Thoughts on Lady Gaga, Landmark Theatre 9.28.09 [Originally posted on FB 09.29.09]

Wanted to get some thoughts down, because I am seeing Alice Cooper and U2 later this week, so before it all gets combined in my head, here are some thoughts on tonight’s events:

It took five months, three venues and two resceheduled dates, but Richmond finally got to see Lady GaGa, in of all places, the usually reserved and calm Landmark Theatre [Mosque]. Lady GaGa’s music, for those of you who don’t know it, is dance/techno, so I found it a bit strange and intriguing that the show was at a seated theatre, not sure how the crowd would respond.

Tickets said 8:00…by 8:03, no lie, chants of ‘Ga Ga!! Ga Ga!!’ started and would echo until the star took the stage around 8:50. I can only compare that to the chant of “Meat! Meat!’ I heard before a Meat Loaf show in the 90s.

Wearing a silver, almost aluminum foil-looking outfit, she looked like she stepped out of the film ‘Barbarella’, opening with ‘Paparazzi’ which surprised me, as it’s her latest single. From the start until the end of the proceedings, the poor ushers [the same somewhat elderly individuals whom I saw Saturday working the Seinfeld show] tried very hard to keep everyone out of the ailses, but, after song two [LoveGame, better known as Disco Stick] I think even the ushers realized it was a lost cause.

Multiple costume changes, multi-media elements, a great live backing band and her troupe of dancers kept everything very high energy. After the first two songs, she apologized for ‘missing’ Richmond, but announced that the show we were seeing was ‘something no one has seen before [it was in fact the staging and setlist that she’ll use on the upcoming Fall tour with Kanye West].

Seeing her, comparisons to Madonna must be made, and they are valid. The main difference is, while Madonna [and Britney and Christina] tended to walk the line between teeny-bopper and adult artist when they began, Lady GaGa leaves nothing to the imagination. This is a show for grown ups, no innuendo or implied sexuality, it’s upfront with no apologies.

Highlights for me were an exteded version of ‘Just Dance’ and the closing number ‘Poker Face’, played in two diffent variations, first alone at the piano, where she seemed to channel both Jerry Lee Lewis [playing the keys with her high heel shoes and legs streched across the entire piano] and Tori Amos. As that version ended, the band returned and the version featured on the album started, ending the show as it began, with a dance party.

Lady GaGa and her touring band/dancers took numerous bows to a standing ovation before she was carried off the stage. She had not been off the stage for more than five seconds before the house lights came up and the pre-show music started back up. Call it The Landmark’s way of saying ‘Get the heck outta here so we can clean up all this glitter off the seats, and don’t even think about an encore!’

She’s arena ready and I am certain the tour this fall will be quite impressive. I just hope between now and November, she figures out an encore. That’s a must when you play arenas.

One last thing I noticed. Lady GaGa’s music seems to touch all kinds of demographics. I saw white, black, latino, men, women, gays, straights, and even a few people considerably older than myself. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it seems like ‘the freaks’ have taken GaGa to heart, and that’s something I can identify with.

I had a blast and I really look forward to whatever it is she does next.

Thanks to Kelly, Mallory and the girl wearing blue hair and sunglasses for allowing me to cut in line out front.


A Rediscovered Gem. Or, ‘Oh my God! He’s playing lead bass!’ [Originally posted on FB 09.12.09

Friday nite my Beatles Mono Box arrived. I will only say that if you haven’t bought a version of the remasters yet, Mono is the one to get. Exquisite packaging. So, very late last night, I set up my single disc CD player, which had been unhooked from my stereo system since 2003. I plugged it into an outlet by my bed, used the headphone input and my noise canceling headphones and spent several hours absorbing perhaps the best pop music ever written.

I’ll write a full review of the set, but I wanted to share one revelation that brought home how important and how great this remastered set is. I have listened to ‘Rubber Soul’ thousands of time in all different formats. I like almost every song on the album [never cared for ‘What Goes On’, sorry Ringo]. So, I’ve heard the song ‘You Won’t See Me’ countless times. Last night, it was like I finally HEARD it for the first time. Let me explain.

The focal point of the song before last night had always been the piano and the harmony vocals, plus the fact that John’s voice cracks repeatedly during the ‘Ooh La La La’ background vocals. Hearing the song in mono though, with everything in both speakers [finally!] the earth-shattering moment came when I realized that Paul plays lead bass throughout the entire song, leading the changes. The guitar is only used to accent the snare, but the bass [especially on the verses] is all over the place, taking charge but staying funky enough to never play the exact same thing on each verse. It really made me sit back and say out loud ‘Oh my God! He’s playing lead bass!’ and I then listened to the song eight or nine times in a row.

If you have ANY version of the song, cue it up and hear what I am talking about. If you have the stereo disc [old or remaster] the bass is in the left speaker and a bit buried, but you can still hear how much work he’s doing. If you have the Mono Box [Lisa! ;)] then cue it up and ‘hear it again for the first time.’

Every instrument benefits from the remasters but in my opinion, I think Ringo and Paul benefit most because, probably for the first time since the original 1960s vinyl mono releases, The Beatles have their low end back!

Just wanted to share. I am sure there are other moments like this on every record. There’s a lot here to take in.

Roller Coasters, Airplanes and Graveyards [Originally posted on FB 09.10.09]

Part One

The last Thursday in August, my best friend’s six year old son Dylan called me up on the phone. Sadly, I was in a restaurant when he called so he had to leave a message. When I returned home and checked my voice mail, I heard something like this:

‘Barry, this is Dylan. I really wish you would go with us to Busch Gardens one day next week. Please? I hope you can. Call back.’

Keep in mind that I have not set foot in an amusement park since August 1994. That’s fifteen years and many many surgeries since I had last attempted to ride a roller coaster. My last trip to an amusement park [King’s Dominion] is most remembered by those who were with me as ‘the time Barry’s cane got dropped by a KD Employee into the Haunted River.’ When that happened, I had to wait around, freezing and wet, while the staff drained the water from the ride to retrieve my cane.

Needless to say, I thought that would be my last trip to any sort of amusement park. But, after hearing Dylan’s message, and the excitement in his voice when I called him back, I told him and his parents [Eddie and Tucker] that I would check with my boss about getting a half day off on Thursday, September 3, almost expecting it not to happen.

Well, I was able to get the time off from work and thus I spent the next few days truly wondering if my body, specifically my knees could handle roller coasters. I mean, I’m nowhere near as limber as I once was, my knees don’t tend to bend when I want them to and, when they do bend, they usually bark at me just make sure I promise never to do that again.

So, Thursday came. I left work at lunch time and the Pickering family [Eddie, Tucker, Dylan and one-year old son Bennett] hit the road for Williamsburg. The weather was perfect, the company was fun and…I was honestly much more nervous than I let on about the whole thing. The main objective was to make sure Dylan had fun.

Usually I hate wheelchairs. My legs work [most of the time] so I tend to choose to walk somewhere rather than use a wheelchair. However, I remembered the last time I went to Busch Gardens [May 1993 for my father’s company picnic] that the park has a whole lot of hills so, I mentioned as soon as things were set and we had a date planned that I would need to rent a chair. Once we arrived at the park, the staff was so great that I won’t even mention that it costs $15 and you have to reserve the chair 24 hours in advance.

Busch Gardens offered a disability discount so, while I expected to pay about $45 for a day ticket, I got in the park for $29. Good deal. Also, Busch Gardens allows those individuals in wheelchairs to enter a ride via the exit ramp and, once they get on the ride, they get to ride twice before getting out of the car. Kings Dominion offered this when I was a season’s pass holder in the 80s so I was glad to see that the practice had not changed.

Okay, first things first. Dylan wanted to ride the Loch Ness Monster with me, so we hit that ride first. It took a bit of doing to get situated in the car, but it was relatively quick. Of course Dylan wanted to ride in the front car, so, here I was, a coaster veteran of the past, riding for the first time in fifteen years, wondering if my knees would allow me to leave the car once it was over…and we get to ride twice!

The Loch Ness Monster has been around since 1978. I’ve ridden it many times in the past so I knew what to expect. I told myself ‘Everything will be fine, once we get past that first loop.’ Then the first loop came. The G-force was so much that my neck basically stayed down, looking at the floor on the loops, but once we were thru that, and as the rest of the ride finished, I thought to myself, ‘Okay…I think I can still do this!’ By the second ride of the Loch Ness, I knew I was gonna be able to have fun and ride everything just fine. The knees might bark some, but they would survive.

Next on the agenda was The Big Bad Wolf, a ride that sadly had its last run on Labor Day, being torn down to make room for new ride. Now, I had ridden the Big Bad Wolf years ago but didn’t remember much about it. The thing I’ll take away from it now is the ride has to have the deepest car seats to get into. I seriously did not think I was gonna be able to actually get into the car. With help from Eddie, I managed to get in [and thankfully, out] of the car but I knew, even if Dylan asked again, I wasn’t going to ride this more than one go round, [two times around in one sitting].

Those two rides are the only major roller-coaster rides that Dylan is able to ride at this point, due to height. So, he’s not yet able to ride Griffon, Alpengiest or Apollo’s Chariot. Feeling torn, Eddie and I decided to ride Griffon because Eddie ‘wanted me to feel the drop of a lifetime.’

So, Eddie and I go up the exit ramp and they ask Eddie where he would like to sit and he says ‘the front’ before I can say anything. I figure ‘What the hell? You’ll live, right?’ The great thing about all the other coasters except Wolf and Loch Ness is that the seats are like bicycle seats. You slide into them and a harness goes around your shoulders, or in the case of Apollo’s Chariot, around your waist. These seats are a breeze for me to get into, and I sincerely hope that all future roller coasters are built with these kinds of seats.

The Griffon was a phenomenal ride, expertly building anticipation, letting you hang for a good seven seconds, staring down at nothing but pavement, before sending you 90 degrees straight down at god knows how many miles per hour. The rush was spectacular and even before the ride ended, I was already looking forward to a second go-around. Let it be noted that The Griffon is perhaps the smoothest thrill ride ever made. It doesn’t jar or shake you around. Like I said, my favorite and the best ride in the park. Check it out if you dare.

Alpengiest was a good ride, similar to the Griffon but more jarring. And Apollo’s Chariot was a blast mainly because the restraint meets you at the hips, leaving your upper body free. All five coasters are top notch and it was well worth the price of admission.

I had a great time hanging out with Dylan, Tucker and Eddie, and ‘racing’ Bennett in his stroller. Funnel cake was had by the end of the day, capping off a great day out.

Thanks to Dylan for inviting me, Tuck and Eddie for coming along, and thanks to Bennett for smiling all day long. I hope to go back soon.

And seriously, ride The Griffon. You’ll thank me later.

Part Two

The very next day, Friday September 4, I flew to Jacksonville, Florida to visit my friend and former co-worker Jonathan. I worked that day until 3, then ran home, finished packing and, by 5:00 headed to the airport.

My flight left at 7:45. First stop was Atlanta, then my connection to Jacksonville. As luck would have it, Saturday night September 5, Virginia Tech played Alabama in Atlanta, so the flight down to Atlanta was basically me and 170 Hokie/Bama fans. It was a fun, at times boisterous flight. Little did I know that the fireworks really wouldn’t start until we landed.

The plane landed at Hartsfield airport in ATL actually ahead of schedule. It was 9:15 and my next flight left at 10:00. Looking out from my window seat at the city that I usually visit every summer, I really felt strange, almost a sense of betrayal that I wasn’t staying in Atlanta. I truly love the city and I feel a sense of electricity hit me when I’m there. Perhaps the city knew this and, perhaps powers were at work to make me stay longer than planned?

You see, we did in fact land ahead of schedule, however, we kept waiting…and waiting…and waiting to de-board the plane. The command never came because someone could not connect the jet bridge to the plane, so, everyone that had gathered their carry-on luggage and stood in the aisle had to put the luggage back in the bins, get back in their seat and prepare for the pilot to ‘drive’ us to another gate. All told, this took about 40 minutes, I finally got off the plane right at about the time my other flight was scheduled to take off.

