LIZ VAN PAY

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

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

I wrote a book.

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If you’re anything like I am, you have definitely had a job that you hated getting up and going to every day. There is only one difference between you and I: my former job was like the saddest, worst soap opera I ever could have dreamt up, but the worst part was that it was all true. Back in November 2009, I finished my manuscript for On The Sauce: A Cautionary Tale of Being Burned by the Pizza Industry. Below, please find the first chapter of the manuscript, and feel free to offer any advice or criticisms. For more info, check out the ‘On The Sauce’ tab on the right-hand side of the page, over yonder.

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Written by Liz Van Pay

June 21, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I used to be straight edge.

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Growing up, many kids desire a feeling of belonging. A feeling of being a part of something bigger than themselves. For me, that wasn’t being part of the high school Yearbook Club, or the Drama Club… I wanted to go bigger than that. For six years, I considered myself straight edge – abstaining from “the big three” – alcohol, drugs, and promiscuous sex. From age fifteen until age twenty-one, I lived and breathed everything edge. I listened to the music, I went to the shows, hell, I even got three X’s tattooed. As I grew up, things changed. The people changed. The scene changed. When I got into it, edge was something serious. While it wasn’t classified as a gang then as it is now, everyone’s intentions were much purer. Everyone genuinely cared about giving straight edge a good name, instead of beating it to an unrecognizable pulp.

Some have argued with me and said that I only gave up on it because I wanted to drink and do drugs. Not true. As I grew up and spent more years involved in the scene, I realized that upstarts were showing up out of the woodwork. They claimed that they were abstaining from not only alcohol, drugs, and sex, but caffeine, meat, and a myriad of other things – and many of them were selectively so. The boys would abstain from alcohol and drugs, but still bang everything on two legs. Straight edge became more of a joke than a serious movement. As I grew up, I also realized that I didn’t want to live my life with boundaries – even self-inflicted ones. One thing had to go, and it was my straight edge lifestyle. While I still feel passionate about the time I spent, I couldn’t feel good about continuing. Straight edge was turning into something it was never meant to be. The straight edge movement I became a part of at age fifteen is something completely different than what it’s turned into. In recent years, it has been considered a gang instead of a movement. I couldn’t be a part of it then, and could never be now.

This is not to say that straight edge is entirely flawed. I know many people who have been edge for five, ten years, or their entire lifetime. They still carry the original beliefs of the movement, and I have no problem with that whatsoever. I would never do anything but commend those who have stuck with their original decision.

Before I broke edge, I questioned my family and closest friends, asking if their opinions of me would be different based on my decision. Their answer? “We love you no matter what you want to be.” Their blessing was important to me. I have never been and will never be a selfish person, and I want my family and friends to be part of any big decisions I make – especially the life-altering ones.

Just because straight edge changed, I am not blaming others for my decision. Straight edge is a very personal decision, and it just didn’t fit me anymore. Looking back after nearly four years, I can say that I wouldn’t change a thing. I still have family and friends who are proud of my accomplishments, and am still proud of myself. I volunteer on a weekly basis, and I work a full-time job. Just because I decided to break edge, I did not decide to become a terrible person. If anything, I’ve become a better one.

A variation of this post was originally written for iusedtobestraightedge.com several months ago, but was not selected for posting.

Written by Liz Van Pay

April 27, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Posted in 2010, personal, random

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Unemployed loser? I was!

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Many people who speak to me on a regular basis know that I’ve struggled with unemployment for the past six months of my life. I was laid off from a position I worked for nearly two years in September 2009, and was recently hired to work for the City of Milwaukee in mid-March, 2010. While my unemployed stint allowed me quite a bit of time to catch up on sleep, it also left me with an overwhelming feeling of boredom and being unsure of what to do with my time. While writing was a viable option and I was thankful to have cable television, the days eventually began to blend together and I found myself internally struggling to get up each morning, all because I felt I had no purpose beyond applying for jobs I was sure I wouldn’t get, and sleeping upwards of 18 hours a day. Below, find a few ideas to utilize to find your own purpose, much the way I did.

Volunteer! Within many American cities, you should be able to find some form of volunteer center. These organizations are a great place to start when trying to find a volunteer position that suits your time schedule as well as letting you apply things you are likely already good at to improve the lives of others. In my case, I logged onto the website of The Volunteer Center of Greater Milwaukee, created an account, and sifted through many pages of opportunities before finding some I liked enough to do. The biggest of these was as a computer teacher for adults at an organization called Milwaukee Achiever Literacy Services. This gave me an opportunity to apply my computer skills for good, teaching adults to do even the simplest tasks, but changing their lives in a way similar to their changing mine. When I started, I taught two afternoon classes per week. Now that I’m back to work, I teach one evening class per week, but just because I’m working doesn’t mean I’m planning to quit anytime soon. Even though you don’t get paid, volunteering is a great activity for anyone who might be looking to add something to their life. If you’re unemployed, volunteering is a great addition to a resume. Beyond my current volunteer obligations, I have also volunteered at Green Bay’s NEW Zoo, Green Bay’s Neville Public Museum, and FoodShare Wisconsin in Butler.

Take up a new hobby! Growing up, I have always had my hands in something crafty. When I was a teenager, it was creating hemp jewelry and polymer clay beads, as well as creating jewelry from wire and glass beads, and even wireworking. As I’ve gotten older, my crafting options have narrowed a bit. One thing I picked up nearly immediately and did religiously while not working? Knitting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that knitting is a bit out of the ordinary for someone who looks the way I do… but it’s incredibly relaxing. In six months, I knitted countless scarves, dishcloths, and even a baby blanket and a half, and have donated my knit goods to several non-profit organizations, and even decided to sell some of my items under the moniker Blackheart Knits & Crafts. You can find my Etsy store here. While my hobby of choice was something crafty, yours might be something else. Use your imagination! It’s not like you have to be anywhere.

Look right in front of you for opportunities! The reason I suggest this is because one of my last tips is just that. Look around you – if you live in an apartment building or condo complex, ask management if there’s anything you can do to obtain rent credits or other compensation. This could include cleaning inside or outside, or helping with administrative tasks. There’s no problem with asking, even if you get turned down.

Travel! When I say ‘travel’, I don’t mean sell everything you own and take a trip to Vegas or anything. Stay close to home, but at least get out for a little while. If you have the ability to go visit your hometown to see old friends, do it. Have enough cash to leave the state to visit others you don’t see often? Do it.  When work is back to being a priority and a big responsibility, you don’t want to wind up wishing that you’d done more with your unemployed time. Don’t second guess yourself.

Even if you’ve never been unemployed for longer than a few weeks, the situation is becoming more and more common. Thankfully, I was able to live on unemployment benefits while I wasn’t working, but I know some individuals aren’t that lucky. This is just a bit of a tongue-in-cheek way to share my experience with anyone who’s still reading.

Written by Liz Van Pay

April 22, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Posted in 2010, random

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Album Review – Cancer Bats: Bears, Mayors, Scraps and Bones

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From the first bars of opening track “Sleep This Away”, the Cancer Bats prove that their new album, Bears, Mayors, Scraps and Bones (Good Fight Records/Distort Records) is a heavier departure from their previous projects, but one with purpose. Each track has the classic Cancer Bats sound, but the subject matter seems more grown up than previous projects, exploring themes of love, faith, and feeling not good enough. “Raised Right” is an ode to parents everywhere. “Drive This Stake” explores feelings of loneliness, and the list goes on. The final track on the album, “Sabotage” is a cover of the Beastie Boys’ classic. Wetting fans’ appetites with the release of the Sabotage EP in March, the band released a hilarious video to accompany the song. Released on April 13, 2010, the album as a whole does not possess a song that leaves the listener wanting anything more. Titled using portions of each of the members’ nicknames, Bears, Mayors, Scraps and Bones proves that the Bats are growing up, learning what works and what doesn’t, and covering more ground than anyone thought possible.

Written by Liz Van Pay

April 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm