Category Archives: SEE This

The RITZ Ybor Photos: Neon Trees

When a band you admire is playing in your town, you get excited.

When that same band you admire is playing at your job, you get super excited.

When that same admired band playing at your job are friendly, super cool, and genuine individuals, you take a photo with them.

But what happens when that same admired band of friendly, super cool, and genuine individuals just put on a show at your job that knocked your socks off?

…you first buy new socks, and then you relive the experience through their music and the evening’s photos.  WHAT AN AMAZING SHOW Neon Trees put on at The RITZ Ybor in Tampa last Wednesday!  Don’t miss their Pop Psychology Tour on the road this summer.

Neon Trees 14 A Neon Trees 14 B Neon Trees 14 D Neon Trees 14 E Neon Trees 14 F Neon Trees 14 H Neon Trees 14 I Neon Trees 14 J Neon Trees 14 K Neon Trees 14 L Neon Trees 14 M Neon Trees 14 Okie A Neon Trees 14 Okie B Neon Trees 14 Staff A Neon Trees 14 Staff B

Neon Trees at The RITZ Ybor
on Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Photos by Nicole Abbett

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Jessie Ware + Mikky Ekko concert @ The State Theatre

Jesse Ware Mikky Ekko

I first fell in love with Jessie Ware after listening to her critically-acclaimed Devotion album.  I first fell in love with Mikky Ekko upon hearing his silky-smooth voice gliding across Rihanna’s blockbuster single “Stay” (that he also co-wrote and produced.)  What a thrill it was to see both of them perform live at The State Theatre in St. Pete this past Wednesday.


Jessie Ware B 2013 Jessie Ware A 2013

Mikky crooned his way through current single “Kids” and of course the #1 hit “Stay” which he reminded the crowd that he performed at the Grammy Awards earlier this year…. and rightfully so since it was hands down the performance highlight of this year’s Grammy night!

Jessie kicked off her set with a cover of Martika’s “Love This Will Be Done” and kept the cover train going with Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love” and Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You,” the latter perfectly interlaced with her debut single “Running.”  I can forgive her for not performing the heavenly”Taking In Water” because the rest of her set which consisted of staples “Wildest Moments” and “Imagine It Was Us” along with a brand new song were just as divine.  I remember once trying to describe Jessie Ware’s sound to a friend of mine, and could only remark that she is this generation’s Sade… classy, sophisticated and just cool.

It was a welcome embrace to witness two newer artists in today’s crowded music scene solely rely on genuine talent and artistry rather than gimmickry and media stunts to entertain a crowd.


Mikky Ekko Okie

Working in the concert industry, one thing that I love and admire is when an artist emerges from backstage to mingle with the crowd and their fans.  I was able to meet (a very friendly + laidback) Mikky Ekko who mentioned that he is still working on his album which should see a release date sometime early next year.  He was also a good sport for allowing Rod, Shane O’Neil and I to sing our song that we wrote together in front of him.  Granted, Rod sorta ambushed him with this spontaneous performance, but he seemed to find the intended hilarity in it all.  (SEE TWEET EXCHANGE BELOW)


Mikky Ekko Tweet

DEFINITELY take a listen to Jessie Ware’s soulful debut album Devotion, check out Mikky Ekko’s catchy “Kids” music video below, see them both on tour while you can, and read my friend Carole’s review on tbt Soundcheck that perfectly sums up the night (and where I “borrowed” two of the above photos from for this post.)



Click on a thumbnail to enlarge / view image:

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Orange Is The New Black (TV Series)

TV Review: Orange Is The New Black

OITNB 1

Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is engaged to Larry (Jason Biggs).  Her soap-making business she started with her best friend has products being carried at Barney’s department stores.   She juices, eats clean, and happily buys her groceries at Wholefoods.  Piper lives the ideal, suburban, preppy life.  Piper Chapman is also going to prison to serve a 15-month sentence for a drug smuggling-related crime committed ten years prior for her then-girlfriend-lover.  Based on Piper Kerman’s best-selling memoir of the same name, the 13-episode series documents Piper’s year spent at a lower-security federal prison.

“This is the most impressive group of female characters ever assembled in a series.”  Los Angeles Times

An all-womens Oz prison drama?  No, although there are at times moments of intensity.  A LOL-inducing comedy?  Yes and no.  Orange Is The New Black is what one would expect and want from television creator Jenji Kohan, the woman responsible for the outrageously delicious dramedy Weeds.  The show successfully fuses its comedic and dramatic storylines, but it’s the colorful characters and solid performances that are the driving force of this series.

