Monthly Archives: June 2016

Festival Survival Gear

It’s outdoor concert time. We look forward to it all year long. There is great anticipation by the fans. Soon the tribes will assemble in various venues to enjoy a new spate of offerings. Summer brings with it an assortment of music festivals for general enjoyment. You look forward to them all spring long. You get the calendar and plan on “saving the dates” as long as work commitments permit attendance. Surely you can get some time off. The best bands go on summer tour and the fans come out to spur them on. People want to hear their old favorites and maybe encounter a new group or two to add to their list of favorites.

Summer concert time means a bit of rough camping. No creature comforts abound. You go with low expectations to experience the vibe. You take your camping gear, although lugging a lot of stuff is tedious. You and your friends share stuff to cut down on what needs to be toted. You are at the mercy of the elements and that could be a summer rain, mud, dirt, and poor quality bathroom facilities. You’ve heard of Woodstock. Imagine it on a much smaller scale. But there is great camaraderie to be found.

I remember summers past when I was bitten to death by mosquitos. The bites itch and drive you nuts. It is important to remember to take some mosquito repellent. I like the natural kind. You can buy it online and it usually contains herbs instead of chemicals. After all, you don’t want to spray or apply chemicals to your body or any area of the face, especially near the eyes. There are recipes online so you can make your own if you don’t fancy the prices they are asking for pre-made organic, do you no harm repellent.

If you want a really well-known brand that gets accolades, Burt’s Bees Herbal Insect Repellent is safe enough to apply with confidence to children and pets. It is made with natural ingredients including rosemary, lemongrass, citronella and other essential oils. You can always count on Burt’s for a quality product. Plus, it is easy to apply, helps repel bugs as well as those nasty mosquitos naturally, and has a refreshing herbal scent.

Speaking of herbs, the herbal scents you love can help to ward off the buzzing pests you hate.  It helps keep insects away, so you can enjoy the outdoors more. In our case, this would be the concerts al fresco during the hot summer months. The convenient spray bottle makes it easy to apply this 100% natural bug repellent.  Nature comes to the rescue, with Burt’s Bees. By the way, they make lip balm and hand lotion and you might want to take some of each of these products with you in your backpack. Whatever makes the outdoors more palatable is worth bringing along. So get out there with the fans, you culture vultures, and get exposure to some new and exciting sounds.

Fan Clubs Rock!

The internet has really taken down the wall between fans and bands. You can interact with your favorite artists on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, and all kinds of other places on the web. Enjoy the accessibility of social media! You may not always get a response, but if you do—totally cool. Either way, it is the latest and greatest way to find out about tours, singles, appearances, and new albums, straight from the band itself. Most social media sites have ways to assure you that the account is legit. Look for a blue circle with a check mark on sites like Facebook and twitter, or something that says “verified account” so you know it isn’t some obsessed weirdo posting for who knows what creepy reason. Don’t just go by the word “official” or the account name. Check for verification first to be sure you aren’t wasting your time with some twelve-year-old future troll who is goofing off with his mom’s iPad.

Another great way to stay in the know when it comes to your favorite bands is fan clubs. Hey, they aren’t for screaming teenage girls and boy bands anymore, I swear! Fan clubs are actually a great way to support your favorite artists and easily found online. Just ask google, dude. You’ll come across two types of fan clubs: unofficial clubs, put together by fans to exchange information and sometimes bootlegs of shows; and official clubs that are run for the band themselves. Unofficial clubs are great if you are a big fan of message boards and file exchanges and don’t mind lots of speculation. There are a few well respected ones that even the artists will interact with, and those are worth a look. Especially in a band’s early stages, this might be your only route for information. I deal when I have to but I prefer official clubs. These tend to be easily found by looking on the band’s social media sites. You typically get cool stuff, receive insider info, and can sometimes get the first crack at concert tickets. Yes, some of them cost money but the perks tend to outweigh the cost. Think about it this way: if you’d go see them live, wouldn’t you want priority tickets? I know I would. Some clubs even track how long you’ve been a member and then you get seniority even within the club for tickets! Some send holiday gifts, others give you access to limited edition or exclusive merchandise. There are bands that even offer digital downloads, exclusive message boards, or run special contests, only for their biggest fans.

I am in a few fan clubs, and it has really paid off. You’d be surprised at the amount of loot I’ve received over the years. I’ve gotten autographs, crazy good seats at concerts, even gotten in to a “secret” show that one group did while filming a video last year. That’s right, I’m in a music video. It was amazeballs, man. Best day of my life.


