Remembering Tupac

  Tupac Shakur was a perfect embodiment of the American identity crisis. He had to prove he was raw and not to be messed with. He was about the “THUG LIFE” tattooed in big letters across his abdomen. Likewise, many American men feel they have to size up and be physically intimidating. Streets can be brutal, after all.
  Competing with this identity was a social revolutionary, an activist, a poet. The man that rapped about “fake ass bitches” also advised women across the nation to “keep ya head up!” He asked why “we take from our women, why we rape our women, why we hate our women,” as he called for the black community to rise up and help its females heal.
  Likewise, the climate of the United States suffers from its own internal conflicts. We are a nation that profited from slavery, even having it embedded in our own constitution under the 3/5 Clause. America simultaneously proclaimed that every human being had the God-given right to be free. U.S. citizens want to stand up against global threats, but also want to keep peace between nations. We value brotherhood, but also are often motivated by financial profit.
I believe that with time, Pac will ultimately be remembered as a lyrical advocate for social justice. This poem will be remembered as a direct reflection of his legacy:

The Rose that Grew from Concrete

by Tupac Shakur

Did you hear about the rose that grew

from a crack in the concrete?

Proving nature’s law is wrong it

learned to walk without having feet.

Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,

it learned to breathe fresh air.

Long live the rose that grew from concrete

when no one else ever cared.

It’s a verbal testament to optimism and strength. Real strength. Not force through AK-47’s and fellow gangstas, but strength of an undying spirit. Tupac is an asset to our culture and society. Let’s remember him for the poet he was.

 

 

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Everything Under The Sun

Madonna Stirs the Pot with ‘Dark Ballet’

What kind of music would you make after being one of the world’s biggest pop stars for 40+ years? Madonna has ventured to the highly experimental and politically charged psychoballad, “Dark Ballet.” With elements of Russian ballet, synth pop, and just plain weird crap, Madonna proves she can still be as different and eccentric as womanly possibly.

Hear more about this track, JUMEX, the unheard of BabyJake, and Silversun Pickups in this week’s episode of Southwest X Northeast.


SWxNE Episode III: The Silversun Pickups Are Back! by SouthWest X NorthEast Podcast

Strange Occurrences at Black Sabbath’s Performance (2004)

Being a child raised on heavy metal, the opportunity to see Black Sabbath in their full original form was extraordinary. They resurrected their magic and musico-chemical components specially for Ozzfest in 2004. Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, and of course, Ozzy Osbourne, all took the stage to play some of the greatest songs ever made in the history of rock.

The band was infamous in the 70’s for dealing with occult themes and black magick. The (solo) Ozzy Osbourne song, “Mr. Crowley,” was an ode to one of the most notorious dark mystics in history, Aleister Crowley. Crowley was thought to be a Satanist by some, and he outwardly expressed allegiance to the devil multiple times. The Black Sabbath song “N.I.B.” includes the infamous line, “my name is Lucifer/please take my hand.” The album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath includes images of 666, demonic figures, and death. (We must mention that this album cover was created by Drew Struzan, famous for movie posters that include E.T., Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, Blade Runner, the Goonies,  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and dozens more.)

Courtesy of BlackSabbath.com

It’s no secret that Black Sabbath indulged in the folklore of witchcraft and dark magic. What happened on July 14, however, went way beyond rock and roll contrivances.

Ozzfest took place at Jones Beach Auditorium in Wantagh, NY. This is an open venue with no walls, ceiling or dome. It’s a beautiful auditorium that sits on the Long Island Sound coast. The forecast for the day was clear skies and 0% chance precipitation.

The crowd was a heterogeneous mixture of old classic rock hippies, young metal-heads, 80’s-era headbangers then losing their hair, and Gothic misfits. Some fans were seriously devoted to the art of witchcraft, wearing amulets and exhibiting mudras (cosmic hand signals) while on the line for the bathroom. Inside the bathroom, stoned eccentrics were tattooed with pentagrams. Many dismissed this as signs of crazy burnouts who took enthusiasm for metal a little too far.

