Sunday, December 19, 2010

Prince @ the Izod Center - December 17th

This ridiculous story starts a month or more ago, when it was brought to my attention that Prince, THE MAN, was performing in the NYC area in December. I was talking to a friend of mine about it, and I said to him, "Yo how am I going to get into the Prince show for free? I really want to go, but there's no way I'm going to be able to afford tickets." At the time all I had was was the thought that I wanted to go, but couldn't pay for it, with no actual plan as to how I was going to do it. That same night, I went home and searched on my computer for free ticket giveaways for the show, and could find none. After a bit of searching I found ONE, so I decided to sign up for it. I figured, what's the big deal, I will just give them my name and number, and if it doesn't work I don't really lose anything by entering. So I sign up and stopped really thinking about it. The Wednesday before the show I get a phone call from the radio station who's website I signed up on, telling me I won a pair of tickets to go see Prince. OH MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! REALLY?! WAIT REALLY?! I was running around for a while, unbelievable!!!! I suppose, it was one of those "thinking it into existence" situations that everyone talks about, or maybe it was just a late birthday present from God, whatever it was, I got to go see Prince for free!!!!

Jazz artist Cassandra Wilson was the opening act, who I'm not very familiar with, but it is Jazz, so at least there's a very good chance that the music is good. Strangely enough, at one point, she sang one of her songs and Prince came out during the performance and they did a duet! Yes that's right, he came out during the opening act to sing a song with Cassandra, when people were still just arriving and the Izod Center was nowhere NEAR being full! It was the first time I've ever seen that happen, but then again, it was the first time I'd ever seen Prince perform. It was actually pretty cool, and then when the song was done, he just walked right off the stage and let her finish her performance!

Next up was Maceo Parker, legendary saxophonist and funk musician, and he defnitely brought the funk with him. He let us know that "This Funk is Off the Hook" while he jammed out with his backing band. Again, weirdly enough, Prince came out again! This time, with one of his guitars in hand, and he rocked out a song with Maceo and the band! It's one thing for him to come out once and jam, but twice?! It was funny to think about the people who showed up after both openers, because by the time they got to their seat Prince had already performed twice!

After the two great openers though, it was Prince time. "Dearly beloved," he said, while the lights were off, and the crowd went wild (me included). Of course, it was Prince time, but more specifically, time for 'Let's Go Crazy!' The stage lit up (it was in the shape of his symbol, and huge) and it was definitely time to go crazy. The thing with Prince is that he does a different show everytime you see him. This means that if you see him perform on a Wednesday, his show will be different from Friday, including the set list. For my show, on Friday, he did just about every song I wanted to hear (The Beautiful Ones, Kiss, Purple Rain, etc.) with the exception of 'I wanna be your Lover' and 'When Doves Cry', those are two of my favorite Prince songs, but, alas, they were not on my night. I didn't care though, because Prince destroyed it.

It was my first time seeing him perform, and luckily for me my seats were facing what would be used as the front of the stage, so he spent most of his time on my side of the arena. He played the piano, he SHREDDED the guitar, and even took some time off from his busy schedule of doing that to bless us with a little old school Prince dance moves. After 'Purple Rain' he made his (first) exit, clearly, daring us to beg him to come back. We obliged. He repaid us by coming back out and singing Kiss. After doing Kiss, he of course left again. We begged, and pleaded, but he didn't return. Instead, out of the mid-stage elevator came the great Sheila E! UNBELIEVABLE! She of course reminded us that she wants to live 'The Glamorous Life', maybe not necessarily Sheila, but someone does! Prince came back out with his guitar in hand, and they called some guys on stage to dance with Sheila (as they did earlier with the ladies, and Prince). Of course, like before, most people were just doing a 2-step, except for this one guy, who did like 4 or 5 jumping splits! I can't blame him, I would have done it too.

While Prince and Sheila performed together, all I was thinking about was how cool it would be if Morris Day and the Time came out and they did their big hit 'Jungle Love'. That didn't happen, but it was like I telepathically told Prince I wanted to hear that song, so he performed them instead! He even did 'The Bird', and the crowd all decided to do the dance along with Prince's back up singers. What an insane show! After that though, Prince made his exit again, and we all screamed and begged him to come back. However this time, the house lights came on, so people thought it was really over. At this point, some people left (as you would guess), and some of the stage crew actually came out to take stuff down. Even I thought it was over, but some of the fans that left were screaming, so I decided, why not? The worst thing that could happen is that he doesn't come back out. Luckily for us though, he did, for curtain call number 3!

He came out and we cheered louder than we did when the place was packed, to which he responded, "I guess they're going to have to kick us out of here!" He told them to leave the house lights on, and he went into a love songs medley (Do Me, Baby, and the like) before making his 3rd exit. The people still in the arena thought, well maybe he will come back out yet again, but this time, the stage crew came out again (for their first curtain call!) and actually started taking stuff down, as opposed to last time. Ah well, I think 3 curtain calls is a fair amount! I also think, this may have been the best show I've been to for the year, and maybe ever. It will take some evaluating, but I won't be surprised if it's number one when it's all said and done. If you are planning on seeing Prince on this tour, you should bring a fresh pair of undies and prepare to be speechless! Let's Go Crazy!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Just another Wednesday

Ok, well maybe not just another Wednesday, infact, it was completely out of the ordinary for a Wednesday, but it was rather awesome! I was on the guestlist to go to the Wired Store on Wednesday, to see Tokyo Police Club perform, which was a lot of fun, but I was also on the list to go to a lot of other places too, so I wanted to make sure I made the right decision. It would turn out I did.

I arrived at the Tokyo Police Club show with an assortment of new friends, and after figuring out the door and list situation it was time to get some free Bushmills! The conversation with my new friends was so great that we ended up missing almost the entire set from the opening act, a band I don't know even up to now. It turned out that one of their members was a really nice guy we met and talked to in the bathroom line! I feel like a bit if a hack for not listening to them and writing a music blog, but I suppose this section is about Tokyo Police Club. In my defense, the Wired Store is 3 floors of cool stuff to play with, its like a toy store for adults. We decided to venture downstairs, where there were video games and a foosball table to play with. We stayed down here and played said video games and foosball for a while. The downstairs area had music playing, so we just assumed it was coming from upstairs. This was not the case. In fact, it took the good ears of a friend I was with to alert me to the fact that there was someone on stage performing while we were playing X-box. We ran upstairs to find out that it was indeed the Tokyo Police Club, the act I went there to see.

They didn't disappoint, just like I thought they wouldn't, despite the fact that I'm not very familiar with their songs, and I've never seen them perform before. Their sound is cool, new age punk and pop rock, but not cutesy, its a very mature sound. Their tracks are a bit Weezerish, which I thoroughly enjoy. After a decent set, they brought out Jewish reggae artist Matisyahu, and he did their song that they have together. I'd never seen Matisyahu live prior to Wednesday night, but I thought he may have been more hyped on stage. Maybe it was the fact that the stage wasn't very big that kept him rather stationary. I guess it was only one song too, it being their last song before the end of the private event. This of course was where my night became challenging.

There were so many things to do Wednesday night that I wanted to make sure I made the best decision. This is funny because usually Wednesday is the day I usually have the least amount of social events going on. There was a big hiphop show at Santos Party house, with an assortment of artists performing, including Cory Gunz, Freddie Gibbs and Aloe Blacc. I was told by a couple friends of mine to check out Aloe Blacc, apparently he has a really great sound. I could have went right after the TPC event at Wired. I decided to take a different route, but not that different.

The Roots were having their Christmas show at BB King's, and I was told by even more people that this yearly show is a great one, not to be missed, especially if you've never seen The Roots perform, which I hadn't, until Wednesday. In hindsight, this was possibly the best decision I've made all year!

At first it didn't seem that way, having to stand on line in the blistering cold for like an hour outside before being let in. I don't even know what was taking them so long! When we finally got into the very warm surroundings of BB King's (a place I've also never been to) I was greeted by the one Rahzel, beatbox extraordinaire. After talking to him for a minute we headed downstairs and found a nice spot by the stage. After some early warm from the DJs, the band affectionally known as The Legendary Roots Crew took the stage (tuba player and all). They played on their lead vocalist, Black Thought, who took the stage then grabbed a mic, and just did track after track without a break. After a few songs in a row he called out his new best friend John Legend, and they did a few tracks off their new combination album. Legend's voice is basically the same as on record, that unique sort of smoky sound that makes you think of the best crooners, if they did soul music of course. John called out his friend Estelle, who did a couple songs, one with The Roots and American Boy. Estelle then made way for the huge surprise of the night, the incomporable Patty Labelle! Truthfully speaking, she only did 2 songs (yes one of those songs was Lady Marmalade) but I honestly could have left afterwards. She's commands a presence on stage that only the great ones have, so that even a 2 song performance makes you feel like you got your money's worth, even though the show was free.

