CityBeat Blogs - Live Blog <![CDATA[Valley of the Sun Tour Diary: The Rules of Dibs]]>

Hours spent in the van, hours spent waiting for sound check in the venue, hours spent wandering European cities waiting for the venue to open, hours waiting for show time and hours spent waiting for the show to wrap up. All of this adds up to lots of free on our hands and not much to do with it. So what is a Rock & Roll band — and its merch and sound guy — to do with opportunity? 

Why, play Dibs of course.

Dibs is one of those rare games that has no end point. No one wins at Dibs; it is played simply to pass time and help spice up the long stretches of mind numbing nothingness that touring sometimes produces. As a public service to other bands in this situation, I would like to provide you with the objectives and rules of Dibs, as I have observed them, so that you may also join in on this wondrous game.

First, a few opening remarks on Dibs. One: this game may sound a little inappropriate at times. This fact is not lost on us. But after four hours of staring out of the window of a van and seeing not much more than trees, plains and gas stations, your brain starts to atrophy. Dibs helps bring it back to back to life. Two: if, while playing Dibs, you question your values or moral code at any time, don’t be alarmed — this only means that you are human.

Now, on to the good stuff!

Objective: The objective of Dibs is to see an attractive person and call dibs on said person. Being that this tour is comprised of five straight men that are either single or separated from their significant others for three weeks, this means that attractive women of all kinds are being dibsed with a speed and fury unrelenting. But if your preferences differ, feel free to switch it up. Dibs is a game for all.

Now, the objective is easy enough to grasp, but like all great games of skill and wit, it is easy to learn and hard to master. Which is why we have set up several unofficial rules that I will now place into record.


  1. A dibs-able person must be within eye contact. This means that I can’t call dibs on a girl that has gone around a corner or into a store and is no longer within my sight line. This rule works in conjunction with rule two.
  2. A dibs must be made with a witness present. No dibs can be called while you are alone: the witness must be able to see said dibs, verify the dibsworthiness and (if you’re lucky) become upset that they didn’t see said dibsworthy subject first. Seeing your friend’s pain is almost as satisfying as the initial dibs and should be celebrated.
  3. If a subject is dibsed, the decision cannot be reversed. This helps eliminate dibs calls made without full knowledge of the subject. There have been times where we’ve each made a dibs call early, only to regret the decision.
  4. On rare occasions, a special call may be utilized. We’ve classified this as a dibs grenade but other nomenclature may be used as well. It allows a player to blanket dibs a group of subjects. For example, when we played at a venue full of women wearing spiked leather jackets with black hair and facial piercings, I threw my grenade like an MLB pitcher. (4a. This power must be used selectively and with great precision. All witnesses present must verify the usage of a dibs grenade and vetoes made by said witnesses render the grenade null and void. A cool down period is in effect for each player’s grenade, generally accepted as one in each town or venue. Larger grenades [such as a grenade meant for the entire venue, such as mine] have longer cool downs and should used sparingly.
  5. If a subject is dibsed and then re-dibsed by another player, the witness has the responsibility to back up the original dibsee on their right to the call. If two dibsees and their witnesses cannot come to a consensus, timelines should be discussed and consulted to ascertain the true dibsee.

And with that, you have the basics of Dibs. It is a game with a rich strategy behind it, a strategy that I will leave to you to discover. Due to its never-ending nature, it can keep you and your bandmates entertained for hours. Or at least until you’ve seen everyone who has walked through the door at the venue. Then it’s back to Tetris. Happy hunting!

CityBeat contributor Nick Grever recently traveled Europe with Cincinnati Rock band Valley of the Sun and blogged about it for His other dispatches can be found throughout the music blog.

<![CDATA[Valley of the Sun Tour Diary: Würst Merch Guy Ever]]>

I crowd surfed for the first time ever in Strasbourg, France. And I did it in a hot dog costume.

Man, I can’t wait to tell my grandkids this story.

The hot dog spawned from a Facebook Messenger conversation before we even left. As we were preparing for the trip, the group bought me a glow in the dark skeleton onesie. It proved far too comfy and warm for it to be a nightly outfit in dirty, sweaty bars. I know this because I happily wore it around my house on several occasions.

Through the conversation it was eventually decided that I needed an Elvis outfit to wear during shows. I agreed and took a trip to a local Spirit Halloween in search of my tour uniform.

I was quickly disappointed.

Not only did they not have any Elvis costumes, the employee told me that the only place she knew that had one was a costume rental shop across town. The price put the costume way out of my price range. So I had to come up with something just as American (i.e. over the top and ridiculous). I browsed around, shot down the idea of a German beer girl costume — no one needs to see that much of my upper thigh — and stumbled across an area of cheap, lazy costumes. One of which was the hot dog suit. I snapped a picture, sent it to the boys and was met with joyous approval. I was still under my assigned budget so I picked up a Flavor Flav-sized dollar sign pendant and made my way to the register. Now, I was truly ready for Europe.

The hot dog costume has made an appearance a handful of times at shows, typically during the last song of the set or the encore. Sometimes I’ll put it on and rush to the front of the stage to get the guys to laugh and mess up. Being the consummate professionals that they are, they’ve never flubbed a song as far as I can tell.

But recently, they’ve been requesting the hot dog from stage, meaning I have to quickly dig it out, throw it on and run out to the crowd. They usually do so for their own amusement or to drive sales at the merch booth by proclaiming they have the würst merch guy in history. I never said that these guys were comedians …

Now, the majority of crowds just look confused by the sudden appearance of a hot dog at a Rock show but some get it and boy are their reactions spectacular. You haven’t lived until you’ve headbanged with two long hairs in a sweaty Halloween costume. But the crowd reaction in Strasbourg takes the cake.

The show was Punk Rock all the way — the sound was awful, the fans were packed in like sardines and the beer was flowing freely. The crowd had already spawned a crowd surfer, which is an admirable feat due to the fact that the venue is in a basement. Crowd surfing and grazing the ceiling of a club rarely go hand-in-hand. When the band called for the hot dog, I pushed through and found myself in an open pit in the center of the crowd. The final song started and I began my “dancing” and headbanging with the crowd. Pictures were taken, laughs were had, and I thought that was the end of it.

Then I saw the universal “You want to go up?” hand signal. Apparently crowd surfing crosses language barriers. Before I knew it, I was on top of the crowd trying to simultaneously avoid being dropped to the floor or bounced into the ceiling. It was awesome and scary and ridiculous and unbelievable all at the same time. If that’s not a great commercial for Spirit Halloween, I don’t know what is.

Now I really can’t wait for our Halloween show tonight. We plan on having a merch guy who’s all skin and bones, a blinged out bassist and the würst drummer you’ve ever seen.

Hey, I never said I was a comedian, either.

<![CDATA[Valley of the Sun Tour Diary: Ode to a Van]]>

For the past two and a half weeks, Arnaud’s van has been home for five full-grown men. While we’ve been lucky enough to not have to spend the night in it at any time, we’ve done pretty much everything else. We’ve eaten in here, we’ve slept in here, we’ve emptied bladders (well, only one … Nick was desperate), it houses all of our possessions on this continent and we’ve had far too many inappropriate conversations in here. It has all the comforts of home … except for TV, Internet, showers, a kitchen or any sort of privacy. But then again, some of our non-moving accommodations don’t have any of those things either, so it’s fine.

We even have our own “rooms.” Arnaud usually drives with Ryan copiloting. If you move one bench back, Nick sits in the farthest seat from the door so he can lean against the window to nap. The next seat is empty and holds our various jackets, water bottles, candy and other items a touring band needs. Next to that is me; my seat offers no real advantage other than the ability to get out fast at rest stops when the call of the wild can be heard. Aaron has claimed dominion over the back bench, but two of the seats hold two overnight bags and random stuff (mostly scarves that Aaron has bought along the trip).

The ride is rough; it seems like the shocks were an afterthought and you can feel every bump in the road. Turns make the van shift and roll and the seats don’t adjust from their full upright and locked position. This all adds up for a ride that isn’t very comfortable or relaxing. If you’re wondering how we can sleep in here under such conditions, all I can say is that touring Europe is a very tiring experience, no matter how fun it is.

Of course, the real reason we needed the van is to not just transport ourselves, but all of the band’s gear from show to show without the need for a trailer. And that, my friends, is an experience all it’s own. Arnaud and Nick have set up a system to load and unload the back of the van efficiently at each stop. While I play Tetris at shows, those two play Tetris in real life. Just take a look at this setup and tell me that isn’t almost artistic to see how much crap can be fit into such a small space.

This van has been a constant in our lives for almost a month now; while I can only speak for myself, I have to say that I will almost miss it when I get back home. While the ride might be rough, there was an element of comfort and familiarity in crawling into this thing as we headed towards our next show. And it’s the place where we all really bonded as a group — being stuck in a tin can with four other dudes for six hours will do that to you. It’s been a special spot for all of us.

But, man, I really wish the seats reclined.

CityBeat contributor Nick Grever is currently traveling Europe on tour with Cincinnati Rock band Valley of the Sun. He will be blogging for regularly about the experience.

<![CDATA[Valley of the Sun Tour Diary: Janky Promoters]]> One thing that I’ve learned on this trip is that the show’s promoter can often set the mood of an entire night. On this tour, we’ve been lucky enough to have several great promoters who know how to run things and take care of a band, which helps lead to a great show.

Our night in Milan did not have one of those types of promoters. Hell, to even call him a promoter is an insult to the concept of promotion. Let’s dive in a little bit and discuss just what potential promoters should and shouldn’t do when bands come a’callin.

First thing’s first — it’s always helpful to be at the venue by the scheduled get-in time. When bands like us arrive, we’ll generally have some questions for you about our lodging for the night, dinner, load-in and load-out logistics, etc. This is especially pertinent on tours like this due to the fact that we aren’t even from this continent; a little extra handholding is appreciated.

What you shouldn’t do is show up at the venue at 9 p.m. when load-in started at 6 p.m. and not even introduce yourself to anyone.

Second, please follow the agreed upon terms of the contract and make sure that the obligations you have are completed satisfactorily. On this tour, Valley of the Sun has two major requests in their contract: a hot meal every night (or a 15 Euro buyout) and accommodations after the show. These accommodations have varied from a promoter’s floor to nice hotels.

What a promoter shouldn’t do is tell the band that the guy who was supposed to set us up for the night didn’t show up and won’t answer any phone calls. And this definitely shouldn’t happen at 1 a.m. If it does happen, dig into that suit pocket and pull out some Euro to help alleviate the problem. Don’t leave with your girlfriend 10 minutes later and leave said band scrambling to find a place to sleep.

Also, the hot meal part of the contract. Now, we aren’t picky — we will eat just about anything you put in front of us. We’ve had all sorts of chow on this trip and most of it has been pretty awesome. When was the last time you had German cuisine made by an actual German national? Believe me when I say I can still taste that schnitzel.

What you shouldn’t do is cook up some cheap noodles, throw about a quarter of a can of tomato sauce on it and use that to feed two bands and their crew. Especially when the staff of the venue is clearly seen eating lasagna in the back room. That’s just rude.
The point I’m trying to make (yes, there really is a point) is that tour life filled with crazy circumstances that have to be adapted to and overcome. Sometimes things don’t go our way. Seldom does everything go off without a hitch. Rarely — only in Milan so far — have things gone completely down the shitter. But it’s amazing to me just how many moving parts go into a tour and if there’s one rusty cog, it can grind the whole machine to a stop.

In Milan, it was a horrid promoter, but it could easily be issues with transportation or miscommunication with management or the booking agents. There are logistical issues like getting the wrong merch at a pickup (which happened in Berlin) or the GPS could lead us astray. It’s amazing to me that it even works at all, to be honest.

So the next time you go see an amazing show featuring an out-of-town band — or even some locals — feel free to throw some kudos their way (and buy a shirt). But don’t neglect the guy sitting at the end of the bar who’s looking a little worn out either.

P.S. The picture of the delicious food and the hotel both come from our date in Pratteln, Switzerland. Thanks Z7!

<![CDATA[Valley of the Sun Tour Diary: European Bathrooms Rule!]]>

Saturday night contained a lot of firsts. It was the first time I ran merch, the first time we played in Germany, it marked the first appearance of the hot dog suit and the first time I said “fuck you, asshole” in German.

We got a late start on our trip from Antwerp, Belgium to Oelsnitz, Germany. Alarms weren’t properly set, showers were needed all around and the beds were comfier than they first appeared. Once we got our shit in gear (and loaded up on croissants) we were on our way. Ahead of us was one of our longest drives on the tour, a seven-hour voyage across country lines. The trip was punctuated by two pit stops; during one we saw a new bride run into the bathroom while still in her wedding dress.

A quick note on European bathrooms — they’re fantastic. You often have to pay for entry, but in many ways it’s worth it. We stopped in one gas station that had completed the checklist for being a dive. Porn mags on the racks? Check. Dirt and grime everywhere? Check. Attendants who seem to be hopped up on some sort of … something? You know it! So I wasn’t too hopeful when I dropped my 70 pence into the bathroom machine.

But man, oh man, was I wrong. The toilets are automated and include a self-cleaning system. It’s majestic. You can buy a vast assortment of sexual tools in the vending machine (part of the aforementioned checklist), but the rest of the bathroom was absolutely spotless. And when you’ve been on the road for four hours and nature comes a-callin’, this is a gift from on high.

Our GPS had us snaking through small German towns and we didn’t see anything resembling a venue. As we reached the end of the directions we still didn’t see anything. So we pulled up a little bit further and there it was: a graffitied beacon of Rock & Roll in the midst of beautiful German countryside. We had arrived.

We parked, met the promoter, met the support and got to unloading. I start grabbing the merch boxes and dove right in. And by dive right in, I mean that I stared at them blankly until Aaron came over and explained how everything worked and gave some suggestions on how to set up. From there, my retails skills came back and I became a folding, sorting and styling machine. I gave each style of shirt their own home in a box, put out a size run of each, spread out the small stuff and waited. And waited. And waited. And ate some homemade goulash. And waited some more.

Finally, the crowd began to build — and our game of “dibs” began anew — while we waited for our slot. Finally, the boys hit the stage and the crowd started to wake up. But, still, they needed a little push, a little something to get the mood just right. It was time for the hot dog costume. I slipped it on, ran to the front, got a laugh from the boys and the crowd and made my exit.

It seemed to have worked.

As the set wrapped up, the merch sales started to roll in. Thankfully, it wasn’t super busy, so I was able to get a feel for pricing, exchanging Euro change (who buys an EP with a 50€ note!?) and trying to translate thick German accents.

After the show finished, the party started up and it was a fun one. Nick was throwing down peppermint shots, courtesy of a fan. Ryan had to dodge the advances of two older women who had a bit too much to drink (and then drank some more on top of that). I, on the other hand, spent my time with a lovely young lady named Jenny and her friends as she gushed over her love of Barney Stinson and Nirvana. She also taught me all of the major German curse words and phrases when her friends got jealous of the attention I was getting. I wish I could’ve remembered some of the words; they will surely come in handy sometime on this trip.

Finally, the free beer was safely stowed in our bellies and it was time for bed. We found our hotel, made plans for the next day, stripped down and passed out.

This morning we’re on our way to Berlin for show number three. We actually left on time today so we should have some time to see the city (and replace Aaron’s broken double bass pedal) before we get down to rocking.

Spinal Tap moments: 4.

CityBeat contributor Nick Grever is currently traveling Europe on tour with Cincinnati Rock band Valley of the Sun. He will be blogging for regularly about the experience.

<![CDATA[Valley of the Sun Tour Diary: Brussels, Desertfest & Kitty Folders]]>

When I first met Valley of the Sun, one of the first things Ryan ever said to me was, “So you’re the enemy,” with a huge grin on his face. He was obviously referencing something and was extremely happy that he was finally able to do so.

I didn’t get it.

For those of you as clueless as I was, it’s from Almost Famous, the story of a young boy who gets to live his dream and follow a band on a nationwide tour while writing a story for Rolling Stone. In it, one of the band members continually calls his newfound follower the enemy because he sees everything — the good, the bad, the ugly, the drunken — and he can report on it all.

As I sit on a plane, 53 minutes away from Brussels, I finally get the reference (it doesn’t hurt that I watched Almost Famous for the first time the night before we left). So far I’ve watched Aaron drink wine straight from the bottle, seen Nick blatantly break the “no smoking” rule on international flights and learned just how cutthroat the game of Dibs can be. Ladies: Yes we are staring at you and yes we are claiming each and every one of you. Also, selfies. So many selfies.

It’s been pretty calm so far. Seating has been a breeze, Aaron and I prefer aisle, Ryan and Nick are window guys. Our connections have been effortless, leaving plenty of time for piss breaks and pizza runs. The flights were all smooth and filled with enough dibs-worthy frauleins to keep us busy the whole time. Even our luggage was fairly easy to manage. Only two gear bags needed some re-Tetrising, but it was easily corrected.

The trip out of the airport in Brussels was a bit more stressful. We had a hard time corralling our luggage, we couldn’t find our van and Ryan was stopped by an adorable drug dog and his less than adorable handler. But it was all sorted out and we headed out for Desertfest, our first show in Antwerp, Belgium.

The ride was short and we were the first band to arrive. We used our free time to track down some Belgian waffles; Arnaud’s bilingual skills helped us procure food that we actually recognized and pay for said food. We also sorted out usual tour things like reorganizing the van into less of a clusterfuck, catching up with old friends, making introductions to new members and passing out itineraries. Ryan was kind enough to provide us with a day-by-day breakdown of times and locations, all set inside a classy Lisa Frank folder. Because kittens are metal.

Merch is being sold by an outside agency, so I get the night to enjoy some of Stoner Rock’s finest acts, like Witch Rider and Truckfighters. I will be in charge of filming the band with Nick’s Go Pro cameras. No guarantee of quality can be made, but considering our mutual state of exhaustion, I think it’ll be forgiven. Tonight’s sure to be an interesting start to tour. We’ve each been given six drink tickets, we’re running on about 30 minutes of sleep apiece and the boys are playing to a sold-out fest with attendees flying in from as far away as Japan. It’s definitely a trial by fire scenario, but I think they’re up to the challenge. They just might need a caffeine injection between now and then.

I think I’m going to wrap it up for today but I want to start a tally here that will hopefully carry on through the tour. We’re up to two Spinal Tap references/situations today. Check back in to see if we can run into any more locked doors later this week!

CityBeat contributor Nick Grever is currently traveling Europe on tour with Cincinnati Rock band Valley of the Sun. He will be blogging for regularly about the experience.

<![CDATA[Journey with the Valley of the Sun: An Introduction]]>

(Editor’s Note: CityBeat contributor Nick Grever leaves today for Europe, where he’ll be on tour with Cincinnati Rock group Valley of the Sun as the band’s “merch guy.” Nick has graciously agreed to blog about his journey for over the next three weeks. Below is his first installment, an introduction written last night when he was [possibly over] packing for the trip.)

Hello, my name is Nick and since I’ve been a teenager, I’ve dreamt about living the Rock & Roll lifestyle. There’s just one problem – I can’t play music worth a damn. 

As a freelancer for this fine publication, I have been able to get a taste of my dream but one element has always eluded me: touring. So imagine my excitement when local rockers Valley of the Sun invited me to work merch for them on their second European tour. I just never expected to be touring the world in a hotdog costume.

Maybe a little background is in order. I’ve known the Valley guys (guitarist/vocalist Ryan Ferrier, drummer Aaron Boyer and bassist Ryan McAllister) for several years, culminating in a profile piece in the pages of CityBeat for their first full-length release, Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk. With that release (and my expertly devised words of praise, no doubt), the band has risen to new heights. 

Valley of the Sun signed with Fuzzorama Records and has already toured Europe once, in support of Desert Rock titans Truckfighters. Now it’s time for them to return for another three week tour for shows ranging from massive fests to small dives. We’ll be traveling throughout Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland and other countries, joined by Valley’s sound guy across the pond, Arnaud Merckling. In their infinite wisdom, the band invited me along to run their merch; Mangrenade’s Nick Thieme is also on the trip, playing bass in McAllister’s absence.

I’m writing this the night before we leave and I’m still not entirely sure what to expect. But here’s what I do know: I’ll be writing constantly, I probably over packed and Ryan, Nick and Aaron are really excited to see me run around in a venue in my new skeleton onesie (far warmer and more comfortable than it has any right to be) and hotdog ensemble.

These blog entries will ultimately be a record of our trip but it’s going to be more than just a recap of the shenanigans we’re sure to get into and the excellent food we’re sure to eat — although expect a few Instragram worthy images of foreign cuisine, too. (I love me some sausage.) It’s going to examine all the parts of tour life that arise over the course of our trip. What is it like to sit in a small van with four other guys for eight hours when none of us have showered for three days? Is German beer really as good as people say? What happens at 4 a.m. when Ryan starts spouting off about the multiverse as we sit around a bar in Switzerland? Seriously, did I pack enough underwear? 

These hard hitting questions, along with my observations and insights, will fill these digital pages. Hopefully they’ll be interesting enough for you to come back and read some more. Expect updates at least every few days — it all depends on how reliable the wifi is in Europe. Hey, that’s another blog entry topic!

<![CDATA[Bonnaroo 2014: Settling in for the Long Haul]]>

Editor’s Note: Cincinnati musician and longtime CityBeat contributor Ric Hickey and photographer Chuck Madden are once again covering the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival for us in Manchester, Tenn., this week. We’ll be posting their dispatches from the fest as they come in throughout the weekend. You can pretend you're there with them (minus the bugs and camping and stuff) by watching the live stream at

Insects crawl across my keyboard as I type this in the Bonnaroo parking lot. A vast expanse of several hundred acres of rolling green countryside blanketed with cars, tents, campers, tarps, trailers and people ready to party down, these Tennessee hills are alive with the sound of music. 

Returning once again with my old friend and photographer Chuck Madden for our No. 1 favorite assignment, we dig in for the long haul. After all, four days of car-camping and toughing it out in the summer sun is no easy feat. But every year, with several heavy bags of electronic gear, cameras, lenses, recording equipment and laptops slung over our shoulders, we embrace the madness with big silly grins on our sunburned faces.

A couple years in a row we were able to camp in a “guest” area just behind the main stage compound. But this year it was not to be, as we were directed to join the long line of cars by the highway that were waiting to pass through the main entrance. After an hour of waiting and a cursory search of our vehicle, we drove into the massive parking lot and began setting up camp.

Kicking off the 2014 Bonnaroo festivities on the Other Tent stage was Nashville’s own Wild Feathers. The band has been all over the world since I saw them perform an acoustic showcase in the Bonnaroo press compound last summer. With three singing songsmiths fronting the band and complimenting each other’s close harmonies, The Wild Feathers put across some of the most pristine Country Rock vocal performances since CSN’s heyday. But plug ‘em in and crank it up and it becomes a different beast altogether. 

Opening with “American” from their stellar 2013 debut album, The Wild Feathers fell confidently into the warm embrace of a hometown crowd that was singing along with every word. Still a young band, a year of non-stop touring has instilled in them a simmering confidence beyond their years. Their scorching “Backwoods Company” was taken at an accelerated clip that challenged the afternoon sun for heat and intensity. More than just a band to watch, I think I’d buy stock in The Wild Feathers if I could.

Elsewhere today Chuck and I took in sets by Cass McCombs, ZZ Ward, MS MR and The Preatures. Among the late night sets that I’m excited about tonight are a pair of my favorite new bands. J. Roddy Walston and The Business perform in This Tent, while White Denim takes the stage in That Tent at midnight. Their sets starting just 30 minutes apart, I’ll face my first serious schedule conflict of the weekend.

<![CDATA[Bonnaroo 2013: The Knight Slays]]>

It goes without saying that Paul McCartney flat out slayed 'em on Bonnaroo's What Stage last night. Snagging Sir Paul as a main stage headliner is possibly the biggest coup in Bonnaroo's 12-year history. To no one's great surprise, McCartney dished out sheer unfettered joy to the thousands via a masterful marathon performance that featured onw heart-warming soul-sending classic after another. You can be sure that his eyes have beheld many wonders over the course of a 50+ year career that is unrivaled and unparalleled in every way imaginable. But even McCartney himself could not disguise his expression of awe and disbelief at the size and deafening enthusiasm of the Bonnaroo crowd.

Today and tomorrow, I'll focus on the smaller stages to catch up close and personal performances by JEFF The Brotherhood, The Revivalists, and Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Already today I've seen the Futurebirds destroy the Sonic Stage with their peculiar powerhouse hybrid of Indie Country.

Sir Paul's son James McCartney drew a respectful and curious crowd to the On Tap Lounge for his early afternoon solo acoustic performance. Sadly, the booming bass reverberating from the larger stages all but drowned out his gentle folk pop purr. If you could huddle up close enough to the stage, he sounded pretty good. But the son of a Beatle deserves better accommodations.

<![CDATA[Bonnaroo 2013: Meet the Press]]>

We are barely halfway into this thing and Bonnaroo's memorable performances and highlights already seem too good to be true. In addition to 12 stages featuring live music for 18 hours a day for four days straight, the assembled press are privy to gut busting scenes of spontaneous hilarity in Bonnaroo press conferences twice daily.

Without fail, these press conferences will feature provocative observations from the panelists about their respective Bonnaroo experiences. But more often than not they will degrade into an impromptu exchange of silly quips, wacky tales from the road, and dirty jokes. Friday was no exception.

After setting the bar obscenely low for the 1pm press conference with multiple references to sex acts taking place on and off stage, it was the affable Matt + Kim who stuck around for nearly 45 minutes afterwards, smiling broadly, Happily answering more questions and posing for photographs.

The press conference itself was a chaotic and ramshackle riot that teetered on the brink of peep-show perversion for the duration. Perhaps this was no surprise as its schizophrenic panel included TV star Ed Helms and classic rocker John Oates alongside the eager upstarts Matt + Kim, Nicki Bluhm and Michael Angelakos from Passion Pit. Aside from a brief description of Oates' charity work, the discussion was a lighthearted group improvisation on the pros and cons of playing big festivals.

Helms is doing double duty at this year's Bonnaroo, presenting a comedy revue in the festival's comedy tent and hosting a Bluegrass jam on one of its main stages. Asked why he loves the banjo, Helms sighed, "I believe that banjos are very irritating and that's why banjos and comedians get along."

"Hey Ed," a smirking Oates chimed in, "Do you know why there's no banjos on Star Trek?"

"No John. Why is that?"

"Because it's the future."

Later in the day there was a 4 p.m. press conference that featured some very insightful exchanges between country rocker Jason Isbell and Jazz Fusion guitar legend John McLaughlin (pictured). The Bonnaroo crowd warmly embraced McLaughlin's evening performance in That Tent, causing the master musician to grin from ear to ear from the first notes of his set to the very last.

Though they started 30 minutes late, Rock icons ZZ Top performed a smoking midnight set in This Tent to a capacity crowd who sang along to nearly every song in the bands hit-laden set.

<![CDATA[Bonnaroo 2013: Friday Fun and Funnies]]>

Friday's Bonnaroo festivities started with great promise, as we were treated to a surprise performance by Jack Johnson in the press tent. Johnson is a last-minute fill-in for headliners Mumford and Sons, who had to cancel because their bass player had a medical procedure to fix a blood clot in his brain earlier this week. Warmth and humility emanated from Johnson as he debuted two brand new songs accompanied by ALO's Zach Gill on accordion.

An hour later Trixie Whitley slithered on to the Which Stage in a long black gown and proceeded to mesmerize the mid-day crowd with her hypnotic and soulful swamp Rock. There were moments during her set when she sang with such power and pathos it literally knocked the wind out of me. The crowd was so awed by Whitley's performance they stood in a stunned silence so quiet that at times you could hear shutters clicking in the photo pit.

I don't think Chuck and I stopped laughing once during a spontaneous and hilarious 15 minutes we spent chatting with Daniel, Thomas and new drummer Johnny Colorado of the Futurebirds. We barely had time to catch our breath and regain our composure before a 4 p.m. press conference that featured comedians Michael Che and Mike Birbiglia, as well as Jason Isbell and Jazz Fusion guitar legend John McLaughlin.

 Around the festival grounds today we've heard remarkable performances by Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Nashville's Alanna Royale and Trombone Shorty.

Coming up later tonight: Wilco, Paul McCartney, ZZ Top and many more.

<![CDATA[Bonnaroo 2013: Walk The Moon Thrills]]>

As Thursday began, we heard the tragic news of two people from the Tristate who were killed in an automobile accident on their way to the festival. (Five others were injured in the same crash.)

All told, Bonnaroo attendees and staff number close to 90,000 souls during peak hours. For this long weekend in June Manchester becomes the seventh largest city in Tennessee, with births and deaths on-site like one would expect in a small city over the course of any 96-hour span.

On a brighter note, this year's festival kicked off with a young couple tying the knot under the multi colored arch at Bonnaroo entrance.

In the late afternoon I wandered through Centeroo, perusing the various vendors' booths. Corporate sponsors abound, but non-profits and independent artisans dominate the Bonnaroo bazaar.

In the shadow of a Ferris wheel and psychedelic light tower a giant throng gathered in and around the area surrounding the Other Tent to greet Cincinnati's pure Pop pride and joy Walk The Moon

Technical glitches delayed the start of their set but they had the crowd bouncing, clapping, singing along and eating out of their hands from the minute they took the stage. 

WTM singer Nicholas Petricca shouted, "We're called Walk The Moon! We're from Ohio!" and the crowd roared as the band launched into their single "Tightrope." This writer has never seen a larger crowd assembled for a performance in the Other Tent and Petricca's buoyant charm and boundless energy kept the crowd pumped and jumping throughout the bands' entire performance.

