guitar center hosts rockwalk honoring gary clark jr.

guitar center hosts rockwalk honoring gary clark jr.

On May 1st, well-known Los Angeles Broadcast Music Journalist Nic Harcourt made a very special induction into the Guitar Center RockWalk. The Guitar Center in Hollywood hosted the special private event honoring four-time Grammy®  Award Winner Gary Clark Jr. After the ceremony, he performed for the first time since his genre-bending full-length JPEG RAW dropped.

RockWalk is held to honor musicians who have fostered impactful growth in rock, blues, and R&B music. The induction included a handprint ceremony amidst other legendary prints and proof of artists like Queen, Carlos Santana, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and others. This was the first time in 6 years that the RockWalk ceremony happened, with the last inductee being 2018’s Sheila E. As big fans of Gary Clark Jr. – whose work has similar energy to legendary musicians like Dean Martin, The Temptations, and otherwise – we were ecstatic to find out about the revival of this event.

“We are thrilled to welcome Gary Clark Jr. into the esteemed ranks of Guitar Center’s RockWalk inductees,” enthused Guitar Center CEO Gabe Dalporto. “His extraordinary talent and contributions to music make him a perfect fit for this honor. Gary’s induction is a testament to his incredible impact on the world of music, and we were pleased to celebrate his achievements at this year’s ceremony. His handprints are a prestigious addition to Guitar Center’s RockWalk, alongside the legends who have shaped the industry.”

I am honored to be the latest inductee into Guitar Center’s RockWalk. This recognition holds immense significance for me, as it not only reflects my unwavering dedication and love for music but also acknowledges the respect and admiration of my peers and fellow musicians, who I also equally love and admire.

ajr leaves jaws on the floor after energetic takeover of t-mobile center

ajr leaves jaws on the floor after energetic takeover of t-mobile center

It hasn’t been historically easy for me to figure out what to do for my birthday. Usually, I use the fact that I am an identical twin to find ways to celebrate. Plus, both my brother and brother-in-law have birthdays during the same week as us. April is a crazy time in our household!

But when I heard AJR was planning to be in my hometown on my birthday this year, it was a no-brainer that I would be there. Not because I’m a superfan. (Admittedly, I’m not.) Not because I know their catalog extensively. (Oops, I am a very casual listener.) Actually, it was because the band’s energy felt like the right one for my birthday. Well-paced songs, often dark honesty blended with pop hooks, quirky entertainment value. I had caught a glimpse of their live set at Bonnaroo in 2019, and had wanted to see their full creative capabilities. So, my mom and I got tickets together. (Because she has wildly good taste in music and is a phenomenal show buddy.)

AJR is another three-brother band comprised of Adam, Jack, and Ryan Metz. They are more than just your average “We tried choreographed dancing and it’s still stiff,” “We dress alike for our image,” or “We play instruments but we don’t use the space to entertain” groups. They have approached their work very differently than many others, to maintain their individuality and spark as a group the whole time. As their music catches fire with even more people, they acknowledge and appreciate their successes as it happens.

Dean Lewis opened the show for them, bringing his brand of Australian power ballad to the people of Kansas City. While he may have unbuttoned a few too many buttons on his shirt, his rendition of Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” was really well done, and his vulnerability on stage allowed him to connect with the early crowd.

As is the case when you head to a comedy show, be prepared for AJR to exist outside of the box a little bit. Crowd interaction, scripted stage moments, and behind-the-scenes glimpses into their creative process… So many more examples of dynamic storytelling aside from the incredible musicianship are in store for you. The show’s eco-impact – supported by Adam Met’s efforts as a climate activist – is notable alone, as they sell sustainably packaged water and donate a percentage of each ticket sold to Planet Reimagined. Their VIP experiences are almost as dynamic as the show itself. During an AJR show, they drive cars, dine in restaurants, skydive, do shadow puppets, and perform from unexpected heights. And that’s just some of it.

