2017: Ranking the year in concerts

Ranking the Year in Concerts - 2017

By Robbie Repass

I love live music and 2017 was an awesome year of shows. Here's how I ranked those I was able to attend;

Radiohead at The Greek Theatre - Berkeley (my photo)

Radiohead at The Greek Theatre - Berkeley (my photo)

#1 - Radiohead @ The Greek Theatre - UC Berkeley 4/17/2017

Radiohead are my second favorite band, and I own the vinyl for each of their nine albums. I've seen them perform at Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2016, and at the American Airlines Center in Dallas in 2012.  They are one of the biggest active rock bands on the planet and sell out arenas around the world.  They released their ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool, in mid-2016 and played a handful of North American shows, including the aforementioned ACL sets. They later announced another 11 US dates for early 2017, mostly arena shows and a couple Coachella weekends to end the run. No Texas shows. But a few of those dates caught my eye; they were going to play the Santa Barbara Bowl (capacity: 4,562) for a night and the Greek Theatre at UC Berkeley (capacity: 8,500) for two. It would be a total long shot to get tickets to any of those three shows, but I figured why not try. Somehow, someway, I got through and bought a pair of tickets to the first night at Berkeley. I was even more pumped because this venue has been on my bucket list of concert venues around the world. It's historic, built in 1903 on the gorgeous campus of Cal Berkeley. So I planned a weekend in the Bay Area around the show and the weather was absolutely beautiful all weekend until Monday arrived. And it rained all day. And the entire venue is GA for Radiohead.  So I hafta give props to my wife Emma who stood there in line with me in the cold and rain. Even with the weather and getting there early, the line already stretched a few blocks away and we stood outside California Memorial Stadium (home to Cal football) for two hours before doors so we could secure a great sightline. Once we settled in I wandered around and took in the venue. It's beautiful and I'd encourage anyone to go see a show there. Not a bad seat in the house. The rain slowed down and eventually stopped just as Radiohead took the stage and the band delivered maybe the best live performance I've ever seen. Their catalogue is so deep and they're known for changing the setlist almost entirely from concert to concert. In the back-to-back Berkeley shows, for example, they played 25-song sets and only six songs were played on both nights. That's insane! All things considered, this was the most unforgettable concert experience and will be hard to top in my lifetime.

Muse at Red Rocks (my photo)

Muse at Red Rocks (my photo)

#2 - PVRIS + Thirty Seconds to Mars + MUSE @ Red Rocks Amphitheater 9/18/2017

I'm a big fan of Muse. This was the third time I've seen them. They are so polished and sound so freaking good live, and their stage design is always really cool as well. But this was less about seeing Muse than it was finally seeing a show at the world-renowned Red Rocks Amphitheater. I had been monitoring for (what I believed to be) a worthy show for the past couple years to build a trip to Denver around it. When the triple-bill of PVRIS, Thirty Seconds to Mars and Muse was announced, I knew this was the time.  I got some reserved seats, planned the trip, and off we went. This was also my first time in Denver, which was amazing, but I'll spare those details. This is about the music. Even with our reserved seats, we got to the venue early so that I could soak it all in and walk all the way to the top to get the full experience.  The air was thin and I was sucking wind, but it was worth the views, seeing the city out in the distance and the stage down below. Then it was time for the show. PVRIS are pretty new to the scene, an electropop rock band who released their second full-length in 2017, and they were a fun start to the evening. Then Thirty Seconds to Mars took the stage. Not everyone takes this band seriously, but their anthemic rock sound is fun and perfect for concerts. Jared Leto may be super weird and alittle too "hey look at me", but those characteristics suit him well as the frontman of a rock band. Say what you will, I like Thirty Seconds to Mars. Their music was the soundtrack to some of my more memorable college moments. Once their set finished, the anticipation began to build for Muse. Fans of the band traveled from all over the world to see this show. The atmosphere was surreal as the giant rocks on either side of the stage were lit and the stars shined overhead. The band came out and put on one hell of a show. Personal favorites like "Plug In Baby" and "Stockholm Syndrome" were included in the setlist which made me a very happy fan.  It's a night I'll never forget.  And props to my wife for making it through the long show despite feeling unwell. Can't wait to go back to Red Rocks.

The War on Drugs at The Bomb Factory (my photo)

The War on Drugs at The Bomb Factory (my photo)

#3 - The War on Drugs @ The Bomb Factory 9/28/2017

As much as I'd like to act like I had heard of these guys before anyone else, I can't. I didn't get on board until their third album in 2014, Lost in the Dream. It's so damn good. "Red Eyes", "Under the Pressure", "An Ocean in Between the Waves" and so on. I bought the vinyl for that album before I even had a record player. It's a masterpiece.  The War on Drugs quickly became one of my top 5 favorite bands. Somehow, the band topped it with their fourth album, released in 2017, A Deeper Understanding. Top to bottom this album is fantastic, and it's nominated for Best Rock Album at the 2018 Grammy Awards. I was so stoked when this show was announced and got tickets immediately.  My friends Michael and Reid got in line super early and held a spot for the rest of us front and center which we were able to fill before the crowd got out of hand. The performance was everything I hoped it would be and more.  Any other year this is hands-down the #1 show of the year, and it is the best show I saw in Dallas in 2017.  Seeing Adam Granduciel shred on guitar from only feet away was like seeing Jesus walk on water.  Maybe better.

LCD Soundsystem at The Bomb Factory (my photo)

LCD Soundsystem at The Bomb Factory (my photo)

#4 - LCD Soundsystem @ The Bomb Factory 10/30/2017

LCD Soundsystem retired in 2011.  Chuck Klosterman even did a documentary about it. I missed my chance to see them. That was it.  Except that it wasn't. They came back for a reunion in 2016 and played several dates, including a headline set at Austin City Limits.  I was there for that and had a pretty damn good spot.  Unforgettable set. Crowd losing their collective mind for "Dance Yrself Clean". It was perfect. But then they announced there would be a new record in 2017. And then a tour to support that record. And one of the dates was going to be at a venue across the street from my building. The show was on a Monday night but thankfully I had some friends who stood in line early and let me jump in before doors once I got home from the office.  The early arrivals were treated to a pretty fun appetizer of New Orleans bounce from Big Freedia as the room slowly filled to the brim for the main event. LCD took the stage and we were front and center for a spectacular show. These guys are just so, so great live. And again, towards the end of the set, the crowd lost its collective mind during "Dance Yrself Clean". LCD is still at the height of their powers, the new record may be their best, and they seem to be having the time of their life performing. If you have a chance, go see this band!!

