Monday, October 27, 2008

Go Home Already

I spent an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon watching Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes play a set to a largely uninterested crowd in the "Piazza" of the new Tanger's outlet mall in Deer Park. This was the mall's grand opening weekend and the beautiful weather brought out shoppers in droves, searching for bargains, not glorified bar bands. Their loss though, as Southside and his current crop of Jukes put on a great show which featured a lot of tunes from his current record, "Grapefruit Moon," a collection of Tom Waits tunes. I guess this gig was better than doing a supermarket opening, but I really think it's time for this band to take up a residency somewhere - Atlantic City certainly comes to mind. Some forward thinking casino should build them their own room. Southside has no problems covering tunes - he's not a songwriter - and nobody plays better boardwalk music outside of that other guy from Jersey (no, not Jon Bon Jovi).

Southside Johnny Lyons is a good vocalist and fine harmonica player and the band is tight. The current keyboardist was a good foil for Lyons - he is sort of a "Dr. John Lite" - and some of the highlights of the show is when the horn section stepped up to do some New Orlean's style group solos. They were in good spirits despite having to play for a bunch of bargain hunters looking for discounts on overpriced designer goods.

The Jukes would make a great fixture at a casino, in a nice throw-back, Vegas strip style room, two shows a night with maybe three on the weekend. Have some Jersey Boy comedian open and get Southside a girl singer he can bring on during the show a la Keely Smith. I think it would be a big hit and a much better gig than this one - and you would still be able to shop after the show.

Friday, September 19, 2008

In Search Of Bobby Flay

Went looking for Bobby's Burger Palace only to realize that we were at the wrong mall. Imagine that - mixing up the malls on Long Island. After much initial disappointment, we accepted the fact that we would have to wait to experience a burger with potato chips right ON the burger, as opposed to NEXT to the burger. So off we went to the food court, doing the obligatory lap around to see what we could see. Along the way people in progressively funnier hats kept offering me pieces of shiny meat on plastic forks or toothpicks - all of which I eagerly accepted and all of which tasted exactly the same - slimy, best sums it up. I could have done two or three laps before the drones would have caught on - chances are they wouldn't have cared - and I would have amassed enough chicken chunks to qualify as lunch. But the lure of hot pastrami stopped me in my tracks, as pastrami has done in the past and will probably do again in the future.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

But it don't look like rain

Last Friday night I had one of the most enjoyable musical experiences of my lifetime - quite a statement if I do say so myself. I have the good fortune to have seen many, many live performances over the past forty or so years and it is always the unexpected ones that seem to rise above the rest. Jimmy Webb's show at Heckscher Park in Huntington was one of those shows.

I have always loved his songs, even before I knew he had written them. I have a lot of catching up to do in regards to his own recordings and recent works and I plan to do so over the next few months. I did see him perform once before at the Brian Wilson tribute at Radio City Music Hall where he sang Brian's songs as only a songwriter can sing them - making the lyrics come alive in a way that I had never realized before.

It was a rainy, rainy night. Lizz laughed at the thought of me going down to the park at all, but this was the one show that I wanted to catch. I had called my good friend Tom Pfeifer, who was into going despite the miserable weather forecast. As he so correctly pointed out at least we could get a cup of coffee and spend some time catching up. For a brief - very brief - moment the sky seemed to clear and I have visions of a nice night under the stars listening to the man sing his songs. That was until the weather bulletins began to crawl across the TV screen warning me - yes, me - to stay inside, take cover and prepare for the worst. You would think that two grown men would have the know it all to accept these messages, but Starbucks was right around the corner and as Tom said, we were going to turn water into wine anyway. Off we went.

As we drove into town, the rain still coming down hard, we noticed that the steel gate in front of the Chapin Stage was shut. Not a very good sign as it was just about showtime. I noticed some sort of activity around the stage so we decided to park the car and head over there. Once before I had went to a show in foul weather - The Five Chinese Brothers - who rearranged their gear on the stage and invited us all to sit on the stage itself. Turns out that is exactly what Jimmy Webb had decided to do.

With less than 100 people there, the staff had arranged seats around the Steinway grand piano in a very nice fashion, turning the stage into a cabaret-like atmosphere. Tom and I found ourselves sitting right next to Mr. Webb - the photo above is from my phone. We were pretty giddy over the whole thing, which had gone from at best standing in the rain for an hour or so to being part of what was sure to be a very special night.

Turns out it was Jimmy Webb's birthday, but he was giving the presents. For the next hour and a half he told the most wonderful stories, each one accompanied by one of his wonderful songs. No doubt he was relaxed in this intimate atmosphere and I have to imagine that the stories may have had a little more information or were told in a bit more detail than if he was performing before the larger crowd that would have certainly been there under better conditions. The sound was awesome and the lighting really effective, my hats off to the crew down at the Park for making this happen.

