Fall Out Boy

FOB

I grew up during the emo/ pop punk mainstream popularity in the mid-2000s. Fall Out Boy is one of the few former “emo” bands who are still relevant in the music. I only fell in love with their music after listening to their their album, Infinity on High, in 2007. Many “emo” bands either disbanded or faded into music oblivion. Only some former “emo” bands endured the test of time in the music industry over the past decade.

In a previous blog post, I brought up how I only decided to check out Fall Out Boy’s music to make my friend, Shakira, stop nagging me. It’s a 50/50 chance you’ll end up liking something in such situations. Infinity on High album formed my appreciation for Fall Out Boy in 2007. Yet, it wasn’t until a year or two later I was actively listening to FOB’s music.

Here’s some background information about Fall Out Boy. This band is from Chicago, Illinois. It consists of four band members. Patrick Stump is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist. Also, he plays the piano instrumental parts in FOB songs. Pete Wentz is the bass guitarist. Joe Trohman is the lead guitarist. Pete and Joe provide backing vocals as well. Andy Hurley is the drummer.

FOB members             [From left to right: Joe Trohman, Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, Andy Hurley]

Fall Out Boy formed in 2001. They have released six studio albums since 2003. Take This To Your Grave, their debut album, was released in May 2003. From Under The Cork Tree was released in May 2005. Infinity on High was released in February 2007. Folie à Deux was released in December 2008. Fall Out Boy was on hiatus between 2009 and 2012. Save Rock and Roll was released in April 2013. American Beauty/ American Psycho was released in January 2015.

From Under the Cork Tree album launched Fall Out Boy into mainstream popularity.  Even still to this day, I don’t love From Under the Cork Tree album. This is typically an all-time favorite album for longtime FOB fans. Nope not me. I only really love the promotional singles from this album. Sugar We’re Goin’ Down. Dance, Dance. Fall Out Boy was truly “pop-punk” with their first two albums. Yet, I much prefer Take This to Your Grave if I’m in a more pop-punk mood.

Infinity on High albumInfinity on High album will always have a special place in my heart. It was my official introduction to Fall Out Boy. Honestly, it was love at first listen. It wasn’t traditional pop-punk style. In fact, this album was a huge departure from their sophomore album. Elements of R&B, soul, and flamenco. There are even brass instruments like bass trombone and French horn incorporated into some of the songs. All studio albums following Infinity on High began Fall Out Boy’s musical evolution to more pop rock style.

FFolie a Deux albumolie à Deux translate to “A Madness Shared by Two”. This is first FOB album in which the lyrical content is less autobiographical. All other albums have incorporated elements of the bands collective experiences within the lyrical themes and content. With a slight political edge, their fourth studio album explores themes of moral dilemmas, decaying social relationships, and societal shortcomings. They didn’t want overly political themes by leaving the lyrics up to interpretation for the listeners. Also, Fall Out Boy continued to experiment with non-pop punk musical styles in their fourth studio album. Elements of R&B and soul are mixed in with the alternative rock style. This is easily their most underrated studio album. I’ve grown to appreciate Folie à Deux more over the past several years.

I was overjoyed when news of Fall Out Boy’s return broke all over the internet. I had really hoped Folie à Deux wasn’t going to be their last studio album. I’d seen enough of my beloved pop-punk bands disband. I didn’t want Fall Out Boy to join the list. Fall Out Boy reimagined their musical style in their post-hiatus studio albums. Save Rock and Rock and American Beauty/American Pyscho are drastically different in terms of musical style. Yet, they are closer to pop rock style. There is even influences of electronica rock. Fall Out Boy took a huge risk reinventing themselves post-hiatus. Yet, it paid off as they are still very much prevalent in the music industry.

Fall Out Boy is known for their fascinating song titles. Take This to Your Grave to Folie à Deux studio albums had some long song title as well.  Their fifth and sixth albums had shorter, more straightforward song titles. I’m glad to see the return of quirky song titles in upcoming seventh album, Mania. Some aspects of old FOB remain the same.

Every band is different how they delegate lyric writing and music composition duties. Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump make a dynamic duo. Pete is the primary lyricist. Patrick is the primary music composer. I’m sure Andy and Joe give their input as well. Yet, Fall Out Boy covers a range of topics in their music. Not beating the same dead horse. Each of their studio albums are different in terms of musical style and lyrical content themes. I personally don’t want to hear the same musical style for every album. Change and evolution is important for any musician. Studio albums should reflect how the musicians’ lives have changed over the years.

Emo/pop punk lead singers typically have a tenor vocal range. Usually no more than a two octave vocal range. There are some exceptions in the pop-punk genre. From my own experience, Patrick Stump and Brendon Urie not only have distinctive singing vocals but also have more than two octave range. Patrick Stump has three octave vocal range. He even throws in R&B and funk vibes into his singing vocals which is unusual for this rock sub-genre. Patrick Stump is technically classified as a high lyric tenor vocalist. His vocals are emotively soulful yet still has clarity.

Thanks to Fall Out Boy, I discovered other Fueled by Ramen artists/bands between 2008 and 2011. Paramore, The Academy Is, Cobra Starship, and Panic! at the Disco. I’ve had the opportunity to see almost all of them live in concert. Paramore in October 2009 (mtvU’s Ulalume festival) and July 2014 (Monumentour tour with Fall Out Boy). The Academy Is in July 2009 (mtvU’s SunBloc festival with Boys Like Girls). Panic! At the Disco in August 2014 (This is Gospel tour) and September 2015. Cobra Starship is the only exception. Sadly, Cobra Starship disbanded in November 2015.  Also, The Academy Is disbanded in October 2011.

I had the chance to see Fall Out Boy live in concert twice. July 2014 on Monumentour with co-headliner Paramore. This was my second time seeing Paramore in concert. But this was my first Fall Out Boy concert. Also, this was my first concert in four years. I couldn’t have asked for a better combination of my favorite bands for a tour. June 2015 on Boys of Zummer tour with co-headliner Wiz Khalifa. I have a strong dislike for rap genre in general. So I wasn’t a fan of them touring with rapper Wiz Khalifa. But I’d put up with him if it meant seeing FOB in concert again. Monumentour was promoting Save Rock and Roll album. Boys of Zummer tour was promoting American Beauty/ American Pyscho album.

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Fall Out Boy deliver dynamic, energetic live performances. They’re even better live than on recorded studio albums. Plus, each of the four band members are charismatic in their own ways. Pete Wentz, the bassist, does majority of the talking during concerts which isn’t the same with my other rock bands. Lead vocalists typically offer commentary during live concerts. But Patrick Stump does very little talking during live performances. He doesn’t mind Pete taking over the live commentary aspect. Patrick, Pete, Andy, and Joe have a blast throughout the setlist. Fall Out Boy knows how to enthusiastically engage their crowd at concerts.

Decaydance logoI’m so thankful Fall Out Boy helped launched the music career of bands including The Academy Is and Panic! at the Disco. Pete Wentz actually formed an independent record label in 2004. DCD2 Records (formerly Decaydance Records) is an imprint of Fueled by Ramel record label. The four band members have branched out to other projects and roles when not actively recording new Fall Out Boy music.

Fall Out Boy never fails to amaze me with music they come out with. There are still always some elements of rock. Pop-punk is what gained them mainstream popularity. Yet, they learned to keep reinventing their musical style to remain relevant in the music industry. Some FOB fans complain they want things to go back to the golden pop-punk days. No thank you. I really do love their musical style evolution especially after post-hiatus. Plus, Fall Out Boy gained a newer generation of fans as a result of their pop rock musical evolution after their hiatus. Musicians strive to reach new groups of people with their music. Yet, they don’t forget about their loyal longtime fans. I’ll cherish the musical styles in Infinity on High and Folie à Deux. But I don’t want to hear the same musical style for every proceeding studio album. I love how I can simultaneously headbang and dance along to Fall Out Boy songs. Over the past 11 years, my love for Fall Out Boy has exponentially grown. I’m eagerly looking forward to their upcoming seventh studio album, Mania, coming out in January 2018.

Their upcoming seventh album is continues to demonstrate Fall Out Boy’s musical evolution. Mania album is a huge departure from Save Rock and Roll and American Beauty/American Pyscho studio albums. Yet, I will still continue to support Fall Out Boy. “Hold Me Tight or Don’t” is the fourth single from upcoming Mania album.

 

 

 

 

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Game of Thrones

GoT logoOver the past decade, science-fiction and superhero genres have played an important role in my life. Fantasy genre TV shows or movies wasn’t my cup of tea until a few years ago. It’s surprising how some genres take time to eventually grow on you.

Honestly, I decided to check out HBO’s Game of Thrones on random whim four years ago. It was a short three-day holiday during the fall of my sophomore year in college. The night before I intensely binged all seven episodes of Downton Abbey Season 1 in one sitting. Chrissy, one of my cluster friends, had been raving about HBO’s Game of Thrones. I keep up with almost 10-15 TV shows throughout the year. At this point, my fall prime-time shows were back with their new seasons. I didn’t need yet another show to watch. My plate was quite full. Yet, I still decided to check out Game of Thrones Season 1 the day after my Downtown Abbey Season 1 binge marathon. I proceeded to watch the first four episodes of Season 1. Talk about a drastic change going from Downtown Abbey to Game of Thrones.

True Blood S3This was not my first rodeo with MA rated premium cable TV show. Not at all. During the summer of 2010, I began reading Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series aka The Southern Vampire Mysteries. I don’t recall how I even found out about HBO’s True Blood. By this point, I’d finished the fourth book, Dead to the World. There was enough interest in this book universe to check out this dark fantasy HBO series. Nothing could have mentally prepared me for MA rating in terms of profanity, violence/gore, nudity, and sexual content. It was entirely new territory for me. You quickly learn effective coping mechanism to deal with it. Despite all these elements, I got sucked into True Blood universe. For better or worse, I loyally stuck HBO’s True Blood until its final 7th season in August 2014.

