The Last Breakfast Club review

A friend of mine recently asked me if the The Last Breakfast Club was good.

For those of you who don’t know, The Last Breakfast Club is the newest musical parody from Rockwell Table and Stage in Los Angeles. I have gone to see the show every weekend since it made its preview debut three weeks ago. When I saw her question, I wanted to laugh. Obviously the show was good if I’d seen it so many times, but I knew what she was really asking–Would I recommend it? While the answer is fairly simple, I felt that I had enough thoughts about the show to merit an entire blog post, so here we go: my review of The Last Breakfast Club: a Musical Parody.

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This innovative musical is packed full of 80s tunes that feel like they were written for The Last Breakfast Club. If you’re not singing them along with the cast during the show, you will definitely be singing them to yourself for the rest of the week. Part of the fun of the show is trying to guess what iconic 80s song the characters will jump into next.

As the cast of The Last Breakfast Club comes right out of the gate chorusing, “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” we understand that they’re talking about the nuclear zombie apocalypse that has trapped them in the library. But it also kind of feels like they’re talking about our world too. In a present where our president regularly tweets about his latest indignation, the threat of nuclear war hangs in the air and children are killed at concerts, it certainly feels like the end of the world as we know it. Hardly any of us would claim we “feel fine.”

The Last Breakfast Club doesn’t ignore our current political climate. It embraces it. The show explores our deepest hopes and fears for this new world. At one moment it’s blaming Republicans, Christians and white men (which some may argue are synonymous) for the doomed apocalyptic world the characters are forced to live in. The next, it’s advocating for love and compassion in spite of it all.

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This amazingly talented cast is increasingly mind blowing with every scene. The unique layout of the Rockwell theater allows for most of the audience to gain at least one closeup of the cast during the show. This unique set-up explains why each cast member boasts both stage and screen credits. Both sets of skills are fully utilized in the show to great effect, switching effortlessly between big over the top “theatrical” moments and nuanced quieter ones.

The Last Breakfast Club calls itself a parody of the original 1985 John Hughes film, but that label isn’t quite fair. It’s clear the show has a great respect for the original, preserving most of the film’s format and signature lines. At times, it feels like a revisionist take on the film. This updated version of the story tackles the age old issue of Allison’s makeover (selling out or naw?), the original couples (would they have lasted past detention?), the assumed boy-girl couple structure (you might of gotten away with it back then, but today it’s considered “heteronormative”) and the Bratpack’s general treatment of adults as the cause of all their problems. The musical doesn’t shove its modern perspective onto the original to the point of losing the film’s original intent, but it also isn’t afraid to address some of the issues with the movie.

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In spite of several revisionist changes, however, the Breakfast Club is still #sowhite. The majority of the seven cast members in the new show are Caucasian, reflexive of the all-white cast from the film. On the one hand, this reflects more on the original filmmakers than the producers of the latest reincarnation. The moral of the original film was that “each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal.” Apparently the only way to teach that lesson in the 80s was to make every character white and therefore, relatable.

There is, of course, an easy explanation for the lack of racial diversity in The Last Breakfast Club. The premise of the show is that the same characters from the film have aged roughly ten years, so each of the cast members physically resembles their cinematic counterpart. However, it’s worth questioning whether, in a world where these beloved characters have been given new sexual orientations and religions (and in Claire’s case, hair color), might they have been given new ethnicities as well? In an alternate reality where the characters crack culture references they shouldn’t know and reference both the original movie and the musical they’re currently starring in, the audience must quickly adapt a strong suspension of disbelief. Might this suspension have also held up to, say, an African American Princess or a Latino Brain? It is unclear if it would have worked, but a part of me wishes the producers would have been willing to find out.

Which isn’t to say that the show isn’t perfectly cast, because it is.

Anna Grace Barlow brings a sweetness and a sass to Claire the Princess, as well as an acute vulnerability most present in her big solo number where she reminisces on time spent with her parents. Barlow brings down the house every time during said solo number with her powerhouse of a soulful voice and tear-filled eyes. As her sister Abigail stated so well, the music of the show fits her voice perfectly. In addition to the spotlight moments, Barlow’s sweet harmonies perfectly round out the overall sound of the show.

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Jonah Platt anchors the show as Bender the Criminal, riling each character in turn. He holds all the brashness and insensitivity of the original character, but Platt’s natural charm bubbles through in time for the tender moments that eventually come toward the end of the show, most notably a heart to heart with Vernon. This scene in particular sets Platt’s version of Bender apart from the original, mixing his biting humor with remarkable sensitivity.

While Platt prods the plot forward, Garrett Clayton holds the show together in a virtual group hug as Brian the Brain. His soft insistence for everyone to get along is broken only by his piercingly amazing high notes and incredible comedic timing. Fans of Clayton from the Teen Beach movie franchise may even hear his signature Tanner laugh break through some of Brian’s iconic “Sir?”s during a few of his particularly funny scenes with Vernon.

Rockwell veteran Lana McKissack completely commits to all that is Allison the Basketcase, including the character’s numerous quirks and various animal noises. Her skills as an actress, however, truly shine brightest in the serious moments where she gets to spit straight truth. The complexity and sensitivity she brings to her scenes with Andrew, in particular, make the characters’ relationship one of my favorites in the show.

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Four time Emmy nominee Max Ehrich brings vulnerability and heart, as well as fierceness, to Andrew the Athlete. He manages to simultaneously wear his heart on his sleeve while fighting to keep his mask up. His Act One return to “total assholery” may be initially off-putting, but the character lets his true self come through in time to enthrall the audience with his showstopping ballad in Act Two.

The two adult characters, Vernon as played by Jimmy Ray Bennett and Damon Gravina’s born again Janitor, are just as charming as the young adult characters, bringing another level of humor and ridiculousness to the whole production.

Now back to the original question, do I recommend the show? My answer is a resounding YES… with two caveats.

The first is language. The show’s social media coordinator joked that the show has “zero f*cks to give…. because they’re all in the show.” He’s not wrong. To be fair, if you’ve seen the OG Breakfast Club, its cast also had a lot of fun throwing around f-bombs. But it does bear noting that those sensitive to strong language or those on the younger side should probably skip out on this particular show.

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My second warning pertains to the way Christianity is portrayed in the show. The show relies heavily on the use of satire in order to comment on religion, ridiculing various aspects of Christianity in a way that some may find offensive or sacrilegious. Now, the show does not hate religion or Christianity as a whole. The hate-filled, holier-than-thou Christian character does not denounce his faith or speak ill against God in order to become likable by the end. He does have a change of heart, of course, but the show does not demand that he give up his faith in order to be considered an ally. The show also makes it clear that religion itself is not the problem, but rather how people abuse religion. Still, if this seems like the type of humor that would keep you from enjoying the show, maybe just stick to the original movie for now.

There are no better last thoughts to leave you with than these well-spoken words from The Last Breakfast Club’s director, executive producer and co-writer, Bradley Bredeweg, “Let us laugh together as 150 people in a bar in Los Angeles while we also talk about and explore some really important and scary shit. Because entertainment is a powerful medium that not only makes us laugh and cry… it provokes, encourages, raises awareness, and it allows us to look inward.”

For those of you willing to laugh, cry and be challenged, please head down to Rockwell Table and Stage this summer and show this amazing production some love!

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Tickets: tickets.rockwell-la.com

 

Photos from the show by me, Promotional photos for TLBC by Bryan Carpender, Promotional photos from the original Breakfast Club belong to their respective owners

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Girl Meets World live taping experience

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A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of visiting the set of the Disney Channel show GIRL MEETS WORLD for a live taping. It was truly one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and it helped cemented my desire to eventually go into television as a career. Thought it might be fun to share the experience with some of you who haven’t had that opportunity or might be considering it!

