Monday, January 26, 2015

Boy Bands - How do I love thee?

Boy Bands – How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  Don’t laugh or judge, just hear me out.  I really enjoy good pop music.  And who does pop music better than boy bands?  The Jackson Five, New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, NSync, One Direction.  If you are looking for good bob your head, dance around, sing at the top of your lungs, feel good pop music - look no further than boy bands.

I remember in middle school falling hard for New Kids on the Block.  I had the posters plastered all over my walls, the jean jacket with all the buttons and even the bedspread and pillow case.  I kissed those boys good night every night!  My favorites being the Knight brothers – Jonathan and Jordan.  They were my everything!

Then as I got older the grunge phase moved in.  I traded in my jean jacket for flannel shirts and Doc Martens and proclaimed my love for all things Nirvana and drummer Dave Grohl.  But inside I never lost my love for boy bands and pop music. 

Then like a gift from the heavens came a band called Backstreet Boys.  Was it true?  Could boy bands really come back?  I could once again proclaim my boy band love!  And after that the flood gates opened up and we had NSync, 98 Degrees and even Hanson – a group of brothers from my home town of Tulsa.

Now in my early teens I was a huge fan of the The All New Mickey Mouse Club and watched it and Kids Incorporated religiously after school.  There I was introduced to Justin, Britney, Christina and JC.  I wanted so badly to be on the show with them.  They had the coolest job.  So naturally I became fans of them all once they were on the radio.

However, when NSync and Backstreet Boys became big I was starting college.  It was frowned on to still be in love with boy bands.  You needed to grow up.  But that didn't matter to me.  I was going to listen to my pop music and love every minute of it.  And of course, you had to pick.  Were you an NSync fan or a Backstreet Boys fan?  I developed my loyalty to Backstreet Boys and to this day they remain my favorite boy band. 

A couple years ago my dream came true… 2 favorite boy bands toured together!  I attended the NKOTBSB concert at BOK Center in Tulsa.  It was a fusion concert of New Kids on the Block (now known as NKOTB) and Backstreet Boys (BSB).  They did a couple songs together, then one group would come out and sing 1 or 2 songs, then the other group would come out for a couple songs. They alternated all night long.  I have to say it was the loudest concert I have ever been to.  Grown women, including myself, were screaming so loud and long that it took until the chorus to figure out what song they were singing.  Worth losing my voice over?  Absolutely! 

In May 2014 my friend Sendi and I traveled to the Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City to see Backstreet Boys.  I can’t tell you how excited I was for this concert.  My favorite of the group is Kevin and my favorite song is “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely".  There is one part that Kevin sings in that song and all I cared about all night was to hear that one part.  And guess what, he walked right over to my section as he sang it.  I swear he was singing it right to me!

Now, watching 40 year old men doing cheesy boy band choreography was a bit weird at times but I didn't care.  That concert was everything I had wanted and more.  They even sat down to do an acoustic set while playing their own instruments.  They acknowledged that they can’t be dancing around for the rest of their life so they are branching out and trying to make it so we will still have new music from them for years to come.  Were they the best musicians?  No.  But it didn't matter.  It gave depth to the concert and showed us a different side of them.  And, of course, I loved it!

I saw the current kings of the boy band, One Direction, in August 2014 at BOK Center in Tulsa.  I won these tickets with my friend Charity.  We searched for 4 hours in Downtown Tulsa for those tickets in a scavenger hunt given by Tulsa Pedicabs.  We walked blocks and blocks over and over again.  We were not giving up!  And we found them underneath a huge overpass.  It was totally worth the hunt.

I am not an uber fan of One Direction but I do like their music…. and who doesn't adore their British accents?  I thoroughly enjoyed their concert.  In true boy band style they knew how to work that crowd.  Those boys moved around the stage constantly, making eye contact with as many fans as possible and goofing around when it wasn't their turn to sing.  They even turned the house lights up when they talked to the crowd so they could see the entire place.  They mentioned over and over how loud it was in there.  They had been playing stadiums and ours was the only arena on the tour.  The noise level was outrageous and I even brought ear plugs.  I learned my lesson with the NKOTBSB tour. 

One of my goals is to be able to meet the Backstreet Boys one day and let them know that even when I am 80 years old I will still say how much I love boy bands…..and especially the Backstreet Boys!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Kristian Bush - 1/14/15


I got to go to another K95.5 Girls Night Out For Change.  This time it was Kristian Bush from the group Sugarland.  I will admit that I’m not the biggest Sugarland fan out there.  I like a few songs but not one of my favorite voices to listen to.  Sorry Jennifer Nettles.  But I thought it would be neat to go listen to the lesser known voice and see how he was.

Now these events are free but you have to win an invite on the radio.  How did I win this time?  Well, let’s go back to Christmas Eve.  I knew they had started giving the invites away so I turned on the morning show on K95.5.  Jim Carey asked what guys still needed a Christmas present.  He was going to give invites away but they had to be a guy calling for his girl.  So I woke my husband up and told him to call.  He just looked at me like I was nuts but then again he knows how much I love this stuff so he did.  He got through and Merry Christmas to me I’m going to see Kristian Bush.  Thank you baby!

My friend Monica went with me again.  We got to The Vanguard in downtown Tulsa right about 7:00.  About 50 women had already shown up but they were all sitting down at the back of the room.  Um, I don’t sit down and wait for anyone.  I claim my spot as soon as I can.  And boy did we get some weird looks as we made our way up to the stage.  But I don’t care.  I get to pick my spot and be right up front where I want to be.

This is when we meet our new friends Ashley and Becky.  Ashley came up to us to tell us about the glares and stares we were getting and she was going to join us.  Hahahaha!  Nice to meet a fellow concert fanatic!  We found out that she was a huge Sugarland fan and had even been up on stage with them at a concert.  How cool is that?

2 of the DJs, Kristina Carlyle and Natalie Cash, came out to welcome us all there and to let us know that they were raising money for Iron Gate to help feed hungry children in Tulsa.  I think it’s a great idea!  I think they ended up with over $500 that night.  Way to go!  Natalie tossed some t-shirts out - girl’s got an arm!  But I never seem to catch any.  One of these days I will.

Kristian came out and automatically started talking with the crowd.  He asked who had heard of Sugarland and everyone yelled out.  Then he asked who had never heard of Sugarland.  One lady was it.  He said he was going to talk to her all night long!  He joked that although we may be fans we aren't really sure if he can sing….we just thought he was the guitar player.  He was very personable and very funny.

He opened with a couple new songs then he did his new single “Trailer Hitch”.  Towards the end of the song he said “I’m pretty sure Katy Perry is my spirit animal” and broke into “This Is How We Do”.  Too funny!!!  I think he and his brother Brandon, who was there playing keyboard, are the two happiest performers I have ever seen!  Huge smiles on their faces the entire time. 

In the middle of his set he did Sugarland’s “Baby Girl” and “Stuck Like Glue”.  He said for the last 10 years he has been trying to write songs for women from him but sung by a woman and now he gets to talk to us from a man’s perspective.  He also said one of my favorite quotes I have ever heard.  “Music should do 1 of 2 things – shake your hips or explode your heart.  If it doesn’t do that, turn that shit off!”  I love that so much!  He gets me!

Now remember that I said this is a room full of about 150 women.  He was very good to talk to the crowd all night asking several questions and pointing out those that aren't appearing to have a good time to try to make them smile or shake their hips a little.  Yet there was one lady who just didn't think he was paying enough attention to her.  We are going to call her “boobs”.  Cute little blonde with –you guessed it – big boobs.  At one point she decided to flop herself on the stage where the twins were almost completely out of her shirt.  Apparently that wasn't enough because later we hear from the crowd “We aren't getting any attention over here!”  Are you kidding me?  Then she followed it up with “We are used to getting attention!”  Did she really just say that?  You could feel that stares from 150 women who were about to beat her down.  Nothing happened, thank goodness, but we were waiting with anticipation to see if anything would.

And don’t you know there is always that one drunk girl who is flinging herself around dancing fast to the slow songs.  Yep, we had one of those right next to us.  I thought Ashley was going to get slapped in the face at some point.  But it was all good and everyone had a great time. 

Kristian closed with a song called “Southern Gravity” which I really liked and then Sugarland’s “All I Want To Do.”  He proved that he really could sing and I think he made a fan out of the one lady who had no idea who he was….and of course, me.

At each Girls Night Out everyone in the place gets to meet the artist so we waited our turn.  I let him know that I liked his version of “Stuck Like Glue” better and he gave me a huge bear hug.  He gives great hugs!  We chatted a little bit.  I really think that he and I could be good friends.  We could totally hang out.  He is really down to earth and humble.

