Friday, December 31, 2010

My New Year's Resolution

With a little help from Alter Bridge. Thanks for the message, Mark. Thanks for the memories, Myles.

I've been defeated and brought down
Dropped to my knees when hope ran out
The time has come to change my ways

On this day I see clearly
Everything has come to life
A bitter place and a broken dream
And we'll leave it all, leave it all behind

I'll never long for what might have been
Regret won't waste my life again
I won't look back
I'll fight to remain

On this day I see clearly
Everything has come to life
A bitter place and a broken dream
And we'll leave it all, leave it all behind

On this day it’s so real to me
Everything has come to life
Another chance to chase a dream
Another chance to feel
Chance to feel alive

Fear will kill me, all I could be
Lift these sorrows
Let me breathe
Could you set me free
Could you set me free

On this day I see clearly
Everything has come to life
A bitter place and a broken dream
And we'll leave it all behind
On this day it’s so real to me
Everything has come to life
Another chance to chase a dream
Another chance to feel
Chance to feel alive

And when I forget, all I have to do is come back here and watch it--I mean hear it--again. Read more!

A Perfect Storm--Alter Bridge in Chicago 12/11

Stephanie Munoz, Sarah Murray and Nancy Dietrich--Guilty Party

[Note from Nancy: It is so difficult for me to write reviews of bands I absolutely adore. I immediately run out of both superlatives and adjectival expletives. I realize this points to a deficiency in my writing skills, so I labor on, hoping over time to improve this situation.]

Alter Bridge introduced their third album, ABIII, with an initial tour of Europe that lasted just over two months, from October thru the first week of December. Due to Myles Kennedy’s tour dates with Slash all summer and fall promoting the latter’s groundbreaking solo album, AB had one week in which to rehearse before leaving for the UK. One week to spend in their Orlando studio putting together a set made up of at least 1/3 new tracks, and to polish up tracks from the first two albums, One Day Remains and Blackbird. Myles had virtually no break between tours, and in fact joked about the difficulty of packing for two separate tours at the same time, Slash’s US leg and AB’s European leg. Luckily for him, black is the universal color for both bands, so I suspect that simply leaving home (Spokane) after only a short break was far harder than the actual packing.

Alter Bridge did not disappoint in the UK or mainland Europe, selling out most venues and garnering rave reviews. The album itself did not drop until late October in Europe, and November 11 in the US.

Set lists were widely available after shows. Accordingly, I programmed the list into my iPod and made a list of lyrics to go along with it. “The thing I look forward to more than anything,” says Myles Kennedy in the video tour they shot of their Orlando rehearsal studio, “is seeing the people sing it back.” Duly noted. [The video is well worth watching as it is a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into the life of a touring musician, and Myles—and Mark—go into some detail as to the equipment they prefer to use, and why.]

Europe enjoyed roughly 15-16 songs followed by a two-song acoustic set of “Watch Over You” and “Wonderful Life” and an encore of “Isolation,” followed by a dueling guitar bit between Myles and Mark that led into “Rise Today.” They also tried out a few new songs that weren’t on the regular list such as “Coeur d’Alene” and some covers, such as “Hallelujah,” an Amsterdam staple. In Chicago, we harbored some apprehension about the set list. This show and the St. Louis show were billed as co-headliners with The Sick Puppies, which was bound to limit the play time of both bands.

Myles Kennedy--all photos by Steph

Sticking to the European set list, Alter Bridge opened with the ethereal “Slip to the Void,” the first track off of ABIII. It’s a great song to start with as it begins with low guitar and a heavy focus on Myles’ vocals. He walks out slowly in the dark, wearing a long-sleeved black tee, his trademark black jeans, and a black knit cap. He sings to the audience eyes closed, right hand resting gently on the microphone. As the song unfolds, Scott “Flip” Phillips quietly takes his place behind the drum set, bassist Brian Marshall slides in on the left, and lead guitarist Mark Tremonti—to boisterous cheers, of course—takes over the right side of the stage. The song explodes with one of Mark’s many PRS guitars, and Myles finally opens his eyes. Lights, camera, action.

Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti

The chemistry this band has developed over the last 7 years is instantly palpable. Smiles flash back and forth between everyone on stage, from start to finish, and it is clear to anyone that this is a group of guys that love what they do. Myles has become a master at setting up the crowd’s involvement, and has the ability to make everyone feel as though they too are on the stage with their musical heroes. This is a man who has really come into his own since Alter Bridge first took the stage in 2004. Though he has always “owned” his incredible voice, there is no question anymore that he also owns his presence on the stage. As anyone who has met him can attest, Myles is by nature a shy and soft-spoken man, possessing a great deal of humility. When he takes the stage, however, he lets his inner musician take over, and the music flows through him to the audience. Something long-time fans will also notice is that he has also finally embraced the power of his own sex appeal.
Myles grinning at the Guilty Party
Now hold on. I never promised you an unbiased review—but I am giving you an honest one. A major factor of any concert’s success or failure is the lead singer’s ability to captivate the audience and fully entertain it. Myles has a rare set of lungs, and that alone could carry his performance, but he also happens to be very physically appealing. In previous years, I felt like this was a sidebar to the performance—it was there, but he didn’t pull it out (no pun intended, I swear to all that is holy) and use it as part of the show. You can see it in the video for The Mayfield Four's "Sick and Wrong" but it is much easier to perform for a camera than a live audience, if you are shy. Myles' Alter Ego is losing its shyness.

Myles playing up to Mark's side of the crowd

I first noticed it during his off-the-hook performance with Slash in Milwaukee on 09/05/10. Normally somewhat restrained, and only milking the sexy when he got around to the Robert Johnson cover, “Traveling Riverside Blues” that he played frequently on the 2008 Blackbird tour; with Slash, Myles was unleashed. Not having a guitar to play (or hide behind) he showcased quite a few moves I had yet to see from him. Myles was dancing.

And ever since he started wearing his black clinging tees and stretch jeans that show just how much time he puts in at the gym or out running, it is clear he is finally owning his sex appeal. And I, for one, am not complaining.

Back to the show. Immediately after “Slip to the Void” the band broke into “Find the Real” which has some great shots of Mark and Brian at the outset, and annoying head shots of the photographers still in the pit. (They get to stay for 3 songs.) Great shots of Myles working the crowd (including Sarah), and some loud screams from both my sister and I, which would be reduced to whispers (for me, anyway) within a day or two. I am SO sorry you can hear me singing. Love seeing how much Myles enjoys hearing the crowd sing. ("Makes my work easier," he joked in an interview recently.)

Singing with the crowd
I am terrible at remembering set lists or hanging onto a notepad but this one located on looks correct to me:

Slip to the Void
Find the Real
Before Tomorrow Comes and start of
Brand New Start
White Knuckles
Metalingus—sits down
Ghosts of Days Gone By
Broken Wings
Ties That Bind
I Know It Hurts and
Come To Life

Open Your Eyes
Dueling guitars and Rise Today

[All videos by Stephanie Munoz]

So we did miss the acoustic bit. No “Watch Over You,” no “Wonderful Life.” Some tears were shed. The set was played fast and ran about 75 minutes. During the first few songs, it was also clear that Myles was having difficulty hearing himself (or his instrument?) and gestured to his earpiece in his technician Wookie’s direction several times. It was nothing that was discernable to me. There did seem to be some trouble with Brian’s sound—a bad string caught our ears during a few songs. He doesn’t switch guitars as much as Myles or Mark, so he doesn’t get a fresh set of strings for each few sets of songs. I doubt it was noticeable to anyone NOT standing right in front of him.
Myles checking his guitar

One other change worth noting is the new Plexiglas shield surrounding Scott Phillips’ drum set. I had the chance to ask “Flip” after the St. Louis show about it, and he said that one of his cymbals was directly in line with Myles’ ears, and the pitch or wavelength (I’m no physics major) was greatly exacerbating Myles’ well-known problems with tinnitus. That made perfect sense, as my tinnitus came about from drumming my own kit with an iPod on full volume in 2003 and 2004—with my crash cymbal set right at left ear level. And my left has been ringing ever since.

The shield brought an end to Myles ear bleeds at least, and I am wondering if we will see anything similar with drummer Brent Fitz when Myles hits the road yet again with Slash in mid-January. Fitz did not have a shield for the brief fall tour of the US.

Myles in front of Flip and the drum shield
I have alluded to Myles’s involvement with the audience, but I want to be clear that the entire band is fully engaged with its fans from start to finish. Poor Flip may be cut off a bit from us now, but you can’t hide his grin. Brian relished eye contact with the fans and rewards everyone he catches with a big smile. And even Mark, who is a bit busy shredding his guitar 90% of the time, has pedals on both sides of the stage so he can showcase his formidable talent to all. Given any break, he also searched out fans, sending out nods and smiles. Myles is no different, and has more freedom to do so, since there are a number of songs during which he is not playing a guitar.
Brian Marshall and Mark Tremonti working stage-right

During “Before Tomorrow Comes,” the third song in the set, lights were raised a bit and Myles did his own search of the crowd, finding a sea of grinning faces and many hardcore followers. Okay, by that I mean me. I twitter this poor man senseless, and he knows when I will be at any given show. As soon as he saw me (and my sister) on the rail he grinned and echoed my thumbs up. (1:45 on the tape--followed by my scream or Sarah's , I'm not sure.) The video of Before Tomorrow Comes also includes the beginning of "Brand New Start."

The show overall was simply fantastic. It was tight and sounded great—or as good as the acoustics at the infamous House of Blues will allow. (A quick search of venue reviews will show that this is not one of the best, sound-wise or crowd management-wise, to which I have already alluded.) Some of the highlights include their great new song “Ghosts of Days Gone By,” which has an upbeat opening that descends into a minor key, taking it way down into a very dark place, peaking with 15-second note on the line, “I don’t want to die.” Chilling does not quite capture the emotion.

"Blackbird" was also extremely emotional, and Myles' solo was very enjoyable given how much he really leans into it. Steph was recording this song when I leaned over to point out to her that he was leading into the song with the Beatles' "Blackbird" as he commonly did. Had I known it was "on" I would have saved my comments for later and I also would have NOT SUNG and kept my arm out of the way... Hindsight...

"Broken Wings" is a personal favorite for a few reasons, one of which is the fact that he doesn't get to hide behind a guitar, as it was written by Mark before Myles joined the band. A qorgeous song deserves an equally appealing front singer, and Myles delivers on this one. Again, his head is cut off occasionally, but you have plenty of other things to look at. (God, if he--or his wife--reads this I will DEFINITELY get sent that restraining order.) And just to encourage our bad behavior, he chose this song to come over and shake hands. Would have started with Steph but she was holding the camera (God bless ya, girl) so he grabbed my hand with a solid grip, flashing his million-dollar smile.(I’m only guessing its worth by how much it means to me.) He shook Sarah's, then slapped the rest of the hands on the rail.In case I haven’t mentioned it: This is a band that appreciates its fans.