The stories were amazing. I would give anything to hang out with this guy for a few hours. Drinking with Harry Nilson, driving to Belfast with Richard Harris, writing a song for a girl who broke his heart - I can only imagine the tales he could tell. If hasn't done so already, I hope he writes a book. The songs - well the songs are perfect. His voice is not strong, he readily admits that, though it certainly doesn't "stink" as Harry Nilson described it one of his stories. To hear him sing these songs, which I have embedded in my brain in the voices of Glen Cambell, Frank Sinatra, Art Garfunkel and countless others, you began to make the connection between them. His piano playing is quite orchestral, shimmering riffs and startling rumbles - the instrumental vamp in Macarthur's park just flat out rocked.

I saw that he has a live CD out right now that features some of these songs and stories. I can pretty much say that it would be worth checking out. If it was anything like what we experienced the other night it will be time well spent.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Most Likely You'll Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)

I did not meet Bob Dylan last night.

In fact I didn't even have a backstage pass. As is the case with these things, something got lost in the sauce. I did have comp tickets to the show and I did have a lovely dinner overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the Asbury Park boardwalk and I did meet up with Clay Edwards, president of Hohner Harmonicas, who is a really nice guy.

So it goes. I knew the chances were slim and so I settled in for the show - which even with incredibly awful sound was excellent.

It was during Dylan's encores when Clay came up to my seat and motioned that I should come with him. He lead me through the crowd to the side of the hall where he shouted in my ear that we were meeting with Dylan's road manager and we would have a quick "meet and greet" and maybe get a chance to say hello and shake his hand. Then just a quickly we were informed that Dylan's security nixed the idea saying it would be too difficult to get Bob from point A to point B or something like that.

Clay told me that Bob is suppose to visit the Hohner shop in Virginia and if that comes to pass, he will invite me to come down. Should that happen, I will be there with bells on.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

You May Call Me Bobby, You May Call Me Zimmy

I am meeting Bob Dylan tonight.

To be completely accurate, there is a slim chance that I may meet Bob Dylan tonight. A very slim chance. I have backstage passes to his show at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ. I do know the drill, there is backstage and then there is backstage. Most of the time a backstage pass gets you in a hallway where for the most part you feel pretty much like you're somewhere you really should not be. If you are lucky, maybe there's a little spread and a free beer or two. The only reason I think that this might be a bit different is that I am going to be there with the president of Hohner - the harmonica company - who is a heck of a lot higher in the pecking order of such things than I am. So that being said, there is a slight chance that I may meet Bob Dylan tonight.

And it's making me lose my mind.

What on earth do you say to Bob Dylan? If the moon and stars do align and this actually happens it's not going to be some deep discussion, most likely just a few words. How do I say anything without saying the same thing that thousands of others have said when they had this rare opportunity? Is that all I should do - just mumble something about it "being an honor" and that "I'm a huge fan" before wetting myself? You have to go for more than that - this is Bob Dylan! You don't climb the mountain seeking the secret of life and ask "where's the restroom." But if you only have one question, what do you ask? I could ask him about the open tuning versions of "Blood On The Tracks" or if the whole motorcycle accident thing was faked. I could ask him what's on his iPod or if he even has an iPod. I could even ask him what exactly did Billy Joe throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge? No matter what he may say, this guy has all the answers.

This is even harder for me as I don't find it easy to talk to people that I haven't spent time with. Never have. I've never asked a girl out in my life and I've been married twice - figure that one out. Famous people? Forget about it.

Last night I finally calmed down about this whole silly thing. If it happens, great. If not, great. I can get through it. Then I called my sister and told her about it and she said, "Oh, you'll probably see Springsteen there."

Kill me now.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Something In The Night

I am so done with stadium rock concerts. Even with a nice afternoon of tailgating, complete with home-made burgers and cajun shrimp, plus a few baked clams courtesy of some nice folks a few cars down the line. What is the purpose of going to a show if you can't hear it? Chance are pretty good when you bought your ticket you knew you were not going to see it, but hear it? - you would think that should come with the price of admission. If you get stuck underneath the seats above you, what you are hearing sounds like it has been swirling around in garbage can ... which is a pretty accurate description of the Meadowlands and hopefully among the reasons that a new stadium is being built to open in a few years.

But there I was, once again, in New Jersey to spend a good two hours or so with The Boss.

Right off the bat, Danny Federici is sadly and sorely missed. Any true fan of the E Street Band will tell you that it's just not the same - and that part of the magic is gone forever. His replacement, Charles Giordano, is a solid musician and definitely is paying tribute to Danny - for now. Sooner or later he'll have to start working up a little magic on his own.

Clarence was not looking - or sounding - too good last night. He was pretty amazing at the Nassau Coliseum show last March - all the reviews seemed to pick up on the fact that he was blowing as strong as ever and Bruce pulled out all of the big sax songs as to take advantage of that fact. Last night, just the opposite. He was honking all over the place and Bruce pulled "Backstreets" from the setlist.

For the record it was a good show, probably a great show if we had better seats. There was an interesting mix of songs, including some that haven't been played for a while. Which brings me to Bruce's latest bit of schtick - taking "requests" from the audience who have been bringing handmade signs and banners in an attempt to get him to play their favorite song. Bruce ran back and forth across the stage collecting the signs which he dumped in a big pile on stage. He would walk over to the pile and pretend to decide which one he would play - I say pretend, because most of the "requests" he played were on his handwritten set list! What a con artist! Still it's all great fun for those involved - it is kind of cool when he reveals the choice to the crowd. Plus, in a few cases he truly pulled one out the bands collective ass - "Held Up Without A Gun" was a blast - Bruce duly noted that his lyrics are more in sync with the times now than when he wrote the song in the late 1970's.

Even some of the songs that were on the setlist gave the band a challenge - "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City" started off with a spirited discussion on what key the song was in. "Drive All Night" from "The River" got big cheers from the long time fans. Quite a few covers made the set including "Summertime Blues," "The Detroit Medley" and "Twist And Shout" which went on way too long. The audience was completely insane - even towards the very end they got as loud as I ever heard a group of people get - and when Bruce was asking them to sing "a little bit softer now" during Twist And Shouts little LaBamba side trip, it was pretty cool hearing about 50 thousand people whispering together.

The kids got in the act as well. Bruce daughter came on stage with a bunch of her friends and basically just jumped around on Twist and Shout, and Max's son came out to play drums on "Born To Run." He definitely is not as stiff as his dad, and rocked the song really hard. It made hearing that one for the 200 plus time actually more exciting than usual. Yes, it still is exciting no matter what.

There is so much talent on this stage, including the wonderful bassist Gary Tallent of course. Steve Van Zandt, when he's not clowning around with Bruce, is a truly masterful guitarist - one of those guys who makes it look way easier than it is. When you have a moment be sure to check his Underground Garage website. On the other side of the stage Nils Lofgren gets the spotlight once a night - last night it was on "Because The Night" - and he never fails to bring the show to a new level. His solos soar, higher and higher and just when you think he's peaking, he brings it on even more. Plus now he's tumbling while he solos! Its only a matter of time before the trampoline comes back. Nils has a new CD - a collection of songs from his old boss, Neil Young, called "The Loner - Nils Sings Neil."

I kept feeling that there was some sort of farewell vibe to this show. That's not been hinted at anywhere and I can't pinpoint my exact reasons for feeling those feelings. No doubt, he could do this forever - fill these stadiums and give them their money's worth (including the $20 hit for parking!) To my eyes there were too many drunk yahoos who just kept shouting "YEEEEAHHH" into each other's face, too many fan boys and girls who had seen it all too many times and pick songs for their bathroom breaks, too many people who thought his last CD was Born In The USA, just too many "too manys." He needs to scale this thing back, play the theaters, get the excitment back. Let everybody hear the words. Tell a story or two. Deal with the changes, the ones that have come and the ones to come. I love this guy, I really do. I have followed him through it all - almost from the very beginning. It's time to bring this thing back home - and I don't mean back to New Jersey.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Not So Good Vibrations

Lizz and I recently attended a Brian Wilson show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC. The concert, which was billed as "An Evening With Brian Wilson And Friends" was a benefit for cancer research. It was apparently part of series of shows taking place around Manhattan but it was very hard to get any other information regarding who the "friends" were. The show was never even listed on Wilson's official website, though the message board there was ripe with all sorts of rumours as to who would be appearing - the biggest buzz around a possible "ex-Beatle" hitting the stage. I didn't really care too much about all of that - as you may or may not know, I am a huge fan and try to see his show whenever it comes to town. Since Brian has been back I have enjoyed everyone of his concerts, the last one at the Beacon with Al Jardine in tow was an absolutely stellar evening. Because this was a benefit, ticket prices were pretty high, so I went for the cheap seats at a hundred dollars a pop, expecting to have a great time for a good cause.

For those who haven't seen Brian Wilson in concert, the experience can be a bit shocking. His band - based around a group called The Wondermints and featuring ex-Beach Boy Jeffrey Foskett - is flat out incredible. Super musicians, excellent vocalists - most who double (and triple) on a variety of instruments allowing them to truly deliver Wilson's music in all its sonic majesty. Brian sits center stage behind an unplayed piano. Sometimes he rocks along to the music, other times he just sits there staring off into space. If it weren't for a number of interviews where he has stated that he is enjoying his return to the concert stage I would be creeped out by it all - but if he is having a good time, I'm all for it. His voice has gotten stronger over the past few years, though he occasionally flubs a lyric or two.

