LIZ VAN PAY

the ramblings of a music journalist and nearly-published author.

Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

This is our team.

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Since Sunday, I have been piecing together just what to say to explain what happened to Green Bay that night.
If you don’t know me, you should know this: I was born and raised on the west side of Green Bay, Wisconsin. I grew up fifteen blocks from Lambeau Field, went to gymnastics class with Reggie White’s children. The Packers were a giant part of my childhood, and as an adult, nothing has changed. The weekend after the NFC Championship game, I got a G tattooed on me.

When the Packers won Super Bowl 31 in 1997, I was in fifth grade. ESPN came to my elementary school. I remember standing on the side of the street and Gilbert Brown slapping my hand when the buses came by with the welcome home parade. Those memories will never leave me, much like the new memories made on Sunday, February 6th.

The Green Bay Packers are not just a football team. Sure, we’re the smallest market in the NFL, but the love for our team is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, or felt, in my entire life. The city is full of shareholders who either bought stock after the last Super Bowl win or when it was first offered for sale. We financed the renovations to Lambeau Field with our sales tax. Did people complain? Yes, but not as much as you’d think. The Packers are the heart and soul of Green Bay, and their fans tie not only the city, but the team together.

The Packers didn’t just win the Super Bowl on Sunday. Green Bay, Wisconsin won the Super Bowl, and goddamn did we celebrate.

The game was easy going in the first half and nail biting in the second. I remember sitting at the party making people hold my hand because I was so nervous. Watching the clock tick down those last five minutes, I was speechless. I couldn’t form words. When the clock went from 30 seconds down, the feeling was indescribable. We ran around, hugged each other, and then took to the streets.

We ran downtown as fast as was humanly possible, even though it was freezing and the fireworks weren’t for another hour – I wasn’t even wearing a jacket. We ran downtown to be part of it. Cars were driving up and down the streets, horns honking, people screaming, everyone running around. When we got to the corner of Walnut and Washington, there were police cars in a road block, a van from the WIXX radio station playing Weezy’s version of “Green and Yellow” on a loop, and the street was full. Reps from the Press-Gazette were selling copies of the ‘WORLD CHAMPS’ special edition. I remember taking a swig of beer from an old friend I hadn’t seen in forever, hugging and high fiving everyone, and dancing in a slew of cop cars. I remember smashing bottles on the bridge. I remember how elated everyone was. We’re all family, and it was proven on that night. Green Bay exploded, and the feeling is incredibly difficult to explain.

We have always been known as Titletown, and today, we brought that trophy home for the first time in 14 years. The words are hard to find, but there are two words I can think of to try: hell yes.

Written by Liz Van Pay

February 8, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Album Review – Lostprophets: The Betrayed

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In 2004, Lostprophets were a big deal in the United States. With songs “Last Train Home” and “Burn, Burn” from their album Start Something popular on American radio, it seemed that the hardworking Welsh group would be around the US forever. Right around 2007? Crickets. With two albums released since Start Something and only one released in the United States, The Betrayed is an album that, shamefully, isn’t too readily available. While former outings have seemed honest, they also seemed safe. With The Betrayed, the Lostprophets have made an album that the listener can feel they genuinely wanted to make – with the songs ranging in tempo and sound from the pummeling “DSTRYR/DSTRYR” to the catchy-as-hell “For He’s a Jolly Good Felon” (also the first single), with some slower, more emotional songs in between.

“For He’s a Jolly Good Felon” is a fun song about stealing, basically. In the video, singer Ian Watkins plays the devil on the shoulder of two thieves as they steal their way through the streets of the UK. The band has always been good at creating different sounds, to bring different themes into their music. While there are some expected sounds (“It’s Not The End of the World (But I Can See It From Here)”), there are definitely a few curveballs thrown in (the screaming hit of “Next Stop Atro City”, the sweet lyrics in “Dirty Little Heart”), these songs merge together to build an album that’s basically the brain child of both a hypothetical combined slam dunk/home run.

While the album may never see the light of day in the U.S., The Betrayed is worth the search.

