Wednesday, June 15, 2011

i pretend that i'm burning, burning bright

no matter the situation in my life, there is always a similar thread that runs through the way that i relate to it, and that is music. though i lack the talent and ability to play an instrument or sing, i cope by turning to a song. finding lyrics that i feel i can relate to and music that touches me in a such a deep way brings the entire situation down to a manageable size. i can handle anything if i can play the song that sounds the way i feel, and for those three to five minutes, i have it all under control. and if, when the song ends, i'm still not ready to deal, i just hit repeat, and feel it all again. eventually, i'm strong enough to breathe. 

this coping strategy has never been more exemplified than in my dealing with the death of my Grandma Bulah. easily, i can say that her passing was the most difficult thing that i have dealt with in my entire life. when i first learned that she was gone, i had a three hour drive between me and where i needed to be with my family, and there was only one song that i wanted to hear-- no, really needed to hear --to help me keep it together long enough to make it down the interstate. that song was "burning bright," by Shinedown. 

i remember the first time that i made the relation of that song to my life. it was one of my first Shinedown shows, at the state fair many, many years ago. the show was outside,  and before Brent introduced "burning bright" he told a story about his grandmother and what she had once told him about the stars, stars that were amazingly bright that night to have been in the center of louisville.  he said "my grandmother was the wisest person that i have ever known," and i instantly connected the story of his grandma to my Grandma Bulah, who was, and still is,  without doubt the wisest person i have ever known. (i'll let him explain the rest of his story in the video above.) 

it would only make sense that it would a song by my favorite band that would remind me of my favorite person. i loved all of my grandparents dearly, and was so blessed to have them, but with Grandma Bulah the relationship was different. even when i was little, she was my best friend. as my neighbor, she was often delegated the job of "kelli's babysitter" which meant days of gardening and exploring, nights of slumber parties and popcorn made on the stove, and more memories than i could ever type here. even as i got older, and chose to travel down the hill to her house willingly and not because mom said to, we still did those things as long as she was able. as she neared the end of her life, she could do less and less and our time together consisted mainly of talks in her room. but these talks, about anything and everything, meant just as much or more than our times together in the past. 

today marks the one-year anniversary of her death. as soon as i got into my car this morning, i didn't even turn my radio on. instead i flipped open my cd "suitcase" and pulled out Shinedown's Leave a Whisper. i put it in the cd player and skipped straight through the songs until i heard the notes of the guitar that i was searching for. "burning bright" played, and i cried. the catharsis that comes from hearing that song flooded me, and my eyes flooded accordingly. i cried all the way to work. i cried because i missed her, i cried because i missed so much time that i could have spent with her while she was still here and didn't, i cried because i was angry at god for taking away one of the kindest, sweetest, and just best people that had ever lived, and then cried a little more because i know i shouldn't question things like that. i cried because she won't be at my wedding, because my children won't have the chance to grow up with her like i did. mostly, i just cried because there is such a big hole in my heart, and my life, that my best friend used to fill, where her presence is irreplaceable.  

so until night falls and i can take the advice of Brent and go outside to look for answers in the stars, i will listen to "burning bright" and just remember. and cry. and question. and somehow, like i have done everyday for the past year, i will find a way to be ok. in her infinite wisdom, Grandma Bulah taught me how to be a strong, independent, intelligent, and generally good human. though she may not be here in body anymore, her spirit will live through me and all those who's lives she touched forever. i'm so lucky to have had the time with her that i did, but it doesn't make her being gone any easier. until i can handle this day, i'm going to hit repeat one more time...

i love you, and i miss you so much -- <3 kelli ann



Friday, June 10, 2011

Hinder, Red, Kopek, & Royal Bliss [review]

May 8, 2011
Buster's Billiards and Backroom

Buster's brought the rock to Lexington, Kentucky once again on Sunday, May 8 with a party of a show that featured fresh music from fresh bands Royal Bliss and Kopek, road veterans Red, and the kings of outta control rock show parties, Hinder.

