Everything was Roses when they Held on to the Guns: Guns n’ Roses Not in this Lifetime

I’ve been lucky enough to attend some pretty impressive concerts.

I got to see U2 live in a relatively small stadium, Journey from just a few feet away, and Ozzy’s last Ozzfest with the Black Sabbath lineup.  I even got to see Axl with his new Guns N’ Roses line up back in 2012, having previously seen Duff McKagan, Slash, and Matt Sorum (the Use Your Illusion line up) with Velvet Revolver at the aforementioned Ozzfest.

At the time I thought seeing the various parts of GnR in their new ventures was as close as I would get to seeing the original line up live; especially considering the legendary bad blood between Axl and his former bandmates.

Then the news broke last year that Slash was quoted making some exceptionally flattering comments about Rose.  And Axl was then quoted reciprocating with some equally complimentary statements about Slash.  The two cornerstones of the band thawing a bit?  Rumors flew quickly, would there be a reunion?

A few months later it was announced that Rose, McKagan, and Slash all signed up for a reunion show at Coachella.  Since I knew I wouldn’t hit the lottery any time soon I figured it’d be something I’d have to miss…until they announced tour dates featuring Axl, McKagan, and Slash.  And that they would be playing the football stadium in my city!

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Duff back on bass!

I’ve been a GnR fan since the late 80s and early 90s.  I grew up watching their videos on MTV (back when they played music) and became borderline obsessed with the group after the Use Your Illusion albums.  Even though tastes and moods can change any time anyone asks “who’s your favorite band?”  Guns n Roses was always the answer.

It's not the same GnR without Slash...
It’s not the same GnR without Slash…

For me the show had a lot to live up to and it came through beyond what I could have imagined.  My best friend Mike (who’s been a fan almost as long as I have) called it “the culmination of his being.”  Over three hours of classic and newer GnR material.  Arrangements that harkened back to the Use Your Illusion tour (I remember seeing Slash play the Godfather Theme on a VHS tape I had of a GnR show from the 90s) and even some surprises; such as two songs featuring the first member to be ousted, Appetite for Destruction drummer Steven Adler.

Adler on drums for two Appetite tracks!
Adler on drums for two Appetite tracks!

What made the show remarkable to me was that it wasn’t just a greatest hits tour.  Yes they played the biggest of the biggest hits and the roar of the crowd was the loudest I’ve ever heard when the opening strains to “Welcome to the Jungle” echoed off the stadium stands, but it was more than that.  “Jungle” was followed with relatively deep cut “Double Talkin’ Jive” which has one of my favorite drum beats and guitar outros ever.    That in turn was followed by the 9 minute epic, “Estranged” which possibly features my favorite guitar solo ever.  Halfway through the show they broke out the ultimate GnR deep cut by playing Coma.  A 10 minute song I never thought I’d experience live.  Casual fans all around me sat down as the song wound its way through its narrative leaving me one of the few in my section standing up and singing along.

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Coma Live in Concert!

The whole show transported me back in time where playing Doom and drawing comics was all I did every day.

It was far and away greatest concert I’ve ever attended.  What’s the future of GnR?  Who knows.  Axl being as unpredictable as he is may decide to drop the act and just tour with AC/DC (which I have to say if they came here with that line up I’d be pretty psyched for that too).  McKagen may ditch it for a solo act.  Slash might do the same.  The camaraderie on stage appeared pretty damn good though, with Axl jamming to Slash’s solos, and Duff getting to do his own Misfits cover.  And I can’t think of a show where bandmates could play for 3 plus hours for as many shows as they have if they weren’t enjoying themselves.

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Nearly 30 years after their debut…Axl still has it..

I shouldn’t hold out hope for a new album featuring the OG GnR line up…but I am.  Maybe someday we’ll hear new material, even just a song or two, from 80s metal’s Lennon & McCarthy of Axl and Slash.

Take a bow!
Take a bow!

But if it never happens, or even if the band happens to implode yet again in the coming weeks, those of us who grew up in the GnR era will always have the masterpieces they produced from 1987-1992.  And I’ll never forget the show they all got together to put on in 2016.

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Tool: Awesome and Underrated

Tool, Schism 2010
Tool, Schism 2010
Photo by Luki.r – Flickr

Tool. What can I say? For those of you who don’t know the band, they’re a multigenre band from Los Angeles who’s been around since 1990. They are my No. 2 favorite band, behind U2.

