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Joe Perry to Receive Les Paul Award at 32nd annual TEC Awards at NAMM Show in Anaheim, Calif.


Aerosmith co-founder Joe Perry will receive the Les Paul Award at the 32nd annual  Technical Excellence and Creativity Awards at this year’s NAMM Show in Anaheim.

The annual award is given on behalf of the Les Paul Foundation and honors individuals that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of recording. Perry will receive the award on Saturday night during the TEC Awards gala at the Hilton.

Perry is set to perform live before an audience of pro audio and sound production inventors, musicians and industry friends.

“Anytime my name is mentioned in the same sentence as Les Paul, it’s a huge honor,” says Perry. “Getting an award bearing his name is the icing on the cake.”

A co-founding member of a Aerosmith, whose music repertoire spans four decades, Perry’s versatile musicianship and influence has helped pave the way for a long list of accolades that reach beyond the band’s more than 150 million albums sold.

Joe Perry, recently wrapped a worldwide tour with The Hollywood Vampires - Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

Joe Perry, recently wrapped a worldwide tour with The Hollywood Vampires – Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

In the role of principal songwriter, lead guitarist, and as producer for multiple tracks featured on several notable Aerosmith albums, Perry’s talent has helped contribute to the super group’s four GRAMMY Awards,  — one of which includes Perry’s guitar-based instrumental “Boogie Man” —  among many others.  In 2001, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of Aerosmith, and in 2013, Perry with his songwriting partner Steven Tyler were recipients of the ASCAP Founders Award and were also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

“Joe Perry was a friend of Les Paul and is undoubtedly one of the most innovative and talented musicians of our time,” said Michael Braunstein, executive director of the Les Paul Foundation. “His ability to push boundaries of the electric guitar with his signature sound and deft playing ability embodies the true spirit of what Les Paul and the award given in his name stands for.

The Les Paul Award has been presented at the NAMM TEC Awards to remarkably-distinguished and accomplished individuals from the music industry, including such luminaries as Sir Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townsend, Slash and last year’s recipient, Don Was.

For more information go to the TEC Awards Page of the NAMM Foundation.

‘New York Is Music’ Group Applauds the Empire State Music Production Tax Credit

New York is Music, a coalition of more than 200 music-related organizations, applauds the passage of the Empire State Music Production Tax Credit.

In recent weeks, the group rallied in support of the tax credit, dubbed  A10083A/S7485A, by holding several events.  Among event locations were GCR Audio in Buffalo; Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Rochester; Big Blue North Recording Studio in Utica, and at the Capitol in Albany.

The Albany event brought together musicians, sound engineers, recording studios, and other New York music industry employees.

“New York has always been a global center for music and with this tax credit in place, our state’s music industry will only grow stronger,” said Justin Kalifowitz, co-founder of New York is Music and CEO of Downtown Music Publishing. “Whether it’s a local recording studio in Buffalo or an upstart entrepreneur in Utica, more than 100,000 New Yorkers who work in music will benefit from this important credit.”

New York Music

The Pretty Reckless are among the hot New York bands - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Pretty Reckless are among the hot New York bands – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“Today is a day for celebration, not just for those of us who have recorded music in New York for decades, but also for the next generation of musicians and engineers. The creative force behind our great music industry – who now have a brighter future ahead,” said Ben Allison, President of The Recording Academy New York Chapter, bassist, producer, and recording artist.

“This tax credit is a win for local economies all across the state that won’t be handicapped anymore in competing for music jobs.”

The credit, sponsored by Senator Martin Golden and Assembly Member Joseph Lentol breaks credits down regionally.

The break provides a 25 percent tax credit for eligible production-related costs for downstate music businesses and a 35 percent tax credit for production-related costs for upstate music businesses, similar to the state’s film tax credit.

To be eligible, costs must be related to job creation, including studio rental fees; instrument and equipment rental fees; production session fees for musicians, programmers, engineers, and technicians; mixing and mastering services; local transportation; expenditures directly related to music production and provided at or to the site for the production of music videos. The program is capped at $25 million per year.


‘The Mess We Made’ Album by Tomas Doncker is a Heartfelt Plea for Equality to All

Tomas Doncker - Photo courtesy Tomas Doncker

Tomas Doncker – Photo courtesy Tomas Doncker

By DOTTIE PARIS – Tomas Doncker hopes the world will change. He took his feelings of rage and sadness over the Charleston Church Massacre and put them into a new musical project The Mess We Made, and that investment is paying emotional dividends.

Doncker, known for his joyful and soulful music has come up with a new, “retro” sound that brings us back to the 1960s in a variety of ways.

Doncker is not afraid to speak his mind since the church burning. After all, hadn’t the U.S. and its people made some strides as far as integration and equal opportunity? Doncker doesn’t think so and he makes it plain through the songs on his new album.

But Doncker makes one thing incredibly clear: Because a song may have a serious tone, it doesn’t have to be slow and morose.

“Church Is Burning Down,” is an excellent example of a work that communicates effectively and also keeps the music upbeat. Maybe this is a style others should try.

Doncker’s music with a message is refreshing. The masses are tired of “boy loves girl,” or “girl breaks up with boy,” and are ready to receive Doncker’s important message. And that’s one of the best aspects of music — the listener can hear the songwriter’s opinion as much or as little as they want.

Tomas Doncker makes some noise with new album - Photo courtesy Tomas Doncker for EastCoastRocker.com

Tomas Doncker makes some noise with new album – Photo courtesy Tomas Doncker for EastCoastRocker.com

In the single “Revolution,” Doncker asks why “Brother to brother, man to man, why can’t we get together…” in a snappy beat, but he clearly shows disappointment that our culture has thrown away all the lessons of Martin Luther King and other leaders.

The title track “The Mess We Made” is a slow bluesy and heartfelt song about lost love and and fear. In the song he says he’s “gotta get my mind right” but his mind clearly seems right outside of the song’s obvious breakup situation.

In “Blood and Concrete,” Doncker takes a look at the injustice of the U.S. economic situation with the 1 percent ruling the country and police rustling up the other 99 percent. It’s a somber look at the way our world works today.

The tone of the entire album is reminiscent on some level of the 1970 song “Ball of Confusion,” by The Temptations. “Ball of Confusion” was among the first blendings of psychedelic soul with issue-oriented lyrics, and remarkably, the song received a lot of commercial radio airplay. “Ball of Confusion,” like Doncker’s latest work, also dealt with the problems of the world in a fast-paced and upbeat but serious tone.  It worked then and it works now.

With The Mess We Made, Doncker has created an appealing work that is relevant to this age. In our era of not speaking out against injustice, genetically modified food and fracking, Doncker brings us a new voice that can be trusted. His words are real, his melodies are catchy and his message is clear.

Florence + The Machine Premieres Promotional Short Film; Plays Barclays Center June 14


Florence + The Machine will play Barclay Center in Brooklyn on June 14 as part of the How Beautiful tour.

She recently premiered the new short film, The Odyssey, on the band’s website and held  a live Q and A through the Florence + The Machine Facebook page afterwards.

Get Florence + The Machine Tickets Here 

The film, directed by Vincent Haycock, highlights the music from Florence Welch’s  latest album, including the hits “Ship to Wreck,” and “What Kind of Man” and “Queen of Peace.”

As Welch, 29, has said, she has had a rough time in life and love over the last couple of years and it’s clear through the film she was working that period out.

The film depicts a couple torn apart by a car crash, which apparently is symbolic for a breakup.  She is tormented throughout the picture, volleying between dream and reality.

Los Angeles and Mexico locations were used, and “What Kind of Man” was shot at Chateau Marmont. The locations were representative of where she stood in her heartbreaking relationship.

“We’d done extravagant videos with loads of hair and costume changes and I was ready to do something raw,” Florence said. “Vince didn’t tell me to do much, he let stuff happen.”

“I think that when we approached this, she was coming to the new album from a  personal point … she came with me with very personal explanations of the songs. I think we kicked off the conversation with her explaning the real life odyssey she’s been living through. The imagery and listening to the songs came naturally.

“This year I decided I wanted the boundaries between the performer and the real person to be less defined,”  Florence said. “Tthrough the process of getting famous you get scared, you build walls.”

The film involves a great deal of interpretive dance, there are many fighting scenes and Florence said she was influenced by Erte and Klimt.

“Ship To Wreck” is shot in her home, and she admits she had some issues with the the intense scene being shot in her home.”

“That scene stressed me out to watch,” she said. “I was jumping on the table.  But I learned through this that if it feels uncomfortable you should keep going.”

During the Q and A, when prompted, the fans’ questions came fast and furious through Facebook, proving the social media application could fulfill Mark Zuckerberg’s dream of encouraging people to post video and be more interactive with the platform.

Upbeat it is not, and a bit self-serving it certainly is.  But the film is a good insight into the world of Florence + The Machine.

Grace Potter To Play the East Coast This Summer; Promotes ‘Midnight’

Grace Potter's latest is Midnight - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Grace Potter’s latest is Midnight – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


Grace Potter will tour to support her new album, hitting the East Coast in June and the West Coast in July

The Vermont-born Potter kicks off her East Coast swing with stops in Little Rock Ark., Richmond and Norfolk, Va; Manchester, Tenn., and Russell Township, Ohio; before heading on to Boston, Washington, New York and Chicago.

“More and more I’m being myself on stage,” the 32-year-old Potter said. “It’s fun to be out there by myself. For me an album is like a one-sided phone call; the live show then becomes the conversation, the other end of the telephone.”

Potter prides herself on changing it up and keeping the show fresh.

Grace Potter - Photo by Donna Balancia

Grace Potter – Photo by Donna Balancia

“You have to recognize that music is elastic especially the live show and it should change from night to night,” she said.

Potter’s hit song, “Alive Tonight,” is on Midnight, which is available digitally, on CD and vinyl.  “Alive Tonight” is one of her best known songs.

Potter, who sounds like a cross between Janice Joplin and a funky Linda Ronstadt, puts on a sexy stage show, often changing outfits or wearing a glittery cape.  She may be best known for sharing the stage with The Rolling Stones.

