Monthly Archives: October 2014

“The Latest” Cheap Trick

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(Barefoot) Justine's review of Cheap Trick's "The Latest"

(Barefoot) Justine’s review of Cheap Trick’s “The Latest”

Above… that’s pretty much my review of “The Latest” from Cheap Trick, their 2009 album.

Like opening your window for the first time in the spring, “The Latest” is a breezy blessing. With “The Latest,” Cheap Trick really lets their Beatle flag fly… though at half mast. The album is peppered with subtle evocations of George Harrison. It seems the lads were reeling from his loss. Of course, Lennon’s spirit pops up more than once, and I am hoping they catch up and recognize McCartney’s influence and brilliance before they have to do it posthumously–though McCartney’s immortal… right?

“Breezy” I say? Yep, breezy (but never shallow). The stuff has a sweeping Wilbury sound at moments, full of life, more than a hint of loss, and a lot of fun. Nope, this isn’t growling metallic Pop peppered with Punk, not by a long shot, but if you don’t need to impose the limitation of your expectations on Cheap Trick, and if you are willing to take the band on their own terms… and if you simply love heartfelt and sincere songs… then this album won’t disappoint.

There’s a distinctly modern freshness to the production. It’s a big and lively sound, and full of enchanting melodies, classic harmonies and sweet punchy riffs, like the very best of ultra-modern retro pop. In fact, upon second listening, it might be one of the very best examples of ultra-modern retro-pop I’ve ever heard. No, it doesn’t sound like classic Cheap Trick… thank God. Oh… don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Cheap Trick’s old stuff, but I’m just as excited to hear them spread their wings and fly into this territory as well. It’s nice to watch artists age and maintain their energy as well as maintain their playfulness. “The Latest” is an album that is not only looking for something fresh… but has ultimately managed to find it.

Face it, they’re older, which doesn’t mean the guys can’t still tear it up (I just saw them live at Silver Springs… heavy and loud as ever), but this album reflects a very mature in-the-NOW attitude that I found easy to embrace.

I’ve only made it through the album twice so far, so my commentary is rather more a first impression than an in-depth analysis, but so far the songs that grabbed me right away have been, “Miss Tomorrow,” “California Girl, and “Everybody Knows.” The third track, “Miss Tomorrow” delighted me immediately, it was love at first sight, and the best part was that as I listened to the rest of the album… the promises made by “Miss Tomorrow” were paid off in full.

As I finished listening to this album I realized how much I’d love to be invited to the next band picnic. I don’t know if Cheap Trick have picnics (ever been to a band picnic? I have, they’re a blast!), but if they did, I can imagine the cloudless Florida sky, plenty of shade, and the food and laughs would be warm and lovely. And what a blast it would be to toss a frisbee while this album blared away from the picnic shelter… and I don’t know why… but I have this strange feeling Robin Zander might just be one helluva softball player. Alas (sigh), until the band invites me to their next picnic… I guess I’ll just have to open my windows, let the breeze in, and let some of this music out while I daydream.

All in all the album is life affirming and joyful. I am so delighted these guys haven’t sunk to going “darker,” because, frankly, right now, the last thing I or anyone needs is more of that shit. I’d just like to say, good job, guys, you made it for me, right there under the reigning Gods, the Beatles, Wings and Badfinger, I’m gonna save a place for Cheap Trick!

“The Latest” won’t take you back to 1977… but it sure as heck takes the sting out of 2014 (and took the sting out of 2009 as well).

Inane Insane

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(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen… barefoot outlaw!

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen… barefoot outlaw!

Yep, it happened again, and under the usual circumstances, and from the usual sort of person. I was at Walmart (I know… shame on me… but if I want waffle batter, carpet tacks and the first season of Happy Days on DVD where else am I gonna go?), carefree in my bare feet thanks to my former victory there. See, last year I had been kicked out of a Walmart for being barefoot, so I called Corporate, because I knew Walmart didn’t have a “no bare feet” policy, unfortunately most of their employees are ignorant. It was confirmed by corporate that I was within my rights to live my life as I choose, so they called the manager and assistant manager, and I was called by both… and they apologized on behalf of the idiot security guard that had kicked me out. I, of course, took names, so that the next time I was kicked out I would be able to say: “Speak to manager so-and-so.” Problem solved… uh… unless you’re in a different Walmart.

