Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the month “February, 2014”

WrestleMania XXX – It’s Almost Here

20140228-184142.jpg

Today I received my WrestleMania XXX travel package, including tickets to the event itself, as well as tickets to the Hall of Fame ceremony, the following night’s Raw, and tickets to Axxess – the weekend-long event where fans can meet the wrestlers, see memorabilia and engage in a variety of fun activities. I also have VIP tickets to meet and get professional photos taken with two of my all-time favorite wrestlers: Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. This will be my first WrestleMania and my first time in New Orleans. Stay tuned for all the great stories, photos and videos I’m sure to gather during what will be a fantastic weekend.

A Conversation With John Oates

John Oates

I recently had the opportunity to interview the incredibly talented John Oates, one half of the 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees Hall & Oates. In addition to having a stellar career with Daryl Hall, John has created a strong catalog of music as a solo artist. On March 18th, he’s releasing three five-track EPs – Route 1, Route 2 and Route 3 – as part of his latest music project entitled Good Road to Follow. You can learn more about this on the official John Oates website.

Below is my interview with John and two behind-the-scenes videos about Good Road to Follow. Enjoy!

Congratulations on being a 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee. You and Daryl were first eligible for induction in 1997, yet you weren’t nominated until now. Hall & Oates came in as one of the top five acts that people wanted inducted in the official Rock & Roll Hall of Fame fan poll. How does it feel to receive this honor from both the public and your peers?

To me it’s like a lifetime achievement award. I’m happy that the fans and public were finally allowed to vote and I’m sure that had a lot to do with us getting admitted.

The 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee list is a diverse one. In addition to yourselves, there’s KISS, Nirvana and Peter Gabriel, just to name a few. Are you fans of these artists and are you looking forward to performing with them on stage at the end of the ceremony on April 10?

I am honored to be part of this particular “class.” All of these artists have unique and qualified talent and all are deserving to be in the Hall of Fame. As to performing, I have no idea of what  or who will be involved.

Speaking of performances, I attended your concert at the Tower Theater in October 2013. As always, it was excellent, and you performed one of my favorite songs, “Las Vegas Turnaround” from the Abandoned Luncheonette album. You mentioned writing the song while sitting on the step of your apartment on Quince Street in Philadelphia, which is right around the corner from where I live. What was the inspiration for this song and how did it come together?

Two young ladies were walking by and they stopped to talk. One of them told me they were flight attendants – “airline stewardesses” – and were about to do a “Las Vegas Turnaround.” When I asked what that was they told me it was a quick trip from Philly to Vegas, then right back again. I had never heard that expression and it seemed like a great title. I wrote the song around the idea of flying. “Gambling fools to the holy land Las Vegas.”

I’ve always had a soft spot for many of the Hall & Oates tracks where you sang lead, especially “Mano a Mano,” “Possession Obsession” and “Keep on Pushin’ Love.” When working on an album together, how do you and Daryl decide who should handle the lead vocal?

Some songs just work better for Daryl’s voice and his sound has become the trademark of our biggest hits, so when I wrote certain songs like “Maneater” or “Out of Touch” it seemed like the best thing to do was have him sing it.

What is the songwriting process like for you? Do you sit down and say, “I’m going to write a song,” or does inspiration strike and you start taking notes?

The rules are: “No rules.” Anything from the most mundane to the most profound can be the fuel for inspiration. The difference between songwriters and others is that songwriters are always somehow tuned into the world, situations, emotions, and experiences that other people may not be aware of. Then it’s down to the ability to articulate those things both musically and lyrically into a song that people can relate to and that touches their souls or makes them want to shake their booty, or maybe both.

John OatesWhether it’s your work with Daryl Hall or your solo albums, you clearly have a diverse taste in music. Which albums or artists have influenced you the most over the years?

