About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn has been a music lover her entire life. She went to college in Boone, NC, an area that is rich in music and culture. She also worked as a radio deejay for 8 years and grew up in Southeastern, Va, a melting pot of different musical styles and traditions. She has been to more concerts than she can count in every genre you can imagine. She resides in North Carolina with her furbabies and her massive collection of Disney memorabilia.

6 Non-Music Things To Do In Nashville

7 Non-Music Things To Do In Nashville
Music City isn’t just all about the music

Nashville – the home of all things country music. In fact, just try mentioning the place without someone saying Dolly Parton or Kenny Rogers and see how far you get. It’s the Mecca of country music and for many fans, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see where the magic takes place. But for every avid country music fan visiting the Grand Ole Opry or the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, there’s a family member that’s tagging along and quite possibly bored out of their mind. 

Well, thankfully Nashville isn’t just the home of country music. It’s actually a pretty great city to visit with plenty of things to do. So forget Dolly and Kenny (yeah that’s not going to happen is it?), from checking out giraffes to playing a hand of Texas Holdem, here are 6 great non-music related things to do in Nashville.

Head To The Zoo

Yes, there’s a zoo in Nashville. Well, it’s located in Grassmere, about 6 miles from Downtown but if you have a car, then it’s pretty close. The zoo is one of the best in the area and is home to around 339 species of animals. 340 if you include the visitors. There are over 6,000 individual animals and they are all really well looked after.

What’s great about this zoo is that it’s laid out in such a way that it’s incredibly easy to get around not to mention relaxing. Did you know that it is the state of Tennessee’s most popular paid attraction? That’s a record not to be sniffed at considering that the Country Music Hall of Fame is just down the road. If animals are your thing, then this should definitely be on your itinerary. 

Hitch A Ride To A Casino

There are no casinos in Nashville so if you want to go all Kenny Rogers and play some poker like the Gambler (sorry, musical reference!) then you have to hitch a ride out of state. It’s such a popular thing to do that there are companies that organize luxury transport from Nashville directly to the poker tables of Harrah’s or Tropicana Casino. They pick you up in the morning and drop you back in the evening. You can play everything from slot machines to roulette but there’s only one game you should be playing and we all know that’s poker, right?

Now, you may think you know how to play poker and maybe you do. But for those of you that think it’s all about luck, we’ve got news for you – It ain’t! Poker is a game of strategy and you’re not going to get anywhere playing your cards close to your chest and throwing what you think is a poker stare at your opponents. Nope, if you want to hold your own at the table, then you’ll really want to have at least a basic understanding of the rules and hand values. If you want to try your luck, then stick with the slots!

Learn About Science

7 Non-Music Things To Do In Nashville
The Center is situated on a hill overlooking the city

Photo credit: Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Science rocks but you already know that. What you probably don’t know is that Nashville is home to the Adventure Science Center. This is a non-profit science museum that is actually a place for people of all ages to learn about the wonders of science. Here you can learn about beekeeping, have fun in the adventure tower, pick up some interesting facts about space and the universe, or sit outside in the Galactic Gardens. The best activity though has to be Virtual Reality. That’s so much fun and well worth a look. 

Even if science isn’t really your thing, the center is a great place to go as the views of the city are pretty spectacular. Nah, forget that, this place is amazing, so get back inside and check out the planetarium or one of the many temporary exhibits that are held throughout the year. 

Visit Andrew Jackson’s Plantation

You know Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the US? Yes, that Andrew Jackson. Well, his former plantation is called The Hermitage and is located and easy ten-mile drive from Downtown Nashville. You may be wondering why you’d want to visit what is essentially and old farm but the thing is, The Hermitage is so much more than a plantation. 

This is a chance to step back in time and learn about the inner workings of the former president’s plantation. There are guided tours that take you through the plantation and the museum, while you can also wander around a bit yourself if you’re feeling a little more adventurous. If you’re feeling tired from all that country music stuff you’ve been doing downtown, then there’s a nice wagon tour that’s highly recommended. 

Gawk At Old Cars

7 Non-Music Things To Do In Nashville
Some of the incredible cars in the Lane Motor Museum

Photo credit: Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

If you like old cars and motorbikes, then you’re going to love Lane Motor Museum. It’s a non-profit museum established by Jeff Lane in 2002. He’s a local car enthusiast who loves nothing more than finding old cars and restoring them to their former glory. 

The museum is home to over 150 cars and motorcycles and the largest collection of European cars in the United States and known as one of the top car museums in the country. You’ll find cars there from all over the world and there are even a few old prototypes that never went into production. Their claim to fame at this museum is that every car and motorcycle in the building is in perfect working order. Even for non-car enthusiasts, it’s quite an interesting way to spend an afternoon. 

The Honorable Mention

The honorable mention has to go to Madame Tussauds. Even though the Nashville location is pretty much totally musically-orientated, it’s a fine spot for some fun and photos. Yeah, I know this is supposed to be non-music stuff but where else can you get a photo of Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and Katy Perry? They even have Bono, too.

So there you have it. Whether it’s a day trip to the casino for a few hands of poker, or an afternoon spent checking out the largest collection of European cars on this side of the Atlantic, there are plenty of things to do in Nashville that don’t revolve around the Grand Ole Opry. Now, there’s no excuses for being bored even if country music isn’t your thing.

