Monthly Archives: April 2016

Concert Review 4/29/16 – Sebastian Bach/Santa Cruz

An exceptionally rare opportunity for me: the chance to enjoy a hard rock show without driving an hour or more to do so, with a lineup that was too good to pass up.

In this case, the too-good-to-pass-up aspect was a chance to see Finnish newcomers Santa Cruz.  More than four years has passed I first heard (“Anthem For The Young ‘n’ Restless”) these glam-inspired rockers, with a steady stream of increasingly mature but consistently sleazy songs steadily raising my opinion of them.    Since I’m not anticipating a trip to Finland any time soon seeing them live was something I didn’t expect was in the cards so to discover they were in direct support for this tour was one of the more exciting opening act announcements I’ve heard in a while.

The danger of having expectations is the risk that they won’t be met.  As it turns out … I had nothing to worry about.  At all.

I don’t think I’m being unduly immodest to say that I was probably on the very high end of the curve in terms of knowing what to expect when the band took the stage.  That meant that, in addition to an expertly crafted set that delivered on nearly all the songs I knew, I also got to watch the crowd go through several stages of realization.  From “okay, these guys aren’t bad” to “hey, that’s pretty good” to “damn, this is FUN” to “these guys ROCK”.

Musically sound, very true to their sleaze rock roots without ever once feeling like a parody or overly contrived,  my biggest takeaway from a set that could have easily been extended at least 2-3 songs deeper was that the members are individually stronger than I previously realized, having largely thought of them in the collective sense beforehand.   Frontman “Archie” Kuosmanen is as adept with a guitar as with a mic, he trades off duties with  “Johnny” Parkkonen seemlessly.  Bassist “Middy” Toivonen does fine work keeping things on track, while drummer “Taz” Fagerström might just be one of the more underrated stickmen I’ve seen in a while.

My son made an observation that nicely summed up another reaction I had to the set:  “these guys are too big for this stage, probably for this room”.   In case that is too cryptic to be clear, that’s our way of saying that a band is ready for bigger stages, bigger rooms, bigger crowds.   There’s more than enough energy, enthusiasm, personality in their lineup for them to be able to shine even more brightly in an environment that gives them more physical space.

Asses were kicked, fun was had, new fans were made.  I don’t know what more an opening act set could possibly be asked to provide than what Santa Cruz gave.

After a relatively short changeover, the evening turned to the headliner of the evening, the esteemed former vocalist of Skid Row and all-around entertainer Sebastian Bach.

When the tour was announced earlier this year, it was billed as “An Evening With Sebastian Bach”.  The advance press described it as “two sets for the price of one”, a stripped-down opening portion followed by the full electric portion.

Having seen the set list from the show the night before, I had an idea of what to expect.  Or at least I thought I did.

The performance in Athens was pretty much as the pre-tour hype described.  The opening portion was about a half dozen songs that included both solo and Skid Row material, with a Jimi Hendrix cover (“Little Wing”) for good measure.  Vocally, it was clear that Bach still has the ability that made him famous.   It was really only during the short intermission between the sets that I figured out how to describe it,thanks to a comment from another patron

“WTF?  What happened to Sebastian Bach?  What WAS that? ”

It wasn’t said in anger.  It wasn’t as hostile as the words might appear on paper either.  Not even disappointment exactly (though pretty close to that).  It was … confusion.

The stripped down concept may not have been bad at all on paper.  It wasn’t actually terrible in execution even.  But when you watch close to a dozen paying customers leave just twenty minutes after that portion of the show by the headliner, simply so put off by what they’d seen that they weren’t interested in remaining to see the rest of a show they’d already paid for, I have to think the  outcome might not be what was anticipated.

Upon returning to the stage however … it didn’t take long for things to pick up and reach far loftier heights than where they left off.

Upon returning, Bach performed like a man somewhat possessed.  On target and on fire, he hammered the crowd with a high energy performance featuring some of his former band’s rowdiest songs.  Among the more telling moments of the set was noticing how fully engaged the audience was — and how enthralled with Bach they were — during songs like “Big Guns” and “The Threat” , neither of which were on Skid Row’s list of big radio hits.   When the album cuts have people excited, that’s usually a good sign.

By the time the veteran front man was joined on stage by a clearly enjoying themselves Santa Cruz for “Youth Gone Wild”, the initial partial set was clearly forgiven and forgotten, as a predominantly older audience had one more moment on the checklist they came for.

On the whole, an evening well spent with both acts meeting or exceeding expectations.  Can’t beat that.

And, as is my tradition with show reviews, here’s a little bit more of the GBU.

Good — The venue.   The Forty Watt Club is legendary but it had been literally decades since I’d been there.   If anything, I think I enjoyed it more this time.  The sound quality in particular was excellent.  I also appreciated the sort of laid back vibe of the place & the crowd in general.  Nary a pretentious moment encountered all night, everybody just into enjoying themselves as they saw fit … Also a good thing, an actual hard rock show in Athens, something that’s been scarce during our years here.  And not just any old show, but one of truly international caliber … The crowd has to be considered a plus I think, not a full house but nothing remotely embarrassing either.  I’d guess somewhere in the 300-350 range, and that’s on a night where I know of at least one other major show in Atlanta that was packed.    I’ve been to no shortage of shows that would have loved to have drawn this well … Finally getting a chance to enjoy at least one show “at home” with my newly turned 18 year old before he departs for college in the fall.   He’s been my constant concert companion for the last, damn, 14 years now.  To get to see at least one show we enjoyed here before he leaves was kind of a bucket list item for both of us I think.

Bad — I’m actually hesitant to put anything here, or at least in how to phrase it. But I’d also feel dishonest if I didn’t say that the stripped down portion of the Bach set was not something that seemed to work particularly well.  I’ll acknowledge that the artist certainly knows both his own desire as a performer and has a broader view of what works for the variety of audiences he faces.  I’ll just say that, on this night with this particular crowd, it’s hard for me to consider that portion to have really added anything, and indeed, at least threatened to detract from the show.  A more traditionally constructed set, with a couple of slower tempo songs mixed into the main set, would have been a better design in my opinion … For me personally, I was disappointed that the Bach set didn’t include anything from either of the two most recent solo albums. particularly 2011’s Kicking & Screaming.  I’ll admit that I might be on the short list in attendance that would have been familiar with the material, I’d bet that a majority of the audience would have enjoyed the songs if they heard them … purely personal and relatively minor disappointment that Santa Cruz’ set did not include arguably my favorite song in their catalog (“Relentless Renegades”).  It’s a good situation to have though, having more good songs than your set can hold, so I’ll certainly not complain.

Ugly — This section can pretty much remain blank.  Nothing I’d call particularly ugly, aside from the misfortune of having the nearest ATM (around the corner) to the venue be out of order, forcing my aging & out of shape self to engage in a hike that was thankfully only uphill in one direction.

 

 

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Ready To Rock (weekly playlists)

Two songs debut in my Spotify Top 40 this week as the battle for positions continues.   The emergence of a number of fast-moving songs in recent weeks has made it difficult for those that are right on the edge to gain enough momentum to make a push into the higher reaches.

Missing songs this week:

All The Words – The Motorleague

New to the Spotify list this week
In Cold Blood- Otep, Stay – Aranda

Dropping off the Spotify list this week:
Made This Way – The Word Alive, As Bad As I Am – Hollywood Vampires

For the larger (nearly 200 songs) YouTube version there’s  a half dozen songs added including new Pop Evil, strong new Eve To Adam, Escape The Fate, and more. You can find it at this link

Also, if you’re wondering exactly how all of this gets put together – the hows & whys of it – this old blog entry probably explains more than you ever wanted to know.

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Ready To Rock (weekly playlists)

A little bit less activity in my Spotify Top 40 this week, still with two new songs making an appearance along with one re-entry.  That brings the turnover to nearly fifty percent over the past month, rock so fresh it might get slapped if it isn’t careful.

Missing songs this week:

All The Words – The Motorleague

New to the Spotify list this week
Closer – Silversyde, Dead & Gone – Trivium, Made This Way – The Word Alive (re-entry)

Dropping off the Spotify list this week:
Everybody’s … In A UFO – Rob ZombieNothing More – Decyfer Down, Goodbye – Slipknot

For the larger (nearly 200 songs) YouTube version there’s  nearly a dozen songs added again this week, including new Saliva, Behind The Fallen, Everlit, Ace Frehley f. Paul Stanley, Sons of Texas and more. You can find it at this link

Also, if you’re wondering exactly how all of this gets put together – the hows & whys of it – this old blog entry probably explains more than you ever wanted to know.

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Happy Birthday Will

Long about this time 18 years ago things were kinda hectic.
A baby boy was born to a pair of rather bewildered parents that didn’t have the slightest clue what came after that, and probably haven’t had all that many clues since then either.
One of the most memorable moments came just a short while later, shortly after arriving home with the newborn for the first time.  Still in his car seat, sitting on the couch, wide-eyed parents staring at him nervously.  The baby looks first at one, then at the other and his expression slowly changed to one that unmistakably said “Oh crap.  You two have exactly no idea what you’re doing”.
He’s always been a perceptive child.

About all we were sure about was that we loved the little fella, the rest of it was a combination mystery-adventure tale (with comedic undertones) that you just sorta have to experience to completely grasp.

But the pages turned, often of their own volition it seemed, and the story continued to unfold.
Some ups, some downs, riding waves, probably an unseemly amount of dog paddling.  But still the story carried on.

There are some chapters that I’ve re-read over time.

The realization that he was the first genetically connected person I could recall laying eyes on, that was powerful stuff.  For an adoptee (like me), that was something I can’t ever really put into words.
Then watching him be this sometimes similar, yet always entirely unique, little person of his own, fascinating if you pay attention to it.

His grasp of things & concepts that sometimes escape people throughout an entire lifetime, that was basically why I referred to him as a 30 year old midget for a pretty good stretch of his toddler through primary school years.

The strangely winding paths that we’ve followed, instinctively, to have some remarkable conversations over quite a few years now, those have been something else.

