A Kase of… A Long, But Rocking Christmas Season

24 11 2010

I am NOT a person who starts celebrating (or decorating for) Christmas on November 1st.

Christmas + Guitars + Long Hair = TSO

Somewhere in the past decade it’s as if nearly 20% of every calendar year is dedicated to Christmas.  Really? REALLY? Aside from the fact that most of this non-stop Christmas hoopla is mainly for commercial consumer reasons (a whole blog post unto itself), I do make one exception:  Going to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) concerts.  Yes, that’s concerts, plural.

To better understand my 12-year history with TSO, check out my blog post of Dec 22, 2009 “It’s One For the Bucket List”.  For the past few years, TSO has started their tour in Youngstown, OH (often very close to, if not on, Nov 1st) and this year was no exception.  As the band is kind enough to put me on the guest list,

Mary & I were in the front row!

I always try to bring a newbie to the show so they can get the experience of TSO live.  This year’s lucky guest was my friend Mary Sutter, and she really lucked out in that they put us in the front row

For those of you who have never seen TSO live, it really is unlike other concerts. The first third of the show is a sort of “Christmas Pageant”, complete with a narrator who tells the story of an angel visiting earth on Christmas Eve and the magic and special events which ensue.

Fire! Fire!

The second segment of the show is TSO rocking out to both Christmas and non-Christmas music, combined with some of the most comprehensive special effects – lights, smoke, lasers, video, and LOTS of pyro!

This year marks a lot of changes in the band – several previous members (many of whom have toured with TSO for over 7 years) are not with the East Coast troupe this year.  Alex Skolnick, Stevie B Broderick, Bob Kinkel, Anna Phoebe, Alexa Goddard, Danielle Landherr, Mee Eun Kim, Rob Evan, and Valentina Porter were missed, but many of them are working on new individual, original projects/bands and it will be great to hear them in their own element.

Chris Caffery bringing the crowd to their feet

Purists, don’t fret – TSO staples Chris Caffery, Jeff Plate, James Lewis, Tim Hockenberry, Roddy Chung, and Brian Hicks are back; Jay Pierce has segued to a behind-the-scenes position of coaching the vocalists, and, in the fun surprise of the year, Dave Z is back on the bass!

Dave Z is BACK!

There are some changes to the show as well – I don’t want to give away too much, but I was very disappointed that they dropped Carmina Burana from the show.  That was probably my fav tune live! 😦  Maybe it will be back in the show by the time they come to Cleveland this Sunday…  and speaking of upcoming shows…

Yes, TSO has two shows this Sunday November 28th; a 3pm matinée and a 7:30pm evening show, both at The Q.  As of this writing, the shows were not sold out, but selling well.  I actually found Club seats still available for the evening show, while the matinée only had seats in the upper area.

Tim Hockenberry doing “Believe”

Check out Ticketmaster; there are sometimes some seats which get released day of show once the stage gets set up. BTW, if you’re going to be at the evening show, tweet me before (@KaseyCrabtree) and maybe we can do a quick tweetup before or after the show!

TSO Youngstown, OH 11/03/2010

For those of you outside of Cleveland, check out the TSO website for various cities… they will be touring through December 30th.  In the world of Christmas, I think Trans-Siberian Orchestra has the longest season of all!

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It’s one for the Bucket List

22 12 2009

Being able to go backstage at a rock concert really is cool.  I’m not going to deny it; it is one of the elite experiences that is an earned privilege.  It’s one of the things I would have everyone put on their “bucket list”.  You cannot buy a backstage pass like you can with “special vip” seating and parking at certain concert venues (a smart, albeit annoying, marketing ploy in my opinion).  So I always look forward to when Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) comes to Cleveland and I get to go backstage.

I have “earned” this privilege as WNCX (the radio station for which I am DJ) was the first station in the country to really play TSO, and my boss, Program Director Bill Louis suggested to TSO creator Paul O’Neill that he take the story and do it as a concert.  I have always been a big advocate and believer of the band, doing my best to promote and support them and the individual side projects as well.  The first two years of TSO shows were very “evolutionary” compared to the current, regulated grueling tour schedule; back then TSO would have a show in Cleveland, then 3 or 4 days off, drive to another city, then come back to Cleveland.  The band got to hang out a lot here in Cleveland, and that’s how we all got to know each other.

This past weekend marked the 11th year TSO played in Cleveland, with matinée & evening shows on both Saturday & Sunday. Yes, I was at all four shows and I stayed true to my philosophy: I want to share this fun experience with friends and family who have never seen the band and/or have never had the “backstage experience” before (so they can check it off their bucket list!)

This year my guests were:  Mary Kay Stahley, Executive Director of Malachi House, a wonderful facility which provides hospice for the dying poor www.malachihouse.org @MalachiHouse;  Adam Gercak (@acgercak), the man behind Throwing Quarters blog & podcast www.throwingquarters.com/ and his lovely wife and graphic designer, Jenn (@jmacgercak); Susie Sharp, CLE social media enthusiast and soon-to-be blogger (@SusieSharp); and a last-minute fill-in, Pat McKay, good friend of Adam and a drummer with local band The Poland Invasion http://www.myspace.com/jenpoland, who was blown away by Jeff Plate’s drum kit!  (http://www.jeffplate.com/)

I told my friends to forget about any pre-conceived notions of backstage drunken debauchery; this tour is now a well-oiled machine, with no time for shenanigans.  But there is awesome catering (sushi bar, lamb chops, prime rib & even a full cooler of Dippin Dots!) Plus it just looks cool to see everything works.

With four shows in two days, you know these peeps work hard!  To help them blow off  some steam, there was a special after-show private party Saturday night at the Q – a Karaoke party for band members, crew and friends.  There was a similar party 4 or 5 years ago (the years have begun to blur).  The last party was hilarious as professional singers mixed with, er, “non-professionals”, singing everything from Madonna to Metallica.  I’m not a singer, so I never thought to get up and “karaoke” last time.

HOWEVER, that changed THIS year!

Yup, after quite a bit of prodding from Rob Evan (who, btw, starred in the original Broadway cast of Jekyll & Hyde, playing the title roles for three years and over 600 performances www.Rob-Evan.com ) I got up to sing in front of a bunch of professionals.  I didn’t have any booze for “courage”.  I had never done karaoke before.  It was all pretty scary stuff- guitarist Alex Skolnick (@AlexSkolnick) was watching too!  www.alexskolnick.com.

Sorry, there is no “and then she was discovered” story happy ending here – the fact is, I bombed!  I tried to sing “Pepper” by The Butthole Surfers.  http://www.last.fm/music/Butthole+Surfers/_/Pepper I couldn’t keep up, so I had them start the karaoke machine over again.  My mouth was so dry by the end of the first verse, I could barely swollow.  But I stuck it out all the way until the end and finished the song.

Driving home later that night, I kept replaying my “performance” in my head, berating myself for doing so badly.  Then a smile slowly came across my face.  It didn’t really matter how well I did; just that I had done it!  How many people will EVER have that opportunity in their lifetime:  to sing Karaoke in front of broadway leads, rock stars, and professional singers? I had the opportunity and I DID IT!  (I should tell you that NOT ironically, you could see the giant LeBron Nike “Witness” billboard outside the window – the one that takes up almost the entire side of a building).

Another very cool, elite, and special experience I can check off my bucket list!

I’ll leave you with this thought:  The next time something comes along that seems too scary (or potentially embarrassing) to tackle, take a pause… maybe it’s the universe giving you an “at bat” with something from your bucket list.  Think for a moment; will you walk through your fear, or live with regret?  Nike gets props for this one, “Just Do It!”