Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Week At New York Rock Camp...

This past week I took a break from the endless client phone calls, the meetings, and the life as an account manager to return back to my roots. For the majority of my life I have been infused with music. From a young age, I was playing the piano and composing songs on my first Mac. In college, I started a local music magazine which lead to my first foray into my professional life working at a radio station and then a music website.

It was such a big part of who I was for so long that the "goodbye" I experience two years ago was almost a little too easy (I had since left the music industry and all the good and bad that came along with it). I toyed with what I could do to get back into why I first fell in love with music, but going to local shows and all the mingling that came along with it wasn't doing the trick. A couple of months ago I saw a twitter friend post something about New York Rock Camp, a Brooklyn-based music camp for kids where they learn "rock" instruments (guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, vocals) and eventually form a band to perform at the end of the week. I thought I'd give a shot and applied to be a volunteer. Lo and behold, I was accepted to be an assistant teacher for both Keyboards and DIY Arts & Crafts. And oh yes, I was going to be a band manager as well.

My timeoff request had been approved by work, and I was ready. Actually, I was terrified. It had been a while since I was embarking on something totally new. I consider myself a rather methodical person, so agreeing to do something where I had no idea what to expect and knew no one was definitely outside of my comfort zone. Sunday night as I was trying to fall asleep, I thought it must be a good thing -- everyone should do something different and here was a chance to not only do something different for myself, but hopefully help out some kids in the process.

I'm not sure if I'd call this week fun -- it was utterly exhausting, but wholeheartedly rewarding. It restored my love in music, at its root form through the eyes of the most genuine and crazy kids. I watched an 8 year old girl who never touched a piano in life life learn how to play the 12-step blues, Coldplay's "Clocks" and perform Katy Perry's "California Gurlz" in one week. These kids weren't pretentious, they were willing to work hard and showcase their work and be part of a team. I've never been in a band before, but I can see the appeal -- it's definitely not easy, but a hell of a lot of fun when you get it right.

The major appeal of New York Rock Camp for the kids is that on day 1 you form you band, and then on the Saturday you perform for your friends and family. Once the kids form their bands, they find a manager and start the ball rolling -- band name, pick a song, pick your parts, write the song, and go! It's a lot to do in one week.

Since it was my first time at Rock Camp, I didn't know any of the kids and the kids didn't know me. No problem. Once the kids scrambled around and found their bands there was a group of five left in the middle. With one swoop I declared them a band and offered my services as band manager. Luckily I asked to be paired with another band manager who actually had musical experience, and just like that -- the band was formed. We accomplished a lot on the first day: a name: The Rock'n Pop'ns and parts: two drummers (!), one guitarist, and two singers. We spent most of the first day deciding between an original song or a cover. At the end, we all agreed upon Coldplay's "Viva La Vida."

To say our band had a rough time would be an understatement. We had ups and downs, from our singers unhappy with their parts to the drummers unable to match the beats. By Friday we had our parts ready (we moved one drummer to the keys), and were able to run through the whole song (complete with solos!) and it actually sounded pretty good. The band was pumped, and so was I, for our performance Saturday night.

Of course, our lead singer didn't show for Saturday's performance.

I could go in a long tirade of why this was such a bummer personally, but that isn't the point of this post. I did my best to keep the band's spirits up but there were noticeably worried. I worked with our other singer to learn the additional parts, and he seemed confident with it. I gave them all high-fives backstage wished them luck and then they were on their own. I crossed my fingers and got my camera ready to document their first gig.

The Rock'n Pop'ns learned a valuable lesson that night -- not every gig is perfect. It was a bit of a meltdown on stage -- our singer forgot his words, they didn't finish the song and the keyboard and guitar were never in sync. There were some high emotions afterwards and they weren't the bright shining faces I had hoped would come offstage. I hope that in time they realize that they gave it their best shot, and that's all we could ask.

Watching the other bands perform well made me feel like I let my kids down. If only we had practiced more, or picked an easier song, maybe we would have done better. But it wasn't a competition and the lesson this week was to learn and appreciate music. I can't speak for the kids, but I know I had a great experience. I felt like I was able to step out of my comfort zone and volunteer my time for a really great cause. Music was everything to me as a kid -- I was able to relate math, science, writing all back to my piano and flute lessons. I got to hear stories of Zombies and Piefaces (I won't share this because one day it will be an awesome comic book) and make macaroni necklaces. And I got to tell my guitar player at the end of the performance that his solo was awesome, and the rest doesn't matter -- rock 'n roll is messy, and we did our best.

I encourage everyone to check out New York Rock Camp and either volunteer their time or instruments to this awesome camp. Even if you can't volunteer or donate, spread the word! These kids were given a great opportunity to rock out for a week, and I was so happy to be part of it. For more information check out:

The Rock'n Pop'ns perform "Viva La Vida" (July 17, 2010)

The Rock'n Pop'ns backstage:

During practice:

DIY Arts & Crafts:

Keyboard Lessons:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rachael's Top Ten TV Shows of 2009

I know a hell of a lot more about television than music. See for me, music is still very much a mystery to me. I cannot comprehend how a person can create such magic and I'm the first to admit that I still have much to learn. Television, however, is very familiar to me. As a tiny tot I was watching British soap operas, and at 10 years old the Walsh family felt like close relatives. And while I've been very close to this medium for a very long time, 2009 completely wowed me with a real move towards sophistication and utter creativity (and hopefully away from bad reality TV). Watching television can no longer be considered a passive activity -- it may even (gasp!) make you think.

1. Lost
The opening scene of Season 5's finale sealed the deal: there is, and may not ever be, a show like Lost. I cannot wait to see how this grand saga finally plays out -- and you can bet I'll still be dissecting (and watching) these episodes for many years to come. Who knew time travel could be so much fun? Thank you Damon. Thank you Carlton. And thank you every Lost fan out there -- for making this show such a frustrating treat.

2. Mad Men
Many complained that this season was far too slow, but for me this show has always prided itself in an incredible build up. And what a release it was -- from the incredible performances of Jon Hamm and January Jones (that kitchen scene was unreal) to the thrilling season finale, Mad Men paid off in a very big way.

3. Bored To Death
Oh Jason Schwatzman, how I love thee. Team up with Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson on a show set in Brooklyn that's equal parts funny and clever and you really can do no wrong. Thank you, Jonatham Ammes and HBO for bringing this new show into my life (and renewing it for season 2 already!)

4. Fringe
I couldn't imagine how J.J. and his team could follow up a season finale like Fringe's season 1. I mean, that last shot totally blew my mind. But thankfully, this serialized drama is still mixing this massive overarching story line with little one-episode plots that keep you coming back for more. And when John Noble and Leonard Nimoy come head to head in some version of our reality, I'll be there, on the edge of my couch with extreme anticipation.

5. Dexter
If it was not for the final three episodes of this season, Dexter probably wouldn't have been on this list. It was a torturous season,which in retrospect was probably intentional given Dexter's own mindset. John Lithgow gave a hell of a performance as the Trinity and caused serious anxiety when he walked into the Miami Metro Police Station that day. But of course, it all came to fruition at the dramatic end, a shocker that no one saw coming. When a show takes that risk, and even makes its loyal viewers mourn a character they mostly hated -- all I can say is bravo!

6. Skins
I didn't want to embrace a brand new cast, but I had faith in the awesomeness of this show. And look at that -- I wasn't disappointed! While I sincerely miss the old clan, Effie and this messed up bunch provided just enough (if not more) drama to keep me watching. If you aren't watching this show, you are really missing a no holds barred gem that could only be created by our friends overseas.

7. Rescue Me
Tommy, Tommy, Tommy. There really is no other character on TV that you give as many chances to as you do with Tommy Gavin. He'll screw up left and right, and then screw someone else left and right and no matter what you are still rooting him on. Which, of course, made that last shot (literally) so hard to bare, and this wait between the last season of this remarkable show pretty damn rough.

8. Modern Family
I have never laughed so hard at an ABC show in my entire life -- and that's a feat in itself. Dare I say it's a bit reminiscent of another fav Arrested Development? It'll never quite live up to the oddity of that show, but the pace and definitely the laughs and easily comparable.

