Tuesday, August 14, 2018

DON BROCO: U.K. Powerhouse Rocks Famed U.S. Festival

Don Broco frontman Rob Damiani onstage in Orlando, FL. (8.3.18)
DON BROCO
U.K. Powerhouse Rocks
Famed U.S. Festival
___________

It was the last hurrah. The
final weekend of the final
Vans Warped Tour brought
the famed traveling music
festival to my home state of
Florida. I was psyched to
experience two of the three
final shows. However, I
was particularly pumped
about finally catching one
of the most exciting acts
on today's rock scene.
___________

The band's latest record, Technology, is one of the most celebrated slabs of 2018. And their heart-stopping music videos generate slews of web views, minute by minute. The only question remaining (for me) was if British rock sensation, Don Broco, actually could deliver the goods where it counts, live onstage.

Early afternoon conditions at Orlando's Tinker Field were perfectly brutal. The scorching sun and soaring temperatures — nearly unbearable. Oh, the "dog days" of summer. By 12:20, a sense of great anticipation, along with the distinctive fragrance of local marijuana mixed with a ripe scent of B.O. filled the air as a growing sea of sweat-soaked bodies had packed in — all primed and positioned for the U.K. powerhouse to take the Owly.fm stage.

ROB DAMIANI
West Palm Beach, FL
(8.5.18)
TOM DOYLE
West Palm Beach, FL
(8.5.18)
Seemingly dressed for a casual day at the beach (Gilligan-style hat, T-shirt, zany sunglasses, shorts, tube socks and sneakers), charismatic frontman, Rob Damiani, commandeered the mic in short order, welcoming Orlando fans to what likely would be their final Vans Warped Tour experiences.

Kicking off their concise 25-minute sets (Orlando - 8.3 / West Palm Beach - 8.5) with the infectious, funk-fused riffs of "Everybody," the boys from Bedford exploded onto the stage with total rock-ribbed swagger.

Appearing both days in equally casual attire (ABBA T-shirt, super-short shorts and sneakers), animated bearded guitar wiz, Simon Delaney, dazzled and delighted the Florida faithful – leaping back and forth across the stage, while energetic bassist, Tom Doyle, hopped and bopped with unrelenting enthusiasm.

MATT DONNELLY
West Palm Beach, FL
(8.5.18)
SIMON DELANEY
West Palm Beach, FL
(8.5.18)
Driven by the machine-like precision of drummer, Matt Donnelly, the Don Broco sets were both amazingly powerful treats to behold — every bit as impressive as the band's world-class studio work.

Featuring a fistful of recent monster-sized YouTube hits, including"Stay Ignorant," "T-Shirt Song," "Come Out to LA" and "Pretty," Don Broco delivered turbo-charged, hardcore, metal-fused, pit-worthy performances — even members of various other Owly.fm stage combos could be seen standing in the wings, singing along to Don Broco's infectious earworms.

So, did Don Broco "deliver the goods?" You betcha! My only question now is, how soon the band will be returning to the U.S. — ENCORE! 

-Christopher Long
(August 2018)
__________


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Thursday, August 9, 2018

DOLL SKIN: Arizona-Based Brigade Slays Sweaty Florida Fans (Orlando 8.3 / West Palm Beach 8.5)

DOLL SKIN
Arizona-Based Brigade
Slays Sweaty Florida Fans
(Orlando 8.3 / West Palm Beach 8.5)
__________

The look on her face was priceless
 that night back in 2017, when I
confessed to bassist Nicole Rich
how I believe that Doll Skin is
the most exciting American rock
band since Guns N' Roses. And
after catching two of the band's
recent Florida Warped Tour dates,
it's an observation that I stand by.
__________

The scorching early August heat already had reached brutal intensity by noon. But by 1:00, a slightly comfy cloud cover hovered over Tinker Field. "Orlando, take two steps forward — we want to see your beautiful faces," commanded ferocious frontchick, Sydney Dolezal, as her band, Doll Skin, stormed the Owly.fm stage. Sporting a fabulously fun-looking coif, dyed fluorescent orange and neon green, Dolezal captured and conveyed the true essence of the Warped Tour in short order, announcing to the throngs of faithful followers, “If you don’t feel like you belong anywhere else, you’re part of this family” — the perfect intro to the raucous opening tune, "Family of Strangers" — game on!

Sydney Dolezal
Alex Snowden
Driven by the bone-cracking drum work of Meghan Herring, the arena-sized sing-along, "Daughter," ignited the crazed Orlando crowd completely — "time to make Momma proud," indeed!

"We're Doll Skin from Phoenix, Arizona," Dolezal declared, leading into "Let's Be Honest." "And this song is about lesbians," she added, as guitarist Alex Snowden's razor-sharp riffs soon sliced the heads off the sea of unsuspecting enthusiasts.

Meghan Herring
Nicole Rich
As for Nicole Rich, the ultra-energetic, rail-thin, flaming pink-haired bassist delivered absolutely 100% heart-stopping performances — brandishing her cotton candy-colored weapon with bona fide, rock-ribbed confidence. Somebody bring me my nitroglycerin pills, please!

Simply put, Doll Skin has NOT proven to be an impressive tour de force based on the member's young 20-ish ages, or due to the band's "all-girl" distinction. Truth be told, what makes this brash combo such an exciting collective is that the band is comprised of seasoned performers — world-class rock musicians with world-class rock songs — a point proven by their jaw-dropping live remake of the 1969 Led Zeppelin classic, "Whole Lotta Love."

The Doll Skin after-show meet-and-greet
in West Palm Beach truly was a VIP event!
Offering additional heartfelt words of encouragement to the oft troubled Warped Tour contingent, Dolezal further stated, "You are the ruler of your destiny!" a powerful sentiment, leading into the band's equally powerful set-closer, "Punch a Nazi" — a modern day, angst-filled anthem that brought both Snowden and Rich into the Orlando pit — guitars-a-wailin'. Now, that takes balls!

-Christopher Long
(August 2018)
__________

Dig my other Doll Skin
feature stories...

Concert Review

Interview

Record Review

Record Review
___________



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Sunday, July 29, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: "My Life With Deth" - David Ellefson

BOOK REVIEW
My Life With Deth
- David Ellefson -
(Howard Books / 2013 / 257 Pages)
__________

How on earth it took five years
for this one to pop up on my
radar is a mystery to me. But
be sure, it's never too late to
discover an amazing story.
__________

With his 2013 memoir, My Life With Dethco-founding Megadeth bassist, David Ellefson delivers a beautifully written, deeply personal story of fame and fortune, faith and family.

Brimming with irresistible Joe's Garage-style charm (He used to cut the grass, he was a very nice boy), the Grammy-winning music industry guru offers a heartfelt glimpse into his upbringing on his family's Minnesota farm. A naive church boy coming of age during the 1970s, Ellefson recounts his earliest rock and roll discovery   Bachman-Turner Overdrive's classic, Not Fragile — on 8-track. Of his first KISS concert experience in 1977, he recalls the overwhelming enormity of the spectacle and how, "there was pot smoke everywhere."

Eager to shed his rep as a "dork from the farm," Ellefson soon is seduced by friends into a life of teenage partying — hanging out playing video games at the local bowling alley and navigating through a menagerie of early cover bands — a time when he admits to first developing a "bias against religion."


Revealing a treasure trove of unique and riveting insights regarding his life as a heavy metal superstar, Ellefson succeeds in taking the high road throughout, as he dissects in great detail Megadeth's legendary history — including his decades long creative partnership with the band's iconic co-founding guitarist, Dave Mustaine. Oozing humility, Ellefson is equally transparent in dishing about his own personal demons and struggles, such as his uncontrolled addictions and financial snafus. He further shares his personal triumphs — from his ultimate sobriety to his spiritual awakening.

Packing more punch than the typical chest-thumping rock star tell-all, Ellefson's story is refreshingly real. A gripping tale of inspiration, encouragement and hope, My Life With Deth is a contagious read  — one that delivers an incredible payoff.

-Christopher Long
(July 2018)
__________

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: "Never Look at the Empty Seats" - Charlie Daniels

BOOK REVIEW
Never Look at the
Empty Seats: A Memoir
- Charlie Daniels -
Thomas Nelson / 2017 / 288 Pages
__________

A gifted musician and celebrated
songwriter, Charlie Daniels is
an American treasure. But above
all, he's a master storyteller. And
his recently released memoir is a
surefire treat for those who, like
me, crave a great story.
__________

Ah, yes  the summer of 1973. I was just ten years old when "Uneasy Rider," the breakout single from Charlie Daniels, was racing towards the Top 10 on Casey's weekly countdown. 45 years later, I continue to take issue with how the (now) legendary track is dismissed occasionally as a mere "novelty" record. "Uneasy Rider" wasn't "The Purple People Eater" or "Ahab the Arab." It was a captivating musical story of an unlucky, yet resourceful guy who just happened to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time — kind of a redneck-looking joint called the Dew Drop Inn. The compelling lyrics captured my young imagination completely, and the record ultimately would inspire the story-based hard rock songs I would write later in life. Even as his career was propelled into the stratosphere with an impressive string of chart-busting classics during the late '70s and early '80s, the true magic of Daniels' guitar and fiddle-driven all-American music was, for me, all about his impeccable storytelling. As a result, upon discovering Daniels' recently released memoir, Never Look at the Empty Seats, I was sold in short order. 

Told in his uniquely engaging, downhome, conversational style, Daniels reveals an array of insights into his personal and professional life openly and (seemingly) honestly. From his humble beginnings as a kid growing up in various southern U.S. locales during the Great Depression and World War II eras of the late '30s and early '40s to his days as an energized young musician coming up on the nightclub scene during the fabulous '50s and crazed '60s, Never Look at the Empty Seats serves as much as a concise crash course in American history as a personal memoir.

Early on, the (now) 81-year-old entertainment industry vet confesses how the driving force behind writing his book was to offer guidance and inspiration to aspiring artists. In that regard, the key professional takeaway might be the old adage, "It's not what you know, but who you know," as Daniels recounts his six decades worth of first-hand experiences working with such music icons as Bob Dylan, George Harrison, The Marshall Tucker BandLynyrd Skynyrd and many others. In fact, Daniels' rapid-fire roll call of performers, producers and promoters with whom he has worked can often be a bit overwhelming.

About two-thirds into his story, Daniels dedicates a full chapter (or more) to addressing his personal faith. While he claims not to be an expert in theology, I would disagree strongly with his transparent assessment. As someone who does have a degree in Bible studies, I found his non-denominational breakdown of Christianity to be crystal clear and absolutely spot-on accurate. In fact, Daniels' narrative burns brightest when sharing his personal faith perspectives. C'mon and preach it, Pastor Charlie!

From celebrating his incredible personal and professional highs (a 50+ year marriage, sold-out concert tours and platinum-selling records) to revealing heartbreaking lows (Daniels nearly lost his arm in 1980 during a heavy equipment accident and at one time was two million dollars in debt), Never Look at the Empty Seats delivers readers a riveting payoff. In sum, Daniels has offered up a bona fide page-turner — a fabulous summertime read, to be sure.


-Christopher Long
(July 2018)
__________

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

GRETA VAN FLEET: Modern-Day Rock Messiahs Drop Explosive New Track, "When the Curtain Falls"

GRETA VAN FLEET
Modern-Day Rock Messiahs
Drop Explosive New Track,
"When the Curtain Falls"
__________

Contrary to what some
purists may choose to
believe, apparently, rock
and roll ain't dead after
all — not by a long shot.
__________

When Michigan-bred brigade, Greta Van Fleet, first thwacked the international music scene with the blistering 2017 debut EP, Black Smoke Rising, the band re-ignited and re-inspired a pure rock passion in fans of all ages around the world — and in very short order.

In a vein similar to such other current rock revivalists as The StrutsPalaye RoyaleJule Vera and  YYNOT, Greta Van Fleet hemorrhages irresistible songs — gloriously organic, well-crafted rock songs. Proving that the band's breakout release and subsequent expanded double EP were no fluke, the acclaimed four-piece combo has returned in 2018 with "When the Curtain Falls" — a crunchy and concise taste of what's to come when the group's debut full-length record arrives via Lava / Republic Records later in the year.

Greta Van Fleet - "When the Curtain Falls"
Check it out NOW on YouTube!

Finding 22-year-old frontman, Josh Kiszka, to be in fine Plant-like vocal form, "When the Curtain Falls" also oozes the alluring classic rock guitar work of 22-year-old, Jake Kiszka. Reinforced by the moist and throaty rhythm section of 19-year-old bassist, Sam Kiszka, and 19-year-old drummer, Danny Wagner, the track already is fanning the flames of Greta Van Fleet's budding international notoriety.

But is it going overboard to proclaim Greta Van Fleet as modern-day rock messiahs? Well, in a recent Rolling Stone feature, the iconic arts and culture publication commented, “Greta Van Fleet is making rock and roll cool again for a younger demographic.” Hmm. Told ya so.

Greta Van Fleet - live onstage 2018
Upcoming Greta Van Fleet 2018 Summer Concert Dates:

JULY
18  Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PA
20  9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.
21  The Anthem, Washington, D.C.
23  House of Blues Boston, Boston, MA
24  House of Blues Boston, Boston, MA
27  Floydfest, Floyd, VA
29  Panorama Music and Arts Festival, Randall’s Island Park, New York, NY
31  The Agora Theatre, Cleveland, OH

AUGUST
1   The Pageant, St. Louis, MO
3   Lollapalooza, Chicago, IL 
4   Vic Theatre, Chicago, IL*  (Lollapalooza aftershow)
18  Summer Sonic Festival, Osaka-Shi, Japan
19  Summer Sonic Festival, Tokyo, Japan
23  Maui Arts & Cultural Center, Kahului, HI 
24  The Republik, Honolulu, HI

-Christopher Long
(July 2018)
__________

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Friday, July 13, 2018

RECORD REVIEW: Ken Sharp "I Wanna Be David Cassidy" (Jetfighter Records)

RECORD REVIEW
Ken Sharp 
"I Wanna Be David Cassidy"
(Jetfighter Records)
__________

While visiting South Florida
recently, I finally got my
hands on a limited edition 7"
vinyl copy of Ken Sharp's
infectious musical tribute
to the late David Cassidy. I
"got happy" in short order.
__________

It was a lifetime ago — 1971. Richard Nixon was revving up for "Four More Years," Laugh-In was one of the top-rated American TV shows and kids from coast-to-coast were being introduced to a couple of tasty, not-so-terrifying characters known as Count Chocula and Franken Berry. 1971 also was a magical time for pop music, as The Osmonds, Bobby Sherman and The Jackson 5 dominated Casey's weekly countdown. And television / music superstar, David Cassidy, was hot as a pistol.

For pre-pube purists like me and millions of other salivating die-hards during that glorious shag-covered era, David Cassidy was our "Elvis." The irresistible pop / rock music he produced and the feather-coiffed, boy-next-door image he projected fueled a lifelong fire that would lead us in our teens to discovering and worshiping such guitar-driven idols as The RaspberriesThe Bay City Rollers, Rick Springfield and Cheap Trick.


When the Partridge Family icon passed away last fall, the shocking news hit me like a mule kick to the rib cage — as if a chunk of my cherished childhood had gone with him. Fortunately, fellow aficionado, best-selling author and acclaimed singer / songwriter, Ken Sharp, was quick to offer the grieving masses an infectious feel-good tribute to the true "King of Pop" in his timely single, "I Wanna Be David Cassidy."

