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Have you ever walked in to a place, surveyed the area and concluded that someone may have literally picked it up, turned it upside down and then placed it back on its right side?

#TBT from my first trip to Wrigley Field last year.

#TBT from my first trip to Wrigley Field last year.

This is how I felt at 3 am on Thursday morning as I walked in to Kelly’s, one of my favorite East Village haunts. I’m inherently a fan of Kelly’s because it serves as a home for fans of both my Buffalo Bills and Sabres. The wings (and for that matter, anything in the deep fryer) are delicious and the Blue Light is usually a plentiful.

Kelly’s is an interesting spot for a couple of reasons, one being that in addition to housing Bills and Sabres faithful, it also backs the Chicago Cubs and Bulls. So when the Cubs made the World Series, I knew exactly where to go and watch the game. Matter-of-fact, that is what I did for Sunday’s Game 5, a Cubs win in Wrigley.

Of course I was working during Game 7 but after the game finished, around 3 am, I jetted down to the Lower East Side to see if there were any revelers still celebrating. What I walked in to was a semi-madhouse. Keep in mind; it’s the middle of the week.

Forget stools, people were actually still just sitting right on the bar drinking. Or standing on a bench. You couldn’t find a part of the floor your shoes didn’t stick to. And the Blue Light is usually a plentiful, but the watering hole was actually sold out of bottled beer.

I love Kelly’s. Seriously the only thing that made me upset about any of this was that I wasn’t there when the final out was recorded. In lieu of that, here’s some video via Instagram of the celebration that ensued.

A video posted by yasmina (@yazzyfresh3) on


And what you didn’t see was the crowd OUTSIDE the bar, the width of the building and packed back in to the street.

It must have been memorable, because even at 3 am on a weeknight the place was still buzzing. I stayed for a couple of draft brews and then headed up Avenue A to another establishment that I feel a certain kinship towards: the venerable dive bar Niagara. I mean, I am from Niagara Falls after all.

The night finally ended at Sophie’s, which apparently has been an East Village staple for quite some time, although this was my first visit. There are $4 bottled beers, a pool table and a lot of regulars that like to hang out there, even at 4 am last call on a Thursday morning.

An Uber ride and Seamless bodega order later, my night came to an end. It definitely wasn’t how I had planned to spend my Wednesday night. I guess you could say it got turned upside down.

You’ve heard the song and your reaction may have gone something like this: “Wait, is there something wrong with my speakers? Why is my phone skipping? Is the radio messed up?”

There is nothing wrong with your speakers, your phone isn’t skipping and we’re fine. Hopefully you realized this 11 seconds in to “Gold,” as soon as the first verse kicked in. Hopefully you realized that there was still three minutes and 34 seconds left in the dark, twisted and rather interesting journey that 21 year-old Kiiara was going to take you on.

Or maybe you’re just transfixed on the song’s opening and chorus. It’s fine; you’re far from the only one.

“It’s interesting because I always knew what it was; like it’s a sample,” the Illinois-born emcee replied when I asked her on my show recently about people’s interpretation of the song’s open. “That’s all it is. So people trying to put words to it or like (ask) ‘What is she saying? What language is this?’ It’s interesting. It’s funny.”
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“Gold” first blew up outside of the U.S. even though Kiiara, nee Kiara Saulters, is an American artist. The single is already a Top 5 hit and two-times platinum down in Australia. It has cracked or is on the door step of the Top 20 in five other countries, including here where it sits at 22 on the pop radio airplay chart.

Chart success and critical acclaim are certainly propelling Kiiara’s career in the right direction, and she doesn’t seem to mind.

“It’s really fun,” she said of her time in the music industry thus far. Kiiara grew up in Illinois playing high school volleyball and would eventually dual-major in accounting and finance before dropping out of college after a year to pursue music. “It’s cool to like, experience everything with shooting music videos to seeing what rehearsals and touring is about, because I’ve never performed before.”

That changed last month when the singer embarked on her first headlining tour, a six-date jaunt that culminated with a festival slot: Lollapalooza in Chicago, back where she had grown up.

“It was really weird to be back; like it was a good weird but I haven’t been there in over a year,” she admitted. Kiiara moved to L.A. shortly after recording “Gold” and continued on to finish her debut EP, “low kii savage.” “And then I’ve never been to Lolla, so performing was really dope, to see it from a different perspective.”

Seemingly the only item on Kiiara’s itinerary at the moment is the promotion of “Gold” as it continues to climb up airplay charts. The 21 year-old hopes to drop her debut full length album in January and noted that a full tour could come shortly sometime thereafter.

Fresh off the release of her well-received sophomore LP ‘Better,’ Haley Reinhart stopped by to perform for listeners and chat about the new album, future plans with Casey Abrams and Postmodern Jukebox plus how she landed a gig on Bill Burr’s “F Is For Family.”
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Adam LaRoche abruptly retired from baseball this week, allegedly because the Chicago White Sox told him he could no longer bring his teenage son to the ballpark every day. LaRoche, looking to bounce back from a disappointing season, will pass up his guaranteed salary of $13 million.

“Thank u Lord for the game of baseball and for giving me way more than I ever deserved! #FamilyFirst,” LaRoche tweeted, prior to the news of his ballclub’s request becoming public. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal broke the story; White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams spoke with LaRoche about his son last week and again on Sunday according to the Chicago Tribune.

“Even 50 percent (of the time) is probably too much, but there’s a wide range between 0-50 percent, so I was a little surprised by the stance he took, which is unfortunate,” Williams told the Tribune. “He talks about being there for his family, and he put it front and center. I respect and admire that.”
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The response on Twitter has been actually quite tempered. How do you knock a man for putting his son ahead of $13 million? Why would any employer, especially a ball club looking to return to the postseason, allow employees to bring their kids to work every single day?

As evidenced on this blog and confirmed by those who listen to my radio show, I am far from Switzerland. But this is one of those rare times when no one is wrong. LaRoche perhaps felt he set a precedent last season by signing with the Sox and bringing 14 year-old Drake to the park every day. The White Sox might believe that the clubhouse isn’t a place for kids all of the time, and may have been trying to send a message to LaRoche. The Designated Hitter batted .207 with 12 homers and 44 RBIs, all below his career averages.

And yes, there might be added pressure on the South Side this year following the Cubs’ run to the National League Championship Series last season. Heading in to Opening Day next month, the North Siders are the odds-on favorite in Las Vegas to win the World Series.

That shouldn’t matter to a father whose primary focus is taking care of a child. And that should matter to a business which not only has to look out for its employees but essentially has a large group of shareholders (fans) to look out for.

Each side made the correct decision for their best interest. Hopefully for all parties involved, in true Switzerland policy, the conclusion is a peaceful one.

The Plain White T’s attempted to channel the joys and inspirations of the band’s youth for the latest LP, The Wonders of the Younger. But you may be shocked to discover that next year, PWTS celebrates its fifteenth birthday. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Lead singer Tom Higgenson can’t believe it either.

“Wow, holy cow,” a shocked Higgenson replied when I informed him of this on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” “It doesn’t (seem like 15 years). But yunno, we started right out of high school, just a local band playing local shows.”

Now they play across the states – far away from the band’s Midwest roots. But Higgenson and company are very much still in touch with Chicago – and perhaps still a little touchy on the subject of Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler. The QB came under criticism last month during the NFC Championship game for sitting out the second half with an injury.

“I think he was really hurt,” the lead singer said in defense of Cutler. “He’s a tough guy. He fought through a lot – a couple concussions through the season.”

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Higgenson knows a thing or two about “toughing it out” on the road – he’s no stranger to evening performances, after-show media, and early morning radio visits. According to the front man and Tim Lopez, there’s no alternative to playing hurt while on tour. Lopez has been with PWTS for about half of the almost 15 year-run, and plays the role of lead singer on the band’s latest single, “Rhythm of Love.”

“In the past we just had (Tom) sing,” said Lopez of material he wrote with Higgenson for the T’s prior to “Rhythm.” “This time around, the songs were personal and thankfully I turned in demos that were… they almost sound like the songs sound now on the record.”

Lopez and Higgenson concurred that the quality of the demos is what sold the band. Ultimately – it was Higgenson’s call, and after cutting his own vocals for the song, he even decided Lopez’s voice belonged on the track.

