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.

Album Review: GWAR – The New Dark Ages (Pit Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

For nearly any metalhead kid growing up in the ’90s, GWAR was a dysfunctional American institution as relevant as Beavis and Butt-Head, and to attend one of their over-the-top theatrical shows was indeed a twisted rite of passage.

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t really paid much attention to the band in quite some time, so the prospect of a new GWAR album wasn’t exactly something I was patiently waiting for. It also does not help that the first song (“Ratcatcher”) that introduced me to The New Dark Ages was one of the weakest tracks found among the whole collection.

But when I actually dove in, I recognized those unmistakable thrash-y riffs that I once knew and loved so well as a teenager, apparent on such tracks as “New Dark Ages,” “Blood Libel,” “Completely Fucked,” and “Bored to Death.” There are still some filler tracks of course (“The Cutter” comes to mind), but overall The New Dark Ages is a surprisingly admirable effort.

Chances are I won’t be going out of my way to catch them the next time they come through town (already been there, done that many a time now). But I can’t deny I wasn’t filled with some nostalgia while listening to The New Dark Ages; far from perfect for sure, but escapist fun good for killing some time none the less.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Cinderella’s Tom Keifer and Faster Pussycat at Destination Daytona in Ormond Beach, FL on 7/23/22 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

Volusia County was pulsating with the sounds of boisterous ’80s hard rock this past Saturday, July 23, as the criminally underrated Cinderella frontman Tom Keifer and his band blistered through the hot and humid night with fellow ’80s rockers Faster Pussycat in direct support (L.A. Guns were originally scheduled to perform in between the two acts, but unfortunately cancelled at the eleventh hour).

Faster Pussycat have always been one of those bands from back in the day that I tend to forget about sometimes (often times due to inactivity), but am always quickly reminded by how fun they truly are. Opening with “Jack the Bastard,” Taime Downe and company (it should also be noted that although L.A. Guns were not able to play, Faster Pussycat bassist Danny Nordahl and drummer Chad Stewart previously both served some time with them between 2007-2012) quickly got bodies moving.

More heavy-hitting cuts followed, including “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way,” “Cathouse,” “Slip of the Tongue,” “You’re So Vain,” “Ain’t No Way Around It,” “Number 1 With a Bullet,” and “Sex Drugs & Rock-n-Roll” before they finally slowed things down a bit to play their hit 1989 power ballad, “House of Pain.” The guys then brought out guitarist for Tom Keifer’s band Tony Higbee to finish off their set with “Don’t Change That Song” and of course their signature rowdy anthem, “Bathroom Wall.”

Faster Pussycat vocalist Taime Downe with Tom Keifer Band guitarist Tony Higbee performing at Destination Daytona on 7-23-22.

Finally, the legendary Tom Keifer took the stage, armed with a stellar band of musicians, and that unmistakable voice, kicking things off with the solo track “Touching the Divine,” before treating fans with some favorite Cinderella tracks in the form of “Night Songs” and “Coming Home.” “It’s Not Enough” and “Somebody Save Me” followed before Tom and company slowed things down a bit for the piano-driven title track of his latest album, “Rise.”

Another Cinderella classic in the form of “Nobody’s Fool” got the crowd back on their feet again, before one last solo tack, “Solid Ground,” paved the way for a slew of Cinderella staples, including “Bad Seamstress Blues/Fallin’ Apart at the Seams,” “The Last Mile,” “Don’t Know What You Got (Til It’s Gone),” “Shake Me,” and “Shelter Me.”

The band took a brief reprieve before taking to the stage once again for an encore that included dueling guitar solos between Keifer and Higbee, then finally closing out the night with “Gypsy Road,” leaving the audience dripping with sweat, yet fully content. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Keifer often does not always receive the recognition he truly deserves, and any list of greatest hard rock frontmen should include him right alongside the best of them. At least those of us catching him on this tour right now understand the true depths of his greatness.

Guitarist Tony Higbee (left) and Tom Keifer performing at Destination Daytona on 7-23-22.

