Lately

My favorite time of the year has arrived: The ‘Embers’ !!! I love everything to do with holidays and celebration and it seems that the last 4 months of the year are when the world starts to rejoice! I look … Continue reading

2013 Blues Music Awards Weekend: Hard Rock Cafe Memphis, & Rum Boogie Cafe

Saturday May 11, 2013 was a party from sunrise to sunset! First stop was Hard Rock Cafe, Memphis where I witnessed such tremendous talent congregate on one stage. King Fish, a newcomer to the blues scene, stunned the audience with his guitar playing and vocals that one would never expect from a 14 yr old.

By nightfall, Beale Street was alive with the spirit of the blues-check out the amazing video footage of the performances @ the Rum Boogie Cafe!

Stay tuned! Up next tomorrow is photo/video of our trip to Helena, Arkansas and show highlights from Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi.








































For more, check out violavalentine.com!

Ying Yang Twins @ School of Rock- September 01, 2012

Atlanta-based rap duo, Ying Yang Twins have been on the music radar since the beginning of the last decade, but landed mainstream success and got the party-goers jumping, with hits like “Salt Shaker” and their collaboration with hype-man, Lil’ Jon on his song, “Get Low”, in 2003. Kaine (Eric Jackson) and D-Roc (De’Angelo Holmes) are known for their raunchy lyrics and wild attitude and the buzz around downtown Phoenix spread like wild-fire when it was learned they were to perform on September 1st at School of Rock, a 21+ dance club in Tempe, which provides the perfect atmosphere for hip-hop fans around the valley.

Arriving at 10:45pm, I entered the club with my plus-one and we made our way in through the ‘guest list’ line and went to enjoy the drinks and the festivities (gyrating go-go dancers in bedazzled underwear and furry boots), and were photographed by Dark Pearl Photography, the leading photography duo out on Mill Ave. Soon, the chaos in the packed club was reaching pinnacle as JD, (a radio station personality) dressed in a grey-suit jacket and blue jeans, made announcements over the microphone, “THE YING YANG TWINS ARE IN THE BUILDING!” The crowd responded graciously, and my company and I made our way to the VIP area where we were ushered to the top where the Ying Yang Twins sat at a table, a few feet away, with a blonde woman who was sitting with them.

I tried to sit down on a small couch and watch the party ensue, but it was too low to the ground and my vision was obstructed by the cloistered bodies packed in the small area. I jumped back up, and in looking straight ahead, met eyes with Kaine, one part of the rap duo, who was staring at me intensely through his tinted aviators. Standing at just over 5 feet, he was stationed at the table that was shrouded in bottles of liquor and decanters of fruit juice. An open bottle of Grey Goose was being shuffled around. Dirty-blonde braids hung from his head and stopped at his shoulders and his signature goatee was a bright shade of bleached blonde. He wore a black t-shirt with a logo emblazoned on the front and black cargo shorts that looked more like pants.

I approached Ian Isaac, my friend, and lead-photographer for Dark Pearl and asked him to get me in a photograph. When space was cleared out, security shoved me between both Kaine, and his counter-part, D-Roc and the picture was taken within seconds. I turned to Kaine, who extended his hand, “What’s your name?” I introduced myself, he was still sitting and urged me to lean down toward him, “I’m Kaine” he said calmly, “…I juss gotta tell you, you know, you da baddest muthafucka in herre”, he said, in a thick, lazy Georgian drawl, right into my ear; his smile revealed a set of perfect teeth, the bottom row decorated with randomized gold caps. My hands rested in his. “Aw, really? Thank you.” I was blushing as I broke away and stood four feet from the artists.

Every few minutes, I observed Kaine still ogling me from his perch, as he pounded back gulps of Patron tequila straight from the bottle. D-Roc was detached from the action, seemingly in his own world, with his lap-top open and dark sunglasses firmly planted on his face; a burning joint was between his thin fingers.

It was past midnight and nothing had happened yet, DJ DECiPHA was spinning at the booth and I was becoming fatigued. I approached Kaine once again, “when are you getting up there?” I asked into his braided locks, hoping the sound would reach his ear, “Soon…really soon…” he said slowly, “You so young and pretty, look like you gotta curfew.” I adamantly tried to convince him that this was not true, at which he responded with more laughter. I stood back a few feet and removed one of my 5-inch, black stilettos: my feet were killing me. Kaine mouthed in my direction and beckoned me to come over to him again, with the single shoe dangling from my finger, I approached. He was looking up at me and chuckling.

