March Round Up

Not gonna lie to y’all, our lives this month mostly consisted of navigating unseasonable weather, as we tried (only somewhat successfully) to emerge from the self-imposed hibernation of February. While we mostly remained in Netflix-binge and blog-planning mode, we did manage, in the spirit of spring, to poke our heads out of our abodes. Zelda managed a solo trip to the theater to see the wonderful Alan Cumming in Cabaret, while Scout watched a lot of basketball. There was a house party that included much prosecco and Sound of Music sing-a-longs (but of course). But mostly the month was a tease, coat-less days just out of reach. So March, no offense, but we are not sorry to see you go. Lion or lamb, you’re just too damn cold, and we need some goddamn sunshine. Please and thank you.

We take basketball very seriously in Kentucky (Via SportsNation)

We take basketball very seriously in Kentucky (Via SportsNation)

What We’re Doing: This was a busy month on Z&S, full of new series and old, a healthy dose of musical theatre, and the madness of the NCAA. We waxed poetic on the midweekend and tentative signs of spring. We talked about basketball, from BBN to what it means to be a fan regardless of team. Zelda shared some of her favorite books; Scout shared her favorite Kentucky brews. But really, if this month had a theme, it would be music: from our double whammy of a playlist to a Broadway GRITS and a love letter to our favorite hometown band. And of course, we talked to a couple of you folks about your journeys north of the Mason-Dixon line. Most exciting of all, we officially hit 100 posts on this here blog! We’re so grateful to all of y’all who have stuck with us this far, and we can’t wait to see where the next 100 take us.

Our hometown favorites, Houndmouth (via Ticketfly)

Our hometown favorites, Houndmouth (via Ticketfly)

What We’re Listening To: This month’s playlist was dedicated to one of our lifelong loves: that business we call show. From the first shows we saw growing up, on family vacations and school field trips to New York, to the ones we’ve rushed since moving here, these are 20 of the shows that have shaped us, and our relationship with New York. March also saw the debut of the second full-length album from our favorites, Houndmouth! (For just 5 of the reasons we love them, check out Zelda’s post from this month.) We have been listening to “Little Neon Limelight” on repeat for weeks, and could not be more excited to see them play it live this Wednesday.

"End of Breakfast Club"

“End of Breakfast Club”

What We’re Watching: March was super nice to us, bringing two fantastic new shows about kickass females (our favorite kind) to our lives. We both binge-watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in approximately 47 hours, and have been trying to get the theme song out of our heads ever since. And we’re quickly warming to the undead mystery romp iZombie, adapted for the screen by the brilliant mind of Rob Thomas (the Veronica Mars creator, not the musician).

We also love: Zelda leapt wholeheartedly onto the Jinx band wagon and proceeded to have her mind blown. On a totally different note, she’s also been loving the delightful (and useful) YouTube offerings of Ingrid Nilsen. Scout finally got caught up on the second season of Orphan Black (and spent the next several days wondering HOW ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH TATIANA MASLANY HASN’T WON AN EMMY). And we’re both thoroughly chuffed with James Corden, who took over as host of The Late Late Show this week and has been kicking butt.

(Via Slate)

(Via Slate)

What We’re Reading: This in-depth tale of how a band of misfits from Alabama became one of the coolest, shakingest groups around. This hilarious (imaginary) look behind the screens of several celebrity Twitter accounts. This thoughtful account of what it’s like to teach evolution at the University of Kentucky. This essay, which finally answers a question we’ve been puzzling over for years: why are men’s and women’s shirt buttons on different sides? This awesome look at the Louisville school system, and how it came to be one of the best integrated in the nation. This explanation of why sometimes it’s ok to root for the overdog (Scout in particular enjoyed this one; Zelda is having trouble getting on board.)

And Zelda is reading (and loving, so far!) Salvage the Bones, featured in the first volume of required reading.

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This is Matzah? (Via Buzzfeed)

What We’re Eating: April is almost upon us, and while for many folks that means Easter chocolates, here at Z&S we are gearing up for the eight unleavened days of Pesach (that’s Passover for all you goyim). We will miss our grilled cheeses, and spaghetti, and dollar pizza, but luckily Buzzfeed has us covered with 26 mouthwatering (or, as close to mouthwatering as possible) ways to prepare matzah. Turning the bread of affliction into a delectable delicacy is an amazing, nigh impossible, feat, so we are super psyched to try all of the recipes out.

Zelda is also obsessed with lavender cookies from Las Delicias Patisserie. She and her roommate have made them a Monday night tradition (thanks to Farmigo, their other newfound love).

Elderflower 4 Lyfe (Via Feasting Freds)

Elderflower 4 Lyfe (Via Feasting Freds)

What We’re Drinking: March is about basketball, and basketball means beer. Scout shared some of her favorites from the Bourbon State…which mostly made us homesick since we can’t get our hands on them in New York but, hey, girls can dream. Speaking of dreaming, the season supposedly changed this month. And since the thermostat does not seem to have gotten the memo, we’re left a-wishing and a-hoping, and cruising the interwebs for St. Germain cocktail recipes. Because as everyone knows, spring tastes like elderflower and possibilities.