I was lucky to be a kid at the birth of rock and roll, but I was also aware of the music that came before me, the big bands, jazz, etc. My first guitar and lyric hero was Chuck Berry. Elvis was well…Elvis. The traditional american folk and blues artists were very important to me as well: Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson, Blind Blake, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Jim and Jesse, as well as the newer folk interpreters like Dave Van Ronk and Joan Baez. My tastes extended to the historical performer like John Jacob Nile. Then 60s R&B was very important: Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions, The Stax/Volt recordings with Booker T and the MGs, Motown, and of course, East Coast doo-wop and Philly soul. 

Your first solo album, Phunk Shui, is a terrific collection of pop, rock and soul music. One of the songs on the album, “Love in a Dangerous Time,” was re-recorded for the Hall & Oates album Do It for Love. What’s the story behind this song and do you prefer one version over the other?

I wrote that song with Arthur Baker and Tom Farragur. It was about a changing world as I saw it…AIDS, violence and turmoil. I prefer my solo version because the music is more ominous and less pop. 

You followed up Phunk Shui with 1,000 Miles of Life, a rock album with country undertones, and Mississippi Mile, a stripped-down bluesy affair. What inspires you to shift direction from album to album?

I don’t see it as a shift. I see it as an evolution and the maturation of me as a solo artist. 1,000 Miles of Life was my first album that I recorded in Nashville and I wanted to take advantage of all the amazing musicians. Also, the songs were very introspective and I knew that their playing style and sensitivity to lyrics would bring out the best in these particular types of songs. Mississippi Mile was more of an “homage” to the music that I loved as a kid and re-working some of my old favorites into my personal style. That album was basically recorded live in the studio, also in Nashville.

John OatesYour most recent musical endeavor is called Good Road to Follow. As part of this project, you released five musically diverse singles in 2013, and in 2014 you have a trilogy of EPs coming out. What should fans expect from the EPs?

It will be released on March 18th as a package with three discs. Each disc has five songs assembled based on style as best I could. Since the project began as a series of singles there was no thought about flow and style. I just wrote the best songs I could with a wide variety of collaborators, both as writers and producers. The discs are entitled: Route 1, Route 2 and Route 3. 

What made you want to take this unique approach to releasing music?

I have been moving beyond the concept of an album in the traditional sense. The world has accelerated and listeners’ desire to create personal playlists seems to be setting the standard. However, after hearing a bunch of my digital singles there was a lot of demand for an album, so I had to figure out a way to assemble all this diverse music. I did the best I could and all three EPs are the result. 

So far, my favorite song from Good Road to Follow is “High Maintenance.” It’s easily the best pop song I’ve heard in quite some time. With this single, as well as the others, you’ve collaborated with a variety of artists. What has it been like working with such a diverse group of musicians on this ambitious project?

I am proud of all the songs on Good Road to Follow. It’s just different flavors. Everyone who worked on this project did it for the love of the music and I was blessed to be able to share this musical experience with all of them. In a way, I had to be kind of an artistic “traffic cop” since I was the only one who knew what the entire body of work sounded like. So, I had to be careful to keep the sonic landscape somewhat coherent but at the same time allow the people I was working with freedom to bring their own creativity to the project. It has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait for people to hear it. 

Movie Review: RoboCop

RobocopGrowing up, I loved the RoboCop movies – even the third one. They were full of action, intrigue, wit, and humor. And they were hard-hitting, especially the first two films – they didn’t pull any punches when it came to violence. When I heard that they were remaking RoboCop, I groaned. Remakes are notorious for being a waste of time and money, so I didn’t have high hopes for the new RoboCop. Despite my initial reservations about seeing the new RoboCop, I decided to take the plunge and go see it last night. I went in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised.

The acting was excellent, especially Joel Kinnaman as Patrick Murphy, Gary Oldman as Dr. Dennett Norton and Michael Keaton as the OmniCorp CEO, Raymond Sellars. Also worth noting is Samuel L. Jackson, who was very funny in his role as Pat Novak, a TV news anchor.

