Wednesday, March 29, 2017

JULE VERA: The Greatest Band on Earth?

JULE VERA
The Greatest Band on Earth?
_________________________

SPRING BREAK 2017
Perfect timing for a couple
of rock and roll road trips!
__________________________

There I was, standing front-and-center — twisting and turning, racked with pain. I needed to pee, desperately — worse than I ever had in my entire life. But my buddy RV and I had just driven nearly four hours — from Melbourne, Florida to New Port Richey, and I wasn't about to budge from my bird's-eye perch located just spitting distance from the stage. I mean, what if something horrible happened while en route to the Port-a-Potty? What if I was abducted? What if I was murdered? Or even worse, what if my prime spot got swiped by those suspicious-looking teenage girls standing close by? Nope, I wasn't taking any chances. I'd just have to "hold it" until after the show — a very small price to pay to see the greatest band on earth.

Ansley Newman - Orlando, FL (3.22.17)
*Photo: Sara Taylor
The story of Jule Vera reflects nothing short of a spectacular rocket ride. Rewind, 2014 — a few fresh-faced kids from Lee County, Alabama win the rock and roll "lotto" — signing their first record deal while barely out of high school. Oozing infectious earworms, the band's acclaimed debut album, Friendly Enemies, arrived in the summer of 2015 — just in time to embark on the 40-city Vans Warped Tour. Following three rapid-fire U.S. outings and one European jaunt, Jule Vera had become anointed media darlings by the spring of 2016. And after being holed up in the studio for the last year, they're finally set in 2017 to drop their highly-anticipated sophomore release — while also gearing-up for their second Warped Tour summer excursion. But not before sliding down to Florida for a couple of Spring Break warm-up dates.

Kyle Horvath - New Port Richey, FL (3.19.17)
*Photo: Christopher Long
Lined with arts and crafts booths and brimming with food and beverage vendors, Jule Vera's aforementioned New Port Richey show was part of the weekend-long St. Patty's Day festival held outdoors at Fiddlers Green Irish Pub on Sunday, March 19th. Hundreds of sun-burnt music fans were in attendance for the 5pm showtime. And from my "Jack Ruby" locale I continued gawking like a bona fide "belieber" as the band burned through a turbo-charged, 30-minute set. Ahh — finally, time to pee!

Jake Roland - Orlando, FL (3.22.17)
*Photo: Sara Taylor
Wednesday, March 22nd — after taking a couple of days to recuperate, I was back on the road, heading off to Orlando's Full Sail University with my teenage compadre, Vance. Our mission — to cover the 2017 Vans Warped Tour official kick-off press event for ink19.com.

For more than an hour, a sea of fashion-conscious fans, and an army of culturally-enlightened journalists all waited patiently in hopes of being passed through the very thorough Full Sail Live security checkpoint in time for the event's 6pm commencement.

Will Stacey - Orlando, FL (3.22.17)
*Photo: Sara Taylor
Hosted by the Warped Tour’s founding visionary, Kevin Lyman, the media-centered soiree proved ultimately to be more of a fast-paced, high-energy, state-of-the-art rock show than a stuffy, pretentious press conference. Including such marquee names as BlessTheFall and Memphis May Fire, the night's five-act roster was impressive, to be sure. And in short order, Lyman introduced the first live band of the evening, Jule Vera — much to the delight of the Full Sail Live crowd.

Chase Haws - Orlando, FL (3.22.17)
*Photo: Sara Taylor
I've seen some short Jule Vera sets over the last year, but this two-song showcase featuring their concert staple, "Chemical Machine" and the irresistible, just-released single, "Lifeline" was one for the record books. But in true "get 'em on, and get 'em off" Warped Tour fashion, none of the bands on the show played more than two songs, and it made for an exhilarating concert experience.

Now, was a 30-minute mini set and a two-song micro set really worth the two-day, 600-mile 'round trip effort? Abso-freaking-lutely! And do I really believe that Jule Vera is the greatest band on earth? Doesn't everybody? #GreatestBandOnEarth

-Christopher Long
(March 2017)

*Concert photography courtesy of
Sara Taylor @ TheAmericanPit.com


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

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

Currently in development...

