Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monuments Forge Ahead On Gnosis

Musical genres and their subgenres have really been getting out of control the last few years. I know you’re probably saying, “Mr. Review guy, you are always using them. So, what gives man?” Yes, I do use them to try and help the reader grab a sense of what the band sounds like if they have never heard them before. I will be one of the first to admit that all these labels are a bit much. 

Let’s look at a new band on the scene named Monuments. They just released their debut album entitled “Gnosis”. I’ve seen this band labeled as UK tech metal, djent and progressive metal. I’m not even sure that djent is truly a genre and tech metal wasn’t in my genre to English cross reference dictionary. So, I think that progressive metal is a fairly accurate term for this band when compared to other similar bands.

This album has been a very long time coming for various reasons. The band released a three track EP in 2010 entitled We Are the Foundation which featured lead singers Neema Askari and Greg Pope. The band began working on their full length debut album and both singers left the band in late 2011. That left and the band recorded and entire album with no vocals. Matt Rose, formerly of The Qemists, was recruited and he added his vocals to the already completed tracks.

The results are pretty amazing to me. There are two of the three EP songs on here: “Admit Defeat” and “The Uncollective”. I will admit that I am not familiar with the two prior vocalists, so I can’t compare and contrast Rose’s style with theirs. What I can do is evaluate Rose’s vocals on these tracks and I think he fits like a glove. I think too much fuss is being made over the difference in his style on the songs that are on here that were also on the EP. Rose’s vocals show depth and range and a level of believability.

The album opens with “Admit Defeat”, which was on the EP, and it doesn’t take long for the listener to pick up on the fact that this is something quite special. Founder and guitarist John Browne, who briefly played guitar in the band Periphery, has a unique style of playing and his riffing really compliments the vocals of Rose. Rose can mix it up between screaming and an almost falsetto type of singing at times and make it all sound believable in his delivery.

“Degenerate” is a bit heavier of a selection. I think that any doubts on Rose taking over as vocalist can be dismissed after listening to this song. The guy displays his range throughout the song and even his spoken word insertion is really cool. “97% Static” is a big some with an even bigger chorus. This would definitely be a great song to perform live. There’s a bit of a breakdown towards the end where the guitar parts become the focal point and they are so rich and full and it’s easy to get lost in the musicianship at that point.

“Regenerate” starts off with a few simple cords being played and it builds and gets bigger and more complex as the bass, drums and other guitar join in and form a full on assault. Rose then joins in to make bring all the elements together bouncing between his growls and clean vocals. The album closes with “Denial” which features a vocal appearance from Spencer Sotelo of Periphery. It’s no coincidence of the ties between the two bands as guitarist John Browne was asked to join Periphery as a permanent member after touring with them.

Overall, this is a really solid album from beginning to end. Yes, some tracks are stronger than others, but I really don’t think they are any “filler” songs. A tip of the hat has to go to drummer Mike Malyan who is a beast on this album. He provides a solid backbeat for these songs and is very impressive with his attack on the skins. The musicianship on the album is far beyond the amount of time that these guys have been playing together. I was really surprised with how tight and cohesive of a unit they truly are.

If you are into bands that fall into the djent stylings or if you are into the progressive type of metal bands then this is right down your musical alley. I do recommend listening to the album more than once before passing judgment on it. There’s a lot there to sink in and one listen just won’t do. This is definitely a band to keep your eye and ears on as the year progresses.

Kelly Ogden of The Dollyrots Talks New Album, Touring and Burritos

Kelly Ogden and Luis Cabeza grew up as childhood friends back in Florida. That friendship and bond transitioned into the punk/pop band The Dollyrots. Their first studio album came out in 2004 and they started creating a buzz. You may not know the band by its name, but I bet you have heard their music. It’s been featured in a national ad campaign by Kohl’s, such tv shows as CSI: NY, Raising Hope, Ugly Betty and The Vampire Diaries and such movies as Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 and Disney/Pixar’s Brave.

