Monday, July 17, 2017

PAPA DON'T PREACH: Righteous Revelations from Vans Warped Tour 2017

Righteous Revelations from
Vans Warped Tour 2017

Hey you — socially aware, non-
gender-specific "preacher" with
the sparkly guitar, perched upon
the Acme Soul Crusher Stage 
I don't care what you eat, who
you bang, or how you vote. Just
be cool and play something hot
from your new LP — 'cuz you're
makin' Nugent seem reasonable.

Vans Warped Tour — it's been a consistent source of personal fascination ever since I first attended the annual traveling music festival back in 1996. More than two decades later, I still crave its sonic energy, and I continue to thrive on connecting with all the amazing people. I also remain amused by the predictable procession of onstage intellectuals who feel compelled to educate us simple folk — a slew of self-anointed evangelists who often remind me of the classic Frank Zappa album series, "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar." I had the distinct pleasure of spending several days out on the current cross-country excursion, and as expected, once I'd sifted through the barrage of not-so subtle "distractions," I discovered more than a few super-sah-weet new bands. In fact, vomit bands excluded, the 2017 lineup is one of the tour's all-time strongest rosters. Let's swoop in and take a looksie at some of this year's highlights, shall we?

Okay, I'll admit it - even I preached a little
at this year's Warped Tour, while assisting
the I AM SECOND ministry team in Atlanta.
Regrettably, a few of the bands I was most amped about seeing were M.I.A. on the days I attended. The scrappy, Phoenix-based combo, Doll Skin had just finished a week-long run, while neither the abrasive prog-punk ensemble, Playboy Manbaby nor ska kingpin, Stacked Like Pancakes had yet joined the tour. And I was certainly bummed.

The biggest bummer of the summer 
missing Doll Skin at Warped Tour.
(Photo permission: Doll Skin Management)
Several seasoned acts joined this year's tour. While The Atari's provided a more than adequate contribution, pop / rock sensation, Bowling for Soup was a bona fide MVP. However, dripping with old school Warped Tour authenticity, it was ska survivor, Save Ferris that truly jacked me up with a high-energy set that featured a spirited version of the Dead Kennedy's classic, "Too Drunk to Fuck." From the stage, founding frontchick, Monique Powell encouraged West Palm Beach fans to simply call her, "Mo." The drop-dead voluptuous singer / actress further offered audience members free after-show hand jobs and sweaty kisses at the band's merch tent. Whether or not that pledge was honored, I can't say for sure — I had to make a mad rush to catch Jule Vera.

Save Ferris revived the
original Warped Tour spirit.
Dance Gavin Dance and Memphis May Fire were among the metal stalwarts who received the most intense response at the Warped Tour launch party held last spring in Orlando — which doesn't mean squat unless you can deliver ferociously on the actual tour — and both bands did. Metal matinee idol-turned techno-pop crooner, Andy Biersack also delivered the goods — especially in Atlanta where enduring the ├╝ber-intense, super-shrill teenage female reaction was only slightly less painful than having a railroad spike put through one's skull. That's a compliment, BTW.

For me, there's always that magical Warped Tour discovery — the stylistic "square peg" that leaps from a junior varsity stage, grabs me by the nards and won't let go. Jule Vera hooked me like that back in 2015. Last year, it was Palaye Royale. But in 2017, my senses were abducted by the futuristic superhero duo, The Fantastic Plastics. Combining the stank of Devo with the swagger of Gary Numan, these kooky kids from Brooklyn had songs so fun and infectious, I was glued to the barricade in front of the Full Sail stage for several days in a row. #ItsAllPlastic #TheFutureOfTheFuture

The future of the future
Thank you, Jesus - for Skittles,
and sunsets - and for Stacey Dee.
Just for the record, I am NOT addicted! And I do NOT have a "problem" either. I'm in complete control. I'm totally functional and perfectly capable of leading a normal, productive life. So what, if I wake up with a Bad Cop / Bad Cop tune stuck in my head every morning and I become physically pill sick if I don't consume the band's entire audio library ever day by noon. Suffice it to say, I was more than revved to finally see the So-Cal troupe live at Warped Tour in 2017. However, I didn't expect it to be such a "religious" experience — my racing heartbeat, weakening knees, dry mouth, shortness of breath — alright, alright, maybe I do have a small  "problem." In sum, I liken my first experiences of seeing Bad Cop / Bad Cop this summer to my first experiences seeing such iconic bands as the Ramones, KISSCheap Trick and The Who. Don't judge me, man — I can quit anytime I want!

Lovable, drunken bufoons
Intense as ever
Hot, dirty and sticky
In my feature story last April, I included Courage My Love among the 12 must-see bands on this year's Warped Tour. However, with 70-some acts scattered over seven stages, I'd somehow managed to miss seeing them at the first show I attended in Atlanta. And I wasn't even sure if I'd get a chance to see them the next day either. That is, until I was "enlightened" by Tyson from the Fantastic Plastics. "You GOTTA check out Courage My Love," he urged me during our after-show conversation in Orlando. "They're completely legit," he added passionately. Intrigued, I made sure to catch the Canadian trio's 5pm set. I wasn't disappointed. 23-year-old frontchick / guitarist Mercedes Arn-Horn was thoroughly engaging, and the band's songs came across considerably grittier live than on their glossy new record, Synesthesia. I went back to see Courage My Love again, two days later in West Palm Beach, and I was equally impressed. I am now a super-fan!

Mercedes Arn-Horn getting up-close, sweaty
and personal with West Palm Beach fans.
Chillin' with Jule Vera in West Palm. A
blinding glare kept my buddy from getting
bassist William Stacey in the shot. DOH!
The momentum propelling Jule Vera this summer is so powerful, it could move an oil tanker. Two years of relentless touring and a pair of world-class pop / rock records has catapulted the Alabama-based outfit from a Warped Tour side stage in 2015 to the prestigious Journey's Left Foot Stage in 2017. And the crowds are growing — and growing. At the tour's recent Boston stop, enthusiastic Jule Vera fans numbering in the thousands packed in under the semi-enclosed Xfinity Center pavilion. Hang on, folks — the roller coaster ride has officially begun. And FYI, the new Jule Vera album is amazing! #GreatestBandOnEarth

Koo Koo Kanga Roo - spreading
"the Gospel" at Warped Tour 2015.
So, there ya go — a few exciting highlights from Vans Warped Tour 2017. But after two decades, have I finally had enough of the festival's unique sights, distinctive sounds and pungent smells? Hmm, not if Kevin Lyman brings Koo Koo Kanga Roo back in 2018. I could listen to them two fellas "preach" ALL day long!

-Christopher Long
(July 2017)



C'MON! -

Monday, July 10, 2017

BAD COP / BAD COP: California Combo Crushes Iconic Concert Tour

Photo: Jen Cray
California Combo Crushes
Iconic Concert Tour

I'd never seen my girlfriend dance
before. We'd been a couple for a
year and a half and we'd attended
dozens of shows together. But
Diana always remained reserved
— even at the Bush concert — and
she loves that guy! I knew she'd
dig seeing Bad Cop / Bad Cop,
but I did NOT expect this type of
reaction. Hey, crazy lady! Who
are you, and just what have you
done with my laid back chick?

If your drummer sucks, then your band sucks. It's that simple. Drums are the centerpiece and foundation of any rock band. Hence, upon first discovering Bad Cop / Bad Cop, I recognized in short order that Myra Gallarza's left hand and right foot are the band's two most lethal weapons. However, when I attempted to articulate that perspective to her while in Orlando recently, what came out of my mouth, as a dopey and pathetic fanboy, was some sort of indistinguishable, drooling blubber. Given Gallarza's personal passion for such straight-forward, hard-hitting bands as KISS and AC/DC, her rock solid kick-n-snare technique is understandable. And BTW, she's the most ferocious drummer on this summer's Vans Warped Tour.

(Photo: Jen Cray)
Formed back in 2011 by So-Cal native and co-frontchick, Stacey Dee, BC/BC's journey to the 2017 40-city excursion has been anything but an overnight experience. Having toured extensively worldwide over the last few years, the combo released its third record, Warriors, in June.

"We're the band you were warned about," Dee announced with bona fide cock rock confidence, as her turbo-charged troupe took the stage last week in West Palm Beach. Sporting what's typically a flaming red, close-cropped, shaggy-topped coif, the snarling singer / guitarist counts such seemingly random artists as the Go-Go's and Huey Lewis and the News among her many personal musical influences.

(Photo: Jen Cray)
A band that has been described stylistically (by me) as a cross between Joan Jett circa 2006 and NOFX circa 1996, BC/BC's daily Warped Tour set lists have offered fans career-spanning showcases that include such old school staples as "Rodeo," "Nightmare," and "Cheers," as well as fresh cuts, including "Amputations," "Victoria" and the brand-spankin' new single, "Womanarchist."

Despite the band's overall improving situation, the Warped Tour still presents what's gotta be a torturous grind — and BC/BC is out there busting major sweat-soaked ass every day — onstage, backstage, sidestage, at the merch booth — you name it. This band is ON at ALL times!

(Photo: Jen Cray)
It was only 10am in Atlanta, but temperatures already were sweltering  despite overcast skies. And there she was, guitarist / vocalist Jennie Cotterill, enduring numerous trips back and forth — humping carts full of gear, from the bus-lined back lot, across the amphitheater property, to wherever the Hard Rock stage happened to be located that day. Yet, strolling along casually, with her long braided blue / black hair pulled aside under a fun-looking floppy hat and her face hidden behind groovy dark shades, the Michigan native and respected art designer somehow makes the daily regimen look effortless almost.

(Photo: Jen Cray)
As for Linh Le, the former Reach Around Rodeo Clowns and Skinny Titties bassist serves as BC/BC's "wild card" — the member who I had most feared meeting. In fact, to look her in the eye is like staring directly into a crystal blue kaleidoscope of diagnosed craziness. However, unlike some rock stars, Le has never (yet) even threatened to punch me — not once. I've seen all the greats David Lee Roth, Paul Stanley, Lemmy, Chrissie, Pete, Keith, Joan, Dee Dee, the list goes on and on. And at the risk of compromising my already disreputable reputation by tipping more sacred cows, I maintain boldly that after seeing her onstage several times this summer, Linh Le is THE single most exciting live performer  EVER. I said it. I meant it. And I'll stand by it.

Me and Diana getting super-sweaty
in Orlando with Bad Cop / Bad Cop.
As an old guy who's been in the game for a very long time, I possess the uncanny ability to distinguish shit from Shinola quite easily. As a result, I'm also uniquely qualified to spot a great rock band from ten miles away. And in short, Bad Cop / Bad Cop is simply a superb rock band with world-class songs. That is all.

-Christopher Long
(July 2017)



C'MON! -

Monday, July 3, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Lillie Mae "Forever and Then Some"

Lillie Mae
Forever and Then Some
(Third Man Records)

Legendary music journalist,
the late, great Lester Bangs
once was credited as saying
that we don't choose our
music, our music chooses
us. That theory holds true
quite often in my world.

Simply put, I didn't see it coming — I just opened the right email from the right publicist on the right day, and their it was — a download of the newly-released debut from singer / songwriter and fiddle phenom, Lillie Mae Rische. Hmm, as if the music chose me.

Truth be told, the bar is set so low for what's peddled these days as "new country," it's almost an insult for Rische's record to be slapped with such a pedestrian label. However, given the true blue, down-home warmth and charm of her heartfelt music  songs glossed gloriously with fiddles, banjos, mandolins and all, the layman label is almost understandable. Kinda.

Dripping with Dwight Yoakam-style authenticity and peppered with Dolores O'Riordan-type mystique, the 11-song collection is perhaps the most uniquely engaging set of the current summer season. Producer and modern-day music messiah, Jack White, hand-crafted the record masterfully, from the overall Emmylou-meets-Lindley sheen to the "Love is a Rose"-flavored back-ups and Ringo-inspired drum tracks.

On a record packed with deeply moving highlights, "Honky Tonks and Taverns," "Wash Me Clean" and "Loaner" are among the standout tracks so honest and pure they'll give ya chills, while brimming with such beauty, they'll also bring ya to tears.

But I'm curious — just what did the snake do to her, anyway?

-Christopher Long
(July 2017)



C'MON! -

Sunday, July 2, 2017



Growing up during the '70s and
'80s, summer was a magical time
of year — a season punctuated by
sizzlin' sounds — classics from
KISS, Aerosmith, The Stones,
McCartney, Frampton, and SO
many more. Then came the '90s.
The music and the season both
died. But in 2017, SUMMER IS
BACK — and along with it — a
buttload of amazing new music.
Here are my 10 HOTTEST jamz.

Pillow Talk

A Canadian-based combo, Pine
has created a concise five-song
collection that'll hook ya instantly
and won't let go 'til next Monday.

Black and White Rainbows

The latest from Bush is an exceptional record
— brimming with exceptional songs. Anyone
who says otherwise is a collie molester.

The Water

Catchy, hooky and totally irresistible, the
newly-released, self-produced LP from
Australia’s electro-pop purveyors, San
Cisco is the super-seduction of the season.

Black Smoke Rising

Greta Van Fleet IS the new Zeppelin.
That is all.

Lindsey Buckingham
Christine McVie

This seemingly surprise set from
Buckingham and McVie serves
nicely as the new Fleetwood Mac
album we get when we can’t get a
new Fleetwood Mac album. 

Step Into Light

The latest from Fastball feels like a
beautiful, rib-cracking, tear-jerking
bear hug from a bunch of old college
buddies who you’ve not seen since
that night in the desert — remember?

Waiting on the Sun

The sophomore record from Jule Vera
is a well-rounded collection of well-
produced, well-crafted songs — one
in which the "best" track is whichever
one happens to be playing at the time.


I adore Bad Cop / Bad Cop!
Truth be told, this record is so
powerful, it's already being used
in maternity wards worldwide
to induce labor. The pissed-off
feel-good of the summer.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl

With their 2017 sophomore slab, Doll Skin
has created a crunchy, cohesive collection
— an 11-song cavalcade that hits ya like
a sticky-sweet punch in the face. 

Forever and Then Some

Singer / songwriter and fiddle phenom
Lillie Mae Rische could very well be the
stylistic lovechild of Dwight Yoakam and
Dolores O'Riordan. Authentic, down-home
music, bursting with mouth-watering zing
— songs that have restored my will to live.

So, what's in your hi-fi deck this summer? Feel free to share with the entire class in the "comment section" below.

-Christopher Long
(July 2017)



C'MON! -