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Sold-out Rexall crowd can’t hide their love for the Eagles

Screen shot 2013-09-18 at 8.46.19 PMPublished in the Edmonton Journal September 10, 2013.

BY AMANDA ASH, EDMONTON JOURNAL

EDMONTON – If there was any animosity remaining between Eagles members Monday night at Rexall Place, it was hidden beneath friendly jokes and campfire stories about the good ol’ days.

Perhaps a handsome dollar figure attached to their North American tour made it easier to take the stage together again, but for some artists, even a billion bucks wouldn’t be enough to rub shoulders with band mates boasting previous bad blood.

The Eagles, the classic California rockers heralded as some of greatest songwriters and bestselling musicians of all time, are one of those groups that seemed to have relinquished all hard feelings to reignite their musical magic.

It’s not to say any lingering sourness still exists. But despite former legal issues, touchy tempers and trivial skirmishes, any betrayals stayed buried during the Eagles’ three-hour set. The only relic of the past to make an appearance was a golden sense of nostalgia that comes with playing hits that now form the fabric of wedding soundtracks and summer road trips.

Like Aerosmith’s tour a couple years back (Steven Tyler and Joe Perry put aside their rocky relationship) and Fleetwood Mac’s recent stop in town (ex-lovers Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham have now found friendship), the Eagles show was history in the making. Original member Randy Meisner hasn’t been with the band since 1977, but old founders Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon were all there, as well as Timothy B. Schmidt and Joe Walsh. Even though Meisner’s absence was felt, the show was still something to cherish.

Continue reading at edmontonjournal.com.

Life & Times: Country-blues sideman was a mainstay of Edmonton music scene — Fred LaRose (1954-2013)

Screen shot 2013-09-18 at 8.48.11 PMPublished in the Edmonton Journal September 8, 2013.

BY AMANDA ASH, EDMONTON JOURNAL

EDMONTON – Fred LaRose was the rhythm, the heartbeat and the lifeblood of many Edmonton bands.

A pillar in the music scene for 40 years, LaRose jammed and toured with nearly every local act. Onstage, he was the bassist in the background. Offstage, the funky country-blues virtuoso was a front-and-centre father, mentor and best friend.

During his final days, friends and family carried guitars, fiddles, drums and mandolins to his bedside, filling the quiet hallways of the Grey Nuns Hospital with song and laughter in honour of a man who gave, taught and inspired hundreds.

LaRose wore his favourite black bandana printed with little white music notes up until his death. When he could no longer lift his bass, he picked up the ukulele. And throughout hours of impromptu jam sessions that blossomed in his hospital room, he continued to find strength to unleash his infamous “bass face” — a squinty, squishy-faced expression of bliss.

“That’s how he felt the music,” said Cathy, his wife of 33 years. “It was such raw emotion. What you saw on his face was what he was feeling. (Music) was his life.”

LaRose died July 30 following a long battle with cancer. He was 59.

Continue reading at edmontonjournal.com.

For country fans, all off-roads lead to Big Valley

Screen shot 2013-09-18 at 8.53.10 PMPublished in the Edmonton Journal August 1, 2013.

BY AMANDA ASH, EDMONTON JOURNAL

When you’re out in the wild, living in a jungle of tents harbouring strange shirtless beasts, life’s priorities change.

Shelter comes to mind as an immediate survival necessity, but Nick Mytopher says things are different out here. On this dusty patch of land, overrun with calf-high grass, prickly weeds and giant spiders, you must be in the right frame of mind to tackle your tarps and portable barbecue.

“We cracked two bottles of champagne before we did anything,” Mytopher said, pointing to the half-empty bubbly perched on a cooler on the ground. The rest of his gear remained untouched, perfectly stacked like a game of Tetris in the back of his truck.

“It makes for a fun campsite.”

Mytopher, 21, and his two friends consider themselves Big Valley Jamboree veterans, having attended the country music festival in Camrose for three years. Like many campers, music lovers and beverage enthusiasts trickling into the grounds for the four-day festival, the young Fort McMurray residents arrived Thursday afternoon, knowing exactly what to do first when setting up their temporary home.

Continue reading at edmontonjournal.com.

Festival preview: Elliott Brood brings tour to Edmonton

Screen shot 2013-09-19 at 10.10.26 PM

Published in the Edmonton Journal on July 24, 2013.

BY AMANDA ASH, EDMONTON JOURNAL

EDMONTON – Mark Sasso is painting the trim of his house. In the background, his dog barks at a field mouse that’s crept into his Toronto yard.

The vocalist for Toronto death country trio Elliott Brood enjoys these little pleasures. For a small band, Sasso says they tour incessantly. The simple life comes as a meditative reprieve.

It’s moments like these that help Sasso and his bandmates — guitarist Casey Laforet and drummer Stephen Pitkin — recharge and reflect, especially right now. Time always seems to fly by for Elliott Brood, which is why Sasso can’t believe the three-piece band has been together for 10 years. As he paints, he marvels at how far they’ve come and what they’re doing to celebrate.

Elliott Brood will be re-releasing their debut EP Tin Type on vinyl in mid-August to mark their decade-long existence, adding three more songs to the record — The Trail, Rusty Nail, and a cover of Parkdale’s Cranes — that initially didn’t make the cut.

“We didn’t expect to be a band. Here we are 10 years later, and we get to play music for a living,” Sasso says over the phone. “(Tin Type) was more of a demo that turned into a platform for us to get out there. We always wanted to do a hard pressing of it and we always wanted to do vinyl. Being that the initial idea was a demo and it was only six songs, we kind of afterwards wished we had recorded a full record. So this kind of makes it a full record.”

Continue reading at edmontonjournal.com.

Young Edmonton model makes the cover of Italian Vogue

Screen shot 2013-09-19 at 10.03.31 PMPublished in the Edmonton Journal July 18, 2013.

BY AMANDA ASH, EDMONTON JOURNAL

Dorian Reeves received a flustered phone call in early spring. On the line was his New York agent from Soul Artist Management, telling Reeves he had three hours to prepare for and attend an important meeting clear across New York City.

Just short of mowing down all the suits and sightseers in his path, Reeves scrambled to the Soho studio rendezvous. Through the door he found himself shaking hands with one of the world’s most famed fashion photographers, Steven Meisel.

“(Meisel) doesn’t meet male models, ever,” the Edmonton-based model explains, leaning forward in his chair. “So I was like, ‘This is a big deal.’

“He asked me a few questions and I just tried to be myself as much as possible. At the end he was like, ‘OK see you soon.’ And I was like, ‘Ahhh, what does that mean?’”

Two weeks later, Meisel — best known for his work with U.S. and Italian Vogue and his photographs of friend Madonna in her 1992 book Sex — requested another meeting. The chat ended the same painfully ambiguous way as the first.

Another two weeks passed. This time, he was bombarded with back-to-back calls and emails from his New York agency and his Edmonton agency, Mode Models.

“They said, ‘You just booked the cover of Italian Vogue with (Brazilian model) Raquel Zimmermann,’” Reeves recalls. “I was like, ‘Oh my God.’

“It was the biggest, most surreal moment of my life,” he continues. “It was something I always wanted to do, but didn’t think I could actually do it. I didn’t even know what to feel. Even now, I’m still buzzing.”

Continue reading at edmontonjournal.com.

#yvrshoots connects fans to the film industry

Published on OpenFile.ca on September 13, 2011. 

At any given moment, Twitter connects people to pop culture chatter and real-time events developing across the globe. But for Vancouver-based journalist Susan Gittins, the popular social media tool boasts some star-studded appeal.

Gittins, a self-professed movie and television aficionado, created the Twitter hashtag#yvrshoots in November 2010 at the suggestion of a friend who was interested in organizing Vancouver filming location Tweets and making them accessible.

She began slipping #yvrshoots into her film-related Tweets, and today, people all over metro Vancouver—and even around the world—are chipping in their celebrity sightings and camera crew discoveries to the information-rich pool.

“Some days, it feels like Vancouver is just one big film set,” Gittins says of the numerous Tweets that have accrued under the hashtag.

“Someone sees a film crew setting up and it’s on Twitter. It’s on the hashtag. And if it’s not discovered immediately what show is filming, it happens within a couple of hours. It’s instant information all the time. There’s no other place really to get it. It’s quite amazing.”

Vancouver, often referred to as Hollywood North, is a major North American filming hotspot. As a result, #yvrshoots has allowed fans to follow productions ranging from the television series Fringe to the latest movie phenomenon, the Twilight series’ Breaking Dawn.

According to Gittins, who blogs about her film location adventures forVancouverIsAwesome.com, we live in a tabloid age interested in big-name actors. She says star-spotting drives a lot of interest in the hashtag, but many people also just like to know what’s going on when trailers and cameras swarm their neighborhood.

Continue reading at Vancouver.OpenFile.ca

Review: Taylor Swift hearts Vancouver

Published in the Vancouver Sun September 10, 2011.

BY AMANDA ASH, VANCOUVER SUN

Taylor Swift curled her hands into the shape of a heart. With a sweet smile, the 21-year-old country-pop superstar hoisted the symbol above her head, letting it float above a sold-out crowd at Rogers Arena Saturday night.

It was unlike the usual obnoxious expressions of gratitude, where touring acts scream, “What up Vancouver!!!” into the mic. The audience quickly returned Swift’s love, showering the petite blonde with one of the biggest and loudest displays of devotion heard in the Arena for a very long time. It was a moment that gave you goosebumps all over your body.

