Jason Mraz on creativity.
Interesting interview on music and creativity with Tegan and Sara, as part of a Stanford Business Creativity course.
If you like blues tinged with a modern folk rock and a bit of Gospel feels, I recommend checking out Delta Rae. They’re a band of siblings from North Carolina whose songs betray their southern roots and whose melodies and words will reach into your soul.
Delta Rae could be reasonably described as an original mix of styles ala The Steel Wheels; Grace Potter And The Nocturnals; and The Pretty Reckless. And, you may hear occasional touches of Fleetwood Mac, so it’s no surprise that Lindsey Buckingham appears on one of their new songs:
Here are a couple of other songs worth a listen:
The Bottom Of The River:
A medley sampler of four songs:
Delta Rae have a few dates left on their current tour, including LA and San Francisco, Portland area, Seattle, and Boise. And, I am pretty sure we can look forward to them at festivals this spring and summer.
Bowling with Paramore. On a ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Not even kidding.
First of all, we were on a ship. With my favorite band. The band are Paramore, the cruise was called “PARAHOY!” and it was four days of musical ecstasy, as you have probably heard on YouTube and seen from the pictures on Tumblr, instagram, Kerrang!, AP Mag and Billboard.com.
Just the basic idea of Paramore on a boat for four days was really amazing enough. But then came the details: The cruise announced two live Paramore shows, a band Q&A on deck, a band-hosted karaoke contest (PARAoke), three Tegan and Sara shows, plus shows from New Found Glory, Shiny Toy Guns, mewithoutYou, Ruben Wu from Ladytron and the funkish band Bad Rabbits. And comedian Doug Benson, twice. Wow.
So, we were already plenty elated when, through some stroke of luck, we got an additional surprise: It was email telling us we’d won something called “Bowling with Paramore.”
Bowling With Paramore??
What? First of all, there’s a bowling alley on the ship? Second, Paramore wants to bowl with us lowly fans? Third, how is this even going to work? I mean, bowling takes time. Are they going to shepherd a gazillion people through and have them bowl one roll each? What about the special shoes? And, what if we throw a gutter ball – would we still get to meet them?
This was beyond exciting: Although I have been a fan for years, I had never met Paramore. As they have become more and more popular, I had kind of become comfortable with the idea that I never would. Happily, it turned out this and all my other worries were unfounded, because they had assembled an intimate group of just 16 of us, and we were to spend more than an hour of fun and quality time with an amazing band, and , it turns out, amazing people.
You can read about the setup, chit chat and fan interactions below, or jump right to the part about the bowling.
We got there 15 minutes ahead of time as instructed, and there were some fans milling around just hoping to catch a glimpse of the band as they arrived. A small line of us winners had already formed along the starboard hallway, and soon enough one of the cruise hosts asked us to draw numbers from a coffee mug. These turned out to be our lane numbers, and we were escorted to get shoes (size 12 for me please), and then off to our assigned lanes, where we got settled.
The bar itself is called “Bliss” (ironically, also the name of bassist Jeremy Davis’ newborn daughter) and it’s a pretty cool little enclave tucked away in the ship, with a kind of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre theme including golden metal dragons and a lot of red felt and lighting. The alleys are small, but do the job and there’s all the standard automated equipment you’d expect at a modern bowling alley.
At some point, the cruise host from Sixthman, the music cruise sponsors, mentioned to us not to take any pictures because the band wanted to just hang out and relax. Then she said “don’t worry, we have a photographer” and she pointed to this guy with an impressive camera setup including a telephoto lens that went from here to Cuba. I sheepishly mentioned that I had brought a couple of gifts for the band, and the Sixthman lady said that was fine and I could give them to a band representative at the end.
As we put on our shoes, we fans introduced ourselves to each other and picked out our bowling balls. (In our lanes, there were two fans each from Australia and Brasil, and then my wife and me and two other people from California.) One of the fans from Brasil was there for that epic concert in 2010 where Paramore sang My Heart for the last time since, and we talked about that for a moment. We talked about the upcoming Monumentour in the US. We talked about Australia’s Soundwave festival and Warped Tour in the US and Australia.
We were all just bonding over music when our conversations abruptly faded as the band arrived onto the scene. We got brief glimpses of bassist Jeremy Davis, guitarist Taylor York and singer Hayley Williams as they themselves got oriented, and then Jeremy and his wife Kat came and joined us to bowl. It delighted me that we got Jeremy first, because I could tell he was really into it and also my wife Jan had a good story to tell him (see below).