5 Of The Best Fitness Apps

5 Of The Best Fitness Apps | Eat Play Rock
Mobile apps can be a great way to take advantage of your ever-present mobile phone to increase your fitness

Photo by Stocksnap / Pixabay License

Making fitness a part of your life is mostly about routine. Healthy eating and exercise need to become a regular part of your life in order for you to be able to properly commit to them. One easy way to build that routine is to take advantage of the other thing that is a major part of everyone’s life: the smartphone.

Your phone is almost always on you and, with the range of fitness apps available, you can use it to build exercise routines, remind you to do them, track your food intake and break that intake down into specific data, such as calories or nutrients.

The only downside to using apps is the sheer number of them you have to choose from. There are literally thousands on the market and it can be hard to know which ones are the right ones for you.

To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the top five best fitness apps you can use on your mobile phone.


MyFitnessPal has risen to become one of the most widely recognized and popular fitness apps available on mobile. The reason for its popularity is that it works well and has a fantastic range of features. 

You can track your calories with the calorie counter, add in food by scanning the bar code, use different specific diet plans, and break your food intake down into macros. On the exercise side, MyFitnessPal allows you to log periods of exercise and connects with dozens of peripherals and other devices to help you track your exercise data.  

It might not have some of the finer detail of other, more specific apps, but few apps can match MyFitnessPal for pure, all-round, usability.

5 Of The Best Fitness Apps | Eat Play Rock
Not everyone has the time to go to the gym, so bodyweight exercise and yoga apps are great for getting in an office or home workout to keep fit

Photo by lograstudio / Pixabay License


Sworkit is an exercise app that provides you with workout routines, an exercise planner, and fitness tracker. You can customize your workout schedule to fit your personal timetable and the app will provide you with daily routines to do, as well as a personalized 6-week program to get your fitness journey started.

There are thousands of pre-generated workouts for you to choose, from quick no-equipment office workouts to longer sessions that you can do on a day off or over the weekend, giving you the freedom to workout wherever and whenever.

You Are Your Own Gym

Not everyone has the time to go to the gym or the space to store gym equipment at home; You Are Your Own Gym, often shortened to YAYOG, solves that issue by giving users a range of over 200 bodyweight-only exercises, that are organized into different categories.

These bodyweight routines come with instructional videos, so you can see them in action, and are great for people who need to fit exercise into a busy work routine.

5 Of The Best Fitness Apps
Gamifying exercise is a growing trend in fitness apps, because nothing gets you running quite as fast as being chased by a horde of zombies

Photo by Free-photos / Pixabay License

Pocket Yoga

One of the major benefits of yoga is that is can be done with limited space and no equipment, ideal for space-starved travelers, office workers, or really anyone who spends a lot of their time sitting in a chair.

Pocket Yoga gives you the added benefit of having a miniature yoga instructor with you at all times. The app gives detailed voice and video instructions to help you through the poses and breaking exercises, and 200 beautifully illustrated images to make sure you are entirely sure what you are doing.

Zombies, Run!

Getting the motivation to run, especially after a long day at work, can be difficult. Zombies, Run! Solves that problem by providing you with an interesting narrative and the motivation of running from a horde of the shambling undead.

Getting more of the story requires you to not get caught by the zombie horde and that means running at a certain pace for a set amount of time. Zombies, Run! has over 300 story missions and a variety of different interactive play modes, similar to other AR games like Pokemon Go. The app does all the usual running app functions, like tracking distance, heart rate and time.

Zombies, Run! is great at giving you the motivation to run and something to concentrate on other than you aching legs, but it’s probably not the best app to use if you are running at night!

*This post contains collaborative content.

9 New Downton Abbey Character Posters #DowntonAbbeyFilm

9 New Downton Abbey Character Posters #DowntonAbbeyFilm

Who is as excited for the forthcoming Downton Abbey film as I am? I remember when I watched the series, I informed my family that from then on they were to start referring to me as “Me lady.” I am shocked to say that for some ridiculous reason they weren’t having it. Oh well… If you are into elaborate courtships, being referred to as British high class society and the epic side eye and biting sarcasm that is Violet Crawley, this is your year! Downton Abbey is coming to theaters on September 20, 2019. Grab your afternoon tea and check out the trailer and 9 new Downton Abbey character posters below.

9 New Downton Abbey Character Posters #DowntonAbbeyFilm

9 New Downton Abbey Character Posters #DowntonAbbeyFilm
9 New Downton Abbey Character Posters #DowntonAbbeyFilm
9 New Downton Abbey Character Posters #DowntonAbbeyFilm
9 New Downton Abbey Character Posters #DowntonAbbeyFilm

Story: The television series Downton Abbey followed the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who worked for them at the turn of the 20th century in an Edwardian English country house.  Over its 6 seasons, the series garnered 3 Golden Globe Awards, 15 Primetime Emmy Awards, 69 Emmy nominations in total, making Downton Abbey the most nominated non-US television show in the history of the Emmys – even earning a Special BAFTA award and a Guinness World Record for the highest critically rated TV show along the way.  

