Sunday, September 24, 2006

"An Epic Experience"

So VirginFest (as they called the music festival thing yesterday) was a blast. We got there pretty damn early (about 9.30 am. They didn't even open the doors until around 10 or 10.30) and we stayed until the end (about 10 pm). The breakdown of the bands is as follows:

Drive-By Truckers: These guys were great. They do a country-rock sorta thing along the lines of Blue Mountain. They rocked hard and had a pedal steel guitar player. And three electric guitars. That's a hell of a guitar onslaught. Definitely need to check out some of their albums.

Wolfmother: I'd heard good things about these guys, but in concert they struck me as a third-rate ersatz Zeppelin. I mean, they were okay, but they seemed entirely too impressed with themselves by the fact that they could create distortion and feedback. And the guitarist guy was unnecessarily hard on his guitars not because it fit, but because he was trying to say, "look at me, I'm hardcore." So yeah, ot all that impressed, but they had a few decent songs and some solid guitar work.

The Raconteurs: These guys rocked hard. Excellent guitar work, great stage presence, everything was great. Cleansed the pallate after the disappointment of Wolfmother.

Gnarls Barkley: Again, I was not impressed by these guys. Their sound is supposed to be pretty unique, but they struck me as a funk/pop band. It's been done, and it's been done better. And their song, "Crazy," is pretty blah if you ask me.

The Killers: These guys are convinced it's still the 1980s, and that isn't a good thing. Lead singer wanted to be Bono in the worst way, but didn't have the range for it. Also wanted to do some Bruce Springsteen-style story songs about the plight of the working class, but dude just didn't have the ability. Another pass.

The Who: Guys kicked as much ass as I'd hoped. Totally worth it. Did a great medley from Tommy to end the show, which was surprising and cool. These guys may be old, and Roger Daltry may not have the vocal range he once did (let's not talk about Pete Townsend's vocal range, please), but they still know how to rock hard. Besides, they've got Zac Starkey (son of Ringo) playing drums for them, and that's always cool.

Scissor Sisters: Only caught the last about 15 minutes of their show. Pretty fun dance-pop, though I'm not too keen on disco-inflected pop. Their cover of "Comfortably Numb" still bugs me, though.

Flaming Lips: These guys alone made the whole day worth it. Easily one of my top five shows ever. Everyone (well, except for one of the girls who was with us who doesn't like the Flaming Lips for some reason) had a smile plastered across their face as we sang along at the top of our lungs. And Wayne Coyne likes his fog machine. And his giant balloons. And his confetti.

Overall, great experience. I'm sad Michelle didn't get to go, but it did give me the opportunity to see some damn good bands.


Song of the Moment: The Flaming Lips, "Free Radicals (Live)"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"Form Blazing Sword!"

So we didn't have school today. Apparently the transformer blew, so we didn't have power. Hard to teach students in classrooms with no light (and dude, the bathrooms were pitch-freakin' black. So we sent all the kids home, did a bit of inservice, and then went home ourselves. I spent my free afternoon preparing for classes, watching Voltron, and napping.

Ah, introduction to anime, way back in the mid-1980s. I remember thinking at the time that this was the coolest damn show ever. It had a great theme song, the toys rocked, and the animation style was totally unlike anything else on TV (well, except Robotech). The show's not as bad as I feared it would be, but the animation is definitely early '80s anime (the show was originally done in 1980-81 in Japan, and came over to America in a chopped-up, spliced-together form in 1984) and you'd think that the bad guy would stop relying on the same plan every time (try to separate the five pilots of Voltron so they can't form the robot, then let the witch or the general guy send a giant robeast to attack and destroy Voltron). But overall, it's a fun nostalgia fest, and I'll definitely be picking up the other sets when they come out. Because there's something about having my childhood on DVD that appeals to me, for some reason.

I have to find a hat for Friday. We're having a Spirit Day at school, and the theme is Hat Day. So yeah, I need a hat. I'm thinking something snappy in the fedora style...

I spent four and a half hours last night in a class that should have taken ten minutes. We're doing a midpoint portfolio thing, and it's a pain in the butt. Not, though, because of the portfolio itself. That's pretty simple, since I've been doing them since I was a freshman in college. No, what was annoying about this was that (1) I had to pay another $200 dollars for this crap and (2) the woman made it sound significantly more complicated than it really could possibly be, and she did it for over four hours. So I'm pretty fed up with that.

It's an absolutely gorgeous day out today. If I didn't still have the gout bothering me (though it's nearly gone now), I would have gone for a walk this afternoon.


Song of the Moment: Voltron Theme Song

Sunday, September 17, 2006

"Standing In The Alpha Beta Parking Lot"

Had a good weekend. Michelle, her sister Alison, Chad, and myself went to a Thai restaurant for dinner last night, then watched MST3K, Animaniacs, and Golden Girls (yes, I'm aware of how bizarre that combination is).

The cleaning lady came by today and the apartment is sparkling clean once more. It's kinda nice to come home from church and see the whole place neat and tidy.

The 7-Eleven around the corner from us is closing tomorrow, apparently. Dunno why. The place is always full of people, and Lord knows I'm there once every couple of days for stuff. Strange things indeed.

Already got tomorrow's comic drawn and uploaded. So that's pretty swifty.


Song of the Moment: Thom Yorke, "Harrowdown Hill"

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"One Foot On The Pedal"

So yeah, my gout flared back up on Monday. I've been hobbling all week long, though this bout hasn't been as bad as previous flare-ups. I have had to give up on caffiene, which is a real wrench, but it was probably for the best. I did have a nasty caffiene headache Tuesday night. Felt like my head was gonna split open. Seeing and hearing got kinda difficult around 8.00 pm Tuesday night, which sucked since that was about the time I got out of class and had to drive home in the dark.

It's been raining and cold all week. Which is nice, in a way, 'cause it's been a great temperature for me. Dunno how long it'll last, but it's good for now.

School and the class I'm taking are going well, though the class is gonna be pretty boring (and there's a second, significantly more pointless class that we have to take simultaneously that I have to pay more money for. Dammit).


Song of the Moment: Barenaked Ladies, "Bank Job"

Monday, September 11, 2006

Open Letter to John Mayer

Hey John,

Dude, stop. Just...stop trying to be a bluesman. You're not. You're a pop singer. Yeah, okay, you can play the guitar, and your technical grasp may amaze those who've never heard real blues, but seriously, you're pretty bland. You do cookie-cutter, by-the-numbers blues tunes, you try to sound like Stevie Ray Vaughn, and you think this'll make you a true bluesman. It doesn't. Everything about your music--whether you're trying to play the blues or anything else--is too processed and calculated to be real. It's inauthentic. You might impress the teeny-boppers who don't know any better, but you can't fool me. There's more to the blues than the notes you play or the words you sing, and you seem to think that paying lip service to the style is sufficient to create true blues music.

So. Go back to your DMB-clone pop. Leave the blues alone. Leave it to the people who actually put something true into the music. You'll be doing us all a favor.


Song of the Moment: Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble, "Look at Little Sister"

Saturday, September 09, 2006

"The Sound From A Hundred Dollar Guitar"

I finally got the Yamaha guitar restrung last night. It took three sets of strings, all for one damned B string that kept breaking every time I tried to put a new one on (every other string on the guitar? Got 'em on the first try. I had to buy two sets of strings specifically for one string, which is pretty damn annoying). The guitar has a really nice sound and plays real easy. And hey, since I got it for free from one of my students' parents, I really can't complain.

Had a dream last night that I got an electric guitar from someone for free. Then I got in a guitar duel against some punk kid (a kid who was a little shit, mind you, not that he was a punk punk) who thought he was hot stuff. I remember that, in the dream, the kid really rubbed me the wrong way. I also remember that the place where this was all happening was in Shawnee, but I was there with students and teachers from my school here in Virginia. We were on a field trip there for some reason. And then the driver's side door on the van wouldn't close when we left. I don't know how all of that is connected, but I'm sure it is somehow.

So yeah, lots of guitar-related stuff, eh? Good times.

Made it through the first week of actual classes at school. My students all seem pretty good. Looks like I'll have a good year. They all seem pretty interested in the classes they've got with me, so that's good.


Song of the Moment: The Wallflowers, "Ashes to Ashes"

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Beyond The Horizon"

Well, y'know how I said I doubted Dylan's latest--though it's a great album--would bring any new members to the fold? I might've been wrong, since Modern Times grabbed the #1 spot on the sales charts last week. Couldn't have happened to a better album (though I wonder if Ray Lamontagne's latest managed to chart in the top ten or even top twenty. It deserves to. Go out and buy Till the Sun Turns Black right now. And Modern Times. You'll be doing yourself a favor, honest).

I doubt this means that America has come to its musical senses and will stop buying prefabricated dreck (after all, Paris Hilton's "album" came out, too, and landed in the top ten. God only knows why). I can dream, though.

My history co-teacher has an electric guitar he might sell me cheap. It's nothing fancy (hell, I'm not even sure it's a brand I've ever heard of), but it'd play and it'd sate my desire to have an electric with which to rock out, as they say in the parlance of our times.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Nettie Moore"

"Boy Broken Toy Soldier"

I'm supposed to like the White Stripes, aren't I? I mean, minimalist rock, right? Clif and I are about as minimalist as it gets (vocals and guitar, baby!). Blues and psychadelia blended into some good ol' fashioned straight-ahead rock. That's good, right? Strange, sometimes nonsensical lyrics. I listen to Dylan, don't I? Hell, I even like the Raconteurs.

I've never been able to bring myself to like their stuff, though. It's weird: something about them just rubs me the wrong way. I couldn't even begin to tell you what it is, though.

I think part of it is that they were supposed to be part of this pack of bands that were going to "save" rock and roll in the first couple of years of the 21st century. Them and the Strokes, and maybe the Hives and some other bands I don't remember and never liked. Can't stand the Strokes. I tried, I really did. I bought Room on Fire, which everyone said was a fantastic album, and I barely got through it once. Couldn't handle it. Too murky. Too bland. The vocals were pushed so deep into the mix that the guy might as well not have even been singing (if you could even call it that). Granted, when I read the lyrics in the liner notes, the inability to hear/understand the words didn't seem like such a bad thing.

But no, I don't think I've ever really cared for the White Stripes. I've tried, Lord knows. I watched a couple of their videos, downloaded their cover of Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee (The Valley Below)" (which hurt. It really, really hurt), tried to listen to one of their albums...I just couldn't do it. Sad, really, 'cause I'm sure there's something in there worth something.


Song of the Moment: The Raconteurs, "Hands"

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bob Dylan - Modern Times

It's a good time to be a fan of Dylan. His last three records now--Time Out of Mind, Love & Theft, and now Modern Times--have all been jaw-droppingly fantastic. A man in his early 60s shouldn't be able to make music that is vital and immediate, your brain tells you.

Don't listen to your brain. It is lying to you, as it does with so many things.

Trust rather your ears, which will hear some of the best damn music out there on Modern Times. Falling somewhere in style and tone between Time Out of Mind and Love & Theft, Modern Times seems actually anything but. Dylan uses genres and song forms that were popular sixty, even seventy years ago, bouncing between traditional pop, jump blues, ballads, and apocalpytic ruminations about women, the world, and what went wrong with both of them. Lyrically, this album is at least as strong as Time Out of Mind or Love & Theft, leaning more towards the end-of-the-world wearniess of the former than the sentimentality of the latter (though he manages to mix the two quite well on a few songs, especially "Ain't Talkin'." I don't know how he does it, either).

These songs feel immediate and crafted, the work of a man who's been making music for well over 40 years now. There's an effortless competency to these songs, a sense that Dylan could crank out potential classic after potential classic in this way until the day he died (oh please let this be the case, ohpleaseohpleaseohplease).

This isn't to say the record is perfect. The major flaw is one Dylan's suffered from for decades: knowing when to stop. Some of the songs run on a bit too long and could have benefited from some judicious editing (the beautiful "Spirit on the Water," for instance, is a fantastic song with some great lyrics, but it just keeps going. Nearly eight minutes is just too much, given how little variation there is in the instrumentation in the song, and the circular guitar riff is nice but gets old after about five minutes). Dylan's always had a tendency to let songs go on longer than they should ("Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again" jumps readily to mind), but it's a weakness that a good majority of these songs suffer from. For an album that only runs 10 songs, it lasts for an hour. But at its best moments, you don't notice this. The songs generally flow pretty well, and Dylan's backing band is supple and muscular like an Olympic runner (but not one of those Olympians on steroids. No, this is one of those lean, wiry runners who can leg it down the track really damn fast, but usually prefers the long-distance events where they can pace themselves, run forever, and still have a burst of unexpected energy in the last 100 yards).

Despite that tortured metaphor, Dylan's backing band--his touring band for the past several years, though sadly now minus Charlie Sexton (damn you for pursuing solo interests, Charlie Sexton! Even if your solo work is so damn good)--is the perfect complement to Dylan's songs and his voice (no mean feat, lemme tell ya. His voice just gets more worn-out each time).

Overall, this is just another great album from a man who has clearly reached a late-career peak. While it probably won't win him any new converts to the fold, he's not really making music to win new listeners. He's just making the music he'd want to listen to, and the rest of us just get the benefit of that fact.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Ain't Talkin'"

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"Real Art has the capacity to make us nervous."

Apparently the Crocodile Hunter died. So that's kinda weird.

Made it through Orientation week, though only just barely. Work time is entirely too early each morning, if you ask me. Coworkers seem pretty good, though, and my classes are gonna be neat.

Had a weird weekend. Michelle got ill last night, my car got towed, and we were forced to watch the tremendous trainwreck that has become Sharon Stone's career in the form of Basic Instinct 2. I felt this film needed a good subtitle, one of those that comes after a colon. Like BI2: Basic Harder or BI2: You Might Get to See Sharon Stone's Hoo-Haa, But Don't Count On It. Everything about that movie was pure crap. Poor David Thewlis needs someone to make career choices for him. He's a good actor, but he has no ability to choose a decent flick (he was also in the recent remake of The Omen, which was also a dud). His accent was also a tour of the British Isles, shifting from Scottish to Welsh to Cockney to Northumbrian with little to no provocation. And the sex scenes in this flick...the director was apparently under the misapprehension that violent thrusting is sexy. And that what the world really wants to hear is Sharon Stone uttering lines like "You know how some guys are into blondes, and some guys are into killers?" without a hint of irony or actual emotion. It was easily one of the worst movies I've ever seen, and I've seen Supersonic Man (and Meteor Man, but we're not gonna talk about that).

Anyway, we've got this groovy three-day weekend going on, and Monday is gonna be a whole lot of me sitting around not doing a damned thing. I might clean my room, as stuff has just sorta piled up everywhere, and I might work a bit more on stuff for school. Aside from that, it's easy street.


Song of the Moment: Mark Knopfler, "Back to Tupelo"