Monday, March 27, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Night Ranger - "Don’t Let Up"

RECORD REVIEW
Night Ranger
Don’t Let Up
(Frontiers Music)
_________________________

ATTENTION:
Calling all classic-style arena
rock enthusiastsSan-Fran's
chart-busting powerhouse is
back with a brand new record.
And it's gonna fit ya like your
favorite ripped pair of 501's.
_________________________

Simply put, the self-produced 2017 studio slab from Night Ranger will easily scratch the itch of even their most casual fans. Kicking off with a super-friendly and familiar-sounding double whammy   the lead-off single, "Somehow Someway" and "Running Out of Time" are both straight-up, melodic, premium-blend rockers. But the good times don't let up there, as this sizzlin' 11-song set oozes highlights, such as the Camaro-style "Day and Night" and the Midnight Madness-flavored "Say What You Want."

With 11 previous studio records and 35 years now in the rear view,  it's amazing (to me) that Don't Let Up actually boasts (arguably) some the band's ALL-TIME best material. Possessing engaging lyrics enveloped in a delightful melody, "Truth" is an irresistible, mid-tempo rocker — while "Comfort Me" is a soaring, arena-caliber, pop-tinged treasure.

NIGHT RANGER
If young people still liked music, there would tremendous potential for "We Can Work it Out." In fact, if passed off to one of those modern-day fake country guys, it would likely be a monster-sized Top Ten smash  impeccable songwriting craftsmanship, to be sure.

With it's infectious melody, less-than-cerebral lyrics and chunkin' guitar riffs, "Jamie" is a true gem that points directly to the band's golden Dawn Patrol days. In short, it's a glorious, show-stopping shredfest.

And then there's "Nothing Left of Yesterday." This compelling record-closing epic smacks of Damn Yankees with a splash of Hoobastank making for my personal pick of the litter.

Yes, Virginia — apparently you can still rock in America. Bravo! (A-)

-Christopher Long
(March 2017)

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

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

Currently in development...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Doll Skin "In Your Face (Again)"

RECORD REVIEW
Doll Skin
In Your Face (Again)
2016 EMP Label Group
_________________________

Crisp and crunchy  fresh,
fun and totally irresistible.
The full-length debut slab
from Doll Skin makes me
super-happy I'm not dead.
__________________________

There I was — covering the recent Vans Warped Tour official kick-off party at Full Sail Live in Orlando. From my primary perch near the production booth at the back of the auditorium, I stood taking in a fast-paced video montage spotlighting this summer's bumper-crop of big names. One by one, the barrage of various cookie cutter "core" collectives flashed by. Then, suddenly, images of four brightly-colored slices of delicious-looking punk-flavored birthday cake popped out from the venue's two jumbo-sized video screens and captured my attention completely. Hmm. Note to self  seek out Doll Skin and buy their record  ASAP!

Produced by record label mogul and co-founding Megadeth bassist, Dave Ellefson, In Your Face (Again) delivers where so many records by similar bands have fallen short. Simply put, this scrappy Phoenix-based combo possesses ferocious musicianship — and they've got songs to back it up. 

DOLL SKIN
(Meghan Herring, Alex Snowden, Sydney Dolezal, Nicole Rich)
Capturing glorious "Queens of Noise"-caliber vocal attitude while creating authentic "Seether"-style guitar buzz, "Family of Strangers" is the perfect opening track for this sensational 9-gem treasure chest. Other noteworthy highlights include the guitar-driven dysfunctional love song, "Wring Me Out" and the riff-laden show-stopper, "Furious Fixation" — I live and I die, indeed! On the lighter side, the moody, romance-on-the-skids ballad, "Blind," seemed initially like the set's "square peg." But after a couple of spins, this one sneaked up, crawled into bed with me, and broke off a piece of my good sweet lovin'. Your experience might differ.

Despite the lavish songwriting praise the band so richly deserves, the record's two cover tunes also make for extra-exciting moments. The super-charged remake of "Weatherman," the 2012 staple from Dead Sara is a spot-on recreation, while the updated version of "Woman," the hard-hitting 2006 classic from Wolfmother is absolutely blistering — BRAVO!

