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    Neil Fallon – Clutch

    January 14th, 2016

    Topping the charts with ‘Psychic Warfare’

    Sitting in the basement of the historical Agora in Cleveland was like being in a time capsule. Nothing in that room was likely dated before 1987. The carpet was worn and tired. The couches were old and sagging. There was a faint nauseating smell of unknown origin. However, when you looked around, you could just feel the musical history held within the walls of that building.

    ClutchBefore their sold out Cleveland show, I had the opportunity to meet with Neil Fallon, lead vocals for Clutch. We talked about the new album “Psychic Warfare,” the band’s 2016 tour and why to avoid Old Bay at all costs.

    Callis: So, first of all — how were your holidays?

    Fallon: It was great. I have a 5-year-old son, so when all was said and done, I felt like I did a month-long tour. I was putting a bike together at midnight, drinking plenty of beers.

    Callis: Your album “Psychic Warfare” is doing well. Were you surprised it topped the Billboard Top Rock Albums?

    Fallon: Yes. We have our fans to thank for that, when they could have just as easily gotten it (the album) for free. You know, it’s a good feeling, especially having released it ourselves. We release our own records now, so it’s like a sweet revenge from being on bigger labels.

    Callis: So, you like recording independently better?

    Fallon: Oh, definitely. It’s more work, but like anything else in life, it’s more rewarding ultimately than if you don’t do it yourself.

    Callis: Tonight’s show is sold out. Does it ever stop being exciting to sell out shows?

    Fallon: It doesn’t stop being exciting, regardless. Yeah, it’s great to sell out, but I would play just as passionately, if this were half capacity tonight. I always remind myself that there’s some kid out there who’s seeing the band for the first time, and you only get one chance to do it right.

    Callis: What plans do you have for 2016?

    Fallon: Well, we have a lot of touring. We’re just starting out supporting “Psychic Warfare.” We’re going to Australia in February, Europe in August, but most of the year will be spent in the U.S.

    Callis: When you pick up a new instrument, what is the go-to song you play to test it out?

    Fallon: Probably Clutch songs, because I know them better than any other songs. They’re a good point of reference. Any song that we’ve been playing for years, like “Elephant Riders” or “Regulators.”

    Callis: What band would you like to see next inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

    Fallon: I don’t know who hasn’t been. The Bad Brains — they deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for sure.

    Callis: If you weren’t in music now, what kind of job do you think you would do?

    Fallon: I don’t really know if I’d have a job. I never really focused on any specific skill, other than this. I liked school and academics, so maybe end up as a teacher, like my mom and other people in my family. But that’s a terribly hard job; I don’t have any romantic notions about being a teacher.

    Callis: Being mostly a Maryland thing, what’s the strangest thing you’ve seen Old Bay used on?

    Fallon: I can’t stand Old Bay anymore. I used to work at a seafood place, and I inhaled more Old Bay in those years than I care to think of. So every time I get the smell, I cringe.

    Callis: What advice would you give to a new band starting out?

    Fallon: Get on stage. Just play in front of people. All the Facebook likes and followers in the world don’t mean a damn thing — people aren’t going to remember that 10 and 20 years later. What they’ll remember is the band they saw on stage.

    If you can get up there and go through a shit show and have people tell you “you suck,” and you still want to do it again … Then you have prospects of being a professional touring musician. There’s no other substitute for getting on stage. So, I highly recommend that terrifying experience.

    For more information, check out the band’s official website:
    www.pro-rock.com

    Facebook: www.facebook.com/clutchband
    Instagram: www.instagram.com/clutchofficial
    Twitter: www.twitter.com/clutchofficial
    YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/officialclutch

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    Louder Than Life Festival

    November 3rd, 2015

    What do you get when you combine live rock music, Gourmet Man Food, whiskey, bourbon, and NXT wrestling?

    Louder Than Life — The perfect recipe for a festival.

    Day one was dreary, cold, wet, insanely muddy, and Champions Park in Louisville Kentucky was packed.

    The line to get into the park was wrapped around several times outside the gates while waiting out a two-hour delay. However, festivities quickly picked up speed and wasted no time once the gates were open.

    From the moment you stepped foot into the park, there were options so you could cater your experience at Louder Than Life, to the one that was perfect for you. Whether you were there for the food, NXT matches, whiskey, the music, or a little bit of everything.

    Louder-Than-Life-2015-Butcher-Babies-0005For those that were there for the music, there were four stages to choose from for performances. Whoever scheduled the lineup was a genius! There was no overlapping of acts, so you didn’t have to compromise on which ones to watch. You just had to pick the ones you wanted to see, and get to the stage for their sets.

    Though getting to the stages proved to be tricky. With the early morning rain and amount of traffic walking through, most of Champions Park was a mud pit. You really had to be careful walking around. There were more than a few people that fell and busted something in the particularly bad spots. Even with staff trying to lay mulch for traction, there was only so much that could be done to combat the mud. Many people opted to avoid making trips across the park, because of the mud hazard, and instead camped out at one stage until the headlining Godsmack and Rob Zombie performances.

    Butcher Babies opened day one on the main stage, and they rocked it. A performance I was not expecting much from, having never heard of them before, but one that ended up being pleasantly surprising. The metal roar coming out of Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey was not something I would have ever expected to hear! Their shock-rock style was one of the top acts of day one.

    As the day went on, more less known bands played their sets on the Jägermeister stage.

    Louder-Than-Life-2015-Aranda-0016Aranda was another band that was a surprise I was not expecting. This four-piece, Oklahoma based band, fronted by brothers Dameon and Gabe Aranda had a hard rock-lite sound with the slightest hint of country twang from the instruments and vocals. You could see how much they love to play music, and how much fun they had with their set. It was another performance that made its way to one of the top ones of the day.

    Later in the day, you had sets from bands like Atreyu, Chevelle, Hollywood Undead, Sevendust, and others. The park was packed with a turnout of 50,000 people for the second annual Louder Than Life.

    Sevendust and Seether were some of the last sets before nightfall. As expected, Sevendust commanded a huge crowd with their 40 minute set, with screaming fans that were surely heard within a 2 mile radius of the park. They came on stage rocking, and didn’t stop until their set was over.

    Louder-Than-Life-2015-Seether-0004Seether’s 40 minute set was the winner of the day. Hands down. I went into that one pretty apathetic with them as a band in general, but came out completely impressed. They are one of few bands today that actually sound better live. The crowd that was gathered for their set was full of energy, and fans that were singing along, dancing, crowd surfing, women (and men) flashing the cameras, and metal horns raised high and proud.

    Prior to their set, I was starting to get tired, and finding my energy was waning after already being there for eight hours. After their set, and absorbing some of the energy from the crowd, with a second wave I was ready to finish out day one!

    Godsmack took stage as a headlining act with a crowd that reached back halfway through the park. A few songs into their set, they brought their videographer on stage and introduced her to the crowd. They let the crowd know that they were recording the show, and that amped up everyone enough to be extra loud and enthusiastic. About halfway through their set, front man Sully Erna took a seat behind a second drum set, and played alongside drummer Shannon Larkin. By the end of their set, you could see Erna, glancing backstage, checking time to see how many songs he had left. When the producer signaled none, he went ahead anyway with “I Stand Alone,” before finishing out their set.

    Louder-Than-Life-2015-Rob-Zombie-0006No downtime in between, Rob Zombie comes out on the other main stage. Covering tracks spanning his music career, with several from Hellbilly Deluxe. Rob Zombie’s one hour set does not disappoint. In his true eccentric ways, he even slowed it down for a minute to get funky and dance as they performed a rendition of “Brick House.” Rob made sure to shout out to the crowd and show his appreciation for the incredible turnout, and let them know he was just as excited to be there!

    For day two, I decided to see what else Louder Than Life had to offer, beyond the music, of course.

    The Bourbon World tent, had a vast selection from brands you would expect to see, like Evan Williams, Jim Bean, Angel’s Envy, and Makers Mark. There were also booths with smaller, local to Kentucky bourbons: Buffalo Trace, Basil Hayden’s, and Town Branch. The atmosphere in the tent resembled an old-timey saloon, equipped with a piano player, racks of whiskey barrels, and cigar smoking patrons.

    The Gourmet Man Food at Louder Than Life was an experience in and of itself. With dozens of food tents, there was no feasible way to try it all. Not without going broke…or having a Cardiologist on hand. I picked two booths to have something for lunch and something for dinner. Ones that had the most unique options that I would not be able to find back home.

    Longshot Lobsta caught my eye for lunch. Anything too heavy like I was seeing at other booths, and I would have been asleep in a corner the rest of the day, so I wanted to keep it to something remotely light. This place had…well…lobster rolls.  Both a traditional Maine style, and a Connecticut style, with claims of “Melting in your mouth.”

    Being a seafood junkie in the Midwest, you don’t have many seafood options, so I had to try it. Opting for the traditional roll, I was handed a huge roll that looked amazing — Lobster overflowing the boundaries of the bun. It made my stomach jump for joy and quiver in fear at the over-stuffed feeling it was about to have. To say it was amazing would be an understatement.

    For dinner, Up In Smoke, looked like a good choice. The food people were walking away with intrigued me because it was not combinations you would see every day. Deciding on one of their Munch Bowl options, I watched on as they piled nacho cheese fries with smoked pulled pork, and topped it off with a mound of macaroni and cheese. With my caloric intake for two days in tow, I found a table and dug in.

    With too much food to try it all– If the smells that were wafting around the food booths were any indication, then everything was amazing!

    As if the food, spirits, and music weren’t recipe enough to make an amazing festival, you also had the NXT wrestling.

    For being the “minor league” of the WWE, these superstars were proof of why NXT wrestling has become wildly popular in the world of sports entertainment, in recent years. The entrance for champion Finn Balor’s match with Tyler Breeze, was awesome! Seriously, YouTube it! It was rumored Triple H might be there, so I kept my eyes peeled, but no such luck on spotting him.

    Louder Than Life was a festival of epic proportions. Being new to the festival scene, I would not be surprised to see this quickly becoming one of the go-to festivals on a national level! With 2016 being confirmed and planned, I’m excited to see what’s in store.

