Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Nashville is so Cool"

The words in the title were uttered by my oldest son Will on the way home from a show at 3rd & Lindsley the other night. The band was Random Play. The idea behind the title is that listening to them is like hitting "random play" on your iPod or CD player. You never know what will come out of the speakers. It was also described as a "plugged" writers night. For those outside of Nashville, that means each band member takes turns singing a song they wrote or enjoy singing. They played about an hour and a half. The talent on the stage was great and the cello added some nice touches on a couple of songs.

Oh, did I memention who was in this band? It reads like a who's who of Nashville talent. The members of Random Play:

Jaime Kyle - A songwriter and singer in the Nashville music scene for sometime. Jaime wrote Wild One (Faith Hill), Stranded (Heart) just to name a couple. She had some commercial success herself in the 1980's with a solo CD and success in Europe. I have been a JK fan for years and the Clayton family considers her a friend. She has helped us with diabetes fundraising as well.

Jonell Mosser - Nashville's own soulful songtress. Long considered the best "unsigned" singer in Nashville, she pours so much energy into her songs and performances. Highlight of the nigh was her cover of Al Wilson's Show & Tell. You can't consider yourself a true Nashvillian if you haven't seen Jonell play live.

Bill Lloyd - half of the 80's group Foster & Lloyd, Bill is considered a great guitar player and he proved it on stage. While a great guitar player, his songs were witty and touching. With a shout-out to the Three Stooges (step by step, inch by inch), Niagara Falls was a sing-a-long with the crowd. However, Bill's highlight was "Tryin' to Love You."

Dave Jenkins - While the name may not be easily recognizable, his bands from the past are - the upbeat country band Southern Pacific who charted with Midnight Highway and the late 70's and early '80's band Pablo Cruise. We were treated to Love Wil Find a Way and Whatcha Gonna Do (when she says good-bye) by Dave. I can honestly say that I would have bet the ranch that I wouldn't ever hear those songs live. Glad I didn't bet.

The backing guys were Todd Cerney on keyboards who wrote (I'll Stil be Lovin You by Restless Heart), Lance Hoppin on bass, Charlie Morgan on drums (toured with Elton for years), and Gary Tussing on cello. I must say that Untangled by Jaime is not coplete without a cello. All of these guys are "A list" writers and session players.

I guess the cool part of the night was watching these musicians on stage having fun. Most of these guys could easily fill a set by themselves, but they were actually playing as a band and having fun - the way music should be played.

I guess Will did sum up by saying "Nashville is so cool". Where else can you go and see a band like this doing what they love to do on a Tuesday night @ 7:00? Nashville is a cool city.

Zach, A Tennessee Squire

Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Will

Fourteen years ago, Momma Squire & I welcomed our first born into the world. Will came in with fanfare via a rushed (not emergency) C-Section at 9 lbs 2 oz & 21 inches long. He has brightened our lives ever since. He now shaves, talks very deep, has a girlfriend, plays basketball, plays football, and is obviously thinking about driving in a couple of short years.

Thinking about Will turning 14 got me to wondering about when I was 14 – what I was thinking, who I liked, and what was happening in the world. Well, since I can’t remember take the garbage out on Wednesday morning; I couldn’t rely on my noggin for what was happening in 1978 when I was 14. Thank goodness for the Internet. Based upon information @, here is what was happening in 1978:
• The Dow closed the year at 805. It is 10,281 as I type this.
• Gasoline cost $.63/gallon.
• Cult leader Jim Jones instructed 400 church members to commit suicide in Guyana.
• Illinois Bell introduces the first ever Cellular Mobile Phone System.
• Space Invaders launches the computer video game craze.
• First test tube baby (Louise Brown) is born in England.
• Popular films included Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Animal House, & Jaws 2.
• TV shows included Happy Days, Charlie’s Angels, Love Boat, Three’s Company, and Quincy.

Wow. Think about how much and how quickly things have progressed from then until now? What will it be like for Will when he is 45? Will we finally be at “the future” as portrayed by the Jetsons? We are partially there now.

Birthdays in our house are always happy days. Today is not an exception. Happy Birthday Will.

