Monday, April 21, 2014

Meister's Monsters of Rock Cruise 2014 #15-Sunday

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 Wow, these daily diaries are a ton of work to do!  I've now been off the boat and back in The Great White North for more than two weeks and I'm just now getting around to day #2 aboard ship!  I'm going to try my best to condense my ramblings here in hopes that I can complete this project before 2015's cruise and besides many of you have already "heard" the highlights via the Decibel Geek Podcast episode #132 that Chris and Aaron had me as a guest for, thanks boys that was a lot of fun as well!

The morning started with some breakfast and a morning beer, of course only light beers before noon for me, not sure what time Kate started the Patron Parade!  The idea of gathering the "EH" Team was to congregate for a huge Canadian Contingent photo aboard ship and the plan was to do it at the
Some of the "EH" Team
KiLLeR DWaRfS show at noon in the Pantheon Theatre.  That show time was changed after we had set the time and place and without the ability (wifi very expensive aboard ship) to contact the group I decided to hope for the best.  We had a turn out of about 25 of the 60 person Canuck team, which is not too bad considering the time changes confusion, the ship being in the port of Nassau Bahamas, and general drunken forgetfulness!  The photo was later submitted as a countdown shot, one of the first ones counting down until we do it all again in 2015.

Janet Gardner-photo by Brian Ronald
The first live event of the day for me was Vixen in the Pantheon Theater, rescheduled from the rain cancellation the previous night.  Vixen took over the noon time slot from Loudness, who had originally taken the slot from the KiLLeR DWaRfS.  The ladies led the charge with "Rev It Up!" featuring Michael Lardie on the keys and followed up with "How Much Love".  By the time they began their third song selection of "Bad Reputation" it was apparent that the ladies were not easing up and planned to rock the theater as if it was a night show instead of the first of the day.  The memories of last year came rushing back as I recalled just how much they had impressed me on the previous cruise and obvious that they were setting out to do the very same again!  I can't wait to see Share, Roxy, Janet and Gina on two back to back nights in May when they visit The Rockpile in Toronto.  All the usual set list suspects came out
Roxy Petrucci-photo by Brian Ronald
 to play including "Cryin'", "I Want You to Rock Me" (which showcased a medley of covers in the middle like "Pour Some Sugar On Me", "Kiss Me Deadly", "I Love Rock n Roll", "Here I Go Again" and "Paradise City"), "Streets In Paradise", "Love Is a Killer", "Never Say Never", "Hell Raisers", "Wrecking Ball" and "Edge of a Broken Heart" wrapping up the set.  We were also treated to bassist Share Ross' vocal stylings on a cover of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" that helped round out an excellent start to the day.

Having been to Nassau a few times previously and quite frankly not being impressed I chose to remain on the ship and finally take in some of the other events aside from the rock shows that are offered on the MOR Cruise.  "Cooking with Rockstars" and "So You Think You Can Shred" both took place in the afternoon, but once again I succeeded in missing the non-concert events as I enjoyed an afternoon with some newly made "EH" Team friends and of course ice cold adult beverages.  Maybe next year I'll finally get to some of these other events!

Akira Takasaki-photo by Brian Ronald
Loudness, after several ugly rumors were circulating prior to embarkation that they would not be aboard the vessel, were indeed present and accounted for, handling the sail away concert as we headed away from Nassau and back out into open waters.  A fitting song as I'm sure it's what was in store for this evening, "Crazy Nights" led the way, blazing a trail that saw tracks from early albums to recent recordings and even from the forthcoming release.  The newer material sounds a little more melodic than the past few albums and I eagerly await the new effort from "The Land of the Rising Sun".  I was able to catch the lovely Roxy Petrucci (Vixen drummer) for a quick photo as I was leaving the Loudness show early on my way to support fellow countrymen, the KiLLeR DWaRfS in their acoustic show in the Golden Lounge.

photo by Meister
The Golden Lounge was absolutely more than packed for the charismatic DWaRfS and I was ecstatic to see the turnout for the boys.  With DWaRf skin basher, the pirate himself Darrell Millar (who by the way is no dwarf standing over six feet tall) watching from the sidelines the remaining DWaRfS, Russ, Gerry and Johnny treated the crowd to "Doesn't Matter".  Asking the crowd if we needed drums, Darrell took his position behind the kit for "Comin' 
Meister supporting the DWaRfS
Through" followed by "Driftin' Back".  At the conclusion of "Dirty Weapons", which included a sing-along-for all the Canadians, Darrell exasperated "Do you know how hard it is to play that song quietly?"  "Stand Tall" and "Keep the Spirit Alive" took us to the end of a very entertaining, as always, set from the guys peppered with Russ hilarious monologues.  With the reactions, response and turnout from the audience I can't help but believe that The KiLLeR DWaRfS will be back on board next year as well......at least I can hope until we get the full roster announcements!

After some mingling with friends I was led against my will down to the Black & White Lounge to catch a little of Tuff's performance.  I'm not a big Tuff supporter, but certainly not offended by them
Tuff-photo by Meister
either I just wanted to make sure that I had a good spot for Doro's upcoming set on the pool stage.  None the less I ended up at Tuff's set entering on "I Hate Kissing You Goodbye""So Many Seasons" was the next selection and Stevie Rachelle regaled us with a short story of the "Dumb and Dumber" rhythm section who succeeded in losing their drink tickets the first night after only spending a few of them.  Rachelle was quite funny in his berating of his band mates and I realized that he possessed a lot of charisma as a front man, at least way more that I had expected.  "The All New Generation" and "American Hair Band" shut things down and I made a mental note to spend more time with Tuff's catalog, Aaron Camaro was right they are really good!

