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Jelly Roll at Jiffy Lube Live

Arrested more than 40 times. Never made it out of the ninth grade. In many ways, he was destined to serve as a cautionary tale — either dead or serving a lifetime sentence for choices made as a youth.

Fortunately, Jason DeFord isn’t just another sad statistic. He overcame a troubled upbringing and is now one of the biggest names in music today.

Much to the delight of the 22,000 fans who sold out Jiffy Lube Live, the man known simply as Jelly Roll arrived in town for his latest stop on his tour. The show was particularly noteworthy for the Nashville native, he said, because it marked the most tickets sold for any of the shows on his tour to date.

Backroad Baptism Tour show No. 10 of 44 kicked off with Struggle Jennings followed by Ashley McBryde before each made way for the night’s main attraction. As he took to the stage, Jelly Roll had a mile-wide smile plastered on his face and it remained throughout his entire set.

Anyone who has seen the incredibly-moving documentary on his life, fittingly called Save Me, knows DeFord has struggled with self-worth for much of his life. In his words, he’s been a drug addict, a loser and a stealer. He’s been in and out of jail his entire life. To go from such lows to where he is now, with tens of thousands of adoring fans singing passionately along to his tunes, is all too surreal for the 38-year-old.

“Who’d have thought I could help people? Fuck. I still need help,” he said during the documentary.

This is why Jelly Roll and his band members have embraced a new tour motto of EDM, which stands for “Everything’s different now.”

The self-proclaimed king of white trash kicked things off with “The Lost,” a perfect tone setter off of his latest album, Whitsitt Chapel. As he belted out “I’m better with the lost than the found,” DeFord further illustrated why he’s so beloved by so many. After everything he’s been through, the man has something to say and it clearly resonates with others who have had to deal with their own shit. 

A night like this isn’t just a concert. It’s an opportunity for some emotional healing. It’s therapeutic for those who have dealt with more than their fair share of adversity. That’s why, when Jelly Roll dropped “Save Me” on YouTube during peak pandemic, it seemingly blew up overnight.

“I just looked up and it was at a million views,” he said during the documentary.

That moment legitimately changed the life of the man who has said, “If I wasn’t in music, I would be dead or in prison.”

Considering how rapidly his life has changed since then for the rapper-turned-rocker-turned-country-music-artist, no one can fault him for how brutally honest he is on tracks like “Halfway to Hell” and “Creature.” DeFord is there, flaws and all, for the world to see.

This year has been a series of unforgettable moment for Jelly Roll, who won three CMT awards in April: Male Video of the Year, Breakthrough Male Video of the Year and CMT Digital-First Performance of the year for his smash-hit “Son of a Sinner.” 

A little later into the evening, DeFord treated the sellout amphitheater to his follow-up hit, “Need A Favor.” In June it became the first song to enter the top 10 on both the Country Airplay and Mainstream Rock Airplay charts. Additionally, it held the top spot of Billboard’s Emerging Artist Chart for a record-breaking 25 consecutive weeks.

To put an exclamation point on an already wonderful evening, Jelly Roll tore into “Simple Man” before closing things out with “Save Me,” the song that did just that for the larger-than-life personality.  


Pink at Nationals Park

Cellphones buzzed with alerts as the national capital region was told to shelter in place due to severe thunderstorms in the area. The National Weather Service warned of a severe weather outbreak, with widespread damaging winds, possible flooding and isolated tornadoes. The federal government even released employees early to ensure the workforce avoided getting caught in the bleak conditions.

And yet, as Washington, D.C., prepared for one of the worst storms the region had seen in more than a decade, tens of thousands of dedicated souls refused to budge — not until they had a chance to sing and dance the night away with the iconic Pink.

At Nationals Park, ominous skies, swirling winds and periodic flashes of lightning could not dampen the spirits of the fashion-forward faithful adorned in their best and brightest outfits — albeit underneath ponchos, trash bags and anything else capable of protecting against the elements.

