Archive for March, 2008

Wearing The Music by Jonny Steiner

Posted: March 30, 2008 by Maximum Mike in The Rocking Chair Blog

I have to say I looked great. Fluevog Shoes, Donna Karen Jeans, a Ted Baker shirt and over all that a black suit jacket. I was not going to a nice dinner or a play, not even a college party. I was going to see Arch Enemy and Iron Maiden at the Hammerstien Ballroom in Manhattan . Due to the popularity of my college radio show “The Hot Box with Jonny and Chaya,” I was able to get free tickets to many concerts. This time no one wanted to go with me because it was around midterm time and my friends weren’t sufficient fans to risk failing exams. So I went alone.

I picked up my tickets (2) and proceeded to seek out one of the forlorn looking kids without a ticket lingering about outside. After a sweep of the crowd, a motley crew (you like that?) of Metal Heads, I saw a guy that looked like he could use a pick me up. He was a little chunky, with dark red hair and was wearing an old sleeveless Iron Maiden shirt. His pants were another story altogether. Baggy and worn like a WWII Parachute, they seemed to have been sliced by a Japanese Katana and repaired with zippers over every hole. Needless to say, they were black. I approached the young man and asked him if he wanted a free ticket to the show. This is our exchange to the best of my memory. Let’s say his name was Josh.

Me: Hey man you want a ticket to the show?

Josh: How Much?

Me: Free.

Josh: Get out of here.

Me: Look I have two tickets right here and I am offering you one. Do you want it?

Josh: For real?

Me: For Real.

Josh: No strings.

Me: Well you have to be my date. Just kidding have a good time.

Josh, who looked every bit the Metal-Head, did not trust me in my incongruous garb to be a Metal fan or even attend a concert. In my daily dress I do not look like I can wail along with Iced Earth and Testament. The thing is that does not matter. Being a fan of a Rock band is not the same as rooting for your favorite baseball team. The love for our Rock heroes comes from within. Outward self -representation should not have to indicate where your musical preferences lie. I have found, in my concert going experiences, the most judgmental and unforgiving cliques of music fans are Punk-Rockers and Metal-Heads. This results from their strict self-imposed dress code. Through that lens, it is amusing when you realize that Punk and Metal are the two forms of Rock most strongly Anti-establishment. The way I see it, the more immature members of each society are so paranoid about being encroached upon by people who either do not respect or understand their music, they have created their own establishment. The dress code then becomes more of a defense mechanism than an actual statement. Based on the way I dress, if I approached any one of these kids regardless of my knowledge they would call me a poser or a Narc. If a Rock show is about people sharing a communal experience then anyone who would exclude another person based on their clothing is a poser.

Interestingly enough when speaking of bands themselves the opposite seems to be true. The mode of dress of a specific artist needs to be representative of what they want their music to convey. When I saw Dream Theater they were all in black. Simple and effective; perhaps the lack of pretense in regards to their clothes leaves the audience with no choice but to take the music as it comes. Another Rock sub-genre, whose dress is more haphazard than stylish, are Shoegazers: So called because of the droning music and listless performances of the artists who seem to be staring at their shoes rather than make eye contact with the crowd. A standard in their mode of dress are the Converse All-Stars whose bleached white laces seem to glow beneath the stage lights.

This can also work against a band. I hate to have my column be the Green Day bashing hour, especially since I used to love them but we will go there one more time. I recall a recent poster on which the boys were all dressed in red and black it seemed like an ad for Hot Topic more than a Rock poster. If we are to take them by their music and believe them to be Punk what do we think when we see these perfectly groomed corporate representations? Let us extend this to Electronic music. On Armin Van Buuren’s live DVD, an event in front of almost 20,000 people, where all the audience and the performers were dressed to impress, Armin was wearing a ratty old t-shirt and jeans. This shows a lack of professionalism. The band Kiss, whose professionalism only goes as far as the latest product they are hawking, have never made any bones about the corporate nature of their machine. Even the ceremonial removal of their makeup for 1983’s “Lick it Up” seemed a calculated move to get the band press after the previous album “Creatures of the Night” sold dismally. There are many who would argue it was precisely the mass marketing of the Grunge look that added to Kurt Cobain’s feelings of disillusionment, and caused him to take his own life.

At the Arch Enemy show I remember thinking how well put together the band looked. Angela, the lead singer, was wearing tight black jeans and a red and black shirt festooned with a power fist. The rest of the band wore all black to varying styles and lengths. It was later that I read that Angela, who is one of seven children, has known how to sew from a very young age. She travels with a sewing machine in order to help her with alterations of the band’s stage wear. Believe it or not, Ozzy Osbourne also designs his stage costumes. The line between personal style and corporate sponsorship is easily spotted. Take for example Lilly Allen who is coming out with her own clothing line. In sharp contrast, Amy Winehouse’s heroin chic beehive serves as a testament to the turmoil in her personal life. Perhaps artists with no style say it best by letting their music speak for itself. Either way it is up to them to match the two, not up to us to create an establishment to contain them.


We see them shopping, we see them laughing, we see them eating copious amounts in chocolate, this week, we’ll see them rocking!!! Get an in-depth look into the minds of girls everywhere. They requested, I delivered. We’ll hear from Default, Within Temptation, Bruce Springsteen, and a hell of a salute.

Supermen with Silver Guns by Jonny Steiner

Posted: March 23, 2008 by Maximum Mike in The Rocking Chair Blog

There are superheroes in real life. I do not speak of the Firefighters and the Police who are genuine heroes and all that. I am looking to make a comparison more apropos of the costumes and personalities inherent in our heroes. Here I speak of Rock frontmen. Standing on stage, chests heaving with confidence as they convey the music to the audience, these are our superheroes. With all eyes upon them they place us in the palms of their hands and lead us like children crossing a busy intersection. Some are more talented vocally, some athletically; yet each has his own style and his own methods of performance. I remember one of my first concert experiences, R.E.M. at Gund Arena in my hometown of Cleveland Ohio. Our seats were close but a little behind the stage so that Michael Stipe had his back to us throughout the gig. It was not until they played “Orange Crush” that Michael came around to face us. I felt in that moment as though he was singing to me, even though there were a few hundred people in my section. It is the skill of transmission on a personal level within a communal gathering that is one of the more fascinating skills of the frontman. Of course a mere spiritual connection with the audience is not nearly enough to propel these men to super heroic status. It also takes a certain degree of athleticism, and movement. At a Dream Theater concert once I saw James Labrie run around onstage with his mike stand in tow. He was whirling like a madman and tripped over the stand, mid note. He caught himself on one foot and did not break the note for a second. In fact the whole thing almost looked intentional.
There are two types of frontmen. Those that play instruments and those that do not. I chose to focus here on those that do not because when your arms are unhindered by an instrument you are free to gyrate and dance around like a devil worshipping madman. With that in mind I will begin my break down of four of the greatest, and leave you with my personal top 10.
When you look up the word “frontman” in the dictionary there will be a picture of Steven Tyler. The prototype, Steven has done it for over 30 years. Getting his wings with Aerosmith in the early seventies, Steven is to this day the most recognizable members of one of the most famous bands the US has ever produced. Steven’s trademark is the microphone stand adorned with scarves. The tradition came from back in the drug fueled 70s when he would hide substances in them. It is this prop that is the source for much of his gyrating and movement. He is known for swinging the microphone stand around. This is not to undercut his musical skills in any way. Steven is an extremely talented singer with an honest raw timbre to his voice that makes him that much more adored. It is his emotive voice combined with a confident persona that makes him so devastatingly compelling. You could say that without the scarves he is only imitating Mick Jagger whose swagger is legendary. True, Jagger is a timeless figure in Rock, but I think that Steven’s vocal skills give him the edge.