“What? What is so funny?” I teased, “My feet hurt.”

More laughter, “oh, so only one of yo’ feet hurt?”

“Well, both of them hurt but I’m taking turns” I quipped back flirtatiously.

“Well come sit down den, you wanna sit right herre at da table?” he asked patiently.

“Sure.”

“I can’t have you standing there with yo’ feet hurtin’” he said as he rose from his seat and let me position myself over the chair before scooting it back in, in a blatant show of southern chivalry, and he remained standing until I sat, before parking on a seat before me.

We sat together as he continued to compliment me and began to talk about his children, “you kind of remind me of my daughter.” He nodded his head, he seemed stone sober despite the amount of tequila I had witnessed him consume.

“How many do you have?”

Kaine lifted up two fingers, “only two, only two, I was blessed with” and proceeded to tell me their names and ages. His eyes were sensitive and patient; he seemed like a humble family man, a stark contrast of what his rap-image depicts to the fans. At that moment it was hard to image this was the same man that instructed legions of female admires to “shake yo ass and stop” among other sexual explicit details that could make even the insensitive drop their jaw in shock.

“Who’s that?” he asked, nodding toward the direction of my company.

“My mom…that’s my mom.”

His dark eyes widened from beneath his glasses, a huge smile broke across his face, “No, way…that’s yo mom?!” he exclaimed, and began maniacally tapping D-Roc on the shoulder, “D…guess what…D…that’s her mother, man!” D-Roc removed his shades to reveal a pair of shiny, dark eyes, before spinning around to look at her. “Daaayyummm” he said in a way typical of the Ying Yang Twins. He was wearing a screen t-shirt, a denim vest and pants, two shiny necklaces hung from around his neck; he was thin and stood at five feet, eight inches. Just observing him for a moment, he seemed quiet and intense. Both of them were extremely cognizant, calm and relaxed, which I had not expected.

My mom extended her hand, toward D-Roc, then Kaine, “I love you!”

“I love you, too” he Kaine replied with the country accent.

D-Roc smiled hard, clearly confounded by the effects of alcohol and marijuana.

“She’s supposed to tell you I’m her sister, I’m going to get her when I get home!” my mother joked.

“Aw nah, ha ha, aw nah, don’t do ‘nuthin to ‘er!” Kaine started to laugh, “you both ‘err very beautiful”

The School of Rock crowd was raucous and was collectively sending shocks of excited energy through the air, the entire place was buzzing. Fans came and went, stopping in front of them to pose for quick snapshots. “Wow” I said, nodding toward the throngs of fans looking to take a picture.

“Crazy” Kaine responded, punctuating the word with a nod.

“Everyone likes to put them up online” I said, trying to explain the motive for all the photographs being taken.

“Yeah…”

I pressed further, “You don’t do any of that I assume, your reps do it for you guys” Referring to the trend of spending days on the internet, surfing the web and posting pictures of daily events.

“Yeah… cause…nah, naw…I cain’t. Got things to do! I got ‘a job ta do!”

“Well, it’s not all bad, some people use it for networking specifically” I commented.

“Ha ha I know, I didn’t mean it like that, don’t take it like that…” he shook his head and smiled apologetically. I was not offended, and assured him so. The blonde woman at the table with us was entirely silent and held her face in her cupped hands, her blue eyes that were underlined with silver glitter eyeliner, darted around the room in observation of the intensifying insanity. She did not introduce herself.

“Are you here because you want to be, or are you guys touring?” Kaine looked at me without responding for five full seconds. I did not flinch as we silently considered each other. “Both” he finally said and smiling very sincerely. “…we’re realisin’ a new album and also the tour…we’re from Atlanta.”

I shook my head knowingly, then without segue continued the conversation, “are you hot?”

He said no despite his sweating forehead and the general temperature of the crowded club. He asked me the same question and then put a white towel over his head, before turning to look at the crowd of people. After a minute of observation, he pulled me in close once again, “her…now her right ‘durr, she cain’t dance.” He shook his head solemnly like his whole world had been crushed by this revelation, “it ain’t about havin’ an ass or not havin’ an ass, ya know? But she just cain’t dance.”

“Well, can you? You’re going to have to show her up”

Big grin, “Ahh, not yet, not yet. Later, doh, juss watch”

D-Roc was to my right, standing over his laptop, gesticulating to whoever it was next to him. He turned to look at me, his eyes were glistening and he appeared slightly dazed by the commotion around him, a smile broke across his face, he too possessed a perfect pair of teeth: big, straight, white and devoid of a signature hip-hop “grille” or such accoutrement that one would expect of such a popular rap artist.

