Tag Archives: MGM National Harbor

Amazing or Consistently Good?

Earlier in the week, I wrote a blog in which I provided a review of Duran Duran’s New Year’s Day show and the weekend in general.  If you have not read it, you can read it here.  Overall, the response was positive as many, many readers agreed with me and added even more examples from their own experiences.  Yet, one reader questioned the structure of the blog post as I focused on responding to a review of the show.  The criticism was that I should not have reviewed a review, that I should have just written about my thoughts about the show.

This reaction made me think.  I get that a reader would want details about the show.  Yet, I felt and still feel that I needed that review to respond to.  If you have been reading this blog pretty consistently over the last year, you recognize that I have attended a “few” shows since Paper Gods was released.  This means that I have seen basically the same set list a “few” times.  I have seen the same visuals, the same dance moves, the same introductions (in many cases).  I have reviewed many of the shows I have seen here on the blog.  I am not sure what more I could say beyond, “I love having New Moon on Monday in the setlist.”  I have said that before.  I have commented on how it represents my fandom.  I could have repeated that as well as other comments about DoJo, JoSi, the amazing visuals during What Are the Chances, etc.  I didn’t, though.  I didn’t want to rehash old blogs.  That’s not fun, nor interesting.

So why could I not discuss the differences with this show?  Why didn’t I mention the uniqueness of that particular New Year’s Day show?  Frankly, there wasn’t much difference between that show and the show I saw in Chula Vista, California, or the one I saw in Toronto, Canada.  Most of the shows I have seen during this era are consistently good.  It seems clear to me that Duran has worked HARD to put on a good show night after night.  I don’t hear or read criticism that a show sucked ever.  No one says that.  I think back, though, to shows in 2005 or 2006 or 2007, etc., and I do remember hearing that some shows weren’t as good as others.

Similarly, I can think back to the shows that I have seen and there were definitely some shows that were amazing!  I remember leaving the Brighton show in 2011 thinking that there was never going to be a better show than that and the next night in Bournemouth seemed to prove that to me as that show wasn’t that great.  In the past, shows varied with some being a lot better than others.  Now, before I get hate mail, don’t get me wrong.  “Less than perfect” Duran shows are still better than lots of other bands.  I don’t regret seeing any Duran show and clearly, I’m still addicted since I have tickets to more.  I’m just saying that some were “good” and some shows were “amazing.”

This leads me to think about other bands.  I have seen Depeche Mode, for example, a number of times.  They are consistently good.  I can count on that band to put on a good show.  Yet, despite having had seen them a bunch of times, none of the shows stick out to me.  No show was better than others.  I could say the same about their albums.  Generally, Depeche records good albums, consistent albums.  Duran has had some AMAZING albums and some albums that weren’t as great.  It seems to me, though, that when Duran makes a good song, it is beyond fabulous and cannot be compared with anything else.   The same is true with their albums as well.

This makes me wonder.  Which is better?  Is it better to be consistently good or it is better to have moments of being awesome and some moments of being less than great?  For me, if I really wanted consistently good, I might be writing a blog about being a Depeche Mode fan.  Yet, I like that Duran takes chance to reach that 10 with their music, their albums, their live shows.  At times, they not only reach that 10, they push passed.  Yet, sometimes, they try and miss the mark, creating only a 6.  I think it braver and more interesting to follow a band that isn’t always the same.  I like that they change and try new challenges.

What do the rest of you think?

-A

New Year’s Day Show and Overall Weekend Review

I returned home last night after a long day of travel from the Washington DC area with Duran Duran and the weekend still on my mind.  Throughout the day, I exchanged text messages with Rhonda about the show and weekend.  I suggested that I provide today’s blog in order to review the New Year’s Day show while it was fresh in my mind.

After I emptied my suitcase and started the laundry, I glanced through social media and came across a post with a review from the show, which you can read here.  What do I think of this review?  Read on, people.

The author begins by going over band members and stating how they seemed excited to be there.  I would agree.  Their energy level was hundred times greater than the previous night.  I’ll give a couple of examples.  John Taylor bounced up and down a TON more during Wild Boys on the 1st versus the 31st and we got Sunrise/New Moon on Monday, which we did not have on the 31st, which I love.  Anyway, unfortunately, then, she goes on to rave about the venue.  The author writes:

“There are so many music venues across the country that were never really designed for concerts. This theatre was designed with concerts in mind and its apparent. Soon, I believe, The Theater at the MGM National Harbor will rank as one of the top concert venues on the East coast. So remember you read it here first!  The modern style theater holds around 3,000 people but still manages to feel intimate, there isn’t a bad seat in the house helped out by two huge screens on either side of the stage.”

As I read that, I scratch my head.  There isn’t a bad seat in the house???  Our last two posts, which you can read here and here, point out that there are seats that literally face walls.  Yes, she is right that there are screens and I am sure that people in the back appreciated them.  That said, some seats had such extreme angles that the only way to really see was to watch a screen.  To me, when I go to a concert venue, I want to watch the actual band.  On top of that, the barricade between the stage and the front row was HUGE, causing all others on the floor to be pushed back.  The flat floor does not help attendees who are short see beyond taller people in front of them.  Needless to say, I was not impressed.  Now, in fairness, the author stated that the last time she saw Duran it was in a muddy field.  This would be better than that.

The rest of the review focuses more on the performance with the standard ‘they haven’t aged at all’ comment.  The author mentions the crowd and describes how they “lit up screaming”.  I cannot disagree with this.  The front center section appeared to be full and what I could tell they were up, off their feet, singing and dancing the entire time.  The crowd felt more like genuine fans.  I cannot help but to think that there is a correlation between the band’s energy level and the crowd.  Better crowd equals more energy and vice versa.  The two feed off of each other.

The author goes on to mention some specific songs, including Planet Earth with the David Bowie tribute, The Reflex and more.  Interestingly enough, she called them “oldies.”  Ouch.  Yes, these songs that she referenced were released decades ago but to call them oldies hurts.  She also compliments Simon’s voice as well as the backing vocals of Erin Stevenson and Anna Ross.  I agree that Simon generally sounded strong and unlike the previous night, I didn’t notice any lyrical goofs.

The rest of the review discussed aspects of the casino itself from the parking to size of the casino and how she liked what she saw.  Overall, I would say that the casino has potential but needs to iron out some details that detracted from the fun.  First, I appreciated how friendly and helpful all of the staff were from coat check staff to cleaning staff and everyone in between.  I liked the layout with the casino in the middle surrounded by restaurants on the outside perimeter.  All that said, last call inside the bars was 1:30 even on New Year’s Eve.  This particularly did not make sense to me as cocktail waitresses inside the casino itself still served beyond that.  Some of the bar staff was super slow to deliver drinks.  Restaurants also closed early, which was a problem when you want to hang out late into the evening and needed food.

I saw lots of people I have seen at previous shows, which was great!  At one point over the weekend, I declared that there should be a Duranie yearbook with people’s names, pictures and a list of shows they attended as it is hard to remember everyone and when/where you met them.  The Lobby Bar, which was an open (no door man monitoring who comes in and out unlike the other bars in the place), bar served as a decent meet up spot for Duranies both before and after the shows.  As always, I saw people there whom I didn’t have a chance to talk with much but wanted to.  Time flies when people are having fun.

That said,  I felt a bit of a disconnect there.  If I had to guess why, it was the hotel situation.  The MGM hotel was far too expensive for the vast majority of us to stay in.  Therefore, we sought out different places within a short distance.  Some stayed there in Oxon Hill, others in Alexandria like myself and Nat, and some in DC proper.  There wasn’t the same running into people during the day like you would find at a typical casino show.  During the day, everyone scattered to do different activities only to meet up very briefly before or after.  On top of that, the early closings of bars and restaurants did not make it easy to stay late and hang out.  When I go to a casino show, I want to be able to hang out all night long.

Overall, I still feel as though I made the right decision to go.  I loved being able to finish off a year with a Duran show and starting a new one the same way.  One thing that Simon said at the New Year’s Day show that stuck with me was this theory that whatever you were doing on New Year’s Day is how your year will go.  I would love for that to be the case.  My year would be a great one if it was filled with Duranies, Duran music, and fun.  I loved seeing many friends there and enjoyed getting to know my friend, Nat, more.  She put up with me, which is always impressive!  Just ask Rhonda!  It also increased my excitement for the next shows in Agua Caliente in California in March.  With a little over 10 weeks until that trip, I know that I’ll be ready to go!

-A

Shouldn’t VIP seats be great?

Happy New Year!

It is my first blog of 2017 and I am hoping this post finds everyone happy and healthy.  Many of you are making your way home from the  New Year shows in Washington DC – safe travels! I have to say, sitting these shows out and staying at home wasn’t nearly as depressing as I thought. Not that I didn’t miss being there to see the band, but seeing the posts and updates from Amanda gave me a totally different perspective than I would have had if I were there too. It was interesting, not that I’d seriously try to recommend staying home to anyone!  I just didn’t have a choice, and I needed to make the best of it. I am going to have to get used to that, until I win the lottery.

Since I’ve been at home, I’ve had the opportunity to hear a lot about the venue. From a dress code that didn’t seem to be enforced to a countdown to New Years during the show that did not include the band dragged down spirits a bit. On the upside: DURAN DURAN. I mean, what could be better than that?  I have a hard time thinking of anything else that could be better than spending New Year’s weekend seeing Duran Duran.

Take it from someone who wasn’t there: I WISH.  I saw plenty of tweets, posts and comments that began with the words, “Once in a lifetime”.  I get it, and I have to concur. Those of us who weren’t there missed out (although I speak solely for myself when I say that I’ve gotten to do a lot of other “once in a lifetime” things as a result of this band – so missing one weekend won’t kill me).

On the other hand, had I spent the nearly $400 a show to see the band, I would have been very disappointed to get to the venue and see this view:

photo taken on an iPhone with no zoom, courtesy of Jennifer Burroughs

That’s a view from a VIP seat. In order to see any portion of the stage, the person in the seat had to angle way to the side. If they looked straight ahead, this may have been their view:

This is a photo Amanda took the first night.

Sure, the seats were close, and there’s no argument about that. Close seats, however, are not always “great seats”, and they definitely aren’t the “great seats” that paying nearly $400 for a VIP tickets should get you. These seats are partially obstructed, and should not be marketed as anything else. Shame on the venue for that. Sure, you might be in the first six rows, but if those rows face a brick wall and you never see the band – are they really VIP? That’s my question to all of you.

In an online discussion about this very issue, I mentioned that Amanda and I really try to do our homework before pre-sales. We search online for images of the venue. We even look to see photos from people in the audience, just to try to get a handle on the length of the stage as opposed to seating. Then we print out a copy of the seating chart, and we try to make sure that we know how the seats are numbered within each section. Buyer beware: even the seating charts that ticket agencies use sometimes aren’t always the best or most accurate. That’s why we take a good look at any photos  we can find online. Those are things we do ahead of time, so that way when row 2, seats 45 and 46 show up in our basket at the pre-sale, we can decide for ourselves whether or not we want them. And believe it or not, we’ve thrown second row seats back before because they were so far to the side that it didn’t matter. We’ve agreed that we’d rather be back a bit farther but in the middle than be way off to one side.  But that’s a choice that YOU must make as a buyer. We all want different things. So let’s look at the seating chart used for this pre-sale:

seating chart for MGM

It feels very counterintuitive, or even greedy, to throw back first or second row VIP seats because they’re not more to the middle. No doubt about it. I’m certainly not telling anybody what to do here because I don’t know what I would have done, had I participated in the pre-sale. Which brings me to another point.

Shouldn’t VIP seats be, well….great?

In the past on DDM (and by past I mean PAST)…we’d participate in pre-sales and not be guaranteed to have the best seats. It was explained that the DDM allocation for pre-sales were 10% of the best and worst seats in the venue, and it was a crap-shoot as to what you might get. DDM customers knew that risk going in, and I don’t know many of us who weren’t burned at least once. Those pre-sales, however, were not VIP. They were simply fan pre-sales. Over time, DDM began promoting their own VIP packages in various forms, whether they included cocktail parties, meet and greets, tiers, merchandise, or just the “great seat”.  Keeping in mind that during a pre-sale, you could go for just a regular seat OR pay the extra to do VIP.  Call me crazy, but if you’re paying the surcharge for VIP, you’re probably expecting a really good seat – one that doesn’t have you staring directly at a wall.

Granted, I’m not entirely sure that DDM has much control over what the venue touts as a “great seat”.  It isn’t as though DDM actually sorts through the tickets themselves and allocates them to fans (although at one time, they did). I just know that as a fan, if I bought a VIP ticket and ended up with that kind of view—I’d think twice before buying another. It doesn’t beg for repeat business.

I saw quite a few comments to DDM from “owners” of these types of side-seat tickets. Many asked if this is really how the band should treat their VIP customers. I can understand the question and the sentiment. I also have a fair idea of just how much attention DDHQ pays to such complaints. Unfortunately, it’s widely regarded that the only comments online are the negative ones, which is incredibly untrue (those are just the ones easily seen, which says more about the viewer than it does the countless GOOD things I see every day about the band).

Here’s the problem: we are customers. We also happen to be fans. Those are two different things. Sometimes, I feel that DDM and subsequently DDHQ forget that point. Fans can be fans without being customers; and many customers really aren’t fans. But, once they are truly customers – when they buy something directly from DDM—they should be treated as such.  The complaints have little do with crazy fans, it’s about wanting good service. It is wanting the goods and services one paid for. The relationship is transactional, not emotional.

I’m somewhat dismayed by just how many times I see the comment, “You saw a great show for the ticket price” or “The band puts on a fantastic show.”  without any validation given to the concerns of the customer. Particularly so when the complaints aren’t about the band doing their job, but about the folks behind the scenes doing theirs.

-R

To Hear the Drum: New Year’s Eve Show Review

Happy New Year 2017!  We all made it!  Last night, I rang in the New Year at the MGM National Harbor with some friends and Duran Duran.  Overall, the night was a ton of fun even though I wished for some things to be different.

Pre-Show:

The evening started with a quick Uber ride from my hotel in Alexandria to Oxon Hill, Maryland.  While the resort/casino was busy, it was not overwhelming and easy to get dropped off at.  I worried a bit as my little group entered–how strict will the dress code be?  Will they accept our tickets to waive the fee?  The answers.  The dress code was not enforced as I saw many people with jeans and sneakers.  Perhaps, some of the clubs were more picky but the MGM as a whole, no.  Getting in was easy by simply giving your name.

After entering, we walked around to get a lay of the land a bit and to find coat check.  Again, it was easy to drop off.  From there, we headed over to the Lobby Bar, which is located upstairs, but near the theater.  We wanted to get our drink on and see friends before the show.  Many Duranies came, increasing the excitement for the show!      The only downside was that it took forever to get drinks.  Here are a couple of pictures:

Time flew and before long, we ventured over to the theater for the show!

The Venue:

As many of you know, this venue is new, only opening earlier in December.  I hoped to be impressed as I usually like a lot of smaller (in this case 3000 seat) venues.  Unfortunately, the design was poor.  After entering through a metal detector, there was little direction about where to go from there.  We walked past a bar and a merch booth, which included all of the same stuff as the summer shows, only to see a sign for sections 103-105.  Huh?  Where do we go in for the floor?  Luckily, kind staff directed us inside and showed our seats.  After sitting down in the middle front section, I had a chance to look around.  Shockingly, the sections of seats stretched far beyond the stage on the left and the right.  This means that if you had seats in the left section or the right section, you might be looking at a wall (and a screen) when facing forward.  A few of my friends found themselves in this position.  These photos below show better than I can explain:

The real kicker about these seats?  They were sold as VIP tickets.  I know that I would not have been happy to spend a lot of money for tickets with this poor angle.

