Month: November 2017

Legendary Venues: Red Rocks Amphitheatre

It’s been over 75 years since Red Rocks Amphitheatre opened in Morrison, Colorado. The venue first opened on June 15, 1941, but had been hosting open-air music performances since the early 1900’s when John Brisben Walker envisioned the geological phenomenon as a place for live music.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is much different than any other music venue in the world because it’s the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect outdoor theater ever. What creates this natural perfection are two 300 foot rock structures known as Ship Rock to the south and Creation Rock to the north. The amphitheater sits between these monoliths that date back 160 million years and contain dinosaur fossil fragments from the Jurassic period. Both are bigger than Niagra Falls. There’s also a rock structure behind the stage (east) known as Stage Rock. Besides the incredible rock formation, the amphitheater overlooks downtown Denver, which creates one of the most beautiful, picturesque views offered at a music venue.

The city of Denver purchased Red Rocks from Walker in 1928 and hired Denver architect, Burnham Hoyt to design the area into a music venue while including the preservation of the land’s natural elements as part of the transformation. The construction took 12 years but was well worth the finished product that has since attracted musical acts from all over the world.

The Beatles concert on August 26, 1964 is considered to be one of the first notable rock concert performances in Red Rocks history. Another notable performance was the Jethro Tull concert in 1971 which resulted in a 5 year ban of rock concerts at the venue. Fans without tickets to the event attempted to barge through police lines and throw rocks at officers resulting in the deployment of tear gas to control the riot, which eventually carried into the venue affecting all in attendance.

The unique venue attracts bands across music genres from rock to pop to electronic to jam bands. Many bands have recorded performances at the famous venue as well. It has also been used in film and television. Then, in 2015, it became a national landmark.

I’ve never had the pleasure of going to Red Rocks. I’ve actually never even been in Colorado. After I began traveling around the country for work though, I learned about Red Rocks and it’s been high on my list of venues to see/work at ever since. I’d be beyond honored to work an event in such a place and I’d even be more awestruck by seeing a concert there. I’m not even sure if I can imagine what it’s like to be there. It sounds like such a spectacular venue. I think it’s one of those places you have to experience to understand how special it is even if pictures and descriptions already convince you. It’s one of those places where a picture really doesn’t do it justice. If Red Rocks isn’t the definition of legendary venue, I don’t know what is. It’s legacy has spanned the test of time and it continues to be a favored venue of many bands and artists. It’s definitely a place that concert and music lovers need to experience at least once or even countless times.

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Bishop Briggs

2017 is almost over. It’s been such a great year in so many ways. However there were two times I could’ve done something better. I realized I failed twice this year. The first time was with Glass Animals. I started listening to them after they played a bunch of festivals I worked at. Their tour dates were also sold out by then. I found out yesterday the second time I failed was with Bishop Briggs.

Last night I was going through a few pre-made Spotify playlists looking for new music and I decided to listen to a song called “Dream” by Bishop Briggs. I’d known her name since working Coachella back in April. While working at the festival, I was taking a few of our Safari guests to their desired location while we talked about music. I mentioned I thought that BANKS had such a draw at her set that she was too big to be performing at the Gobi Tent. I said she should have been on the Main Stage or the Outdoor Stage (both allow for more space). Then one of the guests agreed and said she thought the same thing about Bishop Briggs. Up until that point Bishop Briggs was just a name on the Coachella lineup to me. I told the guest I never listened to Bishop Briggs and she started talking about her and how great she was. I told her I’d check her out. I never really did until yesterday. Fail.

Sarah Grace McLaughlin, aka Bishop Briggs, is relatively new on the music scene first making her mark with the song “Wild Horses” in 2015, then under the name “BISHOP”. She changed her name to Bishop Briggs in 2016 to avoid any legal confrontation with a metal band by the same name. The name comes from the town where her Scottish parents are from in East Dunbartonshire, Scotland. She was born in London, England but spent her formative years growing up in Tokyo and Hong Kong, eventually moving to the U.S. to attend college in Los Angeles. She developed a love for music at a young age after performing in a karaoke bar when she was 4.

After being discovered by a former A&R rep. in 2015, Bishop Briggs gained popularity when “Wild Horses” appeared in an Acura commercial. In early 2016, she released her second single “River”. The song made Alternative charts on Billboard and iTunes as well as topping Spotify’s U.S. Viral 50 chart and reaching #2 on its Global Viral 50 chart. By late 2016 “Wild Horses” started climbing the charts. The song was featured on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart and Twitter Emerging Artists chart as well as iTunes Alternative charts.

She released 3 other singles last year which culminated in her first EP which was released in limited capacity as a vinyl on Record Store Day Black Friday 2016 and in full on April 14, 2017. The full self-titled EP also featured two unreleased songs. She also contributed the song, “Mercy”, to the xXx: Return of Xander Cage Soundtrack and collaborated with Cold War Kids on their song “So Tied Up”. She’s spent time on tours opening for Coldplay, Kaleo, and alt-J as well as playing some major music festivals this past summer. She’s currently on tour opening for Bleachers.

Briggs has described her music as being a trap-soul style. Her singing is dark, deep, and soulful. Her music is also considered to be part of the indie pop, alternative rock genres. I agree with all of these classifications. To me, her sound is comparable to BANKS, but their songs differ slightly too. Bishop Briggs almost has this indie folk type sound with deeper, scratchier vocals, whereas BANKS offers cleaner vocals with more of an electronic sound to her songs. Both sing with a powerful sound though and are alternative in their own rights.