The Tudors S1I unintentionally stumbled across Showtime’s The Tudors in spring of 2011. There was much hype months leading up to Will and Kate’s wedding in April 2011. I was very sick the week before the royal wedding which is why I wound up spending hours watching of programming about British monarchy. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was basically sprawled on the couch. BBC America was airing re-runs of The Tudors. I knew basic details of the Tudor dynasty. King Henry VIII and his six wives. Queen Mary (aka Bloody Mary). King Edward VI and Lady Jane Gray. Queen Elizabeth I. I was willing to keep an open-mind and check out The Tudors. Season 2 episodes was my official introduction. I was instantly hooked after a couple episodes. This was my second MA rated premium cable show. There was much less profanity compared to HBO’s True Blood. But nudity, sexual content, and violence/gore were still prevalent themes in this historical drama. At this point, MA rated programs didn’t make me as uncomfortable.

Mainstream fantasy genre usually is set in a Medieval-esque setting while simultaneously incorporating magic and supernatural elements. Lord of the Rings trilogy and HBO’s Game of Thrones are examples of fantasy film adaptations that achieved blockbuster status. Compared to my other fandoms, Game of Thrones has a very extensive universe. After intensely binging seasons 1 to 2, I truly understood the complex nature of the relationships between the major family houses. The cinematography was breathtaking. It enhances the beautifully dynamic storytelling in the plot arcs. I was even more impressed how Game of Thrones seamlessly transitions between the drastically different worlds. For better or worse, many main characters undergo huge transformation over the seasons. Game of Thrones perfectly cast all the major and minor roles too. The incredibly talented cast ensemble brings their characters and the intricate plot arcs to life on the screen. Plus, the cast ensemble has great chemistry. I had no idea how this fantasy HBO drama would be so addictive. I fall more and more in love with Game of Thrones with each consecutive season. Yet, I regret nothing about joining this crazy fandom.

Plus, the orchestral soundtrack music for this TV series beautifully captures the mood of scenes. I listen to a plethora of soundtrack composers. Yet, I’m picky when it comes to my favorite composers. Hans Zimmer has been my all-time favorite for many years. Thanks to Game of Thrones, I was introduced to another phenomenal composer. Ramin Djawadi. HBO’s Game of Thrones helped him earn many industry awards and recognition. Ironically, Ramin worked with Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt. Ramin is well-known as well for his soundtrack scores for Iron Man, Pacific Rim, and HBO’s Westworld to name a couple.

In August 2016, Ramin announced Game of Thrones Live Experience concert 2017 tour. 24 cities across the US and Canada. Thankfully, one of the concert tours were in Washington DC at the Verizon Center arena on March 1, 2017. “Music is Coming” was the promotional tag-line used for the Game of Thrones Live Experience concert. I bought my tickets for this concert on pre-sale not risking it selling out completely. My ticket was approximately $90 with venue and convenience fees. I’d forgotten how huge venues charge much higher fees.

The last concert I attended at a huge arena was Muse’s The Resistance tour in May 2010. So it’s been a while since I’ve been to a huge arena venue for a concert. They’re must different type of experience compared to small or mid-size venues. But it makes sense Game of Thrones Live Experience would go to much bigger venues. A full orchestra complete with a choir is a huge ensemble that requires a larger stage area. That’s almost 80 people in total! Plus, there are custom-made stages built specifically for Game of Thrones Live experience tour concerts. This would be my first orchestral concert. I was quite excited for it!

The day of the concert finally arrived. The travel to DC wasn’t necessarily fun but thankfully there’s public transportation via bus and metro to get to the Verizon Center arena. The place was filled to almost full capacity. People from all walks of life came in droves for the Game of Thrones Live Experience concert. That’s is evidence of the wide diversity in terms of Game of Thrones fans. Some hardcore fans went the extra mile by cosplaying their favorite characters.

My seat wasn’t close to the custom-made stage. I much preferred a comprehensive bird’s eye view for this concert. It is a 360-degree stage. The main stages feature King’s Landing, Winterfell, and other worlds in Game of Thrones. The most packed section of this massive arena were the seats right by the ginormous screen. Other smaller screens were placed around the stage as well. As the orchestra played the songs, a variety of still images and clips from Game of Thrones were played on the plethora of screens for each performance.

Earlier I mentioned how much a love the orchestral soundtrack music for this HBO premium cable show. It’s even more incredible to hear it played live! Words cannot even begin to describe how mind-blowing it is. There are quintessential orchestral songs from the show. The main title, Rains of Castamere, Mhysa, Light of the Seven to name a few. Yet, Ramin featured a wide selection of well-known and lesser known orchestral tracks. Essentially a highlight of songs from over the past six season. This was a phenomenal orchestral concert and totally lived up to its hype! This was a huge-scale production. Ramin really went all out for Game of Thrones Live Experience concert.

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Recently, Ramin Djwaldi announced Game of Thrones Live Experience 2018 North America and Europe tour dates. I hope to go again in September 2018. For the Washington DC tour date, there is even a Game of Thrones exhibition experience option.

In anticipation for the Season 7, a Game of Thrones-themed pop-up bar (PUB) opened in Washington DC. Drink Company and Ommegang Brewery collaborated together on this Game of Thrones PUB. This 3,000 square foot pop-up bar features four distinct rooms. The Red Keep, Winterfell, The House of Black and White along with Hall of Faces, and Meeren. There’s even a separate throne room with a replica of the Iron Throne. People have opportunity to take a photo on the Iron Throne replica with props. Game of Thrones PUB was open from June 21st to August 27th. This pop-up bar closed at 7 pm on Sundays so people could watch Game of Thrones Season 7 episodes without spoilers. As anticipated, there is a long wait to get into this venue even during the week day. It is recommended to go during the week day rather than weekend as the wait time is slightly less. The hours of operation for the week are Monday to Thursday 5 pm to 12:30 am, Friday to Saturday 5:30 pm to 1:30 am, and Sunday 1-7 pm.

On August 14th, I finally had the opportunity to check out Game of Thrones pop-up bar in DC with my friend, Doris. It was Monday. Luckily, it is located nearby the Shaw-Howard U Metro stop. We waited nearly 1.5 to 2 hours in line before getting inside the Game of Thrones PUB venue.  The wait was so worth it!

Got PUB The Red Keep

(Source: https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/game-of-thrones-pub-pop-up-bar-open-in-dc)

You enter the Red Keep themed room upon stepping into the venue. The highlight of this room is the colorful banners of the major houses in Game of Thrones. Here you can pledge allegiance to your favorite family house(s).  My friend and I ventured to the other three room. The House of Black and White themed room wasn’t as colorful. More neutral tone room colors. The highlight of this room is the 3D displays of House of Faces along the wall opposite the bar. The door entry that leads into the Winterfell themed room is fittingly appropriate. It’s the wooden gate on the ice wall of Castle Black. There’s even an ice pick stuck in the ice wall. The highlight of the Winterfell room is obviously the white Wierwood tree with its vibrant red leaves. The House of White and Black, Winterfell, and Red Keep rooms even had intricately beautiful mural paintings on the glass windows facing the main street. Meeren is the only themed room that had no windows as it was located in the back of the venue. This is one of the darker colored rooms. There are two intensely awesome mural paintings of Daenerys’s dragons along the black walls. Also, a 3D dragon comes out of the wall breathing “fire” mist into this room. Songs of Harpy outfits and skulls hang on the wall by the bar. Each of the bar rooms are exquisitely detailed-oriented to its theme. Plus, orchestral tracks from TV show plays on loud speakers in each of the four rooms. I’d say my favorite of the four rooms is Winterfell themed bar area.

Got PUB Winterfell

(Source: https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/game-of-thrones-pub-pop-up-bar-open-in-dc)

img_2352It makes sense this themed pop-up bar would offer alcoholic drinks with Game of Thrones inspired names. The North Remembers. Dothraquiri. The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors. Dracarys. Lady Mormont. The Lannisters Send Their Regards. The Imp’s Delight. What is Dead May Never Die. Valar Morghulis, Valar Dohaeris. Shame. I Drink and I Know Things. Milk of Poppy. Some of these drinks come in specialty Game of Thrones glassware such as The North Remembers. Whenever someone orders a Shame cocktail, bartenders will ring a bell in unison while loudly chanting “shame”. People in the vicinity of bar area are encouraged to join in the chanting as well. It’s quite intriguing and amusing. I personally don’t drink but I could still appreciate these pun-tastically awesome cocktail names.

My purpose of going to Game of Thrones pop-up bar was to get my picture on the replica of Iron Throne. Doris and I waited almost two hours just to get into the place. Then, we had to wait another 1.5 hours before it was our turn to take pictures on the Iron Throne replica. This Iron Throne photo opportunity was in an entirely separate room. There are sigils of the four main Game of Thrones families on the wall above the Iron Throne. House Stark. House. Targaryen. House Baratheon. House Lannister. The staff lets you wear a heavy fur cloak for this photo op. I was hoping there might be a sword prop as well. Not quite. Anyway, it got to our turn. Doris chose to wear the heavy fur cloak when it was her turn to sit on the Iron Throne. I opted not to wear the heavy fur cloak for sanitary reasons. Plus, I’d specifically worn my Game of Thrones tee for this reason. I got that black Game of Thrones logo shirt in the HBO shop a couple years ago. The staff gives you only a couple minutes to take photos on Iron Throne replica. The line for this photo opportunity is very long. So the staff had to keep the line moving as per the electronic wait list order.

Overall, I had a blast hanging out in the Game of Thrones pop-up bar. Doris and I spent nearly 4-ish hours inside the PUB. So much details to absorb in each of the four bar areas. Some people even cosplayed their favorite Game of Thrones characters. In fact, this is encouraged for attendees if they’re willing to put in the extra time and effort. One woman had an awesome Daenerys Targaryen cosplay outfit. I made sure to get a photo with her before leaving the pop-up bar. Also, all the bartenders were in appropriate outfits for their assigned theme bar area.

