Tuesday, May 26, 2015

On Viewing Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck

I decided to make the time to sit down and watch the documentary on Kurt Cobain this week. Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck was an interesting documentary to say the least. And although was good, there were many bizarre moments in the film as well. Early on as I watched the film I thought “This isn’t so great. Am I really going to sit through this thing?” But as the film progressed and once I had seen it entirety it all made sense. As a whole, Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck was an excellent view into the life of rock’s most misunderstood and highly beloved stars, Kurt Cobain.

I still remember when Nirvana made it huge with Nevermind. When “Smells Like Teen Spirit” first came out on MTV (that was still the way we got the bulk of our new music) it struck me like something I had never heard before. That was mostly due to the fact that it was something I had never heard before. Nivana and the bands that followed had created a whole new world of music for me to explore. And while I still loved the glossy metal bands that had ruled my high school years, Nirvana and similar bands were providing me a new outlet. Their music had deeper meaning. Their music had power. Their music let me feel in a way the party songs and power ballads of Poison and Warrant didn’t allow. This wasn’t music about a 24 hour party; this was music about releasing your rage and expressing yourself on a much higher level. And it was absolutely brilliant.

Seeing the old home movies of Kurt as a young child and hearing the stories of how he was kicked from house to house to house to live with relatives for weeks at a time certainly shed a new light on how he ended up the way he did. I have a deeper understanding of why Kurt turned to drugs. I still don’t condone it, and I still think that it was a waste of his brilliant talent, but I do understand it a little better. The peek into his personal journals and the home movies with Courtney Love were an added treat as well. Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck is brilliant in the manner of how the story unfolds. There is no narrator doing a voice over. 90% of the film is old home movies, band videos, interviews, and existing film footage. It was an interesting approach and one that worked well.

There is one scene in the movie where Courtney Love is reading a piece of hate mail from a fan calling her a talentless pig and proclaiming that she is ruining the genius of Kurt Cobain which made me laugh aloud. I remember hating Courtney Love that much. I remember feeling the exact same way about her. I remember calling her the Yoko of our generation and really getting mad when her name came up. Heck I wouldn’t even pay money for her albums, even though I thought it was pretty darned good. I just could not stand her, and that moment in the film took back to the early nineties and the memory of when that was actually deemed important in my life.

Without a doubt, Nirvana changed the face of music forever. The running joke will always be that they killed hair metal and those of us who love glam rock and heavy metal should hate grunge, but that’s simply not true. Glam rock had its moment in the sun and life was a luxurious party. But when Nirvana and grunge came on the scene, life became more. It had a deeper meaning. I could spend hours listening to Nevermind, dissecting the lyrics and interpreting their meanings. And the music was much more complex as well. With Poison or Cinderella the dissection was relatively simple. This song is about getting laid. That song is about trying to get back together with your girl. And those songs were great, when I was high in school. As I grew into a college student with a lot of questions about life, Nirvana arrived with Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam right behind them. They all appeared at the right moment in my life and made a huge influence on me musically.

For whatever reason, I either forgot, or did not know, that Kurt Cobain attempted to commit suicide via pills a month before he actually committed suicide. He was in a coma due to an overdose of Rohypnols. He had ingested 67 of them and was in a coma for days. He miraculously survived that meeting with death, but it would not matter. One month later he was found dead in his Seattle home. The little girl that he loved, the one that would go on to make this documentary about him, was left without a father. And the fans were left without one of the most brilliant musicians of our time. And even though I have a much better understanding of the life he led and the challenges he was going through, I still don’t understand why he would commit suicide.

Kurt was a musician who had everything a hard working musician could want. Fame. Fortune. Talent. A band that got along with no egos. He had it all. This is what most anyone who picked up a guitar, or played music, would kill for. And Kurt was overwhelmed by it all. And then he got saddened. And once he had the means, the drugs were aplenty, with heroin being the drug of choice. It would ultimately lead to his early departure.

Years ago I read Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross. It was a magnificent introspective biography of Kurt Cobain where the author had actual access to Courtney Love. Montage Of Heck had a similar feel. The documentary was a real introspective look into the life of a genius, just as the book was years before. And both provoked the same response from me: disappointment. Not in the material or the finished product, but the subject matter. I still don’t fully understand how someone could take their own lives, especially when they have everything they ever wanted. To me it just seems selfish.

