Faith Was Rewarded: Bruce Springsteen @ Arena

Well that was one for the ages. Bruce and the Band rolled into town yesterday for the first time in seven years. I decided to do it right, and show up early for a chance in the “pit”, the fenced off section at the foot of the stage. Of the 960 people who showed up for numbered wristbands, I was one of the 400 who made it in.

The only person I know who’s willing to put in the work for the pit experience is my brother Dave, and he’s in Boston, so this was a solo mission. A “mission from God”, as Elwood put in the Blues Brothers.

Last night was only show # 2 of the Working on a Dream Tour. But just a couple minutes into the opener, “Badlands”, it was clear that Bruce and the band were in prime form, and were feeding off the raucous energy of the Arizona crowd (seven years is a long time to wait!).

Of the new tunes, “Outlaw Pete”, “My Lucky Day”, and “Working on a Dream” were well received – but he really connected on “Kingdom of Days”(which he sings with his wife Patti) and especially “The Wrestler”. With Nils Lofgren on acoustic guitar, Bruce poured it all out at the mic, and surpassed the studio version, I thought. [You can see the video from last night at Bruce’s site].

It was great to experience “Seeds” live – a hard luck rocker that appears on the Live 75-85 box set. Nebraska’s “Johnny 99” followed it – the full band version. And then “The Ghost of Tom Joad”, with Nils blazing on lead guitar.

Bruce was  taking requests, too. The signs were abundant in the crowd. Before “Working on the Highway”, Bruce worked the crowd and collected a handful. The “winners” were “Downbound Train”, “Because the Night”, and, later, “Rosalita” during the encore.

“Downbound Train” is one of my all time faves – I wonder how man car hours I’ve logged singing that song at the top of my lungs – and it was so nice to hear it / see it right in front of the man.

The atmosphere last night was absolutely electric: Bruce and the band grinning ear to ear, The “Big Man” Clarence Clemons even shuffling across the stage. “The Big Man’s dancin’!” Bruce cried…

Since I was solo, and could really let the Bruce fan in me rear its geeky head, I Twittered the whole set list. Also, I hung around the arena after the show, looking down on the loading dock a few hundred feet below, watching the roadies load the trucks, and Bruce and the Band’s fleet of black limos and SUV’s waiting for their passengers. At about midnight, Bruce came out of the arena and got into the front passenger seat of his luxury SUV. Two police motorcycle escorts led the way up the ramp. The next thing I see? Brake lights. And off to the races I went. The Boss stopped on the street, rolled down his window, and signed for the few lucky fans who waited it out. After running a couple hundred yards, I had him sign a 5×7 card I had tucked in my back pocket, and I think I said to him: “Bruce….Gammage Auditorium! [where he signed my tour program in 1996]… love you… *heavy breathing…” Leave it to Bruce to make me feel like a pimply 16 year old…

As I walked back to my car in the cool desert air, I was on cloud nine. Mission accomplished, and faith rewarded.

See my photos from the night here in my Picasa album.

Outlaw Pete
My Lucky Day
Out in the Street
Working on a Dream
Johnny 99
The Ghost of Tom Joad
Working on the Highway
Downbound Train
Because the Night
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
The Wrestler
Kingdom of Days
Radio Nowhere
Lonesome Day
The Rising
Born to Run
* * *
Hard Times
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Land of Hope and Dreams
American Land
Dancing in the Dark

Hometown Tunes: McDowell Mountain Music Festival

As an Arizona resident for the last sixteen years, there are a handful of things I look forward to each year – one is October, when the triple digit heat finally gives up and goes away for eight months or so. Another is Spring Training baseball – AZ is home to the Cactus League, where 14 major league teams come to train. Quickly inching its way up the list is the McDowell Mountain Music Festival, two April days of fun in the sun, great music, cold beer, and tasty food – all in my backyard, up in north Scottsdale at the Westworld grounds. I know it’s four and a half months away, but hey, I get excited, okay?

The festy launched a slick new web site today, with some lineup announcements, including Michael Franti & Spearhead as the Friday headliner. The Saturday headliner is yet to be announced, as are a few other slots on the bill. But so far, McDowell has a handful of national acts booked: Railroad Earth, Hot Tuna, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Assembly of Dust, and Young Dubliners.

The two headliners for Saturday are still pending, so I’m expecting that it’ll be worth the wait (I threw in my 2 cents, recommending Band of Horses). It shares the weekend with the first weekend of New Orleans Jazz Fest, which swallows up scores of talent, but I’ll have faith! So far, this year’s lineup hasn’t knocked my socks off, but I find that I always end up enjoying every set regardless – something about Arizona, April, beer, and music.

If you’re in the southwest, come on down… McDowell is still small enough that you won’t get swallowed up in a crowd, the people are great, it’s very well organized, and you may even bump into me as I stumble out of my rented RV! YoW!

McDowell Mountain Music Festival – 2009 (Web Site)

Friday, April 24th

Saturday, April 25th

Two years ago, the Neville Brothers were there, and I shot one of the musical highlights of my life…

What Laura Says CD Release Party

It take a lot to get my arse out on a weekday night, and Wednesday night I will do just that and head down to the Rhythm Room in Phoenix for What Laura Says‘ CD release party. I’ve been playing the hell out of their label debut, Thinks and Feels, for the last couple of weeks. These guys are the real deal folks…. killer harmonies, a retro feel, an indie folk vibe – just really refreshing.