Favorite moment? I think so. 3:34 on the video--Thanks, Myles. No coincidence the moment is followed by some heavy fanning, as well as a very lewd comment from someone who sounds a whole lot like me (but couldn't possibly be) less than a minute later. (I am in SO deep now.) DISCLAIMER: I thought Steph was just taking pictures. I did NOT KNOW she was filming. I swear on a pug's life I didn't know. (I am so screwed.)
Moving on...

"I Know It Hurts" from ABIII is a great song to sing along to, and we did. There is a wonderful shot of Brian, Myles and Mark playing side by side, then you can see Myles laughing and looking up into the balcony. There was an extremely inebriated fan doing his very best air guitar up there, and we were all amazed he did not flip out of the balcony to his death below. He was pretty amusing. Hope he remembered attending the show. "Come to Life" from the Blackbird album followed. Myles' head is cut off for much of the video, but I can attest to the fact that it was really still there. Good chance to appreciate his regular jogging, anyway. Little bit of F-bomb dropping and the band's motto, "Don't forget we're here to stay!"

Myles said later they were all surprised that the American audiences knew the ABIII lyrics so fast, as it didn't drop in the US until November 11. They probably didn't expect us to be listening to the ripped versions posted on YouTube from the European fans the minute THEY got it--though everyone I know bought the CD and iTunes version when it came out. No pirates here!!

Though we did not get an acoustic set, we did still enjoy Myles and Mark dueling it out with their guitars immediately prior to “Rise Today.” Myles always sneaks a little blues feeling in there and Mark, not surprisingly, shreds the fuck out of his PRS. Mark is a man possessed, and Myles makes hilarious faces as he coaxes the best out of his own axe. In the end, Myles graciously hands the title to Mark, and the crowd roars. Tough man Mark grins despite himself.

The show ends with “Rise Today” and as usual, we all sing back no matter how hoarse we already are. As they wrap up the song, Wookie steps out to hand Myles a handful of picks, and he steps up and crouches down in front of me (coincidence, I am sure) and starts passing them out like communion (that perverse idea from Steph, I think) to each and every one he can reach. He tosses the remainder over our heads and we tuck ours into our pockets.

My sister, meanwhile, is elbowing the shit out of me and asking me “Where is it??” as Myles is handing out picks in front of us. I have no idea what she is talking about and hold up my pick.

“The book! Give him the book!”

The book. I bought a book for Myles birthday months ago called “The Dog’s Purpose” by Bruce Cameron. Anyone who knows even the smallest tidbit of background on Myles knows that he LOVES dogs—particularly pugs (and of course, his own Shih-Tzi, Sigmund.) While he was getting picks from Wookie, and the security dude was preoccupied, I sent my book on a short Frisbee trip to the stage floor, where it was immediately picked up by Flip. He turned it over and saw Myles name on it and handed it to him. As I had tweeted a heads up prior to the show that I had a book for him, he looked right from the book to me, and mouthed “Thank you,” nodding his head and smiling big. Mission accomplished, and well worth juggling the damn thing through the entire show along with the dorky signs I made and brought. He’s holding it in this ever-so-slightly unfocused picture of their end bow.
Myles, Brian, Mark, and Flip--really, LOL

Some 16 hours after heading out to the show from Madison, the world’s ugliest stage curtain dropped. I turned my back to the stage and slid right to the ground. I was exhausted from trying to pretend I was not exhausted. I also couldn’t breathe—which started as soon as they had herded us tightly onto those stairs some 4 hours earlier. I had numerous dizzy spells during Sick Puppies and Alter Bridge, and was yawning non-stop—not from being tired but as a sign of low oxygen. I used my small signs mostly to try and circulate air during the full length of the show, and did the same now.

It was at this point that Steph jumped in excitement and said, “Let’s go to the after party!!” This woman clearly uses a different brand of batteries than I do. I made a mental note to look into that. All I could think about was the big plush bed up on the 8th floor of The Sax. I could hear it calling my name, ever so sweetly…

I told Steph I would have to be a lousy host (she had flown in to us, after all) and send her on her own. My feet needed elevation, my lungs needed air, and my ears needed silence. She graciously helped me to my feet and we headed out. Sarah had already frolicked ahead to catch up with some friends. Steph and I took our time, pausing to take some pics with the HoB artwork. LOVE the interior—wish it were a better place to actually enjoy a show!!
Steph with Gulf States painting--photo by ME!

Yes, I had PUG shirts made for Myles' shows--Why are you surprised?

Needless to say, none of the detractions did much to diminish out enjoyment of Alter Bridge—with the exception of worrying about passing out. Thank God for the rail to hold myself up. Happened at a packed stadium show for Foo Fighters in 2008 in Chicago as well, only it was the 18 year-old next to me that passed out, not the old lady next to him who was hanging over the rail gasping for air, using a larger sign to find some. (Those signs can be lifesavers!) We passed him over the rail and hoped for the best. I made it through but gulped air like a fish out of water when I hit the cold outside.

Back at the HoB, we caught up with Sarah and friends downstairs, and she was also hearing those beds call her name. Steph looked over to the entrance for a second, and decided to go back with us. We assured her that Alter Bridge would be hitting the road ASAP to beat the storm o nthe way to STL, and would NOT be at the after party. As far as I know, they were not (at the bar.) If I’m wrong, I’d rather not know. Ignorance is bliss.

Sarah was under the covers and snoring within approximately 4 seconds when we hit the room. Steph went for her computer, and I went for the shower. Had to wash the Bad City blood out of my poor ears, and HoB oversell stench out of the rest of me. I had this unsettling feeling the whole time that the smartest thing we could have done was hit the road ourselves for STL, but it is hard to drive when you are sound asleep, so we decided to err on the side of sleep.

