20150422_211920_019

This past weekend I was back in my hometown in Nebraska. I had to go sift through my old bedroom at my mom’s because she is selling the house I grew up in. As I was grabbing old shirts and VHS tapes I came across artifacts of my teen angst. Mixtapes, letters from girls, letters to myself; items I stashed in the cracks of my closet. Located in a spot where only I could find them, it was like a secret message from my former self. Young Ol’ Kev knew that I would need these again one day to remind me of who I was and how I felt. More than that, I needed these things to remind me of how much has changed and how much things will continue to change. Holding on to these scraps of paper brought me comfort in a moment when I felt like I was finally letting go of my childhood. I moved out 10 years ago, I rarely went down in that old room, but knowing that I’d never be able to go back down there and lay on the floor to listen to albums until 3 am made it feel like a connection was being severed. Those boxes are now in the office of my apartment that I pay for by DJing a pop-punk night. If you stay true to your younger self change isn’t always so bad.

Few bands have stayed as true to themselves as Alkaline Trio. While their peers have gone on “hiatus,” launched acoustic americana projects, or started podcasts, Trio has continued to put out good records that don’t stray too far from what made them so beloved. The band’s recent run of show in Denver, where they will be playing their entire discography over four nights, is proof that they have no intention of slowing down. For these shows they will be playing their most recent album first then performing their oldest album second. It’s like the fad of album nostalgia shows on steroids. The first night at Summit Music Hall on Wednesday, Trio played MY SHAME IS TRUE and GODDAMMIT.

The crowd was mostly made up of aging pop-punk dudes. There was an abundance of beards, black hoodies, and bad backs milling around the venue. Matt Skiba, Dan Adriano, and Derek Grant all entered the stage to thunderous applause and they looked great. Alkaline Trio are aging better than all of the Trio tattoos in the crowd. Adriano looked especially fit; his necklace and t-shirt made him look like a yoga instructor. They opened with “She Lied to the FBI,” the first song off of MY SHAME IS TRUE. The song has an almost timeless Trio sound. The problem with Alkaline Trio is that they’re taken for granted because a lot of their sound seems so obvious, but they are so good at making incredible songs seem effortless. If I heard the songs from MY SHAME IS TRUE five hundred times like I have their early stuff I’m sure they would become favorites too. Alkaline Trio songs are like a good sitcom, the more times you experience it the more enjoyable it becomes. There is a comfort in the familiarity not unlike the box of junk that sits in my office.

As they were wrapping up MY SHAME IS TRUE I noticed that the crowd was pretty subdued. There was no pit, circle or otherwise, and everyone was conducting themselves like rock show veterans. That is until the first few chords of “Cringe.” The place exploded. Everyone started pushing. Beer flew across the air. We were all just conserving our energy, apparently. It’s not Warped Tour ‘03 anymore. “Cop” followed at full throttle and the pit grew bigger. Despite the newfound life in the crowd there was a noticeable lack of crowd surfing further proving the experience and maturity of the audience. Trio flew through GODDAMMIT like the album had just came out. Until Matt Skiba jumped the gun and started playing “Trouble Breathing” when the band was on “Southern Rock,” but considering he is playing every album this week in addition to his work as the new Tom DeLonge in Blink-182 this is completely forgivable.

They rounded out the set with Skiba leading a sing-a-long of “Sorry About That,” which transported me back to all the parking lot sing-a-longs after local punk shows when I was a kid. Once everyone got good and emotional, the band came back out and Matt Skiba said, “This song is called ‘My Friend Peter.’” The crowd went nuts and rightfully so, Trio couldn’t leave us all on such a low key note giving the audience one last chance to throw a beer in the air. Alkaline Trio put on a frenetic and fun show that seamlessly blended their newest work with their oldest. It was like a plane crash that never hit the ground. The night was a perfect walk down memory lane while continuing to looking forward.

20150422_211920_000

20150422_223844_029

TBS 1
When I was in my late teens few things made as much sense as a Taking Back Sunday song. The lyrics paralleled my life so accurately that it felt like singer Adam Lazzara had telekinetic powers. As I got older I realized I was just a cliche. But that’s the most important part of the emo cliche: the belief that no one could possibly understand what you’re feeling because you’re so unique and deep.

Then you hear a record that articulates your feelings better than you ever could. As a result Adam Lazzara became a cult figure to me. He had a reverse mullet, I had a reverse mullet. He had lyrics from his favorite band tattooed around his elbow, I had lyrics from my favorite band tattooed around my elbow. I would scour the internet for anything Taking Back Sunday and stay up late at night re-watching their legendary set at the Tulagi in Boulder wishing I could be front row screaming back into Lazzara’s face.

I kept up with their rivalry with Brand New and their partial break-up that spawned Straylight Run like it was Brangelina. When I finally saw Taking Back Sunday at Warped Tour ‘04 I felt an adrenaline rush that made my head spin. Towards the end of “Bike Scene” a girl passed out in the pit. The band stopped and everyone helped carry the girl out. Lazzara turned to the crowd and said, “What happens when someone falls down?” And in unison the crowd yelled, “Pick ‘em up!” Without missing a beat they went right back into the last part of the song with, “You got me right! Where you want me!” It was awesome. I grew to cherish that moment with each passing album and show of diminishing returns. By the time I was out of college I had a normal haircut and would only listen to TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS when I was alone.

As I walked into the Summit Music Hall on Wednesday night one thing was clear; even though I had moved on, Taking Back Sunday had gotten bigger. The stage was adorned with three giant LED screens that seemed more appropriate for a Kanye West show and an almost comically tall drum riser. The band took the stage and opened with the ballady “Flicker, Fade”. An odd, but not totally annoying choice.

It was their second song, “What’s it Feels Like to Be a Ghost?” and its opening riff that ignited the audience. During the song the screens played a black and white loop of a cartoon ghost dancing in sync with the song and it was obvious where Lazzara had been picking up his dance moves. The screens really began to enhance the show until they played “Stood a Chance”. The screens flashed rainbow colors like a low rent Katy Perry show. The song itself isn’t terrible, but it was a clear reminder that it’s an Imagine Dragons world they’re just living in it. Any moment of realization that my favorite band had become an emo Kings of Leon was quickly brushed aside when they played “Timberwolves at New Jersey.” I was transported right back to 2004, but this time it was the original TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS line-up, something I thought I would never see. Later in the show, Lazzara gave a special shout-out to original guitarist John Nolan and it seemed that Nolan finally forgave Lazzara for nailing and bailing his sister.

Taking Back Sunday devoted about half of their set playing songs of their last two albums. It was the first time I heard a number of them and was interesting to see them switch gears. The music, while maintaining an emo base, has drifted closer to radio rock. Lazzara’s signature mic spinning was still there, but more controlled and less elaborate than in the past. Instead of diving into the crowd with the mic around his neck he preferred to groove around like a laid back Mick Jagger.

For the encore, they started with one of their worst songs, “Call Me in the Morning”. It shamelessly panders to the radio ballad form without any of heart or self-awareness that made TAKING BACK SUNDAY so great. This song is worse than teenage poetry. Most of the crowd under 25 years-old really seemed to love it, which made me depressed and feel old. Thankfully, they hooked me back in with “Cute Without the E”. The generational divide in the crowd was summed up during the song when a teenager with black swoopy hair tried to climb up the back of a 30-something bald guy with glasses to crowd surf. The guy shrugged him off and pushed him back hard. The kid looked like he’d never been yelled at in his life. I hope he never forgets that moment, especially when he becomes the bald guy.

“MakeDamnSure” was the last song of the evening, and one of the last songs they released to which I felt any connection. It was a nice way to appease both the swoopy haired kids and the 30-somethings. That deft ability is probably why Taking Back Sunday has been able to continue selling out tours and release new records. Unlike a lot of nostalgia acts, Taking Back Sunday didn’t exclusively play their landmark album. They didn’t need to. They have spent the past ten years making new records for each new batch of angsty teens. Those newer records aren’t TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS, but they might be for the kid who doesn’t know any better. They’ve adapted and remained relevant. Much like Jimmy Eat World, Taking Back Sunday has neither burned out nor faded away.

TBS 2

IMG_0498

There really wasn’t a better way to end the year of the pop-punk revival than to take in Reggie and the Full Effect, Saves the Day, and Say Anything at the Summit Music Hall this past Friday. After a year full of nostalgia album tours, Saves the Day and Say Anything both decided to get/cash-in on the trend before it’s too late. While both of these bands could have toured on their own to mostly full mid-size venues, the bill had Summit filled to capacity.

 

REGGIE AND THE FULL EFFECT

Near the end of my freshman year of college, after interviewing numerous small touring indie rock bands for my college radio station, I finally got an interview with a bigger name. It also just happened to be one of my favorite musicians at the time, James Dewees aka: Reggie, aka: Paco, aka: Klaüs from Common Denominator, aka: Fluxuation. I went backstage at the Gothic Theater before Reggie and the Full Effect opened for frosted tipped pop-punkers New Found Glory. After running through my list of questions about alter egos and ex-wives, I asked Dewees, full of 19 year old hubris, if I could sing Common Denominator’s “Dwarf Invasion” with him. He said absolutely. I was thrilled. I wanted to get a picture with him after the interview was over, but I was so nervous beforehand that I left the camera in the car. I went out to retrieve it and when I got to the car I realized I was so nervous that I not only left the camera, I had locked the keys in the car as well. I called my friend to bring the spare set, but it would take him an hour. I walked back to the green room defeated and told James Dewees that I locked the keys in the car with the camera. He said, “Shit, dude. You wanna hang out then?” For the next hour I drank PBRs in the greenroom with him and New Found Glory. We finally took the picture, which got deleted, and at the end of his set he gave me the mic to sing “Dwarf Invasion.” As Reggie opened the show on Friday, that night felt like a week ago.

It wouldn’t be a Reggie and the Full Effect show without costumes and this show was no different as Dewees came out in a full Santa costume accompanied by a backing band of Elves; shredding, rocking Elves. The Full Effect played the loudest rendition of “Under The Tray” I’ve ever heard. During the set Dewees acted more as warm-up comic emcee than rock star, telling funny stories and making fun of his weight gain. When they got to “F.O.O.D.” he said, “When I wrote this song I was 135 lbs. Ten years later, I weigh 235 lbs. Hey, that’s not bad! Have you seen the rest of the Get Up Kids lately?” Dewees fully embraced his middle-age weight when he closed with Fluxuation’s “Mood 4 Luv” dawning a 3-sizes too tight elastic sexy cop outfit, gut bulging out. He may be older and heavier, but his enthusiasm hasn’t waned a bit. Oh, and I finally got another picture.

IMG_0475

 

SAVES THE DAY

By the time the THROUGH BEING COOL backdrop went up, the album artwork with the band and party members removed showing an empty futon, the Summit became uncomfortably crowded with a surprising amount of bros. I don’t remember a ton of Chads at emo shows when I was a teenager. Had Dave Matthews stopped touring? Some even took it upon themselves to regulate the crowd and not let people pass by them. There was absolutely no point to this behavior because as soon as Saves the Day went into “All-Star Me” everyone on the floor began pushing and moshing with angstful abandon. Saves the Day plowed through the album barely stopping for a breath, no matter how badly the 30-something manboys in the crowd needed one.

Saves the Day wrapped up THROUGH BEING COOL in a little over 30 minutes, but since this was a co-headlining tour of sorts they had another half hour to play. The speed and efficiency of their set allowed for them to play essentially a greatest hits second set. First song, “At Your Funeral.” The crowd went nuts like they were waiting the whole show to hear a song not on the album they were going to see. It’s debatable that STAY WHAT YOU ARE may have been a better choice for a nostalgia tour. Saves the Day lacks the kind of definitively classic album like so many of their peers that have gone on nostalgia tours. Two generations of fans seem to be separated by which album they prefer. That night it was the best of both worlds, as they played “Freakish” while hitting other favorites like “Jessie and My Whetstone” and “Anywhere With You.” Near the end they played a newer song that drifted into a “Hotel California” jam session and you could feel the audience fatigue setting in. As Saves the Day left the stage the crowd would have loved a futon to sit on.

 

SAY ANYTHING

Between Saves the Day and Say Anything there was a mini exodus in the audience. A number of people came to see Saves the Day exclusively and barely knew Say Anything. As someone who has been a fan of both, this was the first time it dawned on me that maybe Saves the Day should have been the ones to the close out the night. The passion of those that remained more than made up for the slight dip when frontman Max Bemis took the stage and said, “This is a song of rebellion.” The sweaty, aggressive pit sang along with every word of every song like an agro Dashboard Confessional show. Bemis barely sang the first few songs, instead pointing the mic toward the crowd that was overpowering his vocals. This left little doubt to who should’ve closed out the night. Saves the Day would’ve had a tough time following this.

Since the release of …IS A REAL BOY, Max Bemis has released increasingly underwhelming records. It’s confusing how someone can make an album that is full of perfect power-pop singles then abandon that in favor of genre experimentation, but considering his mental health history, consistency shouldn’t be expected. With the band clicking the way it was though, it felt like a return to form. The crowd weren’t the only ones that looked like they had been waiting years to get back to basics. Near the end, Bemis sent everyone off stage and played mixtape classic “A Walk Through Hell” as well as “I Wanna Know Your Friends” before closing with the explosive “Admit it,” which had one of the guitar players go full Eddie Veder and climb up into the balcony to close the show. The house lights went up, but no one left. Eventually the band returned without Bemis and said he was still on the bus. Eventually he returned in an oversized Saves the Day sweatshirt. For once, it was a true encore but it felt unnecassary. They had no plan on what to play so the audience began yelling requests until Bemis played a solo rendition of “Baby Girl, I’m a Blur” leaving those hoping to hear “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too” disappointed. It was a bit of an anticlimactic end, but ultimately after spending the night in a time capsule it’s hard to complain. All three acts were at the top of their form and played their old songs like they just came out. It’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle, but it’s even harder to recapture it without opening the bottle. The light was still burning within all three bands on Friday and as James Dewees said, “I hope to see you all in another 10 years.”

IMG_0498

IMG_0507

20140709165029!Cover_of_Weezer's_album_Everything_Will_Be_Alright_in_the_End

A few weeks ago I achieved an adolescent dream: I saw Weezer live. It has been 12 years since my parents decided, in their infinite squareness, that I couldn’t get into a car with a bunch of kids they hadn’t met and drive to Lincoln, NE no matter how I presented the facts. Johnny Cochran couldn’t have gotten me to that show.

To my delight this year at Riot Fest Weezer decided to cash in on the growing trend of your formerly favorite band abandoning hope that you’ll like their new stuff and just give you the damn record that made you a fan in the first place by playing the Blue Album in it’s entirety. And then they didn’t. Weezer opened their set with their newest song, “Back to the Shack.” Afterward Rivers Cuomo greeted the crowd and said we were all hopping into the time machine, “All the way back to 1994… Wait, no. 2008.” Then they went into “Pork and Beans.” This left a number of the audience members, who were chomping at the bit to fulfill a teen fantasy, restless. By the third song that wasn’t off the Blue Album a number of guys yelled, “This is bullshit!” To Weezer’s credit, the song selection included some of the more promising singles off of bad albums, until they played “Beverly Hills.” “Is this some cruel prank?” I thought to myself. “Are they going to work their way back through their catalogue then give us ‘Say It Ain’t So’ and call it a night?” Thankfully, after they finished “El Scorcho” Rivers announced they were going to take a set break and come back in a few to hop into the time machine once again. When they returned a few minutes later the backdrop had changed from the EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END’s album artwork to all blue with “WEEZER” written in the top right corner. It was not a ruse. Finally, everything was actually going to be alright. The next 45 minutes was magic and made the guy’s yelling bullshit forget all about hearing Death to False Metal. It felt like a reunion show and in a lot of ways it was.

Over the past decade-plus, Rivers Cuomo seemed to be making vanity records. He wanted to shred: Maladroit. He wanted to make a pop hit: Raditude. He got super into Lost: Hurley. That night it was like Rivers got the band back together, because for the first time in years they sounded like the band all the guy’s that looked like Buddy Holly loved.

Return to form. Getting back to their roots. Whatever cliché you want to use, recapturing those days 20 years ago is a major theme in EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END, and pretty much everything Weezer has done this year. After recently going full Thelma & Louise with producer Rick Rubin, Rivers brought Ric Ocasek back in to man the knobs hoping that they could recreate the magic of the Blue Album.

The record starts off on a promising note with “Ain’t Got Nobody,” a fuzzy hand-clapper with riffs that fall somewhere between Queen and KISS, which is followed by “Back to the Shack.” The first single off the album, “Back to the Shack” includes the lyric, “Rockin’ out like it’s ‘94.” Unfortunately, this song is closer to “Beverly Hills” than anything they rocked in ‘94. Right as it seems like the record is about to go off the rails, “Lonely Girl” pulls you back in. The song is a cross between “No One Else” and “Knock Down Drag Out” that shows Rivers can still make a really solid power pop song. Whatever goodwill this song builds is immediately squandered by “I’ve Had it Up to Here,” which sounds like it was rejected from a terrible rom-com soundtrack. “Da Vinci” is a sort of low-key “Pork and Beans” and it’s fine, but by this point it feels like we are getting Weezer methadone. “Go Away” and “Foolish Father” both sound like they would fit in nicely on the Green Album, and I’m one of the few people who doesn’t mean that as an insult. Sandwiched in between those two songs is “Cleopatra,” a song and subject that would have been cringe worthy on previous albums, is groan worthy on this redemption record. EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END concludes with three songs that bleed into each other, creating a mini rock opera to close things out.