Now, I do a lot of things well. Sprinting is not one of them. But, on this night, I came damn close to flat out sprinting down the gateway, getting on the train and jumping on an escalator to get from Gate D to Gate C. As soon as I stepped off the escalator onto concourse C, I started loudly talking to any agent within shouting distance, ‘Has the flight to Jacksonville left yet??!’ I couldn’t get an answer, so I lumbered from gate 25 to gate 19. I was happy to see about six other people standing in front of the front desk and, before I could ask anyone anything, an agent said. ‘William Hall?’ to which I gave a wheezing, ‘Yes’. It wasn’t until he handed me my boarding pass before I comprehended in my frazzled mind that the plane was still on the ground.

I found my seat and, for the first time ever, paid the six dollars for a bloody mary while the plane made its way to my final stop.

We landed 30 minutes late, but I eventually found Jon and we made our way to his new townhouse. I had asked him to buy me a bottle of Grey Goose vodka so we could drink when I landed. He did. We drank and watched Lynyrd Skynyrd DVDs until four in the morning. As an aside, Grey Goose does not cause a hangover the day after. Keep that in mind when shopping for spirits.

If you didn’t know already, Jacksonville, Florida is where most of the original members of Lynyrd Skynyrd grew up and where they formed the band. The city is full of landmarks, legends and myths. Now, in all honesty, I went through my Skynyrd phase from 1989-1991 and had not really listened to them much at all since 1991. That changed in July when I attended a Kid Rock/Skynyrd double bill concert in Va. Beach with Trudy. I enjoyed the show, but I really went for the company. Skynyrd however really impressed me and, hearing songs again that I had not heard since high school made me remember why I liked them in the first place. So when it was decided I would visit Jon in Jacksonville, he decided to turn the weekend into a tour of Skynyrd landmarks and old haunts.

First stop was Jacksonville Gardens Cemetery, where Ronnie Van Zant, Leon Wilkenson and Allen Collins are buried. We chose not to approach Ronnie’s grave, so I took a picture with the zoom. I also got a picture of Leon Wilkenson’s grave, which has to be the gaudiest, loudest and most fitting monument to a true individual.

Second stop was, in some ways the highlight of the whole weekend. Jon drove to the suburb of Orange Park, where the Van Zant’s grew up, and where Ronnie’s father Lacy lived until his death in 2005. We drove down Brickyard Road, a pathway later immortalized by Johnny Van Zant in his hit song of the same name. We drove past the cardboard cutout houses, past the paved portion of the road, to a gravel pathway on the property the Van Zant’s used to call home.

We parked the car and, without either of us saying anything directly, we both whispered for the rest of the time we were walking the pathway, toward the driveway and the foundation of where the house used to stand. To some, it may just be a dead end path with overgrown weeds, dead trees and cracked pavement. To me though, it really did seem like hallowed ground, filled with stories and memories. We spent about 30 minutes there and, I’ll honestly never think of Ronnie Van Zant, or any of the band members the same way after that.

Saturday night, we had a great meal at Crossroads, where the Florida football game was on every television in the place. By the time we sat at our table, Florida had a 14-0 lead. By the time we got our meal, it was 28-0. Florida would win 62-3.

After dinner it was back to the apartment to watch Va. Tech with KISS on the iPod.

Sunday afternoon, we rented a boat and traveled around Doc’s Inlet. At the last minute, I remembered sunscreen and slathered some on. We carried a cooler of soda [and only soda] and got a quick lesson on how to drive the boat, how to start the boat and how to park the boat.

I had a good time on the boat, though I think Jon drove a bit too fast. The capper was a fabulous meal at Whitey’s Fish Camp, where you can tie your boat to a dock and walk in for fresh seafood. I had amazing spiced steamed shrimp and Jon had fried shrimp. The restaurant is known by locals as ‘Ronnie’s hang out’ because, in the 70s, Skynyrd would have band meetings at the restaurant. Once that fact was published in a music magazine, Whitey’s Fish Camp’s place in Rock Lore was secure, even if it wasn’t exactly true.

Sunday night, surprisingly not sunburned; we rested before heading out to see the movie ‘Extract.’ I had only heard that the film was made by Mike Judge, who gave us ‘Office Space’ and ‘Beavis and Butthead’. I did not know that Mila Kunis was in the movie, nor was I aware that Gene Simmons was in the film. All in all, a great cast that had a good story. Some scenes fall flat, but it was still enjoyable, and Mila Kunis is nice to look at no matter the film.

My thanks to Jon for hosting me for the weekend and thanks to his dog Sally for sharing her futon with me.

Travel day Monday went smoothly, although I was exhausted upon my arrival home. My brother Brian and my niece Madison met me at the airport [she wanted to ride the escalators] so I got to see Maddie for a moment before she headed back to her mom in North Carolina.

It was a whirlwind of a long weekend but it was a wonderful way to bid farewell to summer. Thanks again to friends for this past weekend and to friends for this past summer, which was filled with unforgettable moments, phenomenal shows and lasting memories.


McCartney – FedEx Field 08.01.09 [Originally posted on FB 08.03.09]

McCartney – FedEx Field 08.01.09

Let me say right off the bat that this note is not just a review of the aforementioned concert, but rather a recap of the entire weekend [the exciting bits anyway]. So, here goes.

First I want to thank my boss Frank for convincing me to buy tickets a few days after they went onsale. I didn’t buy tickets immediately because I couldn’t find a ride and didn’t want to spend dough on a concert without a confirmed way to get there. Frank convinced me by saying simply, ‘Michael Jackson is dead, how many more tours will Paul do?’ That sentence repeated in my head for the rest of the workday so, that night while seeing Hank Williams III at the National [July 1], I asked my friend Eddie if he would want to see McCartney. I know Eddie loves music, but, I honestly can’t remember a conversation where the Beatles or McCartney came up, so I was genuinely surprised when he answered with an enthusiastic ‘Hell Yeah!’ So, the ride was secured. The next morning, I bought tickets.

