(I've included this gratuitous photo booth pic as a lighthearted homage to my blogging roots)

I've decided after 3 years here, it's time to give the blog a new look and vibe. Unlike this blog, my new blog will be frequently updated. I have about 10 posts in the can that I can't wait to unleash in coming weeks. I’m looking forward begining a new a romance with blogging. Know that your loyal readership and encouragement makes my heart sing. This blog has opened up my world in more ways that I can express or list at the moment (perhaps I'll save it for another post?).  I’m so grateful for this democratic, free for all, blank slate for expression.  See you on the other side...


Scott Weiland at the Gramercy Theatre

I was honored to be asked to contribute the the fantastic music site Sound System NYC, which will be featuring my style guides, show reviews, and photos from time to time. So to kick things off, here is my first post for Sound System NYC on one of my favorite people...Scott Weiland.

Scott Weiland played his first solo show in almost two years on May 18th at New York City’s Gramercy Theatre. Emerging at a time when glamour, style and stardom were dirty words, Weiland embraced the classic image of rock n’ roll and represents the last era of rock stars. The early 90s grunge pioneers took the fun out of rock n’ roll and left it with angst, drugs, and flannel. He knew our time craved an iconic rock star of our own and was more than happy to step into those leather pants. And they fit well.

Despite the limbo of criticism from his critics and fans, pleasing the public has never impacted Weiland’s songs. Unfortunately, though, it took an emotional toll. Most of his critics focused on the surface, singling out the rock n’ roll clichés, simplifying his 20-year career into an easily digestible, 45 minute “Behind the Music” episode for the average couch potato. The fans can be equally harsh. On this night, they ignored the inevitable unpredictability that comes with rock n’ roll. While the launch of Scott Weiland’s autobiography Not Dead and Not for Sale was imminent, a NY tour date at the Gramercy theatre was completely unexpected.

The night started off with haphazard scheduling. Earlier in the day there was a book signing at Barnes and Noble Union Sq scheduled for 7, while the doors to the Gramercy Theatre were slated to open at 7. Barnes & Noble was packed and buzzing, Scott was late, and people were worried they’d miss the show. Some were caught up in the tough call of whether they’d rather get a book signed by Scott, or secure a spot in front of the stage. As a long time fan, I knew Scott would be late no matter the case, and I figured that as most mortals can only be one place at a time, missing the show was unlikely. The Gramercy Theatre is small and pretty easy to navigate; you can see the band from most places in the room because of its slanted shape. I went in without any expectations.

Most reviews written about the show would leave you with a disastrous impression. The major complaints were that Scott Weiland showed up 2 hours late and played all covers other than the encore song, Stone Temple Pilot’s “Unglued.” I feel for the people who may have driven in from the ‘burbs and parked their cars for a set amount of time, or whoever had to wake up early the next morning for work or school… Unfortunately, though, you can’t really plan rock n’ roll. Rock music thrives on spontaneity, and if anyone exemplifies this kind of living it’s Scott Weiland. I’m sure Justin Beiber plays his “original” material on time.

This concert was not a retrospective of Scott Weiland’s greatest hits, but rather live soundtrack to Scott’s book. Aligned with the concept of an autobiography, the book is from Scott’s perspective, not the perspective of a journalist, or a fan, and he played the songs that rotated in his head as he made his way through life. Weiland has had a solo career since 1998, so you shouldn’t buy tickets to a show billed as “Scott Weiland”, or any other solo artist, expecting to hear the set-list from their band. Considering Weiland’s tumultuous career, as a fan I’m happy for whatever I get. On this night I left with more than I could have anticipated: a book of his stories from the book signing before the show, beautiful, live renditions of his favorite songs, a brief, personal encounter, and documentation of it all. I couldn’t ask for more.

At 11:45, two hours later than planned, Scott strutted out on stage. A good portion of the crowd had bolted earlier to pick up parked cars and avoid $20 late fees. The remainder used the 2 extra hours to pound as many beers as they could afford. Pummeled with boos and a few faint cheers, Scott casually apologized and explained his lateness. “I only had 3 hours of sleep, interviews all day, sound check and a book signing”. As if it was any saving grace, he explained that the band had only two rehearsals and they had never played these songs to a live audience. The songs, he said, were his favorite songs, chosen to accompany his new autobiography. This was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. “COVERS? No STP? No Velvet Revolver? BOOOOO” Even with his two solo albums outside of his career fronting rock bands, the crowd still somehow was expecting Scott and a band of non-STP members to play STP songs. Boohoo.

