It’s Alive!

My first post on, as it has a built-in blog page!  Aren’t I crafty?

January 12, 2011, 1:15 am

I finally finished building this website so I can now go back to the creative outlet that I love!  Is that music or creating art?  I guess for tomorrow night, it will be art.  Thanks for inspiring me to get this site off the ground so quickly!  If I had typed out one more explanation of pricing, I might have quit.  Please let me know if there’s anything that I can answer for you.  Keep making great memories.  The best is yet to come!


Happy Holidaze – Music, Madness and Meaning

Hi friends.  It’s been a while since I posted, so I thought I’d fill you in on what’s been happening in my world for the past few minutes and what I’m really excited about going into the holidays.  Speaking of which, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!  Tis the season to celebrate friendships and families… to look back at the past year with appreciation for the moments we’ve lived and shared… and to look forward to the hopes and dreams of the next year.  Enjoy the holidays.  Revel in them.  Hold your loved ones as tight as you hold your hopes and don’t get lost in the madness that the holiday season tends to spark.  Alright… on to some music notes.

2010 has been such an awesome and incredible year on the music front.  Not only have we seen tremendous new releases from old-school veteran spine tinglers, like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Robert Plant, but the crop of new musical talent continues to overwhelm this new music junkie.  I keep finding more and more new music that inspires me and my own creativity.  On the alt-country/songwriter scene, bands with unique, original, heartfelt sounds keep springing up and grabbing my attention.  Some of these to check out are Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s, Holly Go Lightly, and Mumford & Sons, who will stun you live.  Check them out here…   The Avett Brothers aren’t new but I just found them this year.  Their live show is uplifting and they definitely carry their own brand of music.  Also, a lot of Ryan Adams fans were disappointed with his attempt at conceptual rock, “Orion”.  I liked it a lot… but I liked it because it WAS so far off of his normal path.  For the alt-country loving DRA fans, no worries, as he’s releasing a 2 CD offering with The Cardinals.  The tracks are all from the “Easy Tiger” sessions, during which they recorded over 60 songs.  You can look for that one on December 14th at Ryan’s website,  DRA has also been in the studio working on a new disc, without the Cardinals, which will hopefully be released in early 2011.  Let’s all pray for a tour.  Haha.

Alright, how about some rock and roll?  New releases from Jimmy Eat World, Disturbed, The Murderdolls, Avenged Sevenfold, Five Finger Death Punch, Sevendust and Rob Zombie all received countless plays on my ipod through the year.  Oklahoma rockers Taddy Porter are making a move up in my playlist, with a southern rock feel that actually rocks more than it tries to fit a genre… and I think that they’re going to go far.  Check out their single, “Whatever Haunts You”… Alter Bridge, who are the 3 instrumental members of Creed and super-talented front man, Myles Kennedy, released their 3rd CD in ’10 and, if it weren’t for one other CD, it would get my record of the year nod.  On ABIII, Myles and guitarist Mark Tremonti move slightly more from the heavier edge of rock into the meaningful songwriter side.  While it doesn’t grab you as fast as the heavier riff-oriented tunes, the songs pull you in and before long, they mean something to you.  Who kept ABIII out of my top spot?  Stone Sour.  Their new release, “Audio Secrecy” is a record that will continue to get playtime from me for a long time.  They flawlessly combine great songwriting with heavy riff-writing and the results will probably be considered classic someday.  James Root and Corey Taylor are one of the best guitar/vocalist tandems in rock and they show it off well on this disc.  

Well there’s my take on things as they stand today.  I’m going to miss not having a Black Crowes show to look forward to in 2011 but, all in all, I think I’ll find a good replacement show somewhere.

Oh yeah! New, lower standard pricing on all of my musical art at  Through December 31st, I’ll also give you an additional 25% off!  I know… crazy, right?  Just enter the coupon code HOLIDAZE during checkout.  Thanks for supporting local and underground art, whomever you like.

Lastly, my newest venture, Max Electric Canvas, has been held off until early 2011.  I’m just too busy.  Period.  If you don’t know, this is a new service that I’m offering, basically just digitally painting your pics to turn them into a gallery-wrapped canvas piece of art.

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 If you just want the pic without the effects, that’s cool, too.  I’ll match any standard pricing that you may find on other canvas printing sites and I’ll do better work.  I already have many orders in the works without a website, so I’m going to make sure that I don’t bite off more than I can chew through the holidays.  I do have a real job.  Haha… true!  To those that have orders pending, I’m printing many of them today.  If you want to shoot me an inquiry on pricing or options, please do.  I’m just not launching the website, yet.

So, Happy Holidaze to all of you, my friends.  May your season rock and your new year roll.  Until next time… keep your music true and turn it up ’til it moves you.

You’ve Gotta Try to Fly… My First Art Festival

Unless we’ve only recently met, you probably know that I’m a music junkie who’s started transferring my passion for music into my passion for art and graphic design.  Having a degree in the Music Business with extensive experience in the world of music marketing, I feel that I have a great opportunity to work in the field that I love.   The end goal of this pursuit is to work with record labels, instrument manufacturers, artists, managers, etc, in the work of marketing their product to the desired target demographic, as well as to serve as an independent contract writer and photographer for music publications.  But here I am… a guy who creates cool pallets for this marketing but needs to develop his brand and get some momentum going towards this end goal… a guy who has a full-time job that cannot be taken lightly and that holds priority to him… and a guy who currently hasn’t even had his art seen by the general public (barring his awesome list of social network friends).  So where does he go with all of this creative drive?

The first step is to get noticed… and this weekend at The Pecan Street Arts Festival, in downtown Austin, Texas, I did just that.  I lived in Austin for a couple of years, so I was familiar with the festival, although I didn’t realize quite how large it was until I showed up.  The other thing that I didn’t realize?  Just how much work would go into pulling off an impressive showing at an art show.

I was accepted into the festival over two months ago and, ever since, it’s been a non-stop rollercoaster ride of producing art (I took over 250 finished pieces), procuring the necessary art show needs (canopy tent, walls to hang art, print bins, receipt, cash book, marketing materials, etc.) and getting my business (I have an LLC) ready to roll in an unknown environment.  The weeks and days leading up to the festival were nerve-racking, to say the least, but I got through it and by the time the festival started, I was confident that my business looked tight.

My world... Day 1

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a clue what to expect from my weekend on 6th Street.  Would I sell a lot?  Would people be buying art?  Would my art be well received?  Being that this is the first time that I’ve shown any of my art to strangers, I had no clue what was going to happen.  It didn’t take long to realize, though, that I was onto something cool.  People would walk up on the booth, in the midst of hundreds of others trying to catch some attention, and I’d instantly know what they thought.  I couldn’t count the number of times that someone’s eyes would slowly go from the right wall of my tent, to the center and then around the the third wall, followed by their lips saying, “Wow.”  Seeing that over and over really made me realize that I am doing something different, unique and good.  Talking to hundreds of people over the weekend that “got it” made me think about a lot of different ideas and ways to market this art thing, also.

One thing that I quickly realized is that a high percentage of people would like to have something like this on their wall, if I only had their favorite performer.  As soon as I picked up on that, I had a new marketing strategy that I’ll implement on my website ASAP.  Here it goes… if you have a concert picture of YOUR favorite artist that YOU took, then send it to me and I’ll turn it into a digitally painted piece of art, gallery wrapped and ready to hang on your wall.  Marketing this service, rather than, “Come to my site to look at my stuff” should serve me well.

Slightly different on Day 2

Secondly, I was approached my many musicians about doing this work for their band.  Some of these musician are actually in bands that I’ve heard of and are supposed to be sending me pics that they want edited.  While I already knew that the end goal was to work with bands and other musical marketers, I didn’t realize how well received that idea would be or how eager musicians would be to have their pics done in my style.  It was only when musicians kept asking, “Can you do something like this for me?”, that I really understood.  I’ll be immediately working on my electronic press kit, which will serve as my sales catalyst towards this goal and I don’t doubt that it will take off quickly.

The third idea that sprang from the festival wasn’t in regards to musical art at all.  I’ve been planning on launching a separate website in a few weeks aimed at selling the service of printing your memories (children, wedding, family, pets, etc.) on canvas and gallery wrapping them for you.  This idea isn’t new, I simply have the gear and knowledge to do this and thought that it would be a good way to make some extra gravy.  I now have a slightly deeper goal, though.  I’ve already started editing my first children’s pictures, appropriately, of my nieces and my nephew.  Soon, I’ll be offering the service of turning your memories into digitally painted works of art, that you can have gallery wrapped or ready to frame.  Rather than pay a portrait artist thousands of dollars to have your child painted, I will offer a much less expensive alternative, turning your family pictures into art that can be handed down for generations.  I am really excited about this idea and can’t wait to get the website finished.  Look for this in the next month, along with a valuable discount code for my facebook and twitter friends.  It may not be very musical… but it’s going to rock… and it’s all part of this crazy plan that I’m surfing.

So, there you have it.  The Pecan Street Arts Festival was a severe dive into the pool of chasing dreams but it was worth every drop of sweat, every moment of stress and every dollar that went into making it happen.  Oh… I was even approached by the owner of a chain of barber shops in NYC called “Rockabilly Barbers” who wants to consign my art.  He was so excited and bought several pieces himself.  Getting my work into bars and other venues is crucial!  I need to thank Kurt and Casey for being my crew the entire weekend… and also a big “Thanks!!!” to Tom for coming out on Saturday morning to help set up.   I couldn’t have made it through the weekend without any of their help.  I’m really excited to get these new ideas rolling.

In the words of Reverend Run (yes… of DMC), “If u have no sense of URGENCY to succeed, U WILL NOT!”  I’m successful at selling construction supplies… let’s see what I can do with art.  Follow your dreams, people.  They’re not going to follow you.  I’ll keep you posted on all of the different directions that this is going soon.

Until then, keep your music true… and turn it up ’til it moves you.

Soul Singing… The Black Crowes – Columbus, OH – 8/22/10

Ahhh… The Black Crowes.  Anyone that knows me will quickly tell you that if Mack is writing a review on anything involving the Robinson brothers, Chris and Rich, then it’s going to be a biased review.  I can’t help it.  The Black Crowes make me happy when I’m sad, calm when I’m mad and glad to be me anytime.  I’ve seen them numerous times.  I’ve seen them open for Lenny Kravitz when he was letting love rule. I’ve seen them play back to back nights at the Greek Theater in Hollywood with Jimmy Page, although it was all Zep tunes on those nights.  I’ve seen them at the Voodoo Music Fest in the Big Easy, just before having my mind blown by Tool.  I’ve even seen them headline a country music festival in Fort Worth, where they likely converted a slew of Texas Country fans one step closer to the rock side.  I honestly can say two things about every show… each time, they overachieved my expectations and each time, they were better than the time before.

This show was no different, although there was one big difference between it and every other Crowes show I’ve attended.  This is the first time that there were no other bands.  Even last year, when I saw them at this same venue (Lifestyles Community Pavilion… tiny little amphitheater that only holds 2,200), they played the traditional hour and a half with an opening act.  This year, they were following up on their twenty track CD, Croweology, by taking the opening band out of play and, instead, playing an hour and a half opening set of acoustic songs followed by an hour and a half set of electric tunes.  To say I was excited for this night is an understatement.

