Sunday, September 5, 2010

"I'm with the band"

     One of the highlights of my year is my annual Writer's Jubilee workshops at the E. R. Andrews Elementary School in Morrisville, N.Y. each spring. I've done these for 10 years now, and the young writing enthusiasts always like to quickly cut through my dry subject matter about proper writing techniques so they can hear about my concert coverages and all of the bands I've met and worked with over the years. In a nod to the inspiration of those youngsters, let's take a trip down the long and winding road of my personal Top Five greatest moments in my 17-year music journalism career:

     5.) When Night Ranger rocked Phohl's Beachhouse in Sylvan Beach back in 1995, I was in the front row with camera in hand and notebook at my side to share the festivities with the masses via my "Central New York Spotlight" music column published in the Oneida Dispatch. After their red hot set, the band -- at the time in their too-often-overlooked "Feeding Off the Mojo" era featuring original members Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy plus Gary Moon and David Zajicek -- actually came out to the bar and hung with us, drinking and chatting with the audience. Needless to say, I was glued to the spot as we chatted for hours about the ups and downs of the music business. I wasn't too popular when I rolled in at home at 6 a.m. that morning, but that's another story ...

     4.) Around the same time, we had a young guitar progeny graduate from an area high school, and the following day he and his band Bloodline played a concert with Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. That up-and-coming teen was Joe Bonamassa, and shortly after that story he went on to become world renowned for his virtuoso blues guitar playing and singing. He's already undoubtedly earned more money than I'll ever see, but I can say I knew him way back when he started. Maybe my article even brought him a few new fans.

     3.) In May 2009, I met one of my singing idols, ex-Anthrax lead vocalist Joey Belladonna, who was playing the Syracuse area with guitarist Matt Sanderson and bassist Dave Mickelson in his band Chief Big Way. It's not often someone who has played concerts in front of literally tens of thousands of people would reach out to the fans to play classic rock by his favorite bands in small venues like this, so I immediately started singing his praises via the Internet with stories, pictures and videos. My work in the local music scene had earlier earned me the position as organizer and emcee for the city of Sherrill's Summer Concert series, so with the blessing of our beloved sponsors Joanne, Amanda and Jim from the Gorman Foundation, I hired the power trio for a July 2010 show. A couple of months before the concert, however, Joey rejoined Anthrax and I watched in panic as dates for their tour of Europe were announced beginning in June and getting ever closer to our Sherrill date on July 18. But would you believe it turned out Anthrax was off the week of our show, and Joey, Matt and Dave played a rousing concert in the Silver City that night that brought out one of our biggest crowds ever? Plus suddenly my Chief Big Way stories and videos were picked up by websites around the world, so it was a boon to all of us. He's the man!

     2.) I think all of the music fans who long to be backstage at a concert have never actually been backstage at a concert -- it's really not that much fun and you certainly can't really see much of the show. It's more about boasting about being backstage than anything else, because all of the real action is out in the audience watching the groups ply their craft onstage. Except when I covered the Phish concert, that is, when I spent the evening in the parking lot hanging with the Phishheads. No, I didn't drop any acid with them. Anyways, the one time when I thought being backstage was more fun than being in the audience was when I came across the particularly enticing sight of a favorite rocker -- who has sworn me to secrecy regarding his identity -- perched over a female fan with a Sharpie marker autographing her bare derriere. Needless to say, my keen eye for de-tail compelled me to grab a quick photo of the event. But to my horror, her girlfriend nearby saw the flash and screamed at me, "Don't you dare take that picture!" Uh, too late. She came walking towards me and I thought my own derriere would soon see a good kicking, when suddenly she bent over next to her buddy, dropped her own shorts, and said, "Now go ahead and take the picture." Yes, I still have that photo and no, it's not fit for this blog. Maybe Hef might want to buy it, though.   

     1.) I always try to get my three daughters interested in my musical endeavors, but most often my attempts fall on deaf ears. Not so in August 2001, when I brought then-elementary school-aged Amanda, Gabrielle and Samantha out for the Aaron Carter concert at Darien Lake. If you don't remember Aaron, he was the Justin Bieber of the day and all the young girls loved him. We met Aaron backstage and the girls posed with him for a treasured photo, and we got to watch his soundcheck with a few other lucky tweens who were enthralled by his every note and gesture. I didn't really get the attraction, but the ear-to-ear smiles on the girls' faces after his concert that evening, and little Sam's yelling, "I can't hear anything!" after her first encounter with temporary concert deafness, were priceless.    

     Ah, what a ride it has been. But if you think those were fun times, next up is my list of my five most embarrassing moments in my 17 years in music journalism, including the reason Buck Dharma's mother-in-law will probably never speak to me again, why my Lita Ford pictures were unfit for anyone to see, and the story of meeting one band I would never cover again if they were the last musical combo on the earth.

     To be continued next blog.


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