Review: Sarah Jarosz at Hall River Ballroom

Once in a generation a voice comes along that is so pure that it goes in your ears, straight through your brain and to the bottom of your soul.

Sarah Jarosz is one such voice.

Sarah Jarosz Tickets

Several weeks ago I had the television tuned to our local PBS station, WUNC. They were showing episode 5 of the Transatlantic Sessions. We weren’t really paying attention, it was more like background noise, but then Sarah came on with her song “Annabelle Lee”. We just had to stop what we were doing and listen. Andrea was the first to comment on her voice.

I went out and bought her second album Follow Me Down which has that song and by the end of the day I owned everything of hers I could buy on-line. I also learned that her latest album Undercurrent would be coming out soon. In the process I saw that she was coming to perform locally at the Hall River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, NC, which is about 10 miles from the farm. A steal at $20 a ticket, we made plans to go.

I had never been to the Hall River Ballroom but I had heard good things. They were all true, but despite that I doubt I’ll go back. More on that in a rant later.

The show was sold out. There is a program on WUNC radio called “Back Porch Music” that focuses on American “roots” music. It has quite a following so my guess is that a lot of the people there learned about Jarosz and the concert from that show.

While crowded and hot, it wasn’t stifling, and I was pleasantly surprised at the acoustics in the Ballroom. They are excellent, and probably the best of any of the local music venues I’ve visited.

The opening act was Scott Miller.

Scott Miller

I had never heard of him before, but he did a good job of warming up the crowd. His music contained a lot of political commentary and I agreed with most of the sentiments. According to Wikipedia, he lives near Staunton, Virginia, which is really close to the farm of a friend of mine in nearby Stuarts Draft. It was pretty much just him and his guitar, and I need to find the time to check out more of his music.

Sarah Jarosz

Jarosz came on stage right at 9pm as part of a trio featuring Jedd Hughes on guitar (and backup vocals) and Jeff Picker on upright bass.

This band was tight.

The first pleasant surprise was that not only is Jarosz an amazing singer, she’s also an amazing musician. I saw her play five different instruments. Her main instrument was an octave mandolin, which looks like an eight string guitar, but she also played a standard mandolin, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and banjo. I was also very impressed with Hughes and Picker, especially since Hughes is a finger picker like me. I’ve never been able to flat pick since I can’t figure out how to “feel” the instrument to know where the pick is going, but with my fingers I know where the strings are supposed to be (although getting my fingers and the strings to get along is the challenge).

Speaking of playing guitar, I get teased by Andrea for the faces I make while playing, and Jarosz does it too when playing instrumental songs, although not as strangely as I do. I’m also teased for the time I spend tuning, so I had to laugh when she told a story about wishing that, on your deathbed, you get back all that time.

A lot of the songs were off her new album, which was to be expected, but she hit all of my favorites, including the aforementioned “Anabelle Lee” as well as “Run Away“.

I had been told that she was not going to do any covers, which was a shame since I started to fall in love with her music when she covered Dylan’s “Ring Them Bells“. It is one of my least favorite Dylan tunes, but in her hands it turns into something magical and uplifting. So the next pleasant surprise was that she did play it.

The set was long, about 90 minutes, and she managed a great flow which sometimes was just her and an instrument, or her and either Hughes or Picker, although for most of it they were a trio. There was a great little medley of Tim O’Brien instrumental songs with just bass and mandolin that really showed off their skills (Tim O’Brien tunes aren’t the easiest to play).

Toward the end of the show she mentioned they would be at the “merch booth” selling CDs and shirts, which reminded me of MC Frontalot’s song “Captains of Industry” (although if you click that link note that Front is a totally different genre of music). I had to fly out early the next morning so we didn’t stay around, but I do plan to buy any music the woman produces for the foreseeable future.

So, what went wrong?

It was the crowd, or namely a few specific members of the the crowd.

Seriously people, can we put away the phones for just a little bit? Okay, take a quick picture here and there, but damn it turn off the flash. When she came on stage it was like disco strobes had gone off. The flash ain’t gonna help.


But my strongest bile was reserved for drunk guy standing in front of me. He thought it was cool to record entire songs, the problem being that when he’s holding up his phone it makes it hard for everyone else to see, especially since the glow from the handset in a dark room is insanely distracting. To paraphrase Louis CK: she’s right there dude, in Super HD! Live in the moment!