In sum, everything here works. Everything pops. And be sure, age and gender are irrelevant. Doll Skin is simply a monstrous rock band — one with an amazing record and a seemingly limitless future. That is, as long as they don't do anything stupid and "F"-it all up. (A-)

-Christopher Long
(March 2017)

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

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

Currently in development...

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MOVIE REVIEW: The Shack

MOVIE REVIEW
The Shack
_________________________

It's warm and fuzzy. It's
colorful and entertaining.
It's a bona fide family-
friendly feel-good. Then,
why on earth is The Shack
such a dangerous film?
_________________________

Directed by Stuart Hazeldine, the film adaptation of The Shackauthor William Paul Young's 2007 bestseller, arrived in cineplexes nationwide just a few days ago. And it's causing quite a stir.

At first glance, this big-budget blockbuster is spot-on. Despite involving the tragic and painful death of a child, the story succeeds in presenting a bigger picture — one that's a bold, entertaining and biblically accurate message of peace, love, hope, kindness, patience and forgiveness — everything Jesus stood for. Bravo!

"A great story. But I doubt
anyone is getting saved
as a result of seeing it."
-Bryan Dumas
(Co-author of Shout it Out Loud)

Don't get me wrong — I love a family-friendly feature as much as the next guy. But, contrary to the underlying feel-good theme, "everything" is not, in fact,"gonna be alright." Not necessarily, anyway. Personally, I became so awash with the film's "snot-bubble" emotion-factor, that it didn't hit me 'til the next day how The Shack rather cleverly omits the Cross — as if filmmakers didn't want to offend folks with too much truth. But, truth be told — no Cross = no Crucifixion. No Crucifixion = no Resurrection. No Resurrection = no Salvation. No Salvation = everything is not gonna be alright.

Oh sure, the human manifestation of God, played (beautifully) by Octavia Spencer, does reveal holes in her wrists — suggesting Christ's crucifixion. And main character, Mack Phillips, played (less convincingly) by Sam Worthington, is seen falling asleep while reading a King James Bible —  pointing further in Christ's direction. And while I'm TOTALLY on board with how Jesus is portrayed (superbly) by Aviv Alush — especially the scenes when he's downing religion and sitting in the living room, laughing and drinking coffee — the film stops short of "closing" the deal.

As a public service, here's what the film sidestepped — Jesus Christ IS the Son of God. He was crucified on the cross. He rose again, three days later. His blood paid the FULL price for ALL the transgressions of the world — but we MUST accept Him as our personal Savior. He said so, himself...

“I am the way, the truth, and the
life. No one can come to the
Father except through me."
-Jesus Christ
John 14:6 (NLT)

If the intention was merely for The Shack to be entertaining, then I applaud the effort. We need more family-friendly, fantasy-type feel-goods. But I would have dressed the cast all in mouse ears, or as wacky sea creatures or something. Now THAT'S really fun! But if the intention was truly to advance the Kingdom of God, then The Shack is, for me — a heartbreaking, epic fail.

-Christopher Long
(March 2017)


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

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

Currently in development...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

LIVING SOBER: Lucky 13 Addition

LIVING SOBER
Lucky 13 Addition
_________________________

Most of us are familiar
with that old expression,
"the luck of the Irish." Yet,
despite not being Irish, this
St. Patrick's Day, I'm the
one who's feeling "lucky."
_________________________

As a little old man, navigating through my golden years, I can now look back and recognize with 20/20 hindsight, how my life's bad decisions — my losses, failures, set backs and disappointments can all be attributed directly to either my own alcohol-related stupidity or the related drooling of others.

St. Patrick's Day 2017 marks my 13th year anniversary of living sober. As I've said many times before, my sobriety doesn't make me a better person. However, it ABSOLUTELY has enhanced the quality of my life.

I've written extensively in recent years about getting sober, as well as my ever-increasing utter disdain for alcohol and the distasteful and dishonest way in which this poison is peddled. I've posted links (below) to many of my related feature stories. If you can possibly manage the time, I invite and encourage all my readers to check them out.