Now, fast forward one month. It’s Saturday around 5:00 in the evening. We’ve checked into the hotel and are looking for some pre-show food. Near our Comfort Inn were a McDonald’s and a Burger King. Since Eddie was driving, I let him choose. He picked McDonald’s and we made our way inside. ‘Wow, I haven’t eaten McDonald’s pre-show since 1988,’ I said. [Rod Stewart on the Out of Order Tour @ The Norfolk Scope] As I got up to the cashier I glanced back at Eddie and asked, ‘What do you want?’ He looks at me and says, ‘Burger King.’ As we exited, I said ‘I STILL haven’t eaten McDonald’s pre-show since 1988,’ which had Eddie in hysterics and became his favorite line of the weekend. That’s why it’s included here in the review.

We arrived at FedEx and quickly found a handicapped parking spot [concerts are really one of the few places where the Handicapped Membership card does have its privileges] and waited for the gates to open. Once they did, we made our way inside and quickly found the Tour Merch stand.

This is where we would spend the next, oh, thirty minutes or so.

I bought a tour shirt, but Eddie’s size was sold out, so, we had to scamper to another nearby stand to ‘hopefully’ find a shirt for him. We got in another line and thankfully found the shirt in his size. Then, it was off to find our seats, but not before paying ten bucks for two bottles of water.

Now, I told you I bought tickets several days after the seats went onsale, so I was fully expecting mediocre seats, already consoling myself by saying ‘at least you’re in the building, enjoy it.’ Little did I know that our seats were going to be only seven rows off the field, slightly stage left, with a great [and I do mean GREAT] view of everything. I sat there in my seat almost stunned that, seven rows below me, some people paid $200 for seats for what I thought was a lesser view than my $90 seat. I still don’t know how I managed to get that lucky.

The tickets said 7:30. And 7:30 came and went. After 8:00 passed, I realized the oldest rule in the book when it comes to stadium shows: Stars don’t show up until it gets dark. So, I knew we had about another hour to wait, but said nothing. No need to be the messenger the masses get mad at.

I must mention that the pre-show music was a disc that alternated between string quartet renditions of Beatle songs and a ‘dance remix’ disc that offered some truly horrid re-workings of McCartney solo/Wings material. Only Paul McCartney could have versions of his own songs played as pre-show music to his own damn show, and get away with it.

Then, just after 9:00, the stadium lights blacked out, the screens went dark and a roar went up. The instantly recognizable lead riff from ‘Drive My Car’ tore into the night, and then we were off.

First, here’s the setlist in full. Take a moment to just soak this in. I get excited all over again just reading it. Hearing this all live was, in a word, unforgettable:

1. Drive My Car

2. Jet

3. Only Mama Knows

4. Flaming Pie

5. Got To Get You Into My Life

6. Let Me Roll It / Foxy Lady

7. Highway

8. The Long and Winding Road

9. My Love

10. Blackbird

11. Here Today

12. Dance Tonight

13. Calico Skies

14. Michelle

15. Mrs Vanderbilt

16. Eleanor Rigby

17. Sing the Changes

18. Band on the Run

19. Back in the U.S.S.R.

20. I’m Down

21. Something

22. I’ve Got a Feeling

23. Paperback Writer

24. A Day in the Life / Give Peace A Chance

25. Let It Be

26. Live and Let Die

27. Hey Jude


28. Day Tripper

29. Lady Madonna

30. I Saw Her Standing There

Encore 2:

31. Yesterday

32. Helter Skelter

33. Get Back

34. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)

35. The End

Okay. Now that you know what was played, some thoughts. I was thrilled to hear ‘Only Mama Knows’ from ‘Memory Almost Full’, one of his albums that I listen to often. Another happy surprise for me was the Wings classic ‘Let Me Roll It’, which has one of the meanest riffs at its core, one that truly feels right when blasted over a stadium sound system. And, even though I readily admit that I personally am burned out on ‘Live And Let Die’ and said before the show that I didn’t care if I heard it ever again, I have to say, when heard live Saturday with the expected pyro and surprise fireworks, I wasn’t bored. [That’s the KISS fan in me talking.]

Before I go any further, I must mention Paul’s band, which thankfully still includes ‘Wix’ [Paul Wickens] on keyboards and Abe Laboriel, Jr. on drums. Abe is still a mad man when it comes to the drums and sang the harmonies on almost every song. He’s a star and the band was top-notch. ‘Wix’ even played the keys with his elbow during ‘I’m Down’, as a nod to the Shea Stadium show where Lennon did that in disgusted amusement because he couldn’t hear a thing.

The most memorable moments for me were the dedications. Paul dedicated ‘My Love’ to Linda, and played 1982’s ‘Here Today’ dedicating it to John [last names aren’t necessary for you, right?]. The greatest though was the ukulele intro of ‘Something’, dedicated to George, as Paul had performed in 2002 at ‘The Concert for George’ [and if you haven’t seen that DVD yet, see it soon!]. After ‘Something’ finished, I don’t think there was not one soul there who at the very least didn’t have a lump in their throat.

Paul McCartney is now 67 years old. He’s one of the few performers who captures both rock music’s glorious past, while still being relevant in today’s ‘scene’. He and Dylan are the only two I can think of from ‘back then’ who are still making new music and performing new music, not because they have a deadline or a contract to fulfill, but because they want to.

We’ve all lived with Paul’s music for most of our lives, so, it really is like visiting an old friend who will play your favorite songs for you. We’ve all got our all time favorites. For me, when ‘Day Tripper’ started, I suddenly had a flashback to when I discovered The Beatles when I found my aunt’s 45 records at the age of five, [summer 1979] one of which was ‘Day Tripper. I also thought about a friend I made in High School named Todd, who has to be the world’s biggest McCartney fan. We spent many a lunch period talking Beatles music. The memories were thick all night long. Saturday night was a vivid reminder that music, unlike almost anything else, can be your time machine.

In short, Paul McCartney is still one of the best at what he does. He knows it. We know it. Let’s hope he keeps doing it for a while longer.

