Thursday, September 30, 2010

Worst Shows Ever #5

As a music lover, I've been to A LOT of shows - huge sold out stadium shows, tiny bar shows with a handful of people, awesome shows that lived up to and exceeded all expectations and shows that were great but for a reason I never could have anticipated.  But this isn't about those shows...this is about the AWFUL shows.  The shows that make you feel like you wasted your time and money...the ones that leave a pit in your stomach and may even make you dislike a band that you used to love.  Sometimes its the band, sometimes other factors but no matter what the cause these shows were terrible.  These are my top 10 horrible shows.*

5. Lynyrd Skynyrd/Tesla - Five Seasons Center, Cedar Rapids

I am not a huge Lynyrd Skynyrd fan.  I don't mind a little southern flavor in my rock, but to my Skynyrd always seemed more like hard country...just a little too much southern influence for me.  How southern is too much?  This tour was sponsored by Skoal Chewing Tobacco (free samples!) and there were confederate flags all over the place.  To me, it was too southern but it did match the band and their music perfectly.  I don't think they are bad, they are just not for me.  Plus, I can't trust anyone with that many Y's in their name.

Despite this, Lynyrd Skynyrd are rock legends and I felt a small obligation to go see them to pay homage to the roots of rock or something like that.  Yes, I used to be an idiot and thought things like "roots of rock."  LS were not enough by themselves to get me to go.  However, my good friend db and I were really in concert mode at this time so when Tesla was added as the opening band we were go.

I enjoyed Tesla quite a bit and was excited to see them (this was my first of 5 or 6 times seeing Tesla live).  This is one of many shows where I bought a ticket to mainly see the opening band.  It kind of sucks buying a ticket for 30 minutes of a show, but oh well.  This was during Tesla's Bust A Nut period...they were still popular, but hadn't had a hit for a while.  Tommy, the guitarist had also just gotten out of rehab (and by "just" I mean it was literally like a few days before)...this is another reason that I wanted to see Tesla, I figured Tommy would be OD'ing and I wanted to see the original line-up.

"Mother Fucker, Mother Fucker"
Tesla did a pretty good job.  I couldn't get into it as much as I would have liked, but it was a solid set.  Tommy was strange though.  Tommy was dressed in white coveralls and combat boots.  He was stomping around stage mouthing "Mother Fucker, Mother Fucker."  Over and over.  The entire set.  It was strange and really did make him seem insane.

So Tesla was good.  Mission accomplished...everything else sucked.  db and I made our way up front for the Telsa.  We were in the second row behind the barrier and trying to talk to a couple cute girls before Telsa took the stage, they were having none of us...shocker.  Once the music started, the crowd crushed forward and we tried not to smash them too much, but I am not sure how successful we were.  Some guy behind me was reaching around and grabbing the girl's ass in front of me, of course she thought it was me since I was directly behind her and I am the one that got all the bitchy looks and an elbow in the chest.  Wasn't me, seriously, I was way too shy to randomly grope a girl (plus was raised with better manners).

The crowd only worsened when Lynyrd Skynyrd took the stage.  The very drunk guy behind me (not sure if it was the same ass grabber or not) now wanted to be in my spot to be closer to the band.  I am used to people trying to take my spot and am pretty good at defending my territory, but this guy was a complete asshole.  He started his take over bid by kicking my calf with his boots.  Hard, over and over.  I shot back with a couple backwards kicks to his shins but my wrestling shoes couldn't inflict near the damage that his combat boots were dealing out.  It was annoying more than painful since he couldn't get a good leg swing to kick hard.  I stayed in my spot.  Then jerkhole started digging his fingers into my side between my ribs and under my ribs.  Repeatedly as hard as he could.  At one point he had a good inch, inch and a half of finger wedged under my ribs and was pulling out hard.  Yes, I used to be really skinny.  It hurt bad and I slammed my elbow down onto his forearm until he finally let go.

