Don't Look Back: R'n'R Lessons from 2013

I'm going to be honest: I'm both sad and afraid to see 2013 go. 2013 was a year of my rock'n'roll dreams coming true.
Some of my collected autographs, picks, VIP/Photo passes, set lists, and guitar picks from 2013

Most of the time, I look at New Year's Eve as a "new start" or a time to reflect on how the upcoming year has to be better than the one that is ending. This year, I'm reflecting on the incredible life I've had this past year and the lessons I learned from it. Rock'n'roll will never die, but if we do nothing to nurture it and make it our life's philosophy, we've missed the point. So what rock'n'roll lessons can I pass along to you as we close out one of the best years of my life?

1. Don't Give Up On Your Dreams.
Aerosmith said it so it must be true right? "Dream On". Yes, this is a cliched lesson, but it's the absolute truth. I lived it in 2013 so I know that as cliched as it may be, there is nothing truer than the above. in December 2012 I reflected on my life and realized that I was not living my dreams, simply because I thought that I was too "grown up" to live out such childish fantasies. I read something someplace that reminded me of the things I had always loved: guitars, music, cars, laughing, and sports. Why wasn't I spending more time on those things? I had given up on them that's why. I decided to make a change in my life. I went back to my roots so to speak, and I reconnected with my own dreams. What happened as a result? I met both of my guitar heroes: Joan Jett and Lita Ford. I got to thank them personally for their inspiration, and you know what? They thanked me back. That never would have happened if I hadn't reconnected with my dreams. Do it. You owe it to yourself. I even got to be Lita's unofficial "towel tech" during a show. (Note, you can read more about that experience here if you haven't done so already.)

2. Don't Be Afraid To Ask 
I made an effort this year to be a bit more vocal about what some of my dreams are/were and guess what? They happened because I wasn't afraid to ask! The worst that anyone can say is no. Just how important is it to ask for what you want? Well, let's see. Remember when I got to meet Lita Ford and go to soundcheck and hang out? I asked the tech if I could take a photo of her guitars. His response: "Why don't you hold the guitars and I'll take a picture of you with them?" As a result I got to hold two of the most iconic guitars in rock history: Lita's double-neck BC Rich Bich and her black Hamar Explorer, which is the guitar on the front cover of The Runaways Live in Japan album. Life made right there my friends!

Ask and you shall receive: sometimes even more than you asked for. Which leads me to my next lesson:

3. Give A Little
Celebrities are used to people taking from them or always wanting something from them. Be gracious. Every time I knew I was going to be meeting someone, I brought them something. Not a cheesy gift but something I knew they could use while touring the world. I also kept in mind the people along the way that made my experiences possible: tour managers, publicists, etc. Even if it's just a quick e-mail to thank them profusely for the opportunity, it's a nice gesture. I brought one crew a Starbucks gift card because I knew the artist was a big Starbucks fan, and I brought another band some Toronto-made beer because I knew they were fans of trying new beer everywhere they went. Musicians are people too, and I felt horrible taking anything from them if I couldn't give something back, especially in this era of illegal downloads and freeloading. Apparently this is not the usual behavior: I've been told most fans just take whatever they can and move on. As a result of my actions, I often got unexpected surprises from the artists I met, like a handful of picks, or sidestage access during the show. I spoke to Lzzy Hale prior to a Halestorm concert at a meet and greet and told her that I would be giving her the customized Canada flag I had made for the band. I also held up a sign that asked for a guitar pick and she gladly exchanged her stage-used pick for my flag. The entire band held the flag at the end of the show and Lzzy sang their closing song, "Here's To Us" while holding it. Awesome right?

Best ever surprise: a text message from one of my idols. Said idol also gave me advice on my pedalboard: and how to get the sound I was looking for out of my equipment. 'Nuff said. Don't give to receive, and you will often get incredible treatment.

4. Be Polite and Respectful.
This one is a no brainer, but as a result of it, I was offered various opportunities that other concert-goers standing right next to me were not. I asked and said "'scuse me, sorry" a million times anytime I had to take a photo and got in someones way. As a result I was often given a lot of space to take photos and in several cases I had people offer up their front row spot to me. I also never took anything from the backstage area like so many fans/invited guests do. I was shocked to see that! You are there as a guest. If you act accordingly, you get VIP treatment. If you're a jerk or you can't stop saying "Oh my God I can't believe I'm here!" at the top of your lungs, you get escorted out with the masses. As a result of shutting your mouth at soundcheck (which is what you should be doing if you're ever invited to one) you may be treated to a conversation with band members, sound crews, or even more awesome: a guitar tech. This is the person who has an intimate knowledge of every axe the band uses. You can find out what type of strings they use, how their guitars are set up, even amp settings if you're patient and not rude. For a guitar nerd like me, meeting and talking to guitar techs is one of the best things that can happen at a show.


5. Live Life The Rock'n'Roll Way
No, I don't mean loading up on Jack Daniels and smoking some crack with the mayor. Sometimes you have to follow Lita Ford's lead and you "Gotta Let Go"! Yes, you have to go to work the next day, but that doesn't mean that you forego seeing your favorite band play a 10pm show on a Tuesday night. Yes, $100 is not cheap but to be in the front row and have your idol smile at you is priceless. No, that tour t-shirt is not going to help you save for retirement, but it's a part of the rock show: wearing the "proof" of your attendance at one of the best gigs ever. Life is short.  As a wise woman told me earlier this year: You could step off a curb and get hit by a truck tomorrow. Retirement is not guaranteed, and neither is old age. 2012 taught me that all too well, which is why I decided that in 2013, I was going to take a few more risks, spend a little more money, and ask myself "what if" a whole lot less. What do I have to show for it? The naysayers will say less money in my bank account, more dust bunnies in my house because I'm too busy playing my guitar, and more hearing loss because of all the concerts and rehearsals I attended. To me, I have memories that will last a lifetime, a wealth of new opportunities, some great new friends, and a whole lotta love for the the thing that helped make me what I am today: rock'n'roll.

Here's hoping that 2014 is as magical for me as 2013 was. My wish for you is that you reconnect with your rock'n'roll roots and discover what it is that makes your life worth living. Get out there and live your life. If that means you have to start off small by lying down in your room and listening to "Sticky Fingers" through your headphones, then that's what you need to do. If you have the courage to follow your heart, you may just end up as Mick Jagger's towel tech. Sometimes it may be tough to let go of a great year, which is the case for me this year. But I'm going to follow the advice of a very wise woman who once told me "Don't look back. Only look forward." She should know. She's only a legend. So look forward I will, and I thank each and every one of you for reading the blog this year. I've got some exciting things planned and I wish you the best New Year possible. Hail hail rock'n'roll.