After the East Coast swing, Potter heads out west for July dates.

“When you’re on the road with someone there’s a lot of things that need to go right and a lot of things that can go wrong,” Potter said. “I’ve been insanely lucky in the collective I’ve finally settled on.”

Joy Formidable to Hit the East Coast with New Album, Hitch, and Tour

The Joy Formidable to hit East Coast venues - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Joy Formidable to hit East Coast venues – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – The Joy Formidable is set to take the East Coast by storm, and this Welsh threesome is a group well worth watching.

Their new album, Hitch, is a slight departure from previous releases, but beautifully written and performed.

The Joy Formidable is comprised of lead singer and lead guitarist, Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan, bassist Rhydian Dafydd Davies and drummer Matt James Thomas.

They play dates in Nashville, Pennsylvania, New York, New Orleans, Florida, Dallas and Memphis before touring the U.K.

The Joy Formidable - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Joy Formidable – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Joy Formidable has an alt-indie following, but with their third album it’s clear this is a group that can handle a wide range of genres.  They brought humor and power to their fans at a recent show at the Roxy in Los Angeles.

Think Sonic Youth meets Midnight Oil via The Raspberries with driving beats.

Ritzy’s cooing voice in between songs had a rather soothing effect, much like your sarcastic Welsh grandmother — if you had one — lulling you off to a faraway land.  That’s where all niceties stop as she pulls the rug out from under you with great ripping guitar.  It doesn’t hurt that Ritzy’s cute and fun to watch, either.

The Joy Formidable - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Joy Formidable performs “The Brook” unplugged – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Rhydian gave a nice chat with the VIP meet and greeters at The Roxy prior the show, and to say that this band likes to mix it up with the audience is an understatement.  At one point Ritzy and Rhydian came off the stage and brought their unplugged acoustic guitars to the audience and gave what appeared to be an impromptu rendition of The Brook to the fans.

But we can’t say enough good things about one of the most talented and entertaining drummers we’ve seen in Matt.

He drives the band with beats akin to the late Keith Moon as one concert-goer commented and his hair flies all over the place as he connects with smiles and winks to his audience

‘Heavy Metal Parking Lot’ Still a Classic 30 Years After Its Release

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 11.45.32 PMBy JOHN DALY for EastCoastRocker.com – The 15-minute film Heavy Metal Parking Lot is a true classic 30 years after its release.

Yes it was shot on the East Coast and maybe that’s why it has that familiar flavor — summer days with your babe, tailgating at a Judas Priest concert.

But as with anything, it’s the personalities and the characters that made this movie a unique cultural study; the girl with the striped shirt, the guy with the striped shirt, the guy with the beer and mullet — wait, that could be any of the kids in the 1986 short flick.

On an important anniversary in the history of cool music movies, we’ve embedded the metal rock movie, Heavy Metal Parking Lot here for your viewing pleasure:

Heavy Metal Parking Lot from Jeff Krulik on Vimeo.

HMPL 25th Anniversary Animation by Brad D from Jeff Krulik on Vimeo.

The Tighty Whiteys – These Cool ‘California’ Musicians Play It Funky in Malibu

Ron Young and Bruce Witkin of The Tighty Whiteys - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Ron Young and Bruce Witkin of The Tighty Whiteys – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

They May Play in Malibu, But The Tighty Whiteys Have East Coast Roots


MALIBU, Calif. — Don’t call these guys surfer dudes, because even though the Tighty Whiteys play where the surf meets the sand, they’re pure funk.

And classic funk at that, with a range that will knock any groove-meister’s socks off their ever-lovin’ feet.

That’s because they’ve got an East Coast groove and when the Tighty Whiteys bring it to Casa Escobar in Malibu, the locals and their upscale pals dance up a storm.

Rob Klonel of The Tighty Whiteys - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Rob Klonel of The Tighty Whiteys – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Tighty Whitey Band

With drummer Rob Klonel; keyboardist Kevin Laurence; guitarist Joey Malone; bass player Bruce Witkin and dynamic frontman Ron Young, this is funkin’ groovin’ like you haven’t heard in ages.

And maybe that’s because everyone in the band is from the East Coast.

Rob is from Boston, Kevin, Bruce and Joey are from Florida, and Ron is a New York City boy.

The Tighty Whiteys play everything from Stevie Wonder to Sly and the Family Stone and they do it well.  If you add up all the years of musical experience of all the band members combined it would be at least a lifetime or two.

Joey Malone - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Joey Malone – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Around the Block

They’ve even appeared on national TV in one form or another: Two-fifths of the band — Malone and Witkin — are in the hot-hot Hollywood Vampires, with Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp and Joe Perry.

The Tighty Whiteys have been around the block; they changed their name from Blue-Eyed Devils recently because … well — their band is pretty tight and — they are definitely white.

“Their music is just really fun to dance to and the guys get into it,” said one fan at Casa Escobar across from the Malibu Pier on a recent weekend night. “People love this ’70s funk and when the Tighty Whiteys play, the restaurant moves the tables back because a lot of people dance.”

The Tighty Whiteys - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Tighty Whiteys – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Casa Escobar

Casa Escobar has become a regular gig for the Tighty Whiteys who all have impressive day jobs and other activities that keep them off the streets.

But when visiting California and looking for a fun evening out, hit Casa Escobar on a summer night when the Tighty Whiteys do their thing — you won’t be disappointed.  The food is good, there are margaritas to down, and heels to kick up.


[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”11″ gal_title=”The Tighty Whiteys”]

Stefan Marchello Steps into Peppi’s Big Shoes As The Good Rats Play On

GoodRats-FULL BAND (2)The Good Rats Get a Mention on TV’s Vinyl

By DONNA BALANCIA – Stefan Marchello is leading The Good Rats into the future.  It’s a big responsibility to be handed the mantle of the legendary Long Island band started by his father, Peppi, and his uncle Mickey.  Stefan  tells us he’s coping with the emotional impact Peppi’s death had on him, but it’s not an easy road.

Stefan’s voice is amazing, he’s finding his way with the band and the fans, and this young ‘Rat’ is steering the ship. He recently sat down with East Coast Rocker to answer the important questions:

ECR: How are the Good Rats doing since Peppi passed away in July of 2013?

SM: Well, when we first started playing out again we played out as a 3 piece band with no guitar. I was playing bass guitar and singing.  My keyboard player (Dan The Man) was filling the no guitar void. He learned all the guitar leads on his keyboard. It was amazing actually how fast it all came together. We played out for about a year like that.

Stefan Marchello – Leading The Good Rats ship – Photo courtesy Stefan Marchello

At this point I decided to switch from the bass to the guitar. Dan The Man still does the lead guitars on his keyboards. Together we kind of brought that original sound back. For example, the guitar harmonies in “Fireball Express.” For years even with Peppi we only had one guitar player. So, we couldn’t do those famous Good Rats harmony guitar lines that Mickey and John did so well. It’s nice to add that TASTY factor back in.

ECR: Any changes these days?

SM: We have two new guys in the band. These guys, besides being top notch players they are loyal Good Rat fans and longtime friends. Joe “Mike White” Dibiase  who actually played and still tours with (Fates Warning) is playing bass with us. Also, Joey Dibiase  from (Oath) a great new band that also tours is playing drums for us. Another cool thing is the bass player and drummer are father and son, which is something I can really appreciate.

ECR: And so…?

SM: So, I guess on the question of how we are doing, I’d say we’ve come a long way. The band sounds great. It’s great to be able to play Peppi’s library of songs live for the fans. The fans are really supportive.

Getting up there to play every show is very tough for me. The emotions are high every time. Every show is a constant reminder of the 23 years I played with my dad as The Good Rats. Once I’m up there watching the fans sing along and have a great time like they did 10, 15, 23 years ago, my emotions subside and I just fucking love it. The music and the name Good Rats will live on!!

The Good Rats in their heyday

The Good Rats in their heyday

ECR: What are some funny incidents that may have happened to you and the band in the last two years?

SM: Well you know when it comes to funny shit that happens it’s usually only funny probably to us. I can say that every show is a blast. Whether it’s a tiny bar, festival or our annual event RATSTOCK. It’s always an adventure.

ECR: Have you discovered anything about the Rats you didn’t know since Peppi died?

SM: Off the top of my head I would say a song called “I Remember Loving You.” Peppi has a huge library of songs. I thought I knew them all but I dug up this song and it hit me when I heard it. It’s not a good copy but the song is amazing. So, I decided to go record it over and it will be on the next Good Rats album.

The Good Rats' new album, Afterlife

The Good Rats’ new album, Afterlife

ECR: Have you learned anything interesting about music, touring or stamina since you’ve been leading the band?

SM: Yes, stamina. I remember when I played drums in the band. I would bitch and moan at the end of the night. While that was tiring I have learned that lead vocals are no joke. Especially Peppi Marchello vocals. Just another reason I am amazed with my dad. To this day I can’t think of any other vocalist who sang so well and with such versatility. Also consistent in having flawless shows through a long career.

ECR: Who is doing the songwriting and are there any new songs to be aware of? Any special plans for this year?

SM: Well, last year we put out  “Afterlife” which is a great album. We’re now currently in the studio. We’re doing some new unreleased songs and working on some of my own originals. So, maybe Summer 2016 we’ll release a new record! Of course we plan to play lots of shows this year.

ECR: Was it our imagination, or did we hear someone on the new show Vinyl mention the Good Rats?

SM: Vinyl actually has a scene where they talk about the Good Rats. There was an article in The Wall Street Journal about the show and it included us. It’s a huge show and I know Peppi is looking down and smiling.

ECR: How would Peppi rate the Good Rats of today?

SM: You know I say after every show how happy Peppi would be with this lineup. I know he would be proud.

Peppina Brings to the U.S. Her New Music — With A Lovely Finnish Twist


Peppina – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Finnish singer-songwriter Peppina, whose original music appears on a variety of films and commercials, is prepping for the SXSW Festival and has just come off a successful tour of the U.S.  She sat down with East Coast Rocker for a Question and Answer session.

How did you get involved with music?

I’m told I was 4 years old when I first told my mom I want to learn to play an instrument, and since there was a good music school nearby, I started with  classical training. I played flute for 11 years. But my true passion for music  started after getting my piano at the age of 10, that’s when I started to play more contemporary music and writing my own songs.

When did you realize you wanted to spend your life making music?

As long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to spend my life doing something in the world of music, but it took some time for me to actually dare to make a living by just making music. When I was 16, I started to share my music online, and getting supportive feedback made me feel like I might actually have a chance to do something.

What are you planning for SXSW?

So far we have one show confirmed for March 19th at Stephen F’s bar, but with these kind of festivals, most likely more will come as it gets closer. In any case I’m planning to work hard, meet a lot of people, play as much as I can and have fun with it – it’s such an amazing opportunity, I can barely believe I’ll be a part of it!

What is your neighborhood like at home?

I live 6min away from the center of Helsinki, the capital of Finland, but my neighborhood happens to be an island! It’s very safe and peaceful there, the ocean is always near and there’s a lot of nature… I love it, but I’m really happy it’s close to the center, ’cause there’s really not much to do there and I would’ve gone crazy growing up if I didn’t have access to the city!


Peppina – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

What inspires you?

People who are passionate, have a dream and are brave (and crazy) enough to keep seriously trying to make it true.

What do you dislike?

People who say they are seriously trying to make a dream come true, but aren’t willing to truly work for it, never catch the chances they get and then just blame it all on their luck. That and this Finnish salty liqourice candy called ‘Salmiakki’.

What is your favorite hobby other than music?

I’ve been so busy working that haven’t really had much time for hobbies lately, but I live to draw weird comic-characters to relax. At some point I thought I might go into drawing professionally!

What bands do you like, what musical artists do you admire?

Regina Spektor is one of the artists who really changed how I listened to music, and inspired and pushed me to challenge myself in songwriting.

What is the future of music in your opinion?

It looks like we’re going to a more organic direction, more real instruments in productions, and kind of a ‘less is more’ feel… I don’t really know, but I hope I’m right!


Peppina – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Regarding your song, “What You Are Will Show” – are you afraid this will happen to you in the future?

That’s actually one of my motivations to keep fighting on in this crazy business – the LAST thing I want is to have regrets, or to feel like I gave up or didn’t try hard enough. Also:

Did you grow up learning English? If not, how difficult was it to write your songs in English?

In Finland we start learning English in school at the age of 9, but since all of the TV shows and movies are in original language (and most of them American), I started learning as I started watching TV. To be honest, I think that’s how mostly I learned it. But there’s definitely a big difference between how I write in English and how I write in Finnish. Since English isn’t my first language and I don’ know it perfectly well, I often have to be a bit more straight forward with my lyrics, I can’t hide behind fancy metaphors and such!

The Who Hits 50! Tour Continues Going Strong Throughout East Coast

The Who Hits 50! Tour East Coast Rocker

The Who Hits 50! Tour makes 20 stops in the East – logo provided by AEG Live

By DONNA BALANCIA – The Who celebrate “The Big Five O” with a North American Tour that kicked off April 15 in Tampa and hits 20 locations in the East. 

The Who’s West Coast swing of The Who Hits 50! tour will return to the U.S. on May 15 in Seattle when the band returns from Canada dates.

Tickets are available at www.thewho.com.  The tour is presented by AEG Live.

Special VIP packages are available. As the show is sponsored by Citi, Citicard members can buy tickets. For more information on Citicard, go to www.citiprivatepass.com.

The Who released a greatest hits album collection, The Who Hits 50!,  through Geffen-Universal Music Enterprises.  The recording includes tunes from The Who’s early days, when the band was called The High Numbers, through today.

The Who has sold more than 100 million records since the band was formed in 1964.  Two of the original band members, Keith Moon and John Entwistle passed away.

The Who Hits 50! Tour:

The Who

Paul Nelson, Musician, and Friend to Johnny Winter, Finds His Spring

Paul Nelson East Coast Rocker

Paul Nelson pays tribute to the 1970s with new album – Photo courtesy Paul Nelson

Releases New Album ‘Badass Generation’

By DONNA BALANCIA – Johnny Winter’s collaborator and friend Paul Nelson is finally making music again.  Guitarist and songwriter Nelson, who was Winter’s right hand man and friend, is touring with his own band promoting his new album Badass Generation.

The collection honors two of Nelson’s favorite subjects: His late friend Johnny and the music of the 1970s.

Badass Generation is influenced by the bands of the ’70s,” Nelson said. “I always loved the music of the ’70s and bands like  Aerosmith, Queen and Led Zepplin,” Nelson said. “I wrote most of the music and the lyrics. The record has a retro ’70s feel with a modern twist. I’m really happy the radio stations are digging it.”

See PAUL NELSON’s website

Badass Generation is a sexy work that gives people who didn’t grow up in the ’70s, a taste of the era.  It’s clean and solid, with tunes that alternate between the sounds of Marshall Tucker Band and Allman Brothers to Bad Company and — not surprisingly — Johnny and Edgar Winter.  Favorite tunes are “Cold Hearted Mama,” “Down Home Boogie,” the funky “Out of Time,” and “Trouble.”  Frontman Morten Fredheim has the voice to pull it all off and he has pleadingly charming vocal range to get what he wants out of each song.   Nelson’s work on slide guitar is to be noted.

Badass Generation East Coast Rocker

Badass Generation

A lot of care went into the four-panel CD jacket, which has all the lyrics for the songs written on the inside. That in itself is reason enough to buy the CD. It’s really cool to sit down with a record cover — and not a laptop — in your lap to read the lyrics along with the music.  We hear that’s what they used to do in the 1970s.

If you’re old enough to remember the music of the ’70s, the songs each bring back memories of a beloved band or place.  The whole package is appropriately named.   The record is indeed badass throughout and is available now.

“I just think there’s a void that needs to be filled with the music,” Nelson said. “People love this type of music but nobody’s playing it.”

The tour for Badass Generation opens in Canada and takes the East Coast by storm.

Writing and recording music has been good for Nelson, who was emotionally gutted by the loss of his friend, Winter, the maestro of blues guitar who passed away on July 16, 2014 while on tour in Europe. But Nelson has been playing in the Johnny Winter All-Star band and he says that’s been therapeutic as well.

Morten Fredheim East Coast Rocker

Morten Fredheim is the dynamic frontman in the Paul Nelson Band – Photo courtesy of Paul Nelson

Nelson said audiences across America will get a chance to see Winter in the new film Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty, which opens around Winter’s Feb. 23 birthday.  Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty was guided by Greg Olliver, the same director who helmed the Lemmy movie.

“The crew followed us for three years,” Nelson recalled.

The new album has some marketable components, Nelson said.

“‘Please Come Home’ could develop a loyal following,” he said. “The song was sent to the Armed Forces Network.

“‘Please Come Home’ is an inspiring and lighthearted song, it’s got a Duane Allman feel and a great vibe.”

As for Johnny dying, “It was really rough, he’ll always be a partnof me he was my mentor and friend. I got him back on top. It wasn’t easy but the all-star shows are therapeutic

“Johnny taught me that less is more,” Nelson said. “He knew everything about the blues. Not only could he play but he was a blues historian. He taught me how inportant it is to listen and incorporate the classic blues into ny work.”

Women Rockers Hit a High Note at The NAMM Show 2016 She Rocks Awards

She Rocks - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

She Rocks – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jennifer Batten, Chaka Khan Among Honorees

By DONNA BALANCIA – Guitarist Jennifer Batten, Chaka Khan and a host of women in rock were honored at the annual She Rocks Awards presented by The Women’s International Music Network.

Co-hosted by WIMN Founder Laura Whitmore and guitarist Nita Strauss, the awards gala paid tribute to a range of women in the music business.

“This is a great honor and I would like to thank the organization for the award,” well-known singer-songwriter Khan told the audience. Known for songs like “I’m Every Woman,” Khan was treated to a performance of some of her tunes by the house band, Rock Sugah, as she enjoyed an evening with friends.

She Rocks - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Raining Jane’s Mona Tavakoli at She Rocks – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Guitarist Batten who has worked with the best in the business, including Michael Jackson and a host of others, was humbled by the award and showed the audience a few licks in a special performance.

Raining Jane band members Becky Gebhardt and Mona Tavakoli were honored for Rock Camp for Girls L.A., which they formed to introduce young girls to music education.  The camp has been succesful on several levels:  Young girls who have never picked up a musical instrument learn about music.  If they can’t afford to go, scholarships are available and the Raining Jane gals hold a Women’s Rock Camp to raise money for the young girls’ camp.

“We are honored by this award and the work will continue,” said Tavakoli.  “The rock camp for girls is growing across the country.”

Chalise Zolezzi, director of brand communications at Taylor Guitars; Mary Luehrsen, executive director of NAMM Foundation and Crystal Morris of Gator Cases also received statuettes early in the evening.

She Rocks - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Chaka Khan at She Rocks – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Others receiving awards were Mindy Abovitz (Tom Tom Magazine); Cathy Carter Duncan (Seymour Duncan); Leigh Maples and Pamela Cole (Fanny’s House of Music); Leslie Ann Jones (Skywalker Sound), and Sujata Murthy (Universal Music).

The surprise honoree was Tom Gilbert, Creative and Marketing Manager for Mad Sun Marketing and co-producer of the She Rocks Awards.

Performers included singer songwriter Amy Heidemann, Malina Moye; The Command Sisters; and the house band, Rock Sugah, which is comprised of Divinity Roxx on bass, Kat Dyson on guitar, Benita Lewis on drums and Lynette Williams on keyboard.


Album ‘Introducing Darlene Love’ Shows She’s Not ‘Twenty Feet From Stardom’

Darlene Love - Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes

Darlene Love – Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes

‘Power of Love’ Going Strong

Photos and Words By RICH HOYNES

Darlene Love is every bit the gracious loving woman that she appears to be on stage.   The 74-year-old living legend, Oscar winner, and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is at the top of her game.  Could the reason be the “Power of Love?”

With a loving husband working behind the scenes, an accomplished musical director, and a devoted team, Darlene has made a remarkable resurgence in the last year.

On September 12, 2015, Darlene launched her new album with the help of longtime friend, the legendary Steven Van Zandt at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, N.J.

Van Zandt produced and penned songs for Darlene’s latest record Introducing Darlene Love.  He also found the best of the best songs from musicians including Elvis Costello, Bruce and Jimmy Webb to round off the new-millennium wall of sound this record encompasses.

On The Road with Darlene Love

In November and December alone, Darlene delivered more than 30 shows in a Nationwide and Canadian tour, performing her Christmas classics and songs from her new album, Introducing Darlene Love.

Steven Van Zandt with Darlene Love - Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes

Steven Van Zandt with Darlene Love – Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes

Darlene has had a remarkable career and was the subject of the hit documentary, “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” which won accolades on the festival circuit and won a Best Documentary Academy Award two years ago.

But capturing the hearts and loyalty of the fans is no easy feat and Darlene’s team is top notch.

She’s supported by a team of great background singers.  These include singer Ula Hedwig, Darlene’s friend for more than 30 years.  Ula sang with Bette Midler’s The Harlettes and she was also in the original musicals Hair and Godspell on Broadway. Darlene’s other singers include, Milton David Vann, Baritone Williams and Darlene’s niece, Candace Wright.

An evening of friends - Photo © 2015 Rich Hoynes for California Rocker

Marc Ribler with Darlene Love – Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott  Hoynes

Milton has been singing with Darlene for more than five years. He’s also the choir director at the church that Darlene has attended for many years.  He’s a fabulous solo artist in his own right and is now in the process of completing his third solo record.

Milton’s rendition of “O Holy Night,” arranged for the Christmas show by Steven Van Zandt brings tears of joy to your eyes.  His warm nature adds a welcoming presence backstage with the band.

Darlene’s band is tighter than ever under the supervision of her new musical director Marc Ribler.  Marc is a well-known Jersey Shore singer, songwriter, producer and guitarist, and can be heard playing guitar on Darlene’s new album.  In September, Marc was asked by Steven Van Zandt to create a brand-new band that would take Darlene to the next level of her success.

A performance for the ages - Photo © 2015 Rich Hoynes

A performance for the ages, Darlene Love with Marc Ribler – Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes

The core band members are Tony Mason on drums; Lee Nadel on bass;  John Deley on keyboards;  Steve Salcedo on saxophone; John Martin on trumpet and saxophone; Keith Cotton on piano; and Dave Anthony on percussion.

Not enough can be said of Alton Allison, Darlene’s husband and the man behind the woman.  I asked him when and where did their romance begin, and he shared with me that he and Darlene met about 32 years ago on a cruise ship.

Alton, born in Jamaica, was the head steward on the cruise ship where Darlene was performing.  He  is a kind, easy-to-talk-to gentleman and he’s perfectly happy being behind-the-scenes managing and supporting his lovely wife.  He clearly knows how to go with the flow.

Musical director Marc and I are good friends.  He’s a demanding talent magnet.  He has an eye and ear for greatness and everyone he brings into any musical situation is top notch.  Marc is a multi-talented musician, producer and songwriter who has had several songs on the charts in the U.S. and Canada and among other things has written songs for national TV Ads including Activia Yogurt, V8, Office Depot and The HIV/ STD awareness commercial for Trojan Condoms, “1 out of 4” .

Terrific horn section - Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes

Terrific horn section – Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes

In 2010, I was producing a music festival fundraiser in Bedminster, N.J., called BEDSTOCK in support of four schools for children with autism.  I asked Marc to write a song about autism.  Marc wrote a great song called “You Teach Me How to Love” and performed the song at the event to an audience of 2,000 attendees.  It was a resounding success.  We wanted to nominate the song as the national anthem for autism.  Joan Jett, John Sebastian, and Daryl Strawberry also showed up to support the cause.

After Hurricane Sandy, Marc wrote the song, “Our Spirit is Strong” in support of Sandy Relief, and produced a music video with the George McMorrow (Cinecall Productions) that featured  a who’s who of legendary Jersey shore musicians. All the proceeds went to help victims of Sandy.

I welcomed the opportunity to help Marc create a photographic memory of life on the road with Darlene Love and meet these amazingly talented performers.


An unforgettable evening – Photo © 2015 Richard Elliott Hoynes

I had the pleasure of photographing several of Darlene’s shows where I chatted with Darlene and her husband Alton, along with the rest of the band.   I came in during sound check in the afternoon to capture the behind-the-scenes experience, get a feel for the show, and meet the performers.

Sometimes it seems like Marc is herding cats as he leads this amazing and eclectic team of artists to deliver the best performance of their lives every night. And they deliver every time. Each member of Darlene’s team is an accomplished professional in his or her own right.  But these artists come together to make an A-plus ensemble — all with Love.

Darlene is touring through 2016, her show is a must-see. For more information:  DarleneLoveWorld.com

David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ Among Latest in a Long List of Projects for the Endearing King of the Out There

David Bowie may not be touring, but he’s busier than ever. Bowie will release Blackstar on Jan. 8, which is his 69th birthday.

Here’s the Blackstar video

Kendrick Lamar Sweeps GRAMMY Noms with 11, Taylor Swift and The Weeknd Each Take 7

Taylor Swift was nominated in seven categories for this year's GRAMMY Awards - Photo courtesy Getty Images

Taylor Swift was nominated in seven categories for this year’s GRAMMY Awards – Photo courtesy Getty Images

LOS ANGELES Kendrick Lamar has taken 11 GRAMMY nominations, followed by Taylor Swift and The Weeknd, who each earned seven, announced this morning.

Additionally, music producer-songwriter Max Martin receives six nominations and mastering engineer Tom Coyne, rapper Drake, and engineers/mixers Serban Ghenea and John Hanes each earned five nominations.

Final-round GRAMMY ballots will be mailed Dec. 16 and the award for excellence in music will be presented Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, live from STAPLES Center in Los Angeles and broadcast on the CBS Television Network from 8 – 11:30 p.m. (ET/PT).

In the Album Of The Year category, nominees range from the alternative and soulful rock of Alabama Shakes to Lamar’s jazz-infused rap, the country sounds of Chris Stapleton, the pop emergence of Swift, and the R and B style of The Weeknd.

Following is a sampling of nominations from the GRAMMY Awards’ 30 fields and 83 categories. For a complete nominations list, visit www.grammy.com. Congratulate nominees and catch exclusive videos and content on Facebook. Join @theGRAMMYs Twitter Moments conversation using #GRAMMYs.



Album Of The Year:

Sound & Color — Alabama Shakes

To Pimp A Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar

Traveller — Chris Stapleton

1989 — Taylor Swift

Beauty Behind The Madness — The Weeknd

Watch and share the Album Of The Year category roundup video


Record Of The Year:

“Really Love” — D’Angelo And The Vanguard

“Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson Featuring Bruno Mars

“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran

“Blank Space” — Taylor Swift

“Can’t Feel My Face” — The Weeknd

Watch and share the Record Of The Year category roundup video


Song Of The Year:

“Alright” — Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Anthony Spears & Pharrell Williams, songwriters (Kendrick Lamar)

“Blank Space” — Max Martin, Shellback & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)

“Girl Crush” — Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose, songwriters (Little Big Town)

“See You Again” — Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charles Puth & Cameron Thomaz, songwriters (Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth)

“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran & Amy Wadge, songwriters (Ed Sheeran)

Watch and share the Song Of The Year category roundup video


Best New Artist:

Courtney Barnett

James Bay

Sam Hunt

Tori Kelly

Meghan Trainor

Watch and share the Best New Artist category roundup video



Best Pop Duo/Group Performance:

“Ship To Wreck” — Florence + The Machine

“Sugar” — Maroon 5

“Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson Featuring Bruno Mars

“Bad Blood” — Taylor Swift Featuring Kendrick Lamar

“See You Again” — Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth



Best Dance Recording:

“We’re All We Need” — Above & Beyond Featuring Zoë Johnston

“Go” — The Chemical Brothers

“Never Catch Me” — Flying Lotus Featuring Kendrick Lamar

“Runaway (U & I)” — Galantis

“Where Are Ü Now” — Skrillex And Diplo With Justin Bieber



Best Rock Performance:

“Don’t Wanna Fight” — Alabama Shakes

“What Kind Of Man” — Florence + The Machine

“Something From Nothing” — Foo Fighters

“Ex’s & Oh’s” — Elle King

“Moaning Lisa Smile” — Wolf Alice



Best Alternative Music Album:

Sound & Color — Alabama Shakes

Vulnicura — Björk

The Waterfall — My Morning Jacket

Currents — Tame Impala

Star Wars — Wilco



Best Urban Contemporary Album:

Ego Death — The Internet

You Should Be Here — Kehlani

Blood — Lianne La Havas

Wildheart  — Miguel

Beauty Behind The Madness — The Weeknd



Best Rap Album:

2014 Forest Hills Drive — J. Cole

Compton — Dr. Dre

If Youre Reading This Its Too Late — Drake

To Pimp A Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar

The Pinkprint — Nicki Minaj



Best Country Album:

Montevallo — Sam Hunt

Pain Killer — Little Big Town

The Blade — Ashley Monroe

Pageant Material — Kacey Musgraves

Traveller — Chris Stapleton



Best Jazz Instrumental Album:

My Favorite Things — Joey Alexander

Breathless — Terence Blanchard Featuring The E-Collective

Covered: Recorded Live At Capitol Studios — Robert Glasper & The Robert Glasper Trio

Beautiful Life — Jimmy Greene

Past Present — John Scofield



Best Gospel Album:

Destined To Win (Live) — Karen Clark Sheard

Living It — Dorinda Clark-Cole

One Place Live — Tasha Cobbs

Covered: Alive Is Asia [Live] (Deluxe) — Israel & Newbreed

Life Music: Stage Two — Jonathan McReynolds



Best Contemporary Christian Music Album:

