Tag Archives: Eddie Van Halen

Van Halen Announce 2015 North American Tour–They’re Playing Where You Live

I’ve been out of it lately and I’ve been meaning to do some writing…well today Van Halen announced a pretty big North American tour and shook me from my malaise. I missed the band the last time they reunited and toured–so this news has me pretty stoked. Sure, Michael Anthony is still out of the band and he-who-shall-not-named is still playing bass (and fat), but this announcement has me reaching for my Visa card.

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Sure, I’m still trying to recover financially from buying a pair of Replacements tickets, but this is Van Halen. Van fucking Halen. One of THE last truly great, truly massive rock bands. I’m sure this won’t be their last tour, but this will probably be the last chance I’ll ever get to see them.

And look at all the chances Van Halen is giving me (and you) to see them this summer:

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And the dates keeps going! Too many dates for one screen grab!!!

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That’s pretty much every American city worth a damn, and then some. Hell, the band is even playing my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and they only have one horse! Since moving to Denver a year ago, I’ve yearned for seeing a concert at Red Rocks (Morrison, Colorado) and this might be my chance to finally pull the trigger and visit that epic outdoor venue. But who will accompany me? Mrs. Defending Axl Rose ain’t the biggest Van Halen fan, and these tickets are gonna be expensive. I hate dragging her to stuff, but I really hate dragging her to concerts that cost $100 a pop. My fantasy list of people I’d like to see this show with would be: my Dad, Robin Renee, Gandhi, and maybe my 8th Grade Science lab partner who liked to scribble “Van Halen” on his trapper keeper (sorry dude, I have forgotten your name).

Alas, I’m broke as hell but I’m gonna fill out a home equity loan application tomorrow so I can buy tickets for this tour. I’ll keep you all posted. In the meantime, how about a little mood music?

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I Made Jack White’s Guacamole Because…Rock ‘n Roll!!!

When I first heard “Fell In Love With A Girl” way back in 2002, I had no idea that people would still be talking about Jack White in 2015. I liked the song well enough, but I wrongly predicted that White’s career (and impact on the music industry) would be as lengthy as The White Stripes breakthrough hit. I was thoroughly puzzled by White initially. I remember seeing White creepily perform “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” on Saturday Night Live and writing The White Stripes off completely. Look, we at Defending Axl Rose can’t all be right 100% of the time. Sometimes things slip by me. And don’t forget, when The White Stripes came on the scene there was a lot of strange rumors about Meg being Jack’s wife-sister…so you can’t blame me for dismissing them.

I quickly corrected my view of The White Stripes when the band released ELEPHANT in 2003. When  Mojo magazine declared it the band’s “British” album, I quickly went out and bought it on CD and red-and-white colored vinyl. That’s right, I dropped $45 on the album before I’d even heard “Seven Nation Army.” ELEPHANT was rousing, epic rock album that blew me away and immediately made me a fan and follower of White. I still think he’s weird (sometimes a little too much for his own good), but he’s the closest thing my generation has to a true rock god.

Oh my God, do a Google image search for "Jack White Guac."

Oh my God, stop reading and go do a Google image search for “Jack White Guac.” Seriously.

I’m still heartbroken that The White Stripes are no more, if you want to know the truth. I like The Raconteurs and love The Dead Weather, but I miss those glory days of red-and-white albums. White’s solo records haven’t really done much for me, but to tell the truth I’ve never really given them much of listen. White has given me so much over the years, I really owe it to him to sit down someday and study both BLUNDERBUSS and LAZARETTO in depth before writing them completely off.

Anyway, like the rest of you, I have been breathlessly following Guacamole-Gate, the dip-themed scandal that has embroiled Jack White these past few weeks. For those of you living under a rock, here are the basics: Jack White played a concert at the University of Oklahoma earlier this month. The school’s newspaper used the Freedom of Information Act to acquire the contracts involved with the concert. These documents were published in the school paper and revealed the amount of money the school paid to have White perform, as well as White’s tour rider. While I was a bit surprised it only cost the school $80,000 to have Jack White perform, the press (small and large) have jumped on the tour rider which included a recipe for Jack’s guacamole.

