Category Archives: Music

EQT 10-mile training – Week 5 9/22/15

Inspiration, move me brightly. light the song with sense and color;
Hold away despair, more than this I will not ask.
Faced with mysteries dark and vast, statements just seem vain at last.

Some rise,
Some fall,
Some climb,
To get to Terrapin.

Counting stars by candlelight, all are dim but one is bright;
The spiral light of Venus, rising first and shining best,
On, from the northwest corner, of a brand new crescent moon,
While crickets and cicadas sing, a rare and different tune,
Terrapin station.
In the shadow of the moon,
Terrapin station.
And I know we’ll get there soon,

(Terrapin! )
I can’t figure out,
(Terrapin! )
If it’s the end or beginning,
(Terrapin! )
But the train’s put it’s brakes on,
(Terrapin! )
And the whistle is screaming,
Terrapin!

Let my inspiration flow!

Let my inspiration flow!

Those words – written by Robert Hunter, sung sweetly and soulful by Jerry Garcia and performed by the Grateful Dead – are goose bump-inducing. “Terrapin Station” – an epic, multi-part anthem performed 302 times by the Dead beginning in early 1977 – produces a state of euphoria. Its lyrics inspire freedom, and, for me, it’s the perfect running song. When a run begins to flatline and “Terrapin” enters my headphones, my legs and lungs find something extra. It’s like Jerry’s voice is guiding me through the run. My lips mouth the words. Sometimes, my arms even raise in triumph. (Yep, if you’ve seen a short, headband-wearing dud running the streets of Greensburg while jamming out, it’s me.)

Sound stupid? Maybe to some, but, to me, the right music is as essential to running as stretching, the right shoes, hydration and determination.

Music is moving, and the right songs can shave seconds off the pace and help set personal bests.

Generally, I prefer running to the Dead. From “Bertha” to “Promised Land” to “China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider” to “Morning Dew” to “Touch of Grey,” the Dead’s expansive and easily accessible catalog provides ample choices for this runner, but it’s certainly not the only band worth a listen when pounding pavement or staring at the television screen on a treadmill. Glam/hard rock like KISS, Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crue and Tesla get the job done. So does rap, particularly the early 1990s gangsta sounds of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Nate Dogg (R.I.P.) and company. Eminem usually works, too. I’m not likely to see Foo Fighters live, but no song makes me dig deeper than “Walk.” I’ve nearly pushed myself to tears while listening to that amazing call to action. Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride,” Katy Perry’s “Roar” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” work perfectly.

It doesn’t matter what music moves you, but it is important to play the right music for you when breaking down barriers and going for goals.

Music played an integral role in a solid week of training for the EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler.

9/14/15 – Last week, I said on this blog that I didn’t mind missing Sunday’s long run because of illness. That’s only part true. Missing a run made me determined to make up for things, even if my sinuses weren’t cooperating.

After dropping Anna off at school and walking Ringo, I went to the basement for a programmed, 30-minute ride on a stationary bike. A couple moderate hills helped provide resistance and I covered 11.1 miles in 30 minutes. From there, me, myself and my tissues hit the streets for a 4.52-mile run in 34:39. My first mile was a 7:50 pace. The second mile was 7:12. Seven friggin’ 12! The third mile was 7:33.

Not going to fib, I surprised myself.

9/15/15 – Kicked the distance up to 5.38 and got it done in 43:58 – not as fast as Monday’s run but a solid pace.

9/16/15 – Erin had a rare Wednesday off, so we did spin class together. Great ride. Felt it for hours after completion.

9/17/15 – A couple of variables forced changes in schedule for the fifth week of training. 1. Erin was off Wednesday and Friday, and since I missed the long run in Week 4, doing two spin classes sounded like a good idea; and, 2. Erin was working in Pittsburgh Sunday. Anna needed to get to Sunday School and church, so that meant Sunday was not a good day for my long run.

So, with legs still tired from spin class, I stumbled onto the streets of Greensburg, where I completed a 7.03-mile run in 1:01.04. Given Greensburg’s terrain, hills were unavoidable, and I encountered four of them on this run. It was tiring, my pace wasn’t outstanding, but I conquered the distance.

9/18/15 – Second spin class of the week and, for the first time in 2-plus years of spinning, I didn’t enjoy the class. The music mix had too much pop. Only one song – Eminem’s “‘Till I Collapse” – moved me. About 50 minutes into class, I was wishing I lifted weights instead, but I finished anyway.

9/19/15 – I digested plenty of vegetables Friday, which made Saturday morning slightly uncomfortable, but I had to get out before Anna’s 11 a.m. soccer game. I covered 5.23 miles in 43:09 – another decent, but not great run.

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Ripple around the world

“If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine …”

And with that introduction begins the Grateful Dead classic, “Ripple” – a triumphant ode to Americana and one of the many highlights on the group’s best studio album (American Beauty). It’s filled with magic, bliss, power and myth. Its lyrics are a celebration, and the song helped make the Grateful Dead a religion to its fervent following, many of whom remain basking in the glory of the often-powerful Fare Thee Well shows.

Thanks to Facebook (yep, true story), the coolest piece of music I’ve witnessed since the Fare Thee Well shows – I took part in the couch tour – popped up in my time feed. It’s a tribute to Jerry Garcia and part of the charitable group Playing for Change’s Songs Around the World. Artists including David Crosby, Jimmy Buffett and David Hildago lent their talents to a stirring version of “Ripple.” It was released July 5 – the same day the Dead played their final show in Chicago – and honors the band for 50 years of changing the world through music and more. It’s pure magic.

“If I knew the way, I would take you home.”

Fare Thee Well Done

Take a bow, boys. You earned it.

Take a bow, boys. You earned it.

Beautiful. Liberating. Spiritual. Divine. Epic.

It all fits in describing the second, and final, Grateful Dead show at Levi’s Stadium Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif.

Surprising also fits.

Given the mixed reviews of the 1960s-leaning, jam-heavy Saturday¬†show, the average age of the group’s core four, the idea Trey Anastasio – you know, that guy from Phish – was “filling in” for Jerry Garcia on lead guitar and the fact the seven main players hadn’t played on such a large stage in decades, there was no reason to expect greatness.

Yet, just like the Dead did so many nights during an often-magical and occasionally maddening 35-year run, magic happened. And by magic, we’re talking about the type of magic that can only happen at a Dead show. We’re talking a strike of lightning flashing above Three Rivers Stadium moments before the Dead opened the second set of a June 30, 1995 show with their Rain set – Rain, Box of Rain, Looks Like Rain and Samba in the Rain. That made an an otherwise snoozer of a show a special one. We’re talking a post-diabetic coma Jerry giving thumbs up during “Touch of Grey.”

Despite its warts, 6/28/15 was three-plus hours of cathartic bliss – and two sets with a heavy Jerry Garcia influence – for Deadheads.

Setlist – Set I: Feel Like a Stranger, New Minglewood Blues, Brown-Eyed Women, Loose Lucy, Loser, Row Jimmy, Alabama Getaway, Black Peter, Hell in Bucket; Set II: Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Wharf Rat, Eyes of the World, He’s Gone, Drum, Space, I Need a Miracle, Death Don’t Have No Mercy, Sugar Magnolia; Encore: Brokedown Palace.

While no Dead show is perfect, this setlist helped offer moments of pure inspiration, and it showed that, in its 50th year, the Grateful Dead are capable of achieving great heights, even during some slightly sloppy moments.

Bob Weir started strong and never relented. He was playful and inspired, hitting vocal high notes during “He’s Gone” and the beautiful “Brokedown Palace.”

Ace was strong Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif.

Ace was strong Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif.

Phil Lesh played a thunderous bass, working a wonderful back beat with the Rhythm Devils – the ever-steady Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. On lead vocals, Lesh wasn’t strong during “Eyes of the World” but I didn’t mind it as much as many other Deadhead friends did. The moments when Lesh spoke to the 70,000 in attendance and countless others watching from home about the liver transplant he needed to stay alive. Again, just another moment to bond the Dead and those die-hard fans.

Bruce Hornsby and the piano and Jeff Chimenti on the keyboards, those two couldn’t get enough of each other. Their dynamic interplay showcased the joys the band experiences during a good show, which, make no mistake, this was.

And Trey. Well, he entered guitar royalty Sunday night. For those Deadhands who never got into Phish (my hand is raised), Anastasio’s inclusion was reason for slight concern. Would he Phish-up beloved Dead classics? Would he simply mimic Garcia? Would he lead on all Garcia songs?

Thankfully, the answers are no, no and no.

Trey worked wonders Sunday night. He played inspired, and, during “Wharf Rat,” it truly looked like he and Garcia were communicating. As one friend put it, “Trey was practically genuflecting. Heavy shit, man!”

The Grateful Dead conclude their all-too-brief Fare Thee Well tour with three shows in Chicago, starting tonight. That’s three more opportunities for magic moments.

Whether you’re in attendance like several of my friends or couch touring like myself, expect a miracle or two.

Paul Stanley’s Inspirational Quote of the Week

It’s Thursday. It’s hot. It’s understandable if a boost is needed to get through the rest of the week.

Thankfully, the eternally optimistic lyrics of KISS frontman Paul Stanley can pull us through. Stanley’s ability to inspire didn’t end when KISS took off the makeup in the early 1980s. If anything, Stanley dug deeper into his reservoir of rock and roll righteousness, penning classics like “Lick It Up,” a beloved tour de force of live shows these days.

KISS also dusted off another 80s classic, “Crazy Nights” on a recent tour. That’s where we look to for Paul Stanley’s Inspirational Quote of the Week.

They try to tell us we don’t belong;
That’s alright, we’re millions strong;
This is my music, it makes me proud;
These are my people and this is my crowd.

That’s right, Starchild. It is your crowd. We are you’re people – the unabashed members of the KISS Army. “And nobody’s gonna change me, cause that’s who I am.”

Book review: “Face the Music: A Life Exposed” by Paul Stanley

Each night is the only night that counts to the people at that show. They weren’t at the show the night before, and they won’t be at the one tomorrow. I won’t let them down.

Paul Stanley's "Face The Music: A Life Exposed" covers everything from the origins of KISS tro many of the band's misfires in the 1980s to the powerful lineup in place today.

Paul Stanley’s “Face The Music: A Life Exposed” covers everything from the origins of KISS tro many of the band’s misfires in the 1980s to the powerful lineup in place today.

That passage is from the 65th chapter of Paul Stanley’s autobiography, “Face the Music: A Life Exposed,” which was released April 8, 2014, and it’s as fitting a description for the frontman and driving force of hall of fame act KISS as any before or since.

Stanley, who formed the band in the early 1970s with original members Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, never takes a night off on stage. Part inspiration, part perspiration and total determination, Stanley – at age 63 – still completes aerial stunts onstage in massive, platform shoes. In his book, Stanley credits the massive KISS Army for his ability to perform such acrobatics at an advanced age.

If you’ve seen KISS in concert, you know what I’m talking about. Stanley reveres his position in the band and in rock history. Confident, sexified and strut-tastic, Stanley sets the bar high for rock frontmen. He’s as good as it gets, and he basks in it.

Stanley, the last original member of KISS to pen an autobiography, takes the same approach to his book, and with a thoughtful retrospection one might expect from someone who’s had significant ups and a few downs during an epic four decades with KISS. Stanley delves into his upbringing – from his detached, unemotional parents to his difficult older sister to the pain he felt growing up deaf in one ear, which was also deformed.

A prevailing theme in the book is Stanley’s struggles with self-confidence stemming from his deformed ear. He sought fame, fortune and women in an attempt to mask the pain. None of it ended up working, though he achieved all his goals in ample proportions.

Stanley eventually found peace, and fathered four children. He cooks, he cares and he’s optimistic. Unlike books by Frehley and Criss, Stanley holds no grudges and it comes across as painfully truthful. Stanley doesn’t hide his disappointment in Frehley’s and Criss’ poor play as the reasons why KISS’ reunion in the 1990s fell apart. He openly makes fun of some of the music he made in the 1980s. He even holds no punches with Simmons, whom Stanley said takes far too much credit in the band’s success.

But Stanley never comes across as bitter. It’s just not in his nature.

That’s is why I dubbed Stanley, “The Walt Disney of rock and roll” following a particularly excellent KISS show at Star Lake Amphitheater in Burgettstown. (Sorry sponsors, it will always be Star Lake.)

Stanley’s tale is beyond extraordinary, yet it comes across as relatable. It’s well-written, thoughtful and, just like Stanley on stage, it doesn’t let the reader down.

Paul Stanley’s inspirational quote of the week

Part inspiration, part perspiration and part showman, Paul Stanley is one of rock’s ultimate frontmen, a persona so grand, I’ve dubbed him “The Walt Disney of Rock and Roll.”

Stanley’s lyrics are filled with imagery – visceral and inspirational. It’s the latter that’s inspired a new feature for this blog:

Paul Stanley’s inspirational quote of the week.

Every week, we’ll draw inspiration from Stanley’s often over-the-top lyrics. Apply them in life, and happiness is guaranteed.

“I know life sometimes can get tough!
And I know life sometimes can be a drag!
But people, we have been given a gift,
we have been given a road
And that road’s name is… Rock and Roll!”

There, feeling better?