Month: October 2017

She’s Our Friend And She’s Crazy

Last summer, Netflix released a series that transported viewers back to the 1980’s as part of a sci-fi drama set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. The series, Stranger Things, was an immediate hit and rightfully so. The attention to cinematic detail and inspired story line is an ode to 80’s horror and science fiction films. Today Netflix released the second season of the Emmy-winning series.

The setting of Stranger Things begins when a young boy, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), disappears through supernatural means to another dimension, “The Upside Down”, and follows the journey of the Will’s friends’ and mother Joyce’s (Winona Ryder) quest to find him again. Will’s friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), also receive help in finding him from a mysterious girl they encounter with psychokinetic abilities who goes by the name, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). The cast also includes David Harbour as police chief Jim Hopper, Cara Buono as Mike’s mother Karen Wheeler, Natalia Dyer as Mike’s sister Nancy Wheeler, Charlie Heaton as Will’s brother Jonathan Byers, Joe Keery as Nancy’s boyfriend Steve Harrington, Shannon Purser as Nancy’s best friend Barbara “Barb” Holland, and Matthew Modine as scientist Martin Brenner. The series was created by twin brothers, Matt and Ross Duffer, known professionally as “The Duffer Brothers”.

When creating the series, The Duffers used influences from other science fiction and horror films as well as from Stephen King novels. In fact the name “Stranger Things” was similar to the name of King’s novel “Needful Things”. The brothers also used influence from King’s novel “Firestarter” for the name as well. While filming the series, it was the Duffers’ intention to pay homage to as many 1980’s films as they could by creating similarities to the films like using every day objects and turning them into supernatural means of communication (the Christmas lights), using similar film shots, and using a Leica lens and 6K Red Scarlet Dragon (80’s film equipment) to shoot. The head of props also used eBay, flea markets, and estate sales to find as many 1980’s artifacts as possible to use for props for the series. Almost all of the props were authentic, aside from some pieces, like the Dungeons & Dragons books, that needed to be replicated for the show.

I began hearing about the show some time in late August-September of 2016, but I didn’t watch it for another 3 months. I started watching it in mid-December. I wasn’t sure if I’d be into it, but I decided to give it a chance because there was a lot of hype surrounding the series. It definitely hooked me, although I wouldn’t claim to be a super fan. I still don’t understand the hype over, “Barb” (to be honest, not even The Duffer Brothers anticipated that). The series is entertaining though and highly reminiscent of 80’s films. Honestly, it really isn’t something I’d normally watch, but I like the fact that the kids in the series play leading roles. I think that’s what attracted me to it, if anything. I like a good coming of age story. This definitely isn’t coming of age, but I attributed the kids as leads to that.

As I mentioned, the second season of Stranger Things, titledĀ Stranger Things 2, released today on Netflix. The second season begins close to a year after the first season began as it approaches the anniversary of Will’s disappearance. The characters are still dealing with the aftermath of what went down a year ago. The new season also sees some new faces join the cast with Sadie Sink as new girl Max, Dacre Montgomery as Max’s older stepbrother Billy, Sean Astin as Joyce’s new boyfriend Bob Newby, and Paul Reiser as Department of Energy executive Owens. I began watching it this morning. I’ve already watched the first two episodes. I love a good binge, but I’m going to try to savor these 9 episodes as much as I can, which is why I took a break to write this blog post. If you’re reading this, I guess you’re probably taking a break too, but if you’re not and you’re now interested in the series, log on to your Netflix account and give the acclaimed series Stranger Things a chance, mouth-breather.

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I Gotta Be On My Own

Over the last year, there’s been several times within blog posts where I’ve mentioned having an epic concert night last November. I first wrote about it shortly after it happened when I wrote about Tegan & Sara. Then I wrote about it again while writing about ARIZONA. It’s almost been a year since I saw two concerts in one night so I figured it’s finally time to write about the other concert I attended on November 3rd besides Tegan & Sara, the one that ARIZONA was the opener for.

Before the Tegan & Sara concert last year, my friend and I decided to grab tickets for Hayley Kiyoko. Kiyoko grew up involved in the music and acting communities in Los Angeles, CA. Before even hearing of her music, I knew of her from watching the Disney Channel. She starred in a few episodes of Wizards of Waverly Place and the 2010 Disney Channel Original Movie Lemonade Mouth. She was also involved with Cartoon Network starring as Velma Dinkley in the 2009 TV film Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins and then reprising her role in the sequel Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster. She has of course acted in other small parts on various television channels and networks as well, but the roles I just mentioned are what she is best known for.

Hayley Kiyoko (Alcroft) has always been about music though. She started drum lessons at the age of 6 and learned several other instruments over her lifetime such as guitar, bass, piano, and accordion. In 2007, she became part of the all-girl pop group The Stunners which was formed by former pop star Vitamin C. The Stunners lasted as a group until 2011. They broke up before a full album was ever released.

Kiyoko released her debut EP A Belle to Remember in March 2013. Her second EP This Side of Paradise was released a little less than two years later in February of 2015. She co-directed and directed two music videos from the EP for the songs “Girls Like Girls” and “Cliff’s Edge”, respectively. In August 2016, she released the upcoming single, “Gravel to Tempo”, from her latest EP Citrine as well as the music video for it. The EP itself was released just over a year ago on September 30, 2016. Since then she directed two more music videos for the songs “One Bad Night” and “Sleepover”, another new single. Today she debuts her latest single, “Feelings” on MTV’s TRL.

Most of Kiyoko’s following comes from the internet. Her video for “Girls Like Girls” currently has over 79 million views. Last spring she went on her first nationwide headlining tour, which was nearly sold out. Her music draws a lot of attention from the LGBT community because of its subjects. As an out gay woman, Kiyoko wanted to write music that girls and women like her could relate to.

Her music is part of the dreampop/synthpop genre. I’ve always thought her songs have a subtle edge along with a hypnotic flow to them as well. They almost have an R&B style sexual feel going on too.

Last year when my friend and I decided to see her we both knew a handful of her songs. The tickets were pretty cheap too and the show only had some overlap with Tegan & Sara (Hayley Kiyoko was on during the Tegan & Sara opener, but finished before the Canadian twin duo took the stage). Also both shows were in different parts of the same venue. It worked out well for us and made for an epic concert night, one that I’m not sure we’d be able to replicate. It was kind of special occurrence too since we decided to attend Hayley Kiyoko’s show on the day of. It was one I didn’t prepare for, which in some ways made it more exciting. Plus I was super stoked when I realized ARIZONA was the opener for Hayley Kiyoko. She played a short set list, but played all of the songs we both knew and a quality mix from her 3 EP’s. She even covered Hailee Steinfeld’s “Starving”. My friend and I were both glad we went. The venue was small. The setting was intimate. It made for a great opportunity to see her since we both expected her popularity to rise and it has already. We’re lucky we took advantage of the chance to see her.

If you’re into the kind of music she plays, I suggest you check her out. I also recommend that if there’s any artists or bands on the rise that you like that you should go see them live. See them in a small venue. See them in an intimate setting. See them like that because it’s special and you may never get another chance to. I’m glad we saw Hayley Kiyoko like that and I’m glad she gave us an epic concert night we never expected.

 

Legendary Venues: The Fillmore

You may have heard of The Fillmore if you live in Philadelphia, Detroit, DC, Baltimore, or Charlotte, but The Fillmore name actually started in San Francisco at a venue located on the corner of Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard and it still exists today. The Fillmore originally opened in 1912 as a dance hall under the name “The Majestic Hall and Majestic Academy of Dancing”. Through the 1930’s the legendary venue continued to operate as a dance hall under various names and management. It became a roller rink through the 1940’s, but in the 1950’s the venue transformed into a place where live music filled the space between walls.

In 1954 The Fillmore began operating as a music venue under the leadership of Charles Sullivan. Sullivan began booking some of the best names in black music at the time such as James Brown, Ike & Tina Turner, and Bobby “Blue” Bland. By the 60’s, San Francisco was at the height of hip culture in the United States and The Fillmore was just a small piece in that thanks to then up and coming concert promoter, Bill Graham.

Graham began using the venue with the approval of Sullivan in 1965 to book bands. Bill Graham was responsible for giving The Fillmore a name due to his ability to hire and promote bands who played new, creative styles of music (which became known as psychedelic music). Some of those bands were Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Butterfield Blues Band, and legendary jam band, the Grateful Dead. Other notable bands and musicians who came through the doors of The Fillmore thanks to Graham were Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Cream, Muddy Waters, The Who, The Doors, Steve Miller Band, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd.

It was during Graham’s era at The Fillmore that many of the venue’s traditions which are still in place today began. The Fillmore always has a greeter at the door who welcomes music fans with a cheery, “Welcome to The Fillmore!” There’s also always a large tub of free apples located near the entrance. The last tradition which still takes place at the venue might be the coolest of all. Upon exiting, all fans receive a poster from the night’s show. In the 60’s, the posters were designed by two artists who became leaders in psychedelic poster design, Wes Wilson and Rick Griffin.

In the 70’s, The Fillmore became a private neighborhood club, but in the 80’s Paul Rat pioneered the punk rock movement at The Fillmore. He brought in punk rock bands like The Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, and Bad Brains. Bill Graham again took hold of The Fillmore by the mid-80’s, but in 1989 the venue was closed because of the damage it took from the Loma Prieta earthquake. Two years later, Graham died in a helicopter crash. It was one of his final wishes to reopen the venue where he first began his career.