I had read on the message boards that a few of the band members were not going to be at the show. It's a big band, with a big sound and I wondered how they were going to deal with the changes. The regular drummer (there is also a second percussionist) and bass player were not going to be there, as well as the 1st keyboardist and the one lone female member who sings - as does every member of the band. Wow! How did they pull this off? Simple! The second keyboardist - who usually gets behind the drum kit at the end of the show for the big "rock and roll" medley - played drums. The guy who plays almost every instrument during the night was on bass for the evening. Although two strong vocalists were lost for the evening, the band more than covered all the harmony parts. Like I said, this is an amazing group of musicians.

Even so, it was obvious that some things would have to be dropped from the set and that meant sticking to the hits for the night. Even so there were a few gems, including a great verision of "Add Some Music" from the "Sunflower" album, a spot on take on "In My Room" and two new songs from the upcoming "That Lucky Old Sun" release, which could be the first truly great new release from Wilson (if you don't count "Smile" as new). The band compensated for the missing members with a high-energy performance - almost manic - blasting through the songs almost Ramones-style. Brian, who had been ill for the last few shows, looked great and was more animated than I had ever seen him - sometimes almost giddy.

Our $100 seats were majorly suck-ass. Practically in the lobby, when I looked to my right I noticed that we were actually behind the merch counter! After a few songs I noticed that the security seemed pretty lax, so Lizz and I got up and made our way up front where a bunch of people were dancing and listening on the side, unhindered by any ushers. We stayed there for the rest of the show - worked for us!

As the show progressed I began to think that there wasn't going to be any "friends" showing up. Then Brian introduced Joan Osborne who sang a verse or two of "God Only Knows" with him. She was fine, but certainly not "ex-Beatle" fine. Usually this is a show stopper of a song. This time it sounded a bit unrehearsed and definitely missed all the horn parts that the full band usually covers. Then Brian introduces Al Kooper. Al Kooper? They proceeded with a nice version of "Caroline No" with Al doing a soulful turn on a verse and that was that. Sheesh - I have better "friends" than that! Well, maybe not, but I know Brian does. Guess they were busy doing nothing.

Soon - and it seemed a bit too soon - it was time for what is Brian's standing show ender - a full song medley of "Barbara Ann," "Surfin USA," and "Fun, Fun, Fun" - where they strap a bass on him - again, unplugged - and he makes his exit, always uncertain of which side of the stage to leave from. Then the encore, which traditionally had been "Love And Mercy" now replaced by the beautiful "Southern California" from the new release. Lizz and I bolted out to catch the train back home.

It was different than all the other shows I had seem him do, definitely a bit less magical. But it was Brian Wilson and that was good enough for me. However it apparently wasn't good enough for some others.

Negative reviews began to circulate on Brian's website and other blogs. People were complaining about the bad seats, the sort set, the missing band members and the lack of "Beach Boy rarities" in the show. Not for nothing, it was a 75 minute show with at least 17 songs, all preformed well by a kick ass, if somewhat truncated, band. Plus it was a benefit!

Then the most unexpected thing happening. Brian's wife Melissa posted to the message board on the site, saying that Brian was upset to hear that he may have disappointed some fans and in order to keep it "cool" he was going to offer a refund to anyone who wanted one.


Now it is easy to say he's out of his mind when speaking of Brian, as for all intents and purposes, he is. But to offer a refund to dissatisfied concert goers? This is some serious shit. I have been attending concerts all of my life and there have been plenty of times when I felt I didn't get my money's worth - especially in the past decade when ticket prices climbed to record rates. Imagine if I could have asked for a refund if I felt that the performance wasn't up to snuff? Or if they didn't play my favorite song or I didn't like my seat? On Van Morrison shows alone I would have saved enough to make a car payment or two!

This whole thing will most likely fade away quickly - the original post from Melinda Wilson is no longer on the board - but it would be interesting to see if anyone else picks up the gauntlet and does something similar. Did I consider sending in my tickets for refund? Not for a second, but I did wonder if I would get a check signed by Brian back in return.

Hmmmm ...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Me And My Elvis Robot

Time was when I would have spent $300 on a talking robotic Elvis head but when I saw this pop up a few years ago I took a big pass. After all I'm a big boy now. It's been over a decade since the last real Elvis party and people have finally stopped giving me Elvis junk for my birthday and Christmas. Then one day last week there it was in the daily email from - the WowWee Alive Elvis at $59.99. Signed, sealed and delivered. I couldn't get out my credit card fast enough.

Lizz was mildly amused and obviously relieved that I planned on taking it to office. Liam, who admitted to being "a little afraid" at first, warmed up quickly to the King's quirky movements and spent the rest of day talking to him expecting answers.