It was late. JD addressed the hyped up audience that was packed together in fog of sweat, “THE YING YANG TWINS ARE ABOUT TO ROCK THE STAGE, RIGHT NOW!” Screams of excitement echoed from every corner. I was perched in my chair, watching the frenzied crowd and bouncing colored lights. Kaine was grinning at me again, his smile was warm and kind, “alright den” he said excitedly before taking another gulp from the squat Patron bottle, then hoisting himself  onto the stage division and turning toward the crowd, which yelled louder which each passing second. He stood right in front of me, obscuring my view. I turned to look at D-Roc, who went down the three side stairs to the VIP area, at the same time that Kaine jumped onto the stage.

The duo took the crowd by storm, cycling through all their hits, “Salt Shaker”, “Wait (The Whisper Song), and “Get Low” before performing new material. Kaine crawled along the floor at one point in the show, to the fanatical response of the crowd. They executed suggestive hip rolls and pelvic thrusts, in perfect unison during “Wait” and at this were shrouded with undergarment ranging from brassieres to G-strings. Kaine picked up a pair of lacy panties from the stage with a towel; he turned around and made eye contact with me, shaking his head in amusement while holding them in his grip. By now, it was 1:30 a.m., they were close to finishing their thirty minute set and D-Roc was addressing the crowd, before the last song.

I reluctantly rose to leave. While D-Roc was talking into the mic, I reached down and tapped Kaine on the shoulder, “I’m leaving, now, I’ve got to go!” Shirtless and sweating, he reached out to shake my hand, “alright you leavin?” he shouted above the din. As I exited the VIP area, I stopped for one last glance toward the stage. I was smiling as I descended the tri-level stair case, “YING YANG, YING YING, YING YANG! HHAAAAAAAAAEEEGGGHHH!” I could hear them shouting in unison into the microphones, as I made my way to the city street.

Photographs courtesy of:  https://www.facebook.com/DarkPearlPhotography

https://www.facebook.com/marjanivphotography

Ska Skank Redemption-The Trunk Space

Where they lack in air conditioning, they made up for in culture: that was apparent as I squeezed my way through the red door that donned the words “The Trunk Space” and was immediately greeted by a ocular goldmine for music junkies and hipsters alike. There were carts of dollar records for sale, hand-made necklaces and varying books about hot pop culture topics pinned in an absurd and ironic way that attracts the smart asses of the world.







This tiny haunt in the heart of Phoenix, was hot. Just so very hot. Sweat was pooling on my face as I surveyed my surroundings, and checked out the sites, namely the snow cone machine and the $3 dollar photo booth. The free programs that lay strewn on a bookshelf near a wall, served as a hand fan for the night ahead. Barely large enough to contain seventy people, The Trunk Space caters to smaller local bands and their devoted following: make a sharp turn and you risk elbowing someone in the gut.





The first band to play was One Four Fives, the quartet was comprised of four boys, a few of which I recognized from my days in high school. Their loud and intense set was full of energy and ear-piercing guitar riffs, the banging drums drowned out most of the vocals, but it did not hinder their performance, it just lent to the cataclysmic, raucous affect that the music delivered. After a short twenty minutes, One Four Fives was done playing. The crowd dispersed for some smoke and gossip in the small parking lot that was segmented off with ominous barbed wire and featured a bed of gravel for the cars to rest.





I stayed inside and snatched up a seat before they were claimed, I needed that perfect spot to photograph the next band, Colorado-born septet Ska Skank Redemption. The front line of musicians appeared from the side door and set up the instruments, a menagerie of pretty brass: trombones, saxophones, and trumpets; along with the usual stuff like guitars and a pristine drum-set. Vocalist, Mark Kinz, riled up the crowd immediately, rousing everyone to get energized as the music began to play; the crisp slams on the drums rendered a perfect upbeat sound that had the small audience clapping within seconds.








The trumpeter, the pixie-haired and adorable, Hannah Lewis, played off to the right side of Kinz, dancing in all her bare-footed glory to each song. Ska Skank Redemption is a smooth blend of ska, rock and reggae infusions, which combined with infectious, thrilling energy had their fans captivated: by the third song, the front of the crowd started a congo-line around the small venue, led by Kyle Etges, the alto saxophonist/vocalist. The band was directly involved with each passing second of the melody and crowd reception, Kinz even jumped to the ground as he played the trombone, spinning on his back to the uproarious respond of the fans: both old, and you new enthusiasts would be impressed. Their music swept up the room in brassy, funk energy that I can only compare to that of Sublime at both their “Caress Me Down” and “Seed” moments. I was thoroughly impressed with the performance. Proceeding the encore, they thanked the audience and complimented us on our ability to withstand the summer heat in Phoenix, for they were set to leave the valley the following day, to travel to the next stop on their tour.










After a brief chit chat with the Ska Skank Redemption, I went out to bask in the swampy August air before returning ten minutes later for the final band, newcomers Rabid Whole Logic who played an alluring blend of indie trip-hop infused with funk rock. There synchronized playing would often be broken up by rap verses similar to early Gym Class Heroes. The ginger-haired violinist was absolutely captivating, along with the rest of the musicians who maintained exciting energy and expressed immense gratitude for the audience from the first song to the last. A friendly and jovial group, they passed out free CDs to the spectators and promptly disbursed as the lights went up. The crowd vacated The Trunk Space and vanished into the night, “great show, yeah great show” I could overhear the many conversations, as I left the venue with free music in my hand and a smile on my face.








To view more pictures in HD, visit: https://www.facebook.com/marjanivphotography

The Rhythm Room-Biologia and Tierra Del Fuego

The opening act for Thursday’s musical lineup at the Rhythm Room, in Phoenix, was a musician playing an acoustic guitar and singing by himself. I was busy surveying the atmosphere and did not catch his name. Grey-haired and bandana-clad, the man on stage strummed along , playing his original works and engaging the small crowd that was cloistered in the room. The full bar was separated from the main performance area and there were people lining the edges of the walls watching silently in a collective hipster grimace. The vibe of the place was rather pleasant and quiet, mostly comprised of people ages twenty-eight and up with varying tastes in fashion and personal style. It was very dark inside with only the bar light and the pink and teal spotlights that illuminated the platform where the musicians stood.






I ordered a Desert Dream IPA and positioned myself right beneath the stage-which was not difficult to do: the actual stage was only a few feet from the ground. The nameless musician sang and played for twenty minutes and filled the space with soothing acoustic music that was so pleasant that it coaxed my eyes to shut within minutes… but in a good way. His sound was reminiscent of Donovan but the style was more strained, as he enunciated his words with an awkward twang at the end of each syllable.






Next up for the night was the foursome Biologia (biology in Spanish); I swear I was staring at a Freddy Mercury reincarnate when the guitarist/vocalist stepped on stage with a bright orange t-shirt and prominent facial hair (practically a handlebar mustache). Although an odd group, the band possessed a surprising amount of cohesion and energy, mostly due to the guitarists’ infectious dancing, gesticulating and thrashing, his lithe and excited movements matched the pulse of the music. The stony-faced bassist strummed along without so much as a twitch and the front woman sang with a gusto that could crumble buildings. Biologia could be described as funk rock, like Parliament Funkadelic meets the Red Hot Chili Peppers– all dance and groove with a little more punk-rock grit. You would have to be comatose to not nod your head to the beat.  After their lively set of seven songs that they streamed through a white Macbook, they exited the stage to make for the next band, Tierra Del Fuego. (Sand of Fire)

The clock read 10:45 p.m. when they stepped to the stage, with their brilliant cherry-red drum set and matching red guitar. These guys had style, which was apparent through their lyricism which touched on familiar topics such as drug use and heartbreak; and their raw emotional delivery inspired the audience to clap along to songs from their upcoming LP and loudly applaud at the finish of each tune. Tierra Del Fuego reminded me of alternative music mixed with a pinch of reggae, they certainly had perfected their unique sound that stood out on its own, practically incomparable to anything I have heard recently. With a two song encore, the band dispersed from the main stage after praising the next band that had yet to appear, but was scheduled for 11:30 p.m. By then I decided to exit and head home, with intention to return next weekend. The Rhythm Room is a comfortable, inviting space that features amazing bands and just might be my newest favorite spot to enjoy live music out in downtown Phoenix.

