Meeting Cary Pierce from Jackopierce.
Backstory: It was 1993.  I was a freshmen in college and being exposed to all kinds of new stuff after living a relatively sheltered first 18 years. I bought the very first AWARE compilation from the campus bookstore, and Jackopierce’s “Vineyard” was track 3. My obsession with the song was instantaneous – the hopeless romantic in me pictured falling in love with a boy during a summer romance and having him chase me until I agreed to stay on the Vineyard for the year with him (ironically, the first boy I met at WC, who ended up becoming a very good friend, had a summer house on The Vineyard).

Ten years later, I find myself on The Rock Boat, where Cary Pierce, one half of Jackopierce, is playing. I’d seen Jackopierce a few times, but never in a million years did I think I would ever MEET them.  I’d met an amazing couple at The Rock Boat pre-party the night before, and we went to see Alex Woodard play within a few hours of getting on the Boat.  While we were sitting at the show waiting for it to start, Cary walked right in front of

me.  I mean five feet from me.  I gasped as he walked by, and Gina looked at me and said, ‘What?”  I said, “That was Cary Pierce!”  She asked who he was, and I gave her the short version of what I just said above.  So she goes, “Well, you have to meet him then!”  and leapt out of the booth to chase him down.  The next thing I knew, Cary freaking Pierce was standing in front of me.  “Hi, I’m Cary,” he says.  And me, ever brilliant…. “I know.”  Anyway, he was a complete sweetheart and asked if I wanted to take a picture.  I just nodded.  And here it is…

Me and Cary Pierce, The Rock Boat, 2003.

Me with Cary Pierce, The Rock Boat, 2003.

I love this picture for so many reasons.  First of all, it was probably my very first “personal” Rock Boat moment. Secondly, Cary is just the most adorable thing ever.  Thirdly, I look like a 5 year-old on Christmas morning. Could I be cheesing any harder? Look at the way I’m holding my hands together!  And finally…I was SOOO skinny, and I LOVED those pants.

2) The Edwin sings in the casino at 3 AM moment. No, really.  It was 3 AM.  This will make sense to some of you.
Backstory:  The summer after my sophomore year in college, Rob made me a tape of a band he said was going to be huge.  They were called Hootie and the Blowfish.  By the third week of my junior year, I’m pretty sure the girls on the hall were considering evicting me from the dorm because I played “Let Her Cry” approximately 50 times a day.  I set about learning everything about them… which led to Edwin. And a new obsession was born. After I moved to North Carolina in 1998, it became pretty easy to see Edwin regularly, and he rocketed into my Top 10 musicians of all time.

So, two days in on the Boat, I’d met a fella (we’re still friends today!), and we’d spent the better part of the evening sitting in the back at a few shows … and we ended up in one of the dining rooms eating pizza at 2:30 in the morning (Emerson Hart sat two tables over from us…I lost my shit) before we parted ways.  As I tipsily walked my way back toward my cabin, I was coming down a hall when I heard a very familiar voice singing… It was 3 AM, and I came around the corner and ran smack into Edwin McCain playing with another musician (Francisco Vidal, for all my TRB folks reading this) in the casino bar.  There might have been 20 people watching him.  I stood there, transfixed, watching this performer whose songs I knew inside out, sing to me and a handful of other people like we were the only people in all the world.  He was clearly having a blast, and while he has probably had many more nights like it in his time, it is a moment that I will never forget, and one that will always live in my best memories.  Edwin’s back on The Rock Boat this year… can’t wait!

There really is nothing like The Rock Boat.  Sixthman, the company that started The Boat almost 14 years ago, has created an experience that is truly unmatched. I go on this trip, and just know that these types of moments are going to happen…not just once, or twice, but over and over again. Because it’s happened year after year for me. Writing out these memories that live in my head only makes me all the more excited about heading back out on the high seas with great music and great friends … and more Rock Boat moments.

More Rock Boat:  What the heck is The Rock Boat? | Okay, so what bands are playing this year? | Damn, I need to book a cabin.

Reason To Bleed

Last year, I stumbled upon the music of Matt McCloskey while looking for something new to listen to.  One listen to his Hard Rains EP and I was hooked.  I have described the sound before as a more accessible Ryan Adams, but it’s more than that. His songs ask the questions that I am facing in my own life right now, questions that at some point I guess every adult asks themselves:  Am I happy with who I am?  What am I doing with my life?  Is it enough?

Steven Bush, a film maker in Austin, chronicled Matt’s battles with these types of questions and his pursuit of songwriting.  The result, a documentary entitled Reason to Bleed, is set to be released in August.  As I sat and watched the trailer on my lunch break today, tears pricked at my eyes.  Takes guts to put yourself out there like that, in your songs, and now, in film.  Gives me mad respect for this incredible songwriter.

The Hard Rains has been taken down from iTunes, but you can download it for free over on NoiseTrade (at least for the time being).

Check out the trailer.  Then go listen to Matt.


More Matt McCloskey:  Web | Facebook | Twitter |