It was free to visit the Game of Thrones PUB. There was no cover fee. You didn’t have to be 21 or up either to enter this venue. But the staff carded everyone to stamp individuals who were old enough to drink alcohol. Whether you drink or not, you can have a great time at Game of Thrones pop-up bar. I’m glad they chose Washington DC as the location for it!

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I plan on reading A Song of Fire and Ice book series by George R.R. Martin after Game of Thrones TV series has ended. Luckily, my college friend, Kaitlyn, gave me her extra paperback copies of books one to four. I pride myself on being an avid bookworm. Yet, I can admit these books are very dense and not light reading material.

Outlander S1 promo posterI’ve started to experience Game of Thrones withdrawal symptoms. I needed some TV show recommendations. Awhile back, I got Starz’s Outlander pilot episode free on iTunes. It has been a long time since I’ve watched a historical drama television show. Let alone a premium cable historical drama series. So I decided to give Outlander a chance. That was on September 10th. Almost a month later, I’m only 7 episodes away from being fully caught up with the current season 3. This historical show is so damn addictive. I can’t believe I didn’t start it much earlier. At least, I’m on the fandom wagon now. Now, I just need to keep myself occupied with other TV shows the next two years. Game of Thrones Season 8 will most likely only air in 2019. That’s two years of agonizing wait for the final season. That’s why I need other TV shows to not dwell on that tormenting thought.

True Blood and The Tudors whetted my appetite for MA rated premium cable shows. From 2010 to present, I’ve watched my fair share of MA rated premium cable TV shows. HBO’s True Blood, Showtime’s The Tudors, Starz’s Camelot, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, HBO’s Generation Kill, Showtime’s House of Lies, and HBO’s Game of Thrones, and Starz’s Outlander. Quite a variety of genres. In my opinion, premium cable programs have better cinematography and storytelling compared to majority of popular prime-time TV shows.

All Time Low

ATL Logo_1A little over a year ago, I stumbled across All Time Low’s music. It was on a random whim too. Last summer I obsessively watched Andy Black and Black Veil Brides videos on YouTube. All Time Low’s music videos for “Kids in the Dark” and “Love Like War” popped up in my suggested video section. It piqued my curiosity. I’d somehow never heard of this band despite listening to rock genre since 2006. “Kids in the Dark” and “Love Like War” were love at first listen. Ten years ago, pop punk and hard rock genres were my introduction to rock music. That’s why I will always be biased towards pop punk sub-genre.

I’ll provide some background information about All Time Low. This rock band is from Baltimore, Maryland. The band consists of four band members. Alex Gaskarth is the lead vocalist as well as rhythm guitarist. Jack Barakat is the lead guitarist. Zack Merrick is the bass guitarist. Jack and Zack provide backing vocals as well. Rian Dawson is the drummer. All four band members have been friends since high school.

all-time-low-members.jpg(Members in order from left to right: Rian Dawson, Alex Gaskarth, Zack Merrick, and Jack Barakat)

All Time Low formed in 2003. All Time Low started out as a cover band performing Blink-182 and Green Day songs. They have released seven studio albums since 2005. The Party Scene in July 2005. So Wrong, It’s Right in September 2007. Nothing Personal in July 2009. Dirty Work in June 2011. Don’t Panic in October 2012. Future Hearts in April 2015. Last Young Renegades in June 2017.

Pop punk genre was a huge part of my life from 2006-2010. Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Green Day, Cobra Starship, Avril Lavigne, and Boys Like Girls to name a few. All Time Low tackles a variety of subject matters in their songs. Even heavier lyrical themes are wrapped up into a catchy, upbeat tempo and pop-influenced melodies. In fact, emo pop is fusion of emo and pop punk genres. Emo pop was a popular rock sub-genre during the mid-2000’s. Pop punk and emo pop genres were an important part of my early to late teenage years.

Future Hearts album was released in April 2015. This album was my official introduction to All Time Low’s music. It was love at first listen. The two promotion singles for Future Hearts were “Something’s Gotta Give” and “Kids in the Dark”. My favorite non-single songs include “The Edge of Tonight”, “Dancing with a Wolf”, and “Old Scars/ Future Hearts”. Future Hearts continued the band’s musical evolution. There are still heavy elements of pop punk. Yet, All Time Low was slowly shifting to a polished pop rock musical style. Last Young Renegades was their official transition to pop rock genre.

ATL logo

After getting into All Time Low, I proceed to listen to all their albums. I’m aware most longtime All Time Low fans are biased to So Wrong, It’s Right and Nothing Personal albums. I appreciate these albums. But my favorite older All Time Low albums are Dirty Work and Don’t Panic. From start to finish, I loved these studio albums much more.

After randomly discovering this band, I fell head over heels in love with All Time Low’s music within a few months. I haven’t felt like this in a long time. There is a plethora of pop punk bands. But something about All Time Low’s music instantly hooked me. I needed more of their music in my life. In a way, it had a Fall Out Boy-esque vibe. Talk about nostalgic flashback to 2007. Ironically, All Time Low was one of the supporting acts for Fall Out Boy on Believers Never Die Tour Part Deux in spring of 2009. All Time Low’s music transports me to a carefree time during my early teenage years. Life was much simpler during this nostalgic time.

The lead vocalist in one of the main reasons people listen to an artist or band. That’s certainly why I fell in love with my favorite rock bands. Pop punk and emo pop lead singers usually tend to have tenor vocal range. Alex Gaskarth has two octaves vocal range. That’s limited but not necessarily uncommon within pop punk sub-genre. Yet, I’m quite impressed by Alex’s incredible pitch control on recorded albums and during live performances. Plus, Alex does slightly exaggerated enunciation while singing. This provides clarity of what he is singing. His tenor vocals are still emotively soulful.

It only took 11 years to discover All Time Low’s music. But better late than never. I attended my first All Time Low concert on August 2, 2017. Day 1 of two night Baltimore hometown shows on The Young Renegade tour. (Side note: Rams Head Live is a fantastic venue! I was last here in February for AFI’s The Blood tour.) There were two ticket options for the Baltimore hometown concerts. General admission for $33. General admission, digital download of Last Young Renegades album, and table signing session for $43. I wanted to get the full experience for my first All Time Low concert. So worth paying additional $10 more for table signing session and digital download of the new album. I purchased my ticket on pre-sale back in early March. August 2nd and August 3rd tickets sold out within 1.5 days tickets went on sale to the public. Both ticket options were sold out! Rams Head Live released some more tickets…and those sold out like hot cakes. Damn that’s crazy! Plus, the Baltimore hometown shows were the first dates to sell out on All Time Low’s The Young Renegades US tour.

ATL Last Young Renegade tour poster

My concert preparation is making Spotify playlist of music from the headliner and opening supporting bands. In my concert experiences, the bands who open for the headliner have similar music style. Setlists help me narrow the songs the headliner will play during their set. Sometimes, a couple songs might change in the setlist. Yet, the headliner(s) typically sticks to the setlist. There is heavy emphasis on songs from the tour promoted album. Other older hit singles and few songs from more recent albums get thrown into the concert’s setlist.

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The day of the All Time Low concert finally arrived!  I was bubbling with excitement the night before the concert. Table signing session ticket holders had to arrive at Rams Head Live venue before 2 pm to check in. It was around one o’clock when I arrived at the venue. I began chatting with other concert goers in my vicinity. This was the only way to pass the hours before the table signing session with the band members. Apparently, I was one of the few people who had never attended an All Time Low concert. It was at least the second or third time for most of the concert goers.

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Danny, one of All Time Low’s crew members, checked in all the people for the table signing and meet & greet around 2 o’clock. The two groups were given different color wrist bands. Almost another 1.5 to 2 hours passed. I bonded with two girls who drove from PA for All Time Low’s hometown shows. It wasn’t until almost 4 pm when the line was ready for the table signing session. Most of us didn’t bring anything for the All Time Low band members to sign anyway. Thankfully, everyone for table signing option would get a free poster.

The line was quite long for the table signing session. I was somewhere in the middle of the long hallway when the table signing session kicked off. Twenty to thirty minutes passed before I was in the general area of the table signing session. My heart rate drastically increased upon seeing the band members less than 50 feet away. I could feel the excitement and nerves building up inside of me.

All Time Low band members sat in the order of Jack, Rian, Alex, and Zack. I forced myself to practice calm breathing exercises. I have tendency to stumble over my words when in the presence of my actor or band biases. Plus, you have less than one minute of interaction with each of them during the table signing. It’s important to keep the message concise yet still meaningful. To keep it simple, I’d tell the band members how excited I was for my first All Time Low concert in our hometown.

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img_2002-1There were five people ahead of me. I felt an exuberant fangirl smile forming on my lips. But I had to suppress it and maintain a casual thankful smile. I placed the free poster on the table in front of Jack. My hand started to shake. I managed to say my message without fumbling over my own words. Jack smiled at me then proceed to compliment my Linkin Park Hybrid Theory band tee. My heart exploded with feels. My heart was racing with overjoyed emotions. Jack Barakat is my favorite of the four members. It meant so much to me just to be given a simple compliment on my Linkin Park tee. At this point, I lost ability to say my terse message to the Rian, Alex, and Zack. I merely thanked them for this opportunity. When they were right in front of me, I couldn’t take photos without it being obvious my hands were shaking from the excitement. So I quickly snapped a couple photos before getting to my turn and at the end after the last member signed my poster. The staff efficiently moved the people in the line. All Time Low had to transition to the meet and greet session right after the table signing.

img_2003It was five o’clock in the afternoon when I transitioned outside after the table signing session. My hands were actually shaking pretty bad. Adrenaline was still coursing through me. It took another 10 minutes to breath normally. I stopped suppressing my joyous fangirl grin too. After composing myself, I realized I still had nearly an hour before being let into the venue. Venue was only letting in concert goers at 6 pm. No point in waiting in General Admission line that long. Plus, I needed to buy some food and water as it’s cheaper outside of Ram’s Head Live venue. Those two PA girls and I meandered nearby for food and water. Thankfully the weather had cooled down when we returned back into GA line. One of the Ram’s Head staff began rounding up anyone with a colored wrist band. We’d get to sit inside the same long hallway while waiting in GA line to get into the venue.

It wasn’t until 6:30 pm when I walked into the concert venue. There was a decent crowd on the ground floor in the pit area. I figured it was best to buy All Time Low merchandise before they went on later in that evening. The items at the merchandise was reasonably priced considering The Young Renegade tour date shirt was only $25.

img_2087I contemplated if I wanted to be on the ground floor or first balcony floor. I’d gotten my adrenaline rush of being close to the main stage thanks to AFI concert and Firefly music festival. I wanted to switch things up. Plus, I wanted to document my first All Time Low concert with good photos. It’s almost impossible to get decent photos while in the massive pit crowd on the ground floor. I wanted to leisurely enjoy the concert too. Not worry about being shoved and elbowed by random people during the concert.

The Wrecks, Waterparks, and Swmrs were the supporting acts for All Time Low. The concert started promptly at 7 o’clock. I allotted approximately 30 minutes for each opening band. Sometimes, people only come when the main act comes on stage. But I personally find that rude to the opening acts. They’re fledging bands trying to gain more audience for their music. So, I listen to the support bands with an open-mind. You never know if you’ll like their music until you actually give it a chance. I like to expand my musical tastes. Also, the opening acts will have similar musical style to the main act. I legit enjoyed the songs from The Wrecks, Waterparks, and Swmrs sets. Each band has different performance styles. They were all entertaining in their own ways. It’s the first time I actually enjoyed all of the opening bands at one of my concerts.

Despite some delays in between set-up for opening bands, All Time Low got on the main stage at 9 pm. I had no idea what to expect with it being my first ATL concert. I was buzzing with excitement. They performed a jam-packed 20 song setlist. A mixture of songs from older albums but with heavier emphasis on songs off Last Young Renegades album.

All Time Low hometown show setlist

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I prefer it if a band sounds as good live as on their recorded studio albums. But it’s even better when they blow me away by sounding even more incredible live than on their studio albums. Alex and Jack are the ones who usually talk during live concert performances. They didn’t fail to provide hilarious entertaining banter between the songs. There were plenty of comedic moments during their set. You could tell all four band members were having a blast throughout the set. I had an absolute blast too. Singing and fully rocking out! By the end of the night, I was so exhausted but in a good way. All Time Low certainly knows how to energetically engage the crowd at their concerts.

I’ve heard of the tradition of girls throwing bras onto stage at rock concerts. Yet, I’d never personally witnessed this at any of my rock concerts. That changed the night of my first All Time Low concert on August 2, 2017. Throughout their set, eight to ten bras were thrown on stage. Jack took the extra effort to evenly distribute the bras on each of the members’ microphones stands. There are many reason Jack Barakat is my bias among the four All Time Low members. Most of all, he has such a lovably weird personality. He has awesome hairstyles too.

I’ve been to my fair share of rock concert over the past decade. But certain rock bands stand out in terms of their outstanding live performances. I will always love the band I’ve been fortunate to see live. Boys Like Girls, The Academy Is, Paramore, Relient K, Fall Out Boy, Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch, and Switchfoot to name a few. Yet, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Muse, and Panic! at the Disco have been my all-time favorite live concerts to date. Now, All Time Low gets to join this elite rank.

I’m glad that my first All Time Low concert was during their two-night hometown shows in Baltimore, MD. It has formed special, unforgettable memories. You never forget the first time you had the opportunity to see your favorite artists/bands live in concert.

Thanks to my concerts over the years, I’ve had the chance to check out a variety of concert venues. Pier 6 Pavilion.  Merriweather Post Pavilion. 1st Mariner Arena (now called Royals Farms Arena). Shippenburg University. U Street Music Hall. Verizon Center. Ram’s Head Live. Baltimore Soundstage. Small, mid-size, and large venues offer different types of concert experiences. I consider concerts as one of my many passionate hobbies.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spiderman Homecoming

(WARNING: There are minor and major spoilers about Spider-man: Homecoming in this blog post!)

Spider-man is one of my favorite superheroes. My appreciation for Marvel movies formed between 2006 and 2007. X-men and Spider were my official introduction to Marvel universe. Marvel Studios gave licensing film rights of Spider-man to Columbia Pictures, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures, in early 2000s. But Spider-man was not technically part of the official Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) until Captain America: Civil War in 2016. Spider-man: Homecoming is the first collaboration between Marvel Studios and Columbia Pictures. Sony Pictures will still own, finance, distribute, and exercise creative control over Spider-man films. Yet, Marvel Studios now has opportunity to include other characters from MCU in upcoming Spider-man films. In fact, Marvel had been wanting to add Spider-man’s character to the MCU since 2014.

Three is the magical number for Marvel trilogies. So the new reboot of the Spider-man movie franchise will have a total of three films. Plus, Spider-man will likely make cameo appearances in future MCU films.

Spider-Man_3,_International_PosterAround the time I discovered Spider-man franchise, Tobey Maguire was the actor portraying Peter Parker/Spider-man. I remember the exact date too. May 13, 2007. I decided to watch Spider-man 3 on random whim on Mother’s Day. Nine days after its theatrical release. Despite missing many references about previous films, I understood it enough to form an appreciation for the character of Spider-man. It wasn’t until watching Spider-man and Spider-man 2 that I truly formed a bias for this character. Peter Parker is one of the most relatable characters in Marvel universe. Unfortunately, Spider-man 3 was overall poorly reviews by critics and fans in general. But I refuse to let disgruntled critics and fans influence how I feel about a film. I’ll form my own opinion even it goes against what majority says about it. I’m part of the very small minority who actually enjoyed Spider-3. As a whole, it was a good sequel even with its considerably darker cinematic tone.

I cannot tolerate the second reboot of Spider-man movie franchise. Andrew Garfield is a good actor, but I don’t feel he did this role justice. I legit struggled to get through The Amazing Spider-man movies. The casting for the main cast in this reboot was the main reason I was unable to connect with it. It didn’t feel right to me. I don’t like to acknowledge the existence of this second reboot. That’s all I’ll say about The Amazing Spider-man reboot.

With each reboot, the character of Peter Parker gets younger and younger. From latter high school/early college age to early high school age. This made me a bit skeptical.

Marvel Studios announced yet another reboot of Spider-man franchise in February 2015. The third reboot. As the phrase goes, third time is a charm. Tom Holland was cast as the new Peter Parker. Honestly, I was skeptical. Tobey Maguire will always be MY Spider-man. He really did justice to this role. Yet, I was going to be open-minded and wait until official trailers for Spider-man: Homecoming came out. Tom Holland technically already made his first appearance as Spider-man in Captain America: Civil War. I was intrigued but not entirely sure how I felt about his portrayal of Peter Parker yet. The new redesigned Spider-man suit hadn’t grown on me yet. Only time would tell if I was actually going to check out Spider-man: Homecoming in theaters.

Spiderman Homecoming_2On various marketing platforms, Marvel starts heavily promoting its films one to two months before its release date. You’ll see plenty of TV trailer spots played during primetime hours on TV channels. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming at times. I don’t recall seeing too many Spider-man: Homecoming TV trailer spots.

On June 5th, my friend, Alyssa, texted me to inquire if I wanted to join her seeing the movie on opening day. I was still on the fence about Tom Holland. She wanted to see IMAX 3D format which is almost $15 with taxes. Luckily, I had a AMC Theatre gift card so it would be basically free. So why not? Plus, IMAX 3D format has clearer image and sound quality. I was game. I was going to approach this Spider-man reboot with an open-mind.

To date, I have seen Spider-man: Homecoming twice in theaters in IMAX 3D format. That is how much I’ve enjoyed it. Sony Pictures decided to do away with incorporating the origin story of Peter Parker. It assumes the audience knows he was bitten by a radioactive spider which gave his extraordinary abilities. Also, it doesn’t drudge up Peter’s painful past of losing his Uncle Ben. This reboot features the younger version of Aunt May. Spider-man: Homecoming is a breath of fresh air for this beloved superhero franchise!

The movie picks up two months after Captain America: Civil War events. Peter is very optimistic that Tony will keep in him in the fold about any upcoming Avenger missions. No updates. Tony Stark even tells Peter he isn’t ready to become a full Avenger yet. So, he resumes his “normal” life. He quit almost all his extra-curriculum clubs to focus on being Queen’s friendly neighborhood Spider-man. Peter Parker struggles to find a balance between being the friendly neighborhood Spider-man and a “normal” high school student at Midtown School of Science and Technology.

Tony Stark makes many cameos throughout Spider-man: Homecoming. He personally recruited Peter Parker to join him to fight in Captain America: Civil War. Afterwards, Tony continues to maintain a mentor/mentee relationship with young Peter. Tony Stark is a father figure in a way to Peter as well.

Being a mentor and father figure, this is very unfamiliar territory. Peter decides to play in the big leagues by fighting against dangerous criminals. Tony soon realizes Peter needs some guidance and direction as he grows into his role as a superhero. On some occasions, he must harshly reprimand Peter for his reckless behavior. Peter is a young kid who is still growing into his new powers. The Staten Island Ferry situation was the last straw for Tony. He takes the Spider-man suit back. If Peter is nothing without it then he shouldn’t have the multimillion dollar suit at all. Tony wants to reinforce “with great powers come great responsibility” philosophy. In the Iron Man movies, Tony himself struggled with the conundrum of whether the suit makes the man or the man makes the suit. Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr. brilliantly portrayed the dynamic relationship between Peter Parker and Tony Stark.

Vulture is the featured villain in the film. It was initially hard to gauge this character based off the official trailers and TV spots. I was worried Vulture being a predictable villain. Wow how wrong I was. In a flashback scene, the opening scene establishes the backstory for Adrian Toomes aka Vulture. Adrian and his salvage crew were contracted to clean up the mess Loki and his Chitauri army wrecked on New York City in The Avengers. Tony Stark’s Department of Damage Control (DODC) take over the operations ultimately putting Toomes out business. He refused to hand over one small loot of Chitauri wreckage. A lightbulb went off. Adrian could continue business by making advanced weaponry using the Chitauri parts. Eight years later, Adrian and his crew become successful black market arms dealers in high-tech weapons to the highest bidder. They formed a profitable niche market. Vulture is multi-faceted character. Everything he does is to take care of his wife and daughter. Plus, he is tired of how rich people don’t care about the well-being of the “little people”. So, Adrian decided to turn the tables. Vulture isn’t a typical MCU villain.

I had no idea how Spider-man would come across the Vulture and his crew. This aspect of plot was fleshed out in different stages. It kept the audience on their toes. I totally wasn’t expecting the plot twist of Adrian Toomes being Liz’s father. Peter is put in a tricky situation. He has opportunity take his love interest, Liz, to the Homecoming dance. Yet, he cannot ignore how Vulture and his crew dangerous weapons are a danger to society. Peter ditches the Homecoming dance to ensure Vulture doesn’t get his hands on any weapons being transported on DODC carrier in route to new Avengers headquarters in upstate New York. Spider-man and Vulture engage in intense fighting sequences on the DODC carrier and on a beach near Coney Island. Peter Parker must combat his enemy in his homemade Spider-man costume. This puts him a slight disadvantage. Despite being battered and bruised, Peter keeps going until he has defeated the Vulture. No matter his feelings about Adrian’s criminal behavior, Peter makes sure Liz’s father is still alive in the end even when his flying apparatus becomes unstable and explodes. Spider-man: Homecoming beautifully explores the complex nature of humanity in the relationship between Spider-man and Vulture.

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Within the first hour, you learn more about Peter Parker and the environment of Midtown Science and Technology. This is no ordinary high school. Nope. Only very smart students attend this high school. It’s quite evident Peter Parker isn’t a social butterfly at his high school. He mainly hangs out with his best friend, Ned. Occasionally, Peter interacts with members of his school’s academic decathlon. He mostly keeps to himself. There are only two people he is very close with. Aunt May and Ned.

Spider-man: Homecoming explores the theme of Peter learning the struggles of being a teenage superhero. No adult will take him seriously including his mentor, Tony Stark, and Happy Hogan. Let alone give him opportunity to take on a bigger role to fulfill his superhero destiny. Tony Stark even included “training wheel protocol” code to prevent Peter from having access to his suit’s advanced features. Peter expresses his frustration on being treated like a kid often throughout the film. Yet, Peter’s foreshadowed warnings is only seriously considered after Hogan realizes the DODC transport carrier is in imminent danger. At least Peter had his trusty best friend, Ned, by his side.

From start to finish, Michelle aka MJ played by Zendaya has a very low-key role in the movie’s plot. This character occasionally appears in some scenes saying no more than a few lines. Yet, her dialogue usually provided moments of unintentional comedy. Spider-man: Homecoming wanted to downplay Michelle’s role in the first movie of the Spider-man reboot.  I’m curious how they’ll develop the romantic relationship between Peter and Michelle in the sequels. Now they’re mere acquaintances who happen to be in similar social circles.

Compared to previous Spider-man films, the third reboot took a different approach to Eugene “Flash” Thompson’s character. Flash, the star high school football player,  mercilessly bullies Peter Parker. Flash Thompson is a physically abusive bully in the previous two Spider-man reboots. Spider-man: Homecoming depicts this characters more as an emotionally abusive bully. The verbal bullying consists of relentlessly cruel taunts. The new reboot didn’t want to copy some elements of the previous Spider-man movie franchises.

Being part of MCU, we saw some familiar faces. Tony Stark, Aunt May, Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts. But I loved how the many of the major and minor characters were unfamiliar faces in the MCU. I’m sure Ned and Michelle will be playing larger roles in the sequels. Plus, the cast ensemble was diverse. It’s hard to find diversity in superhero genre films.

Spiderman Homecoming_1Spider-man: Homecoming struck a good balance of light-hearted, comedic, and serious tones in the dialogue amongst the characters. I really enjoyed the exchanges between Peter Parker and Karen, the artificial intelligence in Spider-man’s suit. Most Marvel Cinematic Universe movies tend to be slightly more serious in tone with small injections of dark humor. That’s why the new Spider-man reboot is a breath of fresh air for MCU. The light-hearted and comedic moments didn’t feel forced or awkward at all.

Most of all, Tom Holland vastly impressed me with his portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-man. After his cameo in Captain America: Civil War, I was still skeptical about the Spider-man reboot. He definitely won me over in Spider-man: Homecoming. I will always love Tobey Maguire. Yet, Tom Holland brilliantly portrays the aspects of Peter Parker and Spider-man. His facial expressions beautifully conveyed emotion even when there was no dialogue in the scene. Plus, he had great chemistry with the cast ensemble. This made the on-screen interactions more believable too. Overall, he did justice to this iconic role.

I look forward the upcoming Spider-man reboot sequels. Plus, Peter Parker/Spider-man will be featured in three other MCU films including Avengers: Infinity Wars. Spanning many generations, Spider-man continues to capture the hearts of audiences.

I’ll leave you with the hilariously awesome Lip Sync Battle between Tom Holland and Zendaya. Once you’ve seen it, it cannot be unseen. This actually made me appreciate Tom Holland even more.

 

Firefly Festival 2017

Concerts are highly enjoyable experiences. It’s one of my many recreational hobbies. I love listening music like everyone else. But we all have our favorite artists/bands we’d love to see live in concert someday. I’ve gone to my fair share of Christian and secular artist/band concerts.

In July 2009, I attended my first secular concert. mtvU Sunblock music festival. The co-headliners were Boys Like Girls and Gym Class Heroes with supporting acts of The Academy Is, The Veronicas, and Never Shout Never. I paid somewhere between $25-$30 for my ticket. That’s ridiculously cheap for a music festival! In preparation for Sunblock music festival, I formed an appreciation for Boys Like Girls and The Academy Is. I’d been a fan of The Veronicas since 2006.

In general, there is only one music festival which I attended devoted three years back-to-back. Creation Festival Northeast in Mount Union, PA. I attended this four-day Christian music festival with my church youth group from 9th to 11th grade. I absolutely hate camping. Nature and I are not usually one with each other. But I made one exception for Creation Fest. The camping experience is not part of the fond memories of this music festival. Yet the opportunity to see my favorite Christian rock bands overshadowed the misery of camping. The summer of 2010 was the last time I attended Creation Fest.

Firefly Festival 2017 Lineup

Firefly Festival in Dover Woodlands was my first music festival in seven years! Also, it was my first secular music festival since mtvU’s Sunblock music festival. I had a day pass ticket for Sunday. I would have loved to see AFI and Franz Ferdinand on the main stage on Friday. Yet, I wasn’t going to pay another $109 for a General Admission day pass. It was more important I see Thirty Seconds to Mars and Muse on Sunday.

Musical festival requires lots of mental and physical preparation. I can deal with regular concerts as they’re no longer than 5 hours. But music festivals are an entirely different thing. You will be walking around music festival grounds for at least 7 hours if you want to get your money’s worth of the GA day pass. The best thing about music festivals how you can meander around the massive grounds and casually listen to other artists or bands on the non-main stages. You might just discover new artists or band that sparks your interest. Always approach music festivals with an open-mind. I’m aware people come to music festivals to see certain artists. But you’ll regret approaching such a music event with a narrow-minded attitude. Soak in the whole musical festival experience! It will certainly push you out of your comfort zone.

Firefly Festival 2017 MapFirefly Festival was held this year between June 15th to June 18th. I don’t like going to music festival alone. It isn’t as fun to be honest. One of my college friends, Kaitlyn, and I headed Firefly Festival on June 18, 2017 in Dover, Delaware.

It only took a little over 2 hours to arrive here. Festival goers walk 15-20 minutes from the parking lot at Dover International Speedway to get to Dover Woodlands area. You’re basically walking right on the highway that has been blocked off entirely for this music festival. The actual festival grounds cover approximately 105 acres of Dover Woodlands.

The wooded area surrounding most of this music festival venue provides lovely breeze throughout the humid day. Even if you were in the open area near the multiple stages. It’s essential you remain hydrated with enough water throughout the day at any music festival! Firefly festival had multiple water re-filling stations located throughout the Woodlands area.

Surprising, this music festival had a wide array of food stalls. Food will cost on average of $8 to $10 depending on the food vendor. All types of ethnic foods. Sweet and savory foods. You certainly didn’t have to worry about limited food selection here.

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My friend and I finally got to Firefly festival grounds around 12 noon. Thirty Seconds to Mars wasn’t performing on Firefly main stage until 6:45 pm. That’s almost 6 hours to kill before main stage performances. Walking from one end to the other, we explored the expansive festival grounds. So many fascinating nooks and food stands. Comfortable walking shoes are must for any music festival as you’ll do extensive amounts of walking throughout the day. I personally rather not sacrifice practicality just to look cute. I could care less. Sneakers are the best way to go for comfort. Walking around festival grounds, it was surprising how two or three hours fly by.

Kaitlyn and I ventured through the various stages. Firefly Festival has seven music stages. The Porch stage. The Lawn stage. The Backyard stage. The Treehouse stage. The Backyard stage. The Coffee House. The Pavilion. Firefly main stage.  Even the “smallest” stage is still sizable.

We did check out some of the lesser known artists before meandering back to main stage area. I really enjoyed the 888’s music. This alternative indie band from Denver performed on The Porch stage. During certain times of the day, you can even hear music coming from different stages at the same time. All vying for your attention.

I anticipated a huge crowd for Thirty Seconds to Mars who were performing on main stage at 6:45 pm. My prior music festival experience taught me many valuable lessons. Most of all, you must arrive one to two hours early to get a good spot within 20 feet of the main stage. In a previous blog post, I expressed that I’ve been longtime fan of Thirty Seconds to Mar’s music. So I finally fulfilled my dream of seeing them live in concert. It only took 8 years. There was no way I was getting a crappy spot for this concert at Firefly main stage. Luckily, my friend and I squeezed into a good viewing spot about 15 feet away from stage. There were no tall dudes blocking our view either. That’s 50/50 chance when you’re at any concert. When Thirty Seconds to Mars kicked off their setlist, there was a pretty sizable crowd behind us. I had no idea where it even ended. There was hardly one pace step of space around me. Over time, I’ve learned to deal with cramped space in a large crowd situation at concerts.

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One hour quickly turned into less than 30 minutes. My body was buzzing with excitement. When Thirty Seconds to Mars members walked on stage, I broke out in a huge grin. I almost cried tears of joy too. I’ve waited a long time for this dream to become a reality.

Thirty Seconds to Mars delivered an incredible setlist. There was a good balance of songs from their older and more recent albums. (Side note: Jared always plays one acoustic song during the set. I like the song “The Kill” but I would have preferred to hear “Hurricane” as the acoustic song.) Their setlist only consisted of 9 songs in total. Yet, they delivered energetic and dynamic 75 minutes set. Thirty Seconds to Mars performed on Firefly main stage from 6:45 to 8:00 pm.

Thirty Seconds to Mars Firefly Festival 2017 setlist

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Jared Leto wore an eccentric ensemble yet surprisingly pulled off this ensemble. He also provided entertaining commentary between the songs as well. In the earlier part of the set, Jared threw packaged popsicles into the crowd. It was so damn hot standing in that crowd. There’s truly never a dull moment with Thirty Seconds to Mars.

My friend and I had great views of the entire stage. I only had one slight annoyance about being 15-20 feet away from main stage. We were situated in the area where crowd surfers passed over us. You’ll always get the occasional crowd surfer at music festivals. But Jared definitely encouraged and instigated a higher influx of crowd surfers during their set. Dealing with back-to-back crowd surfers, my friend and I basically couldn’t enjoy the last song in Thirty Seconds to Mars’s set. Otherwise, I had an absolute blast during Thirty Second to Mars’s set on the main stage. It was everything I imagined it would be…and even more mind-blowingly incredible.

(Random note: Kaitlyn and I were leisurely having an early dinner around 4-ish pm. Suddenly there’s a loud sound a helicopter. We’re sitting in the vicinity near the entrance of the festival grounds. The helicopter circulates around this vicinity for almost 20 minutes. It descends to the ground then takes flight into the skies again. My friend and I thought it was possibly a local news channel filming a segment about Firefly Festival. Nope. I had forgot about this entirely until I checked my Snapchat stories within that hour. It turns out Thirty Seconds to Mars flew in to Firefly Festival via helicopter. They were in New York City the day before to fit in some time to work on recording songs for their upcoming fifth album. Thirty Seconds to Mars decided to make a grand entrance onto the woodland festival grounds. They’re so extra. It’s one of the many reasons I love those three adorkably awesome guys.)

After Thirty Seconds to Mars finished their set, Kaitlyn and I decided to take a water refill break for some fresh air. The air was so stuffy around us. Yet, it was worth being getting that close to main stage. Muse’s set would only start at 9:15 pm. We had still had a little over an hour before their set. This gave us the opportunity to meander around close to the main stage. I’d gotten the thrill of being less than 20 feet from main stage for Thirty Seconds to Mars. That was all I could handle for one day. We decided to stay close to main stage but not as close for Muse’s set. Muse would be playing on Firefly main stage from 9:15 to 10:45 pm. They were basically wrapping up Firefly Festival 2017.

In fact, it would be my second time to see Muse live in concert. Let’s rewind seven years back to May 2010. I saw them on The Resistance tour at First Mariner Bank Arena in Baltimore, MD. I knew they would blow away the Firefly Festival crowd with mind-blowing performances.

Thankfully the main stage has more than enough grassy areas. My friend and I needed to rest our feet before securing a good spot for Muse’s set. We weren’t going to stand for a whole hour again. The massive crowd from Thirty Seconds to Mars’s set had mostly dispersed to other parts of the festival grounds. Kaitlyn and I sat in the grassy area close the main stage. It wasn’t until 30-40 minutes before that we stood up to find a spot for Muse. Surprisingly we managed to get decent spots about 25 feet from the main stage. We weren’t going to deal with constant stream of crowd surfers again. In my opinion, crowd surfers just ruin the overall concert experience. Everything in moderation including crowd-surfing.

Muse walked onto the main stage on schedule at 9:15 pm. They delivered a kick-ass setlist consisting of 17 songs. A mixture of songs from older and more recent albums. Yet, there was slight emphasis on songs from their latest album. Drones album was released in June 2015. There was plenty of nostalgic throwbacks too. When you listen to their albums, you get an overall electronica hard rock vibe. Studio recorded versus live performance version of their songs are two entirely different things. Honestly, Muse’s live performances is way better than the studio recorded versions. I love when this is the case with my bias artist and bands.

Muse Firefly Festival 2017 setlist

I had no idea how many of the people in the massive crowd were actually Muse fans. Not including the obvious sign of people wearing Muse band merchandise. Muse not only delivered mind-blowingly performances. They kicked up the energy of the overall crowd to a whole new level. Even non-Muse fans were jamming out throughout their set. Kaitlyn and I managed to politely maneuver even closer to be 20-ish feet from the main stage. We still had a decent view of the stage. There were two large monitors in either side of the stage too. Muse had awesome pre-recorded special effects on the video of the band members projected onto the monitors throughout their performance. Sometimes, people are surprised by the overall loud volume level of Muse’s set when they see them live.

Thirty Seconds to Mars and Muse both have three band members. Yet, they know how utilize every square inch of gigantic stages. That’s proof of their explosive charisma. Plus, they aren’t known to play in small to medium size music venues. They usually come to bigger music venues that are nowhere close to me. That’s why I’m thankful to have seen them live in concert at least once.

There’s one main difference between Thirty Seconds to Mars’s set versus Muse’s set. Thirty Seconds to Mars lead singer, Jared Leto, is known to provide amusing commentary between songs. Muse lead singer, Matt Bellamy, barely speaks during the entire set. They have more songs in their setlist so the time is already very tight. Matt will tersely talk at most three times when Muse performs on stage. Every artist/band approach live performances in different ways.

Honestly, Jared Leto and Matt Bellamy are the full embodiment of the phrase “extra AF” in the most endearing way. Yet, their musical talent is very evident when they perform live. Jared is “extra AF” in terms of his eccentric wardrobe choices. Matt is “extra AF” in terms of extending each song in the setlist. Extraneous yet awesome guitar riffs at the end of each song. Thirty Second to Mars and Muse delivered spectacularly energetic performances. They know how to pump up the crowd even when it includes those who aren’t fans of their music.

Firefly Festival 2017 PosterOverall, I had a fantastic experience at Firefly Festival 2017. The biggest takeaway was it made my dream of seeing Thirty Seconds to Mars live finally come true.  Plus, I have enough items to remember my Firefly Festival experience. Sunday General Admission wristband.  Firefly Festival bandanna. Official Firefly Festival tee. Pictures of festival grounds area, Thirty Seconds to Mars’s set, and Muses’s set. Also, I’m glad I got share this experience with my college friend. Kaitlyn and I had a blast exploring the woodland festival grounds and listening to awesome live music. Dover Woodlands area is a great venue for this outdoor music festival.

Yet, Firefly Festival will be a one-time thing for me. Music festival are fun yet extremely exhausting. It’s mentally and physically draining to be outdoors in humid temperatures for 10-12 hours. My friend and I were so fatigued by the time we got back from Firefly Festival between 1 and 2 am. I’ll stick to my usual concerts.

 

Kinky Boots

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve visited New York City. There’s always something to do. Plenty of touristy attractions for all age groups. I’ve been to NYC at different times of busy tourist seasons. Summer and fall/winter seasons. The warmer seasons allows me to do more venturing around the city compared to colder season. All my NYC adventures are memorable in their own way. But my most recent trip is special for its own reason.

It isn’t often that my celebrity biases have taken time away from their TV/movie or music careers to take on Broadway. In general, Broadway doesn’t pay as much. The person must have a strong passion to pursue a Broadway musical project.

First Date Musical posterIn October 2013, Messiah College Student Activity Board (SAB) had a NYC Broadway excursion to see the off-Broadway musical First Date. I normally never went on any SAB excursion to NYC. This trip was sold out but our campus radio was giving away two tickets. I was lucky to win one of the two tickets. So why was I so keen on going? Zachary Levi from NBC’s Chuck joined the main cast ensemble of this off-Broadway musical. In fact, he was making his Broadway debut in First Date. I was obsessed with NBC’s Chuck. This action-comedy/ spy-drama TV show was nerdtastically bad-ass! This was my main motivation for attending this SAB NYC Broadway excursion. Thankfully colleges can get group rates when they plan Broadway trips. So, I was going to take advantage of this opportunity.

She Loves Me Musical posterIn March 2016, Zachary Levi returned to Broadway for She Loves Me revival musical. Last spring my local community college had a New York City day trip. Obviously, I had made another trip to New York City mainly to see this off-Broadway musical. I even had opportunity to meet Zachary Levi backstage after She Loves Me performance. He autographed the playbill and took a photo with me. First Date and She Loves Me musicals helped to form a deeper appreciation of him as an actor. Zachary Levi is a versatile actor.

Bend It Like Beckham musical poserIn June 2015, my family and I were travelling to London, England for vacation. I stumbled across some interesting information a few weeks before this trip. I’d been going through a Jamie Campbell Bower movie and TV show marathon during the last two months of my senior year of college. Jamie’s Wikipedia page mentioned he would be participating in London’s West End musical production of Bend It Like Beckham. This musical was based off the 2002 film. In fact, the film’s writer and director, Gurinder Chadha, penned the script for the stage musical as well. I’ve seen Bend It Like Beckham movie at least 15 times over the past decade. Thankfully, it didn’t take much convincing to convince my family to check out this West End musical while we were in London. Best of all, I had opportunity to meet Jamie Campbell Bower backstage after Bend It Like Beckham performance. He autographed the musical playbill and took a photo with me. I feel so lucky to have met some of my favorite celebrity biases.

