Impulsive. I'm. I've been. I shall be.
The word "impulsive" gets a bad rap.
Sure, there are two sides to every coin, even a two-headed one.
On one side, impulses flood our conscious mind all the time. Some are primal. The desire to eat. But then what comes next? Does one nourish the impulse responsibly or does temptation take hold.
Is a muddy swamp of high fructose corn syrup on the horizon? Is 500 milligrams of caffeine necessary? Is 22 ounces of red meat in one fell swoop vital?
We all have our thresholds with temptation. One of mine centers around a preoccupation with black hoodies.
I'm a bit impulsive on the hoodie front. Having a whole closet full of 'em does not deter me from acquiring a new one at any given moment. A strange behavior for someone residing in sunny Southern California...how many days, exactly, can I even wear them? My quick response, aside from fashion sense and practicality, is that I have a lot of favorite bands / brands.
The other side of the coin is the root of the word "impulsive". The word "pulse". To have a pulse. To live life to the fullest. To, sometimes, act on desires. We're only in this world for a relatively short time and there's so much to see and do.
Being a natural born explorer, there's a spirit in me that thrives on the journey, the adventure. The unknown.
Don't Call Me Maybe.
Call Me Alive!
Matching my fervor for life is a lifelong passion for music, in all of its consumable forms.
When asked about their first concert experience, most people reply...my parents drug me to...blah blah blah.
I drug mine.
As a young boy in grade school, I inhaled everything on FM rock radio and at the ripe ol' age of 10, I talked my mom into taking me (and my younger sister) to see one of my new favorite bands whose hit single 'Feels Like The First Time' was exploding across the local airwaves. Foreigner was opening for Aerosmith (at the height of their bloated excess). Off we went to a sold-out baseball stadium and my life was changed forever.
Throughout my inauguration to the hallowed halls of rock 'n roll in the flesh, I was definitely immersed in a state of sensory overload but the performances weren't transcedent. The experience was.
And it felt like the first time because it bloody was.
I also left thinking... I really liked the opening band. Their singer Bon Scott had a growl. It wasn't vocal prowess he possessed. More like a possessed vocal Prowler.
The years and the decades have disintegrated before me but one thing has remained true to this day. My so-called impulsive behavior continues to color my musical life.
From my days of buying albums because the jacket cover looked cool to sleeping out all night (even in Chicago in January) for tickets to the biggest shows (i.e. Van Halen 1984) to working at a record store and accepting every freebie pair of tix that was ever offered to me (all but one...I turned down tix to drive to Wisconsin to see Stevie Ray Vaughn open for Eric Clapton...a huge regret) to working within the major label systems to my continued days in the business, music is still the beating pulse that courses and sustains.
My zest for music discovery, championing talented new bands and travel travails remains the same.
Very often it puts my membrane on a jet plane.
Just after the turn of the millennium, I contacted All Music Guide alerting them to their lack of an in-depth bio for a burgeoning Dutch producer named Tijs Michiel Verwest. AMG replied back and I soon found myself penning his BIO which led to a subsequent phone interview, which led to my impulsive desire to fly to Spain to see his Tuesday night Godskitchen residency @ Amnesia. Tiesto's 6-hour set (until dawn) on the tiny paradise island of Ibiza may very well be the pinnacle of my concert life.
I've had other memorable sonic excursions seeing Paramore in Cuyahoga Falls, Pink Floyd in Phoenix, Phish in San Fran, Pearl Jam in Dallas, Ozzfest (w/ Pantera) in Dallas, Kings of Leon in Nashville, Kasey Chambers in Boston, Tori Amos in NYC, Ke$ha in Las Vegas, Paul Oakenfold in Miami, Metallica in Austin, Marilyn Manson in Dayton (on Feb 14, 1997), and Avril Lavigne in Moncton, a small Canadian town in the quaint province of New Brunswick.
Which brings me to a quaint provincial paradise in the heart of the Land of Lincoln...