Zach, a Tennessee Squire

Monday, November 16, 2009

Styx/REO Speedwagon/Night Ranger – November 15, 2009 – Sommet Center

Yes, it was the ‘80’s all over again in Nashville on Sunday night as these bastions of the arena rock era were on a single bill. Contrary to my old college roommate’s question, I did not wear my Jordace jeans or Members Only jacket. Yes, I know these folks are getting long in the tooth and haven’t have any commercial success for a while, but it was an opportunity to see some of my favorite bands, on the same stage, and relive some old memories.

Right off the bat, you noticed that the crowd was older, like uh middle age. Yikes – that’s me. Going into the show, I wondered how these three could fill Sommet’s 15,000+ seats. Well, with a little bit (ok, a lot) of strategically placed curtains, the arena was now about a 6,000 seat arena. The stage was set directly under the jumbotron with curtains blocking off the half behind the stage. Also, the entire upper level (300 section) was curtained off. One thing I will give the bands, they know how to keep a show moving. Night Ranger came out right at 7:00 and except for an issue with Styx’s keyboard, the time between bands was right at 15 -20 minutes. They know that most of the folks there were out past their bedtime and had to go to work on Monday.

Night Ranger – Ironically, the first (and only) time I saw Night Ranger, they opened for KISS in Huntsville, AL, so it was kind of like déjà vu. They powered through a 45 minute set with the energy that Jack Blades is known for. I mean, the guy never stops moving. NR’s drummer, Kelly Keagy (who lives in Nashville) had his drum kit set out front on the main stage (vs in the back) with it turned with the front of the set facing stage right. This worked well since Kelly has lead vocals on some songs. The highlight of the set was when Jack Blades invited Tommy Shaw (Styx) out and they sang Damn Yankees’ HIGH ENOUGH. Granted, only half of DY was present, it was good to hear the song live & plugged again. Do you realize it has been 20 years since Damn Yankees was released? Wow.

REO Speedwagon – Having seen REO numerous times before, my expectation was set kind of high. Sadly, I would say this was the least of the three bands. While they performed all the songs they were supposed to, it just didn’t have the energy that it once had. Even the songs sounded about a half a beat slower. They did do ROLL WITH THE CHANGES which happens to be in my top five songs of all times. They were joined on the chorus by Martina McBride and Brad Paisley. Lead singer Kevin Cronin mentioned that when they were starting out, they played every club they could, including a “…skanky rock & roll club called the Exit/In.” With that reference they dug way back to REO T.W.O. (recorded in Nashville) for Golden Country. The one most vivid memory of prior REO shows evidently has been taken away by the fire marshal – the flash pots at the end of RIDIN’ THE STORM OUT. I recall the heat from those things as they exploded at the end of the song. Now, it is a laser light and a small jump by the band. The price of age…..

Styx – If you don’t know the band’s history, Dennis DeYoung left the band a decade or so ago due to “internal tensions”. Tommy Shaw has taken the mantle of band leader and run with it. He was quoted at one time as saying “If I have to do another song about robots, I will go crazy.” Well, obviously dude outside the Sommet saying “They didn’t do MR. ROBOTO or BABE” didn’t get that word. There were numerous other songs for them to choose and they did. They still have the high energy and put on a great show. Original, now part-time, bassist, Chuck Ponozzo, joined the band about halfway through the set. They also dug back into the archives for classics like Loreli and Suite Madam Blue. They closed their set by inviting REO and Night Ranger back out for a Volunteer Jam style play along. Members from all three bands came out to perform the Shaw/Cronin penned CAN’T STOP ROCKIN.

All in all, it was a good walk down memory lane last night. It also seemed that each band mentioned the hard times we are facing; we know we have people to pick up, etc. Just two thoughts – regardless of political beliefs, I came to listen to music, not a political speech and the people that have lost jobs, etc., probably (at least hopefully) aren’t spending their money on concerts.

Thanks for the memories and hopefully, these guys can still ROCK IN AMERICA for several more years.

Zach, an '80's rockin Tennessee Squire

Set list:
Night Ranger:
This Boy Needs to Rock
Sing Me Away
When You Close Your Eyes
High Enough (with Tommy Shaw)
Don't Tell Me You Love Me
Sister Christian
You Can Still Rock in America

REO Speedwagon:
Don't Let Him Go
Take It on the Run
Keep Pushing
Golden Country
Can't Fight this Feeling
Son of a Poor Man
Time for Me to Fly
Back on the Road Again
Keep on Loving You
Roll with the Changes (joined by Martina McBride & Brad Paisley)
Riding the Storm Out

Miss America
Too Much Time on My Hands
Grand Illusion
I Am the Walrus
Blue Collar Man
Suite Madam Blue
Foolin Yourself (Chuck Ponozzo joins)
Come Sail Away
Can't Stop Rockin

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Concerts - Then vs. Now

Having just seen KISS at the Sommet center and with Styx/REO Speedwagon/Night Ranger coming up in a couple of weeks, I have been thinking about concerts and how they have changed over the years.

My first concert was my sophomore year in high school - Eddie Money played Vanderbilt Memorial Gym. My friend Joe and I got us some dates and off we went. Having heard all the stories about concerts and the debauchery that occurs there, we were pumped. That evening I proved that a bottle of ice cold Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill could be drunk in the time it takes to get from 31st & West End to Memorial Gym. It can be drunk, but keeping it down is another story. I can’t remember the cost of the ticket, but it couldn’t have been more than $10. Well, it wasn’t the drunken orgy that we imagined, but I was hooked on live shows.

Most of the concerts I saw in the ‘80’s – 90’s were at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville. My first show there was Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jam. The Municipal is a round venue which held probably about 9,000. In the 90’s, most shows moved to Starwood amphitheater in Nashville, which was a completely different perspective. Being able to lounge on the ground under the stars was cool – unless it was August and raining. An added benefit of Starwood was the fact that it sold BEER. Wow, you could drink at a concert without having smuggled a bottle into the venue in your shoe, crotch, or wherever. They even had an area where corporations could buy box seats and have servers bring you drinks, food, etc. Maybe this is when the transition started. What transition, you may ask? Let’s compare yesteryear to today:

Yesteryear – My buddy Joe & I decide to go see Journey on the Escape tour. We drive to Nashville & find a Sound Seventy ticket outlet. We shell out our money for the exorbitant amount of $10/ticket. The tickets have raised lettering with cool designs custom-made for the particular show. We roll to Nashville, probably sneak a bottle of Jack (bought underage) by the searching Metro police at the Municipal, and we are ready to rock. (Side-note – wonder if a Metro policeman on Municipal duty ever bought liquor?) We arrive about an hour and a half early so we can get good spots standing in the general admission area in front of the stage. We park on the side of James Robertson in front of the Capital and walk to the auditorium. The opening act, Loverboy, comes out after the house lights go out. Occasionally during the show, I glance up towards the ceiling. There, through the haze of smoke, cigarette and other, I make out a faint glow – NO SMOKING. This warning can be seen hanging from the ceiling. For encores and power ballads alike, the crowd (even non-smokers) holds their lighters aloft begging for more. Before Journey comes out, the question is “what will they open with?” or “wonder if they will play Lights?” After the show, Joe & I make a most difficult decision – which shirt do we buy to wear to school the next day? While either will smell like the interior of a Cheech & Chong van, we have to choose between the $5 t-shirt or splurge and get the $7.50 jersey.

Today – You decide to attend a Sommet Center concert. You sit at your computer and log on to the Ticketmaster website. You hope your 45 yr old eyes can read the random letters and numbers that allow you to proceed with selecting tickets without having to resort to the Dick Tracy decoder glasses. Once you make it past scalper security, you select your ticket with prices starting around $40 (top row, back of arena) and ending at $1000 (backstage 5 minute photo op with the band). You can either print a bar code or have the generic looking tickets mailed to your house. The night of the show, you pay another $10-$20 to park and then walk about 4 blocks to the arena. The menu choices have changed, but so have the prices. You can get a $4 hot dog or even more expensive burgers, BBQ, etc. Wait, what is that – BEER & LIQUOR!!!! With no crotches or socks involved. Yes, you pay for it, but it is available. You can see clearly because smokers have to go over the river & through the woods & hang about 3 blocks to reach the smoking area outside. You already know what the band is playing because you have checked the band’s website, clicked on the tour button, and saw the set list for all the stops prior to your city. You also notice something else – there are kids. I mean middle and elementary school kids. This is ROCK & ROLL, not Yanni @ TPAC!! You admit to yourself that probably the folks on stage may be getting Medicare currently or within 5 years.

Anyway, you get the picture. Yes, it is different, more expensive, and in some aspects, not as fun. But as Billy Joel says “It’s still rock and roll to me.” Also, don’t forget that if it’s too loud, you are too old.

Zach, a rock & rolling Tennessee Squire