For those of you who don’t know, getting tickets to a live taping of a TV show is actually pretty easy. Not every television show films in front of a live audience. It is usually only comedies and then, only a select few opt for live laughter over a laugh track. Shows like “Baby Daddy,” “Young & Hungry,” “Fuller House” and “Girl Meets World” are among those few. For a complete list of shows, go to http://audiencesunlimited.com/. That site is also where you can order tickets FOR FREE (yes, none of those shows charge for the opportunity to watch them film). Just make sure you get on first thing in the morning 30 days before the show you want to go to. Most of them sell out really fast!

Anyway, that’s all I did to get my tickets. After weeks and months of planning plus a minor hiccup regarding a “Liv & Maddie” taping (I missed getting tickets to the last live taping ever… still crying), I finally secured four tickets to a “Girl Meets World” taping… and then had to wait a month.

There was drama up until the last minute. They always sell a few too many tickets to a live taping to ensure a full audience, but the show I had chosen was particularly over sold. We showed up two hours early and were on the edge of our seats till the last moment to see whether or not we would be allowed in. Luckily, there were just enough seats for us! I felt really bad for everyone who wasn’t allowed in…. If you’re lucky enough to get tickets to a taping, make sure to show up a few hours early!

Once we got inside the soundstage where they film, we got to see all of the amazing iconic sets. It was so surreal to see them outside of our television screens. The executive producer of the show came out and explained to us how they came up with the concept of the episode and a little bit about what happened in the previous episodes. I can’t give away any of the plot, but I will say that it was a really good episode, a little on the more serious side. I also think I’m okay to reveal that Danielle Fishel co-wrote the episode as well as directing and co-starring in it. It was pretty cool!  She is definitely my new #GirlBossGoals.

They had already filmed some of the episode that morning and the day before, but they still showed us those scenes to record our laughter/reactions as well as make sure we understood what was happening in the episode. I sat in front of the school section of set, so I was pretty bummed that the school scenes had been shot the day before. It was still cool to see the other scenes filmed of course, just harder to see them. They provided monitors, though, for us to see the scene the same way the camera did and even cut between angles in real time to show us a mock-up of how the final episode will look. I hope to go back to another taping eventually. Hopefully then I will be seated where I can see more of the actual filming.

It was still insanely cool, though. I was doubly freaking out, both as a film student who hopes to go into television and as a fan of the show. After years of being on student sets, it was beyond amazing to be on a professional one. It was so cool to be able to understand most of what was going on! In fact, the one annoying part of the taping is that there was an emcee who was constantly trying to keep everyone entertained in between takes. I would much rather have been able to pay attention to everything happening on set.

If anyone with any connection to the show is reading, I will gladly scrub floors and fetch coffee if it means working on that set! It seemed like such a cool environment. Everyone was extremely professional, but still had fun. Ben Savage (Cory) and August Maturo (Auggie) came over to say hi and answer some audience questions. Rowan Blanchard (Riley) danced with August in-between takes. It seemed like they all genuinely liked each other and their jobs.

At the end of the taping, they split the audience into two and set up two meet and greets: One with Rowan and Sabrina Carpenter (Maya), the other with Corey Fogelmanis (Farkle) and Peyton Meyer (Lucas). I was hoping to meet the girls, but my half of the audience was in the line for the boys. I was a little disappointed at first, but they were both so sweet and cute. I have no complaints! They checked to make sure my sister and I had a good time, asked if we wanted a picture (duh!) and then thanked us for coming.IMG_0164_e

I went with my mom and youngest brother and sister and we all had such a good time (although I’m sure my brother will deny it if you ask)! If you get a chance to visit a live taping, I would highly recommend it for fans of the show or fans of film/television in general. Also, if anyone reading this has any connection whatsoever to the show…  I meant what I said earlier about fetching coffee.

