In the Category of Best Nights Ever, This Comes Close to #1

Hello everyone!  As promised, here is my post about the SERIOUSLY EPIC Tuesday I had last week.  I’ll begin with a few words to summarize:

Linkin Park Concert

Backstage Passes

Front Row Seats

FREE

Me, waiting outside the venue before the backstage tour started.

Now, even if you aren’t a Linkin Park fan, I think most people can agree that these words indicate a pretty awesome evening, yes?  And let me tell you: It was MIND-BLOWING (and ear-drum blowing).  One of the best things I ever done EVER.  SERIOUSLY.

So here’s the full story: I’ve mentioned before that I am a member of Grammy U, and that my brother is the Houston representative of Grammy U, which is how I had that other awesome experience of having dinner with some pretty big people in the music business.  Well, my membership to Grammy U has come to the rescue again!  SOMEONE in the higher-ups (and my brother and I are still trying to figure out who so we can thank them properly) ((UPDATE: We have confirmed it was Theresa Jenkins, Senior Executive Director of the Texas Chapter who arranged for the tickets)) arranged for a few backstages passes to be made available for the Linkin Park concert in Houston.  My brother, as the Houston rep, was sent the info and asked to find some other Grammy U members in the area who would like to go (of course, I was first on the list).

My brother, listening to the awesome conversations.

We ended up with seven people: my brother and myself, Sofia (who works my brother and is a manager at Sugarhill Studios), fellow UH student Danny (I’m not giving last names), two guys from Austin – Alex and Mark, and Eric Jarvis – the President of the Texas Chapter of The Recording Academy.

Behind/beneath the main stage. LOOK AT ALL THOSE GUITARS.

So, we’re thinking: backstage passes, that’s pretty awesome.  We’ll get a tour, maybe get to meet some of the road crew, etc.  And then we’ll see the concert.  And we assumed we’d get pretty good seats too, but nothing too extravagant.  WE HAD NO IDEA.  IT WAS SO MUCH BETTER.

The tour manager for Linkin Park, Cory, was the one who gave us the tour.  We got to see the set-up inside the Cynthia Mitchell Woods Pavilion, where the concert was held.  We not only got to meet, but actually had a lengthy discussion/question-and-answer session with Linkin Park’s sound guy, the head carpenter (which is a bit of misnomer, because he’s not JUST a carpenter, he’s in charge of all the set up for the entire freakin’ stage), and the director who does most of Linkin Park’s music videos (who has, by the way, also worked with Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera, just to do some name dropping). (And they were all so NICE!)

Looking out into the audience from backstage, in between openers.

We were taken on/behind/beneath the actual stage while the crew was taking down stuff from the first opener (Mutemath) and setting stuff up for the second opener (Incubus).

Then we were taken to catering, where they had an awesome buffet spread, and had dinner with the road crew.

And THEN we were taken out to wait for Linkin Park to show up.  There was a big group from the Linkin Park fan club (LP Underground) who had obviously paid a ton of extra money for a group photo/autograph session with the band.  Cory kept us to the side, and then the six of us were allowed OUR OWN group photo with Linkin Park.  We managed to get autographs from four of the six members (there was a small mix-up and we missed getting autographs from Joe Hahn and one other).  More importantly, however, is that when Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda (the two I REALLY REALLY wanted) came to the end of the line to give us autographs, they actually STAYED and TALKED to us.

I just really like this shot of the light coming through the slats beneath the stage. ^_^

Mark, with Chester and his crazy sprite-tea-pedialyte drink.

Chester stayed for about five minutes, and told us about his drink.  It looked like beer, but he assured us that it was in fact Sprite, Pedialyte, and Lipton tea (I think there was tea too…).  And seriously, even though I’ve seen interviews with Chester before, it still shocks me how quiet and unassuming he is in person, compared to the screaming BEAST he becomes on stage.  And then Mike Shinoda actually stood and talked to us for about FIFTEEN MINUTES.  Asked us about Grammy U and our interests and made cheesy jokes and was just generally really nice and really awesome.  My brother and I kinda sorta idolize him (as much for Fort Minor as for Linkin Park, and because we really identify with his songs about being Japanese-American, as my brother and I are as well), and we were a bit tongue-tied around him.  But, folks, it was SO AWESOME.  SO AWESOME.