Whatever The Road — Jason Crabb

How Can It Be — Lauren Daigle

Saints And Sinners — Matt Maher

This Is Not A Test — Tobymac

Love Ran Red — Chris Tomlin



Best Latin Pop Album:

Terral — Pablo Alborán

Healer — Alex Cuba

A Quien Quiera Escuchar (Deluxe Edition) — Ricky Martin

Sirope — Alejandro Sanz

Algo Sucede — Julieta Venegas



Best Americana Album:

The Firewatcher’s Daughter — Brandi Carlile

The Traveling Kind — Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell

Something More Than Free — Jason Isbell

Mono — The Mavericks

The Phosphorescent Blues — Punch Brothers



Best Spoken Word Album (Includes Poetry, Audio Books & Storytelling):

Blood On Snow (Jo Nesbø) — Patti Smith

Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments, And Assorted Hijinks — Dick Cavett

A Full Life: Reflections At Ninety — Jimmy Carter

Patience And Sarah (Isabel Miller) — Janis Ian & Jean Smart

Yes Please — Amy Poehler (& Various Artists)



Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical:

Jeff Bhasker

Dave Cobb


Larry Klein

Blake Mills



Best Music Film:

Mr. Dynamite: The Rise Of James Brown — James Brown

Sonic Highways — Foo Fighters

What Happened, Miss Simone? — Nina Simone

The Wall — Roger Waters

Amy — Amy Winehouse

‘I Am Thor’ Film Screening and Live Performance by Metal God Thor Himself – Don’t Miss This

Thor has a mighty big heart for his audience - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Thor has a mighty big heart for his audience – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Jon Mikl Thor, larger-than-life star of the acclaimed documentary “I Am Thor,” is the consummate performer.  In his film, he trudges through troubles and triumphs, bringing his hammer-wielding, sheet-sporting rock show to the masses.

He has a dream: To inspire by performing his music for people around the world.

Thor’s been through a lot in the many years he’s been performing — whether as a bodybuilder in his early days — or as bodyrock metal music artist.   It’s hard to classify Thor today.  He’s been married and divorced, hit the high notes and the low.  One low point was documented in the film when he lost all his onstage gear: The hot water bottles he blows ’til they explode, his cinderblocks, swords, hammers and trusty skull belt.  But he still carried on.

Thor – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

As evidenced at the Whisky A Go Go last week, Thor puts on a hell of a show for new fans as well as headbangers, and dedicated fans who trekked from as far away as Europe to come see him and get an autograph.

True — as one of the gals in the film tells the pudgy warrior-god to his face —  he does look a little different than in his younger days.  But that doesn’t keep him from getting out on the stage and really enjoying himself and his fans, who eagerly climb over each other to shake hands, make fists or arm wrestle with the gentle giant.

The film is a work of art that has been in the documentary category of some of the biggest film festivals around the world.  Director Ryan Wise spent years on the road with Thor and captured moments that not only make the viewers laugh, but makes them feel empathy.  The viewers want Thor to succeed.

Frank Meyer, Thor and Betsy - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Frank Meyer, Thor and Betsy – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Chris Ward, who scored the film, said there were some terrific people involved in this movie — many of whom went uncredited.  Others contributed time and some contributed money to get the film out there.  And there is no surprise the film won critical acclaim from reviewers and festival goers en masse.

But to see the film with a live performance afterwards by Thor himself is an unbelievable experience.  It is a show of genuine joy.  OK, so when we went, he didn’t do his bar-bending bit and he typically has some shows of strength that involve cinderblocks, but he enthusiastically reaches his audience and is consumed by them.  They want to believe in him.

At a recent performance at the famous Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip, he overcame a wardrobe (white sheet) malfunction, though still in a mighty manner; hurled his microphone stand around; and did a loving duet with Betsy Bitch, who also was no slouch when it came to hammer-hoisting.  She’s someone none of us would want to mess with, judging by her sinewy and strong build and attitude.  And it’s clear there’s a history between these performers who enjoy being up there  declaring war on each other.

Thor arm wrestles with fans - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Thor arm wrestles with fans – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

His collaborators are a mix of fine musicians and fans as his local band in Los Angeles were members of the well-known Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs: Frank Meyer, Bruce Duff, Dino Everett and drummer Mike Knutson.

This is entertainment not to be missed.  The movie is a compelling look at the gritty life of a road-worn warrior-musician.  And combined with the live performance, well let’s just say it’s not your typical dinner theatre fare and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

But if Thor can do it, dammit, so can we.  And hate him or love him — and most people come away loving him — there is something undeniable here.  He’s truly inspiring and if you ever felt like quitting a project or you’re a little downhearted about your path, do like Thor: Pick up your hammer and keep going.

His message is one to take to heart and in that regard, he’s a true success.

I Am Thor screening and live performance come to Detroit’s Small’s Bar (Nov. 18); Philadelphia’s PhillaMOCA (Nov. 20) and Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Nitehawk (Nov. 22).  For more information check out the I Am Thor website.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”7″ gal_title=”THOR”]

Gibson Launches 2016 Model Year With Party in Beverly Hills Featuring Robby Krieger, Los Lobos

Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos jams with Robby Krieger at Gibson launch party - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos jams with Robby Krieger at Gibson launch party – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Gibson announced its 2016 Model Year with a launch party in Beverly Hills featuring performances by Los Lobos and Robby Krieger.

Musicians, friends and celebs were on hand as Gibson USA — producer of such well known guitars as the Les Paul, SG, Flying V, Explorer and Firebird — announced its new 2016 Model Year.

Longtime Gibson musicians Los Lobos jammed with The Doors’ famed Krieger, while Brian Ray of Paul McCartney’s band and Dave Amato of REO Speedwagon enjoyed chatting and exchanging stories.

Dave Amato - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Dave Amato of REO Speedwagon – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Gibson has been busy lately.  The marketing and sales teams have been going non-stop, bringing the Gibson message — and the famous Gibson Bus — to Nashville, Miami and to L.A. to promote the new Traditional and High-Performance lines.  The company continues to work with musicians like Peter Frampton — and Amato — in developing signature lines and custom products.

“Gibson USA has always pushed the extremes of innovation to help ignite new inspiration for musicians everywhere, while continuing to honor the heritage of our classic, beloved designs that remain extremely vital, desirable and collectable,” said Gibson Brands CEO and Chairman Henry Juszkiewicz.

The Traditional models are built to the same specifications as the classic Gibson guitars that have powered decades of hits, but also take advantage of advances in production and engineering that result in superb playability, consistency and superior quality.

The High-Performance guitars invite a new addition to guitar collections, with infinitely customizable action adjustment, titanium hardware, an all-new “fast-access” neck heel for effortlessly reaching the neck’s highest notes, enhanced automatic tuning, new fortified aluminum case and multiple deluxe features that redefine the playing experience.

Gibson's high-performance line still keeps traditions musicians like. Photo for East Coast Rocker courtesy of Gibson.com

Gibson’s high-performance line still keeps traditions musicians like. Photo for East Coast Rocker courtesy of Gibson.com

All 2016 Models deliver the signature Gibson sound—tone with depth, resonance, purity, and sustain—thanks to superior tonewoods, pickups, materials, and handmade-in-the-USA craftsmanship. Gibson is known for its playability, with smooth deep-oiled fingerboard, and expert precision setup.

Gibson uses nitrocellulose finishes and more than 100 guitars in both highly-cherished Traditional and leading-edge High-Performance models all players can now connect with their unique passion and style.

For more information go to Gibson.com 

More photos and coverage at CaliforniaRocker.com

Innovator Hartley Peavey Receives 2015 Lifetime Achievement Honors at the Annual UK AV Awards

peavey1 Hartley Peavey, founder and CEO of Peavey Electronics, was honored as the recipient of the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual AV Awards ceremony in London.

Recognized for his pioneering efforts and 50 years of successful innovation and manufacturing, Peavey appeared in person to accept the award before a crowd of 950 cheering AV industry professionals in the Great Hall of the Grosvenor House Hotel.

“It’s hard to realize that I have been in this industry for over 50 years now,” Peavey said. “We have always tried to bring new and fresh approaches to the areas of technology in which we operate.”

Peavey cited that in the mid-1970s, the company revolutionized the manufacture of guitars with the introduction of CNC Machinery for the first time. Later in the early 1990s the company introduced the first Digital Audio networking and control system, MediaMatrix, which revolutionized the way professional sound is distributed and controlled.

The company has earned more than 180 patents and Peavey said his hope is that the people at his company continue to “make a difference.”

The award is presented by AV Magazine.

peavey2In addition to his product innovations, Peavey pioneered new methods of manufacturing that are now in use throughout the audio/visual industry. Beyond his realm of technology innovation, Peavey has focused on providing reliable and affordable sound reinforcement products to all of the world’s markets, expanding the entire market and exporting to 133 countries worldwide.

Peavey, known for his outspoken viewpoints, is a longtime figure in the world of music. A graduate of Mississippi State, Peavey found his calling in helping to create music sound. As a teenager, he built his first guitar amplifier in the basement of his parents’ house. In 1964, he moved into the first Peavey Electronics facility in the attic space above a music shop in Meridian.

Over the last 30 years, Hartley has expanded his musical empire into the production of keyboards and drum instruments. The company expanded into drums, percussion and most recently, autotune technologies.


Richie Ramone Loves his California ‘Hood, But Don’t Call Him ‘Valley Guy’

By DONNA BALANCIA – Richie Ramone says life in his Southern California neighborhood is very cool, but don’t call this former Jersey-ite a “Valley Guy.”

For Ramone, the drummer and a singer-songwriter for the Ramones from 1983-1987, life looks a little different than it was in the (Gabba Gabba) heyday.

The affable Ramone — born Richard Rheinhardt in Pasaic, N.J. —  has a new record on the horizon, a steady gig as a touring musician, and he lives in the valley with his beautiful fiance and three rescue dogs.