Doro Pesch-photo by Brian Ronald
For those of you that don't know, I have a full sleeve tattoo that depicts a guitar case "stickered" with the logos of some of the bands that have affected me throughout my life.  Doro appears in that tattoo as does Warlock (her former band) and this was certainly one of the most anticipated events of this 2014 cruise for me.  In fact it's almost as if my tattoo has predictive powers.  You see on the very first MOR Cruise the "European act" was UFO, who appears in my tattoo.  Voyage #2 saw Saxon on board, who also appears in my tattoo.  This year it's Doro and if we follow the tattoo that means that next year we would see Accept cruising with us!  And that would be an excellent choice and make me very happy as well......let's see what happens.  The German Metal Queen and her incredibly tight band ripped
Nick Douglas of Doro-photo by Brian Ronald
through a Warlock heavy set list that looked like this: "Earthshaker Rock", "I Rule the Ruins", "Burning the Witches", "East Meets West", "Raise Your Fist In the Air", "Metal Racer", "Fur Immer", "Revenge", "Breaking the Law", "All We Are", "Without You" and "Burn It Up".  In my third time seeing the pint sized beauty rock the crowd the whole band put on an excellent show and I was lucky to have been able to secure a spot right up front for the event.  If there's one person I want to meet more than any other aboard ship this year it would be Doro.  I remember back in school I took a German language class and the teacher had said that if we bring something German into class that we would spend that period discussing the item.  I brought Warlock's Triumph & Agony album in and we listened to it the whole class, even doing some translations, which did not make me overly popular with my classmates.
Doro Pesch on the pool stage-photo by Brian Ronald
Lorraine Lewis-photo by Brian Ronald
After whipping into the buffet for some much needed sustenance it was a rush back down to Black & White, arriving late for Femme Fatale's set there.  I came in on "Fortune & Fame" one of my favorite songs from the Femme Fatale record.  With regular drummer Athena being injured and unable to make the cruise Iron Maidens drummer Linda (Nikki McBURRain)
Nita Strauss-by Brian Ronald
 McDonald joined her Maidens band mates Courtney (Adrianna Smith) Cox and Nita (Mega Murray) Strauss to help out Lorraine Lewis and Femme Fatale for the cruise.  "Waiting For the Big One" brought us to the show closer of a cover of KISS' "Lick It Up" which saw Nita switch places with the audience, abandoning the stage to play on the couch out in the lounge as some crowd members were invited on stage to assist with the song.  Sad to have missed the whole set, it seemed that the ladies were on fire just like last year's impressive shows where they won me over as a fan.  Femme Fatale is certainly an awesome and fun party band.......it doesn't hurt that they're all gorgeous too!

Ron Keel-photo by Meister
Keeping the rock going full force I bolted off to the Golden Lounge for the second time today to catch Ron Keel's acoustic set.  While I dearly wished that the full electric Keel band had made it aboard this trip, Ron unveiled that they will indeed be rockin' the Divina again next year!  Mr. Keel went through a selection of tracks encompassing his whole career including "Long Gone Bad" and "Just Like Tennessee" from the new Metal Cowboy release, "Serenade" from Steeler, and Keel classics like "Because the Night" and "Tears of Fire""Three Chord Drinkin' Song" included a very very cool thing for Ron Keel to do.  He invited two friends of mine (OK, well their father whose name will not appear here is a friend of mine) on stage to help him sing.  The boys, Zack and Kyle did a great job carrying the chorus of "Three Chord Drinkin' Song" (video with Zack & Kyle) which before long morphed into "The Right to Rock".  Having my own experience singing with Keel last year I can only imagine what must be going through those boys heads!

The Meister with Janis Tanaka & Katt Scarlett
A quick jaunt to the other end of the ship brought me to the Charm City Devils performance.  I was once again able to weasel my way up front for the first half of the set which included "Spite", "Love n War", "Devil Is A Woman", "Burn Baby Burn" and "Karma's A Bitch", a new composition.  The band was sounding good and the material familiar to me as I had searched out, purchased and enjoyed their two album discography prior to cruising.  They are definitely a band to watch out for in the future with their old school style rock and roll.  I retreated to the facilities and the bar before making my way up to the pool stage for L.A. Guns, but not before catching bassist Janis Tanaka and keyboardist Katt Scarlett of Femme Fatale for a photo.

Having been missing their lead guitarist on the previous excursion, due to his  neglecting to bring his passport L.A. Guns were back in full force this time with all current members present and accounted for. The set list included "Sex Action", "Never Enough", "I Wanna Be Your Man", "Over the Edge", "Gypsy Soul", "Kiss My Love Goodbye", "You Better Not Love Me", "Sweet Mystery", "Electric Gypsy", "The Ballad of Jayne" and "Rip and Tear".  After L.A. Guns rocked the pool stage with passport references peppered through out the set it was time to head back down into the bowels of the vessel to hit up Faster Pussycat, another cruise staple.
L.A. Guns on the pool stage with all current members-photo by Meister
By the time my friend from Louisiana and I got down there the crowd was sufficiently packed in and both being short of stature we could not see anything.  We made the decision to hang near the back (bar) and take in the audible portion of the presentation as well as some more adult beverages.  We were not alone as several "EH" Teamers were entranced in the same plan and we amalgamated ourselves into the group.  Faster Pussycat, a fan favorite aboard ship are the prefect band to close out the evenings festivities and their set included all the usual suspects such as "Jack the Bastard", "Cathouse", "Slip of the Tongue" "Number One With a Bullet", "Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll", "House of Pain", "Nonstop to Nowhere", "You're So Vain", "Bathroom Wall", "Pretty Fucked Up", "Shut Up and Fuck" and "Babylon".