Ms. Labelle is now part of the cast of Fela, so it was a great segue into the Fela performers coming onstage and doing what they do best, dance. At this point the staged was filled with people: horns section, drums and dancers and not to mention The Roots were still on stage as well. After the Fela portion of the show, Black Thought decided to bring out more hiphop artists, to the tune of Chitty Bang, a young group who I believe are also from Philly, but I may be wrong. They rocked for a little bit before Black Thought took over again. There were so many people coming out it was hard to keep track of everyone. Even Yelawolf came out and did "Pop the Trunk" before he made way for another artist. Also in the legends category was Melvin van Peebles, who did his funk thing with a little participation from the crowd. I left BB King's when Black Thought was trying to figure out who to bring out next, it was 2:30am at that point! This was an amazing and exhausting show, one that I surely will not miss if I'm in NYC next yeat around Christmas time, and you definitely shouldn't miss it either.

Friday, December 3, 2010

AWOLNATION: The Show That Never Was

So I sat for a few days wondering whether I would blog about NOT going to a show, but I think I owe it to my friends to at least make them aware of GBH, some sort of "promotion" company that is now on my shit list. I figure I write about going to cool shows, I might as well talk about not getting to go to one right? It's only fair:

So for the better part of the last month, I've been patiently awaiting the live performance by band AWOLNATION at Santos Party House, which took place this past Tuesday. The event was completely free (I think) and all you had to do was RSVP through, which apparently does promotions for shows and parties. They're pretty big it would appear as well, judging from their website. Either way, I couldn't see this show being even a slight problem, after all, it's a rock show and Santos Party House, a great place to see live music.

Either way, on the day of the show I arrive right before it was supposed to start, even before they bouncers got there to put out the barricade. Like I said, I was REALLY excited to see these guys live. The bouncers show up, barricades come out, line forms, and it's time to let people in. Now I'm in the front of the line and the prick who has the list (that he isn't even looking at) asks me what listen I'm on, I say GBH, he responds by saying he's not letting in guys right now! To a concert? Mind you, I was at the front of the line with another guy I've seen out at events before. So the bouncer then tells us to get off the line. We move asside, then he lets in the next 2 girls that were behind us, and the next 10 guys who were behind them. I mean, it's a rock concert, there's probably gonna be more guys than girls.

I of course enquire as to why I'm not being let in, and he says I'm not dressed right. For a CONCERT?! Mind you I was wearing jeans and sneakers, which of course, is what everyone else was wearing, you know, to go to the CONCERT! They of course let in almost everyone else, he probably took 2 guys off the line but I couldn't really make out why, sort of like, how I couldn't figure out why I wasn't allowed to be a part of this show. I still, up to now, have no idea. I told the prick that everyone is wearing the same thing as me, and he responded by telling me that he gets to be selective...HMMMM...As you could imagine, I was EXTREMELY upset. I mean, it's one this to not get into a show for a reason, but for NO reason? It makes no sense, on top of that, I would have gladly bought tickets to go to the show, because, I really wanted to see AWOLNATION, but that didn't happen either, so I just left. Angry. So angry infact, that I wrote this blog to tell other people not to support the pricks at I even wrote on AWOLNATION's Facebook wall and told them the same thing, never work with these guys. I now have to be on the lookout to make sure I'm not supporting them because they do promote a lot of shows in NYC, but I don't care, they don't run this place, I've never been to any of their shows prior to attempting to go out on Tuesday, so I will live without them. You can to. Down with GBH!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Heineken Encore Concert @ Pier 36 (11/13/10)

