Thursday, January 22, 2009

Good Times Magazine, May 27, 2008 - "Van Halen Returns"

By Erik Badia

Since the long-awaited David Lee Roth-fronted Van Halen reunion tour began in September 2007, the band has had it share of controversies and bumps in the road. Between show cancelations, the Michael Anthony album cover controversy and rumors of Eddie in rehab, things have been a little shaky for the reunited rockers recently.

Regardless, the group has been able to shake it off and get back on track for the extended tour. Their most recent stop at the IZOD Center (formerly Continental Airlines Arena) proved that while there may be some lingering issues between theatrical front man David Lee Roth and guitar virtuoso Eddie Van Halen, they can still put on one hell of a show.

Playing virtually all of their most popular and lauded David Lee Roth-era hits, Van Halen stormed the stage for nearly three hours, playing more than twenty five songs. The large curved “S” catwalk on the stage proved to be a great spot for both David Lee Roth and Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie’s 16 year old son, who has taken on the role of bassist for Michael Anthony (who was not invited back for this reunion tour), to roam around during the show.

Starting the night off with a bang, the boys served up an energetic rendition of “You Really Got Me Now,” from their eponymous 1978 album. Wolfgang then appeared at the top of the catwalk for the intro to “Runnin’ with the Devil,” thumping away at his bass with gusto. Other VH hits performed include “Beautiful Girls,” “Dance the Night Away,” “Everybody Wants Some,” “Hot for Teacher,” “Jamie’s Cryin’,” “I’ll Wait” sand a raucous version of “Panama.”
Both Eddie and Alex Van Halen got their moments to shine, with Alex doing an extended and vicious drum solo, segueing into “Unchained”; while Eddie mesmerized the packed crowd with a wild solo which included his famous “Eruption,” tapping, plucking and picking his unique Peavey Wolfgang guitar as if possessed. After the dust settled and the lights went out, Van Halen reappeared for their encore, which included “1984” and the ubiquitous hit “Jump.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Good Times Magazine, March 18, 2008 - "Robin Wilson"

By Erik Badia

Walking into The Fishery, a quaint restaurant on the water in East Rockaway, on a weeknight, one wouldn't expect to see Robin Wilson of The Gin Blossoms tucked into a corner playing an acoustic guitar, surrounded by families enjoying dinner. But that's exactly what Wilson was doing, playing an intimate show to a packed restaurant filled with local fans and diners alike.

In contrast to the calm, relaxed atmosphere of the show and restaurant was Wilson's adorable son, Gray, who roamed the floor rambunctiously with a bright red mini Fender Stratocaster; he will surely inherit dad's great musical abilities someday. This was one of three solo acoustic shows for Wilson at the Fishery, something he obviously enjoys doing, as there can't be much reimbursement for the gig. The smile on his face says that he truly enjoys playing at his own pace, performing the music of his choice without the thousands of screaming fans he usually has to contend with.

Wilson played two one-hour sets containing a mixture of Gin Blossoms hits, solo material, and covers. In this peaceful solo setting; Wilson's talents were immediately apparent. His guitar playing was smooth and clean, and his voice is captivating-especially when he is only 10 feet from you. Whether it's the popular Gin Blossoms anthems "Hey Jealousy" and "Till I Hear It From You," new Longshadows material in "Simple Minded Way," or covers of classics, Wilson didn't disappoint. His amazing voice and talented guitar playing allows him to cover others' songs well. Wilson played everything from "Having A Party" by Sam Cooke to "Running Back" by Thin Lizzy to "Rocket Man" by Elton John. One doesn't have to bea Gin Blossoms fan to appreciate the great music that Robin Wilson makes, whether it's his own or someone else's.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Good Times Magazine, March 18, 2008 - "Ready for Chaos"

By Erik Badia

Quiet, soft-spoken, and reserved are three descriptions three typically not associated with a member of a metal band, but all are fitting for Bullet For My Valentine drummer Michael "Moose" Thomas. The hard rocker is humble and relaxed, and seems happy to be playing with his cohorts from Wales.

After their well-received debut album The Poison was released, the band toured Europe and North America with only a short break before releasing a second album, Scream Aim Fire. The tour saw the band play many a rock festival and share the stage with Iron Maiden, Guns N' Roses, and Metallica. "It was amazing playing with Metallica and [Iron] Maiden, and our record doing so well," Thomas marveled. Indeed, The Poison sold more than one million copies world wide, and their international tour certainly helped solidify the band as a standout in the metal scene.

One might think that after touring the world for nearly two years a break would be in order, but not for BFMV. On January 29, Scream Aim Fire was released, and the band announced they would be embarking on yet another world tour, this one larger than the first. In the U.S., Bullet For My Valentine is co-headlining the Rockstar Taste of Chaos tour that stops everywhere from Seattle to the Nassau Coliseum on March 20.

Apparently, the Welshman and his band are quite content to be globe trotting. "It's pretty much the same, wherever we go in the world," said Thomas, who apparently is quite content with all the travel. "It's just a lot of people who want to have a good time and enjoy themselves." That's good, because they've got a long road ahead of them. According to Thomas, "After this tour we go to Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Europe...We're pretty much booked up all year."

Scream Aim Fire was recorded on the road during their tour promoting The Poison. "I think about 20 or 30 percent was written on the road, and we went to the [Sonic Ranch] studio in Texas and recorded it there," Thomas recalled. "[Scream Aim Fire] was more easy, you know, more relaxed...it was quite fun to do." It would appear that everything worked, as Scream Aim Fire has received positive press.

In addition, the current tour has been going well as a result. "It's going really well, we're playing In front of a lot of people," Thomas said. When asked which venue or show the band was looking forward to, Thomas quipped, "All of them, really. We take each show seriously." Thomas and his band mates -Matthew Tuck, Michael Paget, and Jason James - all grew up together in Wales. "We've known each other for years," he said. "We all went to school together; we just come together naturally I think."

Thomas believes that it really doesn't matter where you come from in today's world, as long as you put the time in concerning what you do. "It was hard work," he recalled. "I don't think it was the fact of where we came from, I think it was just the fact of trying to get a record deal is the hardest thing." That hard work is paying off, as Bullet For My Valentine appears to be on the road to superstardom.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Good Times Magazine, January 22, 2008 - "Gov't Mule"

By Erik Badia

If you don't know anything else about Gov't Mule, know this - the Mule doesn't disappoint on New Year's Eve! For the sixth consecutive year, Gov't Mule did its three-night run at The Beacon Theatre, a tradition that is rife with excitement, surprise,and amazing guitar work.

Warren Haynes' (of Allman Brothers Band fame) Gov't Mule is currently on their "Mighty High" tour, a fall circuit throughout North America. Now a Gov't Mule tradition, the Mule puts on a very special three-night run of shows leading up to New Year's Eve at the Beacon, with the final show on New Year's Eve being an "all-'Mule" three set night featuring a different theme each year. Previous years have seen "Mule-a-go-go," and "The Dub Side of the Mule," a reggae-inspired performance.

The 2007 show was no different, with Haynes and company putting on the "Winter of Love," featuring a trip back to 1967. The guitar legend Haynes, aiongwith Matt Abts on drums, Andy Hess on bass, and Danny Louis on keyboards, rocked the sold-out crowd at the Beacon, making for a very fun and energetic night. The first set got the crowd warmed up with a mix of some newer material, like a powerful rendition of "Mr. High & Mighty," and some older favorites such as "Lay Your Burden Down," complete with a rhythmic extended solo.

After a brief intermission and an alteration of the stage, a projection of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. appeared before the audience. A clip of the famed "Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam" speech given at Riverside in April 1967 emanated from the stage, and an eerie silence came over the crowd as everyone stopped and listened to the great leader in remembrance. That silence was soon broken by a mock radio disc jockey, announcing that the audience had been transported back to the winter of 1967.

