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Monday, September 17, 2012

"Never Say Never" - The Fray (Cover by Andrew Gahol)

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"Never Say Never" - The Fray (Cover by Andrew Gahol)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dispatches From the VMA Pit

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2012 MTV Video Music Awards
09/06/2012 – Los Angeles, CA

Watching artists perform and receive their Moonmen from the main pit for the first time (I was literally leaning on the main stage the entire show!) was so amazeballs that I didn’t even mind the figurative and actual bruises I got on the way.

During the annual MTV Video Music Awards, it is a celebrated custom for artists and fans alike to be wild and frenzied. But what TV viewers don’t see on-screen is how the VMAs could also be really BRUTAL, especially if you’re a fan who’s behind the scenes. 

11:40 AM: I arrived at the check-in area situated at the Los Angeles Convention Center, a 10-minute walk away from the Staples Center, to get my pass to the VMAs. Greeted by literally almost two thousand people standing in line at the gates, I felt my heart shrivel into a raisin like The Grinch. 

This line went all the way five tabs across your web browser.

Apparently, bra straps have ineveitably become part of young people's fashion statements.

1:20 PM: After almost two hours in line and 10 minutes before check-in closed, I finally got my VMA pit wristband fastened and got in! My heart was no raisin anymore.

What my subconscious was saying the moment I got my wristband.
The hundreds left who had only 10 minutes remaining before all hopes of getting in the VMAs was lost suddenly went berserk. Some were already blatantly cutting in line, shoving one another, spitting profanities at the organizers and demanding that they be let in since they’ve been waiting for hours. Some were slumping on the rails in surrender, some due to intense heat and/or dehydration.

3:00 PM: After security check and making sure that we didn’t harbor phones or cameras as recording devices were strictly prohibited, the two thousand of us were finally loaded into the pit.

Upon entering the colossal concert area within Staples Center, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the epic crystal DJ station where Calvin Harris will be spinning his famous hits later in the VMA pre-show.

Directly in front of the DJ section is the ginormous main stage where a glorious Fortress of Solitude-inspired crystal structure stood. By the time I got down from the stairs and set foot on the main pit, the laser tech and special effects team were already testing the their crazy pyrotechnics, jaw-dropping laser shows and towering digital screens.

Best spot in the world that night.

3:30PM: People from the production company proceeded atop the main stage to conduct rehearsals. Yes, all two thousand of us rehearsed our “steps” for the show such as how to clap, how to pretend to be surprised when a celeb attempts to make a “spontaneous” dive unto the audience and how to move around properly and quickly as stages, props and huge apparatuses were being moved across the pit. IT WAS NOTHING LESS OF A LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE!

It’s nearly impossible to make thousands of fans move under the command of only three crew leaders directing them, especially when, every time a major crowd displacement was in order, a lot of people refused to scoot over lest their sweet spots by the main stage be lost to another group. This rehearsal was becoming more fictional than Lindsay Lohan quitting drugs.

4:00 PM: Calvin Friggin’ Harris arrived in the building, took the reins of the crystal DJ Pit and began spinning one heavy-thumping track after another to get the arena crowds all fired up for the show. For an hour, all of Staples Center were fist-pumping and jumping to hits such as “Feels So Close” “Let’s Go”, “Bounce”, and “We’ll Be Coming Back” to name a few. I was badly bruised from all the “combative dancing” that took place as Harris played his songs up from his crystal castle but the pre-show rush was definitely worth it.
This DJ set is epic in at least 20 ways.

5:00 PM: Laser lights started bursting through the air and the giant cobras began filling the digital screen as Rihanna elevated from beneath the stage on her snake-head throne and began singing the opening verse of “Cockiness (Love It)”. The densely packed audience just lost their sense of civility and I spent more time heaving people off my shoulders than partying while Rihanna gyrated her hips next to rapper A$AP Rocky.

Rihanna wrapped it up in a flood of white balloons as she sang “We Found Love” and made it through the audience to Calvin Harris’ crystal DJ station.

5:14 PM: Comedian Kevin Hart, who was hosting the VMAs for the first time, went up onstage with a security team of little people in black suits. To set the show in motion, Hart delivered a side-splitting monologue and poked fun at the Breezy-Drizzy feud, Frank Ocean’s coming out, Kristen Stewart and Snooki's newborn baby.

When it was time to award the Best Pop Video to One Direction, I managed to get a sexy wink from Katy Perry, who presented the award, and also from one of the guys from 1D by accident.

This photo does not do justice to Katy Perry. She is a bazillion times more gorgeous  five inches away and from down the pit.
5:29 PM: I desperately wanted a take photos. When I noticed a girl who sneaked in her camera to the pit (even though it was prohibited) I asked her, “Do you mind if you e-mailed me all your photos from tonight?” I gave her my e-mail to which she responded, “Yeah, sure! You a One Direction fan too?” Something told me that my baby blue Adventure Time hoodie was sending the wrong signals.

5:42 PM: P!nk tried to drag three of us onstage but ultimately failed because of the weight near the end of “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”. By then the pit was already sprinkled with glowing red plastic lips.

That's me looking stupid during P!nk's song.

5: 50 PM: One of my favorite moments of the night has got to be when Frank Ocean graced the VMA stage for the first time with his slowed-down yet wistful rendition of “Thinking About You”.  His performance will always be one of the most memorable 2012 VMA offerings to me. His genteel yet heartfelt number was a refreshing change of pace from the all craziness that had happened earlier.

6:12 PM: I think the most brutal and life-threatening performance of the night for me was when One Direction hit the stage to perform “One Thing”. My face also hit the stage HARD the moment 1D became visible. Luckily I made it out of Staples Center later that night with all my extremities intact.

I don't need to tell you how excited I was when 1D hit the stage. I mean just look at my face! Priceless!

6:21 PM: 2 Chainz made his VMA debut and got a little help from Li’l Wayne as they performed “No Worries”. I tried to catch Weezy’s beanie but with my knee joints throbbing, I could barely move at this point.

6: 33 PM: Green Day brought some much needed punk rock flavor to VMAs as they tapped into the fans’ trapped inner selves and set them free with “Let Yourself Go”. By the end of the song, drumsticks were flying in the air and I was frantically trying to grab hold of one.

6:39 PM: I got to pat the stunning Ke$ha (who looked more gorgeous thane ever) on the shoulders. She instantly turned around looking she was about to slap me but then she just smiled. Needless to say, I melted.

It's not everyday that KeSha shoots you a smile. I melted.

6:45 PM: Alicia keys belted out her new single “Girl On Fire” off her fifth studio album of the same name. A yellow-haired Nicki Minaj was also onstage rapping a couple verses and Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, who I got to give a high five to before she sauntered into the stage, also demonstrated a series of splendid gymnastics routines to accompany the song.

6:55 PM: Taylor  Swift punctuated the 2012 VMAs with a whimsical rendition of her new single “We’re Never Getting Back Together” complete with dancers dressed as teenyboppers and band members clad in animal costumes.

After Swift’s song, a depressing hush fell unto the venue. In what seemed like a dream, we were in the same square meter as these amazing artists one minute and they were completely gone the next.

7:11 PM: The same two thousand of us lucky main pit fans who exited the Staples Center weren’t a picture of excitement and wild fanaticism anymore. Instead, we all looked like zombie pilgrims with our wobbly legs, exhausted slouches and worn-out faces because of standing for more than eight hours.

I was still bummed that I didn’t get to take pictures from inside the Staples Center. Instead of photos, I brought home several bruises on my arms, back, abdomen and legs; scratches on my neck; a sprained foot; sunburn on my face and the incredible memory of having experienced the 2012 MTV VMAs by the main stage.

And if what it takes to redo this experience is to have my body broken beyond repair once again, I would gladly agree in a heartbeat. 

Here are more photos of me during the VMAs:

My high school classmate and friend Inna and me standing in line at the check-in area.

Inna, me and my sister Patricia.

Making Sounds That Aren't Human

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          People do the craziest things when they're bored out of their wits. I’ve recently posted my first publicly posted song cover on SoundCloud. I did a little song called “Never Say Never” by The Fray, which I’m sure everyone in the English-speaking world knows.

As far as cover songs go in my case, the outcome of my vocal performance could only go two ways: “Meh!” or “Fail.”

Listen to the track and decide for yourself. Warning: the performance could prove cringe-worthy!

"Never Say Never" - The Fray (Cover by Andrew Gahol)