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Winstock weekend

10 Jun

Summer season officially kicked off this weekend. Not in terms of the weather, however. BUT, the first country music festival near the Twin Cities – Winstock, happened, officially kicking off summer outdoor concerts.

This year was the first time in Winstock’s history that they completely sold out of tickets AND camping – VIP, reserved, general admission – everything. Lucky for me, I know someone who knows someone to get tickets to attend.  A few years prior, I was working at Winstock – and it was an unreal site seeing so many people (over 21,000!!) cram into a small, open field in the middle of Minnesota.

This was also the biggest ticket Winstock has ever had, in terms of their lineup. Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert headlined the festival on Friday night, with Kip Moore and Luke Bryan closing down the grounds on Saturday night. I didn’t get a chance to attend on Saturday night, but Friday night was well worth the two-hour trip. The thing I love most about festivals is there’s not really any down time between artists; once a main stage artist has finished their set, another artist starts their set at the back of the grounds at the emerging artists stage. The emerging artists stage is generally reserved for those with only one song on the radio or local bands trying to make it big.

We saw Charlie Worsham rock out for a 30-minute set shortly after we arrived – and got to see this guy working hard, giving a stage intro!

Pat at Winstock

 

Charlie currently has one single out on the radio right now called “Could It Be.” He took a chance during one of the choruses to put the mic in the audience’s direction to see if anyone would sing along with him; the crowd surprised him with a convincing rendition of his own song – so much so, he nearly forgot to sing the rest of the song! Talk about a cool moment to witness: an artist seeing the audience sing their own song back to them for the first time EVER.

Miranda Lambert performed in the lineup for the spot that should have been the Pistol Annies; the group, for whatever reason, backed out last minute. She honored the commitment she had made and came with her “normal” sassy-pants on. Another thing I love about festivals is since each artist has only about one hour to perform on stage, their set list is pretty much what would be on their greatest hits album – with very limited slow songs included. While Dierks Bentley is one of my favorites to see in concert, he was a little – shall we say – sloppy (?) for his set, you could tell that he was having a blast, and in turn, the crowd did too. I saw Dierks perform at Winstock a few years back when there was no more than 10,000 or 11,000 people; he kept commenting on how awesome it was to see a sea of people that large on the Winstock grounds. I couldn’t agree more.

Winstock

I’d say this weekend was a success; a perfect kick off to summer concert season. Good company, accompanying good music on a cool summer night? Couldn’t have been better.

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20/20 The Experience

20 Mar

After what seems like a decade hiatus from the music industry, Justin Timberlake is back with his much anticipated album, “20/20 The Experience.” I have four words for you: GO BUY IT NOW!

Justin Timberlake CD

Coolest CD label ever. Or at least since Jason Aldean’s ‘My Kinda Party’ JA album.

Seriously, this album on been on repeat since we opened the casing. Now, technically I bought it as a gift for the hubs because he is by far a bigger Justin Timberlake fan than I am. However, it wouldn’t be fair of him to deprive me of such quality music, right? At least that’s the argument I’m going with.

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Life in Radio

3 Jan

Old radio

Once upon a time, I worked in radio. It was the best job of my life. The people were great, the job was exciting and even though it was considered only a part-time position, the perks weren’t half bad either. Summer festival after summer festival, concert after concert. And I met Jason Aldean – TWICE. For a music lover, it’s a dream. Then realization set in: local radio is an endangered breed and the outlook on life in radio was bleak, particularly for a paid promotions staffer. The brightest shining light? I met my husband while I was working there. I saw him from across the studio – completely ignored his presence (at least according to him), he stole my pens and the rest is history.

While I sit back and painstakingly watch radio slowly take hit after hit because of poorly managed finances, shrinking advertising revenue (or hard to find sales talent) and “lack of interest” – I can’t help but want to scream from the mountaintops that LOCAL radio is a necessity and it aches me to see it disappearing. Who wants to listen to syndicated radio show after syndicated radio show? The corporations of the world are taking away what radio was created for – local personalities introducing the latest and greatest music, connecting with the people of their community.

There certainly is not a lack of talent; I met some incredibly talented people – both on and off air staff – while I worked in radio, many of which were talented beyond their radio gig. From standup comedic to country band superstar to hockey writer, their talent doesn’t end when the microphone is turned off. And while there is a perception to many that radio is as easy as pushing a ‘play’ button, it is actually quite the opposite. Time and energy goes in to prepping for each show, segmenting your talk breaks, year in-advance promotions planning – and believe it or not, there is rhyme and reason to which songs are played when. Radio is more than just playing popular songs for you to hear; it introduces up and coming artists, new music, old/”classic” music and there are community events which might not get exposure if it weren’t for radio, concerts, events, sales appearances, radiothons and so many more activities that goes on behind the scenes.

Since my husband is one of these hard working fools who is dedicated until some other force chooses otherwise, I still get to reap one of the benefits: live music galore. I’ve been able to accompany him on more concerts than I could have ever dreamed of (and I couldn’t be more thankful to spend a few extra minutes with him as he hurriedly runs around at events). But I feel as though the ‘benefits’ of radio are slipping away as budgets are cut or jeopardized, the staff becomes smaller and the expectations rise to ridiculous levels – they have no time to be able to enjoy the perks of the job because they’re so busy picking up slack from others who have been fired or let go. Yet, they continue to invest more time and energy than ever before because they love what they do THAT much – and their dedication is admirable.

