Category: Reviews

Third Eye Blind w/ Silversun Pickups: Summer Gods Tour | Boston

  
Third Eye Blind w/ Silversun Pickups: Summer Gods Tour | Boston

Photos & Words by Rob Watts.  Follow @RobWattsOnline

Boston celebrated 2017s first day of summer at Blue Hills Bank Pavillion on the Boston waterfront in style—great weather, good vibes and nothing short of stellar music—kindly provided by Silversun Pickups and headliner, Third Eye Blind. During their Boston stop on their Gods of Summer tour, Silversun Pickups played and abbreviated, yet potent set list of their better known material. I’ve seen them five times now and they’ve always been in the headliner position. Although they only performed 2/3 of their usual set, they certainly did not disappoint. Opening with Nightlight from their most recent release, Better Nature, the band kicked it into high gear from the onset. Followed by such crowd pleasers, Well Thought Out Twinkles, Panic Switch, The Pit and Substitution, the band, especially the always energetic and fun to watch Brian Aubert, plowed through one song after another to the delight of their fans. The quartet ended their set with their best-known hit single, Lazy Eye—the one with that amazing extended guitar solo, and left their fans to a satisfied and thunderous applause. 

  
  
  
By the time Third Eye Blind took to the stage, every seat had been filled in the sold out venue. Very eager fans—many who weren’t even five years old when the band’s self-titled debut was released, were on their feet, cheering and jumping up and down in anticipation of their opening song. There was an energy flowing through the area that I don’t see very much at concerts these days—at least not from Millennials cheering on a band from the mid-nineties with a fifty-two year old lead singer. As the band took the stage, Lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Stephan Jenkins—wearing an illuminated sport coat, eased into the evening with Weightless, followed by Company of Strangers, Horror Show, Wounded, Queen of Daydreams, Something in You and Shipboard Cook. After some light banter regarding the fact that their debut album reached number one twenty years ago on that day, the band left the stage for no more than 5 minutes. Upon their return, the stage set changed, the lights got brighter and more colorful, and the band ripped into their self-titled debut album, performing the album live in its entirety. Ripping into Losing a Whole Year, the crowd went into a frenzy, singing along to every lyric, to every song, which included Semi-Charmed Life, Graduate, How’s it Going to Be and Jumper. God of Wine was omitted from the sequence and saved as the final song of the evening, following Alright Caroline and Never Let You Go. The Summer Gods surely conquered. 

  
  
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Rachel Kadish: The Weight of Ink | Book Release Party

  
Rachel Kadish: The Weight of Ink | Book Release Party | Newtonville Books

Story & Photos by Rob Watts   Follow @RobWattsOnline

It was a packed house last night at Newtonville Books in Newton Center, just outside of Boston. You couldn’t fit another body in the bookstore with a shoehorn as there was an abundance of excitement and anticipation for author Rachel Kadish to debut her latest novel, The Weight of Ink published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Rachel took to the podium shortly after 7PM, allowing store employees to set up extra chairs for the continual flow of fans. She read from chapter one—the first time she’d read from her book publicly, and delivered a wonderful reading which was sure to entice spectators into diving into their own copies as soon as possible. I know that I will be. During her Q and A, Kadish responded to questions in an engaging and informative fashion. She spoke to everything from the writing process of “Weight,” the historical research involved, her detail to accuracy and her refusal to outline her writing projects ahead of time. After which she signed copies of her novel to a lengthy line of fans. Thank you, Newtonville Books, for hosting yet another terrific event. 

  
  

Maximum Harm by Michele McPhee: Book Review

  

Maximum Harm: The Tsarnaev Brothers, The FBI, and the Road to the Marathon Bombing by
Michele R. McPhee

Review by Rob Watts   Follow @RobWattsOnline

Let me start off by saying that true-crime author and investigative reporter, Michele McPhee, deserves a great deal of credit for the tremendous amount of work put into writing the book, Maximum Harm. The exhaustive research along with the tedious process of fact-checking, conducting interviews, tracking down evidence reports, victim’s testimonies, medical reports, arrest records, so-on-and-so-forth—the leg work that she’s put into this book project is immeasurable and should not be overlooked. Why do I give praise to this fact so early on in my review? Frankly, as a life-long resident of Boston, I’m angered to this day over what had happened during Marathon Monday on April 15th, 2013. And like many, many residents who live in the Boston area (many whom’ve been directly affected by the bombing attacks), we’ve always been left with more questions than answers. Sure, the media reported the basics—they’d deliver information in dribs and drabs, but ultimately the deeper and darker story behind the story was somehow always shrouded in mystery. Maximum Harm finally delivers the facts in a very informative and eye-opening manner.