Written and performed primarily by Ken Sharp and overseen by famed musician and co-producer, Fernando Perdomo, the single captures Sharp's passion perfectly, from the personal lyrics, right down to the authentic-sounding harpsichord backing track and the realistic classic, black and silver Bell Records-inspired label on the 7" vinyl edition. A highlight track from Sharp's 2016 full-length record, New Mourning, the single's B-Side, "Let's Be Friends" is equally a pop treasure.

Recorded at Reseda Ranch Studios in Reseda, California and at The Manor in Toluca Lake, California, the single currently is available digitally on iTunes and BandCamp, as well as on 7" vinyl via Jetfighter Records.

-Christopher Long
(July 2018)

__________

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Monday, June 25, 2018

VINNIE PAUL: A Personal Tribute to a Rock Legend

Photo: Karen Romano Adams - www.stknthe80srockpix.com
VINNIE PAUL
A Personal Tribute
to a Rock Legend
__________

A famous rock star for whom
I worked years ago once told
me, "All we have in life is
our reputation." If that's true,
then Vinnie Paul was quite a
wealthy man, to be sure!
__________

Simply put, Vinnie Paul revolutionized drumming in the 1990s the same way Eddie Van Halen revolutionized guitar playing in the 1970s — he turned the whole game upside down. In fact, upon the release of the platinum-selling, landmark 1990 album, Cowboys from Hell, Paul's band, Pantera, also revolutionized the entire world of heavy metal — precisely at the time when the genre was most in need of a game-changing kick in the ass. Almost overnight, an entire generation of new drummers (and more than a few seasoned players) were taping quarters to their kick drum heads, in an attempt recreate Paul's signature drum sound. Truth be told, the ripple effect of Paul's influence on modern hard rock drumming can still be seen to this day.

Arguably THE most groundbreaking
hard rock / metal record of all time!
I vividly can recall both the first and last times I saw Vinnie Paul perform live. The first was in South Florida, near the end of 1991. Pantera now had blown up HUGE. The band's Cowboys follow-up record, Vulgar Display of Power was set to arrive just a few months later, and the club was packed to the rafters. Driven by Paul's ferocious drumming, and fueled by the equally revolutionary guitar style of his younger brother, Dimebag Darrell, the band's performance was potent, to say the least. As for frontman Phil Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown, what they brought to the live Pantera concert experience was simply brutal. I would enjoy experiencing MANY more live Pantera concerts over the next six years.

"A Decade of Domination," indeed!
The last time I saw Vinnie Paul perform live was equally memorable. Although there were several big-name bands scheduled to perform that night, I only had interest in seeing one of them —  Hellyeah. I'd seen the band in concert previously, back in 2011. But on that steamy night in July 2016, I hadn't come out to Orlando's Hard Rock Live for Hellyeah, the band. I'd ventured out specifically to see Hellyeah's drummer — the one and only, Vinnie Paul. It was so cool — as the house lights dropped, signaling the commencement of Hellyeah's set, the crowd offered a moderate rumble of approval. However, fans went absolutely berserk when a tiny spotlight appeared between the drums' two tom-toms — revealing Vinnie Paul's animated-looking face, grinning wildly while twirling one of his drumsticks. As always, his performance was masterful.


Over the years I've met and worked with many music industry professionals  and I've never met even one insider (or fan) who has ever had even one slightly negative thing to say about Vinnie Paul. He truly was admired and loved by all — which makes the recent news of his passing on June 22 all the more tragic, and the sense of loss even greater. I never had the opportunity to connect personally with the man — I sure wish I had. Fortunately, I still have many memories of great times seeing him perform live in a couple of his different bands. And as one of his many fans around the world, we'll ALL have Vinnie Paul's recorded music to enjoy forever. Thanks, dude — RIP!

-Christopher Long
(June 2018)
__________

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