Film Review: Nova Rex: Ain’t Easy Staying Cheesy (My Productions USA)

By: Jesse Striewski

I was first introduced to Nova Rex back in 2016 via band founder and bassist Kenny Wilkerson, when I was scheduled to interview him for a now-defunct magazine I was writing for at the time (whose name I will never utter here). Since then, I’ve come to know and deeply respect Kenny and all the endeavors I’ve watch he and the band create for themselves since.

So it was my pleasure to attend the premiere of the band’s new documentary Ain’t Easy Staying Cheesy – their follow up to 2011’s Ain’t Easy Being Cheesy – last week along with numerous friends, family, and colleagues – as well as most of the band themselves – in tow (a night to remember indeed). And it was all the more special to personally receive a small credit in the film for contributing some brief interview questions during one of its segments.

At first, the film seemed all-too familiar as it once again recounted the band’s early days as they experienced various lineup changes and tried their hands at different markets. Eventually this segued into their current incarnation and many of the things they’ve done since, such as played the Hard Rock Hotel in Daytona Beach with fellow ’80s rockers Pretty Boy Floyd, or played the Amway Center in Orlando, not once but twice now (all events Rewind It was lucky enough to be there for).

Of course things finally cumulated with the addition of current frontman John Bisha of The Babys in place of most recent vocalist Adrian Adonis, which includes some bittersweet moments while also ending things on a high note. All in all, Ain’t Easy Staying Cheesy is a fun ride from start to finish, and should be required viewing for just about any true ’80s-era rock fan.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

From left to right; Jesse Striewski (author), Kenny Wilkerson (Nova Rex), Jacob Striewski (photographer), and Terry Harger (photographer) at the premiere of Ain’t Easy Staying Cheesy at Aloma Cinema Grill on 7/13/22 (photo by Brooke Striewski).

Album Review: Journey – Freedom (BMG)

By: Jesse Striewski

For many, the only acceptable version of Journey will forever be the one with Steve Perry at the helm. But for those with open minds, the band is still relevant with lead singer Arnel Pineda at the forefront, even if the rest of the lineup remains a bit shaky at the moment, too (the current rhythm section is already different from the one that recorded on Freedom).

Freedom is the first album of new material from the guys since 2011’s Eclipse (and third with Pineda on vocals), and contains fifteen new tracks with that classic Journey “sound,” composed mostly by guitarist/founder Neal Schon, keyboardist Jonathan Cain, and now-former drummer Narada Michael Walden.

The group have already released a slew of singles from Freedom, beginning last month with “The Way We Used to Be.” Even if that track did not really do it for you, follow-ups like “You’ve Got the Best of Me” and the almost-poetic “Don’t Give Up on us” more than make up for it. Other tracks like “All Day, All Night,” “Come Away With Me,” and “After Glow” invoke that same spirit classics like “Anyway You Want It” still have the power to after all of these years.

I may not be an “expert” when it comes to the world of Journey’s music, but I like them enough to have gone to see them in concert (back in 2015). I’ve said it before about many a band, and I’ll say it once again here about Journey; I’d rather have some version of them in existence, than no version at all.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Series Review: Stranger Things Season 4 – Vol. 2 (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

By now I’m assuming most fans of the hit Netflix series Stranger Things are likely already caught up the entire fourth season of the show, so hopefully no spoilers can be found here for anyone. This season truly was a gift to fans of the series, and even though volume two consists of just a couple of episodes, there’s so much compacted in it it’s almost overwhelming.

The numerous storylines all feel like small movies that could stand alone themselves. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) isfinally forced to come into her own once the secret government facility she’s been regaining her “powers” at is ransacked and officially put out of business for good, leading to a tearful goodbye with her “Papa” (Matthew Modine).

Meanwhile, Eleven’s extended support system is broken off into three separate groups, each trying to fight the evil that’s threatening mankind, while making it back to each other. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Will (Noah Schnapp) make their way across state lines to get to her, while Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink) and the rest plot to take on Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) himself head-on. Lastly Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) escape their way out of Russia after fighting their own demons.

