So Long, Maxwell’s

I’ve been to Maxwell’s in Hoboken so many times over the past few years that I’ve lost count. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you the first show I saw there. I can tell you, though the feeling I felt every time I was inside: comfortable. While waiting in line to see the last show the venue would host Wednesday evening (July 31) before it closed its doors indefinitely, I befriended an older man who lived nearby. Talking about the venue and the shows we’ve seen there over the years, I described Maxwell’s as “homey” and he agreed.

I can’t explain it, but it’s the closest I have gotten to finding my Cheers bar. Over the years I have covered countless shows there and I didn’t even need to have my name added to the guest list. It was one of those places where, yes — everybody knows your name. One of the first shows I saw there was Tyrone Wells and Jason Reeves, both singer-songwriters who I went on to interview after thoroughly enjoying their sets at Maxwell’s. I also interviewed one of my childhood favorites — Kris Roe of The Ataris in the basement of the venue. (Picture below).


In 2008, I hosted my one-year blog anniversary show. I pitched the show to the booker of Maxwell’s and said my goal was to have 150 people attend. He laughed at the idea because hardly anyone who books their first concert can guarantee that amount will actually show up. But I was set to prove that I could do it. Josh Charles, Joey DeGraw and The Canon Logic, a band I would later come to manage, performed and 152 people attended. Not too shabby for my first concert.


I have reviewed countless indie sets, folk bands and even a few hardcore groups at Maxwell’s and loved every second of it. Covering concerts at Maxwell’s really helped pave the way of my career in music journalism, whether I was writing for my own blog or the Hoboken Patch.

Maxwell’s was hailed by Rolling Stone as one of the best rock clubs in the country and I couldn’t agree more. It has quickly become my favorite concert venue and it’s truly a shame to see it go. Maxwell’s, thanks for the memories.

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Faithful Departed: Michael Jackson

While music fans often cling to memories of their first concert experience, I vividly remember the very first music video I watched — Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” It was at my cousin’s house sitting on her mom’s plastic covered couch while our parents sat in the dining room having coffee. “Thriller” gave me nightmares for weeks, and I still cringe every time I see Jackson transform from sweet guy on a date at the movies to a character from the crypt. But, that is the job of a true entertainer — leaving your audience with something to remember. Lucky for us, Jackson has a legacy that will last for years to come.

I don’t know what first sparked my interested in music, but I know Jackson had something to do with it. He paved the way for so many artists, inspired and let each know it was okay to step outside his limits and express his creativity through music. Maybe that’s why I chose music journalism as my career path. Interviewing bands who worked with and were influenced by Jackson has been a humbling experience. Who knows where they’d be, or where I would be, today without that kind of presence in this world.

Growing up, all I ever listened to was New York City’s oldies station, WCBS-FM 101.1. It was my dad’s favorite. The Jackson 5 was part of my childhood, along with Elvis Presley, the Temptations and the Beatles. Songs like “I Want You Back” always put a smile on my face. At nearly three minutes long, it was an endearing track about wanting a girlfriend back. I had no clue what the song was about at the time, but loved it regardless.

His influence and power to inspire go on
Jackson’s life was a rollercoaster ride and there’s little doubt that he was a deeply troubled soul. Over the last few months of his life, Jackson was rehearsing for his upcoming tour dates at the O2 arena in London, which he hailed as his “final curtain call.” It was also supposed to be the answer to the enormous debt Jackson had amassed. He died less than three weeks before his first show, and the rehearsal footage made it to the big screen as This Is It. The film provides a glimpse into what could have been Jackson’s most electrifying performance yet. While watching the film, I was moved by the opportunity to witness what such an incredible performer was really like up close.

I still remember hearing the news of his passing and realizing the effect he had on the world. Whether it’s up-and-coming indie band Lights Resolve titling a song after him, Justin Timberlake or Black Eyed Peas’ praising his work, it is evident that his influence goes far beyond what any of us realize.

Jackson himself was very conscious of his desire to inspire others: “That’s why I write these kinds of songs,” he said in This Is It. “It gives some sense of awareness and awakening and hope to people. I feel so blessed that I can give the world that.”

