New Toys And An Update

So sorry for the long delay my dear readers. I promised you when I started doing this that I would post often and it has been 2 months since my last post. I know you all have been waiting with bated breath for further inane-ery to spew forth from my keyboard; 30 lashes to me for keeping you all waiting! But I digress.

The reasons for the delay are twofold- one, I’ve had to buy a new computer, and two- I haven’t been able to attend any shows since Side Show last December. Although I previously said that this blog would focus on the Roanoke music scene, its original purpose was to keep the world informed of the goings-on of my brain (I will return to the music soon, I promise). Much has happened in the last two months, therefore; I will attempt to enlighten you.

From a professional standpoint, I have decided to hire a publicist to help spread the word about my guitar teaching “enterprise,” String Theory, Inc. We will launch a publicity campaign this spring, which will hopefully result in a few new students.

On another note, the purchase of my new computer requires me to download a new copy of Cakewalk Music Creator 6, a digital audio workstation which I had on my old laptop. Cakewalk is user friendly and can do virtually anything you can get from a recording studio. I fully intend to have some audio files on here in the next few weeks so keep checking in!

Personally, a lot of things are going on. I’ve noticed, over the last few years, that the way I ring in each new year has been a pretty good indication of how the year itself was going to go. As an example, I welcomed 2012 with the confidence that it was going to be an awesome year, that I was going to spend it with both friends new and old and “gain a lot of ground” and generally have a good time. As it turned out, I was right. I completed several goals last year, and continued the gains made in late ’11.

This year, however, was different. Despite spending New Year’s Eve with a great group of friends and having a good time, I went into 2013 apprehensively, laden with the belief that the following 12 months were going to test me in ways I had not been tested since mid 20s. Although it is only mid-February, I have so far been right.

I’ve come to believe that there is more to this life than meets the eye. The existence of my more spiritual side may come as a shock to some, given how long I’ve lived as a non-believer. I’m not a believer now, at least not in the traditional religious sense, but things have been happening so coincidentally now that it makes you wonder if in fact there is some grand design, or a force beyond human comprehension that is trying to influence our world. Little things, people coming and going, and other events both minor and major have been happening exactly when they need to. Elaboration to follow.

I’ve started praying. Not to a particular god or deity, but to whatever force it is that is acting in the world, be it the Judeo-Christian god, Allah, Krishna, Zeus, or coincidence. I believe we all have a little piece of it within us, and it is up to us as individuals to discover that piece and act upon it in our own way. Mostly I just thank god/allah/whatever-the-hell for everything and everyone in my life, as well as beseeching him/her/it for guidance as to what to do with myself. Answers have a way of making themselves known, sometimes without us realizing it.

Side Show at Growlers’ 12/7/12

Upon browsing through last Thursday’s Extra section, I noticed a listing for a band I’d never heard of, Side Show, who were playing at a venue, Growlers American Grill and Venue, with which I am more than a little familiar. The listing said the band was an 80′s metal cover band, so your intrepid blogger decided to attend. Five bucks is kind of a lot for one band, but I loves me some GN’R, Motley Crue, and Judas Priest, etc so I went expecting to bang my head and down some cold ones.

The listing said the show would start at 9:30 pm, but for undisclosed reasons it ended up being after 10. The first song Side Show launched into was Poison’s “Nuthin’ But A Good Time.” While yours truly is not a fan of Bret, CC, and co., I can appreciate a party when I hear it. The exact set list has escaped my memory, but it consisted of standards by Bon Jovi, Poison, Def Leppard, Autograph, and even Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean.” While not all of the songs were “my bag,” it can still be good to turn off one’s brain and go with the atmosphere.

The band played for nearly 3 1/2 hours, covering a surprising number of songs with which your intrepid blogger was previously unfamiliar. They did throw in a few quick AC/DC and Crue nods, including a faithful rendition of “Home Sweet Home” complete with keyboards. Side Show itself is a five piece, including a well defined rhythm/lead guitar duo. The singer and lead guitarist both came out into the audience several times each, dancing with a few of the women and making them swoon in doing so.

The band commanded a large sized crowd; many including yours truly surrounded the stage and danced, bopped, threw horns, sang, cheered, and whatever-else-came-to-mind-ed for the majority of the performance. They took two or three short breaks, during which I had the chance to speak to several of the members. Turns out they have been playing for about 3 years; I asked them if they do any originals but they do not. All of the members have day jobs; playing in a cover band is just something they do for fun.

I can say I was “somewhat” disappointed in the song choice; it was surprising not to hear any GN’R, and Poison and Bon Jovi are two bands I never warmed up to. Plus, although I enjoyed dancing to “Billy Jean” I outright hated MJ during his heyday, and the song itself did not seem to fit the rest of the set. However, the performances of these songs and others over the long set were top notch. The lead guitarist was smokin’ hot all night, burning up and down the fretboard on more than one solo. The rhythm section was tight, the singer dead on, and the guys themselves more than hospitable. If you want to “rock out with your cock out” to some “old school cock rock” Side Show could be the way to go.

 

MyRadio at Kirk Avenue Music Hall, 11/10/12. A review.

This past Saturday Night, local band MyRadio held a CD release party at Roanoke’s own Kirk Avenue Music Hall. Also on the bill were NYC’s Air Traffic Controller and Bleu, out of Boston, MA. In an effort to get more in touch with the local music scene, your intrepid blogger decided to shell out $15 to see 3 bands about which he knew nothing.

First up was Air Traffic Controller. Due to some jackass on 581, I missed the first few minutes of their set. When I arrived, only the singer/guitarist was onstage, performing to surprisingly small yet supportive crowd. Although his guitar style was not my bag, his voice was full of emotion and depth. After two or three songs, he introduced the other members of the band- a cellist, violinist, and viola player. (Violist?)

Over the course of the next 30-45 minutes, the string section really displayed their talent. They were more than just backup, providing the main hooks and riffs for each song, although often to the point that they overshadowed the vocal and guitar lines. It was, in the opinion of yours truly, one of the most original sounds in music today. Never was there a more emotional, technical, tastefully used, and beautiful string section in all of pop music. The songs, while not necessarily radio material, were certainly more “musical” than anything this reviewer has heard of late. As one who reads sheet music, he was even pleasantly surprised to see the string section with music stands and scores on hand.

During the break following ATC’s set, this reviewer had the pleasure of engaging in a conversation with the singer/guitarist, a pleasant young man by the name of Dave. Although the specifics of that conversation have escaped my memory, he explained a little about their current tour, about the other bands, and how he had worked with the singer from Bleu.

Next up was Bleu. Towards the beginning of their set, the singer mentioned that he was raised in Blacksburg, and was excited to be playing so close to his hometown. He even had a couple of friends/family members in attendance.

Expanding on ATC’s sound, Bleu utilized two of the opening band’s members, the cellist and the violist. But Bleu made more use of guitar than ATC had, in addition to distorted vocals, drum loops and other sound effects.

Towards the end of their set, the members of Bleu walked out into the audience and performed 2 songs standing in the middle of the crowd. This gave the performance a cool intimate vibe that was heads and shoulders one of the highlights of the night.

Then it was time for the headliners, MyRadio. The night’s main attraction did not disappoint, turning out to be a boots knockin’ rock band. They had recently had a song, “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” placed in a major film. In addition to this, they had just finished recording their debut album, which was produced by the singer for Bleu.

The first thing that comes to mind when trying to describe MyRadio is rock. The second word is, well, rock. They were very different from the other two bands and were, in the opinion of this blogger, the best act on the bill. The rhythm section was tight, the guitars heavy and distorted, and the vocals a nice, lush tenor. Song titles and lyrics were hard to discern, but the rhythms and guitar solos were not. Many a patron in the by now filled to capacity hall was moved to dance, bob their heads, sing, or any combination of the three.

MyRadio’s cover of Miss You by The Rolling Stones was a highlight of the evening. While Mick Jagger would be a hard one to emulate, the singer did as well as could be expected, which, as it were, was good enough. Original compositions such as “Life is a Bitch Slap” off the new record (which doesn’t come out until later in the month, just FYI) borrowed much from the classic rock stylings of the Stones, Zeppelin, Aerosmith, AC/DC, etc without sounding stale.

As for the venue itself, the show tickets were, perhaps, a “little” overpriced, i.e., there were no drinks or seats available, but the show was overall worthwhile. A dazzling light show danced across the walls and ceilings; the hall began to fill up gradually until there were between 100-150 people in attendance; the acts represented a diverse variety, and the ambiance of Kirk Avenue Music Hall is one of unpretentious class. Highly recommended. This reviewer shall return.