Favorite Tracks: “DSTRYR/DSTRYR”, “For He’s A Jolly Good Felon”, “Dirty Little Heart”

Written by Liz Van Pay

December 7, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Album Review – My Chemical Romance: Danger Days

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My Chemical Romance are a guilty pleasure band for a lot of people – a band we listen to but don’t want to cop to. I am obviously one of those. Last week, I picked up their new record, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. One thing you should know about me, is if a song gets stuck in my head or I find myself singing along to it, I’m stuck with it. While genius it is not, Danger Days is definitely something different. A band not opposed to concept albums (The Black Parade being their biggest commercial success), MCR tried again with Danger Days, and did a great job. In reality, it could be considered a dance record, but its’ one of the most well thought-out storylines for a concept album in recent history, and is a fearless display by a band who had nothing to lose – already on the brink of breaking up following their last touring cycle.

In a music marketplace that’s dwindling on its’ best day, it is refreshing to hear a band take a risk, and not just churn out an album to appease their record label. While there is no doubt that The Black Parade was at least worth a listen, it seemed forced, and did not seem like the My Chemical Romance many have grown to know – though many of their diehard fans got used to the black Sgt. Pepper outfits and church-like staging at live shows. Now, expect those to be replaced with battle gear and maybe even tumbleweeds!

The concept of the album is a fictional place in the future, Battery City, California. The band members (the Killjoys) play the main characters – singer Gerard Way as “Party Poison”, bassist Mikey Way as “Kobra Kid”, guitarist Ray Toro as “Jet Star” and guitarist Frank Iero as “Fun Ghoul” – constantly packing heat in the form of ray guns to battle the Draculoids and Better Living Industries to take back their city. First single “Na Na Na” is – to put it mildly – a fun song. It’s a rollicking tune that gets stuck in your head at the first listen (if only for the repetitive ‘Na’s). While the story takes place in the audio of the songs, visuals can be found in the videos – with the video for “Na Na Na” showcasing the band members running amok trying to protect Battery City, and also boasts a battle scene with the band pitted against some unusual characters – Draculoids – which definitely helps to bring the concept of the album home. Second single, “Sing” is more of an anthem sung to infiltrate the hearts of 14-year-olds everywhere, but also to encourage its’ listeners to get off their asses and do something. Another fun piece of the album is the narration by “Dr. Death Defying”, with an intro and outro, as well as an intermission-style introduction to “Party Poison”.

With so many bands just churning out faceless, heartless music, an album like Danger Days is necessary right now. While every song is not a sterile, forced epic (as each song on The Black Parade seemed at points), it is worth a listen, maybe more. This is not the My Chemical Romance of the past, this is the My Chemical Romance of the future – and as spoken in “Na Na Na” – the future is bulletproof, and so is My Chemical Romance.

Favorite Tracks: “Vampire Money” (toe-tapping, hand clapping party time!), “Bulletproof Heart”, “Party Poison”, “DESTROYA”

Album Review – Avenged Sevenfold: Nightmare

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I have never been Avenged Sevenfold’s biggest fan. Sounding The Seventh Trumpet got me into them, and my love of classic rock and guitar solos kept me listening, though I wouldn’t call myself a fan. It is impossible to ignore what this band has suffered through in the past year, what with the passing of one of their founding members, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan.

“Nightmare” the band’s newest release, is the band’s catharsis, healing, and cleansing, without a doubt in my mind. While many people thought Avenged lost their edge when they signed to a big label and sold out in every sense of the word, this release is more than just another record. Exploring themes of death and loss, it is clear that there was only one thing on the minds of the band’s members while making this record: the loss of their bandmate.

My first listen left me surprised, to say the least. I’m not sure what I expected, but it definitely is not the mopey, woe-is-us album I thought it might be. While there are, of course, songs that deal exclusively with the death of their friend (“Buried Alive, “Victim”), there are a few tracks that show that Avenged haven’t forgotten the music that got them where they are (“Natural Born Killers”, “God Hates Us”). Musically, the album comes together perfectly with the dueling guitars we’ve all come to know and drum parts that leave heads spinning (penned by Sullivan). A late track on the list, “Fiction” is the most haunting. The final song Sullivan brought to the table (initially called “Death”) features not only his writing and lyrics, but his unmistakable voice, as if he is speaking from beyond the grave, alongside singer Matt Sanders (er, M. Shadows) The track’s name was later changed to “Fiction”, after Jimmy’s nickname, and features pronounced piano parts over muted drums and guitars, unlike the rest of the band’s discography.

