The Black Keys roll through PPG with ‘Let’s Rock’ tour


                                                                                                                       image via Josh McCann

by Josh McCann

The Black Keys launched into “I Got Mine” and the PPG arena exploded. The first song?! Wait, that can’t be right?! Usually the classic Keys jam is saved for last, but not this time. The bluesy guitar riff amped up to another volume while thunderous drums shook the seats–this was happening! I stood joyfully surprised, one hand holding a large overpriced beer, the other hand waving in the air to the melody. This was the “Let’s Rock” tour, and it was only the beginning of a show that saw The Black Keys bring a mix of their great rock and roll catalog to PPG Arena in Pittsburgh.

Earlier this year fans were excited to hear that the Black Keys had recorded a new album, their first in five years, with a huge tour to follow. “Let’s Rock” features mostly upbeat jams, with lyrics about heartbreak set to classic rock guitar solos and bluesy beats. To put it simply: the album kicks major ass. So I was extra pumped to hear how these new songs would sound during a large arena show. 

Following the epic blast of “I Got Mine”, the band jumped into new stuff, which included a soaring foot-stomp version of “Eagle Birds” followed by the cool crush groove of “Tell Me Lies.” The new material definitely held up quite well. If anything, it kept the upbeat energy alive. They can tell us all the dirrrrty liesssss but that’s the truth! 

Once the show revved up there was no stopping the ride. “Gold on the Ceiling” had everyone singing along to the chorus while bright gold lights flashed on the stage. This was my 8th time seeing the band live, having seen them at festivals, arenas, and even a parking lot—the stage is more elaborate these days. There was a huge oval screen behind the band, with lightning arrows on the sides. The stage had tons of lights, including these hanging poles that would flash different colors. The other band members were in the background, because that’s how the setup has always been. It’s lead singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach up front with drummer Patrick Carney to the side of the stage. Sidenote: In the early days it was just the two of them on stage for the entire show. Two people creating the crazy beautiful rock n roll noise. And as the years went by, the shows got bigger, and they added session players to thicken and boost the songs even more.


                                                                                                                        image via Josh McCann

The band played “Next Girl”, which sounded great, and brought us back to the “Brothers” era. And then they shifted towards the new album, featuring “Fire Walk with Me” and the stand out slow burner “Walk Across the Water”. Those were awesome in terms of leading into the classic dance falsetto disco jam “Everlasting Light.” The way that song moves and grooves never gets old. See right there. The Black Keys can play fast full throttle jams but also shift gears into a sweet drive down the road. It’s all there man! 

Another great thing about the show was that our section (109!) stood during the concert, which is clutch because you have to get up and dance for this kind of show! The band kicked it up and Auerbach’s guitar roared through the air while Carneys heart pounding drums played a solid stretch of songs, including ”Your Touch”, “Strange Times”, and “Tighten Up”. I was surprised to see “Ten Cent Pistol” in the setlist just because they can only play so many songs, and this was a really good jam to hear live. 

And then came the part of the show that’s becoming the Black Keys staple live song–“Little Black Submarines.” The build up of that song had the crowd singing along, phones in the air, while Dan played on his acoustic guitar. The entire arena anticipated the break in the song. Once Dan stopped, the lights went out, the crowd roared, and we knew what was coming. All of a sudden you hear the crushing guitar chords while Patrick kicks in the drums which sets the place on fire. The lights blare to every beat while Auerbach’s guitar drives into an unbelievable blow-your-mind guitar solo straight from classic rock euphoria. It’s safe to say that the song is always going to be a major highlight of the show. But there’s more! Having the crowd in the palm of their hands, they played “Lonely Boy”, the popular hit with a driving riff and “ooohhhh, oooohh, ooooh” chorus which the crowd chanted along. We always got a love that keeps us waiting, waiting.

The band rarely talked to the crowd, except for when Dan mentioned that Patrick went to school in Pittsburgh. The crowd cheered. That’s how the Black Keys have always been. They established early on with their audience about what their live show was–plug in, play amazing songs, play them loud, leave the crowd wanting more, drive to the next city. The guys from Akron don’t mess around! A possible suggestion–maybe they could have a small catwalk extend into the crowd. It would be cool to see them do a few songs in the middle of the floor. Hmmm, maybe next tour?!

