LIZ VAN PAY

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

Posts Tagged ‘live music

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.

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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

Guilty pleasures and suicide pacts.

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My roommate (and the best gay boyfriend a girl could ever have) works at a concert venue here in Milwaukee. Since we started living together, we’ve instituted a game of sorts, where in some cases we go to shows we like, and in most cases we subject ourselves to shows we would never pay a dime to see. This is purely for our own entertainment, mostly because these are the brunt of the “guilty pleasures” of our respective iPods.

metrostationA few months ago, it was Metro Station. Fronted by Mason Musso and Trace Cyrus, the big brothers of Hannah Montana stars Mitchel Musso and Miley Cyrus. This band should be the biggest joke in modern music, but aren’t. Instead, they are revered as the ‘next big thing’ by tweens everywhere, and their poppy self-titled album with songs such as “Shake It” and “Control” has been the soundtrack of summers for two years running. The other two band members are rarely talked about and even more rarely seen, and the same is true of their live show. Amidst the screams of pre-pubescent girls acting as if they were at a New Kids On the Block concert in the 90’s are Musso and Cyrus, prancing around with blow-up sex dolls and disco balls decorating the stage. The screaming alone left a need for earplugs, and the music coming from the stage made me all the more thankful I had them. I hated myself for being there, but I hated myself even more when Trace Cyrus came out for the band’s encore sans shirt. His rail-thin figure was all tattoos and an outline of each and every rib, and the girls in the crowd ate that shit up like they were at George Webb’s attempting to battle an impending hangover. Before going to the show, my roommate and I made an unfulfilled suicide pact, and for good reason. It was like a night in teenage hell.

We had a dry spell.

The next show we attended half-seriously was 3OH!3 and Family Force 5. Both bands are ridiculous in their own rights, Family Force 5 Picturebut having them on the same bill was too bad to pass up. Family Force 5 are a group of 5 dudes from Atlanta (or the “drrty South” as they say in their song “Kountry Gentleman”) who play a rock-n-roll influenced style of hip-hop that would leave even those suffering from ADD hungry for more. And what’s more? They’re technically a Christian band! Their live show has far too much going on to keep everything straight, however. All five band members wore tight white jeans, blood red dress shirts, and silver sequined bowties. Lead singer ‘Soul Glow Activatur”s pants were  alittle TOO revealing, and he came out wearing a painted set of plastic Hulk hands for approximately half the band’s set. While watching the band run around like they were loaded with Energizer batteries and Red Bull was fun, their antics got old after about twenty minutes. After 3OH!3 came onstage, the screaming and dancing began, and most of the set was spent wondering if the floor would be able to handle the impact of a couple thousand people jumping on it at a time. The band’s two “singers” both looked like they needed a shower and some deodorant, but who between their samples were actually somewhat entertaining. One thing that we noticed about this show, however, was the fact that 3/4 of those attending were under the age of 18, and most of the venue was full of people who were unaware of the existence of Degree and Tic-Tacs…judging by the body odor and bad breath of those in attendance.

These are just two examples of the bullshit we put each other through for a good laugh. This will not be the end, but is the beginning of a long life of teenager-induced headaches and unfulfilled suicide pacts.

This post was originally written via Sidekick in April, 2009.

Written by Liz Van Pay

August 26, 2009 at 11:40 pm

Music Journalism 101

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Music and writing have been two of the biggest loves in my short life. I remember the first two compact discs I bought for myself like it was yesterday – Nickelodeon’s All That television show album, and the Macarena single. My first record was Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and my first cassette tapes were an Elvis Presley collection and Billy Ray Cyrus’ Achy Breaky Heart. I grew up on country music from a childhood of spending time at local dirt race tracks, and learned all about 80’s metal thanks to my older sister. Writing has always come naturally – I received my first journal when I was in first grade, and was always drawn to writing down the story of my day. This turned into writing short stories and poetry, and I found myself excelling in language arts in school. When I was learning to read, I picked up a newspaper at age five. Journalism has always been something that I’ve been fascinated with, and I began writing for the teen section of the Green Bay Press-Gazette at age fifteen. At first, it was stories about myself, and then I began to do album reviews and stories on outside topics. I realized that I loved writing about music, and at age seventeen, thought that it would be awesome to interview my favorite band.

At the time, I had little more than my credibility with the local newspaper, and decided to go for it. I did a few searches on Google to try and figure out how one would get an interview with a band, but came up short. My favorite band at the time was AFI, and they were set to come through Green Bay in October 2003 on their tour for Sing The Sorrow. Without further information, here was no way for me to get this off the ground. I did the next thing I could think of: calling the local rock radio station in Green Bay, and picking the brain of a DJ I had spoken to several times before, Cutter. When I called, he didn’t know what I could do, but put me in touch with the station manager, who put me in contact with AFI’s management and nailed down my first interview for me. This was nothing that I would either suggest or do again at this point, but it got me from point A to point B in the unfamiliar territory of publicity and music journalism.

When I received the e-mail confirming my interview, I printed out a copy and carried it around with me, so happy that I’d taken some strange turns, but that I’d put my mind to doing something and actually done it. That, and I was the only high school senior in my graduating class who was taking an afternoon off from class to meet and interview a member of a popular band. Prior to the interview, I drove around the block at the venue several times, trying to get my bearings before going in and introducing myself to their tour manager. He was sweet in and of himself, and helped to calm my nerves even furtheafir before I was introduced to Adam Carson and we sat down under a tree behind the venue for the interview. Prior to the interview itself, I had painstakingly written a laundry list of questions, which I clutched as if it were a block of pure gold and very rarely diverted from. I asked some questions that weren’t necessarily well-received, and that interview was a launching pad as to how I would interview in the future. It was incredibly straightforward, and there wasn’t much room to truly get to know who I was interviewing. Many individuals have a much smaller scaled first interview, and I knew I was biting off something big with my choice. After the interview itself was finished, I breathed a sigh of relief and returned to my car, where I had my seventeen year old freak-out and proceeded to return home. Mentally, I went over everything I’d said and cursed myself for not being as professional as I could have been, but I was thankful. My first interview was a learning experience, but I was incredibly proud when it came out in the Press-Gazette after the show. Many people don’t get the opportunity to do what I did, and I was thankful for it and hungry for more.

In the years since that first interview, I have learned quite a bit through writing and photographing for publications such as AMP, Alternative Press, and Wonka Vision. I have also been contacted by several individuals interested in getting into music journalism, who still weren’t getting too far when Googling how to get into it. I have done my own ‘schooling’ in that respect, but have opted to put together a blog to both tell my story (as you can see above), as well as offering some information on how to get involved in music journalism. It isn’t an easy process, but once you know what you want, going for it is only the first step. This is not a full explanation, but my attempt at putting my own experiences to work for others.

Start small.
Is there a local newspaper looking for writers for an entertainment section or a website you like looking for writers? Do you like blogging about music or just reviewing albums because you enjoy it? Go with it. Any experience you can gain is good experience. If you buy a new album either via hard copy or iTunes, write a review and start a backlog. It never hurts to have writing done before you send your first pitch. And if you write for yourself, you can write about anything you want! And just because your work isn’t in print doesn’t mean that it doesn’t count. Every little bit helps.

Don’t expect to pay all your bills with writing alone.
Even with six years of experience in music journalism, I still consider the money that I make supplementary income. Unless you are writing for huge publications like Rolling Stone, you can expect to need a job to take care of most of your expenses. I personally use the money I make writing to further my career, such as purchasing business cards and space for my website.

Just because you don’t have a publication doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write.
Freelance is not a bad thing! With freelance work, you can write about anything you want to at any time, instead of what a publication might be focusing on for the time being. It’s a good way to hone your skills and sharpen your writing for publications. Freelancing is much easier for photographers; many bands just want their photos to be seen, and don’t mind freelance photographers one bit.

Mind your grammar and punctuation when introducing yourself to publications.
If you want to be taken seriously when pitching yourself to a prospective publication, whether web-based or print, you need to utilize spell-check and make sure everything you’re writing makes sense. Nobody is going to want you to write for them if you aren’t careful enough to check these couple of things before sending out that first e-mail. It’s all about the little things, and you want to make a great first impression.

Know what you’re pitching for.
Before offering to write for a magazine specifically, know what they cover. I went for magazines I knew and loved – if you don’t know the publication, you are going to have a hard time writing for them. Go to your local Barnes and Noble or Borders store and look through the magazines on the shelf or buy a handful if you’re interested enough. Take note of the parts in each that you like, and flip to the front portion to find the editor’s information to send an introductory e-mail. It’s that easy.

Don’t give up.
It’s hard to find that perfect fit just starting out. You are going to have to keep a level head and keep pushing to get to the level in writing that you want. There will not be publications flocking to you – you are going to have to do your homework and figure out what works best for you. Whether it be print or online, there is no shortage of places to put your work. Even if you’re just writing your own blogs, you’re doing something to further your craft, and that’s commendable.

Stick to deadlines.
Sometimes, things happen. For example, I had a grandparent die during deadline week at one of my former magazines. These things are unavoidable, and I wound up needing a deadline extension. Unless it is a life or death situation, always stick to your deadlines. If possible, send your copy in before the deadline date! This will not only make you shine in the eyes of your editors, this will help firm up your reputation as someone reliable who doesn’t flake. This is especially important just starting out.

Give a good impression.
Whether in e-mail, on the telephone, or in person, always leave a good impression. This includes being polite and not overbearing, no matter if you’re dealing with an editor or an interview subject. You won’t wind up with a good reputation if you speak negatively about who you’re writing for, or worse yet, who you’re writing about. Even if it isn’t your favorite subject, act like it is. Even if you don’t have the best grasp on it, learn what you can. This will only improve the view that others have of you. It’s almost like going to a job interview – you want to put your best foot forward and give the best impression that you can.

Have fun.
Remember, you’re doing this out of love for the music. If you aren’t having fun with what you do, you shouldn’t be doing it. Music journalism is work, but if you can’t have fun with it, it isn’t for you. You should always pursue what you love, and if you love music and love writing, music journalism is definitely a great outlet for that. Never forget why you started.

There are many other facets to becoming a music journalist, but these are the big ones. Once you’ve nailed down your first gig, others will be much easier. It’s all about learning what you’re good and bad at and what could use some work. You can feel free to be your own worst critic (most of us are), but never talk yourself down to the point that you quit. Sure, there isn’t a college program dedicated specifically to music journalism so there will be a lot of trial and error, but without it there is no learning. If you’re dedicated to your craft, great things will come out of it – and some of us just need a bit of help to get there.

Written by Liz Van Pay

August 24, 2009 at 10:15 pm