In addition to the acting, the script was very strong. Instead of trying to remake the original film scene for scene, this reboot had an almost entirely new storyline that was creative and compelling. Despite this new direction, signature quotes (e.g., “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”) and the classic RoboCop theme were peppered throughout to homage to the original 1987 classic. These moments made me smile. Trying to remake a film people love almost never works. It’s always best to just reference it and explore new territory. RoboCop does that and it does it well.

If you liked – or loved – the original RoboCop, check out this movie. While it’s not as exceptional as the 1987 film, it pays respect to it while moving in a bold new direction. The acting is exemplary and the score is memorable. It’s visually stunning and emotionally satisfying. You can’t ask for much more than that.

2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

KISS - Rock & Roll Hall of FameToday was the start of the first pre-sale for tickets for the 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Of course, I was in a meeting when they went on sale and so was my cousin, who is joining me at the event. To solve the problem, I enlisted the help of my girlfriend. At 10 a.m. she was logged in and was ready to buy the tickets and after clicking “search,” she was greeted by a message saying no tickets were available. After persistently searching for what felt like an endless amount of time, she finally secured two tickets and bought them.

Where did all the other tickets go, you ask? Well, they were snatched up by sites like StubHub, which is essentially legalized scalping. Tickets similar to the ones I got for $92.50 on Ticketmaster cost $244 on StubHub. How could they possibly justify such an exorbitant increase? They can’t, which is why it’s a rip-off that only harms the fans.

I’m thrilled that I’m attending this event because I’m going to see two of my favorite bands – KISS and Hall & Oates – get the respect that they deserve from an institution that has ignored their great artistic contributions for far too long.

If you’re looking for tickets to the ceremony, avoid StubHub and try and purchase them during one of the sale dates below:

Onsale to General Public
Start: Sat, 03/01/14 10:00 AM EST

American Express
Start: Mon, 02/24/14 09:00 AM EST
End: Fri, 02/28/14 10:00 PM EST

VIP Packages Presale
Start: Mon, 02/24/14 09:00 AM EST
End: Fri, 02/28/14 10:00 PM EST

VIP Packages Post-Sale
Start: Sat, 03/01/14 10:00 AM EST
End: Thu, 03/20/14 05:00 PM EDT

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Member Presale
Start: Fri, 02/21/14 10:00 AM EST
End: Sun, 02/23/14 09:00 PM EST

KISS – 40th Anniversary

20140218-070712.jpg40 years ago today – February 18, 1974 – KISS released its first studio album. 40 years later, hundreds of albums have been sold, thousands of concerts have been played and the band is about to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Happy 40th anniversary, KISS!

 

 

When I Met Melissa Manchester

Photo with Melissa ManchesterYesterday was a great day. I went to New York City with my girlfriend for Valentine’s Day weekend and we saw an excellent movie – American Hustle, went to a great restaurant – The Writing Room – and capped off the day with a Melissa Manchester concert.

In December 2013 I interviewed Melissa for my blog and she was as nice as could be and full of great stories. For those that haven’t read it yet, you can check it out here. One of the topics covered in the interview was yesterday’s concert in NYC. Melissa said, “you never know what I might sing” and boy was she right. The set list included a variety of her biggest hits, including “Midnight Blue,” “Come in From the Rain” and my favorite, “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” She also sang “Something Wonderful” from The King and I and new material from her upcoming album, You Gotta Love the Life. There were countless other songs during the hour-and-a-half concert, including a blistering performance of “I Know Who I Am,” a song that was featured in a trailer for the Tyler Perry movie For Colored Girls. And after the concert came to a close with Cole Porter’s “I Happen to Like New York,” Melissa and her talented musicians were met with a well-deserved standing ovation.

