Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Town

As far as bank robber movies go I would say, without a doubt, that I’m a fan. Point Break, The Italian Job, The Dark Knight, Ocean’s Eleven – all heist movies, all awesome. And Ben Affleck’s The Town is no different. Taking place in hardcore Boston – a setting for some of my other favorites like The Departed and Good Will Hunting – the action never stops in this move and trust me, you don’t want it to stop.

Affleck plays local kid Doug MacRay who got drafted to play pro hockey but then chose drugs over an athletic career. As a result he turned out just like his father (played brilliantly in one scene by Chris Cooper) and became a bank robber. But unlike his father, who is serving time in prison and will be there for seemingly forever, Doug is looking to get out of the criminal life and get out of town. In the meantime he hangs out with three friends and literal partners in crime including best friend James “Jem” Coughlin, played with angst and rebellion by the amazing Jeremy Renner, Owen Burke who is from New England and Slaine who is a Boston-bred, Irish-American hip hop MC and actor. Jem would do anything for Doug, never met a drug or drink he didn’t like and never shies away from a fight.

Doug MacRay: I need your help. I can't tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later, and we're gonna hurt some people.
[Jem pauses to think for a moment]
James Coughlin: Whose car are we gonna take?”

These guys pull off bank robberies with finesse and precision while wearing rubber masks that are reminiscent of Point Break’s “Ex-Presidents” – except these guys switch up their masks going from skeletons to nuns.

The first bust turns out to be the most important because we are introduced to bank manager Claire (the fantastic Rebecca Hall) who ends up being Doug’s love interest. She doesn’t know that Doug is the one who held her at gunpoint and robbed her bank so they begin dating. It starts off as a way for Doug to make sure she doesn’t say too much to the FBI but it turns out he actually falls for her.

Another excellent performance is given by Jon Hamm who plays FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley. This guy is no joke – he is out to get Doug and his crew and will not stop until they are dead or behind bars forever.

[To the team of police officers]
Adam Frawley: Where are they? What are they doing right now? They got the money, now they have to clean it. Casino's, tracks, maybe they make a big drug buy, flip it across town. They wanna go celebrate, right? V.P.D, D.E.A. I want chips, names, witnesses. Anything. We're gonna knock on some doors see who wants to help us out. Any questions? No. Great. Let's go.”

When Doug and company aren’t robbing banks and running drugs the guys also hang out with Jem’s sister Krista (played by Blake Lively) who has an affinity for cocaine and oxycontin and also has a young daughter. From watching the previews I thought Lively would have more screen time but she does make good use of the little time she is given. Though her character is a cliché, she exemplifies the “townie” type person who is a young mother, into drugs and booze, wears tights clothes and has smeared makeup – essentially the Boston version of Courtney Love.

While the final 30 minutes of the movie are pretty predictable – final robbery goes wrong and people die – Affleck (who starred in and directed this movie) went big and decided to make the final bust take place at “The Cathedral of Boston” – Fenway Park. Very cool and very appropriate considering how big the Red Sox have been over the last few years. But that’s how this entire movie played out – very cool and very well done. I think Affleck has finally shaken the Jennifer Lopez bullshit and is back making good movies about a town he knows very well. While The Town proves you can never and may never want to go home again, it sure is fun watching these guys try.

I’m Jealous Of Grace Potter

Have you seen the video for the Grace Potter & The Nocturnals song, “Paris”? Shot in black and white with lead singer Potter and her band looking like something out of seventies rock and roll I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. While female singers aren’t always my first choice, Potter kills it. In addition to looking like Heidi Klum and pulling off Tina Turner – type dresses she can hit AC/DC-esque high notes and while playing several instruments including guitar and piano. When the band played a live concert for the troops in Iraq she even duetted with the Heart girls and completely held her own. It was unbelievable.

Now to be fair – and to not be one of those writers who pulls a No Doubt and only talks about the female lead singer –Potter has a sensational band behind her. The Nocturnals include Scott Tournet on guitars and harmonica, drummer Matthew Burr, Catherine Popper on bass guitar and vocals and Benny Yurco on electric and vocals. They too carry the seventies band persona and provide an incredible backdrop for Potter.

Favorite simple but brilliant lyrics:

"You got me down on the floor
So what'd you bring me down here for?
If I was a man I'd make my move
If I was a blade I'd shave you smooth
If I was a judge I'd break the law..."

For those around the country who have a television the band will be on Letterman tonight. For all the Denver kids – this band is coming to the Ogden Theatre on Friday, February 11 so let’s get some tickets and go! In the meantime, download “Paris,” “Apologies” and their cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.” You won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Steel Panther Is A Little Soft

A friend of mine said: “They’re an 80s metal cover band that plays songs by Guns, Van Halen and Motely Crue. You’re gonna love them!” Famous last words. I was so excited to see Steel Panther this weekend and unfortunately I have to admit that I was disappointed. I was expecting some amazing covers by a band who really loved the Sunset Strip bands that made the 80s so legendary. What I got was a bunch of posers who dressed and looked like the bands I love but were actually turning everything into a big joke. One of the band members even spent his time in between sets spraying his hair with Aquanet and looking into a pink mirror. Funny at first but it got old really fast.

Rather than using their talented front man (who looked and sounded like Motley Crue’s Vince Neil) and heavy guitar skills to pay respects to the great bands from the decade of decadence, they made fun of those bands by talking about sex, drugs and rock and roll as if it was a stupid act that everyone fell for. While I’m well aware that not everyone loves 80s metal bands the point of going to this show was to see a band that dressed like those bands and played their songs. Instead, they played their own songs with ridiculous names like “Asian Hooker” which would have been fine if they had played three or four of their own songs and then played 10 or 12 amazing covers. No such luck. In between playing boring parody Steel Panther songs they did some kind of comedy routine during which they talked about having sex with groupies and doing drugs – stuff that Crue, Guns and Van Halen did but didn’t feel the need to discuss on stage. There was a good reason for that.

Some would say I got what I asked for when I decided to see a tribute band but if you’ve ever seen the all-girls AC/DC cover band called Hells Belles you would see why I was excited. There is a reason why Hells Bells sell out every single show – they sing AC/DC songs like they wrote them and play all the hits. Their lead singer sounds so much like Brian Johnson and their lead guitarist could fill in for Angus Young if necessary.

Steel Panther could learn a thing or two from Hells Bells: Play a few of your songs and then play what people came to hear. And shut up in between songs – no one is trying to hear your half- assed comedy routine about drugs and groupies when you’re playing a part and you all have wedding rings on. It’s ridiculous.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tattoos & Tequila

No, that’s not a two-item list of debauchery beginning with the letter “T.” It’s the title of Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil’s new book and like his band’s reputation, it doesn’t hold back. Released as a literary accompaniment to his new album of the same name, Tattoos & Tequila is Neil’s tell-all book of the life and times of one of rock and roll’s most decadent and infamous lead singers.

Although Motley Crue originally told their story in the New York Times best seller The Dirt, the book was written by all four band members with the help of Neil Strauss, not just one specific band member. As far as The Dirt goes, there is a reason why that book was a New York Times best seller – it was that good. I remember buying it one day and being unable able to put it down until I finished it - and it wasn’t short. Apparently telling the story of four self-destructive musicians who defined the decade of decadence took a few hundred pages. No problem – I literally couldn’t put it down.

My point is that if you are a Motley Crue fan and already read The Dirt, you should still read Tattoos & Tequila because like the cover says, it really does bring you “to hell and back with one of rock’s most notorious front men.” While Neil clearly had his choice of women, booze and drugs for most of his life he also dealt with killing a good friend and injuring two strangers in a drunk driving accident and watching his four-year-old daughter die of cancer. He also has gone to rehab more times than he can count and is on his fourth wife. For all the success, fame and decadence there were some serious consequences that Neil faced.

While many people roll their eyes at me when I tell them how much I like Motley Crue there is something to be said about a lead singer who looked and sounded like a girl but still put off this macho, badass image while hitting the high notes, a drummer who was as lawless as he was talented, a bass guitarist who was a tortured writer and severe drug addict and a lead guitarist who has pretty much suffered from chronic pain for as long as he can remember. They all came together and put out some seriously amazing rock and roll records. If you’re not a Motley Crue fan try to put aside the 80s hairband stereotype and listen to songs like “Kickstart My Heart,” “Dr. Feelgood” and “Too Fast For Love.” It’s good stuff and regardless of the haters who shun Motley Crue for being cock rock or glam rock or whatever – those guys can play their instruments and Vince Neil can sing.

Tattoos & Tequila begins with an intro by co-author Mike Sager and here are a few of my favorite quotes where he describes Vince Neil:

“Androgynous sex symbol during the early years of the gender-bending eighties.”

“The 1987 Aerosmith classic, ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady,’ was written after Steven Tyler and Joe Perry spotted Vince in a bar and mistook him for a hot chick.”

“He was the show.”

From Co-manager of Motley Crue, Doc McGee:

“Vince was an aggressive, over-the-top frontman. That band was just so aggressive…they thought they were above the law.”

“They just went out there and turned it on. There was no dimmer switch. It was awesome.”

“They just took no prisoners”

Motley Crue Statistics:

In August 1985, Theatre of Pain hit number six on the charts, the highest of their albums.

“Home Sweet Home” became MTV’s most requested video in November 1985.

In May 1987, “Girls, Girls, Girls” peaked at number 12 on the US charts, the highest placing yet for any Motley Crue single.

The album of the same name soon followed – entered the Billboard 200 at number five, the highest positioning of a metal album since Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same, almost a decade earlier.

In August 1989, the single “Dr. Feelgood” reached number six on the Billboard chart. First gold disc for a single and the album of the same name hit number one on the Billboard charts. By November 1989 the album hit double platinum with two million copies sold in the US.

Final quote from Vince Neil:

“Motley Crue: We started something great. But we also created a monster.”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's Grammy Time!

Out of all the award shows we are bombarded with on an annual basis my favorite, without a doubt, is the Grammys. When I started this blog almost a year ago the first post I wrote was about the Grammys so in a sense I could say that the show was my initial inspiration for all of this.

Anyway, the Grammys is my favorite award show of the year because of the performances of course but also because this one has the ability to solidify and legitimize an artist’s career. Whether the artist is brand new or has been around awhile, getting a Grammy matters. Even if artists have said in previous interviews that awards don’t matter and it’s all about the music, the fans and God, trust me, this one matters.

The Grammys are comparable to the Academy Awards in that once an actor wins an Oscar their names will forever be introduced as “Oscar Winner _____.” The same goes for musicians who win a Grammy and I can imagine that there is nothing better than being introduced as “Grammy Award Winner ____.” There is a reason why the Grammys are called “music’s biggest night” – it’s because winning this award is a very big deal. So, here are this year’s nominees and my picks for the winners:

Album of the Year
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Eminem - Recovery*
Lady Antebellum - Need You Now
Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster
Katy Perry - Teenage Dream

*There is no question that Eminem should win this category. Recovery is gutsy, melodic, tells a great story and features one of rap’s biggest stars at his finest. I guess you can call it a comeback.

Record of the Year
B.o.B (featuring Bruno Mars) - "Nothin' on You"
Eminem (featuring Rihanna) - "Love the Way You Lie"*
Cee Lo Green - "Fuck You"
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys - "Empire State of Mind"
Lady Antebellum - "Need You Now"

*This is a tough one since there are three strong choices including “Love the Way You Lie,” “Fuck You” and “Empire State of Mind.” This year was definitely the year of the rappers/lady hook masters so I’m thinking Eminem and Rihanna might take it since it’s the most recent and currently the most ubiquitous. That being said, “Empire State of Mind” was inescapable for what seemed like forever but honestly I feel like that song came out in 2009. I think Eminem and Rihanna will take home the big trophy.

Best New Artist
Justin Bieber
Florence + the Machine*
Mumford & Sons
Esperanza Spalding

*Since I literally cannot stand the sight or sound of Justin Bieber and I think Mumford & Sons are good but not great I’m going with Florence + the Machine as a shout out to Carly Brown.

Song of the Year
Ray LaMontagne - "Beg Steal or Borrow"
Cee Lo Green - "Fuck You"*
Miranda Lambert - "The House That Built Me"
Eminem (featuring Rihanna) - "Love the Way You Lie"
Lady Antebellum - "Need You Now"

*Again this one is a close call between “Love the Way You Lie” and “Fuck You” so maybe Cee Lo will grab this one – he certainly deserves it.

Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals
"Glee" cast - "Don't Stop Believin' (Regionals Version)"
Maroon 5 - "Misery
Paramore - "The Only Exception"
Sade - "Babyfather"
Train - "Hey, Soul Sister (Live)"*

*Since the Glee cast is technically not a real music group I’m not sure why they are nominated and honestly I’m not super impressed with any of these choices. I guess I’ll go with Train even though Paramore might take.

Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals
B.o.B, Eminem and Hayley Williams - "Airplanes II"*
Herbie Hancock, Pink, India.Arie, Seal, Konono No. 1, Jeff Beck and Oumou Sangare - "Imagine"
Elton John & Leon Russell - "If It Wasn't For Bad"
Lady Gaga and Beyoncé - "Telephone"
Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg - "California Gurls"

*I absolutely love “Airplanes” – can’t get enough of it.

Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals
Arcade Fire - "Ready to Start"
Jeff Beck and Joss Stone - "I Put a Spell on You"
The Black Keys - "Tighten Up"*
Kings of Leon - "Radioactive"
Muse - "Resistance"

*The Black Keys have been all over the radio and TV this year – I mean seriously, every single commercial on television features a song by them. Plus, they are phenomenal live – “Tighten Up” gets my vote.

Best Hard Rock Performance
Alice in Chains - "A Looking in View"
Ozzy Osbourne - "Let Me Hear You Scream"
Soundgarden - "Black Rain"
Stone Temple Pilots - "Between the Lines"*
Them Crooked Vultures - "New Fang"

*Another tough call as all five options represent some of the biggest guns in rock and roll. That being said, I think I’m going to have to go with “Between the Lines” for this year.

Best Rock Song
Neil Young - "Angry World"
Mumford & Sons - "Little Lion Man"
Kings of Leon - "Radioactive"
Muse - "Resistance"
The Black Keys - "Tighten Up"*

*I have to go with The Black Keys again for this one.

Best Alternative Music Album
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
The Black Keys - Brothers*
Broken Bells - Broken Bells
Vampire Weekend - Contra

*Although I loved seeing Band of Horses live this year, The Black Keys should take this one as well. (By the way, what constitutes "Alternative" music sure has changed since Nirvana ran the show).

Best Rap Song
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys - "Empire State of Mind"
Eminem and Rihanna - "Love the Way You Lie"*
Eminem - "Not Afraid"
B.o.B (featuring Bruno Mars) - "Nothin' on You"
Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz - "On to the Next One"

*This one may come down to Eminem vs. Eminem and although I think “Not Afraid” succeeds in being both gritty and inspiring at the same time, I think people really could not get enough of “Love the Way You Lie.”

Best Rap Album
B.o.B - The Adventures of Bobby Ray
Drake - Thank Me Later
Eminem - Recovery*
Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3
The Roots - How I Got Over

*I feel like I’m being repetitive but then again Eminem did earn an astonishing 10 nominations this year. I predict Eminem takes home the trophy with Jay-Z nipping at his heels.

Best Country Song
George Strait - "The Breath You Take"
Zac Brown Band - "Free"*
Miranda Lambert - "The House That Built Me"
Gretchen Wilson - "I'd Love To Be Your Last"
The Band Perry - "If I Die Young"
Lady Antebellum - "Need You Now"

*Zac Brown Band seems to be the favorite but I think both Miranda Lambert and Gretchen Wilson put out stellar albums that include these unforgettable songs.

Best Country Album
Dierks Bentley - Up on the Ridge
Zac Brown Band - You Get What You Give
Jamey Johnson - The Guitar Song
Lady Antebellum - Need You Now*
Miranda Lambert – Revolution

*Five great choices as these are five of country music’s biggest acts. I’m partial to Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert but Lady Antebellum and Zac Brown Band have been getting a ton of airplay while Jamey Johnson is billed as country’s biggest badass. Tough choice but I’m thinking Lady Antebellum might grab this one.

Best Americana Album
Rosanne Cash - The List
Los Lobos - Tin Can Trust
Willie Nelson - Country Music
Robert Plant - Band of Joy*
Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone

*While I think this is a very strange name for a category there are clearly some heavy hitters on this list of nominees. Though I am a big fan of Rosanne Cash and Willie Nelson I will always put Led Zeppelin’s notorious front man, Robert Plant, at the top of my list.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Godfathers Of Outlaw Country

One of the godfathers of outlaw country is none other than Hank Williams – a man who is arguably one of the greatest country music stars of all time. Even though he was basically unable to read or write music, he charted eleven number one songs between 1948 and 1953 including hits such as “Your Cheatin' Heart,” “Hey Good Lookin’” and “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.” Whether you’re a country fan or not, I’m pretty sure that you know at least one of these songs – in fact you may even know the words to them.

Unfortunately, Williams had some drug and alcohol problems that led to his demise. On August 11, 1952, Williams was fired from the Grand Ole Opry as he was told not to return until he was sober. He died at age 29 and his death is widely believed to have resulted from a mixture of alcohol and drugs.

As of October 31, 2010, Hank Williams was officially reinstated into the Grand Ole Opry. A press statement said, “Hank Williams was the reason the Grand Ole Opry exists. Without him, this organization operates on false pretenses, and we are ashamed to have managed this American Institution without giving Hank his due.”

Hank Williams’ songs have been recorded by hundreds of other big names such as Bob Dylan, Cake, Johnny Cash, Tony Bennett, Patsy Cline, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong and Tom Waits. He is a legend in the music business – a trait that he passed down to his son, Hank Williams, Jr. who is not only a professional singer but is also one of the most famous outlaw country singers of all time. Hank Williams Jr.’s most well-known song is “A Country Boy Can Survive” which reached number two on the Billboard Hot Country Singles charts in early 1982. Since 1984 he has won multiple awards from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association, as well as four Emmys and one Grammy.

As someone who has played and made albums with Waylon Jennings, Toy Caldwell, Marshall Tucker Band and Charlie Daniels, it is no surprise that he has influenced younger country artists of today. He has had so much of an impact that recently, Hank Williams, Jr. has been referenced in more than few country songs by some of the genre’s biggest stars:

Gretchen Wilson – “I Got Your Country Right Here”

Gimme some Waylon
Little bit of that Ramblin’ Man
Our country boys can't survive
Can I get a little hand for Hank?

Jason Aldean – “Crazy Town”

Bend those strings 'til the Hank comes out
Make all the drunk girls scream and shout
We love it, we hate it, we're all just trying to make it
In this crazy town

Jake Owen – “Eight Second Ride”

We went riding round rocking to the sound of “Country Boy Can Survive”
And I knew then that she was my kind of girl cuz she was singing every single line

There’s no question that mentioning either Hank Williams or Hank Williams, Jr. gives artists street cred. They know that giving a shout out to the pioneers of their craft is never a bad thing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Where the hell is Gretchen Wilson?

For someone who was winning Grammys while Carrie Underwood was still competing on American Idol, Gretchen Wilson has been strangely under the radar for the last few years. Although there is no question that country music has recently experienced a new wave of popularity, I would argue that Gretchen Wilson was one of the first artists to bring country music back into the limelight.

She made her debut in 2004 with the Grammy Award-winning single “Redneck Woman,” a number-one hit on the Billboard country charts. The song served as the lead-off single of her debut album, Here for the Party. Wilson followed this album one year later with All Jacked Up, the title track of which became the highest-debuting single for a female country artist upon its 2005 release.

On a negative note, Wilson was the victim of one of Kanye West’s first outbursts when he threw a fit after losing to Wilson in the American Music Awards’ Best New Artist category. Although these days Kanye acting like a whiny bitch is par for the course, (see his behavior towards yet another female country artist at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards) back in 2004 people couldn’t believe that he had the audacity to call Wilson’s music “bullshit.”

Having nothing to do with Kanye, after 2005 Wilson seemed to fall off the planet. Even though she released albums both in 2007 (One Of The Boys) and in March 2010 (I’ve Got Your Country Right Here) we haven’t seen Wilson on TV or anywhere else for a while and I can’t figure out why. Over the last six years Wilson has charted 13 singles on the Billboard country charts, five of which reached the Top Ten: the Number One “Redneck Woman,” as well as “Here for the Party” (#3, 2004), “When I Think About Cheatin’” (#4, 2004), “Homewrecker” (#2, 2005) and “All Jacked Up” (#8, 2005). The album Here for the Party was certified five times Multi-Platinum by the RIAA for sales of five million copies, while All Jacked Up was certified platinum. In just six years, Wilson has sold over six million records worldwide.

So where the hell is she and why aren’t her songs getting airplay? I’ve listened to a few tracks from her latest album, I’ve Got Your Country Right Here, and it’s great stuff. My favorites so far are the title track, along with “Work Hard, Play Harder” and “Outlaws And Renegades.” If you’re a country fan do yourself a favor and listen to a few of her new songs. Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift may be the most popular female country names out right now (and don’t get me wrong, I think Underwood and Lambert are sensational) but Wilson may be the most badass female country singer out there. Listen to her new album – you won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Biggest Stage On Earth

Since the show aired in 1975, Saturday Night Live (SNL) has not only been THE place for budding comedic talent to become famous but it has also been THE place where musicians have the opportunity to perform for millions of viewers at home. If you are a musician and you get invited to play on SNL you know you’ve made it – or at least that you’re on your way.

Right out of the gate this show had some big names take their stage including Randy Newman, Art Garfunkel and ABBA – and that was just in 1975. Since then the names have become increasingly star-studded and some of the performances have become legendary. The fact that a television show, which is basically designed as a sequence of comedic sketches, could bring in such renowned talent definitely speaks to its credentials but here’s the question: How did it become such a popular (and at times necessary) venue for artists? Why have musical acts always been so drawn to performing there? Was it because they figured it was the best way to gain exposure? Since MTV didn’t exist until 1981 was it one of the only ways to get yourself on TV while playing music? Or maybe it was the idea of putting famous actors, comedians and musicians in the same place.

Either way, in the 35 years SNL has been on the air, an impressive list of artists have taken the stage, sometimes several years in a row, making it arguably the most sought after music venue of all time. Here is my list of the best of the best of the biggest names with no repeats:

1976 – Jimmy Cliff, Patti Smith, Carly Simon, James Taylor, John Prine, Joe Cocker
1977 – The Kinks, Chuck Berry, Santana, Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles
1978 – Bonnie Raitt, Billy Joel, Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones
1979 – Blondie, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, David Bowie
1980 – Sam & Dave, Paul McCartney, Aretha Franklin, James Brown
1981 – Prince, Rod Stewart, Meat Loaf
1982 – John Cougar Mellencamp, The Allman Brothers Band, Elton John, Queen, The Clash
1983 – Stevie Wonder, Michael McDonald, Stevie Nicks
1984 – Billy Idol, Billy Squire, Robert Plant & the Honeydrippers
1985 – Tina Turner, Bryan Adams, Sade
1986 – Stevie Ray Vaughan, Run-DMC, Lou Reed
1987 – Roy Orbison, LL Cool J, Sting, The Cars, Cher
1988 – Randy Travis, Keith Richards, Tracy Chapman
1989 – Dolly Parton, Don Henley, Neil Young
1990 – Aerosmith, Eric Clapton, Mariah Carey
1991 – Whitney Houston, The Black Crowes, Public Enemy, Skid Row
1992 – Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, En Vogue, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam
1993 – Bon Jovi, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots
1994 – Counting Crowes, Salt-N-Pepa, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Janet Jackson, Green Day, Hole
1995 – The Cranberries, Dave Matthews Band, TLC, Alanis Morissette, Bush, Foo Fighters
1996 – Tori Amos, Coolio, Tupac Shakur, Everclear, Soundgarden, Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple
1997 – Live, Jewel, Oasis, Jane’s Addiction, Metallica, Sarah McLachlan
1998 – Garth Brooks, Natalie Imbruglia, Third Eye Blind, Puff Daddy, Beastie Boys, Lauryn Hill
1999 – Beck, Everlast, Barenaked Ladies, Lucinda Williams, Dr. Dre, Eminem
2000 – AC/DC, Christina Aguilera, Kid Rock, The Wallflowers, Jay-Z
2001 – Lenny Kravitz, Weezer, Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys, Macy Gray, No Doubt
2002 – Faith Hill, The White Stripes, Beyonce, Eve, Norah Jones
2003 – Dixie Chicks, 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Outkast, Pink
2004 – The Black Eyed Peas, Maroon 5, Toots & the Maytals, The Roots, Ben Harper
2005 – Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani, Queens of the Stone Age
2006 – The Strokes, Mary J. Blige, Tenacious D, Ludacris
2007 – Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Kanye West
2008 – Gnarls Barkley, Lil Wayne, Kings of Leon, T.I.
2009 – Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Regina Spektor
2010 – Them Crooked Vultures, Jennifer Lopez, Kesha, Katy Perry, Florence + the Machine

Can you believe all those musicians have played on that same stage over the past 35 years? Neither can I.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Heart Wrenching Acting

Whether or not you’re a fan of Private Practice (the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff starring Kate Walsh as Addison Montgomery) you need to watch the episode where Charlotte (KaDee Strickland) gets raped. It is horrifying, heart wrenching and so real that you won’t be able to look away. It was also one of the bravest performances I’ve ever seen by a television actor.

But let me back up a minute. This show is based around Oceanside Wellness Group, a co-op private practice in Los Angeles where several types of medical practitioners reside under one roof. The doctors’ fields include Neonatal Surgery, Obstetrics, Alternative Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Critical Care, Reproductive Infertility, Pediatrics, Urology, Sexology, Psychiatry, Neurosurgery, Internal Medicine and Cardiothoracic Surgery, among others.

In the episode centered around Charlotte’s rape we find out that this no-bullshit southern broad can’t take pain killers for her severe wounds because of a pill problem she used to have. We know this only because she explicitly insists that she can’t take pain killers and as a result, we watch the excruciating pain she goes through as another doctor stitches her wounds without the help of anesthesia.

To say that KaDee Strickland’s performance in the rape episode was Emmy-worthy is a severe understatement. The anger, fear, embarrassment and agony in her eyes was palpable. It gave me the chills to watch a character who is usually tough as nails be subjected to the kind of horrific aftermath that rape leaves. In the subsequent episode we see Charlotte’s fellow doctors trying to help but it only makes it worse. Addison is the only one who knows she was raped – everyone else (including Charlotte's fiancée) thinks she was mugged. Charlotte wants everyone to treat her normally but there is nothing normal about the damage that was inflicted on this woman. The “aftermath” episode concludes with Charlotte scurrying over to fellow doctor Amelia’s office (also a former addict) to ask her to go to a meeting. If that’s not strength and bravery I don’t know what is.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Give The Gift Of Music

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching (in three days to be exact) the holidays are definitely here and that means a slew of new albums will be hitting stores and iTunes at seemingly warp speed. Although it makes sense for artists and record labels to release new material as close to the holidays as possible some of the Tuesdays coming up have as many as 13 new discs released in one day. So how do you decide what’s worth it? If you’re looking to put a few albums in stockings this year or are thinking about giving iTunes gift cards to the ones you love here are some good choices to consider:

Released November 16:

Kid Rock - Born Free
Nelly - 5.0
Pink - Greatest Hits…So Far!!!
Rascal Flatts - Nothing Like This
Rihanna - Loud
Bruce Springsteen - The Promise (compilation of unreleased songs from Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions)
Keith Urban – Get Closer

Here are a few to look forward to just in time for the holidays:

November 22

Kesha – Cannibal
Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

November 30

Black Eye Peas - The Beginning
Flo Rida - Only One Flo (Part 1)
Ron Isley - Mr I

December 7

T.I. – No Mercy
Natasha Bedingfield - Strip Me
Daft Punk - Tron Legacy (Soundtrack)

December 14

Crystal Bowersox - Title TBA
Michael Jackson - Michael
Young Jeezy - TM 103

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beatles Shmeatles

Yesterday (yes I started this post like that on purpose) the Beatles finally caved and put their albums for sale on iTunes and apparently the world is rejoicing. Although I’m well aware that I’m in the minority when it comes to my thoughts on the Beatles I’ll share them anyway: I don’t think they are as great as everyone thinks they are. I’ll wait a minute while you pick your jaws up off the floor – yes Mom, you too.

Even though I’m not a fan I’ll give credit where credit is due: The Beatles have sold millions of records, are music icons and there is no question that the four of them are legends. That being said, I think they are overrated. And I finally found someone who agrees with me - acclaimed writer Malcom Gladwell. You may recognize his name, as he is also the author of another very popular book, The Tipping Point, but I’m especially interested in Outliers because in it he helps me prove my Beatles theory.

In Outliers: The Story of Success, Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. To support his thesis, he talks about the causes of why the majority of Canadian ice hockey players are born in the first few months of the calendar year, how Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates achieved his extreme wealth and how two people with exceptional intelligence, Christopher Langan and J. Robert Oppenheimer, end up with such vastly different fortunes.

A common theme throughout the book is the “10,000-Hour Rule” which claims that the key to success in any field is a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. Gladwell asserts that greatness requires enormous time, using the Beatles’ musical talents and Gates' computer savvy as examples. The Beatles performed live in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time, therefore meeting the 10,000-Hour Rule. Gladwell asserts that all of the time the Beatles spent performing shaped their talent, “so by the time they returned to England from Hamburg, Germany, ‘they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them.’” Similarly, Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it.

While there are a few Beatles songs I really do like such as “Come Together,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Penny Lane” I just see them as a boy band from the sixties. If they were a band of the nineties they would have been the Backstreet Boys or N’Sync. But millions of people all over the world love them and think they are the greatest band that has ever lived and now they can finally buy all the songs they want on iTunes. I guess yesterday was a good day for music after all.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Willow Who?

Have you seen the new Willow Smith video? Oh I’m sorry…you don’t know who Willow Smith is? Neither did I until recently so I'll tell you what I've learned: She’s the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith which pretty much makes her pop/rap/hip- hop royalty. She’s also 10 years old and has a new single called “Whip My Hair” which is equally ridiculous and genius. While everyone in the English-speaking world knows who her parents are, that same world was just recently introduced to the youngest Smith spawn who, barely in double digits, has signed with Jay-Z’s record label Roc Nation.

When I initially sat down to watch Willow’s first music video I was skeptical. I thought to myself: How could a 10-year-old not only be the latest Jay-Z protégé but also the seemingly youngest person in recent memory with a record deal? Well, here’s the story. While Willow does have some skills they are minimized by the constant repetition of the phrase “whip my hair” and the way too many close ups of our little lady’s cute face. When she has a chance to sing/rap she is actually very good –shocking because of her age but not shocking because of her roots.

The video is in visual overdrive as it starts in “boring” black and white and then moves into color with the help of our young heroine decked out in bright colored rings, makeup and attire. While the video is visually pleasing it is also very predictable which I’m sure has more to do with her parents' producer friends and less to do with her personal decisions. Is she even old enough to make personal decisions?

At the same time, this is an exciting debut for a girl who technically should still be in elementary school. She is confident, fun and actually has a great voice. The big question is whether or not Willow will be able to shake the child-star blues in a few years. My guess is yes but who knows where the music industry will be at that point. Even though the Smith spawn has a lot to learn she has definitely made her mark on the game.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Grey’s Anatomy Gains Some Ground

When I first heard that Grey’s Anatomy was doing a documentary-style episode that would take place six months after the hospital suffered a horrendous shooting in last season’s finale, I was less than excited. Although the first four seasons of the show were medical drama at its finest I have found this season to be either too dull or so unnecessarily graphic that I’ve almost lost my dinner more than once. There was a time that I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next on Grey’s but recently that has not been the case so it’s no surprise that it took me so long to watch this episode – it aired two weeks ago but I just got around to watching it on DVR. That being said, this episode reminded me why this show is so good as it was gripping, at times tough to watch and inspirational all in 45 minutes.

While all the major characters were interviewed by the “film crew” throughout the episode, there were a few that stood out. Callie, Derek and Mark worked on giving a patient new arms, Alex Karev literally grew a new trachea for a little girl, Bailey performed a surgery on a patient who was in the hospital the day of the shooting and Arizona was offered a grant that would require her moving to Africa. All these situations were very intense but they flowed seamlessly in this episode. Everyone was on their game both as actors and "doctors," making the show so exciting that it was hard to look away.

I know that I’m not spoiling anything because this episode aired a while ago so here’s how it all turned out: Callie, Derek and Mark successfully attached the donor arms on their patient which was no small miracle. One of the donor’s arms had a tattoo that said “Nicole” for his wife (an extraordinary woman who also part of the documentary) and once the procedure was over and the man began healing the documentary told us that man tattooed “Thank you” above the name Nicole. While Karev grew the new trachea he slept in the room with his patient because her mother lived too far away and couldn’t afford to visit every day. We learn through the documentary that he not only saved the little girl’s life but also was a guest speaker in her class at school. Bailey’s patient never woke up from her routine procedure which was no question the most heartbreaking part of the episode. We later see the woman’s husband having to make the call to unhook her from life support. Arizona took the grant in Africa and Callie said she was going with her. Does that mean they are both leaving the show? We’ll see….but I think the idea of both of them leaving the show is doubtful.

Although Meredith and Christina had the most “on air” documentary time neither of them had big parts in the medical portions of the program. The two of them mostly talked about what it was like for Meredith to see her husband shot and for Christina to heroically save his life while at gun point. Christina, who has been hit the hardest after the shooting, ends the episode with a stoic and intense last line: "Sometimes being a hero has its price."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Born Free

Tuesday, November 16 can’t come soon enough. Why? Because that’s the release date for Kid Rock’s new album Born Free. For all you Kid Rock haters out there listen to his latest single and you’ll change your mind. It’s American rock and roll at its finest and I’m sure the rest of the album will be just as awesome.

With five Grammy Award nominations including Best New Artist and Best Hard Rock Performance under his belt, Kid Rock is a force to be reckoned with. His breakout record was 1998’s Devil Without a Cause which sold 11 million albums behind the hits “Bawitdaba,” “Cowboy” and “Only God Knows Why.” In 2000, he released The History of Rock which was a compilation of remixed and remastered versions of songs from his previous albums as well as the hit single, “American Bad Ass.” In 2001, he released the follow up, Cocky. After a slow start, his country-flavored hit “Picture” with Sheryl Crow resurrected the album and it went gold as a single and pushed the album's sales to more than five million. It was followed by 2003's self-titled release, which failed to chart a major hit and in 2006 he released his only live album to date entitled Live Trucker.

Then came the song that seemingly everyone on the planet couldn’t get enough of, “All Summer Long,” which was part of 2007’s Rock N Roll Jesus. The ubiquitous smash hit was a mash up of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.” Twangy and catchy at the same time, the song was Rock’s first worldwide smash hit, charting number one in eight countries across Europe and Australia. As a result, Rock N Roll Jesus would go on to sell five million albums worldwide including being certified triple platinum in the United States. In total, Kid Rock has sold 22 million albums to date in the U.S.

While some people are turned off by his loud, R-rated songs, his sometimes pimp-like attire and the fact that he married and divorced Pamela Anderson, Kid Rock is a true musician. I saw him live a few years ago and he absolutely blew me away. The guy played like eight instruments and could go back and forth between singing and rapping without missing a beat. Literally. He also is constantly crossing over genres of music. Whether he’s singing rock and roll, rap, metal, country or even a ballad, he will make believers out of his listeners. While “Cowboy” is a fun party song that always gets me going, “Picture” is on the other side of the spectrum as Rock duets/harmonizes with a female singer and plays acoustic guitar. “All Summer Long” was inescapable for probably close to two years and although the tune was partly taken from other songs Rock made it his own. Every time I hear it I think of Bob Seeger singing about Michigan in “Night Moves” which is something I didn’t think I’d ever say when Rock first hit the big time airwaves ten years ago.

Of course the success of Born Free remains to be seen but if his first single is any indication this record may be another multi-million dollar hit. I mean, he did say “I’m going platinum” in “Bawitdaba.” I’d say mission accomplished.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Importance Of Coaches

Every good sports movie features a coach that made an impact on the lives of his or her players. In inspirational films like Coach Carter, Miracle and Hooisers and even in intense sports movies like Any Given Sunday, coaches are the key to making their players better people and their teams more competitive. While I did have some excellent teachers over the years there are some names I have forgotten. Conversely, the names of my coaches have and will always stay with me.

This past weekend in Miami my high school basketball coach, Dave Hewett, retired after 39 years. Although there is no question that coaching football and basketball is his passion, at the age of 62 he should be doing the other things he loves that are less stressful like listening to Jimmy Buffet records and fishing. Although his heart told him not to retire his head and the rest of his body knew it was time to move on. And so, the longest active coach in Miami Dade high school sports coached his final football game under the lights at Ransom Everglades on Friday, November 5.

As I’m sure Carly and Shaina remember, Coach Hewett wasn’t the easiest guy to play for but there was so much about him that we loved. His one-liners, the way he stood with his arms crossed, his pick and roll plays, etc. His dry sense of humor is one-of-a-kind and there is no question that Coach Hewett is an original. There is not and will never be anyone like him.

A few of my favorite Hewett sayings:

“If the queen had balls she’d be king.”

“I want you guarding that player like flies on stink.”

“Yeah man.”

At Hewett’s final football game on Friday several generations of players congregated to watch and pay their respects. Players from prestigious high schools such as Palmer, Belen and of course Ransom, whose ages ranged from 16 to at least 40, were there to talk about their favorite and most idiosyncratic coach. It was amazing to see all those people come together for him and to share all of their fond and funny memories of one of the best personalities in high school sports.

While Coach Hewett was mainly a football coach I will never forget playing basketball for him for three years at Ransom. He is so much of a character that Mo had Hewett bobble heads made while I was senior in high school. Yep you read that right – bobble heads. And they were complete with the towel he always wore around his neck and his visor on his head.

There is no question that Coach Hewett retiring is the end of an era, but I think that he will enjoy seeing his successor (who I’m sure will be either someone who played for him or he coached with) apply what they learned from the unparalleled Coach Hewett on the field. One of my best friends (who runs the show at Ransom) coached with him this year and I’m hoping he’ll want to take the reins. There would be no one better to replace the best.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Good Wife Is Great

In an effort to find a new television series that wasn’t a teen drama or a medical show I decided to take the advice of the reviews I’ve read and check out The Good Wife. And I’m so glad I did. Starring Juliana Margulies as Alicia Florrick, the wife of Peter Florrick (played by the fabulous Chris Noth) this show is extremely topical. Peter, a former Chicago state's attorney, has been jailed following a very public sex and corruption scandal forcing Alicia to return to her old job as a litigator to rebuild her reputation and provide for their two children.

What’s great about Alicia is that she is tough as nails but is also extremely relatable and kind. Faced with public humiliation, the realization that she has a cheating husband, the need to return to the working world and the responsibility of doing everything in her power to shield her extremely smart children from their father’s misjudgments, Alicia is a force to be reckoned with. She has an amazing ability to keep her composure when random people bring up her husband by saying a lot with very few words. She is cool, calm and collected at all times and she handles her precarious situation with grace and strength.

As far as her job goes there is no question that Alicia is an excellent lawyer as she is observant and pays very close attention to detail. Additionally, she is also a good listener and a tough litigator while maintaining compassion and kindness when and where it’s deserved.

Although I’m only on the second disc of the first season there is a lot to be said about our heroine and the rest of the cast. The people Alicia works with are characters all their own and are each very smart and likable. My two favorites are Will (Josh Charles) and Kalinda (Archie Panjabi). Will is a partner at the new law firm who went to Georgetown with Alicia and who may have a thing for her. The firm’s private investigator, Kalinda, is funny, sarcastic and very cynical about the human race. She has no fear and will do whatever it takes to get evidence she needs.

This series was partly inspired by the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal, as well as by other prominent American political sex scandals, particularly those of John Edwards and Bill Clinton. But, this is not a show about a politician’s scandal – it’s about the woman behind the man. And that woman has no choice but to pick up the pieces, be tough and move forward.

It is no surprise at all that The Good Wife was nominated for eight Emmys and won four. This show is sharp and refreshing. It’s anything but another law show – in fact it’s completely new and brings a totally different perspective which explains why I am flying through these episodes at seemingly warp speed. Do yourself a favor and pick up season one on DVD…if you do you might want to cancel your evening plans for the following few days.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Miss Nirvana

While our parents vividly remember the day John Lennon was shot, if you’re a music fan and you’re at least 25 years old the date April 8, 1994 probably resonates with you a lot more. If that date doesn’t ring a bell then let me remind you that it was the day music died for our generation. Kurt Cobain killed himself in Seattle that day and we lost one of music’s greatest talents who not only started an entire new music category (grunge) but also defied the rules in every way imaginable. Whether it was wearing a t-shirt that said “Corporate Magazines Still Suck” on Nirvana’s first cover of Rolling Stone or dying his hair with Kool-Aid for their first SPIN cover, Cobain was someone who probably had no idea how good he really was.

Fortunately, the rest of us did.

As the band’s most successful album, Nevermind took the music world by storm. Its first single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” quickly gained momentum thanks in part to significant airplay of the music video on MTV. By Christmas 1991, Nevermind was selling 400,000 copies a week in the United States. In January 1992, the album ousted Michael Jackson's Dangerous from number one on the Billboard charts and also topped the charts in numerous other countries worldwide. The month Nevermind reached number one, Billboard proclaimed, “Nirvana is that rare band that has everything: critical acclaim, industry respect, pop radio appeal, and a rock-solid college/alternative base.”

While we will never know the level of impact Kurt Cobain and Nirvana could have had if Cobain was still alive, their mark on music is unquestionable. Songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Lithium” and “In Bloom” hold up so well all these years later and I don’t think that will be changing anytime soon.

In the meantime, The Experience Music Project in Seattle has decided to honor Nirvana in the biggest and best way possible. The exhibit will be the home to the largest and most complete exhibit ever dedicated to Nirvana and the grunge scene when “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses” opens at the EMP on April 16th, 2011. The exhibit, which EMP began gathering material for 15 years ago, will house over 200 Nirvana artifacts and countless never-before-seen photographs of Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl provided by those who were a part of the Nirvana legend.

The fact that Nirvana songs are now on both rock radio stations and classic rock stations is a shame in the sense that they are classic because the band no longer exists. In a perfect 2010 world Nirvana would be headlining tours with Pearl Jam and Cobain and Vedder would be singing together like Elton John and Billy Joel.

Although these days seeing an actual music video on MTV would be the equivalent of seeing a unicorn running around my apartment complex, I miss seeing Nirvana videos on MTV. Cobain is and will continue to be a music legend but I wish he was still around coming up with new songs, telling great stories and defying rock and roll.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Get Off Our Shores

I’ve been trying to avoid writing about this in an effort to not fuel the fire but I feel as though I have no choice. Jersey Shore is taking over the world and I’m afraid….very afraid. Because someone had the brilliant idea to give these people their own show on MTV (although it should be changed to RTV since its all reality shows and because I haven’t seen an actual music video on that station since the late 1990s) these people are inescapable. Whether it’s their photos in magazines like People or US Weekly, interviews on national talk shows like The View, local news shows in Denver or trolling around Miami, these people are everywhere.

In case you’ve been living under a rock this year the people I’m referring to are Paul “DJ Pauly D” DelVecchio,Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino, Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, Jenni “JWoww” Farley, Vinny Guadagnino and Angelina “Jolie” Pivarnick. With nicknames like that how could MTV not give them a reality show? Wow.

While all of them are known in the pop culture world a few have seemingly taken over pop culture completely. Snooki has virtually become an icon between people dressing like her for Halloween and having an entire South Park episode centered around her. (If you haven’t already, YouTube “Snooki Monster” immediately). The Situation has a book deal and is all over the place doing promotions which is shocking because I can’t believe he has time for anything in between taking his shirt off and flexing his abs. Apparently JWoww was offered a spread in Playboy but turned it down for “other opportunities.” Was she referring to her clothing line, Filthy Couture? I wonder if she was going for the "Classiest Name Ever Award" when she came up with that. My favorite Jersey Shore story was told to me today by my good friend Mo who said that the cast is banned from 90 percent of clubs on South Beach. Only two of them will allow these fools to enter which is hysterical since drinking is one of their top three daily activities other than working out and tanning.

Regardless of how annoying I think these people are the fact is that they aren’t going anywhere. They are part of the pop culture lexicon whether we like it or not. There are t-shirts and all kinds of other swag that have been made for them. They are officially a brand. And, unfortunately, America is responsible for their popularity. Why do people like watching this show? How are they so enamored by a bunch of self-proclaimed “Guidos” and “Guidettes” with horrible accents? I watched a few episodes of this show to see what all the fuss was about and it’s basically The Italian Real World. What is the big deal? I guess we’ll have some time to figure it out since they are already shooting the next season and because in a recent interview Snooki announced that they could keep doing this show for the next nine years. It’s too bad…the next generation of MTVers didn’t stand a chance.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Desperate Housewives Is Finally Good Again

Thanks to some new blood, ABC’s nuttiest show is reminding viewers why they began watching it in the first place. Although many characters have come and gone since Desperate Housewives premiered in 2004, the two newest characters to appear on Wisteria Lane have caused quite a stir. 90210 alum Brian Austin Green plays Keith, Bree’s hot carpenter, while singer/actress Vanessa Williams plays Renee, an old college friend of Lynette’s. And both of them are bringing the heat. With his tattooed arms and abs that could be a character themselves, Green has come a long way from the David Silver days. And Bree has a crush on him which is even better – I love that he’s bringing out her inner-cougar. Speaking of cougars, Williams’ character is going through a divorce from a New York Yankee and is on the prowl. She’s ridiculous and hysterical which is why I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that she is the woman responsible for singing “Colors of the Wind” from the movie Pocahontas.

Welcoming the new blood to the neighborhood are vet stars Teri Hatcher as Susan Meyer, Felicity Huffman as Lynette Scavo, Melrose Place alum Marcia Cross as Bree Van de Kamp and Eva Longoria Parker as Gabrielle Solis. Susan has recently moved off of Wisteria Lane due to money issues, Lynette is dealing with a new baby and Renee moving across the street, Bree is busy trying to get busy with Keith and Gaby is dealing with the devastation of finding out that her eight year old daughter isn’t really her child.

While the show follows the lives of these of women, it has always really been about secrets and scandals. The Wisteria Lane women seem to live in a perfect suburban neighborhood but behind closed doors they deal with domestic struggles and the ups and downs of family life. Each woman has a very distinct personality and they are all very different. Over the years they have most definitely evolved into more likeable people – especially Gaby and Bree – and they have had storylines that were at times extremely unbelievable. That being said, this season has been very exciting and rather than focusing on crazy storylines the writers have decided to make these women more human by dealing with issues that are real and very serious.

I’m interested to see what kind of history Lynette’s husband Tom (Doug Savant, another former Melrose Place actor) has with Renee, what happens when Gaby and her husband meet the girl who is actually their daughter and of course what comes of the flirtation between Bree and Keith. I haven’t been excited for the next episode of Desperate Housewives is a long time and I think it says a lot about a series that has been on the air for six years. At 8 p.m. tonight I’ll definitely be watching.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wall Street Is For The Big Guns

In an effort to view history before going to the movie theaters I watched the 1980s classic drama Wall Street starring Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen (playing Dad to real-life and movie son Charlie) and Darryl Hannah (looking like a drag queen). My first impression of the movie was how astonishingly similar Charlie was to his father Martin and brother Emilio. (Emilio is not in the movie but every time I looked at Charlie I saw a bit of Young Guns Emilio).

As far as the movie goes, it is predictable put very sharp. Wall Street itself is made to look like a three right circus and Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is a young stockbroker desperate to become one of the big players. He struggles on his own but when he hooks up with power player and mentor Gordon Gekko (Douglas) he makes a ton of money as a result of what he is willing to do for Gekko, no matter what. Bud becomes wealthy, enjoying his mentor's promised perks, including a penthouse on Manhattan's Upper East Side and a trophy blonde, interior decorator Darien (Hannah). He even begins dressing like Gekko – suspenders and all. At one point Bud does ask himself “Who am I?” but doesn’t seem to change his tune until his mentor decides he wants to buy Bud’s father’s company, sell it off in pieces and take away the jobs of all its employees – including Bud’s father, Carl.

