Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jason Charles Miller releases 'Uncountry'


Solo Debut Explores Rural Roots & Classic Country Influence

GUESTS INCLUDE:
“Cowboy” Eddie Long [Jamey Johnson, Hank Williams Jr.]
Jim “Moose” Brown [Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton]
Adam Shoenfeld [Big & Rich, Jason Aldean] and more...

Sunset Strip Album Release Party Friday, Oct. 14, at On The Rox

October 11, 2011 – What do Los Angeles and Nashville have in common? Jason Charles Miller answers that question on Uncountry, his full-length solo debut released today.

Written and recorded between Miller’s Los Angeles studio and frequent songwriting trips to Nashville, the album marks a radical departure from the Godhead frontman’s rock and industrial pedigree, embracing the bare bones of his singer-songwriter roots and the primal influence of artists including Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Neil Young and Willie Nelson.

The first single from Uncountry is the album’s title track, and the video [watch here] stars Miller hamming up his country upbringing at the request of his manager, portrayed by actor Robert Picardo [Stargate: Atlantis, CSI: NY]. The video also features Mythbusters star Grant Imahara and actress Angie Savage. The 10-track album, released on Miller’s own Count Mecha Music, includes writing collaborations with Bart Almand [Brooks & Dunn], Kris Burgness [Tim McGraw], Jon Nite [Blake Shelton, Chris Young] and Chuck Goff [Toby Keith], and performances by “Cowboy” Eddie Long [Jamey Johnson, Hank Williams Jr.], Jim “Moose” Brown [Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton] and Adam Shoenfeld [Big & Rich, Jason Aldean].

Miller’s solo career was launched on the HBO hit series True Blood, where his single “You Get What You Pay For” debuted and instantly became a highlight in his live sets. The song’s video [watch here] co-stars Felicia Day [The Guild] and Greg Grunberg [Heroes, Lost], and the track is currently in production for play on the X-box platform of the Rock Band video games.

After landing coveted support slots opening for Toby Keith, Eric Church, Gary Allan and Justin Moore in recent months, Miller will celebrate his debut album with a CD release party Friday, October 14, at On The Rox on the historic Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, CA.

In addition to being available on all digital platforms, Uncountry is being sold in physical formats (including several promotional bundles) through Miller’s website: www.jasoncharlesmiller.com.

SALES LINKS:
Uncountry iTunes sales link
Uncountry Amazon sales link
Uncountry physical CD and promotional bundles

VIDEO LINKS:
“Uncountry”
“You Get What You Pay For”

UNCOUNTRY TRACK LISTING / WRITING CREDITS:
1.“Uncountry" [JCM & Randall Clay]
2.“The Dotted Line” [JCM]
3.“The River” [JCM & Bart Almand]
4.“You Must Have Loved Me A Lot” [JCM & Chuck Goff]
5.“You Get What You Pay For” [JCM, Jon Nite & Dave Rivers]
6.“Learn To Live With It” [JCM]
7.“Into Temptation” [JCM, Phil Barton & Kris Burgness
8.“Still Doing Time” [JCM & Eric Berdon]
9.“The Devil” [JCM]
10.“Drag Me Down” [JCM]

FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.jasoncharlesmiller.com

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Missing the Big 4 at Yankee Stadium Sucks!
10 Experiences that Help Ease My Pain...



I'm devastated to be missing the Big 4 at Yankee Stadium today. But to be perfectly honest, only because I'm missing Anthrax.

I've been a die-hard New York Yankees fan for as long as I can remember, and Anthrax are my favorite metal band. No disrespect to Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica, but I saw them all at the Southern California Big 4 - their Bronx experience will likely be the same.

But missing out on the opportunity to stand on the same Yankee Stadium infield as Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriquez, Robinson Cano and Mark Texiera and revel in the performance of a band that I'm blessed to call friends? A band that are excited beyond words to play on the hallowed ground of a team they love as much as I do, and in the city they call home? That's the type of once in a lifetime opportunity I'm fairly certain I'll never have a chance to experience again.

Which got me to thinking: while I am missing out on this epic afternoon, I have had my share of chances to experience pop-culture history firsthand - here are ten of my favorites...

10. Yankees vs Braves, Game 4 of 1996 World Series
Since we're talking Yankee Stadium, I'll start with the Yankees, who played the Braves in the 1996 World Series. My Bronx Bombers lost the first two games of the series at home, then won Game 3 in Atlanta. I was in Atlanta and had tickets to Game 4, and it was ugly, New York trailing 6-0 after five innings. They had narrowed the margin to 6-3 when Jim Leyritz came to bat in the eighth inning facing Braves closer Mark Wohlers with two runners on - he took him deep, hitting a three-run homer to tie the game. The Yankees would go on to win 8-6 in extra innings, and win the Series in six. One of the most memorable long-balls in Yankee history, and I was there!

9. Lions vs Packers, 1994 NFC Wildcard game
Staying on the sports tip, I had a field pass for the 1994 NFC Wildcard game, where the Green Bay Packers hosted the Detroit Lions in the first found of the NFL playoffs on December 31, 1994. I worked for the Associated Press and was assigned to pre-game coverage in the parking lot - no small feat at Lambeau Field, one of the world's most sacred stadiums and host to some of greatest fans in sports. I needed to file my story and notes when the game started, which took most of the first half - I spent the rest of the game standing on the Green Bay sideline watching the Packers defense dominate the Lions, holding Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders to -1 yard, and the entire Detroit offense to -4 yards on the ground. Brett Favre ran out the clock by scrambling into his own end zone and giving up an intentional safety to seal the 16-12 Packers victory.

