Saturday, November 20, 2010

South up North

Madison Square Garden - the name alone conjures up images of greatness: sports, concerts, religion, the Penguins beating the Rangers in OT when their own goalie gets the puck in the net ... oh, sorry...that was at the Civic Arena...I digress.

The Garden has been known for some amazing shows - Led Zeppelin, The Concert for NY, the Grateful Dead, Billy Joel - you name it. I have seen Metallica, Jimmy Buffett and most recently, Manchester Orchestra and Kings of Leon at MSG and each show didn't disappoint.

Back down South to Bonnaroo, I was able to see these  Manchester Orchestra and Kings of Leon perform in front of tens of thousands of people in the hot hot hot Tennessee sun.  The crowd knew KOL, they were from Nashville and becoming more and more popular by the second.

Before 'Roo, I had heard of both bands. After 'Roo, I decided to really check them out. Manchester Orchestra (MO), at times and please forgive me if you don't agree, reminded me to Wilco but with a heavier edge. I like them - and want to see them grow. My favorite line from the night at the Garden was that they saw Wilco and the Flaming Lips perform there on a New Year's Eve and that they wished they could play the Garden some day. You wanted to hug them when you heard that. They seats weren't yet filled, but they had a few thousand listening to them and liking every note.

Kings of Leon -- what I love about them is that they CHANGE. They remind me of U2, not by sound, but by their chameleonness (yup, a new word). If you look at Achtung Baby back to Boy, every album sounds different. They re-invent themselves because they know what sold before and that they probably won't be able to replicate that (instead of Being John Malcovich, it's like Being The Edge, I am guessing that is what they assumed). You listen to their Youth and Manhood album and compare it to Come Around Sundown and they are different, more open to experimenting. It might be that they were able to grow overseas before making it big in the States, whatever it is - don't lose it. Change is good, trying new sounds and new feels might make you lose some fans but don't ostracize your artistic endeavors.

The band had a stage set that was incredible - complete with dozens of spotlights, a disco ball and vintage looking live screens. They could have walked out without the visual and just played their asses off - which they did. This set up seemed to work much better in the Garden than at 'Roo.

Meeting the crew that was filming their video for Pyro was even more cool when I saw them react when they heard the song live and felt it almost to be their song -- it is in a way. But, and thank you for being so cool Rob, as you said, the video was not yours, it is ours. Best of luck and I cannot wait to see it!

From Mary to Black Thumbnail everyone was on their feet. It wasn't like those concerts where people became disinterested and began to talk annoyingly at points. Everyone knew every song and they sang it, screamed it, danced to it.

My highlight was hearing Back Down South. I heard it first on that hot, steamy night in Tennessee. It makes me think of that wonderful weekend - standing next to my best friend, having the time of our lives, surrounded by people who loved music as much as we do.

Congratulations Kings of Leon and Manchester Orchestra, you made it in NYC!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Surreal Music Moments

Ever have that moment? That time when you are listening to a song and it pieces all of the puzzle pieces together or it seems as if Martin Scorsese couldn't have scripted a better moment in your music memory?

Well - I have. There are several These aren't the "Oh my God, this is the best concert ever moments". These are the "Is this really happening?" moments. Here are some of the ones that I would place in my top surreal music moments.

Sitting in my flat in Belfast in the still smokey morning listening to David Gray and Fun Lovin' Criminals on my disc man in an attempt to drown out the sound of helicopters patrolling the streets after the riots that followed the pre-12 July bonfires

Belfast again: watching Braveheart at 3 in the morning while listening to Rory Gallagher and eating spaghetti Bolognese

Watching INXS in their home city of Sydney

Standing on the field of Three Rivers Stadium watching U2 perform

Standing inches away from Bono's boots while he waved an Irish flag and sang "Out of Control" with Manhattan as the back-drop

Standing in a muddy field at midnight in Manchester Tennessee with 80,000 people all singing "I will see you on the dark side of the moon" in unison while the Flaming Lips played

Buying tickets for Wilco in Pittsburgh and getting a three and a half hour show in return. This included an acoustic set off the stage complete with lamps and a kids drum set

Playing "family drums" with our DSO family at Nokia Theatre - and this included basketball legend Bill Walton and GD member Donna Jean Godchaux

Listening to My Sweet Lord by George Harrison in my car while driving to class at Pitt. I hit black ice when the line "Lord, I really wanna see you" came on and proceeded to slide sideways down the highway as did the truck in front of me. I repeated over and over - "not yet, Lord, not yet."

Hearing Belfast Child at a fish shop in East Belfast. This was the song that inspired me to write my Northern Ireland screenplay

Getting my Family Style LP signed by Jimmie Vaughan

Screaming the lyrics to Master of Puppets during a Metallica show at the Garden with my husband and realizing I had been screaming those lyrics for twenty years

Standing front row at one of the smaller Bonnaroo tents watching Levon Helm sing Chest Fever, The Shape I'm In and The Weight
And this list would not be complete without this one:

Getting engaged on stage at a DSO show in front of a full audience - any music lovers dream come true!!
Engagement 5.12.06
Levon Helm 6.14.08

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tilt-A-Whirl and the Joker

     I bought tickets to see Jimmie Vaughan at the Iridium in Times Square. First of all, the Iridium is legendary as Les Paul would play his famous sets with whomever decided to show up that night. The fact that I would finally see Jimmie Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton was a dream come true.
     Of course, I imagined what the show would be like - what songs he might play. The days went by fast until it was finally October 21st. I made sure I had my camera and Family Style LP that he and his brother Stevie recorded together in early 1990. I walked through Central Park in anticipation. I would be happy with three songs: I'm Leaving it up to You, Texas Flood and In the Middle of the Night.
     I was seated next to two wonderful gentlemen who love music as much as Billy and I. Luck, coincidence or fate I do not know, but I would almost be on the stage our table was so close.  I couldn't wait for Billy to arrive to show him ... we were no more than six feet from the stage.      Those final minutes, tick tock tick tock until finally...ladies and gentleman...the Iridium welcomes Jimmie Vaughan. Chills. It was him. In awe, he had his white Tex-Mex Fender Strat to play for us. It was unreal to be so close. At one point, I must have been smiling from ear to ear and Jimmy looked right at me, smiled and winked. I could have left then. But...of course we didn't.
     He played a few songs, a mix of his hits from his solo albums before Lou Ann Barton joined him. She is a legend of Texas blues. The two rocked the room and Jimmie began to jam. The first set was over way too soon.
    As we waited for the second set, the gentleman sitting next to me said turn around and look who is in the corner. It was Robby Krieger from the Doors, sitting just below his guitar that hung on the wall.  It was so true that anyone can show up at the Iridium. But the surprises were not over yet.
    A few songs into the second set, he announced that another Texan was present and introduced Steve Miller. Steve Freaking Miller!!! What a surprise!! They played a few of Jimmie's songs together, before Steve took a seat and watched the rest of the show.  Lou Ann came onto the stage again and I got to hear I'm Leaving it up to You.
     I really was not prepared to hear what Jimmie sang next.  I thought I would be, but I wasn't: Texas Flood. It was the closest I would ever get to Stevie Ray Vaughan. A surreal moment, I admit I cried. It took me back to the first cassette I ever bought of Stevie's.  I remembered the picture of Stevie and Jimmie I had on my dresser mirror growing up and how their songs would keep my mind at ease after my father passed. I also realized what it must be like for him to play that song. The memories that must creep in between the lyrics.  At the end of the song, Jimmie paused and looked toward the ceiling, a moment between two brothers.
   And I got song number three, as he and Lou Ann sand In the Middle of the Night...a perfect night that I could not have planned. It is the emotion of music that I love. So many in that room were there for that emotion. So many people in that room knew what it was like to live for music.
     After the lights came up. I stood in line with my album and rehearsed over and over what I would say to Jimmie. My turn - finally. I held the album close to me and said, "I have been waiting for 2o years for you to sign this for me" as I handed him the Family Style album. He seemed a bit surprised but very touched. 
    The whole circle came to close that night. I personally saw one of the voices that I used to listen to when life seemed so complicated (remember, I was twelve). I listened to how they sang to the girls they loved and prayed that one day some one would love me that much too. Well, my prayers were answered. It was an honor having my husband there with me at the Iridium. He saw probably one of the defining moments of my life. I don't know if he realizes this or not, but his being there made the night complete. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nobody Told Me There'd Be Days Like These

The last two months have been crazy - busy crazy, stressful crazy, at sometimes, good crazy. Music hasn't been as much of a part of my daily routine as it should have. I have always said that music gets me through things. But what do you do when you are so tired that when you put the music on, you fall asleep before the first jam?
Let me fill you in. The first weeks of September were indeed trying. My firefighter husband was burned at work and subsequently needed a skin graft. Between the long hours at work and making sure I spent the rest of my free time with him at the hospital, I was more interested in sleep and making sure that he was comfortable (and an occaisional Jack and Diet Coke).

I did have one day of music I guess, on September 13th. I was able to see Robert Plant and Band of Joy perform on the Jimmy Fallon Show. It was a treat to see him interviewed and an unforgettable experience to see him perform in such a small venue. 