The Crowes didn’t disappoint, either.  I hadn’t thought about it going in, but with the sun still shining when they came on, it was almost like The Black Crowes were opening up for The Black Crowes.  Acoustic and more laid back during the first half… then, once the sun went down, it turned into a full-on rock and roll show.  One cool thing about seeing them live is that the show you get isn’t the same show that they played the night before and it’s not the same as what the next town will get.  I appreciate any band that has the talent to go out every night and play whatever they feel like that day, as opposed to having a canned set list that is going to get old and stale halfway through the tour.  Here’s the show that we got on this beautiful night in Columbus…

– acoustic set –


– electric set –


– encore

Even though I didn’t get two of my favorite Crowes tunes (“Cursed Diamond” and “Soul Singing”), every song they played had me dancing and I wasn’t one bit upset that they left those songs out.  It was an amazing show all the way around, from the venue (wish it was in Fort Worth!), to the company (love the Endicotts!), to the 3+ hours of beautiful music that left me more relaxed than I’d been in months.  It was awesome.  Here’s a bunch of the raw shots that I got that night.

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All I really have to say is, considering they are taking an indefinite leave from recording and touring after this tour’s conclusion, if you’re a music lover and have ever enjoyed one song that the Crowes recorded, then you owe it to yourself not to miss this show.  They have dates listed all the way through December and it’s a ticket well worth buying.  So there you go… my entirely and extremely biased review of The Black Crowes show on the 22nd of August, 2010.  As soon as they come back around, I’ll be back at more than one show by these brothers of a feather… and I’ll be looking for you.

Until next time, keep your music true and turn it up ’til it moves you.

The Eels “End Times”… Heavy and Low

Welcome to my first CD review on my blog.  I’m sorta excited to get this ball rolling as I definitely have a musical opinion about everything.  You may not agree with it and that’s cool… musical tastes are like everything else.  Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, and no-one’s tastes are exactly the same.  Therefore, my goal here isn’t to write a review that makes anyone happy… it would be crazy and idiotic to think that I can please everyone.  Rather, my goal is to give you some insight into music that you may already like… or to turn you onto a disc, a song or an emotion that might have otherwise been missed.  Alright… enough blah, blah, blah.  On with the show.

I’ve heard many records by the Eels, which is a band fronted by singer/songwriter Mark Oliver Everett, better known as E.  The supporting cast for E has evolved over the years, which ultimately lends to the ever-changing sound and even genre of the band.  Records by The Eels have been described as everything from “melancholy pop” to “the harder edge of rock and roll”.  This album definitely fits neither of these descriptions and falls into the singer/songwriter genre with delicate ease.  Recorded mostly on a four-track recorder, this album was written on the theme of broken love and heartache… and it has a raw emotion to it that is eerily compelling.

My easy review for this record is this… if you like bands like Wilco and Ryan Adams and the Cardinals or singer/songwriters like Ray LaMontagne or Hayden, then you’re probably going to like this record.  E has put together a record that balances between mostly slow, somber and sincere songs like “A Line in the Dirt” and “I Need a Mother”, all the way over to a few more chipper, upbeat and rocking tunes like “Gone Man” and “Unhinged”.

It should be noted that this is mostly a record appropriate for a rainy day where you want nothing more than songs that reach in and poke at your heart.  This is definitely more of a sad record than anything I’ve previously listened to from this band.  Maybe E is hitting a mid-life crisis, reveling in his lows of lost love and growing older.  You can never be sure where inspiration comes from but it doesn’t sound like he was the happiest dude when writing this record.  “Little Bird” is a song which finds E sitting on his porch talking to a bird about how much he misses a girl that he let slide away from him… and “In My Younger Days”, he’s pining over someone that’s gone and wishing that he could deal with it like a younger man would… chalking up the loss and moving on rather than stewing hopelessly.

While this isn’t the happiest record ever, it has grown on me the way most good songwriter records do, it hits a nerve.  This dude may like to rock… but he also likes to have his heart ripped out and shredded from time to time.  It does a soul good to have music that strikes all of it’s chords and this record strikes a couple of them for me.  The Eels released a second CD right after this one, titled “Tomorrow Morning”.  I now have to hit Amazon for that one because, if I like it as much as I surprisingly like “End Times”, I’ll probably want to tell you about it, too.

Until then… keep your music true and turn it up ’til it moves you.

It’s Been A While…

Hey hey friends, enemies and whomever stumbles across this like a coffee table in the dark.  I’m back!  So here’s what I’ve been through over the last few months… and the reason that I haven’t shouted out to world lately.  Three months ago, I began having difficulty uploading website changes to my hosting site.  Troubleshooting began and I slowly proceeded from one possible cause to another, but never with any luck in resolving the problem.  After about a month I got my neighbor, who is an IT guy for a local hospital, involved in the troubleshooting process.  We tried everything from network solutions to new routers to a month of convincing Verizon that their fiber optics signal to my house had an intermittent glitch in upload status.

After three months of pain, torture and not being able to work on my online projects, I finally have the ability to upload web changes, pictures (I couldn’t even upload a picture to facebook) and files, plus I can finally email a small picture file to a potential customer.  That’s right… I haven’t even been able to email a picture.  Thanks Verizon, for costing me three long months of productivity!  Should I find solace in the 12 months of $20 credits that they’ve given me for my pain and suffering?  I don’t know if I should… but I don’t.

So, I’m finally able to bring you some blogs with visual stimulus.  In the next couple of weeks, expect reviews of the 2010 Mayhem Fest, the Black Crowes on their last tour… ever (?) and a special review of “All Jacked Up”, a new television show highlighting the rock music scene in DFW, TX.  Also coming in the next month are reviews of the new Cyndi Lauper “Memphis Blues” CD, the new Linkin Park CD, the new Eels CD and the new CD from heavy rockers, The Showdown.  I can’t wait to get back in the saddle, as I try to bring anyone that wants it a unique and different perspective on the current music world.  In the meantime… here’s some raw shots from the Mayhem Fest.

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Until next time, keep your music true and turn it up ’til it moves you.