From the complete package to a more nuanced performer, David Lee Roth is the consummate entertainer. His thin tinny vocals have gotten him criticized by many for the reason that he seems to be a case of style over substance. The truth is that Diamond Dave, as he is sometimes called, has the unique ability to focus his voice into a high pitched throaty scream that very few can imitate. Aside from an innate confidence that seems to fuel every frontman’s personality DLR was one of the most athletic men to ever step foot on the stage. There is a famous video of the song “Unchained” live in Oakland in 1981, when Dave does a twirl and leap off of the stage into a flying split high off the ground. He has even said that some of his personal style and antics came from a childhood love of comic books. This is to say nothing of the striped spandex jumpsuits he wore onstage throughout the 80s.
From the comic to the dark, or from Batman to Superman. David Lee Roth’s pro performance personality is in striking contrast to the brooding musings of Jim Morrison. He felt that his decent into the darker side of Poetry and Lyrics came on a family trip when he was four years old. After witnessing a car accident with several Native-Americans lying dead and bleeding on the ground Jim Described the experience “That was the first time I tasted fear… and I do think, at that moment, the souls of those dead Indians- maybe one or two of them-were just running around, freaking out, and just landed in my soul, and I was like a sponge, ready to sit there and absorb it.” The psychedelic backdrop provided by Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore, helped to solidify The Doors in Rock. The reason lay in Jim Morrison’s love of vocal experimentation. Truly he could wail Rock anthems, and yet he had the delivery of a Lounge singer. His dark brooding personality and spiritual connection to music made him a star, and one of the greatest sex symbols in Rock History.
We have covered the personalities and the performances. The true power of a frontman, however comes from the voice and there are few that can claim to have bigger voices than Freddie Mercury. Best known as the lead singer of Queen, Freddie’s voice had a four octave range which allowed him to sing a variety of songs in a variety of ways. As a performer Freddie did not disappoint either. His ability was to move a crowd as one, cajoling them into playing along with him. Whether it was singing along or clapping, when Freddie spoke people listened. David Bowie has said, “He was definitely a man who could hold an audience in the palm of his hand.“
Another interesting fact in the comparison between frontmen and superheroes is the idea of the sidekick. Truly if any of the following men read this they would beat my skinny white behind, but follow the metaphor for a moment. Each great singer has at least a famous guitar player to make his job that much easier. As I break down my top 10 singers you will see that each performed with someone musically equal to their voices. It is because of this that although the singer is in front of the band he cannot go it alone. Without Jimmy Page there is no Led Zeppelin and therefore no Robert Plant. The list is as long as anyone can explore, and plays to the most important distinction between superheroes and frontmen.
The top 10:
1) Steven Tyler – The Prototype – Joe Perry
2) David Lee Roth – The Athelete – Eddie Van Halen
3) Jim Morrison – The Brooder – Ray Manzarek (Keyboards)
4) Freddie Mercury – The Energizer – Brian May
5) Mick Jagger – The Forefather – Kieth Richards
6) Robert Plant – The Emotion – Jimmy Page
7) Roger Daltry – The Strut – Pete Townshend
8) Morrissey- The Preening Adonis – Johnny Marr
9) Bono – The Conscious – The Edge
10) Phil Anselmo – The Angry – Dimebag Darrell


