How to end up handcuffed backstage at a REO Speedwagon concert.

The Essential REO Speedwagon
The Essential REO Speedwagon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I need some kind of rock n roll diploma to hang by my computer to justify me as a blogger of rock music; so I will tell this story from 1982.

My taste in music is not always as good as I think- now or in the past

Case in point:

 I once was an REO Speedwagon fanatic.

I am not proud of this but I admit that I may still own the entire REO Speedwagon catalogue. (at least up until the incident in the title)…yes, even those obscure records before Kevin Cronin took over as lead singer-And it gets worse:

I proudly wore a R.E.O belt buckle that I bought at the county fair. Back in the good ol’ days when copyright infringement was not farmed out to Asian countries; we made quality fake stuff right here in the U.S.A!!

While my friends were listening to Pink Floyd and Kiss- I was way ahead of the curve on pure grain-fed Midwestern formula paint by numbers watered down blues. (In my defense- “You can tune a piano but you can’t tuna fish” is not a bad record)

And then R.E.O abandoned their  rock n’ roll roots and became the biggest pop/rock band in America with the release of Hi Infidelity.  

This was the biggest selling rock album in America In 1982.

And that is when I met my heroes in a bar…and ended up in handcuffs backstage at their sold-out show.

And you probably won’t believe this story.

I had connections that got me great seats to concerts at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in N.Y

On my list of shows that year was R.E.O Speedwagon.

I had planned to take a girl friend but that required finding a girl and having her remain in “active girl friend status” at the time of this show- I had two months to make this happen but as an awkward, nerdy and slightly weird young adult- fate was stacked against me- I had great seats and no date a couple days before the show. I sold my tickets to some happy couple for no profit.

Plus the band was a riot of popularity as mega stars and my infatuation with them was rapidly fading. I told myself they had sold-out.

On the night before the show I am sitting in a bar in downtown Saratoga Springs- It is 1am and the bar band is playing- there are maybe 12 of us in there and the owner of said establishment has stopped collecting the 2 dollar cover charge.

Who walks in but Kevin Cronin, Gary Richrath and one other dude from R.E.O (maybe the drummer?- I guess I need help from one of the other eleven in the bar that night to help me remember?)

They walk to the stage and rip into “Johnny Be Good” with a couple members of the bar band- They did play a couple more songs before departing and I remember slapping Kevin Cronin on the back and saying thanks as they walked out (BTW-he does not like that- just in case you get in range)

But how cool is the biggest band on the planet just going back and playing for fun?

I should have left it right there, but:

Night of the show I am hanging outside the gates at the Performing Arts Center because I have no tickets…some go jumping over the fence and I join them to sneak in.

A security guard chases me and I run away—I am fast but the guard is faster and tackles me in a spectacular dive which could have made the top ten on Sports Center. The crowd loved it!

I am handcuffed and put on a golf cart with other criminals to be processed. They do the processing backstage at the show—which is kind of ironic because that is closer than any of us dreamed of getting.

One scary dude handcuffed to a locker and is yelling obscenities and insults at me largely because I am dressed like a geek. I realize 3 things at that moment:

  1. I am a geek and even getting arrested with people does not automatically make me “cool” with those people.
  2. I am going to be calm and make good decisions from this point forward so that I don’t end up going to jail.
  3. Damn, that guard was fast! He must do a 4.1 time on the forty yard dash!

Thankfully- I was issued a ticket and released- It was a 50 dollar fine.

Soon after this I would get seriously in to more underground music.

And 30 years later I would start a blog.

Any questions?

Daft Punk quickly taking over the summer of 2013

Get Lucky is everywhere- causing the kids to dance and the old people to turn up the radios in their hover-rounds and move whatever still works.

Call it house or electronic or just very polished and cool dance music– it has that rare “everyone likes” quality. Cool lemonade on a hot day…it’s just what we need in troubled times. Bubbling feel-good funk is infused with Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers getting sucked into this electronic vortex of clean production.

Daft Punk are quirky arty anti-stars- they are true to their vision. This brings in the hipsters and breaks the ice with alternative rockers.

Daft Punk wear those crazy helmets and have no problem translating to the world of animation. Gamers, geeks and nerds can relate.

The techno- freaks in the clubs were already fans and have no reason to abandon their robot heroes.

Even a stodgy old rock n’ roll blogger like myself is able to get infected by these disco man/machine divas of sophisticated swag.

That must tell you something.

I encourage all classic rock fans to give up their preconceived ideas on funk , disco and electronic music and just give in to this one. You are going to be bombarded by it from everywhere anyway so why not just enjoy it? It took a few listens to wear me down, (O.K, more than a few) but it’s got me now.

And for those few die-hards (Ok, more than a few) that will argue StyxMr Roboto” as the ultimate rock music techno hit of all time. It is time to abandon all hope and find an 8-track player to install for your camaro ride to hell. It is over for you.  You are now officially the burnt toast of a former generation.

Join everyone else and just let go- that is what music can do at its best. What is the worse that can happen?

 

 

 

 

 

Matthew Sweet.Divine Intervention

I am having one of those weeks when I feel the need for a good alternative agnostic power-pop gospel song with some killer guitar. I don’t want to get into a big religious debate in the cave-I just want to say that there are times when we all look for the stuff that got us this far and hope that it still works when we need to get a little farther down the road. This song always hits me that way…the opposite of R.E.M  Losing  My Religion.

AWOLNATION.This kids not alright

AWOLNATION.This kids not alright

Finally, something the kids can soak up and enjoy without thinking if they are supposed to like it. Without thinking if it is good or bad…without thinking if it is cool or un-cool…or if all their other peeps and haters are onboard—this is just play it and like it. Yes-this is what rock music is supposed to be.

Movement of Ska people- From Madness to Sublime

Ska used to be a tonic for the oppressed. Maybe because it has its roots in Jamaica where it seems like economic strife and hardship are permanent fixtures. It found a home in Britain then made its way to America to gain smoothness and swagger. I never think that music loses anything as it gets interpreted by different people in different places. That is part of what makes it so great.

Reggae is the rhythmic offspring of Ska- your body will tell you the difference- Reggae makes you sway and Ska makes you jump.

You know the cave guy loves every kind of music but that does not mean that every kind of music can get this guy moving. So I’m gonna take you on a ride that can be enjoyed no matter what kind of life you have. Beat down by the man or the man himself. Ska will make you move.

I give you three of the English version, including the Clash going back to the start with a cover of Toots and the Maytals .

Step one- Madness.One Step Beyond

Something Special-Specials.Ghost Town

The Clash.Pressure Drop

And two American- One pop music and one west coast swagger.

Mighty Mighty Bosstones.The Impression that I Get

Sublime.Santeria

My apologies to Fishbone who I tried to find a place for in this post but it always felt like you guys didn’t quite fit. Awesome band but we don’t know where to put you…I know –you’re heard that before.

Accidental Racist- We all agree- It’s just a bad song.

I had Starbucks coffee on a Friday night
I had Starbucks coffee on a Friday night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wow…that is one awkward song to listen to. It may be the most uncomfortable filler song that has ever been produced. I get what they are trying to do and I respect them for giving it all they had-but this was doomed to fail for many reasons….Now maybe rich rednecks (like duck dynasty rednecks or country music stars) hit up Starbucks for a mocha cappuccino on the way down to the creek for some bluegill fishing. But I am not thinking that is too typical. And I have a tough time picturing L.L. Cool Jay as a barista. It seems like the Skynyrd shirt is the least of the things that could go wrong with this song.

You have two very rich and famous men trying to relate to the everyday man in this country. It is just too big of a jump to make. Again, I respect them both for taking a running start and doing a big cannonball into this pool of historical anger and guilt that no one else wants any part of.

This is the first time through and like all first times at everything- it is not going to be smooth.

Brad Paisley tends to write cartoony songs about all kinds of subjects and this is no exception to that style. What makes this approach usually work is his strong sense of humor weaving around the quirky guitar lines. LL Cool J tries to offer the clarifying view from the other side but can’t make the mis-written words fit. There is nothing worse than listening to an unfunny joke poorly delivered and this is how this song comes off.

I thank them for breaking the ice and getting the conversation going.

And to all the critics and distracters out there….Go write your own song about healing these wounds and see how it goes.

I for one am glad that representatives from country music and hip hop music have met and are starting talks. This is a complicated issue that cuts through many layers and generations and I hope this bad song starts the writing of some good songs. I would love to live in an America that lets music bring us together instead of driving us apart.

And maybe it is starting to work…because all the different cultures and sub-groups in this country have gotten together with one single voice to declare “This is a bad song”

How Nickelback Saved Rock Music

Nickelback
Nickelback (Photo credit: cjmod)

Rock dies and comes back all the time. Each generation shocks it back to new life. It will echo their frustration and pain; it will celebrate with them.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…that’s what I’d like to think but:

Nickelback was the greatest rock band in the worst era of rock music (the dreaded 0’s). They produced hit after hit and set the standard for commercial success while the music industry got derailed by the monster of file sharing. Like a sophisticated factory fishing vessel wiping out the last of the great whales, Nickelback harpooned and sliced their way to the top with mechanical precision. They took everything and reached a saturation point that made them the pinnacle of rock music.

Is that bad?

Every form of entertainment needs a good villain.

While the general average public was busy supporting their favorite band by buying tickets and CD’s and downloads-we serious types were doing way too much of thinking what good taste we had and not supporting quality music with our hard earned dollars. We can learn a lot from Nickelback fans.

It is simple and it works.

This band was formed for the sole purpose of making hits and making money. You have to respect them for getting away with it.

“Nickelback is prefabricated emotionless garbage, I need my music to live on the edge” -O.K fine, but isn’t it good to have a band that shows young people that even with limited talent and zero originality- you can still make a good living as a RockStar?

Someone needs to set the standard in order for all the haters to respond with stuff of their own.

And are they really that bad or are we just piling on? Admit it Rock Fans- if 5FDP does a version of “Follow you Home”…all the kids would love it.

Or if M83 all of a sudden were the biggest selling group in the world-All “serious music fans” would dismiss them as just “a bunch of over-important artsy monk-chanting mixed with atmospheric disco”.

So thank you Nickelback for helping me see that music for the masses has a place in this world.

I still can’t listen to you but thank you.