In this same time period, New York City was visited by two tornadoes - which created long hours at work. This was balanced with a healing husband, preparing for an exercise at work in six parts, a firehouse dinner dance and the Tunnel to Towers Run.
Seriously folks, I was tired. My iPod was neglected.

I must thank my husband who has the patience of a saint with my crazy work schedule of the last two months. I apologize that I haven't been home as much as I would like to have been. It meant so much to have you cheer me on as I ran out of the Tunnel on September 26th. Life will get back to normal - I swear, and it will back to the normal crazy that we  are used to.

To my wonderful girlfriends, thank you for the much needed weekend away. Music re-entered my life - so did sleep, laughs, and beer. There is nothing like telling stories next to a campfire, sitting under the Vermont stars, gossiping at the kitchen counter, or freezing your flip flopped toes off in a ski lift.

Things are slowly getting back to that crazy normal. I am so excited to see Jimmie Vaughan this Thursday.Yes, Stevie Ray's brother, guitarist from the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Friday may be My Morning Jacket performing the album Z, maybe Dave and possibly some Roger Waters at the Garden (and if Billy had his way, Phish at Toad's Place - yeah, we all wish).

Tonight, on the way home, I bopped to Franz Ferdinand, cranked Stevie's solo in Life Without You, and wanted to polka the Transcontinental Hustle when Gogol Bordello came on the iPod. 

The stories shall commence again loyal followers. Prepare to hear all about getting kicked in the head during Pantera, listening to David Gray in Belfast as helicopters hovered overhead and how John Lennon made me come to New York City.  I am back...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

November 22, 2004

Many who know me, know my love of the band U2. Yes, their tunes are catchy - but did you ever really listen to them? Their songs are cries for the helpless, modern pslams for the spiritual, and praise for those who stood against oppression. Yes, Vertigo is a cool song, but I am more of a Pride or Running to Stand Still Girl. 
I wrote papers on their songs in Dr. Wrabley's classes at Pitt. I was going to use Love Come Tumbling in my movie (when I evetually finish that screenplay). I saw them in concerts and knew every word to every song. U2 became a part of me, their albums the soundtrack to my 20's. 
It was 2004 and I was working at the Office of Emergency Management under the Brooklyn Bridge. It was about 6am when the first call from the PD assigned out front, Yeah, there are some trucks that need to block the entrance for the U2 concert tonight. The what? Some more phone calls later and it was confirmed: U2 was playing under the Brooklyn Bridge. I was off for the afternoon so the cards were in my favor. 
Trucks of equipment, a stage, fans began to congregate. I was getting so excited. We would be able to get right up front. But would I meet them? After all these years? Would it happen?
Limos rolled up, was it them? was Christy Turlington and Ed Burns. I could have called it a day right there. Ed Burns, the man behind the reason why I write, was there to see the show. People that I work with who were not even fans were excited as well. Who wouldn't be, it was a small show to preview U2's new album. We watched as U2 made it over the Manhattan Bridge on a flatbed truck ...and...waited...
Finally, the limo came, it was them. Adam, Larry, the Edge and Bono. In front of me. After all those years. I would be that close.
I had seen U2 perform and Bono was at the top. He hadn't sounded that good in years! They opened with Vertigo and went into All Because of You. I remembered at that moment the signifigance of the date. Michael Hutchence had died on that date seven years prior. Bono and Hutchence were apparently dear friends. 
After about 5 new songs, the Irish Flag came out, I was at the front of the stage and they took it back to the beginning. Back to The Bottom Line, where it all began for them in NYC. They played Out of Control as if they were four fresh-faced Irishmen from Dublin. It was something I will never forget. The perfect U2 moment...for the time being. 
The show ended and I was waiting around. I was still determined to meet them. What felt like an hour went by and there they were, taking pictures. I was able to get in the back of one, but still not too close. Patience, finally paid off. Almpost everyone had gone, I was ready to go back for a night tour so I could spare the time. I can't remember who was standing in front of me, but it happened. I met him.
Bono shook my hand. Then I said, you were so on tonight. This show was for Hutch! And then he hugged me. He thanked me. Then he walked away. I am still looking for a picture of that moment. The moment I had been dreaming of for what seemed like an eternity. It was over like that.
Bono wasn't the first celebrity I had even met, but it had the most impact on me. I had yelled at Ethan Hawke, chit chatted with Cyndi Luaper, held flowers for Steve Buscemi and played the umbrella dance with Kevin Bacon on Spring Street. Nothing compared.

It will be a memory that I will cherish. When I hear those songs I will go back to that chilly November night, the Manhattan skyline in the background.


All Because of You
Miracle Drug
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
City of Blinding Lights
Original of the Species
She's a Mystery to Me
Beautiful Day
I Will Follow
Out of Control

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Nine years ago, I was ready to embark on graduate school at NYU. It is almost cliché now: it was a beautiful, crisp autumn day with an azure sky. In Pennsylvania, the leaves were starting to change colors. I was excited to watch a Sting webcast that night from Italy. I had gone for a run that morning, coming back to a message to call the neighbor about picking up deck cleaner. I was putting milk on my cereal when my neighbor commented that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I quickly turned the news on to see the second plane disappear into the South Tower. I had just recently returned from Belfast and did not expect terror to follow me home. I did just see that. A goddamn fucking plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. Thanks to some great teaching in my international studies classes at Pitt, the names and dates of terror plots of past flashed through my head. My mom couldn't figure out which TV to watch. We just sat and stared.Stared as people died. Stared as people ran for their lives. Stared at our country under attack. I will forever remember Jim Miklaszewski commenting about hearing an explosion at the Pentagon. And will forever feel the lump in my throat when the voice on our police scanner recalled all volunteer crews the report of a plane down west of Johnstown. My mom commented about the Tower tilting before it pummeled to the ground. We were essentially watching the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Ferdinand being shot assassinated or the Boston Massacre. We were watching history unfold before us.

 By noon, it was eerily silent. No planes flying overhead, the last one was Flight 93. We watched, listened to the reporters tell what they saw, fuel gossip about cell phone calls calling from the rubble. For some stupid reason, MTV played Jeff Buckley's version of Hallelujah, a song about sex and longing not loss and mourning. Then of course, Sarah McLachlan was in rotation 24/7. Stunned, numb, shock. No one knew what to do. To this day, I cannot eat Dinty Moore steak beef stew because I tried to eat it that day. The smell makes me sick. My neighbor saw Flight 93 near the Galleria airport, thinking it was simply one of the planes trying to land - but oddly she thought, why is it going away from the airport?

Trying to get away from the news, I wondered if the webcast would be on. It was. Sting commented that they would play one song and then possibly end it, out of respect. But they would see how they felt. Sting and his band played an entire set. A set that took me away for an hour from what was happening. He opened with Fragile, a song hauntingly reminiscent of what was happening that day: If blood will flow, and flesh and steel are one...

Fast forward to now. I never thought I would work so closely with the men and women who ran for their lives that day. Fire chiefs, the men who carried Father Judge to the alter at St. Peter's, police officers and firefighters who survived that day, sometimes only to relive it on a daily basis, those I work with from the medical examiner's office who are still painstakingly trying to find new methods of DNA identification,  friends from DC who were at the Pentagon...I haven't forgotten. It is an honor and privilege to know I work with you and that some of you have become my very dear friends. To my husband,it still pains me to know how many friends you lost that day. I couldn't imagine our life more full than it already is now with names, faces and stories. I hope the pain subsides year by year, that the memories are no longer bitter sweet. I long for all of us to not shudder when we wake up to a blue sky day in September.

Today, remember the heroes, the ones gone and the ones living, give an extra hug to the ones you love and Never Forget.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

We're on the Road to Nowhere

It is that time of year again, when you notice the sun going down a little sooner, the mornings a little more chilly. We make the annual Labor Day trip to Bayville to officially close out the summer. We consume enough crustaceans, meats, pork and beer to make Anthony Bourdain blush. With culinary experience from the Caribbean, France and the firehouse, we feast on smelly cheese, cured meats and whatever we can create from last night's pasta. We play music, try to remember the words to the songs we always seem to forget, tell the same stories and wish that time didn't fly so damn fast.

This is always a rite of passage to the fall. We begin our summers at the same location, when the water is too cold for non-polar bear swimmers, the sun too harsh for the spring virgin skin and the pants a little too tight from the hearty winter solstice meals. No matter what time of year (and this includes Christmas) we always have music on the beach.

Music and Bayville kind of go together. It seems everyone either plays it, sings it or enjoys it. If the music isn't on the iTunes, it's being played live while we all sing along. Yes, a sing along. Sometimes we don't even know the words, but we all sit together on the deck and laugh (and drink) and sing (and drink) and drink (and drink) and eat and tell Jasper the dog to stop barking.

A few songs and artists have become the staple: Ripple, some Cat Stevens, Johnny Cash and for some reason, the Talking Heads We're on the Road to Nowhere. Whether it is just fun to sing WOO and HEY at the freaking top of your lungs while the neighbors watch, I don't know, but it's cathartic and kind of like primal scream therapy. It's also enjoyable to watch people walk down the beach and look us with amusement. Music, friends, laughs - it doesn't get any better than that.