Each specific plot leads to its own satisfying conclusion, with enough twists and turns to make your head spin, often with emotional results. But what makes these characters so endearing is the ability to relate to them on a human level, which is ultimately a reflection of well-crafted writing. Thankfully, the door is left ajar again for another follow up, which all of us already engulfed in this little world created by the Duffer Brothers are already waiting for with much anticipation.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Nova Rex at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL on 7/1/22 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

Around this same time last year, local rockers Nova Rex brought the thunder to the Amway Center for pre-game and halftime sets during an Orlando Predators home game. This past Friday, July 1, the band rocked the house again, this time with The Babys singer John Bisha behind the mic.

I’ve caught the band live several times over the years, but this was my first time seeing them with Bisha on vocals. The band – which is still rounded out by founder/bassist Kenny Wilkerson, Britny Fox guitarist Greg Polcari, and drummer Shawn Lowery – seemed as rejuvenated as ever on this particular night.

As usual, Rewind It Magazine arrived fashionably late thanks to I4 traffic and rain hit along the way. So by the time we did make it, the band was already well into their pre-game set with the hard-hitting “Break Away.” Shortly after the guys launched into the ’80s-esque power ballad “Alone Tonight,” one of my personal favorites of theirs that I don’t recall ever hearing them perform live any of the prior times I saw them. They rounded out their first set with the anthem “Turn it up Loud” before turning things over to the Orlando Predators to host the Jacksonville Sharks in their final home game of the season.

Rewind It photographer Brooke Striewski with the Prowlers dancers prior to the Orlando Predators/Jacksonville Sharks game on 7/1/22.

Things did not look too bad for the Preds as they went into halftime down by just two points 21-19, and Nova Rex took over the stage once again. This time they brought the big guns, launching into “Bring the House Down Tonight” and new track “Time Is Up For You,” complete with plenty of bangs and pyro explosions finish the night.

The Predators did not fare as well however, ultimately losing to the Sharks 37-34. But the action was far from over, as former F.L.Y. (Fast Life Yungstaz) singer Vee Fly, who now goes by 4MULA9, ended the night with some hip hop, including his most well known hit, “Swag Surfin’.” It was a fitting end to an already eventful night, one that will surely be remembered for a long time to come.

Vee Fly (a.k.a. 4MULA9) performing after the game on Friday night.

Film Review: Jurassic World: Dominion (Universal Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

The latest (and final?) installment in the Jurassic World series, and overall sixth film in the Jurassic Park franchise, has received some negative backlash since its release. But in comparison to the last lackluster entry, 2018’s Fallen Kingdom, it’s world’s above in every way possible.

The story picks off exactly where the said previous film had left off, with Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) living off the grid and raising the clone we were first introduced to in Fallen Kingdom, Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) in total seclusion, in a world where mankind is now living side-by-side with dinosaurs.

But of course there’s some bad guys out there who will go to extreme measures to get her back (as well as the young velociraptor offspring of Blue’s, Beta), including the crooked CEO of Biosyn Genetics, Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). While Owen and Claire fight to get her back along with the help of some new friends they meet along the way (including a former air force pilot played by DeWanda Wise) doctors Grant (Sam Neill), Sattler (Laura Dern) and Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) are also uncovering the corruption at Biosyn after a series of events reunites them all back together.

Jurassic World: Dominion is everything a nerd fan boy could want, honestly; high speed chases, loud fights between gigantic monsters, and original characters/actors thrust back together and put onscreen alongside the newcommers. Is Jurassic World: Dominion often cliche and predictable? Sure, I won’t deny it doesn’t tread into those territories from time to time – how can it not at this point?

But overall, I fond myself getting totally lost and engrossed in the material here, probably for the first time since going to see the original Jurassic Park on the big screen all the way back in 1993. Steven Spielberg truly opened our collective imaginations with that first film all those years ago, and for my money, Dominion is the closest I’ve come to having that same feeling again from any of the other films in the franchise since.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Poison, and Joan Jett and The Blackhearts at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL on 6/19/22 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

It’s taken three attempts and nearly two years, but after numerous false starts, the massive Stadium Tour featuring Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Poison, and Joan Jett and The Blackhearts finally rolled through Orlando via Camping World Stadium this past Sunday, June 19. And as Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliot noted at one point, “Third time’s the charm.”