The main reason I shop at Walmart (beside the fact that–thanks to Obamacare–I have NO insurance and my prescriptions are less than half what they would be anywhere else, and besides the fact that I am not traveling all over Florida looking for three different non-corporate shops just to pick up three items I could have just as easily found at Walmart, and besides the fact that a friend of mine once chastised me for bitching him out for shopping at Walmart by saying “It’s not the fault of poor people that they shop where the prices are lowest–and sister… am I ever poor!), but I digress, the main reason I shop at Walmart is because the freedom and right to go barefoot wherever I please is very important to me, and I prefer to shop in stores and visit restaurants that respect my right to choose.

The right to shoes, the right to choose, I choose barefoot!

But, as I was saying before, I had won this battle once at one Walmart, but I was now across town in the safer Walmart, minding my own business, shopping in my freshly cleaned and perfumed bare feet (see photo form today above) when a foul little troll of a woman in a blue vest came along with her very best Seven-Dwarves Grumpy face on and started with “Ma’am… you can’t be in here barefoot.” I told her that I could indeed, that I didn’t have to leave, and that I have called corporate about this once already, and Walmart has no policy regarding bare feet.

Well, not being willing to let it go at that she walked off bitching about how they have food at Walmart.

OK… see… now this is the part that set me off, and for many reasons. Firstly, she’s dead wrong, no matter of opinion here at all. I was 100% right and within my rights. There are NO codes with the Florida Department Of Health, nor with the DBPR, see quote below:

“Good day ,

Regarding your inquiry DBPR- Division of Hotels & Restaurants does not have any regulations regarding barefoot patrons at an establishment.

Best Regards,

Roger Xxxxx
Regulatory Consultant
Division of Hotels and Restaurants
Bureau of Sanitation and Safety Inspections”

Also, here is the letter from the Health Dept. stating that it is NOT a violation:
FL2009.pdf

So as she walked off continuing to bitch me out under her breath, I shouted back “And it is NOT against health code regulations, and it is in fact against the law to state and enforce laws that do not exist. You need to learn your company policies and do your research!” And that was that. I told her off, and frankly, felt pretty damn good about it, too. It’s about time I start coming out on top in these ridiculous situations.

But let’s leave the legalities aside and talk common sense about the absurd notion that somehow my bare feet are going to contaminate her can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli.

Let’s start with simple science (or, rather, basic common sense), how in any way are my feet going to spoil or contaminate anyone’s food? Are these people eating off the floor like dogs? Though I realize many of them are functioning at about the same intellectual level as a schnauzer, I doubt they actually are eating off the floor at Walmart. Besides that… any dirt on my feet is already on the floor in spades! Additionally, isn’t it obvious by any but the most pea-brained among us that shoes are not only no cleaner than bare feet… but far far filthier! Let’s face it, most foot-infecting bacteria worsen or are even caused by those little bacteria incubators we call shoes. Additionally, I had just walked out of the shower and gone shopping, my feet freshly cleaned. When was the last time you washed, scrubbed, exfoliated and perfumed your foul stinky shoes? Never… so, I ask… which are filthier… feet or shoes?

Let’s add to this that I, in my bare feet, have NOT been out back by the Dumpster, nor have I tread over the deli floor, nor the loading docks and trucks… I ask you again… are my feet or were her shoes filthier? See what I mean… there is NO logic to the concept that my feet are going to contaminate food (and shoes are not!)

Additionally, as this Walmart didn’t even carry produce… how in the fucking hell were my feet going to infect her or anyone’s sealed can of pumpkin spice Pringles? The whole idea is, at it’s core… utterly absurd. beyond the realization that these people are ignorant of their own policies and health codes, what they fear is so absurd as to be surreal. I can’t even wrap my head around how anyone would believe that my feet are a greater danger to their prepackaged foods anymore than I can figure out how they think my feet, as opposed to shoes, stand a greater chance of infecting a bag of EXtreme Cool Ranch Doritos?

It’s insane people, simply insane.