Royal Bliss

Royal Bliss, an up-and-coming band from Salt Lake City, kicked off the night. The venue was still pretty empty at the start of their set, but they played their hearts out to the small die-hard crowd that was there for the long-haul. Their tight set was full of solid rock songs, including a new one about love makin’ called “I Got This”.  The stage show wasn’t wild with tons of jumping and running, but the music was good and the show was entertaining and a great start to the evening.


Kopek got their set off to a start with “Fever” and set the tone for what would be an awesome show. Ripping guitars, a beat that kicked with a rockin' slow groove, and the raw but seductive vocals got the crowd ready from the start.
 The band hails from Ireland and have only been in the US a year, singer Daniel Jordan said, but their song “Cocain Chest Pains” has already garnered a good amount of attention and radio play. Jordan was a tiny little Irishman, but had a raw, rough voice and a scream that he used just enough.  Bassist Brad Kinsella never stopped moving, and just helped to raise the level of energy that the band was giving to the crowd and filling the room with.

The tribute to all their musical heroes, “Rock is Dead”, came later in the set and featured a wildly fun vibe that got the crowd dancing like crazy. The timing of the song was perfect- Just as the booze was kicking in, the crowd was getting loose and ready to dance and party, and that song just pushed their adrenaline (and buzz) even higher. The band let loose with their closing song, “Cocain Chest Pains”  and it was a killer ending to a killer set from a band that is destined to soon be a big force in rock. 


If there was ever a band that epitomized the word underrated, it is RED. These Nashville boys have the talent and style that should have led them to be so much bigger than they are now, and it seriously blows my mind RED isn't one of modern rock's biggest entities. They have it all: a high caliber of musicality, an intense stage show, and even the look of straight-up rock stars. 

Their set at Buster's was packed with strong, hard rocking songs, but really came to it's pinnacle with the songs "Breathe Into Me" and "Death of Me." The crowd sand along to every word, and the band was giving back just as much energy as the crowd was feeding to them. 

Singer Michael Barnes spent the show running about the stage, in rock star poses that must have been a photographer's dream to shoot. Guitarist and bassist Anthony and Randy Armstrong and drummer Joe Rickard played steadily with a serious intensity, and together the band formed a maelstrom of Jesus-loving rock.

RED's set was mind-blowing, face-melting, and -insert any other adjective for completely awesome here-. Several unfortunate people may have shown up at the show not knowing who RED was, but it was guaranteed that after the amazing performance that night, no one left without a permanent memory of a truly great band.   


By the time that Hinder finally hit the stage, the house was packed and the huge crowd was more than warmed up and ready for Hinder and their All American Nightmare.

  The show started off in the same way the new album does, with the low and slow intro of "2 Sides of Me" that slams into the growl of singer Austin Winkler's vocals, drumming and hair slinging of Cody Hanson, bass by Mike Rodden, and guitars by Mark King and Blower (who, as a side note, i decided that night that i was completely and totally in love with--Blower, i love you. call me). 

The band powered through the majority of All American Nightmare, playing favorites such as "What You Gonna Do" and "Put That Record On". Older hits, like the infamous "Lips of an Angel" also had spots on the set list, taking the audience on a roller coaster ride from the upbeat songs that made everyone dance like crazy to slower jams that brought the mood to a more mellow level. 

Those slower down times never lasted long, though, before Winkler and the boys kicked it through the roof again. The highlight of the show, though, came in the encore. That's when Hinder busted out their most noted-for song, "Get Stoned" as well as a fan favorite from Nightmare, "Bad Mutha F****". During it, the band pulled out the acoustics (even the drummer, who had a Cajon drum box that he sat on and played) and had an intimate sing along with a few hundred of their friends. The song was absolutely hilarious, and a real treat to hear it live. Winkler was noticeably ashamed (as he probably should be) and bewildered at the amount of love that the song got, but he and the rest of the boys seemed to have a blast playing it live.     

As usual, Hinder put on one hell of a show, exactly what you would expect from guys who seem like they are living the rock-n-roll dream, or as they put it, an all American nightmare. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Seether/ My Darkest Days/ Red Jumpsuit Apparatus [review]

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Buster's Billiards & Backroom

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus  opened the show with a less than stellar performance. Even their most recognizable hit, "Face Down", was a disappointment with singer Ronnie Winter giving disappointing performance vocally.

More interesting than the show was my analysis of wardrobe. The drummer must have know about Lexington's love for 'jorts' because he was rocking a pair. Well, rocking implies that they looked good on him, and they most certainly did not. Let's just say he was attempting to wear them. I understand, drumming gets hot, with all the physical activity and such, but some people just aren't meant to go shirtless on stage. And the way he was licking his drumsticks was uncomfortable, and just unsanitary...and really just freaked me out, to be honest. Overall, the performance was pretty unenjoyable and not something I ever plan to take part of again. 

My Darkest Days

My Darkest Days swept in and saved the show from the downward spiral that RJA had sent the night into. Playing what are sure to be hits from their self-titled album, the band blew the audience away with one of the best live shows I have seen from a new band in a very, very long time. When I initially heard "Porn Star Dancing" on the radio, I admit I was not a fan, especially when I heard about their Chad Kroeger connection. Here's another Nickelback, I assumed, with songs about strippers and general debauchary that seem to be the theme of a majority of Kroeger's lyrics. I listened to their other songs online, though, and realized I was right about the Nickelback similarity, but in a completely different way. MDD has that radio-friendly, catchy-as-hell quality that will likely boost them to a level of popularity close to that of their Canadian brethren.

        Playing songs like "Move Your Body" and "Set It On Fire" led the crowd to do both of those things, in a almost uncontrollably way. People were moving to the beat, swaying hips and nodding heads, and all the friction from the movement and heat radiating off the bodies really made it feel like the room was truly in flames.
MDD had some of the greatest crowd interaction I've seen, ever, and are now on the list of best live bands I've seen, just because of the simple little things they did to draw the audience in. They were there to entertain the people and gain new fans, and it was literally almost impossible not to fall in love with them and their music. It's rare these days to find a band that not only has high-quality musicians who can actually sing and play live, but who also can put on a kick-ass concert that showcases their well written and just all around really good songs. It's hard not to get a little jaded or complacent with the bands out today who all sound similar and play a set that is just another unmemorable 45 minutes of your life. My Darkest Days re-energized me and my love for live shows, reminding me that there actually are new bands out there that are worth getting behind. They gained at least one new fan that night, but I'd say there are a lot more than me that crossed over to the MDD side.      


Seether has a live show is the antithesis of My Darkest Days. Gone from the stage was the fun, party atmosphere, conversations with the crowd, and leading of chants and those sometimes distracting frills. For Seether, the show was truly all about the music.

"Country Song"

They kicked off their set with "Fur Cue", the first song from their latest album, Holding On to Stings Better Left to Fray. Though the song hadn't even been released at the time of the show, it was a perfect start to their set. More familiar songs, like "Needles" and "Fine Again" came next, and the latter song had the walls of Buster's echoing not just with the sound from the band but from almost every member of the audience singing the words. It was one of those moments that gives you chills and makes your heart flutter a little. It took my mind back to what Brent Smith always says at the beginning of a Shinedown show, that while that particular concert is happening, nothing else in the world matters. It's just you, the music, and the other people in the room. That night, everyone in the sold-out crowd was truly connected by the words of the song and the sounds of the instruments. It was a moment that can only happen at a concert, a piece of time when, even if you've come to the concert completely alone, you find that you are still intertwined with a room full of people you don't even know. It's an amazing feeling, and one of the best parts of a live show. Seether is a master at this type of production. 

If you're at a Seether show, then you know you're going to hear the song "Broken". As a way of mixing up what has to be one of the millionth times the boys have played the song, they turned it into 'Uncle Dalington's Story Hour' named after guitarist Dale Stewart, where a table was rolled out, complete with red tablecloth, fine leather-bound books, and lit candles. It was a fun change to hearing the song, and it was obvious that the band was enjoying themselves.

I had heard talk of the illusive Seether cover of Nirvana and just how much Shaun Morgan could sound just like Kurt Cobain. Not until that night at Buster's, though, did i have the privilege of hearing it for myself. When the first notes of "Heart Shaped Box" rang out, the audience came alive like a shock had simultaneously rang through everyone. The similarity in the vocals was uncanny. It's probably the closest to hearing Nirvana live I'll ever get, unless I see the Foo Fighters and they do a cover, but the voice still won't be that similar. It was a serious moment for me, and an awesome one at that.

"Heart Shaped Box" 

Later the band jammed into "Fake It," with an extended intro that had such a strong and fun groove the even Morgan and Stewart couldn't resist having fun with it. They broke into grins that covered their entire faces. It was proof that they absolutely love what they are doing.

Seether isn't a band that's going to talk a lot to the audience and really try to pump them up like My Darkest Days. For Morgan and the boys, it's all about the music and their fans appreciate that. They have mind-blowing musical talent, and even though they aren't leading the crowd to wave their hands in the air or to simultaneously jump up and down, the show is still intense and amazing. They are an unforgettable band to watch play live, and a must- see if you are a rock fan. Buster's was a perfect venue for them, with the smaller size making the audience feel close and a really connected to the band.

Aside from the rocky start, it was yet another great evening of rock at the best place to see live music in Lexington. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ramble On -- June 8

you can't always get what you want-- the rolling stones
 Every since I read Keith Richards' book, I have been slightly obsessed with The Stones. I heard this song on my way to work, and it has been stuck in my head all day. Take a listen for your dose of one of the classics.  

take it on the run-- reo speedwagon
 I also heard this song on my way to work (it was a surprisingly good morning for radio in the G6 this morning). I turned it up real loud, rolled my windows down, and confused all those in hearing range-"why is that young girl listening to that song??" Well, the answer is simple: it's 'cause it's awesome. Don't even try and argue with me. If you've heard it, then you know it is a catchy song that you can't help but like. You may be too embarrassed to admit it, but you love the REO Speedwagon, too!  

ghosts of days gone by-- alter bridge

I have always had major respect for Alter Bridge, ever since Myles Kennedy grabbed the mic and belted out that song in the movie "Rock Star". (Ok, that's actually untrue. I really was a fan of AB long before I even knew that was Myles in the movie, but the other statement sounds much more intense, so I'm gonna go with it.) "Ghosts of Days Gone By" is the latest single off ABIII, and is quite honestly one of Alter Bridge's best songs they have ever put out. It combines all the elements that make the band such a staple of modern rock. The mind-blowing vocal talents of Kennedy are showcased, the amazing and under-rated guitaring (yes, i did in fact make that word up) of Mark Tremonti, and the deep and meaningful lyrics that are to be expected from the band. It's a really great song, and in addition to "Isolation", it has convinced me to go out and buy ABIII.      

 astounded-- tantric

On Sunday night Tantric will be playing a show super-close to my hometown, and after they thoroughly impressed me at their show in Lexington a few months back (i blogged about it. if you haven't read it, seriously do. short summary: first tour bus experience, great band, great show. it's an entertaining read to say the least.) Anyway, this is just one song from the really solid Tantric that is also a great buy.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

There's something magical about getting a new cd....

If done the right way, it's an experience unlike any other purchasing endeavor. For me, it is a delicate process that's taken years to perfect, with a strict pattern I always follow. Maybe it's a little bit of my obsessive-compulsive side coming out, maybe it's a little crazy. Whatever it is, it's a pattern I follow to a tee, and makes me ridiculously happy each and every time. 

Before I begin my new album buying venture, I have to know what I'm looking for. Wandering around and just getting whatever music looks good just won't work. This is a premeditated act, one planned out, researched and not just done on a whim. It's serious business we're talking here.

