Tag Archives: Madonna

Ask The Locals: Okesene Tilo

Okie Tilo Ask The Locals 2014
Ask the Locals: Okesene “Okie” Tilo of the RITZ Ybor
by Heidi Kurpiela

Okesene Tilo is the director of public relations, marketing and events at The RITZ Ybor. He arrived at the storied theater in 2008 after it had undergone a transformation from seedy nightclub to hip new concert venue.

Tilo –– known as “Okie” among Tampa Bay artists, musicians and Ybor clubbers –– is a 34-year-old social butterfly; an Ybor denizen with a weakness for Madonna, music festivals and comfort food.

An Army brat, Tilo was born in Berlin, Germany and moved to Tampa in 1991, where his knack for bringing people together made him the obvious choice for senior class president at Armwood High School in Seffner.

He studied political science at the University of South Florida and in 2005 produced his first fundraising event. The project proved the perfect outlet for a party-going extrovert with an admitted “OCD streak.”

For five years Tilo served as the managing director of Square One Creative, a collective of artists, designers and entertainers best known for hosting raging art parties at venues across Tampa.

In addition to his work at The RITZ, Tilo is the managing partner of the Up Up Up Group, a special event, festival and attractions planning company. He serves on the steering committee for Pride & Passion at the Tampa Museum of Art and the planning committee for Festa Italiana.

Best Ybor watering hole: First Chance Last Chance in Ybor. “It’s not too overwhelming or too loud. It’s a good place to have a conversation with someone over drinks.”

Best place to people watch: The bench in front of Honey Pot. “You’ll see rockers, hipsters, drag queens and people in fetish costumes coming and going.”

Best reason to cross the Howard Frankland bridge: Sake Bomb. “They make my favorite saketini. I’ve tried to replicate it at home and I can’t.”

Best cheap date: Five Bucks Drinkery in St. Pete. “Nothing costs more than five bucks. You can get loaded tater tots, a root beer float and a Frito pie. It’s like a Jack in the Box.”

Best weird food fusion: Nitally’s Thai-Mex Cuisine. “Thai food mixed with Mexican food is a nice little twist. It’s an interesting place. You’ll always leave with your nose and eyes burning from the spices.”

Best food truck: Aloha To Go. “Whenever they feature the Loco Moco I go nuts. It’s a hamburger patty over rice with gravy on top. Their Facebook page tells you where the truck will be. They go to Tampa General a lot. I’ve got no shame. I’ll follow that food truck to the hospital.”

Best hidden park: Edward Medard Park and Reservoir in Plant City. “It’s a gigantic park with hiking trails and tons of outdoor activities. It feels like you’re in North Carolina.”

Best act to play the RITZ: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. “Everyone I know was going crazy for her and she actually lived up to the hype. She was at the merch table at the end of the show talking to every single fan. She was very down-to-earth and natural. I felt like I’d known her for years.”

Best place to stretch out: Yoga Loft. “Yoga actually works! I started going two and half years ago. Now I can completely touch the floor.”

Best new local band: The Sh-Booms out of Orlando. “They’re amazing. I saw them at The Hub. I’m somewhat of a Sh-Boom stalker now.”

Best wild Friday night party: The Filthy Richard Party at The RITZ. “If you want to full-fledge drink and dance this is the place to go.”

Best all-American eating: The Florida State Fair. “I don’t eat fair food regularly, but when I do go all out. My friends and I go on rides first, then eat every ounce of fried food we can find: fried Pepsi, fried bubble gum, fried butter, funnel cakes, elephant ears … This isn’t just one day of cheating, it’s destroying your entire eating plan for the month.”

Best way to burn off fair food: Spin class at Powerhouse Gym. “I take Mike Hammonds’ class every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. DJ Jason Krouth spins EDM, dance, Top 40s and 90s hip-hop. The guy has a following because his class is always full.”

Best bargain basement finds: Revolve Clothing Exchange in Ybor. “I once found this Michael Jackson Thriller jacket. It was such a rare find I got a call from someone at the store asking if I still had it. Apparently it was in high demand.”