Party Warm Ups
It soon became clear that this wasn’t so much a Meet & Greet as a private chill party to which Paramore had invited us their dear friends – ahem, I mean, dear random fans. But they really treated us a comrades and instantly put us at ease. You would think it would be a little surreal and jitter-inducing to be so close to such famous pop-punk stars, but it wasn’t that way at all. Jeremy introduced himself to us, and we to him, and Kat his wife came in and sat down on the plush bowling seats right with us.
While Jeremy was talking to our fellow fans from Australia, Kat struck up a conversation with Jan and me.
Kat: Have you been to a lot of Paramore concerts? Me: Only about a dozen, not as many as some people on the ship who have been to 40+.
Kat: When did you first start following them? Me: Really around the Riot! album, when my son played Fences for me and commented on the clever lyrics… but I didn’t see them live until the Brand New Eyes tour and was instantly floored by what a powerful experience a Paramore concert is live. “Yes,” she nodded. “I hear that a lot.”
She didn’t ask the question I often get, which is some variation of “you’re so old… are your kids here?” so I answered that one proactively in case she was wondering:
“The rest of the family couldn’t come,” I explained. “Our daughter is in the middle of college mid-terms, and our son is only marginally a Paramore fan so it seemed silly to invite him. To be honest, the only band the entire family agrees on is Panic! At The Disco – that’s the only one I can get everyone reliably to a show for.”
“Ah, is their lead singer Brendon Urie?” Kat asked. And I confirmed, wanting to regale her with tales about how great a band Panic! are but also needing to turn my attention to the matter at hand, which was bowling.
Bowling. Yes, On A Ship.
The great thing about bowling it that it takes quite a while to go through a game, which contributed to the already leisurely pace of the evening. And you do a lot of waiting while the other team members are keeping track.
The bowling scoreboard was set up with odd code letters, so it wasn’t clear who was playing which slots, including Jeremy, whom we finally deduced was supposed to bowl both lanes so that he got equal fan interactions.
The Bowling Warning From Jeremy
In the spirit of full disclosure, and not wanting to make the rest of us look bad, Jeremy preemptively announced that he was a pretty good bowler. He then told a story of this one time he had an appointment to bowl with a friend, and when the friend didn’t show up he just bowled by himself all afternoon and really got into it. Inspired, he practiced more and even got a personal bowling ball that he took with him on a tour until, unfortunately, it got lost after the third date of the trip.
Frankly, none of the fans was that interested in the bowling scores anyhow, as much as talking to the band. Except for my wife Jan, who is just a wee bit competitive and kept it under her hat that she had pretty much misspent all her high school years in bowling alleys and was quite proficient even these decades later.
Bowling on a ship is somewhat problematic, mainly because the ship moves while you are bowling; I swear the first ball I rolled out should’ve been a strike, but the ship also shifted a bit and the ball only knocked down 3 pins on the first throw. The next time out, I bowled terribly, but somehow the ship shifted again and the ball knocked down all the pins (this is called a “strike,” and it considered the best thing ever in bowling – not that anybody else cared of course). Other fans had similar experiences with their bowling, adding to the excitement and randomness of the evening.
At one point, the ship pitched and Jeremy’s ball rolled into the right gutter, then wouldn’t roll at all, and then actually seemed poised to start moving backwards. At that point, Jerm opportunistically picked up a second and then a third bowling ball and rolled them to try to knock down the pins in lieu of the ball that was stuck in the gutter. It didn’t really quite work (the other balls went into the gutter also) but it was a valiant effort and pretty funny.
Here’s one of Taylor trying to figure out the “ship bowling” with a fan, in the lanes across from us. Don’t they look puzzled?
Babies and Dogs
During some of the breaks between bowls, Kat and I chit chatted about their new baby Bliss, who wasn’t on the ship because babies have to be at least 6 months old. But Kat says they hope Bliss will be traveling with them on tours, and had already been to London and multiple US cities. We talked about raising kids, how the baby books don’t always give the best advice (she says she’s pretty much ignored them), how parents and grandparents always have plenty and are such a good supporting resource (I gathered that Bliss was staying with a mix of Kat’s and Jeremy’s parents, grandparents and siblings). Kat showed us some fresh baby pics and is clearly a proud mom “she has Jeremy’s piercing blue eyes” which, when I looked at both the pic and Jeremy, was definitely true.
