Film Review: This is GWAR (Shudder)

By: Jesse Striewski

If any band deserves an in-depth, career-spanning documentary, it’s everyone’s favorite shock rockers/Scumdogs of the Universe, GWAR, and I was a bit surprised by just how invested in This is GWAR I found myself becoming while watching it.

Beginning with the band’s early roots as a collective art outfit founded by Hunter Jackson and the late Dave Brockie in the mid-80s, the film goes through the band’s evolution and entire history in great detail (the way a proper documentary should). Along the way there’s copious amounts of interesting tid bits and fascinating footage that should delight even the most casual fan.

The only real downside is the rapid pace that sometimes speeds through certain eras of the band faster than desired. Personally, I would’ve liked a tad more emphasis on the making of lesser-received albums such as Ragnarok or We Kill Everything. Still, aside from including interviews from several past and present members of the band, there’s a number of celebrities that lend their thoughts and help the story along as well, including Alex Winter, Thomas Lennon, and even “Weird Al” Yankovic himself.

It’s safe to say that my interest in GWAR was put firmly back in place since viewing the film, and I’ve found myself falling down a rabbit hole of sorts and revisiting a lot of the band’s music again; hopefully it will have the same effect on you as well.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Amon Amarth – The Great Heathen Army (Metal Blade Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

It’s honestly taken me a minute to fully appreciate Amon Amarth since initially I just thought the whole “viking metal” thing was a bit too on the “gimmicky” side. But I’ve found myself coming around to them more and more with each new album of theirs for the past two or three releases.

I don’t typically find myself going out of the way for metal with guttural vocals like theirs these days either, but I find frontman Johan Hegg’s style far more tolerable than say, Randy Blythe of Lamb of God. But the sick guitar riffs and heavy blast beats are a welcomed assault on the senses on The Great Heathen Army.

The band introduced the world to the album with “Get in the Ring,” a hard-hitter with an equally heavy video featuring pro wrestlers like Erick Redbeard. Other songs like “Heidrun,” “Find a Way or Make One,” and “Dawn of Noresman” are all equally worth a listen. But the track that definitely caused me to sit up and listen the most was “Saxons and Vikings,” appropriately featuring guest vocals from legendary Saxon frontman Biff Byford; I knew then I was becoming a fan.

Bands like Amon Amarth aren’t for everyone’s tastes, certainly not your average mainstream rock music fan. But if you’re rock palate goes beyond the likes of Korn, you’ll probably find something to appreciate here (I for one am personally looking forward to hopefully catching the band live on their current tour now, too).

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Strokes, and Thundercat at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL on 9/15/22 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Bailey Guinigundo

In 2017, I was able to photograph the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Amway Center in Orlando for another magazine I was writing for at the time. It was a flawless experience, and I walked away with some of my personal favorite concert shots I have ever captured. Knowing that former guitarist John Frusciante – who was absent from the lineup at said show five years ago – was back in the fold, had me even more excited to see the band again.

But a series of unfortunate personal events overshadowed the band’s recent Orlando show at Camping World Stadium this past Thursday, September 15. Beginning with…the photo pass. While I thought I had firmly secured one to shoot the band at least a good month before the show, I came to find out shortly prior that my request was never actually submitted. Strike one.

Then, the actual day of the show, while en route to it (in the pouring rain nonetheless) with the family, our vehicle decided to start overheating and eventually stall out on us completely. That was strike number two.

And lastly, even after having a friend of the family give us a ride and arranging towing all the same, we still had to wait nearly two hours in the car after arriving to the stadium thanks to the thunderstorms that continued to rage and delay the outdoor show from starting on time. That was absolutely strike number three of the night, and might have been enough to turn some people around.

Once we finally arrived and got to our seats (soaked mind you), everything we had endured up to that point slowly became worth it. Opening the stage was bass master Stephen “Thundercat” Brunner, who simply goes by the moniker Thundercat these days. I was lucky enough to not only see him perform on stage with Suicidal Tendencies in 2010 and even meet him afterwards (see attached photo below). Gracing the stage with a huge cat head on the stage behind him, Brunner went through his best licks possible with a quickness, playing a handful of songs and solos before exiting.

A much younger Jesse Striewski (left) with then-Suicidal Tendencies bassist Stephen “Thundercat” Brunner at the former Club Firestone in Orlando, FL on 11/10/10 (Photo by Pamela Bendezu).

Early 2000’s brooding rockers The Strokes followed, and were another act on the bill I was looking forward to seeing (in this case for the first time). But their sped-up, six song set didn’t leave a lot to the imagination, and it just felt as though the band was being rushed off stage as they went through tracks like “The Modern Age,” “Bad Decisions,” “Under Control,” “Juicebox,” “The Adults Are Talking,” and of course their most popular hit to date, “Last Nite.”

And finally, the Chili Peppers took stage well after the ten o’clock hour, and played what felt like an exhausting-ly long set that lasted well over an hour and a half, starting with an onstage jam that just included Frusciante, bassist Flea, and drummer Chad Smith, before frontman Anthony Kiedis joined the rest of the guys for a hyped up rendition of “Around the World.”

The group wasted no time giving the audience what they came for, playing an onslaught of hits both new and old from then on out in the form of “Dani California,” “Scar Tissue,” “Aquatic Mouth Dance,” “Snow ((Hey Oh))” and “These Are the Ways.”

One of my personal favorite moments came when they slowed things down and the rest of the guys stepped aside to allow Frusciante a moment to perform “I Remember You” by the Ramones with nothing more than his voice and guitar. It was a touching moment and fitting tribute to the band’s late guitarist Johnny Ramone, who had passed away exactly eighteen years prior on September 15, 2004.

While this seemed to confuse a good portion of the crowd, I enjoyed it much more than the following forgettable new track from the band, “Wet Sand.” But the guys quickly got back on track, playing a couple of numbers absent from their set the last time I saw them; “Soul to Squeeze” from 1993’s Coneheads film and soundtrack, and “Me and My Friends” going all the way back to 1987’s The Uplift Mofo Party Plan album (as far as they reached in their early repertoire).

By the time the band reached tracks like “Throw Away Your Television,” “Tell Me Baby,” “The Heavy Wing,” “Black Summer,” “Californication,” and “Give it Away,” (with another solo from Flea thrown in there for good measure) I had heard more than enough Chili Peppers music live to honestly last a lifetime. But we stuck with it until the band reappeared for an encore of “By the Way,” a decent enough track, but not really what comes to mind when I think of a “closer.”

Despite all of the setbacks and issues we encountered on the way, I’d say the fact we were able to still even make it was a success, and I know my teenaged son was thrilled to not only see them for the first time, but also get his first official tour shirt that night. And special thanks to local photographer Bailey Guinigundo, whose live shots made this article so much more special than it possibly could have been without them. And to our friend Kurt for coming to the rescue with a ride (without that none of it could have been possible). Thanks again guys!

Series Review: The Goldbergs Season 9 (ABC/Sony Pictures Television)

By: Jesse Striewski

When The Goldbergs first premiered on TV in 2013, it was a quaint throwback that perfectly captured the essence of when the ’80s sitcom reigned supreme, and was still an event for the whole family. That initial magic has since dissipated somewhat, yet the show keeps trudging along regardless.

The show started its decline in quality by season six or seven, and season nine (which originally aired in September of 2021) asked us to accept a lot to say the least. The first noticeable change came with the unfortunate loss of “Pops,” played by the late George Segal, who passed away in March of 2021. His death was addressed in the first episode, then mentioned a few more times throughout the season.

Then of course there was the sudden controversy that supposedly came along with actor Jeff Garlin, who has played the father Murrary on the show since day one. Some vague behind the scenes “misconduct” allegations caused the producers to replace Garlin midway through the season, deciding to use a stand-in and weird CGI to replace him instead. It was about this time that I realized the show had hit a new low.

Aside from all these issues, the plots were really nothing all that spectacular, either, many just revolving around Adam (Sean Giambrone) navigating his future with both college and his girlfriend Brea (Sadie Stanely) and Erica (Hayley Orrantia) and Geoff’s (Sam Lerner) eventual wedding. And of course there’s the usual meddling from Bev (Wendi McLendon-Covey) throughout all of these situations.