But, in the end, this little lamb scared off the troll, I bought my stuff and came home, and now I am sitting smugly in my room for having beaten the bullshit back for one more day.

“Justine… fighting for truth, justice… and (reluctantly) the American way!”

Best Barefoot Rock Concert Story Ever!

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(This is another of those barefoot-heavy entries… if you think that’s “weird” or it simply bores you… move along… nothing to see here!)

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen's feet with concert ticket and souvenir...

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen’s feet with concert ticket and souvenir…

Though I kinda work at not living in these moments, I think we all keep track of the things we missed out on. I no longer keep track of them to stock the shelves of my inner-bitterness library, I keep track of them so I can damn well do the things I missed out on. Last night I made good on one of those things I had missed out on… and I made good on it in a BIG way! I didn’t get to enjoy those heyday rock concerts, my adolescence was wasted on bad timing (among other far more frustrating things), so I kinda missed a lotta stuff. What I’ve really missed is that today, pop culture sucks, but then again I’ve been looking back and bemoaning the garbage on the radio and everywhere else since I was 14. Boiling it down… what I really missed were good old fashioned dazed and confused rock concerts. Nope, I ne’er got to get high and sneak barefoot into a rock concert. Last night when I went to see Cheap Trick in Ocala Florida… I got to make up for all that… and I couldn’t have done any better than seeing Cheap Trick barefoot, dazed (“with a little help from my friends”), and surrounded by palm trees in beautiful sunny Florida!

First off, before I get into the narcissistic “Me me me” wallow that is the cornerstone of this blog, I just wanna say… Cheap Trick kicks ass! They always did… and still gloriously do. It does my heart good to see aging rockers who only age skin deep, these guys still play hot and tight! More importantly, they seem to be having a ton of fun. Lots of rockers do turn into dinosaurs, they get ragged around the edges as they age, but unfortunately they sand away all the ragged edges in their music, phoning in lackluster lifeless highly polished and sweetened low-to-no energy music… NOT Cheap Trick! Like McCartney, these guys still have it… and they have it big time. Funny thing is, I wasn’t really a huge Cheap Trick fan (not so far as I knew), and for no particular reason… other than that I was simply obsessed with the Beatles (who came along well before my time), so no other band was really able to get through the magnificence of the Beatles to make much of an impact, but in the background of my life Cheap Trick were just kinda there. Not only were they there, but like Badfinger (who I eventually fell dippy in love with), Cheap Trick’s songs had made an impact, one deep enough that I have found myself lately returning to “Cheap Trick At Budokan” over and over again, and before I knew it, those tracks that weren’t hits, and that hadn’t interested me much, were slowly becoming my favorite songs (“Need Your Love” for example… WOW!)

On a whim I thought, “I wonder if these guys are touring anywhere near me,” so I popped on their site… and talk about timing! Hell yes, they were coming in like a week and half right here to Silver Springs! I was ecstatic, and didn’t even know why… as like I said, they weren’t my favorite band, but I did realize something. I realized that every time I heard “I Want You To Want Me” or “Surrender” I felt myself melting, falling back into the warm embrace of that good old seventies magic (yeah, I know Cheap Trick were a big deal in the eighties, but in my heart they will forever be a seventies band–even though I was, again, too young to have enjoyed the seventies properly). They, like few other bands, put me right in that very particular headspace. The brilliant part was that as they played last night I realized that Cheap Trick were a NOW band as well… nothing tired or lifeless about their performances or music at all.

The big frustration was I couldn’t find a single person to go to the show with, so I had to go alone. This sucks… but then… I’m used to doing every damn thing alone anyhow, so I guess it just didn’t much matter. In the end I was glad I was alone, as I was able to sink into a highly personal experience. The other anxiety was… am I gonna be able to get past the cops and gate barefoot? I won’t wear shoes (haven’t in years), and I don’t even have any to pack, so I had to depend on the illusion of soleless sandals and a long skirt. I got right in, and once out of eyeshot of the cops, security personnel and staff, I stripped off my skirt and went happily along in my bleached cut-offs. I wasn’t fooling around here, I had dressed the part, little shorts, a scarf for a belt, and a flowery top that shows my belly button and buttons low… and of course the usual array of ankle bells, toe rings and accessories.

