FFWDing to the Best Part: “Broadway,” The Goo Goo Dolls (2000)

A 1996 episode of Friends introduced the “Freebie List” to the lexicon.  In essence, it is a list of five celebrities who, should the situation present itself, earn an “all-clear” from one’s current significant other. It’s a truth universally acknowledged … if this predetermined famous person will have you, you’re allowed to have him or her, with no negative repercussions to any current relationship.

Taking the top slot on my own “Freebie List” from 1999 until about, well, the time the photo below was snapped, was Johnny Rzeznik. The seemingly tortured, impressively coiffed, front man for Buffalo punk outfit (turned adult-contemporary-radio mainstay) The Goo Goo Dolls.

As luck would have it, I actually got to meet Mr. Rzeznik when he played a corporate gig I attended in 2009.  I made a stupid request (“Will you be playing We Are the Normal?”); he dismissed me with a stupid lie (“Well, I dunno!  I haven’t seen the set list yet!”); I entered a weeks-long shame spiral.  At least I got a good profile picture out of it:

Me with Johnny Rzeznik

After this impressive meet-and-greet, I assumed what will certainly be my best concert vantage point ever — immediately in front of the stage.

Goo Goo Dolls performing at corporate gig

From here, I watched them do their (modern-day) classics.  Slide (remains a jam).  Here is Gone (remains filler). Iris (whatever).  And I looked forward to watching Broadway up close and personal for the …

Best part?  2:00 – 2:04. In a thinly veiled rant against his abusive and alcoholic (and, btw, dead) father, Johnny asserts, “Your anger don’t impress me.”  The progression of notes is lovely, and differs enough from the first verse that it stands out, as is the suggested intent.

 

And yet!  Johnny screwed up this night’s performance.  Instead of launching into the second verse at the appropriate time, he started to repeat the first verse.  I tried to save him, from inches away, but he was doing his best to try and ignore me.

Whatever, dude.  Nice plastic surgery of late.  See you on LITE-FM.

Riding the Storm Out (In Which I Celebrate 80s Rock in Modern Fashion)

On a perfect 70-degree Sunday evening in downtown Chicago, two girlfriends and I went to see the epic troika of late-70s rock:

  • Ted Nugent (who went on a rant against Illinois politicians. While performing in Illinois).
  • REO Speedwagon (who sang a few too many but rocked totally hard).
  • Styx (who are led by Tommy Shaw, who is like a slightly older, way more buff, and probably less chlamydia-ridden David Spade).

I “live-tweeted” the event (gag), mostly to amuse myself and my cousin and to annoy my friends I was with. Who were already — shall we say — frustrated with me because I was in charge of the tickets and, upon having requested the “best three together,” was assigned T-1, U-1, and V-1. All right behind each other. Thank yoooouuu, Live Nation. At least we were on an aisle:

Anyway, here are my observations as they happened over at BethGWrites.

7: 11 pm: Devil horns!! #nugentstyxreo

7:34 pm: 3 mins in, first mullet sighting. #nugentstyxreo


 7:43 pm: Richard Branson stole Ted Nugent’s font.

 

8:09 pm: ‘Don’t Let Him Go.’ A few keys lower than the album version. #nugentstyxreo

8:34 pm: ‘Can’t Fight this Feeling.’ Still too much sunlight for lighters! #nugentstyxreo

8:37 pm: “Bring this ship into the shore … throw away the oars forever.” Not a bad 80s lyrical metaphor. #nugentstyxreo

9:04 pm: “Back on the Road Again?” Worst final encore ever, REO. #nugentstyxreo

9:05 pm: Just kidding! Second encore is ‘Roll With the Changes.” Perfect close. #nugentstyxreo

9:15 pm: Oh my! ‘Keep On Loving You,’ THIRD encore. #karaokefavorite #nugentstyxreo

9:17 pm: Now wondering if Styx will ever, in fact, take the stage. #nugentstyxreo

9:17 pm: Fourth REO encore, ‘Ridin the Storm Out.’ #nugentstyxreo #whereisstyx

9:22 pm: The REO drummer has lost his muscle shirt. #nugentstyxreo

9:44 pm: Met a guy who has seen REO 114 times. #impressive #nugentstyxreo

9:51 pm: Just bought a tee that looks likes it’s from the Freaks and Geeks costume closet.

9:57 pm: Tommy Shaw is amaze-balls. #nugentstyxreo

9:58 pm: Who is this fake, as good, but less self-important Dennis DeYoung? #nugentstyxreo

10:09 pm: Hi-Infidelity and The Grand Illusion? Truly great album names. #nugentstyxreo (agree, @robertAbooey?)