8. Anthrax, House of Blues Anaheim (October 27, 2004)
What was so special about this show? I'll tell you... Frank Bello had briefly left the band, and this tour featured Armored Saint's Joey Vera on bass for Anthrax. But here's where things get crazy - Frank joined Helmet, who also had a show in Anaheim, CA, this night. Helmet's show ended in time for Frank to attend the Anthrax show, and I sat in the front row of the balcony and watched Anthrax - sitting next to Frank Bello. How freaking surreal is that for a piece of Anthrax history that only about a half-dozen of us can share?

7. 2011 Sunset Strip Music Festival
I recently wrote a detailed review of this slice of history, which you can read here. In a nutshell? I experienced The Doors on Friday night at the legendary Whisky A Go Go, then saw Motley Crue headline the third annual street festival Saturday night, literally performing on the Sunset Strip. Two bands that made the Sunset Strip famous, back-to-back. It never happened before, and will likely never happen again.

6. VH1 Behind the Music - Megadeth
I'm no stranger to VH1, but there are a few appearances that stand out for me, including being a featured guest on The List and providing commentary for the Behind The Music on The Cult. But the appearance I'm most proud of? Being featured in the Megadeth Behind the Music. The band is in a dead heat with Anthrax as my favorite metal band, and this was an honor I will forever cherish. We did the interviews at the video shoot for "Motopsycho," and Dave Mustaine was apparently pretty nervous about what I'd say - I'd been a bit too honest about my feelings regarding the Risk album in Metal Edge, and he was worried those sentiments might roll over to the documentary. I'll never forget him coming up to me after reviewing the footage and thanking me for my support and friendship. He remains my favorite personality in metal, bar none.

5. Contributing to David Lee Roth's autobiography
From my favorite personality in metal, to my favorite personality in music - Diamond Dave! I reviewed his Crazy From The Heat autobiography for Metal Edge when it came out in 1998, and apparently Dave took a liking to what I wrote. I was sitting at my desk one morning (not early morning, trust me), and the phone rang - it was Eddie Anderson, David Lee Roth's right hand man. He said that David Lee Roth had a favor to ask (I still can't wrap my head around that, but those were his words!) - the man has been my muse for as long as I've known how to write a sentence, and he wanted to know if he could use part of my book review as the back cover of his softcover release. Ready for the kicker? Eddie proceeded to explain that Dave was not a fan of Metal Edge's history, but he was a fan of mine - would I mind if he just attributed the quote to me, and didn't acknowledge the magazine at all... I've had the pleasure of hanging with Dave many, many times - he even introduced me to John F. Kennedy Jr. - and as great as those memories are, nothing will top the honor of being immortalized on the back cover of his book.

4. Working with the original lineup of KISS
I grew up on KISS, and Alive II was the first record I ever bought. I'll never forget walking out of Caldors with the album... Who knew that someday I'd make KISStory? To the best of my knowledge, there's not another person on this planet that has interviewed all four original members of KISS, done a band photo shoot with all four original members, and photographed an entire live show featuring all four original members. I can literally write a book of my KISS experiences, and have the photos to document them all - who knows, maybe someday. An honor and a privilege that I don't take for granted.

3. Ozzy Osbourne plays me Under Cover
I've had countless bands play me their new music before it's been released (or even completed, for that matter), but never quite like this... I was invited to the Osbourne house to interview Ozzy in summer 2005, and when we were done with the interview he asked me if I wanted to hear some of the songs he mentioned while we were talking - uhm, hell yeah! Ozzy leads me into his study and proceeds to play me selections from the Under Cover album on his stereo, with stories and explanations of each. I had tears in my eyes as he played me John Lennon's "Woman" after explaining how he recorded it for Sharon... Yeah, I wiped tears from eyes in front of Ozzy - what's more metal than that? Ozzy fucking rules. Period.

2. Paul McCartney & Roger Waters at Coachella
These shows were the perfect storms. I was raised on oldies, not the Beatles, so I discovered the Fab Four late in life - but when I fell, I fell hard and fast (I swear I appreciate them more as a result). A friend asked me to see McCartney at the Staples Center with him several years ago, and I was an instant convert. The Beatles are my wife's favorite band, and I absorbed the inner depths of their catalog like a sponge. Being able to see McCartney headline Coachella in 2009 with my wife and some of our closest friends was a celebration I'll never forget and one of the greatest concert experiences of my life. Roger Waters headlined Coachella on his Dark Side of the Moon tour the following year, and that was a much more personal experience for me - Pink Floyd are one of my favorite bands of all-time, and the set was an epiphany. Practically a religious experience...

1. Pope Benedict XVI leading mass at the Vatican
Yes, I realize I just called Roger Waters a religious experience - but music means that much to me. My wife and I went to Italy for our honeymoon and our time in Rome coincided with a mass Pope Benedict was celebrating at St. Peter's Basilica on October 9, 2008, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII's death. We didn't expect to be able to attend, but we wanted to try... We found ourselves in a Vatican line that we assumed was for sightseeing, and when we passed through security and got to the front they told us we couldn't go further unless we were attending the mass. We said we were - and it was really that simple! It was literally a religious experience - Pope Benedict passed within a few feet of us, and people reacted as you'd expect, but also as you could never imagine. Think of the biggest celebrity in the world - this was a hundred times that. This topped anything I've ever experienced in music.

Monday, September 12, 2011

ALBUM REVIEW: Anthrax 'Worship Music'


Disclaimer: I love Anthrax.

We're not talking casual love, we're talking about the kind of love I had to confess to my wife before we got married - fortunately, she shares my affinity for the greatest hard rock/metal band to come from New York that never recorded an album named Love Gun. I make this confession because I want there to be a frame of reference as I proceed - Persistence of Time is one of my favorite records of all time, I view Joey Belladonna and John Bush as equals, and Charlie Benante and Frank Bello are my holy trinity of rhythm sections (they're so good, they each count as 1 1/2 - Geddy Lee and Neil Peart can't be a trinity because they each count as two)...

