Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

The Second Goo Around

Posted: September 22, 2017 in Music

There’s nothing like the first time.  You never forget it as most firsts are preceded by years of anticipation, hard work, dreaming, or any number of combinations of the three.  Yet, there are cases in which the second time can be even better.

I can honestly say that my second time seeing the Goo Goo Dolls was definitely better than the first.  Yes, last summer ended years of waiting to finally see them, and it gave my wife and I a great, overnight road trip down to Oregon to make the experience even greater.  But, that night couldn’t even begin to compare to this year’s concert.

I had a feeling that was going to be the case heading into it as the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery is somewhat of a home-away-from-home for the guys in the band.  It is a mainstay on virtually all of their tours, and they even spent time in its locale of Woodinville a couple of years ago when working on their Boxes album.  I figured their connection with the area would provide for a special energy coming from not just the band but the crowd as well.  It did.

At last year’s concert, John, Robby, and the rest of the band came out on fire but I felt the crowd didn’t really reciprocate so the guys just played through it.  There certainly was never a fear of a repeat this go-around.  The stage presence of John and Robby that we’ve all grown to love was on full display.  They both cover the stage from end-to-end, front-to-back with an energy and rock persona that’s tough to find anyone who can match it. But, let’s be honest in saying that Robby takes a definite edge over John in this category.  As my wife said during one of Robby’s first songs early in the set, “You can tell that guy really f—ing loves his job!”

As for the crowd and their energy, I don’t think they missed a beat all night long.  It’s always an incredible saturation of the senses when the voices singing along all around you seem to melt into one with those firing through the speakers.  There’s nothing like that brief moment as you’re scanning the crowd during a song when you make eye contact with someone else belting out the tune.  It’s a great sense of camaraderie in knowing that you’re all there because you share the same love of the same music from the same artist.

I might also be a bit biased toward this night over the first time because I got to have the unbelievable experience of the pre-show meet-and-greet.  There really isn’t a good way to describe it.  It was my first time getting to do it and it was an insane few minutes of whirlwind.  Though you know heading into it that it’s going to be an all too brief experience, nothing can prepare you for those handful of seconds that it’s just you and the guys.  My mind was going a million miles per second with what I wanted to say, what I wanted to ask, and with simply trying to compute how it was possible that I was standing between two of my idols.  It still seems unreal.

What is very much real, however, are the songs those two idols have put into my life.  Which, ultimately, is what put all of us there on that night. The new, the old, the classics, the surprises – they were all shared.  Some were exactly as we know them from the albums.  Some had curveballs mixed in that we weren’t expecting.  All of them were the live version of memories, people, places, and events that have meant so much to us in our lives.

For that I am grateful.  Or, should I say, we are grateful.  I feel that I can safely speak for the entire fan base that was in attendance when I express how thankful we are to have a couple of guys from Buffalo whose talents have played the role that they have in our lives.  What’s even better is that the journey is (hopefully) far, far from over.  We’ll do our best in whatever ways we can to see to that.

We need more new, unknown songs.  We need more summer days of driving with the windows down and the volume up.  We need more nights like we just got with The Long Way Home Tour where we can belt out our favorites alongside a couple thousand new friends.  We need more memories.

I know, I know – it’s all in due time.  As I learned with this second experience being greater than the first, the guys just keep getting better.  It can be said for both of them: you can tell they really f—ing love their job.

 

 

 

 

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Gone Goo Goo

Posted: July 16, 2016 in Music

It was a night years in the making.  The band had been around for two decades, had placed well in the charts with several singles and albums, and yet I was essentially oblivious to their good deeds within the music world.  I may have been somewhat familiar with their biggest song, but I honestly can’t say definitively that I was.  How quickly things can change.

The one specific song that I can thankfully blame for it all started getting increased playtime during the holiday season of 2005.  It was a new single that I believe had been out for several weeks, but given its underlying themes and message it fit perfectly for the more current time of year.  That 3-1/2 minute package of brilliance is titled, “Better Days” and it was penned by the genius that is John Rzeznik – brilliant Goo Goo Dolls front man.

It jumped out at me the first time I heard it because the band had just recently been put onto my radar by a good friend whose life has been greatly influenced by the boys from Buffalo.  It was all over from there.  I was a fan.  It didn’t take long for their music to grow deeper within me to the point of becoming an important, invaluable part of my life.

Too many years it took for it all to finally culminate in seeing John, Robby Takac, and the rest of the band live, but I finally did so on Friday night, July 8th, 2016.  My wife and I made the trek down to Troutdale, Oregon for a night we will never forget.  Yes, my wife is a fan as well.  Like so many people, she didn’t even realize how much she enjoyed the band until hearing so much of their stuff in my car that she recognized.  They have provided the perfect soundtrack for our life together.  I went a bit cliché and had “Come To Me” playing when I proposed, but it was only fitting.  The song is an eerily relatable story of the history of our friendship through the years on up to our marriage.  It has always been the perfect theme song for us and has always been there: it randomly started playing at the jewelry store the night we bought her ring, it randomly started playing several days later when I went to pick up the ring, and in addition to the proposal it was our first dance at the wedding.  We also used “Hey Ya” for the bridal party’s procession, and had “All That You Are” playing when we were introduced at the reception.

So, for many reasons this particular rainy night in Oregon was monumental for us both.  The years of waiting were completely worth it.  The opening shows from Tribe Society and Collective Soul were great and the atmosphere went through the proverbial roof of the amazing outdoor venue when the guys hit the stage.  It was a great set that flew by all too quickly in a nearly exact hour-and-a-half.  From the old to the new, and everything in between – dancing and singing virtually non-stop to every song made for quite the evening.  That included getting to dance to our song once again – live.

The energy of the experience is something I will never forget.  John knows how to bring it as lead vocalist, lead guitarist, comedian in-between and during songs, and even when he gives up the stage to Robby when it’s his turn at the mic.  Speaking of Robby, watching that guy is almost worth the price of admission in itself.  His charisma, his excitement, his overall enjoyment and love for the fans and what he is doing – they all ooze out of his every movement, every jump and run around the stage, and every smile and goofy grin that he gives.  Well, I shouldn’t say “every” smile and grin because that implies that he stops doing those things at some point.  He doesn’t.

It’s always a moment of mixed emotions when the band that you’ve gone to see walks off of the stage for the final time at the end of the night.  You’re raging with adrenaline.  You’re raging with mystery of “I wonder what they’d play next had they kept going”.  You’re even raging with a bit of disappointment at having to come to grips with it being all over, and having done so too quickly regardless of it was an hour or three.  Mostly, however, you’re raging with the mesmerizing excitement of what you just lived through.

That night took too many years to happen.  I’m thankful for that.  Not because it gave me time to appreciate it more (I would have appreciated it equally as much had it been five years ago), but because the timing ended up being perfect.  The venue at which it happened, the night on which it happened, and the fact that I got to share it with whom I did.

I know it won’t take me as long to see them the next time.  At least, I can only hope there’s the opportunity for a next time.  If and when there is, my wife and I will be there.  You should, too.

In your home, in your car, or best yet live – Goo Goo Dolls certainly makes for better days.

 

 

NASCAR and Rock & Roll

Posted: December 19, 2014 in Music, Racing

With Speedway Motorsports, Inc. removing nearly 60,000 seats between two tracks, you can’t help but wonder what led to once normally sold out tracks being resorted to such demolitions.  Charlotte Motor Speedway will be losing 41,000 seats while Atlanta Motor Speedway will get a reduction of 17,000.  Fans have obviously stopped going to not just these, but a large number of tracks around the NASCAR series as is very evident with even just a quick glance at the television coverage.  Why this big of a drop in attendance figures?

Is the television product becoming so advanced and well accepted that folks feel it is a better experience to stay home?  Why not?  It beats the hours of travel, hundreds or even thousands of dollars of expenses, the horrible traffic most tracks are guilty of, and being crammed next to sweaty, smelly strangers in 100 degree heat for roughly four or five hours.  Yet, no TV presentation can substitute the sounds, smells of the cars, and first person sights of actually being there.

Or, let’s be honest and face the possible truth – has the interest begun to dwindle?  Think back to when Brian France took over control of the organization in October of 2003.  That’s when I and a lot of other traditional lovers of the sport began to take a step back.  I will stand by the thought that Brian ruined the sport by essentially selling out and grossly exploiting the exposure that came from the still mind-rattling death of Dale Earnhardt nearly three years prior.  Yes, more sponsors coming in was great, but at what cost?  The sport began being marketed toward a younger crowd; a non-traditional crowd in hopes of growing the fan base.

