Friday, July 29, 2005

Disney Park Update—MGM Studios adds Extra Magic

When we went to MGM for the Extra Magic Hours last Sunday, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

The first thing we noticed walking up to the gates around 9pm were the curiously good smells, like hors d’oeuvres and finger foods--smells that are pretty much synonymous with the word “party”.

The second thing we noticed was the thumping bass beat. We started dancing in line before even realizing it was out of place.

So up Hollywood Boulevard we go to try to track down the source of all these curious happenings, and possibly crash whatever private event we assumed they were having.

Well, lo and behold, right there, on a stage set up smack dab in front of that big old annoying hat (Can’t tell what we think of that, now can you? We’re very subtle)—right in front of it was a DJ, all set up with his discs and mix tables and a pile of shiny stuff on the floor.

We were still looking for the party.

Took us a minute to realize that this was the party, and better yet, it was for us…and all the other resort guests. In a word (pay attention here, this is the whole point of the article…actually I could have just said this in the beginning but that’s way too easy)—in an effort to liven up their late nights, which up until now have been rather dull, Disney has added a DJ in the hopes that it will help bring in more guests.

Frankly, I’ve wondered about this—how much does it actually cost to keep the park open the extra three hours? If only a handful guests show up to take advantage this resort guest perk, will they in turn spend enough on food and merchandise in those three hours to justify the Extra Magic to continue? It makes sense that Disney would try to up the attendance, and a DJ is a great idea.

Although it wasn’t quite like New Year’s at MGM—all the tunes were decidedly family-friendly—it didn’t matter much, because people like to dance. The playlist for the night included the obligatory dance songs—YMCA, the Electric Slide, etc.—along with Disney remixes and a bunch of pop tunes with a good beat.

The DJ, though, didn’t just play the tunes and leaving the crowd to fend for itself—he threw out Mardi Gras beads at random intervals, dug through his pile of costumes for wigs and sequined jackets, among other things --and he made sure that we all kept moving by leading us in funky routines that had us jumping and kickboxing, doing the grapevine and disco, and a whole slew of other moves I’m sure he invented on the spot to throw us off (i.e. “the sprinkler”?). Not that we and the other two hundred people cared—we were just having fun. We did the limbo, the cha-cha, the hula-hoop, washed an invisible car, mowed an invisible lawn, and much, much more.

Three hours later, we were sweaty and tired, but in a good way, like we’d just been through a workout…my running theory is that that was part of the idea—to trick our fast food nation into exercising.

A more probable motivation was that thirsty dancers buy more drinks.

Whatever the reason, it was a fun night (even though we never discovered the source of the good smells…?) and I hope the change in the Magic Hours is permanent because hey, who doesn’t like to do the “John Travolta” all night long?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Ask My Mother

I would like to introduce a new feature that dear old Starfish and I are trying out—a little weekly or bi-monthly (or basically whenever) thing called Ask My Mother. The reason behind this being, after reading our humble collection of articles, my mother, as usual, wants to get involved in all the fun—so here’s how it’s going to work: anyone is welcome to ask her a question on any topic, she’ll answer them, and we’ll post the answers. You can post your question as a comment on this post, or email them to Starfish or me, whichever you prefer.
The only thing we ask regarding the questions is that you please avoid vulgar language and topics; otherwise, there’s no limit—advice, fortunes, information, opinion, anything you can think of. Trust me, the answers will almost certainly be interesting—you don’t know my mother:)

My Mother’s Biography (the short version; all the good stuff is not fit to print)

Name: My Mother
Birthday: August 22, 19something—it changes every year.
Place of Birth: The scalding, barren deserts of Arizona, somewhere between a couple of cacti and a tumbleweed.
Favorite food: Mexican food and sushi.
Favorite movies: Seems Like Old Times, The Goodbye Girl, and Overboard.
Favorite time and place: Williamsburg, Virginia, in the fall.
Favorite Singer/Song/Type of Music: When I asked her this, she named off a whole bunch of things and couldn’t decide on one…

Fun facts:
She is a former cheerleader.
She loves chocolate.
She likes Los Lonely Boys.
She is a licensed hairdresser.
She watches Days of our Lives, The Bounty Hunter, Knievel’s Wild Ride, and Growing Up Gotti.
She thinks it’s funny when I say that when some people play DDR ,it's like watching Riverdance on crack.
She puts on her shoes in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

She LOVES Nascar.

