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Chasing The American Dream

March 28, 2007


I wonder if this was how it was 40 years ago when Simon and Garfunkel first started out. A small club, a smallish crowd, and a small stage. This is what I was thinking sitting in the parking lot watching Joshua Radin get off his tour bus. Why mention S&G? Well if you've ever listened to Josh Radin you'd understand.

I first heard him while watching Zach Braff’s movie, The Last Kiss. Like Garden State, I thought for sure I was listening to yet another hidden S&G gem. But when I got home to Google the movie, I found out that it wasn't S&G but someone I'd never heard of. The aforementioned Radin. And so I bought the movie soundtrack and Radin’s CD and have been a fan ever since.

Josh Radin is what I would call a throwback. Acoustically dominated songs with folk sounding vocals, simple harmonies to go along with a unique orchestration of background cellos and an old-school upright bass. As my eyes panned the dark, smoke-filled club, I observed that once again, I was probably the oldest person by far in the room. I'm not sure what exactly that means, but sometimes I wish my generation would get a clue that there's some amazing music in today’s world beyond Steely Dan or The Doobie Brothers, Journey, etc.

Aah, the Culture Room. So many great concerts and memories and this was no exception. The opening act was Schuyler Fisk who I'd day is sorta the female version of Josh Radin. Using Josh’s band, Schuyler (pronounced skyler) played a cool jazzy set of mellow acoustic songs and wispy, breathy vocals. There was something familiar about her smile, and I couldn’t quite place it. My Blackberry solved the mystery for me. That smile, believe it or not, appeared in the movie Orange County. Yes, she’s one and the same. Sissy Spacek’s daughter who starred opposite Colin Hanks in a really enjoyable movie. She’s now focused on a singing career, and she's working on her first CD. I think she's gonna hit it big so be on the lookout for her.

Josh came on stage looking like he had just awaken. Bedhead-looking, unshaven, t-shirt, jeans, and bare feet. The sparse crowed of 100 or so gave him a warm reception. He asked Schuyler to come out and join him for his opening song, “Star Mile.” (click first video below). Wow, the song was as pure as Ivory Soap and 99 44/100% Simon and Garfunkelesque. The combination of the vocals, harmonies, and strings was amazing. Radin’s second song, another selection from his “We Are Here” CD, was another soft acoustic melody called “These Photographs.” Again, he sang it beautifully. His vocals matched those of Fisk’s, soft, wispy, and breathy. He really sounded like a combination of both Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel with his ability to hit high registers cleanly and clearly. He told the audience he became a musician as a result of a break-up. He dated a troubled girl for six years and once she righted herself, she left him. He wrote “Sundrenched World” and “Only You” reflecting his bitter memories. He sang his first written song, “Winter,” which was featured on Scrubs. Scrubs and The Last Kiss. Yes, both Zach Braff projects. Josh relayed that the two are great friends from college days. He also told us about the moving lullaby ”Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” which he wrote while babysitting a friend’s one-year-old boy during Hurricane Katrina.

He played a 12-song set before returning for a two-song encore which included Schuyler and their popular duet, “Paper Weight,” which they co-wrote. The song also appeared on the Last Kiss soundtrack. Radin and Fisk once again sang brilliantly (click bottom video below). There seemed to be some connection with those two although they never mentioned it. Fisk did mention she recently fell in love. More googling confirmed the two are dating. Although each performer is trying to make it individually, together they make an incredible sound. They were given a standing ovation after the last song. It’s rare when you’re close enough to the performers where they actually make eye contact at you and smile. A moment I’ll never forget. All that for $10? Are you kidding me? It was the deal of the century. Radin and Fisk coming to a city near you. Go see them. They have my full recommendation.

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March 26, 2007


Is there any worse feeling really? It’s that pit in your stomach feeling caused by something missing. Recent relationship break-ups leave you that way, don’t they? If you’re sports oriented, maybe your team misses that last second shot or field goal and you’re left feeling “that” way. For me, ‘empty’ hits me a minimum of twice per year, and the tank is on “E” now.

The car is empty; there’s no one in the passenger seat working the radio controls like a DJ. I come home; the apartment is empty. No infectious smile to see, no indoor basketball games going on. No one to buy groceries for or to cook for. No one to buy shoes and socks for. No homework to help with. No one fast asleep in my bed surrounded by treasured stuffed animals.

It’s quiet again. There’s no one watching sports on TV with me. No one asking me pointed questions. No one to share life’s lessons and experiences. No game companion, no restaurant buddy. It’s all rather empty again. Where does the time go? Each time I see him, there’s less of that little boy I used to know and more of the young man who’s coming into his own. He’s passionate, sentimental, competitive, and brilliant. I miss him already…


March 09, 2007


I’ve always thought Lindsey Buckingham was the true genius of arguably one of the most successful rock bands of all-time. Yet for some reason, Buckingham’s talents over the years seem to have gone rather unappreciated or, dare I say, unnoticed. Sure Mick Fleetwood created and named the band Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks had the unmistakable voice and sex appeal, Christine’s vocals were unique and her husband John McVie played a mean bass. But man, I’d put Lindsey Buckingham’s song writing, vocals, and his guitar playing up against anyone. My favorite Mac songs were the ones heavily influenced by Buckingham. Well lucky for me, I was able to see this underrated artist live and up close (five rows up close)!