Springtime we long for in Central Park (Via L'Atelier Rouge)

Springtime we long for in Central Park (Via L’Atelier Rouge)

What’s On Our Wishlist: We’re not wishing for much this month. There’s nothing material on our lists. All we ask is for Mother Nature to take pity on us and bring us that wonderful season we call spring. We are beyond ready to shuck off our coats and wool scarves and trade them in for sundresses and sunglasses. So please, ye weather gods, take pity: We are but two humble gals from below the Mason-Dixon line who don’t understand how it can still be snowing in April.

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To Be a Fan

On Wednesday, March 25, 2015, at approximately 12:30 p.m. EST, the internet exploded. Feeds dissolved, statuses reached dangerous levels of emojis, and social networks everywhere threatened to collapse under the weight of millions of tweens (and a few people outside that age range) losing their collective mind. Never has such despair sounded from the screen; tweets turned to caterwauls that sounded the death knell of the world as we know it. The cause of this digital catastrophe, this maelstrom of emotion from so many users who ACTUALLY DIED and JUST COULDN’T EVEN? Zayn Malik announced his departure from One Direction.

Now first, a moment of perspective. Some other stuff, much of it fairly important on a global scale, happened on Wednesday. A plane crashed into the Alps, American fighter jets joined the campaign against ISIS in Iraq, and the Affordable Care Act marked its fifth anniversary — to name a few. But nothing quite captured the zeitgeist like a 22-year old from West Yorkshire quitting his boy band. With only a moderate dose of cynicism, it would be easy to mock the masses rending their virtual clothes over the Zayn incident: Malikgate, as it were. And admittedly, this was my first reaction. While I’ve been known to sing along to the odd 1D song, have even caught a few segments of their documentary This is Us, I would not call myself a devoted fan. (Case in point: It took me several unsuccessful searches before I realized the band abandoner spelled his name Zayn and not, as I had previously believed, Zayne.) And while I appreciated some of the more humorous reactions to the debacle — one of my favorites, from a fellow alum of my college a cappella group, read: “THE BAND IS CALLED ONE DIRECTION, ZAYN. AS IN YOU ALL GO IN THE SAME DIRECTION. FOREVER” — I was ready to laugh the whole thing off until I came across this Tumblr post by author/vlogbrother/insightful human John Green.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 10.33.14 PM

Being a fan of a band, of the all-male pop variety or otherwise, is not much different from being a fan of a team. As Scout wrote about last week, the beauty of being a fan lies in believing in something greater than yourself, in belonging to a community, and in giving wholeheartedly of your emotional investment to an arbitrary symbol or entity. This season is rife with fanatics of many stripes, particularly in the NCAA obsessed climes of Louisville and the SEC. And as Green so astutely points out, there is very little difference between love of a team and love of a band, which is itself really just a team whose sport happens to be playing music. The only difference is that one breed of fanaticism is accepted as a reasonable obsession for kids and adults of all ages, while the other, when it comes wrapped in a well-coiffed, British-accented, X-Factor-united package, is scoffed as child’s play, something to be grown out of. There’s a double standard at work here and it is both hugely unjust and wildly dishonest. Green’s post has 18,410 notes as of this writing, which I take as a sign that a good chunk of the Tumblrverse agrees with me, and him, on this point. Tumblr may be a skewed sample of the population, thriving as it does on niche communities and fandoms of all kinds, but it heartens me to see so many humans clicking like or reblog for unironic enthusiasm.

How to properly fandom, as demonstrated by me, Scout, and our dear friend Ellen, at the premiere of the final Harry Potter film

Uninhibited, nerdy enthusiasm as demonstrated by me, Scout, and our dear friend Ellen at the premiere of the final Harry Potter film

Because that’s really all it takes to be a fan: unironic, unabashed enthusiasm for a cause. And this is something people of all ages, from every region or walk of life, should be able to identify with. My fandom may not make sense to you, and yours may baffle me. Even if we share the same team, you may be a lifelong devotee who follows their every move, while I may be a newbie discovering them for the first time. But rather than tearing each other down, mocking and bashing and posturing and one-upping, what if instead we just celebrated the human capacity for love? Love of team, love of show, love of boy wizard, love of time lord, and, yes, love of boy band.

Now I understand first-hand how difficult it can be not to write off others’ obsessions as absurd. See, unlike Scout and most of my peers, I did not grow up steeped in the college basketball tradition. I was California born, Kansas and Tennessee raised, until the age of 11, when I landed smack dab in the middle of one of the fiercest rivalries in sports. Now I knew from rivalries — I am a fourth generation Red Sox fan — but such intense enmity in such close proximity was new to me. I moved to Louisville in August of 2001. It took approximately one week for me to be fully apprised of the U of L/UK situation, following which I was given two additional weeks, if we’re being generous, to pick a side. And once I staked my claim, that was it: I was committed for life.

I chose Louisville, because I liked red (see Sox above), and because it would take many years before the state as a whole would start to feel like home. And I have stuck with my decision, buying the appropriate t-shirts and cheering the Cards on through over a dozen tournaments. I’ve thrown L’s on the acropolis in Greece, watched them win the championship on a laptop in France. With time, a few live games, and a stack of annual brackets, they came to feel like not just the Cards but my Cards.

Winners circa 2009 (via The New York Times)

Winners circa 2009 (via The New York Times)

That little pronoun is, I think, the key. My father is as enthusiastic a fan as Scout, and he has a tendency when watching the Red Sox, or Stanford, or Navy, or most recently Louisville play to yell at the TV screen as if it were a microphone, directing his guidance straight into the ears of the players. My family loves to mock him for this, and every quarter or so one of us will remind him, “You know they can’t hear you, right?” The same principle applies when I roll my eyes at Scout for hiding behind the couch for an entire game because the Cats scored that one three-pointer when she moved back there, so now she has to stay, for the team. If she budges and they lose, it is her fault, and she just can’t let her boys down like that. Cue the eye roll.

