Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sunday, August 09, 2009
I was so psyched for HARD Summer. The line-up was tight, it was Saturday night—bring it!
The first bad omen came right after I parked (free spot on Manchester just a couple of blocks away from the Forum—holla!).
A block into my trek to the arena I spied a bunch of raver kids gathered on the sidewalk. They were all gathered around a small girl who was passed out with vomit down the front of her shirt. They had obviously just come out of the limo parked in the middle of the street. The driver was pacing and yelling into a cell about “these stupid fucking kids!”
Arriving at the Forum, I was cutting through the parking lot when I passed a kid between a couple of cars who gave me the strangest look. That’s when I noticed a girl on her knees in front of him. Ooookaaaay. So that’s how they get down these days. Damn.
Swarms of kids everywhere. Lots of ravers. Some girl screams at a bunch of kids “How many of you have been raving for more than three years?!”
They just kind of looked at her.
“Then you’re not ravers!” She shouted and marched off. Ooooookkaaaaaay.
The entrance to the arena by the will-call was a mob scene. I could hear Crystal Castles playing inside. Damn it!
I tried the whole media line with some security but to no avail. I was delegated to the back of the line with the now thousands of kids trying to get in. Sigh.
Suddenly, there’s a roar of cheering. Some kids had crashed the security gate by the will-call ticket entrance, and are rushing inside. There are so many of them security just freezes for a moment. By the time they mobilize, the damage has been done. The entrance was shut down.
From my vantage point, that left exactly two entrance points for the 18000-seat arena. I marched my sorry ass to the back of one and waited it out. I even ran into my old buddy Jay from the days of Blueprint Test Preparation. Random.
There are cops everywhere. The scene is chaotic. A guy runs by followed by a girl screaming that he stole her ticket. Cops are everywhere—on motorcycles, in cars, even on those weird electric scooter things. One cop car drives by with a couple of girls in the back.
By the time I got inside, it was already bordering on crazy. Kids everywhere. Lots of girls are sporting the finest in this season’s barely-there fashions. Lady Gaga seems to have gotten to them, since the prevailing statement this evening was wearing panties as pants. I haven’t seen that much bare ass since, well, Electric Daisy Carnival.
I try in vain to get onto the main floor, which has been sealed off by security. It’s almost surreal how many people are packed into the Forum. People by the dozens are trying to get onto the floor. I wander around the arena for a minute before giving up and just grabbing a seat high up in the balcony.
I was in the highest balcony actually, getting a good look at the mayhem below. People in the lower bowl are actually doing the wave. The energy in the room is sky-high.
Mind you, there is no music playing. There hasn’t been any sound the entire time I’ve been inside. Even the quietest of beats from the PA elicit deafening cheers. But they are few and far between.
Chromeo’s set time comes and goes. I’m surrounded by kids, most of them doing drugs. The groups next to me, in front of me and behind me are all smoking marijuana. The guys to my right pass around small blue pills, and ceremoniously down them simultaneously. People are ready to party, and party hard.
When there’s still no music an hour after Chromeo’s proposed set time, the booing started. Cries of “Fuck HARD!” and “This is bullshit!” ring out. People are still pouring into the cheap seats around me, and the main floor looked like a seething pit of rave madness.
Kids started jumping from the balcony onto the main floor. A harried stage manager is vainly begging for order over the mic, but it’s too far gone already.
Two hours go by. I noticed the guys at the soundboard slowly putting their gear away. A line of security followed by another line of state troopers and then cops in riot gear began gathering in front of the stage. The house lights went up. The cops got into riot formation and began slowly moving the massive crowd out of the arena.
A garbled announcement is made: There will be no show tonight.
Boos and plastic water bottles rain down onto the floor. A big cup of ice grazes one of the riot cops, which of course gets a big cheer of approval.
But to their credit, the cops and security were able to clear that entire arena pretty much without incident. Kudos; that scene could have very easily turned really ugly very quickly.
It was the general post-shutdown malarkey in the parking. Lots of people talking about refunds, and where they were going to go now that the E is really kicking in and there’s no party.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
But for the more hardcore historians, it’s meant digging deeper to find the most obscure and often unreleased material possible. In the case of the “The Unheard Music” blog, that search has uncovered a trove of studio demos for Jackson’s legendary “Thriller” album produced by Quincy Jones -- the famed recording that won the Grammy for album of the year.
While many longtime fans have been collecting these versions for years, for the rest of us it’s a fascinating and ultimately rewarding glimpse into the inner workings of a classic.
There are songs that didn’t make the final cut, like “Hot Street,” which houses a potentially great chorus amid dated synthesizer sounds, and a solid if relatively pedestrian ballad, “Carousel.” An early take on “Billie Jean” stands out due to a bleating keyboard bass line instead of the cool funk of the final version.
From there it dives into random outtakes and studio detritus, such as a vocal snippet from a song called “Groove of Midnight” that features Jackson and an engineer discussing his hair growth (Jackson shouts out Sebastian hair products). There’s even a clip of “Starlight,” which was the original title of “Thriller” before Jackson decided it needed to be something catchier.
But the real find here . . .
. . .is “Love Never Felt So Good,” a fantastic song that features a multi-tracked Jackson singing over just a piano and finger snaps. It’s a classic vocal performance, rich with his trademark emotion and percussive singing style. It’s truly baffling how this song was never developed further or simply released as is.
Altogether, this collection of demos is an intriguing glimpse into the blueprints of the bestselling album of all time.
(Originally published in the L.A. Times)