10:16 pm: Please please, Ted and Tommy, sing ‘High Enough?’ #damnyankees #nugentstyxreo

10:18 pm: Tommy Shaw has the most ripped arms I’ve ever seen on any human being? #58yearsold #nugentstyxreo

10:27 pm: Why is Styx covering not one, but two Who songs? #nugentstyxreo

10:32 pm: South Park only made ‘Come Sail Away’ better. #nugentstyxreo

11:04 pm: Great night of classic rock! Beats today’s garbage any day.#ilovethe80s #nugentstyxreo

 

Crash Into Who? (In Which I Revisit One of my Many Public Humiliations)

A few weeks ago, when reflecting back on the least-impressive 21st birthday celebration ever, I alluded to another anticlimactic experience involving Dave Matthews and his Band of merry makers.  Here is that story, updated slightly from when I originally told it on June 2, 2005.   

Went to the Dave Matthews Band concert last night with my friend Anne. History: while DMB isn’t my favorite band, or even in the Top 30, there are definitely some songs and album(s) I very much like. And I feel a certain kinship with the boys, as they got their start in Charlottesville, VA, in the early 1990s, when I was an undergrad at UVa.

The show? Was a little disappointing. Dave and the boys remain extremely musically gifted, and good for them. But the set list adhered to the following pattern: three songs from new album; 20-minute “jam” session; two songs from new album; ‘Too Much’; 15-minute “jam” session; a cover of ‘Time of the Seasons.’ And … scene. Under the Table and Dreaming was sorely unrepresented. And while I know they want to live in the now, how about giving something back to the little people who knew you when.

So speaking of “knew you” …

Anne and I attended the show with friends of A’s mom (Dr. D) who, according to their own reports, are likethis with Mr. Matthews. Have dined with him and Mrs. Matthews numerous times. Have enjoyed backstage tours in multiple cities and swapped recipes with Dave’s personal chef. Their entry into this rock-and-roll lifestyle, should anyone care, was via the band’s sound guy, who was in a serious relationship with one of the friends’ daughters.

And the woman in the couple had told Dr. D that — should we all go to the concert together — we could totally get backstage, and hang, and possibly meet the band. After the show it’s the after party and after the party it’s the hotel lobby.  And so on and so forth. Sound guy, let’s call him Skippy, would be alerted to our seat locations ahead of time so we could be properly set up like the VIPs he would know us to be. And so Anne bought four, not two, tickets, and gave them to her Mom’s friends free of charge. Anne agrees to drive Dr. D’s friend and one of her daughters (not the one who dated Skippy) as our guests.We are set!

On the long and circuitous ride to the venue, Close-Personal-Friend-of-Dave Senior says they haven’t gotten in touch with Skippy, and in fact have not seen or spoken with him in four years. Interesting. And vaguely unsettling. Close-Personal-Friend-of-Dave Junior says she has a cell phone number for her sister’s former paramour, but the number is old, and he never used to answer it anyway. Anne and I, we are rapidly rolling downhill. A snowy, snowy hill of deception and megalomania.

Now … I don’t care about meeting Dave effing Matthews. The whole encounter might have been sort of embarrassing, as I know none of the band members’ names, know nothing off their new album, and am just not the kind of superfan who deserves to meet them. But Anne looooooved them in high school and college. During her formative years, she saw them in concert more than a dozen times, bought every CD, etc.  The opportunity to meet and greet warmed the cockles of her heart as a prior superfan.  So the gross and shameful misleading we were victims of was so much more shattering to my dear, sweet friend.

After the show, which, as aforementioned, was disappointing, (even to Anne), Close-Personal-Friend-of-Dave Senior and Junior decide to mosey down beyond the concert barricades and try to connect with Skippy. They do. And they stand there and chat with him for at least three minutes before thinking of introducing Anne and me. And when they did notice us standing there like jerk-offs, they said: “This is Anne and … and … [forgetting my name] … ummm, they drove us here.” Well, that’s fantastic. We shall never be Close-Personal-Friends-of-Y’ALL. Let me tell you, folks, that the 180 seconds prior to the shoddy introduction was TORTURE. Standing there, in a place we shouldn’t be, like a couple of pathetic sound-guy-groupie hookers.

And then? Needless to say, Skippy goes on his merry way, with no mention of a backstage tour, or a Fresca with the band, or anything.

