East Coast Rocker

Putting You in the Front Row

North Carolina-Based Rich Lerner and The Groove ‘Push on Thru’ With New Release

Cool and Funky New Album Inspires


With the new album, Push on Thru, North Carolina-based Rich Lerner and The Groove show they know how to succeed.

It’s an inspiring title song and the collection on the record is an impressive group of funky Americana,  much in the vein of late 1970s-style rock and roll.  They create cool harmonies, great stories and Rich Lerner’s voice is warm and appealing. And the guys have been making catchy music for years.

Rich Lerner and The Groove have a jam each year to help the homeless – Photo courtesy Bob Powell

Groove Jam Music Festival

The band even has its own Groove Jam Music Festival that benefits the local homeless shelter and food bank. The Groove Jam Music Festival has been a big attraction for the locals and non-locals alike since 2012.

Check out Push on Thru on Spotify: https://goo.gl/cfEJ6G

It’s also available on CDBaby: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/richlernerandthegroove1

‘Not The First Rodeo’

It’s certainly not the first record for these musicians.

Rich Lerner and The Groove are a North Carolina staple. In the 1990s, Rich recorded and released four solo albums on the Rockduster label. Since 2000, Rich Lerner and The Groove have released albums on their own Freethemusic label.

Many Genres from One Band

It’s a cool group of musicians and they’ve built a good reputation in the region. The band features Rich Lerner on guitar and vocals; Sammy Smith on guitar and vocals; Craig Pannell on bass and vocals; Sam Seawell on drums; Bob Sykes on pedal steel and guitar

Steve Taub – keyboards. As for production: The album was recorded and mixed by Benjy Johnson at Earthtones Recording Studio, it was mastered by Ty Tabor, and produced by the band and Benjy Johnson.

Particularly of note are the songs “She Kept My Room Warm,” which is remincent of a island-style calypso tune; the rockin “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down,” and the updated Flamenco-style “Soul Sistah.”


Get Ready for The Orwells: Chicago Band Brings Its Own Style of Punk – And Entourage – on The Road


When The Orwells hit the road they go in style.

More than a few people at The Regent Theater in Los Angeles last night made a mention that there seemed to be an unusually large number of young women in attendance at The Orwells show.  Maybe that’s because there were a lot of young guys on the stage, with The Orwells, The Walters and No Parents performing.

The Orwells play The Governors Ball 2017 - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The Orwells will play The Governors Ball 2017 – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

And while he may be attractive, it’s apparent The Orwells’ frontman Mario Cuomo’s strength is his vulnerable if not compelling performance, and he has the crowd in the palm of his hand from start to finish.

The Orwells will play the East Coast in late April, May and June.  They’re set for the Governor’s Ball 2017 in NYC. Their new album, Terrible Human Beings is dynamic and you can check it out here.


The Orwells Tour The East Coast

After seeing the three bands, comprised of all young hipster guys, it was no surprise there were so many girls hanging on the rail. But these bands didn’t fool around and got straight to work.

The Orwells may bring an entire entourage of pals and fans, but they clearly take no prisoners.


Frontman Mario Cuomo of The Orwells - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Frontman Mario Cuomo of The Orwells – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

No Parents impressed with their balls-to-the-wall punk, the frontman rocked a long skirt almost as well as George Lynch, and he was a whirling dervish, making the stage his own. It was an impressive show by No Parents.  No Parents takes punk and puts a modern twist on a solid genre.

Next up, The Walters, have something going on that is really their own. It was apparent that The Walters were a house favorite as the girls cried out for M.J., who did pushups, ran the stage, leaped into the audience a few times, and ripped off his shirt, swinging it around over his head.

The Orwells take no prisoners on tour - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The Orwells take no prisoners on tour – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The music by The Walters seems to take on a new life when performed live.  Hats and shirts off to them, as this is no easy feat considering their recordings are tightly mastered and mixed.  The Regent Theater has a solid sound system, but frankly it’s hard to keep your eyes off the dynamic frontman and if the music doesn’t sound the same as the album, it’s hard to notice.

The Walters put on a passionate performance - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The Walters put on a passionate performance – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

As for headliner The Orwells, Mario Cuomo is the master of the understated as he goes from song to song, lamenting his way through each of the favorites. The crowd sings along with most of the tunes and it’s no wonder Cuomo guests on projects of veteran rockers as well as handily keeps his young fans equally entertained.

There weren’t too many variations on the set list from the last few performances, from what faithful followers said and there doesn’t need to be.

The Walters - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The Walters – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The Orwells’ performance is something that stays with you long afterwards, it’s good to know there’s a band out there that can keep the house rocking, entertain the faithful and take familiar sounds into the future.

The fans - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The fans – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia



Beloved Classic Rocker Paul Young Tours With Album, ‘Good Thing,’ And Lives in the Present


With all the talk about classic rock these days, we thought we’d post a video or two by one of our favorite “classics,” the heartthrob British performer Paul Young.  He’s a beloved singer who had success in the 1980s but he’s always looking to the future.

In the 1980s is was simple for Paul Young: Which girl to choose - Photo courtesy Paul Young for EastCoastRocker.com

In the ’80s it was simple for Paul Young: Which girl does he choose? – Photo courtesy Paul Young for EastCoastRocker.com

While here in the U.S., everyone has been paying attention to legacy rockers like The Who, Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan, Paul Young has been quietly doing his own thing and doing it well.


He’s got a great TexMex band called Los Pacaminos, with whom he tours all around Europe, and his latest  album, Good Thing, really is a good thing. Check out Good Thing on iTunes.  Paul is headlining the 80s Invasion Tour in Birmingham, England.

And while Paul has fond memories, he told the Express and Star he’s always wanted to get past being typecast into one era.

“I wasn’t (pleased about that) through the ’90s because I felt like that I was still doing creative stuff,” he said.  “I was moving into different styles, so I thought I was still being creative. But now nearly four decades later it doesn’t seem that bad, I have kind of accepted it.”


'Good Thing' is Paul Young's latest work - Photo courtesy Paul Young for EastCoastRocker.com

‘Good Thing’ is Paul Young’s latest work – Photo courtesy Paul Young for EastCoastRocker.com

Good Thing is filled with great songs and like a fine wine, Young’s appearance and voice have matured and grown more full and are still appealing as ever. Check out Paul Young’s website.


The song “Stay,” and the immensely successful hit he had with his cover of Hall and Oates’ “Every Time You Go Away,” are indellibly inked in the pages of classic pop-rock history.

We were fortunate to catch him when we stumbled into a Paul Young show in NYC in 1984. And in those days he was more like this:

Paul Young has been a favorite performer with whom to share a stage. He has worked with everyone from David Bowie to Elton John and George Michael. And while he may have gone dark in the states, he’s been quietly making a good living as a musician in the U.K. Here’s to hoping he’ll come stateside soon.

Mavis Staples Takes Us There; Legendary Singer Awarded Guthrie Prize

Mavis Staples - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Mavis Staples – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA — Mavis Staples was awarded the Woody Guthrie Prize at the GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday night.

Among those on hand for the prestigious event were Bob Santelli GRAMMY Museum executive director, and Deana McCloud, executive director of the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Okla.

“Music can be a great tool for social justice,” McCloud said. “We want to change lives and change the world. In this country our history isn’t necessarily pretty but we’re looking for ways to do better.”

Megan Ochs, the daughter of Phil Ochs, accepted the Woody Guthrie Legacy Award on behalf of her father.

“As  patriot it’s not only the right but the responsibility to challenge the government,” Ochs said. “My father found a way to interpret political times through music.”

Staples said she was honored to receive the Woody Guthrie Prize, particularly since The Staples Singers — comprised of patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples, Cleotha, Mavis and Pervis Staples — always loved Guthrie’s songs.

Megan Ochs - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Megan Ochs, daughter of Phil Ochs, accepts Woody Guthrie Legacy Award on behalf of her late father at GRAMMY Museum – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“I was a teenager when I heard Peter, Paul and Mary sing “This Land Is Your Land,” and we loved the song so much that we recorded it.”

The lively leader of The Staples Singers, Mavis gave an audience of GRAMMY members and guests insights into her inspiration to sing and record freedom songs.

The Staples Singers had a history of gospel, but it was during the time of the preachings of Dr. Martin Luther King that they found their calling.

She said until the Staples Singers came along, gospel had not previously been blended with blues and it was something that made her family unique — even though their sound was met with a degree of resistance.

Staples said some things have improved, compared to the day and age in which she was raised.  She said her father was 18 and her mother was 16 when they married and that her father was proud of her mother’s cooking.

“My father would invite people over for dinner,” she said. “Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson… Ray tried my mother’s Sweet Potato Pie and said, ‘We should franchise,’” she recalled. “We could make big ones, little ones,’” she recalled. ”  My father would bring sweet potato pie to the disc jockeys,” she said. “They would say, The Staples Singers don’t need payola, they have ‘Pie-ola.”‘

Read more at California Rocker

Martha Davis And The Motels Take The East Coast


Martha Davis And The Motels are playing dates on the East Coast, so there’s no excuse not to see this great band.


The group, comprised of younger as well as more veteran artists, puts on a show with range that gives the audience laughs, good vibes, reminiscences, and new sounds.

Martha’s voice is strong, her performance is passionate and the sound is sincere.  When speaking to visitors backstage, she talks about her band members with respect.

It’s clear she cherishes them, in particular her longtime friend Marty Jourard, who’s been with her since the days of LA’s Madame Wong’s in the late 1970s.

The Motels includes Jourard on sax and piano; Nicholas Johns on keyboards; Brady Wills on bass; Clint Walsh on lead guitar and Eric Gardner on drums.

Martha Davis and The Motels Tour

Martha’s connections to musicians in the towns where she plays, also makes for some fun special appearances.

At a recent show in Los Angeles, Martha invited Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes, on stage, where he sat in for some tunes, and brought out the Ukelele for a performance of “Call Me” with Martha and Marty.

But the lady is still the star of the show.  She’s looking slim and she’s enjoying herself.

Martha’s voice is unwavering and strong, her performance is passionate, and the sound is sincere.  When speaking to visitors backstage, she talks about her bandmembers with respect.

The Motels includes Jourard on sax and piano; Nicholas Johns on keyboards; Brady Wills on bass; Clint Walsh on lead guitar and Eric Gardner on drums. Seeing Martha Davis And The Motels is one of those presents to give yourself that will start the year off on many good notes.

The group plays New York and Connecticut dates through mid-April, then they’re off to Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

For more information, or for tickets go to Martha Davis And The Motels website.

## #MarthaDavis ###

Joe Cocker’s Performance Held the World’s Attention

Joe Cocker, Rock Icon, Dies at 70

Joe Cocker, the beloved rock figure renowned for his remarkable “white soul” singing voice and stilted spasmodic  performance style, passed away from lung cancer at 70.

Joe Cocker story by Donna Balancia

Joe Cocker – Photo Getty Images

The good-natured Cocker, who has been imitated by the best but never duplicated, had been battling lung cancer and passed away at his home in Crawford, Colo.

The British-born Cocker recorded 22 albums and toured until he passed.  His most recent works, the 2010 album, Hard Knocks, and the 2012 album Fire It Up were platinum hits in Germany, and he toured to support them.

Cocker performed for the love of the music, his friends said. But Cocker also had some major hits. He is probably best known for the romantic “You Are So Beautiful,” Beatles covers “With A Little Help From My Friends,” and “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window,” “Feelin’ All Right,” and “The Letter.”

His voice was impressive up until the end, as evidenced by his Cologne performance in 2013.

Cocker’s career started in the pubs of Sheffield, U.K., but after his performance at Woodstock in 1969, he rocketed to stardom by virtue of his act and his powerhouse gravelly voice.  He grew to collect millions of fans all over the world and was especially well-loved in Britain, and was made Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2007.

One of the highest compliments paid to Cocker —  at least in the minds of United States TV viewers —  was the well-known impersonation of Cocker done by the late comedian John Belushi.  Belushi made the Cocker impersonation a regular part of his comedy routine going back to his Second City days and even took the act on the road.

Joe Cocker and John Belushi

Joe Cocker and John Belushi on SNL in 1976 – Photo NBC

As a big fan of Cocker, Belushi said he hoped to one day actually share the stage with his idol. That finally happened in 1976 on the SNL stage, when Cocker joined Belushi for one of the most unusual duets in Rock N Roll history — and one of the most talked-about and best-watched SNL episodes ever.


Belushi died in 1982.

“I didn’t realize John was so in awe of me at the time,” Cocker said.

But so was the rest of the world, as his music and voice appealed across all ages and media.

In addition to his hit recordings, Cocker won and Oscar and a Grammy for “Up Where We Belong,” a duet he performed with Jennifer Warnes for the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman.

“I loved his singing and so I was especially pleased when he decided to cover my song ‘A Little Help From My Friends,'” Paul McCartney told the BBC.  “It was just mind blowing, he totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful for him for doing that. I knew him through the years and I was sad to hear he had been ill and really sad to hear he passed away.” — By DONNA BALANCIA



Richard Hell to host Filmmaker Kelly Reichardt at Symphony Space

Richard Hell by East Coast Rocker

Richard Hell photo by Inez and Vinhood

NEW YORK CITY — Richard Hell hosts filmmaker Kelly Reichardt at the Thalia on Dec. 4 for a screening of her film Meek’s Cutoff, a story of betrayal and survival set in 1845 on the Oregon frontier.  The film stars Michelle Williams.

In reviewing the film, Hell writes: “Kelly Reichardt is brave and stubborn.  Like the characters in her film, she’s determined to find her way to beautiful, sustaining new territories and she knows she can only rely on her own instincts and judgement to figure out, moment by moment, how to get there.”

For more information go to Symphony Space.




Richard Hell on Lydia Loveless: ‘Her Music Makes Me Cry’

By DONNA BALANCIA — Richard Hell has never been one to shy away from raw emotion.

But the punk rock icon and current-day writer says the music of young Lydia Loveless makes him — well, wistful.

“Lydia is the only current singer-songwriter the power of whose music and voice consistently makes me cry,” Hell said of Loveless who performs at the Symphony Space Thalia theater tomorrow night.

Richard Hell’s Thalia Series

Hell curates a performance series called “Night Out with Richard Hell” for Symphony Space in New York City.

Lydia Loveless has managed to impress Hell because of her words and genuine approach to the music.  A native of Columbus, Ohio, the modern country performer and her band are making waves in the music scene.

She is among several young artists Hell interviews during his ongoing series at Symphony Space.

Hell’s series of interviews and performances take place in an intimate setting at Thalia.  His upcoming shows in the series include:

Ariana Reines, Friday, Nov. 14

Filmmaker Kelly Reichart, Thursday, Dec. 4

Musician Donald Cummning, Feb. 12, 2015

“I’m curating and hosting a series of events at Symphony Space for which I’ve dragooned one youngish artist per evening to sit still to be interviewed on stage by me before he or she performs,” Hell said.  “The interviews will be 25-30 minutes and the performances 45-50 minutes.”

Hell said he selected the Thalia theater for the cozy setting, as the theater has 168 seats.

“The main thing though is that all these people are interesting and talented and this is a unique chance to see them so intimately,” Hell said.

Since Hell retired from music in 1984, he has written two books and a series of articles for a range of magazines and media outlets.

For additional information on Richard Hell or any of the artists he interviews through the Symphony Space series click here.




California Rocker gets ‘Best Blog’ Nom by LA Press

California Rocker wins nomination by LA Press Club

California Rocker, the sister publication of East Coast Rocker tabs LA Press Club nom. Logo © by Donna Balancia

LOS ANGELES — California Rocker, the West Coast-based sister publication of East Coast Rocker, has been nominated for Best Entertainment Blog by the Los Angeles Press Club, it was announced Friday night.

Produced by Donna Balancia, California Rocker covers emerging musicians and established rockers in the Golden State.

“It’s a challenging era in which to be a journalist, as it is to be a musician,” said Donna, who also produces East Coast Rocker.  “The nomination to Best Entertainment Blog in our first year of operation means a lot, especially coming from such an illustrious panel of editors.”

California Rocker serves the need of underserved musicians, who today more than ever, need the support of publications and music publicity.

“Musicians give their all to their audiences and receive nothing in return, especially in the early years,” said Donna.  “Some musicians don’t receive recognition until late in the game.  If you have music we should hear, please contact California Rocker.”

The Los Angeles Press Club holds its annual awards ceremony on Nov. 23 at The Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles.  For more information go to the Los Angeles Press Club website.

Rockers Team up For Veterans Matter

Stevie Nicks new album, Mellencamp, Kid Rock

Stevie Nicks, John Mellencamp and others team to support the charity

Stevie Nicks, Darius Rucker, John Mellencamp and Kid Rock are among the growing roster of rockers contributing time to Veterans Matter, an Ohio-based organization working on behalf of veterans.

The Veterans Matter program was started in 2012 in Toledo, Ohio, by Ken Leslie, a once homeless activist who had become aware that the primary obstacle facing many local homeless veterans eligible for long-term housing assistance was the lack of a rental deposit.

Veterans Matter was created as a simple solution to that simple problem by paying the deposit directly to landlord and has expanded to help house veterans in six states.

The program’s simplicity and demonstrated success rate attracted the attention of Dusty Hill of ZZ Top and John Mellencamp, who each helped raise funds to house homeless veterans in their home states, accounting for a significant portion of the almost $250,000 raised so far.

One hundred percent of the money raised goes to the program, as overhead costs are donated in-kind by Leslie’s company and other friends. 1Matters.org, a local non-profit that attained national visibility when John Mellencamp visited Toledo some years ago, is the fiscal agent for the program.

“Cumulus, the artists, and all of those involved in helping Veterans Matter are here because they fought for us. Now we fight for them. Veterans Matter,” Leslie said.

Rock Stars and Guitars: The East Coast Rocker Interview with Stevie Salas

The Stevie Salas signature Idolmaker is a lot like the artist himself, purposeful with quality, and just a little flashy.

The Stevie Salas signature Idolmaker is a lot like the artist himself, purposeful with quality, and just a little flashy.


The Idolmaker, Stevie Salas signature by Framus Warwick —  

By DONNA BALANCIA – Stevie Salas has worked with the best.  But despite being selected to play lead guitar for Mick Jagger, George Clinton and a host of other famous superstars, Salas is true to his humble Southern California roots.

“This is my third signature model in 25 years,” Salas told East Coast Rocker.  Salas’ extensive work as musical director for 19 Entertainment and American Idol inspired the name of the guitar.

“People have told me they think it’s the most beautifully crafted guitar and that’s not because they were talking to me and it’s my signature guitar.  It is extremely good quality. I wanted something different, something that wasn’t a ripoff of a Stratocaster or a Les Paul.”

Sleek in its purple and black with gold tone, the Idolmaker, like the rock star himself, purposeful with quality, and just a little bit flashy. The neckwood is maple, the fretboard is Tigerstripe Ebony with Indian Feather Inlay, a reminder of Salas’ Native American heritage.  It is a carved body top, the bodywood is 1-inch AAA Quilted Maple top with Mahogany body.

Particularly interesting to Salas is Warwick’s devotion to the planet: The company is known to purchase its wood from sustainable sources.

“A few years ago,  I met Hans-Peter Wilfer, who owns Warwick,” Salas said. “I like his views.  Since I have a Native American background, I wanted something that was environmentally friendly.”

Salas said he took a tour around the production facilities in Germany, met the head of production, designer Marcus Spangler and was impressed with what he saw.

“I wanted the precision of German craftsmanship but also the Native American warmth,” Salas said.

Check out Stevie’s Guitar 




Chrissie Hynde and John McEnroe Take to the Airwaves

By DONNA BALANCIA — Chrissie Hynde and John McEnroe love to have fun, and the two pals hosted BBC6 Music Sunday. While Hynde waxed philosophical about musicians and their histories, McEnroe won over the audience with his well-known self-deprecating humor.

The topic?  Hits and Misses in Music.

Among the Hits?

– Oasis –  “But I think they could have been a lot bigger,” McEnroe said.

“They didn’t tour America, they always had  a fight and came home, shades of the Kinks,” Hynde said. “They’re just one of those great bands that didn’t quite get to where they could have been,” McEnroe said.

 – Morrissey –  “… a guy who actually left his band, well, the band split up and he went to on to become more magnificent and successful, ” said Hynde.

“You don’t think The Smiths could have been bigger had Morrissey stayed in the band …” asked McEnroe. “They could have been bigger, definitely,” Hynde agreed.

The misses came mostly by virtue of McEnroe’s social blunders, he said.

On meeting a living legend:  “…He asked me two questions,” McEnroe said. “He said to me ‘I hear you’re a good guitar player…’  But I had to tell the truth, ‘No I’m not good.’  The other thing he said is, ‘I hear you’re a great basketball player, you can dunk a basketball…’ and I had to again tell Bob Dylan that in fact I couldn’t dunk a basketball and he walked away in disgust and he’s never spoken to me since.”

Another time that was a miss involved a faux pas he recalled to Hynde:

“…That time you brought me back, the only people in the room were you, George Harrison and George Harrison’s son Donnie, Bob Dylan and there was one other person who I didn’t recognize at first… God I wish I didn’t say  ‘I’m John McEnroe, who are you?’ and he said ‘I’m Bozo the Clown’ and it was Van Morrison.  And on that note we’re gonna  play ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ because that’s how I felt, ‘Tangled Up in Blue,’ after screwing that up.”

Hynde and McEnroe seemed to disagree on the influence the Velvet Underground had on music.

“What good band wasn’t influenced by the Velvet Underground? I saw the Velvet Underground,”  said Hynde.

“I met Lou,” said McEnroe of the late Lou Reed, “He was a New York icon and we talked about doing a radio show.”

Hynde said: “He was more of an intellectual than you.”

“He made me seem like a nice guy, he was a little irritable,” McEnroe said.



Dick Dale Interview: For King of the Surf Guitar, ‘Being on Tour is My Cure’

By DONNA BALANCIA in SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — For The King of the Surf Guitar, music is the medicine.

“I have to perform to stay alive,” said Dick Dale, whose trademark surf sound defined a generation and has since the sixties inspired musicians around the world.

“My mind is what pushes me through,” Dale told East Coast Rocker. “The doctors say, ‘You’re a tough son of a bitch. But let me tell you, I rode the pain train all through my operations.”

At 76 years old, Dale, who doesn’t smoke, drink or take any drugs, has had his share of health issues.  Cancer and diabetes are atop a long list of diseases he battles with the help of his wife, Lana, who only leaves his side when he’s on stage.

Dale is in the midst of an East Coast swing and the touring is non-stop.

But Dale, who came to California as a child said he’ll always love playing his home state and has a fondness for Southern California in particular.

But his words are not so kind for others.  His illnesses have given him new insights into the failings of the healthcare system, particularly what he considers the disregard of lower-income retirees and veterans who have fought for our country.

“What is happening to our troops from a medical standpoint?” Dale asked. “What happens when they come home?  I am blessed because I have my wife, Lana, but what do these troops have?  They left their wives, their newborns, their families to fight for us, many have lost limbs and they come home to get no reward, whereas the politicians get insurance for the rest of their lives.  What are the wounded getting?”

Dale, himself, was in the Air Force and was commended for his successes as an Air Force Firefighter.  He wants the servicemen to be cared for and he doesn’t appreciate the supposed groups soliciting funds on their behalf over the telephone.

“I got all sorts of people calling to ask for money for the servicemen, the police and the firefighters, but I know that only a little bit of the money goes to them,” Dale said. “A friend of mine advised that anyone who wants to give money should bring the money directly to the source.”

Dale has succumbed to the sensibility of dietary restrictions, like cutting out sugar. He loves grape leaves and tabbouleh, much in keeping with his Lebanese heritage.

His music developed because of his Lebanese heritage as well, as he was always interested in working with Egyptian and Arabic beats and tunes.  His famous Misirlou and his vast and legendary collection of surf songs was inspired by those familiar Middle Eastern sounds, only played at triple speed.  Back in the 60s, it wasn’t initially accepted — not because of the region of origin — but because of the guitar.

“They called it devil music then,” Dale said. “Yes, that’s really true.”

The stories are well-documented that he and his father, who helped Dale book a gig at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, would only get a permit to play if the kids attending wore ties.  Dale’s dad grabbed a box of ties to hand out to the bare-footed surfer kids who wanted to attend the show, and history was made.

Dale had a strong relationship with Leo Fender who was like his second dad, Dale said and that friendship would last through the years.

His music survived the years, through the ups and downs, and while it has been debated that The British Invasion cut short the full potential growth of the surf sound, Dale was luckier than most musicians to get another shot at major fame.

Dale recalled the night when a young movie director came a knocking at his dressing room door. The director was Quentin Tarantino and he had something great in mind for Dale.

“He said, ‘I listened to your music and I want to create a masterpiece of a movie that complements the masterpiece of music you created.'”

The movie, of course was the 1994 feature film “Pulp Fiction.”  The film would breathe life into the careers of several of its participants besides Dale, most notably John Travolta, who had been fighting a stigma of typecasting from his more recent feature comedies.

“Quentin told me he had had doors slammed in his face,” Dale recalled. “And he was very humble.  And because he was humble, I took a liking to him.  He said, ‘I have John Travolta,’ and I said ‘OK, sure, go for it.'”

When the film was completed, Dale said, Tarantino sent a limo for Dale to come to a special screening.

“The success of the film gave Quentin the last laugh because everybody shut the doors on him,” Dale said. “And it gave Travolta the last laugh, and so on.”

But for us and for The King of the Surf Guitar, it’s easy to tell that despite it all, he’s laughing — and his laughs are far from his last.



Tom DiCillo and The Black and Blue Orkestre Build Bridges with New Album

Tom DiCillo Black and Blue Orkestre East Coast Rocker Interview

—Tom DiCillo: Music plays a leading role in all his work — All photos courtesy of Tom DiCillo

With Bandmates Will Crewdson and Grog Rox, Trio Collaborates on Trans-Atlantic Recording

NEW YORK CITY — It’s been a few years since we’ve spoken to Tom DiCillo, writer and director of such films as Johnny Suede, Living in Oblivion, and the compelling 2009 documentary about The Doors, When You’re Strange. But paths always cross again and we sat down for a Q and A with the director, an East Coast Rocker in his own right.

Fresh off the release of his unique album Hurt Me Tender, recorded with his band The Black and Blue Orkestre, DiCillo shares his opinion on music, film, and on life, as told by one of the few truly independent filmmakers and artists around.  This is Part One of a three-part series.

Hurt Me Tender  is a complex and reflective collection of songs DiCillo  created with his band mates Grog Rox and Will Crewdson. The threesome is known as The Black & Blue Orkestre.

DiCillo sat down to talk with ECR Editor Donna Balancia.

ECR: Tom, I’m extremely happy to catch up with you. In reviewing your work, it’s obvious that you love and respect music. You’ve written and directed films about aspiring musicians, accomplished musicians, and you’ve even collaborated with established musicians.  Now you have an album of your own. How have your Hollywood experiences influenced your music, in particular the Black and Blue Orkestre’s album Hurt Me Tender?

TD: I’ve actually had very few Hollywood experiences. But I do know this;  Hollywood is about power and the perception of power. People telling you what to do, and when you can do it. So, picking up the guitar every now and then is a salvation. It’s a direct connection to something creative.  And you can do it whenever you want to.

Black and Blue Orkestre Tom DiCillo Donna Balancia

Trans-Atlantic Trio: Will Crewdson, Grog Rox, Tom DiCillo

ECR: The Black and Blue Orkestre is a really unique ensemble — and the assembly of the music when all three partners in the band don’t live anywhere near each other is extremely compelling.  How did this happen?

TD: Hurt Me Tender came out of a 5-year collaboration that started with me and UK guitarist Will Crewdson. We connected when my film Delirious was opening in the UK and Will sent me an email saying how much he liked the film. He mentioned his musical tastes and somehow that prompted me to send him the first song I’d ever really sung, my version of “16 Tons.” Will liked my voice and laid down some amazing guitar tracks.

This began our electronic trans-Atlantic collaboration. Eventually I sent him some songs that I had written and again Will added greatly to them with his guitar. Up until that time all the bass and drums were programmed by me. It was Will’s idea to bring in Grog, bass player and lead vocalist for her own group Die So Fluid. I would sketch out a mix with my vocal, Will’s guitar and a basic drum track and send it to Grog in LA. She composed and recorded a bass track and sent it back. Soon, this was how we were doing all our songs.

Will Crewdson was inspired by the films of Tom DiCillo - East Coast Rocker Interview

Will Crewdson

Finally, we had about 12 originals and I just said ‘Let’s see if we can at least get them out there as some sort of album.’ I didn’t have the time to try and get a label interested. But, I thought that all that work should at least be gathered together as some kind of finished product. So, the whole effort became finishing the songs we’d been working on for five years and making them sound like they’d all come from the same musical moment of inspiration. And finally, at the end of 2013, we got them all mastered and released them via Ditto Music.

As of this date we have never performed live together in the same room, city, country or continent.

Frozen Sunset Video by Tom DiCillo and Black and Blue Orkestre

Grog Rox in Frozen Sunset Video

ECR: I love “Shoe Shine Shuffle,” “Frozen Heartache,” “Whiskey Promise” and of course, “Hurt Me Tender.” There is such a sense of longing and adventure at the same time. Can you describe the storylines behind each of these great songs?  What inspired each of them?

TD: There is a vein of something personal in each of the songs. I find I can’t write music (or a film) that doesn’t have some deeper connection for me. All the songs originated out of some simple musical idea. With “Shoe Shine Shuffle” it was a guitar lick that the lyrics, “There’s a word for it,” attached themselves to. As the song developed it took on the idea that all of us have at times prostituted ourselves. It is the way of the world. Some of us do it by choice, most of us are forced into it by circumstance. But, to judge someone for this is idiotic–almost as idiotic as thinking that only “bad” people do this. In some form or another, everybody’s done it. It is especially true in the film business.

Shoe Shine Shuffle BBO East Coast Rocker

Shoe Shine Shuffle by the Black and Blue Orkestre

TD: Great songs are like really good short films to me; the music conveys something that brings both visual and emotional layers. I like words and phrases that also create a distinct emotional world. “Frozen Heartache” is about a woman who is obsessed with a man who could care less about her and she keeps telling another guy all about her torment. She’s so consumed by her obsession she never sees that this other guy is in love with her. I’ve been there. It was Grog’s idea to add her voice on the chorus, “Everybody knows” and I think it adds a spooky, kind of gothic 50’s touch.

Frozen Heartache Black and Blue Orkestre

Frozen Heartache by Black and Blue Orkestre on Soundcloud

“Hurt Me Tender” is the last song I wrote for the album. It started as a kind of latin/gypsy chord progression; something Elvis may have done in the early 60’s, like “It’s Now Or Never.” The title is actually a reference to Elvis, but bent slightly into the psychological realm approaching the masochistic. It’s about a guy who is drawn to a woman whose joy and beauty cover a fear of the world that renders her helpless–and at times exceedingly cruel. I’ve found this combination to be a powerful aphrodisiac for people, especially men.

TD: Your words “longing and adventure” about these songs are very interesting. They imply a certain say, sadness or melancholy at the same time some kind of unexpected drama. I think that’s a good description of what we tried to do with the album. The songs are about people that have come up against some of the shoves and collisions in life. And like all of us, they have the bruises to show for it. That’s one of the reasons the group is called The Black & Blue Orkestre.

ECR: You are attracted to the music of Link Wray, who has a credit on your first film, Johnny Suede.  Is Link Wray a big influence for the BBO?

TD: Yes. I’ve always been impressed by what he brought to the amplified guitar. I like anybody who is genuinely trying something. And somehow, you can always feel it when it’s real.


END TOM DiCILLO #BlackandBlueOrkestre PART ONE

Hartley Peavey to Retailers: Get Passionate

‘Know your product, service the customer, improve the sales experience’

Hartley Peavey, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Peavey Electronic Corp. said sales expertise, customer service and product knowledge are critical to survival of the music retailer today.

How should retailers proceed going into the future? Should the music retailers lobby congress?

“If you’re waiting for the government to come to the rescue forget it,” Peavey advised.  “It’s insane to expect that you’re going to get help from on high. We’ve been spectacularly unsuccessful.”

Hartley Peavey, East Coast Rocker Donna Balancia

Hartley Peavey has an educated opinion. You can ask for it. – photos courtesy of Peavey

Peavey’s stern comments came during a panel discussion at the 2014 NAMM Show.  East Coast Rocker editor Donna Balancia was in the front row.

“I talk to dealers every day, but I want to spend a minute talking about survival for the retail music dealer.

“I went to my first NAMM show in 1954.  I like to ask questions. ‘Mr. Dealer in this value chain what is it that you do? What do you add to the formula? What is your reason for being?’ (He’ll respond) ‘I have trained people,’ which is a lie 98 percent of the time.

“They ignore retailing 101. We’re all consumers. Every day we make decisions where to spend money. When you distill it down, what (the music retailers are) telling you is they’re delivery boys.  The best damn delivery boys are the guys driving those big brown trucks if you compete with them, you will lose.

“So the answers are within you but only if you ask questions. By the way that’s the way you learn stuff, you ask questions. Every one of you retailers . What do you add to the value chain?

“I’m a big believer in education, we started our education program 30 years ago. You go in most retail music dealers they don’t know what the hell they’re selling. How are you going to sell things the customer knows more about than you?

“Your salvation is not with some congressional body, the answer to your future is within you. You’ve got to be willing to rise to the occasion. Music is one of the few things people will fight you over. If you happen to be a country music fan, and the guy sitting next to you is saying bad things about country music you want to give him a knuckle sandwich.

“You’ve got to make the experience of coming into your store a pleasant one.

“One of the things that’s wrong is we want to be everything to everybody. There is no way in hell you can know the features advantages and benefits of more than three or four products.  Are you demo-ing your products that way?

“The internet is not going to go away. It’s here and it’s going to get more pervasive.  Decide now what you’re going to do.

“Selling is not a noun. Retail is not a noun, it’s a verb. The government is not going to save your butt, they’ll kick it if you give them half a chance.

“Education on the retail music sales floor today, it’s at the lowest point ever. If we don’t do something to change that, I don’t know what’s going to happen.

“You’ve got to ask questions.  As a music industry we have done a lousy ass job of promoting ourselves. We’ve gotta ask the important questions to allow us to survive.  You better get back involved in selling with passion. We help people realize their dreams.

“A good salesman helps people realize their goals, objectives and their dreams. We’re in the dream business whether we realize it or not.

“Do things you can’t do by mail. Do installations. Do service. But here he is, in your store. He’s in your store.”

Donna Balancia is editor of East Coast Rocker and California Rocker.  Email her at editor@eastcoastrocker.com

Moog Synthesizer Genome Project Complete

Moog Synthesizer painstakingly recreated East Coast Rocker

The Moog Synthesizer. It no longer shoots rockets.

ASHEVILLE, NC – It has taken three years, but Moog Music engineering team has reverse-engineered and built a 1:1 re-creation of one of the world’s most famous keyboards: Keith Emerson’s Moog Modular, using original processes and components.

Moog Synthesizer

Known as “The Synthesizer Genome Project,” the revitalization of the keyboard was painstakingly undertaken by engineers at Moog Music’s Asheville, N.C. headquarters.

When it was created in 1970, the original Emerson Modular included the following:

·       81 total modules / custom panels

·       12 unique, custom built modules including: sample and hold, preset programmer, custom LFO’s and DRONE VCO Control

·       903 Noise Source and 905 Reverb

·       First synthesizer with performance presets

·       Shoots rockets

The Emerson System, by Moog Custom Engineering, is to be released later this month and is based on the original Emerson Modular. The Emerson System will include the following:

·       Every standard module printed from original circuit board films

·       Original/vintage and new old stock components sourced from around the world

·       All face places are reproduced using original transparencies and techniques

·       Each module is hand build and soldered with original schematics and service manuals as guides

·       No longer shoots rockets

Bob Moog East Coast Rocker

Bob Moog

More information is to come.  The Moog Music 500 series modules and electronic musical instruments are designed and lovingly handcrafted at the Moog factory in downtown Asheville, N.C. Moog Music and its customers carry on the legacy of Dr. Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesizer and Founder of Moog Music Inc.

The company puts on the annual Moogfest in Asheville.  This year the lineup features Kraftwerk 3D and Pet Shop Boys.

For more information, go to Moog Music and Moogfest websites.



WAR to Release First Studio Album in 20 years

LOS ANGELES — WAR will release its first new studio album in 20 years this May.

Evolutionary will be available digitally and as a 2-CD set on May 13 on Far Out Records/UMe.

The package is comprised of War’s digitally remastered, multi-Platinum greatest hits collection, originally released in 1976 and never before released digitally or on CD.

Evolutionary features collaborations with Tower of Power, Joe Walsh, Cheech and Chong and the USC Marching Band.

The band also announced U.S. tour dates starting March 20.

Evolutionary was recorded at Total Access Studios in Redondo Beach, Calif.

For more information go to http://www.war.com/

‘Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano’ film plays nationwide

Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano will play on movie screens nationwide on Tuesday, March 18 and Wednesday, March 26 at 7 p.m. local time, it was announced.

The film, presented by Fathom Events, CinemaLive and Rocket Music Entertainment Group, took four years to make and gives theatre-goers an opportunity to see an Sir Elton performance in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas VIP experience was recorded at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

John’s playlist includes “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” “Rocket Man,” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” among other hits.

In addition, viewers will see the making of the album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and ranks at No. 91 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

East Coast Rocker Elton John Piano film

Elton John’s film in selected theatres nationwide

Tickets for Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano are available at theater box offices and online at www.FathomEvents.com.

The film will be shown in 700 selected movie theaters around the U.S. through Fathom’s Digital Broadcast Network.

To find a theatre location where the film will be shown, go to Fathom Events.com.

“It’s unlike anything I have done before, a complete mix, a showcase of all my music, accompanied by spectacular scenery and beautiful video images,” said Elton John.


‘One Way Out’ Allman Brothers book Hits Shelves Next Week


'One Way Out' a fun read

‘One Way Out’ a fun read


— NEW YORK CITY — One Way Out The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band by Alan Paul, hits the retail shelves next week and the 438-page work is already in high demand, at least according to Facebook posts on the Allman Brothers Facebook page.

“Pretty please, with sugar on it” wrote fan page member Rick Book.  “Need a copy badly!” adds Beau Barnes.  Fan Bill Hammer calls the band members “Great Rock Legends.”

Published by St. Martin’s Press of New York City, the book is set for release next week.  Author Alan Paul is a senior writer for Guitar World magazine. He has covered the Allman Brothers Band for 25 years.

The Allman Brothers Facebook page recently hit the 1 million “Likes” benchmark.

“Given the rancor and turmoil that has often surrounded the group, it’s easy to scoff at the notion of a musical brotherhood,” writes Allen in his author’s note. “But I believe that in its earliest years, the members and crew shared a bond that sustained them through perilous times.

“Since the early,  devastating deaths of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, the band has also managed to find brilliant new musical voices to keep them moving forward, including Chuck Leavell, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks. The Allman Brothers; long history is equally tragic and uplifting, heroic and sad…”

Editor’s Note: East Coast Rocker Review to follow as soon as we can put the book down for a minute.