Director:  Michael Engler

Writer: Julian Fellowes

Producers: Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge, Julian Fellowes

9 New Downton Abbey Character Posters #DowntonAbbeyFilm
9 New Downton Abbey Character Posters #DowntonAbbeyFilm
9 New Downton Abbey Character Posters #DowntonAbbeyFilm
9 New Downton Abbey Character Posters #DowntonAbbeyFilm

Cast:  Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Kevin Doyle, Joanne Froggatt, Matthew Goode, Harry Hadden-Paton, David Haig, Geraldine James, Robert James-Collier, Simon Jones, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Tuppence Middleton, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lesley Nicol, Kate Phillips, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton

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2019 Louder Than Life Lineup + Win 4 GA Weekend Passes [US, Ends 7/3]

2019 Louder Than Life Lineup + Win 4 GA Weekend Passes

Louder Than Life is coming to Louisville, KY, September 27-29. This year’s acts include Guns N’ Roses, Slipknot, Ice Cube, Godsmack, Disturbed, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Breaking Benjamin, Stone Temple Pilots and so many more and here is your chance to WIN 4 GA weekend passes to the music festival!

2019 Louder Than Life Lineup + Win 4 GA Weekend Passes

Who is ready to rock? I don’t know about you, but I have not seen a lot of these bands yet, so I am ready to blow this popsicle stand and get to this music festival right now. But, alas, it’s not til September. What?! Oh well, that gives us plenty of time to plan, doesn’t it? 😉

And I am so ready to rock 80s Guns N’ Roses style. I might even tease my hair for this event. And you guys know I don’t fix my hair, so that’s saying something.

2019 Louder Than Life Lineup + Win 4 GA Weekend Passes

I gotta be honest. I am most excited about Guns ‘N Roses and Ice Cube. And Epicenter made me a new fan of Motionless In White, so they definitely are now on my priority list for Louder Than Life. Who are you most excited about seeing? Secure yourself some tickets today before this bad boy sells out or take your chances and try to win some below.

2019 Louder Than Life Lineup + Win 4 GA Weekend Passes

Win 4 Louder Than Life GA Weekend Passes

Here is your chance to win 4 General Admission Weekend Passes to Louder Than Life Music Festival. So enter now and maybe in September you will be packing up your favorite friends to check out this epic rock festival in Kentucky. Be sure to come back daily for the free entry. This giveaway is open to the US and ends on July 3. Eat Play Rock is not responsible for prize fulfillment. Prize delivery will be via Louder Than Life Music Festival. Best of luck!

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2019 Louder Than Life Lineup + Win 4 GA Weekend Passes

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6 Music Themed Restaurants In Myrtle Beach

6 Music Themed Restaurants In Myrtle Beach

On Thursday I am headed back to Myrtle Beach to go to Carolina Country Music Fest. Last year was my first time attending and I tried to keep the restaurants music related to make it a whole themed trip. Because I am cool like that. If you are like me, and I might be making your acquaintance at this year’s music festival, be sure to check out my favorite music themed restaurants in Myrtle Beach and plan your food festivities accordingly.

6 Music Themed Restaurants In Myrtle Beach

Hard Rock Cafe – If you haven’t been to Myrtle Beach in a few years, you might not know that Hard Rock Cafe changed locations. They used to be in the pyramid building but now they are at Broadway at the Beach. I asked why they moved and was told that they are trying to streamline the look of the Hard Rock Cafes, to make them more uniform, so that the focus can be more on the music. So RIP pyramid and hello brand new Hard Rock Cafe.

I always buy and/or trade souvenir pins when I go to Hard Rock Cafe and now have quite the collection. Unfortunately, I never got one at Gatlinburg before they closed down that location, so if any of you want to hook me up with one, I sure won’t be saying no. 😉

Wahlburgers – I remember when I went to Coney Island a few years ago and laid my eyes on my first Wahlburgers [a franchise co-owned by Paul, Donnie and Mark Wahlberg]. It wasn’t completed yet but I had been watching the show [still do] so I was at least familiar with the franchise. Fast forward to last year and I finally got to eat at one – in Myrtle Beach. If you are able to make it, be sure to order something with “government cheese.” Soooo good.

And for any of you who might not consider this restaurant to be “music themed” I beg to differ. Who can forget about New Kids On The Block and Marky Mark? In the restaurant, you’ll find tons of memorabilia from their music days [as well as their acting careers] hanging around for you to peruse.

House Of Blues – Some of my absolute favorite memories of Myrtle Beach include House of Blues. I remember one time, a few years ago, leaving for Myrtle Beach kind of late and being really exhausted when we finally got there. So, we headed over to House of Blues for the Murder Mystery Dinner Theater and then we hung around to listen to the Journey tribute band that was playing afterwards. It was the perfect way to relax after a 5 hour car ride.

And last year during Carolina Country Music Fest, we tried out the Sunday Gospel Brunch for the first time. I know that many of you who are attending this year’s music festival will be looking for Sunday church. Why not go to House of Blues? There you will find amazing gospel music singers and a buffet full of fantastic southern food. If you really want to immerse yourself in southern culture, be sure to try chicken and waffles. It was a first for me [even though I am from the south] and I left a fan.

Margaritaville – Anytime I travel, I make it a point to stop by Margaritaville. And, after years of promising me they would soon have them available for purchase, they finally have souvenir pins. I believe I now have pins from both the Pigeon Forge and Myrtle Beach locations. But I will be checking my pin collection before I head out to make sure. Otherwise I will be picking up one on this trip.

Anyway, who doesn’t love Jimmy Buffett? Even if you don’t love his music, if you are headed to a beach, you are probably down with his vibe. Seriously though, if you don’t love “Come Monday” can we even be friends?

The Bowery – I mean, come on people! How can you go to the 5th annual Carolina Country Music Fest, where Alabama will be playing Thursday night by the way, without going to The Bowery? Did I mention it’s Alabama’s 50th year and they got their start at the legendary Bowery. Plus, it’s located right next to the music festival. So, if you aren’t driving, you don’t even have to worry about paying the Uber fare. Just walk on over. Convenience. I got you. 😉

I stopped in last year and you can trust that I will stop in again this year. Who knows? Alabama might even drop by The Bowery, too!

Dave and Buster’s – I am throwing Dave and Buster’s in, too, because they have music themed games and the TVs play music videos that you can watch while eating. So, even though it might not be predominately music themed, they offer enough that I think all of you music aficionados will still really enjoy the atmosphere there. Plus, they have really good food and offer money saving deals on food and game combos. I recommend joining their email list for specials.

And did I mention cocktails? Dave and Buster’s has some super fun drinks to choose from, too, many that come with fun monsters on the side! Yes, I am an overgrown child. 😉

These are just some of the music themed restaurants that I have tried out in Myrtle Beach and, of course, I haven’t been everywhere. Do you have a favorite to suggest that I missed? I’d love to hear about it if you do!h

Still don’t have your tickets for Carolina Country Music Fest? What the heck, people? Get on it already before they run out and you are left sitting at home, watching my Instagram for updates!

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival

A couple of weekends ago, I went to the inaugural Epicenter Music Festival [RIP Carolina Rebellion] in Rockingham, NC. It was my first time camping at a music festival and I really enjoyed the chance to experience it. Even though much of the festival was shut down due to severe weather, I met all kinds of cool people and also some weirdos as one typically does at any public event. It was definitely the music festival where I learned the most and I wanted to share these things below for those of you who may be venturing out to your own festivals this summer.

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival

I Really Dig Motionless In White – I had never heard of the band, “Motionless In White” before this festival. But they looked cool and I thought I would catch their show and see what I thought. When they started singing “Necessary Evil,” I was like what…. they totally sampled Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party.” I really enjoy when acts do that and do it well. So, when I got home, I listened to that song a few more times and have to say, I really like it. Though I didn’t get to see many acts at Epicenter Music Festival, Motionless In White was definitely my favorite.

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival
Rob Zombie [photo courtesy Darren Menius]

It’s Better To Bring Your Own Bathroom Facilities To A Festival – Porta potties are naaaaaaasty. And they are even nastier when people have been drinking. Waking up in the middle of the night having to pee is bad enough. But how many of you can guarantee you can walk like a mile away to the nasty porta potty before you have an accident? That doesn’t seem like a game I want to play. Also, showers at Epicenter Music Festival were $10 each. Mama don’t have that kind of dough. So solutions needed to be found.

I avoided all this drama by bringing my own way to bathe and use the restroom thanks to my friends at Bass Pro Shops! I had a really cool set up with the PUP [Portable Pop Up Tent] so the bathroom facilities weren’t in my tent. It was super easy to set up – I did it all by myself in just a few minutes. I staked it down and it held up great when the storm hit [more on that in a minute], receiving no damage at all.

Inside the pop up tent, I had a Cabela’s Camp Commode Camping Toilet. It just unfolds and you hook a bag under the bottom and go. I used the WAG Bag Kit. These bags are filled with something similar to kitty litter, I imagine, that turns whatever you do into a solid. When you are done, just throw the bag in the trash and that’s that. No getting lost in the middle of the night, trying to find a porta potty.

I highly recommend getting one of these set ups from Bass Pro Shops. Check out the rest of their camping gear and please let me know of other great camping supplies that this novice camper needs to pick up for my next music festival.

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival
Photo courtesy Darren Menius

I Should Have Left My House Earlier – Epicenter Music Festival officially started on Friday [5/10] but you could get to the camp site on the Thursday before and take part in pre-festival fun [music, etc]. I fully intended to leave bright and early Thursday morning to head to Rockingham, but my neighbor was getting a roof put on her house and the noise was driving my dogs nuts so I didn’t want to leave them like that.

I finally left my house about noon on Friday. And this was a decision I would later regret. I stopped to pick up some things on the way and ended up making it to within 5 miles of the festival at 3:15pm, where traffic came to a complete stand still. By the time I got to Will Call to pick up my media passes and then to the camp site, it was 10:30 pm that night! I could have still seen Korn, but I was just too tired to bother at that point. I still had a fun day, though, as people seemed pretty chill in the stand still traffic. Several people were just walking around, chatting it up with others still in their cars. So I wasn’t “alone” for 7 hours. But it would have been better had I made better decisions. Though I have been to music festivals in the past, this was my first time camping, and this was a learning experience in better time management and decision making.

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival
Killswitch Engage [photo courtesy Darren Menius]

There Is No Good Way Into Epicenter Music Festival – Having said that about my poor time management skills, I want to add that there is only one road into the festival grounds. One. So, of course, it wasn’t all my fault it took so long to get into the festival. I have seen many, many people talk about how Epicenter Music Festival should have planned for this traffic. I have to say though, this festival is at Rockingham Speedway. If they never worked on building better infrastructure when the race was still there, I am doubting they will now, so this may just be what we have to work with. So, again, it comes back to me leaving the house earlier.

Female Solo Travel Is Awesome – I set up my own tent [except for the top part – a kind gentleman in the tent next to mine got that for me]. It was my first time setting it up and I was making a simple mistake so I anticipate no more problems here forward. I packed my own car. I set up my own shower tent. I drove myself to the festival and took care of myself the entire weekend. All of this I did by myself, without having to wait on anyone else who might be late, without having to worry about what someone else wants to do, without having to think about anyone else at all. I have to admit, it was one of the most fun trips that I have ever taken because I could just do whatever I wanted without worrying about someone else and their needs the entire time. I just did me.

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival
Photo courtesy Darren Menius

Always Strap Your Tent Down – When I set my tent up Saturday morning, it was beautiful and sunny. I am not an experienced camper [yet] so I consulted one of my neighbors asking if I should stake the tent down. He said that he didn’t feel that I needed to if I had heavy things inside weighing it down. So, I had a cooler in there a few other things and I thought that would be ok. It was not.

When the storm hit later that night, I almost lost my tent. Seriously, I caught it just as it was about to fly away. I then got out of my car [all this in the middle of the storm, of course] and tied the tent to my car door. Then I had to hang my arm outside of my car for like 10 minutes holding on to one of the tent rods to make sure it didn’t go adios. I have to say, my tent, given all of my idiocy [aka learning experience] held up like a beast! It suffered no damage at all! I highly recommend the Coleman 5-Person Instant Dome Tent for any of you inexperienced campers like me. You will make mistakes. You want the tent that can take it. Trust.

Frozen Apples Are The Bomb – I packed all of my own food for Epicenter Music Festival. Trying to keep in mind that things need to stay cold to last, I decided to freeze some apple slices before packing them in the cooler. I am not a huge apple fan, but I will definitely freeze some for my camping trips in the future. They are ridiculously tasty and refreshing on a hot day. Apples are WAY better frozen. Yum.

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival
Foo Fighters [photo courtesy Darren Menius]

There Is No Safe Place When Severe Weather Strikes – Epicenter Music Festival was evacuated on Saturday night due to incoming severe weather. I have to admit, the sky didn’t look all that threatening when the warning came over the loud speakers, cutting off Black Label Society about 2 songs in. But I did as I was told, evacuating the festival and going back to my car as instructed.

Then all hell broke loose. Some say we had a tornado nearby. I don’t know about all that, but I do know that we had one crazy thunderstorm. I spent 10 or so minutes holding onto my tent for dear life while many others weren’t so lucky. There are some people who are now blaming Epicenter Music Festival for their inability to see bands [i.e. Tool] later that night. Personally, I am not going to die to see anyone. I really, really, really wanted to see Bush, who was supposed to play in the time slot during the evacuation but that’s the way it goes. Perhaps I will get my chance some other time.

I feel like if you are at a music festival [or any huge gathering of people] you are choosing to take certain risks. That’s just the way it is. Epicenter Music Festival can’t control the weather anymore than I can. And, even if I were at home, I couldn’t guarantee my safety if a tornado struck. It’s just reality. If we can’t live with this, then perhaps a music festival isn’t the place for us.

Check out my interview with 311’s Nick Hexum here.

Check out more of Darren Menius’ pictures from Epicenter Music Festival here.

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311’s Nick Hexum Talks New Album “Voyager” & Epicenter Music Festival

311's Nick Hexum Talks New Album "Voyager" & Epicenter Music Festival

Epicenter Music Festival is next week and 311 will be there, bringing massive hits like “Down” and “All Mixed Up” and perhaps new material off of their upcoming album, “Voyager” (out June 28). Singer and guitarist, Nick Hexum, talks to us today about their new album, the origin of their name, Epicenter Music Festival and much more.

311’s Nick Hexum Talks New Album “Voyager” & Epicenter Music Festival

EPR: 311 got their name due to a streaking incident involving one of the then bandmembers, that got him arrested. Was it a dare? Did his buddies come to his rescue or just let him think about what he had done?

Nick Hexum: Well, only P-Nut was there but as I understand it, it was daytime shenanigans because there was no school that day.  It was spring and the pool was closed.  Someone was dared to jump the fence and skinny dip. He got caught and was brought home to mom, naked, cuffed, and given a “311” ticket!  (“311″ being Omaha police code for “indecent exposure”).

311's Nick Hexum Talks New Album "Voyager" & Epicenter Music Festival

EPR: 311 has been around for many years when the majority of bands that were coming up about the same time are long gone. What is your secret to not losing that artistry and creativeness that makes it still possible to perform and make quality music?

Nick Hexum: For me, I work hard to keep that sense of wonder about exploring new music. That means you keep exposing yourself to new stuff and not become the grumpy old guy that only likes the old stuff. We stay excited about music and that makes it exciting to listen to. Cannabis helps keep that youthful sense of wonder!

EPR: Early in your career, 311 lost all of their equipment in an RV fire. How did you not just say “forget this!” and pack it up then?

Nick Hexum: Because we had a gig the next night! And then like six more left on the tour. So, we just needed to borrow instruments and amps to get through it. We rented a car on my credit card and made it back home. Then, I found a guy to lend us money to buy a much safer RV and some new gear.  Our record company didn’t offer to help us so we had to do it ourselves.  That’s ok they got their comeuppance. But no, we never considered giving up. We were having way too much fun!

EPR: What can you tell us about your new album, “Voyager” coming out later this year?

Nick Hexum: I feel it is another exciting step forward. We boldly go into some new territory! I think the title “Voyager” is quite fitting because we see ourselves as musical explorers.

EPR: Do you hang around to watch the other bands at music festivals?

Nick Hexum: Yes, we’ve made so many great friends with other bands. I love to watch other bands to get inspired. There is some kick-ass heavy music on Epicenter Fest!

Catch 311 at Epicenter Music Festival [5/11] and check out the rest of their tour dates here.

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Robert Earl Keen Talks Willie Nelson, Tyler Childers & The Texas Music Scene

Robert Earl Keen Talks Willie Nelson, Tyler Childers & The Texas Music Scene

You can’t be a real fan of the Texas music scene if you aren’t familiar with Robert Earl Keen. A member of the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame, Keen’s musical influences span many genres and include talented musicians, making his style both interesting and hard wrap in a neat package at the same time. Today, Robert Earl Keen talks to us about his musical influences, the Texas Music Scene and his badass sister, the foosball queen.

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Win A Bumblebee Bluray/DVD [US Ends 4/21]

Win A Bumblebee Bluray/DVD [US Ends 4/21]
“I’m all out of love. I’m so lost without you…”

Have you seen Bumblebee yet? If not, it is now out on Bluray, DVD and Digital! The cool 80s setting and soundtrack of the movie inspired me to hunt down some long lost Bumblebee glamour shot outtakes from a photo shoot way back. 😉 Enjoy! And don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Bumblebee, starring Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena, below! Good luck!

“Bumblebee” Starring Hailee Steinfeld & John Cena Is Out Today On Bluray/DVD

CYBERTRON has fallen. When OPTIMUS PRIME sends BUMBLEBEE to defend Earth, his journey to become a hero begins. Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenager trying to find her place in the world, discovers and repairs the battle-scarred robot, who’s disguised as a Volkswagen Beetle. As the DECEPTICONS hunt down the surviving AUTOBOTS with the help of a secret agency led by Agent Burns (John Cena), BUMBLEBEE and Charlie team up to protect the world in an action-packed adventure that’s fun for the whole family.  The film is rated PG-13.

Win A Bumblebee Bluray/DVD [US Ends 4/21]
“I didn’t mean to miss your birthday baby…”

I admit, I was weary of the new imagining of Transformers without Mark Wahlberg, just like I was when he came on board as a replacement. Change can be hard to accept. I was definitely wrong though. Hailee Steinfeld played an empathetic and troubled teen, Charlie, trying to find her place in her forever changed family after the loss of her dad. And you can’t help but love her.

Win A Bumblebee Bluray/DVD [US Ends 4/21]
“Turn around. every now and then I get a little bit lonely…”

My friend Jason watched Bumblebee with me and, as a huge Transformers collector as a child, he was pretty excited about the throwback 80s versions of both the Transformers and Decepticons in this installment in the franchise. I have to admit, they do look really cool. And, naturally, the soundtrack is radical, gnarly, bodacious and all that other mess we used to say back in the 80s, too.

Win A Bumblebee Bluray/DVD [US Ends 4/21]
“God bless the rains down in Africa…”
Win A Bumblebee Bluray/DVD [US Ends 4/21]
“Hello. Is it me you’re looking for?”

For me, the real stars of this show are, of course, Bumblebee and Hailee Steinfeld, but John Cena makes a great “bad guy” who you can actually still like, too. I feel that any movie that he is part of is made better by his presence. It’s also nice to see another wrestler giving The Rock a run for his money.

Win A Bumblebee Bluray/DVD [US Ends 4/21]

Win A Copy Of “Bumblebee” Starring Hailee Steinfeld & John Cena On Bluray/DVD

Be sure to pick up a copy of Bumblebee on Bluray/DVD today and check out all of these cool toys at a retailer near you: DJ Bumblebee, Bumblebee Stinger Blaster, Transformers: Bumblebee — Energon Igniters Nitro Series and the Transformers: Bumblebee — Energon Igniters Power Plus Series. Don’t forget to enter to WIN a copy of Bumblebee on Bluray/DVD below. This giveaway is open to the US and ends on 4/21. Be sure to come back daily for more chances to win! Good luck!

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An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

Foreigner is one of the most successful rock bands in the history of the universe. Recently I got to chat with Tom Gimbel, who shared with us about some of the philanthropic things Foreigner is doing for school music programs as well as the very generous donation the band made to Shriners Hospital for Children. Did you know that Tom Gimbel is a certified golf instructor and he’s also a formally trained musician? Read on to learn all kinds of cool stuff in our interview with Tom Gimbel. Oh, and see where he pranked me!

Tom Gimbel: We are headed your way and it sounds so delightful after the frozen, Cold As Ice tour of Canada.

EPR: It’s actually been cold here [North Carolina] a lot, too, but it’s starting to warm up finally.

Tom Gimbel: I’m sure it’s warmer. Anything above 0 is going to be really warm.

EPR: Well, you named your tour appropriately, so…

Tom Gimbel: Yeah! I like both. No, we are changing it. It’s going to be the Colder Than Ice tour. I’m not a physicist, but I think ice is 32 degrees. Right? We’ve been cruising around at around 0. 32 would be balmy.

EPR: Foreigner is headed overseas in the summer, though, right?

Tom Gimbel: We do that almost every year, yes.

