29 October 2019

I'm Not Going to Say Goodbye: Peter Frampton live at the Forum

When given the opportunity to witness greatness, one should always take advantage.  It’s a statement to live by, and it always comes to mind for me in regards to live music.  Ever since I moved to Los Angeles, I have attended a large number of concerts, often seeking out artists at the top of their craft and/or nearing the end of their career.  I’m particularly drawn to virtuoso musicians with great skill that is best viewed in person - especially guitarists.

I’ve yet to see Eric Clapton, I missed B.B. King before he passed, so I knew I had to see Peter Frampton during his recent tour.  Unfortunately, it would be his farewell tour, as Frampton announced that he had a medical condition that would prevent him from performing in the future - this, of course, added more incentive for me to see him live.  He’d played in Los Angeles consistently over the years but I always seemed to be busy on those evenings, but thankfully not on this night.  He was also playing at the Forum in Inglewood, one of my favorite live music venues.

I convinced my friend Chad to join me, and we arrived in Inglewood with plenty of time to grab a bite and settle into our seats for the opening act, which was the Julian Frampton Band, fronted by Peter’s son (the headliner of the night made sure to come out and introduce them).  I was impressed, as the band ripped through a solid half-hour of good old-fashioned rock music.  They would give way to “Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening”, which was a musical treat for sure.

The son of legendary drummer John Bonham has been thrilling audiences with the music from his father’s band for several years, and his skill was evident immediately.  The musicians surrounding him were incredibly talented and yet never really attempted to be Led Zeppelin clones - I was blown away by the vocal range of the singer, who channeled Robert Plant but put his own spin on the songs.  They took the audience through the biggest hits of the classic band, and perfectly set the stage for the final act of the evening.

The lights went down and a video montage spanning his career played on the giant screens, before Peter Frampton greeted the roaring crowd.  He jumped right into “Something’s Happening” with gusto - I’ll admit that I’m not overly familiar with his entire catalog, but like many music fans before me I do truly enjoy the “Frampton Comes Alive” album - and having him start his concert with the same song that kicks off that classic live album was fantastic!  He would continue on with several original compositions, highlighted by “Show Me The Way”, a rock radio staple that I’ve long admired.  I quickly turned to Chad after the song was over to say, “that was worth the price of admission alone”, and noticed that the fan sitting directly behind me said the exact same thing!

From there, Peter took a brief musical detour to pay homage to some of his favorite blues musicians, which included a stirring instrumental rendition of “Georgia (On My Mind)”.  His guitar mastery was on great display, as he effortlessly played each note and walked the audience through musical history.  He also offered tribute to the late Chris Cornell with a cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” - Peter received a Grammy nomination in 2007 for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for his recording of this cover (his 2006 album Fingerprints would earn Peter his only Grammy award, for Best Pop Instrumental Album).  As if we weren’t already thoroughly entertained, the last three songs of his main set were absolute showstoppers.

Lasting more than 10 minutes, the band's rendition of "(I'll Give You) Money" was dazzling, to say the least - Peter was holding his own with his younger bandmates, captivating the audience with a lengthy guitar duel with fellow axeman Adam Lester.  The sentimentality of "Baby, I Love Your Way" followed, giving us one last chance to hear Peter's sweet crooning amidst a sea of cell phones and swaying fans.  The final song of the main set was another lengthy track, the crowd-pleasing "Do You Feel Like We Do", allowing our host to use his signature "talkbox" to thrill the crowd before a brief departure from the stage.

The encore would consist of three more covers, notably concluding with a heartfelt rendition of The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".  But once it ended, it was time for us to weep as Peter addressed the crowd for the final time.  He spoke lovingly about the support he has received over the years, and how the cheers from the crowd would serve to heal him.  His voice trembled as he thanked everyone, then took a moment to gather himself before uttering one last memorable line:

"I'm not going to say goodbye."

And just like that, he vanished off the stage to a deafening roar.  We had witnessed two hours of musical mastery from a true legend, who left us speechless with his skill, charm and poignancy.  It was a concert that I will NEVER forget, and I can only hope to see his smiling face once again in the future, fronting this tremendous group of musicians and enthralling fans along the way.

Peter Frampton Setlist The Forum, Inglewood, CA, USA 2019, Finale: The Farewell Tour


Chad pointed out something interesting to me during the show - each band played a song during their set that I had previously seen performed by another artist at this same venue:

- The Julian Frampton Band performed the Fleetwood Mac song "Landslide", which I heard during concerts by both The Dixie Chicks (October 2016) and The Smashing Pumpkins (August 2018).
- Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening performed "Whole Lotta Love", which I heard by Prince (featuring Nikka Costa on lead vocals) in April 2011.
- Peter Frampton performed "Black Hole Sun", which I heard by Soundgarden in July 2011.

22 October 2019

Book Review: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
by Stephen King

5 stars

Plot Summary:

"Long live the King" hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King's On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 -- and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it -- fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.


This memoir was published back in 2000, and it has taken me this long to finally read it.  Given how much praise I've heard about "On Writing", I don't know why I haven't gotten to it sooner, but I'm happy to say it's absolutely worth the read.  I'm not very familiar with Stephen King's work (I've only read a couple of his novels) so before picking up this book, my opinion of him was just as a very accomplished and successful writer.  Also, he writes some scary stories.  After reading this book, I'm impressed by his talent and his awareness of the craft - because he has so winningly and clearly distilled what goes into storytelling.

In the first part of the memoir, Stephen King talks about his childhood and about some of the influences in his life that led to him becoming an author.  It was an interesting section because understanding his influences helped me to understand what draws me to reading and writing.  I identified with King's experiences and even his upbringing in a way.  Although he seemed more mischievous than I ever was.

There have been many reviews on why this book is an important look at a writer's experience and the unique ways in which a story is created from an idea.   I feel like I can't add much more to the praise, but I do want to talk about some specific things that spoke to me while I was reading it.

When drafting a story, King emphasized "Writing with an open door", or writing for yourself first, and then going over it again with the audience in mind.  Getting started on any piece of art can be difficult and there is freedom in just starting without worrying about what other people will think. Editing afterward will be your friend.  This brings me to another important tidbit -  the second draft should be 10% less than the first draft.  King mentioned he got this advice from another person but has taken it to heart ever since.  To me, if you accept that some of your first draft is going to be awful, then there is comfort in knowing that you will take it out later.  It gives you the freedom to be creative and not worry about being perfect the first time.

Although this book is about writing, King stresses the importance of reading, which I completely agreed with.  I love that he talked about bringing a book with you everywhere you go - because you never know when you might have a spare moment to read.  He also advocated reading in bits and pieces as well as finding time for extended reading sessions.  That is something I find myself doing often.

The book wraps up with King's account of his horrible car accident in 1999.  I was surprised he would talk so candidly about the event, but it is clear that writing about it was also a catharsis for him, and seeing that hits home another meaningful aspect of the importance of writing.


17 October 2019

Book signing - Shea Serrano, all-around good dude

Shea Serrano is truly a renaissance man for our generation: he writes about sports for The Ringer, he's topped the New York Times Best Seller list twice with books about rap music and basketball, and his newest book discusses his love of movies.  But it's not simply a discussion of film that makes his latest work - Movies (And Other Things) - so great, but rather the way in which he presents his passion.  He's more interested in engaging in thought-provoking conversation than simply stating his views.  It's what has drawn me to his work, both in print and on social media.

I first became aware of Shea Serrano's wit through his increasingly popular Twitter account, which he uses not only to talk about sports but also to shed light on issues that have a profound effect on him.  In a time in which it's common to see naysayers tell prominent figures to "stick to (insert day job)" - sports, in Shea's case - he has used his platform to spread positivity AND encourage his followers to do so as well.  Those followers, collectively known as the "FOH Army", have embraced the philanthropic efforts Shea has put forth and done so with great pride, raising money for a group of worthwhile causes.  How refreshing to see an artist use his talents for good, and I only regret not discovering him sooner.

Earlier this month, Shea was doing a book signing at Skylight Books in Los Feliz: I had to be there!

