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Elton Sign Barclays

Electronic Sign Outside Barclay’s Center

The first time I saw Elton John live was at the bygone Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles in 1979.

This was a big deal for me as well as for my twin brother, Chris. We were 16. At that point the only other concerts we had ever seen were Fleetwood Mac on their Rumours tour in Miami [with Kenny Loggins and Chick Corea/Return to Forever] and Kiss on their Love Gun tour at the Forum in Los Angeles – while they were taping the Alive II album. Some upstarts called Cheap Trick opened for them, and we didn’t know what to make of them…yet.

We stole our dad’s ’67 Impala one night to check out the Kinks at the Universal Amphitheater a few months before the Elton show when they were out on their “Low Budget” tour. Dad is long gone now, and we never told him about that.

Anybody who knows me is aware that Elton John has been a major part of my life since I was a child – and my number one influence as a piano player. I have seen him seven or eight times.

The 1979 show was one of two early October shows at the Hollywood Bowl – part of Elton’s Back in the USSA tour supported only by percussionist Ray Cooper. I remember tripping out that the man himself was up on that stage – living and breathing – not very far away from where I was sitting in that  open-air environment. It was almost too wonderful for words.

If you ever told me that I’d be watching Elton perform on his farewell tour at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, I might not have believed it. But that’s what happened earlier this month. Call it full circle for me – forty years later. And I’ll be damned if Ray Cooper wasn’t there – this time with some of the other old guard, namely guitarist Davey Johnstone and drummer Nigel Olsson.

Elton played for three hours. It was surreal. The sound was excellent, and from our perch we had a clear view of the stage. We were far away, but smack dab in the middle of the mezzanine. The fact that this was to be the last time I would see him live made me savor each moment as best as my undiagnosed ADHD would allow. But I tried to be in the moment as much as possible. What a night!

This is the first installment of a series of blog posts about my recent trip to New York. More to come.

Alexakis HGTC1

With Casey King and Art Alexakis Photo: Gene Ho

On February 21, I went to see Everclear’s Art Alexakis tell his recovery story at the 12th annual Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series at Horry-Georgetown Technical College.

When he was growing up, Alexakis went through more than a kid should ever have to go through – raped by neighborhood teenagers when he was a pre-teen, a father who abandoned him and his older brother’s fatal overdose when Alexakis was 12. Not long after this, his girlfriend committed suicide.

He started shooting up at 13 and suffered a near-fatal cocaine overdose when he was 22.

Alexakis got his shit together well before he enjoyed success with Everclear, which was a staple on alternative rock radio in the 1990s with such hits as “Santa Monica (Watch the World Die)” and “Everything to Everyone.”

Event organizer and HGTC physics professor Casey King did a terrific job yet again this year. The event was well-attended, and Alexakis fielded thoughtful questions from audience members after his talk. It was also good to see photographer Gene Ho there again this year – memorializing the moments of the event and snapping attendees with Alexakis afterwards.

Gene was also Donald Trump’s campaign photographer. He is currently on a tour to support his book, TRUMPography, which chronicles the campaign with behind-the-scenes stories and, of course, photos.

Alexakis shared much of his story in a piece I wrote for The Sun News, the McClatchy affiliate here in Myrtle Beach. You can find that story HERE.

The Addiction and Recovery Lecture series is a four-part weekly event every year. It usually includes speakers, student panels and other presentations focused on recovery – with one night handled by a group called FAVOR, or Faces and Voices of Recovery, which is headed up by Dr. Victor Archambeau.  See my previous blog post for a FAVOR event last year.

Last night marked the third such event I have covered about Casey King, et. al., for The Sun News. Last year, it was Mackenzie Phillips and the year before, Danny Trejo.

I’m well into in my fourth year of recovery. Alexakis has been clean and sober since 1989. When a man with so much recovery time speaks, it’s a good idea to listen.

My takeaways from his talk included the importance of being present and aware, no matter how hard that may be. That rung a bell for me, because I catch myself overthinking “what-if” scenarios or “time traveling” – thinking about the future, say, a deadline or an upcoming gig – or beating myself up over some event in the past.

Alexakis also talked about channeling addictive tendencies into creative pursuits. I am on board with that, but sometimes that channeling impacts my ability to be present.