“Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones.” ― Keith Richards
Though, I haven’t read anything on the subject and I am no expert, I have lived a long time. And, I’ve been listening to music for the majority of that time. I also experienced the 1960s British Invasion, a phenomenon called ‘The Beatles,’ and the hard rock and roll era of the 1970s. Of course, I survived Disco, Grunge, Rap, and
other various music genres, but the one I’m most fascinated with right now is….COUNTRY! Not the ‘my wife left me, the dog died, and my truck broke down’ kind of country, but the new country of today! I realize that diehard classic country fans hate the new stuff, but I don’t…and neither do a WHOLE LOT of other people! And, here’s my assessment on why, besides the fact that it is a whole lot less depressing! Rock and roll has faded away and there isn’t much to take it’s place. The days of the classic rock craze is gone, and there’s a huge empty space to be filled. And, guess who filling it. Yep, new country! There’s a new generation of country rockers, who were raised on their parents’ rock and roll. If you listen carefully to their songs, you will hear references to many of the greats! Some, like Eric Church and Keith Urban have songs titled, “Springsteen” and “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” after their rock idols. There are some crazy great rockin’ guitarists in country music right now, namely Brad Paisley, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban. And, the bad boys of country – Eric Church, the Brothers Osborne, Chris Stapleton – have become very popular, very quickly. Brothers Osborne seems to me to be filling the shoes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Eric Church marches to his own drummer, reminding me of Curt Cobain or maybe even a young Bruce Springsteen. Chris Stapleton seems like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with in a dark alley or even the light of day. But man, can he shred a guitar!
Having been a rock and roll loving girl all my life, and moving to Nashville a few years back, my curiosity peaked, my eyes opened wide, and my ‘analytical’ skills sharpened. I work for two different concert venues, and when I’m not working, I’m usually at a show. I’m in it, around it, consumed by it. And, I pay attention. Sadly, there are very few genuine rock and roll bands coming up in the ranks. No one has come close to filling the shoes of Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, or the Who. As far as I’m concerned, great rock basically ended with Metallica, Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and now there’s a wide open space to be filled. My question is…why isn’t anyone filling it? Where are the young rockers hiding? Why isn’t anyone forming new quality rock bands? I’m truly baffled! If anyone is paying attention, they would see that there is a huge gap in the rock and roll world that needs to be filled! The Black Keys tried to. So did Linkin Park, Imagine Dragons, and Green Day. But, they haven’t come close to reaching the heights of their predecessors! But, country music has! They are
skyrocketing to fame and put Nashville on the world map. It is now the “IT” city, growing in tourism and population. I live and work in this town, and I see the tens of thousands of people that come visit it every single weekend, drop a fat pile of cash in the bars and music venues, all in the name of new country. In my lifetime, I’ve seen this craziness happen twice before. When the British Invasion came to America, and again when hard rock exploded onto the scene in the 1960s and ’70s. I feel we’ve been cruising along for a decade or two with whatever music happens to be the ‘flavor of the day,’ with a hit or two here or there. But, it sure seems obvious to me that the current popularity of country music is the biggest musical explosion we’ve had since Elvis, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. So, buckle your seatbelts and hold on to your seats! My prediction is that this decade will go down in musical history! Just watch and see…
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” ― Bob Marley
“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” ~Maya Angelou
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” ~John Lennon
It has now been just over a year that I was randomly introduced to the music of Chris Stapleton, (http://www.chrisstapleton.com) a rising star in the Nashville scene. Though, he’s been well known in these parts for many years, I had never heard of him. But, since I had just started my job at the Ryman Auditorium (https://ryman.com) in Music City (in Sept. 2015,) I found myself listening to the music of upcoming performers, so I could
become familiar with them before I worked their show (and duck inside the auditorium to watch a song or two!) Working at such an historic venue that is on the smaller size (seats 2400 people,) and having a lifelong love of music, I didn’t take my job lightly. I was working in the place that, for 31 years (1943-1974) was the home of the infamous Grand Ol’ Opry; the stage that once held Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Minnie Pearl, and so many more! And, though I wish I had been there to experience that history, I recently realized that I am experiencing history by being amongst these hallowed walls, watching new up-and-comers, as well as old classics, perform in the Ryman Auditorium! This building, in itself, is history to the past, present AND the future! And, I’m here witnessing it all…live!!
Because of my lifelong love of music, and because I now live in Music City and work for a concert venue (or two,) I like to familiarize myself with upcoming performers by listening to their music before their show. I was going to be working two upcoming shows by some guy named Chris Stapleton, so I spent a few days in advance listening to his stuff. I liked what I heard – he had a low, resonating voice, his songs were melodic and catchy, and his lyrics were deep and meaningful. So, I was looking forward to popping my head in the auditorium for a listen when I had a chance. To my surprise, and something I wasn’t expecting, was that his music would shoot straight to my bones, and I would be absolutely awed by his voice. Firstly, the acoustics in the Ryman are second only to the Mormon Tabernacle Church, and secondly, the power in this man’s voice is God-given and rare. I felt I discovered something special. I walked out of the auditorium and announced to my co-workers, “I am a new fan!” and told them to get their butts in there to take a listen! His two shows at the Ryman were such a success that they immediately booked him for three shows for the following March. What no one could predict was what was going to take place just six weeks later during the CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville! And, I was there to witness that, as well!
