Vienna Teng: Inland Territory.#1 Vienna Teng, Inland Territory – We discovered Vienna Teng’s music by chance a few years ago, when we heard “Harbor” playing in a restaurant. Katie looked her up by a fragment of lyrics and bought the then-current album, Warm Strangers, and was hooked. It took me a bit longer, but her latest album is my favorite of the year. Stylistically, it’s a very mixed album, ranging from pop to piano to a capella and even music hall sounds.

We caught Vienna Teng’s concert at the Roxy in April, a few weeks after the album came out. The Paper Raincoat opened for her, and I picked up their EP (and later, their first full-length album).

Vertical Horizon: Burning the Days.#2 Vertical Horizon, Burning the Days – After years off the grid (they’re best known for “Everything You Want,” which came out in 1999!), Vertical Horizon finally got back together and recorded a new bunch of songs. It’s not quite as good as the Gin Blossoms’ comeback, but it’s absolutely recognizable as Vertical Horizon and yet still new. (Well, mostly. “Welcome to the Bottom” sounds an awful lot like “Inside You,” though it does have more words.) Musically it’s similar in style to Go (a mix of hard and soft rock), but the lyrics are better, more on a level with Everything You Want.

Butterfly Boucher: Scary Fragile#3 Butterfly Boucher, Scary Fragile – It’s been about five years since Butterfly Boucher’s last album. We heard “Another White Dash” the first time we listened to Indie 103.1 back in 2004, then caught her opening for both Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan, but her second album was delayed by contract problems with her ex-label. As it turns out, it’s very good — Katie described it as the best sophomore album she’s ever heard. It’s a sort of indie rock sound. It was really tough for me to figure out whether to put Burning the Days or Scary Fragile in the #2 spot, but I finally settled on the one that I’ve been playing the most lately.

We saw Butterfly Boucher in concert last June at the House of Blues in San Diego.

Butterfly Boucher: Scary FragileWhen Butterfly Boucher’s new album, Scary Fragile, came out in June, I didn’t really pay attention to format. I just bought it as an MP3 album for convenience. I didn’t even notice that it was digital-only at the time, but I just got an email for the “physical release” of the album on September 15 and a new concert tour.

The newsletter was a bit confusing, though, because we bought a CD at her concert in June so that we’d have something for her to sign! I guess she must have had a small run printed just for the summer concert tour.

We’ve been following singer/songwriter Butterfly Boucher since 2004 — in fact, since the first day we tuned in to the now-defunct Indie 103.1 and heard “Another White Dash” for the first time. We caught her opening for Barenaked Ladies a few months later and picked up her album, then caught her again opening for Sarah McLachlan later that year. Her second album, “Scary Fragile”, finally came out on Tuesday (it’s very good — Katie says it may be the best sophomore album she’s ever heard), and she’s doing a concert tour. She’s playing in Los Angeles most of this month, but timing worked out better for us to go see her in San Diego on Saturday. So we bought some tickets and made a weekend trip out of it.

Historic San Diego

Old Town San Diego Wagon.We drove down after lunch on Saturday and hit Old Town San Diego on the way in. (More Highlander Grog!) I could swear I don’t remember having trouble finding it before, but the last few times it’s been hard to get to even following a map. At least we managed better than we did in December, when we ended up several miles inland before we could find a place to cross the inlet.

I don’t remember much going on the last time we were there, but this time Old Town was in full-on living history mode, complete with tour guides dressed up in 1800s outfits and a horse-and-buggy ride.

Fancy lobby. Once it was a bank, now it's a hotel.I’d booked the Courtyard San Diego Downtown because it’s literally next door to the House of Blues. It took a while to negotiate the one-way streets, but once we arrived, we stepped inside and were blown away by the lobby. It turns out that the hotel used to be the building for the San Diego Trust & Savings bank. After the bank closed in the 1990s, Marriott bought it and converted it to a hotel. The vault, safe deposit rooms, and other rooms on the first floor became a conference center, and the offices on the upper floors became guest rooms. They’ve preserved as much of the old look of the place as possible, down to keeping the mail slots on the former office doors. (Don’t worry, they’re blocked.)

Clouds and TowersWe ate dinner at Chopahn (6th Ave. near F St.), an Afghan restaurant we first visited during last year’s Comic-Con. It was empty when we got there, which I hope was just because we were there on the early side, because the food is great. Another couple arrived while we were eating, but they were the only people we saw other than the waitress. She had started pushing tables together as if they were expecting a larger party later on.

After dinner we wandered the Gaslamp district for a while. I kept making notes of where various hotels or restaurants were located. Eventually I realized I was basically scouting for Comic-Con next month.

Around 7:00 we made our way to the House of Blues.


That’s when we discovered that we’d been under a misapprehension about the nature of the venue. Continue reading

Some entertainment stuff I’m looking forward to this year:

Movies: Coraline

YouTube also has the trailer in HD.

I discovered Sandman late, borrowing the trades from one of my (younger) brother’s friends around 1998 or so, then immediately tracking down my own copies. I lucked out and got a complete set on eBay for something like $70. Since then I’ve devoured most of Neil Gaiman’s work, be it in comics, prose, or movie form. The original novel of Coraline was very good, and it’s been adapted by the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is among my favorite movies…and what I’ve seen of the film suggests that they get it. It’s hard to believe it’s only two weeks away!

Other movies: Oddly enough, I’m only mildly interested in Terminator: Salvation, Transformers 2: Can’t Remember the Subtitle, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the films have been steadily deteriorating after peaking with #3, IMHO), Star Trek, and Watchmen. I’ll probably see all of them, but none of them have me nearly as excited.

Comics, books, music, etc. after the cut: Continue reading