While I’m transitioning in my career, I’ve been lucky to take on a few writing projects that were more fun than work.
First, I had a dream come true in mid-October when I met Ringo Starr at his photography exhibit at the Morrison Hotel Gallery. He was as lovely as you’d expect and my write-up of the events surrounding his visit can be found on the Sunset Marquis blog.
Then, a month later, I had the pleasure of traveling to Brisbane, Australia to attend a U2 show with some dear local friends. My re-cap of that gig can be found on U2.com.
My parents recently moved into a new (smaller) home, so I was required to pay them a visit and pick up many of my childhood archives that were cluttering their space. As someone who loves scrapbooking and cataloging everything I do, I’m taking special pleasure in uncovering my younger self as I dive into boxes and boxes of memories.
When I find common threads in my life then and now, I’ll be posting relevant notes and photos. I hope those of you who knew me then will smile, and those of you who know me now will enjoy meeting Little Tassoula.
The first grouping I realized was my obsession with celebrity (which, let’s face it, hasn’t exactly faded). I’ve been writing fan letters as long as I can remember — these three are from 1988. The first is what I received back from then-crush Vonni (now Giovonni) Ribisi, who played Corey on the sitcom “My Two Dads.” After gushing about how I hoped the main character would pick him (over Chad Allen) to be her boyfriend, he (or his fan club president, I suppose) replied with this standard black & white glossy (autograph on the back).
21 years later, I the Groupie, would stand next to he, the movie star, at a U2 concert. And no, I didn’t mention the fan letter to him.
The next letter I received was a personal response from Jim Davis, the writer/creator of Garfield. I remember sending him a long-winded tome about how I hated cats, but for some reason loved Garfield and he should be very proud of this grand achievement (making a cat-hater a fan of his cat-based cartoon). He apparently got a kick out of it and was nice enough to send me an autographed print AND this hand-signed letter. I always thought when I became famous, I would be as sincere and personal when writing back to fans.
The third response here shows that my political activism started very young. Watching the news rabidly every night with my parents, I became an admirer of the first female Filipino President Corazon Aquino. When we had an assignment in Miss Prentice’s English class that required us to write to an important figure, I didn’t limit myself to the American variety and wrote directly to the Philippines. My Mom shook her head, sure that I’d be disappointed when I didn’t receive a response, but she was mistaken. Not only did I receive a letter from her Correspondence Secretary, I got an official photograph of my hero.
Earlier in the week, I posted my setlist prediction for U2’s performance at Dreamforce. As with any opinion piece, I had some mail about “how so wrong” I was and how some of my choices were “beyond long shots.”
I’m pleased to report, that although I wasn’t completely right, I was mostly right. See above for the side-by-side comparison of what I thought they would play and what they actually played, in the order they played them.
The set was also shorter than I had projected (by three songs), but that’s okay. Their performance blew me away and I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome. Especially their epic Trump rant and “40” at the end.
Heading down the coast later this week for the Concert for Kids charity U2 gig that’s part of the Dreamforce conference, I’m already conjuring up thoughts of the rush I’ll get as my heroes take the stage. I haven’t seen them perform live since my birthday trip to Dublin last November, so I couldn’t be more ready for that rush.
For those who aren’t as passionate (or downright nutty) as us, part of what we “superfans” do is debate the setlist. Before (sometimes during) and after shows, we like to predict, celebrate (or mourn) and de-brief about which songs were played. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what they’d play leading up to this event until I saw today that they’re resurrecting their stadium stage from the Vertigo tour for the show. And because I’m someone who believes inanimate objects hold energy, and I also believe that Bono will feel like “time traveling” a bit, my opinion on what they will likely play has shifted.
Before I go any further, I should disclaim: I honestly have no tips or inside information on this setlist, so if I turn out to be wildly accurate, just chalk it up to my years of following them on the road and a healthy dose of God-given intuition. If I turn out to be completely wrong, well, that’s fine too.