The band has released three albums and toured extensively, sharing the stage with such bands as Paramore, The Go-Gos and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.  This year saw the band exploring uncharted territory as they began to lay the groundwork for their new album. I recently sat down with lead singer Kelly Ogden on the eve of the release of that album and we talked about everything from touring to retirement homes to burritos.

Music Is My Drug of Choice: Hey Kelly, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today. I hope everything is going well with you. Let’s get right to business, shall we? Tell me all about this awesome new album that’s about to come out.  I read that you guys used the Kickstarter program this go around?

The Dollyrots/Kelly: Yeah, we parted ways with Blackheart Records and we found ourselves wondering how we were going to finance this new album. We saw the amazing response that Amanda Palmer received on her Kickstarter program. We’ve been touring for ten years now, so we must have a good size fan base out there that might be willing to pitch in. Then, we asked ourselves how could we ever ask our fans to help out? So, we set month to month goals and within no time, we actually tripled out goal. It was crazy! We finally felt like people truly loved our music.

For the readers who may not be familiar with it, the Kickstarter program is a fund raiser in which you ask your fans to donate to help fund the album. They can monitor on-line the progress as far as how much has been donated. So, you must have been blown away by the response from your fans?

It was pretty amazing! We had so many pre-orders coming in that we knew we couldn’t do it all ourselves. It was going to be too much work to try and get all the copies mailed out to the fans plus get them to the stores too. So, we had to enlist the help of RED, a 
distribution company to help us meet all of our commitments.

I guess you could say that it was inspiring?

You’re exactly right! Luis and I felt more inspired than ever on this album because the fans, it’s as if they were stating that they were behind us and that they believed in us. It’s funny because the fans actually twisted the tables on us by responding so positively. It made us work even harder than we anticipated. We were free to do things on this album that we had always wanted to do. We always wanted an album to tell a story and for the listener to go on an adventure with us. That’s never happened until now. We had nobody telling us that we couldn’t use a certain word or keyboard part like in the past. This time it was really fun, we weren’t stressed out about trying to write a single.

So, the first single and video is for “Hyperactive”.  2 part question: Why did you go with that song as the lead-off single and how much input did you have on the video?

Well, we wanted to go with a song that people would easily identify as a Dollyrots song. It’s fun and joyful, a feel good song. Plus, it was one of the very first that we wrote for the album. As far as the video goes, we always use our ideas for our videos. We wanted this one to look like a Suzy Quatro video, so we shared our ideas with the producer. It’s funny because we didn’t know the visual effects that we were acting for until we saw the finished project.

Well, you would never know it when watching the finished product. You guys make it look easy. So, let’s spin that around on you because I wanted to ask you just the opposite. What would you say is the hardest part about this musical journey that you’re on?

The financial thing; when you’re doing anything artistic you’re running on hope. You create this music and then you release it and you sit back and hope. You hope that they fans will buy the music and buy concert tickets and your merch. Then, you have to try and save some of that money so that when the album’s run is over you have money to buy Ramen and Doritos with. You also hope that you have some put away to be able to work on the next album. The business part can be challenging too sometimes. You just have to keep telling yourself that I’m in charge of my destination.

So, on that note, let’s get into the really tough questions if you’re ready for them. Can you tell me something that’s on your bucket list?

I’d really love to play in every country or at least every continent.

Is there anything shocking in your iPod?

You would be shocked; it’s absolutely empty because it died on me. I do plan of filling up my new one with lots of cool stuff like Flogging Molly, Against Me, the Ramones, Elastica and lots more.

Do you prefer scary movies or comedies?

I would have to go with scary movies, but not the gory type. I prefer the weird, thriller types like The Others.

What’s your favorite food to eat while you’re out on the road?

That’s an easy one: burritos. There are different types in different parts of the US. They make awesome ones in Wisconsin with tater tots in them. Plus, we also eat lots and lots of Taco Bell.

Do you have any printable guilty pleasures?

As far as food goes, it would have to be coffee. I’ve definitely been overdoing that here lately. As far as music goes, it would be Katy Perry songs. They’re just so much fun! As far as tv goes, I love this show called The Colony. It’s about this creepy, post-apocalyptic world.

One last question, are you a gamer?