As you can see from the photo above, I had the chance to meet Melissa in person after the show and she was as lovely in person as she was on the phone. She took the time to meet and take photos with fans, as well as autograph items. The line to meet her went to the back of the room but she stuck around until every fan was satisfied. I was very impressed.

If you ever have the opportunity to see Melissa Manchester, go for it. In addition to having a spectacular voice, she’s got great stage presence and an appreciative personality. It was a terrific evening of music and I wouldn’t hesitate to see her again.

Below is a live performance of the aforementioned song, “I Know Who I Am,” from a 2010 concert. Enjoy!

Harry Bosch Comes To Life On Amazon Instant Video

BoschI just finished watching the pilot episode of Bosch on Amazon Instant Video where it can currently be viewed for free. This show, which is based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling books featuring the character Harry Bosch, has a stellar cast of top-notch actors that have appeared in shows such as The WireLost and The Killing. The plot is compelling and extremely well paced, and the ending left me smiling because it was so well done. If you enjoy police procedurals, mysteries or thrillers, you absolutely must watch this show.

After doing so, please make sure to fill out Amazon’s survey. This is one of 10 pilots that was just launched by Amazon Studios and the shows that are the most watched and most well received will get the green light for a full season. The good news is – it’s completely up to us whether or not Bosch lives to fight another day. Trust me, after watching it, you’ll be glad to fill out the brief survey and give the show a five-star review – it’s that good.

You can watch the show for free here, and you can fill out the survey here.

To whet your appetite, below are three clips from the pilot:

I’m Back From Mexico

My girlfriend and I are back from Mexico and it was a great trip. The weather was beautiful almost every day except for the last – but I’ll take a rainy day in the 60s over a chilly snowy day in Philly anytime. We went snorkeling with sea turtles and fish and visited Mayan ruins in Coba and Tulum. We also ate a ton of food, including a chocolate cake I couldn’t seem to get enough of at the “Cupcake Cafe” (i.e., Starbucks) on the resort. All in all, it was a great vacation and a fitting way to celebrate being in a relationship with my girlfriend for one year. For those interested, I highly recommend checking out Mexico; it’s a beautiful destination worth exploring.

We stayed at Sandos Playacar in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

We stayed at Sandos Playacar in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Our room was very nice and featured a jacuzzi.

Our room was very nice and featured a jacuzzi.

This was a great spot by the pool to relax, read or take a nap.

This was a great spot by the pool to relax, read or take a nap.

Here's a view of the beach from 5th Avenue in downtown Playa del Carmen.

Here’s a view of the beach from 5th Avenue in downtown Playa del Carmen.

I was convinced to partake in a Fish Spa treatment where small toothless fish remove dead skin from your feet. You could also refer to it as a nautical pedicure.

I was convinced to partake in a Fish Spa treatment where small toothless fish remove dead skin from your feet. You could also refer to it as a nautical pedicure.

Here's a closeup of the fish in action. It just tickled and felt like small vibrations. While the end result wasn't nearly as smooth as a pedicure, it wasn't bad for $10.

Here’s a closeup of the fish in action. It just tickled and felt like small vibrations. While the end result wasn’t nearly as smooth as a pedicure, it wasn’t bad for $10.

Here's a photo of us with a Shaman after he performed a ceremony asking the spirits to allow us to enter a Mayan cenote.

Here’s a photo of us with a Shaman after he performed a ceremony asking the spirits to allow us to enter a Mayan cenote.

And here's the cenote, which featured sea turtles and bats.

And here’s the cenote, which featured sea turtles and bats.

We had the opportunity to visit a Mayan family's home during our tour of Coba.

We had the opportunity to visit a Mayan family’s home during our tour of Coba.

Here's an inside shot of the home. They live very simply, and seeing this and learning how the community is economically and educationally deprived, made me more grateful for what I have here in the United States.

Here’s an inside shot of the home. Seeing this and learning how the community is economically and educationally deprived, made me more grateful for what I have here in the United States.

Here's that chocolate cake I mentioned earlier - it was amazing.

