The Hampton Roads Show

The Last Bison at The Parlor

July 10th, 2014 at 11:29 am by under THRS Live Music

microphoneOur good friends, The Last Bison, have been busy the last few months recording their follow-up to last year’s Inheritance.  The new album is due in September but they just couldn’t wait that long to share the new tunes with you.

This Saturday they will be holding a special pre-release party at The Parlor on Granby, a new restaurant and live venue in Downtown Norfolk.  The venue is small and intimate – so intimate that there were only 135 tickets available.  As I’m writing this, there were very few left and it might be possible sold out by the time you read this.  Click this link here to get your tickets if you’re so lucky.   Tickets are $25 and the show starts at 8:30p and I’m sure it is going to be a great night!


If you didn’t get a ticket to this show, you can still have a great night of great music in Downtown Norfolk.  Head across the street to The NorVa for a Night Of Rock ‘N’ Soul.  Revery will be releasing their much-anticipated CD, Adora De Phonic, – produced by yours truly and The Fuzz Band, Ghost Of April and Augustine will be along for the ride.  Tickets are still available for $12.50 and you can grab them at The NorVa or by clicking this link.  

I will talk about this show more tomorrow as The Fuzz Band will be our Live Music Friday featured artist on The Hampton Roads Show.


Jersey Boys hits a high note

June 24th, 2014 at 5:54 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Jersey Boys.

Jersey-Boys-poster-1I’m going to be honest… I wasn’t going to see this screening, but my mom wanted to see it and the screening was on her birthday so I did what good daughters do… And boy, was I surprised!

The film Jersey Boys is based on the Tony Award-winning musical that took Broadway by storm some years ago.  It’s the story of the four guys that came together to make music history.  Paths collide on the wrong side of the tracks for these four guys from Jersey.

You’ve got Frankie (as in Valli, John Lloyd Young), Tommy (Vincent Piazza, Boardwalk Empire), Nick (Michael Lomenda) and Bob (Erich Bergen, Desperate Housewives).  Bob is the last one in, and the writer of some of the most legendary hits of the era.  Tommy is the gang leader and band leader.  He is very much the one who says jump and how high.  The evolution of how the group works all hinges on Tommy… Even the name of the group is something Tommy wants to control.

But after a clandestine conversation outside of a bowling alley,  the become the Four Seasons!  As the group struggles to book gigs and make records that will get played… they begin to define their rolls in the group.   Of course everyone needs someone to believe in them… and for the four guys from Jersey — especially Franki — it was Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo (Christopher Walken).  He’s a crucial player in the formation of the group and in saving them when the chips fall… but more on that later.

Some of the back story is slow-moving and a bit of a bore, but it’s seemingly necessary to build to the finish and understand how everything ends up.  The back story also makes us appreciate the shining moments of the stage, the highs along with the lows of the story of the Four Seasons.  One by one, we get the behind-the-scenes stories of the biggest hits of the Four Seasons.  From “Sherry Baby” to “Walk Like a Man” … we go zooming through from the history to the stage.

At the center of the story of course is Frankie Valli.  Frank Lloyd Young originated the Valli role in the Broadway hit and Clint Eastwood knew he had to use him in the big screen version.  Young shines in his first big box office role!  Can’t imagine anyone else hitting the right notes as Frankie Valli.

Michael Lomenda and Erich Bergen had performed in the stage tour of Jersey Boys as Nick and Bob respectively… and were awesome in their roles and Vincent Piazza from Emmy-inning TV show Boardwalk Empire brought the right amount of darkness and spiral to the role of Tommy.  In fact we learn that Tommy created such a strain on the group, he was the downfall of the Four Seasons.  Even Gyp DeCarlo couldn’t rescue the group from the mess Tommy made of the group’s finances.  It’s fascinating to watch it all unfold amid the lights and spectacle of them being a supergroup in the time.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, the screen version of Jersey Boys leans heavier on the story than the music — which should really be the star of the story.  The back story is heavy and dark and slow, but the musical moments shine, just don’t get enough of them.  It seems clear to me that Eastwood was less willing to show the musical side than he was enchanted with sharing the back story itself.

While there are some clunky parts here and there, I’m a big girl and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” over the little things… Jersey Boys is entertaining and hits it’s target audience where it lives… I know I’ll still love it tomorrow.


Rated R for language throughout.

Nicole’s Notes: VB woman on a mission to become “The Next Great Baker”

June 23rd, 2014 at 3:52 pm by under News, Personalities, The Hampton Roads Show, Uncategorized

A Virginia Beach woman has been serving up treats to folks in Hampton Roads for a few years now and she’s ready to show the world she is “The Next Great Baker”. TLC chose Brandy Smith as a contestant on its network show which airs Tuesday, June 24 at 9:00 p.m.

Brandy Smith of Virginia Beach, contestant on TLC's "The Next Great Baker"

Brandy Smith of Virginia Beach, contestant on TLC’s “The Next Great Baker”

They’re having a viewing party in Virginia Beach. I found out about Brandy because I did a story with her cousin McKenzie a few years ago.

McKenzie emailed me and shared this about Brandy, “Her situation is different than most on the show, 2 days before leaving to film, she found out her husband who is only 40 has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  They have 3 young children and soon she will be the soul bread winner in her home.  Our goal in this premier party is to get her exposure for her incredible cake business.

Brandy Smith's cake

I talked to Brandy on the phone and learned the business is called “Sophisticakes” and it was born out of her love for creating cool 3-D cakes for her kids on their birthdays. She’s a trained artist so she says she created different designs. She told me she likes to create designs that nobody else can. Folks started asking her about the cakes, and before you know it she was taking orders for wedding cakes, groom’s cakes, and cakes for all occasions. She says someone she took a class with asked her to go to the casting for TLC’s “The Next Great Baker” and it was a long process that started in October, 2013.

She’s kept a positive outlook as her husband Jason fights cancer and hopes this appearance will get the word out even more about the business she loves so much. In fact, they’ve been traveling to Chicago for cancer treatment every other weekend for the past four months and says he is about to start treatment here in Hampton Roads. His disease is now stable and has not progressed.

Brandy Smith & Family

Brandy Smith & Family

Brandy said to me in an email, “We have been overwhelmed and feel truly blessed with the love and support our family has received from our friends, family, and community.”

She went on “The Hampton Roads Show” on WAVY-TV  Monday June 23 to talk about her quest and whipped up some strawberry balsamic cupcakes. Tune and support our local gal and follow her on Facebook to stay on top of her progress. Brandy told me she dreams of having a storefront business someday. Right now she gets her orders online only.


Dragon 2 is not your mother’s sequel…

June 20th, 2014 at 4:54 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to see the trailer for How to Train Your Dragon 2.

dragon 2So if you saw the original How to Train Your Dragon, you know it was about Hiccup — the motherless son of a Viking chief — and how he had to capture a dragon in order to assume his rite of passage into manhood.  Which he did and that’s how we met Toothless his dragon best friend.

Well now here we are ready for the sequel and Hiccup is tasked by his father Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler) to become the new chief of the tribe on the island of Berk and Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel, She’s Out of my League, This is the End, Million Dollar Baby) wants nothing to do with it.

Hiccup is content to ride the skies with Toothless mapping new areas and having new adventures.  Until the adventures lead them into quite the mess.  Hiccup hears that a mean man that goes by the name of Drago Blood Fist is capturing dragons and building a dragon army.  On the search for (Drago to talk some sense into him) …Hiccup and Toothless discover — the Dragon Rider — along with an ice cave that hides hundreds of dragons. But who is this Dragon Rider?

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!! — The Dragon Rider is none other than his long lost mother Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett).  Before long the family is back together and fighting an epic battle to save not only their tribe, but dragons everywhere.  Drago BloodFist (Djimon Hounsou) brings fury by hypnotizing dragons and bringing them under his spell of his alpha dragon.  It challenges our ideas of peace, family and dragons.