Welcome to one of the most sought-after tickets of the calendar year — Pink’s Summer Carnival Tour. Good weather sold separately.

While the date had been circled for months for many in the area, the evening did not get off to the best of starts, with alt rockers Grouplove cancelled entirely and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Pat Benatar + Neil Giraldo forced to perform an abbreviated 30-minute set due to the weather. That said, Benatar, accompanied by husband Giraldo on piano and guitar, sounded amazing and made the most of her limited time on stage. By accelerating through the opening acts, the artist formerly known as Alecia Beth Moore was able to take to the stage a little after 9 p.m. and perform her entire breathtaking show.

The main event began with a Max Headroom-style version of Pink appearing on giant video screens, which instantly energized the packed venue. Armed with a harness and bungee cord, Pink herself made an acrobatic grand introduction high above the crowd — and stage — at Nationals Park to officially “Get The Party Started.” The track proved the ideal selection to jumpstart the festivities, not that the packed baseball park needed any encouragement, as they roared their approval while the Doylestown, Pennsylvania native bounced, bungeed and flipped her way down to the actual stage.

The Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter kept the good vibes going with “Raise Your Glass,” as the stage filled with backup dancers, disco balls and even giant pink flamingos. During “Who Knew” interpretive dancers joined the fun, performing on the catwalk while Pink belted out the chorus on the main stage. Every song was its own spectacle and each built upon the last. With so much action and excitement on (and above) the stage, all you could do was buckle up and enjoy the exhilarating ride.

Over the course of two captivating hours, Pink dazzled the rain-soaked masses with an adrenaline-fueled, 23-song set spanning her impressive and illustrious career. Having released her ninth album, TRUSTFALL, earlier this year, Pink had more than enough material to pull from throughout the night. Whether performing smash hits like “What About Us,” “Try” and “Just Give Me a Reason” or newer numbers such as “TRUSTFALL” and “Never Gonna Not Dance Again,” the 43-year-old showed why more than 35 million people stream her music each and every month.

Nats Park was treated to a special moment midway through the evening, when Pink brought out her 12-year-old daughter Willow Sage Hart for “Cover Me in Sunshine,” a heartwarming mother and daughter duet.

The entire evening was a series of incredible performances that simply could not be contained by a mere stage, as evident by Pink’s willingness to soar high above the stage and floor seats, gliding to the further corners of the ballpark during the encore performance of “So What.” The impressive aerial display involved with the final number presented Pink with a well-earned victory lap around the entire venue.


Godsmack at Jiffy Lube Live

Marquee television shows. Massive video game franchises. Hollywood blockbusters. Sold-out sporting events. Professional wrestling and mixed martial arts pay per views from around the globe. For nearly three decades, basically any form of entertainment worth acknowledging has embraced and utilized the high-energy, high-octane musical offerings of Godsmack.

Over an illustrious 28 years, Godsmack has released eight studio albums, one EP (The Other Side), four DVDs, one compilation album (Good Times, Bad Times… Ten Years of Godsmack) and one live album (Live & Inspired). Sadly, earlier this year, the legendary quartet announced that their latest offering, Lighting Up the Sky, will be the final album of their storied careers.

While hard rock fans won’t be thrilled with that news, the fact that lead singer Sully Erna, guitarist Tony Rombola, bassist Robbie Merrill and drummer Shannon Larkin are currently touring in the United States for the first time since 2019 will hopefully soften the blow.

The “Best Of Times World Tour” swung through Bristow, Virginia recently and, while the band might be done creating new albums, I’m happy to report they still deliver their signature sound and an engaging live performance.

“Godsmack has been gone away for a while,” Erna said during the early stages of the evening. “The world’s gone crazy. Everyone’s all political.

“I think we need to take this back to what rock shows were in the 80s, when it was all about the music,” he added. “Let’s turn this into a fucking rock show.”