Enore, enore! Who doesn’t love a good encore?! The crowd begged for more, the band came back out, played a couple of new ones, including the very catchy, very righteous riff of “Lo/Hi” and the bouncy dance single “Go”, proving that the new material can stack up against the old. The show ended with a fiery blast of “She’s Long Gone”. People danced in front of us, danced on the floor, I mean, the entire arena had a kick ass time. And that’s what it’s all about right?! The Black Keys showed that their new songs mixed with the classics make for an incredible night of live jams. The set list keeps getting stronger for each tour, and it’s only going to get better. After they played the final riff, Auerbach let the last chord ring out to an extra loud level, the lights flashed as Carney’s drums boomed through the arena; the crowds hands in the air, some clapping, some taking pics, everyone yelling for more. Let’s Rock. Oh it rocked, and then some.


October 7, 2019

Hollywood Nights: Next City releases debut Single “Blue Star”

by Josh McCann

Next City Band

Next City via Facebook   

The Hollywood scene and starlit dreams–it’s always an intriguing look when it comes to the reality of the city of angels. The debut single “Blue Star” by LA based rock band Next City shines a fresh take on the maddening LA lifestyle. It’s a song meant for a summer ride on the edge of LA—all the promises, hopes, and dreams in the distant glimmering lights. Watch out, you may never come back the same.

“Blue Star” kicks off with a catchy hand clap beat and sleek guitar riff. Lead singer Samuel Larsen, best known for his work on the hit show Glee, howls “I promise that I’ll never change” with sultry rock n roll front man attitude. You believe the vocals, and wonder how awesome Next City would be at a live show, massive crowd singing along, amps loud–all the blue stars aligned. The song keeps the momentum going, especially in the second verse, when Larsen sings “take me to the limit” over a dance party groove. “Blue Star” showcases an exciting new band on the rise. There’s loud guitars, strong charisma, and an awesome video too. The video features a girl lost in the madness, surrounded by creepy costumes and flashing lights, leading to a wild scene with a twist. Watch it here. Turn it up.


The Black Keys release new single “Lo/Hi”

The Black Keys
                                                                                                             Image via The Black Keys Facebook

by Josh McCann

Here’s five words that will jump start anyone’s day: The Black Keys are back. Yes, fans rejoiced when the duo released their new single “Lo/Hi” this past week. Has it really been five years since we last heard from them?! The wait is over, and all that waiting has payed off because “Lo/Hi” rocks like a blistering bar anthem star in the howlin rain riff that kicks.

As a huge fan of the band, in which I saw them blast out arena’s, festivals, and parking lots–I wondered when the band would step back into the spotlight and crush the rock world. The new single reminds us of the straight ahead gut punch pedal to the floor full throttle power they have. Attack and release lonely boy–there’s always gold on the ceiling. “Lo/Hi” begins with a cool crush guitar fuzz groove, moving to a gospel tinged chorus while the pounding drums keep the beat for the all afternoon drive. Lead singer Dan Auerbach sings, “Nobody to love to you/Nobody to care,” while drummer Patrick Carney strikes the beat with all the cool and all the flare. Low, high, high, low–let it rip.

Click below and listen to “Lo/Hi”


The Mowgli’s explore relationships with new EP “American Feelings”

                                                                                                                    Image via the Mowgli’s Facebook

by Josh McCann

There’s something righteous about a new Mowgli’s EP being released on the verge of Spring. When I think of the Mowgli’s–I think of sun drenched days where the ocean waves break and there’s nothing but blue sky, beverages, and the promise of a crazy night. The band was meant to be a soundtrack for summer. The jams still kick during the cold bitter days, but there’s some extra sauce when the warm weather hits. Their new EP “American Feelings” is a fantastic set of songs by one of the most consistent bands in rock today.

To be honest—I wanted the EP to keep playing, leading to some bonus track like it was 1994 and the cassette suddenly plays a hidden track at the end. Speaking of nostalgia–the second track “Mr. Telephone” rings true. “What a sign of the time it is,” Colin Dieden sings over an upbeat rhythm and classic Mowgli’s group style chorus. There was a time when people actually talked over the phone, communication was ultra personal, and there’s a lot of that missing today. Music video idea! Maybe have the band talking on telephones and payphones with a split screen while they move across the American highways on tour. Say it, just say it.