Best way to tick off your dentist: Binge on croissant donuts at Piquant. “Everything they bake gets reserved. Basically you have to call and place an order. There’s a waiting list. My friends made fun of me for loving this place and then they had a croissant donut and now they’re hooked. It’s heaven.”

Best guilty-pleasure greasy chain: Church’s Chicken. “I’ll go to get my fried okra on. A big box of okra at Church’s is cheap!”

Best way to spend a silly Sunday: At an auction at Myers Fine Art & Antiques. “Once or twice a year my friends and I get dressed up and go to Myers in St. Pete. We don’t go to bid. We go to watch. It’s crazy what some of these things sell for. People are actually on the phone with bidders. You’ll see someone throw down $5,000 for a spoon.”

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Okie’s Favorite Albums of 2013

Halfway through the first month of 2014, and I am finally able to compile my annual list of my favorite albums of 2013.  So what was the holdup?  I simply forgot what music was actually released last year.  Last year more than any other, I jumped around from album to album, from song to song, from artist to artist.  No one album completely owned my eardrums the entire year.  Sure, there were a handful of albums that received their healthy rotation of spins, but nothing comparable to years before where I played an album from front to back, left to right and back again nearly the entire 365 days.  It wasn’t that last year’s crop of releases weren’t addictive, but moreso that there was way too much music to listen to!

So in alphabetical order, here are my favorite albums of 2013:

Anxiety by Autre Ne Veut
I was shocked to find out that Arthur Ashin, the voice behind Autre Ne Veut was American, born and raised.  I fail to give the U.S. its proper due when such a unique-sounding album is released by automatically assuming that the responsible artist MUST be from anywhere but here.  What genre do you classify the music on Anxiety?  I never once wondered until I started to write this entry. Alternative R&B?  Perhaps.  New Soul?  Maybe.  Great Music?  Most definitely.  And that is all you need to know.



BEYONCE‘ by Beyonce’
In the year of overhyped  and underwhelming releases from everyone’s pop diva faves, Queen Bey emerged overnight literally out of nowhere to prove that she’s the “Supreme” of the music industry: well respected, critically acclaimed, admired by the kids and still owning the popular music landscape.  BEYONCE’ finds Mrs. Carter channeling everyone from Madonna (“Haunted”) to Alicia Keys (“Heaven”) to Drake (“Mine”), but doing it so effortlessly and sometimes even better.


Cupid Deluxe by Blood Orange
It was reported that British singer-songwriter Dev Hynes’ penned songs for Britney Spears’ most recent album failed to make the cut.  If any of them sounded half as vulnerable and personal yet utterly sweet as the tracks on the second album by Blood Orange, the electronic musical project of Hynes, than it’s surely Britney Jean’s loss.



The Bones of What You Believe by Chvrches
Scottish synth-poppers Chvrches pick up where La Roux last left, yet simplify that sound with more refined vocals (courtesy of lead singer Lauren Mayberry) and an overall much crisper sound.  It’s the perfect album that can double as the one to pump out loudly in your car, or to play at a much lower volume while working at the office.  Try it either way.



Settle by Disclosure
Don’t get me wrong, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories is a fine album.  It’s just that it didn’t do what Disclosure’s Settle accomplished: persuading you to join the dancefloor.  If Daft Punk’s album was the sound of disco and electronic music making love, Settle was full-on, hardcore audio penetration between 90s house and any lucky listener.



Ice On The Dune by Empire of the Sun
Their look?  Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome: The Atlantic City Musical directed by Bobby Trendy.  Their sound?  A meteor shower of frothy dream pop that I am head over metallic-baby blue stiletto heel in love with.



Days Are Gone by Haim
One moment: Fleetwood Mac.  Another: Expose’.  Chrissie Hynde’s un-biological daughters released one of the catchiest albums of the year filled with hooks that required dedicated effort to sing along to because of the oft-rapid fire singing.  Need proof?  Sing “Falling” or “Forever” during your next shower.