As mentioned, Movies (And Other Things) puts a unique spin on film writing by avoiding the standard long-form analysis of the medium, opting instead for a series of movie-related questions posed by the author to precipitate insightful and often humorous discourse.  These questions - such as "Who's in the perfect heist movie crew?" and "Who gets it the worst in Kill Bill?" - are specifically designed to incite debate, based on hypothetical means while also being grounded in hard fact.  His appearance at Skylight Books was framed as an extension of the book: in a unique turn of events, Shea himself served as the moderator of his own Q&A, posing a series to questions to two of his Los Angeles-based colleagues from The Ringer (Jason Concepcion and Mallory Rubin, co-hosts of the Binge Mode podcast), which included "What movie lawyer would you want to defend you if you were on trial for your life?" and "Which movie death hurt you the most as an adult?"*

For nearly an hour, the three writers defended their answers with great dedication and charm, thoroughly entertaining the large crowd that had packed themselves into the cozy bookstore.  As an added bonus, the incredibly talented Arturo Torres - who has illustrated each of Serrano's books - was also in attendance, and took part in the book signing.  Charlene and I were lucky enough to have been situated not too far back in the line, as I nervously anticipated meeting these two artists.  Should I just get my book signed and move on?  Should I ask for a picture?  Should I try to start a brief conversation, and if so, on what topic?  After careful consideration, I had my answer.

The time had come and I approached the table: I assumed Shea would be spending enough time talking about movies throughout his book tour, so I opted to talk sports.  I knew that he was an avid WNBA fan and followed the Las Vegas Aces, which prompted me to ask about Dearica Hamby's insane buzzer-beater from the 2019 playoffs.  What followed was a brief but pleasant anecdote about where he was when that shot went down, and how he was glad there wasn't a camera watching him at the time.  The two men signed my book (Arturo even added a drawing), posed for a quick picture and I immediately made room for the next fan.

It was thrilling to get to hear Shea Serrano speak, and even more so to meet him and share a moment.  I can't recommend his work - and his Twitter feed - enough, and I can only hope more people discover his fantastic talents.  However, I get the feeling that may already be the case, as I learned that Movies (And Other Things) just became Shea's THIRD book to top the New York Times Best Seller list - do yourself a favor and check him out!

*While pondering what to ask Shea before having my book signed, I considered answering these two questions to see if he thought they were good choices.  His original answers during the Q&A were Elle Woods (from Legally Blonde) as the movie lawyer to defend him, and King Kong (from the 2005 Peter Jackson remake) as the death that hurt him the most as an adult.   For me, I would choose Vinny Gambini (from My Cousin Vinny) to defend me, with the death that hurt me the most being Ellie Fredricksen (Carl's late wife from the Pixar film Up).

15 October 2019

Book signing - Lang Leav, poet/author extraordinaire

A few years ago I came across some quoted pieces by Lang Leav and fell in love with her beautifully elegant and spare style of writing.  Her style can bring emotion to life so effortlessly.  I own a couple of her poetry books and go back to them occasionally to delve into their sentimental joys.  Recently I discovered Lang Leav was going to do a book signing at my local Barnes & Noble to promote her latest YA novel release, Poemsia, and I had to go!

The event was held on a lovely Sunday afternoon - perfect to spend some time at the bookstore and then go for a nice dinner and a movie after - I wish more book signings were on Sundays, it's nice to not have to deal with traffic getting to the bookstore after a day at work.  Anyways.  The group of fans at the signing were all very devoted and enthusiastic.  I enjoyed how much anticipation and glee there was for when she finally walked out.  And I felt pretty gleeful as well.  She seems unassuming and quiet in real life - with a soft New Zealand or Australian accent (not sure which) and that was a surprise to me - I didn't realize she lived in New Zealand now!  

After Lang greeted us, the discussion moderator asked some questions about the inspiration for Poemsia - Lang was working on another novel (one that was more of a dark thriller) when she got up for some water in the middle of the night and her partner Michael spoke the word "poemsia" in his sleep.  She woke him up and told him what he said and he gave her permission to use it, as it had inspired a story for her.  Lang said that she often gets asked by fans for advice on becoming a poet and author and in a way this novel is her answer - in an interesting fictional format.  But apparently there are a lot of life lessons to be learned, and knowledge about the nature of the business in this book.  I am very intrigued!  I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, but I'm sure I'll post a review of the book here when I do.