For additional photos of the event (in HQ):

Flickr

facebook.com/marjanivphotography

Coachella Festival Day 3, April 15, 2012

Once Josh and I arrived for Day 3 of Coachella and reached the grounds, we tried to camp in the parking spot where we had been assigned. Car camping was apparent closed, so we were a 20 minute hop and a jog from the festival grounds-very annoying if you ask me. Security guards on bicycles were swarming the place, getting people to grab their stuff and leave their cars, because “camping”, (essentially “staying”) in front of your vehicle was strictly forbidden. So we gathered up our booze, food and necessities for the day and began trekking. I ran into a guy I met during a performance on the 1st day. “Hey it’s the photographer!” he said to his 3 friends, who were waiting near his car, rapping and drinking 40 oz. Mickey’s. I took pictures of them and kept keeping on. Next, we ran into a guy who was holding a glass jug of pure tequila, and offering free shots because he needed to dispose of the bottle (glass isn’t allowed onsite). He tells Josh that he MUST take a minimum of two shots if he wants some liquor, so being a total bad-ass, my BFF chugs down two shots worth of warm tequila without a chaser. WOW.




After that, is the daily pat down. I did not get in the first time because I had the body of the camera around my neck. The evil lady who was searching me, told me to go put it back in my car and was being facetious by saying, “do you just wear it around your neck for fashion?” I said, “sure do,” then exited the line, stuffed it in my pants and went through a different checkpoint. Pass.



We then met up with two of Josh’s friends, and sat under the lovely palm trees and socialized a little bit, then I copped Bon Iver swag in the form of red t-shirt that says “Minnesota, WI” and “Bon Iver” with the shape of Wisconsin outlined in the middle. 25 bucks. Ouch. Josh purchased a Florence shirt that depicted her album art. After saying goodbye to his friends (and aiding a completely incoherent/passed out drunk girl get water and reunite with her pals), we meandered over to the Outdoor Stage to see the lovely ladies of Wild Flag. They have ENERGY. Such infectious, intense, rock n’ roll, MOMENTUM.  Lead vocalist Carrie Brownstein, looked very Karen-O with a bright red t-shirt and choppy hair that was darker than midnight. I was completely enamored with the drummer, Janis Weiss, who hit the instruments crisply in the noon air. It was as if the atmosphere itself was amplifying the sound.



That rendezvous with Wild Flag was brief. We ambled over to the next act, but decided we were too lethargic to push through the crowd, so we sat on the outskirts of a main stage and listened to the DJ who was playing. It was by far the most scenic twilight of the entire weekend and the crowd of Coachella-goers seemed to be moving slower and gentler as they weaved through the grounds, which were emblazoned in golden yellow as the sun disappeared. A sense of calm settled over everything and it was absolutely magnificent to witness.






Once the evening sky turned a beautiful ultramarine, Josh and I went to stand in the crowd and wait for Florence + the Machine. GirlTalk was on first though, so we danced to their set and got a great spot in the audience. This was as close as we had been to any band the entire weekend. GirlTalk played hip-hop mixes for an hour, while throwing confetti, balloons and toilet paper at us; and then vanished into the same cloud of smoke in which they appeared in.



Florence’s stage crew set up fast and before we knew it, the Victorian-esque, ethereal pixie herself was before us. She twirled around like forest-nymph the entire time and we could not figure out how she was not dizzy by the end of it all. Florence engaged the spectators like a true professional, by running from each end of the stage to sing to the crowd from every angle. Her skintight, blue velvet cat suit was adorned with billowing sleeves that stretched to the ground: she was basically an opera singer dressed as a bat; and the shock of red-orange hair made her an even more interesting spectacle in which to ogle.  Florence + the Machine closed out the concert with her hit “No Light,” and even I had to sing along because her energy was so infectious.





Happily, Josh and I walked away from the Outdoor Stage and planned on exiting the venue, when we heard Snoop Dogg rapping in the distance. I shoved my way through the crowd of spectators which was comprised of mostly the entire festival and managed to get a few recordings. Him and Dr. Dre were half-way into their womanizing, disrespectful rap verses, when I decided I was not going to stand there and support such misogyny and certainly was not going to be around thousands of people boppin’ their heads to it like it was alright. So, we trekked on… then suddenly a whole gamut of rappers decided to make an appearance: Wiz Khalifa, Eminem, 50 Cent and even a hologram of Tupac. I stopped to record them for good measure and then we were off into the night.




The Coachella Music Festival was a success, although I am not saying I would rush and do it again anytime soon. If you don’t mind paying for a $500 dollar, hippy-fest that smells like marijuana and a petting zoo, then this is the concert to attend. But seriously… all-in-all, it was a mostly positive experience and a great place to meet interesting people while seeing amazing bands. The moral of the story is: dance the night away, wear good shoes, and always, always avoid the port-a-potties.




(for many more photos of this event in HQ resolution, check out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marjani-viola_hawkins/ they will be posted April 19th 2012!)