The Phantom of the Opera

HSM posterI’ve been a fan of musical theater since middle school. It all started thanks to Disney Channel’s High School Musical. I fondly recall watching HSM when it aired in January 2006. My 12 year old self had no idea how much High School Musical films would ignite my interest for musical theater. Also, HSM will always have special place in the memories of my teenage years.

I cannot act to save my life. During high school, I actively participated in Concert Choir music program for two years. This enabled me to befriend a small handful of people in the theater department. I attended my fair amount of high school musical productions to support my theater friends. My high school put on great productions. Not mediocre at all.

I didn’t see much musical productions during my time at Messiah College. I didn’t have too many musical theater major acquaintances. Mostly science or psychology major people in my close friend cluster. Messiah College’s Student Activity Board (SAB) arranged Broadway NYC trips during the fall semester. In October 2013, SAB had a trip to see First Date off-Broadway musical. Zachary Levi from NBC’s Chuck was playing one of the lead roles. This was my main reason to go on this New York City trip with my college. Since graduating in May 2015, I hadn’t see any musical theater productions.

My Kinky Boots blog post provides more details about the Broadway and off-Broadway musical productions I’ve seen on my NYC trips. Yet, I’ve seen a total of four professional musical productions. Three musicals on Broadway in New York City. One musical on West End in London, England.

POTO movie posterDuring my senior year of college, my friend convinced me to watch Phantom of the Opera musical film adaptation from 2004 with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. It would be first time watching it. I honestly didn’t know much about it, but I was willing to keep an open-mind. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with this musical merely after watching the film adaptation for the first time. This took me by surprise. I now understood why my friend, Sasha, was so obsessed with Phantom of the Opera musical. Now, I wanted to see it on Broadway in New York City. Sadly, it was not on Broadway when I went to see Kinky Boots in June 2017. Phantom of the Opera embarked on a national US tour while another musical temporarily used The Majestic Theatre venue. But good things come to those who wait.

As of January 2018, Phantom of the Opera would be celebrating its 30th anniversary of being on New York City’s Broadway. It was coming back home to Broadway. In fact, Phantom of the Opera is the longest running show in Broadway history. It officially opened on Broadway back in January 26, 1988. More than 12,000 performances as of current date. During its 30 year run, it has stayed in the same theater venue. The Majestic Theatre.

This time around I wasn’t missing my opportunity to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. My family booked our New York City trip for August 25th to 26th. My mom and I got our tickets for Phantom of the Opera. My college friend, Sasha, told me the Broadway production would vary a little from the 2004 film adaptation. I was counting down the weeks until my New York City trip.

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On August 25th, our bus arrived into New York City around 11 am. Phantom of the Opera musical wasn’t the only thing I had planned for that day. My mom and I had also bought tickets for Downton Abbey Exhibition. It would be closing on September 3rd. So we technically had two reasons to visit New York City this time. It was going to be a jam-packed day for us. Yet, there was enough time between Downton Abbey Exhibition and Phantom of the Opera musical. We were only seeing Phantom of the Opera at the 8 pm showtime.

Time flies when you’re having a blast. Early evening rolled around in a blink of an eye. I was bubbling with exuberant anticipation. The exterior of The Majestic Theatre building is grandiose yet elegant. It opened in March 28, 1927. Many major musical productions have been featured at this venue including Carousel, The Wiz, Camelot, The Music Man, and 42nd Street. It is one of the largest Broadway theaters. The full seating capacity is 1,645 persons. The interior of this venue is even more luxuriously opulent. It blew me away. So much beautiful details throughout the entire venue from the ornate walls and ceiling to the very stage itself. Our seats were in the first row of the rear mezzanine balcony level. Best of all, we only paid $69.00 for each seat. These cheap tickets still gave us great overhead views of the main stage. Not bad for our first time seeing Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

 

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Phantom of the Opera musical is based off Le Fantôme de l’Opéra novel by Gaston Leroux. It was published in January 8, 1910. The English translation novel was published in 1911.

POTO_banner 1The story arc takes place in Paris during the early 1880s. The musical is about a mysterious entity known as Phantom of the Opera who haunts the Paris Opéra House. He becomes obsessed with little-known soprano singer, Christine Daaé. He essentially was Christine’s music teacher growing up after her father’s death. The Phantom forces the new owners to promotes her from chorus girl to rising prima donna. We later learn the Phantom of the Opera (aka Opera Ghost) is actually a disfigured musical genius who lives in his subterranean lair under the Paris Opéra House. Also, Christine debunks the rumor he is a ghost. He is an actual human man. The Phantom continues to terrorize the owners and company in the opera house when they go against his orders. Eventually, they have had enough and formulate a devious plan to get permanently rid of Opera Ghost from their lives. Yet, you cannot forget the beautiful storytelling about the love triangle between Christine, The Phantom, and Vicomte Raoul de Chagny. Phantom of the Opera has melodramatic elements of romance and gothic horror beautifully intermingled together.

