Monday, April 24, 2017

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2 JR. - Florida Teens Recreate a Modern Classic (4.20-22.17)

HIGH SCHOOL
MUSICAL 2 JR.
Florida Teens Recreate
Modern Classic
(4.20-22.17)
__________________________

I hadn't had the chance to
take in a live stage show in
quite some time. And this
one was a whole lotta fun!
__________________________

It hardly seems possible, but the second film in Disney's wildly popular High School Musical series debuted a full decade ago, this summer. Where does the time go? However, hundreds of Palm Bay, Florida fans recently relived the musical's magic — like it was 2007 all over again.

Under the careful direction of Jennifer Rock and musical direction of Brady Boardman, Heritage High School's Musical Theatre class recreated the modern classic before enthusiastic crowds that filled the air-conditioned, state-of-the-art Heritage auditorium.

(L to R) Whitfill, Coliflower and Zill
Telling the engaging tale of spirited high school kids coming of age while working part-time summer jobs at the local country club, the energetic production played four times during the April 20-22 run and featured various actors in numerous roles, depending on the particular showing.

Bonely Paul as Troy Bolton (L)
Jordan Jarrett as Zeke Baylor (R)
With so many young and talented singers, dancers and actors playing so many roles, it would be darn near impossible for an outsider such as myself to not overlook a valuable contribution. Hence, I'll offer a heartfelt apology on the front end to those who I fail to acknowledge. 

The cast of High School Musical 2.
However, it would be remiss of me to not offer-up mad props to a few actors who caught my attention in particular — cast members including Bonely Paul as BMOC Troy Bolton, Johanna Whitfill as Troy's love interest Gabriella Montez, Kelly Price as the egocentric Sharpay Evans, Aspen Coliflower as the attention-starved Ryan Evans, Jordan Jarrett as Troy's buddy Zeke Baylor, Veronica LaCroix as the hyperactive Jack Scott and Dex Dawson as the stressed-out assistant country club manager Mr. Fulton. Brimming with contagious energy and boasting a fabulous hot pink coif, Kaitlyn Zill popped out nicely from the ensemble pack, while singer / pianist Caitlin Lenti sparkled like a diamond in her role as the delicate musical prodigy Kelsi Nielsen.

Kudos to cast and crew on a job well done!

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Southview - "Sunny Places for Shady People"

RECORD REVIEW
Southview
Sunny Places for Shady People
(Standby Records)
_________________________

Based out of Tampa, FL,
Southview is one of the
hardest-working young
rock bands in America.
_________________________

Driven by founding singer / songwriter / guitarist, Cody Travis, Southview personified the title of their debut record, Whatever it Takes, by touring relentlessly in 2015. In its stripped-down configuration, Cody and company toured again in support of its acoustic single, "Sunny Places For Shady People" throughout 2016. In 2017, the band has included the aforementioned single on the newly released "unplugged" EP of the same name. And along with the new record has come — you guessed it, more touring.

SOUTHVIEW
Released by Standby Records earlier this spring, Sunny Places for Shady People offers three engaging, acoustic-style tracks sure to tickle the inner Taking Back Sunday fan in all of us.

While the title track exhibits authentic, old school Good Charlotte-inspired phrasing, "What Did You Expect?" possesses more of a Plain White T's feel. Wrapping up the EP beautifully, "Interstate 75" resides exactly "where you want to be."

Revving on all cylinders, Southview shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. In fact, the band's full-length debut record is expected to arrive later this year.

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

OH THANK HEAVEN - THE "GURU" TURNS SEVEN!

OH THANK HEAVEN
The "Guru" Turns Seven!
________________________

In the immortal words
of Frosty the Snowman,
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"
Yes, my little "Guru"
is sure growing up fast.
________________________

It's a story I've shared before — so many times, in fact, most of my longtime readers can probably recite it themselves. But for those who have only recently discovered this groovy little piece of cyber real estate, let me start from the beginning...

I was still living in the mid 1990s during the early 2000s — writing entertainment features for various print publications and developing a few different potential book projects. Even in 2009, I still hadn't grasped the full concept of building an online audience. But by 2010 I'd finally signed my first book deal, and both my agent and publisher were encouraging me to step up my Internet marketing efforts. As a result, The Show Biz Guru was soon born.

My first book signing
appearance in 2010.
Given my lack of savvy in those days, this site was initially little more than an extension of my existing social media platforms — offering links to my reviews, personal appearance updates and details on what I might be doing in my personal life on any particular weekend. In fact, I was so out of touch, I didn't even consider a catchy or concise name for my site. I just threw out what was an inside joke at the time between me and a business colleague.

I hadn't given much thought to my lack of compelling content. My website was lame and boring, but so what  I didn't think anyone actually was coming here — the "Guru" existed only as a means of appeasing "my people." However, after about six months, I figured out how to determine the site's traffic stats. Apparently people from all around the world were, in fact, visiting — and the further I stretched to create quality content, the more my audience grew — and grew and grew. 

Teenage writer Bryce Willey is a favorite
frequent Show Biz Guru contributor.
From a smorgasbord of entertainment-related reviews to an array of faith and family-focused features, The Show Biz Guru now boasts a cavalcade of cultural commentary created by not only myself, but also from a proverbial rogues' gallery of guest contributors. And as we now move into year #8, I want to say thanks to everyone who has stopped by over the years and taken the time to read our work, leave occasional comments and has helped to spread the word.

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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Monday, April 17, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Belmont "Between You & Me"

RECORD REVIEW
Belmont
Between You & Me
(Mutant League Records)
________________________

There I was, chillin' and watchin'
some tube, when my14-year-old
compadre bursts into the room.
"You gotta check out this band!"
he wailed. "Why, do they suck?"
inquired. "No, dude!" he fired
back. "They're called Belmont
and they're freakin' amazing!"
________________________

With the release of their latest EP, Chicago's very own Belmont has served-up quite a tasty little entrée — one of the most exciting new records to come down the pike in recent months.

Tearing several pages from the Taking Back Sunday playbook, Between You & Me oozes endless DGD-style shredding pinned to engaging vocals, peppered with just enough "dirts" as to not cost 'em their "man card." Lyrically deep and musically cutting, guitarist Sam Patt suggested recently that the songs, "echo the sentiments of youth."

BELMONT
Kicking it off and knocking it down in just two minutes and change, "731" truly delivers the goods and makes for a spirited video. However, I would argue that it's the record's even more nut-busting second track, "Solitude," that should have been positioned as the opener — first impressions, yo.

"Shackles" is the type of tune that sets the big boys apart from the wannabes, and it's undoubtedly one of the most powerfully moving songs I've heard since Blue October first gripped me back in 2006. Simply put, "Shackles" serves a tremendous testament to Belmont's superb songwriting skills

Despite taking a full minute to "get to it," the tune "Overstepping" is a gloriously guitar-driven, Yellow Card-flavored gem, while "Minuscule" brings the EP to a rock-solid, bone-crushing conclusion.

A Five-Star effort, to be sure.

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)
_________________________

BELMONT ONLINE
- Twitter
- Email -
_________________________


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Saturday, April 15, 2017

THE FANTASTIC PLASTICS: New Wave Messiahs Teleport to 2017 Vans Warped Tour

THE FANTASTIC
PLASTICS
New Wave Messiahs Teleport
to 2017 Vans Warped Tour
________________________

I'm a simple guy. I like playing
obsolete video games. I also
enjoy watching TV. And when
it comes to pop music, I only
listen to duos from the future
that create authentic, electro-
style New Wave from the past.
________________________

Over the last 20+ years, many of my greatest musical discoveries have first popped onto my personal radar via the Vans Warped Tour. During the '90s, the annual traveling summer festival introduced me to such exciting bands as 311, Blink-182 and Less Than Jake. In recent years, I've stumbled across several super-squads, including Palaye Royale, Koo Koo Kanga Roo and Jule Vera. all while bouncing about between the various Warped Tour stages. This year, as a result of extensive, pre-tour research, I've spotted another treasure — weeks before twisting through the turnstile.

