Nov 20, 2016

SURPRISE! NOT! GlamTrumpsters

For anyone else who has witnessed Adam Lambert fans who voted for Trump, I am sorry if they caught you by surprise.  You definitely have not read any of my blogs over the past six years about that part of the fanbase.  I'm not being smug or stroking my ego, I'm just telling it like it is.

I first noticed the homophobia when Adam stepped on to a public stage as an Idol finalist at the Today Show in NYC.  A small group of very adorable lesbians were told by security to put their signs supporting Adam's sexuality and the gay community away as "it would upset other fans and those of Kris Allen's were also in attendance as he was performing too.

As time went on, either at the shows I went to or in YouTube videos I noticed more and more women believing that his sexual shennanigans were aimed at them.  There were many who clearly had no idea what homosexual means.  Many of them had never, knowlingly, been around an LGBTQ person in their lives.  As their homophobia became clearer and clearer I got angrier and angrier.  I earned my "fag hag" title at the age of 19 years old.  I have supported the community from that day forward.  When my homophobic ex moved out to the house it was like a cool breeze blew through and we could all breath again.  My kids are both arts majors, one of them went to an arts high school so the LGBTQ community is also an integral part of their lives.

It all came to a head in December 2012 when I had press for the Cyndi Lauper True Colors benefit. Just waiting for the doors to open I watched Glamberts cringe being in the proximity of gay men, drag queens and all manner of lesbians.  Me?  I struck up a conversation with a pair of skater girls who were fellow pop punk rock fans.  As the show progressed, far too many glittered glamberts thought that the best time to take a bathroom break or go get another drink was during Hunter Valentine's set.   Too bad because the all lesbian band, that touts multiple members of the origina "The L Word" cast were amazing and Cyndi came out and sang in on their second song.  I would learn later that those Adam-fans with the very large bank accounts who had seats in the forward Orchestra section made great fools of themselves with Andy Cohen.  When the show was over, as an earlier conversation with the straight couple sitting next to me who were from the same part of CT as myself made me believe they cared about helping LGBTQ street kids (she had bragged how she had won most of the tickets she ever got for Adam's shows through charitable donations), I offered information about a couple of local CT charities I contribute to.  They both looked at me as if two more heads had just popped out of my neck.  All the way to the subway station I listened to other attendees complaining about the behavior of Adam's fans.  I stayed quietly in the shadows.

American Idol grew a following of middle-American over-40 viewers during it's tenure.  Yes, it was originally targeted to the 14-18 crowd but especially high schoolers stopped parking in front of the TV for 2 hours, 2 nights of every week to watch and vote very early on.  They had homework, jobs, boy/girl friends, the internet.  So the audience became the parents...mainly mothers, of these kids some of whom forced their younger offspring to watch with them.  This is why when I went to a David Cook show (had gotten deeply discounted tickets and thought it'd be fun-not!) the audience was cougars, 8-11 year olds and a few housewives well over 50 in pull-on polyester pants and billowy Wal-Mart tops with their tubby hubbies in tow.  People can spout all the conspiracy theories they want on why Adam did not win Season 8 but the truth is...when it came down to it, Idol voters felt safer with Kris Allen.  It was fun to keep the big, flamboyant, gay peacock in the running but they couldn't deal with him strutting his stuff after the AI tour was over.  The WGWTG was far less controversial.  The same thing happened with other LGBTQ artists not only just on American Idol but on The Voice and AGT.

In the years that have followed there are those women who have continued to dress ridiculously and spray glitter all over themselves to come out an be a pubic embarrassment for not only Adam's shows but for other artists he has supported.  They have deluded themselves that they are accepted at gay clubs and drag shows and and every place else they show up looking and acting like fools.  Underneath that glitter and lame exterior are still the same bigoted high school bimbos from the red states where they grew up laughing when their jock boyfriends stuffed the nerdy, geeky kids into lockers, knocked their books on the floor and otherwise intimidated kids who they deemed "less than"  Of course these women are Trumpsters.  Trump is just another one of the bullies that were in their cliques.

So not going to say "I told you so". But hopefully you are now a little more enlightened.

Jun 19, 2016

The Most Important Words

About a year and half ago, I made decision to hang up my press badge.  Over those years I wrote a lot of words, told a lot of stories and did far too much proof-reading and worrying about grammar.  For the most part I did all of it for free.  It was all those things that killed my passion for writing.  However, nothing can kill my love for great music and the artists who make it.

The past three days I spent with bands who were part of some of the best moments of the last ten years for me.  At almost 60 years old, I took two trips to Manhattan.  My head hit the pillow around 2 a.m. on Friday morning and this morning.  Last night I spent with the person who opened this window again in my life.  Thursday night I spent with the band that first caught my attention thanks to that person.  These shows were wonderful, fun and bittersweet.

I don't care any more if anyone reads the words that I write.  I don't care if my punctuation is wrong or there are other type-o's.  These are words from my heart.  They are about people who hold very special pieces of that heart.

Let me start with the 10th Anniversary of the Decomposer album with The Matches last night.  The last time I saw Sean Harris he sported a bit of a "Flock of Seagulls" hair-do and a bowler derby.  I was more than a little bit of a fan girl because I got to shake his hand that night and provide him with a much needed Sharpie.  I met Jon that night too.  It was a Toad's.  It was the third time I had seen them live.  Such great performers with this really unique sound.  Nobody else's music was even similar.  Last night, Harris's voice still making the songs what they are but with much longer hair and an Amish hat.  The whole band was on high octane.  Great show in a great venue.  Everyone dancing, singing.  The air was filled with positive energy.  Only downside was that the show was not sold out.  That's not to say there was not a big crowd and all of them happy to see The Matches again after almost a 5 year disappearance off the radar.  Let's hope they will be back again sooner next time.

