Footloose delivers as thoughtful remake of original.

Footloose, the Kevin Bacon original, was probably the first movie that spoke to me.   I saw it with Robert Bender, his mom and some friends on a Friday afternoon in February of 1984 at Chicago Ridge Mall.   More pointedly, the music of Footloose and rebelliousness of the characters appealed to the thirteen year old boy in me.  I went back and saw the film three or four more times.  Wore out at least two cassette copies of the soundtrack.  Plus, I rented the video numerous times.  In all honesty it was the music that kept me coming back to the film.  The music video quality of the film is what stood out.  The narrative most decidedly did not.  The narrative pretty much served the basic purpose of driving the film from music sequence to music sequence. Yet, there were some charming and funny exchanges between the characters.  The love scene.  The fight scenes.  The teen angst scenes.  Those things made the film memorable for kids of the 80’s generation.  Not so much a classic like a John Hughes film, or Dirty Dancing, but definitely more memorable and everlasting than Breakin’ or a lot of other flicks geared toward teens that included dancing and pumped up soundtracks.

In 1995 I took a class on film musicals and chose to write about Footloose.  It was when I started reading about and looking at the film with a critical eye that I really noticed the flaws of the film.   Stuff  beyond the sound stage that is clearly seen moving below Chris Penn in one of the dance sequences and the fact that Ariel’s prom dress changes between scenes.  I noticed how the narrative really wasn’t strong.  I noticed the mountains that didn’t fit a small town in the Midwest.  I noticed how Ren’s taste in music didn’t seem to match up with what they showed on the screen.  It was neat to pick the film apart, but none of that mattered to my twelve year old self who was obsessed with the movie.   What was more important was that  the music was cool.  The characters shared my taste in music and the film had an impact in my love of music.

So in 2007 and 2008 when I started hearing rumors of a remake I wasn’t really thrilled that they had decided to remake it.   The more I heard about it  the more it turned me off.  Kenny Ortega, the guy behind High School Musical was going to direct.  Zac Effron was going to play Ren.  Rumors were floating around they were going to re tell the story to appeal to the kids who grew up on the squeaky clean Disney or Nickelodeon tween shows.

Footloose wasn’t really that “naughty” a film but there was a little smoking, drinking and a drug reference or two.  I believed any remake for today’s tweens done in the mindset of Disney or Nickelodeon shows would sanitize that and who knows what else.  Not everybody’s high school experience included keg parties or getting stoned in the park, but most of us knew a stoner, heard about a wild party, tried a cigarette or two,  or participated in some small act of rebellion–so I didn’t want to see acknowledgement of that go away in the Footloose world, even if it isn’t PC in the 21st Century.

Then I heard that Craig Brewer, who directed Black Snake Moan and Hustle and Flow, was directing.  I heard  MTV films was one of the companies behind it.  I thought, alright, the remake still might be a dog, but between MTV and this director it probably wouldn’t be a sugary sweet remake.  Over time I watched trailers, clips, and heard the music. I was hooked.  I still didn’t know how good it would be, but they’d get my money to see it.  What I got for my $5.50 was a very thoughtful remake of the film.  It’s the first thing MTV has put it’s logo on in 15 years that may appeal to it’s original audience.

The 2011 version of Footloose is as much about the narrative as it is the music, rebellion and the dancing.   The narrative in the first version is very vague leaving the viewer to connect the dots.  The adults were all one dimensional and they really made the Rev. Shaw Moore somewhat of a caricature of a very conservative christian preacher.  A guy whose brand of Christianity banned dancing, popular secular music and all the “evils” that go along with it.    They did the very minimum in the narrative to explain why he felt that way and how his son’s death reinforced or caused those feelings.   In the original they also made Ariel out to be the preacher’s rebellious daughter, and it’s never really explored if she’s rebellious because of her brother’s death or is just a hell raiser.

In the 2011 version they explore these themes more satisfactorily.  In this Footloose most of the adults are caring, concerned parents who express themselves and think for themselves .   Andie MacDowell playing Vi Moore seems to connect with the kids in a way Dianne Wiest’s portrayal tries but falls short.  Ren’s aunt and uncle act as supportive family members, which isn’t the case in the original.  Even at the end of the film while setting up for the dance, the adults are included and shown as being involved in their teens lives.

Christianity as the driving force behind the ban on dancing and music is also downplayed.  Yes, that’s part of it, but mainly because the reverend has lost his son.  His real motivation is that he’s a father who lost his son and he doesn’t want anyone else in town to experience that.  He just happens to be a preacher with influence.  This version of the film is very much about a tragedy.  How people  overreact to that tragedy in an effort to protect their children, and how an outsider gets them to re-examine what they’re doing in the name of “safety”.  That’s really what both versions of the film are about, but the original’s lack of narrative doesn’t let the viewer go there easily.  It easily leads the viewer down the path of Christian adults vs. rebellious teens fighting for their rights.  Oh sure, if you work at it you can connect the dots, but does anyone really want to work that hard while watching the movie?

In choosing to focus on the narrative, the film losses a little bit of it’s musical cred and at times moves at a much slower pace.  The soundtrack is impressive with a great line up of established and future stars who have the chops.  Yet in the context of the film it doesn’t always work.  In the original, the montages ran most of the song length and the original music written for the film had a consistency that ran throughout the film augmented by popular artists of the time (Sammy Hagar, Quiet Riot, John Mellencamp.)     In this version the music is all over the place including Country, Hip Hop, Dance, Southern Rock and the originals from the 1984 film.  Because of time devoted to the narrative, dance sequences are shorter and the music is less front and center.

There are times when the music works.  For example:  The opening sequence uses Kenny Loggin’s version of “Footloose” in a very different way which really set’s the narrative.  The use of Denise William’s version of “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” is very cute.  “Fake ID” by Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson is the music for this version’s signature dance scene and is perfect.  At other times, to me, the music doesn’t match the visuals–although that could be my bias from the original.     At other times, like when they play Blake Shelton’s version of “Footloose” or Victoria Justice and Hunter Hays version of “Almost Paradise”  it just doesn’t have the same impact to me as those songs did in the original.

If you haven’t seen Footloose yet, and don’t want to know plot points, or want to experience the specific differences between the films, stop reading here until you watch them, this is your SPOILER ALERT!