Which brings us to Worship Music - the first Anthrax studio album in more than 20 years to feature frontman Joey Belladonna, their first album in more than a decade to not include an appearance by legendary Who frontman Roger Daltrey, and the band's second album in a row to feature the heaviest logo in metal, the twisted 'A is for Anthrax' pentagram. The album title says it all - Worship Music will restore our faith in metal and drop us to our knees as we beg for more. It's a game-changer in a day-and-age where the game has gotten so cluttered, not sucking has become high praise.

But Anthrax are about to change all that.

Worship Music is nothing short of brilliant. It isn't a half-ass collection intended to remind fans of a band's glory years, it is an hour of head-melting metal performed by a band that have not only rediscovered their superpowers, they've taken them to the next level.

At the forefront is Joey Belladonna, who unleashes the most impressive studio performance of his career - his vocals are like a wrecking ball metronome, a pitch-perfect demonstration of what can happen when you decry screaming and put a singer at the helm of a metal band. He pushes the sprawling "Judas Priest" to unprecedented highs, unleashing a vocal beast that matches the might of both "In My World" and John Bush's "Packaged Rebellion." The magic is in his control and restraint - where most metal throats sound like they're always pushing to 11, Belladonna is overpowering while never sounding like he needs to take it past 8. He's so good he doesn't even need to hit 10, but he never leaves us doubting that he can.

That's always been the beauty of Anthrax - they are masters of reeling us in, but never take us too far. They crush us with heavy, but they never sacrifice rhythm, melody or groove. Where most metal bands are about posturing, Anthrax are about the songs, and they bludgeon us with graceful nuances - instead of overwhelming us with noise, they leave us just enough room to thrash along in our mind's own private mosh pit.

Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano are an 18 wheeler of diesel-powered guitar strings, putting the pedal to the metal on opening track "Earth on Hell," tightening the reigns on "The Devil You Know" and laying a riff-driven battle charge on "Fight 'Em 'Till You Can't." "I'm Alive" downshifts, Anthrax unleashing an air-to-surface squadron that blankets the track in a dark veil of gang-powered choruses.

Picking up momentum as they go, "In The End" marks the midway point with an epic battle cry of looming dusk raging into the darker depths of the album's second half. "The Giant" thrashes with an unrelenting fury, Belladonna's vocals again packing a punch that rivals the power of anything in the Anthrax catalog, while "Crawl" is a fire-breathing climb into the stomp of "The Constant" and the blitzkrieg of the closing colossus "Revolution Screams."

And it wouldn't be an Anthrax album without a mind-blowing cover - this time around we're delivered a foundation-rattling run through "New Noise," originally recorded by the Swedish punk and underground favorites Refused. It's a hidden gem that kicks in just past the 11-minute mark of the six-minute "Revolution Screams."

Worship Music is more than just the hard rock/heavy metal album of the year, it is an immediate classic in the Anthrax catalog, its name to be proudly hailed in the same breath as Among the Living and Persistence of Time... Yes, this album is that fucking good.

LINKS
Worship Music on iTunes
Worship Music on Amazon

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11, 2001 - Never Forget!
We the People Need to Remember 9/11


I'll never forget the events of 9/11.

I was staying at the W hotel in Chicago, where I had flown in for the band Soil's CD release party for the album Scars, one of several great records that was to be released that day.

My college roommate and his girlfriend had driven down from Milwaukee the night before and spent the night in the room, and our cellphones started ringing shortly after 7:45 am - and we ignored them. But Christian's mother is persistent. He finally answered, half asleep, and I heard, "yes mother, we'll turn on the news when we wake up..." He then mumbled something about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center, which we all assumed was a prop plane or twin engine... We commented on the tragedy, but weren't awake enough to really grasp the potential gravity of the situation.

Then my girlfriend called from Los Angeles, and considering it was barely sunrise there, I knew I had to answer - she told me to turn on CNN. At this point, it was about ten minutes after American Airlines Flight 11 had impacted the World Trade Center North Tower.

My college roommate and I were political nuts and news junkies - and we, like most Americans, never even thought to imagine that the first crash was a terrorist attack.

Then we watched United Airlines Flight 175 fly into the World Trade Center South Tower live.

How much have the events of that morning changed our lives? When we went to bed on September 10, 2011, we lived in a country where terrorism wasn't even a consideration. When we woke up the next morning, terrorism became the new assumption.

From the moment that second plane impacted the World Trade Center, every horrific act of the next decade has been a suspected act of terrorism until proven otherwise.

So there we sat for the next several hours, sitting in the hotel room glued to CNN in awe of the events unfolding before us.



For me it hit even closer to home - I'm New York at heart, and was raised an hour north of the city. I had moved from Manhattan to Los Angeles a few months earlier, and watching the chaos that enveloped what I still consider home, I felt paralyzed by despair and hopelessness.

Then the Pentagon was hit by American Airlines Flight 77, and the rumors started - the next plane is heading for the Capitol... The White House... The Sears Tower... The Sears Tower was located only a few blocks from our hotel in downtown Chicago, and our lobby became something of an evacuation hotbed.

Soil were flying home from Florida for the night's release party at the time of the attacks, and it took us the better part of the morning to confirm they were alive and well. We were lucky to even find out - it seemed like everyone I knew on the East Coast had a personal connection to the attacks, and very few people had answers.

Cell phones weren't working in Manhattan, and those who were safe had virtually no way to communicate with their loved ones. I had an acquaintance who, for three days, we thought died in one of the towers - it took him that long to start reaching out to people after the initial shock of the day's events had subsided and he'd finally been reunited with his wife and children in New Jersey.