Thanks again to Frank for the convincing, to Eddie for the driving and the company, to the site for the set list. And thanks to you for reading.

‘My heart is like a wheel

Let me roll it to you’



Country Confessions [Originally posted on FB 07.13.09]

First a bit of background for those of you who may not know: I was born in Staunton, VA, a place best known for two things: The birthplace of Woodrow Wilson, and The Home of The Statler Brothers. As I grew up in the 70s and 80s, the latter meant that, whether I liked it or not, country music would be something that would always be around me. I’ve always loved the Statlers and their music is now pure nostalgia for me, taking me back to my early childhood, before my parents split, when I was very happy.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve always had an appreciation for country music. Most times however, I couldn’t listen to it for any length of time and would quickly return to KISS, Zep, Cure or whatever metal band I was into. Lately though, my listening habits have changed. After commenting on it on FB this morning [and surprising my former sister in-law], rather than write a book under the comments section of that status, I figured I would expand on the matter here.

Last year, I listened to Bob Dylan’s radio show on XM [Theme Time Radio Hour] every week. His show always featured country. That’s where I heard a good deal of Buck Owens and realized the guy did so much great stuff, much more than just ‘Hee Haw’ which is probably what most people my age remember him for. For Christmas, I asked mom for a Buck Owens box set. I think she thought I was joking, but I told her I was serious, and I got the set for Christmas.

Since then, whenever the iPod was on shuffle, a Buck Owens song would come up and make me smile. He was a master at writing heartbreak songs with a wicked sense of humor.

Around Christmas as well, I heard George Jones’ ‘The Grand Tour’ [again on Dylan’s radio show]. As soon as the song was over, I not only downloaded the single from iTunes, but the Greatest Hits collection it was part of. Now, normally, George Jones would send me running to change the radio dial but, at this point in time, the songs [most of ’em anyway] resonated and I listened.

Fast forward to mid-May. I’m sitting in a doctor’s office waiting for the doctor to come in and tell me if I am a candidate for eye surgery. I was nervous and didn’t want to even consider what the road would be if I was told no. The office had a radio station piped in to the room, and I heard the DJ say that up next was ‘the new hit single from teen sensation Taylor Swift’. Now, what I mainly knew about Swift at this point was she was young, she was cute, and to her credit she wrote all of her songs, something unheard of in Nashville. The song was ‘You Belong With Me’. I heard it and thought it was good and catchy but that was about it.

Little did I know that for the next week, the song would be stuck on repeat in my cerebral jukebox. I bought the single on iTunes thinking if I played it a few times, it would leave my head. It didn’t. Instead I ended up downloading most of her material. Most of it is quite good.

Now we come to July 1. On this night I saw Hank III with Eddie [a friend of 20+ years who has always loved country]. I went because I knew Hank III also fronted a metal band so I was intrigued at how he could move from country to ‘death metal’ in the same show. The kicker turned out to be that I enjoyed the country set far more than the metal. The metal was fine, but nothing I hadn’t heard before. The country set though was something very unique. Imagine a Hank Williams Sr. song played about eight times faster than intended and you have Hank III in a nutshell. What was that, thrash country?? I don’t know but it really was unlike anything I had seen or heard before.

Now apart from an evening spent watching the fetching Jenny Lewis rock out at the National [July 3], I’ve pretty much been listening to country music exclusively. I’m adding stuff I have had on CD for years to my iPod and buying new stuff from iTunes that interests me. A KISSong still gets played every day [like I posted in response to some comments on the status that started the idea for this note] but otherwise, it’s been country.

So, I’m spending a lot of time listening to Reba, Cash, Buck, Patsy, George Jones, The Statlers, Taylor, and Miranda Lambert among others. I know this will eventually change and I will go back to a more well-rounded audio diet [I am seeing Cake Sunday night after all] but for now it’s been a fun trip with country on repeat on my iPod.

I usually describe myself as a ‘musical schitzophrenic’ because my tastes are all over the map. I think that description has never been more apt.


Three Shows In Nine Days — A Recap [Originally posted on FB 05.12.09]

My concert season for 2009 actually began in February. The first week of that month is when tickets for Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Working on a Dream’ tour went on sale. So, since then I knew that May was going to be at the very least eventful. Little did I know how emotional and in fact life-changing the events would be.

Show # 1

May 2, 2009

Greensboro, North Carolina
Greensboro Coliseum


Radio Nowhere

Outlaw Pete

No Surrender

Working On A Dream


Johnny 99

The Ghost of Tom Joad

Raise Your Hand

Seventh Son

Hang On Sloopy

Growin’ Up

I’m On Fire

Waiting On A Sunny Day

The Promised Land

Human Touch

Kingdom Of Days

Lonesome Day

The Rising

Born To Run

Cadillac Ranch

Hard Times

Thunder Road

10th Avenue Freeze-Out

Land Of Hope And Dreams

American Land

Glory Days

I know it is pointless to reduce a show to simply the set list, but I wanted to post that first. I saw this show with my friend Meg, who was unable to get tickets to the Charlottesville show and thus happily agreed to drive to Greensboro to see this show with me.

The coolest thing about this show was our vantage point. We had seats behind the stage. I really liked being able to see the techs tuning the guitars before they would sprint onstage to hand them to Bruce. Seeing some bands from this vantage point would be a letdown or boring but I know that Bruce and the band play to the whole arena, whether you are on the floor among the masses, in the nosebleeds in the back, or behind the band.

Since drummer Max Weinberg will have to miss some shows in June to appear on Conan O’Brien’s revamped late show, the band has been ‘teaching’ Max’s eighteen year old son Jay. By teaching I mean splitting drumming duty with his dad onstage. Jay was behind the set at the start for the instantly recognizable intro to ‘Badlands’ and it only took me a few seconds to know that Jay packs as much power and precision on the kit as his dad. And, to look at him play, he is literally a ‘Mini-Max’ with the same arm action and concentrated gestures. The only difference I could discern [aside from the hair] is Max’s kick drum foot is a bit heavier, but Jay will get that with time. Jay is definitely adding to the fire and exuberance that the E Street Band display every night.

