Our staff of columnists and photojournalists look back and share highlights from their time working with Hardrock Haven.
Chris A. – Senior Photojournalist: As a Senior Photojournalist for www.hardrockhaven.net I’ve had access to amazing incredible events, like 70000 Tons of Metal, Rock On The Range and much more. However, my personal highlight was having the opportunity to hang out and meet Alice Cooper. Alice is the guy who turned me on to rock ‘n’ roll, and because of my work as a music photographer, I was able to have a few moments to chat and take a photo with my personal favorite rock star. Rock ‘n’ F’n Roll!
Mark Allen – Senior Columnist: I had been a staff writer for Hardrock Haven for a little over a year and a half when my favorite moment in rock ‘n’ roll journalism materialized: The opportunity to interview John Schlitt, the former vocalist of Christian rock legend Petra. Led by Schlitt’s gritty, yet soulful voice, Petra had been the soundtrack of my youth; one of those bands with which I knew (and still know) every note and nuance of every album they ever released. The songs of Petra and the testimony of Schlitt, himself, had a major impact on my life, and I was practically doing cartwheels across my living room when he agreed to let me interview him for Hardrock Haven in support of his solo album, ‘The Greater Cause.’ During the conversation, I felt less like a professional journalist and more like a geeking-out fanboy getting to ask one of his idols a bunch of questions. While I have enjoyed many great moments writing for Hardrock Haven, none of them have resonated as strongly at that interview.
Jonna Ambur – Senior Photojournalist: My best memory to date has to be when I shot the Christmas Chaos concert in Wallingford, Conn., on Jan. 15, 2012. It was a day after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. Hearts were broken, emotions were raw. It was a tough day, and to even think about having fun just seemed impossible. I was in awe at the dedication that was done that night. The radio station that put on the concert (106.9 WCCC), their staff and the bands from the night (Otherwise, Fozzy, Hinder, Three Days Grace) came out on stage to face a packed house. Mike Karolyi from WCCC gave a wonderful dedication with everyone’s support on stage and in the audience. It was amazing. I was proud to be a part of Hardrock Haven that night … and to be given the chance to not only take photos of the show, but to also provide a review, a thank-you and an In-Memory section for all those lives lost. Music soothes the soul, even if only for a little while.
Alex Barbieri – Columnist: My greatest moment as a Hardrock Haven writer? There have been several. One was meeting Foreigner with my sister and nephew after I had interviewed guitarist Thom Gimbel. Another happened recently.
I’m a big fan of legendary guitarist/singer/songwriter, Steve Lukather. The guy wrote huge hits for Toto and has done around 2,000 sessions with everyone from Michael Jackson to Paul McCartney.
I was lucky enough to interview him for HRH, and his publicist instructed me to call Steve – Luke to his friends – at his home in Los Angeles. I did at the scheduled time, but Luke didn’t know I was calling. He was so nice and accommodating that we talked for more than a half hour. It wasn’t even an interview, more like a conversation. A great HRH moment. And Steve said I can call him Luke from now on.
Maria Brettle – Columnist: My best Hardrock Haven moment has to be my interview with Thin Lizzy! Well, I had a real blast ‘digging’ up some exciting news about the band working on their new material for the album, and, I must say, I couldn’t wait to share it later with the rest of the Lizzy fans!
And, of course, meeting the ever-charming and one of my all-time favorite guitarists, Scott Gorham! He really is one of the coolest guys in rock! But most of all, I had a real good time seeing their awesome show! It was an amazing night, during which Lizzy proved, once again, that the old magic is still there and they still are one of the finest live bands!
Anabel Dflux – Photojournalist: Having photographed concerts independently for bands, I did not have a designated place to share my photographs besides my professional website. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love when bands post and use the shots here and there, but that is not the same as having your own space to contribute photography, a space that could reach a broader audience. I longed to have somewhere I could share these images with fellow music enthusiasts, the people who want to see them. I used to submit a few to minor publications, but that was certainly not enough. Having found the guts to ask Hardrock Haven to take me on as a contributor was a fantastic opportunity for me, a place where I could finally show the photographs I’ve wanted to release, promote talented musicians and expand my concert library! I was, and still am, honored to be accepted into the team, to be a member of such a talented group of writers, reviewers and photojournalists.
Justin Gaines – News Editor / Senior Columnist: I was at the ProgPower USA Festival in 2011. The Australian band Voyager was playing its first-ever U.S. show, and the band’s new album ‘The Meaning of I’ had just been released. I had just reviewed the album for Hardrock Haven the week before, and I rated it very highly. I stopped by the band’s signing session after its set to say hello, and when I introduced myself to each member, all of their eyes lit up and the first thing they said was “9.5 out of 10!.” I write these reviews, and they go out into the ether, and sometimes I wonder if anyone is paying attention. Hearing from a band, especially a band I’m such a big fan of, that my review was appreciated is such a good feeling. Between that and hearing from fellow rock and metal fans that they’ve discovered new favorites or lost gems based on something I’ve written keeps me energized and motivated to write more about the music I love.
