Blake Shelton: God Bless This Okie!

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Blake Shelton kickin’ up dirt at the stunning Hollywood Bowl.

Blake Shelton. Women want to be with him, men want to be him. Our favorite hick from the sticks. Tall, good looking, charming, witty, down to earth and really really talented. You can’t help but like him. He’s a real country crooner…like a countrified, chicken fried version of Dean Martin. I just love this guy!

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Blake’s Ten Times Crazier Tour. Love him!

I bought my ticket for Blake’s 2014 Ten Times Crazier Tour at the Hollywood Bowl the day they went on sale. It seemed like forever ago. And before I knew it, the date was already here, October 4, 2014!

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Blake Shelton at the Hollywood Bowl!! October 4, 2014.

Unfortunately, before we were graced with Blake’s impressive presence, we had to endure to a whole lot of other music before finally getting to see the man of the hour.
Dan + Shay = awful. I know nothing about these two other than what I saw and they are pretty much Disney kids who said they want to grow up to be musicians.
They are just not good. I’m sorry. They’re just not. And country? I didn’t hear one single twang that made me think these two have anything to do with country music whatsoever. Their sound is a flat, contrived, generic teen pop version of Rascal Flatts. The highlight of their performance was their karaoke rendition of Def Leppard’s  “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” Their set was…not enjoyable for me. Well, at least now I know of the wonders of Dan + Shay.
Next…please!

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Beautiful night for some good ol’ country music at the world famous Hollywood Bowl.

On to Neal McCoy, the emcee for the evening, and a personal friend of Blake’s.
I’m not sure he’s the best singer I’ve ever heard, but he is such an amusing and outgoing entertainer. He is really funny. Cracking jokes, twerking, covering all sorts of songs and making us laugh. He was a great addition to the show. Definitely got the crowd riled up.
The Band Perry followed with a rather long set. I was past the point of feeling antsy and quite honestly growing weary of “country” bands that aren’t country. I like The Band Perry, don’t get me wrong. I think they are talented. But I have a hard time labeling them as country music? I do love their song “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely,” but when they covered Kesha and Pitbull’s song “Timber,” I ran out of patience. I’ve read articles about how country music is no longer what it used to be. And I would have to agree 100%. It’s hard to find good commercial country music anymore. Most of what’s out there is really just rock. And I like rock. I do. But not when I am wanting, expecting and paying to hear country music.

Thankfully…after 2+ hours, Blake finally took the stage. HOORAY!!! NOW THIS IS COUNTRY MUSIC. How many hits does this man have?

Blake is such an extraordinary performer and all around entertainer. He really connects with his crowd. Tells jokes and stories, sings his heartfelt country tunes with that alluring country voice of his and openly shares himself with us. It’s no wonder he has won numerous awards, has countless singles on the charts and is a repeat favorite coach on NBC’s The Voice. He playfully put on a cowboy hat complete with a mullet while making fun of his stylish look in those early days of “Austin” circa 2001.

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Blake sportin’ his cowboy hat and long locks while he sang his smash breakout hit “Austin.”

It seems as though every single he puts out is pure gold.  “She Wouldn’t Be Gone,” “Doin’ What She Likes,” “It Would Be You,” “Don’t Go Lovin’ on Nobody But Me,”  “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking,”  “It’d Sure Be Cool If You Did,” “Neon Lights,” “Drink On It,” “Home,” “Honey Bee,”  “God Gave Me You.” Hit after hit after hit. Different moods. Meaningful lyrics. Superb vocals. Downright good music. And… quite yummy to look at.

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Blake chattin’ it up with the crowd.

Sang a chilling acoustic version of his song “Over You,” that he wrote in memory of his big brother and hero Richie Shelton who tragically died in a car accident and the pain that loss has left in his heart.

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Singing “Over You,” the song he wrote in memory of his brother Richie who he lost tragically in a car accident when he was 14 years old. So touching.

Whether love songs like “Who Are you When I’m Not Looking,” or “It Would Be You,” or playful diddies like “Hillbilly Bone,” or “Some Beach,” or drinking songs like “The More I Drink, or “The Boys Round Here,”…Blake can and does sing it all.

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Blake and Gwen Sebastian sing a duet “My Eyes”.

A sensual duet of “My Eyes” with his backup singer (former contestant on The Voice, Gwen Sebastian) and an encore send off with the theme from “Footloose” to send us off with a smile. He was so gracious and appreciative of his fans. A genuinely likeable guy! What a memorable show he gave us. Blake, baby, I’ll be your Honey Bee any time!