Having read some previous set lists, I was looking forward to hearing ‘Seeds’ [a song only available on the ‘Live 1975-85 box set] and ‘Johnny 99.’ The only versions I had heard of ‘Johnny 99’ were quiet solo acoustic affairs, which suited the lyric [it’s about a man sentenced to death row after killing a man]. Hearing the blistering full-on version from the band, I began to wonder if it was wrong that a song about a man who is about to die for murder should have people dancing in the aisles?

As I expected, Bruce had some surprises. Max came out to play the second half of the set [from ‘Raise Your Hand’ onward] and, it seems on this tour that the signs from fans are not always requests for Bruce songs, but instead its almost like a game of ‘Stump the Band’. Greensboro was no exception when the band played [maybe for the first time EVER?] Johnny Rivers’ hit from the sixties, ‘Seventh Son.’ The sixties flashback continued with an extended sing-along/jam version of ‘Hang On Sloopy’, even after Little Steven said at first the song was ‘too hard’. Next followed one of the songs I have wanted to hear live ever since I got the Live box set for Christmas in 1986: ‘Growin’ Up’.

Rather than bore you with my thoughts on everything that followed, I’ll sum it up with this: After six years and three concerts, that night in Greensboro was also the first time I heard ‘Thunder Road’ in concert. Hearing thousands sing back the line [and singing myself as well] ‘Show a little faith / There’s magic in the night..’ is the moment I will always remember, and further proof that concerts can be magical; ending with ‘Glory Days’ was simply icing on the cake.

Upon returning to Richmond the next afternoon, I had one thing on my mind. After getting through the day Monday, I was ready for my second Bruce show in four days on Tuesday.

Show #2:

May 5, 2009

Charlottesville, Virginia
John Paul Jones Arena


Adam Raised A Cain

Outlaw Pete

Candy’s Room

Working On A Dream


Johnny 99


The Ghost Of Tom Joad

Raise Your Hand

You Really Got Me

Spirit In The Night

Gypsy Biker

Waiting On A Sunny Day

The Promised Land

The Wrestler

Kingdom Of Days

Radio Nowhere

Lonesome Day

The Rising

Born To Run

Hard Times

Thunder Road

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

Land Of Hope And Dreams

American Land

Detroit Medley

I attended this show with two dear friends, Trudy and Eddie. This was their first Springsteen show so, even after seeing the show the previous Saturday night in North Carolina, I stayed quiet regarding set list specifics, knowing that the only real guarantee was a) a good time would be had and b) we were gonna hear Born To Run.

For this show, Max started behind the kit, which made me happy because that’s who Eddie and Trudy were expecting to see. Jay Weinberg played the second half of the set this time, starting with ‘Raise Your Hand.’ Stump the Band reappeared, this time with a request for The Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’, and the band didn’t disappoint. That was followed by ‘Spirit in the Night’ a classic that never gets old.

Musical highlights for me were ‘Tom Joad’ [the solos in that rang in my head for hours the next day], ‘Adam Raised a Cain’ [always one of my favorites], ‘Candy’s Room’ [a wonderful surprise from the ‘Darkness…’ album] and, once again ‘Thunder Road’, which I didn’t expect to hear since it was played in Greensboro.

The true highlight of the evening though was seeing the show with two friends, and watching the show thru their eyes. Whether it was seeing Trudy dancing in the aisle during ‘You Really Got Me’ or Eddie turning to me in amazement during ‘Spirit in the Night’, I enjoyed watching them as much as the show I paid for. The time spent with them, be it in the parking lot before the show, in the car, or seeing the show, made it an evening I will always hold dear.

As expected, each of us has agreed to catch Bruce the next time he’s close by. What I did not expect is that each of us actually showed up for work the next day; still not sure how I managed that.

That brings us to Show #3. Leonard Cohen at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland on Monday May, 11. I have tickets to many shows this year, and, each show is special. This show, however, is one I never thought would happen, or one I never thought I would have a chance to see. I’ve been a fan of Cohen’s since hearing his songs during my senior year of high school, and last year after seeing the movie ‘I’m Your Man’ I really began to wish and hope I could see Cohen in concert, knowing full well the man is in his early seventies [he’s 74 now] , so I never thought he would tour.

Thank God I was wrong.

I saw the show with my mom who wasn’t a fan initially but, I would play a song on the iPod and she would ask, ‘Wait, he wrote that? I like that song!’ So, with GPS in hand, mom agreed to venture north to Maryland to share this with me.

We had great seats [fifth row center] and immediately struck up a conversation with a woman named Karen who brought her son along to see the show. She was thrilled that there were ‘so many other people who [were] fans’ because, in everyday life, it seems a Leonard Cohen fan is hard to find. We were surrounded by thousands of like minds, and it was wonderful.

There is something that can’t be explained, sitting in a packed audience, listening to Leonard Cohen sing the chorus to ‘Anthem’ while the rain hits the pavilion roof. It was one of those moments in my life where I literally thought to myself ‘You’re here. This is an event. Take it all in because it will all end too soon.’

And end it did, but not before Leonard and his incomparable group of musicians played for well over three hours, with four encores and only a brief intermission halfway through. He’s seventy-four, but he sprinted onstage and off, danced, knelt before the audience on several occasions [and to my mother’s amazement, was able to get back up], all with a glint in his eye, like all of us were now party to a long-kept secret.

It was a cold, rainy night but Leonard and his band managed to make the huge pavilion seem like a living room; luxurious and quiet, rambunctious and bawdy. Let me take a moment to applaud those souls out on the lawn. As soaked as they must have been, they didn’t seem to notice the rain or care.

I knew that the evening was going to be an emotional rollercoaster. For the most part, it was a jubilant affair and there were smiles and screams of approval.

Then he played ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ and everyone else around me seemed to disappear. All I could do was stand in awe, near tears.

Here’s the setlist from the show, though, as I said about Bruce, the evening can’t be boiled down to a list of songs. If Leonard Cohen is coming to your town, don’t ask questions, JUST GO! [And yes Jenne, this means you…;)]

First Set

• Dance Me To The End Of Love

• The Future

• Ain’t No Cure For Love

• Bird On The Wire

• Everybody Knows

• In My Secret Life

• Who By Fire

• Chelsea Hotel #2

• Waiting For The Miracle

• Anthem

Second Set

• Tower Of Song

• Suzanne

• The Gypsy’s Wife

• The Partisan

• Boogie Street

• Hallelujah

• I’m Your Man

• A Thousand Kisses Deep (poem)

• Take This Waltz


• So Long, Marianne

• First We Take Manhattan

• Famous Blue Raincoat

• If It Be Your Will

• Democracy

• I Tried To Leave You

• Whither Thou Goest

Thanks again to Meg, Eddie, Trudy and Mom for being there and getting me there. And thanks to you for reading.

[Springsteen set lists taken from; Cohen setlist taken from bulletin board post by member westminster21157]



The Ten Songs I Can’t Live Without [Originally posted on FB 02.19.09]

My friend Patrick posted a list of the ten songs he couldn’t live without. After reading I immediately began compiling my own. This took longer than I expected. I originally had a top 25, then slashed the list to 20 and then the final 10. For me, songs are more than just music. They are memories. Each song here is great and important to me not just because its a great song, but because its tied to a memory. My only rule was one song per artist. So, here goes:

1) Detroit Rock City – KISS. Most of my friends know that I discovered KISS just before I turned four years old. To say that their songs are ingrained in me is an understatement. ‘Rock And Roll Over’ from 1976 was my first KISS album, for my birthday in 1977. That Christmas, I got ‘KISS ALIVE II’, and ‘Destroyer’ both of which contained ‘Detroit Rock City. I was hooked. I love the almost jazz type drum part that Peter Criss plays [a part I could never fully duplicate on the drums,despite hours of trying]. The dual guitar solo is perhaps KISS’ best moment on record, and it all ends with a car crash. At the age of four, the audio drama that unfolded in that song made quite an impression. I could make a list of just the ten KISS songs I can’t live without, but this is the one song that is still an adrenaline rush, whether its turned up to eleven on my stereo, or plays quietly in the background on my iPod at work. It still quickens my pulse and puts a smile on my face. And, like I said, car crash.

2) Rhapsody In Blue – Gershwin. My father had a Quadraphonic system in our basement in the 1970s. He bought a lot of Quadrophonic recordings, mostly on reel-to-reel tape. One of the tapes he played was called ‘Hugo plays Gershwin’, a tape of Hugo Montenegro and his Orchestra playing Gershwin classics. The last song on the tape was Rhapsody in Blue. Again, I was very young, and I had no opinion of classical music. But I loved this piece instantly. I would play that reel tape a thousand times in my life before the 70s technology finally wore down. In the late 80s, I saw the film ‘Manhatten’ for the first time and, if you’ve seen it, you know the opening scene is set to this song. One of the best moments in film ever. I even liked to watch/hear the Delta commercials from a few years ago because they used Rhapsody In Blue. A truly timeless and great song.

3) One Hundred Years – The Cure. Senior year of HS, September 1991. I am cast in the school play [J.B.]. Also cast in the play [as Job no less] was one Tony Abeln. This is where fate stepped in. See, I don’t drive, so, when it was learned that Tony and I lived in the same subdivision, he graciously agreed to give me a ride home after rehearsal each night. First night in the car, Tony puts in this tape by this band I don’t like [The Cure] and the song that comes on is…well to me at the time, it was sh*t. Understand, I was in my ‘Heavy Metal Headbanger’ phase of my life so I had little time or patience for anything that wasn’t played at a thousand miles an hour. Second night in the car, Tony puts in the same tape…long story short, by the end of the week I asked him if I could borrow his Cure tapes over the weekend to make a mix tape. The song of course was One Hundred Years, and to this day, if forced to pick a single favorite album by the Cure, Pornography would be the one. I always think of Tony when I play this album, and that makes me smile. The fact that I got to hear this song live in concert [followed by Disintegration] is a supreme concert moment that will not be topped. Thank you again Tony for forcing me to listen. 😉

4) I Hope You’re Happy Now – Elvis Costello. In my book the best, most bitter ‘F You’ Break up song ever penned. I first heard it in 1993 on the Costello Retrospective set ‘Girls Girls Girls’. At the time, my heart was relatively unscathed. Since then, the lyrics ring truer and truer with each listen. [True confession time: The set was my roommate’s. I made sure when he packed his things to move, that he did not get it back.] It must be one of Elvis’ faves too because the two times I have seen him in concert, he has played it.

5) Jane – Barenaked Ladies [BNL]. 1994 can be summed up in one word for me: HELL. In August, I was admitted to the hospital. This CD came out September 6. I had planned to pick it up, but I was stuck in the hospital. The day after the album came out, I was told by my doctor that I was going to be in the hospital for at least another four weeks, and that time would be spent not being able to eat or drink anything. As a way to recover from the shock that I had eaten my last meal for a long while [Hardee’s Fried Chicken], my dad asked if I wanted anything from Plan 9. I asked for the album ‘Maybe You Should Drive.’ To hs credit, he found the album [something I doubted at the time because BNL were not exactly popular in the US]. That disc became my food. And ‘Jane’ made me smile in one of my darkest hours. The line ‘She thinks it’s cooler if we just stay friends’, well that hit too close to home to admit. BNL’s finest moment.

6) I Want You, I Need You, I Love You – Elvis Presley. If this song were released today, as is, it would be a smash. I first heard this in the car, because my mom bought a bunch of Elvis albums on 8-Track [I know, I’m dating myself there…]. It probably was just after Elvis died in 1977, but I remember wanting to hear this song again, and asking to hear it again, not realizing that, with the 8 track, you would have to sit through three or four other songs before the one you wanted came on. One of the best love songs ever that’s not in the least bit sappy.