How do you become a rock star? Can you get bitten by a radioactive rock star or find a magic guitar or do you have to be born on a distant rock star planet? Or are those the recipes for the greatest superhero rock songs ever? Prepare to be saved by Drowning Pool, Five For Fighting, and The Crash Test Dummies!! Salute your heroes!!!!

Rockpinions by Jonny Steiner

Posted: March 16, 2008 by Maximum Mike in The Rocking Chair Blog

Every band has something to say. That is nothing new. Part of our connection to the artists we love is based on their ability to make us feel, to make us nod along in awed assent as we allow our emotions to be manipulated by people we will never meet. This relationship works best when the feelings are shared or at least familiar. Take the song “Better Man” by Pearl Jam in which Eddie Vedder sings about a woman who is in an abusive marriage but is too afraid to leave. Sadly these are ideas that while we may not all know on a deep personal level, anyone who has read a newspaper has heard something to this effect at one time or another. What is truly indicative of the gift that musicians possess is the ability to transmit emotions upon the listener even when the experience is not shared. Much of Alice in Chains’ catalogue is filled with heroin imagery, and the pain of being a junkie. I have never partaken in such an experience however I find myself moved very deeply by the music. On the other hand you could say it is the knowledge of Layne Staley’s untimely death from an overdose that focuses my hindsight into 20/20. The true judge of a band’s capacity for moving an audience is that audience itself. If a band sings deep and heartfelt songs from an implausible perspective they will not last, if they last at all. To stretch an earlier example, who would be a fan of Alice in Chains if after every show Layne Staley went back to the tour bus, drank tea while reading Robert Frost, then went to bed at ten pm?
Is not enough to have emotions to draw from, songwriters need a greater depth of experience in order to better captivate their audiences. I have been a fan of Sevendust for quite some time. (I have a lot to say about them but Michael says when I start to ramble scale it back, so know for the future that there is more where this came from.) From their debut album much of Sevendust’s lyrics came from the pain of crumbling relationships. This theme continues to be so prevalent in their newer music that while the compositions continue to be tight and well produced, Lajon Witherspoon’s one trick lyrics have gotten boring. On the other hand, sometimes the music speaks for itself. In the case of bands like 311 and Duran Duran, (never thought I’d mention those two names in the same sentence,) each band’s music is interesting enough to see past their repetitive lyrics of feel good times and love stories.
The real test of a band’s mettle is when their statement is not emotional but rather political or social. Bono of U2 (I knew I had to tie this in somewhere) once said something to the effect of “We had to have something to say before we could say anything at all.” This was a reference to U2’s early days touring Ireland as a cover band in the early 1980s. Their debut album “Boy,” touched on the political and religious messages to follow in their later music, but they seemed to focus on the sound and melody more so. They faltered on their second release “October” when they tried too hard to push forward creatively and emotionally, and sometimes came across as pompous. Their career was marked by similar successes and failures until the release of “The Joshua Tree” in 1987. It was in this album that they found their true voice. From the sweeping epic “Where the Streets have no Name” U2 finally seemed to understand how to marry their message with the music. Helping their believability was the fact that hailing from war torn Ireland, they experienced significant tragedies that to this day is an obvious influence on their music and their lives in general.
The opposite can also be true. When a band comes to their social commentary from an unauthentic approach their believability comes into question. Take Green Day’s modern classic “American Idiot.” Oh yes, I am going there. From the start of Green Day’s career they slipped into the punk scene on a tirade of snotty lyrics and unabashed arrogance. The music was tight and full of great hooks that appealed to the Grunge scene even more than the actual punk predecessors they were trying to imitate. By the time they released the single “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life,) they were moving away from Punk and their sound was trying to achieve a certain degree of adult respectability (not that there is anything wrong with that.) Once it seemed they realized that Punk was popular again, they decided to get back to their roots and there you have “American Idiot.” Not that there is anything wrong with that. The problem is the irresponsible way in which they pushed their ideas about post 911 America on the listeners. Here is a band that while musically talented has ridden in on the coattails of every wave of Punk Rock that they were a part of. Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols has said: “It pisses me off that years later a wank outfit like Green Day hop in and nick all that [Punk] and attach it to themselves. They didn’t earn their wings to do that and if they were true punk they wouldn’t look anything like they do.” There is something seemingly unwholesome and irresponsible about 50,000 British kids singing along to “American Idiot” on Green Day’s recent DVD “Bullet in a Bible.” It was not as though they were telling a cautionary tale, like Elvis Costello’s anti Thatcher anthem “Shipbuilding.” They were not rallying people to action either like “Ohio” by CSNY. Green Day seems to be making money off of the fact that they are airing the United State’s dirty laundry to anyone that will listen. That ought to get some hate mail. But maybe I think more people read this than actually do.
When a band creates a statement for the listener, it is usually a challenge. How do we all share this communal experience in terms of our own beliefs and culture? Popular music today has deteriorated to the point where much of the youth of America listens to what MTV tells them to. It is through that we must find our own way our own message and our own Rock experience. It is not up to bands to tell us how to feel like it seemed the Dixie Chicks did when they came out so publicly and recklessly against the war in Iraq. The reason we love these artists so much is that they show us something about ourselves that we might not have noticed or been able to articulate before. Rock is the artist’s outlet, to be sure, but they are making it for us. It is sad when sometimes it seems they forget.


A lot of people talk about the luck of the Irish but this week were gonna talk about the Rock of the Irish because its time to rock out with your sheleighlie out!! St. Patrick’s Day special with Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphy’s, and many many more. I think they’re after me rocky charms!!!!!!