Written for the screen by the Director Dean DeBlois along with Cressida Cowell (author of the book series) Dragon 2 looks less like a sequel (as we have come to know them) and more like the second part of the first movie.  The animation and story have lost nothing in the four years since the first film.  The animation is baffling for those of us who understand even a little bit how these characters come to life.  It’s fluid and simply awesome.  I was particularly happy to see that the characters remain true — witty and naive, yet totally human, not immune to fatal decisions and bad choices, yet able to overcome what life throws at them.

There are so many voices to mention including America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Craig Ferguson, and Kristen Wiig.  All good choices to add to the main characters voices…

The only downfall for me to mention is there are quite a few speeches and it can come off preachy to some, but the action balances it and I doubt little kids will tire of the good versus evil excitement that dominates most of the film.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 soars! It’s an exceptional sequel that isn’t afraid to go to the dark side.  Parents be warned, there are some scary scenes and some very sad scenes you’ll want to consider before taking little ones.  FYI — It’s available in 3D and I rarely recommend it… but may just be worth it in this case.


Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor.

Few faults with The Fault in Our Stars

June 9th, 2014 at 5:39 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for The Fault in Our Stars.

fault posterThe Fault in Our Stars is adapted from the immensely popular young adult novel by John Green. The Fault in our Stars is so beloved by it’s fans, that many worried the film version could never do the book justice… On the contrary!

It stars Shailene Woodley (The Descendants, The Secret Life of an American Teenager) as Hazel Grace — a 17-year old whose been battling cancer since age 13.  She’s wise beyond her years, because you grow up fast when you have cancer.  Knowing her days are numbered she wishes for the normal things in life — like climbing steps without being so minded you have to sit down on step number 5 — oh and falling love.  She really longs for that.  Enter Ansel Elgort (Divergent, Carrie) as Gus — a “former” cancer patient who quickly falls head over heels in love with Hazel Grace.   They are both extraordinary teens.  They are witty, and unconventional — in fact they abhor the conventional.

Before long Hazel is falling for Gus, but she’s so concerned about him being hurt when she dies, she pushes him away.  They share a love for a novel about a young cancer patient written by Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe).  Van Houten is an American living in Amsterdam.  Hazel has so many questions, Gus arranges for a trip to meet him.

It doesn’t turn out the way they had hoped with the author… but it still ends up being the most amazing trip of their lives.  The tables turn and Gus is no longer in remission.  The rest of the film is a treatise on dealing with life, love and mortality.  And it boasts the questions what exactly is infinity and what is immortality?

Directed by Josh Boone (his only other credit is 2013′s Stuck in Love), The Fault in Our Stars manages to avoid over sentimentalizing the story and stay out of the way of the actors giving some amazing performances.  Woodley and Elgort are just spot on.  They are so authentic in these roles, that you are rooting for them from the jump.  And shout out to Laura Dern and Willem Defoe for shining performances here.

It’s a kind of a studio tear-jerker, that managed to rise above all of that.  While the story doesn’t end up the way we would want — ie that “happy ending” — it’s amazingly satisfying.  At so many turns, you realize that you just got an important life lesson without realizing, or the movie seeming to try to teach it.  That’s pretty amazing.  In fact — haven’t left a movie and wanted to read the book it was based on as much as I do with this one.  Everyone I know who’s already read it — loved it — and appreciated the movie all the more.

As teen romance films go, The Fault in Our Stars has relatively few faults.

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language.

More like… A Million Ways to Die… in a movie theater

June 9th, 2014 at 5:31 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

Click Here to watch the trailer for A Million Ways to Die in the West.

a-million-ways-to-die-in-the-west-wanted-posterThis comedy / Wild West tale is unlike anything you’ve seen in the west before.  Not even Blazing Saddles was like this.  A Million Ways to Die in the West is produced, directed, and co-written by Seth MacFarlane (of Ted and Family Guy fame).

MacFarlane also stars as Albert — the main character — a sheep farmer who is afraid of gun fights he seems to frequently find himself invited to.  His girlfriend leaves him and as he starts to get over the heartbreak… he is soon practically courting the mysterious new girl in town.

Charlize Theron is the new girl — Anna — who starts to fall for Albert’s uniqueness.  She sets out to help Albert find his courage.  Anna actually is married (unbeknownst to Albert) to a badguy — the notorius outlaw Clinch (Liam Neeson).  And before long, Clinch is in town and finds out Albert has been making some moves on his Anna. Surprise!!!! Gunfight preparations are in order!

The film also stars Amanda Siefried as Albert’s former girlfriend; Neil Patrick Harris as Louise’s new beau Foy; Giovanni Rabisi as his best friend Edward; and Sarah Silverman as Edwards prostitute-girlfriend Ruth.

There are also plenty of cameos… including the likes of Ewan McGregor, Gilbert Gotfried, Christopher Lloyd and Jamie Foxx.  But not even the stars or the cameos can save this boring western wannabe.  There are tired jokes and the ridiculous re-telling of the tired jokes.  You never start to care about the characters and some of the potty humor falls WAAAAY short of funny.

The writing is weak… in fact, to me, it seems as though it were written by a group of friends drinking and sitting around a TV room accidentally coming up with funny scenes, laughing at themselves while saying “yeah yeah yeah!  Write that down!” and then deciding that would make a good movie.

Yeah…. no.  I absolutely loved MacFarlane’s last writing/directing adventure — Ted — and that’s why I expected so much more from A Million Ways to Die in the West.  What I learned is that not every movie is a hit just because you had ONE.   Certainly hoping Ted 2 is gets Seth back in the swing of things — it was just announced that it’s slated for release for next year.

The characters didn’t talk about boredom being one of the million ways to die in the west, but I certainly think it could be a way to die in a theater after seeing this one.

VERY RATED R!!!!!!  for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material.


Million Dollar Arm hits home run

June 9th, 2014 at 5:24 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

Click Here to watch the trailer for Million Dollar Arm.

million dollar armMillion Dollar Arm is based on a true story!  It stars Jon Hamm as JB Bernstein — a previously successful sports agent who branched out to form his own company and a few years later, finds himself and his business on the brink of failure.

That’s when he has a genius idea!  To search the countrysides of India in a contest to find a cricket player to turn into a major league pitcher.  He gets a mega investor to bank roll the idea and award a million dollars to the winner — the winner must be good enough to sign with an MLB team.

Alan Arkin (I loved him in Argo!) stars as Ray the long-time big league scout JB hires to help him find the finalists to bring back to the U.S.  The contest pitstops across India prove very interesting.  One kid they find is given the nickname The Flamingo.  He is Rinku played by Suraj Sharma (star of the Life of Pi). Rinku and the other finalist Dinesh (Madhur Mittal, Slumdog Millionaire) come to the U.S. along with their interpreter Amit (Pitobash) to learn the game of baseball.

Bill Paxton plays their coach and Lake Bell is Brenda, JB’s love interest.  They all become a happy little family, trying to get to the finish line… something they call an “improbable possibilty”.

Jon Hamm and Alan Arkin more than deliver on their roles.  Arkin plays Ray with a wise-but-stodgy, old man sophistication.  Hamm’s ability to transform the character from ego-centric, not-the-nicest guy in town, to a very likeable grown up, is fun to watch.   Sharma, Mittal, and Pitobash have youthful, naive enthusiasm in the delivery of their roles.  Not only does that make them exceptionally likeable, but viewers are quickly rooting for them!

It’s directed by Craig Gillespie with good pacing and timing, and he manages to pull some nice acting out of these characters.   Watching the onscreen family come together –while somewhat predictable in a script by Tom McCarthy — is certainly satisfying to the viewer.

As Disney movies tend to do, the underdogs defy the odds and come up winners, even if there are some seemingly insurmountable hurdles.  By the end of the film — Million Dollar Arm has hit a home run.

Rated PG for mild language and some suggestive content.



The Music Of Harborfest 2014

June 5th, 2014 at 10:26 am by under THRS Live Music

Most in Hampton Roads consider the unofficial start of Summer Memorial Weekend but in Norfolk, it’s always the first weekend in June – Harborfest Weekend.