The political “system”

What were you doing this time four years ago?
As for myself, I was a hardcore Obama supporter the first time around. I did some canvassing and data entry for a leftist PAC that didn’t stick around town after the fact. I pretty much decided to support Obama the minute I first saw one of his ads. I supported him all through the campaign against Hillary and then McCain/Palin.

This year though, I am completely over the whole “hope/change” thing. It didn’t happen. Four years later we are still in a recession. I’ve come to realize that “hope”, “change”, etc are just campaign slogans and that any politician who says them is not to be trusted. Therefore, though he ain’t perfect, I am STILL an Obama supporter.

Ironically, 2008′s candidate of “hope/change” is in 2012 the candidate of the status quo. The economy is on the road to recovery. Iraq is a thing of the past. Bin Laden is dead. Sometimes the best thing to do is just to stick with what you know.

As for the GOP ticket, Romney acts like a spoiled little rich boy and Paul Ryan is a smug brat. And the Tea Party? It would (will?) be interesting to see if they force the incoming administration to stick to their no tax pledge. Somehow I think they don’t understand that tax increases are inevitable.

If any candidate or future candidate out there is actually reading this, here’s a thought: if you want a sure fire way to get votes and bipartisan support, try looking at your opponent’s GOOD qualities and a little more understanding.

Obstacles?

Here lately I have been experiencing a fair amount of negative self-talk, anxiety, and fear. In all areas. Socially, professionally, and with this attempt to get my music out into the world, ESPECIALLY artistically. I’ve dealt with writer’s block, performance anxiety, approach anxiety and you-name-it anxiety. It ain’t a picnic, put it that way.

Yet strangely I do not doubt myself. Today I found myself walking through part of the rehab facility I was admitted to in 2006. Fitting, in a way, as tomorrow will be the 6th anniversary of the day I got out. I had myself admitted 11 days prior after suffering through the worst four years of my life. The journey that is recovery is still far from over, but you could say I’m LIGHT YEARS different and better off now than I was then. Yeah, you could say that.

But I digress. My point is, whatever anxieties I have now, and whatever I may have in the future, ain’t nothin’ compared to what I have had, and what I have triumphed over already. I knew what I wanted then, and I know what I want now. And guess what? They’re largely one and the same.

The difference is that I know how to handle the anxiety. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t have one of my old Obsessive Compulsive thoughts. Usually more than one. But by now I know an OCD doubt when I see it. You can’t let fear rule you.

It’s okay to be afraid or unsure. But if you want something, (or for that matter someone) you have to go after it. You have to throw caution to the wind.

I’m not where I thought I’d be. That much I admit. But I have a much clearer picture of how to get what I want, and for once I’m working towards it. Wow. That’s a pretty big admission, just typing that.

So I’ve joined the 21st Century

Blogging. For many years, being the shy, reserved person that I normally am, I’ve resisted it like the plague. But, in my endless quest for self-betterment, change, and greater interaction with my friends, family, and potential fans, I’ve come to realize that it might be time to start. I haven’t read TOO many blogs, but I’ve noticed that a lot of them out there just say the same sort of mundane things about daily life. To me, that’s about as interesting as mud, and is part of the reason why I don’t generally read them.

This one will be different. Instead of spitting out every little thing I do or think about facebook, the newest coca-cola flavor, celebrities/entertainment, or the latest office gossip, I resolve to make this blog about the various randomness that enters the jelly called my brain on a daily basis. This will be the THE place to find out about my musical endeavors, my poetry, my writing, performing and research schedules, and whatever else may spew forth from the keyboard.

I promise not to make it boring. I promise to update it often, and learn, grow and break down barriers as I go. I promise to “follow” other blogs, mostly those written by friends and such but perhaps others as well. I promise I won’t spam. I promise my posts will be insightful, at least by my estimation. I promise to keep the world up to date. I promise to stay up to date with the world. And I promise, FINALLY, to let the world see into the intricasies of the dark recesses of my brain, to the extent that I am able (because I often don’t understand, myself).

Hang on, folks. This should be interesting.

But I’m still not getting a Twitter.