Sometime after the show while many of our Pussycat Party group headed off to bed, my friend from Louisiana and I in an unwise decision roamed the ship for well over an hour in a drunken search for the next party.....to no avail.  Time for sleep several hours ago methinks!

Cheers,
The Meister (The Meister on Facebook) (Meister on Twitter)

*****Once again extreme thanks to my friend Brian Ronald for the use of his awesome photography.  From now on Brian you MUST attend only the shows that I do so I don't have to use my own photos which quite obviously pale in comparison to your work, Cheers!*****

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Episode 133 - 4:20

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For a certain segment of the population, April 20th is a very significant day. If you don't partake of a sticky green plant that has certain psychological stimulating qualities, you don't know what I'm talking about.

This week Aaron and Chris celebrate 420 in the most fitting Decibel Geek way; by spinning some of their favorite rocking songs that pay tribute to the enjoyment of ganja (aka marijuana). Tracks from Bulletboys, Enuff Z'nuff, Ace Frehley, Motley Crue, Black Sabbath and more are included. Light 'em up!

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Motley Crue
Enuff Z'nuff
Steppenwolf
Bulletboys
Ace Frehley
Rush
GWAR
Jimmie's Chicken Shack
Great White
Black Sabbath

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The KiLLeR DWaRfs. A Hometown Legend.

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The KiLLeR DWaRfs.
A Hometown Legend.
By Kate Campbell.


I'm two weeks home from the Monsters of Rock Cruise and the music just hasn't stopped!! My American friends are quite envious because it really does seem that a lot of the bands followed us back to Canada. Slaughter played The Rockpile the first weekend I was home and Y&T the second weekend. Now heading into the Easter weekend, I get to see one of my all time faves - The KiLLeR DWaRfs. They really did  follow us home because Toronto is home for them too. I'm particularly excited because their show was initially booked for tomorrow night when I will be in Buffalo, New York seeing Queensrÿche. There's not much that would keep me from a DWaRf show but those of you who know me now, know that is a no-brainer. Lol.

I was lucky to see a lot of the DWaRfs on the MoR Cruise, both on stage and off. We traveled from the airport to our hotel with their wives, their manager and their photographer (who are all fantastic people) and as it turned out, they were all staying on our floor. We spent a few hours around the pool getting to know each other and the guys flew in later that night, so we had a chance to meet them ahead of the cruise as well. By the time we got on the ship, it felt as though we were old friends. We're a friendly bunch, us Canadians, so the immediate bonding wasn't really a surprise. I'm fortunate to be able to say that I now consider the DWaRfs, and their families, to be friends.

 My usual partner in crime, Victoria, was otherwise engaged tonight, but there is never a shortage of fans eager to go to a DWaRf's show, so I knew I wouldn't be alone.  Tonight, I'm accompanied by my friends Rob and Craig. We're meeting some more friends at Club Absinthe in Hamilton, Ontario, where tonight's show takes place.  I'm excited for both guys to see the show. Craig is an enormous fan and has been for three decades, but Rob has never seen them. They are both in for a treat.

The first of the three local opening bands is named Prismind. They are pretty good. Good players, good singer, all original I think. The most stand-out thing about them is the extremely young drummers extremely large drum set. By the time the third opener had finished, he had unscrewed the last cymbal and finished loading out. We presumed his mom was waiting patiently outside with her Taurus station wagon. (Yes he was that young!)
Second up, a band by the name of Gin n' Toxic. My friend Dineen recognized frontman Iggy from many other local bands we've seen over the last couple of decades. He's one hell of a frontman and knows how to work up a crowd! They covered a whole bunch of super fun punk stuff from back in the day: Sex Pistols, Ramones and even some Teenage Head. Loved them!!!
Third up, Phear. Undeniably, all very talented, but in my opinion, a little too full of themselves. They came off a little boring and self consumed. I can't help but think that they just take themselves way too seriously. I personally like an opening band to do at least one or two fun cover tunes but these guys were focused only on their super technical, original stuff. The singer had a great range and I would've enjoyed an unexpected King Diamond cover or perhaps even a little Queensrÿche.  But alas, they were more interested in playing for themselves than for the crowd.  I took the opportunity to go to the bar for a couple of drinks.
And now - the moment we've all been waiting for. The energy in the room is one of excitement mixed with love and admiration for these local heroes who have been entertaining most of us since our now, long passed, youth!! Their combination of magnetic energy and pure heart is unmatched. After more than three decades of working their asses off in the tough music industry, they still put on a show that will thrill old fans every time, while appealing to a brand new audience as well.
With an enormous catalogue of music, the setlist is always exciting and ever changing.
The KiLLeR DWaRfs is a band that has worked hard and paid their dues tenfold. They are greatly respected by their counterparts and their fans alike. They are a truly inspiring bunch of guys with a huge presence and a positive energy that leave their fans wanting more, time and time again. I can personally attest to this, as this will be my fourth time seeing them in the past three weeks. The Meister and I caught every DWaRfs show on the Monsters of Rock Cruise and I noticed we weren't the only ones.
Tonight, the DWaRfs start off as explosively as ever!  Coming Through was the opening song. That one always gets the crowd going.  I saw the trike side stage and knew that Russ would have some of his usual crazy antics up his sleeve. The DWaRfs never disappoint. The connection they have to their fans is one of pure heart and mutual admiration.
The KiLLeR DWaRfs have a new CD called Start@One which Russ always jokes that they've been working on for 20 years. (It's not far from true!)
They played a great mix of new and old songs with the crowd belting out their favourites with the passion that you only see for a band who has spent more than thirty years working for their loyal fans. Russ shared the mic so a lot of fans had their chance to be a DWaRf for a moment. At one point, Russ ran through the crowd and out the door singing half a song from outside on the patio. You never know what to expect but that's the best part!
During Keep the Spirit Alive, Russ purposely fell toward me and then gave me a huge hug. A bit of an inside joke because I am a crazy hugger. Whenever I saw them on the cruise (and now on land too) it was big hugs all around. In the second verse, he held the mic out to our new friend 'Rocker Dave' so he could sing. Dave told me afterwards that that was something he had always wanted to do, right down to that exact song and verse. Russ had clearly made his night!!!!
We saw Russ try to climb the rafters, fall off his trike a couple of times and attempt a headstand or two on the incredibly small stage. All in all, it was a thoroughly entertaining, super high energy show. One of my favourite things about the DWaRfs is that you can always tell they are having just as much fun as the audience. There's not a single time I look at guitarist Gerry Finn and he isn't smiling. This is what these guys love to do and it shows.
 There was a young man at the front of the stage the whole night with a walker who definitely had some physical challenges and he was rockin' out with Russ to every song. I heard that it was his first concert and at the end of the show, the guys all signed one of their guitars and presented it to him. It was a very touching moment. These guys are all heart and I love them all to bits!! (And this they know!!!)
An amazing night with an amazing band and amazing friends to share it with.
Rock on my brothers and sisters.
Until the next time...
DWaRfs RULE!!!!!!!

