Thursday, December 31, 2015

JULE VERA: 2015 Band of the Year

2015 Band of the Year

This was such a clear-cut
no-brainer that I almost
feel sorry for all of the
other bands in the world.

The mission was clear as I fought my way tooth and nail through the turnstile, entering last summer's Orlando, Florida Vans Warped Tour date. In fact, there were only TWO simple objectives. 1) See Ariel Bloomer perform live with Icon for Hire. 2) Stalk, and then propose to Ariel Bloomer, immediately after seeing her perform with Icon for Hire. Unfortunately, said mission would be thwarted, as a torrential downpour brought the daylong festival to a screeching halt, just before Ariel was set to take the stage. But for me, oddly, the real Warped Tour story actually revved-up before the clouds ever rolled in.

I thought that my 2015 Warped Tour
experience was going to be all about
Icon for Hire. I thought wrong.
12:45pm — I'd already been up for hours, and after sweltering in the scorching Florida summer sun since 9am, I was famished and parched. With my super-tough guy survival instincts now melting away at warp speed, all I really wanted at that moment was a tasty fresh concert corn dog and an icy cold $10 lemonade. But just as a concession stand popped into view, I was stopped suddenly, dead in my tracks by a supernatural force that began drawing me physically to the Hard Rock Kevin Says stage. As I was pulled closer to the stage, I began to recognize the sounds. I'd heard them before, in the past — long, long ago. Electric guitar riffs that actually sounded as if they were being created by — electric guitars. The glorious thunder of bass guitar, stuck together with sonic crazy-glue to power-drumming that didn't sound like synchronized drill presses. And angelic vocals draped around glorious melodies. Oh, now I remember those sounds. Those are the sounds of a real rock band! From the merch booths, all I could see onstage were skinny jeans airbrushed onto railroad spike bodies, flailing guitars and hair — lots and lots of hair. At a distance, I struggled to decipher the band's logo banner. Hmm. Looks like it says Julie Ever.

I didn't have a clue about any impending ominous weather conditions, or about this particular little-known up-start called JULE VERA when I awoke that morning and headed off to Orlando. But by day's end, I'd been affected profoundly by both.

Jule Vera, doin' the deed
in Orlando, FL - 7.5.15
The first thing that thwacked me, upon arriving at my final destination — pinned against the security barricade directly in front of the Kevin Says stage, was the unique-sounding effect of guitarist Jake Roland screaming into the pickups of his tour-beaten, classic Gibson SG. Wow, this kid's got style. By the end of their set, I'd made five other professional observations: 1) That girl up there sings and performs like a God-sent angel. 2) I wanna be in a band with that drummer. 3) That bass player is a freaking rock star. 4) I gotta get their record  today! 5) Jule Vera should AND could be the BIGGEST band — in the world.

The story of Jule Vera is a bona fide rock and roll fantasy dream come true — a prime example of how the biz can work, if you get it ALL "right." A couple of high school kids from a small town in Alabama form a rock band, somewhere around 2012. They play the right song, at the right show, in front of the right industry guy. That right industry guy falls in love with the band, makes a line-up adjustment, helps to further polish their songs, then produces their record. In short order, the band lands a record deal. In shorter order, the band subsequently scores a slot on the 2015 summer Warped Tour. And by mid-summer, their epic debut record is released. BAM!

Ansley Newman is a God-sent angel.
I said it. I meant it. And I'll stand by it.
Although they've been compared stylistically to many of their contemporaries, what sets Jule Vera apart from the rest of the Hot Topic pack is that they deliver substance over style, which equates into impeccably well-written songs. Life is often tough enough already. Hence, I don't personally embrace music that only further amplifies the world's darkness. I want, need, and demand music with a crunch that's gonna crack my ribs and a thump that knees me in the nards, all wrapped in a vocal that kisses me gently on the cheek. That's Jule Vera! And their debut record, Friendly Enemies, hasn't left my car hi-fi for more than a few minutes at a time since last July. I even named it, "Record of the Year," in my recent 2015 wrap-up feature. You can find my official review of Friendly Enemies HERE

Possessing second-to-none drive, dedication and determination, Jule Vera embarked on their second U.S. tour last fall, supporting Against the Current. Like a crazy kid ripping open a package on Christmas morning, I tore through the tour itinerary the moment that it was posted on social media. Orlando — November 15th. BINGO!

In an effort to arrange a one-on-one press op, I reached out to the band's handlers immediately. I didn't hear back. Didn't hear back. Still didn't hear back. Then, just a couple of days before the show, I heard back. YIPPY — IT'S ON! Then, I didn't hear back. Oh well. Better luck next time.

In true creeper-like fashion, I stalked Jule Vera
bassist William Stacey after their July 2015 Orlando
show and paid him $7 to pretend that he liked me.
So there I was, watching Fox News and enjoying a delicious roast beef sandwich at 1:38pm on Sunday, November 15th. With no Jule Vera pre-show interview ever being confirmed formally, I could enjoy that night's concert as a "civilian," and I wouldn't have to leave my house for another three hours. Ah, chillaxin! Suddenly, my phone pinged — a text from Alex, Jule Vera's tour manager confirming that my interview with the band WAS in fact, "ON," and that they'd be waiting to meet with me — in ONE hour. Yikes! There was NO way that I was going get from my house, just south of Cocoa Beach to The Social in downtown Orlando by 3pm. I still gotta shower. I still gotta get ready. ROCK-AND-ROLL-BABY! So I flew like a bat out of hell — racing, weaving in and out of traffic on I-95, at 90mph — while following-up with text messages to Alex — apologizing, and trying to stall him, while still saving face. "No worries," he reassured me. "Take your time. And be safe." With my stress level now diminished (ever so slightly), I backed-off the accelerator — bringing my in-flight speed down to only 85mph. Somehow, I'd arrived in Orlando, parked the car, and was at the Will Call window at 3:06pm. Thanks for the protection, Jesus!

Alex greeted me at the venue's back gate, and I could immediately see them  my guys  bassist William Stacey and drummer Kyle Horvath, standing near the club's rear loading entrance. In the distance, sitting on the curb behind the tour buses was Jake Roland — "noodling" on his aforementioned prized 1980s Gibson SG — a cherished gift from his guitar teacher in 2013. Seemingly all still shellacked with authentic stage shmeg from the previous night's show in Atlanta, the three guys welcomed me warmly. As we all sat cross-legged, "talkin' shop" on the greasy asphalt, I heard Alex announce that Ansley was getting her make-up done and that she'd be joining us, shortly. And within a matter of minutes, I had a pair of black leather boots and skin-tight black leggings planted in my immediate peripheral. She had arrived on the scene.

Jule Vera, live at The Social
in Orlando, FL - 11.15.15
I'm not saying that Ansley Newman has a halo. That would be unrealistic, and a bit silly. However, I will say that when I stood up and shook her hand, I may or may not have noticed that a rainbow had appeared suddenly above her head and that she was sprinkled with magical fairy dust — I think. But just like "one of the guys," she took up a space on the ground, along with the rest of us, and joined in on the conversation.

I went into this very informal Jule Vera interview as an acknowledged super-fanboy. Which was kinda dangerous, given that per my lifelong industry experiences, I've learned that the closer you get to your music heroes, the greater the disappointment — greed, egos, arrogance, intra-band turmoil, and other brutal rock and roll realities inevitably rear their ugly heads. That was NOT the case with Jule Vera. Prior to our meeting, I was impressed by the band professionally — their music and their apparent work ethic. However, following our little chat, I'd become wowed personally by their individual character. In fact, I'd never met such a decent, down-to-earth, and — humble group of artists.

Third-greatest day ever.
(Doggonit, I love this band!)
Jule Vera took the stage early that night — 6pm sharp. They performed a Xerox set list from when I'd first seen them live back in the summer. However, this show was different. There was only ONE stage — unlike the Warped Tour, where there are 73. The club was packed and hundreds of fans were jammed in nut-to-butt. Also, this was an indoor show. Crank up those crazy stage lights, please! I'd informed the band earlier in the day that The Social was well-known for it's state-of-the-art sound system, and I guaranteed them that they'd sound absolutely amazing. All of these ingredients made up a sure-fire recipe for a rip-roaring set. Simply put, Jule Vera delivered in spades — commanding the stage (as always) with confidence and undeniable arena caliber rock star power!

