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Friend's book is an Almost Famous for the metal years that captures the allure, the excitement, the temptation of rock’s forbidden fruit, as well as the post-depression when the music’s over.
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1. NBA Playoffs: After several of the most tightly contested opening rounds in recent memory, the Dallas Mavericks vs. the Miami Heat in the finals would seem almost like an anticlimax until you realize these two teams have far and away proven themselves to be the best in the league with a match-up that looks pretty competitive. Both squads are deep, with two major stars (Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade) and an impressive cast of supporting characters that runs about nine or 10 deep. The key is whether the Mavs’ suddenly emerging DeSagana Diop and mostly disappointing center Erick Dampier are able to contain the no-longer-dominant Shaq (the Mavs’ third center, 7-foot, 245-pound DJ Mbenga, has four games left on the six-game suspension he incurred after going into the stands in Phoenix during the confrontation between Avery Johnson's wife and two Suns fans in Game 3) and whether the big guy can maintain his stamina in the wake of the every-other-day scheduling. The Mavs, who have looked pretty impressive dispatching the defending champion Spurs and the fast and feisty Suns, are undoubtedly the favorites, and except for the joy of watching Mark Cuban squirm, I’d like to see them win, but my intuition suggests hungry vets like Gary Payton, Antoine Walker and Alonzo Mourning, all seeking their first rings, not to mention wily old Pat Riley, might just be the difference in crunch time. Heat in 7.
Roy Trakin

2. Lonn Friend, Life on Planet Rock (Morgan Road/Random House): It’s no coincidence there’s a cackling devil on the cover of ex-RIP/ex-HITS music journo and former Arista A&R guy Lonn Friend’s loving, but bittersweet, look back on his long, strange trip through rock & roll. Like many of us, he first gave his soul to the music watching the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show on a flickering black-and-white TV in his San Fernando Valley home as a kid, then committed the ultimate Faustian bargain when, at the height of his career as a writer and editor, he inked a pact with Clive Davis to be an A&R exec, learning the hard way the fine line between success and failure in this fercockta industry. Ruling the roost at Larry Flynt’s RIP for seven years from 1987-’94, he was a Friend to all, helping break Guns N’ Roses, hanging with Metallica (whose Lars Ulrich provides the book’s intro), Alice Cooper, Kiss and Bon Jovi, riding the wave of grunge with Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, discovering, to his chagrin, to be careful what you wish for. It’s the ultimate fan’s notes from a self-described “fly on the wall” and chameleon, an Almost Famous for the metal years that captures the allure, the excitement, the temptation of rock’s forbidden fruit, as well as the post-depression when the music’s over. And, knowing Lonn, it’s also a spiritual journey that ends in the realization that the ego must be abandoned for true transcendence to take place—no small feat for our hero—which may be a little New Age-y, but what do you expect from someone whose life was changed by reading Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet high above the English Channel? For all those who love him, and even for those who don’t, this is a brave testimonial to the highs and lows of a life devoted to the pursuit of rock nirvana... and most of everything in between. —RT

3. The Raconteurs @Amoeba Records, Hollywood: Part of a promotion to be completed with another performance at the San Francisco branch of the leading indie retailer later that day, this was not your perfunctory in-store, but a nine-song, 35-minute set featuring most of the songs from the band’s new V2 album, Broken Boy Soldiers. In the midst of a national tour, the band has obviously coalesced since the loose-limbed recording, with an enthusiastic Jack White (who more than once pointedly thanked the audience for coming, especially the Latinos and Mexicans, “because we’re all immigrants”) and Brendan Benson trading lines back and forth on a song such as “Level” like a garage-band Lennon & McCartney. The blues-busters “Yellow Sun” and “Blue Veins” are pure Led Zep, highlighted by JW’s incredible riffing, though the more tuneful “Together,” with its refrain “You’ve gotta learn to live and live and learn/You gotta learn to give and wait your turn/Or you’ll get burned” echoes the pop of Elton’s “Rocket Man” almost note for note (thanks to Simon Glickman for the reference). The single, “Steady As She Goes,” with its Joe Jackson “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” intro, kicks into high gear live, while “Intimate Secretary” belies its rather casual sexism with the sing-song nursery rhyme, “I’ve got a rabbit, it likes to hop/I’ve got a girl and she likes to shop.” “I'm adding something new to the mixture/So there's a different hue to your picture,” sings Benson in "Together," and he does just that for an obviously delighted White, who seems to relish the opportunity to share the spotlight for a rare in-store gig that was every bit as satisfying as a full concert. —RT

4. 3 Men and a Big Band @ the El Rey, L.A.: Three crooners, no waiting. It was standing room only as toastmaster Joe Smith spieled shtick about the shrinking music business with anecdotes about Walter Yetnikoff and Morris Levy, as he introduced moonlighting Warner Bros. Film Music maestro Gary LeMel, ex-WEA/Warner/ Chappell PR vet and current Society of Singers President Jerry Sharell and pro ringer Steve Tyrell for an evening of classic pop melodies, backed by the sterling big band ensemble led by Gregg Field. LeMel got the evening going with a boisterous set, using Nelson Riddle’s original arrangements on loan from the University of Arizona for a spirited version of “The Lady is a Tramp,” then paying tribute to the legendary Keely Smith in the audience as he recalled getting knocked out seeing her perform while he was playing Vegas back in the ‘60s. Sharell worked the room like the pro he once was, serenading 91-year-old “Mona Lisa” composer Ray Evans with his own song before a beguiling take on Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” that brought me back to my youth hearing Frankie Valli’s cover, then bringing on his son Jerry J. for a turn that had him visibly choking up. Tyrell’s warm and ingratiating manner ended the evening on a pro note, singing songs from his recent Sinatra tribute, including a lively “Witchcraft” and “Fly Me to the Moon.” A classy evening for a good cause, with funds raised for the Society of Singers, it was almost enough for you to think LeMel and Sharell should give up their day jobs, and Tyrell oughta keep his. —RT

5. MTV Movie Awards: Now a staple on the music network’s annual schedule to promote the summer’s big blockbusters, producer Joel Gallen’s always-entertaining show has introduced the film parodies that have even been adopted by the Oscars and served as the springboard for the likes of SNL’s Andy Samberg, who appeared as the mustached inventor of Google on this year’s program. Problem is, the film business seems in just as dire straits as the music industry, with a dearth of stars and a release slate filled with sequels, comic book movies and broad, concept comedies like the NASCAR bit that produced one of the few amusing moments of the night, when Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly appeared in costume as a pair of race-car drivers. The offbeat categories remain the show’s best invention, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger’s Brokeback Mountain win for “Best Kiss” raising the most eyebrows, while Steve Carell’s acceptance speech for “Best Comedic Performance” was another highlight, as he thanked Jonas Salk for inventing the polio vaccine along with Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, deadpanning: “If I had any familiarity with your teachings, I would not be the person I am today.” Jessica Alba was a game host, but nowhere near the hilarity of past MCs like Jack Black, while the musical performances included a Chicago-like turn from Christina Aguilera, Gnarls Barkley in Star Wars garb, performing their hit, “Crazy,” and AFI, set against a background of glittering confetti falling on them from the ceiling. Still, this is one you shouldn't leave your living room for. —RT

6. Lastings Milledge: The latest and greatest Met phenom has been evoking the ghost of the legendary Wally Pipp, who was replaced one day by Lou Gehrig and never returned to the lineup as the immortal Yankee went on to set a record for consecutive games played that was only broken a few years back by Cal Ripken Jr. Since taking over in right field from another wonderfully named ballplayer, Xavier Nady, who had the misfortune of undergoing an emergency appendectomy, Milledge has been opening eyes as the quintessential five-tool player. Last week, he hit an extra-inning, two-strike, two-out home run to tie the game against ex-Met and arch enemy Armando Benitez, then high-fived fans along the first-base line as he returned to his outfield position, an exuberant rookie reaction that drew the ire of the Mets’ tight-assed manager, former Yankee Willie Randolph, and several of his veteran teammates. It’s almost too good to be true, which turned out to be the case the last time the Amazins had such promising prospects in the ’80s, with Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, and we all know what happened to them. —RT

7. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Dani California” (video): Directed by Tony Kaye, the controversial filmmaker who made the proto-fascist 1998 American History X with Ed Norton, this video is a classic, featuring the Peppers posing for a veritable kaleidoscope of rock history, from the black-and-white Elvis and Fab Four on the Sullivan show, through psychedelia (Hendrix meets Prince), funk (George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic), glam (a combination of Bowie and Iggy), punk (the Pistols), hair metal (a Crue homage), grunge (a spot-on Kurt Cobain on MTV Unplugged) and goth (Manson meets Nine Inch Nails) on up to the present-day. Check it on Yahoo! Music here. —RT

8. Spin: Ya gotta figger the end is near for this former bastion of all things alternahip when it puts Beyonce on its cover featuring a tagline that promises “The 25 Hottest Stars Under 25” along with a feature on Busta Rhymes. This was apparently the first of only two issues ex-Blender editor Andy Pemberton spearheaded before he was unceremoniously sacked. Pemberton was brought in to replace Sia Michel only last February after the mag’s sale for a paltry $5 million to San Francisco-based co-owners McEvoy Group and Hartle Media. Like many of those before him, including Spin founder Bob Guccione Jr. himself, Pemberton came aboard with bravado, announcing: “I think the world could use a younger version of Rolling Stone.” Of course, the road is littered with magazines that tried to unseat the Wenner monolith to no avail. Hey, we knew it was over when Chuck Klosterman left the building, but here’s an idea: how about hiring ESPN.com’s erudite pop culture junkie Bill Simmons? After his recent analysis of the NBA playoffs using Pearl Jam lyrics, he seems perfectly suited to the job. —RT

9. Pan for Punks: A Steelpan Tribute to the Ramones (Pandemic Records): Who would’ve thought the Ramones’ two-and-a-half chord ditties would translate into this lilting Caribbean tribute that underlines Da Bruddas’ gift for melodic hooks that outlive their punk origins? The invention of 36-year-old North Carolina native Tracy Thornton, a heavy metal drummer turned steel pan specialist whose life was changed by hearing the Ramones and setting their music to the irresistible ping of the exotic instrument, ordinarily heard in subway stations and ethnic parades, with the occasional chanted refrain. Hearing songs like “Teenage Lobotomy,” “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” and “Rockaway Beach” calypso-stylee is like riding an out-of-control carousel at the fair. This 14-track instant classic (which includes a DVD of a “Blitzkrieg Bop” music video) transcends novelty to touch on the sublimely absurd, a party waiting to happen. Joey and Martin Denny both would’ve loved it. Check www.panforpunks.com for more info or drop Thornton a line at [email protected] and tell him how much you’d like to hear his similar steel pan treatments of Led Zeppelin and George Clinton. —RT

10. Gripe of the Week: Tell people you don’t like dogs and they look at you as if you hate children. Maybe it’s because my mom refused to have any living things in our household while growing up, but just being around dogs makes me uneasy, let alone having them in my own home slobbering and spreading germs everywhere. Plus, I never wanted to be responsible for picking up dog crap, another phobia of mine. Still, I’ve learned to co-exist with the canine species for the most part, except on early weekend mornings, when I’m woken up by some hound barking in rat-a-tat fashion, undoubtedly left out in the backyard by their owners to howl to their heart’s content. That’s the kind of thing which makes me want to take a gun and find the culprit... man and beast.  If you’re going to keep a dog as a pet, at least take care of it, and have some respect for those around you. Seriously. They don’t call it a dog’s world for nothing. —RT

A note from my good friend Steve Bloom at www.bloomideas.blogspot.com:
Have to take issue with your anti-dog rant. I'm a longtime owner—have two—a 14-year-old gorgeous white spitz girl and an eight-year-old beagle boy. They're a great pair. My folks wouldn't let me have a dog either, but I've made up for that with a vengeance in my adult life; I've had dogs since I was 20. Of course, I don't have kids—that clearly is our big difference—and I don't mind picking up crap; matter of fact I'll pick up other dog's mess left behind by lameass owners. Barkin—hey, that's how they communicate. They're our connection to the primal past, wolves in our midst. Plus, there are just so many dogs out there that need homes. Guess you can't stand bestseller Marley and Me or my new fave TV show, Dog Whisperer.

On another funkier topic, I'm going to see TGOS (Ed. note: The Godfather of Soul for the uninitiated, the great James Brown) tonight at BB King's. I've become friends with some of the stonier band members—guitarist Keith Jenkins and sax player Jeff Watkins. I don't always see James at the shows, though a few years ago he made a b-line to me backstage after one BB's show and gave me a hug. He said, "Steve, gimme your card!" Plus, I love seeing my main man Danny Ray ("Are you ready for startime?").

CALENDAR

Friday, June 9th
7:00am
Kenny Chesney @ Bryant Park: Good Morning America Concert Series

4:00pm
Joe Bonamassa @ Acadia Lake - Edmond, OK

7:30pm
Take the whole family out for dinner and then to see Pixar’s Cars.

8:00pm
Nekromantix w/Shark Soup, The Chop Tops @ House of Blues on Sunset

Saturday, June 10th
10:00am
"Live 105 BFD" Featuring AFI, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, Yellowcard and others @ Shoreline Ampitheatre, Mountain View, CA

11:00am-9:30pm
Chicago Blues Festival @ Grant Park, going on all weekend long. The world's largest free-admission festival of its kind, with six stages and almost 100 sets, features a hall of fame lineup.

12:00pm
Belmont Stakes @ Belmont Park, NY (NBC)

8:00pm
Arctic Monkeys @ The Tabernacle - Atlanta, GA

9:00pm
Sweet & Tender Hooligans “20th Anniversary of the Release of The Queen Is Dead @ House of Blues (Downtown Disney), Anaheim

Sunday, June 11th
6:00pm
Game 2 of the NBA FInals, Miami @ Dallas (ABC)

8:00pm
Andrea Bocelli @ Hollywood Bowl

Seether w/Faktion @ House of Blues (Downtown Disney), Anaheim

HIM w/Fireball Ministry @ House of Blues on Sunset

JE-C’S NEW-MOVIE RUNDOWN
Cars
Featuring:
the voice talents of: Paul Newman, Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Cheech Marin, George Carlin, Richard Petty and Michael Keaton
Synopsis: Lightning McQueen, a hotshot rookie race car, embarks on a trip down Route 66, headed to California and the big Piston Cup Championship race. Along the way, he meets Sally, a snazzy 2002 Porsche, Doc Hudson, a 1951 Hudson Hornet and Mater, a rusty tow truck. Together they help Lightning realize there's more to life than first place.
Thoughts:
Y’know, I’m not really into the whole NASCAR thing, but the buzz on this movie has been amazing. I hear the visuals alone are worth the price of admission. Pixar hasn’t been wrong yet... We’ll see about this one.

A Prairie Home Companion
Starring:
Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Virginia Madsen and John C. Reilly
Synopsis: A radio variety show that's managed to survive the age of television faces its last performance when home station WLT is sold to a Texas conglomerate. On a rainy Saturday night in St. Paul, Minn., fans crowd the Fitzgerald Theater to see A Prairie Home Companion for the final time. Starring in the show: the Johnson Sisters; Yolanda and Rhonda, a country duet act; Dusty and Lefty, two cowboy singers; and more. Meanwhile, the backstage doorkeeper and a pregnant stagehand have plans of their own.
Thoughts: This movie has all the makings of being real fun…I’m really looking forward to this movie, and the funny thing is, I have yet to see a coming attraction.

JE-C’S TOP MOVIES OF THE YEAR SO FAR

V for Vendetta: This is my favorite movie of the year so far for many reasons. It's more than just a comic book adapted for the big screen; it’s a movie that makes a big political statement that we can all relate to these days. Definitely a movie that was slept on and I advise everyone to check it out if you haven't yet.
X-Men III: The Last Stand: If this is the last one, it certainly satisfied my appetite. It had it all, including some incredible action sequences.
Mission Impossible III: OK, people are getting sick and tired of Tom Cruise, but if you can just get past him, this movie is actually really good. A lot of people are missing out because they’re so turned off by the star’s off-screen antics.
An Inconvenient Truth: The most important movie of the year… A MUST SEE!!!



THE GRAMMY NOMS: A PRELIMINARY CHEW
"Uh-huh" vs. "huh?" (11/20a)
AND THE NOMINEES ARE...
The list. (11/20a)
A TOP 20 OF TITANIC PROPORTIONS
Best enjoyed with a good belt. (11/20a)
SONY'S BIG WEEK
And that was before the Grammy deluge. (11/20a)
DABABY IN GERSON'S CRIB
Talk about pub crawling. (11/20a)
THE GRAMMY NOMINATIONS
They're here. What do they mean?
U.K. SPECIAL
Forget Brexit--it's our yearly survey of doings in Blighty. And if you still can't forget Brexit, try drinking.
WHAT'S GOING ON BENEATH OUR WINDOWS?
The latest in Hollyweird.
WEED!
That's what Hollywood smells like. Seriously. 24/7.
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