No, but that’s only because I would really, really like it. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it would be like doing drugs. I would spend all my time doing them and my life would go down the tubes. I think I will wait and do that when I am old and I have done everything that I want to. I’ll just sit around in an old folk’s home getting high and playing video games.

(Ha) And eat burritos all day!


I think you may be onto something there. Maybe I should look into it and get the groundwork going for you. We could start a business together. This is a business that is not being tapped into. I’ll let you know how that goes. Well, I guess we should wrap this up now. So, the fans can catch you on the road with Bowling For Soup?

Yeah, we’re doing some dates with them and then heading over to the UK for some dates too. After that, I don’t know much about our itinerary, but I am sure we will be back here in the US for more dates.

Cool! Well, we look forward to hearing these new songs live in the very near future. For those who haven’t pre-ordered it, you can pick up the new self-titled Dollyrots album by visiting their website or their Facebook page.

The Dollyrots Get Kickstarted By Their Fans On New Album

The Dollyrots first burst onto the music scene back in 2004 with their blend of pop/punk on their first studio album Eat My Heart Out. Here we are eight years later and the singer/bassist Kelly Ogden and guitarist Luis Cabeza have delivered another solid album. When it comes to The Dollyrots, you pretty much know what to expect and that’s a good thing. You’re not going to get a song about saving the rainforest or the political unrest in the Middle East. A Dollyrots album is an escape from all of the negativity that can suck the life out of you. It’s like an inflatable jump house with the best music playing while you bounce away.

The album has a short intro with “Starting Over”, but the true fun starts with the second track “I Wanna Go”. It’s poppy, catchy and infectious. It also has a great sing-a-long breakdown mid-way through that screams audience participation. Up next is the first single “Hyperactive” and it’s textbook Dollyrots. You have Kelly’s thumping bass driving the song along, Luis and his crunchy guitar parts, and a big catchy chorus. Plus, how can you not like a song with lyrics like “It’s our duty to shake our booties”?

“Time Will Stop” is great track on the album. It flows a little differently than the other tracks. That bouncy, poppy edge is gone and it flows really smoothly. It kicks into another gear when the song reaches the chorus, which is bigger and louder. I think this song showcases another side of the band and shows growth on their part. “F U Famous” is more classic Dollyrots. This one if full of attitude and spunk and showcases why we all fell in love with Kelly to begin with.

I did a double take when the song “South of the Border”. It has a Latin or salsa feel to it. This is yet another song that surprised me and showed me continued growth by the band. Again, it’s fun and infectious and if you allow yourself, you can actually feel the breeze from the ocean as you sit in the sand sipping coconut drinks with Kelly. Are you ready for a love song Dollyrots style? Well, that’s what “After 2012” is, complete with a zombie apocalypse and Martians.

As the CD ended and I started to gather my notes on it, another song suddenly started playing. It seems as if there is a hidden bonus track #21. Do you guys remember “Because I’m Awesome” from their album of the same name? Well, it’s on here and I think it’s a re-recorded version of that song. Well, at least it smells that way because it’s naturally deodorized. That was a tricky little bonus that you threw in there. I’m just curious as to how many people have caught it already?

Overall, it’s a solid release by the band. I think a lot of the pop/punk sound is gone and it leans more towards pop than in the past. Don’t despair fans; just because the songs may be less punk than before doesn’t mean that Kelly’s going soft on us. She’s still a little spitfire. She and Luis have such a great partnership going and they mesh together so well.

This new album is pretty much a “do it yourself” project of theirs completed by a phenomenal response by their fans to their Kickstarter project. I love that the album is self-titled. People usually associate self-titled albums with debut albums and I almost feel as if this is like a starting over or re-birth for the band. It’s still the band that we know and love, but they are back stronger than ever thanks to that reassurance and push from their fans.

Friday, September 14, 2012

As I Lay Dying Have Awakened A Beast On Their New Album

The world of metalcore has grown into a huge ocean of music with each new year. It seems as if more and more musical fish join the already crowded waters and swim around aimlessly. In order to survive, those fish need to stand out somehow or they fall prey to the Great White music industry and are swallowed up and never heard from again. For a band like As I Lay Dying, they have learned better than many others how to stand out and survive.