Snow fell as we fell into sleep. We would pay dearly for those 8 hours the next day.

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Happy 7th Birthday, Ginger Ale!

Ginger Ale at 3-4 days old. Biggest and most laid-back in litter of 11.

I've known you since birth, thanks to co-worker Michelle at that-place-which-shall-go-unnamed in AZ. She informed me when she put these pictures on my desk that I was getting a new puppy, and husband be damned.

Michelle is rarely wrong.

At 5 weeks old I brought you home after you met all my co-workers, and we've been together ever since, through good and very, very bad. You are all heart and I love you more with each passing day. Hugging you sustains my spirit, and your 75# keeps me warm every night under the covers--winter AND summer!

May we have many more years together, my good friend!

You will always own a piece of my heart.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rock Star Speed-Packing Tips

Sigmund and Myles laying down a track

There are more important things Myles can be doing on his last day home besides packing. I am sending this list as an aid for quicker packing to gain more family time. (You're welcome, Selena :)

Signature black jeans, wide black belts (plain & studded), wallet chain, slightly worn black boots, black tees--long & short-sleeved (winter here, summer down under, God knows what in Asia), TCV, Mastodon & Blackbird tees, I ♥ My Shih-Tzu tee, running shorts & shoes, SOCKS, (undies), Red Monkey Watch(es), ID tag & "eye" necklace, multiple bracelets (black and silver), WOOL CAPS, leather jacket, scarf & gloves.

iPhone, laptop w/overseas chargers. Updated wallet pics of wife and dog, larger of same for music trunk. Passport. Ear plugs. Echinacea. Our best wishes. ♥

Black AND white socks--don't be that dude jogging in the shorts and black socks. Read more!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Perfect Storm--Alter Bridge Opening Acts 2010

Opening band/Co-headliner with Alter Bridge in Chicago

[Ed. note: I had to break this story up. Getting to Alter Bridge in Chicago and St. Louis was one of the greatest rock challenges I have faced in years, and I wanted to record it in full detail.]

The Perfect Storm--Alter Bridge, Opening Acts for Chicago 2010

Bad City

There’s a new reason to hate Billy Corgan (the attitude, not the music) if you need it. He invited the newly-formed opening band Bad City on his 2010 tour, calling them a “super fresh take on the Rock.” What the fuck does that mean? Who says “the Rock?” Billy Corgan, apparently. (Source: Wiki)

My Cornell friend and Chicago native Vera will NOT be amused to learn that they named their band after the city she loves, and not in a good way. I’m kind of hoping she’ll take it upon herself to take them down with an underground sign campaign. I think she could do it. She’s a star.

Bad City was not that bad, if you don’t count that fact that they are the first band to ever make my ears bleed. Okay, that’s not fair: only my left ear started bleeding. I’m chalking this up to their super-cheap, over-cranked amplifier sitting precisely at ear level in front of me. It was fellow Alter Bridger Steve Porter who saved what was left of my little internal drum sets by giving me a pair of ear plugs. Several days later, there is still physical pain in my left ear. Clever way to get an audience to remember you, if you ask me.

I mean, really, lead singer Josh Caddy had us from the start with his spot-on imitation of being the bastard son of Flock of Seagulls. That and his endearing habit of alternatively humping and twirling his shortened mic stand while posed precariously like the Karate Kid on an empty gear box on the edge of the stage. At the show in St. Louis, where he actually had a fan—a young woman who lost her fucking mind and began shrieking and tossing herself into us as if she did weigh more than 75lbs—he stole more than a few hearts (and tossed several stomachs) when he dramatically tore off his shirt for their final song, “Wild Animal.” Nothing turns you on like the pale skin of an underfed 15 year-old. And spitting his bottle of water up over himself like some kind of, I don’t know, wild animal, had us all a little faint in the knees.

I sure hope that feeling goes away soon. And the bleeding. This tampon in my ear looks ridiculous.

Next up was a real band I wish I’d known more about before we got there: the Sick Puppies. I am still convinced there used to be an American (or English?) punk band back in the late 70’s by that name, but I can’t find any proof, so don’t listen to me—unless you can prove me right. That would be keen, as my friend Tom Volk says. (Skinny Puppies??)

This trio from Australia is fun, hard-core, and cute as a trio of healthy puppies. Formed in 1997, they are now based out of L.A. and consist of drummer Mark Goodwin, look-at-how-the-fan-blows-my-hair-back-all-super-sexy bassist, Emma Anzai, and suspected Matt Cameron’s younger brother, vocalist Shimon Moore.

Emma, Shimon and Mark of the Sick Puppies

Shimon (Shim) could probably sing the phone book and hold the attention of his audience. He is very pretty. He was also set up right in front of us, which made up for a lot of the earlier pain. I also quickly developed a crush on the bassist—or rather, her Warwick bass. My ex taught me to appreciate several exclusive bass brands, and that is one that I fell in love with years ago. It was, simply speaking, sexy as shit. It was as tall as Emma, and was something between black and dark grey with the traditional wavy wood grain that you see in all Warwicks. I would have done that guitar in a second. Then I would have done Emma. She’s as hot as Shim, with or without the hair fan. She did not heed the manager’s very clear, recorded message about the dangers of head-banging, and was a blur with a few exceptions for hair-blown posing at her back-up mic.