Later in That Tent, Father John Misty brought the weird and the beard via his sardonic Folk Rock parables. I half-expected the depth and humor of FJM's material to sail over the heads of most Bonnaroovians but I was pleasantly surprised to hear many people singing along. A huge fan of his new Fear Fun album, I think I would have driven all the way to Tennessee just to hear Misty sing "Only Son Of The Ladiesman". He didn't make me wait long, playing it in the No. 2 slot.

(Walk the Moon hotos by Chuck Madden)

<![CDATA[Bonnaroo 2013: Getting There, Getting Started]]>

EDITOR'S NOTE: For this year's installment of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., CityBeat sent the veteran ’Roo team of writer (and musician) Ric Hickey and photographer Chuck Madden down south again to report on the festivities. Keep an eye on this here music blog for updates, pics and more from Tennessee all ’Roo weekend. (If you can't make it to the fest, Cork n' Bottle in Covington is having a "Road to Roo" party that runs through tomorrow's festivities, with a live stream from the fest, drink specials and a rotating collection of visiting food trucks.)

Turkey vultures circled overhead as Chuck and I drove through the rolling green hills of central Tennessee between Murfreesboro and McMinnville, on our way to Manchester for the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Our circuitous route through small towns and backwoods was briefly complicated by pounding rain. But soon the skies cleared and we found our way to the media campground located behind Bonnaroo's Which Stage, happily settling into an area that's just a few minutes walk from the festival grounds.

The friendly spirit of the festival was upon us immediately as we were greeted by new friends, fellow travelers in the campground and other members of the assembled press in the backstage Media compound.

Highlights of our Thursday perambulations included Futurebirds in This Tent, a glimpse of slam-bang Country rockers Houndmouth in the On Tap Lounge and a display of first class Honky Tonk by J.D. McPherson in That Tent that stopped Chuck and me in our tracks.

McPherson had the crowd smiling and dancing to a Rockabilly hybrid that swung like a wrecking ball. Western Swing met Chicago Blues as McPherson and crew featured upright bass, B-3 organ and saxophone for a syrupy saunter through Bo Diddley's "I Wanna Try For You." McPherson himself added some tasteful Telecaster licks, bringing a warbling echo of Surf music to the mix.

Fan-shot video of McPherson swingin' through "Your Love."

<![CDATA[Grammys Live Blog Recap]]>

Are you watching the Grammys alone tonight? Wishing you had someone there with you to enjoy the performances and award presentations help make fun of any and everything that deserves to be? Whether you're solo snarking, hanging out with a few pals, throwing your own Grammy mega-party or at the ceremony in person (we hear Taylor Swift is a big fan), join me tonight at this very cyber spot for some hot live blogging action. And when those witty comments pop into your head (or you become outraged with something I've written), feel free to post some comments of your own. The show airs live on CBS at 8 p.m.; pre-show red carpet festivities are probably going on now on E! And you can watch the program (and pre-show activities) through the Grammys site or through the Grammys YouTube channel.

Below is a little "pre-game show," addressing some of the more interesting story-lines this year, the saddest of which began just last evening when superstar Whitney Houston was found dead in her Beverly Hills hotel room. Even though her tragic death occurred just over 24 hours before the Grammys were set to begin, Houston's shadow will loom large over the ceremony, if not overshadow it completely. ---

Yesterday afternoon, I was thinking about some of the bigger story-lines leading up to the big event, like the protests over the Grammys dropping several categories this year and the chances of true "Indie" star Bon Iver winning either of the two big trophies it's up for (especially after mastermind Justin Vernon snubbed organizers by declining an invitation to perform at the ceremony). Of local interest — CIncy native Fred Hersch is up for two Grammys for his Alone at the Vanguard album (for Jazz Solo and Best Jazz Album). And
Brian DeBruler and Michelle D'Amico from the locally-based independent label SOL Records are attending tonight's event for the first time. DeBruler recently became a voting member of the Academy (SOL artists also made the preliminary short list of nominations) and he and D'Amico will be spreading the word about his solid roster of Country/Roots acts like Dallas Moore, Ridge Runner and Pure Grain and doing lots of networking, no doubt. Unless they pull a Kanye and storm the stage ("Sorry Adele, but Dallas Moore is the greatest singer of all time!") or you spot 'em in the crowd, you probably won't notice SOL's reps while watching. But the pair has been posting regular updates from their journey; keep tabs on the SOL Records Facebook page here.

But after news of Houston's death spread across the country about 4 p.m. yesterday (California time), it was instantly clear that the singer would be the main thing on most viewers' (and attendees') minds.

Houston dying at the age of 48 would have been a shock regardless of when it occurred, but, in a moment of tragic serendipity, it happened on the very weekend her mentor and music biz legend Clive Davis is being celebrated for his contributions to music over the past half century, of which, it could be argued, Houston was one of his greatest. Last night, Davis' traditional pre-Grammys party (held just floors below the hotel room Houston's body was found) went ahead as scheduled, with Davis (according to AP reports) delivering a teary tribute to his megastar protégé. Many others also paid tribute, notably Tony Bennett, who called her "the greatest singer I've ever heard in my life." Also — strangely but not tackily — Bennett (who was also enamored with the late Amy Winehouse) said on stage that this was another reason to legalize drugs.

Houston's ex-husband and baby daddy Bobby Brown heard the news right before taking the stage in Mississippi on the New Edition reunion tour. He also talked about her unexpected passing onstage, fighting through tears. (It was the first time many in the crowd had heard the news; reports say many fans were also in tears.)

As of now, New Edition's tour appears to be going ahead as scheduled. The reunited group is slated to perform in Cincinnati at U.S. Bank Arena this Tuesday, which, in another odd coincidence (given Brown's often volatile romantic involvement with Whitney), is Valentine's Day.

The Grammys ceremony was to honor Davis with a lifetime achievement award tonight and I assume that will go ahead as planned, but with a different tone. Given Houston's passing, the ceremony has to honor one of Davis' most successful discoveries. If Johnny Depp died the night before a planned Academy Awards tribute to Tim Burton, can you fathom the ceremony not even mentioning the director's most famous muse?   

Around midnight last night, the Grammy website announced that a tribute to Houston featuring actress/singer Jennifer Hudson had been added to tonight's ceremony.

Be back soon. In the meantime, anyone have any drinking game ideas to play as we watch?


It's easy sometimes to forget that by the time the Grammys telecast starts, the vast majority of trophies have already been given out at the pre-telecast ceremonies held earlier today. Here's a list of some of the artists who have already won one (or more) of those lil' gramophone statuettes.

• Dubstep artist Skrillex won three awards (Best Dance/Electronica Album, Best Dance Recording, Best Remixed Recording)

• Tony Bennett won Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for his duet with Amy Winehouse from his Duets II album, which also scored the trophy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

• Foo Fighters scored three Grammys earlier, including Best Rock Album. 

• Bon Iver's self-titled album is up for Album of the Year but it has already won Best Alternative Album.

• Taylor Swift added two Grammys to her collection: Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song.

• Kanye probably won't rush the stage — unless he's careless with the Cristal (Editor "Hindsight is 20/20" note: Or not there, which was the case) — because he won Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Collaboration.

• Adele — making her big return to the live stage tonight after her recent surgery — has already won Best Pop Vocal Album for 21.

