Sunday, November 29, 2009

From Bad to Good and Good to Bad - Live Edition

A few weeks ago I found out one of my favorite bands from high school was touring with one of my least favorite bands from high school. I ranted about this for days. In the years since high school, The Used have taken a huge downturn with their music, and I am no longer a fan of their more current music, while Three Days Grace, whom I never paid much attention to, has become one of my favorite rock bands.
An hour after publishing that blog, I was invited to this show with a good friend. I was excited to see how different they have become and how they compare to each other live.

Starting off the show at Edmonton’s Rexall place was Canada’s own Default. They put on a decent set, playing a mix of their older hits and material off their newest record. Singer Dallas Smith has a great voice, but the overall sound of the band falls within the likes of other Canadian rock bands. They have yet to set themselves apart from the crowd, and are flying fairly low on my Canadian talent radar.
Following them was The Used, hailing from Utah. Not sure how the American post-hardcore band made it onto the roster between two Canadian rock bands, but I was interested to see them live again, despite not being a fan of their newer music.

They stared the show off with a few new songs of off their recently released album, which I was not familiar with. They were definitely a few steps away from the hardcore sound they started out with, and sounding more like your generic commercialized rock band.

The Used’s style has changed drastically over the years, replacing their angsty screams, with more mellow tunes and a calmer sound. For me, the appeal of the band was their raw emotion portrayed through their songs. I remember friends and me driving around town on our lunch break from school, screaming along at the top of our lungs. Their newer songs are not even worthy of me humming along to.
Following the less than stimulating new songs, the band then took a trip down rock and roll memory lane, playing a montage of songs from their very first release. This was the part of the show I was most looking forward to, but became quickly disappointed. The lead singer, Bert McCraken, can no longer sing or scream like he used to do to the fact that in his earlier years in the band, he would scream until he vomited onstage. These actions have caused noticeable and severe damage to his voice, apparent not only from the lack of screams, but from the shakiness of his voice midway through the set.

To help cover, bassist Jeph Howard has taken over Bert’s screaming parts and guitarist Quinn Alman also offers backing vocals that present no consolation.
I had high hopes that the band would play either of my favorite songs, ‘Box of Sharp Objects’ or ‘Blue and Yellow’. I was forced to slump back in my chair halfway through ‘Box of Objects’, it sounded nothing like it used to, and reinstated the fact that this is not on my list of favorite bands anymore.

I wonder if The Used was ever any good in the first place, or was it just a compliment to my angsty high school attitude. Has their sound actually changed that much, or did they always possess the over commercialized sound?

Unimpressed with the supporting acts, I was confident headliners Three Days Grace, hailing from Ontario, would make up for my disappointment.

With the release of their first studio record in 2003, Three Days Grace was another band that blended in with the current trend of rock. Their album mimicked the current release by fellow Canadians Finger Eleven, among others, and offered no distinguishable sound to set them apart.

These days they are still true to their alternative rock sound, but they have managed to write some really kick ass anthems that I can’t help rocking out to. Even their live show has evolved with their journey to rock-stardom, encorporating pyrotechnic fire balls to compliment the fierce attitude.
The rocking out began immediately as the band opened with their two singles from their recently released album “Life Starts Now”, before moving to some of their older songs.

Singer Adam Gontier offered a few words of thanks to the fans who have supported them and offered thoughts to the band after a family emergency earlier in the month, which forced them to cancel a number of shows in British Columbia. To those people who had nothing but complaints and ill words for the bands action, Adam says he hopes they never come to another Three Days Grace show or buy another Three Days Grace record. He then somberly dedicated the next song, ‘World So Cold’ to the woman in his life that was recently lost.

Halfway through the set the band took a break for Neil Sanderson’s drum solo. To me, no drum solo will ever compare to the epic-ness of Travis Barker’s solo during the recent Blink 182 tour this summer.
Following the solo, Adam reappeared behind the crowd by the sound booth, giving the people at the back an up-close view while singing an Apocalyptica cover before making his way back to the front of the stage. I can always appreciate a little bit of crowd interaction during a show.

They ended the set with one of my favorite tracks ‘Riot’, which left the rowdy crowd craving another taste. We were treated to three more songs for the encore, including ‘Animal I Have Become’, from the bands second studio release “One-X”.

While I found no value in the opening bands, I walked away entertained after Three Days Grace. They are your typical rock band, but they do it well.




Friday, November 27, 2009

Inspiration

Most people that are close to me know that my number one dream in life is to visit Japan. When I finished college I opened a separate savings account to begin saving for this trip.

Since that time I grew restless and dipped my fingers in the cookie jar to take a couple girls trips to Sin City. I've also had my living arrangements change drastically, and I have alot less money to set aside then I used to. Paying off credit cards and covering living expenses isn't leaving me much extra funds to set aside. But I still haven't forgotten my dream, and still put away a tiny bit here and there, knowing some day in the future, I will be able to see that wonderful country.

My friends and family also help me out, by constantly reminding me what my dream is, and that I need to find a better way to save so I can board an airplane before life gets in the way. While sometimes I wonder if they are just trying to get rid of me, I appreciate the extra encouragement.

Last week I started my morning off by reading an email from an old friend. I'm going to share it with you, so you can see how wonderful the people in my life are for supporting me and encouraging me to reach my dream. And maybe his words just might inspire one of my readers to go for their dreams in life.


Hey friend!

It's been a while hey... I hope this message finds you well.

So, I am not exactly sure what prompted me to write to you. Actually, that is a lie. I read your blog, and was struck with the inspiration to attempt to inspire you... if that makes any sense? Haha...

My attempt at inspiration has a specific purpose however - that being to send you to Japan.

I read somewhere that the hardest part about travelling in making the decision to go. I made that decision a while ago, and now, after having seen Japan, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam - I am sitting in Australia at fifteen minutes past midnight, writing to you, while I await my 9:30am flight to Singapore, for a visit there, and a couple days in Malaysia as well... hopefully.

I say this not to ignite envy - but to stir up motivation.

Reading your blog affirmed my opinion that you and I are a lot alike - and I guess that is where my decision to write this to you came from. I just know that before I had any desires to travel, you already had dreams to see Japan. And I know that the idea of packing a bag and getting on a plane to the otherside of the world can be a little nerve racking... but really, after you leave for the first time, it becomes easy... almost.

If you can afford to go to a million concerts - Japan can't be that far off...right? Just go. Work out a time frame. Make a budget. Book time off work. And book your flight.

I have attached a couple pictures - so that if my words don't inspire, they may back me up by igniting that envy I mentioned before... Deer that eat out of your hands in Nara; A mountain of monkeys in Kyoto; more history that boring old Canada will ever have! Do it already!

Deal?

Anyway - I'd love to hear whats new and exciting in good old Red Deer - so feel free to fill me in!

-Greg



Thank you Greg for your kind word and inspiration! I promise I will keep working on getting myself there. I've come to realize that I should probably be cutting back the number of concerts I'm attending and putting that money aside. It's so hard when there are so many amazing artists touring through here though!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bright Lights


Ontario born Lights made a stop at the Memorial Centre in Red Deer for the very first time this past weekend. After finishing a tour across the US, she is now making her way across Canada promoting her new album ‘The Listening’.

Lights is the most adorable girl I’ve ever seen and perhaps the most eccentric. She is every nerds dream with her comic book heroine appearance, and love for video games and comic books. Anyone who follows her online is well aware she is an avid player of World of Warcraft (known as WOW), which is a highly involved video game. She’s even written a song based on the game. But she’s taken her love for superheroes and fantasy worlds even farther by creating her own animated comic, featuring herself as the protagonist, and which can be viewed in short episodes on her Myspace page online.

While being a bit of a geek (ok, a huge geek) with her love of comic books and video games, she is an incredibly talented individual. And her nerdiness definitely shows through her music, with her intergalactic beats, video game references, and even her album artwork and music videos. Lights showcased these interests, as well as her passion for creating unique music, on stage for her local fans.

At the age of 9 Lights had acquired her first guitar and wrote her first song from the handful of chords she had learned by the age of 11. Following that she learned to play the drums, keyboard/piano and synthesizer and as she showcased at the show, she excels at all of them. Not to mention she possesses one powerful set of pipes which is not always apparent through her radio singles.

I arrived a bit late at the show, missing the opening act, Jets Overhead from British Columbia. My friends and I kind of giggled at the fact that we felt REALLY old, as most of the other attendees were tweens and younger. There was a group of young girls behind us that couldn’t have been more than 5 years old. I think that was the first concert I’ve ever attended with children so young!

Armed with an immense smile bright enough to light up the entire auditorium, Lights took to her microphone and keyboards to an explosion of tiny, girlish screams. Backed by her band on the drums and synth, she proceeded to entertain the crowd with her poppy vocals and imaginative beats. She played most of the songs off her latest album, and all of the singles I was familiar with. Explaining the thought behind some of the songs, and explaining the way they were written, including ‘Pretend’, which was written to be played on the piano, but is synthesized on the record.
Filling the space between songs, Lights often turned to interludes reminiscent of Super Mario Brothers video games, or played snippets from her own animated comic. By the end of the show, we were left to wonder if Captain Lights managed to survive a confrontation between the enemy or not.

Before the last song of the evening, Lights takes the time to introduce her band and then Russell, the keytar. Yes, the keytar has a name. Following her last song, the giant, bright smile that’s remained on the young girls’ face for the entire performance doesn’t diminish a bit as she waves to the crowd and exits the stage.
The crowd erupts into cheering and chants for one more song. After a few minutes of tiny voices chanting for Lights to come back, she reappears back onstage, minus the band, for a two song encore, in which she played a cover of Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’, and an acoustic version of her own single, ‘February Air’, which sounds just as good acoustically as it does with synthesized beats, as it was played earlier in the night. During this final song of the evening, my heart melted listening to the little girls with their painted up faces singing along, and they knew ALL the words. If I wasn’t already smiling at how great this show had been, I was definitely grinning at how adorable those little kids sounded.

Previously I was only familiar with the four singles Lights has released over the past couple years, but I still had a feeling she would put on a great show. And my instincts definitely proved me right, as I was blown away by her performance and her new album is now on the top of my must have albums. Lights unquestionably proves that good things come in small packages, Canada really does possess some amazing talent and that being a nerd is definitely cool.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Leave Love!

Alright, so I was apparently having a bit of trouble, and no one was able to leave me any comments. It appears I have now fixed the problem and welcome you all to leave me some love (or not), but let me know what you think!

Cheers,
B

Monday, November 9, 2009

My First Love

The biggest thing that defines me is music. It is something that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I feel that it will be a huge part of my life until the day I am no longer on this earth.

I can remember when I was young, my parents making me mix tapes which I played until they wore out. Among my personalized tapes, I had various tapes of my own, and as I grew up, so did my collection. I had them on in the background as I built castles out of Lego blocks and dressed up all my Barbies. They were present on long car rides, and were a staple to my bed time routine. It was a rare night when I wasn’t falling asleep to my favorite songs playing quietly.

I had an eclectic taste, even before I knew how to turn the dial on the radio. My favorite tapes include my Disney silly songs, the Beach Boys and Billy Ray Cyrus. My parents are big fans of country music, and so I was brought up listening to the likes of Ian Tyson, Garth Brooks and George Straight. While country is not one of my favorite genres to date, I still do feel a sense of nostalgia hearing a song I remember from childhood. That’s one of my favorite things about music, the memories certain songs trigger when you hear them.