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    Foo Fighters Show Pittsburgh How to Rock

    September 2nd, 2015

    Few things in life are ever certain.

    One thing you can count on though, when you go to a Foo Fighters concert, Dave Grohl (lead vocals and guitar) and the guys — Taylor Hawkins (drums and vocals), Nate Mendel (bass), Chris Shiflett (guitar) and Pat Smear (guitar) — are going to put on one killer show! Masters of their trade, they have perfected how to put on an impressive live performance during their 20 years together.

    DaveGrohl1

    Photo by Nicole Callis

    The August 25th gig at the First Niagara Pavilion in Pittsburgh, Pa. was their first show at this venue. The Foos had the crowd hooked from the opening screams of, “Are you fucking ready?” while shrouded behind their logo-emblazoned curtain — all the way through the last song and the final beat of drums by Taylor Hawkins.

    As the show opened shortly after 8:30 p.m., the first chords of “Everlong” traveled through the pavilion, and the crowd roared in anticipation of what was coming:

    The curtain goes up and unveils Grohl thrashing around in his Throne of Rock, barely staying contained to the small confines of the seat attached to it. To make up for this temporary immobility (a broken leg), he gives it everything he possibly can and rocks out as hard as he does without the Throne. Maybe even more so.

    Head banging, hair flying, his good leg jumps like there’s an invisible kick drum he’s trying to beat. He strums his guitar like he’s mad at it and screams lyrics loud enough to make sure folks all the way in Philly can hear him. It’s like watching a caged animal trying to escape into the wild. (And that was just the first song!)

    During the second song, “Monkey Wrench,” Grohl takes a minute to slow it down, telling the now infamous lighting guy, Dan, “light em’ up! Let me see what I got right now.” As the pavilion lights up like a Christmas tree to the way back, thousands of people in attendance cheer and wave their arms. Happy with the crowds’ response, Grohl says, “Oh! It’s like that,”

    He eggs them on and rewards them with, “When it’s like that, it’s like this,” shredding his guitar and offering an extended riff to the crowd. Assessing the night ahead as one of those nights,” he works the crowd into a screaming frenzy before doing his own screaming bit to finish out the song. By “Learn to Fly,” Grohl and co. maintain the fast-pace with high energy, showing the crowd it is indeed going to be one of those nights!

    Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters

    Photo by Nicole Callis

    Grohl completely surrenders himself to the music when he plays. Watch him play, and you can see how it comes from his core. Music is something you can see him feel. It’s rather surreal to witness. Throughout the show, as if simply unable to contain himself any longer, Grohl stands up for brief moments, letting the music take over. Looking out at the crowd with his quirky expressions, this flash of relief washes over his face each time he escapes being seated for a moment.

    During “The Pretender,” he lets the crowd in on how he likes to boogie. Then standing up to do just that, while continuing to play, bobbing his head along in a muted version of the wild flailing he does from his Throne. It serves as a clue to how he is progressing on the road to recovery after the surgery for his broken leg back in June 2015.

    The Foo Fighters have certainly turned an awful circumstance into a tour of epic proportions. It almost seems foolish now to think that. For a while fans were worried the American stretch of the tour would be postponed or even cancelled — notably the kick-off of their first show back stateside on July 4th at RFK Stadium in Grohls’ hometown, Washington D.C. Fans didn’t know that show was greenlit until a couple days before the actual show, and speculation was rampant about how he would pull it off.

    In the near two months since the all-day festival in Grohls’ hometown, where the Throne of Rock made its debut, and Grohl was decked out in a full-blown purple cast that he kept propped up the entire show — to now, where he’s started standing sporadically — it’s a matter of time before Grohl retires the Throne. But, according to him, he’s not quite ready to ditch it just yet, because “it’s cool as shit.” After all, it’s got a built-in place to hold his beer.

    Back in Pittsburgh, it’s a long night, spanning over two and a half hours of play time, with over 20 songs from the Foo Fighters collection, ranging from their very first self-titled album, to the most recent “Sonic Highways.” There is an eclectic mix for the fans to enjoy. One cover song the Foo Fighters play, “Under Pressure,” shows how eerily comparable in range Hawkins’ vocals can get to that of the legendary Freddie Mercury.

    DaveGrohl3

    Photo by Nicole Callis

    Grohl lets the crowd know that they normally do a couple of other covers, but he is “not in the fucking mood tonight,” and moves on instead, to call out a fan in the crowd who holds a sign requesting they play the largely forgotten/unknown “Low.” The Foos oblige the fan request, tuning and fumbling around with some notes while getting ready to play, letting the crowd know “it’s not that good” before Hawkins bangs his drumsticks, and they jump into the song they haven’t played live in years.

    By the end of the night the finale song, “Best of You,” turns into an almost 10-minute extended version, full of extra riffs, with a semi-acoustic jam session in the middle, and the crowd fills in for vocals while Grohl looks on in contentment at a show well done.

    When the song is over, the Foos band together at the end of the thrust, waving to the crowd, whispering amongst themselves and staying just long enough for everyone to snap their final memento photos of the night, before the band members bow and head off stage.

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