On November 4, 2015, this same guy was up for a bunch of awards at the CMA Awards. And, who happened to be working that show? Me! And, by some crazy act by God, the Universe, the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, I got assigned to ‘guard’ the myriad of machinery that it takes to put on such a show. Boring, you say? That’s what the supervisor who placed me there, said apologetically. But, for this music nerd, it was Heaven on Earth! I was behind the stage, one level up, with a fantastic view of the behind-the-scenes action! I saw the entire show from behind, and it was fascinating! I watched Hosts Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley behind the scenes, saw which performer was coming on next, and could see exactly how quickly and precisely each band’s set was moved in and out before and after their performance! It was amazing! For a live show, it went off without a hitch! And, because I was situated behind the stage, I could look out into the audience and see all the famous country stars in the audience watching the show! I had to pinch myself to believe I was really doing this! I was there when Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban, etc, etc, performed live. But, the highlight of the night was the ass-kicking performance by….Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake!! Whaaat?!?! That’s a strange combination! But, apparently not so much. Both are southern boys (Kentucky and Tennessee) on the music circuit, so their paths have crossed numerous times over the last 3-4 years. I’m not sure whose idea it was to pair them up for the CMA performance, but it was brilliant! It absolutely stunned the crowd and, along with the fact that, later that night, Chris would win three awards – Male Vocalist of the Year, New Artist of the year, and Album of the Year – it was an evening that would go down in music history! (see the performance here: Chris and Justin) And, I was there!! You could’ve knocked me over with a feather, as I felt like I was floating in Music Heaven after that night! Then, having experienced the entire show from behind, I watched it on TV the next night, at home, to see it from everyone else’s perspective. And….wow, so much went on that I couldn’t see when I was there, but the cooler stuff (in my opinion) was seen from my little perch in the background. Oh, what a night!! What an historical night that I will never forget!!
Message: Appreciate the here and now! We can get so busy, with life and in our heads, that we miss the meaningful moments. I had been so dreamy and wishful that I had lived to experience the classic performers of the Ryman past, that I almost forgot to realize that I was actually doing it in the present! And, that some day I will be telling great stories of performers I am seeing now, and who will be in the history books later!! It’s happened before, as I’ve had younger music lovers touch me after I told them I spent a lot of time at concerts at San Francisco’s historic Winterland, back in the day! They were so impressed and envious that I got to ‘live rock and roll history!’ And now, I’m doing it again (actually, we all are!) in Nashville, Music City, USA!! So, slow down and enjoy the present, because you can never get it back again. Many times we look back on things and wish we appreciated it more at the time. Well, now is the time! Appreciate and enjoy every minute of it! It won’t last forever!
There is a very special gem, a diamond in the rough, that has stood the test of time in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s been a church, and entertainment hall, a home for the Grand Ole Opry
(http://www.opry.com,) and a concert venue. Built in the late 1880s, (darn, that was a LONG TIME AGO!) this sacred place was originally a church – the Union Gospel Tabernacle – constructed under unusual circumstances. A wealthy steamboat captain named Thomas Ryman, who ran a fleet of boats up and down Tennessee’s Cumberland River, which runs right through Nashville, brought lots of business to local bars and liquor distributors. When his men were in town, they spent plenty of their earnings on wild good times offered in the city. Also, aboard Captain Ryman’s boats, which carried plenty of passengers and goods, a mighty fine time was had, drinking, dining, gambling and interacting with the dancing girls! Thus, the captain was a very successful and well-known businessman in town. However, there was another man in town, Reverend Sam Jones, who was a fiery, charismatic preacher from Georgia, holding popular tent revivals all over the country during this time. Once a lawyer with alcoholic tendencies, and the grandson of Methodist preachers, Rev. Jones changed his ways and became a holy man himself. Not a big fan of strict religious doctrine, Jones believed more in living a clean, sin-free life of kindness and good. His message was simple: “Quit your meanness!” Having heard about Rev. Jones, and not pleased with his sermons on how alcohol, dancing, and baseball (amongst other things) were sinful and evil, Capt. Ryman decided to attend one of his tent revivals to raise a ruckus and make his disagreement known. However, something completely opposite happened!
Instead, Ryman found salvation and was converted to a devout Christian! The year was 1885 and this was the beginning of a great turnaround for Ryman, Rev. Jones and the citizens of Nashville! Soon after, plans were in place to build Rev. Jones a great tabernacle so that his listeners would be protected from the ever-changing weather in Tennessee, and so that his voice would be projected loudly and clearly for all to hear. Seven years later, the building was complete, and was used for more than just revivals and worship. In order to pay off the debt of construction, the building was also rented out for other activities, such as speaking engagements, political rallies, community events, etc. And later, under the tutelage of Lula Naff (more on her later,) operas, ballets, symphonies, theatre performances, musical entertainment, boxing matches, and other various productions were booked at what was now renamed, The Ryman Auditorium. Many times over the years, Rev. Jones brought up his desire to change the name of the Union Gospel Tabernacle to honor his friend, the man who brought his vision to reality, Thomas Ryman. But, Ryman would not hear of it, so it wasn’t until his death in 1904, during his memorial service, that Jones made a proposal to rename the building after Ryman. He got his wish, as the attendees approved the idea overwhelmingly, and the name was changed. Sadly, Rev. Jones died just two years later, one day before his 59th birthday. It is believed that he preached to over three million Americans during his career.
Over the next forty years, so many well-known people graced the stage, which was built in 1901, that the Ryman Auditorium became known as the “Carnegie Hall of the South!” Early entertainers, like Marian Anderson, John Philip Sousa, Ethel Barrymore, Charlie Chaplin, Roy Rogers, Harry Houdini, W.C. Fields, Bob Hope, Katharine Hepburn and Mae West, performed at the Ryman, as did a variety of speakers, including President Theodore Roosevelt.
By 1943, there was a new show in town – a radio show that was getting too big for it’s britches – called The Grand Ole Opry. Needing a larger venue, it found it’s way to the Ryman, where it stayed for the next 31 years! Legends, such as Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley graced the stage and the Opry became an international phenomenon, hosting the biggest country stars of that time! Nicknamed “The Mother Church of Country Music” by the locals, the Ryman is also known as the Birthplace of Bluegrass. When Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe performed together onstage in December of 1945, a different kind of sound was born – bluegrass!
