Quoting directly the first thing Cheap Trick frontman Robin Zander sings on the band's Live at Budokan album: "Hello there ladies and gentlemen/Hello there ladies and gents/ Are you ready to rock/Are you ready to rock?" Here goes, my first official blog post/entry/rant/story thingy. But before I take you backstage to the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles and introduce you to Collective Soul leader Ed Roland, I need you all to join me in a HUGE thank you to Cindy Whittaker, the brains and beauty behind this blog and the reason why we're all here gathered around the communal computer campfire!

OK, so last Sunday (07/14/08) at 6p L.A. time, my daughter, Angie, herself a publicist in the music biz (you'll be hearing lots about her in the future as well) and I arrive at the Greek Theatre, nestled in the hills overlooking Hollywood, to meet up with Alison Taylor, a member of Collective Soul's new management team – who I'm meeting for the very first time – and who will escort us backstage, downstairs into the inner sanctum of the historic and beautiful outdoor amphitheatre, eventually ending up in the quiet – for now – of Collective Soul's spacious and luxurious dressing room. Alison leaves to go grab Ed, who by the way has been a dear friend of mine since the mid-90's when many, many times I booked the band on the nationally syndicated radio Rockline show I produced for 5 years. So there my daughter and I are, sitting on a beautiful couch surrounded by more water, soda, beer, wine, crackers, fruit, veggies, peanut butter, bread, etc, etc, etc any band could eat and drink in a week, let alone one night…actually a few hours, in L.A. After about 15 minutes, Ed arrives, flowing long blonde hair and a massive smile in tow, and we exchange a giant hug. For the record, Ed Roland is one of the nicest guys in rock and roll I've ever had the pleasure to work with and befriend. I introduce Ed to Angie for the first time and we sit down, I plug my microphone into a mini-disc recorder, pop on my headphones and we begin our all-too brief conversation (the road manager was hovering over us, constantly looking at his watch). I press record and say to Ed: "Since the last time you and I had a meaningful conversation, we've each experienced death – your dad, my mom – divorce, and now personal and professional redemption. Before we move to the musical epilogue that is Afterwords (the title of the band's current album), I never got the chance to thank you for Youth (the title of the band's previous album), an album I felt you wrote especially for me because songs like "Home" literally hit home on so many levels." And away we went on a 15-minute conversation (I refuse to call them "interviews") covering specific songs on Afterwords that deal with the death of his father, his remarriage, his 9-year old son, the glitz of "Hollywood," the power of music to move people, our mutual love of The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen as a songwriter, etc, etc until I press "stop" on my recorder (after ignoring 3 previous signs from the tour manager to wrap up). Once again, Ed and I exchange not one but two heartfelt hugs, agree how wonderful it is to see each other again after 2 years and promise to see each other again later that night, right after the band's great 1-hour, hits-filled set concludes, again, backstage, this time in the woodsy outdoor very exclusive V.I.P. hospitality area. Just before he's whisked away, my daughter snaps the photo that you see of Ed and I, minutes before he hits the stage.

The Greek, by the way, is one of my favorite venues in L.A…nothing like seeing a great band there on a beautiful star-filled summer Southern California night! Oh yeah…THE PARKING SUCKS!!!!!!! But I digress. As promised, after Collective Soul's set, Angie and I make our way back to the Hospitality area, where we once again meet up with Ed and also his brother, guitarist Dean Roland and bassist Will Turpin, each of whom are incredible people and I'm blessed to say, dear friends as well! A couple of cocktails and brief conversations with each later, Angie and me, and my friend Cheri, who I ran into at the concert and managed to sneak back into Hospitality after the show (shhh, don't tell) walked back to our, by now, lonely cars (the parking lots were completely emptied by then) and drove home with the ringing of Collective Soul, Live and Blues Traveler music in our ears.

OK, OK, I know I was long-winded…I promise to be more concise in the future, but hey, it's my first blog/post/entry/rant/story thingy…I wanted to give you guys your money's worth!!! Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Complaints? Recipes?

ON TAP: This week I'm interviewing the Metal God himself, Rob Halford; next week, Candlebox, The Alarm and Brett Dennen.

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Cheri said...

Hey Jim,
Great first blog. Thanks for the shout out!

Jim said...

Hey, thanks for the great first comment...YOU are the original Collective Soul-sista!! :) Look for a photo of you and me coming soon, as soon as I can get it from Angie!