Southern Man

Monday, June 25, 2007

Concert Review - Hawthorne Heights, Brighten, and others

Last night Southern Man and his teenage son (hearafter referred to as Hawthorne Heights Boy or HHB for short) trekked to a nearby city (this being the midwest, "nearby" meaning "only a couple of hours driving time away") for a long-anticipated event: a concert by HHB's all-time favorite screamo band, plus four other groups in what is called the "Show Must Go On" tour. In order of appearance, they were

The venue was Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, a popular small concert hall that left Southern Man wanting more. Much more. First off, the security drones at the door said "no re-entry," meaning that Southern Man would not in fact be able to take refuge outside to escape the hordes of emo teens and their triple-digit-decibel bands. These were very large security drones, so Southern Man didn't argue the point. There was no "adult" area to where parents of aforementioned teens could retreat from time to time. There was no food other than prepackaged snacks and little to offer in the way o non-alcoholic beverages. There were certainly no water fountains that Southern Man would touch with any part of his body. There was a side room (called "Sam's") with a few tables and chairs and a bar-and-grill (closed) and a nice projection TV fed directly from the soundboard; it had surprisingly sharp video and good sound (far better than in the actual ballroom) and Southern Man spent a fair amount of time there watching the bands. The Cain's staff apparently has a live-and-let-live attitude about most things, so smoking was by no means confined to the smoking areas (nor, apparently, confined to tobacco), alcohol was by no means restricted to the bar areas, and the tables and floors in both the side room and in the ballroom got nastier and nastier as the evening progressed. HHB later said that Cain's was his favorite concert venue ever; it's way, way down on Southern Man's list.

At any rate, PowerSpace took the stage promptly at seven for their twenty-minute set. They're a fairly straightforward four-man indie-rock / ballad band from Chicago with one three-song EP already released and their debut CD due at the end of this month on the Fueled by Ramen label. Their myspace has a link to download their three-song EP free, so check it out if you want to hear their sound.

Next up was Brighten, an indie-rock trio from Chico, California. Their debut EP came out in 2005 and their first full-length CD, King vs. Queen, was apparently released without the band's knowledge or consent. This may be related to Hawthorne Height's ongoing feud with their (and Brighten's) former label Victory Records ( and one of these days Southern Man will coax HHB into writing an account of that story on this blog. Maybe one of the Brighten guys will see this and tell us what really went on with them, Victory, and Carbon Copy Media ( the band-apparel label formed by one of the Hawthorne Heights guys that actually released the Brighten CD. At any rate, they put on a terrific set and really woke the crowd. Southern Man was watching on the projection TV next door when he caught some fairly vigorous crowd surfing and only later found that it was HHB himself. On learning this Southern Man tried to cadge a video copy of the show from the sound board guys but no joy. However, HHB picked up a copy of Brighten's CD for a friend (female - not a girlfriend, he says, but it has not escaped Southern Man's attention that HHB sprays on a little cologne whenever he thinks he might run into her) and gave it to Southern Man to hold. After the concert Southern Man got all three Brighten guys - Jimmie "I like Cain's Ballroom!" Richards, Justin "Check us out online!" Richards, and Alex "Good Luck" Draper - to sign the CD, which will surely earn him some points somewhere down the road. At any rate, Southern Man conversed with all three for a bit and observed all three graciously signing autographs and posing for photos with their fans and he (as their newest and possibly eldest fan) wishes them well. We listened to that CD all the way home.

Secondhand Serenade consists of John Veseley and his acoustic guitars and had a surprisingly strong following in the crowd. His ten-track debut album Awake was recorded in a rented studio in eight days and through tireless self-promotion Secondhand Serenade has built a loyal fan base and even made it into the iTunes Top 100, which is an amazing feat for an unsigned act. Southern Man saw lots of Secondhand Serenade concert shirts in the crowd. He played mostly ballads to that very appreciative audience. Southern Man really enojed the set and would have purchased a CD and gotten it signed, but the line for autographs and merchandise after the set was so long that Southern Man couldn't get near the table to "interview" him. Southern Man regrets not trying harder; he suspects that John and Secondhand Serenade may go a long ways yet.

Now, the first three opening acts were just fine but much of the crowd was here for screamo and From First To Last did not disappoint. They were (a) extremely loud and (b) extremely animated on stage, which really energized the crowd - which by now nearly filled the entire ballroom floor. Southern Man was particularly impressed with drummer Derek Bloom, who seemed to be quite a cut above the average. They, too, had a pretty fair following and Southern Man saw plenty of FFTL shirts in the crowd. And HHB got in a bit more crowd-surfing during their set as well. FFTL got to play a bit longer than the others and got in nearly forty minutes of high-decibel rock.