If you’re in the Phoenix area, join me down at the Rhythm Room.

Here’s one of the tunes from their new CD…

What Laura Says – July 23 (mp3)

Check out some more tunes on their MySpace page.

I’ll have a lot more on these guys soon.

Thinks and Feels was released last week. Check it out…

Review: George Michael in Phoenix, June 22

You know what’s entertaining to me? The looks I got from people over the last couple of months – some of them close friends of mine – when they found out I was going to see George Michael in concert. Say what you will friends, but like a lot of people, George’s music has been a part of my life for over 20 years.

Thinking back, I was never a huge fan of the Wham! stuff. It wasn’t until 1987, when George released Faith, that I would call myself a fan. Four words reeled me in: I – Want – Your – Sex.

Review: Citizen Cope with Alice Smith, Live at the Marquee Theater

While a mass of humanity took in Fergie’s (disappointing? gasp!) set across Town Lake at the Tempe Music Festival, we smart ones were filing into the Marquee Theater to take in D.C. / Brooklyn artist Citizen Cope. It was billed on the venue’s web site as “an evening with no support”. But I was pleasantly surprised when a tall, slender female figure took the stage at 8:10 and tore the roof of the joint with a short four song set…

A Local Joe Strummer Tribute with Glass Heroes

joe strummer and keith jackson of glass heroes

I had December 27th marked on my calendar since early November. A Joe Strummer Tribute & Benefit in my own hometown? Yes please! I headed down to my favorite small club in Phoenix, the Rhythm Room, and caught the last two bands, the Jeff Dahl Band and headliner Glass Heroes. Keith Jackson is the lead singer and guitarist in Glass Heroes (that’s him with Joe Strummer above), and this is the fourth year in a row he has organized a local Strummer tribute to benefit Strummerville.

strummer benefit at the rhythm room

I was impressed by both bands. They’re both veterans of the Arizona punk scene, which is alive and well. Dahl’s four piece power combo tore through their set, the rhythm section of Jason Smith (bass) and particularly Russ Covner on drums laying down some ferocious punk beats. Really impressive. They kicked off the set with “Janie Jones”, then concentrated on their own material for the next 35 minutes or so.

Keith Jackson and his Glass Heroes were next. They offered up great versions of “What’s My Name”, “Tommy Gun”, another “Janie Jones”, and “Police on my Back”. Their originals definitely showed the Clash influence. One of my faves was “Kick Down the Doors”, which I grabbed off their MySpace page. Check it out below.

Kudos to Keith for keeping Joe’s spirit alive, and gathering the local Strummer faithful for a great evening.

Glass Heroes – Kick Down the Doors (mp3)

Links: Glass Heroes Official Site | MySpace | Jeff Dahl Band’s MySpace

Have you guys and gals checked out imeem yet? It’s a social music site where you can stream music & videos. The extra bonus is that they have licensing agreements with 2 out of the 3 major labels, so you can find and listen to full songs, make your own playlists, and basically waste several additional hours of your life on another music site. Here’s a lil’ Strummer / Clash mix I put together.

Ickmusic Local: Stone Devil Hill

The local music scene in New York’s Hudson Valley, by in large, consists of a myriad of cover bands, the occasional singer-songwriter, a smattering of bluesmen, a punk trio or two and a plethora of de-tuned metal-core bands. While Poughkeepsie’s Stone Devil Hill doesn’t squarely fit into any of those genres they certainly contain the sensibilities of them all combined into a very cohesive package that ranges from melodic and soaring to heavy and grooving. Their debut record …for the fallen captures the essence of the bands energy and highlights the groups strength in songwriting. Heavier tunes like the lead-off track “Down with the Captain”, “A.F.O.C”, and “Neverchange” take notes from the forefathers of heavy metal and groove with an urgency that is relentless. Lyrics ranging from political to deeply personal are delivered with the utmost passion and the slow burn of “Child Inside” and “Lost Denial” feature dual vocals reminiscent of Alice in Chains at their best. And putting the power back in the ballad the track “This Lie” is nothing short of majestic. As a teaser here is the band at their most honest and passionate…

Stone Devil Hill20 Years (MP3)

Buy: …for the fallen Buy

Link: Official Site | MySpace

Local IckMusic: What Laura Says Thinks and Feels

what laura says thinks and feels

As a married pops of two living in the sticks outside of Phoenix, my days of spending five out of every seven nights bar-hopping and band-watching have come to an end. So my knowledge of the local music scene is pretty much limited to the local press and the occasional night out.

Today, a columnist for the Phoenix New Times posted about a cool local band on his blog. The title of his piece is ‘Annals of Bad Band Names’, and he has a valid point in this case: the band’s name is What Laura Says Thinks and Feels. They may have a good story behind the name, so I won’t judge. And after hearing these tunes, I was willing to overlook the silly name, because this stuff is infectious… a retro feel but completely unique at the same time. Folky, trippy, Brit-poppy, Brian Wilson-y.

Add your -y’s in the comments.

What Laura Says Thinks and FeelsCouldn’t Lose Myself If I Tried (mp3)

The New Times post has another tune you can listen to.

Their MySpace has three other tunes, including a nice soft one called “Dot Dot Dot” (reminds me of Kings of Convenience). And of course it’s excellent karma to support an unsigned band, so go to their CD Baby page and pick up their album. Or get it on iTunes. After listening to these songs, I think a lot of you will.