POTOThe sumptuous sets and costumes immerse you into this complex universe. My college friend was correct that outfits and sets were extravagant but not on same level as the film adaptation. Victorian era influenced the style of clothing in terms of men and women fashion. Very lavish styled outfits were worn by people among upper-class society. They could afford the expensive price of fancy Victorian era clothing. Not as accessible for anyone who wasn’t in upper-class society.

Andrew Lloyd Webber composed the music for Phantom of the Opera musical. He has composed music for other well-known musical production like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and School of Rock. He is one of the beloved musical composers of all-time. In fact, many of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals have been running for over a decade on London’s West End or New York City’s Broadway.

As the title suggests, Phantom of the Opera musical features songs in operatic style. The songs beautifully enhance the emotion of the scenes but also the storytelling experience. Throughout the performance, I was moved to tears on several occasions. The whole company collectively had great voices, but I was especially impressed with the actor Ben Crawford playing The Phantom.

It helped that I’d seen the film adaptation prior to seeing The Phantom of the Opera musical on Broadway. I could follow the plot of the musical easier. There isn’t as much backstory as the movie obviously. Yet, the movie adaptation and Broadway musical are both amazing in their own ways. Phantom of the Opera musical is an exhilarating 2.5 hours long performance. It takes you on a whirlwind romance and journey. I highly recommend taking a trip to New York City to check out this longest-running Broadway musical. You won’t regret it!

Now I’ve seen a total of four Broadway musicals. Two off-Broadway musicals (First Date and She Loves Me). Two main Broadway musicals (Kinky Boots and The Phantom of the Opera). I look forward to seeing more musical productions on Broadway! It gives me an good excuse to make a trip to New York City.

 

I’ll leave you with an amazing symphonic metal cover of “The Phantom of the Opera” by Nightwish. Nightwish is one of my all-time favorite female-fronted symphonic metal bands from Finland. Also, Tarja is sadly no longer lead singer, but still nonetheless my favorite.

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Asking Alexandria

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In terms of all my rock genres, I don’t listen much to hardcore genre. I’m quite picky with the few rock bands I do listen to within this sub-genre. I do love heavier sound when it comes to my rock music. Hard rock has a heavier sound. Yet, hardcore takes it to a whole new level in my opinion. Hardcore genre is definitely an acquired taste.

I recently learned “hardcore” is the abbreviation for hardcore punk. This genre is known for its aggressive breakdowns within the music tempo. In my opinion, I find it has an overall louder sound as well. It isn’t uncommon for there to be three guitarists among the band members. Two electric guitarists and one bass guitarist. There is one common element in hardcore. Screamed vocals. Some of my hard rock bands feature sporadic bursts of screaming in their music.  But this particular component way is more prevalent in hardcore genre music. I generally don’t mind screaming in my rock music. But there needs to a balance the clean and unclean vocals. I don’t like listening to music where it is almost entirely screamed vocals. That’s is why I’m quite picky when it comes to hardcore rock bands.

Also, I’ve come to a fascinating realization. I’m no stranger to profanity being in my rock music. I don’t mind. I’ve gotten used to it over the past 12 years. There are levels in terms of profanity. Yet, it seems strong profanity is more common in certain rock sub-genres. Hardcore genre is one of them.

Last summer, I randomly discovered Black Veil Brides thanks to Andy Black’s solo album, The Shadow Side. I would spend the next few months basically hunting down any band interviews with Black Veil Bride members especially with Andy Biersack. The YouTube videos I came across sometimes involved BVB’s interaction with other fellow musicians. Black Veil Brides members are good friends with Asking Alexandria band members. I’d never heard of Asking Alexandria before this point.

I proceeded to check out their music on Spotify. I honestly had no idea what to expect. I was quite surprised to learn their music was metalcore. Regardless of what people say, I considered Black Veil Brides’ music to be within hard rock genre. Metalcore is something entirely different. In fact, hard rock is a smidgen more tame compared metalcore. I typically avoid metal rock genre. The rare exceptions are Nightwish and Within Temptation. Female-fronted symphonic metal bands from Europe. I struggled listening to more than a few Asking Alexandria songs. I didn’t mind the aggressively heavy sound. It was the sustained screaming throughout the song that really put me off. Not my cup of tea at all. I didn’t try to give them another listen until recently.

Asking Alexandria band members[From left to right: Danny, Ben, Cameron, James, and Sam]

Without further ado, I will provide some background information about Asking Alexandria. This rock band from York, England formed in 2008. It consists of five band members. Danny Worsnop is the lead vocalist and occasionally plays the guitar. Ben Bruce is lead electric guitarist and sings back-up vocals. Both Ben and Danny can play the keyboards as well. James Cassells is the drummer. Cameron Liddell switches the role of being rhythm and lead electric guitarist. Sam Bettley is the bass guitarist.