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I am going to go get busy taking on the world! Until next time-

xoxo, CMB

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Love Where You Are

I’m 22 and single. Even typing that makes me laugh inside. I haven’t graduated from college, still live with my parents and haven’t chosen a career yet, but the thing I feel that defines me is my relationship status. Now I recognize that, considering I don’t want to get married until my late 20s and I barely have enough time these days for myself, my family and a few select close friends, a romantic relationship should be the furthest thing from my mind, practically speaking. But strangely enough, I feel incredible pressure to be dating someone right now. I feel the weight in my grandmother’s question as she confirms that I am indeed still single and simultaneously reflect on how relieved she sounded two years ago when I told her I <<finally>> had a boyfriend. I watch classmates on Facebook get engaged, go “Facebook official” with their significant other or post picture of their husband/wife and kids and feel that somehow being single at 22 means that I’ll be single forever. I watch television and realize the seventh graders on Girl Meets World have more of a love life than I do. Heck, the five year old on GMW has more of a love life than I do.

I remember a year after my breakup I felt so incredibly strong and confident. I had finally discovered self love and I vowed to never turn back. Somewhere along the way, I unconsciously bought into the notion that I was less of a person without a boyfriend.

I’ve found myself daydreaming about my future relationship a lot lately. Not the healthy kind of daydreaming I had been doing the last few months, figuring out the traits I was looking for, the warning flags to look out for and the dealbreakers I wasn’t gonna stand for. No, I had started thinking in terms of what my life would look like when I was in a relationship again. You know, getting dressed up, eating out, feeling special, feeling pretty. I began to think about my current season as a season of waiting, as if my life was on pause until I got another boyfriend. How ridiculous is that?! How ridiculous is it to think that another person, much less a boy, could or should define my life? My life is not on pause!

I recently heard an interview with actress Jessica Marie Garcia (check out the podcast here: http://hollywoodparentsguide.com/jessica-marie-garcia-actress/) where she was talking about happiness and success. She explained that the idea that you will be happy when “x” happens is bogus. You have to find ways to be happy now or you won’t be happy when you reach whatever it is that you think will make you happy. I think that is so true. You have to be willing to love where you are, despite how far off it is from where you wanna be.

I am currently running on two cups of coffee and a can of Coke because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to keep my eyes open. I am that tired. My alarm went off this morning at 5am and I am currently sitting in my dad’s office in Pasadena because that was the only way to get a car to drive to my internship. I haven’t hung out with friends in weeks. I go to bed later than I should because I’d hate to disappoint my siblings by not watching our nightly episode of Once Upon a Time. I am not asking for your pity or for you to feel bad for me. I just want you to understand where I’m coming from as I write this. I’m not where I wanna be. But every morning when my alarm goes off, I thank God for where I am. I find ways to be so appreciative of this season in life because I know that I’m blessed and I know it will always be easier to find things to hate about my current situation than to be thankful.

I recently realized that I was placing a lot of my unhappiness on the fact that I didn’t have someone to come home to. No one was going to have my favorite meal waiting for me or cuddle with me on the couch while we watched what I wanted or pour me a glass of wine. I was telling myself that life would be so much easier if I had a boyfriend to walk through this tough season with me. Then one day I drove past the Citadel Outlets on my way home from internship, saw the billboard advertising La Mirada Theatre’s performance of The Little Mermaid musical and realized that is what would make me happy: Getting dressed up and going to see a musical I’d obsessed over for years (all of my favorite Little Mermaid songs are from the Broadway soundtrack). I didn’t need a boy to take me or even, anyone else to go with me. I (and only I) had the power to make me happy.

I wish I could tell you I went straight home and bought those tickets, but I didn’t. I waited and put it off and made excuses and forgot. Until I found myself hiding in my room on Father’s Day watching Youtube because I didn’t have the energy to spend time with my extended family. I couldn’t keep living like this. So I marched into the kitchen, asked to use the car, bought the ticket and promised myself that in a week for a few hours, I was going to focus on me.

It honestly turned my whole week around. Now I had something to look forward to. No matter how crazy the week got, I knew I had a few hours carved out to relax and take care of me. When Sunday came around, I made sure I had enough time to get ready, made sure that my family knew this was my time and you know what? I had the most fun I’ve had in a really long time getting ready for an event. I didn’t have to worry about dressing up or down to meet my date somewhere in the middle. I didn’t think about how tall he was when I decided to wear heels. I wasn’t hoping for compliments when I did my makeup because I was going to go hang out with a bunch of strangers. I felt like a princess because I felt like a princess, not because some boy (or well meaning friends) told me I looked like one.

