Tag Archives: rock and roll romance

Unplugged (audience): Chrissie Hynde at the Masonic Temple Detroit

22 Nov

Chrissie Hynde StockholmWhen I went to the “Women Who Rock” exhibit, up from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a time at the Henry Ford Museum last summer, I was a little hesitant. Yes, many amazing women shaped the genre and the industry, but there are relatively few great female rock guitarists – and that dearth is a significant issue for an art form that values the singer/ songwriter/ guitarist above all.

Then just as I was leaving, I caught a TV interview with a reporter who declared Chrissie Hynde is “the female Keith Richards.” I went back into the exhibit and watched a tape of her playing lead guitar on “Middle of the Road” to verify his assessment, and I had to agree: she’s an authentic rock-and-roll badass.

At 63, she is also freakishly hot, a testament to the benefits of vegetarianism and swaggering for the last 40-some years. She has the good fortune of being a contralto from the start, so her range has remained intact throughout her career – no need to scramble to reach the high notes when she never sang any in the first place. She is also unafraid of collaborating with musicians decades younger than she is, as evidenced by her 2010 album, Fidelity! with Welsh singer J.P. Jones. It includes the song “Perfect Lover,” which could be autobiographical for all I know – if anyone could be in this situation, it would be her:

 

My partner generously extended my Concertpalooza streak by getting me tickets to her solo show at Detroit’s historic Masonic Temple on November 15. Once again I was a little hesitant because Hynde is, as the gal selling t-shirts put it, as “a pistol” when it comes to performing, particularly in this era of camera phones. Signs were posted throughout the lobby of the Masonic, and the guy with the Voice of God microphone repeated the respectful request to “experience the show in the moment, not from behind a screen.” Despite the civility, not everyone complies, which results in everything from her mild rebukes from the stage to flat-out stopping the show, as Hynde did at her Nashville concert a few days ago. With this fresh in my mind, I could only hope no one would turn her into Pissy Chrissie during the show.

Not to worry. Following a brief statement to a fan in the front to “put down the phone or go home” – and a crack about how it was good to see so many “old faces” in the crowd, adding “You’re never too old to haunt the house” – the remainder of the show was noisy and joyous. Hailing from Akron, Hynde has an affinity for a Midwestern crowd and seems genuinely pleased by the city’s return to the living. Even with a new solo album to tout, she was happy to dive into her Pretenders material, including “Precious” and “Tattoo Love Boys.”

And for the first time in too long, I enjoyed a concert without having to look through a sea of arms aloft, cameras glowing. It’s worth wondering how many of the photos we take at concerts are 1) any good or 2) viewed again ever … or 3) better than letting the energy and the sound take you over to create visceral memories that no photo can match.

Chrissie Hynde Masonic - 111514When Hynde came out for her second encore, she relented at last, perhaps as a reward for us behaving ourselves. “I appreciate you not using your camera phones during the show – they really fuck with my head,” she said. “But now, hey, the show is over so, go ahead and take them out and get your pictures.” After an uneasy titter went through the crowd, she said, “No, really, get them out!” So, for the last two songs we were able to take fully sanctioned, if also kind of crappy, photos to commemorate the experience.

See you on the flip side …

By the way, my next stop on the book tour is the Local Author Showcase at the Brighton District Library on December 7. I’ll chat about my work, then follow up with a meet and greet. Plenty of copies of Love and Other B-Sides will be available! Let us know you’re coming – RSVP here!

Advertisements

Rocking and rollerskating: Books and Authors Event at Leon & Lulu

27 Oct

Cross that item off my bucket list: I have now sold my book to complete strangers!

My first-ever book signingLeon & Lulu - 102614 was a total delight at Leon & Lulu. The store, which offers an eclectic mix of gifts, clothing and furniture, is in a former roller rink in Clawson, Michigan. Clerks often zip around the store on skates; signs outlining proper skater etiquette decorate the bathrooms. It’s one of those stores where you go to get presents for people you don’t know how to buy for; it’s a lot of fun.

Leon & Lulu hosts an annual Books & Authors event featuring local writers, many of whom like me are self-published (or “independent,” as one author was quick to point out), with a percentage of proceeds going to a local literacy charity. The 30+ of us were stationed at furniture displays around the floor. As you can see from the photo, I scored a sectional with side chair which, after sitting on them for six hours, I highly recommend for comfy-ness. (Store management also trusted me to be tidy to an amazing degree: I used the sectional’s $3400 price tag as my coaster so I wouldn’t have to take repairs out of my limited royalties.)

Three things I loved about this event:

  1. Mary Liz Curtin, who co-owns Leon & Lulu with her husband, Stephen Scannell, championed us from the start, swooping through the store on crutches (due to a recent tumble) and rearranging store displays to reflect the authors’ works. Also, the staff was utterly terrific, bringing us drinks and food and acting as our cheerleaders throughout the day.
  2. The other authors, who were nothing but friendly and kind. Some of us were hawking our first book; others had series that are nationally known. They were eager to share their tips on writers’ conferences, printers and other sales opportunities, and their lack of ego proves that art is never a zero-sum game: instead, when one wins we all do.
  3. My friends and family who turned out, picked up first copies for themselves or second copies of my book as presents for others, and walked through the store with my book prominently displayed.

I sold well, particularly for my first such experience. Perhaps no sale meant more to me than one late in the afternoon to a woman I’d never met before. She confessed in hushed tones – as a lot of us do – that she was an aspiring writer who had a book she’d love to publish some day. I told her what I’d been told all day: “Congratulations and keep going because, hey, here I am as proof it can be done.”

See you on the flip side …

P.S. If you weren’t able to make it to Clawson or you prefer an electronic version of Love and Other B-Sides, you can pick it up on Amazon 24/7!

Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living): Discovering EELS

15 Oct

Mark Oliver Everett 2014

E: Singer/songwriter/beard model

Having written this blog for four years (thanks for the virtual trophy, WordPress!) I know I could get a lot more readers if I wrote in a more timely manner. I don’t do my statistics any favors by waiting days after a concert, or weeks after a book comes out – or years after an album is released – to share my opinions. Life keeps getting in the way of my incipient success as a writer, I guess.

Even if I was a little more mindful about building my platform, there is so much rock and roll out there it’s a miracle if I get around to listening to something once, much less discover an artist who inspires me to consume his entire catalog.

A miracle just occurred: now, more than two decades after his first recording hit the alternate airwaves, I am officially obsessed with EELS.

Mark Oliver Everett, known as E, is the singer/songwriter/multifaceted musician who created EELS as a catch-all name for the work he does on his own and with various musicians. (I’ve seen it written “eels” and “EELS” on his albums, in case you’re wondering.) E has 13 studio albums to his credit, and his songs have appeared in movie soundtracks ranging from American Beauty to all three Shrek pictures. If you know any of his work, it is probably this tune and nifty video from the 1996 album, Beautiful Freak:

 

He even had a great scene – and song – that ended up on the cutting room floor from This Is 40 (with lots of NSFW language, just to warn you). The guy has seemingly been everywhere and hiding in plain sight at the same time.

As usual, my discovery started in the library stacks, checking out Blinking Lights on a whim after seeing a reference to EELS in some magazine article. Here’s the description of the two-disc album off of the EELS official website:

It’s the most personal eels album since 1998’s ELECTRO-SHOCK BLUES. That album dealt with the nearly simultaneous suicide of Everett’s sister and terminal illness of his mother, from the subjects’ points of view. This album finds him a few years down the line, now battling some of the family demons himself, with the after effects of past tragedies becoming more of a personal issue in his adult life, sometimes fearlessly autobiographical, and other times built around the related stories of others.

