Tuesday, July 31, 2007

That Old Time Rock & Roll

Every now and then, when I walk into a store, I feel like I live in the 80's again. It could be any store, really. For example, I was in Target the other day, shopping for clothes with my wife. I actually saw leg warmers for sale. (And yes, they still look as ugly as they did back then. Heaven help us if we go back to the whole "big hair" thing.) We walked past the toy section which was crowded with displays of Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and G.I. Joe. The girls clothing had My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, and Care Bears stamped all over them. And as we left to go to the movie theatre, the marquee reflected titles like "Transformers," "Die Hard," "Underdog" and "The Simpsons" at us.

But nowhere does it feel more like old times than in the record section. (For those of you born in the mid-90's or later, that's where they sell music. It's a record section. Get over it.) More and more, I'm seeing titles from bands that I thought went out of style at the same time as bell-bottoms or at the very least neon suspenders. But they're there. They are either coming back or have just been here all along without us noticing it until now. And it looks like that trend isn't going to change anytime soon.

I found out The Eagles are back in the studio. Word is they're producing their first full-length studio set since 1979's "The Long Run." And while Joe Walsh, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Tim Schmit are all so old that they fart dust, I still find myself anxious to hear the album, so much so that I've pulled out my "Hotel California" CD for the morning commute tomorrow. I'm excited at the chance to possibly catch them on tour too.

Then I saw that Guns N' Roses members were contemplating a reunion, and got the sudden urge to grow a mullet. I remember quite clearly riding a BMX bike with a huge boombox on the handlebars blasting out "Welcome to the Jungle" much to the consternation of local residents who didn't have the musical sophistication to know that Axl Rose and Slash were musical geniuses, at least for a couple of albums. I remember also when MTV featured, supposedly, a special appearance by GNR on the VMAs, only to disappoint me by showing me a band made up of Axl Rose and these other guys. (I do love Buckethead, but not as a member of GNR.)

Led Zeppelin isn't far behind in this trend, with three new releases of old and rare material in the month of November. Hmm. Spend my money on a new Maroon 5 CD or Fall Out Boy album, or get to listen to freshly printed versions of "Black Dog" and "Misty Mountain Hop?" I think the choice is clear.

Last year, I hit the roof when I heard that Queensryche had released "Operation Mindcrime II," a follow-up to one of my favorite heavy-metal albums of all time. Now, they're getting ready to hit the road in September with Alice Cooper, as well as releasing a "best of" 2-disc compilation, with rare tracks from Geoff Tate's previous band, "Myth." Queensryche, ever the masters of social commentary, have managed to stay spectacularly relevant.

Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers will be releasing his new album. Suddenly visions of Demi Moore, a clay pot, and "Unchained Melody" are visiting my brain again.

And of course, as a Memphian, I couldn't help but notice that Elvis is still making money hand over posthumous fist, so much so that CKX is planning to overhaul Graceland's neighborhood, which was just short of a demilitarized zone last time I checked.

With all the proven goodness from "classic" rock still making waves on the current music scene, it must be even more difficult these days to break through. I doubt much that it has anything to do with the old-timers' refusal to go away. I rather think it's more apt to say that current and up-and-coming artists are having a hard time, given the current system, creating new music that in any way equals their predecessors artistically.

And quite frankly, with the graduate class still around, who needs the upstart freshmen? There are certainly notable exceptions, but on the whole, today's artists are becoming more and more difficult to relate to, at least within the circus of the mainstream. Who cares if Eminem sues iTunes?? Tupac Shakur will always be releasing underground material. What do I care if he's been dead for more than 10 years? Does it really matter if Mindy McCready gets arrested?? I still have my Reba McEntire. So Kelly Clarkson is suffering from depression after having been thrown butt first into the lap of luxury? So what! I can get all of that from Pat Benatar or The Bangles. They're still around. When I think of having to deal with the likes of Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears, I find myself more drawn to KISS, even if Paul Stanley had to miss a couple of shows due to heart problems.