What would follow was an amazing recreation of the period's greatest music, starting with The Rolling Stones' psychedelic "2,000 Light Years Frorn Home" from their 1967 album Their Satanic Majesty's Request, moving on to Cream's famous "Sunshine Of Your Love" and subsequently on to The Beatles' infamous "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds." Other spectacular covers played by Haynes and his band included The Grateful Dead's "Morning Dew," straight from Haight-Ashbury, and on to some great soul classics, such as James Brown's "Cold Sweat," which featured help from special guest Steve Elson on sax, and Vanilla Fudge's classic remake of The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hanging On."

Of course, the night wouldn't be complete without some Jim Morrison, with performances of The Doors' "When The Music's Over" and "Light My Fire," and finally, a moving finale of The Beatles' industry-changing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" reprise and, quite fittingly, "All You Need Is Love." The 'Mule rounded out the night with a third set of mixed original Mule favorites and cover variants, including "Mule," "Blind Man In The Dark," and a dramatic encore featuring Dave Mason's "Sad And Deep As You."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Good Times Magazine, September 11, 2007 - "Tea Leaf Green"

By Erik Badia

Judging by their performance at Mulcahy’s, the “new kids” on the jam band scene, Tea Leaf Green, should have a long and prosperous road ahead of them. Comprised of four young musicians from San Francisco, Tea Leaf Green, like most other jam bands, tours constantly. In addition to the usual Mountain Jam, Bonnaroo, and 10,000 Lakes festivals, Tea Leaf Green has filled their schedule from January to October with shows at dozens of different venues around the country.

The quartet is a lively group with plenty of emotion and rock to spare. They certainly lit up the small but enthusiastic crowd at Mulcahy’s with their funky outfits — all members of the band donned 50s era black horn-rimed glasses, with bassist Ben Chambers sporting a traditional English Guard top hat — and their funky sound, which has a lot of focus on the keyboard and guitar. The group didn’t waste any time with introductions or stories, they got right into the music.

While many of their guitar riffs are not very complex, they are definitely catchy, and they rock unasbashedly. Trevor Garrod was wailing away on the keyboard, with excellent solos that bounced off guitarist Josh Clark’s guitar chords and solos. Both Garrod and Clark belted out vocals that had energy and passion. They were firing on all cylinders and working in unison, making the music smooth and cohesive. The two were really jamming out, with both whipping up long, unabridged solos, making for an excellent mix of keyboard and guitar. Bassist Chambers was stellar, performing exceptional solos that added a great twang to their over sound. Scott Rager on the drums tied everything together quite nicely — nothing too fancy, just a consistent, superb rhythm.

All told, the band works well together and it’s easy to see that their constant touring has really brought this group to the next level and given them a lot of confidence in performing live shows. They look completely comfortable on stage, and it’s easy to see that these guys just love making music. It all melded together for an exceedingly good show, with some highlights of the night being an exquisite performance of “Red Ribbons,” a deep song. The dueling vocals of Garrod and Clark worked perfectly and sounded very succinct. The crowd was really into it, as they were for another fan favorite, “Piss It Away,” a cheeky song that has a great rhythm and a serious connotation.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Good Times Magazine, July 31, 2007 - "Widespread Panic"

By Erik Badia

There is something to be said for a band that has lasted over two decades and has not repeated a set list in that time period — especially considering that Widespread Panic tours non-stop. While lumped in with other “jam bands” such as The String Cheese Incident, Moe., Bob Weir & Ratdog, etc, Widespread Panic is truly unique. With a mix of funk rock, southern rock, and blues, this band stands out from the crowd and performs shows that are unparalleled.

The band may now be middle-aged, but it seems as though the majority of followers that come out to see them are in their twenties and thirties. That throng of followers never sat down at Radio City Music Hall, dancing and enjoying the show to its fullest. While the music served to put fans in a trance of sorts, it was aided by a spectacular light show projected onto the grand ceiling of, giving it the appearance of a multi-colored zeppelin.

The band started off strong and continued to jam throughout the night with five-plus minute, winding solos by the recently acquired Jimmy Herring and longtime frontman John Bell. The two work together so well that you’d believe they had been playing together since the inception of the band. These long and unabbreviated jams are the trademark of the band, and they make the music almost seem like it is a living, breathing entity. Dave Schools was stellar as he plucked and slapped his bass with unending energy.

Keyboardist John Hermann really rounds out the sound of the band and adds a funky rhythm with notes covering the entire scale. Due to a family crisis, percussionist Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz was not present for the show because of a family crisis. In spite of this, Widespread Panic still sounded fluid and tight. “Don’t Wanna Lose You” was a standout for the first set, but perhaps the best performance of the evening came late in the second set in the form of a wild, uncut version of “Space Wrangler.”

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Good Times Magazine, July 31, 2007 - "Grinding The Rails At Long Island's Skate Parks & Shops"

By Erik Badia

When thinking of skateboarding, images of southern California may pop into your head — beautiful people, warm weather, palm trees. Long Island is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. However, the skateboarding industry in this area is strong and vibrant. If you are in your twenties or older, you have probably seen your share of skaters, skate parks, and skate shops rise and fall. Even though there are skate shops in Long Island that are relatively new, several have been around for many years and are staples in the Long Island skating community. They continue to support, sponsor, and equip thousands of local Long Island skaters.

For residents of Nassau County, the list of skate shops is not only extensive but includes several high quality, full service stores. Jeff of I.N.S. Boards in Cedarhurst (call them at (516) 792-3165 or log on to insbaords.com) says his shop provides "friendly service" and a full line of top-notch skateboards and apparel. In addition to being a fully equipped service center, I.N.S. provides sponsorship for local skaters and an exclusive service that, according to Jeff, is "very popular" — custom image grip tape jobs.

In Valley Stream, Mass Transit (call them at (516) 561-2521 or log on to masstransitny.com) retails a wide array of skateboards and apparel in an upscale setting, and is also a full service facility. “We are Nassau County’s premier exclusive skateboard shop, we have been in business for three and a half years and business is strong,” reported Tom, owner of the popular facility.

On Jericho Turnpike in Mineola you can find Mineola Bicycle Fitness Mower (contact them at (516) 742 5253). While that title may be an unusual name for a skate shop, rest assured that this multi-purpose store can provide anything you need to give your skateboarding habit a fix. Audrey, owner of Mineola Bicycle Fitness Mower, said that the skateboarding portion of her business has "grown quite a bit in the last four years." She reported that they are open seven days a week and carry everything from sneakers to helmets, and can build or repair any skateboard.

Doug at District Board Shop in Massapequa (call them at (516) 797-5216) reported that he carries hot brands such as Zero, Enjoi, Almost, and many others. Doug also sponsors local skaters and strives to keep his young customers safe. District carries equipment and apparel, as well as being a full service facility.

According to Mercedes of Off Beat Skate Shop in Long Beach (call them at (516) 431-4306), you can find more than just skateboards at this hip local store. In addition to selling exclusive high-end skateboard parts, accessories, and apparel, "we do art shows with local and national tattoo and graffiti artists." Off Beat also sells exclusive spray paints and carries an extensive line of sneakers.

Bodega Skateboards in Bellmore (bodegaskateboards.com) is Long Island’s distributor of Bodega skateboarding equipment and apparel, in business since 1996. Oscar of Bodega said they supply Long Island skate shops such as Special Sauce, Rick’s Action Sports, and many others. While the majority of Bodega’s business is wholesale, they do offer online shopping for the public on their website. In addition, Bodega sponsors a large skate team, including well-known rider John Reeves.