Streets and highways were closed. Mass transit shut down. It was a war zone in lower Manhattan, and New York was bracing itself for any potential attacks that might come next.

In wake of the three successful attacks, when United Airlines Flight 93 did a nosedive into a desolate field near Shanksville, PA, instantly killing everyone on board, its passengers became instant heroes, sacrificing themselves to spare America yet another symbolic battle scar on the most horrific day of our young country's history.

Realizing that I wouldn't be returning to L.A. anytime soon, I drove back to Milwaukee with my roommate that afternoon on what was the emptiest I94 I've ever experienced. We went to grab a few drinks that night, and the feeling in the off-the-beaten-path Milwaukee bar couldn't be more somber.

New York was attacked, but America felt the pain. People who knew New York from little more than Friends and Seinfeld episodes felt united as a people. I'm not talking about me and my roommate, who had eaten in the World Trade Center Windows on the World restaurant a few years earlier with his grandmother - I'm talking about people who had never left a two hour radius of their Midwest home, but suddenly felt a patriotism like never before.

If there was good to come from the attacks, that was it - America was united in tragedy. We weren't Democrats and Republicans, we were Americans. We weren't an East Coast and West Coast looking down our noses at each other with superiority complexes, we were bookends of a great nation standing united, tall, proud and together. In the weeks that followed, all the political bullshit that tears our country apart was nothing but a hazy mist in our rear view mirror.

We were Americans, and we were one people. We believed in our government, and we believed in each other. We embraced the freedom that makes our country great, and we understood what that freedom meant to the rest of the world. We weren't afraid to be strong, because we had no other option.

For the first time, my generation had to be strong because my generation couldn't be weak. We were raised soft, but now we knew what it meant to live hard... Not as hard as our ancestors, but this was our test, and we would rise from the ashes.

Or so we thought.

In time, America forgot. Republicans returned to their role as boogeyman, and Democrats returned to their pulpits, preaching that the only way to be a country again is to change the very principals our nation was built upon.

Americans soon forgot what it was like to be one nation under God (whoever that God may be), because it is easier to be a nation divided. It is easier to blame the other side than it is to fight for change, and it is easier to live in the now than it is to learn from our past and build for a better future.

9/11 changed America - but we live in a country with Attention Deficit Disorder. We live in a land where it is easier to read the headline than it is to understand the story. And we live in a country where it is easier to make excuses than it is to hunker down and get the job done.

America changed, but it didn't take long for America to change back.

America forgot.

America needs to remember - and America needs to never forget what happened on September 11, 2001.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

SUNSET STRIP MUSIC FESTIVAL 2011
Motley Crue & The Doors Recreate History


I love history.

Over the past two decades I've been blessed enough to experience firsthand a lot of rock and roll history in the making. Through it all, had anyone told me I would have had the chance to relive the history that got us here, I'd have called them crazy. But that is exactly what happened at this year's Sunset Strip Music Festival.

While most fans looked at the lineup and saw a chance to see Motley Crue and Tommy Lee's remarkable roller coaster drum solo, Public Enemy bring the noise, and Bush return to the Hollywood limelight as part of the annual street festival that shuts down the Sunset Strip between San Vicente and Doheny, I saw significantly more.

I saw the rare opportunity to see two of the biggest acts responsible for shaping the Sunset Strip, on the very grounds they grew up on, on back-to-back nights - Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of The Doors performing Friday night, August 19 at the historic Whisky A Go Go, their late-'60s mecca, and Motley Crue performing on the Sunset Strip itself Saturday night, on a stage constructed in front of the Key Club and just a stone's throw from the legendary Rainbow Bar & Grill.

While we can never go back, this proved as close to recreating history as we can get, and it was a landmark for event organizers - where other festivals plug big ticket acts into formulas, losing any sense of chemistry, personality and individuality in the process, this year's SSMF was the epitome of everything a festival should be.

The third annual Sunset Strip Music Festival was more than relevant, it boasted the biggest and best its very name had to offer. It delivered more than hit singles, presenting a unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to relive the unadulterated color that lights and haunts the Strip so many of us frequent on a nightly basis, and so many more people can only read about.

The Doors at the Whisky, and Motley Crue on the Sunset Strip - history recreated! And that was just the beginning...


I'd seen The Doors exactly two weeks earlier, headlining the Pacific Amphitheater at the Orange County Fair on August 5. The show was phenomenal, and the best I've ever seen Manzarek and Krieger - as much as I loved seeing Cult frontman Ian Astbury front a modern-day incarnation of the band Jim Morrison made famous, no frontman since Morrison has worked as well as current vocalist Dave Brock.

Recruited from Doors tribute act Wild Child, Brock is the perfect vehicle to deliver fans the ultimate 21st century Doors experience. He's studied Morrison, and from his moves through to his inflections pays tribute to not only the songs, but also the iconic figure that brought the music to life. That reverence is precisely what puts Brock head and shoulders above anyone who's sang for Manzarek and Krieger since the untimely death of Mr. Mojo Risin on July 3, 1971.

Where the Orange County show featured The Doors (that's not what they're billed as, but that's what I insist on calling them) at their big-stage best, the Whisky show was nothing short of a revelation. The intimate room was packed from wall to wall, so much so that trying to navigate the mass to even get a drink on the main floor was an exercise in futility - looking down from the balcony, you couldn't see an inch of floor... and the energy was palpable.

Seeing Manzarek, Krieger and company at the Whisky A Go Go is akin to seeing Joe DiMaggio manning center field at the old Yankee Stadium or Vince Lombardi pacing the Lambeau Field sidelines - and that point was driven home with the opening notes of "Roadhouse Blues." "Whisky Song" and "Strange Days" were sublime, "Peace Frog" resonates as much today as it did the day it was written, and there wasn't a more impacting pair of songs than the mind-opening anthem "Break on Through" into the epic wash of "When the Music's Over."

