Tuesday, July 28

Crisp Bounce Pass: A Newsletter About Basketball

As you know, I'm a big ol' fan of basketball. Give me basketball news, basketball updates, basketball cards, basketball games, basketball memes. I want it all.

There's a lot of folks like me out there, too, which is why I want to share Crisp Bounce Pass, a digital newsletter about basketball. 

This newsletter covers all kinds of basketball topics, from cool basketball players to forgotten games. But it dives in even further, looking at stuff like basketball in pop culture, fun facts, and branding exploration.

For example, the most recent issue looks at the evolution of the Milwaukee Bucks logo. How did it go from a reindeer wearing a delightful sweater to a fierce looking buck that pays homage to the city where the team plays? You'll have to click through to find out, but it's a fun time.

The NBA season tips off again this week and I'm excited to have basketball back in our lives, even if it's going to be in a weird bubble-only format with no fans. And I'm excited there are things like Crisp Bounce Pass to keep us educated and entertained with all sorts of quirky topics as the season chugs along.

Thursday, May 7

Daniel Radcliffe is Reading Chapters of Harry Potter to Keep Us Sane

Daniel Radcliffe has done plenty of cool projects over the years, but of course, nothing will top being the greatest wizard in the land. Radcliffe's performance as Harry Potter has inspired millions of people around the world to believe in the power of magic, even if it doesn't take the form of wizard robes and crazy fire spells. And with the world in an unpredictable state, we could use a little levity (or maybe a little Wingardium Leviosa).

That's where Radcliffe comes in. He's the first of many exciting contributors that will be reading through the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. These readings are part of the Harry Potter At Home series, which will feature famous faces and friends of the Wizarding World. With 17 chapters in total, we've got quite a bit of reading to do. Well, we won't be reading, we'll just be enjoying. But the guest readers will have a lot of reading to do.

Check out "The Boy Who Lived" here, or listen over on Spotify if you prefer an audio-only version.

Friday, April 24

Goldfinger's Virtual Quarantine Concert of "Superman" is Delightful

"Superman" by Goldfinger is one of the first songs I remember hearing on a video game. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater gave me the tunes that made my toes tapping, my head bobbing, and my mouth smiling. In fact, I still can't hear the song without hearing beeps in my head around the 1:50 mark. I just want to land that Kickflip McTwist!

In any case, even a quarter-century later, this song still rocks. And the Goldfinger crew (featuring a lot of familiar faces) is enthusiastic as ever, rocking out in very nice home studios. Take a listen and keep on dancing through all of this.

Friday, April 17

Let's See a Show! Band of Brothers Road Show with Magic Giant and American Authors

In the toughest times, I'm thankful I can turn to music to help brighten my spirits.

Back before this whole wave of social distancing began, I attended a show featuring Magic Giant and American Authors at the historic Scoot Inn here in Austin. Despite the frigid outdoor temps, the crowd was ready to jump. And we were in luck, because these two headliners are energetic as heck.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say Magic Giant is one of the most bouncy shows I've ever seen. The trio gets calf workouts for days, bounding around the stage like dogs that have just discovered a new field to play in. And I say that in the most complimentary way possible. I loved their set, full of jams like the head bopper "Disaster Party."

Between Austin Bisnow on lead vocals and keys, Zambricki Li on viola, banjo, and harmonica, and Zang rocking the acoustic guitar and cello, these gents will improve your mood. Their older songs are a bit more folk-y sounding (no wonder LA Weekly called them "cool as folk") while their newer stuff is more pop-centric; either way, you really can't go wrong. The energy certainly made it difficult to capture photos, but I managed to snap a few fun ones that showcase some of that excitement. Check them out at the bottom of the post.

Oh, and how about the time when Magic Giant came out into the crowd to perform acoustically? I'M ONBOARD.

I had seen American Authors once before; they opened for The Royal Concept, another band that knows how to put a toe-tapper together. That was a few years ago, and I think they sound even tighter now. Though they didn't play my favorite song of theirs (you can hear that one below), they had plenty of fun moments, as well. They also spent some time among the crowd, scaring the heck out of me by launching into a pounding bass drum, tambourine, and additional percussion breakdown directly behind where I was standing as they started their second set.

American Authors is most known for its smash single "Best Day of My Life," which has an alternate music video version of a dog getting adopted that is just too cute for school. But the quartet of Zac Barnett (vocals, guitar), James Adam Shelley (guitar, banjo), Dave Rublin (bass), and Matt Sanchez (drums) offer plenty of firepower, especially with singalong choruses and positive messages.

I hope more shows adopt the setup of this tour – the two headliners went back and forth, each getting in a couple of mini-sets. Let's get more of this! Five songs for one, five songs for the other, five songs for the first, five songs for the second, then close it out with a big ol' party. We all know the worst part of any show (other than someone stepping on your toes) is the downtime between sets. This greatly eliminates that and makes for a fantastic time. Artists and venues, please keep that going.

It may be a while until we can get out and enjoy live shows again. Luckily, we can still support artists making great music by buying or streaming songs and albums and picking up merch. Until then, be safe, and hope to see you at the next show.

UPDATE: Magic Giant is doing a "Live From Quarantine" virtual festival series, featuring performances from The Lumineers, Jason Mraz, Woody Harrelson, and a whole lot more. You can check it out on Instagram Live this weekend (4/19) at 2pm PT. 

Thursday, April 2

Adam Schlesinger Was One of Our Greatest Songwriters

I've always felt Fountains of Wayne has been a criminally underrated band for most of their career. Like a lot of people, I discovered the band through "Stacy's Mom," the 2003 pop hit that was a tribute to The Cars (there's even a mini Ric Ocasek in the opening scene of the music video). But while most people wrote them off as a one-hit wonder, I dove deeper into their catalog. And man, there's such terrific stuff in there.

That's largely due to Adam Schlesinger, co-founder of Fountains of Wayne, along with Chris Collingwood. The duo is credited with writing every song on their album, an intentional move to let the band shine more brightly than the individuals within it. I think what's most impressive about Fountains of Wayne songs is how perfectly they capture the minutiae of suburban living. Heck, their Utopia Parkway record is a concept album about suburbia. That's just not really a thing most bands do, yet it speaks to so many people throughout the country. We've all had rocky relationships, been stuck in traffic, or woken up one morning realizing we drank too much the night before. And Adam and Chris brought these scenarios to life through Fountains of Wayne songs.

But it wasn't only Fountains of Wayne. Adam had a hand in so many songs – both for real and fictitious bands and shows. You've likely heard an earworm song and been like, "YES. I dig this" and chances are Adam touched it. 

Jams like "Just the Girl" by The Click Five and "High School Never Ends" by Bowling for Soup are still toe-tappers nearly 20 years later. He wrote the title track to perhaps my favorite movie ever (That Thing You Do!), penned tunes for the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack, and earned multiple Emmy Awards wins and nominations for his work on the Tonys and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Adam died from complications from COVID-19 at just 52 years old. He gave us so much good music and I hope you'll take some time to listen.