Tag Archives: Foo Fighters

A bright sunshiny day: The fierce power of optimism

17 Jun

During a time of worldwide pandemic, demands for racial justice, utter financial catastrophe and unheard of levels of unemployment, I have become a huge fan of optimism.

Granted, pessimism usually has the better jokes, and in these troubled times, optimism runs the risk of coming off as wimpy, myopic or irritatingly cheerful. What I’ve discovered is, when it comes to strength, clarity and results, optimism kicks ass. Here’s why.

Optimism demands action.
Optimism is closely aligned with hope, which is poetically defined by Merriam-Webster as a way “to cherish [meaning nurture] a desire with anticipation.” It’s not to be confused with wishing, which is a pretty passive way of dealing with a challenge; if you just “put it all out to the universe,” you’re waiting for the universe to do all the heavy lifting to bail you out.

Nope, optimism requires work … lots and lots of work: expanding your network; researching new industries; tailoring your resume to fit the job you’re aiming for; going for a walk to dispel anxiety; practicing gratitude by writing down three good things at the end of each day. It’s rarely a “one and done” action, either; you have to keep showing up and putting in the effort.

Optimism requires self-reflection.
I’ve wrestled with “why me?” a lot since being laid off and have indulged in the occasional pity party, replete with Ben & Jerry’s. Still, it’s way more productive to consider this major disruption as a chance to review my past work experiences with an eye toward landing an even better opportunity in the future by asking myself:

  • what I’ve accomplished that makes me proud
  • what didn’t go as well and what I’ve learned as a result
  • which of my current skills adds the most value to a company right now and in the future
  • what skills I still need to learn – and how I can do that while I have some time away from a job

This self-examination can also bring focus during times that may seem hopeless. In an interview for New York magazine, civil rights champion Congressman John Lewis was asked, “What do you do to keep from becoming bitter?” He replied, “I pray over and over again, have what I call an executive session with myself, just self-listen: This is what you must do. This is what you must say. Do what you can, and play the role that you can play.

Optimism coexists with reality.

Having a positive frame of mind doesn’t mean ignoring the facts. It also doesn’t mean there won’t be periods of despair, doubt and fear. Yet optimism can provide moments of grace and gratitude, even when the present is tough and the future is bleak.

Three-time Tony nominee Rebecca Luker acknowledged this in her recent New York Times interview, “After A.L.S. Diagnosis, Rebecca Luker Is ‘Proud I Can Still Sing,’” when she said, “Some days I don’t have hope. The days that I do, I think about all the people that love and support me. There are a lot of exciting medical things coming down the pike in 2020. I know that I’m a strong person and that I can beat this.”

Optimism is a team sport.
As Luker acknowledged, optimism is rooted in those who are rooting for you. One of the first blessings I experienced after losing my job was hearing from so many people from all phases of my life who then took action to help me: putting me in touch with their friends, setting up calls, sharing my resume and so on. This is in addition to my family, who have been a full-service cheerleading squad. It’s motivated me to find ways to pay it forward and to celebrate my friends’ successes in their job searches. If one of us wins, we all do.

Sharing your pain and support with others balances the burden we all carry and helps build perspective. In a recent installment of the New York Times’ “Modern Love” series, Brooklyn resident Kelly Sterling said, “Before entering this quarantine, my husband and I suffered a miscarriage….We started having conversations with our families and friends, opening up about what had happened. People told us stories of their own losses and their friends’ losses. Even though we were stuck at home, we felt love and support from the outside world. Randy and I have come a long way during this time — now, we accept our loss as part of our story.”

Optimism just makes you feel better.
I have no idea how long I will be out of work, or when the pandemic will subside, or if Black Americans will ever receive the racial justice that has been denied them for more than four centuries. I do know that if I fully invest in optimism and positive change, there’s a greater chance that positive results will follow.

Just take it from the Jamaican Olympic bobsledding team.

I love the Johnny Nash original, yet I chose this version from “Cool Runnings” since we could all use some Jamaican joy right now (and Jimmy Cliff is transcendent!)

See you on the flip side … and stay safe!

The Break a Leg Tour: Foo Fighters at DTE Energy Music Theater

26 Aug

Foo Fighters curtainAt last, four years after I’d seen them for the first time at the Palace, nine months after spending three of the coldest hours of my life waiting in line for tickets, the big day arrived: The Foo Fighters returned to Michigan, fronted by the indefatigable Dave Grohl.

Grohl has more than earned his reputation for being the biggest bad ass in rock and roll this summer. Back in June, Grohl pitched off the stage during a concert in Sweden, dislocating his ankle and breaking his leg before getting back on stage to finish the show. As he told Entertainment Weekly,

[T]he doctor said, “Your ankle’s dislocated and I have to put it back into place right now.” They put this roll of gauze in my mouth and I screamed and bit down on it and they put my ankle back into place and then everyone was quiet for a minute. The Foo Fighters were onstage playing a Queen song or something and I looked down and said, “OK, can I go back on stage now?” Because it didn’t hurt. My paramedic doctor said “I have to hold your ankle in place,” and I said, “Well, then you’re coming on f—ing stage with me right now.” And he did.

Dave Grohl and Dave GrohlOnce the adrenaline ebbed, the pain took over, and the band had to cancel the rest of their European dates. However, Grohl was determined to return to the road for the American leg (ahem) starting with the Foo’s 20th anniversary concert on July 4th in Washington D.C. While in the hospital – high as a kite due to painkillers – he designed a movable chair with speakers and a smoke machine built into the base and a huge red logo surrounded by guitar necks and “lazers.” Sitting on his throne, he could prop up his leg and still thrash through three hours of music. His crew constructed the contraption and the tour was saved.

As gruff as he comes off during a concert, he’s a fan first and foremost, knowing what it’s like to brave the weather, inflated ticket prices and a weary day at work the next morning to see a show. Promising to pack as much time on stage as the local ordinances would allow, Grohl kicked right into “Everlong” and didn’t let up for two and a half hours. This is a guy who usually runs from one end of the stadium to the other, so staying seated had to be tough. Although he’s graduated from a hard cast to a boot (which he used as an ersatz bow for his guitar for one number), he stayed on his throne, singing, screaming and headbanging per usual.

Dave Grohl in red

He’s also running for Coolest Dad on the Planet. A few times he called to the wings for some water, and out trotted Violet, his six year-old daughter, sporting noise-canceling earphones. (Five year-old Harper came out toward the end; probably his toddler was asleep on the bus.)

The crowd was up for anything as long as Dave was at the helm, and he was ready to acquiesce to our demands. He brought a fan on stage to make good on his poster board request to share a beer in honor of the guy’s 50th birthday. During his introductions of the band, joking that they knew “the first minute of every rock song ever written,” he capitulated to the crowd’s demand to play all of Kiss’ “Detroit Rock City.” More than once, he left it to the audience to decide if the next song would be a Foo Fighters song or a classic cover, clearly favoring the former. (Despite a compelling version of Tom Petty’s “Breakdown,” the Foos really aren’t that great of a cover band.)

There are so few honest-to-goodness rock bands left these days, much less those with band members under the age of 60. Grohl carries the torch for a lot of us who, despite kids, jobs, infirmities and changing times, never want the show to end.

See you on the flip side …

Blessed: Lucinda Williams at the Royal Oak Theater

25 Nov

Beat the Bots

Foo Fighters tickets went on sale last Saturday. Being all about sticking up for the little guy, the band kicked it off with a “Beat the Bots” pre-sale. As an email explained, “Fans sick of Scalper-BOTS programmed to clog online queues and snatch up huge amounts of tickets to resell them will get first shot at tickets to the show.” So, just as in days of old, those of us wanting good seats could drive down to the box office and get in line.

Of course, Saturday was the last day of a bitter cold snap, with freezing rain turning every parking lot and bridge into a luge track. We were allowed to start lining up at 8:00 a.m. with the box office opening two hours later. It was about 8:10 when I realized that, while I had thought to bring my Rolling Stone with Dave Grohl on the cover to keep myself occupied, I didn’t have warm socks, waterproof boots or long johns. I was woefully underdressed. For the next two and a half hours, I shifted from foot to foot, jammed my gloved hands into my pockets and tried to stay limber while my teeth chattered.

As I felt my spine go numb and my gums freeze, I had to ask myself: why do I put myself through this? 

I could say it’s to earn the admiration of those in my age group who, due to other commitments and common sense, don’t go the extra mile I often do to see my favorite musicians perform live. “You are awesome,” read one post on my Facebook page; “Young. At. Heart” read another. If my race against decrepitude and boredom lands me in a mosh pit every once in a while, I’ll have the support of those living vicariously through my folly.

But there’s a more valid reason. Live music connects us physically with the singer and the song in ways a pair of headphones never will. It amplifies our ability to experience pure joy. Case in point: the transcendent Lucinda Williams, who I saw at the Royal Oak Theatre on Saturday night.

Lucinda Williams

Singer/songwriter Williams grew up in Louisiana, the daughter of a poet who was also a rabid Hank Williams fan (no relation … pity). Tom Petty was my gateway to her music. He did a blistering cover of Williams’ “Changed the Locks” for the soundtrack of She’s the One. (Lucinda returned the favor, covering “Rebels” when Petty received the ASCAP Founders Award this year.)

