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Let the Beat, mmm, Drop May 5, 2012

Posted by JaneanC in beasties, Gratitude, Musicking.
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C.G. brought home to License to Ill, on cassette tape, I think she was in the 4th grade maybe 5th (quick do the math!), it was a game changer. I don’t know what the normal rap trajectory is but mine began with the Beasties (then went straight to NWA). Their brand of hip hop was foreign sonically but familiar thematically-the Beasties rocked. Lyrically the themes of sex, drugs, partying, marauding, brotherhood, taking on the world AND winning were all in my rock wheelhouse, so I got it. These boys were my people.

Musically…? That shit was not in my wheelhouse. Mixing, sampling, beats-completely alien. Jarring. Confusing. (Initially) discordant. I did not have a road map and…I liked it. If you’ve ever met me, you know, I like to know the fucking plan, to know exactly where we are going and what the end result will be. But, with the Beasties I knew nothing except how it felt, exhilarating. Fun. Exciting. Palpable, you could feel it, those beats in your chest, those break downs that could have brought you to the edge of your seat but, honestly, who the fuck was sitting?

However it happened, blame Guns they were my everything, I didn’t see the Beasties live until Ill Communication. No opener, three hour set. In the middle of the show they brought the hip hop to a halt, fell back to a full blown rock show set up, grabbed their respective gear/instruments and rocked. Check Your Head, anyone? After, a roughly 45 minute rock set they reverted again to a rap performance. Here’s the thing, it was not JUST their versatility, not JUST their investment in celebrating their heritage in rap and rock, but, that they never stopped. From the moment they hit their feet, the Oakland Arena did, too. It was frenzied. It was unbridled. Everybody in. EVERY BODY IN. It was righteous.

If it seems strange that the next time I saw the Beasties it was in Golden Gate park at a Tibetan Freedom concert, it shouldn’t. The Punk’s from New York, that came into my life with “License,” over the course of their careers (and their lives) grew into men of honor and integrity. They became men who lent their celebrity, who lent themselves, their talents and their time to helping others. They worked with the same fervency that they brought to the stage to make a meaningful difference in the world.

The Beastie Boys, as I mentioned earlier, brought me to hip hop. In short order, my rap world grew to include NWA, Public Enemy, Run DMC, Snoop, Cube, Ice-T…I can not fathom my musical world without hip hop in it. As surely as the Beasties introduced me to hip hop, they also took root in my world view, their presence in my musical life compelled me to grow and explore and love every hip hop artist that has spoke to me since. I am indebted.

Just a week or so ago I had the opportunity to see Bruce Springsteen. That was my first Springsteen performance and I was struck by it on so many levels it took a couple days before I could begin to articulate, the whats and whys of, what I took from that show. No opener, three hour set. Springsteen’s entire production from ticketing, to merchandise, to performance was driven by a working class ethic that is evidenced in every single aspect. As a performer he put his wallet, his mouth and his heart into the convictions he espouses. It was righteous. In the days after I was, in part, rendered inarticulate by no small amount of sadness. As a fan, I have had the great fortune to have seen hundreds of shows, hundreds. I can count on my fingers with digits to spare, across genres, how many of those performances or performers carry in their work an ethos-wrought of their convictions, their loves and their devotion to their art/communities/talents. As I’ve encountered such shows in my life, Bruce Springsteen was the last, Beasties were the first.

The Beasties have shaped my expectations of music, musical evolution and my expectations of musical performances. The Beasties have shaped my expectations of artist integrity and responsibility.

The Beasties have shaped my understanding of giving back, citizenship and humanity.

The Beasties have shaped my expectations of me.

If it seems remiss that up to this point I have not mentioned, by name, MCA Adam Yauch, I assure you that it is not. The Beasties are three. There is no MCA without the Beasties and there is no Beasties without Adam Yauch turning 17.

He was a hell of a human.

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This Is My Musical Prayer. January 28, 2012

Posted by JaneanC in Guns N Roses, Musicking.
1 comment so far

 

I Wonder.

On Blind Melon’s self titled debut album, there is a song called “I Wonder.” The third track on the album, “I Wonder,” begins, instrumentally, with an acoustic intro that lasts about 45 seconds while frontman Shannon Hoon sings the lyrical introduction.  Hoon’s vocal line fades with the lyrics “…I know how hard I tried/ know I tried…” seconds before the final chord is strummed and fades away itself. In the, roughly, 4 seconds between the last chord’s final decay and the attack point of the electric guitar, in those moments of quiet, Hoon can be heard way back in the mix saying, repeating, chanting: “get me outta here.” <—This. That space in between, that plea, is my musical prayer.