So as we got in the car to leave I turned on the radio and what was on? “Trailer Hitch!”  Couldn't have planned that more perfectly!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood – 1/10/15

What all can I say about Garth Brooks that hasn't already be said?  He truly is a legendary performer.  I had the chance to see him and Trisha Yearwood in Little Rock, AR about a month ago and again in Tulsa, OK at BOK Center this weekend.  Since Garth is from Tulsa and has lived in the area for the last 10+ years, the town has been Garth crazy!  They changed the names of the streets to things like “Low Places Lane”, “Thunder Rolls Road” and “Shameless Boulevard”.  He is playing 7 sold out shows here over a 2 weekend period and even played 2 shows the night I went.  Everyone is going to see the show at some point!

Full Disclosure:  I personally know Trisha Yearwood.  She was a student in my Zumba class and I had the amazing opportunity to be on her cooking show “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen”.  She is a really great person and they are some of the most generous and genuinely caring people I have ever met. 

So, what is my non-biased opinion of the show?  IT WAS AMAZING!!!  I can honestly say that in the 50+ concerts I have attended through the years NO ONE does it better than Garth Brooks!  He just has it all.  From the songs to the stage presence to the connection with the audience, it really is the best concert I have ever attended!  And I got to do it twice!

I attended the Saturday night 7pm show and he was set to do a 2nd show that night at 10:30pm.  Both were sold out shows so over 17,000 people were there for each.  The opening act was singer songwriter Karyn Rochelle.  She is also one of Garth’s backup singers.  She said she was nervous but I thought she sounded great!  She sang “Red High Heels” which she wrote with Kellie Pickler along with a few more of her songs.  She has a great voice and I hope she is able to make it on country radio. 

After about a 30 minute intermission we were given the announcement that Garth would be coming on in 5 minutes.  Of course, the energy in the room started growing.  I’ll admit that I was a bit confused and didn't really like the way they started the show.  After the 5 minute warning the big screens started to act as if they were malfunctioning.  There were crew members looking around trying to figure out what was going on.  You could tell it was an act and to be totally honest, I didn't care for it.

Then the lights went out  and on the screen a silhouetted Garth started singing “Man Against Machine” and suddenly he appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the stage.  The crowd went nuts!  They rocked out the rest of the song and seemed to be battling the lights as if they were the machine.   Again, I was a bit confused.

But that was the last time all night I had any reservations.  The rest of the show was exactly what you expect and want to see from Garth.  At one point he said “When I go to see a show I want to hear all the old stuff.  So that’s what I’m going to do.”  And that’s exactly what he did.  The crowd sang every word of every song.  There were several times when he just stopped singing and let us do it for him. 

He did sing his newer song “People Loving People” and they put the words to the song on the screen.  Let me tell you, his band and crew members are complete pros!  During this song, he missed the intro to the next verse and kept singing “Whoa, whoa”.  They never skipped a beat and followed him like it was supposed to happen!  The person running the screens dropped the words so fast I’m sure most people never even realize it happened.  I love seeing that kind of thing because it makes me appreciate how hard they work even more.

I saw him back in 1997 at Drillers Stadium in Tulsa and remember that he was a mad man running all around the stage.  It is now 17 years later and he is still a mad man running all around the stage!  And it was awesome.  He even climbed up on the drummer’s cage at one point. 

They sold every seat in the house including the ones behind the stage.  He made a point to go back there several times and acknowledge all the fans.  He really knows how to play to everyone in the place.  The very large screens were in a cube, so no matter where you were sitting you didn't miss a single thing.  He does it right!

After a little over an hour he started singing “In Another’s Eyes” and up the stairs came Trisha Yearwood.  Again, the crowd went nuts.  It is such a great duet and they sound so good together. They are the perfect couple!

Then Garth left the stage and let Trisha do her thing.  She sang “American Girl” and put a highlight reel of her show on the screens and then a few more songs.  She sang “She’s In Love With The Boy” and they did a kiss cam on the screen during the choruses.  At one point they even had Garth and Trisha on the kiss cam as if they were in the crowd.  So cute!!!  And then we notice that in the crowd a guy had proposed to his girlfriend and they put it up on the screen.  Trisha saw it and said “Did someone just get engaged?”  She was tearing up about it.  It was perfect!