The band has come a long way since their debut album Beneath the Encasing of Ashes back in 2001. Their 2010 release The Powerless Rise was highly praised by critics and fans alike. As a thank you to their fans and to mark their ten year, the guys released Decas in 2011 which features new songs, covers and remixes. The new songs only wetted the appetites of the fans and created more anticipation for their new album. Well, the wait is finally over as the band is prepared to unleash Awakened onto the world. Yes, it was well worth the wait.

The album, which was produced by Bill Stevenson (NOFX/Rise Against), opens with the first single “Cauterize”. I love how the song starts with what appears to be a “deep breath”. Yeah, you better take a deep breath and hold on because this is about to get very interesting. What an excellent way to start off the album. This song combines all the intensity that you would expect from the band. Lead vocalist Tim Lambesis delivers as he always does. There’s also a great mix of clean vocals too by Josh Gilbert. Throw in a breakdown and a killer solo and this song is near perfect!

Second song up is “A Greater Foundation” and features more of the same. The guitar work between Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa is strong and they manage to keep those riffs, which are plentiful, sounded fresh and not just rehash. “Resilience” is a stand-out track as it’s one of many that show how the band has grown on the lyrical front. I love the intro on this song as the guitar work is strong and melodic before crashing into intensity.

“Wasted Words” brings to mind Slayer when I first heard the riff in it. This is a kick-ass song and the clean vocals even manage to feel right at home in the chorus.  The clean vocals on the chorus are one thing that the band manages to do right where as other bands in the genre come up short. “Overcome” is a personal favorite on here as the guitar intro is really different. Add some great drum elements and great backing vocals and this song is a strong example of how this band is standing out. The album closes strong with “Tear Out My Eyes” as it seems that all the elements that make this band such a standout come together for one massive number.

I think that this album will make a lot of fans extremely happy. Tim Lambesis really doesn’t pull it surprises on this album, but he does what he does best. He delivers a strong performance as he always does. He really doesn’t stray from what’s made him a great vocalist in this field. Drummer Jordan Mancino delivers as well and displays more depth than just crashing the skins repeatively.

 Bassist Josh Gilbert's bass playing seems to get lost in the production. You can definitely hear him at the beginning of “Defender”, but it’s hard to hear him throughout the entire album. Maybe it’s just my advance copy and it’s compressed too much but I would like to hear other people feedback on that aspect. As far as the guitar work of Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso, it’s stellar. As I said earlier, these guys deliver in abundance and it doesn’t get old or redundant.

The guys have really stepped it up on this new album and have grown. The songwriting is definitely a progression as the songs seem to be, I hope you‘re setting down, catchy. They have somehow managed to write songs that are intense, brutal and at the same time, catchy. I definitely can see this album being on many “Best of 2012” lists at the end of the year. My hat’s off to the guys and my horns are raised high and I say job well done.

Mayhem Festival Delivers A Day Of Metal To Bristow, Virginia

The annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival has become the summer camp of metal in its short existence. 2012 marks the event’s five year anniversary and this year’s lineup promises a little bit for everyone. The nearly half-day long event brought a mix of veteran acts as well as quite a few rookies to the Mayhem stage. The blistering sun was beating down upon the sea of black t-shirts all around us. The added humidity was helping to create a sea of b.o. all around us and the day was still young.

The gates opened and the crowd was herded in like cattle. Every band had a merch booth set up as well as Revolver and a few others. There were plenty of options for anyone around to spend their hard earned money on. There were a few freebies for the fans such as a CD sampler from Sumerian Records. Rockstar Energy Drink also had a tent set-up giving away small cans of their drink. The temps were high that day and that tent stayed packed all day long. There’s no telling how many cans were consumed on that day.

A forgettable local band kicked off the day and the second band to hit the stage was I The Breather. Shawn Span and his boys got the crowd all fired up and a dust cloud soon erupted from the moshing in the pit. The band played several songs off of their newest album Truth and Purpose and converted quite a few people into fans with their powerful set.

The smaller Sumerian Records stage featured very intimate, in your face performances from Dirtfedd, Upon a Burning Body and Betraying the Martyrs. These three bands, with emphasis on the last two, definitely put their all into their short, yet power packed sets. Each performance saw the eruption of dust clouds again, which proved to be a great indicator for each band as to how well they were liked by the crowd. Obviously, the bigger cloud meant that more people were moshing.

The Jagermeister stage never slowed up a bit as the day progressed. Whitechapel  were next up to perform and were followed by The Devil Wears Prada and As I Lay Dying, who were alternating with Asking Alexandria as to who would open the main stage and being on the Jager stage before Anthrax. The godfathers of thrash and one fourth of the Big 4, Anthrax, chose to close the Jager stage everyday instead of playing the main stage. They were performing their bare bones, guerilla set which featured song after song, in your face, minimal talking, attack mode. Their set list ran the gauntlet and included songs that were recorded before a lot of the people up front in the pit were even born. “Anti-social”, “Caught in a Mosh” and “Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t” got great reactions from the massive crowd that formed to watch these icons of thrash.

The main stage began with Asking Alexandria, who had been alternating with As I Lay Dying for rights to open the big stage. Their set included “Closure”, “Morte et Diablo” and “A Lesson Never Learned” which seem to go over really well with the crowd. The main stage area slowly began to fill as they played as the smaller stages had finished their day and people began to filter over to the bigger stage.

The legendary Motorhead and their front man Lemmy soon took the stage. They were loud and kept the banter to a minimum as they blasted song after song from their extensive catalog. Lemmy did attempt to converse with the crowd between a few of the songs, but it was kept to a sentence or two and then on to another song. There wasn’t a lot to their stage presence, as their focal seemed to be purely on the music.

Another one fourth of the Big 4 was up next as Kerry King and Slayer took the stage to a huge roar of approval from the crowd.  As far as volume goes, I thought Motorhead was supposed to be loud! These guys took the volume knob that Motohead had turned up, cranked it up ALL the way and then ripped it off! They were dark, heavy, powerful and had a no BS approach to their show. There was almost no banter between songs as they unleashed on song after another. Kerry King is a menacing force to watch perform on the stage live. He aggressively slays that guitar as if there is a personal grudge between him and the instrument.

That left only one band to play and I can say with confidence that it was the band that almost the entire venue couldn’t wait to see perform. Slipknot was back and prepared to claim the stage that had made them somewhat legendary. This was, of course, the first US tour that band has taken on since the death of their bassist Paul Gray in 2010. The band took the stage and showed why their legions of fans are so dedicated to them. 

A Slipknot show is a sight to see as the nine members come together to form a nine headed masked beast of fury and pyro. They unleashed such classic s as “Duality” and “Psychosocial” with intensity and unbridled passion. It was truly a sight to see as lead singer Corey Taylor displayed the power that he has power that he has over the crowd at a Slipknot show. When he told the crowd to get down and jump when he counted to three, I looked around the crowded arena and could only see a scattered handful of people standing. That, my friend, is power and a pretty dynamic display for a front man of any band. Their set also included tons of pyro and even snow.

Of course, with each year’s announcement of the lineup for Mayhem, you hear the usual whining of people about how weak it is and that it’s not what it used to be. Yes, this year did see Sumerian Records having their own stage for the first time and they brought along several very hungry bands from their roster who all played great sets. There was also one half of the Big 4 with Anthrax and Slayer being there as well as the legendary Motorhead. Top it all off with the first US tour since 2010 by Slipknot as they set out to reclaim their elite status in the metal world. I think this year’s Mayhem had a great mix for everyone and 2013’s lineup will prove to be big shoes to fill in keeping up the great tradition of metal’s biggest touring summer package.

A Rainy Uproar Stop In Bristow, Virginia Still Manages To Rock The Fans

The Rockstar Uproar Festival is typically one of the last big concert packages of the summer. Where the Mayhem Festival focuses on bands more of the metal genre (with some exceptions), the Uproar leans more towards the rock/hard rock genre. The show pulled into Bristow, VA to the Jiffy Lube Live Amphitheatre on September 2. This beautiful venue is located a roughly thirty miles away from Washington, DC and is sometimes listed as DC on a lot of tour schedules. The bands even referred to the crowd as DC on and off throughout the day.