Because of its increase in popularity, (again!) in 1974, a new venue was built further out from the city for the Opry, and the move was a very emotional and sad departure for many of the cast. During the last show at the Ryman, Minnie Pearl was unable to control her emotions and cried onstage, knowing it was the end of an era. But the Ryman continued to host various events, due the it’s fame and recognition as being such a popular landmark, and the Grand Ole Opry thrived in it’s new home down the road. However, because of various businessmen and self-serving bigwigs in town, the Ryman soon became a source of criticism and doom. There was a tug-of-war about what to do with it, and believe it or not, it was shut down and stood vacant for twenty years (1974-1994,) while it (and the surrounding area) began to decay. It’s sure hard to imagine that now, with its current popularity and bustling activity, but it is truly by miracle alone that the Ryman was never demolished! That, as well as protests and complaints by preservationists and local citizens, and an article written in The New York Times written by Ada Louise Huxtable, ridiculing the decision to raze the building to make room for a modern, new theater. She wrote: “First prize for the pious misuse of a landmark, and total misunderstanding of the principles of preservation. Gentleman, for shame!” Eventually, amidst all the mess, arguing, and confusion, it was finally thrown into a deal (almost as an afterthought) along with WSM-Radio and Opryland Properties, and sold to the Gaylord Entertainment Company. Luckily, CEO Ed Gaylord was a fan of the Grand Ole Opry and many of its stars, and saved it again from demolition, thanks to his appreciation of its remarkable history. Instead of being torn down, and after twenty years of standing vacant and deteriorating, the Ryman Auditorium would have a rebirth. In the early 1990s, a multi-million dollar renovation began on the building, updating and upgrading it to modern standards, which included central air-conditioning being added for the
first time! When it reopened, the next generation of performers yearned to play on the sacred stage that so many of their idols had stood in the past. Staying true to it’s reputation of diversity and variety, the Ryman hosted well-known talent of the day, from Aretha Franklin, ZZ Top, and Norah Jones to Boz Scaggs, Neil Young, and Sheryl Crow, to name a few. Many a star has recorded an album at the Ryman, and it has also been a popular venue for filming documentaries, videos and movies. It held memorial services for Johnny Cash, Minnie Pearl, Bill Monroe, Tammy Wynette, Chet Atkins and Waylon Jennings, and in November of 1999, saw the return of the Grand Ol’ Opry for the first time since it’s departure two decades earlier. It returns every November through January to pay homage to it’s humble beginnings and enjoy cozier, more intimate performances at the smaller venue during the off-season. This also allows the current home of the Opry to bring in large, holiday productions to its bigger auditorium.
Since it’s reopening, the Ryman had undergone two more renovations, one in 2012 to replace it’s 60 year old stage, and again in 2015, which included updating aging areas from the 1994 renovation, as well as adding more lobby space, a gift shop, and a restaurant, named in honor of past manager, Lula Naff. Business is booming as good as ever at the Ryman, with regular shows like Opry at the Ryman, Opry Country Classics, Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman, Sam’s Place, and radio broadcasts by the oldest radio station in the nation, 90 year old, WSM Radio! There is also a plethora of shows each year by a huge variety of performers, from country western to rock and roll, alternative, jazz and more! Recent performers have been Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Tedeschi Trucks, the Moody Blues, Cyndi Lauper, and Lucinda Williams, again…just to name a few! Award shows, fundraisers, and private parties are also held at the Ryman, as well as daily historic tours. Because of it’s charm and top-notch acoustics, the venue has received Pollstar’s Theater of the Year Award 2010 -2015. It is truly an iconic building that has stood the test of time…and development! When in Nashville, a visit to the Ryman is a must! Lookie here: http://ryman.com
If and when you ever visit Nashville, Tennessee, you must check out Broadway (especially “Lower Broad,” which is what the locals call the hapnin’ part of this street) and hit the honky tonks! Talk about a music lovers haven! Be warned, though, that it is also a tourist haven. No matter, it’s a must see, as it is all about live bands, entertainment and a place to see and be seen. Oh, and I mustn’t forget the hoards of neon signs! It’s a cross between big city “Broadways” and “Bourbon Street” in New Orleans, bordering on cool and nostalgic, and just plain tacky! It’s your call, but I personally love the look of neon, because it melds the historical past with the high-tech present.
If you’ve done your homework, or paid attention, you’ll have heard of one of the biggies, “Tootsie’s World Famous Orchid Lounge” in Nashville. Tacky and purple painted as it is, it’s just an old honky tonk that has been the spot where loads of country musicians have come to play. The walls are covered with framed pictures of every country star (and more) that you could dream of! It’s a rustic, old dive, but it’s got history, personality, and plain old fame!
Another very fun place – and my personal favorite – is just a few doors down, called “Robert’s Western World.” Resembling an old western apparel store, because it actually once was one, Robert’s is home to my favorite local band (so far,) called the Don Kelley Band. This foursome consists of lead man, Don Kelley (guitar & vocals,) Slick Joe Fick (upright bass & vocals,) Artie Alinikoff (drums & vocals,) and the most amazing, young (and I mean, young!) guitar player I’ve ever witnessed, Daniel Donato! He just turned 20 (April 6, 2015,) doesn’t look like a razor has ever touched his smooth face, and this kid SHREDS on his guitar like I’ve never seen! And, I’ve seen a whole lotta guitar players in my day!! Check out his website: www.danieldonato.com, or on Youtube tearing it up here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ko0Uze4Vd3g. This kid’s fingers are faster than lightening!!
Whereas, Daniel’s talented guitar playing takes center stage much of the time, Joe Fick brings the personality! His animated facial expressions, while he rocks his upright bass, is a show in itself. He is a humorous character who makes faces at his instrument, spins it, seems to have conversations with it, and even jumps and stands on the bloody thing! He loves what he does and obviously has a blast doing it! This guy is a kick, I tell ya! More on Joe here: http://www.slickjoefick.com
Meanwhile, the other two, Don and Artie, hold down the fort, while Don is clearly the headmaster, and Artie, the heartbeat. Altogether, they compliment each other as a cast of very different characters, and an upbeat, fun-loving, crazy good band! A must-see when you come to Nashville!! Don’t miss them!!
Yes, it’s true that I am a country music freak (from California,) but it’s only been recently, when country became more rockified. I love the sound of the new young artists who are blending their roots in the country western world with some of the cool rock bands they also grew up with! (ex. Eric Church’s “Springsteen.”) Since I was a teenager frequenting Winterland, and listening to the best rock stations in San Francisco, I liked the crossovers of the day – the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws, Charlie Daniels Band, Marshall Tucker, etc. Besides the catchy rhythms (Ramblin Man), lyrics (Simple Man) and rockin’ fiddle (Devil Went Down to Georgia,) this music ROCKED! And, tonight at Bottle Rock was a prime example of when country meets rock, when rock meets country, with the headliner-The ZAC BROWN BAND! (www.zacbrownband.com) Whereas, these guys are planted very firmly in country western and folk music, they know how to rip, rock, and roll. And, this came across straight away by the looks of their stage set – a smoky, smoldering, underground blue-collar, machine shop vibe with the keyboard and drum risers lined with gears, ratchets, various wheels, and stuff I couldn’t possibly name, not being an expert in that field.
Hailing from the great state of Georgia, Zac Brown was the eleventh out of twelve children, which might be why he surrounds himself with a large band of eight guys. The talent in this band is pretty incredible, with musicians schooled in a variety of unusual instruments, such as mandolin, organ, banjo, ukulele, pedal steel, keyboard, and violin, in addition to guitar, bass, drums and percussion. This, of course, raises their music level above and beyond your typical country western band sound. And, the highlight of tonight’s show, and every show this band performs (in my opinion) is their absolutely rockin’ fiddler, Jimmy De Martini. This man is mesmerizing and thoroughly captivating when he takes center stage and all eyes (and ears) are on him! He can rock a fiddle like Jimi Hendrix rocked a guitar – aggressive, fierce and fiery! There is nothing sweet and subtle about it – this man makes fiddle playing sexy…and the Zac Brown Band is better because of him! Every band has guitar, bass and drums in their repertoire, but to include a violin and highlight him, was a genius idea that puts this band in a league of their own. Check out the comparison between Jimmy and Charlie Daniels here: http://wyrk.com/who-is-the-best-fiddler-in-country-music-poll/
Starting off their set this warm Napa night with ‘Keep Me in Mind,’ the ZBB played fan favorites, such as, ‘Whiskey’s Gone,’ ‘The Wind,’ and ‘Chicken Fried,’ as well as covers of Dave Matthews Band’s ‘Ant’s Marching,’ Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir,’ Charlie Daniels’ ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia,’ and Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman.’ The morphing of country with rock just drives the point home that country absolutely rocks!
Then, about halfway through the show, Zac invited Kacey Musgraves onstage to join the guys in playing her song, ‘Follow Your Arrow,’ and in between some of the songs, Zac subtly blended well-known folksy songs with his music. The intro to his song, ‘The Wind’ was Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ in the Wind,’ which was a clever blend, and ‘Free’ led into Into ‘The Mystic’ by Van Morrison. This show kept the crowd on their toes, combining songs from different genres, eras, and artists. What an interesting variety of music, and done with the Zac Brown Band’s signature sound autographed across it. This show made it clear that music transcends the lines between style, genre, and types of music, and that one band can crossover from one style to another, and make them both sound excellent. Their setlist may look schizophrenic at a glance, but you had to be there to believe how creatively genius it actually was. The next time these guys come to your town, I highly recommend you check them out. In the meantime, check out their songs online (Youtube, iTunes, etc.)
At 6:00pm, as the sun was moving further away from the sky over Bottle Rock, as the heat of the day faded, and the weather changed to perfect, a favorite local San Francisco band took the main stage. Train, (http://savemesanfrancisco.com) with it’s charismatic lead singer, Pat Monahan, commanded the audience with a confident presence. They love what they do, and it shows! I first saw Train at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas in 2012 (http://sxsw.com,) where they did a phenomenal job performing at the Central Presbyterian Church.
Tonight’s show was very different, on an outdoor stage in Napa, California’s wine country, as the sun was going down, and a crowd that was ten times larger. Any way you see them, though, they put on a good show. Singing many of their most recognizable hits – Soul Sister, Calling All Angels, Save Me, San Francisco, Meet Virginia, Drops of Jupiter – they easily got the crowd singing and swooning right along, right away. Monahan was all over the stage – and it was a big one – getting up-close and as personal as a singer can in a venue so huge. At one point, he pulled out his cell phone and took pictures of the crowd from the stage, and later in the show, he jumped into the audience and took selfies with people and their phones.
Pat Monahan is a crowd friendly performer, no doubt, and it was so very apparent just how much fun he was having. And, not only is he a singer, he is a musician, which he proved when he picked up the saxophone and played along with his band. Whatever your opinion is of the band Train, they have cut out a name for themselves in the music industry. Their songs are catchy, a bit poppy, with sometimes rather odd lyrics (“my heart is bound to beat, right out my untrimmed chest” or “just a shy guy looking for a two-ply Hefty bag to hold love.”) Where they come up with such odd, kind of nerdy, lyrics is beyond me, but it’s not my place to judge. They are good; they are successful; they have made a name for themselves in the world of music, and that’s admirable and honorable.
As the evening settled in, and the sun began to fade, Train’s show came to an end. The emotion exuding from the band was felt by, no doubt, everyone in the audience. Monahan’s appreciation to the crowd for their warm response, and the fact that he was overcome with gratitude that practically brought him to tears, was wonderful sight. Sometimes it seems to me like celebrities are untouchables, or on a higher plane that the rest of us mortals (or think they are!) So, to see them in such an obvious state of appreciation and indebtedness, is heartwarming. It shows that they are human, after all. These guys might not be the Rolling Stones, but they are Train, and train rocked Bottle Rock 2013!
I’m not quite sure how I managed to leave out from the 2013 lineup the young, up-and-coming, very talented country artist, Kacy Musgraves, a 26 year old Texas girl! (http://www.kaceymusgraves.com) She was a huge reason we “parked” ourselves at the main stage for the day. Being a country music fan, and because I listen to KRTY 95.3 (http://www.krty.com) religiously, I had been introduced to her music before attending Bottle Rock. Some of her radio hits that I especially like are ‘Merry Go Round,’ ‘Blowin’ Smoke,’ ‘Follow Your Arrow,’ and ‘Mama’s Broken Heart.’
Kacey and her band took the stage at 2:00 pm, before Michael Franti & Spearhead, and though she is a petite, young thang, she confidently led her band of men. Dressed in a mini skirt, black t-shirt and cowboy boots, she played her acoustic guitar and sang gems from her hit album, “Same Trailer Different Park,” as well as many others in her stash. Her sweet, humble demeanor was endearing to the crowd, who focussed intensely on this singing,songwriting musician that most of them probably hadn’t even heard of yet. This talented young lady has written songs for Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson and more. But, she has the voice, the presence and the talent to hold her own. Her lyrics are different form the average country song – clever, descriptive and sometimes controversial – and, I highly recommend listening to her album, “Same Trailer Different Park,” which won ‘Best Country Album’ and ‘Country Album of the Year’ in 2013. And, in addition to these prestigious kudos, Kacey also won ‘New Artist of the Year’ and ‘Best Country Song’ for ‘Merry Go Round.’ This young lady is surely just beginning a long, successful career in the music business. Atta girl, Kacey!!
Next up: San Francisco’s own….Train!
BOTTLE ROCK NAPA (http://www.bottlerocknapavalley.com)
Just returning from my second year at Bottle Rock in Napa, I thought I’d share what this festival has to offer from my perspective. But, if you want to read complaints and negativity about the event, you won’t see them here…cuz I tend to prefer things with a positive spin. Taking place at the Napa Fairgrounds in Northern California’s gorgeous wine country, this event is awesome, to say the least…but, it comes with some challenges. The lineup was phenomenal considering that this festival is all of two years old! The frustrating issue with festivals is that there are more than one stage, and the bands tend to overlap. So, you run into the problem of having two great bands (sometimes more)
performing at the same time and having to make the decision of which ones to see. It can be a tough challenge deciding whether to watch one band and miss the other, or to catch a little bit of each band, missing a portion of both shows (and usually some of their best songs.)
My two experiences (2013 & 2014) were very different from each other, but both kicked ass. But, unfortunately, due to my busy schedule, I was only able to spend one day out of three at this festival each year. Oh well, as far as I’m concerned, it’s better than not going at all.
In it’s debut year, my friends and I chose to plant ourselves at the main stage and stay there for the majority of the time. This was, according to us, the best choice, because three great bands were performing here, one right after the other. First was Michael Franti and Spearhead, who was followed by Train, and the grand finale was the Zac Brown Band. And, though the other stages featured bands we wanted to see, we felt that it was better to watch three bands in their entirety, than to catch partial shows at different stages, spending valuable listening time walking from one stage to another. This year, however, we did the opposite by mapping out our schedule and trekking from one stage (and one band) to another.
Bottle Rock 2013 was very warm, with temperatures feeling in the high 80s/low 90s. The fairground was dirt-filled and dusty, mingling with sweaty bodies, it was grimy. But, having spent what seems like a lifetime at concerts (I’m from the Day on the Green generation,) as well as experiencing festivals of many varieties (New Orleans Jazz Fest, South By Southwest, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, etc,) you know that anything can happen here, so you’d better be adaptable! It can be a scorcher, it can rain, it can be cold, it can be dirty, it can be crowded, it can be irritating, but if you truly love music, it is an experience, and usually a good one, if you ask me! As I mentioned earlier, we decided to stay put at one stage (there were four)…the Main Stage. First on was Michael Franti & Spearhead…but, I’m not going to critique or review their show here, as I’m no professional…and, that’s not what I really do on this blog. I will, however, mention that this was my first time seeing these guys and I really enjoyed them. With his hair wrapped up in a beanie, and strumming a beautiful acoustic guitar with a wooden inlaid design reminiscent of a Peter Max poster, Franti and the band hit the stage. They were high energy, with Michael commanding the stage (and the audience’s attention) from one far end to the other. At one point, he came out into the crowd to entertain us, up close and personal. Before long, the beanie was gone and his long dreadlocks hung freely in the warm breeze. I was impressed by the sharing of his personal path with the crowd, mentioning that he had been adopted by a family in Oakland, California and was so grateful for his life. He makes sure to pay it forward and is involved in a number of foundations, organizations, fundraising events, and raising awareness for those in need. Towards the end of their show, the band invited a whole bunch of kids onstage to join them for a song or two. Michael Franti embraces mankind and seems really in touch with who he is (an adopted child with French, German, Irish, Native American and African American) and where he came from (Oakland, CA.) Whereas, I really liked the music, which is a complimentary blend of reggae, hip-hop, funk and rock, I was more impressed with the man. Any way you look at it, though, it was a show worth watching…and a band worth seeing again! Check them out here: https://www.michaelfranti.com
***Little did I realize, a few months back when I wrote about my friend, Barb winning a trip to New York to see the Rolling Stones (http://www.rollingstones.com,) that it would be a precursor to ‘the best night of my life!’ At that time (Nov-Dec. ’12,) we diehard Stones fans were chomping at the bit, wondering when/if/where our beloved band was ever going to tour again. We figured it had to be soon, if ever, since it was their 50th anniversary together as a band…and a unique time in rock & roll history! Monumentous! Exciting!
As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t recall where I was when I heard they were actually going to do it – the Stones would be touring! I’m sure I mustn’t have been driving in my car, or I surely would’ve crashed! I know it wasn’t from someone else, because I am always the first of my friends to hear about important musical news like this. I’m thinking it must’ve been on the internet, Facebook, or somewhere where I could’ve seen it “hot off the press.” Being a lifelong concert goer, and Stones fan, I’m signed up for all sorts of music news, so I undoubtedly received some email notification that announced the tour. And, I was ECSTATIC! I immediately contacted my three kids and told them to clear their calendars on the night the Stones were coming to our town! It had been a wish of mine to take them to see the greatest rock band in the world, if they ever toured again. And now, that time had come!
Ticket sales were only about a month after the big announcement, so things happened fast. By the grace of god, all four of us were available on Sunday, May 5, 2013 to see the boys in Oakland, California! But, buying tickets was another story. I feared being seated in the boondocks and barely being able to see the stage. Being one of their oldest and most devoted fans, I felt I should have a seat in the front row with my name engraved on it. But phooey, I didn’t. So, it was going to be a mad frenzy online, along with thousands of other nutty fans, jumping into the lottery fan pool. Ugh… But, lo and behold (and by the grace of something!) my daughter informed me that, because she was a Citibank cardholder, (https://online.citibank.com/US/Welcome.c) she had access to presale tickets! Praise the Gods of Rock & Roll!! We’d get first crack at them!
The morning of the sale, “Dot” (daughter) and I were on the phone in front of our computers – me at home, her at work. She had four co-workers ready to go when the clock struck 10:00am, and the first to get in would grab four tickets. Studying the seat map of the arena, we discussed sections and prices, all the while I was researching anything and everything I could about the upcoming show. At the last minute, I miraculously came across a posting somewhere by a British fan who had seen the Stones in England. He clearly wrote, “pay the extra money and buy tickets in the Tongue Pit – it’s the only place to be!” I suddenly became possessed by the Concert Devil, and told Dot to
“go for it! Buy in the Tongue Pit!” I didn’t care about the price – I was going for the big time! This was the single most historic event for this concert lover, and it was never going to happen again! So, that’s exactly what we did. Dot got into site first and by 10:03 we had four tickets in the tongue pit to see the ROLLING STONES!! My joke is that “I spent my next 42 paychecks” on tickets…but I didn’t regret it for a second! We were seeing the Stones!!!
The first time I saw the Rolling Stones was as a teenager in 1974 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco; and then again in 1977 at a ‘Day on the Green’ in Oakland; then again, and again, etc, etc. If a little birdie whispered in my ear back then that in 2013 I would be going to see them with my three grown kids, I would’ve bet my right arm, left leg, a trillion bucks, and all my future children on the impossibility of that ever happening. Glad I never made that bet, because I would’ve lost big time!!
To prepare the kids (all in their 20s, so not really ‘kids’ at all,) I researched the playlists from the “50 & Counting” concerts that took place last December, took an educated guess that they’d be the same or similar, and burned them each a copy. It ended up to be a wise decision, because that’s exactly what happened (give or take a song or three…) and they were all very familiar with the songs that night, singing along, jumping around, and basically enthralled like their mother!
MAY 5, 2013: THE ROLLING STONES IN CONCERT AT ORACLE ARENA IN OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA!! Decked out in Stones wear, we were off to the arena via BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit,) having to arrive between 5:00-6:00pm in order to get wristbands, VIP goodie bags*, and early entrance on to the floor. We went from one line to another to another, and after about an hour of this, were finally let loose inside the arena and down to the floor. I had informed the kids exactly where we would be standing “Follow me!” – a little to the right of center and as close to Keith Richards as humanly possible. And, that’s exactly what we did! It ends up that the only people between us and the stage were the camera man and the security dude. Excellent! Next, it was more waiting, talking to people around us, drinking beers, getting some food, killing time-all while the rest of the huge crowd of fans entered the arena. As showtime approached, the buzz in the tongue pit increased. The place was becoming electified…and we were excited. Then, the lights went dark…and, because I had heard that in previous concerts there was a drumline that started the show, I was expecting it tonight. But no! The stage lights lit up, a voice announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen…the Rolling Stones!” and there they were, larger than life, right in front of us – MICK, KEITH, RONNIE, CHARLIE & the rest of the band! They were so close (well, Mick and Keith were) that I could see their eyes, their wrinkles, their teeth!! Unreal! One of the first things that happened (that I’m sure no one else in the entire place noticed) was, after their first song (“Get Off of My Cloud”) Keith walked over to Ronnie Wood and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. They smiled at each other, like brothers and best friends, and went right into the next song. I was so excited I was jumping up and down like a little girl, a Rolling Stones cheerleader! Throughout the night, Keith and Ronnie both saw me (I’m sure
Mick did, too) and acknowledged me with smiles, a wave, and I swear Keith did a solo for me (I know, it sounds crazy, but…) because he was right in front of me, we locked eyes, then he looked down at his guitar during his little solo, and then looked back up at me and mouthed something!! Of course, I couldn’t hear it or read his lips, but he smiled at me and I gave him two thumbs up! What a thrill!! And, many times during the show, he walked to the edge of the stage, right over to us, and tossed out a guitar pick each time. My youngest kid caught the first one and handed it right over to me. Atta girl! The woman next to her offered her $1000.00 for it! “You’ll have to ask my mom,” was her response. The woman asked me, but of course I refused. “I’m sorry, but I could never part with this” I told her. The next one he flung bounced onto the floor near my eldest child (Dot,) who reached down and grabbed it, as did the guy standing next to her. They got into a little tug-o-war and my kid won. But, knowing we already had one, and seeing the disappointment on the man’s face, she said, “You really want this, don’t you?” “I really do!” he told her, so she gave it to him. Atta girl… Pick #3 was thrown during the very last song, (“Satisfaction”) bounced off some hands and fell to the floor. A few people scrambled around looking, but couldn’t find it. It stayed there until after the show, when the woman who offered us money for our first pick, her friend, me and my youngest all were looking through the litter, spilled beer, and other trash for the pick that we all knew was there. And, sure enough, the young one (my kid, again) with the good eyesight found it – her second KR pick of the night!! But, being the kind kid that she is, she handed it over to the woman who so desperately wanted it. The woman gave her a huge hug, got all choked up, and her friend said, “She’s going to love you forever for that!!”
All in all, it was a wonderful night! Seeing the Stones up close and personal, getting looks, smiles, picks from them, etc. was more than I could’ve ever wanted! Being there with my kids, who loved the show as much as I did, was priceless!! When it was over, they all came up to me and thanked me for the “best night ever”, “the best concert” they had ever seen! We were walking on clouds! The Stones put on a fantastic show, beyond all expectations, and we were flying high!
During each of their shows on this “50 & Counting” tour, the guys invited a special guest to join them onstage for a
song. Besides Mick Taylor, who was the special guest on the whole tour, some of the others were Taj Mahal, Aaron Neville, Gwen Stefani, John Mayer, Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Bonnie Raitt, Gary Clark, Jr., etc. Our night featured Tom Waits singing “Little Red Rooster.” Of course, every night also featured Lisa Fischer* on vocals for “Gimme Shelter,” and man, did she belt it out!! Oh, we also had the San Jose State choir join the boys for “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The whole show was amazing, surreal, unreal, and historic!! In the following days I was both riding high with exhiliaration, and so sad that it was over. To think that, after a lifetime of The Stones, this might be it…fini…the end of an era. But, even if it was, it stands out as one of the best nights of my life…and, I could’ve repeated it over and over a hundred more times! The Rolling Stones, on stage after fifty years together!! I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!!
**In our goodie bags (canvas bags with the Stones logo) were a nice wool blanket with the Rolling Stones “50 Years & Counting” logo in black, red and white; a very nice hard back book called “50 & Counting…The Rolling Stones Live,” and a lanyard with a laminated “50 & Counting” logo.
***Lisa Fischer is featured in the movie “20 Feet From Stardom” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWyUJcA8Zfo) and has been touring with the Rolling Stones since 1989.
I’ve been listening to the radio since I first discovered a transistor somewhere in my parents’ garage. (My dad used to listen to baseball games while working on his car.) Lucky for me, both my parents (especially my mother) were music lovers and we had a home full of radios, records, turntables, instruments, cassettes, and whatever else delivered tunes. Mom always had the radio on in the car when schlepping us kids around town, and I always tuned in. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I quickly fell in love with the two most popular AM radio stations of the time ~ KYA and KFRC. (It would still be a quite a few years before FM radio became popular.) Anytime I was in the vicinity of a radio, I immediately tuned in to AM 610 or 1240, and would continuously bounce back and forth between the two stations to ‘catch’ the best songs being played.
Fast forward to today: I still bounce between stations, and whereas I don’t necessarily have one favorite channel, there is a particular disc jockey that stands out far above the others ~ Steven Seaweed, on 107.7 The Bone! (KSAN) Not only does “The Weed Man” (http://ksanfm.dnn.cumulus.net/StevenSeaweed/TheSeaweedStory/tabid/271/Default.aspx) have quite an interesting history in the area, he is also an encyclopedia of music and has an enormous following. With his local fame and status, as well as the ability to keep the studio, microphone, and radio waves as a barrier between he and the public, Steven could easily distance himself from his listeners. But, he doesn’t. Instead, he often invites listeners into his studio, offers something called “Free Food Friday Hot Lunch,” and very hospitably entertains them. He also has tons of ‘friends’ on Facebook and is very interactive on it. He is a major supporter of local music and musicians, and in the “Bone Voyage” segment of his show, he kindly allows local bands to plug their upcoming gigs, which Steven announces every weekend. He very often has local musicians, as well as ‘well-knowns,’ visit him in the studio and interviews them on the air, or lets them plug a show. This is a man who really “pays it forward.” He is a diehard music lover and appreciator, and he is gladly using his forum to help others in their musical pursuits.