I was a little disappointed to hear that their uber-cute dog Cowboy was also at home and didn’t make the trip, but I guess it doesn’t make sense to have a little dog running around a ship, no matter how cute.
Jan was having a good time racking up bowling points, when I interrupt her: “Hey, tell Jeremy your Jaco Pastorius story.”
Jeremy’s ears perk up, because Jaco Pastorius was a legendary genius on the bass. It turns out that Jan’s big brother played football with Jaco in junior high school, and actually tackled him in a game, which resulted in a broken wrist for Jaco. There were complications, to the point where Jaco couldn’t play drums any longer (his earlier instrument of choice) and soon after Jaco picked up the bass. Family legend is that the wrist was actually reset optimized for playing bass. Jaco had crazy long fingers, and that plus the wrist plus his innate genius made something never before equaled. Jeremy seemed to like this story, and commented with a smile “yeah, that would be pretty cool… to have your arm set just for playing bass…” and he did a little air guitar and grinned.
More Visitors Arrive
About this time, we become aware of another bowler who has interloped into our lane… which turns out to be Paramore guitarist Taylor York. It was hard to keep track, but I think Taylor took over bowling from Jeremy for a round or two. And he was chatting all the while: “Did you see Jeremy’s DJ set last night?” Taylor asked excitedly (referring to a midnight DJ set on the pool deck that Jeremy hosted). “It was so much fun! We basically said, let’s bring the party from our suites down to the stage… so they set up coaches, a bar and everything else for us there. So much fun.”
(Here’s a pic I took from the “White Out” party with everybody partying on stage):
Jeremy in fact said the band were awestruck by the accommodations they’d been given on the ship: “You should see the suite — it’s just stupid. We have a pool! Pretty much the entire top of the ship is ours!” The band were clearly having a great time on this cruise.
(Here’s a shot from the Norwegian Cruise line site of that suite):
But, Back to The Bowling Alley
Speaking of fun and interesting decor, I should mention that there was a beautifully appointed little bar right in the middle of the bowling alley.
Frankly, I was a little reluctant to order anything given that Ms. Williams herself rarely drinks and I was wondering whether the same was true of the rest of the band. But then I noticed Jeremy and Kat were sipping on something frozen, and I was further relieved when drummer Aaron Gillespie came by holding a very fine glass of Cabernet. Around that time, Kat very politely offered me a frozen margarita [I think they had over-ordered], but I demurred and instead modeled myself on Aaron and his rich-looking cab, which turned out to be a good choice. (For the record, all the folks in our lane were 21+ so no issues there.) Check out the fancy cocktail napkins:
Aaron wasn’t part of the “bowl with Paramore” event, and said “naw, I’m just chilling” when I suggested he come bowl… but he was happy to chat a little bit, and more than glad to accept Jan’s heartfelt compliments about his excellent drumming on the recent Self-Titled Tour, the pre-Super Bowl show, and the two PARAHOY! shows.
I can’t remember if we complimented and thanked the band enough for the amazing sets on PARAHOY! (which included rarities Franklin, Never Let This Go, Misguided Ghosts, I Caught Myself, Escape Route and more) but I am sure we did. The cruise was an amazing combination of artists.
There was some great music on the PA. At one point, the 1980s song “I Know What Boys Like” came on, and I asked Jeremy “quick, which new wave band is this… they also did a very popular Christmas song.” The answer of course is The Waitresses, with the Christmas song being Christmas Wrapping. Jeremy didn’t know that one, but my hunch is that Taylor would have if he’d heard.
A couple of songs later, an emo song from 10 years ago came on, I forget which, and then we heard a pretty live voice singing along, which turned out to be Hayley Williams. Hayley arrived quickly, said hello quickly, and the next thing you know it was time for pictures.
Fans Win At Bowling
OK, don’t tell them I said this, but Paramore may not be the best bowlers. At least not on ships. I forget Jeremy’s score, but my wife Jan who bowled a 107 swears she beat Jerm and everyone else handily on our side. And, while we know that Ms. Hayley Williams is good at many things, apparently bowling is not at the top of the list, because reports from the other alley are that she bowled a 27 on that night.
But I assume Hayley had at least as good a time on her lanes as we did.
My friend Megan wrote up her report from the other lanes, which I’ve included at the bottom. And there’s an additional link from another friend after that.