#5 - Tripping Daisy @ Club Dada 5/11/2017

Tripping Daisy at Club Dada (my photo)

Tripping Daisy at Club Dada (my photo)

This psychedelic rock band from Dallas is a bit of a local legend. Developing a rabid fanbase, they achieved commercial success in the mid-90s receiving heavy airplay on MTV and even appearing on Beavis and Butthead. Sadly, in October 1999 everything came to an abrupt halt when lead guitarist Wes Berggren was found dead of a drug overdose. Following this unfortunate event, they disbanded and a few members later went on to form The Polyphonic Spree. Whispers of a possible reunion came and went across the years without coming to fruition. But all hope was not lost; in early 2017 it was announced that the band would reunite to headline the Homegrown Festival in Dallas' Main Street Garden Park. As the show approached, a special warm-up show was announced a few nights before the big reunion. My buddy Collin snagged a couple tickets and we waited in a line that stretched down the street to get in. Can't quite explain the feeling in the air as everyone crowded into the backyard of Club Dada to witness this epic event. The band took the stage and there was so much joy all around, as the diehard fans filling the audience shouted the words to every song, some with tears streaming down their face. We even saw some Facetiming loved ones or holding up their phones to share the experience with those that couldn't be there in person. Just really, really cool vibe. Not to mention the band sounded great and were having such a good time that once they finished their planned set they returned to the stage and played for another hour! Even taking several requests from the crowd!!  This was an unforgettable night.

Grizzly Bear at Canton Hall (my photo)

Grizzly Bear at Canton Hall (my photo)

#6 - Grizzly Bear @ Canton Hall 11/11/2017

Grizzly Bear had been on hiatus since January 2014 and returned in 2017 with their fifth studio album, Painted Ruins, which may be their best work to date. It had been even longer since they made a tour stop in Dallas, and the buzz was somehow higher because they'd be opening a brand new venue in Deep Ellum called Canton Hall. The new spot is right next door to The Bomb Factory in the former location of famed venue Deep Ellum Live (also conveniently located across the street from my building). The band was incredible and acknowledged both the enthusiasm of the sold-out crowd and how cool it was to open the new venue, even showering praise on Texas audiences after the show on Twitter. Definitely a highlight of the year.

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile w/ The Sea Lice at SMU McFarlin Auditorium (my photo)

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile w/ The Sea Lice at SMU McFarlin Auditorium (my photo)

#7 - Courtney Barnett + Kurt Vile + The Sea Lice @ SMU McFarlin Auditorium 11/10/2017

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, individually, are two of my favorite singer-songwriters. They have fun, quirky lyrics and can both groove on the guitar with the best of them. When it was announced that they were collaborating on an album I knew it would be magic. That album, Lotta Sea Lice, came out in 2017 and was a really fun and melodious listen. Dallas had the good fortune of being on the list of tour dates for these two performing together in support of that album, and at a really cool venue at that - McFarlin Auditorium on the campus of Southern Methodist University, right in the heart of the city. The performance was terrific, playing songs from the collaborative album as well as trading off some of their individual hits.

Alvvays at Trees (my photo)

Alvvays at Trees (my photo)

#8 - Alvvays @ Trees 10/18/2017

This Canadian indie pop outfit is relatively new on the scene, releasing their second full-length album Antisocialites in 2017. Vocalist Molly Rankin is a great songwriter and I was stoked to see them live after becoming a big fan over the past couple years. They played just about every song they've released including my current favorite of theirs, "Plimsoll Punks". If you haven't heard of this band I highly recommend seeking them out next time you're looking for something new on Spotify.

Red Hot Chili Peppers rock Dallas (photo credit: Dallas Observer/Mike Brooks)

Red Hot Chili Peppers rock Dallas (photo credit: Dallas Observer/Mike Brooks)

#9 - Red Hot Chili Peppers @ American Airlines Center 1/8/2017

This was my first time seeing this iconic California band. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers were in top form touring in support of their latest release, The Getaway, and the fans in Dallas were treated to a setlist that dipped into many of the hits as well. While the AAC isn't exactly my favorite place to see live music, these guys are so polished that the sound was still incredible. They also had a really chill lighting design which enhanced the show.

Foster the People at House of Blues Dallas in May 2017 (my photo)

Foster the People at House of Blues Dallas in May 2017 (my photo)

#10 - Foster the People @ House of Blues Dallas 5/30/2017

This indie pop band has become one of my favorites over the past several years. They just have so many great songs across their first two albums, and at this show in May they had just released a three-song teaser of their forthcoming third studio album which included the songs "Pay the Man", "Doing It for the Money" and perhaps my favorite Foster song yet, "SHC". Founder and vocalist Mark Foster is a very talented musician and killer performer full of swagger onstage. Another cool part of seeing a band on tour leading up to an album release is the opportunity to hear some songs that aren't even released yet; ones that you leave the show wondering, "what was that one song called again??" For me, a song named "Sit Next to Me" really stood out, and now that the album is out it's one of my favorites and is currently getting massive buzz on satellite radio. Check it out!

Foster the People at House of Blues Dallas in October 2017 (my photo)

Foster the People at House of Blues Dallas in October 2017 (my photo)

#11 - Foster the People @ House of Blues Dallas 10/14/2017

Yes, this was my second time seeing Foster The People this year at the same venue from virtually the same exact spot in the room. And it was just as much fun as the first time. This band is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Between a couple festival sets and these two shows this year I've now seen them a handful of times and you are doing yourself a disservice the longer you wait to experience a Foster concert. The stage design was slightly different this time around, with the name of their third album Sacred Hearts Club (released in 2017) in technicolor LED script lettering overhead behind the band. The May show edged this one out, however, based solely on the fact the band did not play my favorite song from the new album, the title track "SHC", at this show.

Metallica at AT&T Cowboys Stadium (my photo)

Metallica at AT&T Cowboys Stadium (my photo)

#12 - Avenged Sevenfold + Metallica @ AT&T Stadium 6/16/2017

This was my second time seeing the heavy metal rock gods Metallica in person, the last one during my freshman year of college in 2005. It was a long time between opportunities and as one of my all-time favorites it was a must-see show, even if at this gargantuan venue that is known for sound issues.  The stadium that is home to the Dallas Cowboys is massive and there were around 45,000 fans in attendance, most of them in Metallica t-shirts. The stage was big and the sound was even bigger; these guys can still play LOUD after all these years. My ears rang for two days following this concert.  Touring in support of their 10th studio album, Hardwired... to Self-Destruct (which is one of the best they've put out in awhile), the band played for nearly two hours and played a terrific, hit-heavy set. 