Of course, the talk also covered her poetry, and when it came to audience questions, people wanted to hear her inspiration for her various works.  My personal favorite "Sea of Strangers" came up, and she even read the poem for the group.  It made me so happy!  She was also asked what poems of hers were Michael's favorite, and she said the ones about him - in particular, "Sundays with Michael."  Although her favorite about Michael is called "Stowaway."

After the discussion and reading from her novel, the book signing commenced - she was able to spend time with everyone, and there were quite a few people who had her other books to sign as well.  When it was finally my turn to go up, I wasn't sure what to say being a little starstruck, but she asked about our plans for the rest of the day and I love that she had a question ready for any tongue-tied fans!  After that, I asked about her plans and my much more outgoing husband told her that when we first met, I had asked him to record audio of himself reading one of her poems ("Sea of Strangers") just for me to listen to sometimes.  It really is such a beautiful poem.

Here's our photo!

I so enjoyed the book signing and if you haven't heard of or read any of Lang Leav's works I highly encourage you to check it out!  

08 October 2019

The Drowsy Chaperone

The simple stage setting before the whole apartment set is revealed!
"The Drowsy Chaperone" is a gem among musicals.  It was on Broadway in 2006 and was nominated for thirteen Tonys, snagging the awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score among others.  The story of the show has a play within a play structure - with our host and narrator "Man in Chair" talking directly to the audience throughout about his favorite musical, the fictional 1928 production "The Drowsy Chaperone."   The audience "listens" to his copy of the record while the show comes to life in his apartment.  This show is utterly charming and the HoneyNerds saw a fantastic production of it in Santa Monica last Friday!


This is one of my favorite musicals.  I love it for the catchy and infectious tunes, the puns, the meta way in which it tells the story, and the fun and silly romance.  And there is a lot of heart underneath it as the Man in Chair shares his love of this musical with the audience.  I identify with his character because I also find solace and joy in listening and watching musicals and can obsess over tiny moments in my favorite shows.  

The actual story of the musical within the musical is simple - a group of people come together to celebrate the wedding of Robert and Janet, a famous actress who is giving up her career for marriage.  Through a series of misadventures - Janet's chaperone does not keep a watchful eye on her, and Robert accidentally kisses another woman (who was actually Janet in disguise) and the wedding is called off at the end of the first act.  But of course, everything is resolved by the second act and we end up with three couples deciding to marry.  

I've seen this show once a few years ago, but the production we saw recently was at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica. The quality of the acting, singing and set design were fantastic.  This is a smaller theater, but the production values were excellent and they did complete justice to the show.  I found myself grinning throughout!


When Charlene and I first met, I mentioned my love of the television show Bunheads, starring the incredibly talented Sutton Foster.  I knew that she had a Broadway background, and Charlene was excited to tell me about her role as Janet in The Drowsy Chaperone - from there, she gave me the soundtrack and insisted that I listen.  I was immediately delighted by the whimsical nature of the show, as well as the catchiness of the individual songs.  I'd been curious to see it performed on stage, and this production certainly lived up to my expectations.

The casting was top-notch: Holly Weber as Janet and Christopher Tiernan as Robert showcased both their great singing abilities and comedic timing; the dashing lothario Adolpho was brilliantly portrayed by Aric Martin with deft wit and flair; and Michael Heimos (who also produced) was absolutely mesmerizing as the "Man in Chair", guiding the viewers through his ups and downs with skillful grace and charm - he pulled the audience in and never let go!  I've only called out a few, but the entire cast was terrific and deserves high praise. 

We both loved this production and will absolutely patronize the Morgan-Wixson Theater again in the very near future.  Maybe we'll see you there!

PS. For a taste of the show - please check out Sutton Foster performing the song "Show Off" at the Tony Awards.  The song highlights the main character Janet's resolve to quit show business and marry Robert.  Although she can't help but "show off" her talent as a performer!

01 October 2019

NostalgiaCon - Back to the Eighties

When you think about the '80s what comes to mind?  If you're Charlene, it's probably Back to the Future and not much else since she was born in the 80s.  But if you're Mike, you're instantly wrapped up in warm memories encompassing all facets of pop culture and life in general.  NostalgiaCon was this past weekend in Anaheim, and the HoneyNerds made it down to celebrate all the things about the 80s they love.

