Music: Connecting During a Pandemic

May 3rd, 2020

Hi guys! I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written and I’m sorry for that.  My family went through a tough year, but this isn’t the time to tell that story.  Just know I thank you all for your continued love and support.  Mom is doing well, and we couldn’t be more grateful.  During that year music helped me in ways I never thought possible.  I do promise to share some of those intimate stories with you, when the time is right.

So why choose to write now?  After a full year of silence?  Well, it’s actually hard to put all of my feelings about this pandemic into words.  I guess there really is a first time for everything, right?  The easiest thing to say is that we are experiencing pain, confusion, loss and fear on a global level.  And although we are all experiencing these emotions at the same time, we are forced to do so physically isolated from one another.  I want to do my part to keep us all connected.  It’s just that simple. I believe that human connection is what will get us through.  Whether you’re self-isolating alone in an apartment, or in a house with a huge family and screaming children you now have to homeschool, or (like me) you can’t stay home and are working in a hospital seeing unimaginable things take place, I think we all need the same thing right now – a way to escape that reality and connect with others who understand what we are going through.  Even if just for a moment.  Music has been my saving grace during this past month.  As I have quoted before, Eric Church says “The only way I’ve fixed anything that has been broken in me, is with music.”  I find myself turning to the music community for understanding and acceptance during this difficult time, now more than ever.  Here is information on two of the musicians/groups I am listening to right now and the amazing work they are doing to help during the pandemic.  If after reading you decide to join any of their live streams and see me in there too – make sure you say hi.  After all, the whole reason for me writing this is to keep us all connected!  I hope this helps some of you find moments of joy and healing, through our shared love of music and community. 

  1. Adam Ezra:  We have had the pleasure of becoming friendly with Adam over the past few years and his music continues to evolve and grow, as does his fan base.  (See 1st blog on Adam here: https://honeybeebuzzblog.com/adam-ezra-a-ball-of-light-love/)  Adam thrives on human connection, he even ends every concert in the audience singing “Let it Be” unplugged.  Not being able to tour and hug everyone after the show must be especially hard on him.  To keep that connection alive, Adam has been live streaming a concert every night at 7pm EST on facebook and YouTube Live.  Mostly alone, or sometimes with Corinna and/or the full band Adam is there nightly.  He is a constant presence in these unstable times, which we need right now.  Singing a mixture of his original folk songs and covers from musicians that have influenced him over the years, Adam continues to spread joy the only way he knows how to – by connecting us through his music.  If anyone will find a way to keep playing shows once stay at home orders are lifted, it’s Adam.  Until then, I’m happy to get to see my BFF via social media every night.

Giving Back:  Unfortunately about 2 weeks ago, Adam came down with Coronavirus.  Instead of disappearing and pulling the covers over his head until he recovered (like most of us would have done) Adam continued to broadcasted live nightly – from his bedroom.  This gave everyone a firsthand look at someone battling the virus and raised awareness of the symptoms.  Luckily Adam has pulled through and is on the other side of his illness, already performing to raise funds for local musicians in Rhode Island currently out of work this past week.  He is also bringing in other local musicians like Sirsy via zoom to play with him, helping to expose them to a new audience, averaging over 800 viewers each night.  Adam is doing his part to keep the musical community not only connected,  but financially supported as well during a very difficult time. 

https://adamezra.com/ for more information on Adam Ezra Group

  1. Delta Rae / Eric Holljes:  If you haven’t heard of this band, you are truly missing out.  Delta Rae is a group of musicians with southern roots that sing in 4-part harmony.  Three of the members are siblings, which I’m convinced plays a role in how the harmonies are so masterfully blended, creating a sound that is pure and enchanting.  Their recent album release “The Light” has become my soundtrack for this pandemic.  (OK, reading this back I just realized how that line sounds  – but this is meant to be a compliment, I swear.  I mean, not that anyone wants to hear their album is thought to be a soundtrack for a pandemic but… forget it… you guys know what I meant.)  Created as the first of two albums, “The Light” is the happier, more upbeat album in comparison to the “The Dark” which we hope will be released in 2021.  My friend Monika put it perfectly when we discussed this album, which she also loves.  She said, “Thank God they released The Light first – it’s like they knew we’d need it!”  And do we ever… although with Brittany’s witchy ways I wouldn’t be surprised if some divine intervention was at work with that decision.  The first 3 tracks are so good you will be tempted to stop and listen to them on repeat – but make sure you get through the whole album.  Trust me, it’s worth it.  Wrong Ocean is easily the first hit, but there are a few others close behind.  It’s so much fun to sing Burning in Carolina on my drive in to the hospital each morning – it almost makes me forget where I’m heading and what I’ll be walking in to.  “You get a torch and a flame and burn the path you want.”  Listen to this album while you cook or take a walk around the neighborhood while the hiking trails are closed.  It will lift your spirits – and I triple dog dare you not to dance around your kitchen.

Eric Holljes is a founding member of Delta Rae and is getting his own section here for 2 reasons.  First, I owe it to him after writing a previous Delta Rae blog talking about how he doesn’t sing… my bad.  How was I supposed to know the ONE night I see them – which also happened to be the first time I ever learned about the band – he had laryngitis?  In my defense, I did pick up that he was extremely musical without him even singing – sooooooo give me a little bit of credit here, ok?  (See that blog here: https://honeybeebuzzblog.com/delta-rae-saving-souls-right-in-the-middle-of-a-casino/)  Second, his live streams are breathing life into me right now.  This guy is talented – I mean really, truly, unbelievably talented.  A few times each week Eric goes live on Instagram and plays a few Delta Rae songs along with any covers the fans request on piano or guitar.  As he jokingly says after a few sips of bourbon “I am here for the people!”  That statement has proven to be true, even if it means him learning a Disney song and being called Emo Hercules… he is a very good sport.  Some of the fan requests have been spot on, though.  His recent interpretation of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Games was powerful and suited his voice perfectly.  Eric is not only fearless with his song choices, he is also unwaveringly honest about his feelings. Whether talking about the emotional songs from his self-proclaimed Breakup Graveyard, the long day of quarantine he just had or an existential dilemma he’s been contemplating – Eric speaks his truth directly into the camera and reacts in real time to the comments rolling in. The group chat feels like old friends having a comfortable conversation – with some musical accompaniment of course.  And on some special nights, if you’re very lucky… a few snarky Brittany comments can be caught flying by.  There’s nothing like seeing Eric singing his heart out while Brittany writes “Wow, got anything sadder?”  Again, for me it is all about the ability to connect with others right now and this particular group is being created and lead by one very talented musician, which is a bonus.  Check Eric Holljes out on either his Instagram or the Delta Rae Instagram to catch a livestream – he changes it up so be ready for a livestream to start at any point.  I mean, as a music lover you should be following both of those accounts already anyway. 

Giving Back:  #HeroBoxChallenge was created by Eric and another Nashville musician in connection to having items donated for front line workers in NY.  A simple concept with a powerful impact – a way to help moving medical supplies from households to the front lines, where they are most needed.  Simply put the items in any box, go to the charity website and find a hospital address to ship it to.  You can even schedule the UPS pick up on that site, never having to leave your house to help those on the front lines.  Go to www.myherobox.com for more information. Eric & Brittany took part in the #HeroBoxChallenge singing America the Beautiful while wearing bandanas as face masks to raise awareness for this cause.  As one of those front line workers in NY that benefitted from this, my heart will be forever grateful to them.

https://www.deltarae.com/ for more information on Delta Rae

Eric Church Double Down Tour – Boston Night 1

Feb 1st, 2019

After completing a grueling tour of doing 4-5 shows a week with no opener and a set of at least 3 hours each night, in the Summer of 2017 Eric Church almost died.  He developed a blood clot in his arm due to an unknown birth defect, which was caught just in time to save him.  Eric had to have a risky surgery to remove the clot immediately, then another to remove his top rib later that Summer. Terrifying, right? The bottom line is doing a tour like that – all for the fans – almost killed him.  That 2017 tour is what actually inspired this entire blog.  After seeing Eric 2 nights in a row at Mohegan Sun, I couldn’t imagine not sharing the experience with other music lovers and Honey Bee was born.  Since then, Eric has suffered tragedies each of which alone would be enough to break someone, but added together could actually drown a person in sorrow. 

After months of rehab with nerves still healing, in October of 2017 Eric headlined the Route 91 Harvest Festival.  Since he hadn’t played all summer and no tour had been announced, many fans traveled to Las Vegas to see this show.  Two nights later, that same festival became one of the largest concert shootings in history when 58 people were killed and another 489 were injured.  It is well known that victims died – and some were buried – wearing Eric’s fan club Church Choir shirts.  He was devastated and has been quoted as saying “something broke in me that night, and it still hasn’t healed.”  Eric wrote a song in tribute to the victims Why Not Me, which he debuted after an emotional speech at the Grand Ole Opry.  (If you haven’t seen the video, please take the time to watch it below but you might want to have a few tissues ready when you do.)  After that night, Eric disappeared from the public eye for a bit.  Then in July of 2018, fans learned the devastating news that Eric’s younger brother Brandon Church had died suddenly, at the age of 36.  So much tragedy for one person to live through in a such short amount of time. It’s almost unimaginable for me.  But for a musician the caliber of Eric Church, there is only one outlet for grief.  Eric is quoted as saying “The only way I’ve fixed anything that’s been broken in me, is with music.”  In October of 2018, Eric released his 6th studio album Desperate Man. 

A new album usually means a tour will follow soon after, so I was holding my breath.  By this point is had been almost 2 years since I’d seen Eric live.  When the Double Down tour was announced I couldn’t have been more excited.  Another tour with no headliner and 3 hours of Eric was too good to be true.  To be honest, I should have expected him to go right out and do another tour just like the one that literally almost killed him.  If that’s the kind of show fans want, that’s what he will do.  This is part of why we love him so much!  Unfortunately at that time only 1 New England city was chosen to be part of the tour – Boston.  Todd & I are both Church Choir members so we broke up who would be trying to buy each night (pit tickets, of course!) and diligently followed all the rules to be in the running to even buy the pit tickets.  This no small feat, they make you jump through hoops.  I’ll spare you the details, just know only the true fans would go this far for pit tickets.  Then the morning of ticket sales, the app crashed!  Right as I had the pit tickets IN MY CART.  I proceeded to try and get tickets for the next 1.5 hours without success.  Due to the app being unable to support the volume of ticket buyers (um, we had to sign up in advance AND say what city we were buying – so HOW did they not know how many people would be buying tickets??)  I did NOT GET TICKETS.  I was fuming mad.  It turns out they realized quickly the app was crashing and rebooted the entire thing – but never told any of us.  So as we were all frozen with tickets in our carts, or still just trying to get through, or receiving error messages when putting in billing info, the Eric Church fan club knew about the problem and just let us all keep trying.  Only those people who got lucky and hit the button at the exact right time as the app rebooted got tickets.   The good news??  Todd had given up for a while, then more than 2 hours after the onsale time, he decided to just go into the app and try again.  He got 2 tickets!!!  Although I would have loved to go both nights, I recognized that almost no one on the app got through for even one night, so I counted myself lucky and moved on with my life.  The bad part was that we had to split up buying the 2 nights, and I was the one buying 3 tickets so my friend could join us on Saturday night for her first Eric Church show.  I was super bummed that she wasn’t going to get to join us now.  Then… just about a week before the concert, I received a message the fan club would be opening up another round of pit tickets and Boston night 2 was listed as one of the options.  Here we go again!!  But, I thought to myself, after the absolute disaster of the first round of sales, they have had months to fix the app – it can’t possibly happen again.  That would make them completely incompetent.  And since we actually pay for fan club membership, they must have enough respect for the members to not do that to them again, right?  WRONG.  10am I’m on the app, ready to go.  I keep clicking the link PROVIDED BY THE APP ON THE HOME PAGE but Boston isn’t an option to purchase and all the other cities are listed as sold out.  Huh?  Well after jumping over to a chat area within the app I learn the app is SENDING YOU TO THE WRONG LINK.  That’s right, the WRONG LINK.  Thank you again ECHQ, for nothing.  But after refreshing a bunch, I suddenly see Boston night one is still available –  so I jump in there and secure the ONE pit ticket left for my friend.  YAY!!!  Finally, it’s working!!!  Oh wait, nope.  Turns out due to another problem with the app I can’t actually purchase the ticket.  I have it.  I see it in my cart!  But then I continue to get an error message when trying to process my billing information.  Yes, I tried different cards.  No, I hadn’t bought another night (fan club members can only buy one night each) so there was no reason the billing shouldn’t have gone through.  I literally watch the 4 minute clock for holding tickets counting down as I try anything to buy this ticket. Then as it hits 0:00 I lose the ticket.  I could have cried, or thrown my phone. Or both.  Until then I thought the Dave Matthews fan club was the worst ever, I was so so wrong.  ECFC should be ashamed for treating fans this way – especially for doing it more than once.  Unacceptable.  However… Eric Church can’t himself be blamed for this so I will continue to separate that out in my mind.  Now to the part where my faith in humanity was restored… trust me, I went into detail about not being able to get Frances’ ticket for a reason.

The EC fan club as a community is amazing.  The app is a good idea just for that reason.  People post pics and tell Eric stories, it’s great.  2 days before our concert I saw a post in there saying this:

If you can be in Boston Friday night and have never seen EFC live then you should seriously consider getting ahold of me.  I have an extra ticket and would like to pay it forward and invite a fan to one hell of a party.

I replied asking if this was a pit ticket, because the only way I’d want my friend to join us is if we could all be together for the show.  This amazing human private messaged me back that it was, asking a bit about who the ticket would be for.  I explained this concert weekend was my 40th birthday gift from my husband and I really wanted to share it with my friend as well – so I was offering to buy the ticket from him.  His response? “The ticket is yours, I am gifting it to you so that a new fan can see him for the first time.  I wanted to find the right person to give it to, I think that’s you.”  I almost cried.  Although slightly skeptical that this may be too good to be true, I talked with my friend and we decided it was worth it to follow through and see if this guy was for real.  Since it was already the day before the show, she took off from work and jumped in the car with us!  The next night we met him in the lobby of the Garden where he gave me a hug, handed Frances her ticket, said to have fun and ran back to keep his place on line for the Pit.  It all happened so quickly we couldn’t even process the moment.  This incredibly kind human being just wanted to make someone else happy.  He wasn’t looking for gratitude or appreciation in any way.  All I can say is THANK YOU.  I’m purposefully not mentioning you by name, it seems like you wouldn’t want the attention.  Just know you changed our lives by reminding us that the World is still full of amazing people who, aside from any differences we may have, can connect through music.  Here we are,  in the Pit waiting for Eric to go on stage!

Saving my dancing space, of course!

The show itself was incredible.  Eric played for over 3.5 hours – 34 songs in total.  It’s too difficult for me to put into writing what you feel at an Eric Church concert.  For me, it brings me to a different plain of reality.  For just that time, I am not on the Earth I usually walk; it’s just another level.  What I can share with you is how I secretly planned my big EC moment. There was a scavenger hunt type of thing around Boston where you could buy EC items through the 2 days of concerts.  Since I didn’t like the tour posters designed for Boston (huge disappointment) we went directly for the specially designed Jack Daniels bottles that could be etched with the tour logo.  Although this didn’t run smoothly (the computer the JD guys had inside wasn’t updated with the correct software, so the line was very slow moving – good thing Todd & Frances got me there early!) it was worth the wait.  I was even able to choose a personal etching for one side of the bottle.  Since this is a big birthday year for me, what would have normally been a painstaking decision of choosing the right lyrics to etch was actually an easy decision.  Hope you all like my choice.

While at the liquor store I grabbed a single serving bottle of JD and tucked it away in my bag – I had a plan!   My little bottle made it through security and into the Pit with me.  When I heard the very first notes of Drink in My Hand I yelled for Frances & Todd to start videoing me and ran to the stage.  This is what happened next – my Eric Church moment of the night.

For those of you unfamiliar with Eric, let me be clear about my feelings for him.  He is the future of both country and rock & roll music.  He combines being a badass with emotionally charged lyrics and melodies. He can break up a fight from the stage.  He can sing a song like Lightening and make you cry, right after bringing down the house with Springsteen.  His music helped push me through a half marathon, giving me a jolt of much needed adrenaline when I need it most. (FYI, The actual song that did that for me is The Outsiders.) Thank you to my very tall husband for getting this full video of The Outsiders from our vantage point in the pit that night while I danced in front of him like a crazy person.  The second video is mine, and quickly became a classic EC moment – Eric breaks up a fight during These Boots.  These 2 videos while not giving you the full pit experience, can certainly give you an idea of what it’s like to part of the Church Choir those nights. 

Eric Church breaks up a fight during These Boots

How do I end this blog?  No matter what I write, I don’t think my true happiness experienced at an EC concert can be properly conveyed. How I feel when singing those thoughtful, well written, emotional lyrics at the top of my lungs just can’t be shared in this format.  It has to be felt, in real time.  And thanks to one other completely generous, selfless, kind Eric Church fan – Frances got to experience that as well.  This last video isn’t mine, but it’s how our show ended that night. For me, it was pure happiness. Here’s to that February weekend being just the start of my Record Year!

My Favorite Concert Moment: Matt Nathanson in Clifton Park, NY

Looking back on all the concerts I’ve been to there are so many amazing moments – from huge arena shows like U2 in Boston to once in a lifetime shows like Garth Brooks at Yankee Stadium.  This blog was created purely to share these experiences because at times it feels like the joy is too much to keep inside. I often find myself explaining to people that I won’t accept less than amazing seats/tickets at this point.  Yes, I’m a snob about that – but there’s a reason!  Once you have been close enough to feel the greatness of a front man like Bono or Eric Church, it’s hard to go back.  I’ve had lots of really special small moments, from Eric raising his glass to me during Jack Daniels – to looking up during the guitar solo in Angel and realizing Dave Matthews had been watching me have fun from the shadows on the drum stage.   But what makes a moment like this truly special is having the chance to give back some happiness to an artist you love, even for just a split second.  These people spend their lives creating music that can transform us.  I mean, I’m not the only one who plays my favorite songs super loud to sing along on the way home from a bad day at work, right?  These humans create something which can literally alter our mood.  That’s powerful. 

Living with a musician that is truly dedicated to his craft, I see an intimate side to this World that many others will not.  I see the sacrifices that are made.  I see the insecurities and doubt that can creep up suddenly. I see the flip side to being in front of a crowd of adoring fans, which is the loneliness of sitting in a room and pouring your heart onto a piece of paper – all the time just hoping it will eventually connect with people once it is out into the World.  It takes guts to throw that out there not knowing what the reception will be.  That is why, even if it’s for just one fleeting moment, making a musician I love smile is the best thing ever.  That is why what happened one magical night in Albany back in 2014 remains my favorite concert moment to date.

Let me get this out of the way first – if you aren’t listening to Matt Nathanson right now – you should be.  His new album Matt Nathanson Sings His Sad Heart is a masterpiece.  I dare you to listen to that album and not find a lyric you connect to.  Here is just a sample:

 “Takes me forever and ever to see, the good in the people who see the good in me.  The past is a long distance runner and I’m falling further and further behind… keep on going miles for love.”  Long Distance Runner

“If you’re having trouble baby, holding on to memories – I’ve got a king size bed and a PHD in the way it used to be.” Used to Be

“I can feel you in the darkness, reaching out a hand to pull me through.  Sadness used to think that it owned me, now sadness gotta share me with you.”  Sadness

To be clear, you don’t need to be a Matt Nathanson super fan (as Todd calls me) to enjoy his show.  Although the songs themselves are ridiculously good, the banter between songs is just as entertaining.  If Matt gets bored playing music, he could easily have a second career in stand-up comedy.  People who go to a show expecting to sit through a bunch of stuff they don’t know just to hear Come on Get Higher, always leave saying how amazing the whole show was.  THAT is how you gain fans.  Trust me on this; I hear it both from friends I bring with me who haven’t seen him before & random people talking to each other as we are walking out of a venue.  Actually – I just realized 2 of the people who joined me in Albany that night were seeing Matt for the first time!  How lucky were they to have this be their first show?? Anyway, back to what actually happened…  If you follow Matt at all, you know he has a deep rooted love for 80s rock bands.  I even got to see him & the band dress and perform as Poison one Halloween in NYC – classic.  What Matt didn’t realize is that his fans feel the same way.  Back in 2014 Matt took a break from his tour with Gavin DeGraw and did a small show in Albany (Clifton Park) with Andrew McMahon.  It was general admission and I was lucky to have grabbed a spot in the front, right against the stage.  The energy of the crowd was electric; I could literally feel it in the air.  About a third of the way into the set, Matt started joking around playing chords from some of his favorite 80s songs – and the rest is history.  Although the second video I have posted here is what actually went viral, I think it’s worth it to watch both clips to understand how the energy built and evolved into what became my favorite concert moment to date.  Why?  Not because it was super fun at the time, not because I ended up meeting one of my best concert friends at the show (love you, Jenn!) but because of how happy Matt looks in these videos.  For this one night, I think we gave back to him just a piece of the love and joy he has given us all these years.  Enjoy watching!  Oh – and afterwards you will want to see him live.  The good news is that Matt is starting a tour of small acoustic shows very soon.  Although most are sold out already, here is a link to the dates. 

https://mattnathanson.com/tour/

What show am I going to??  Well, I had been anxiously awaiting the announcement of tour dates back in the Summer because as you already know, this girl has a big birthday coming up this year.  Even though I was excited to see Matt had an NYC show booked, when I saw he was playing the actual date of my birthday in Nashville, it seemed like a great but fanciful idea… so I consulted the wisdom of our magic 8 ball and couldn’t ignore it’s unusually positive answer of  “Yes –definitely.”  As crazy as it sounds, 2 weeks from now I’ll be celebrating my 40th with Matt (and Todd) and Nashville!!  Keep your fingers crossed for me guys, really hoping to spin the Wheel of Nathanson during the pre-show party!!  Maybe that will then become my favorite concert moment to date…

Dave Matthews Band & My 7 Year Break

Band: Dave Matthews Band

Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena, CT

Date: Dec. 2nd, 2018

Tour: Fall Tour 2018

This is the first blog I’ve been equal parts excited to write, yet procrastinating on writing.  I mean, how do I sum up a band that my college years (and many after) literally revolved around in one concise post? It seemed too overwhelming. Then I realized the thing that made me sit down and actually start to write tonight – I don’t need to do it all in one.  There just are too many details, super fun memories & stories to share.  Here is what you need to know… I loved Dave Matthews Band back then.  Like, too much.  I’ve seen over 40 shows since 1996. That’s not a typo, I went to over forty shows. I can rattle off stats on the band, its members, set lists, etc.  BUT after being a very early member of their fan club the Warehouse and enjoying the perks of that for many years, it all started to go south.  Ticket prices went up, my seats started being assigned further and further from the stage, I noticed a LOT of drunk puking teenage girls, the set lists became uninspired and the overall vibe of the shows diminished.  Or wait, did I just get older???  Hmmmmmmmm. Nah – I’ll stick with my prior list of reasons instead of exploring that topic the month before I turn 40.  Safer bet.  Anyway, I stopped going to shows after a particularly bad set list at Bethel Woods.  To be frank, the show was bo-ring and not worth the effort it takes to see a band at that venue.

Buzz Tip: If you really love a band, seeing them at Bethel Woods is a bad idea.  Traffic is INSANE getting both in and out.  The only way to do it is to leave very early and miss 1/3 of the show or be ready to stay extremely late.  At this DMB show I’m referencing we left before the encore and sat in 2.5 hours of traffic.  Like before we got to the highway.  NOT worth it.  But the venue is beautiful…

How bad was that Bethel show?  Well let’s just say I never needed to see Dave Matthews perform a piano solo for over 10 minutes.  Never.  The magic was gone… like Grace (DMB fan reference, sorry.) That Bethel show was so bad that I had to take a break.  From 2012 until now, I stayed away and searched for that magic again in the crowd of many other bands. The closest I’ve come to finding it again is with Matt Nathanson, but that’s a blog for another time. In 2017 DMB took a break from touring which had to be refreshing for them. This past Summer they announced a tour following the release of their new studio album Come Tomorrow, so I rejoined the Warehouse and got in the ticket lottery for SPAC – the BEST place in NY to see DMB – but got DENIED tickets.  That was enough for me to be like yup, their fan club still sucks and I’m so peacing out again.  (OK, that’s only kind of true.  I was going to buy tickets 3rd party, but Todd had a family thing at the Lake I had to go to, which I wasn’t given the option not to attend, so… THEN I peaced out.  I sure showed them, huh?!)  Then in November Monika called me and said, you know who is playing Mohegan in 2 weeks???? Just wondering if you can get off that Monday… The Universe lined things up for us and yup, I was back in.  At least I wasn’t paying for tickets this time, right?  Since Mohegan was comping us the tickets I thought, well it’s the best way to see if they are going to suck. (Earlier this year the violin player Boyd had left the band under a cloud of suspicion.  There are some pretty bad allegations about him that I don’t want to get into detail about on here. Just trust me, they’re bad.) Truthfully though, I wanted to see them play with new line-up of musicians.  I wanted to hear how the band sounded without a violin in the mix.  On Dec. 2nd I got my answer – they sound AMAZING. 