She thinks Michael Jackson should have stopped at Thriller; her brother thought he was John Lennon; and she is appalled that I am posting all this:)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Flower Power 2005 Band Awards, Part 2

The Nelsons—Best Power Stances and Most Rabid Fans. Power Stances is pretty self-explanatory—they knew how to look fabulous while singing and playing a ’59 Les Paul. And they were the only people whose music was popular while I was alive. But, whoa, the fans. More specifically, the Street Teamers. They are vicious, my friend, they go to every concert and shove you out of the way without a thought. Be Afraid. The music is worth going to see them, just wear protective gear. In spite of this, the boys are very gracious, and a credit to their dad’s legacy.

Gary Puckett—Best A Capella Harmony, and Closest Elvis Connection. It’s funny, this guy moves like a lounge singer and he wears lounge singer-esque tropic print shirts, but he sounds like Elvis, I swear. He called his band together for one song and their harmony, sans music, was tight, man. And then he told his Elvis story, which basically condenses to them both performing in the same venue, he met Elvis getting onto an elevator, Elvis came to his show later that night and said, “That boy can sang.” So I figure that’s as close to Elvis as I’ll ever get:)

Orleans—Most Onstage Instrument Changes. They kept swapping, this for that, my guitar for your bass, a funky mini keyboard thing that you played with your mouth, and so forth. After while I forgot who played what, only that three guys usually stayed in the front, and two in the back. It was a good show, just not as eventful as some of the others.

Rare Earth—Most, umm, Indefinable. Are they metal or Motown or what? We couldn’t tell. The show was fun anyway; they did “Get Ready” (the short version, the real length is about 20 minutes), and in the middle, the bass player, this old guy with wild eyes and long grey hair, did a great bass solo. Now, bass solos are hard to come by (because guitarists usually get all the glory:) and good ones even more so. We really liked seeing—and hearing--that.

B.J. Thomas—My Mother’s Favorite. This guy has so many songs, it’s not funny. He could sing all of them and still not be through in a week. My favorite things he said were, “How ‘bout my band, y’all”, cause he said it at least three times a show and I thought it was funny; and “The young people in the audience probably think I’m Mr. Hokey,” which was also funny, even though we were just about the youngest ones there and I didn’t think he was hokey. I guess you had to be there. We heard “Raindrops” about six times, and did you know he did the theme song to Growing Pains? I didn’t. Oh, and he would start a song, fudge a little on the words he had forgotten, talk in the middle of it, and say he wished he hadn’t started the song in the first place. It was great:)

Eric Burdon and the Animals—Loudest. Definitely the Loudest. I don’t know if the setup was wrong, or it was the fault of those weird turning speaker things, or if they were just loud, but their show was the only one I wished I’d brought earplugs to. I like “House of the Rising Sun,” it’s a classic, but I think I’d rather listen to it a little less painfully. The keyboardist, though, was nice—he liked to wave from the stage. And he played the violin, which was an interesting contrast to his long hair/grunge metal look.

Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals—Best Use of an Organ. Now, a lot of the bands used an organ—I guess it was a sixties thing, since the keyboard wasn’t invented yet—but this guy made it sound great, and you could tell he loved to play it. “Good Lovin’” was my favorite song, but the Rascals also do “It’s a Beautiful Morning” (which reminds me of breakfast cereal) and “Groovin’”, among others. The guitarist used a Telecaster, for that nice crunchy sound, a la Los Lonely Boys, and was the only one at Flower Power who did; and Felix Cavaliere is a great stage performer—friendly, energetic, comedic, and good to his Rascals. We really enjoyed the shows—and if we had to pick favorites, these guys would be up there on our list.