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Yes, I wasn’t front row, but with all the giant screens I was still able to see this hunk up close!

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Sea Starry Night Jam: More from the Back Door Please!

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Me and THE ROBBY KRIEGER! Very nice guy and incredibly awesome and legendary musician.

The Sea Starry Night Jam, billed as a charity fundraising event for the Roundhouse Aquarium of Manhattan Beach Pier at the lovely oceanside Strandhouse, starring Robby Krieger of The Doors and his band Jam Kitchen with members of Frank Zappa’s band.
Good cause. Great location. And I get to hear Robby Krieger play? I’m in!
A few thoughts on the night.
It was not exactly the “gala event” I had pictured in my mind. I dressed up to the nines with matching purse and heels, yet ended up surrounded mostly by other guests wearing shorts, jeans, tshirts and flip flops. Slightly disappointing but certainly not devastating.
Two free drinks to loosen us up was a good thing. I got to socialize a bit and peruse the small silent auction items including a few Doors-related gems while sound check was taking place. The Strandhouse is a beautiful restaurant and bar located just steps from the sands of Manhattan Beach. The moon was out and the waves were crashing. I even got a quick photo op with Mr. Krieger himself. I was SO PSYCHED. This was going to be a great night!!

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The Strandhouse in Manhattan Beach was the setting for the evening’s charity event. Very cool place to be.

Unfortunately as the show unfolded, what wasn’t clicking for me was the abundance of Jam Kitchen songs, including one called “Coffin Dodger” about how Robby has outlived all the others who passed away at such early ages, namely Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin and others. There was a blinding lack of Doors tunes. We waited in desperate anticipation after each song, some drawn out way past what was necessary, hence the name Jam Kitchen, hoping and praying the next one would be a Doors hit. In all, I think they played maybe five Doors songs?

After opening the show with “You’re Lost Little Girl,” I was so pleased that I immediately began fantasizing and planning in my head all my favorite Doors songs they would play. They regained our attention with “Back Door Man” which got the crowd really fired up. Sensational! Can’t you just picture Jim at the mic? Rocking those tight black leather pants? Mmmm…
Oh Jim!! Why’d you have to leave us so soon??
Yet here I was, 50 years later, standing three feet away from ROBBY KRIEGER of THE DOORS watching him skillfully play these songs as if no time had passed at all. Kind of insane when you think about it really.
The music was spot on, fantastic, excellent…but the vocals were, well… a bit weak to be honest, as different people in the band chimed in at random times. Clearly and understandably, Jam Kitchen is not wanting to be known as a Doors cover band and therefore a lead singer is not necessary, though for the Doors songs they did perform, it left a bit of a hole in the sound.
No disrespect to Mr. Krieger whatsoever, but I feel I speak for the other guests that night when I say we all wanted to hear more of The Doors!
They ended the first set with “Riders On The Storm.” Such a splendidly dark and psychedelic song. The keyboardist looks like he is straight out of the 60’s. Must be from the Frank Zappa Army. He plays his keyboard like a mad scientist. Really talented dude sitting there behind his small, round dark tinted sunglasses, sporting his soul patch and wildly unkempt hair. Perfect picture. The unforgettable bass, guitar and keyboard runs. Perfect sound. I wanted to digest every single note as I would a delicacy at a five star restaurant. Delicious.

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Robby Krieger in the flesh. So talented!

The second set was mostly Jam Kitchen jams and the crowd thinned out considerably. While not really my style of music, I for one could not tear myself away for fear of missing anything else by The Doors.
We got serenaded with an interesting saxophone driven, slower version of “Love Me Two Times” and “Roadhouse Blues,” with vocals heavily aided by the remaining crowd.
I feel so honored to have been in the presence of, listened to and had a brief meet and greet with incredibly talented Robby Krieger live and in person. I am so very happy to have heard a few precious Doors songs played by THE ORIGINAL GUITARIST himself. I will not be greedy or ungrateful. Of course, I am just a little bit. While not the event that I dreamt it to be, I am oh so glad I made it.
“The men don’t know
But the little girls understand…”

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Jam Kitchen doing what they do best…jammin’.

Heart: Crazy About That Magic Man

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Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. These two Queens of Rock are unstoppable.

There is something so intoxicating about the power of endurance, the kind of stamina that can still yield a wildly howling audience four decades later. Heart fits this bill without any doubt in my mind. In 1976, the U.S. radio waves were flooded with two hits that soon became iconic rock songs of that day and for always: “Crazy on You,” and “Magic Man.” Heart, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, have now sold over 35 million albums worldwide to date. They have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2013?? It was about damn time, wasn’t it??) as well as receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They are seemingly superhuman with their various musical talents ranging from Ann on the vocals, flute, guitar, keyboards, percussion, violin and autoharp and Nancy mastering the guitar, mandolin, keyboards, synthesizers and even harmonica. Simply put, these two chics rock like no other women ever have. Although I missed HALF the show thanks to a Friday night LA rush hour from hell, what I did catch of the show was totally outta sight!
I took my seat JUST as “Straight On” was starting. Thank the Lord Baby Jesus I made it in time for one of my all time faves by Heart. Ann sounds absolutely incredible. That raspy powerhouse voice with the force of a herd of wild horses and a range equal to the seductive Sirens of Greek mythology. It’s like something in her voice is saying, “come hither little one…but mess with me and I will kick your ass.” Even Royalty have their struggles and thankfully Ann was able to defeat her demons, and embraced the importance of treating her body and vocal chords with the respect and TLC that they deserve. This in turn extended her life and allowed her to continue singing her songs as they were written all those years ago. So inspirational! Kudos to you, Ann!

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The legendary Ann Wilson of Heart.

And then there’s Nancy. Looking better than ever, she is truly a gifted musician. She seems to be able to jam on just about any instrument you put in front of her. She can play it hard. She can play it soft. She can even rock the mic. The girl can rock it any way she wants. Through all the twists and turns both of their lives have taken, these two women and their music have stood the test of time. Their performance was fun, intense, personal, and edgy.
Who has the cajones to cover “Let Me Roll It” by Wings? The crowd went completely BANANAS as Nancy struck that first, ever-recognizable riff. Outstanding! I hate to say it, but their version gave the original a run for its money. Hard, sexy, passion-filled and in your face. Right on!

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Nancy Wilson. The original Guitar Hero. Love her mojo!

They continued with their smash hits “Heaven,” “These Dreams,” and an absolutely bone-chilling acoustic rendition of “Alone”, as all the memories surrounding those days washed over the audience.
Nancy loved teasing and torturing the crowd as she held back from the start of “Crazy On You.” The crowd screamed and cheered and begged for her to get on with the song. She was loving every second of it as she jumped around on that stage with more verve than guitarists half her age. She is incredible. The crowd went mad as Ann flawlessly threw out those high notes. My God. What a voice.
As if that weren’t enough, they came back to treat us with a mind blowing seven minute encore version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” Again begging the question, WHO ELSE COULD POSSIBLY PULL THIS OFF?

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Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart rocked us into the night at the LA County Fair.

For all the trouble and headaches the commute down to Pomona caused me, I would say it was well worth it to see these gals in all their glory. And I went through 5 hours of hell to get there. That should tell you something.
I didn’t get to hear my most favorite song from early childhood “Dog & Butterfly,” but I will leave you with this:

“We’re getting older the world’s getting colder
For the life of me I don’t know the reason why
Maybe it’s livin’ making us give in
Hearts rolling in taken back on the tide
We’re balanced together ocean upon the sky….”

The best words are those written from the Heart.

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Similar stage and feel to the Cheyenne Frontier Days set up in Wyoming. Good sound. Good lights. No seat too terribly far from the stage.

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The LA County Fair at the Pomona Fairplex. The most difficult time I’ve had getting to a show to date. Good thing Heart was AWESOME.

Mission Inn Hotel and Spa: The Crown Jewel of the Inland Empire

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The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa…what a gem!

While in Pomona last weekend for the Heart concert at the Fairplex (see related blog post), and following a few wine tastings, I merrily agreed to take the advice of a fellow traveler and head on down the road for a Riverside adventure! Upon arriving into the historic downtown district, my eyes became transfixed on a massive Mission style hotel occupying one entire city block . The Mission Inn, now a National Historic Landmark, was built by founder Christopher Columbus Miller in 1876 as a 12-room adobe boarding house. Currently resembling a grand Spanish castle, this exceptional masterpiece is comprised of several distinct architectural styles. You can actually see where one style ends and the next one begins if you stand in the courtyard and look up. Imagine a European castle, lush gardens, secluded patios, a giant rotunda, flying buttresses, domes, and elegant wrought-iron staircases. What a glorious sight!