To have ended up with several common interests to bond over, that’s a great set of chapters.  People who don’t know much about hard rock, pro wrestling or video games sometimes have trouble following our conversations, the vocabulary occasionally turns into a peculiar mixture of terms from each of those worlds and yet we understand each other perfectly.

Meanwhile the pages continue to turn, picking up speed along the way.

Watching him mature through the ‘tween years and into his early teens, I cannot begin to put into words the sheer joy of knowing that your child is, as I’ve described him quite a few times, a innately better person on his worst day than I’ve ever been on my best day with my best effort.  At the risk of repeating another previously used description, I couldn’t have custom ordered a better child from the Sears Wish Book.

And we get into the middle and (now) late teens, all those pieces steadily come together into the young man he is today.   One that I couldn’t love more, couldn’t be prouder of, really wouldn’t want to mess around & change too much.   Now let me be clear about something here, lest anybody get the wrong idea: he’s not perfect and I’m not nominating him for sainthood.  But on the whole, I’d be afraid to change one thing for fear of messing something else up.

That’s probably why one thing I don’t do a lot of is wishing to turn back the clock.   If you’ve read or seen some time travel stories, you know what a risky proposition that is.   A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil in the new timeline, a few thousand unintended consequences later & he’s an entirely different person.   Somehow, miracle of miracles, he’s made it this far without messing up severely nor being (as far as I can tell) severely messed up.  With me in the gene pool and in the daily contact list I think you just have to call the outcome a decisive victory and deal with it.

On this, his 18th birthday, I’m inclined to offer my son the same advice I’ve been giving him since back when he was too little to reach anything on a shelf:

“Just be Will.  That’s plenty good enough for any situation.”

More than good enough.

I love you son o’ mine, happy birthday.

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Ready To Rock (weekly playlists)

Would you believe a third straight week with five new songs in my weekly Spotify Top 40?  Well, four new songs and one that re-enters … which makes five.  The competition for airplay across the country is intense and my playlists are certainly no exception.

Missing songs this week:

All The Words – The Motorleague

New to the Spotify list this week
The Devil’s Bleeding Crown – Volbeat, Where Were You – One Less Reason, Aftermath – Awaken, Asking For It – Shinedown, Dust – Tremonti

Dropping off the Spotify list this week:
Finally Free – Stitched Up Heart, Dystopia – Megadeth, Sayanora – Disciple, Made This Way – The Word Alive, Too Far – Romantic Rebel

For the larger (nearly 200 songs) YouTube version there’s  nearly a dozen songs added, including the aforementioned Volbeat and Shinedown singles, an album cut from coldrain, Aranda, The Treatment, Jason Aldean (yes, that one) and more. You can find it at this link

Also, if you’re wondering exactly how all of this gets put together – the hows & whys of it – this old blog entry probably explains more than you ever wanted to know.

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Ready To Rock (weekly playlists)

For the second straight week there’s five new songs in my weekly Spotify Top 40 this week, songs not only replacing those that have aged out and are falling but even bumping out a couple of new entries from last week.   So much music being released that the competition is simply fierce everywhere.

Missing songs this week:

All The Words – The Motorleague

New to the Spotify list this week
No Good – Kaleo, Welcome To The Freakshow – The Protest, The Eagle Has Landed – Avatar, Stick To Your Guns – Sick Puppies, Made This Way – The Word Alive

Dropping off the Spotify list this week:
In Chains – Shaman’s Harvest, Don’t Tell Me How To Live – Monster Truck, Aftermath – Awaken, Stressed Out – Our Last Night, Raise Hell – Dorothy

For the larger (nearly 200 songs) YouTube version there’s a half dozen new songs this week including the aforementioned Kaleo and Sick Puppies, new Texas Hippie Coaltion, the first song from the new Danny Worsnop (ex-Asking Alexandria) solo project and more. You can find it at this link

Also, if you’re wondering exactly how all of this gets put together – the hows & whys of it – this old blog entry probably explains more than you ever wanted to know.

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Ready To Rock (weekly playlists)

No, I did not expect there to be five new arrivals in my weekly Spotify Top 40 this week.  That isn’t actually why I’m running behind with the update but while I’m a little tardy (and unlike DLR, I do feel tardy) at least you’ve got a lot of fresh music to crank up and rock the weekend with.

Missing songs this week:
All The Words – The Motorleague

New to the Spotify list this week
Breathing Lightning – Anthrax, Too Far – Romantic Rebel, Take It Back – Rival City Heights, Stressed Out – Our Last Night, Raise Hell – Dorothy

Dropping off the Spotify list this week:
Let Me Live My Life – Saint Asonia, Paralyzed – Failure Anthem, Wolves – Another Lost Year, Way Gone – Soil, Face The Music – Silvertung

For the larger (nearly 200 songs) YouTube version there’s nearly a half dozen new songs including the aforemention Our Last Night, new music from the might Stuck Mojo, an album cut (future single?) from Shinedown and more. You can find it at this link

Also, if you’re wondering exactly how all of this gets put together – the hows & whys of it – this old blog entry probably explains more than you ever wanted to know.

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