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As Black Sabbath took to the stage, the scent of cannabis filled the air. They played fan favorites including “Sweet Leaf,” and “Fairies Wear Boots.” Then came the time for one of the darkest compositions in their catalog, the self-titled song “Black Sabbath.”

The song “Black Sabbath” functions on a repeating diminished chord. The diminished chord is built by stacking two tritones (diminished perfect fifths). The tritone is also known as the “devil’s chord,” and thought to summon the image of Baphomet (Satan) himself. The lyrics of the song deal with a individual performing a black magick ritual, summoning the devil, and damning his own soul. The composition is saturated with tension and dissonance.

As the band broke into this number, something odd happened. Drops of rain began to fall all around us. The sky was already dark by the coming of nightfall. The crack of thunder broke out above the bay. A light storm formed directly over Jones Beach Auditorium.

Ozzy seemed unfazed by this, as if it were an expected part of the performance routine. He did acknowledge it, however, as a way to get the crowd going wild. The rainfall never progressed to anything other than a mild shower. The song ended, concluding its lyrical screams and hard-hitting guitar solos. The crowd jeered in amazement.

It’s at this point that some of you may say, “Okay it rained. So what?” If you don’t believe in dark magic or witchcraft, here’s why it’s significant: no other band would have made this a memory. It can rain at any concert, and the typical reaction would be “oh shit, it’s raining.” But Black Sabbath is strikingly unique and evocative. The allure of horror and magical occurrences are both elements that affect nearly all human beings. Black Sabbath harnessed this in a way that is unspeakable and ineffable. When it storms at the exact same time the song “Black Sabbath” begins to sound, you are taken in to a rock and roll experience that may never be re-created.

Aleister Crowley Biography
Click the photo be taken to one if the greatest Crowley biographies available.

Some may actually believe that this was the pleasing of a dark master who controls all weather and elements. Maybe the ink pentagrams and sun adorations caused a cosmic force to alter the events of July 14, 2004. Some attendees did seem to defy the laws of typical consciousness.

Whatever you believe in, the point stands that this was a remarkable experience. Black Sabbath is broken up now, and I am not putting odds on Ozzy Osbourne living much longer of a life (though he’s defied all expectations so far). If there ever is the chance to see them perform again, be sure to recite an incantation directed at the ancient Egyptian deities to summon you some money for a ticket.

What It’s Like to Meet Paul McCartney!

I love contests. I love the feeling of thrill that comes with imagining yourself as the winner. Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, trying to win a Gibson guitar (which is only $739 on Amazon by the way), or getting the chance to meet someone remarkable, the fantasy that comes along with entering is invigorating.

Earlier in the month, Omaze ran a campaign to fund the David Lynch Foundation, which we happily contributed to by donating 50% of site revenue. The prize was one of the most remarkable experiences any music fan could ever dream of: perform a soundcheck with Sir Paul McCartney.

Gregg Anderson from British Columbia, Canada was the lucky winner, and after speaking to him, I can tell you he fully deserved it. Omaze flew him out all the way from Spokane, put him up in a Brooklyn hotel, and gave him the experience of a lifetime. Did Gregg confront Sir Paul about Yoko Ono or demand a lock of hair as a keepsake? No. Instead, he genuinely thanked McCartney for the music that helped him through mourning and emotional stress.

I, on the other hand, would have had a prepared list of 20+ questions to direct at Sir McCartney, and then use the information selfishly to promote this site. Being that Gregg won, he was the one who has to endure my questioning and self-promotion.

Here’s what it’s like to meet Paul McCartney, the man who changed the course of music for centuries to come…

Steve/HMPYG: You had a hell of a week.

Gregg: It’s been crazy. It’s been absolutely crazy. I wasn’t prepared for the media attention afterwards.

Steve/HMPYG: Who’s been talking to you?

Gregg: A lot of local Canadian media (I’m from Canada). CTV, Major networks, the 60s radio…it’s been crazy.

Steve/HMPYG: Did they track you down on Facebook like I did?

Gregg: Yeah, you were one of the first guys, and then after you, it just exploded. I really like your blog by the way.

Steve/HMPYG: Thank you!