Ending With Johnny Mercer
Kim the “team skipper” / lead handler of Paramore called us up by group, and the professional photographer took pics us each of us. They also took some fun pics of Taylor holding too many bowling balls, and other assorted shots
And, our picture came out great:
At this point, it seemed like we were nearing the end of the evening’s festivities, so I grabbed my gifts for the band and asked their lead Kim if she could give them to Hayley, Taylor and Jeremy for me. Just then Hayley interrupted “what do you have there?” and edged over to see. I explained that for Jeremy, I brought “School Days,” my favorite CD of the great modern Jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, and for Taylor, a really nicely written book called “Really The Blues” about the colorful history of 20th century blues. “I can’t remember if Taylor likes the Blues, but since he likes everything I bet he’ll like this book – it’s really fun to read.”
Then I showed Hayley the gift I had gotten for her, which was a biography of American lyricist Johnny Mercer. “The writing is kind of old school,” I explained, “but it’s really interesting because they dissect how he did his lyric writing, talk about him founding Capitol Records, his friendship with Judy Garland, and more stuff like that.” And I showed her some notes I had written at the beginning of the book that flagged the best sections and chapters.
She seemed genuinely excited to tell me something at that point: “You know I have some lyrics on my arm written by him,” she said. Well, of course I do. Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics to “Accentuate The Positive, Eliminate The Negative,” which Ms. Williams had tattooed on her forearm during the dark days after the bands’ losing two founding members and some dark and introspective songs. “Would you like to see it?” And she pulled up her sleeve to show me the tattoo.
(Hoping she’s reading that book, because there are a lot of interesting stories about lyric writing in it.)
Global Fans / Global Experience
And then they were gone. But our evening was still young, with mewithoutYou and even a late-night fan sing-along ahead. The sing-along was a pretty special thing that I got to help organize, with more than 100 fans from everywhere coming together to sing Paramore and other songs along to the acoustic play of other fans. There were folks in the audience from the US, UK, Canada, Mexico, Brasil, Australia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Finland and probably a lot of other countries that I didn’t know about. It really underscored for me the global nature of the fanbase, and the devoted nature of fans who would travel all over the world to see their favorite band.
This very special nature of the cruise was also something that the band members commented on during our bowling party: “We see all you guys in the various cities where we play around the world,” said Taylor. “It’s so amazing to see everyone – all of you from around the world – all in one place.”
And P.S. The story from the Other Side
My friend Megan Medlock-Elgart wrote up her view from the other lanes:
Bowling with Paramore started out a lot differently than expected. After anticipating there being a crowd of 50 or more fans waiting to take a selfie with Hayley, I was pleasantly surprised to learn there were 16 people total: 4 per lane. As we were split into groups of 4, the 8 people on my side of the bowling alley got to know each other (there was a strong California representation!). Everyone seemed very relaxed and admitted to not being superfans, to my relief. With such a small crowd, I was afraid the band would be on edge by those who would freak out by this opportunity. Don’t get me wrong - we were all starstruck, but we all played it cool.
We chatted for a bit before I decided it was time for a pina colada (my cruise drink of choice). As I made my way to the bar, the doors opened and in strolled Hayley, Jeremy and Taylor (plus some others, I assumed to be the entourage and photographers). Jeremy made his way over to me to quickly say “I love your shirt. Where did you get that shirt?” My husband had made me and my friends “Washy Washy” shirts and I was wearing mine. (an inside joke from the cruise, where staff with spray bottles admonish everyone to “washy washy happy happy”). Jeremy was quickly whisked away to the other side of the bowling alley before I could answer.
After the band was divided into teams, Hayley and Taylor settled in with my side of the alley. To my surprise and delight, everyone treated them as everyday people and it felt as if the two of them could relax with us.
We bowled poorly with Hayley who bowled a legendary 12 while Taylor and one of the girls on his team who nicknamed herself Joan Jett for the scoreboard went into super competitive mode and outbowled everyone (Taylor later hacked the scoreboard to change it to a 300. Sneaky move).
Since I’m not a superfan, I spent most of the time bowling poorly, giving Hayley and Taylor high 9’s and high 6’s (we high-fived our score for the round), and generally enjoying the energy and playfulness between the two bandmates. For being so highly successful and young, the two came across as humble, thankful and down to earth.
The hour quickly came to an end with a lot of group shots with the band and some individual photos as well. Hayley and Taylor bid everyone a very nice goodbye before the rest of us changed back into our shoes, came down from the high energy of this once in a lifetime evening and left to go party with the rest of the boat.
And, if that write-up isn’t enough, another friend — also named Megan but who went by Joan Jett on bowling night — wrote up this extensive write-up, also from the other alleys.