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The Magnificent courtyard, note the different architectural styles

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Gothic-style fountain inside the courtyard

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And another view from inside the courtyard

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LIke the layers of a cake

I lucked out and wound up engaged in a wonderfully educational chat with the very knowledgeable volunteer working in the museum/gift shop who filled me in on some of the rich and quirky history, inspiring me to share what I learned about this fascinating landmark. In 1902, Miller’s son Frank (later known as “Master of the Inn,”) took over and began furiously adding to the structure, for a total of 238 rooms, employing several different top architectural designers, until his death in 1935. Thanks to Frank, guests get to experience the wonders of the St. Cecilia Chapel, and the Cloister, Spanish and International Rotunda Wings. Interestingly, during this time, Frank collected an enormous amount of treasures amidst his world travels, including bells (his collection topped out at over 800!), crosses, dolls and art paintings which are still stored underneath the building for safe keeping. He was known for giving away or selling items to guests who would tell him how much they liked something that was in their room.

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The Nanking temple bell from China, the oldest bell at the Mission Inn, located along the walkway toward the entrance.

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Cross collection at the museum/gift shop

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A Mission Inn bell on display at the museum/gift shop

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One of over 400 bells currently residing at the Mission Inn

Oddly, the name Mission Inn has nothing to do with the California Missions whatsoever, yet Frank believed if he tied it to them for marketing purposes, he would get more tourist traffic. After his death, Frank’s daughter and son-in-law took over until her passing in 1956, and thus began a long string of unsuccessful ownerships and the increasing deterioration of the Mission Inn. At one time it was an apartment complex and even fell to a point where homeless people were squatting there for a place to live. In 1985, it was purchased by the Carley Group and a grand opening was planned for 1988. Just two weeks before the opening, after running in to many delays and financial troubles, the project came to an abrupt halt and once again, the majestic Mission Inn sat empty. Thankfully it was eventually scooped up by local businessman Duane Roberts (aka “the frozen burrito king”,) who grew up in Riverside and felt a strong sentimental pull toward the living breathing entity that is the Mission Inn. Sitting vacant for several years after the previous renovation efforts, the Mission Inn officially reopened within a few days after the deal closed in December 1992.

The ivy, plants, flowers, trees, fountains, and bell tower are all absolutely spectacular. The two parrots in the large cage near the entry are succcessors to the original pair Josephine and Napolean who were cherished and very well known to all visitors. The hidden pool with private lounging villas, Kelly’s Spa, six phenomenal dining options, including my lunch choice of the Spanish garden-patio style restaurant Las Campanas which was simply scrumptious!! I felt like I was visiting some exotic locale far far away from the likes of Riverside California!

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Bougainvillea adorned trellis near the pool and entry way

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Fountain in Las Campanas garden patio restaurant

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A Mexican feast fit for royalty…ME!

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A tribute to Josephine and Napolean

Unfortunately, the mysterious underground catacombs have been closed off to the public for good after retrofitting for earthquakes brought attention to the fire hazards with only one point of entry and exit. Take a walk inside the glamorous lobby with brilliant chandeliers reflecting off the spotless floors and continue through to the courtyard where you can see people dining as well as catching a glimpse of the intricate architectural styles. Hopefully they can get the giant cuckoo-style clock working again soon! Famous guests have included: The Nixons, The Reagans, John F Kennedy, Gerald Ford, George W. Bush, Harry Houdini, Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Bob Hope, Barbra Streisand and even Merle Haggard are among the long list of celebrities, Presidents and Royalty and that have played and stayed here! My plan…to visit during the Festival of Lights during the Christmas Holiday season and stay for the night. It sounds like a truly marvelous spectacle!
Most definitely worth a visit, whether just for the day or for a few nights. This downtown area also includes a pedestrian mall, antique shoppes, cafes, museums, a library, beautiful churches, Town Hall and the historic Fox theater, all within an easy stroll from the hotel. You can even take a short drive to visit some unique local California wineries. Long live the Mission Inn! “…the Mission Inn is not just a building; it’s not just bricks and mortar. This place is a living thing and people love it.” Well so do we Duane Roberts. Thank you for granting this beauty a new lease on life for all to admire and enjoy!

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Stunning ivy covered bell tower

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The decadent lobby

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The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa, a National Historiocal Landmark. Get there!