OITNB 2

The motley cast of standout characters include Piper’s former girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon), prison “HBIC” inmate Red (Kate Mulgrew), resident loud-mouth Nicky (Natasha Lyonne), the Bible-touting “Pennsatucky” (frighteningly played by Taryn Manning), transgendered wife & mother Sophia (Laverne Cox), the hilarious “Crazy Eyes” stalker (Uzo Aduba) and the twerkalicious Taystee (Danielle Brooks).  All of these characters along with many others of the series are so interesting and engaging to watch that they practically take turns equally stealing scenes from one another.

Orange Is The New Black does however belong to Taylor Schilling‘s Piper.  Besides the Nicholas Sparks color-by-numbers film adaptation of The Lucky One, I had never seen or heard of Schilling before this.  She wows as the series lead, and maintains a clear presence amid the other showy characters and flashy plotlines.  Even when you know that her character is making a mistake, you still root for her unlike the many other series where you just roll your eyes and secretly want to see that character get punished.

OITNB 3

“…if you are currently paying Netflix a fee, your membership just became more rewarding.”  USA TODAY

I liked House of Cards, but wasn’t completely slayed.  I just couldn’t get into Eli Roth’s deplorable Hemlock Grove.  And I don’t necessarily count Arrested Development as a true Netflix original series.  But even if I did, Orange Is The New Black trumps them all as the on-demand streaming service’s first original magnum opus.  It’s got a whole lot of heart and soul, and is guaranteed to make you laugh.  Orange Is The New Black is INDEED the new black!

Final Verdict:  WATCH THIS!

 

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‘Kill for Love’ by Chromatics

For the past couple of days, I haven’t been able to listen to any other album than ChromaticsKill for Love on Spotify.  Seriously, I have become obsessed with the music on this album.  Maybe because electronic and dance music governed my Spotify Playlists’ attention over the last 12 months, and I am just grasping for something, anything new and dissimilar?  Or perhaps, Chromatics attained the feat of creating such bewitching music on Kill for Love that it would be a crime for me to go back to listening to Avicii, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Felix Cartal all day at work as I am accustomed?

I did some clicking swiping around online to discover more about Chromatics, and was pleasantly surprised to find that their Italians Do It Better labelmates include Glass Candy and Desire whom I both love.  After I first heard “Under Your Spell” by Desire (featured in the 2011 Ryan Gosling film Drive), I was immediately intrigued by this newfound retro-sound.  Chromatics refine that retro-sound and elevate it to the next level by weaving a fusion of genres that range from cinematic noir-electro to New Wave ethereal pop.  Kill for Love presents a lo-key and lo-fi musical landscape that actually elicits excitement.

Ruth Radelet is the primary vocalist of Chromatics, and her voice colorlessly glides amid the collision of sounds on such standout tracks as “Back From The Grave” and “Lady.”  One of the obvious standouts on Kill for Love is the Portland, Oregon band’s take on the Neil Young 1979 classic “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)” simply rechristened as “Into The Black.”  This song is infamously known for its’ “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” lyric that was written in Kurt Cobain’s 1994 suicide letter.  Shot in Super 8 footage by director Alberto Rossini, the music video [below] adds even more layers of mystery to an already intriguing single.

With iTunes and Spotify, I’m not one to purchase actual CD’s these days but I couldn’t resist Kill for Love‘s bargain-basement $5.00 price tag on the Italians Do It Better Label website.  Embrace music and creativity by purchasing a copy online RIGHT HERE.

 

“Into The Black” by Chromatics

…and just because: here’s Oasis’s rocked out take on “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black” Live At Wembley in 2000

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The MDNA Tour: Chicago

8 years ago, Kristin and I drove to the K-Mart in Sebring, Florida in an attempt to be first in line at their Ticketmaster counter so we could purchase our Madonna Re-Invention Tour tickets as soon as they went on-sale.  We both rationalized that the blue haired retired residents of the city of Sebring would be too busy playing bridge and bingo to have any interest in standing in line for Madonna concert tickets at 9am on a Saturday morning.  We were right, but for whatever reason, Kristin wound up not going to our Re-Invention Tour date in Miami.  Two more Madonna world tours later, Kristin had never seen my her our idol live in concert… ever.

As soon as Madonna announced this year’s MDNA Tour, Kristin and I decided that we would fly up to Chicago to see the Queen of Pop.  Due to the high demand once tickets went on-sale, we were unable to purchase 2 tickets together and were only able to secure solo VIP tickets.  In short, we would be sitting apart from one another during the concert.