Couple months ago, some exciting news regarding Panic! at the Disco popped up online and social media platforms. P!ATD’s frontman, Brendon Urie, would be making his Broadway debut in Kinky Boots musical. Of course, I had to find a way to make another trip to New York City to see it. I’ve been a longtime fan of Panic! at the Disco’s music over the past six years. Plus, I saw them in concert in August 2014 and September 2015. This Broadway musical had gotten great reviews. I had no doubt it will be a good musical.

Kinky Boots was my first  main street Broadway musical. First Date and She Loves Me are technically off-Broadway musicals. Brendon was my main motivation to see Kinky Boots musical. But I do really enjoy musicals in general.

The bus pulled into New York City around early afternoon. Thankfully, the hotel was nearby the Kinky Boots theater venue. I had time to meander around the city before the 8 o’clock evening performance. I specifically wore my new Panic! at the Disco tee for this performance.

Al Hirschfield Theatre is in midtown Manhattan. This theater is within close vicinity of other main street Broadway musical venues. Yet, the Al Hirschfield Theatre is a fairly small venue. The seating capacity is around 1,400 persons. My seat was very close to the stage. Orchestra section on the right side in the first section of seating. End of the second row. No joke my seat was right by the stage. I was right there where all the action was. No complaining about this incredible view of the stage. According to Ticketmaster, it says it is a partial view seat. Lies. I had a fantastic perspective of the whole stage!

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Kinky Boots posterKinky Boots musical revolves around the character, Charlie Price. He is a fourth generation son in his family’s shoe factory business. After his father’s untimely death, Charlie inherits the shoe factor which is near bankruptcy. Now he must find a way to save the family business. A creative business solution comes in the form of an unlikely partnership with cabaret performer and drag queen, Lola. He plans to reinvent Price and Son brand by producing a line of comfortable high-heel boots which can even withstand a man’s weight. Charlie and Lola’s unconventional business partnership helped them realize they aren’t so different after all. Kinky Boots officially debuted on Broadway on April 4, 2014. J.Harrison Ghee replaced Toderick Hall as Lola in March 2017. Brendon Urie replaced Killian Donnelly as Charlie Price in May 2017.

Cyndi Lauper wrote the music and lyrics for Kinky Boots. Many know Lauper because to her hit song “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”. In fact, Kinky Boots was her debut as musical theater songwriter. The song numbers in this musical have emphasis on father-son relationships but also has overarching themes of tolerance and self-acceptance.

Kinky Boots is an eccentric Broadway musical full of heart and soul. I definitely got feels during the performance. Laughter and tears. There’s a great balance in serious and comedic tones within the dialogue and songs. Honestly, I love all the songs in Kinky Boots. Mixture of infectiously catchy and pensive ballad numbers. They’re all incredible in their own ways. Although, some songs stand out for me. “Land of Lola”, “Sex is in the Heel”, “Not My Father’s Son”, “What A Woman Wants”, “Soul of a Man”, “Hold Me in your Heart”, and “Raise You Up/ Just Be”. You’ll be tapping your foot, clapping your hands, and dancing in your seat by the last song of the performance. I had a huge grin plastered on my face at the end of the performance.

Being his musical debut, Brendon did an amazing job as Charlie Price. He still has room to improve his acting skills. Nonetheless, he still brilliantly brought his character to life on the stage. It never ceases to amaze me how Brendon makes singing look so effortless. He is a lovable ball of energy and explosive charisma. On and off stage. He pulled off a decent British accent for this role too. (Side note: It was a bit odd seeing him in a buttoned-up shirt and khaki pants. I got so used to him wearing skinny jeans, casual tee, and leather jacket. For concerts, Brendon even wears bold colored suit ensemble. He is typically shirtless the last half of concert performances.)

The whole cast ensemble of Kinky Boots had phenomenal chemistry. Most of all, J. Harrison and Brendon worked so well together. It is essential the main roles have good chemistry. This can make or break a musical, movie, and TV show. J.Harrison Ghee vastly impressed me. His acting skills and mannerism make you quickly love the character of Lola. Lola and her troupe of drag queens (also referred to as “angels”) were my favorite characters in Kinky Boots musical.

I waited until the last bow from the cast ensemble before heading to the stage door. (Side note: It’s plain rude to leave before the last bow. You don’t have to be a seasoned Broadway musical attendee to know this fact. It’s assumed courtesy.) There was a massive crowd around the stage door in front of the Al Hirschfield Theatre. Not surprising at all. Most people were waiting for Brendon Urie. Brendon was my main motivation to see Kinky Boots. Yet, a success performance on a daily basis rests on the talent and harmony of the whole crew and cast ensemble. Based off the online comments on social media, this wasthe first Broadway musical for majority of Panic! at the Disco fans attending Kinky Boots performances. I love how celebrities can help expose their fan base to other entertainment forms. The group of P!ATD fans around me came from far away states and even Canada for Kinky Boots musical.

The crowd worked together to ensure people’s musical playbills got signed by the cast members who took time to interact with the awaiting fans. The noise level drastically increased when security announced Brendon was coming out soon. All the other crew and cast members had already left the theater. There was much demand for Brendon’s autograph. But I persisted and politely weaved through the now slowly dwindling crowd. Brendon did his best to sign all the playbill musicals shoved in his face. Plus, people were screaming for selfies with him. I managed to find a spot close enough to pass over my two Kinky Boots playbills for Brendon to easily reach it. Brendon signed both playbills! My heart exploded with joyous fangirl feels when I saw his signatures on them. Plus, a tall girl nearby me offered to take some overhead pictures of Brendon before he got into his car. The pictures turned out surprisingly good. I waited almost 1.5 hours but it was so worth the leg cramp from all the standing. I didn’t come that far only to give up. That’s the closest I’ll get to “meeting” Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie.

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img_1902Brendon Urie will be playing the role of Charlie Price in Kinky Boots Broadway musical until August 6, 2017. Thankfully, Brendon not his understudy was in the June 16th performance.  He was my main motivation to check out Kinky Boots musical. I’d highly recommend this Broadway musical. Yet I don’t recommend this musical for any children under 15. It’s a fun time. You won’t regret it. Kinky Boots’ overall message is to find your true potential. Become the person you want to be rather than the person others want you to be.

I’ll leave you with a clip of Kinky Boots cast performing “Everybody Say Yeah” musical number on the Tony Awards in 2013.

The Vampire Diaries

TVD_3It’s safe to say I’ve seen my fair amount of TV shows over the past 10-15 years. But there are very few shows I started around the time its first season debuted on a TV network. Let alone the week the series pilot aired on television. This is why it is very bittersweet to say farewell to The Vampire Diaries (TVD). The Vampire Diaries pilot episode aired on The CW network back in September 10, 2009. The pilot was available on iTunes for free the following day. On random whim, I decided to buy it. I didn’t have much to lose.

Around this time, I was in the early stage of my Twilight phase. The Vampire Diaries series by LJ Smith had been around much longer than The Twilight saga by Stephanie Meyers. Yet it was Twilight saga books and movies that commenced the widespread popularity for vampire genre. The popularity of vampire genre books, movies, and TV shows within pop culture resurged between late 2000s and early 2010s. Otherwise, vampire genre was a very niche market. Up to this point, only aficionados cherished this niche genre. The CW bought the copyrights from Alloy Entertainment to adapt The Vampire Diaries book series into a television series. Most of all, The CW network chose the perfect the time to debut TVD in 2009.

TVD bookThis CW show is loosely based off LJ Smith’s The Vampire Diaries book series. LJ Smith wrote The Vampire Diaries books 1-7. Four books are part of first phase. The Awakening: Volume I. The Struggle: Volume II. The Fury: Volume III. Dark Reunion: Volume IV. These first four novels were written between 1991 and 1992. Many trilogy series continued from The Vampire Diaries series. After more than 10 years, LJ Smith wrote The Return trilogy which consisted of three books. The Return: Nightfall (February 2009). The Return: Shadow Souls (March 2010). The Return: Midnight (March 2011). As part of her original contract, Alloy Entertainment publishers owned copyrights to this book series. The publisher fired LJ Smith in 2011. Ghostwriters have written consecutive books in The Vampire Diaries trilogies. The Hunters trilogy (books 8-10) and The Salvation trilogy (books 11-13) were not written by LJ Smith, the original author.

I’d read the books first before I even know they were adapted into a CW series. Between 10th and 11th grade, a fellow classmate let me borrow her copies of The Vampires Diaries books 1-5. It wasn’t until college I finally got around to read book 6. But I stopped reading after The Return: Shadow Souls. I’d lost interest in the books at this point. This rarely happens to me. But I no long cared enough to continue The Vampire Diaries trilogies.

The books provided me enough background to understand the TV show. I was curious how the books would translate into a television series. Yet, I didn’t want the TV show to be marketed like another Twilight. In comparison, I much prefer LJ Smith’s The Vampire Diaries book series than Twilight saga books. Better character development among major and minor characters. Plus, the plot arcs were more complex and captivating.

There will obviously be changes when a book is adapted into a TV show. In the book series, Bonnie McCullough a young human psychic turn witch. She is a descendant of ancient Celtic Druids. But this character was drastically altered for the TV show adaptation. Bonnie McCollough became Bonnie Bennett. She was still a novice psychic turned full witch. One of Elena’s best friends, Meredith Sulez is completely eliminated from the main cast ensemble. Meredith was one of the few human characters with no extraordinary abilities. She eventually becomes vampire hunter. Meredith merely winds up being a recurring character in TVD season 4. Compared to book versus TV show, Elena Gilbert’s character development and storylines are radically different. Literally day and night. No overlap at all. The TV show took the bare bones of the book series and put their own unique twist on it. By Season 2, the show stopped pretending they were remotely trying to follow the book series at all. This is where I had to mentally detach these two entities. Ironically, I actually ended up loving the TV show’s storylines way more than the books’ storylines.