The Resurrection tour was co-headlined by Black Veil Brides and Asking Alexandria with Crown the Empire as the supporting opening band. I always prepare for concerts at least a month in advance. I had listened to Crown the Empire’s music. I surprisingly really enjoyed it. Hardcore isn’t my usual go-to rock sub-genre. I still wasn’t ready to give Asking Alexandria’s music another chance yet. So I focused on listening to only Black Veil Brides and Crown the Empire weeks leading up to the concert on February 9, 2018.

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The day of the concert finally arrived. I was bubbling with exuberant joy. Counting down the hours, I could feel the excitement exponentially growing inside of me. I had no doubt Black Veil Brides would sound incredible live. I’ve come across my fair share of BVB concert videos on YouTube. The thing about hardcore genre music is I don’t know if the band will sound good live in concert. Yet, I was going to approach the performances by Crown the Empire and Asking Alexandria with an open-mind. Rams Head Live is one of my favorite concert venues. It has great acoustics throughout the entire venue regardless if you are on the ground floor or upper levels.

To my surprise, Asking Alexandria sounded amazing live. I don’t typically expect too much vocal range with hardcore or metalcore vocalists. That is not the case with Asking Alexandria’s lead vocalist, Danny Worsnop. I was honestly impressed by Danny’s vocals. There was so much depth to his vocals. It really took me by surprise. He can effortlessly transition from unclean screamed to clean singing vocals. Also, his screaming vocal depth from deep growls to higher falsetto pitch screams. I’d classify the clean singing vocals as baritenor. There are very few baritenors vocalists in the rock genre. I haven’t encountered such a bizarrely fascinating vocal tone since Davey Havok, AFI’s lead singer. That’s saying a lot.

Asking Alexandria logoAfter The Resurrection tour concert, I’d changed my opinion of Asking Alexandria’s music off their newest self-titled album. It is a drastically different from their metalcore sound in previous studio albums. Yet, I can actually embrace this new musical style. Asking Alexandria album has a mixture of post-hardcore and electronica elements. I appreciate it when two unlikely genres can beautifully blend together. Electronica hardcore (aka electronicore) musical style is growing on me.

Electronicore is a fascinating fusion of metalcore and/or hardcore rock genre with electronic genre. Initially, I had very mixed feelings about this combination. But I am willing to be open-minded about it. This fusion sub-genre became more prominent on the rock scene during the late 2000s. Yet, Asking Alexandria was my official introduction to electronicore genre recently.

Sometimes, we’ve got to discover a band and/or genre a little late so that way you can truly appreciate it. There are very few rock bands I’ve discovered around their debut era. I fell in love with many of my favorite rock bands after they became more established.

It has been a little over three months since The Resurrection tour concert. I’ve listened to Asking Alexandria’s new self-titled album in full entirety at least 15 times. With each full listen, I formed a better appreciation for the new band’s new musical style direction. Electronicore is an acquired taste that takes an adjustment period. I look forward to the future music that Asking Alexandria will put out. I’d love to see Asking Alexandria again live in concert next time one of their tours come nearby me. It’s amazing how you can discover awesome new artists/bands when approaching music with an open-mind.

[Warning: This song contains profanity.]

Our Last Night

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It’s always awesome when you unintentionally discover a lesser-known artist or band. Spotify is a fantastic platform to expand your musical horizons even if it’s only within your preferred music genre(s). I’m picky when it comes to rock covers of popular songs. Several months ago, Spotify recommended a cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” by a band called Our Last Night. I’d never heard of this band. I had no idea what to expect. After listening to their cover song, I was pleasantly surprised. It was much heavier sound than majority of my other rock bands. Yet, I liked it. The band name doesn’t give any indication of which rock sub-genre it is. This piqued curiosity to check out more of Our Last Night’s music.

Post-hardcore is on the heavier end of the rock spectrum. It’s only a few steps away from metal. Technically, it is considered a sub-genre of punk called hardcore punk. I’m no stranger to punk rock genre. I’ve been listening to pop punk and emo genres since I was a teenager. Hardcore punk maintains the fast-upbeat tempo and creative expression of punk rock while simultaneously incorporating a more aggressive, loud sound tone. Also, there is often sporadic bursts of screamed vocals. There is a mixture of clean and unclean vocals in post-hardcore genre. The best of both worlds.

I explored Our Last Night’s other cover songs and original songs. Their music quickly grew on me. They are much lesser-known then the other more mainstream hardcore punk bands I listen to. In a way, it makes them an underdog to keep a close eye on. They will eventually break into the ranks of mainstream post-hardcore bands. They honestly have so much potential. It’s only a matter of time.

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(From left to right: Woody, Tim, Trevor, and Matt)

I’ll give some background about Our Last Night. It was co-created by two brothers, Trevor and Matthew Wentworth, in early 2004 in Hollis, New Hampshire. Trevor and Matt are co-lead vocalists. Trevor provides both clean and unclean vocals. I like his screaming style. I’m quite picky when it comes to screamed vocals. Also, Matt plays the electric guitar, piano and keyboards. Matt is the lyricist for the band’s original songs. Trevor sometimes plays the guitar for acoustic songs. Alex aka Woody is the bass guitarist and provides backing vocals. Tim is the drummer. Their current line-up includes a total of four members since 2006.

Our Last Night has released four studio albums. Their debut album, The Ghosts Among Us, came out in March 2008. Their sophomore album, We Will All Evolve, came out in May 2010. Their first albums feature more unclean vocals given off a more metalcore vibe. Age of Ignorance, the third album, came out in June 2013. Their music style transitions from metalcore to post-hardcore after their third studio album. Younger Dreams came out in June 2015. The band has come out with many EPs as well. In terms of their original songs, Oak Island and Selective Hearing are most notably my favorite of their EPs. Oak Island was released in 2013. Selective Hearing is their latest EP which released in June 2017. I highly recommend checking out their full-band covers of pop songs on their official YouTube channel as well.

Our Last Night’s music has drastically evolved over the past 14 years. I’m more biased to post-hardcore style than metalcore style. I prefer sporadic bursts of screamed vocals over sustained screamed vocals. They have beautifully blended hardcore and melodic pop music styles together in their music after 2012.

I usually see well-known bands in concert. AFI. Fall Out Boy. Paramore. Panic! at the Disco. Switchfoot. Black Veil Brides. Lifehouse. Asking Alexandria. Apart from three, I’ve seen the rest of these bands two or three times live in concert over the years. I wanted to switch things up. To see lesser-known bands before they break into mainstream hardcore scene.  I discovered Our Last Night was launching a US tour for their new EP album, Selective Hearing. One of the tour dates was coming nearby me. Best of all, Baltimore Soundstage is a small, intimate venue compared to other concert venues I’ve checked out. My ticket for Our Last Night’s Selective Hearing tour came to $25 with fees! That’s super cheap! The last time I paid $25 for a concert ticket was for mtvU’s Sunblock music festival with Boys Like Girls, The Academy Is, The Veronicas, Never Shout Never, and Kid Cudi back in July 2009 at Pier 6 Pavilion venue. Over the past couple years, I find myself often buying concerts 3-6 months in advance. This is a good thing especially since almost all the dates on Selective Hearing tour were sold out concerts.

OLN Selective Hearing tour

I was bubbling with excitement the weeks leading up the Our Last Night concert on March 23, 2018. There are certain rock genres I’m skeptical how they sound live in concert. Post-hardcore is one of these genres. But I wasn’t worried about Our Last Night not sounding as good as on their recorded albums. The day of the concert finally arrived. I love Friday evening concerts. It starts off the weekend in a kick-ass way.

My $25 ticket was part of a “buy one, bring one guest free” promotion Baltimore Soundstage had on select concerts during Black Friday period. Also, I was eligible for a free meet and greet session with Our Last Night. How could I say no to such an incredible opportunity?! I had planned on going solo for the concert. Very few of my friends appreciate post-hardcore rock sub-genre. My longtime friend, Erika, and I share many music genre interest in terms of rock music. I decided to bring her as my free guest to the Our Last Night concert. Concerts are more fun when you can share the experience with someone who has similar music taste.

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I literally got off work and ran to make it in time for the designated time for the meet and greet session. There were about 100-ish people in line. I wasn’t expecting that many people. It was a mixture of people who had been longtime fans and new fans of Our Last Night’s music. Baltimore Soundstage staff was efficient in ensuring only those on the list got in for the meet and greet. After waiting in line for one hour, the doors opened and we were allowed into the venue. Our Last Night band members were standing spread out in the “pit” section. There wasn’t really any strict protocol except politely wait in line until it is your turn to talk with the band members. I wasn’t sure we’d get much chance to converse with them seeing with how many people came for the meet and greet session. Matt, Trevor, Woody, and Tim made effort to have actual conversation with each of us in line. I was quite impressed. We had an hour for the meet and greet session. I wasn’t actually nervous when it came to my turn to meet the guys. They’re super chill and awesome people. I told them how thanks to Spotify I randomly discovered their music. Also, I had candid conversation with each of them. Each of them autographed my concert ticket and took a photo with me. (Side note: They give great hugs too. I’m usually not a huggy person. But I make some exceptions of course.)

Another perk of the meet and greet session was we got to choose our spots for the concert before general admission people streamed into the venue. I no longer get an adrenaline rush being in the “pit” standing area right by the main stage. First of all, I actually want to get photos and simultaneously not worrying about fending for my own safety. I honestly have no desire to know what it is like to be in a most pit. I had no doubt there would be one for a post-hardcore concert. It ain’t an uncommon occurrence. Erika and I chose to stand more in the middle of the venue. This area was slightly elevated compared to the ground level standing area. We had much better overhead view of the stage. Also, the acoustics are generally better farther away from the stage. Baltimore Soundstage is a small, intimate venue so everyone can have great view of the stage no matter where you stand in the place.

The opening bands for Our Last Night were Jule Vera, Don Broco, and I The Mighty. Surprisingly, one of Abercrombie & Fitch’s store playlist featured a Jule Vera song called “Bad Company”. Otherwise, I’d never heard of any of the other two opening bands. But I had an open-mind when listening to the bands’ music. I liked them all. Out of the three opening bands, I really enjoyed Don Broco’s set the most. They have a quirky musical style. I’m excited to see Don Broco again at Vans Warped tour in July.

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One perk of smaller concert venues is being able to meet the bands for free. I decided to check out the merchandise table before Our Last Night went on stage. This was right after Don Broco’s set and before I The Mighty’s set.  I was sad there wasn’t any Don Broco merchandise. At Our Last Night’s table, I purchased a Selective Hearing tour tee ($25) and two CDs ($10). I accidentally bumped into someone on the way back to my spot. It turned out to be Don Broco’s lead singer, Rob Damiani. I apologized first before proceeding to chat a few minutes with him. He was so chill. I also took a photo with Rob before heading back to my spot.

It was finally time for Our Last Night’s set! Not surprising there was a mosh pit at some point of their performance. That’s why I didn’t want to be too close to the main stage. Trevor mainly provide commentary between songs. At one point, Woody, the bassist, crowd surfed from the stage to the bar and back to the stage. It was quite impressive. Our Last Night certainly know how to energetically engage the crowd. This sold out concert date had approximately 1,000 to 1,100 attendees. Despite the small stage, Our Last Night sounds amazing live! I love when a band/artist sound even better live than on their recorded albums.

Our Last Night performed a jam-packed 15 song setlist. Most of the songs were from their recent Selective Hearing EP. There was mixture of songs from Younger Dreams and Oak Island albums. The setlist even included two cover songs.

Our Last Night Baltimore Soundstage setlist

 

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Our Last Night is an up-and-coming post-hardcore band to tabs on. I have no doubt they’ll break into mainstream hardcore scene eventually in time. Our Last Night has gained a new fan. I’m glad I randomly discovered them through Spotify’s Release Radar playlist. Life is full of surprises. I eagerly look forward to their upcoming original and cover songs. Also, I’ll definitely see them again live in concert when their next tour comes nearby me.

 

The Greatest Showman

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Many months ago, I discovered a YouTube trailer for an upcoming Hugh Jackman film. This immediately caught my attention. The YouTube movie trailer was for a musical movie called The Greatest Showman. Musical films aren’t always everyone’s cup of tea. I didn’t grow up watching musicals. My appreciation for musical productions didn’t form until eleven years ago. Back in January 2006, High School Musical film debuted on Disney Channel. I’d grown up watching Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs) since my pre-teen years. Little did I realize how High School Musical movie franchise would form a longtime love for the musicals over the next eleven years.

I’ve been an immensely huge fan of Hugh Jackman’s career since I discovered the nerdtastically amazing X-men trilogy in 2006. I have no shame admitting how I’ll watch any TV show or movie starring certain bias actors. Hugh Jackman is one of the actors on this elite list. Many including myself will always associate Hugh Jackman as Wolverine aka James Logan. But I’ve seen majority of the movies in Hugh Jackman’s filmography. It proves he is an incredibly talented and versatile actor. On top of it, Hugh has a wonderfully amazing personality. This is quite evident when you watch his press junket interviews. I have absolutely no shame admitting to being obsessed with Hugh Jackman. Honestly, I’ve loved this man since I was 13. My love for him has exponentially grown over the years.

Very few of my favorite actors have a musical theater background. Let alone can sing and dance well. This is a very short list in fact. Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, and Zachary Levi. I learned each of these actors had pretty awesome singing and/or dancing abilities in surprising ways.

I’ve always known Hugh Jackman as an incredibly versatile actor. In 2009, he hosted the 81st Academy Awards. He performed a musical number at the beginning of the award show. I recall blinking at the television screen for several minutes in total shock. Until that point, I had no idea Hugh had a background in musical theater.

On random whim, I decided to watch Moulin Rouge starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. Being a massive Star Wars fan, Evan is well-known for his role as young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequels. I honestly had no idea what to expect when watching Moulin Rouge. But I had no clue it would be a heartbreaking musical film. Thanks to this movie, I learned Evan McGregor had a good singing voice. I’ve never saw him the same way many years later. In a good way.

Back in September 2007, I randomly changed channels and tuned into NBC channel. I normally didn’t venture here. I was quite biased to either The CW or ABC channels around this time. I randomly stumbled across NBC’s new spy dramedy called Chuck on September 24, 2007. In fact, this was the day of its series premiere. (Side note: Chuck was created by Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak. Josh Schwartz is well known creating teen dramas series such as Fox’s The OC and The CW’s Gossip Girl.) Chuck’s quirky concept piqued my curiosity. I was hooked by the end of the pilot episode. NBC’s Chuck was a guilty pleasure obsession show. Not enough words can begin to describe why I adored this TV show. I would devotedly continue watching NBC’s Chuck until its series finale on January 27, 2012. Chuck was my official introduction to much-lesser known and vastly underrated actor Zachary Levi. Levi played the main role of Chuck Bartowski. Many people now know him best for his role of of Flynn Rider in Disney’s Tangled. Honestly, nothing could have mentally prepared for how pretty his singing voice is. I legit cried happy tears during the scene where “I See The Light” song was duet song between Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi.

First Date Musical posterZach made his official Broadway debut with First Date musical. This off-Broadway musical ran from July 2013 to January 2014 at Longacre Theatre. My college had a NYC Broadway excursion trip in fall of 2013. First Date was the selected Broadway musical for this NYC excursion. The day of this trip finally arrived. I was exuberantly buzzing with excitement on the 4-hour bus ride to New York City. First Date musical is about a blind date between two polar opposites, Aaron and Casey, in present-day New York City. I really enjoyed it this off-Broadway musical. Three years later, Zachary Levi returned to Broadway in She Loves Me revival. Drastically different from First Date. She Loves Me takes place in 1934 Budapest. The main characters. Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash are secret pen plans who wind up working in the same perfumery shop. They initially butt heads frequently at work but slowly realize they have feelings for each other…and are actually each other’s pen pals. Zachary plays the lead role of Georg Nowack. I’d honestly see any Broadway musical starring Zachary in the main cast ensemble. He is a very versatile actor with a lovable nerdy personality as well. Thanks to NBC’s Chuck, I formed an immense appreciation for Zachary Levi over the years. He is one of my beloved bias actors.

Not everyone likes musicals regardless of what form they come in. TV show, film, school production, New York City Broadway, and London West End Broadway to name a few. I attended many of musical productions in high school and college. I don’t have acting chops. Nope. My talents lie in freelance writing and recreational singing. But I can appreciate a well executed musical production. In terms of professional live musicals, I’ve seen a total of four musicals. Four in New York City Broadway and one in London West End Broadway. First Date, She Loves Me, Bend It Like Beckham, Kinky Boots, and Phantom of the Opera. Most of the musicals I’ve seen have been in full-feature film forms rather than TV show form. I especially enjoy seeing musicals of different genres. Yet, most of the musicals I’ve ever seen have some sort of happy ending for the main character(s). Of all the musicals I’ve seen, Les Misérables film adaptation was the most depressing musical of them all. I still have different reasons for why I enjoyed a particular musical.

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The Greatest Showman took seven years of development before this musical film was finally released into theaters. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul penned the lyrics for the songs. This film was a passion project for Hugh Jackman, who was cast as title role back in 2009. The main cast ensemble includes Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Williams, and Zac Efron. Michelle and Zac were only joined the main cast in summer 2016. Zac Efron hadn’t been in a musical film project since High School Musical trilogy and Hairspray in 2007. Hugh Jackman hadn’t done a musical film project since Les Miserable in 2012. There’s a plethora of incredibly talented actors among the minor cast ensemble.

The Greatest Showman is an original musical based on the life of P.T. Barnum. The birth of the show business through the visionary ambitions of Phineas Taylor Barnum. Yes, this original musical film took drastic artistic liberty how they portrayed Barnum’s character. The Greatest Showman essentially humanizes P.T. Barnum’s character for the sake of the plot arc.

I do enjoy historical period films every once in a while, regardless of its genre. The Greatest Showman takes place between early to mid-1800s. The costumes in this film were amazing. Every main and supporting character had their own style that complimented their personality. I love how historical period films gives us a glimpse how life was centuries ago. An entirely different perspective from modern-day life.

TGS_1The Greatest Showman took artistic liberties in terms of adding character who never existed in the actual historical narrative. The characters Anne Wheeler and Phillip Carlyle were created for the film. Anne Wheeler is a trapeze artist and acrobat. Her and brother, W.D. Wheeler, were both acrobats in P.T. Barnum’s troupe of performers. Phillip Carlyle is a well-known playwright among the elite upper class. Phillip grew up in a wealthy family. Of course, he is comfortable in this posh crowd. P.T. Barnum asked Phillip Carlyle to join his risky yet exciting business venture. This is how Barnum plans on bettering his reputation among the upper class. The film explores the controversial interracial romance between Anne Wheeler and Phillip Carlyle. Neither can deny their attraction for each other. At the end of the movie, he stops letting his upper-class breeding stop him from enjoying life and take some risks in life regardless if is conventional by society.

