Friday, July 27, 2012

Journey BMO Harris Show Features Core Members of the Band

When Journey comes to the BMO Harris Bradley Center in November, it will be without Steve Perry. Perry has long since left the band, and the three remaining members have put their faith in Arnel Pineda. How many key members of a band have to remain in order for fans to respect their efforts to continue working under their original name? Which members, as in high or low profile, will still move on and hope to draw an audience?  In the case of Journey, it seems that three core members are what is needed for that band to go on.  Who remains in Journey are certainly the "core" members. Ross Valory and Neal Schon are truly the last original members still playing the hits. Jonathan Cain is also part of the current lineup, but cannot be labeled an "original" memeber, even though he was part of the band for the past 31 years. (Thanks to all those who commented on how much I messed up on the lineup, past and present.) 
It’s been done before. A very famous band loses a drummer, keyboard, or bass player. The core (or possibly the most popular members) of the band remain, so they move on with new blood. In some cases, very few fans complain, and the band manages to continue to do great things. In other cases, such as Van Halen, the fans divide into two groups. As hard as it was to see The Who reunite, could anyone fault them for the success that they achieved after picking themselves up and moving on? It is one thing to try to revive Queen without Freddie Mercury, but let’s face it, some bands will have no problems finding success after certain members are out. (This is coming from a drummer, mind you.)

Steve Perry Joins Journey

It must be noted that Journey didn’t start out with Steve Perry as their vocalist. In the early years, the band was a hard rock outfit that Greg Rolie led on vocals and keyboards. Perry was pretty much forced upon the band by their manager, but their success would not have come without him. Perry and Neal Schoen wrote the song titled Patiently during what was to be a weekend where the band could get to know their new singer. A bond was formed, and the band never looked back. Yes, the core members were very tight. Perry was an outsider. Still, it worked.
What are fans to make of the Journey lineup now? Take a moment to listen to Arnel Pineda sing one of their most famous songs. Can you tell the difference? I would say that it’s almost a mirror copy of Perry’s style. Still, it’s not the same. You just can’t replace the face, and voice of a band. For those of you who have no problem closing your eyes and pretending, the new lineup will probably just do fine for you. I’m not a Journey fan, but I have to stand behind Perry on this one. This is not Journey. When all that you have are the original guitar and bass player (and Cain on keys,) you basically what some would call a tribute band. It’s fitting that Arnel Pineda was busy fronting tribute acts when he was tapped to play the role of Steve Perry.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Open Handed Drumming | The Short List of Open Handed Drummers

Open Handed Drumming with Ride On Left
I’m an “open handed” drummer.  What does that mean?  I play a drum set that is set up for right handed people, but I play it left handed.  My arms don’t cross over when I play a standard beat.   I never knew any other way to play the drums.  I guess that you could say that I taught myself to play drums the “wrong” way.  Does it really matter how you play the drums? It probably does not.  All I know is that it took a long time for me to find a few professional open handed drummers.  Growing up in the pre-YouTube era, one could only guess as to who played open handed, unless you saw them play live.  So with that, I’m going to give you my list of worthy drummers who impress their fans by playing open handed. 

One of the first drummers that I noticed playing open handed was Kenny Aronoff, but it’s been said that he only does it from time to time.  I noticed that he played open handed when John Mellencamp played live on Second City TV.  Since that time, I have only seen him play cross over style. Dom Famularo plays open handed, but with a twist.  He switches up his rack toms.  Traditional tom set ups are from smallest to largest.  He will put a 13” tom first, followed by a 12”. He may not do that all the time, but he pointed out the strange setup to the audience at one of the Cascio drum clinics that I attended. He’s more of a mixed handed drummer.  He will play both ways.

John Blackwell is one of the few who plays open grip.  He makes it look easy.  At times you can see that he will be playing a ride cymbal with his right hand and keeping time on the hi hat with his left, hitting the snare with his left, when the song calls for it. Certainly one of the more famous drummers to play this way is Carter Beauford. Mr. Beauford is one of the best when it comes to utilizing the open drumming technique. If you follow him closely, you find that he will make the most efficient moves behind the drums.  Open handed drumming can certainly do that for you.  There is no need to “uncross” your arms before making a move.  You can reach out in either direction at any time. 
I must say that over the years, it has been a bit of a pain to play this style if you are going to be playing a “house” drum kit that is set up for right handed drummers.  Most times, you will find that the ride cymbal is on the right hand side of the standard kit.  For best results, it’s best to move the ride cymbals to the left, just over the top of the hi hat.  That way, you don’t have to cross your arms for any reason.  If you are truly ambidextrous drummer, it really doesn’t matter where you put the cymbals, but I have yet to meet someone with that kind of talent.  Everyone has a strong or dominant hand.    

Monday, July 9, 2012

World's Largest Music Festival Is No Place to See a Show

Marcus Amphitheater Summerfest
I wasn’t forced to pay $162 for a pair of obstructed view tickets that were sixty-six rows from the Marcus Amphitheater stage. I did that voluntarily. No, the tickets were not officially labeled “obstructed view.” That fact came to light when I sat down and noticed that a large iron beam cut my view of the stage down by half.  On top of that, the usher standing next to the beam took out another 20% of our view.  At times, she was joined by a second usher who managed to block the entire stage.  The band that I paid $162 to see walked on the stage and the show started. It was still light out, and 1/3 of the seats were still empty. I was at the “world’s largest music festival,” and not having fun.  It was hot, the bleachers were hard, people were talking over the music, the band looked like dots, and then it hit me. Was anyone really having fun?
Is anyone making a connection with the artists? How can they?  You can’t make a connection when what you are looking at is so far away that you cannot see facial expressions.  I’m not surrounded by people that are part of a loving collective.  They are texting, talking, eating, drinking, dancing, bumping knees to backs, sweating, and pretty much feeling what I feel. Is this it? Are we having a good time? This can’t happen from 150 yards away.  There is no connection.
When the singer of the band says something about “Milwaukee,” the crowd cheers wildly. It’s to be expected.  When the singer says something like “This is off of our new album,” the crowd starts to head for the bathrooms and beer stands. The headline act gets the best sound, lights, etc.  The opening band has to struggle even harder to get your attention. It’s an uphill battle.  Some people try to time their arrival to coincide with the opening notes to the headline band’s first song. Who was the opening act?  They might not even know.
I can’t help it.  I see too much of all that is not important at a live show, at a venue that holds 18,000 people.
For a time, I wondered if there was something wrong with me.  Why didn’t I enjoy the evening? It sure looked like everyone else did.  Well, at least it seemed like the majority of the people at this event were having fun.  After a time, I realized that I just don’t feel anything when I’m at shows of this size.  There is no intimate connection, and I shouldn’t expect one.  I would rather spend my money at a small club or theater show.  At least I would have a chance to get something out of it.  All I can say is that I was there.  No more.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bonnaroo Review Part Two | Outdoor Festivals Can be Great Fun

Bonnaroo 2012 Event
This is part two of my Bonnaroo interview.  My coworker had a great time at the festival this summer.  She says that she's definately going to the 2013 event, and has learned a great deal about some of the most basic of things.  So without further adieu, our "bonnaroo" gal serves up some more answers to my questions.
Your favorite band at Bonnaroo, and why? 

My favorite band was Radiohead who headlined on Friday night. I have been a Radiohead fan since I was in middle school and this was my first time seeing them. It was a very moving experience because I was surrounded by great friends and the music was very powerful to me. One thing I love about big music festivals is it is such a great feeling to be surrounded by so many people who are just as excited to see your favorite band as you are and this was honestly the perfect show. Great lights, great crowd and of course, great music. 
Any surprise show that you found that you really loved, but didn’t expect it to happen?

I was lucky enough to see a few bands that I definitely have started to listen to since I've gotten home. The first one is a group called Battles who are out of New York that play experimental/math rock type music. It was a welcome change of pace that really pumped up the crowd on such a hot afternoon and despite the fact that there aren't really "words' to most of the songs, the crowd was very engaged. Because it was so hot out, it was clear that everyone that was there definitely wanted to see the band so there were good vibes in that crowd. 
Another show that I really enjoyed from a band I hadn't heard of prior to the festival was Mariachi El Bronx, who are actually a hardcore punk band called The Bronx that sometimes play under the alter-ego Mariachi El Bronx. Basically, their music is comprised of punk themes and played to the tune of traditional Mexican mariachi music. It was surprising and very refreshing and will be perfect to listen to throughout the summer.
What one thing do you regret that you didn’t have with you when you got there?

I really wish I would have ponied up the $10 and gone down the water slide, gotten my hair done at the free salon and seen more of Ludacris!  
What would you tell people not to bring to Bonnaroo?

There are different things I would have brought, including more suncreen and swimsuits but nothing I would tell people to not bring, other than illegal drugs and other items of course. If I could do it again, I would have brought a better tent and blow up mattress and also a small grill to cook on. A good shade fly or shade tent to hang out under while you're at your campsite is also CRITICAL.