This humiliation was followed by almost two hours spent gridlocked in the parking lot and on the highway with Close-Personal-Friend-of-Dave Senior and Junior in the back seat. Throughout the journey home, Close-Personal-Friend-of-Dave-Senior had a personal connection she felt compelled to share for any celebrity that was brought up. “Sarah McLachlan?  Oh, my other daughter designs her evening gowns.  Hanson?  My best friend from high school plays cards with their Mom. Tom Cruise?  Poor, misunderstood Tommy?  Oh, he  worked at the ice cream shop I used to frequent. Always gave me extra sprinkles.’ It took all the self control I could muster to not bellow, ‘LINCOLN?  ABE Lincoln?  Do you know him?  What about Moses?  Charlamagne ?  Hmmmmmm?’ 

A-holes.

And did I mention that my AARP card is coming in the mail any day now because during the show, while so many girls in front of me danced like free spirits without a care in the world, I was in my seat, calmly enjoying a cardboard container of NACHOS. They went well with the second-hand pot smoke wafting down from the lawn seats behind me.

Totally pathetic.

This ant’s marching out.

Hanson: The Musical Ride Tour (In Which I Shamelessly Try for More Site Traffic)

In the short life of my blog, far and away the most “organic” traffic has arrived after curious cyber-surfers (is that still a valid noun?) Google/Bing “Hanson.” How my ill-trafficked blog even shows up in the firt 20 pages of results is beyond me, but I’ll take it. This post is my most-read entry of all time, typically getting a couple dozen views each day. Hey. Gotta start small.

My master plan is taking shape. The plan to convince just a few folks every year that Hanson is a musical force with which to be reckoned. (Hmm. Sometimes a phrase loses some punch when expressed in proper grammatical fashion. Anyway.) Hanson evangelism. While obvious that the people reading this entry are likely fans themselves (why else would they be Googling?), it still makes me feel good to be part of their crusade.

Let’s share a few more songs, shall we?

“Optimistic” (Radiohead cover)
Thinking ‘Bout Something *Weird Al alert!
Crazy Beautiful

I do have new Hanson news to report, however. I caught one night of their “Musical Ride” tour last Wednesday. They are using their latest tour to focus on one entire studio album each night (Springsteen style) and I lucked out because the night I was there, the boys played every track of Underneath, my personal favorite. They did several other songs (including a stripped-down acoustic “Mmm Bop”). All told, it was a tight gig of more than two hours. The more amazing the show, the more acute the PCD. Small price to pay.

My friends Sardine and Sheena and I vowed to stand in line next year and score front row seats (they always play the House of Blues, which is a general-admission venue). The bouncer told us that girls start lining up at SIX AM (!), so I’m already planning for Thermoses of Bloody Marys.

Diagnosing Post-Concert Depression (In Which I am Slow to Recover from Evenings of Rock)

Picture this: ears ringing, I walk around in a daze.  I heave sighs and appear surgically attached to my iPhone headphones. It’s evident that I’m suffering from some neurosis, and in this case, I have self -diagnosed it as “post-concert depression.”

It… Is. Horrible.

This phenomenon, which is a subset of post-event depression (that palpable low that follows a vacation or a significant event), is something very acute that I have experienced a rare numbers of time.  And I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

After watching a great gig (particularly one where my seats are as good as the music), I feel wiped out, exhausted, and emotionally wrecked. In fact, I may have flickers of self- recusal where I wonder if I’d be better off not having even attended said concert in the first place.

Is the combination of a during-concert high followed by a staggering low actually worse than the regular status quo? (This is a rhetorical question, by the way, but can be answered by the name of this blog).

Two episodes of PCD linger in my head as the most severe. The first was in March 2005, when I’d finally seen the five original members of Duran Duran (my favorite artist since age 7 or so) perform together. The set list was great, the seats were fantastic, and it was a 20-plus-year-old dream realized.  It won’t be realized again, by the way, as Andy Taylor has once again flown the coop.  (And I sort of don’t blame him).

Duran Duran in 2005

And then … crash. The emotional hangover came pouring over me the next day as I vocalized that these five preening British pop stars had been fixtures in my life longer than anyone, save family members and one or two friends.

Fast forward to the summer of 2009. The band in question was another legacy favorite of mine – The Goo Goo Dolls.  Not only did I get to see them in an intimate setting (800 people or so, and I was front and center – Johnny Rzeznik had a slight problem with chest acne), but I’d won a meet and greet.

A “meet and greet,” to fan-club-dues paying, concert-going veterans, means very little. One has only enough time to shake hands with the band and take a picture. So if there is something you want to say, you’d better be prepared to spit it out elegantly and efficiently.

I was not successful.

Instead of asking them about the mid-90s seed change in their music, inquiring how it felt to have lucked into the success brought upon them by “Name,” or merely thanking them for their creativity and hard work that has brought joy into my life, I stupidly requested a song (“We Are the Normal,” for those keeping score at home).

Yes, it’s my favorite, and yes, it’s an older cut, and no, I’ve never heard it performed live, but it was still a worthless cause on which to use my precious 25 seconds. “I dunno,” Rzeznik smirked. “…I haven’t seen the set list yet.” First of all, he was lying (I’d seen the set list; it was taped to the stage). Second of all, they didn’t even end up playing it.

So I blew my meet and greet. I’d been up-close-and-personal for the entire show and knew I’d never have such an opportunity again. I still hadn’t heard my favorite song live despite a pathetic personal plea. And I’m sure I was dehydrated.

But at least I got a great picture:


After both of these experiences, I loaded up my iPod with B-sides and deep album cuts and got reacquainted with some lesser-known parts of these respective bands’ catalogs. I listened to nothing but these bands for a week or so, and then slowly everything returned to (we-are-the) normal.

I know now, by the way, that I can never meet Duran Duran. They won’t give me the satisfaction I want and so it’s better just to admire them from afar.  And that’s not neurotic – it’s self preservation.

Can’t Be Held Responsible (In Which 10-Year Old Dreams Are Realized)

The summer of 1997 was a memorable one for music, as a slew of alternative-rock bands made their march up the Billboard charts while the ladies of Lilith were impressing live audiences of varying generations. (Also: Hanson).

There are four songs in particular I associate with that particular summer: “Semi-Charmed Life,” Third Eye Blind, “If You Could Only See,” Tonic, “Push,” Matchbox 20 (this was before they were “Matchbox Twenty”), and finally, “The Freshmen,” The Verve Pipe. Don’t know it? Oh yes you do!

While others on this list might have more staying power on “adult alternative” radio stations, “The Freshmen” holds up 15 years later as a powerful, thoughtful ballad about recklessness and loss. The Verve Pipe’s singer, Brian Vander Ark, tells the tale of college romance gone south with haunting sincerity and raw emotion. I’ve always loved this song, as well as the VP’s more minor hits – “Hero” and “Never Let You Down” – and several album cuts.  Back in the day when I actually bought CDs, I had a few of them from this Michigan band.

And so it happened that I had tickets to my first Verve Pipe show on or around September 14, 2001. The show, along with many other nationwide events that month, was cancelled. Obviously. In the ensuing decade, I had a few other opportunities to see the band, but travel or life got in my way.

This past Saturday, almost exactly a decade past my first intended concert, Mr. Glib and I paid a charitable donation of five bucks apiece to watch Vander Ark perform a solo set, in the spitting rain, at a street festival north of downtown Chicago.

To say the gathering was “intimate” would be putting it mildly. The relative inconvenience of the festival’s location, combined with the weather and the fact that the majority of the food/drink booths had already closed, brought the crowd to a staggeringly low number. Lack of promotion didn’t help matters, nor did the competing North Coast Music Festival, nor did the fact that half of Chicago gets the hell out of dodge for the last long weekend of the summer.  Without exaggerating, I think we may have had as many people in our apartment for our last large party.

But this didn’t kill Brian’s spirit. Armed with only his guitar, he delivered a professional and solid set. Solo stuff. Verve Pipe stuff (old and new). A Beatles cover. His voice is as rich and pure and distinctive as it ever was.  If he weren’t 45 years old and already “famous’, he’d be a shoo-in for Idol.  Lee Dewyze who? As I told Mr. G, it’s a damn sorry state of affairs that the worst Verve Pipe song is better than the best Nickelback, and yet Chad Kroeger plays to thousands while Vander Ark had more minutse in his set than people in his audience.

His requests from the “crowd” were monopolized by a woman whose drunken cackle was matched in size only by her jug of spiked lemonade. God love Brian, he humored her, playing request after request.  “Hero,” I would meekly chirp as he solicited for more titles. Ignored, I would nervously toss my head and laugh, as though him not hearing my one-word-title request was somehow more embarrassing for me than the pitiful crowd was for him.

And yet, another concert-go’er took pity on me. When Brian – 60 minutes into a promised 45-minute gig – asked for one final request to round out the evening, she and her husband shouted “Hero” right along with me.  And sing “Hero” he did. A fitting end to a show that delivered in every way but the audience.

Afterwards, he hopped off the stage (in quite nimble fashion for someone who is 6’5″‘or so), sold Mr. Glib and I a couple of CDs (pulling the $5 in change right out from his jeans pocket), and chatted for a few minutes. About whether we had kids. About the cancellation of that post-9/11 show so long ago.  It was an entirely satisfying experience and I think more highly of the dude who was happy to play for the few fans who showed. Plenty of musicians could follow his example.  In fact, dare I say he could be a hero to many.