Rewind It Magazine arrived fashionably late for the event, as Joan Jett was well into the hit “Cherry Bomb” from her Runaways days. The last time I saw Jett perform was actually at the 2006 Warped Tour, and not only had the Blackhearts lineup changed since then (most notably former Billy Idol drummer Thommy Price had been replaced by Bouncing Souls drummer Michael McDermott), but so had her set list, which was apparent when she went into “Light of Day” next from the 1987 film of the same name she co-starred in with Michael J. Fox.

More covers and originals like “Everyday People,” “You Drive Me Wild” (another early Runaways track), “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)”, “Fake Friends,” “Crimson and Clover,” “I Love Rock n’ Roll,” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You” followed before finally closing things out on a high note with “Bad Reputation,” which some may recall served as the theme song to the late-’90s teen show Freaks and Geeks.

Poison were up next, and were the one and only act on the bill I had never seen prior, although frontman Bret Michaels’ solo shows have played a pivotal roll in the Rewind It family over the years (it was the first concert my wife/photographer Brooke and I ever attended together in 2013 while we were still dating, and a few years later in 2018 we covered one of his Downtown Concert series shows for Rewind It, which you can still read on here).

Bret was on fire on this night, with guitarist C.C. Deville, bassist Bobby Dall, and drummer Rikki Rocket behind him as they launched into “Look What the Cat Dragged In.” “Ride the Wind,” “Talk Dirty to Me,” and “Your Mama Don’t Dance” lead to a guitar solo from Deville, which found him briefly touching on Van Halen’s “Eruption” as a tribute to late guitarist Eddie Van Halen.

More hits including “Fallen Angel,” “Unskinny Bop,” and the epic power ballad “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” were up next before the guys ended it with the ultimate ’80s party anthem, “Nothin’ But a Good Time” (at this point, the only possible way for them to end a set), priming the crowd just right for the rest yet to come.

The first couple of times I saw Motley Crue live (in 2005 and 2012, respectively) were each mind-blowing experiences, and I never tire of seeing one of my all time bass idols – the one and only Nikki Sixx, of course – on stage. Ironically though, I always seem to miss the beginning of their sets. But this time I made sure to be there for the entire thing, as the band ripped through classics like “Wild Side,” “Shout at the Devil,” and “Too Fast For Love” right off the bat.

After the first trio of tracks however, drummer Tommy Lee vacated the stage due to his well-publicized rib injury (no rollercoaster drumsets this time around!), making way for Ozzy Osbourne/Black Sabbath drummer Tommy Clufetos, who quickly picked up the pace on “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away),” “Saints of Los Angeles,” “Live Wire,” “Looks That Kill,” and only their fourth performance ever of the 2020 track “The Dirt” from the film of the same name (and it definitely showed – frontman Vince Neil’s voice wavered a time or two while trying to reach some notes on it).

The guys then launched into a number of their most well-known covers, including “Rock N’ Roll Part II,” “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” “White Punks on Dope,” “Helter Skelter,” and “Anarchy in the U.K.,” before going through some more original classics in the form of “Dr. Feelgood,” “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S),” and “Girls, Girls, Girls.” Tommy Lee then returned to the stage once more and fans turned on their cell phone lights for the massive power ballad “Home Sweet Home,” before they finally closed things out for the night with “Kickstart my Heart.”

And finally, Def Leppard came on stage…and initially sucked the life out of the room. When I first saw them back in 2003, they opened with a couple of early ’80s tracks in the form of “Let it Go” and “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop).” There were no such classics like those to be found anywhere in their set this time around, instead opting to start off with a couple newer numbers (which I get they need to promote) in the form of “Take What You Want” and the uber-lame “Fire it Up,” both bad choices in my opinion.

By track number three, the band finally started to treat the crowd with what they really came for, the “classics.” “Animal,” “Foolin’ (tragically one of the very few songs performed from 1983’s Pyromania album, my personal favorite of the band’s along with the two before it), and “Armageddon It.” Another new track, “Kick,” was thrown in before more Hysteria-era tracks “Love Bites” and “Excitable.”

After which, the band stripped things down and went acoustic for a bit, with frontman Joe Elliot performing “This Guitar” solo before being joined by the rest of the guys again on “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” and “Two Steps Behind.” “Rocket,” “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak,” and “Switch 625,” which featured a solo from drummer Rick Allen, got things back on track.

Finally, the band threw it all out there, unleashing “Hysteria,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me” “Rock of Ages,” and “Photograph” on the now-exhausted crowd (yours truly included).

I’ve since been asked who the best band of the evening was, and it’s far from easy to answer. Def Leppard were probably the strongest as far as overall sound is concerned, although their set list was merely “meh” in comparison to the last time I saw them, as previously noted. But I’d have to say Motley Crue were definitely the most exciting to watch as always, with Poison coming in a close second. And I’m pretty sure nearly anyone who was in attendance on Sunday night will agree they indeed got enough bang for their buck.

Retro Review: Faith No More – Angel Dust (Slash/Reprise)

By: Jesse Striewski

I was no stranger to Faith No More before owning their dark swan song Angel Dust; prior to owning it, I had already collected copies of their 1985 debut, We Care A Lot, as well as their 1989 breakthrough effort, The Real Thing. But as soon as Angel Dust came across my radar, I was hooked.

I can even remember the day I first got it; I was still in high school, and had to ride my bike to the pawn shop I found it at (along with some Danzig and Monster Magnet CD’s thrown in the mix, too). I also remember trying to hurry home before a thunderstorm hit, and to this day I can’t listen to the album without picturing those overcast Florida skies.

Lead singer Mike Patton reportedly spent many nights hanging around bus stops and diners, people watching in preparation for the songwritting, and it shows. The funk-driven “Land of Sunshine” kicks off the madness, with Patton giving his best infomercial salesman try, proclaiming at one point, “Here’s how to order!” This is followed by the thrash-esque “Caffeine,” which the band performed live that year for an MTV taping. The album’s first single, “Midlife Crisis,” continues things with Patton’s menacing whisper-vocals layering over an eerie keyboard riff from Roddy Bottum, with bassist Billy Gould and drummer Mike Bordin’s pronounced rhythm section leading the way.

The jazzy “RV” almost comes off as upbeat, if not for the it’s depressing trailer park anthem lyrics that Patton mumbles in his most sinister way possible. “Smaller and Smaller” continues deeper into the void, complete with some of Gould’s best bass work over top of aboriginal chanting. In contrast, the poppy “Everything’s Ruined” proceeds things on the lighter side, and is one of the most underrated singles from the album.

“Malpractice” is arguably one of the sloppiest songs on all of Angel Dust, and never quite finds its footing. But things quickly get back on track with the macabre-sounding “Kindergarten,” which looks back on lost playground memories. “Be Aggressive,” Bottoum’s ode to oral sex, follows and features a cheerleading squad spelling out the chorus, highlighting the absurdity of it all.

“A Small Victory” is without a doubt one of the finest pieces of music found here, and could have easily ended the album. Featuring some of Jim Martin’s best guitar work, it should’ve been a massive hit when released as a single, but barely made a dent on the charts. A beautifully constructed song from start to finish indeed.

“Crack Hitler” and “Jizzlobber” are on the sillier side, but have their own unique merits when in the proper mood. And the instrumental theme from “Midnight Cowboy” always seemed like an odd choice to end the album on, but is yet another example of its overall experimental nature.

Angel Dust would prove to be the band’s final output with Martin on guitar, who claimed to even hate the album’s title from the get go. Despite its dark tendencies, it was praised at the time by critics, many even calling it “album of the year,” which would ironically be the name of their next album’s title four years later. It’s unfortunate they would never have the chance to catch lightning in a bottle the way they did here again, but for that one moment in time, Faith No More gave us a brief flash of genius.