Overgrown by James Blake
One may have to be in a certain mood when listening to James Blake’s second studio album.  It’s that same mood one has to be in when pressing play on a Sade album, or more recently, anything by Frank Ocean.  I am in love with Mr. Blake’s voice: haunting, emotional and a few times androgynous, so I suppose that I am always in the mood to listen to his soulful album.



Yeezus by Kanye West
Love him or hate him, there is a reason why North West’s daddy is topping most year-end Critics’ Best Of list with his sixth studio album.  Never content staying within one defined genre of music, Yeezus finds Mr. West delving deeper into industrial and electronic music.   The result: an aggressive, frantic and maddening soundscape of vainglorious perfection.



Pure Heroine by Lorde
Lorde’s debut album is on this list?  Yes, the 17-year-old Kiwi responsible for releasing the song (“Royals”) that might cause my ears to bleed if I am ever subjected to hearing it again managed to put out the best pop album of the year.  (To prevent any potential BeyHive sting, BEYONCE‘ is an R&B album.)  In fact, “Royals” is my least favorite song on the entire album that sounds like the lovechild of Robyn and Lana Del Rey blessed by The xx.



Special Shout-Outs to Secondhand Rapture by MS MR, Bad Blood by Bastille, Dinner Will Be Served by Chasing Grace and the Twin Rivers EP by Big Scary who all received ample plays on my Spotify this year.

From last year’s post – My favorite albums of 2012:

  • King Con by Alex Winston
  • Kill for Love by Chromatics
  • Ten$ion by Die Antwoord
  • Halcyon by Ellie Goulding
  • Our Version of Events by Emeli Sande
  • A Joyful Noise by Gossip
  • Visions by Grimes
  • Rollerskater EP by Lindbergh Palace
  • Kaleidoscope Dream by Miguel
  • True EP by Solange
  • Confess by Twin Shadow
  • Nocturne by Wild Nothing

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge / view this year’s covers of my favorite albums of 2013:

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If I Were Olivia Pope… fixing LADY GAGA

Lady Gaga Artpop

‘LADY GAGA IS OVER!’ proclaim the headlines. Her new single “Applause” receives a tepid response from critics and music buyers. She engages in a very public Twitter feud with gossip columnist Perez Hilton. After a disastrous trek in South America, the U.S. leg of her Born This Way Ball cancels due to a hip injury.

It’s hard to believe that it was just four years ago when Mother Monster scored her sixth consecutive #1 Billboard Pop Song with her Beyonce duet “Telephone.” Previous #1 singles “Bad Romance,” “Paparazzi” and “Just Dance” were still inescapable on the dancefloors and radio airwaves. As Tweeters followed her in record clicks, Forbes magazine crowned her as one The World’s Most Powerful Women.

Lady Gaga Old School

So obviously, a LOT has changed, and Stefani Germanotta is obviously suffering from an inevitable backlash that the superstars of her caliber have all experienced before her.  So I, an avid music listener shall channel my inner Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington’s crisis expert and fixer from ABC’s Scandal) and offer suggestions to YOU, Lady Gaga in hopes of propelling you back to the top of pop supremacy.

Your album is called ARTPOP, not CHARTPOP: “Applause” failed to outsell “Roar” by Katy Perry. So what? It also leaked online forcing you to send it to radio a week earlier than planned. Who cares? No one would have made such a huge deal of this if it weren’t for you hawking sales of “Applause” with your Twitter pleas and meet & greet contests that came across as desperate. 200K in sales is still commendable, and worthy of an applause. Follow the aesthetically layered theme of your new concept album, and focus on your craft.  Besides, any news outlet quick to point out the non-blockbuster sales of “Applause” could be overshadowed by your simple assertion that “it’s all about the art, and not the charts!”

Gaga Twitter Feud Perez Hilton

Sometimes Silence DOES speak louder than words: Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. So, whatever happened with Perez Hilton should have stayed with Perez Hilton. Yeah, his digs at your single were unnecessary, but were your public comments and replies ever required? You were vocal on your feed that he needs to leave you alone, prompting cynics to suggest that you’re playing the role of a victim. If you stood up to him with an Azealia Banks-style cussing, you would have been labeled a bitch. It’s a no-win situation, so why address or acknowledge him at all? Ignore him and move on. If he’s truly in your apartment building with intentions of stalking you, alert your security guards and the police, not all 39 million of your Twitter followers. With these silly celebrity feuds, the best response is usually always no response. Convince the world that you’re too busy planning a spectacular VMA performance to address Perez’s comments.  “Perez who?”

Although your words DO speak louder to your Little Monsters: Your fans known as Little Monsters are very passionate and vocal devotees. Any reviewer, fellow celebrity, blogger or forum user that speaks an ounce of criticism towards you will undoubtedly receive a bombastic lashing of epic militant proportions from one of them. WE ALL KNOW THIS. It’s just that your fans love and worship you so zealously that their vile and evil onslaught of words are no more than a reflection of their intense love and protection of you. So it came off as a bit of a surprise when you finally urged your fans to stop sending death threats to your naysayers, because it was appearing that you were only focused and consumed by your detractors. Your fans live by your every Tweet, so continue speaking up… but only when addressing them, and not just another hater.

Madonna Gaga

Embrace the Madonna comparisons: Face it, the Madonna comparisons will never go away. God created Adam and Eve, and Madonna created the pop star, the superstar, the music video star, the fashion chameleon, the very blueprint that you follow. So when the 20 billionth person likens your next magazine cover or music video to a Madonna magazine cover or music video, take it as a compliment and not as an insult to your creative mojo. Just as Madonna suffered the Marilyn Monroe comparisons in the early stages of her career, she never dismissed them but instead reveled in the connection by taking that persona to the next level. Kylie Minogue and Gwen Stefani have both remarked that Madonna has pretty much done everything there is to do as a female artist, and that it’s inevitable and an honor to be in her shadow.

Just Dance: You’re unique. You’re different. You’re edgy. We get it! You’re Lady Gaga, an artist. So can we just get back to the carefree fun music responsible for putting you on the map? No more overly contrived “Don’t Buy Applause” promo commercials. No more topless magazine photo shoots. No more meditating in the woods naked.  Give the world MORE killer live performances, MORE flawless vocals, and MORE dancing. Afterall, you said it best.  So why aren’t you following your very own words?…

“Just dance… gonna be okay…”

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Commencement to Be

Robby HS Graduation

It seems like just yesterday that the above photo was taken… me watching 18-year-old Robby graduate from High School. 

And then just two weeks ago…

Robby Graduation Okie 2

…Robby graduated from college and moved to Fort Liquordale!  Huh?  WTF?!  Where the @#$% is time going?!

Robby officially became a USF Alumni, and relocated down south with A.J.  To celebrate this achievement, he hosted a nearly 8-hour bar crawl that terrorized my liver and checking account sauntered through the hot spots of Ybor City.  And to celebrate this very same achievement my way, I will post 5 of My Favorite Things about Robby.  Let’s begin:

#1:  Paula Deen… I mean, Robby introduced me to his famous McDonalds Apple Pie & Chocolate Ice Cream Sundae concoction-in-a-bowl dessert.

#2:  Robby forced me to watch the Game of Thrones Series Recap.  After I stopped watching the show during its snoozefest second season, he promised that the current Season 3 was worth watching the show again.  A mere 10 minutes of my life and I am officially all caught up on Game of Thrones.  Bring on the damn dragons!

#3:  Robby watched Madonna’s Truth or Dare documentary and afterwards, remarked that he totally understood why my friends and I act the way we do.  (Now that I think about it… was that even a compliment??!)