The Courtney Love Show

Waiting for Hole

Sounds like a tv show, doesn’t it?  The Courtney Love Show.  Remember it… it could be a reality series on Bravo or A&E someday.  Of course, the drama of a reality show is tied to the dysfunction that it brings to the viewer and, in this case, our hypothetical show could possibly win an Emmy Award.  And so was the case of the Hole concert at the House of Blues on Wednesday night.  C-Love’s been seen on various shows lately professing her sobriety in relation to her new record and, honestly, I was glad to see that she wasn’t completely telling the truth.  After all, it is the dysfunction of Courtney Love that brings her in touch with her fans.

Courtney Rocks the HOB

This was the first time that I’ve seen Hole and I was buzzing with anticipation by the time that Courtney hit the stage.  Even if you don’t like her music, you can’t deny the intrigue that this rock star brings with her.  I was just as curious to see what she said as I was to hear what she sang… and she said and sang a lot, once she finally showed up.  But for 40 minutes, I was wondering if I was actually going to see her.  On the way into the show, I noticed an EMT van with its lights flashing and joked to my buddy, Mark, that I hoped that something hadn’t happened to Ms. Love and we both laughed and forgot about it.  When the clock on the lateness of the show hit 30 minutes, though, I actually started to think we might become a side note in a “True Hollywood Stories” program.

Doll Parts

Finally, about 45 minutes late (or right on cue, depending on how you view it), Hole finally came on stage.  It was immediately apparent to me that Courtney Love was not the portrait of sobriety that she has claimed but, you know what?  She rocked the crowd for over an hour and a half and I think I may have almost had as much fun as she did.  Courtney joked with the crowd, got them involved and was, if nothing else, a great party host.  I’m not going to talk too much about the set-list, as you can simply take a look at it yourselves…

As seen on the soundboard...

and as seen from the soundboard...

Of course, she played all of her hits including the newest, “Skinny Little Bitch”.  The crowd had a blast, I had a blast and you couldn’t help but know that she had a blast.  One thing that I want to mention, though, is that there must be a strange interview process to become a part of her crew/band.  Throughout the show, Courtney was a chain-smoking princess.  What struck me as funny was that almost as soon as her cigarette burned out, her guitar tech OR one of her band mates would be right there with a smoke and a lighter… almost as if they were scared of what may happen if someone didn’t take care of this duty immediately after the last ash fell from the previous one.  Funny.  I can almost imagine that, “Please show me how fast you can light up a smoke” was part of the criteria to become a member of Hole.  They take care of her, though.  After all, she is Courtney Love, the reigning queen of rock and roll debauchery.

Singing through the Smoke

And that, my friends, is what I loved and appreciated about this show.  In the day of highly polished concert production and rock stars who are trying to “save the world”, Courtney Love does what she wants, doesn’t care what others say and, at the end of the day, rocks.  The set wasn’t perfect and she steered off course a few times but that’s what makes her real… and it’s what the crowd expects and loves.  Courtney Love is simply herself and, if she wasn’t, no-one would care about her new record, her new tour or whether or not she had a drink before the show because it would get really stale, really quick.  So there ya go… if you have already or plan to see her on this tour, you’ll have a blast.  If you don’t, there’s always the reality show to look forward to somewhere down the line.

Feeling the Emotion

Until then… keep your music true and turn it up ’til it moves you.

Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth… in a Movie Theater???

I rarely go to the movies.  Maybe it’s the $5 price for a drink, maybe it’s the annoyance of people right behind me talking, maybe it’s simply because I’m single and don’t have someone pushing me to go.  There’s actually many reasons why, but me in a movie theater is an occurrence that happens, on average, once a year.  When I saw, however, that the biggest four names in metal were touring overseas and that they would be broadcasting one of the tour stops around the world in high def, I quickly decided that this was something that I had to see.

Growing up, there were four metal bands that simply out-riffed, out-screamed and out-played all of the others on the global scene.  That would be Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica.  Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine has never had a warm and fuzzy relationship with the band that he helped pioneer, Metallica, so the thought of them playing together on the same stage brought a lot of wonder to this show, even without the other two bands being involved.  Anthrax hasn’t played together with the frontman that recorded all of their most successful records, Joey Belladonna, in nearly 13 years, so seeing them back with him at this point of their career brought it’s own sense of wonder.  And then there’s Slayer… the one band that, other than super-drummer Dave Lombardo’s temporary hiatus, has always remained consistent in their lineup, musical abilities and promotion of the heaviest music four dudes can make.  Seeing them brings no wonderment anymore… you just know that they’re going to move you.

So, Tuesday I headed to a Cinemark Theater to wade through a lobby full of teenagers and “Marmaduke” fans to see “The Big Four” in a dark room full of metal heads.  To say it was a weird scene is an understatement.  For anyone who’s ever been to a metal show, you know that it’s just strange witnessing one of the best shows that you’ll ever see in a room full of people rocking out while sitting down.  That, for me, was just odd.  I kept waiting for someone to stand up, walk down to the front and start a mosh pit… but it never happened.  Most of the crowd barely moved for four hours, while some of the kids who were probably born about the time Metallica came out with “Enter Sandman” overly-enjoyed their ability to flop their hair with some quality headbanging.  The oddest part was being in a theater where, after almost every song, people were cheering, yelling, clapping and raising their rock horns to the sky.  I kept thinking that maybe they didn’t realize the artists couldn’t see or hear them… but it was still a really cool thing to see.

So, 500 words later, you might be wondering if I’m actually going to mention how the show was.  Yep… I’ll tell you.  It was far and away the best metal show on one stage that I’ve ever seen.  Even sitting in a theater, I was blown away by the performances of all four bands.  They each brought out their “Greatest Hits” sets and each seemed to be trying to justify their inclusion in this groundbreaking event.