Very fitting shot of Emma (by Stephanie Munoz)

Shim was great at working the Chicago audience. He had the whole audience in his hand fairly quickly by playing covers such as Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade” (part of it, anyhow) and Cee Lo’s viral hit, “Fuck You.” He genuinely wanted everyone to sing along, and I was so concerned about disappointing him that I just sang “I don’t know the words to this song yet” over and over. I did remember some lyrics for the second show in STL, but decided my time was better spent standing outside in sub-zero temperatures as Shim played his set in a nice, warm bar. Hindsight is 20/20…

Shim tearing it up (by Stephanie Munoz)

Shim, Emma and Mark played an hour set that was very enjoyable though somewhat incohesive the way the covers were thrown in seemingly at random. I know I would have enjoyed them more had I not been watching the digital clock behind them showing me how much longer it was going to be before Alter Bridge came on. As their set closed, I took a last mental picture of pretty boy Shim and watched as the world’s most hideous quilt-curtain covered the stage.
Shim in earnest (by Stephanie Munoz)
Side note: The only thing that made the constant blathering of the local radio station jocks tolerable—all of whom were barely able to stand between acts since their sponsors were all liquor-based—was the fact that both the HoB staff and most of the photographers were ridiculously good-looking. Still not worth our losing our signature spot, but worth noting.
[To be continued...]

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The Perfect Storm--Alter Bridge Prelude #1

[Ed. note: I had to break this story up. Getting to Alter Bridge in Chicago and St. Louis was one of the greatest rock challenges I have faced in years, and I wanted to record it in full detail.]

The Perfect Storm--Alter Bridge Prelude #1
This section deals with my sister Sarah and I getting from Madison, Wisconsin to the front rail at the House of Blues in Chicago, and meeting up with Stephanie from Houston. Next piece will detail the opening bands, Bad City and The Sick Puppies.

Many concert-goers believe that attending a show consists of nothing more than driving a short to moderate distance to a local venue about an hour before doors open—if that—joining the masses for a jolly evening of beer and song, then heading home for a fitful sleep.

When a band rules your world that is not how it works.

In our world, a rock and roll road trip is not worth its salt if not filled with hardship and adversity. My most recent attempt with family and friends to share body space with Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge more than qualifies. Alter Bridge was scheduled for the House of Blues in Chicago on December 11 and at The Pageant in St. Louis on December 13. Seemed a simple affair to drive from Madison to Chicago, enjoy a luxurious night at The Sax (courtesy of credit card points earned from Ginger’s 2009 surgery), then drive over to STL for two more luxurious nights at the Moonrise Hotel (courtesy of us paying through the nose to be impossibly close to the venue), with another concert thrown in for good measure. My sister Sarah provided the car and chauffer service, and she and her husband, Jeff, provided the chairs, sleeping bags, heating packs and propane-fueled heater we hoped we would not need during the trip. We also filled the car with every possible incarnation of chocolate, with Vodka in the trunk for safe measure.

Steph, Sarah and I waiting for Alter Bridge at House of Blues... pic thanks to unknown fan

Our good friend Stephanie, from my band of Chris Cornell fans, had decided to give Alter Bridge a try after my incessant Internet nagging. She flew up from Houston to meet us in Chicago, and we all planned to drive together to STL, where she would fly out after the concert. She was very excited at the prospect of cold and snow. Yes, you read that correctly. We were understanding of the fact that the Gulf pollution had clearly affected her ability to think clearly, and packed extra clothes for her rude awakening; extra liquor for her inevitable disillusionment.

Saturday’s forecast predicted 6-12” snow for the Chicago area. Numerous naysayers warned us of our impending demise on I-90, but they were to be disappointed. The scheduled storm was so late in arriving that it had barely begun to rain by the time we reached The Sax Hotel downtown, shortly before noon. The delightful valets practically swept me up to our swanky room with our luggage (Sarah ran to grab our spot at HoB), making me feel almost reluctant to leave. You know how those puffed up, freshly–made beds can beckon after a few hours on the road and nothing but hours of standing ahead of you… Devotedly, I made my way back down to the House of Blues, where Sarah was chatting with a father and son who had come in just before us. Third in line. Not bad.

At any Alter Bridge show, you can divide the fans into three distinct groups; general Alter Bridge Fans, vocalist Myles Kennedy fans, and fans of their lead guitarist, Mark Tremonti. As of this writing, Mark’s group still outnumbers the first two (though the MK groupies are gaining in him!) so as long as anyone in front of you is a Mark fan, you know instantly that he or she will be heading for the right side of the stage. That clears the path for us Myles’ fans headed dead center, or left of center. It’s not that we don’t appreciate or adore Mark—who doesn’t?—but we have seen enough shows to know that Mark actually spends a lot of time on both sides of the stage, and that bassist Brian Marshall is a sweetheart that loves to play with the crowd. The right side is overrated and we are content that it stays that way.

Six hours in line is a long time. If you’re social, it goes a little faster. Accordingly, it felt like twenty minutes to Stephanie and my sister, and roughly 36 hours long to me. I did get a little further in my Eleanor Roosevelt biography, however. We were surrounded by genuinely nice fellows, so a shout-out to brothers Casey and Caleb, and their sick but stoic friend, Brian—none of whom will probably ever see this blog. Casey had a wife and five week-old baby at home, the latter to whom he referred as Lower Case. Women love that sort of thing. I do, anyway.

If you have never been to the House of Blues in Chicago, let me take one moment to commend it for its great interior styling (hugely eclectic Cajun paintings—actually every single inch of wall space is brightly painted), delicious food, gracious staff, and ample hallway allowing us to forego freezing our asses off while waiting. (Click on picture to see it greatly enlarged--the detail is great--then hit BACK ARROW, don't close it)

Entrance to HoB restaurant-notorious stairs on right side of picture

They also offer a deal through Live Nation where you can purchase a meal beforehand and gain a pass to the front of the line. This didn’t work out so well for two reasons. First, the crowd grew so large with still an hour to pass—and the rain was starting to turn to snow outside—that the HoB staff decided to make use of the double-sided stairs leading up to the main floor to fit more people in the building. Nice idea, bad planning. As soon as they told us to move, all of us who had been in line for days filled one side of the staircase, and those behind us filled the other side. So that meant that our waiting was for naught as both sides of the stairs would be released at the same time. Until my sister realized what was happening.

Don’t get me wrong, there was instant grumbling and near-rumbling between both sides the second we filled the stairs, but my sister was so engaged in a UFC debate with the brothers behind us that she didn’t see what was happening. That didn’t last long. Sarah, who is not afraid to ask to have her meal returned if any of the different foods are touching on the plate, is slightly more assertive when she’s been fueling herself with UV Blue Vodka and lemonade for several hours. She took the stairs at a single leap and launched herself at the two security guards, one for each side of the staircase. A heated debate ensued, of which we could hear nothing since opening band Mad City took advantage of a little lead time to practice their musical abc’s at full volume just above us.

I saw concern on the faces around me that she might go too far and piss them off so much (she was a little fired up) that we’d turn out to be the last people let in to the venue, but I know her much better, and she was merely pouring on the charm and working her standard concert low-cut, form-fitting blouse. She could soon be seen flashing us a smile as she hugged both staff members and trotted, then fell, down the stairs on top of us. She had convinced them to give our side a 20 second head-start.

For those of you wondering why this is such a big deal, you clearly have not read my blog before—which is fine, and Welcome!—and don’t yet understand the personal importance Sarah and I place on being on the rail, front and center. Why? Because that is where Myles is. Need I go on?

Those last 7 hours on the stairs were painful. They had us crammed in two people per stair, per side, and they were old, narrow stairs—and we ourselves were all fairly older, and no longer narrow. We could also easily smell the bathroom on the other side of the wall in the restaurant. Not pleasant. Add Mad City shrieking above us and conversation (or thought) became impossible unless you were drunk enough that you were already shouting. I was already holding my ears.

At long last, they let our side loose to make for the rail. The minute our heads cleared the staircase and saw the floor, we were dumbfounded. The rail was almost completely covered with a single line of ingrates. WTF? We took what was left and immediately started asking questions. “So,” I asked, smiling sweetly, “how did you happen to get my spot on the rail for which I woke at 6 am, drove 3 hours and waited 4 weeks in line?”

Now I have been to a lot of shows, and I thought I had heard everything by now, but this just proves that you just never know who’s going to show up and completely fuck you over. The House of Blues had given an extra pass to each professional photographer, and the photographers friends had been let in before the actual fans had. My sister turned a Christmas shade of red in seconds flat. The first pass-holder next to us claimed that she was merely doing a photographer friend a favor by holding a spot on the rail for him, since he would be spending the first three songs shooting the show between us and the stage, in the small space where security stands.

I was actually stymied for a few minutes at the idiocy and transparency of this claim. Photographers take their allotted pictures up front and then disappear. They don’t re-surface on the rail—they work the pictures from one set until the next set, when they are let back in for the first three songs of the next band. It was then that I realized that while I had a tiny amount of respect for being sneaky (it is no secret I am a professional rock star stalker who is not afraid to hide a few cards up her sleeve) I had no respect for bald-faced lying—and this chick was lying. I think if she had just admitted from the beginning that she got a pass because she was with the photographer, and looked just a wee bit sheepish, things would have gone a little more smoothly. But no one appreciates being lied to by someone less than half their age, especially someone who has never even seen the band that you have been following for their entire career (almost 7 years, in this case).
But I could tell from the outset that this young woman had prepared herself for opposition and was not going anywhere. We were going to be standing on the rail between Myles and bassist Brian—and all things considered—that is still not a bad place to be. I looked over at Sarah and she was gone, and those around me just shrugged when I asked where the hell she’d gone off to. My internal panic button went off.

The manager. Well, she won in principle, if nothing else. The manager did come up to our young friend and tell her that no one was allowed to hold a spot for someone working the show and coming much later—and who would be going in and out. So she nodded, said okay, and gave up 3 inches (I measured them). The manager missed the point that she still should not be allowed to be there before the dozen of us, and left the scene ebfore it blew up any further. I had tried up until this point to stay between the gal and my sister, who looked madder than Burbin the neighborhood Rottweiler, but once the manager was gone she asked me if she could “talk” to her. I had just “made nice” with the gal and accepted the situation—let it go—and prepared myself to enjoy my evening, when I was faced with an image of my little sister beating the shit out of some college student who thought it was a good idea to play games with drunk and devoted Alter Bridge fans.

But I can’t control my sister anymore than I could control the new concept of photographers’ friend passes, so I let her in and mentally turned off the right side of my hearing as she tore the kid several new ones. Not surprisingly, a 9.0 earthquake would not have moved the young girl after that. We were in for the night. It was just after 7 p.m. The first band of three was to begin at 8. It was going to be a long night, waiting for Myles and his tentacle tattoos.

Pic courtesy of

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Monday, December 20, 2010

If You Ask, He Will Answer

On Cloud 9 because Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge held an acoustic session and live chat on Livestream today and Myles took my question first and gave a shout-out (below). And I didn't have to wait in sub-zero temps to ask it!

They are very funny in this piece--keep tripping up and then calling themselves geeks. We all know who the geek is here... blogging...

