Friday, May 26, 2017

Thoughts on The State of Rock

Today is the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, arguable the most important album in rock and roll history.  It transformed rock and roll from music to art, ushered in the psychedelic era, and influenced thousands of contemporary and future musicians.

Kiss drummer Peter Criss recently declared that "rock 'n' roll is over."  Other rock stars have echoed those sentiments.  Frankly, I don't think rock and roll is dead or over.  You just have to know where to find it.  But Criss's comment did get me thinking about the future of rock and roll.  

In a timely coincidence, as he is occasionally wont to do, my good friend Greg Weeser* sent me a long email about the state of rock and roll, prompted by seeing U2 at the Rose Bowl last weekend.  Back in our younger days, we would exchange long emails about rock music from time to time.  And when I started this here blog, I would post our exchanges, or at least my response to his emails.  (Once such instance is a fascinating read from November 2009 about U2 and Foo Fighters.)

But anywho, here is Greg's email (with a few identifying details changed and some paragraphs chopped up) and my response.  Greg's email will be in yellow, and my response will be in non yellow.  This will be a long one.  Enjoy.


Yo. Been too long since a download on your thoughts on music..

Yeah, man.  I've been here.

So, I saw U2 last night at the Rose Bowl for the "Joshua Tree" tour.  Absolutely amazing, and you'd be a fool not to pony up the $400 for General Admission floor seats for the Soldier Field show in two weeks.  

Unlikely.  I have seen U2 before, and chances are, they will be through town again, preferably in a setting where I won't have to pay $400 to see them.  There are only two bands I have paid that much money to see:  GNR last summer in the front row at Soldier Field, and The Rolling Stones on the floor at the United Center for their 50th anniverary tour a few years ago.

Pics attached.. 



Nice.  That screen is pretty badass.

After the opening act, they as usual were piping in other artists music over the PA for the intermission.... and as a crowd member, you're just waiting for each song to end, hoping it's the last, and then the lights will go down. (I still remember how Def Leppard always used "Coma" as their last song... mother fuckers using a *ten-minute* clip...)

"Coma."  Underrated song, but I know what you mean.  I appreciate when bands use the same lead-in music before they start.  The Darkness plays "The Boys Are Back In Town" right before they go on, so not only do I get a nice little blast of Thin Lizzy in a concert venue, but then it's followed by one of the best live bands in the world.

Out of nowhere, "Black Hole Sun" came on at full blast (not the normal levels), and it was this really cool moment, when everyone sang along for the whole song, and held up their cell phone lights.

That's awesome.  I have never thought of "Black Hole Sun" as a sing-along song, but then again, it's not like they're going to play "Rusty Cage."  I guess I would have gone with "Spoonman."  And remember when we used to have to hold up lighters?  Man, I burned the shit out of my thumb too many times.

But after that ended, they lowered the volume and went right back into the "preview" music.  A song by The Pogues. 

How Irish.  "I am going / I am going / Where streams of whiskey are flowing."  I remember once when The Pogues were the musical guest on SNL, sometime in the early '90s -- St. Patrick's Day 1990 to be exact (I had to look that up, FYI -- I'm not that much of a savant).  As a 12-year-old, I was confused and somewhat pissed as they mumbled through a couple songs I had never heard before, especially given that the previous two musical guests were Technotronic and Aerosmith.  Of course, even I could tell that the guys in the band were hammered.  That's the curse of those people, you know.

And then, halfway thru the song, without warning, this happened...



I hate it when they don't warn you.

Holy shit. 

I've actually never had a movement that I would consider holy.  Mostly they just stink to high heaven.  Oh, now I get it.

Chills up my spine. 

I hate it when a shit gives me the shivers.

The drums... like a machine gun.  

Yeah, kind of like Bloody Sunday -- or any of the several Bloody Sundays throughout Irish history.  Fucking British.

Then the guitar, then Bono.  I instantly got this feeling like "I'm watching something important."  (Background... I'd only seen U2 one, at Soldier Field for "Pop Mart" in 1997.  In my defense, they've only released about 5 great songs total in the intervening 20 years).  Anyway, it was a breathtaking moment, amongst 60,000 screaming fans.

I get it.  I've had that moment many times before, and for me, that's the beauty of live music and that's why I go to so many concerts.  You get this moment of zen, where you get to watch people who are better at their job than you are at yours (probably), and also take in how the rest of the crowd is reacting.  When I saw U2 in 2005 at the United Center, there was some guy and his wife sitting next to us, probably in their early 40s.  They were from Springfield.  While I was quite excited to see a then-up-and-coming Kings of Leon opening (and may have been one of a few hundred people in the stadium who knew who they were), this dude next to me was crying when U2 came out.  Not tearing up.  Crying.  I haven't cried in over 25 years, but the closest I come is when I'm at a concert or listening to music.  And sometimes when my son headbutts me in the junk.  He's stronger than he looks.

Also, the Pop album was fucking awful.  I'd agree with you on the 5 great songs in the last 20 years.  That's part of why I don't hold U2 in quite as high regard as that shell of man I sat next to 12 years ago.

At that point, there was a weird "jailbreak" moment where everyone in my section advanced on all the "obstructed view" seats below us.

"Jailbreak."  A fantastic song by yet another Irish band.  I could make some terrible Troubles reference here, but one in this post is enough.

I'm sure you've rushed the field at an IU football game... that moment when you either go with the crowd, or get trampled.

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not, but yeah, I have rushed the field at an IU football game.  November 16, 1996.  The 2-8 Hoosiers were hosting the undefeated and #2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.  It was the 3:30 ABC game.  Hell, Keith Jackson might have even been calling it.  Regardless, a 3:30 start meant that the soldout crowd was plenty lubed up.  There were plenty of Buckeye fans, as they have nothing else to live for but traveling to other team's stadiums and making complete asses of themselves.  A win for them clinched the Rose Bowl.  The Hoosiers hung tough.  We were down 20-17 relatively late in the game, and we were driving.  Jay Rodgers, our overmatched QB, was scrambling towards the sideline.  Though his forward progress was clearly stopped by several O$U defenders, the whistle did not blow.  One of their linebackers -- I can't remember if it was Finkus or Vrabel, but I suppose it doesn't matter -- stripped the ball and ran it back 60-70 yards for a TD, putting the Buckeyes up 27-17, which ended up being the final.

After the final whistle blew, I shit you not, those classless bastards cheering for the opposing team stormed our field and tore our uprights off of the base of the goalpost.  Our exiting crowd was aghast.  It all happened so fast.  Then, those fuckers figured that one broken goalpost wasn't enough, so they started running down the middle of the Memorial Stadium field towards the other goalpost.  That's when the exiting Hoosier fans turned around and rushed down to the field to head them off.  Local law enforcement prevented what could have been a full-on Braveheart-style battle.  There was a demilitarized zone of about ten feet that separated the IU fans and the OSU fans, with cops walking up and down the space.  Idle epithets about opposing fans' mothers and educations were exchanged.  Every now and then, someone from one side would try to break through to the other side.  A buddy of mine saw an OSU fan across the way, with a girl on his shoulders who was waiving the state flag of Ohio -- a laughable two-pronged pennant.  With a mischievous twinkle in his eye, my buddy said, "I'm gonna get that flag." Before I could tell him it was a bad idea, he had tackled the guy, and I was trying to rip the flag in half using its two prongs.  A very understanding officer of the law picked me up and placed me back on the other side without arresting me.

The next weekend, I went up to that geographical shit stain they call West Lafayette, where I watched IU win the Old Oaken Bucket during Bill Mallory's last game as head coach.  The IU section of fans rushed the field.  As I was attempting to run towards the Hoosier team to celebrate, apparently I got too close to the goal post because a Purdue linebacker knocked me off my feet, where I was nearly trampled by both IU fans and the Purdue football team.  I popped back up, made a snarky comment about his choice of school, and went on my way.

I also rushed the field for Antwaan Randle El's last game, but that wasn't a close game or a big game or anything, so it wasn't a mad dash.  We tore the goalpost down, which, in retrospect, seems completely unnecessary.  Then again, it's not like we had many chances to tear down goalposts.

So yeah, I've rushed the field at an IU game.  What was the question?

Also, if you've ever surfed, the feeling you get when you biff, and can either choose to go with the wave and take your chances, or fight it and make the evening news as a drowning victim.

Much to the chagrin of my 8-year-old self -- whose only goal in life was to become a professional surfer -- I have never surfed.  But I have drowned in a dream before, and that's a real bummer.

Cut to: my (50 year old!) cousin Molly leaping over the barrier and charging into the GA section. 

For some reason, I am picturing your cousin doing a Fosbury Flop over the barrier.

I obviously had no choice but to follow.  

It's almost like you were saying "If you walk away walk away, I walk away walk away.  I will follow."

We spent the next two songs weaving thru the crowd, and finally settled in the front row of GA, off to the right side.

Well shit, that ain't bad.

Since our "original seats" were 100 yards away from the stage, i didn't bother to bring earplugs. Now, I found myself 20 feet from a speaker column that was bigger than our grade school. Whoops.

Thankfully, you're not too old, so it's not too loud.

So we spent the rest of the show in the front row, as they played the entire Joshua Tree album in order, with a 200'x50' high-res screen glowing in the background.  It was epic. Like listening to Moses sing the Ten Commandments. 

Moses.  Bono.  Either way, a lot of preaching.

Maybe one of the best concerts I've ever been to... which is saying a lot, since we're old enough to be free of the hormone-fueled excitement of being a teenager at Tinley Park, where the scope of the event (and the weed and beer) overpowers everything.

I actually never drank or ingested any illegal substances before or during any concerts until some point in college.  But I get your point.  When I saw Aerosmith (with Jackyl opening) at the World in 1994 during the Get A Grip tour, it was definitely a feeling of "holy shit, I'm seeing Aerosmith."  I don't get that feeling much anymore, mostly because I've seen most of the bands I have wanted to see.  Of course, last summer, seeing GNR for the first time (and in the front row) -- when I had assumed for 20+ years that I would never see Axl, Slash, and Duff on the same stage together -- was a "holy shit" concert.

No, I was a just an almost-40 Greeg, with grey hair and totally sober (side story: I quickly realized that since I was a pirate who'd snuck onto the floor, I didn't have the same Wristbands as everyone else. If I had to go off to take a piss, I'd never be let back in. I was holding a totally full beer as I had this epiphany... which i then set down on the ground, and kicked over.  No way was I going to miss "Beautiful Day" because of a Coors Light tallboy in my bladder.)