I continue to hold my ground while also trying to deter this idiot and push him someplace else.  This jackoff was not to be deterred.  He then thought my neck would be the next easy target.  He started jabbing his fingers into the sides of my neck and he was looking for a pressure point or something.  I'd finally had enough and I whipped an elbow back as hard as I could.  I think he must have been leaning forward or something because I caught him right in the face.  Pretty sure I broke his nose because it started bleeding...a lot.  Most people confronted with copious blood loss would head out of the press of the crowd and stop the bleeding.  Not this guy.  Soon, he and the floor were covered in a pretty good sized pool of blood and all his friends were trying to get him leave but he wouldn't.  I keep glancing back and the blood is still pouring from this guy's nose.  I feel bad, but it was not what I intended and besides he was the aggressor. 10 minutes later, jerky's nose is still gushing.  He is dizzy and can hardly stand but is still fighting his friends who are trying to get him to leave.  He starts leaning forward against me and I can feel the blood flowing down my back.

Finally after much trying by everyone around, we were able to get the attention of the security personnel at the barrier to drag this guy out and get him some help.  But he wasn't done fighting.  While being dragged over the top of the crowd, he was flailing and kicking as hard as he could and I took a nice steel toe to the eye.  Battered and slightly dizzy myself, I decided to head to the bathrooms to see the damage.  I was offered help several times on the way to the bathroom but wasn't sure why.  When I looked in the mirrors, I saw why everyone was so concerned.  My whole right side of my shirt was covered in blood.  It looked more than a little like I had been stabbed.  I was pissed!  I happened to be wearing my white, 1991 Jane's Addiction concert t-shirt.  It was ruined.  Never again would I wear this shirt after this night.  I tried washing the shirt out in the bathroom sink and I washed the blood off of my body...telling several people "It's OK, it's not my blood." or "You should see the other guy."  I didn't really notice all the bruises until the next day.

I put my soaking wet and blood stained shirt on and tried to enjoy the rest of the show.  It was difficult, everyone that walked by would give me strange looks (stranger than normal) and I was slowly developing a headache.  By the time that Freebird was dragging out into it's 12th minute, I just wanted to leave.  I met back up with db and we walked to the car.  It was May, but still the evening was pretty cold probably around the mid to upper 40s.  With my wet shirt I was freezing and was looking forward to getting into db's car and cranking the heat.  As we were walking to the car, something seemed off.  It wasn't my car so I didn't catch it at first.  Someone had pried out the lock on the trunk.  Turns out that they also broke the passenger side window. Stereo, speakers, CDs, and a few other things were all gone.  What sucks even worse was that his happened to db and me only few weeks earlier in the same town.  I felt really bad for db.  Cedar Rapids, sometimes I really hate you.  The hour long ride home was very chilly.  I ended up just removing my wet shirt and going without.  It was slightly warmer but my teeth were chattering very hardly most of the way home.  I was a long, cold, windy, and quiet ride (since we had no stereo).  When I got home, I took a really hot 45 minute shower (a rarity in college dorms but it was like 1am).  I still felt dirty and cold for the next couple days.

Luckily, I have seen Tesla several times since and they always put on a good show...but Lynyrd Skynyrd bore the blunt of my blame and they are dead to me now.

*These are off the top of my head, I am sure that I could go through my stubs and find more.  I don't think I left out any major suck-fests though.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sponge Worthy?

Last night, 90s rock band Sponge played the House of Bricks.  I think I may have seen them live at one of those big, outdoor, all day I had never really seen Sponge.  I've always enjoyed Sponge.  I remember when they first came out that there was a lot of comparisons between Sponge and Bush...and somehow you couldn't like both.  I never bought into that and I enjoyed both, but initially liked Sponge more. 

1994 - Rotting Pinata
Rotting Piñata was such a great album with guitar riffs that wormed their way into your brain and got stuck there.  The upbeat riffs just made you want jump up and down and Vinnie's vocals added depth and intrigue to the frenzied feeling.  The two big hits - Plowed and Molly (Sixteen Candles) are both incredible songs and it seemed like you couldn't escape them for a while as they were on all kinds of movie soundtracks and compilations.  But they are far from the only good songs on the album.  Nearly every song is great and worth a spin.