I couldn’t agree more. Whenever I’m out and I hear a Michael Jackson song come on the radio, I can’t help but smile. His songs will remain an important part of my life. Jackson’s music not only jumped musical hurdles, but cultural and spiritual ones as well. His music is a form of escape, giving people faith and belief that everything will be okay. And, from a three-minute song, sometimes that’s all you need.

This article was originally posted on Busted Halo last week for their Faithful Departed series. You can read it here.


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Faithful Departed: DJ AM

Photo Credit: ChildofMidnight

After collaborating with numerous musicians and dabbling in acting, it was DJ AM’s last project that was his most memorable.

Adam Goldstein, best known as DJ AM, battled with addiction for much of his life and remained clean for 11 years. In his last months he filmed Gone Too Far, a series on MTV where he provided intervention for those who struggled with addiction.

An intense series, the show explicitly reveals a day in the life of an addict while offering help to those willing to change their lives. While I’ve never dealt with addiction personally, the show really made an impact on me and restored my faith in the music industry.

Being a music journalist, I’ve heard the horror stories of bands dropped by major labels and the destruction that the touring lifestyle causes on loved ones. However, I’ve hardly ever read about a musician that is truly selfless and making a difference in society. Goldstein changed this. He provided hope and help to numerous addicts and their families and his spirit lives on in those lives he saved.

A troubled soul, who, in the end, lost his life to an accidental overdose, AM gave hope to the families and addicts featured on his show. The opening segment demonstrates his optimism and compassion.

“Some will change. Others won’t. But, I have to keep on trying because everyone deserves a second chance. There is one reason I’m doing this show. To help other people get sober,” he said.

Everyone deserves a second chance

This line stuck with me. Everyone deserves a second chance. Goldstein had one, why can’t others?

A former member of rock/hip hop group Crazy Town (the band is known for their chart-topping 2001 hit single, “Butterfly”), Goldstein worked on albums for numerous artists including Papa Roach, Madonna and Will Smith and was a regular collaborator with Blink-182’s Travis Barker.

Goldstein led a difficult life combating addiction. After many bouts with rehab, he remained clean for more than 11 years. Perhaps what is most tragic is how Goldstein narrowly escaped death last year when his plane crashed after a performance. Barker was also injured while both crew members and two other passengers were killed. Maybe it was this near death experience that gave way to Gone Too Far. Often, when we are faced with adversity; God has a way of changing a near tragedy into something memorable.

Goldstein truly is an inspiration on Gone Too Far, and I can only hope that I can touch as many lives with my writing as he did on that show. While talking to Amy, a 23-year-old heroin addict who stole thousands of dollars from her family, he advised: “Just know that there is hope and that’s what I’m here for.” Having struggled with addiction, the people featured on the show respected and related to Goldstein. “I can’t cure addiction but I can offer Amy a chance at a different life.”

And that he did. In his last months, Goldstein helped numerous addicts and their families combat addiction and receive a new chance at life. Twenty-three-year-old Breezy explained her experience.

“My life from when I first met Adam is so different. I’m very grateful for what he did for me and all the people that were involved in this,” she said. “Adam, if you were here today, I would thank you for giving me my life back and giving me the opportunity to be a better sister and a better daughter, and granddaughter and friend. I can’t express how grateful I am to have been able to meet you and receive this gift from you.”

While DJ AM may have lost his life earlier this year, he saved countless addicts from death and continues to inspire with his last work on Gone Too Far.

This article was originally posted on Busted Halo last week for their Faithful Departed series. You can read it here. Watch the first episode of Gone Too Far below, and for more of the series click here. Warning: Explicit content.

Gone Too FarMTV Shows

Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” Breaks Records

This Is It is a must-see for music lovers and above all, Michael Jackson fans. The film showcases rehearsal footage for Jackson’s upcoming dates at The O2 arena in London, to which he hailed as his “final curtain call.” What was quickly regarded as being his comeback performance, 40 shows were added to the initial 10, all of which quickly sold out. Dying less than three weeks before his first show in London, This Is It is a glimpse into what could have been Jackson’s most electrifying performance yet.