Why do we love the oldies but goodies so? Maybe it's because we grew up with them. But I submit that there's another factor, also. The fact is this: music was fun back then. I don't care if you were into the most goth punk rock or death metal or whatever, it was STILL a lot less stressful being a music fan back then. Bootlegging wasn't a crime; it was actually encouraged! Different radio stations around the dial played different music and weren't all owned by one huge megacorporation. The DJs who spun the music weren't digitally recorded and interspersed into the music by computer. They actually sat there, took your requests, and occasionally introduced you to something that you needed to hear. Music was great. You met up with your friends and swapped tapes, or you went over to their house and sat and listened to their latest vinyl. You pretended you were with them on stage, played air guitar, and sang along.

Seriously, when's the last time you played air guitar? Check on that, okay?

One word on comebacks, though: Backstreet Boys... you might want to wait another decade or two. That way, people who grew up with you will be hitting their stride in nostalgia. For now, give me my re-issued Sex Pistols debut, and crank up the Seger. I want my old time rock n' roll!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Everything That You Ever Wanted

Priscilla and I are always on the search for good live music as well as a good baseball game. It's a rare occasion when we get to have both, but today was just such a day.

For months we've been hearing about Hawk Nelson. The band is comprised of Jason Dunn on vocals, Daniel Biro on bass, Jonathan Steingard on guitar and Sqwid (yes, Sqwid) on drums.

Before I get into telling you about the band, I just have to get one thing off my chest. The Memphis Redbirds, the team who hosted this event, did a horrific job with promoting and selling tickets to the show, particularly with regard to online sales and phone orders. The concert was listed as a promotional event, and pretty much all the events that are listed as such throughout the year are included with the price of the ticket. (For example: fireworks, giveaway jerseys, etc.) This one, however, was NOT included in the price of the ticket UNLESS you bought a special package. I never saw this on the website.

So once I got to the game and sat in the expensive seats I had purchased behind home plate, I rudely found out--somewhere in the fourth inning--that I would not be allowed to hang around for the concert afterward. You can imagine my dismay, as that was the primary reason for our attendance. Of course, I immediately went to address this with the Will Call office (which, by the way, had screwed up my tickets earlier and charged me for a game that I didn't go to) and I was subsequently met with an argumentative representative who insisted that despite the growing line of concerned ticket-holders who were piling up to complain during the fifth inning that it was painfully obvious to anyone who wasn't a complete retard that the concert admission was a separate charge. According to this person, I should've bought tickets that were half the price of the ones I had and they would've come complete with concert admission. Essentially, for spending less, I would've gotten more. I sat there, utterly flabbergasted at the thought of pricier tickets being of lesser value and also irritated at having to miss part of the game I paid so much for, as well as wondering how disappointed Priscilla would be, since she had been looking forward to this show for months.

I argued my way through a couple of managers and all the way up to the ticket manager, who stood there and argued with me till I he was blue in the face that the website clearly stated the prices, and basically screw you, and pay $20 more to get the wristbands that would allow admission, even though, as I repeatedly mentioned, my tickets cost more than double what those tickets cost. In any case, I finally argued him down to switching my tickets to the lesser field box seats and giving me the wristband without paying one cent more, left the box office as a hero to the others behind me in line, and sat back in the seats I had originally purchased, angry because I had to miss two innings to argue with the idiots who run the Memphis Redbirds box office. Let's just say that I still enjoy going to Redbirds games, and I attend many, but I doubt that I'll be going back for a game this year.

Anyway...now that I've got that off my chest, on to the concert.

It was sweltering hot out in Autozone Park's plaza. I mean fry an egg on your head hot. And humid too. The plaza was PACKED with screaming tweens who just couldn't wait to see the band hit the stage. Priscilla and I stood about five feet from the stage, which as fate would have it was just one foot closer than a gaggle of screaming girls who couldn't have been older than fourteen or fifteen and whose screaming would later drown several portions of the show. And since none of them were old enough to have experienced an actual punk rock concert, with mosh pit, et al, they insisted on trying their version of it as well, which ended up with them nearly knocking me over on top of my wife three times. The third offense was met with a glaring malevolent stare from me, and as I am a Large Individual, the activity subsequently relocated itself further behind me. I'm all for having fun, but no one needs to get hurt at the show.