By the end, the ups and downs of this record left me feeling disoriented. Like most recent Weezer albums, EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END is all over the place. At times the Weezer of old comes through and gives us a nice guitar driven pop-rock song that will stay stuck in your head. The lows, however, are especially low considering this was supposed to be more in the vein of their early stuff. It’s like Weezer hit middle age and dug around in the basement to find their favorite old t-shirt and when it didn’t fit like it used to they cut it up and turned it into a quilt. Sure, it’s sort of the same and reminds you of the old days, but only lame people will think it’s actually cool. That is the unfortunately reality of aging, going back to the shack will never be the same as being in the garage.

If you can’t get enough Weezer, check out our episode, Weezer w/ Adam Cayton-Holland

IMAG1083

 

One of the worst parts about growing up in a small town halfway between Denver and Omaha was obviously a lack of cool shit to do. I never tipped a cow, but I did spend many nights watching concert movies longing for the day that I could see the artists that stared down at me from the posters on my wall. Every few months I would hear about some friends road tripping to a show and try to hop on. The open road, rock n’ roll, no parental supervision. Needless to say my parents never went for it, no matter how many times I told them I was straight edge.

 

After repeatedly being shot down by my folks, I finally guilted them into letting me go to Denver to see my two favorite bands Green Day and Blink-182 for a once in a lifetime co-headlining show. Not to mention that the opening act on the bill was one of my new favorite bands, Jimmy Eat World. At 16 years old my best friend Cory and I loaded up the minivan, mom and all, and headed west. We ditched my mom immediately at the show, met the drummer for our next band, and the girl that would become my girlfriend that summer held my hand on the way to the merch table, all while feeling 2000 light years away from my real, boring life back in Nebraska. So it felt fitting last Thursday that Cory and I had to drive up to Ft. Collins to see Jimmy Eat World at the Aggie Theater. After a dozen years, it was still just Cory and I on a pop-punk pilgrimage; except this time mom stayed home.

 

The Aggie is a tall and wide venue that easily could’ve held a stock show and it was packed to the brim for the sold-out concert. Being sort of grown ups now, Cory and I missed all the opening acts and arrived a few minutes before Jimmy Eat World took the stage. They didn’t opened with “Bleed American” like I hoped. In fact, I didn’t even know the song they were playing and neither did Cory. I suddenly realized I probably should have listened to the more recent albums before the show since I dipped out around CHASE THIS LIGHT. We weren’t alone, but the majority of the crowd wasn’t sharing our ignorance.

 

It was around this time that I noticed a good amount of the crowd looked like people I grew up around in Nebraska, but not the road tripping to shows type of people. They were norms and they loved recent Jimmy Eat World songs. It wasn’t until “A Praise Chorus” that I heard a song that I really remembered. By the time they played “Futures” it was clear this show was not for the aging emo-punks as much as it was the Wal-Mart crowd. The longer they played the more the divide grew and any hope I had for hearing anything off STATIC PREVAILS evaporated.

 

During “Pain” I made my way down to the pit. As I crossed the all ages barrier I got a waft of a smell I hadn’t smelled in a while. It was sweet and gnarly. It was angst. Near the front I saw a mom taking pictures of her X-handed daughter and best friend. The only difference between these girls and me was gender, a disposable camera, and a mom who left me alone. Even though Jimmy Eat World’s songs have become a bit boring and same-y over the years it is impressive that they are able to cross over many generations of teen angst. Right then all I needed was to hear a song I knew. That’s when the band threw a bone to all the fans that suddenly felt very old and played “Blister” and “Lucky Denver Mint” before closing with “Sweetness” and “Bleed American.”

 

In the middle of the last song a girl got knocked out by a crowd surfer and the band immediately stopped. Like a class-act, frontman Jim Adkins told the crowd if everyone can’t be safe then they can’t play which was met with unanimous applause. Without missing a beat the band and crowd went right back into the set. For the encore it was a double dose of CHASE THIS LIGHT and FUTURES, until closing with “The Middle” because… you have to.

 

After 20 years as a band Jimmy Eat World and their music have aged quite well in a state of arrested development. No matter what year it is, 17 year olds will always know what it feels like to be seventeen and Jimmy Eat World will be their soundtrack. The band seemed to know that too, by playing an even and career spanning set for the under-aged kids who came with their mom and those who wanted to remember what having “Xs” on their hands felt like.

 

IMAG0959

 

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my home state of Nebraska lately. My grandma on my dad’s side, Nanny, was recently diagnosed with cancer. She survived cancer over twenty years ago, but like most things from the 90’s it made a comeback. My Nanny is the kind of lady that gives self-help books as Christmas presents to everyone in the family. Everyone except for me; she gives me joke books. Obviously, I’m quite fond of her. I spent this past weekend in her hometown of Kearney, Nebraska. Kearney is a small college town in the heart of the heartland. Exactly halfway between San Francisco and Boston, quite literally the middle of nowhere.

 

On Friday evening, after spending the day talking to my Nanny about MAD MEN (“It’s very accurate”), her childhood, and the problems with the local newspaper, I saw in said paper that 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was playing at the World Theatre. The World is a classic single screen theater sitting on the edge of downtown on Central Ave. First opened in 1927, the World feels like the Royal theater from THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. Still standing nearly 90 years later, the World has yet to show its last picture. Unlike Kearney’s other historic theater just down the street, the Fort, the World managed to survive being turned into an office a few years ago and is now run as a non-profit screening exclusively classic films 4 days a week.

 

As I approached the ticket window it was clear this theater was a labor of love. The ticket booth was being run by a woman and her 7 year-old daughter. I went inside to the concession stand and to my delight I saw they sold beer. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t at a hip film center in some major city. That is until I saw who was running the concession stand. A middle aged guy in the full dad uniform of Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts was standing with his teenage son who ribbed me about my stupid face on my driver’s license. During the intermission the kid said, “Intermission? That’s how you know this movie is old.” To which his dad shot back, “Hey!” Even with the coolest life possible in a small town teens are still going to think everything sucks.

 

After grabbing some candy and the most amount of beer without arousing judgement, I walked into the theater and was immediately blown away. The 200 seat space felt intimate, but with a gorgeous balcony possessed a grandeur that was probably common before multiplexes. The red curtain and golden lighting created a warm environment. It felt like a womb for cinephiles.

 

The theater was about an eighth full by show time; the perfect size for everyone there to find the perfect seat. Right in front of me a middle aged man was accompanying two teenage boys of his own to share a film that they won’t fully get until they too do mushrooms in college. Before the movie there were no commercials, no insufferable E! programming, or even trailers. Just a quaint a man in overalls in front of the red curtain introducing the movie. After he walked off the stage, the curtains opened, the room went black and then I heard the iconic first notes that I’ve heard a hundred times before, but never truly experienced until that moment. As the sun peeked over the earth right as the score goes, “dun DUN!” I knew I couldn’t have picked a better time to finally see this movie.

 

Over the years 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY has influenced everyone from Danny Boyle to Mel Brooks. I’ve seen many movies that take their cues from Kubrick, but have never seen his masterpiece. It was great to trace those movies back to their source. I think this reverse viewing was more enjoyable than if I had seen 2001 in some dude’s basement in college. I may not have enjoyed Moon or the countless other movies influenced by 2001 because they may have seemed like a poor imitation.

 

Full disclosure: I don’t think I “got” 2001, but boy was it pretty to look at. I’ll spare everyone my “freshman in film school” analysis of the movie, which has been written about to death by people far more qualified than myself. I will say that a film as visually stunning as 2001 definitely needs to be experienced on a big screen. The effects appear even more special when considering this movie was released in 1968. How can a movie that is 46 years old have better effects than ones made today? It’s a movie to get lost inside of. In that dark grand theater I too felt like I was floating in the vast nothingness of space.

 

By the final installment, “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite,” I realized how impressive it is that Kubrick even got this film made. In 1968 there was no such thing as VOD or any of the other niche avenues artist have today to get their work to their audience. This film was released by MGM into single screen theaters much like the one I was sitting in. It’s truly stunning that a film without a linear narrative structure and disorienting visuals was released to the mainstream masses the same month as YOURS, MINE, AND OURS. When the credits were rolling a guy behind me turned to his friend who undoubtedly dragged him to the screening and said, “Well, that’s the last time I’m seeing that thing.” I’m sure he wasn’t alone that night or 46 years ago, but 2001 continues to hold up over the years. It is the Velvet Underground of sci-fi movies. Influential and well known, but only really understood by the guy in the basement.

 

Walking out of the World on Friday night I was so happy that I had an opportunity to experience a great film the way it was meant to be seen. As I walked down Central Ave., I saw the two teenage boys hop into the old man’s Ford F150. They might not have known it yet, but they too experienced something special. By the time they will have teens of their own movie theaters may be as antiquated as the photographs I sifted through all afternoon. As long as places like the World exist that day will never peek over the earth with a loud “dun DUN!”

 

IMAG0960

 

IMAG0907Ten years ago I was a self-righteous and overly emotional senior class president at a small catholic school in central Nebraska. At the time, I ran for the position because I wanted to give the student speech at high school graduation. And that is all I did with my term as president. My only real responsibility was to book the DJ at prom and I didn’t even do that. I was too busy arguing about artistic integrity and chasing unrequited love to be bothered by anything as pedestrian as booking a DJ. I was a cross between a poor man’s Ferris Bueller and Herbert Hoover.

My senior year coincided with the release of The Ataris’ SO LONG ASTORIA. For a brief moment it felt like a turning point. The hokiness of “Teen Age Riot” was replaced by the wistfulness of “Looking Back on Today.” The album felt more mature and so did I. Granted both were emotionally stunted, but still… It seemed like the band was coming of age as I was.

A decade is a long time, but not long enough to feel like a long time ago. It has been ten years since I crammed into the front of a Warped Tour mosh pit hoping frontman Kris Roe would pull me up to play “San Dimas High School Football Rules” but in my mind it just happened a couple of summers ago, laying in the middle distance of my memory. As The Ataris took the stage on Saturday night it quickly dawned on me how much time had passed. Kris Roe’s swooping blonde locks were replaced with a shaved head and flat fedora. Looking like an overweight Tom Waits, if Roe attempted to start a teenage riot now he would be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Even though the years hadn’t been especially kind to Roe, he paled in comparison to bassist Mike Davenport’s mid-life crisis dad look of long blonde hair and too tight Ed Hardy shirt. I immediately thought it might have been better to have left them frozen in my teenage memory.

Billed as the “So Long, Astoria Reunion” tour, The Ataris stuck to playing all the songs from the album in order. This approach is becoming a popular trend for nostalgia acts and it may seem uninspired, but it’s better than seeing Kris Roe attempt to play Cursive style indie rock. It was clear early on that they were playing it safe and the audience seemed to respond in-kind. The sweaty mosh pit had been replaced by nodding heads. Oddly enough it was “Unopened Letter to the World” that finally got the crowd moving. This was followed by the sappy “Saddest Song” that brought the energy back down to shoulder swaying levels. During the show Roe’s lyrics seemed to take on new meaning in the context of a reunion, “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do” and “You only get so many second chances.” It’s fitting, though, considering SO LONG, ASTORIA is full of vague nostalgia. As they played “Stay Who You Are,” I realized that these songs are like works of young adult fiction. The message is usually be true to yourself or things are hard now, but it will be worth it in the end. The Ataris are more Judy Blume than Rolling Stones.

After playing all thirteen songs in order, Kris Roe came out for the encore alone with an acoustic guitar and began to play the chords that every pop-punk kid who ever tried to woo a girl knows, “San Dimas High School Football Rules.” It was a relief to see him not try to recapture the past by grabbing someone from the crowd to play with the band. It would have been like hanging out with a buddy from college that tries to force you to do beer bongs in the afternoon. Roe threw the fans a bone while trying to age better than his nautical star tattoos.

As the show ended, I wasn’t filled with the same sense of fulfillment I had crawling out of a sweaty mosh pit ten years earlier. I couldn’t recapture the past. I could never feel 17 years old again, but I did feel a little nostalgic. Not the kind of vague nostalgia for something I hadn’t truly experienced yet. I was nostalgic for a time when this band spoke to me, a time when I had long swoopy bangs and believed in fate, back before I realized how trite the lyrics were, but I was still happy they played. It was fun to be reminded of that time in my life. Roe said it best, being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up. But it’s nice to get together and reminisce at the reunion.

imag0350

Day two of Riot Fest kicked off with less buzz and people than the previous day. Maybe it was due to the 10 mile long bumper-to-bumper traffic of the first day or it could be that the second day’s offering of acts didn’t hold up to the billing of day one. In any event, there was a staid and aloof atmosphere when the first band took the Rock stage, the woefully named New Beat Fund. Sadly, the name wasn’t the worst part of the band. New Beat Fund played a blend of emo, rap, pop-punk, techno, and reggae as if they were trying to please every kind of bro or bro-ette, and you know what they say when you try and please every bro… The pinnacle of the groups set came when they pushed all their chips in and covered Sublime. Since they already established themselves as not being limited by just one cliche, New Beat Fund sacrilegiously squeezed the Misfits “Hybrid Moments” into the middle of a Sublime song. By the end, New Beat Fund had left a worse taste in my mouth than the warm Red Bull I had been drinking all morning, which coincidentally is also their record label.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with either the innocuous, Bop Skizzum, or the obnoxious, Breathe Carolina. Hot Water Music frontman Chuck Ragan was the only one that brought some credibility that seemed to be in abundance the first day, but was so desperately lacking on day two. Ragan did his best Springstein to the delight of the black clad bartenders over 35 in the crowd, but lacked the fire that made Hot Water Music so compelling.

Following Ragan over on the mainstage was Peelander-Z, a group of fluorescent japanese punks that barely spoke english. They were like the Power Rangers, except instead of using their powers for good they used them to bore. Their generic interpretation of american punk couched in japanese kitsch only seemed to impress anyone under the age of 19.

By three o’clock things were feeling a bit drab around Riot Fest, just as many people were huddled for shade as were watching the bands. Stars took the Roots stage shortly thereafter and looked about as out of place as they sound. They are a solid Canadian indie-pop band that has been a mainstay of the Arts&Crafts scene. Unfortunately, atmospheric love songs don’t translate as well in the middle of a sunday afternoon in a giant dirt field. Frontman Torquil Campbell did his best to overcome the setting saying, “I know we might not look like the most punk band, but punk is what’s inside of you and in that case we are punk.” This seemed less like a proclamation and more like a defensive plea. It’s as if the crowd told him, “You’re not punk and were telling everyone!” Well guess what? He never was one. Near the end of the set, Stars began “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” off of the delightful Set Yourself On Fire. During the opening bars Torquil said, “This song is for the person you hate most in the world.” As such a poignant break up song, he couldn’t have been more accurate. The song’s crescendo grew and grew until the band was at a fever pitch with Torquil yelling and banging his tambourine against his leg. They might not have been the best fit on the bill, but they did everything in their power to prove they belonged.

It was approaching the evening and not a single act had really galvanized the festival crowd. Then at five o’clock Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famers Public Enemy brought the noise. Chuck D immediately told everyone to put their fists in the air. It is either a testament to the universal themes of hip-hop or sad reminder of the power of commerce that the thousands of black power fists in the air were in fact mostly white. Either way, PE brought a much needed shot of adrenaline to a waning festival.

Professor Griff, Flavor Flav, and Chuck D sent tingles down my spine rapping with a youthful fire that belied their age. It served as a reminder that Flavor Flav once stood for something more than a reality show punchline. Between songs Flav took to the mic to pay tribute to all of those affected by the recent Colorado floods. This was immediately followed by a shout out to Michael Jackson that was met by a mix of cheers and boos, this was Flavor Flav after all. Lastly, Flav took a moment to take up the case of Trayvon Martin and all the other young unarmed black men that have been shot for daring to wear a sweatshirt then said, “Hit me!” DJ Lord spun “911 is a Joke” which felt just as relevant today as it did over 20 years ago. It served as a nice reminder that even though PE is in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and are positioning themselves to be the Rolling Stones of rap we haven’t come as far as we hoped. Sadly, there are still people that fear a black planet, you just couldn’t find any of them in the sea of white fists in the air.

Playing at the same time as Public Enemy over on the Rock stage was aging hipster favorite Yo La Tengo. This seemed like a curious counter booking. The mellow rocking sounds of Yo La Tengo was quite the contrast from the militant hype of Public Enemy and seemed to be directed at the more hung over patrons. Their set had the chill atmosphere of an all day cool dude county fair, but god love the guy in front of me busting out Krush Groove style dance moves trying to find any semblance of party. This was not the place. This was for the guys who made mixtapes on cassettes and remember what it was like to order albums through the bearded guy at the record store. Near the end of the show, Ira Kaplan swung his guitar around his head generating a cacophony of reverb and feedback, but never brought it to the ground to break it. This perfectly sums up shoegazing noise rock, it channels the sound and passion of rock but not it’s aggression. At an event called Riot Fest, Yo La Tengo barely raised their voice.

Dark clouds began to roll in from the west right as Flag, a mishmash of former Black Flag members not named Greg Ginn, took the stage. Obviously, seeing a group that so perfectly expressed youth and rebellion attempt to recapture that spirit while pushing 60 left a little to be desired. The massive stage made it feel like everyone was at a punk museum. There was more distance from the stage to the crowd than there was between Ginn and the remaining members of the band. Keith Morris did an admiral solid job belting out, “Gimme Gimme Gimme,” but whole affair felt a bit hollow. Morris’s bald spot was clearly visible through his dreadlocks and a number of the songs he sang he wasn’t even a member of the band when they were written. If Black Flag and Flag are going to continue this split then Keith Morris will be the David Lee Roth of punk rock.

The last few minutes of Flag’s set was cut short due to rains, high winds, and lightening. The entire park was evacuated and it was unclear if the weather would subside enough to continue. There is an old adage about music festivals that goes, “There is either the hot one or the wet one.” Well, Riot Fest was both unlucky enough to be both.

After over an hour the organizers got the okay to let people back in, but at this point there was already a line of cars attempting to leave. It appeared that day two might be a bust, but enough brave souls waited it out to see their favorite bands from their youth as Rancid and Blink 182 were still left to perform. After only catching a few mud soaked minutes of Rancid, I was able to make my backstage for the night’s headliner Blink 182.

The first real concert I ever saw was the Pop Disaster Tour with Green Day and Blink 182 in 2003. My mom drove my best friend Cory and I from our small town in Nebraska to Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater. For a couple of budding pop-punk dweebs this felt like the highlight of our adolescence. We found a drummer for our shitty band and I found a girlfriend that night. Ten years later, the band and the relationship had both long ended but Blink was still here after their own break ups and near death experiences. Mark, Tom, and Travis had clearly matured. Gone was Tom DeLonge’s low hung strat and lip ring replaced with a Gretsch guitar and hat pulled down low. There wasn’t sophomoric banter or lame poop jokes just three guys tightly giving the people what they want, to hear the song that was playing when they touched a boob for the first time. The set played out like a greatest hit record and the guys shied away from playing much off their comeback effort Neighborhoods. The final three songs that closed the show are arguably Blink’s best; “Josie,” “Carousel,” and “Dammit” (Also know as the song that every suburban white kid knows how to play).

Standing to the side of the stage, just fifteen feet from Mark Hoppus, it was impossible to not get nostalgic. Sure, Blink 182 are not as revered as The Replacements and definitely don’t hold the same clout in rock history, but this is a band that meant a lot to dorks going through their awkward years. Blink wasn’t too ashamed or pretentious to come out and give the audience a brief time capsule of what life was like before we all got too jaded and cynical, back to the time when the anthem for driving around with your buddies was “Anthem.” On Sunday night Blink 182 proved you’re never too old to ask, “What’s My Age Again?”

-Kevin O’Brien

Iggy and The Stooges Riot Fest

This past weekend yet another music festival braved to dare the weather of Colorado in late September as Riot Fest took over a patch of farmland on the eastern plains. The eight year old traveling festival made it’s first Colorado appearance with a lineup of rock n’ roll dad nostalgia acts and bands that have become too old for Warped Tour. The exceptionally dude-centric lineup, Best Coast and Yo La Tengo appeared to be the only bands with female members, brought in a crowd where men seemed to outnumber women six to one. It was like a retreat for everyone that was tired of dragging their significant others to loud rock clubs. Due to a bar shift that ran twice as long as anticipated I was unable to a number of acts the first day including Against Me! who are a masculine punk band now fronted by a transgendered woman, which may have been the most disappointing part of the weekend.

By the time I was able to take in some of the fest the sun had gone down and AFI was just starting their mainstage set. It was a bit surprising to see such a huge crowd for a screeching goth-punk band that hasn’t put out a good record in 10 years. The throng of old school fans wasn’t disappointed though, as AFI played a set of hits and classics pulled straight from a past Warped Tour.

Iggy Pop and the Stooges were up next on the Roots stage. The crowd gathered early in an attempt to get a good spot to see a rock n’ roll artifact and was as diverse as a free day at the museum. Right in front of me a khaki clad dad stood with his twelve year old son. They weren’t talking a lot. The kid was obviously at that age where conversations don’t come so easy anymore. If they weren’t standing in front of a giant stage you would think they were standing in line for a baseball game. While the dad was searching for something to say, the first chords of “Raw Power” came blaring over the speakers then the godfather of punk emerged in his all his tan and leathered glory. While James Williamson and Mike Watt, a punk legend in his own right, looked the part of men their age and experience, Iggy looked as if he had a copy of Raw Power stashed in an attic somewhere that was aging for him. Considering Iggy’s past, I bet that record looks terrible. Iggy wormed and weird-torsored his way around the stage bouncing up and down like it was 1973, sans blood and peanut butter. Both father and son in front of me bounced along with Iggy bridging a gap of generation and awkwardness. He routinely waved and thanked the crowd between songs before letting them get in on the fun and invited front row up for a dance party. The stage was covered with about 50 people all grooving with one of the grooviest guys of all time. After ripping through classics like “Search and Destroy” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” I began to sense it might be time to head over to the mainstage to get a good spot for the night’s headliners The Replacements. Right as I was about to leave I heard the icon four chords of “The Passenger” off of Iggy’s 1977 solo release Lust For Life. After watching the first three minutes I exited and heard the last part of the song echo behind me as I walked to the mainstage feeling like I was in the closing scene of a movie.

The Replacements, or what is left of them, reunited for the first time in 22 years after many years of offers and just as many denials. Recently this year on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast bassist Tommy Stinson was vague about the subject of a reunion, but admitted that every year they get offers from all of the biggest festivals. Whatever money or blackmail Riot Fest promoters used to get Stinson and frontman Paul Westerberg was more than worth it. The Mats came out sporting garish pink western shirts and novelty oversized cowboy hats popularized by Lloyd Christmas.