In this version of Footloose the characters of Chuck Cranston and Ariel Moore are slightly different than the original.  Chuck came across as older in this version vs. how he was portrayed in the original.   In the original he was maybe 18 or 19, a year out of high school, or perhaps even in high school with the rest of them.  He was clearly a contemporary of Ariel, Willard and Ren.  In this version he comes across as a three or four years older, and not really a contemporary of the group.  I think the character works better as a contemporary of the group.    In addition, instead of him and Ren going head to head in a chicken race on tractors, they’ve changed it to a chicken race in buses 3 vs. 1.   This doesn’t work for me.   Because while the  original had a weak narrative the chicken race scene/montage and when Ren dances out his angst do advance the story, and the bus chicken race really falls short of that.

Ariel is a slightly different as well.  While watching the beginning film I thought Julianne Hough turned in a weak, tentative performance.  That was mainly because Lori Singer’s portrayal of Ariel in the original was as a confident, sexy, hell raiser who enjoyed poking at her father through her clothes, boyfriend and promiscuity.   In her most memorable scenes in the film, Singer portrayed Ariel with a cockiness and coolness towards Ren.  Hough plays Ariel in those memorable scenes in almost the exact opposite way.  Her Ariel isn’t cocky and almost seems a little uncomfortable in the role of confident hell raiser.   As the narrative unfolds, we learn her rebelliousness is as a product of her brother’s death and her father’s reaction to it.  It makes sense then how she acts towards Ren early in the film, her cockiness is an act she’s not entirely comfortable with.

Andie MacDowell and Dennis Quaid do a wonderful job portraying the Rev. Shaw and Vi Moore.  Quaid (and the writing) does a good job at letting us into understand why The Rev. Moore feels the way he does.  In the original they tried to show us a very flawed and hurt man trying to lead his flock, understand his daughter and make sense of it all while keeping the town safe.  It doesn’t work.  There’s no side plot about books burning or anything in this version,  there’s less preaching, and the conversation Ren and the Rev. Moore have about his son is ten times better than in the original.

In this version, besides redefining the characters, they’ve changed up the story a little.  Ren ends up with his Uncle Wes and Aunt Lulu because his mom passed away from cancer.  It’s a small plot point, but it changes the story and makes it better.  First, it allows Uncle Wes and Aunt Lulu to be real characters as opposed to their one dimensional portrayal as an authority figure and busy body in the original.  I like that they care for Ren, and Uncle Wes especially understands Ren and sticks up for him.  Second, it gives context to why Ren wants to change the law on dancing in the town.  Third, it let’s the Rev. Moore see Ren in a different light and with respect.

A lot o the film is lifted word for word and scene for scene from the original.  If you liked the original it’s a very comfortable film to watch.  Some scenes pop up in different places, some scenes are bigger, others are smaller, a few of the scenes are deleted and a couple are different but very reminiscent of the original.  In addition they did a nice job of keeping the charming and funny exchanges between the characters that was one of the original narrative’s high points.  In fact, they even throw some new ones in that got lots of laughs.  

Footloose 2011 is a fun movie.  It does justice to the original.  If you’re familiar with the original it’s a new thoughtful, more mature take on the original.  It will play on your heart strings and be an interesting film to watch to compare and contrast with the original.  If you’re not familiar with the original, it’s an enjoyable movie that will entertain you.  Does it have the teen and tween appeal of the original?   I don’t know.  This movie looks and feels a lot like the MTV produced movies of ten or eleven years ago and I don’t think it’s got the soundtrack or the slickness to have the impact the original did in 1984.  Whether the filmmakers consciously targeted the original fans of the film I don’t know,  yet that’s who was in the theater and that seems to be the age group that this thoughtful remake is speaking to.

Hotel living or how I learned to use the waffle maker

So I started a new job in Texas last week and I’ve been living in a hotel.  If you’ve never spent extended time in a roadside hotel you’re probably thinking, hey that’s pretty cool.  In reality, it’s not that bad, but it’s not all that great either.   I’ve spent a variety of time in hotels over the years.  The Eastland Suites in Urbana,  The Ramada Limited off I-80 in Joliet, The Best Western off of I-55 in Joliet, The Ramada Limited in Lafayette and now this place.

The Eastland was nice, it was more of a suite that came with a kitchenette, a desk, a sitting area and a bed.  The Ramada in Joliet was OK, but it was a smaller room and the beds were horrible.  At the time though, they had free local calls so I could plug in my computer.  The Best Western, no free calls, so I didn’t have access to the computer there.  By the time I stayed in the Lafayette Ramada, most hotels had free high speed internet so that was easier.  By far the place I’m currently staying is the nicest longer term accommodations I have ever had.  Flat screen HD-TV, sitting area, comfortable bed, softer sheets.

That said, when you’re living in a hotel for an extended time it usually signifies a couple of things:  One, you’re in a new town starting a new job.  Two, you’re away from your family.  In my case, the reason for hotel living is simple.  I’m wrapping up a lease commitment back in Indiana and also my wife and I needed time to pack up the apartment.   Most radio salaries aren’t fantastic, and it can be difficult to cover two rent payments, and when they want you in the job yesterday–hotel living happens.  Conventional wisdom says why don’t they just help you pay rent, why the hotel?  Well, in many cases—if they’re paying your rent they’re paying cash.   Hotel accommodations, can be bartered in a trade for commercials.  So in essence, the station is giving commercial inventory as opposed to cash.

There are difficult parts of hotel living.  One, no matter what kind of room you get.  Even if you get a sitting area.  It’s designed for business, not pleasure.  For example, I could have people over to my room to discuss business and sit in the sitting area just fine.  Or I could have people over for cocktails It’d work.  That said, for lounging around and watching TV, not so much.  Sometimes the desk isn’t in a good place to see the TV.  Sometimes the sheets and towels are scratchy.  The most difficult part about hotel living for me is being away from my wife.  It’s hard to be in a new place, learning a new job, trying to make new friends, yet not have your partner at home.  Not having someone to talk to.  Not having a sense of normalcy in your life.

Make your own waffle station

You can make your own waffles!

There are perks to hotel living though.  Like the flat screen TV with HD.  That’s something the Creighton’s don’t have yet.  And the free breakfast.   Doing mornings, I don’t get to take advantage of free breakfast except on the weekends.  One of the latest trends in free hotel breakfasts is the make your own waffle stations.   I ignored it yesterday because I had to work and wanted something lighter.  So I opted for a small bowl of cereal and some toast.  Being Sunday, I decided I try to use the waffle maker.

So I poured the batter in a dixie cup, poured it in the waffle maker, closed the lid and it started beeping.  The waffle maker should have started counting down but it didn’t.  So I stood in front of the thing beeping, beeping and beeping.  Probably for about two minutes until the woman keeping an eye on the breakfast nook told me when it beeps like that to turn it over.  I turned it over and it stopped beeping and counted down from 2:30.

No where on the directions did it say when you pour the batter in to turn the griddle over to start the count down.  Boy did I feel like an idiot.  That said, I got a very good waffle which was delicious.  Frankly, it’s nice to enjoy a hot meal that didn’t cost me anything.  And now I know how to use the waffle maker.

Footloose remake trailer and video now on-line

In April, I did a blog regarding the Footloose remake and how it might be interesting.  After seeing a couple of trailers and the Big and Rich/Gretchen Wilson video related to the remake, I’m very interested.  It seems all involved have done a nice job both updating it for another generation and giving those of us who are fond of the original something in this film.  Plus, I’m a sucker for the M-TV films cinematography.  Their films since the late 90’s have a very distinct look about them, and I knew it was one of their productions before even seeing the M-TV films logo.

Here’s the  trailer teaser :

The Dance Your Ass Off T-Shirt and the screen time given to the VW Bug are definitely nods to those of us that saw the original and it’s nice to see them take the nostalgia route with this.  They didn’t need to do that to appeal to a different generation.  I also find the fact that the film is featuring country music to be very intriguing.   In the original, if you themed the music country I don’t think it would have worked.  The timing was off for country music.  It was four years after Urban Cowboy and the Country Music popularity that surrounded it.   Music was a big part of  Footloose’s success.  Going the pop route Footloose took advantage of the rebirth of Top 40 radio to market the music and the film.   While you can make the argument that country would have been popular where Footloose was set in 1984, it wouldn’t translate well to the big screen.  In 2011, the general popularity of Country Music is such that you can integrate it into the film.  Perhaps, if Country radio plays the songs, it just might move country radio into a cycle of more pop based up tempo music, as opposed to the mid tempo country music currently in favor.

Here’s both the 2011 trailer and the 1984 trailer for the film:

In 1984 all the marketing was about the music and the dancing.  This time around it seems if the marketing is a little more about the relationships, the trouble maker ends up doing good storyline and the dancing.  That’s not a bad thing, because while the music and dancing was important to the film, I think people liked the film because of the story line.  That was also somewhat where the original failed.   It could have spent a little more time on character development.  You can’t judge a book by it’s cover and you can’t judge a film by it’s trailer, however, M-TV films has a knack for creating interesting characters and stories.

Footloose isn’t high art, but this may very well be an entertaining movie and the music might be pretty cool too.  This might even be a remake that’s a little better than the original.    Would you have thought that as M-TV started it’s third decade they’d be behind the Footloose remake, and it’d be country?  I sure wouldn’t have.

Is grunge the new classic rock?

Tim Brouk, a reporter for the Lafayette Journal and Currier just published an article on JCONLINE.COM asking:  “Is grunge the new classic rock?”  One of the folks he asked was me.  It’s a good read and certainly will give music fans lots to debate.  You can check the article, including my thoughts, here.

How I got my diverse musical tastes.

Radio Ink went to the “father” of the AOR format Lee Abrams and asked him the question, “is the rock format dead?”  Today in Radio Ink Lee ponders that question.  You can read his thoughts here.   What interested me is one of his comments regarding when people develop their musical tastes.  It certainly isn’t new information, he’s talked about it before, but in case you haven’t heard it:

historically, people form their lifelong musical game plan between the ages of 16 and 20. Before 16, one often goes with the popular flow, based on fashion, what’s cool that moment, or whatever, but come 16, you become an expert.

Between the ages of 16 and 20 my musical tastes ran the gamut.  I was 16 in 1988 and 20 in 1992.  At 16 I was still solidly listening to the hits on Z-95, but a change was taking place.  I was starting to check out 97.9 the Loop and friends were turning me on to 93XRT as well.  I was already digging deeper into artists I had been introduced to on CHR radio.  Artists like Heart, Chicago, Journey.  All the artists from the 70’s that managed to eek out a few hits in the 1980’s.   I was also listening to “The Lost Lennon Tapes” which debuted in 1988.  One of the first non CHR stations I sampled was 95.5 WRXR.  They were a short lived Classic Hits station in the mid to late 80’s.  By 1990 I wasn’t listening to a lot of “hit” radio, instead choosing mainly the Loop, WCKG or 103.5 the Blaze.   Mainly I gave up on hit radio because it had gone dance and hip-hop and I really wasn’t into that too much.

My tastes changed again, right around 1992 when I was 20.  I started working at Loyola’s Energy 88-7 WLUW.  They had a dance music format, and without  listening to it I just decided I didn’t like the music.  I remember sometime in the late 80’s, before I even went to Loyola, complaining how I’d rather work at a college station playing “crappy college music” than dance music.  Boy was I wrong.  Working at Energy 88-7 got me to listen to the station.  Slowly, my hit music roots from mid 80’s came roaring back and I got back into everything that had a beat from Bad Boys Blue to Depeche Mode (a band I had ignored and been bored by in high school.)   That was also the time that rock radio changed as well.  Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and the alternative revolution took over the airwaves, and quite frankly, I found myself less interested in listening to white guys whining about how hard their middle class upbringing was than hearing the thumping beats of “Whomp! (There It Is)” from Tag Team.

So in the end what what musical tastes got baked into my head from the ages of 16 to 20?   When you strip away all the genres that record companies and radio stations slap on music:  Pop.  It doesn’t matter what genre it’s from, if it’s got a very accessible sound, I like it.  If you were to look at what I was exposed to from the mid 80’s through  the end of college, what I liked was stuff that had a pop edge to it.  It’s what I still look for when I listen to new music, and what I like the most.  I’ve even gone back and re-evaluated how I feel about some of the music I didn’t like at the time.  I’m much more fond of the late 80’s early 90’s rhythmic stuff than I was at the time.  Same goes for Alternative Music.

If you’re interested in learning more about what I like, I’d like you to give a listen to my internet radio station React.  It is a radio station, and like any good programmer, I try to keep it broad enough so that it’s not just a jukebox of my favorite songs.  (There’s actually songs I personally don’t care for, that I believe fits the station criteria, so I play it.)  If you’re interested you can listen here.

Favorite Concerts

Verizon Wireless Music Theater

Verizon Wireless Music Theater

As a music fan one of the rights of passage is going to concerts.  That right can be bestowed on any music fan at any age.  My folks weren’t really concert goers, and really were not fans of much of the music I was interested in seeing.  So there really was no chance of them painting me in KISS make up and taking me to see them when I was a kid.