And that they did, opening the show with “When Legends Rise,” “Cryin’ Like a Bitch!!” and “1000hp” to sufficiently prepare the sellout crowd for what was to come. The band even added a generous helping of pyro and exploding bursts of flames as an exclamation point to the evening’s festivities. As Erna began strumming the intro to “Something Different,” he had some words for the packed house.

“Get these girls up on your shoulders tonight so Godsmack can see what Virginia has to offer!” he shouted.

Erna then requested all stage and front of house lights be turned off. With no lights and no production the cavernous venue would have looked completely abandoned, if not for the thousands of cell phones illuminating the amphitheater. Once the band tore into “Something Different,” all the stage lights came back on and the show continued at a full-throttle pace.

“I forgot how fun it was to be back on stage playing music for people,” Erna said. “It could be the tequila. I’m not going to lie. But I’m feeling the love tonight.”

By this point the banter was free flowing and Sully was feeling no pain. After “What About Me” the band needed to pause for a brief moment to allow a tech to repair Erna’s microphone stand after the frontman got a little too aggressive with it. To fill the time, Sully randomly decided to share that he’s been using the Cindy Crawford beauty treatment from late-night infomercials for the last two years. He enthusiastically informed the packed house that the product works and he has no wrinkles on his neck or face.

Someone please get this man some more tequila. Microphone stands be damned.

Awake” was clearly a crowd favorite. Fog rose from the stage. Pulsating lights flickered as the strip club anthem blared to an approving audience. Welcome to Jiffy Lube Live After Dark. Please keep your hands to yourself, gentlemen.

After “Voodoo,” Larkin’s drum kit moved to center stage and a second set of drums emerged. That’s when I realized we were in for a heavyweight bout as Larkin and Erna squared off during the band’s iconic “Batalla De Los Tambores.” For the next 10 minutes or so, Shannon and Sully dueled, collaborated and rocked the hell out in what felt like an extended jam session with nods to AC/DC, Aerosmith, Metallica and more others.

The stamina, endurance and technical proficiency required to pull off something like “Batalla De Los Tambores” is clearly through the roof, which is why everyone in attendance roared their approval as the track came to a close. It was easily one of the most enjoyable moments of the night and had the band walked off the stage right then and there, no one would have complained.

And yet, Godsmack not only continued the show, but did so with arguably four of their biggest songs to date. 

Whatever” and “Surrender,” followed by an encore performance of “Under Your Scars” and “I Stand Alone” proved a fitting conclusion to the concert for a band with a mind-numbing 27 top-10 singles (Mainstream Rock Airplay) and 12 number-one hits.


Staind at Jiffy Lube Live

With a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, frontman Aaron Lewis took to the stage and, after taking a pull from each, unleashed one of the defining voices of a generation. 

Much has changed in hard rock, and the world in general, since Staind exploded onto the scenes in the 90s, but the 51-year-old can still sing his lungs out — as was evident during the band’s recent performance at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia.

Lewis, along with lead guitarist Mike Mushok, bassist Johnny April and drummer Sal Giancarelli, kicked off the evening with “Lowest In Me” a fantastic first single off their forthcoming “Confessions of the Fallen” album. 

As concert-goers got settled in for the show, the Springfield, Massachusetts quartet kept the party going with 2011’s “Not Again” and 1999’s “Just Go.” And that highlights what is so impressive about Staind — their extensive catalog spans multiple decades. 

The band’s breakthrough came with their second studio album, Break the Cycle, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and remained in the top spot for three weeks. The 2001 album was a massive hit, propelled by singles like “It’s Been Awhile,” “Outside” and “Fade,” all of which received heavy radio airplay and became chart-toppers.

Break the Cycle ultimately achieved multi-platinum status, selling millions of copies in the United States alone, and was highly successful internationally as well. The band’s emotional and introspective lyrics, combined with their powerful and melodic sound, clearly resonate with a broad audience, contributing to their widespread popularity all these years later.

So when Lewis shares his torment during a track like “Just Go,” regardless of how many years have passed and how different your life may be today, it takes you back to a different era. A few songs later “Fade” gave off similar nostalgic vibes as a large chunk of those in attendance emphatically sang along. 

A personal highlight came when the band performed “Something to Remind You.” Hearing such a stripped down and haunting track bellow through each and every corner of the amphitheater created a moment that won’t soon be forgotten.

From there, Mushok, April and Giancarelli briefly exited the stage as Lewis tackled “Epiphany” solo, armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a stool. While he might not have had the backing of the rest of the band, Lewis definitely enjoy backing vocals from the thousands upon thousands of fans joining in during the chorus.

By the time they played “Right Here” and “Outside,” the entire crowd officially knew every word to every song. Eventually, Lewis simply stopped singing during “Outside,” allowing the audience to deliver the chorus acoustically in a beautiful moment. Staind saved two of their biggest hits — “It’s Been Awhile” and “Mudshovel” — for the end of the show, which obviously ensured their set ended on an emphatic high note.


Jesus and friends shine as Arsenal routs MLS All-Stars

Rather than pitting the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference, Major League Soccer forgoes the more traditional all-star game setup in favor of inviting a marquee club to take on the best and brightest the league has to offer. For this year’s spectacle, the MLS All-Stars hosted Arsenal Football Club at Audi Field, in Washington, D.C., July 19.

Gabriel Jesus and Leandro Trossard scored first-half goals during the competitive portion of the evening and Jorginho, Gabriel Martinelli and Kai Havertz added as the Premier League powerhouse cruised to an emphatic 5-0 victory over DC United manager Wayne Rooney’s side.

Illustrating just how one-sided this affair was: Arsenal outshot the hosts 16-7 on the night, while the MLS squad set an all-star game record with six yellow cards. In short, as the Gunners raced up and down the pitch creating numerous scoring chances, the All-Stars had little choice but to commit a foul rather than allow yet another easy goal.

Bukayo Saka, in particular, posed a problem the MLS players were ill-equipped to handle. His pace and speed of play were clearly problematic for the home team, which isn’t all that surprising given that he’s one of the best and brightest young talents on the planet. 

Declan Rice, Arsenal’s splashiest summer signing at £105 million, didn’t cause nearly the amount of headaches that Saka did during the match, but simply seeing him in an Arsenal kit was exciting enough for those in attendance. 

The all-star game was especially noteworthy for the nation’s capital because it marked the event’s return to Washington for the first time in 19 years. And while it wasn’t a very competitive match, it was still highly entertaining and an absolute blast for everyone involved.


Messy United drop points to lowly Inter Miami

You might have heard, the Greatest Of All Time is coming to Major League Soccer. Lionel Messi made the announcement himself, informing the world that he will be joining Inter Miami. What he failed to mention last month though was exactly when he would arrive. The mere thought of Messi debuting in Washington, D.C. was enough to sellout the venue, as more than 19,000 fans packed into Audi Field hoping the playmaker would make a surprise debut now that the summer transfer window is officially open.

While Messi did not make a cameo, those in attendance were treated to an entertaining matchup — as DC United and Inter Miami played to a riveting 2-2 draw.

The first half was largely forgettable, as neither team created much in the way of a sustained attack. The most exciting moment of the first 45 minutes featured United defender Andy Najar slotting home an apparent first half goal … only for the match officials to nullify the play because striker Christian Benteke was deemed offside.

Midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi scored in the 59th minute to give Miami a lead on the road for the first time since April 29 against Columbus, their lone away win this season. United forward Taxi Fountas was relieved to tie things up just six minutes laster with his sixth goal of the season, after failing to convert several quality chances earlier in the match.

Miami regained the lead three minutes later on a Noah Allen free kick that managed to allude the swarm of players camped out in front of the net. Fortunately for United, forward Nigel Robertha returned from a three-month injury absence and recorded his first goal of the year on his first touch of the game in the 77th minute. A match that was sluggish to start was suddenly captivating on both sides of the field.

Benteke had one last point-blank chance to secure victory in the final stages of the match, but his wayward header was off the mark forcing the black and red to settle for a draw against a completely beatable opponent. How beatable? Miami is now winless in their last 10 matches. They hold the worst record in the Eastern Conference and have the second fewest points in the entire league.

Re-enforcements cannot get here soon enough for the men in pink. When Messi does finally arrive, he’ll bring with him several prominent sidekicks in former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, as well as ex-Barcelona and Argentina coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino.

Locally, this game marked the final home appearance for midfielder Lewis O’Brien, whose loan from Nottingham Forest expires July 16. Despite weeks of negotiations, United was unable to extend the deal with the Premier League club. O’Brien has excelled at ball-carrying, distribution and decision-making during his time in town. United will need to sign at least one new player during the summer window to fill the void created by the loss.


Falling In Reverse at Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena

Before there was Falling In Reverse there was From Behind These Walls. When originally established, the band was first called From Behind These Walls, a fitting moniker for a group formed while lead singer Ronnie Radke was incarcerated for assault, from 2008 to 2010. The name didn’t last long though, thanks to a potential copyright infringement, so the group became known as Falling In Reverse.

Those early days resulted in more than just a band name though. During an episode of “Talk is Jericho” with Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho last August, Radke explained how the experience of going to prison resulted in social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. While his prison sentence forced Radke to overcome an addiction to opiates, it also made him struggle in group settings.

“I couldn’t be with more than one person at a time,” he said. “If there was more than two people in a room, it made me feel very crazy. Social anxiety, it was insane man.”

Fortunately for everyone involved, Radke is in a much better place these days as Falling In Reverse tours globally in front of thousands of their hardcore fans on a nightly basis. Once the curtain dropped on this night, Radke — along with lead guitarist Max Georgiev, rhythm guitarist Christian Thompson, bassist Tyler Burgess and drummer Luke Holland — took to the stage at Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena and delivered a mesmerizing performance, July 3.

They kicked off the show with “Zombified,” the hugely-popular track that became a mainstay on SiriusXM Octane and countless other hard rock music stations in 2022. As a nonconformist who has never shied away from controversy, Radke feels right at home speaking his mind. With middle fingers in the air, the lead singer shared his not-so-surprising stance on cancel culture.

You better shut your mouth and bite your tongue

‘Cause you don’t wanna piss off anyone

We’re traumatized by the damage done

Welcome to America

‘Cause everybody’s talking, bitch

Oh no, they’ll never let go

Of something you said ten years ago

They’re canceling, canceling you

This was followed up by performances of “I’m Not a Vampire,” “Losing My Mind” and “Fuck You and All Your Friends,” at which point it became apparent Falling In Reverse shows aren’t intended for those who are easily offended. Thankfully, everyone in the near-capacity venue got the memo and happily sang along throughout the entire evening.

It’s been six years since Falling In Reverse last released an album, and yet, the band has had no shortage of success recently. In addition to “Zombified,” two other singles earned ample rotation in ’22 — “Watch the World Burn” and “Voices in My Head.”

On that note, seeing “Watch The World Burn” live is worth the price of admission alone. Radke blazed through the rap portion of the track at breakneck speed without missing a proverbial beat and, on this night, singer Alex the Terrible of Slaughter To Prevail joined the party as the two lead singers brought the house down.

Voices in My Head” was up next and the crowd was officially in a frenzy. They then closed out the night with “Popular Monster,” the signature track that the current headliner tour is named after. The band’s energetic and visually stunning show moved at such a rapid pace that by the time it ends, concertgoers couldn’t help but feel physically and emotional spent as they headed for the exits. And really, that’s what live music is all about.  

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