The music industry is full of stats. Oftentimes artistry can become overshadowed by the sordid topic of numbers and sales. But hey, business is business, and album sales keep the machine greased up and able to crank out more "art". Sometimes the specifics of who sold how many can become mundane and tedious, albeit necessary. But other times, those numbers deserve to be celebrated and revered, especially when they catapult an artist into a stratospheric level...where he hovers...solo.Read More
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Have I mentioned I love The South? I love everything about it. The people, the food, the music, the family values, the music. Yes, I said music twice. That's because there are two types of music you hear when traversing though the southland. The kind that is readily accessible when you enter any type of live music venue, bar, club, or concert. And the other kind, the kind that is soul changing... the kind that just fills your inner being with the sounds of the history, people, and mood of this deep region. Memphis embodies all of this. The city exudes the best of the best when it comes to everything that makes The South great...especially the music.Read More
Nothing makes me happier that wearing bold fall basics that are soft, versatile, and warm. The entire fall/winter line at Gap is just that. Endless sweaters, flannels, cardigans, jeans, cords, and accessories that are easy to mix and match, and can appease anyone who loves neutrals and basics.
I just don't have the patience to have to worry about coordinating pieces on a daily basis...especially when it's chilly out and all I want is to be warm and cozy. Gap's lineup right now is so impressive because EVERYTHING in the store feels like it's giving you a big warm hug. Plus all the basics are versatile and coordinate easily. So you can pick a few top options, and a few pants/dresses options and have a TON of great fall/winter outfits at hand.
The accessories are great too and can really add some fuzzy flair to any outfit choice.
Even better is that you can see for yourself tomorrow at Gap's Grand Re-opening. at 555 N. Michigan Ave. This is Gap like you've never seen it before. Not only can you shop all of these amazing styles, but you can listen to some live rock music from Cults. By shopping, you can also get VIP access to 3 other live performances in November! (Nov. 5th, 15th, and 25th). If you love fall, fashion, and music... you MUST get over to Gap!!! RSVP here!!
I had recently had a fortunate opportunity to sit down with the next huge band in country music. A Thousand Horses is the antidote for all of the "sounds the same" pop country out there that is turning a lot of people away from the genre. Imagine if the original Lynyrd Skynyrd were to come back to life and hop on stage in 2015, I feel it would resemble A Thousand Horses.
Here is some of my interview from the Windy City Smokeout on July 10, 2015.
Kelly: Okay they just had a kickass performance and now I get a chance to chat with them and I have a few questions for you guys, of course. Now I know a couple of you originally met in South Carolina correct?
Kelly: And some are from Georgia, could you guys tell me how like the whole dynamic started and how you guys originally formed
Hobby: Yeah Bill and I grew up together in South Carolina, Graham is his cousin
(Kelly: OK!) so I've known Graham as long as I've known Bill (Kelly: Family!) so family connection here. And when we formed the band in 2010 is where we met Zach.
Kelly: So that's when you joined
Zach: Yeah they moved to Nashville right out of high school actually all three of these guys, and they met me just wandering the streets of Atlanta.
Hobby: Yeah just asking for change, said his name was Zach Brown...
Zach: (Jokingly) Can I be in your band guys?
Hobby: Yep and he just hasn't left yet, we never even told him yes!
Kelly: So he's just still hanging around! So you guys are on one of my favorite labels of course. you signed to Big Machine Republic Nashville. and it is such a prestigious and well respected label, I mean what was it like when you got the call and they were like "hey we're going to sign you guys!"
Zach: That was beyond our wildest dreams, it was crazy, we initially set out to make the album ourselves. We scrounged together a few thousand bucks and we figure we could sell maybe 2,000 copies of this thing, we can pay for it. Then we can do that over the course of the year, So we brought it over to Republic...
Kelly: Ok so your first single Smoke went number one. that has to be such an incredible feeling, but when you guys found out it, were you like "holy shit our first single just went #1?!" tell me about it...
Hobby: I mean that is every artist's and songwriter' dream is to have a number 1. We've been dreaming about this since we started this band and every band we've been in. It was pretty incredible when we got the call, I'll never forget we were in Boston. we were playing with a bunch of buddies of ours and we got the call that it was going number one, so we all just threw a big party and celebrated. We are still pinching ourselves like holy crap we did it! we got a number one
Kelly: So surreal
Hobby: its very surreal, its been awesome, we're pretty grateful for it, its been a long road and for what we are doing its been awesome.
Kelly: So your sound your style is so cool so unique, I mean I love the overall vibe, I want to talk about how you see yourselves as being different for other artists of country music. How would you describe your style and your sound and why do you stand out?
Zach: I think its hard to say, we've always tried to be true to ourselves and just be real and make the music that we like. you know do our thing. its hard to say exactly what makes us different. We are hoping that people come to our show and see something there. that's A Thousand Horses right there.
Kelly: It such a unique sound and it is different from anything else going on in Nashville right now. It's why a lot of people are drawn to it, its why I'm drawn to it. So you obviously have something very special going on but its nice to hear how the artist thinks his work sets him apart.
Graham: Yeah I mean we lean a little bit more to the rock side but we love the country part of it.
Hobby: We kind of do what we do. we are on the road all the time so that we can draw from music. from rock to country, RNB to Hip-hop to soul. we were raised around that stuff. so everything that we do musically I getting subconsciously more inspiration. But its just..
Kelly: Its A Thousand Horses. that's it end of story.
Hey all!! Lollapalooza is this weekend and if you're like me, and planning on rocking out in Grant Park for 3 days, you're gonna need some tips, tricks, and a survival guide. Read below, and don't forget to share your favevtips and tricks with me!!
Make sure to look your best while protecting your assets. I always use a tinted moisturizer with a bit of shimmer. (Full coverage foundation is TOO much for the heat.) My fave is Laura Mercier Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 20. It gives you a great festival glow, a bit of coverage, and good protection so you can party in the sun!
Always wear some head gear. What screams festival-goer more than some awesome cranium accessories? PLUS, if it's windy, or the weather is inclement, it will keep your hair secure and out of your face. Fedoras or wide brimmed hats are a NO-GO for the same reason, if it's windy you'll lose it... plus you'll annoy all the people standing behind you.
Shoes. For the love of God, NO heels people. And no open toed shoes or sandals, especially flip-flops. We all know that Lolla can get muddy, and if you're wearing flip flops they will constantly get sucked off your feet. And your feet will look like you've been on Survivor if you wear sandals of any type. Wear comfy boots or comfy gym shoes. PERIOD. Converse or combat/cowboy boots are not only going to keep you feet happy, but you'll stay clean, protected, and look stylish too.
Bags: Do not bring any type of bag you have to carry. Belt bags or Cross body bags are life savers for festivals. You want your arms free for jumping, dancing, and carrying multiple beers for you and your friends. Belt bags are not only functional, but these Gabby Fringe bags from 84 Rockwell SCREAM festival. My favorite cross body bag right now is my new Coach Rhyder cross body in pebble leather.
Lolla Cashless- Did you know you can link your Lolla wristband to your debit card/credit card? You can pay for all of your food, booze, and merchandise just with a tap of your band. Brilliant! To activate, click here.
Phone chargers- The only thing worse than having no cell service while at Lolla, is having a dead phone. Keep that from happening with these handy little portable chargers that can fit in any pocket or purse. Urban Outfitters
Got lost??: Download the app Glympse. Glympse is a fast, free, and simple way to share your location in real time with the people you trust. So this way you can find the friends you were with if you get lost, or find the friends you're supposed to meet up with easily.
GETTING HOME and POST LOLLA:
Surge Protector: Uber is ALWAYS the way to go, but sometimes the surge pricing, especially after a huge festival or event, can be astronomical. Surge Protector finds locations close to you with lower surge pricing, and helps call an Uber close to those spots. Genius!
Walk!!! Always my choice.... thankfully I live close. But walking home from Grant Park is usually a great way to wind down after the craziness AND get in a bit of exercise after a day filled with food and a ton of drinks.
Hydrate: Drink a ton of water throughout the day as well as benefit from drinks like Ginger tea and coconut water to help combat hangovers and keep you ready to rock for the next day!!
The excitement I felt when I found out my spontaneous travel destination was Austin, was palpable. It's as if Time Out New York Magazine and Booking.com knew that Austin, Texas was my spirit animal. If you know my brand, Eat Travel Rock, at all; you're aware that I love to combine food and music...and of course travel, in any situation. Well this was the ultimate trifecta. Good times were about to be had...by one.