Once home to Abraham Lincoln, who settled with his family west of town in 1830, it's sometimes referred to "the Soybean Capital of the World".
Fast forward 182 years...a huge hill of beans later.
About three months ago, I discovered a new band. Not necessarily that "new" but new to me.
They call themselves ICON FOR HIRE and I call myself a convert.
Fortunately for me, a perfect storm of circumstances soon presented themselves:
New favorite band - check
Never seen them live - check
Hometown show - check
Haven't played hometown in 18 months - check
Band is playing the entirety of their brilliant debut album - check
Based in Decatur, IL and I've never been - check
Fondness for the microcosm of small towns - check
Theatre is haunted by ghosts - check
Saturday night of a Holiday weekend - check
Reasonable price for a Meet n Greet / Pit ticket - check
Ease of Orbitz.com - check
Unscripted adventure - check
This wasn't even an impulsive decision. This was a can't-miss once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Icon For Hire would soon cater to Decatur and I would bear witness, not ask for forgiveness!
Flying to Chicago, I soon strapped myself behind the wheel of a sleek black Jetta and headed deep into the center of Central Illinois. While most of the 180-mile drive south was mundane, visually, it was exhilarating, spiritually.
The further along US-51 South I traveled, the more my pulse hastened. Without a doubt, I would easily be the most excited person to arrive in Decatur that weekend...and, perhaps, ever! A 2000-mile journey definitely amplifies reality and the confluence of circumstances was still in effect.
When I finally saw the Welcome To Decatur sign, it was like seeing the Holy Grail for the first time. It glowed in the crisp midday sun. I had arrived! The majesty of Decatur shone down upon me.
Heading over to the venue early for the pre-show acoustic performance / meet 'n greet, my Volkswagen Jetta "impulsively" wanted to park next to a cute lil German Bug decoratively attired as a tribute to REO Speedwagon.
Minutes for the memory book... Keep On Rollin'. Check.
After buying a bunch of IFH merch including a fresh black hoodie (shocker!), I marched upstairs to an intimate VIP gathering.
Seated on wooden stools, singer Ariel Bloomer, guitarist Shawn Jump, drummer Adam Kronshagen and bassist Josh Kincheloe gregariously answered inquiring questions from inquiring minds, many of which were tangentially connected to the band members, themselves.
Sure, Decatur is a small town, but that's what made the charm of what was transpiring even more engaging. Such a simple honest exchange was taking place and it was very refershing. No pretension. No hesitation. I felt like I was in a classroom...at the School of Rock!
The band touched on the sarcastic tone of their name which slyly mimics the way pop culture makes Idols out of singers/musicians.
Their reflective societal concept, timing wise, turned out to be a rather interesting coincidence, and unknowing indictment, of fellow Decaturan CeCe Frey who, at the time, was continuing to defy odds on her rise to the Top 6 on X Factor. Ms Frey seems to be the exact embodiment of being an Icon For Hire, a role she seemed to relish and, surely, will continue to.
The band also discussed their influences (Ariel: Linkin Park, Rage Against The Machine; Shawn: John Mayer, Kenny Chesney; Josh: Memphis May Fire; Adam: Metal, Hardcore) before asking for song requests.
With solo acoustic accompaniment by Mr Jump, Ariel belted out rousing renditions of "Make A Move," "Get Well" and "Pieces," a favorite of hers because of its message of empowerment. Electricity sans electric was flowing. There must have been Ghosts in the Machine but not to worry because The Police were nearby.
In between songs, the two continued to share personal stories. Practically finishing each others' thoughts at times, Ariel and Shawn resembled an old married couple.
600 shows on the road together hem a tightly-knit sweater vest.
Afterwards, the band joyfully posed for pictures with each and every person, adding an extra layer of importance to concept of Very Important People.
The night would soon be amplified to seventh heaven.
All ghosts needed to make an overture or forever hold their peace.