Tall ships from around the World sail down the Elizabeth River and dock at Town Point Park for a weekend filled with activities, fun, food and , of course, music.  Two stages are setup in the park – the Boat House stage and the Main Stage.  Headliners for the Main Stage include the electric Langhorne Slim, the southern rock of Blackberry Smoke and our very own The Last Bison.  Ben and the gang have been busy in the studio recording their follow up to Inheritance, so I can bet that they’ll be testing out some new songs Saturday afternoon.

Local musicians fill up the Boat House stage including Live Music Friday alums Bobby Blackhat and Major and the Monbacks.  Every genre of music is pretty much covered from the folk of Narissa Bond and Jacob Vanko, the Motown sounds of The Spinners and the indie roots of Apache Relay.  Grab the family and get out and enjoy some great music!

Friday, June 6

Boat House Stage

12:45 pm – Ray Meeks Band
2:45 pm – Bobby Blackhat
5:00 pm – Jacob Vanko
7:15 pm – Matrimony
10:00 pm – Strictly Bizzness

Main Stage

6:00 pm – Langhorne Slim
8:30 pm – The Head and The Hearts

Saturday, June 7

Boat House Stage

12:30 pm – Narissa Bond
2:15 pm – Mike Proffitt Band
4:30 pm – Major and the Monbacks
6:45 pm – Apache Relay
10:00 pm – Three Sheets To The Wind

Main Stage

3:30 pm – Yellow Dubmarine
5:45 pm – The Last Bison
8:00 pm – The Spinners

Sunday, June 8

Boat House Stage

12:30 pm – Amy Gerhartz
3:15 pm – Spirit Family Reunion

Main Stage

2:00 pm - Sam Grow
4:30 pm – Blackberry Smoke


Destination: Beautiful

May 22nd, 2014 at 11:54 am by under THRS Live Music, Uncategorized

This week is Mae week or , more appropriately, #maeweek.  It marks the 10th anniversary of their ground-breaking album, Destination: Beautiful and Destination: B-Sides.  To commemorate this event, Spartan Records – their label- has been releasing very limited special vinyl editions every day.  Each day, 100 copies of different color varieties have been released and quickly snapped up.  As of right now, Thursday’s edition has yet to go on sale but when it does, it will sell out quick!  So keep up with Spartan Records at this link to get yours and if you miss out, no worries – there is always Friday.

The band - Dave Elkins, Zach Gehring, Jacob Marshall, Mark Padgett and Rob Sweitzer – will be performing a live StageIt show Saturday, June 7 at 9p EST.  This will be there first time performing together since their trio of anniversary shows last year.  They have been keeping themselves busy on their own respective projects.  Dave has a new project called Schematic and released Color (n.) Inside The Lines.  Zach started a new band called Demons and they are currently recording an EP.  Jacob has been busy managing The Last Bison and Jake Clemons as well as starting the incredible Global Citizen project.  Mark has been working behind the board, producing, engineering and mixing.  He recently engineered and mixed Revery’s new album, Adora De Phonic and Rob is a member of Logan Vath’s band, The Vacant.

Click this link to get your ticket to the StageIt show and rumor has it that they will have a special announcement during the broadcast.



Save The Virginia Reggae Festival

May 21st, 2014 at 7:47 am by under THRS Live Music

The Virginia Reggae community is a strong one.  With many talented, original musicians such as EVER-G, United Souls, RastaMiles and many more – it’s no wonder that they hold an all-day festival and awards show.  Last year, I was honored by receiving their media award – which I display proudly on my desk at work.

This year’s festival is scheduled for this Sunday but yesterday they were hit with some news.  Due to the incidents at a last week’s Reggae festival (which was put on by a different organization) at Buckroe Beach, the Hampton Police Department informed the Virginia Reggae Festival that they would be required to pay the cost of 16 officers at the event at $10,000, with $5000 due by Friday afternoon.  This is a big blow to this event – which is family, friendly festival – that doesn’t have the monetary funds to the provide the Hampton PD.  They want this event to go on and they need your help.

They are asking for a simple donation of $10 to help cover the cost.  Just click on this link to donate.

Let’s help out this great event!  Irie!reggaeaward