Beer is the Waterloo of GA tickets, unless you have a big enough group that can hold down your spot for you while you pee.  This is why I have always advocated for a comfortable and discreetly voluminous adult concert-going diaper.  Also, if available, whiskey on the rocks is always a good choice that allows you to get a solid buzz going at a concert without all of that liquid that causes you to pee every five songs.

But still... even minus the enthusiasm of youth, and the dizzyness of beer... it was a really emotional rock experience.  Singing along at full blast to the peak of "One" ("You say love is a temple, love the higher law / You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl".... maybe the best 30 seconds of any pop song ever), 

Clearly you've never heard any 30-second section of a little song called "MMMBop."

or getting tears in my eyes during the chorus of "Beautiful Day" (The song I listened to on my CD Walkman as I got out of the NYC subway at 8am on September 11, 2001).

Damn, that's some sad irony.

Or also just watching my cousin Molly go NUTS when they played "I Will Follow" as the finale, clearly the song she jammed to in junior high in '84. 

Wait, your cousin was in junior high when she was 17?!

And it dawned on me, at these moments, that it's very likely... and very sad... that epic, arena rock moments are quickly going to become extinct.  How many more times in our lives will we get to see a band play before 50, 60, 80 thousand people with such insane glory? Playing rock anthems that people grew up on at 1000 decibels?  

Not that many more times, but only because not many bands or artists can play stadiums.  Hell, I've only been to one show at Soldier Field.

I mean, U2 is (very) arguably the greatest rock band in history... when you add up longevity, sales, awards, respectability, reinvention, cultural importance, and fun... 

It's easy to reinvent yourself when you only release one album every five years.  I have neither the time nor the wherewithal to explain why you're wrong.  Not that U2 isn't up there on the pantheon with a dozen other bands, but on the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper's, I will just say that The Beatles are inarguably the greatest rock band in history. 

but even now, they're nearing the end of their run.  

Barring some unforeseen circumstance, they will be touring for at least another ten years -- maybe 15-20 if they can all stay healthy.  Bono and Clayton are 57, and The Edge and Mullen are 55.  Jagger, Richards, Daltrey, and Townshend are all either 72 or 73, and the Stones and The Who still tour (and tour well, at that).  Bono will still have something to say well into his 70s.

The last tour was played in 20,000 seat indoor arenas, and the only honest way to justify their current stadium tour is because of the Joshua nostalgia.  No one is paying $400 for GA seats on their *next* tour.

Of course not.  $400 is an insane price to pay for a non-special ticket.  At the same time, there are still plenty of people willing to shell out $100 (or more) to see U2 play any time they come through Chicago (and presumably most other big cities).

And after them? Who's left?  

Our pals in Def Lep are soldiering on, banging out the old hits. But unlike U2, they don't have the veneer of respectability. They're like Shoeless Joe, playing barnstorming games around the midwest for audiences looking to recapture the past. They're not relevant.

Yeah, Def Leppard is soldiering on pretty well, but I agree that they don't get the same love as U2.  Look, they're not going to play the United Center when they come to town, but they do play Tinley Park (which actually has a bigger capacity than the United Center) or All State Arena.  And, as you know, they still sound pretty damn good, even if they're playing the same totally awesome songs they've been playing for the last 30 years.  I'm going to see them in Tinley Park in a few weeks, with Poison and Tesla opening.  On a Saturday, no less!  Needless to say, it's the concert I'm most excited about this year.

Not even GnR are all that big... despite their gigantic reunion tour last year.  No one is going to pony up for that show again in 2018.

I'd disagree to some extent.  Don't downplay the pull of a reunited GNR.  And it also depends where they go.  The opening leg of their reunion tour in North America was relatively limited -- only 40 North American tour stops (that includes the US, Canada, and Mexico).  Sure, maybe they won't play football stadiums next time around like this past tour, but there is certainly enough demand for GNR to sell out 20,000-seat basketball arenas, and probably even the occasional baseball field.  In fact, they just announced another leg of the Not In This Lifetime Tour, and they're playing the United Center when they come through Chicago in November.

And going back further in time... Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, The Stones, Bob Dylan... all those groups are just playing festivals designed to cash in on memories. But they're dead in time.

McCartney still tours.  And is still amazing.  I'm pissed that he's playing two nights in Tinley Park in July because both are in the middle of the week, and trying to get to get to Tinley Park in time for a show on a work night is damn near impossible.  I think Aerosmith recently started their farewell tour, but that might go on for a few years.  The Stones still seem to tour every year or two (maybe not necessarily in America), but when I saw them a few years ago, they still looked good (to the extent that phrase can ever be used to describe Keith Richards).  Dylan is awful live.  You can't understand a damn word he says, and you're usually halfway through a song before you realize what song it is.  I saw him maybe 7 or 8 years ago at the Chicago Theatre, and I actually fell asleep during the show.

So to jump forward... who are current Legend Rock Acts that are still carrying the torch?The Chris Cornell tributes are a sad admission that there is no 90s generation to carry that on*. 

Nirvana?  Dead. 

Heroin.  Suicide.

Soundgarden? Dead. 

Suicide.

Alice in Chains? Who?  

Also dead.  Heroin.  That said, they did open for GNR when I saw them last July, and whoever they got to replace Layne Staley sounds just like him.

Pearl Jam? When is the Wisconsin State Fair again???

Whoa whoa whoa.  Pearl Jam is still a pretty hot ticket.  They sold out multiple nights at Wrigley last summer and another night at Wrigley in 2013 (which was the fastest concert to sell out in Wrigley history).  Last summer's tour was a stadium tour.  They are one of the only true '90s bands that can do that.

(Not to mention Prince. Jesus, that still sucks)

Yeah.  One of my biggest concert regrets is that I never saw him live.  Sure, we lived in Minneapolis at the same time for a three-month period in late 1977 and early 1978, but that's as close as I've gotten to him.

I guess the only important band left would be Foo Fighters, who we've talked about in the past as being the most underrated Rock Band around.  And so yes, they count.  They fucking rock, and could sell-out the Grand Canyon.  But they're also sort of geezers.

As we've discussed before, I love Foo Fighters, and I think they are the best hard rock band of the last 20 years.  They play Wrigley or the United Center when they come through town.  And, compared to some of the other bands we've been discussing, they're not that old.  Setting aside Pat Smear (who is 57), Dave Grohl and Nate Mendel are 48, Chris Shiflett is 46, and Taylor Hawkins is 45.  Plus, they all have a hell of a lot of energy.

It seems like there's this horrible cavity of badass rock bands starting in 1998... and no one has filled the void since. Almost like it's a dying artform.

'90s rock in general isn't suited to stadiums and arenas as '70s or '80s rock.  The whole grunge/alternative "we're trying to be punks" kind of thing is better for smaller venues, for better or worse.

Kid Rock?

As odd as it is to say, he actually has a pretty decent following.  I'm not a huge fan, but some of his early stuff was pretty rocking.  I can't say that I'm a fan of his transition to country rock.  It's nice that he does the "every ticket is $20" kind of thing for his shows, but he ain't gonna be playing Soldier Field any time soon.

Limp Bizkit?

Ahh, rap metal.  While I do enjoy a few of their songs (and my guess is that there are a lot of people out there who are afraid to admit the same), it's hard to imagine that there are many people clamoring for a Limp Bizkit reunion, other than Fred Durst.

Fall Out Boy??

Maybe Radioactive Man, but not Fall Out Boy.

Jimmy Eats World???

"The Middle" is a fantastic song.  It's also the only song of theirs that most people have heard, and I bet a large chunk of those people don't know the name of the band that sings it.

The White Stripes????

This one still stings.  I had tickets to see them at The Aragon in 2007, and then Meg had a nervous breakdown and they never played again.  Thankfully, I got to see them a few years earlier.  They are one of my favorite bands, and I think Jack White is as close to David Bowie as our generation has.  He can literally write any kind of song, and well.  Had they stayed together, I don't know that they would have necessarily been playing stadiums, but they certainly had the talent to do so.

The fucking Strokes????

I happen to like the fucking Strokes.  Their first two albums are awesome (and the others aren't too shabby either).  They're not really a stadium-type band, though.  Festivals, yes. However, they haven't put an album out since 2013 and the band members all seem to have side projects, so who knows what's going on.

Kings of retard Leon?????

Yes, they are a stadium- and arena-worthy band.  They may not have sounded like it when I saw them open for U2 in 2005, but they only had two albums out at that point, so they were still cutting their teeth.  This was two albums before "Use Somebody" and "Sex On Fire."  They are relatively young (ranging from 30 to 37), and they have gravitated from nearly indecipherable punkish Southern rock to arena-ready anthems.

There's no band formed after we graduated high school who has their shit together in order to keep influencing generations to come like U2 did/has. Who's going to sellout the Rose Bowl in 2037? And that's kind of fucked up, no?

Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, or Green Day on their farewell tours?  But seriously, someone will be selling out The Rose Bowl in 2037.  It's probably someone we haven't even heard of yet.  Or maybe it will be the One Direction reunion tour.  But the bottom line is that there will always be someone big enough to sell out stadiums.  It may not be a rock band, but it will be someone.

And it's not just me being "Old Man Greg".  It's not like U2 was the first multi-generational band that changed the face of music. Beatles, Stones, Doors, Queen, Zeppelin, The Dead, Aerosmith, Eagles.... fuck it, toss in Leppard, GnR, Crue and The Monkees too.  

You had me until The Monkees.

But now it seems like the end.  Bono is almost 60, and soon they'll be playing Ravinia.   

No fucking way does U2 ever play Ravinia.  It barely seats 3,000.  As long as U2 is a band, the smallest venue they will play in the Chicagoland area is United Center.

(This was all heavy stuff to digest during the concert. I managed to shake it off enough to enjoy "Bad" and "Pride". ) 

Glad you didn't kill your non-buzz.

But like... who will your kids or Dan's kids go to see at Soldier Field in high school? 

Probably no one because nosebleeds will be $500 by then.

Katy Perry? 

Absolutely.  She's got the stage show and songs to play stadiums.  And the kids these days seem to like her.

Taylor Swift? 

For sure.  She has already played Soldier Field several times already.

The Weekend? 

No, but maybe The Weeknd.

Fucking Bon Iver?

Maybe if there's a trend ten years from now where everyone goes to concerts to kill themselves.

Honestly, the best choices either seem Bruno Mars or country acts like Sam Hunt.

Yes on Bruno Mars.  Who the fuck is Sam Hunt?  Any relation to Mike Hunt?  Don't forget Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and Chance The Rapper (in Chicago, anyway).  That said, I do think it's harder for rappers and hip hop artists to stay relevant as they age because, as they become more successful and get further away from the "street" (whether that might be a construct or reality), it's tougher to keep that edge.  Jay-Z is practically a billionaire.  If he has 99 problems, he can pay for them to go away.  Also, he has sex with Beyonce, so a bitch definitely ain't one.  Punk has the same aging problem, but punk bands generally aren't playing stadiums anyway, so let's not concern ourselves with whether the Sex Pistols would have continued to make relevant music had they not broken up after one record.  I don't know enough or give a shit about country music to prognosticate what country artists might be playing stadiums in ten years, but I think it's safe to say that my kids won't be attending those shows anyway.

As for rock bands, here's who I think might carry the stadium/arena rock torch:

Green Day.  Yes, they've been around for over 20 years, but they're only five years older than we are, and they have pretty much continuously been building a bigger following. I've only seen them at Lolla, and it was one of the better headlining shows I have seen (which is saying a lot, given that I have been to every Lolla but one since it came back in 2005). They are playing Wrigley in August and I have GA tickets, so I'm pretty pumped for it.

The Black Keys.  I love these guys, and I have seen them in venues like The Metro in Chicago and Bogart's in Cincinnati when they were just two guys playing fuzzed out, blues-based garage rock.  They have definitely expanded their sound since then and continued to put out great music.  Their last two tours, they have played at the United Center, including two nights during their last tour in 2014.  Of course, this is one of those bands (like Kings of Leon) where it's hard for me to see them at a large venue because I've seen them multiple times at small venues when they were up-and-coming, and, of course, nothing will ever be as good as that.

Arctic Monkeys.  My second-favorite band from Sheffield, England, the Arctic Monkeys are inching closer towards the precipice.  Maybe in another album or two, they will be able to headline arenas (in the US, that is -- I'm pretty sure they do elsewhere).

Coldplay.  I'm entirely ambivalent (to the extent once ambivalence can be entire) about Coldplay, but they played Soldier Field last year, so I think they're there.  Not as much "rock" as I'd like, but still.

Muse.  These guys are in their late '30s, but certainly have stadium-ready anthems, and they played basketball arenas in the U.S. during their last tour.

The Killers.  They have gravitated a little further away from rock over the past couple albums, but they can still fill arenas.  They're headlining Lolla (again) as well.  

Florence + The Machine.  I haven't seen them (or maybe I did once at Lolla), but they have arena-ready songs, and Florence has an arena-ready voice.

The Struts.  This is my hopeful wildcard.  These guys are a relatively new British rock band, and they have all the tools to be stadium rockers.  They ooze rock and roll, from the way they dress to their sound to the way they can command a crowd.  They played Lolla last year, and I thought they were amazing.  Given a mid-afternoon time slot, the band played a killer set and had the audience at its mercy, even getting everyone in the crowd to sit down on the ground at one point.  My hope is that they can usher in a new era of rock.

The Darkness.  Okay, so maybe their chance passed when they broke up for a few years after their second album because Justin Hawkins was a heroin addict.  But they have the stage presence, songs, and swagger to rule stadiums.

Or will they just go to shitty, trendy festivals, where the flavor-of-the-year acts play, like Coachella or Lollapaloza?  I mean, those are probably cool shows to see when you're 16... but there's no album to listen to on the way home from the show. 

Those are still cool shows to see when you're 39.  Well, Lolla anyway.  I don't plan on going to the desert to see shows, surrounded by people wearing half pants, or whatever the fuck this year's awful Coachella fashion trend was.  One of my favorite parts of Lolla is discovering new bands.

Or worse, will they just go to epic EDM shows, where it's more important to Instagram themselves than listen to the music?

I hope to Satan my kids don't listen to EDM.  That's my biggest issue with festivals over the last few years.  There are waaaaayyyyyy too many EDM acts.  I mean, I get it.  They can turn knobs really well.  Call me old fashioned, but I'd rather watch someone with legitimate musical talent whale out a guitar solo than be in the middle of a bunch of sweaty suburban teenagers tweaking on Molly while listening to music that literally is capable of inducing vomit.

Anyway. This wasn't mean to seem so cynical and depressing.  It's just that our teen (and adult) years have been blessed with going to amazing, epic rock shows like Bon Jovi, Mellencamp and U2... and it seems like it's going the way of the Big Band era.  As if we'll sound someday like our grandpas, regaling the young ones about the time we saw Glenn Miller's Big Band Orchestra at the Hippodrome.

I've been to two Hippodromes in my day -- the club in London and the Oktoberfest beer tent (without the "e") -- and both were pretty fantastic.  Quite a different scene in each, and $12 gets you about three times as much beer in Munich as it does in London.  