Not wanting to dilute the magic of seeing Icon For Hire for the first time and fully wanting to enjoy my ONE night in Decatur, I asked the band for a restaurant recommendation and was soon able to have a lookie-loo at the coo coo ca-choo seafood at Bizou.
Fine dining. Open and inviting. Though I must admit that Decatur's fish market is a lot less expansive than Tokyo's, Seattle's or Sydney's (I've been to all three).
Nevertheless, the food in my fairy tale was phenomenal.
Mercury levels rising, I returned to Lincoln and took a place stage center, 2nd person back.
There was no red crush velvet curtain for Ariel to peek her head through, but my anticipation to hear the opening strains of "Overture" followed by the driving urgency of "Theatre" would soon unfurl.
And when Ariel vibrantly exorcised "I'm gonna burn this theatre down & pray to God for the strength to help me Face the crowd, I wanna live like I lost the script & scream every line Like "THIS IS IT!", it all came crashing down on me...a tidal wave of joy that continues to sow my lifelong adventurous row.
"Theatre" really resonates within me for I live life like I lost the script and on countless occasions have screamed THIS IS IT!
I'll probably end Up In Flames before the end of the night...
As Icon For Hire sonically seared through Scripted (including my favorite song "The Grey" which I would travel 2000 miles again to see in person), I was, once again, immersed in a state of sensory overload but the performance, overall, wasn't transcendent.
Ironically, it, at times, felt a bit scripted. A 180 from the off-the-cuff pre-show gathering. Don't get me wrong. The passion was there. The energy was overflowing. The crowd was crowing. The band were infinitely dialed in and sounded impeccable but often teetered towards paint-by-numbers rather than Michelangelo.
Spraying silly string?? Trampolines for a cover of House of Pain "Jump Around" sans Cirque du Soleil costuming and choreography???
Given the band's vivacious imagination and mastery of the visual medium as evidenced in their magnificent music videos coupled with Ariel's visionary artistic pedigree (i.e. her trendsetting fashionista sense propelling her Custom Catastrophes clothing line or her meticulous notes throughout the Scripted liners portraying the album as a complete and thorough work of art apt for a full-blown theatrical production), I know their live show is capable of a higher power.
Until paint-by-numbers insouciance eschews eminence relevance, I decree:
Off With Her Head
Icon did, at times, color outside the lines. Moments that ascended greatness to infamy were the breakdown of "Only A Memory" where the refrain of "I will not bend 'til I break" was poignantly extended for a few extra measures and the beginning of the encore...
Starting with the iconic riff of Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," ICH segued into a "new" song that found Ariel spitting hip hop with a forceful pop, lock & drop. This brief uncharted excursion sounded like an Icon For Hire mash-up of Rage Against The Machine's "Bombtrack".
There was some infinite sizzle in her drizzle. That track was da schnizzle!
Circling back to my exaggerated, yet unfounded, expectations of what the actual show might have been. I do understand context. I also realize that a large scale production takes loads of time and tons of money to plan and produce and I do have enormous faith that their full unencumbered artistic elastic will come to fruition on stage one day. Umm, Orbitz.com?
I wonder if they'll ever require "Ghosts" in their concert rider...
Can they be considered "ambiance inheritance?
Would they pair well with a veggie tray?
At least an extra hotel room is not necessary. They'll happy haunt the one you're with (cue track by Crosby Stills & Nash).
All in, the Icon For Hire experience, was otherworldly, and one I'll long remember.
It, once again, felt like the first time though I'm no longer a foreigner to my impulses.
Their collective temptations are only a memory, one I keep warm with a snug black hoodie.
ICON FOR HIRE
Nov 24, 2012
Acoustic Set (pre-show VIP)
1. Make A Move
3. Get Well
3. Off With Her Head
6. Get Well
7. Only A Memory
8. Call Me Alive
9. The Grey
10. Conversation With A Rock Star (Acoustic)
11. Up in Flames > Jump Around
12. Drum solo
14. Sweet Home Alabama riff > New Song
15. Make A Move
ICON FOR HIRE CONCERT PHOTO GALLERY