“I got it pretty good,” Ramone said. “I’m writing music, I’m touring, and I’m not in the snow, things are good.”

The quiet life beyond the orange groves is a far cry from the clangorous metal grit of the mean streets of New York’s Lower East Side.  The tall, dark-haired Ramone and his fiance, Tiffany, enjoy their life in the suburbs with Greta the Boxer, and two miniature Pinchers named Jack, and Curley.  There’s no shortage of barking.

Richie Ramone - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Richie Ramone – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

As the drummer and a songwriting member of the Ramones from 1984-1987, Ramone contributed to and learned a lot from his band mates.

The creator of such hits as “Somebody Put Something in my Drink,”  Richie also wrote “I’m Not Jesus,” “Can’t Say Anything Nice,” “I Know Better Now,” “Humankind” and “Smash You” the title track the Ramones’ re-release, Smash You: Live ’85.

Joey credited Richie not only with great drumming, but his songwriting and vocals that helped steer the band into new territory during the later years.

Coming Up

Ramone went from playing in some hit-and-miss New York-area bands to being the drummer of choice for the punk icons and he played some 500 live performances with Joey and the crew.  And during that time, he watched and learned. The experience was invaluable for eventually running his own band.  Ramone released his first solo album, called Entitled in 2013.

Ramone comes from an eclectic musical background. His parents raised him and his brother — who actually plays the bagpipes — with music in the house. But once he started making money from music — playing bar mitzvahs at the age of 12 back in New Jersey — he was hooked.

But, Ramone admits, his parents didn’t have the easiest time accepting that he wanted to be a professional musician.

“Of course they were worried, but they let us do what we wanted to do,” Ramone said.

Richie Ramone - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Richie Ramone – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Things worked out, Ramone says, because he focuses on the positive and he keeps making music and performing, which is what it’s all about, he said.

He has a gig playing the Hi-Fi Rockfest on Sept. 26 in Long Beach, and he’s planning to go to out on the road after the release of a new album.

New Album

Ramone and his band are touring in February to support the new record called In The Neighborhood, Ramone said.  It’s unlikely anything about Ramone’s own neighborhood will be on the record, unless Ramone came up with songs about coping with the California drought, avocado sandwiches or the local heat wave.  But he won’t reveal any details yet.

He’s psyched up to tour in February — and why?

“I love checking out the food from all over the world,” Ramone said. “Like when we’re in the U.K., we’ll have Bangers and Mash, and of course, I love the food in Italy.”

Italy is also one of Ramone’s favorite places to play – it’s because of the rowdiness, he said. The audience is 90 percent dudes in countries like Italy so it tends to be a little more physical.

“There’s a good base in the U.S., but I really like to have the big crowds, and that’s what we get over there,” he said.

Ramone continually tries to keep it fresh, alternating between drums and fronting.

“I like to keep it real and that’s how I do it,” Ramone said. “I’m a drummer first.  But I can’t sit behind the drums all night, I need to connect.”

And in the meantime, Ramone has been connecting with his life.

When he’s not drumming or belting out some punk music before a crowd-surfing audience, like he recently did at a Hollywood gig, he enjoys writing songs and playing a little golf.

“I can’t complain,” he said. “Life is good.”

White Buffalo Kicks Off ‘Death of Damnation’ Tour With East Coast Dates

White Buffalo takes his Love and the Death of Damnation tour to the East Coast - Photo © Donna Balancia

White Buffalo takes his Love and the Death of Damnation tour to the East Coast – Photo © Donna Balancia

Photos and story © 2015 DONNA BALANCIA — Love and the Death of Damnation is the new album by White Buffalo, who is launching a tour to promote his music.

White Buffalo, alias Jake Smith and company, gave a special private show for 88.5 KCSN members at the Roxy Theatre Sunday night.

“He’s fabulous,” said concert-goer, Joy. “He sounds amazing and he’s really intense!”

Others on hand, ranging in age from 16 to 70 all had positive reviews for the bearded longhair who hails from Southern California.

If Smith’s voice sounds familiar, it’s no surprise. He has had some critically acclaimed tunes and has been the prominent voice on TV shows including Sons of Anarchy and Californication.

Born and raised in California, Smith sings about deep characters and creates portraits of troubled souls and misfits with great compassion.

Regarding Love and the Death of Damnation, Smith said production of the album encompassed a new process.

“This is the first time we did preproduction, instead of just going in blindly with the songs,” Smith said. “I wanted the songs to be as big and dynamic as possible. I want to make records that have some dynamics and some epic moments, rather than just being a singer-songwriter guy with an acoustic guitar.”

The White Buffalo plays the Gramercy Theatre in New York City on Oct. 15, Paradise Rock Club in Boston on Oct. 16, The Pedal Haus Brewery in Tempe, Ariz., on Oct. 17, followed by dates in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atltanta, New Orleans and three Texas dates before winding up on the West Coast.

10/15 New York, NY – Gramercy Theatre

10/16 Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club

10/17 Tempe, AZ – Pedal Haus Brewery

10/19 Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of The Living Arts

10/20 Baltimore, MD – Soundstage

10/22 Atlanta, GA – Vinyl

10/23 New Orleans, LA – Parish @ House of Blues

10/25 Austin, TX – Stubb’s

10/27 Dallas, TX – House of Blues – Cambridge Room

10/28 Houston, TX – House of Blues – Bronze Peacock

12/3 San Francisco, CA – The Filmore

12/4 Anaheim, CA – House of Blues

12/10 San Diego, CA – House of Blues

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

Dave Grohl Breaks Leg During Performance – Sign His Cast – Via The Web

Staff Report – The “World’s Nicest Rocker” is apparently also indestructible.

After falling off the stage and breaking his leg during a June 12 concert in Sweden, Foo Fighter Dave Grohl went on with the show—for another two and a half hours as medics stood by his side!
How do you give back to the Hardest Working Man in show business?

Creative agency EVB and development shop BausCode devised a way for anyone, anywhere, to give Grohl a little long-distance love.Today, they launched Operation #SignDavesCast at the microsite www.SignDavesCast.com.

Visitors can go to the site and tweet well wishes, and all posts will appear on Dave’s Virtual Cast. Some will be printed on a flexible cast sleeve and presented to Grohl while he recuperates from his post-injury surgery. 

“When a Rock God breaks a leg, he finishes the show,” reads the website, which was designed to turn virtual into reality. “When mortals sign his cast, they do it with the Internet.”The cast sleeve, which can hold about 300 messages, will be presented to Grohl in early July. 

“The Internet is best when it’s used for good,” says EVB’s ECD Steve Babcock, who with the agency created the social movement #RedThumbReminder, an initiative intended to curb texting/distracted driving. “Commemorating such a hardcore act as finishing a show with a broken leg felt like just the thing to do with the technology.” 

Despite a Multitude of Changes, Skid Row Still Puts on Impressive Show

Rachel Bolan and Scotti Hill of Skid Row - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Rachel Bolan and Scotti Hill of Skid Row – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Dave ‘The Snake’ and Rachel Bolan are Masters at Reinventing Ever-Present Skid Row

By DONNA BALANCIA — Skid Row has undergone some changes over the years, but the band still rocks just as hard as when it was in the heyday 1980s.

Skid Row seems to cruise over the bumps in the road, including lineup changes, but the band is dedicated to its fans and putting on a good show.

Co-founders Dave “The Snake” Sabo and Rachel Bolan keep the ship steady as they recruit talented colleagues from other bands they have played in.

Lead singer Tony Harnell reminds us a little of David Johansen only with a metalish twist, but the charisma exudes from veteran guitarist Hill, whose wild hair and perpetual devilish grin give the band a lift.

Skid Row will be hitting the road, stopping in Wisconsin, Canada, Sweden, Colorado and Las Vegas before coming to Oak Ridge Park in Clark, N.J. for the Food Truck and Rock Carnival on September 19. SEE THEIR WEBSITE

Scott Hill and Tony Harnell keep the energy high at Skid Row shows - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Scott Hill and Tony Harnell keep the energy high at Skid Row shows – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Sabo and Bolan originally formed Skid Row in Toms River, N.J. in 1986. The band’s first two albums went multi-platinum. The band underwent some changes, namely replacing Johnny Solinger with Tony Harnell last April.

With Harnell, formerly of TNT, as new frontman, and Rob Hammersmith on drums, the band plays on.

Skid Row has released five full-length albums, a live album, three EPs, and a compilation album. For Skid Row tour dates check out the band’s website.

Marty Grebb Talks About a Life of Music, Good Times and Family

Bonnie Raitt performs at benefit for Marty Grebb- Photo © Donna Balancia

Bonnie Raitt performs at benefit for Marty Grebb- Photo © Donna Balancia

‘Best Side Man In The Business’ Gets Support from Bonnie Raitt, Leon Russell

By DONNA BALANCIA — Multi-talented musician Marty Grebb says it’s family, friends and fun times that have always driven him.

“I’m extremely fortunate,” Grebb said. “Well there are a lot of stories I can’t tell you, but let’s just say I’m having a great time,” Grebb said.

The Chicago-born Grebb has played with everyone from Eric Clapton, J.J. Cale and Taj Mahal to The Band, Roger McGuinn and The Knack.

“He’s got this wonderful sense of humor and he’s always looking at the bright side,” said Walt Richmond, his bandmate through the ages and a renowned musician in his own right. “He’s the best side man in the business.”

The two recently got together again — along with Bonnie Raitt, Leon Russell and Ivan Neville — for a gig designed to help Grebb raise money to fight the biggest battle of his life — against cancer. The performances were top-rate.

Marty Grebb - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Marty Grebb tells audience at benefit concert he’s thankful for friends – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“Marty’s just this positive force,” Richmond said. “He has a sunny outlook. I’m a lot more of a cynical type. And he can play any instrument.  He’s really amazing.”

Richmond is one of the guys who knows Grebb the best.  The two have had their share of ups and downs in the music business since the 1970s.

“It’s all been fun, except there was the time when we were in the Cessna heading for a gig and almost got hit head-on by a 747,” Grebb recalled. “If it weren’t for a stroke of luck, I don’t know what would have happened.