Ron & Don Higgins – Columnists: My brother Don and I began writing for Hardrock Haven in September 2010, so narrowing down our greatest HRH moment to just one simply can’t be done. As twins, the only logical thing to do is recount two greatest moments! The first was writing a concert review for classic melodic rockers Night Ranger. In the summer of 2011, we got to see them perform on an incredible triple bill with legendary rockers Foreigner and Journey. They were touring in support of their outstanding autobiographical release ‘Somewhere in California.’ The show was spectacular, as always, but what made it extraordinary was the press passes that enabled us to capture some great photographs from the media pit (in front of the first row!), as well as backstage passes to meet the band. Although their standard disclaimer said they would only allow photos and nothing would be autographed, when Jack Blades saw me holding a vinyl copy of their debut ‘Dawn Patrol,’ he simply couldn’t resist all of that blank real estate, so he grabbed a Sharpie, signed it and passed it to the rest of the band to sign. To top off the incredible experience, my brother conducted a nice little phone interview with guitarist Brad Gillis, putting the proverbial icing on the cake.
Our other greatest moment was getting the opportunity to review Jon Anderson’s 2011 solo release Survival & Other Stories. Not only did his label send an actual CD with a jewel case instead of the standard digital download, but they arranged a phone interview for us with this musical legend. Although we’ve interviewed many musical artists throughout the years, getting to talk on the phone with one of the founding members of prog-legends YES would be a highlight in any music lover’s life. The fact that he was as gracious and sincere as you would expect him to be made it a truly unforgettable moment. Although there have been many great Hardrock Haven moments, these are two that stand out and we look forward to many more. (Hard) Rock On!
John Kindred – Publisher: Over the course of the last 10 years, I have had the opportunity to cover live concert events that have featured Whitesnake, Kamelot, Gamma Ray, Ace Frehley, Foreigner, Ozzy, Judas Priest, Airbourne, Tesla, Cinderella, RATT, King’s X and many more. I have met Ron Keel and Charlie Wayne and sat with them in a club, drank and talked with them, Ted Poley, Robert Mason, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Lita Ford and Bruce Kulick. And I have done phone interviews with George Lynch, the voice of rock Glenn Hughes, Tony Harnell, Thomas Youngblood, Mike and C.J. Szuter of Magna-Fi, Dirty Americans front-man Myron, Erik Norlander, Billy Morrison Circus Diablo and Alan Williamson.
So there have many amazing moments.
But I think the best moment so far was taking my son to see a rock band that he likes, The Darkness. The show was at the Uptown Theater in downtown Kansas City, which is one of those old theaters from the ‘20s and features amazing architecture, which he also loves. Being an all-ages show allowed me to take him into an environment that will be closed to him, for the most part, until he turns 21. Since a lot of the great hard rock and metal bands nowadays have returned to the club-bar scene, it’s difficult for younger fans to see the bands they love.
The Darkness lived up to the hype and put on a professional stage show, complete with their bombast music. The band was in fine form and rocked the Uptown Theater and the fans in attendance. In this smaller venue, the vibe was intimate, as you felt you could reach out and touch the band. My son, not quite acclimated to the etiquette of rock fans, was able to sit back in his theater seat and experience it the way a rock concert should be seen and heard. I believe it was an amazing experience for him, as he left with smile on his face.
We have taken both are children to see KISS, and my son stated, and I quote, “I liked the performances of both bands equally.”
Kathy Kindred – Editor in Chief: My greatest moment while representing Hardrock Haven was covering the Lilith Fair on July 15, 2010, at Sandstone Amphitheater in Bonner Springs, Kan. I was able to bring my then 10-year-old daughter, who was able to attend the pre-concert presser and get up close and personal with Sarah McLachlan, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Emmylou Harris, members of Metric and the members of the Kansas City-native band, Vedera. The touring Lilith Fair began in 1997 and continued until 1999. So, when McLachlan announced a Lilith Revival tour in 2010, I was beyond thrilled that my daughter, who is a drummer, was able to see successful women who rock. In fact, McLachlan has since declared the end of Lilith Fair, so I’m happy I had a chance to cover the last Lilith tour with my daughter by my side. It’s a special memory that neither she nor I will ever forget.
Sarah McCarthy – Senior Photojournalist: I have to say that my best moment shooting for HRH would be last summer’s Mayhem festival.
Standing in the pit, realizing that I was shooting the musicians that I idolized as a teenager was a very surreal moment for me. Motorhead, Slayer and, of course, Anthrax showed that they haven’t lost anything over the years and, indeed, know how to put on amazing shows and grab a new generation of rockers.
Anthrax’s lead vocalist Joey Belladonna lives in my area, so, overall, it was just seriously cool.
Derric Miller – Managing Editor: My favorite moment at Hardrock Haven is seeing the bands that we cover tour the world and play live in front of hundreds or thousands of screaming fans, wearing Hardrock Haven gear.
Whether it’s Ron Keel sending us photos on stage in Europe with Hardrock Haven on his chest: Seeing Biloxi playing Rocklahoma on stage promoting Hardrock Haven, when Mark Allen Lanoue rocked a Hardrock Haven shirt or Paisty Jenny ripping it up at Dakota Rockfest waving the Hardrock Haven flag. Tony Mills is wearing a Hardrock Haven hoodie on the “drop scripts” page too.