And Then There Was Rock by Jonny Steiner

Posted: March 12, 2008 by Maximum Mike in The Rocking Chair Blog

I remember the first CD I ever bought. “Purple” by Stone Temple Pilots. In those days (1995) STP was hated by the media and critics for pinching themes from the “real” Grunge acts like Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. As a thirteen year old I was unaware of all that. All I knew was that the album kicked ass. It’s funny, as my taste has grown and my scope of musical understanding broadened, I can still come back to the album, and appreciate it as much as I did as a teenager. Not for nostalgic reasons, but for the simple reason that the album rocked.
Isn’t that why we are here? To rock? As much as big crunchy guitar riffs and screaming vocalists are the stereotype of rocking, there is so much more. Sure Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden rock. But you know who else rocks? Paul McCartney. Seriously. Listen to “Live and Let Die.” Granted the movie it was attached to is probably the worst James Bond movie of all time, but that song. The deep ominous tones, of the verse, when paired with the jovial Reggae themed chorus, seemed so urgent. Much of Rock is based on that urgency, The need to transmit ideas and feelings in the most efficient way possible. The Beatles were experts at that, writing economic songs that perfectly transmitted their feelings to the listener in two minutes or less.

I have joined the Rock 4 Rookies team to bring you what I hope can be a more practical understanding of the Rock music and its endless subgenres. There is so much music, so many predecessors and antecedents. They say that no one is truly original. With this column I aim to show you that while that may be correct, it is the marriage of ideas into an artist’s music that sets him apart from the rest. To stay with the Grunge model, the similarities between Nirvana’s “About a Girl” and The Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week” are quite easy to pick out. What sets the two apart is what lies behind the similar structure and chord progressions. “About a Girl” sounds dark and cynical, even though it is one of the lighter tracks in the Nirvana catalogue. The guitar buzzes throughout giving a sense of raw basement tape quality to the music which in some ways recalls early Beatles recordings, like “I Feel Fine.” Curt Cobain may have been fascinated with Punk Rock, but his love of sixties Pop is apparent.
Part of this week’s playlist is a tribute to Dream Theater, a band that has achieved a wide following and successful career with little or no radio support. Aside from obvious Heavy Metal influences Dream Theater represents another field of music known as Progressive Rock. Created mainly in England at the end of the sixties, Progressive Rock was a movement to forgo the Blues and Country inflection inherent to Rock for an approach more firmly influenced by Classical and Jazz. The Genre was quite popular early on with bands like King Crimson and Yes, but fell when Punk Rock began to dominate the industry in the late seventies. Oddly enough those two types of music which are diametrically opposed to one another are coming together now with bands that seem to straddle the gaping chasm between the two. Avenged Sevenfold, the Mars Volta, even the RX Bandits are examples of bands fusing the two (to varying degrees of course.)
That first CD still works. Its scratched to hell but it will still play. Even the Johnny Mathis inspired hidden track hums with the warmth of plastic. I remember when the disk was too scratched to work for a while my friend Zev lent me his CD Repair Kit. It polished the life right back into my disk.
You know to our kids a story like that will be like hearing about records and eight tracks from our parents. Imagine explaining a cassette tape to them. What is gratifying is that as the technology changes there are still some constant. There is music out there that rocks. I guess it’s up to Mike and I to help you find it.


Rock 4 Rookies Podcast: Episode 4

Posted: March 9, 2008 by Maximum Mike in Rock 4 Rookies Podcast

What a show!!!! But I have to warn you…there’s rock music around these here parts!! Do you know how you can tell? ITS LOUD!!!! But if you’ve all been good boys and girls we will get a visit from the Metallica fairy, the White Snake will bring us gifts and we can develop a Simple Plan to deal with the Fall Out Boy and his Kid Rock!!!!

B-Day Special

Posted: March 5, 2008 by Maximum Mike in Rock 4 Rookies Podcast

Love for rock knows no bounds except for when it comes to my wife. So in the spirit of love I’m gonna combine my passion for rock and my passion for her!! Birthday special!!! WOOHOO!!!

Rock 4 Rookies Podcast: Episode 3

Posted: March 2, 2008 by Maximum Mike in Rock 4 Rookies Podcast

It’s like electric dynamite!!!!! It’s a whole new sound!! This week, toning it down a bit, will be looking at a slightly lighter side of the rock, taking a gander at New Found Glory, Wheatus, Liquid Tension Experiment, and of course a salute worth joining the ranks of rock!!! “There’s nothing you can really do to prepare to rock. Do you prepare to eat a delicious meal? Are you hungry? Then you’re gonna eat it. And I’m hungry for rock 24/7,Byoch.” – Jack Black