“We were all going to a gig and lo and behold the tire of our little plane catches on fire,” Grebb recalled.  “Our pilot pulled off into the grass.  And it’s a good thing we did because a 747 came in and landed just where we were sitting.  It was a close call.  It was a great coincidence.”

Of course, being the musicians they were, there had to be a song written about it: “This Wheel’s On Fire,” a hit song recorded by Bob Dylan and The Band.  Grebb recalls the song’s co-writer, the late Rick Danko, being on board when the fire erupted.

“Marty has this sunny personality,” Richmond said.  “He thinks young.”

“I like to play a prank once in a while,” Marty said. “I pulled a prank on Bonnie Raitt and she changed her whole style on stage.  She used to sit on a stool while playing.  Well, one day I hid it.  To this day, now she stands.”

Ranging from when he played in the influential band, The Buckinghams, to The Fabulous Rhinestones, and almost every superstar musician in-between, Grebb has always kept a love for the music alive.

Marty Grebb daughter Anna Grebb performs at benefit concert - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Marty Grebb daughter Anna Grebb performs at benefit concert – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Keeping the passion for the music alive, and staying on the healthy side has helped Grebb endure.  It will also be his mantra as he continues his fight against cancer.  He has sought out his own personal battle plan and he advocates other people to do the same.

“I’ve been fooling around with five different versions of the C-word,” he said. “I stopped partying years ago and thank goodness I did.  With this, you have to be your own doctor.

He shared a few secrets to his battle plan:  He doesn’t ackowledge the enemy or call it by name to empower it; Grebb seeks multiple medical opinions and strategies; he gets his rest and he increases his positive outlook.

He overcame a few errors in testing that he had to go through, and when he went to seek a second opinion one day in December, he had a great stroke of good fortune.  He stopped to play a piano in the atrium of his medical facility.

“They weren’t giving me a lot good news,” he said. “I saw the sign on the piano in the atrium of the facility where I was going for testing.  The sign said ‘If you are a professional and you want to donate your time to play, call this number.’

“The woman said, ‘Come and talk to me.’  We met and afterwards she looked me up.  She called me and said, ‘Oh you ARE a professional musician.  Would you like to play our Christmas party?”

Grebb said he was nervous.

Leon Russell - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Leon Russell – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“Three ladies suspicously close when I get playing ‘Christmas in Chicago’ by Leon Russell,” he said. “It’s a little-known song.  Well when the song was finished they all hugged me. One of them says,  ‘I am the director of all eight buildings of this hospital’ — and that changed everything.”

Grebb got a new oncologist, a spiritual adviser and a whole new way to approach his fight.

Grebb admits he has his ups and downs but overall, he is enjoying playing music more than ever before.  He is honest with himself and others. He feels that if he follows his heart, keeps an open mind and does the work, good things will happen.

“I have had my place in the Woodstock Tumbling Bullshitters Club,” he said. “And now, all these years later, some days are better than others. You have to care of yourself, love your family, and have faith.  If you want to call that ‘having a lucky star,’ then that’s fine with me.”

Rolling Stones Answer Social Media Tweets at #AskTheStones on Twitter

The Rolling Stones responded to questions from the “Twitterverse” with video (taped?) answers on Monday:

For Keith Richards:

@samturnbull4: what was your favorite memory of making Sticky Fingers?

@officialKeef: I guess finishing it!  It took a while to work. There are so many, really, I’m only kidding. Each track has certain memories. You remember who was there, you know, when my guitar fell apart in the middle of “Brown Sugar,” or something. Overall I have a really good recollection of those sessions at the time. It was a good ‘un.

@FLPintheHEB: Do you ever look in the mirror and think I’m one lucky SOB? See you boys in Dallas on 6/6

@officialKeef: I look in the mirror as less as possible honey. Just to shave it. but ta tht esame time, i know what you mean. on a good day I get that feeling.

@GuitarGuy22 Can you get Keith to teach me the secret to immortality?

@officialKeef: I ain’t there yet. so far so good. I think a clean and healthy life, plenty of exercise, go to church on sunday

For Mick Jagger:

@thechuckwolf What’s your secret for in keeping your voice so strong?

@mickjagger: Practice! You have to do warm-ups. There’s a regimen.

@bluemelonika: You’ve been performing for over 50 years .. Do you still get pre-gig nerves? How do you overcome them?

@mickjagger: I don’t really get nervous, I get excited before the first show of a tour. I get anxious because a lot of things could go wrong, the lights don’t come on. I don’t get nervous. I get a bit over enthusiastic sometimes. You have to watch out for that. It serves you but you have to control it. You could forget what you’re supposed to be doing. You have to control the adrenaline rush. You can make it work for you.

@mitch909 What’s your favourite BB King song?

@mickjagger: Yeah, BB King, I was just looking at a picture of myself and BB I think it was in 1969 he was playing with us. he played a lot of gigs with us on that tour. he was a great guy. I last played with him at a blues concert at the White House. So, yeah, sad, he had such a huge, long career sad we won’t be listening to him live. He’s got so many recordings it’s difficult to choose. the one we all had when we were young was live at the regal.

@eenek: Did Warhol turn in any rough sketches/ art of the Sticky Fingers concept…?

@mickjagger: Andy kept them, all in this Pittsburgh hoarding place.  I’m sure I saw them, but I never got any of them.

@raylu02: What is the song Moonlight Mile about? I named my dog after that song.

@mickjagger: It’s about your dog … It’s about being being a bit lonesome on the road, I think. I think it’s a lonesome road tune. and how being on the road too long makes you sad, wistful all those kinds of things.  i wrote it in london at my house.

For Ronnie Wood:

@mickjagswag: did you know what you were getting into when you joined the stones.

@ronniewood: I think i did. I bumped into on a few occasions, mick charlie and keith i knew mick taylor from before. I think when i made my firrst solo album in 1974 keith came over for the evening and and stayed four months. i knew that was the start of a good friendship. we actually prepared it’s only rock and roll in my basement in richmond

@Wildaboutmusic: you fine gentlemen are even better live now than when I saw you in the 80s. Explain yourselves!

@ronniewood: you got that right! we are better live now, I don’t know what’s happened. every time we go into rehearsals, like now, after this interview, I’m going to go back and enjoy the next stage of the rehearsals we’re in now. They’re fun and the music is high quality, it’s getting higher,  I don’t know we’re going to explode one day i think.

@twogun69: How do you keep your hair looking so good playing for 2 + hours on stage? It’s fantastic!

@ronniewood: my hair is my biggest gift anyone could ever be born with. somebody up there likes me. i cut it almost every day. it’s hard to tame.  i have to keep it. like one day, I have huge dog ears hanging off have to cut it off again.

For Charlie Watts, who showed obvious annoyance at his new hashtag, #charliestoocoolfortwitter

@HSAddict will you ever make a twitter account?

CW: No.

@kenhanssen: Charlie, how important is the hi hat in a rock n roll beat? Or jazz?

CW: very important.

@leeknot: Are you sick of seeing mick’s arse after all these years?

CW: No.  One of the finest views in the country. I don’t really see it.

@seamusmcrot – which stones song would you like to have heard Charlie Parker or Duke Ellington cover?

CW: None of them. They’re geniuses I can’t get my head around that one. Charlie parker could play satisfaction very well.  He could do it well. Sonny Rollins … played fantastically well “Waiting on a Friend,” “Neighbors,” I never dreamed he’d play on “Neighbors.”

@ juliusschrdtr: Do you get butterflies?

CW: Always, even if playing in a bar with two people.

Several people noted that the Q and A may not have actually been live, as reported, and that in fact, the responses were taped ahead of time, as evidenced from some editing that one astute Twitterer found.

But some of the questions that went unanswered were clearly some of the best, and most amusing, including everything from “What tea do you drink?” by @dr_ziggy, to “What are your views on today’s music?” by @devonkearney.

Here are some of the others.

@chadtrudgeon: what was your last day job?

@hdiallo: how did you all get so much soul?

@FROGGY_LBC: Would you still be rivals (let it bleed) if all the beatles had lived and were touring today?

@real_table: Are all of your songs w a name in the title based on an actual person you know?

And some funny miscellaneous ones we would have like to have seen get an answer:

Why does jagger looks like grandma?

Why don’t you bugger off?

Will you go to prom with me?

Would it be possible to wish my mom a happy birthday?

EXCLUSIVE: Rolling Stones Add Los Angeles Date to Popular Zip Code Tour

EXCLUSIVE: By DONNA BALANCIA — The Rolling Stones will play the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood as a warm-up date to their Zip Code tour, our sister site, CaliforniaRocker.com, has learned.

The Rolling Stones are preparing for their Zip Code tour, which kicks off at San Diego’s Petco Park May 24, and hits 15 U.S. cities.

This is a developing story. GO TO CALIFORNIAROCKER.COM for updates.

The Pain of Childbirth: Rock In Rio USA 2015 – Review of Inaugural First Weekend

Gwen Stefani of No Doubt - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Gwen Stefani of No Doubt – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

LAS VEGAS — On Mother’s Day Weekend, Rock In Rio USA 2015 was born in Las Vegas.  It’s the newborn brother to the 30-year-old Rock In Rio festival, but apparently few want to babysit.

SFX-owned Rock In Rio is 30 years old, but it’s new to the U.S. this year. And despite top headliners — Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars will perform next weekend — it looks like profitability may be further away than originally anticipated.

No Doubt, Metallica and Foster The People did a great job holding down the fort and drawing in roughly 80,000 attendees Weekend 1.  But with many comped tickets, high prices at the newly constructed venue, and untrained volunteers, Rock In Rio USA is a work in progress.  Crowds were expected to increase for Weekend 2, May 15-16.

Rock In Rio USA Weekend 2: Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars

It was the luck of the draw for No Doubt to be Rock In Rio’s main opener in the U.S., but Stefani was perfect in the role as punk cheerleader for the new festival, keeping the crowd energized.  The headliner for Friday night, No Doubt, came on after a brief fireworks display, close to midnight.