http://youtu.be/FBTSvafnhic

http://youtu.be/XhLVFLg1pJ0

Huge thanks to my friend Amanda for proofreading my work and being awesome and thanks to Michael Sobocan for your great photography.





Thursday, April 17, 2014

Meister's Monsters of Rock Cruise 2014 #14-The First Day at Sea (also known as Saturday)

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The Saturday is always an exciting day involving The Monsters of Rock Cruise, it's boarding day, the start of the whole thing for another year!  Ignoring the slight (OK that's an understatement) pounding in my head from the previous couple of days intake, my roommate and I caught a shuttle bus from the hotel to the port of Miami.  The line was long entering the port terminal but moved fairly quickly as cruisers were processed at the check in counters.  I noticed Ron Keel in the VIP/Artist line and quite a stir was caused when Jeff Keith of Tesla walked by, hamming it up.  No one likes waiting in lines but it all seems somehow bearable and even quite fun knowing what the wait is for.  I even noticed many of the "EH" Team wearing their shirts from across the hall spread out in other check in lines.  Finally we boarded the ship and I immediately entered the "drink tickets" line.  A couple of friends did the same although they perhaps shouldn't have.  You see during the boarding process the carry-on luggage that they were bringing on ship was deemed too large and had to be checked at the last minute.  Checked luggage is delivered to your stateroom later in the evening, trouble was that in the rush they erroneously wrote the wrong cabin number on the tag realizing the error sometime later.  Instead of seeing the desk about their luggage that was now set to be delivered to a stranger's cabin they lined up to collect their drink package....that's some priorities right there!  Getting to the cabin I deposited my earthly possessions, raided the mini-bar and immediately left to scout out this new vessel, the MSC Divina.  While a new ship, the layout is rather similar to last year and I found no problems getting lost as I had succeeded in so well on my very first voyage and to a lesser degree last year.  The ship being so big I didn't cover everything, but just hit the highlights that I would need for tonight at least.  Even with the increase in size of vessel, I found the top pool deck to contain less space and seemed way more congested with one whole side blocked off.

My "EH" Team shirt drew a ton of attention from "EH" Teamers that I'd only spoken to over Facebook and by many more who wanted to be included in next year's event.  I take this moment to apologize to all those Canadians that we had not been able to discover throughout the course of time leading up to the voyage, please join the "EH" Team and we'll be sure to get you involved next year.  The minutes were rolling by fast as I met new friends and greeted old and before I knew it time had arisen to catch John Corabi in the Pantheon Theatre, the very first show of the boat.  Corabi has been an absolute staple for the Monsters of Rock Cruise expanding on his sole appearance the first year, an acoustical presentation, to this year's full band electrical set as well as an acoustic show.  A little late in arriving I was forced to surrender my beverage (no drinks in the theater) and entered on "Everything's Alright".  Corabi's son, Ian, was on drums for the performance, their second ever gig together (co-
John Corabi-photo by Brian Ronald
incidentally Chris & Aaron at Decibel Geek had seen the first in Nashville) and John deemed that this was how Ian was to work off his college tuition.  Crabby also treated the audience to a selection of songs from throughout his career and some covers with "Uncle Jack" and "Power to the Music" (Motley Crue), "Never In My Life" (Mountain), "Hooligan's Holiday" (Motley Crue), "Outlaw" (The Scream), "Chip Away the Stone" (Aerosmith) and "Who Do You Think We Are?" (Union), the latter being dedicated to the customs officer that held him up for so many hours earlier in the day.  "Man in the Moon" (The Scream) closed down the set and also mostly drowned out the "life jacket drill announcement" that was being broadcast over the ship's P.A. systems.