The Show:

Let’s start with the biggest highlight of the show and the one that everyone was worried, anxious, excited about…the return of Nick Rhodes.  I snapped this picture early on in the evening just to remind myself that I was not dreaming and that he, indeed, was there.  It was SO good to have him back!

The setlist remained the same, which I was expecting.  The lights and the visuals remained the same and as always a strong addition to the show.

The band entered the stage with high energy, ready to bring it.  Yet, the venue appeared to be about half full when the lights went down. Did people forget about the starting time?  Were they expecting an opening band?  Soon enough, more people trickled in but there were still empty pockets, at least where I was sitting in the center, front section.  Then, I took note that a number of the people near me were sitting down.  Some even had their phones out, scrolling through their photos.  Wait.  What…the what is going on?  Don’t they know that they are at a Duran show?  I was confused and dismayed.  Maybe it was that they didn’t know Paper Gods.  No, for many, they remained in their seats through Wild Boys, Hungry Like the Wolf and the rest.  Ugh.  I felt my energy get zapped.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to be the band and see empty seats and people sitting.  I turned around to look at the rest of the venue and spotted a number of fans up off their seats dancing and singing.  I wished that those fans were in my section, closer to the stage.

My other big observation during the early part of the show is that the venue security was odd.  Many fans rushed into the aisles when Paper Gods began.  Security clearly asked them to move to their seats.  Many, who had come from those side sections I mentioned earlier, just moved into the center section, up front with no problem, taking up some of those earlier mentioned empty seats. Ugh again.  Why is that okay?  Why couldn’t my friend and I move up to some of those empty seats?  What about those fans loving the show in the back?

All that said, Duran put on a fine show.  I would not say they had the most energy I have ever seen (perhaps due to what appeared to be a slightly lame crowd) but there were some highlights.  Simon chatted up the crowd a bunch, which I always enjoy.  Two moments stick out. First, Simon talked about how awful 2016 was to many and asked the crowd if people were ready for 2017.  Then he said something along the line of, “Why in the fuck do you think 2017 will be any better?”  I nodded, laughed and thought that is the truth.  Before Notorious, he mentioned seeing twerking on TV that day.  I immediately hid my face, hoping that he wasn’t planning on twerking himself on stage.  I don’t know that I ever need to see that!  On the other hand, my friend and seat mate was ready to go!  Oh my!

New Year’s Moment:

Right before the clock flipped to midnight, Simon declared that the band was leaving the stage and that Carson Daly’s countdown in Times Square was to be shown on the big screen.  What…the what?!?  I came to have Simon count down.  I didn’t want to watch Carson.  I could have done that at home.  Now, I suspect that was the plan that the venue had as the band did not stay off the stage for long.  We watched literally 48 seconds of a countdown and then Duran returned about a minute after that.  Confetti was released and balloons dropped which was fun!  In fact, there were so many balloons that you couldn’t even move without sitting on one, stepping on one.  Later, I heard that there was champagne at the bar there but I have no idea if it was free or not.  I would have loved if the venue brought us all a glass because I know that I wasn’t going to move from the show, not even for a drink!

Post Show:

Many of us returned to the Lobby Bar after the show (despite the slow service) in order to keep the party going.  Most people I talked with had a great time!  Some were looking forward to tonight’s show and others were saddened that they were leaving today instead.

I, for one, am looking forward to tonight’s show.  Now, I have a lay of the land for the resort.  I will be wearing more comfortable jeans and shoes.  I also suspect that there will be more Duranies in attendance tonight vs. people who just got tickets for something to do on New Year’s or because of some special status with MGM.  Duran Duran should bring it tonight because I’ll be ready!

-A

The Lights Turn On: New Year’s Eve!

Rumor has it that it is a show day!  A Duran Duran show day!  Woohoo!  Yes, that’s right.  Duran Duran is playing tonight at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.  They are playing a New Year’s Eve show, in fact, with the show starting at 10:30.  Therefore, fans in attendance will actually ring in 2017 with Duran Duran.  This significant event pulled a lot of fans like myself to the Washington DC area.  Has Duran Duran ever played a New Year’s Eve show?  I don’t think so.  They have done TV appearances for New Year’s (MTV, Carson Daly, etc.) but I don’t think they have played a whole show on this date.  (That said, someone correct me if I’m wrong!)

Show Details:

As this show has loomed closer, my social media focused on Duran started hopping.  A few days ago, an article, which you can read here,  was shared by many fans planning to attend tonight’s and/or tomorrow’s show.  The two big pieces that most focused on were the cost to get in and the dress code.  According to the article and the email that ticket holders received, the casino is charging $75 on New Year’s Eve, in order to enter.  These tickets must be purchased in advance through (my favorite) Ticketmaster.  Good news is that ticket holders to the Duran show just need to show their tickets to enter WITHOUT paying this $75 charge.  This is a good move for the casino since our tickets weren’t cheap!  I, for one, will be interested to see what the crowd in the casino will be like with this additional cost.

