Monthly Archives: July 2011

I’ve been thinking … (7/25/11)

… that thinking too much can make your head hurt.  On the bright side at least store-brand pain relievers aren’t outrageously expensive.

Maybe the Braves really do need bottom-of-the-bullpen help about as much as they need another bat.  The middle inning relievers are pretty painful to watch right now but it’s nothing that contracting back to a reasonable number of teams couldn’t fix … Owners & players have apparently reached an agreement that will end the NFL lockout talk.  This could help me not really give a shit about the NFL in a whole new way.  Football that matters is played on Friday nights & Saturdays, the rest is just something to pass the time … Yes, the US women’s soccer team choked.  Gender doesn’t get them a free pass on that bit of honesty … Hadn’t thought about it until I saw a billboard hyping tickets but I might have to go to the Gwinnett Arena to see the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team this season.  Pretty much the one bright spot in GT athletics at this point, a program headed in the right direction instead of going backwards and/or spinning in circles … Far be it from me to offer any advice that might help UGA but somebody really ought to point out to CMR that the whole “special uniform” thing really hasn’t worked out all that well for him, it’s about 195th on the list of things he needs to be fooling with.

I don’t agree with Paul Broun or Michelle Bachmann on their “no debt ceiling increase at all” position, but at least they’re wrong in a way I can live with.  That’s unusual enough to be noteworthy … Let me get this straight, during an budgetary disagreement with Congress the FAA can lay off 4,000 employees & eliminate a federal tax on airline tickets in moves that “will not affect air safety” but everyone is working to quickly resolve the dispute?  I’m having a hard time seeing the problem here, sounds to me as though it’s resolving itself rather well … Conservative blogger Chuck Shiflett’s Backroom Report certainly gets to the heart of the matter in a recent entry titled “The Coming National Divorce”.  He makes some great points that echo what I’ve been saying for a number of years, asking why groups with irreconcilable differences be forced to live together with neither getting what they want?.  My answer is about the same as usual, we’re too lazy to argue over custody of the kids, the pets, and the record collection.

Norm MacDonald’s Tweet covered my thoughts on Amy Winehouse pretty well “”RIP Amy Winehouse. We lost a true heroin addict today.”  It’s a shame, but it ain’t exactly a great f’n loss IMO either … Speaking of Tweets,  if you follow the right people they’re actually a lot more entertaining than I expected.  On the whole I think it might be my favorite one-way communication method of all the social media stuff.  I’m just not interesting enough to be a regular tweeter myself, I mean, how many people would ever know or care that I bothered? No offense intended to those of you kind enough to be reading my blog, I appreciate each & every one of you, I just don’t see a big demand for my thoughts in 140 characters or less … LA-based hard rock trio Kyng may not be big names (yet) but bassist Tony Casteneda is probably considered about the coolest guy in the world around my house right now.  Couldn’t have asked for anyone to be nicer to an old(er) guy & his teenage son when we met him & the band at a recent show, proving (among other things) that having considerable talent & simply being a good human being aren’t mutually exclusive.  Get to know them a little bit in their electronic press kit (a cool idea btw)  and get ready for their upcoming album in late September … Speaking of that concert, I really hope I get around to a longer blog entry on this notion but just in case I don’t, I’m reminded that the heart of rock & roll isn’t really on the radio or at 50,000 seat venues, it’s in clubs with cramped stages in front of smallish crowds.  That’s where the heart & soul, the blood, the sweat, and the tears come in.  It’d been too long since I’d seen that environment up close but it really felt good to be back.

Can’t help but watch the calendar move faster & faster toward the start of school.  Damn how I dread that, not only for my kid but for me as well.   Summers are simply too short for adequate recovery from nine months of hell … On the bright side, at least the return to school also brings back HS football, although there’s just something wrong with a school calendar that includes football on 90+ degree days but has baseball games played while you freeze your butt off in the stands.  That’s not the only problem with the calendars these days but it is a pretty fair example … While I’m on the subject of weather, did anybody else notice that it’s been ridiculously hot lately?  You did?  Okay, just wanted to make sure it wasn’t just me or something.  So why did the quote about it being “too hot to fish” attract so much attention from the likes of Stephen Colbert?  The phrase isn’t that unusual is it, I mean it was part of a song lyric not that many years ago (“Too hot to fish, too hot for golf, too cold at home”).   Oh wait, Colbert is just another hack who isn’t a quarter as clever as he thinks he is, I see the problem now.

More later, for now I think I’ll go think about something else.