I suppose, like Jay Cutler, it’s all about picking your spots.

R&B newcomer Jeremih learned an important lesson on his first day of touring: sometimes, you need to roll with the punches.

“The keyboard should’ve been here,” he explained while backstage at Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain. “It’s on its way; it was 15 pounds over capacity for the plane limit.”

But at least the singer himself made it. Jeremih flew to Scranton from El Paso, TX – touching down in NEPA around 4:30. He quickly drove to the venue, and snuck in a quick sound check before doors were opened to the public. I spoke with him just past 6 p.m., approximately 40 minutes later he hit the stage to croon for 15 minutes, ending with the up-tempo version of his Top 10 hit, “Birthday Sex.”

But if you’re headed to another stop on the America’s Most Wanted Music Festival, don’t assume that you’ll hear that particular cut.

“It all depends on what people are really feelin’,” said Jeremih. “It was up to me, I’d perform both of ‘em.”

After consulting with myself and Kidd Kraddick In The Morning producer Adam, Jeremih and his manager decided on the up-tempo remix, as that is the version heard on 97 BHT.

Jeremih isn’t your average R&B singer. Born Jeremih Felton in Chicago, the singer entered the University of Illinois at age 17. The early entry to college forced Felton to grow up quickly, and he would soon learn a lot about himself and his surroundings.

“I ended up getting a hold of some IDs,” revealed Jeremih, who blamed his downfall in part on living away from home in a co-ed dorm. “Long story short, I’m the youngest kid in there, but the oldest dude in there.”

The singer soon found himself with a revoked license. But Jeremih credits that experience with helping his career: during that two year period, he was forced to sit home and work on his craft. Jeremih transferred to Columbia College Chicago. He left a semester short of a degree to pursue his career, but plans on finishing at some point.

“Education is key,” said Jeremih. “It got me this far.”

Download the mp3

After playing 97 BHT’s “High School Hookup 2009” at Riverside – The White Tie Affair met up with Ralphie at T.G.I. Friday’s, and you could tell that they weren’t speaking in front of a high school anymore.

Check out photos from “High School Hookup 2009” here.

It felt like a bunch of my old friends I grew up with comprised The White Tie Affair, a pop-rock band from Chicago. Sitting at a table at T.G.I. Friday’s in Wilkes-Barre, the fellas and I chatted candidly about porn videos, gossip, and (alleged) sexual escapades with or by friends and tour mates.

Then, I turned on the microphone and began the interview. If you think the band tamed the lingo – well, you thought incorrectly. In between dishing on the group’s next MTV cameo (in a couple weeks on The Hills) and Lady GaGa (they opened for GaGa on “The Fame Ball”), TWTA jumped at every spare moment to change the subject. The guys constantly mentioned premature ejaculation (or as guitarist Sean P. commonly referred to it: premature evacuation) and Daryl Strawberry.

“A lot of times what happens, there’s like premature evacuation going on and you don’t want to be embarrassed by the way you evacuate due to weather,” the guitarist all-but-blurted out. I didn’t care to inquire as to the origin of the inside joke, but the constant references to the former baseball player Strawberry peaked my curiosity.

“Was Daryl Strawberry there?” keyboardist Ryan McClain asked after a question about the group keeping up with the storylines of The Hills. “Candle (Sick and Tired)” first gained notoriety after the show featured the track and TWTA.

After a few more mentions of the former Yankees and Mets outfielder, lead singer Chris Wallace attempted to shed some light on the joke.

“We did this event in New York at CitiField, the Mets new stadium, and we heard Daryl Strawberry was gonna be there,” said Wallace.

“I’m a huge fan,” continued McClain. “Apparently, he had some problems back in the day.”

Those problems were alluded to early in the interview, when Wallace abruptly speculated that he heard Strawberry, “could no longer smell.”

Perhaps a lack of sleep could be attributed to the meandering of the interview. Wallace wrote the next day on the band’s MySpace blog that TWTA pulled an all-nighter – driving from Rochester, N.Y. to Wilkes-Barre. The next stop: Riverside High School, where Wallace and his crew performed for 97 BHT’s High School Hookup 2009, complete with a few of the group’s own tracks and covers of GaGa and Kanye West.

Anyways, the interview moved on, or at least I attempted to move it on – asking the guys about touring with the aforementioned GaGa.

“Let’s just say, she’s very polite and very generous with her ‘givings’,” Sean P noted. He couldn’t elaborate any further without inciting an FCC fine, however the guitarist did revert to a familiar topic in the conversation.

“If you were to run a city and there was a hurricane to come, you don’t want to be caught up premature evacuating even though it’s safer, and you get what you get done, I would never want to say that I premature evacuated a city when a tornado was coming.”

And on that note, I did not find anything premature about exiting the interview – after all, I knew the “tornado” of an editing task that awaited me before I could air the conversation.


If a group by the name of Jump Smokers didn’t do it, you know someone else would have released an anti-Chris Brown song. But, the Chicago-based duo is gaining world-notoriety for the track, “My Flow So Tight (Anti-Breezy)”.

“My flow so tight and the beat so sick, Chris Brown should get his ass kicked,” raps Jump Smokers front man C.W. Grizz on the hook.

The lead emcee called in to The Ralphie Radio Show last week to discuss the origin of the song and the response it’s received.

“It started out kinda as a joke,” revealed Grizz. “We wanted to make a song that legitimately would be poppin’ here in Chicago at the clubs.”

Jump Smokers first received airplay from a DJ in the Windy City, who spun the song on a live-to-air broadcast from a nightclub. Immediately, the radio station request lines lit up with listeners inquiring about the source of the track. Suddenly, night clubs and radio stations from coast to coast began playing the record, and news outlets from MTV to The New York Times covered the story of the song.

“Once I saw the pictures of Rihanna on TMZ.com… for me, I had it,” explained Grizz. “I kinda got fed up with a lot of celebrities not speaking out against him.”

Kanye West can be counted among the artists who didn’t speak against Brown – matter of fact – he even spoke in support of him. At a TV taping shortly after the pre-Grammy night incident, West asked a crowd to give the young R&B crooner a break. Other public figures – such as Oprah, Tyra Banks, and Perez Hilton – spoke out against the alleged abuse.

In an attempt not to gain any direct monetary success from the situation, Grizz noted that the group is donating proceeds of the song sales to charities that benefit women. However, this road proved rocky when a couple of non-for-profits were reluctant to accept the funds. Some were afraid that the song sent the wrong message to people – answering domestic violence with more abuse.

“I think (the charities) are taking it a little too seriously,” Grizz said in defense of his track. “We’re not threatening Chris Brown in this song. Hopefully the song makes you dance, laugh, and then think.”

At least two of the three reactions occurred over the weekend, when I spun the track inside Reflex at The Wilkes-Barre Hardware Bar Entertainment Complex. A couple club goers stopped and shot a perplexed look toward the DJ booth, while others “oohed” and most continued to dance.

And for those wondering, yes, Rihanna did hear the track. A DJ at a birthday party for Los Angeles Clipper Baron Davis spun the song with the Bajan-beauty present. No word on her reaction.

BRITNEY TOUR LIVES UP TO “CIRCUS” TITLE

Poor Britney Spears. If it isn’t Kevin Federline showing up backstage, it’s the Pussycat Dolls verbally clawing at each other on stage. If it isn’t a smoke-filled venue, it’s a fan jumping from the venue’s seating on stage.

Orlando, Florida resident Kyle King, 20, faces a single breach of peace charge for walking on stage during Spears’ encore performance of “Womanizer” at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. He could face jail time.

Listen to Ralphie Aversa weekdays from 5-10p on 97 BHT.


05.01.09 : Jump Smokers – My Flow So Tight (Anti-Breezy)
Jump Smokers’ front-man C.W. Grizz on The Ralphie Radio Show:
How the anti-Chris Brown song came about:

Trying to donate to charties, Rihanna’s reaction:

Grizz insists during the conversation that in no way does the song advocate abuse, yet some charities are reluctant to accept proceeds of download sales from the group. The Jump Smokers lead emcee also confirms during the interview that Rihanna did in fact hear the song at a L.A. party – however he is unaware what her response to the song was.

He cites the TMZ photo of a beaten and bruised RiRi as the lead inspiration for the song. The Jump Smokers hail from Chicago.