Miguel @ The Strand

Miguel’s recent show at The Strand in Providence, RI marks my 3rd time seeing the R&B singer perform live since becoming obsessed with his music back in 2012. Every time I see him, I’m caught off guard by how guitar-driven and rock forward his live sound is compared to his records.

Listening back to his albums again as I have over the days since the show, Miguel’s rock influences definitely come through in songs like Arch & Point, The Thrill, and …goingtohell, but they're nowhere near as pronounced as they are in his live shows which, for example, feature a handful of what I can only describe as face-melting, Van Halen-style guitar solos. Even the way Miguel carries himself on stage more closely resembles the loose swagger of a rock performer than the tightly choreographed, dance-heavy performance style of more mainstream R&B acts like Bruno Mars or Chris Brown.

What’s remarkable about this to me is how well Miguel pulls it off. It shouldn’t work for an R&B/soul singer to essentially perform rock covers of his own songs, but it mostly does. Overall, I slightly prefer the more well-balanced sound of his albums, especially since parts of his show veer dangerously close to Lenny Kravitz territory (I like to describe Miguel as my generation’s Prince to the uninitiated, so I’d hate to see him ultimately remembered as my generation’s Lenny Kravitz). But at the same time, there’s something so exciting about an artist taking that kind of risk with their live performances, and what other artist in the industry can claim to be both an R&B recording artist and a full fledged rock star? I’m happy to let him have his cake and eat it too.

There Is More to Beer Than Hops

Don’t get me wrong—I love hoppy beers. In fact, most of the beers I’ve really fallen in love with over the past few years have been IPAs or DIPAs. But I find myself feeling increasingly frustrated by the fact that 90% of the beers on tap at 90% of the bars and breweries I visit are in the pale ale family.

Full disclosure: while I very much enjoy a good IPA (I’m drinking one right now), it is by no means my favorite style of beer—I’m a Belgian strong pale ale man all the way. But even if you’re a die-hard hop head, do you really need 8 different beers with essentially the same flavor profile to choose from at your local watering hole? (Answer: You don't.)

The problem with the American beer scene’s hop obsession isn’t just that it limits exposure to different styles of beer; for a lot of upstart breweries, it’s also led to a rejection of one of the most important qualities of any great brew: balance. So many breweries have become engaged in this weird IBU pissing contest, hopping the shit out of their beers to the point where hop bitterness is literally all you can taste. Some breweries have even bragged about brewing 1,000-2,000 IBU beers, despite the fact that we probably can’t even taste bitterness beyond a threshold of about 150 IBU. This is, needless to say, really fucking stupid.

Heady Topper, on the other hand, is a world-class DIPA, not because it has a billion IBUs, but because it achieves its intense hoppiness without sacrificing the other flavors that make a beer a beer, a testament to the fact that The Alchemist’s brewers actually know how to craft a well-balanced IPA instead of just hopping a beer to within an inch of its life and hoping for the best.

I recognize that this is ultimately about demand: beer culture is huge, beer geeks love hops, and producers are just giving the people what they want. But that’s true of any fad, and all fads fade out eventually. Here's hoping this one fades out soon.