This film is full of heart and soul as it shows the internal struggle among P.T. Barnum and the other characters. The Greatest Showman is about personal growth and a journey of self-discovery. P.T. Barnum was an enterprising man yet he unintentionally created a new family for his unique troupe of performers. The original songs beautifully capture the emotional depth of the scenes. The songs make you laugh and cry. Also, the dance choreography for the musical numbers are incredible. Every song on the film’s soundtrack is amazing in its own way. The cast ensemble takes great pride in this challenging film project.

No surprise I absolutely loved The Greatest Showman. I shed tears of laughter, joy, and sorrow throughout the film. Hugh Jackman and the cast ensemble didn’t fail to deliver an incredibly heartwarming movie. I saw this movie around Christmas time, but I definitely plan on watching it again in theaters. I actually watched it again this past weekend. It took seven years before finally hitting the big screen, yet it was so worth the wait. If you’re a fan of musicals, I highly recommend seeing The Greatest Showman. This is a great film for the whole family!

AFI

AFI banner logo

In a previous blog post, I mentioned AFI was my official introduction to emo rock. But there’s more to it. A small handful of rock bands officially introduced me to the rock genre. AFI, Three Days Grace, Red, and Skillet.  Each band is on the heavier end of the rock genre spectrum. 2006 was a pivotal year for my music tastes. In fact, it was quite a drastic transition.  Disney Channel pop music to hard rock music. Day and night.

The CW’s Smallville exposed me to many wonderful bands and artist. AFI was one of them. Decemberunderground was released in June 2006. This was the first AFI album I listened to.

AFI band members

(From left to right: Jade Puget, Adam Carson, Hunger Burgan, and Davey Havok)

I’ll provide some basic background about AFI. AFI (A Fire Inside) is a rock band from Ukiah, California who formed in 1991. The band’s member line-up has remained the same since 1998. The band consists of four band members. Davey Havok is the lead vocalist. Jade Puget plays the electric guitar. Hunter Burgan plays the bass guitar. Adam Carson plays the drums. Jade, Hunter, and Adam provide backing vocals as well. Out of all my bias rock bands, AFI is one of the oldest in terms of age of its band members. All four band members are in their early 40s.

They’ve released ten studio albums to date. Answer That and Stay Fashionable, their debut album, was released in August 1995. Very Proud of Ya was released in June 1996. Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes was released in November 1997. Black Sails in the Sunset was released in May 1999. The Art of Drowning was released in September 2000. Sing the Sorrow was released in March 2003. Decemberunderground was released in June 2006. Crash Love was released in September 2009. Burials was released in October 2013. AFI was released in January 2017.

Sing the Sorrow album cover2003’s Sing the Sorrow was their sixth studio album. This album propelled the band into mainstream recognition. This studio album was a drastic departure from the musical style of their previous five albums. Also, their previous five studio albums were released through independent record labels. A major record label. Sing the Sorrow was released through Dreamworks Records label. As a result, their fan base exponentially grew. AFI continued to gain more popularity with their follow-up album, Decemberunderground, in 2006. Sing the Sorrow and Decemberunderground transitioned AFI to emo and post-hardcore genres. Hardcore punk and horror punk elements have been increasingly less prevalent in their music. Some fans did not like this transition at all. This group of people complains AFI sold out and became too mainstream by abandoning their punk rock roots. Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone.

Decemberunderground AFI logoUntil a couple years ago, I hadn’t listened to any AFI albums prior to Decemberunderground album. But I diligently kept up with albums they released after 2006. I love how not one AFI album released after 2006 has the same musical style. This proves how the band has matured as musicians over their 25 year music career. Plus, AFI isn’t afraid to experiment with different musical styles. I appreciate it when bands/ artist evolve with each album. Nothing is wrong with nostalgic elements in songs on an album. Yet, it shouldn’t be used too much that it detracts from the band’s growth. There will always disgruntled fans that resist major musical style change with their favorite bands or artists. Typically they don’t like the overall polished sound of albums proceeding Sing the Sorrow. I just ignore these individuals. Instead, I’ll form my own opinion about AFI albums. Critics and dissatisfied fans won’t influence my opinion. Most of the time, I don’t agree with them anyway.

Decemberunderground was my official introduction to AFI. It took me a bit to warm up to this particular music style. Up to this point, I had yet encountered hard rock music incorporating sporadic bursts of screamed vocals. Three Days Grace and Skillet don’t incorporate this aspect into their music. Despite gaining mainstream popularity, AFI wasn’t as popular compared to other “emo” bands of this time like My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Panic! at the Disco to name a few. Yet, this band was my introduction to “emo” rock genre.