Garth came back out and had even more energy than before – if that’s even possible!  He played several more songs including "Shameless", “The Thunder Rolls” and “Friends in Low Places”.  I loved how they started “The Thunder Rolls” with all the guys in their hats looking down at the floor just like the video.  They even had crew members come out with confetti cannons at one point during a song.  He ended with my favorite “The Dance”. 

But of course he wasn't done yet!  He started the encore with “Fever”.  At this point things got really crazy!  The drummer’s cage lifted up and started spinning, they were all running around the stage and there were 2 moving platforms that started going.  In Little Rock, Garth looked like he was about to fall a couple times as he ran on these treadmills of sorts.  It made me nervous for him.  Well, this time about half way through the song the fiddle player fell.  But he had a few notes to play right about then and so he did it on his back!  Then about 30 seconds later Garth fell too.  But in true Garth style, he rolled onto the platform and rode it to the end. 

He played a couple more songs then at the end asked Trisha to come back out and sing his favorite song (and mine too) “Walkaway Joe”.  It was just him and her on stage with him playing guitar.  They did not do this in Little Rock.  I loved it!!!  It was the perfect way to the end the show.

So, I mentioned earlier that he had a 2nd show to do that night.  He ended our show a little after 10:00.  The BOK Center had everything turned around and ready for the next crowd in 29 minutes but it takes a while to get 17,000 people inside so the show didn't start until midnight.  I heard it was just as amazing as the first one. 

Concerts are my version of a roller coaster.  Garth is playing 4 more shows here in Tulsa and I want to go again and again!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Parmalee and Backroad Anthem - 1/8/15

2015 started off with a bang!  I knew that the country band Parmalee was coming to town to play Cain’s Ballroom.  I’ll talk all about Cain’s in a future post.  I’ll stick to the bands for this one.

This summer I had the chance to meet Parmalee when our radio station K95.5 did a “Girls Night Out”.  These are so fun!  You have to win an invite by calling in on the radio – no tickets are sold.  It’s only women and the artists seem to love it.  It is usually an up-and-coming artist with 1 or maybe 2 songs on the radio.  They will do about a 1 hour acoustic set and then you get the chance to meet them after and get your picture with them.  What a great idea!!!  I try to get invites to as many as possible.  Who knows?  They may end up being a really famous band/artist and I can say I met them back when. 

So, because I saw them this summer I was going to skip this concert even though I knew some of the radio stations were giving out tickets.  It all changed when I heard the words “meet and greet”.  Yes, I know, I “met” them this summer, but how can I pass up the chance to do it again?!?  I woke up one morning and I heard them say on 98.5 KVOO they were giving away tickets, dinner at Oklahoma Joes BBQ and meet and greet passes.  So, of course I called!  I played a little game against the DJ, Sunny Leigh, and boom - I’m now going to the concert in 2 days!

My friend Monica agreed to go with me even though she wasn't really sure who they were.  But free dinner, pictures with the band and a free concert - she was in.  We arrived for the dinner right on time.  Oklahoma Joes is attached to Cain’s and has really great BBQ.  So we ate our dinner, I chatted with Sunny Leigh - who was extremely nice - and we waited for the band.

Parmalee showed up and we all lined up to take pictures.  I got up there, shook all their hands and let them know I saw them at Girls Night Out.  One of them said – “Oh yeah, that was a fun one!”  See, I told you the artists like an audience full of 150 women!   I got my picture taken in what Monica called “a Parmalee sandwich” and went back to sit down.

As we were standing in line, a reporter from KJRH Channel 2 News was asking people if they were attending the Garth Brooks concert this weekend.  A little side note – Garth Brooks has been all anyone has been talking about for the last 2 weeks!  He’s our hometown boy and he is playing 7 shows over a 6 night span.  I’ll tell you all about that concert in another blog post.  Spoiler alert: It was amazing!

So, anyway, I told the reporter I was going and she asked if I wanted to talk to them about it.  Sure!  I've never been interviewed on the news before.  So she put a mic on me and I did a little interview.  It aired that night on the news.  Pretty neat experience!

Because we got there early to meet the band we had first access into Cain’s.  As soon as they opened the doors we headed up to the stage.  Front and center baby!  But of course it also means you have to stand there for an hour before anything happens, stick out your elbows to claim your spot and make friends with the people standing around so you don’t have to keep saying “sorry I bumped you” all night.