The other big piece of news that attendees is focusing on, which is the dress code for the weekend.  According to the article,

“MGM is also instilling a dress code for New Year’s weekend. Visitors are asked to wear “upscale or semi-formal dress, suitable for the occasion.”

MGM also points out that “appropriate attire will be required throughout the weekend, Friday through Sunday. No athletic gear, T-shirts, shorts, torn or cutoff clothing, offensive prints on clothing, baggy clothing … athletic shoes, flip-flops, sneakers, chains, ball caps.”

What exactly does that mean, people wonder?  I question it myself.  My assumption is that you can’t look like a bum.  You have to look like you wanted to look nice.  For tonight’s show, I’m wearing dress pants.  After that, I’m planning on wearing nice jeans to the New Year’s Day show.  I’m sure it will be fine.  If not…well, then, I will deal.  Unhappily.

Nick News:

If anyone was on social media on the 29th, the big topic of discussion was the Cancun show, specifically the lack of Nick.  As far as I know, there was no announcement saying that he was not going to be there nor was there an announcement saying that he was.  Yet, many/most people expected him to be there because he had just played with the band in London not that long ago.  If he was able to perform then, surely, he would be able to perform now, right?  Once people realized that he wasn’t there, speculation grew.  Why?  What is going on?  People wanted to know.  From what I could tell, it wasn’t out of a desire to be nosey or to violate Nick’s privacy.  No, it was more about wanting to know what to expect from Duran Duran.  Could people expect Nick to be at upcoming shows?  If not, shouldn’t fans know that before buying tickets?

It didn’t take long before DDHQ responded with the following tweet:

Obviously, this is what all Duranies wanted to hear.  We all want Nick there.  It doesn’t feel like the same band without him.  While I was relieved to see that tweet, part of me will still worry until I see Nick on stage for myself.  I’m a little paranoid.

Drinks!

If anyone is planning on going to the show tonight or tomorrow night, come join me at the Lobby Bar (that’s the actual name of a bar in the casino) before the show.  I am planning to be there a couple of hours before show time.  After all, I want time to see people, have good conversation, and maybe have a drink or two!

-A

The Present Will Never Last

This morning, I am traveling to the Washington D.C. area with my friend to celebrate New Year’s.  Of course, this won’t be a common celebration but one filled with some live music by a certain band that we know and love.  Yes, this New Year’s celebration will include a couple Duran shows.

When these shows were announced, I didn’t hesitate to make plans to go.  I never have New Year’s plans and this holiday includes time away from work.  If that wasn’t enough, I also had airline miles.  It seemed like a no brainer.  Yet, as the days passed by and become weeks then months, I began to wonder if I made the right decision.  I could use the money for other things.  The mountain of grading would not get done on its own.  My feelings of despair hadn’t let up much since November.  Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling it much and put off real planning.  Yes, I had a plane ticket, a hotel room, but I hadn’t prepared the binder or figure out any real details.  I kept putting it off.

Then, on Christmas day, I heard about George Michael’s death.  Like so many others of my generation, I grew up listening to George Michael and Wham.  I sang his songs and watched his videos.  Hearing about his loss was like losing a part of my childhood.  Then, when you place his loss alongside the others who died during this year, the grief is almost overwhelming.  When I just think about the musicians lost this year, I am deeply saddened by those whom I will never have the opportunity to see live in concert or hear new music from again.  I was lucky in that I saw David Bowie live once.  I wish I could have said the same for Prince and George Michael.

Suddenly, I realized that I need to get it together.  I have the opportunity to go and see Duran Duran on New Year’s Eve.  I shouldn’t ignore any and all chances to see bands/artists I like.  I certainly should APPRECIATE every single chance I have to see Duran Duran.  If anything that 2016 has taught us, it is not to waste chances and moments to do what you love or to be where you are happiest.  After all, you never know when we won’t have the chance to do it again, for whatever the reason.

Now that I have rearranged my perspective, how can I not be excited and appreciative for this chance?  How can I not look forward to spending New Year’s not only with Duran Duran but also countless Duranies!  While I will miss my best friend being with me and I acknowledge that life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, I need to focus on what I do have.  I will have two Duran shows and I know that there is no place I would rather be.  Duranie friends will be all around me.  Life isn’t perfect but this trip will be pretty close.

So, as you are all reading this, I should be on my way.  Hopefully, my flight will be uneventful and then I will be able to enjoy a city that I have had the good fortune of spending some time over the last 6 years or so.  Then, I will be ready to party and put an end of a year that was filled with sorrow and disappointment.  With everlasting hope, I, along with thousands of Duran fans, will welcome 2017 doing what we love–singing, dancing, screaming and clapping for a band and music we love so much.

-A

Rhonda’s Merry Christmas Wish List

This is my last blogging day before Christmas. It is amazing how quickly I filled up my “work-free” week with, well, WORK. It is the unpaid kind, and while I enjoy blogging, that isn’t the kind of work I’m talking about. It’s the shopping, wrapping, baking, cleaning and cooking variety that has worked very hard to make sure my lower back is in quite a bit of pain just before Christmas, and I am sure I’m not alone.

So before I make a mad dash to try to contain the mess in my house before my sister arrives late tonight from Chicago, I thought I’d settle in and post some good wishes.