I shot this live clip of Jule Vera
at The Social in Orlando. Dig it!

Jule Vera is currently in the studio, developing songs for their second record. And in January 2016, they'll be heading out on their third US. tour, supporting Never Shout NeverOrlando  February 23rd. BINGO!

-Christopher Long
(December 2015)

The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.

Currently in development...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: The Year In Review

The Year In Review

Christmas gifts — delivered
and enjoyed. Holiday meals
— prepared and consumed.
The perfect time to pause
for a moment or two and
reflect on the year gone by.

Who could have predicted six months ago that Donald Trump would even still be in the presidential race at Christmastime, let alone be crushing his competition so handily in all the major polls? Yes, in a word, 2015 was "unpredictable," indeed.

The last 12 months also brought about enormous cultural breakthroughs. It was the year when us poor ol' naive Americans finally got a bit more "educated" becoming (almost) as "enlightened" as the super-savvy Europeans. We got taught (i.e. shamed) to embrace exciting and "sophisticated" new social perspectives. Marriage was given a more "open-minded," universally acceptable definition, while a macho dude who still possesses a full set of cockenballs enjoyed the lavished praise of "thinkers" worldwide for being a brave — woman. It was revealed that a white chick can actually be a black chick, if she just sticks to her story long enough, and more than ever before, modern-day Libs became acknowledged for being wiser than our forefathers — further determining that escalating global terror attacks are merely the result of climate changes. The harvesting and selling of human baby parts was apparently no big deal in 2015 — but if it was, it would have certainly (somehow) been Bush's fault. "Fete," "feteing" and "feted" — three words that had previously only ever been used 14 times in recorded history, suddenly became go-to words of choice for intellectual talking heads everywhere. We also learned this year that only some lives matter. But we never could quite agree on the color of that dress. I still believe that it was green. Suffice it to say, 2015 offered all of us bigoted, phobic, sexist old dudes a clear enough glimpse into the future that we now have ample reasons to celebrate our impending mortality. Check please!

Chillin' with my old pal, Harvey Geezer in 2015.
(Just hang in there, Harv - it won't be long, now.)
But guess what? No, really, guess what? Having said all that, 2015 wasn't entirely dumb. To be perfectly honest, I personally enjoyed a pretty darn good year. I made many great new friends of all ages in 2015. I was blessed to connect with an incredible crew of kids through my role as an adult leader at Central Life Church — particularly during last summer's Forever Young youth camp. These are kind, compassionate, loving, street-smart young people who actually give me hope for the future. And I'm honored to now claim them among my closest besties.

The Central Life kids helped to keep
me feeling "forever young" in 2015.
Last spring, I was "dismissed" early from my first jury duty experience following a pre-selection grilling from prosecution and defense attorneys. What had happened was, I openly maintained that, if after ALL evidence had been presented, there was still some "gray" area regarding the case, and it came down to a "tie-breaker" of sorts, I'd likely always side with law enforcement. That comment led the judge to immediately blow a gasket and to unleash a heated tirade about martians, my limited understanding of the law, and what he viewed as my lack of respect for his courtroom. An extraordinary, personal, birds-eye view of the American legal system.

Fulfilling my civic duty to
the best of my ability in 2015 .
In a completely random turn of events (despite trying my best to finally put it to rest this year), my longtime, award-winning band, Dead Serios, was confirmed in late 2015 as one of the many acts, along with the likes of KISS, Def Leppard, Slash, Korn, Scorpions and Boston that will be appearing at the Moonstone Music Festival in Orlando, FL — April 30th and May 1st, 2016. Had anyone told my 13-year-old self back in 1976 that I'd someday be in a rock band and that (at age 53) I'd actually be performing with KISS, I definitely would have wet my plaid polyester high-waters. ATTENTION EVERYONE: Never give up on your dreams — EVER!

My band, Dead Serios, will be performing at the
2016 Moonstone Music Festival in Orlando, FL.
Finally, I discovered several sensational new books and incredible new bands this year. I also experienced a few epic concerts and other live events in 2015 — discoveries and experiences that prompt me to now revisit some of my fave features from the last 12 months — just in case you missed 'em the first time around. So, let's take a look back together at "The Best of 2015."

