Author Archives: Matthew Belter

TVD Live Shots: Rise Against, Descendents, and The Menzingers at Five Point Amphitheater, 8/21

An open-air triple header featuring Rise Against, the Descendents, and The Menzingers took Southern California by storm under a star filled night in Irvine, CA. This trio of punk rock heavyweights brought their A-game to a nearly sold-out show at Five Point Amphitheatre for what was for many their first night of live music in nearly two years. Fans were on their feet and screaming for more throughout a three hour show that left little to be desired for all ages in attendance.

If you are a fan of punk rock, there was no better place to be on Saturday night than Five Point Amphitheater for what would end up being a one incredible mosh-pit under the stars. Although I’m not a huge punk rock fan, I walked away mesmerized by three uniquely different bands, each bringing something special to a near packed house deep in the heart of Orange County.

Opening up for Rise Against were two incredible bands, The Menzingers and the Descendents.  I’d never heard The Menzingers before and was literally blown away by their on-stage presence coupled with a killer sound that captured me from the very first note. Their energy was off the charts, and they definitely loved being on stage in front of the ever-growing crowd. Next up were OG punk legends—and Southern California natives—Descendents. This band has been flying the punk rock flag for almost 45 years and their killer set was everything I could have dreamed of (and more). They slayed 24 of their classics in ways that most bands half their age could only dream of doing.

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TVD Live Shots: Beartooth, Wage War, and Dragged Under
at the House of Blues, Anaheim 8/16

If you haven’t seen Beartooth live, you are missing out on one of the most killer bands to grace the stage over the past decade. Caleb Shomo and company blew the roof of the Anaheim House of Blues on opening night (post Covid lockdowns) and left nothing on the table in front of a raucous Southern California crowd. It was truly a magical experience for the thousands in attendance on Monday evening and definitely a show not soon to be forgotten.

I don’t know about you, but I have missed live music.  February 2020 was my last indoor rock and roll show, and I’ve been dreaming about its return ever since. When I finally started to see shows being scheduled here in Southern California, I crossed my fingers that Beartooth might be an option for my personal return to live music. On Monday August 16, that dream became a reality in front of a sold-out crowd on what ended up being an unusually steamy Southern California evening.

As I made my way through the crowd to take my familiar spot in the photo pit, I couldn’t help but enjoy the thousands of smiling faces (a majority wearing masks) ready for their first taste of live music post Covid.  Beers were flowing, high-fives were given, and mosh-pits were in full effect as opening acts Wage War and Dragged Under fired up the now packed venue. Although both bands performed short sets, each gave it their all and rewarded the growing crowd with amazing performances that had everybody smiling ear to ear. Plain and simple, both acts were bad ass and perfect choices to kick the show into overdrive.

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Paul Robb of
Information Society,
The TVD Interview

The early 1980s was a magical time for electronic music. Artists like Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, and OMD were coming on strong and opened doors for other artists looking for the freedom to express themselves in new and untraditional ways.

Born in a dorm room in 1982 in St. Paul, Minnesota, three friends—Kurt Larson, James Cassidy, and Paul Robb—came together to form a band known simply as Information Society. Their 1985 classic “Running” became an instant classic in NYC and helped catapult the band from obscurity to stardom. Future singles such as “Walking Away” and “Peace and Love, Inc.,” cemented their place as one of the quintessential synth-pop bands of all time. 

We recently spoke with Information Society founding member Paul Robb to discuss all-things INSOC including their challenging start in the music industry, a storied 40-year career, as well as their upcoming release, ODDfellows.

Share with our readers how you got your start in the music industry?

Well, that’s a pretty long story. In the early days of the band, we really didn’t understand much about the music industry. As a matter of fact, for the first year or two, we kept having discussions about why we weren’t being discovered and were very frustrated. Finally, someone pulled us aside and said, “If you want to be discovered, you’ll need to make some recordings in order to put out records.”  Sounded fairly easy (laughs), so we eventually scraped up some money—I believe the whole recording budget was $600—went into a studio, and recorded our first self-released EP.