I can't even describe this thing. It kinda sorta looks like Elvis - it actually looks more like k.d. lang. I was disappointed to find out that it wouldn't move it's mouth along to any outside sources - you can connect a microphone or an iPod - and it seems as if the infared sensors do not work, but hey, it is a 60 buck chinese talking robot head. Buyer beware has never been more applicable. The whirring noise he makes is pretty disturbing until you realize that its the same noise you've made forever whenever you pretended you were a robot! If you don't know what I'm talking about, well that's the difference between me and you.

After I finally read the instruction manual, I got him to sing a few songs and tell a few stories. You can have him just spout out random statements, along with moving his head from side to side, raising his eyebrows and yes, the occaisional classic Elvis snear. My favorite bit of information from the user guide: "Should Elvis perform an unexpected function, please switch him OFF then ON again to reset him." Unexpected function? Like what - lunge for a hambuger? Start cursing? Cry? If only!

This morning I threw my Elvis robot head into a box and into the back of my topless jeep to take him to his new home. As I was enjoying the morning sunshine and fresh air, I couldn't help but think that it would be kind of funny if the robot king bounced out of the car and onto the windsheild of the car behind me. Would the fact that it was Elvis smashing into your car make you feel any better? If it happened to me, it would be a story I would tell for the rest of my life. But that's just me.

I had a great space picked out for him in the office where I can look up from my desk and keep an eye on him. We had a nice pair of classic shades for him which helps make him look more like ... him. He certainly does get people's attention and the word that seems to come up more often than not is "creepy." While I doubt that is what WowWee had in mind I have to admit that it really does sum it up.

My Elvis robot head came with only one cartridge that has about 8 songs and a dozen or so little stories. I am guessing that there won't be any more forthcoming. His hair, which looks excellent on the box, is misbehaving. I also was hoping that he would "auto activate" when sensing motion, but that's not the case. Instead he shuts off after 10 minutes and you can't turn him on from the remote. Maybe in the next version.

We have some plans to either find a body for him or make it look like he is trapped in the floor. We are also thinking of wiring him into the office PA system. There have been some interesting modifications detailed online. Whatever happens I am going to enjoy my status as the only owner of an Elvis robot head that I know for as long as it lasts.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Blaggards To Release Career Retrospective Box Set

Memphis, TN: At at unannounced press conference this morning, The Blaggards announced the release of a career retrospective box set entitled "First Pull Up, Then Pull Down." The eight box set (six audio CDs and two DVDs) will contain highlights from the band's four-year history including "some surprises" but no actual music or videos of the band. "We really wanted to have some music on the box set," said guitarist Steve Prisco, "but we haven't really recorded anything. We've been busy doing other stuff." The band has tentative plans to record so the CDs in the box set will be blank recordable discs. "This way when we do get around to recording, our fans can just make their own discs," explained drummer Tom Ryan, "or they can use them to make copies of the new Coldplay record, which is what I'm going to do." The two DVDs include "some cool YouTube videos of kids doing some crazy shit" according to bassist Mick Hargreaves, who added "I can watch this stuff for hours." Also on the DVD is a copy of the classic sci-fi comedy "Buckaroo Bonzai" just because "it rocks."

The box set has a cutting edge packaging design as well. "With Green being the big buzzword these days, we decided to do the right thing," said guitarist Rich Umbach, "We asked our selves what would Bono do?" The band actually asked Bono but he did not return their call. "We were sitting around one day and it just hit us" continued Umbach, "what is the most environmentally friendly packaging? NO packaging!" The band decided that their box set would be the first box set to have no box. "No box, no jewel cases, no book - nothing!" exclaimed Prisco, "just the discs themselves and we considered not even including them." When asked if this would make purchasing and shipping the "non" box set difficult, Ryan replied, "well I guess ... if we thought we were actually going to sell any."

With hopes of having the collection ready for the holiday season the band is heading into the studio. "We are going to record a bunch of out takes, b-sides and alternate versions" said Hargreaves, "because this is the kind of stuff people buy box sets for" adding that the band would record actual songs "if they have the time."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hold On - The Kid Puts It On The Line!

After watching last night's showdown between the two Davids as they battled it out for the title ... anybody else think the boxing thing was really goofy? How great would it have been if Cook just laid the kid out with a right hook? "Dude! That was hot!!!" Anyway ... I must recant my last post and fess up that David Archuleta is not only going to win, but deserves to win. After all, as Simon constantly reminds us, this is a singing competition. That being said, I still miss Kristy Lee Cook and her perfect breasts.

Look at this kid. How can you not love him! He even smiles while doing one of those now famous American Idol "my appendix is about to burst" poses!

So let's wrap this up and look forward to the next one. Gosh, what surprises do they have in store for us? I'm holding out for a trap door with Simon's finger on the button.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Idol Chatter - Cook Wins It All!

Yes, I watch American Idol. I've watched it since the beginning. It is getting harder to watch, not so much because of the singers, but because of the judges. Most of the time we watch off the DVR which gives us the luxury of fast forwarding through Randy and Paula's almost never changing comments. I am glad that we did see Paula's major brain-fart a few weeks ago when she starting commenting on a song she had yet to hear. I still can't believe that they came through that sanfu unscathed. Pay not attention to the man behind the curtain! Apparently most of America doesn't even see the curtain.

For those of you who pretend not to watch, it is down to the last week, the final two. In this corner we have the little golden boy, David Archuleta, smooth as silk and gosh, so cute. I must hand out some major credits to the kid for sticking up for his old man who the media has painted as the backstage mother from hell. Then there is the other David, Cook that is. All of 25, he is this year's "rocker" and, from what I can see, the man Simon wants to get the crown. No doubt that Archuleta's CD will be a big seller this Christmas for all the grandmas and little sisters out there, but Cook is all set to unleash a string of tepid big rock ballads, no doubt already written and stamped in gold. You can actually see Cowell licking his chops.

As usual I will not be buying anything by any of these guys - never have, although I must admit to downloading some of Kelly Clarkson's tunes by mistake. Yeah, it was by ... mistake.

It's hard not to root to Archuleta, he seems so genuinely nice - the kind of boy you hope your son would grow up to pretend to be while he's out smoking pot and screwing girls. On the other hand Cook seems like the kind of guy Archuleta would buy his pot from, which makes him very real as well. My main vice with him is the guitar playing. Don't get me wrong, I am all about guitar playing but don't stand on that stage all alone, with your Van Halen amp about 50 feet away. Bring down the rest of the band, brother! Also he seems to have picked up Constantine Maroulis's "I'm So Hot" face when ending a song. Ewww.

If you tied me to a post and forced me to listen to one of them for hours I would have to pick David Cook. He actually has a little bit of an edge - and I do mean little - in his voice that keeps him interesting. Little Davy would just loosen my bowels after a while. So there it is - my official American Idol prediction.

But I also had the Yankees 10 games in first by now.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sad News: Danny Federici

Just heard the news that Danny Federici of the E Street Band passed away yesterday from Melanoma. I've seen the E-Street band over 200 times since 1972 and he was my favorite member. Never met him but I feel like I knew the guy. Saw him before he left the tour this year and saw them without him and though is replacement is very capable, a signature sound of the band was missing.

Danny was the quintessential side-man - always filling in the holes with that great, ethereal organ sound and punching it in on his signature solos. I always longed to find a guy like him for my band but in the same breath knew that guys like him were very hard to come by.

If you have 'em take a moment and listen to a few of his best moments today:
- the solo on "Kitty's Back"
- the solo on "Hungry Heart" (really saves that one)
- the accordion on "Sandy"
- the solo on "My City Of Ruins" and his playing on "Your Missing" both on the Rising.

From Bruce's website:
"Danny and I worked together for 40 years - he was the most wonderfully fluid keyboard player and a pure natural musician. I loved him very much...we grew up together."
—Bruce Springsteen

The Federici family and the E Street family request that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Danny Federici Melanoma Fund.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

The Blaggards found themselves back at the Talkhouse on Friday night, playing to yet another great crowd of dancing fools. We have been doing roughly one night a month over the winter months and have built up a nice following with the locals. The support has been amazing - these people really like us, they really do. Even better we, in typical Blaggard's fashion, have not catered to them one iota. We play what we want and they dance like crazy and shout hooray. Ok, they don't actually shout hooray. It is so good to be in a band that doesn't have a bag, replete with all that comes with one. This doesn't mean we don't have a "sound" or a "look" - I imagine we do. But the sound changes, sometimes from song to song and the look, well ... oh, well.

We added a few new songs ... "Honky Tonk Mind" by Johnny Horton, "Tennessee Plates" by John Hiatt and brought back one we haven't played in a long time, "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" by the Jayhawks. After our first set one of the guys from The Bastards Of Boom, a Talkhouse favorite, was hanging with us in the dressing room. He asked me to help settle an argument he was having with a friend about what the ratio was in regards to original songs to covers in our set. When I told him that they were all covers, he was pretty much in shock - either because he was embarrassed not to know the songs or that we had no real desire to play originals. I bastardized George Thorogood's quote in reply, "Why should we waste time writing songs when Bob Dylan has already written all the good ones?"

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

So Sad About Us

The judge in Macca's divorce trial made public his judgment, ignoring Heather's request not to do so stating that it could put her daughter in jeopardy. Its a good read, giving us some insights into both parties, some that we knew: she lies, and some that we didn't: Paul does birthday parties. For a million dollar donation, but man if I win the lottery I am having one special BBQ this year.

