Thursday, June 26, 2008

King Diamond Fans + Camera = Instant Recorded Fun

Though the above video of two Tennessee-based King Diamond fans driving in their car singing along to "Welcome Home" (aka the best use of a song in a movie ever) has been around for a year, it's just reached a larger audience (aka me) thanks to the King giving his official seal of approval via press release to Blabbermouth. What jumps out when watching:
  1. They harmonize. Could be intentional, could be voice cracks from nervousness, but it still works. Someone should keep that in mind for the next King Diamond tribute record.
  2. The guy riding shotgun can't look directly into the camera without getting a hunted expression in his eyes, like he's anticipating the merciless mockery he knows he'll experience as soon as he posts on YouTube. He cracks a few other times, too: answering the phone (great unintentional tension release) and while watching the driver absolutely rock out while at a stop light, like he can't believe anyone would ever open themselves up that much on camera. The driver, meanwhile, is the rock star: he's going full out through the whole song. Of course, that might be because he was smart enough not to look at the camera.
  3. These guys have bigger balls than I do for not only filming this tribute, but putting it online. Dorky teenagers: this blog salutes you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Liquid Tension Experiment at B.B. King's

A story for you: After coming home from this concert, I went to sleep, and suffered from a reoccurring/waking dream for three or four hours that involved both LTE's music and snapshot images of the show I had just seen (Mike Portnoy standing up on his drum riser to address the crowd, for example. Lord knows why so many of my music dreams feature Mike Portnoy, but I suspect it's because he does of putting himself forward, so he's really noticable). I've had these dreams in the past; the only way to break the cycle and get any real sleep is to wake myself up completely for a few minutes. That night, it took me until 4:00 AM, and when I finally did so, I came to the conclusion that the source of my mental distress was, to quote Emperor Joseph II in Amadeus, "too many notes." Basically, I couldn't sleep because I was still trying to process all of the aural information I had absorbed - or because my legs still hurt after standing still for two hours.

Sleep deprivations aside, the concert was worth the admission price: a full capacity of Dream Theater, King Crimson, and prog/jazz geeks (perhaps the biggest concentration of pudgy middle-aged white males I'm likely to see a show in a while - or at least until August) watching four master technicians do their thing on stage. The extreme cerebriality was fun (because, to face facts, I had a love for the possibilities of prog drilled into me in childhood), but the guys also looked like they were having fun - and there's a hard edge to enough of their music to make me feel like I'm witnessing something that still rocks in its own fashion.

However, I discovered something about LTE (and by extension, Dream Theater) while watching this concert: the music is a lot more enjoyable when it's prescripted material from an album, as improvisation isn't really a strong point. Actually, that might be a little inaccurate; during the three improvisational jams the band played during their set, you could see the genesis of songs that, once time had been taken to polish, would make for tracks as interesting as anything LTE has produced thus far, partially eliminating the charge of wankery for no purpose, because at least the band sounded like they were sharing how they go about writing new material. Seeing the beginnings of that process was (in retrospect) cool from a purely geeky perspective, but because these songs didn't go anywhere - and ended, at least once, in pure shredding noise - it wasn't very interesting to watch. Overall, a good show to see, but one that could have been more effective with some more tightening down on the self-indulgence.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dammit Hipsters, Get Off My Lawn

I'm not entirely sure what to make of this video, because I can't tell if they're being serious, funny, or trying to invoke some deep level of irony that I, in my simple ways, cannot comprehend. Might help if I could understand the lyrics, but they're quite incomprehensible. I'm led to understand that the cooked up corpse of Kevin Bacon is somehow involved...

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Cure at Madison Square Garden

This show was one of "those shows;" an opportunity to see a band live that I'd wanted to see for years. I'd tried once, about ten years ago during the Bloodflowers tour, but never got anywhere because I couldn't find someone to go with me (something that would change as the years passed and I discovered that live music can be such a primal thing for me that I'm not bothered if there's no else around I know to share it with). This show was even a bit of an aberration than other examples of "that show" - Emperor, Metallica, Megadeth (the first time around) - because the ticket practically fell into my lap a couple of weeks before the show. Boy was I glad I went.

Back in high school and the beginning of college, I fancied myself a composer on the make. I wasn't dedicated enough - in part because I couldn't conceive of the level of dedication needed to be really good - to be an outstanding musician, but I had ideas about music and a fascination with technology that I figured would serve me well enough instead. I did some cool things, learned some stuff, and made some music that was different than what other people were doing around me, culminating in 10 minute piece in three or four movements, scored up for computer-based synthesizers, that I wrote when I was a high school senior. It was a pretty sweet accomplishment, and still makes me feel good when I think about it.

Here's why I bring it up: 65 Days of Static, the band that opened up for The Cure, sounded exactly like what I was going for with my music at its peak. Surprisingly (or maybe not, because I don't really have much of an ego about my creations), seeing someone do my thoughts better than I ever could made me really happy, like how a director must feel when watching actors bring their vision to life - if, you know, the director had absolutely no connection to any part of the movie they were watching. Good stuff; made me want to start writing music again.

Then The Cure came on and played over thirty songs in three hours, bringing me back to the exact same time period I'd so recently inhabited while enjoying 65 Days of Static's set, to the times when I wasn't trying to write music and was mowing the lawn or wooing girls or doing homework or driving around. I put their music onto mix tapes (and later mix CDs), declared "The Kiss" one of my favorite pieces of noise ever, reveled in the mix of "Close to Me" with the Dixie horns that I found on Napster, and used "Night Like This" to help assuage a breakup. This band was a formative part of my experience, and here they were, playing all of those songs and a whole lot more right in front of me. It wasn't all perfect, but in a night full of good things that made me feel ten years younger, I have no desire to complain.

Two things that really struck me about this show:
  1. Robert Smith may look a bit worse for wear, but I couldn't tell the difference between his voice on Friday night and his voice on, say, Show, which comes from recordings made in 1992. What's even more impressive is that he still sounded just as good at the end of the show. I've gotten use to cutting older metal singers (Geoff Tate, Rob Halford, James LaBrie, even Bruce Dickinson to an extent) some slack when it comes to performing their earlier material, because their vocal cords are too damaged by age and years of the rock 'n roll lifestyle to hit those high notes with the same precision they had when younger, and I expected to do so with Smith, too, so (and even with the caveat of having less demanding material to sing) I was really surprised about how good he sounded.

  2. No keyboards for this show whatsoever. I think I might have heard an organ piped in for "Close to Me," but otherwise Robert and Porl Thompson orchestrated all of the necessary keyboard parts to guitar and cut the rest. It didn't always work properly - "Hot Hot Hot!!!" sounded a little thin without the fake horns, for example - but mostly it was cool to hear the parts transposed to guitar. I'm not sure why the band didn't just hire a touring keyboard player, but maybe that would have hindered putting all of those songs into one set.
Set List for The Cure
  1. underneath the stars
  2. prayers for rain
  3. a night like this
  4. the end of the world
  5. lovesong
  6. to wish impossible things
  7. pictures of you
  8. lullaby
  9. fascination street
  10. from the edge of the deep green sea
  11. the perfect boy
  12. hot hot hot!!!
  13. the only one
  14. wrong number
  15. the walk
  16. sleep when i'm dead
  17. push
  18. friday i'm in love
  19. inbetween days
  20. just like heaven
  21. primary
  22. shake dog shake
  23. charlotte sometimes
  24. one hundred years
  25. baby rag dog book
Encore 1
  1. E1: if only tonight we could sleep...
  2. the kiss
Encore 2
  1. freakshow
  2. close to me
  3. why can't i be you?
Encore 3
  1. boys don't cry
  2. jumping someone else's train
  3. grinding halt
  4. 10:15 saturday night
  5. killing an arab

NIN In Rehearsal

Playing "1,000,000:"

That, my friends, is how a band is supposed to rock. That is rock music at the level of vitality that just fills you with energy. I want to go out and start a band right now.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Iron Maiden at Madison Square Garden

What to say, what to say...well, this happened, which pretty much sums up anything I could say about how awesome this show was. Playing soccer on stage while the crew deals with a blown speaker (during "Powerslave"...the irony is gigantic) and making it fun for 20,000 people to watch does take a special talent. Hell, watching a band play the exact same set list three months apart and loving every minute of it because they managed to make their show that much bigger the second time around (Madison Square Garden: big frickin' space with decent acoustics that sounds massive) is proof positive by itself that Iron Maiden is one of rock's premiere live bands. See them live, but don't take all of the tickets because I'll be coming back for more.

Before the show, I was explaining the rules of t-shirt wearing at concerts to my brother-in-law. Many people don't understand these rules, so it's worth going over them here, if for no other reason than that I was validated for following them immediately after the show. So, here we go:
  1. Do not wear a t-shirt put out by the band you're going to see. Doing so makes you look like a poseur who lacks a deeper knowledge of the subtleties of the music scene, or at least the understanding that there are other bands out there who play the same kind of music. On a corollary, don't wear a shirt put out by a fan of the band you're going to see paying homage to that band (like this shirt, for example. By the way, this picture makes me happier than I can say), for the same reasons. You'll just be That Guy, and no one wants that (although the legions of people I see buying shirts at a show and then wearing them during the show might disagree). Also, variety makes people watching far more interesting between sets.

  2. Don't wear a shirt of a band that has a long-standing disagreement or feud with the band you're going to see. For example, if you're going to see Megadeth, don't wear a Metallica t-shirt; if you're going to see Iron Maiden, don't wear an Ozzy t-shirt (or a maybe just a shirt with Sharon Osbourne on it, which would be pretty lame anyway); if you're going to see Dream Theater, don't wear a Queensryche shirt, etc. Much like breaking rule one, breaking rule two makes you look like a tool who doesn't pay attention to the subculture you're invading. Chances are this means you cost some fan who really does care about the music a ticket, which means you're an evil person. It's also possible you just don't care about feuds, but then you're missing the point.

  3. When picking a shirt to wear, the goal is to choose something that's either old or obscure or (preferably) both. Both factors give you credibility, and can help you strike up conversations with random people during the show. Having an old tour shirt (we're talking a piece of clothing that's a minimum of 20 years of age) can even let you break rule number one. I'm pretty sure I saw a shirt from the original Somewhere in Time tour last night, and even though it was a Maiden shirt, it was an old Maiden shirt, which made it pretty cool. People with shirts like that tend to have interesting stories.
Anyway, those are the rules. Follow those rules, last night I chose to wear a GWAR shirt I picked up during the We Kill Everything tour, and sure enough: walking back to my car, I was hailed by two guys who thought my shirt was the coolest thing they'd seen in the past half hour. Instant validation, at only pennies a day!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The One That Got Away

I'm working at home today, which means I get to use my component system and send sound waves through a larger space than the distance between earplugs and my ear drums. I've carried this system and its two speakers around in one form or another (the current CD player dates from the summer of 2000, if I remember correctly, while the tape deck - yes, tape deck - joined the party in 1995, and the amplified and speakers formed the foundation in 1994) through years and habitations and they've served me well, so it's always a pleasure to listen.

Anyway, Systematic Chaos is still kicking around in slot five of the CD player some two months after I put it in there, and once again I had the desire to listen what's become my favorite (or maybe second favorite) Dream Theater album. As I started doing so, I realized that today was the first time I'd listened to Dream Theater since I missed Progressive Nation and once again, I felt a little sad - and a little guilty. Here's what happened:

The day of the show, my wife ended up in the hospital with an air bubble in her lung. She's better now, and fortunately the worst part of the experience was the twenty minutes between my getting a voice mail from the NYPD saying she had collapsed in a subway station, couldn't breathe, and was in a hospital and her text message saying she was going to be ok, when my morbid mind leaped to the very worst of possibilities, but she had to stay in the hospital overnight, and as a result I chose to miss the show and end my streak of what would have been eight Dream Theater performances in seven years. It was a no-brainer decision, obviously: I'd have to be sick in the head to choose a concert over my wife, but I was still disappointed at circumstance and felt a bit like I was in mourning.

Hearing Dream Theater's music again for the first time in three weeks or so, I get the same feeling again: that remorse for missing the show, coupled with guilt for feeling remorse: no one died, no one got hurt, the band hasn't broken up and they'll be back again at some point next year. To rationalize, however: I suspect these feelings stem from my disappointment with the August 2007 show, where the lack of a strongly-directed set list made the music seem a little underwhelming. I wanted to see this show, not only because I wanted to see it, but because it would make up for the previous time and subconsciously reassure me that everything was still on track with my favorite band.