• Blog,  Concerts

    A Dream I Never Thought Would Come True Finally Did: My Big Ears Festival Experience Seeing John Paul Jones 3 Times and Herbie Hancock!!!!

    In late 2019, I bought a wristband (you wear a wristband instead of having a ticket) for a festival in March of 2020, which is called Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee.

    It has been going strong for 15 years, and it encompasses a lot of artists of various types of music, as well as other arts.  It also occurs at many different venues throughout Knoxville.

    I bought a wristband for this because one of my favorite musicians, John Paul Jones, was scheduled to play.

    As of this writing, he does not tour anymore, but he still does play live from time to time with various different musicians.

    He was booked to play twice at this event.  One as a solo act, the other with his duo group Sons of Chipotle (w/Anssi Karttunen).

    I was sooooo excited.

    However, about two weeks before the festival was to happen, this thing called COVID reared it’s ugly head and shut down the world.

    So, Big Ears Festival did not happen in 2020 and  I did not get to see John Paul Jones.

    I was heartbroken.  I don’t blame anyone for canceling everything because that needed to happen to try to protect people.  But still, I was heartbroken.

    Fast forward to September 2023, I find out that Big Ears Festival has once again announced John Paul Jones as a solo act and as part of Sons Of Chipotle (also later announced to play with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth too) in March of 2024.

    I was so happy I was getting another chance to see who I think is one of the greatest musicians ever.

    And if that wasn’t enough, Jazz legend Herbie Hancock was announced to play at Big Ears Festival too!!

    I bought a wristband very quickly, booked a hotel room in Knoxville near the venues I was going to, and then waited for March to get here.

    Well, it finally did.

    I went to Knoxville and saw John Paul Jones 3 times!!!  Once on Friday, March 22.  Once on Saturday, March 23.  And once on Sunday, March 24.  All 3 shows completely different too.  And I saw Herbie Hancock a few hours after the second John  Paul Jones show!!

    I’ll start with the first John Paul Jones show.

    Oh for those of you who don’t know who John Paul Jones is, let me give you a little history.  Born John Baldwin, he became a sought after session musician in the 1960s, as well as becoming a music arranger.

    Through his session work, he met Jimmy Page, and when John found out that Jimmy was forming a new group, he called Jimmy and asked if he could be the bass player.  This group ultimately became Led Zeppelin.  One of the biggest bands ever.

    After Zeppelin, John went back to arranging and producing different artists and playing with many different musicians.

    He even made a few albums of his own, including the Scream For Help movie soundtrack, and the solo albums Zooma and The Thunderthief.

    He also was in a band called Them Crooked Vultures, with Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age and Eagles Of Death Metal, and Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters.

    And he reunited with Zeppelin a few times for some one off shows.  The best one being what is now a live album/DVD/Blu-ray called Celebration Day.  Phenomenal show from 2007.

    If you dig into his discography, John is soooooo diverse, musically.  He’s worked with everyone from The Rolling Stones, Donovan, Dusty Springfield, Lulu, Madeline Bell, Jeff Beck, Paul McCartney, Ben E. King, The Mission, Cinderella, R.E.M., Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Diamonda Galas, Heart, just to name a few.  Go to johnpauljones.com and check out his discography.

    OK on to the shows.

    The first John Paul Jones show was just him.  No band or any other musicians at all.

    He told the crowd he had never done a show like this.

    He started the show by coming up from inside the floor playing a big organ.  He was playing the Led Zeppelin song “Your Time Is Gonna Come”.

    Throughout this first show, John mostly played instrumental versions of Zeppelin songs as a well as a few other things.  Including an awesome instrumental of “Down To The River To Pray”, which he covers on his album The Thunderthief.

    And he did all of this on many different instruments.  Organ, Bass, 3-String Acoustic/Mandolin/Bass, Collapsible Lap Steel Guitar, and Piano with various electronics on pads.

    If you are a Zeppelin fan, this was DEFINITELY the show to see.

    As legendary as Zeppelin are, John always seems to be the least talked about of all the band members.  It’s so odd because trust me, he is one of the best musicians of all time.

    And I saw it in spades. Monster player.

    Throughout the show, John also spoke to the audience.  He has a very good sense of humor.  Even when he had a few brief technical difficulties with some of his technology, he even joked about that too. 

    When introducing the Zeppelin song “Ramble On”, he talked about how people put “Isolated Bass” tracks out for people to listen to on the Internet.  He said that at least when you listen to his “Isolated Bass” tracks that you know he didn’t suck as a player.  

    I can’t say enough about this show.  He played for roughly an hour and it was sooooo much fun.

    And me and a few fans almost got to meet him when he was leaving the theatre after the show, but his security rushed him out.  But that’s OK.  I at least have his autograph, via online, and a few fellow fans told me it is legit, and I believe them.  All good.

    The second John Paul Jones show was the next day, and it was his group with Anssii Karttunen called Sons Of Chipotle.

    It has nothing to do with the food chain, according to John.

    In this group, which this was their US debut (they had only played overseas a few times), John played piano, electronics, and mandolin while Anssii played Cello and electronics.

    The best way I can describe their music is to say it is avant-garde electronic Jazz music.

    Very dark and moody.

    It reminds me of the theme music for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, or music from a horror movie from the 1960s or 70s.

    Which is not a bad thing, but a lot of people I think probably thought it was too weird for them.  Their loss because I enjoyed it. 

    It’s very different, but that’s what’s so great about Big Ears Festival is that it’s so musically and artistically diverse.

    So having Sons Of Chipotle play at this festival was perfect.

    Thank you guys!!

    Oh and both of these shows were at the Tennessee Theatre, which is a great venue.

    And actually, it was a perfect lead-in to my next concert later in the evening:  Jazz legend Herbie Hancock!!!

    Having played with Miles Davis, Herbie then went on his own, making a lot of albums over the decades.  Even a few soundtracks, like the one to the first Death Wish movie, which I love.

    Herbie and his band, which includes himself on Piano/Keyboards/Vocoder/Keytar, Terence Blanchard on Trumpet, Devin Daniels on Saxophone, James Genus on Bass, Trevor Lawrence Jr. on Drums, and Lionel Loueke on Guitar, played a PHENOMENAL almost 2 hour set of tunes that just blew me away.

    All of these guys are MASTERS at their craft. 

    Just go see them.  You will not be disappointed.

    Then the next day, I saw the third John Paul Jones show.  This time he played Bass/Electronics/Piano with Thurston Moore, Guitarist of the band Sonic Youth.

    They had played before a few years ago.

    Like Sons Of Chipotle, this show was pretty avant garde.  At least the first half was.  The second part may have been more musical for some people’s ears, but still very adventurous.

    This was definitely the loudest show I had seen during this festival, which was fine with me.  

    The two of them played like they were mad scientists, which I mean in a good way.

    John is phenomenal on the Bass, but he is also out of this world on Piano.  His playing was a sight to behold.  And Thurston made a lot of sound with his Guitar.  Really cool stuff.

    This show was at a club called The Mill And Mine.  A very nice club.

    I am sooooooooo glad I got to go to Big Ears Festival in 2024.  Thank you for being such a great organization with great staff, and for booking all of these great talents.

    I only saw these shows, but trust me, there were a TON of great artists there giving fans more than their money’s worth.

    And thank you to Anssii Karttunen, Herbie Hancock and his amazing band, and Thurston Moore for all of the awesome shows I saw during this festival.

    But most thanks I’m giving to John Paul Jones, just because I have been wanting to see him in concert for years, but sadly, just missed him before or didn’t get the chance.  Until this festival.  Thank you for everything.  One of my favorite musicians ever and always.

    Dream come true for me.  I’m glad it did come true.

    I’m only putting two of the set lists here because the other two were really more improv stuff.  Still great of course.

    And one more thing:  I was able to stay at a very nice hotel, eat at some good restaurants, went to some cool music stores, and even went to see a movie.

    Great weekend.

