Month: October 2015

The Film Playlist: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Since it’s the week of Halloween, I figured an extra blog post was due. I had to feature a cult classic film that inspired a one-of- a-kind theater experience. Let’s get one thing straight though. I hate musicals. However, I love music. Strange right? Eh, a little. There’s just something I find odd about singing the story of your life instead of just saying it. I’m a bigger fan of having a soundtrack to life. You know, like songs you love just playing in the background? That said, there are a handful of musical films I can tolerate (and maybe enjoy a little bit??). Surprisingly, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS) is one of them.

Around Halloween, there always seems to be Rocky Horror events popping up more frequently. Maybe it’s the extremely odd nature of the film, the fact that people like to dress-up as characters from the movie for the events, or that RHPS performances began during the Halloween season, but it’s become a Halloween time tradition. Unfortunately, I never attended a RHPS showing (I have seen the movie though). It’s always been on my list of things to do, but for whatever reason, never worked out. So yes, if I do ever attended, that will make me a “virgin” (seeing the movie in a non-live performance setting doesn’t count). But before I get into these events, it’s best to tell you about the 1975 film starring, Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, and Barry Bostwick.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a satirical musical/comedy/horror film that is a tribute to old time science fiction/horror movies. It’s directed by Jim Sharman and based on the 1973 British stage production of the same name written by Richard O’Brien (O’Brien starred as Riff Raff in the film). Sharman and O’Brien actually teamed up to write the screenplay. In the film, a young, recently engaged couple’s (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) car breaks down during a rainstorm. Fortunately, they break down near a castle where they decide to ask for a phone to use to call for help. However, a mad scientist alien transvestite dressed in a corset, briefs, garter straps, fishnet stockings, and platform heels named Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) and his band of eerily costumed creatures/friends inhabit the castle, which leads the couple to become wrapped up in the ensuing musical mayhem. At the time of release in the fall of 1975, the film was a flop, drawing small audiences nationwide (except at the Westwood Theater in Los Angeles). It wasn’t until the film began its midnight showings in the spring of 1976 at the Waverly Theater in New York City that the cult following grew.

At the screenings, the theater manager would play the soundtrack to hype the audience before the movie began which created a fun, care-free, party-like atmosphere. Then, during the film, people began randomly shouting responses to things the characters would say on screen. Audience participation during the movie became the norm. Around Halloween in 1976, people came dressed as characters from the film. It spurred a whole revelation of Rocky Horror regulars lip-syncing the soundtrack before the movie and performing a mini-floor show, much to the delight of all who attended. It became the standard for RHPS screenings.

Now all over the country, and more-so around Halloween, midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show happen on a regular basis almost 40 years after they began. Casts of regular performers dress-up and act out the film as it plays. People shout at the screen, shoot water guns, and throw rice and toilet paper during appropriate parts. There’s also rituals that take place for Rocky Horror “virgins” a.k.a. those who have never seen the RHPS live. The rituals vary from theater to theater but may include dancing the “Time Warp” (it’s just a jump to the left and then a step to the right…) or receiving a lap-dance from one of the cast members. All the virgin initiations are in good fun though because that’s what Rocky Horror is about.

The music in the film is typical of musicals, but features somewhat of a glam rock style. Some of the most notable songs include the “Time Warp”, “Sweet Transvestite”, “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me”, and “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul”. After I first saw the RHPS, I felt like I went through a strange mind blowing experience. It disturbed me a bit at first, but then slowly I became more interested in the songs. I learned how to dance the “Time Warp” and the rest is history. Despite enjoying the songs and catching parts of the movie on occasion, I can honestly say I’ve never seen the movie in its entirety since that first time. It really is that strange and will take a lot for me to watch it again (a live showing would absolutely get me to do it). RHPS is a cult phenomenon though and loved by many. I guarantee there are showings this weekend if you want to check one out. Just search the web. You probably have one near you without even knowing it. Even if you miss out this weekend, there are several places that have monthly showings all over the country. It should be a one-of-a-kind thrilling, chilling, and fulfilling experience.

In case you want to know a few songs before you go, I recommend these (my faves):

  1. Time Warp
  2. Sweet Transvestite
  3. Dammit Janet
  4. Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me
  5. Science Fiction Double Feature
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The Film Playlist: Almost Famous

Yesterday morning I caught part of the talk show Live! With Kelly & Michael. Kate Hudson was a guest on the show to promote her new movie Rock the Kasbah. Every time I see Kate Hudson anywhere, whether it be on TV, in a movie, in a magazine, etc., I always think to myself, “Kate Hudson will never be as good as she was in Almost Famous.” Today was no exception, but it did also give me a good idea for a new blog series. The series will combine two of the topics I cover on this thing. I wish I thought of it sooner. I’m calling it “The Film Playlist.” In the series, I’ll write about movies with music plots. But no musicals! Okay, maybe I’ll throw in a musical or two (cause there’s only two musical films I actually like), but don’t hold your breath. Anyway, to begin the series, I figured I should write about one of my favorite music movies and the inspiration for “The Film Playlist”, Almost Famous.

Almost Famous was released in 2000 starring Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit. It was written and directed by Cameron Crowe. Crowe won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film. It also featured a bunch of well known and up and coming actors like Frances McDormand, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Zooey Deschanel, Jimmy Fallon, Rainn Wilson, Jay Baruchel, and Eric Stonestreet. The film is set in the early 70’s. It tells the story of 15 year old William Miller (Patrick Fugit), who has a strong love for rock music and spends his time writing for underground newspapers. After William is given the chance to cover a Black Sabbath concert by rock journalist Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman), he meets and befriends the mysterious groupie or should I say “Band Aid”, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). Her connections with the opening band at the Sabbath concert, Stillwater, and former relations with the lead singer of Stillwater, Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), open a door for William. His Black Sabbath article earns him an opportunity with Rolling Stone. After he begs to do the piece on Stillwater and has his wish granted, he is told to travel on tour with the band to get the full scoop on the rock group. The journey he embarks on is truly a coming of age tale filled with sex, drugs, rock & roll, and life lessons.

Four years ago, my friend Caylee, who was my go-to for good music recommendations, told me I should see this movie. At the time, I recently subscribed to Netflix so I put it on my DVD list. I watched and instantly appreciated it. It was a great movie and as I still say to this day, Kate Hudson’s best work. It’s filled with many legendary quotes and memorable scenes, especially the scene where the entire tour bus sings along to “Tiny Dancer”. It’s just a fantastic moment in the film.

Almost Famous is a quality film that surrounds music, the music industry, and the tour life of a 70’s rock band. The soundtrack even won a Grammy. Of course, most of the music is that early 70’s rock & roll era style. On the soundtrack you’ll hear Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Simon & Garfunkel, Rod Stewart, The Beach Boys, and David Bowie to name a few. Sure it’s not my current favorite kind of music but you have to appreciate classic rock, just as you have to appreciate this movie.

Like Caylee did to me four years earlier, I now recommend this movie to all of you. It’s the first in “The Film Playlist” series and a must see for any music lover. I also suggest you “listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you’ll see your entire future,” but only after you check out Almost Famous.

“I always tell the girls never take it seriously, if you never take it seriously you never get hurt, if you never get hurt you always have fun, and if you ever get lonely just go to the record store and visit your friends.” -Penny Lane

The New Kids

It’s been 3 1/2 months since the USWNT won the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup on July 5th. Since the win, the team’s popularity has exploded. The team walked the red carpet and attended award shows, had a ticker-tape parade in NYC, and even joined Taylor Swift on stage at one of her sold-out concerts. They began playing matches in their 10-game Victory Tour and had record number of sales for each one so far. They’ve become household names. More importantly, they’ve been using their recent success to grow the women’s game.

In the weeks that followed the World Cup win, several players on the 2015 roster announced their retirement from the game of soccer. One of the surprises from that short list was 2013 NWSL MVP Lauren Holiday, better known as Lauren Cheney (she changed her name after marrying NBA player Jrue Holiday). Holiday, only 27 years old and at the peak of her career, decided to step aside from the game after winning 2 Olympic Gold Medals (2008, 2012), an NWSL Championship (2014, she went on to win this year’s title this past month), a World Cup title (2015), and plenty of individuals accomplishments throughout her professional career. As of today she has 124 caps with the national team and has scored 24 goals, one of which was the game winner in the World Cup Final. Her last match will be on Sunday October 25th in Orlando as the USWNT takes on Brazil.

This post isn’t about Lauren Holiday’s retirement though. Shannon Boxx’s retirement is just as significant as Holiday’s and she’ll be playing her last game tomorrow in Seattle. This post involves Lauren Holiday. Because she will be hanging up her boots, it will also put an end to a special group many USWNT fans have known and loved: The New Kids.

The New Kids are comprised of Lauren Holiday, Amy Rodriguez, and Tobin Heath. The trio joined the national team in 2008 when they were all 20 years old and under and trying to make the 2008 Olympic roster. It was at that time that U.S. Soccer did a feature on the three players dubbing them “The New Kids”.

Somewhere along the way since the forming of The New Kids, it is well known by hardcore USWNT that these three take the field together before every game. They stand out of bounds on the side of the pitch and then jump over the sideline to join the rest of the team for warm-ups. It’s The New Kids Jump. Sunday is the last time it will happen with all three of The New Kids (when one of The New Kids isn’t around for one reason or another, the other two still take the field this way). Besides the fact that Cheney will be missed because she is such an important piece to the current USWNT, this little, sometimes unnoticed ritual will be missed as well.

Rituals like this exist in all sports. There was Ray Lewis’s dancing and the tip of the cap from Derek Jeter. There’s the Lambeau Leap and the octopus on the ice during Red Wings games. The point is these little actions are special. They’re something extra fans look forward to seeing and probably players too. They become as much a part of the sport as catching or shooting or scoring is and they’re just as memorable as a championship winning goal, a buzzer beating three-pointer, or a walk-off home-run.

U.S. Soccer tried to replace The New Kids last year by introducing Julie Johnston, Morgan Brian, and Crystal Dunn as The “New” New Kids, but it didn’t stick the same way (probably because they don’t do the jump). So on Sunday, The (Original) New Kids will take their last jump as a trio (hopefully someone records it). After the match, Lauren Holiday will retire. She plans on starting a family and having new adventures. Eventually, Tobin Heath and Amy Rodriguez will play their final caps and join Cheney in retired life. Things change. People leave. Life doesn’t stop. But their legacy (and their jump!) will remain. They’re forever The New Kids.

Link to the U.S. Soccer introduction to The New Kids.

Link to The New Kids revisited.

Link to The “New” New Kids.

Tobin Heath, Amy Rodriguez, and Lauren Holiday wave to the crowd during the USWNT ticker-tape parade in NYC on July 10, 2015. (Morgan Brian also pictured.)

Tobin Heath, Amy Rodriguez, and Lauren Holiday wave to the crowd during the USWNT ticker-tape parade in NYC on July 10, 2015. (Morgan Brian also pictured.)

Say That You’re Into Me

Yesterday while checking out the Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify, I made an amazing, mind blowing discovery. It was the coolest music discovery I’ve made in quite some time. For you to understand it though, I need to flashback to 9 years ago. *cue cloudy flashback transition*

It was the summer of 2006. I just finished my junior year of high school. I was into the punk rock, pop punk, emo, and alternative music genres. My favorite bands were Brand New, Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Something Corporate, and The Format. I attended my second Vans Warped Tour in August that summer. I saw Cartel, The Academy Is, Gym Class Heroes, Motion City Soundtrack, Less Than Jake, and Hellogoodbye play sets that day. All of those bands fit my style of music at the time too. My favorite set of the day was Hellogoodbye’s. They played all my favorite songs and had people run around the stage dressed in random costumes. It was absolute mayhem. Hellogoodbye even played a surprise Blink-182 cover set that day on a different stage which I also attended. It turned out to be a surprisingly great day despite the fact that I didn’t anticipate a great day. *cue transition to current day*

As I was looking at the Discover Weekly playlist, I noticed there was a song by Hellogoodbye listed. I was surprised because usually music on the Discover Weekly playlist isn’t the kind of pop punk, powerpop music that Hellogoodbye played when I listened to them. However, I didn’t recognize the title of the song. It was safe to say they had released some new music since I last listened to them. I was super curious to see what it sounded like so of course I hit play on the song. Out of the speakers on my iPad came the most mind blowing revelation. Hellogoodbye sounded like a band I would listen to now. They weren’t those same guys who got up on stage at Warped Tour dressed in random costumes. They were like current day hipsters playing music I would listen to on vinyl in my apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn while wearing my v-neck t-shirt. They progressed in their music style like I progressed in my music style. How freaking cool is that?! Usually I hate when bands change their sound because it seems like most of the time they get popular and try to fit the mold of popular bands. This wasn’t the case. They progressed alternatively.

Hellogoodbye hails from Huntington Beach, California and was formed in 2001 by front-man Forrest Kline. They were part of the Drive-Thru Records label from 2003-2010 which housed some of my favorite bands from high school like Dashboard Confessional, Something Corporate, New Found Glory, The Starting Line, Midtown, The Early November, and Senses Fail. They released their first full-length, Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!, in 2006 (I bought it at Warped Tour that summer). I knew of and listened to them before that though because of their self-titled EP. Between the release of their first and second album, Would It Kill You?, which was released in 2010, the single “Here (In Your Arms)” gained some major radio airplay. It reached the number 14 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 and went platinum in the U.S.

After the second album, the band went through a few transitions. Band members dropped out and were replaced. The band parted with Drive-Thru and signed with a new label. They also released an EP during that time and re-released their second album. It wasn’t until 2013 that they their third full-length album, Everything Is Debatable, came out after signing with another label, Old Friend Records. Following the release of the album, they toured and opened for Paramore. They probably should’ve been touring with a band like The Kooks or Generationals because their newest album gives off an entirely new indie pop sound. They really do sound like a mixture between those two bands with a hint of MGMT and Belle & Sebastian thrown in. There’s still a little bit of that old school Hellogoodbye essence heard in some songs as well. It’s incredible. If you can’t already tell, I was and am still amazed by it. As far as song recommendations go, it’s probably best to split it up between old Hellogoodbye and new Hellogoodbye, so here goes:

Song recommendations (Old):

**And remember these are definitely pop punk/powerpop style songs, so if you’re not into that, skip ahead**

  1. Call & Return
  2. Touchdown Turnaround
  3. Bonnie Taylor Shakedown
  4. Here (In Your Arms)
  5. All of Your Love

Song recommendations (New):

  1. (Everything Is) Debatable
  2. Just Don’t Let Go Just Don’t
  3. The Magic Hour Is Now
  4. Swear You’re In Love
  5.  And Everything Becomes A Blur
Hellogoodbye performing at the Vans Warped Tour in 2006 during their Blink-182 cover set.

Hellogoodbye performing at the Vans Warped Tour in 2006 during their Blink-182 cover set.

Come Up For Air

I love music. You know this if you know me, or if you read my blog. Although I’m supposed to be writing about sports, entertainment, and music for this blog, it turned into a music blog for the most part, aside from the occasional USWNT update. That said, my love of music started many years ago. However, in high school when that first “musical enlightenment” I wrote about last year happened was when everything started to come into place. I focused more on playing instruments and looking for music than I had before. I fell into the culture of the bands I listened to. Most importantly though, I frequented live music performances. I went to so many shows. They made me feel so alive and that I had a place of belonging. There’s something about live music though. That moment when the lights go out, right before the band comes on stage, is everything. That moment you hear the opening notes to your favorite song that you end up screaming at the top of your lungs along with the band is beyond words. Even that time right before the encore when the lights are still out and everyone is screaming and shouting “One more song!” is incredible because for one moment in time everyone is brought together by music. Hearing a band/singer/artist live is so special. It’s way better than listening to music any other way.

Ever since I learned that, I’ve tried to experience as many live music events as I can. In a few weeks, there’s a chance I might be heading to another show. I can only hope my plans for the show work out as right now it’s uncertain. I started listening to the band playing the show about 4 years ago after a friend recommended their song “Hospital Beds”, but they were on the scene several years before I heard of them.

Cold War Kids is an indie rock band formed in 2004 in Fullerton, California. Their name was inspired by an instance during bassist Matthew Maust’s Eastern European vacation. He found a playground in a park filled with statues that had been dumped after the fall of Communism in Budapest. Being in that environment caused the phrase “cold war kids” to pop into his head. It was relevant to Maust as well, since he was born in the Cold War era and it stuck. Along with Maust, the group also consists of Nathan Willett (vocals/guitar/keyboard/piano), Dann Gallucci (guitar/keyboard), Matthew Schwartz (keyboard/piano/guitar/vocals) and Joe Plummer (drums). Plummer and Gallucci replaced founding members Jonnie Russell (guitar) and Matt Aveiro (drums).

The band released three EP’s (Mulberry Street, With Our Wallets Full, and Up in Rags) before their first full length, Robbers & Cowards, came out in October 2006. They toured for two full years before getting back to the studio to work on their second full length, Loyalty to Loyalty, which was released in September 2008. They promoted their second album while being on tour with Death Cab for Cutie, before releasing the EP Behave Yourself at the end of 2009.

After spending the next year recording, Cold War Kids released their third full length, Mine Is Yours, in January 2011. The third album received mixed reviews but earned them spots in the festival circuit playing Coachella and Bonnaroo. Their fourth album, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, was released two years later. They spent 2013 touring to promote the album and announced a fifth was in the works by the end of that year. Hold My Home, the band’s fifth album, was released a little less than a year ago on October 21st. Hold My Home contains their most successful single to date, “First”, which reached the number one spot on Billboard’s Alternative Song chart.

I wish I could say the exact time and moment I first heard Cold War Kids, but I can’t. I can’t even remember if a friend recommended it or if I heard it on a Pandora station. So I may be lying with that statement I made before. All I know is I downloaded “Hospital Beds” in July of 2011 and a few months later I downloaded “Hang Me Up to Dry”. Both songs didn’t really spark a genuine interest, but maintained spots in my listening routine from my “Most Recently Added” playlist. It wasn’t until last fall that I became a bit more interested in the band. Before the release of Hold My Home, I became addicted to their single “All This Could Be Yours”. I almost purchased the album because of that song. For some reason though, it never happened. I even featured the song “Hot Coals” in an app prototype I designed for a computer graphics class I took at the time. When “First” started hitting the airwaves this past spring, I once again became addicted to another Cold War Kids song. I realized 2 months ago it was probably a mistake not getting that album last year. Then again, I’ve still yet to purchase it (I’ll get on that).

While looking for nearby concerts and shows, as I routinely do, I noticed Cold War Kids booked a nearby venue at the end of this month. I almost saw them last January, but decided against it when I thought they might be playing Coachella. Then the weather didn’t cooperate for the weekend they were playing. Go figure. Unfortunately they didn’t play Coachella 2015 so I’ve yet to see them play. When I once again saw they had a date booked for a nearby show, I realized I only knew a few of their songs. I knew those songs well though and liked them a lot too, but it was still only a few considering how many albums they have. So recently I’ve begun to listen Cold War Kids more than ever in prep for a show that I may not even attend for scheduling reasons. Either way, they’re a great band, and I’ll never regret knowing more of their music no matter what happens. If you want to know more about their music too, you should listen to:

  1. Hospital Beds
  2. Hang Me Up to Dry
  3. All This Could Be Yours
  4. First
  5. Miracle Mile (addicted to this song at the moment)
  6. Mine Is Yours
  7. We Used to Vacation
  8. Audience
  9. Hot Coals
  10. Hold My Home