May 21, 2014

American Idiot @ The Granada ~ May 21, 2014

Here’s to You Suburbia

If you woulda told me back in the day that the post-hardcore pop punk band Green Day were to be responsible for one the most touching and relatable, well produced and polished musicals on stage in 2014, I’da told you to bug off.

But American Idiot is just that. If you grew up a misunderstood, misguided youth in Suburbia, USA – this musical is about you and your friends. Truly.

When the album came out in 2004, it was different. If you owned the album, you might have gotten that it was a concept album. But if you were a casual fan of the band, like myself, you heard the songs as they were released – separate singles and in order of best for radio play.  And they were cool.  Allegedly, frontman Armstrong said, "As soon as you abandon the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge song structure ... it opens up your mind to this different way of writing, where there really are no rules." [Thank you Wikipedia – that’s legit, right?]. The album was made to be a rock opera.

Now jump forward to the musical adaptation. It is one act – one long act with no intermissions. It is comprised of songs only – 21 songs, no words except the very occasional one liner.  It is performed with a full rock band located on stage - rocking hard. The set is intricate; a city block scape and rock club interior both at once, with large TV screens set within its walls projecting wild images (think early MTV – when it was still good and about music). On stage, the crew effectively arranged movable props to draw your eye into the proper setting. A lot is going on quickly, the music driving the energy driving the emotion of the story itself.

I won’t go too far into the story… I’ll only say it follows the lives of three young angst ridden men living in Suburbia through their completely different paths to finding themselves. The performances were polished, well orchestrated and well delivered. Many of the situations brought tears to my eyes as I empathized with the characters.

American Idiot was a hellofa good roller-coaster ride. Here’s to you Suburbia for creating such dynamic emotional baggage, and to Green Day for recording it.

May 17, 2014

Eric Burdon with Dishwalla @ The Libbey Bowl, Ojai ~ May 17, 2014

A Moment Away From Home

The Libbey Bowl, photo via iPhone 
Sometimes we get spoiled in Santa Barbara, enjoying life so much in the bubble we don’t necessarily want to go anywhere else. Even when we have really great “escapes” next door. I don’t often think about escaping to Ojai to see great music, but the Ojai Libbey Bowl is definitely worth the fifty minute drive.

Established in the 1950’s, The Libbey Bowl provides that quaint feeling of being “home.”  Set amongst a forest of oak trees stands the outdoor stage with a beautiful shell roof in a space that accommodates about 1300 people, including the lawn area. Depending on the event, patrons can bring food and blankets into the venue to picnic on the lawn while enjoying the music. It’s a real comfortable space.

This day’s event was to celebrate the 73rd birthday of Eric Burdon, an Ojai residents and former member of the Animals and War.  Pretty much a rock legend. In our very own backyard – or at least our neighbor’s.   

photo by paul dunkley
But being a true Santa Barbarian, I only made the trek to Ojai (50 minutes!) to see a Santa Barbara treasure - Dishwalla.  With original members  Rodney Cravens (guitar), Scot Alexander (bass), George Pendergast (drums), and Jim Wood (keyboards) officially touring  with new frontman Justin Fox (former frontman of the SB band Tripdavon), Dishwalla proved themselves worthy of sharing the bill with a rock legend.

I had forgotten about Dishwalla, if I had ever thought about them at all. They were big before my time in Santa Barbara so I did not have that connection yet – they were just another 90’s band that had made a cameo once on Charmed. But they are damn good! I had also forgotten how many hits they had: “Counting Blue Cars,” “Charlie Brown’s Parents,” and “Once in a While” to name a few. They even went “full Eagles” according to Fox, as they pulled up seats and played “Every Little Thing” and “Somewhere In The Middle” acoustically, mixing in a little Led Zeppelin’s “All of my Love.” Dishwalla version 2014 was polished and tight, and definitely worth the trek. 

Soon the man of the hour was brought out by none other than 
photo by paul dunkley
Malcolm McDowell, of A Clockwork Orange fame, affectionately calling Eric Burdon a geezer from New Castle. Burdon took the stage and immediately went into “It’s My Life,” successfully emptying the seats of the Libbey Bowl onto the dance floor.  One hit after another kept the crowd going – he’s 73 and rocked the house!

It was an unique experience with an icon worthy line-up and a special space to celebrate. I’d say if you get the opportunity, definitely see Dishwalla and definitely make the trek to Ojai to experience music at the Libbey Bowl.

May 11, 2014

Maynard James Keenan's 50th Birthday with Failure, Puscifer, and A Perfect Circle @ The Greek ~ May 11, 2014

A Perfect Circle via boob-cam

Here's to Fifty More 

On stage May 10th & 11th at The Greek, located in old Hollywood, was the most amazing musician of our time: Maynard James Keenan. We were all there to celebrate his fiftieth birthday* – 5-0! He does not look, nor sound, like your typical 50 year old rock star. Looking extremely fit, with a voice of a fallen angel, Maynard transcends time and age.

All the words in the world cannot express the pleasure I felt once I understood how the show was arranged. There were three bands – three great bands. Failure, Puscifer, and A Perfect Circle. But they weren’t going to play one band, one set at a time. This became apparent as Failure’s drummer rotated out of site behind a screen, the band walking off to the side of the stage, and A Perfect Circle began to play after just three songs.

Of course I was scared at first. What just happened?! Is Failure only playing three songs?! Was I late? I swear it just started. What the…??!  It’s still light out! Does this mean Puscifer is headlining, not APC?! Confused I scrambled to gather my thoughts. But after three songs, APC’s drummer rotated off stage and Puscifer began to play….

Puscifer via boob-cam

They’re rotating! And playing together! It’s a mash-up people! 

The stage was set with a circular platform in the center which served to rotate drum kits on / off stage, a screen falling neatly in place behind the new drummer projecting the performing band’s graphics. To the left was a small silver stream trailer, known to be a permanent fixture of Puscifer’s stage set. In front of that sat a picnic table with chairs skewed about.  As each band rotated through a couple of songs, the players not playing sat around the picnic table sharing wine. It was a party. Occasionally one player would join in on another’s set, as if unexpected. The feeling was relaxed and full of affection.

Failure via boob-cam
Danny Carey of TOOL came out and played with Puscifer, and then tore down the house performing “Three Little Pigs” with surprise guest Green Jelly**. The place went wild!  Maynard walked out on stage after and quipped “what the hell just happened!”  It felt like we were all in on an inside joke.  

It appeared Maynard was thoroughly enjoying himself, raising his wine glass to the audience and embracing fellow artists on stage.  His son even performed a cello solo in his honor. It was an electric and emotional experience – one that won’t likely happen for another 50 years.  

*Maynard's actual birthday is April 17th. 
**After research, I found out the Danny, Maynard, and Bill Manspeaker, Green Jelly’s lead vocalist, were all roommates at one time – the 90’s ruled.
***Unfortunately they had a no tolerance rule for pictures, so all shots were via a hidden boob-iphone-cam (until I become a legitimate writer).