Thursday night was the major show for me though.  Somewhere between 2005-2007 I saw my first Motion City Soundtrack music video on Fuse.  I think it was "Everything Is Alright" but it could have been "LGFUAD".  Whatever it was, the song had me tapping a toe and laughing.  It didn't take long to start looking up their discography at that point in their history.  Quickly I fell in love with their songs.  It was July of 2006 I saw them live for the first time at Warped Tour in Long Island.  That sealed my adoration.  I also learned at that performance that Justin had seen all three (at that time) of the Harry Potter movies but hadn't read the books.  Just shy of a year later I arrived at Bamboozle 2007 with a copy of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone in my car.  The book stayed in the car because in trying to get all mine and my kids' stuff together, it was forgotten.  I remembered after I was inside the festival and could not go back.  Two months later, at the Gramercy Theater, I got the book into Justin's hands and told him "If you like it, you'll figure out how to get the rest".  I also met Josh briefly that night.

By 2009, after 3 years of road-momming and street teaming, I decided to turn to my writing talents to help these musicians who deserved to be much farther up the food chain than the crap on terrestrial radio.  I waded into the waters of music journalism.  I don't remember how I found my first PR contacts but the first one that responded was Stunt Company.  At the time they were promoting the latest tour of Motion City.  Lindsay  not only scheduled my very first was an in-person at the venue.  Rookie sees the 'green room' first step out of the gate,  has to work with a TM and gets to sit down with Jesse.  It was scary as hell.  But the interview was pretty good and the resulting publication and also the published review of the show, put me on Stunt's regular mailing list.  Over the next 6 years I would interview the entire band either by phone or in person.  I attended I don't know how many of their performances.  I became friends with Lindsay.

I thought the I completed my circle with MCS at Warped Tour Hartford 2013 when I interviewed the member who was the first I met but the last to interview...Justin.  We learned that we both had the same experience with Harry Potter - got to Book 7 and couldn't get past Chapter 3.  I asked if he ever thought he'd run out of songs.  He said yes, but then something would stir in his brain and 3 more new ones would come out.  Matt was there too.  It was the second time I had spoken to him.  It was all more of a conversation than an interview.

I missed a couple of their tours after that.  Then earlier this year they announced their Farewell tour.  This was something I would not...could not miss.  I opted for NYC as opposed to Hartford.  I was glad.  Irving Plaza was packed to the rafters with people, who like me, knew every single word of every song they played Thursday night, including the three song encore ending it all with "The Future Freaks Me Out!".  It doesn't freak me out though and one of the reasons is Motion City Soundtrack.

Justin, Josh, Matt, Jesse and Tony - thank you for showing me the door to the rabbit hole.  Thank you for making me laugh and cry. Thank you for helping blow the dust off my dancing shoes and bringing the colors back into my home and my life.  Thank you for introducing me to What's Eating Gilbert and other openers I hadn't heard before.  Thanks for taking new kids like Jukebox The Ghost out on the road with you.  Thanks for being an integral part of my Warped Tour experiences - MCS, Yellowcard, Less Than Jake, Bayside...  Thank you for making it okay for a 50+ old broad to not only say "fuck" in public but scream it.  Thank you for Harry Pottering with me and thank you for a whole encyclopedia of memories...all great ones.  Just thank you.  You guys are my first, my last, my everything and I will miss you so much.

These days I go to shows not worrying about reviews.  Many of the bands music is listened to from the vantage point that I have gotten to know some of the musicians a little better than most fans but took my responsibility to share those parts with the fans as a writer.  Some moments were just for me and I keep them the precious treasures they are very close to my heart.  I won't ever stop trying to get the messages out there that music in small venues is the best and don't think that your age/gender/race/sexuality should have any effect on what music you listen to.  You are not limited to what you give a chance to.  If you have favorite artists, be there for them.  Buy their music and their merch...AT SHOWS!!  The best music is not best because "artists" play arenas with ridiculous ticket prices.  The "best" music does not spin on the radio any more with very few exceptions.  Support small venues and indy radio stations.

To any and all of you who have read any of my words...on this blog or my others, on or DigitalJournal or on FourCulture - thank you.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.  I don't apologize for poor grammar or other writing faux pas.  I don't apologize for occasionally writing negative reviews.  Even the best sometimes have a bad night or bad fans.  I just call 'em as I see 'em.  I do apologize for not being able to cover all your favorites or even mine.  I don't apologize for my guilty pleasures.  I do apologize for sometimes having to play "the game" to get the story.  I don't apologize promoting some of these great surprises that came out of "the game".  I will always be here for anyone who thinks they want to be an arts/entertainment journalist.  I will share my experience and offer help.  I don't agree with all the speed bumps various parts of the industry throw up.  But I also understand why in some cases they just can't give every "writer" what they are asking for.  I will warn you that you will get into this because of idealism.  Reality will set in very quickly.  You will slug it out, be tired, bruised and out of words and out of money.  I won't tell you to hang in there.  I will give you a shoulder though.  Good luck!


Mama Kath

Mar 12, 2016

Getting your money's worth

This 'review' is a follow-up on the last one.  This one proves the previous one correct.

Let's begin with revisiting how I ended up with tickets to see the 20th Anniversary Tour of Dropkick Murphys at Webster Hall.  A comment made to a friend about the ticket prices for Adam Lambert's tour was the catalyst.  My exact words were "I bet I can find TWO GA tickets for a better show for the same price as ONE NOSEBLEED ticket Adam.  To be honest, balcony seats for the Foxwoods show were $45.  There were actually some mid to rear Orchestra seats for Adam that were only $65 which is what I did end up buying.  However, I did get two tickets for Dropkick for $70.  I also ended up selling one of those tickets and did not rip off my buyer because I knew that people that wanted tickets for this sold-out show are as dedicated fans as I am so I only charged the face value of the ticket.

Ok, so like I just said, this show was sold out. Yes, the venue was a third the size of the Foxwood Theater.  But the Dropkick's show the following night at Mohegan Sun Arena which holds 10,000 to the 4,000 seats at Foxwoods which was also sold out.  There are no seats at Webster Hall so one cannot compare people's complaints about standers.  However, I can assure you that those complaints were not heard at Mohegan in the part of the arena that does have bleacher seating.  In fact if there were complaints the standers would turn and tell the complainers to get up and join the party.  We'll get back to that part later.

Thursday night's show included two opening acts and one headliner.  There were those who queued up much earlier in the afternoon to assure a spot at the barricade.  Those folks and others who showed up by 7 p.m got to experience the first band.  I chose to take a 4:30 train into the city and enjoy the gorgeous weather by walking a little farther east in the Village to enjoy a hot dog at Crif's and a hot fudge sundae at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop.  Having missed the 7:40 M8 bus on 9th Street I walked off most of that food and arrived at the venue just before 8.  Apparently Tiger Army went on at 7:45 so I missed a little of their set but what I did catch was so good.  The crowd was definitely into their brand of 50's inspired punk rock.  They definitely had the crowd ready for the headliner whose set started at 8:45 sharp.  Let's compare that the one opening act for Adam who started his set exactly on time at 8 p.m., finished at 8:45 and the headliner making the crowd wait until 9:17.  Keep in mind there was only keyboards and a drum kit to clear from the stage for Alex Newell and most of Adam's equipment was already set up.  Although Tiger Army had very little to disconnect and clear out there was quite a bit to ready the stage for Dropkick Murphys.  Yet the stage was completely turned over in less than 15 minutes.

Dropkick's set started with a photo and video montage of their 20 year history.  It was interesting to experience it in a majority NY/NJ crowd.  My previous DKM experience was at Mohegan Sun so the crowd skewed more New England.  Thursday night there was a lot of boos when images of the Red Sox, the Bruins and the Revolution were projected but one could tell that it wasn't feelings towards the band just that old New England/NY Metro sports rivalry thing.  If there was any doubt, one only had to experience the entire crowd singing along boisterously to "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" which has become the Bruins theme song. 

And there was a lot of singing and dancing and moshing and crowd surfing.  Glasses (plastic cups and beer cans) were raised high for "The Gang's All Here", "The Rose Tattoo" and other favorites.  The band played the first, second and third songs they ever recorded.  They shared a brand new song from the 9th album Ken announced they are going into the studio to record when the tour is over.  Ken and Al worked the crowd shaking hands, high fives, sticking mics in the pit for sing-alongs.  The main set ended at around 10:10 after granting the request of a fan in the pit to come up on stage and play in with the band despite the promise of an "atomic wedgie" if he sucked...he didn't.  Then it was about 4 minutes of cheering and chants before the band came back out for the encore which consisted of three songs included the tradition of "Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced" with the ladies climbing on stage, followed by the rest of "the pit" taking the stage for the last number.  The night ended at around 10:40 so I was able to catch the 11:27 home. 

Yes, I know.  It may not be fair to compare a punk rock GA show to a pop solo artist at a casino theater show.  But there are some merits that can be compared.  First is the crowd.  Since writing that last review it dawned on me that "Glamberts" are there for themselves.  It's all about them and not about Adam or his music.  He can never invite fans on stage due to the chances that at least one would be one of them who would behave completely inappropriately.  However, at both the Dropkick shows I have attended, everyone is there for the band.  So when they are invited to the stage or Ken comes out in the crowd, there are hugs, high fives, selfies taken.  No groping.  No sexual suggestions. No one embarrasses him or themselves even if they are drunk and sing off-key.  It's all fun.

Which brings us to all being connected for that short couple of hours.  There were definite divisions in Adam's base at the show I attended.  Whereas, even though there were people at last night's show that traveled from New England states and there was the sports rivalry thing, when the music started we were all one bonded community.  Nobody got pissy about giving up their spot for a few seconds to let someone who was balancing three cups of beer back to theirs.  No one bitched about getting a little wet and sticky from one of those not quite empty cups flying over their head toward the stage a bit later.  The folks in the pit moved crowd surfers and either joined in moshing or moved to a spot to continue to just watch and sing.  We had a good time, ebbing and flowing, together as a group. 

The only downside of Thursday's show is the one drawback to Webster Hall all the time.  That damned marble staircase.  It is treacherous enough by itself but when it's covered in beer, booze, water, etc. and attempting to be navigated by people who have been drinking the afore mentioned alcoholic beverages it becomes even crazier.  Once out on the street though everything was fine and everyone I heard from the show on the way to the subway had had an awesome time.  No one bitching about the person in front of them being too tall or jumping around too much.  No complaints about a single song encore. 

In conclusion, did I get my $35 worth?  And then some. The staff at Webster Hall is always great.  I could have purchased a t-shirt for under $20.  Or I could have supported the Claddagh Fund and bought one of their shirts for less than $25.  I got a show in a great venue with a great sound system and great techs operating it.  The only time I got lights in my face were the crowd lights when the band wanted to see our happy faces participating in every part of the show.  I got two and a half hours of great music written by the same people who performed it.

I look forward to an equally positive report about seeing Jukebox the Ghost on 3/24 at the Bowery Ballroom.  I've never been to that venue before so I can't say for certain.  But JTG never disappoints. 