Romantic Violence
-Christian Picciolini-

As a carefree kid growing up during the '70s,
and then as a rock music / chick-crazed teen
in the '80s, I wasn't much of a reader. That's
certainly changed in recent years. These
days, I can be found at my local beachside
Starbucks every morning, devouring another
page-turner along with my coffee and sweet
treat. Not only did I find Christian Picciolini's 
debut memoir, Romantic Violenceto be the
year's most compelling, I consider it (along
with Brian Welch's Save Me From Myself
and Brent Jensen's No Sleep 'Til Sudbury)
to be one of the three most riveting of the
last decade. You can read my official
review of Romantic Violence HERE.

Jule Vera
Friendly Enemies

Listen to our demo. Check out our YouTube
clip. "Like" our fan page. "Favor" our tweet.
Review our latest release. To be perfectly
honest, despite being buried beneath an
avalanche of bands reaching out to me in
2015, choosing "Record of the Year" was a
total no-brainer. Intrigued? Read my review
of Jule Vera's epic debut release HERE.

Fleetwood Mac
(Orlando, FL / 3.23.15)

From such personal old school favorites as
America and Black Oak Arkansas to the sea
of modern-day chart-busters performing on
this year's Vans Warped Tour, I must have
seen a gazillion live bands in 2015. But, my
ultimate concert experience was seeing the
iconic rock powerhouse, Fleetwood Mac 
oddly (at age 52), for the very first time. Oh
yeah, hugging drummer Mick Fleetwood
during the private pre-show meet-and-great
completed my personal "bucket list."And
BTW, at age 72, Christine McVie is still
a smoldering, red hot fox. She still sings
pretty darn good too. Read my official
Fleetwood Mac concert review HERE.

Modern Family

Given my narrow-minded, Christian
world view, Modern Family is a show
that some folks would expect me to hate.
And I'll be honest, based on what I had
read about this highly-rated award-winner,
I'd avoided it like the plague since its ABC
debut back in 2009. However, by 2015, I
could no longer contain my burning obsession
with co-star Julie Bowen. Hence, I buckled,
and I finally gave the show a fair shake.
Hmm, come to find out, it is (in my
aforementioned, narrow-minded Christian
world view), the smartest and funniest,
best-cast, best-written show on the ol'
tube. Simply put, I'm now a super-fan.
Hey Lilly, bring on season eight!


It's a bona fide Christmas miracle! A new
Jennifer Lawrence film that's NOT part of
that gawdawful Hunger Games franchise 
just in time for the holidays. Director David
 O. Russell assembled several of his go-to
all-stars (Lawrence, De Niro, Cooper) to
create his latest Oscar-worthy feature, Joy.
Ever mindful of casting spoilers, I'll simply
say that Lawrence carries the film famously,
portraying inventor and businesswoman,
 Joy Mangano. Compelling from start to
finish, Joy tells the semi-biographical
tale of Mangano, a gutsy and ingenious
dreamer, who beat the odds (and more
than a few nemeses) to become a multi
million-dollar American success. The
split-second Donna Mills mini cameo
alone makes this an extra-special "joy."

In my make believe mind I've been married
to Jennifer Lawrence for more than a year.
What? The Olsen twins dig dudes even older
than me. So, it could TOTALLY happen. Right?

Dana Loesch

2015 was the year in which I became
a Dana Loesch fan-boy. Known as
"The Conservative Alternative," I
tune in to her wildly popular radio
program, The Dana Show daily and
nightly on Orlando's 96.5 WDBO.
And in 2016, I plan to have an iChip
inserted in my brain so that I can
receive unlimited, non-stop Dana
Show podcasts — 24/7.

Larry Ollison

Author Larry Ollison knows a lot about
cool cars, classic rock and dirty socks.
He also knows the Word of God and
how to convey the message of Jesus
Christ in an engaging, no-nonsense,
conversational style. I read all of Larry's
books this past year. And as a result, I
feel like I've connected personally with
a new best friend — although I'd not
likely recognize him, even if he shanked
me while standing in line at Walmart.
Simply put, Larry's books are valuable,
relevant and HIGHLY recommended
life guides — regardless of whether or
not you subscribe to the Jesus factor.