We sat on the first tier in the back, looking at the stage straight on.  Even without having seats right in front like I used to, I could feel the energy of the band.  When they came out and went right into #41 (not usually an opener for them) I knew it was going to be a special night.  I was recently talking with my friend Tim about what makes one night of a show more special than others.  He’s one of my favorite people to talk music with… We decided it’s a mix of the musicians being excited to play that venue & the crowd all being true fans.  Those things together create a special kind of magic that is rare.  This was one of those nights.  I actually had the coolest experience while waiting on line for drinks that sums up the night.  We were up in the main concourse area where there aren’t any screens and the sound is kind of muted, about 3 people away from the cashier when the band broke into “Why I Am.” Monika had said it was the one song she wanted to see so I felt horrible she was missing it.  We started quietly bopping along to the first verse while silently mouthing the words.  When the chorus hit we couldn’t help but belt it out – and neither could everyone else in the long line.  Actually it was more like EVERYONE around the entire concourse did!  All of a sudden you just heard people sing out “It’s Whyyyyyyyy I Am!!!” Now I’ve been to so many shows at Mohegan and never, ever had this experience.  We spent the rest of our time on line dancing and singing full force with our newly made friends, then bopped right back to our seats singing the whole way.  This was only the 3rd song of the night and already the crowd was like one big party.  Yeah, I was getting a second drink by the third song.  You caught me – but he started late, ok?  Wink, wink.  From that point on I let go of any reservations I had about them not sounding like the DMB I know and love – and had the time of my life.  The band played for over 3 hours and it was one of the BEST set lists I have ever seen them do.  Here is my full video of Say Goodbye, a song I couldn’t even have dreamed I’d get to hear that night. It also showcases Carter Beauford, my #1 favorite drummer and gum bubble blower of all time.

We left the show after a crazy good encore of Watchtower and Monika said to me “I didn’t even know Dave Matthews could put on a show like that!”  All I could reply was “That… THAT is the Dave Matthews I’ve missed.”  So, back to the beginning of this post, why didn’t I need to explain everything I’ve loved about DMB over the years in this one blog?? Because folks, I am back on the DMB bandwagon!!  I fell so hard off, that I bounced right back on it 7 years later.  Thank you Monika, best Christmas gift EVER!!  Sorry, Todd – get ready for a double header at SPAC this Summer!! We will just have to dodge the puking teenage girls together…  

American Authors at WRRV Sessions

Band: American Authors

Place: Newburgh Brewing Company

Date: July 26th, 2018

Tour: WRRV Sessions

Some artists just make me happy.  Of course, everyone knows Eric Church & Matt Nathanson are at the top of that list – but earlier this Summer I got to see another band whose music just makes me smile.  That band is American Authors. They haven’t played out in awhile (I know they have been working on new music) so I was super excited to find out they would be doing a short set locally as part of the WRRV Sessions at Newburgh Brewing Company.  That afternoon I grabbed 2 friends who hadn’t seen the band live before and flew through rush-hour traffic to get there in time for their set.  With just enough time for us to grab a round of cider before they walked out, we settled in on the wood floor for an intimate yet still energetic set.  Karen & Frances loved it as much as I did and it’s safe to say this won’t be their last AA show.  Like most people, although they had heard of the band before, my friends only knew a couple of songs and didn’t have any idea how amazing they are.  You really can’t grasp the true essence of a band until you see them live and I would say for AA that would be joyful musicality.

American Authors are high energy bad that lifts your spirits from the moment they start playing.  I’m sure you know them from the song “Best Day of my Life” which is still being played on the radio and used in commercials today – 4 years after its release.  That in itself is proof of their talent considering how fickle music fans are these days; but the truth is, if you like that song you should be listening to all of their songs.  Yes, Best Day is fantastic and the hook is ridiculous.  It deserves the popularity it gained. However I argue that all of American Authors music is like that – and trust me, you will LOVE them live.  You can’t help but have a great time watching them perform. The band met while studying music at Berklee College of Music and each member is crazy talented.  As a matter of fact, they are so talented; I am going to mention each one of them by name.  The band currently consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Zac Barnett, lead guitarist and banjoist James Adam Shelley, bassist Dave Rublin, and drummer Matt Sanchez.  To prove my point, here is a clip of them performing Born to Run (semi-unplugged) at Newburgh Brewing Company for WRRV Sessions.

I’ve been a fan of this band since 2014, so their music has been a part of my life since then.  When I trained and kind-of (it’s a long story) ran a half marathon for charity, about 5 or 6 of their songs were in my running play list.  These included Believer, Pride & Hit It.  Considering I ran in the Florida humidity, at night, prior to being diagnosed and treated for pernicious anemia, I feel it’s fair to say that American Authors music has literally kept me going during some very tough times.  How can you give up and stop moving while listening to those songs?  AA, if by some crazy chance you guys ever get to read this – I’m sending you a huge heartfelt THANK YOU for that.

I also have to mention that an AA show in Albany (shout out to my concert buddy Chloe!!!) may be one of the most fun yet uncomfortable shows I have ever experienced.  I know you guys like to hear personal experiences I’ve had with the bands I write about – so here you go – this is a good one.  Thanks to my sweet friend Serena, we got to be in the very front of the room for the American Authors (Ryan Star opening) show in Albany at the Hollow back in 2016.  There were 3 of us and I stood the farthest to the right.  Ryan opened alone center stage, so I didn’t notice the mic that was directly in front of me – like IN MY FACE – until AA came out and the bassist Dave ended up being about a foot from me.  The stage wasn’t high so we were actually at eye level to each other.  Awk-ward.  It’s possible he was as surprised as I was when he looked up… but at that point we were both in it with nowhere to go.  Any time he had to step up to the mic to sing backups I cringed.  What, you don’t believe me that we were that close?  OK, below is a pic of Zac, who was to my left.  Now imagine just turning your head back and looking straight in front of you, directly at Dave. Get it now?  Why don’t I have a pic of Dave singing right in front me?  Because I was literally too close to take a picture!  The good thing is that I’m a huge fan of the band and knew most of the words – so at least I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself (I think??) Again, AA if for some reason you ever read this; Dave I sincerely hope that me being so close to your face that night was far enough off your radar that you have no memory of it.  If you do, well ummmmm, what can I say?  Hi there, again!?!  But from much further away this time…. Not to worry, I’m at least an hour and a half north of Brooklyn at the moment.

Unfortunately I’m having trouble accessing my old videos so I can’t show you any of mine besides the recent clip from Newburgh Brewing.  So I’ll start by posting the official video for American Authors newest single Deep Water, which I love so much.  Then I’ve also gone back and found highlights of other AA shows I’ve gone to over the past 4 years on YouTube to share.  I know after watching you will want to buy tickets to see them, but unfortunately right now I don’t have any AA tour dates to share with you.  I’m anxiously awaiting an announcement and have my fingers crossed that there might be a show in Feb. There’s a short list of bands I’d like to be seeing on my 40th Birthday and American Authors is one of them.  Because, as my friend said leaving Newburgh Brewing that night – if someone asks you how you are doing at an American Authors show you’d answer “This is the best day of my li-i-ife!!”