Gibson Government Series: ‘Fight the Powers That Be’

Gibson Guitar Releases ‘Government’ Line of Les Paul Guitars In Response to Raid

Gibson Guitar Corp. has released a “Gibson Government Series” Les Paul guitar made from the tonewood that was seized — and then returned –by the Feds after a raid of the Nashville and Memphis Gibson factories.

The guitar is made from mahogany, maple and the rosewood that was returned by the U.S. Government, and possesses a “high-gloss Government Tan” finish.

“Great Gibson electric guitars have long been a means of fighting the establishment, so when the powers that be confiscated stocks of tonewoods from the Gibson factory in Nashville—only to return them once there was a resolution and the investigation ended—it was an event worth celebrating,” it says on the Gibson Guitar website.

“Introducing the Government Series II Les Paul, a striking new guitar from Gibson USA for 2014 that suitably marks this infamous time in Gibson’s history.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided the Nashville-based guitar maker alleging the company violated the Lacey Act, which prohibits the import of certain species of plants.

Gibson settled for $300,000.  The guitar sells for a little more than $1,000. — By Donna Balancia


Beatles Tribute Show Brings Back Sunday Night Success to CBS

The Beatles on Ed Sullivan - photo courtesy of CBS

The Beatles on Ed Sullivan

NEW YORK CITY — To commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will perform together on a CBS Special “The Beatles: The Night That Changed America,” Sunday night 8 – 10:30 p.m.

The broadcast is presented by The Recording Academy, AEG Ehrlich Ventures and CBS.

The show, taped on Jan. 27, features performances by a range of artists including Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5, Brad Paisley & Pharrell Williams and Stevie Wonder.

The house band for the night features Peter Frampton on guitar, Kenny Aronoff on drums, Chris Caswell on keyboard, Lenny Castro on percussion, Steve Lukather on guitar, Greg Phillinganes on keyboard and Don Was, who also served as musical director, on bass.

TV Monitor introduces John Lennon to America

TV Screen during Ed Sullivan Show introduces John Lennon to America

The Beatles’ performance on The Ed Sullivan Show revolutionized the music industry and changed music forever.  The Feb. 9 airing commemorates exactly 50 years since the Liverpool group’s historic appearance in NYC.

In addition to a reunion of the Eurythmics, who will perform, artists scheduled include: Maroon 5, “All My Lovin’,” “Ticket To Ride;” Imagine Dragons, “Revolution;” Stevie Wonder, “We Can Work it Out;” Ringo Starr, “Matchbox;” Paul McCartney, “I Saw Her Standing There;” and an all-star finale including “Hey Jude.”


Bob Ezrin: ‘The Future of Music Depends on the Quality of Music’

Ezrin has worked with the heavy hitters of the music world including Alice Cooper, Lou Reed and Peter Gabriel.

Ezrin has worked with the heavy hitters of the music world including Alice Cooper, Lou Reed and Peter Gabriel.

Industry must call music ‘art.’  After all, Ezrin says, ‘A rose by any other name would NOT smell as sweet’ — 

By DONNA BALANCIA – ANAHEIM – Legendary producer Bob Ezrin told music retailers Thursday that the industry must continue to build its talent pool in order to thrive.

Prior to his keynote address to kick off the 2014 National Association of Music Merchants Show in Anaheim, Ezrin told East Coast Rocker that the more time the industry wastes worrying about ancillary issues, the less time it will spend on its most critical function:  To inspire and educate.

“If we spend time worrying about things like how to get the music out, the less time we will have to make insanely good music,” Ezrin told East Coast Rocker prior to delivering his speech at the annual event that draws thousands of industry members from around the world.

His morning keynote speech drew an audience of several hundred music retailers, many of whom forged through rough winter weather to attend the conference in sunny Southern California.

Using cool-sounding words doesn’t cut it for Canadian-born Ezrin, whose experience with “cool” is vast, having worked with hundreds of top musicians since the 1970s.

“When we talk about the future of making music, we have to watch the language we use,” Ezrin said.  “Someone said to me, ‘It’s about the ‘content.‘  No it’s not. ‘Content’ is for cereal boxes, not the art. If it’s called ‘content,’ you diminish the value down to breakfast cereal…When you talk about it with mist in your eyes …Now you’re talking about music.”

Ezrin spends much of his time in philanthropy.  He is co-founder with Garth Richardson and Kevin Williams of Nimbus School of Recording Arts in Vancouver.

Ezrin implores the music industry to use terminology carefully.

Ezrin implores the music industry to use terminology carefully.

Another word Ezrin can’t stand: “Monetization.”

“I don’t want to talk about business models, or the ‘monetization’ of anything, that’s a dirty word.  Unless what we make is great, nobody’s going to pay for it. ”

How will the industry make money?

“The best thing we can be doing is insure a march to excellence, to empower, inspire, to promote people who are straining to do something unique,” Ezrin said. “And to encourage them. Music is the very special creation of very special people whose entire lives and everything they’ve ever done, seen, felt or touched goes into what they do. That process is magical.”

Ezrin said: “There is a certain amount of technique involved. So how do we become insanely great? One of the things to do, whenever you set out on a journey, you need to make a list of things Not to Do, and a list of things To Do.  One of the things to do is to make a ‘Not to do’ list.”

Ezrin warned not to “Get caught up in toys, tricks, technology, packaging, positioning or any of those things before you have something to market,” he said.

Our society is perhaps too caught up in “chasing cool,” or “the latest” in tech and that viral or other song phenomena will happen without that tech factor most of the time, he said. Using the success of the catchy “Who Let The Dogs Out,” as an example, Ezrin said, “I’m sure that person was not sitting at a computer screen or at a conference like this.”

Ezrin, a prolific producer, devotes much of his time now to music philanthropy.

Ezrin devotes much of his time now to music philanthropy. Photo courtesy of Canadian Music Hall of Fame

Ezrin said: “At the end of the day when somebody like Psy comes around, it travels around the world.” He said, the market is “extremely rational. The stuff of real value does get supported and earns something for somebody. And the stuff that’s not so good, typically doesn’t.”

He said formulas don’t count, unless you’re making a widget and what happened before won’t predict the future.

“Art is only something artists can manage,” said Ezrin. “A craftsman is someone who can create and build code .. And an artist is someone who creates something that is different.

He said: “A rose by any other name would not  smell as sweet. If you called roses ‘kumquats’ it would not be the same.”

The music, and not the “content” or the calling it of such, is the key.

“It’s not technology or modality of delivery, it is the special creation of special people that especially touches the hearts of others,” that should be the concern of the industry.

The first line of offense in inspiring youths of today to take up an instrument is to put down the smart phone, Ezrin said.