I got dragged to concerts that I was too young to appreciate.  Joan Baez at the Taste of Chicago.  Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers at Irish Fest in Milwaukee.  Those were the types of shows I got to see with my folks.  I also got to see The Preservation Hall Jazz Band two or three times, which actually was very cool.  Plus, my mom did take me down to Blues Fest one year to see Chuck Berry perform which was great.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go to the Taste of Chicago to see Glen Frey and the Commodores on the Fourth of July.  Instead I got to sit in my room drinking Vanilla Zeltzer Seltzer and eating Ding Dongs while listening to the concert on the radio.  I remember the DJ’s cracking  jokes about Lionel Richie not being with the Commodores and Glen Frey obnoxiously saying “sexy WLS” over and over again anytime one of the DJ’s tried to interview him.

I had to wait for my freshman year of high school to really start going to concerts.  The first concert I went to was a show sponsored by the Catholic Youth Organization of Chicago.  It was the Monkees 20th Anniversary concert tour with Herman’s Hermits, Garry Puckett and the Union Gap and the Grass Roots.  I think my mom bought tickets for my buddy Tom, myself and Tom’s cousin who agreed to take us to the show.  It was mainly a good concert experience simply because it was the first rock and roll show I went to at a major concert venue, the Rosemont Horizon.  Plus, my buddy Tom was with me.  We’d do more than a few shows together over the years, and most of them I would categorize as my favorites.

That begs the question:  What makes some concert experiences more memorable than others?  I’ve liked most of the concerts I’ve gone to, but some are more special to me than others.  I’m going to write about the shows that stand out to me and see if I can figure out what elements make them stand out to me:

Huey Lewis and the News with the Robert Cray Band, Rosemont Horizon, March 27, 1987

Outside of the Monkees show this was the first concert I attended.  Huey Lewis was riding high on the tracks from Sports and Fore and was one of my favorite groups.   I partook in the long standing tradition of going to Sportmart, a sporting goods store that was a Ticketmaster outlet, and standing in the line around the building to get tickets to the show.  Soon after, standing in line for concert tickets would be replaced by dialing over and over and over on your phone to get tickets to shows.   I also asked my first crush, a senior at Maria High School named Amy to the show, and somehow she agreed to go.  I loved every minute of the loudness, the lights, the smoke and fog and that feeling of leaving a show not being able to hear anything.

Chicago with the Buckinghams, Taste of Chicago, July 4, 1987

Chicago played the Taste of Chicago in 1987 and my parents drove me over to Archer Avenue and I took the bus down to Grant Park.  It was just me solo, no friends.  It was the first time I got to see Chicago and I was a huge fan.  After getting  Chicago 17 I bought a lot of their back catalog on cassette because you could get each one for the nice price of $3.99 at almost any record store, and I found I liked all of their music.  I loved the atmosphere at the show.  The controlled chaos of the Taste of Chicago.  The Pizza.   It was liberating to be so far from home on my own, and the skyline and the lake was the perfect visual for Chicago’s music.

Heart and Mr. Mister, Rosemont Horizon, December 10, 1987

We didn’t really want to see Heart.  We wanted to see John Mellencamp, but his show sold out the day tickets went on sale.  This was a show I remember going to with Jeff, Melissa, Sue and maybe Tom?  I dunno.  I don’t think at that point any of us were huge Heart fans.  I really liked the groups hits from Heart and Bad Animals, but I wasn’t that familiar with the group.  I remember being out in the arena concourse with my buddy Jeff trying to figure out a way to buy a beer or a pack of cigarettes.  I wasn’t down with the beer thing, and since my mom had driven us there, and his folks were picking us up–I really wasn’t inclined to anything where I might get caught.  I really dug the show and their version of “Rock And Roll” brought the house down.  I remember one of the girls had a beer spilled on them by someone sitting next to her as well.  I also remember someone laying across most of our laps as my mom drove us to the concert.  Mom wasn’t a fan of that, but she put up with it!  I didn’t go in to the show a Heart fan, but I sure left as one. 

John Mellencamp, Poplar Creek Music Theater, June 11, 1988

My buddy Tom and I went to this show with his sister and brother in law.  Once inside we split from his sister and brother in law and carved out our own space on the lawn.  This was one of those shows that for me was all about the music.  Tom and I both were (and still are) fairly big John Mellencamp fans and to hear him live was a huge score.  Mr. Mellencamp didn’t disappoint.

Timbuck 3, Graham Parker and The Robert Cray band, Taste of Chicago, 1988

The Kinsey Report, The BoDeans and The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Taste of Chicago, 1989

The Kinsey Report, Smithereens and Los Lobos, Taste of Chicago, 1990 

In 1988 93.1 WXRT became the radio sponsor of the Taste of Chicago’s 4th of July concerts.  This was good for me, because while it was sometimes hard to get my friends to go see some of the concerts I wanted to see, XRT’s fourth line up was usually good enough to get some of my friends to go.  I don’t know if it was always the same friends who went, but I do know my buddy Bill was one of the guys who always went.  I think it may have just been the two of us the first year, or maybe Kevin or Tom joined us.  I honestly don’t remember.  But, by the time Los Lobos took the stage in 1990, we had a gang of at least four or five of us.

Bill and I started a tradition that first year.  We wound up at the Taste very early and grabbed actual seats in the seating area instead of parking it in the grass.  We were in the front row on the right side of the stage.  I was amazed.  I had never sat so close at a show. I could literally reach out and touch Robert Cray and his bassist Richard Cousins.  Plus, it was fun to be at the taste and seeing a show for free.  With three or four of us in attendance it was easy for a couple of  us to go check out the Taste and just walk around without losing our seats.  The shows also turned me on to new music.  I was completely unfamiliar with the BoDeans and Graham Parker before I saw them.  While I never became huge fans, I was glad for the experience.

Another thing that was great about going to these shows, we were not the only people coming and sitting in the same seats year after year.  So the second year, we saw and made friends with the people we saw the year before and they gave us a couple of beers, or we watched their stuff while they explored the Taste.  It was a fun experience.  By the 1990 show though, the fun was wearing away.  The city made it harder to bring food or drink into the seating area and the concerts were drawing a larger crowd.  It was also blisteringly hot in 1990, and our group pretty much packed it in after that show.

The Beach Boys and Chicago, Poplar Creek, June 12, 1989

I went to this show with my friend Angie.  It’s the only time I went to a concert in a limousine.  We got our tickets and she found out a work friend was taking her daughter.   Anyway they hatched a plan to take a limo to the show.  I had two problems.  One, on the money I was making slinging hot dogs at US Deputy Dog on 95th street I couldn’t pay for my part of the limo.  Two, there was no way I was asking my folks for the money.  I was under the impression my parents didn’t go for such extravagances and wouldn’t pay for it.  So Angie took pity on me and paid my part too.