#4:  Robby’s random insightful but hilarious text messages like the one he sent when describing his first impressions of being a new resident to the Fort Lauderdale area.  See below:

Robby Text Message

and last but not least…

As two gigantic music fanatics, Robby and I are constantly trying to introduce new and great songs to one another.  The “oh I’ve already heard this before” and the “I’m not really feeling this one” do often pop-up in our conversation.  So when a great song is truly introduced to one of us by the other, it becomes a mini-event.  When Robby first played “Blood” by The Middle East, I instantly fell head over heels for that song and had to immediately add it to my Current Favorites Playlist on Spotify.  To my surprise, the song was already on there.  So Robby playing “Blood” wasn’t my virgin time hearing it.  I still don’t remember ever adding that song to my playlist.  Nor did I ever figure out when exactly I first heard it either.  But just like mine and Robby’s close friendship, there really is no explanation for something that was meant to be.  Oh and #5: Robby has great taste in music.

Congratulations again to my old soul friend for graduating!

Robby Graduation ZOYA

Photo by Branden Hollywood

Please click on a thumbnail to enlarge / view photo:

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You’re Not Alone

KVBS Bday 2013 Okie KristinKristin, my best friend that I’ve known the longest, celebrated her 33rd birthday at CHEAP in Tampa last Friday with her most favorite friends.  And in honor of her palindrome birthday, I present three FUN FACTS about me and Mrs. Schmidt:


Britney Spears’ Oops… I Did It Again Tour 2000:  A huge fight over post-its an hour before Brit Brit’s Oops… I Did It Again show nearly derailed our plans to see the Mouseketeer.

Janet Jackson’s All For You Tour 2001:  Our first time seeing Janet Jackson became my first time seeing Janet Jackson, because Kristin and I once again got in a huge fight over Sandy Frink.  (Side note: 10 years later, we finally saw Janet together at her Number Ones, Up Close and Personal show.)

Madonna’s Re-Invention Tour 2004:  We drove to Sebring, Florida to be the first in line to purchase tickets to what would’ve been her first Madonna concert, but I wound up taking someone else because Kristin and I got in a silly fight over who’s the Rhoda and who’s the Mary.  (Side note: Last year, we finally saw Madonna together at her MDNA show in Chicago.)

KVBS Bday 2013 Kristin Cake

#2:  KRISTIN AND I HAVE MATCHING TATTOOS…  and matching tramp stamps to boot!  Sue me.  I was 21-years-old.  I was in in Ybor City with her, and we both randomly made the decision after knocking back a few Jack Daniels’ drinks.  I always told myself that I would never ever get a tattoo unless it was original, designed by moi and had personal meaning.  So the Japanese symbol for “God” may not be original nor was it designed by me, but it does carry a lot of personal meaning because Kristin and I are both trashy and tramp stamped branded with it.

#3:  MINE AND KRISTIN’S THEME SONG IS…  no not that one Madonna song.  And no, it’s not a song by Britney Spears.

Every great friendship has that one song that when randomly heard or played manages to make you instantly think of the other person.  For some reason, Olive’s “You’re Not Alone” (below) is our song.  I do not exactly know how or remember when it was decided that “You’re Not Alone” would be blessed as the one-song soundtrack to our 22-year-old friendship.  Yet everytime I hear that 90’s electronic-trance-pop masterpiece, I immediately think of Kristin.  (And no we both weren’t sporting JNCO pants and sucking on lollipops when this song became our anthem in the 90’s.)

Happy Birthday Kristin!  Click on image below to enlarge photo:

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Congratulations, Happy Holidays & Farewell

Congratulations, Cheers, Farewell… it seems that the trend this year was for every celebratory event to conclude with a goodbye.  (Click here.)  I have always disliked saying goodbye and try to make the situation as short, sweet and to-the-point as possible.  Last weekend was yet another weekend filled with commemorative celebrations followed by a goodbye.