Without missing a beat, Weiland launched into the trippy opening jam, drowning out the crowds boos to a low hum. Scott was seemingly unfazed by the disapproving crowd and disappeared into the lights, swaying his hips side to side. He had an admirable calm about him, which many interpreted as smug. Yet he was far from the “diva” title he’s been branded with. A diva may have walked off stage, or given a subpar performance, but Weiland stuck it out and silenced the crowd with a truly beautiful and unique show. “Waiting For A Superman”, by alternative rock granddaddies, The Flaming Lips followed the jam. Still the crowd didn’t give up on the pipe-dream of a STP set list, and Scott couldn’t completely tune them out. The fact that he didn’t seem to care was a turn-on to some, and passive aggressive to others. A drunken, sweat drenched, enraged girl was screaming “FUCK YOU!!!”. Given her overall vibe, I suspected she would have been that way no matter the case. Finally, after one “Fuck You” too many he yelled out his own “Fuck You” and then went into a beat poet sermon of sorts about gratitude and our power to free speech, how we live in the best country in the world, and how we’re lucky we live in a country where we can yell out “Fuck You” if we so desire. He’s right.

In defense of covers, you have to admit playing “Plush” night after night can become a bit mind numbing. An artist’s own work carries its own personal baggage. The cover is the song the artist hums in their head, the song they sing in the shower. It doesn’t get more intimate that that. This show of unoriginal material happens to have been one of the most original shows I’ve seen. Weiland played from the classics including The Beatles, The Doors, and David Bowie, but the songs I found most compelling were those of his contemporaries, band such as The Lemonheads, Radiohead, Nirvana, The Flaming Lips, and Depeche Mode. Paying respect to the classics is typical, but Scott’s sincere homage to his peers was striking. We’re more influenced by the times we’re living in than we usually care to admit. One of the strongest covers, “Into Your Arms”, the 90s Lemonheads track, has a pop melody reminiscent of STP, but less layered and lyrically laden with metaphor. The lyric goes “I know a place that safe and warm from the crowd. Into your arms I go into your arms. I can go”. Hearing Weiland deliver such a simple unfeigned lyric made for a great cover. It was also ironic hearing him sing this sweet, vulnerable song to such a rough and rowdy crowd. One of the most ethereal, otherworldly songs was Radiohead’s “Let Down”, which Scott introduced as “A that song sang me to sleep when I had no one to put me to sleep. Space Pop Genius.” The softer, less electronic rendition of Depeche Mode’s “But Not Tonight” may as well have been his own song. It added another dimension to the autobiography, (which I practically finished reading during the wait for the signing). It’s a song about rising out of the ashes with clarity and gratitude. “Oh God it’s raining, but I’m not complaining, it’s filling me up with new life.” The weaker moments of the show were the Bowie covers. Weiland’s delivery was fine, but the peppy, “let’s party” dance vibe of the songs didn’t fit the disgruntled mood of the crowd who’d rather mosh to “Piece of Pie” than jive to a Bowie disco number.

Near the end of the show, the crowd seemed somewhat defeated. You couldn’t dispute the greatness of his performance. “Road House Blues” got them revved up a bit, but the crowd was still jonesing for a hard rocking, head bobber. Scott answered with, “Do you wanna hear a punk rock song?”, and instead of playing one of his own songs, gave a nod to the king of grunge, Kurt Cobain, with “Frances Farmer.” A song that goes “I miss the comfort of being sad.” It was the perfect antidote to the discontent. Kind of contradictory don’t you think? It’s amazing how far a little grunge can go. After “Frances Farmer”, I didn’t expect an encore. The encore should be the audience’s reward for good behavior, but ever the gentlemen, Weiland reemerged from the wings.

At a solo show in 1998, Scott known for his classic pre-song quips, spat out “I’ll give you your mother-fucking STP. I need a little bit of that motor oil, so I can lube myself up and take all you macho men up your asses”. Less crass, 13 years later, he simply introduced the encore as “We wrote this song two minutes ago” before launching into the STP classic “Unglued”. The macho men were pleased. Call him a diva for showing up late, yet he was late so he could sign every book of the 300 some odd people who showed up to the book signing. Call him an egomaniac, but he’s humble enough pay homage his contemporaries. Like the title of his book, taken from the song lyric from “Trippin on a Hole in Paper Heart”. “I’m not dead and I’m not for sale”. We can buy a ticket but we can’t buy the man. We have no control over what, when or if he’ll play. So I accept the uncertainty, the danger, the confusion, the tardiness and savor the rest.

Singing and writing from his soul, Scott Weiland is alive.

After the show I hung around and thanks to my good friends, and amazing local band the The Dirty Pearls (who were the opening act to the show), I was able to slip backstage and have an encounter with Scott. He graciously let me snap these shots of him with his songwriting partner Doug Green and guitarist Tommy Black. Scott liked the “trippy” photo the best.