9. Glee
My friend Conor explained this show perfectly: High School Music meets Election. There's something for everyone -- attractive people singing and dancing, hilarious quips from Sue Sylvestor, and a whole lot of dark humor for all you odd balls out t here (myself included). I'm pretty sure the majority of Americans that watch this show aren't picking up on those twitsted subetlies, but that's fine by me -- anything to keep this show on the air!

10. True Blood
I watched this season's premiere without ever watching the show before and was instantly hooked. It was the perfect perscription for Sunday nights in the summer -- a guilty pleasure that refuses to take itself seriously and is all the better for it. I often compare it to my adult TV version of Goosebumps, as each final moment kept me wanting much more.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rachael's Top Ten Movies of 2009

Hellooooo (oooo) (ooo) (ooooo)

I know it has been a while. I feel like I have started every post in the past year with that statement. I'm not going to make excuses about why I don't really blog anymore, sometimes you just lose interest, or mostly time (in my case). I'm glad I still have the option to get on this space and share some opinions once in a while, so don't worry -- Underrated will never be gone for good. Over the next week or so I'll be providing some top ten lists. I'm sure there are a ton of better ones out there, but if you care -- here's how I spent my last year.

Rachael's Top Ten Movies of 2009

1. An Education

With Carey Mulligan's brilliant performance + Nick Hornby's long-overdue first screenplay + one of the best soundtracks I've heard in a long time, An Education was an easy choice as my personal favorite of 2009.

2. Up
After 10 minutes, there were tears streaming down my face, but at the end I was cheering along. Providing a full scale of emotions in this wonderful Pixar film, Up is yet another sophisticated animated film that totally knocked me off my chair.

3. Inglorious Basterds
There really isn't a Tarantino movie I haven't liked, and this ambitious movie showed why I love this director so much. It was a heavy story to tell, but I don't think anyone could have done it so well -- the ending scene? I couldn't turn away as much as I wanted to!

4. (500) Days of Summer
I'm a total sucker for all things romantic comedy, but I like to see an effort in this easily repurposed genre for something truly unique. Thankfully (500) Days Of Summer was more charming than cheesy, and with many a fun tunes to boot.

5. The Fantastic Mr. Fox
I was a bit surprised when Wes Anderson announced he was making an animated film. Would kids get his type of humor? The answer was a huge YES for creating a classic kids tale in a way that anyone would feel part of the adventure.

6. The Hangover
Two words: Zach Galifinakis

7. Funny People
Many people panned this Judd Apatow flick, but I found it an ambitious attempt at expanding his audience. Sure, it wasn't perfect (the last 3rd of the film could have been cut down drastically) but I appreciate this ode to comedians and their complicated lives was sweet and real, and yet Mr. Apatow was smart not to stray too far from what made him famous.

8. Star Trek
It's a commonly known fact that I obsess about anything J.J. Abrams related, but I never was a total geek when it came to Star Trek...until now. This was everything I wanted this movie to be -- didn't take itself too serious and a ton of fun. Plus, it was fun to see some Felicity alums make cameos. Ah, J.J. You are my hero.

9. Where The Wild Things Are
While watching this film, there were times that I had to remind myself that I was in a movie theater and just watching a movie on the screen. I became so involved in Spike Jonze's world that I almost forgot this was just a story and this wasn't in fact real. It reminded me why I loved this book so much as a kid, and I wasn't at all disappointed by this fantastical film.

10. Away We Go
The plot itself wasn't anything spectacular, but the performances and feelings associated with this film really made it stand out. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph were so subtle in their actions that it almost felt invasive to be part of their story line. And as great as the two of them were, it was really the supporting actors that became the stars -- I'll never look at Maggie Gyllanhaal the same way again.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I'm back on the decks...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Vote for me....please?

If you have a few minutes to spare on, it would be a HUGE help if you could go to the website below and give me the thumbs up for a panel I am trying to put together for next year's SXSW.

You will have to register with the site in order to vote, it will prompt you to create an account when you click on the thumbs up. It takes just a few minutes to sign up, and the if you receive any future emails from them I give you full permission to unsubscribe (there's my email marketing lingo for y'all).

Please pass on to your friends/family if you don't mind.