There is a performed breakdown of the song “Way Less Sad” during their set. This was one of the most fascinating elements of their show. It allowed AJR to play with prepared prose and do a little set work. Seeing this – and hearing them talk about having a theatrical musical style – was a super relatable moment as a child of the 90s raised on musicals and art. It seems these brothers had nurturing upbringings embracing the arts and they work really well together. I see myself in that, and want to lead a more collaborative existence like that.

If you are heading out to see The Maybe Man Tour and don’t have context, there is a sad piece to their set. They talk about the inspiring advice their dad gave them before he passed last year. It is fresh in their minds, their lyrics, and their hearts as they approach the topic. I warn you because waterworks are almost unavoidable. Even surrounded by confetti and giddy, happy hearts of almost every age. (It was kind of like a daycare in there at times.)

Check out the remaining AJR tour dates here.

deconstructing demetri martin: demetri deconstructed

deconstructing demetri martin: demetri deconstructed

Demetri Martin released a new Netflix special on Tuesday, the first of two to be released on the streamer this year.
Before it had been out for 24 hours, I watched it twice.

For those who knew me 10-15 years ago, this hardly comes as a shock. My family enjoyed his comedy when I was is teenager. I believe we were eating Ben & Jerry’s pints for dinner and watching Demetri when guys from a neighboring school came over and asked us (the twins) to homecoming. (My parents were cool and once in a while, we got to eat ice cream for dinner. What of it?) It’s no surprise that lines of his dry comedy are what we both chose as our senior quotes in the yearbook. My sister even surprised me one year with tickets to his show for our birthday.

I didn’t realize until now how much I was missing Demetri’s unique brand of comedy. Sure, I have always followed him on social media, but he’s not one of those comedians who lives on his page either. He has built a seemingly quiet life with his wife and two children in California, releasing books, acting, writing, producing, and doing voiceover work between comedy gigs. Yes, we got a well-formed special every few years (2004, 2007, 2012, 2015, 2018), but we have been left to clips, quirky one-liners, and small peeks into his personality since the last special – Demetri Martin: The Overthinker – released in 2018.

So when Demetri Martin: Demetri Deconstructed popped up on my television, I waited mere hours to enjoy it with my parents. And then I went upstairs and watched it again.

First of all, the effort he puts into his intros is actually admirable. If you’re wondering about his use of black and white in his latest special, it’s explained before he even takes the stage. He uses his voiceover talents to help the audience identify his thought process, recognize – and relate to – his idiosyncracies, and make layered jokes. It seems to allow him a structured vulnerability, the affinity for “off-handed” comments that are planned, but well-timed comedically.

Demetri’s choice to incorporate drawing and other forms of art he enjoys in his set is – and has always been – bar none. Sure, iconic comedians have brought additional talents to the stage. (Acts like Bo Burnham, TIm Minchin, and others enjoy singing during their comedy acts. I’ll be watching Steven Martin’s doc soon, and have always admired his picking talents.) Demetri has always drawn representations of his jokes. His method includes charts, graphs, and tables, not-so-subtle reminders that his comedy is very unique.

I have to admit, I didn’t see subpar ventriloquy as the new trick in Demetri’s toolbelt I would enjoy. His spot-on impersonation of a demon from hell – and I have to specify that it is not the devil – was impactful because of its silliness and relatability.

Demetri is also known for using music in impactful moments. It is common knowledge/widely thought that he would play guitar and other musical elements throughout his sets so that executives at Comedy Central and elsewhere couldn’t edit his material to their liking for public airing. In this way, he kept more of his artistic integrity on jokes that were always widely family-friendly. Now, the threat of artistic integrity might not exist as much for Martin. But he does incorporate fun jazz beats throughout his set, giving impact to the punchlines and guiding the audience into a more relaxed and intimate-feeling environment.