I’ve been a fan of the Kansas City based band since they took the alt nation charts by storm with their hit “San Francisco” back in 2013. Since then they have put out two strong LP’s–2015’s “Kids in Love” and 2016’s “Where’d Your Weekend Go?” A few months ago they released the the four track EP “I Was Starting to Wonder”. The band keeps busy with non-stop touring, churning out more music along the way. We’re all waiting for the next album, but with a new EP, how could anybody be living in a bad dream?

“Hard to Love” has a sweet acoustic breakdown and guitar riff buildup, “Norman Rockwell” features a revelation in the day to day life of trying to figure shit out. “I’m stuck in the paint on the wall in a picture frame” can be relatable to anyone feeling trapped. The awesome thing about the Mowgli’s is that they take dark lyrics and set them to bright melodies, all the while keeping their signature sound and growing with new music. A good example of that is “Let’s talk about it” which is the best track off of “American Feelings.” The rousing amped up jam features singer Katie Earl crooning “Maybe the universe is giving us a sign,” while the anticipation builds with a solid drum beat and punk rock stride –you can just imagine all of the kids in love jumping in unison at the shows. If the tracks off of “American Feelings” is a taste of what’s to come–I’m there man.


Are you ready for it? Taylor Swift lives up to her Reputation with an amazing show at Heinz Field

By Josh McCann


The energy at Heinz Field reached new levels as Taylor Swift smiled and addressed the packed crowd. “You guys are taking it up a notch,” she said. “You’re not just singing the words, you’re screaming them!” And she wasn’t kidding! The set showcased a true artist at the height of her powers, delivering a show that featured everything from fireworks to intimate songs, along with a track that hasn’t been performed live in nine years! We will get to that later!

Are you ready for it? Yeah, it’s safe to say that the crowd was ready, as the excitement amped up moments before Taylor hit the stage, when Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” blasted through the speakers. Fans danced around, singing the words, as they anticipated the big opening. There was a vibe in the air, one that makes you think that the stadium is about to go nuts. And it did.

The lights went down, the crowd screamed, and the huge 100-foot big screens opened up, revealing Taylor dressed in black behind a cloud of smoke. Let the games begin. The bass dropped as Taylor walked out to the front of the enormous stage, singing “Are you ready for it?”, which sent fans into euphoria. This set the stage for a Reputation filled set, which followed with an intense performance of “I Did Something Bad,” complete with fire and pyro, as Taylor and her backup dancers made their way down the stage ramp. And this was only the beginning!


The Reputation tour has been rolling through North America since early May, shattering ticket sales, and becoming the highest grossing tour of the year. It’s no surprise, because Taylor Swift knows stadiums like she knows how to write hit songs. Her move to go full on pop has been wildly successful. How many artists can consistently tour stadiums, album after album, yet alone switching from country to pop? Is it cool that I said all that? Thought so!

One of the more compelling moments in the show happened when the big screens ran clips of Taylor when she was a country star, innocent and new to the game. But that all changed when the screens went black, and a huge inflatable snake hovered over the stage, as the opening to her lead single played. It was a message to all the haters out there. Taylor doesn’t like your little games. Look what you made her do.


Swift also reached back into her catalog of hits, which combined the songs “Style” “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” into one gigantic sing along. “Bad Blood” and “Should’ve Said No” was also a surprise in mixing up current with classic hits.

The cool thing about a Taylor Swift show is that you not only get the big spectacle of a stadium show, but also the intimate singer/songwriter heartfelt moments as well. Swift played the piano alone on stage while performing the aching ballads “Long Live” and “New Years Day.” At one-point Taylor stopped and grabbed her eye. “I’ve been having this really intense eye situation all day,” she told the crowd. Fans laughed and cheered louder. “You guys are amazing,” she said, as she smiled and finished the song.


Speaking of intimate moments, the two B stage’s, which were located near the back of the floor, provided for all out fun and pandemonium among fans. Midway through the set, Swift performed “Delicate” while riding high above the crowd in a snake contraption, which sent her to the B Stage, and sent fans into a frenzy. People ran to the stage, rushing to get a good spot, holding their phones in the air to capture the moment. All of a sudden, the show felt closer to everyone, as openers Charli XCX and Camila Cabello joined Taylor on stage for “Shake it Off.” Swift followed the big hit with two solo acoustic numbers—”Dancing with our hands tied,” and the 2006 track “A Place In This World.” The last time Taylor performed that song live was 2009!