At first, it seemed as if Mother Nature was not in the mood to rock that day as the skies opened and the rain began to pour. My guess is that Hurricane Isaac must be a fan of easy listening music as he was the blame for all the rain pounded the area. It made for a very difficult road-trip there and a very muddy parking lot coming into the venue. I think many people were deciding to wait out the storm at home as the crowd was slow coming into the venue after the gates opened.

One of the first bands that we saw perform was Mindset Evolution. The band won the grand prize on the 2011 Ernie Ball Music Man Battle of the Bands which included a spot to play on the next year’s Uproar Festival. The guys definitely made the most of their opportunity last year and continue to win fans over this year with a great, high energy performance. Redlight King received a very favorable response from the crowd that was beginning to grow as the rain was finally letting up. These guys have had several songs all over the radio including “Old Man” and the hugely popular “Bullet in my Hand”.

Up next was a red-hot band with a lot of momentum going into the Uproar tour. In This Moment took the stage to deliver songs from their new album Blood, which debuted at #15 and had huge first week sales. Maria Brink and the boys delivered a tight five song set which closed with their song “Blood”. There was more stage props incorporated into the show making it more theatrical, which was a nice touch. Maria did not venture out into the crowd this time to start her circle pit, which was a disappointment for some. It was a bitter sweet day as this was the last day that In This Moment performed as they were only invited to perform on half of the tour. On a positive note, they definitely had the biggest crowd for both of the side stages that day.

Speaking of momentum, Fozzy was another band coming into the tour with a lot of momentum. Their newest album Sins and Bones also saw a huge first week and it definitely had the guys pumped up. Lead singer and WWE Superstar Chris Jericho definitely has the charisma to front a band of any genre. They also had a tight, thirty minute set that featured selection off the new album including the popular single “Sandpaper”, even though M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold was nowhere to be found. The band sounded great and was very animated; they were definitely having a blast on-stage.

P.O.D., touring in support of their latest album Murdered Love, could be considered by many in attendance as the “elder statesmen” of the tour. These guys have been doing what they do for twenty years, but you wouldn’t know it once they hit that stage. They headlined and closed the side stages were one of the best performances of the day. Lead singer Sonny Sandoval knows how to get a crowd fired up. At one point, he even walked out on top of the crowd as they help him up. “Youth of the Nation” and “Alive” drove the crowd into a frenzy. These guys were certainly one of the highlights of the day.

The main stage was now open as Adelita’s Way kicked off things. Rick DeJesus and the boys had the shortest time on the main stage, but still had to make as big as an impact as the headliners. It was tight set that was heavy on selections from their sophomore album Home School Valedictorian. “Invincible”, “Hurt” and their latest hit “Criticize” all went over well with the crowd. It would have been nice to see their set time expanded to be able to include a couple of more song as they were well deserving of more stage time.

Staind were up next as Aaron Lewis and his band mates took the stage to a near packed amphitheater. Staind has that unique ability to deliver a very emotional power ballad and then press the pedal to the floor and crank out a hard rocker. “Right here”, “Something to Remind me”, “Now” and “It’s Been Awhile” were all present and accounted for. As always, the band sounded great, but I just wish they would chug an energy drink before hitting the stage. Rockstar was the tour sponsor, so there were plenty of drinks to be found. I just find their stage show to be a little boring at times.

Godsmack was up next and I was curious to see the reaction that they would receive. The house lights went down and a pre-recorded video began to air of various Godsmack footage accompanied by AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock”. This certainly got the crowd fired up and the band hit the stage hungry and ready to deliver. The band sounded tight and cranked out the hits one after another. “”Whatever”, “Voodoo” and “I Walk Alone” were all included. I was a little surprised that their cover of “Rocky Mountain Way” off of their latest album wasn’t included.