Cheap-Trick-Rick-Nielsen-Robin-vintage-70s-retro-classic-rock-music-musician-photo-mono-stereo-lp-vinyl-pop-art-1Seating was no problem, there were plenty of spaces for me and my lone lawn chair right up close to the stage. The view I had was tremendous, a tad stage left. I missed the opening act (who were pretty grand in their own right, but I wasn’t there for them–and I needed to go find a discreet place to… let’s say… get into that seventies frame of mind), and when I finally sat down and Cheap Trick’s audio introduction came on I found myself getting goosebumps! It was a potent celebration of their music and accomplishments.

When they took the stage the most unexpected thing happened… I found my heart was fluttering, racing, and I was tearing up, and it wasn’t just ’cause Robin Zander has always been so superhumanly hot. I mean, this was it… there I was… barefoot at a rock concert, just like I always should have been–as it turned out, I hadn’t missed it at all, that experience was still there for me, thanks to Cheap Trick. The music came on loud and hard and swept me off my feet. They opened with the same song they opened with at Budokan:

“Hello there ladies and gentlemen
Hello there ladies and gents
Are you ready to rock?
Are you ready or not?”

I was ready! Below is their set-list.

Hello There (THE opener!)
Elo Kiddies
Big Eyes (Budokan… hell yes!)
That 70s Song
California Man
Tonight It’s You
Ain’t That a Shame
Magical Mystery Tour (Beatles… damn straight!)
Borderline
She’s Tight
Ballad of TV Violence
The House is Rockin’
Need Your Love
Stop This Game
I Know What I Want
The Flame
I Want You to Want Me (Be still my heart!)
Dream Police (Better than I remembered)
Never Had A Lot to Lose
Surrender (Hmmm yes…)
Goodnight (Naturally)

I let go, I let go of anything but that part that wanted to open up and have the experience I had missed… I was THERE! Before I knew it I was standing up front dancing and letting the music take over my body. I was simply ecstatic! And so were a couple of the men nearby, who I am privately proud to say, were stealing glances my way. It’s nice to still be able to catch men’s eyes. The grass and ground under my bare feet were moist and delicious feeling, and I could smell the aroma of rich trampled soil and lush green grass. As they played I realized that even the songs I didn’t know were turning me on, and the songs I never cared much for… well, now I very much cared for them. Cheap Trick convinced me utterly and wholly, and like Badfinger before them, I will no longer take them for granted, and like Badfinger before them, I will most definitely be seeking out their albums, slowly collecting the whole bunch of them… and yes, I will go see them every chance I get. Between you and me… I have a thing for the bass player (Tom Petersson), who has aged quite nicely.

Song after song I found myself in the moment, and nothing mattered but me, the band, and my bare feet on the ground.

One of their bits of schtick is to toss guitar picks into the audience, and by that I mean by gobs and handfuls! Finally, when they tossed the picks over to our side of the stage, they were flying all over and hitting the dark ground, booted and shod people tromping and rushing in after them. I got my ten toes the hell out of the way, there was no way I was entering into that melee. As I settled back into my place, my left foot sinking back into the grass, down in the dark I felt the tiniest little sensation of something as it tipped over against my toe (something I NEVER would have felt with shoes on) and I thought “THAT is a guitar pick!”) so I bent down into the darkness and picked it up… sure enough… there it was! See below…

(Barefoot) Justine scores a pick at Cheap Trick concert

(Barefoot) Justine scores a pick at Cheap Trick concert

And if you look at the top of this post, you can see my bare feet, the ticket and pick both pictured (against the toe it had leaned against) in a pic I had taken right after I had gotten home from the show.

Yep, folks, had I not been barefoot, I never would have felt or found that pick… and I didn’t even have to fight my way through the crowd to get it. My friend Joe Blue Sky says it was a sign. Yeah, I guess it is, and I think it’s a sign that I’m living life right–at least by my own rules.

And while I’m at it… you know who rules?

Fucking Cheap Trick!

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Cheap Trick… you were the fuel that fired this dream-come-true… thanks, and good night!