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Concert Review 7/21/11 – BSC/Pop Evil/Kyng/Lansdowne

Black Stone Cherry + Pop Evil + Kyng + Lansdowne … The Loft at Center Stage Atlanta July 21, 2011

4 bands for $17?  Sounds like a bargain but is it really?  In this case the answer turned out to be a resounding “Yes” and then some.

First though, a little backstory.  Last time I was at Center Stage was in the late 80’s, to see Dangerous Toys w/ special guest Junkyard, so it’s not as though this a show that would have normally ended up on my calendar.  It’s turned out to be a rough summer for hard rock & metal fans in Atlanta (and especially in my house) though.  For me & my son (my regular concert companion), the Mayhem tour had too many bands that seemed likely to be an endurance test in the summer heat, the Uproar tour seems to have skipped over Atlanta entirely, we’ve seen Poison three times in recent years & have heard too much really bad live Motley Crue recordings to be gung ho for that tour.  Things were looking pretty bleak until a random  visit to the Black Stone Cherry website turned up a date in Atlanta.  A couple of hours of researching the two previously unfamiliar bands later, plans were made & tickets were bought.

Now, on with the show …

Lansdowne — Not just another band outta Boston, these guys have been described as one of the best unsigned bands out there today.  That’s not a bad description at all.  Roaring into Atlanta with the adrenaline rush of a brand new album Blue Collar Revolver that hit iTunes earlier in the week, they opened the evening with a steady stream of modern hard rock in the vein of Saving Abel  (Q: am I the only Lansdowne fan who thinks Jon Ricci could be a vocal double if Theory of a Deadman ever needs one?).    While a made-to-sing-along song like “One Shot” might be the fun moment from the new album that you end up listening to over & over, it’s the overall quality of their catalog that actually stands out to me.  Whether it’s their newest songs or past album favorites like “Watch Me Burn” (still my personal favorite so far), there’s simply not a dud in the set list.   They’re at least an equal match for the vast majority of the bands in the same niche, the biggest difference I can find is that Lansdowne hasn’t gotten that one critical break … yet.

Kyng — This California-based three piece has gotten some buzz in the past year from airplay & interviews on SiriusXM but for me they probably were the band on the bill I had the most questions about coming into the show, from what I could find online I simply didn’t know exactly what to expect.  Consider those questions answered, what you can expect from Kyng is to get your ass kicked by a modern take on very hard classic rock.  They acknowledge the influence of Black Sabbath on their style, embrace it even, but there’s a lot more here.  At different times during the set I found myself thinking of Deep Purple and a number of other legends that clearly provided the foundation these guys are building on.  Make no mistake, they ARE building on it, with newer elements compared to something like the Foo Fighters.  At the core of their sound though is the simple fact that these guys are solid musicians that really seem to have a good idea of who they are & what they want to do.  Happily, what they seem to want to do most is rock their asses off.    Call it what you will, “California Heavy” as they’ve used or whatever, it’s good stuff.  The new single, “Falling Down” (check it out in the Music section of their Facebook page) should be on iTunes at the end of the month with the album Trampled Sun due in September but I don’t see Kyng as a band that’ll be defined by any one song or even a particular album.  They’re going to be about their body of work & that’s something I’m looking forward to hearing develop for years to come.

Pop Evil — One of those 10 year “overnight success” stories, PE has burned up active rock radio in recent months with “Last Man Standing” but how would the show overall match up with that signature song?  With groups I’ve never seen I’m always uneasy about whether live will meet the expectations built by “hits”, even with additional evidence found in songs like “Hero” and “100 in a 55” I wasn’t sure.  Once again, question answered.  That experience I mentioned, built with some 400 shows in a two year period, gives Pop Evil stage presence in abundance.  I suspect they might cringe at being called “rock stars” but in this case I use the phrase with good intentions.  They bring a big show feel, circa the sleaze & the hair metal 80’s, with an updated sound.  They understand that there’s some showmanship that’s part of the overall concert experience but avoid sacrificing anything musically to provide it, each member developing his own personality on stage & connecting with the audience along the way.  I tried to sum it up by telling my son “you think you haven’t seen Motley Crue, but I kind of feel like you just did”, and I mean the kicking ass in the club when they were still growing version of the Motleys.   It’s not quite that over the top, but it’s an appropriately measured facsimile.

Black Stone Cherry — Of the four acts, this was the one I had the most confidence in before even entering the building.  I’ve been a fan of these guys since their self-titled debut back in 2006.  “Lonely Train” , “Hell & High Water” and personal favorite “Rain Wizard” felt like such known commodities that they simply couldn’t miss, current hit “White Trash Millionaire” is a fun attitude song that figured to be an added bonus.  What I got was all that & some surprises too.  The songs that have gotten airplay & the other tracks I’ve heard over five years really didn’t prepare me for the furious assault that BSC unleashed on the crowd.  Not in a million years would I have guess them to be the band on the bill that would come closest to inspiring a Thursday night mosh pit … but they did.  All the comparisons I would have made beforehand – Black Crowes, Skynyrd, maybe a little Allman Brothers – those were all accurate but there’s something more here, I’ll call it aggression for lack of a better word.  Their roots may be firmly planted in a small town in Kentucky but BSC has gone well beyond any preconceived notions of what kind of sound that background would produce.  Part of that almost has to stem from their relative youth but I imagine it’s also in their musical heritage – each member comes from a family with music in their blood (including drummer John Fred Young being the son of Kentucky Headhunters founding member Richard Young) so there’s not only their own love for music but also an appreciation handed down / genetically contributed.   They’re clearly comfortable on stage but even moreso they’re clearly happy on stage & that translates.   Best description I’ve come up with is that they aren’t on stage looking at the crowd thinking “see how cool we are”, they’re on stage looking at the crowd & then at each other thinking “damn, ain’t this cool?”.  Folks, that’s what I call a band.

Random observations/highlights from the night

— Disappointed with the crowd, I’d guess a little over half capacity for the room, so maybe in the 200’ish range.  That’s pitiful, although there isn’t a really a lot of external promotion for shows like this (at least not that I saw).  Compared to pictures of packed houses for the same lineup in much smaller cities like Greenville & Knoxville, it’s depressing.

— Props to the venue & promoters for making this an all-ages show.  Not enough of those in the Atlanta area, a lot of the future for real rock seems to rest with under 21/under 18, let’s get ’em in the habit early & let it be a part of their lives.  There was a glaring lack of 18-24 in the crowd at this show, apparently just not their thing or whatever, so stop trying to cater to a demographic that doesn’t seem to give a shit.

— Speaking of the venue, Center Stage certainly looks & feels different after major remodeling a few years ago but it’s a solid venue that I’d definitely have no hesitation about visiting again & again.  Friendly staff, nary a bad thing to say about anything under their control all night, from parking to security to bar, etc. it was all nice & easy.

— Unexpected highlight of the evening was a lengthy impromptu discussion (old concert t-shirts are great conversation starters) with Don de Leaumont, editor of a cool music news/blog site called (memorably enough) The Great Southern Brainfart.  Was a great way to start the night, talking about the past, present, and future of hard rock & metal in Atlanta and overall.  I’ve checked out the site, bookmarked it for regular use in the future, and recommend you do the same.

— I’m reminded again what a lucky man I am to be able to share things like this with my son.  My first club venue show in about 20 years was also his first ever & that’s something special to share.

— As great as the show was, what really stands out to me was how incredibly cool the guys from Lansdowne & Kyng in spending a few minutes talking with them, not just with me but also with my son.  I’m pretty sure it’s something my son will never forget and I’m absolutely sure me being there for his first real brush with real live rockers is something that I’ll remember & enjoy for the rest of my life.  You’re all top notch guys in my book and Tony Castaneda might just be one of the purely f’n coolest guys ever afaic.  Mad props to you all (or whatever the hell the whippersnappers say these days).

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I’ve been thinking (7/15/11, part 2)

In 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … {one finger} … {point} … {randomization sequence initiated}

Welcome back Martin Prado, nice to see a HR in your return. Now if Uggla could get some batting tips from Huddy the offense might really get going … I think this may have been the first year since I was an toddler that I didn’t watch a single second of the MLB All-Star game. I can’t swear I didn’t watch some even while in diapers. That strikes me odd since my interest overall is probably up a tiny tick over the past couple of years, just wasn’t interested enough to do anything more than check the box score online to see how McCann & the other Braves fared … Somebody wake me when the Dan Radokovich era ends at Georgia Tech, I become more convinced by the day that ultimately nothing good is going to happen during his tenure & my patience is just about at an end. Keep in mind, I’ve been a steadfast supporter through such luminaries as Dwayne Morrison and even Bill Lewis, it’s not easy to exhaust my patience but DR pretty much done it … Only about five weeks until HS football season kicks off, pity it’ll still feel like summer for at least the first month of the schedule.

Yes, I’d still vote for Michelle Bachmann if I had to cast a primary ballot today. Far from perfect but the closest thing to representing my points of view that I’ve seen so far. Still, this race has barely seen the starting gates open, plenty of twists and turns to go before the finish line … Note to sitting politicians: there is NO scenario where I’m going to find even a penny tax increase acceptable, not unless it’s a unhappy by-product of a completely overhauled tax system that stops trying to punish success and starts sharing the tax burden more appropriately. R’s that collaborate with the enemy on this subject are basically dead to me going forward, don’t say you weren’t warned when you find yourself short my vote down the road …

Nice little trick there Netflix, finally convince me to sign up & then jack your rates 25% about a week after my free trial ends. Not sure what I’m going to do about that, but you certainly just blew any good will you had coming your way. You’re on a short leash from here on out … Didn’t rush out for the new Harry Potter, just never got into the books nor the movies & neither did my son. I’m not inclined to throw any stones at those who enjoyed it though, just never hooked us for whatever reason, I’m happy for you if you were able to enjoy it though … Finally found a concert worth my time & money in Atlanta this summer, Center Stage on 7/21, Black Stone Cherry + Pop Evil + Lansdowne + Kyng. Last time I was at CS, it was to see Dangerous Toys sometime in the late 80’s. It’s probably one of the few concert venues that I hit in my heyday that are still around, although it’s apparently been remodeled considerably since then. Come to think of it, so have I.

Years of being super-careful helped me keep computer virus problems down to single digits over almost two decades. Now I’ve been bitten twice in the past two weeks. I can’t say enough good things about  BleepingComputer, their removal walkthroughs saved my butt on both occasions … Speaking of sites I recommend, if you enjoy my occasional ramblings, you’re almost certain to like Be Still A Minute. The writer is a cousin who I figure barely remembers me but I’ve certainly enjoyed finding her online after many years. Yeah, I’ve hyped it once or twice before but I really think it’s that much fun to read, I like people who can relate “normal” stuff in an entertaining way … I keep hearing how Google+ is supposed to challenge Facebook but honestly I’m just not seeing it. It seems to have nice early traction with early adopters & technophiles but for the regular everyday users that have become the core of Facebook I really can’t see this being a legit competitor. Then again I’m still trying to really figure out how FB, despite numerous obvious flaws, managed to penetrate the mainstream consciousness the way it has, so don’t put much stock in my ability to predict the future … I’m not sure anybody online gives me more chuckles in a week than Facebook page/Twitter feed of actor/politician Fred Thompson. Mostly one-liners but they’re funny one-liners, at least if you’re of a conservative bent.

As I come to this end of this entry, I realize that some of these thoughts are probably repeats of things that some of you have seen from me one place or another already. I’ll try to work on that, keep this more original in the future.

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I’ve been thinking … (7/15/11)

So, it’s been about six weeks since my last blog entry. That’s really too long between posts even for me & the casual standards I set for myself back when this started. It’s not as though I lack for material, there’s a tragically high number of subjects I could easily do 500-1000 words on without breaking a sweat, so what’s the problem? Better question is: what to do about it?

The gap has probably a combination of self-restraint (not every thought I have really needs to be published or even shared), fatigue (not that I’m complaining about being busy with work again) and maybe something akin to self-consciousness (I’m not trying to be famous or impress anybody but at the same time I don’t like the notion of producing bad crap either). Alas, none of those reasons/excuses is really satisfying me at the moment … but maybe there’s a way around this.

I’ve always enjoyed “stream of consciousness” columns from a variety of people. Think along the lines of the old A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes (“Did you ever notice …”) although hopefully before he revealed himself as such an unbearable liberal shill. I’ve written a fair number of those kinds of things over the years — stream of consciousness, not liberal shilling — usually as a way to clear out a bunch of random topics that didn’t warrant a longer piece. If you’re on the younger end of my reader spectrum the Andy Rooney reference probably sent you to Wikipedia or Google, feel free to substitute Jerry Seinfeld’s random “What’s up with that?” bits. Maybe if I try to do something along those lines more frequently I’ll find myself happier with the amount I post here while managing to avoid making myself unhappier with the content or quality. The format seems like giving myself permission to have thoughts that are fully developed, don’t have a clear connection to each other or snappy segues from one item to the next.

So, in the future, if you see something titled “I’ve been thinking …” you should know what to expect. I’m trying here people, hang in there with me.

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