The drum war between Sully Erna and drummer Shannon Larkin was included this time around which the crowd approved with their horns raised high in approval. I saw Godsmack on Mayhem last year and comparing the two shows, it seems that they were more of an Uproar band. They definitely received a more favorable reception from this crowd and the audience participation seemed to favor the Uproar crowd as well.

Only one band was left to close the day and that was Shinedown. Brent Smith and his band of musicians have been touring like madmen since the release of their latest and highly successful album Amaryllis. The boys have added a ton of pyro to the show and for the most part, it works for them. Shinedown have definitely had their share of radio hits and just about all of them were featured in their set. “Second Chance”, “If You Only Knew”, “Bully” and “Unity” were all on-board as well as “The Sound of Madness” and “45”.

One surprise, depending on how much you read on-line, in their set was when they brought out Maria Brink of In This Moment to perform “Devour” with them. It was a great performance and watching Brent and Maria together it was very apparent they were having a blast. Another great point was when Brent, along with guitarist Zach Myers, went out into the audience and performed “Simple Man” acoustically. This was a great touch to the already powerful performance delivered by these two guys. Shinedown proved to all in attendance why they were headlining this tour.

Overall, the 2012 Uproar show was a great event, even though it ended the same way it started: with pouring rain. You take that chance with an outdoor show as the weather is an element that none of us can control. It was full day of great music, free Slurpees and free Rockstar Energy Drinks. There many happy fans who got the chance to meet their favorite band and get their autograph too. Even though Papa Roach had to pull out due to Jacoby’s throat problems, it still gets a major two thumbs up this year. Here’s to an even bigger and better 2013 show!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Johnny Cash: The Story Behind The Finger

9 years ago today, the world of music lost a true icon. Johnny cash passed away on this day in 2003 due to complications from diabetes. He passed away less than four months after the death of his wife June. It's even been rumored that his health took a turn for the worst after she passed away caused by a broken heart. If you know the story of Johnny and June, then you can believe the last sentence to be be true.

I grew up listening to Johnny Cash and seeing him on some of the tv shows of the 70s. I admit that the movie that came out in 2005 with Joaquin Phoenix did ignite an interest in me to learn more about the man. I loved the movie and it brought back alot of memories of listening to those songs when I was younger. I have a huge poster of the picture that is at the top of my article. It's an old picture that was taken way back in 1970 at one of Johnny's concerts at San Quentin Prison. Photographer Jim Marshall asked Johnny to give him a shot for the warden and this shot had its birth.

You didn't see too much of the picture for many years. In the late 80s, country music started to change. It started to sound less and less like traditional country. It's no secret that Johnny and his label Columbia, which he had been his home for almost 30 years, were not not seeing eye to eye. He was eventually dropped by the label and this crushed him. He recorded with Mercury Records for a few years, but with no success.

Then, in 1993, Johnny made headlines again for a very unusual recording. He sang the song "The Wanderer" on U2's Zooropa album. Shortly after that, he was offered a contract on Rick Rubin's American Recordings label. Well, not everyone was thrilled about this, including Johnny's own daughter Rosanne Cash. She thought that Rubin, who was known more for his work with the Beastie Boys and Slayer than for working with a country artist, was going to use him. Boy, was she wrong. It seems that Rubin awoke a sleeping beast, a creative beast that had not been that hungry in years.

In 1994, Johnny recorded American Recordings in his own living room. It won him a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. The next thing you knew, Johnny was everywhere. He was recording with the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and  Brooks and Dunn. He appeared several times on the successful television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and even provided his own voice for an episode of The Simpsons. A whole new generation were discovering the Man in Black.

He then recorded the album Unchained with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and that album won him another Grammy Award. This time it was in 1998 and it was for Best Country Album. What? How can you win a Grammy for best Country Album when country radio isn't even playing anything from it? I think Rick Rubin may have been thinking the same thing. So, he took out a full page ad in Billboard Magazine, reportedly costing $20.000. For those not familiar with it, Billboard is a highly respected music trade publication seen by just about everyone in the industry. That ad featured the then obscure 1970 picture that Jim Marshall took along with a message:

"American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support."