For nearly two hours, the movie theater is transformed into the stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles where backup dancers, musicians, and concert directors prepare with The King of Pop. The viewer is taken backstage as the dancers audition, Jackson instructs the musicians down to the last chord of a song and the pyrotechnics and backdrop is revealed.

The film showcases Jackson’s showmanship and attention to detail, even having one band member state, “Michael is a perfectionist and you don’t really find that in pop music today.” I couldn’t agree more. Throughout the film, fans watch the production of MJ classics transform on the stage including “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Thriller” as well as Jackson 5 hits such as “I’ll Be There.”

While the box office numbers report $101 million on its worldwide opening, the US failed to perform at the level Sony wished for, bringing the domestic total for this past weekend’s run to $21.3 million, Rolling Stone reports. US outlook aside, since being released Oct. 28, This Is It has become the highest-grossing concert film of all time.

A fitting tribute to The King of Pop, This Is It brings the fan up close and behind the scenes of a music legend after his tragic death. Although he is gone, the film and his music will live on and continue to break barriers. No one can state it better than Jackson himself: “That’s why I write these kind of songs. It gives some sense of awareness and awakening and hope to people. I feel so blessed that I can give the world that.”


For an in-depth review of the film, read Peter Travers’ take in Rolling Stone here.


R.I.P. Patrick Swayze

It has been reported that Patrick Swayze has died today, at the age of 57, after his long battle with pancreatic cancer. Perhaps known best for his performances in films like “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost,” it is his advocacy over the years that has been an inspiration to many. Follow CNN’s breaking coverage as more information is disclosed here.

I was fortunate to have met and interviewed Swayze while in college at a heart disease awareness event. You can read all about it from my previous blog post here.

Earlier this year, Swayze was interviewed by Barbara Walters’ where he talked in depth about his battle, his journey and his career. Watch the opening segment of Walters’ interview below. For the remaining clips of the interview, go to YouTube.



Salute To the King of Rock & Roll: Elvis Presley

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. Like him or not, his impact on the music scene is undeniable. A crossover talent, his music included everything from rock & roll, pop and rockabilly to blues, gospel and R&B.; Not to mention his pulsating dance moves, distinctive clothing and seductive charm, Presley’s musical success and popularity forever made a name for himself as The King.

I was fortunate enough to visit Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, this summer while covering the CMA Music Festival, fulfilling a lifetime dream of mine to visit Elvis’ personal sanctuary and tour his home and the surrounding grounds. Below are some photos by Wendy Hu as well as my personal favorite video of “Jailhouse Rock.”


What’s your favorite Elvis song? Do you feel any other musicians will leave as big a lasting impact on music? If so, who?


R.I.P. Michael Jackson

It has been confirmed that Thursday, June 25, Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, passed away at the age of 50. Conflicting reports mentioned a coma, but it has been confirmed that Jackson died of cardiac arrest at 2:26 p.m. PST at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

While many may remember Jackson for different aspects of his life and career, it is his role in the music industry that is most pertinent. From his early rise as a child star in popular group, the Jackson 5 to branching out to a solo career, it is his music that inspired many and was the foundation for numerous artists to pursue a music career of their own.
Hundreds of articles are flooding the Internet with obituaries and recaps of his death, but I figured I’d post two that stood out to me. You can read the LA Times piece here and Rolling Stone‘s recap as well as look through a photo archive of his RS cover stories.
What do you think of Michael Jackson’s death? What are some of your favorite songs of his? I still remember the first time I saw the music video for “Thriller” at my cousin’s and had nightmares for weeks!
Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “Be My Baby”

Being that Estelle Bennett, one-third of 1960s girl group the Ronettes, passed away last week it is only fitting to feature one of their hits, “Be My Baby” as this week’s song of the week. Watch below as Estelle and the rest of the Ronettes perform “Be My Baby” and “Shout.” To learn more about her life and the band, read The New York Times‘ recent article here.