The opening band was late getting onto the stage, but they turned out to be worth the wait. Tooth and Nail artists The Send got the crowd going with a four song set. You can check them out by clicking through to their Myspace. They've got most of their songs from their EP posted there. Their debut album comes out July 31st. You can listen to their music and judge for yourself. It's sort of a mish-mash of punk and alt rock. I like it. It's got just enough edge to keep it from being too generic, but not enough frayed edges to make it hardcore. There's a lot of heart and soul flowing through the lyrics, and watching Joseph Kisselburgh singing them is to watch him pour his heart onto the stage. Give them a listen, add them on Myspace, and if you like what you hear, you can pre-order their album at thesendonline.com.

After all the hassle and the heat, Hawk Nelson took the stage. I already sort of knew what to expect, because I've heard their hit single "Everything You Ever Wanted," and it occasionally makes me cry, because I know the feeling well. I'd also heard "Zero," which is the song they've got on the soundtrack of Evan Almighty. (If you haven't heard either of these songs, I strongly urge you to click over to myspace.com/hawknelsononline and listen to those as well as the other two right away. The two songs I mentioned are ballads, but Hawk Nelson, I found, was ready to rock it out. Lead singer Jason Dunn is the consummate showman, and he knows how to work the crowd. You can't help but take notice of him when he hits the stage, particularly not today as he was sporting blonde cropped hair with a black feathery mohawk. There's a reason why Jason has a legion of young teenage girls climbing the walls to get to him. He's a good looking guy, but he can also sing, and he works the crowd like a master. They played every song they'd ever done that got any sort of radio play, a couple of covers, and a few deep cuts, but the whole show was quite enjoyable. It was a rowdy good time, and my wife, who already adored the band is now, in the words of her T-shirt, nuts about Hawk Nelson. (Parents, Hawk Nelson is on the Tooth and Nail label, a label that consists mainly of Christian rock bands, so you needn't worry about any bad influences coming from this CD.)

Check out their Myspace page, and I strongly encourage you to pick up their latest CD.

Oh, and in case you're interested in seeing Hawk Nelson and The Send live, they're on a tour of baseball stadiums through the end of summer. If you have a minor league ballpark in your area, chances are they've either already been there or will be soon. Here's the schedule at the moment:


Do be sure to check each ballpark's website if ordering online, and make sure that you've specifically booked the special package that includes admission to the concert. Tickets should only be $15. Once you get that out of the way, I'm sure you'll find out as we did that the band is hot, and when you get to meet them, they're a great (and humble) bunch of guys.

So, what are you waiting for? Visit their sites!

Friday, July 27, 2007

In Memory Of...

Musical Ramblings would like to pass deepest condolences in the passing of the father of Jordan Southerland. Jordan, a participant in American Idol season 5, has been profiled in this blog before, but like all Idols who interact with us here, has become a friend as well. Our deepest sympathies go out to Jordan and his family, and we hope that God is watching over his father somewhere.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

For Those of You Who Want to Preserve Internet Radio



Time and options are running out for Internet Radio. Late this afternoon, the court DENIED the emergency stay sought on behalf of webcasters, millions of listeners and the artists and music they support.

UNLESS CONGRESS ACTS BY JULY 15th, the new ruinous royalty rates will be going into effect on Sunday, threatening the future of all internet radio.

We are appealing to the millions of Internet radio listeners out there, the webcasters they support and the artists and labels we treasure to rise up and make your voices heard again before this vibrant medium is silenced. Even if you have already called, we need you to call again.

The situation is grave, but that makes the message all the simpler and more serious.

PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES RIGHT AWAY and urge them to support the Internet Equality Act. Go to http://www.capwiz.com/saveinternetradio/alert_9738601.html to find the phone numbers of your Senators and Representative.

If they've already co-sponsored, thank them and tell them to fight to bring the bill to the floor for an immediate vote. If the line is busy, please call back. Call until you know your voice has been heard.

Your voices are what have gotten us this far - Congress has listened. Now, they are our only hope.

We are outmatched by lobbying power and money but we are NOT outmatched by facts and passion and the power of our voices.

Again, please go to http://www.capwiz.com/saveinternetradio/alert_9738601.html to find the necessary phone numbers and make the call today.

Thank you,

The SaveNetRadio Campaign

Friday, July 06, 2007


It has come to my attention that one item within a recent article detailing 20 things I didn't know about American Idol was incorrect.