It was one of my more interesting concert experiences.  I met Angie early as the limo was going to pick us all up at her friends house and she needed to run an errand.  On the way back we saw a carnival and since we had time to kill we stopped.  She got me to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl, and well, she’s told me the expression on my face was priceless.  I think I must have turned 5 shades of green.  The ride to the show in a limo was great.   There’s just something to the ride of a limo that feels luxurious.  Maybe it’s the great vehicle suspension. Maybe it’s the stocked mini fridge, I dunno.  Arriving in a limo is great, with people trying to see who you are, like you’re someone special.    The show was awesome, if I remember correctly.  Even just sitting on the lawn.  Climbing in the air conditioned limo after the show and letting the driver worry about getting out of Poplar Creek, priceless.

The Bangles, Star Plaza Theater, April 6, 1989

The Bangles, Poplar Creek Music Theater, August  21, 1989

I have to mention both the Bangles shows I went to in 1989 because they’re the rock stars I had a huge crush on, and really the only group I ever had a crush on.  The April show at Star Plaza I went to with my girlfriend Amy.  I had fun time bopping to the music and seeing them up close.  I’m not sure if she did.  I don’t think the Bangles were really her flavor of pop.  But it was a fun time and a good date night.  I was a little further back when I saw their show at Poplar Creek.  I took my friend Jenny, which was kind of cool.  She was my good friend Kevin’s twin and wanted to go with me when I couldn’t get anyone else to go.   Jenny was in my circle of friends in a peripheral way.  We all worked together slinging hot dogs at Soldier Field, and she’d hang out with us on Kevin’s stoop.  She’d occasionally accompany us on our exploits.  I remember the August show not being as good as the April show, but still fun.  I also remember Jenny was really into the B-52’s and we listened to the cassette on the way to to show.

Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe, Poplar Creek Music Theater, August 22, 1989 

This is not a show I would have gone to on my own, but Bill was a Yes fan, and I’m always up for a concert.  When I first asked my parents if I could go they said no.  Their reason was I had just seen the Bangles the night before.  Well Bill’s mom called and asked my parents if I could go because Bill didn’t have anyone to go with.  Well, this changed my parents minds and I got scolded.  They were ticked I didn’t tell them Bill didn’t have anyone to go with.  I think in my teenage brain, that just didn’t seem important to tell them.

Bill and I always had fun at concerts, and the music was in a word awe inspiring.  The playing was just technically proficient.  I’m not a big Yes fan, but the musicianship at this show has just stuck with me.  I would go see Yes again in a heartbeat.

Paul McCartney, Soldier Field, July 28th and 29th, 1990

The show was actually July 29th, but I got to see the stage set up on July 28th.  My buddies Tom, Jenny, Kevin and I all worked at Soldier Field in the concession department–usually cooking hot dogs.  We had done this for two years and were considering a third when this show got booked.  So the guys from ARA Services, who ran the concessions, called and asked us to report on the 28th if we wanted to work.  So we went down there on July 28th for our meeting and got to see the field and the stage set up.

Paul McCartney is a vegetarian, and on this tour, his contract prohibited the selling of meat.  So that night we were assigned to work in the pretzel room.  One of the neat things with working a concert was, the vendors couldn’t walk around and sell stuff during the show because the field lights were off and it was a bad insurance risk.  So that night they told us, clean up right when the show starts and then feel free to walk around and watch it.  Needless to say, that was the quickest clean up I had ever participated in at Soldier Field and we got to catch most of the show.  The end of the show when he played “Hey Jude” was spine tingling.  It was awesome to be part of that 80,000 person sing a long.

103.5 the Blaze concert, World Music Theatre, 1991

I wasn’t what you would call a big metal head, but when 103.5 the Blaze was giving away free tickets to a concert at the World Music Theatre I jumped.  I’m not quite sure who was on the bill.   I think either Skid Row or Warrant headlined, heck maybe they were both on the bill, I don’t know but that wasn’t important.  I went with my buddy Tom to this show.  I think we went because it was free, it was rock and it was something to do.  I remember having a good time and being impressed by the show more than I thought I would.  I think this show was important to me because of the good time I had with Tom.  We had just completed one year of college, and I was back home and out one night with my best friend.  This was just one of many nights in the  summers of ’90 or ’91 just had a very cool, special, unexplainable, vibe.

Sponge, Riviera Nightclub, 1994

I went to may fair share of alternative shows in 1994-1995, many of them at Metro and the Aragon Ballroom.  But the show that sticks out to me is Sponge at the Riviera.  I went to the show with my buddy Tom Durkin.  We were both working at Loyola’s WLUW at the time and got free tickets.  I remember going and sitting in the balcony to get a good view.  I remember the band impressing me.  It was something I didn’t really expect.  I remember Tom’s excitement at seeing this show.  There’s something infectious about going to a concert with a huge music fan like Tom whose pumped for the show.  It puts me in a more pumped up mood.

Urge Overkill and Cracker, Aragon Ballroom, 1994

The other alternative show I really liked was Urge Overkill and Cracker.  Every year I worked at WLUW Northwestern University would do a big student show at the Aragon.  They would open up a certain number of tickets to students of other area universities, and Loyola was one.   To promote the show we’d always do a ticket giveaway and be put on the guest list.  I liked what I had heard of Urge Overkill and Cracker so I just went to the show by myself.  I enjoyed a few beers, hung out in the balcony, and watched music critic Jim DeRogatis geek out a few people down from me.  Cracker was really loud.  One of the loudest bands I’ve ever heard.

The Counting Crows and the Wallflowers, Marcus Amphitheater, July 3, 1997

Summerfest before the show

My friend Lisa was working in Milwaukee at the time and she invited me up there to see the Counting Crows and the Wallflowers.  It was the first big concert I had seen in a few years, and it was the first time I visited the Summerfest grounds since my parents took me to see Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers when I was a kid.  I was not a fan of the Counting Crows, but I really remember liking the Wallflowers.  The Counting Crows just didn’t rock, but the Wallflowers did.  It was also fun to just be in the presence of radio people for an evening.

Sheryl Crow, Arie Crown Theater, April 22, 1999

My wife Kathy’s birthday is April 22nd and in 1999 she really liked Sheryl Crow.   We decided to make a day of it.  We started out at Chilli’s for a late lunch then headed into the city for the show.  I was a little lost because I hadn’t kept up with Sheryl’s music except the stuff the 101.9 the Mix played, but it was fun.  The crowd was a little more reserved than I expected.  We finished the night up with a late night dinner at Wendy’s before I headed back to my radio job in Champaign.