Anthrax is a band that I should have seen fifteen years ago, and I probably would have if I had known that their dynamic lead singer, Joey, was about to leave them for thirteen years.  Seeing him with the rest of the Anthrax guys was a treat and was one of the reasons that I went to see this show in the first place.  You never would have known that they’d been split up for so long, as Joey was as perfect as he was back in the mid-nineties, tearing through “Caught in a Mosh”, “Got the Time”, “Madhouse”, “Antisocial”, “Indians”, “Only”, “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)” and “I am the Law”.  The biggest surprise out of this set was that the band played “Only”, which was their biggest hit with recently departed John Bush.  The coolest moment in the set, though, was their tribute to Ronnie James Dio, segueing from “Indians” into a three minute version of “Heaven and Hell” and then back into “Indians”.  At this point, I’ve seen a lot of Dio tributes and this was, by far, the coolest.

Next up was Megadeth and, as expected, Dave Mustaine and crew were on top of their game.  Shredding though “Holy Wars”, “Hangar 18”, “Head Crusher”, “In My Darkest Hour”,  “Sweating Bullets” and “Skin of my Teeth”, I was once again amazed at the intricacies of their guitar work, with Dave and latest lead guitarist Chris Broderick exchanging unimaginable guitar licks throughout.  Seeing original bassist, Dave Ellefson, back with the band was really good, too.  Ironically, the only rain that fell during the entire show was through most of Megadeth’s set, which my friend Mark described as, “Just Dave’s luck”.  I laughed along with him because he’s right.  This is a band that seems to have had the worst luck over the last twenty years, so seeing them getting the credit they deserve as one of the top bands in their genre was way appropriate.  And making that especially sweet was the closing song… one of my favorites… “Peace Sells”.

So on to Slayer.  Hmmm… Slayer.  I’ll start by saying that in the last few years, I’ve stopped listening to much Slayer for one big reason.  While they are probably my favorite band in the genre for their musicality, aggressiveness and ability to make me feel like someone just injected me with a pot of coffee, they’ve gone in a direction that makes me sometime scratch my head.  Their latest release, “World Painted Red”, came packaged with a DVD that made me uncomfortable from a “socially wrong” standpoint.  I’m all for horror movies, aggressive musical themes, fictional violence for the sake of entertainment… and I’m not a squeamish dude… but if I had children I would have had to immediately throw that disc out o’ the house.  But hey, I’m not judging, I’m just saying that I don’t agree with all of their musical topics.  Now to my point… THIS show reminded me of why I was a fan in the first place.  This is the loudest, fastest, most technical thrash band on the planet and their shows get my adrenaline pumping.  If I could wake up in a Slayer pit every morning, I’d never need caffeine and I’d actually exercise in the mornings.  They tore through the title track of their aforementioned latest release, then ripped into “War Ensemble”, “Jihad”, “Seasons in the Abyss”, “Mandatory Suicide”, “South of Heaven” and “Reign in Blood”.  A note for my Texas friends… there they were playing in Bulgaria, sharing the stage with metal’s best, and frontman Tom Araya was wearing a t-shirt that appeared to have the Texas State Flag on it.  That’s cool.

The movie has a brief “backstage” moment after Slayer, with different band members recalling memories of Dio.  Slayer’s Kerry King talked about what a huge sports fan RJD was, going into a memory of a show where Dio was onstage performing and kept coming over to ask the score of the game between songs.  Lars Ulrich (Metallica), Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) shared their thoughts collectively, with each sharing some of the reasons that they revered him as one of the great founders and pioneers of the metal genre.  That was almost worth the price of admission and it’s really cool to see metal’s biggest acts paying so much tribute to someone whose death, outside of the metal community, was practically overlooked in this age of the media’s celebrity death exploitation.

After three hours of awesome sets, the only band that could really hold this crowds attention would be Metallica.  The biggest band in the world?  By far.  So it’s no surprise that they proverbially tore the house down.  One thing that was apparent during Metallica’s set was that music crowds overseas are so much more appreciative of their musical acts than crowds in the states.  I go to a lot of shows and have for a long, long time, yet I’ve never seen a crowd as unified, as electric, as awesome as this one in Bulgaria.  Imagine the entire floor of a soccer stadium full of people.  Not half full, with the crowd pushing to the front, but a tight crowd of people covering every foot of the floor.  Now imagine them all clapping above their heads at the same time, along with the rest of the 50,000 seat stadium, which was equally full.  That’s what Metallica looked at through the entire set and it was a scene that I’ve only seen in concert performances overseas.  If I was a globally successful musician, there’s no doubt that I’d want to tour over there a LOT, as it’s just a musical experience that we don’t get in the states.  As for the content of Metallica’s set, it was exactly what you’d probably expect.  I saw my first Metallica show in 1988 and many, many more since… and I’ve never seen anything less than an amazing show.  That’s just what the “Biggest Rock Band on the Planet” is supposed to do.  They played everything that their fans would want to hear and then some.  “Creeping Death”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Harvester of Sorrow”, “Fade to Black”, “Cyanide”, “One”, “Masters of Puppets”, “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman”… all before asking the other three bands to come out and join them for the Diamond Head cover, “Am I Evil”, which was on a limited run of Metallica’s “Kill em All” record.  (Oddly, Dave Lombardo was the only Slayer member to join in on the camaraderie.)  This was moment number two that was worth the price of admission.  Seeing Lars, James and Kirk enjoying the moment with Dave Mustaine was enough for even the biggest cynics (like me) to think that maybe they have finally buried the hatchet.  Now I just want to see a collaboration CD called “Metallideth”.  After all of the metal warm fuzzies were out of the way, Metallica closed the show with “Hit the Lights” and “Seek and Destroy”.  I’m happy for the fact that they hammered out all of the songs that their early fans wanted to hear and left some of their more recent “hits” in the gig bag.

I was surprised at how much I liked watching a show in a cinema.  At the end of the show, my feet didn’t hurt, I hadn’t taken an accidental elbow to the head, and I didn’t have to turn my radio up on the way home to be able to hear it.  I’m sure that they’ll have this show out on DVD soon and I’ll buy it.  I’m almost tempted to go see the encore showing tonight, which was added after they received such a large turnout on Tuesday night, but I won’t.  I have to gallery wrap more prints and work on some images from shows that I was actually at… but if you get a chance to see this, take it.  It’s worth it.