TVD S1 Promo

Season 1 Promotion Poster

TVD’s pilot aired September 10, 2009 but I didn’t watch it until the next day. I watch it with an open-mind. Halfway through the pilot, I still wasn’t convinced to continue watching The Vampire Diaries television series. Then, Damon Salvatore (played by Ian Somerhalder) appeared on the screen. “Hello brother” was all it took to convinced me to stick with this show. Bad boys aren’t my type. Yet, I cannot help but feel attracted to the bad boy stereotype character(s) in my bias books, TV shows, and movies. I was pleasantly surprised by the plot complexity and dark themes in the pilot episode. Most importantly, the casting for main TVD cast ensemble was perfect! All the actors brilliantly bring out the rich multi-faceted layers of their characters on screen. Off-screen chemistry among the cast ensemble enhances the on-screen chemistry between the characters in the episodes. Damon Salvatore is the main reason I stuck with the show for eight years. But I eventually grew attached to the other main characters within the first few seasons. Some sooner than others.

Also, I love it when a show inserts subtle emotional context without always having dialogue in every scene. Facial expressions or body motions can sometimes convey more than actual conversational dialogue between characters. Music can further enhance this cinematic element. Over the eight seasons, the music soundtrack for TVD beautifully encapsulated the particular scene’s mood.

(Side note: Within Temptation is one of my favorite Dutch symphonic metal bands besides Nightwish. I didn’t realize they’d used a Within Temptation song in The Vampire Diaries. Best of all, “All I Need” song was used in an iconic Delena scene. The Founder’s Day dance scene firmly established the concept of Delena ship.)

TVD_2In the first season, I only recognized three actors out the main cast ensemble. Paul Wesley portrays Stefan Salvatore. Ian Somerhalder portrays Damon Salvatore. It’s funny how actors from other shows surprisingly tie back to Smallville. Paul Wesley had a guest role on Smallville in episode 2.15 as Lucas Luthor. Lucas was Lex Luthor’s half-brother. Also, Paul had a guest role on The OC as Donnie, a kid from Corona who befriends Ryan Atwood (portrayed by Ben McKenzie). Ian Somerhalder had a recurring role in Smallville Season 3 as Adam Knight. Adam Knight was resurrected by Luthor Corp to be a spy in order to learn more about Clark Kent’s true nature by getting close to Lana Lang. Matt Davies portrays Alaric Saltzman. Matt starred in 2001’s Legally Blonde alongside Reese Witherspoon. He portrayed Warner Huntington, Elle Wood’s ex-boyfriend. Now I’ll always associate him as Alaric.

Every TV show has its popular “ships”. “Ship” is the shortened abbreviation for relationship. Ships can be romantic or bromance in nature. CW’s The Vampire Diaries was full of interesting ships. Stelena. Delena. Beremy. Steroline. Bamon. Klaroline. Forwood. Dalaric. Not all ship pairings are confirmed with canon TVD universe. Fans can come up with their own non-canon ships. Even if I didn’t support a canonical ship, every romantic or bromance pairing has its purpose within TVD’s multi-season storylines.

I’m emotionally attached to only few canon ships. Delena (Damon+Elena) was the first ship I threw my full support into all way back in Season 1. The first few seasons revolved a complicated love triangle between Stefan, Damon, and Elena. Nothing against Stelena but it didn’t quite emotionally stir me as much as Delena. In Season 2, we were introduced to the Mikaelson clan. The first vampires ever created. The Originals have the motto of “always and forever”. They had recurring roles in season 2 but became series regulars in seasons 3 and 4. I myself was surprised how the dynamic bond between Caroline Forbes and Klaus Mikaelson really grew on me. Undeniable chemistry. I wholeheartedly support Klaroline. I hope Caroline can eventually transition to The Originals show universe.

Of the two Salvatore brothers, I’m very open about my bias towards Damon Salvatore. He never pretended to be a purely good person unlike Stefan. He will always be one of the my favorite characters on this show. Plus, Damon has some pretty damn epic bromances (literally and metaphorically). Three in particular  Damon non-romantic ships always pull at my heartstrings. Defan (Damon+Stefan). Dalaric (Damon+Alaric). Denzo (Damon+Enzo). Bamon (Bonnie+Damon). At some point, fans realized the show revolved more around the complex, dynamic relationship between the vampire brothers, Damon and Stefan Salvatore. Elena’s relationship with the brothers was not the intended main focus. Despite their tumultuous past history , Damon and Stefan realized they couldn’t live without each other in their lives. Emotionally vulnerable Defan scenes never failed to turn me into a puddle of feels. So many tears shed over the eight seasons. Outside of his brother, Damon considers very few people his dear friends. Alaric Saltzman, Lorenzo (aka Enzo) St. John, and Bonnie Bennett. We saw new depths of Damon’s sensitive side with each of them. I hardly  had a dry eye watching Dalaric, Denzo, or Bamon scenes. Out of the entire main characters. Damon Salvatore had the most drastic evolution since the pilot episode. He became a much better person. Over the eight seasons, he retained aspects of his bad boy personality thankfully .  That would have been a damn shame if Damon was totally tamed in the end. Also, his snarky personality provided many unforgettably awesome one-liners. Damon was one of the most multi-faceted main characters.

I can tell when a long-running TV show is running out of ideas for its storylines. Even my favorite shows. Smallville. Gossip Girl. The end is near when US viewer ratings start to slip below 1.5 million. I give it no more than two seasons before it is cancelled. CW’s The Vampire Diaries began to struggle in US viewership in Season 7. Ratings officially dipped below one million viewers in its final season. The CW has a cruel tactic for when shows enter its final season. They are given what I dub the “graveyard” time slot. Friday nights. TVD firmly held onto the highly coveted Thursday 8 pm time slot until the first half of Season 7. Then, it moved to Friday nights at 8 pm during the second half of Season 7. This was a tell-tale sign that the end was coming. I’ve been watching The CW network since fall of 2006 so I’ve learned their sneaky tactics in terms of scheduling time slots. Ultimately, reach and viewership statistics is how networks determine whether a show gets renewed or cancelled.

When a TV show runs longer than 3-4 seasons, there will certainly be at least one or two seasons with weak overarching plot arcs and sub-plots. I struggled to get through a couple seasons of CW’s The Vampire Dairies. Yet, it’s very rare that I entirely give up on a television show. I’d invest hundreds of hours into TVD so I might as well see it to the end. For better or worse.

Over the past eight years, I’ve cried rivers of tears watching CW’s The Vampire Dairies. Hell it’s probably an ocean at this point. They certainly know how to send the viewers on an emotional rollercoaster of feels. Absolutely no dry eye especially with the season finales. So it wasn’t surprising that I basically balled like a baby watching TVD series finale. Series finale episodes are presented with a daunting challenge. Simultaneously wrap up the final season’s plot arc and any other unresolved storylines in previous seasons. Some shows do a good job of accomplishing this arduous task. Others miserably fail. When this happens, it leaves the fans even more distraught and heartbroken but for a different reason. I know from personal experience.

Thankfully, The Vampires Diaries delivered a satisfactory series finale. It is bittersweet to say goodbye to your beloved TV shows. When you’ve dedicated 8 years, you don’t want it to end. But all TV shows must come to an end eventually.  At least it got a long run to tell many incredible storylines.

It’s worse when your favorite TV show gets prematurely cancelled by the network. I’m still angry at NBC, TV Land, and The CW for prematurely cancelling certain television shows. I’m not a person to hold grudges against people for past wrongs. Nope. I’m the type of person to hold grudges against television networks for how they’ve wronged me. Prematurely cancelled shows never get to live to their full potential.

You gain a better overall perspective once you’ve finished a whole season of show. You see the connection among previous season storylines as well. Season 8 had its valleys and peaks. (I won’t reveal any major spoilers. They’re all over the internet and social media platforms anyway.) I personally felt the siren plot arc dragged on way too long. The final four episodes felt a bit rushed in some ways. I had a nagging feeling TVD would pull a “True Blood”-esque ending. Sadly, my prediction turned out to be fairly accurate for one particular character. Despite its flaws, the show took the main characters on insane plot arcs which directly resulted in dynamic, strong character development. None of the main ensemble characters are the same people they were in the pilot episode. So much heartbreak and loss over eight seasons. Yet, they persevered through those hardships and triumphantly overcame it all. Becoming stronger people in the end. Despite all the supernatural madness, it never ceases to amaze me how Matt Donovan remained human all eight seasons! He is the “normal” human among the Mystic Falls gang. Overall, TVD’s final season was a befitting sendoff.

The CW’s The Vampire Diaries appeared on the television scene during the resurgence of vampire genre around 2008 and 2009. Twilight saga films spawned a worldwide phenomenon from 2008 to 2012. True Blood aired on HBO from 2008 to 2014. Yet, TVD was still airing on television. Its longevity is proof of their immense success. A true testament considering vampire genre’s popularity faded from pop culture relevance.

CW’s The Vampire Diaries is over. But it shall forever live in my fond, nostalgic memories. Thank goodness for FanFiction stories too. Since I was 15, this show has been part of my life. This chapter of my life has closed for good. Cue TVD hangover and withdrawal. I won’t get my Ian Somerhalder fix anymore. I will properly mourn the loss of this beloved show. Then, I shall discover other supernatural genre TV shows. At least, I still have CW’s The Originals, a spin-off of The Vampire Diaries. I’ll be very pissed off if it gets cancelled after its fourth season. I can’t lose both shows in such a short span of time.

I’ll end on a slightly lighter note. In February 2011,  The Hillywood Show released The Vampire Diaries parody. It never fails to make me smile like a dork. I’ve legit lost track how many times I’ve seen it over the past six years. It’s easily one of my all-time favorite Hillywood Show parodies. I will eventually make a blog post about The Hillywood Show.