FFTL left the crowd primed and ready for Hawthorne Heights, a post-hardcore / sreamo band that most southern men have never heard of (and would never willingly listen to if they had) but Southern Man, due to the influence of HHB, is becoming something of a fan - it's his second HH concert (review of the first is here) and HHB's fourth. Their hour-long set opened with their familiar hit Niki FM and continued with many that Southern Man knew and a few that he didn't. One song was apparently played for a live audience for the very first time this evening. The crowd was extremely pumped and Southern Man saw both fearless crowd-surfing and some fairly agressive tossing of human bodies. They closed with two favorites, Breathing In Sequence and Ohio Is For Lovers, during which HHB (who had worked his way to the very front of the stage and was loath to lose his place) executed his final crowd surf of the evening. He also managed to talk to a couple of the band members once again, one of whom remembered him from last Fall's concert.

Sure, it was nearly a hundred bucks and four hours of driving and we both had to get up early Monday morning for football practice and work, but to hear HHB tell Southern Man that this was the best concert he'd ever been to and to hear him say "thank you for the concert" over and over made it absolutely, 100% worthwhile. And today he's at the mall to spring that autographed Brighten CD on his not-a-girlfriend. So Southern Man would do it again in a heartbeat, and probably will in the not-too-distant future.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

Father's Day at Casa Southern Man meant
  • all three kids for the afternoon...
  • talking to Southern Man's father on the phone...
  • cooking in the kitchen with teen daughter...
  • a fine strip with mushrooms and peppers and mashed potatoes (grilled by Southern Man hisself...)
  • piddling around the garage fixing up some bikes while watching baby daughter make a huge mess with water and mud and other fun ingredients...
  • baby daughter and Southern Man riding said bikes around the neighborhood for a good long while...
  • watching hilarious (if occasionally offensive) shows on cable with teen son...
  • and just generally relaxing and having a good time!
Hope your own Father's day was special!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Concert Review - Creedence Clearwater Revisited

The "revisited" part means that what we have here is the half of the original CCR that wasn't John or Tom Fogerty. Junior-high students John Fogerty, Stu Cook (bass) and Doug Clifford (percussion) started out in the late 1950s as The Blue Velvets, an instrumental band that later started backing John's older brother Tom at frat-house gigs. The band soon recording a couple of songs for Fantasy Records, which renamed the group The Golliwogs. The final name change to CCR came when offered a chance to record a full album and the rest, as they say, is history. CCR disbanded in 1973 after much discord; Cook and Clifford formed the revisited edition in 1995 to promote some concerts by a friend and with no intention of actually playing for the public. They've been on the amusement-park circuit ever since.

Alas, last Saturday Southern Man wore the kids out at White Water that afternoon and they were too tired to venture out that evening, so he missed out on the Three Dog Night concert. However, he and his two girls did make it to the amusement park this evening. After an hour or so with yougest daughter (who again proved to be a serious ride repeater) he passed her off to her older sister and headed to the amiptheatre. Southern Man was a bit surprised to see that the crowd was considerably larger than that for Eddie Money a few weeks ago. And an enthusuastic bunch they were, too; we spent most of the show on our feet. Southern Man supposes that it should be no surprised that a group that's produced as many hits as CCR, even in "revisited" form, would attract a large audience. At any rate, they put on a fine (if brief) and enthusiastic performance. It's not often that Southern Man goes to a concert where he pretty much knows every word to every song but CCR had lots and lots and lots of hits that still get quite a bit of airplay today. And since Southern Man had his "best of" CDs playing for most of the afternoon, it all kind of ran together. But he had a fine time singing and clapping and prancing about with the other fortysomethings on his row. And ninety minutes of his daughters shackled together at the park didn't permanently traumatize either (although it seemed like it might for a while) and teenage son returned from his evening adventures in good spirits, so Southern Man counts the evening as a success.

It's a month before there's another concert at the amusement park that interests Southern Man, but starting in mid-July we get four great shows over a five-week period: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts , Pat Benetar, Kansas, and Hawk Nelson. The first two should be great shows. Southern Man has been a Kansas fan since high school but for some reason never managed to see them in concert during his younger days (four opportunities missed with their original lineup; he'll never forgive himself for that). And teenage son was a Hawk Nelson fan. Well, at least he had one of their CDs. Anyway, Southern Man is looking forward to all of these.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Grill

Southern Man gets his kids for the next two weekends, so he's been planning some activities. And high on his list is to pick up an inexpensive grill somewhere and have a backyard cookout.