1996 - Wax Ecstatic
Wax Ecstatic was a worthy follow-up.  It had everything I liked about Rotting Piñata but with a little deeper feel overall.  Wax Ecstatic (To Sell Angelina) was a great single and I was always disappointed that it didn't get more respect from people.  Then when Have You Seen Mary was released, I remember hearing many people say that they were just trying to copy the Black Crowes.  I can see the comparisons especially with the slide guitar and the slower pace that people weren't used to (although there were plenty slower songs on each album, this was just the first single).  Maybe if this song had been released before BC's She Talks to Angels or further apart people would have given it more of a chance.  I must admit that when the Have You Seen Mary video first came out that I had a little bit of a hetero man-crush on Vinnie.  Check out the video around the 2:48 mark.  I so wanted to be the tall, skinny rock god with suit, slicked back hair, and gold tooth.

I, like most people lost track of Sponge at this point.  I know they had several members quit and be replaced and I kind of thought they had broken up.  Then a few years ago, I heard that they released a new album but I forgot to buy it.  I did not realize that Sponge had kept at it for all these years.

2009's Hits and B-Sides

So much Sponge that I have never heard.  I am not sure if I could really call myself a fan any more.  However, when I heard that they were playing a local show, I was very excited to see them.  I even bought an advance ticket, something that I almost never do for club shows because all the extra fees that ticket outlets charge usually make it not worth it.  I didn't buy it because I thought it would sell out, I bought it so that if I had future doubts, I would still force myself to go.  This ended up being a wise decision as I ended up feeling pretty terrible the day of the show and was not looking forward to going at all...but since I already had a ticket, I had to go.

Plus Sized Sebastion
Seeing a once popular band, years later, in a small club is always a calculated risk.  It could be great.  I have seen several shows where my interest in the band was re-piqued, and it was a surprising and entertaining night.  Some times seeing an ex-star still plugging along is inspiring - you can tell that they are really into the music and just love playing and that it isn't always about fame and money.  But these shows can also be completely horrible.  These are the shows where the band looks and sounds bitter, unhappy and disappointed with life.  These shows can ruin completely ruin a band for you.  I have seen even more of these shows.  Rarely a show can be a mixture of the two.  Take Sebastion Bach in the early 2000's: he was totally over-weight and hard to recognize.  It actually gave me a headache with my brain trying to comprehend SB's voice coming out of this person...but  if you closed your eyes the magic was still there and it was a good show.

I wasn't sure what to expect.  Surely, Vinnie couldn't be the ultra-slim rock god of yesteryear.  I was just hoping they sounded decent.  I arrived a little before 7:30pm.  I figured that I was going to be very early but with the way that I felt, I didn't trust myself at home...sit on the couch and I would probably be asleep.  Again, I get lucky.  The show happened to be an early start all ages show that started at 5pm.  I saw a couple songs from the third and final opening band and Sponge took the stage a little bit later.  Vinnie definitely looked older but he still looked pretty darn good...maybe not quite as skinny but still one of the thinnest people I have seen.  I'm guessing drugs...but don't know and don't care, that is really not my business.  As long as he puts on a good show.

Sponge came swinging with Wax Ecstatic and Molly (Sixteen Candles) was great and the crowd was pretty into it.  Jumping around, dancing, singing along.  I was surprised that they blew two big hits right off the bat but I think that it ended up getting the crowd more into the show than if they had just played one.  I then got a little worried when Vinnie replied to a shouted question of "Where have you been?" with "I've been here, you can find me every night in any bar in every town, USA."  Maybe he was a little bitter?  But he quickly got back in to the show.  Then it was some time for some newer songs (by which I mean "not from the first two albums").  Everything they played was pretty good, definitely something that I would be interested in.  They then pulled out Have You Seen Mary and then the Speed Racer theme.  They played the Speed Racer theme for a CD Compilation called Saturday Morning Cartoons' Greatest Hits.  It was an OK album if you liked cartoons and they did a fine job, but it was not a song that I would expect in a Sponge live show.  It was OK, but it didn't really fit.  A few more newer songs and then asking the audience what they would like to hear.  I expected everyone to yell "Plowed" and I think the band did too...but six different songs were yelled out and only one of them were Plowed.  I don't think everyone was trying to be the ironic hipster fan yelling out the most obscure songs...I think they actually wanted to hear these songs because they connected with them.  Vinnie himself looked a little surprised at the variety and you could tell that they weren't really prepared to plan most of them.  They ended up playing Plowed and the crowd went wild, after the normal version he slowed it down and played the chorus several times with a lot of audience participation.  It was nice, but I am glad he did it after the normal version instead of ruining the song.  Sponge then played Destroy the Boy off their new EP.  