I should also say that this is in no way, shape or form my “dream setlist.” If I had any say in the matter, a lot of the greatest hits would fall by the wayside to be replaced by sentimental favorites, or they’d just play their War album start to finish.
This list isn’t what I think they even should do, it’s what I think they will do.
Vertigo — The stage is literally set for them to bust this out, and I’m 100% sure they will. Why do I think they’ll open with it? Bono can count the crowd in with some Spanish. It’s hard not to jump up and down when they start playing it. Most of the audience will know it even if they’re not U2 fans (especially if their memories go back as far as 2004 when it was featured in an iPod commercial). Side note: he hasn’t sang “twinkle” since then. It’s “sparkle” now. Just an FYI.
Elevation — While the crowd is amped, they’ll want to keep them that way, and this song is another one that’s so familiar (if only because it’s often played at sporting events), it will do the trick.
Beautiful Day — Obligatory. They’re in California. It most likely will be a beautiful day. And everyone knows the words.
Even Better Than The Real Thing — Taking the average age of the crowd into consideration, something from Achtung Baby should come out by now, and I’m bargaining it’s the least exciting (but arguably most recognizable) one.
Stuck in a Moment(You Can’t Get Out Of )— Five songs in, they’ll slow it down and for some reason, I think they’ll do it with this. Can’t explain it; just feeling it. Maybe even a “California” snippet at the end. This choice isn’t logical, by the way. Just a gut feeling.
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For — A crowd pleaser for sure, this one would fit nicely after that ^ one.
The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) — They opened their shows with this on the most recent tour, and it’s the song they played the day they (gasp) gifted us their free album during the Apple event two years ago. Dreamforce is a tech crowd, and even if the audience members aren’t die-hard U2 fans, they’ll probably have heard this at least once before. I don’t think they can not play something from the current album, and this is the most logical choice.
I Will Follow — Bono will give some speech about how The Ramones inspired them, blah, blah and break into their most recognizable early hit.
Desire — The band caused quite a stir last week with their Donald Trump take on this song at the iHeartRadio Music Festival. A month out from the election? They’ll do it again, I hope.
Bullet the Blue Sky — They’ll follow with this to add an exclamation point to that ^. Outside, it’s America.
The Fly — With graphics that speak to the election (hopefully). How great would it be to see the phrases from this hateful Donald Trump word cloud make an appearance in the classic Fly sequence? So great.
Sunday Bloody Sunday — While they’re pissed, this is a natural path to take, turning from America’s injustices to Ireland’s.
Every Breaking Wave — Another radio-friendly song from the current album to calm things down (This is when douchey jerks in the audience will refill their beers. Sorry, it’s just true).
One — Bono will need a break by this point and he can make the crowd sing this one. Don’t act like you don’t know it.
Mysterious Ways — They’ll wake everyone back up with this dance-y pleasure, which I (for the record) never get tired of hearing/seeing.
New Year’s Day — This is a bit of a wild card, but it could work.
Where the Streets Have No Name — They have to.
18. Pride (In the Name of Love) — They can’t put it off too much longer; the show is almost over. 19. Walk On — A little hope for the ride home. 20. With or Without You — Easy choice. Good choice. Good night.
It has come to my attention that you (perhaps members of the Millennial generation) were baffled by the gift bestowed upon you on Tuesday. That when you saw a free full-length album magically appear in your purchased items list, you stared at it long and hard, but the name “U2" didn’t ring a bell.
This troubles me, kids. More than you know.
So I’m here to catch you up. To fill your brain with knowledge that should have arrived alongside you the day you were born. To broaden your horizons and (pun intended) rock your world.
It all started in the 1970s in a beautiful city called Dublin, Ireland. There were four boys who lived on the north side of town named Paul, David, Adam and Larry. They all went to a high school called Mt. Temple, where they had a bulletin board for the students to post notes to one another. One day, Larry decided he wanted to start a band, so he posted a note on said bulletin board and a bunch of neighborhood kids showed up at his house for an audition/rehearsal.