I know a handful of people who have been in school since what seems like 48 B.C.  When I first met Bryan 7-8 years ago, I thought that he too would be one of those people I refer to as a lifetime student: a person who takes one class every other semester and swears to the high heavens and Madonna that graduation is the ultimate goal.  Well what do you know?  Last weekend, Bryan graduated from USF with not just his Bachelors but his Masters degree and threw a party to celebrate.   So congratulations to Bryan for busting his ass and working so hard to accomplish his goal, for proving me wrong in my very initial assumption and for putting up with Jocelyn’s 40-balloons graduation gift.

Bryan Okie 1 Bryan Jocelyn 2 Bryan Boys Jocelyn Balloons 2 Jocelyn Balloons 1

After recouping from Bryan’s Greygoose-filled evening the night before, I had a Holiday Dinner with friends to attend at Texas de Brazil the next day.  My good friends Cheri and Mike were in town from Los Angeles for just one day, and maximized their brief time in Tampa by inviting their closest friends to dinner.  Every year, my best friends and I throw a Holiday Party / Gift Exchange.  Given everyone’s crazy schedules this year, Cheri & Mike’s dinner doubled as this year’s Gift Exchange.  As always, it was wonderful to see Cheri and Mike again, to consume 931 lbs of meat at Texas de Brazil and to remind yourself how friends can also become your family.  Happy Holidays and cheers to Cheri, Mike and everyone and anyone else who is reading this!

Cheri Group

Cheri Boys

Cheri Girls

Cheri Okie

Cheri Jocelyn

Cheri Billy

Cheri Linley

Cheri Robby

Cheri Jaime

Cheri JadenCheri NielyCheri Kristin Cheri JonCheri JessCheri Jaime Jaden

The celebratory weekend concluded on a bittersweet note with my friends Jamal and Lorena leaving Tampa and moving to Los Angeles.  I first met Lorena through mutual friends three years ago, and since then we’ve traveled together, lived with one another (best roommate ever), worked together, shared a toy poodle (and the best dog ever) named Zoe and devoured chili dogs and taters in the middle of my living room floor at 4am.  Although I will miss her and Jamal dearly, its encouraging to know that my annual trip to California is right around the corner.  So for now, farewell to Lorena and Jamal.

Okie Lorena Jamal Okie Lorena


I willl conclude this entry with a lyric video for the song “I Am Yours” by the band Churchill.  Right now, the band is right on the brink of taking off with their hypnotic and catchy current single “Change” but this particular song has been receiving much more love on my iPod and Spotify.

Congratulations… Cheers… and Goodbye… but Hello to new music!

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Okie’s Favorite Albums of 2012

When I was 20-years-old and working at Barnes & Noble, I had to compile an annual list of my favorite albums, movies and songs that would be posted in the store as a STAFF’S PICK FOR (insert year here) section.  I haven’t made a year’s favorites list since working there, and haven’t been inspired to do so until my friend Areis posted his 5 favorite albums of 2012 online the other day.  So below (and in no specific order) are my Top 12 favorite albums of 2012, as in the below albums were released in the U.S. this year and were played to death on my iPod.

Favorite Albums 2012

My favorite albums of 2012, Pictured from L-R Top to Bottom: (1) King Con by Alex Winston, (2) Kill for Love by Chromatics, (3) Ten$ion by Die Antwoord, (4) Halcyon by Ellie Goulding, (5) Our Version of Events by Emeli Sande, (6) A Joyful Noise by Gossip, (7) Visions by Grimes, (8) Rollerskater EP by Lindbergh Palace, (9) Kaleidoscope Dream by Miguel, (10) True EP by Solange, (11) Confess by Twin Shadow and (12) Nocturne by Wild Nothing.


George Lewis Jr a.k.a. Twin Shadow released perhaps the catchiest album of the year filled with 1980’s New Wave pop ditties such as “Five Seconds” and “Patient.”  Check out the music video saga to those singles which drew inspiration from his novel, Night of the Silver Sun.


You’ve got to give it up for Beyonce’s younger sister.  Instead of following in the obvious footsteps of her diva sibling, Solange instead released an EP straight from the golden 1980’s pop era of Jody Watley and Madonna filled with insta-classics “Losing You” and “Lovers in the Parking Lot.”