Me, my brother, and Mike Shinoda

Mike Shinoda in the checkered shirt. Then, from left to right: Alex, Mark, Eric Jarvis, Sofia, Danny, and my brother.

Danny, my brother, and me, with Mike Shinoda

Finally, when the band had to go inside to get ready to perform, we said goodbye to Cory and went to find our seats.  Only to discover that our seats were, in fact, FRONT ROW SEATS.  There was a small pit area, an empty space, with room for handicapped seating, and then US.  We were also off to the right slightly, so were practically RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE SPEAKERS.  IT WAS MIND-BLOWING.  (And ear-drum bursting).

Danny, Sofia, Mark, my brother, and me in our front row seats.

Chester, on stage.

And to say the performance itself was fantastic would be a seriously criminal understatement.  My brother and I have seen Linkin Park in concert before, when they came to Houston in 2011, and (while I cannot speak for my brother) I think they were even better this time around.  For one thing, last time Chester seemed to be having a bit of trouble, and was often flat.  Now this happens in live performances, and I didn’t much care, but it was still nice that he didn’t seem to have any problems at all this time.  His pitch was pretty damn spot-on, especially considering it was an outdoor stage, live performances are RARELY perfectly on-pitch, and his screaming was even more INSANE than usual.

Mike Shinoda

The next day, my ears were still ringing, and I could barely speak because I had done so much screaming and cheering.  And then I had to go to my first grad class of the week that afternoon, and my professor is on my facebook so she’d seen that I’d been at a concert until like midnight, and she laughed when I croaked a lot when we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves.

My autographs from Mike Shinoda, Chester Bennington, Dave Farrell, and (I think) Rob Bourdon. And not on just ANYTHING, but a SET LIST from that night’s performance!

So there you have it, folks.  ONE OF THE BEST NIGHTS EVER.  Once again thanks to my membership with Grammy U.  Best $50 I’ve ever spent.

Update #2: And somehow in the middle of all that photobombing, I managed to forget to include the official group photo we got with the whole band. So here’s that one:

GROUP PHOTO!

Advertisements

I Had Dinner With Famous People

So, a hip-hop artist, a recording studio engineer, a former VP of ASCAP, and a graduate student walk into a bar… 

Okay, that’s not entirely how it goes, but this is pretty much what my Thursday night looked like.  I met some pretty famous people, folks.  Even had dinner with a few of them.  And it’s pretty much all thanks to my brother (don’t gloat, Mike).

So, here’s the whole story: 

We all know The Recording Academy, yes?  In charge of the Grammy Awards, that thing that most musicians, recording artists, song-writers, music publishers, etc. are members of, yes?  Well, there’s also this thing called Grammy U.  It’s a college student organization affiliated with The Recording Academy, which is open to any full-time college student interested in the music industry (and you don’t have to be majoring in music or anything to qualify).  Grammy U is about promoting education on issues dealing with the music industry, and about networking with various full members of The Recording Academy.

My brother is the Grammy U representative for the entire Greater-Houston area.  Early this year he convinced me to join Grammy U as well (its more for undergrads rather then graduate students, but I still technically qualify because I’m a full-time student, and I’ve always been interested in the music industry).  Mainly, my brother just wanted to someone he could trust to help him out with running events on the UH campus.

Now, my brother’s pretty much got this whole networking thing down pat.  He’s a film student, and he’s interning at a local Houston production company called Zen Films (which happens to be a pretty big deal); he’s done some work over at SugarHill Studios (the oldest still-running recording studio in the United States, folks!) and knows the chief engineer/co-owner Dan Workman; etc, etc, etc.

So, on Thursday night, The Recording Academy was hosting one of its GPS Summer Lecture Series at the House of Blues in Houston.  It consisted of a lecture from Tod Brabec, former Vice President of ASCAP (Association of Songwriters, Composers, Authors, and Publishers) on the topic of Performance Royalties, and then a short networking mixer afterwards.  My brother had to go because he was helping to set up the event.  I decided to go because a) it’s free for Grammy U members, b) it sounded interesting, and c) it’s a little-known fact that I have a secret desire to be a songwriter.  I was nervous about the whole mixer thing because the only person I knew was my brother and I don’t do well with the whole “just start introducing yourself to random strangers who might be famous people” thing.

The lecture itself was really interesting.  It was hard to follow because Tod Brabec threw a TON of information at the audience, quite a lot of it dealing with legal issues that I just can’t quite wrap my head around, but it was all very useful information.  But the best part was, of course, the mixer.  Here’s most of the people I met (I can’t quite remember everyone’s names, but these are the big ones):

Dan Workman (the co-owner and chief engineer of SugarHill Studios) who was one of the coolest guys I’ve met;

Tod Brabec, who is a very big deal but who talked to me for a minute and then asked me to take a picture of him and a friend of his;

Theresa Jenkins, the Executive Director of the Texas Chapter of The Recording Academy (who kindly treated my brother and I to dinner along with all the big-wigs);

Eric Jarvis, who is a BIG musician, a UH alumnus, and the President of the Texas Chapter of the Recording Academy (and also hilarious at dinner);

David Acosta, a CPA for musicians who’s starting his own music publishing company here in Houston, and who gave me his card when I mentioned my interested in writing lyrics;

and Karen Aptekar, an indie-film maker here in Houston who was very friendly, told my brother that he was interning with one of the best film-makers around at Zen Films, and offered to talk to both me and my brother sometime about doing some work with her.

All of this happened during the Mixer after the lecture, at which there were about 70-80 people, plenty of whom were little nobodies and interested parties like myself, mixed in with all the big-names.  The mixer broke up around 9:30 or so, at which point the original plan was for my brother and I to head home while the big names went off to dinner in the House of Blues restaurant downstairs.  But then we were invited to dinner – or rather, my brother was invited because he’s the Houston Rep, and I was allowed to tag along because my brother was my ride home.  But that’s okay, because I got to sit down and have dinner with Dan Workman, Tod Brabec, Theresa Jenkins, Eric Jarvis, and Paul Wall – a rather well-known hip-hop artist, who I did not actually get to speak with as he was clear at the other end of the table – and a few others whose names elude me now.  The five big names were all seated in a row across the table from me, and I was a little floored by it.  I sat directly across from Dan Workman and Eric Jarvis, and they were hilarious.  Though, so was Tod Brabec, who spent some time talking to my brother about having been the one who signed METALLICA (along with many MANY other very well known bands).

My brother has already promised to take me by SugarHill Studios next time he goes, which Dan Workman was very okay with.  When he found out I was a literature student, he got all excited and said that books were his next favorite thing to music, and that we’d have to sit down and have a nice talk about books sometimes.  Well, hell, that sounds good to me!  And music is my next favorite thing to books, so it evens out nicely.  (Also, he wore those cheap Target brand One Star Converse shoes, which I thought was absolutely HILARIOUS.)

The point of all this is that I had an absolute blast last Thursday night, and I hope I have a similar opportunity again in the future.  It was so much fun!

Point of fact, most of the last few days have been pretty awesome: the mixer on Thursday, seeing Dark Knight Rises on Saturday, and then I went to the Chicago & Doobie Brothers concert on Sunday night.  Which was ASTOUNDINGLY AWESOME.  Those guys may be getting on in years, but they still know how to rock.  The BEST PART was the encore/finale.  The Doobie Bros had been the opener for Chicago, but at the end, Chicago brought all of the Doobie Bros on stage to play with them.  All the members of both bands were on stage at the same time, including four drummers on FOUR SEPARATE DRUMSETS, more guitars than seems possible, practically the whole brass section out of a marching band, two keyboardists, and all the singers taking turns. There were EIGHTEEN PEOPLE on that stage at once.  They sang a few Doobie Bros hit and a few Chicago hits, including “Listen to the Music” and “25 or 6 o 4.”  It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen at a concert.  And it was seriously EPIC.  Definitely the best part of the night.

Okay, this post is getting pretty damn long, so I’ll call it quits for now.  See ya’ll later!