Arlo Guthrie—Best Stories.
Most of his songs were stories, so yeah, they were funny ones—about pickles and Joseph and restaurants and other things like that, all told to guitar tunes and lasting anywhere from 5 to 18 minutes apiece. He could play the guitar, sing the story, and play the harmonica at the same time—talented, isn’t he? Also appearing were his daughter, Sarah Lee, and son-in-law, and various other family members who waltzed in to sing something or other at various times. We loved to hear Sarah Lee talk—“Sure, Pop, just let me switch to this other guitar” ; in the middle of a song, “Pop, are you in G?” all in this sweet little country voice which, if she weren’t so sincere, would be funny.

All in all, it was good end to a great run of shows. We had so much fun running through Epcot (late as always!) every other day or so for two straight months, it was crazy. I would love to do this again next year; in the meantime, there is the Food and Wine Festival concert series, Eat to the Beat, to look forward to; and if I start to miss the music, I can always pop in a hits of the sixties CD.

Until next time;)

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Flower Power 2005 Band Awards, Part 1

Welcome people to the first annual Flower Power Band Awards, sponsored by Johnson&Johnson and the College of William& Mary. Actually there are no sponsors (big surprise there!) but in the off chance you would like to be one, please see the sidebar.

Well, we hope it will be annual. If we don't get to go to the Flower and Garden Festival next year, then this will be a one-time show.

Note: These awards are not given out in any scientific or otherwise orderly manner. Meaning we get to give whoever we want whatever we want. Capiche?

And the winners are...

Davy Jones-- Best Accent. Who doesn't like to hear a British dude talk? Plus, you can't help but sing along to songs like "Daydream Believer" and "I'm a Believer" (are there any believers in the house?) without feeling semi-nostalgic.

Gary U.S. Bonds-- Most Energetic Old Guy. We don't know what the U.S. stands for, but he has both ears pierced and that was certainly a redeeming quality. He was just so nice, too!

Paul Revere and the Raiders-- Best Costumes and Best Dance Moves. Actually, they were the only ones who wore costumes, and they looked more like pirates than patriots. Still, anyone who can play their instrument, sing in tune, AND keep up with the dance routine has my vote.

The Buckinghams-- Best Stage Effect and Most Photogenic. The drummer had this portable fan that attached to his drumset. For the entire show his long curly hair flew up from his face in a sort of rock god halo that was just plain cool. And then there was Bob, the guitarist... Well, there are so many things to say about Bob, but for brevity's sake, I shall limit my comments to just... one... thing... The fact that this guy not only takes good pictures, but doesn't mind posing for them through such problems as popped guitar strings, lost picks, and unplugged amps. Now that's dedication.

The Grass Roots-- Best Shoes. Or should I say, Best Boots. Jacques, as in strap, also known as Chris ( his words, not mine) wore these black and white snakeskin cowboy boots on stage. He said they hurt his feet but he wore them because they looked cool. And they really did.

The Turtles—Wildest Hair. We actually couldn’t figure who was Flo and who was Eddie (they both looked permanently stoned—one of those lasting effects from the sixties, I guess) but one of them had the biggest natural faux Afro I’ve ever seen. Plus, he looked a little like Ozzy. They did a 2-minute tour through music history that was pretty funny, ending with a rendition and imitation of the real Slim Shady. We say, pretty fly for some white guys.

Gregg Rolie Band—Best Overall Band Dynamics, and Best Guitarist Hair Toss. First of all, these guys can play. The keyboardist did the most amazing onstage improve I’ve ever seen. Even the band was impressed. The music was just incredible. The band members each fed off each other’s cues like it was the most natural thing in the world. The percussionists, all three of them, were spectacular, and the guitarist not only played his music to technical and stylistic perfection, but also demonstrated his mastery of the Hair Toss. Mucho impressive, no?

The Lovin’ Spoonful—Most Bored Guitarist, and Only Band to Rock Out with an Autoharp. The poor guitarist (who resembled Viggo Mortenson) spent the whole time playing rhythm and staring off into the crowd. Not that we don’t love “Do You Believe in Magic” and “Summer in the City” (even with an autoharp) but I do wish they had given him a few face-melting solos. I mean, he was from Arkansas—he gets props for that alone.

Stay tuned for part 2...