She’s got a voice like a broken beer bottle and views the world through cigarette smoke and smeared eyeliner. Her genre is hard to pin down. Alt-country, blues, rock, folk and gospel fuse together in her fearless lyrics that demand she be treated with passion and respect, as in one of her evocative creations, “Unsuffer Me”:


Her three-piece band was phenomenal, filling the sold-out venue with a dense, precision playing so thrilling, Lucinda herself would pull to the side of the stage to watch. She balanced her new material with old, plus some apt covers including Detroiter Bettye LaVette’s “Joy” and Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” She was having so much fun, when she finished her nearly two hour set, she came back for an encore … then another … then another (and perhaps another: I lost count in my glee). She got to a point that she ran out of numbers in the songbook she kept on her music stand; she sent the roadie offstage to fetch more lyric sheets so she could do more songs. (Kenneth Brian, the leader of the band that opened the show, told us in the lobby that she was making up for a stuffy gig the night before in Cleveland; “I’ve never seen her like this,” he said, astonished.)

Foo Fighters ticketsLucinda Williams was a perfect way to close out a year of remarkable shows, as I’ve been blessed by great opportunity and more often than not, a willing concert buddy. She reinforced my resolve to keep showing up, despite the cold or cost or clueless drunks air-drumming throughout the evening. And good thing, too … because I have a date with Dave and the boys in August 2015!

See you on the flip side … 

P.S. If you live in the Brighton, Michigan area, there’s still time to RSVP for the Brighton District Library Local Author Showcase, featuring yours truly and signed copies of Love and Other B-Sides! Let us know you’re coming by registering here: http://bit.ly/1vauiBR



There Goes My Hero

22 Sep

I think the drunken cougar standing behind me at the Palace said (or slurred) it best: “If I didn’t love Dave Grohl before, I do now. WHOO, BABY!”

My older daughter and I had been looking forward to the Foo Fighters concert for months. We joked about creating our own tribute t-shirts featuring slogans like Team Grohl, Grohl Power, and What Would Grohl Do? I bought the tickets the day they went on sale. Yeah, I dig their music and respect the band and wanted to experience them live after all these years, but my purchase was mainly a vote of approval, admiration and appreciation for their front man.

Dave Grohl is my favorite bad ass.

The hardest working punk in show business …

At 42, Dave can still run around the stage like a 19-year old, take pride in his tats, and scream through a three-hour set without losing his voice or respect from his fans. And, to the alcoholic MILF’s point, he’s aged into his good looks and finally found a stylist to give him a bouncy layered cut that stands up to hours of sweaty head-banging without losing its shape. Even with that thick neck and those humongous teeth, he’s pretty dreamy.

He cemented his place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2016 when he became the eighth drummer for Nirvana, arriving just in time to be part of Nevermind and all the success and chaos that followed. The homely kid beating the hell out of the drum kit behind Kurt Cobain could also play guitar and write songs; six months after Cobain’s death he shopped around the 15-track demo that led him to form the Foos.

In addition to Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, plus his recent stint as a third of Them Crooked Vultures, he’s recorded with something like 30 other bands. (Just this week I found out he played on the first track of Garbage’s Bleed Like Me … the guy knows everybody.) He was a Heartbreaker for one weekend in 1994 when the regular drummer Stan Lynch had a falling out with the band and Dave got a call to ask if he could sit in for their Saturday Night Live performance. (Dave’s response? “Couldn’t they find a good drummer?”)

Apparently he aced the audition—Tom offered him the gig on a permanent basis—but Dave decided to follow his own path.

Dave also boasts a rare talent in the music business: a sense of humor. Check out his Top 10 Drummer Jokes. My favorite is #8: What do you call a drummer that breaks up with his girlfriend? Homeless.

And OMG:  he’s an X-Files fan, too! He had a cameo in the “Pusher” episode, and “Walking After You” played over the credits of the  X-Files movie, Fight the Future.  Could I possibly love this guy any more?

Actually, yes.

Dave already established himself as the defender of the rock and roll faith earlier this year when he came to the defense of Slash and Kings of Leon for refusing to allow their songs to be covered on Glee.  That faith was tested when the pinheads from Westboro Baptist Church decided to picket the Foo Fighters’ Kansas City show on September 16, ostensibly because of their hatred of the hedonistic entertainment industry—but more likely because of the band’s “Keep It Clean (Hot Buns)” viral video promoting the tour,  featuring the guys in hillbilly trucker garb taking a communal shower while  enjoying an ode to “hot-man muffins.”

Dave and the Foos found the perfect way to fight fire with fire. They dressed in their stupid wigs and cowboy boots, rented a flatbed, parked in front of the venue and serenaded the protesters … who liked the song a lot more than they should have (even the guy shouting, “Dave Grohl, you douchebag!”). As Hillbilly Dave said, “God bless America.”

And God bless Dave Grohl.

See you on the flip side … and thanks, Dave, for a mind-blowing concert and so much more.

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