Here’s that chocolate cake I mentioned earlier – it was amazing.

There were several pools throughout the resort.

There were several pools throughout the resort.

There was also a mini-golf course that we took advantage of. While I lost to my girlfriend multiple times while playing air hockey in the game room, I won at this activity.

There was also a mini-golf course that we took advantage of. While I lost to my girlfriend multiple times at air hockey in the game room, I won at this activity.

In addition to monkeys, donkeys and lizards, the resort had approximately 10 cats that lived there. They had their own area called "Cat Cafe." One of these adorable felines became attached to us - we name her Rosa and she visited us a couple times in our room.

In addition to monkeys, donkeys and lizards, the resort had approximately 10 cats that lived there. They had their own outdoor area called “Cat Cafe.” One of these adorable felines became attached to us – we named her Rosa and she visited us a couple times in our room.

We climbed a massive ruin in Coba - I did it on all fours to avoid falling because it was so steep.

We climbed a massive ruin in Coba – I did it on all fours to avoid falling because it was so steep.

Here we are at the top of the ruin - it may not be obvious but I was frightened to go down.

Here we are at the top of the ruin – it may not be obvious but I was frightened to take this photo … and climb back down.

Thankfully I made it to the bottom of the ruin by sliding down, step by step, on my butt and clinging to the rope going down the middle.

Thankfully I made it to the bottom of the ruin by sliding down, step by step, on my butt and clinging to the rope going down the middle.

Here we are getting ready to snorkel for the first time.

Here we are getting ready to snorkel for the first time.

The best part of snorkeling was the cute sea turtles - they would pop their heads above water every few minutes to breath.

The best part of snorkeling was the cute sea turtles – they would pop their heads above water every few minutes to breathe.

We also saw a stingray. Thankfully these photos were taken by the instructor, not us.

We also saw a stingray. Thankfully these photos were taken by the instructor, not us.

And, of course, we were surrounded by fish, which was a surreal and somewhat scary experience.

And, of course, we were surrounded by fish, which was a surreal and somewhat scary experience.

We also visited Tulum where there are Mayan ruins and a beautiful beach.

We also visited Tulum where there are Mayan ruins and a beautiful beach.

The gorgeous beach in Tulum.

The gorgeous beach in Tulum.

In between holes on the mini-golf course, we got to see a monkey up close.

In between holes on the mini-golf course, we got to see a monkey up close.

And here's an iguana named Poncho - he lives on the resort in a tree.

And here’s an iguana named Poncho blending in with the bottom left root of his tree house.

Book Review: Standup Guy by Stuart Woods

Standup Guy jacketI just returned from Mexico and during my trip I finished reading Stuart Woods’ latest Stone Barrington novel, Standup Guy. As expected, it’s a terrific read that goes down as smoothly as a glass of Knob Creek. In addition to having a wonderfully unpredictable plot, the book references and builds on previous storylines and there’s an interesting political element as well. The Stone Barrington series has been around for 23 years and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. For those looking to read a high-quality mystery filled with action and intrigue, look no further: Standup Guy delivers.

Synopsis

Stone Barrington’s newest client does not seem the type to bring mayhem in his wake. A polite, well-deported gentleman, he comes to Stone seeking legal expertise on an unusual—and potentially lucrative—dilemma. Stone points him in the right direction and sends him on his way, but it’s soon clear Stone hasn’t seen the end of the case. Several people are keenly interested in this gentleman’s activities and how they may relate to a long-ago crime . . . and some of them will stop at nothing to find the information they desire.

On a hunt that leads from Florida’s tropical beaches to the posh vacation homes of the Northeast, Stone finds himself walking a tightrope between ambitious authorities and seedy lowlifes who all have the same prize in their sights. In this cutthroat contest of wills, it’s winner-takes-all . . . and Stone will need every bit of his cunning and resourcefulness to be the last man standing.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: