Our New York City Vacation

View the entire photo album on Flickr

A rundown of our activities and a few photo highlights from my first ever trip to NYC:

Thursday night: Upon arrival in New York, we made our way by cab to Matt & Cami’s place, grabbed a piece of New York style pizza from up the block, then headed downtown for a Hold Steady show. The concert was at the Old Emigrant Savings Bank. (I didn’t get pics, but you can see a little here and here) Matt hooked us with free entrance and VIP passes which meant that our line for the free Grey Goose vodka drinks was shorter than everyone elses. The venue was an interesting one, since it was an old bank — they served the drinks out of the teller windows, which was cool. Unfortunately, there’s probably a reason they don’t play more concerts there — the sound sucked! Still… it was great to include an Indie Rock concert in my NYC experience.

Friday

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We kicked off Friday with a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a beautiful day and this was a very cool way to kick off our mega-walking tour day.

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On the Manhattan side of the bridge, we came upon City Hall Park, where a German band was just getting organized in preparation for a bit of a Bavarian festival in the park.

We continued along a walking tour in our Lonely Planet guide, which brought us past the World Trade Center site. The site itself is a different experience than it has been in the last 6 years since they are finally moving forward with construction there. The nearby memorial was a sobering moment, spoiled only by the numerous street vendors hawking photo albums and other junk.

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Wall Street was still doing ok the weekend we were in New York. This area is quite closed off now, so we were only able to visit nearby Federal Hall, the site of George Washington’s inauguration and the first Congress of the United States. They had an interesting Associated Press exhibit dealing with the Press’ treatment of Presidents.

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We enjoyed a little downtime in Battery Park, where we observed Lady Liberty from afar. There were also a number of military-style helicopters circling the area. Kelley insisted it was the President. In retrospect, it was most likely either a Coast Guard exercise or a tour for some of the foreign dignitaries in town for the UN General Assembly.

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After snacking on some margaritas and chips in the South Seaport area, we took the subway up to the Lower East Side area. We chose to follow another walking tour from the Lonely Planet guide — which was basically a food and pub crawl. Unfortunately, 3/4 of the places on the tour list were still closed (it was before 5 pm), but we still got to stop at the famous Jonah Schimmel Knishery, where we split a potato knish. TASTY!

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Ads for the Spore video game were everywhere.

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We had a spectacular dinner at Freemans, a place I would recommend to anyone visiting New York, and then wrapped up our day with some Boggle back at Matt and Cami’s.

Saturday

We went to Broadway! After all the picture-taking of Friday, we totally ignored the camera in Times Square. Why? No clue. Anyway, we went to see Avenue Q — and it was HILARIOUS. Swearing muppets, puppet sex, un-PC songs… Just a great show (just don’t bring your kids, please).

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Then, we made a visit to the “Top of the Rock” — the observation areas atop Rockefeller Plaza (which you may recognize as the address of NBC Studios). We really enjoyed the birds eye views of the city and (again) the beautiful weather. From there, we headed to dinner at a great Italian place, then fell asleep in front of SNL.

Sunday

Sunday was a low-key day, which was great since we had already walked plenty. Matt and Cami hosted a cookout in their backyard, which also included Kelley’s Uncle Bob and a friend of Matt and Cami’s from up the street in Brooklyn. After sneaking some views of football action throughout the day, we then…

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…went to a Packer bar!!! This was inside Kettle of Fish, a Packer bar in Greenwich village that was profiled in an NPR story earlier this year. It was a great atmosphere to watch part of the Packer-Cowboy game.

Monday

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On Monday, we headed to Central Park for more walking enjoyment.

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This fountain was featured in Angels in America.

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Our final non-airport meal in New York City was here, at Loeb Boathouse in Central Park. It was… ok. Not at all great, definitely pricey.

Then came our final excitement of the trip: After a super-quick rush hour ride to the airport (car services are awesome, we ended up at the airport at 5:10 for our 7:40 flight. As we casually wandered toward our gate in search of some food and a comfy spot to pass the time, we notice a Midwest flight to Milwaukee that says “on time for 5:25”. Well, it’s 5:20 at this point and the plane isn’t even at the gate yet, so we stop to see if we can switch to this flight. “I can’t seat you next to each other” says the gate agent. Of course, we didn’t really care. So, we switch to that flight. We finally board around 6:00, with warnings that due to air traffic control being overwhelmed, we should expect to taxi for quite a long time. We hear 20-40 minutes as an estimate. It’s all fine with us since we’re still getting home earlier than the originally scheduled time of 9:06 for our original flight. Once we’re on the plane, the pilot fills us in on the reason for the delay. It’s Air Force One. So, we taxi for a long time, admiring the long line of planes, and actually circling Air Force One as it sits on the tarmac (there was a United Nations General Assembly meeting the next day). We finally take off at like 7:15, arriving back in MKE around 8:30. Our original flight? Scheduled arrival time changed to 9:56 pm. We were quite happy to be home given our general state of exhaustion.

Well, that was awesome!

I just returned from Game 3 of the NLDS at Miller Park, which the Brewers won, 4-1 over Philly.

Now, I only came about this opportunity because my friend Scott had to go to his cousin’s wedding — so, thank you Scott. Thank you thank you thank you!

I’ve never been to a baseball game that was louder. It was simply a phenomenal experience. It has to be in my top 10 live sporting event experiences of all time (which is probably a good idea for a future post).

Top cheers heard as we exited the stadium:

  • “Let’s Go Brewers”
  • “Let’s Go Dodgers”
  • “F**k the Phillies”

There was also a lot of high-fiving of strangers — Milwaukee is happy tonight!

I’m also pretty sure my voice is going to be a little strained at Lambeau tomorrow as the Packers take on Atlanta in the conclusion of my sports-heavy weekend!

Go Brewers!

Brewer Fever

Brewer fans today celebrated the pending financial bailout by loading up on Brewer gear. This was the scene at the Miller Park retail store at noon today.

Go Brewers!

Lollapalooza Day 3 (and overall) Recap

Let’s start off with a quick recap of our Sunday:

8:00 am – I wake up. I don’t know why, since it’s still early. But, I’m up.

10:30 am – Check out of the hotel. Didn’t get charged for the two days of in-room internet usage. Combine that with the extra bottle of water from the vending machine last night, and we just got an unexpected $22 discount at the Doubletree! We’re on our way to Evanston for brunch with Kelley’s friend Margaret and her husband Andy.

11:00 – 12:45 – Brunch at the Lucky Platter. Wow, this was SOOOO much better than our breakfast at Panera on Saturday. Margaret and Andy are super nice — here’s hoping they sell that house in Northbrook and move to SE Wisconsin soon.

1:00 – 2:00: Train to downtown. The train is packed with festival-goers, so it unexpectedly turns into an Express train. Sweet!

2:15 – 3:15: Brazilian Girls
This was a Kelley pick and a band that is definitely more electronic-ey than I typically go for, but they were a great kickoff to the day. It’s hot again, but still not as bad as Friday. I’m tired, so I spend about 15 minutes of this set laying down, resting my eyes, and chillin’ to the beat.

3:30 – 3:50: Black Kids
I was really looking forward to this new band after hearing their catchy “I’m not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you” tune all year. However, I left disappointed. Not sure if it’s the outdoor setting, or just an un-readiness for the festival scene, but they didn’t sound like anything special. So, we decided to head north to the Iron & Wine show. On the way, we walked by the Kidz stage where Perry Farrell was singin’ some Jane’s Addiction tunes (I found out later that he was up there with Slash — that explains the capacity crowd there). On the way, we make a stop at the merchandise tent so I can pick up my 2008 official Lolla shirt. It’s a long sleeve number, so it might be a few weeks before I wear it to work.

4:15 – 5:00: Iron & Wine
This was simply a pleasant show. Perfect sound for all of Sam Beam’s mellow tunes. This is turning into a pretty mellow day. And honestly, I think the crowd might have a little Lolla-hangover. We head off to the food stand for a little dinner.

5:15 – 6:15: Flogging Molly
After dinner, we walk back to see Flogging Molly. Whoa, capacity crowd over here, at least on the walkways. Despite the slow-moving walk to find an open grass spot though, the crowd is incredibly friendly. This would not be nearly as pleasant an experience at Summerfest. Flogging Molly put on a raucous, rockin’ set. They had the crowd jumping and clapping throughout. Not to mention the mosh pit that appeared to take form up near the stage. Great show.

6:30 – We decide to say goodbye to Lolla ’08. Tough decision to leave early, but we’ve already seen The National and Gnarls Barkley, Mark Ronson, Kanye West and NIN were simply not attractive enough to us to outweight the opportunity to return to MKE at a reasonable hour. So, we hit the road. On the train, we are entertained by the drunk kid. From the Howard stop, we head to the highway, and wow, did we make great time. There were no delays whatsoever on our ride out of Chicago or into Wisconsin. Heck, we even discovered a newly opened ramp connecting northbound 94 to westbound 94. This has truly been a weekend of painless commuting.

