2019: Badflower, 2018: Adelitas Way
Sunday Evening, I took my 13-year-old daughter to see a band our whole family loves: Shinedown. It was her second time seeing them. I’ve lost count for myself. They put on an epic show, as they always do, but that’s not what this is about.
I have an imagination that works constantly, from running fantasies about the amazing things I’d do if I won the lottery to imagining a bucket list item being fulfilled … like getting the chance to play the drums on stage with band I love, for a song (Rush came first – can you imagine dueling with Neil Peart or even sitting down at his kit? A shrine for all drummers. But let’s just say Barry & Shinedown for this post). I regularly think about those choices in life that have taken me down the path I’m on, as in – what if I’d chosen a career as (in no particular order) a writer, a chef, a military officer, a drummer, a detective, a radio host, a football coach, a winemaker… or, in this case, a music producer.
I feel like I have a good ear for talent and quality, which is why I really enjoy checking out new bands and deciding whether I would “sign and promote” them.
Traffic was a little worse than normal for a Sunday evening mostly likely due to the northern exodus of San Diego Comic-Con attendees, so we didn’t arrive at Five Point Amphitheater 30 minutes ahead of the show start like we planned to. Alas, by the time we had everything “settled” inside the venue, the opening opening opening band, who’s name I don’t remember, already had their roadies tearing down. Perhaps a missed opportunity.
Another band I’d never heard of, this one from London England called Dinosaur Pile-Up (great name), set up quickly and played a short set. Buzz and Woody stood patiently on an amp behind the lead singer/guitarist. The sun was burning the aft of my head as I tried to distinguish the lyrics from the rest of the blaring guitars and drums. I could only make out a word here and there and I was standing close. Whether that sound configuration was intentional or not, I didn’t get a feel whether they were any good, so I won’t judge.
Tear down, set up. Badflower. It wasn’t a name I was impressed with – but neither was Shinedown the first time I saw it. They came out on stage and as I looked at the lead singer, the thought crossed my mind “oh no, is this where the Disney kid-actors go when their shows end because they’ve come of age?” Then they proceeded to blow my mind. I got goosebumps listening to the depth, range, and complexity of each song, and the differentiation from one to the next, but most of all, the writing behind the lyrics, and Josh’s voice. I’m not saying he sounds just like Chester Bennington, but he reminded me of him when I first saw Linkin Park around the turn of the century. I even tweeted Mike Shinoda to ask if he’d heard Josh.
Badflower has an interesting sound and they put on a great live show. My daughter and I agreed, I was buying the album on iTunes and we were listening to it on the way home. That’s when I really got the punch to the gut. The lyrics are beyond deep and metaphorical (The Jester). They are moving. They are scary tackling subjects like suicide and addiction to a destructive lover (Ghost, Heroin). I cannot sing along to the brilliant line “Weigh your heart against my eyes” because my throat locks up in an amalgamation of anger and revulsion and sadness. My skin crawls with gooseflesh. Daddy is a real tragedy that I hope is not based on something any one of these young men have had to endure being connected to their lives. There are many years between myself and my youngest daughter, and generations apart we were both nearly in tears at times (Promise Me). Not to be ignored, you’ll find a song that lines up with the Plant Based sticker on Josh’s guitar (Murder Games) and anti-trump politics that some will cheer and others will anger to – I laughed – (Die). Opinionated. Powerful issues. OK, I’M SICK. If I was a producer I couldn’t sign them fast enough, though I might advise them to cut back on the F-Bombs in the future, as over-use reduces the effectiveness and power of a well-placed obscenity. I will be following their path in the coming years. That we’re still in July makes it an early call, but I’m claiming them as my “find for 2019.”
Rewind to 2018.
Early in the year, I’d gotten a few messages from an app I use called Bandisintown to track artists so I’ll know they are coming to SoCal and be aware BEFORE tickets go on sale for a show. That app tries to get your attention with notifications like “Godsmack has sent you a message”. Really? Sully and the boys are PMing me now? A got a couple of those from a group of dudes called Adelitas Way whom I was not tracking in any way. I had no idea who they were. When I took the time to dig into why, I think the app told me in a canned message “Because you are tracking Shinedown” – but it might have been Staind or 3 Doors Down or Disturbed or … – my memory fails me here. Although it did occur to me to check out their music, I forgot about those messages for a while and did not.
One morning near the beginning of the NFL season, well before Big O and WQAM parted ways, I was listening to his show on my daily commute to get a Dolphins fix. He’s a music nut too and introduces his segments with different tunes. A kick ass song was playing that I immediately liked but did not recognize the singer or the band. O never said who it was, and only a portion of the song was played… but I had to know. So later in the day when the podcast of his show dropped, I listed while at work. I wrote down the lyrics I could pick up on and googled them. NO LUCK. So finally, I tweeted O and his producer, and they answered. The song was “Invincible” by Adelitas Way.
I went to iHeart and/or Spotify and Youtube and listened to what I could get. I liked EVERYTHING. So off to iTunes I went to start buying. (I support bands by purchasing their stuff if I like it, it’s the least we can do). The final test for a band? Everyone CAN sound good in the studio. How do they sound live? How is their energy, their passion for what they do, their professionalism? I looked up their tour dates and sure enough, they had one in San Diego coming up. On a lark, I tweeted the band to say I was looking forward to seeing them for the first time and they responded asking what songs I’d like to hear! How cool is that? Haven’t you always wanted to influence a setlist? I knew my oldest daughter would be just home from UCD for the holidays, so enlisted her to check out the music and come with me to the show.
A few days before Christmas, we rolled out to Brick by Brick, a rock bar I hadn’t been to in MANY years. The venue is small, the sound is loud, and the beer wasn’t overpriced. The opening bands were not memorable (but also not terrible). Adelitas Way came out in front of an audience that was way smaller than I would have expected. Rick’s voice was spot-on, and the band maintained precision and energy despite what must have been a bit of a disappointment to them in turnout. Those who knew, and didn’t come missed a great show, and a chance to be as up close as you desired.
The extra awesome sauce was that Rick hung out after the show, making himself available for pictures and introductions. When I mentioned my Two Old Dolfans podcast, we broke into a chat about our Fantasy Football teams. It was championship weekend. My impression, he’s a regular, down to earth dude with serious talent, as has the rest of the band. Sure, they’ve already enjoyed some success, but based on how good I know they are, I was sure they should be much higher up the ladder of fame. That alternate life thing surfaced – If I was a music mogul – I would strap on a rocket and lift them up into the limelight.
In the meantime, I emulate Trevor on my kit a few times a week, as there are three Adelitas Way songs on my “Drum Workout” playlist (Notorious, Alive, and Still Hungry). When Bandisintown notified me they’d be in Ramona on the eve of my birthday 8/16 I snagged tickets for myself and my wife. When I told my oldest daughter I was going she literally got mad. It’s the day BEFORE she comes home from a semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland. She looked at the schedule and started pressuring me to see them at House of Blues in Anaheim on 8/23. When my 13-year-old heard me say yes to that, she applied the same pressure “I wanna go too!” If you haven’t seen them live, join us. I recommend you listen to a current setlist on your favorite app and come to a show. If you love rock, I can’t imagine you’d be disappointed.
No Shit, Reality.
I have no illusions around “discovering” bands that have been around for many years already. It’s not quite like when, In the early 90’s I saw The Goo Goo Dolls in a tiny bar in Rochester NY, opening for another band, and said “despite the stupid name, these guys are really good and might go somewhere”. NAILED IT. They have recently announced their 12th studio album “Miracle Pill” available on September 13, 2019. Nevertheless, for me, it is/was new music, and in my “what if” world, I claim them. Do you enjoy finding something new as much as I do? Other than “I heard it on the radio”, how do you discover? Who have you found that the rest of us might not know about?