Creativity + Inspiration

Of course, I talk about the end of gaps being back and then the universe starts mocking me. In the past there were too many times I’d throw something out there and then it would stutter or fail. This time it is more so the opposite since on top of my prior list new things have been heaped on as well. More ideas, more scribbles and sketches, and whatnot are fueled by a random day that I now know was the catalyst for this all being kicked up a notch.

I have always considered myself a creative type, be it art, writing, or music. That is the default, the norm, that cozy comfortable cocoon-like feeling. With it though, there are always ebbs and flows. Though it never goes away, it does end up not quite dormant and settles on the regulars – music and knitting until I end up at some sort of live show.

A concert is one of my happy places. Be it dancing on the lawn or pavement of an outdoor venue or standing just beyond the stage lights of a concert hall, if there is music that I love, or possible could end up loving, it puts me in a good place. It is just plain re-energizing. I always catch myself talking faster, and often slightly (hopefully just slightly) scaring people, after shows and wanting to do more of creatively myself.

Though I frequently go to shows and have been since I was in high school, the last year or so has seemed to have had more on the calendar. I know it is a mix of overall bands I enjoy touring more and me actually being able to make that particular date. That goes along with local music as well. It was a mix of the two that first started this uptick – Meg Myers (major label/touring artist) and Mighty Fox (a then new to me Chicago based band) – that led to even more Mighty Fox shows until I became one of those in their crowd singing along to songs I now love, and after a quick hello or a short chat, adding yet another great night to the concert books.

The Chicago local scene is something of which I’ve always remember fondly. Many of the bands are just a memory with lineups changing, disbanding to start new projects or just deciding they were done. Others pop up in venue listings at varying frequencies. As I have mentioned before, the nostalgia factor pulls hard but it doesn’t need to be stuck in the past. I’ve made it a point to get to Lucky Boys Confusion shows as much as we can after I had so much fun last July. It wasn’t that we hadn’t gone before then since Darth Husband once surprised me with LBC tickets as part of a road trip to Champaign to visit a friend who had gone back to school. It was just that timing wasn’t working for one reason or another.

Timing. This brings it all back around to where I began and where the most recent kick in the creative pants (metaphorically of course but if they were real they’d be covered in paint, pencil  and ink, bits of yarn fuzz, and band patches) that has put me in one of the best creative mindsets I’ve been in a long time. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I knit. The name of this blog refers to it, as does my online handle, but I don’t just knit but that is what I’d been doing the most. I’d pull my sketchbooks out now and then. One of my guitars or my flute might be freed from their case. Darth Husband’s bass might be taken off the stand in the living room. (Yes, it resides in our living room but we do have concert posters, album covers, and misc music stuff throughout our home. Think of music things as our version of that “Live, Laugh, Love” or whatever other three line word art that is all over.) It just all went back to knitting and the other ideas staying as part of that “ok, later I will do xyz” list.

Well now that that list has had the word “later” removed from it after chatting with someone I first met back when we were kids, and I’m not talking high school kids, though I would end up knowing him then and seeing his bands play from high school and onward. I hadn’t had a chance to be on that same kind of creative wavelength for some time and didn’t realize it until afterward. It was like figuring out which way to tug the yarn to make it untangle and the knitting needles start flying even faster or the headphone cable turning the right way and the volume shoots up making me jump in my seat.

My creative idea list is on hyperdrive and I love it and hate it at the same time. Since there isn’t an extra day when being creative is only allowed and I have to balance it with everything else in my normal life, I’ve been trying to get as much as I can down ideas wise using more of the notebook stockpile I have for that exact purpose. Lines and lines have been written, scrawled, scratched out and redone. I’ve been making it a point to at least sketch every night (though I am hesitant to post things online since I know people’s art gets stolen. Instead I’ve just decided send it to those who I trust would actually ask if they wanted to use something.) Redoing the header of this blog finally clicked and not surprisingly the image it features is me standing on the floor of the House of Blues in Chicago.