Rock N' Roll Style Guide: What to Wear to a ROCK Concert

photo by Ellen Von Unwerth

What to wear, what to bring, and how to feel your best at a concert, rock n' roll or otherwise. These are my tips on how to enhance the overall experience and make it a memory.

photo from gucci ad circa '98, photog unknown

In my grandmother's day, a trip to the Metropolitan opera was a big deal. You would’t think twice about dressing up because it was a formal affair. The Opera was a chance to wear your best stuff and feel glamorous. Today's cultural events are often filled with a room of jeans and t-shirts, a symptom of our generation's lax attitude and lack of respect when it comes to dressing up. In my grandma’s day, dressing up wasn’t just about dressing up to feel good, impressing the other attendees, or about looking good for your date. You dressed up to pay respect to the whole production. For this reason alone, it's our duty to look our best. We go to see our favorite performers live because we get pleasure from their art, so the least we can do is honor their presence in how we present ourselves. Whether or not you get the chance to meet your favorite rock star face to face, you will be breathing the same air! Honor the artist by looking your best. Would you wear jeans and a t-shirt in the presence of one of your heroes? I doubt it.

- Think beyond the t-shirt and jeans cliché. Very few people are able to make it work, even if you’re a supermodel. Pull out your best stuff. I don't care if you're at an outdoor festival like Coachella. A dirty tee shirt and cutoff shorts is the farthest thing from rock n' roll glamour.

- Looking good has its rewards. The more you honor the band with your look the more likely you’ll receive the honor of meeting them.

- Visualize your fantasy rock n’ roll party. What do you see? I see leather, sequins, glitter, and color. You don’t want to be the eyesore destroying the fantasy.

It’s time we honor the band and give them a sexy audience to stare back at from the stage. Bring on the glamour!

photo by inez and vinoodh

Since a rock concert is definitely not an opera you will likely be on your feet the entire time. I've spent countless hours in the heat, rain, and bitter cold in 5 inch heels waiting to get into shows. Looking back, wearing pretty shoes wasn't worth an evening's worth of foot spasms. When picking your shoes there are many factors to keep it mind. Rock shows are usually about 3 hours between the opening acts and the headliner, but you have to account for all the other time. Will you be standing for 3 hours before the show to secure a spot in the front of the stage? Will you be waiting outside the back door for the band to come out? Your wait could be anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours. Another thing to consider is your concert goer personality. Are you the moshing, crowd-surfing type? Chances are if your a mosher you won't last very long in high heels, and if you're a crowd surfer, your stiletto heel will easily poke out an eye. Are you a groupie that feels the need to wear 5 inch heels in case you meet the band post-show? What is your vantage point? Will you be sheltered in VIP box seats or watching the show from backstage? Is it an outdoor or indoor show, GA or seating? Could you use a few extra inches to see over the crowd?

- My answer to almost all of the questions is to choose a comfortable and attractive shoe. They do exist! If an orthopedic shoe, and a stripper heel got together this shoe is their child. My rock show shoe of choice is a pump with a thicker heel for balance, a slight platform for comfort, and an ankle strap for security.

- For men, I suggest a simple boot. With boots you look sleek, masculine, and you get an extra inch or two. Sneakers are sloppy. The only sneakers I own are patent leather and even so, I wouldn't wear them to a concert.

- Often the prettier shoes you wear, the uglier your feet become over time. This is a grand generalization, but if 5 inch spiked stilettos are your signature, eventually your feet will form into the shape of the shoe. Not so pretty. Rarely is anyone looking at your feet at a concert. The little bones in your feet do move around and standing around for hours on end dancing to rock n’ roll isn’t going to help them.

my favorite concert hang bags via polyvore.com

Almost every woman I know keeps the entire contents of her life in her purse. You may recall this scene from Mary Poppins where she pulls a lamp among other things out of her bag. This is pretty much my bag on an ordinary day, but when I'm going to a concert I edit the contents. Give the heavy oversized leather purse a night off and go for a small sparkly bag out for a change. Ideally, you want one with a long strap that falls at the hip. You need your arms free to move to the music, fist pump, wave your cell phone, and throw devils horns in the air. Unless you were invited as a press photographer, leave the big DSLR camera home. Your phone can double as a camera. While I regularly do photography, I’ve never been one for taking pictures at concerts. When I’m caught up in the thrill of the moment the last thing on my mind is pulling out a camera. If you want to enjoy the experience of the music trying to document every moment of the stage spectacle takes you out of it. If you're going to a show to experience a show, be in the present. If you're going to a show with the intention of photography, that's different. I'll take the vivid memory of the experience, over the photos any day.

- All you need is your ticket, phone, keys, credit card, a bit of cash, and maybe a lipstick.

- The best concert purse is small (slightly larger than a wallet) with a long, thin strap that can go across the chest. The pouch should fall at the hip. Go for a purse with pizazz. Sparkles and sequins are the epitome of rock n' roll glamour.

