Big K.R.I.T at the House of Blues

Another week, another concert to cover. This makes me a very happy person. On Thursday, October 3, 2019, I had the privilege of covering the hip-hop legend Big K.R.I.T (Justin Lewis Scott) at the House of Blues.

Trust me when I tell you that this dude has been in the rap game for a long time and is a walking legend. Starting his career more than 14 years ago, he has a list of accomplishments that are staggering.

As a prominent protestor of many of the racial issues that America faces today, he has become a symbol of motivation for movements like #BlackLivesMatter.

He has performed and spoken multiple times at the BET Hip Hop Awards, and even received three nominations for “Rookie of the Year” and “Best Mixtape” in 2011, where his career really started to pop off. 

Big K.R.I.T has elements in his music that show roots to some of the more classic elements of hip-hop, such as deep soulful beats and tongue-twisting lyricism. Collaborating with big artists such as J.Cole and Lil Wayne attests to his impact and respect within the hip-hop scene.

With all of this said, I was super excited to see this man live and get some fire pictures of him! Unfortunately, I was running a little late to the show at House of Blues San Diego. I arrived at about 9 p.m (the time when the headliner usually hits the stage) and picked up my media pass. 

Literally, at the exact second I walked into the main room, Big K.R.I.T. walked on stage to start his performance. Photographers are only allowed to take pictures in the photo pit for the first three songs of the performance, so I hustled my way to the front immediately. The timing could not be more perfect, because if I was even ten minutes later, I would have missed my opportunity to cover the show.

As soon as Big K.R.I.T took the stage, you could tell he had been doing this for a long time. His energy was through the roof. I looked back at the crowd to see all of the audience in the front row singing every single word. He clearly had a bunch of loyal fans. 

He continued the next three songs that I saw with that same energy, moving and bouncing around the stage, rapping his lyrics with a passion that is rare to see. 

After three songs, security booted me out, and that is all that I saw. Being able to see a legend like Big K.R.I.T up close was really great, and I am happy with the photos that I got. 

Big K.R.I.T will continue his “From the South with Love” tour until his last show on November 16th, in his hometown of Atlanta, GA. Check out his music here.

Written by: Justin Neeley
Photos by: Justin Neeley

They Did What? – Shawn Mendes

A series dedicated to what the media does not broadcast about your favorite musical artists. This week I present you, Shawn Mendes.

It is safe to say that you are living under a rock if you have not heard the name Shawn Mendes floating around in pop culture today. You may know him from his hit songs “In my Blood“, “Stitches“, or “Mercy“, or his reputation of being the nice guy with the guitar, or you have heard about him and his new girlfriend Camila Cabello. Either way, I am sure you have heard his name but do you really know the true soul that is Shawn Mendes?

The media often creates a boundary around an artist so they appeal to a particular audience or are always viewed in a certain light. Some people may see Shawn Mendes as just another heartthrob male artist who only sings towards young girls and is not a renowned musical artist with great skill. He is easily marketed in that way but Shawn Mendes adds more to the story than a teen pop heartthrob. I am here to tell you exactly why. He is not all about fame but about the people and fans he can touch in ways only a musician can.

The average person may not know how Shawn Mendes has revealed his true heart to the world, that is why I am here to tell you just how he has done that.

First, let’s talk about how this guy spreads love to anyone and everyone. An aspect of Shawn that only certain people know about is his dedication to helping others. From the very beginning, Shawn has been all about spreading positivity and joy to the world. In fact, just after his very first single, Life of the party, was released he launched a campaign called #NotesFromShawn with Dosomething.org. Shawn wrote this on Instagram back in 2014.

He was advocating for people to spread kindness to others by simply leaving a sticky note with a positive or encouraging note for friends or strangers to see. Shawn said in a Teen Vogue interview back in 2015 that “This campaign is all about the little things. Things as simple as posting a note with ‘You’re amazing’ scribbled on it can really turn someone’s whole day around.” Keep in mind that Shawn just turned 16 when he launched this campaign and barely starting his career, yet he was already using his platform to help others. What 16 year old boy has this mindset?! You may think that his management team told him to start this, but Shawn continues to show what kind of soul he has as time goes on. Fast forward to today. Shawn just recently released his own foundation appropriately named, The Shawn Mendes Foundation. Shawn wrote on Instagram to explain his foundation.

Click here to see the full post and watch the corresponding video.

This is a unique platform because he is giving a voice to his fans and people who want to help change the world.  He is helping people speak their truth who may not have been able to do so before. You can go onto his website to donate to a cause you feel connected to. The Shawn Mendes Foundation works with organizations like the American Red Cross, March for our Lives, Pencils of Promise and many more. Check out the facts over on the Instagram page of what Shawn has already accomplished, while working with the company REVERB, through his foundation. Shawn just changed the game for everyone. Not only is he trying to make this world a better place, but he is sharing his platform with others so they can help too.

Shawn is dedicated to making this world a better place.

Now why does the media not appropriately broadcast this about him? I have no idea. Our world needs to focus on the good and the positivity spread by others. People say there is so much negativity in this world, which is true, but sometimes I think it is how we receive our information and how the media portrays information to us that we get so caught up in the negatives. Shawn might not be the typical artist to get caught up in media but there are still things that receive attention. Now that Shawn has a girlfriend there has been speculation and rumors that his relationship with Camila Cabello is just for PR reasons (false!).

Now that is a completely different topic that you do not want me to get started on. However, this is what the media focuses on. The personal lives of artists that only they should have a choice of if they want to share with the world or not. Media tries to put a negative light on every little thing an artist does. I know it is a part of fame, but the media blow things out of proportion more times than not. Shawn even said in an ET Canada interview “It’s like broken telephone, I say one thing or tweet one thing and a million articles re-write it in a different way. Then by the time you see it, it already went through 50 different platforms and you are reading nothing like what I said.” Shawn shares some insightful thoughts regarding the media and fame. Click here to read and watch the full interview.


Not only is Shawn a kind soul that needs to be cherished forever but he is a talented artist. Music should be for everyone and have no boundaries. Nothing makes me angrier than when someone says that a person is not that talented because of the type of audience they attract. That is again the media putting that in your mind, where did we get the idea that only teenage girls can listen to a good looking talented dude. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone believes that statement but there still are people in the world who do believe that. In addition, there is this slight stigma around you if you listen to a heartthrob male artist and are not a teenage girl. That stigma needs to be broken because everyone should give any artist an opportunity to impress you. People should always listen to music they love no matter what.

There is something different about Shawn.

He sings these hit pop songs but he does it with just him and his guitar or band. There is no added production. Some people may say he is just another Ed Sheeran or John Mayer. In my eyes, he fills a different path from the both of them. He is singing these songs that fill a void in music that only a certain person can fill. Shawn is making these records that have relatable or empowering lyrics with catchy melodies, with these big guitar chords that you can somehow dance or cry to. I feel Shawn is filling many hats with his music. He is the heartthrob male artist no denying that, but he is also a pop idol, singer/songwriter, guitarist, and musician all in one because of all the different music he is producing. He brings a new edge to the pop music world.

There is a connotation that comes with being a male pop star, that I think Shawn is breaking. Often times people believe that pop stars are picked to sing these hit songs because they have this stage presence or can make the song go #1. Shawn is the complete opposite of that. He writes his own songs with a close-knit group of people, his live performances are never lip-synced, and he has more to the story than his biggest pop records. If you do not know what I am talking about please go listen to his albums Handwritten, Illuminate, and his self titled album, Shawn Mendes (in that order),  to see how much he has progressed and you will understand why Shawn is more than a teen pop icon.

How can this guy be so talented, caring, good looking, and successful all in one?

Now you may think this is too good to be true. You may think this guy is just full of himself. Well, I hate to tell you but a person like Shawn exists in the world. Even some of his close peers and friends have expressed their feelings towards him and here are some comments to prove it.

Alessia Cara, who is a fellow Canadian music artist,  just recently toured with Shawn on his world tour and wrote this on her Instagram after her last show opening up for him.

Click here for Alessia’s Instagram and full post

Alessia has a way with words that I think describes Shawn so beautifully. Another comment by Cez Darke, Shawn’s tour manager who is a little bit older than Shawn, says on Instagram:

Click here to see the post and Cez Darke’s Instagram

The love keeps coming. One of Shawn’s favorite musicians John Mayer even said in an interview on air with Andy Cohen that Shawn “is so clear-headed, so clear-minded, he is so earnest in the right way, has a sense of humor in the right way, he has what it takes to go all the way.” One of music’s greatest musicians in the last decade had amazing things to say to the newbie in the industry.

Even people who work with Shawn behind the scenes, like photographers, comment on how nice this guy is.

Click here to see post and for Justin Campell’s Instagram

People who are around Shawn never cease to express how genuine of a soul he truly has. It doesn’t matter how they are interacting, people never have anything bad to say about Shawn. Someone’s true character and integrity as a person truly come out when the cameras are turned off. You can see that with Shawn Mendes. No matter if he is on a red carpet or hanging out with his friends and tour mates, Shawn Mendes is a compassionate human being with genuine care for others.

Spreading love to others is all Shawn wants to do in life.

There needs to be more people like Shawn in this world. Shawn does Q&A’s with fans before every show of his tour. While on tour in LA a fan asked: “How do you want to change the world?” Shawn had the perfect answer of:

“I want to send the most amount of love to anyone all the time. I realize that I am the luckiest person in the entire world because not only have I been given the opportunity to understand how important it is to always be sending love, but I get to stand on stage every night and experience that. I know it sounds deep, but it is really magical.”

Shawn Mendes

How can one not like this man? There are only haters for Shawn Mendes because they are jealous of everything he has done with his life. It is okay, you do not have to be a hardcore fan of his music. However, if you are not a fan of him as a person then I do not know what to say to you. Of course, I do not know him personally but the person he shows to the world is someone with great gratitude for everything he has been given in life. Not many celebrities are able to stay grounded and not let fame affect them as Shawn Mendes has.

In light of what Shawn has done in this world, I encourage everyone who is reading this to spread positivity around you today and be a light. Shawn has this huge platform that can reach millions of people through his music and his fans so you may think it is easy for him to make a difference and you can’t reach anyone. Well, you are wrong. Every act of kindness can make a difference in the world. It is not about the quantity of people you reach but the quality of how you reach people. Spreading love to others is only what we are meant to do on this earth. What is life without human connection and what is life without love? Shawn Mendes oozes love everywhere he goes and that is what needs to be spread in media today.

Written by: Adrienne Murdock

Vampire Weekend at Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre

On Thursday, October 3, 2019, Vampire Weekend returned to San Diego after six years for a sold-out show at the Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre, with support from Soccer Mommy.

Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride Tour is special in that every show has a different setlist, and said setlist is nearly 30 songs long.

The band started out their San Diego show with “White Sky” from their second album, Contra, followed by “Unbelievers” from their third album, Modern Vampires of the City, and “Bambina” from their newest album, Father of the Bride. Within the first few songs, three out of their four eras were represented, and proved that a fan from any time would love the show that was about to come. 

One of the first energetic moments from the crowd was during “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” as the whole theatre screamed the famous lyrics “Is your bed made? Is your sweater on?” which really kicked off the night and saw everyone in the crowd begin to get lost in the performance.

Vampire Weekend also performed Contra’s “Taxi Cab” which had not been performed since 2010, and received a massive reaction of excitement from the crowd. That excitement continued as they next played “Sunflower”, one of the early-released songs off Father of the Bride.

Some of Vampire Weekend’s most famous songs; “Diane Young”, “Cousins”, and “A-Punk” introduced not only an increase in energy from the crowd but also in the stage design as the gigantic blow-up globe behind the band finally began to rotate. Another surprise in the stage design was when multiple flags decorated with various symbols of this Father of the Bride era dropped from above the stage.

After coming back out for the encore, the band took requests from the crowd. “Hannah Hunt” was requested by a man in a cowboy hat who was waving a shirt around pretty much the entire show, which eventually gained him notice from frontman Ezra Koenig. Another fan requested “Ottoman”, and then the requests ended with “Campus”, which Ezra dedicated to the SDSU students in the audience.

The night ended with intense “Walcott” and kept the crowd screaming every word until the very last one.

Listen to Vampire Weekend’s newest album Father of the Bride here.

Written by: Emerson Redding
Photos by: Emerson Redding

Rambo: Last Blood – Illumination of PTSD

Rambo: Last Blood is a film with an identity crisis that aims to highlight the struggle veterans face when dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you go into the newest Rambo film expecting the action-packed scenes of the 2008 release, you will be disappointed. This movie does not have the exuberant gunplay and the mythical Stallone that we have come to expect. John Rambo clearly shows the signs of wear and his age is at the forefront. The director chose many closeups which admittedly come off a bit silly more often than not. The Rambo presented appears to be in a settled state and is looking to lead a comfortable life. He trains horses if you can believe that and even forges his own blades. These tasks appear to be a coping mechanism for his PTSD.

Taken from Lionsgate Youtube

Prevalence of PTSD in Rambo

PTSD is not something new to the Rambo films. The disorder has been front and center from the very inception of the series. Rambo in First Blood is a Vietnam War veteran and prisoner of war who returns to the United States. In the U.S. he faces harassment from the police force who, on default, considers him an untrustworthy vagrant. The physical abuse (he is hosed down while detained by the police) triggers a fight or flight response and he chooses fight.

Rambo attempts to cope with his PTSD through medication. Without revealing any spoilers, the new film also pits Rambo in a situation that prompts his exit from a semi-comfortable life. He, in one of the many zoom-ins, tosses down his medication and a majority of the action in the film follows this tipping point. This frustration mirrors much of the sentiment veterans still exhibit today.

PTSD Today

Like Rambo in the first film, veterans today continue to return from war not knowing how to adjust and cope with civilian life. The government also often falls short in offering resources to aid in the acclimation process. The fact that 16 veterans take their lives daily, and more than 50 veterans suffering from PTSD and seeking treatment from the Veterans Health Administration committed suicide in 2017 are testaments to the drastic need to improve a failing system.

Taken from Lionsgate Youtube

Though this new installment to the Rambo franchise attempted to merge the internal struggle faced by soldiers found in the first movie with the action and explosions of the most recent movie, the result was lacking in both departments and leaves people wishing that direction went all-in on at least one.