Sunday, May 23, 2010

Party Like it's 1989, or: A Little Nostalgia Goes a Long Way (Part 1)

Last weekend I attended the Wildflower Festival in Richardson, TX. Three days of art, music, and just a generally good time. This is one weekend every year when my sister and I get together and forget the rest of the world. But, neither one of us are in our teens or twenties anymore!

This is the kind of festival where you bring your own chairs. On Friday night, we literally set our chairs up in a shrubbery. Well, actually on top of some ground cover, but don't you just love the word, "shrubbery?" We had an excellent, unobstructed view of the main stage, up on a wall.

It had been raining all day, so there were some changes to the schedule. Before we settled into our chairs, we headed down to one of the other stages and checked out Horizon, the US Navy rock band. Yes, they have one! And they're VERY good. The lead singer is actually from this area, so it was kind of a homecoming for him. After that, it was time to head back to the main stage.

First up was Frontiers, a Journey tribute band. They were pretty good, but didn't live up to their hype. Next was a brief-brief-brief set by a solo Casey James. Yes, the American Idol contestant. He was wonderful; just him and his guitar. They filmed his set for the show. My personal opinion is he doesn't need American Idol - he'll do just fine on his own. But he's not much of a pop star; he's more bluesy, more Johnny-Lang-esque.

The evening wrapped up with the B-52's. They were absolutely AMAZING! They sounded great and looked great and had all kinds of energy. And thus began the Party.

The next day started out with the Battle of the Bands. This is a feature every year where youthful bands go through rounds of competition culminating with the top 4 bands performing on the secondary stage at Wildflower. Complete with judges who walk around with clipboards and taking notes. This was nostalgic for me, because I fondly remember music competitions in my younger years, although not rock music. It also brought up this little pang of regret that comes up from time to time, that I didn't take advantage of several opportunities to go in the rock band direction when I was young. Anyway, these bands were fabulous. The winning group was a band called Jaci and Those Guys. You should definitely check them out.

Back at the main stage, we once again set up at our shrubbery. This time, though, we looked longingly at the "front row" near the stage, and thought, let's take this all the way back to 1989 and go down front. So we did!! I was a little concerned that there would be a crush, but generally speaking, one of the nicest things about this festival is the good attitude of the attendees.

The first act we saw from the front row was a band from Ft. Worth called Black and Bluez. In spite of their moniker, they actually played quite a variety of music, but with a bluesy bent for sure. I recall their version of "Roxanne." Wow!!

Next up was a reformation of glitter-rock band The Sweet, centering around original bassist Steve Priest. This band was a heavy influence on my favorite music of all time, and I was not disappointed. They played all their hits, plus some, and had a great interaction with the crowd. They even looked the part - the lead singer wearing leopard spandex pants, even. Anyway, I was on my feet dancing around and singing at the top of my lungs to "Love is Like Oxygen", "Fox on the Run", "Action", "Little Willie," I could go on.

Now the worry about the oncoming crush begins. Because next up is Vince Neil of Motley Crue. And yes, it got very crowded down front, but people were really nice. And this reminded me of the very first time I saw Motley Crue in concert. I had tickets in the 3rd row at my now-gone-but-never-forgotten Reunion Arena. They were recording for their Decade of Decadence greatest hits compilation, and so they were actually encouraging people to come fill in the spaces near the front. I was frustrated because I thought, 3rd row, unobstructed view, yet here are all these people, standing on the chairs in the front rows and all these others streaming in. I thought I would cry, but about then, some people partying on the chairs in the 2nd row reached down and pulled me up on the chairs with them, and there we rocked with Motley Crue at one of the best shows I've seen in my entire life.

Fast forward to Wildflower 2010. Vince Neil takes the stage. If I thought it wasn't possible to have more energy and look better 20 years later, Vince proves it is. Yes, I know he's had work done. But, I'd have work done, too, if I had the bankroll and especially if I was in show business. He was so full of energy, I could barely snap a photo. He had a huge smile on his face the entire time, and his sidemen were fantastic! Dana Strum from Slaughter played bass. I didn't catch the name of the guitarist, but he actually took over the vocals for some Zeppelin covers. The drummer - also missed his name - was like a tasmanian devil on the drums! How the kit didn't fall over, I'll never know. I've never seen more physical drumming. In any case, I danced, sang, fist-pumped along to most of the hits from the "Dr. Feelgood" album as well as many other mostly-Crue gems.

Sweaty, and happily exhausted at the end of the set, Sis and I decided to open up our front row seats to those waiting patiently behind us, and have a more relaxing time for the next act, .38 Special.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I Love my iPhone; or: To Not Kill a Mockingbird

It seems like just about everyone has an iPhone these days. And I, for one, can't imagine my life without mine. I can't even remember how I got by before I had it.

There's some really cool music gear applications available. I've got one called "Pocket Guitar" - which is basically a way to play actual guitar chords on the phone. I use that one when I'm trying to figure out a new chord. I've got a guitar tuning application. A metronome. And...something called "Gig Baby" - it's actually a 4-track recorder! On my iPhone! It's way too cool and even has some built-in drum beats.

My iPhone lets me keep up with Facebook, have a flashlight always on hand, be way-too connected to work, and always have a book at the ready. All my music is on there, I can play Diner Dash, check my stock prices, get the latest headlines, edit photos, make my own backgrounds, figure out how to get where I'm going. Truly, I've found an application to do just about anything I want; I just wish it could go pour me a glass of wine instead of just recommending a cabernet.

So, what's this about not killing a mockingbird?

Well, last night, or should I say early this morning, some mockingbird started singing outside my window. It sang and sang and sang and sang and sang and sang and I was wide awake. I tried to sleep. I fired up my Kindle for iPhone to try to get my mind off the singing. Sort of would drift off, then the singing would pick up again. This went on for over an hour. So I got up for a bit. Went back to bed. Still the constant singing. I was pretty sure the only way to shut the dadgum bird up was to put it out of my miser.

Then it dawned on me. Headphones and white noise or ocean sounds would do the trick. I had headphones, really nice soft ones. But no ocean sounds. Bummer. Wait!! The App Store has everything. 2 minutes later, I had an ocean sounds application downloaded, headphones in, and - JOY! - no more mockingbird song.

Oh, and did I mention the iPhone also has a functional phone?