Show Reviews

My Time On Stage At The Grammy’s

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I was born and raised in California’s Silicon Valley, just a decade ahead and a few miles south of where Apple would eventually take shape and introduce the iPod and iTunes to the world. I played in bands throughout Jr High and High School, and when I left for Los Angeles to attend the now defunct Grove College of Music, I told everyone to watch for me on the Grammy’s someday.

One of the first people I met upon arrival in the San Fernando Valley happened to be a TV producer. He was a nice guy – a friend of my roommate, and I didn’t really know the details of his involvement in the entertainment industries. He was aware of my music aspirations, and I shared with him that Peter Gabriel was my all-time favorite artist. Later that year, just ten days after my 19th birthday, my friend left me a cryptic message, “I need you to go to the Bonaventure hotel today to pick something up at the front desk. Be sure to bring your ID.”

I followed his instructions, and the concierge handed me a regular envelope. I was amazed to find two “All Access” passes to the Grammy’s inside!

I immediately called the young lady I was dating at the time – a talented vocalist I met at music school, and I went home to get ready for the show. I had achieved starving student status with honors, and the only thing I had to wear was a 3-piece suit that was easily one size too small. I figured it was more important how I carried myself than how it fit me, so I went with it and headed for the show.

The day was such a blur that it really didn’t hit me what I was doing until we were walking down the red carpet at the Shrine Auditorium in Hollywood, and I heard fans and paparazzi whispering “who’s that?” Once inside the theater, I grabbed the nearest usher – a young man just a couple years older than me and asked, “where does this pass get me?” He responded, “Dude, it’s all access. You can go anywhere you want. Upstairs, downstairs, backstage, press boxes, wherever.”

So I did.

Everything that followed was magical and surreal. The first thing I did was head backstage to get a behind-the-scenes look, and that’s where I was shocked back to reality for a moment. I walked smack into Stevie Wonder, and like an idiot I said, “I’m so sorry – I didn’t see you there!” to which he replied, “That’s okay, I didn’t see you either.” His escort looked pissed, and I suddenly felt small enough to fit into my suit. But in a way, that moment helped me regain composure so that I could really take in the rest of the evening’s events.

The performances were amazing. Janet Jackson must have had 40 people on stage for her dance routine – totally tight – and Anita Baker’s voice could have filled the theater without a mic. I spent some time chatting with the year’s Best New Artist, Bruce Hornsby, who seemed almost as awestruck by the Grammy experience as I was. I met Mike Rutherford of Genesis fame that was nominated for his work with Mike & The Mechanics.

I went to the press area backstage and watched Paul Simon field questions about his Album of the Year award for Graceland. I was talking with Steve Winwood when a group of ladies came over to get pictures with him, and as he put his arms around them for the shot he paused for a moment, turned to me and said, “hold these” and handed me the two Grammy’s he had just won. I distinctly remember Whitney Houston running by screaming, “Where’s my dress! Where’s my dress!” as she was being chased by several people with walkie-talkies whose job it was to look nervous all the time.

As the show was drawing to a close, the celebrities took the stage for a chorus of “Stand By Me.” I went around to stage left where I was abruptly halted by a guy we’ll call “tank.” I flashed my pass, he stepped aside, and there I was – on stage at the Grammy Awards standing somewhere between the year’s MC, Billy Crystal and Doobie Brothers’ Michael McDonald singing “Stand By Me” and waving my hands in the air like I was at the last 60’s flower power rally.

And yes, I met my idol. As everyone pooled in the lobby to wait for their limousines, I took the chance to chat with Peter Gabriel. I spouted something about how I had seen him perform in Oakland on his “So” tour the previous summer and I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I told him how disappointed I was that he didn’t pick up any awards from his four nominations, to which he said, “It’s politics.” At that moment he held the record for the most Grammy nominations without an award (nine), although “Sledgehammer” went on to receive the most awards ever for a single music video. And just a side note – Gabriel was on the Independent Music Awards judges’ panel that recently named my service Noisy Planet “Best Music Business Website 2009.”

As a youngster, I packed my bags and left for LA determined to fulfill my dreams of meeting Peter Gabriel and being on stage at the Grammy’s. I didn’t expect that it would happen in one night, or so early in my quest. And now as each year passes, I wonder whether I will ever return to the Grammy’s and take the stage for a very different reason.

Nine Inch Nails Tour Review: Tension 2013

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NIN_Tension_2013

When I found our seats at the US Airways Center in Phoenix and looked at my son, it hit me. I was his age the first time I saw Nine Inch Nails perform at the Universal Amphitheater near Hollywood. At the time it was hands down the best show I had seen in my young life. I mean the light show that Genesis was putting on, the musicianship of Yes, and the energy of Oingo Boingo were amazing – yet nothing compared to the sheer intensity that Trent Reznor delivered on stage. Flash forward to Phoenix in 2013, and NIN is still the best game in town.

It’s impossible not be completely consumed by the meticulously choreographed lights and video clips, but what’s even more impressive about a NIN show is the quality of the sound. You can hear every detail clearly as if you were listening on a phat set of headphones while still getting kicked in the ribs by the live bass and drums. And even on thrasher tracks like “Wish” and “March of the Pigs” you can hear everything. It’s as if a 40-piece orchestra got really pissed off one day and annihilated the front row with their musicianship.

The Tension 2013 tour is the best yet, and I must admit I didn’t fully appreciate some of the tracks on the new album until I saw it live. The funky groove of “All Time Low” with the ethereal synths fading in to end the song and the rich female backup vocals was somewhat reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s best days. The more modern Trent-style techno tracks “Running” and “Disappointed” were so much bigger on stage than I could have imagined when I first listened on ear buds the day the album came out. And again with the backup vox, my favorite track from Hesitation, “In Two” did not disappoint.

One of the things I appreciate about the NIN experience is the bizarre mix of people who show up. People of all ages gather – some wearing leather and studded dog collars, some wearing neckties, and others not wearing much of anything. You get goth-punk and nerdy wannabies mashed up with corporate rejects and pacifier-sucking e-trippers, and I’ve even seen some data junkies writing code during shows as if NIN playing live in the background was completely incidental. And one of my favorite moments of every NIN show is when this eclectic mix of people suddenly pump their fists in the air and yell “fist f**k!” unilaterally releasing some shared inner rage during the song “Wish”. It’s pretty awesome, and my son and I enjoyed every bass thumping, guitar screaming, Reznor rocking minute of it.

Head-banging Capital for A Day: The First Annual Ohio Metalfest

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Ohio is known for the upbringing of some popular bands in recent years. Acts such as The Plot In You and The Crimson Armada have shown that Ohio is a hotspot for up and coming bands. With this being said, it is no surprise that the Ohio Metalfest held at the famous Agora Theater had a lineup that would make any head-banger happy.

Asking Alexandria, who first became popular on the scene in 2009 were the headliners of the festival. Beneath them were supporting acts All That Remains, Bleeding Through (a stop on their farewell tour), Sevendust, Sepultra, and many other popular acts totaling 30 bands on the bill.

The day officially began when we arrived and saw the line for the festival wrapping around the entire block. Ages 13 to 30 bundled up in the 30-degree weather waiting to enter the theater. The doors were supposed to open at 11, but we did not get inside until around 1:30. With set times bumped up an hour and learning that two stages were set up for the bands to perform on it was a bit of a circus, but everyone was ready to have some fun.

First we witnessed Veil of Maya — a very popular deathcore band from Illinois. The day had only begun and Veil of Maya made sure everyone would be awake. Known for their technical song writing, some would be skeptical of how they would manage to perform certain parts live. When many bands have pre-recorded riffs or elements that they refuse to perform, Veil of Maya did not, and played every part without failing to make everyone’s jaw drop. The energy all members had onstage contributed to how well the crowd reacted to their set. The festival may have just begun, but head-banging, moshing and crowd surfing were already present.

Next up was Sworn In. Hailing from Grayslake Illinois, Sworn In began making a name for themselves with their EP “Start End” which showed a band with much aggression, talent, and a songwriting formula that was of interest for many who listened to “Start End”. Their debut full length “The Death Card” was released on August 20th of this year, and needless to say, the album did not disappoint. With much hype surrounding the bands dark manner and theatric stage presence, they walked onto the stage with a crowd already beginning to go crazy without one note yet to be played. Guitarist Zakary Gibson began the set by clarifying “We only will have red lights on when playing”. Full of anger, an intriguing theatric style and a diehard fan base going insane right in front of them, Sworn In did not miss a beat and started the day off with a positive bang. They made every second of their 20 minute set count, and left no one regretting what they had just witnessed on stage.

As the day went on, more concert-goers poured into the Agora to watch the amazing line up. The Word Alive played an amazing set, with of course a little bit of an ambitious crowd going too far. A teenager around the age of 16, hopped onto the stage and joined Tyler Telle Smith (Vocalist for The Word Alive) and started going nuts. Security was quick to escort the teen (respectively) back into the consuming crowd. That incident aside, the set was fantastic.

Periphery took to the stage at 6:30 and had many expectations behind them. How could you not have any being a band with music that is so intricately mastered, and a vocalist who hits all the high notes in the studio? The crowd was conscious of these checkpoints for the band to reach, and needless to say, they hit every one. Every song was masterfully played, with an energy that combined with stage presence took over the stage and was the most positive act.

Overall it was a fantastic show, and although we had to leave a bit early, the bands we saw were very excellent. The only complaint that would be sustainable would be the process of getting into the venue. Agora should learn what the word timing means, and try to work on their process of admission. If Metalfest is around next year, and the lineup is a positive sequel to this years, I would highly recommend it to my head banging friends.

Dancing About the Avenues of Memory

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This video has been floating around the internet for a good while now, but I came across it just recently. In the video, we witness an elderly patient in a nursing home who seems to be quite ill with a fading memory. When his nurse addresses him, we aren’t even certain if he knows that he is being spoken to. It truly does hit home for me seeing someone in such a state for there are plenty of people close to me who suffer from something similar. It truly does make you wonder what his personality was like before his illness began taking its toll. Of course, he hadn’t spent his entire life mentally restrained; I’m sure this man has an entire life story that he could share if he were able to. Let’s face it: all of us do. No matter how mundane or chaotic our lives may become, there is always something to be told. Unfortunately for must, that idea merely becomes a fading fantasy. Read More