Upon reading the opening chapters, we are given a harsh and descriptive look at the mayhem that ensued during the critical moments following the two blasts. The grim details (and they are in-fact grim) of the victims who’d lost limbs, spectators who had gotten separated from their families and loved ones, the E.M.T.s who rushed in to tend to the countless victims within minutes amid the chaos, the efforts of local law enforcement, the Boston Fire Department, random civilians who had rushed to help the bloodied victims; knowing full-well that more explosions could in-fact detonate in their vicinity, the marathon volunteers—this in-depth vantage point is all laid out for the reader to get a sense of just how dire and uninviting this tragedy was and how the timeline unfolded from that point forward. 

As I had mentioned, there have been so many unanswered and poorly explained answers up until now and thankfully, McPhee does a remarkable and impressive job at piecing the puzzle together. So what prompted the foreign-born brothers, Tamerlan, (born in Siberia in 1986) and Dzhokhar (born in Kyrgyzstan in 1993) to attack their country—who’d seemingly rolled out the red carpet for them and their family members, in such a horrific and monstrous manner? You would need to trace their family beginnings back to their war-torn homeland of Chechnya, their fleeing from Russia to finally settle into Cambridge, Massachusetts (upon which they received free housing and a bevy of government handouts and benefits), enrolling the Tsarnaev brothers in Cambridge Rindge and Latin, one the the finest public schools in America, and ultimately enrolling younger brother Dzhokhar into UMass Dartmouth. If you’re saying to yourself, Gee, this doesn’t sound like a recipe for disaster, then you’d normally be correct. Many factors along the way played into what would become Boston’s darkest days. A handful of those factors were: 

  • The Tsarnaev family had been granted political asylum. Younger brother, Dzhokhar had become an American citizen; this was something elder brother Tamerlan wanted so desperately, yet he was denied.
  • The denial of U.S. citizenship resulted in Tamerlan being denied a place on the United States Olympic Team as a boxer, a sport in which he was passionate about and had trained incessantly over. 
  • The FBI, who had employed Tamerlan as an informant, apparently broke their promise to grant him citizenship if he cooperated with them. 
  • Tamerlan’s eventual radicalization and the influence he had on younger brother, Dzhokhar. 

McPhee also sheds light on a number of questions, such as

  • Without a valid passport and while being on TWO terror watch lists, how was Tamerlan free to travel to and from Russia and The United States without any red flags? 
  • Why did the FBI and CIA ignore repeated warnings about Tamerlan from the Russian Federal Security Service? 
  • Were Tamerlan and Dzhokhar directly involved in the triple homicide of Erik Weissman, Raphael Teken, and Brendan Mess on Sept 11th, 2011? 
  • How was it that Tamerlan could afford to drive a lavish vehicle and own expensive clothing without ever having worked a job? 
  • What is Tamerlan’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni’s connection to the CIA? 
  • Did the FBI know who the suspects were prior to their acknowledgment, and if so, would MIT Officer Sean Collier still be alive today? 
  • If the Feds hadn’t ignored these repeated red flags and warnings, might Krystie Campbell (aged 29), Lü Lingzi (aged 23) and Martin Richard (aged 8) still be alive today? 

There is a lot of information to absorb from this book, but it flows at a consistent and rapid pace. Although this book may have more regional appeal to those living in and around the Massachusetts area, I would urge everyone to pick this up and give it a read. It’s important to know what’s going on behind the scenes of law enforcement—be it shady dealings or beneficial practices, and it’s vital to ask questions (at least to yourself) about how these dubious affairs affect our daily lives and jeopardize our safety. 

Pick up a copy of Maximum Harm available at Amazon.com

  

    5 Soundtracks by Tangerine Dream That You Should Hear

      
    5 Soundtracks by Tangerine Dream That You Should Hear

    By Rob Watts    @RobWattsOnline

    As a writer, I find it necessary to have some form of background music playing. I think many of my writer friends will agree that dance music, death metal or gangsta rap blaring from the speakers serves more as a distraction than a soothing counterbalance while concentrating—perhaps I’m wrong, but I know it wouldn’t work well for me personally. While working in the creative realm, I tend to play instrumentals in the background; less distraction, I’m not singing along and losing my concentration and it adds a certain ambience while helping me frame a storyline properly. I usually find my comfort zone in film scores. To those who know me best, it’s no secret that my favorite film scores were produced in the 1970s and early 80s (huh, that’s funny, that’s when the best films were made as well.) Along with John Carpenter and John Williams, my other favorite soundtrack composers are the European synth rock band, Tangerine Dream. While their entire body of non-soundtrack work is amazing, especially Zeit (1972), Phaedra (1974), Rubycon (1975) and Stratosfear (1976), their film scores are equally as impressive and as much as I’d love to list each and every soundtrack release, I’ll whole-heartedly recommend the following five. It will be worth seeking them out, trust me. 

      
    Sorcerer (1977)

    Tangerine Dream’s first soundtrack album to William Friedkin’s existential thriller, Sorcerer, the music is a mesmerizing mixture of classical music run through a synth-pop blender. Each track truly sucks you in and captivates you with its ominous presence. 

       

    Thief (1981) 

    The band’s second soundtrack album to Michael Mann’s Thief, this is yet another captivating piece of work. It moves you along, front to back, leaving the listener is a suspended state of ear candy euphoria.  
      
    Wavelength (1984) 

    Their fourth soundtrack to the little known low budget Science Fiction film, Wavelength, just might be my favorite.  While the film might be poorly produced (look for the boom mic in the top corner of the shot, at least three times), it does have its moments and the film score certainly amplifies these occasions. A high point in the film for me is the scene when the three alien boys are being driven along Sunset Boulevard by their rescuers (Robert Carradine and Cherie Currie) while the hypnotic film score rolls on. 

      
    Firestarter (1984) 

    While I’m not a big fan of the film, the score is far more memorable for me. It keeps in line with the previously listed soundtracks, especially Thief. 

      
    Risky Business (1984)

    One might not consider Risky Business’ soundtrack to be very memorable other than the addition of the (ugh—so overplayed) hit song, Old Time Rock and Roll by Bob Seger. No one seems to recall that Prince, Phil Collins and Journey offered their contributions to this bore fest (just my opinion) of an 80s film as well. What enhances any salvageable portion of this film, however, is Tangerine Dream’s film score, once again proving that they truly crafted and set the benchmark for soundtracks for the remainder of the 80s, as they went on to contribute to Flashpoint, Three O’Clock High, Near Dark and Legend. 

    Amazon Books Opens First Brick & Mortar Store in Massachusetts

      
    Amazon Books Opens First Brick & Mortar Store in Massachusetts (at Legacy Place, Dedham.)

    Review and Photos by Rob Watts     @RobWattsOnline

    After months of speculation, Amazon has finally brought its Amazon bookstore concept to Massachusetts (one of only six locations in the U.S.) at Dedham’s trendy shopping haven, Legacy Place. Amazon Books (located next to Whole Foods in the plaza) promised to re-revolutionize the book buying experience, much as it has with their dot com site, and from the looks of it, they’re making good on that pledge. As I had the opportunity to venture inside on opening day, it looks, at first glance, much like any modern streamlined bookstore. However, there are several variables that make this establishment stand out. To begin, each and every title on the shelves are displayed face out—no need to risk a neck injury by tilting sideways to read through dozens of spines. Just as we view book covers face out on their website, Amazon Books takes away the hassle of sifting through a bevy of spine-out titles and allows the customer to easily find popular titles with ease and efficiency. 

      
    What should be noted is that Amazon Books doesn’t stock just any titles; they are carefully chosen through a variety of methods, particularly by popularity and sales on their Amazon site. Every book in stock has received a 4 star rating or higher—either on Amazon OR Goodreads. In front of each title there’s a review card with a customer review, the star rating and the amount of reviews that book has gotten (as of recent.) 

      
    Another noticeable difference between here and the other bookstore chains is that there are no prices listed. Much like Amazon ‘s website, prices fluctuate from day to day, so whatever the price of the book is on the dot com site, it’s that price in store. There are simple to use price scanners in almost every aisle. I grabbed a copy of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and gave it a scan. Today it’s $13.95 and $10.26 if I’m a Prime member. 

      
    Staff can easily track down a specific title on the spot with their handheld scanning devices. They can also tell you right away if they don’t carry it in store. No need to walk all the way over to the computer terminal found at some of the other large book chains. It should also be noted that each location throughout the U.S. stocks its inventory based on what’s trending in sales in that region. So, what might be available in Seattle might not be stocked in San Diego or (Dedham) Massachusetts. 

