The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman banner

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 Rough 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. Three in New York City Broadway and one in London West End Broadway. First Date, She Loves Me, Bend It Like Beckham, and Kinky Boots. 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.

TGS poster

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 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


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.





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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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.