Skaters in western Suffolk County have their share of quality shops as well. Huntington Village is home to two skateboard shops within one mile. Heli Sport (call (631) 549-1127) offers a unique variety of outdoor equipment and apparel, and it is no slouch when it comes to skateboards. The Board Shop (boardshop1.com, (631) 424 7873) on Main Street has 7,000 square feet of snowboards, surfboards, wakeboards, skateboards, and apparel. The Board Shop also features trained technicians and sales people that ride what they sell.

Xtreme Surf And Sport in (Xtremesurfandsport.com, (800) 877 4602) is 5,500 square feet of everything surf, snow, and skate. According to Tony, owner of Xtreme, "We are the largest shop on the Island, as far as products go." Tony says that on any given day, Xtreme will have between 200 and 250 boards in stock as well as everything from bearings to grip tape. "Anything that's hot, we have it in stock," adds Tony. In addition to the latest products, Tony says Xtreme also has an "old-school" section with many vintage boards. Xtreme has been in business for 12 years and offers surf and skating lessons, and sponsors local skaters.

Perhaps the best known as well as the most established skate shop in the Island is Special Sauce (specialsauce.com, (631) 666 3290) in Bay Shore. Founded in 1994, this purveyor of skate, surf, and snowboards now has three retail locations. Pete from Special Sauce says that European skating is much different than traditional U.S./west coast-style skating. He wanted to bring that European feel to his store, so Pete imported lines such as Clich̩ from France and began retailing them. Special Sauce naturally carries all of the top brands of skateboards and apparel such as D&K, Baker, Chocolate, Girl, and many more. Special Sauce also has a local skateboarding team, and Pete reported that a fair share of skateboard pros were developed in this area Рrenowned pro skater Gino Iannucci is from Westbury, while superstar Anthony Pappalardo hales from Massapequa. Both make sporadic appearances at Special Sauce.

Grind Skateboard Shop (grind-skateshop.com, (631) 285-7812) in Ronkonkoma features a huge line of equipment and apparel. Marc from Grind says that they are "all about skateboarding. It's got to have four wheels; we don't do anything with bikes, etc." Grind has a full skate team with many riders, and they hold regular events at the store. "We'll put out a rail and box or a ramp," says Marc. However, he says that Grind has a new full skate park facility in the works and that construction has already begun. "The park will be about three blocks from the current shop and should be completed by mid-September." Marc says that their customers ride right through the winter as well, "If there isn't snow on the ground, they're on the board." So to keep the customers coming in during the colder months, Grind will bring in video games and host events in the store. Rick's Action Sports in East Islip (ricksactionsportsandsurfshop.com, (631) 581-2299) can help any skater – from novice or a pro – with everything from entry level "completes" (completely assembled boards) to top-of-the-line equipment. Rick's also carries a full line of apparel, as well as all of the latest skating DVDs.

For those of you on the east end, there are several excellent skate shops sprinkled throughout the area. Jeremy from Skidmore's Sports And Styles in Hampton Bays (skidmoresports.bizland.com, (631) 728-0066) says that his store "carries everything for skateboards." Apparel, equipment, and hardware are not the only items available for the avid skater. "We repair and fully build skateboards as well."

Khanh, owner of Khanh Sports in East Hampton (khanhsports.com, (631) 324-0703), is living the dream: "I'm a skater myself. I've been skating since I was a young kid." Now, Khanh has set up shop 10 minutes from the local skate park and equips local skaters with everything they need. Khanh says they have a big selection and "We try to do it all, so that any kid can come in and get what they need." They also carry GFH Minis for younger skaters and the unique Carve boards.

For skaters who live at "the end," Air & Speed Surf Shop in Montauk serves both skaters and surfers on the far east end. Stew at Air & Speed says that even though "business has slowed down the last few years," they continue to carry skateboarding equipment and service. The proprietor says they have seen a lot of action with other types of skating, "so now we carry quite a bit of long boards."

