I love making lists, and I love music even more, so here are some possible amazing concert lineups in a COVID-free world. I’m swooning inside as I compile this.
Ondara opens up the show with “Saying Goodbye” and “Shower Song,” among others — perhaps his haunting cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Patty Griffin has a special performance. (Somehow I only heard of her this spring, and oh the sweet sadness — “Mary,” “Not Alone,” “Rain“!) Finally, Jason Isbell performs for an hour since he is THE best songwriter I’ve ever heard.
Kenyan Music Festival:
Tetu Shani, Wanja Wohoro, and Ciano Maimba will have an afternoon set with a slower vibe before the festivities get started. (Wanja will play “Roots” and some other songs off her incredible album ‘Matriarch’ as well as “Count to Ten,” giving a nod to The RATA Project.) The Men of Soul might perform as well, to be decided.
Barbara Wangui won’t officially perform but will attend, and I’ll run into her, and then we’ll become friends and sing together between sets, which will turn into a spontaneous jam session with the aforementioned artists after their sets.
Blinky Bill will DJ in the morning and between the afternoon and evening sessions, keeping the vibe up.
Mayonde will be around to sing “Chemistry” with Tetu in the afternoon and join the Kagwe crew for a short set of my favorites to kick off the evening. (Cue Fena Gitu, Blinky Bill, and MDQ with “Kama Kawaida,” “Party Nation,” maybe a few other collabos.) Fena will do her own set next, and H_art the Band will headline with a few classics like “Uliza Kiatu” and “Nikikutazama” and some hits from their 2019 album ‘Made In the Streets.’ Because I’ve requested it and they are feeling spontaneous, they’ll also do the underrated song “Papaya Family” off that album. However, they will also introduce their new EP, which will released two days from this post! And Bensoul will of course join them for a song or two, because he and H_art the Band are besties.
Miranda Lambert opens with “The House that Built Me” (from 2010, but we’ll count it). Dixie Chicks, or The Chicks now, play a short set with “Wide Open Spaces” and “Cowboy Take Me Away” — not their latest, rebranded work. Shania Twain deserves to be there if we’re going to say it’s a 90s concert, but Tim McGraw headlines. “Something Like That” is a must, of course.
I’d be happy with many others there too since I grew up on country music, so comment below with suggestions. What would you think about Keith Urban popping in for a mini set to do “‘Til Summer Comes Around” and “You Look Good in My Shirt“?
Fun fact: LeAnn Rimes was 13 when she first topped the charts! Did you know that?!
The High Kings. They stand alone. I attended one concert while still writing for the former Rhythm Reload Mag, and it was the second best night of my life, the first best being the one when I sang “Chemistry” with Tetu Shani himself. I’d go again if the pandemic would kindly stop and allow The High Kings to return to my city!
Sleeping at Last could also do a solo concert for approximately three hours, including “Saturn” and “Six.” (Shoutout to the enneagram.) It would be the most peaceful evening! Definitely a So Far Sounds kind of deal.
Current Favorite FM Radio Stations:
99.5 This is a country station, the only one available in Chicago. I grew up on Country 92.5 in Connecticut, the only one available there, and especially enjoy listening to this genre while driving around.
101.1 Alt rock is great for releasing — or indulging! — angst. This is a more recent find that I quite enjoy. I believe the alt rock station is 104.1 in Connecticut, unless it’s changed frequencies in the past eight years.
97.9 This K-LOVE station is my third choice in times when I want to feel uplifted or where I may flit when the country station plays commercials if the alt rock station isn’t dishing up something I like. It’s not my number one go-to and isn’t something I can sustain for long, since I’m not a fan of most pop and CCM, but it can be peaceful at times.
Brief, funny story from 2019:
One day while chilling in our Nairobi apartment, Leon asked me to voice some lo-fi rap for a song he was writing. Me. He asked me, so I tried, because that’s what friends do. However, he proceeded to tell me that I sounded “too white.” 😂 What else did he expect from a mzungu who led a Celtic storytelling through songwriting workshop that same week?!
In terms of radio, this list of top FM stations switches up when it’s publicly considered Christmas season. Christmas always ranks at the top.
There’s also a station that plays Afropop (cue uncontrollable smiling), but it’s only available in certain parts of the Northside and isn’t accessible in my neighborhood. I rejoiced the night I discovered it, though, and considered proposing my own radio show with them but ultimately didn’t have time. I believe that same station also played a Celtic folk hour one Sunday when I was driving, and that was also enchanting. If I lived closer, this station would rank first or second!
Bands I Wish Hadn’t Broken Up:
FM Static. I’ve attempted to model my life after many of their songs.
Wild Apple. I miss Wild Apple. Their music is spread out, some on YouTube, some on Spotify. “In Alcohol,” a dangerously sorrowful piano ballad, is only available on Soundcloud. I recommend The Universe Series in particular and encourage you to check out the late RATA Project, which they ran, for connections to additional Kenyan artists on their journey up to fame. Befriending Fred and Leon from RATA brought so much joy into my life, so I’m grateful both for their music and presence in my life even though I miss their music.
I wish Children 18:3 hadn’t stopped recording either. Their lyrics were incredible.
Best Real Life Concert Experience:
Skillet, hands down. They were my first concert experience in fifth grade, thanks to my childhood best friend. I’ve seen them perform in stadiums and open fields, with amazing fire displays and light shows, and I was a hardcore panhead for years.
I’m not a fan of lead singer Jon Cooper as a person right now due to his loud opposition to “the Christian Left,” and in my opinion, the band’s peak was really in the late 2000s. While I can’t call myself a panhead anymore, Skillet was stellar when I was growing up, and I imagine their concerts are still pretty decent.
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