But getting back to my point: If I take a step back, I have to admit there is something wonderful about this (admitted) insanity, and maybe even a smidgen of sense behind my father and Scout’s behavior. By being a fan you do belong to the team — not to the small faction on the court, but to the big squad, the one that cheers and supports and rallies even in the hard years, the giant wacky diaspora of a family. You are there for your team because your team is there for you, no matter how far from home turf you may roam. There’s beauty in the madness, pleasure in the lunacy of it all. To be a fan is an absurd venture. It makes you do and say ridiculous things, and sometimes the people around you just won’t get it. But at the end of the day, we all have our fandoms. We all want to belong to something bigger than ourselves, and we choose the crazy that fits us best. So those people who laugh, who write listicles and post statuses mocking your pain? They’re just on a different team.

Kentucky: It’s Not Just For Bourbon Anymore

If you’ve stopped by the blog since last Friday, you know that the holy festival of March Madness is upon us. I was originally slated to produce some sort of basketball-viewing cocktail for you today; however, my basketball viewing hardly ever involves a mixed drink. The Momma and The Granmomma have been known to down a few (liters of) vodka tonics from their University of Kentucky Tervis Tumblers whilst watching our boys in blue, but I’m just not that patient, and the danger of spillage at an exciting turn in the game is too great.  So me? I choose a can or a bottle of beer.

It has perhaps escaped this blog until now that I am into beer. Like, super into it. I fall into that much-maligned category of beer nerd (some say snob, I prefer enthusiast) that larger companies seem to enjoy shitting on nowadays. This isn’t to say that I can’t enjoy a watery American lager with the best of them — ask me someday about my nostalgic love for Natty Boh (sigh, I miss Baltimore) — but the world of beer is so much bigger than that, and once I found out just how vast the wealth of options at my fingertips was, I had to know more. (This is why I call it being a “beer nerd.” The same obsessive desire is the reason I’m an expert on so many television shows, and a rabid member of the Harry Potter fandom.)

So instead of a cocktail, today I offer you some craft beer recommendations — all brewed in the great state of Kentucky, of course. Because what else would I drink while cheering my Wildcats to glory and triumph (knock on wood)?

[Note: Many of these beers do have pretty limited distribution, and for that I do apologize. My advice if you find yourself far from the Bluegrass climes, like me? Find a generous friend or relative who lives in the chosen areas and likes mailing you stuff. Or maybe you’re a real sports fan who’s already in the hood to watch the games. More power to you.]

Pay it Forward Cocoa Porter (Via West Sixth)

Pay it Forward Cocoa Porter (Via West Sixth)

Pay it Forward Cocoa PorterWest Sixth Brewing (Lexington, KY): The best beer West Sixth makes, in my opinion. This guy has chocolate and coffee aromas with a smooth body, which makes for easier drinking than a thick stout with similar characteristics. Plus, a portion of the profits for every six-pack sold go to a Lexington area non-profit; each quarter, the community nominates worthy causes, and then West Sixth employees vote on which group gets the goods that season. It’s beer for a good cause! West Sixth beers are available across Central Kentucky and in the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, OH areas.

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What’s not to love about the ATG label art? (Via Against the Grain)

Mac Fanny BawAgainst the Grain Brewery (Louisville, KY): This is a beer for the scotch drinker. One of my favorites, it’s a little bitter with peaty and earthy notes (it’s been noted on more than one occasion that I gravitate towards beers that taste “earthy” — give me that fresh dirt taste any day). Mac Fanny Baw is also aged in Angel’s Envy barrels, adding a caramel Kentucky Bourbon taste in with the Scotch whiskey notes. And lucky for my fellow Southern ex-pats, Against the Grain beers are available across the US and even in a few places in Europe. ATG is my go-to Kentucky beer here in New York (though the price point leaves much to be desired, but if you can find the Bay and Pepper Your Bretts, it’s worth it). Look for it near you!

(Via Shatterbox Studios)

This is how it’s done, son. (Via Shatterbox Studios)

Cliff Jumper IPACountry Boy Brewing (Lexington, KY): We’re getting slightly more niche now. Country Boy Brewing is based in Lexington, just down the road from Rupp Arena (like, walking distance), and it’s a go-to pre- and post-game spot for me and the Momma. They’re slightly less recognized on a national scale than the first two Kentucky breweries, but the rest of the world is missing out because they sure do make good beer. I’m recommending their Cliff Jumper IPA here, because an IPA is generally a crowd pleaser for those first venturing into the exciting world of craft beer. This one is a solid representation of the style, with citrus notes and a prevalent but not overpowering bitterness. Unfortunately for some, Country Boy is available only in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee (and soon West Virginia!), but if you’re in the area, seek it out at your local craft bar. You can thank me later, or better yet, bring me back a growler.