After meeting at my assigned muster station for the life jacket drill it was time for Dangerous Toys in the Black & White Lounge, which I surmised would be akin to the Zebra Lounge found on last year's
Jason McMaster-photo by Brian Ronald
vessel, the MSC Poesia.  The stage for this venue was a little weird, rounded and not very spacious or deep.  I secured a decent vantage point at the front of the stage on the right side.  When the Toys hit the stage it became instantly apparent just how up close and personal with guitarist Scott Dallover I really was!  He was no more than an arms length away from me, wow this is a small stage!  "Outlaw" led the charge as vocalist Jason McMaster quipped about "Gargoyle" their cabin steward.  D'Toys ripped through "Sugar, Leather & The Nail", "Take Me Drunk", "Gimme No Lip" and "Bones in The Gutter" as I followed along on the setlist that I could see at Dallover's feet.  Looking forward to my absolute favorite Dangerous Toys track, "Pissed" that I saw approaching on the list they delivered "Ten Boots (Stompin')" and "Angel N U".  The stage lights were on in full force, just cooking the band and Scotty Dallover was sweating so much that I was sure his guitar would short out.  He grabbed the sunglasses that were perched on the top of my head and wore them for a song or two to give himself a break and be and be able to see what he was doing!  "Queen of the Nile" was next after which they burst into "Sport'n A Woody" and I realized that "Pissed" had been skipped (along with "Pain Train"), prob due to time or maybe heat exhaustion!  "Line 'Em Up", "That Dog" and "Teas'n, Pleas'n" closed out the set with the last entry on the setlist, "Scared", also being looked over.

After the Texans of Dangerous Toys I rushed up to the pool deck for the "Blackout at Sea Shot" (a photo looking out from the pool stage at the crowd all wearing black t-shirts to be followed by Tesla's sail away from port concert.  Here's 2013's blackout shot......just like a "Where's Waldo" game can you spot the idiot who had a few drinks early in the day and failed to go back to his cabin for a black shirt in time for the photo?  Good Decibel Geek promo I guess!
Scanned from the front of the 2013 Cruise Book
 The deck was absolutely packed, again making the space seem smaller as last year everyone could get a decent vantage point for the sail away concert, either on the floor or along the upper railing.  I circled the upper railing searching for friends and a vantage point to catch Tesla (being of short stature I didn't even try the lower floor level).  Running into Darrell Millar, drummer for The KiLLeR DWaRfS, we chatted quickly and I could already see that he was having a good time.  Tesla had been playing during my wandering and I am always marveled at just how good they sound live, almost just like listening to the record!  They opened with the fitting "Comin' Atcha Live" and then treated the crowd to a new track, "Ricochet", from their forthcoming release.  "I Wanna Live" was next and not being able to see anything and knowing that I would be seeing Tesla at M3 and also Sweden Rock this year I took my leave to head down to the Black & White Lounge to get a good spot for Tyketto.

Danny Vaughn-photo by Brian Ronald
Tyketto were not super high on my list to see aboard ship, but I had planned to catch at least some of them as I had never seen them before.  Prior to cruising I had purchased some Tyketto music, as I did with all bands aboard and mixed a playlist with songs from all acts on this year's voyage.  I have been listening to this playlist for a few months on random mix, so hearing the songs but not knowing specifically who they were by as I rode the bus to work etc.  None of the songs that I had consciously heard from Tyketto had particularly grabbed me, but as I'd never seen them and couldn't get good sight lines on Tesla I thought I'd check it out.  I'm so very thankful that I did!  I arrived early enough to secure a spot right at the front of the stage in the Black & White Lounge.  The stage really was tiny, "right in the crowd" almost (I could easily have plinked Ged Ryland's keyboards from where I stood).  Tyketto opened up with a triple shot, "Burning Down Inside", "Rescue Me" and "Faithless", one from each of the full length Danny Vaughn fronted albums in succession (Steve Augeri of Journey led the band for one album, 1995's Shine).  Then started around the horn again with "Seasons" from the debut and "End of Summer Days" from the sophomore, Strength In Numbers, before returning to the debut for the excellently appropriate "Sail Away".  I was absolutely blown away by their incredible tightness on stage as they were sounding so good musically, not to mention the vocal harmonies as well.  I didn't think that I knew much of their catalog (or really liked it for that matter), but I sang along with every word to every song at the top of my lungs (and turns out I love it!)!  If you listen to the audio podcast of my MORC experiences (Episode #132-MORC Memories II) that came out earlier this week and hear how scratchy and
Photo by Brian Ronald
rough my voice sounds, well I blame Tyketto and this show for that as they started it all for me this year!  "Meet Me In The Night" was followed by "Dig In Deep" and "Lay Your Body Down" and Danny said something about a 25th Anniversary DVD being sold up at the merchandise booth.  Right then and there I knew that one copy of that would be making the trek back to Toronto, hopefully alongside a Tyketto shirt!  "Standing Alone" was next on the roster and as I review the quick notes I took during the performance, this was written under the song title "sometimes want to cry at the emotion in their live music"....wow...I think that says it all right there!  It appeared that I wasn't the only one moved by Tyketto as after the band played "Wings" they had to stop for a moment to take in the resounding cheers and you could easily see the emotion and appreciation on their faces as they did.  "Forever Young" closed out the set and I put them up as best show on the boat (yes I'm aware that I've only seen a few shows so far, but I'm that confident!) and certainly one of the best I've ever seen!  I was not the only one saying these things after the show....definitely not missing the next one!