 

 

 

 

Third Eye Blind – The Good, the Bad & the Not-Gorgeous

Band: Third Eye Blind

Location: Hard Rock Casino & Hotel in Atlantic City, NJ

Front row at 3eb Hard Rock AC 7/5/18

I took a week before writing this blog. It’s been difficult trying to find a way to pay tribute to one of my favorite bands of all time, while staying true to my viewpoint of the concert itself.  Third Eye Blind and their music have been a huge part of my life.  That fact is undeniable.  I first saw the band 21 years ago (before Semi-Charmed Life was a huge hit) at The Chance in Poughkeepsie, then continued to see them again and again – at least once a year if they were touring.  Sometimes (like this show in Atlantic City and another a few years back in Bethlehem, PA) we travel to see a one-off show even when they aren’t actually touring so I can hear any new music they might be trying out.  Motorcycle Drive By is one of my favorite songs of all time, which is saying a lot for someone who listens to a ton of music.  That song holds up over time and I still find myself playing it for people as an example of a perfect song.  It’s fun to see the reaction of someone who hasn’t ever heard the song before when they connect to the lyrics.  Simply put, this song breathes life into me every time I hear it “I’ve never been so alive…”  If you don’t know the song, go listen to it right now – like right now.  The point is, any chance I have to hear them play it, I’ll be there.

Since I hadn’t seen 3eb since starting Honey Bee, I was crazy excited to get a chance to see them for the Hard Rock AC grand opening week, especially knowing we’d be front row center.  This was going to be my chance to share the greatness of this band with my readers.  I was counting down the days to our trip and already forming the blog in my mind before we even saw the show.  Unfortunately, it all didn’t go quite as planned.  At the end of day, I’ve decided to make the part of this blog about the actual show less about the music than it would usually be – but it will be as honest as I can possibly write.  I’m going to let it pour out of me, grammatically correct or not.  Now it’s time to stop stalling and rip this band-aid off…

The Good

Using a pre-sale code Hard Rock AC had given out during their grand opening announcement, I was able to secure front row center tickets.  They were more expensive than your usual 3eb show tickets, but I figured it would be worth it.  It had been awhile since I saw them in a place that didn’t have general admission or a pit up front, so it was great to have reserved seats that close.

3eb at Hard Rock AC on 7/5/18

The arena is inside, so you don’t have to worry about weather – and there’s a hotel literally attached to the venue, so everyone can drink and have a good time without worrying about driving afterwards.  I brought a friend who was seeing the band for the first time and we got a ridiculously great set list, especially for someone who hadn’t seen the band before.  It was hit after hit, with a few fan favorite surprises sprinkled in.  I especially enjoyed hearing Wounded and Crystal Baller, which is one of my favorites and hadn’t been in the live rotation for a few years.

We were super close to Stephan and he looked great, really healthy and rested.  The band sounded amazing, which is necessary for 3eb songs.  The guitar sounds are unique and set the tone for the songs, so they must be played right.  Although this isn’t the original guitar player, you wouldn’t know it from this show.  My friend who was seeing them for the first time had a ball and loved every minute, she even grabbed a guitar pic by the end of the show!

So ummmmmm, yeah.  That’s it for the good….

3eb fans, brace yourselves for the next 2 sections.

 

The Bad

Although the venue itself was good for this show, the security was terrible.  Fans poured into the front row the minute Stephan walked on stage and we were left to defend our seats ourselves.  Not once did security even make a pass through looking at tickets.  As someone who went to great lengths to secure such good seats, this really annoyed me.  Also, the venue itself is set up rather strangely with many floor seats looking at the side of the stage.  I’m not exaggerating; it’s the actual side of the stage.  Moving forward, I’m noticing the way they are getting around the odd set up for larger shows is to make the floor all general admission.  No thank you, Hard Rock.  You want me to be on the floor with about 4,000 other people standing in a general admission pit for Kid Rock??  Not happening.  This means for artists we want to be close to, seeing the tour at Hard Rock AC won’t be an option.  It’s disappointing that they didn’t just remodel the arena to a better stage configuration when they changed over from the Taj.  Hard Rock is all about music, right?  Am I missing something here??  Anyway, back to the 3eb concert.  There was no stage set, whatsoever.  Like not even a Third Eye Blind sign hanging behind the band, which I’ve seen a million times before.

They did have screens on the side, so that was good for people who weren’t up close, but these are obviously owned by Hard Rock and always there.  As for the crowd, the place was only about ½ to ¾ full.  There could be a bunch of reasons for this (brand new venue, opening week of the hotel, holiday week) but it made the overall energy a bit off.  The other thing that was a bit off was Stephan’s pitch.  I didn’t notice this at all during the show, however watching the videos afterwards, it was a bit rough.  I’ll let you be the judge…

 

The Not-Gorgeous

Here it is folks, the bottom line is this show was WAY TOO SHORT.  The band played for an hour.  Yes, that’s correct – only ONE HOUR with no opening band.  As if that’s not bad enough, here is what makes it inexcusable.  Right before playing the eleventh song in the set Crystal Baller, Stephan started talking to the crowd for the first time all night.  He said something to the effect of “We were going to play Crystal Baller next, if that’s ok with you guys?” Then the house lights came up so he could see the crowd’s reaction.  Of course I was losing my mind to ensure they played it, so I can’t tell you what the general reaction of the crowd was but I know my friends and I were responding.  He then walked across the stage and launched into a speech about how they can do that, or any other song they want, because they are a “real rock band” who is playing live.  (I can attest to this, the band doesn’t use backing tracks or canned vocals – what you see is what you get.   This is part of the reason I love and respect them so much.)  Stephan then said, and this is a direct quote, “We can play any song we want – we can play all night!”  Of course this prompted the crowd to start yelling out songs they want to hear.  The guy behind me, who I had overheard talking before the show and knew was a huge fan like me, started yelling “Gorgeous!  Please play Gorgeous!!”  I have to admit, this is an obscure song even I don’t know – however this guy was so passionate, I really wanted the band to play it for him.  Stephan was close enough to us to hear him yelling, too – I know it.  Another girl close to the stage was yelling Summertown, which would have been a perfect song to play for a show the day after the 4th of July.  Did Stephan do any of these songs next, or at all??  Nope.  He DID play Crystal Baller (the saving grace of the show for me) but then ignoring the crowd requests, played only 3 more songs the last of which was Semi-Charmed Life, said goodnight and WALKED OFF THE STAGE.  I’m thinking, this is a joke right?  He just said they can play all night… are they taking an Intermission?  Then he comes back out to a roaring crowd, plays How’s It Going to Be and leaves the stage for good.  He just ended the song saying “thank you, we hope to see you again” and left.  I swear, as the lights were coming up I was thinking, no way – they are coming back out again, right??  They hadn’t even taken a bow as a full band center stage before walking off, which they have done at every show I’ve seen for the past… oh I don’t know… like 10 YEARS.   WTF 3eb??   That was the shot I had framed in my mind as the tag for the blog – that’s how sure I was that I’d get the photo – and they didn’t even do it!!  Truthfully, I didn’t want to leave my seat at this point because I was so sure something more was going to happen.  Ugh, so frustrating.  OK you guys, let’s put it this way – I hadn’t even finished my drink Todd & Frances got for me before the show started by the time the lights came up.  It was still about half full.  I left a concert with my drink not empty!!  Oh – AND I didn’t even have make a bathroom run for the whole show.  For anyone who has been a show with me, you know that’s bad.  Like really, really bad.  Let me put this into greater perspective for you all, I paid about the same price for this ticket as I did for my U2 ticket in Boston.  I was the same distance from Bono at that show as I was from Stephan at this one and they played for 1.5 hours longer.  That’s correct – U2 played ONE AND A HALF HOURS LONGER than Third Eye Blind, for essentially the same ticket price.  And their set was off the charts amazing with crazy technology, and interactive phone app, etc.  And they are U2 for crying out loud!!

