Like Father, Like Son – a Mother-Daughter Adventure

I took my ten year old to her first metal show last week. Yes, I subjected her 100+ decibels and 10,000+ rowdy, sweaty (and a few inebriated) fans.

But before you snatch away my Mom-of-the-Year Award and stomp it to bits with your sensible shoes, hear me out.

There were earplugs involved. And backstage passes. And amusement park rides. I couldn’t resist.

Little Miss M is no stranger to concerts. She attended many a moe. show in utero, and had her first 3-day festival experience at nine months old.

Baby's First Backstage Pass

All Access Babyphoto credit Mitch Cohen

When other kids are tagging along with their parents to office buildings and cubicles on “Take Your Child to Work Day”, we regularly give her a taste of our livelihood each summer as she witnesses stages built, lighting trusses hung, catering set up and crew running around like headless chickens with Maglites. She has happy reunions with other band kids who, like her, don’t exactly realize how rare it is to play house in a tour bus, to play tag backstage and to fall asleep side-stage while the band plays on.

Iron Maiden, Camden NJ 2012

FIRE

So I knew she would do OK in the concert environment. However, she has never stood in gen pop, watching a stage ignite in pyro flames and fireworks, with a skeletal mascot leering out from ever-changing backdrops and making 3-D appearances in statues as big and impressive as an Easter Island Moai.

If you hadn’t guessed by now, the metal show was Iron Maiden. For those of you who aren’t aware of my admiration for their frontman Bruce Dickinson, you might want to click here.

Iron Maiden, Bristow VA 2012

EDDIE

It’s been over twenty-seven years since I first began seeing them live, and I never imagined they would still be touring well into their 50s and still performing top-notch. They never just phone in a show on auto-pilot, it’s always 110% effort and genuine.

ACTION

And I always tell people: as long as they keep playing like this, I will keep going to shows.  This is no nostalgia act. For them, or for me. But realistically, I know the time is, as Bruce would say, running low.

So I thought it was time to show my daughter something I really love and enjoy, and to introduce her to the friends I have made along the way.

Ready for the show, maybe.

The band was playing 40 minutes from my house – the closest they’ve been since 2005. No borders to cross, no planes to catch. The shed was part of a local amusement park, so first there were rides:

Good thing she had my friend Dawn as her partner in crime for the rides!

Then there was the backstage part. With root beer.

Then came a weird and wonderful opportunity – I introduced my child to Bruce’s child. Like his father, Austin Dickinson is making waves with his distinctive voice in his own band, Rise To Remain. They are one of the many bands on Warped Tour this summer, and they happened to have a show the very next night at the same venue. So Austin came down to watch his dad’s show.

He was charming and gracious and I think he gained a new fan! Now the Dickinson-Topper circle is complete…until maybe the day when my grandchildren are famous and Bruce’s grandchildren want to meet them.

Oh, and the show? She loved it! Earplugs and all. Bruce (wearing a shirt on stage designed by his younger son Griffin, who recently launched a clothing company, Griffin Allstar) and the rest of the band thoroughly entertained and enthralled her.

“What is the most important thing in life?” an attendee of the Forum IAB marketing conference in Warsaw, Poland recently asked the guest speaker after his riveting 40 minute lecture on Customer Value Management. (Yes, I said ‘riveting’ and ‘marketing’ in the same breath!)

“Your children. Your family.” The speaker replied. The speaker was Bruce Dickinson. And the crowd hung on to his every word. (Told you. Riveting!)

Sadly the Youtube video containing the informal Q&A has been made private, but you can still watch the speech itself here and here. I wish I had transcribed what he had said about supporting and taking care of your children, as it was pretty wise. Spend time with your kids, pay attention to them. Show interest in what they do. We cannot all model our kids’ T-shirts in front of 15,000 fans each night, but we can love them and take an interest in what they want to do in life.

If my kid decides she never wants to see another metal show again, I will be OK with that. I’m glad I got to share a part of me she hadn’t been privy to before, and I hope she will always remember the side of me not defined by “mom” standards. I hope her own interests and passions and beliefs continue to expand and I will always fight my way to front row and center to cheer her on.

Summer Tour 2012

Hello cats and kittens! Miss me? I’ve missed all of you.

It appears I took the month of May off. Hmm. More like I blinked and it was gone.