It was in junior high when I began learning about new artists out there and my tastes in music expanded. I was slowly moving away from the country music as I discovered pop and rock music. This was the time when the boy bands and pop groups were huge. I loved the Spice Girls and Christina Aguilera. Britney Spears was never a favorite, but I still listened. My love for the boy bands alternated weekly between the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, I couldn’t decide who I liked better. I also grew a fan of groups like Green Day and Matchbox 20 and fell deeply in love with Our Lady Peace’s ‘Clumsy’ album. Much Music became my new favorite channel, and I couldn’t wait to turn it on when I was visiting at Grandma’s house. I remember seeing ‘I’m Just a Girl’ by No Doubt for the time on Much Music and wanting to be just like Gwen Stefani, with her hot pink knotted hair and pink braces. Marilyn Manson was very intriguing to me, although his music was nothing my parents would ever allow me to listen to. Instead mom pushed more conservative music on me, which I occasionally gave into, and fueled my obsession for the Hanson brothers. Everyone knew in 7th grade that I was obsessed and I’m still not ashamed to admit I loved them. Believe it or not, they had some great songs besides the well known hit ‘Mmm Bop’. And for those of you who don’t know, they are actually still around making music today!

The first concert I ever attended was Britney Spears. I do admit it was very exciting to go to my first stadium show, although I was never the biggest Britney fan. The opening bands have long since been forgotten but I still remember making the trek to my seats and waiting anxiously for the show to start. The sound all the screaming fans energized me as the lights dimmed and the music began. To this day I still get the same exhilaration at a concert, no matter how big or how small. I find no bigger thrill than a room full of people eager to see their favorite performer. That is complete happiness.

Entering my high school days my tastes continue to shift and expand, constantly making room for new favorites. I was into bands that were nowhere near mainstream, and most people outside of my circle of friends had never heard of before. I began attending concerts on a regular basis, averaging nearly one a month. My wardrobe was beginning to be taken over by tshirts collected at the various concerts I’ve attended. I began noticing a trend after every show, still high on adrenaline, always exclaiming that it was the best show I’ve ever seen. To this day I still have a hard time deciding what the best show I’ve ever seen was, because to me they are all amazing. In my final year of high school I was required to complete the work experience program. Since I was interested in pursuing a career in writing, I decided to go to the local newspaper to see if they had any odd jobs I could do and observe how it works behind the scenes. Instead, I was offered a chance to be a reporter. While I had a few assigned pieces here and there, I usually had free range of my articles and based many of them on my main interest, music. Upon graduation, I moved to the city to attend college and I continued writing about music in the college paper. I began reviewing local artist’s albums, and writing about concerts and my crazy adventures along the way. I took my reviews even farther by writing for an online publication, and I was soon having press packs sent to my home address to be reviewed. After a year of listening to an overwhelmingly large range of bands and singers trying to get their sound out there, I lost interest in doing album reviews and put my writing on hold.

But that didn’t mean the rest of my music inspired habits died down. I was still spending all my extra cash on new CD’s, continually expanding my collection to its current level of well over 200 CD’s. I’ve even become addicted to I-tunes over the past year, catching up on the latest singles and sampling new albums before I decide to buy. I don’t even want to know how much I’m spending on I-tunes monthly on top of the CD’s I buy. I never have a moment in a day where there isn’t music playing somewhere, between the radio at work, two I-Pod’s, my truck stereo, home stereo, or computer. I even went so far as to get a tattoo of a treble clef on the back of my neck to show my commitment to my love of music. My closet began overflowing with concert tshirts and I was still attending as many concerts as I could afford. I’ve tried to list all the bands I’ve seen in the past few years, and I’m pretty sure the list has exceeded 100 different bands, some of which I’ve seen multiple times. Many of my friends can’t believe how many concerts I have been to, and instead of asking ‘What’s new?’, they ask what concerts I’ve seen recently, and what concerts I have coming up. My bulletin board at home is overflowing with ticket stubs I’ve kept as mementos, waiting to be put into my concert scrapbook, which is now full. I made the mistake of adding up the total I’ve spent on all of the concerts on that bulletin board and nearly choked on the number on the calculator. With the money I’ve spent over the past year I could have easily gone on vacation somewhere, put a down payment on a new vehicle, bought an entirely new wardrobe, and much more. While those things would have been really nice to have, I don’t think I could have had as many fun adventures, met as many amazing people, seen as many talented people, or made as many truly unforgettable memories. Music is truly, my first love.