While I don’t want to give away any big pieces of his set, I will say that this special commands your full attention. Jokes about Bitcoin, tic tac toe (brilliant, in case anyone is wondering), crowd work, self-deprecation, industrial strength scented trash bags, logistics, and well-known phrases can be expected. Lighting is artfully used to enhance his dramatic readings of hilarious, “mysterious” thoughts. And he accomplishes all of this while looking like – and having the energy of – someone much younger than himself.

If you love curious, intricate, silly humor that you can quote around (most of) your family, Demetri Deconstructed will accomplish this for you. Check it out on Netflix now.

liz miele’s standup special murder sheets is necessary entertainment

liz miele’s standup special murder sheets is necessary entertainment

If you’ve stumbled upon Liz Miele‘s latest comedy masterpiece on Netflix and are expecting a horror podcast to come to life, you might be reaching from – or into – the wrong genre. As horrific as some of her personal anecdotes are to people, I’m sure, Miele finds so much humor in her everyday life that she is able to make even a laundry mishap sound edgy and crucial to a set.

In a 2012 interview with Miele, I asked her what up-and-coming comedians she was most excited about. She rattled off a list of people she worked with. This list included Carmen Lynch, Nate BargatzeDan SoderRory ScovelRyan ConnerJordan Carlos, Jermaine Fowler, Kelly MacFarland, and Myq Kaplan. Before many of them hit their true stride, she was cheering them on. I’m ready to watch each of them, in turn, champion her new special, as she has stayed so true to herself in her brand of comedy, yet exponentially elevated with each new comedy routine and standup taping.

What I love about a comedian so well-versed in their craft is how they can easily weave their inspiration into their work. Liz has effortlessly given space to her parents and their shared profession, her siblings and their mutual impact on each other’s lives, and all of the people and beings that are meaningful to her at this stage in her life.

Just when you think there is an established rhythm of jokes about her family dynamic interwoven with insightful commentary and the occasional birth order trope, Miele returns to cat-heavy storytelling. While this could otherwise drastically affect the momentum of a standup comedian’s set, it actually just re-confirms her status as a cat person. (Which I did note in my 2012 interview with: “Fair warning: She has a thing for cats.”) It’s a reminder – hilariously placed – of the single-mindedness most animal “parents” suffer from at times, and pulls in a demographic (animal lovers, cat people) that can relate to this stage work.

But the genius in the “cat work” is that she uses stories about her cats to propel her singledom (and willingness to date, change, etc.) into the forefront of the conversation. This expertly ties back to her modern dating jokes earlier in the set.

If you hang on through the credits – well earned, as they are – you will see the results of Miele’s intricate storytelling, a true testament to her authenticity. “I wrote an 11-minute joke about this whole process.”

Invested, talented, and deeply funny. Those are my takeaways on Miele’s character at this stage, with the release of Murder Sheets. Check it out now on Youtube.

examining erasure and groundbreaking art in searching for augusta savage

examining erasure and groundbreaking art in searching for augusta savage

As more nostalgia topics have cropped up since the beginning of the – let’s admit it at this point – ongoing pandemic, PBS has been top of mind for so many people who were able to grow up – or raise their children – with its expanse of knowledge ringing throughout their homes. Having educational experiences accessible to many different demographics – and on public access television – is an important resource for many.

Searching for Augusta Savage is the first film in a new series from PBS called American Masters Shorts. Augusta Savage was a Harlem Renaissance sculptor and art educator, whose work largely reflected the joy and expression in the Black community. She overcame numerous obstacles to further her own education and get her work seen. She captivated audiences long before her death, and her art stood to progress the inclusion of Black artists in spaces they had otherwise been excluded from.

A curious thing is that many pieces of Augusta’s work have gone missing, and her name is not as well-known as it once was, or should be. Why is that? Why has her legacy not been salvaged and taught as widely as other artists of her time?

This 22-minute episode is a deep dive into what history can tell us about this incredible black artist’s life and work.

Augusta’s work is included in a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism through July.