Monday, June 29, 2009

Meet Pablo...

When's the last time you cried - and I mean really cried - for someone you've never met before?

The type of cry that hurts so much it burns your insides. The type of cry that reminds you that you're alive. And the type of cry that makes you appreciate even the smallest blessings that life has to offer.

Meet Pablo.

He's not the King of Pop, and he's not one of Charlie's Angels. He's both, rolled into one. And he's so much more.

Little more than a year ago, on May 17, Pablo was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms' Tumor, a rare form of children's cancer. It is a cancer that, when discovered early, is curable in 90-percent of its cases.

Pablo was not one of those cases.

On Saturday, June 27, he passed on to the next life.

Unfortunately, that does not make Pablo unique. What makes Pablo unique, is that through his family's blog - PABLOg! - thousands of people have traveled the Castelaz family's rocky road alongside them. Some lending vocal support along the way, others - like myself - reading silently, cheering them on with a prayer before they close their eyes at night, or offering a reflection after catching up in a moment of downtime throughout their day.

In a world run amok with tabloid ethos, I beg you all to read about their voyage. I recommend starting at June 21, Pablo's sixth birthday, and continuing from there. You'll be glad you did. This is one case where knowing how the story ends will truly make you appreciate its early chapters even more.

You see, Pablo is a superhero. He is every child stricken by cancer, every child that fights, and every child that endures that struggle with a smile on their face, because they don't know any other way.

Pablo is the embodiment of every child that is braver than you and I. Of every child that is stronger than you and I. And of every child who we hope and pray might not become our own, because we don't know that we'd ever have the strength to cope.

All the while, the child copes because it's all they know how to do.

And their family copes because it's all their love allows them to do.

I learned of Pablo through the social networking grapevine, because I went to college with his father. We weren't friends, but we knew each other, working together in the programming branch of Marquette Universitys' student government. Life brought us both from Milwaukee to Los Angeles, and life led us both to the music industry. We ran into each other once a few years ago and exchanged pleasantries, but little more.

I don't know him as well as some people know the waitstaff at their favorite restaurant. And he may not recall me at all. Yet through the magic of Pablo, I feel like I know him better than I know some of my closest friends.

And I admire him, and his family.

What the Castelaz family shared with Pablo in the past thirteen months is more than most people get to experience in a lifetime. A world of joy and sorrow, driven by tragedy and fueled by love.

Nobody knows why cancer chooses the victims it does, but I do know this - I don't consider Pablo a victim. I consider him a hero.

And though they'll deny it with every essence of their being, Pablo's family are heroes, too. They are heroes for sharing their strength with the world. Sharing their fear. Sharing their hope. And sharing their life.

I could share some of Pablo's stories here, and I expect that you would cry like I am as I type this. But I wouldn't do the stories justice, and they would lose the impact of getting to know Pablo yourself, and taking his journey with him.

To truly appreciate the joy that life has to offer, we must embrace the sorrow that comes with it.

The Castelaz family embraced sorrow, and crushed it with joy.

We should all be so strong.

Read Pablo's story here, at PABLOg!

Please visit The Pablove Foundation online at


The Pablove Foundation is named after Pablo Castelaz, the six-year-old son of Dangerbird Records co-founder Jeff Castelaz and his wife Jo Ann Thrailkill. On May 17, 2008, Pablo was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms' Tumor, a rare form of children's cancer. The cancer appeared out of nowhere, with no warning signs in Pablo's general demeanor or health. Thanks to decades of research and treatment at places like Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where Pablo was treated, Wilms' Tumor is over 90% curable.

CHLA is a not-for-profit, independent operation. They treat everyone, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. In 2007, they treated over 93,000 children, and distributed $54 million in charitable care to children whose families were not able to pay for treatment, or who simply do not have insurance. The Pablove Foundation directly supports the pediatric cancer community in and around CHLA.

Specifically, the Pablove Foundation will make an annual contribution to cancer research and treatment at CHLA's Saban Research Institute, one of the top cancer research facilities in the United States. It will also support play activities, music and arts programs and sponsor play rooms in the soft tumor units at CHLA.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009

When you're down and out, there seems no hope at all
But if you just believe, there's no way we can fall

--"We Are The World" (Michael Jackson/Lionel Richie)

I always wished I could moonwalk.

Not because I listened to hip-hop and wanted to add the move to my breakdancing repertoire, but because Michael Jackson made everyone wish they could moonwalk.

Michael Jackson is the King of Pop because he made awkward and pudgy white kids in suburban America wish they could move like he could. Gawky kids like me were the final frontier, and he was the great unifier. Everyone loved Michael Jackson, because you couldn't not love Michael Jackson.

If you didn't get a rush of awe watching him glide backwards across a stage, his feet rolling with the fluidity of waves across the ocean and his body as lithe as his movements were seamless, you simply didn't know what it meant to be entertained.

And all Michael Jackson ever wanted to do was entertain. To solicit the smiles that he wished he could have experienced more of in his youth, having been forced to become a star before he was allowed to be a child. And while that was the heart of his problems as of late, it was also what makes him so damn irresistible as an artist.

Just try and listen to Off The Wall without a smile on your face. I dare you.

Try and find anyone who doesn't have a memory tied to Thriller, the single greatest-selling record of all time.

And Bad is nothing short of brilliant.

Michael Jackson's appeal was undeniable, and his music was magical. He had an innate ability to connect, and that connection bordered on spiritual for music fans.

That is the power he held as a performer, and that is the power he will continue to hold as an entertainer, even in his death.

As easy as it has been to make jokes about his life in recent years, it is almost impossible to comprehend the words that are now rattling the world: "Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, is dead."

There's a finality to that statement that is frighteningly harsh and tragically real. Yet as tragic as his death is, it is equally tragic that so many people will choose to speculate on his demons, rather than pay homage to an artistic legacy that puts him in the company of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and James Brown.

He changed the way we listened to music, and he changed the way we watched music.

Michael Jackson forever changed the world of entertainment.

If even for just a brief moment, let's ignore his sales and chart records. Let's pay no mind to torrid speculation. Let's forget that he is the King of Pop, and simply remember him for the musical joy that he leaves behind.

Let's remember the child prodigy that fronted the Jackson 5 and the unadulterated glee of "Rockin' Robin," the unparalleled hit machine that barreled through the '80s and well into the '90s, and the visionary behind epic videos that are without rival in the three-decade history of MTV.

His collaborations ranged from Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder, to Paul McCartney, Vincent Price and Eddie Van Halen. He was the mastermind behind "We Are The World," a virtual who's who of pop music's pantheon in 1985, and he turned "Black or White" into an anthem in 1991, before Barack Obama held his first public office.

Michael Jackson was more than an R&B legend, a pop icon, or a rock and roll curiosity, he is the world's songbird, and a genius whose star will shine forever in the hearts and souls of the countless fans he's touched.

Yes, there was more to Michael Jackson. But in the wake of the madness and media circus that is already assembling its three rings, let's take a moment to remember the time when Michael Jackson was just Michael Jackson.

The Michael Jackson that touched us all, and the Michael Jackson that took a piece of each of us with him when he died today.

May you rest in peace, Michael, you deserve it...

Official Michael Jackson Website

Michael Jackson YouTube Video Channel

"We Are The World" Music Video

Monday, June 22, 2009

(Easier to Spell AND Easier to Get Along With)

Well played, former men of Evanescence, well played!

Whether she'd admit it or not, Amy Lee had to be hoping that her former bandmates would just slither off into the sunset, leaving her to rule over the Evanescence empire uncontested... And for a while there, it seemed her hope might spring eternal.

But that spring has run dry.

Monday's media event announcing the formation of We Are The Fallen was executed with the precision of a Navy S.E.A.L.S. operation: Get in, make a few tactical strikes and get out. There was little room for error, and less concern for collateral damage.

Mission accomplished. Amy Lee may have won the first few battles, but now we know that the war is far from over.

What war? The one that started when Ben Moody walked away from Evanescence mid-tour in 2003, despite the fact that they were the biggest band in mainstream rock at the time, and had one of the best-selling albums since cavemen started banging rocks together and calling it music more than 10,000 years ago.

You've got to figure things must have been seriously awry if Moody was willing to walk away from the band he started with Lee, leaving her the name, as well as the ability to continue making a living singing songs that he was instrumental in writing. Even so, there are two sides to every story...

But which side was lent more credence after the remaining original members of Evanescence, guitarist John LeCompt and drummer Rocky Gray, parted ways with Lee a few years later, leaving the frontwoman with her own befuddled version of Guns N' Roses?

Whether she intended to or not, Lee took a band and turned it into a solo project. While her sophomore release went multi-platinum with ease, it probably made her just as happy to see that her former creative partner, Moody, appeared more comfortable in a production role, opting to stay out of the public spotlight.

Until Monday, that is, when Moody, LeCompt and Gray unveiled We Are The Fallen, "a new chapter of an existing band for three of us..."

Featuring American Idol finalist Carly Smithson on vocals and Marty O'Brien [Tommy Lee, Kelly Clarkson, Disturbed, Static-X] on bass, We Are The Fallen isn't so much a new outfit, as it is an updated lineup. Lest you think the new band plans on ignoring their roots, look no further than the name, a reference to the album title of the Evanescence debut (Fallen), which has sold more than 15 million copies to date.