Every now and then, we'll try something new or someone will stop by with a harmonica and all of a sudden we have Tom Petty or Bob Dylan. It's the magic of music. It happened at Christmas when the guitar came out, the fireplace was roaring and we all stopped to sing Imagine (then I ran into the Sound). It will happen in the middle of winter when someone wants to hear Hendrix or Clapton or the Beatles. Yes, I will run into the sound again in the middle of winter, but people break free of their boundaries, they laugh, don't care who sees them making ridiculous faces or sing off key.

I guess the point it, I love that Bayville is music. We have created a tradition of bringing in the summer and then packing it up and sending it away for the winter. Maybe it's because it is so elementary. Food, music and so many characters that Jerry Seinfeld couldn't keep up with.

We will see you in a equinox and a solstice, summer. Thank you for some great memories this year.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I often wonder what life would be like if we didn't have iPods, especially for subway commutes. It's really a therapist if you think about it. Well, for me it is. It sets my mood-or helps me to continue in the state of mind that I find myself. You can encapsulate yourself in a world that no one else will know about (well, except for you folks that don't understand the concept of the headphone and listen to it at decibels that would make Roger Daltry cry).

When people make me angry, because they have bad breath, are encroaching on my space or snapping away at their gum, I can relieve stress by scrolling to one of the following: Metallica, Anthrax or Pantera. Anger no longer pours out of my eyes at the person who has, unbeknownst to them, crossed my wires. The drums, the heavy bass, the lead singer yell for me.

But then there are the rides home, when you settle on shuffle and start nodding off to Robert Plant and get startled awake by the chorus from Hair (hey, it is my iPod we're talking about here). Or the times where nothing seems to suit your mood and Christmas music seems to filter the conversations out. There is nothing like clicking on Do They Know It's Christmas? on a 95 degree day.

Everyone has one it seems on the subway and I think it is kind of a good thing. It's the Linus blanket, the hot chocolate chip cookie, the voice at the other end of the phone letting you know everything is going to be ok. No matter what you listen to, it puts you in your place of zen, contemplation,  complacency or restraint. You wonder what others may be listening to. What time traveling they may be doing.

No one can deny the guilty pleasure of putting on an 80's  tune and getting away with it. Taking the express back to 6th grade via the B-52's can prove rewarding even to your seat mates, creating wonder in them when a smile spreads across your face for no reason. I often wonder if anyone can see that I am listening to Selena, Trixter or Terence Trent D'Arby sometimes. And if they do see it, I wonder what they are thinking.

Or playing a song from a concert you remember. It takes you back to screaming at the top of your lungs for New Kids, Clapton or Pearl Jam, it doesn't matter who, it takes you back to that place. You felt the mud or the sticky stadium floor, almost smelled the smoke and got lost in the fact that the subway almost feels like the crowd moving you around.

This morning, for me its Dire Straits (thanks Z for the recommendation). Mellow, smooth, contemplative. It's a thinking man's band. I like them and it has successfully gotten me through a train commute that was supposed to leave at 0641 and didn't until 0654. It doesn't seem like much of a delay, but you can squeeze in a few extra tunes (only one if you are listening to the Dead, Phish, Dave Matthews or old Metallica).

Upon the end of the song, I can only hear the scraping of metal against the rail. Everyone is in their own world listening to songs that transport them, soothe them and excite them. The train car is silent. No talking, maybe a turning of a newspaper page every now and then. Nope, I couldn't imagine this commute without my music.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I Think We Broke Time

We're headin' on down to Bonnaroo gonna have ourselves a time...

I had heard of Bonnaroo - I didn't know if I could handle "that much" jam music. I admit - as I have been called a music snob (by my husband - because he is the only one who could get away with that) I admit that I was a little leary of a four day jam festival. I had a great time in 2003 in Music Midtown Atlanta. It was a good mix of all different types and decades of music: Def Leppard, B-52's, Dylan, Buddy Guy, Les Claypool, Govt Mule - you get my point. I can't listen to too much of one thing for too long - my brain just can't hack it. After a concert - I can't listen to that band for days. After Faith No More this summer, I went home and listened to Amy Correia. Maybe something ain't wired right up there, but that is just how I am.

In the winter of 2007 I agreed to blindly buy Bonnaroo 08 tickets, knowing that I would at least know our friends from Dark Star Orchestra playing there. To the disappointment of Bonnaroo purists - 2008 was not going to be filled with jam only bands. The metal gods, the grunge gods and the rock and roll gods shined their light down upon the fields of Manchester TN and gave me the following main stage line up: Metallica, Pearl Jam and Robert Plant.

I could not get to Tennessee fast enough.
Bonnaroo hasn't looked back ever since. Besides the "Kanye mistake" that year, I think that Bonnaroo had finally found the perfect mix of jam, rock, blues and crazy. Read on.

Thursday night, after these Brooklyn kids finally put their studio sized tent up, we ventured off to see some new bands before DSO went on. I have to admit - there is a communal-ness to Bonnaroo. The town lets us make them the third largest city in Tennessee for four days and there are only a few common sense rules: don't kill anyone, try to keep all your clothes on, share your things and say sorry if you step on someone. I had to say sorry a lot the first night as I was not prepared for so many people just lying on the ground.

Two great acts went on before DSO: Nicole Atkins and the Felice Brothers. Amazing performers!! Nicole is a Jerseyite with a killer voice and the Felice Brothers made their way from singing in NYC Subway Stations to a good gig at Bonnaroo (if you like the Band and are fond of whiskey - I highly recommend these guys).

Now, I had seen our friends perform a gazillion times before. That night would be special since they sang Tennessee Jed and it automatically became the anthem for the weekend. We would hang with Dino, one of their drummers, for the rest of the festival. First night in and I knew I would like the festival. It was time to get some sleep - for tomorrow, Metallica would play.

Saturday I was able to finally figure may way around the farm without a map. So many great bands played! Umphrey's McGee, Drive By Truckers, the Raconteurs, Les Claypool, Willie Nelson, to name a few. The hours tick tocked by until finally, the time had come. I don't really think Billy knew me 100 percent until the moment Chris Rock said these words: Are you ready for Metallica!!

I transformed into the adolescent skate board punk teenager and screamed every word to every song. Dino couldn't believe I knew all the words. I am sure that when Billy heard me shout Die, Die, Die at the top of my lungs during the opener Creeping Death, he had seen it all. Every song but one or two were from the Black album and back. The Bonnaroo crowd loved it! I loved it. I hadn't seen Metallica
in a while and they had the energy they did in the early 90's. Billy enjoyed it for two reasons, I am assuming. First, because he saw what the music did to me. Second, they played Nothing Else Matters, a song that was played at the funeral of his firehouse brother, John Florio, after 9/11. John was a huge Metallica fan and everyone around the firehouse knew it. Even James Hetfield, lead singer of Metallica knew it. He penned a letter to John's widow after reading his bio in the NY Times.

Saturday was a day of new bands and performers I had never seen play live. I was able to see Little Feat and Levon Helm in The Other Tent. In the band lounge with Dino, I kept on asking who was playing outside on the Which Stage. I didn't know who Gogol Bordello was but I was determined to find out. I was not prepared for insane time that would follow. Gogol Bordello are a gypsy punk band with members from everywhere. They play, what my friend has deemed, hard rock polka. Their jams are contagious. Fiddles, girls in red spandex banging drums and cymbals, a lead singer straight from the Ukraine via the
lower east side, accordions (this was like the year of accordions, I swear). I began to dance with a kid from Manchester Michigan. It felt like we were flying as we attempted to keep up with the music. At one point, he looked at his watch and proclaimed: I think we broke time. My watch isn't working. I went back stage as soon as they were done to share with Billy and Dino my new favorite band. Dino (the drummer)was in an all out Guitar Hero dual and Billy was talking to a writer for High Times Magazine. I wanted to move to Bonnaroo!
This was the night of the Kanye controversy. If you would like to read more about it. He didn't get the let's all get along policy at the front door. So anyway, Jack Johnson was on right before Pearl Jam. Yes PEARL JAM. They hadn't played a festival since the 90's when eight kids were crushed to death at a festival in Europe. That, mixed with the political climate of the presidential election and Kanye West's antics, I knew this would be a great set.

Pearl Jam was tight that night. Eddie again and again commented how great it was that so many people could get along. We were 100,000 strong - a small town as he called us, before he went into that song. Billy went off to take a nap as Dino and I watched into the third hour of Pearl Jam, Release, Porch and Hail Hail were given to us like gifts from Andrew Wood, who I am sure was looking down at his former band mates from Mother Love Bone and smiled fabulously (as only Andrew could).

From Pearl Jam we were on to see Phil Lesh and Jackie Greene (who we had seen on the Sonic stage earlier in the day). First we had to find Billy and make sure no one stepped on him while he napped (how do you nap during Pearl Jam?). I wanted to stay up all night because tomorrow was the last day of Bonnaroo!! We left as soon as Phil and Jackie ended and went back to our tent.

Sunday was like Christmas, the Fourth of July and my birthday all rolled into one. That day, June 15 2008, I would finally see Robert Plant. I left Billy and Dino to go and see Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi while I staked out the perfect seat for Robert.I should also note that Alison Kraus was playing with Robert. Not that I don't like her, she is an amazingly talented artist but I was biased. I had to see my Golden God of Rock and Roll.

Then it happened. At 6:15 (Bonnaroo is always on time and that is awesome except when you're Kanye West) Robert and Alison strolled onto the stage singing Rich Woman. I knew that the audience was split 50/50 for who they were there to see. We were so close to Nashville so a lot of folks came out just to see her. My kneed buckled. I was in the presence of Robert Plant, lead singer of Led Zeppelin. Singer of all of those songs you made out to in high school. Wearer of too tight pants and apparently buttonless shirts. I was awed for almost two hours. He sang Black Dog and In The Mood. They sang the Battle of Evermore together. It was quite a unique experience to sing Down to the River with 50,000 fans.

I didn't want to it end. Sadly, after watching Widespread Panic at the What Stage, it was time to move on. It was a perfect festival. I was with my husband, friend and 100,000 people who love music as much as we do. We sang, we laughed, we met new friends, we ate, we drank, we saw bands that made us remember memories of the past. For four days in 2008, I was a citizen of the third largest city in Tennessee. I go back each year to the farm, as we call it. It will never be the same as that year, but going back always evokes those memories of that first time I went to Bonnaroo. True to its Creole name, Bonnaroo is a really good time.


Sunday, August 1, 2010


You know, people can't fall in love with me just because I'm good at what I do ~ Robert Plant

We have all been there - admit it. You have had the crush. I have had several - ok, still have several. Robert Plant, Bono, Eric Clapton,James Hetfield, and Nikki Sixx.

I don't know what it is about rock stars. Ok, I lied, I do. They are sexy hot. I also admit, that my version of sexy hot rock stars does not fit everyone else's. We each have our own check list, I am sure.
  • You either are or are destined to become a rock icon
  • You have been through hell and back and possibly made a return trip a couple of times
  • You can have strong political convictions
  • Accents are best
  • Tattoos are welcomed
  • Hair - long locks are good but not required
  • You continue to put out music because you enjoy it

I guess the crush starts when you first hear the voice. Listen to a good live Since I've Been Lovin' You and you get all sides of Robert Plant. You get the blues, you get the golden god's vocal crescendos and, if you're watching, you see him feel the song. I should add that to the list - crushes must feel the song they are singing.

 (note, this video contains a number of items from the above checklist: icon, hair, accent). 

A great example of the emotion being worn on one's sleeve is definitely Bono.Bono, from inception, I think has been overtly
emotionally tied to his songs. U2 songs are not just poppy love ballads and kitschy tunes, they (most of the time) have some deep political, social, and/or religious meaning. (Dr. Wrabley at Pitt Johnstown knows that I know this - he received too many papers from me on them). In Rattle and Hum, U2 performed Sunday, Bloody Sunday. But this performance came on the heels of a bombing (that could have been stopped by the British Army) that killed numbers of veterans in a war memorial ceremony. Bono's emotion is raw.  Whether singing about the United States occupation in Central America, the plight of millions in Africa, or lamenting civil rights activists - he was genuine. And U2 still continues to put on tours and make albums and stay true to their original concept - making music that educates as well as entertains. Bono - well, maybe it was the hair, it was definitely the accent, but what girl can resist a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve? (Back to checklist - rock icon, strong political conviction, accent, had long hair at one time, still enjoys making music).

You're probably asking yourself - Eric Clapton? Yes, Eric Clapton. Read his biography - you'll love him even more - you'll want to give him a great big hug. This man has
been through hell - and won. His love life should make anyone thankful for their own. I don't know how he can still sing Layla, I couldn't fathom knowing Sweet Home Chicago was the last song he ever played with Stevie Ray, and am thankful that he doesn't have to sing Tears in Heaven anymore. His relationship with George Harrison still fascinates me. Look at the bands he has been in: Yardbirds, Cream, Blindfaith, Derek and the Dominos.I finally saw him play in June of 2009. It was amazing. I couldn't believe I was finally seeing Eric Clapton. (back to the tally board: Icon, been through hell a couple of times, he has an accent and toured not that long ago with Jeff Beck).

Moving right along - I know, don't give me that, what? Why? Really? Hey, this is my list and I can put anyone on it that I want. And I happen to want to put James Hetfield on this list.Hmmm, let's see, heavy metal god, puts some politics into their songs (One, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The God that Failed), went through hell (third degree pyrotechnic burns, kicked drugs and alcohol), he's got tattoos and last time I checked 'Tallica has been on the road for the last two years AND they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! HA! HA! HA!
I was at this show in Manchester TN and Metallica kicked it big time. The proof was that the non-Metallica fans were enjoying themselves. The truth is - when at Bonnaroo, we're all MUSIC fans. It still sends chills through me to hear the music stop and James address the audience: Bonnaroo, Are you alive? Tell me, how does it feel to be alive

Lastly, Nikki Sixx, the man whose poster used to hang inside of my closet - because he scared my mother. Talk about a rough paper route in life, family issues, he died a few times, shot up some JD -- need I go on about this guy. He can write (wrote most of the Crue's songs) published the diaries of his heroin days, an amazingly terrifying read if you want a glimpse into the not so sexy world of 1980's heavy metal touring. He is a photographer looking at the world through his eyes and putting it out there for us to question our perceptions of reality.