Spoon at House of Blues Dallas (my photo)

Spoon at House of Blues Dallas (my photo)

#13 - Spoon @ House of Blues Dallas 10/12/2017

Hard to believe this indie rock band formed in Austin, TX nearly 25 years ago! Britt Daniel and the guys put out their ninth album, Hot Thoughts, in March 2017 and then toured in support of it throughout the year. They stopped in Dallas between ACL Fest weekends and the setlist included several great new songs from the new record as well as many of the big hits they've had over the years.  They are polished, veteran performers at this stage of their career and are must-see if you have the opportunity.

Future Islands at the Bomb Factory (my photo)

Future Islands at the Bomb Factory (my photo)

#14 - Future Islands @ The Bomb Factory 9/13/2017

This synthpop outfit has been around since the mid-2000s but they really broke out in 2014 thanks to a much buzzed about set at Coachella and a viral video of their performance on The Late Show with David Letterman. They came through that year and played a sold-out show at Three Links, which I missed, so I've been monitoring their tour dates for years. Finally, three years later, they returned to Deep Ellum to play a much larger venue. It was worth the wait - the band sounded incredible and it was a religious experience watching frontman Samuel T. Herring's stage performance.

Coast Modern in the Cambridge Room at House of Blues Dallas (my photo)

Coast Modern in the Cambridge Room at House of Blues Dallas (my photo)

#15 - Coast Modern @ The Cambridge Room at House of Blues Dallas 10/4/2017

My buddy Logan and I discovered this indie pop duo opening for The Temper Trap at Granada Theater in 2016 and had the chance to speak with the band afterward at the merch table. Ever since they've been in heavy rotation for us and we were sure to go see them when they came back through this year. They put out their debut full-length in July and knocked out renditions of most of those songs in this highly entertaining set. These guys get a lot of play on SiriusXM's Alt Nation channel and are destined for big things.

*setlist from Downstairs at White Oak Music Hall in Houston, TX - setlist from Dallas show not available

Bush at Gas Monkey Live (my photo)

Bush at Gas Monkey Live (my photo)

#16 - Bush @ Gas Monkey Live 5/4/2017

Gavin Rossdale still sounds great and plays with high energy for a 52-year old (he looks about 20 years younger than that)! This was my second time seeing Bush, an alt rock favorite of mine growing up, and it was a nostalgic blast.  This time around I got to see "Swallowed" live which was really cool, among many other big hits from Sixteen Stone and Razorblade Suitcase ("Greedy Fly" is unreal live), and even some new songs. This was my first time at the Gas Monkey Live venue, which yes, is affiliated with Richard Rawlings' Gas Monkey Garage from the Discovery Channel show Fast N' Loud. It's about what you'd expect.

Young the Giant at The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory (my photo)

Young the Giant at The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory (my photo)

#17 - Joywave + Cold War Kids + Young the Giant @ The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory 9/29/2017

This is a brand new venue out toward the suburbs that is part of a larger entertainment complex. It opened it's doors behind schedule and the surrounding entertainment complex is still under construction, so there are definitely some growing pains taking place and it's a very corporate environment, but this triple bill including some of the best bands going in alt rock right now was the best show I saw there in 2017. Joywave is new on the scene but I really dig their sound, and Cold War Kids and Young the Giant are titans in this genre at the moment. I was very impressed with Young the Giant's set, I'd always heard they are fantastic live and they did not disappoint.

The Joy Formidable at Club Dada (my photo)

The Joy Formidable at Club Dada (my photo)

#18 - The Joy Formidable @ Club Dada 6/14/2017

These Welsh rockers have been on my list of acts to see for years and I finally got my chance on a hot summer night in a dark club on Elm Street.  Lead vocalist and guitar player Ritzy remarked about the heat many times throughout the set, and bassist Rhydian could be seen with sweat literally pouring off of him all night, but despite the uncomfortable temperature the band and fans fed off of one another to power through an inspired collection of songs new and old.

*setlist from The Parish in Austin, TX - setlist from Dallas show not available

Japandroids at Club Dada (my photo)

Japandroids at Club Dada (my photo)

#19 - Cloud Nothings + Japandroids @ Club Dada 11/13/2017

An awesome double-bill with two LOUD and acclaimed acts. I'd recently discovered Cloud Nothings so that was a cherry on top, but getting the chance to see Japandroids in such a small room surrounded by fans who were losing it song after song was unforgettable.  The pace of the set was frenetic, firing off hits and only stopping for a few minutes to superglue guitarist and vocalist Brian King's finger back together  - a result of playing nearly 100 shows in alittle over a years time. This was the second-to-last show of the tour but the audience brought lots of energy and it powered the band to bring their best.

KISS at The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory (my photo)

KISS at The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory (my photo)

#20 - KISS @ The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory 9/27/2017

Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are in their 60s but they can still put on an entertaining show and it was awesome to hear all the big hits like "Detroit Rock City", "Rock and Roll All Nite", and "Love Gun" live.   These guys were in their heyday when my dad was in high school and he was a huge fan, so I grew up listening to them and it was a cool experience to take him to his first KISS show as a birthday gift. 

Crystal Castles at House of Blues Dallas (my photo)

Crystal Castles at House of Blues Dallas (my photo)

#21 - Crystal Castles @ House of Blues Dallas 10/7/2017

I was told that this show would be intense and it certainly was.  Known for their high energy and chaotic live shows, this Canadian electronic band brought it in a big way. Edith Frances replaced original vocalist Alice Glass in 2015 and her performance demanded your attention at all times.  This would honestly be higher on the list if not for the news of allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against founding member Ethan Katz from the former member Glass, which broke mere days after seeing the show and resulted in the immediate cancellation of the remaining tour dates. 

Atlas Genius at House of Blues Dallas (my photo)

Atlas Genius at House of Blues Dallas (my photo)

#22 - Atlas Genius @ House of Blues Dallas 4/28/2017

I really enjoy this alt rock band from Australia, formed by the Jeffery brothers. These guys are fun and energetic in concert, and they always sound great. I saw them in 2016 as well, at the Granada Theater in Dallas, and that venue is superior to the HOB in my opinion so that contributed to their placement - hey someone had to be at the bottom of the list.