This year, I barely got my family Christmas cards out before the holiday. I think that’s a side-effect from working, college applications  (which are finally done!) and teaching at home. There are plenty of my friends who appear to have it all together and got their cards out with time to spare. Me, on the other hand, well…I’m learning. Maybe next year will be better! In any case, I want to say a very Merry Christmas to all of you. It has been a wild year for me and my family, and while we’ve had good cheer, there has been a fair amount of heart ache and loss. My wish for Christmas is time for peace, love and reflection, for all.

I feel very fortunate to be able to write most days. The latter part of this year has been about finding the enjoyment again in doing so. When I first started working, I couldn’t find the time to write. What I’ve begun to realize is that once I started enjoying it again, finding the time was easy. Hmm. Must be something to that, somewhere. The same holds true for being a fan (for me). I am thoroughly enjoying being a fan again. It is one of many things I love, and I’m thankful. My wish here is just for more of the same. I would like to keep writing and enjoying. I don’t have big dreams for the blog or my writing—I just like doing it.

I learned this year that it really doesn’t matter if fellow fans like what I write, or if the band likes it, or even if a publisher likes it. I write for me. It took me a long time to get back to this space and my wish is to stay here and enjoy the moments as they arrive.

Naturally, I can’t forget the band. We’re really and truly talking about their fortieth anniversary coming up. That blows my mind. We’re all “those” fans who have stuck with the band forever with no sign of stopping. I remember going to see the Beach Boys about ten or even fifteen years ago with my husband—laugh if you must, but my parents loved them, so they’re a sentimental favorite. Anyway, we saw a couple of elderly fans being wheeled in and even a couple with oxygen tanks in tow. Walt turned to me and said, “Maybe that’s going to be you someday!” I was not amused. I felt like I would give up the live show before then. I’m not quite elderly, but I hope to never give up the music. Simon says that it can’t go on forever (live shows). I say we should give it a good try.  😀 I can’t imagine the day when this kind of fun just stops.

When I was young, I wished for a lot of things. I still have that type of wish list, but I find that the older I get – the more I wish for the things that just can’t be wrapped. Time with family and friends, peace and quiet, loud concerts, drinks at a bar with people I rarely see…those are the moments I long for.  Additionally, I am thinking about college acceptances for my son, time with my youngest curled up beside me on the couch as we read together, mother/daughter time with my oldest, and a place to retire with my husband with plenty of space where I never have to hear a phone ring (from someone else’s house – yep, I live in Southern California where I can hear my neighbors!) or hear a garbage truck pass.  I think about the simple enjoyment from writing a good blog post, putting on fan get togethers, and yeah—a smile or shared laugh from the stage to cap it all off.

This year’s wish list for me is simple, yet tough to pull off. Much of it, I am going to have to work to make happen on my own. Some of it just requires telling the people I care about how I feel.  So, Merry Christmas to all of you. I’ve met many of you over the years. My memory is poor when it comes to matching names to faces, but my heart is full. I am lucky. I met a lot of wonderful people this past year, especially. I want to thank all of you and tell you that yes, you matter. Every time someone says that they enjoyed the blog or love what Amanda and I do, it means something. I get embarrassed when people say that to us—my red face is a dead give-away, I’m afraid—but I relish it every single time, and I appreciate it.

I hope to see as many of our readers as possible in March at the shows in Palm Springs (It’s really Rancho Mirage at Agua Caliente). Have a fabulous time if you’re headed to Cancun. (oh, to be headed to Cancun….) If you’re going to the shows in DC, I hope you have an amazing time and that you hang out with Amanda. I am looking forward to reading her reports from the road next week. I don’t know how much blogging I will be doing next week, as I have family here from out-of-town, but I will check in and will be back blogging as usual come January 2nd.

Merry Christmas!!!

-R

To Lighten Up Your Mood

Do you listen to music to match your mood or to change it?  For example, do you find yourself picking upbeat, dance music to get you moving in the morning or to join you on a workout?  Or is it a situation in which you are angry so you pick a song to scream out your frustrations?  If I was asked this question, I would definitely state that I’m more of a find a song to match my mood kind of person.  Perhaps, this is one of many reasons that I like Duran so much.  I appreciate that they have songs to match every mood.  There are a lot of artists out there with catalogs that all sound the same, in terms of tempo, feeling, etc.  Duran isn’t like that.

It may come as no surprise to anyone reading this who knows me that I have not been feeling particularly upbeat, happy, joyful lately.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that my mood swings from anger and frustration to deep sadness.  Underlying all of that is a strong, unbreakable feeling of anxiety, worry, fear.  I have not even been playing a lot of music in the last month as everything I might choose seemed off the mark.  Again, the goal I have is to match the music with my mood and no songs in my library includes all of those emotions.  I find songs that express the anger but not the sadness or vice versa.  Forget about finding music that really expresses the fear I have.  Because I do love music, I have not given up as I attempt to find the right songs or the right combination of songs to match my moods.