So, Lollapalooza 2008 has come to an end. A few quick overall thoughts:

Top 5 Bands (in no particular order)

  • Gogol Bordello
  • The Ting Tings
  • Wilco
  • Broken Social Scene
  • Yeasayer

(yep, my faves were all on Friday and Saturday)

3 Most Disappointing shows (that we saw, again, no particular order)

  • The Kills
  • MGMT
  • Black Kids

(one per day — not bad, not bad at all)

5 Bands that Warrant Further Inspection

  • The Enemy UK
  • Dr. Dog
  • Explosions in the Sky
  • Serena Ryder
  • Amadou & Miriam

5 non-Music Highlights from the weekend

  • The weather. Especially Saturday, but all weekend long, it was awesome.
  • The crowd. The fest was sold out all three days, and while there were certainly a lot of people, it never felt unsafe or unruly. Seriously, it’s night-and-day from Summerfest.
  • The prices. I never felt like I was getting raked over the coals at any point. Nice work Lolla.
  • Getting offered weed. I didn’t accept, but it makes me feel like I look cool because I had it offered to me not once, but twice.
  • Our logistics. Staying in Skokie was way cheaper than staying downtown. Training in and back each day was painless. Our drive home was smooth.

3 Non-Music Lowlights

  • The sound bleed from the side stages to the main stages. This was a big complaint from the 2007 Lolla-goers, and it doesn’t appear to have been resolved very well. Hopefully they can think about this a little more before next year.
  • The lack of fruit availability. Sure, there were $3 watermelon slices, but where was the fruit cup? Or apples? Anything to complement the meat and fried food.
  • The lack of a quality signal from AT&T at a festival that they are a lead sponsor of. How they were OK with no 3G signal throughout the park is beyond me.

As for what others are saying, here we go with a bunch of links:

The Chicago Tribune recaps Day 3
Only 14 arrests at the fest in 3 days — not bad, not bad at all
Snapshots from Lolla

Setlists from some of the main stage bands

From Pitchfork: Saturday reports from Amy, Matthew and Joshua. Sunday reports from Scott, Amy, Matthew and Joshua

Brooklyn Vegan has photos from the Nine Inch Nails, Cat Power, CSS, Kanye West, Bloc Party, Rage Against the Machine

Stereogum has photos from Saturday and Sunday

That’s all for now — can’t wait for Lolla 2009!!!

Lolla Day 3 Recap tonight

What with today being a work day and all, I won’t be putting up my Day 3 recap until tonight. I will say that Friday and Saturday were definitely my favorite two days of the fest — and that I’m definitely tired today!

Drunk on a Train

So we’re on the train headed back to our car and there is this kid. He’s obviously wasted and somehow got left by all his friends, who I think I overheard him saying be was supposed to go to Lolla with. Well, he wasted $80.

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Day 3 Plan

Today is bittersweet. It’s the final day of Lollapalooza 2008, which means we’re approximately 365 days away from the next slate of awesome shows from my favorite music festival. On the other hand, it means we’re closer to being able to recover from the physical effects of festival-ing. You know, the sore muscles, the tiredness, the sun tans (or pinkish-almost-burniness if you’re Kelley).

We’re meeting up with Kelley’s friend Margaret and her husband for a little brunch at 11 in Evanston. Then, we’ll red line it back to the fest, where we’re looking forward to:

2:15 – Brazilian Girls
3:30 – Black Kids
4:15 – Iron & Wine
5:15 – Flogging Molly
6:15 – Gnarls Barkley
7:15 – Mark Ronson
8:30 – An Obama sighting? and/or a walk back for our hour-long Metra trip, to be followed closely by 90 minutes or so of travel time back home.

Lollapalooza Day 2 Recap

The Chicago Tribune reviews the Day 2 acts

and updates their random observations (yeah, the music got in the way of our plan to check out the hammocks too!)

…and the pro bloggers finally check in:

Pitchfork has Friday reports from Joshua, Matthew, Amy, and Scott. Stereogum has photos from Friday. Brooklyn Vegan talks about Rogue Wave, Wilco, and the Black Lips & Black Keys.

Our Saturday looked like this:

10:00: An underwhelming breakfast at Panera. Would you like some egg with that Ciabatta bread?

10:30: Drive to the Howard Metra stop in Evanston. It took us a good 20-25 minutes to make the trip there, but at least we know we’ll have a train back to our car tonight.

11:00: on the Red line to downtown. It’s probably because it’s our third trip, but suddenly this feels like a really long train ride.

12:20 – 12:45: Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s
A nice, pleasant set to open our second day of Lollapalooza. It is a gorgeous day out. I’ve sweated like a gallon less than yesterday at this time. Also, suntan lotioning up BEFORE going outside seems to have been far more effective. The crowd is incredibly navigable today — I’m sure it’s because our last memory is of the Radiohead-watchers, but I also don’t think today’s a sellout.

12:45 – 1:30: The Ting Tings
Wow!!! These two put on a GREAT show. I mean, we’re talking about the very first band of the day on the AT&T stage, and they had the crowd (including Kelley and me) bouncing for 2/3 of their set. The Ting Tings are fun, and they know how to please a crowd, including among other things, a rocking finale of “Shut Up and Let Me Go.”

1:30 – 2:15: Dr. Dog
We listened to Dr. Dog from inside the Blackstone Wine Bar. Kelley enjoyed a nice chardonnay, I went with a fuller Pinot Noir. Other wine bar dwellers were buying bottles of wine (which were poured into big plastic travelers). That seems dangerous. I didn’t think I knew much about Dr. Dog, so either I’ve heard a bunch of their songs but didn’t know it was them (I’ve definitely heard ‘The Old Days’ and like it a ton), or their sound is incredibly familiar. I definitely need to follow up with a more detailed look at these guys soon.

2:15 – 2:45: Foals
We found a shady spot off to the side of the Citi stage to listen to a few songs from the Foals. Big, catchy, electronic-ey tunes were the order of the day. Not bad, but not the favorite style of music for either Kelley or me.

3:30 – 4:30: MGMT
I was really really looking forward to seeing MGMT, but ultimately left this show disappointed. I’m not going to judge the band on this performance though, as their mellower opening tunes were almost completely drowned out by the booming bass of Booka Shade, who were playing that Citi stage that is located way to close behind the MySpace one. If I could fault the band with anything, it would be saving their three most well-known songs (Electric Feel, Time to Pretend and Kids) for the end of their set. Most of the Lolla bands mix their known stuff in early so as not to lose the crowd. I will say this though, of all the shows we went to (and granted, we skipped Radiohead), this was the most crowded stage of all.

4:30 – 4:45: Serena Ryder
We decided to check out Serena Ryder at the BMI stage. This was our only foray over to this side stage, and wow, it might have the best setting of any stage on the grounds. A ton of shade, plenty of non-concrete seating. Too bad there aren’t more acts we want to see here. Ryder reminds me of Brandi Carlisle with her scratchy voice, high energy and almost alt-country sound. Definitely an artist I’ll check out more post-Fest.

5:00 – 5:30: Explosions in the Sky
Kelley wandered off to go see Jamie Lidell, while I listed to Explosions in the Sky from a distance. These guys were super high energy, especially for a band that plays tunes with no vocals. I really like their sound.

5:30 – 6:30: Okkervil River
Okkervil rocked when we saw them opening for the New Pornographers in Madison earlier this year, and they didn’t disappoint at the Playstation stage either. From a rousing opener of “The President is Dead” to the crowd pleasing “My Life is Not a Movie or Maybe,”  Okk River had total command of the audience, inspiring sing-a-longs, plenty of bouncing in place, and a whole lotta clapping.

6:30 – 7:30: Broken Social Scene
For a band that has been around as long as BSS, and has launched the career of one Leslie Feist, I feel a little ashamed for only knowing one of their songs (24/7 Shoreline). They put on a great early evening set of jam bandy pop tunes. Quite enjoyable.

7:30: Dinner time.
Have I mentioned how reasonably priced everything is? I have? Well, it’s worth repeating. For dinner, I went with a Pulled Turkey sandwhich ($5) and Kelley and I split a Taco/Tamale combo ($5) and some Guac and Chips ($5) — yes, $15 for two people to eat (you’ll have to ask Kelley if this was her entire dinner or not), at a festival. Nice. We drank beer with dinner too. Those were $5 each. Let’s see you do that, Summerfest!

8:00 – 8:30: Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
We went to find a spot for Wilco, and listened to Sharon and the ‘Kings rock the place from afar. Definitely a crowd-pleasing set from a band that knows how to bring it live. Their retro-ish sound isn’t typically my bag, but I enjoyed everything I heard.

8:30 – 9:45: Wilco
Jeff Tweedy and the boys put on a truly crowd pleasing set of well known fare. From the sound of things, this was definitely a less raucous (and dare I say – older) crowd than the gathering at Rage Against the Machine. Saturday was like a reverse of our Friday. Whereas Day 1 started out mellow with Rogue Wave and Yeasayer, then built up to the frenetic energy of CSS; Saturday started with an energetic set by the Ting Tings and concluded with the laid back pleasantness of Wilco. Just a thoroughly enjoyable day and a fitting, headline-worthy ending.

10:00: Ok, the train is busier tonight. For about 2/3 of this trip, Kelley and I are standing. Not exactly surprising, but boy, are we going to be worn out by the end of this weekend! :)