The band’s debut week on Billboard at number one proves that there is definitely new life in Avenged Sevenfold, though they’ve lost one of their biggest pieces. And while I’m sure I’ve talked shit in the past about how ridiculous the band got, this album changes the rules.

Written by Liz Van Pay

August 15, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Archives: Fall Out Boy show review.

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photo by liz van pay

From the diehard fans littering The Rave’s parking lot and sidewalks before the doors opened to the lucky ones who found themselves crushed against the barriers of the stage in the Eagles Ballroom, Fall Out Boy’s ‘Believers Never Die, Part Deux’ tour brought equal parts energy and entertainment to the stage, from the beginning chords to the final shrill screams of the fans who couldn’t get enough.

Hey Monday, Metro Station, All Time Low and Cobra Starship served as the sold out show’s openers, and complemented each other as the perfect segue into the headline act. Hey Monday’s energetic brand of female-fronted pop punk warmed up an already excited crowd for not only the remaining bands, but for their headline show back at the Rave on June 24th.  Lead singer Cassadee Pope ran and jumped around the stage as if she was on a pogo stick, and truly drew the crowd in and served as the perfect beginning to a show whose openers made the show’s headliners look like amateurs. From Metro Station’s original “Shake It” to All Time Low’s cover of Blink-182’s “Dammit”, each and every one of the show’s openers had something to say, and each and every ear in the room heard them on Saturday, May 16th, 2009. Cobra Starship front man Gabe Saporta took a few minutes during a lull in the band’s set to “thank each and every person in the room for allowing him to make music and have fun with his friends”, and “show that if you want to do what you love, there will always be people to support you”, prior to launching into the song “Kiss My Sass” – an inspirational anecdote from the seemingly fun-seeking band who was responsible for the theme song from the 2006 film Snakes on a Plane.

Since Fall Out Boy’s last trip to Milwaukee brought them to the U.S. Cellular Arena, it’s quite obvious that the Chicago native quartet have ‘made it’. From the large video screens prefacing their 90-minute set with footage of riots and the band all dressed as politicians, it was clear that a typically fun loving pop-punk band had something to say, and they dressed the part from the word ‘go’. Their set began with “Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes”, and continued through songs from their newest release, 2008’s Folie A Deux, through their catalog and including singles “Dance, Dance” and “Sugar We’re Going Down”. By the end of the set, the band had foregone their staunch suits and donned more comfortable stage clothing, but had seemingly forgotten the high-energy shows that many fans are used to seeing, to the dismay of some as the band stood in their spaces, not running around as their openers had. Hey Monday’s Cassadee Pope came out to lend some assistance toward the end of the set, and the band also pumped it up with its’ cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, which served as a saving grace and truly ended the set on a positive note, with the show’s patrons screaming the lyrics of each and every song back at them ten times louder than the one before it.

Written by Liz Van Pay

August 3, 2010 at 4:26 pm

One of my favorite haunts: Blackbird Bar, Milwaukee.

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece for Milwaukee Magazine’s Bar Time Contest, on one of my favorite spots in Milwaukee, Bay View’s Blackbird Bar. While the piece has not yet been posted on the website (and I’m not certain that it will be at all – selection can be a bitch), I felt it was worth posting right here on the ol’ blog. If I am selected for contention I will let everyone know – just because every vote counts! Let me know how you feel, and if you’ve patronized Blackbird, if you think I’m at least a little bit correct.

Small bars are a dime a dozen in Milwaukee, and most are downright forgettable. The scene plays out as it has so many times before: you walk in, grab a beer, and walk out – maybe you have a decent conversation with a stranger to pass time after a long work day or in an attempt to extend last night’s bender. At Bay View’s Blackbird Bar, leaving without a memorable experience and a smile on your face is not an option. Situated at 3007 South Kinnickinnic Avenue, it can be difficult to find unless you’re looking for it (as it can be best described as a storefront space), but once you do, you will have found your new favorite watering hole.

Laid out in an open style with classic Milwaukee kitsch throughout, Blackbird is a non-discriminating hometown bar that makes you feel like part of the family just for walking in the door. With most drink specials under $5, these good times won’t break your bank, either. Happy Hour runs from 4-8 PM every day and offer $2 taps of Schlitz and Riverwest Stein, $3 microtaps and 2-4-1 well drinks. Find yourself going out for a drink a bit later in the day? Nightly specials are for you, beginning at 9 PM and changing on a regular basis. With twenty bucks in your pocket, you can get a great buzz going in a fun atmosphere with wonderful people from all walks of life. Any night of the week, you are assured great conversation. Sports fan? You can always just enjoy a beer while watching a Brewers game on one of two flat-screen televisions in the front bar area.

