The Year of 100

IMG_5210Since 2004, I’ve been keeping track of all the concerts I’ve attended. To be honest, those early years, there are probably some gaps, because I wasn’t so serious about it. But in the last 5 years or so, I’ve been mildly obsessed with tracking who I’ve seen and where I’ve seen them, and what my “show count” is for the year. The number has always landed somewhere between 50 and 80 – not too shabby for someone who holds down a full-time job that has nothing to do with music.

In August or so of last year, I was doing my monthly update and realized that there was a distinct possibility that I could set a record for myself if I stepped up my concert game a little. The number? 100 live shows. Could I do it? I was pretty sure I could.

Now, there are rules to my madness. For example, festivals only count as one show, no matter how many sets I see during the event. If I did that, I’d be halfway to 100 by the time the Rock Boat was over in January! Plus, at festivals, you end up moving around too much, seeing only part of a set, etc. I only count something as a show if I specifically went there with the purpose of seeing the artist play – so, if I’m hanging out at a bar and there’s a band playing, that doesn’t get counted. You get the idea. Hey, we all have our rules. NPR’s Bob Boilen keeps count, of his shows, too. But he counts every band he sees as a show. So if a show has 3 acts, that’s 3 shows. (For the record, he saw “506 shows” in 2015.)

What this new “goal” did for me was it forced me to broaden my horizons: go see new artists, acts that I didn’t know at all, and others that aren’t typically the type of music that’s up my “power alley.” Some of those new acts I enjoyed, others I didn’t love quite so much, but I listened with an open mind.

And I did hit 100 shows. 101, officially. (You can see my full list here.)  I’m kind of proud of that number. I realize there are people that go to a lot more than I do, but for someone who doesn’t work in the music industry, I think 101 is pretty solid.

There are definitely highlights worth noting. Like that time I flew to Indianapolis to see the OPENING band because it was the only chance I had to see Mighty Oaks on a short U.S. tour (they’re from Berlin). Or that time I forced Rodric to drive to Atlanta and back with me on a weeknight so I could see Alpha Rev. Or going to see The Brothers Landreth on a whim because Stu Larsen had talked about them, not knowing a single note…and falling weak-in-the-knees in love with them. Or driving to Jacksonville to spend a day at the CleanWater Music Festival, put on by Flagship Romance, and being blown away by Israel Nash. The Dirty Guv’nahs farewell shows. There are literally dozens more that I could talk about.

Who did I see the most in 2015? SUSTO takes that title. Saw Justin and his band of compadres 8 times this year. Watching them come into their own and start to get recognized for their incredible talent has been one of the highlights of my year. Furthest traveled? The Rock Boat wins that contest almost every year. But that Mighty Oaks show in Indianapolis was a close second. Most visited venue? The Evening Muse, hands down.

But the most common question I’ve gotten is… What was your favorite? Normally, I have a pretty cut and dry answer to that, but this year, I have a hard time choosing. I mean, any Quiet Hounds show always sits at the top of the list. But that first Brothers Landreth show was pretty phenomenal. Then there was Rainbow Kitten Surprise, who shattered my expectations and made me feel so alive. That Butch Walker show was pretty darn powerful. Then there was the Counting Crows concert…and we all know what they mean to me. My biggest victory was getting Christopher Jak to play a show this year, and my…that man singing could never be short of breathtaking for me. Oh, and Great Peacock…who I barely knew, but went to see to support a friend…completely rocked my world. I think, though, if I had to choose, it would be a tie between The Mighty Oaks at The Deluxe in Indianapolis and be Noah Gundersen at The Visulite Theater in Charlotte. Both of these artists’ music has come to mean so very much to me personally…and seeing both of them was really emotional for very different reasons.

Of course, because I’m an overachiever, I am ready to do it all again in 2016. In fact, I’m going to try to exceed it. So, 2016 is the year of 125. Who wants to join me on my crazy adventure? Keep up and keep me accountable…

Here’s to more live music in 2016!



The Influence

When I first meet people, sometimes they ask about hobbies and I tell them I like music. Inevitably, I get the, “Oh, me too!” Usually, they don’t mean it like I do. Music, as most of you know, is literally everything to me. It’s like air. I couldn’t live without it.

So that means that I love a lot of artists and bands. Truly love them. However, there are a handful of acts that I love just a smidge more than the rest…I just got home from the most amazing show watching one of those acts…and I feel compelled to write about them.

I saw The Influence (out of Virginia Beach, VA) for the first time in April of 2007. They were opening for another band that a friend of a friend was playing in. My friend Mindy was in town visiting that weekend and when she saw who was opening she went, “These guys are really good. I’ve seen them before.”

That may have been the understatement of the decade. I don’t remember the name of the band that headlined, but I will never forget the what I saw on stage that night from The Influence. Five guys playing music with a sound I’ve never heard before…I later read a review of them that called it “dark surf rock,” and that’s still the best description of their music I’ve been able to give anyone else. These absolutely insane five part harmonies…songs that are one minute skulking, aching and pain filled, and the next rocked out and frenetic.

I fell 100% head over heels in love with The Influence that night. And for three years, every time I see them play, I find new things to love about their music. I ardently believe, more than any other band I follow, that these guys are going to become huge stars. There is no one – and I mean no one – out there right now that sounds like them.

I can’t do them justice in writing. The great thing about them is that on stage, they all have their own personalities. There’s no false pretenses with The Influence…what you see is what you get. Matthew, with his Peter Gabriel – Seal – Muse laced voice and an intensity that I’ve only ever seen from one other artist (Jimmy Gnecco from Ours, if you’re wondering); John’s energetic and driving guitar shredding, his ever-evolving hairstyle, Mr. Gregarious…and his counterpart, Will, the quiet one, the “surfer,” who plays the guitar so fluidly that I sometimes find myself just watching his fingers – the chemistry between these two guys as they play dual guitars is just unreal; Tully, with his huge smile and thundering bass, the way he makes it look easy to keep time…and how I just want to hug him every time I see him; and good gracious, Collin, the wild man on the drum kit, with the most expressive face, who you can tell is loving every second of what he does (and the one that I most want to make a stack of pancakes for to fatten him up).

Seriously, check out The Influence. You can pick up their Dust & Sun EP for free…it’s got a few older songs on it, but will give you a real taste of what they’re all about.

This video is one of their newest songs – my favorite of the newest ones – it’s called “Colorado Lazer Storm.” SO ridiculously good. Just look at the flippin’ intensity!

And you can follow them in a million other ways on your social media preference. Just do it…you won’t be sorry.

I have no idea why destiny led me to stumble upon these boys three years ago, but I am so glad that it did. I cannot wait for the rest of the world to catch onto them…

The Influence
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