Saturday, May 19, 2012

Concert Calendar Woes

It's been frustrating to notice that some changes to the Concert Calendar listing on the right are not reflected here. The calendar is a Google Calendar that is synced to iCal, which I use to enter information. Lately, I've been observing that some updates made in iCal are not syncing properly - hence, some new and updated information may be missing. I've noticed this with other, personal calendars that I maintain. I'll make sure that all information listed is correct, but right now I have little confidence in Google Calendar's syncing function.

VAN HALEN Plays St. Paul Tonight, Tickets Still Available

Legendary hard rock/metal band Van Halen returns to the area tonight at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul. Yes, the concert is still on and tickets can still be had. Music and entertainment websites everywhere reported two days ago the postponement of three months' worth of dates beginning July 7, but St. Paul will go on as scheduled. TMZ reported yesterday that the band is just "burned out" and simply wants a break. Road burnout is understandable, but what I don't understand is why the affected dates (31 shows) should take 3 months to complete. Sure, routing a mammoth US tour is challenging and a big production is a lot of work, but taking at least 2-4 days between every show is a good way to foster a burnout.

Judging from what I saw at the 2007 Minneapolis Van Halen show, the band still puts on a good show. In all honesty, though, I've had more fun seeing the Ralph Saenz-fronted version of Van Halen tribute band The Atomic Punks over the years.

One of my pet peeves about Van Halen tours is their defiant, insulting choice of support bands. Tonight you will get to see disco washouts Kool & The Gang. On the 2007-2008 tour it was Ky-Mani Marley or Ryan Shaw. Anyone remember previous openers Baby Animals? The only support band of substance I can remember is Bachman-Turner Overdrive way back on the 5150 tour in 1986. A band with the stature of Van Halen can take anyone out on the road with them. I'm all for giving unknown bands a chance, and allowing legacy bands to revisit former arena glory. But Van Halen's history of touring with bands that the vast majority of their audience has no interest in seeing is a big middle finger to loyal fans who pay a lot of money for an arena concert.

VAN HALEN Album Review

Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth
Interscope, February 2012

I wasn’t too excited about the first Van Halen album with David Lee Roth in almost 20 years given the hit-or-miss output of the band and doubts about whether personality conflicts and generally bizarre recent behavior of the band members could be overcome. A Different Kind Of Truth surprised me with its overall quality, but I’ll say it again: shorter albums make for better albums. Save the subpar songs for B-sides, and release a 30–40 minute album that’s stripped of excesses and lame songs. Here, the best 8 or 9 songs would have make for a much better album. Things get off to a slow start with the incredibly weak lead single “Tattoo” (complete with its dated keyboards), and aside from “She’s The Woman”, the first five songs had me ready to write off the album. “Bullethead” rekindled my interest, and I was pleasantly surprised as my interest held for the rest of the album. There aren’t any great deviations from the classic Van Halen sound from the late 70s and early 80s, and credit must be given for some quality songs such as “As Is”, “Outta Space”, “Honeybabysweetiedoll”, and “The Trouble With Never”. Sure, the same fire that you heard upon initial listens of the first four albums isn’t there, but Eddie’s guitar work remains impressive and Roth puts in a decent effort. Roth’s vocals are layered in places to mimic the background vocals usually supplied by Michael Anthony to nice effect. I was most pleased that Eddie still does not layer rhythm guitar tracks under his solos, creating a loose, improvisational vibe that lends the songs an air of sounding live. Van Halen have succeeded in crafting an album that while not tops in their extensive catalog, holds its own and that is worthy of respect.

Van Halen performs tonight, Saturday, May 19 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul with support from Kool & The Gang.

Friday, May 18, 2012

ORIGIN: New Album Should Arrive in 2013

Last night I had the chance to see technical death metal titans Origin at Station 4 in St. Paul, and catch up a little bit with guitarist Paul Ryan. I'll get a full show review with pictures posted, but in the meantime I thought I'd highlight a few things from my conversation with Paul. I originally met Paul way back in 1998 after a show in Kansas City. I was telling Paul about my plans to start up a metal magazine, and we eventually walked over to his car so he could give a copy of Origin's first demo, A Coming Into Existence, for review. Not long after, Origin was opening some big death metal shows in the Eastern Kansas area and got signed to Relapse. I used to catch Origin whenever they toured in Southern California around 1999-2001, but I hadn't seen Paul or the band in many years.

"Can you believe we're still doing this?" Paul laughed with me after a crushing hour-long set. A death metal band from Topeka, of all places, surviving and carving out a career during the worst slump in the history of the recording industry.

"I just knew that all I wanted to do was play guitar when I was 13," Paul continued, as he reflected that he knew he'd have to pay his dues and work hard to bring Origin up to their current standing atop the death metal scene. Paul is still one of the nicest guys and it was great to get reacquainted with an old friend. Our chat was short and not recorded as an interview, but here a few points that are worth sharing:

- Paul has a lot of riffs and music already written, and a new album should hopefully be released next year
- Origin's current contract with Nuclear Blast was only for one album, but Nuclear Blast has already expressed interest in continuing their work with the band
- Paul has been very happy working with Nuclear Blast
- The band should begin working on songs for the next record following their August North American tour with Kataklysm

Before the Kataklysm tour, Origin heads back over to Europe for a month-long tour in July with Suffocation. Origin's current headlining tour winds up tonight in Lawrence, Kansas with a show at the Granada Theater.

Origin returns to Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, August 25 as main support to Kataklysm with Fleshgod Apocalypse, Vital Remains, and Rose Funeral.

Friday, May 11, 2012

INCUBUS - Kansas City, Missouri, April 2, 1998

Here's a not-quite-so-metal gem from one of my many boxes of video archives that has never seen the light of day until now. Back in their early days, Incubus was quite a different band than what your likely impressions of them are. Their first major label album, S.C.I.E.N.C.E., released in 1997, was an exciting and fresh mix of metal, funk, and hip-hop that drew favorable comparisons to Faith No More. On subsequent albums Incubus adopted a mellower approach that resulted in massive sales and superstardom. They just played a show at Myth in St. Paul earlier this week in support of their latest album If Not Now, When?

This live recording captures Incubus on the S.C.I.E.N.C.E. tour in 1998 when they were still a baby band, touring clubs, trying to make it like everyone else. This post just contains the show audio - I do have video of the entire show that I hope to post at a later time. Alas, my YouTube account is in suspension limbo still, so the video will have to wait.

DJ Kilgore had joined Incubus immediately prior to this tour, and I also interviewed him and vocalist Brandon Boyd before the show. