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The 2018 Happiness Project

2 Jan

I don’t know much, but I know this: You can’t plan to be happy.

That said, you can make an effort to be mindful and appreciate good things that happen and that make you smile. And those things will make you happier. It’s a simple idea, but it’s an effective one.

And being happy has many benefits — not least of which is that nobody wants to hang around with a perpetual Debbie Downer. But all kidding aside, being happy has multiple health benefits, including increased strength and decreased stress, a stronger immune system, and reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Scientific evidence also suggests that happiness can help you unlock creativity, improve your memory, and make you more productive. So, it’s really not a trite or superficial (or sexist) thing when someone wishes you a “Happy New Year” or “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Holiday,” or suggests you smile more. They’re actually wishing you increased wellness and productivity. Continue reading

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This Time Capsule Playlist Provides a Musical Reminder of All the Moments that Mattered in 2017

13 Dec

The Lone Bellow at the House of Blues in Boston, November 2017. (Photo credit: Martin Lieberman)

Every December, critics (both professional and amateur) like to share their lists of the year’s best music. And while that’s important, and much appreciated, it’s near impossible for music fans to agree on what’s “best.” Musical taste is too personal. Case in point: For every Taylor Swift fan out there (and I know there are a lot of them), there’s someone like me who can’t stand her. On the other hand, I have a soft spot for other artists who don’t often show up on top 10 lists of best music and don’t win many awards. John Mayer, for example.

Point is: We all listen to different things and like what we like. And that’s a great thing.

So, when the end of the year comes around, I choose a different angle on the music recap thing, and prefer to compile a sort of “time capsule” playlist that provides a soundtrack of my year. Continue reading

The 2017 Happiness Project

3 Jan

HappinessSomething I’ve learned over the years is that happiness is not something you can seek or plan. You just have to allow yourself to feel it. To notice and appreciate the good things in life — no matter how small — that make you smile. Hopefully on a regular basis.

With so much negativity in the world, that can sometimes be hard. And this year, it may prove extra challenging.

So, to proactively prevent another sucky year like 2016 was, I want to do whatever I can to focus on my own happiness — and hopefully, in the process, share that happiness with others. Continue reading

There Was Magic in the Night at Fenway

16 Aug

What do you say about a Bruce Springsteen show that starts with “Thunder Road,” the previous evening’s high point, performed simply and in classic style, with just piano and harmonica by Springsteen and “Professor” Roy Bittan?

What do you say about a Springsteen show that includes diverse but amazing audience requests like “Thundercrack,” “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?,” “Frankie,” “Quarter to Three,” and “Prove It All Night” (with the 1978 intro), and where a cover of Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood” (a song the band has only performed once before — in 1976) is considered by Springsteen to be the weirdest one of them all?

What do you say about a Springsteen show that also includes an excellent, powerful “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” an awe inspiring “Land of Hope and Dreams,” and a transcendent “Backstreets?”

What do you say about a Springsteen show where he sings “Waiting on a Sunny Day,” and ironically, that’s when it starts raining? Then he does an acoustic “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” and it starts raining even harder?

What do you say about a Springsteen show where he asks for a hot dog and beer so many times that someone actually gives him one — at the start of “Working on the Highway” — and he chugs that entire beer in one sip … while still playing the intro to the song!

What do you say about a Springsteen show where even the usually stoic and serious Max Weinberg smiled a few times?

What do you say about a 30-song Springsteen show where only 12 of those numbers were repeated from the night before, one of which (the aforementioned “Thunder Road“) performed so differently that it kinda doesn’t even count as having been repeated?

What do you say about a Springsteen show that ends — with Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys joining the band for “American Land” — and then treats the audience to a fireworks show off the Green Monster as they’re leaving the stadium?

What do you say about a Springsteen show that’s even better than the one the night before?

Really, what can you say other than that you’re lucky to have been there. Damned lucky. Continue reading

Greetings from Fenway Park, MA

15 Aug

Bruce Springsteen wrote the song “Wrecking Ball” in 2009 to commemorate the tearing down of the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

It wasn’t too long ago that Fenway Park was threatened with a similar fate.

But here we are celebrating the 100th birthday of America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, with a wrecking ball nowhere in sight, and Springsteen is back to play his third and fourth shows at the stadium in less than a decade.

These are glory days, indeed. (Someone must not have told the Red Sox, but we’ll leave that to another blog post.)

Continue reading

Thankfully, He’s Not There Yet

2 May

If you’ve never heard of Eric Hutchinson, that’s alright.

Despite releasing two highly enjoyable albums of soulful pop songs — including his latest, Moving Up, Living Down —having a couple of videos that’ve made VH1’s Top 20 countdown, and being an opener for Kelly Clarkson’s tour a couple years ago, mainstream success has so far eluded Hutch.

And I’m cool with that, because I like him (actually, I have for a while), and sometimes being a fan of a singer or band is more fun when they’re on the verge, and success hasn’t yet tarnished their vibe or image.

That’s why last night, Hutch played the Paradise here in Boston — as opposed to, say, the House of Blues, where fun. played just a couple weeks earlier — and it was a more intimate, laid back show that allowed Hutch to better connect with his fans, many of whom were from the area’s colleges. Continue reading

Some Nights Are Just More Fun

22 Apr

Oh, to be Nate Ruess.

The charismatic, boyish frontman of fun. (yes, the period is part of the name) took the stage at the House of Blues in Boston Saturday night not looking like he had an album to sell. Rather, it seemed like he wanted to celebrate, and bask in the band’s success so far this year.

The guy was positively beaming as he bounced all around the stage, having the best time of anyone in the room, and he commanded the mic like a conquering hero.

That’s how you’d act too if your crossover hit “We Are Young” was on track to be the best selling song of 2012, and you’d already had it featured in a Super Bowl commercial and an episode of Glee.

Sure, “We Are Young,” with its catchy, anthemic chorus, has many of the trademarks of a great one-hit wonder. But fun.’s show Saturday night proved that the band deserves to have a career beyond that one song. Continue reading