Once I know what i'm looking for, whether it be a new cd that just came out or an older piece I want to add to my collection, I hop in the car and head to Best Buy. I am a creature of habit, sometimes even to extreme levels, and the location of my music purchases are no exception. Yes, yes, I know, I should support local record stores and all that. And I would love to. But it's the habit thing, I just can't break it. (Obsessive-compulsive much? Don't say I didn't warn ya.) And hey, at least it's not Wal-Mart. (I won't buy music there anyway because they only sell edited copies. If I'm paying $13 for a product, then I want my $13 worth.  You wouldn't buy a shoe with the strings removed as a way to protect you from tripping on them, would you? No. And I won't buy a cd with words removed to "protect" my ears. I'm a big girl, I can take it. Give me my cd, cussin' and all.) 

So I walk in to Best Buy. I go straight to the cd I want, grab it, and head to the checkout counter. "Yes, I do have a reward zone membership." Swipe debit card, no bag necessary, stuff receipt in pocket, walk toward the doors, and reply to the nice man, "You have wonderful day yourself, Sir." By the time I have walked out the sliding doors, the corner of the cd is in my mouth, trying to rip into that first plastic layer of defense that's keeping from my new music. 

Now this outer casing isn't too much of an obstacle. I just use my little vampire tooth (don't even act like you don't know what I'm talking about- it's the sharp pointy one with a name I don't know because I'm not a dentist) to rip one of those top corners. A little tear begins in the thin plastic, and the claws come out to rip it all off in one piece. But now comes the hard part. I swear, I don't know what kind of glue they use on the sticker that holds the case shut, but it must be a close relative to crazy clue or maybe even that epoxy stuff. All I know is that it makes me insane trying to take it off! There is no easy way to remove the bar code/band name branding; and don't even think that pulling where you are directed to pull really helps. It doesn't. The vampire tooth might come out again, which only scratches the case, so I don't recommend that, but if worse comes to worst, I understand the necessity. Fingernail polish is chipped, teeth as well, and 15 minutes later, the first little piece of the plastic is lifted enough to grab a hold of. Elation fills my head, only to be crushed when the tiny corner piece I'm gripping goes rogue and only a tiny sliver rips off, leaving most of the sticker still stuck. At the point of tears, I try once more, grabbing a bigger piece this time, and gently pull the rest of it off. Thirty minutes have passed since I got into the car, my fingers are bleeding, and my head hurts from concentrating so hard but all the trouble is finally worth it. I pop open the case, breathe deep and fill my nose and my lungs with that new cd smell, put the disc into the player, and crank the volume up. 

It is my belief that the car is the best place to listen to music. For the first listen, you gotta leave the windows rolled up. (After this first listen, it is more than acceptable to roll the windows down, turn the music up even louder, and cause older pedestrians and more cautious drivers to shake their heads in disdain and scrutiny of your ear damaging level of decibels--Ignore them, they're just old. Hence the old saying, "If it's too loud...".) In the car, every little sound is trapped and bounced right back at you. If you are capable of sitting still with your eyes closed for long periods of time (not while the car is in motion, of course) then this would make the experience much better. If you're like me, though, and the only time you can sit still with the eyes closed is when you're sleeping, then just put the car into drive, and take off.
And don't get crazy and start skipping around through the songs the first time. They were carefully chosen to be in that order, and that's the way it's meant to be heard!

One of the main reasons that I choose to buy the actual cd instead of an online version is the book that comes inside the case. I have to open it up, look at the pictures, and then: read the the band's thank you's. I love seeing who they credit with their success, who they thank and who they love. It makes me so happy see how real these people I idolize are, and makes me feel pretty good about giving my money to a group of guys who I feel pretty close to at this point. I read the lyrics as I hear the words, some for the first time, but most definitely not for the last time.   

This may all sound a little more than crazy to you. But when you take music as seriously as I do, then buying new albums becomes serious business. There is little room to stray when there are so many opportunities to ruin the experience. Whether you take it to the level of ocd that I have reached, or simply download an album from itunes, just be sure to buy music. Life is short. You never know how many more moments you have to experience something as pure, deep, and emotionally stirring as listening to new music. Find a new artist or album and fall in love with it, and create your own listening traditions. Hopefully they will become as important to you as they are to me <3