Don Messerli’s Blog |

An exercise in self-indulgence.

My Album of the Year - 2006

Friday Dec 29, 2006

The Animal YearsThis has been a good year for album releases as far as I’m concerned. Why? Because Cat Stevens released his first album in around 27 years and Lindsey Buckingham released only his 4th solo album in 25 years. Both of those albums are very good; but not my favorite album of the year. That honor (let me have my fantasies) goes to “The Animal Years” by Josh Ritter.

I first heard Josh when he and his band opened for Jamie Cullum at the brand-new Carnival Center back in October. I really liked his music and picked up the CD after the concert. It’s been on my playlist ever since.

The music is fresh and the lyrics are brilliant. I’m not going to compare it to anything. You’ll just have to pick up a copy and listen for yourself.

The Best Christmas Present Ever!

Monday Sep 11, 2006

You may wonder why I’m talking about Christmas in September. Two reasons. The first will become self-evident. The second is that I haven’t posted in a while and that added about 2 1/2 months to the delay.

My wife, Regine, gave me what amounts to the best Christmas present I’ve ever received last Christmas. She gave me a trip for both of us to the Formula One Grand Prix of Canada in Montreal. The races was in late June, so I had to wait 6 months to actually get my present, but the wait was well worth it.

We had great seats. Right across from the pits. Renault, McLaren, and Ferrari were right there. We went to practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday, and the race on Sunday. We took a ton of pictures and had a great time. It was a package tour. The company running the tour was Formula Tours. They are new to the business. Things didn’t run perfectly smoothly; but I’d still recommend them. They had a cocktail party on Friday night and we got to meet Jarno Trulli and Ricardo Zonta of Toyota.

BMW Sauber had a cool setup downtown called Pit Lane Park. It was a recreation of pit lane with interactive displays and demonstrations. They only do it at 6 Grands Prix per year. We are lucky Montreal was one of them.

I even had two celebrity sightings on the trip. I saw my favorite F1 driver, Jacques Villeneuve, walking down St. Catherine St. and Tara Reid in the airport.

When I get a chance, I’ll post a bunch of the pictures we took.

Our iTunes Library

Friday Jul 7, 2006

As you might have read, I am in the process of ripping all of my over 600 music CDs for use with my SqueezeBox and with our iPods. It is taking a long time. Sometimes I won’t rip any for weeks and then I’ll rip 50 in a weeked. Well, I’m almost done. I was looking for a way to print out the contents of our iTunes Library so that I could tally which CDs I’ve ripped and which ones I haven’t. Sometimes paper and pencil are faster than doing it on the computer. While I was looking, I came across a tool called tunesxml2html that puts together a nice web page from the XML file that iTunes uses to keep track of its library. Although the tool has a few bugs and I’ve had to change some of the Perl source to output things the way I want them, it seems like a handy little utility. I’ve posted the first web page I’ve created with it on a new page on this site. I’ve also added a link to “On This Site” on the right-hand side.

“Jamie Cullum Plays Real Music”

Tuesday May 9, 2006

The title of this post isn’t an original Don Messerli quote; but I agree wholeheartedly. Actually it is something that Raul Midon said last night at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale as he was opening for Jamie. Jamie Cullum plays REAL music. Something I love about him. Something I don’t see in many performers these days.

I’m not usually wowed by opening acts. Fiona Apple opening for Counting Crows in Tampa several years back was nice. I was so impressed by Ellis Paul opening for Dar Williams (again in Tampa) that I became a fan of his, have bought all of his albums, and have since gotten tired of Dar. Raul Midon wowed me!

This guy has to be heard. I can try to describe him; but will probably fail miserably. Jump on over to and you can list to all of the tracks on his latest album. He reminds me a bit of Stevie Wonder and a bit of Jeffrey Gaines. He attacks a guiter like Jamie Cullum attacks a piano; but at least he didn’t stomp on it. He does this trumpet thing by blowing air through his lips. If you close your eyes, you’d swear he was playing one. After the show, I bought Raul’s EP and his latest album. I’ll post some more after I’ve had some listening time.

For raw musical talent and energy, I will boldly state that this is the best concert I have ever been to. Yes, I’ve seen Peter Gabriel four times, Genesis, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, and even Joe Jackson in concert. Yes, they are all very talented musicians. The production value on the Gabriel, Genesis, and Phil Collins concerts were among the best ever. Joe Jackson has raw musical talent in excess; BUT none of them engaged the audience as well as Jamie Cullum. He was amazing! By the time the concert was over, everybody in the place was physically drained. Just watching this guy makes you tired. The only one with any energy left was Jamie himself; and that wasn’t from lack of trying. He was all over the stage. All over the poor piano. At one point it looked like he wanted to do a backflip off of a pedestal at the front of the stage. He wisely decided against it because there wasn’t enough room behind him. This was a very small venue with a very small stage. Good thing he decided against it. Wouldn’t be good if this were the first AND last date on his American tour. He played piano, guitar, a conga drum, and some kind of digital scratch thing. He even reached in and played the piano strings like a bass, then like a harp. His small band included a bassist, a drummer, and a guy who played saxaphone, chimes, keyboard, and anything else that made noise. These were versatile jazz musicians. If you’ve ever seen live jazz, you know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t take a big band, large amps and a bunch of electronics to sound good.

Improvisation ran rampant at this concert. Sure, Jamie could sound “just like the album” if he wanted; but why do that. That’s not jazz. He can turn a 4 minutes song into a 15 minute experience. He can turn a small piano riff into a jazz piano lesson. I could say that this was a once in a lifetime experience. But, if I can help it, it won’t be. I plan on seeing Jamie again as soon as I possibly can. Plus, Regine was in Key West on business and missed the concert. I don’t think the t-shirt I bought her will cut it. I’m looking at Georgia or Las Vegas for my second helping. Of course, some of you know what happened the last time Regine and I were in Vegas.

Prairie Home in Miami

Thursday Feb 9, 2006

I’m not a liberal by any stretch of the imagination. However; I do listen to NPR. The key is to have enough brains to tell when they’re pushing their liberal agenda, which is 99% of the time. The other 1% of the time, they’re airing A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. I really enjoy this show. It’s like an old-fashioned radio show. When I was a kid, there were still a few of them on the air and I would listen to them late on a Saturday night.

When we found out that they were going to be doing the show from Miami, I knew I had to see the show in person. The show was done at Bayfront Amphitheater which is… you guessed it… next to Bayside Marketplace. Oops! I almost said “Mall”. The weather was less than optimal. It was cloudy and rained a bit. It was as close as we could get to making the Minnesotans feel at home. You wouldn’t know the weather was so bad (relatively speaking) by listening to the show. Keillor told the audience that it was sunny.

The show was very entertaining. But, I experienced the same phenomenon that I do when listening to it on the radio. Just when you really start to get into it, its over. The music was good. Sort of dixieland style. There were two performers from Miami. Bianca Vallejo, an 11 year-old girl who sang a few Cuban songs in Spanish; “Guantanamera”, “Cuando Salí de Cuba”, and “Vacilon que Rico Cha Cha”. I’m not sure if “Guantanamera” is strictly a Cuban song; but it reminded me of that song “One Ton Tomato”.

The other Miami performer was Aymee Nuviola. She had her own band and Keillor kept referring to her as “Aymee Nuviola and her sister”. She did some more Spanish songs. There was a running joke that Garrison Keillor couldn’t pronounce her name. Once, when Keillor asked her help with pronouncing “Calle Ocho”, she responded “Aymee!”.

My favorite parts of the show are always “Guy Noir, Radio Private Eye” and “The News from Lake Wobegon”. They were both very funny at the show. However; the “News” stories were a bit stranger than usual. One of the stories about a woman who gets lost on the way back to Lake Wobegon from Phoenix leads you into the back woods with some kind of Ted Kaczynski character. You think he’s going to kill her or worse and suddenly, he tells her to follow her dreams to Florida, and then it ends. I guess he did the “or worse” part.

You can listen to the whole show here: A Prairie Home Companion

A Pleasant Surprise

Thursday Feb 9, 2006

The MatadorI hadn’t seen any trailers for The Matador; but I caught a glimpse of the movie poster on the way out of another movie. I like Pierce Brosnan; especially in his non-James-Bond roles. The storyline about a hitman who realizes after years in the business that he has no real friends sounded interesting. He befriends a down-on-his-luck businessman played by Gred Kinnear. I was more than pleasantly surprised by this movie. This is Brosnan like you’ve never seen him before. And IT’S REFRESHING!!! His character has the mouth of a sailor and no social skills at all. I loved it! Every time Brosnan said something crude, I felt euphoric. Sort of like catching your grandmother swearing.

This movie is one of my favorites of the last few years. No, it doesn’t deal with any lofty subjects like Middle -Eastern oil barons or racism in Los Angeles; but it does deal with something we can all relate to…life.

5 paws

Feel The Love

Friday Dec 30, 2005

The Family StoneA few weeks ago we saw the movie Family Stone. We both enjoyed it very much. The casting was very good. Even though I can’t stand Sarah Jessica Parker, I think she was perfect for the part of the uptight woman who accompanies her boyfriend to his family’s annual Christmas celebration. She reminds me quite a bit of someone I used to be married to.

The ensemble cast of Parker, Claire Daines, Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, and Luke Wilson are very believable as a slightly quirky family. I enjoyed every single one of them. OK, I enjoyed Rachel McAdams a little more than the others. To paraphrase something I said on my previous web site about Kate Beckinsale, I can watch Rachel McAdams doing nothing for two hours.

This movie is a good mix of comedy and serious moments. It goes in my list of “feel good” movies. A good movie for the holiday season. I recommend it.

4 paws

Rob Thomas in Concert

Friday Dec 30, 2005

Rob ThomasEarlier this month, Regine and I went to the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood to see Rob Thomas in concert. The show was phenomenal!!!

The opening act was Anna Nalick. During her set Rob descended from the ceiling suspended by a wire wearing an angel costume. That set the tone for the entire evening. Regine called it “A Night at the Improv”. Not only because of the stunts; but also for the music.

In addition to his high flying entrance there were a few other unplanned surprises. When the stage crew was supposed to bring out an electric piano for Rob to play, they actually brought out a Linus-sized piano and stool for him. After Rob’s fooling around and trying to play it, they brought out the real one. One of the highlights of the concert was when Rob and his drummer, Abe, switch roles. Rob played drums while Abe sang a song called Lopsided Lover. “…she stutters when she talks and walks with a limp, has 3 teeth and a lazy eye!!…” And, by the way, her name is Eileen.

The musical performance was great. It was very refreshing because there was lots of improvization and no effort to try to make the songs sound like they did on the albums. This shows true talent and versatility. There was good mix of songs from his first solo album Something To Be, his Target exclusive EP Something More, and plenty of Matchbox 20 songs. He also did a very good rendition of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance.

One of Rob’s songs that gives me pause whenever I hear it is 3 am. He wrote it about his mother having cancer when he was 12. Even though the song sounds a bit upbeat, it is very touching; especially if you know what it’s about. The version he did on the 2004 Songwriter’s Hall of Fame show was chilling. In concert, he did the song closer to the album version and gracefully transitioned into Steve Miller Band’s The Joker.

This concert was initially supposed to be back in October; but was rescheduled due to Hurricane Wilma. I’m glad they rescheduled it. It was one of the best concerts I’ve been to.

Brad Paisley in Concert

Friday Dec 30, 2005

I’ve been meaning to write this for over a month. Back in early November, Regine and I went to see Brad Paisley at the Germain Arena in Estero. Estero is right off of I-75 between Naples and Fort Myers. It consists of the Germain Arena, an outlet mall, an Outback Steakhouse, a McDonalds’ and a Publix. Thats It!

The opening act was Sugarland. They were good and kept the audience entertained. Not the usual “get on with the headliner” feeling of most concerts.

I hadn’t heard Brad Paisley’s latest album, Time Well Wasted, before going to this concert. I’d just been too busy to pick it up until about a week before the concert. I am very familiar with his previous album, Mud on the Tires.

The concert was great. Brad is a naturally talented entertainer, has a very likeable demeanor and great sense of humor. I wasn’t really into country music much before I was introduced to him. His music is so much fun to listen to and easy to identify with that I was hooked almost immediately. If you own only one country album, it should be Mud on the Tires.

The Spirit of Santa!?

Friday Dec 9, 2005

I got in line at CVS yesterday morning behind a thirty-something woman who was talking to the cashier about Christmas. She said that her 5 year old son came home from school and had the following conversation with her…

Little Boy: “Mommy, Johnny at school told me there was no such thing as Santa Claus.”

Mother: “Honey, there was a Santa Claus. He’s dead now. We celebrate his spirit at Christmas every year.”

Oh My God! All these years I thought we were celebrating Jesus Christ’s spirit every year at Christmas. I had to bite my lip really hard to keep from telling this woman that SHE was the problem with people nowadays. We can’t be expected to keep Christ in Christmas if we don’t understand what it’s all about ourselves.

Maybe we celebrate Santa’s spirit on Black Friday; but Christmas is about CHRIST !!!