Gwen Stefani’s Just a Girl Vegas Residency

Do you remember what kind of music you were listening to in 4th grade?

I do.

I mostly listened to what was on the radio. Since it was South Florida in the 90s, that mainly consisted of R&B, gangsta rap, Miami booty music, alternative rock, pop rock, and classic rock.

That was around the time when I started to develop musical taste. I just turned 10, and I felt like a big kid finally.

So when I first heard No Doubt on the radio in 1996, I was floored. I’m pretty sure they were one of the first modern rock bands I had heard, up to that point, with a female singer.

I was immediately attracted to their bouncy, fun, ska-infused tunes and Gwen Stefani’s emotionally penetrating vocals. “Tragic Kingdom” was ultimately a breakup album, and every song was a powerful expression of her heartache.

I instantly related to the lyrics and learned as many of them by heart as I could fit into my growing brain.

No Doubt became a favorite band, and I was lucky enough to see them live, a year later, in 1997. I saw them again in 2009 and was even lucky enough to score a photo pass from the newspaper I was working for at the time.

Since then I’ve remained a devoted No Doubt fan and followed Gwen on her solo career as well. Her lyrics still make an impact on me to this day, but none more so than those from the songs on “Tragic Kingdom.”

nodoubttragickingdom

So, when she announced her Just a Girl Las Vegas residency, I was all in.

Now, I’m not a huge Vegas person. I’ve only been there twice. But I could not pass up the opportunity to see an entire show based around Gwen’s music and lyrics, both in No Doubt AND as a solo performer.

I decided to buy tickets a couple of weeks ago, and Justin and I basically took a pretty spontaneous trip to Vegas just to see her perform (and for our anniversary).

The show took place at the Zappo’s Theater of Planet Hollywood, located inside the Miracle Mile mall.

I bought the cheapest tickets I could find online for that date, but honestly, in a 7,000 seat theater, there were no bad seats. However, I was elated when after scanning our tickets, the ticket taker said they were upgrading people’s seats.

At first, I was skeptical and thought it cost money. But it didn’t! I’m not sure why exactly our seats got upgraded because by the time the show got started it looked like a full house, but I’m so glad they did! Our seats were on the stage left side, on the bottom right before the pit.

planethollywoodseats

Before the show even started, I was smiling ear to ear at the show opening music. A mix of ska, punk, and alternative was playing, some of it very familiar. I was feeling pretty excited and nostalgic.

They were selling merch in the lobby, but it was a wee bit more than I wanted to spend on a t-shirt that night, although I did love the one that said, “This Sh#t is Bananas.”

There were also costumes from some of her music videos on display in the lobby, including the blue and white polka dotted dress from “Don’t Speak.” Oh, how I loved that video. So 90’s Gwen with the bindi and everything!

Although the show was supposed to start at 9:00, it didn’t end up starting until 9:30. But, it was well worth the wait.

Gwen opened her show with “Hollaback Girl,” surrounded by an art deco style set, a black and white striped floor, and dancers holding giant bananas. She had so much energy at the get-go it was impossible not to feel completely infatuated by it.

She moved through a ton of songs at a steady pace from her No Doubt days to her solo albums and even to covers of songs like Rhianna’s “Umbrella” (which she declared should have been her song).

She talked to the audience quite a bit and even took the time to take pictures with audience members and sign stuff.

And of course, since it was Vegas, she had a number of costume changes. During these interludes, the curtains closed and a video was played, where she discussed her journey from Anaheim teenager writing songs in her bedroom to major, worldwide superstar.

It was so fun seeing different photos and video footage of her as a kid, teenager, and then singing and performing with No Doubt.

There was even a segment about her obsession with fashion and how she’s always used it to express herself.

Speaking of fashion, the costumes were fabulous‚ÄĒas you might expect.

One of my favorites was actually the first one she wore, which was a custom black and white jacket with all these incredible embellishments.

The entire set up for “Don’t Speak” was also pretty incredible. She wore this long white cape with rose petals sewn onto the bottom and sang on this platform at the front of the catwalk, which was also decorated with roses and greenery.

Red and pink confetti rained down during the song, and I was so happy I had to take deep breaths between singing so I wouldn’t cry.

gwenstefanidontspeak

She played pretty much every song I could have asked to hear, and I had an amazing time singing, dancing, and smiling my face off. Needless to say, it was a night to remember.

Thank you, Gwen, for being a musical role model, fashion inspiration, and all-around adorable person whose Instagram stories bring me joy every day.

Until next time.

‚ô•

Do you plan on seeing Gwen Stefani’s Just a Girl Las Vegas residency or have you already seen it? Leave me a comment below!

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Tears For Fears – “Listen”

Sometimes a song just captivates our attention in the moment and catches us off guard. It speaks to us on a deeper level, beyond lyrics and obvious meaning. It’s often how we discover new music and develop an even greater appreciation for a previously loved artist. In this case, it was the latter.

I put on the B Side of my Tears For Fears Songs From The Big Chair LP and just let it play in the background, mainly because I wanted to hear “Head Over Heels” as I surfed the web. But as the last notes of “Head Over Heels” faded away, I was greeted with the sweetly hypnotic synth of “Listen.” Like a lover’s daydream, “Listen” snuck into my heart and made me woozy with adoration. I have listened to this album many times before, all the way through, but it was always just the soundtrack to whatever I was doing, with my attention mostly elsewhere. For whatever reason, today “Listen” made me do just that and I truly paid attention to the song.

“Listen” drifts lazily on and on, lingering on notes like kisses exchanged in secret. It’s a true lover’s song, providing a blanket of blissful sound for those long nights wrapped in an embrace or pining away for a lost love. Many¬†layers of sound harmonize together to create a lullaby-like quality that soothes the soul. There are only two¬†tiny verses that are sung in the first third of the song and their meaning is as mysterious as the melody itself.

Mother Russia badly burned
Your children lick your wounds

Pilgrim father sailed away
Found a brave new world

The rest of the lyrics are sung  in Spanish by a small choir throughout the second half of the song and are difficult to understand, but some people think they hear:

Complea√Īos chica, no hay que preocuparse.
Don’t worry birthday girl.¬†or Birthday girl, it’s not your fault.

Regardless of the meaning, it had me ¬†wondering where this song came from and why it’s not better known. In truth, it reminds me a lot of M83 and other dream pop/shoegaze artists of the modern era. There’s a definite direct influence there that was interesting to discover from such a seemingly straightforward 80’s band like Tears for Fears. I knew they were great songwriters, but “Listen” is on a different level of artistry that was completely unexpected. I feel like I have to go back and re-explore their discography now because surely there are other gems like “Listen” that I have yet to experience.

Listen for yourself below and let “Listen” speak to you too.

The Artist’s Way: First Artist Date of the Year

The Artist's Way bookI

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I had a hard time finding work and getting out on my own. I was depressed a lot of the time and often complained to my parents about how I felt blocked creatively. My Dad then sent me his copy of The Artist’s Way in order to nudge me along in gradually becoming unblocked. I began to do the weekly assignments, morning pages, and artist dates and finally found a semi-full time job that allowed me to move out of my aunt’s house and into an apartment with my boyfriend. However, I stopped doing the work and never completed all 12 chapters/steps of the program. Now I find myself in a similar situation and am once again turning to The Artist’s Way for support.

After committing to doing the morning pages about two weeks ago, I finally went on my first artist date yesterday. Btw, an artist date is a date you take yourself on in order to inspire and stimulate your creativity. So, I had a few books and DVDs I wanted to trade-in for some cash and decided to take myself on over to Amoeba Records in Hollywood. It’s one of my favorite places to spend time just browsing and I always have a great experience when I go. They ended up taking all six items I had, and gave me $1 for each so I came out with $6. It was certainly better than getting nothing at all for them. I had also decided that I would use all the money that I got from selling my boyfriend and I’s things for our trip to Comic-Con next month so we could have spending money for merch and food.

I also had a $4 credit from a previous trade-in so I decided to browse around for a while and see if I could find something good to take home with me. I don’t really use CDs anymore so I headed over to the used rock record section. I must have spent two whole hours going through the endless racks of old records looking for something that caught my eye and was under $4. While I was browsing I discovered that a band was sound checking at the stage they have in the middle of the store. I found out that the electronic band, Miami Horror was going to be playing a free show. I’ve heard of them, but wasn’t really familiar with their music so I was stoked to be able to watch them perform.

Miami Horror at Amoeba Records

 

While I watched Miami Horror I munched on the dark chocolate covered pretzels I bought at the Godiva store earlier when I was at the mall. Chocolate covered pretzels are one of my favorite snacks and Godiva’s¬†are especially good. There’s nothing better than chocolate and good music.

Godiva Dark Chocolate Covered Pretzels - Yum!

 

After going back and forth between a few records and even some cassette tapes. I finally settled on an Armenian dance LP for $1 and Crystal Antlers – Nothing is Real LP for $2.99. I was pretty shocked to find that Crystal Antlers record for so cheap. It was in one of the bins under the main stacks and was double wrapped. When I unwrapped it at home, I saw the original price sticker was still on there: $14.99! So score one for me, yay!

Records from Amoeba Artist Date

 

I really enjoyed this artist date because I felt like things just came together for me to make it a special and memorable experience. It definitely made me excited to make my artist dates spontaneous and free-spirited. Tune in next week to see where I go next!

 

Refused Are…Alive!

Refused -

One of my favorite hardcore bands from the 90’s, Refused, is back with a new album entitled¬†Freedom.¬†The Swedes will be releasing their first new album in 17 years on June 30th via Epitaph Records. There is already a special pre-order for the album¬†which includes¬†bundles and¬†exclusives including a beautiful hardcover book of artwork. The exclusive pre-order is SOLD OUT already!!

I just watched the video for the first single, “Elektra,”¬†and was completely blown away. That time signature!!! I’m ecstatic that they’ve decided to continue making amazing, politically relevant tunes that are still hard as hell. Take a listen to “Elektra” below.

5 Ways to Feed Your “Penny Dreadful” Addiction Until Season 2

UPDATE: This post has been republished and featured on The Mary Sue!
View it here:
http://www.themarysue.com/feed-your-penny-dreadful-addiction/

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives

Living in Los Angeles, there are advertisements for new movies, TV shows, and music everywhere. Most of the time they’re an eyesore as studios¬†wrap entire city buses with them or cover large billboards in Hollywood¬†with them. However, the ads for Penny Dreadful had me intrigued. I loved the name even though I had no idea what it meant. The letters were blood red¬†and everything else was black. The mood was¬†dark and gothic and mysterious. Some ads only featured Eva Green and Josh Hartnett, while others included more of the cast like¬†Timothy Dalton and Danny Sapani. The actors stared, brooding and serious, and I thought “This is my kind of show!”

The gothic nature of Penny Dreadful also attracted a few friends of mine and inspired a “Goth Night In” viewing party of the pilot episode. We were riveted and discussed where the series might go as we began to recognize familiar characters: Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray,¬†Van Helsing.¬†Although I was unable to keep up with weekly viewings of the show, I watched an episode when I could and quickly became obsessed.

With only an 8-episode season, Penny Dreadful was over¬†in a flash¬†and I was left wanting more. Luckily, I was able to attend Comic-Con and attended the Penny Dreadful panel. Showrunner John Logan promised an expansion of the universe in season 2, which will include more about Ethan Chandler’s past and the importance of Madame Kali. While that did quench my thirst temporarily, I find myself now in Penny Dreadful withdrawal, looking for anything to tie me over until Season 2. Here are five¬†great ways fellow Dreadfuls can feed their addiction.

5. –¬†Pre-Order the Soundtrack on Amazon

If you’re a soundtrack fiend like me, you probably noticed the beauty of the music in Penny Dreadful. The opening theme¬†is incredibly moving and a perfect intro to the show. It also makes me think of someone running from their demons, (whether literal, sexual, or whatever) and then being overcome¬†by them which creates this emotional roller coaster played out with the various string instruments. Every time I hear it, I get really excited and sad at the same time. Oh, the power of music! You can pre-order the soundtrack for Season 1 on Amazon here. The¬†release date is August 19th, which is only five days from now!!! What are you waiting for?!

4. – Subscribe to the Penny Dreadful Channel on YouTube

For anyone who wasn’t there, or for those who just want to relive the magic of Comic-Con, videos from the panel¬†are up on YouTube. There are also a multitude of clips from the show, production blogs with behind the scenes video, and interviews with the cast. With a count of 65 videos on their channel, there’s enough content to last a few hours, and that’s only the first go round of viewings. Here’s a taste of¬†what you can expect to find:

3. – Swoon Over Reeve Carney and his brother Zane Carney’s music

While this isn’t directly related to the show, it is related to Mr. Dorian Gray himself, Reeve Carney! Reeve and his brother Zane have a band appropriately named Carney and have released two albums¬†of material. Their music is blues influenced rock with sexy undertones that channels classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. There’s even a hint of Jeff Buckley in Reeve’s vocal delivery, which excites me greatly as he will be playing Buckley in the biopic Mystery White Boy. Both brothers also have solo projects with Zane¬†playing a residency at the LA club Hotel Cafe for the month of August, and Reeve¬†releasing an album in 2015. Check out their circus themed video for “Love Me Chase Me” below.

2. – Follow the Cast and Crew on Twitter

If you’re social media savvy, check in on some of the cast and crew on Twitter along with the official Penny Dreadful account.

@SHO_Penny РOffical Twitter page. Posts updates on the show, videos, news articles, RTs from cast and crew, merchandise, etc.

@ReeveCarney (Dorian Gray) РReeve posts about his music, his brother, and the show a lot. He was quite active leading up to Comic-Con as well.

@ReeveCarney: Just Read the first episode of Season 2 of @SHO_Penny...My goodness...Boy, ami I excited...!!!! :) #johnloganrules

@BilliePiper (Brona) РPosts on Penny Dreadful, Doctor Who, stage plays, award show appearances, and more.

@DannySapani¬†(Sembene) – Apparently he’s a big stage actor in Britain, currently appearing in Medea. Lots of¬†posts about Penny Dreadful and some about his activism for various causes.

@ChrisWKing (Supervising Producer) РHe only joined Twitter a few weeks ago, but is posting a lot of behind the scenes photos.

@SaritaAllison¬†(Key Prosthetic Makeup Artist) – She is responsible for The Creature’s makeup as well as the master vampire on the series. She also worked on the Harry Potter films creating prosthetics for the goblins and Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique makeup in X-Men: First Class.

@JamesEHawes (Director) РThe show switches off between directors, but he is apparently directing the first episode of the new season. He posts about the show as well as political issues.

1. – Interact With the Show on the Official Website

If you haven’t been to the website¬†yet,¬†become a part of¬†the demimonde and explore! There is so much to do on there you can get lost for hours just clicking on things. You can have a tarot reading done, explore a map of the Penny Dreadful universe, and even hear classic Victorian poems read by the cast. The website is a very unique way of interacting with the show on a very intimate level.

Penny Dreadful Tarot Reading

I’ll be keeping up with updates on Season 2 as they’re released so keep it locked to Sonic Iris! ‚̧

“Alligator Wine” – Jeff Buckley vs. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

While customizing this blog to ready it for publication, I opened up Spotify to give myself a soundtrack to work to. I didn’t have anything particular in mind, in which case my go to music is usually something I’m intimately familiar with already. Seeing as I was reading old blog posts earlier today where I mentioned Jeff Buckley, I figured I’d let him guide me in creating this Frankenstein blog.

Although I don’t own this version, I put on the¬†Grace – Legacy Edition¬†because I was curious about the extra tracks that were included. Seeing as Jeff died so young, and before he could really put out another full album of material, a lot of the bonus or rare tracks from him are covers. One song in particular stuck out to me as it wasn’t typical of his style.¬†The song is “Alligator Wine,” and¬†it can only be described as a¬†deranged creeping piece of blues music, characteristic of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins weirdness and theatricality.

Jeff Buckley’s version sticks relatively close to the original, at least in terms of the basic song structure. My theory is that he¬†was just fooling around in the studio and they decided to record the song just for fun. His vocal exaggeration attempts to mimic¬†Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, but¬†just ends up making him sound like a punk rock boogeyman. I love the “hoooah’s” and “bloooah’s” he makes at the end of a phrase. He even sneaks in a sneeze after the line “It’ll make you cough and sneeze.” The most entertaining part of the song though, is around 2:16 when he sounds like he’s screaming in Chinese. That’s when he just lets loose some crazy gibberish in between finishing the song with one last chorus. It was really fun to hear that side of him. Take a listen to his version below.

Jeff Buckley - Grace Legacy Edition Album Cover
Jeff Buckley – Grace Legacy Edition

Jeff Buckley – Alligator Wine

If you’re not familiar with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, his claim to fame was the song “I Put A Spell On You.” You know the one; it’s on everyone’s Halloween playlist. Well this song is equally spooktacular, but definitely underrated.The beginning of the song is just drums and guitar, like in Jeff Buckley’s version, but at the first chorus, a piano and saxophone come in as well.¬†Screamin’ Jay’s typical macabre depravity is showcased in his¬†lyrics as he describes how to make this so called alligator wine. Around 2:33 he starts to lose his mind and sputters out these half laughs, which ends in an odd cough/laugh hybrid and him questioning¬†“Could we hear that?” Hear what man? You losing your mind? I sure heard it. Listen to the original wackiness below.

Screamin' Jay Hawkins Cow Fingers & Mosquito Pie Album Cover
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Cow Fingers & Mosquito Pie

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Alligator Wine