slash

Of COURSE I had to read Slash by Slash last month! I tried to finish before going to his concert in Denver for our anniversary, but ended up finishing just in time for Halloween. Blurb from Goodreads:

For the first time ever, Slash tells the tale that has yet to be told from the inside: how the legendary band Guns N’ Roses came together, how they wrote the music that defined an era, how they survived insane, never-ending tours, how they survived themselves, and, ultimately, how it all fell apart. Slash is a window into the world of the notoriously private guitarist and a front seat on the roller-coaster ride that was one of history’s greatest rock n’ roll machines, always on the edge of self-destruction, even at the pinnacle of its success. Slash is everything Slash is: funny, honest, ingenious, inspiring, jaw-dropping… and, in a word, excessive.

This book is a little nuts. I was expecting more, I guess, based on the near-500 page length—more insight into his addictions and interpersonal relationships, more about his guitars and development as a player. His Guns N’ Roses anecdotes, when he goes on tangents about his guitars, and the touring are definitely the best, most engaging parts of the book. It was great to listen along to GNR’s Appetite for Destruction and the Use Your Illusion discs as I was reading about their process in writing those songs and recording the albums. Time and again Slash didn’t seem to be deeply affected by his demons, especially his drug abuse. “I OD’d and was dead for a few minutes which sucked, but then I kicked again, NDB.” That’s how some of those stories read to me. There are a few weird moments where Slash repeats or contradicts himself (saying he doesn’t “remember exactly” what was said, and then not five words later claiming “but I’ll never forget” what was said. Huh? Maybe co-writer Anthony Bozza dropped the ball on that, or the editors).

Slash is personable and down-to-earth, considering his fantastic journey and rock n’ roll lifestyle. Slash was a fun book that was compulsively readable. The chapters are lengthy, but the sections in each chapter are not, making it easy to pick up and read a bit here and there easily. Any fan of Slash, GNR, old-school rock, or rock music biographies and memoirs would enjoy Slash. Of course, Slash has accomplished a lot since its publication (2007), and continues to write, record, and tour. Despite my wanting a little more depth in general, in the end, I felt like I was hanging out with Slash and he was telling me his stories from life and the road, which is just what you expect from a rock memoir. It was an awesome warm-up to get me pumped for the concert last month!

Read from October 1 to 31, 2015.

set this world on fire

Slash (© mylittleheartmelodies), 10/16/15, Fillmore Auditorium, DenverNick and I celebrated our 5-year wedding anniversary on October 16. Concerts were a big part of our anniversary always, starting on our actual wedding DAY; after the courthouse ceremony and dinner with family and friends who were in town, I played a concert with Civic Orchestra. The second year… I played a concert with Civic! The third and fourth years we were apart—I was at a funeral one year and he was away at a composer residency the next (and I went to a Yo-Yo Ma concert in KC). So THIS year, for our fifth, we decided we needed to do something awesome, and seeing SLASH live in concert was absolutely the most perfect way to celebrate.

Nick got World on Fire last summer, Slash’s latest CD featuring his new band, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Nick was a composer fellow at a music festival for the month of July, and for some reason I just felt like giving this CD a spin. I fell in LOVE. Seriously just went crazy for it and could not stop listening. I had it in the car on repeat for weeks. I played it at least once a day in full at my desk during work. I watched all the YouTube videos I could find. It’d been a long time since I was so obsessed with an album—years. I couldn’t help look up Slash online and saw he was still touring World on Fire, but sadly he wasn’t coming through KC (of course we missed him at the Voodoo Lounge here in summer 2014! We didn’t know about the album then, though). The closest options were Louisville (midweek, not good), Minneapolis (weekend, but sold out and we had a conflict in KC anyway), and Denver… ON OUR ANNIVERSARY, Friday, October 16. We looked at our calendars and saw no conflicts, so we went for it.

That Friday night, we got to the Fillmore Auditorium at 5 pm and got in line. We were among the first people there—the doors didn’t open until more than two hours later. First things first, as soon as we got in there we bought matching tour shirts, then found a spot close to the stage. The opening band, Raven Eye, was decent but we were just so pumped for Slash we could barely hold onto our patience.

The Conspirators set was SO AMAZING. Again it’d been years since I’d been to a concert like this, getting as close as possible to the stage; this was a much-needed night of rocking out. The band played a lot of tracks off World on Fire, of course, but also mixed in songs from Apocalyptic LoveSlash, and several Guns N’ Roses tunes and even a Velvet Revolver tune, too. Here’s the set list:

1. You’re a Lie | 2. Nighttrain | 3. Avalon | 4. Standing in the Sun | 5. Back from Cali | 6. Wicked Stone | 7. Too Far Gone | 8. You Could Be Mine | 9. Doctor Alibi | 10. Welcome to the Jungle | 11. Beneath the Savage Sun | 12. Mr. Brownstone | 13. The Dissident | 14. Rocket Queen | 15. Bent to Fly | 16. Word on Fire | 17. Anastasia | 18. Sweet Child O’ Mine | 19. Slither (with Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love”) | Encore: Paradise City

One major thing I loved about this show was that Slash didn’t play everything just exactly as you hear on the albums. He would start off a solo with the familiar strains we all know, but soon would expand on those ideas in epic improvisations that I could have watched and listened to all night. It’s hard to put into words! He really let loose the most during a several minutes-long solo on “Rocket Queen,” which was just incredible.

Not only was Slash super awesome, the whole band was fun to watch as well. Myles Kennedy has just the right type of voice for this music—versatile, melodic, emotionally charged—and it’s clear that he and Slash have an indelible musical chemistry that I hope lasts for many more years. The other members of the Conspirators were equally cool. Bassist Todd Kerns stood out, though, singing lead on “Doctor Alibi” and “Welcome to the Jungle.” I really wish we had been able to catch one of his picks he tossed out to the crowd!

It was a night to remember—I was still buzzing about it for days after (still now, even!). I almost can’t believe I finally got to see Slash, a living guitar legend that, as a musician and guitar nerd, I’ve admired for years. It was such a thrill. And I couldn’t have imagined a better way to mark our fifth anniversary; there’s no one else I would have rather experienced it with than my rock star husband. 🙂

it’s monday! what are you reading?

WELL. How is it possibly the end of October already?? So much has happened and IS happening. This time of year is always busy. I have been reading a bunch, but hardly finishing anything. One thing I did finish that I’ve been working on the past month is this drawing, a gift for my husband for our 5-year anniversary on October 16:

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Not bad for my first drawing in like six years, eh? Just pencil and paper, nothing fancy. I think it took me about 30 hours. This is a portrait of Werner Herzog, an influential, esoteric filmmaker whose work we enjoy. Nick was at a composer residency the whole month of September, and he said he drew something for me, so I was inspired. It was a great way to pass the time while he was gone, very cathartic and fun to draw again. I realized I had never done a drawing for him, it was about time! I want to draw more!

Rehearsals have started in full, taking me out of the house a few nights a week after work. I’ve also had two family visits and a few concerts these recent weekends… either playing in them myself or ones I’m working for my “day job.” And LAST weekend, my husband and I went to Denver to celebrate our anniversary… with a SLASH concert. It was epic! I have forthcoming posts about the concert and trip planned for this week, stay tuned!

Watching…

ROYALS! It’s so exciting to see them back in the World Series again! Game 1 is tomorrow night here in KC. While I was working on that drawing, I “rewatched” (had on in the background) almost all of The Sopranos on DVD. Damn, that was a great show. Nick and I also recently saw The Martian in 3D at the cinema—better than the book, and the book was great! We’re also getting back into The Walking DeadAmerican Horror Story, and The Last Man on Earth. Happy to see Tandy’s beard is back this season! I have EverestSelma, and Black Mass (even though I didn’t finish the book yet) on my list.

Reading…

Speaking of Slash, I’m still reading his autobiography, Slash. About halfway through at the moment. It’s a bit of a chunkster! I’ve also dabbled a bit in Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot (I don’t kid myself that I’ll be anywhere near finished by the end of the #SalemAlong), and I have a copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last from the library that I’m going to have to renew here soon since I’m only a few pages in so far. Nick and I also listened to the audiobook version of Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari during our Denver road trip.

Listening…

Still really enjoying our turntable. I have a bunch of classic rock records, and Nick is building a decent collection of all sorts of metal on vinyl. Stuff by Slash, of course, with his new band Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators (Apocalyptic LoveWord on Fire), his eponymous first solo album, and revisiting Guns N’ Roses albums like Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion.

This past weekend I dug out my copy of the Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and gave it a listen, after seeing that Friday (October 23) was the 20th anniversary of its original release. I still remembered all the lyrics! My dad took me to see them on this tour in October 1996, their stop at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. What a great show, great memories!

I wanted to jump in on this week’s It’s Monday, what are you reading? despite my not exactly reading (or rather, finishing) much lately. What are you reading this week?

my cross to bear

I was turned on to My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman when it first came out and I bought a copy for my dad for Father’s Day… only to find he had already gotten it for himself! I exchanged it for a different gift, but then couldn’t resist when I saw it on sale on iBooks a while ago. From Goodreads:

As one of the greatest rock icons of all time, Gregg Allman has lived it all and then some. For almost fifty years, he’s been creating some of the most recognizable songs in American rock, but never before has he paused to reflect on the long road he’s traveled. Now, he tells the unflinching story of his life, laying bare the unvarnished truth about his wild ride that has spanned across the years.

I had fun reading My Cross to Bear. Sure, it’s not the most eloquently written, but it is authentic to Allman’s conversational voice and I think it would be even better on audiobook, if he’s the narrator! You get more of a feeling of kickin’ back with Allman and him telling you stories from his life he feels like telling. He comes across as salt of the earth, humble, and a bit mystified at his dumb moves and astounding luck. Allman was, is, and forever will be a Good Ol’ Boy who just wants to play music, man. The chapter on his brother Duane Allman’s death was heartbreaking. I loved when he talked about his songwriting, recording iconic albums and some of the stories behind them, and playing gigs both small and large. He’s honest about his shortcomings and a father, and his drug and alcohol abuse, however…

Since he went there, I found myself wanting more depth on recounting his drug abuse and rehab. And while I wasn’t shocked or surprised by Allman’s experiences with women (lots of girls, lots of wives, etc.—it’s totally a boy’s club throughout the whole book), I would’ve appreciated more introspection here, too, especially on his six failed marriages, which he basically attributes to the wives all being crazy or expecting him to change. It doesn’t matter that the marriages ended, it happens, but I mean, who’s the common denominator here, bud? You’ll take no responsibility for what went down here? Just sayin’.

One thing I made sure to do as I read the book was to listen to the albums he talked about. It was wonderful to have them as background to the stories, especially the early stuff—Idlewild SouthAt Fillmore EastEat a PeachBrothers and Sisters. My dad loves the Allman Brothers—Duane is his all-time favorite guitarist—so listening along brought back great memories of our shared love for music. I forgot how much about these albums and Duane I already knew thanks to my dad!

Bottom line—not the most in-depth account of the history of the Allman Brothers, but a great, easy summer read after which you’ll feel like you just hung out with one of America’s living rock legends, which is pretty damn cool.

ETA: Fun facts I just remembered to include—I share a birthday with Gregg Allman (Dec. 8) and I saw The Allman Brothers Band in Madison, Wisconsin, August 2000! Awesome.

My Cross to Bear is my sixth of twelve books read for my Ebook Challenge.

Read from June 29 to July 29, 2015.

just kids

I’m on a rock bender lately! Maybe it’s my awesome new turntable stereo I just got set up. In addition to reading Gregg Allman’s My Cross to Bear (almost done!) I started reading Just Kids by Patti Smith on my iPad. From Goodreads:

In Just Kids, Patti Smith’s first book of prose, the legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work—from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.

I am in the middle on this book. While I loved the illuminating look at life of the starving artist in New York City in the 70s, and I can totally identify with being in an artist-artist relationship, being each other’s muses, supporting each other, etc. There’s a lot of name-dropping—Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, and numerous other artists, poets, and musicians—but that’s part of the allure of this book. Just Kids was a beautiful, loving tribute to Mapplethorpe. The last section about their last conversations and his death were intimate, poetic, and heartbreaking.

There is a lot to love about this book, however at times it felt weirdly sincere AND contrived at the same time. Does that make sense? I feel like, I can forgive her romanticism of New York and her relationship with Mapplethorpe, but that she was so naive about the lifestyle (drugs, mostly) and 70s NYC arts scene in general is hard to believe. There was a lot of “this happened, then this, and I did that, and he did this.” Her language is just a little too antiquated for me too, trying to hard to be poetic maybe. On one hand, I enjoyed listening to this on audiobook better, read by Smith (I split it up this time between audio and ebook), but I had to speed it up to 1.5x because it was a slog at normal speed.

If you can get past the quibbles I had, then I’m sure you’d like Just Kids. I do think it’s a must-read for fans of Smith and Mapplethorpe, or who want to live vicariously through two gifted artists in 1970s New York City.

Just Kids is my fifth of twelve books read for my Ebook Challenge.

Read/listened from July 22 to 24, 2015.

hozier at liberty hall

On Monday night I headed back out to Lawrence, Kansas to see Hozier perform at Liberty Hall. I’ve been a fan ever since I first saw his Tiny Desk Concert on NPR last May. When I saw he had a concert coming up just a 40-minute drive away I had to get tickets!

My friend Lee and I got to Lawrence around 5 p.m. After a quick bite we waited in line (which snaked around the corner and down the block) for about an hour. It was pretty cold, but not unseasonable for late February—some kids in line were snuggled up on the ground in sleeping bags! Not quite as cold as a Packer game, though 😉

hozier 2pic 1The opening band, Ásgeir, was okay. A band from Iceland, its sound and vibe was in the same vein as sigur rós and Bon Iver. It was a pleasant enough 25-minute set, but I wasn’t blown away. All the pieces pretty much sounded the same. Today I read more about this band and discovered its kind of a big deal in Iceland, so I’m a little surprised they didn’t have more of an impact.

Hozier and his six-piece band took the stage at about 9 p.m. “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” opened the set, followed by four more uptempo songs including Lee’s favorite (“From Eden,” surely Hozier’s next radio hit) and my two (current!) favorites, “Jackie and Wilson” and “Someone New.” Hozier’s stage presence at a live show is completely different than what I’ve seen on TV—he’s much more energized and engaging live, though still possessing a modest, earnest demeanor.

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The pacing of the concert was just a little awkward in spots, especially placing a few solemn and solo tunes right in the middle (“In a Week,” “Like Real People Do”). “In a Week”—a voice duet plus acoustic guitar, Hozier performed this one with his cellist Alana Henderson—was stunning and held the crowd spellbound. “Illinois Blues,” a Delta blues legend Skip James song which Hozier explained was an inspiration to him when he first started learning music, unfortunately was a dud in the eyes of the crowd. I loved it, though! It really showed off Hozier’s fingerpicking skills and depth of musicianship. I think I might have been the only person in the room singing along to that one…

Saving the pièce de résistance for last, closing his set with his massive hit “Take Me to Church.” The crowd went bananas for it, as expected. Personally, I can take or leave this song by now—I’m over it, and judging by his slightly phoned-in performance it appears Hozier might be as well. It’s certainly not the best song on his debut album! Not even close.

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After a short break, Hozier returned for a short encore set, which included “Cherry Wine,” “Run,” and the Amerie cover “1 Thing.” Is there anything this man can’t turn to gold?? His cover was better than the original by leaps and bounds. If Hozier doesn’t have time to come up with new material because of his ridiculously intense touring schedule this year he could release an album of covers next—I’d buy the hell out of that.

It had been a long time since I attended a rock concert like this, and I while I had a blast on Monday night and Hozier put on a great show, I remember now why I don’t go out of my way much for them anymore, especially for new, hot artists. Hozier is so much more than the pop machine through which he’s currently being fed. That voice—swoon! I think he has real, natural talent and depth that you just don’t really see much in pop anymore.

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But, you have to play the game, and you “have to give the people what they want,” as the saying goes, so Hozier did just that. He played every track off his debut album, plus a couple of extras associated with the album, in exactly the way you hear them on the album. I just wanted a bit more performance-wise—he’s obviously got the guitar and vocal chops, why not rock a wailing guitar solo or two? Why not spice up a last chorus with some melodic variance? Of course, that said, I don’t know him and I don’t know whether he likes or wants to improvise at all, but I’d be surprised if not given his propensity for traditional blues, gospel, and old-school soul and R&B.

He was really fantastic in person, and I loved seeing more personality come out in his live show (and I LOVED that he totally ignored the ridiculous, desperate shouts of “I love you, Andrew!” “I love you more!” HAHAH shut down!) He was classy, charming, and an excellent showman. If you have a chance to catch Hozier on tour this year, don’t hesitate!!