After one such recording he disappeared, only to return with another beer. By this time he’s weaving, so I have to weave too in order to keep a sight line to the stage. Then at the end of the song he shouted out a song title. Oh no! It’s Song Title Shouting Guy! I’m kind of glad that firearms were prohibited, or I might not be able to write this right now.

Luckily he saw some other guy who was by himself enjoying the show so he stumbled over to bother him for a change. Look, I know I’m old and maybe I’m too old for General Admission shows, but damn it I can’t handle the “mobile phones at shows” phenomenon. Back in the day we brought lighters (and, back in the day, some folks brought stuff to light) and that was about it. It’s one of the reasons I don’t go to movies much any more. Yeah, I know, you kids get off my lawn, but still, it ruined what could have been a perfect evening.

I don’t expect Jarosz to be playing places like the Hall River Ballroom in the future. When more people learn about her I think it will be too small, and I expect her career to match if not surpass people like Alison Krauss. But if she does I might just have to brave the mobile phone unwashed masses again, and perhaps they can swing by the farm afterward for some bourbon and branch.

Review: Kurios by Cirque du Soleil

I love Cirque du Soleil. I’ve seen more Cirque shows that I can accurately remember. This weekend I saw Kurios in Atlanta and it is my new favorite.

It is hard to beat Alegria, the first live Cirque performance I ever saw. Andrea and I were living in Santa Rosa, California, and we drove down to San Francisco to see the American premiere of the show. As we were sitting there, we were overcome with a sense of joy and wonder that we had not experienced since we were children, and we later identified the emotion as “delight”. It’s the delight of a young child on Christmas morning, and it comes all too rarely in our adult lives.

Now, I am not saying that Kurios is the best Cirque show ever created. First, I haven’t seen them all, and second, there are individual acts, like the Balance Goddess in Amaluna, that I liked more than any single act in Kurios, but the show taken as a whole was really, really strong.

I want to state that I am not a Cirque “fan boy”. I don’t see everything they produce nor do I think everything they do is golden. When a new show is announced we look at the description, and sometimes a show comes near to us that doesn’t seem that interesting. However, when I learned that this show was to be “steampunk” Cirque, I was in from the start.

It is hard for me to accurately define steampunk. According to Wikipedia it is a subgenre of science fiction, but outside of books it tends to reflect a sense of fascination and wonder often identified with the late Victorian era. It can appeal to certain people involved with technology since that world is becoming more and more virtual (you can almost live in virtual worlds accessed via your “phone” where you interact with your virtual friends and have virtual relationships) and in contrast steampunk is very physical. Before electricity became easily available, most motive energy was derived from steam, which resulted in a very mechanical aesthetic. Think clockwork gears, brass and struts, such as this steampunk keyboard.

Or, if you need another example, just check out the Kurios set:

The stage is circular, like most Cirque shows, although this one had a small raised area along the edge that would often host a number of odd devices and people that would travel along its track. In the back were two large clockwork towers, and as the show started the center stage was dominated by a large chair with various devices hanging off of it. Like the shows I’ve seen before, it would start off with various characters wandering through the audience. One was a mystical turbaned man with a large sphere sticking out of the turban. Various images were projected on the sphere and occasionally he would stop in front of an audience member, touch his temple and the images would change as if he was seeing the person’s future or dreams.

The first main character we are introduced to is the Seeker – a man with white, unkempt hair in a lab coat. He wandered around the set playing with the various devices, and he was assisted by a number of clockwork “kurios” would would help clean the lab, ride a bicycle to generate power, etc. Cirque shows usually start off this way to allow for stragglers to get to their seats. Another Cirque tradition is a clown in the role of Master of Ceremonies, this time played by Facundo Gimenez channeling a half-Italian, half-Spanish character who goes through the usual introduction involving exits, phones and the prohibition against photography.

The show kicks off properly by a parade by the band and the introduction of a whole group of characters, all in period dress. I liked the music in Kurios more than the last few performances I’ve seen and I loved how they integrated it into the show – in the main opening number the percussionists use a table, themselves and pretty much everything else as instruments.