Sparkling like a genuine diamond placed among the counterfeit gemstones crammed into today's pop culture showcase, electro-retro darlings, The Fantastic Plastics is the first authentic synth siren to seduce me since the original New Wave glory daze of yore. In fact, Miranda Plastic and fellow Fantastic time traveler, Tyson Plastic ooze such an irresistibly engaging vibe and create music so uniquely fresh and exciting, I cited them recently as one of the "12 coolest, must-see" acts on this summer's Vans Warped Tour.

The Fantastic Plastics - "Troublemaker"
(Watch it NOW!)

Their back story  seemingly straightforward. After forming in Chicago back in 2009, the soon-to-be sensation relocated to Brooklyn in 2012. Along with the studio assistance of Dylan Plastic, the duo produced and dropped the groundbreaking debut EP Outsiders in 2014. Featuring such fan favorites as "Obsolete," "It's All Plastic," "Troublemaker" and "Assimilate," their acclaimed full-length follow-up, Devolver arrived in 2015. Released in 2016, their latest record, Invasion, is as appealing as pulling a Nintendo all-nighter. And we all know how appealing that is!

Okay, in the spirit of full disclosure, I will confess to being addicted completely to the Fantastic Plastics' infectious grooves, hypnotic melodies and snappy fashion sensibility — a grip that's almost as crippling as my addiction to Skittles and Red Bull. But I'm totally in control here. I'm still able to function. Well, at least I can still accomplish my homework and my workwork. And chances are, that might be me, pressed against the security barricade, sobbing hysterically, Beatlemania-style during their set when the Warped Tour stops in Denver on June 25th. 

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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Monday, April 10, 2017

RECALCULATING: Navigating Purposefully Along Life's Cluttered Highway

RECALCULATING!
Navigating Purposefully Along
Life's Cluttered Highway
_____________________________

I remember the old GPS units 
the modern-day Mother Mary-
type dashboard ornaments that
became the rage prior to smart
phone technology. Every time I
made a wrong turn, a calm, yet
confident voice announced 
Recalculating. Recalculating.
I occasionally still need to hear
that voice when I get off track.
_____________________________

It should have been glorious — that day back in 2010 when the UPS guy knocked on my door with a package from my publisher, containing the first dozen copies of my debut memoir. In short order, I cut open the box with a handy kitchen knife and immediately removed one of the pristine promos. As I flipped through what I recognized suddenly as 240 pages worth of poorly-written, F-bomb-drenched drivel, I became sick to my stomach. In pursuit of professional success, I had worked my entire life establishing myself within the entertainment biz. But when I finally got my big break, the product I offered the world was complete crap. Clearly, I needed to reassess my priorities. I needed to get my life on track. Then, I heard that voice Recalculating. Recalculating.

My 2010 debut memoir straight-up sucked!
Recalculating. Recalculating.
Fast-forward — 2017. To say that I'm a different guy now than I was in 2010 would be an understatement. And I'm thrilled to have just released the expanded new 5th Anniversary Edition of my second book — the faith-focused autobiography, C'MON! During the exhaustive (and reflective) four-month editing process, it dawned on me how several years have also passed since my third book, the Christian-themed release, Shout it Out Loud arrived in 2014. Hmm — even my last missionary excursion is now more than two years in the rear-view. I remain active with Youth Ministry and Life Groups, but the time I spend dedicated to those endeavors seems to also be getting squeezed out by life's ever-escalating busyness. There's that voice again Recalculating. Recalculating.

Connecting with my friends in Nicaragua.
(2014)
Yes, I often feel like I'm struggling to stay on course. But at 54, I don't have time to be veering off   oblivious to the cleverly disguised distractions along life's cluttered highway. Recalculating. Recalculating.

What I really desire is to be focusing more fully on others — leaning in and loving on people. But why is a personal connection to others so important, even at such a seemingly late stage in my life? Well, in recent years, I've been inspired by a truly selfless role model. Jesus Christ responded to ALL things consistently — offering love, kindness and compassion, 24/7. Even as he was being beaten, mocked, spit on and nailed to a cross, Jesus stayed on course, speaking forgiveness over his transgressors. That's a mighty bold and truly selfless road map — one that I want to follow.

TOTALLY ON TRACK!
I was blessed to witness and cheer on the
baptism of my two besties in April 2017.
Life is short, and at the end of the day, "we can't take it with us" — not our money, not our careers, not our political positions — nothing. As a result, I'd rather spend my remaining time investing into the lives of others. Can I ever live up to Jesus' perfect example? No way, dude. As I've mentioned, I still get caught up in my own stupid stuff every day. But at least I've got a great "GPS" on the ol' dashboard to help keep me "recalculating." 

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Bad Cop / Bad Cop "Not Sorry"

RECORD REVIEW
Bad Cop / Bad Cop
Not Sorry
(2015 Fat Wreck Chords)
_________________________

I'm so sorry I missed the
bus when this treasure was
released originally in 2015.
Um, better late than never?
_________________________

Produced by co-founding NOFX bassist and all 'round punk rock kingpin, Fat Mike, the full-length debut from California golden girls Bad Cop / Bad Cop boasts 13 hook-laden, cast iron nut-busters that meet all my favorite "C" word requirements — they're all "crisp," "crunchy," "catchy," "concise," and "clever." My other favorite "C' word — "cookie," isn't applicable here.

Kicking off with a recognizable nod to the Three Stooges, "Nightmare" oozes what seems to be a sweet sentiment. However, lurking beneath the infectious harmonies and the irresistible melody lies a testimonial to dysfunctional love — lyrics that could have been written by more than one of my ex's. Frightening, to be sure — yet totally satisfying.

As a (very) longtime nightclub DJ, I know the realities of the bar biz quite well. Hence, "Cheers" is another track that speaks to me on a very personal level — By light of day it´s hard not to notice, just how filthy this place can be. The smell of bleach and cheap shots, drowning out my ugly company. On a very personal level, indeed.

BAD COP / BAD COP
(Stacey Dee, Linh Le, Jennie Cotterill, Myra Gallarza)
Addressing the disgusting, disturbing, and all too real subject of domestic violence, "Sugarcane" is perhaps the record's most important tune. Bursting with delightful, NOFX-style gusto, this happy-sounding little number actually packs a powerful lyrical punch — a message that needs to be heard. And while I don't subscribe (necessarily) to answering to physical violence with more physical violence, I do believe that much of this song's message is spot-on — GET UP! GET OUT! GET ON! Pick a new life. One you´d be proud of! GET UP! GET OUT! GET ON! In this world, nothing´s impossible! FYI, you truly ARE worth (much) more than you can dream to think — and don't forget it!

Other highlights include the sorta "I Will Survive"-inspired, "Old Dogs" and the chest-thumping, "Like, Seriously?" While this one promotes language that's less than family-friendly, I must confess that my eardrums are in fact, extremely wet. A+ (Fat Wreck Chords)

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

THE DIRTY DOZEN: The 12 Coolest, Must-See Bands on Vans Warped Tour 2017

THE DIRTY DOZEN
The 12 Coolest, Must-See Bands
on Vans Warped Tour 2017
_________________________

As a crazed young man in 1996,
attended Vans Warped Tour
for the first timeAnd as a little
old man in 2017, I still revel in
the festival's rich pageantry.
_________________________

Simply put, I'm psyched about this year's Vans Warped Tour line-up. Quite honestly, given my personal penchant for guitar-driven, hook-laden, garage-birthed, power pop / rock, I believe 2017 represents one of the festival's strongest rosters in a very long time. In fact, I'll be attending multiple dates this summer. So, without further ado, let's swoop in and take a looksie at the 12 coolest bands on the upcoming sweat-soaked caravan.