More celebrities began showing up.  Figures from other sports started to appear.  It made one wonder if the footage from the garage area was a race track, or the red carpet at the Oscars or ESPYs.  Then the gimmicks came.  There were big changes to the cars (for better or for worse) as well as the move that officially ended my tenure as a NASCAR fan – the introduction of the new post-season playoff format for the championship.  Well, what if all of those things have run their courses?

Yes, NASCAR is still extremely popular throughout all three of its elite series, but to what extent?  The big NASCAR fans will spend as much time (if not more) in front of their TV on Saturdays on Sundays during the spring and summer as what football fans do during the fall and winter.  Those are the big NASCAR fans, however.  You will hear or see smatterings of casual followers tuning in for the big Cup races on Sundays, but overall TV ratings are declining as a whole.  So, did that younger, non-traditional new crowd realize there was a reason they hadn’t been a fan of the sport before?  Did the star athletes and the celebrities enjoy their invite for a free trip to a new experience and just chalk it up as a one-off perk of their career choice?

A lot of people have been quick to back-up SMI’s claim that the seat removal is to erase seats that weren’t being used anyway and increase space for higher quality hospitality options.  Which basically means, “we will have better experiences with which to treat the guests of sponsors (a lot of whom are there for free), and we can give up on trying to entice new, paying fans”.  But, what does SMI care?  Fewer seats means they can jack-up the prices for all of their other seats because of that whole “supply-and-demand” thing.  Well, they can at least try because there obviously isn’t the same demand.

Better TV?  The newer fans are beginning to walk away?  Those celebrities couldn’t be converted into ambassadors?  However you look at it, you have to question the popularity of NASCAR 11-years into Brian France’s involvement.

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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2015 induction class and they induce some serious head scratching.  This seems to be rather normal from the 700-plus member voting panel.  The most glaring inclusion is Green Day getting in on their very first ballot.  Yes, they have been around for 25 years, but when you factor in bands still outside-looking-in like Deep Purple, Bon Jovi, Yes, Def Leppard, and many others it seems a bit atrocious that Green Day can just waltz on in with only one turn on the ballot.

On the other hand, a couple of positives are that talent such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, as well as, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts have been voted in.  Both are extremely deserving as Joan Jett is in the Top-5 for a large number of the population when you ask them for their favorite female artists, or just ask them to name off female singers.  Factor in what the Blackhearts can and continue to do.  Factor in that they’re still out touring (albeit it casinos and state fairs).  That’s an act that deserves to be in.

SRV goes without saying that he and his band are no-doubt hall of famers.  The only troublesome thought is that it took this long for it to happen, and that it came as result of a “popular vote” from the public.  Yes, the public had to demand it.  Not sure where the members of the voting panel have been for the past four decades.  His talent and success cannot be questioned, and even if that wasn’t enough to get him in, his legacy and continued popularity since that night in August of 1990 should have been more than sufficient grounds for this honor years ago.

Overall, congrats to everyone who is going into the hall this upcoming spring.  It makes us eager to see what next winter’s selections will bring.  Also, probably a bit hesitant.

Wow, where to begin.  I guess I really let things slip being that I haven’t written in three months.  I always thought I’d have to die before that happened…again.  Seriously though, I don’t know how to get started so I guess I’ll just blow through some key points on my mind and see where things end up going.

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  • The biggest news on an overall scale is the return of the NHL for the 2013 season.  Yes, I said 2013 because I cannot stand anyone who still references it as 2012-13.  How can you include the ’12 when there was no existence of any play during that half of the season?  Anyway, as I had said all along I will not give a damn about how things play out because the season is one big, tainted joke.  That’s not to say that I won’t somewhat pay attention.  Out of all the games that have been played, I’ve watched parts of four and listened on radio to parts of three others.  One of those TV games and all three radio games have gone to shootouts but that’s a rant that deserves its own time and space.

Some of you probably are accusing me of being hypocritical  for even tuning in, but I genuinely don’t care.  Who has the best record in the league?  Couldn’t tell you.  Who has the worst? Again, couldn’t tell you.  Who is leading in goals scored or points?  You know my answer.  Where’s my NHL gear that I own?  Still in the closet where showing support for the owners belongs.  When this 48-game regular season comes to an end, I will pay slightly more attention.  My belief is that the top teams heading into the playoffs at the end of 48-games would be the same teams as if it were a full 82-game season.  Yes, seeding might be different and the bottom couple of teams might have changed, but as a whole it will still be the best teams playing for the Stanley Cup.