We also get to meet the other main characters. There is Nico the Accordion Man whose clothing contains hundreds of folds that can make him look tall or short. Klara wears a metallic hoop skirt that acts as an antenna so that she can receive invisible signals. The most imposing character is Mr. Microcosmos, whose body is made up of a huge sphere that looks like a Bathysphere used for exploring the sea, although he also appears in the opening number as the front of a large train that expels many other members of the cast. It is out of this sphere that one of the best surprises of all pops out: Mini Lili is played by Antanina Satsura is 3.2 feet tall and weight 39 pounds. She is a perfectly proportioned little person who provides a counterpoint to the size of Mr. Microcosmos. At one point Mr. Microcosmos is on stage in a much larger device that opens up to reveal Mini Lili’s parlour, complete with wingback chair and chandelier, where she sits making a phone call.

What I loved about Kurios was this level of detail. They really carry the theme throughout the show. Outside of the Bathysphere, there are a lot of references to sea life. There is a contortion act done on the back of a huge mechanical hand where the performers wear these sea-life inspired costumes that work really well in the piece, and the second half opens with a trampoline aerial performance that also invokes the sea in the form of jumping fish. It didn’t take me long to find a scholarly reference that the Victorians were very much interested in things like sea life, as this was the first time that the technology existed to start exploring that part of our planet.

Which brings me to the only miss of the night: the invisible circus. A large round elevated stage is rolled out to the front and the clown played by Gimenez describes various acts being performed by “invisible” players, including a man riding a unicycle on a high wire, a lion taming act and even a high dive into a pool filled with three inches of water. Like a mechanical flea circus, you see various things move and even see the splash when the invisible diver lands, but I found the whole act strained and not funny.

I was so jaded by the bit that when Gimenez led a woman from the audience on stage for a mime performance I was ready for the same uncomfortable feeling. The act was him pretending to be on a date, and in the set up you understand he has both a bird and a cat as pets. He answers the “door” and leads her to a couch where he mimes some of the hesitation that can come from a first date. To alleviate this he goes off in search of drinks, but then reappears as the bird. The lady from the audience did a great job of playing along and I was starting to warm to the bit, when the bird is eaten by the cat (also played by Després) who then hops up on the couch to investigate the lady.

As a cat owner, what followed was one of the most talented and hilarious pantomimes of the behavior of a cat I’ve ever seen. I was crying I was laughing so hard. Thus, all is forgiven.

I’m not going to go through and describe all of the acts as a) I didn’t take notes and b) you can find it elsewhere, but what makes this my favorite show was how well it all integrated into the theme. It was like they took it to the next level. For example, most Cirque shows have a hand-balancing act. The performer comes out and slowly builds a tower on which they will do various feats of balancing. This one started out as a dinner party hosted by Klara and attended by some of the other characters, including the turbaned mystic from the beginning of the show. At one point he levitates a candelabra, but it won’t come down. So another guest starts stacking chairs to get high enough to retrieve it.

As the tower gets higher and higher, the lights go on in the catwalk above the stage where a duplicate dinner party is revealed, only this one is upside down. They too build a tower but this one heads down toward the stage. While the hand-balancing act was entertaining on its own, it was this extra level of theatricality that made me love this show.

My overall favorite act was one called Rola Bola. A man in a aviator’s costume comes out and does a balancing act on a small platform on top of a ball. Good, but I’d seen that before. Then he builds up a small stack of acrylic cylinders and boards, and he separates them with a smaller metallic cylinder on its side. Again, I had seen something like that before. It wasn’t until he added a second metallic cylinder, perpendicular to the first, that I started to think “wow”. Now there are at least two axes of motion, and when the whole thing was raised into the air I knew I was in for something special.

Not only did he balance on this contraption, he took of his jacket and contorted metal loops around his body, all while remaining balanced. He ended that part of the act by rotating the whole thing 360 degrees. Truly impressive.

He followed that up by adding a third metal cylinder and another stack of objects that at this point was so high he had to use a little pole to get on top of it. Once again elevated, he was able to remain balanced with these three plus axes of motion, although there was little room left for acrobatics.

Is Kurios perfect? No, I saw a few mistakes at Saturday night’s Atlanta show and the invisible circus bit really could be dropped, but overall it is one of the the strongest Cirque shows in recent memory and I might even have to see it again.

It’s in Atlanta until the beginning of May, when it moves on to Boston, DC. New York and Miami. If you can make I highly recommend you get a ticket. You won’t be disappointed.

Review: Netgear Arlo Wireless Camera

I live on a 22 acre horse farm ten miles from the nearest gas station. Being so remote, I like to have cameras set up so that I can monitor what’s going on.

While finding indoor cameras is pretty simple, I am always on the lookout for good outdoor cameras. Due to issues with running wires, the more self-contained a camera is, the better it will fit my needs. One popular brand of outdoor camera is Foscam, but even their wireless units come with a honkin’ huge plug that supports an RJ-45 wired connection. Trying to mount that on the house can be a pain. I had to drill a 1.25 inch hole in the eave just to slide the connector through and then plug it with a piece of dowel rod.

When I listened to Jeremy Garcia review the Netgear Arlo on Bad Voltage, it seemed to be just the camera I needed. Totally wireless, most of the space in the tiny camera is used to contain four CR123 lithium batteries. The camera talks to a base station that handles all of the heavy lifting.

I use an application that runs on my Synology system called “Surveillance Station” to manage my cameras and a quick Google search turned up an article on a site called WCCFTech by a guy named Ali Naqi, who wrote:

Surveillance station is truly incredible and does not require any additional resources in terms of a dedicated PVR for recording from wired cameras. We used NETGEAR’S Arlo webcams to test the Surveillance Station – which can run up to 30 frames per second at 720p maximum currently. The Arlo is one of the best surveillance camera being completely portable unlike most cameras and weatherproof. Exceptional but we would love Surveillance Station to start supporting 1080p as soon as possible.

As Stuart Langridge would say, what a load of bollocks. It seems apparent that WCCFTech is a site just designed to generate ad revenue, and I’m pretty certain “Ali Naqi” doesn’t even exist. I should have read through the comments, where a number of people point out that the Arlo doesn’t work with the Surveillance Station.

Which is a shame.

Based on that article, I added the Arlo to my Amazon wishlist and my sister bought it for my birthday. I just got time to play with it this weekend (we’re snowed in here in North Carolina).

Once I managed to free it from its package, the setup was straightforward. The base station is about the size of a home network router, and you plug that in to the wall and wire it to your network with the included RJ-45 cable. You then log into and set up an account.

The next step is to load the batteries into the camera, and once done you press the “sync” button on the base station and then the “sync” button on the camera. If all goes well, you will see video on the web page.

And that’s the problem.

Look, I read 1984 many years before 1984 and I have no desire to have video from my house going God knows where on the Internet. Did I mention I live on a farm? Where I can’t see my neighbors? Which means I might wander out and about in various states of undress? Trust me, no one wants to see that, and I sure as hell don’t want it recorded on some server I can’t control.

And lack of control is central to the Arlo. I couldn’t even find a way to change or determine the IP address of the base station to see if it was hackable. Now I’m certain I could have figured it out by looking at the DHCP logs on my router, but I didn’t see a way to turn off the uploading of video even if I could have gotten it to work with my system. Even if I wanted to send video to strangers, my DSL connection has crappy upstream speed and we’re not getting better broadband out here any time soon.

On an up note, I was hit over the head with the fact that the Arlo does contain GPL’d code. There is a prominent link on the setup screen:

and clicking on it gets you a pop up that displays the GPL.

There wasn’t any link to actually download the code or a description of what code was covered by the GPL, but perhaps someone with more talent and free time than I have will find a way to open this device up.

Because, it is really cute. It’s tiny, and the mounting mechanism is ingenious. There is a strong magnet on the back of the camera and it ships with a spherical mount that would let you place the camera pretty much anywhere. To reposition it, just pull it off and move it. Of course, this means almost anyone could walk by and pull it off, so you’d want to mount it in a hard to reach location.

But for now it’s on its way back to Amazon. I did find it funny that Amazon sends along a whole bunch of “Warning: Lithium Battery” labels for the box.

It’s funny because they certainly weren’t there on the box in which it was shipped to me.

Sorry that there isn’t more of a review, but I am not one of those people who can exchange convenience for privacy (or freedom), and at a price north of US$160 it’s too expensive to play with. I’m looking at the D-Link DCS-2330L as a replacement, and if I decide to get one I’ll post a review here.

Review: Logitech K380 Bluetooth Keyboard

I have an older Mac Mini hooked up to my television. For the most part it just serves up the content from my weather station, but every so often I need to use a browser or other application that is most easily done on the computer.

I used to have an Apple bluetooth keyboard, but even though I had removed one of the AA batteries, the other decided to leak all over the inside of the device so I threw it out. Needing a new keyboard, I found the Logitech K380:

It’s inexpensive, light and what I like most about it is its ability to connect to up to three devices. Pairing is a cinch – just press and hold the number you wish to assign to the device and it will show up to be discovered. Your device will prompt you to type a series of numbers into the keyboard, and if you do it right you’ll be connected.

Easy peasy.

So now I have the Mini, a tablet and my phone all paired and when I need a keyboard it’s always ready. I’m not sure I’d want to use it as my main keyboard (I use a mechanical one from Code) but at half the price of the Apple one it does the job nicely.

Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

First, let me state that I am an unabashed Joss Whedon fan. From Angel to Buffy, Cabin in the Woods to Dollhouse, and of course Firefly, I pretty much watch anything he creates.

I was on a business trip in Canada when the first Avengers movie came out, and we went to a midnight show the morning it opened. Since I was on another business trip, this time to Chicago, when Age of Ultron came out, I decided to do the same.

I didn’t really care for it.

Now before all the haters come out, I’m glad I saw the film and don’t feel that it wasted several hours of my life (unlike some movies) but I was disappointed.

What follows is why, and warning, spoilers a’plenty. It’s funny, when I review a movie I like it is easy to describe it with few spoilers, but in giving a slightly negative review to something with such a fan base I feel compelled to defend my view with examples.

Here, I’ll add some carriage returns so you can still look away. Last chance.


Okay, the movie starts out with our heroes raiding a Hydra base looking for Loki’s scepter. So far so good, although I can’t really remember when the scepter got lost but I went with it. Things seem to be going our team’s way until two mutants, erm, excuse me “enhanced humans”, named Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch join the fray. While the Avengers are ultimately successful in retrieving the scepter, the Scarlet Witch plants a vision into Tony Stark’s brain that he would be responsible for the death of his companions, and by extension, the world.

Liked that part, so I’m pretty jazzed.

Next, we’re back at Avenger HQ and Tony’s vision still haunts him. He has been working on project “Ultron” which would create a global defense system that will render the Avengers unnecessary, and all he lacks is the AI to animate it. In experimenting on Loki’s scepter, he and Bruce Banner discover that there is an AI in the gem. When they attempt to use it to complete the Ultron project, they unleash the intelligence who is now intent on destroying Stark and the rest of the world’s humans.

Here’s where I start to lose it. Let me state for the record that I am a huge fan of James Spader and I loved they way he brought Ultron to life. But I had a really hard time understanding why Ultron would immediately develop such a hatred for Tony Stark. There was almost no creator/creation interaction, and there was a lot of focus on Tony’s offhand comment “Peace in our time” (which I took as sarcastic WWII reference). Anyway, the monster is alive, angry, and after confronting the Avengers, he escapes (his consciousness can travel via the Internet).

And it went downhill from there.

The rest of the movie is pretty much the Avengers chasing Ultron around. Ultron builds himself a new, coolio body (which was much more expressive than I was expecting – I was thinking it would be more like V in V for Vendetta) as well as an army of robot soldiers he controls. He also goes to collect the remaining world’s supply of vibranium (the metal used in Captain America’s shield) and the Avengers attempt to stop him. This results in the Scarlet Witch putting the whammy on the Hulk and Stark has to don “Veronica” – a Hulk-busting suit – to subdue him. Ultron escapes with the metal and the Avengers are blame for the resulting destruction.

Okay, the suit was cool and I can still hear the line “go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep” but it really didn’t advance the plot much.

The Avengers retreat to Hawkeye’s house in the country, where we find out he has a family, and there is a period of “character building”. I almost fell asleep at this point, although that probably had as much to do with the reclining chairs at the AMC 600 as the movie (really nice theatre). Yes, I know that super hero movies can’t be all fight scenes and gadgets, but I found myself not caring by this point.

Now, the coolest thing, to me, about the movie was the introduction of another infinity stone. See, Ultron wants a more realistic (i.e. non-mechanical) body and he is using tech to build one. While it is growing in a capsule-like thing, he cracks open the gem in Loki’s scepter to reveal a smaller yellow gem, which he places on the new body’s forehead. Once the body is ready he plans to upload his consciousness into it. He must know the gem is powerful.

One of my all time favorite movies is Guardians of the Galaxy. As it was mentioned in that film, there are six powerful infinity stones in existence. The purple one is featured in that movie, and the Tesseract from the Thor films is the blue one. Now we see the yellow one, setting the stage for the upcoming Infinity War when Thanos attempts to collect all six.

Now, that is cool.

Anyway, Ultron is interrupted by the Avengers before he can complete the transference into the new body, and they make off with the capsule. Stark then puts J.A.R.V.I.S, an AI, into the body and there is a big fight scene between the Avengers as they attempt to decide if this is a good idea or not. Thor settles it by smashing the capsule holding the body with his hammer, and the resulting lightning (“It’s Alive!”) causes it to awake. The new entity is called “Vision” and features the infinity stone on its forehead.

Then the film heads toward the inevitable climax, which was pretty much the same as the end of the first Avengers movie. The team (now augmented by Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch who have switched sides) swat a bunch of flying things out of the air. Ultron and Vision fight (à la Loki and Hulk), and eventually Tony Stark flies into a glowing hole and sets off an explosion.


I know this movie wasn’t easy to make. You are dealing with a huge cast of characters, many of whom have their own entire franchises and many who could, and you have to cram a lot of plot development into less than three hours. I wish there was more reason for Ultron’s hatred and more interaction between him and his creator. I wish there was less sitting around the farm and more humor. And I wish the ending wasn’t so derivative of the first movie.

So I didn’t really care for it and I probably could have waited until it came out on Blu-ray.

Before all the flaming starts, please understand that it’s okay if you liked it. In fact, I hope you did – it doesn’t not make you a bad person. It just wasn’t to my taste.

I am, however, now very eager to see the Infinity War. I love Thanos as a villain and the whole infinity stones back story is cool. Thor mentions that four infinity stones have surfaced, but I don’t know where the green one appears. Perhaps an upcoming movie? Guess we’ll find out.

[UPDATE: Ken Kennedy pointed out that the fourth “red” stone was in Thor: The Dark World. Don’t know where I got that is was the green stone in my head, and while I saw that movie it must have slipped my mind.]

Review: The Lamps Plus Saga

Okay, I debated a bit about posting this. There are too many people who would identify this story as a customer service “nightmare”. This isn’t a nightmare – it’s a first world problem that is a bit frustrating. Not being able to find food or shelter – that’s a nightmare. This is just a pain.

The story starts last fall. I was having some people over for a holiday party and I finally decided that I needed to replace some lamp shades that got busted in the move out to the farm – fifteen years ago. They weren’t that damaged when we moved in, but after having a number of kittens over the years all it takes is one small defect to interest them, and then, bam, that’s it.

As is my habit, I got on-line and did a search for lamp shades and found Lamps Plus ( It was a good website and I was able to narrow the choices down to exactly what I was looking for, and with relatively little hassle I got some quality lamp shades. The only real problem was that the tracking number I got in the e-mail kept showing as invalid, and I was worried that they wouldn’t show up in time. They did and all was well.

Fast forward a few weeks. Where the “first world problems” angle comes in is that we have access to a cottage near the coast of North Carolina. The only issue is that it needs some furniture and my wife, who is particular about such things, could never find furniture she liked. That is until Lamps Plus sent us a catalog with this picture in it:

She thought that room would go perfect in the cottage and I agreed. Thus started the current saga.

I was going to place my order on-line, but I could not find the white armchair in the foreground listed. Plus, I had the additional need that anything heavy needed to be shipped to the coast (three hours away) but anything shipped FedEx should come to the farm.

I got in touch with a sales agent (I should point out that all the sales agents I’ve spoken to have been friendly and courteous), explained my situation, and ended up placing three orders.

The first was for the little teal side table, the coffee table and a television stand (not in the picture). Those would come FedEx so I had them sent to the office where we have a full time shipping department in the building.

The second was for the sofa and the teal console (seen in the back right of the picture). Those would come freight. I stressed that I needed them to be shipped together, since I would have limited time to get down to the coast (it’s at least a six hour round trip) and she said they should since they were both in stock.