Finally, should you be dealing with your own alcohol-related demon, and you need someone to "lean on," I welcome you to reach out and contact me anytime at my personal email address. Just remember, I’m NOT a licensed counselor, but I am a nightclub DJ, which is kinda the same thing.
(AuthorChristopherLong@yahoo.com)

-Christopher Long
(March 2017)
_________________________

Don't miss any of
my sobriety features:

_________________________


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

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

Currently in development...

Friday, March 10, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: John 5 and the Creatures "Season of the Witch"

RECORD REVIEW
John 5 and the Creatures
Season of the Witch
(60 Cycle Hum)
_________________________

Imagine a bakery case beaming
brightly, brimming with an array
of colorful, tasty, aural treats 
all prepared to perfection with an
industrial-tinged metallic glaze. 
_________________________

The latest solo slab from John 5 is, in reality, an irresistible ensemble endeavor. In fact, I'm not so sure who's the bigger badass — the renown guitar guru gracing the album's front cover, or his two equally impressive "Creatures."

Now, I'm no muzo (myo͞oz-ō). I don't know a pentatonic from a gin and tonic. But I do know that Telecasters are cool, Marshalls are cool, and shredding can be cool. And in that regard, Season of the Witch is exactly what a great guitar record should be — oozing ferociously crisp and clean, blister-inducing, non-stop shredding — but without any embarrassing sticky discharge. And the record's noteworthy highlights are seemingly infinite.

Powerful and throaty, "Guitars, Tits and Monsters" is all nuts and guts. And while "Now Fear This" and "Making Monsters" are both straight-up, foot-through-the-floor, Camaro-style rockers, “Triple D” is a stripped-down, cigarette-worthy seduction — showcasing 5 shredding completely on his own.

John 5 onstage w/ Rob Zombie - 2013
(Photo: Rob Fenn)
As for the record's super-highlights, “Black Grass Plague” is a bona fide, no-holds-barred, metal-meets-bluegrass juggernaut. Yet, despite the titillating, go for the throat factor of the track's first three minutes, it's the last 60 seconds that provide the true payoff with 5 blazing on banjo, bassist Ian Ross channeling Jerry Peek, and Rodger Carter detonating an arena-sized drum grenade. Conversely, “Behind the Nut Love” rings honest and pure — in an organic Zeppelin III vein. Lusciously laid back, this country-tinged gem is undeniably one of the record's brightest moments.

Another super-exciting track, “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” is, as they say, "the whole enchilada." Turbo-charged metal guitar riffage pinned to Tony Levin-caliber bass work, and carried masterfully into a Kansas-style climax. Doggonit, man! But by simply applying an old fashioned Chet Atkins-style shellac finish to a George and Ira Gershwin classic, “Hell Haw” is perhaps the surprise secret toy buried at the bottom of this sweet and crunchy box of Cracker Jack. (A+)

-Christopher Long
(March 2017)

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

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

Currently in development...

Thursday, March 2, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Vinny Marcone "Antietam Sunrise"

RECORD REVIEW
Vinny Marcone
Antietam Sunrise
_________________________

This intriguing new indie
release has been simmering
on my "back burner" since
arriving at my home office
during a particularly hectic
personal time few months
ago. Better late than never?
_________________________

Florida-based singer / songwriter / guitarist, Vinny Marcone, has created an interesting premise — a concept album boasting all-original material — an engaging mix of guitar-driven vintage-style rock and vocal-driven country-style ballads — all based on the experiences and viewpoints of soldiers during the Civil War. Hmm. Not very "David Lee Roth," but I'm all in.

Whether you get the conceptual angle or not, the songs here stand up nicely on their own — making for a solid, nine-song, roots-flavored collection. In fact, despite my own personal passion for U.S. history, I found myself drifting quickly into the individual songs, and focusing less on the story line.

Oozing maximum riffage, the title track kicks the record off with a bang. Other highlights include the Stillwater-flavored "Deep River Soul," the super-stripped-down "Ballad of Hezekiah Daniels" and the snappy-sounding, "Sadie the Goat."

Bringing his musical story to life required a "village." As a result, Marcone assembled an impressive ensemble of session players — an A-List cast that includes co-founding Foghat bassist Tony Stevens and world-renown concert violinist Michelle Jones.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the record can be discovered fully by visiting the Official Website.

-Christopher Long
(March 2017)

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

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

Currently in development...