After hanging out, taking a few photos with friends and a few beverages it was up to the pool stage for Vixen.  When I got up there I found it had been raining heavily and with the lightening the show had been cancelled.  A perfect time to grab a bite and drinks with some more friends filled the time easily and took me to Red Dragon Cartel's performance in the Pantheon Theatre, but not before I paused at the Autograph Q&A session.  The session was held in the Atrium (reception area) and I was the next level up looking down over the railing just in time to see my Canadian friends that had gotten engaged yesterday at the KIX/Firehouse pre-party with the assistance of Randy Rand.  He saw them approach, recognized them and called them up to recount the engagement story.

Red Dragon Cartel-photo by Brian Ronald
Red Dragon was a little late in getting going but when they did, opening with "Ultimate Sin", singer Darren James Smith sounded friggin' awesome!  "Deceived" and "War Machine" followed, both from the new Red Dragon Cartel CD, Jake E. Lee's return to the music world after a self imposed exile for many years.  The bass was fairly heavy in the mix from where I was standing and it was hard to hear Jake play but "High Wire" was the next selection followed by "Shine On".  Satisfied that Darren was indeed an excellent front man and Jake E. Lee was back once again, I took my leave at this point of the show.  I would have loved to have stayed, but there was a schedule conflict and knowing that I would be seeing Red Dragon Cartel in Toronto on my birthday a few days after I return from the cruise, I chose to head up to see if the pool stage would be ready to go for Winger and get myself a good spot.

Waiting for Winger-photo by Dawn Williams
I had broken out my circa 1990 Winger tour shirt for the occasion of seeing them aboard ship and surprisingly enough it still even fit, I guess I didn't get quite as fat as I had feared in the last 25 years!  The show was indeed set to go ahead with the rain and lightening having moved on, but unfortunately there was the daunting task of putting everything back together.  That's a helluva lot of cords and wires, so Winger was about a half hour to 45 minutes late getting underway.   This was the 25th anniversary of the debut album, a revered part of my musical collection for sure, and Paul Taylor would be joining them on stage to perform the entire album for the last time.  They started out with "Pull Me Under" from the Karma release and then "Can't Get Enough" from the sophomore effort In The Heart Of The Young.  After that it was right into the debut release in order of track appearance on the album with "Madalaine", "Hungry" and "Seventeen".  During "Seventeen" the mike and stand in front of Paul Taylor's keyboard fell over, hitting an audience member in the head.  "Without the Night" was next and during "Purple Haze" I decided to move on, basically hearing the part of the album that was so treasured in days of my youth and because their late start had caused more overlapping.

The Iron Maidens-photo by The Meister
The Iron Maidens were the final act of my first day plan of rock n roll debauchery.  The show was well under way by the time I got down to the Black & White Lounge due to Winger's late starting which is disastrous for a short guy like me as the stage is raised no more than a foot off of the floor!  I was able to weasel my way around to side stage next to Courtney Cox (Adrianna Smith), but still couldn't see too much of the band aside from her.  I came in on "The Trooper" and what a great song to enter on!  The ladies sounded great as they ripped through into "The Duellists", now that's something you'll never hear at an actual Iron Maiden concert!  The classic "The Number of The Beast" came next after which vocalist Kirsten Rosenberg (Bruce Chickinson) quipped about the venue and it's rather low ceiling height, "This stage would be perfect for the Killer Dwarfs" she chided......uuuhhhhh, excuse me, have you actually seen drummer Darrell "DWaRf" Millar?  "Phantom of the Opera", "22 Acacia Avenue" and "Fear of the Dark" (during which Rosenberg yelled out her version of the Bruce Dickinson staple line "Scream for me Monsters of Rock!").  "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and "Run to The Hills" shut down the night, but not before an "Eddie" stormed the stage to help the ladies finish out the song!

Time for sleeping......will bring you Sunday's events soon.

Cheers,
The Meister ("LIKE" The Meister on Facebook) ("Follow" The Meister on Twitter)

*****Many thanks to my friend Brian Ronald for the use of his awesome photographs*****

Monday, April 14, 2014

Wouldn't You Like To Know Him: Reflections on Paul Stanley's new book Face The Music: A Life Exposed