In the same small, cozy venue that I saw Dmetri Martin, Lindsey displayed his talents in front of an older, pony-tailed 60s/70s generation appreciative crowd. As I walked in the auditorium to find my seat, I noticed the t-shirts were incredibly high-priced. $30 and $35 for a t-shirt? I guess they figured us old folks have spent our lives working hard and accumulating large sums of money.

The lights dimmed and Lindsey walked on the hazily lit stage to a thunderous ovation. Jeans, a t-shirt, and a leather jacket. Gone was the big ‘fro from the mid 70s. His hair is still curly though touches of gray were evident. Heck, the guy is 57 years old and looks pretty good given the hard life he’s led. On stage, there must have been over a dozen guitars to choose from and by the end of the set, I think he used every one of them. He opened with "Not Too Late," a song from his new CD, “Under The Skin.” It was acoustically beautiful. His vocals were clear. High registers seemingly reached effortlessly. The song reminded me of his classic work on the gazillion-selling album, Rumours. But what really stunned me as the set progressed was his signature finger-picking guitar playing. I really couldn’t believe I got to witness it live. What a lifetime treat that was for me.

Lindsey sang an acoustic version of his big hit, Trouble, and followed it up with a passionately-sung, finger-picked, “Never Going Back Again,” from Rumours. The crowd was juiced and really kicked in when the three-piece band hit the stage for the up-tempo, "Second Hand News," another Mac/Rumours hit from Lindsey. And so a pattern was set. Buckingham interspersed new and old songs each received with a standing ovation. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s not lost a thing. He sings and plays with a passion. His fast plucking fingers on those guitars mesmerize you. Trust me. Click on "Big Love" below. Sure the artist on the label says Fleetwood Mac but it’s all Lindsey. Kinda like "Yesterday" is The Beatles, but it’s all Paul McCartney. That song may have been the highlight of the show; Buckingham slamming his guitar on the floor as if to say, “Yeah baby, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.” That poor guitar got another slam after a rousing version of “Tusk” was completed. The nearly hour and forty-five minute set concluded with perhaps his most famously penned song, “Go Your Own Way,” written about his breakup with Stevie. Lindsey treated the fully standing crowd to a 30-minute encore which included a dog barking-enhanced version of “Holiday Road.” Holiday what, you ask? C’mon. You know. Vacation? Chevy Chase? The Griswold clan? Yeah, it’s the theme song and yes, it’s a Lindsey Buckingham song. See? I told you he’s been unnoticed. Seriously, if you ever get the chance to see him, do it. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

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March 04, 2007


Streaks seem to have followed me all my life. Some good, some bad, some most unusual. I’ve written about them, too. I’m not really sure which streak is the most, hmm, accomplished. Being a virgin for 29+ years? How bout the Seinfeldian streak of not throwing up for 29 years? Not seeing a movie for seven years? Another abstinence streak of 29 months? Sorry Jim Carrey but for me, the number seems to be 29, not 23. Well anyway, another major streak has ended for me. And this one lasted 29 plus one years and may be the most impressive or simply the luckiest.

I’d just finished dinner with mom. My car was parked at a 45-degree angle against a busy street. I couldn’t go anywhere because a red light had caused cars to form a line behind me which boxed me in. As the cars appeared to finally move, I looked back and a guy was letting me in so I began to slowly back up. BAM! Yes indeed, I backed right into a car I never saw. I got out and this lady started screaming at me right away. Ooh man, was she irate. She was from Long Island and had her two kids in a rent-a-car and, as she put it, “This is the last thing I needed.” I apologized a gazillion times for my temporary lapse of reason. I eventually calmed her down as she realized I was a decent guy who’d simply made a mistake. I cringed as I began to survey the damage. Her car wasn’t that bad. I’d dented the rear passenger quarter panel and scraped some paint. I’d hoped like hell there wouldn’t be any damage to my three month-old car. No such luck. Luckily most of the damage was to the bumper but I was still so disappointed at myself. I called the cops and reported the accident and that, thankfully, no one was hurt. The officer came and I pretty much told him I’d simply backed into the lady. I told him that I’d been driving for 30 years and never had gotten a ticket so this was really a new experience for me.

He disappeared for awhile as he ran background checks on my clean driving record. Clean no more. Yes, for the first time in 30 years of driving, I’d gotten a ticket. $133 for improper backing and causing an accident. I think I was more upset for ending the streak than the money for the ticket or for the $500 deductible I ended up paying for a new bumper. Wow, I don’t know if I’ll ever put together another streak of 30 years of anything. Hmm, I haven’t dated for four months. Gotta long way to go there. Got another sexless streak going on five months. How about another throw up streak. That could be my last hope. It’s been seven years already. Wow, another 23 years and I’d be 68 years old. I think it’s safe to say my best streaks are all behind me now.

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