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Trio of upcoming artists weigh in on Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding

Sharlene Celeskey, Contemporary Culture Editor, Puma Press

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What was it like onstage and backstage at this year’s Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding?  What was memorable? I asked three young adults who were on stage and backstage, and who experienced being part of a concert with seasoned professionals.

Lauren Case won the soloist competition during the “Proof is in the Pudding” competition and sang at the show. Jam Murray (JAM) also performed as part of Vintage Wednesday, the winning group from the competition.  Alex Sanchez was one of the M.C.s at the show and introduced the young dancers from Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Center.

Q: Describe your stage experience at this year’s Christmas Pudding?

Lauren Case: This performance was different. I undoubtedly had a blast, but I was never comfortable. I felt like I was in a dream the entire time and on autopilot. I loved how I was able to roam freely with no cords to hold me in one place. It made me feel like a real rock star.

Jam Murray: It was really cool to be able to perform and have the audience be responsive and standup and dance along during the “The Chain.” It was such a joy to be rocking and rolling in a theater with 2500 people.

Alex Sanchez: It was fun. Since it was my first time as M.C., I was so nervous, and I read my lines 30 times, but if you are not nervous, then you do not care. I suffer from horrible stage fright.

Q: What were your favorite moments as a participant in the show?

LC: I would be sitting there eating a bag of Cheetos, and all of the sudden I sparked up a conversation with an LA movie producer or someone who traveled with Metallica, and even later that night, Johnny Depp.  The BEST moment was the finale when the Hollywood Vampires pulled all the acts back on stage. It was a very victorious moment for me. I didn’t care how silly I looked trying to dance; it was a moment of pure uninterrupted happiness.

JM: Talking to the Gin Blossoms. I saw them when I was 15, which was an awesome experience.  They were very personable.  Brian Welch of Korn had our CD in his hand and said he watched us on the TV (in the green room).  He told us our performance was really good and was impressed with how I interacted with the crowd.  Being on stage during the encore and standing next to Johnny Depp. I talked to Johnny about his signature Duesenberg guitar.

AS: Seeing how excited the student dancers were to perform and how all their hard work paid off. This was my first M.C. job, and it was crazy cool. “Yes, I did it!”  I had such a feeling of accomplishment. But I was most happy with the young students performing their hearts out and feeling empowered.

Q: What was the energy like backstage?

LC: I was smiling almost the entire time. But I was also just as nervous as I was excited. On the outside, I probably looked pretty cool and collected, but on the inside, I felt like the little girl who used to pretend she had huge concerts in her room. It was like a foreshadowing into my future, and I was freaking out.

JM: Everyone was personable to us. It was really cool, and there was definitely a buzz. I enjoyed being able to walk up and speak to successful people.  I had previously spoken to Sammy Hagar at the Dungeon at Cooperstown, so it was cool to catch up with him, and he was very nice to talk to. Cooper’s producer Bob Erin made a surprise appearance and told us we played a great set and complimented Taylor’s (Sackson) voice (lead singer of Vintage Wednesday).

AS: The members of Korn were really funny. They were busy but kind. Approximately 15 – 20 dancers performed short sets. They were just excited to be involved and to be in a situation where they were equal to the other performers.

Q: Whose performance really WOW’d you?

LC: I had listened to Korn previous to this event, so I was pretty prepared for all the screaming and head banging, and they had a definite wow factor. The Hollywood Vampires took first place in the wow factor competition. They were mesmerizing, and everyone in the crowd stood up to welcome them. My favorite part of their set was when Joe Perry used this mouthpiece device that altered the sound of his guitar. I had never seen anything like that before.

JM: Hollywood Vampires with all the players having such extensive backgrounds performing together. My favorite moment was when they played Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion.

AS: Other than the amazing performances of the bands, the dance performances and the energy they put in to them wow’d me.

Q: Do you have a history with Solid Rock Teen Center? If so what have you gained from being involved?

LC: I had never heard of the teen center, and embarrassingly enough, I didn’t know who Cooper was. It was the lead singer of a band that previously won Proof that told me I should do it. I was interested, almost didn’t take the opportunity but decided to go for it and went to orientation. You know the rest of story. When I think of each round, I get butterflies. All the exciting, happy feelings associated with this competition come back, and it’s so bittersweet to me that it’s over. I’ve learned so many important things through this competition that I will carry with me for life. I’ve learned what it takes to be an entertainer. The Proof competitors are an absolute family, and I hope with all my heart they each continue to pursue music.

JM: I started coming to the teen center at 17 because of the “Proof is in the Pudding” competition. I was in a high school band called (Central Divides) when I first started attending. I then started taking lessons with their guitar instructor Court Stumpf and their drum instructor Mark Savale (Both in Dash Cooper’s band called CO-OP).

I learned how to be a better musician and artist by going there and being surrounded by inspiring people and musicians. I met Cooper and talked to him about songwriting. Then I started teaching at the center. Going there you expand your creativity and your abilities.

AS: I was first involved in the Teen Center in 2012. I collaborated creativity with the staff for the grand opening event and continued to help out. I moved to Los Angeles, and when I moved back, I wanted to get involved in the community. The best fit was to work at the teen center again. I enjoy helping the students and watching them grow.

I love the Rock and their dedication to helping the kids in the community become successful in a safe place. I see kids take dance lessons in every genre, art classes, piano, music lessons and get experience in recording. They can totally immerse themselves creatively, and it is free. The Teen Center empowered me to conquer my stage fright by being one of the MCs in a theater of 2600 people.

Recently I caught up with the three and asked them what they had going on since Christmas Pudding.

LC: Since winning “Proof is in the Pudding,” everything has been escalating. I used to have one or two shows at a time to look forward to, and now I am booked almost every weekend until April. It’s the most overwhelming yet fulfilling (feeling). I’ve formed a band, and we’ve started doing shows together. I’m just learning my groove as an artist and starting to find I am far braver on stage than I once was. I’ve entered a new realm of performing where I completely lose the awareness of an audience. I plan to start an EP soon. I haven’t touched my prize money because I’m waiting for the moment it will benefit me most. I want to create merch soon. Expect big things.

JM: Vintage Wednesday held their record release party for “Heart Strings,” at the Last Exit Live on Jan. 14. The band will be opening for Cooper at Arizona Bike Week on April 8. We will be concentrating on getting our music video out and touring this summer.

In January, I went to Los Angeles to work with record producer, Robert Carranza (four time Grammy winning producer), at Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records. I recorded at their custom-built solar powered studio, The Solar Powered Plastic Plant Recording Studio. The studio was built with all recycled materials and eco-friendly. I will be going back in March to finish up.

My song release party for “Believe it is Possible” was at Cooper’stown on Feb. 17.  I plan to finish the “Believe it is Possible” video soon. I am very excited to play the Pot of Gold Fest on March 18 at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler.

I still teach at Solid Rock Teen Center: guitar, bass and vocals.

AS: I set up my work area in my new condo in central Phoenix, I am working on re-vamping my brand in the fashion and art community. I am creating content for a fall collection to be shown in Vancouver Fashion Week in March 2018.  The idea and theme is, “Looking Back on history and my heritage but with a futuristic Look.”  Picture Comme des Garcons having a baby with John Galliano or Alexander McQueen.

My inspiration comes from my discovery of myself, my heritage, history of fashion and art and how I can push it forward. I discovered through my DNA that Queen Elizabeth I is one of my ancestors. I am drawn to the fact that she was so opulent and have a weird obsession about her. I want to restyle her and show what she might have worn in other stylish decades and into the future. Imagine her in Worth in the 1880s, Channel in the 20s and Dior in the 50s. I plan to take apart various elements from fashion and effortlessly putting them back together for Elizabeth’s look. I have the marketable clothes, but now I want to work on the runway collection. Fashion is my vehicle to all art. My mom repeated to me the old quote, “You can be jack of all trades but master of none.” I said to her, “And then there is the Renaissance Man.

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Trio of upcoming artists weigh in on Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding