Saturday, September 25, 2010

Remembering Dave Kirby

A week ago today, TKO [The Kirby Organization] founder and Chairman Dave Kirby lost his battle with prostate cancer. Dave was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 2009 and, at that time, made the decision that he was going to devote the final months of his life to his wife and two teenage sons. Nobody outside his inner-most circle knew of his condition until he passed away Saturday in his Manhattan Beach home.

I first met Dave Kirby in New York in the mid-‘90s. I was Executive Editor of a rock magazine, and he was the agent for seemingly every band I covered. It was over our early and mutual belief in bands like Sevendust, Slipknot, Disturbed and Evanescence – bands whose careers he was instrumental in breaking – that we bonded over drinks at shows, standing in the back of venues like Roseland Ballroom, Coney Island High and Irving Plaza, comparing thoughts on the direction that heavy music was heading.

Dave viewed the road as not only the ultimate marketing tool, but also a key cog in the artist development wheel, and he was constantly applying that mindset to the bands on his roster, which now include Buckcherry, Anthrax, The Cult, Drowning Pool, Kittie, Hank III, Mudvayne and Motorhead. Over the years, I worked with him in several different capacities, from handling content for his website and press for his company, to even managing an act on his roster. Regardless of the project, Dave always had a vision.

Whether he was orchestrating packages for his largest clients, or plotting a road plan for an emerging artist, a meeting with Dave was like being in the midst of a chess game. It was actually an ongoing joke - if we had an 11am meeting, I could count on it being delayed until at least after lunch. Then I could expect to watch two CNN news cycles in his office while he seemed to take care of everything but our scheduled appointment.

If anyone else did that it would piss me off, but not Dave. The longer I'd sit in his office, the more I would learn - his people skills were epic. He could push buttons, then diffuse them a moment later. If it seemed like Dave was more interested in comparing Canadian and American politics, that's only because he was already two steps ahead of the meeting he was entertaining. And when there was a problem? Dave could mediate like no other.

As anyone that worked closely with Dave will attest, his greatest attribute was his loyalty. Once you earned Dave’s respect, you had it forever. And he always had your back. Was he outspoken? Of course he was. But like most successful businessmen, that became part of his charm. Dave Kirby defied the rules, abided by his instincts, and was beholden to nothing more than his gut.

And isn’t that what great music is all about? Great music, and great music executives. With the exception of maybe Sharon Osbourne, Dave did more for hard rock and heavy metal in the past fifteen years than anyone I can recall. And even OZZfest has Dave to thank - in 2001 alone, he represented eleven bands on the tour.

When I argued that we shouldn’t try and keep his cancer under wraps, suggesting that we should go public before rumors start to take on a life of their own, he just shook his head and said not to worry… And in typical Dave Kirby fashion, everything worked out. No, not for the best – we lost a great man to a crippling disease. But Dave Kirby had a plan, and he never strayed from it.

He died in his own bed, in the arms of his wife and the glow of his sons. He went out with dignity and pride, and he didn’t stress his friends and colleagues over worrying about how to act or how to feel. He didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him, he just wanted to cherish the time he had left with the people he loved most.

He left this life like he lived life – on his own terms. And in the end, just like the careers of the countless bands he launched, his plan was an unmitigated success. Right down to putting a team in place that he knew would not only carry TKO into the future, but also further his legacy of developing artists on the road and in front of fans, where their music means the most.

Dave believed that a major problem with today’s music industry is that too many people can’t see the proverbial forest through the trees. He knew that to have a forest, first you needed to grow the trees – and the stronger the trees, the stronger the forest.

If everyone in this business worried as much as Dave did about growing strong trees, I can only imagine how much stronger this industry would be…

Rest in peace, Dave, you’ve earned it!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Big 4 - live in our living rooms!

On November 2, The Big 4 are delivering the big score... Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax - live in our living rooms!

America may have felt jilted when the titans teamed-up for seven shows overseas this summer, but we got a fistful of the metal when they broadcast the Sofia, Bulgaria show as a one-off in cinemas nationwide. Now - in what might be the longest commercial trailer of all time - that cinematic release is coming to DVD and Blu-Ray.

The November 2 release of The Big 4: Live from Sofia, Bulgaria will feature full sets from all four bands, as well as behind-the-scenes and interview footage. There will also be a "super deluxe" box set that includes the 2-DVDs, as well as five audio CDs of the show, a 24-page booklet, a poster, photos of each band and a Big 4 guitar pick.

Why do I call it the biggest commercial trailer of all time? Because I can't imagine Metallica not bringing this package to America sooner than later. Eminem and Jay-Z stole headlines when they teamed up for the biggest hip-hop shows of all time this summer - and The Big 4 will make them look like amateur hour.

Simply put, it's too big not to happen...

And to get us ready? Don't forget about the Jagermeister Music Tour, which kicks off tomorrow night in Dallas [click here for complete itinerary] and features Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax sharing North American stages for the first time in two decades!

Official Metallica website
Official Slayer website
Official Megadeth website
Official Anthrax website
Paul Gargano on Twitter

Monday, September 20, 2010

July 10, 1954 - September 18, 2010

It is with deep sorrow that The Kirby Organization [TKO] announces the passing of their founder and Chairman, Dave Kirby, who succumbed Saturday to a prolonged battle with prostate cancer.

Dave was diagnosed in 2009, and upon receiving the news that his condition was inoperable and terminal, elected to take a backseat in the control of the company in order to spend his final months with his family – his wife Christine, and teenage sons David and Alex. While the cancer had taken a toll, he died in his own home, in his own bed, with dignity, and surrounded by love. He was 56 years old.

In lieu of flowers, it is requested that donations be made to the Prostate Cancer Foundation in Dave Kirby’s name. To share memories of Dave, please visit his online memorial at A public celebration of his life is planned for late October, with details to be forthcoming.

TKO will continue to flourish as a company as not only a legacy to Dave Kirby, but also as a tribute to his dedication and devotion to his employees and bands. The structure of the company will remain the same as it has since Dave appointed new titles and responsibilities more than a year ago:

Mike Monterulo - Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Andrew Goodfriend - President
Dan DeVita - Sr. Vice President
Rika O'Connor-Gargano - Chief Operating Officer (COO)
Michael Ullman - Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

“Although we are very sad to lose a mentor, friend and family member, Dave made it very clear to us upon his diagnosis that he wanted TKO to thrive in his absence,” said Monterulo. “The company will not only thrive, but also grow, expanding its reach and continuing to further define our place as one of the music industry’s most respected boutique agencies.”

Since its inception in September 2005, TKO has grown into one of the music industry’s premier booking agencies, and was nominated for the esteemed Boutique Booking Agency of the Year award at the 2010 Pollstar Concert Industry Awards. With a roster of more than 100 artists, the company’s clients include Buckcherry, Papa Roach, Motorhead, Anthrax, Hellyeah, Mudvayne, The Cult, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of the Doors, Hank III and Drowning Pool.

“The one thing that Dave Kirby always instilled in us was to believe in the bands we work with, respect their music, and encourage their development,” said Goodfriend. “That is the foundation that this company is built on, and that is the foundation that this company will continue to build upon in the years to come.”

Those of you who know Dave, can picture him now – Heineken in one hand, Blackberry in the other, sailing into the sunset…

TKO on Twitter

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Anyone on Long Island need furniture?"
Yes, Mankind is giving his love seat away...

From the 'Why Twitter Rules' department...

Professional wrestling superstar turned bestselling author Mick Foley - widely known as WWE legend Mankind, a tortured soul in ratty clothes whose finishing move involved putting on a sock puppet and sticking his hand down his opponents mouth until they couldn't breath - is giving his furniture away.

This via his Twitter account earlier today:

@realMickFoley Anyone on LI need furniture? Love seat, couch, TV, ent center delivered Fri from my home to yours. Free.

Other cool stuff, too. Brand new log furniture-2 dressers+Queen bed frame. Decorate your home the Hardcore way for free.

That's right - if you live on Long Island (are you reading this, Diddy?), Mick Foley will even have the furniture delivered! The only catch? You need to be home Friday to meet the truck, and you also need to be willing to return any of the hardcore legends' teeth or ears that might be lodged between seat cushions.

Yes, this is the same Mick Foley who bites his opponents' foreheads as a signature move... Imagine what went down in that love seat!

Kidding aside, Foley is one hell of a writer.
"Scooter" is one of the most memorable pieces of fiction I've read in years - his dark sense of humor and jagged, real and uncensored look at adolescent life is compelling, and his prose is engaging. Even better? The story is bound by a love for baseball.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't read "Tietam Brown" yet - but it just shot to the top of my reading list.

He's also written three children's books and three memoirs. Foley's fourth autobiography, "Crossing the Line," is forthcoming, and his four-issue comic book series "R.P.M." will be debut this November. Currently active with TNA wresting, Foley writes a weekly column for the company's website.

See how that works? Mick Foley is giving his "brand new log furniture" away, and I end up buying his book.

Mr. Socko likes that a lot!

Mick Foley on Twitter
Paul Gargano on Twitter

Monday, September 13, 2010

Five Albums :: Five Minutes

THE PROBLEM: I have too many albums that I want to write about, and too little time to actually write about them.
THE SOLUTION: I take five albums that are in my active iPod rotation, and give myself five minutes to write about each.
THE CATCH: I like to digest albums before writing about them - these may not be new releases, but they'll all be the artist's latest.
THE CAVEAT: Since we can't all keep up on everything, I can rest assured that these albums will be new to somebody.

All five of these bands are on this summer's Rockstar Energy Drink UPROAR tour [click here for a complete itinerary] - maybe I'll see you at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater this Friday (September 17), when the tour stops in Irvine, CA...

(Warner Bros. Records)

Haunted by the death of drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, Nightmare is the soundtrack to ripping off a bandage and exposing torn, raw flesh. The pain is searing, and Avenged Sevenfold cope by shredding through 11 tracks that couple early-Metallica thrash ("Buried Alive") and prog-rock flash ("Save Me") with Guns N Roses-seasoned sass ("Nightmare"). Cauterized by an epic flair, the album is stellar. "Victim" hums like a modern day "Great Gig in the Sky."

Standout tracks:
"Danger Line" & "Fiction"
Official website:

(Warner Bros./Reprise Records)

In 2008, I hailed Indestructible as Disturbed's crowning achievement - it appears I spoke too soon. The band soar to even greater heights on Asylum, delivering a molten rush of metal that translates the genre's legend into a heady, futuristic vision. David Draiman's vocals are distinctive, but never distracting, providing a jarring compliment to the band's crushing sonics. My only complaint? The U2 cover isn't renamed "I Still Haven't Found Wha-ah-ah-aht I'm Looking For."

Standout tracks:
"Infection" & "Never Again"
Official website:

(Atlantic Records)

I like Evanescence. I like We Are The Fallen more. I like Lacuna Coil most. Halestorm follow the female-fronted rock formula so well, they could be a cover band. So much so, I feel dirty listening to them - like I'm cheating on Cristina Scabbia. Then a hook grabs me, and Lzzy Hale throws me down with sex-kitten vocals that make me feel even dirtier. I want her to stop, but I can only whimper for more. I feel filthy. I'm powerless against her. If my wife asks, I'll deny all of this.

Standout tracks:
"I Get Off" & "Dirty Work"
Official website:

(Epic Records)

What started as a supergroup featuring members of Pantera, Mudvayne, Damageplan and Vision of Disorder, has gelled into a cohesive force of southern-fired nature. Hellyeah level a charge of bulging riffs and beefy drum beats under Blacktooth-inspired lyrics on Stampede - if "It's On" and "Pole Rider" don't tell you all you need to know, you're probably not ready to getcha pull. There's also plenty of their heavy pedigree - the sludgy "Order the Sun" does Pantera proud.