Chris Cornell performs with Soundgarden at a 2013 concert (Photo Credit: Chris Pizzello, Invision/AP)

Chris Cornell performs with Soundgarden at a 2013 concert (Photo Credit: Chris Pizzello, Invision/AP)

HONORABLE MENTION - Soundgarden @ The Bomb Factory 5/26/2017

Sadly this show never took place, as Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell took his own life on 5/18/2017 following a show in Detroit. Fans of the band gathered outside the venue in Dallas for a candlelight vigil in memory of the man with one of the greatest rock and roll voices in history.  I've known someone who has left the world this way and mental health is an important subject to me, I encourage you to click the AFSP link below and see how we all can help raise awareness for suicide prevention.   

Ray Johnston Band live (photo courtesy of Ray Johnson Band official website)

Ray Johnston Band live (photo courtesy of Ray Johnson Band official website)

HONORABLE MENTION - Ray Johnston Band @ Sundown at Granada 11/17/2017

This guy has an incredible story, look him up. Former member of the Dallas Mavericks summer league squad and two-time cancer survivor.  Also maybe the nicest guy I know and a worthy adversary on the sand volleyball courts at Sandbar in Deep Ellum. He's the frontman of a country music act playing tons of shows all over Texas, the US and even Mexico. This was my first opportunity to see him live and he put on quite the performance at this hometown show.  I even got a shout-out late in the set! It didn't feel right ranking a friend, so this one landed in the Honorable Mentions, but if you get a chance to see the Ray Johnson Band you won't be disappointed.

Sigur Rós at The Bomb Factory in Dallas (photo credit: Dallas Observer/Mike Brooks)

Sigur Rós at The Bomb Factory in Dallas (photo credit: Dallas Observer/Mike Brooks)

HONORABLE MENTION - Sigur Rós @ The Bomb Factory 6/7/2017

An unfortunate miscommunication regarding a ticket transfer from a friend who couldn't make it led to my missing a large portion of the show. Big wasted opportunity - this Icelandic experimental rock band don't come around often.

2017 Hollywood Gift Guide

Last Minute Gift Ideas – From the Movies

By Hayley Dyer

Old Man Winter got you down? Does the traffic by the mall make you want to scream? (It’s okay, me too.) Well, here’s a cute little collection of gift ideas given to us by Hollywood… it’s not too late to buy a Jelly of the Month Club membership or a Joni Mitchell CD. If all else fails, send rentals of these films to friends and family on Amazon and call it a day.



Red Ryder BB Gun

For the child in all of us, the Red Ryder BB Gun is a perfect gift. Better yet, pair this present with a six pack of beer so you can take the empties outside and have some target practice off the back porch. 

Image: Twentieth Century Fox, from  Jingle All The Way

Image: Twentieth Century Fox, from Jingle All The Way

The Hot New Toy

OMG remember the Christmases of years past where Furbys were so hard to get ahold of? Or the Tickle Me Elmo? Thank goodness I haven’t experienced the stress and panic of being a parent around the holidays. I have a plan for getting out of this – I’m moving to the desert as soon as possible and ignoring all the brouhaha of technology and consumerism and shit. Well anyways, Jingle All The Way was the most perfect film and Arnold Schwarzenegger was the perfect Turbo Man and Sinbad was the perfect foil character as Dementor. If anyone at your family celebration hasn’t seen the movie, heaven forbid, you must FORCE them to watch this with you.

Image: Universal Pictures, from  Love Actually

Image: Universal Pictures, from Love Actually

Something Pretty

All right gents, this one’s for you. Every man I know has a problem picking out gifts for the women in their lives… newsflash, your wife or girlfriend doesn’t want something practical like a new wallet or kitchen utensils. She wants something pretty. The fact that it comes from you will make it extra special. You don’t have to spend tons of money… “pretty things” come in all shapes and sizes. If you have zero clues, check out her Pinterest or ask her best friend for ideas. I can’t do all the work for you ;-)

Image: Twentieth Century Fox, from  Home Alone

Image: Twentieth Century Fox, from Home Alone

Quality Time

And on a totally different note, the gift of presence and time is totally free and easy. In Home Alone, all Kevin McAllister wanted for Christmas was for his family to come home from Paris. No gift was needed, no perfect Christmas tree or perfectly decorated house was wanted, all he desired was to spend time with his family. (Even his brother, Buzz!) This is a super easy gift to give – put down your phone, indulge your mom’s requests to help in the kitchen and you know dad will inevitably spend hours in the yard – join him! Be present. It’s easy and fun! 

Alright cool kids. Happy Holidays. Bah humbug.



By Matt Keath


This week we discuss Queens of the Stone Age’s Villains and David Bowie’s Heroes. Here’s a guide to help you navigate some of the tangents we explored;

Modest Mouse

One of my favorite live Modest Mouse performances

The Replacements — Alex Chilton

My newest obsession’s ode to the lead singer of the Box Tops and Big Star

Big Star — 13

The Box Tops — The Letter

The Zombies — She’s Not There

Compare how the Zombies’ Colin Blunstone sings “please don’t bother trying to find her” to Josh Homme’s “we run till no one can find us.” Anyone else hear the similarity?

Jeff Tweedy on the tortured artist

Eagles Of Death Metal: Nos Amis Trailer

Mott the Hoople — All the Young Dudes

The band’s name comes from the title of a book no longer in print. Apparently it makes sense if you’ve read it.

Bowie the predator

Royal Caribbean (not Carnival, my bad)

Iggy Pop — Lust for Life

This is the only song from the Matt Hoffman’s Pro BMX 2 soundtrack to which I still regularly listen

Charles Bradley — Strictly Reserved for You

Music Saved My Life Podcast - Episode Four Companion Guide

By Hayley Dyer



Hey guys! Oh Em Gee. Full Disclosure. Life has been busy lately. We actually recorded this episode back in SEPTEMBER. On Labor Day MORNING. So life got busy and it took a while for us to get around to editing and honestly I wouldn’t even be telling you this but we’re a little new to this and we definitely let the cat out of the bag on the podcast. Lesson learned – I will not be mentioning any holidays or specific dates on the pod from now on… OKAY cool. Let’s talk music.

In Episode Four we discuss two bands that have been around for quite some time. Perhaps you have a favorite among the two – Arcade Fire and The War on Drugs. Both bands were coming to our hometown on the SAME NIGHT and for months we’ve been bringing up the question “WHICH BAND ARE YOU GONNA PICK TO GO SEE?!” So we thought it was only fitting to talk about them on the pod. Just several weeks earlier, Texas was hit really hard by Hurricane Harvey and we were also in the mindset of being concerned about friends and family and we had been hearing horror stories about the flooding down in Houston, so this is where our hearts and minds were centered at the time as well. [Side note – it’s been extra cool to see how people have come together to support each other during this horrible event. Proof that maybe the world isn’t ending quite so soon.]

Adam Granduciel, lead singer of The War on Drugs (photo credit:  Shawn Brackbil/VICE)

Adam Granduciel, lead singer of The War on Drugs (photo credit: Shawn Brackbil/VICE)

Alrighty, where should we start?  We started with The War on Drugs’ new album, A Deeper Understanding (which has just received a nomination for a Grammy in the Best Rock Album category!). I love that lead singer Adam Granduciel got his stage name from a little joke with his French teacher. SO FUCKING CUTE. (You’ve got to listen to the episode to get the full story…)

Something special for your ears: The War on Drugs’ cover of the Grateful Dead’s "Touch of Grey"

Win Butler of Arcade Fire – Named the 2016 MVP of the NBA All Star Celebrity Game – CHECK OUT THAT WINGSPAN, Y’ALL (photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS / Chris Young)

Win Butler of Arcade Fire – Named the 2016 MVP of the NBA All Star Celebrity Game – CHECK OUT THAT WINGSPAN, Y’ALL(photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS / Chris Young)

Next we discussed Arcade Fire’s 2010 The Suburbs album. Full disclosure – I don’t think I could call myself a fan of Arcade Fire until Reflektor came out in 2013. I just didn’t like their sound or get what they were all about at first. Now I love them and even love some things that I used to hate. So anyways, The Suburbs was partially inspired by Win and Will Butler’s formative years in The Woodlands, Texas, which is awesome and crazy because everybody knows that Win Butler is a hardcore Canadian.

charlie brown.jpg

As we were signing off, I shared a sad memory of never finishing the film Race For Your Life Charlie Brown! Just wanted to update you that I got it from the library and am going to finally see the ending this week so you can breathe easy!


Joanna Newsom’s "On A Good Day"

99% Invisible Podcast episode that touches on The Woodlands



Music Saved My Life Podcast - Episode Three Companion Guide

By Matt Keath


This week we’re talking about The Beach Boys’  Pet Sounds  and Japanese Breakfast’s S oft Sounds From Another Planet , two experimental pop albums put out 51 years apart. It’s hard to imagine  Soft Sounds  will have the kind lasting impact  Pet Sounds  did (but it’s possible nothing ever will).

This week we’re talking about The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Japanese Breakfast’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet, two experimental pop albums put out 51 years apart. It’s hard to imagine Soft Sounds will have the kind lasting impact Pet Sounds did (but it’s possible nothing ever will).

Japanese Breakfast " Soft Sounds From Another Planet" (album art)

Japanese Breakfast "Soft Sounds From Another Planet" (album art)

Japanese Breakfast basics:

Members: Michelle Zauner

Founded: 2013

Studio Albums:

  • Psychopomp, 2016
  • Soft Sounds From Another Planet, 2017

What they’re saying about Soft Sounds From Another Planet;

Inspired by the cosmos, Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner addresses life on Earth. Her voice shines over melancholic arrangements, evoking Pacific Northwest indie rock as much as shoegaze
— Pitchfork
For a record with its aspirations in the allegorical freedom of the cosmos, Zauner returns over and over to the painful architecture of this world. There’s beauty in it, too, this seeing more clearly, this holding of two things in mind at once. There are no bromides or reassuring aphorisms here.
— Consequence of Sound
Soft Sounds From Another Planet… [is] a somber, starry lullaby that results in periods of fitful sleep marked by struggles with fading love and death’s vague mystery.
— Paste

Dennis Wilson aka “The Hot One”

Dennis Wilson aka “The Hot One”

Beach Boys basics:


  • Brian Wilson
  • Dennis Wilson
  • Carl Wilson
  • Mike Love
  • Al Jardine

Founded: 1961

Audio Albums: 20+ wikipedia that shit

What they’re saying about Pet Sounds;

But Pet Sounds....nobody was prepared for anything so soulful, so lovely, something one had to think about so much. It is by far the best album Brian has yet delivered, and it paradoxically began the decline in mass popularity that still plagues this band. It also reflected Brian’s preoccupation with pure sound.
— Rolling Stone
Almost predictably, as the deserved praise for the vocal arrangements may never wane, I’ve heard more fine things said about the instrumental tracks recently than any other aspect of the record. In any case, the technical achievements of the record (only given further support by the stereo issue of the record in the late 90s) have tended to overshadow the emotional and spiritual ones, at least in my lifetime.
— Pitchfork


Townes Van Zandt

Hayley’s been dipping her toes in the catalogue of a songwriting legend. Check out my favorite Townes track with a cover from Andrew Bird thrown in free

The Modern Lovers

Emo Revival


Stereogum published this nice Emo Revival primer. I’d add the following three artists to their list:

Songs: Ohia

Otis Redding


Jann Wenner had no idea he was leaving out what would become Redding’s most famous song when he wrote this obituary in 1968. Also, here’s the song that almost made Hayley crash on I-20:


Louvin Brothers/Andrews Sisters

Here’s Mike Love on meeting Charles fucking Manson

Bill Mallonee


Paste named Bill their 65th-best living songwriter in 2006. He shares the list with some absolute powerhouses. While he’s probably had less commercial success than anyone else on the list, his lyrics are pure class. He also replied to a fanboy Facebook message I sent him when I was 16. What a dude.


By Hayley Dyer



Hey guys! Hayley here. Matt was hoping to dish about Episode 2, but he’s on an epic road trip in the Northeast right now and therefore doesn’t have internet. (He’s living the dream, y’all!) I’m currently binge-watching Big Little Lies on HBO and shout out to Leon Bridges for having the “best” make up song ever. Check it out.

Chad Kroeger’s high school yearbook photo. Aww.

Chad Kroeger’s high school yearbook photo. Aww.

So yeah, first thing’s first. Yes, I went to see Nickelback last weekend. I had a blast! I was intoxicated, and I had free tickets, and we really went to the show kind of ironically, but it was awesome, and people were having a really good time – so I have no shame! I can get down with some old school Nickelback. Sorry we spent so much time on this topic and didn’t even get to the nitty gritty stuff like “why do Americans love to hate on Nickelback?” and “who are these twelve thousand people in Dallas who showed up to their concert?” Honestly, I’m sorry we didn’t get into the REALLY important stuff.