The second album from Skrillex’s ex-girlfriend finds the singer-songwriter showcasing an edgier and more epic sound than her debut album. Check out tracks “Explosions” and lead single “Anything Could Happen.”


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.”

Check out my earlier review of Kill for Love by Chromatics RIGHT HERE.


The South African hip-hop ravers second studio album is completely over-the-top, outrageous and downright ridiculous.  Yet despite the excessive pageantry, the duo’s hooks are as addicive as they are undeniable.  Take a listen to their catchy “I Find U Freeky” or “Baby’s On Fire.”


Miguel’s second album is an R&B pop masterpiece that echoes the sounds of Marvin Gaye, Prince, R.Kelly and Stevie Wonder.  The R&B maestro recently scored (and rightfully so) a surprise Song of the Year Grammy nomination for his hit single, “Adorn.”


The Brooklyn-based band will seduce your ears with their sexy 1970’s retro-electro pop EP.  Synthesizers, spacey guitars and house beats provide the perfect backdrop for singer Leah Hayes’ lily white pure vocals on such tracks as “West Coast” and “Days Don’t Fade.”


Wild Nothing returned with their second studio album filled with more dream pop confections such as the title track and “Counting Days.”  Nocturne sounds like a breezy album that Fleetwood Mac would have recorded if they were just starting off in 2012.


Scottish singer-songwriter Emelie Sande’s debut opus is also the fastest selling album by a British recording artist in three year.  Our Version of Events perfectly flaunts the versatility of Sande’s voice, towering and commanding in standout track “Next To Me” and later soothing to the soul on “Read All About It Pt. 3.”


Amid the heavily layered synth beats and cacophonous sounds on Canadian recording artist Grimes’ third studio album, the singer’s monotonously airy voice provides a coordinating contrast especially on hynotic tracks “Genesis” and “Circumambient.”


What happens when a post-punk indie rock band collaborates with the production team responsible for Cher’s “Believe”?  A Joyful Noise is that sensational creation with Xenomania’s Brian Higgins, which adds a new layer and dimension to the band Gossip’s signature indie-punk sound.


The debut album from 25-year-old Alexandra Winston could easily be mistaken as a modern-day Kate Bush homage with her equally giddy soprano vocals.  Winston instead delivers a refreshing album of quirky, punchy tracks such as “Velvet Elvis” and “Medicine.”

  • Check out my favorite songs of last year RIGHT HERE.
  • Check out this year’s Summer Anthems RIGHT HERE.


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The MDNA Tour: Miami

“Start saving your pennies now. People spend $300 on crazy things all the time, things like handbags.  So work all year, scrape the money together and come to my show. I’m worth it.”
Madonna defending her MDNA Tour’s $1,500.00 VIP Floor Ticket Price
to Newsweek magazine earlier this year

MDNA Nicole

Nicole and I have been friends for almost a decade.  She is the friend that constantly makes you laugh with her infectious silliness.  She is the friend that always remains drama-free and loyal.  She is also that nutty friend that scraped up almost one-thousand-dollars for a ticket to see our lifelong idol, Madonna in concert.

Whenever Madonna goes on tour, Nicole is my go-to gal pal and touring buddy.  Reason 1:  Like me, she’s been a huge Madonna fan since she can remember.  Reason 2:  She and I get along so fabulously when traveling.  Reason 3:  Just like myself (and Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), she too admits that she is I-N-S-A-N-E… but only when it comes to seeing Madonna LIVE.

In 2006, we drove to Miami together to see M’s Confessions Tour.  Two years later, we flew to Chicago for M-Dolla’s Sticky & Sweet Tour.  And this past November, we found ourselves back in Miami for two nights of Madge’s latest MDNA Tour opus.  (For my review of the MDNA Tour when I first saw it in Chicago this past September, CLICK HERE.)

MDNA 2 MDNA 1 MDNA 3 MDNA 4The above photos were all taken on Nicole’s cellphone from our 3rd Row seats

I have a love/hate relationship with the city of Miami but the concert and our time in South Beach were an obvious blast, mainly because it was an experience shared with many of our friends from Tampa.

MDNA Michelle Jocelyn

Girls Gone Wild (literally… and I do have incriminating photos) Jocelyn and Michelle sat right beside us on night 1 of the tour, and one row over on night 2.  (Fun Fact:  Like my friend Kristin before her in Chicago, Jocelyn cried her eyes out during the closing song of the tour… only Jocelyn had seen the show a good 5 or 6 times before this show already!)

MDNA Brian Angela

Bryan and his Madonna Tour gal-pal Angela were staying down the street from our hotel on Collins Avenue, and were the cheerleading pep squad to mine and Nicole’s football jocks.

MDNA Group

We got to hang out with  Tony and Jose at the MDNA VIP Party and at both afterparties at Hyde and Grand Central.  By the way, the VIP Party was pretty amazing and totally worth the price: a buffet of catered food, hosted beer and wine bar, a heavily stocked gift bag, photo backdrop stations.

MDNA Adam David NicoleMDNA Adam David

Jacksonville friends David and Adam gave Nicole and I their seats for night 1 because they won Golden Triangle Pit Tickets.  My other friends Paul and Zach won Pit Tickets for night 2.  Meanwhile, mine and Nicole’s Twitter feed resembled that of an overeager-beaver stalker in our failed, multiple-Tweet attempt to persuade Guy Oseary (M’s manager) to handpick us to join our friends in the Golden Triangle Pit.  We may not have secured those Golden Triangle Pit tickets, but Nicole and I may have inevitably secured Twitter restraining orders from any of our followers during those two days.

My friend Jason pretty much told me that my birthday celebration this year was being stretched out like turkey meat: birthday dinner party, Square One event, Miami trip, Madonna concert, etc.  Well… Jason was 100% correct.  I sho’ nuff did milk this year’s bday for all that I could yank, tug, pull, push and shove.  When you’ve had as wonderful of a year as I did in 2012, going all out for your big birthday at the end of the year is the final topping:  the icing on one delicious ass cake!  I could not have asked for a better birthdayweek celebration than I had and experienced this year.

MDNA LungeMDNA Jerseys

To my dear friend Nicole, start saving those pennies for the next tour because we will be sitting front-row center baby, right next to Gloria Estefan!

Girl Gone Wild by Madonna

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Oops! I Became a Palindrome… Again

pal-in-drome:  a word, verse, or sentence or a number (as 33) that reads the same backward or forward

I never understood why people in their 30’s and 40’s feel the need to proclaim that they’re re-celebrating their 21st birthday on their special day.  Anytime I told someone that I was turning 33-years-old this year, they jokingly tried to correct me by saying, “oh, you mean 21, right?” which only prompted me  to correct them by letting them know that I am proud to be the age that I am.  When compared to when I was a clueless 21-year-old, I am in a much better place in life: basically wiser, richer and more connected with who I am and what my purpose in life truly is.  Getting older is inevitable, so I fully embrace each new year like a brand new pair of shoes.  I am 33-years-old dammit!

Kristin and I decided to host a birthday party for 40 of my closest friends at her house this year.  With friends already flying in from NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ohio and Miami for that weekend’s Square One event at The RITZ Ybor the next day, I didn’t want to invite everyone out to a huge group dinner for 40 at (insert restaurant name here).  Those type of birthday group dinner gatherings always turn into more of a headache, lack any type of intimacy and just are never any fun: you are forced to socialize more with whoever you happen to be sitting next to, the bill is always wrong, food comes out late, the wrong dishes come out with some dishes not even making it to the table, etc.

Even with the already hectic and crazy work schedule, this year’s birthday party was worth every dime and minute that went into planning it… mainly because I love my friends more than the world.  I wish everyday could be my birthday if only I could have as much fun as I did last weekend!

33rd Birthday… BEST Birthday Ever!

Diamonds by Rihanna

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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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