“Kids, they hear things and kids are incredibly curious, thoughtful about what they see, even with their heads down things get in,” he said. “You need to inspire and educate.  Take them to a concert.  They may be on (the smart phone) but they internalize and maybe they’ll say, ‘I want to do that.”

On Todd Rundgren’s Les Paul Award: ‘We’ve Been Waiting So Long’

Todd Rundgren in 1981 - Photo courtesy Eric Gardner

Todd Rundgren in 1981 – Photo courtesy Eric Gardner

By DONNA BALANCIA — Todd Rundgren will receive the Les Paul Award at the National Association of Music Merchants Show, and fans say it’s been a long time coming.

Todd will be presented with the award at the 29th annual Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards during NAMM for his several decades performing and writing music, his producing skills, and continued experimentation in electronic music.

The award recognizes outstanding achievement in professional audio technology and production and will be presented Friday, Jan. 24 at the Anaheim Hilton.

Todd’s recordings ranging from “Hello It’s Me,” and “Can We Still be Friends,” to the Boomer vacation theme “Bang The Drum All Day,” are known to the masses.  His consistently interesting and artistic live performances may be known to fewer.

But how is it that this prolific musician and producer of such talents as Rick Derringer, Hall and Oates, Patti Smith, Grand Funk Railroad and Meat Loaf could go all these years without a nod from his colleagues?

Maybe, we’re told, Todd just didn’t clap loud enough at the right times. Or for the right people.

Utopia: Todd Rundgren, Willie Wilcox, Roger Powell and Kasim Sultan

Utopia: Todd Rundgren, Willie Wilcox, Roger Powell and Kasim Sultan

Besides, Todd doesn’t have time to deal with professional politics, because he’s too busy giving back.

Like the time he and his band Utopia performed during the benefit at South Street Seaport in New York City to raise money after Derringer’s instruments had been stolen. Even robotic Roger Powell stiffly glanced up from his keyboard through wrap-around shades to blurt into the microphone in his monotone voice: “It’s a beautiful thing.”

Over the years Todd’s shows have always included some kind of suprise: New wave jumpsuits, a cool new version of a classic like Debussy’s “Bolero,”  or a techie treat.

One year we saw Todd play a San Diego stage all alone with two projection screens on either side that simultaneously broadcast his unplugged session.  It appeared as if he did all the adjustments and fine-tuning himself, and, it sure didn’t sound like he was up on stage by himself.  The audience was enraptured – the guy sitting next to me admitted his admiration and love for Todd, and alternated between swooning and weeping during the show.

Innovative tech sounds can be heard on Todd’s recordings. But technology infrastructure is something that made him a standout. Todd licensed an I-Pad-like slate to Apple years prior to anything similar, and he established a distribution model based on “interactivity” — long  before the word became the mantra of Northern California’s Silicon Valley.

But sometimes, Todd’s adventures in technology are misunderstood.

Todd Rundgren: Trying technology and more.

Todd Rundgren: Trying technology and more.

As Bugs Bunny once remarked, “They laughed at the guy who discovered Penicillin,” and there may have similarly been a giggle when Todd held a press conference for last spring’s release, STATE, via an online Google Hangout session, sporting some fancy glasses.

But it is an evolving era as Todd says, and he’s been happy with his laptop and software.  But now his new music innovation will come through a different type of interactivity.

He and Michele are investing time and efforts into their latest mission: Spirit of Harmony Foundation.

“The purpose is to provide support and funding to school programs and other sorts of organizations who are trying to bring music to people who don’t have it,” said Todd, “Especially in terms of learning how to play instruments, learning how to understand what music is all about and having the opportunity to express yourself through that medium.”

UPDATE:  Check out the newly created website for the Spirit of Harmony Foundation

Music Industry Experts: Network, Network and Network Some More

East Coast Rocker photo

Industry experts tell aspiring musicians to collaborate, know the audience. BALANCIA PHOTO

ANAHEIM — If “It’s not what you know but who you know,” then aspiring songwriters and musicians are in good company, a panel of music industry experts said at NAMM over the weekend.

During a panel discussion entitled 360 Degrees of a Hit Music Track, a room of 250 songwriters and musicians were told to work the event circuit and talk up their work — to each other — and help each other make it to the top.

“Network with everyone,” attorney Neville Johnson of Johnson and Johnson LLP of Beverly Hills said. “Look around you.  The people in this room are your colleagues. Go to the events, industry meetings, groups for writers. It’s a team effort.”

Panelists included singer songwriter Barry Keenan, A and R executive Don Grierson, producer Matt Forger, publisher Robert Case, attorney Johnson and was moderated by Alex Del Zoppo of the renowned band Sweetwater.

Aspiring musicians must know their audience, take stock in their catalogues and pay close attention to the emotional communication they intend, said panelist Grierson, who has worked with many of the most notable artists in music. It all comes down to the message and the appeal of the message, Grierson said.

Musicians told to collaborate with each other, seek out music partners.

Musicians told to collaborate with each other, seek out music partners.

“I guarantee you this: They will never ask if you recorded on one track or two tracks or if it was analogue or digital,” said Grierson. “They only care about ‘Did it resonate here,” he said, pointing to his heart.

Keenan said competition may be tough, but “Never give up on your dream.”  He added that when the time is right to get your CD into the hands of a producer, make sure the product is good.

Johnson added that with continued efforts, it is possible for a new artist to break through.

“Look at Lorde, she came out of nowhere,” he said, referring to the 16-year-old New Zealand-born phenom, nominated in four categories at Sunday’s Grammy Awards. “And Adele, she’s broken all records…”

The Internet has done a lot to help aspiring and established artists get exposure. Keep networking and posting song, it was advised.

“Find a great song,” Johnson said. “I know a guy who had a one-off song that became a hit, then he bought a nice house, got a nice car, nice wife, nice life.”

Everclear’s Art Alexakis named to LA College of Music Post

Photo by Donna Balancia

Photo by Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA — ANAHEIM — Art Alexakis of Everclear has been named the chair of the songwriting department at the newly renamed Los Angeles College of Music in Pasadena.

The announcement was made during media day at the 2014 NAMM Show in Anaheim. Alexakis played his hit “Santa Monica.”

LACM representatives and Alexakis also discussed the importance of bringing music education into the schools and are working with Lennon Bus

AEG’s digital ticketing division acquires Examiner.com



AEG’s digital ticketing platform AXS, has acquired Examiner.com, a well-known information and content distribution website, it was announced.

The acquisition gives AEG a more fully rounded platform that can attract readers, who can be converted to buy tickets to events.

Examiner.com is a content creation network, and gets 45.5 million unique visitors globally every month, according to Quantcast, the advertising tracker.

The acquisition gives AEG ammunition against rival Live Nation, which uses a range of ticket distribution, including the powerful mobile app BandsInTown, that reaches millions of ticket buyers.