    John Paul Jones Set List:

    1. Your Time Is Gonna Come (on Wurlitzer Pipe Organ)
    2. No Quarter (on Piano)
    3. Down To The River To Pray (on 3-String Acoustic/Mandolin/Bass)
    4. Ramble On (on Bass)
    5. When The Levee Breaks (on Collapsible Lap Steel Guitar)
    6. Since I’ve Been Loving You (on Piano)
    7. Piano Solo
    8. Going To California (on Mandolin)
    9. Bass/Piano Improv.  Actually on this and Down To The River To Pray, he did multi track parts, which means he plays one part, records it, then plays another part while the recording is playing too.  He did that a lot during the shows he played.  He also played a little more of No Quarter at the end of this show.

    Herbie Hancock Set List;

    1. Overture (included Dark Ligtning and parts of Rockit by Herbie’s Guitarist Lionel Loueke) and then Band Introductions
    2. Footprints (Wayne Shorter cover, arranged by Herbie’s Trumpet player Terence Blanchard)
    3. Actual Proof
    4. Come Running To Me (in which Herbie used a Vocoder.  He said he may have been the first to use the Vocoder.  Really cool stuff.)
    5. Secret Sauce
    6. Chamelion (featuring Herbie on the Keytar and Trumpet player Terence Blanchard playing Keyboards)

    Photo Gallery (click on thumbnail to view larger image)

    Video Gallery (click on thumbnail to play video)

  • Album Reviews,  Blog

    Scott Stapp Higher Power Album Review

    Scott Stapp, the singer of Creed, released his 4th solo album, Higher Power, on March 15 of 2024.

    I received it in the mail on March 17 and have listened to it 3 times already.

    I really like this album a lot.

    Lots of rocking songs, but also some very heartfelt and emotionally uplifting songs.

    These songs really speak to me.

    The song, If These Walls Could Talk (Featuring Dorothy singing with Scott) is PHENOMENAL and should be a HUGE hit single.

    If you are only aware of Scott’s work with Creed, you should check out his solo albums.

    This one, again called Higher Power, The Great Divide, Proof of Life, and The Space Between the Shadows.

    All very good albums.

  • Album Reviews,  Blog

    Judas Priest Invincible Shield Album Review

    The classic Heavy Metal band Judas Priest released their 19th studio album March 8 of 2024 called Invincible Shield.

    Priest have been a favorite of mine since I was 15 or 16.

    I consider them the second ever Heavy Metal Band after Black Sabbath.

    The band still consists of classic members Rob Halford (Vocals), Glenn Tipton (Guitar), and Ian Hill (Bass), along with Scott Travis (Drums-who has been there since 1990), and Richie Faulkner (Guitar-replacing KK Downing in 2011).

    This album, in a word, is PHENOMENAL!!

    All 14 songs are amazing.

    You have to hear the whole album.

    No song is worth skipping.

    It has everything you want in a Priest album.

    Phenomenal vocals, phenomenal musicianship, great production/mix.

    It’s got it all.

    I cannot recommend this album enough.

    Thank you guys for making another Heavy Metal masterpiece!!

    Rock on!!

  • Blog,  Concerts

    KK’s Priest/L.A. Guns/Burning Witches Concert Review

    For the first time in 15 years, I saw K.K. Downing in concert!!

    K.K. is the former co-guitarist/co-songwriter/classic member of the super influential Heavy Metal band and now Rock And Roll Hall of Famers Judas Priest.

    K.K. left Priest in 2011 and aside from playing some guitar on Queensryche’s Frequency Unknown album in 2013, produced a few bands, started a metal news website and eventually a club called KK’s Steel Mill, and got into the golf course business and other things, he quit music until roughly 2020 when he formed KK’s Priest.

    Along with former Judas Priest singer Tim “Ripper” Owens (who replaced classic singer Rob Halford from 1996-2003), co-guitarist A.J. Mills, bassist Tony Newton, and drummer Sean Elg, KK’s Priest have made two solid classic sounding Heavy Metal albums, Sermons of The Sinner in 2021 and The Sinner Rides Again in 2023 (mostly written by K.K.), and are now as of this writing, finally touring the United States.

    I got to see them at The King of Clubs in Columbus, OH.

    Like I said, this was the first time I saw K.K. in 15 years.  I had last seen him in Judas Priest in 2009 in Cincinnati, OH.  See review here.