Of all the great new friends that I
made this year, Alan just might
be my fave. Read his story HERE.

Lemmy Kilmister
(December 24, 1945 - December 28, 2015)

I was rocked (and NOT in a good way)
by the recent death of Motörhead
frontman / bassist,Lemmy Kilmister,
Read my personal tribute HERE.

All-Day Breakfast
at McDonald's

Simply put, we can ALL now devour
Egg McMuffins anytime, day or night,
from coast-to-coast. Yes, 2015 was
a pretty darn good year after all!

Thanks to Micky D's, I can now
enjoy quality cuisine, 24/7.

So there you have it — the highs and the not-so highs of the year gone by. And as we rev-up for 2016, I want encourage everyone to roll boldly into the new year. Love, forgive and make it the best ever! Can we do that? Yep, of course we can.

-Christopher Long
(December 2015)

The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.

Currently in development...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

LEMMY KILMISTER: A Personal Tribute to a Rock Legend

A Personal Tribute to a Rock Legend
(Dec. 24, 1945 - Dec. 28, 2015)

Simply put, founding
Motörhead frontman /
bassist, Lemmy Kilmister,
possessed more street
cred — more authentic
rock and roll style and
ball-busting swagger
than anyone — EVER.

June, 1981 — I'd come stumbling into my parents' house at 2am, following a night of drinking at my high school graduation party. The MTV era was still a few months in the future. Hence, the opportunity to see rock music videos on television was a rare treat. As I clicked on the TV and fell back onto the living room couch, I became captivated immediately by a particular raucous video from a hard-rocking band that was unknown to me at the time. The band was Motörhead. The video "Ace of Spades." It blew my mind. And so began my Motörhead obsession.

Motörhead never reached Taylor Swift-like status because, in my view, the band was just too cool, too real for mass consumption. However, for me and millions of other rock and roll misfit purists worldwide, the impact that Motorhead had was Beatles-like. In fact, Lemmy was my "Paul McCartney" — influencing and inspiring me musically and artistically for the last 30+ years.

I took this photo of Lemmy and my
buddy, Michael Coe, while at The
Rainbow in Hollywood back in 1997.
I devoured every Motörhead record that I could get my filthy little hands on during the '80s — OrgasmatronRock 'n' Roll, and Nö Sleep at All remain among my personal favorites.

I first met Lemmy in December 1988 — catching his attention as he wandered out a stage door exit — en route to a popular barbecue joint called Hog Heaven which was located across the street from the Daytona Ocean Center where Motörhead was performing with speed metal stalwarts, Slayer  and Overkill later that night. Long story short, he took the time to stop and sign my album — and he was really nice about it. I would run into Lemmy several more times during the '90s while on my various excursions to Los Angeles — typically during the wee hours, upstairs at the world-famous Rainbow Bar & Grill on the famed Sunset Strip. And he was always kind, always cool, always a class act.

Lemmy Kilmister, signing my friend,
Grasshopper's bass guitar while backstage
at Orlando's House of Blues in late 2015.
(Photo Credit: Grasshopper)
I'm not sure how it started, but somewhere around 1989, my award-winning rock band, Dead Serios, began ending each and every one of our concerts with the (now) signature tagline; REMEMBER — MOTORHEAD RULES! — while I simultaneously unfurl a super-sized Motörhead banner. It's become such an major part of our stage show, that to this day, people come up to me frequently and announce passionately, "Hey, dude — Motörhead rules!" It's pretty cool.

One of my favorite concert / road trip experiences occurred back in 2000 when I embarked on a last-minute pilgrimage with a couple of my skinhead cronies from Melbourne, Florida to see Motörhead live at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia. Just picture it — three beefy and ripe-smelling dudes, crammed into the front cab of a small pick-up truck for eight hours (each way), blasting and singing along to CDs from DioJudas Priest and of course, Motörhead as we rolled along the highways and bi-ways. FYI, the Atlanta show was superb.

With my band, Dead Serios  paying
heartfelt tribute to Motorhead, live on
stage at Melbourne, FL's King Center for
the Perming Arts 
in January 2015.
(Photo Credit: Michael O'Banion)
So there I was, enjoying a private holiday party with friends in New Smyrna Beach, Florida last night when I got the call from former Dead Serios drummer, Bill Erwin, delivering the tragic news. My rock hero, Lemmy Kilmister, had died earlier that day at age 70 — after reportedly being diagnosed with cancer, just two days earlier. I was rocked immediately — and NOT in a good way. I barely can describe how upsetting this is to me. So, I'll merely take this opportunity to celebrate the man, his music and his legacy by proclaiming once again... MOTORHEAD RULES!

-Christopher Long
(December 2015)



C'MON! -

Tuesday, December 22, 2015



I'll never forget pastor
Ryan Alonso's inspiring
Christmas message last
seasonencouraging us
to place ourselves into
Jesus' story. Little did I
know that Jesus was
gonna show up in mine.

It was the Sunday before Christmas 2014. As I recall, the brutal Florida winter temperatures that morning had dipped well below 78°. Yikes — I'm outta freaking antifreeze! I was the "new guy" attending the just-launched beachside campus of Central Life Church for maybe only the third time. I didn't know a soul. Nobody knew me. I was simply some unknown "Shmo" wearing festive nail polish and clutching a super-fab Hannah Montana lunchbox. Fearful of bogarting an acknowledged "Norm" seat of a church hierarchy member, I located a sure fire safe perch in the front row 'cuz you know how us church folk tend to gravitate toward the back of the Lord's house. 10am  showtime!

So there I was, sitting by myself, occupying my expansive piece of prime personal front row real estate taking in Pastor Ryan's heartwarming message of how the Christmas narrative becomes fresh and new when we place ourselves into Jesus' story. Solid stuff, to be sure. Then, just as Ryan was concluding the service, my phone pinged. You have a new text message. I glanced down at my phone and immediately recognized the number. Uh-oh, I better check this one sorry, Ryan. The text was from a one-time, long-time personal "colleague" who had decided recently that they no longer wanted me in their life. To paraphrase, the message indicated that I was a filthy hypocrite, a phony and a worthless, disgusting, despicable human being — and that once I had settled a certain financial issue with them the next day, they never wanted to see me, or even hear my name — ever again.

At that moment, my soul became so crushed by the anger, judgement and condemnation that this person was speaking into me (at Christmastime), I nearly vomited — right there in the front row right there in front of Pastor Ryan. For nearly an hour, I had been bathing in glorious light, but in a flash, I was drowning in a dismal sea of darkness. Then, Jesus showed up.

"Excuse me, sir," a soft, sweet voice spoke as I felt the gentle tug on my shirt sleeve. I looked to my left and there she was  now seated next to me — seemingly from out of nowhere — an angelic 10-year-old little girl named Natalie with huge, innocent brown eyes and fantastic, Slash-like curly brown hair. "God told me to make this Christmas card for you," she revealed, handing me a slightly frumpled piece of sketchbook paper on which she'd created an impeccable work of art  with the inscription, Merry Christmas! Joy to the World!

Wow. Unbeknownst to me, the entire time I had been sitting in the front row, distracted by, and reacting to the voice of the world, this precious child was sitting in the second row, hearing from, and responding to the voice of God. Simply put, I was speechless. A beautiful, honest and pure portrait representing God's peace, love, truth and light, I display Natalie's card prominently on my office wall year 'round. And it remains one of my all-time most cherished Christmas gifts. BTW, a year later, Natalie and I are no longer strangers. In fact, she's now become my 7th favorite person — EVER!

It never ceases to amaze me, when and where Jesus will choose to show up, or how he'll choose to speak to us once he arrives on the scene. He chose to show up on that December morning and speak to little Natalie. Then, through her, He spoke to me — all at Christmastime. Hmm.

Jesus Christ IS the reason for the season. Jesus is truth, light, peace, love, joy, kindness, patience, compassion and forgiveness. That's what the season is really ALL about. To perceive any of it any differently would be "buying" from the wrong "dealer."

In sum, as a wonderful little angel once told me, not too long ago, Merry Christmas! Joy to the World!

-Christopher Long 
(December 2015)



C'MON! -