I pride myself on accuracy and fair reporting, but it appears that I spoke too soon on one issue, and that issue is this: Jon Peter Lewis and John Stevens did get along well with each other. This statement comes directly from Jon's management:

Jon and John got along quite well together and I know Jon would never want to put out information that he wasn't well liked.

I apologize to Jon and his management for any misrepresentation. It was certainly not my intention to cause any upset or controversy with any fans. Musical Ramblings stands in support of both artists.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Howie Gordon Show

One of the most memorable guests (in terms of sheer loudness) at the Reality TV Convention 2007 was Howie Gordon, the self-proclaimed best looking guy in Big Brother history. Howie's every bit what he was on the show, and then some. He's certainly uncensored, can't get over how many fine women are in his general vicinity, and is second only to Jonny Fairplay in being the life of the party.

Howie also loves to sing, even though he completely lacks the talent to do so. (He still sounds better than Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, though.) Below is a clip from the show at the Nashville Palace that I emceed. Howie closed the show out with his rendition of an Air Supply song. (He also made Scott Savol mad by using his music track to sing to.)

I'm the guy in the Spider-Man shirt in this video. Take it away, Howie!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Rising Star: Dani McCulloch

Many of you may remember my previous interview with the talented Dani McCulloch. At the time, I remembered her for a good audition that earned her a golden ticket to Hollywood.

Oh, how much I had to learn about this young singer...

We found out during the course of the day what a quality lady she is. Priscilla and Dani became great friends as the day progressed, along with Heather Cox, and between the three of them, there was a lot of great camaraderie. Dani was gracious to everyone, and she attracted a lot of fans, posing for photos, signing autographs, and just carrying on genuine conversations with everyone.

Dani wasn't originally scheduled to perform at the convention event Saturday night at the Nashville Palace. However, Lindsey Cardinale and Heather Piccinini weren't able to perform, so I was stuck needing a replacement. I asked her if she wouldn't mind performing, and she initially wasn't sure, but she quickly said that she would. Somehow, within the course of the day, she managed to come up with a couple of music tracks and practiced the songs well enough to be able to go onstage.

She got up and sang an original, which was nice, but then she launched into "Oh! Darling" by the Beatles, and the audience was mesmerized. I was emceeing the concert and running the sound, and even I sort of forgot what I was doing and just stood there listening to her. A whole room-full of reality TV stars were suddenly silent. Even Jonny Fairplay stopped goofing around long enough to pay attention to Dani's commanding performance.

Still, I'd only seen the tip of the iceberg for this young performer.

Last night, Dani headlined at Collierville's Independence Day Celebration, which is a huge event. Collierville is a suburb of Memphis, for those of you who aren't from around these parts. Dani drew a crowd of somewhere between 12,000 to 15,000. It was an outdoor concert, and the field behind us looked like the fourth coming of Woodstock. I mean, it's not exactly Bonnaroo, but for a girl who only made it through two Hollywood rounds of American Idol, it's a huge crowd.

Dani did not disappoint, either. There's a reason why this girl is constantly booked to perform at festivals with acts like Grand Funk Railroad, The Spin Doctors, Mark Chesnutt, Otis Day and the Nights and Paul Thorn. Priscilla and I finally got to see what the girl could do with a full stage and a live band, and that is to rock completely out. She was completely fearless up there, belting out some fabulous originals that she has written, as well as covering songs by the Beatles, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Melissa Etheridge, ZZ Top, and a sweet cover of Guns N Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine." She closed the concert with her own version of "The Star Spangled Banner."

It's obvious that Idol fans missed out on this girl this year. She owns the stage when she's on it, and she's the consummate performer. And she does it all with very little pretense. It's obvious when you watch her that nothing she does is pre-scripted, and you just know that even if she weren't being compensated for her performance that she'd still be up there doing it just for the love of the show.

We caught up to her after and said hello again. She had a rough schedule with the convention, band practice on Sunday, a television appearance on Monday morning, and spending the rest of her "free" time in the recording studio, working diligently on her second album. We'd never have suspected, though, that she was that exhausted, because she never let it show, and she never once considered giving less of a show.