EPR: Is there anywhere that you have wanted to tour before that you haven’t made it to yet? After years of touring, I would think that you have been to most places but is there somewhere that you have missed along the way?

Tom Gimbel: I do feel like I have been around the world a few times over the years with all of the different configurations in the bands that I have worked with. I haven’t been everywhere. I haven’t been to Antarctica. That might be kind of fun since I’m used to the cold now.

EPR: That might be a little rough after Canada. Maybe you need to thaw out first?

Tom Gimbel: I didn’t get totally acclimated. Yeah, it’s no problem, as long as you’re inside [laughs]. There are probably some other places if I thought about it, but we’ve been to Russia, we’ve been to China. We were just in Hong Kong. We did a marvelous benefit there for a children’s orphanage. Gosh, South America, so many times. Peru, Columbia, and everywhere in between. Of course, around the States so many times. I really feel like most of the places I would have wanted to go, I’ve done. We recently did the Royal Albert Hall in London, England and the Opera House in Sydney, Australia. We played there with a symphony orchestra and we did our orchestral versions. It’s been a wild ride. I feel like we have made most of the stops, not to mention Carnegie Hall. Our acoustic set was at Carnegie Hall. It’s really been fantastic.

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

That Moment I Got Pranked By Tom Gimbel

EPR: You are also a certified golf instructor, too, right?

Tom Gimbel: Yes, absolutely.

EPR: Do you get to do a lot of that in the summer?

Tom Gimbel: I used to but we’ve been so busy that I am lucky if I get a chance to sneak out and play in the summer. We do like to get out there and work at it. I like teaching because you can fix your own flaws. We make a video and we look at it and know what to look for.

EPR: Am I correct in that you got your love of golf initially from playing in celebrity gold tournaments? And, if so, who was someone that you liked pairing up with most of all?

Tom Gimbel: I remember the time I was paired up with Sean Connery and Jack Nicholson. [Tom does a decent impersonation of Jack Nicholson] And Jack Nicholson was like “I’m so terrible with golf…firecracker, firecracker, sis boom bah. Have a really good game and then we’ll all go to the spa!”

EPR: Were you paired with both of them on the same day? That had to be crazy.

Tom Gimbel: No, I made that up.

EPR: You got me! [I totally believed him!]

Tom Gimbel: [Tom does a spot on impersonation of Sean Connery] “Oh yes! They all laughed at me when I first attempted to play 007.”

EPR: Stop it! [laughs] No, I’m just picking.

Tom Gimbel: You never know who you are talking to. Some people might not even know who those are. [Tom impersonates Sean Connery again] “The movie stars from your era are different from mine.”

EPR: Oh no, I definitely know who they are. But did you really get paired up with someone on the golf course that you really enjoyed working with?

Tom Gimbel: Sure, Blaine McCallister, he’s a golf pro. He plays on the senior tour so I got to play in a Pro-Am, where the amateurs play with the professionals and he was our professional. I couldn’t believe it, I was amazed. If I am talking about actual golf people, but you are talking about celebrities, right?

EPR: Well, I’m assuming that YOU would be the celebrity part of the pairing…

Tom Gimbel: I’ve met some interesting people. Do you know the singer called Sia?

EPR: The one that does the “Chandelier” song, right?

Tom Gimbel: Yeah, she’s got like a lampshade on her head.

EPR: Right.

Tom Gimbel: I played with her husband.

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

EPR: Cool. Was he good?

Tom Gimbel: Yeah, he was definitely good. That’s his full time job. He’s Sia’s husband. He is working on his golf a lot, I think. It’s just great to see all those people. It’s always for a fundraiser so it’s always charity based. And George Lopez does a marvelous fundraiser. And Vince Neil, the singer from Motley Crue, also does one. Golf is a really wonderful world and I encourage people, if they are interested, to check it out.

EPR: I don’t know that I can name too many artists like this but you were actually formally trained in music school, right? And what did you focus on in college?

Tom Gimbel: Yes, that’s true. I loved this Maynard Ferguson Big Band Jazz. He was Canadian and he would play these trumpet notes that were super high, a very powerful big band sound. So I was studying to be a big band composer and arranger. That was my major, but I was focused with the saxophone, really. I was lucky enough to work with one of the best teachers of all time Joe Viola, at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and he really got me started down the road of playing the saxophone like you’re singing. “Like it’s an instrument, like it’s a voice.” That’s what he said, “You have to develop a voice.”

So I was focused on that and I realized that my heart was in rock and roll. I’d been in rock bands ever since I was a kid, always playing electric guitar with drummers and other people. I always wanted to be in rock bands. So, even though I went to school for jazz, I realized that rock was my true calling and started being in bands again and, of course, earning money and trying to scratch out a living after I got out of college, playing in bands. It’s just been an automatic. It’s not like I chose music. Music chose me. And my blend of music is playing in rock bands. That’s what I’ve always been driven to do and I hope it’s what I’ll always do.

EPR: Speaking of bands, you are currently with Foreigner, but you also played and toured with Aerosmith. Tell us about that.

Tom Gimbel: I sure did. I did a couple of world tours with them and it was phenomenal. I have been so fortunate to work with such incredible talent like Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, the whole band. And then later Mick Jones, Lou Gramm, Foreigner, for probably 25 years now. The first 10 with Lou Gramm and then the second 15 with Kelly Hansen. So, it’s been an incredible journey for me. And I feel very blessed.

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

Tom Gimbel On The Band’s Enduring Success And Touring

EPR: You guys consistently make the top of lots of lists for like the “Most Downloads” and “Biggest Selling Artists of All Time” and such. I saw that you made the “Top 40 Best Selling Music Artists Of All Time.” I found it very cool, how many huge bands that you are ahead of. I saw you in concert with Def Leppard a few years ago and they were one of the bands that you surpassed. How does it feel to have outsold so many really great, talented bands, in their own right?

Tom Gimbel: Definitely. All bands at that level are great. That’s the correct word. I can’t even say “Def Leppard” without thinking of how monumental they are. I think when we talk about numbers, it’s just a numerical reflection of the staying power of the songs. People still like these songs. And there is something magical there that Mick Jones has created and, a lot of times, with Lou Gramm together, in the songwriting that…I’m not tired of these songs. We’ve done these songs over a thousand times, just since the band reformed in 2005. So there is another 12 years of playing before that.

For me, I’m not tired of these songs so I totally get it that people still like hearing them. People play them and their kids hear them and their kids say, “Oh, I am going to grab that song, too, and throw it on my playlist. I kind of like it. It gives me energy and it makes me want to dance around.” I can relate to the sentiment and the feeling. That’s a big part of the magic that’s in these songs, you can say, “I know what that feels like.”

EPR: That’s great that you haven’t tired of these songs because, for me, you just kind of put it into perspective. I’ve never really thought of the fact that you have played that song 1,000 times.

Tom Gimbel: And that’s just the performing. With rehearsals and sound checks it’s well over 2,000. I’d probably say at least 10,000 times. But I love them. I look forward to playing them every night.

EPR: Well maybe I can develop a little empathy for a band who doesn’t play my favorite song one night. [laughs]

Tom Gimbel: That’s the beauty of a Foreigner show because every song is a thing. I look forward to each one of them for different reasons. They are all equally good.

EPR: And my favorite song by Foreigner is “Urgent” and you definitely played that, so we’re good!

Tom Gimbel: Yeah! We start rocking and thumping and I grab the saxophone and start spinning around. I don’t even know who I am. It’s fun.

EPR: You guys have a really cool light show, too. I mean, I’ve been to hundreds of concerts but your light show stands out as one of my favorites. You used green lights and yellow lights and, for me, it just looked really cool as compared to other shows I have seen.

Tom Gimbel: Yeah, Mick Jones gets very involved with the light show and we like to give it an extra flavor. That’s part of the fun of coming to a concert. It’s not just the sound. But the sound is enough. You know, there’s no stereo, I tried at home with a big screen TV and a great stereo…you can’t come close to a great concert experience because of the enhanced sound and the lights also. You’re so right about that.

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

Foreigner’s Gift To Shriners Hospital For Children

EPR: Tell me about your gift to Shriners Hospital for Children. It’s really just amazingly generous.

Editor’s Note: Foreigner created a new music video, for their #1 hit song, “I Want To Know What Love Is,” featuring Mick, Kelly, and some Shriners children with all proceeds from the music download going to Shriners Hospitals. Foreigner also put together a new live version of their greatest hits, and are donating all proceeds to Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Tom Gimbel: That’s just the least we could do, really. I wish we could do more. Our history goes back a long way. We’ve been working with the Shriners and selling CDs and they help us put the song on the CDs at the shows and the profits go to Shriners. And we make donations to the local choirs. But the hospital itself is so incredible. There’s, I think, at least 20 now. They are such deserving people, they are totally innocent. They are so brave and so incredible. So we try to do whatever we can to work with the Shriners and we’ve done a nice bunch of work over the last 10 years. It just seems automatic. There’s always that situation where I wish we could do more.

How Foreigner’s Doing Their Part To Save School Music Programs

EPR: Tell me about the choirs you are featuring on your tour.

Tom Gimbel: We started a program a while back to try and raise awareness about music programs being taken out of schools, With these budget cuts, they just come in and say, “Oh, that’s it for music.” The children didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not like they were partying with a tuba or anything. They just come it one day and it’s, “All right, hand in your instruments. There’s no more school band.” The instruments go back and the music program is done. And I just think that’s a travesty. We all think that. Music and the arts are so important. So we just try to say, “Hey folks, if there is anything we can do, contact your Board of Education, PTA, is there such a thing as a PTA anymore?”

EPR: Yeah, I think so.

Tom Gimbel: I hope so. Yeah. Or the Superintendent of schools and the budget and we try to see if there is anything that we can do. So, for our part, we will have a local choir come and we make a donation to the music program. It sometimes helps them buy instruments, books or whatever they need. And they get some experience, being on stage with us. It’s really good, if they want to continue performing, to get a little bit of that experience. It’s under your belt and there is no substitute for it. You have to get up in front of a big crowd to get comfortable in front of a big crowd. There’s no way around it really. So we are happy to do that and it’s kind of a high point in the show to see the young people step up to the plate and really belt it out.

In the old days kids were shy about singing. My generation, especially at church, we kind of stared at our shoes and [mumbled] and it was the same at school. But nowadays young people are not shy. They will take the stage by storm. They will come out like gangbusters. “Yay! We’re here!” And we tell them to sing as loud as they can. And they belt it out and for me, sometimes it’s hard to hold back the tears.

See Foreigner TONIGHT at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and check out the rest of their tour schedule here.

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