April was a fun blur. I am still getting a lot of traffic here due to the Herculean Blogging from A-Z Challenge, which is all kinds of awesome. May was full of kids’ music recitals and PTA-planning for end-of-year school events. I’m pretty sure there is a 10th ring of Dante’s Hell reserved solely for PTA in which doomed souls volunteer eternally. But I digress. Onto the month at hand – June.

Work gets busy for me as the festival season heats up. Here at moe. central, we consider Memorial Day to be the start of “Summer Tour”, as the band has hosted the Summer Camp Music Festival for the past eleven years.

Ah, Summer Tour. There is nothing quite like it. It doesn’t matter what genre you are a fan of, or whether the venue is a 700-acre field or a town park…music in the summer is always magical.

Summer Tour

As moe. rolls into various towns and cities, I’m the little gremlin behind the scenes paying the bills so they can have their pimped out tour bus and the fans can have their pretty swirly lights, etc.

I adhere to the phrase “work hard, play harder”, hanging up my music biz boots and trading them in for my own fan boots when my favorite bands hit the road. There is a giddy excitement about jumping in a car with friends (or hopping a plane to meet faraway friends) and heading out to shows. (Yes, that’s plural.)

Iron Maiden Fortune Cookie

This summer I’ll have the good fortune of catching 4 Maiden shows in 2 countries. Sometimes less is more!

Most anticipated summer venue for me: The Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club in Manhattan. I cannot wait to check this place out! moe. plays 2 nights here June 26th and 27th.  Beach in Manhattan, you say? Yep, on the East River under the stars on a 200-ton sandy beach. You can lounge on couches with your feet in the sand, or show off your skills over a game of pool, foosball or ping pong. Concerts are held in the 10,000 sq. foot open-air beer tent with the iconic Brooklyn Bridge as your backdrop.

Thanks to the never-ceasing miracles of technology, summer tour can now travel to you! First we had the Tupac hologram eerily appear during the Coachella Music Festival. You can see it with your own eyes here. The creators of that hologram are working on an Elvis one, but I’m holding out for a Jeff Buckley one to appear in my living room. Weekly.

And speaking of living rooms, another hi-tech phenomenon sweeping the live music world is “couch tour”. Pay-per-view TV has been taken to the next level. Sites like couch-tour.com and iClips Summer of Jam offer you oodles of streaming festivals and shows on subscription – with no bathroom lines or beer lines! No need to sit on Facebook listening to the crickets and feeling sorry for yourself while everyone is at “the show”.

This weekend, I watched in amusement as several friends began posting their pictures and music schedules (which of course can be planned via app on your phones now) from their actual Bonnaroo weekend. Phish. Radiohead. Fans standing in a dusty field looking hot and tired. Then…up popped the virtual Bonnaroo weekend “Couch Tour” photos on Facebook. Who needs to fly to Manchester, TN when you can attend in your PJs, five feet away from your own fridge full of sanely-priced cold beer and a toilet that actually flushes and can’t be tipped over in the middle of the night?

one fan’s front row view of Bonnaroo…from Boston.

A Facebook friend posted the above picture on her wall – she tagged a number of friends (probably those she normally goes to concerts with in 3-D real-time real life). And the place tag: “MY LIVING ROOM”.

Is this the end of Summer Tour as we know it? Nah. I don’t think so. It’s a convenient way of saying “been there, saw that, bought the T-Shirt” but music fans will always want the real Summer Tour experience: the sweaty, grimy, unpredictable weather-related, beer-sloshed, fun-soaked concert under the blinding sun or the blinking stars. With the pretty swirly lights from the band on the pimped out tour bus. (Yay, job security for me.) ‘Cuz that’s a big part of what rock n roll is all about – along with the connections and memories of the people you meet and the places you go on tour.

Wishing you all a safe and stellar Summer Tour!

Yodelittle

I almost got tripped up on letter Y. One day away from the finale – I can’t be fresh out of ideas! All I kept thinking was yogurt. But I didn’t want to write about yogurt. I do eat it every morning (greek non-fat vanilla mixed with non-fat plain to cut the sweetness) but that is WAY more info than you need to know about me and yogurt!

Then I thought – Yodelittle. It’s like a yodel, in that it’s a song that easily gets stuck in your head. (I’m sure most of us are all guilty of crooning  “Ricola!” at odd times in our lives, am I right?)

Yodelittle is a ditty about a little lady, written by Al Schnier and performed by his band moe. It’s a charming folky-funky earworm, with a chorus that warbles:

Yodelittle lady who

Yodelittle lady that I love

Yodelittle was one of the first songs I ever heard moe. play live, and I thought it was so catchy and clever. It made me fall in love with them. As I started researching it today, I was astonished to realize 2 things:

  1. 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of this song – if first appeared on their debut album, Fatboy
  2. I was in the audience at the first known gig where it was performed

According to Phantasy Tour, an impressive website that tracks a crazy amount of stats on jambands, Yodelittle has been played live 303 times to date. It debuted on 2/15/92 at the Scrapyard in Buffalo, NY. And was played most recently at Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore on 3/10/12. It is still a crowd favorite, and I love hearing the fans roar in approval when they recognize those opening notes being picked out.

The show list was fun to peruse. I had forgotten about that little gig at the long-gone Scrapyard. I love that it was played at 14 of their 24 shows at the legendary Wetlands Preserve in NYC (if I’m counting correctly.) In the early days, it was played at Frat house parties, like Pi Kappa Alpha at RPI in Troy, NY. But it’s also been played at venues as large as the Molson Amphitheater in Toronto, Canada.

How cool that it was played in the middle of the ocean twice – once in 2004 aboard the Norwegian Sun, and again in 2007 on board the Norwegian Jewel; two fan cruises that moe. orchestrated.  Fans in Yokohama and in London have heard it live in their cities.

It was also played on 4/23/01 at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ. This holds a special memory for me, as it was the night I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. (No wonder my legs felt so tired while I was dancing up a storm to Yodelittle!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little stroll down Yodelittle memory lane and the song’s ongoing legacy. Do you have a “Y” song, or any song, that you love and would like to share?

Rock and Roll Riders

“But dude…it’s on our rider.” Ah yes, magic words in the music biz. What is this sacred document I speak of?

A tour rider is a written set of requests or demands made by an artist prior to a performance. To ensure the comfort, safety and happiness of the artist, the promoter or venue will do their best to honor the details on the rider. From deli trays to daiquiri mix (don’t forget the blender!), from herbal tea to JD, items on a rider provide both a comfort and a service to the entire entourage. By providing as many items as they can, the promoter shows he/she is paying attention to the details.

Imagine agreeing to work for a company, job site unseen. And when you get there, the cubicle you are supposed to spend 8 hours working in is filthy. There is no chair for you. To do your job properly, you need a .9mm mechanical pencil, and all that has been supplied is a broken crayon and a scented marker. Lunch was supposed to be provided, and all you find waiting is a limp braid of string cheese and some stale crackers.

Dude, you should’ve had a rider!

moe., the band I work for, plays an average of 70 shows a year, and every show has a contract that passes through my hands. And each contract contains a standard rider. The Production side of a rider is all tech specs and usually pretty boring. But the Catering and Hospitality section of a rider, depending on the band or diva you are dealing with, can be pure comic gold. It can become a rock n roll scavenger hunt as promoters send runners scampering to find specific items.

You can find some ridiculous and over the top tour riders here. Some, like Iggy Pop‘s and the Foo Fighter‘s riders, read like stand-up comedy. (Click and read them, trust me. Very funny!) Others have requests that make you do double-takes and spit-takes. Say what? Janet Jackson prefers Votivo Red Currant scent candles and organic creamy peanut butter backstage. Bruce Springsteen has simple needs – among them cinnamon raisin bagels and assorted yogurts (but NO lemon). Adele also has some no-nos: “North American beer is NOT acceptable.” Faith Hill apparently likes astro-turf in her artist’s compound. Aerosmith insists their VIP guest room be decorated in an “East Indian style”, lined with dark colored pipe and drape. And yes, Van Halen really did ask for all the brown M&Ms to be plucked from the bowl.

moe.’s current rider reads pretty standard. Practical, classy and 90% organic (like them). At one time, they used to request diapers. One never knew when a wife and baby might pop in on tour and experience a diaper emergency at midnight! Packs of white cotton socks were also kindly requested. Logical enough – take ten adult men, stick them on a tour bus for 3 weeks with no laundry facilities… clean socks after a gig are gratefully appreciated! Nowadays, the band is pushing a greener initiative – asking that when possible, cloth napkins, real silverware, gallon jugs of spring water instead of individual bottles, etc can be provided to cut down on waste. And there are some really cool organizations out there to help put any excess (food, etc) to good use – Rock and Wrap It Up does just that. They box up all prepared but untouched meals following rock concerts and sporting events then deliver them to local food banks and charitable agencies.

Some promoters really go above and beyond. One told me once that he, knowing the singer of a certain band was a skilled pilot (who could that be?) and its drummer a avid golfer, made sure there were aviation and golfing magazines in their dressing room. Very thoughtful and trust me, I don’t care how big the band is…they will remember that kindness, that extra mile.

Sticks and Stones album cake

Almost too pretty to eat - a cake with the band's Sticks and Stones cover arrived backstage in NYC one night. The band cut pieces and shared it with the crowd.

There is definitely a certain comfort in finding your requested items, night after night, no matter what city/town or venue/bar you find yourself in. I know that on any given night on tour, I can walk into moe.’s dressing room and usually find red Twizzlers and a good white wine. The one thing that used to be on their rider, yet still remains elusive however, is an original G.I. Joe with Kung Fu Grip. The bass player had one when he was a kid, and has always wanted a replacement.

G.I. Joe w/kung fu grip

The elusive rider item

It’s All in the Details

Juicy letter

D is diverse, indeed. Decisions, decisions! After much deliberation, I’ve determined that today’s blog post will be dedicated to my DH. In some people’s cute little corners of the net, that stands for Dear Husband. In my case, I like to affectionately refer to him as my Dirty Hippie.

My husband is a Deadhead. By the time we met, he’d been to over 100 Grateful Dead shows (I’d been to exactly 1).  One summer he bought boxes of Blow Pops and sold them in the parking lots to help pay for “tour”. I know his favorite Dead show, although he wasn’t in attendance (Cornell ’77). You see, it’s the little details about someone. Quirky little details. They’re fun to remember.

Because he followed the Dead for so many years, he understands the importance of “tour”. So when his crazy metalhead wife decided she wanted to follow Iron Maiden to another continent, he didn’t bat an eye.

One might ask: can a Deadhead and a Metalhead peacefully co-exist? Definitely! My DH’s theory: most deadheads he knew in college had actually been metalheads in high school. Why? Because at the time, when synthesizers were all the 80s rage, the metal bands were the only musicians on the scene that knew how to actually play instruments. Makes sense – discerning ears, discriminating tastes. Dead serious details!

Furthur Festival 1997

Furthur Festival 1997

My DH is a big picture kind of guy – he manages multiple touring bands and he plans festivals for thousands of people to enjoy. The minute one festival is over, he’s already thinking about next year’s. Sometimes his head is so far out on the horizon, it’s hard to reign him back in. It’s a running joke that he doesn’t always “see” what’s in front of him. Yes, it took probably 4 introductions to me (by mutual friends and even by himself) to finally remember who I was. And yes, there was actually a time, early in our courtship, when he walked right by me in a club. My friends were incredulous: “Are you SURE that’s the guy you’ve been telling us about that you wanted us to meet?” Um, yeah. He’s got a bit of tunnel vision at times, especially when he’s working. On the horizon or in the tunnel.

The Great Went, 1997

The Great Went, 1997 (photo credit: Chip Hooper)

But when he makes it up to surface, he blinks and looks around…and he remembers the little details. Like when I recently landed a literary agent. It was close to Valentine’s Day, and so his gift was a beautiful pen, lathed from “celluloid”,  and plated in platinum. You know, for signing contracts someday (his words). It’s heavy in the hand and elegant and nothing I would ever splurge on for myself. I’m almost scared to use it (definitely scared to lose it).

And now, as my birthday approaches, he is actually giving me the gift of…detail. Yes, he admitted to me yesterday (as he tried to come up with excuses as to why he needed my car for 4-5 hours) that he is having my car detailed. My car is getting its very own Spa Day! It needs a Spa Day more than I do, after 6 years of summer festival grime and countless 800 mile loops to NYC and back.

At first I thought, cool – I would love a clean car! And better the professionals than me, trying to scrub the drek that’s been building up for 98K miles! Then I thought: uh oh, I am going to have to clean it out before they can detail it. Great, a present that makes more work for me. But he thought of that detail too…and did it for me. I am dazzled!

moe.down 2010

moe.down festival, 2010 (photo credit: Jay Blakesberg)

Random Ramble – never too old to rock and roll

Happy Birthday, Mr. Harris!

Today is Steve Harris’ birthday – the bassist and founder of Iron Maiden was born in 1956, so that makes him…56! Here in the States, he’d qualify for AARP. Yet here in the States, we’re gearing up for a 29-date summer tour from Steve and the other “boys” in the band (ranging in age from 53 to 59). And that’s a drop in the bucket if you think about the number of shows they’ve played since reuniting the “classic” lineup back in 1999. I’ll pull some stats later, but I have a feeling the count is larger than all their ages combined.

