Mad about Madewell

Lately I’ve found myself decked out from head to toe in Madewell wear as if I was a Madewell mannequin.  Ordinarily I’d be slightly embarrassed of my clear lack of originality, but their clothes are too cute to care.

Not only are they cute, but practical for the season.  Here are some of my Winter favorites all rolled into a single picture:

MadewellMadewell’s Spotdot Sweater is a warm blend of cotton and wool (cotton ensures that it’s not itchy).  Can be paired with jeans or a skirt and tights.  Cozy and stylish – check the runway, polka dots are back!

Madewell makes all of my favorite jeans, and at a decent price.  This photo features the Skinny Skinny jeans (honored in this year’s Style Watch denim awards).  They come in as many colors as you could possibly think of, so you can wear them for almost every occasion.

Lastly (but perhaps the most important aspect of the outfit) are the Dr. Marten’s 1460 8-Eye Pony Boots.  Do I even need to explain why these are wonderful? No, but I will anyway.  Owning at least one pair of Doc Marten’s is important for every girl – owning THIS pair is even better.  They’re practical for colder weather, can be paired with jeans or a skirt and tights, and the pony hair pattern makes any outfit more interesting and eye-catching.  They’re fun without being over the top.

DIY: Christmas Ornaments

This year will be my first with my own Christmas tree.  That being said, I am seriously lacking on the decorations.  Instead of purchasing everything, I’d like to make some of it myself.

Free People’s blog, BLDG 25, recently featured a DIY Christmas Ornaments post which not only will save you money (ornaments can be pretty expensive), but is also just plain fun.

DIY ornament

What You’ll Need:

  • Clear plastic ball ornaments (these can be found at Hobby Lobby, other craft stores, or online)

  • Other small decorations (i.e. glitter, yarn, fake feathers, fake flowers, figurines)

  • Thin ribbon or thread – for hanging the ornament

  • Optional: glue – hot glue gun or fabric glue (only if you want a decoration to stay in place inside the ball)

What to do:

This is the fun part – there are no specific directions for how to make your ornaments since each one is different, but here are some ideas for inspiration:

DIY ornament

Snowglobe ornament: Glue both yarn and figurine in place, include loose white glitter

DIY Ornament

Flower Ornament: fake flowers and glitter (optional)

DIY ornament

Feather ornaments: fake feathers (color of choice) and glitter (optional)

DIY ornament

Finished ornaments attached to neon string

Photos courtesy of BLDG 25 blog

A Light in the Dark: The Rise of The Bright Light Social Hour

Bright Light Social HourLong-held organ chords and a bouncing funk bass line, accented by pulsing drum hits, open the Bright Light Social Hour‘s song “Back and Forth.”  The guitar whines, introducing the melody later to be sung by the gritty and soulful vocals of Curtis Roush.  The lyrics are simple and catchy – reminiscent of the sexually charged lyrics of classic rock acts such as The Rolling Stones.  The song begs your body to move.

The BLSH – as they are popularly known – gained local momentum after winning the 2009 Sound and the Jury competition which gave the band a spot at Austin City Limits music festival the same year.  Since then the band has graced the cover of The Chronicle, toured across the country, and won multiple honors at the 2010-2011 Austin Music Awards including Album of the Year, Song of the Year (“Detroit”), and Band of the Year.

Bright Light Social Hour

Photo by Lauren Morgan

While from an outsider view it may seem like they’re on a fast-track to stardom, BLSH guitarist and vocalist Curtis Roush says that their success has never come “too fast or all at once.”  Instead, Roush describes their success as, “more gradual growth through constant hard work;” he says, “we would notice every few months that our fan base would grow.”

But in a city filled with talented and determined musicians, this begs the questions: Why them and why now?

Peter Mongillo, music critic for the Austin American-Statesman, acknowledges that while talent is clearly important, luck also plays a part, as there are many other talented bands in Austin.   Mongillo suggests that “business savvy is also a factor — i.e. how much does a band cultivate their audience using social media, how good is their publicity person, what bands do they perform with, etc.”

BLSH has clearly polished their social media skills.  The band creates humorous promotional videos as well as videos on the road to keep fans updated while they tour.  Roush explains, “[Jack O’brien] (BLSH bassist and vocalist) brings a camera around to get footage of life on the road.  It keeps people involved and feeling like part of the process.  That way when we leave Austin for a while, we haven’t just completely vanished.”  Tricks like these help the band to maintain their fan base.

Bright Light Social Hour

Sound and the Jury Competition

But how did they get such a large following in the first place?  Mongillo suggests that their musical style may have had an impact on gaining a fan base.  He describes their music as “a contemporary spin on classic rock, a genre that appeals to a wide variety of music fans, both casual and more serious.”  Roush illustrates a similar concept when he describes his experience of the BLSH fans.  While most of the fans are in a similar demographic to the band (i.e ages 20-30), Roush mentions “some notable exceptions in a wide range.”  The band has quite a few younger fans, as well as much older ones which they attribute to BLSH’s “influences of classic rock.”

While they have a dedicated and varied fan base so far, the band still hasn’t quite reached fame on a national level, and saying they will is really only a guessing game.  Mongillo notes, “There have been plenty of bands coming out of Austin that looked as though they were about to break out, only to return home and either quit or have a successful local career that doesn’t have national appeal.”

Regionally, BLSH seems to be doing everything right: playing lively shows, winning local awards, keeping in touch with their fans; but it’s nearly impossible to know if a national audience will embrace their music with such high regards.  Mongillo accredits this uncertainty to the changing music industry, “The demise of the traditional music industry has set the scene for a more competitive business than ever — bands, even seemingly popular ones, don’t make much money, are reliant on artificially generated ‘buzz’, and there are more acts than ever vying for the attention of music fans. Just look at how SXSW grows every year.”The Bright Light Social Hour

Yet, Roush describes the main difference between BLSH and other bands as teamwork.  He says, “we all value each others opinions and insights.  Many bands are dominated by one or two people, but we work together on everything.”  While BLSH has had many different members in the past, Roush believes, “with this combination of people that came together 3 years ago, things really clicked.”

Austin’s thousands of BLSH fans prove that there is hope for the band on a national level.  Mongillo mentions a few accounts of this success, “Some recent Austin acts, like Black Joe Lewis, have had national success. Another Austin band, White Denim, grew popular in England before anyone even knew who they were in the states.”

As for now, the band is keeping a positive attitude just as in lyrics of their song “Shanty” when they sing, “Don’t matter brother, keep on steady rollin’.  We’ll figure out something soon.”

Austin Artist Spotlight: Shakey Graves

Picture this: One man with guitar in hand, left foot keeping time on a bass drum, right foot tapping a tambourine stand for accent, all the while singing with power and grit into the microphone at his lips.

Sound impossible?

Not for Austin musician Shakey Graves.

Shakey Graves

Let’s first give him a hand for his badass stage name.  And then, more importantly, for his astoundingly original act.  There isn’t one part that’s lacking.

I was lucky enough to catch his show last night at Hole in the Wall.  This one man band sounds more full than most multi-piece bands.  Shakey’s abundant use of vocal reverb echos through the entire room as if there were five of him; and his rhythm on guitar, bass drum, and tambourine is impeccable.  His audience was utterly mesmerized – he even had a few standing ovations.

His recorded music is beautiful (holiday gifts anyone?); still, it doesn’t do justice to his live act.  If you get the chance to see him perform, do.  I have the feeling he’ll be moving on to bigger things soon.  Really soon.

Check out one of my favorites from him, “Roll the Bones”:

Photo courtesy of Shakey Graves Tumblr

Wilfred, Please Come Back.

WilfredQ: What’s Wilfred?
A: The TV show with Elijah Wood and the guy in the dog suit.

The series on FX is based on the Australian series of the same name – in fact it features the same actor, Jason Gann playing the dog named Wilfred.

This trippy show follows Ryan (Elijah Wood), a young man in the midst of a quarter-life crisis.  However, things begin to change for Ryan once he meets Wilfred, his neighbors dog; well at least that’s how the rest of the world sees him.  Instead, we see Wilfred just as Ryan does – a large Australian man in a dog suit.  In many ways he acts like a dog (i.e. sniffing, chasing, humping stuffed animals), and in many ways he doesn’t (i.e. speaking English, smoking pot, trying out different sexual positions with his stuffed animal).

It’s almost as if we can speak Dog.  Wilfred still chases cars and barks at people, only instead of hearing a dog bark, we hear the actual words he is saying.  Although this reality may take a second to get used to, that’s all it will take before you’re cracking up.

The show’s first season was aired this summer; and while there is not yet a specific date, Wilfred will be returning for a second season.  It can’t come quickly enough.

Check out a couple of my favorite Wilfred promos, and then go watch the full episodes on FX:

On My iPod: “Tangerine” by Big Boi, T.I., & Khujo Goodie

Big BoiThis does not begin like your average rap song.  It starts slow with distorted groveling guitar, and then is intensified by tribal drumming and contagious snapping before finally hearing the voice of Big Boi.

The chorus is filled with dizzying layers of vocals and synth all repeating the same melody on the lyrics “shake it like a tambourine.”  I’m not sure exactly what shaking it “like a tambourine” looks like, but the chorus makes me want to learn – until then, I’ll improvise.

Tangerine was released in 2007 on Big Boi’s first solo album completely separate from Outkast titled, “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty.”

If Outkast can’t be together, then individually Andre 3000 and Big Boi better keep making songs this inventive and catchy to distract me from my discontent.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Live

Buffy The Vampire SlayerYou may not personally love the Slayer, but surely you have a best friend or girlfriend who does – Buffy had and still has a huge cult following.

Lucky for you (or your friend or girlfriend) The Highball is doing a live reenactment of The Prom episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for Teen Angst Tuesday.

The television series was created in 1997 by Joss Whedon and strived toward the empowerment of women.  Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar), “the chosen one”, kicks ass daily (vampire and demon ass, that is) and still manages to go to school and have a social life – not to mention a steamy relationship with Angel, the vampire with a soul.Sunnydale

The Highball’s website describes the guilty pleasures this reenactment provides, “There’s something incredibly cathartic about watching actors experience the same rejection and angst we all faced in high school. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re so much better looking than real people, or maybe it’s because the drama is turned up to 11” (Via Highball).

Tonight at 8pm is the last night The Institution Theater is performing Buffy the Vampire Slayer and it’s only $5 – no excuses.

Get more information here.

The Descendents: Go See It

The Descendents

Clooney and Woodly

Alexander Payne‘s The Descendents is set in Hawaii.  The beautiful scenery, however, is somewhat masked by the King family’s misfortune.

The movie opens with a voice-over from Matt King (George Clooney) describing the accident that put his wife in a coma.  While telling rather than showing (especially with voice-overs) is openly frowned upon in Screenwriters 101, it seemed to work in the opening of this movie for the most part.  Still there are a few lines that I found unnecessary – you have George Clooney for God’s sake, let him act!

The good news is this was the only thing that bothered me in the movie and it lasted for only about 10 seconds.

Matt King is a father of 2 girls, and has always been “the backup parent” until his wife’s accident.  He talks of renewing his love for his wife once she wakes from her coma, taking her on trips and buying her the boat she always wanted.  Soon he discovers that his wife was cheating on him and planning on asking for a divorce.

The DescendentsThe movie follows Matt as he faces raising two daughters alone and deals with a dying, unfaithful wife.  Clooney and his character’s two daughters, Scottie (Amara Miller) and Alexandra (Shailene Woodly), beautifully embody the mixed emotions of anger, sorrow, pain, and love that confront the whole family.

Sid, played by Austin-bred Nick Krause, is a smaller, still very well developed character.  Most of the movie’s humor is derived from Sid, yet we are also shown a softer side as he helps the family move through their pain.

Payne’s cinematography showed similarities to a few Wes Anderson films such as Rushmore, Life Aquatic, and The Royal Tenenbaums.  Many of the scenes in The Descendents heavily focused on silent action and silent emotion, revealing more about the character and less about the scene – Wes Anderson thrives on this technique.

I keep ending up at movies like this one – movies where I quietly sob in the theater in between bouts of laughter.  Perhaps this is a rising trend of comedies with heavy emotional content.

Q&A with Curtish Roush of the Bright Light Social Hour

BLSH The Chronicle

Via The Chronicle

Curtis Roush, guitarist and vocalist for up and coming Austin-based band the Bright Light Social Hour, was polite enough to speak to me over the phone the morning after Thanksgiving during some of his much needed family time.

What do you think makes the Bright Light Social Hour different than all the other Austin musicians trying to make it?
I think the main thing is teamwork; we all value each others opinions and insights.  Many bands are dominated by one or two people, but we work together on everything.

What niche do you fill in the Austin music scene that brings such a crowd? Who is your fan base?
The majority of people are folks in our demographic [20-30, evenly male and female]; however, there are some notable exceptions in a wide range.  There are a number of young kids and older seniors, some of our grandparents, who mysteriously like our music.  It also appeals to our parents’ generation.  I think because they hear the influences of classic rock in our music, and they latch on to that.

Is there a specific moment that you think changed things for the BLSH in terms of popularity?
Honestly, no.  We’ve had moments such as winning the ACL The Sound and The Jury competition and making the Austin Chronicle Cover, but nothing too fast or all at once.  We’ve always treated it as a full time job. We’ve experienced more gradual growth through constant hard work, and we would notice every few months that our fan base would grow.  We noticed the same thing while traveling (in their 15 passenger van named Vaniel Day Lewis).  The 1st time in a city we play to the bartenders and other bands with their

BLSH Curtis Roush

Curtis Roush

girlfriends.  The 2nd time there are a bit more people, and by the 3rd time we’re better able to draw a crowd of 300-600.

Do you coordinate styles? Hair? Clothes?
I spend more time with these guys than anyone else in my life so we’ve developed a lot of common tastes.  Spending so much time together allows us to work off each other really fluidly; our live shows are pretty organic. The long hair just came from laziness.

Do you think the BLSH could’ve had this success with any of your previous band members?
It’s hard to say.  I think that we’ve always had talented folks in the band. But with this combination of people that came together 3 years ago, things really clicked.  We all lined up with work ethic and vision, and it was just good timing.  We were all at a point where we could do it and commit to it.  There was nothing else interceding into our lives like work or school stopping us from devoting ourselves to the band.

Does the band have any pre-show rituals?
We have a good meal together a few hours before.  We love food.  That’s part of the fun of touring – getting to try all the different foods.  Other than that, we just settle into the venue a little early and get comfortable in the setting.

Do you have any strategies as a band that you follow in order to keep the BLSH in the spotlight and keep in touch with your fans?
We mainly try just to keep the quality of our product up as high as we can.  We try to regularly create fun updates for our listeners. Jack (the BLSH bassist) is pretty good at that stuff; he brings a camera around to get footage of life on the road.  It keeps people involved and feeling like part of the process.  That way when we leave Austin for a while, we haven’t just completely vanished.


Wedding Series: Escort Cards

Flower escort cardsLately, having your escort cards double as wedding favors seems to be a popular choice.

I’ve seen it done a thousand ways, but the card/favor combinations are some of my favorites – they’re cute, creative, and more affordable.

Plant place cardsA popular and eco-friendly choice is to create your place cards with some sort of plant or flower (see top and left pictures).  This not only directs your guests to their seats, but also provides them with a gift they can keep that will continue to grow or bloom (not to mention, it adds more decoration to your tables!)cassette escort cards

When your wedding has a theme, or even something that you and your spouse just really enjoy, people often choose to make their place cards fit in with this theme.

For example, a couple chose to have a Beatles inspired wedding with each table named after a different Beatles album, so they used cassettes as place cards.  Each cassette tape had a name and table number printed on it, along with the name of the Beatles song that they recorded on the tape (see picture to the right).  Best part: you can do it all yourself! Assuming you still own your old tape recorder.

All photos courtesy of greenweddingshoes.com