In 1994, it happened. On April 27th, The Smashing Pumpkins played a secret show at the newly reopened venue followed by Primus, who played the first official show the following evening. The Fillmore has been in operation since. In 2007, Live Nation began to lease and operate the original Fillmore location and have since branded the name at old and new venues throughout the country. In my opinion, there’s nothing like the original though especially with all the history it represents and traditions that are still kept alive to this day, making The Fillmore in San Francisco a legendary venue.

 

Music is Sacred

I honestly don’t know or remember what I wanted to write about this week. All I’ve been able to think about since waking up Monday morning is what happened in Las Vegas Sunday night.

There are tragedies that happen every day. Some are uncontrollable like natural disasters. Some could be prevented if the proper procedures and legislation are in place.

Since last November, I’ve been deeply upset about the state of our nation. I never cared as much, but leading up to the 2016 Presidential Election, my support for a certain democratic candidate was stronger than ever. I actually began to follow some politics. So naturally, when favored candidate (and of course my favorite candidate), Hilary Clinton, lost the election to become the first female President of the U.S., I was crushed. The only good that came out of it was that I became more in tune with political issues.

Flash forward to January. Upon the day of the Women’s March on Washington and the previous day of the Presidential inauguration, I was still ready to fight for my beliefs going forward. Then somewhere along the way I lost my thunder. I got busy. I went to Southern California for two weeks to work at the festival I fell in love with 2 1/2 years ago. Work started to pick up and more opportunities arose. I made new friends. Got closer to others. I worked at concerts, festivals, and a comic con in different cities all over the country all while enjoying one of my lifelong passions, music. I had the time of my life. Then Labor Day came as it does every year. Work began to slow down. I wasn’t traveling as much. Plans for work changed due to uncontrollable circumstances as well. Nevertheless I began to reflect on what an incredible year it’s been, but at the same time I still felt bummed that festival season was coming to a close. I tried to combat those sad feelings though. In the past few weeks I booked new work opportunities, enjoyed some amazing live music experiences as a fan, and planned to attend a few others in the coming months. Then, I woke up Monday morning to news that shattered me.

22,000+ people affected. Several hundred people injured. Over 50 people killed. But it was where it happened that made the biggest difference to me. It happened at a music festival, a type of event where happiness and being carefree is the norm, a type of event that people come together to have a good time and experience the magic of live music, a type of event that I frequent regularly, a type of event that I one day aspire to be in charge of planning.

Music is everything to me. I love it. I’ve loved it since way back. I even wrote a blog about it this past year. It’s important to many others too. It has an ultimate power to cause a range of emotions and feelings. There’s even something more special about hearing the music you listen to being played right in front of your eyes by the musicians and artists who created it. I’ve always felt that. I always found shows, concerts, and festivals to be special places because of that. To have someone destroy those incredible moments that happen at a concert or festival is devastating and infuriating to me. I know it’s happened elsewhere in the past. Paris. Manchester. I definitely was upset about both of those situations too, but this one is different.

It’s different because it happened in the country that I live in and in a city that I’ve visited where I now know someone who lives there. It’s also different because I watched snapchats from the festival throughout the weekend because a friend of mine was working there for the week. That friend of mine was working at the festival Sunday night and had to experience what happened. That friend of mine will have to live with that memory for the rest of their life along with so many other friends of my friends. Not only is it my friends and my friends’ friends, it’s 22,000+ people, who attended, played at, or worked at a music festival, that have to live with it. That’s why it’s different and that’s what hurts the most.

It could have been me working. It could have been more of my friends. And the fact of the matter is that it still could be any of us because in this country our laws indicate that it’s okay for this to happen again and again. But the thing is….it’s really NOT okay. It’s not okay for it to be legal for someone to own weapons that could cause mass casualty or to buy enhancements that would make other weapons capable of the same. It’s not okay for someone to be able to walk into a gun show or go on the internet and purchase a gun without any difficulty. It’s not okay for someone who has a disregard for human life to hurt or kill as many people as possible with a gun because there are poor excuses for human beings in charge of creating legislation, who refuse to do it, that allow this to happen.

I know it’s been a few months since I had a fire in my heart ready to fight the establishment, but it’s back with a vengeance. This was a wake up call for me to get as fired up as I was in January since I was too focused on my work all summer. It’s just unfortunate that it took hurting my office, my work family (because that’s what we are in the music industry), and the music lovers I try to bring joy to on a daily basis for the fire to burn brighter again.

I’m sorry for being a little off topic on my blog this week, but I needed to get it off my chest. It’s been on my mind constantly. If you read this blog and are a music fan, I urge you to find a way to get involved in trying to create change in legislation that lowers the chance for these disasters to happen at concerts and festivals. Whether it be as simple as calling your representatives and demanding change, donating to causes that support gun control, attending a peaceful protest or gathering, or simply joining an organization like Everytown.org that are trying to fight the lack of gun legislation in America. It’s easy to become complacent but we need to keep going and keep fighting to make the places we love as safe and enjoyable as possible because live music events are special and music is scared.