But seriously, I think about the generational thing a lot, and Gen X is in a weird spot.  Popular music is a relatively recent creation.  Our grandparents, to the extent they listened to "popular" music, listened to jazz, swing, big band, and your Frank Sinatras and Perry Comos.  The Boomers' popular music was rock and roll, which was decidedly "harder" than their parents' music.  Gen X grew up with '70s rock, punk, '80s hard rock, heavy metal, and grunge -- not to mention rap and hip hop.  Our music was harder and rawer than our parents' music.  One might argue that the Millennials are the first generation whose taste in music has gotten softer than the previous generation.  Thus, we might be the first generation that rocks harder than our children.  So, while we may someday sound like our grandpas, the difference is that I'm going to be telling my grandchildren to "turn up the fucking Van Halen, you pussies."

Am I wrong? Want to know your thoughts and musings...

I don't think you're necessarily wrong, but it's hard for us to grasp stadium shows without stadium rock.  There will always be a market for huge shows, but I just think, barring some change in the musical landscape, there won't be as many rock and roll shows in stadiums and arenas.  It will be your Beyonces and your Taylor Swifts and your Katy Perrys.  But honestly, there aren't that many bands or artists who can play stadiums anyway.  Take a look at who has played Soldier Field in the last ten years:
-2017:  U2, Metallica, Coldplay
-2016:  Beyonce, Gun N' Roses, Coldplay
-2015:  Kenny Chesney, The Grateful Dead, Taylor Swift, One Direction
-2014:  Beyonce & Jay-Z, One Direction, Luke Bryan
-2013:  Bon Jovi, Jay-Z & Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift
-2012:  Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw
-2011:  U2
-2010:  Bon Jovi & Kid Rock, deadmau5, Eagles/Dixie Chicks/Keith Urban
-2009:  U2, Kenny Chesney
-2008:  Kenny Chesney/LeAnn Rimes/Keith Urban

It's basically the U2 and Kenny Chesney fairgrounds.  If you take out duplicates, that's 21 headliners or co-headliners over 10 years, or barely more than 2 a year.

Even when we were in high school, only four bands played Soldier Field, and they were all massive (and only one of them was a "current" band):  The Grateful Dead in '92, '93, '94, and '95; Pink Floyd in '94; The Rolling Stones in '94; and Pearl Jam in '95.

The Wrigley Field lineup is a little more varied, but it also seats about 10,000 to 15,000 fewer people for a concert than Soldier Field does (depending on how the stage and field seating is configured), so there are more acts who can play Wrigley than have the kind of pull to play Soldier Field.  Here's the Wrigley concert lineup for the last ten years:
-2017:  Tom Petty, Dead & Company, Jimmy Buffett, James Taylor, Florida Georgia Line, Green Day, Lady Gaga, Zac Brown Band
-2016:  Phish, James Taylor & Jackson Browne, Pearl Jam, Billy Joel, Luke Bryan
-2015:  Bill Joel, Foo Fighters, Zac Brown Band, AC/DC
-2014:  Billy Joel, Blake Shelton, Zac Brown Band
-2013:  Pearl Jam, Jason Aldean
-2012:  Roger Waters, Brad Paisley, Bruce Springsteen
-2011:  Paul McCartney
-2010:  Dave Matthews Band
-2009:  Elton John & Billy Joel, Rascal Flatts
-2007:  The Police

The '90s kind of fucked us all for arena-ready rock.  As discussed above, the whole ethos of '90s alternative rock was to be anti-stadium-rock.  But I don't think that means we're all screwed.  We just might not be able to see as much hard rock at baseball and football stadiums in ten years as we can now.

But in the meantime, get on fucking StubHub and find a way to get yourself into the front row for the U2 show in a few weeks.  And bring as many of your kids as you can afford... just in case it's the last time they can see a life-changing show like that.  It was really an amazing experience that I'll never forget.

I will not.  I want their first concert to at least be a group that they know, like Kiss or The Misfits.  And I don't have quite the apocalyptic view of concerts that you have.  I've had just as many "life-changing" shows in small venues as I have in stadiums or arenas.  Our old friend Mr. Twinkie once offered the sage advice that it's not the size of the Twinkie, but the cream filling inside.  I think the same reasoning can be applied to rock shows.  It's not the size of the venue, but the size of the rock inside.

(Oh, yeah. How you doing otherwise???)

Not bad.  Work's been busy, which is always a blessing and a curse, I suppose.  The kids are doing great.  They really do grow up so fast.  Working on a solid 9 months of trying to potty train Son.  The boy just likes the feeling of poop against his inner thighs, apparently.  Jester seems to be doing well, despite being married to a nearly 40-year-old child.  She and I are actually headed down to Indy this weekend for the 500, which is always a good time.  How are you doing?  Any trips to Chicago planned in the near future?

Best,
G

Take it easy, Belchizar.

Hair Band Friday - 5/26/17

Well, folks, we've finally reached the point where their aren't enough songs by unique artists in my hair band catalog for me to only include "unrated" songs on my Hair Band Friday playlists.  Since I assume you have no idea what I'm talking about, each week, I randomly choose the Hair Band Friday playlist from the nearly 1,300 hair band songs residing on my iPod, while listening to them at work.  The songs that end up on the playlist have, to this point, been the first ten songs (1) by unique artists (i.e., the same artist cannot appear on one week's list twice) and (2) to which I have not yet assigned a star rating on my iPod.  Once a song has been on a Hair Band Friday playlist, I give it a 1-5 star rating, and then it won't be used again.  However, I'm now at a point where, even if I scroll through my entire hair band catalog, there aren't ten unrated songs by unique artists.  So, from here on out, the Hair Band Friday playlists will just be the first ten songs by unique artists that randomly play on my iPod each Friday when I'm at work, rocking out in my office to the greatest music ever made while ingesting copious amounts of mind-altering substances and engaging in extremely unsafe sex acts with complete strangers who happen to want to use one of the several stripper poles in my office.  Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

1.  "Breathless" by Quiet Riot


2.  "Shyboy" by David Lee Roth


3.  "Back On The Streets" by Vinnie Vincent Invasion


4.  "Poor Boy Blues" by Poison


5.  "Back Off Brother" by Jackyl


6.  "Girls Got Rhythm" by AC/DC


7.  "Hell on Wheels" by Cinderella


8.  "Seven Sundays" by Extreme


9.  "You're No Different" by Ozzy Osbourne


10.  "City To City" by Ratt

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" by Mötley Crüe

As I was looking for a Retro Video of the Week for this week, there wasn't anything that stood out at me as far as major anniversaries of important albums, songs, or deaths.  The obvious choice would be to go with a Soundgarden or Temple of the Dog video, but I think my post yesterday with my Top Ten Chris Cornell Songs covered any videos I would have posted today.

So, I decided to just put iTunes on random and go with the first song that fits the criteria for Retro Video of the Week (i.e., a song with a music video released in the MTV era, which is roughly August 1981 to mid 2000).  After a bunch of older songs, newer songs, or MTV-era songs without a video, in walked a beaut':  "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" by Mötley Crüe.  She's an underrated song of of 1989's mega album Dr. Feelgood, as much as a song that hit #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 can be underrated.  I suppose, for me, it's about the fifth or sixth song I think of when I think of Dr. Feelgood -- the title track, "Kickstart My Heart," "Without You," "Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.)" (which is my Mötley Crüe song), and maybe even "Time For Change" come to mind first.  

I'm not sure why that is, since "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" is a hell of a catchy rock and roll song, that crescendos into a frenzy after starting out kind of slow and acoustic.  The message is as simple as it is timeless:  "Girl, don't go away mad.  Just go away."  It's kind of a nice sentiment if you think about it.  "Hey, girl.  Let's not split hairs here.  Even though you're a supermodel, I want you the fuck out of my life.  But to be clear, I really don't want there to be any ill will between us.  With that in mind, I think it would be best if you left my gigantic loft in New York City, where I'm living for some reason, even though the rest of my band is in L.A., but when you do leave, it is imperative that you so do in a pleasant mood."

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday Top Ten: Chris Cornell Songs

Last week, the music world lost one of its best voices, as Soundgarden/Audioslave/Temple of the Dog lead singer Chris Cornell died of an apparent suicide in his hotel room after a Soundgarden concert in Detroit.

It's always bittersweet when a rock star commits suicide.  So many people dream of being a rock star, becoming famous, and being able to share their thoughts and talent with millions of strangers.  And then, for a whole host of potential reasons, when some people achieve their dreams, it either doesn't end the pain that drove them to become a musician or creates a plethora of other issues that lead down a dark path.  I suppose the only saving grace is that, even if someone dies too young, there will always be an aural transcript of his or her contributions to the world. Still, fuck suicide.

But I digress.  Cornell, of course, gained fame as the frontman of Soundgarden.  I always thought of Soundgarden as a little different than most grunge bands (and I know the band didn't always appreciate being labeled "grunge").  Yes, they were from Seattle, but their sound was definitely more metal-inspired than your typical grunge band, and Cornell's voice definitely aligned more with metal than grunge.  Basically, they were just a kickass hard rock band that happened to be from Seattle.  Between 1988 and 1996, Soundgarden put out five albums and several EPs -– highlighted by 1994's Superunknown, which hit #1 on the Billboard album charts and has gone platinum five times in the US -- before breaking up in 1997.  Cornell then teamed up in the early 2000s with former Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Brad Wilk, and Tom Commerford to form Audioslave –- a pretty damn good hard rock band.  They put out three albums, before breaking up.  Soundgarden then reunited in 2010 and put out a new album in 2012.  They were working on recording another album over the last year or so.  Hopefully, they recorded some of the material before Cornell died, so that we can hear it at some point.  I'm just glad I got to see Soundgarden at Lolla a few years ago.

Simply put, Chris Cornell's voice was amazing.  He could give you a low snarl or he could soar as high and powerfully as anyone.  I'd certainly consider him the best of the grunge-era singers, and it's not even close.  Here are my eleven favorite Chris Cornell songs, in alphabetical order, with the name of the band, album, and year.

1.  "Black Hole Sun" (Soundgarden, Superunknown, 1994)
Arguably Soundgarden's most-recognizable song, "Black Hole Sun" became a huge hit in 1994, thanks in part to its super creepy, carnival mirror-inspired video.  This is one of those songs that takes me right back to high school whenever I hear it.


2.  "Face Pollution" (Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger, 1991)
With its machine gun beat, wicked guitars, and howling vocals, this could have felt right at home on a New Wave of British Heavy Metal album.


3.  "Hunger Strike" (Temple of the Dog, Temple of the Dog, 1991)
Grunge supergroup Temple of the Dog was comprised of members of Soundgarden and future members of Pearl Jam, the latter of whom were in Mother Love Bone with Andrew Wood, the lead singer of Mother Love Bone who died after ODing on heroin.  Cornell put together Temple of the Dog to pay tribute to Wood.  The band made only one album, which was released in early 1991, before Pearl Jam released Ten and before Soundgarden released Badmotorfinger.  "Hunger Strike" was the group's biggest hit, and basically the world's introduction to Eddie Vedder.  I've always thought this song was awesome, particularly the way that Cornell and Vedder play off of each other.


4.  "I Am The Highway" (Audioslave, Audioslave, 2002)
"I Am a Highway" is a slower acoustic song, with kind of a Western feel to it, but I've always enjoyed it.


5.  "Non-State Actor" (Soundgarden, King Animal, 2012)
When the group released its first album in 16 years in 2012, I bought it with a mix of anticipation and trepidation.  On one hand, it's Soundgarden, so I assumed it would be good.  On the other hand, what if it wasn't?  Thankfully, it was.  The King Animal album is full of rocking tunes that do right by the Soundgarden name. My favorite song off the album is "Non-State Actor," which has a great guitar intro and, of course, great vocals by Cornell.


6.  "Rusty Cage" (Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger, 1991)
Commonly and mistakenly believed to be a Johnny Cash song, The Man in Black covered this one in the mid '90s, but the original was all Soundgarden.  The guitar sound is very cool on this one, the bass line is sneaky good, and the song rocks from start to finish.


7.  "Say Hello 2 Heaven" (Temple of the Dog, Temple of the Dog, 1991)
This is a nice, heartfelt tribute to Andrew Wood, assuming heroin addicts go to heaven.


8.  "She's a Politician" (Soundgarden, Satan Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas, 1992)
Released on the SOMMS EP in 1992, this was the only original new song on the EP (which featured three covers and a live version of "Slaves & Bulldozers" off of Badmotorfinger).  It's a short, brooding, metal groove, with some great, wailing vocals by Cornell. It reminds me of mid-'70s Sabbath (although it would be five minutes longer if it was a Sabbath song).


9.  "Show Me How To Live" (Audioslave, Audioslave, 2002)
"Show Me How To Live" really showcases Cornell's vocal range.  He starts out low in the verses before unleashing his vocal chords in the choruses, showing us not only how to live, but that he's a better singer than any of us will ever be.


10.  "Spoonman" (Soundgarden, Superunknown, 1994)
How can you not love "Spoonman"?  The song was inspired by a street performer who played spoons and originally written in acoustic form for the Singles soundtrack.  The band decided to do an electric version for Superunknown, and it's a classic, with the Spoonman himself contributing that spoon solo in the song.


11.  "The Day I Tried to Live" (Soundgarden, Superunknown, 1994)
This song gets kind of lost behind the weight of "Black Hole Sun," "Fell On Black Days," and "Spoonman" when you think of Superunknown, but it deserves a spot alongside those three songs.  The band used some strange time signatures on the song, and switches between time signatures, which gives the song an odd feel, but not necessarily in a bad way.  Cornell's vocals are as powerful as ever.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 5/19/17

1.  "Danger Zone" by Quiet Riot


2.  "Shoot U Full Of Love" by Vinnie Vincent Invasion


3.  "Two Fools A Minute" by David Lee Roth


4.  "D.F.N.S." by Danger Danger


5.  "Keep The Faith" by Bon Jovi


6.  "My Empty Room" by Queensrÿche


7.  "Sumthin' For Nuthin'" by Mötley Crüe


8.  "When Love and Hate Collide" by Def Leppard


9.  "Back Off Brother" by Jackyl


10.  "Black And Blue" by Van Halen

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Girls Girls Girls" by Mötley Crüe

No Tuesday Top Ten yesterday because it was damn near 90 degrees, and after the shitty weather we've recently had, I certainly wasn't going to waste the evening sitting at a computer.  Not that I don't love you guys.

Speaking of love, Monday was the 30th anniversary of the release of Mötley Crüe's seminal Girls Girls Girls album.  The band's 1985 album Theatre of Pain kind of fell flat -- despite MTV hits "Smokin' In the Boys Room" and "Home Sweet Home" -- because it seemed like there were to many "fillers" on the album and not enough "killers."  Released in 1987, Girls Girls Girls busted the minor slump, hitting #2 on the Billboard album charts (the band's highest-charting album up to that point), and generally kicking ass from top to bottom.  If there was ever an album that exemplified the Sunset Strip in the '80s, this was it, as the band drew from its partying and tomfoolery as inspiration for most of the songs on the album.  Eventually, the album went quadruple platinum in the US.

The title track is the first Mötley Crüe song I really remember hearing.  I'm sure I had heard something off of Theatre of Pain (probably the two aforementioned songs), but it was "Girls Girls Girls" that made me pay attention to Mötley Crüe.  The song is a rocking and catchy ode to strip clubs, mentioning various establishments (several of which were on the Sunset Strip) and praising all those girls girls girls.  Of course, as a 9-year-old, I didn't quite understand that the Seventh Veil referred to a titty bar in LA or that the "girls girls girls" to which the song refers were showing off their privates for money, but that didn't make me love the song any less.  The video was filmed at the Seventh Veil, and represents what I assume was a typical day in the band's life at that time.  I'm not even sure they knew they were being filmed. Sadly, a video like this could never be made these days. You know, because of the liberals.