The opening acts Charli XCX and Camila Cabello were solid in performing their hits to the lively crowd. Charli XCX opened her show with the catchy pop jam “Boom Clap,” and ended the set with “I love it” as the crowd jumped up and down to the dance hit. Camila Cabello hit the stage sporting a Steeler jersey, as she kicked off with “Never Be The Same.” “This is one of the loudest crowds on the Reputation tour,” she told fans. Her set ended with “Havana,” with half of her heart now in Pittsburgh.


The final stretch of songs helped to pull everything together, beginning with “Getaway Car,” an upbeat standout track that is rumored to be the new single. Swift danced across the stage while the big screens showed images of a highway in the desert. We were riding in a getaway car, and we didn’t want the ride to end just yet. The song was followed by “Call It What You Want” which kept up the momentum, leading to the opening drum beat and guitar riff to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” The show closed with an epic version of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” which featured backup singers, dancers, and the full band. The guitar solos rang out while Taylor waved to the crowd under a massive display of fireworks shooting off above the stage over Heinz Field. We can’t have nice things, but we can have an amazing finale.

The show was insanely good and extremely loud and it’s hard to come down off that ride. Taylor Swift proved how her new material is just as strong as her classic hits, with the show relying heavily on the new record. She can rock the crowd with high energy hits, and she can play emotional personal ballads on a piano or acoustic guitar. Call it what you want, but Taylor Swift lived up to her reputation, delivering another amazing show, and judging by the crowd, fans can’t wait for what she does next.




#reputationstadiumtour #repTourPittsburgh #TaylorSwift




The new video from alt rock artist Meg Myers is both awesome and uncomfortable

By Josh McCann

Image result for meg myers numb pics

During the new video for Meg Myers single “Numb,” the artist sings into the camera while other people hover around and poke at her. Yeah, it can be uncomfortable to watch, and that’s the point. This is the first we’ve heard from Myers, who garnered alt rock fans with her 2015 LP “Sorry.” The new track, which is the first single off of Myers upcoming record “Take Me to The Disco,” is an alt rock blast with a bass/drum buildup and gut punch chorus that screams to be played live.

In the video, Myers is put in awkward situations, from people invading her space in a cubicle, to being surrounded by a circle of people, trapped with nowhere to go. Myers howls, “I hate the feeling of this weight upon my shoulders / Pushing the pressure down on me.” The track has a 90’s grunge vibe, and the video would be a hit on 120 minutes. If this is any indication of the new record, Myers will be poised for more success, leaving fans anything but numb.


Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett turns up and rips loose on sophomore record

by Josh McCann


Image result for courtney barnett tell me how you really feel

“I don’t know, I don’t know anything,” Courtney Barnett sings on the catchy upbeat track “Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Self Confidence.” The title is a very Courtney Barnett title, and the lyric is a very non-Courtney Barnett lyric, who took the alt rock community by storm with her 2015 debut breakthrough Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. But the simple chorus line shows how Barnett is honing her craft, with the less is more technique. By the end, you can just see the crowds jumping up and down to the chorus.

On Tell Me How You Really Feel, Barnett uses her guitar, and more guitar, to new levels. The driving rhythm of “City Looks Pretty” sets the tone for the record, which also features a beautiful breakdown of atmospheric guitars and a melancholy solo. The volume keeps ascending with “Nameless Faceless,” where Barnett rips it loose over punchy guitar riffs in pure signature form.

Image result for courtney barnett tell me how you really feel

But the record isn’t all rocked out ragers, as the Australian singer/songwriter brings it down to add dynamics to the ride. On “Need a Little Time,” Barnett sings, “I don’t know a lot about you/ but you seem to know a lot about me,” over a chill groove with a sweet B3 organ and a falsetto that rings bittersweet summer. The track is a clear indicator of how Barnett is growing as an artist. She can be loud. She can be quiet. And both ends of the spectrum sound awesome!

The album opens with “Hopefulessness,” as Barnett sings, “Take your broken heart/ Turn it into art,” a line that is an ode to Carrie Fisher. The closer “Sunday Roast” feels like a moonlit drive, complete with grunge guitar echo while Barnett brings it home with an optimistic message, singing, “Keep on keeping on/You know you’re not alone.”