In a word, it was magical. "The Changeling" and "Not to Touch the Earth" awoke the spirits that built the Whisky A Go Go, punching through the decades and bringing the venue to life with their timeless vibrato and eternal swagger. I often say I was born a generation too late, and the music of The Doors is part of my argument. Being able to experience them in this setting was a dream come true... The irony is, long before I grew to appreciate The Doors it was the music of my generation that made me the music fan that I am - and Sunset Strip Music Festival headliners Motley Crue are one of the bands most responsible for my voyage.


I've seen Motley Crue dozens of times and in every permutation, and the best Crue show I've ever seen was this summer, June 14 at the Hollywood Bowl. The band has never sounded better, Mick Mars laying guitar licks better than most players a third his age, the set perfectly paced to accommodate Vince Neil's vocals, Nikki Sixx every bit the iconic blend of bastard brilliance and phantom presence, and Tommy Lee turning the Crue-niverse on end with a drum solo that makes all his historic exploits pale in comparison. And the face paint is back!

Their 11-song, tour-ending and SSMF-closing set was all that and more - yes, a few songs were shaved from their standard set and their twisted carnival spectacle was scaled down a tad for the custom-made street stage, but the spirit of the event more than made up for a few less bells and whistles.

I was standing, literally, under the Sunset and Wetherly street signs, a constant reminder of just how cool it was to be seeing one of the most infamous bands in Sunset Strip history, on the Strip that they helped make famous. It was a set of classics, but highlights were "Saints of Los Angeles" (an instant new classic) and "Primal Scream," which offered the ideal sonic flare of an introduction to Tommy Lee's already legendary looping roller coaster drum solo.

Motley Crue celebrate their 30th anniversary as a band this year, and there may not be a more stirring testament to their lasting power and authority as a band than the performance they delivered at the Sunset Strip Music Festival. This wasn't a crowd of Motley Crue diehards, it was a mixed bag of metalheads, hipsters, rockers and wanna-bes - all bonded by the energy of the Crue kicking ass on the concrete wildside that spawned their Motley legend. They blew their home sweet home sky high on this Saturday night, and proved that they've still got plenty of gas left in the tank.

Motley Crue aren't waxing nostalgic, they're at the top of their game.


Bush has always been one of my favorite rock acts to emerge from the '90s, and they didn't disappoint in their late-afternoon slot before Motley Crue on the Strip's West Stage. Gavin Rossdale has never been known for his pristine vocals, but it's the subtle imperfections and the warmth in his tone that give the songs their character - that character prevailed on hits including "Machinehead," "Comedown" and "Glycerine," and transformed a cover of The Beatles' "Come Together" into a euphoric celebration. And while it may not have been a moment of zen, after all the times I've seen Bush live, it was pretty cool to actually hear the line, "Should I fly to Los Angeles, find my asshole brother..." while seeing the band in the City of Angels.


Representing the opposite side of the country, Public Enemy turned the East Stage into their own terrordome, where they had the predominantly white crowd losing their shit to such suburban anthems as "911 is a Joke" and "By the Time I Get to Arizona." I kid, I kid, but there is great amusement in watching some of the whitest people in the history of white turn into hip-hopping gangsters. To each their own, it was just tough to tell at times if people were seriously into the show, or just playing along a bit too exuberantly amid the comfort of their own crowd. There were a lot of memories in the set for me - Public Enemy was the first act I ever covered as a journalist, and it was cool as hell seeing them joined onstage by Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian for "Bring The Noise."


I missed Buckcherry at The Roxy Friday night because their set was at the same time as The Doors, but I had friends at the show who said they were fantastic. I did hit The Roxy Thursday night and was completely blown away by Nico Vega, who delivered a set that was lush, frenetic and beautiful - it may not have been metal heavy, but it was kick your ass and move your soul heavy, and in this case that proved twice as powerful.

SUNSET STRIP MUSIC FESTIVAL SETLISTS:

RAY MANZAREK & ROBBY KRIEGER OF THE DOORS
1-Roadhouse Blues
2-Love Me Two Times
3-Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)
4-Back Door Man
5-Strange Days
6-Peace Frog / Blue Sunday
7-Break On Through
8-When The Music's Over
9-Love Her Madly
10-Hyacinth House
11-Touch Me
12-The Changeling
(into "Chain of Fools" / "Sunshine of Your Love")
13-Not To Touch The Earth
14-Riders on the Storm
15-L.A. Woman
ENCORE
16-Light My Fire

MOTLEY CRUE
1-Wildside
2-Saints of Los Angeles
3-Livewire
4-Shout at the Devil
5-S.O.S. (Same Ol' Situation)
6-Home Sweet Home
7-Primal Scream
(drum solo)
8-Dr. Feelgood
9-Girls, Girls, Girls
10-Smokin' in the Boys Room
11-Kickstart My Heart

BUSH
1-Machinehead
2-All My Life
3-Little Things
4-The Chemicals Between Us
5-Afterlife
6-Everything Zen
7-The Sound of Winter
8-Glycerine
9-Come Together
10-Comedown

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!


Freedom doesn't come without a price - as we celebrate our independence, let's take a moment to remember the price we've paid and the responsibilities we have... Happy fourth of July!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Who is Owl Stretching? Who? Who?
Start with Saigon Kick, and add evolution...



When Chris McLernon called me this week and told me about his next venture, I was a little confused.

"Owl Stretching!" he said proudly.

"Bowel stretching?" I asked.

"Owl Stretching," he repeated.

"Bowel stretching?" I asked again.