Sounds like a total downer, right? Not really; well, not completely. While the material isn’t always a picnic, the music is consistently beautiful and original. E’s sandpaper voice conveys a great deal of warmth and humanity, and the varied arrangements include cameos from Tom Waits, Peter Buck, John Sebastian … and E’s dog. Listen to it with a strong cup of coffee or a stiff drink in hand.

I have barely scratched the surface of this artist. Lyrics are just beginning to get stuck in my memory, rhythms are resonating in my headphones. It’s that delightful stage of exploration where I know I’m onto something truly special and I can’t wait to see what I’ll find next.

To continue your own discovery, here’s a ramshackle version of one of his catchier tunes from Blinking Lights – enjoy!

See you on the flip side …

P.S. My very first Books & Authors event is Sunday, October 26 at Leon & Lulu’s in Clawson, Michigan. This is a great store for finding unique gifts, clothing, furniture and more – in a former roller rink, no less. See you there!

Howlin’ for You: The Black Keys at the Joe Louis Arena

20 Sep

Black Keys screen - Auerbach

Dan Auerbach

Black Keys screen - Carney

Patrick Carney

Concertpalooza came to a close on September 12 in a familiar place: the Joe Louis Arena, experiencing the Black Keys with my loved ones as concert buddies (this time, my partner along with our younger daughter). It was the perfect show to cap off an exhilarating summer of live music!

Props to the headliner for choosing stellar talent as opening acts. In 2011 they had the Arctic Monkeys on board. Our leg of the tour this time featured Cage the Elephant while other lucky people get to see Jake Bugg or St. Vincent; any of those bands could hold their own topping the bill. Cage the Elephant’s music is bouncy and fun, personified by their inexhaustible lead singer Matt Shultz. You may know their single from 2009, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” Check them out!

“Fun” isn’t the word I’d use to describe the Black Keys, though. Their music is fuzzed out, feedback-fueled blues rock … and their personal lives are even more distorted. Most of what I’ve read about them – the horrifying account of guitarist Dan Auerbach’s recent divorce; the 5000-word piece in Salon that drummer Patrick Carney’s wife wrote about their divorce; the Twitterstorm Carney kicked up over Justin Bieber; and the TMZ-fed feud Jack White forced onto Auerbach when he questioned Dan’s worthiness as a blues musician (sample hissy fit: Jack told his ex-wife to pull their kids out of the Nashville elementary school where Dan’s daughter attends) – tells me these guys are drama magnets. Lighthearted they ain’t.

Therefore, it was surprising and gratifying that they seemed to have a great time performing at the Joe. Auerbach did a lot of smiling between numbers, thanking the audience and raving about Detroit fans. (Who knows what Carney was feeling since he rarely smiles and doesn’t talk during concerts; he’s Teller to Auerbach’s Penn.) Auerbach’s bottom-heavy guitar style, snaky licks and atmospheric songwriting keep the songs tight and catchy; plus, the guy’s got a strong, distinctive voice. Carney is the first to agree with my partner that he “sucks at drums,” and he swerved off tempo more than once during the evening. When he was on, though, he brought the heavy ammunition.

If you want to bone up on less gossipy, more nuts-and-bolts trivia about the band, watch this:

Since I saw them in 2011, the Black Keys have cemented their status as a straight up, non-pop, 21st-century rock-and-roll band. For the two dudes from Akron, there wasn’t another choice. As Carney said in Rolling Stone,

When we were in ninth grade, we were well aware that if we wanted to go to a good school, it wasn’t a possibility – that we didn’t have the money. So it’s like, what do you have from there? You have rock & roll!

Detroit needs rock and roll. The city is fighting for an identity we can be proud of, something beyond blight and bankruptcy. Bands that shout “Detroit Rock City!” earn a roar of appreciation. Auerbach and Carney went a step further, honoring a local hero by playing for their first time ever a cover of Bob Seger’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.” Not for the first time that evening, half the audience (the male half anyway) broke out their air guitars, danced without rhythm and high fived each other, proud of themselves and damned glad to be there no matter what the troubles were outside the arena.

The Black Keys understand how a guitar and a drum kit can blast away your problems, and for that we’re all grateful.

See you on the flipside … and mark your calendars: I’ll be one of the featured local writers at the Books & Authors event at Leon & Lulu in Clawson on October 26, promoting Love and Other B-Sides to my closest friends and perfect strangers from 11 AM – 5 PM. Come see!

Bonanzatronic madness: Gogol Bordello at the Royal Oak Theater

6 Aug

Gogol Bordello sign

A band that can cause a real panic at the disco …

Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of Gogol Bordello … or if you have heard of them, raise your beer so you don’t spill it as you crowd-surf.

The eight-member gypsy punk outfit is led by Eugene Hutz, a Ukrainian by birth with Romani heritage on his German mother’s side whose family moved after Chernobyl  and eventually relocated to Vermont; he now lives in Brazil. Hutz is skinny and beaky, with a silver canine tooth, wild hair and a pirate’s mustache. He sings with a pronounced accent that serves his material well and plays a rugged acoustic guitar with rambunctious grace.

Photo by my concert buddy Davis Kurepa-Peers

Photo by my concert buddy Davis Kurepa-Peers

The rest of the line-up is just as internationally far-flung, with musicians from Belarus, Scotland by way of China, Russia, Ethiopia, Ecuador and Los Angeles. The name is an homage to Ukrainian writer Nikolai Gogol … and, well, a brothel. The lyrics are a mix of English, Romani, Spanish and for all I know, Esperanto. Their songs jump from pogo-worthy punk to ska to straight-up rock, along with several ballads that sound like what you’d hear at the end of a Russian wedding reception right before the last of the drunken guests are kicked out of the hall.

My partner is quite the fan of Gogol Bordello, starting with their 2010 album Trans-Continental Hustle. (I just found out that was produced by Rick Rubin, whose exquisite taste knows no musical boundaries.) She took our older daughter to see them at the Fillmore a couple of years ago and sat in the balcony as our daughter joined the crush of fans standing near the stage. After more than 90 minutes of mosh pit churn with the “gypsters” she was dehydrated and half-deaf: in other words, she’d had a great time.

Gogol Bordello blue

Photo by Davis Kurepa-Peers

When she learned my partner had gotten tickets for me and our younger daughter to see the band in Royal Oak, she had just one piece of advice: “Wear shoes you don’t care about.”

We arrived early enough to stake a claim standing one level above the main floor behind a railing so we could see everything without getting trampled. Our neighbors to the left were a pony-tailed guy and his girlfriend with an ice-blue pixie cut and flawless red lipstick (who, upon learning my daughter was 12, told her, “You’re gonna go far, honey”). On the right was Bald Tattooed Handlebar Mustache Guy, who brought half his family with him since he’d had so much fun at the Fillmore show. Who needs an opening act when you’ve got an audience like this?

(There was an opening act: Man Man, which brought funk and surrealism together in a way that might have made Frank Zappa proud … although someone will have to explain to me what was up with the guy in the neon green boiler suit and melted piggy face mask who wandered on stage during a couple of their numbers.)

Gogol Bordello puts on an amazing concert, even if you’re like me and don’t know the words to their songs (and have no desire to slam dance). Grinning the entire time, we were swept away by their energy and showmanship – although they aren’t as zany as in their earlier days:

Yet this show was not shtick or the “bonanzatronic madness” Hutz described in Mother Jones a few years back. It’s a combination of tribal tradition and new music, partying and protest: the world seen through immigrants’ eyes. As they sing in “Immigraniada,”

It’s a book of true stories
True stories that can’t be denied
It’s more than true, it actually happened
We comin’ rougher every time

 

See you on the flip side at the show I’ve been waiting for all summer: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at DTE Energy Music Theater August 23!

P.S. Looking for a rock and roll romance?  Love and Other B-Sides is available in paperback and e-book editions now on Amazon.

Love is not a choice: Panic! At The Disco at Meadow Brook Music Festival

30 Jul

Panic at the Disco - picture 2

Photo credit: my concert buddy Davis Kurepa-Peers

I’ve spilled some virtual ink in the past about how underwhelmed I am by the music of Panic! At The Disco – and how my daughters adore them. Having taken the elder one to two of their shows, the younger one was clamoring to go when it was announced they were playing at Meadow Brook this summer. In her words, “You owe me.”

Here’s why:

As she never tires of reminding me, the girls could have seen them for only $3 each two summers ago at the Arts, Beats & Eats festival in Royal Oak. I said no for many good reasons. The band was scheduled to play late in the evening; there were rumors that a concealed weapon contingent was going to show up just to prove they could; I didn’t want my 16-year old responsible for protecting her 10-year old sister amid unanticipated chaos … and I really, really, REALLY didn’t want to chaperone because I couldn’t justify seeing a band I could care less about for a third time when I’d only seen Tom Petty once.

As punishment for my maternal protectiveness – and mature musical taste – I was now stuck paying 12 times more per ticket to see Panic! in an outdoor venue swamped by freakish thunderstorms and mosquito repellent.

In keeping with their management company Fueled By Ramen’s penchant for punctuality, the show started promptly at 7:30 p.m. with opening acts Magic Man and Walking the Moon; both were fun and energetic and worked their skinny jean-clad asses off. Then when lead singer Brendon Urie took the stage, the place went nuts, with Beatles-level shrieking from the 7,700 soggy fans that became downright deafening when he took his shirt off ten minutes later …

Panic at the Disco - picture 1

Photo credit: Davis Kurepa-Peers

I appreciate Urie for how well he treated my older daughter and other fans the last time he came through town, staying late to sign autographs and pose for photos. I also have a new-found respect for him in light of the Westboro Baptist Church’s recent homophobic protests, likely sparked by the band’s ode to bisexuality, “Girls/Girls/Boys.” He also stated in an interview last year that while he’s happily married to a woman and identifies as straight, he’s “experimented in other realms of homosexuality and bisexuality”  in the past, hence the pinheads with hateful posters outside of his Kansas City show. Urie turned it into a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign, offering to contribute $20 per protester; when only 13 showed up, he rounded it up to an even $1000 and added in a percentage of the merchandise. Nicely done!

As a veteran of their live performances (sigh), I have to admit Panic! At The Disco puts on a good show. Brendon Urie is an engaging  pop singer with a scorching high vocal range that served him well during their cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” (Here I was, singing along to that song just two weeks after hearing Queen and Adam Lambert perform it at the Palace … déjà vu all over again.) What’s more, their fans enjoy each moment with every fiber of their beings. My daughter was vibrating in anticipation before the show. She sang every lyric and danced at every opportunity. She bought a tour t-shirt with her own money, and if you knew how tight she is with a buck, you’d know how significant that is. She had a completely great time.

That’s something I don’t see at many of the concerts I go to: utter delight. That’s worth the price of admission right there.

See you on the flipside … or at the next stop on my Concertpalooza tour: Gogol Bordello at the Royal Oak Theater on July 30

P.S. When you take Love and Other B-Sides to the beach, you don’t have to worry about getting sand in your Kindle! My novel is available in paperback, as well as in e-book format, on Amazon.com. Read and share!

Intermission: Join me on a Blog Hop

5 May

American Craftsmen book coverTom Doyle, my college friend who just published his debut science fiction thriller American Craftsmen (“Seal Team Six meets ancient magic” – order your copy now!) invited me to participate in a blog hop; here’s a link to Tom’s blog. He is giving me the opportunity to gab about my writing process while promoting his great work, then I introduce you to three of my friends with great blogs of their own. How could I say no? So here goes:

What am I working on?

I am writing the first draft of the sequel to my first novel, Love and Other B-Sides, with a goal of having at least half a manuscript by Christmas this year. This gives me a chance to spend time with characters I love and answer the demands of my legion of fans (ahem) who asked for another Stee Walsh tale.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I listed the book on Amazon under “romantic comedy” and “humor,” which are pretty broad. Another writer friend of mine, Sheri Holman, suggested that my genre instead was “latte literature,” which I take to mean that it’s intelligent and entertaining enough that a person wouldn’t feel guilty about reading in public at a Starbucks.

Until that genre becomes a thing, you could say that Love and Other B-Sides is a rock-and-roll romance, of which there really aren’t that many; most rock novels are angsty and important and not much of a hoot.

Why do I write what I do?

My past career as an actor gave me plenty of time to contemplate fame, especially given my lack of it. So I’m fascinated by the intersection of art, stardom, craft and “cool,” and how that’s baked into the American psyche.

How does my writing process work?

I work a full-time job and have a daughter in middle school who flatters me by asking for my help editing her writing projects. I’m also not the type who can get up at 5:00 a.m. to write uninterrupted. Let’s just say my time is not always my own. I have a goal of writing at least six hours a week, which would include drafting new parts of the manuscript, editing existing material and posting an occasional blog plus trying to market my existing work on the side. In a good week, I put in a couple of sessions over the weekends plus one or two nights as well. In a bad week, my promise to myself is to do something for the book every day, even if it is just opening it and checking a paragraph for grammar.

When I wrote B-Sides, I would take any time anywhere to write: the library; a coffee shop; McDonald’s; our dining room. Now that my older daughter went to college, I have had the luxury of reclaiming a bedroom as my office, which is where I do most of my writing. I write the scenes I’m drawn to first then see how I can bring them together in an overall narrative. That’s fun but not very efficient; at this rate, I will run out of lifespan before I finish all I’m setting out to do.

Enough about me. Next up are my three blog friends:

Pam Houghton is a freelance feature, essay and marketing communications writer. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Michigan Prime, Metro Parent, Michigan College Guide, Birmingham Patch, and numerous other publications. Visit Pam at http://pamhoughton.com/category/soul-searching-at-starbucks.

Also hopping is Scott Spielman, a work colleague who is also a prolific fiction writer in multiple genres – mystery, fantasy, historical fiction and probably others that I haven’t been privy to. Buy his work on Amazon and read his blog at http://karaokejournalist.blogspot.com

Jason Wendleton lives and breathes rock music.  His blog Defending Axl Rose is less about Guns N’ Roses and more about whatever earworm he can’t get out of his head. Jason lives in Denver and is attempting to write a book. Read his trenchant rock blog at defendingaxlrose.com.

See you on the flip side … and enjoy the Kinks: 

Sixty Something

Observations, insights, hindsight, and forward thinking

timeweleftthisworldtoday

This world's so mixed up everywhere you go

keepsmealive

"No dress rehearsal, this is our life."

No Rhyme Or Reason

Positive/Thought Provoking Essays on One Fan's Love of Music

mikeladano.com

LeBrain's Record Store Tales & Reviews

the EARL of SWIRL

"to be average scares the hell out of me"

KURT★BRINDLEY

writing ★ producing ★ editing

Every Hit Song Ever...from A to Z!

Talk about.........Pop Music!

All You Need Is The Beatles

Musical musings on all things...well...musical!

Publication Coach

Beating writer's block, writing faster, writing tips, better writing, editing, communications consulting

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

PLAY IT LOUD!

Heavy Metal & Hard Rock 1980-1990

Music And Arts Connection

SPECIALIZING in LIAISON AND SOCIAL MEDIA SERVICES for INDEPENDENT MUSICIANS.

Groove

Digital Technology/Analog Grooves

Television Blues

A new online music channel

Mixed Tape Masterpiece

an ode to the songs (and radio stations) that shaped my life

Cave of Fame

Digging through relics while becoming one myself