Month: May 2014

The Sun City’s music icons

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In the early 1990s, from the dusty landscapes of far west Texas, there emerged a ragtag group of misfits, loners, screw-ups, and punks that desired to break free and create music unlike anything the region had seen.

Within this group of unlikely musical and cultural heroes were two talented kids, vocalist/lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, who didn’t set out to change music, a genre, or even anything. They were just bored with the status quo and sick of their hometown. But in their minds and hearts was a creative spark that was set to someday change the landscape of rock music.

In 1993, Bixler-Zavala and his childhood friend, guitarist Jim Ward, formed a band and named it At the Drive-In. Soon thereafter, Rodriguez-Lopez joined the group on lead guitar. Almost immediately, ATDI failed to find an audience pretty much anywhere – even in their hometown of El Paso, Texas, a sprawling metropolis of 600,000 people bordered by Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

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They played sparsely attended concerts at local high schools, bowling alleys, and studio apartments, rarely getting any appreciation or acclaim for their energetic, punk-rock efforts. ATDI put out three albums and/or EPs and went through numerous lineup changes before adding Paul Hinojos on bass and Tony Hajjar on drums.

ATDI was a blend of alternative rock, hardcore punk, and post-hardcore. The energy of the band was marvelous, with Bixler-Zavala doing somersaults on stage and prancing around like a maniac in between his high-tenor singing. By 1996, the band was slowly gaining popularity across the U.S., mostly due to the determination and perseverance of its members. In 1998, following a label change, ATDI started gaining momentum and released In/Casino/Out before embarking on a non-stop tour across America and, eventually, to Europe.

Many in the mainstream media were slowly discovering ATDI’s brilliance, with publications and magazines gushing about the band’s raw on-stage energy and their musical abilities (one magazine even called them “the next Nirvana”). In January 2000, ATDI went to Malibu, California, to record their album Relationship of Command, which was destined to become a cult classic.

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By this time, ATDI had finally hit the radio stations, and they were performing on national TV and on late night talk shows. They were developing a large following and were going as far as Japan and Australia to tour.

On November 12, 2000, during the tour, ATDI’s tour van was involved in a rollover crash. None of the band members were seriously hurt, but they were shaken up by the event. Meanwhile, the band members, especially Cedric and Omar, were growing weary of mainstream success and increasingly suspicious of the recording industry. They had an idea of being more progressive and genre-defying with their music, desiring a more ambitious and against-the-grain sound, a la Pink Floyd.

The band was exhausted by this point due to relentless touring, canceling several shows in Europe in early 2001. Cedric and Omar were slacking off during rehearsals and studio time, preferring to smoke crack or shoot up heroin with other friends rather than play the music that had brought them success.

In March 2001, mere weeks before another tour was set to start, ATDI broke up – or in their own words, they put the band on “indefinite hiatus.”

Cedric admittedly felt bad about the breakup. In the weeks and months that followed, he repeatedly placed the blame on himself in interviews, saying that he felt like ATDI was holding him back as a musician. Tony, Jim, and Paul liked the alternative rock sound, while Cedric and Omar wanted to pursue different genres and styles of rock. So, after a rocky road to semi-stardom, the members of ATDI went their separate ways….

 

(to be continued)

The next American sweetheart

Jennifer Lawrence.

She’s been everywhere the last few years – from winning an Oscar at age 20 for Silver Linings Playbook to portraying the Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen. From her goofy sense of humor to her beautiful looks, it’s hard not to like Lawrence. 

It’s become hilarious and heartwarming at the same time to see Lawrence, a native of Louisville, emerge as a bona fide star – just not in the way you’d expect. jennifer-lawrence-2013-academy-awards

Fame and fortune are elusive concepts, and it’s very easy to get caught up in both. Hollywood has a reputation for churning out annoying, arrogant, pretentious stars who become shells of themselves after years in the show business.

But then along comes a fresh face like Lawrence, a charming midwestern girl who graduated high school three years early in order to pursue her acting dreams. Not only is she exceptionally talented, she’s also funny and sincere.

It’s become almost comical seeing Lawrence at awards shows, in promotional interviews, and on late-night talk shows. She’s so energetic and lively, and her oddball humor is so endearing. You see interviews with her on YouTube and the comments below describe her as “adorable,” “sweet,” and “genuine.”

And that’s what has sustained Lawrence’s growing popularity. She’s so down-to-earth and genuine, not wanting to be anyone other than herself. In a world where the concept of celebrity envelopes people and makes them question their own identity, Lawrence stands out as someone who is true to who she is and what she wants to do. It’s very refreshing to see someone be relatively unaffected by money, power, and glory.

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Not many people can keep a level head when they’re one of the hottest names in the entertainment industry.

But Lawrence is one of them.