Iggy and the Stooges set the bar high for reunion acts, but Westerberg and company broke the bar in half racing past it; opening with a raucous rendition of “Takin’ a Ride” that had the same fervor as the drunken bar band they used to be. After the song ended the crowd was already whipped up into a frenzy when Stinson took the mic and said, “If you only knew what it took to get here.” It was obvious he wasn’t talking about traffic. Westerberg then chimed in, “He had to get permission from Axel… What? It’s not my fault he is in Van Halen.” Tommy Stinson has spent his post-Mats years touring as the bassist for Axel Rose’s bastardized Guns n’ Roses and Paul Westerberg couldn’t help himself from busting his friends balls. As the show progressed it felt like word “reunion” was taking on new meaning. Stinson and Westerberg were playing with the same joy and enthusiasm that is found when two old college buddies get together for a beer. A lot of this can be attributed to the drumming of workaholic Josh Freese who played with his trademark energy and seemed like a guy who was at Rock n’ Roll fantasy camp.

The Mats settled into their set and focused most of the back catalogue attention on the biggest songs from Let it Be, Tim, and Pleased to Meet Me while throwing in mellow fair like “Achin’ to Be.” After nearly an hour of making everyone feel like they were in an 80’s soundtrack, the Mats closed in spectacular fashion with “Can’t Hardly Wait” segueing into “Bastards of Young.” The endless sea of people all sang along at the top of their lungs. The dads, the former college radio DJs, and the kids that weren’t even born before the band broke up were all the sons of no one, proving that teen angst is ageless. For the encore, the band indulged those hoping for a song from their early years playing “Hootenanny.” The band didn’t seemed to have planned on an encore and was trying to see what everyone knew how to play when Paul Westerberg began to riff “Detroit Rock City” by KISS. The band followed him, but unfortunately only knew about half the song. Westerberg asked the crowd, “What do you guys want? I could do this all night.” Then he was told from the side of the stage that they had to be off by 11:45 and they had only 3 minutes left. The band fumbled around trying to get one more song going and even teased covering The Who. Until eventually laughing and leaving the stage clumsily as feedback rang out into the brisk Colorado sky. It was a haphazard exit that couldn’t have been more fitting for a group of drunk smart-asses from the midwest. Minutes earlier thousands of people were losing themselves in the moment of a beautiful song, the perfect capper to an impeccably crafted set. They couldn’t left on such a polished and calculated note. The Mats always embraced the wild and loose parts of rock music while maintaining a lot of heart. The encore served as a reminder that at the end of the day rock n’ roll is supposed to be dumb and fun, no matter how old you are.

-Kevin O’Brien

With the news that Jimmy Fallon will be taking over the Tonight Show next year, Kevin has someone in mind to take over Late Night.

Lorne Michaels
Broadway Video
1619 Broadway
New York, New York
10019

Dear Mr. Michaels,

I am formally applying for the position of host of Late Night. I know I am not a conventional choice for the position considering I am a nobody, but I feel my abilities and lack of status make me a perfect fit to be the next host of the Late Night franchise.

As you can see from my resume I have over four years of experience as a stand-up comic, which is four more years than Conan O’Brien had when selected as host in 1993. Speaking of O’Brien, I began watching Late Night in 1995 at the ripe age of 9 years old when my parents let me have a T.V. in my room because they were too young to know how to be good parents. Their lapse in judgment can be your gain, Mr. Michaels. Those sleepless hours of my youth developed a love for absurd comedy and poor sleeping habits that will undoubtedly come in handy while hosting a late night talk show. My reverence for the 12:35 am timeslot runs deep. I came from a decidedly pro-Letterman family full of sarcasm. I’ve spent many hours watching reruns of Dave’s incarnation Late Night taking mental notes of the controlled chaos that was on display. In short, I have spent most of my life dreaming of hosting Late Night.

The thing that makes this franchise so valuable is that it is not afraid of change. I can be that change, Mr. Michaels. I’m sure you may be inclined to pick your next host from within the Lorne Michaels family; Seth Meyers, perhaps? But I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t know when I say 12:30 needs to be shaken up a bit. So this is what I propose for Late Night with Kevin O’Brien: First, we shoot it live. Having the only live late night show will give an energy and excitement that no other show has except for one, Saturday Night Live. Remember the feeling you had those first few years running SNL? It was dangerous. I want to bring danger back to late night. Second, we find a small venue or warehouse space and create a studio. Not having the show on a lot will give the audience a greater sense of being a part of something in the moment as opposed to being just a laugh track. Also, having the show in this space will add to the energy we are trying to create at 12:30 am. Third, we have a legitimate rock n’ roll band as house band. The Roots has proven that an inspired house band choice can help carve out an identity for a late night show. Getting a band like Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, or Titus Andronicus will add to the edgy energy of the show while also being talented enough musicians to play covers for guest introductions and play with musical guests when required. Fourth, I propose we have just one guest for a sit down interview. Since booking A-list celebrities will be hard to come by, I recommend booking authors, musicians, comedians, and other creative types on the fringe of the mainstream. I will then spend 3 to 4 segments engaging in in-depth interviews with them. This worked previously at 12:30 with Tom Snyder’s The Tomorrow Show and Dick Cavett in the 70’s.

In addition to these ideas there will be an array of comedy bits throughout the show. Taped segments, characters, audience plants, pranks, and general smartassery will keep the show fun and provide a level of subversive comedy that audiences have come to expect at Late Night. Most importantly, I’m young and cheap. I’m 27 years old and according to my 2012 tax return I made $11,000 last year. I would be willing to work for as much as three times that amount hosting the show and I’m sure my writing staff would be willing to work for a little less than that.

Lastly, if given the position of host of Late Night you will never have to worry about me vying for the Tonight Show like so many previous hosts because Late Night is my dream. It is my Tonight Show.


Sincerely,

Kevin O’Brien