I’ve always been curious about what would have happened if Kurt were still alive today. Would Nirvana have stayed together? Perhaps they would be doing reunion shows after a long hiatus? Would Foo Fighters have ever existed if Kurt still lived? Would he still be making brilliant music? I think the answer to that last question is a resounding yes. Kurt Cobain was one of the most gifted musicians I ever had the pleasure to listen to and I think he would have continued making music for as long as he was able.

If you get the chance, check out Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck. It’s currently airing on HBO and will be available on Blu Ray and DVD this September with additional footage.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Revivalists - Keep It Going

Mixing jazz, folk, and indie rock, The Revivalists are a fantastic band that I want to learn more about. Their latest track, “Keep Going,” is simply fantastic! This is the kind of music you can get hooked on after one listen. Check out the video for yourselves.

The Revivalists rock!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Quiet Riot: Well Now You're Here, There's No Way Back

At this year’s M3 Rock Festival (review coming soon), Quiet Riot was all the talk. Not only is the extremely talented Jizzy Pearl singing for them now, but there were also many questions around their new documentary. When is it coming out? Has it been screened yet? And most importantly --- how can I see this film? Well, you have questions and The Guru has answers.

Quiet Riot will be releasing their documentary, Quiet Riot: Well Now We’re All Here, There’s No Way Back on DVD this summer. In anticipation of the release, the documentary will be screening at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14th. The full press release follows.


“If you don’t carry on the legacy of your friend, nobody else will” - Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne)

“QUIET RIOT: Well Now You're Here, There's No Way Back”, the award-winning feature documentary about the seminal heavy-metal band Quiet Riot, screens at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, May 14 at 6 pm at the Hotel Gray d'Albion, 38 Rue Des Serbes, Cannes, 06408, France. For more information, and to see the trailer, visit www.QuietRiotMovie.com.  The inspiring and surprisingly relatable documentary is an inside look at Frankie’s road to recovery after losing his best friend and Quiet Riot lead singer Kevin DuBrow to a drug overdose in 2007 as he forges ahead to conquer his loss, regain his life and put the band back together. 

The film begins in 2010, three years following the loss of Kevin DuBrow. Frankie Banali faces a crossroads in his life and finds himself talking to former Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo who said, “If you don’t carry on the legacy of your friend, nobody else will.”

At times both utterly tragic and downright hilarious, like an outtake from “Spinal Tap”, the film follows Frankie’s journey through the emotional feat of trying to fill the void left by his singer and best friend.
The 105-minute character-driven documentary looks beyond the guts and glory of the common getting-the-band-back-together tale. "QUIET RIOT: Well Now You're Here, There's No Way Back" reveals an unforgettable man who uses ambition, relentless determination and principle to navigate through the obstacles that attempt to control his fate.

Quiet Riot made history when they topped the Billboard Album Chart in 1983 with the first #1 heavy-metal album, “Metal Health”, that sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.  This paved the way for bands from Motley Crue to Poison and turned the 80s into the decade of heavy-metal rock.

Watch for cameos from Matt Sorum and Stephen Adler (Guns N’ Roses), Glen Hughes (Deep Purple), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne), Dana Strum (Slaughter), John 5 (Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie) and Martha Quinn (Original MTV VJ).

“When Frankie told me he was planning to meet with Kevin DuBrow’s mother to get her blessing to go on with the band and find a new singer, I thought this would be an extraordinary story for a documentary,” explains director and producer Regina Russell.

Regina gained access to the private video and photo archives of the band. She followed Frankie for four years and interviewed many of the integral characters in the band’s history.

Quiet Riot rocks and I’m sure this documentary will too! Get some this summer!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Concert Review: SIXX:AM - April 24, 2015

Only because Metal Eddie wanted to go, I decided to check out SIXX:AM at the Starland Ballroom this past April. As I mentioned in my review of their latest album, Modern Vintage, I have never been a huge SIXX:AM fan. I enjoy the band when I hear them, and I think some of their songs are absolutely amazing. However, I also think some of their songs are below average. And while I really enjoy their latest release, it was only purchased in anticipation of this concert. I never expected to pay much attention to SIXX:AM. But on a chilly Friday night in New Jersey, they were the focal point of my evening.

Finnish metal band Apocalyptica opened the night and I have to admit that I was not impressed. I had never heard of the band prior to that night, even though they have been around for more than 20 years. To me, their version of cello metal just didn’t sit right. I saw them as more of a Trans Siberian Orchestra wannabe. I tried to keep an open mind, but I just found myself getting bored as they performed. To say that their music wasn’t for me is an understatement. And although I wasn’t crazy about them, I was obviously in the minority. The band drew huge applause from the sold out crowd.

After Apocalyptica left the stage to a rousing ovation, the anticipation for the headliners grew. It wasn’t long before the lights went down, and from our vantage point at the side of the stage, we saw them leave their dressing room and line up to make their appearance. They walked onto the stage and the Ballroom roared to life. SIXX:AM was here to play and everyone was ecstatic.

SIXX:AM got off to a solid start with a nice blend of old and new. The audience seemed to know the new material as much as the older tunes and it was evident the new album had been well received. I personally enjoyed hearing the new songs more than the older tunes, but the selection of songs from the first two records wasn’t bad either.

After about three songs, James Michael ran to the side of the stage and walked off quickly. We looked over to see what was happening and there was a nebulizer that James used. I had no idea that the singer had asthma, but belting out the tunes the way he did, combined with all of the running around on stage, made it understandable that he would run out of breath. James didn’t let it affect him at all. He inhaled deeply and was back on stage before almost anyone even knew what was happening.

When James took a seat behind the piano, I looked over at Metal Eddie and laughed. We both knew what song was coming next. As I stated in my review, I was not crazy about SIXX:AM’s version of “Drive.” Metal Eddie flat out hated it. And as the night wore on, I teased him endlessly, because we both knew that the song was going to be performed. And to be completely honest, the live version was not bad at all. Seeing the band play it live gave me a better appreciation for their version of the song. It still isn’t one of my favorite SIXX:AM songs, but I have a deeper enjoyment for it now.

Somewhere in the middle of the show, Nikki Sixx took a turn at addressing the crowd. He told the tale of how the band came to be and how they never wanted to share their music with anyone but themselves. SIXX:AM was meant to be a fun side project that wasn’t supposed to go anywhere. They wanted to be selfish in that regard. But the music got out and then the fans demanded more. And after they got more, the fans demanded a tour.  And now Nikki realizes that he isn’t going to be retiring after all. He announced that the band hopes to have another record and tour in 2016. That news brought the loudest cheers of the evening.

The best part of the night came toward the end. The one-two combination of “Lies Of The Beautiful People” followed by “Stars” was just incredible. “Lies Of The Beautiful People” is the one song that I wanted to hear the entire evening. I personally feel that it is SIXX:AM’s best song and one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded. It is extremely powerful and catchy and contains all the proper elements of a perfect rock song. When the band pulled it out toward the end of the set, I screamed my lungs out and sang as loud as I could. I sang so loud, that I think I annoyed a couple of the girls standing next to me. They hadn’t really heard a peep out of me all night long, and then all of a sudden I was screaming like a banshee and singing so loud that my voice cracked. I couldn’t help it. I absolutely love “Lies Of The Beautiful People.”

And the band didn’t end the main set there. They pushed the envelope and followed “Lies Of The Beautiful People” with “Stars.” I thought that was a risky move, but SIXX:AM was able to pull it off flawlessly. Apparently “Stars” is a much beloved song as well and the band crushed it in the live setting. It was a fantastic ending to the main set, complete with paper stars confetti flying from the stage and covering most of the crowd in front.

The encore was a ballad to rocker finish as “Skin” made way for “Life Is Beautiful.” And while it was a decent encore, the moment of the night had passed for me. There was nothing that would top “Lies Of The Beautiful People” into “Stars.” It was just too perfect.

When the encore ended, the band said their goodbyes, and received a much deserved ovation. Having witnessed their performance that night, I will most likely be going to see the band again. Not right away mind you, but if they were to come back around on tour next year and I get a message from Metal Eddie---you can count me in.

Let’s Go
Give Me A Love
This Is Gonna Hurt
Pray For Me
Dead Man’s Ballet
Accidents Can Happen
Live Forever
Gotta Get It Right
Help Is On The Way
Goodbye My Friends
Lies Of The Beautiful People
Life Is Beautiful

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Reflections On Owning All That You Can't Leave Behind

Whenever we have the furious deep chill of winter, as we did this past year, I have a tendency to think of U2’s masterpiece album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind. That record was released at a transitioning period of my life and would come to play a very important role in my late 20s. The disc would become a sole point of inspiration and joy for me and be my companion on many long journeys made deep in the heart of winter. If not for All That You Can’t Leave Behind, I’m not sure if I would have survived those trips.

Most readers of this esteemed litany of musical information may not know this, but I was married once before. It’s shocking, I know. Yes, Ryo Vie found himself married at the ripe old age of 21 years old. Not the smartest move in the book, but young love can be idiotic love, and sometimes poor choices are made. Needless to say by the time I was 27, I was well on my way to a divorce, and was separated in all aspects of a relationship from my first wife. I found myself single and living alone in my own apartment for the first time in my entire life. Score!

And in so finding myself single for the first time in years, I did what every single man would do; I went in for a rebound relationship…with a coworker no less. I could spend endless posts on why you should never date a coworker, especially when you are in the same office, but those would be for a different type of blog, and not The Rock and Roll Guru. Thus, as U2 released one of the finest albums of their career, I started a journey into one of the most absurd relationships I have ever been in. And I did it all willingly, because it was new love! Or so I thought.

When I was 27 I started dating Janice. She was 38. I’ve said this before, Ryo Vie loves him some older ladies. Always have, always will. At first, our relationship was nice. It was filled with laughter, romance, and great sexual escapades (and when you are recently divorced, there really is no other kind). In short, it was a fun filled relationship. Then as time wore on, our relationship grew into more of a battle for control. Extremely unhealthy, I know.  Janice was a control freak, and I am a type A personality (which really is a nice way of stating that I am a control freak as well). When two headstrong personalities get together, there are bound to be plenty of dangerous sparks.

One of Janice’s big points in her battle for control was whose house we stayed at. She was renting a nice house that happened to be 45 minutes away from my apartment. She would always want us to stay at her place. So, if I wanted to see her, I had to make the journey to her place. At first, I didn’t mind at all. I was young and single and all was well with a road trip. Not to mention what was waiting for me at the end of the trip.

However, as late summer turned to autumn, and fall became winter, those rides became longer and longer and longer. Darkness arrived earlier, and the dreary cold of winter gripped us tighter. And the colder it got, the harder those rides became. And of course, when I would request that we stay at my place just once in a while, the request was always denied. Sometimes control freaks are very selfish people as well.

On most of my journeys to Janice’s house, I played All That You Can’t Leave Behind. For some reason, the length of the disc was perfect. I could start the album as I began my journey, and the last song would play as I pulled into her driveway. The timing of it all was surreal, almost as if it was meant to be. And since I loved the record so much, I played it almost every night on my way to her house. Each song became its own character in my journey, marking off time and space traveled and signifying how much road was still ahead. I began to realize that the end of “Kite” marked the halfway point in my travel. I fell deeply in love with a lot of those songs that winter. It was bone chilling cold, snow on the ground, and a long journey every evening with only U2 as my companion. “Walk On,” “In A Little While,” and “When I Look At The World,” quickly became my favorites from the release. Yet, as time went on and I broke down the album more and more, night after night, I started to see deep beauty in songs like “Kite,” “Grace,” and “Peace On Earth.” Each song would speak to me in a fresh new way. Eventually every note and word from every song was emblazoned into my neurons. I knew the record inside and out. And I loved it.

I don’t think that I have listened to an album that intensely or regularly since and I wonder if that’s a bad thing. Perhaps I should choose a new release and spend my commute listening to it day after day, ride after ride, journey after journey. I am sure that it would create a much richer appreciation for whichever album I choose. But part of it was being 27 as well. You are only 27 once, and no matter what you try, you can never go back there. Older wiser you will always rule the roost.

Surprisingly, Janice and I lasted a lot longer than we should have. Much of it was an on again-off again relationship, but that went on and off for years, right up until I met my current wife. When I look back on it now, I am truly surprised that we lasted that long. I’ve written about Janice before in some of my concert reviews for Tesla/Joan Jett and for All That You Can’t Leave Behind
. It has long since been one of my favorite discs in my vast collection and a large part of that is due to Janice and those cold winter night journeys.