Aerosmith and the Cult, Allstate Arena, October 23, 2001

My wife Kathy doesn’t go to many concerts so I was pleasantly surprised when she wanted to go to this show with me.  This was definitely the loudest show she had gone to.  It was great performance, and the best one I’d see the band play in the three times I saw them between 2001-2003.   This was one of those shows where we got in the car and cranked up the CD on the way home.

Eddie Money, Ottawa Riverfest, July 31, 2003

As a radio programmer I had always wanted to do station bus trips to shows.  The problem with doing that at 100.7RXQ was, most of the shows we got tickets for were Tweeter Center shows.  The Tweeter Center was 20-30 minutes away for most of our listeners.  So bus trips weren’t really feesable.  Yet…if we could take listeners other places for concerts, that would work.  Eddie Money at Ottawa Riverfest fit the bill.  We took a bus load of folks, and some cocktails and beer on the bus and had a great time.  I really knew 100.7 RXQ was doing well on this trip.   One of the neat things was we had a whole section saved for our group and our bus got to pull in backstage.  As an added bonus, we got to see Eddie Money adjust his hair piece through a trailer window.

Kiss and Aerosmith, The Tweeter Center, September 26, 2003

The weather was downright nasty for this show.  There was a cold rain, it was chilly and the Tweeter Center staff was just in a foul mood.  That didn’t stop the fun, at least in the pavilion.  I went with another DJ from work, and our promotion dude gave us awesome seats somewhere in the first 20 rows.  If you’re going to see KISS, the closer the better.  The stage show and the pyro blew me away.  I have never been able to understand why Aerosmith would want to follow that.  On this night, it would have been better not to follow KISS.  Aerosmith seemed a little off their game, and with all the rain, somehow the stage was a little wet and Steven Tyler slipped a couple of times.  The whole band just looked a little pissed.  That said, Aerosmith are pros and even off their game still gave a good show.

The Eagles, Allstate Arena, October 21, 2003 

I had been an Eagles fan since the 1980’s when I was able to get their albums for $3.99.  Over the years I wanted to see Glen Frey, Don Henley or the Eagles live, but never really could afford the tickets.  Somehow we snagged some at the station for a giveaway and I kept a pair.  I went with another DJ from the station and it was a great time.  Aside from a not so great version of Henley’s All She Wants To Do Is Dance the show rocked from start to finish.  It had a nice flow and the band totally delivered.  This was one of those shows that was all about the music.

John Fogerty and John Mellencamp, Marcus Amphitheater, June 30, 2005

Out of the blue in 2005 I received a call from John Mellencamp’s management people saying they wanted to thank radio for all the support and would I like to go see the show and meet John after the show.  Being a huge Mellencamp fan I jumped at the chance.  So my buddy Ryan and I drove up to Milwaukee to see the show.  We met one of his radio friends at the concert and proceeded to hang outside the amphitheater during Fogerty’s set.  Ok, granted, we should have taken that opportunity to see Fogerty.  However, I love talking radio, and a lot of our conversation with his friend (who came to the fest to see us–not to go to the show) was a lot of fun.

We did go in for Mellencamp’s set and it was awesome.  We had pretty good seats, back stage after show passes, and even though he was playing for a huge crowd, Mellencamp made it intimate.  At times it sounded like he was performing for a group of friends just hanging out at someone’s house.  The after show meet and greet was somewhat tedious.  They have everyone line up, you get a minute with Mr. Mellencamp.  They snap a picture, you shake his hand, make conversation and you leave.  So much for the sexyness of hanging out backstage.  That said, although John looked tired, he was very gracious and took time with everyone.

Journey, Heart and Cheap Trick, Verizon Wireless Music Center, September 10, 2008

Rob and Tyler Stevens at the Journey / Heart show

The first bus trip I did while programming 95.7 the Rocket in Lafayette.  It had been years since I saw Heart and I knew Journey would put on a fantastic show.  On the bus trip we took a bunch of listeners and some radio staff people.  It was a fun trip from the time the bus left the station to the time the bus pulled back into parking lot.  Heart stole the show, and what I really liked was that they played their 80’s stuff.  A surprise to me, because over the years they’ve sort of distanced themselves from that era.

Roger Daltrey and Eric Clapton, Verizon Wireless Music Center, July 2, 2010

The last bus trip I did while programming 95.7 the Rocket in Lafayette.  I went with my buddies Jimmy and Brady, plus Jimmy’s wife.  Lot’s of booze on the bus trip down there.  Plus, with the line up of Clapton and Daltrey, we had a slightly older group on the bus than normal.  Some of the hippy, party generation that wasted no time toking up once off the bus.   Jimmy, Brady and I got into an animated radio conversation over a dinner of pizza slices and pretzels sitting outside at the concession stand so we missed most of Daltrey–although we heard it and he rocked.

Surprisingly, because of the economy and the fact that Clapton had just held his all day Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago a few days before, attendance was rather light.  Clapton didn’t play the hits either, and while that disappointed me slightly at first, his guitar playing made up for it.  It was one of the best technical performances I ever have witnessed and it was great to lay back in the grass and listen to the music.

The night closed with us sending out a search party to find two bus riders who had wandered off and got lost.  While the search party went out looking, I called the Noblesville jail on the off chance they had been picked up by the cops for public intox or weed possession.  Luckily we found them before I had to make an executive decision to leave them behind.

What makes some concert experiences more memorable for me than others?  First and foremost the people I go with.  I tend to have better times with my good friends, work friends and listeners to my radio shows.   I think there’s an energy, an excitement that just can will the experience to be fun.  In addition, it’s not always about the show, it’s about the friends I’m with.  Secondly, it’s the music. Commanding performers just engage me.  It makes whether I know their music or not less important.  Thirdly, it’s the other good experiences around the show that make them unique and cause me to remember them.   I also noticed I favored concerts from 1987-1992.   Some of that I think is due to the newness of the experience I was having at the time.  Plus, in high school, it was an effort to see a show.  Rosemont Horizon and Poplar Creerk weren’t down the street for us.    You really had to want to go to the show to make it happen.  Thus, those shows may possess more value in my mind, than say, Heart and Journey at the Indiana State Fair in 2010.

What about the shows that didn’t make the cut?  Many of them were still fun, just not as fun.  Maybe the band was disappointing.  Maybe I was seeing the same show for the second time in a year.  Maybe it was drunk frat boys being idiots and starting a fight down the row from me.  Maybe it was going to a show I didn’t care about.  Maybe it was the Vodka I drank that made me puke.  Maybe it was me running my mouth off after drinking too much.  Maybe it was going to a concert with my friend who felt ill because of a soon to be diagnosed case of mono.  Maybe it was being at a show with a sour girlfriend.  Maybe it was being at a show without my wife.  Maybe there were shows where I just had some teen angst.  I could go into more detail, but that’s another blog post.  Thanks for reading and feel free to tell me what makes some concert experiences for you more memorable than others.

Footloose remake may be interesting.

It’s been a while since I heard any rumors of a Footloose remake, so I was a little surprised when I was poking around and saw that the remake was already in post production.  I really disliked the idea of a remake because most of the rumors I heard positioned the film as a Disney High School Musical type of film which just ruined it for me.   The original was somewhat cheesy, but it was my cheesy from the 80’s…so to see it more or less cleaned and sanitized to attract the same audience as High School Musical  held no attraction for me.

Footloose isn’t exactly high art from the 80’s either.  It’s not iconic like Dirty Dancing or Ghost.  It didn’t star Tom Cruise or the brat pack.  It wasn’t directed by John Hughes.  It doesn’t even have the kind of cult following Road House has.  It is was a mid 1980’s stealth musical with a great soundtrack, a decent story and decent acting.  It’s most notable for some of the actors like Kevin Bacon, Chris Penn and Sarah Jessica Parker who would go on to have interesting and successful acting careers.

That said–I loved this film when it came out and I played the soundtrack till the cassette wore out.  Then I bought another one, and finally bought a copy on CD.  Why I liked the film so much I don’t really know.  There were some funny scenes, like Ren teaching Willard to dance.  Some expressions of teen angst that I probably appreciated.  Or maybe it was because although Ren was a pretty decent kid, he still had a little bit of rebellious streak and took out the bully.  Or maybe it was because the music just sounded fantastic cranking out of Dolby Stereo speakers in the theaters at Chicago Ridge Mall.

As a general rule, I’m not a big fan of remakes.  Simply, the remake isn’t going to be as good as the original.  Although, Footloose didn’t pay attention to the details.

The music for one.  Ren wouldn’t have been a big fan of the pop sound of all the original music for the film.  With his 80’s new wave David Bowie type look it wouldn’t have been hip enough.  Ren’s from Chicago, so in Chicago XRT would have been his radio station.  Chuck Cranston wouldn’t have been a pop fan either.   He probably would have cranked up the Blaze.  And what about Country?  In the rural setting of Footloose Country Music would definitely be popular.

Second, Willard couldn’t dance.  The only reason Willard couldn’t dance in the movie was because Chris Penn couldn’t dance in real life so they wrote it into the movie.  It did add a dance montage to the film, but honestly, would Willard really be for a school dance if he wasn’t a closet dancer?  And really, the only time I “practiced” dancing was for my wedding. (Ok, yes, one high school girlfriend tried to teach me the nuances of The Twist), but with two left feet it was lost on me.  That said, I still managed to dance quite a bit at school dances with two left feet and have fun.

Third, gymnastics?  Gymnastics, Ren and Willard were gymnasts?  I suppose that making Ren a gymnast can explain the scene where he’s all pissed off and dances in the warehouse swinging from cables and jumping around, but it seems like that was a long way to go to explain that.  I would have assumed they’d play football, basketball, or even track and field.  I don’t know.  We had some gymnastic equipment at my high school, but I never saw it used.

I am nitpicking, I didn’t think about any of those things when I first saw the film, I just liked it.  I think it’ll be interesting to see whether or not Willard can dance in this film.  Will Ren be a gymnast again?  Will they try to match the music more to the characters’ lifestyles?

What will be most interesting though will be seeing how they handle some of the darker moments of the film.  Chuck Cranston really beats up Ariel in the original after she trashes his truck.  Ren, Willard, Ariel and Rusty “go across state lines” to drink and dance at a club.  Ren smokes and drinks after being hassled at school.  Chuck Cranston and Ariel smoke weed in the woods before the tractor chicken race.

As a society we weren’t hyper conscious of a lot of these things in the mid 80’s.   It was plausible that 18 year olds could drink and go into a club in some states in 1984.    While teenage smoking was frowned upon, the inclusion of that in a film didn’t raise the ire of anti-smoking groups like it will now.   Neither would the weed smoking.   Although I think pot smoking would probably be easier to get away with today than a character smoking a Marlboro.  I don’t know what to say about the domestic violence between Ariel and Chuck, that was pretty violent for a PG movie then and it’s a scene that’s always been hard for me to watch.   It will be interesting to see how these issues are dealt with in the film.

Back when Zack Effron was cast as Ren, and there were rumors about Kenny Ortega, director of High School Musical, being involved I was sure all of those things would be cleaned and sanitized and we’d wind up with a sugary pop version of the film designed to appeal to 12 year olds and their parents sure not to offend.

However, Craig Brewer, who directed Hustle and Flow, Black Snake Moan and episodes of the Shield is set to direct.   That makes me think it might not get sugar coated, perhaps, it might even get a more realistic portrayal of teenage life in 2011.  At any rate, it’s intriguing enough to make me want to check out the remake.   If that’s not enough, there’s some interesting casting as well.  Julianne Hough as Ariel, who we KNOW can dance.  Randy Quaid as the Rev. Shaw Moore and Andie MacDowell as Vi Moore.  Of course, there’s also the music.  Who will record “Footloose”?  Will Lady Gaga or Katy Perry do a remake of “Holding Out For A Hero”?  What mega duo will get to cover “Almost Paradise”?

I don’t know about you, but as a fan of the original I think I’ll slide into an early afternoon screening of the movie, when no one I know will see me, to check it out.  I’m not expecting much, it’ll either be an entertaining couple of hours with a great sound track or I’ll be crying in my pop corn that they remade a movie that really, when you think about it, was better left as a somewhat dated but fun 80’s flick.

Kansas City and the Cottage Inn.

It was a hot summer afternoon.  The sun was baking  the worn out parking lot, and I could feel hot wisps of wind on my face.  It was late August 1979 Kansas City.  We were staying at a slightly worn out, white washed motor inn on Highway 40 that had probably seen it’s better days back in the early 60’s.  Yet I would call the Cottage Inn that summer, quaint.  Right near by was a 1970’s styled K-Mart.  Down the hill was a pizza joint and across the street a towering old school drive in movie theater called the 40Hiway.  My parents had picked the motel I assume, somewhat based on their familiarity of the area–and probably price.  The pool was still open, but chilly.  My mom even swam, used the diving board.

The Cottage Inn Coffee Shop years before I ate the Silver Dollar Pancakes there.