I have traveled solo many times...for quick work trips. I have never traveled on a solo vacation before, and I must say... I was pumped. No one other that myself dictating when and where to go, what to see, what to eat. The decision making began the evening before my flight when I actually found out that Austin was my destination. I immediately went on the Booking Now app on my iPhone and began to search. The ease and functionality was superior to ANY travel app I'd ever used. Since Booking Now is for travel less than 48 hrs out, I was a bit worried that desirable accommodations might not be readily available. Incorrect. The most luxurious hotels in town, as well as unique and boutique hotels were easy to find...and more importantly, affordable. Many of the hotels even had discounts that were just for Booking.com and Booking Now customers. I booked a gorgeous room at the JW Mariott in a matter of a minute and I was all set. Ready to wing it in Austin!
When I arrived in Austin, and after I got settled into my glorious city center accommodations with a stunning view of the Colorado River... I got my game face on. Fortunately, Time Out New York Magazine and Booking.com wanted me to explore the musical culture of the Live Music Capital of the World. This was going to be fun, to say the least. My first challenge was to "bear hug the unknown", and seek out a local record shop...one that is hidden or known only to locals. I decided to walk down South Congress, or as the locals call it, SoCo. I didn't let the 100 degree heat sway me from my mission. I found a tiny little spot called Friends of Sound, and believe me, it was hidden. First, I ventured off the main drag and down a little side street. The sign said "entrance in alley" So I walked down the alley...then around an old brick building... then around another corner. Finally, tucked away, was a vintage vinyl shop that was so perfectly and authentically Austin. I shopped a bit and of course picked up some old school Country tunes like pre-outlaw Waylon Jennings and the Best of Johnny Cash. I then cozied up to the manager to see if he had any great recs for where to see some live music. Not just any live music, mind you... but my next challenge was to "scare myself silly" and find a local gig that was well outside my musical comfort zone. Well he and a fellow shopper gave me some great tips for where to find some great live shows that evening... shows that were not necessarily Eat Travel Rock friendly.
Later, I ventured out for my first ever solo "night out on the town". It was great. Amidst the hustle and bustle of buzzing 6th street in downtown Austin, I hardly felt alone. The vibe was electric, and music was pouring out of every doorway and corridor. I was headed toward the Red Eyed Fly and it reached me before I reached it. The music was LOUD... and joyfully angry sounding. I asked the door guy to fill me in and he said the Death Metal show on the outside patio was $10. SOLD!! Now, I'm usually very non-discriminating when it comes to Rock music. I love it all. But death metal has always been an enigma to me. How can you even understand what they're saying with all that grunting and barking into the mic??? Plus it just seemed...scary! Well, I let go of all that and head banged with the best of them...with a Lone Star beer in hand. The crowd seemed friendly and no one seemed to mind that I only had 15 tattoos instead of 50. After a while, even though the music was starting to make my head hurt, I could see why people gravitated toward the overall vibe. Death Metal will not likely be filling my iPod soon, but it was sure fun for 30 minutes.
Next up, I wanted to venture even farther from 6th Street, and "abandon my compass". I needed to find a Rock bar that was in a part of town unknown to me. I found this tiny little run down club called Beer Land. It was definitely off the beaten path and looked right up my alley (no pun intended). They had a surfer-esque garage band on stage and they were totally my taste. A cross between the Ventures and Green Day. As I cozied up to my 2nd tall-boy of Lone Star, I sat back and realized how fortunate I was to be experiencing something so magical. Not even 24 hrs before, I didn't even know I'd be in Austin. Now here I am, sippin' on a cold one, and soaking up one of the coolest musical scenes on the planet. Bless your heart Rock N' Roll.
My final challenge was to find an iconic spot in town where a part of musical history occurred. After some research, it became clear where I needed to visit. Arlyn Studios is a place where music history has been made; over and over again. This recording studio is not only the home studio of Willie Nelson, but many of my all-time favorites have recorded here: Waylon Jennings, Sublime, Neil Young, Snoop Dogg, Gary Clark Jr., Phish, and Merle Haggard, just to name a few. Their history is rich, but even more impressive is what the music is made with/on. Arlyn Studios possesses one of the few Neve recording consoles in existence. If you saw Dave Grohl's documentary, Sound City, you would know the level of prestige and mystique this conveys. Not only do they have a Neve console, but it is a Neve/API hybrid and the only one like it in the world. As the gracious owner of Arlyn, Lisa Fletcher, explained to me..."It's like the Bentley and Rolls Royce of sound boards coming together." I was lucky enough to have Lisa give me an after hours tour of the entire studio. I couldn't get over the musical history that was in my presence. She even let me "play" with the Neve console. To touch the boards where some of the most significant albums in music history were made, was surreal. I could actually feel the pulse of all the sounds that have been flowing through that studio for decades. It was an experience that will last a lifetime.
After all of my musical challenges were completed... it was time to EAT!! You didn't think I'd forget the food, did you?! Here is a run down of some of my favorite Austin meals. Many of these recommendations came from locals as well as Time Out Magazine Austin. Lonesome Dove Western Bistro was first. Wow. Chef Tim Love's latest adventure in on point. The menu is eclectic and represented by almost every animal species on earth... from duck to rattlesnake. The food was outstanding, and since I was solo, they let me do a tasting of several of the dishes. I would definitely say the best piece of fried catfish I'd ever had. The staff was overly accommodating and friendly. It was my happy place.
Next up was to satisfy my taco craving. You can't go to Texas without filling up on this Tex-mex staple. Torchy's Tacos was ALL i'd been hearing about and it was a must. I took an Uber to this little trailer park lot and there was Torchy's. A cute little food trailer in a dusty parking lot surrounded by red picnic tables. I actually had a fried avocado taco...my life will NEVER be the same. It was taco heaven...in a trailer park.
Finally, I had my last meal at Odd Duck. I could not hear enough about this James Beard Award nominated hot spot. I also heard their brunch was spectacular, so that's what I went with. Everything they serve is locally sourced and sustainable. If you don't believe me, in the most serendipitous fashion, they sat me at the bar right next to Farmer Chris, who is actually the chicken farmer from whom they directly source their eggs. My egg education is now on a loftier level... and the dishes I enjoyed at Odd Duck were next level. It was one of those authentic experiences that can't be described, only felt. I knew I was in a special place, away from the tourists and the hustle, where I could feel the true sense of this remarkable city. My last bite and breath of Southern Texas before heading back to Chicago.
Needless to say, traveling solo may be my new favorite thing. Not only was I able to learn so much more about Austin, its music, and its culture, but I was able to learn more about myself. My sense of adventure is alive and well, and people and places (and music) that once seemed foreign or intimidating, are now welcomed and appreciated. I'm so grateful for this quick journey, and even though i'm back in Chicago, in my comfort zone...Austin is already calling me back.
Lots to talk about folks!!! I did a segment on WCIU You and Me This Morning today and I chatted about some summer concerts and music festivals that are coming up in the near future (See full segment here)... but in this blog, I'm also going to include several other that I wasn't able to mention on air. Who's ready to rock?!?!
Ravinia Festival- June 26th and 27th Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. This normally isn't up my alley but this is such a great pairing of old school and new school talent. Tix are still available on Stubhub and other ticket sites. Also, coming up this summer: ETR Picks of course
The Doobie Brothers June 30
Blondie and Melissa Etheridge July 2
Rob Thomas July 18
Bluegill Music Festival- July 4th. Rend Lake Dam in Benton, IL - If you don't have plans yet for 4th of July... NOW YOU DO!! Come to Bluegill Fest and see me and 20 amazing country artists get down and dirty at the dam. I'm the official Bluegill correspondent and I'll be mingling on the 4th with the headliner, Eli Young Band, as well as other amazing artists like Lo Cash, and my good friends, Clayton Anderson and Stella James Band. General Admission tix are only $30 and VIP are $60. Yee Haw!!!
The Beach Boys with Kool and the Gang- Montrose Beach June 26th- This is huge folks... you get to see the Beach Boys ON the Beach!!! I saw them in 1995 in Las Vegas and I was BLOWN away. They are some of the major pioneers of pop-rock and i've always loved them. They're still killin' it! If you haven't seen them yet, now is your chance.
The Windy City SmokeOut- River North at Grand Ave- July 10-12. My FAVORITE event of the year. The 3rd annual Smokeout and I'm an ambassador this year! Woo! Some of my favorite artists and friends will be playing this year such as Lee Brice, Chris Young, Kacey Musgraves, A Thousand Horses, and Sundy Best. PLUS some of the greatest pit masters in the country will be showing off their BBQ skills alongside host, Bub City.
And NO, I'm not forgetting about Lollapalooza or Riot Fest... those will get their own very special dedicated posts as the dates draw nearer.... (as Metallicaaaaaaa is whispered in the background)
It's ok, I'll let Food Network piggy back off of Eat Travel Rock. Quite flattering the hashtag for their event last weekend at Ravinia Music Festival was #EatDrinkRock... haha, ok seriously folks. My manager, Chantel, and I headed up to Highland Park to explore what was sure to be incredible food and incredible music...sounds right up my alley!! I also managed to snag 2 quick interviews with some heavy hitters in the culinary world.
The first chat was with Billy Dec (Co-Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions) and Chef Kevin Hickey (Executive chef of Bottle Fork and the upcoming Duck Inn). They were FRESH off their win for BEST HOT DOG. Quite an accomplishment being in Chicago and all. Check out the Video HERE!
Next, I had a chance to interview a Food Network Chef/Host I've been a fan of for a while. She has a simple yet bold take on Latin American food... hence her show's name, Simply Delicioso! Check out this video of Chef Ingrid Hoffmann !!!
It's finally happening. I am finally going to the birthplace of my favorite music...after 20 years of thinking about it. Seattle is the Mecca and founding city of most of alternative rock... namely "Grunge". Even though most of these artists hate the term, "grunge" it is how it's been classified. Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, etc. They all began here, and these bands helped shape my life and were instrumental in the formation for my appreciation of modern rock. It also happens to be the birthplace of my boyfriend, hence the trip. I've come to grips with the fact that I'm sure the music scene has changed since 1992, but I would love to see some remnants of that vibe. Even though I missed out on the early days of when Mother Love Bone still existed, Layne Stayley was just becoming known for his tortured vocals, and the movie Singles was all the rage... there must be a highway of nostalgia still in play... or the ability to witness new burgeoning bands who aim to make it big on the scene. Any local or underground rock clubs I should visit? Regardless, just being in the presence of where all of this went down will be excitement enough for me.
Ok everyone. Time for MY picks of the shows I am most excited about over the next couple months. They are ALL over the place. So listen up!
Phish- (July 18-20) Calm down everyone. I know, I know. I have avoided this mega tour since 1995. And today, it's finally happening. I have always enjoyed Phish's studio albums, especially in high school and college. I have been super anti-jam band basically because I lack patience and don't wanna hear a 18 min song. But I have relented, and thanks to a free ticket, I WILL be attending a show this weekend at Northerly Island. It's all happening folks...
Down With Webster- (July 24th) Subterranean in Wicker Park. My favorite Canadian band (and also besties) are back in town. I am SO excited for this venue, mainly because it won't let in their usual under 21 screaming girl fans. These 6 guys are so talented and their style covers hip-hop to rock to pop. They are awesome to listen to and not bad to look at. They give Avril Lavigne and Justin Bieber a run for their money at all the Canadian music award shows, and sell out shows to thousands of screaming fans in the Great White North...Yet are still under the radar in the US. So get in while you can and see them up close and personal... because they are going to be HUGE here soon. Mark my words.
Panic! At The Disco- (July 25th) Northerly Island- If you're unfamiliar with Brendon Urie (lead singer) and how hilarious this man is, you're missing out. Check out his Vine videos. But more importantly, the band rocks. Their newest album (Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die) is a hit, especially with tracks like Miss Jackson and Vegas Lights, and Far Too Young to Die. It's more electro-pop than their past albums, and if you like Fall out Boy you'll love Panic! as they're the cooler, sexier, bad-boy LA version of the Chicago band.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Aug 23rd) United Center- Honestly, I can't... Can't being to explain how FUCKING PUMPED I AM FOR THIS!!!! Out of the hundreds of shows I've been to in my life... Tom Petty may be number ONE. Dead serious, can't top it. I've never heard such badass guitar riffs and instruments fill an arena more than when I've been at a Tom Petty concert. He's a legend... so is his guitarist Mike Campbell. Case closed.
Zac Brown Band (Sept. 13th) Wrigley Field- I know, y'all were wondering where the country music was on my list. Fear not. ZBB is my favorite modern day country artist. Part Southern Rock, part jam band, part bluegrass, ALL hardcore talent. Zac has some of the strongest vocals in the biz and he can shred the shit out of an acoustic geetar. Whether you're a "country" fan or not, you will not be disappointed seeing this Georgia crew tear up the Friendly Confines.
Hey Y'all. This weekend marks the 3 day period where Chicago bows down to 2 of the mightiest forces in the universe. BBQ and Country Music. This may be controversial as, I've come to find out, not EVERYONE is a country music fan. Well shame on you! You have a chance to make it right! The Windy City SmokeOut starts today and not only will some of the best BBQ from around the COUNTRY be featured, but,... there will also be some of the biggest names in Country Music...right here in our own back yard...in River North! Bub City puts it on, and we already know how great their food is. Smoque, Chicago's Q, and Lillie's Q from Chi-Town are also repping as well as Salt Lick BBQ, Myron Mixon, and Dinosaur BBQ from around the ole US of A. But of course, the twang will be flowin' and some of my favorite acts (and friends) will take the stage at Grand and the River. Including Clayton Anderson, Brett Eldredge, Chase Rice (who I'll be interviewing for Eat Travel Rock TV on Sunday) Eli Young Band, etc. Tix are still available. Come on people, get your shit kickers on!
It has been an unacceptable amount of time since I have last shared with you. Plus, what kind of music blogger would I be if I didn't fill you in on one of my most life changing musical experiences? On May 28, 2013 I had the honor of seeing The Rolling Stones, arguably the world's greatest band, in concert. It was a total fluke. I was sitting at Dublin's Bar with my singer/songwriter friend from Nashville, Jesse Rice, when I got the call from my friend, Aggie: "Kel! I have 2 extra ($600) Stones tickets, I'm picking you up in an hour!" Jesse and I couldn't believe our luck...especially since we're both intensely devoted fans. Was this really happening? Were we really about to see Mick, Ronnie, Keith, and Charlie... live (and alive) and in concert? This was just too much. We showed up 2 songs into the 3 hour set...during my favorite Stones track, Paint it Black. My level of elation was clearly visible. I ran to my seat and my heart was pumping while I was jumping up and down like a school kid... with a mile-wide smile plastered across my face. Jesse was in utter disbelief. He never thought he'd get to the the Stones live... needless to say we were both the epitome of giddiness.
Fascination is an understatement. To see in person, a band that has accomplished so much; a band who has cultivated and forever changed the very foundation of rock and roll, gave me noticeable goosebumps. Fascination also describes my attitude toward the ability the band still has, after 50 years, to just fucking rock out. Jagger was floating and hopping around the stage as if he were a 20 year old athlete. Ronnie Wood was more cut up that guys my age who work out every day. Keith Richards, even though he looked as if he was about to decompose on stage, killed it on his guitar. No one can do with a guitar what Keith Richards can do, and so effortlessly. He makes some of the most simple riffs seem so complex and gut wrenching. As Jesse, a guitarist himself, said, "He gets so much out of so little." All four of them were hard core rock stars, through and through.
As far as vocals are concerned: I was much more impressed than I initially believed I would be. I've heard several live renditions of "Sympathy For The Devil" over the years and I've always been, not only disappointed with Jagger's vocals, but with the vocal arrangement as well. But to my pleasant surprise, his vocals on EVERY song other than "Sympathy" were incredible. Literally have not changed since the studio recordings. "Sympathy" was still an unfortunate let-down, as it's one of my favorites and I really hoped it would have been closer to the original. But hey, you can't always get what you want....
Some of the key moments from the set list included, a transcendent performance of "Wild Horses", the groovy "Miss You", and the United Center shaking, "Honky Tonk Women". My favorite performance, by far, was "Gimme Shelter"... it was just so mesmerizing....the intro guitar and the "ooh oooohhhss" were palpable through my entire body.... and don't even get me started with the endless wailing verses "War, Children... it's just a shot away;" all the screams and howls were perfectly orchestrated and executed.
So after this show I was rating it one of the top 5 shows I've been to in my life, maybe even top 3. But I kept saying... it just would've been even cooler if we were closer... or got to meet them. Wellllllllllllll my friends...... Here's a fun tangent. Let's just say I have 3 rock idols; Eddie Vedder, Mick Jagger, and John Fogerty. The fact that I've become friends with Eddie over the last couple years has almost been too much to comprehend. I surely didn't think I'd have encounters with my 2 other rock god idols... especially since, well, they're kinda old. So much to my surprise, while I was just sitting ON a booth at Studio Paris, May 29th, I see the unmistakable face and tiny frame of Mick Jagger walking toward me... and sits...DIRECTLY NEXT TO ME. Pardon the expression, but I pretty much shit my pants. I'm not one for EVER interrupting a celebrity and I think asking for fan pics is super gay... I am VERY "anti". But this was MICK FUCKING JAGGER. Fortunately, he saw me first and smiled. I told him I loved his show and that it was basically life-changing. He was very pleased and asked my name, shook my hand ,and gave me a hug. Then in his adorable London accent, asked if I wanted some champagne. Ummm, yes please!!! He poured me the glass himself and we "cheersed" each other. It was one hell of a moment... and the sweetest champagne I've ever tasted.
This last weekend at Joe's Bar was like this year's second Lollapalooza. It was an over-the-top smorgasbord of interwoven and overlapping acts and concerts. Let's just say I am STILL worn out! The most wonderful aspect was that even though not every show was AT Joe's Bar...Joe's was still a huge part of everything that was going on.
Here's how the craziness began: November 29th witnessed a mass immigration of country artists to our fair city of Chicago. They were scattered everywhere... from State Street to Weed Street. My first stop along this musical journey was the House of Blues for The Florida Georgia Line, Love and Theft, and Jake Owen concerts. Love and Theft's Eric and Stephen are good friends, along with Eric's beautiful wife, Emily, so we watched the rapid fire shows from the artist's balcony. Unfortunately, I had missed Florida Georgia Line's energetic performance at Joe's in September, so it was amazing to finally see them live. It's incredible to see the reaction the crowd has every time "Cruise" is performed. I had to sneak out of this show early as I needed to rush over to Joe's to interview Jerrod Niemann as well as host the live streaming of his concert. This was so cool, as this type of broadcast, using Laplive.TV, hadn't been done before at Joe's and it was a monstrous production. Over 3,000 fans around the country got to watch the show live at Joe's thanks to the live streaming. Jerrod was thrilled to be able to "bring Joe's TO all of his fans." You can catch the rest of our discussion/interview here. Jerrod's show was non-stop action with an entire horns section and back to back crowd pleasing hits. He has such a wonderful demeanor and stage presence, he makes every audience member feel like a family member and an integral part of the show. The highlight for me was his beautiful ballad, What Do You Want, which was also co-written by a dear friend, Rachel Bradshaw. Jerrod's deep and powerful voice had the audience captivated for the duration of the show but that song was on a whole different level.
The next day, Friday, was truly epic. If you were at Joe's, you witnessed the intensity first hand. Once again, I ventured to House of Blues for the 2nd performance of Florida Georgia Line, Love and Theft, and Jake Owen. After the show I had to round up the troops and help get all the boys over to Joe's so they could support their friend, Chase Rice, who was performing his first sold out show. Chase is an interesting guy. On the outside, he seems to be a tall, handsome, ummm jock? But he's got so much more going on than that. This guy has done it all, and all by the young age of 27. We had a really fun interview... you can watch it here. When Chase took the stage, he really rocked it... of course, the ladies were ecstatic, but he really was pulling the guys in too... as they could all relate to his "fun time" music. Chase called up buddy Stephen Barker Liles (Love and Theft) to jam with him for one song, yet the "piece de resistance" was during the encore performance. Chase sneaked off stage and was scrambling upstairs to gather all his fellow songwriters and performers for one last colossal track. He grabbed Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, and Jesse Rice (co-writer). They are the conglomeration responsible for the current number one song in country, Cruise. No one at Joe's had ever seen a crowd go so crazy before... especially during the last chorus of "In this brand new Chevy with a lift kit... would look a HELL OF A LOT BETTER WITH YOU UP IN IT!"
Fortunately, for those of you who missed any of these shows, you can be confident all of the artists will be back in 2013. There's already an incredible line up that's in place for January and February. Check it out here and hope to see y'all soon at a show soon!! Stay tuned... I'm going to tell you about my last crazy trip to Nashville and review Florida Georgia Line's new chart topping album, Here's to the Good Times.
When you think of Oysters, do you also think of Country Music? No? Well in Chicago, we do. They go hand in hand just like Shaw’s Crab House and Joe’s Bar go hand in hand. Last week, these two institutions joined forces to put on one hell of an event in River North. A massive parking lot was transformed and packed full of 4,000 attendees who were visibly hungry for two things… delicious oysters and live country music. Lettuce Entertain You supplied all types of delectable goodies, but their oysters stole the show. Actually, the oysters shared the spotlight with County Music star Lee Brice. I’ve met Lee before and we have a ton of mutual friends, so it was a good ol’ time catching up with him on his tour bus before he took the stage. We got to chat about his recent #1 hit and his coveted CMA Award nomination for Best New Artist. You can catch the entire interview by clicking here.
The crowd seemed to forget how cold this October night was once Lee commanded the stage. His bold performance, powerful melodies, and poignant yet fun lyrics captivated the audience. He rocked through his biggest hits: Hard To Love, A Woman Like You, Love Like Crazy, as well as the fun-time anthem, Beer. He also surprised me by performing "Crazy Girl." This was a recent #1 hit by Eli Young Band and one of my favorite songs because of its haunting beauty… I had no idea that it was Lee who penned it... almost a decade ago for an ex-girlfriend. The outdoor festivities were immensely successful… but we all know the fun couldn't stop there. The die-hard music fans retreated back to Joe’s for the after party. Tyler Farr performed to an exuberant crowd and Lee sneaked back on stage for an impromptu performance of MY REQUEST: More Than A Memory!! Another painfully gorgeous remnant of his songwriting days… which happened to be a #1 hit for an obscure and up-and-coming artist, Garth Brooks. :-) It's always a pleasure when Lee or any of his buddies (Jerrod Niemann, Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Jake Owen) visit Joe's. They're a blast, yet so down-to-earth and easy going. Can't wait to see when some of the other guys will be coming back... StayTuned!!
Chicago’s relationship with country music is quite an enigma. Depending on where you are, and with whom, you will either discover that Chicago is the next best thing since Nashville….or you’ll hear crickets when you ask, “Hey, have you heard of Jason Aldean?!” For me, personally, I’ve been a country fan as long as I can remember…even growing up in Lake View. Shockingly, my Sicilian immigrant father got me hooked on Waylon, Willie, Conway, The Gatlin Brothers, and the Oak Ridge Boys before I could even walk. I think the first song I learned when I was two was, “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.”
Yet today, I have my friends divided into two groups: My country friends, and my non-country friends. I know when I’m with my “country friends” I can put on the most obscure Garth Brooks, or the newest hit from Little Big Town, and they’ll know every word and turn whatever venue we’re at into our own little honky-tonk. I also know when I’m with my “non-country friends” I better not even mention how excited I am for the upcoming Zac Brown Band show, or god forbid play any Eric Church for them on my iPod. I will, without a doubt, get the “How can you listen to that stuff?” or “Turn that redneck music off!!”
I believe this happens because in Chicago, it’s easy to go your entire life and not necessarily be exposed to country music. This would NOT happen if you grew up or lived in the South. You may not be country’s biggest fan, but you will damn sure be familiar with the genre. In the Windy City, there are no fair-weather country fans. I’ve noticed you’re either a “die-hard” or a “hater”. Now, I’ve also noticed that the “haters” are people who just haven’t given country a chance. Almost every “hater” I’ve encountered can easily be converted into a “die-hard” by listening to a few key crossover artists who can gingerly swing them over into the country-friendly realm.
Once you become a fan of country, Chicago is an amazing place to be. We have the country’s BIGGEST country music radio station inUS99.5 (in terms of listenership…quite the accomplishment). We are also a mega-hub for every country artist to appear… major and minor alike. This is why our beloved Joe’s Bar is such a phenomenon. It gives the “die-hards” a place to see their favorite artists up close and personal, yet also provides chance to experience up and coming artists. It’s also the perfect venue for a “die-hard” to bring a “hater” friend for a non-threatening and eye-opening introduction to country music. There is NO way the non-country lover will leave a show at Joe’s and say they didn’t have a blast and a new found appreciation for the genre they’ve been shying away from.
Clearly, the people at Joe’s, US99, and myself (wow, I’m in good company) have made it our mission to bring country music to the masses and to the forefront of our fair city. It is a big undertaking, but fortunately, the music speaks for itself and does most of the work. However, there is no better feeling of accomplishment than turning a “hater” into a “die-hard.”