The opening act Backroad Anthem came on about 10 minutes late.  I had never heard of them but hoped they would be good.  They had a lead singer, 3 guitar players, a violin player and a drummer.  That’s a lot to put up on half a stage!  Those boys could really play!  They rocked out for sure.  The main problem was it was too loud that we couldn't hear a word the singer was singing.  They were very entertaining for sure; just wish I could have heard the words.

After they finished I yelled at one of the guitar players to hand me the set list.  They came out to sign autographs so I got the set list signed and pictures with a few of the guys.  That’s one of the great things about Cain’s - a lot of the artists will come out and sign stuff after the concerts.  Stick around for a little bit and you never know who you may get to meet.

Parmalee put on a really great show.  I was afraid the same thing would happen that we couldn't hear the words but that wasn't the case.  They sounded great!  It was pretty much the same show that I saw acoustically this summer.  They mixed it up and did a little bit of everything.  Covered Bob Seger's “Night Moves”, Marvin Gaye's “Let’s Get It On”, threw in some “Shorty It’s Your Birthday” rapping and even changed the words to Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” to a song about Fireball Whiskey.  I’m sure country music purists don’t like it but I think it gives a good variety and gets the crowd going. They also sang one of my favorite songs right now "Dance".  It is very much a description of me!

It was the lady’s birthday standing next to me.  I told her to put up a sign.  I had put a pen in my boot in case I needed it for an autograph.  You need to be prepared for these things!  So we wrote on one of the paper tickets “It’s my birthday” and I told her to hold it up.  About half way through she was ready to put the sign away.  I couldn't have that, so at a little lull in the concert I started yelling that it was her birthday.  The lead singer heard me and he and everyone in the place sang “Happy Birthday” to her.  Then a little later in the show the drummer threw out a drum stick.  We caught it and gave it to the birthday gal.  She was so excited! 

Monica ended up catching a guitar pick and we convinced one of the crew to get us the set list from the stage.  I let Monica have it but told her it was no good without getting it signed.  They had told us at the meet and greet we couldn't get autographs but after the show they would come out and give them.  So we waited around for about 20 minutes or so and got more pictures and autographs. 

It was such a fun night and I’m really glad I didn't pass up the chance to see them again!

Monday, January 12, 2015

What Makes A Great Concert?

People will give you different answers when you ask them “What makes a great concert?”  I, of course, have my own opinion too.  And since this blog is about my concert experiences, I’ll just tell you what I think.

I could go on and on about all the things that I think make up a great concert - good music, singers that can actually sing, being able hear the singer over the music.  But the number one thing, in my opinion, that makes a great concert is connection.  I believe that an artist’s ability to connect with the audience is key to having a great concert experience.  When I go to a concert, not only am I looking to be entertained, but I am also looking for something I can’t get by watching them perform on TV.  I want to feel like they are performing just for me, no matter where I am sitting.

Country artists seem to do this the best.  They realize that they are there ONLY because their fans put them there.  They interact with the fans and pay attention to what is going on in the crowd.  Many of them will even stop their concerts to sing Happy Birthday to someone or bring kids up on stage to sing with them.  These extra things are what make it an experience to talk about the next day. 

There has been some big pop star concerts that, although the singing and maybe even dancing were great, I left disappointed because I didn’t feel there was anything special in the concert.  They were there just to put on a performance and go home.  They didn’t seem to care whether anyone was there or not.  I prefer when the artist talks to the crowd a little bit.  I want to feel like I get to know them personally just a little.  It makes me a bigger fan.  Garth Brooks is amazing at this.  He speaks to the crowd like he is talking individually to every person there.  Cher was also very good at telling her stories that went along with her songs.

In large venues, screens are a big part of this connection to the crowd.  We have the BOK Center here in Tulsa.  It is an amazing venue that holds 17,000 people.  When you sit in the nosebleed seats the band is so small you don’t get any detail.  I can’t even imagine those venues that are much larger.  If the artist does not use the screens to show their faces then those far away do not get the whole experience.

Some artists do this wonderfully.  Keith Urban has my vote for best use of screens.  His screens were floor to ceiling and there were times when his face was the only thing on it.  I don’t care where you are sitting, you feel like he is right in front of you.  Bruno Mars is the worst offender in this category.  He had huge screens behind him yet only 2 songs all night did he actually have his face on them.  The rest of the time it was used as back lighting or just designs.  Why have that big of a screen and not show us who we came to see?

So I believe that when a performer finds a way to make every person feel like they are there to perform just for them - that’s what makes a great concert.