Pre-Grammys 2014

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The week before the red carpet was rolled out for the 56th Grammy Awards, the Grammy Foundation held a series of important events that led up to the famous ceremony.

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Grammy in the Schools Live!, partnered with Campbell's Labels for Education, was held at the USC Grand Ballroom on Jan. 22nd featuring second-time nominees for Best Alternative Album, Vampire Weekend. The now announced Grammy winners, who beat out the outstanding albums Trouble will Find Me from The National and Lonerism from Tame Impala, attracted a euphoric crowd of students.

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The event, which uses the income from its box office to benefit all Grammy Foundation programs, opened with Ron McCurdy directing Grammy Combo, a piano, bass, guitar and drums band formed out of top high school musicians from across the country. Grammy Choir, also formed out of Grammy Camp, enchanted the event with its sopranos and tenors under Dr. McCurdy’s direction. Grammy Band, a full brass band directed by Justin DiCioccio, filled the space with elegant jazz beats.

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Next on stage was the stand-up comedian Tig Notaro. Very successful getting laughs out of the impatient audience anxiously waiting for Vampire Weekend, Tig joked about her recent experience battling breast cancer among jokes related to her incidents performing in Las Vegas and reading public pool signs. Notaro, nominee for this year’s Best Comedy Album, is famous for her sketches as a lesbian police officer at "Comedy Central Presents" and "The Sarah Silverman Show."

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A howl of excited students cheered the Grammy Nominees moments before Vampire Weekend stepped on stage. Lead singer Ezra Koenig, who went from English teacher to rock star after getting signed by XL Recordings in 2007, thanked the USC crowed for supporting the jazz and carried on by reciting, "You torched a Saab like a pile of leaves," from their new hit "Diane Young." Classics like "A-Punk" and "Holiday" were also part of their set along with their latest album's hits "Unbelievers" and "Ya Hey." "Hanna Hunt," their homage to their Bay area girlfriend, closed the night. Afterwards, platinum ticket holders engaged with the band for a meet and greet.

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On the following evening, the Grammy Foundation presented the 16th Annual Legacy Concert A Song is Born at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. Tax deductible contributions to this preservation initiative generates grants for the support of archiving, preservation of music and recorded sound heritage.

A Song is Born, an event devoted to celebrating the art of songwriting, had one of its highlights on the voice of Grammy winner singer Joy Williams from the Civil Wars. Grammy winner Dan Wilson, who co-wrote "Someone Like You" with British singer Adele, shared with the audience before executing the song, “My friend was going through this horrible break-up and I knew it would lead to a great song.” The very talented Skylar Grey, who confessed having to edit porn in the past to pay the bills, sang and played on the piano "Love The Way You Lie." The song is a collaboration between her and Alex da Kid that became a worldwide hit by Rihanna and Eminem, reaching No. 1 on 26 charts and being nominated for four Grammy Awards in 2011, including Song of The Year.

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John Rzeznik, singer and songwriter of the Goo Goo Dolls, commented to the audience that after playing for years without getting recognition the band realized it feels much better to have a hit than not. He's very grateful for their top hit "Iris,""…but can you listen to something else, please?" he joked. He started his set playing a song he composed for his girlfriend at the time, now his wife, "She makes me want to be a better person everyday. Not like I'm a better person, but she makes me want to...She's a sweetheart, until you piss her off."

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Country legend Kris Kristofferson, who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement by the Gammy Foundation on Saturday night alongside the Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, played solo with his acoustic guitar and harmonica. "Me and Bobby Mc Gee," a song made popular by the late Janis Joplin, opened his set resonating his deep voice throughout the theatre. "For the Good Times," famously recorded by artists like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, was another one of the songs Kristofferson picked out of his extended music repertoire.

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After such a legend leaves the stage only a sequence of some of the most gifted singers could continue entertaining the public. Bonnie Raitt sang out loud "I Can’t Make you Love Me" and "Nick of Time." Valerie Simpson, best known from Ashford & Simpson, gave a particular show on the piano and wowed the crowed singing "I'm Every Woman," written by her and Ashford but made famous by Chaka Khan. She kept the audience ecstatic with "Ain't No Mountain is High Enough" and Motown hit "You’re All I Need to Get By," famously recorded by Marvin Gaye.

One of the final acts was Grammy winner Steve Cropper playing "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," a song co-written between Cropper and Otis Redding. Gavin De Graw, singer-songwriter known for the theme song for television drama One Tree Hill "I Don't Want To Be," joined Cropper on stage with his powerful voice and positive energy. A Song Is Born, initially supposed to run for one hour and 30 minutes became a four hour concert due to these great Grammy nominee artists.

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Text and Photos by: Paula Tripodi

Note: The words in Music Connection’s “Photo Blog Live Music Reviews” are opinions expressed by the writer/photographer and may not reflect those of Music Connection magazine. To get in contact with a writer/photographer, you may email contactmc[at]musicconnection.com.