It’s ultimately the decibel raising anthems that define this record. On “I’m not your mother, I’m not your bitch,” Barnett howls over wild guitars and chaotic drums for an epic 190 seconds of rock fury. That’s how it’s done! There are no signs of a sophomore slump here. Barnett pushes her sound in both directions for the record, showcasing an artist that is just getting started both lyrically and sonically.


Q+A with LA based band Frenship

The band Frenship have been garnering alt pop critical acclaim since their 2016 chart hitting release “Capsize,” which features vocals by Emily Warren. Their new single “1,000 Nights,” continues with a dance rock vibe that’s going to be a Fall jam for all alt nation fans. So great! Let me just tell you this. I saw them live at XFEST Pittsburgh, and they killed it. Anyway, I caught up with the five piece alt pop act as we discussed their new LP, filming in the wilderness and creating Leonardo Dicaprio moments.


 What can fans expect at a Frenship show?
-We tend to have a great time at our shows. We are a 5-piece live act which I dont think many people expect and we kind of “rockify” our tunes a bit more than the recordings.
The EP sounds amazing. What was the inspiration behind “Capsize”?
-Thanks! Emily Warren brought a voicemail from her Grandma into the session. It was super heartfelt and just about brought us all to tears. That was the spark for the song.
Is there an LP in the works?
-Yes, we’ve been busting our asses trying to finish up a body of work that we think will be a full length album, but we haven’t really given much thought to how it will all be released just yet.
While on tour, do you guys hit up any karaoke bars? And if you do, what song would you choose?
-I don’t think we ever have but certainly wouldn’t be opposed to it. Man, song selection is everything in Karaoke, something anthemic that gets people singing and moving. Maybe some Bon Jovi, Backstreet Boys, or Whitney Houston?
The track “1,000 Nights” is such a great jam. The scenery in the video is pretty spectacular. Where was it filmed? What was it like filming out there?
-It was filmed just south of Canada in Northern Washington. It was so damn cold but a blast. Everyone on set was either a friend or became a friend. It was pretty much us camping in the woods with friends.
Any Leo Dicaprio “Revenant” bear moments?
Yes, tons of Leo moments. Every day is a chance to create a Leo moment.

U2’s Celebration: The band looks back and walks on with an epic stadium show

“Pittsburgh isn’t sleeping tonight,” Bono told the crowd as a stadium full of glowing cell phones lit up Heinz Field. I mean, this was the show. U2 playing their brilliant album, “The Joshua Tree,” was enough to make me countdown to the event everyday this past winter. Their songs are the soundtrack to my life. If you walk away walk away, I will follow. And I did. You did. We all did. So, let’s get to the show.

Alright I’ll just say it. Yeah, I’ll easily say it. The first seven songs were the most mesmerizing euphoric start to a concert. Ever. I’m not exaggerating. Not one bit. You see, the show begins with Larry walking out onto the mini Joshua Tree Shaped B stage in the middle of the floor, sitting at his drum set, and then pounding away on the drums to, you guessed it, “Sunday Bloody Sunday!” I know, I know, yeah it was that crazy. Crazy as in the entire crowd went into a frenzy with cameras going up and people shouting out the lyrics to the iconic hit. Soon Bono comes walking down the catwalk, dressed in black jeans, long sleeve black shirt and wearing glasses (no shades) while belting out the verse as all of us in the first few rows lean against one another while trying to snap the perfect picture. You know, that’s a hard decision. All of us want a great picture but at the same time we want to savor the moment. I put my phone down. I believe that you have to enjoy these moments because they don’t happen often. But anyway, from that point on it was like a rocket going into outer space, with the Edge and his delay manning the controls. Past the stars and over the lonely desserts. Stand up and sing because it’s all that you can’t leave behind.

