Monthly Archives: July 2006

Vacation is fudamental

Everyone needs vacation. Even me. One might think that I don’t because I don’t seem to vacation enough, but I do. That’s one reason why this week rules. I’m free from work, free from its stresses, free from dealing with stuff I would rather not deal with.

My vacation actually started later than planned due to said things I would not deal with, but not by much. I was planning on leaving for Cincinnati to visit Jon and Michelle friday night, but I got caught up with some important last minute stuff, and had to postpone the journey until saturday. It was all right though, as it gave me some time to get some things taken care of that would otherwise be postponed.

The trip was a lot of fun. After I got down there saturday evening, Jon and I got totally ripped with a few of his neighbors while sitting on their driveway in lawn chairs. We talked a lot about music of various timeframes, which was really neat since they were a bit older and had some different insights and perspectives. After his neighbors hung it up for the night, Jon and I must have spent a good hour and a half listening to music out in my car. Mostly we were marvelling at Dragonforce, and wondering how people could keep up such an insane pace without falling over dead.

Sunday involved a lot of lounging about, and not a whole lot past that. We rented “The Devils Rejects” and watched that. We had all heard surprisingly good reviews of the movie, and figured it would be a decent movie to rent. It was a pretty good movie as far as scary flicks go, but nothing I would really have any need to see again.

Monday was the coolest day down there by far. After another slow start to the day (requisite for vacations in my book), Jon and I did something we both have wanted to do since he moved down there almost two years ago – check out the Air Force museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. I visited it with my family many many moons ago, but have no memory of it other than getting a SR-71 poster and a space shuttle book from the gift shop. Well, I’ll remember this visit a lot better. I took my camera, and took as many pictures as my batteries would allow. We saw all the planes we would have expected there, including the beforementioned SR-71, and a few that we wouldn’t expect to see. They had a YF-22 there, which I believe is a prototype for the F-22 Raptor that will come into service sometime within the next few years. They also had a B-2 there, but it may have just been a mock-up or a prototype. I can’t imagine the Air Force (or the taxpayers) would be too keen on stuffing a billion-plus dollar plane in a hangar, only to rot away under the constant glare of camera flashes.

After we got back from the museum and had dinner, Jon and I decided to play some pool, and that quickly involved into many games of pool. At least 10. We used up the beer in his fridge during those many games and did a lot of reminiscing about times long past, which was pretty cool. Afterwards, we decided to hop on the internet and look for people we used to know on MySpace (one of two good uses for that piece of crap site). We had a pretty good time doing that, and stayed up until at least 6am hunting people down.

I came back home yesterday, and I’ve been taking it easy at home while enjoying my lack of work. I head up north tomorrow for our annual cousin’s weekend, which should be a lot of fun. It’ll be hectic due to the sheer number of people involved, which is one of the reasons I’m only shooting for a three day weekend. Being subjected to lots of people wears on me rather quickly, especially when there is chatter waking me up long before I want to every morning. Oh well, it’ll still be a lot of fun.

Land of Confusion

Just about anybody that was alive and listening to the radio in the mid-to-late 80s knows the song “Land of Confusion” by Genesis, and to a lesser degree, knows its video. I remember watching it with my dad, and cracking up because of the funny puppets they used to portray all of the people in the video. The funniest had to be the Pete Townsend puppet. (Well, I think it’s Pete Townsend.) It’s one of the few videos that’s ever stood out in my mind as being really cool while staying on topic with the subject matter being discussed in the song. Here’s the video in case you’ve forgotten, or never seen it.

The reason why I mention all this is because I recently stumbled across the video for a cover of this song by the band Disturbed. I have very mixed feelings regarding them, mainly because they’re a Nu-Metal band, and a good portion of their stuff is really simple and boring. Their singer, David Draiman, also has some really annoying vocal tendencies, namely his monkey-grunting sounds that he puts in between lyrical passages. If he were to lose those annoying vocal tendencies, he could be a very good metal vocalist. He’s got the requisite angry vocal sound, yet he’s very clear in his delivery and has a decent range. The rest of the band also has glimmerings of talent, but they also seem to let it slip away when new-album-time comes around.

My first thought was that Disturbed had no business covering the song, let alone making a video for it. I decided to take a look at it after reading a few positive comments about it, and I have to say that I’ve shifted my view. After hearing their cover of it, the song actually seems like it was written for their playing style. They have a somewhat herky-jerky rhythm style in a lot of their songs, and the synth bassline of the original was easily converted into a metal riff of that same style. The song retains the same vibe, yet it seems perfectly at home with metal feel instead of an 80’s pop feel. They even throw in some vocal harmonies at the end of the song, so maybe there’s hope for them after all.

The video for the song is also quite cool. They took the song’s concept and applied it to the modern day, where it still fits very well. Here’s the video, for your viewing pleasure.

I guess I think it’s neat that they covered the song somewhat well, and made a video that’s modern and referencing our time, but still holds true to the original song. Am I out to lunch?

More sweet concerts

Another string of sweet concerts just came down the concert news wire, and all in a ten day span. It would seem that my hearing is going to take a beating… 🙂

2006/09/15 – Mastodon at The Majestic Theater, Detroit, MI

2006/09/19 – Clutch at The Temple Club, Lansing, MI

2006/09/24 – Gigantour 2 at Pine Knob (a.k.a. DTE Energy Ampitheater), Clarkston, MI

I just saw Mastodon a few weeks ago, but they were in an opening slot and didn’t get to play that much. They’re headlining this tour, and should have ample room to play a ton of their songs, which will make for a sweet show. It’s totally neat that Clutch is playing right here in town, so I won’t have to go very far to see this one. The Temple Club isn’t that big, so tickets may be hard to come by. This year’s Gigantour has another round of sweet bands, including Megadeth, Opeth, Arch Enemy, and Lamb of God. Those four bands are probably enough to force an accident in my pants, but the idea of Gigantour is to have nothing but technically excellent bands who know how to rock, so I’m sure I’ll find more bands to enjoy as well.

Shadows Fall, 07/15/06

This show was billed a bit lower on my list of concerts to see this year because there was only one awesome band on the bill instead of many, but since Shadows Fall is one of my favorite bands, I wasn’t about to miss it. Jon made the trip up from Cincinnati for the weekend in order to see the show as well. It’s kinda sad too. Jon and his wife are moving to Arizona within the next month, so this is probably the last concert I’ll see with him for a looong time. This was also a first in that we went to a show at Harpos and arrived on time, and saw every band that played. Most of the time we show up fashionably late, miss a couple of the opening bands, and enjoy the higher quality bands later on. Well, we saw all six bands that played, for better or worse.

We also lost significant amounts of water through perspiration. It was over 90 degrees outside when we got there, and it was at least 20 degrees hotter inside. It was hotter than a snakes ass in a wagon rut. Combine 100+ degrees of heat plus a bunch of sweaty metalheads, and you get a recipie for a lot of stink. It was the only time I can think of where I can safely say that the shirtless sweaty mosh pit guys were the intelligent ones. They at least allowed their bodies to excise body heat in a more efficient fashion.

The first band was a local band tacked on before the bands on the bill, and I didn’t catch their name. I think it was something involving the word Cold, but I didn’t hear it clearly. They were solid and did what they did pretty well, although they could totally benefit from a second guitarist to lay down some leads. Their guitarist had some good rhythim chops, but their sound would have been bolstered with another guitarist. I can’t say much though – I’m not up there playing. Grade: B-

The first of the billed bands was Still Remains. Interestingly enough, they’re based out of Grand Rapids, and perhaps because of that, they seemed to have a pretty good following. It seems well earned too. They jammed. They only had 20-30 minutes of stage time, and they crammed it full… full of three songs. Totally my type of music. They sport dual guitars and a keyboardist, so they have all sorts of room for melody on top of the rhythm. I checked out their page on myspace, and I’m equally impressed with the recorded versions. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for their stuff the next time I make a CD run. Grade: B+

The next band up was Bury Your Dead. Ugh. I totally could have done without these guys. I can’t say they were totally horrible as far as bands go, but they were 100% not my style. They were serious testosterone-heads, like what you would get if you took Vinnie Paul, Dimebag, and Rex ouf of Pantera during the Far Beyond Driven years, and replaced them with three apes banging on things. All you’d have left is Phil Anselmo with some primates, and Bury Your Dead wasn’t much different than that. Their entire catalog seemed to exist on the bottom two heavily down-tuned strings of their instruments, and that’s not a good thing. You seriously could have cut the top four strings off each guitar, and the top two off the bass, and there would have been absolutely no difference. They also thought it was pretty cool to spin their guitars around their bodies in unison, hula-hoop-over-one-shoulder style, and it got really old. They did it at least three times per song. If they spent as much time writing songs as they did practicing their guitar-a-hooping, they would be much better. Grade: D+

Next up was Darkest Hour. They were also really good, and deserve a follow-up. Jon and I were both pretty down after Bury Your Dead, so it was good that Darkest Hour saved the day. I don’t know if they mandated it, but there was some seriously out-of-place music being played before their set. We heard some Billy Ocean, along with bunch of lame 80’s pop stuff that sounds like it came from the Top Gun soundtrack… at a metal show. WTF. Even though we were being inundated with lame music, we happened to see Darkest Hour’s lead guitarst warming up, and we knew they wouldn’t suck. The man was ripping off a serious solo in that warmup, and he did the same during their set, along with much more total awesomeness. I don’t know if I liked them as much as I liked Still Remains, but they’re close. Grade: B+

Poison The Well closed out the opening bands. Their set marked a first in my concert viewing experience. I’ve seen a lot of bands that I’ve never heard of before. Some I’ve liked, some I’ve hated, some I could tolerate, etc. With every other band I’ve seen, I’ve been able to key in on whether I like the band or not within a few songs. With Poison The Well, this was not the case. Starting with their first song, and ending with their last, I was completely confused. I couldn’t latch on to anything in their music, good or bad. I watched them play, and what I saw indicated that they were skilled players, and what I was hearing should have been good as well, but it wasn’t. I stood in a stupor for the whole time they played, and it didn’t break until they left the stage. Jon has a strong musical background, and he was actually somewhat angry after hearing them play. He said they were breaking most of the ‘rules’ that define what makes music good, such as sticking to key signatures, time signatures, and other things. There are ways that you can alternate between key and time signatures, but they still typically follow some standard patterns, because those patterns sound good. These guys sounded like they were just stringing random riffs and song segments together, with no musical ‘glue’ to properly string them together. What is even more mind boggling to me is that a good portion of the crowd knew the songs, and was singing along word for word. It made me feel as though I was missing something, even though I’m fairly confident I didn’t miss much of anything. Grade: F

Shadows Fall closed out the show, and they kicked ass. Their sound is huge on CD, and it’s just as huge on stage. They played a somewhat abbreviated set, which was somewhat disappointing, but every song they played was sweet, and they totally nailed them. The show further solidfied my belief that Shadows Fall is one of the most talented in the newer wave of bands in metal, and that they’ll be a driving force for a long time. There’s absolutely no weakness in their lineup. Every member is grade A, top notch. The highlight of their set for both Jon and I was “A Fire in Babylon.” That song is a total jam, and easily one of my favorite SF songs.

Another neat thing is that we got to see Brian Fair’s legendary dredlocks. I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of dreds, but those things were intense. He appears to be around six feet tall, and his dreds hang down to mid-calf at least. It must have taken years and years to grow dreds that long. What’s even crazier is that he headbangs with them when he’s not singing. There has to be some coordination with the other guys on the stage, because his dreds clear a circle with a 10-foot diameter when he headbangs. They could easily knock an instrument out of someones hands – no joke.

I can’t say that their show was top-notch because it was so short, only around 50-60 minutes, but what they did pack in there was awesome. Grade: A

Recap

It’s been a while, so I’ll bring everyone up to speed. I’ve had a busy last week, in my terms anyway. I had another eye checkup on tuesday, and it confirmed something I’ve been noticing over the past few weeks – my sight is getting foggy again. This time it’s a membrane behind the new implanted lens that is starting to fog up. The pre-op videos and information packets mentioned that was a possible side-effect, so I can’t say I’m surprised. They seemed to downplay the risk though. From what I could gather from Dr. Saxe’s words and inflections, it was is less a question of ‘if’ it will be a side-effect, and more of ‘when.’ Well, I guess when is now. He seemed pretty optimistic that the haze could be blasted away with a simple five-minute laser procedure, but I’ve heard that before. I’m trying to stay optimistic, but it’s kinda hard when everything they’ve done seems to have a short-term benefit, with a subsequent regression in the not-so-long term.

Wednesday and thursday I demonstrated once again that I have little regard for schedules, clocks, eating, or sleeping when I get started on a project and want to see it through. I put in 16 hours at work on wednesday, and another 14 on thursday. I can say that I accomplished phase one of my goals, which is good. Phase two, three, and whatever number I decide to count up to are stil quite distant in their completion, so hopefully I won’t be tempted to do any marathon sessions. That’s a good thing, since I was pretty much dead on friday, with a nasty headache I can only attribute to lack of sleep.

The weekend has been a good one though. Yesterday (saturday) I cleaned up the apartment some, and then went with Jon to see the Shadows Fall concert, which was located in Detroit’s sweaty asshole – Harpos Concert Theater. More on that in a later post. Today my family and grandmothers came up for a belated birthday dinner and giftgiving. Much good steak was had by all. My parents surprised me with gifts, which I’ve stated more than once aren’t really necessary for my birthdays anymore, but they brought them anyway. I can’t say I’m disappointed though. They bought me a gas grill, all the various utensils to go with it, and a nice grilling tutorial/recipie book. I’m no ace in the kitchen, so I’ll need all the help I can get. I’ve been meaning to get a grill since I moved out of vegetarian hell and into my own place, but my tendency to procrastinate won out once again. Mom and dad came though where I fell short though. Thanks mom and dad!

Slayer, Lamb of God, Mastodon, Children of Bodom – 07/06/06

I guess it’s just not my year for concerts. First off I have to ask – who starts a concert, which lies squarely in downtown Detroit, at 5:30 PM? I’ve only once heard of a concert starting before 7 PM on a weekday, and that was Gigantour last year. They had to start early though, as they had 10 bands that had to play, and had Pine Knob’s 11PM outdoor-concerts-must-stop policy to contend with. This show, however, did not. Since the show started so early, we completely missed the two openers – Some band I don’t know, and Children of Bodom. It sucks that we missed CoB, but I’ve seen them twice before, so I know what they’re like. The other bands I’ve only seen once at most.

We arrived just in time for Mastodon. I saw them once before at the last Slayer show I attended, and at that point I didn’t know any of their stuff. I was well prepared this time. They played a bunch of good songs, and a couple new ones off their new album, “Blood Mountain,” which comes out sometime later in the summer. As much as I like their music, I think that the transition to live music isn’t always the best for them. Their sound is naturally very thick, raw, and unproduced, and when that’s combined with high volume and less-than-optimal acoustics, it just kinda turns into a droning noise that really makes it hard to pick out the subtle nuances that make their sound so unique. I still dig the show they put on though. They’re a supremely talented band with a bright future. Grade: A-

Lamb of God was up next. This was the only band in the lineup that I hadn’t seen before, so I was hoping for a good show. They didn’t disappoint. They played pretty much every song I would have liked to hear. One thing I noticed is that they played noticbly slower than the recorded versions of their songs. It just could be that they wanted to introduce another element of heavyness to spur on the moshers down on the floor – who knows. In any case, they put on a great show with a lot of energy. Good times. Grade A-

Slayer closed out the bill, and were another small source of disappointment in the show. They played a good number of their ‘classics,’ but they just didn’t really seem into the show. They just went through the motions from my perspective, and I could have sworn that I heard a few miscues in a couple songs. Not exactly something you’d expect from a band that’s been around as long as they have. One possible source of their lack of enthusiasm very well might have been the crowd itself. We all made the observation that the crowd in general was much more enthusiastic for Lamb of God. A good portion of people were just standing around while Slayer was on stage, and I actually saw a few people sleeping towards the end of the show. Well, they may have been passed out drunk too, who knows. Not everyone shares my no-drinking-at-concerts sentiments. In any case, Slayer wasn’t looking great, and neither was the crowd. This may have contributed to something I’ve only seen once or twice in all of the concerts I’ve been to – the headlining band not coming out for an encore. I guess I can understand, but it’s rather disappointing. Grade: B-

They say it’s my birthday

Yep, today I turn the big 27. I've been waiting for this one for a long time, since there are so many cool and new things that can happen when you're 27. Things that just can't happen when you're 26. I think the biggest one is being able to truthfully proclaim that you're 27.

And … ummm… Hmmm.

I guess that's the only thing that happens when you're 27. Oh well. I guess it doesn't matter so much. I've got the awesome privilege of both paying rent and getting my plates renewed tomorrow, so I'm naturally completely unable to sit still due to the great expectations involved with said events. Apparently I didn't need that money anyway. One cool thing about tomorrow (well, today technically) is that I'm getting a birthday party thrown for me by a few buddies at work. It's not completely for me, since another guy from work has the same birthday as me coincedentally, and the party is for him as well, but it'll be fun nonetheless.

I've actually been keeping somewhat busy over the past week, which one reason for the lack of posts. I've taken over maintaining yet another project at work, which is completely great since I already have a full plate of tasks that I can only sample because I'm constantly having to change my focus. This one needed a lot of attention though, and I'm going to rearrange some things so it doesn't require so much babysitting in the future. Hopefully it doesn't drag out too long.

I was also introduced to an awesome time thursday night – Thirsty Thursdays at Lansing Lugnuts games. For those not familiar, the Lugnuts are a Single-A minor league baseball tieam. Thirsty Thursdays entail $2.00 draft beers for the duration of the game. They were served in roughly 20oz plastic cups, and Labatts was on tap. You can't get a much better deal than that. The main target demographic seems to be the 20-somethings, so there was a lot of scenery for us single-type guys. It was a ton of fun, and I'll defintely be partaking in more of those in the future.