I don’t write about music often because it’s often too close to my heart. However, if I practice what I preach in some if you want to write posts, that’s exactly what I should do – be honest and open.

Chances are if you grew up in the ’90s, you know Tool. They emerged around the same time as Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, etc. You know, when music was actually good.

They’re considered metal, but I classify them as multigenre because they embrace industrial, rock, and many more.

For this reason and more, here’s why they are awesome and underrated:

Unique: Many bands try, but no one comes close to sounding like them. Maynard’s voice is one of a kind and often hypnotic. Tool is the only band I can sleep to anytime. The lyrics are deep, sometimes dark or fun, and always powerful. The bass is heavy, and the band has some of the best bass lines I’ve ever heard. Other bands try to cover Tool songs, and often fail because no one can replicate them.

They do what they want: Tool releases and album every five or so years. In fact, the last album came out in 2006, and there’s talk of a new one, but fans know until it comes out, it’s just talk. They do whatever and play whatever they want. As one of the biggest bands in the metal genre, their music is not available on iTunes. They tour occasionally, but Maynard has two other bands and his own winery, Caduceus Cellars. Musically, they don’t care if you like them or listen to what they put out, they just do it. And do it well.

The live show: I’ve been lucky enough to see them twice – Lallapalooza ’97 and in 2012 in Georgia. Two very different performances, and both were unforgettable. At both shows, the crown sang every word to every song. I haven’t experienced that at any other show; no other fans are as die-hard as Tool fans. The light shows are like what I would think an acid trip is like. The music hits hard and resonates deep in your body and soul.

Maynard James Keenan: Tool could not be Tool without the entire band, but I have incredible respect for frontman Maynard. The beautiful thing is he doesn’t act like a frontman. He doesn’t have to be in the spotlight; in fact, he avoids it. At the 2012 show, he stayed in the dark silhouetted the entire show. Some criticized him for it, but if you know him, you know he may have not felt it that night. He may also have decided to show he’s not the only member who is important. Whatever the reason, he always does what he wants. He’s not a diva about it, either.

The music: I have been a Tool fan for 20 years. I can listen to them no matter what mood I’m in. There’s so much power and emotion in the music, it can make me angry or evoke emotions I’ve suppressed. It’s not a bad thing because the music allows me to admit and confront the issue. On the other hand, sometimes it calms me in tough time. I remember playing the song Aenima on repeat after a pet’s passing. I can drown out and forget the world when listening to Tool. Not many bands can do that for a listener. It’s an experience.

So, there you have it. Feel free to share your thoughts below, and check them out if it’s your thing!

Artist Spotlight: Blake Best

We at RevPub love music. It’s pulled us through good times and bad, and there’s truly nothing better than a good concert. This month, we’re spotlighting Nashville-area musician and guitar instructor, Blake Best. Be sure to reach out to him and show your support!

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Contact info: Best Guitar Instruction, 615-406-7268, bbbest1085@gmail.com

Instruments played: Acoustic guitar, electric guitar

RevPub: How long have you been playing, and what made you want to play music?

I have been playing guitar for 15 years. My parents were both avid music fans, and my father was a professional guitarist, so I grew up surrounded by music.

RevPub: What is the most important thing to you in regard to your music?

The most important thing to me is for my music to retain my thoughts and feelings. I write music for me, and I always have. It just happened that others appreciated it and felt a connection to me through it. I also play multiple styles, which has helped keep me versatile and has kept my creativity flowing. I toured for five years as a member of a signed and well marketed metal band, but never gave up playing the rock and alternative music that defined me in my formative years.

RevPub: Who/what are your biggest influences/motivators?

What a question! There’s so many…Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, TRUSTcompany, Adam D and Joel of Killswitch Engage, Boston, Alice in Chains, Robert Englund (an actor but one of my greatest creative influences), my Mom and Dad, and my fiance Lisa. She has always been supportive of me and of my music career. She is my soulmate and encouraged me to continue on my musical journey.

RevPub: What are the most important things you’ve learned throughout your musical career?

Patience and gratitude. The music business is a cut-throat industry full of hard knocks and bumps. I strongly believe that if you’re patient, you’ll get your chance to show everyone what you can do. I also believe gratitude is important. Be thankful of everyone who supports you, because without them, what would you have?

RevPub: Why is music such a big part of your life and who you are as a person?

Music is just part of who I am; it’s natural to me, like breathing. I’ve always found music to be a source of comfort and peace, and I enjoy sharing this with others. Though I enjoy playing and recording and being involved in the music industry, I began teaching guitar in order to share my passion for music in a way I could never do as just a performer. Teaching is a way for me to ensure that others have the opportunity to enjoy music as much as I do. Hopefully, my sons will want to learn so my musical legacy lives on!

Lost Boy, Lost Girl

Story of the Month: The Quest for the Stereo and the Spirit of the 90s

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It’s strange that the 90s still feel “new” to me. The early 2000s feel passé and ancient. Things about the 90s still stick with me and despite the “convenience” of new technology I miss some of the aspects of “inconvenience” of my teenage years. Columbia Record Clubs, VHS and DVD rentals, Magazine research…it’s all stuff that, though it may still exist, isn’t a main part of the culture anymore… My first CDs came from Columbia record Club! And I could only play them in my Sega CD….through a mono-TV.

Thinking of this reminded me of buying my first stereo. It was 1997. I’d had them given as gifts before, Christmas and Birthday presents. The one that I was replacing was indeed a birthday present from my 15th Birthday. It was a TWO disc changer. And it seemed so cool. It had two trays on the top and they would swap places when the discs were changed (I knew so little I once tried to put my Full Throttle PC-CDROM into it to play the great Gone Jackals soundtrack… It didn’t work… But I DID get that soundtrack…from Columbia House!). The stereo started to skip and the changing mechanism didn’t work. I’d saved up some money and went to get myself a brand new stereo. We started out early, about 10 AM. I was kind of excited.

In the 90s, in my area, there were only a few places to go. Circuit City, H.H. Gregg, and Media Play. I usually went to Circuit City, but I remember H.H. Gregg had a sale on them so my mom drove me there. I picked out an AMAZING 5 disc changer. Brought it home, hooked it up, ran my TV and video games systems through it. Connected my parents’ old MASSIVE JBL speakers…and it didn’t work. I tried repeatedly and it didn’t work. So we took it back. H.H. Gregg said they would only offer to fix it, we explained it was a BRAND NEW item and they reluctantly let us exchange it. Unfortunately they didn’t have the one I bought so I downgraded to a three-disc changer, OK with the savings in money, and brought it home. I went through the rigmarole of hooking it back up and…guess what… It didn’t work. Acted like there was no CD in the tray. So we boxed it up and brought it back. The store manger came out and didn’t believe us that it didn’t work. I remember he went in the back and came out with a CD on his finger. He put it in, pressed play, and….it didn’t work. He said “It’s like it’s not reading the CD at all…” My mom, if I recall, responded “No shit.” We got my money back and went to Circuit City.

Old Circuit City buildings had these cool entrances with red-plastic floors covered in circles. it felt like something out of Total Recall. Shopping here was like being in a sci-fi movie…

I felt more comfortable here. We’d purchased PCs from here before with 2 year warranties. Typically when they died after 18 months or so we’d activate the warranty and they’d replace the PC with one that cost the same NOW as the one we got THEN. It means essentially a free-upgrade system if the PC went bad. They quit doing that after a few years.

I found a nice Philips 5 disc changer and took it home. I quit hooking up all my stuff to it and took to just opening the box, plugging it into to the nearest outlet and trying it. I plugged it in. The CD played! I changed discs…and…the mechanism sounded like a pepper mill and it just sat there. We tried it again and…nope. No disc-changing. By this time it was after 3PM. It had been all day. We boxed it up, took it back, and I remember distinctly the woman and man salespeople saying, “Oh I’m sorry… I can’t believe it… Luckily this is Circuit City!” They gave us another one and we took it and went home.

It didn’t even get all the way out of the box. I pulled it out and noticed the back of it looked like it had been kicked in. We just looked despairingly at it and shrugged. I remember saying, “Screw it if it works I don’t care.” It didn’t. It didn’t even power on.

So we took it back…it was after 5PM. Walking back to the stereo section the two salespeople were standing there chatting and I remember the woman turned and saw us, looking stunned she said, “Oh you’re kidding…” I explained it looked like it someone had used it for batting practice and she said, “That’s our shipping…it’s just a box to them.”

Of course they didn’t have the one I picked out. I went to the deep end. I found an amazing-looking Sony 50-disc CD changer. It was 200 more than I planned to spend but I had it. After much consideration I bought it… Took it home…took it out of the box….and…glory be. It worked! It sounded amazing.  in fact it STILL works. It STILL sounds amazing. It as surround sound ports built in. If I want it will play all 50 discs loaded one after another.  It evens started my love affair with Sony products…in all the years I’ve bought them I’ve never had a bad one…

It's an MHC-F100.  Aftermoving it to and from college for four years, from room-to-room, furniture-to-furniture...it's still busting it old school.
It’s an MHC-F100. Aftermoving it to and from college for four years, from room-to-room, furniture-to-furniture…it’s still busting it old school.

Yes portable music, iTunes, Bose, have all changed the way we play music, but that experience plus the quality and awesomeness of this system still sum it up for me. Nothing sounds better than a CD…and it sounds all the sweeter knowing the system I found at the end of that capitalist-consumer quest is still alive and kicking. A bit like the spirit of the 90s to me.

4 Ways to Stay Young at Heart

By: Joey Petty (guest writer)

With healthy diets and workouts sweeping the nation in efforts to live longer, it’s important to remember those won’t necessarily keep you young at heart.

I am fast closing in on the big 40 and am still in great touch with my youthful side. So, I thought I would share some tips that will keep all of us from turning into that old geezer we swore we would never become.

  1. Try some new music. We all have favorite genres and artists, however, try something completely different and see if it fits you. Recently, I have become hooked on female-fronted pop-core or punk-pop. Paramore was the first band I tried. After realizing how much I enjoyed this upbeat, feel-good music, I found similar bands that were harder (Picture Me Broken) or softer (Darling Parade) that provided me with an energizing youthful feel. I am among the older fans at the concerts, but I am never the oldest!
  1. Read a young adult book. If you have not read Harry Potter, shame on you! Books can help you remember the problems you faced as an adolescent and all the joys that followed. As I got older, I became more work and family focused. Not that it is a bad thing, but I love getting lost in a fantasy that reminds me of my past aspirations. It also helps me realize it is never too late to follow my dreams.
  1. Watch cartoons. There is nothing that simple, slapstick, nonsensical humor can’t cure. Cartoons are one of the best stress relievers. A simple episode of SpongeBob can make a bad day disappear into laughs. “It could be worse, you could be bald and have a big nose,” is my favorite quote whenever someone is having a bad day.
  1. Play a game. If you’ve ever watched Tabletop, then you see how board games can help you relive the “glory days”. There are numerous simple card games as well (Flux, Munchkin), and they will have you laughing and hanging out with friends like you used to. If you are a hardcore gamer, there are now more ways to connect online and play than ever before. If you are the athletic type, try an adult athletic league (even kickball) to rev up your engines.

You may feel younger, and be surprised when you better understand your kids and his or her friends when you can remember that it is alright to let out a bit of your wild side.

Feel free to share your tips and comments below!

Music: More Than One Voice

RavenRantThe Voice. American Idol. The X-Factor. Three shows with one common theme: singing.

As reality shows about singing competitions flood our culture, it made me wonder what happens to all those people who do something equally, if not more so, important: play an instrument. Why don’t they get the same hype and attention?

I read about music programs getting cut. My son and most of our friends don’t play instruments. Music is not just a good voice and “the look”. Music gets inside you, moves you, and there’s very little as sexy as a good bass line or guitar solo. We need to get our kids off the electronic devices and away from popular TV, and show them there’s more to music than a voice. As Paul Adelstein says in Be Cool, “everyone can siiiing.”

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve come across several talented kids – thanks, YouTube – and I’ve been blown away by how well these kids play. And they’re playing some complicated stuff. I’ve seen covers of TOOL, System of a Down, Iron Maiden, and many more. (Yes, I’m sticking with metal because that’s my favorite). These kids put in the dedication and work to cover some great metal songs, all of which were written by well-practiced, adult musicians.

So, take a few minutes and check out these videos. If a random song about a fox can get 300M+ views on YouTube, these kids deserve three-times that. Enjoy and spread the love!