Now, I’m by no means bashing being in a relationship. I consider myself a relationship person and cannot wait to be in my next one. But for now and until God decides otherwise, I am single. I am simply enjoying being single the same way I plan to enjoy being in a relationship. I’m choosing to love where I am instead of waiting anxiously for what’s next because that is the only way I know how to be happy. Also, being single is awesome! Just like being in a relationship is awesome. There is a season for everything.

If your current situation is less than ideal, do what you can to improve it then sit back and learn to love where you’re at. No one else is gonna do it for you.

xo, CMB

Some photos from my Little Mermaid solo date adventure:

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Is it ridiculous that I was relieved to be able to take/post a selfie without a boy making fun of me?
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Under the Sea nails, courtesy of my little sister
Red carpet
Felt like a Disney princess
Outfit Collage
Went for an Ariel meets Ursula vibe
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Fun Fact: The La Mirada Theatre was where I, as a little girl, first discovered stage outside of church plays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Truly a magical night & a magical show

 

Photo Journal: Meeting LC in Laguna Beach

If I told you I was obsessed with Kohls, the beach, florals & dresses and once dreamed of being a fashion designer/attending FIDM, would that remind you of a famous Orange County girl? How bout if I add that one of my life goals is to run my own lifestyle site and brand?

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I may be late to the Lauren Conrad party (I started watching “Laguna Beach” in 2012), but I’ve never left. Lauren is such an inspiration to me in so many ways, especially also being from Orange County. Once I was bitten by the LC bug, I was jealous of all the girls in my high school who had gone to book signings and met her.

When I heard she was doing a signing for “Celebrate,” her new book guide to entertaining, I jumped at the chance to buy a ticket.

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Where better to meet LC than in the city that made her famous? Several hundred of her dedicated fans turned out in the blazing OC sun on a Sunday afternoon to celebrate the release of her latest book. Before the event, I re-read the instructions and directions roughly a million times. I must have checked the date five times in the week leading up to the signing. I was so terrified that I was going to miss it. In retrospect, I probably should have focused more on making sure I brought water to balance out all the coffee I drank and battle against that intense sun. It probably would have helped the stomach ache I got but live and learn, right?

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I waited in line for almost two hours in the heat, which was definitely not fun. I made the time pass by taking pictures of basically everything and, of course, people watching.

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When it was finally my turn to take my place in the short line inside the store to meet Lauren, I was freaking out. I always say that there’s something about television stars that cause people to feel like they know them. When someone’s in your living room week after week, you begin to feel a personal connection to them. That only gets worse when someone is a reality TV star.

This was LC from “Laguna Beach” who fought with Kristen over Stephen. This was Lauren from “The Hills” who interned at Teen Vogue and lost Heidi to Spencer. This was Lauren whose face adorned one of my favorite fashion guides and was on the back cover of two of my favorite young adult books series. Seeing her in real life was so completely surreal.

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Now I know what you all are wondering. Has all that fame gone to LC’s head? Is she really as sweet as she seems on TV?

Well, I can tell you this: She did have a diva moment when I was in the store. Yep. A woman held her phone up to Lauren’s face instead of handing it to the store attendant as instructed. Did Lauren yell or freak out or refuse to sign the woman’s book? Nope. She calmly held up her hand and got the attendant’s attention, who then took the phone. Lauren apologetically explained that she has had a cell phone flash go off in her face one too many times, hence the rule about the attendant taking the pictures. That was it. No temper tantrum. No display of anger. No high-strung diva moment, just a little bit of insistence on the rules.

When it was my turn to talk to Lauren, I thanked her for teaching me that I didn’t have to sacrifice my girliness in order to be a girl boss. She thought that was so cool. I then added that it was extra cool for me because I was also from Orange County. We chatted about that a bit. She asked if I still lived in the OC and when I explained I mostly come down on weekends, she said she does the same. All in all a really great experience and the book was great too! Cannot wait to throw my very own LC-style brunch this summer.