The funny thing about this show was the fact that after all my best efforts, I still almost didn't make it. Well, I thought I didn't, I guess at the end of the day I was actually fine, but it was a real scare. 
I was at work (on set) on Saturday at 5am, and really, had I stayed the entire time I definitely would have missed this show with such a sweet line-up, so I made the decision to leave, which I did at noon. This I thought was a good move, because it would give me ample time to make it to a show I thought was in Chelsea Piers (it wasn't) that started at 3pm. I even stopped at a friend's house and hung out for a bit with my extra time. I left the midtown area at 1:30pm, which I also thought was good enough time. 
I of course get to the train station to find out the E train isn't running. Of course. I then decided to jump on the 6 train, but I thought after a while that it was taking too long so I jumped out at Bleecker St and tried to get a cab. Yea that wasn't my best move! There were so many people begging for cabs and they were all full. After a while I decide to cross Houston to possibly get a cab from the other side. Luckily, in the gas station, a cab driver was just getting back to his cab so I ran him down and got him to take me to the Seaport. 
Even though there was a lot of traffic, we still got down there by 2:20pm, which I thought was great timing all things considered. Now all I had to do was find Pier 36....which isn't at Chelsea Piers, like I mentioned before. Where is it pre tel? Its about a mile east of CP. And since I wasn't about to get another cab (that last one was $11) this meant I had to hoof it. 
I was in such a panic, because I wasn't really sure if I was going in the right direction, plus I was hoping the line wasn't cut off for the show. So I started running, in my jeans and Pradas, full out, to get to this place. And finally, ShangriLa! Now if you don't know about this epic show you may wonder why I went to so much trouble to get to this thing. Well, a couple reasons: 1) I left work early so I could go to this show, which means I didn't get paid for the day. This means I HAD to make it to this show come hell or high water, because I passed up a day of work for it. And 2) how often is it that you get to see Roxy Cottontail and Diplo DJ, one after the other, followed by performances by J-Cole, Dres from Black Sheep, Cee-Lo of Goodie Mobb and Gnarls Barkley fame, and Nas? Oh, did I mention there was free food and all the Heineken you can drink, and that the entire event was absolutely free?!
Well, now that I have your attention, let me explain. I got word that Heineken was extending their Inspire concert series for one last hoorah, another run at an "undisclosed location" in NYC. I of course RSVP, and got the info about where the show was on Saturday morning, which was the day of the show. 
If you've never been to a Heineken party, I would advise that you should sell your right arm to get on the list whenever they have one, especially after Saturday’s festivities. The Heineken guys turned that huge Pier 36 into a musical amusement park, with photo booths, bars with beers aplenty, and even a recording booth for you to lay down a track, if you were so inclined. The stage was a huge one, with a nice runway and beautiful lighting. The setup itself was so awesome, it was worth the cab ride and the no-work almost immediately upon entry. Once I got my first Pilsner of ice cold Heineken, I knew I'd gotten away 
with highway robbery, and no one had even performed yet! Now on to the performers...

The performances had a lot to live up to to say the least. With such a cool space and so much going on, I would have been satisfied had no one showed up! After the early warm DJ got everyone in a good party mood, NYC party legend Roxy Cottontail took over the DJ set, and switched the vibe up to her specialty, techno and club. Her set was fun, as you might guess, and really it was a welcome addition to an otherwise all Hip-Hop line-up. 
From there we moved onto another well know club DJ, Diplo. He of course has gotten more fame (and fortune no doubt) since linking up with the guys from Major Lazer, but he's been a very well known DJ for quite sometime. He went through a very eclectic mix of Rap, house and dancehall, much to the delight of the onlooking Heineken lovers in the crowd. 
The opening performer came right after Diplo, and it would appear, according to some people I spoke to, that he was the "special guest," J-Cole. This of course matters because the rumor for the night and for the previous few days was that Kanye West was the special guest performer. The presence of the one Amber Rose didn't help things much; needless to say, Mr. West was NOT in the building.  New up and coming rapper J-Cole, prodigy of Jay-Z, went through his catalog of hits 
and new tracks like a seasoned veteran. Of course a lot of the onlookers were bigger fans of the new artist than me, so they knew a lot of his work. His vibe was great though, and he has a great stage presence. Things are definitely going to go up for this artist, especially being under the wing of a demi-god like Jay-Z. 
The next performer up was Dres from Black Sheep. He wasn't onstage for more than 2 songs I believe, which gave him enough time to do Black Sheep's big song, and one of his new songs off his upcoming album. He then made way for an appearance by DJ Kool Herc, the man often branded as the inventor of rap music. He came out to say a few words about the show and how happy he was for everyone to come out. We were also very happy to be there!
After that, Cee-Lo was up next. He definitely was best dressed for the night, coming on stage wearing an all white suit complete with a bowler hat. His backing band were all female, wearing all white as well albeit far less clothing than their frontman. He put together a very energetic set, and was the longest performer for sure for the night. He finished with his ode to golddiggers everywhere, the aptly named "Fuck You", and left to a rousing ovation. I was kind of annoyed he didn't do "Crazy," his hit with Gnarls Barkley, but I guess you can't win them all. 
The final act of the night, was none other than the Queens poet of many names, Nasir Jones, aka Nas. He also came complete with a backing band, obviously with the knowledge that everything sounds better with a live band. His set was a bit short for my liking. I want to blame that on the fact that he came on stage late, but that's because the show started later than expected. Having said that though his performance wasn't lacking by any means. He kicked things off with 3 straight tracks from Illmatic, the album widely regarded as his best and one of 
rap music's best ever. His megahit "If I Ruled The World" was sang with backup vocals by the crowd, who I think would have made actual backup vocalist Lauryn Hill proud. He went to "Hate Me Now," resurrected hip-hop with "Hip Hop is Dead," and even started a chant of 'Braveheartttt' with "Made ya Look." It was a truly surreal performance for me, getting to see a living legend show off his talents right before my eyes. After it was over, everyone went their separate ways, unbelievably happy no doubt that they were allowed to be a part of one of the sickest events imaginable. I still can't believe I was... 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Legend Factory V3.0 @ Crash Mansion (11/11/10)

So I get a lot of opportunities to go to really cool shows and events, and I thought I would share some of my cool moments with people who enjoy such things: great shows and great events. Here is the first of hopefully many:

Crash Mansion was host to the Legend Factory V3.0 which really is for showcasing new up and coming as well as underground artists and groups to the general public. I've been to quite a few shows at Crash Mansion, so I know this is a great place to see live music, and tonight's line-up didn't disappoint. After about an hour delay Avana Carbonell was the opening act, an artist from New Jersey who has a sound sort of like "Teena Marie, Donna Summer, and Tina Turner." I like all three of those particular artists, but I can't say I was a fan of her sound. It seemed a bit old school but, not necessarily in a good way. She has a good voice but I feel like she would do better with different music...possibly.

For a complete difference in vibe Nikolas Metaxas from Greece was on stage next, and man was he amazing. He has an amazing voice and I like his sound, it's kind of a soulful pop/rock, like John Mayer, but Metaxas can actually sing! It's difficult to sound as good as he did live, but apparently not for Mr. Metaxas, who moved to the USA after a good amount of success in Greece and in other parts of Europe. He keeps this up and that success can only increase, and snowball.

I will take this opportunity to say that I didn't get to see everyone in their entirety. I missed Rasheeda Wallace completely, one of the acts I really wanted to see after hearing good things (I was next door with my boy Aaron eating Chinese food!). I also didn't get to see L.A in her entirety, but what I did see was a female MC with legitimate rhyming skills. Not some gimmicky bimbo flow like certain popular female rappers (Nikki Minaj comes to mind, obviously) but someone with real lyrics. She even took time out of her energetic set to do a little spoken word. She was also the first artist to not use the stage at all, and just perform from the floor, right in front of onlooking music lovers. I enjoyed her as well.

I feel as though, the act right after L.A, an R&B group by the name of Beyond This Point, was possibly the highlight for me of the night. Everyone who performed didn't do more than 4 songs (I feel like they really only did 3 a piece) but BTP made the most of their three tracks. They all had a great sound and a great feel to them, being R&B with a live band (3 vocalists, 1 keys, 1 bass, 1 electric guitar, 1 drummer). Their performance was fun but obviously well rehearsed, even their headbanging was in sync. The 3 vocalists would sing in 3 part harmony too, and as a child of the choir and growing up within a musical family, I've always been a fan of harmony. These guys are dedicated too. Right after their performance they were jumping into a van and driving alllllll the way down to Florida for the Miami Music Festival, where they're scheduled to perform tomorrow night! Unbelievable, or amazing really...just as amazing as their performance.

Rapper Live Wire was the next act I saw after BTP, and he was exactly like his name sake, a live wire! He was all over the place: on the stage, off the stage, on a table, sitting on a girl's lap, on the floor, rolling around, on a was a lesson in 'how to utilize the performance space.' He was backed up by Brooklyn singer and my friend Cocoa Sarai, one of the great young voices that you want to hear more of once you hear her sing once. Live Wire's performance was also stellar.

Rico Davis from NJ was also a ball of energy. His performance was probably the most impressive, considering the fact that he had backup dancers with him, and he was singing AND dancing at the same time. With a mic in his hand no less, not even a headset. Quite impressive indeed. He had a couple people accompanying him too (Playboy Swag stands out, but with a name like that it's hard not to) and he kept the partying vibe going for his set.

I felt kind of sorry for the last singer, Tali Ratzon. By the time she came out to do her thing, there wasn't a lot of people left in the place. I of course stuck around because I'm a music fan, and really I wanted to atleast be respectful and hear her out. And I'm glad I did. Her music doesn't really fall into a category per se, it's a combo of latin, reggae, and pop and all mashes up into something that just sounds nice. It was nice to see so many performers with a good backing band as well, and Tali's was no exception. It was all in all a great night.