After “Sunday Bloody Sunday” the band went straight into “New Year’s Day,” followed by a spiritual moment of “Bad”. If those weren’t enough they went into “Pride,” and then things escalated even more. You heard the organ, and suddenly the band walked onto the stage together while the giant LED screen behind them went red, revealing a huge Joshua Tree. The notes to “Where the Streets Have no Name” rang out and everyone raised their hands in the air and cheered. That song is always one of my favorite parts of the show. So, to have it this early in the set was a complete surprise. The screen revealed a highway in black and white while the song played. Honestly, I swear it felt like we were moving with the screen. No wait, we were in the screen! That’s how real it looked and felt. What followed was “I Still haven’t found What I’m Looking For” and “With or Without You.” Yeah, I know, right? The beginning of the show was just unreal.

The tour is a somewhat surprise to most fans. U2 isn’t known to give themselves a party and focus on some nostalgia. That’s always been a big no for the band. Only because the band takes pride in releasing new material that is relevant. So, to have them dedicate an entire tour to one album is remarkable to say the least. But it comes at the right time. The band released “Songs of Innocence” a couple years ago, and according to the guys, an entire new LP, “Songs of Experience,” is ready to go sometime next year. I mean, why not celebrate their arguably best album with a worldwide celebration? 2017 was the perfect time to take a step back, enjoy the past and have fun with it. Having the chance to hear this entire album live is an experience that everyone will cherish.

The set included rarely played classics off the album including “Exit” and “Red Hill Mining Town.” The band also played “Ultraviolet,” dedicating the song to women’s rights around the world. Before “Miss SaraJevo,” footage of a young woman in Jordan was shown to the crowd on the giant LED screen. The message was that she saw America as a land of opportunity and her dream was to one day come to the USA. The crowd cheered in unison as the band broke into the song. Bono mentioned the ONE campaign and how all of us are helping to defeat AIDS. Other than that, he kept the political talk to a minimum.

It’s funny because after the first set of seven songs, I wondered what they had left for the encore. Sure enough, they had plenty. Bono walked down to the B stage while Edge and the rest of the band jumped into the opening chords of “One.” I tried not to get emotional. We all tried. But this song is powerful. I mean, these are the songs that make up the soundtrack to our lives. My life at least. And I’m sure many other lives too. So, it’s something that is just special beyond words to hear live. By the end, all of us are singing along while Edge rips into the outro solo. Just incredible. Absolutely incredible. Gets me every time. That moment was followed by “Beautiful Day,” arguably the bands best modern hit. I love how this song has become a classic in the set. I remember hearing it live for the first time during the “All That You Can’t Leave Behind Tour” in 01. Bono would run around the heart shaped stage while fans sang along. And now here we are at Heinz Field, the entire stadium singing along. The song is a moment of hope and just loving life. Don’t let it get away.

As if that wasn’t enough, the band followed that hit with another song off of the same album, “Elevation.” Yeah. Wow. During the song, the floor became unglued as we jumped up and down high, higher than the sun, our converses barely touching the ground. I think my ankles are still sore from jumping up and down. But you know what? It’s 100 percent worth it. Those moments don’t happen often. I remember jumping up in the air while Edge’s guitar reached new decibels. I looked over and there are two slender guys, somewhere in the 20’s range with brown hair, each sporting U2 t-shirts, jumping up and down too. You see, the crowd is great because you have all of these different ages. Aside from the 20-year-old hipsters to the 70-year-old baby boomer rockers, you have young children who are around 8, sitting on their parent’s shoulders, witnessing their first U2 show. And what a show it was.

The band ended the show with a new track, “The Little Things That Give You Away.” The song is strong with Bono’s heartfelt vocals and Edge’s trademark guitar delay solo. I just didn’t want the show to end. After the song, the band stood together on stage while the screen went red with a black silhouette of a large Joshua Tree. People clapped and cheered loudly, wanting one more song. But the fact of the matter is that the band could have played all night and we’d still be wanting more. These shows go by so quick, in the blink of an eye. I don’t even know where to begin. The songs, the giant-sized LED screen, the crowd, it’s all there. The house lights came on and people began to exit the stadium. As I was walking and looked back at the set, I noticed the screen now covered with a brown Joshua Tree, it’s branches extending across the screen to the both ends of the stage. I just laughed and shook my head, thinking about an incredible show and experience that I’ll always remember. You see, the boys from Dublin, they always seem to outdo themselves. I thought about what Bono said earlier in the show. The part about not sleeping. No, I definitely wasn’t going to be sleeping tonight, for good reason though. I’ll think about this for days and how incredible the night was. The show was a celebration of rock and the power of song, all of us rejoicing in the spirit and love for a band that makes you stand up, sing, believe and live it up with the red-hot sun rising in the desert over the Joshua Tree’s.

Josh McCann- Pittsburgh, PA- Heinz Field June 7th 2017

“Rock and the Rain-Ryan Adams and Jenny Lewis slay Merriweather Pavilion, giving fans a show of past and new hits”

Certain things are guaranteed to happen when I go to a rock show, well, at least a show that involves being a fan of the artist for the past 12 years, identifying with the songs that bring back the memories of growing up in my twenties. You see when I go to a show I sing every word and pump my fist in the air while trying not to spill my drink on someone standing in front of me. I mean last time the beer was overflowing and everyone else was drunk too, and besides, people were pushing into me when the show started, so that one doesn’t count! At some point during the show Ryan plays an older tune like “Sweet Illusions”, a rocked-out version to be specific, and it makes me so damn happy that I jump up and down until I’m nearly out of breath. These are the shows I love.

On Friday May 12, amongst a heavy downpour, me and my great friend Dustin, an avid Ryan Adams fan and awesome photographer, (we’ve seen many shows and trashed a lot of hotel rooms while eating nachos and cheese) arrived at the Merriweather Pavilion in Columbia Maryland. I had noticed the same scene from when I was last there six years ago for the now defunct Free Fest. The open dirt and gravel filled parking lot surrounded by trees made my heart pound because I hadn’t been here in forever and I wanted to run through the gates and yell yes, yes, I’m back baby! I walked through the small path alongside eager rock fans and a up a small hill leading to the main gates. The sky was overcast and the air was cold. I got a beer and checked out the merch booth which stood near the lawn. The venue seats around 10,000. After having a few beers I’m feeling great and ready to sing my heart out. I look around the crowd and realize that I’m one of the youngest people here. A guy with a long beard and glasses stands in front of me. His girl is wearing glasses and a sweater. This is NPR land and yes everyone will be quiet and reserved when the show begins. Nothing against that, but I like to stand up and be one with the show. Sorry but I bought a ticket to rock and dance, not sit there like I’m in my living room. Ok, I know, enough of that rant.

The important thing is the actual show, in which Ryan rocked out twenty-five amazingly great jams that left the crowd burning for more. Not to mention the opening act was Jenny Lewis! Ok, let’s just talk about this right now. I’ve been a fan of Jenny since her early days when she fronted the California based band Rilo Kiley. Jenny quickly became the cool California girl with long red hair and a voice that was sweeter than the wine vineyards in Napa. In 2009 I saw her perform songs from her debut solo album Rabbit Fur Coat, but I hadn’t seen her since. She came walking out in a long white and black suit wearing a black hat. Being in the third row I cheered loud and held my beer in the air. I’m confident in saying that I yelled “Jenny!” the loudest. Soon the guitars in her band rang loud to the opening chords of “Just one of the Guys”, a single from her most recent successful album “Voyager”. Jenny walked to the front of the stage, holding the mic in her hands, closing her eyes and looking down at the crowd. Her voice echoed through the speakers and it’s like an angel singing. Following the upbeat tune was “You are what you Love” from “Rabbit Fur Coat”. Yeah this song is slower but that didn’t stop me from throwing my fist in the air and shouting along with the chorus. At this point the rows of seats behind me were filled. You could see the lawn feeling up despite the rain pouring down.

A surprise moment in the show occurred when Jenny introduced a new song “Keep Dreaming”. A slow melodic tune set to Jenny’s irresistible vocals proved to be a jam with a lot of potential. Let’s hope it makes the cut on the new record. So another surprise moment came when Ryan walked out onto the stage and joined Jenny for the song “Wasted Youth”. Ryan played guitar behind Jenny while she belted out the rock tune. Yeah it was very cool indeed.  The set ended with “With Arms Outstretched”, a classic acoustic sing along the campfire Rilo Kiley gem. The crowd sat in unison and yeah, I got the chills. This music goes back more than a decade ago and can be sentimental. Ah my early twenties. Sometimes you need to hear those again in concert for them to really hit you. Man, it’s inspiring. Jenny thanked the crowd as I stood up on my chair. Yeah I didn’t even care. When Jenny says thanks you stand the fuck up your chair, at least I did. A few seconds later security kindly told me to sit back down in which I obeyed. I wasn’t going to ruin the rest of the show for myself and everyone else.

Up next was Ryan Adams, whom I’ve seen eight times before. Most recently being in Pittsburgh last summer at Stage AE. This time he was promoting his new album “Prisoner”. The album features harmonica, ghostly alluring ballads and rocked out jams. Ryan walked out onto the stage dressed in his normal attire of blue jeans and a jean jacket along with black sunglasses. The look goes with his new music releases that harken the mid-eighties rock power chords. His brown hair is long and falls over his eyes. Ryan opened with “Do you still love me?” which features a piercing guitar solo and B3 organ set to a drum beat that had everyone out of their seats. Yes, I was really happy that everyone stood up because I was not going to watch the show sitting down. Um no way. I also noticed a group of guys who looked to be in college standing a few rows behind me. As they held their beer cups in the air they shouted out the lyrics. Upon looking around I noticed Ryan’s onstage set had a new addition, aside from the arcade and pinball machines, there was now a small mountain of mini TV’s on the sides of the stage with static playing on the screen. The band was different too. Not a surprise, Ryan changes his lineup faster than he writes new songs. The set included older classics from “Two” to the jammed out “Magnolia Mountain”. At one point Ryan addressed the crowd and said, “Fuck Donald Trump!” The crowd cheered and it was funny because Ryan just blurted it out of nowhere. The night sky hit while the rain continued to pour on the lawn. I felt bad for those people wearing yellow coats. They were probably drunk like the rest of the crowd anyway. The guy in front of me had a long beard and didn’t show any emotion towards the show whatsoever. He just kept taking pictures and didn’t move. Like come on and just have fun dude!

The past few years have been interesting for Ryan Adams. He released the self-titled LP which brought him back to rock and roll and playing full band shows instead of just acoustic. All of us fans breathed a collective sigh because in my opinion this is the music I want to go see. The acoustic is cool but give me some loud amp version from 1984 and it’s on! He covered 1989 and it got some great reviews, but of course there is always the criticism. You aren’t being honest with yourself if you don’t feel something when you hear his version of “Bad Blood”. And now his latest release continues on the trend of the straight forward rock, which is fucking great. Oh, and he got divorced to Mandy Moore which sounded like it got kind of messy. Well, at least there is new material! So, it was great to see Ryan again, and I’ve noticed that he’s having more fun onstage. He laughs and jams out and there is just this calmness that wasn’t there before.

A surprising moment came when he played “Dear John”. I could hear people saying wow and how he hadn’t played this live-in years. The recording features Norah Jones. So of course, I yelled for Norah to come out. Just once or twice and then I enjoyed the tune. I know, I know. Yes, I did yell a lot during the show. But it’s out of full blooded rock and roll passion that courses through my veins. I can’t help that music moves me in ways and helps me see the world and my own life in different ways. Think deep man. You know what I’m talking about right? This is our scene. Thousands of fans joining together and uniting for these anthems that have defined different parts of our lives. You respect it and its part of you. Breathe that air in, in this case it was chilly air on subpar cold May night, but damn it was worth it.

The show ended with Ryan telling the crowd, “We only have three minutes left. I wish we could play more,” as the fans cheered loudly. “Thank you guys so much. We love you.” The place grew quiet as Ryan stood near the end of the stage with his acoustic guitar and blew into his harmonica, beginning the familiar chords of “Come Pick Me Up”. I immediately got out my phone. I’m not sure why. I have seen him play this song so many times. At this point I was savoring the last song and my beer was empty so I had an extra hand to film it too. The crowd sang along to the chorus as Jenny Lewis walked out onto the stage for an even bigger ovation. The two veteran songwriters leaned close to the microphone and sang the words that we all know. I kept filming on my phone but didn’t sing because I was too in awe of the moment. The song ended as people clapped for more. The house lights came on, which signaled the end of the show as the music played over the pa system. Me and Dustin walked to the merch booth and stood under it as the rain poured. Dustin called for an uber while I stared out into the rain illuminated by the lights on the lawn as fans left the venue. The group of college kids walked past me and I heard them talking about how amazing the show was. I smiled, knowing that they would be back to keep the spirit of rock and roll alive.

Josh McCann- Merriweather Pavilion, Columbia, Maryland