The day before we were to fly out, Madonna’s long-time manager Guy Oseary tweeted that he was giving away Golden Triangle Pit Tickets to Madonna’s ultimate fans.  So I entered the contest, texted Kristin to give me a wake-up call at 5am so that I would be ready for the first flight out to Chicago and then went to bed thinking nothing else about the contest.

Fast forward to 5am the next morning, Kristin called me to wake me up as planned.  I laid in bed completely lifeless and not wanting to move.  I rolled over, looked at my phone on my nightstand.  I noticed that I had a new Twitter notification.  I expected to see some trivial tweet about Amanda Bynes, Honey Boo Boo or Chik-Fil-A that I happened to be tagged in, but instead, I saw something else.  I saw this…

…a message from Guy Oseary.  A message from the one & only Madonna’s manager.  To me.  Informing me that I won 2 Golden Triangle pit tickets to that night’s show.

I called Kristin to tell her the news.  She thought that I was having a heart attack.  I called Jocelyn.  I texted Neil in Chicago.  Shower.  Airport.  Flight.  Taxi.  Neil.  Boystown.  Shop.  Eat.  United Center.  Concert.  That 24-hour period zoomed by so fast, it all seems like such a blur in hindsight.

The concert was a tour-de-force show of non-stop entertainment.  This was my fifth Madonna tour, and probably my favorite Madonna tour.  While I highly respected 2001’s Drowned World Tour and 2006’s Confessions Tour as artistic statements and loved certain parts of each show, both did not excite me and felt cold at times.  2008’s Sticky & Sweet Tour was a ball of fun, but lacked the artistic depth of a true Madonna show.  The MDNA Tour reigns supreme because it combines the darkness of Drowned World, the unity and political message of Re-Invention, the beauty of Confessions and the animated hoopla of Sticky & Sweet into one show.

The MDNA Tour is proof that the girl from Michigan is still on top of her game 30-years into her career.  While her rivals are all judging reality shows, performing to theater-sized audiences or promoting a weight loss program, Madonna is selling out stadiums and arenas across the planet with VIP tickets that flaunt a $1,500.00 price tag.  Yes, $1,500.00 for a VIP Floor Madonna ticket!  Is she worth it?  Of course.

Kristin pretty much cried the entire duration of the entire concert because she was so starstruck and in awe.  (Fun Fact: Kristin cried so much that she cried her fake eyelashes off.)  What has always separated Madonna from the rest of the pack was her starpower.  She commands the stage.  You simply cannot take your eyes off of her.  When all is said and done and years upon years later, history will only remember Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Madonna…  and only one out of the four is still touring.  I remember watching an MTV News Segment as a kid back in 1990 when they were covering Madonna’s Blonde Ambition World Tour and a random Madonna fan made the bold statement: “You haven’t truly lived if you haven’t been to a Madonna concert!”  22 years later and that statement rings even more true.  Go see her while you can!

Highlights of the show: the Express Yourself / Born This Way / She’s Not Me mash-up, a rump-shakin’ version of Gimme All Your Luvin’ with a flying marching band, M’s 12-year-old son Rocco joining Mom onstage as a back-up dancer and choir member, stripped-down sing-a-long versions of classics Holiday and Open Your Heart, the heavenly divine Like A Prayer, the grand entrance of (literal) biblical proportions to Girl Gone Wild, a very somber and eerie take on Like A Virgin,  meeting other really cool & very kind Madonna fans and of course, seeing Madonna with Kristin for her very first time.

When I returned back home to Tampa, nearly all of my friends and co-workers asked why I did not take more photos or videos of Madonna since I was a mere 6 feet away from her at times.  I just wanted to make sure that I enjoyed every single second of the opportunity, to be in the moment and to NOT constantly fidget with my camera phone.  Actually, my phone only left my pocket just once the entire show to take the above photo while M performed Turn Up The Radio.

I have VIP Floor tickets to see the final show of the MDNA Tour in Miami on November 20, 2012 and absolutely cannot wait to experience the show all over again.  I cannot think of a more perfect gift to myself for my birthday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Front & Center

with Madonna’s longtime guitarist & guitar teacher Monte Pittman

I met up with soulmate Gina & the gang after the show.

New friends Mary and Rafael


A very special thanks to Rafael Cardoso, Madonna’s #1 Fan, for the warm welcome to the Golden Triangle Pit, for allowing me to use some of the photos in this blog and for simply being a fantastic and kind human-being in this world.  This man has been to every single MDNA Tour show since it landed on U.S. soil!

Madonna the prophet with Dick Clark on American Bandstand in 1984

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“Sweet Nothing” by Calvin Harris with Florence Welch

Just like Babyface  in the early 1990’s and Timbaland in the mid-2000’s, singer-songwriter-producer-DJ Calvin Harris has become the current it-boy with the midas touch in the music industry.  He gave Rihanna her biggest hit (save your Chris Brown jokes) and most beloved international smash-single “We Found Love” and saturated radio airwaves and Gym Workout iPod playlists with his very own “Feels So Close.”  “Call My Name” by British superstar Cheryl Cole is arguably her best single to date, and Scissor Sisters haven’t sounded as good on “Only The Horses” since their debut album.  Both songs were of course written and produced by Calvin Harris.

As Calvin Harris readies to release his third studio album, 18 Months on October 29, 2012, he recently unveiled his fifth (yes, fifth) single & music video from that upcoming album: a stunning collaboration with Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine called “Sweet Nothing.”

Sweet Nothing” is the Calvin Harris track I have been waiting for.  His music alone has always been so commanding, and “Sweet Nothing” demonstrates what happens when paired with a set of muscular vocals.  Earlier this year, we first heard the 26-year-old lead singer of Florence + The Machine collaborate with Calvin Harris when he remixed her band’s “Spectrum” single.  This time, “Sweet Nothing” marks the first: Flo belting out a song solely written for her by Calvin Harris.

…and it’s nothing but 100% pure ecstasy.  Enjoy below!

“Sweet Nothing” by Calvin Harris featuring Florence Welch

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“Call My Name” by Cheryl Cole

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Oh Cheryl Cole.  How do I love thee!  You were a part of the biggest-selling female group in the UK, (and no I am not referring to the Spice Girls but) Girls Aloud, who were responsible for some of the catchiest pop-ditties this millennium.   You ventured out as a solo artist with two huge hit albums and a string of pop perfection confections.  Your “Fight For This Love” still reigns as one of the best pop songs ever recorded.  You ruled England as their beloved sweetheart when you became a judge on The X-Factor UK which lead to one of the much-coveted judges spots on The X-Factor USA.  Although, I should be upset with you for you leaving The X-Factor USA.  It lead to four torturous months of the grating Nicole Scherzinger (your replacement).  Will.i.am. is now your manager.  You have a new album, your third, A Million Lights, being released next month.  You have a cameo role in the JLo & Cameron Diaz rom-com, What To Expect When You’re Expecting flick this summer.  You reportedly are dropping your ex-hubby’s last name and simply going by Cheryl.  Madonna.  Cher.  Cheryl.  It works.  And you have a sexy new video for “Call My Name,” which was written and produced by current it-boy Calvin Harris, that just hit YouTube.  You own the world right now… well, except for the U.S.  Here’s looking forward to a very successful infiltration onto the American pop culture radar.  If the Kardashians can do it, then the sexiest woman on the planet most certainly can too. You’re almost there baby.

P.S.  The 90’s clothes, style and choreography of your “Call My Name” music video is like a tasty make-out session with nostalgia.

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“Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra (music video)

I was getting ready for work one morning.  The television just so happened to be on.  I never pay attention to anything coming out of that box before 9am.  Suddenly, I heard a man singing to me.  No, actually he was seducing me.  I looked up and was awkwardly transfixed by an unknown naked man singing on my television screen.  That voice, with echoes of Sting and Peter Gabriel, was timeless.  This music video, vivid yet succinct in its simplicity, kept my eyes glued to it.  A woman joins in singing, such a beautiful contrast to the man’s voice.  What on Earth was I watching?  Who was this singing?  And why did it take me this long to discover it?

“Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra is the longest running #1 song in Australian history, and was also a US Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 hit single earlier this year.  Gotye (pronounced GO-te-yae) is the recording name for Wouter De Backer, a Belgian-Australian singer-songwriter who released his brilliant third album, Making Mirrors last fall.  The name Gotye is derived from “Gaultier” which is the French equivalent of the singer’s first name “Wouter.”  Featured singer Kimbra is a New Zealand singer-songwriter.

Since that morning this week, I have been completely spellbound by Gotye.  My Spotify is having a torrid love affair with him and his entire Making Mirrors album.  Press play below and join me by falling in love too.

“Somebody That I Used To Know” is the second single from Gotye’s third album, Making Mirrors

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Revenge (TV series)

TV Series Review: Revenge

Sex.  Love.  Lies.  Deceit.  Payback.  Revenge.  No other show this season has amassed as much buzz and hype as Revenge, ABC’s watercooler hit show from creator Mike Kelley (regularly airing Wednesday evenings at 10pm on ABC).

Revenge revolves around a young woman named Emily Thorne (played by Emily Van Camp) moving to the Hamptons for the summer.  Emily rapidly infiltrates the area’s high-society and elite as she quickly becomes engaged to Daniel (Joshua Bowman), the idolized son of the Graysons, the most powerful family in the Hamptons.  What her neighbors and even her own fiancé do not know about Emily is that her real name is Amanda Clarke, and that she actually grew up in the Hamptons as a little girl.  Her father David was framed as a terrorist in the 9/11 attacks by Daniel’s mother Victoria (wickedly played by this year’s Golden Globes nominee Madeline Stowe) and father Conrad (Henry Czerny), and was sent to prison where he eventually died.  Amanda was separated from her father as a child, and never saw or spoke to him again.  Amanda Clarke’s return to the Hamptons is solely to avenge her father’s death and seek revenge on those who wrongfully betrayed him.

Inspired by The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas’ ultimate tale of revenge and payback, Revenge’s enticing premise continually yields that irrefutable looming question… how long can the writers and producers of this show keep up the momentum and maintain its “OMFG” storylines?  The show’s unexpected twists and turns and shocking revelations are the ingredients that keep Revenge at the top of the must-watch television radar.  What also makes Revenge succeed is its intrepidity to swiftly answer questions and solve mysteries while promptly proceeding to the next one.  Shows like Heroes and now Ringer lose steam along with the patience of their fans with their failure in concisely wrapping up loose plot holes.  We, the audience want to revel in suspense; not drown in it.

I never knew of actress Emily Van Camp before Revenge, and admire her portrayal of Amanda/Emily as the glue of the show.  She continually reminds us that she is not one to be messed with by staying true to her intended purpose of retribution by remaining icy and succinct.  Yet, she exudes just enough warmth to make you continue rooting for her, even when her lying and scheming starts to unnecessarily hurt the ones she loves.

However, the real star of this show is undoubtedly Madeline Stowe.  Her Victoria Grayson is just as deliciously vicious and evil as Joan Collins’ Alexis Carrington (Dynasty) and Heather Locklear’s Amanda Woodward (Melrose Place) were before her.  She even has those flammable glares and classic, venomous lines.  Sample Victoria Grayson quote:  “Understand something Lydia:  Every time I smile at you across the room or we run into each other at a luncheon or I welcome you into my home?  Let that smile be a reminder of just how much I despise you.  And every time I hug you?  The warmth you feel is my hatred burning through.”  Water please?

Final Verdict:  WATCH THIS!




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The Iron Lady (film)

Movie Review: The Iron Lady

Can Meryl Streep do any wrong?  The best living actress, with a record 17 Academy Award and 26 Golden Globes nominations under her belt to prove it, is unshockingly pitch-perfect in director Phyllida Lloyd’s biopic of Margaret Thatcher.

Nicknamed The Iron Lady for her firm and stern role in power from 1979 to 1990, Thatcher was the only female and longest-serving British Prime Minister ever.  The film chronicles the history of Thatcher’s early life, her political ascension to power and the story of her marriage to her husband Denis (played by Jim Broadbent) all intertwined with her present-day battle with dementia.  It’s difficult for a filmmaker to paint the portrait of any infamous political icon.  With a sense of obligation to humanize the subject and document corresponding historical events accurately, entertainment value tends to become lost in translation; and most political biopics either leave viewers with a Sparks Notes history lesson, a great night out at the movies and hardly ever both.  Unlike film director Clint Eastwood’s recent J. Edgar Hoover biopic, The Iron Lady succeeds in clearly telling the story of its subject without losing the audience’s interest.  An immense majority of this triumph can be attributed to the brilliant performance by Meryl Streep.

Much admiration has been written and said about Streep’s Academy Award nominated performance as The Iron Lady.  Most of that praise goes unnoticed, mainly because it’s what one would expect of a Meryl Streep performance.  Not discounting this year’s other nominated Best Actress performances, but in comparison… Meryl’s Thatcher trumps them all.  To commend Meryl Streep for being great in a role would be like someone stating that the sun is bright.  It’s a known fact, so no need to point it out all the time.  I loved this year’s Best Actress frontrunner Viola Davis in the box-office sensation The Help.  Viola will most likely take the podium for her role as Abileen Clark at the Academy Awards this Sunday, but it will be Meryl Streep who yet again wins my heart for yet another masterpiece and historic performance.

Final Verdict:  SEE THIS




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