Feb 27, 2016

Feeding the hungry - a very different kind of review

This was supposed to be a review of Adam Lambert's "The Original High Tour" stop in Connecticut but the experience resulted in something else..something I'm sure the editors at DigitalJournal, the only publication that will publish my writings on the Lambert subject (and that's only based on having an account not due to accepting a pitch), would care to have on their site as it would not be positive.

...well it's not all negative so let's get the good part over with first.  Starting with taking a wrong turn when arriving at Foxwoods Fox Tower and ending up in the valet parking line, panicking but then finding out there was no charge for the service...I started the night feeling a little special.  This is the first time I've been to this venue and on entering I discovered that I was right at the theater unlike experiences at Mohegan Sun where I ended up parked a mile walk from the arena.  At Foxwoods there was a cool little candy shop called Licks at the entrance I came in where I bought a present for my daughter who almost literally kicked my ass out the door to go to this show.  I got a bottle of water and decided I'd give the opener a shot and opted to go into the theater rather than eating dinner.
Glee alum, Alex Newell is one great singer.  He's also got wonderful stage presence and really had the audience connecting.  If I was in a different venue I might have been standing and dancing along but we'll discuss that point later.  Alex was very punctual and went on at 8:03 p.m.  His set was about 45 minutes so it should have been a 15 minute break for pit and drink stops.  Instead people probably could have gone and grabbed a sandwich but again, that goes in the negative side of this post.

The theater is very comfortable.  The ushers were very pleasant.  Definitely not the big, open, grungy space that is the arena at Mohegan Sun.

Adam's performance, albeit late starting, was impressive? I mean it's Adam.  He's voice is still phenomenal, he hits all the right notes and when singing has decent stage presence.  The set was a combination of old, new and covers.  I did like the new arrangement of Fever.  Nice way to erase the memory of the more trashy Glamnation version and closes the door on the former guitarist/bassist quite nicely.  I was disappointed that Nile Rogers was not home to play in on "Let's Dance".  Nothing will ever match his performance with Adam and Sam Sparro at Hammerstein Ballroom of that number.  The costume changes were kept to three and were pretty minimal on an Adam-scale.  We learned that Terrance Spencer can also sing as can the other dancer, Holly.  Choreo was more polished.  The band was tight.  The sound mix was good.

Then the show as over.  I had my car in less than 5 minutes and when I was back on Rte 2A heading home in less than 15 minutes, I was very glad I gave the valet a $10 tip.  I will definitely utilize their valet service every time I go there in the future.  I need to find this service at Mohegan and maybe avoid walking a mile and a half IF I ever go to a show there again.

Please understand that I am just comparing the two casino venues to each other due to their proximity to each other, the fact that they are both casino complexes and are both managed by the local native American tribes.  Probably the closest similar theaters to the Fox Tower theater in this area for a rock show would be either The Bushnell in Hartford or The Klein in Bridgeport.  The Meadows aka The Xfinity Theater at The Dodge Music Center in Hartford is an "indoor" venue in the cold weather...there are sliding doors across the back of the amphitheater that are closed.  But it does not have a balcony, has a concrete floor and a sound system more geared to the theater being open so that people on the lawn can also hear.  Oh and to do a rewind to the ticket purchase experience?  I cannot compare to Mohegan as I don't have the experience to make the comparison.  However, compared to Ticketmaster?  Much better.  I ended up in the Orchestra, 22 rows back right by the sound/light booth for $78 after taxes and fees (ticket was $65).

So let's start with the ticket price in the negative column.  I have paid far less for much better.  I have to say that I feel bad for the people who spent more than that for tickets to this show.  Why?

  1. Foxwoods drew the short straw for location.  Mohegan Sun is right off 395.  2A is still 4 lanes wide at their exit.  But just past it, it goes down to 2 lanes and it is 7 miles on very windy, bumpy, not well lit state highway that passes through some very residential areas.  
  2. The sound mix for Alex's set was really bad in spots.  One number in particular someone needed to pull the engineer's hand off the slide for the subwoofer.  TOO   MUCH   BASS.
  3. Adam's habitual tardiness.  Mr. Lambert?  This is not cute.  It's not professional and when musicians who make a lot less money than you can be on time?  You need work on that.  Adam took the stage at 9:17.
  4. Thanks to the review in the Boston Globe, it was known that Connecticut got the Reader's Digest version of the set list.  Songs like "Shady" and "Lay Me Down" were noticeably missing.  Also the encore was ONE SONG...Really?
  5. The stage lighting was 1) seizure inducing (there were no signs outside the theater warning about this either) and 2) not all directed to the stage.  I was blinded by a blue filtered mover during "Mad World" and like I said..."I was in Row 22".  Yes, there is a big bank of white lights above the stage to light the crowd at the appropriate moments and they were used.  But movers, pars, etc should NOT be shining in the crowd.  
  6. Although Adam's getting better at stage banter, he still needs to work on that.  I will give him cred for keeping it PG13 this time around.  I have no problem with musicians saying "Fuck!"...I am a pop punk fan but when people (inappropriately) bring 8 year olds to Adam's shows, then he needs to cool it on the sexual innuendos which I find are his go-tos when his confidence starts waning.
  7. Did I just say that Adam Lambert...THE ADAM LAMBERT...lacks confidence?  Yes he does.  He spent a lot of years in theater with marks to hit, well-rehearsed choreography and directors doing what directors do...directing him.  Once he was on his own away from his tribe, who are pretty over-the-top (not in a bad way.  If you've followed me you know I'm pretty integrated in it) he was kind of lost when he realized that "middle America" didn't get it.  It's part of why he was the runner-up on Idol.  It's why Prince Poppycock and William Close didn't win AGT.  Part of how Adam has garnered this weird fanbase is because Idol viewers who stuck with him did so because they thought they were doing something taboo.  But back to this item - When Adam realized he didn't have a director and a dance captain and that his audience did not get it, he just went with it on whole sexy thing to cover the fact that he didn't really know how to deal with it.  I will say last night he did do a lot better and I could try to attribute it to Queen but he pulls the sex thing with those performances too. 
  8. What I think has just become, at least to me, an annoying habit.  I would hope after 7 years he would have in-ears that fit properly but he still continues to fiddle with them throughout a set.  If it is a 'tell' then that says that he can't seem to get a sound tech who knows his mix preferences.  Again, they can't hire a competent tech?  I have hoped that he would have switched to stage wedges long ago.  
  9. Adam's fans.  
    1. Oh there are a few scattered in the crowd that are young, not overbearing or judgemental, who are not homophobic (yes they are trust me), LGBT, male but again last night it was a lot of women well over 40.  Yes...I do fit both demographics.  However, I don't come in wearing sequins, too much eye shadow, two pairs of false eyelashes, stripper heels, making sure everyone notices I'm in the front row and "spent good money to be here!",  blowing kisses to a guy who's young enough to be my kid and sporting a coiffure that went out of style with Jackie O.  I'm there for reasons that I have explained in many blogs before this.  
    2. PLEASE STOP BITCHING ABOUT PEOPLE STANDING TO DANCE!!  Yes!  The theater has seats.  To quote Anna Matronic from Scissor Sisters...chairs have a lot of purposes but at a rock show they are NOT for sitting in.  Alex noted in his SIT through a Broadway play/musical not a rock show. The only exception was Adam's performance at Cyndi Lauper's benefit at the Beacon.  THAT WAS a sit-down show...mainly because no one stood for anyone else's set including Jason Mraz.  If there was standing it should have been for Cyndi because she was the hostess.  Adam was her guest. 
    3. IT WAS NOT A FUCKING RAVE!!! Leave your damned glow sticks, blinky bracelets and light up sneakers home.  All you do is blind the people behind you.  
  10. An hour and 20 minute set counting the 2 minute waiting for the encore and only one opening act.  I was in my car at 10:55 heading home.  I won't buy a venue noise abatement curfew cuz this place is in the middle of nowhere and as far as a time thing,  it's a fucking casino so it's open 24-7.  I have been to shows in places that do have curfews but if not a noise restriction GMs tend to bend the rules if the show is going really well.  It's making money for them and the artist to do that.  People continue drinking and eating and buying merch.  As far as saving your voice?  I have a friend who I have seen at the end of a tour, missed zero performances even when sick as dog...if you're hungry you'll sing.
Which brings me to what really had me walking away feeling very ambivalent.  Let's go back to before I bought the ticket.  When I learned how much Warner Brothers was soaking for them.  I told a friend..."I bet you I can find TWO TICKETS for a better show for what I would pay for one nosebleed for Adam's.  I found those two tickets for the 20TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR OF DROPKICK MURPHYS at a small venue in NYC for $35 each....Ok so $10 less than one nosebleed for Adam but...there are TWO openers one of which is Tiger Army who are fantastic and the show is GA which means if I WANT to work my way up front and into the pit I can.  No!  I don't get into mosh pits.  Come on...I told you how old I am.  But if I wanted to...  Also, the bands park their buses right outside the venue and hang out inside so is there a chance I finally get to meet Tim (I interviewed by phone 3 years ago) and Scruffy?  Yeah.  All that for $35!  

Yes, I did buckle and buy a $65 ticket to see Adam.  But even at 6 p.m. last night I was still thinking about blowing it off and suffering from a bad case of buyer's remorse.  My dad offered to pay me back for my ticket if I stayed home.  

Back to the subject of being 'hungry-literally and figuratively.  Artists like Adam, well it's why a label will scoop up someone like that.  They can spin it to make themselves a fuck-ton of money.  In this case WBR knows that people won't think twice about dropping hundreds of dollars on tickets, meet and greets and merch based on the previous demographic of his fanbase.  Which makes up for the fuck-ton of money they spent on My Chemical Romance whose fanbase, along with being more appropriate in most cases, didn't have much disposable income.  But would I have paid more to see them than the $65 for TWO DAYS of Bamboozle in 2007 or $30 for the first leg of the Black Parade in Hartford before that?  You bet.  Hell! When Danger Days came out I road-tripped to NJ and DC for shows.  Their sets were generally 2 hours with 2-3 song encores, great stage banter and audience interaction.  I paid $25 for my MCR Shirts for The Cure t-shirt and full retail for all their music that I own.  I even street teamed for them. 

Sitting here listening to still my favorite pop-punk band, Motion City Soundtrack, even before ever interviewing them...watching them at my first Warped Tour in 2006,  at Bamboozle in 2007 and then meeting Justin and Josh at Webster Hall later that same year....these guys are hungry.  Sometimes literally.  But when I asked Justin in an interview in 2013 if he ever fears running out of lyrics he said "Sometimes and then the songs just start coming out again".   Point? He is passionate about creating and will keep doing it.  He, Josh, Jesse, Matthew, Tony and his replacement leave family and friends for months on end to tour.  In fact, Justin said that he gets kind of itchy if they stay off the road too long.  This band doesn't play arenas.  In fact, except for things like Warped Tour, they generally play to houses that hold no more than 3000 people where they give the crowd more than their money's worth.  They lay their hearts and souls on the stage and hope it's enough to encourage you to stop by the merch table so that they have gas and food money to get them to the next stop.  

Some bands can stash away enough money to buy a bus and a trailer.  The label does not take care of that for them.  Most drive old church vans of questionable mechanical integrity.  Props to the company BandWagon RVs for providing affordable, safe rentals for touring bands.  I see more and more of their vehicles every year at Warped Tour and I have a feeling that Kevin Lyman is very grateful to the company too as he has a few less worries about bands making it through the whole tour without vehicle failures.  

When fans bring food to shows, it's not something cute like "I made this for you cuz I'm you're biggest fan".  It's "I made this for you so you have a home-cooked food while you're out here".  Story...a Kill Hannah fan brought a full spaghetti dinner to them during their tour with Flyleaf and Sick Puppies in '07.  There was enough food for EVERYONE including the crew.  I read tweets after that night from all of them saying how wonderful it was to sit down "as a family" and share that meal.  I used to show up with big boxes full of socks, sharpies, hand lotion, chapstick, decks of cards, crossword puzzles, lots of snacks and homemade cookies for my road kids.  I know fans who slip TMs $20 for gas because they already have all the band's CDs and t-shirts.  

Besides a t-shirt and a great show we also get hugs, selfies, autographs, tears and laughter one on one without having to pay extra.  Most small venue shows, artists either hang in the crowd or at the merch table.  There really is no excuse for not meeting someone.  One of my favorite reoccurring Warped experiences is watching kids LITERALLY run into their favorite musician while running to the next stage or to grab a quick soda or hot dog before the next band.  The reactions are priceless.  I've seen and heard everything from squeaks, to shrieks to "Holy motherfucker!! It's YOU!!" And the musician stops, talks, hugs, takes a selfie, signs an autograph and this kid's whole $35 for the day was just paid back in a 2 minute moment.  I remember when I first started down the rabbit hole and was star-struck to the point of terrified.  It started with Casey and JT from Hawthorne Heights.  Who knew that a year after my first encounter with them that we'd be sharing laughs at The Webster one night and The Chance two nights after that.  I cried when I learned of Casey's death and I still share hugs with JT because of that every time I get to see him. 

So did I get my $65 worth last night?  Compared to the hundreds of shows I've been to the past 9 years?  Nope.  I only paid $32 to see MUSE at MSG and that show was soooo much more and they're not in the "hungry" category yet they put on a show like they were.   It's really sad that when you pay more for a pair of handmade shoes you get high quality heart & soul art for your feet that will last you for years but high price tags for music and fine art doesn't work that way at all.

Did last night finally close "that" chapter?  I think so.  Between shitty fans, management and label who have no interest in the type of interview I want to do and an artist that still needs to reconnect with that time he was hungry I leave with this.  Adam has a great voice and does deserve a recording contract.  I will be forever in his debt for the amazing friends I garnered from this part of my journey.  The "key" was the "key" to a lot of experiences and people I will treasure forever.  If some day I get to ask "those"questions (which I won't ever delete from my computer) I don't think it will be a formal interview.  But am I holding my breath?  Not any more. No more getting angry over it.  Time to mourn the loss and this time lock the door behind me on the journalism thing.  Time to get back to enjoying live music for music's sake.  Time to really immerse myself into the next two shows I have tickets for.  Sell more of my crafts to buy more tickets.  

You can post all the negative comments you like.  You can't hurt me any more.  Your words will only make my points.  I hope that someday you experience a truly hungry artist/band and they touch more than your libido.  I hope you get to meet one of them outside of an organized "photo op" and really talk to them to the point where they touch your heart.  I hope you genuinely want to feed them at that point.  Ultimately I wish you "moments" (to the person who always has that very special "hand squeeze" for me whenever we see each other....I can never thank you enough for our "moments").  And maybe...just maybe you'll get really lucky and be able to tell an artist you're old enough to be his mom and have his response be "Fucking no way!!" Thanks, Matt. I still wear that as a badge of honor. "Yes. Yes, I am old enough to be your mom" became my signature tag line in a whole lot of interviews after that.    :)  

May 22, 2015

Original High not so original

I know I will catch hell for this post but - is subjective and for my pallet this is way too much artificial flavor, sweetner and color with a lot of additives that will leave your ears and your soul starving for some real nourishment.

For those who have not caught on, mainstream corporate music is not about promoting actual art.  In fact it is the exact opposite.  This is why people like Diane Warren, et al are millionaires.  They are paid to put out drek which is then foisted on the masses through terrestrial radio and other broadcast medium to which the people are led to believe is good...dare I say great?   No!  Ok there are a few actual artists that are occasionally given airtime to throw us off the scent.  Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift and Adele come to mind.  But for all his talent as a scout and a producer, even Pharrel kind of comes up short in the actual songwriting/composing category.  He writes a good hook.

So let's look at some more golden children of cookie cutter "music"...Max Martin and Shellback.  Adam Lambert should have known from his experience with them on FYE that they are not unique.  They have a limited repertoire that they just rehash.  Sure "Whadda Ya Want From Me" was a big hit.  RCA promoted the hell out of it as eye and ear wash after the performance of the title track on the American Music Awards.  Was it a great song?  Not at all.  In fact one of the best songs on that record was a bonus track. Thankfully Lambert included "Voodoo" on his Glamnation tour and gave the world a taste of what he and Sam Sparro could do when left alone in a studio.

To date Warner Brothers Records has released four tracks from Original High and for me they all fall flat.  This is cheap, glitzy club stuff with some Dollar Store glitter shaken on it.  The vocal effects are redundant.  The beats are boiler-plate and the melodies simplistic.  After a three year wait, hoping that Lambert would finally hit his stride and put out quality music...NOPE!  He's going for the fast buck on this one and Warner, I am disappointed.  From the label that gave My Chemical Romance it's huge push and now is turning Echosmith into the pop superheroes they should be...this is awful.

"Ghost Town", "Underground", "Another Lonely Night" and "Evil In The Night"?  Well let's start with two titles on the same record that repeat a word?  Now the lyrics?  They all tell the same we're going to get this emo tour about broken hearts and unrequited love? not you!!!  How did you let them take you there? The echo effects, as stated previously, way overused and the cliche finger snaps and whistling?  Cheap parlor tricks.  These are just some child's venture into a goth arcade penny-candy store.  No meat. No potatoes.  Not even real dessert.  Dammit Adam!! Give me a good slice of cheesecake at least or some homemade ice cream with real fruit in it.  I used to say that Adam and his art were like this mysterious Asian meal full of all kinds of exotic flavors...sweet, ,spicy, savory all on the same plate in a restaurant decked out in red silk, brocade and gold leaf.  This?  This is something you'd get at that scary little Chinese kiosk in the mall food court because your broke and/or in a hurry.

I'm not going to lie.  My two favorite Adam Lambert songs will always be "Voodoo" and "Shady".  I have met both Sam and Nile and that trio was perfection, especially when they all finally came together on the stage of the Hammerstein Ballroom.  Sam is a brilliant song writer and arranger.  He doesn't have to overdress the track because its fashion is gorgeous in its natural beauty.  I don't think that he hasn't been signed or spun in the mainstream because he's gay but because he is so good. I had hoped and prayed for more of that.
To anyone reading this who does not know me - I am probably too close to the situation to be objective.  I do know things and it breaks my heart to see this outcome.  I had high hopes for Adam.  I wanted to see funky and fresh, dark and mysterious, innovative electronica.  I don't mind dance and club music.  As you can see I am a huge fan of Sam's and Scissor Sisters and Glitch Mob (which my son constantly razzes me for).  I love pop music - William Beckett, Echosmith, We Are The In Crowd, The Ready Set, and even Bruno.  Pop punk - Paramore, Fall Out Boy and Motion City Soundtrack and whatever category you want to put Kill Hannah in.  If Adam had gone down any of these roads - No! He wouldn't be in the Billboard Top 10 for 20 weeks but he would maintain he integrity as a genuine artist and person.  To me, this record is a sellout and I'll only listen to it on Spotify.  This is $12 that will go for something else.  Sorry Adam.

Feb 19, 2014

The soul of The Acoustic Basement - Brian Marquis

 The 2014 U.S. Acoustic Basement Tour is coming to a close.  It is the second incredibly successful edition of this tour.  So successful that it was approved for a UK version to provide the same "mid-season" acoustic Vans Warped Tour little sister to the UK VWT.  Brian will be traveling with Geoff Rickley and Koji who were on the bill of the debut ABT last year.  They will be joined by English artist Rob Lynch.  I know Brian as production manager, bus dad, musician, friend and road-kid.  He has garnered himself a very special place in my heart.  What follows is the conversation I had with him at the The Underground/Webster Theater, Hartford CT stop of Acoustic Basement Tour.  

Singer-songwriter Brian Marquis made his appearance on the earthly stage in the small village of Litchfield, Connecticut. Most of his early years were spent in the the northwest corner of the state.  Having discovered his penchant and talent for music at the age of thirteen, he did like many of New England's aspiring musicians and became a student at Berklee School of Music after high school.  Also like many of those starry eyed youth, he left the hallowed halls before finishing his degree.  However, he didn't leave Beantown.  Brian became an active musician in the Boston scene and also started getting his feet wet in production, helping other local bands and soloists getting gigs around the area.

Having a friend in Southern California was what first drew Marquis to the Left Coast.  He made very trips out there but did end up back in Connecticut when Therefore I Am broke up.  After moping around his mom's for a while he realized he needed to either get back into music or end up in a factory job in New England.  About the same time another friend offered in a room in her L.A. apartment so Brian took the opportunity and today calls Los Angeles home.

Since settling in CA, Marquis has really focused on his solo career.  In November of 2011, he released his first EP, Snow Damage and followed in January of 2012 with Beneath The Cover Is Earth.  One of the many things he attributes to the spirituality of Southern California is it has given him the freedom to really look deeply inside himself and write songs that come from the heart and soul.  During his recent performance in Hartford he spoke of his mom's influence in "'84 Rookie Card".  The lyrics of "From Boston" speak for themselves and even though some may smile or laugh, there is a very special truth about the city and it's people.  Being part of that community is definitely part of Brian's core.

Only having the chance to discuss the differences between SoCal, New York and Boston with one other musician, the conversation was steered down that path.  As Brian is also a good friend, this time there was a much deeper look into these nuances.  New York compared to L.A. is the focused, 'success' culture.  Los Angeles, under the mainstream radar, is more free-form, testing the waters, creating community.  But what about Boston.  People outside the Northeast really don't give it much thought.  From Brian's perspective, it is close-knit and despite to major arts colleges; Berklee and the New England Conservatory, along with strong arts departments at BU and NorthEastern, there are not a lot of small club venues.  The city and the surrounding areas do, however, have a great "all-ages" community so a lot of music goes on in churches, VFW halls and other non-traditional spaces.  Coming up through that Marquis not only played a lot of these locations but also helped others book gigs in them.  Everyone just wants to play and they want an audience to play with and for.  Asked of "Boston strong" includes their arts community Brian agrees that it is a part of being a Bostonian that bleeds into everything they do.  But Boston also shares that focus of New York when it comes to making a career of art.  One thing Brian says he sometimes feels is a bit lost in all that freedom and collaboration in L.A.  He has that discipline of the East also in his core and it gets frustrating when presented with the open-plan culture of SoCal artists.  However, as previously mentioned, he does embrace the spirituality of the West Coast and the 'breathing room' it gives him to create.

Going solo has also offered Brian the chance to expand his talent as a tour producer.  After joining the Acoustic Basement stage on Vans Warped Tour and seeing the positive response it received, he pitched taking some of the musicians out on a winter tour.  It was an opportunity to fill in that wait for the summer and Warped Tour's return along with sharing the acoustic experience.  This year the tour included Marquis, a local band from New Haven, Step Bar Secret, from OH Front Porch Step, Nick from Hit The Lights also repping the Buckeye State and Transit also Boston kids. During the show I came away with a new awareness of acoustic performances.  They are raw, heart on the sleeve, genuine passion. There's no effects to hide behind and create smoke and mirrors with.  The idea of taking "the basement" on the road has been a great one just in what audiences get to experience. It is definitely a feather in Brian’s cap.

Marquis was very excited to share that the stage and the tour have been so successful that when the suggestion was made to follow up Warped UK with an Acoustic Basement UK, it was met with a very positive response.  Brian will be planning and then packing up himself, Geoff Rickley and Koji to take the tour across the pond this Spring.

I couldn't forget to ask what other arts Brian creates in.  He definitely sees production as an art.  It takes a good sense of creativity along with organization to be successful at it.  He doesn't see himself doing it full time just yet.  Music is still his number one passion right now.  But he also might like to try his hand at stand up comedy again too.  Marquis had a memory flash of the Warped stop in Toronto. Throughout the tour he and a few of the other musicians had been doing impromptu gigs at local bars during the tour.  The bar they picked in Toronto was doing open-mic stand-up when they arrived.  With a little goading from his friends, Brian took a turn, creating his schtick on the fly.  People actually laughed.  He felt he did ok cuz no one booed or threw anything at him and he enjoyed doing it.

This is the first time I've had a chance since last summer to ask Brian about his lightning strike in Key West.  We did see each other back in the Fall on his solo tour but the subject didn't come up.  He says that the new music he is working on is partially due to his electrifying experience with Mother Nature.  After realizing that he had to leave Warped Tour and go home to recuperate he found himself pretty depressed.  Leaving behind the Buss #22 crew and contending with physical after effects caused him to withdraw. Getting back in the studio has helped get him out of that funk.

Watch for new music later this year. The U.S. Acoustic Basement Tour is still going on.  For those in the UK watch for your chance to catch the tour soon.  AND DON'T FORGET Vans Warped Tour this summer. Tickets are on sale now.  Five new bands announced every week on "Warped Roadies" on Fuse TV.

Feb 16, 2014

Gods how I hate violins...or not!

 The violin is probably my least favorite instrument and yet over the past decade or so, I've learned that that statement is the farthest thing from the truth.  It probably started with an old friend took me back to my Celtic roots about twelve years ago.  Between discovering Eileen Eivers and Natalie McMaster along with all the background strings in other modern Celtic music, I began to realize that the scratchy, squeaky, annoying sound of the highest register of that instrumental family was somehow necessary.  It was needed to soar above the mellow tones of the viola and cello and even to call attention to the resonance of the stand-up bass.

A few years later my youngest introduced me to Yellowcard.  Sean Mackin's fiddling sometimes gets lost in live mixes when dealing with sound techs who don't understand the instrument's role in this band's music.  However, Mackin had a chance to really shine in the re-release of Ocean Avenue the band did to celebrated their 10th anniversary.  Both the record and the subsequent tour were performed acoustic.  Without Sean's violin, it would have been every other indie album.

As I progressed through the alt and punk rock worlds, my Irish blood was stirred by Floggin' Molly, Dropkick Murphys and Flatfoot 56.  'Molly's fiddler is female and now the wife of the band's founder, Dave King.  Bridget who can "go to worship" with the boys and come to a Sunday set in her "Sunday best" and throw back Guinness with the best of them.  Surprisingly neither of the afore mentioned have a violin in the line-up.

2008 would bring the first face-to-face meeting with a young man who has become one of my longest standing and favorite "road kids".  Last summer I was finally allowed the chance to get him to tell a side of his story I'd wanted to share for quite a while.  'Jinxx' Jeremy Ferguson is a classically trained violinist who, I am convinced, carries at least a piece of his biggest idol's soul in his - Wolfgang Mozart.  Jinxx also got to reveal a tiny bit of his Irish heritage in our chat too.  Most have no idea that underneath all that black dye and make-up lives a freckle-faced strawberry blonde. Today many who are into the metal scene are very familiar with Jinxx and his part in Black Veil Brides.  So far this band is his most successful addition of the violin to rock and roll.

by Courtney Campbell 2013
I stumbled across Lindsey Stirling this afternoon in yet another fall of dominoes started by my friend Meghan Tonjes.  Lindsey had collaborated with the artist that Meghan had suggested.  When I dug into his catalog I found his collaboration with Lindsey for one of my favorite current mainstream pop artists, Bruno Mars.  You have to love how YouTube works with the listings down the side.  I was quickly drawn to another video/song collaboration Stirling did with one of my favorite a cappella groups, Pentatonix, to that chart burner, "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons.  You know, that one long fucking hook that you can't hate.  Lindsey is a brilliant violinist and performer.  She reminds me of my dear friends in Lucent Dossier.  Actor, dancer and fiddler.  This gal has it all going on and her look is one that could work alongside my dear, dear friend, previously mentioned, Jinxx and the rest of Black Veil Brides.

So can I honestly say that I hate violins?  I guess not.  I mean I'm still glad neither of my kids took it up because I'm sure I would have taken my eardrums out with a fork a long, long time ago.  But could I sit and listen to someone scratch out a great rendition of "The Irish Washer Woman"?  Yeah, probably.