7) Help! – The Beatles. I discovered The Beatles in 1979. While staying at my grandmother’s house, I was in an upstairs room that had an ottoman with a removable top. Being my usually clumsy gawky self, I fell into the ottoman and knocked the top off. Looking inside, I saw a bunch of 45 records. These records had belonged to my aunt when she was a little girl. All of the 45s were First Edition US Beatle 45s. [Speaking as a collector, I can tell you they were worn and scratched, but to me, they were gold.] The singles included Twist And Shout/There’s A Place; I Want To Hold Your Hand/I Saw Her Standing There; and Help!/I’m Down. It really was like discovering a new world. ‘Help!’ especially grabbed me. For the rest of that week, I put away the KISS records I had brought with me to my grandmother’s house and played these new discoveries, all day, every day while I was there. My grandmother was just thrilled to hear something besides KISS, so, on the day I was to go back home, my grandmother stuck her head in the room I stayed in and said ‘You know, if you want to take those records home, you can have them.’ I couldn’t say Thank You enough. When I got home, my father pulled out a ‘Meet The Beatles’ songbook he had bought in 1964 to show me what these guys looked like. For the rest of that summer, I played Beatles music, and my life was happily never the same.

8) Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley. I love both versions of this song. I heard Buckley’s version first in a foriegn movie [‘Juli’, I think it was German]. Soon after I ‘downloaded’ the song [a long way from the 8-Track] and it ran on my MP3 player on repeat for a week. Leonard Cohen’s version is very different but just as beautiful. A beautiful ode to a lost love.

9) The Winner Takes It All – ABBA. ABBA really gets a bad rap it seems and they get tagged with the ‘disco’ label. This song however is exquisite meloncholy. The vocal, the piano, the lyric. A great song to sum up the end of a relationship. Also, for me, ABBA reminds me of my father. He would play their records every Saturday morning while making breakfast [this was well into the 90s, when ABBA was anything but cool]. I never got tired of hearing ABBA, especially this song.

10) Be My Baby – The Ronettes. If I had to pick one song to define pure pop perfection, this would be the one. Phil Spector changed the game with this one. I mean, just the SOUND of this song is so different from anything that came before and it spawned a thousand imitators. A cosmic blending of the perfect song, the perfect singer and the right producer [before Phil went crazy]. And, the drum breakdown at the 2:13 mark is one of the best ever recorded. I can’t help but feel better or happier whenever I hear this song.

So, there ya have it. My irreplacable top ten. Thanks for reading.

Twenty-Five Random Things [originally published on Facebook 01.27.09]

[Even though this is one of those usually annoying tags that FB is famous for, I thought it would be a good ice-breaker.]

1) I don’t drive

2) I have an XBox but I rarely play it. Not that I don’t enjoy it, but, I find when I have free time, I would rather watch a DVD or listen to music.

3) I discovered KISS a week before my fourth birthday [1977]. My neighbor’s teenage son had KISS posters on his wall. Theose faces gripped me, excited me and scared me all at once. That same teenager [Chris Richards] saw my interest and played Side One of KISS Alive!. The next week, my mom gave me ‘Rock N Roll Over’ for my birthday because Chris’ mom told her ‘Indulge him. It’s a phase that will pass.’

4) I love foreign movies. I will watch a movie in French, even if it’s bad, just because I love the language.

5) I used to play the drums, but, after several orthopedic surgeries, my ankle can’t really move fast enough to play the kick drum.

6) I was the winner of The Patrick Crowling Courage Award, 1997.

7) I have been a Braves fan since the early 1980s.

8) The night the Braves won their only World Series in 1995, I watched the game at my aunt’s house because I had to DJ a cousin’s birthday party, instead of watching it with my father. That’s one of my few regrets in life and, since then I have never scheduled anything that conflicts with the playoffs if the Braves are in them.

9) I used to manage a rock band.

10) Despite that, I am really a morning person.

11) I met Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies after a show in DC, solely because I had to attend the show in a wheelchair following surgery.

12) It was at the age of 16 when I learned that backstage is not all it’s cracked up to be

14) I have the job I have now because I took the ‘’ entrance test on a dare. I passed, took out a huge loan, got two certs and landed at Wellpoint, where I discovered PTO.

15) I hope to move to Atlanta one day

16) While I love being an Uncle, I don’t want to be a dad

19) I really should clean my home office, but I swear I know where everything is

20) I watch the movie Annie Hall at least twice a year. It makes me laugh and sigh

21) I read Atlas Shrugged over a summer. It was good but I didn’t think it was ‘all that’

22) I once had to go 57 days without eating anything. I was in the hospital on IV Fluids only. After the first weekend, [which was pure hell], I didn’t miss food at all as long as I didn’t smell it.

23) The first meal I was allowed to have after 57 days without food was a cup of cherry Jell-O. Ever since, the thought of Jell-O makes me want to throw up.

24) I turned 21 during the same 57 days without food. I could not get drunk to celebrate turning 21 until 3 months later. My first alcoholic drink ordered was ‘Cold Gin’. I haven’t had it since, perferring vodka instead.

25) I’ve been in love, lost at love and had my heartbroken. And I am better for it.

Ok, so now I have a blog


I’ve decided to finally give this ‘blogging’ thing a try. I’ve been writing for years and, in the last year I have written several ‘notes’ on Facebook. As someone once said, a FB page is for those too lazy to have a blog. While I’ve never thought that I was lazy, I just didn’t think there was an audience who would want to bother reading my stuff. And, it seemed like a lot of effort, with the real possibility of getting no traffic or feedback.

So I put it off.

Recently though, friends have told me I really should write professionally or, at the very least start a blog. So, for now I have gone the cheap [free] route with a blogspot account thru google and, if this takes off, or even gets off the ground without crashing and burning, then I’ll look into buying a domain.

Anyway, I’m gonna start by posting most of my notes from Facebook. Most of these I haven’t read since I wrote them so, it will at least be a fun trip down memory lane for me.

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll add new stuff. I’m still unsure if I want to focus solely on reviews of concerts, movies and other media or, if I want to turn this into a kind of electronic journal. That remains to be seen I guess.

One question I’ll answer straight away: The name Longarm is a nickname given to me years ago by a very dear friend. I like it so I used it here.