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.

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.

 

Reeve Carney

reeve-carneyI don’t easily form a bias toward an actor. This implies their acting skills left a lasting impression on me. Usually these actors have brilliantly portrayed a variety of characters in TV shows and/or movies. It proves how they are a versatile actor. Very few actors join this prestigious club. Now, there is a new member to this club. Reeve Carney.

Recently, I intensely binged all three season of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. I formed emotional attachments to some characters. Most of all, I grew to really love Dorian Gray. I shouldn’t love him but I do. In my opinion, he was one of the most multifaceted characters in Penny Dreadful. Dorian Gray is a fascinating enigma. Reeve Carney portrays Dorian Gray. This show was my official introduction to Reeve. It formed my appreciation for him.

My appreciation quickly transformed into love. One day, I was looking up Penny Dreadful videos on YouTube. Of course you click on the recommended suggestions. One recommended video after another. It’s never ending lack of productivity. Sometimes I don’t mind it.

Surprisingly, Reeve Carney plays the bad boy love interest in Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” music video. This is one of the rare occasions I even considered watching a Taylor Swift music video. I’m not exactly a huge fan of her music. But I usually respect her as an artist…unlike majority of female vocalists in the pop industry over the past few years.

At one point, I randomly clicked on “Love Me Chase Me” music video from a band called Carney. I immediately realized Reeve Carney was the frontman of Carney within the first minute of the music video. Reeve Carney’s vocals are very intriguing. Not like the usual tenor male vocals I listen to in my music. There are hints of soulful, bluesy jazz facets in his tenor vocals. You hear these facets in his music as well. It’s quite refreshing considering what you typically hear with indie rock music. I don’t care if it isn’t as dynamic of a vocal range compared to my other bias male musicians. Reeve’s vocals are so soothingly emotive.

My discovery of Reeve Carney’s music somehow led me to the Spider-man fandom. Ten years ago, Spider-man trilogy was my official introduction to the Marvel movie universe. So what’s the connection between Reeve Carney and Marvel’s Spider-man universe? Reeve played as Peter Parker/ Spider-man in Broadway’s Spider-man: Turn off the Dark musical. I vaguely remember this Broadway musical receiving lots of negative press in the media. It had a $75 million budget. The most expensive Broadway musical. Plus, it was the most technically complex production. Investors lost approximately $60 million. Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark was not a profitable Broadway musical. Also, it had the longest preview period in Broadway history. A total of 182 preview performances. Up to this point, the musical faced many delays before getting official opening night date on June 14, 2011. Reeve Carney was part of this production until September 15, 2013. That’s over 900 performances as Peter Parker/ Spider-man. He left the musical to begin preparation for his role as Dorian Grey on Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. It took a couple listens before the Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark musical soundtrack really grew on me. I like how it incorporates rock opera elements into traditional musical theater.

Nowadays, Reeve has been pursuing a solo music career. His debut album, Youth is Wasted, was released on October 14, 2016. I’m sad I didn’t discover his music sooner. Over the past month, I’ve been avidly listening to my Reeve Carney Spotify playlist.  I can’t enough of his music.

Overall, Reeve is well-rounded actor and musician. He is full of surprises. I look forward to his future acting and music projects.

 

 

Artifact

Between 2007 and 2009, the global economy faced a financial crisis. USA experienced the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. The financial crisis of 2007-2008 had multiple causes. Using business and economic terminology, I could explain the multi-faceted issues surrounding this controversial topic. But I’ll spare you the details. Basically the underlying reason is financial institutions lent out too much money and their borrowers couldn’t pay it all back. That’s the problem with credit.  When poorly implemented, credit can be very catastrophic.

Financial Crisis word collage

During the economic recession, the average American had increasingly less discretionary income to spend on luxury goods and services. The financial crisis impacted all industry sectors including the music industry. Also, there was a new player in the music industry. Digital music. It was rapidly gaining widespread popularity. Apple’s iTunes was the dominant distributor of digital music. During 2008, there was a significant drop in the sale of physical CDs. CDs were the main source of revenue for this industry sector. Yet this continued to still be the most popular format of music. With the digital era, it gave rise to a whole new beast. The illegal downloading of music. It prevents artists from being properly compensated for their efforts.

Since their inception in 1998, Thirty Seconds to Mars has experienced their fair share of hardship in the music industry. Their self-titled debut album didn’t garner much mainstream popularity. Thirty Seconds to Mars released their sophomore album in August 2005. A Beautiful Lie was a breakthrough album for them. It essentially launched their music careers.

Let’s put this into perspective in terms of the music industry at that time. Rock music genres had gained mainstream popularity around the mid-2000s. This certainly helped Thirty Seconds to Mars. They joined the ranks of other popular rock bands such as Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Seether, 3 Doors Down, Nickelback, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and Franz Ferdinand to name a few.

From their sophomore album,  the second single “The Kill” finally put them on the map. The band’s hard work had finally paid off.  They were floating on cloud nine. Also, the band wanted to create a documentary about the production of their upcoming third album.

Sadly, their success was short-lived upon discovering they owed Virgin Records nearly $2.5 million. Up to this point, the sales from their two albums had not generated any profits. Also, the record company hadn’t paid them their due royalties from these albums. They wanted to leave Virgin Records. In mid-2008, the band attempted to sign with a new record label. EMI, parent company of Virgin Records, filed a $30 million lawsuit against Thirty Seconds to Mars. According to EMI, the band had failed to produce three of the five albums obligated within their 1999 contract.

Here is some background information about EMI. In August 2007, Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd, a UK-based private equity firm, acquired EMI for $4.7 billion. Terra Firma’s takeover implemented an entirely new restructuring plan for EMI along with 1,500 to 2,000 job cuts. The restructuring plan was intended to pay off EMI’s massive debts to Citigroup. Terra Firma’s belligerent business practices quickly deteriorated the relationship between the record label and their artists.

Artifact_2They fought hard for their survival. During this time, the band was recording their third studio album. The record company had absolutely no involvement in this process. In fact, Thirty Seconds to Mars used their own money to hire well-known music producers, Flood and Steve Lillywhite, along with a small staff. Jared, Shannon, and Tomo channeled all the tumultuous emotions of the legal battle into the new songs. This documentary offers intimate, behind-the-scene footage of the band’s recording sessions and legal meetings. Yet, Artifact simultaneously explores the complexity of the modern music industry along with the relationship between record label and their artists. First-hand account interviews from musicians, EMI executive and employees, and music journalists gives eye-opening insight to the much uglier side of this ruthless industry.

The documentary has an overall somber tone. But there are light-hearted, sentimental, and humorous moments sprinkled in throughout the film. You learn more about the upbringings of Tomo and the Leto brothers and how it shaped them into the people they are today. Also, Artifact incorporates beautifully panoramic shots of Los Angeles consistently throughout the documentary.

Between 2008 and 2009, Thirty Seconds to Mars’s financial reserves were stretched very thin. They almost became broke from the mounting costs associated with making the album and paying legal fees. In addition, they funded their documentary, Artifact, on a very limited budget. It is unlikely they’ll even generate much revenue from it. Without a doubt, this time of immense tribulation made Tomo, Shannon, and Jared much stronger people. This explains the heavily emphasized tone of struggle and perseverance in the songs off their third album, This Is War. In 2009, the $30 million lawsuit came to an end. EMI renegotiated a new contract with the band. Both parties wanted to make amends to their previously contentious relationship. The war was over.

Thirty Seconds to Mars fought like hell to pursue their music careers even when the industry didn’t appreciate nor recognize them. This band prefers to stay out of the celebrity limelight which is almost unheard of nowadays. With their hard work and perseverance, Thirty Seconds to Mars have fulfilled their rock star dreams over the years. Their music is well loved by the worldwide community of their Echelon family. Over the past three weeks, I’ve formed a whole new appreciation for Thirty Seconds to Mars.

Artifact was directed by front man, Jared Leto, under his longtime pseudonym  Bartholomew Cubbins. Also, he worked with Emma Ludbrook to produce this film. The documentary premiered at 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. This documentary received favorable reviews from critics and audiences. It would go on to win more awards from other film festivals. Well-deserved accolades!

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I would highly recommend Thirty Seconds to Mars’ Artifact to everyone. You don’t need to be a musician to enjoy this compellingly riveting documentary. It is an emotionally engaging work of cinematography. So worth all 103 minutes of your time!

Thirty Seconds To Mars

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Nowadays people associate Jared Leto from his acting roles in Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and Suicide Squad (2016). Some people aren’t aware Jared is very versatile.  Actor. Singer-songwriter. Director. Producer. Editor. Photographer. Investor. Painter.

I’ve always associated Jared Leto as the lead singer of Thirty Seconds to Mars. Actually Jared Leto and his older brother, Shannon Leto, are co-founders of Thirty Seconds to Mars. Their mother, Constance, encouraged her boys to get involved in the creative arts at a young age. Since childhood, music played an integral role in the Leto brothers’ lives.

I’ll give some background history about this rock band. In 1998, Leto brothers formed Thirty Seconds to Mars in Los Angeles. Jared did some acting roles prior to pursing his passion for music. People magazine named Jared Leto one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World in 1996 and 1997. Jared refused to promote the band by flaunting his Hollywood fame. This speaks volumes about his humility. In fact, he has never leveraged his Hollywood fame to garner more attention for the band. Jared has intentionally maintained his acting and music careers as distinct entities. In 1998, Thirty Seconds to Mars sign with Immortal Records. Then, Virgin Records joined this contract in 1999. Their self-titled debut album was released in August 2002.

Since 2006, Jared Leto has directed all of Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music videos. He goes under the pseudonyms of Bartholomew Cubbins and Angakok Panipaq. His directorial filmography includes A Beautiful Lie, From Yesterday, The KillKings and QueensHurricaneCloser to the Edge,  City of AngelsDo or Die, and Up in the Air. Each music video is basically a short film or documentary. Beautiful works of cinematography! [WARNING: Hurricane music video contains some mature content!]

Also, Jared Leto is a savvy business man. He founded an on-demand streaming platform called VyRT. This media company has diversified their services to include digital distribution, social networking, and online shopping. Artists can provide their fans unique virtual social experience through VrYT. Musicians can offer live experiences and broadcast it in real-time on the Internet. This is not his only technology investment. He was an early investor stakeholder in many companies. Nest, Uber, Airbnb, Reddit, and Slack to name a few. Jared has diversified his streams of revenue. But it is safe to say majority of money comes from his music career.

One thing differentiates Thirty Seconds to Mars from other artists or bands in the music industry. All of the band’s music videos and documentaries were produced in collaboration with producing partner, Emma Ludbrook, under their Sisyphus Corporation. They even have their own teams that address the business and marketing functions. They don’t have heavy reliance on their record label. Majority of artists/ bands aren’t quite as self-sufficient as this alternative rock band. My appreciation for Thirty Seconds to Marks keeps exponentially growing.

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[Tomo Milicevic (left), Jared Leto (middle), Shannon Leto (right)]

Thirty Seconds to Mars has consisted of three members since 2006. Jared is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. Tomo is the lead guitarist but also plays the keyboard and violin as needed. Also, he is responsible for backing vocals. Shannon is the drummer. Yet, he can play other percussion instruments as well. There’s fluidity in the roles within the band. All three members equally contribute to the creative music writing process.

Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music incorporates philosophical and spiritual elements in combination with Leto’s life experiences. All of their songs have deep lyrical content. By the way, Jared Leto is the main songwriter for the band. They certainly aren’t afraid to experiment with different musical styles. Electronica vibes are injected into the band’s alternative rock sound. Each Thirty Seconds to Mars album revolves around a specific concept theme.

Compared to my other bias rock bands, Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music is relatively mellow. But nonetheless their music delivers deep lyrical content. Jared Leto’s vocal tone is rather clean cut. But not too polished.  It still conveys a wide spectrum of raw emotions. Jared Leto is technically a high baritone/low tenor. Until recently, I’ve never heard of this vocal classification.  In my opinion, the only other lead singer with a similar vocal tone is Muse’s Matt Bellamy.

Jared delivers clean cut vocals with sporadic bursts of intense screaming. There was more screaming outburst in the songs on their debut and sophomore albums. Hardly any screaming outbursts featured in the songs on the third and fourth albums. This explains how Jared has maintained his singing vocals over 18 years. Also, he doesn’t smoke or drink which definitely preserved his clean cut vocal tone.

There are some artists or bands I’ve been listening to many years…yet I cannot exactly recall when I discovered their music. Thirty Seconds to Mars falls into this category. I didn’t even know about this alternative rock band until my sophomore or junior year of high school.

Back in 2008 or 2009, I vaguely recall a friend of a friend obsessively ranting about a music video one day in class. The music video in reference was “A Beautiful Lie” by Thirty Seconds to Mars. Lauryn randomly stumbled across that while browsing YouTube. It left a memorable first impression on her. Also, she emphasized the lead singer was stunningly gorgeous. She didn’t have to work too hard to persuade me to check them out.  Thirty Seconds to Mars is an alternative rock band. My music preference usually leans towards the rock genre anyway.

During one of my free weekends, I decided to check out “A Beautiful Lie” music video. Rock genre has varying types of musical styles. I honestly had no idea what to expect with Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music. “A Beautiful Lie” music video concept was quite simple. It addresses the importance of global warming.  Also, the band shot the music video on location in Greenland. 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It left a lasting impression on me. I wanted to listen to more of their music. So I checked out Thirty Seconds to Mars’s A Beautiful Lie album from my local library. This album was released back in August 2005…but I only discovered it three or four years later.

One of my all-time favorite Thirty Seconds to Mars music video is “From Yesterday”. This was the third single off of their sophomore album, A Beautiful Lie. To current date, it is the band’s most elaborate music video concept. It was shot on location at the Forbidden City. Thirty Seconds to Mars is the only American artist/ band to shoot an entire music video in the People’s Republic of China. This music video pays tribute to the 1987 film The Last Emperor. More than 300 extras were used in this music video shoot. There are two versions of “From Yesterday” music video. 13 minute short film and edited 7 minute versions. The cinematography and story concept immerses you into China’s rich history and culture.

For the longest time, A Beautiful Lie was the only Thirty Seconds to Mars album I had ever listened to. It wasn’t until a few years ago I checked out their two recent albums. This is War. Love Lust Faith + Dreams. Drastically different music styles from A Beautiful Lie album. There was definitely more experimentation with music styles on those two albums. It took a few listens before I acclimated to this new sound. I’d grown accustomed to darker undercurrents of A Beautiful Lie album.

Also, I recently listened to the band’s debut album for the first time. I thought their sophomore album, A Beautiful Lie, was pretty intense in regards to the sound. Nope. Their debut album is way heavier.

Their sophomore album, A Beautiful Lie, helped the band finally gain mainstream popularity. In March 2006, this album’s second single “The Kill” immensely launched Thirty Seconds to Mar’s music career. Ten years of working their asses off had finally paid off! But the victory was very short-lived. The band was informed they owed $2,500,000 of debt to Virgin Records. Despite selling millions of albums, they hadn’t made any money from the album sales up to this point. Of course this news would be very disheartening to any artist. Thirty Seconds to Mars made the decision to leave Virgin record label in mid-2008.

EMI Records slapped the band with a $30 million lawsuit for breach of their 1999 contract with Virgin Records. EMI is the parent company of Virgin. Between 2008 and 2009, the band simultaneously recorded their third studio album, This is War, and fought their own legal battle with EMI. The band waged war against the music industry’s unethical business practices in their documentary, Artifact. It even includes  in-depth, behind-the-scenes footage of recording sessions and legal meetings. Also, it paints the harsh reality of modern music industry for upcoming and even established artists. Artifact was directed by Jared Leto under his Bartholomew Cubbins pseudonym.

30STM Guinness World RecordsDid you know Thirty Seconds to Mars made it into the Guinness World Records in 2011? Their third album, This is War, was released in December 2009. Into The Wild tour spanned over a two year period. The band traveled to 6 continents performing over 300 shows. In fact, the music video for “Closer to the Edge” features live concert footage from this tour. Thirty Seconds to Mars wanted to break the world record for most live shows during a single album promotion cycle. They made this a reality. Thirty Seconds to Mars set the world record for “Longest Concert Tour by a Rock Band” with a total of 309 live concerts on their Into the Wild worldwide tour.

It has been a little over a year since I last listened to Thirty Seconds to Mars’s albums. I go through various music phases. So I haven’t been in the mood to listen to their music. Within the past two weeks, I’ve seen Suicide Squad twice in theaters. I normally don’t like DC universe films. Yet, Suicide Squad piqued my curiosity. I had two main reasons to see this film. Panic! at the Disco and Jared Leto. There was much hype surrounding Jared Leto portraying a modern-day gangster interpretation of the Joker, the clown prince of Gotham. I was intrigued how Jared would bring this character to life on the big screen. The first DC universe movie I’ve gone to the theater to see. My curiosity paid off. I very much enjoyed this anti-hero summer blockbuster.

Suicide Squad convinced me to re-explore Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music. I’ve intensely binged all four of their albums over the past two weeks. Love Lust Faith + Dreams album has really grown on me. I love Thirty Seconds to Mars even more than I did. Jared, Shannon, and Tomo are all awesome people in their own way. Also, they are incredibly talented artists. Each of their albums demonstrates their growth and maturity as artists. Thirty Seconds to Mars have maintained their presence in the music industry over the past 18 years. Longevity in the constantly changing music industry isn’t easy to achieve.

Love Lust Faith + Dreams album was released back in May 2013. So they haven’t come out with new material in three years. Jared pursued some movie projects during this gap. The wait is finally over! Thirty Seconds to Mars will release their fifth studio album in 2017. There are plenty of YouTube videos verifying Thirty Seconds to Mars is a phenomenal live act.  I’d love to see them live in concert on their tour promoting the new album!

SS Joker[On a somewhat related side-note rant: It is frustrating how close-minded movie goers bashed Leto’s amazing performance as the infamous Joker. Jared Leto put his own unique spin on this multi-faceted villain. I’m pissed how majority of Joker scenes were cut from final theatrical version. I’m well-aware the Joker is only prevalent to Harley Quinn’s backstory arc. So he isn’t the main focus of the film’s plot arc. But the studio heavily emphasized the Joker in Suicide Squad’s promotional marketing campaign. This is extremely deceptive. Jared is disappointed how only few of his scenes actually ended up in the final version of Suicide Squad. There were some minor plot gaps because many Joker scenes were cut out. Most importantly, music is his main passion. So Jared is very selective of which movie projects he chooses to participate in. Any movie project means less time he can devote to working on new Thirty Seconds to Mars material. He won’t take time away from his music for just any movie role. It must be a truly worthy artistic film project. He joined Suicide Squad project because of the artistic premise. DC extended universe films are a major time commitment. So Jared has a valid reason to be angry the Joker only got 15-20 minutes of screen time. Warner Bro Studios were very misleading when bringing him onto this film project. I really hope we see more of Jared Leto’s Joker in future DC extended universe films. I love the charismatic bad-assery of the new Joker.]