3 comments
   

     First off, I have a great deal of respect for Paul Stanley and I have long been a huge admirer of his songwriting skills, he's clearly very talented. KISS were my favorite band for all of my formative years and I was ecstatic when the original line-up reunited in 1996. I was lucky enough to see the band twice on the subsequent tour and I treasure those memories. Unfortunately ever since that triumphant Reunion Tour I have found myself repeatedly disappointed by decisions that have been made by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, from the disastrous Psycho Circus "reunion" album to the deceptively monikered and marketed "Farewell Tour" to the recasting of the "spaceman" and the "catman" as entities other than Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. The most recent and perhaps most unfortunate development in the KISS saga has been the completely unnecessary controversy surrounding the band's long overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It seems rather obvious to me that the four original members of KISS should have performed together one last time at the ceremony and amicably and respectfully paid tribute to the band's legacy and its devoted fans. It would have been a very special moment but it did not happen because Gene and Paul did not let it happen and a wonderful opportunity was squandered, and for what?
     Let me begin by saying this: Paul Stanley's book Face The Music: A Life Exposed is by far the best of the four KISS memoirs. Of course if you've read the other three books you know that that isn't saying much. Gene's book was a self-congratulatory love letter to himself, Ace's was predictably scant on details, and Peter's I suspect was mostly a work of fiction. Paul's book is the best of the four almost by default. Let me put it this way: unlike the other three, Paul's book is actually good. Paul Stanley has always struck me as the most down to earth and level-headed of the four and in a brilliant move he waited until the other three guys had each written a book before writing his own, thus Paul Stanley gets the last word and he takes full advantage of that position, slamming all three of his original bandmates mercilessly. 
     In the opening chapters of the book Paul describes a very difficult childhood, thanks in no small part to the deformed ear and partial deafness with which he was born. Clearly he struggled. He also laments his upbringing, lambasting his parents for the lack of affection they showed to each other and to Paul and his mentally unstable sister (who apparently attempted to kill young Paul with a hammer). Paul does not hesitate to blame many of his later problems forming relationships on the relationship that he had with his parents. This is understandable, but considering how aware Paul is of his own issues and what may or may not have caused them (he devotes a great deal of the book to describing how his feelings about his deformed ear and the way that others reacted to it damaged him emotionally and inhibited him in his social interactions) one might think he'd be more sympathetic when it comes to the personal issues of others. He is careful to trace many of his own problems back to how he was treated by his parents and his deformity and its ramifications, but when it comes to other people (those same parents, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Eric Carr) he never even seems to consider the possibility that these other people maybe had some negative experiences in their own lives that might help explain some of the behaviors that Paul so resented and for which Paul did not hesitate to judge them harshly. His superior tone throughout makes it clear that he made little or no effort to relate to or empathize with these others. It's all judgement and dismissal.
     I urge any KISS fan who reads Paul Stanley's book to undertake this exercise: when you get to the part where Paul describes Ace Frehley circa 1977-1978 stop reading the book, put Ace Frehley's 1978 solo album on the stereo, and then pick the book back up and read Paul's description of Ace while listening to the record that Ace made in 1978 and you tell me, could the guy that Paul describes possibly have made that masterpiece of an album? The answer, of course, is no. The Ace Frehley solo album is so clearly an example of an artist at the top of his game as opposed to the bottom of a bottle. Think about this: as of 1978 Ace Frehley and Peter Criss had taken part in a juggernaut of a career that had produced six studio albums and two live albums in four short years, not to mention an almost non-stop touring schedule, hundreds and hundreds of concerts. Yet according to Paul by 1977 Ace and Peter were utterly inept living disasters. Here's what I think: Paul Stanley is GREATLY exaggerating Ace and Peter's ineptitude. Why? I don't know: bitterness, resentment, a desire to undermine their credibility, an effort to downplay the importance of the roles they played in the success of the band...you tell me. 
     Here's something else to ponder: Paul Stanley tries very hard early on in his book to convey just how important the formation of this band was to him and to his future. He is very careful to point out that the band that he was forming in 1973 was everything to him, he had no plan B, the band simply had to work, absolutely everything was riding on it. So think about it: with everything on the line Gene and Paul chose Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. Why did they choose Peter Criss and Ace Frehley? Clearly they had many drummers and guitar players to choose from. Why Ace and Peter? Obviously because they liked them and thought they were talented. Gene and Paul selected Peter and Ace as the drummer and guitar player that they felt they needed in order to make their band successful. Why else would they have chosen them? But now Paul would have us believe that KISS succeeded in spite of Ace and Peter. Bullshit.
     At least Paul admits in the book that Carnival of Souls and Psycho Circus were misguided disasters but he places most of the blame on Gene for the former and Bruce Fairbairn for the latter. He criticizes Ace and Peter for not accepting responsibility for their mistakes but when it comes to weakly imitating grunge or completely dropping the ball on the reunion album Paul refuses to take responsibility for his own mistakes. At one point Paul complains that during the making of Psycho Circus the only way that he heard from Peter or Ace was through a lawyer. So now I finally understand why Ace and Peter were not involved in the making of the so-called reunion album. It's pretty simple: Gene and Paul ripped them off big time on the Reunion Tour, apparently making at least ten times as much as Ace and Peter, so Ace and Peter decided to renegotiate and use the making of the album as leverage, and who can blame them? But rather than treat Ace and Peter fairly Gene and Paul decided to make the album without them and then, showing an utter lack of respect for the fans, promoted it as a reunion album.
     So yes, I accuse Gene and Paul of ripping off Ace and Peter on the Reunion Tour. Gene and Paul exploited unfair leverage they possessed and kept the bulk of the profits for themselves, even though Ace and Peter were equally important and equally deserving, in my opinion, of reaping the rewards. I say Gene and Paul ripped them off. What might Paul's retort be? To call me an anti-semite, perhaps? Paul accuses both Ace and Peter of anti-semitism but doesn't offer a shred of evidence beyond an anecdote about Ace buying Nazi memorabilia while the band was on tour. Paul is being extremely disingenuous at this point in the book since any Kiss fan who owns Lydia Criss' book has seen the pictures of Paul wearing that same Nazi memorabilia. 


That's Paul on the right.

     Yes, Paul dressed up like a Nazi with Ace and Peter and posed for pictures, then 40 years later used that same memorabilia as evidence of Ace's anti-semitism. That is very underhanded. It's outrageous. FYI: Ace Frehley is currently engaged, and she's Jewish.