Ah, tour riders. Do these things ever not make an artist look crazier than a bag of cats? The purpose of tour riders is to ensure that bands and their staff are comfortable while setting up and waiting to perform  a gig. Let’s face it: being a traveling musician is not fun and glamorous. Can you imagine sharing one bathroom with everyone in Metallica? Or splitting a meal with Wolfgang Van Halen*?  Then there’s the small army needed to setup and tear down even the most modest of stages. Tour riders ensure that these hardworking folks get all the brown M&M’s they so desperately need.

Speaking of brown M&M’s, the most famous rider in all of rock history is the Van Halen rider that specified that the band have a large dish of only the brown colored candies. This demand made the band  poster children for rock excess, but over the years Eddie Van Halen has claimed that his odd request was made out of safety! According to Eddie, the band used this request to judge how compliant venues were with all of their requests. If the brown M&M’s weren’t done right, the band reasoned, then maybe the super dangerous lighting rigs weren’t done correctly either. I hate to side with Eddie (because agreeing with him stokes his ego) but the dude has a point.

Jack White’s rider requested that the venue make a bowl of homemade guacamole and included details instructions on how to make it. These instructions are Van Halen-specific, going so far as to tell venues what sort of knife to use on the avocados (a butter knife, presumably to avoid smooshing the soft fruit). The recipe even includes instructs venues to use the avocado pits and lime juice to prevent the guacamole from browning.

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“Subject to budget and advance” naturally…

When the rider hit the interWebz, the music world was shaken to the core. So much ink was spilled over this non-story that earlier this week, Jack White issued a long, semi-rambling statement about this rider. Essentially, he was sick of being asked about the whole affair and chastised the student reports for making something out of nothing. White’s management group issued a statement saying that White and their other artists would be boycotting the University of Oklahoma because of this incident. Of course, White had nothing to do with that particular decision. He even went so far as to say that he’d forgiven the student reporters and holds no ill will towards Oklahoma.

For such a strange guy, White’s response to the so-called scandal was surprisingly down-to-earth. The only disappointing part of White’s statement, in my opinion, was the revelation that the guacamole recipe wasn’t actually Jack’s:

“Anything on the rider is for the band and the crew. This “guacamole recipe” is my hilarious tour managers inside joke with the local promoters, it’s his recipe, not mine. It’s just something to break up the boredom, seeing who can make it best. Though I wouldn’t know because I’ve never had it. I can’t even make kool aid let alone cook any real food enough to have a “recipe.” sorry, I don’t have that talent.”

Great. So first The White Stripes break up forever, and then I find out Jack White can’t even make the most basic of party dips. What’s next, Bono will never be able to play guitar again? I know I’ll never be a musical genius like Jack White, but if I realized that if I could make this guacamole then there would be one area where I’d have him beat! Thus, I decided to use the recipe to make his manager’s dip. I went to the store and acquired the ingredients necessary for this magical rock ‘n roll creation. Then I rolled up my sleeves, put on some White Stripes, and got to work.

When you follow the recipe, this what you end up with:

So how was it? Well, if you follow the directions to the letter, you end up with something less like a dip and more like avocado salad.

Sorry, Jack. That isn't how I like my guacamole.

Sorry, Jack. That isn’t how I like my guacamole.

I’ll be honest, I fully intended on following the recipe to the letter, but I couldn’t abide such hippy-dippy gauc. Also, I’m really lazy. It was so much easier to just shove everything into my food processor.So that’s what I did. The results, while not 100% Jack White approved, was still pretty stellar.

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The serrano peppers added just the right amount of heat. I love spicy foods and this dip didn’t let me down. I would like to add that if you plan on making this dip, be sure to have a hungry crew of guitar techs coming over–the recipe yielded a ton of guacamole.

Delicious!

Delicious!

 

*I bet you thought I’d gotten over making fun of Wolfgang. You thought wrong.

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The Worst Opening Act

I try to keep it positive here at Defending Axl Rose, but sometimes you have no choice but to be negative.  We’ve all been there: hot, sweaty, pressed up against complete strangers in a darkened room desperately waiting for your favorite band to take the stage.  But before they can rock your socks-off, however, you gotta sit through the opening act.  There was a time when I didn’t care much for seeing opening bands.  Most of the time, when you see a “big” artist in a “big” venue, you only have to sit through one band that you didn’t pay to see…but if you’re a club-rat, seeing a shitty band in a shitty dive, you usually get to see TWO opening bands.

So there’s two ways to look at this: there’s the glass half-full and the glass half-empty approach.

1. Half-Empty: You got to sit/ stand-pressed-against-a-fat-guy-you-don’t-know through two bands you didn’t pay to see and probably don’t care about.  

and

2. Half-Full: You get to sit/stand-pressed-against-a-fat-guy-you-don’t-know through two bands you didn’t pay to see and probably don’t care about.

Now what’s the difference? Your attitude.  Once I grew up and actually wanted to TRY and EXPERIENCE new things, I found myself actually excited to see what the opening bands had to offer.  In most cases the opening band is related, in some way, to the headliner.   That relation might be tangential at best*, but there is a relationship.  Once I started opening my ears and my mind, I found myself often walking out of dive-bars/clubs with a new favorite band.  In some cases, I actually liked the opening band better than the headliner.  Blasphemy? Only if you’re 13 years-old and you only want to hear the headliner’s latest hit-single.  Me? I’m a deep-album cut sort of fellow.

A few years back I took my wife to see The Kings of Leon here in St. Louis.  The Kings of Leon were good but the opening band, The Features, blew us both away.  We fell in love with them and they soon became her all-time favorite band.  We’ve since seen them five or six times because we love them dearly (and they tour like madmen).  Now, what if we’d have skipped the opening act? What if we’d showed up just as Kings of Leon took the stage?   The Features are the better band and the only reason we ever heard of them was because we showed up early for the concert and politely listened to a band we’d never heard of.  The sad part is, I think that happens a lot—and by that I mean really great bands opening for ones that are just “alright.”  In a perfect world, The Kings of Leon would be opening for The Features, not the other way around.

The Features, 1000% better than any headliner.

Want another example? I saw Rooney back in 2003/2004** and was really impressed by their opening band The Redwalls.  The Redwalls had better songs and rocked harder than Rooney***.  To this day, I own more Redwalls albums than Rooney albums and I feel that my life has been enriched by waiting patiently through an opening act that turned out to be damn sweet.

Of course, there have been some really awful opening bands I’ve had to suffer through.  The worst of all-time was a band called White Williams.  I was seeing Vampire Weekend (again with the wife) and White Williams was the first of two opening bands.  Actually, that’s not right…White Williams was not a “band” but rather two dudes in sweaters.  One had a laptop and the other had a guitar.   I’m all for experimental music, and I think there’s some really awesome stuff some artists are doing with loops and simple guitar licks, but these guys weren’t actually doing anything.  One guy just stood there with his guitar, looking like he was asleep, while the other dude dramatically pressed a few buttons on his laptop.  When I say dramatically, I mean this guy was pressing one button on his laptop every few seconds like he was Eddie Van Halen SHREDDING on a solo.  He had that intensity on his face like he was lifting the continent of Antarctica on his shoulders while at the same time working on a cure for cancer. In short, he was a acting like a complete douchebag: all he was doing was standing there with a sweater…pressing buttons.

The lead-laptopist of White Williams, taking a rare break from lap-topping.

What does the name White Williams evoke? Does it make you think of bland, vanilla, anglo-static?  Well that’s what I think that name evokes for me, and it turns out that’s what White Williams sounds like.  They’re the worst, bland electronica you can imagine.  I seriously hope one of the guys in White Williams is in a relationship with someone in Vampire Weekend, because if having them on the bill that night wasn’t a John-making-Yoko-happy-by-letting-her-sing-on-the-album situation then Vampire Weekend are idiots****.  People often talk and check their cell phones during an opening band, but I saw people drift dangerously close to falling asleep during White Williams’ set.  I don’t think rock bands should do idiotic stunts, but you’ve got to do more to wow an audience than simply show up with your sweater and laptop.

Another mistake White Williams made was essentially play one song for twenty minutes.  During their set they said nothing to the audience, for all I know they really did only play one song.  The only reason I know they’re called “White Williams” is because the guy with the laptop mouth-breathed it once just before exiting the stage*****.

I know all of that seems pretty harsh, but you have to understand, I did not pay to see White Williams.  I didn’t make that choice, they were thrust upon me.  I think if you’re going to be in the ENTERTAINMENT industry you should, at the every least, be ENTERTAINING.  But there’s a bad apple in every bunch, and for the most part I still maintain that opening bands are worth your time and your respect.  Be an adult and let the White Williams’ of the world actually let you down before you completely dismiss them outright.

ENDNOTES:

* Like they’re represented by the same management or were called last-minute to fill-in.

**It was a long time ago, I can’t really remember.

***Who eventually turned into a just okay pop band, which by the way is not a crime.

**** Read: I hope the dude in White Williams is blowing someone in Vampire Weekend.

****That’s a systemic problem in rock shows these days, nobody bothers so say who they are anymore.  I can’t count the number of really cools bands that get onstage, rock my world and then leave without adequately explaining who the fuck they are.  Don’t want me to buy your records, visit your website, blog about you, become your fan? Okay dude, good luck with that. TELL US WHO YOU ARE MORE THAN ONCE!!!

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From the “Nobody-Could-Have-Seen-This-Coming-File”: VAH HALEN POSTPONE 31 SHOWS

Well imagine that, Van Halen are having a bit of turmoil!  Rolling Stone reported late this week that the classic rockers are “postponing” 31 shows. No one would say why, but a “source” close to the band said that “they hate each other” and that they can’t stop fighting.  Apparently they can’t even stop fighting to count all that money.  The band is currently still performing, but band reps let everyone know that after their June 26th show in New Orleans, the band isn’t going to play anymore shows.  But will the fans who bought tickets get to see the band?  Or see their money back? No one is talking in either the Van Halen-camp or the Live Natio-camp (Live Nation being the evil Corporate overlords).

Quick! Someone explain to Van Halen how capitalism works: You have a product, we pay for it…then you give it to us.

I, for one, am full of regret that I missed Van Halen when they recently rolled through St. Louis (I was at another concert) because I only heard awesome things.  Still, are we really surprised that Van Halen aren’t getting along and might back out of a mega-comeback tour?  The band is a potent concoction of “we hate each other.”  Podcaster Adam Carolla likes to ask Rolling Stone writer David Wild about the untold millions dunder-headed rockers leave “on the table” just because they can’t sack-up and get along.  I have no idea how much money Van Halen stands to lose if they don’t play these 31 remaining shows, but I’m sure it’s a phenomenal amount.  The Rolling Stone article quotes a promoter as saying that the shows have been selling really well, so the notion that the band is pulling out of the concerts because they aren’t selling enough tickets isn’t the case.

Anyway, if you have tickets for any of the following shows, you might want to start making other plans:

July 7: Uncasville, Ct., Mohegan Sun Arena
July 9: Hampton, Va., Hampton Coliseum
July 11: Philadelphia, Pa., Wells Fargo Center
July 13: East Rutherford, N.J., Izod Center
July 15: Baltimore, Md., 1st Mariner Arena
July 17: Rochester N.Y., Blue Cross Arena
July 19: Detroit, Mich., Joe Louis Arena
July 21: London, Ontario, John Labatt Centre
July 24: Toledo, Ohio, Huntington Center
July 26: Grand Rapids, Mich., Van Andel Arena
July 28: Cleveland, Ohio, Quicken Loans Arena
July 31: Fort Wayne, Ind., Allen County Memorial Coliseum
August 2: Columbus, Ohio, Schottenstein Center
August 4: Knoxville, Tenn., Thompson-Boiling Arena
August 6: Memphis, Tenn., FedEx Forum
August 8: Birmingham, Ala., BJCC Arena
August 10: Greenville, S.C., BI-LO Center
August 12: Cincinnati, Ohio, US Bank Arena
August 21: Spokane, Wash., Spokane Arena
August 23: Portland, Ore., Rose Garden
August 25: Sacramento, Calif.,Power Balance Pavilion
August 28: Fresno, Calif., Save Mart Center
August 30: Reno, Nev., Reno Events Center
September 4: Salt Lake City, Utah — EnergySolutions Arena
September 8: Albuquerque, N.M., Tingley Coliseum
September 11: El Paso, Texas, Don Haskins Center
September 13: Austin, Texas, Frank Erwin Center
September 15: Oklahoma City, Okla., Chesapeake Energy Arena
September 17: Wichita, Kan. – Intrust Bank Arena (WFT, I’m from that part of the world and I’ve never heard of this venue)
September 21: Moline, Ill., Iwireless Center
September 25: Milwaukee, Wis., Bradley Center

* * * * * *

UPDATE: I forgot to bash Wolfgang Van Halen in this post, for that I truly apologize.  In order to correct this oversight, let me just say that this is most likely all Wolfgang’s fault.  The band postponed these shows because Wolfgang is fat. 