Until next time, keep your music true… and turn it up ’til it moves you.

Rock on the Range 2010 – Surfers, Sunburns and Slash

Q:  What’s four years old and slays people yearly on its birthday?  A:  Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio.  This yearly two-day music festival has quickly become the premiere destination for rock bands that don’t care about “Top 40” radio status and, instead, focus on producing music that the true fans of rock and roll crave.  Three stages with bands revolving for 13 hours straight, two days in a row?  I call that heaven… and the best stress-relieving vacation ever.  In the previous three years, these bands have included Motley Crue, ZZ Top, Velvet Revolver, Kid Rock, Stone Temple Pilots, Disturbed, 3 Doors Down, Slipknot, Korn, Alice In Chains and approximately 100 others that you may have heard of.

Honestly, when I first heard the lineup for this years show, I wasn’t overly excited.  I’d seen many of the bands several times each and the ones that I hadn’t previously seen weren’t exactly on the top of my “must see” list.  Little did I know that there were many unforeseen surprises awaiting me in Columbus on May 22nd and 23rd.  I’ll get to those momentarily, but it’s not like I was worried.  Getting to hang out with two of my best friends at a festival could never be a bad thing… and you find those hidden gems by living life, not planning it.

Saturday morning, which we’d been looking forward to for months, finally showed up… and we were on the ball.  We HAD to be there early enough to be close to the main stage by the time that the first band came on.  Going into the weekend, I’d wondered why one of my absolute favorite bands of the last ten years was opening the show… but I quickly realized that it was to get everyone ready for what was ahead.  So, we get through the mile-long line of traffic going into the parking lots and eventually get in the seemingly mile-long line of people waiting to get in.  That’s when I realized that I forgotten the extra batteries for my camera.  Not good when you’re planning on walking out of the day with 500 pics… but oh well.  Nothing could ruin the day.  Then I realized that I forgot my cell phone.  Doh!  But oh well.  Nothing could ruin the day.  Fortunately, nothing did.

Alright… we made it to the main stage on time and a few minutes later, Sevendust came out to get our blood flowing.  Sevendust has been around for 16 years and is one of the many nationally known and successful bands out of Atlanta, GA.  I see them every time they come through my town but that didn’t keep me from making this one of my must see shows of the weekend.  They just released their 11th disc (Cold Day Memory) a month ago and, considering it is my favorite 7D release in four years, I was dying for them to get the party started.    They definitely didn’t disappoint as they ripped through several songs off of the new record, including the new single, “Unraveling”, along with many of their tried and true ones like, “Denial”, “Driven” and “Praise”.  For those of us who were on time and primed, it was the perfect beginning to two days of great music.  The only thing that would have been better is if they’d come back for a second set later in the day.

Following 7D on the main stage was another one of my personal favorites, Drowning Pool, who came to Ohio on a mission to show how hard Dallas rocks.  A lot of people criticize this band and claim that they’re not the same as they were before their original frontman, Dave Williams, passed away in 2002.  True… they’re NOT the same.  That definitely doesn’t mean that they can’t move a crowd and they did happen to land one of the best hard rock singers in the business… previous frontman from Soil, Ryan McCombs.  Not the same band?  Correct.  Not a great band?  See them for yourself sometime and you’ll realize that they are amazing.  The band just released their second CD with Ryan on vocals and it has some truly great tracks throughout.  They rolled out several of their new tunes and kept the crowd hungry with favorites like “Bodies”, “Sinner”, “Soldiers” and “37 Stitches”.  Awesome.

CJ Pierce shreds to the masses at ROTR 2010

From there we headed to Side Stage 1 for a new band called Halestorm, fronted by an amazing talent in Lzzy Hale (that’s not a typo).  They’ve been on the national circuit since ’07, building a large following along the way.  Lzzy’s rocker voice and awesome guitar chops “wowed” me, to say the least.  Coupled with her brother, Arejay, and his incredible talent on the drums, they were one of the biggest surprises of my weekend.  So much, in fact, that I bought their debut and self-titled CD as soon as I got back to Texas.  Check it out… it’s good stuff.  I’ll definitely be seeing this band again and will try to find a youtube video of Arejay’s drum solo, where he breaks out Flintstone sized drumsticks that are about two feet long, each… and he rocks with them.  You have to love someone who does something different.

To say I was hyped to see The Deftones would be an extreme understatement.  We got back to the main stage in plenty of time to get a close position and they came on right on time.  The ‘Tones haven’t toured in over three years and just released their first CD, “Diamond Eyes”, in over four years, so the crowd was expecting something special.  The cause for their hiatus is a heart-wrenching one, as their original bassist, Chi Cheng, was hospitalized for still-ongoing brain trauma following an auto accident in 2008.  Once again, I was looking for something special.  Unfortunately, they came out and played mostly their slower, more melodic tunes which, for a hard-rock show, didn’t seem to fit right.  Aside from the rocker “7 Words”, it was mostly a sleeper of a show.  I’m still planning on seeing their full set while their on tour later this year… and the new record is amazing… but this set just didn’t keep my adrenaline (ironically,  the name of a previous Deftones record) as amped as the other bands playing on the same stage.

So, about 2/3rd of the way through The Deftones, we headed to Side Stage 1 for Killswitch Engage.  Killswitch has been one of my favorite metal bands for years and have many great releases under their belts, so I was buzzing to see them live for the first time.  We got a great spot right in front of the sound tent and set up shop next to the area that would be the best mosh pit of the weekend.  Killswitch came on and I was totally glad to see that they had their lead singer, Howard Jones, back in front of the band.  Howard had voice troubles a couple of months ago and hadn’t been touring with them lately but he came back the show before this one so… score.  They were almost as insanely good as the crowd was simply insane and I have to put this set in my top 3 for the whole weekend.  They ripped through all of the best tunes, like “My Last Serenade” and “Rose of Sharyn”… but the crowd about lost it when they announced their last tune, written and recorded by the recently passed Ronnie James Dio.  It was an incredible scene when they ripped into “Holy Diver”, with the crowd singing every word at the tops of their lungs.  It should also be noted that Dio was THE creator of the now standard “rock horns” that you see at shows.  Think about that next time you’re flying them towards a stage and you’ll realize that Dio will always be a part of rock and roll.  Killswitch Engage’s set was so good that I almost forgot how much good rock there was left… but there was still mucho music to be had.

