A Brief History of Everything

It was a hot 4th of July in Chicago when I discovered the Counting Crows for the first time. I wandered into their show at Grant Park mid-set, and I remember standing in the back, completely entranced. The next day, I raced to Sam Goody's (I miss you, early 2000s) and bought every Counting Crows album I could find. 

The Counting Crows have been the soundtrack, both literally and figuratively, to the first time I fell in love and the last (Adam himself introduced me to my now-husband). My sleepless college years of playing "Up All Night" repeatedly. Moving to Nashville with a suitcase in my hand. Starting over again in New Orleans with $100 in my bank account and curiosity about Mardi Gras. 

I didn't discover the Crows music when it was brand new (I was 5 when August was released and presumably rocking out to Barney), but it was intoxicatingly fresh to me as a teenager, shaping the way I'd consume and digest music permanently. 

Last Monday, the Counting Crows played The Forum on their A Brief History of Everything Tour, and looking around, I realized I wasn't the only one who relates so much of their own history with this iconic band. 

A girl two rows in front of me had tears pouring down her face during "Long December." The crowd sang "Rain King" with such a force, I was pretty sure precipitation was going to start falling from the arena ceiling. And during "Round Here," even though I've heard it more than a dozen times live, I had goosebumps up and down my arms. 

They always say, you can't know where you're going unless you know where you've been. And last Monday night, a crowd of thousands revisited where we had been- maybe the night we had blared "Miami" as we shut it down in New Orleans or the time when "Hard Candy" became one summer's soundtrack.

The band's History tour feels like a celebration, much in the vein of a birthday. They're another year older and it's a commemoration of who they've become over the years. Adam's voice and passion is stronger than ever, drawing you in with his trademark raw honesty that weaves in and out of his lyrics. In that dark arena, I felt moved the same way I did when I stopped in 100 degree day in Chicago. I may not have known who they were then, but they always sounded like they knew me. 

If you have the chance, don't miss out on seeing the Counting Crows play one hell of a show on the A Brief History of Everything tour.

The Search and a Brief History of Everything....

Last weekend was a musical double header for me. On Sunday night, I caught John Mayer's "The Search for Everything" tour and Monday night, I headed back to the Forum to see the Counting Crows/Matchbox Twenty's "A Brief History of Everything" tour. 

They always say you need to know where you've been to know where you're going, so maybe I should have checked out "History" before beginning my "Search," but alas- I digress. 

John Mayer's "The Search for Everything World Tour" 

I have spent the last decade drowning in John Mayer's albums. He has provided the perfect soundtrack for this twenty-something, particularly during his Heartbreak Warfare album cycle. If I wailed "Perfectly Lonely" once, I murdered it 1,000 times alone in my car. 

So when he announced the 2017 tour, my first phone call was to my best friend Rachel (pictured below from a 2010 JM concert), a fellow Mayer addict. We flew to Philadelphia to catch a show on the first leg of the tour and then scooped up tickets to his Los Angeles show soon thereafter. 

Proof that our love only grows fonder over the years- this was at John Mayer's infamous Nashville show in 2010, where he apologized for the Playboy interview.

Proof that our love only grows fonder over the years- this was at John Mayer's infamous Nashville show in 2010, where he apologized for the Playboy interview.

But this was no normal show. We were going to get to meet John Mayer. Oh, and sit front row. We imagined all the things that could go wrong before the show- one of us could get hit by a bus, come down with the flu or her flight could get cancelled due to weather/flocks of birds in the engine. 

Luck was on our side, though, and we rode to the Forum in an Uber singing rewritten lyrics, "It's a Sunday, we finally made it, we can't believe we get to see your face," presumably to the invisible Mayer seated between us. 

A blurry two hours later, there he was, standing in front of us in the softest sweatshirt imaginable. We were alone with him, besides a photographer and a couple of tour personnel - they have other Meet & Greet fans stand outside the room to allow for a little more privacy- and he was....incredibly sweet. 

For a career musician who is arguably one of the most respected guitarists and lyricists in music today, his demeanor was gracious and genuine, with not a trace of arrogance or aloofness.  

So after chatting with John Mayer about Stranger Things (casual, I know), we headed to our front row dead center seats to begin the best musical experience of my life. 

John Mayer left it all on stage for nearly two hours, dividing up the night between full band, acoustic and the Trio. He kicked off the set with "Helpless," segueing into fan favorite "Why Georgia." The set was peppered with "classic" John Mayer, like "Slow Dancing," "Vultures," and "Gravity," alongside songs off the new Search for Everything record. 

Post Malone and Tommy Lee even made a surprise appearance for a collaboration on Post's "Congratulations," which has officially made its way onto my summer playlist. 

Whether it's his time on the road with Dead & Company or simply the benefit of growing older, he seems more comfortable than ever showing off his roots as a blues guitarist. For the duration of the show, I became a little kid at Disney World, with eyes big as saucers and my heart strings played by the electric guitar. It's one thing to listen to John Mayer, but it takes it to another level to watch up close as he shred on the guitar. 

I floated home that night, pretty sure that my search for everything may never be over, but it was nights like Sunday night that make the journey pretty damn worth it.  

A Lesson in How to Be the Best Kind of Rockstar

Last night, I did the unthinkable: I braved 5 o'clock Los Angeles traffic to drive down to the Orange County Fair, all in the name of Gavin Degraw

OC Fair, July 26, 2017

I've been lucky enough to catch his shows more than a few times- on tour with Shania Twain, the Grammy's after party this year, the Greek Theatre last summer- and he consistently puts on one of the best shows in the music industry. 

I could go on for hours about Gavin's bluesy vocals, his bright energy that bubbles over from the stage or the adorable way he dances to "Best I Ever Had." I might even mention his superhero capability of surviving a Southern California night on stage in a leather jacket. (Seriously, though- how?)

But the thing I find most worth mentioning from the evening was Gavin's behavior after the lights went down, when the crowd was steadily exiting the venue. 

You know when artists are new, and they're still earning your affections? They offer meet and greets at the merch table after the show, they answer your tweets, they listen post-show to your stories about what their music means to you. They put in the time, because that's what it takes to build a fan base. 

When artists hit it big, everything tends to change. Schedules and security are tighter, and the musician is being pulled in multiple directions.

Over the last few years, I've covered hundred of shows, ranging from stadium shows to intimate venues, but riddle me impressed- I witnessed something truly unique last night. 

The last song of the encore, I Don't Want to Be, finished to uproarious applause. As Gavin took his final bow with his bandmates, I expected him to exit stage left immediately. I would be wrong. 

Gavin did head stage left....but to begin a long line of signing autographs and taking selfies with fans that clamored to get near. And it wasn't just an artist snapping mindless photos- he was shaking hands, thanking them genuinely for coming to the show (eye contact and all!), asking about their lives and...wait for it...listening intently. He didn't rush anyone, he never gave the "save me" look to his manager, who would make up an excuse to hurry him off.

At one point, he just sat down on the edge of the stage and talked to the large group of fans gathered. It was all so casual- just Gavin Degraw, an artist who can sell out amphitheaters, hanging out. Fans openly shared stories of survival through his music, and he seemingly took it all to heart. 

All in all, he took his time for about a half hour, and even when he had to leave, yelled out to the remaining fans, "I love you!" 

And you know what? I believe him. 

Just a week ago today, we lost Chester Bennington to suicide. And earlier this summer, we lost Chris Cornell. Kindness is exactly what this world needs right now, and last night, I witnessed the truest form of it. Not only did I leave moved by the music, but I left inspired by Gavin's actions. 

So I guess what I'm getting at is....Gavin Degraw is not only a bad ass who doesn't pass out from wearing leather in July- he's also the nicest freakin' guy....probably ever. 

2016: The Year That Sucked?

By Rachel Foresta

Quick Bio: Rachel Foresta is a long-time Nashvillian who is rumored to be an alien due to her combination of killer good looks, knowledge of Star Wars trivia and mega-brain that allows her to build/sell computers. MCN has begged her for months to share her thoughts, and we're honored to end the year with her contribution. Enjoy. xx, HP

Rachel Foresta, Nashville Extraordinaire 

Rachel Foresta, Nashville Extraordinaire 

So it seems that once every three years or so, it is demanded of me to not break tradition of my “yearly” NYE post. This is a tradition that is near and dear to my bestest friend Holly’s heart, even though said tradition doesn’t exist. So as to maintain this friendship and not break my eccentric friend’s heart, I bring you my not-so-clever-but-mostly-true-thoughts on the soon to be departed 2016.

At this point everyone knows how sucktastic 2016 was - Bowie, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali, a craptastic election - don’t think I need to rehash that. Personally, I know a lot of people have had really terrible things happen. I, for one, turned 30 and my body immediately fell apart. I wont go in to all the details, but let’s just say $3k and 3 months of physical therapy later, my body still hates me. Also I’ve developed carpal tunnel, had to replace the plumbing in my house (not a euphemism), fix the clutch on my car for the 2nd time in 3 years (NOT MY FAULT I SWEAR) and have had not, one, but two different stomach bugs within a few weeks of each other just to close the year out right - and somehow I've still gained 10lbs this year!! Talk about a curse.

BUT....in taking a closer look, 2016 was also the year I bought my very first home with the love of my life. It was the year I was fortunate to have enough funding to fly home and see my brand new baby niece every other month so I could see how much she grew in her first year of life. I was blessed to get to spend time and vacation with many of my very good friends including a trip to the beach where I ran and ran in the waves with the best puppy a girl could ask for. 2016 also brought me the chance for my BFSB (best friend since babies, in case you aren’t hip) to come see my new home states away AND for me to see hers as well! I traveled to NYC and had an amazing time watching Adam Duritz and Rob Thomas in a crowd of roughly 300 covering each others songs - it was magical, plus later Mr. Duritz then recommended to me a life changing milkshake which did in fact change my life. I formed not one, but two bands - shout out to Meathammer and The Silence. I got to witness what those from Chicagoland can deem as nothing short of a MIRACLE - the Cubs winning the world series after 108 years - and I got to do it alongside the biggest cubs fan I know. AND I was mistaken for Princess Leia by a child on a Southwest flight carrying a Luke Skywalker doll.

Me: *hair in braids wearing a tunic and boots* oh man! is that Luke Skywalker??

Kid’s Dad: oh my gosh! how does she know who that is??

Kid to dad: IS THAT PRINCESS LEIA?!? *gives me an R2 sticker out of his sticker book*.

Me: Thank you! I’ve got something for you too! *pulls out heartshaped pin of R2 and C3PO I kept in my pocket*. (end scene)

So all of that gets me to wondering.....I mean...is 2016 just that whiny friend on facebook? You know what I mean, we all have them. Those one or two people who like to update on everything thing that has gone wrong in their terrible cursed life. Now here’s the thing... I’m not saying those people’s lives don’t have some suck. I’m also not saying 2016 did not suck for many many people, there were deaths and terrible world tragedies that I by no means intend to make light of. However, what I am saying is that maybe the AMOUNT of suckage compared to any other year with deaths and tragedies has just been a bit over blown this year by the frequency in which we announce it. #ThanksSocialMedia (see what I did there? ps. if you are reading this....you are also on social media, so....)

Exhibit A - While some will argue that there were more notable celebrity deaths this year than in years past, both Snopes and CNN have confirmed that 2016 is not the largest year of celebrity deaths in recent history.

Exhibit B - Many great things have happened this year too. GIANT props to my college bud, Eric Feltes, for making it his mission to update everyone with #FeelGoodFriday facts each week. Here are just a few of the things he took the time to point out this year:

- New study shows a blood test may detect cancer 10 years in advance.

- CEO of Imprimis Pharmaceuticals Mark Baum, who is known for offering a $1 AIDS medication, is developing a customizable alternative to the EpiPen for under $100.

- A new drug in the early stages of study called aducanumab is known to slow down memory loss and could be a cure for Alzheimer's.

- The first ever quadriplegic is showing motor function just two months after stem cell treatment.

- Obama moves to permanently protect Planned Parenthood from being defunded by the states. (Fact: Only 3% of PP's medical services are abortions. PP is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and has helped millions, especially young women in need, with cancer screenings, STD testing, and contraception.)

- A 16 year old developed an app called "Sit With Us," which helps teens find lunch buddies.

- Daryl Davis is a black musician who has spent the past 30 years befriending KKK members; since he started, 200 members have dropped out of the organization after seeing the error in their ways.

- The Taronga Zoo in Australia opens its doors one hour early for children with Autism so they can enjoy the animals in a stress-free environment.

- Colorado is using over $66 million in surplus tax revenue from marijuana sales for school grants for bully prevention programs.

- A terminally ill 6 year old raises €400,000 to help children less fortunate than him because "It could be worse, some kids don't even live to be 6."

- A toy store devoted for children on the autism spectrum opened in Chicago.

- The National Pediatric Cancer Foundation in North Carolina hosted a fashion show where children dressed as their dream careers and walked down the runway alongside men and women in these careers.

- USA solar power energy grows 192% since last year.

- Costa Rica has been running on renewable energy alone for 2 months now.

- Las Vegas now draws 100% of its energy from renewable sources.

- Google will be powered completely by renewable energy in 2017.

- The president of France announced plans to close all coal power plants by 2023.

- A global non-profit, Planting Peace, launched an LGBT flag into outer space along with this message: "Declaring space as LGBT friendly reinforces our universal message to our LGBT family: You are loved, valued, and beautiful. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not alone, and we will stand with you."

- For the first time in history, half of NASA’s astronaut class consists of females.

- Luxembourg’s Prime Minister is the first EU leader to marry his same-sex partner.

- A Muslim businessman has erected the tallest Christmas tree in Baghdad as a way of honoring Iraqi Christians this season.

- A Muslim-owned restaurant in London is offering a free 3-course meal to the elderly and homeless on Christmas.

- South Korea market bans the slaughtering of dogs.

- Conclusions by a Harvard psychologist suggest that dogs dream about how much they love their human companions.

- Therapy dogs at an Australian hospital reduce kids’ recovery time by 30%.

- A retired couple in New Westminster is converting their 25 acre farm into Honor Ranch: a safe space for veterans who suffer from PTSD.

- Los Angeles is turning old motels and hospitals into 500 apartments for homeless veterans.

- Following the Standing Rock protesters’ victory Sunday where construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline was halted, a forgiveness ceremony was held with U.S. veterans and Native Americans.

- A 72 year old Louisiana flood victim wins $1M lottery.

So do what you do with 2016, but just remember there will be good and bad to any year - it’s all about what you choose to focus on. Don’t be like me with As Seen On TV infomercials and let what you see on TV affect your daily state of being. Be kind. Focus on the good. Be the good. And for those of you asking what we tell our children in these turbulent times (cause let’s face it, for those of you fretting the results of the recent election, we can’t thrown the Trump baby out with the 2016 bathwater, that effects 2017 too), I suggest you take the advice of Mister Rogers:

Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: "My mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world."

Happy new year, y’all.