If you haven't already, then you should check her out at www.danimcculloch.com or www.myspace.com/dani. Then you'll see what I'm talkin' about

Monday, July 02, 2007

Top 20 Things You Never Knew About American Idol That I Learned at the Convention

1. Most former Idol contestants are really really nice, but a few can be divas.

2. A lot of former Idols are worried about Kelly Clarkson's career choices lately.

3. During Hollywood week of Season 6, American Idol camera crews routinely wake up contestants at odd hours of the night for impromptu interviews. This was done on purpose. Also, prior to going onstage, producers would tell select people "hey, don't forget your lyrics!" immediately before they started performing just to plant the idea of forgetting lyrics in their minds. It worked on more than a few people.

4. The rant that Derrell Brittenum (season 5) went on in protest of his brother Terrell's elimination in Hollywood was fake. Derrell knew the entire time that his brother had made it through, but he also knew that doing that would ensure him maximum coverage and exposure. (Not that it mattered, since he and his brother both were in jail by the time Idol aired.) Said Derrell to Nigel, after leaving stage, "Sorry, but I had to do that to y'all."

5. Ace Young, Taylor Hicks, and Ryan Seacrest all had crushes on Heather Cox. Ryan asked her out. Ace was the only one she actively returned any sort of affection toward.

6. Kellie Pickler (season 5) already knew what calamari was. She had ordered it in a restaurant in Hollywood prior to the Top 24 shows hitting the air.

7. Paula Abdul was often aloof to contestants during the Hollywood rounds, and more than once appeared tipsy. Conversely, Simon Cowell is described by almost all previous contestants as being a surprisingly nice guy.

8. Almost all contestants appreciate the show for the opportunities it has given them, but every single one I've talked to has at least one axe to grind with it as well. The majority of contestants at the convention have their suspicions that the show may be rigged.

9. Nobody liked Brenna Gethers (season 5.) Not even Chris Daughtry. The producers tried to make it look like people didn't like Becky O'Donohue (much to the chagrin of the contestants) with some creative editing, however most people liked the O'Donohue twins. This sort of editing is known in the industry as "Frankenbiting," where sound bites, video clips, and situations not related to each other are combined together to create the illusion of something happening that did not. This happens more often than not on episodes of Idol that are not broadcast live.

10. Paris Bennett and Lisa Tucker (season 5) disliked each other at first. Later they became best friends. On the other hand, Kellie Pickler and Heather Cox were great friends initially, but now are no longer speaking.

11. Nobody has anything bad to say about Melinda Doolittle.

12. Gedeon McKinney (season 5) was at the season 6 Memphis auditions, offering voice lessons for $75 to auditioners.

13. Stevie Scott and Heather Cox (Season 5) were both extremely sick during the early Top 24 rounds, and thus were eliminated. Neither got to sing the songs they wanted to sing.

14. Dani McCulloch (season 6) was not allowed to sing her original song choice for her audition in front of Randy, Simon, and Paula. (If she could've, I wonder if she might not have been in the Top 10 this year.) She got to Hollywood anyway, but her initial exposure didn't carry well enough with the fans or the producers to boost her to the Top 24.

15. David Radford (season 5) is now in college studying music.

16. Most former Idols idolize Carrie Underwood more than Kelly Clarkson.

17. Jon Peter Lewis is one of the nicest guys in the world, and is considered to be the fun one of the group. It is not known for sure whether Taylor Hicks might have imitated Jon's dancing just a teeny bit. UPDATE: According to Jon Peter Lewis, he and John Stevens got along quite well. Musical Ramblings regrets any misunderstanding that may have emerged over the previous statement.

18. Heather Piccinini (season 3) will tell you she's coming to a convention, confirm it for you on the phone the day before, allow you to book her into a concert event, and then not show up at all.

19. During this year's Superstar Idols tour in Texas, Ruben Studdard (season 2) had no contact with any of the other former Idol contestants on the tour with him. He had to have a separate bus and prep area. Ruben was also frequently late to the stage, leaving Justin Guarini (season 1) to carry the show. Justin did the job well, and often by the time Ruben got to the stage, the crowd would have followed Justin back to meet and greets and would pay Ruben very little attention.

20. Chris Richardson (season 6) did a concert with Ace Young (season 5) earlier this year, almost immediately after Idol was over. This is a direct violation of his contract with 19 Entertainment. Especially since the tour has not yet started. A couple of 19 executives actually attended the show, and nothing has been said to Chris about it since, so it appears, at least for now, that he's in the clear.