Gregg: I used to have a blog, I actually reposted one of my posts the day before I left to go see Paul McCartney in NY. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about it. I just reposted an old blog posting. There’s a British singer, Billy Bragg. Behind Paul McCartney, he’s my favorite singer. I actually got to meet him. He’s the only guy (I’ve met quite a few people) that I choked up and lost it with. I just started mumbling (laughs).

  He just went, “Yeah..um..ok..well thanks.” I think I came up with the words “pop sensibility.” To this day, my brother never lets me forget it, he’ll just say “pop sensibilities.”

Steve/HMPYG: (laughs) So you did this contest, and I forget, it’s one chance per dollar?

Gregg: I think it’s 50 entries per $10 or something like that.

Steve/HMPYG: Yeah, I forget how it breaks down, but did you donate thousands of dollars to get a higher chance or did you just get a lucky break?

Gregg: No! (laughs) I got the lucky break. I donated $50, and I was only going to do 20. I read about the foundation. I suffer from anxiety a little bit, so what they’re doing sounded really cool. David Lynch is cool, so I upped it to 50 and I’m glad I did.

Steve/HMPYG: Yeah it resonated with me because I’m a therapist, and I feel meditation is one of the most effect therapeutic tools one can use. I was all about that cause. You were flown out to Brooklyn right?

Gregg: Yeah, they flew us out on a Wednesday morning. We had a car meet us. It was awesome, the car had a piece of paper taped to the side with my name on it. They drove us out to Brooklyn and we spent two nights there. That’s when I first talked to you. The day of the concert, they had a whole itinerary made out for us. The itinerary said we’d meet a girl Emily at 3:30 in the lobby, so the first half of the day is all for you to travel around Brooklyn. I found a cool little record shop, and Brooklyn’s really, really cool.

Steve/HMPYG: Yeah it is!

Gregg: I wasn’t prepared for the density of New York City. I knew it was big, but you don’t realize how dense it is. It just spreads forever.

Steve/HMPYG: There’s no place like it. So you got to Brooklyn, and the big day comes…

Gregg: Yeah, when we got there–getting there was actually pretty cool–we just walked up and it literally said “VIP DOOR.” We just walked right through. Emily, the Omaze girl, who was awesome, dropped some name, and boom, it was like the doors of Oz opened up for us. And then we got to meet Paul’s stage manager, his road manager, and they were all great. Basically, they were all kind of winging it, because they just said “we’ll come and get you when Paul’s here.”

  Paul was late because Justin Trudeau was at the UN that day, which shut down the roads. So, my own prime minister almost caused me to miss meeting Paul McCartney (laughs).

  They had the VIP section, where people get the open bar, they get a meal, and they get to watch the soundcheck. You’re quite a ways away from the soundcheck. So, all these people paid to do that, but I got all that, and I had all of Paul McCartney’s guys coming to me.

  They said, “Okay, when we bring you into the soundcheck, you’re going to stand over to the far left, and when he starts playing ‘Lady Madonna,’ we’re going to come get you.”

  Then, a guy came up to me, a British guy with a camera, he goes, “Hey, I’m with Paul’s team, I wanna bring you over here and interview you.”

  So during the soundcheck I was interviewed by this guy. He talked to me for quite a while actually. He led me back to the sound check, and I’m standing there watching it, and there were some deep cuts on that soundcheck man. He played “Ram On” from my favorite Paul McCartney album Ram. He played some obscure ones.

Steve/HMPYG: Did he mess up at all?

Gregg: No! No, no, no. Those guys are amazing.

  So they were taking pictures of us, the cameras were following me around, he’s getting different shots of us watching the soundcheck. And then boom, “Lady Madonna” kicks in. I said to myself I should be a lot more nervous than I am.

  And Bob Ross, the CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, puts his hand on my shoulder, and says, “No Greg, don’t be nervous. You know why? Because you’re a good person. And you do good things, and you’re going to be awesome up there.” Not that I was super nervous, but I was even more relaxed after he did that.

  I can see the stage manager walking down, this burly Scottish guy. I think his name was Charlie. He says, “Alright Gregg, it’s time. Let’s go.” [Editors note: Gregg pulled off a killer Scottish accent telling this story]

  He asked me, “How ya feelin’?”

  And I go, “I’m okay!”

  He says, “You’ll be great, you’ll be great.”

  He takes me up there, to the side of the stage. They had a huge mixing board on the side of the stage. The stage manager goes to the sound guy at the board and asks, “Do you know exactly what we’re doing?” (laughs)

  The sound guy goes, “I don’t know. I don’t know what we’re doing. Let’s rock and roll.”

  And at that point, Paul McCartney starts talking about me on stage.

  I don’t know exactly what he said, because I was talking to these two guys, but I realized he mentioned my name. They call me out, and Paul says, “Let’s hear it for Gregg!”

  I walk out there, and they say, “When Paul sings ‘get back,’ you say ‘get back.’ You just repeat what he says in the chorus.”

  Charlie, the Scottish stage manager moves to the side and just points to Paul.

  So I walk out there, I walk all the way to the middle of the stage, and there’s Paul. He shakes my hand, thanks me for my donation, and that’s where it gets a little blurry for me. I’m not sure what I said, or what he was saying. I know I talked to Brian, the guitarist. Paul asked me questions, like “where are you from?” on the mic, things like that. It comes into focus for me more when the music started.

  “Get Back” starts. (Gregg imitates the opening guitar line)

  As soon as “Jojo was a man” (the first line) kicked in, I started singing with Paul. And Paul looked a little taken aback that I was singing with him. You could see it on my face, I went Ohh shitI just screwed up. 

Steve/HMPYG: (laughs)

Gregg: I think he just expected me to sing along for the chorus. He saw my reaction, just shook his head, and his eyes just go keep going, keep going! And I did. I sounded like I was yelling, but everyone said I sounded okay. I sang it all with him, and he was right there, kept pulling me in, like get a little closer to me.

  There’s that one little point if you know the song where he sings “Get back, get back, get ba-aa-aack.” The little Paul McCartney thing. I did that out on stage, and he looked at me, gave me the big eyebrows, and went Yeah man! Yeah! (laughs)

  It was at that point we started the second verse, and I just started singing it, and he smiled, and he walked away and let me sing it all by myself.

Steve/HMPYG: Man, I would’ve fainted at “Lady Madonna.” I probably would’ve just passed out.

Gregg: Yeah, I don’t know why I wasn’t more nervous. I don’t know. I should’ve been, but I wasn’t. The day before I was tense, but it wasn’t a bad tense. It was a real amped-up, ready to go kind of thing.

  But yeah, we finished the song. Everybody applauded. That’s when I got to thank him.

  I said, “Thank you so much Paul. Thank you for all the great music.” Stuff he’s heard probably a million times. He probably heard it 50 times that day alone.

  I said, “I want to thank you for all the great music. You got me through some really bad times.”

  I had a really bad year, my dad passed away a few months ago. A really bad year. I didn’t mention that to him, but I told him it was a bad year, and that he got me through  some really tough times.

  “I can’t thank you enough.”

  And for a guy that’s heard this a billion times, he was humbled. He was genuinely thankful that I felt that way. And that’s when he shakes my hand and gives me a big hug.

Steve/HMPYG: That’s powerful.

Gregg: Yeah. And then I asked if I could touch his bass. The Hofner bass. And he just throws it on me. Gives me the strap and just tells me to put it on.

Steve/HMPYG: That’s amazing!

Gregg: Yeah. That thing is insured for something like four million dollars. And he just throws it on me like it was nothing! He’s used that since 1964. It’s not the original one he had, that was stolen. But he’s used this one on tour since 1964.

Steve/HMPYG: Well here’s a question: Are you sure that this is the real Paul, and not an imposter that took the place of Paul back in Abbey Road years?

Gregg: (laughs) Yes, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is indeed not–what’s his name? William Campbell? This is the real Paul McCartney.

Steve/HMPYG: And he’s 75 years old. Did he show it?

Gregg: No. I definitely got the grandfather-ly vibe from him, but my dad was 75 and he didn’t look half as young as Paul McCartney. He put on a three-and-a-half hour show almost. No intermission. He goes flat out. It’s impressive. Really impressive.

Steve/HMPYG: When you have a catalog like that, there are 50 must-plays.

Gregg: You got so many songs, you’re not going to play all of them. I actually got to see him before in 2012. I actually used my rent money. I paid a whole month’s rent for my ticket in Vancouver.

Steve/HMPYG: Whoa! Did he play “Oh Darling!” at this show?

Gregg: No, he didn’t do “Oh Darling!” He did do my all-time favorite Paul McCartney song, “Maybe I’m Amazed.” He also did “I Gotta Feeling.” Another all-time favorite of mine.

Steve/HMPYG: So was it mostly Wings songs or was it a mix?

Gregg: No, he does a really good mix. I’d say it was a 60-40 mix Beatles/solo songs. Maybe even closer to 50-50. He hits the highlights, “Hey Jude,” and wraps up the show with “The End.” They do the whole drum solo/guitar battle.

Steve/HMPYG: Were there any surprises?

Gregg: The surprise for me was how much contact I had. I didn’t know he was going to be so personable. “Fantastic” and “amazing” are the only two words I could use to describe the whole experience.

   I don’t hold stars up on a pedestal. I don’t think they’re better than us, they’re just talented people. But, Paul McCartney, I will say he has some sort of–aura is the wrong word–but he just has a calming influence. It made you chill. He’s just a great man, comes off as down-to-earth.

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Gregg hasn’t been contacted for the next tour yet. But who knows?

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Rockin’ in Nashville TN

If you are a music fan at all, Nashville is a must-visit. Here’s why:

  • It’s home to the Grand Ole Opry.
  • Cathy’s Clown by the Everly Brothers and dozens of other classic records were recorded at RCA’s Studio B.
  • You may be blown away by the immense amount of talent in the famed Bluebird Cafe.
  • You may be blown away by the immense amount of talent found in any other bar in town.
  • Roy Orbison spent extensive time in the area building up the “Nashville sound.”
  • The Music Mile, an agglomeration of various musical attractions, can keep you busy all day.
  • You can stand on the stage of The Ryman, a legendary venue that has hosted the likes of Aretha Franklin, the Foo Fighters, James Brown, and countless others.

When my buddy and I ventured to Nashville in the summer of 2011, we saw amazing things. Amazing, both in the great and negative sense. One notable memory is a rockabilly band playing Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance in an old beaten-down dive bar. What was also amazing was the junkie that locked herself in our motel bathroom for a couple of hours. She left without explanation at about 3:10 p.m.

The Ryman
A view inside of one of Nashville’s most notable venues, the Ryman.

You see a town that’s filled with music, legends, love, labor, and the spirit of a nation that once held harmony as a high priority.

In Nashville, you also see an aged, weary sunset that throws tarnish on the economic depression that spans below.

Nashville is both excitement and despair. It’s a town that has notes upon chords to offer, but can also be cacophonous. People are desperate and may rob you if you get into some shady shit. They will also treat you with Southern hospitality that makes you feel incredibly warm and welcome.

Bluebird Cafe, Nashville, TN
The Bluebird Cafe hosts some of the most talented songwriters on the East coast.

Bottom line: Nashville rocks. Keep the term “rock and roll” in mind when you visit. It’s not just a reminder about the incredible music, but also a way to know your limits. If you’re fine with getting into drunken fights in the parking lot with strange-looking people, you’ll be fine. If you wanna take it easy, throw on some Eagles and peruse around town. Be mindful that this isn’t a glamorous town, it’s a rock and roll town.

What to bring:

Shades

I’m really excited to announce that there is an exclusive code just for HMPYG readers to get a huge discount on sunglasses. Our partner, SunglassWarehouse, has just created the code “HMPYG20” to give YOU 20% off sunglasses. You’re welcome. Just click the picture below and put in the code at checkout.

Sunglasses
Rockin’ the “Desert” aviators I recently acquired.

Wantdo Men’s Leather Jacket

Check out this leather jacket made by Wantdo. The style will look good in a rock and roll town. It’s very affordable ($61) and comes with a removable hood. It’s faux leather, but pretty high quality and water-resistant.

This makes an awesome gift!

Wantdo Men’s Leather Jacket

Fender Deluxe Nashville Telecaster

Maple fingerboard, vintage pickups, and the Nashville sound. Over in Nashville, you can bring this bad boy to many bars and plug in. The musicians are very accommodating to visiting guitar players. Just be sure to understand the etiquette, tips go to the player that’s booked.

The link above brings you to Amazon, where you can get the guitar for $769.99. That’s $30 cheaper than Guitar Center’s price. It has 100% 5-star reviews, probably because of the superb noiseless pickups.

Bonus Attraction

Little did I know when visiting, Nashville has a full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens. This is because the city was dubbed the “Athens of the South.” It’s pretty amazing, as all of the details of the original can be seen in the Nashville version.

Nashville's Parthenon

It even includes a 42 foot high statue of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war. It was built for the 1897 Centennial, and is now an art museum.

If you have rock, blues, or country in your blood, plan your trip now!

Musica a Palazzo

Musica a Palazzo is essentially a way to see intimate operatic performances for less than opera prices. Not only is it affordable and abounding with insane talent from the performers, it takes place in a Venetian palace.

The performances occur in various rooms of the Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto. This aristocratic residence of the past is tucked away canal-side within the San Marco neighborhood of Venice. It doesn’t look like much from the outside. In fact, you should plan on arriving early just to find the right building. This may be your only signal:

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But once you step inside, you step into a beautiful Baroque scene of antiquity…

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The Wedding Therapist and I came here for a special abridged performance of La Traviata. (This is another added benefit of Musica a Palazzo by the way: the fact that performances are shorter than conventional opera). Each act takes place in a separate room. Our performance consisted of approximately 25 audience members, 3 singers, 3 strings players, and a pianist. Despite the small gathering, the performance had almost all the power and emotion of the original work. The overture led straight into Libbiamo dei calici, followed by a wealth of unbelievable vocal solos and arias. The singers brought about a cyclone of cathartic misery and drama in the most beautiful tones. We experienced La Traviata as we never have before (we’ve only studied it in music school and casually listened to recordings). It was a perfect event for getting to know Venice at its core.

Not only did Musica a Palazzo enculture us and leave me full of tears, they hooked us up with sparkling wine as well.

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Some tips for experiencing Musica a Palazzo

  • As with all travel experiences, try to book well in advance. You gain access by buying a membership card (pictured as the cover photo). Right now it is 85 euro per person. This is pretty reasonable since tickets to an opera at La Fenice may cost upwards of 280 euro. 
  • Dress up, but remember it’s still not the opera. You don’t need the ball gown or tuxedo. Even the tie isn’t fully necessary, but encouraged. The dress code was semi-formal overall. A nice cocktail dress, button-down dress shirt, formal sweater, khakis, sweater-dress, casual blazer, etc.; all of these would suffice. 
  • As previously mentioned, allow yourself ample time to locate the venue.
  • If you want seats close to the performers, arrive early. Seats are not numbered.
  • Don’t bring children. Children under the age of 15 can get in for a reduced price of 30 euro. Unless they are one of those genius kids that appreciates opera and Italian lyrics, however, they will probably get fidgety. There’s not really a way to excuse yourself from the performance without calling attention to yourself.
  • If you will be out all day, consider picking up a portable phone charger. This myCharge is a great one:

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A Final Romantic Note

Venice is saturated with historical architecture and design. Every street is picturesque and visually stunning, regardless of the time of day. Between the seafood lunches and our peaceful gondola ride, I contemplated our privileges and the relativity of beauty. What I witness with my eyes, another tastes from a spring. 

As our time in Venezia came to a close, we drank our final vin brulé. I listened to music on the train and remembered watching stars in Sedona (Arizona). I recalled the experiences that led to my life with my wife, and imagined what will follow. I visualized her hands, old and aged, and thought of how beautiful she will always be to me.