    And actually, this is the first time I saw Tim since 2002 when I saw him with K.K. and the rest of Judas Priest for the first time, also in Columbus, OH.  See review here.

    I have complained a lot about what K.K. has said about leaving Judas Priest and about some things he said in his book, but at the end of the day, I love him, he’s still a great player, and I’m super glad he’s playing again and making albums.  And I’m really glad he’s working with Tim again and has a very good band.

    They played great, playing a set of half their own material and half Judas Priest classics, and both they and the fans, including myself, had a great time.

    Thank you guys for such a great time.  I really needed it because this has been a terrible year for me, health wise.  But enough about me.

    L.A. Guns also played!!

    This was the third time I saw this version of the band, featuring classic singer Phil Lewis and founding member/part namesake guitarist Tracii Guns.

    Their lineup is filled out with guitarist Ace Von Johnson (who I actually met briefly later on, great guy!), bassist Johnny Martin, and drummer Shawn Duncan.

    They are always amazing and have really been on a roll since 2017, releasing 4 great albums (The Missing Peace, The Devil You Know, Checkered Past, and Black Diamonds), and have another one coming later this year.  I cannot wait to buy it!!

    I love this band.  Phil is one of the best singers.  He said he was having voice issues during this show, but I could not tell because he sounded amazing as always.

    Tracii is one of the great guitar players and needs to be more known than he is.  I consider him a guitar genius.

    The whole band is solid as a rock and I can’t say enough great things about them.

    Check them out!!

    And opening the show was an all female Swiss Metal band called Burning Witches.

    It consists of singer Laura Guldemond, guitarist Larissa Ernst, guitarist Romana Kalkuhl, bassist Jeanine Grob, and drummer Lala Frischknecht.

    I was semi aware of them, but this was definitely the first time I ever saw and heard them.

    They’re very heavy and very good.

    Great singing and musicianship.

    This was a great show, all around.

    Again, I really needed this one.

    Thanks to all the bands for such a great time.

    Rock on!!

    KK's Priest Set List:

    1. Intro/Hellfire Thunderbolt
    2. One More Shot At Glory
    3. The Ripper (Judas Priest song)
    4. Reap The Whirlwind
    5. Night Crawler (Judas Priest song)
    6. Burn In Hell (Judas Priest song)
    7. Beyond The Realms of Death (Judas Priest song)
    8. Hell Patrol (Judas Priest song)
    9. Brothers of the Road
    10. The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Prong Crown-Fleetwood Mac song covered by Judas Priest)
    11. Breaking The Law (Judas Priest song)
    12. Victim of Changes (Judas Priest song)
    13. Encore:  Strike of the Viper
    14. Raise Your Fists

    L.A. Guns Set List:

    1. Intro-Tracii playing guitar along to Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary of a Madman song
    2. Cannonball
    3. Electric Gypsy
    4. Over The Edge
    5. Like A Drug
    6. Sex Action
    7. Speed
    8. Hell’s Bells (AC/DC song) Intro/Never Enough
    9. The Ballad of Jayne
    10. Rip and Tear

    Burning Witches Set List:

    1. Unleash The Beast
    2. Wings of Steel
    3. Hexenhammer
    4. Lucid Nightmare
    5. The Dark Tower
    6. Burning Witches

    Photo Gallery (click on thumbnail to view larger image)

    Video Gallery (click on thumbnail to play video)

  • Blog,  Movie Reviews

    My Ranking of the Works of Filmmaker John Carpenter

    John Carpenter is one of my favorite filmmakers.

    He is a great director, producer, writer, musician, and an awesome person.

    His body of work speaks for itself, I think.

    I am here to rank his work, on how I feel about it.

    This is tough because I love most of it, and I don’t hate any of it.

    But I’m going to give it a try.