The new EP
It was a short show clocking in at barely an hour.  I am not sure if that is their normal set, or if they cut it short because it was an all ages show that had to end at 9pm.  Sponge played until about 9:20 with the owner watching the minors closely and then very quickly escorting them out.  A short, but highly intense and energetic show.  Definitely worth the $15.  I was a little disappointed in the size of the crowd.  I know it has been 15 years since they were big, but I thought more people would turn out.  I blame the lack of promotion for the crowd...I've talked to several people today that said they loved Sponge and would have liked to go...but they never heard about.  The only reason I knew was because I randomly happened to be checking the bars website a couple months ago about another show.  I bought Sponge's new EP and a t-shirt at the show.  I figured that I witnessed a great show, so I figured I would help support them...and hopefully they would come back again despite the only medium sized crowd.   The EP is good and also contains bonus track of Plowed and Molly (Sixteen Candles).  If you are in Dubuque, you can check them out tonight...and I would suggest you do.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Worst Shows Ever #6

As a music lover, I've been to A LOT of shows - huge sold out stadium shows, tiny bar shows with a handful of people, awesome shows that lived up to and exceeded all expectations and shows that were great but for a reason I never could have anticipated.  But this isn't about those shows...this is about the AWFUL shows.  The shows that make you feel like you wasted your time and money...the ones that leave a pit in your stomach and may even make you dislike a band that you used to love.  Sometimes its the band, sometimes other factors but no matter what the cause these shows were terrible.  These are my top 10 horrible shows.*

6. Deadfront - every post-Jim show

Deadfront was a local Des Moines band in the late 90's.  Much like previous entry Secretly Drowning, they will probably be a future "Great Bands You (prolly) Never Heard About."  The late 90s were a time before Slipknot struck fame and in Des Moines there were basically two pools of talent - one being Slipknot, the other being Deadfront.  To me, it seemed a little like Seattle a decade earlier where all these talented people that had played in many, many bands had coalesced into a few super groups like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.  There was an almost electric feel in the air where you could just sense that something was going to happen.

Deadfront:Nemesis = so good

Deadfront consisted of Jim Root (guitarist for Slipknot and Stone Sour), Aaron Peltz (vocalist for On a Pale Horse & Downthesun), Shawn Economacki (bass for Stone Sour), Danny Spain (drummer for Downthesun), among a couple other guitarists that rotated in and out.  It was a great line-up of guys that had great chemistry and a great sound together.  DF brought a heavy, tight sound that always had the crowd jumping, churning, and banging their heads.  It was always a high energy and very satisfying show.

My brother Kelly,  and I went to every Deadfront show that we could.  We probably saw them nearly 100 times in the Des Moines area over 3 years, and drove to Cedar Rapids to see them play several gigs there (we totally rocked out with DF in the East Side Maid-Rite!).  99% of all Deadfront shows were incredible...but something happened in January 1999.