  • Earlier this month the Silvertips relieved second year Head Coach Mark Ferner and Assistant Coach Chris Hartsburg of their duties; General Manager Garry Davidson is carrying the “Interim Head Coach” title for the rest of the season.  I still find this a bit of a confusing move as the team was doing much better this season despite rebuilding than it was at the same point last year.  Since Davidson’s decision, you can argue that the team has been much less consistent.  Why not make the move before the season even began if you knew that the coach and GM weren’t on the same page?
  • My second-to-last posting was in regards to the idea NASCAR was floating around of holding a dirt race for their truck series.  Just a matter of days after I wrote that, the official announcement was made.  Last week in a press conference NASCAR’s front man Brian France referenced judgment and decision making errors that the organization has made in the past couple of decades.  Once the novelty of this idea wears off it will be brought up in that same light a few years down the road.
  • The IndyCar Series announced changes to their format for several races this upcoming season.  They involve combinations of various aspects including different qualifying systems, heat races, double-segmented races, standing starts and some other tweaks.  A key note is that most of these things only apply to road/street course races.  Unlike the NASCAR Truck thing, I have no problems with these format changes.  There’s one glaring reason: consistency.  All of these things will be utilized on several occasions; they won’t be a one-off anomaly that goes against everything the series has always stood for.  These different elements have been dabbled in over the past few seasons and they are things that all of the drivers are accustomed to from previous series and experience.
  • On a personal front, 2013 is starting off great from a music standpoint.  My top three favorite artists of Bon Jovi (What About Now), Goo Goo Dolls (Magnetic) and Michelle Branch (West Coast Time [a year-and-a-half delayed]) are all releasing new music throughout the first handful of months.  The Boys from Jersey have already put out the first single – “Because We Can” – though no release date on the album has been publicized.  As for Buffalo’s own, “Rebel Beat” has been released on the internet ahead of the album’s May 7th release, but we have to wait until February 12th to purchase the single.  In terms of Michelle’s next musical installment, the spring is all that has been mentioned.  However, back in late summer of 2011, “Loud Music” was the first single to hit the airwaves to promote the album that was victimized by hold-ups at the label level.

Bottom line is that ‘13 is going to be amazing and all of this new music at the start is perfect timing because it will give an incredible soundtrack to my life for it all.

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So, there you have it.  Three months of randomness condensed into a few bullet points of, well – randomness.  My prediction is that there will be even more randomness to randomly attempt putting into words for another random blog at a random time some point not too far down the line.  No, I didn’t plan all of that it just came out that way.  I guess you could say it was…everybody at once now…random.

 

— JRD

I’m going to preface this by saying one thing: I’m not trying to put down anyone’s musical beliefs. I’m a huge believer in the philosophy that no one has any right to talk down about another person’s musical preferences. That’s a chicken you-know-what thing to do and those are not my intentions.

With that said, does anyone from their early 20s down even realize that music existed before the mid-90s? Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of good music out there but people thinking the “greatest music ever” happened within the past 10-15 years? Seriously? About one in ever eight to ten songs is worth something now days (as a complete production) and if you don’t think so then just tune into a top-40 station. Music is all about the lyrics and producing and it’s sad that a huge chunk of today’s artists don’t write or create their own stuff. The weight of the words isn’t nearly as great when it’s just some pretty face with a good voice trying to get famous who’s singing them. What writing? What producing? They show up to the studio when they’re told, sing what they’re told, leave when they’re told and deposit their big checks when they receive them. They don’t care, they just want the fame.

But what do I know? I’m told my music taste sucks because it consists of such “crappy” artists like Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Elton John, John Fogerty, Eagles just to name a few. At least people come to partially agree with me on artists such as Goo Goo Dolls, Michelle Branch and Lovely Goodbye. Wow, artists who actually care about their profession. Artists who truly believe in putting their guts onto paper then letting the rest of the world know that they aren’t alone. A well known example of that these days is Taylor Swift. She gets annihilated by the haters because all of her songs are about heartbreak and talking about her exes. Um, excuse me. That’s what a large portion of music is about.

Music traditionally has been about love. Yes there are other types of songs out there covering different topics but love and losing love are the most common. Look at your own personal favorite artist and consider how many love oriented songs they have. Probably a massive portion of their catalog. So who cares if that’s what Taylor writes about? She’s in her early 20’s and don’t you dare try telling me that in your early 20’s relationships weren’t the number one issue in your life. She is a true artist. She share’s her deepest, most personal moments by writing them, she’s involved with the production and she sings them.

So, as I said at the beginning this was in no way a chance to bash on peoples’ musical preferences. I’m just saying that some out there need to either expand their music listening horizons or else change their definition of music. There’s too much focus on the ones playing the instruments and singing into the mic. Yes, a lot of them are good musicians and good singers, but try to look past the pretty faces who are just trying to get rich. Give more credit to the writing and the producing. Those are the people who actually make the song. Without them, there is no music.

Richie Sambora’s new solo album was released on Tuesday and sadly not enough people are aware of that.  Aftermath of the Lowdown is Richie’s third solo release and first since 1998’s Undiscovered Soul (his debut album was Stranger in This Town in 1991).  It is a great record that genuinely reflects the personality of the man behind it and gives great insight to the tumultuous road he has traveled down the past handful of years.

My initial reaction after my first listen was that I felt kind of lost.  At first, there didn’t seem to be much of a flow in terms of his sound.  Of the eleven tracks it could be argued that there are three distinct sub-albums within the main album: one-third is in your face rock with lots of effects both vocally and with the guitars; one-third is light on those effects and consist of Richie straight rocking out; one-third are a lot lighter with great grooves, easy to follow vocal tracks and could easily be big radio hits.

That, as I said, was my initial reaction.  I have since listened from start-to-finish more than a half dozen times and am a huge fan of the whole production.  Those heavy effects that I found to be a bit distracting?  They are what give the songs a true identity.  The seemingly pointless jumps from song style A to B to C back to B back to C back to A and so on?  They are a crystal clear projection into the heart and soul of one of music’s most unsung guitar heroes and songwriters.

As everyone knows, Richie is most easily identified as the lead guitarist for Bon Jovi as well as Jon Bon Jovi’s best friend and right-hand man.  However, even if you’re not a fan of the band then you’re probably all too well versed via the tabloids and paparazzi in Richie’s personal struggles of everything from alcohol addiction to divorce to on again, off again relationships.  All of which are vocalized by him in every line of every song on this album.  Every emotional hit he has ever taken, every bottle of alcohol he has ever thrown back, every “one pill too many” he’s swallowed down, every love lost – he makes you feel it all.  For that he deserves every ounce of credit.

The man is an artist, a musician both with his guitar and his pen.  I am an amateur (at best) songwriter and have been asked how I find it so easy to put my emotions down on paper and to share such personal feelings.  Well, if it was hard then that would defeat the purpose.  A song is written to convey the innermost thoughts and emotions of the songwriter and putting it out for public conception is the whole goal.  It’s how we communicate.  Richie communicates to the point where the listener is left with absolutely no doubts as to what was running through his heart and mind when he wrote these pieces.

I’m not going to give a breakdown of all the songs, or even a snippet of the track listing because most of you have not listened to any of them.  I don’t like reading about a song’s breakdown before I’ve heard it because I run the risk of falling victim to the reviewer’s point of view.  The whole concept of listening to new music is to gain your own perspective by way of the artist’s perspective.  I found I easily relate to most of the songs on Aftermath but not necessarily for the same reasons as Richie.  That’s okay.  Just because it’s easy to feel where he himself was at in life when he was feeling those emotions doesn’t mean my heart can’t translate those same emotions in a different manner.  Same words and same emotions just different thoughts, memories and perspectives.

Life gives us those emotions.  They then get stored in our heart and soul until we figure out what to do with them.  Some people keep them there forever.  Some people act them out whether for better or for worse.  Some don’t know what on earth to do with them.  Some unique people turn them into words which empower others when they are heard.  Richie is one of those unique people.  Aftermath of the Lowdown is one of those unique albums.

However, we now know that maybe Richie isn’t as unique as we really think.  Ultimately he’s just a man who hurts, bleeds and cries like the rest of us.  Pick up a copy of Aftermath of the Lowdown and do your own hurting, bleeding and crying with him.  It’s okay.  We’re not too unlike my first impressions of the album: at first things seem all over the map, not much rhyme and reason, but after a while you come to realize that in life all of that craziness is what makes it work.  You get to take every emotion you’ve ever carried with you and put them to use.  Somehow.  It’s your choice.

Thank you Richie for choosing to share yours through music and don’t worry – we will always be here to listen.  And we’re all better for it.