"No, Owl Stretching - without the B," he responded, somewhat frustrated.

"Bowel stretching when you need to pee?" I countered, resisting the urge to launch into a diatribe about how nice it would be if the actual phone on an iPhone worked as well as the camera.

"OWL, with an O!" he said, enunciating as clearly as possible.

"Yeah, I know," I finally admitted, "I was just being a dick..."

Kidding aside, I love Owl Stretching as a band name - maybe not for three run-of-the-mill musicians hacking it out on the local scene, but there couldn't be a better name for a band comprised of McLernon, Jason Bieler and Ricky Sanders.

If the members sound familiar, that's because they are - Owl Stretching is Saigon Kick.

But they're not rehashing their history and reliving the past in this new outfit, they are carving out a new future based on where they've been in the decade-plus since Saigon Kick disbanded.

For those that don't know Saigon Kick, you're missing out - they emerged in the early '90s, and have just as much in common with Jane's Addiction as they did with many of their hard rock brethren of the day. Jason Bieler was the band's fulcrum and virtuoso guitarist - he would later become lead singer, as well, when the band parted ways with their original frontman. McLernon was the band's longest-tenured bassist, and Ricky Sanders was the band's drummer when they disbanded in the late-'90s.

So why not just call it Saigon Kick? Because it isn't Saigon Kick. Owl Stretching is what happened after Saigon Kick, as well as what will happen next. Yes, they will play Saigon Kick material live, but this is just as much about a new band, for a new place in their lives.

And, in case you're wondering, the name is a Monty Python reference... Do you really think Bieler and McLernon would have it any other way?

LINKS
Owl Stretching website
Owl Stretching on Twitter
Chris McLernon on Twitter
Jason Bieler on Twitter

Paul Gargano on Twitter

Monday, June 6, 2011

SINGLE: Limp Bizkit "Gold Cobra"


I've always liked Limp Bizkit - they know their way around a hook and their songs are catchy as all hell. And now, best I can tell, it seems they're the first major-label rock band to employ an aborigine as a guitarist... I love this group shot because you can see the fear in bassist Sam Rivers' eyes - he just wants the photos to end before he gets speared by Fred Durst's new jungle friend. (Ya gotta love Wes!)

Check out new single "Gold Cobra" below, the title track from the band's album of the same name, due to hit streets June 28.

Until then, you can take that cookie and stick it up your...



LIMP BIZKIT ON TWITTER
Fred Durst
Wes Borland
DJ Lethal
Sam Rivers
John Otto

Paul Gargano on Twitter

Friday, June 3, 2011

Cinderella: 25th Anniversary Tour
(06.02.11 - House of Blues Sunset, L.A.)


The blues don't grow old, and they never go out of style - the same can be said for Cinderella, who celebrated their 25th Anniversary in Hollywood Thursday night.

Going back about 15 years, I inadvertently insulted a member of the band with what I thought was high praise, calling them one of my favorite acts of their era. Said band member found that to be a back-handed compliment (at best), and some good-natured (ok, maybe mean-spirited) jostling in online forums ensued. We eventually kissed and made up - so of course I made it a point to say hello after the show last night. "Great show," I told him, "don't worry, you're still my favorite band of your..."

What can I say, the more things change, the more they stay the same - Cinderella remain one of my favorite bands to graduate from the mid/late-'80s hard rock scene. In fact, they're one of the only bands "of their era" that I actually like more now than I did then, which says a lot about the lasting power of their music.

The funny thing is, I'm not alone in that sentiment - at least a half-dozen people in the balcony at the House of Blues Sunset also said Cinderella were their "favorite band of the era" (their words, not mine) and, judging from the packed floor, the feelings downstairs were mutual.

When I told Chris Cornell that Soundgarden were my favorite band from their era, he didn't get offended (he thanked me). I'd never tell Maynard Keenan that Tool is my favorite band of his era, only because I know it would lead to him debating me on what era he's from - like me, he's the type that would argue that a blue sky is red just to amuse himself. If I told Tony Bennett he was my favorite of his era, he'd probably tell me why Frank Sinatra should be...

My point? There's no shame in being the best at what you do, and Cinderella are among the best at what they do. They deliver hard rock with a simmering blues base, equal parts Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, without being copycats. And like all good artists should, they evolved.

Few would argue that style wasn't a key selling point of Cinderella's Night Songs debut, their purple hues and big hair a perfect coupling to ingratiate them to fans of the exploding arena rock scene. But for all of the album's style, it packed just as much substance - and I'm prepared to argue that it placed the band far ahead of the curve.

If Twilight were set in the late-'80s, Cinderella could, should and would be part of the soundtrack. They were unwittingly a predecessor to H.I.M. - a saturation of sound and color that bled from a gothic underbelly long before Type O Negative introduced us to "Black No. 1." Yeah, they looked glam and made "Shake Me" their mantra, but "Nobody's Fool" built cold, damp castle walls around the soul long before emo was fashionable.

For me, the real glass slipper dropped when I saw Cinderella open for Judas Priest in the summer of 1988 on the Ram It Down tour. They weren't hell bent for leather, but they were dark enough to fit the bill, winning over even the hardest metal heads at Connecticut's long-since demolished New Haven Coliseum.

Twenty-five years later, the shit we ate for breakfast still gives us cancer - and Cinderella were tight as ever at the House of Blues.

My only complaint? The 70-minute set was only 13 songs long. There wasn't a dull moment throughout, but I'd have loved to have heard more than three songs from Heartbreak Station, as well as anything from Still Climbing (if you're not familiar with it, I highly recommend digging into the vastly-underrated 1994 release, their fourth - and most recent - studio offering)... And where the hell was "Push Push"?

But that's nit-picking.

I was bristling at the back-to-back bump and grind of "Somebody Save Me" and "Night Songs," and "The More Things Change" offered the perfect bridge into "Coming Home" (Favorite. Cinderella. Song. Ever.) and "Second Wind," which strutted along to a blues breakdown and electric keys. And in the unexpected laugher of the night, a friend and self-professed "huge fan" turned to me 10 seconds into "Gypsy Road" and asked me what song it was - not because it didn't sound great, but because she couldn't remember...

They say you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone - here's hoping Cinderella are back before too long.

SETLIST
1. Once Around The Ride
2. Shake Me
3. Heartbreak Station
4. Somebody Save Me
5. Night Songs
6. The More Things Change
7. Coming Home
8. Second Wind
9. Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)
10. Nobody's Fool
11. Gypsy Road
ENCORE
12. (Intro) Long Cold Winter
13. Shelter Me

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

'DAVE MUSTAINE: A Heavy Metal Memoir'
(file under 'Hidden Treasures')


I've been catching up on long-overdue reading lately, and took advantage of the Memorial Day weekend to read Megadeth mastermind Dave Mustaine's aptly titled autobiography Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir. I loved the book, and mentioned on Twitter yesterday that it was the best rock bio I've ever read, and a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in mainstream metal.

A friend of mine - a New York Times bestselling author in his own right - asked me what made it my favorite rock bio, and I told him my answer was too long for a text message. Here's my response...

Truth be told, rock bios aren't my favorite books to read, typically because I fear for the impact they may have on my relationship with an artist's art. Sound confusing? I can explain.

I love music because of the way it makes me feel, not because of the way the artists that perform it make me feel. When I was introduced to Megadeth, it wasn't Dave Mustaine that I developed a relationship with, it was his band's music. Maybe I felt a connection to a lyric. Maybe I was driven by the energy of the song. Maybe it was a combination of both, or maybe it was something altogether different. But it was the music that moved me, and it was my interpretation and response to that music that was (and remains) alive inside me.

Yes, I understand that by getting closer to the artist, you can get closer to their art - but after two decades of interviewing artists for a living, I have found that quite often the opposite proves true. The more I learn about an artist, the more distant I sometimes start to feel from their music - their music becomes more about their story, and less about my story with the music. And that is why I tend to not appreciate rock bios as much as other fans might...

Which brings us to this memoir.

My two favorite metal bands are Anthrax and Megadeth (consider them tied, I do), and my favorite metal personality is Dave Mustaine. Yes, he's a rock star, but I also see a lot of similarities between our personalities - from hearty cynicism and a dry sense of humor, to an outspoken personality and oft-misunderstood private nature.

I've interviewed Mustaine countless times, and being asked to appear in the Megadeth Behind the Music and on the band's Rude Awakening DVD are career highlights for me. After twenty years, I'd safely consider us friendly... friends, but not particularly close.

So it is with both thirst and trepidation that I picked up this book. I honor Mustaine's mystique as much as anyone's in metal, and while I'd love the opportunity to better understand him, the last thing I would ever want is for that understanding to sour one of my favorite bands, and favorite frontman.

But this book was remarkable. Mustaine's personality and spirit echo throughout, only enhancing what just may be the most fascinating story in heavy metal history. The underbelly of the book is Mustaine's place as an original member and principal songwriter of Metallica. Yes, this is only his side of the much-publicized rift between him and his former bandmates, but if you've seen Metallica's Some Kind Of Monster, you know that there aren't many, if any, discrepancies.

From a heavy metal perspective, that alone makes the book required reading. Even if taken with a grain of salt, you can't help but raise an eyebrow at the history Mega-Dave and Metallica shared.

From there, Mustaine's inner turmoil is the backbone of the book, and Megadeth is the spinal fluid that fills it - what I found most compelling about both is that Mustaine never points a finger at anyone without similarly pointing one at himself. The book doesn't mince words, and the book doesn't tread lightly. It hits hard, and takes as many punches as it lands.

But the best part isn't the grit. The best part is the way that the grit sands Mustaine's character throughout, shaping him into a different person by the book's end. This isn't the story of drug use and rehabilitation, it's the story of standing toe to toe with one's demons and knowing that even if you can't win every battle, life is a war worth fighting.

While I can't relate to Dave Mustaine's lifetime of drug use, I can relate to the spiritual core that he discovers more than 300 pages later, and that is the type of revelation that makes this book a triumph to read - and Megadeth's music twice as triumphant to listen to after you've turned the final page.

Why is Dave Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir my favorite rock bio? Because it did what I wish every rock bio could do - it offered me a profound insight into music I love, made me feel a heightened kinship with the artist behind the music, and it made me appreciate one of my favorite bands even more.


TWITTER: Dave Mustaine
TWITTER: Megadeth
TWITTER: Paul Gargano

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

VIDEO: Jane's Addiction "End to the Lies"



Jane's Addiction are one of my favorite bands - I love this new single, but I'll pass on the video. I always thought videos were supposed to heighten songs, not distract from them, and this seems like a cheap use of T&A that distracts from what could have been an otherwise cool use of stop-animation (granted, the internet is a breeding ground for cheap T&A, and maybe that's the point)... Like I said, love the song - but as far as videos go, I'll take "Been Caught Stealing" any day.

Coachella 2012 expands to two weekends...
What does this mean for the festival?


I discovered electronic music at Coachella.

I don't mean that's where I heard Prodigy for the first time - that happened a decade before my first Coachella. What I mean is, it was in the middle of a tent in Indio, twenty miles east of Palm Springs, CA, where I discovered that live music created on computers can be more engaging than live music created on instruments.

That doesn't mean it always is, it just means that it can be - and, like I said, I credit that to Coachella. Despite the fact that two of the single greatest shows I've ever seen were headliners on the festival's mainstage, the weekend has always been about the Sahara Tent for me - I'd often go there alone and listen to DJs for hours on end (few of my friends can even tolerate electronic music, let alone subject themselves to the alternative reality that is the farthest-reaching expanse of the Empire Polo Fields).

It was musical bliss for me, and Coachella offered the only opportunity all year for me to do it - my friends could watch whatever they wanted, I could watch whatever I wanted, and we could reconvene when the timing was right. That was the beautiful thing about Coachella - we could just meet under the light...

But we haven't gone to Coachella the past two years. I've blamed my lack of interest on the headliners, but truly it's because of the festival's evolution. They've transformed from an indie festival with a heavy emphasis on electronic music, to a mainstream festival trying to be everything for everybody.

Make no mistake, the marquee electronic talent is still there, but the crowds have evolved, and with that evolution an inability to truly enjoy everything that Coachella has to offer has emerged.

There has been a mainstream hip-hop headliner two years in a row. I live in Los Angeles, and I know the demographic that appeals to - it is the demographic that not only assures that the festival can essentially sellout of $300 weekend passes before a lineup is even announced, but also sell out of $600 VIP passes. It's the same principal that drives revenue at sporting events - give the common man the "afforable" option, but double, triple, quadruple (and then some) your money from the people that aren't afraid to spend it..

I'm not a scenester that lives for weekends of bottle service. Even if I could afford to pay $750 for a bottle of Grey Goose, I wouldn't on principal. But replacing the likes of Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against The Machine, Roger Waters and Paul McCartney with Kanye West and Jay-Z, means that you're not only asking me to pay $300 for a weekend pass (no more individual day tickets), you're also mandating that I rub elbows with a scene I am not a part of.

Does this sound too high school of me? If so, guilty as charged. Music isn't a spectator sport, and whether we can all admit to it or not, the fan experience deteriorates when it is watered down by rubber-necking.

Two years ago, the first year my friends and I didn't go, the universal sentiment was that over-crowding decimated the fan experience, and the festival suffered miserably for it. This year, Coachella went to great ends to mend those memories - to a large extent, it seems they succeeded. And next year, it seems they are going even further.

It was announced today that Coachella would be TWO weekends in 2012:

"We will attempt to produce two identical festival weekends. That means same lineup, same art, same place, different people," they said in an announcement.

This means that the festival expects to sell 150,000 weekend passes, as opposed to 75,000.

Electronic music is scaling unprecedented heights in America right now, and based on the Rave aspect alone Coachella should be able to sell-out two weekends - I imagine a decent number of fans will even do both, book-ending a week's vacation with six nights of ecstacy. The real question is, what will this mean for the lineup?

Given that America is finally being exposed to the universal appeal of electronic music - and knowing that the rave scene is enough to carry a good portion of ticket sales - might we see a return to the more indie-minded roots of the festival's past? Or could this two-weekend format result in even more mainstreamed headliners?

What do you think today's announcement means for Coachella?

Friday, May 27, 2011

ALBUM REVIEW: Foster The People 'Torches'


I didn't want to like Foster The People.

In fact, the first time I heard "Pumped Up Kicks" I was a little bit insulted. I thought I was listening to a poor man's MGMT - where was the depth? The soul? The texture? All that said, the song's loopy swagger was infectious and, before long, I wasn't changing the station when it came on in the car. But I still knew I'd hate the band. How could I not? It was paint-by-numbers Coachella with minimal substance and even less style. Chumbawamba for hipsters.

So when Torches arrived in my mailbox with its Where The Wild Things Are album cover and completely uninspired CD booklet (black lyrics on white paper - and people wonder why nobody buys CDs anymore), I was all geared up for a groaner...

Then the electro-fuzz opening of "Helena Beat" kicked the album off, swashing into falsetto vocals talking about life taking you by the hair, pulling you down, and leaving you dead again... Huh? I can relate to that - who can't? I keep listening...

You know those days, when you want to just choose
To not get out of bed, you're lost in your head again
You play the game but you kind of cut
'Cause you're coming down hard and your joints are all stuck


(Just like Chumbawamba, Foster The People get knocked down and they get up again...)

By now my psyche is not only calloused to "Pumped Up Kicks," I actually kind of like the song. It hearkens back to John Mayer's "No Such Thing" - musically light and fruity on the outside, but lyrically meaty in the middle. Mayer's pop ditty had him running through the halls of his high school, screaming at the top of his lungs because he just found out that the real world is a lie he's got to rise above. Foster's tale is one where all the kids with the pumped up kicks better run, faster than the bullet from our cowboy's gun.

That depth I was looking for? Found it - and there's texture, too. "Call It What You Want" and "Don't Stop (Color On The Walls)" bump and bounce like lo-fi Black Eyed Peas (that's a good thing), and "Waste" expands on the colors in the Cut Copy palette. "Houdini" oozes soul, seeping into the 'call me Al' spirit of "Life On The Nickel" and beyond the vibrant, post-modern quirkiness of "Miss You." Foster The People flirt with a disco dynamic on "I Would Do Anything For You," then marry Animal Collective's psychedelic romp with solid gold pop on "Warrant."

And less than 40 minutes after it starts, the voyage is over - the saving grace is, we only have to hit Play to take the journey all over again... and again, and again, and again. Torches is small-town charm amidst big city bustle. It's not reinventing the wheel, it's just greasing it up really well and making it spin a lot smoother. It spins like a kaleidoscope. Vibrant. Inspired. Refreshing.

Torches offers just what the name suggests - an album of bright lights and buoyant beats to guide us through the dark of day.

Like I said, I knew from the moment I heard "Pumped Up Kicks" that I'd love Foster The People!

If Torches isn't my album of the year, I can't wait to hear what is...