Three Days Grace is the next band worth mentioning.  They were surprise #2 for the day and, although I’d never had any desire to see them, I was totally rocked by all of the hits these Canadians threw at me.  As a frontman, Adam Gontier is as good as it gets… a great entertainer with a big voice and an even bigger stage presence.  As dusk fell in Columbus, I realized, “Hey, I know a lot of these songs”, and proceeded to get down with the sweaty masses.  Rolling through “I Hate Everything About You”, “Pain”, “Never Too Late” and “Animal I’ve Become”, 3DG owned the stage and not only rocked their fans, but won new ones as well.  Yet another band that I’ll gladly see again.  So far, this day’s nearly perfect.

Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace at ROTR 2010

The closer for the show on Saturday was Godsmack, who I’d seen opening for Metallica a few years ago, but who I’d never seen headline (other than on DVD).  I knew what to expect, though… a slew of rock hits and an awesome dual drum solo between frontman Sully and the amazing skinsman Shannon Larkin.  We got all of that and more.  Supporting their new studio record, “The Oracle”, they played all of the new singles that they’ve recently released, such as “Cryin’ Like a Bitch” and “Whiskey Hangover”, along with all of the standards… “Voodoo”, “Speak”, “I Stand Alone” and “Keep Away”, just to name a few.  When they finally hit the drum solo, two drum risers with matching drums were wheeled to the middle of the stage.  Both kits rotated and what started out with Sully going crazy on various percussion evolved into a drum war between two amazing drummers.  Fifteen minutes later, they had gone from trading licks to rocking out full throttle on a drum version of AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, going into an even cooler rendition of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and finally culminating in a stretch of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times”.  They even threw in a little bit of the Rush classic “Tom Sawyer” as an homage to Neil Peart.  The drum duel alone is a reason to see Godsmack… throw in all of the hits and it’s an easy 5-star review for their set.  You definitely want to check them out if you ever get the chance.

Shew… so we made it through Day 1 and headed to Steak and Shake for some food and recuperation.  Day 2 would come quickly and, although the body tells you that it still needs rest after what you did to it yesterday, the show must go on.  We bypassed day two openers and cello rockers from Finland, Apocalyptica, in favor of a stress free morning getting to the show.  In hindsight, I really wish I’d seen their set… but I think I still made out okay.  So we realized, once getting to the parking lot lines, that everyone else seemed to have had the same thought…  bypass the first band and get there in time for Five Finger Death Punch.

FFDP has formed a following in the last few years that’s pretty amazing.  I first saw them at The Curtain Club in Dallas with about 35 people around 2006.  Since then, I’ve watched their crowds get bigger and their booking value skyrocket, seeing them headline the House of Blues in Las Vegas in December of ’08 and the House of Blues in Dallas this past February.  This band probably has connected with more true metal fans in the last two years than anyone and the crowd was ready to go crazy with these guys from Los Angeles.  The boys in FFDP definitely delivered, with lead singer Ivan Moody calling for the “most crowd surfers at once during the festival” right before lighting into “No One Gets Left Behind”.  They jammed through all of their singles and left the crowd hungry for much, much more.  Fortunately, the crowd didn’t have to wait long.

After cruising the side stages and not hearing anything that inspired us, we headed back to the main stage to check out Bullet For My Valentine, a Welsh metal band.  I’d only heard of these guys but figured from the fact that 1/4th of the crowd was wearing their t-shirts that they weren’t to be missed.  I couldn’t have been more surprised with what I saw and heard.  When the first riff hit, I looked at my friend and said, “This is gonna be cool.”  They were amazingly tight for a metal band, with two equally shredding guitarists carrying the guitar medleys and a killer groove laid down by their awesome rhythm section.  The crowd dove right into that groove, too, with massive mosh pits forming on both sides of the stadium floor and crowd surfers taking to the sky.  The energy through their set was only paralleled by that of Rob Zombie and Killswitch Engage and I walked away as a new fan.  I bought their first CD, “The Poison”, as soon as I got home and it hasn’t come out of my CD player, yet.  I can’t wait to see this band in a club!  You might just want to do that, too.

A common scene at ROTR... the moshpit

The next notable set that I saw was another band I had never seen.  I’ve heard of Mushroomhead for years but if you had asked me what kind of music they played, I would have had a difficult time answering.  I knew that I needed to check them out, though, and was amazed at how much electricity was in the air as the crowd waited for them to come on.    When they finally did, I quickly got the appeal.  Their music is a blend of heavy metal, alternative and electro-industrial, with groovy hooks splatted throughout.  The fact that they all wear masks and makeup, much like fellow rockers Slipknot, adds to the entertaining metal band from Cleveland.  I found myself wishing that I knew more of their music but that didn’t keep me from getting a little muddy during their set at the Jagarmeister Stage.

From there I headed back in and we found a great spot for Slash… and then stayed there the rest of the day.  So, if there was one band that I was eagerly anticipating some new music out of, it was Slash and Company.  I’d read that one of my absolute favorite singer/songwriter/guitarist’s was going to be touring with Slash for the summer and was glad that my presumption of Myles Kennedy being there was correct.  They came out and proceeded to steal the weekend for the next 50 minutes.  Moving back and forth between new tunes, including one of my new favorites, “Starlight”, and previous Slash standards such as “Paradise City”, “Mr. Brownstone”, “November Rain”, “Slither” and more, Slash and friends had the entire house digressing to the days of GnR.  At one point during “Paradise City”, I felt like I was in the video that I spent my early 20’s rocking out to.  I hadn’t really thought going into this weekend about the fact that Slash was going to be there and what that might mean musically but, for those who haven’t heard his new record, there were a lot of surprises and the set cemented Slash in my mind as one of the best guitarists ever.  There can only be one Slash and he rocks.

Myles Kennedy and Slash rock the crowd during ROTR 2010

By this point in the weekend, I was seriously running on fumes… but we journeyed on with a fantastic set by Seether, best known by most as the rock band that covered “Careless Whisper” last year.  As they came on, we joked about how lame it would be if they played it, as they have an easy hour and a half of songs that kill… but when they broke out with it, they had the whole place singing.  It was one of those cool moments that I definitely couldn’t have foreseen.  Not only did they give us that but they tore through all of their hits, including “Broken”, “Gasoline” and “Remedy”.  I’ve seen Seether before and they seemed to be running a little low on energy but it didn’t seem to keep me or the other 30,000 in attendance down.  Frontman Shaun Morgan should have some new songs in the works and, as soon as I hear them, I’ll let you know what I think… but I have a feeling that they, too, will touch a chord with me.  His songwriting has a way of doing that, which is why his set was so good.

And then there were two… one that I couldn’t wait for and one that I was only fairly enthused about.  Why did Limp Bizkit play after Rob Zombie, King of the Metal Slasher Film Vibe?  The best I could tell, it was so the hard rockers could head out early and not have to live through a Limp Bizkit set if they didn’t want to.  Makes sense to me… especially after the hour that it took to get out of the parking lot after night 1.  So, as the sun went down, the one and only Zombie took the stage.

Zombie gets the crowd moving two songs into his ROTR '10 set

There’s one thing that I love about a Rob Zombie show.  He always brings the intensity, he’s an entertainer and in the near twenty years that I’ve been going to his  shows, either in a club or an arena, he never disappoints.  This evening was no exception and, in fact, he somehow managed to surprise even me with his stage setup, which must have cost a small fortune.  Touring in support of his new album, Hellbilly Deluxe 2, his set was full of all things that make a crowd go crazy.  From giant moving robots to video excerpts looped from B-list horror movies, to massive plumes of pyrotechnic flames throughout the show, he proved again that he is to metal what Alice Cooper used to be to rock.  Through new songs like “Sick Bubblegum” to classics like “Dragula”, “Superbeast” and “Thunderkiss ’65”, the rock didn’t let down for a second.  Zombie’s guitarist, John 5, was his normal energetic, charismatic and flawlessly heavy self and it’s no surprise that everyone I’ve heard from that was at the show put this one set above all of the others.  So to a lot of people, Zombie closed down ROTR the way that it was meant to be closed… with an hour set of driving, danceable, over the top rock and roll.  For a lot of people, Zombie had raised the bar for a band that hadn’t played in public for several years.  I know this… if I had been Fred Durst watching from the wings, I would have gone, “Oh damn… we have to follow that???”.

And so everyone seemed to initially stick around for Limp Bizkit… and they waited… and they waited.  The fact the Limp came on about twenty minutes late didn’t gain any crowd appreciation, but when they finally came on, they came on strong.  I was almost too tired to be up in the crowd but I went back in shallow and on the right side, thinking that I’ve at least got to get a few pics of the band who’s first CD was one of my first music marketing ventures with Universal Records.  Looking back, that was a long time ago and I was also anxious to see if, after a very long absence, they could still get the crowd moving like they used to.  Well, they showed everyone that they can pick up right where they left off, although I still think it was a strange choice for ROTR.  Rolling through “Nookie”, “Behind Blue Eyes” and “My Generation”, the Bizkit pleased their fans and maybe even quieted some of their critics.  As for getting back on my feet and getting some shots, I have to say that a few pics that I got from their set were among my favorite.  About half way through the Bizkit action, my feet were screaming at me to leave and, right on cue, my friends called and said that their feet were done, too.  So that was it for the 2010 Rock on the Range.  We got out ahead of the crowd and got to Steak and Shake before the rush.  A perfect ending to a near-perfect two days… and I’m already looking forward to next year.  See you in 2011, Rangers.

Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst in the sea of Rangers

Until then… keep your music true and turn it up until it moves you.

A Blog on Music, Art and Life is Born

So here we are.  2010 and the continual evolution of music keeps expanding in the same way that it has done for centuries.  Music and art are a human language that transcend time and ethnicity to reach into the core of the participant and, if the moment is right, touch their heart.  Just as with the human race, diversity is the key.  There are both art and musical forms that most don’t think about, acknowledge or even realize their existence.  Diversity is what makes the art special.  There is no art form for which there is a true expert.  Therefore, I am not starting this blog under any crazy presumption that I know everything but, considering it’s the core of this bubble of life called my world, I do know what moves me, inspires me and drives me.  That’s what I’m here to talk about… my observations of art and music and, if you take anything cool away from it, then it’s worth my time.

In addition to the music, I’ll also be discussing other things that make my world go around… technology (I know… I’ll try not to make it boring), musical instruments,  songwriting, photography, art…  and this crazy, messed up society in which we live.  I’ll keep it light… I’ll try to keep it entertaining… if you have an opinion, join in!  That’s the point, right?  Really, I just want to talk randomly about stuff that I’m diggin’ on.  That’s what this whole blogging thing’s for, isn’t it?  I hope so, because that’s what I’m going to do with it!  So that’s it.  I guess I need to write an actual blog now.  Good thing I spent two sweaty days at  one of the best festivals in the county, Rock on the Range, last weekend.  I’ve got plenty to say and some awesome pics to share with you.  Wait, I’m starving.  Okay, first I need to run to Subway for a $5 footlong… then I’ll write that one.  Until then, keep your music true and turn it up until it moves you.

Want to see more music pics? Click the Pic!