Still not sold? If Moody's "new chapter of an existing band for three of us" comment during Monday's brief Hollywood, CA, press conference wasn't enough, consider the two-song performance that preceded it, where the band performed new track "Bury Me Alive" (listen here) and the opening track of the Evanescence debut, "Going Under."

The live debut couldn't have been more impressive. "Bury Me Alive" is as strong as anything Moody and his bandmates have written in the past, and if Smithson's performance of "Going Under" is any indication, the back catalog is in more than capable hands. Fans of American Idol (which Moody admitted he's not) already know Smithson's rock pedigree, but many don't know that she covered the Evanescence hit "Bring Me To Life" on the 2008 American Idols Live tour. She was always more rocker than solo artist, and in We Are The Fallen she has the vehicle to give Idol standout Chris Daughtry a run for his money as the show's resident rock icon.

Amy Lee knows that, and the Evanescence frontwoman responded to the news of We Are The Fallen with a website post titled, "Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?" (It appears that she's got a bigger problem with singing music you didn't write, than she does with hiring musicians to play music they didn't write.)

The barbs didn't end there, and aren't likely to end anytime soon.

When Moody was asked in the press conference why he's waited so long to return to the public eye since departing the lineup he co-created more than 15 years ago, he responded in kind: "We wanted to do it right this time..."

And when the band was asked who'd be handling the songwriting duties, LeCompt said that the entire band contributes equally. To which Moody added, "and for once that's actually true."

While the band has already written several songs together, don't expect to see a full-length album in the immediate future. Instead, We Are The Fallen plan on releasing a few songs at a time via the internet, eschewing the battered record industry model while still assuring a steady flow of new material as they tour.

Look for We Are The Fallen on the road this fall.

We Are The Fallen MySpace

Friday, June 5, 2009

Pedal To The Metal Tour 2009 Announced

This summer just got a whole lot hotter, harder, faster and louder.

THE PEDAL TO THE METAL TOUR 2009, featuring MUDVAYNE (pictured) and BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, will kick off July 24 in Portland, ME, and conclude September 9, in Oklahoma City, OK (see complete itinerary below). Joining the two metal juggernauts on the road will be STATIC-X, SUICIDE SILENCE, DOPE, BURY YOUR DEAD, and the twisted HELLZAPOPPIN sideshow review, performing during set changes throughout the evening. Pre-sale tickets are available to all of the bands’ fan club members beginning Wednesday, June 10, at 12pm local time at (website will go live June 10), with general public on sale beginning Friday, June 12, at 10am local time.

“The tour started as a summer tour with us and Black Label Society, but as we started fleshing out ideas, it transformed into this really cool concept,” says Mudvayne frontman Chad Gray. The final result is the inaugural run of The Pedal To The Metal Tour, a road ready and battle-proven assemblage of hard rock and heavy metal bands guaranteed to raise temperatures and melt asphalt over the summer months. “We’re really excited, because this package is a merging of great bands, good people and fucking amazing fans. It’ll be great to bring them all together.”

“I was looking forward to a full throttle assault with just Mudvayne this summer, but when Chad said ‘Let’s do more,’ I was all-in.” declares Zakk Wylde, the iconic and self professed General Patton of Black Label Society. Adding, “On behalf of JD, Craig, Nick, the Doom Crew Inc. and myself, we can’t wait to see our Black Label family and the entire Black Label nation once again, rollin’ through hell and destroying everything in our path! Fire up the barbecues, fire up the tunes, and get ready for the rest of your Pedal To The Metal family to fire it up and let the engines roll… Game m-f-’n on!”

Says Static-X frontman Wayne Static of the tour: “I’m very picky about who we tour with. I think Static-X slaughter most bands live, and I pride myself in our show – I refuse to open for a band that I don’t think is worthy, so that says a lot about Mudvayne, Zakk Wylde, and this entire package.”

The Pedal To The Metal Tour is being booked exclusively by TKO [The Kirby Organization], the agents for Mudvayne, and is being promoted nationally by Frank Productions and Knitting Factory Presents. The package will travel more than 12,000 miles of highway across America this summer, stopping in nearly three dozen cities over seven weeks.


24-PORTLAND, ME (Cumberland County Civic Center)
25-LOWELL, MA (Tsongas Arena)
28-READING, PA (Sovereign Center
29-YOUNGSTOWN, OH (Chevrolet Center)
31-BIG FLATTS, NY (Tags Summer Stage)

1-ALBANY, NY (Altamont Fairgrounds) *Radio Show*
4-FORT WAYNE, IN (War Memorial Coliseum)
5-BATTLE CREEK, MI (Kellogg Arena)
7-MOLINE, IL (I Wireless Center)
8-ROCKFORD, IL (Rockford Metro Center)
9-MADISON, WI (Willow Island) *Radio Show*
11-TOPEKA, KS (Landon Arena)
12-MANKATO, MN (Alltel Arena)
14-OMAHA, NE (Westfair Amphitheater) *Radio Show*
15-LITTLE ROCK, AR (NS River Water Park) *Radio Show*
16-WICHITA, KS (KS Coliseum Lot) *Radio Show*
18-BOISE, ID (Idaho Center Amphitheater)
19-MISSOULA, MT (Ryan Creek Amphitheater)
21-SPOKANE, WA (Spokane Arena) *Radio Show*
22-SEATTLE, WA White River Amphitheater) *Radio Show*
23-PORTLAND, OR (Washington County Fairgrounds) *Radio Show*
25-EUGENE, OR (Cubhert Amphitheater)
26-RENO, NV (Events Center)
28-SAN JOSE, CA (San Jose Civic Auditorium)
29-BAKERSFIELD, CA (Rabo Bank Arena)

1-SAN DIEGO, CA (San Diego Sports Arena)
2-MESA, AZ (Mesa Amphitheater)
4-CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Concrete Street Amphitheater)
5-SAN ANTONIO, TX (Sunken Gardens)
6-LUBBOCK, TX (Lonestar Amphitheater)
9-OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (Zoo Amphitheater)

*Radio shows may not include entire Pedal To The Metal lineup*


Mudvayne are one of the most creative and distinctive bands in the aggressive music world, and one of the only acts in heavy music to hold the distinction of seeing every one of their five studio albums attain at least gold certification by the RIAA. Not bad for a band that never cared about following trends or playing to the masses. Latest release The New Game was released in November ’08, and is a lesson in controlled chaos that tempers hard rock, heavy metal, prog rock and sadistic splatters of pop into an onslaught of metallic highs and emotional lows. Mudvayne have sold more than five million units worldwide, and performed for more than one million fans on every continent. They were nominated for “Best Metal Performance” at the 2005 Grammys, and also shared headlining status on that year’s Ozzfest, performing immediately before Iron Maiden. The Pedal To The Metal Tour marks the next step in Mudvayne’s live evolution.

In the two decades since Ozzy Osbourne hired him away from his job at a New Jersey gas station to become his new guitarist, Zakk Wylde has established himself as a guitar icon known and revered the world over. He spawned his now legendary Black Label Society in 1994, and in the fifteen years since has turned the outfit into a heavy metal institution true to his vision of uncompromising, unfiltered and unrestrained rock and roll. Inspired by guitarists including Frank Marino, Robin Trower and Al DiMeola, as well as the vocal stylings of Elton John, Gregg Allman and late Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Ronnie VanZant, Wylde has won every guitar award imaginable and is a major influence to the new wave of heavy metal guitarists. Wherever Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society travels, one thing is for certain: brewtality is sure to follow.

Since the release of their Wisconsin Death Trip debut a decade ago, Static-X have sold more than three million records worldwide. Their latest opus, Cult of Static, was released in March and debuted in the Billboard Top 20, marking their most impressive first-week showing since 2001. Known for their high intensity fusion of metal mayhem and industrial fervor, Static-X have one of the most allegiant fan bases in heavy music. “I jokingly call it a cult, but our fans have that kind of loyalty,” says frontman Wayne Static. “We’re one of the biggest underground bands ever.”

The winners of the Best New Talent award at the Revolver Golden God Awards in April, Suicide Silence have emerged at the forefront of the new wave of American heavy metal, and have sold more than 70,000 copies of their 2008 debut, The Cleansing. Hailed as one of the “100 bands you need to know about” by Alternative Press, their sophomore release No Time To Bleed will hit stores June 29, just in time for Pedal To The Metal 2009.

Dope aren’t the heaviest band on this summer’s Pedal To The Metal tour, but they can stake a claim at being the most brutal: Their track “Die Mother Fucker Die” was on a short list of songs used by the United States government to aid in the interrogation of enemy combatants in the war against Iraq. They’ve sold more than one million albums in their decade-plus career, their latest release being last year’s No Regrets.

Written and recorded in the wake of an accident last September that flipped and rolled the Bury Your Dead tour van, there was no shortage of inspiration for the bone-crunching and chest-pounding canons that mark new release It’s Nothing Personal. Armed with grinding music, spitfire lyrics and melodic interludes, the album packs everything fans have come to expect from the New England metal-core veterans – and, as always, a little bit more…

Hellzapoppin bill themselves as “The Greatest Show In Hell,” delivering a burlesque and macabre flavored take on Barnum’s more family-friendly sideshow attractions. Featuring a penguin boy, fire eating, sword swallowing and a self-professed torture king amongst their off-center oddities, the Hellzapoppin sideshow review promises to keep fans eerily entertained and darkly amused between sets on the Pedal To The Metal Tour 2009.