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A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH

It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong:  I have been wrong.  I thought this new Van Halen album was going to be another run-of-the-mill, Dinosaurs of Rock Ca$h grab.  I thought Van Halen were leveraging the last bit of goodwill the band had in order to pay for second (or third, or fourth) wives and grand babies (!).  In my defense, the band’s choice of “Tattoo” as the lead single was pretty bonehead (unless you think putting your worst foot-first is a good idea).

How's this for a different kind of truth: this band's new album isn't a horrendous mistake.

So I downloaded A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH on Friday, mostly because I have deep psychological problems/I hate myself.  To my shock, once you get past the floating turd that is “Tattoo,” the album is pretty damn good.  A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH is not so different from classic, late 1970s-era Van Halen.  The reason for this is because all these songs were written 30+ years ago by the band.  Yes, the “new” Van Halen album is full of cast-offs and throw aways (the B-sides, “b-sides” if you will) and while that might sound like a bad thing, it turns out it’s not.

Think about it terms of money: back in the day the young, kickass Van Halen wrote some songs and put them into a rock ‘n roll savings account.  You know, for when they were older and wanted to retire.  This “song savings plan” has paid Van Halen Corp. huge dividends in form of modern songs with a classic feel.  

But enough bullshit, let’s talk about the songs.

So like I said, the boys put their worst foot-forward with “Tattoo.”  It’s not only the lead single, but it’s also the first track of the record.  I’m not sure who it is in the Van Halen camp that has the massive hardon for this song, but I’m pretty sure it’s that fat-fuck Wolfgang.  Just kidding, I know Wolfgang’s opinons don’t matter (except to this daddy), I’m sure the whole organization thinks “Tattoo” is a “hip” modern-taken on Van Halen. But it sucks.

The rest of the album, however, is solid as a rock. The second track, “She’s A Woman” is, for me, the album’s true opener.  The lyrics are a bit much, with David Lee Roth howling about how normal he is….you know, he drives a Chevy and…lives in his car (?).  While I’m usually annoyed when millionaires wail about how blue collar they are, I decided to not bitch because the guitar work on this song is phenomenal.  In fact, Eddie Van Halen is on fire the whole record.  It’s pretty awesome to see that the dude can still shred.  And beyond that,  the playing isn’t contrived or robotic–nor is it a parody of his younger-self.  Diamond Dave’s voice is lower and rougher, but Eddie’s guitar playing is exactly as awesome as it was back in the day.

“You and Your Blues” should have been the first single, in my opinion.  It’s more understated than the dunderheaded “Tattoo,” but that’s why I like it.  The song has a great, chuggy-sounding guitar tone and a really awesome Rolling Stones reference in the lyrical hook.

My favorite track on A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH is “Blood and Fire.”  This was, you might recall, one of the tracks the band released partially leading up to the album’s release. It’s a great song and the lyrics fit an older, more mature Van Halen.  The band has “come through blood and fire” so to speak and the fact that they’re still standing should be a source of pride for them.  The car/racing metaphors are classic Van Halen and reminded me of “Panama.”  This is definitely one that they’re going to be playing live on the new tour.

Other standouts on the album include  the super-heavy “As Is” and the cheeky-as-hell “Stay Frosty.”  The latter being a spiritual sequel to “Ice Cream Man” off of Van Halen’s first record.  It’s worth noting that “Stay Frosty” with it’s acoustic guiar opening, is probably the only track to not come kicking and screaming out of the gate.  This is a hard-charing Van Halen record (which is probably why the album art is an old train, get it?  Old train).

Are there problems other than “Tattoo”? Of course.  David Lee Roth’s voice is rougher and his “raps” aren’t as funny as they used to be. There’s a particularly embarrassing one in the middle of “The Trouble With Never.”  The songs themselves are pretty good, but let’s face it–nothing on A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH is going to become a classic Van Halen song.  They aren’t going to play “Outta Space” or “Big River” at a ballgame.  These are leftover tracks and the only reason we’re accepting them is because we’ve lowered our collective expectations for Van Halen.

On the other hand, this album does not tarnish the Van Halen brand in any way.  I can crank it up in the summer time and not be embarrassed when I hit a stop light, which is nice. I think all parties involved have lucked out.  Having a backlog of songs to pull from has probably spared us all from a truly awful, gut-wrenching experience.  Our heroes didn’t fall, and for me that’s good enough. 

A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH gets a “B.”

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