For this episode we were inspired by Song Exploder’s Fleet Foxes episode (link in the Appendix!) that came out earlier this summer. First of all, how exciting is it that Fleet Foxes has released new music after a six year hiatus?! I have always liked Fleet Foxes. I’m pretty sure Helplessness Blues was the last CD I ever purchased for myself, and this might be too much info, but whatever y’all, I’m an open book(!) the final scene in Season One, Episode Six of Girls, when Hannah goes home for the weekend ends with Montezuma (from Helplessness Blues) and when I first saw that episode I just broke down in tears because of my relationship with that song and how it collides with this very relatable moment in the show. OMG. Anyways, Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes is a master of lyrics and this new album didn’t disappoint me.

GRENDEL! He’s a little bit scary.

GRENDEL! He’s a little bit scary.

We talked about the track Mearcstapa (fun fact – Mearcstapa is another name for the crazy monster, Grendel, from Beowulf) and of course the rest of the album, and then we made a creative transition and discussed Van Morrison’s Moondance.  Van Morrison is a legend and was born to be a great musician. He started his first band when he was twelve – like, I don’t even know what I was doing when I was twelve. But yeah, he is originally from Northern Ireland and pretty early on came to the US and has just been rocking it ever since. Check out his “revenge” tracks that came out this year on the album The Authorized Bang Collection. They’re the throwaway songs he wrote about ringworms and sports cars and stuff.

So, I think I have more to discuss in the Appendix section, so read on for important corrections, clarifications, and a super cute photo of my dog!


Song Exploder, Episode 109

Check out this awesome podcast! Some of our favorites include Sylvan Esso, Courtney Barnett, and Grimes. Oh, I also love the episode featuring Thao Nguyen from Thao & The Get Down Stay Down.


Sorry for mispronouncing “Debussy”. (And FYI – I know Claude Debussy before Twilight, that’s just a joke.)

But yeah, here’s that song I was talking about – the one about the cathedral! Close your eyes and give it a listen and imagine that cathedral doing its thing!

My sweet baby Cooper (aka Coops) before he sailed into the Mystic.

My sweet baby Cooper (aka Coops) before he sailed into the Mystic.

In regards to Belfast – I was half right. Looks like the shortest day of the year has 6.6 hours of sunshine, the longest day has 17 hours. SO the sun just has a wonky schedule, but it shines. 

White Stripes had SIX studio albums.

White Stripes had SIX studio albums.

Mariah Carey & Eminem 

Seriously I used to listen to these two songs back to back ALL THE FUCKIN TIME. Now, I messed it up in the podcast, Eminem’s song is called “The Warning” – oh so ominous! Obviously, I’m on Eminem’s side in this whole thing.

Laura Marling & the boy with curly black hair (Charlie Fink)

P.S. Charlie – I dig your voice and your hair. Call me.

Music Saved My Life Podcast Debuts on the Reel World Podcast Channel

By Hayley Dyer


Episode 1 ART.jpg

Hey guys! My name is Hayley, I am very excited to announce our new podcast, Music Saved My Life! My friend Matt and I will be coming at you every other week with music (both new and old), stories, tangents, etc. I promise we love music and don’t take ourselves too seriously. As Matt is wont to say - nothing is worse than a lit bro douchebag. Looking forward to sharing and listening to music with you!

Episode One was largely inspired by a visit to the Dallas Museum of Art to see legendary journalist Chuck Klosterman’s Dallas stop for his X book tour. I’m a huge fan of Klosterman’s work. When I was in college I read Sex Drugs and Coco Puffs during my Entrepreneurship class. (I sat in the back row and my professor was extremely hard of hearing, so I don’t think he ever heard me laughing back there…) But yeah, anyways, now that I’m a small business owner, I look back and think “maybe that wasn’t the best class to ignore.” Oh well. 

Back to our night with Chuck – as you’ll hear in the podcast (player embedded at the bottom of the page!), Chuck mentioned that his favorite band is KISS. “They’re not the best, but they’re my favorite” – Chuck (paraphrasing by Hayley). And since we didn’t know much about the band, we decided to listen to KISS’ 1977 album, Love Gun. Fun fact: when the album came out, a cardboard “Love Gun” was included inside the vinyl album cover (some assembly was required, though).

KISS (1977 members from left-right Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, Ace Frehley)

KISS (1977 members from left-right Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, Ace Frehley)

Well anyways, KISS isn’t really either of our styles. Matt is super intense when it comes to lyrics, so KISS’ basic rock tropes really didn’t do it for him. I was mainly just bored by the music as a whole – there wasn’t really anything complex about the various tracks on the album. It seems to me like the guys in KISS had a goal to become “Rock Stars” and that they did! Paul Stanley has recently come out to say that he hopes KISS will continue after he and Gene leave the band – that the band can continue on because it’s like a sports franchise. That statement itself makes me think that the band doesn’t consider the essence of the band to be their songwriting or music, that the essence of the band is the makeup and platform shoes and the costumes that the performers wear. I may not enjoy the music, but I appreciate their style. I’m sorry if we were a little harsh, but I’m really glad we jumped out of our comfort zone to give them a little listen!

screenshot from Shut Up and Play the Hits: Chuck Klosterman and James Murphy

screenshot from Shut Up and Play the Hits: Chuck Klosterman and James Murphy

In the second half of the podcast we waxed poetic about LCD Soundsystem and discussed their upcoming North American tour and the two singles they’ve released from their forthcoming album, American Dream. If you haven’t seen the documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits, I really can’t recommend it enough. Besides the interviews and behind the scenes content with James Murphy, the concert shots are great and transport you to Madison Square Garden.

Okay kids. Stay cool and wear your sunscreen.

Full disclosure, we recorded this back on July 8, so I will try to be quicker about getting everything edited and into your waiting arms and ears!



Mary Jane’s Last Dance (Freedom Fry Cover)

That Jeff Tweedy essay by Chuck Klosterman is called An American Radiohead and was published in his book, Klosterman IV. It’s available for purchase for $.99 on Amazon.

Phil Spector dispels the myth: “the higher the hair, the closer to God.”

Phil Spector dispels the myth: “the higher the hair, the closer to God.”

I educated myself about Phil Spector. He was a millionaire by age 21. Biography.com states his occupation as “murderer” AND they highlight that he is a Capricorn. Uh… me too. In 2003 he was arrested for the murder of Lana Clarkson, whom he met at a House of Blues (not really relevant, but interesting.) He was sentenced nineteen years for her murder AND fun fact: he has not been allowed to wear any type of wig while he’s been in prison. Without his wig he looks a bit like Dobby, the house elf from Harry Potter.

Say Hello 2 Heaven : RIP Chris Cornell

Collin Lotter

            Chris Cornell was a rock star in every sense of the word; to my eleven or twelve-year-old self, Cornell absolutely embodied it! He had the look, he had the sound and he definitely had the vocals that would overshadow any rock song he contributed to. Admittedly, I was not the biggest Soundgarden fan of all time. I mean don't get me wrong… I owned the album SuperUnknown along with the rest of the world, and enjoyed “Black Hole Sun,” “Spoonman,” “Outshined” and “Rusty Cage,” but I most certainly did not live or die with the band. My appreciation for Chris Cornell really came into my later high school years when I burned a hole in the self-titled AudioSlave album and also came to understand just how influential he was in starting the Grunge – Era / Seattle Sound that I fell in love with. Without Cornell there is probably no Pearl Jam (my favorite band), there is definitely no Temple of the Dog (“Hunger Strike” one of my all-time favorite songs) and honestly MTV may have never shed light on all the amazing music coming out of the Pacific Northwest.

            Later on in life, definitely college years and after, I have developed a better gratitude about Soundgarden’s entire catalog and the impact they made. However, the pecking order for me will always be 1) Pearl Jam, 2) Alice in Chains, 3) Nirvana, and then Soundgarden, but that doesn't diminish their greatness or Cornell’s specifically. Soundgarden’s two records that I remember well, 1994’s SuperUnknown and 1996’s Down on the Upside, were ungodly huge, with a pulverizing swagger and a menacing tone that dominated alt-rock radio and MTV alike. Though, I developed a little resentment, because when I was first getting into music, listening to the local stations in Dallas, I felt “Black Hole Sun” was so overplayed and drawn out. In my own mistake, I always associated Soundgarden with that song, which delayed the embracement from me as a fan.

            As I mentioned earlier though, the Audioslave debut album was just massive for me… the record came out my junior year of high school and I remember being intrigued by the idea of a Rage Against the Machine; Soundgarden super group coming together, because I was a big Rage fan, but always skeptical that it wouldn’t have near the same magic because Cornell had big shoes to fill replacing Zach de La Rocha (the unique front man of Rage). Once I heard the first single, “Cohise,” I knew this could be something great. Rage as a band was always a little overshadowed by de la Rocha’s rapping and now being mixed with Cornell’s vocals was showcasing something beyond what I had been exposed to. That CD was just awesome, had six official singles on it and had a song represented on the radio for over two years, literally until I was in college. “Cohise,” “Like a Stone” (#1 hit of the album), “I am the Highway,” “Show me How to Live,” “What you are,” “Shadow on the Sun”; all just amazing songs for any consumer.

            The critics gave the band mixed reviews, but that was ok honestly, because no way would this group be received as well as the two iconic bands they destroyed to form it. Though the commercial success the album enjoyed going triple platinum with six singles meant the audience really dug it. For my own little world, I feel like the album represented even more because this was a time where Nu-Metal had replaced Grunge and Post Grunge and honestly Rock as a music genre was really starting to dip away from the mainstream. This record really gave fans of the older mid 90’s style of rock something to gravitate to and enjoy. By this point, Nirvana was gone, AIC was gone, Pearl Jam’s new stuff didn't have the edge, Smashing Pumpkins had broken up, Stone Temple Pilots had dispersed; all we really had was the old anthology of songs from these bands we had fallen in love with. We really leaned on Foo Fighters, RHCP, and this super group AudioSlave to keep the momentum going for the time being. The second album, 2005 ‘s Out of Exile was good but didn't have the same fresh, exciting sound that the original installment did. Cornell’s vocals still shined though, as they always did in any song no matter the background noise.

            Listening to all of Cornell’s songs in retrospect is really something though, almost enlightening with a counter view point. Here was a powerful light as well as darkness in his catalogue, and Cornell as much as any singer saw how pain and uplift could intertwine. Regardless, he now inevitably will be included in the upsetting list of grunge stars who’ve died unexpectedly—Andrew Wood, Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Scott Weiland, among others. This sadness comes on the idea, that if you asked most hardcore grunge fans, they probably would’ve predicted Cornell to go last as he was in many ways the founding father for all of this, paving the way for most of these singers to bring a new attitude to rock music. For the first time, you didn't have to have long, colorful hair, spandex, bright pyros or gimmicky lyrics… you could be yourself, flannel t shirt, jeans with holes in them, strumming a guitar, playing songs about the troubles or despair you were facing or the future you were aspiring for. That's what made his songs great and relatable to any and all comers.

RIP Chris Cornell.

Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN: A Conversation Between Friends

By Hayley Dyer


Last Friday night I had a little migraine and decided to stay home and watch Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN for the FIRST TIME EVER. Yes, I realize it came out in 2001, but I was like twelve in 2001, so leave me alone – I didn’t see it in theaters. (I wasn’t actually twelve; I was fourteen. It doesn’t matter.) Anyways, so I’ve always been interested in seeing this movie and I was like “THIS IS MY NIGHT!” Coincidentally, I was wearing a bandana on my forehead (almost kind of like Gael Garcia Bernal… but I was trying to contain my headache – not trying to look particularly cool.) Whatever, so I had heard that this movie was good and that it was pretty sexy, if you know what I mean… but DAMN no one prepared me for this movie to shred my heart and soul! An intelligent film of two boys on their journey of hope and reality sharing a life in Mexico. Its beauty is about people discovering their personalities. Breath-taking pictures and love scenes. A panorama of the Mexican people from different social classes. Amazing and very erotic...Really worth seeing it! After the credits (just kidding, I did NOT watch the credits) I texted my BFF to break it down. Enjoy!

The many meanings of 'Moonlight'

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com | Section925

Exploring what the film meant to say most

By now, we all know of the hype that surrounds the film "Moonlight." We know that it won this year's Academy Award for Best Picture in the most dramatic/memorable/weird way possible, first losing to "La La Land," then finding out the announcement was incorrect and "Moonlight" had actually won. We also have heard how Bay Area native Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor. Furthermore, we've heard how "Moonlight" became the first ever film with an all-black cast to win Best Picture. For these reasons and more, I sat down to watch "Moonlight" and see for myself why it has garnered so much love since its release. But by the film's ending, I was more concerned with the question of, what was that film really about? What was its most important theme or lesson to take away from it? What is the most important thing to glean from such a celebrated film here in the tumultuous times of 2017? 

The best compliment I can give to the film "Moonlight" is that it makes you think. It makes you ponder a laundry list of subjects and issues that all unfold in less than two hours. By the time the last scene arrives, and young Chiron or "Little" is standing alone on a moonlit beach in Miami, the viewer has wrestled with a long list of life's questions. All questions that have clearer answers than when the film begins with Juan climbing out of his car to check on his successful drug dealing business.  

Barry Jenkins was the director of "Moonlight," and we can never be sure of the main message he wanted to deliver above all the others. But let's take some time to explore some of the candidates for his most important themes. 

The crush of capitalism  

"The Wire" has been praised endlessly for being a television drama that exposed Americans to the inner-workings of their country. People love to praise "The Wire" for unveiling the dark underbelly of America's government, police force, public schools, gangs, news business and more. Well, "Moonlight" does a great job of this as well. One way the film explains the pressures of a dog-eat-dog capitalistic structure is through the dramatic scene when Juan finds Chiron's mom smoking crack in the passenger seat of a car. Juan is understandably angry to see such destructive behavior from a seemingly promising young mother. But when he airs her out, Juan is quickly put in his place. After all, he provided the crack rocks to Paula in the first place. Maybe not directly, but Juan was where Paula was going for drugs. And as much as Juan wanted Chiron to have a clean mother, he wanted a nice car and a nice place to live with his girlfriend even more. Juan needed to get paid, and who doesn't. Simple as that. 

Kids can smell blood in the water  

"Moonlight" does a great job of showing how perceptive kids can be. When they see vulnerability in a peer, they are adept at identifying this and grabbing the power that is left there for the taking. When Chiron is a young boy, it is no coincidence his peers dub him as "Little." And it is a name that follows him everywhere, even chasing him in-between chain link fences into Miami crackhouses. "Moonlight" does a great job of showing how fast Chiron's world seems to be spinning around him. The cinematography allows the viewer to step behind Chiron's lens of life and notice how hard it must be. Chiron seems to be developmentally delayed. Not the fastest runner or the quickest to respond to a question; he is even afraid to talk. It wouldn't be a stretch to assume that Chiron's mom was already a client of Juan's drug business before her son was born. The sad result is that Chiron seems to be out in stormy seas without a paddle. He can't defend himself intellectually or physically, and sadly, non of it is his fault. Unfortunately, the kids of Chiron's community know his drawbacks all too well, and they choose to make his life hell because of it. 

How school violence manifests itself  

Certainly one of the most dramatic scenes in "Moonlight" is when a teenage Chiron storms through the heavy doors of his high school, marches into his classroom, grabs a wooden chair, and breaks it over the back of his longtime bully, Terrel. With the type of school shootings you see so often today in America, this type of school violence is certainly believable, as ruthless as it appears when it unfolds. Of course, by this time in the film, we have seen the steps that led to this outbreak of violence. We understand why it had to be done. We almost have to smile when we see Chiron escorted down the steps by police in handcuffs. Terrel had it coming! But without knowing that Chiron's dad was never around, that his mom was smoking crack and hassling him for money, that he had been bullied and beat up all his life, that his sexuality was a secret, it would be easy for us to criminalize Chiron as a typical thug acting a fool. But with the help of "Moonlight," we know all too well why Chiron needed to crush Terrel with that chair. It had to be done.

The struggle to be yourself

Throughout "Moonlight," Chiron is on a mission to find himself and become comfortable in his own skin. To act and live like he truly feels, instead of playing a role laid out for him by society. Everyday people struggle with this task every single day. We all know how hard it is to be yourself, but when you find yourself in Chiron's case, "being yourself" is extraordinarily difficult. Growing up on the mean and macho streets of inner-city Miami, there is little room for Chiron to express the fact that he is a gentle, thoughtful and caring young boy. He has no interest in fighting. But of course, he must learn to fight in order to survive. Chiron is also gay. A fact that makes his social life all the more tricky in the environment he is raised. Because of this, Chrion is forced to live a life of secrecy, only sharing one honest sexual experience for his entire life. As an adult, Chiron plays the role of a muscle bound drug dealer with a grill and a chain and a intimidating car. Certainly Chiron is failing to "be himself," but "Moonlight" helps us understand why this simply wasn't possible. 

The difficulties of being a good parent  

If you want to understand how and why so many good-intentioned parents end up failing miserably, look no further than "Moonlight" for some explanation. Chiron's mother Paula is a strong, graceful, beautiful woman at the beginning of the film. She has all the makings of a good mom, but she instead falls short. For one, she is a single parent in a rough neighborhood with limited time to look after Chiron. She compounds the problem of falling for the allure of drugs. A habit she can't keep at bay, no matter how much her son means to her. When Juan attempts to fill the role of a good dad to Chiron, he is met with obstacles of his own. Sure, Juan can extend a tender hand to Chiron and explain that is OK to be gay. But when asked point blank if it is OK to sell drugs, Juan doesn't have much of an answer. Surprisingly, the only adult who turns out to be able to handle the rigors of parenthood is Kevin. Out of wedlock and recently out of prison, at least Kevin is able to keep things together by lowering his expectations in life and grinding out a job at a diner.

Real progress is painful and incremental

The opening scene of "Moonlight" paints a grim picture. One of a torn down community filled with poverty, drugs and heartache. By the end of the film, all of the characters have made positive progress in their life, but they do so in a very real way. The progress is made in slow, choppy fashion, with tons of interruption and heartache. Still, the characters show that the formula of two steps forward and one step back still moves lives in the right direction. Chiron takes years to accept his sexuality and stand on his own two feet. He might still be in the closet, but he still exhibits the courage to drive down to see Kevin and express his true feelings. He might be a drug dealer in Atlanta, but he still has found a way to morph into an independent man who has the emotional and financial means to take care of his mom. The same concept holds true for characters like Kevin (once a insecure youth concerned with popularity is now a humble and hard working father). And likewise for Juan (a drug dealer who matures enough to take on the role of a father for a lost boy in the community).

Beauty can be found just about anywhere  

"Moonlight" does a sneaky good job of showing the beauty of Miami, even in one of its most downtrodden neighborhoods. Even when Kevin convinces a young Chiron to engage in his first fight, the bout takes place on a earthy green patch of grass, with the bluest of skies. When Juan takes Chiron into the ocean to learn to swim, the viewer gets the feeling they are in the water right there with them, easily floating in fresh saltwater under the warm Florida sun. Even when Chiron sits down to dinner with Kevin in a beat up diner, drinking wine out of plastic cups, there is something romantic about the scene that couldn't be conjured up in a more sterile environment.  

In sum, "Moonlight" is a wonderful film for many reasons. And judging by the Academy's Best Picture award, credit has been given where it is due. But to me, the reason why "Moonlight" is brilliant is because of the window it provides into worlds unknown to most in Hollywood or thereabouts. In a time where fake news prevails and Trump reigns all powerful, there has never been a time where a truthful explanation to America's problems is more needed. Fortunately, "Moonlight" is there to provide just that.