There, that is my list. I think I have remained true to my rock and roll (okay, rock, rock, blues and heavy metal) crushes. Each of these guys I truly respect. Yes, I am getting serious. Each of these men have some pretty heavy weight on them. Legend, sober, humanitarian, believer, fighter, lover can be used to describe anyone of these men. Crushes just aren't about looks - believe it or not.

So there are folks who failed to make THE list, but made the list of those I had obsessive, binge crushes on: 
Michael Hutchence: I did trek to his memorial in Sydney and even left flowers.

Donnie Wahlberg: I pray every time we go to Dorcester that I accidentally run into him and not shriek like a child - although I almost ruined an entire scene with him in it while running over the Brooklyn Bridge one morning (yes, Donnie, that was me and you are so welcome).

George Michael was a crush for so long - who wouldn't want that angelic voice singing to them?  

Mike Patton of Faith No More: I contained all urges to jump onto the stage very well I think.

Dave Matthews: it's that hippy thing I think, and I like it when he does his South African accent. I have seen you over 30 times, is that obsessive?

Boy George (there Angie, I admit it) I told everyone in kindergarten I was going to marry Boy George.

Bobby Dall, the other bassist in my life. Rachel Bolan from Skid Row: Jan, what memories!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Heroes

Up the stairs, into the fire
I need you kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire
~ Into the Fire Bruce Springsteen

I write this as news just comes in that two Bridgeport, Connecticut firefighters have lost their lives. They work in a job they love, some paid, others not, to selflessly save the lives of others. Too often, their own lives are lost in the battle.

What hurts most is that tonight I have to go to sleep knowing my husband is putting himself in this same position. Tonight, in New York City, Connecticut, DC and you name it everywhere else, husbands are going to the firehouse, while their wives do their best to diligently not think of the danger. It's nights like these when the slightest sound wakes you up in the middle of the night, or you think you heard your phone ring. My circle of wives has already checked in with each other to make sure we are all ok - without actually asking the question.

These wives are my heroes.

Somehow we go about our days and nights knowing the selfless position our husbands put themselves in. Many of these wives are also EMTs and burn nurses. We know what can happen.

Three years ago, a fireman I knew from Engine 24 / Ladder 5 was killed along with another member from his house. I was about to be married. I could not fathom what their girlfriend and wife were experiencing. I stood at the steps of St. Patrick's and witnessed a scene I had viewed too many times: the passing of the helmet to the widow. I know how much I can love someone - the physical pain of actually loving them till you want to burst. I could not imagine the pain of not having that person their anymore to hug you, make you laugh, laugh at you when you do something stupid, or wake up next to in the morning. I could not bear to think of the emptiness they felt.

Not a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, I reluctantly purchased The Rising after it was released. I listened to it and could not believe the raw emotion that Bruce Springsteen captured. The line that grabbed me was the following: I want a kiss from your lips, I want an eye for an eye.The sadness and the anger were immediately felt - he was singing about the grieving partner following the attacks on the Trade Center. The album felt like it was a dedication of sorts to the firemen - The Rising, Into the Fire, You're Missing, all captured the selfless walk up the stairs that morning.

The wives also had a job after 9/11. Healing their husbands. It was not a short process and for many it still lingers or appears with no warning. A leaf on the street, a blue sky, a song...they can all make it come flooding back. So we also recognize our healing role. We know when they need to be alone, when they shouldn't be left alone, to not talk when they get that distant stare...we've been there for the memorials, the dedications, the 5K's and the street re-namings. It's hurts us to see them hurt so much after almost ten years. It hurts me to know that my husband lost so many friends that day.

If you watch Ladder 49, the wives really do know each other that well. It is a special bond. We know how much we need each other, and would, God forbid the horror, if it were one of us receiving the helmet. We know the quarks and the kitchen humor of our men, that they will talk to each other on the phone 10 minutes after getting home about the softball game next week.

I don't want you to think I forgot the husbands or partners of the female firefighters. I know that the women I know on the job have strong partners and husbands, and that they are always welcomed into the circle as well. Man or woman, the love of a firefighter does not stop with gender.

Tonight, I pray for the wives and their children who lost their everything. I pray for the other wives who will, for the next week, do everything humanly possible to comfort these families. God Speed Lt. Steven Velazquez and FF. Michel Baik.