Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Gentlemen of the Road

My head doesn't get stuck in the clouds too often, but once in a while it does. It happens when I least expect it. I'll be hooked on a good television show halfway through the season, and I'll start to mentally immerse myself in the story looking forward to every episode. The next thing you know, I've signed up to bring Tostino's pizza rolls and some grape soda to a gathering of like minded souls to watch the season finale. The build up to a new movie sometimes gets me too.  I build my entire summer around the release date of some movie. Then I show up hours early to the premier with a tent and 42 bags of Twizzlers.

I'm embarrassed to say that it happened again, just a few weeks ago. A band called Mumford and Sons was coming to town to play their second show of their North American tour, and I got tickets to go with 3 of my bestest mates. I was in the ether. I was as giddy as a Canadian school girl at a Robert Pattinson autograph signing; you couldn't have given me enough Lorazepam. Tickets were more difficult to score than I expected, but once I had them, I was floating with the angels. A week before the show I was getting a bit cheeky. I spent hours on-line reading about what their live shows are like, missed appointments at work, emailed the lead singer's parents in the United Kingdom, and tried to figure out a way to become a groupie AND keep my family. The premotor cortex of my brain was peeking with excitatory signals because of the anticipation I was experiencing.

Believe me, when I say that I knew my expectations were high, and I didn't care. I knew Mumford and Sons would deliver, and I was absolutely right. They delivered like a Federal Express Broadway musical. Mumford and Sons brought the frequency of life and truth to their show, and I soaked it in like a dankish sponge. Their songs are full of passion and heartache, faith and doubt, life and death. I told someone it was like being at a rally for God and humanity to work together to defeat darkness.

For each song, each band member plays a different instrument, including but not limited to an accordion, a mandolin, a banjo and an upright bass. At certain intervals during their set, the four part harmonies they found sent my joy meter to overload and made my cheeks tired. I was brimming with euphoria the entire time. During one of the transitions a member of the band gave the crowd a good chortle when he joked about southern Americans being from South America, which makes perfect sense if your from Britain. I was happy when they eventually got back to the music, which is, by far, their best feature.

The bluegrass, folk, pop and rock genre can't agree on where to place the style of music that Mumford and Sons plays. They cover everything from a head-banging mosh pit in one song to a soothing bluegrass ballad of love in another. The confusion is just, thus they've been dubbed West London Folk. Guess that's a half win for folk, and a kick in the knickers for everyone else. But first and foremost, Mumford and Sons is a festival band. That is where their roots are and throughout their tour they've scheduled festival "stopovers" to remind them of their first love. It is this characteristic that has given them the nickname, Gentlemen of the Road. You can see a documentary of their travels on

Meet the Gentlemen of the Road:
Marcus Mumford: Vocals, Guitar, Drums, Mandolin,

Ben Lovett: Vocals, Keyboards, Accordian, Drums

Country Winston Marshall: Vocals, Banjo, Dobro, Guitar

Ted Dwane: Vocals, String Bass, Drums, Guitar

As many of you are probably wondering the concert did have an ending, but it was the coolest ending ever, they came back and did a five song encore, thanked each of us collectively for coming, told us we were the best audience they had ever played for, and gave us each a business card with their personal cell phone numbers and email addresses along with a spare key to their houses in London with directions on how to take care of their fish tanks and guinea pigs while they are on tour. Best band ever.

You may scoff when you hear this, but I would like to postulate the possibility that this band has the potential to become synonymous with other long lasting superpower bands like U2, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, or Madonna. They're music stands the test of time and the cohesion between the band members could withstand the worst that the music business might have to throw at them.

Cheers to the Gentlemen of the Road.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dear NBC, I Don't Want to Watch the Loser Cry, or Do I?

NBC should launch a network where they feature only the crying dejected losers who fall flat on their faces. Then Bob Costas could do sarcastic voice overs about how awesome it must be to train so hard for 14 years just to see it all go down the toilet in a whirlpool of athletic genius. Before a long agonizing failure they could tell us heart-freezing stories about the families of the athletes getting homes foreclosed on or falling victim to ponzi schemes. Ratings would sky-rocket, wouldn't they?

Apparently, "someone" likes to watch that stuff because they scramble the cameramen like house flies to a dirty bum. And that "someone" must be the one buying all the ad space, because NBC strives for the money shot, complete with streaming tears of embarrassment and failure.

Congratulations, NBC, for testing the waters of "cry-definition" television by letting us watch athletes like Jordyn Wieber or Liu Xiang shed sweet dramatic tears of despair. Hopes and dreams come to a crashing halt and NBC goes for complete coverage of... the loser. Now all you have to do is supplement this new emo programming with advertisements for depression medication and suicide hotlines.

Or, how 'bout this idea: maybe you could GIVE THEM A MOMENT! Isn't there a "winner" sauntering about the arena that you could feature? I think there is. Do that.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Life in Overdrive

Toby Keith came to Virginia Beach, and I was one of the lucky hillbillies in the front row, or "pit", as it is affectionately known. Allow me to set the stage for those unfamiliar with the goings-on at a genuine Toby Keith concert. The venue was outside, and it just happened to be the hottest evening of the summer. Not to worry, I was surrounded by many other people suffering from the same summer heat, so we were able to keep each other warm.

To start things off, I'm so thankful we got to our standing positions in the pit early enough to catch the Ford commercial that started the show. It was like being at a drive in movie, you know, the nostalgia of it all. A giant white sheet was strategically hung in front of the stage so no one would miss it. A projector mounted 100 feet away gave all 20,000 of us a larger than life perspective of what it's like to be Toby Keith driving a Ford F-150. It was glorious. There he was before us, Toby Keith, in a commercial driving a truck on a gianormous sheet hanging down before our very eyes. I know what your thinking, Ford commercials are available at home in our living rooms on the TV, but this... this was special. Apparently, if you drive a brand new Ford F-150, several really cool things happen to you. You meet beautiful, sweaty, half-naked women sucking on popsicles. Dirty, empty bars suddenly spring to life when you plug in the juke box. Somehow desert roads become oases, and fame and fortune follow you everywhere. All, from a truck. How cool is that? I'm going to go get me one of those Ford's just as soon as I get a feather in my hat and call it macaroni.

But the concert wasn't over yet...

The sheet fell from the heights over our heads, and we stood there like excited villagers sacrificing a virgin before a giant volcano ignorant of the sweaty steam emanating from each of our bodies. Then the live music began with a loud pulse emanating from each instrument. Bodies jumped, sweat flung into my eyes, the lights turned on and the super amazing pyro-technics made me realize I wasn't hot enough.

Excitement overtook the sensation of having a fever, and I watched and listened while a tired sunburnt old man used the gift of song to tell 20,000 people how amazing they were. As I observed I realized that this was the most patriotic group of people ever. There was a shout out to policemen and firemen, a respect for veterans and politicians, and a long drawn-out video montage of Willy Nelson. I kid you not, an amputee literally threw his fake leg onto the stage for Toby Keith to sign it. And it wasn't any kind of normal fake leg either, it was decorated to the nines with paintings of bald eagles that were draped in American flags. It was one of the most questionably inappropriate things I've ever seen.

But that was nothing compared to the crowning achievement of the entire show. The climax of a good show is reserved for special subject matter. It's not enough to sing about cowboys and Willy Nelson and Ford trucks. They aren't special enough. Nope, you've got to give the climax to something special. And in this case that "special thing" is the Red Solo Cup that holds your beer. Toby Keith, held up a red solo cup full of some liquid and sang one of the most beautiful ballads ever written. While doing this four stage hands began pumping up giant red solo cup balloons about the size of Ford F-150s. Here are some of the lyrics to this beloved song:

Red solo cup, I fill you up
Let's have a party, let's have a party
I love you red solo cup, I lift you up,
Proceed to party, proceed to party
Now I've seen you in blue and I've seen you in yellow
But only you red will do for this fellow
Cause you are the Abbott into my Costello
And you are the Fruit to my Loom

For all the lyrics to this beautiful song click here

Now if that isn't just the sweetest thing ever then I don't know what is. It's very catchy and memorable.

What followed were some sweet guitar licks, a drum solo and few shots of my ugly mug on the big screen, but as you would probably guess it was all down hill after the Red Solo Cup.

I can tell you with certainty that Toby Keith is a great entertainer; he knows what his fans want and he gives it to them. So what does he give them? A sense of who they are, passionate, patriotic, gun-toting, beer-drinking, nature loving, NASCAR supporting, cowboy boot wearing, Caucasians. I was entertained, and part of me wished I had a pair of cowboy boots. This was my very first country music concert and I would do it all over again, except for the part about leaving early to miss the inevitable parking lot traffic jam. How do you like me now?