While the document doesn't tell us how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall, it does detail how much cash there is in Paul's wallet - a lot as if we didn't know - and how many houses - I lost count - he has scattered around the globe.

The link that I had for the doc seems to have been taken down, but I'm sure if you look you can find it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Another One Bites The Dust

It is a simple fact of life that among the joy and festivities of the holiday season, sometimes we find ourselves to be the bearer of bad news. It is with the heaviest of hearts that I must disclose a sad event that took place within the Blaggards camp. Tom Ryan has officially run out of opinions.

At approximately 10:00 PM on Wednesday, December 5th during our weekly band dinner, Tom announced that "he actually liked the new Justin Timberlake CD" and in a sad and futile effort to put weight behind his words, made us listen to it.

The track he played, which thankfully went nameless preventing me from remembering anything about it, was infinite proof that Tom no longer was capable of rendering an opinion. An excellent example of the watered-down, over-processed pap that passes as R&B these days, Mr. Timberlake did his best Michael Jackson little boy warble over what sounded like a demo song on a portable keyboard.

The night had started off as usual. The Blaggards blasted through a bunch of songs in eager anticipation of the meal that Heidy was preparing upstairs. When we finished Tom took his customary post-practice shower, and ever the DJ, cued up his iTunes playlist which usually consisted of some esoteric, but somewhat listenable oddity that he "happened" to pull out that week. "This is a group of Monks who actually hum Thelonious Monk tunes - it's fascinating and I can't stop listening to it!" Then things went decidedly further south.

At first the Blaggards were speechless. Then we all thought it was a joke - occasionally Tom has shown flashes of a sense of humor. As we realized that he was actually serious we attempted to shake him out of it, hoping to give him a musical Heimlich maneuver sadly to no avail.

It may seem that watching a critic run out of opinions is like watching a baseball pitcher lose his arm or an opera singer lose her voice. However there is a major difference. In the case of critics, when they did have opinions, they didn't matter anyway. So although we felt a tinge of sadness with Tom's new found affections for Justin, we also took heart in the fact that we didn't have to listen to his comments on any other music from now on! After all, when Father Magillacuddy fondles little Timmy in the rectory, it kind of takes the punch out his Sunday homily. Yes, just like Imus, Barry Bonds and Senator Clark, we will never be able to look at Tom and his past opinions in quite the same way.

It is up to us to help him put a positive spin on this. Perhaps now he can concentrate on other things in his life, like oh let's say, drumming? It's not like being a critic was a good thing to begin with. Critics, like those fake holidays created by the greeting card companies, were created to sell newspapers, not as an actual meter of good or bad. The first critic, Og, was joyfully stoned to death after commenting on his neighbor's cave paintings. Unfortunately that sort of response has gone out of vogue. Similar to the old adage, "those who can do, those who can't teach" critics render opinions on the those who actually possess some kind of talent. If you care to argue that fact, read the previous sentence a few times aloud before going down that path. The simple truth is that critics are only useful to those who have absolutely no ability to determine whether they like something or not on their own. History is littered with their worthless rants - "Shakespeare, Smakespere" or "This Sinatra kid shouldn't quit his day job." Their attempts to be barometers of "cool" are even more pathetic - "Sigur Ros - The New Beatles!" or "Robert Pollard releases so much stuff that he must be a genius!"

You might attempt to build a case in arguing that even within things that suck, there are levels of suckiness. I am not going to dispute the fact the Justin Timberlake has legions of fans who deliver truck loads of money to his door every day. It's quite possible that among the insipid group of bland, ex-Mousekeeter pop stars that he is the best. However you can rest assured that aside from typing that last sentence I will never spend another second giving that any theory another thought. Sadly for Tom, he did and now is apparently no longer possess the ability to think rationally.

Tom Ryan is not the first person to be brought down by a moment of weakness. There are certainly any number of spirits - both ingested and imagined - that could have contributed to this gaff. Whatever the reason, it was still a sad moment to witness. In his defense he did try to slightly backspin his way to credibility by remarking that Timberlake was "hysterical on Saturday Night Live" a show that hasn't been truly funny since 1978. A sad and interesting ploy, as if being good at something else increases your musical validity. "I just found out that the bass player in Paper Lace likes kittens! Now I see "Billy Don't Be A Hero" in a whole new light!" Too little, too late Mr. Ryan.

As Blaggards do, we will stand by our man. That is until he attempts to get us to "appreciate" Mariah Carey or T-Pain. Then the only advice I can offer Tom is the last word that the aforementioned Og heard before the stones flew - Duck!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Eighty-Four G Gal

Wow. I'm sure it's not the final number, but eighty-four thousand dollars worth of sex is either A) a LOT of sex or B) some REALLY good sex. My friend Russ thought that it was based on the quality of the girl in question, but come on - most guys can nab a pretty decent gal for free and unless that amount of cash gets you Jessica Alba or Scarlet Johanssen, there isn't a need to spend that much on the selection. Kristen is certainly attractive and seems like a very nice girl. Friendly as well I assume.