      
    It wouldn’t be a proper bookstore without a coffee bar; this particular location serves Peet’s Coffee (the only one out of the current six locations) and has a comfortable and relaxed seating area. There are plenty of friendly and helpful staff members to speak with and they’ll gladly help you with any questions. The sales girl, Tabitha, whom I spoke with today was extremely helpful and informative. She gave me the rundown of the store and its many highlights, which I’ve shared with you here. I love it for its blatant simplicity and efficiency. While I’m happy that stores such as Barnes & Noble have weathered the storm over the years, there’s no denying that shopping there gets to be a bit overwhelming. Sifting through a deluge of books becomes tiresome after about fifteen minutes. This proposed concept is far more appealing and I hope it’s a trend that will continually rise. While I’m sure that Barnes & Noble isn’t looking over its shoulder in fear just yet, I’m certain that in time this book chain will set set the standard yet again, and Barnes & Noble will make the necesary changes to its own business model. In the meantime, it’s nice to know that physical books are regaining popularity and there are no shortage of places to get them. 

      
      
      

    Boston Harbor Distillery Tour

      
    Boston Harbor Distillery Tour

    Located at 12 R Ericsson Street, Boston Ma. 02122

    Photos by Rob Watts

    Finally taking advantage of a free Saturday afternoon, I took a ride over to the nearby (to me) Boston Harbor Distillery along the Boston waterfront. You’ll find it next door to the Boston Winery and accross the parking lot from Venezia’s Restaurant on Dorchester Bay. I’ve been tring to carve out some free time to pay the facility a visit but I wanted to make sure I got there on a Saturday afternoon so I could take advantage of their guided tour of the building (their guided tours from from 1-7pm on Saturdays.) Founded and owned by Rhonda Kallman (former co-founder of Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams), former CEO & Founder of New Century Brewing), she and her team have put forth some sophisticated, and may I say, remarkably tasty spirits on the market. 

    The building itself is a beautifully restored old factory, once belonging to a horseshoe nail fabricator, and more recently the Seymour’s Ice Cream factory. The interior is lovingly restored, making adjustments and updates throughout, yet keeping the original brick and beam work intact. The tour guides are wonderful. They are extremely friendly and inviting, and more importantly, they are very well-versed in the history of the building, the current operation and of course, the products that they make there. The tour costs $10.00 a person, lasts about one hour and runs every 30 minutes until 7pm. There is a bar on the premises, comfortable seating throughout the area and their products are available for sale at a reasonable price. I highly recommend paying this distillery a visit when you get a chance. Support the new ventures! 

      
      
      
      

    Art Auction: Sun Oct. 9th in Boonton, NJ

      
    Art Auction: Dog Days of Summer

    Sunday, October 9th at 5 PM 

    Sage Day Auditorium – 215 Hill Street, Boonton, NJ / $25.00 admission

    Blog and sculpture photos by Rob Watts

    Now that Boonton’s Dog Days of Summer has come to an end, it’s time to auction off all the lovely dog sculptures that adorned Main Street from May through September. Waunders co-founder, Susan Saunders‘ dog “Bomber”—Bad to the Bone (pictured in the ad) is one of several sculptures up for grabs in the auction. In addition to providing Bomber with a new home, your contributions will go towards helping local animal shelters. Visit BoontonArts.org for additional information. 

    More about the artist (from Waunders.com:) Susan Saunders holds a varied background in the performing arts, the healing arts and education. She has appeared on stage, TV and on film as an actress and singer. She lived in New York City for ten years. There she was an executive in the music industry, having worked at major labels such as Mercury Records, and in music publishing where she was creative director. She enjoyed working with many artists, including Bon Jovi and Ringo Starr. She was the creative director of the Grammy winning hit “Who Let the Dogs Out” by The Baha Men. Susan currently lives in her hometown of Mountain Lakes, NJ and works in the healing arts and education. She is a graduate of Drew University; The Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences; and The College of St. Elizabeth’s Graduate School of Education. She is a member of Kappa Delta Pi the International Honor Society of Education. She loves the beach, playing along with Jeopardy on the TV, and crisp new boxes of Crayola crayons. Susan is the author and illustrator of Beach Boogie & the Clam Jams and co-author and illustrator of SNOWPOCALYPSE