 At the bottom of the ad, it also included Johnny Cash "Unchained", Winner Best Country Album. Some who later saw the ad "got it", while others didn't. You see, Johnny was giving Nashville and country radio the finger for turning their backs on him because he wasn't seen as being "popular" or "commercial" anymore. Well, guess who had the last laugh?

Now, that picture taken on a whim in a prison back in 1970 is almost as famous as the man in it. It's on posters and t-shirts everywhere. I love the story of the ad and of the picture and how the two found each other after nearly 30 years. So, on this day, the ninth anniversary of the passing of an icon, I felt compelled to share this story with whoever will read it. I love telling the story and I hope that this blog will reach a few people and than I can share it with you. Now, it's time for some lunch and I think Johnny Cash will accompany me as my entertainment as I eat.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Duran Duran: The Wild Boys Still Know How To Make The Girls Scream

My first Duran Duran concert was in 1984 when the band was riding a huge wave of success here in the US. The boys were touring on their third album, 7 and the Ragged Tiger, and the arena that night was packed full of thousands of screaming teenage girls. I was definitely in the minority that night being a teenage boy caught up in all that hysteria. The guys put on a great show and even back then, they proved that they were a bunch of talented guys, but they were always dismissed as being a sort of “boy band” for that era.

Fast forward to 2012 and to the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, NC. There was a sense of déjà vu in the air as the majority of the crowd on this particular night was female. It seems those teenage girls have all grown up and ventured out on this evening to recapture their youth. Would Simon LeBon sing to them? Would a droplet of sweat from John Taylor make its way to their shirt? I say all of this jokingly, but there is some truth there. Yes, there were plenty of guys there also; actually more than I expected!

The show started with a ten minute film. It was an artsy type of film that did not include the band at all and was scored with classical music. It was actually quite funny listening to the crowd try to clap along to it. For me, it was an odd way to start the show. The film ended and the boys went straight into “Before the Rain” from their latest studio album All You Need Is Now. After that, they started to crank out the hits as “Planet Earth” and “A View to a Kill” followed.

The band did feature several songs off of their latest studio album, four of them actually. They included the opener, plus “Girl Panic”, “Blame the Machines” and the title track. I’m not sure if it was just the section that I was in, but these newer songs gave most of those people the opportunity to sit down. It seemed to be a crowd more interested in the classic songs than the new ones. I must say in defense of the new songs that they sounded pretty amazing.

There were a couple of serious and emotional moments amongst all this hysteria. “Save a Prayer” was dedicated to Sandy Ahrens, a longtime Duranie from that area who had passed away earlier in the year. Also, Simon’s introduction of “Ordinary World” spoke of how the song had taken on a life of its own and meant so many things to so many people.

Yes, there were still plenty more hits throughout the night including “Union of the Snake”, “Wild Boys” and of course, “Hungry Like the Wolf”. I was really surprised at how amazing their version of “White Lines”, made famous by Grandmaster Flash, was. It’s been in their set for years, but it was as if it was on steroids on this night. The encore saw the boys come back out to perform “Girls on Film” and “Rio”.

I have seen many Duran Duran shows throughout the years, but I have never heard the boys sound tighter than they did on this evening. Keyboardist Nick Rhodes and John’s Taylor’s thumping, and highly underrated, bass playing are a huge part of the band’s signature sound and they were spot on. Drummer Roger Taylor’s drumming didn’t miss a beat, no pun intended and Simon’s vocals were stellar and showed no signs of his ailment that caused them to cancel many shows last year. Lastly, guitarist Dom Brown has been an un-official member of the band since Andy Taylor’s second departure in 2006 and has proven himself to be a very important member of the family and sounded great.

What I saw up on that stage during their two hour performance was a band who did not look or act as if they had been doing this for 30 years. Yes, I know not all members have been a part of this for 30 years, but you know what I mean. These guys were not “going through the motions”, they were having genuine fun up there. Plus, on that stage were very skilled musicians. John Taylor is one of the most underrated bass players ever. Duran Duran have been proving on this tour that they were much more than just a bunch of cute guys who dressed nice and had cool hair. They are the real deal and deserving of respect from an industry that dismissed them many years ago.