I’ve been a fan since the tender age of thirteen, back when it was hard to believe I would ever be 40 (ack!) and gray (gag!). I never dreamed they would a) still be touring and b) appear better than ever, thirty years later. And wilder yet, that I’d still be following them.

Soon after they reunited with Bruce and Adrian, I saw them play Madison Square Garden (2000). As all the kids clamored to buy the black T-shirts emblazoned with Eddie on the front at the merch booth, I found myself saying, “I’ll take the coffee mug, please.” And I thought, gee, you know you’re getting old when you go to a rock show and walk out with a coffee mug.

2000. Dang, this mug is now 12 years old. Time flies. And I’ve seen the band at least two dozen times in four countries since then.

We’re never too old to rock and roll. Cheers!

Everyone Should Meet their Heroes

I don’t think there’s an exact quote out there, but you may have heard the old “Never meet your heroes, they’ll only disappoint you” motto before. No one you worship can possibly live up to such high expectations, right? It would be like going to heaven and catching God up there smoking pot.

Well, maybe not. But I really think it has to do with the height of the pedestal and the width of their swollen ego.

I’ve got several heroes (Hi Mom! Hi Dad! Hi Dalai Lama!) but today I’m talking about about the big kahuna, my majordomo of heroes. The chance of ever really meeting him (outside of a hi or a handshake) made him the Holy Grail of heroes in my mind for many years.

My hero is a graduate in History of Queen Mary College, London (and holds an honorary Doctorate from the same institution). He’s written two novels and a movie that premiered at Cannes Film Festival. He is a championship fencer, once ranked #7 in the UK men’s foil disciple. Oh, and he flies planes, too. And not in the “I’m rich and I pilot my private jet” way. More like licensed Boeing 757 pilot. In fact, the airline he works for recently promoted him to Director of Marketing. He was also chosen to narrate an entire Discovery Channel documentary series on flying planes. And somewhere in there, he also had time to moonlight as a DJ on BBC 6.

He geeks out on anything William Blake and Dr. Who, and (bless his heart) hates reality television.

And he also looks great in spandex pants.

I admire a man who defies stereotypes...and who can fly me places.

My hero, ladies and gents – who is all that and a bag of chips – is Bruce Dickinson, the singer of Iron Maiden.

He’s gone by the moniker Bruce Bruce in past. He’s been called “Conan the Librarian” because he is a smart powerhouse of a guy. But his most famous nickname is “Air Raid Siren”, as it’s said he shattered a glass globe once with a well-placed scream.

You’re free to pooh-pooh and tsk-tsk, or write him and his band off as devil worshippers in a music genre so old it fell off a dinosaur’s paw. But you would really be doing yourself a disservice.

And besides, this is about me meeting my hero. Not a pissing contest of “my hero could beat up your hero”, etc. So back to the story.

Yes, that’s him on the stage between the Xs! And that’s me up in the seats, admiring him from afar.

I’ve wanted to meet Bruce since I was twelve years old. I wrote the letters that never left my keepsake box. I plastered my room with posters. I sang along with every lyric and brushed my teeth with a toothbrush embossed with his name on it. And when the concert rolled into town, I practically broke my fingers dialing the rotary phone trying to win backstage passes through the local radio station.

And I cried when I didn’t.

Then my father said something to me that I carry with me to this day. “Don’t spend your life waiting to meet Bruce Dickinson. Do something with your life so Bruce Dickinson will want to meet you.” Go dad! Awesome words. So profound, I actually found myself telling Bruce those exact words when I met him in 2005.

Bruce and Jess

He was charming and gracious and witty, a perfect gentleman. He joked with me and my friends, asked us questions and listened intently. Hard to believe not two hours before this picture was taken, he was bringing down a packed house of 12,000 screaming fans. I don’t expect him to ever remember me, or to remember that night like I obviously do. But I do hope to one day do something great in my life that would make him want to meet me, for a switch. Or at the very least, let me make him a sandwich.

 

Pronunciation:/ˈhɪərəʊ/

noun (plural heroes)

  • 1 a person, typically a man, who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities
  • (in mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semi-divine origin, in particular one whose exploits were the subject of ancient Greek myths.
  • 2 (also hero sandwich)North American  another term for hoagie

From Oxford English Dictionary