     The way Paul tells it Ace and Peter were essentially impossible to work with by the end of the Reunion Tour and the fact that the band was even able to perform on any given night was an absolute miracle and simply a testament to Gene and Paul's own fortitude and dedication in the face of such adversity, thus it's perfectly understandable that Gene and Paul chose to do TWO MORE WORLD TOURS with Ace and Peter. If Paul is to be believed then Gene and himself are guilty of defrauding fans, launching tours they knew would be substandard just for the payday, but here's the thing: I think it's quite apparent that Paul Stanley is exaggerating. Big time. I attended the Reunion Tour twice and the Farewell Tour once and I didn't notice any problems. Anyone reading this who attended any show on any of the three tours the reunited line-up put on, please tell us in the comments below, did Ace and Peter perform well at the shows that you attended or not? If Paul is to be believed there should be a slew of complaints below from fans who witnessed concerts ruined by Ace's and Peter's unprofessional behavior. Paul Stanley spends much of the book repeating himself, whether it's about Peter's outrageous demands at hotels (supposedly he insisted upon the windows being covered with aluminum foil--that was Elvis, Paul) or Ace Frehley's constant state of intoxication (there are plenty of clips on Youtube from this time, interviews and performances, of a perfectly together Ace) but if one takes an objective look back at all that KISS accomplished when Ace and Peter were a part of the band it seems rather obvious that Paul Stanley is exaggerating, his motive being twofold: 1) to discredit Ace and Peter and play down the importance of the role each played in the success of KISS (both times) and 2) to buffer the current line-up of KISS against snipes at its own credibility. 


     The early chapters of Paul Stanley's book, about his formative years, are great, very enlightening and emotionally effective. He also romanticizes the early years of KISS quite well and really seems to have enjoyed being in the band circa 1973-1976. It appears to have all started to go wrong with Destroyer and I think I know why: Ace and Peter hated working with the taskmaster Bob Ezrin and honestly, I don't blame them. In my opinion Ezrin set out to force KISS to make a non-KISS album. If I were Ace or Peter I would have bailed on Ezrin's album as well and it's no wonder that KISS returned to Eddie Kramer and the band's classic sound for the next album, Rock and Roll Over. Ace and Peter perform well on Rock and Roll Over but Paul just can't give them credit, he instead describes how Peter could not carry a tune and had to be coached line by line how to sing "Hard Luck Woman." But isn't it strange that Peter did just fine singing Paul's song "Black Diamond," an undeniable KISS classic, on the first KISS album? Why did Paul let him sing it if he was so terrible, and how did it turn out so good? To me it seems rather obvious that what changed between 1974 and 1977 was Paul's perception, not Peter's ability.

     I do not deny that Peter and Ace were obviously difficult to work with at times, I would simply assert once again that Paul is exaggerating greatly in his descriptions of the two, and he has a clear motive to do so. Paul implies that Gene and himself deserved to make at least ten times more than Ace and Peter from the hugely successful Reunion Tour because himself and Gene kept the band alive through the eighties, but ironically Paul spends a great deal of the book complaining about how Gene deserted him in the eighties and left him to do all the work. Thus by Paul's logic the only member of KISS that deserved a big pay day come reunion time was Paul Stanley, but here's the thing: I believe that the Reunion Tour would have been just as big if KISS had split up in 1980. I believe that MANY of the people that bought tickets for the Reunion Tour bought them IN SPITE of the eighties, they were not really fans of KISS in the eighties and did not go see KISS live in the eighties, but they came back in droves for the Reunion Tour. Paul Stanley discusses every album and tour in his book but he skips over the 1992 Revenge Tour, why? Because KISS played to empty arenas on the Revenge Tour. The Reunion Tour was a success because it was those four guys back in the make-up, not because Paul kept the band alive with "Let's Put The X In Sex."

     The timing of Paul Stanley's book was impeccable, it came out the same week that KISS were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in that context the fact that Paul spends so much of the book denigrating Ace Frehley and Peter Criss is disappointing but not surprising. As I said early on, Paul is very honest about his own personal issues and what he thinks caused them, but he never bothers to wonder what might have caused the issues he saw in Ace and Peter. That's called empathy, and Paul lacks it, at least when it comes to Ace and Peter. Instead of empathy he judges them quite harshly and congratulates himself for not making the same mistakes. He just made different mistakes. I definitely recommend this book to any KISS fan but as you read please be sure to reflect upon all that KISS accomplished in the seventies and the three world tours they pulled off between 1996 and 2000. Think about all of the hard work and dedication that went into it, and not just from Gene and Paul. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss also rolled the dice on a dream. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss contributed a great deal to the band, including a staggering amount of time and effort. Paul Stanley's assessment of Ace and Peter is ridiculously one-sided and unfair and completely lacking in empathy. They deserve far more credit than Paul Stanley seemingly would allow, and they deserved to play together with Gene and Paul one last time at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Gene and Paul made a big mistake that night and I suspect they already know it, but it's too late.



The good old days

     

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Monsters of Rock Cruise Memories - Episode 132

1 comments
Every year, the high seas get rocked a little harder during this time of year and 2014 was no exception. The Monsters of Rock Cruise featured around 40 Decibel Geek-worth artists performing rotating sets in the Bahamas aboard the massive MSC Divina cruise ship and our very own Rich "The Meister" Dillon was on board to take it all in.

Rich "Meister" Dillon came through Nashville on his way back from the Monsters of Rock cruise to join Aaron, Chris, and Decibel Geek writer Andy Lafon for a discussion of all of the music, atmosphere, and debauchery that took place on the high seas. Underscoring this conversation is music from artists aboard the ship such as Cinderella, Killer Dwarfs, Winger, Red Dragon Cartel, and a bunch more. Dig it!

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