Friday, December 13, 2013

One Night Only: Back with the Bands

Those who have followed my work know that I streamlined my focus in the last few years from writing about tennis to mostly travel, wine and spirits. There’s actually much more to my journalistic background and I got to revisit it recently.

My first published writing was in college and it was all on entertainment. I wrote about theater, movies and celebrities, but most of it about music. I now describe myself as the “Almost Famous” (one of my favorite movies) kid, as I was way too young to really appreciate what was around me at the time.

I had finished high school early and spent the last of my teen years going to college full-time (Long Island University, Post) while I spent most of my nights at concerts. It was the 1980s and there was always plenty happening in music on Long Island and in New York City. I got to see a lot of it from the front row and backstage.

I was there for one of the final performances of Freddie Mercury, actually panning Queen’s show because, like everyone else, I didn’t know how sick he was with AIDs and thought he had just lost his edge. I watched a little known band named Van Halen open for Black Sabbath and predicted that they would make it further than the headliners. I partied (not as hard as they did) with the Beach Boys backstage.

One of my fondest moments was watching Pat Benatar make a music video in the middle of the night on a deserted railroad track in Manhattan for You’d Better Run. It was two o’clock in the morning and when she finished she answered all my questions and then made pasta in her trailer for the photographer and me!

I recently had a chance to relive that experience. Even though it didn’t turn out exactly like I planned, it was still nice to step back a bit into the world of music.

Last month, I spoke with Phil Paolino of the band ERA 9 for an articlein Urban Expressions magazine. I asked the Canadian lead singer if he was planning on playing in the U.S. anytime soon. Imagine my surprise when it turned out that they did have a gig coming up – an hour away from me in a little town called Illiapolis.

I was invited to come to the show at Bunkers Bar and have dinner with the band, who I was told liked to cook in their trailer after the show.

Unfortunately, not all the stars aligned for that trip. A friend who was going to accompany me canceled at the last minute and the forecast called for snow and freezing rain later in the night.

I did make it to the Bunkers Bar, a quite impressive venue that’s basically in the middle of nowhere outside of Springfield, Illinois. It was a fun and casual hall that allowed you to get up close with the bands.

First up was a local young singer named Jake Danella whom I really enjoyed. ERA 9 was up next and they were even better than the tracks I had heard online. While my first impression had been of Nickelback, they have a wide range of their own and Phil Paolino is a wonderful performer.

I spoke with Phil a bit after the show and he told me how much fun the band was having touring with and learning from Pop Evil. His enthusiasm brought me back to the teen backstage soaking it all in and dreaming of a future chasing rock stars.

I was afraid of driving home alone in the snow too late and there was still The Letter Black performing before Pop Evil so we were looking at a very late night dinner. I reminded myself that I was a lot older than I was that night with Pat Benatar as I said goodbye to the band.

It was nice to delve back into my first career, but I think I’ll stay where I am.

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