Drink Beer 'Til the End  (Via ABW)

Drink Beer ‘Til the End (Via ABW)

Fallout DustApocalypse Brew Works (Louisville, KY):  And finally, the nichest of niche. Apocalypse Brew Works started as a bunch of homebrewers who wanted to turn their hobby/obsession into a livelihood, and to share their fruits with the world. Open only on the weekends (Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons), their taproom — aptly named The Fallout Shelter — serves up ten rotating taps of excellent local brew. So if you’re in the area, pay Leah, Paul, and Bill a visit and try the Fallout Dust: a peppercorn ale that’s sure to please. If you’re not in the area (like me), you’re SOL, but hey, all the more reason to plan a trip to Louisville.

The stress of March Madness will take a fair amount of booze to get through, but these options are a great start for my Kentucky cheering friends (and I suppose if you cheer for that other team like some people cough*Zelda*cough, you can have them too)[Zelda’s Note: L1C4, go Cards!].

On, on UK! #BBN

Just Folks: Luke

Mondays on Zelda & Scout are all about you! In a series we call “Just Folks,” we talk to Southerners who have found their way to New York about where they’re from, where they are now, and what home means to them.

This week we have Luke! A fellow Brooklyn transplant, Luke hails from East Tennessee (Scout supposes will forgive him for cheering on that orange team). He’s got a passion for the music of Appalachia, but he enjoys it more at a small smokey venue in New York than at Bonnaroo. Read on for his thoughts on accents, life sans car culture, and learning to play the fiddle.

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Name:

Luke

Hometown:

Sevierville, TN

Age:

25

Current City:

Brooklyn, NY

Who are you and what do you do?

I work at a law firm in Midtown in business development. I originally moved to New York thinking I would pursue law school so I started out working as a paralegal, but doing that job just made me realize I didn’t actually want to be a lawyer. My current job kind of fell into my lap, but eventually I’d like to work in business development in the renewable energy industry.

Time North of the Mason-Dixon line so far?

2.5 years

What brought you to New York?

Work (see above) and my girlfriend, Lori. We were looking for someplace where we could both pursue what we wanted [Editor’s note: Lori works with Scout at the museum, trying to do that arts thing.], and eventually things shook out for us to end up here.

What’s the most common reaction when people learn where you’re from? What’s something about life in the South that you have to explain to non-Southerners?

“You’re from East Tennessee? Why don’t you talk funny?” People are often confused as to why I don’t have an accent. Or people try to pretend like they noticed something when they didn’t. They don’t comment on my accent until I tell them where I’m from, and then suddenly it’s all they can talk about.

People here don’t really get being friendly to passers-by; that’s not really something you have to explain, but you have to get used to being in your own head more. Also central heat and air! No one in New York seems to understand that everywhere else in the country that is basically the standard.

Describe life in NYC as people at home picture it. Describe life in NYC as it actually is.

Living in New York is a lot more like living in Knoxville than people think. Folks back home either think you’re going out and partying with celebrities all the time, or that living in Brooklyn means you’re at risk of getting shot on the way home. And also you’re a hipster.

The biggest difference about living here, for me, is the lack of car culture, which really does change things…especially how much people drink. We drink a lot here — most of the social events revolve around drinking — because nobody ever has to drive so it’s fine.

Where do you consider home? Why?

East Tennessee is still home, although specifically it fluctuates between Seiverville and Knoxville. It’s where I grew up and it was very formative. Plus, I never really thought New York was a forever place for me.

Do you miss where you’re from? Do you see yourself going back?

I don’t see myself going back. I miss the place, and I miss my friends and family, but a lot of them have also moved elsewhere at this point. I think it’s more of a nostalgia: I miss a place and a time that’s not there anymore. At this point, my family would be the only thing that would pull me back there; I don’t really see my career taking me back.

And even though I miss the place, I don’t necessarily miss the prevailing culture or some of the politics.

Do you consider yourself a Southerner? Do you consider yourself a New Yorker? Why or why not?

I’m definitely a Southerner first. But what makes New York such an interesting place is that so many people come from other places and so the bar for considering yourself a New Yorker is pretty low. Everyone you meet is from somewhere else.

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines New York for you?

Justin Townes Earle: “One More Night in Brooklyn” and “Working for the MTA

Both songs are about New York, and Lori and I saw him at City Winery during my early days here. Plus he also very much relates with being from Tennessee and moving to the city from there.

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines where you’re from?

Books: Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel (portrait of life in Asheville, NC in the 1920’s, but the imagery is really similar to the mountains around home) and James Agee‘s A Death in the Family (which is set in Knoxville). My high school AP English teacher actually took us to a lot of places in both the books so we got to experience them in a very real way.

Music: Ben Sollee [Editor’s Note: Z&S saw him at City Winery with Luke and the lovely Lori, and it was a fantastic, nostalgic evening.]

I’ve also decided I want to learn to play the fiddle, because living outside of Tennessee has definitely made me appreciate the culture more.

What is the best cure for homesickness?

Talking to friends. It reminds me that home is not necessarily a place or region, but the people in it.

Bagels or biscuits?

I wouldn’t get a bagel in Tennessee, and I wouldn’t get a biscuit in Brooklyn, but I love both.

From Rupp to Ruprechtskirche: Adventures in the Big Blue Nation

“…So please, be tolerant of those who describe a sporting moment as their best ever. We do not lack imagination, nor have we had sad and barren lives; it is just that real life is paler, duller, and contains less potential for unexpected delirium.” – Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch

I’ve discussed my upbringing as a Kentucky football fan on this blog before. Yes, that was a big part of my childhood, and it started my intense relationship with sports. But my relationship with Kentucky basketball is where my real fanaticism lies. This post has been on our schedule since mid-December; it’s hard to escape college basketball when you grow up in Louisville, KY, and with the NCAA tournament now in full swing we knew we would need to address it. I was the obvious choice, since my fanaticism for sports has always outstripped Zelda’s (except when it comes to baseball, which I just don’t get [Note from Zelda: Red Sox for life!]). When the time came to write out my feelings about my team, however, I found myself almost unable.

Scout: I can’t do it. I can’t. If I do it and they lose it will be all my fault

Zelda: No it won’t. May I remind you that you are not on the team, and have no actual impact on the outcome of any game? Besides we can have a blog about being from Kentucky and not talk about March Madness

Scout: BUT [this has been redacted due to Scout’s superstition] I’ll jinx them! I can’t do it! YOU DON’T KNOW!

Zelda: *exasperated eye-roll*

Basically, it comes down to this. I haven’t talked about my team’s season on this blog yet, and I was (and still am) afraid to, because it would mean a change in my activities related to my team, and my team’s doing REALLY WELL this season, so why would I want to change anything? (I’ve been known to stay in the same position while watching the Cats play if something particularly good happened when I moved to that spot. I once squatted behind a couch for a whole game for this exact reason.)

So I guess that fanaticism is really what I need to talk about — the fact that writing this post a different way would have been sacrilegious to me, and the lengths to which I will go to support my team. Because even though Kentucky football is a part of my culture, and an important one, Kentucky basketball is deeper than that. Sometimes it doesn’t make any sense, but that’s the fun of it, right? It doesn’t have to make sense to matter.

The Momma and I at  Rupp after a win.

The Momma and I after a win.

It is virtually impossible to grow up in Louisville without having some relationship with college basketball, and for me this relationship is all about the Kentucky Wildcats. Growing up, it put me in the minority at my small school (most people who live in Louisville tend, like Zelda, to be all about the Louisville Cardinals). This was particularly hard because the Cats were at their lowest point of my lifetime during my adolescence (we don’t discuss the Billy Gillespie years in my house), but my enthusiasm, even if it was coupled with disappointment, was not out of place. Everybody, even the least sporty among us, picked a side and made a bracket. That’s just what you did in March. In recent years, the Cats have been back on top (and though I’m somewhat iffy on the whole “one-and-done” method, I’m not going to complain if we’re winning). But win or lose, every year the people in my life have to watch me descend into March Madness fever. And for new friends, who don’t hail from basketball country, this can sometimes be…alarming.

See in Louisville, it’s easy to maintain your enthusiasm for those three weeks in March because it is the norm. The whole city is on board (more than any other spot in the country — it’s a fact!), submitting willingly and eagerly to the insanity. The 80 hours between Selection Sunday and the start of the first round are devoted to discussing brackets and upsets and possible Cinderellas, and you can’t walk into a bar without spying the day’s game playing somewhere in the background, no matter who the teams may be. In high school, we’d even convince the more sympathetic study hall proctors to turn on the early games during class, just so we could keep track of how our brackets were doing.

To be fair I am amongst good company. Famous Fans include: Josh Hutcherson, Ashley Judd, Drake, and I saw Jay-Z at a game once. (Via PanemPropaganda)

To be fair, I am in good company. Famous Cats Fans include: Josh Hutcherson (Above), Ashley Judd, and Drake, and I even saw Jay-Z at a game once. (Via PanemPropaganda)

When I went to college, that little cocoon of mass fanaticism disappeared. The other students at my tiny Maryland liberal arts school couldn’t care less about college basketball, and while my dedication to my team never wavered, it wasn’t the same. I still made brackets for myself (Actually, I always make three: head bracket, heart bracket, and crazy bracket. One for what I think will happen, one for what I want to happen, and one for all the upsets that would be amazing but are never ever gonna happen). I watched all the games. But sitting alone in the student union, yelling at a television until either someone shushed me or a rare kindred spirit sat down to join in the fun, just wasn’t the same. My friends all knew that once the tournament started, if the “Scout is…” sign on my dorm room door was switched to “Watching Basketball” I was not to be bothered, and they generally respected my madness, but they didn’t get it the way people at home just got it.

I didn’t realize the lengths to which I would go to watch my Cats play until my junior year of college, when I found myself inconveniently abroad in Europe during the month of March. The time difference meant that most games fell sometime between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., depending on the day. Thanks to the wonder of WiFi, I could still watch the games, and watch them I did. I watched the Cats play Ohio State while bent over a toilet in a cheap hotel room in Florence, fighting a nasty bout of food poisoning. I watched them play UNC on the tiny screen of my phone, huddled on a top bunk of a dorm in a hostel in Rome.

2011's Terrence Jones, Josh Harrelson, and Doron Lamb, part of the line up I cheered to the Final Four all the way from Europe (Via MTVnews)

2011’s Terrence Jones, Josh Harrelson, and Doron Lamb, part of the line-up I cheered to the Final Four all the way from Europe (Via MTVnews)

Then the Final Four rolled around, and UK was in it. I couldn’t not watch. (I’d also entered a pool with a bunch of the dudes on my program, so I had a lot riding on the outcome of the game), but I was in Vienna that week with my program. I spent most of it walking around the city with my friends, sporting a Kentucky shirt, and trying to figure out how or where I was going to get my eyes on the game. Everyone else kept waffling on whether or not they wanted to actually stay awake, that is if we could even find a bar that was showing the game. As the day dragged on, I was starting to give in, figuring maybe I’d just call it a day and head to bed because I was so tired. Then, in the middle of a street in Vienna, a voice shouted, “GO BIG BLUE!” I turned sharply to find another girl around my age sporting a UK jersey and a smile. “You watching the game tonight?” she asked, and I gave her the only response that was appropriate: “You know it.” With that, my resolve was back.

And that’s what being a fan is about for me. It’s about being halfway around the world, over 4,700 miles from Rupp Arena, and being able to connect with someone over your team. It’s a passion that transcends location, origin, gender, race, class, or creed. People talk about sports rivalries tearing people apart, especially in a city as fiercely divided as Louisville, where an interfaith marriage refers to a Cards fan/Cats fan union. But really, at its heart, what team loyalty does is bring people together. No one in my bracket pool stayed up that night with me. I sat alone in the hostel dining hall and watched as a Kemba Walker-led UCONN narrowly defeated us. But I was so glad I did. If crippling food poisoning didn’t stop me from watching my Wildcats, then there was no way a little thing like exhaustion would. That year, we hadn’t even been expected to make it that far, and I would see them to the very end. Besides, my head bracket that year had UCONN winning the whole thing, which they did, and I defeated all the frat bros from Division One schools in my tourney pool, so I felt pretty vindicated in the end.

Now I find myself in New York, which poses a whole new set of problems when it comes to watching UK play. I don’t have cable, so season games that aren’t on CBS require me to seek out a sports bar, something I am loathe to do if I’m not working in one. But even worse, during both of the March Madnesses I’ve spent here, I’ve been working multiple gigs, and my shifts tended to intersect game play. I’ve watched many a game on my phone under my desk during first Saturday at the museum, or checking the score while I seated people at the restaurant. I wanted so badly to be home last year, when Louisville and Kentucky met in the Sweet Sixteen, bringing my hometown to the brink of explosion (just the brink though: for actual volcanic eruption, see Final Four 2012). Instead, I was in New York, and I was working, relegated to watching via the March Madness app on my phone. Thank God for modern technology, or I’m not sure I would have seen much of it at all.

Aaron Harrison's game winning three versus Michigan last year (Via Sports Unbiased)

Aaron Harrison’s game-winning three against Michigan last year (Via Sports Unbiased)

That technology is also responsible for one of my crowning New York achievements in the area of “Giving Zero Fucks.” Last year, I was headed home from a shift at the museum and watching the Cats play Michigan in the Elite Eight as I waited for the bus. Time was running out as the bus approached, and Michigan surged back to tie the score 72-72. I climbed on the bus and situated myself between two other riders, ten seconds left on the clock. As we pull away, Aaron Harrison throws up a three with less than four seconds to go in the game. And we won. As soon as it swished through the net, I celebrated accordingly, jumping up and down and smiling something awful. I was officially the crazy person on the bus, and I could not have cared less.

That year’s team was easy to cheer for. We were an #8 seed — going into the tournament with a 24 – 10 record, a veritable underdog against Michigan’s #2 — and just making it to the Final Four feels like winning when you’ve spent the season not quite living up to your potential. There’s nothing to lose, and everything to prove. I like being there. I like having a few bad losses under our belt so the team knows their weaknesses, I like people underestimating us a little bit. Which brings us to this season, and why I cannot talk about the team that shall henceforth not be named.

I am a fan. And yes, sometimes that makes me crazy, and irrational, and superstitious to the point of lunacy. But it also means I believe in something bigger than myself, that I am part of a community and a heritage that stretches back generations. Now you might have heard there was a game last night. You may hear rumors there’s a tournament going on right now. But I haven’t talked about this season yet this year. That’s my role on the team. And I’m not about to drop the ball now.

5 Reasons I Love Houndmouth

We’ve written before about our love for New Albany-based band Houndmouth. We were early adopters, both discovering them in the summer of 2012 before their EP dropped, and between us we’ve been to 10 of their shows since. It took us four months to make a playlist that did not include one of their songs.

houndmouth

Just look at those cuties.

This week, after two long years of waiting, they finally released their second full-length album. Little Neon Limelight came out yesterday, and went straight to the top of my March playlist (my favorite tracks so far: Sedona, My Cousin Greg, Gasoline, and By God, already a hit from their live shows). In honor of the new album, the band’s third if you include their under-appreciated EP, these are the top five reasons I love Houndmouth. While you read, you can listen to Sedona, which has been stuck in my head ever since the California dreamy music video dropped.

  1. Hometown Pride: So I have to admit right off the bat that I’m a bit biased when it comes to these guys. While they technically hail from the New Albany side of the Ohio (and most of them have the Indiana tattoos to prove it), Louisville is happy to claim them as our own. The band itself credits the Ville’s music scene with helping them get their start, and really nothing compares to seeing them on home turf. Scout and I have both seen them a lot — as of this moment, we’re at 8 and 7 times respectively, with another to be added April 1st — so we have a lot of data for comparison. I’ve seen them on two continents, in three different cities, indoors and out, and hands down the best was a late night show on the Belle of Louisville during Forecastle 2013 (yes, we are in that video). That weekend marked the first time they’d played in the Ville since their album release, and the vibe in that small room was electric. Scout and I ended up in the front row through a combination of squeezing and making friends with the bouncer, and watching the delighted looks on the band’s faces as the entire room sang along was incredible. We of course knew every word.