Long-time readers may recall that Southern Man rates his ex as one of the finest cooks in the country, and her culinary skills at the grill are without peer. Southern Man was more than content to keep out of her way, watch in admiration and then feast upon the results. So rather unlike most southern men, Southern Man has to learn this particular skill at a fairly advanced stage of life.

Having already purchased condiments and buns and meat and watermelon, Southern Man was committed. So he and his teenage son (hereafter referred to as Grill Boy) headed to Home Depot, where we found a heavily discounted, this-is-the-last-one charcoal grill on display. It was kind of beat up and a bit rusty but the price was hard to beat, so we grabbed that grill and charcoal and lighter fluid and a cheap set of utensils and Grill Boy began to earn his new title by hauling said grill out to the truck and then we headed back to casa Southern Man.

And after Grill Boy hauled the grill to the back yard we made the rather belated discovery that our new grill was, the grill. You know, the stainless-steel grid upon which the hamburgers and hot dogs rest while basking in the rays of the charcoal underneath.

So Grill Boy did his thing and back we went to Home Depot and Grill Boy did his thing again.

Well, the helpful fellow at the return desk checked his computer and said, hey, I show fifteen of these things in inventory. So he sent his minions out across the lands and after a good twenty minutes or so said minions finally found the grills on an encap somewhere on the distant shores of the store. So Southern Man and Grill Boy ended up exchanging the old, beat-up, rusty (and therefore heavily discounted) grill for a brand-spankin' new one. And at the same price - straight-out exchange. Hard to beat, that was!

So Grill Boy loaded the new grill and again we made haste to casa Southern Man. And Southern Man openly crowed about his good fortune to obtain such a nice new grill for such a bargain price. And then we arrived at our destination and Grill Boy opened the back hatch and that new grill fairly leaped out of the truck. And in tumbling and clattering across the unforgiving driveway both of the plastic handles on the new grill were crunched into itsy bitsy pieces. And it picked up a dent or two as well.

Southern Man stood in disbelief as he stared at the shattered remains of his new grill.

"Oh, the irony!" quoth Grill Boy over and over as he hauled the wreckage to the back yard.

But broken handles and dents did not diminish the ability of the now busted and dented grill to adequately contain and ventilate the appropriate amount of charcoal. And it was a beautiful evening for a backyard cookout. And Southern Man indeed proved worthy to wield the tongs and spatula and we feasted on grilled hamburgers and hot dogs and s'mores (and watermelon!) and a grand time was had by all.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Concert Review - Eddie Money

The local classic-rock radio station and an area amusement park have long been partners in what they call the "Classic Concert Lineup" in which one can hear classic rock groups from decades past for the price of park admission. And since Southern Man has season passes to that particular amusement park, it is his intention to fully avail himself of this auditory treat this summer. The season kicked off last night with Eddie Money.

While Southern Man isn't really a big Money fan, the man did sell thirty million records and his obligatory "greatest hits" CDs are full of tunes he knows and enjoys, so he was looking forward to a good show. It was a beautiful Southern Man Land evening and the crowd was a good mix of both young and - er, Southern Man's own particular demographic. Southern Man was a bit taken aback when Mr. Money appeared armed with a tambourine and a cigarette. And Money's voice was no longer the smooth pop-rock sound of his records but betrayed evidence of far too many of those cigarettes and probably a fair amount of whiskey as well. But he opened with a crowd pleaser (Two Tickets to Paradise) and his voice seemed to smooth out after a while. And he made up for that silly tambourine when he pulled out the saxophone and harmonica later in the concert; he proved to be quite the showman on both. His lovely daughter took the stage for vocals on Baby Come Back and then sang lead on a terrific cover of the Allman Brother's Midnight Rider. Over the next ninety minutes Money and his band covered most of his hits, a few of the songs from his newer CDs, a couple of additional covers (including CC Rider, an fine old blues standard that gets covered by just about everyone), and used his brief encore to pull out a few more crowd-pleasers ending with the popular Baby Hold On. He also stressed his Southern Man Land connections (two of his bandmembers are from the state), sang a well-recieved tribute to our men and women in uniform (Can't Keep A Good Man Down, singing "America" for "good man"), waxed nostalgic about the seventies and eighties (his new CD is entitled "Wanna Go Back"), and talked about the charities in which he was involved and that sales of his merchandise supported. After the concert he came right down to the merchandise tent to chat and sign autographs. Southern Man is now a fan and will get that "greatest hits" CD ordered right away.

All in all, it was a fine concert and a fun evening. At the end of the show the food vendors dumped their remaining goods for next to nothing (so Southern Man got an ear of roasted corn for a buck) and the park was still open for a couple of hours (so Southern Man took advantage of that and rode some roller coasters that he hadn't yet been on this year). Next Saturday night's concert is Three Dog Night...