Nickelback: Why I don’t listen to the radio

For a city that claims to be the communications capital of the galaxy, the New York metropolitan area has always had nothing but shitty radio stations. The radio portion of my car stereo is only used to listen to Yankees games and get traffic updates. I rely 100% on CDs for music (the iPod didn’t exist in 1997, when Honda made my car, so I don’t have MP3 capability).

Pickle 1, Nickelback 0

We’ve been using my fiancée’s car more and more, and she keeps top-40 radio on, confirming my suspicions that radio has gotten even worse since I gave up on it. The repetition is beyond brutal, making me quickly tire of the few songs I actually do like. And the biggest victim of that has been Nickelback.

I actually used to enjoy this band. They were never among my favorites, but before radio and cover bands utterly destroyed “How You Remind Me,” I liked their sound and own four of their CDs – The State, Silver Side Up, The Long Road and All the Right Reasons. While their sound is a little more pop than I generally like, I thought they had a bit of an edge to them, as well as a sense of humor in their lyrics.

I thought the first three songs on The State – “Breathe,” “Cowboy Hat” and “Leader of Men” – were pretty good. Aside from “How You Remind Me,” which put Nickelback on the map, I also thought “Never Again,” “Woke Up This Morning” and “Too Bad” were decent, edgy songs on Silver Side Up. From The Long Road, the same goes for “Flat on the Floor,” “Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good,” “Another Hole in the Head” and “Yanking Out My Heart.” And from All the Right Reasons, “Next Contestant” is probably my favorite Nickelback song, and I thought “Rockstar” was hilarious until it became the first Nickelback song to be murdered by radio.

But two things have happened. The first is that it’s impossible to turn on the radio without hearing Nickelback. The second is that success has taken away the band’s edge, and they have put out some songs that are pure shit. “Photograph,” “If Everyone Cared,” “Gotta Be Somebody” and “If Today Was Your Last Day” are, to put it simply, garbage.

I hate when bands lose their edge and forget what got them fans in the first place. But I can’t say I blame them. I could probably retire on the money they’ve made from any one of the songs I mentioned above. It just sucks that I own four CDs by a band I used to really like, and there’s now a layer of dust on the jewel cases, because I honestly don’t remember the last time I willingly listened to Nickelback.

And for anyone on Facebook who has seen the group, “Can this pickle get more fans than Nickleback?,” yes, I voted for the pickle. Now let’s see how radio manages to destroy the pickle.

Another Springsteen fix

I blame my Hebrew-school tutor for all of this. As a reward for successfully making it through the Torah portion of my Bar Mitzvah without puking on the sacred parchment or tripping up over the Hebrew words and accidentally telling the congregation to go sodomize sheep, he bought me the album — yes, the actual 12-inch, vinyl record album — of Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Born to Run

Born to Run

At the time — the time being 1981 — I knew a few Springsteen songs, but I wouldn’t have called myself a fan. I knew “Hungry Heart” because it was all over the radio, and I knew the title track from Born to Run, but that was about it.

Then, I brought the record home and put on the first track, “Thunder Road.” I was an instant Springsteen junkie about three minutes into the song, and it’s only gotten worse.

Thank you, Mark Elber, wherever you are.

I went to see the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, earth-quaking, nerve-breaking, Viagra-taking history-making, legendary … E-STREET BAND at the debacle of a facility currently known as the IZOD Center last night. Between how bland the home of my beloved New Jersey Nets is and how pathetic the half-finished Xanadu God-knows-what project looks, they really should drop a nuclear bomb on that part of the Meadowlands (the two football stadiums and the track can be spared).

Anyway, for whatever reason, I wasn’t as fired up as I usually am to see The Boss. I was excited, but I didn’t have that all-day adrenalin surge. I guess part of it is that I know I always like the end-of-summer Giants Stadium shows better — speaking of which, the final concerts at Giants Stadium will be performed by none other than Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, with three shows wrapping up Oct. 3. And part of it is that things have been crazy in my life, but in a good way — working part-time, tons of visits to the new Yankee Stadium, lots of softball games and, most important, my girlfriend moving in soon.

Photo by A.M. Saddler, from

Photo by A.M. Saddler, from

But as usual, the boys didn’t disappoint. This was yet another fantastic show, with some songs that I hadn’t seen played live since the Born in the USA tour in 1985. Pleasant surprises included “Seeds,” “Johnny 99” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad” — it seemed like a mini-set tribute to the unemployed — and always welcome classics included “Thunder Road,” “Jungleland” and “Rosalita.” And I saw the band play one of my personal favorites, “I’m Goin’ Down,” for the first time since the previously mentioned Born in the USA tour.

I am exhausted and drained, but I will be sure to get my energy back by June 1, when tickets for the next assault on New Jersey go on sale. What a fucking great show.

The set list (thank you,
Adam Raised a Cain
Outlaw Pete
Radio Nowhere
She’s the One
Working on a Dream
Johnny 99
The Ghost of Tom Joad
Raise Your Hand
Growin’ Up
I’m Goin’ Down
Prove It All Night
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
The Wrestler
Kingdom of Days
Lonesome Day
The Rising
Born to Run
* * *
Hard Times
Thunder Road
Land of Hope and Dreams
American Land

The musical gods are with me this week

The gods of music have been kind to me all week.

First, I saw three incredible shows by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, with the last one, Thursday night, incredible beyond words.

Then, while out at happy hour at the Shell on Long Beach Island yesterday, a brief rain shower chased Monte and the All-Stars off the stage before they could butcher Rosalita. What they do to that song should be illegal. Two minutes of raindrops saved me from eight minutes of suffering.

Finally, I was way too tired to go out last night, and I missed out on a pretty good band, Laura Lea & Tripp Fabulous. But I’m happy I missed out on their cover of Mr. Jones by Counting Crows. As much as I like Laura Lea’s voice, that song is awful, brutal, hideous, whiny, irritating and foul beyond saving by anyone.

Thank you, gods of music.

The Legendary E Street Band

Thursday, July 31, 2008: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Giants Stadium. It didn’t start out promising.

It was a stressful day at work, even though I worked from home. Unlike some people’s definition of working from home — sitting by the pool and sipping on a tropical drink while their dog answers their e-mail — I do a ton of work when I’m at home. You have to love people who e-mail you stuff to do at 5:44 and 5:45 when you expressly state that you need to be in your car at 5:45.

Bruce Springsteen and Little Stevie, Giants Stadium, 7/31/08

Bruce Springsteen and Little Stevie, Giants Stadium, 7/31/08

While scrambling to get everything done, the phone didn’t stop ringing. “What time should I be there?” “What’s the weather going to be like?” “Should I pick up food?” “Did you get beer?” “What do you want on your sandwich?” All legitimate questions, but constantly being on the phone wasn’t helping the stress level.

And for the record, asking me if I got beer is among the silliest possible questions. If I could get away with it, I’d pick up a 40 for the walk to the PATH every morning.

Then an e-mail came in from TicketBastard warning me that a truck overturned on the exit from the New Jersey Turnpike to the Meadowlands. I guess it’s TicketBastard’s way of justifying the $18 “service charge” they tack on to every ticket. So the thought of every possible approach to Giants Stadium becoming a vehicular clusterfuck wasn’t helping the stress level, either.

Getting there and parking actually wasn’t as bad as I feared, and I thought things were going really well when I got a call from my friend and his wife that they were parked, too. The problem is that they were “parked” on Route 17, which wasn’t moving at all.

But everyone finally got there and, despite our abbreviated tailgating time, sandwiches and beer were consumed (several beers by yours truly) and we were in our seats well before 8:45, which is when the first two shows on Sunday and Monday nights began. (Yes, I went to all three. Yes, I am aware that I have a problem. No, I don’t give a shit. Yes, I’d do it again.)

Well, the first two shows started around 8:45. Thursday’s third and final concert, however, did not. I guess Springsteen and company were waiting for people to get through the traffic. Rather than cooling off as the minutes ticked away, the temperature inside the stadium continued to rise, as did the impatience level. I sweat completely through two layers (Under Armour and my Rosalita T-shirt).

Sounds like a completely awful, stressful, grueling experience, doesn’t it?


Jersey Girl, Giants Stadium, 7/31/08

Jersey Girl, Giants Stadium, 7/31/08

That was, by far, the best Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen many and several (probably around 15, but senility and beer-murdered brain cells prevent an exact count). They played from 9:30 until 12:45 a.m. and emptied the old-school Springsteen playbook. The energy level was incredible, both by the band and the crowd. This show even topped the 10th and final show of the 2003 run at Giants Stadium, and that was no easy task, trust me.

I mean, seriously: Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Prove It All Night, Two Hearts, The Promised Land, Spirit in the Night, Blinded by the Light, Cadillac Ranch, Candy’s Room, Night, Because the Night, She’s the One, Incident on 57th Street, Badlands (I know, he always plays it, but still), Jungleland, Born to Run (see Badlands), Jersey Girl and Rosalita in the same show? Are you kidding me? Wow. The last two songs alone were worth the $95 (plus TicketBastard charges).

Ladies and gentlemen, I was just rocked by the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, earth-quaking, nerve-breaking, Viagra-taking history-making, legendary … E-STREET BAND!

The set list, courtesy of (

Summertime Blues

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

Radio Nowhere

Prove It All Night

Two Hearts

The Promised Land

Spirit in the Night

Light of Day

Brilliant Disguise

Pretty Flamingo

Blinded by the Light

Cadillac Ranch

Candy’s Room


Because the Night

She’s the One

Livin’ in the Future

Mary’s Place

Incident on 57th Street

The Rising

Last to Die

Long Walk Home


* * *


Born to Run

Bobby Jean

Dancing in the Dark

American Land

Jersey Girl


Concert tickets through the years

I saw my favorite band, Rush, at the PNC Bank Arts Center last night. It was, as always, a damn good show and, while driving home, the thought struck me that Sept. 17 will mark 25 years since my very first concert — Rush at Radio City Music Hall.

I also thought about one of my biggest pet peeves: the fact that, unless you “know someone,” it’s utterly and completely impossible to get truly great seats for a concert.

I’ve had times when tickets have gone on sale at 10 a.m. and I’ve gotten through to at 10 a.m. and one second and ended up in the third deck. And, if you want to take a ride in the way-back machine, there were times when I was one of the first few people on line outside a TicketBastard outlet or a venue’s box office and gotten disappointingly mediocre seats. As always, the true fans get screwed, much like sports.

Then I had a few laughs thinking about the things I used to go through to get tickets before the Internet became the norm.

I remember camping out at Madison Square Garden from 6 p.m. on a Friday until 10 a.m. Saturday morning, when tickets for the first KISS show at the Garden in years went on sale. And after 16 hours of no sleep but plenty of Jim Beam, fast food and emergency runs to the lovely, pristine bathrooms of Penn Station, about 50 people, clearly working for scalpers, rushed the front of the line. Not only did the cops and security guards do absolutely nothing about it, but they prevented any of us from doing anything about it. So the end result of my 16 hours on the street was a set of marginal, second-level tickets.

I remember spending the night outside a Sam Goody on Madison Avenue with a TicketBastard counter on a frigid winter night to buy Metallica tickets. I wanted to strangle the guy two spots ahead of me on line for playing Metallica’s “Trapped Under Ice” about 30 times in a row until, mercifully, the batteries in his boom box died. Other than being scarred for life and never being able to enjoy that song again, take the KISS/MSG experience and substitute Jack Daniel’s for Jim Beam and the spot between two delivery vans on 44th St. for the Penn Station bathroom, and there you have it.

I remember somehow scraping up enough money on a college student’s budget to see seven of the nine area shows by Rush on the Hold Your Fire tour. Even though every show had the exact same set list and I didn’t have good seats for any of the seven shows, I still enjoyed every minute.

Things are different now with the Internet. But are they really any better? Getting tickets is still absolute torture.

Granted, it’s a lot more comfortable in a T-shirt and shorts, in my climate-controlled apartment, in front of my PC than it was on the sidewalk of Madison Avenue with temperatures in the 20s and a biting wind.

But there are few things in life more infuriating than the countdown feature on The irritating little device that tells you how long your wait is for tickets is nowhere near accurate. I’ve seen it count down from 15 minutes to 1, only to ratchet back up to 6, stay there for about 10 minutes, then suddenly offer me tickets for seats that I’d need a sherpa to bring me to. Watching the computer screen while praying you get tickets for, say, the last show at Giants Stadium by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band one of the more nerve-wracking experiences I’ve ever endured.

It is really that much worse than a night outside, fueled by whiskey and the naïve thought that I might actually, for once, get good seats? Ah, to be 18 and dumb again. (Well, I’m still dumb — just double the 18 and add four years.)

To the cover bands who play on LBI

A lot of the cover bands who play down on Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore are incredibly talented musicians and really know how to put on a good show, display great stage presence and keep the crowds in the bars in Beach Haven entertained and revved up.

But, seriously, how many times can these bands play songs like Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” without wanting to hurl all over their amps?

This summer will be my eighth down on LBI, and I have never been more bored with the musical offerings. I love live music, but most of the bands who venture down Route 72 and onto the island seriously need to update their play lists.

I realize that learning new songs is a serious time investment, and bands don’t want to spend valuable hours learning a song that might be the flavor of today but gone from memory tomorrow.

And I realize that a cover band can’t really push the envelope with music that isn’t “bar-friendly.” Yes may have been a vault of musical ability, but if a cover band broke into a 12-minute Yes song, they might be staring at an empty bar by the time the number was over.

Finally, I realize that there are always going to be people yelling for songs like “American Girl” and “Living on a Prayer,” and pleasing the crowd is goal No. 1.

But come on, already. At least try to work in a few different things. Mix it up a little. Take some chances.

Most of the bands I’ve seen definitely have the talent and ability.

Other songs exist besides “American Girl,” “Living on a Prayer,” “Santeria,” “Mr. Brightside,” “All the Small Things” and a few others that seem to be required for entry onto Long Beach Island. For the love of God, please come up with something new.

Smashed Gladys and I have become quite friendly in the days since my 40th birthday, as several friends went above and beyond the call of generosity and gave me gift certificates.

At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old codger, I’m not thrilled with a lot of today’s popular music, so I decided to try to replace some 1980s metal that vanished from my collection, either due to the transition to CDs (you know, those shiny round things people used before iPods) or to being permanently borrowed.

One of my gifts arrived yesterday and took me back more than 20 years: the self-titled CD by Smashed Gladys, a glam-metal band I saw a couple of times at a long-gone venue on East 13th Street in Manhattan called the Cat Club. It just reminded me of when things were so much simpler.

I listened to Smashed Gladys on my iPod during my PATH commute this morning and, in quite the rarity for me, I was actually smiling pre-caffeine. The odds of my smiling in the morning – especially while en route to cubicle hell – are fairly close to the odds of bin-Laden emerging from a cave to wish a group of Jews a happy Purim.

I thought about how much more fun music was back then. I believe I saw the band sometime during the period of 1985-87, when music just had to be loud and fun. Rock bands didn’t feel the need to try to record the one song that was going to suddenly convince the president to call off a war. Hip-hop groups bragged about who the better rapper was, not about their arsenal of weapons and how many cops they smoked.

I thought about the feeling of accomplishment when I actually got into places like the Cat Club prior to turning 21. Obviously, that’s not a problem for me anymore, but it always felt good to not get carded at the age of 19 or 20.

I thought about the gigantic crush I had on Sally Cato, the lead singer of Smashed Gladys. Mmmm … Sally Cato.

It was a great trip down memory lane, which ended abruptly with my arrival here in cubicle hell for another day of drudgery.

So thank you to my generous friends, to and to Smashed Gladys.

Mmmm … Sally Cato.