Funny thing about that EP, it just wouldn’t sell and most of the vinyl ended up being thrown away. About a year later, we regrouped and tried again with the support of a local DJ along with a small indie label in Minneapolis called Wide Angle Records. And like a lot of fledgling record labels, they started out by owning a record shop. Ultimately, they gave us some money and helped us distribute our next album. It was on that album that our song “Running” first appeared. Fast forward a year and a half later, and that single ended up causing a major stir in New York, ultimately inspiring Tommy Boy Records to license that song and eventually sign us to a first major record deal.

What artists inspired you along the way?

It is so hard to get across the idea to the younger generation how open it felt in the early ’80s. New wave was so important to us, yet we all came at it from different musical points of view. My focus at the time was jazz and funk. Kurt Larson was listening to Styx, The Beatles, and all things progressive. James Cassidy was in a band playing Black Sabbath covers. We were all influenced by what was around us, but when new wave music started to trickle into Minneapolis, which is where we grew up, it really opened our eyes to what was truly possible.

Bands like Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, and a German band called D.A.F., were incredibly influential on us in the early days even though we didn’t really end up sounding much like that kind of proto-industrial music.  And then the whole new romantic thing kicked in with a lot of British and German bands. After that, we started hearing “electro” bands in NYC and that really turned us on. Ultimately, we combined the song craft and the romantic overtones that we were picking up from the British bands along with the beats coming out of New York, and that was the two-cent formula that we ended up eventually co-opting as the Information Society sound.

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Racquel Jones,
The TVD Interview

Who is Racquel Jones?  To some, she’s an amazing musician and vocalist.  For others, she’s an inspired artist and painter. However, after peeling back the onion a bit, I found Racquel Jones to be quite simply extraordinary. 

Born and raised in Jamaica, Jones has broken molds and shattered ceilings as a rising star. She is fearless, focused, and unapologetic in her desire to crush pre-existing stereotypes with a quest to be treated equally as a woman in the arts—and to create on her own terms. 

What were your first impressions of music as a child?

I could not make sense of music as a kid, and it is still hard to articulate it now.  I just know that it did something inside of me, it moved me. I liked it and wanted more of that feeling. I also wanted to create that feeling for others incorporating into it the sounds I love.

Do you recall the first time you performed on a stage?

My introduction to performing was in church, but I don’t remember the first time because I was so young.  Outside of that, I do recall performing at about eight or nine at school. My teacher discovered that I knew how to play the recorder—nerd alert—that I taught myself to play. She decided to enter me into the JCDC Music Competition in Jamaica. I made it through three rounds—and got a bronze medal—but apparently was too young at the time to advance in the categories that would allow me to compete nationally. I remember that feeling. I remember the audience. I remember the judges. It was incredible.

Who would you consider your greatest overall influence on the person you are today?

I find that question to be very strange for us as human beings because it leads to compartmentalizing and prioritizing one influence over another. I feel as if everything that I have encountered in life, every person and every experience, has influenced me. I cannot pick them apart to compare and definitively say which had influenced me more. Like I said, everything I hear, everything I see, everything I think of—good or bad—has impacted me in some way. I just know that I’m open to everything and the learning that I encounter along the way.

What are some the challenges that women in the arts currently face?

I don’t know if this is me downplaying myself or not, but my fight is literally to occupy my own space along with being free to be myself. I don’t know if that equates to me being strong or revolutionary. I just know that’s my fight and it’s probably relatable to a lot of women. The challenges for men are the same challenges we have as women in everyday society, except that they are more heightened for women.

At the end of the day, we’re literally just screaming, “Give me the space to fucking create. To be paid like guys are paid and to be me without these imposed misogynistic unrealistic standards brought up by men. Why can’t I have freedom to be me?” That’s literally the fight.

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Frank Meyer of The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, The TVD Interview

If you’re into punk rock at any level, you probably know of Frank Meyer. Frontman for The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, his name is synonymous with the LA punk scene and has been so for over 20 years. He’s a legend in punk circles and continues to get better as time moves on. 

The Vinyl District recently sat down with Meyer to discuss all things rawk ‘n’ roll including his early beginnings in music, his greatest influences as a guitarist, and the Cheetahs’ latest release, One More Drink.  So, fill your glass and drop the needle.

What are your earliest memories of music as a child?

My earliest memories of music are probably The Muppet Show and subsequently The Muppet Movie. That soundtrack was one of the first records I can remember asking my parents to buy for me.  I loved “Can You Picture That?” by Dr. Teeth & Electric Mayhem, the hard rock group of the Muppets. So dope!

So, The Muppets we’re kind of a gateway drug to your affinity for rock and roll?

Yes!  As a result, I began listening to rock and roll radio here in Los Angeles in the early ’80s.  I loved The Knack’s “My Sharona,” Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and that whole first Go-Go’s album. Those were the big ones on the radio at the time and that stuff really, really, really hit me hard. These bands really sparked my interest in music, and as you can tell became my lifelong obsession.

As a child of the ’80s here in LA, were you a Van Halen fan?

The very first time I heard Van Halen on the radio I was blown away.  I couldn’t even understand the sound I was hearing but knew at that point I wanted to start playing guitar. Then I saw pictures of Van Halen and was floored.  They just looked like rock gods. I was like, “Whatever that is, that’s what I want to do as a career.”

As a youngster, did you grow up on vinyl or cassettes?

Vinyl and cassettes were all the rage when I was a teenager. I was a little too young for 8-tracks, but as a kid I’d buy stuff on vinyl. It was a blast to open the albums, read the liner notes, and marvel at the killer artwork and photos.  I also had TONS of cassettes too!

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Todd La Torre,
The TVD Interview

When Todd La Torre took over the reigns as vocalist for Queensrÿche back in 2012, many felt that he’d have a hard time filling Geoff Tate’s shoes. Admittedly, I was one of those early doubters and could not imagine anyone else hitting those incredibly high notes across some of progressive metal’s most cherished masterpieces.

That all changed when I witnessed one of Queensrÿche’s earliest shows with La Torre at the helm. From his opening salvo to the final curtain call, Todd’s vocal prowess was on full display throughout among classics such as like “Roads to Madness,” “The Whisper,” and “Take Hold of the Flame.” It was as if I was transported back to the early ’80s all over again with La Torre crushing every song he wrapped his vocals around.

Fast forward to 2021, and La Torre has not only filled Tate’s shoes, but expanded on the Queensrÿche legacy tenfold. Sure, he can slay the classics. However, Todd’s also been instrumental in bringing back the band’s classic sound seemingly lost sometime after Promised Land. With three releases under La Torre’s belt as Queensrÿche’s lead singer, the band is back (and in a really big way). And while many in the music industry took an unscripted break due to Covid-19, Todd La Torre used the downtime to release his first solo album, Rejoice In The Suffering.

How did you get your start in music?

Here’s the nutshell version. I started playing guitar at 10, got my first set of drums at 13, and have played in multiple bands throughout my life. I joined Crimson Glory in 2010 and was with them for three years. In 2012, I ended up joining Queensrÿche and have been their vocalist ever since. Bottom line, I’ve always played music and primarily have been a drummer my whole life.

Who were your greatest inspirations as a young musician?

I grew up listening to a ton of rhythm and blues because of my mom. She was into legends such as Al Jarreau, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, and of course Michael Jackson. She was also into a lot of progressive jazz like David Sanborn, Keiko Matsui, Spyro Gyra—stuff like that. My dad, on the other hand, was into Earl Klugh, Elton John, Steely Dan, Billy Joel, that kind of stuff. All very inspiring artists to say the least.

As I got older growing up in the age of radio, I really got into the great singer / songwriters of the ’70s such as Fleetwood Mac, Jim Croce, and Jackson Browne. I then transitioned into ’80s rock and to this day I’m still a huge fan of bands like Tesla, Dokken, and Ratt. In my formidable teen years, I began listening to heavier stuff like Iron Maiden, Queensrÿche, Testament, Overkill, Halloween, and Slayer which helped mold me into the musician I am today.

So how did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in music?

I honestly never really believed that I was going to have a career in music. In high school I always wanted to be a drummer and constantly dreamed of making it big as an musician. In my late twenties, I figured that ship sailed and became an upholsterer by trade. I had my own business and ran it successfully for 22 years while having a really great reputation in the Tampa Bay area. During that time I still liked to play music and was gigging in local bands. I was having fun as a drummer doing cover songs at beach bars and it gave me something to do outside of work. It wasn’t until I joined Crimson Glory back in 2010 where I actually began singing in a band—which is not something I ever really aspired to do—and the rest is history.

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Joel Hoekstra,
The TVD Interview

Joel Hoekstra is one hell of a musician. From an early age he took an interest in music and quickly excelled at classical instruments such as the cello and piano. However, it was AC/DC’s Angus Young who inspired him to pick up a guitar—and it’s been his lifelong passion ever since.

Hoekstra has parlayed that passion into a 30+ year career, playing guitar with legendary acts such as Night Ranger, Whitesnake, and Cher as well as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Bolstering that already incredible resume, he performed on Broadway as the lead guitarist for the critically acclaimed musical, Rock of Ages.  The Vinyl District recently sat down with Hoekstra to discuss all things music—including the upcoming release of Running Games from Joel Hoekstra’s 13.

How did you get your start in music?

My parents had me playing cello and piano when I was a little kid. They were classical musicians. As far as playing the guitar as a young child, it was really hearing AC/DC for the very first time. I was like, “Ooh, that’s what I want to do. I want to play that.” In terms of getting a start professionally, it was a constant series of baby steps that led me where I am today. But I have managed to make my living at it since I got out of school at 20 years old. So, it’s really a blessing to make it this far.

Who were your greatest inspirations as a young musician?

It was really Angus Young who made me want to pick up the guitar for the very first time.  However, I owe my success to some really great teachers I had right from the very start. My first taught me rock songs, and that got me hooked. After my first few lessons, I started with a new instructor who began teaching me out of one of those method books. I was initially bummed out and was like, “Oh, this isn’t what I pictured it being.” It felt like cello and piano lessons all over again. But that quickly evolved into theory and technique which was great and I was hooked on the whole process from that point forward.

Tell us about the first time you performed in front of a live audience?

I was terrified. I vividly remember having such bad stage fright that I couldn’t even move my feet.  I was so nervous, my legs were locked and was just standing there going, “Oh my god, oh my god.” So yeah, the first time out there was terrifying.

Over the years, you’ve been associated with some incredible acts including Night Ranger, Whitesnake, Cher, as well as Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Rock of Ages. Understanding each of these is unique in its own right, is there one experience in particular that stands out?

Overall, the one thing that stood out to me was remaining open to any and all career possibilities. I worked hard at everything that came across my radar as I never really knew where the opportunity might take me. The Cher and the Rock of Ages gigs were the ones that stood out as the things I never would have imagined, right? When I was 11 years old learning Black Sabbath songs, I didn’t really say, “I can’t wait. Someday I’m going to be on Broadway.”

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TVD Live: Iration at
City National Grove
of Anaheim, 12/3

Iration’s live performance on Thursday was nothing short of spectacular. With good vibes seemingly in limited supply these days, these Hawaiian natives (detoured through Santa Barbara) brought their unique reggae energy down the coast to Orange County and killed it at a special drive-in performance. Iration’s set was just what the doctor ordered and a perfect remedy to the uncertain times we unfortunately find ourselves in 2020.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of 2020. From political struggles to Covid and everything in-between, anxiety levels around the world are at an all-time high. Concerts were my saving grace, and that was unfortunately ripped away from me back in March. After 8 months of uncertainty, live music is collectively seeing signs of life with drive-in shows beginning to pop up all across the country.

On Thursday, a time bomb was dropped on Orange County in the form of a parking lot concert with reggae superstars Iration at the Drive-in at the City National Grove of Anaheim. I had this one circled on my calendar and was ready to chill to the amazing aura of what I consider one amazing band.

Outside of a DJ to get show started, it was all Iration in front of a sold-out show under a starlit sky in southern California. Their set was approximately an hour and a half long and consisted of classic Iration jams as well as a few from their 2020 release, Coastin’.

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Chris Robertson
of Black Stone Cherry,
The TVD Interview

Black Stone Cherry is anything but your typical rock and roll band. Founded in 2001, Chris Robertson, John Fred Young, Jon Lawhon, and Ben Wells have a long and storied history together as childhood friends with deep Kentucky roots. Today, they’re a well-oiled rock and roll machine creating inspirational music that challenges both the mind and soul.

We recently caught up with the band’s frontman Chris Robertson to discuss their latest release in stores, The Human Condition, life in lockdown, and of course Chris’s most prized vinyl possession.

Chris, how did you get your start in music?

I grew up around music my whole life. My dad plays music still to this day. He does cover band stuff on the weekend—it’s what he’s always done. So, I’ve always been around that. My grandpa used to build acoustic guitars and instruments. He’d build them in an old shop out here on the farm, and he did that up until just a few years before he passed away. He played a lot of bluegrass and stuff, so I was always around music.

My grandpa built me a guitar when I was 10 and I tried to play it but just couldn’t. And then around about seventh grade, we had a talent show and John Fred brought a drum set and played a drum solo. There was also a guy there that played guitar, and I told John Fred at the end of the talent show, I said, “I’m going to get a guitar for my birthday and I’m going to learn to play better than him so we can start a band.” And we’ve played music together ever since.

How did Black Stone Cherry get its start?

As friends, we would jam off and on from 13 on. In early 2001, after some time off, we decided to start jamming again. We wanted to start writing some music, but we didn’t have a bass player. So, I called Jon Lawhon and was like, “Hey man, I know you play guitar, but how about you play bass because we need a bass player?” And he was like, “Okay, that’s fine.” So, Jon transitioned over to bass and the three of us continued to play together focusing on the blues.

A short time later, we were having a little get together and had a bunch of friends down. We had written a couple of songs, but nobody actually sang. That evening, we found out that one of the guys (Ben Wells) actually played as well. We finally talked him into jamming with us. Throughout the evening, people kept switching off instruments in the practice house. The three of us snuck outside and I was like, “Hey man, we need to get this guy in the band.” And John Fred said, “Yeah, he’s got a thing.” And the next day we started the band and it’s been the four of us ever since.

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TVD Live: Ziggy Marley at City National Grove of Anaheim, 10/24

It’s been over 8 months since I’ve seen a live show and Ziggy Marley’s performance at City National Grove was just what the doctor ordered on a crisp Saturday afternoon in Southern California. In the 35 years I have been attending / covering live shows, I have never attended a drive-in performance. However, I was eager to give it a spin with a few hundred of Ziggy’s closest friends in the shadow of the historic Anaheim Stadium.

Nederlander Concerts pulled out all the stops to ensure guests were safe, secure, and well taken care of through the 2-hour event. Concert goers were able to scan a QR code assigned to their parking spot for food, drink orders, as well as restroom queuing located within the main building. You could tell from the moment you entered the parking lot that these folks were serious about state and local Covid protocols and they translated nicely from start to finish with zero impact on the fans or their live music experience.

After a short and incredibly cool set by Los Angeles based, Rhythm Child, Ziggy Marley took the stage around 3:00PM and performed a condensed “Children’s Set,” comprised of songs from his recent release More Family Time as well as hits from Ziggy’s critically acclaimed 2009 Family Time LP. In addition, fans were treated to two Bob Marley and the Wailers covers including “Three Little Birds” and encore “Lively Up Yourself.” Ziggy sounded amazing as always and that incredible smile lit up the parking lot in ways that you wouldn’t be able to understand unless you were actually there.

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System of a Down’s Shavo Odadjian,
The TVD Interview

LIVE PHOTOS: MATTHEW BELTER | Aside from being a multi-talented musician and bassist for that little-known band called System of a Down, Shavo Odadjian is a serial entrepreneur whose clothing lines and cannabis company are on a steep upward trajectory.

In this exclusive interview with TVD, Shavo opens up about his early years in music, his latest musical collaboration North Kingsley, as well as his megabrand 22Red. (Stick around long enough and you might even learn which of Shavo’s 20,000 albums is one of his most prized childhood possessions.)

Shavo, how’d you get your start in music?

Well, I started around 12, 13 years old, something like that. Prior to that, I kept asking my parents for an instrument because I just loved music. I was born in Armenia and was 5 years old when we moved to America and think it was like the old mentality of life, “If he becomes a musician, he’s going to be a starving artist.” That was my parents. They always wanted me to go to school and become a doctor, lawyer. You know what I mean? The old school mentality.

I didn’t get my first instrument until I was a preteen, where my grandma actually bought it for me and snuck it into our house. It was a Kramer XL guitar, and I loved that thing. She got a guy to give me two lessons across a two-week period. By the time he was already on lesson 2 of whatever he was teaching, I had already picked up what he had taught me and then some. It’s like I knew all the chords already. I loved that guitar and I played it all the time, not very well, but I did it. I had the passion for it. It wasn’t like, “Oh, now, I got to start doing this.” It wasn’t that. It was like, “Hell yeah. Finally, after so many years I’ve been asking for an instrument.” Before that, I used to bang on pots and pans, played the tennis racket in front of mirror.

Who inspired you early on in your career?

I was a big Kiss fan. It wasn’t because of the music, but because of their theatrics. And it’s crazy, because at the time, the era that I found them, Kiss was not big at all. They were on their way down. I got here in ’79 and they already had done that whole disco thing and were beginning to fall apart. It was during the Music from The Elder release that I discovered them. It wasn’t a big record, probably one of their worst though. They sold like 10,000 copies after selling millions prior to that. But it wasn’t just Kiss or that genre that inspired me. I was a skater. I loved punk rock—the Ramones, the Misfits, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains. You know, the ’70s and ’80s punk era.

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Dryden Mitchell of
Alien Ant Farm,
The TVD Interview

You may not know it, but you’re probably already an Alien Ant Farm fan. Their 2001 cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” was a runaway success and catapulted the little-known band from Riverside, CA to stardom in the blink of an eye.

Dryden Mitchell, AAF’s original vocalist, recently sat down with The Vinyl District to discuss a range of topics including his start in music, the band’s recent cover of Wham’s “Everything She Wants,” and his newfound passion for koi fish. 

How did you get started in music?

Probably just watching my dad. He was my first influence, kind of a one-man band—a piano bar style musician. I’d watch him and was always intrigued by the way he could immediately change the vibe of a room. Whether it be a family gathering or a party, he could easily break the monotony and get things moving, changing the overall mood of the group through his music. I thought it was powerful how he could take control of any situation in a positive way and just thought that was really cool.

What was it like performing on stage for the very first time?

While my dad seemed comfortable in his own skin, I think I was extremely neurotic, self-conscious, and a bit terrified the first time I performed on stage. In hindsight, it was kind of fun to be terrified. I don’t know what I was so scared of, but a few times early on I just felt like maybe I didn’t want to do this. I loved playing music, but I didn’t know if I wanted to play in front of strangers. It was kind of weird, but obviously through experience, I got over those hurdles and really began enjoying being in front of others performing music that I loved.

Thinking back to your high school days, who were your favorite bands at that time?

I remember really loving semi-eclectic music. You know, anyone from Joni Mitchell to Sade to Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, even Björk. And then came along a band called Primus and I was like, “Whoa, what is this?” Their music was way interesting and something I never experienced before. Then I heard Nirvana for the very first time. They just had an urgency to their music. I can’t even explain hearing Gish by The Smashing Pumpkins. It was so regal, so important, so silky.

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Save Our Stages: Peter Hook & The Light with Night Dreamer at The Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, 11/9/19

During this period of historic uncertainty, the fight for the survival of our independent record stores is directly mirrored by the dark stages of our local independent theatres, clubs, and performance spaces which have been shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been cited as well that 90% of these concert venues may never, ever return.

Enter the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) whose #SaveOurStages campaign has provided a spotlight on this perilous predicament with a unique mission to “preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters throughout the United States.” Without help from Congress the predictions are indeed quite dire and TVD encourages you support the S. 3814/H.R. 7481, the RESTART Act, by telling your legislators to save independent music venues via the form that can be filled out and forwarded right here.

This week and next we’ll be turning our own spotlight onto previous live concert coverage as a reminder of the need to preserve the vitality of live music venues across the country—and indeed across the globe—and while we’re at it to celebrate the work of the fine photographers and writers at TVD who are all itching to get back into the pit. 

Peter Hook & The Light’s show on Saturday night at The Wiltern was by all accounts brilliant. His masterful covers of both New Order and Joy Division classics transported fans back in time to what many felt was the true beginning of electronic music as we know it today. It was a throwback show for the ages that reinforced all that’s good in music today and one I won’t soon forget.

If you know anything about me, you’d know that there is a special place in my heart for electronic music. I grew up with artists like Kraftwork, Depeche Mode, and Gary Numan and believe they collectively rewrote musical history with their unique style of post-punk/electronic music. New Order was another such band that blazed unchartered territory in the early 1980s, with incredibly catchy songs that many think of as the soundtrack of their youth.

On a crisp Saturday night in DTLA, Peter Hook & The Light took us all back in time to relive those amazing memories with a stellar set that transcended time. Opening the evening was the debut of Los Angeles based duo, Night Dreamer. Guitarist Jeff Schroeder (of Smashing Pumpkins) and vocalist extraordinaire Mindy Song kicked of the evening with a performance that was completely unexpected for an opener and really, really good. Their on-stage chemistry was amazing, and I could immediately see stars in the making throughout their powerful 30-minute set.

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Estevan Oriol,
The TVD Interview

Estevan Oriol is no ordinary photographer. His humble beginnings in music, hard-work ethic, and unmatched integrity set him apart from others and allowed him opportunities that most might never dream of. Thirty years later, he’s become a master of his craft while working with legendary figures such as Snoop Dogg, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, and so many others in the music and film industries. 

In this interview, we’ll dig deep with an amazing artist who has truly pushed through boundaries to become who many believe is the best music and street photographer on the planet today.

How did you begin your career in music?

Well, I was friends with DJ Muggs back in ‘89. I met him from working the doors of a lot of the clubs in LA, I was a doorman handling the VIP lists.  I met a lot of bands that way. It was a lot different scene than it is today. Back then, it was kind of like a family. You’d even be like, “Okay, man. I’ll see you Thursday night at this club.”  So, people were a lot cooler back then—they were a lot more in tune with each other.

In ’92, Muggs was like, “Hey, I’m putting out this new group and I want to have you work for us.” And I was like, “Cool.” Because I had already been to a couple shows with Cypress Hill, so I thought he was going to hook me up with a job with them.  And he goes, “It’s for these new white boys that are going to be rapping.” And at that time, there was 3rd Bass and Vanilla Ice, so I was like, “Man, which one is it going to be? I’m hoping it’s more of the 3rd Bass style than Vanilla Ice.” He goes, “You know, it’s our homie Everlast.” And I go, “Oh, okay cool.”  He then proceeds to drop the name House of Pain and he played “Jump Around” for me. I was like, “Oh, shit.” You could tell instantly that was a hit.

That is how it all started.  Once I got in touch with them, I was hired as their tour manager and ended up going out with them on the promo tours, on the college tours, and stuff like that. That’s what we called working a record back then. It was a way different scene, and I was just getting my expenses paid for including flights, hotel rooms, and food money, etc. The guys would take $300 bucks each show and give me $100 bucks. So, sometimes we’d do two, three shows in a day.  You do a couple shows a week, and you’re doing pretty good. So, I was like, “Man. This is a cool thing. It’s paying off.”

Shortly thereafter, we went on tour with the Beastie Boys and we got kicked off of that tour because the tour manager of the Beasties gave us tickets for Everlast’s mom in the grass area at the arena (which is the farthest away you could be from the stage). Everlast felt disrespected that the guy just gave us the worst seats in the house for our guests. He just kind of blew up on the guy and gave him a piece of his mind. The next day we were kicked off that tour and that happened to be a blessing in disguise.

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Justin Furstenfeld
of Blue October,
The TVD Interview

Justin Furstenfeld is anything but ordinary. At an incredibly young age he realized he was different from others his age and possessed a unique artistic sensibility that most around him failed to appreciate. Over the years, this once-in-a-lifetime talent became one of the most prolific songwriters of our generation. However, Furstenfeld’s journey was never easy. He battled a constant stream of anxiety, depression, and a host of addictions that chipped away at him.

Now, clean and sober for almost 8 full years, Justin has reimagined his life and lives it to its fullest with the support of his loving wife, family, and lifelong friends. Although he has not fully won the war from within, it now appears much more manageable, and Furstenfeld has been able to channel the remaining fury into transcendent storytelling that has offered hope and inspiration to countless Blue October fans all around the world.

Let’s get going, Justin—how did you get your start in music?

I would have to say it was when I was five years old. I saw a movie called Empire of the Sun. Christian Bale was the kid, and he walked around, and he sang. It was this crazy high voice thing. And I was out in my front yard, and I remember I was five or six, and I was just belting out this high-pitched opera, right? And the mailman kept coming by, and neighbors kept coming by, and they were just like, “Wow.” And everybody kept telling me, “One day, we’re going to see you on TV, and one day we’re going to hear you on the radio.” And I was like, “Whatever.”

But I was always enamored by music. I heard Roy Orbison’s “Crying” for the first time when I was six—I just started bawling because I didn’t even know what it was about, but it just made me cry. It’s just a powerful song. And then, at age 10, I got into The Cure and The Smiths…heavy. And at age 10, getting into The Cure and The Smiths is so fucking sad, right? And, every time I’d hear a song, I’d be like, “Wow, I don’t know why they wrote that. I could do better than that.” I was really competitive, and it just became this hobby. Wherever I went, I was always writing songs.

I remember from the youngest of ages, from second grade on, I was just always writing songs. And, I remember hearing the Pixies and going, “That shit is so simple, but it’s so cool,” and being like, “Wow, if they can do it like that, holy crap.” And I just have always been obsessed with making up melodies with emotion because I truly believed that the two things that keep people going were smell and sound. I have always been a sensory guy, so I’ve always created. And I’ve gone through everything—I loved hairbands, I loved rock, I loved George Winston, I loved classical. As long as it was sad, I fucking loved it. And that is how I started.

What was it like for you the first time you performed on stage?

It was truly cool. I remember I was in second grade, and we were supposed to write a poem about something that makes us happy. And I went home, and I wrote a song instead of a poem just because I had to win. And I came back the next day, and they liked it so much that they told me at lunch that I was going to sing it in front of the whole school. And I was so nervous… I was like, “Are you kidding me?”

And I remember I got up on stage—and it was something that I had written—it wasn’t just like singing, “Jingle bells, jingle bells.” And I got up, and freaking sang, and I just remember everybody in the school stopping and looking, and really paying attention, and liking it. And I just thought, how cool is that? Something that I wrote last night that I really loved just affected them all and made them smile. It was just a cool moment in my life.

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