I realized shortly before starting this blog that I listened to some of Bishop Briggs’ Panorama performance this summer. I remember thinking then that she was definitely good and I’d have to spend some time listening to her. I also was exposed to her from the Cold War Kids collaboration which I heard for the first time back in June. I loved the collab. Last night her newest single, “Dream”, is what made it click for me. I fell in love with the song immediately after hearing it for the first time. So I decided to listen to her other music along with playing “Dream” on repeat a few more times. I had so many opportunities to see her this past year that I never capitalized on and one opportunity where I didn’t appreciate her enough, similar to my Glass Animals experience, which was coincidentally at Panorama too. The good part about this though is that Bishop Briggs has yet to release her first full-length album, which usually means a headlining tour. So maybe I still have a chance? Until then though I’ll just keep playing “Dream” on repeat, listen to her other songs in there too, and hope for the best. Do yourself a favor and listen to her. But, unlike me, actually do it. “Dream” is fire and her other singles are pretty damn awesome too.

The Film Playlist: We Are Your Friends

While at my cousin’s house over the weekend, we watched another movie that easily makes The Film Playlist. It’s been a while since I wrote about a movie for this series so let me explain. The Film Playlist is a blog series I started about movies that are about music. It’s been about a year since I added anything to it, but as soon as we started watching We Are Your Friends this past weekend, I knew I had to write about it this week.

The 2015 drama stars Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, and Jonny Weston. It was written by Max Joseph and Meaghan Oppenheimer based off a story by Richard Silverman. Joseph also directed the film which marked his directorial debut. The movie is about an electronic music DJ named Cole Carter (Efron) who is trying to work his way up in the music industry. It’s also partly a coming of age story because Cole and his friends are young adults trying to figure out their lives in the midst of partying at night clubs, selling drugs, and being part of the electronic music scene. While booked to play a gig at a club one night, Cole meets the headliner, who was once a hot commodity in the electronic music world, James Reed (Bentley). Reed in a way becomes a mentor for Cole once he realizes his talent and helps Cole to understand how to create music that doesn’t sound like every other electronic song.

As soon as we started watching this film Friday night, I knew I would love it. The plot is average though. It’s nothing out of the ordinary or exceptional. I strictly loved it for the fact that it was about music and electronic music in particular. I’ve never seen another film that surrounds the electronic music scene. It was cool to see scenes about creating electronic music and also scenes featuring EDC Vegas, which is an electronic music festival done by one of the leading electronic festival promoters Insomniac Events. The soundtrack for the film was excellent. Its feature track “We Are Your Friends” by Justice featuring Simian is where the film got its title from. It also features songs by Years and Years with Gryffin, AlunaGeorge with Tchami, Seinabo Sey with Kygo and Deorro ft. Erin McCarley.

If you’re expecting an award winning film, that’s not what We Are Your Friends is. It’s really just a fictional coming of age film that surrounds the electronic music industry. If you’re at all into electronic music, I suggest you check it out. It’s a film you don’t have to think much about and can purely enjoy, especially if you have a love for music, especially electronic music.

Legendary Venues: The Stone Pony

The reason I started this Legendary Venue series was because I was scheduled to work a show at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. I was stoked about it because The Stone Pony is pretty well-known and because I’ve never been there. It’s is actually a street away from the Asbury Park boardwalk on the east coast of New Jersey. Originally the venue was a restaurant named Mrs. Jay’s. In the 1960’s the restaurant began allowing bands to perform, but after the restaurant moved to a new location in 1968 the building became dormant.

In February 1974 The Stone Pony opened its doors as a music venue. It was opened under the management of John P. “Jack” Roig and Robert “Butch” Pielka. The first year was rough for the new venue, but it was the “house bands” that kept the venue going. The first notable “house band” was The Blackberry Booze Band which later became Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, whose founding member Steve Van Zandt became a member of the E Street Band, the famous backers of rock and roll legend, Bruce Springsteen. Many other members of the E Street Band frequently played at The Stone Pony, including Springsteen himself. The venue is credited with giving Bruce Springsteen his rise to stardom. Springsteen has been known to drop by the Pony from time to time. He’s played there more than any other venue, yet none of his appearances are ever billed.

Before Sayreville native, Jon Bon Jovi, had the status he has now, he played some of his earliest gigs at The Stone Pony. Many other famed artists and bands have made stops at the venue during their prime as well, including Elvis Costello, KISS, The Allman Brothers, Blondie, The Ramones, The Replacements, and Patti Smith. It has also given the rise to local Jersey bands like The Bouncing Souls and Gaslight Anthem.

The Stone Pony went through periods of opening and closing, but in 2000 after it closed its doors, it was refurbished and reopened by an effort from the local community to keep the venue open for good. It was noted to be a staple, not only to the Asbury Park community, but to so many all over the country as a legendary music venue.

As you know by the fact that I was supposed to work a show there a few weeks ago, The Stone Pony still exists to this day on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Ocean Avenue in Asbury Park, NJ. Although I didn’t have a chance to work there recently because my position at the show was cancelled, I may have the chance to at least check it out from the outside next week since the venue for a show I’m working was recently changed from a place in Toms River, NJ to another venue in Asbury Park. I’ll definitely be stoked to check it out and if you ever have the chance to, you should too. You never know, you just might have the chance to hear Bruce Springsteen play some time since his appearances are never planned.