The other morning, I attempted once again to find just the right song while I got ready for work.  I decided to go for shuffle and hope for the best.  Duran’s Paper Gods came on.  Instead of skipping it, thinking it wouldn’t match my feeling, I opted to turn it up.  Soon enough, I found myself singing along.  I noticed that my brain stopped thinking as I let the music wash over me.  I remembered the joy of seeing the band on stage during this past summer.  Then, the next song that came on was a remix of Wild Boys.  I continued to listen and sing along.  I wanted to keep listening but I had to leave for work.  As I locked my house and moved down to the garage to drive to work, I realized that my negative outlook returned but that for a few minutes, while listening to Duran, the cloud lifted.  The songs did not change my mood but offered some relief.

As I drove to work, I allowed my thoughts to turn to the upcoming shows in Washington, DC at the end of the month.  I understood in a new, more concrete  way that I needed these shows.  Now, when I say “need”, I recognize that I won’t die without them.  Duran shows do not equal food, water, shelter or other essentials.  Of course not.  Yet, having the chance to experience some real joy will not only give me a reprieve from the harsh reality of life right now, which is more than welcome, but will also help me get a boost that I need to keep fighting the good fight.

Music is powerful.  It can say what we can’t say ourselves otherwise. It can also sway your mood or provide you with the necessary escape.  More than that, music brings joy which all humans benefit from, but especially when life is throwing a lot of challenges your way.  This week, I was reminded of the power of music.  Add on the fact that Duran’s music also has music for every emotion and the power intensifies.  Right now, at this moment, I am thankful for Duran and their music and really looking forward to those shows.

-A

Some Days Are Strange to Number

Some days, some things just make me laugh.  Sometimes, the laughter happens right away.  Other times, there needs to be some space between the event and the giggles.  Tuesday morning was one of those days…

I arrived at work/school early on Tuesday.  I had much to do, including copying four handouts to start a brand new unit for my US History kiddos.  As I mindlessly stood by the copier at 7 am, I thought through my game plan.  I had to find a colleague to cover me at 9 am so that I could buy tickets to the National Harbor Duran shows.  Once my class was covered, I could seek a quiet classroom to refresh my DDM and/or Ticketmaster page frequently as I anxiously waited for tickets to go on sale.  Then, I would quickly type in the password and seek the tickets of my choice.  Of course, the perfect tickets would pop up instantly, almost placing themselves into the shopping cart without me even clicking a button.  The process would be nothing but smooth sailing.  I could then return to my classroom, having been gone for less than 10 minutes.  Yeah…those copier fantasies can be intense and terribly inaccurate.

Still, the plan seemed on track when I found my colleague and friend across the hall.  I begged her to cover my first hour class and even told her to give treats to my students if they were good since I had brownies and cupcakes with me.  She readily agreed.  Perfect.  Nothing could go wrong, I figured.  I had coverage.  I had a plan.  I had the seating chart printed.  I logged into my computer and the necessary sites.  I was all set.  

At five to nine, my colleague stepped across the hall to take over as I sought her quiet classroom to begin my incessant refreshing.  As I started to refresh the Ticketmaster page, I noticed that sometimes I would get a countdown clock and other times I did not.  Cue self-talk as I reminded myself that it would be fine and that I had done a million presales before.  There was no need for my heart to be beating that fast.  None, whatsoever.  Finally, the countdown reached zero, the page indicated that it was loading and loading and loading and loading.  What the hell?!  Do I need to refresh the page, I wondered.  Finally, after what felt like hours, I refreshed, revealing the ticket sale page.  I put my request in.  Denied.  Grumble.  Grumble.  Okay, I thought.  No big deal.  Stay calm.  Refresh again.  Up pops crappy seats all the way to the side and far back.  No thank you.  Refresh again.  Same result.  

“Are they kidding me?” I said out loud to an empty classroom.  Could the tickets already be sold out, I asked myself?!  Nooooooo….refresh again for the sixth time.  Then, Ticketmaster asked me to click on pictures with mountains.  I did that and when the page appeared it stated in big, red ugly letters that they could not fulfill my request.  I felt the blood pressure rising.  I didn’t understand.  What was going on?!  Deep breaths began.  More waiting.  Then, the dreaded bell rang indicating that I could pursue this no longer as 2nd hour awaited.  Damnit, I muttered as I crossed back into my classroom and my role as teacher.

As sweat popped up on my forehead, I frantically searched for my team teacher.  Where was she?  Was she coming to class?  Could she start the class so I could keep…attempting to get tickets?!  Finally, she appeared in the door frame.  Relief.  I begged her to start the class while I explained the situation.  She nodded while directing me to her room, to try on her computer.  That might work, I thought as I turned around to leave.  Unfortunately, ten minutes on a different computer  proved to be no more successful.  Swearing under my breath, I marched back into my classroom, knowing that I could not stay on Ticketmaster all dang day.  Teaching demanded my presence.

As I walked in, I noticed that I had another laptop to try Ticketmaster on.  I logged in while my colleague finished going over the political vocabulary.  She wandered over to my desk to ask how my pursuit was going.  I quickly explained the situation to her before jumping up to lead the students through some notes.  As I waited for the kids to jot down ideas about the political parties, I glanced back to see my colleague refreshing the page as I had done.  Involuntarily, I let out both a partial smile and a partial sob at the same time, thinking about how lucky I was for colleagues like that.  Thankfully, my misery ended when I received word that the friend I am going with acquired tickets for us.  I desperately wanted to collapse in my desk chair, exhausted, but I still had a room full of freshmen to teach!  Someday, this band really might kill me, I thought as I resumed the political science lesson I was presenting.