    View from the Mast Stage, Forecastle 2013

    View from the Mast Stage, Forecastle 2013

  2. Live in Living Color: This brings me to the second reason I love them. There are some bands whose concerts sound note for note like listening to their album, just with the volume way up and an overpriced beer in your hand. There are others who seem almost offended that the crowd is there, keeping to themselves apart from the odd mumbled title of a song, and not interacting with the audience at all. Houdmouth is neither of those things. Their shows are playful and electric. With every squiggle of Matt Myers’s hips or bounce of Zak Appleby’s bass, whenever Katie Toupin flips her hair or Shane Cody makes a crack at the crowd, you can feel how much fun they’re having. These are four people who seem to genuinely enjoy hanging out together on a stage, doing what they love, and finding new ways to play with their material (which sometimes involves the removal of various articles of clothing, usually by Matt).

    houndmouth

    Versatile and festive!

  3. Anything You Can Do, I Can Do, Too: If I didn’t love all four members of Houndmouth so much, I would be murderously jealous over how unfairly talented they all are. Not only do they all write their own music. Not only do they all sing. But they also have a penchant for mixing things up, literally, during their shows and swapping instruments for a song or two. I have seen every member of the group play guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums (Katie delved into that last one at the aforementioned Belle show, and her excitement would rival the most enthusiastic kid on Christmas morning). The band also likes to mix up material, and their covers and mash-ups are some of my favorite things to see them do live.

    The gang on the road, like a beautiful goddamn Anthropologie catalogue

    The gang on the road, like a beautiful goddamn Anthropologie catalogue

  4. First, A Story: I mentioned before that each member of the group contributes to the songwriting, with Matt doing the biggest share, followed by Katie. Their sound gets them compared on a nearly hourly basis to the Band, and it taps into a particular brand of folk-rock Americana that I have a soft spot for (also popularized by outfits like Mumford & Sons, The Head and the Heart, The Avett Brothers, etc.). The smart composition of their music is not to be overlooked, from the frequent four-part harmonies to Shane’s metal-influenced drum kicks. But what really hooks me is the writing itself. Houndmouth are first and foremost storytellers, and they can ricochet between poetry and whiskey with ease. The narratives they spin are sweet and gritty and heartfelt and down to earth, with small town roots and a vivid imagination.

    houndmouth

    Fabulous.

  5. Generally Awesome Humans: I would love Houndmouth if they just made great music, or if they just wrote beautiful lyrics, or if they just put on infectiously fun shows for affordable prices. But the thing that takes them over the edge for me, that turns them from “I could listen to this all day” to “I want to be your best friend,” is how approachable and down to earth they all are, despite their oft talked about rapid rise to success. All of the members of the band are active on social media, and they share freely of their lives with the unjaded perspective of people who still seem genuinely delighted and undeniably lucky to be living their dreams. Whether they’re recording at Electric Lady Studios, playing Letterman, or taking the mast stage at Forecastle just one year after rocking the small stage, they are having a damn good time. And I’m happy to be along for the ride.

    houndmouth

    Cool kids on the road

You can find all four members of the band, as well as their tour manager, on social media. Check out their website, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram for updates on tour dates and the band’s adventures. They’re even on Snapchat now! And be sure to pick up a copy of Little Neon Limelight, available on iTunes and in stores!

March Playlist: Musical Madness, Act II

Our love of musicals is so great it spilled over into a second act, and that’s with the pared down version. (It’s not a problem: It’s just a challenge — it’s a challenge! — to resist…putting every song we love on this list.) We pick up after intermission with two Southern gals relocating to New York City. One comes for grad school, the other seeks a job, both discover the beauty of rush tickets, and each continues to deepen her love for musical theatre with the help of these shows.

I Can Do Better Than That: The Last Five Years (Sherie Rene Scott)

Scout: I was maybe thirteen or fourteen when my aunt gave me a burned copy of the Last Five Years original cast album. It was sometime after I had seen Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and I was looking for more Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott. I’ve never fallen in love with a show so quickly, and though I had never really felt the emotions or been in the situations they described, there was something so beautiful and universal about the music. I got tickets to the 2013 off-Broadway revival as soon as I knew it was happening.

Zelda: My all-time favorite (off-Broadway) musical! I’d like to think I can count this one too, since I saw the movie version in New York? All I want in life is a Broadway run, or at least another off-Broadway production, so I can see it in person.

Safer: First Date (Krysta Rodriguez)

Scout: I saw this musical three times. Despite Zachary Levi’s star power, the show was underselling, making it pretty easy to get tickets. I love this musical because it started with a simple idea and it stayed simple. It’s not a flashy blockbuster musical, but it’s funny and irreverent and full of heart. Krysta Rodriguez is one of my Broadway favorites; I could listen to her belt about trying to figure out her life all day long. (The show manages to go from deep introspection to group numbers about Jewish mothers and goyish girlfriends in under 30 seconds. It’s got everything!)

Zelda: I am still upset I missed this show. Tragically, I discovered Chuck, and the wonderfulness that is Zachary Levi, a couple months too late. But that hasn’t stopped me from listening to the cast recording, especially this song, on repeat!

Everybody Say Yeah: Kinky Boots (Billy Porter & Stark Sands)

Zelda: My second day in New York, Scout took me to see this show as a “welcome to the big city, don’t freak out, it’s going to be fun” outing. And even though Billy Porter was off that day and I could only really see half the stage from our lottery seats, it was perfect. The music lifted our souls, cookies from Schmackery’s brought our taste buds to orgasmic heights, and my first ever New York celebrity sighting (Doctor Who’s Arthur Darvill, on his way to his own Broadway gig) made it a fitting start to my life in New York, which at the time still felt more like an extended vacation than a reality.

Scout: I loved this musical so much I saw it three times. The perfect feel-good musical, with its Cyndi Lauper score and great message about being yourself, it’s just what I need on a bad day.

Turn It Off: The Book of Mormon (Andrew Rannells, Josh Gad, Rory O’Malley, Scott Barnhardt, Justin Bohon, Kevin Duda, Clark Johnson, Benjamin Schrader, Brian Sears, & Jason Michael Snow)

Scout: This musical was easier to see on its national tour than in New York, even after being open for 4+ years, and on the humor scale it absolutely lives up to the hype. My mother and I laughed so hard we cried. Every song in the show is equally ridiculous and hilarious; other favorite tracks include I Believe, You and Me (But Mostly Me), and Baptize Me.

Zelda: I saw the national tour of this show when it came through Louisville last year, fortuitously timed on the same weekend as my brother’s high school graduation. It was particularly lucky because, as Scout said, getting tickets for the New York production is nigh impossible, and horrifically expensive.

Fight the Dragons: Big Fish (Norbert Leo Butz)

Zelda: Thanks to Scout’s tenacity (and her momma’s birthday generosity), we were early adopters of this show, seeing it in its first week of real performances. Highlights included the old lady in front of us complaining loudly that she didn’t get the interpretive dance by the human campfire (we feel you) and meeting the incredibly kind and talented Norbert Leo at the stage door.

Scout: As a rule, I will see anything starring Norbert Leo Butz. Add a surrealist journey through the South, and a score by Andrew Lippa? Yes, please. Despite the fact that our theater neighbors didn’t appreciate it as much as we did, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my birthday.

Revolting Children: Matilda (Original Broadway Cast)

Zelda: As we have established, special occasions in our lives call for Broadway, and Matilda was how we celebrated my 24th birthday. Because nothing says semi-fledged adult like giant wigs and singing children? While The BFG was always my favorite Roald Dahl tale, Matilda — a bookworm like me — ran a close second. Also this show made me want a Razor scooter for the first time since the 4th grade.

Scout: Another show I saw multiple times, if only for the hilarious Leslie Margherita‘s portrayal of Mrs. Wormwood and Tim Minchin‘s rocking score.

One Day More: Les Misérables (Colm Wilkinson, Michael Ball, Rebecca Caine, Frances Ruffelle, David Burt, Roger Allam, Alun Armstrong, Susan Jane Tanner, & Ensemble)

Zelda: In the history of our friendship, there is one debate that continues to divide me and Scout, a tentative “agree to disagree” truce holding the fragile peace together. The question? Favorite Broadway musical. Scout is a Sondheim devotee, and her vote goes to Assassins. But I am firmly in the camp of Les Miz. I mean, it has everything: drama, romance, comedy, tears, France, sassy children, Colm Wilkinson’s facial expressions. This revival was actually the second time we saw the show together, the first being a West End production in 2011 while we were studying abroad (from which several cast members would go on to star in the Oscar-nominated film version, making us feel like worldly little theatre hipsters).

Scout: With time, I’ve come around to the wonder of Les Miz, but it took a community theater production, Samantha Barks’s West End Eponine, and Ramin Karimloo and Will Swenson’s confrontation to do it. (Incidentally, theirs is still just my second favorite version of the confrontation. This is the first.)

Simple Joys: Pippin (Patina Miller)

Zelda: Rush tickets are a beautiful thing, y’all. And there are few things that make us appreciate New York more than a spontaneous Thursday night trip to Midtown and a few hushed hours in a velvet seat. This one was in honor of my brother (a fellow theatre lover) visiting, but really, we do not need an occasion.

Water in the Well: Violet (Emerson Steele, Sutton Foster & Charlie Pollock)

Zelda: After years and years of admiration, I finally got to see the luminescent Sutton Foster perform live! This show, with its Appalachia-tinged tunes, struck a chord in our hearts, and special thanks go to Scout’s momma for again making our Broadway dreams come true. Also, we got to play with Sutton’s dog at the stage door, because every evening should end with puppy snuggles.

Scout: I love the Southern road narrative, and I love the music of the Appalachian mountains, and I love Sutton Foster. Basically, Violet has everything I want in my entertainment — the perfect way to spend a warm city night.

You’ve Got a Friend: Beautiful (Jessie Mueller)

Zelda: My dad loves Carole King, so I’ve always been vaguely aware of her as that person he likes or the woman who shows up on Gilmore Girls. But it wasn’t until this show that I understood just how amazingly talented and prolific she, and her ex-husband, were. I saw this show with my dad, the Carole lover, and my sister, who wanted to see The Lion King instead, and by curtain call all three of us were completely won over. Beautiful sparked my own love affair with Carole, and in many ways her songs have become the soundtrack to my life in New York. When I’m down and troubled, when I find it impossible to get up one morning with a smile on my face (never mind every single one), Carole is there to pick me up.

Scout: Carole King is amazing. Jessie Mueller is amazing. Friendship is magic. We are all as beautiful as we feel.