I don’t usually request a “friend” on Facebook unless I know them personally. However, because Steven and I have mutual friends, and he started the “Have a Ball Foundation” (http://haveaballgolf.com/about-us.htm) with one of them, and since I feel that I’ve known the man for years because of listening to him on the radio, we ended up as friends on Facebook. Well, the truth of it is, as any of you Facebookers know, “friending’ people on Facebook is no major feat. And of course, I figured I would basically be getting updates (ie. advertisements) about what is important in the Weedman’s life. However, when it’s a well-known radio personality of your time, who not only accepted your ‘friendship’ but actually takes the time to ‘inbox’ a personal “Happy Birthday” message on your birthday (can you imagine how many he has to do a day with over 5,000 friends?!) Well, that’s what started the ball rolling for my birthday celebration this year. Here is how the story goes:
Last year, on my birthday I received a personal inbox message from Seaweed wishing me a ‘rockin’ birthday. Knowing he has an abundant number of Facebook friends, I was surprised and honored that he took the time out of his busy schedule (even if it was only 30 seconds) to send me this message. So, I answered back, telling him that he ‘made my day,’ though never expecting to hear back from him again. But, lo and behold, he responded with an invitation to come into the studio on a Friday for his “Friday Hot Lunch.” Honored by this personal invitation, I happily accepted, But, busy as my life is, I never got my act together to get down to the studio and partake in the event. So, a year later, just before my next birthday, I was feeling like a schlepp for never getting in there for this unique opportunity. I mean, it isn’t every day that you get a personal invitation from a prestigious radio DJ to come in and hang out in his studio with him! So, I thought it would be a perfect way to celebrate this year’s birthday, as I could bring in nine of my friends, too. I went through all the rigamarole to set the whole thing up, which wasn’t as easy as expected since Steven was out with pneumonia during this time and my email got lost in Limbo land. Once he returned to work, and I gathered up nine eager friends who were also up for the adventure, the day came. Two car loads of women drove up to “The Steven Seaweed Building” in downtown San Francisco. First, we stopped by the Flower Market to buy him a bunch of orange flowers (to represent our San Francisco Giants) and brought alone a card signed by our group. Upon arriving at the studio, we were sent up to his floor where we waited in the lobby. I wasn’t expecting to see a room full of long-haired rocker dudes (and their wives/girlfriends) also waiting to get in. I thought that we ten women would be it, thinking that he had a crampy little studio. It ends up, these guys were in an AC/DC tribute band, cleverly called “ADD/C” that had a show in the area that night and would be promoting it on Seaweed’s show. While we waited, we were treated to our free hot lunch, which is donated by a local restaurant. On this day, it happened to be pizzas and sodas from Amici’s Pizza. In no time, Steven came out and introduced himself to everyone and we mingled and chatted. He was like an old friend, giving me a hug, and making a point to meet all of my friends. I never expected this man to be so friendly and personable, but as the time went on, we all learned that he is much more than that. Steven Seaweed is a ‘personality,’ so charismatic and charming that he makes you feel instantly at home in his presence. There wasn’t an air of arrogance or egomania whatsoever in this man. And, it wasn’t just me that felt it…every one of my friends took to him immediately. He has the gift of spreading great vibes and kindness without an ounce of attitude.
After our lunch, it was time to file into his studio and watch him in action. He has a nice ‘office’ four floors up in a room full of windows overlooking downtown San Francisco. We lined up around his ‘desk,’ which was a high-tech collection of computer gadgets and contraptions that I couldn’t begin to describe or understand. But, it was impressive! People came bearing gifts, which were delivered to him as we entered the room. During Steven’s “Hot Lunches,” which he has every weekday from noon to 1:00 (tho, Friday is the only day he includes the public, and food) he announces the theme word for that day and listeners call in to request a song that relates to that word. I’ve listened to this many times in the past, from the ‘other’ side of the radio, but today I got to see it from the inside. Interestingly, he fields the phone calls during songs, records them, then plays them when he is back on the air. His producer, Ander, is right by his side fiddling expertly on some technological gizmo that does something like line up things to get the timing right for airplay. At least, I think it was something of that nature. Meanwhile, during songs, Steven was up and out of his seat every time to make the rounds and talk to each of the twenty-odd people that were in his studio that day! He also handed out cards (similar to baseball cards) with his picture on them to everyone, because he was recently inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame. (http://bammagazine.com/index.php/archives/310-bay-area-radio-hall-of-fame-inductees-announced) It didn’t take long to figure out that he seems to have “groupies.” Many of the visitors this day were ‘regulars’ and were fans of this man. Meanwhile, I noticed that one of my friends, who happens to always have something up her sleeve, was taking him aside and whispering to him. This made me curious, as well as nervous, because you never know what this woman is up to! Was she requesting a song? Flirting with Steven? Or, could she be planning a way to put me in the spotlight because, after all, it was my birthday!! So much was going on in that studio – pictures galore were being snapped, we were amused and entertained by a DJ in action, there was an interview and ticket giveaway with one of the ADD/C band members, there were on-air requests (which reminds me, our word of the day was “THAT, “ which is one weird word to try to match with a song! But, people managed.) There was talking and schmoozing off-air, Hall of Fame cards being signed and passed out, etc, etc, so when Steven suddenly announced, “Where is Nadine?” I nearly jumped out of my skin. Uh-oh, what does he want with ME! I nervously stepped forward and he told me to come around to his side of the “desk.’ Yikes, what is going on here? I apprehensively went over to him, where he sat me on his lap. Yikes! “Are you going to make me talk on the air?” I barely managed to squeak out. No answer, as he fiddled about on his techie board. And, just as I breathed out, “Oh gawd, you are…” there he was, microphone dangling between us, speaking on air. “I have Nadine here in the studio today. Happy birthday!” I was shaking like a leaf, and barely remember responding, “Thank you, Steven.” The rest of our short conversation (what I can recall of it) went like this:
SS: “So, how old are you today, 32? 33?”
Me: “I’m 39 again…and again…and again”
SS: “39 and holding, huh?”
Me: “Yes, that’s right.” Smiling sheepishly.
SS: “Well, thanks for coming in and celebrating with us today.”
Me: “Thank you for inviting me.” Very gratefully.
SS: “Come in again some time.”
Me: “Oh, I will!” Excited!
SS: “Happy birthday.”
Me: “Thank you so much!”
I stayed seated on his lap while some more talking and announcements took place, probably so as not to disrupt the broadcast, still in a fog over what just happened. Then, when the time was right, I gave him a kiss on the cheek and stumbled back to where I had been standing. The rest of the show was a blur, as I was absolutely overcome by this unexpected twist. Thank goodness for Smart Phones, because I got some great pictures of the day, and of me on the air with the Weedman himself!
At 1:00, the show was over. It was time to say ‘goodbyes’ and ‘thank yous’ and end the adventure. I gave Steven a big, appreciative hug, thanking him for the opportunity to be a part of this behind-the-scenes experience. He respectfully shook everyone’s hand or gave hugs and said goodbye to each and every person who was there that day. What a blast it was! And, what an honor to be in the presence of this well-known, charismatic & charming disc jockey! My friends and I were in awe, and enjoyed every minute of that day. In fact, it was so much fun that I’m thinking of making it an annual event. Happy Birthday to Me!!