    So here it goes:

    1. Escape From New York-This is tough, but I’ll say this is my favorite movie he has made.  Great action movie set in the future.  Kurt Russell is great as a Clint Eastwood type anti-hero named Snake Plissken.  Kurt said for many years that this was his favorite character.  Great supporting cast with Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Ernest Borgnine, Adrienne Barbeau, Harry Dean Stanton, and more.  Phenomenal music by Carpenter.  Classic movie I think.
    2. Escape From LA-The sequel to Escape From New York.  Many people hate this movie and love to trash it.  But I’ve always loved it.  My Dad took me to the theater to see it.  I loved it then and now.  It’s very similar to Escape From New York, but it’s also different too. But like the first movie, it’s just a great, fun action movie with a great cast and music.  Kurt plays Snake Plissken again perfectly.  I love this movie.  No apologies.
    3. Halloween-A horror/thriller masterpiece.  This really put Carpenter on the map.  Masterfully shot.  Great cast.  Phenomenal music by Carpenter.  Even if you’re not a fan of horror movies, check this one out if you haven’t.  There’s really not even much blood in it.  It’s really well done.
    4. The Thing-A remake of The Thing From Another World, although quite different from the original.  This version is based on the short story called Who Goes There.  Kurt Russell stars again, along with another great cast.  Great special effects that still hold up today.  This movie was released three weeks after E.T. was released, and was hurt, box office wise by that.  But I dare to say that it holds up arguably better than E.T. does (and I like E.T.).  Some of it I still find quite chilling.  Great movie.
    5. The Fog-A phenomenal ghost story/horror/ thriller.  Really more of a ghost story, but a great one.  Again, great cast, well shot (although according to Carpenter, it was a hard movie to make), great effects.  I love this movie.
    6. Big Trouble In Little China-A masterpiece  action/comedy.  Kurt Russell again stars.  Earlier movie for future Sex And The City co-star Kim Cattrall, who is great in this.  Lots of action, but also extremely funny.  You have to watch it.
    7. Christine-Based on a Stephen King novel about a car that is alive and can manipulate and even kill people.  I love this movie.  Check it out.  
    8. Assault On Precinct 13-Carpenter’s first true theatrical movie (Dark Star did play in theaters, but it was really more of a student film.).  Kind of a modern day version of  a classic western called Rio Bravo.  Carpenter even used the lead character name of that movie, John T. Chance, as his surname editor credit.  Assault was remade many years later, but I’m talking about the original.  Very well done movie.  
    9. In The Mouth Of Madness-Great movie starring Sam Neill, in which he plays an insurance investigator trying to solve the disappearance of a horror novelist, but yet also ultimately loses his mind when crazy things start happening.  Charlton Heston also stars.
    10. They Live-Wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper is the star of this awesome action/science fiction film.  A lot of fun.
    11. Prince Of Darkness-A science fiction/horror/zombie movie starring Donald Pleasence.  Alice Cooper even has a brief part in it. Very good movie.
    12. Starman-Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen star in this story about an alien who ends up taking the shape of the husband of a widower, how their relationship develops, and about the alien trying to get back home.  Very heartfelt science fiction movie.
    13. Ghosts of Mars-Maybe an under the radar movie, but I really like it.  Natasha Henstridge and Ice Cube star in this action/science fiction movie set on Mars.  Earlier movie for Jason Statham too.
    14. Someone’s Watching Me-A TV movie starring Lauren Hutton.  She plays a TV newscast director who is being stalked by a man.  Very good movie, and sadly, a still true to life movie about stalking.
    15. Body Bags-A three story feature that was made for Showtime.  I see it as Showtime’s attempt at wanting their version of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt.  Carpenter plays this dead coroner doing the intros/outros of the stories.  Star studded cast in all three stories.  Some include Robert Carradine, Stacy Keach, and Mark Hamill.  A lot of fun.  Carpenter directed two of the stories.  Tobe Hooper directed the third one.
    16. Vampires-A pretty good vampire movie.  James Woods and Daniel Baldwin play vampire hunters, paid by the Vatican, who are after a vampire master.  Kind of a modern day western, but set within a vampire story.
    17. Memoirs Of An Invisible Man-Chevy Chase, Darryl Hannah, and Sam Neill star in this story about a man who ultimately becomes invisible and the government is after him.  Carpenter has said that he hated working with Chase and Hannah, but ultimately, I think he/they came out with a good movie.
    18. The Ward-Very good movie, starring Amber Heard, about schizophrenia.
    19. Masters of Horror-This was a series of shows made by famous horror directors.  Carpenter made two of them (Cigarette Burns and Pro-Life).
    20. Village Of The Damned-Another remake starring Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, and Mark Hamill, about a group of kids/aliens that take over a small town.
    21. Dark Star-More of a student film, but ultimately did turn into a theatrical movie.  Very bizarre space comedy.  The villain is literally a beach ball.
    22. Halloween 2-Carpenter was more the producer/writer/film composer/musician, but did direct a few of the scenes.  A good follow up to a movie classic.
    23. Halloween 3-Carpenter was a co-producer/film composer/musician, and wrote a draft of the script.  This movie has nothing to do with the Halloween franchise, except for the name.  But as a stand alone horror movie, it is excellent.  
    24. Black Moon Rising-A pretty good action movie/thriller starring Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Hamilton, and Robert Vaughn.  Carpenter wrote this.
    25. Vampires:  Los Muertos-Carpenter was an executive producer of this.  Not a direct sequel to Vampires, but a similar story where Jon Bon Jovi (yes the singer/songwriter) plays a vampire hunter who assembles a team to go after a vampire master.  Not bad.
    26. Suburban Screams-Carpenter’s latest project in which he was a producer and does the intro to each show.  An anthology series chronicling six true stories.  Various topics are paranormal, an escaped killer, a “Bunny Man” killer, and more.  Actually quite scary at times.  Available to watch on Peacock.

    Well that’s it for now.

    He’s actually made a lot of music for his movies, other people’s movies, and actual original albums too.

    Maybe I’ll post about them in a separate review.

    Either way, I love John Carpenter.

    Amazing talent.  Even better person.

  • Blog,  Concerts

    Mammoth WVH/Nita Strauss Concert Review

    My girlfriend Mariah Startzman and I went to see Mammoth WVH (Wolfgang Van Halen) and Nita Strauss in concert.

    I had seen Mammoth before and Nita playing guitar for Alice Cooper many times, but Mariah had not seen either, and I had not seen Nita solo.

    Nita and her band opened the show with a tight, heavy set.

    Half of the set was instrumental and the other half featured vocals by the singer of Deadlands Kasey Karlsen.

    Nita is a great guitar player, lots of stage presence, and has a great solo band.  While not doing this, she plays guitar for Alice Cooper.

    Check out her music and go see her live.  She rocks!!

    Then Mammoth WVH took the stage.

    This is Wolfgang Van Halen’s band.  In the studio, he has done everything on the first two albums, but live, he needs a band.

    I first saw them when Wolfgang started doing headline shows in 2021.  It was his third ever headline show.

    It was a very special show, but after seeing him and the band this time, I can tell he is a lot more confident on stage and has a lot more seasoning.

    Like in 2021, though, the band rocked.

    Wolfgang is a very talented, special singer/songwriter/musician.

    He has it all and is great at all.

    As great a musician as he is, I’m most impressed with his singing and songwriting capabilities.

    He has a great future in music I think.

    Only two albums so far, but I’m sure there will be many more to come.  I certainly hope so.

    Check out Mammoth WVH.

    He/they are awesome.

    Great show.  Mariah and I had a great time.

    Mammoth WVH Set List:

    1. I’m Alright
    2. Right?
    3. Epiphany
    4. Miles Above Me
    5. Like A Pastime
    6. Horribly Right
    7. Optimist
    8. Stone
    9. Distance (Acoustic-Wolfgang does this by himself.)
    10. Think It Over (His Dad Edward Van Halen’s favorite song)
    11. Mammoth
    12. You’re To Blame
    13. Take A Bow
    14. Encore:  Another Celebration At The End Of The World
    15. Don’t Back Down

    Nita Strauss Set List:

    1. Summer Storm
    2. Our Most Desperate Hour
    3. Mariana Trench
    4. Alegria
    5. The Quest/Drum Solo
    6. The Wolf You Feed
    7. Through The Noise
    8. Dead Inside
    9. Victorious

    Photo Gallery (click on thumbnail to view larger image)

    Video Gallery (click on thumbnail to play video)