• Musicstuff: Rush in Concert


    Snakes & Arrows
    If you were a fan of progressive rock when Rush arrived on the music scene thirty-three years ago, there’s a good chance that a 7:30 concert is going to have you up way past your bedtime. 1Oh, and if that concert is on a Thursday evening and you’ve got to work the following morning, you’re probably better off staying home to watch Baretta reruns and sip a tall, cool glass … Continue reading If, on the other hand, your first real exposure to the Canadian trio was sometime after the Ford 2No, Gerald. administration, then you (like me) are likely still a virile young buck with more than enough energy to propel you to eleven o’clock and far beyond.

    Thursday night, thousands of Rush fans gave their bedtimes the collective middle finger and descended upon the Blossom Music Center; the elder crowd to have their socks rocked off, the younger generation to have their B0XX0RZ R0XX0R3D down to their S0XX0RS. Cranking out nearly thirty songs that spanned more than three decades of music in just under three hours, Rush definitely brought the rock to Blossom and I find it hard to believe anyone could have walked away unsatisfied. A wee bit deaf, perhaps, but certainly not unsatisfied.

    Because I am apparently made of stupid, I left my cell phone in the MVoD on the way to the concert. This was disappointing for several reasons: At the start of the concert I wanted to call my brother, Keven, to gloat a bit; 3He saw the concert when the 2007 Snakes & Arrows Tour kicked off in Atlanta, so he’s got no real reason to whine. I also wanted to call blob when Rush played “Tom Sawyer”, because I am a jerk; and I wanted to take a few photos of myself and others enjoying the concert. 4I’m especially annoyed at this, because I missed the opportunity to capture Air Guitar Man’s rocking solo. Fortunately, I was able to convince another concert-goer to e-mail me a couple of photos he took with his cell phone (a Motorola Razr, I believe). 5Thank you, Chris, for indulging me; the photos you took are at least as good as (and probably better than) anything I would have snapped with my Treo 650.

    Rush in Concert at Blossom

    The show, as I mentioned previously, nearly covered the entirety of Rush’s thirty-three year musical history. Though there were no tunes from their first three albums, they did play “A Passage to Bangkok” from 2112 (1976). There was also a very satisfying sampling of songs from both Permanent Waves (1980) and Moving Pictures (1981), a handful of songs covering 1982 (including the excellent “Subdivisions” from Signals) through 2004, and a whopping nine tracks from Snakes & Arrows. A complete set list can be found on the tour’s Wikipedia entry.

    Highlights of the show included Bob and Doug McKenzie introducing “The Larger Bowl” and a hilarious South Park skit featuring Eric Cartman as Geddy Lee that led into a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Tom Sawyer”. Then, of course, there was Neil Peart’s fantastic ten-minute drum solo. I don’t imagine anyone had to convince Neil to do a drum solo, but I suspect the conversation would have gone something like this:

    PITCHMAN: Okay, Neil, here’s what we’re thinking: we want to surround you with 250 objects of various shapes and sizes and we want you to pound on them with wooden sticks for about ten minutes. Do you think you can do that?

    NEIL PEART: Of course I can do that! I’m Neil Peart, aren’t I?

    He most certainly is, 6I believe my words to Rae Lamond on the subject of Neil Peart were something along the lines of “he may be the best drummer in the history of men hitting stuff with sticks”. and watching him do his thing on stage was awe-inspiring. I almost felt sorry for Alex Lifeson, who followed Neil’s frenetically fantastic percussion with “Hope”, an acoustic guitar solo. The saving grace for Lifeson is that “Hope” is quite possibly my favorite song from Snakes & Arrows (the second being “The Main Monkey Business”, another instrumental piece) and it was a nice, almost mellow counterpoint to previous 360-plus seconds of unrelenting, ferocious energy.

    Rush Concert

    My own stupidity aside, I thought the concert was incredible. I was very pleased and impressed with both the quantity and quality of the songs played (though I would have liked to hear “Red Barchetta” and “Bastille Day”) and also with the energy generated by three guys who are (to quote Geddy) “a million years old”. I have to give props to Schoon (another Chris) for scoring the tickets way back in April of 1997 7(ish) and for providing transportation to and from Blossom. Thanks again to the other Chris for sending me the photos, and thanks to Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart for rocking me sockless. Oh, and a special thanks to my brother, Keven, for getting me hooked on Rush at an early age.