Before this happens Carl warns Bud about Gekko but Bud is convinced that his father is just a blue collar worker and Union president who could never make it to the big time. Eventually Bud realizes his father’s instincts are right when Gekko wants to destroy the very company his father has helped build for the last 24 years.

While the acting is superb (Douglas won an Academy Award for Best Actor) the technology, especially the computers and phones, are extremely dated to say the least. I forgot how good looking the Sheen men are and how handsome Douglas was in his heyday. While the film is full of snappy one-liners the big phrases are “greed is good” and “money never sleeps” which are, as the new trailers have indicated, carried into the recently released sequel.

I can’t wait to see Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps for several reasons: 1) I appreciate the fact that the studio moguls waited 23 years for a sequel rather than the usual move which is to spit out another sequel as soon as humanly possible. 2) The first movie was good and pretty much left the door wide open for a follow-up so I’m very curious to see what happens next. 3) Even though I think Shia LaBeouf is kind of a tool I’m interested to see what he does with what I assume to be a protégé role similar to Charlie Sheen’s.

Whether or not the sequel measures up to the original remains to be seen but if the acting and dialogue is as good in 2010 as it was in 1987 then I’ll buy into Gordon Gekko’s bullshit all the way to the theater.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Solomon Burke

Unfortunately 10/10/10 will be sadly remembered as the day we lost another music legend. Solomon Burke, a pioneer in rock and R & B died unexpectedly today on an airplane when it arrived at an airport in Amsterdam. He was 70 years old. While the name Solomon Burke may not be instantly familiar, you know his music.

After Ahmet Ertegun signed Burke to Atlantic Records his career took off. His shows were raucous R&B revues, as he sang in a pink robe and gold crown. Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler called Burke "the best soul singer of all time."

Classic songs you’ve heard and should download if you haven’t already:

“Cry to Me”
“Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”
“Don’t Give Up On Me”
“Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)”
“If You Need Me”
“You're Good for Me”
“Got to Get You Off of My Mind”
“Tonight's the Night”

Burke made his last record for Atlantic in 1968, but his hits had staying power and pop culture appeal. Just to name a few: John Belushi and Dan Akroyd performed “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” in The Blues Brothers in 1980, Patrick Swayze sang “Cry to Me” to Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing in 1987 and Peter Gallagher performed “Don’t Give Up On Me” on an episode of The O.C. in 2005.

Known as “The King of Rock and Soul,” Burke has been covered by artists including Otis Redding, Bruce Springsteen, and the Rolling Stones. Burke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and won his first Grammy in 2003 for Don't Give Up on Me, on which he covered Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson and Van Morrison. In recent years, he performed on a throne with a massive band.

He left behind 21 children, 90 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren, many of whom toured with him and pursued music careers of their own.

His final album, Hold On Tight, is due to be released later this month.

Burke was flying to Amsterdam because he was scheduled to perform a sellout show on Tuesday. Even at 70 years old he was still showing audiences what it meant to be the King of Rock and Soul.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Can’t Argue With An Epic

On September 26, 2010 Titanic’s Gloria Stuart died in her L.A. home after being treated for lung cancer. She was 100 years old. While most of us remember her as the elderly Rose (young Rose was played by then newcomer Kate Winslet in flashbacks) Titanic was by no means Stuart’s first rodeo, as she started acting in 1932. She is pictured here from back in the day - to say she was stunning is an understatement.

Although Winslet and Leonard DiCaprio were clearly the stars, Stuart’s part in Titanic was extremely important and her recollection of one of history’s greatest disasters was emotional and relatable. Even at age 87, Stuart was sharp, focused and extremely believable.

I recently watched Titanic for the first time in awhile and honestly I think I like it a little more every time I watch it. Whether you like romance, action, history or drama, this movie has it all. I still remember where I was the first time I saw it in theatres – a place called Riviera Theatre in Miami, Florida that no longer exists. The place was packed full of people of all ages and genders and although I knew how good the movie was then I first saw it I had no idea what was going to come next.

After Titanic became the biggest movie of 1997/the universe people flooded the record stores for copies of the soundtrack. We got CD shipments in on Tuesdays and for weeks (or maybe it was months) we had lines out the door of people who wanted – no NEEDED – that album. I don’t know whether these people really loved that Celine Dion song that much or if they wanted to get a piece of the movie in any way they could. Especially since it wasn’t coming out on VHS for awhile. At that point DVDs were unheard of so people had to wait until September 1998 for the tapes – and the movie was actually released on two tapes because it was so long. How’s that for a blast from the past.

Anyway, Titanic was an epic movie in 1997 and it still holds up. The dynamic between Winslet and DiCaprio was unprecedented and that hasn’t changed. Some have said that Titanic is our generation’s Gone With The Wind and I don’t think that’s a stretch by any means.

There is no denying Titanic’s impact as it accumulated a grand total of $1,843,201,268 worldwide. That's a lot of digits! It became the highest-grossing film in history and remained so for twelve years until Avatar, also written and directed by James Cameron, surpassed it in 2010. Titanic also won 11 out of the 14 Academy Awards it was nominated for including Best Picture, Director and Original Song. This movie has been talked about for the last 13 years and will continue to be talked about for many decades to come. Rest in peace Gloria, you’ve earned it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Announces 2011 Nominees - For Better Or Worse

A few days ago the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame released its 2011 nominees and the list, as per usual, is very eclectic. While some deserve to be nominated (Alice Cooper, the Beastie Boys and Bon Jovi, etc.) there were some questionable choices as well (i.e. Donna Summer for crying out loud). Anyway, here they are:

Alice Cooper – Love him, his eye makeup and the fact that his a self-proclaimed rock and roll villain.
Beastie Boys – With their rock and roll infused rap verses, they are truly pioneers of hip-hop and music as a whole.
Bon Jovi – While many haters think they are just 80s metal has-beens Bon Jovi’s legacy goes much deeper and, as their recent country album proves, much more versatile.
Chic- Dance/pop/disco all sounds the same…not impressed.
Neil Diamond – Who doesn’t love “Sweet Caroline”?!
Donovan – Remember the song “Mellow Yellow”? Yeah, that about sums it up.
Dr. John - Funky southern music that makes you want to hang out on a porch somewhere in New Orleans and drink whiskey.
J. Geils Band – Best known for movie montage favorites like “Centerfold” and “Love Stinks,” this unique band has been hard to ignore for years.
LL Cool J – Although those initials make me bias LL Cool J really is a rapper for all audiences.
Darlene Love – Really? Was she nominated for all those Christmas albums she released?
Laura Nyro – A huge voice that’s been holding up for decades.
Donna Summer – I’ve never been a fan of disco and although there are plenty of people out there nostalgic for her songs I am not one of them.
Joe Tex - With his James Brown-esque sound and funk 2011 may just be his year.
Tom Waits – That low baritone with a razor sharp edge gives me the Johnny Cash chills but I’m not sure if he’ll make the cut this year.
Chuck Willis – A mix of doo woop and R & B, Willis’ voice is why we miss music from the 1950s.

Also, as always, there were a few acts that had been mentioned as potential nominees but will have to wait till next year:

Joan Jett – She’s responsible for some of my favorite lyrics of all time: “I love rock and roll so put another dime in the juke box baby.” When will it be her turn?!
KISS – A shocking oversight considering their massive fan base and sound.
Rush – So many geeks love this band but I’ll take a pass.
T. Rex – One of those 1970s bands that were the epitome of rock and roll. There time could be just around the corner.
The Smiths – “Please, please, please, let me get what I want” has never been so appropriate.

Artists become eligible for the Rock Hall ballot 25 years after the release of their first single or album, so there is clearly a long wait to begin with. As a result, those who feel that they were snubbed and have been around for many decades probably feel as though they’ve been waiting centuries. The final list of 2011 inductees will be announced in December, and the induction ceremony -- the Hall's 26th annual event - will be held March 14, 2011 at Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez

Wow…those are two names I never thought I’d see in the same title. Although I haven’t seen many episodes of American Idol there are a ton of artists I really like that came from that show - Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry and Crystal Bowersox just to name a few. While there have always been amazing singers on Idol, the judges have managed to gain more publicity than the talent whether it’s Simon Cowell’s biting responses, Randy Jackson’s consistent use of the word “dawg” or Paula Abdul’s nutjob behavior.

After Abdul left the show in 2009, songwriter Kara DioGuardi took over her seat. Although she has cred for the hit songs she’s written for several artists with huge voices, she was never that impressive to me as a judge. Knowing that 2010 would mark Cowell’s final year, Idol set out to shake things up last season by adding a fourth judge – the fabulous Ellen DeGeneres who I’m assuming they were trying out as a replacement for Cowell. I thought she was great but after only one season she called it quits and DioGuardi followed her lead.

With only one judge left (Jackson) rumors began swirling around the entertainment industry about who would fill the remaining judge chairs. Names like Justin Timberlake, Jessica Simpson and Elton John were thrown around but the final choices ended up being Aerosmith’s charismatic lead singer Steven Tyler and Jenny from the Block. Two extremely successful artists who couldn’t be more different. While Boston-bred Tyler has been the voice behind one of America’s greatest rock and roll bands for over four decades, Lopez was the first actress-singer to have a number one album and a number one movie in the same week.

I’ve been an Aerosmith fan for as long as I can remember (my dog is named after an Aerosmith song for crying out loud) and I can’t wait to hear what Tyler has to say when it comes to spotting or dismissing new talent. I’m wondering how critical he is going to be or if he will be kind to his fellow artists. As far as J-Lo is concerned I’ve never been a huge fan but obviously the woman who has been successful both on screen and in the studio has something to offer and I’m ready to hear what she has to say.

The new season of American Idol featuring the new lineup of judges will begin in January 2011. Until then do yourself a favor and listen to some Aerosmith classics like “Sweet Emotion,” “Back in the Saddle,” “Crazy,” “Dream On” and “Walk This Way” or maybe ones you haven’t heard like “Sedona Sunrise” and “Mama Kin” while thinking about which scarf Tyler will use to decorate his microphone. You should also listen to some Lopez albums like On The 6 and J.Lo or maybe even pop in some of her better movies like Out Of Sight and Selena.

I predict that January’s Idol premiere is going to be a big one as new singers and new judges will bring in new viewers and curious old viewers. Let the talent show begin.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

All You Need Is A Hook

As we all know there is a lot that goes into making a successful song and you can never outguess the listener. A single that one person might think will top the charts may never reach the top ten while another song will surprisingly be the hit of the season. Either way, the hook is what catches the listener’s attention so most likely it will be found in or consist of the chorus and will function as the mouthpiece of the song. The hook is also a musical or lyrical phrase that stands out and is easily remembered because it’s attention-grabbing, easy to dance to and has lyrics people can sing along to.

It recently dawned on me that when it comes to hip hop and rap songs the hook is usually sung by a female who has a killer voice.


“Empire State Of Mind” – Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys
“Run This Town” – Jay-Z featuring Rihanna
“Love The Way You Lie” – Eminem featuring Rihanna
“Live Your Life” – T.I. featuring Rihanna
“Southside” – Moby featuring Gwen Stefani
“Airplanes” – B.o.B. featuring Hayley Williams

Clearly Rihanna has recently become the queen of the hook which has only added to her appeal. I really like Rihanna but I’d honestly rather hear her voice as the hook in conjunction with a male voice instead of just hearing her voice throughout an entire song. Jay-Z definitely knows how to pick ‘em when it comes to females singing the hooks to his songs since he has chosen Rihanna, Alicia Keys and Beyonce for past songs. “Run This Town” and “Empire State Of Mind” have been inescapable this year and when Jay-Z sang with Beyonce in “’03 Bonnie And Clyde” everyone’s ears perked up.

Eminem recently scored a top ten hit when everyone’s favorite Barbados girl joined him in “Love The Way You Lie,” while B.o.B. and Hayley Williams recently performed “Airplanes” on the MTV Video Music Awards. In 1999 Moby found that one of the most popular songs on his album Play and ultimately one of his most successful songs of all time was “Southside” featuring Gwen Stefani.

So does this mean that having a female voice to sing the hook of your song guarantees a hit? Not necessarily. But, I do find it interesting that these collaborations have become exceedingly popular and frequent over the past decade. I’m always a fan of collaborations, especially when fusing rock and rap together, because I think some amazing music has come out of these partnerships (i.e. Aerosmith and Run D.M.C. singing “Walk This Way” in 1986) but it’s hard to know when something is going to work. I’m by no means a fan of Hayley Williams’ band Paramore but I do love her hook on “Airplanes.” Who would have guessed? Also, while collaborations between males and females is nothing new (i.e. Mariah and ODB on “Fantasy” in 1995) I think the partnerships have made a much more significant impact on the music business in recent years. Whether it’s a female featuring a male or vice versa I hope that these collaborations continue because in an industry that seems to be fading more and more as the days go by these creative choices throw a welcomed spark to an unfortunate situation.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Always Volunteer At The GABF

Unless you aren’t a Denver resident, going to the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and not volunteering is a huge mistake. With over 400 breweries presenting booths and vying for medals, GABF is the largest commercial beer competition in the world. In short, it is the Super Bowl of beers contests. Breaking all of its pervious ticket sales records, the GABF sold out five weeks in advance to thirsty people eager to try approximately 3,000 different beers under one roof.

Attracting 151 beer judges from 10 countries, award-winning brewers have the chance to win prestigious gold, silver and bronze medals in 79 beer categories. If you want to take part in this three-day beeraplooza then you’ll have to be willing to pay $55 a night - unless you plan ahead and find a way to volunteer. In my case, I was lucky. Rod’s boss has been volunteering at the GABF for the past few years and invited me to join them. When I agreed to volunteer I didn’t know what to expect but figured it might resemble wine festivals I’ve attended in the past. I was kind of right. Sort of.

First of all, the GABF takes place in the Denver Convention Center to accommodate thousands of people who are ready to drink. (And also so the big blue bear could watch in awe). While some had a very short distance to travel such as the rowdy locals on the light rail, others traveled from other states such as Las Vegas, California, Texas, etc. for the ultimate weekend of boozing. Knowing that the number of attendees would be close to 50,000, GABF-goers started getting in line early but as the time crept closer to 5:30 p.m. the line wrapped around the convention center and down two blocks. As a volunteer, not only do you not to have pay but you also don’t have to wait in that horrifying line. Instead, volunteers get their own entrance and get to waltz in without any hassle. Once inside, the fun begins.

Each volunteer is part of a team (we were the Mile High Tappers) and is assigned to a brewery. Our jobs were to pour different kinds of beer for all walks of life. While some attendees were very polite others felt the need to bang their one ounce glasses around as they demanded to taste as many beers as possible. There were also people in costume, whether it was matching t-shirts with funny sayings like “I don’t get drunk, I get awesome” or candy-colored hats and glittered Elton John glasses. People were stoked to be there and ready to drink.

That being said, getting too wasted at the GABF is a rookie maneuver whether you’re an attendee or a volunteer because if someone sees that you are too drunk to function they will escort you out. Team captains watched to make sure volunteers only poured the allotted tasting amount and made sure no one was getting too tipsy. A popular way to avoid this happening is to wear necklaces made up of snacks like pretzels, cheese, sausages, crackers and whatever else people can put on string. Not only is it festive but it’s very smart. As we all know eating is key when you’re going to be drinking.

All and all my first GABF experience was great. I met a lot of fun people and talked to brewers from all over the country. In addition to tasting good beers, the people-watching is also a fun aspect of the event. Beer lovers from across the nation gathered to taste beer and have a good time – it’s really something to see. And I’m not even a beer drinker! Given the opportunity I will definitely volunteer again next year because being part of the event while participating in the event is definitely the way to go. Plus, it’s nice to get to do everything for free. The Great American Beer Festival is listed as one of the top 1,000 places in the US to visit before you die and now I can see why that's the case. See ya next year for the 30th Anniversary!