By now, you all have realized that unlike my counterpart, I will be attending the shows outside of DC around New Year’s.  Will I miss Rhonda’s presence?  That is a given.  It feels weird to go to any show or any Duran function without her.  This is even more significantly weird and sad is because it involves traveling and staying in hotels.  Yet, the shows made too much sense for me NOT to go.

As someone who is single, with few single friends near me, holidays like New Year’s Eve create a lot of personal anxiety.  Immediately after Christmas, I begin to wonder, each year, what I should do. Should I make plans, should I try to go somewhere, do I not try to make plans, do I stay at home.  In many cases, I can find a friend or two to hang out with but not always and usually last minute.  The holiday always acts as a unwelcome reminder that I’m single and don’t have a family.  It can be very lonely to be single during the holidays.  Yes, of course, I could always spend time with my parents, who are nearby me, but that usually doesn’t feel great despite how much I love my parents.  Thus, I’m thrilled that I not only will I not have that anxiety but that I have amazing plans.  I never thought I would see Duran on New Year’s.  Talk about a party!

The other reason that I am thrilled about going is that I love DC.  As I’m sure many of you reading this know, I’m a very political person and January marks the end of Obama presidency and the beginning of the next one.  As someone who worked for the Obama campaign and who has met the President and the First Lady, there is something special and affirming about going to DC during this transition.  It is like two really significant aspects of myself are coming together.

Now, some may argue that I am crazy for spending this money to go and maybe I am (although tickets weren’t any more expensive than some of the summer shows I went to).  Yet, this is an extra I can afford.  For me, it is worth it as I can think of nothing else that makes me happier than being at a Duran show.

-A

 

New Years at MGM National Harbor?

I got word of the official announcement that Duran Duran will be playing on New Years Eve AND New Years Day this year in National Harbor – a new development just outside of Washington DC. The venue (The Theater at MGM National Harbor) is 3,000 seats – so it is intimate, and the casino (MGM National Harbor) will provide just the right atmosphere for late night festivities in order to welcome 2017. It sounds like just the plan for Duranies on the east coast, or anyone willing to make the trip.

As you are reading this on Tuesday morning, the pre-sale for the show dates are likely already taking place. You can find ticket prices and details here.

No, the tickets are not cheap. These shows are taking place on New Years Eve and New Years Day, which are both holidays, and events typically sell at a premium. I can’t blame them even if I can’t join them! The hotel (MGM National Harbor) is also very expensive – stays for that period of time are ghastly prohibitive to many Duranies unless you are willing to share a room with twelve or more of your closest buddies, but I hear there are other hotels in the area, too.  Good luck!

I’ve seen many a complaint, as always, ranging from the price of the shows (with Ultimate VIP – a guaranteed front row seat – the tickets could easily reach $600, but cheaper tickets are available), to the fact that yes, these shows are once again in the US.  I am empathetic to those outside of the US, because it is true – they have spent a good portion of time here lately.  I know it is a difficult truth, but the fact is: the band makes money here. Duran Duran is not a charity, and they don’t do this out of the goodness of their hearts. They sell tickets here. The music industry is here.  It is what it is. I do wonder if the band is really going to be doing shows in Europe or anywhere else net year, but at the moment…I’m more curious about something else entirely…

Is Nick going to be appearing with the band?

In the past, this would not have even been a question. In fact, I feel a little silly for even wondering because, well…this summer was just a fluke, right? Of course he’s coming back. Right?

However, after missing the entire leg of shows this summer, the question still hangs in my head. I didn’t have to wait long to see if anyone would ask. When the subject came up yesterday on Twitter, Katy responded that she did not have the answer to that question at this time.

Wait, what?

You mean, there really IS a question hanging in the air about this?!  I guess for me, I’m sitting here wondering how Duran Duran can plan shows without even knowing if their keyboard player is going to be there. But then I remember that MNDR played the entire tour, and did a fantastic job. Even so, wasn’t that really just a one-off thing, or is this “something” really more of a permanent deal?  Or maybe, it’s that Katy answered honestly. She didn’t want to say yes or no because it wasn’t something that had been discussed yet. I can see that. I mean, you can’t really commit to something you don’t know. Perhaps by the time this is published (I’m writing ahead!), all will be known and this will be a non-issue.

I guess the one thing I know for sure is that at some point, Duran Duran should choose to come clean on this and say whatever it is that needs said, even if that’s to say that of course Nick is going to be performing.  Having the question hanging in the air is worse than having the words out there in black and white. Fans have the right to know who is going to be playing keyboards before they shell out a handful of money to see another gig.

Amanda and I have openly chosen not to press the issue with Nick because we accepted that he wanted whatever he needed to do kept private. We get that. I get that.  To be clear, I am not requesting that the band give any more details besides whether or not he is planning to appear.  This isn’t about privacy, or Nick’s health…or needing to know every last bit of minutia.  However, if he isn’t going to tour with the band, I think it’s time to just say so.  I believe this is owed to their fans and the people who have stuck by them through several guitarists, drummers, and even bass players over the years. I think the fans have more than proven their staying power, and dammit – we’re pretty supportive when given the opportunity.

I’d like to be given that chance.

-R