Tag Archives: DC

“You can fire a rocket at a rocket, it’s the future.”

I’ve had a lot of things on my mind. I haven’t been a very good Webmistress here, and I’m sorry about that. It hasn’t had anything to do with lack of ideas; I’m constantly in the car, listening to a song, thinking, “gosh, that’d be a great song to analyse for Music in Notes…”

At TGTF, it’s a completely different story. We’ve been busy with SXSW 2016 post-event reviews and features but we’re about to put the final post (the 127th!) to bed.

Some stuff went down in Austin on Thursday and Saturday that shook my faith in humankind (broadly) and the music festival format (specifically). As those of you who have followed me on TGTF, PopWreckoning, and DIY over the last 7 years I’ve been a music journalist, I have been to a lot of events all over the world, including 5 SXSWs now. I consider it a great opportunity to be given the chance to go to Austin to cover SXSW.

I suspect what happened (both incidents) happened because of my size (I’m barely 5’3″), my race, and my gender, all of which likely contributed to the idea I was an easy target. I don’t want to make this a feminist issue, because I’m not a fan of that term. I’m probably going to be strung up for this, but I’m into equality and all people treated fairly. There needs to be more peace and love in this world, people listening to one another and having open minds instead of shoving their values down someone else’s throat.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case if you’re keeping up with any of the U.S. presidential election coverage. Living in DC with wall-to-wall coverage of the march to November, it’s felt like a pressure cooker, and SXSW offered a nice respite from all of that. Some people say to me, “it must be really amazing to live in Washington, where all the movers and shakers are!” Yes, if you’re inclined in a certain way, it is. As I get older, I’ve noticed how less and less I engage in what’s considered “proper” DC conversation (read: I haven’t dated in forever). I mean, come on, this was on display on the windows when I went out to eat not too long ago…

Last week, I was given a unique challenge that will see my artistic talents going in a different direction. I’m both excited and terrified by this new project / thing, what will come out of it, and what other doors it will open for me. Some friends have more faith in my capabilities than I do in myself, and the support they’ve put behind me in this new endeavour is and will be invaluable. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

I love the fact that no matter how I look to people on the outside – the automatic stereotypes people have had about me as I walk into a room or walk down the street, or when they meet me in a club – they won’t matter. These people and their incorrect, dangerous stereotypes won’t dictate where this is going to go.

Being treated as an equal. Respected as someone who has something new and different to the table. These are the things that are priceless.

This isn’t the end of Music in Notes, but I foresee this taking a lot of my time in at least the next 3 to 6 months.

Until next time, stay sweet. x

Update: “I wanted words…but all I heard was nothing.” Apologies!

(quote in title stolen from ‘Nothing’)

I feel extremely bad about having left Music in Notes without a post in over 2 months, but I have my reasons. TGTF’s lead-up to going out to Austin for South by Southwest (SXSW) took up a lot of my time and energy, as it necessitated weeks of preparation before we even set foot in Texas. I can hardly believe it, really, that it was my fourth time going. All the prep work paid off, as we saw more bands and interviewed more acts than ever while at the event. Post-Austin when I returned to DC, intensive writing, photo editing, correspondence, and whatnot commenced. But it’s all done now, all 153 SXSW 2015 articles – previews, pre-festival Q&As with bands, interviews, features, and festival day and evening round-ups – were submitted by the start of April to SXSW Music, and I can breathe again!

While all of this was going on, I developed a strange pain in my hip that stopped my usual exercise regime in its tracks. After 8 weeks’ plus of physical therapy, I’m in a lot better shape than I was and stronger, and I’m glad for that. I’m not the most relaxed person in the world anyway – I prefer being a busy bee and incredibly productive because my mind usually doesn’t stop thinking and dreaming, and when I’m forced to slow down or stop, I pine – so it was a reminder that I’m always a work in progress.

I came home one afternoon the week I started physio feeling physically shattered while emotionally crushed that I was, years later again, dealing with physical pain from an unknown cause. I flicked through some channels on tv before settling on what looked like a live performance on a German language channel. It was Irish pop band the Script, playing at some European club, probably around the same time I saw them myself the first time in DC 5 years ago. I was a very different person then. For one, when I saw them play, it had been a few days after I’d gotten my heart broken badly, and really, no one else could have done in the moment but them. Needless to say, ‘Breakeven’ was a mainstay of my playlist for the weeks and months after, as I tried to figure how the hell we’d gone wrong, crying my eyes out as I poked at the bass notes of the song on my guitar.