Standout tracks:
"Cowboy Way" & "Better Man"
Official website:

Audio Secrecy
(Roadrunner Records)

Audio Secrecy exposes one of the best-kept secrets in mainstream rock. The 17-track opus rivals the Foo Fighters in intensity ("Say You'll Haunt Me"), Nickelback in accessibility ("Dying"), and even glances to frontman Corey Taylor and guitarist Jim Root's other band, Slipknot ("The Bitter End"). "Imperfect" resonates on the light end, "Let's Be Honest" percolates on the heavy end, and "Anna" runs the full-bodied spectrum. A stellar addition to Album of the Year debates.

Standout tracks:
"Threadbare" & "Hesitate"
Official website:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2001 - Never Forget.

I remember where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001.

I remember being in the W Hotel in Chicago, in town to join the band Soil at their CD release party, scheduled for that night at the Cabaret Metro. I remember the phone ringing shortly before 8am our time, and my college roommate - who slept in my room with his girlfriend after driving down from Milwaukee to hang out the night before - wondering why his mother kept calling.

I remember when he finally answered his phone, his side of the conversation, and him hanging up. I remember him looking across the room at me with groggy eyes, and saying that his mom said someone flew a plane into the World Trade Center.

We assumed that it was a twin-engine, and turned on CNN to watch coverage of the accident. We watched as the first plane and tower burned, and learned that it wasn't, in fact, a twin-engine.

And we learned that it wasn't an accident.

We watched and listened in stunned silence as details emerged. And our hearts sunk as the second plane crashed into the second tower.

We watched people leap to their death from 100 stories in the air, trying to escape the hell that was unleashed around them.

We watched the towers fall, and felt connected to the countless souls wandering, ash covered, in the streets of lower Manhattan.

The emotion was nothing I'd ever felt - and nothing I'll ever forget.

My friends from Soil were in the air when it happened. I had another friend whose plane landed safely in New York, despite passing and witnessing the burning World Trade Center in their landing pattern.

I knew people who worked in the World Trade Center, and it took days to confirm that they had survived.

And I have a friend who lost a brother in the attack.

I will never forget how that felt - the horror, the loss, the anger, the helplessness, the frustration...

The terror, as the Sears Tower was evacuated as a possible target for the fourth plane, and the grim reality of the new era we were entering as our hotel became a gathering center for evacuees from the nearby landmark.

Nine years later, I reflect on that day at least a few times a week. I can't help it - it is part of my wiring. It has become part of who I am. The events of that day - and the months and years that followed - have helped shape the man that I am, my politics, my spiritual presence, and my cultural identity.

And today, on the ninth anniversary of one of the most horrifying attacks ever waged on American soil, my heart aches not only for the loss, but also for the way history attempts to revise and rewrite the events of September 11, 2001.

September 11 is a day to not only celebrate and mourn the lives of fellow Americans, but also the freedom that their loss represents.

Inherent in freedom, is tolerance - not a shiny, happy concept of tolerance, but living and breathing acts of tolerance that are rooted in respect, not entitlement. Acts that are reciprocal.

For every mention I've seen today of the lives lost in the events of 9/11, I've seen many more mentions of the controversial mosque being planned near the Ground Zero site, and the ensuing fallout - much of it ridiculous, racist and laden in fear.

I have no problem with building a mosque at Ground Zero. What I have an extreme problem with, is the intolerance of someone actually proposing and fighting to build a mosque at that location.

Tolerance isn't a blanket ideology, it is a work in progress that must be exercised with practicality and temperance, and coupled with humility and humanity.

There is something inhumane and self-absorbed about the mere proposal of building a mosque at Ground Zero. There is something intolerant and callous about the ongoing fight to keep it there.

Today, on the ninth anniversary of 9/11, I don't want to read about what this day represents to religious tolerance.

I don't want to hear about how we need to be bigger than the extremists that attacked us, and show them that we are a better people by letting a mosque be built near Ground Zero.

I want to remember Ground Zero. I want to remember the people that died there. I want to remember the horror that I felt, and revel in the awakening that the events offered me.

It wasn't an awakening of intolerance, it was an awakening of who we are as a country, and how we need to constantly establish that identity in the midst of people who want to strip it away.

An act of tolerance is nothing if not coupled with respect. And respect is earned, not granted.

I respect the nearly 3000 Americans that lost their lives on September 11, 2001, in the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. I respect that their deaths are an unfortunate and horrific cost to pay for a country that is rooted in principles of freedom, liberty and tolerance.

Tolerance that, too often, is taken for granted.

On this day, don't just remember 9/11, respect the memory of 9/11 - the people that died, the loved ones that mourn them, and the country that was attacked.

Respect. Tolerance will follow.

Never forget.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Can the band beat on without its heart?

I'm a big fan of irony.

Earlier this afternoon, I loaded the entire Dream Theater catalog onto my iPod. Until this afternoon, only two of the band's 10 studio albums were found on the 80GB drive. Why the sudden urge to drown myself in musical theory? Avenged Sevenfold.

A quick timeline: In 1985 - one year after the youngest member of the band Avenged Sevenfold is born - Mike Portnoy forms the band Majesty while attending the Berklee College of Music. Majesty would become Dream Theater.

Over the next quarter-century, Dream Theater would release ten studio albums and come to define the progressive metal genre. Likewise, Mike Portnoy is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest rock drummers of all time.

Avenged Sevenfold, meanwhile, burst from their Southern California roots and emerged as a hard rock and heavy metal powerhouse with City of Evil, their major label debut in 2005. When drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan died of a drug overdose late last year, many wondered what would come next for the band - and in the most unlikely of announcements, Mike Portnoy was enlisted to record drums on new release Nightmare, as well as accompany them on this year's tours to support the album.

Earlier today, on Twitter, I said of the record: The new @TheOfficialA7X is musical quicksand - it's got me waist-deep and keeps pulling... (Pull me under, I'm not afraid.)

Absorbed in Nightmare, I was inspired to listen to more Dream Theater. Makes sense, right? Not to Dream Theater.

About five hours after my Twitter post and ensuing addition of the Dream Theater catalog to my iPod, Mike Portnoy announced that he was leaving Dream Theater [read his full statement here].

I've been a fan of Dream Theater for the past two decades, and at the forefront of that fandom have been Mike Portnoy and frontman James LaBrie. Portnoy was the band's heart, LaBrie the band's soul.

Science was never my strong suit in school, but I'm fairly certain that losing your heart isn't a good thing.

The journalist in me wants to wait to hear both sides of the story, but this is a rare instance where I feel justified to overrule my professional sensibilities. Or, as my career has paralleled that of Dream Theater, perhaps I'm honoring those sensibilities...

A number of people have asked me how this happened, as well as why it happened. While I don't know anything more than I read in Mike Portnoy's statement, I can say this - when I made the decision to leave Metal Edge, a magazine I dedicated my blood, sweat and tears into running for a decade, people asked the same questions.

Sadly, sometimes the decisions that are the hardest for us to make, are also the easiest. Not because we want to make them, but because we know that we need to make them. By the time I left Metal Edge, I knew that there was no other option. The magazine was destined to fail under its new ownership, and I realized that I was in no position to prevent that from happening.

Two years and three editors later, Metal Edge went out of business.

What does this have to do with Dream Theater? Everything. I can relate to Mike Portnoy's decision, because I know exactly how it feels to know that you're out of options.

And he was clearly out of options - you don't walk away unless you have no other choice.

So, yes, the irony isn't lost on me that on the day I plunged back into the swirling waters of Dream Theater, their drummer made the choice to climb out of the water and towel off.

I'm the first person in the world to defend Journey without Steve Perry, Van Halen after they hired Sammy Hagar, and KISS with only half their original members.

But Dream Theater without Mike Portnoy?

Where's the heart?

Mike Portnoy on Twitter
Avenged Sevenfold on Twitter
Paul Gargano on Twitter

About 12 hours after I posted the above piece, Dream Theater released their statement concerning Portnoy's departure from the band [read their full statement here]. If you're looking for additional insight into the band's dynamics, focus on the line: "File this episode under ‘Black Clouds and Silver Linings.’ As planned, we begin recording our new album in January 2011..." In other words, the band views Mike's departure as a black cloud, with the silver lining being that they'll record a new album without him. For people that think Mike Portnoy is bitter - perhaps now you understand why. Great bands overcome great trauma - Rush gave Neil Peart the time he needed to deal with tragedy, Metallica aired their dirty laundry in therapy for the world to see, and even the Police were able to pull it together for a reunion. Sure, there are many more examples of bands that haven't persevered inner-band turmoil, I just never expected Dream Theater to be one of them.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Welcome to AST (Axl Standard Time):
The official timezone of Guns N Roses

Come on, people, this is Axl Rose we're talking about... If you don't know by now that he's not going onstage 'on-time,' it's time to get an internet connection for the rock you live under.

To the best of my knowledge, the man hasn't taken the stage 'on-time' since Ronald Reagan was President. It's not news anymore, it just is what it is. If you can't deal with it, don't buy a ticket to the show - if it gets to a point where Guns N Roses can't sell tickets, maybe they'll reconsider making people wait so long.

I've endured a prolonged changeover at least a half-dozen times, and each time the show was well worth the wait - with and without Slash, and regardless of who was in the band. Again, it is what it is. If you want to see Guns N Roses, it's part of the experience - if you don't want the experience, don't buy the ticket.

As for the fans in Dublin who were pelting him with bottles because of the wait before Wednesday night's show [video here] - how about if I start throwing garbage at the guy in Jiffy Lube the next time my oil change takes longer than 20 minutes? Or at the restaurant staff the next time I've decided that my food is taking too long? Or the postal carrier when I don't think my mail arrived fast enough...

That's not how civilized society functions - if I was Axl's manager, I'd have pulled him off the stage before he had a chance to leave on his own. (For the record, the band resumed the set about an hour later.)

Yet, I can't blame anyone but Guns N Roses for what happened August 27 at the Reading Festival, where the band took the stage 90 minutes before the already-extended curfew, then refused to leave when promoters pulled the plug at curfew, before they could finish their set (that's Axl and co. below, during their Ghandi-like sit-in).

Axl made a statement Monday, via Twitter: "So u know, we allegedly had a deal in place pre show w/the city at least at Leeds to do a bit longer performance that was either miscommunication, someone wasn't informed, changed their mind, didn't care or was a con."

On Tuesday, he followed with this, also via Twitter: "Our start times at the Reading and Leeds festivals factually had nothing to do with us as the previous bands (who were great by the way) came off stage when they did and we went on within' our contracted and documented changeover time period... A simple question: If you are aware of our changeover time, the average length of our show and the general nature of how these types of festivals run all of which are no big secrets...why book us?"

He raises a very valid point - the same point I raised earlier: When you book Guns N Roses, there's no excuse not to know what you're getting. He is also evading the real issue altogether - the argument isn't over Guns N Roses going on late, it's over Guns N Roses blaming someone else when their set was cut short due to a curfew.

The following was printed on the website of U.K. magazine NME:

Festival chief Melvin Benn said: "After failing to take to the stage at the scheduled 9.30pm (BST) time, the performance started at 10.30pm and the band were given permission by the festival to play 30 minutes extra to its scheduled 11.30pm finish until midnight... Guns N' Roses wanted to 'extend' the new agreed curfew past midnight but were prevented from doing so in order to comply with the entertainment licence issued by Reading Borough Council."

Make no mistake, I am an Axl Rose apologist - but just because I'm a fan, doesn't mean I can't be objective.

In the case of Reading, Axl Rose and his band have no right to blame the promoters for not letting them finish their set - if playing a full set meant that much to the band, they should have taken the stage with enough time to guarantee that it would happen before curfew.

As for Dublin? If you are looking for someone to blame, blame the idiots throwing bottles.

Axl Rose on Twitter
Paul Gargano on Twitter

2008 Album of the Year: Chinese Democracy
GNR Live Review: 12/17/2006 (Universal Amphitheater, L.A.)
GNR Live Review: 9/23/2006 (Glen Helen Pavilion, Devore, CA)

Thursday, September 2, 2010