I think we all know that what the Gov was paying for was silence - and that didn't seem to work out too well for him now, did it? Somebody is always willing to beat your price - or sell your dirty laundry to the highest bidder.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Gary Jude Anderson

There are people who drift in and out of your life and the good ones are always as welcome as those first days of spring. They just make you feel good to see them. I've known Gary Jude for well over 20 years, and although we didn't hang out on a regular basis when our paths did cross I welcomed the chance to chat and catch up.

When Gary's mom called me on Friday, I knew instantly that the news was not going to be good. He had suffered a stroke a few years back which took it's toll. We were all shocked when he showed up at the Elvis show needing a cane to walk and obviously still recovering. Gary was all about the show - he wasn't going to let this setback slow him down at all. His performance was inspirational to say the least. Over the last two years his health was improving - he no longer needed the cane, his speech was much better and he was driving again. He was singing with the Northport Choral and was in great spirits, laughing and telling stories at the rehearsals for this year's show.

Those of you who knew Gary know what a unique individual he truly was. He was always Gary. He was not a slave to any fashion or trend. He had his own sense of style and stuck with it. He was passionate about music and loved to talk about it as much as he obviously enjoyed being on stage. I worked with Gary in the New Bohemians, the group that eventually became The Scofflaws. Gary's performances, whether it be his near channeling of James Brown to his spaghetti eating during our version of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," were sublime. He was always a welcome guest at Purple Gang gigs and he had been with The Elvis Show from the very beginning - a favorite of both the fans and the performers.

Gary suffered a massive stroke that took his life after a couple of days in the hospital. I was thankful that we did touch base this year - at the last minute - so he was able to take part in this year's show. He did a great job as usual and he was able spend time with some old friends. I know that on whatever journey he is on now, he making new ones.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An Elvis Show Video!

Elvis Show 2008 - Howie Mendelson

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Just one of the many great performances that night. Howie leads an all out guitar assault featuring Chris James, Rich Umbach and Matty Liott.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday - Get Out And Vote!

No soap box, no long-winded speeches. Go vote today. I am and I am voting for Hillary Clinton. If you are asking for reasons, do you not understand what "no soap box" means. Actually that's a pretty arcane reference for 2008 so I will cut you some slack. To the point - I actually believe that she truly wants to make a difference in the lives of average Americans and will try her best to wade through the swamp that is our government. Obama, god bless him, has already made some promises that he has no intentions to keep, as they are impossible. Clinton is aiming for the possible. She is also the first politician that I have heard in a long time that actually answers the questions asked and usually has a very good response as well. And she's HOT!

Only kidding about the "hot" reference - but you knew that, right?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Elvis Show 2008

The Elvis Show, which crawled back from the dead a few years ago, has now been officially "re-launched." I say officially because it sounds official. I say re-launched because it was officially a lot of work to launch it. Now that the ship has sailed, I can officially say it was a good time.

My friend Roy Wilson put the bug in my ear to do the show at Matty Ts - the last honky tonk on Long Island. It wasn't a bad idea - Matty's has a stage, although it is more like a corral, cheap beer and a the aforementioned honky tonk vibe. At last year's event the most common complaint I heard was that you couldn't see the performers, so a stage was pretty much required. You wouldn't think that a club with a stage is that hard to find on Long Island, but it is. Finding a club with a stage that would understand what the Elvis Show is all about and actually let me hold there is a whole other thing. So, Matty's was pretty much a lock from the day Roy mentioned it.

After a few rounds of the usual club owner nonsense, we were all set. I started making some calls, sending out some emails, dropping some hints. I always like to have a few new faces take part, I can always count on some of the old faces to be there and then there is always those unusual faces that pop in and out of my life. Twenty odd years down the road, getting this bunch of people together results in a very heady mix that brews more off stage than on. I have no idea (or I have forgotten) who slept with who, who slept with who's wife/husband/lover/brother/sister/mother/father, who kicked who out of which band, and so on and so forth. One of my blessings is really not giving a rat's ass about that kind of stuff in the first place. I may have found myself to be the center of some good gossip once or twice in my life, but I have no real interest in other people's lives, even the parts I'm supposed to care about which is a constant annoyance to some of my friends and family. So blind to any ill timed reunions or that I may be fanning the ashes of some long cooled romance, I went forward recruiting people for show.

In the end, it was a great night. We literally packed the club - at one point they had to stop letting people in. We raised a ton of food and a bunch of money. You can read, see and hear all about it on the MySpace page.

And next year we will do it again.