They play "Wonderful Life" first, then start answering questions around 5:10 mark. They play "Rise Today," answer some more, and end with "Before Tomorrow Comes." All recorded and available at Alter Bridge on Livestream

He even pronounced my name right. Is there anything this guy CAN'T do?? I think not.
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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pleasant Distractions

Photo courtesy of Nanci Kripal Freed

Still writing up last weekend. Was going well last night when someone posted that they were streaming the Sayreville, NJ show live. Priorities...

Than one of my STL rail buddies sends me of the pics I can't get to on FB. How do I write when all I can do is stare??

Patience, grasshoppers... Read more!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wendy Dennis, "Are You Dating yet?"

LOVE this article by Wendy Dennis at the HuffPost, "Are You Dating yet?"

"I've been lonely married and I've been lonely single, and compared to the torture of sleeping beside someone you no longer love, or know has left the building, or maybe are hoping will choke in his sleep, lonely single is a walk in the park."

Wendy Dennis

Marriage SO interferes with rock star stalking. My ex always asked, "Why do you worship Chris Cornell?"

The only answer I could think of was, "Seriously?!"
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Let The Alter Bridge Storm of 2010 Begin

Will we survive the fog, snow, 45 mph wind gusts and wind chills down to 25 below for a chance to smile back at Myles? Tune in next Wednesday to find out.

We are so fucked.
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"You're" = You are

"You are" = you're

"your" is ONLY for use as a POSSESSIVE, as in "your dog, your car, your spelling that is indicating the complete demise of modern civilization." I REALLY need a vacation. What's YOUR excuse? Because YOU'RE in serious denial about YOUR spelling skills.

You can take me away now, Officer. (Can we ride in your car? Because you're hot!)

I'll be back Wednesday. You have 4 days to learn this. Read more!

Who started the rumor my dogs are spoiled??

PARTIAL list of instructions I am giving to boarding clinic (multiple copies) while I am following Alter Bridge this weekend:

Ginger Ale & Dickens Dietrich

Emergency numbers: [Multiple]

Note: Any medical emergency up to $XXXX approved if you cannot reach any of us.

Feed: Ginger 2X day, cup filled to line drawn on it. Dry only. Will scarf it down.
Dickens 2X day, cup filled and 2 tsp canned food. No need to mix. Eats over time.

Please place Dickens’ small food bowl inside his crate for meals (so Ginger won’t eat it.)

Please leave Dickens crate (open) in the run with both dogs. Was abused & needs security. Please drape towel OVER crate too, for additional warmth and quiet. Thank you!!

No slip-leash for Dickens—will probably prefer to stay in run entire time, with pee pads.

Ginger is not pad-trained—needs to go out like regular dog. Slip-lead okay.

One play-time for Ginger per day, please. NOT with other dogs. Likes hearty back massage or jumping up for toy, tugging… Not a big fetcher. LOVES people and attention.

Ginger will get defensive and/or aggressive around other large breeds, esp. if they BARK at her.(Both have been attacked by a Rottweiler and are instantly defensive around big dark dogs.)

Dickens will only bite/jump/scurry/pee/expel anal sacs if startled or around very quick movements. If you move slowly & talk to him, you can easily place things in and out of crate.

Check List of Items for Pick-Up Food (if any left); canned food lid and measuring cups; Dickens’ small food bowl; Dicken’s crate w/blanket and hippo; stuffed skunk and brown fabric bone/rope; two cow bones; Ginger’s collar and Dicken’s harness (please leave on in case you need to catch him); blue comforter, and leashes, if left.

THANK YOU SO MUCH for putting up with their owner!!!

Note to local haters--house is being house-sat by hungry, rabid German shepherd, don't be stupid(er).

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

When Shadows Fall

When shadows fall, sometimes all you can do is close your eyes and listen to the music... and wait for them to pass. Please let them pass.

'All Hope Is Gone' by Alter Bridge

© Alter Bridge, Roadrunner Records and EMI

A tireless stream of indifference flows
through veins 'till the river runs dry
I no longer care, I have all but disposed
of dreams that I once held inside

Desire is gone after all of these years
the fight has been lost, I concede
the apathy born a long time ago
has grown to what I can't defeat

I've been here too long
I'm tired and longing for more
How long must I run
To find what I'm looking for
All hope is gone

The sadness I carry so deep in my heart
for what could have been and might be
is never forgotten, it's never too far
I'm wasted so worn and so weak

I've been here too long
I'm tired, longing for more
How long must I run
To find what I'm looking for
All hope is gone

Ive been here too long
I'm tired and longing for more
How long must I run
To find what I'm looking for

I've been here too long
I'm tired, longing for more
All hope is gone
All hope is gone
All hope is gone

Holding out for Myles Kennedy

And hope that they pass soon. Nine days until Alter Bridge in Chicago. Read more!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Disorderly conduct

Mark Twain writing in bed, seemingly awake, however.

It is time to admit that I have a serious writing disorder.

I cannot write while I am sleeping, and I am asleep a lot. I thought of referring to it as a sleeping disorder, but I don't really have any problem sleeping. Perhaps "consciousness disorder" is more appropriate.

We could even go so far as to trace it to my depressive disorder(s), but none of that would matter if I could overcome my ridiculously-irritating inability to write while I sleep. I have extremely bold and creative dreams--why isn't anyone taking notes? They seem to last for hours and trying to write them down every morning would require the time span of approximately 3 days. There are extensive plot lines, vivid colors, full soundtracks, foreign languages (okay, Arabic), and always guest appearances by ex-lovers, highly-desirable celebrities and/or musicians, and my beloved deceased pets wandering around. It can get quite congested.

Which is another reason I am sleeping so much. World's Longest Bout of Sinus Infection. Chronic headaches and facial pain are inarguably contraindicated as far as writing is concerned. Likewise, writing on migraine meds is difficult--especially from the perspective of moving one's fingers about correctly on a keypad--something I am not very talented at to start with. I think I just ended that sentence with TWO dangling participles.

As the Sundays are singing it on, "Here's where the story ends."

"But don't you have to get up for your dogs?" asks the astute and concerned reader. Let me tell you, dogs are just as eager to get back under the covers when it is 20 degrees outside AND their owner is cranky as shit from chronic sinus pain and a life without direction.

SodaPop (frequent dream visitor) and Ginger warming up my guest bed at Sarah and Jeff's about 5 yrs ago.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Roo needs a home, and I need more Kleenex

On my way to Cali... Read more!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Myles Gives Tour of Alter Bridge Rehearsal Studio

Great video of Myles giving a tour of Alter Bridge's Orlando rehearsal studio. (They had one week to rehearse before starting their first leg.) No special effects, no bad lighting, no quick cuts--just Myles showing us the ropes. Great way to see him as a regular Joe.

I'll be at Alter Bridge's 2nd, 3rd and last date of the first leg, then follow him as he spends more time with Slash, then Alter Bridge will kick off their main tour. I will be selling internal organs as necessary to fund this operation.

OMG he's SO damn cute I could eat him up!! Oops, sorry... Read more!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Alter Bridge, "Words Darker Than Your Wings" from ABIII

Words Darker Than Your Wings is probably my favorite track off of ABIII because it is the first track which has featured solo vocals by Mark Tremonti, marking another step by AB to write outside the box. It is a beautiful arrangement and the two’s vocals complement each other perfectly. I would LOVE to hear it on tour.

'Words Darker Than Their Wings' by Alter Bridge

© Alter Bridge, Roadrunner Records and EMI


They say you are right
I hope that I'm wrong
I know that you tried
But still it is gone

Just don't you lose hope
I swear I never dream that we're alone
Now don't you let go
I swear I still believe though I don't know

Remember the years
I still walked tall
I only fear
Now I only crawl

How could I be wrong?
I hope there comes a day your fear is gone
How could we be lost?
Lost just cease to be not carry on

Into the light may you fall
Into the light may you follow
Into the light may you know
Truth alone
Into the light may you fall
Into the light may you follow
Into the light may you know
Truth alone

You can love someone
Go never to ask why
Or to fear again
Go find your peace tonight
Go set out towards the sun
Let the new begin
Go soon your day will come.
Day will come

Into the light may you fall
Into the light may you follow
Into the light may you know
Truth alone
Into the light may you fall
Into the light may you follow
Into the light may you know
Truth alone
Truth alone

Truth alone
Truth alone

Mark Tremonti and Myles Kennedy

Wish me luck convincing them to play this live. Not on setlists yet. I've got Chicago, St. Louis and Houston to try (so far ;)

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Very Restrained Review of New Alter Bridge Album--ABIII

Or not.

Posted on iTunes with several other blown-away fan reviews. And no, we're not getting paid: It is just that fucking good.


November 9, 2010

It has been a very long time since I have had the pleasure of listening to an album and skillfully executed and emotionally haunting as ABIII. We were told to expect a darker album, but songs like Ghosts of Days Gone By pierce your soul like a flaming spear. Too much? Hey—you listen to Myles singing the refrain “I don’t want to die…” with a trailing note at least 32 counts long and tell me I’m wrong. A song that almost didn’t make the cut, Words Darker Than Your Wings, is equally chilling and extremely moving in the way that Myles and Mark trade choruses. It is a brilliant duet and one I sincerely hope to hear live one day.

In short, as an AB fan from the start, I have to say this is easily their most mature and most daring piece of work, and Myles’ vocals are as stunning as they have always been. Do yourself a favor and buy this CD as soon as possible. You will not regret it.

What do you mean you haven't bought it yet?
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What? It actually mattered if I voted???

Wisconsin lost a good man, Russ Feingold, from the Senate. And we have a douchebag as governor.

Everybody sleep tight.
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Favorite Sign from Rally For Sanity

Don't worry, it really does say that.
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Zenyatta All The Way!!

What do you get when you nurture a racehorse and let her mature before you run her? You get a champion named Zenyatta. This is a stunning 1200# mare who is currently 19-0, with one last race to go: this Saturday's Breeders Cup, which she has already won before.

Interesting Facts:
Named after Zenyatta Mondatta, the third album by The Police
Began racing at age 3
Birthday: April 1, 2004
Birthplace: Lexington, KY
Current residence: Hollywood Park, Inglewood, Cal.
Size: 17.2 hands [4 inches taller but 200# lighter than Julian]
Auction history: $60,000 at the 2005 Keeneland Sept. Yearling Sale [Very cheap]
Favorite treats: Carrots
Hobbies: Running, dancing & posing for photographs
Nicknames: The Queen; Zennie
Favorite songs: "Roxanne", any jazz by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass

Eclipse Award Champion Older Female Horse in 2008 and 2009
First female horse to win the Breeders' Cup Classic
All-time female earnings leader in North America
Won the 2008 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic
Named by Oprah to the 2010 "O Power List" [Love it--though not interviewed ;)]

Zenyatta #4 with Mike Smith, but #1 to the pole!

And they're OFF! Well, Friday about 5 CST on ESPN, they will be...

Trivia: Secretariat won 16 out of 21 races in his record-breaking career.

And let her run safely... Swore off races since Barbaro at the Preakness, may he rest in peace. Read more!