Rock In Rio launches Friday amid tepid ticket sales - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Rock In Rio launches Friday amid tepid ticket sales – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Stefani, the 45-year-old beauty and mother of three, has developed more stage charisma over the years and showed boundless energy, running from one side of the audience to the other.  Her fans are devoted, wearing Stefani’s Harijuku Lovers brand clothing and perfume, and imitating her chic, mismatched clothing style.

Stefani’s style and energy was a welcome relief to organizational problems related to ticketing, transportation and weak opening-day attendance.  Attendance was around 30,000 for Friday and estimated at 50,000 Saturday for Metallica.

There were issues with will-call ticketing, as wristbands and tickets were to be picked up at a will-call window 1.7 miles from the $75 million “Rock City” festival grounds. It is located behind the Arco gas station near the Tropicana Hotel. 

We’re not sure if this was done on purpose, as there was an additional $18 fee to have tickets mailed to your home after purchase, said Andy, a former Las Vegas resident, now living in Fresno.  Apparently if you don’t pay the fee you’re doomed to wander the streets asking anyone and everyone from hoteliers to transportation people where to go.

Will Call Rock In Rio USA Las Vegas - photo © Donna Balancia

People walk to will call for tickets at Rock In Rio USA Las Vegas, 1.7 miles from City of Rock – photo © Donna Balancia

“I didn’t want to pay the $18, I didn’t need a fancy box,” he said.  “I figured I would just come to will call.  If I knew it would be like this I would’ve just paid the extra $18.  I guess that’s what they wanted all along. I asked everybody here and nobody knew where to go, but I found my way here, and my wife is in the room.”

Called the MGM Village, the will-call location is a parking lot and it was not marked, there was no signage.  A common theme was heard over and over again: “How come nobody at the hotels, or the taxi drivers or anyone knows where we’re supposed to pick up our tickets?”

A couple came to pick up their VIP tickets via taxi, the driver of which said he, too, had no idea where the ticket pick-up was, VIP or not. There is no parking by the will-call area.

For a festival that’s supposedly been more than a year in the planning stages, it seemed the local visitor board, hoteliers and transportation ambassadors were ill-informed on how to direct their concert-going guests.

Ticket holders turned away from makeshift will call in parking lot known as MGM Village - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

VIP ticket holders turned away from makeshift will call in parking lot known as MGM Village – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

For many Las Vegas residents, however, this snafu was apparently a non-issue as tons of free tickets were distributed to everyone from timeshare owners to hotel workers.

“I got my tickets for free,” said Sandra Halper of San Francisco who owns a condo by the specially constructed, $75 million “City of Rock” festival grounds, near the new SLS Hotel.  “They gave out a lot of free tickets to my condo association.”

Another festival-goer who was among the thin crowd on Friday at 4:30 p.m., said that she too, got her tickets for free.  “I work in the hotel business and they gave us bunch of tickets at work.”

It’s a smart strategy to give away tickets to the opening day of a new event, but it was not welcome news to those young concert-goers who spent their hard-earned salary for a $169 single-day pass, or a two-day entry for upwards of $250.

Merriment at Rock In Rio USA - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Merriment at Rock In Rio USA – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Commercials aired for VIP tickets on local radio. The VIP area is roughly 100 yards from the main stage. 

Transportation: By Monorail it was a breeze to get to and from the concert. After the show ended, Monorail frequency was increased to accommodate festival goers.

On a positive note, Stefani and No Doubt put on a great show, the cool 50-degree temperatures were a blessing in disguise as the crowd was packed in tight, and latin favorite Mana had the crowd pumped and singing along loudly.  Pretty Reckless and Smallpools gave the fans at the main stage strong performances, and Foster The People kept the other side of the field cranking. 

Metallica put on a strong show Saturday and allowed some lucky festival goers to join them on stage.

Last March, SFX, the owner of Rock In Rio, showed disappointing fourth quarter and year-end earnings. In the fourth quarter, pro forma revenues declined to $95.9 million from $103.9 million. For the year, the Robert Sillerman majority-owned SFX lost $131 million on revenue of $354 million.

On April 30, The Street downgraded SFX to a “sell,” based on “deteriorating net income, poor profit margins, poor stock performance and high debt.”

Just doing our part to help Las Vegas concert-goers - East Coast Rocker

Just doing our part to help Las Vegas concert-goers – East Coast Rocker

Elvis Presley’s Tour Bus, George Harrison’s Guitar, Up For Auction

Davy Jones, George Harrison and Elvis' items go up for bid May 15-16.

Davy Jones, George Harrison and Elvis Presley’s items go up for bid May 15-16.

Elvis Presley’s tour bus, George Harrison’s guitar, and items from The Life and Career of The Monkees’ Davy Jones, go up for auction at The Hard Rock Cafe in New York City May 15-16.

Michael Jackson’s glove, an American flag tank top worn by Madonna and a black crown worn by Beyonce in her “Haunted” music video will also go on the block at the iconic Hard Rock.

The 1976 Crusader MCI bus emblazoned with the TCB, or “Taking Care of Business” logo, is accompanied by original paperwork from Presley’s purchase. Tour the interior of the bus HERE.

Harrison’s Mastersound, a Maton electric guitar, is another of sale’s premier items and could fetch much as $600,000.  He  played the Australian-made guitar in 1963 throughout the United Kingdom and at the Cavern Club in Liverpool.

As for Jackson, in addition to the glove, fans of the “King of Pop” will be able to purchase his hat and sunglasses.  In total the rock memorabilia could bring an estimated $4 million. Other items, including an Eric Clapton vintage Les Paul, can be previewed HERE.

Friday, May 15, 2015
Session I – 10:00 a.m. EDT
Session II –  2:00 p.m. EDT

Saturday, May 16, 2015
Session III – 10:00 a.m. EDT
(Property from the Life and Career of Davy Jones)
Session IV –   2:00 p.m. EDT
(Property from the Life and Career of Elvis Presley)

Hard Rock Cafe New York
1501 Broadway
New York, New York 10036

Dead Milkmen Do Tell Tales: In Their Own Words – The Story of The Dead Milkmen

The Dead Milkmen Story, Written by The Dead Milkmen Featured photo © Heather Harris

The Dead Milkmen - photo courtesy of Jessica Kourkounis for California Rocker

The Dead Milkmen- photo courtesy of Jessica Kourkounis

Although there are numerous, conflicting, tales of how, when, where, and sometimes why the Dead Milkmen initially formed, the most reliable evidence points to band founder Joe Jack Talcum’s decision, in the late 1970s, to create a band based entirely upon a group of woodcuts he discovered in the basement of The Vatican.

Talcum then recruited acquaintance Rodney Anonymous and the pair immediately set about unlearning everything they had previously learned about music and spending countless hours screaming at inanimate objects.

In 1982 bassist Dave Blood was added to the group after impressing Talcum and Anonymous with his ability to cover passing vehicles with ketchup. Shortly afterward, and entirely against his own will and better judgment, drummer Dean Clean joined the band.


In 1985, the band, or “The Dead Milkmen” as they were now known, released their debut album “Big Lizard in My Backyard” which was instantly declared “The greatest cultural achievement of our time” (by the band themselves). Big Lizard was followed by “Eat Your Paisley” in 1986 and “Bucky Fellini” in 1987.

The hit single “Punk Rock Girl” from the Dead Milkmen’s 1988 release “Beelzebubba” opened many doors to mainstream success, which the band then purposely set about slamming shut in the faces of anyone who used the term “Market Penetration” in a non-sexual sense. Two years later, the Milkmen followed up “Beelzebubba” with “Metaphysical Graffiti”; a work which is universally regarded as “a CD you can buy if you’ve got roughly eleven dollars”.

Bored and looking to “do something different that didn’t include sacrificing a goat”, the band then began recording “Soul Rotation” (1992). Although critically acclaimed as a brilliant recording (again, by the band themselves), sales were disappointing and the band returned to shoplifting.

Dead Milkmen

Dead Milkmen

1993’s “Not Richard, But Dick” saw the band return to form and to arguing with each other…loudly…mostly in public places …like restaurants, and so the band agreed that 1995’s “Stoney’s Extra Stout (Pig)” would be their final recording unless “some idiot hands us a %$#@load of money to record another CD.” Tragically, for the Milkmen’s bank accounts, the idiot with the money was killed by a polar bear at the Kiev Municipal Zoo.


In March of 2004, bassist Dave Blood decided to fake his own death for artistic reasons. Today he lives in a remote Serbian village with his wives and innumerable offspring. Suffering from the loss of Blood, it appeared that the Milkmen would never reunite, let alone reform, or even band together again.

In 2008 the band reunited, with bassist Dan Stevens on bass, playing the bass, in order to play Austin TX’s Fun Fun Fun Fest (temporarily renamed from “Fun Fun Fun Fun Fest” because “It’ll be a little less fun with the Dead Milkmen there.”)

2011’s release of “The King in Yellow” – the Milkmen’s first release in sixteen years – was at once declared a seamless continuation of their earlier work…in that it’s a CD you can buy if you’ve got roughly eleven dollars.

In the autumn of 2012 the Dead Milkmen began releasing a series of singles on the should-be-by-now-obsolete 7 inch vinyl format in an obvious attempt to appeal to a younger “hipster” audience. Despite mounting evidence that the singles are failing to expand their fan base, the obstinate Milkmen have continued to produce them, with eight “sides” already released.

Jump to the autumn of 2014 and we now find the Milkmen have assembled the singles songs plus six additional new recordings into a complete album package entitled “Pretty Music For Pretty People.” It’s a CD you can buy if you’ve got roughly eleven dollars.

Additionally, in a desperate ploy to appeal to the still stubborn vinyl fetishist, the they have put a “special” collection of the six new tunes and three of the “C-Sides” previously only released digitally into a limited edition vinyl version of the album entitled “Pretty Music For Pretty SPECIAL People”. Clever huh? “Special”…get it?

The band continues to sell their music via an online order form on their web site at deadmilkmen.com.