Thanks in advance!!!



If you aren't already registered it will ask you to create an account.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Tumblr Away

I get bored of things way too easily, so we'll see how long this lasts. But for now, you can find me posting away at the new Underrated Tumblr.

Click here to check it out: The Underrated Tumblr

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mid Evenings With Jay Miller

This is how I like to spend my Thursday nights...

That was the opening video last week and the evening only got better from there.

Mid Evenings with Jay Miller is a weekly show at Martini Red on Staten Island that features comedians, musicians, and special guests (last week was an amateur wrestler). Think of it as a Tonight Show with actual jokes and stranger guests. Jay Miller is hilarious...I've consistently left with my cheeks hurting from so much laughter.

FYI -- The place gets packed each week, so be sure to get there early for a seat!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pool Party Fail

Looks like the beer tent at the Pool Parties couldn't handle the storm.

I'm glad i sat this one out!

(Photo by Mike Grubbs)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

So Insane

I've officially decided that Discovery's LP will be top 10 albums of 2009, if not top 5. The side project of Ra Ra Riot's Wes Miles and Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij is so deliciously poppy that there's no reason to turn it off. From a MJ cover (RIP) to the brilliant opener "Osaka Loop Line", these two boys have produced a unique conglomerate of nostalgic funk and ultramodern electronic. This is the soundtrack to the summer, ladies and gentleman - 100% guaranteed. I sure hope that this Discovery project isn't a one time deal because all I want is more.

Check out some tunes below on this nifty player, and links to buy the album are below. Trust me, you will not be disappointed!

Buy on iTunes or at Amazon immediately.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mission of Burma, Fucked Up, Ponytail & Jemina Pearl | Pool Parties 2009.07.12

Pool Parties 7.12.09

I couldn't have been more excited for the first "Pool Party" of the summer, this year at Brooklyn Waterfront. For the past three years, these events have been a staple in my summer weekends, having the luxury of spending the day outside with free music and hipster watching. I frankly was thrilled to hear that the pool was getting a new location -- the vast amounts of concrete and lack of shade was not a friend to my Irish skin. Down at the waterfront there still was a good deal of concrete, but luckily there was some grass and a nice breeze from the beautiful view of Manhattan. Plus, I remembered sunscreen this year.

For a day filled of sets from bands I wasn't completely familiar with (other than Mission of Burma who I saw last year at Pitchfork) I ended up having quite a fun time. Up first was Jemina Pearl of Be Your Own Pet fame, who's spunky tunes made for a great kick off to the day. I was surprised at how melodic her songs were, and impressed when hearing it was their first official show. Sure, there were some misteps here and there, but their energy under the hot Brooklyn sun sure made up for it.

Jemina Pearl @ Pool Parties 7.12.09

Ponytail was up next, and I think I may have caught them once before as I remember asking Pat how old the lead singer was. Not totally my type of music, I still enjoyed seeing a crowd go bonkers with each new sound emoted from her voice.

Ponytail @ Pool Parties 7.12.09

The most surprising set of the day goes to Fucked Up who, if you know my musical taste at all, usually wouldn't be my cup of tea. But I can't help but encourage bands who give it their all, and lead singer "Pink Eye" did just that. Playing most of the show from the crowd, I was in awe of his dedication as he poured sweat and tears all over the hands and faces of the kids up front. Like I said, the music itself wasn't exactly what I'd listen to on a rainy day, but they put on one hell of a show.

Fucked Up @ Pool Parties 7.12.09

Next up was headliners Mission of Burma, who I decided to take in from side stage sitting in a nice green pasture. I couldn't help but be distracted from the incredible views the Waterfront offers of the Manhattan skyline. And while listening to the band, I couldn't have asked for a better closing to the day.

Mission Of Burma @ Pool Parties 7.12.09

All in all, it was a great start of what looks to be an incredible line up of shows. Hopefully the crew will think twice about the roped off beer area (boo) and provide more choices of food (sorry vegetarians, you'll find no luck here). There were definitely some aspects of the original location that I'll definitely miss (long live slip 'n slide) but I'm definitely embracing the change!

Pool Parties 7.12.09

blogger templates | Make Money Online