12
ALESTORM

On the surface, Alestorm might seem
like a typical, booze-swilling modern-
day heavy metal vomit band — one in
desperate need of a shower. But check it
out, dude — they're pirates. Count me in!
___________________________

11
DANCE GAVIN DANCE

Wherever Will Swan is, so am I.
That is all.
(Dance Gavin Dance)
___________________________

10
BARB WIRE DOLLS

Anointed personally by
LemmyBarb Wire Dolls
is an authentic, nasty little
punk band with great songs.
I only hope to get so close to
the stage that I can shower
in the sweat dripping from
Isis Queen's dirty nylons.
___________________________

9
BAD SEED RISING

What I recall most vividly about seeing
Bad Seed Rising on the 2016 Warped
Tour is being knocked out by the overall
melodic savagery of the band's tunes, and
how impressed I was by the individual
performance of powerhouse frontchick
Francheska Pastor. I'm eager to relive
that steamy experience this summer.
__________________________

8
PLAYBOY MANBABY

One of my grooviest personal discoveries
since stumbling upon Koo Koo Kanga Roo
at Warped Tour 2015  Playboy Manbaby
has the second-coolest name on this year's
tour. And I will totally be front-and-center,
drooling like a bona fide fanboy in 2017.
_________________________

7
STACKED LIKE
PANCAKES

While Kellen McKay maintains his
band has the worst name on this year's
Warped Tour, I contend the Maryland-
based troupe has the coolest name on
the outing. Regrettably, I missed seeing
Stacked Like Pancakes while on the 2015
Warped Tour. However, based on their
high-energy performance at the festival's
recent kick-off press event, I won't be
missing them this time around.
__________________________

6
COURAGE MY LOVE

Canadian trio Courage My Love hooked
me immediately, and then reeled me in
with their polished, electro pop sound.
And I'm eager to see and hear how their
sweet and snappy package delivers on
a sticky and sweaty Warped Tour stage
__________________________

5
SAVE FERRIS

Spicier and scrappier than ever,
Monique Powell brings back
the original zesty Warped Tour
flavor with the latest edition of
Save Ferris. And if the band's
new record, Checkered Past
is an accurate indicator, they
ain't gonna be playing games.
A 2017 must-see, for sure.
_________________________

4
BAD COP / BAD COP

More macho than NOFX, and less fem
than Good Charlotte, California golden
girls, Bad Cop / Bad Cop just might
have the tastiest tunes out of all their
2017 counterparts. But if you tell them
otherwise, they just might beat your ass
out in the parking lot after the show.
Like, seriously? Yeah. Oh yeah!
________________________

3
THE FANTASTIC
PLASTICS

Super-fun and exciting,
The Fantastic Plastics
is so authentically and
beautifully old school,
they actually feel brand-
spanking new — the
most amazing cultural
advancement since Pong,
________________________

2
DOLL SKIN

Holy cow, I adore this band! So crisp, so
crunchy — and totally irresistible, I'll
be flying from Orlando to Denver just to
catch Doll Skin while on their abbreviated
run during the Warped Tour opening week.
_________________________

1
JULE VERA

There I stood  stupefied, with corn
dog in-hand, experiencing Jule Vera
for the first time on the 2015 Warped
Tour. Two years later, I've now seen
the kids from Lee County six times.
And I remain convinced that they are
in fact, the greatest band on earth.
_________________________

It's gonna be a long, hot, and glorious summer. See ya at the show(s)!

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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