Speaking of the kitsch – there are large, intricate paintings of various blackbirds on the gold walls in the cozy back booth area. In the front bar, bright blue walls are complimented by gold lion statues circling the two large booths across from the long, padded (dare I say comfortable) bar. It seems like a small place from the outside, but spacious once you walk in the door. Depending on the nature of your visit – coming in to catch a post-work beer or with a group to celebrate a birthday or other event – there is ample and appropriate seating for either. Trying to pinpoint a genre for Blackbird is impossible, as there are always new faces and new goings-on that ensure boredom will never be a concern.

Looking for fun on a Thursday night? Every night from 7-9 PM, Blackbird hosts ‘Team Trivia’, a popular event in Bay View with prizes and snacks for attendees. Monday nights have been coined ‘Metal Mondays’ from 7-9, featuring – you guessed it – metal music and even more drink specials.

Open since 2008 and replacing the building’s former occupant The Groove, Blackbird has created its’ niche as more than just a bar. It is the perfect marriage of bar and coffee shop, of great people and even better times. With more than just beer, Blackbird offers many different veins of amusement. Televisions (of course), board games, always-changing pinball machines and the always-popular photo booth are just a few items that ensure your great times at Blackbird are all but guaranteed with just one stop.

Written by Liz Van Pay

August 2, 2010 at 8:37 pm

A colorful life.

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As funny as it sounds, I never intended to become heavily tattooed. At 24, I have approximately 30 pieces, and I never thought for a second that it would extend past one or two. Many people have long-winded stories about their pieces (think the typical tattoos done on a show like LA Ink), and most of them involve death, loss, and sadness. My story isn’t like that at all. I am a bubbly person with a personality much like my mother, and have tried to let that reflect in the tattoos I’ve chosen to wear for the rest of my life. Not every tattoo has to be surrounded by sadness. Mine are a look into who I am, what and who I love, and how I choose to live. I don’t regret a single thing, and that’s what stays most important to me about the act of getting tattooed – no matter how serious or how ridiculous.

My first piece was a memorial tattoo. It was for my grandmother who I was very close to, and who I lost at the age of fifteen. Shortly before her death, her, my mother, and I went to a small store in Green Bay, WI called Mico Femina. During this trip, she purchased one of Amy Brown’s prints, called “Forget Me Not”. When I lost her, I was deeply affected for a long period of time, and I wanted to commemorate both her life and how much she meant to me with a tattoo. Almost immediately, I thought of that piece, and it was my first tattoo, and has since turned into the main part of a custom sleeve by Little Lisa at Titletown Ink in Green Bay, WI.

Family is a large part of my life, and I don’t only have a tattoo for my grandmother. My chest piece, worked on by Ryan Monahan of Naperville, IL and Adrian Valdez of Colt’s Timeless Tattoo in Appleton, WI, is a dedication to my parents. Two sugar skulls; one to represent each of my parents in the Día de los Muertos respect, in that while they’re still breathing they can enjoy the pieces, and when they’re gone, I will always carry them with me. The cupcake I carry on the inside of my left wrist also carries my niece’s name, Sarah. It took a long time for my sister and brother-in-law to conceive a child, and when Sarah was born the family treated her as our own miracle. When Sarah was three, she was afraid of many of my tattoos that featured skulls (especially the aforementioned chest piece), and I showed her the cupcake and showed her that her name was there. I asked her if that was scary. She shook her head, blushing, and laughed. “No, Auntie. That’s not scary.” I will never forget that day, and will never regret the great amount of love I carry for my family and friends.

Some of my best friends in the world have tattooed me, even if they aren’t tattooers by trade. Some apprenticing, and some just because. Most of those tattoos? Teeth. At current, I have four teeth tattooed in various places, all with a different look and all with their own stories. The world of tattooing has also given me an outlet to meet people I never would have, people who all come from different places and have their own interesting stories. Every tattoo is a memory, and my memories are a gift that I’ve chosen to show off on my skin.

Written by Liz Van Pay

June 28, 2010 at 8:04 pm