 

Get Me Outta Here.

 

That prayer has shaped every facet of my life, of my identity. The first time I recognized myself in the world it was via an album, Appetite for Destruction(AFD) to be specific. The first listening of AFD afforded me the inescapable recognition of someone, or a group of someones, ‘out there’ that understood me. They sounded like I felt. In that listening, my worldview was birthed. I could not have articulated the change that occurred, I could not have even said, “those are MY people.”  I did, however, understand that “they” were out there, that they “got me”and that I was not alone. Music, THAT music, those musicians became my tether to a world outside of the one I had known.  They were my way out.

They, Guns N’ Roses and the message(s) that they bore on AFD, were my proof that you could be that angry; that indignant; that violated; that brash; that blunt; that brutal; that honest and live to tell about it. They were that strong. They took on the world, and, before it was all over, they fucking owned it. I believed. From the moment I heard that record, I was in.

Not only is AFD where I found my lifeline, it is where I found my voice, my vocabulary. Yes, THAT vocabulary. AFD is how I came to believe. Believe that there was more. That there were survivors. Fighters. In Guns N’ Roses I learned faith. Blind-fucking-faith. I learned truth. Loyalty. I had no direction and that album and that band provided me one, for better or worse.

In the space between listening to that record and the first shows, like a good convert I read everything and I listened. I got the Ramones from Duff and Slash. I got Lyle Lovett from Axl. I got the Stones. Aerosmith. NIN. Blind Melon. The list of influences, musically and otherwise, over the years in which I’ve been invested in the musicians of GNR and their music is staggeringly long.  I got my first broken bone at a Ramones show; a band months before I had never heard of. Got my first job in L.A. years later, courtesy of Matt Sorum, sort of. I read an interview in which he mentioned mixing up his listening, musically, and named The Baked Potato as a cool club to check out for live my music. My first night in town I ate at The Baked Potato and I got myself a job there. There are more instances than I should probably admit to whereby I followed the leads of the men who made Guns’ music. Suffices to say, at this point, I am grateful for every influence and every outcome.

The next feeling of release, like the one I got hearing AFD for the first time, did not come until I saw Guns live. It would be helpful, for me, if someone would write a song about what it feels like to lose and find yourself at a show. Anyone? If there were such a song I would quote it here. Until then, all I can say is that there are as many ways to experience a live performance as there are performers playing. <—And, THAT, is a beautiful thing. I am grateful for every amazing show I have ever been to and a few shitty ones, too. That said, there has never been a band live that does for me exactly what the Guns did.* Guns live, was for all of my young life with them, the safest place I have ever known. As a youth it took the actual show: lights out, sillouhets, first chords “show” to set me free. For those hours nothing else matters, not the time, nor life’s dramas, not tomorrow or that skank in line an hour ago. Not you. Not me. It’s the greatest release I have ever known. 

As a kid, in those moments between the lights, the shadows and the opening notes, you could have seen me chanting “get me outta here.” As an adult, having moved past so many dramas and fears, frankly, the ticket even  the show date can take off all of my edges. I know it’s coming, I know I’m gonna get there, I know for a little while everything will be okay. Today, if you saw me purchasing show tickets or booking a flight, you could catch my “get me outta here” smirk. Flights? Yeah, today I know if they can’t get to me I can for damn sure get to them. Not incidentally, I am also aware of when a time out is in order. So…flight it is. Them? The Guns I knew is over and I’ve no real use for the ‘version’ which performs today. I do have as much of an investment in the “survivors,” of that band, today, as I did then. Only, my faith in them at this juncture is fully vested. No questions. No how dare you. And, my eyes are wide open.

The beauty of having this gift in my life, of having a musical connection that has only broadened with the passage of time** is that I always know where to go to get right in the world again. I know where to go for a time out. I know to listen to the song in my head as a marker of where my head is at! I know no matter what I am feeling there is a musical equivalent that I can tune into. Music and the role it plays in my life makes me whole.

If none of the aforementioned makes sense to you? That’s okay. My wish for you is that you find the space, place, outlet, or release that puts all your pieces back together.    

*While Guns is gone and they were THE band that swept into my life, I do not want to undervalue the joy and comfort I take in the work of the men that have moved on. Duff, Slash, Izzy, Matt, Gilby I love these guys, and, their music and shows, today, save my ass EVERYTIME the ‘proverbial’ wheels are coming off.

**It should be noted, I have a “Bucketlist” of bands and venues and musically related adventures that grows constantly. <–This has as much to do with flights and travels as anything.

In Kushner We Trust January 8, 2012

Posted by JaneanC in Benefits, Dave Kushner, Musicking, Velvet Revolver.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

 

 

VELVET REVOLVER REUNITING!!!

 

One might think that Velvet Revolver reuniting would generate at least half the splash that a myriad of “Guess who the new singer is” rumors has since the band split with singer Scott Weiland in 2008. One might think. Though, you would be wrong.

Instead, the news of Velvet Revolver reuniting, in its original lineup if only for one night, has trickled out through the media slowly. Perhaps it was the late December announcement that stymied the flood of potential OMG! headlines? Or, more likely, the complete lack of  drama (internal, that is) that has fostered the reunion in the first place. They are not after all reuniting for the money (not their own, anyway). No one is freshly sprung from rehab out to prove themselves to  the world. It is safe to assume, there were no rounds of group therapy wich cleared away the wreckage of the past. So how did it happen? What has come to pass that they would reunite, banded together, to retake a stage at the House of Blues in Hollywood on January 12th?

They’re doing the right thing. And, that just isn’t exciting. Not by our standard of tabloid fodder news.  

The HOB event which will see the fellas come together again is Love You Madly: A Concert for John O’Brien.  The benefit is being orchestrated by Dave Kushner (VR, The Forrest Rangers) to aid O’Brien’s  widow and children.  The “band” has asserted that they’re coming together for a ‘good cause.’ O’Brien, described, in Rolling Stone, by Kushner, as “the brother he never had,” purportedly developed relationships with a few of the band’s members. In honor of those relationships the band will play a short set at the benefit this Thursday. That said, I would hazard to guess that the reuniting of Velvet Revolver has AT LEAST as much to do with the man asking as it does benefiting O’Brien’s family.

 

 

A Concert for John O’Brien

Composer and musician, John O’Brien, 45, passed away August 20, 2011. He leaves behind a pregnant wife, Tierney; and a four-year old son, Declan. The cause of death remains undetermined. An award-winning ASCAP composer, O’Brien’s body of work includes extensive composition credits in film and television. O’Brien’s earliest film credit is for 1997, Nightwatch. After which followed credits in film for work on The Break-Up, Iron Man 1 and 2, Pineapple Express, Four Christmases and Couples Retreat to name a few. O’Brien’s television credits include In Case of Emergency, Detroit 1-8-7 and most recently Up All Night, among others.

 

 Love You Madly

An ASCAP winner himself, Dave Kushner’s relationship to O’Brien was not solely of a personal nature; the two collaborated professionally on a number of projects including Four Christmases, Couples Retreat and the ABC drama series Detroit 1-8-7. Much of Kushner’s work since the extended hiatus of Velvet Revolver began has been in television. Most notably,  Kushner was nominated for a Prime Time Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Theme as a co-writer of the theme song, “This Life,” for FX’s series Sons of Anarchy. In addition to the theme song, Kushner is a core member of the SOA house band, as it were,  The Forest Rangers.

This Thursday’s show will mark Dave’s return  to the stage not just holding down the guitar for VR but also for The Forest Rangers as they make their debut live performance. It has been my privilege to see Dave Kushner perform on stage more than a dozen times and over the course of those shows I’ve come to describe his performances as falling into one of two categories: Stoic Dave and Super Dave.

Stoic Dave: is the bad ass, holding down his corner of the stage, leaned back, beanie or cap down with a smirk on his lips.  Drilling the material like he owns it (whether or not he does) and driving a rhythmic section so intense it’s palpable .  “One of The 50 Greatest Unsung Guitar Heroes Ever,” indeed.

Super Dave: maintains all of the attributes of Stoic Dave and then, at will, explodes across the stage, flying off risers and jumping on whatever mic is handy post-whirling dervish escapade. Super Dave not only holds down his end of the stage but also blows the rest of it wide-fucking-open.

Irrespective of which variety of performance Kushner brings to the show on Thursday night, it is Super Dave at work bringing this event together. Every band of brothers (and Sisters, too) has a moral center. (This is a principle I learned from Star Wars and will just assume that you have, too.) In the wake of VR’s parting with Weiland we learned, if we paid attention, that this group’s moral center was Dave Kushner. As the accusations flew amongst members as to who was using, who was detoxing and who was an asshole Kushner stands out for two reasons. One, he kept his mouth shut. Kushner walked through that debacle with grace  and magnanimity. Two, every other party involved exonerated Dave from participating in the ugliness as it unfolded.

Dave, it would seem, did right by the guys in the band and this Thursday they, each of their own accord, are exercising an opportunity to do right by him. It speaks volumes, about the character of each of the men involved, that egos and resentments will be set aside to honor the memory of John O’Brien and the heart of Dave Kushner.

See you Thursday.