First off, it was great to be surrounded by so many iconic actors of my generation - like Sean Astin and Corey Feldman from The Goonies, Val Kilmer, Steven Guttenberg, and Cary Elwes - as well as those from the late 1970's that I may have been too young to appreciate, like Heather Thomas and Loni Anderson.  The celebrities all seemed to be in great spirits and really enjoyed catching up with each other, and meeting with their fans.  Booths were set up for merchants to sell a wide assortment of merchandise, a fleet of DeLoreans were parked in the center of the enormous room and there was a very cool exhibit devoted to the history of boombox radios.  Autographs and photo opportunities were available for a nominal fee, and several of the guests would be included in panel discussions on a nearby stage.

The first panel we attended featured Astin and Feldman recounting their careers, with a special emphasis on the making of the beloved 1985 adventure film in which they co-starred.  As it approaches its 35th anniversary, The Goonies is still as popular as ever, with fans constantly demanding either a sequel or reboot - for the record, both actors confirmed that the premise/idea of a potential sequel has been floated around, though nothing is set in stone and they would gladly be involved if asked.

The two actors also waxed nostalgic about the heightened importance of the 1980's, and how each generation seems to have fond memories for previous decades that they missed and only know about in passing.  I was fortunate enough to have attended the 25th anniversary celebration of The Goonies in Astoria, Oregon in 2010, so I asked the duo if they had any fond memories of the town and how often they'd returned - Astin answered that he'd been there seven or eight times and both men proceeded to inform the audience of the current state of affairs surrounding the famous house in which they filmed.  All in all, it was a fantastic discussion with two really fun entertainers!


When I saw Christopher Lloyd was going to be a guest at the convention, I knew I had to attend.  Back to the Future the Trilogy (yes, the whole trilogy, because all three films are awesome and at some point have been my absolute favorite) is one of the films I feel the most nostalgia for - the exciting time travel adventuring of Doc and Marty captured my imagination as a child.  And it's funny how hearing the soundtrack now can give me a rush of endorphins - it's a perfectly gorgeous and uplifting score.  These films have affected me deeply, as it has for many people. 

And Doc Brown has always been my favorite character.  An eccentric scientist, who persists in making his dream invention come true?  Brought to life with Christopher Lloyd's unique ability to create idiosyncratic quirks and flaws for any character?  He's the best!  And being able to finally see Lloyd at a convention was amazing.  His panel was an outlet for fans to ask him questions about his career and there were some fun questions. When asked if there was a "role that got away" - the one role he auditioned for, he wished he had gotten, he said, "Yes, all of them."  And his support for making another Back to the Future film was heartening.  Also, someone asked him who was the voice of Doc in the Back to the Future animated series, and he was like "me!"  His love for the BTTF series is uplifting to see as a fan.  I know it can be depressing for an actor to only be known for one thing (or for a handful of things when it comes to Christopher Lloyd), but the way Lloyd seems to embrace that makes me so happy.  

We also took advantage of the photo op with Lloyd and captured the three of us in that classic pose!

Here's a little more of Back to the Future represented on the convention floor:


And another 80's classic - who you gonna call?


To wrap up the night, several artists from the 1980's performed a concert at the hall next door: The Motels, Annabella Lwin of Bow Wow Wow, and Tony Lewis from The Outfield were featured, but the headliner for this first night would be ABC.  More or less a solo outfit for lead singer Martin Fry, ABC delighted the crowd with a solid hour of up-tempo pop rock, highlighted by a string of top 40 hits.  From the lustful longing of "Poison Arrow" to the throwback joy of "When Smokey Sings", the group journeyed through the popular decade with their finely-tuned songbook led by Fry's commanding vocals.  By the time the show wrapped up with their iconic "The Look of Love", the fans were left demanding more - maybe save that for next year?

This was the first year of NostalgicCon and it had all the inherent growing pains of a first time convention.  There were some small issues with organization, but with the experience from this year and seeing the enthusiasm of the fans who came, I hope that NostalgiaCon will be back next year, with more guests, more vendors and the same passion and energy for the 80s.