• And here's some fun ones — Betty White (yes, that Betty White, the silver-haired sex goddess/elderly comedienne) won Best Spoken Word Album (for her autobiography audio book) and Louis CK won Best Comedy Album for Hilarious. I bet Louis and Betty are already back at their hotel, doing bumps of cocaine off of each other and getting crazy in the hottub. Wouldn't you be?

More soon — 20 minute countdown starts … now!


Unfortunately Cincy native Phil Hersch didn't win either of the awards he was up for. Best Instrumental Jazz Album went to Forever by Corea, Clarke & White and Best Improvised Jazz Solo went to Chick Corea for "500 Miles High" off of the same album. (It was an unfair fight for Hersch, like competing in a hotdog-eating contest where it's you vs. the team of Kobayashi, Joey "Jaws" Chestnut and a famished grizzly bear).

Five more minutes to showtime. Bruce Springsteen is up first (according to Ryan Seacrest).


The Boss and his E-Street Band(ish, minus Clarence Clemons; R.I.P Big Man) are starting things off with a performance of his new single. Bruce said something like, "America, you alive out there?" at the start of the song. Uh, yeah, all of us except Whitney Houston. Thanks for bringing us down right up top, Boss.

The song is "We Take Care of Our Own," clearly a commie liberal pinko bastard anthem. If he were a Republican, it would be "I Take Care of My Shit … You Take Care of Yours (And If You Can't It's Probably Because You Don't Believe in the Right God)."

Lady Gaga loved it.


And the bummer vibe continues! Host (?) LL Cool J just gave a nice, somber intro, led the audience in prayer (possibly a first) and played about 20 seconds of Whitney singing "I Will Always Love You."

Wouldn't a great tribute be Dolly Parton singing that song, just her and an acoustic guitar? Her version is even more chill-worthy.

But seriously — LL Cool J? He's a great MC/emcee — totally serviceable, but pretty much seems to just be keeping the show moving along.

Here comes Bruno Mars …


Bruno just told the group to get off their "rich asses" and dance. He's doing his retro thing, with cool, gold vintage suits (for him and all the band members). He looks and moves like James Brown and has a voice that resembles Sam Cooke. As far as current Pop stars go, I've always thought Mars had a little something more to offer. I wouldn't be shocked if he ended up having a long and legendary career. (Though I wouldn't be surprised if was the next Terrence Trent D'Arby either — that's the way the biz goes sometimes.)

Mars also references Whitney Houston. I think we have our drinking contest — every time Whitney is mentioned, do a shot or chug a beer or sip your wine (depending on your level of drinking limits; I'm sober, so I'll be drinking Diet Pepsi and water all night. For the contest, I'll take a big gulp of the Pepsi. Maybe I can get sponsorship out of it …)


Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt are on stage with with an acoustic guitar and electric piano. I was thinking earlier that one of the things Whitney's death would overshadow was the passing of Etta James recently. Raitt and Keys are playing "Sunday Kind of Love" in tribute to Etta. Love it — no stage set or fancy dancers, just the music.

They also mentioned Whitney, though. Drink up!

Oh yeah — they give awards out at this thing! Raitt and Keys give the Best Pop Solo Performance award to Adele's "Someone Like You." Bet she wins a ton tonight. Does anyone known anybody who hates Adele? She seems immune to criticism.

LL just said it was his job to keep things moving along (see, told ya!) and introduced Chris Brown.


Gonna stop putting times on the updates. Hey, I'm learning as I go along. This is my first "live blogging" attempt.

Chris Brown is performing on a very blah stage set, he and his dancers are dressed in very weak casual wear and he is lip synching the shit out of his song. I've always felt that Chris Brown should be labeled a dancer; singing seems to just be incidental. He's a great dancer, though. But the Grammy performance seemed especially half-hearted. Maybe he toned it down in tribute to Whitney.

By the way — lip syncing something that is already Auto-Tuned? Lame-squared.


Just saw a commercial for LL's new show on CBS. Now I understand why he's hosting. It's one of those NCISCSISUV type crime dramas apparently.


Best Rap Performance is announced. Jay-Z and Kanye West won for "Otis." But they couldn't be bothered to show up.  Or maybe Kanye couldn't get past security guards after his previous award show menacing.

Reba McEntire introduces Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson, who are doing a duet. The ceremony this year is supposedly going to be filled with special pairings of two popular artists. That's why Bon Iver didn't want to perform — Justin Vernon said they only wanted them to play if they did one of the duets. He didn't say who they would have been paired with. Maybe it was Black Eyed Peas.

The Aldean/Clarkson duet is pretty generic modern Country with some rock overtones. Like the guitarist's mohawk. The Grammys should have also made every put-together duo perform an actual good song.


Jack Black is doing a remote. He joked that he was outside of the Staples Center to maintain his "Indie Cred" (like that awesome indie movie he did, Kung Fu Panda).

Speaking of "Fu" (but spelled "Foo"), the Foo Fighters are introduced by Black and are also outside, performing in a big tent-like structure for, presumably, a bunch of regular folks totally unaware the Grammys are going on a few yards away. Or maybe they were booked through a casting agency. This is L.A.

Dave Grohl's rocking a Slayer shirt and they're killing a version of "Walk" from the most recent Foos album (already a big winner tonight). No mention of Whitney. And, hey, why aren't the Foos doing a duet? Did the Grammys lie to Bon Iver? Rhianna and Coldplay are the next performance. Maybe Dave Grohl has some kind of exemption deal?

Good Rock & Roll performance to liven things up a bit. Maybe the somber tone will keep fading now … until someone else mentions Whitney. The Whitney tribute later should do the trick.


Rihanna starts the performance with Coldplay rolling around onstage under a red light. Then things kick in and there's Coldplay. Uhhh. Where's Coldplay? Are they those weird dudes dancing behind her? She even has her own full-band there amongst her back-up dancing army.

She yelled, "Grammys, make some noise for Whitney." Drink up!

So now Chris Martin walks onstage by himself with an acoustic guitar after Ri-Ri's done her huge production. She reemerges to sing — an actual duet! — with the Brit.

Martin should have worn leather hot pants, too.

Now Coldplay is doing "Ever Tear a Waterfall" (under that neon nightmare color scheme featured on their new album) and Rihanna is gone. "Ever Tear a Waterfall" is the kind of thing that made Coldplay a punchline in The 40 Year Old Virgin ("You know how I know you're gay?).

So let me get this straight — Bon Iver turned down a chance to perform because the Grammys wanted them to play with someone else, but the "duet" would actual be the other artist performing their song, both doing a snippet of something together and then Bon Iver doing their own thang. C'mon, Justin. Suck it up and be a big boy.

Dig the commercial with Coldplay's "The Scientist" sung by Willie Nelson. The spot is for some sort of green-energy or farm-related charity. Oh, wait a minute — it's a spot Chipolte meant to play up their local ingredients claims. Isn't Chipolte owned by McDonald's now?


Two dudes from Super Bowl champs the New York Giants and somebody else from another CBS show are giving out the Best Rock Performance Grammy. Logically. It's an interesting category — Radiohead, Mumford & Sons, The Decemberists. Of course, the least surprising nominee wins — congrats again, Grohl and the Foos. Grohl won the same award last year with Them Crooked Vultures.

Grohl gives a cool speech, essentially saying the Grammys are irrelevant and musicians should do music because they love it. Good stuff. He finished by yelling, "Long live Rock & Roll." Which was followed by the announcer saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, Ryan Seacrest." Ouch.

Here comes the Beach Boys segment, kicking off with Maroon 5 doing "Surfer Girl." Weird choice but it sounds pretty good. 


The Beach Boys reunion/celebration was one of the big selling points going into the Grammys. Even though most people might be confused — "The Beach Boys are still together — they just played some casino last month." The Beach Boys "reunion" is special because cofounder Brian Wilson is a part of it and he hasn't been a member of the band for decades. (Those casino and state fair versions were random members trying make a few bucks.)

Maroon 5 performs "Surfer Girl" and Foster the People do "Wouldn't It Be Nice." I believe playing with them are members of The Wondermints, the amazing group that backs Wilson for concerts. Both cover tributes are remarkably true to the originals, so much so that Adam Levine looks uncomfortable.

Then the Beach Boys come on to do "Good Vibrations." Sounds pretty good, but nothing exceptional. And even though he had his trademark "Where am I?" look on his face, it was pretty cool to see Brian Wilson back on stage with his old band. I would love to see one of their upcoming reunion tour dates.

But I have a major issue with this so-called reunion. Where the hell is John Stamos?! It's not a true reunion without the band's  legendary bongo/percussion player. Fraud!


Stevie Wonder addressed Whitney — "up in heaven" — and played a little "Love Me Do" on harmonica. He's introducing Paul McCartney, who is joined by Diana Krall and Joe Walsh (which seems weird at first, but Walsh plays some lovely acoustic guitar and Krall and her band are all over Sir Paul's new album). Paul does "My Valentine" from his new standards album. Pleasant enough performance (elegant dress, small orchestra surrounding him and, best of all, no guest star like Lil Wayne or Justin Beiber), but kind of disappointing. McCartney's performance has been teased leading up to the event as if he was going to have a larger role. And anytime Paul doesn't play one of his classic, there's always a little bit of a let down.

Wait! Paul's coming back for more later in the show. Phew.

Chris Brown won Best R&B Album. Because there isn't a Best Dancer award, I guess.

Roots duo The Civil Wars are introduced and they seem like they're old pros who have been doing this kind of thing for decades. They offer a genuine funny moment by thanking their "opening acts" especially that upstart from Liverpool. But The Civil Wars are probably unknown to most viewers; they're actually pretty new, a great example of an independent act with oodles of talent becoming an "overnight success" on their own terms.

Civil Wars play a few bars of their own song and then introduce their pal Taylor Swift. Swift is performing atop the ruins of the old Hee Haw set, rocking a banjo and looking very Nicole-Kidman-in-Cold-Mountain. She's adorable regardless how mediocre some of her tunes can be. And even though she's performing with the cast of Little House on the Prairie (or at least dressed that way) who are playing actual "Country" instruments, the song still sounds 99 percent Pop. Can we stop calling her a "Country" artist now?

Swift does the "What? Me?" shocked look when the crowd gives her an enthusiastic ovation for her performance. So she's a good actress, too (early on that reaction always seemed endearingly genuine; now we know better).


So Doogie Howser is giving out the Song of the Year award, another CBS employee. It's like when the World Series is on Fox and half the game features cutaways to the actors and actresses from Fox programs that just happen to be premiering right after the game. Tacky!

Song of the Year goes to Adele. Alright, now she's starting to annoy me. For no other reason than I'd like to see some others take the podium.

Ooohhh — what just happened during Katy Perry's set? The sound kinda fizzled out and then the stage went dark, like there had been a major technical malfunction. Turns out it was part of some kind of Criss Angel magic trick gone wrong. Still not really sure what were were supposed to see. Whoops.

Perry's performance is a — surprise! — big spectacle with tons of backup dancers and musicians and lots of fire. There are also several ice sculptures in the shape of men. And each looks just like Russell Brand. Just saying …

Lady Antebellum wins one of the Country awards. Yawn.


Music world legend Gwyneth Paltrow (hey, she was on Glee, did a movie with Huey Lewis, married a Rock star and named her baby something crazy) introduces Adele's performance. Her vocal chords work! Yay!

As expected, there are no fireworks or pyrotechnics, no ridiculous costumes, no magic tricks, no collaboration with another major artist. Adele plays it straight and delivers a solid version of "Rolling in the Deep." Maybe Adele's success came from the same place that has caused more and more young musicians being drawn to the simple soulfulness of American Roots music, kids who in another time would have levitated towards Rap or Punk Rock or Electronica. In our chaotic times, gifted souls playing straight from the heart with minimal bullshit is apparently quite appealing. Advertising firms everywhere need to figure out how to exploit that, stat!

She lets out a little yelp of glee after the song finishes, clearly relieved it all went smoothly. Adele's performance earns the biggest ovation of the night (and shots of audience members, including Rihanna, showed many in sheer awe).


Taylor Swift comes back out to introduce the segment dedicated to music legend Glen Campbell. Campbell is living out the end of the biopic spoof Walk Hard, when Dewey Cox realizes his career is winding down and he's dying, so he writes a life-retrospective song and does a farewell performance. Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and he quickly wrote and recorded his latest album and booked tour dates because he knew that soon he wouldn't be able to.

The Band Perry does Campbell's "Gentle on My Mind" and Blake Shelton does "Southern Nights," then Campbell hits the stage and kills it. Recent interviews about Campbell have mentioned that the signs of his disease are quite evident in his mannerisms, speech and memory lapses. But Campbell gave a commanding performance of "Rhinestone Cowboy" and looked like the veteran performer he is. (Until the music stopped — I couldn't make it out, but Campbell was still talking into the mic to the crowd; it almost seemed like he forgot he was only doing one tune.)

The Grammys also paid tribute to those we've lost this year. Wait, hasn't that been what most of the majority of the show has been about so far?


Best New Artist time! Country star Carrie Underwood comes out to read the nominees and reveal the winner … but then she introduced Tony Bennett, who came out and did a duet of "It Had to Be You" with her. Focus people! Though can you really ever have too much Tony Bennett?

Their performance earns another standing ovation, I believe officially shattering the State of the Union's world record for most standing ovations over the course of an hour.

Bon Iver wins the Best New Artist trophy. Let the "Who the Hell is Bon Iver"ing begin! Justin Vernon, for a split second, seemed like he was going to tear the Grammys a new asshole. Instead, he gave one of the better acceptance speeches I've hard at a Grammys. Vernon (in his stylish1890s fashion) instead said he was grateful, but he made the point (similar to Dave Grohl earlier) that he makes music for the joy and soul-stirring satisfaction it gives him, not for money, parities, awards. And he also made a point to note all of the great talent in the room — and all the great talent NOT in the room, but who maybe should be. Good stuff.

Vernon also thanked his label, Jagjaguar Records, the small but incredibly consistent and reliable imprint based out of tiny Bloomington, Ind. That Bon Iver still put records out on the label is a sign that Vernon wasn't just sitting out some hipster anti-establishment rant. He believes in the power and magic of art and music above all else (especially the "industry" side). If he didn't, he would have been on Interscope years ago.


Apologies for any typos so far. This writing on the fly thing makes it hard to consider my words as carefully. I'm doing the besttt A cann.

I wouldn't call myself a fan of Whitney Houston's music — for the most part, I always thought she was a hugely talented singer but her material was usually average at best. But last night, I was driving around and "I Will Always Love You" came on the radio, about a half hour after news broke that she had died. It was written by Dolly Parton (whose version I love even more), but Whitney makes it her own and it's a pretty moving song, lyrically. I won't say I cried or anything, but I did get a chill while listening, considering I had just found out she was no longer among the living.

Jennifer Hudson's tribute had that same effect on me. After the "people who died this year" segment, she did a version of the song that was goose-bumpy and reverent. She seemed to struggle to get through it without breaking down, making it even more emotional.


Dance/Electronic music fans finally get to see it celebrated on the Grammys! The televised part! But two of the genres current superstars are apparently only primetime-worthy with their more famous chaperones. Following the show's already confusing collaboration theme (there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to the concept), Chris Brown comes out yet again for a performance with David Guetta … well, not exactly sure what he was doing other than jumping up and down and waving his hands around. Then the Foo Fighters came out (yet again) and played one of their songs (without noticeable collaboration, which seems unfair to those nominees who would have killed to play the show), then segued into another one of their songs (possibly with Deadmau5 messing about in the mix), then the stage next to the Foos dropped its current to reveal the DJ set up of Deadmau5 himself. Or I think it was Deadmau5. He wears a giant mouse head, so for all I know it was just Chris Brown elbowing his way into more screen time.

It was a great notion, to finally give some props to Electronica/Dance music on the broadcast, but very poorly executed thanks to the producers' belief that viewers wouldn't keep watching unless they had someone famous on stage with them. Almost, Grammys. Maybe next year.

Oh shit — what the hell is Nicki Minaj doing?


I need a moment to process Micki Minaj's performance. Her Broadway musical adaptation of The Exorcist was awesome, but … I'm unable find the words at the moment. I love a great Pop freak and Nicki may be the freakiest out there right now. I'll add more once I have had time to digest what I just saw.

Song of the Year goes to that overrated hack Adele. She's not that good, ya know. And I hear that when she was 14, she released a cassette at a neighborhood record store under the name "Adelle," meaning she's just a big marketing gimmick phony put together by a giant corporation. (Thus concludes my sarcastic tribute to the weird Lana Del Rey backlash.)

Looks like this year's Grammys belong to Adele.


LL Cool J brings out Diana Ross to give out Album of the Year (it reminds me of the year Liz Taylor came out at the Oscars to give Best Picture to Gladiator and exclaimed the film's title with a mix of complete unfamiliarity and utter jubilation). Ross first announced that Paul Epworth won Producer of the Year (Non-Classical). Guess what album he worked on? Yup — Adele's.

Do I need to tell you who won Album of the Year? I'll give you a hint. It was Adele.

Adele scored her final trophy of the night for 21 and got so choked up she had to wipe tears (and more) from her face. She even told everyone what she was doing, the first time the word "snot" has ever been used in an Album of the Year acceptance speech (that I'm aware of). Adele owes it all to a "a rubbish relationship," she said when accepting, referring to her inspiration for the album. I wonder if her former beau gets any royalties?

Paul McCartney apparently cannot leave anywhere without playing a Beatles song, so after Adele's speech, he and his touring band came back on and played the last few pieces of the Abbey Road finale. It was perfect, of course, but it was especially cool to see Dave Grohl, Joe Walsh and Bruce Springsteen come out for "The End" and trade off solos with Sir Paul and his two gifted guitarists. Bruce, Grohl and Walsh, experienced veterans to a man, seemed beyond giddy to play with McCartney.

And with the words "And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make," the Grammys 54th ceremony was in the books. It was a strange one, yet often predictable. And celebratory and full of love, but much, much sadder than usual.


I am still not sure what Nicki Minaj was trying to do with her crazy fire and brimstone performance, but I liked it. Something weird to break up the show's trademark predictability (at best) and tediousness (at worst). I'm going to sleep on it and hope my own nightmares collide with Minaj's Barbie Goes to Hell extravaganza and I wake up with a full understanding. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, below is the full list of winners. Thanks for reading and following along. Maybe we'll do it again soon.


Album of the Year: "21," Adele

Record of the Year: "Rolling in the Deep," Adele

Song of the Year: "Rolling in the Deep," Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth

New Artist: Bon Iver

Pop Solo Performance: "Someone Like You," Adele

Pop Performance by a Duo or Group: "Body and Soul," Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse

Pop Vocal Album: "21," Adele

Alternative Album: "Bon Iver," Bon Iver

Rock Song: "Walk," Foo Fighters

Rock Album: "Wasting Light," Foo Fighters

Rock Performance: "Walk," Foo Fighters

Hard Rock/Metal Performance: "White Limo," Foo Fighters

R&B Album: "F.A.M.E.," Chris Brown

R&B Song: "Fool For You," Cee Lo Green, Melanie Hallim & Jack Splash

R&B Performance: "Is This Love," Corrine Bailey Rae

Traditional R&B Vocal Performance: "Fool For You," Cee Lo Green & Melanie Fiona

Rap Album: "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," Kanye West

Rap Performance: "Otis," Jay-Z and Kanye West

Rap Song: "All of the Lights," Jeff Bhasker, Stacy Ferguson, Malik Jones, Warren Trotter & Kanye West

Rap/Sung Collaboration: "All of the Lights," Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie

Dance Recording: "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," Skrillex

Dance/Electronica Album: "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," Skrillex

Musical Theater Album: "The Book of Mormon," Robert Lopez, Trey Parker & Matt Stone

World Music Album: "Tassili," Tinariwen

Latin Pop Rock, Rock or Urban Album: "Drama y Luz," Mana

Tropical Latin Album: "Last Mambo," Cachao

Banda or Norteno Album: "Los Tigres Del Norte and Friends," Los Tigres Del Norte

Regional Mexican or Tejano Album: "Bicentenario," Pepe Aguilar

Country Solo Performance: "Mean," Taylor Swift

Country Album: "Own the Night," Lady Antebellum

Country Performance by a Duo or Group: "Barton Hollow," The Civil Wars

Country Song: "Mean," Taylor Swift

Jazz Vocal Album: "The Mosaic Project," Terri Lyne Carrington & various artists

Jazz Instrumental Album: "Forever," Corea, Clark & White

Improvised Jazz Solo: "500 Miles High," Chick Corea

Large Ensemble Jazz Album: "The Good Feeling," Christian McBride Big Band

Blues Album: "Revelator," Tedeschi Trucks Band

Folk Album: "Barton Hollow," The Civil Wars

Pop Instrumental Album: "The Road From Memphis," Booker T. Jones

Bluegrass Album: "Paper Airplane," Alison Krauss & Union Station

Americana Album: "Ramble at the Ryman," Levon Helm

Reggae Album: "Revelation Pt. 1: The Root of Life," Stephen Marley

Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album:

New Age Album: "What's It All About," Pat Metheny

Children's Album: "All About Bullies... Big and Small," various artists

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical: Paul Epworth

Remixed Recording, Non-Classical: "Cinema (Skrillex remix)," Sonny Moore

Gospel Song: "Hello Fear," Kirk Franklin

Gospel/Contemporary Christian Performance: "Jesus," L'Andria Johnson

Gospel Album: "Hello Fear," Kirk Franklin

Choral Performance: "Light & Gold," Eric Whitacre

Classical Contemporary Composition: "Elmer Gantry," Robert Aldridge & Herschel Garfein

Producer of the Year, Classical: Judith Sherman

Orchestral Performance: "Brahms: Symphony No. 4," Gustavo Dudamel

Opera Recording: "Adams: Doctor Atomic," Alan Gilbert, conductor

Spoken Word Album: "If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't)," Betty White

Comedy Album: "Hilarious," Louis C.K.

Compilation Soundtrack Album For Visual Media: "Boardwalk Empire," various artists

Score Soundtrack Album For Visual Media: "The King's Speech," Alexandre Desplat

Song Written For Visual Media: "I See the Light," Alan Menken & Glenn Slater

Historical Album: "Band on the Run (Paul McCartney Archive Collection - Deluxe Edition)," Paul McCartney

Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists: "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)," Jorge Calandrelli