It was the first road trip we took as a family after moving to Chicago.  I’m adopted, I couldn’t tell you when my parents told me, it was just one of those things I’ve always known.  My parents adopted me from Catholic Charities in Kansas City, so KC was one of the places I wanted to go.   There were several firsts for me on this road trip.  It was the first time I got to see a game at Royals Stadium.  It was the first time we went and ate at Pizza-Hut.  It was the first time and last time I think I saw my mom jump off a diving board.  It was the first time I ever heard of Silver Dollar pancakes–available at the Cottage Inn Coffee Shop.  Of course, we did other things too.  We went to the Harry Truman Presidential Library, took a guided tour of the city and of course, my parents took me to all the important places of relevance to me.

We drove by the Catholic Charities building where they did the adoption paperwork.  They took me by the hospital I was born in.  On the drive back to Chicago my folks even took a detour through the small towns we lived in for a year before moving to Philadelphia.  I got to see the church I was baptized in, St. Mary’s in Glasgow, Missouri.  My father recounted the story of how the entire town knew that “the new professor of Central Methodist College got a parking ticket his first day in town.”

That area around Highway 40 and Noland road intrigued me .   In a lot of ways, the Cottage Inn and the 40 Hiway, the 70’s K-Mart, they were all a little part of the mid west that would soon disappear.  I wish we had taken more photos of what was there, not just family photos.  We’d return to the Cottage Inn one more time.  A couple of years later.  The worn out parking lot was more dusty, the white wash dulled, the coffee shop closed–and the cable TV at the motel now offered the Playboy Channel.   The Cottage Inn was less quaint, and more of a flea bag.   It was beginning of the end for that stretch of road.

A great cinema experience!

What’s your take on today’s movie going experience? Do you like it? Does it disappoint? Is it relaxing, or overstimulating? I find today’s movie going experience somewhat overstimulating myself. From the time I walk into a theater to the time I walk out I find myself being stimulated with some kind of message, usually one that is motivated to get me to buy or watch something.

I really hadn’t thought about the actual movie going experience in a long time until yesterday. I’m currently unemployed and around six weeks ago my wife suggested we start going to a movie every Friday.  Most of the time we go see movies at one of the local Goodrich Quality Movie Theaters here in Lafayette.

This week I wanted to go see the movie Win Win and it wasn’t being screened here.  Since Indianapolis isn’t that far a drive, we decided to go see it at  Landmark’s Keystone Art Cinema.  I was expecting the typical movie going experience I get at the Goodrich Theaters here in town:  Overpriced concessions, Movie Tunes being blared in the lobby, a somewhat sticky floor, First Look blaring on the screen from the time I sit down.  Yet it was totally different than that.

Yes the concessions were overpriced, but that’s nothing new, and being a theater at a rather high class mall I expected it.  What I didn’t expect was the pre-show movie experience.  There were no Movie Tunes blaring, no First Look playing on the screen.  Instead there was jazz music being piped into the theater.  There was nothing shouting at me from the screen either.  No pre-show slides, no First Look, nothing.

I found it quite refreshing to not have Kris Erik Stevens and Movie Tunes playing me some techno track from the Limitless Soundtrack and telling me that the movie was “in theaters now.”    It was nice not to have to sit through a sneak preview of Warner Brother’s Born To Be Wild or The History Channel’s Swamp People during NCM’s First Look.  What I didn’t realize is how not being engaged in all that preview stuff made me feel when the real previews started.  I felt energized.  Relaxed.  Ready to engage in the previews and the movie.

So a big thumbs up from me to Landmark’s Keystone Art Cinema for the jazz music before the show, and a lack of pre-show on screen entertainment.  The movie was excellent too!

Vandalized: What I got out of a camcorder and one of Oak Lawn’s best metal bands.

In the spring of 1990 I had the privilege of following around the band my guitar teacher was in.  Vandal was one of Oak Lawn and the South Side’s most popular metal bands.  They’ll always have a small place in rock ‘n’ roll history because guitarist Dan Donegan would go on to become a huge rock star in the band Disturbed.  The rest of the band didn’t do so bad either.  Bassist Bob Fedderson and drummer John Sullivan would go on to find success in Loudmouth and guitarist Kurt Bonomo would go on to play as Chicago artist Lisa McClowry’s accompanist along with working on a variety of other projects and  musicians.

I was following Vandal around in 1989 because I was filming them for a high school project.  The purpose to film a rockumentary about the band for my Media / Journalism class.  For the technology we had, a consumer grade camcorder borrowed from my buddy Jim Hayes, one light, and editing that consisted of putting the film together using two consumer VHS machines it was OK.  Don’t ask to see the film, I don’t have a copy of it.  Kurt might, but my copy disappeared in a break up years ago.  I do still have most if not all of the raw footage though.

My favorite part of the whole process though, was being able to be a small part of something special.  The guys in Vandal were all pretty friendly and down to earth.  Sure Bob Fedderson wanted you to think he was crazy, and the band had sort of a bad-ass vibe.  That said, you couldn’t ask for a friendlier more open group of guys.

I really liked the shows at the Gateway Theatre on Lawrence near Milwaukee Avenue.  Those shows were neat because the Gateway had a balcony–and the balcony lobby served as the backstage area for the bands.  I wish I could tell you some salacious back stage stories, but for the most part I don’t have any.

There was some mugging for the camera, lots of primping and spraying of Aqua Net, guitar tuning and laughing.  There may have also been beer and a bottle of Jack Daniels or Jim Beam.   However, there were no outrageous groupie moments, no super scandalous scenes caught on tape.  I’m not saying they didn’t happen.  They just didn’t happen in front of me or my team.

I liked these times simply because it gave me an opportunity to hang out with these guys.  And these guys were actually nice to me and my friends Bill, Jim, Angie or whoever I brought with me to help.    As an 18 year old kid with a video camera, there was no upside to them being nice.  There was no You Tube or video portals to distribute the project.   They were just cool with me filming them and hanging out, being a small part of their scene.  For me, that made me feel like a star.  It was a great feeling.

Kurt, Rob and John at the "Big 80's Prom" New Years Eve 2009.

Today, Vandal’s Kurt Bonomo and John Sullivan play together in a group called 80’s Enough.  I’ve had the opportunity to emcee and DJ for them during a couple of events. It’s special to see these guys turn on an audience and get people on the dance floor.

What’s my favorite part of the night?  Hanging  out backstage.  Not so much because being backstage gives me a thrill, although it still does.  It’s the friendship.  That’s pretty darn cool, and something I didn’t expect I’d get out of filming these guys in 1990.