Only a couple of episodes from this season really standout; the Halloween episode that sees Adam finding solace in still celebrating the holiday via his “other” grandfather (Judd Hirsch) despite the loss of Pops. The episode also sticks out for featuring the Mistress of the Dark herself, Elvira.

And then of course there’s that wedding episode. We not only get an appearance from yet another ’80s pop star (Richard Marx), but one of the most awkward moments in the show’s tenure featuring the “stand-in” Murrary that the flimmakers actually tried to pull off as authentic. The result is one of the most cringe-worthy scenes ever to be displayed in small screen history.

The final episode (which aired in May of this year) Adam not only graduates, but we also find out that Erica is pregnant, leaving us with a somewhat predictable cliffhanger to end the season on. With season ten about to drop this evening, there’s no telling what to expect from this once-great, dwindling show. The only thing we know for sure is they’ve obviously learned from their mistakes by keeping the Murrary character going in the fashion they had, and finally decided to kill him off all together; perhaps at this point it’d be best to just put the show down as well before it gets any worse than this.

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Series Review: Cobra Kai Season 5 (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

After a dismal season four, which centered around basic high school bullying stories and juvenile humor geared towards the lowest common denominator possible, I wasn’t expecting much from season five of Cobra Kai at all, though I went in with as much of an open mind as possible…

…And I’m definitely glad I did. Surprisingly, season five reels it back in and once again makes us actually care about the characters, starting with Johnny (William Zabka) traveling to Mexico to find the down-and-out Miguel (Xolo Mariduena), who set out to said country to find his birth father he never actually knew. This instantly brings the much-needed human element back into the picture, something sorely lacking for too long now.

Meanwhile, Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and the Miyagi Dojo are still at odds with Cobra Kai and its vengeful owner Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), and goes as far as enlisting not one, but two former nemesis’ to help infiltrate the dojo and take him down; once again, Chozen Toguchi (Yuji Okumoto) from The Karate Kid Part II, and this time, Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) from Part III.

Is it a stretch to try to make us believe that these characters would actually care so much about childish rivalries that they’d be willing to take a round trip around the world to fight these battles? Perhaps. But if you’ve been a fan of the series since the first season, but felt discouraged by the direction of the show after that horrendous last season like me, this might just win you back. It may not be the “best around” overall, but it certainly crane-kicks that last season to the ground (can you tell how much I didn’t care for that one?).

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Scorpions at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL on 9/14/22 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

Last night, the Rewind It Magazine family took an unexpected road trip to catch classic rockers the Scorpions perform at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. But not even traffic delays and copious amounts of of rain could dampen the mood when we arrived (fashionably) late to the event.

To see such legends as vocalist Klaus Meine and guitarist/band founder Rudolf Schenker, not to mention former Motorhead/King Diamond drummer Mikkey Dee (I always felt somewhat cheated when he was actually absent the one and only time I saw Motorhead back in 2009, although former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum in his place was was a more than worthy fill-in) was worth every bit of stress it took to get there.

Although Whitesnake were originally on the tour with them, they unfortunately had to opt out due to frontman David Coverdale’s ongoing health issues. As disappointing as this may be, the all-female group Thundermother were still pegged as the openers. But, due to said road and weather conditions, we missed their set completely too (though we were able to finally see the girls doing an autograph signing session at the end of the night).

In fact, The Scorpions were actually already in the middle of their second song, “Make It Real” (“Gas in the Tank” served as the opener) by the time we even arrived. The laid back vibes of “The Zoo” and the instrumental “Coast to Coast” followed before a couple more-than admirable new tracks in the form of “Seventh Sun” and “Peacemaker.”

The band took things back to the ’80s for a bit with “Bad Boys Running Wild” and “Send me an Angel,” throwing in another instrumental, “Delicate Dance,” in between. This was followed up by the massive 1990 power ballad “Wind of Change,” which was no doubt a collective emotional moment for everyone in attendance last night.

“Tease Me Please Me” and the title track to their latest album, “Rock Believer” proceeded before a bass/drum solo between Dee and bassist Pawel Maciwoda commenced. After which, the guys started breaking out the big guns in the form of “Blackout” and “Big City Nights.” A short reprieve brought the band back for an encore of “No One Like You,” and finally the massive hit anthem “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” which sent everyone there home breathless.

There’s no denying the sheer rock greatness that graced the stage in Tampa last night, and the memory of it all will no doubt last a lifetime.

Album Review: Megadeth – The Sick, the Dying…and the Dead! (Tradecraft/Universal)

By: Jesse Striewski

I found myself actually excited for a Megadeth album for the first time in a long time upon first glimpse of Vic Rattlehead on the cover. But I must admit, their eager dismissal (again) of original bassist David Ellefson last year left a sour taste in my mouth (and that’s no disrespect to returning bassist James LoMenzo – I’ve seen the band live with each bass player in the past, and both are masters of their crafts).

But I digress; The Sick, the Dying…and the Dead – the band’s sixteenth full studio release – is an admirable effort from Dave Mustaine and company nonetheless, filled with the typical crunching riffs and intricate guitar solos that’s come to be expected on a Megadeth album, with the epic title track charging the way and setting the tone right off the bat.

Sure, the lyrics at times can be a bit on the generic side (another common trait with Megadeth records), but overall, tracks like “Life in Hell,” “Night Stalkers” (featuring a brief appearance by Ice-T) “Dogs of Chernobyl,” “Killing Time,” and “Soldier On!” can easily fit alongside any of the band’s previous material up until now.

I may have lost touch with Megadeth in more recent times as previously alluded to, but The Sick…may just be the album that gains the interest of many older fans such as myself again. Check it out for yourself and see if you agree.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Book Review: Double Talkin’ Jive: True Rock ‘n’ Roll Stories from the Drummer of Guns N’ Roses, The Cult, and Velvet Revolver By Matt Sorum with Leif Eriksson and Martin Svensson (Rare Bird Birds)

By: Jesse Striewski

Despite having one of the longest titles I ever seen for a book before, Double Talkin’ Jive, the new account from former Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, and Cult (among many others) drummer Matt Sorum (with assistance from authors Leif Eriksson and Martin Svensson) is a relatively short read. And although not quite as detailed as the last biography I read (ironically another drummer, Dave Grohl), it’s no doubt still a ride full of intriguing stories.

Having seen Sorum play several times over the years – first with The Cult in 2001, twice with Velvet Revolver in 2005 and ’07, and most recently touring with Motorhead in 2009 – it makes it all the more interesting to hear what was actually going on behind the scenes during many of these eras and then some.

And unlike a lot of other bios I’ve read, Sorum doesn’t waste too much time analyzing his upbringing or past traumas, but gives readers just enough insight into his background, going through many of the chapters with a rapid frequency. But the highlights are indeed that of his initiation into global titans Guns N’ Roses, up to his eventual bitter exit.

Even if none of Sorum’s former bands were up your alley, it shouldn’t be too hard to find some sort of interest in his life experiences. Give it a try and you might just find out why.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Roger Waters at Amway Center in Orlando, FL on 8/25/22 By Shawn McKee

Roger Waters finally graced Orlando as part of his This Is Not a Drill North American tour. The three-hour, visually stunning spectacle covered his legendary career as co-founder, bassist, co-lead vocalist, and principal songwriter for Pink Floyd and the solo work that followed his departure from the band in the early ‘80s.

The tour, originally set for July of 2020, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s clear, however, that after experiencing Waters “in the flesh” at the Amway Center, it was well worth the wait. As a Pink Floyd fan from youth, who still considers them my all-time favorite band, I’m also a fan of Waters’s solo work. I even love Radio K.A.OS., the 1987 album later disparaged by Waters himself. Understandably, he was going through a difficult time back then.

The tensions between Waters and his former bandmates ultimately erupted after the resounding success of their 1979 rock opera masterpiece, The Wall. As a cohesive band, they produced one last album, The Final Cut (1983) before Waters’s bitter exit and lengthy court battles that followed. Egos clashed as he tried to single-handedly lay claim to the Pink Floyd name and material. It was a fight he eventually lost.

Guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour, keyboardist Richard Wright, and drummer Nick Mason retained the name, and Waters ventured into solo territory, competing against the very band he launched to stardom with The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973. Thus ended the Waters era of Pink Floyd.

Gilmour assumed front man duties, with the release of A Momentary Lapse of Reason in 1987 and a world tour that completely “eclipsed” Waters’s own earnest solo endeavors. The times, however, have somewhat changed. Following the passing of Richard Wright in 2008, all hopes of another Pink Floyd album after The Division Bell (1994) diminished. Gilmour rightfully stated that, “It would be wrong to continue as Pink Floyd without him.”

In their absence, Waters has since ironically done his part in bringing Floyd’s music to the fans throughout the past twenty years. This Is Not a Drill follows his Us + Them tour (2107-2018) that followed The Wall Live (2010-2013). I was fortunate enough to see him perform The Wall in Tampa, Florida in 2010. Experiencing the album in its theatric entirety still ranks as one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen.

The thrill of seeing Waters again (for possibly the last time) was every bit as exciting as attending the Paul McCartney concert months prior in Orlando. In both cases, we’re increasingly aware of their inevitable retirements on the horizon. The vitality of rock and roll defies expectations, when two men close to (or in) their eighties can embark on such sweeping tours.

I’ve heard enough live Waters albums to know how he performs the Floyd material without the soulful voice and guitar playing of Glimour and the equally strong backing of Wright and Mason. Waters without Floyd is the same as Floyd without Waters. They’ve both become their own thing equal to the sum of their parts. With This Is Not a Drill, I can confidently say that Waters delivered in every way.

From the center of the stadium, massive LED screens hung above the cross shaped stage that extended in all four directions. The show started promptly at 8:30 pm in darkness as text scrolled across each lit screen accompanied by a British announcer, instructing patrons to turn off their cell phones and “fuck off to the bar,” if they like Pink Floyd’s music but don’t care for Waters’s politics. From the start, I expected a politically charged show evident in Waters’ own poignant songwriting for decades past. He’s an artist of conviction, consistently political throughout most of his career. Alas, I was there for the music, while also aware how seriously Waters takes “the message.”

The show started with a slow, moody version of “Comfortably Numb,” accompanied by dystopian visuals on the screens. Waters and his sizeable touring band remained unseen during its lengthy duration. An abundance of flashy, colorful lights followed as Waters ripped into the precursor song, “The Happiest Days of Our Lives,” accompanied by its famous helicopter droning and exhilarating crescendo of “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2.” Waters then hammered through “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3” as the audience erupted in jubilation.

Things shifted down a notch with “The Powers That Be” from Radio K.A.O.S and “The Bravery of Being Out of Range” from Amused to Death (1992). I was ecstatic to hear two songs from his solo albums, but the energy didn’t seem as infectious upon the crowd. Nonetheless, “The Powers That Be,” featured fantastic visuals of fascistic animated foot soldiers marching through town, while “Being Out of Range” gave us the first moments of Waters “stripped down” on the screen in black and white, strumming his acoustic guitar and singing.

To capture an “intimate moment” in a stadium show is quite the feat. But Waters pulled off just that with what appeared to be completely new material for an endearing, personable segue entitled “The Bar.” Waters, seated at a grand piano, played and sang beautifully, while calling for unity of all peoples from all cultures and stripes.

It was a touching moment from an otherwise intentionally divisive artist. His band belted out another Floyd rock anthem and radio mainstay “Have a Cigar” from the iconic Wish You Were Here 1975 album. This was then followed by none other than “Wish You Were Here,” which predictably brought the place down.

Around this point, I felt most excited, because I had no idea what would follow. Anything could happen. Scrolling text and narration then discussed the early days of Floyd and its founder Syd Barrett, whose mental illness and drug use during the ’60s propelled a swift exit from the band after their first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967). Barrett led a private, solitary life that became the stuff of folklore among Floyd fans before he passed away in 2006. Many Pink Floyd albums have been dedicated to or written about Barrett, and to continue to honor his legacy in such a way was particularly touching. Waters continued music from Wish You Were Here with the second half of Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX), capturing the raw power and energy of the song from beginning to end.

A giant, remote-controlled inflatable sheep then floated around the stadium to introduce a powerhouse rendition of “Sheep” from the 1977 album Animals, a personal highlight for me. A brief intermission followed, bridging the gap between the two sets, and the best was yet to come.

After intermission, the stage was draped with x-shaped hammers from above, signifying a return to The Wall. We were treated to the closing anthems, “In the Flesh” and “Run Like Hell,” featuring Waters in full, black leather fascist gear, mimicking moments where he gunned down the audience with a fake, illuminated machine gun.

Giant inflatable pigs, flashing lights, and the barrage of vivid imagery against a red visage became a delightful assault on the senses. Two songs followed from Waters’s majestic Is This the Life We Really Want? (2017). The Nigel Godrich-produced album is, in my opinion, his best solo work, and it virtually came out of nowhere, which made it uniquely special hearing live.

Waters then delved into his greatest commercial triumph with a series of songs from The Dark Side on The Moon. “Money,” “Us and Them,” “Any Colour You Like,” “Brain Damage,” and “Eclipse” thundered through the stadium in consecutive order with captivating visuals and light show motifs. A string of laser triangles filled the center stage with a stunning backdrop of faces, sunsets, and fire.

An encore followed with the apocalyptic “Two Suns in the Sunset” from The Final Cut, more material from “The Bar,” and the appropriate closer “Outside the Wall,” before sending us home, wanting more. Waters’s fantastic visuals, touching tribute to his former band, and love for performing was on full display. As the tour title suggests, his concert presented an alarming view of current times, while keeping the music alive.

I looked past the ego, sanctimony, and destructiveness of an artist who once tried to end Pink Floyd after “deciding” they had reached their peak and witnessed the sheer talent and passion of an artist who believes in the power of it all. Being active is perhaps the greatest gift Waters can offer. I hope he was as thrilled to host Orlando as we were to have him.

Retrospective: 40 Years of ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ By Jesse Striewski

There was never any shortage of teen flicks to choose from while channel surfing on cable TV back in the day. But 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High was one I would nearly stop on each and every time it passed by my radar (I can even clearly recall watching the film as a teenager after working the very first day of my very first job at my father’s roofing company).

When originally released on August 13 of 1982, something about its honest portrayal of American youth during that time period just struck a nerve like never before with audiences, made all the more authentic thanks to screenwritter Cameron Crowe’s ability to go undercover as a student at a San Diego, CA high school to get his story prior. The result, helmed by future Clueless Director Amy Heckerling, was nothing short of a fun, original ride.

Rounded out by a cast of talented young up and comers that centered around all-American brother and sister Brad (Judge Reinhold) and Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) Hamilton, it touches on various comedic and dramatic subplots of relatable teenaged woes that affect the two siblings and their numerous classmates. Other standout performances include Brian Backer as the nerdy Mark Ratner, and of course Sean Penn as the legendary stoner Jeff Spicoli.

And then there was Phoebe Cates as Stacy’s best friend Linda Barrett. No conversation about Fast Times at Ridemont High could ever possibly be complete without discussing that slow mo pool scene of Phoebe Cates in that red bikini with The Cars’ “Moving in Stereo” playing over it, hands down one of the most iconic and duplicated frames in any ’80s film. I had long since fallen in love with Cates when I first saw her in 1984’s Gremlins. But to see, that much of her, was simply overwhelming for me, and confirmed there was no doubt that I was one-hundred percent girl crazy from that moment on.

Many homages in pop culture and even a spinoff television series titled simply Fast Times briefly appeared in 1986 (featuring both Ray Walston and Vincent Schiavelli reprising their roles of teachers Mr. Hand and Mr. Vargas from the film, respectively). All these years later, the legacy of the film itself remains a staple of American cinema that continues to embrace the highs and lows of those awkward teenaged years we must all endure, like it or not. Kudos to the flimmakers for hitting the nail on the head so perfectly. And thank you once again to Phoebe Cates.