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So for any of you Lauren Conrad fans out there, if you ever have an opportunity to visit a book tour in the future, do it! It’s a great experience and will help you appreciate the LC brand just a little bit more.

Until next time…

XO, CB

Photo Journal: Bethany Joy Lenz & Wakey!Wakey!

One of my favorite parts about living in Southern California is the easy access to LA. There are few things I love more than going to music shows at various small venues in and around Los Angeles. There’s something so special about the vibe, ticket prices are much more affordable and the venues are all quirky and cool.

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The concert I went to this past Sunday was particularly special because it transported me to Tree Hill, North Carolina for a few hours.

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Tree Hill is a fictional small town created by the Mr. Mark Schwann, the showrunner of the long-running television drama One Tree Hill. As most true-blue fans of the show will tell you, the show changed my life. My senior year of high school, watching an episode before bed became a nightly routine. By the time I got to season 2 or so, I cried at least every other episode. So when the opportunity came to see two of the show’s stars in concert–Bethany Joy Lenz (Haley James Scott) and Wakey!Wakey! aka Michael Grubbs (Grubbs)–I jumped at the chance.

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For those of you who have seen One Tree Hill, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that the concert felt like a night at Tric. Many of you probably remember Grubbs from Season 7– the lovable bartender with a magical talent for predicting (almost!) everyone’s drink orders and making beautiful music. You’ll be happy to know his singing and piano playing are even more amazing in real life. There’s something remarkable when you listen to live music that makes you sad about having to listen to the studio version for the rest of your life. Michael’s in-between song commentary was so funny, proving his real-life persona to be just as sweet and endearing as his character (which Mark wrote for him while they listened to Wakey!Wakey!’s debut album “Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said Last Time I Saw You…”). He played songs from the show like the classic “Dance So Good” which his character wrote for Miranda and also played songs from his other albums. Overall an amazing set.

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Now for Bethany Joy. As soon as Joy stepped onstage, it was clear that I was watching Bethany Joy Lenz not Haley James Scott. Not that that’s a bad thing. Joy is much less polished than Haley with a free-flowing energy that makes her delightful to watch onstage. She messed up and started over and swore and told stories that made us all feel as if we had come over to her house for drinks to watch her perform a few songs with the neighborhood band. She played piano (for the first time in public in years), played guitar, sang from center stage and even took a turn as a backup singer for a couple songs so that her next door neighbor Doo Crowder could share some of his music with us. She was effortlessly charming, sexy and classy not to mention that voice!

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Joy didn’t sing any songs from One Tree Hill or any of the songs I was familiar with from her scattered EP’s, but it didn’t matter. Her voice and performances were so compelling, I could have listened to her all night. She has a great deep, soulful, jazzy kind of voice that does indeed feel modernly vintage, much like her website ModernVintageLife.com. Cannot wait to hopefully hear the songs she did perform on her next album!

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She announced the last song of her set much too soon and of course, we all cheered for an encore. Joy seemed surprised we weren’t all ready to go home but indulged us with one last song, her very first single “Songs in My Pocket.” If you’ve never seen the adorable homemade music video that goes along with this sweet song, go check it out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uZ9jcnr2F0). The song sounded even more amazing live ten years later!

My only regret was not biting the bullet and paying the extra $50 to meet Joy. She was truly a delight and I hope to see in concert again soon.

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To wrap up the night, I got to meet Michael Grubbs. He took the time to talk to every fan who waited after the show to meet him and even told the story of how Mark heard about him in the first place (one of the writers from the show attended an open mic Michael performed at). He shook hands, took pictures and signed every CD.

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When it was my turn, I introduced myself and he shook my hand, introduced himself as “Michael” and asked if it was my first show. When I said yes, he asked if I enjoyed it. I told him he sounded even better in person than on TV (totally true!). Me &amp; Grubbs

He was so sweet and as I told him, I really do hope to come to another show of his soon. In the meantime you can find me streaming Wakey!Wakey! on Spotify and complaining about how the quality does even begin to compare…Wrist stamp

-C.M.B.