The Problem with Renting

“Hello, Keith. This is the landlord. You have been calling.” When I heard the landlord’s voice I didn’t know what to expect. He is usually leery of his tenants and often fails to respond; but in point of fact, I had been harping at him for some time about the broker water heater in the apartment. I was not about to let this one slide. When small things happen like a kitchen faucet leak, a cupboard doorknob falls off, or a window won’t close, I don’t notify him and try to fix it myself. I am handy, but a water heater should not be an expense I should bear as a renter. On this subject, I don’t think it is fair to expect an argument. The only thing he can do is procrastinate. A new gas hot water system would not be cheap for the apartment, but it is the road he should travel. You expect one in good working order. He could elect to fix the old one, but I have the impression that this has been done many, many times before. It isn’t likely to stop leaking with one final fix-it effort.

I guess broken water heaters are examples of the problem with renting. It costs hundreds to replace thins and you know the landlord is getting a barrage of requests from various tenants daily. I have been so good about not pestering him that I expect some results this time. I plan to tell him that I will do the legwork and research gas hot water systems on line and compare prices and discounts to try to get him a deal. There is a downside to such an effort on my part. If he puts in a really perfect system, he may decide it makes the apartment more valuable and he will raise the rent. Wouldn’t that just be a slap in the face? Now I have a dilemma and am thinking about ditching my volunteer efforts. It really could go either way. What would you do? Now, I need a new water heater and sitting on my guitar-picking fingers isn’t going to get me anywhere. I think I will take my chances, complain about the problem, and just let the landlord decide what to do.

Update: a month later, I have to report that I have a new gas hot water heating system and I am enjoying the upgrade. I did have to wait a bit, but in the long run, it has been well worth it. I kept the pressure on the landlord enough to get him to take action, even if it was late in coming. The system is a good one, not the cheapest, not the most expensive, but suitable for my apartment size and hot water usage. He came through! I am as surprised as anyone. The good news on top of the new heater is that he has not raised the rent.



If you only make it to one concert a year, do yourself a favor and check out a festival. Seriously. It’s not all mudwrestling and drugs. Although I wish I could build a time machine just to watch Hendrix set fire to that guitar, you know? But I’m getting off track.

Festivals. Go. It’s that simple.

First of all, when you go to a regular concert, you’re usually seeing a band you know and love, and sometimes the opening act is someone you’ve heard of and they’re good and sometimes they just suck. But at a festival, there is usually a mix of the popular and familiar and new and potentially interesting. Some festivals will have more than one stage set up. There will be headliners in one place and more up and coming artists on a second, smaller stage. You can divide your time between the two and really get exposed to some great stuff. Then you’ll get to be that guy who says, “Oh, them? I totally saw them when they were still a second stage act with an hour long set. Got their first concert tour shirt, too. It’s going for $400 on eBay now, man.”Yeah. Really. You don’t believe me? Temple of the Dog played thesecond stage at Lollapalooza. Muse played the emerging artist state at the Woodstock reboot in ’99. Flogging Molly and Cage the Elephant both did the NME stage at Reading/Leeds instead of the main stage. So it is worth it to walk over and check out.

Secondly, and this is huge for me: you’re around like minded people who want to listen to music all day. Sometimes for several days.  Lots of food, drinking, camping, meeting lots of new people, and tunes. So many good tunes. It is like heaven for concert goers. A regular concert you hear an opening act, sometimes two (and if there’s two, you are guaranteed never to have heard of one of them and they likely suck), maybe two hours of the headliner, a fifteen-minute intermission, the encore, and then you’re herded out like cattle. Boom, it’s over. Not if I’m at a festival, dude! It’s music til I can’t take it anymore!

And lastly, there is the cost. I can see the WARPED tour for about $40, and there are over 50 bands on that list. For $45, I could see Cage the Elephant and their two opening acts. AT THE SAME VENUE. Which one is a better deal? I guess it depends on whether you’re a fan of music or a specific group. But I’ll take the festival any day. Some festivals are more expensive and they get some really amazing headliners. The Reading Festival this year has the Chili Peppers and Imagine Dragons on the main stage on the same day, and it would cost about $96 a ticket, which is less than you’d pay if they were playing separately. Meaning festivals are excellent value for those of us who like music but don’t have a lot of money.

No brainer, isn’t it?