This has all left me to question, what happened?  Was the show supposed to be longer and they cut it short?  Did something make Stephan mad, so he just bailed?  Were they having a bad experience overall with Hard Rock AC still working out kinks in the arena?  A week later, I still don’t have any answers.  But here is what I have to say about it – I DON’T’ CARE!  I don’t care if Stephan was mad that when the house lights came up that it wasn’t a sold out show.  I don’t care that they chose to play a venue that had just opened.  I don’t care if Stephan was being pissy and in a bad mood.  I just don’t freakin’ care!! What I do care about is the fact that my friends & I based an entire trip to AC around this show and when it ended I felt like we had gotten totally jipped.  3eb, part of being in a rock band means you stick it out and play for the fans, regardless of the circumstances.  I saw Bruno Mars 2 weeks after his mother died suddenly and he put on one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.  Eric Church tragically lost his younger brother just last week and played a show in the same week.  These people are professionals.  They appreciate the fans and are able to bare their souls on stage and use the love of the crowd to help them heal.  So… there’s no excuse 3eb could give me that I’d accept for the short, disconnected and unenthusiastic show they gave us.  Well, it feels better to get that off my chest…

Now, I’m not saying I no longer love Third Eye Blind.  It’s not possible for that to happen after all these years.  What I’m saying is I’ll think twice before traveling far to see them.  It’s sad, but true…  In the end though, I’m always happiest at a concert no matter how short it turns out to be – as proven here in a video taken by Todd during my favorite song.  Enjoy this version on Motorcycle Drive-By from AC, this is how I’m going to try and remember the night.

U2 Experience & Innocence

Band: U2

Location: Boston, TD Garden

Tour:  Experience & Innocence

 

U2 is one of those bands you just have to see to believe.  Bono is a force of nature, truly one of a kind – which explains the staying power and success of the band.  Combine a fantastic front man (possibly one of the best ever) with great musicians and powerful political and social themes intertwined through catchy melodic songs and you get U2.

Leaving a show, I usually have an idea of exactly how to write about it.  I’ve wrestled for a few days now on U2, finding it difficult to discover a way to express the experience as a whole.  The show was so visually stunning, emotionally moving and beautiful sounding that all my senses were exploding.  How do you put that on paper?? Then last night while showing a friend my videos she said “thanks for sharing the concert from your lens” and I realized that’s exactly what I need to do.  So here’s the show directly from my point of view, mostly told through videos and pictures.  Before I go any further though, I’m posting the video of Pride.  The bottom line is this – if you don’t want to read a whole blog on U2,  at least watch this video.  Bono’s honesty & vulnerability are impressive.  This has quickly become one of my favorite concert moments – ever.

Great seats, right??  Well let me tell you, I fought for these tickets.  I had done my research and knew I wanted to be on the general admission floor.  This stage is unique, running the entire length of the stadium with an E-stage at the end.  You may not get too many chances to be this close to a legend like Bono, so I was hell bent on getting these seats.  Using a pre-sale code back in November I was able to score them for Boston – my second choice venue since MSG sold out in 1 minute.  Tickets went on sale at 10am, at 10:03 am I had the Boston GA seats.

Ticket Buzz Tip: If you do research in advance and are willing to risk not getting seats at all during a pre-sale, make sure you use the drop down choice on ticketmaster and specify which location you want to buy.  By doing this I knew for MSG I was either getting GA tickets, or none.  Then I quickly shifted to Boston with the same ticket parameters. 

Venue Buzz Tip: TD Garden ended up being HORRIBLY unorganized, staff were completely unprofessional and the 4 hours leading up to the show were extremely stressful due to their incompetence.  (Short blog on that coming soon )  Unless there is no other choice possible, this will be my first and LAST show at this venue.  Go elsewhere if you can.

               Due to a very bad few hours leading up to the show during which I had to fight with multiple TD Garden employees to find out where we were supposed to be going for the GA wristbands, I made concert friends!  As time ticked on without answers, I became more frustrated and got more vocal towards the staff at the arena.  Others who were also wandering around aimlessly because of bad signage, etc. joined in my fight.  By the time a very unfriendly box office manager came out to talk to me there were an additional 10-15 people behind me who had gathered in just under 10 minutes.  She didn’t like that at all, but it didn’t stop her from being rude, unhelpful and turning us all away without support in the end.  I know this isn’t why you are reading a blog about U2 so I’m moving on.  (Still a little mad about it though, can you tell?  Separate blog on TD Garden experience coming soon.)

So now we are standing outside the venue on line with 2,000 others who had been just as confused as we were – and people started to recognize me from the box office rant.  Of course I had them join us on line and we had spent the next 2 hours becoming concert buddies.  Jennifer & Paul are hard core U2 fans and had been to a bunch of shows before.  They were able to confirm that the place I had in mind to stand for this show was the best if you wanted to be both close to the band, but also see the video screens.  We stuck with them during the cattle call way (again completely unorganized) in which everyone was let in to the arena and ended up watching the whole show with them!  I also ended up befriending the girl in front of me (we were only one person back from the stage) because she had a ton of wristbands on.  I can’t see that and not want to know everything about someone, right??  She was SO friendly and open to sharing her love of U2.  Lisa had been to over 20 shows and hadn’t missed one yet from this specific tour.  She couldn’t believe it was my first show and got crazy excited for me, introducing me to the other fans she knows telling everyone it was my first time seeing them.  It was like a little U2 family up there!  During the show itself she would reach out and grab my hand at just the right moments.  Not many people share my passion for concerts, so when I meet one who knows exactly what I’m thinking because they are feeling it too, it’s special.  They were all super fun, kind, generous people who we hope to see again soon.

Now for the show!!  Before the band even came out the tone was set by large images being shown on the middle stage screens of powerful social messages.  Here are some of my favorites:

The show itself started about 30 minutes late, there was no opener.  The middle screen started to rise during the first song and I look up to see Bono standing right over us.  It took my breath away.  At one point he looked right at us while singing and I thought – this is how it’s starting?? My heart may not survive 2 hours of this.   Luckily I was taking video, so here is that moment.  Please bear with it being a little shaky I got super excited and couldn’t hold still.

The band stayed on the center stage for the first 3 songs, here is the moment Bono came down to the E Stage for the first time singing Lights of Home.  It is visually stunning.

From where we were standing, I knew seeing anything on the main stage would be difficult – especially for this short girl.  Sacrificing that was a decision I made prior to even entering the arena.  Unfortunately the main stage is where Beautiful Day was performed.  Although it is far away, Bono’s voice sounds incredible so the video is worth posting, even though it’s short.  Yes, that’s me singing “Daaaaaaaaaaay!!” at the top of my lungs.  I felt it was a crowd participation moment.  Come on people, you know me by now.

In my wildest dreams, I never EVER thought we’d be this close to Bono singing Sunday Bloody Sunday.  It was an out of body experience.  Enjoy.

At the end of the song, pages ripped from books starting raining down on the crowd.  I was lucky to catch one myself and my new concert friends gave me a few as well.  This was insanely cool.  I’ve been to shows where glitter, confetti or fake snow shoots out – but never book pages!  Then again, this isn’t some average band – this is U2.  That means these pages were carefully chosen, the band will use them as a means to share their messages to the crowd in the most unique yet direct way possible without actually saying the words out loud.   After doing some research my pages are from the Bible Pslams 99-100 (pslams for giving grateful praise), Alice in Wonderland & Dante’s Inferno, Canto XVII (The Seventh Circle, Third Ring: The Violent against nature and art).  Since then, Jennifer has also texted me that her pages were from Lord of the Flies.  I love this band.

After a brief “intermission” of the band not being visible, with a comic book style video playing instead, they all returned to the E stage with Bono as Mr. MacPhisto, his devilish alter-ego from the 1992/93 Zoo TV tour.  He spent some time speaking to the crowd and while not direct, the political implications about President Trump and the current state of our country were there.  Bono just had to bring out Mr. MacPhisto in order to make his point.

During this grouping of songs we heard Elevation, Vertigo, Desire & the less often played Acrobat.  I was dancing and singing so loud I thought my heart may burst.

After dramatically wiping off his make-up on stage, Bono & Edge did a stripped down acoustic version of Staring at the Sun while images of neo-Nazis waving swastikas and Confederate flags in Charlottesville last year played on screen.  This couldn’t have been a more powerful message.

I have to end my story where it began, with Pride.  To think that a song about what happened “Early morning, April 4” is still so relevant today, is both poignant and frustrating.  Shouldn’t we as a nation, as a society, be more evolved than we were in 1968?  Have we taken a few steps backwards? These are the questions that a band like U2 makes you think about.  Through their music we are provided with an outlet for all of our hate, love, hope  – and Desire.

Michael Sweet, the voice of Stryper / Moriah Formica / Amanda Ayala / Todd Mihan

Show: Michael Sweet, the voice of Stryper / Moriah Formica / Amanda Ayala / Todd Mihan

Location: The Loft in Poughkeepsie

Date: 3/9/18

 

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing my husband, Todd Mihan play an acoustic set at The Loft in front of many of our family and friends. This does not happen often and thinking back, the last time I saw him play like this may have been for the Sparrows Nest fundraiser over 3 years ago!  This time he was performing solo and armed with new music, Todd showed a carefree attitude that we haven’t seen in past shows.  This allowed the audience to see more of his personality during the performance, like him laughing when the loop pedal gave him some trouble.  I could have done without him outing me to the crowd, telling everyone all the dirty lyrics in “Crazy Back” were my contribution – but what can I say?  The truth is the truth…

Todd’s set included both new and old songs, along with my favorite Battleground.  This is one of the more difficult songs he has ever written, considering the intricate playing that needs to be done over an emotional and vocally challenging chorus.  Another favorite of mine is Hope, which also made it into the set.  It’s always great to see Todd relax and be himself on stage, which he did last night.  I couldn’t be more proud of everything he has accomplished.  Check out both Hope and Battleground below.  (The voices you hear talking are unfortunately members of another band playing that night… more to come on that later.  Please try to tune them out like we all had to.)

Next up was Amanda Ayala.  Until now I have kept my blog positive.  When it started I made a promise to myself that I’d only write about music and musicians that I love.  If I see a show I don’t like, I don’t write about it.  Today I am breaking that rule.  Among other things, the voices you hear in the background of Todd’s videos are from Amanda’s band.  Unbelievable, right?  They stood directly next to the stage and talked throughout Todd’s ENTIRE set.  They got louder and louder trying to hear themselves over the music and Amanda let this happen.  Now I’m not saying you have to be silent during a set (although if it is acoustic that is usually the customary behavior) but there is a bar set further away from the stage on the other side of the room where anyone can go if they want to chat during a performance.  The fact that these people decided to stand DIRECTLY next to the stage and talk loudly is unacceptable.  I restrained myself as this was happening (not easy) but cannot go without mentioning it now.  Since this band showed NO respect to the other musicians playing last night, I’m not reviewing Amanda’s performance.  All I will say is this – Amanda, if you cannot take the stage alone at an acoustic show, continuing to surround yourself with people who behave this way will get you a bad reputation quickly.  The Hudson Valley has a large community of musicians who often play together and support each other – last night you were NOT a part of that community.  Do better.

Back to some positive vibes – Moriah Formica was phenomenal.  You may know of her from The Voice, she was on Team Miley this past season and made it all the way to the playoff rounds.  She is a tiny little thing with a powerful and gritty voice, made for rock and roll.  She took the stage alone and didn’t need anything but her voice and a guitar to let her talent shine.  I’m sad to say that my phone had no battery left by this point, but I have attached some videos below so you can check Moriah out.  This kid is only 17 and has a VERY bright future ahead of her.  As an added bonus, I can tell you that Todd got to spend time with Moriah and her Dad before the show and he couldn’t have been more impressed with how nice they were.  Seeing Moriah sing “Crazy On You” last night was a definite highlight of the show and I highly recommend you see her play live if you have the chance.

The headliner was Michael Sweet, lead singer of the band Stryper.  He took the stage in a long black coat, wearing a cross around his neck, black converse on his feet and hair that any girl would be envious of.  It was obvious from the start that this guy knows how to work a room.  He spoke to the crowd with authority and had a level of comfort on stage that can only come with time.  Michael’s voice is strong – I mean STRONG – and he knows how to showcase that in his set.  Although I wasn’t familiar with many of his songs, Michael’s vocals were impressive enough to hold my attention.  Overall he was very entertaining and I was glad we stayed long enough to hear him.  Michael had many loyal fans in attendance that drove from as far as CT to see this show.  It must have been a really exciting night for them to get to enjoy him in such an intimate venue like The Loft and I hope he continues to play shows like this.

What a great night!!  Thank you to our friends and extended family for their continued love and support.  Music is made for others to hear and enjoy it, we are lucky to have all of you join us in doing that.

Delta Rae “Saving souls, right in the middle of a casino.”

Band: Delta Rae

Location: Wolf Den in Mohegan Sun, CT

Show Date: 3/3/18

As Monika & I were sitting in a lounge at Mohegan Sun (continuing to drown our sorrows for Kid Rock cancelling his show the night before) over the noise of the slot machines and chatter I heard what sounded like live music.  My antennae went up immediately and as I zoned in on it, I realized it was actually really good live music.  We grabbed our drinks and headed quickly towards the sound, which brought us to the Wolf Den and a band sound checking for that night’s show.  Half a song later we were calling to reserve a table to see a band called Delta Rae.

A quick view of Delta Rae’s website told us the band is made up of 6 people, and since the 2 girls were in center focus (one of them being the girl who sang during sound check) it seemed safe to assume they would be the lead singers.  The black and white photo on the homepage gives the band a mysterious quality and doesn’t really pigeon hole them into one genera of music.  I was intrigued, dying to hear live music and day drinking – good combo.  Later that night we sat next to a nice guy who asked if this was our first time seeing the band.  When we answered yes he smiled and said “Well, you’re in for a treat.”  He was right.  From the minute Delta Rae took the stage to a cheering crowd and singing “A Happy Life,” their energy was contagious.  I leaned over to Monika after the first song and said “I am SO in.”  Here is how they kicked it off.

It’s very hard to describe the style of music that Delta Rae plays… every song seems to have a different vibe, which I attribute to the fact that almost every member of the band sings lead at some point.  Here is one clip of each band member singing part of a Delta Rae song, which shows off their individual vocal abilities but doesn’t showcase their unique style.  Below I’ll describe each member separately and post a video highlighting each of them.  It’s really the only way for me to properly express the level of talent that exists in this one band.

 

Each band member took time to talk to the crowd before singing, which was endearing.  That’s how I learned from Brittany Hölljes that she, the guitar player Ian & piano player Eric were siblings and that the other lead singer Liz Hopkins was her best friend.   They began as a 4 piece band while in college in North Carolina, then added Mike McKee (percussion) and Grant Emerson (bass guitar) to form the band we were currently seeing that night.  Brittany’s vibe is a mix of Florence Welch & Stevie Nicks and she has a ridiculous amount of stage presence.  You almost can’t believe the strength of her voice at times and she is truly mesmerizing to watch.  Here is a short clip of Brittany I took myself during the encore.  You’ll notice I’m now in the thick of the crowd.  Come on, you knew I wouldn’t be able to stay away from the stage, right??

Liz Hopkin’s voice is crazy strong and she sings what I’d describe as more of the country-sounding songs.  To me, she’s a like a spunky version of Sheryl Crow, Trisha Yearwood & Shania Twain rolled into one.  Picture a tiny girl with big curls and a voice that sounds like Sheryl Crow singing “She’s in Love with the Boy” from the top of a speaker in thigh-high boots.  That’s Liz.  She sang lead for the majority of the set, and kept the energy going.  Here she is singing part of “If I loved You” that night in the Wolf Den.

Ian Holljes spoke lovingly about his wife and explained how he proposed to her on stage during a show.  Sweet, right?  Ian has a quieter stage presence than his siblings, but when he took the lead we were stunned into silence – literally.  He sang a song that took our breath away called “Damn Shame”.  I couldn’t even move to take video.  After he finished Monika looked at me and said “Holy s*** I think we were both in a trance!”  When we got home that moment was still on my mind and I searched and searched for a clip of him singing that song – which was extremely difficult to find.  It seems that Ian singing lead (and specifically that song) doesn’t happen too often, which makes me feel lucky to have been at a show with a set list that showcased him.  Monika eventually found this clip and I’ve wrestled with the decision to post it or not.  The sound quality isn’t great, so you lose some the pureness of Ian’s voice that we heard that night.  In the end, I decided to post it because from the start I’ve made this blog about me and my concert experiences.  How can I not show you the song that blew me away??  Next time I promise to capture the moment, in the moment.  Underneath I’ll also post my own video of Ian singing a faster song that night, during which he continually hopped away from the mic.  Yes, he hopped.  It couldn’t have been cuter and just added to his already charming performance.  I love this kid.

Eric Holljes mostly faced away from us during the set, playing either the piano or guitar.  He was obviously talented and we assumed he had written a bunch of the songs.  Although Eric didn’t sing lead that night, he talked openly about the background for writing the bands current single “No Peace In Quiet” which came out of his recent break up.  It was refreshing to hear such honesty and the song was hauntingly beautiful.  Eric gained my heartfelt respect that night as a musician.  While researching the band for my blog, I was surprised to find a ton of videos and songs featuring Eric as the lead.  I don’t know why he didn’t do any the night we saw them play, but it gives me something new to look forward to for next time.  Here is one of my favorites from what I came across this week.

Delta Rae blew me away.  I had no expectations going in and couldn’t believe my luck in being at the right place, at the right time to find this band.  They have high energy and do fun things like sing swampy sounding songs acapella while hitting drum sticks together or cover Fleetwood Mac & Ed Sheeran.  Each one of them has talent to spare and they showcase that during the set, which keeps it both engaging and diverse.  Although seeing Delta Rae for the first time may have been a happy coincidence, I will be sure to catch them again soon by design – possibly even at Gramercy in May.  I mean, how can I resist a band who claimed to be “saving souls, right in the middle of a casino”?

To hear more Delta Rae songs and see more videos go to:

https://www.youtube.com/user/deltaraeband

For tour dates:

https://www.deltarae.com/

 

 

Adam Ezra, A Ball of Light & Love

Adam Ezra leading the crowd to sing the chorus of The Weight

Artist:  Adam Ezra Group
Place:  TheTowne Crier, Beacon NY
Date:  November 17th, 2017

How can we make the World a better place right now? By creating a million more Adam Ezra’s.  This man is talented, sweet, funny, humble and one of the best artists touring right now – that you surprisingly may not have heard of.  I feel in today’s music landscape,  it’s  hard to classify a musician.  Folk, country, rock, what really fits? Most of the artists I listen to could be classified as more than one of these genres so lately I’ve started to say “singer-songwriter” when asked “What kind of music do they play?”  This is for sure how I would classify Adam Ezra.

Although Adam Ezra has been writing and performing music for over 20 years, I only recently learned of him through a friend who thought he’d be the perfect addition to a charity show we were organizing called Rock the Nest.  Alexis had seen his video for Let Your Hair Down which features cancer survivors and knew immediately he had to be a part of our day.  The event was to benefit a local charity Sparrows Nest which delivers meals to families who have a member undergoing chemo treatment – she was right, he was the perfect fit.

We secured Adam through his booking agent and couldn’t believe our luck in getting him for the date we needed.  As the event drew closer, I got more and more nervous about how it would go.  The first year you try anything is difficult and I didn’t want Adam or his group to feel we were unprepared or even worse – not have fun playing the event.  If you know me, you know I’m a fixer and a perfectionist, which is a deadly combination.  Everything needs to go right and everyone needs to be happy, or in my mind, I have failed.  This can be a pretty stressful way to live, especially when trying to help organize a large event year one… but then 2 days before the show I got a call on my cell that eased all my worries.  Imagine my surprise when I’m sitting at work and a strange number comes up on my phone… I answer (in work mode of course) and a voice says “Is this Janelle?  Hi!  This is Adam Ezra.  Do you have a few minutes to tell me about Sparrows Nest?  We are really excited to play the show and I want to hear all about the charity…”  No, really.  This is pretty much exactly how it went down.   After recovering from the surprise that he was calling me directly – and that it wasn’t a Provider calling because they needed something from me – I began to explain the charity and my personal connection to it.  Within 5 minutes of talking I felt like I’d known Adam forever (something tells me this happens with anyone he talks to) and all my concerns about them playing the show disappeared.  He couldn’t have been nicer, more interested in the charity, or less high-maintenance.  Since they were going to be driving in early, Adam offered to set up their equipment and have the other bands playing before them use it if they like.  Who does that?? Adam does.  So not only has he eased my mind about the show, he’s now making my day run more efficiently? Unbelievable… and little did he know this was the direct way to my heart. Adam then asked if I know the bands playing before him so I could check to see if they would want to use his drum kits or amps, and I replied “As a matter of fact I do…”  This, I believe, is where destiny took over.

The band playing before Adam was my very talented husband, Todd Mihan. (Yes, I’m biased – but he is amazing so although it may be biased, it’s also true.) After explaining to Adam that Todd is my husband, we agreed that I would talk to Todd and get back to Adam later that day about sharing equipment.  We got off the phone and about 15 minutes later Adam texted me for an email so he could shoot me the specs for their drum kit.  I mean, seriously??  Could this guy be any nicer??  Now, I’m still at work so I immediately begin telling everyone in the office how amazing my phone call was and we start watching clips of him, etc.  On a side note, a few more days of this lead to us all calling him my “BFF Adam Ezra.” He now has a title.  Anyway, at some point during our texts later that day I sent Adam a link to Todd’s website.  I wanted him to know that Todd was a serious player and wasn’t booked for the show just because he was married to me.  Being that Adam was playing a show Friday night and driving to us on Saturday, I doubted they would get a chance to check it out – but then Saturday rolls around and Adam gets out of their van, hugs me and says “Is Todd here yet? We’ve been listening to him all day.”  Again, seriously?? Can a human be this nice??  As the day of the event went on, Adam and his players were just amazing.  They rolled with the weather situation (it was a very, very unseasonably cold day which forced Adam to actually have to wear shows for like 95% of the day, the horror!) and stayed out front with crowd the majority of the time enjoying the show and supporting the other bands.  Adam and Todd found each other backstage, became immediate friends and ended up sharing the stage together before the day was through. The crowd LOVED Adam’s performance and my friends are still talking about how impressed they were by his songs, the level of musicianship of his band and Adam’s stage presence.  Unfortunately I do not have video of any of this… I ended up backstage doing “stuff” most of the afternoon and didn’t get to see Adam play one song.  Not even the one I had asked for… ugh.  I’m a moron.  Did I mention that being a perfectionist can get in my way?  So sorry Adam, I know you played it and that truly meant something to me.  At least I got to hear it last night in Beacon, as the first song they played.  I’m not conceited enough to think that Adam actually remembered my request and did that on purpose knowing we were there, but on the off chance that he did – it also wouldn’t surprise me.  He’s that kind of guy.  He’s also the kind of guy who again offers to share the stage with Todd, sends him the song in advance so Todd can prepare for a solo, texts us that night to be sure he’s pronouncing Todd’s last name correctly before we get there and then comes out before the show to make sure Todd gets a line check.  I don’t come across this level of kindness too often – and certainly don’t tend to find it in musicians.  Adam is unique in that his talent is strong enough to keep him confident, yet humble.  This allows him to be completely open to listening to other musicians and allowing experiences such as the clip below to occur.

Adam said during last night’s show that he believes the music they make on stage every night is really a product from all the musicians who have come before him.  In front of a full room of people in attendance just to hear his music, he is still paying homage to his musical inspirations.  Adam then launched into Tom Petty’s Free Falling encouraging us all to sing along.  Am I painting a clear enough picture for you here as to how this human is a huge ball of light and love?  I hope everything you’ve read makes it obvious as to why this blog needed to be different and more personal than my others.  Adam deserves this to be about him as a person just as much as it was about him as a musician.  I guess it was actually more about him as a person, which is fine considering I plan to see him about 1,000 more times.  There will be many more opportunities for me to showcase his music and the outstanding musicians he has touring with him… in the meantime check out Adam’s website for tour dates and videos to see their talent for yourself.

https://www.adamezra.com/videos

https://www.adamezra.com/shows

Looking back at my experience the day of Rock the Nest, what surprises me the most is the calming affect Adam had on me backstage.  He probably had no clue that was happening, but the more time I spent with him, the calmer and happier I was. Although I’m not someone who thinks all things happen for a reason, I’m willing to consider that just maybe this is one of those cases. Maybe it was meant to be that I had a personal reason for supporting Sparrows Nest, which then led to Alexis & I deciding to try and put on a music benefit for them over pedicures. Maybe her choosing Adam to be a part of the event was the universes way of throwing him into our lives. Maybe he & Todd having such similar writing styles and being so compatible means they will share the stage together for many years to come… and maybe I really do have a new BFF in Adam Ezra.