Gin Blossoms at Turning Stone

 The Showroom at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY is my favorite place on earth to enjoy a concert. Pardon the cliche, but there is not a bad seat in the (800 seat) house.

 

 It seemed like ages since I’d been there. Had it been January? February? I only recalled that there’d been snow and ice on the ground, and that the headliner had been Bret Michaels. I was happy to be back on July 30th. In the spotlight this time around? Tempe, Arizona’s very own Gin Blossoms.

 

 I used to love these guys back when I was living in Hampton Bays. Back then, I was working at an oldies station in Sag Harbor, while listening in my downtime to an “alternative rock” (when there was such a genre) station called WDRE. The music of the Gin Blossoms lived on those airwaves, alongside tunes by Nirvana, Soul Asylum, Pearl Jam, Counting Crows, Green Day, the Cranberries and Weezer. I had both their CDs, “New Miserable Experience” and “Congratulations, I’m Sorry.” I was a huge fan of their signature song, “Hey Jealousy,” which boasted lyrics that spoke to my own (lack of) self-esteem: “You can trust me not to think, and not to sleep around, and if you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.” In the heydey of Grunge, mixed with awful pop crap like Ace of Base, Spice Girls and All 4 One, the Gin Blossoms were a refreshing difference, a melodic throwback to the best of 1960s pop bands. “Allison Road,” “Found Out About You”… I think what I loved about them most, was they had these really sad lyrics that contrasted with the upbeat, incredibly catchy melodies.

 

I hadn’t thought about the group in years, I hate to admit. But when I got a gig doing afternoons at Z93, I was hearing those old favorites again. I Googled: “Are the Gin Blossoms still together?” Lo and behold, I found out that not only was the band still in tact, they were going to be at Turning Stone soon!

 

My concert buddy and I arrived just as the showroom doors were opening. We were seated fairly close to the stage (I always luck out in that respect). I was disappointed to see that the venue was only about half full. We shared our table with what appeared to be a father and son, both equally burly and bushy-haired. Over to our right, were a couple of obvious die-hard GB fans, wearing faded vintage concert tees from the band’s 1994 “Your Party Sucks” tour.  

 

The show started at promptly 8PM, to the harmonica-infused strains of “Follow You Down.” The crowd was into it, but they had to be repeatedly revived throughout the concert by spirited frontman Robin Wilson, who did everything he could to get their pulses racing. He handed out tambourines, he waved his arms in the air, he pranced and strutted on tables. Robin looked great, sporting a snazzy, silver-grey fedora, a white polo shirt, dark indigo jeans and sneakers. His toned arms were covered in tats. The look, which included shorter hair under the hat, was a vast improvement over the sorta slacker-ish, non-look he had back in the band’s heyday.

 

The rest of the band is comprised of Scott Johnson, Jesse Valenzuela, Scott Hessel and Bill Leen. Johnson and Valenzuela are veterans of the band. The Gin Blossoms, it turns out, broke up after their two big albums, quite prematurely. The members formed other groups, but eventually gravitated back together in 2002.

 

The GB’s set consisted not only of widely-recognized tunes like “Found Out About You,” and “Allison Road,” but newer tunes like “Miss Disarray,” “Don’t Change For Me,” and “Wave Bye Bye,” which were very appealing ear candy. I was hoping to procure some of the new music on a CD at their merch table after the show, but all they were selling were solo discs by guitarists Scott Johnson and Jesse Valenzuela. And some really ugly t-shirts. Damn.

 

The show lasted about an hour and twenty minutes, including their two-song encore. The band sounded tight, not too loud, not too soft, fun, spirited, and well-seasoned, but not jaded. Robin gave a shout-out to his nephew, Daniel, who was in the audience, apparently celebrating his twenty-first birthday, because he said something about “Uncle Robin’s gonna buy you your first legal drink in about ten minutes.” Sweet.

 

BTW, the three newer songs I mentioned all appeared on the Gin Blossoms’ 2010 release, “No Chocolate Cake.” It’s available on Amazon. I’m gonna order me a copy.

Gin Blossoms in Verona NY

Gin Blossoms in Verona NY

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Cool Album Titles

Recently, an odd and perhaps unanswerable question popped into my brain, sparked by the Classic Hits we play on Z93.

Whatever happened to cool album titles???

The ‘90s hits we play get me reminiscing not only about the good ol’ days, but the actual records, cassettes, CDs, what have you, that the songs came from. I don’t have to wrack my brain to recall the title of these albums, even the One Hit Wonders, because the names were just so… well, memorable. Original. Clever. Unique.

So WTF happened???

I am skimming over some of the Top 10 albums of 2013, and the titles are just so boring, dull, and unimaginative. I don’t care how many millions of copies One Direction sells. Can’t they (or their publicity team) think up a better album title than Take Me Home? I mean, it sounds like a blatant pickup line from 1982! Miley Cyrus just put out a record called Bangerz. Not that I’d expect any less, but really… sounds like an appetizer on the Tilted Kilt menu. Maroon 5 had the balls to call their latest effort Overexposed. John Mayer has had some pretty cool album titles in the past, like Room For Squares and Continuum. This year, he released Paradise Valley. Sounds more like an offering from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Country-Pop crossover acts Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum both turned to color for inspiration: Red and Golden, respectfully, both of which are about as exciting as Beige.

Rewind to the 1990s. A whole ‘nother world. Maybe we used up all the words in the world, and their possible combinations. Here are some of my favorite album titles from a coupla decades back, whether I liked the actual album or not. In no particular order. Okay, in alphabetical order.

August and Everything After Counting Crows

Bigger, Better, Faster, More! 4 Non Blondes

4 Non Blondes

4 Non Blondes

Bloodletting Concrete Blonde

Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? The Cranberries

Grave Dancers Union Soul Asylum

Soul Asylum

Soul Asylum

Jagged Little Pill Alanis Morissette

Alanis

New Miserable Experience Gin Blossoms

Gin_Blossoms-New_Miserable_Experience-Frontal

Pet Your Friends  Dishwalla

Tragic Kingdom No Doubt

Under the Table and Dreaming Dave Matthews Band

Under+The+Table++Dreaming+UnderTheTableAndDreaming

Yourself or Someone Like You Matchbox 20Yourself+or+Someone+Like+You+HQ+PNG+cover