I ended up a few lines of some recent writing to Nikabee since she was one that I would share with years ago, and even still has a small notebook of poems/lyrics that I gave her over a dozen years ago. (Seeing it, as well as my old handwriting, was quite amusing.) She liked the new stuff and responded about how it must feel good to connect to that creative part of me again. She’s right. That part. It feels absolutely fantastic. It is like the creative energy from concerts piled up back to back to back to back to…

I’m not wasting this or taking it for granted either because I do believe in signs. Things work out for a reason when they haven’t been before especially in terms of timing. I’ve had to miss out on things as we all do. This time it is two-fold. I have tickets for the next State and Madison show after not being able to see them play for way too long and I can tell Nick “thank you” again but this time in person.

Throughout my life, I’ve spent many hours, if not days or even months in total probably by now, surrounded by creative people – ones with minds buzzing with ideas or paint and ink stained hands, ones with fingertips drumming or feet tapping to the rhythm in their heads. The artists, the musicians, the writers. With social media and the overall digital world we live in now,  I might not share the same air space but I can still share the same creative thought space and learn, grow, and continuously be inspired.

To all of those who have inspired, thank you.

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Live & Local: Mighty Fox at Lincoln Hall

I love that moment when I hear a song or a band for the first time and I just stop. Everything else fades away and I’m transfixed. This is what happened the first time I saw Mighty Fox. There was no longer a crowd around me and just this fantastic rock band on the stage in front of me.

From their website since it does it much more justice as a description than “OMFG this is an awesome band:”

“Mighty Fox isn’t just a musical project but rather a journey.  As an up-and-coming group based in Chicago that has already gotten industry professionals stirring, it’s clear that this project is more than just a “band” but rather a way of life for the musicians involved.  Each song has the listener noticing the many different artists that influence Mighty Fox and how they’ve effected the lives of the members.  With bands like Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, and U2 being considered substantial influences, Mighty Fox has a very well rounded sound that anyone and everyone can relate to and enjoy.  Don’t let the names fool you though.  Mighty Fox has definitely found a sound of their own which translates incredibly to their live show.”

 I was ecstatic to find out that they were a local Chicago band. That put them on my “MUST see again” list and since that show, I’m happy to have seen them play live more.

The last show was last Friday at Lincoln Hall and once again my cousin was rocking out with me. I met her on the Northside after work and after hunting for a parking spot amongst the snowdrifts, we got to the venue with a good amount of time before the first band started. With four bands on the bill, Mighty Fox was third. Since Lincoln Hall is a smaller place, around 500 capacity and with sound well done for the size, we could easily see the stage and since it was a really laid back crowd minus one very excited chatty group celebrating a birthday with confetti (yes, actual metallic “Happy Birthday” confetti) we easily worked our way up front for their set.

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With everyone on stage but Mike, vocalist/guitarist, the music starts. Then a moment later he is onstage and their set kicks into gear. For ten songs, the room is enveloped in sound: Jon on drums, Markham on guitar, Johnny on bass and keyboard, and Mike switching between guitar and only the mic. From the soaring chorus of “Tom’s Song” to the pounding beat of “Let Go”, Mighty Fox had great energy on stage no matter what the tempo. You can tell that they are doing something that they love.

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Here is the full setlist of the songs that we danced to (or swayed to depending on the song) at the show:

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Being a musician myself and having friends in bands throughout the years, I know that there is a lot of work put into it. After I see a great show, I basically want to say to the band “thank you” as in “thank you for sharing your music with me.” With most shows (most being any general band), it usually is more so something like “great set”  just in passing but this time my cousin and I got to meet them and actually got to talk for a few minutes. I always appreciate when someone will chat a bit after rocking out on stage. Both being very nice, Markham granted my request for the setlist as he paused from breaking down his gear and Mike responded to my good-natured sarcasm about his moving too much resulting in blurred photos with some of his own. No pompous attitudes means gold stars in my book. I’ve met too many “What? I’m in a band. I’m too cool.” jerks over the years.

So back to the setlist photo. Yes, that is an actual set list and it is signed by Mike and Markham. It was an idea that popped into my head after the set had ended. Then I thought “Why not?” There is just something about this band. It reminds me of back when I was the music director at my old college radio station. A CD would come in and after playing it, I’d think “THIS! This will be a big deal.” I really hope I’m right.