These artists help legitimize the decade of work we all have put in at Hardrock Haven.
Joe Mis – Senior Columnist: I grew up on the music of Iron Maiden and had a chance to see them during their most recent tours – covering their show with Dream Theater at Madison Square Garden in July 2010.
I was in high school during the early years and in college when Somewhere In Time and Powerslave came out. I didn’t find them until their fourth album, Piece Of Mind – and to this day I find myself writing it that way in my non-music-related work instead of the proper “peace” of mind. I liked everything about the band, from their music to their image to the cool Iron Maiden font to Derek Riggs’ fabulous album covers. I still occasionally find myself staring at all the details buried in the Somewhere In Time cover art or making a list of the nicknames given to old IM producer Martin Birch.
Through all of that craziness and enthusiasm of those years, the one thing I never expected to do was to one day take my son to see Iron Maiden play, but now we’ve been to their last three U.S. tours together. He just turned 18, and when we got the tickets for this tour he said, “Great – these are the Maiden songs that I grew up on.” He loves the classics (although, in his perception, anything recorded before 2000 is eligible to be a classic), but the newer of the albums are the ones he waited for in the store. Not only did I take my son to the show, but I also to my wife and nephew and brought them into the Iron Maiden family.
I’m obviously not the only one who feels this way. We saw many other families, and the crowd made it truly an all-ages show. There was a man in his late 40s bringing his 10-to-11-year-old son (in a Maiden shirt) through the turnstiles, and a few older guys sitting with what had to be there grandkids: What other bands really can pull this off? Scorpions – definitely, and Judas Priest to some extent, but nobody does it like Maiden.
THANK YOU Iron Maiden! Thank you not only for creating such an amazing (and still growing) musical legacy, but also for not selling out to the commercial forces out there and staying true to the musical styles you help create. Most of all though, thanks for the good memories from all those years ago and for giving me a chance create some new ones with my own family.
Up The Irons!
Alissa Ordabai – Senior Columnist: My Richie Kotzen assignment on Oct. 8, 2009, became one of the biggest highlights, not only of my time with Hardrock Haven, but of my career. A torch-bearer of a tradition, which has its roots in the ’60s, Kotzen puts up dynamite performances, bolstered by virtuosic technique, emotional depth and a phenomenal gift for improvisation. Our interview that day in London turned out just as interesting and as volatile as his music. He spoke candidly about his career and shared dead-on insights into the nature of musicianship. But some questions he didn’t like and made doubly sure I understood it, proving, yet again, that temperament remains temperament – whether on stage or off. Still, shooting his set from the side of the stage at London’s Underworld club later that day became one of my most memorable experiences. Seeing such a tremendous force of nature unraveling just a few feet away from you makes you feel truly privileged. And that night, Richie Kotzen was a man inspired, completely transfixing the audience, taking us all outside of our everyday realities on a magical, hypnotic journey. The chops, the tunes and the all-out extensive improvisations blew away the crowd. The main propellant; however, remained his absolute sincerity and his urgent wish to connect and to be understood. You can’t put a price on such occasions, especially nowadays, when spontaneous creativity unfolding in real time in front of a live audience becomes increasingly hard to come by. The concert was sold out, and those who couldn’t get in stood outside on the street, trying to catch snippets of what was going on inside. The only other time when I saw this happening was when Aerosmith played at London’s Hard Rock Café in 2007. But interviewing them and watching them play wasn’t nearly as exciting.
Deb Rao – Senior Columnist: My favorite Hardrock Haven moment would have to be covering Guns N’ Roses at The Joint in Las Vegas. I had the opportunity to see the original GNR back in the day, and let me tell you, the current version rocks just has hard. In the music business, everything revolves around change. You can’t evolve in the business as an artist without changing.
With the current addition of the guitarist of DJ Ashba, the lineup has come full circle. Also, I have to mention that Dizzy Reed on keyboards was amazing. Axl has assembled stellar musicians.
The band hit the stage at midnight and performed until 3 a.m. It was a night full of nostalgia and so many hits that have survived the test of time. Kicking the show off with “Welcome To The Jungle” to the encore of “Paradise City,” the show was full of relentless energy, as Axl Rose proved he still is one of the greatest performers of all time.
From the great moments of “Civil War” to his great rendition of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down,” the momentum never stopped. It’s nights like this that keep metal alive.
Stay tuned to Hardrock Haven for more great moments in Metal in 2013.
Elsie Roymans – Photojournalist: Capturing the Scorpions at a sold out Vorst Nationaal here in Belgium! Awesome show and awesome audience, and getting a featured story on HRH was the cherry on the pie!
Brian Sims – Photographer: I was introduced to HRH through Sara … I haven’t been with HRH long, but my greatest moments so far was when John sent me an email saying he would be happy to have me as a photojournalist and when I saw my bio appear on the HRH website.
Sherry Thomas – Columnist: My favorite experience so far is discovering new music that I have reviewed for Hardrock Haven. This has given me a chance to hear and love new bands that I wouldn’t have listened to before. I hope to have more great experiences in the future.