The third was for two of the armchairs. She told me that they would be back in stock in March and I was so excited I ordered two of them.

So far, so good.

For my job I have to travel a lot. This week I was in San Francisco when the three items from the first order arrived, and on the morning I was leaving I get a call from the shipper that the console had arrived. When I asked about the couch, they didn’t know anything, so I called back to Lamps Plus and was informed that the sofa wouldn’t ship until March 2nd.


I spent about an hour going back and forth between Lamps Plus and the shipping company looking for options. I have a completely booked schedule for the next week and going to the beach was going to be a huge inconvenience. I asked the shipping company if they could hold the console until the sofa arrived, and they said yes but they would charge a $48/day storage fee. I asked Lamps Plus if I could just refuse delivery so it would be returned to them and they could ship it with the sofa, and they said “no” and if I did there would be another fee. If I had the shipper send it to my house instead of the coast, the fee was going to be more than the cost of the console.


I had no choice but to decide to go to the coast and get the console. Of course the shipper was as helpful as Comcast with “we’ll be there between 11am and 4pm”. My plan was to return back to North Carolina Thursday night, drive to the office and put the boxes from the first order in the car, and then get up early Friday and drive to the coast in order to meet the delivery truck.

Operating on little sleep, I made it to the coast just before 11am and started unpacking. The little teal side table was fine, but it turned out the TV stand had been damaged in shipment. There was no exterior damage but something had poked through the back panel of the stand:

You can’t really see it from the front and the last thing I wanted to do was to have to pack the whole thing up again (you can’t imagine the amount of gauze, Styrofoam, tape and cardboard they wrap around these things) so Andrea suggested I just ask them if they would discount for the damage.

Also, after unpacking everything, I realized that we really didn’t have room for both chairs I had ordered, so I called Lamps Plus back with the goal of asking about the discount and reducing my chair order from two to one.

I was connected to Jackie, who has been a real soldier throughout all of this. She was able to put in the order change and then she just asked me if I could send in pictures of the damaged TV stand. She also helped me change the address for the sofa delivery. I’ll have it sent to the farm and worry about getting it to the coast on my own, because there is a good chance it will show up at a time when I can’t make it down there and I can’t afford ~$50/day in storage fees.

I sent in pictures of the damaged stand, and by this time it was about 1pm. I called the shipping company for a status and they estimated that the truck would be arriving around 2:30pm, so I went out and grabbed some Chinese takeaway and came back to find an e-mail from Lamps Plus canceling the entire order for the chairs.


I got back into the phone queue for Lamps Plus and actually ended up back with Jackie. She was frustrated about the order cancellation (she had specifically noted to only delete the one) and said she’d fix it.

The rest of the day went pretty smoothly. The console arrived without damage and, on orders from Andrea, I took lots of pictures of the furniture (her career is insanely busy at this time of year so she couldn’t join me) and headed home.

Later that day I got an e-mail offering $50 for the damaged TV stand (cool) and another one correcting my order to just the one armchair.

I thought everything was cool until I started showing Andrea the pictures. When I got to this one, she was like “what’s that?”

I had not noticed that they sent to us a brown coffee table instead of a white one, which was key to the look of the room.


So I wrote back to Jackie and asked what my options were. The best scenario I can think of would be to order a second coffee table. When that arrives, I will carefully unpack it and place the brown one in the box for a return. That’s the best I can hope for and I can think of a lot of other things that can go wrong, especially since I still have a sofa and a chair to get. As I sent that late on Friday I have not heard back as I write this.

I buy most of the things I need, outside of food, on-line. I am a huge fan of Amazon because they have insanely good customer service. I am comfortable dealing with issues, but I’ve been spoiled. I’m not sure what is up with Lamps Plus, but I think it may be one of those cases where they have taken on more things than they can handle. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it is incredibly easy to buy lamp shades from them, but furniture is a totally different matter.

But the true measure of a company is how things are handled when things go wrong, and the jury is still out on Lamps Plus. I’ll update this post as the saga continues, and I hope it gets indexed by Google so that people searching for “Lamps Plus” and “furniture” and “problems” will have at least one data point to go on.

I just know that at this moment what was once a good vendor/consumer relationship has been soured, and I’ll be hesitant to order from them in the future.