Anyone who has skated in Long Island during the last 10 years knows the state of skate parks is volatile, to say the least. Over the years, dozens of parks have vanished – but there are still a handful of bona fide skate parks, indoor and outdoor, in the area.

Inline 1 Extreme, an independently owned park in Mount Sinai (inline1.com, (631) 474-2900) is a climate-controlled 34,000 square foot multipurpose facility with a roller hockey arena, outdoor skate park, pro shop, and deli. Tom, a partner in Inline 1 Extreme, says the outdoor skate park is “the largest in the tri-state area.” Tom says the entire park is constructed with Skatelite, which is very fast and smooth. Inline 1 also has “X Camp,” a skating camp for kids ages five and up. According to Tom, “kids will train with the best,” and their camp instructors have ridden with pros such as Tony Hawk. Their pro shop offers a large selection of equipment and apparel, and the deli has a full selection of reasonably priced snacks and meals.

Possibly the best known skate park on Long Island is Oil City Skate Park in Oceanside (oilcitysk8.com, (516) 594-1888). Oil City has been in business five years and continues to provide skaters from around the Island with a superb arena for skating. The 15,000 square foot indoor facility is one-of-a-kind in the area, with a 12-foot vertical ramp, seven-foot half pipe, a four-foot mini-ramp, and a full street course featuring rails, ramps, boxes, and a pyramid. Membership and protective pads are required to skate, and packages from five sessions to full-year unlimited sessions are available. The park is open seven days a week and the schedule includes BMX only sessions, Monday nights from 7 to 11pm and Friday nights from 11pm to 1 am. Open skating is from 4 to 10 pm Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 11pm Friday, 11am to 11pm Saturday, and 11 am to 7 pm on Sunday.

On Moores Lane in Greenport (greenportvillage.com, (631) 477-1133), the town has built a skate park that is open to skateboarders, inline skaters, and BMXers. The outdoor park features a 12-foot vert-ramp and two mini-ramps that are connected by the spine, tabletops, and a street course with ledges and rails. Greenport Skate Park is not a free park; annual membership and day passes are available. Helmets are required, pads are not.

For skaters at the far end of the Island, there is Montauk City Skate Park on South Essex Street in Montauk (call them at (631) 324-2417). This outdoor park is all concrete and features a nine-foot kidney shaped pool as well as half pipes with rail copings. The park is open from March through December and is free for Hamptons and Montauk residents. For out-of-towners, it is $11 for the day. Helmets and pads are required, which is wise, given the rough surface of this park.

South shore residents should try Baldwin Skate Park at 3232 South Grand Avenue (townofhempstead.org, (516) 379-3779). This town-owned skate park is an 11,000 square-foot outdoor facility featuring a smooth skating surface, 12-foot quarter pipes, a half pipe, launch ramp, street spine, and partial pyramid with a wall and rails. With bleachers for spectators, you can bring your friends and family along as well.

For those of you in the Hamptons, be sure to check out Red Creek Skate Park, located at 102 Old Riverhead Road in Hampton Bays (town.southampton.ny.us, (631) 728-8585). This asphalt-based 15,000 square-foot outdoor facility is owned by the Town of Southampton and features a street course, vert walls, half pipes and an above-ground bowl as well as a beginner's section. Helmets and full padding are required for skating. Red Creek is not a free facility—annual passes as well as day passes are available.

The Town of Riverhead Skate Park is another excellent town-owned outdoor facility, located in Stotzky Park on Pulaski St. in Riverhead (call them at (631) 208 3826). Riverhead is open to inline skaters, skateboards, and BMXers (BMXers get independent sessions) and features a 13,500 square-foot expert area with a wide array of equipment including half pipes, quarter pipes, fun boxes, mini-ramps, and a street course with rails, planters and speed bumps. There is also an 8,000 square-foot beginner’s area with the appropriate equipment. The park requires helmets and full pads, and is open through September 1, Tuesday through Sunday. The park is not free, however; daily and annual passes are available.