Paul, who went by “Bono”, David, who went by “The Edge” and Adam all made the cut in addition to a few other kids at first. They went by the name “Feedback,” and then “The Hype,” but by the time they arrived on the name that stuck, “U2,” those three boys, and Larry, were the only members left.
They practiced really hard and played a lot of gigs, and two years later, they won a talent show in Limerick. That victory resulted in a demo session, which eventually led to a record deal.
They knew they really hit the big time in 1987 when Time Magazine put them on the cover. Their #1 hit, “With or Without You” would become a staple in pop culture for decades to come, appearing on Friends,etc.
In the 1990s, they revolutionized the concert landscape with their ground-breaking ZooTV tour.
After September 11th, they performed at the Super Bowl and remembered the victims of the tragedy with a moving tribute, displaying a scroll of their names. They also continued their Elevation tour in the wake of the attacks despite much uncertainty over the safety of crowds (many other acts canceled).
In fact, Bono’s humanitarian work landed him another Time Magazinecover in 2002. He was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. And he was Knighted in 2007.
But back to the music — the band has scored some impressive awards in their time. They’ve won more Grammys than any other rock band (22, and counting); they’ve earned 15 Meteor Ireland Awards; won two Golden Globes and been nominated for two Oscars. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, too.
Anyway, when they’re not making music or saving the world or winning awards, they’re spending time with their families. They’re all Dads. And The Edge is even a Grandfather.
They’re good men, with good intentions and a passion for their collective day job.
So: The next time you see U2's music pop up, instead of giving it a puzzled look or Tweeting nonsense about spam, give it a listen.
The last day of a conference is always hard—the people you’re getting used to seeing at meals, in the elevators, at the sessions are about to go away, just as you are, and reality is about to return.
The final presentation at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum was that of Steve Averill, graphic designer for the band, and the man who named them U2.
I saw him before back in 2003, and it was cool to see the updates (since U2 have released two albums since then) as well as hear the classic stories behind the covers once more.
After that, I attempted to nap, but kept getting texts and calls, so I finally gave up.
I was exhausted and starving by the time Matt, Michelle and I walked over to the Hard Rock Café.
The line was long (our event was ticket-only so they were in the process of forcing others to leave before we could come in) and we had to wait a while before entry. I got carded on the way in, so that made me smile.
Mary was sweet enough to reserve us a table, so we had a great view of the stage as The Unforgettable Fire tribute band began to play.
I tried to eat a salad and some bread to perk up, but the food came in stages and it wasn’t tasting right.
To solve that problem, I began to drink heavily. Bahama Mamas all around!
Soon Marylinn joined me and we stood on the benches of the table for the duration of the show, dancing and laughing and being silly as we typically are when we’re together. In fact, somewhere there’s probably a running tally of how many pictures we photobombed. 🙂
It was great fun, and the band was full of energy and signature U2 moves.
A nice way to wrap up a phenomenal weekend for the tribe.
After a wonderful morning, I was even more energized for what was coming next.
I changed into my lavender dress to match our keynote speaker, Bill Carter, and headed out with him to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
We were greeted warmly by their superb staff and taken to the Green Room where there were refreshments and comfortable chairs waiting for us.
After safely stashing our belongings, we explored the inside of the theater where he’d deliver his keynote lecture and took time to tour the exhibits.
Every time I see Bill, it’s usually for just a few minutes—a quick catch-up, a hug, and then he’s gone. But this time, I actually had him all to myself for over an hour, which was an incredible gift. He has a habit of hopping around the planet to do amazing things, and in no way, shape or form do I expect or want him to slow down. But damn, it was fun to talk with him.
When it was time to send him to the stage, I quickly learned how to use his iPhone as a cash register (I’d be selling DVDs for him after the lecture) and joined my friends in the front to hear him present.
Of course, knowing him since 2006, and being a die-hard U2 fan, I thought that I’d heard everything he was about to say.
Boy, was I wrong.
He told the story of how he came to be friends with U2, and how the famous Sarajevo satellite link-ups happened, and he did so in such a way that those of us who were in the audience felt as if we were re-living every moment right along with him.
He gave anecdotal details about his conversations with the band that I don’t recall seeing anywhere else, and then he took questions from the crowd.
I became so enveloped in his responses that I nearly missed my cue to get up and leave a few minutes early to set up his book signing table out in the hallway.
As I was arranging his Miss Sarajevo DVDs and chatting with the Rock Hall staff about how captivating he was, I heard the crowd roar and began to see fans pour out of the auditorium.
And none of them left.
They all darted right over to our table and began buying books and DVDs for him to sign.
When Bill emerged and took his seat, I tried to focus on selling his DVDs (that was my job, after all), but I did catch glimpses of fans with tears in their eyes, jubilant smiles and kind comments as they approached him. It warmed my heart.
I’m so glad he was able to make it to our conference and touch so many people.
When you wake up happy, the sound of the alarm doesn’t hurt so bad.
I always love interview days—it’s one thing in life I’ve always felt I do well, so my nerves are typically those of anticipation; not dread. As I was getting dressed in my red-and-black suit (U2 colors, of course) for my Friday Funday, I couldn’t help but reflect on how damn lucky I am to have opportunities like this. I don’t ever want anyone to think I take a moment of it for granted, because I don’t, and sometimes I almost have to pinch myself to believe it’s actually happening.
Anyway, in my fuzzy, happy mood I went down for a quick bite with Sherry and then straight to sound check. Somehow, in the midst of it all, I unfortunately forgot my glasses. After a few jokes from Matt about guests being asked to write their audience questions out on a stone tablet for me to read them, Marylinn graciously offered to run to my hotel room and retrieve my glasses. She saved the day (as usual) and had them up to the stage by the time Matt was introducing me.
Former Rolling Stone Editor/Writer Jim Henke opened the session with a presentation about the U2 exhibit he brought to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 2003 when he was curator. He had wonderful photos of sacred artifacts, such as the first U2 T-shirt (which Larry screen-printed in high school art class); numerous tour outfits and the trophy the band had won in the famous St. Patrick’s Day competition.
With that as a foundation, I began the interview, first discussing the current state of music journalism and the impact of social media. The band not being active on the most popular platforms seems to be a hot topic amongst fans, so the audience responded well to the dialog. I also touched on Jim’s association with the band, and he shared his role in Bono’s writing of “Pride (In The Name Of Love).”
What I gleamed most from his responses was the fact that after all these years in the industry, he’s still a fan of the band—both as musicians making quality albums and men who make the world a better place. In fact, that was a common thread amongst all of the conference guests who are associates of U2; they all say the same thing: They’re great guys.
The audience asked some wonderful questions, I exhausted mine and before we knew it the time was up.
Following the presentation, I was approached by a woman I had the pleasure of attending the Slane castle concert with back in 2001. We hadn’t seen each other since then, so it was wonderful to have her in attendance and see that she’s still as passionate of a fan as she ever was.
Following that presentation, the girls and I decided we needed some fuel, so we asked the front desk for a restaurant recommendation and got a wonderful one.
We landed at the Blue Point Grille, where we enjoyed (amazingly priced) lavish lunches in a bright, classy dining room with phenomenal service.
It’s times like those, when it’s just a small group of us, where we have the ‘real’ conversations that separate friends from acquaintances.
Part of the joy of attending events like the conference are seeing new faces and learning about other fans, but what many people don’t realize is that some of us have been friends for over a decade and we seldom get to see each other outside these settings. We know about each others’ families and careers, and it’s nice to have a few moments where we’re not discussing our dream setlists or what Bono might be wearing on the upcoming tour. U2 brought us together, sure, but they’re not necessarily what keeps us close.
When we returned to the hotel, Marylinn had work to do, Michelle wanted to head to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame early to see the exhibits, and I needed to pretty up for my next round of duties…