You never forget the album that introduced you to your favorite band/artists. Out of all their music videos, “Miss Murder” has the highest views with over 12.5 million views for both the short and longer versions. Yet “Love Like Winter” was the first AFI music video I ever saw. Music videos from Decemberunderground album has the most views compared to music videos from their other studio albums. “Miss Murder” (long and short versions) and “Love Like Winter” music videos have total of 34.5 million views to date. Sing The Sorrow music videos only have total of 21.8 million views to date. Despite being my first album, Decemberunderground is not my all-time favorite AFI album.

Crash Love was released in 2009. This album had a very different tone from previous AFI albums. It was slightly more up-beat yet still had dark undercurrents in the songs. It was love at first listen. I didn’t take time for the album to grow on me. Quite surprising. Decemberunderground grew on me after listening to this album at least 5-7 times.

Fans long to see your favorite bands/ artists in concert. Well, my dream to see AFI in concert came true on October 23, 2009. mtvU’s Ulalume festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Paramore was the headliner band with supporting bands including AFI, Dead by Sunrise, and Kid Cudi. AFI gave incredible live performances in their short setlist. It was same as what you’d hear on their recorded studio album…yet even better. Sadly I only knew half of the songs of the 13 song setlist. These songs came from Crash Love and Decemberunderground albums. The other half of the songs were from Sing the Sorrow album. At this point, I had yet listened to this particular album. Nonetheless, my first time seeing AFI in concert was amazing. It left quite the first impression.

MTV Ulalume Festival setlist

In January 2017, AFI released of their 10th studio album. The Blood album had nostalgic throwback sounds from Sing the Sorrow and Decemberunderground albums. Yet, they introduced a newer modern rock sound into the songs as well. The album has an overall mellower tone compared to previous albums. It’s refreshing. Quite a departure from 2013’s Burials.

I saw AFI for The Blood tour at Ram’s Head Live venue in February 2016. My second time seeing them in concert. Yet, it was my first time seeing AFI as the headliner band. I’ve always wanted to check out this local concert venue. Ram’s Head Live venue certainly lived up to this hype.

AFI nonetheless delivered a kick-ass rock concert. The set list for this concert included few songs off new self-titled album. But the other 16 songs were derived from Sing the Sorrow, Decemberunderground, Burials, Crash Love, The Art of Drowning, All Hallow’s EP, and Black Sails in the Sunset albums. I was aware of what to potentially expect when standing in the general admission “pit” area near the main stage. I got frequently jostled by those standing nearby me. Don’t forget the extremely close quarters. You didn’t have any personal space at all. It made it impossible to pull out my cell phone to take photos or videos. Any photos or videos wouldn’t have turned out well anyway. By immersing myself in the experience, I created long-lasting memories in my head. Overall, I had an awesome concert experience.

The Blood tour_Rams Head Live setlist

AFI logoSo what exactly drew me to AFI? I listen to plenty of alternative rock bands. Compared to other bands I listen to, AFI has an overall heavier tone in their music. Lead singer, Davey, has a baritone vocal range. It is bizarrely fascinating. I hear my fair share of tenor lead singers from my bias bands/artists. But very few have baritone vocal range like Davey Havok. It seems you either love or hate Davey’s vocals. There’s no middle ground. I find this quite fascinating. Obviously, I love Davey’s singing vocals.

Plus, he can easily transition into throaty, high pitched screaming. AFI hasn’t used as much screaming vocals in their music since Decemberunderground. This particular element has become less prominent in seventh to tenth albums. If any singer doesn’t maintain their voice then their vocal cords become very strained over time. Davey had vocal cord surgery in 2006 or 2007 after getting a vocal cyst. This changed his overall singing vocal tone. Plus, it explains why AFI no longer has as much screamed vocals in their music. Yet, I actually love how AFI’s musical style has evolved over the past 10 years.

Most of all, I love the bands I do because they meet three requirements. Beautifully complex layering of instrumental sound, emotionally-charged vocals, and confessional lyrics. This doesn’t mean I’ll always emotionally connect with the lyrics. But it doesn’t change how much I love my bias band or artists.

I’ve been listening to many of my bias rock bands for 5-11 years. Many of them don’t sound have the same musical style as when I first discovered their music. Evolution is important. As much as I love my bands, I don’t want all their albums to have same musical style. Older fans often complain when their favorite bands release new music that doesn’t sound anything like music from the band’s “glory days”. I’ve learned you’ve got to be open-minded. Try not to attach too much sentimental nostalgia. You might actually like the musical direction the band is going in if you. But first you must acknowledge change isn’t necessary bad.

From my personal experience, many of my bias bands have demonstrated their maturation and growth as artists when experimenting with newer styles. There’s a delicate balance of giving fans nostalgic throwback while simultaneously pushing forward with a new musical direction. Based off their most recent album, it seems they’re moving towards an electronica hard rock style. I dig it. Regardless, AFI still beautifully weaves dark and heavy tones into their music. I will continue to support AFI and their future music endeavors along with side projects such as Blaqk Audio and Dreamcar.

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 title translates 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.

 

 

 

 

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 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.