Taylor Swift creates a world of meaning with very few words. And sometimes, the Grammy Award-winning artist with three flawless studio albums under her belt doesn’t even need syllables to convey her simple, yet cogent, messages, as she demonstrated at the first of two Vancouver shows on her Speak Now Tour

That’s what makes T-Swift one of country’s—and the world’s—most successful artists. She speaks to a single moment, a single time and a single feeling. She isn’t wordy. She’s not complicated. Rather, her youthful perspective allows her to tell elemental stories that cut to the chase. Swift’s lyrics are stripped down and accessible rather than abstract. Mine, Mean, Sparks Fly, Enchanted, Speak Now—all songs focus on primary emotions or experiences. And such simplicity, even when it’s tinged with a bit of childish fantasy, rings louder than any gabby rhetoric could.

Continue reading at www.vancouversun.com.

Review: Ke$ha feeds Vancouver’s party hungry

Published in the Vancouver Sun September 9, 2011.

BY AMANDA ASH, VANCOUVER SUN

Good thing Ke$ha’s glitter orgy fell on a Friday. If it were a weekday, no one would’ve made it to work the next morning.

As can be expected from the 24-year-old pop-rock star who sing-raps about brushing her “teef” with Jack Daniels, getting crunk and stripping on the dance floor, Ke$ha’s show at Rogers Arena Friday night was a filthy hot mess. Inhibitions, both on stage and off, became optional, and all acceptable behaviour vanished like Keyser Soze.

Sure, it sounds like a blast. The whole Get $leazy Tour experience took you back to those early experimental undergrad days before you felt regret or guilt. And for most of the young adult fans–decked out in ripped pantyhose and neon booty shorts–and whose ages fell into that particular party hungry category, Ke$ha was exactly what they wanted out of their Friday night. But for those late 20-something-year-olds who have graduated to the kind of hangovers that make you feel like you chugged Draino, the carnal overindulgence instigated an automatic gag-reflex rather than the compulsion to take off your shirt and do belly shots.

That’s the thing about Ke$ha: You kinda had to be a certain age and in a certain mood to listen to her discs, Animal and Cannibal. But in the end, when it came to really enjoying the sleaze-fest of the century, all fun was directly proportional to the number of drinks you had consumed. If you were sober, lord have mercy. If you managed to trade a few bricks of gold for one of the arena’s pink cocktails, then you probably had the time of your life, no matter your age. Seriously. In a matter of minutes, a concert that was a two could turn into a ten with the help of a beverage.

Continue reading at www.vancouversun.com.

Vancouver’s geography reels in film industry

Published on OpenFile.ca on September 8, 2011.

Vancouver’s backyard is sprinkled with snow-capped mountains, lush forests, sandy beaches and glittering waters. Drive a few hours outside the neighborhood and you’ll discover dusty deserts, icy ridges and cozy rural towns.

In all its vegetative forms, Vancouver and B.C.’s geography has been its calling card for major motion pictures and television series, making it a star on the big screen since the early 1970s. According to BC Film Commissioner Susan Croome, Vancouver’s proximity to Los Angeles, its compatible time zone, temperate climate and, of course,spectacular terrain are what originally drew—and continue to draw—big budget productions to our city.

“Vancouver provides the perfect combination of urban comfort and natural beauty,” says Croome. “It’s the third-largest in North America after Los Angeles and New York. All types of productions, from blockbuster movies like Mission Impossible 4 to television series like Fringe, find exactly what they need.”

“Vancouver has it all,” she continues. “Excellent production talent, expertise, and infrastructure located in a beautiful city, in the midst of a broad spectrum of spectacular natural shooting locations.”

Croome explains that B.C. has 14 biogeoclimatic zones, which is more than Los Angeles, New York or other Canadian provinces. Its diverse geography allows for a variety of films to mold its surroundings to their liking. Some of the more interesting places Vancouver and B.C. have “been” include Mars in Mission To Mars, Singapore in X-Men: The Last Stand, Medieval England in the Girl With The Red Riding Hood, and San Francisco in the latest box office breadwinner, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Continue reading at Vancouver.OpenFile.ca

Review: Janet Jackson sparks a rush of nostalgia

Published in the Vancouver Sun August 26, 2011. 

BY AMANDA ASH, VANCOUVER SUN

When you’ve got 34 number one songs to your name, you’re allowed to celebrate any way you want.

As the title of Janet Jackson’s current Number Ones: Up Close & Personal tour suggested, the 45-year-old R&B pop star chose to look back at her fertile career with a wine-and-sweatpants type of affair rather than an elaborate princess party. The iconic artist, born Janet Damita Jo Jackson, reveled in retrospective glory simply by hanging out with her closest fans in Vancouver’s living room. All that was missing was a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Jackson, often singularly known as Janet, brought her hits and her swagger to Queen Elizabeth Theatre Friday night, but it was an experience decidedly different than any of her standard live show spectacles. Janet could’ve easily swept us away with opulence, going the route with flying dancers and blazing fireworks, exotic stage setups and sexy costumes. Instead the Gary, Indiana-born songstress opted to put herself in the spotlight first and foremost.

Janet’s intention for the tour was to unplug. She wanted to perform in intimate settings for every stop on her largest international jaunt ever and stoke the embers of nostalgia. And overall, it was probably a smart move.

Continue reading at www.vancouversun.com.