Now Being Entertained

Mar 25, 2010

Now Listening

I’ve been listening Dave Matthews’ Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, jamming away in the truck while I travel to work and back again.  This album is their best work in quite a while.  “Shake Me Like a Monkey” is my favorite song of the past year or so and, one day, I’ll learn “You & Me” on the guitar.  I just have to. 

I also need to see them in concert, again.  That’s scheduled for the summer.

Now Playing

I’m playing a lot of God of War 3, which is as brutal and maybe predictable as you’d expect.  I don’t think I mean predictable in a bad way.  Kratos simply noticed that several heads are in need of removal.  I’m not surprised he’s the man for the job. 

I remain pretty happy with the formula, especially in a game that starts this fast and looks this incredible.  But the formula is incredibly obvious if you’ve ever touched one of these games before.  This is my fourth (I count the PSP game).  Next time I’ll be looking for something a little different.

Now Watching

The wife and I are watching a lot of American Idol and Survivor, the latter of which is aging better than the former.  I’m not exactly certain what’s wrong with American Idol.  It certainly has something to do with a weak lineup of contestants.  Maybe they’ve played with the format too much.  Maybe I’ve gotten too good at using my DVR.  Maybe I miss Paula.  No, it can’t be that last thing.  It can’t be that at all.

Survivor, however, remains a pretty good show where they eventually eat bugs or something similarly vomit inducing.  The villains and heroes thing feels contrived – after all, it is — but, somehow, the show remains entertaining.  Jerks and Rob will soon merge with the nice guys, however.  I’ll be happy when we get down to individuals.

I’ll be happier when I find more time to watch The Fringe.

Now Reading

I recently began the “Song of Fire and Ice” series of books penned by George R.R. Martin in an effort to fill a gaping hole in my fantasy library.  I know.  I can’t believe I waited so long either.  I’m sorry I waited, even as Mr. Martin does terrible things to characters he first made me love.  I’m well into “A Clash of Kings.”  I’ll finish reading the series, at least when George bothers to finish writing it.

I do have to say it’s been both a fantastic and terrible addition to my Kindle.  Getting the first two books for just over $6.  Awesome.  Not knowing I just purchased about 2000 pages of reading material.  What is this, Harry Potter?

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In Concert

Aug 19, 2003

This weekend I was treated to an unexpected surprise, courtesy of my friend Jason. Someone had backed out on him at the last minute and a ticket to the John Mayer/Counting Crows concert was up for grabs. Surely I couldn’t let it go to waste. I quickly rearranged my plans and (with a, ahem, heavy heart) left work early to head to the concert.

First up was a band that we passed on a side stage. While sweaty young men and nubile young women glared at them from the beaches of the oversized posters on the prominently sponsored stage walls, Parker’s Back played some tunes very reminiscent of Train or Matchbox 20. I can’t say they were taking any musical risks but as the music fell through the summer heat, I couldn’t help but think it was a great warm up to the main event.

The opening band – which, I must say, I was surprised to see because I was unaware that there was an opening band – had an interesting mix of instruments. Wisechild replaced the standard rhythm guitar with a violin, reminding me of Dave Matthew’s Band without the sax and with a few more open spaces in their music. As I’m a big fan of Dave Matthew’s Band, it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed the show. Occasionally, their Tennessee roots were a little too obvious but I liked their sound. I picked up their new CD, which sits comfortably next to the CD I purchased of Parker’s Back earlier that day.

What surprised me about both of these bands was how well they were chosen for this event. Both of them gave us tunes that should have fit squarely in the middle of the radar of anyone in attendance. I was no exception.

The Counting Crows was the first of the two main acts. This was another surprise. My ticket had the words Counting Crows in the middle in big lettering. I thought that would make them the headliner. I was wrong. After speaking with some rather inebriated folks, we determined that it isn’t always this way. The Crows were taking a little break and sharing the stage. This article from MTV makes it sound like the co-headlining thing was the plan all along. Who knew?

They played a mellow set. Mr. Jones was a meandering ballad more than an upbeat quickie. Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi took a slow turn around the block. Their usual staple of songs were left to simmer, only boiling over on their last song, Hangin’ Around. The slow pace and warm summer buzz of tunes was surprising but not disappointing in the least.

You got the impression that the Crows have really grown into the concert thing. You can tell when musicians are jittery or nervous on stage. They weren’t. They were relaxed, comfortable fiddling with their music, and more than happy to try something a little different for a single night.

John Mayer took the stage as the headliner. The music could have come directly off the CD. My only complaints were that he didn’t move around all that much and that my favorite Mayer tune, Neon, was left off of the play list. I’ll get over it. Come Back to Bed, a track off his upcoming album, made up for it. This blues inspired tune was the highlight of the show.

No concert experience is complete without talking about the venue and, I have to say, the Nissan Pavilion was not the most wonderful place in the world to visit. It’s not a bad place to listen to music. It really isn’t. It was clean. I really enjoyed the use of a side stage to keep us occupied in the hour or so we waited for the concert to start. But that’s the problem. We arrived more than an hour early, given that concert took place in a venue that was smack dab in the middle of the route home for every commuter in the Washington Metropolitan area. If we had left any later, we would surely have listened to the concert from nearby Route 66, as my wife has done on more than one occasion.

Getting out was no easier. We camped out on a couple of large boulders and watched cars fruitlessly attempt to leave the parking lot for over and hour and forty minutes. The traffic was insane. A car in front of us moved 10 feet in the first hour and a half. That was gas well spent.

Despite Nissan Pavilion’s attempts to poison our good time, I had a blast. There’s nothing like a summer concert, especially when it is free (Jason, thank you very much). As for the pavilion itself, it’s not very likely I’ll return to that place anytime soon. My wife mentioned that the only way she would return to the Nissan Pavilion is if Jesus himself was preaching there. I’m guessing that is a tough act to book.

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Hard to Stay Mad

Jun 10, 2003

I was always surprised that Metallica took mp3s so personal. It was their battle. Lars Ulrich was the mascot. Napster was their target.

As a casual fan I found their stance a bit insulting. Their tactics, which included fear and lawyers was more akin to those who watch lovingly over their gardeners, not a band whose mere appearance could make parents run for cover. What happened to them? Success had robbed them of their hair and their credibility.

I don’t think they anticipated the backlash they received.

Years later, I surprised myself when I picked up their new album, St.Anger. I thought I was done with them. They didn’t want us to touch mp3s. If I did listen to them, I thought for sure it would be exclusively through my computer speakers.

Then they put together a package that did exactly what a retail release should; it encouraged fans to purchase their music. Let’s forget the negative for a while and give the fans what they really want.

Here’s a quick list of what their new CD includes:

  • the CD, of course
  • a DVD of them playing every song on the CD
  • a code to unlock downloadable music on the internet

The CD itself is good. I wouldn’t say great. It is much closer to their roots than previous albums, sporting a sound closer to your parent’s garage than the classical stylings of S & M.

The DVD is a great extra and, I should mention, is one of the biggest reasons I purchased the CD. I’m heading to their Summer Sanitarium tour in about a month. I thought it would be great to get in an advanced viewing. The actual content doesn’t include a lot of bells and whistles but that doesn’t matter. You get to sit in on a jam session. For fans, this is a treat.

The downloadable content surprised me the most. Three live concerts are available for download, split into 40 or so mp3s. Scrumptious. Especially given the fact that Metallica has never released a live album in the stores. I have a lot of music to listen to over the next couple of weeks.

Other bands should take note (some, like Eminem, already have). These guys did it right. A shiny CD isn’t enough anymore. Throw in a couple of extras. We want to buy your CD. Give us more reasons to do so.

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In My Underwear

Aug 13, 2002

On Saturday, the wife and I attended our second Christian concert, that of
Nichole Nordeman.
Those who have been following along closely (ok, so none
of you accept my wife – hey babe!) might note that our
Christian concert also featured Nichole Nordeman. It isn’t a coincidence.
There were two main differences this time around, however.

The first major difference was that Nichole was the headliner this time. We
got a full set; not just the four or five songs that an opening act is allowed.
The second difference was the major change in venue. When she opened for
Steven Curtis Chapman, she did so at the
Hershey Arena,
admittedly not the largest or nicest venue in the world but an arena
just the same. This time we were off to
River Valley Ranch, a small Christian camp that has weekly, Saturday night concerts. Seating this time around was probably around 1000, not 12000. This time there was no giant stage, raised high to allow the people in back a chance to peek at the
performers. Nor did the stage contain racks of equipment and music
instruments. No, this time it was a quaint stage, a single piano, and
Nichole herself; a change in venue indeed.

I’ve seen few performers multiple times and I don’t think I’ve ever seen
a singer perform in both a large and small venue. The differences were
stark, to say the least. Gone was any glitz or glamour that accompanied the
arena performance. Also gone was any nervousness in her mannerisms.
This was her concert, her piano, and her voice. It had to carry the day
without the aid of a drummer or any backup instruments whatsoever. And
it did. The concert was intimate, well worth the money paid, and, most of all,
a great opportunity to worship God outside of the church walls.

So where did the title of this blog come from? I can certainly attest to the
fact that Mrs. Nordeman did not perform in her underwear. That doesn’t mean
that others were so, um.., lucky. During the break between the opening act
and Nichole, I needed a visit to the bathroom. In the case of the ranch,
you had a choice of a couple of port-a-pots or some bathrooms across the way.
I choose a port-a-pot. There wasn’t a line, only a small boy milling about
by the door of one of the bathrooms.

The boy occasionally attempted to open the locked door of the bathroom,
aiding the discomfort of his young sister stationed inside. A little time
passed and a mother appeared at the bottom of the hill,
looking a bit impatient.
The boy must have mentioned this to his sister, prompting her to reveal the
problem: “Mommy, I have poopie in my underwear.”

To which the boy replied, yelling down the hill to his mother, “Mommy, she
has poopie in her underwear.” Mom rolls her eyes. It’s going to be one
of those days.

The funniest thing about the exchange was the total lack of panic in the
young girl’s voice (I know I’d be pretty panicked if it was me who had poopie
in my underwear; shew, clean – at least at the moment). There was no shame
at all. She was just stating a fact, a fact that I don’t believe she knew
was relayed across great distances. It was just another thing that happened
that day, like getting the sniffles or finding her favorite toy.

It’s this kind of stuff that reminds you what it will be like to be parent –
no rest stops, no time off from the kids. 24 hours a day of nuture and
problem solving thrown into the mix with helpings of love.
It’s a bit ironic that God choose a Christian concert
to remind me that we’ll always need His help. There will be days like that
in store for Jenn and I, despite the fact that the poopie thing was
not on the sign up sheet. At least we’ll know who to lean on.

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Godly Tunes

Jun 21, 2002

Recently, but not too recently, I was introduced to a kind of music I barely
even knew existed. A type of music that I had no real interest in and a type
of music that my sampling of at the time was, thankfully, not representative of
the genre as a whole. That music was Christian rock or Contemporary Christian
music, as it is often referred.

The problem with the label of Contemporary Christian music is somewhat indicative
of my past problems with Christian music as a whole. See, “Contemporary Christian”
music really covers the gamut of music styles, a gamut that is crowded with
all sorts of music from rock to gospel, but is overwhelmingly represented by
what I would call light tunes. You know, the kind of music that sounds like
Yanni got a hold of some classic 80’s pop and slowed it down a bit for the old folks.
The majority of Contemporary Christian music played on the radio very much falls
into this or the gospel category. Neither of these particularly interest me
so I never really gave any Christian music the time of day.

Well, along came a spider in the form of some mp3’s from
Steven Curtis Chapman,
borrowed from a friend partially by accident. It just happened to tag along with some
other stuff I was interested in. Funny thing is, my first impressions weren’t
all that positive, something along the lines of “Wow, this is a bit too in
your face for me”. I hadn’t really heard faith expressed so openly in a form
of music I really liked. I gave it more play time and the album,
is now probably one of my favorite albums of all time. I still enjoy it.

Timing is everything. The current state of rock has really bored me. I don’t
know what it is. Maybe I’m growing up and my tastes are changing. The
Lynyrd Synyrd, Rush, and Led Zepplin well was exhausted years ago (although
Rush’s new one isn’t bad and the new Lynyrd Synryrd stuff is really good).
Dave Matthew’s Band, the Bare Naked Ladies, Creed, and others haven’t
been releasing things quickly enough. A lot of the rock released the past
couple of years could have been done by the same band for all I know. So
what am I to do? Look for more stuff like the album that initially grabbed
my interest.

And boy did I. First, I went after some more stuff by Steven Curtis Chapman.
He has a ton of albums, and just happened to release a new one a month
after I heard Speechless. Since then, I’ve added
Third Day, which is probably my
favorite Christian band at the moment, and Jennifer Knapp (actually, I grabbed
one of her albums before I ever heard Mr. Chapman’s tunes, but that is another
story) along with bands such as Mercy Me to my play, and CD, list. I even added
Nichole Nordeman before going
to see both Steven Curtis Chapman and her in concert.
Nichole, by the way, has one of the best Christian songs out there, named Why,
from her This Mystery album.Check it out if you get the chance.

At a later date I may go more into what has drawn me to Christian music and
what I’m listening to now. But for now, especially since this entry is running
a bit long, I’m just happy to tap my foot (along with the desk, my legs, and
other random objects) along to something that both inspires me and gives me
something to listen to until the next
Eminem CD makes it way out the door.
Yep, I own the last two albums of his, including the new one. Sue me.

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