    1 Oh, and if that concert is on a Thursday evening and you’ve got to work the following morning, you’re probably better off staying home to watch Baretta reruns and sip a tall, cool glass of Metamucil.
    2 No, Gerald.
    3 He saw the concert when the 2007 Snakes & Arrows Tour kicked off in Atlanta, so he’s got no real reason to whine.
    4 I’m especially annoyed at this, because I missed the opportunity to capture Air Guitar Man’s rocking solo.
    5 Thank you, Chris, for indulging me; the photos you took are at least as good as (and probably better than) anything I would have snapped with my Treo 650.
    6 I believe my words to Rae Lamond on the subject of Neil Peart were something along the lines of “he may be the best drummer in the history of men hitting stuff with sticks”.
    7 (ish)
  • Geekstuff: The Birthday Rundown


    Well, I’ve been thirty-four years old for a week now and I’ve gotta say I’m liking it so far. There are times when being an adult is all about socks and shirts and ties, oil changes and mortgage payments, but I’m happy to say that my family and friends know that I’m still all about the books, comics, toys and games. Apart from a very nice polo shirt from my mother-in-law, most of my birthday bounty would have been eagerly received by seventeen-year-old me.

    • LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for the Xbox, from my young apprentice. Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.
    • The Making of Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler, from Laura.
    • A Boba Fett t-shirt, also from Laura.
    • The Ultimate Fantastic Four trade paperbacks volumes 1-5, from Miscellaneous G™.
    • Three Hellboy comics signed by Mike Mignola, from Chris.
    • A green FlyTech Dragonfly, from my sister-in-law and her family. A remote-controlled ornithopter! How cool is that?
    • A musical Batman card from my elder, bigger little sister.
    • Filthy lucre from my parents, mother-in-law and grandparents-in-law, which I used to buy:
      • 18 by Moby (CD)
      • Play by Moby (CD)
      • Hellboy: Sword of Storms (DVD)
      • Dune: Extended Edition (DVD)
      • Blade Runner: Director’s Cut (DVD)
      • Pan’s Labyrinth (DVD)
    • Last but not least, pumpkin pie from my grandparents-in-law. Yes, it’s more of a fall pie. I don’t care. I will eat it now and then, I will eat it anywhen!

    [EDIT: I forgot a couple of things!]

    • Police Squad! The Complete Series on DVD, from the Wiitalas. Police Squad! didn’t succeed as a television series (a shame, because it’s hilarious), but it eventually evolved into three Naked Gun movies.
    • Spamalot Original Cast Recording, also from the Wiitalas. Laura and I saw Spamalot last year, and it was fantastic. My favorite song is probably “The Song That Goes Like This”, but they’re all good.
    • The first season of Arrested Development on DVD, from my sister and her boyfriend. Despite several people telling me I should have been watching this show when it was originally on the air, I’ve never seen it. I’m probably directly responsible for its cancellation.
    • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, also from my sister and her boyfriend. I’m not sure, but I think this book has something to do with that “fourth meal” I’ve been hearing about at Taco Bell.

    Are my friends and family not awesome? Yes. Yes they are. They made me a very happy birthday boy.

  • Music: Dylan Hears a Who


    Now here’s something you don’t see (or hear) every day: Seven Dr. Seuss poems — including “Green Eggs and Ham”, “Cat in the Hat” and my second favorite Seuss poem ever, “Too Many Daves” — as Bob Dylan might have performed them in the 1960s.

    Not only can you listen to all the songs, you can download a ZIP file containing the individual MP3 files. You can also download jewel case inserts and a CD label. Truly excellent.

    Kudos to Eye-Berried Pall (whoever they may be) for creating this and thanks to Jason Penney for linking to it.

  • Music: CD Collection on Squirl


    In a testament to my geekiness, I’ve started yet another collection on Squirl. In addition to my DvDs, Xbox and PC games, I’ve now got 170 of my CDs cataloged on the site as well.

    Yeah, I’m a dork. No surprises there.

  • Music: Coulton Does Cleveland


    Singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton — who is responsible for songs like “Code Monkey”, “Skullcrusher Mountain”, “First of May” and “Soft Rocked By Me” — will be playing Wilbert’s in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday, 30 November.

    Also playing that night are Paul and Storm, formerly of the excellent a cappella group, Da Vinci’s Notebook (“Title of the Song”, “Another Irish Drinking Song”, “Enormous Penis”Here come the Google hits!).

    If you are in the Cleveland vicinity on 30 November, have dollars numbering ten at your disposal, and enjoy music with a humorous twist, you may want to get yourself to Wilbert’s.

  • The day of rockoning has arrived: Finnish monster-rock group Lordi won the 51st annual Eurovision Song Contest yesterday (20 May 2006), beating out contestants from thirty-six other European countries and striking down the prophets of false.

    If you’ve been living in North America (or under a rock in Europe) for the past fifty years, you may not be familiar with the Eurovision Song Contest. If you are tempted to ask whether it is at all similar to American Idol, you should probably stop watching American Idol. In fact, do that anyway.

    Eurovision Song ContestAmerican version coming soon to NBC. is more like the pop music Olympics — in fact, the 2006 finals were held at the Olympic Arena in Athens, Greece — except that there’s only one event, only one entrant (group or individual) from each country, and you don’t have to wait four years for the contest to come around again.

    Unlike the Olympics (and, unfortunately, like American Idol), Eurovision winners are ultimately decided by the audience. Viewers in thirty-eight countries (the entrant from Serbia/Montenegro dropped out of the contest but the country was still allowed to vote) had only a ten-minute window to submit their votes via telephone or SMS (cellular text-messaging). When the votes were tallied, Lordi had a total of 292 points, 44 more than first runner-up Dima, who hailed from Russia.

    Whether you’ve heard of the contest or not, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with some of Eurovision’s past contestants:

    • Julio Iglesias represented Spain in 1970. He finished 8th with his song, “Gwendolyne.”
    • ABBA won the contest in 1974 with their song, “Waterloo.” That same year, Olivia Newton-John took 4th place with her song, “Long Live Love.”
    • Despite being born in Canada, Céline Dion represented Switzerland in 1988 and won Eurovision singing “Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi”.
    • American expatriates Katrina Leskanich and Vince de la Cruz form half of 1997 Eurovision-winning group Katrina & the Waves.

    Finland’s first entry in Eurovision Song Contest was Laila Kinnunen in 1961. Her song, “Valoa Ikkunassa” placed 10th that year but until yesterday, Finland had yet to take home the grand prize.

    Lordi - Monsterican Dream (CD)

    Apart from being the first Finnish group to win Eurovision, Lordi holds the distinction of being a distinctly “non-Eurovision” winner.I was informed of this by no less than an actual European. The contest has historically been more of a pop music venue, but Lordi, with their melodic monster-rock and fright-mask makeup, definitely breaks the Eurovision mold. The winning song, “Hard Rock Hallelujah” is definitely not representative of recent winners, but has nonetheless been described as “the most rocking Eurovision entry since ABBA’s ‘Waterloo’”.The CD pictured is Lordi’s Monstermerican Dream. Unfortunately, it does not feature “Hard Rock Hallelujah”, which has yet to be released on disc.

    Lordi will not rest long on their laurels, however. The group resumes their Bringing the Balls Back to Finland tour on 17 June. Alas, the tour doesn’t stop anywhere near Willoughby, Ohio.

  • The Illusionary Movements of Geraldine and Nazu

    The Illusionary Movements of Geraldine and Nazu (2005)

    J. Ralph

    The iTunes music store has a nifty feature called “iMix.” Users can assemble musical collages of songs available through iTunes and save the resultant samplers in the music store. That way, when I’m interested in hearing tunes made popular in television commercials, I can do a search for “commercials” and the iMixes created by industrious advertisement music afficionados. This is precisely how I came across the J. Ralph tune “One Million Miles Away”, which was used in a Volkswagen commercial.It is also how I wound up spending ninety-nine of my hard-earned pennies to purchase the song “Da Da Da” — also used in a Volkswagen commercial — by German group Trio and ninety-nine more of those pennies to purchase “The Child Inside” (used in a SeaWorld commercial) by Qkumba Zoo. Not all iMixes are quite so useful, but there are certainly some diamonds in the rough.

    In the case of “One Million Miles Away,” I opted not to download the song from iTunes. I decided that I wanted the actual CD, The Illusionary Movements of Geraldine and Nazu. I didn’t have much hope of finding the disc at Barnes & Noble this evening, especially given that I couldn’t recall the artist’s name it took me 10 minutes of browsing the store’s Red dot Net terminal before I remembered that the title was not “The Imaginary…” something-or-other. Thankfully, J. Ralph has another CD out right now, the soundtrack to Lucky Number Slevin, and it just so happened that they were featuring The Illusionary Movements of Geraldine and Nazu right alongside the soundtrack at the sales counter.

    The disc I bought tonight is actually a re-release of The Illusionary Movements of Geraldine and Nazu, which was originally released in 2003. The re-release features a ninth track that was not on the original. This track, “When She Dances”, was used in a Honda Civic Hybrid commerical. J. Ralph has a talent, it would seem, for making car commercial music.

    There’s a good reason for this, I think. J. Ralph creates music that burrows deep into your brain and sticks there. They’re not the type of tunes that you hum, but rather the ones that play over and over in your head as you’re slogging your way across a snow-covered grocery store parking lot at ten-thirty on a Thursday night with a bag containing cough drops and a two-liter bottle of Sprite in one hand and your car keys in the other. You’re not sure where you heard the strange little classical guitar riff or the haunting, simplistic piano melody, and you may not associate it with German engineering or superior gas mileage, but there it is, running on a seemingly endless loop through your inner ear.

    The Illusionary Movements of Geraldine and Nazu is eight tracks of orchestral, operatic music followed by a bonus track that is neither of those things, but fits in with the rest because it makes itself at home in your subconscious, choosing the most unexpected moments to remind you that it lives there.

  • First of May


    I woke up this morning
    I had a scone and a large house blend
    Then a little conversation
    with my squirrel and chipmunk friends

    I said, “I’m sick and tired of winter,
    and I wish that it was spring.”
    Then a little fella named Robin Red Breast
    began to sing.

    And he sang,
    Ooh-ooh, child
    what you think the cold winter’s gonna last forever?
    Ooh-ooh, child,
    now’s the time for all the people to get together…

    ‘Cause it’s the first of May,
    first of May…

    — “First of May”* by Jonathan Coulton

    Yes, it’s the first of May, and as Robin Red Breast says, it’s the time for all the people to get together outside.

    So find that special someone and explore the great outdoors in a very special way.

    * Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics

  • Podcast: Coverville


    If you haven’t checked out Coverville — and you’re a video game geek — Tuesday’s episode (#181) may be right up your alley. Coverville, hosted by Brian Ibbott and released three times a week, is a podcast devoted solely to covers, songs by popular artists performed by … someone else. Episode 181 is the Video Game Cover Show and features music from the Sonic, Super Mario and Zelda video game series as performed by Martin Jeung, the Minibosses, the Video Game Cover Band and more.

    Check it out!

  • Happy Valentine’s Day


    Men say “I Love You” with flowers and jewelry. Laura says “I Love You” with CDs and science-fiction DVDs. Ladies, you’re getting a raw deal.

    B-Tribe - Spiritual Spiritual

    Spiritual Spiritual

    This is the fourth B-Tribe CD in my collection. The others — ¡Fiesta Fatal!, Sensual Sensual and Suave Suave — are all excellent. The “B” in B-Tribe stands for “Barcelona,” and the music is a sort of techno-latin: flamenco guitars and Spanish vocals mixed with a lot of synthesizers. Spiritual Spiritual is definitely the most low-key and mellow of the four albums, but it still has all the elements that keep me listening to B-Tribe. In fact, I’m listening to it as I write this, and wishing I’d gotten around to replacing my crappy headphones.

    The Legend of Johnny Cash

    The Legend of Johnny Cash
    Johnny Cash

    Twenty-one tracks that trace the Man in Black’s nearly half-century career in music, from “Cry! Cry! Cry!” originally recorded in 1955 to his 2003 cover of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt.” One of my personal favorites is “Delia’s Gone,” which appeared on American Recordings, Cash’s first outing with famed rock producer Rick Rubin. A bit of Man in Black trivia: the song “A Boy Named Sue” was written by Where the Sidewalk Ends author Shel Silverstein.

    Enya - Amarantine


    Amarantine is at least the seventh Enya album in my collection, not counting her work on the soundtrack for The Fellowship of the Ring and the two-track single Oíche Chiún. Alas, my copies of Watermark and Shepherd Moons have gone missing. Enya doesn’t disappoint on her latest release, which is rich with her signature sound. I read a review last week that points to this familiarity as being a bad thing, but for me it’s very, very good. Did I mention that I need new headphones? Man, these things suck.



    Cross another item off the Amazon Wish List. I thought about picking this up about a week after Christmas, but couldn’t find it in the two or three stores I normally visit. I was a latecomer to the fandom of Joss Whedon’s Firefly series, but was just as eager to see Serenity when it hit theaters as the most rabid of Browncoats. If you have to ask what a Browncoat is, I suggest finding a copy of the Firefly box set and setting aside a weekend to watch the entire short-lived series. Then do the same with Serenity. If you ask nicely, I may even loan you my copy.