- Leave home bulky items like DSLR cameras, umbrellas, water bottles, and makeup compacts.

- Bring enough cash for a cab ride back, and take down the numbers of local cab services in the area of the concert before you leave. You don't want to be stranded in the middle of nowheresville post show.

photo credit unknown

While it's normal for me to gallivant around in a twenty pound Mongolian lamb coat on a regular day, there's no way that monster is coming with me to a rock concert. Indoor concerts are hot no matter the season, and even if you're outdoors you'll likely be warm from dancing and getting pushed in the crowd. If you don't have an actual seat to throw a jacket or sweater on, you'll be holding onto your jacket in the pit. Nothing is worse than carrying a big coat around when you want to dance.

- Wear a sleeveless top underneath, thin, light layers. Top your look with a scarf or shawl that can easily be wrapped around you or tied onto your purse strap. Stay away from bulky sweaters and jackets which can be annoying to hold when you want your arms free to move around.

- Any invaluable pieces of of clothing, should be your first layer

- Have a simple black jacket, wrap/ shawl, blazer, or poncho on hand that you wouldn't care to lose. I've brought, worn, and lost, many black shawls at concerts. They're perfect because they can be worn as a scarf, a wrap, thrown over a chair or tied over your waist and shouldn't cost more than $10. Something like this.

photo credit unknown

A rock concert is an opportunity to amp up your everyday look and take it to the next level. Rock n' roll is all about fantasy, so this is a chance to get creative with your look. Be the fantasy version of yourself. Sometimes it's nice to have a unifying theme when you’re getting dressed. If you need inspiration look to the music. What vibe are you feeling? Is it airy and whimsical, dark and brooding, glam and peppy? Imagine you’re the main character in your favorite song.

- Let your diverse music taste bring diversity to your wardrobe. What I'd wear to see Motley Crue is very different from what I’d wear to see Radiohead.

- You gan give an ode to your favorite performer without completely dressing up as them. For instance, get inspired by the textures and colors you associate with the artist rather than the signature clothing items they wear. For instance, if you were going to see Slash you wouldn't wear a leather top hat, but you could mix a leather jacket and silver rings.

- Don't wear the t-shirt of the band you're going to see. It's unoriginal. Think, would the band want to hang out with me in the outfit I'm wearing?

photo by terry richardson and ellen von unwerth

Many think rock n' roll isn't rock n' roll without its silly tagline. My preference is to experience a concert completely sober. A concert is an intense high for me, one that trumps any sensation that booze or a hit could ever bring. I’d rather have the natural glow of elation, than a spaced out, dumbfounded expression while watching a show.

There's bound to be a lot of movin’ and groovin’, moshin', surfin', and pushin' goin' on, so be prepared. If you’re a chick you need to be doubly prepared. It’s ruthless out there especially when a good majority of the crowd is inebriated and wants to be as close to the stage as possible. Unless you have the luxury of box seats or backstage passes I wouldn’t wear your shortest skirt and highest heels.

- Unless you're backstage or have box seats, you need to be aware of the many messy drunk people at the show (you definitely don't want to be one of them). Like a defensive driver, be a defensive dresser. Nothing you wear should be easy access. So sorry, no halters, and no mini skirts.

- If having a little something helps you loosen up and relax, then by all means go for it, but keep it to a minimum and don't get sloppy.

- Try to befriend security guards at shows. They'll protect you from the rowdy crowd, and if you're lucky, bump up your seats.

photos by me. taken side stage at gods of metal festival in milan '07

My favorite ruffled corset top has a weird bend in the boning, but whenever I wear it, it reminds me of being backstage at Gods of Metal in Milan. A rock concert is an epic event, so the clothes you wear should seal the memory. Dressing up sets the tone for the day, makes you feel good, and leaves you with a tangible memory. I find when people are the most excited about a piece of clothing it's because it's attached to a memory of an event. It's not everyday that you get to wear your glammiest, sparkly, studded wears. A concert may require your to bear the elements or be stuck between two sweaty t-shirt wearing beer guzzlers, but at the end of the night, a rip, tear, or stain on one of your favorite items is a battle scar, forever imprinted as an artifact of the experience. I encourage you to go find something extraordinary. Even if this special article winds up with a tear in the elbow, when someone says “you know you have a tear in your sleeve” you’ll have a chance to recount the time you were in the pit rocking out to your favorite band!
I love the stories my grandma tells me about skipping school to see Frank Sinatra. I frankly wish she saved the outfit she wore. Wouldn’t it be nice to give your grandchild not only a good story, but the shirt you wore when you saw your favorite band in 2011?

I'd love to hear your concert outfit experiences. Is there a certain pair of pants you covet, 'cause you met your favorite rocker while wearing them?

Do you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for dressing up for a rock show? I wanna hear!