And then I looked at the time and date on the channel guide on my tv. Is it really Valentine’s week again? Oh no. Just no. Not another Valentine’s Day alone… I don’t do lonely very well.

I have a draft for my analysis of ‘Breakeven’ sat in WordPress this very minute, but I never got around to finishing it, as I was too preoccupied in my melancholy at the time. I might complete it in the future, but I’m not holding my breath. It seemed as soon as our SXSW 2015 coverage was finished, I was asked to contribute preview coverage for Live at Leeds 2015, including a list of personal recommendations I was asked to produce within 24 hours of being given the schedule. I could have said no. I could have said I was too tired, too busy, too lazy to get it done. All of those answers would have been easy, right?

But it wouldn’t have felt right for me to say them. When I was in Austin this year, I was surprised and stunned when my friends in high places – the BBC’s Steve Lamacq, in particular – were going around telling all their friends how important I was to the British music scene. Lammo would introduce me as “this is Mary, our best American champion of British music we have…” and I had to stop myself from fainting. It just didn’t seem real. Steve Lamacq, whose own voice I have listened to on the radio for so many years, the person who I’ve counted on for directing me towards so many great bands…this same STEVE LAMACQ is saying these lovely things about me?


Looking back, maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Maybe this has just been a long time coming and it wasn’t until March 2015 that I would be recognised for all my hard work? That’s how it feels, so I’m sticking with that theory. The praise heaped on me by Steve, Vic Galloway, and Huw Stephens, and by countless others in a band or in PR and management, meant so much to me. It was proof I was no longer that little girl from the suburbs who avoided making phone calls or making eye contact with other people because she was too shy, nor the awkward teenager with low self-esteem who assumed her whole life after university was going to spent in front of a lonely laboratory bench and that was all there was to life.

My time in Austin and the amazing experiences I had there renewed my faith in what I’ve been doing for the last 6 years and my commitment to what I do with TGTF. My singing and musician days of my childhood are in the past now of course but fuelled by this recent encouragement, I’m really looking forward to the next phase of my writing career, wherever it takes me.

In particular, the insightful conversations I had at SXSW with three up-and-coming electronic artists – Will Doyle (East India Youth), Gunsal Moreno (beGun), and Ryan L. West (Rival Consoles) – have given me more motivation to ratchet up my support of electronic music. Women are criminally underrepresented in the genre, which may explain partially but not completely why most electronic shows of the less pop variety are attended by mostly men. I haven’t figured yet what I’m going to do yet, but I want and have to think of something. Watch this space…

But here is the real purpose of this post. I wanted to write to you all, as although I will contribute further song interpretation and analyses in the near future, I anticipate my time to do so to be limited in the next 2 months because of a new commitment. I have signed on to a very involved writing project for my new German friend Hendrik Jasnoch’s Web site One Week // One Band. I was “introduced” to him and his Tumblr site’s premise last year when I was asked by a fan to answer a series of questions about my role in the media and as a long-time supporter of Sheffield band The Crookes, whose Daniel Hopewell some of you may know was the first champion of Music in Notes.

You’re probably wondering why I agreed to take another – and major – writing project when I barely have the free time, never mind the sanity, to do both TGTF and MiN on top of my normal waking Real Life. Well, the quick answer is relatively simple and three-fold:

1. I didn’t think a detailed analysis of this particular band made sense here on MiN. Judging from the questioning looks I get from friends’ faces and the derision (from mocking to serious) I get when I tell them I’m a massive fan of this band, I take it that it might not go all that well here,

2. Based on #1 above, I wanted to pose the challenge to myself to prove to everyone reading when it’s my turn on Hendrik’s site that this band was worthy of all the accolades I have showered them with, and

3. I wanted a way to thank them (even if it was done virtually) for what they’ve given to me. I had hoped to be able to personally thank them, but an interview with their primary songwriter that had been promised to me as editor of TGTF a couple years ago sadly fell through. This is my chance to do some long-awaited thanking that is far overdue. When the time comes, I’ll direct you all to that week of writing and I hope you’ll have a read.

Until next time, stay sweet.

M x

Summer in the City

It’s not even astrological summer yet. But, as always in the weeks leading up to the summer solstice, the denizens of the Washington area are already sporting sunglasses, sandals, and flip-flops. (For that last one, oh god no, can we please restrict flip-flops to the swimming pools, please?) There are varying stages of undress: some are vulgar, depending on who you’re talking to. We take shelter in our air-conditioned abodes, but every morning, it’s straight into our air-conditioned cars, then a quick run into our air-conditioned offices, only to do the reverse every evening. And all of this is to avoid the stifling air that makes it hard to breathe, and that awful stickiness, that quintessential DC area summer ‘mugginess’ the weathermen seem all too keen to report with their Cheshire smiles, night after night on the evening news.

Anyone who says that the sun and summer weather in DC increases productivity is wrong. And Music in Notes is not immune to this heat either: I’ll be the first to admit that when the mercury hits over 80 degrees and I feel like I’m melting, the last thing I want to do is tax my brain for some serious contemplation inside a stuffy room with a computer. (Sorry. This is why last week there was no analysis on Tuesday. But I’ve got one for this week, so hang tight for that tomorrow. I just wanted to explain the extenuating circumstances, in case there are further gaps in the coming weeks.)

But the DC heat is something that I have gotten used over the years. You had to. I’ve known it since I was a child. I’ve never taken heat well and every time summer approaches, I’ve dreaded it. I always had trouble sleeping when it was hot outside. And then the summer dresses would come out. As someone who grew up with legs that her aunt would jokingly make fun of, for all the medically-induced scars I have, I’ve always hated summer. (I guess she was joking? But when you’re a kid, you take those kinds of things to heart.) I’ve also always been really sensitive to the sun. So when other kids were outside playing, I was both covered up with an embarrassing sun hat and stuck with slathering sunblock on. Trust me, both things make you real popular in school. (I’m being sarcastic. Kids are cruel.)

Oddly though, things feel different this year. Sure, the heat is terrible. Regardless of how far back I cut my hair in advance of the season, I still get a heat rash on the back of my neck where it seems my dark hair focuses in all available daylight. I’m still wearing some kind of hat when I’m out and about, and with all the sunblock I put on my face in the morning, I still look like I’m auditioning for Casper when I leave the house. But I take it in stride. It no longer seems to matter as much.

I feel different too. I no longer look up at the sun and get angry because I have to spend precious time every morning to shield myself from his rays. And I certainly no longer wave my fist at him for so freely shining his benevolent light over another while I was suffering in bitter torment, completely unable to ever enjoy a sunny day. A couple weeks ago, for what felt like the first time in years, I looked up into the sky and saw it for what it was: the perfect blue sky, the fluffy clouds, they were all beautiful. I almost cried. It was the most freeing feeling I’d had in years.

At first, I thought this was all the doing of one person. I met him a couple weeks ago, on somewhat of a last minute whim. I tried to think of how exactly I would thank him for the colours he’d brought into my life, when through my sorrow, I had become hard and unyielding, and all I could see at the time was black and white. But as the days went on, I came to realise the way I looked at the world had shifted, and I couldn’t give him all the credit.

He certainly played an important role: he reminded me of who I am. The intelligent, remarkable woman who had always existed but I’d failed to recognise while I had been in darkness. But I had already begun to change before I met him. I just hadn’t noticed.

I’m always going to hate DC summers: the way I feel like I’m a fish out of water, gasping for air; when clothes cling to my skin like limpets for at least 3 full months of the year; how I’m constantly wiping sweat off my forehead and taking showers too often because my hair feels like it weighs 2 tons from the humidity. But there’s a difference now. I no longer look at those summer dresses and skirts in the shops, discouraged, not bothering to try them on while saying to myself, “they’re meant for someone else. Someone skinnier, someone prettier.” No.

There is a perfect line in one of my favourite comedy films of all time, Keeping the Faith: “Sometimes we don’t see certain things until we’re ready to see them.

I can wear summer dresses now. And for what seems like the first time in my life, I feel beautiful.