I admire people who do what they love no matter the toll it takes on them, their family, their friends or their finances – especially those in radio. The demands of working in radio are excruciating – between the odd, long hours to the time required working on/around the holidays to the number of jobs you’re expected to do because they keep letting staff go but the work is expected to get done. I thank you, radio employees, for the hard work, dedication and sacrifices you make to do what you love, keeping radio how it should be: local and connecting.

I know iPods, mp3 players, XM satellite radio and the Pandora’s of the world are the next big thing, but I ask you: while you still can, call your local radio station to tell them thank you. Thank them for their hard work and keep your fingers crossed you are still able to call them up on the radio in a few years.

k102 north country christmas ball (featuring rocket club)

23 Dec

The Twin Cities has an abundance of places to see live music – anything from a small, intimate venue like the Fine Line Cafe to a rockin’ arena like the Xcel Energy Center. Through some awesome connections, a few friends, Pat and I had the opportunity to attend the K102 North Country Christmas Ball (featuring Rocket Club) at Mill City Nights on December 21.

Prior to the show, we grabbed some dinner at the local Osaka Sushi & Hibachi restaurant. We opted for sushi and placed our order. Pat and I got our normal, “boring” order of a couple California rolls and a Lobster-Avocado roll. The Rooney’s, on the other hand, ordered so many pretty, exotic rolls, I had to take pictures of how beautifully displayed they were! I even ventured to try a couple, and I’m happy to say, I wasn’t too grossed out. Guess which are ours?

Osaka Sushi

 

Lots of sushi!

I’ve never attended a concert at Mill City Nights prior to the North Country Christmas Ball, so I was duly excited for the evening. The venue was bigger than I thought it was – a split entry with a large bar (and the restrooms) downstairs, a main floor with a bar area and an upstairs viewing area. For this particular event, the upstairs area was reserved for the ‘beautiful people.’ We set up camp near the sound booth (I resisted pressing buttons) while Pat ran around working.

Side note: this is how our concert events are turning out to be the more Pat gets involved at the radio station. He invites people for me to hang out with while he works during the early parts of the evening’s show. While I’m excited he’s getting more responsibility and is a team player, I’m secretly missing him to talk about song order, discuss sets, criticize talk about the opening act and finding our nominee for “best” (worst) dancer. Country concerts have the best dancers. And yes, if you are at one, I am judging your moves – choose wisely.

I digress… Greene & Hurst opened the Christmas Ball opting to sing a lot of their own music they had written. J.D. Greene is the afternoon host at K102 and I must say, he’s really grown into his guitar playing from when I used to hear him strumming on the out-of-tune Trailor Choir guitar he had in his office. Todd Hurst had a fantastic voice, as well. I’m hoping to catch their band again in the near future.

While I am biased, I think Rocket Club is one of the best musical groups I’ve seen live. If you haven’t seen them play, find the nearest venue to you and SEE THEM NOW. There is so much talent on stage between the songs they write, the instruments they play and the beautiful voices that belt from their chests. Rocket Club opened their North Country Christmas Ball set with Little Drummer Boy – and NAILED it. The bass player’s son played the snare drum and didn’t miss a beat (no pun intended). Their set list combined their usual songs from their albums, interspersed with Christmas songs – and these guys know how to keep the crowd interested. Far too often at concerts, I find myself somewhat bored in the middle of a set because the artist has too many slow songs in a row. Not these guys. Rocket Club wastes no time on stage or performing. They played for nearly two hours and I didn’t want the night to end. It was the perfect start to a long holiday weekend.

Dierks Bentley: a Casino Concert Review

15 Nov


Dierks Bentley

Saturday evening was the first time I had the opportunity to attend a concert at the Treasure Island event center. Needless to say, it was very quaint. There was no more than a couple thousand people in attendance for the show – and the setting was perfect. It was almost like a personal concert from Dierks Bentley himself; well, you and a couple thousand close friends. Dierks sounded great from start to finish, and the guy definitely knows how to work a crowd.

There is a double-edged sword about shows at a casino; on the one hand, the shows are generally shorter in time – only about 75-90 minutes, but, on the other hand, the shorter amount of time encourages the artist to play their super hits. In other words, casino shows are like “best of” shows where artists only play their radio hits or the most popular songs from their albums.

Dierks didn’t disappoint. He started the show with “Country & Cold Cans,” the title track to his latest EP, and never missed a beat. It was a Dierks Bentley hit, one after the other. He slowed down the show for only a small handful of songs, including the poignant song, “My Last Name.” After he finishes his 2012 tour, Dierks said he was going to retire “My Last Name” for awhile, so I’m stoked I got to see him perform it one last time before its impending – though I’m sure temporary – retirement.

One of my favorite Dierks Bentley songs is “Home” – and it carried an extra special meaning this weekend seeing as though Veterans Day was on Sunday. He must have been to an Eric Church show recently because during “Home,” Dierks asked the audience to take out their phones and light up the hall like the northern sky. It was a really cool sight. I was too mesmerized to snap a picture.

I’ve been a Dierks Bentley fan since his first single “What Was I Thinkin’” hit the airwaves in 2003, and have had the chance to see him several times. If you haven’t been to a Dierks Bentley show, I highly recommend checking him out next time he comes through town.