We drove to Cedar Rapids to see Deadfront play Big Dogs (I think it might have been called 3rd Street Live at this point, but it will always be Big Dogs to me).  The night started off very awkward with Jim Root coming out and talking to Kelly and I before the show.  This happened often, but tonight was different - Jim was upset and crying.  He had just got the call asking him to join Slipknot.  He wasn't sure what to do - since Slipknot was a signed band just finishing up their debut album and heading out on tour it was a huge opportunity for him, but at the same time he was really good friends with all the rest of the Deadfront guys and they had been through a lot together and worked really hard as a band.  Jim did not want them to feel that he was jumping ship and just abandoning them.  Jim is a very nice guy, so the decision was tearing him up inside.  We were honored that Jim asked our advice and we told him that he had to follow his dream - if he wanted to be a professional musician accepting the Slipknot gig was his best shot.  Deadfront was a possibility but Slipknot was a sure thing.  Although it was pretty awkward for Kelly and I to be giving Jim advice like this (what did we know?) it was better than the times when he was questioning his chances of making it as a musician and asking what kind of college classes he should take.  The show sounded horrible.  I don't think that the band had a soundcheck since everyone was upset.  All the guys were distracted and the atmosphere on stage was really tense.  All understandable since everyone had just learned that their band was disintegrating around them.  The whole show was more than a little uncomfortable for everyone involved.  But this was not the worst Deadfront show.

Jim left, and Shawn left soon after to be a tour roadie for Slipknot.  The remaining guys decided to try continuing and replaced Jim with their sound tech, Matt Sepanic.  Matt was a decent guitar player but it is really hard to fill Jim's shoes.  Jim had been playing for something like 15 years at this point and had long agile fingers.  Jim could play amazing music without even trying.  During their first show with the new line-up Kelly and I both cringed as Matt tried to play Jim's solos.  It did not sound good.  Chunky, clumsy, awkward and strained.  We left disappointed because it was not the was like an amateur cover band trying to play Deadfront.  But this was not the worst Deadfront show.

We figured that with a little practice, Matt could get up to speed and the band could be back to an almost normal state and playing tight, totally kick ass shows again.  The band decided to take another route.  Instead of getting Matt to play the guitar parts correctly or finding someone that could, the band decided to add a DJ to the line-up.  The DJ then proceeded to scratch all through the solos and more difficult guitar well as throwing in random stuff throughout the songs.  This helped cover up Matt's inept guitar playing but it also sounded terrible.  It muddled Deadfronts sound and made it seem like a pile of noise instead of well written hard rock songs.  It was impossible to ignore and completely ruined everything that I liked about Deadfront.  This was the worst Deadfront show.  I could not believe that the band that I had enjoyed so much  for the previous three or four years had made such judgement errors and degraded so noticeably.  DJs were in style at the time, so I could kind of see what they were thinking but the execution was so poor that it just seemed to be a jump on the bandwagon type thing.  Let this be a lesson to all bands - adding a DJ to your band is a poor choice 99 times out of a 100.  Deadfront wasn't the first nor last that I had seen ruined is such fashion.

Deadfront played a couple more shows at local rock festivals but I could not bring myself to go.  It was the first time I willing passed on Deadfront.  The guys in Deadfront finally called it quits and went on to different projects.  I miss Deadfront, but I really wish that they hadn't tried forcing it longer than they should have.  Sometimes you need to realize that it is better to end at the right time than keep pushing into mediocrity.  I know it is hard, but retire a legend and preserve your legacy (hint, hint - Axl Rose).

*These are off the top of my head, I am sure that I could go through my stubs and find more.  I don't think I left out any major suck-fests though.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Two Minutes Hate

Default Experts

I hate when TV shows list someone as an expert don't give any of their credentials.  Just because someone is a doctor, does not make them an expert in all medical fields, and just because you are a scientist at MIT doesn't necessarily make you a physics expert.  Worst of all, is the "Former FBI Agent" expert.

FBI Agents get a lot of very good training.  I've known a couple and I would say that they were very smart, very competent people.  But, I would not label them as experts in everything related to criminality, evidence, fraudulence, and criminal justice.  Maybe a better rounded knowledge in all these fields than most people but not necessarily experts.  The FBI has experts - lots of them, but they tend to be very specialized in a single field.  For example, an expert in bank robberies is probably also not going to be an expert in bomb making, terrorism, and bio-weapons.  And that is just it - the FBI does a lot of stuff, but not every agent is involved in every area.  In fact, just a short time ago a majority of agents were accountants.  The FBI focused on white collar crime and bank robberies.  This may have since changed to focus more on terrorism type activities, but I believe there are still a lot of accountants in the Bureau.

FBI ≠ Expert of All

FBI agents have become almost some mythical, omniscient figures.  FBI agents are good but they make mistakes (think Ruby Ridge) and what they say shouldn't automatically be taken as expert testimony without further investigation.  Even if you give J.P. Morgan some general law enforcement training, you still wouldn't expect him to be an expert in serial killers.  Maybe the FBI agents that they interview or use for research are experts in a relevant field, but unless the shows divulge that info, I can't take the label FBI agent as proof of mastery.  I refuse to accept that and you should too.  Maybe it is laziness on the part of TV shows, maybe they don't have a better witness and use an FBI agent to try to lend more credence to their show.  I don't know, I just know that it isn't right and it annoys me.

End Hate

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Worst Shows Ever #7

As a music lover, I've been to A LOT of shows - huge sold out stadium shows, tiny bar shows with a handful of people, awesome shows that lived up to and exceeded all expectations and shows that were great but for a reason I never could have anticipated.  But this isn't about those shows...this is about the AWFUL shows.  The shows that make you feel like you wasted your time and money...the ones that leave a pit in your stomach and may even make you dislike a band that you used to love.  Sometimes its the band, sometimes other factors but no matter what the cause these shows were terrible.  These are my top 10 horrible shows.*

7. Secretly Drowning - Burnsville, MN, 2002

Secretly Drowning was an up and coming rock band from Minneapolis.  My brother, Kelly, happened to catch them on a business trip to the Twin Cities and passed along how great they were.  The band seemed to be skyrocketing to success winning several regional awards and scoring sponsorship from Amp Energy Drink.  I caught them a few times at local Des Moines shows and they were fantastic, high energy shows...even if the crowd was small.  They seemed to be making fans every time they played, I was expecting them to get bigger and bigger.

One weekend, there happened to be an arcade auction in the Twin Cities area.  Kelly and I are both pinball dorks, so we were interested...but that is a long way to drive for an uncertain auction.  Most auctions we go to either don't have anything we are looking for or are so corrupt that it isn't worth the time because you will never get a good price.  The trip didn't seem worth while just for the auction but then we noticed that Secretly Drowning happened to be playing in a small Minneapolis suburb, I am pretty sure it was Burnsville.  I was really looking forward to seeing SD again, so we were then able to justify the trip.

The auction was OK, we didn't buy anything but it was nice to play a couple pins that we hadn't played for a while and it had a really groan inducing moment, when they were auctioning the first "Pick of the Litter" of all the pinball machines.  Some of the line-up included Addams Family, Dr Who, Eight Ball Deluxe, and Elvira and the Party Monsters.  First pick bidding ended at $2100.  Which I personally thought was a lot for any of the games, but everyone figured that the person really wanted an Addams Family.  It was higher than I would pay for an Addams but it wasn't unheard of.  The buyer though decided to go with Elvira and the Party Monsters.  Elvira is a pre-dot matrix machine.  It is good, but it was an $800-$1000 game tops.  An audible gasp went through the room when the buyer choose it.  I wish I could have seen his face to know if he realized he made a mistake when he heard the gasp.

The auction was interesting but disappointing because there wasn't any pinball that we really wanted, so we headed to find the Secretly Drowning venue.  It was a new venue that we had never heard of, but looking at their past concerts they seem to get a pretty good line up of talented local bands.  We had Mapquest maps and were pretty confident in our skills (Mapquest still had some problems but for the most part it was pretty accurate).  We drive to the address of the club and there is nothing is like the town hall and a couple municipal buildings.  We thought Mapquest couldn't find the address, so it just threw us to the town had happened before.  "It's not that big of town, we can find xxxx."  I don't remember the club's actual name now.  We drive all over the place...for like two hours covering every single street listed in least once but most many times.  There were no signs for this club, no places that even looked like a club.  We checked maps, we checked phone books, we stopped and asked directions at several places.  This club was no where to be found.  After over two hours of looking, we decided to give up and head for home...disappointed.

I was still angry for several days and after much interwebicon searching, I found a random message in a forum board explaining that on Sunday nights the town hall actually turned into a small all ages club with live music.  We drove past the town hall like 10 times, there were no signs or any indications that it became an all ages club on Sunday nights.  I would have thought that there would be SOME kind of sign...there was nothing.  I want to say that the club was called Masque or something like that.  I think it should have at least had an asterisk or something stating that it took place in the town hall building.  Something, anything stating that it was not an autonomous unit.

Now, because we missed a show wouldn't normally make this one of the worst shows.  I've missed plenty of shows that I wish I had gone to, but I try not to dwell on that too much.  What happened to cause this missed show to make the list is the fact that Secretly Drowning disbanded a week later.  So missing our last chance to see an awesome band due to the fact that there wasn't a sign any where to be seen made this show (or lack there of) one of the top 10 disappointing concert experiences.

Still really enjoy Secretly Drowning and pull out their four song e.p. and give it a listen every once in a while...sad that while really good, the CD still doesn't compare to how good and energetic the couple shows that I saw.  Sample for yourself, if you like late 90's early 2000's rock, I think you will enjoy.

Four songs and then is really sad when this happens to a promising band.  Secretly Drowning, I miss you guys.  You rocked the camel's ass.

*These are off the top of my head, I am sure that I could go through my stubs and find more.  I don't think I left out any major suck-fests though.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Tale of Two Ms

I have always liked M&Ms. I think most people do. However, for me, they lost something when they started messing with the five colors of my childhood. To me, true M&Ms should be Orange, Yellow, Green, Tan, and Brown. I know it is just the coloring and it doesn't make a difference to the taste but for some reason the blue really throws me off and then six colors (with red re-added in the late 80's). Surely six colors is some sort of excessiveness. Which must be true since Tan was later dropped to get it back to 5....but then blue came along and screwed it all up again. Damn you Blue!  I still liked M&Ms, but they kind of fell by the wayside and no longer gave me that nostalgic feeling.   Ignoring them, I missed Mars, inc coming out with new limited edition flavors.  Shame on me.

I finally got to try Coconut M&Ms. I saw them in a gas station about a year ago when I happened to not have any money on me. I thought they sounded good and wanted to try them but figured that since they were new that I would be seeing more of them. I was wrong, they were a limited edition and I did not see them again for almost a year...and even now they are not in very many places. QuikTrip and Walgreens seem to have them in stock most consistently in mid-Iowa.

Coconut M&Ms are good.  The really reminded me of something but I couldn't quite put my finger on what exactly.  The first thing to pop into my brain was a Jr Mint...but that wasn't right.  Angie suggested Pina Colada.  That is very close but not quite right.  I am still trying to place what exactly it reminded me of, but have had no luck.  I liked them, they were a nice change but I couldn't see eating them that often.  It's just not a taste that I have cravings for.  Angie and I didn't even finish a regular sized bag between the two of us.  Mixed with a bag of Plain M&Ms (I don't subscribe to calling them Milk Chocolate M&Ms instead of Plain) might be nice...more chocolate to spread out the coconut flavor a bit.

I know that Mars inc. also released Pretzel M&Ms this summer and I look forward to trying those soon.

But would really like to try the Strawberried Peanut Butter that came out last year.  Basically PB&J in an M&M.  I know that I can still order a case off of Amazon, but I am unsure if I want that many.  As I have learned from Cadbury Eggs this spring...I would rather have a smaller amount of product and be left wishing for more.

But I am really envious of the Wildly Cherry M&Ms that came out in the UK in 2008.  Much like Hot Tamales Ice, I am sure I will probably never taste them...but they sound delicious.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Worst Shows Ever #8

As a music lover, I've been to A LOT of shows - huge sold out stadium shows, tiny bar shows with a handful of people, awesome shows that lived up to and exceeded all expectations and shows that were great but for a reason I never could have anticipated.  But this isn't about those shows...this is about the AWFUL shows.  The shows that make you feel like you wasted your time and money...the ones that leave a pit in your stomach and may even make you dislike a band that you used to love.  Sometimes its the band, sometimes other factors but no matter what the cause these shows were terrible.  These are my top 10 horrible shows.*

8. The Black Crowes - Val-Air Ballroom, Des Moines 2006

I've seen The Black Crowes many times at all stages of their career.  Opening for Heart in 1990/91 when they were still relatively unknown - had to tell many people at that concert who this band in crushed velvet suits was.  On their Amorica and Three Snakes tours where they completely rocked, but you could see pot starting to be more and more important to Chris.  Several shows in the late 90's and mid-2000's where they became more and more of a jam band.


However, I think the show in May 2006 ruined them for me for all time.  Admittedly this concert already had one strike against it before it even started because when I bought tickets, I was hoping a certain girl would join me for the show.  That didn't happen, so I went to the show with somewhat of a heavy heart.  I was really looking forward to great show to pick me up out of the doldurms, that didn't happen either.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this show.  The Black Crowes didn't have a new album out, so I wasn't sure what they were promoting.  Chris and Rich had done a small tour earlier this year called the Birds of a Feather Tour where they played almost entirely acoustic sets.  I was torn.  I had seen the Crowes do a few acoustic songs here and there (like She Talks to Angels) but would love to hear the other songs performed in a different manner, but I also really felt the need for a high energy rock fest to release some of the emotions and tension I was feeling.  I guess I would have been happy with either.  I did not end up being happy with the show.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not the hugest Black Crowes fan in the world.  I really like their first three albums but then I think they started to wander quite a bit and their music didn't appeal to me as much once did.  Much of it was still decent but as it grew more meandering instead of a nice tight rock song, I lost interest.  Nothing really stood out and caught my ear.  A concert, however, usually features a good mix of new and old music and can help me appreciate music that I might not otherwise have picked up on.

Where forth art thou, good music?  Not live.
I don't remember who opened, it was nothing special and very forgettable.  It did not really help my mood, I was feeling very blah.  After a long wait.  Much longer than the usually 30-45 minutes, probably closer to an hour and 45 minutes, The Black Crowes come out.  The sounded OK, not great.  The vocals sound a little muffled but nothing terrible...I've heard worse, I've heard better.  The sound engineer continued to play with the levels and stuff and by the end of the second song it all sounded good.  Well, good for what it was - the first three or four songs, I didn't recognize at all.  Then a new song that I hadn't heard - Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution.  It was decent and somewhat catchy so I thought the concert was taking a turn for the better.  It was short lived, the next song they were back to stuff that I hadn't heard or was unrecognizable...but that wasn't even the worst bit.  They then started, to jam.  I don't mind a improvisation when a band plays live but I hate when then get into jam band mode and each song drags into 20 minute diatribe of musical diarrhea.  Just because you can twist the musical interlude in a song into a long improv session and bring it back 15 minutes later doesn't mean you should. Maybe I have ADD or ADHD, but after seven minutes I get bored and my mind starts wandering away from whatever you are playing.  It is watering down music.  It sucks.

The show went on like this for another song and then Chris got pissed and walked off stage.  I am not sure what happened.  You could hear the vocals crackle a little but nothing too terrible...I mean they he was singing crappy songs anyway so it didn't really bother me.  The Crowes come back on after 25 minutes and sing another song...again crappy jam song.  Chris looks more than obviously high.  Then Chris spends about 20 minutes saying thing like "Fuck this shitty venue.  This place has shitty equipment."  It sounded very petty.  Finally, the Crowes play Jealous Again which makes me happy and I am hoping for some Twice as Hard, Remedy, She Talks to Angels, Thorn in my Pride, etc...anything any more hits.  It was not to be, the Crowes left the stage and came back to play Good Friday as their encore.  A decent song but not what I would have ended with.  90 minutes and a single song that I consider a hit.  It was a very disappointing night...and of course since it was the Black Crowes, I smelled horribly of pot when I left.  I hate that.  I really have no desire to see the Black Crowes again.  I was bored!  Thanks to their jam band ways, lack of playing hits, and Chris' whining at this show, I haven't been able to bring myself to buy tickets to any of their last 3 shows in Des Moines.  Even thinking about putting one the CDs in my player gives me a little pit in my stomach after this show.

*These are off the top of my head, I am sure that I could go through my stubs and find more.  I don't think I left out any major suck-fests though.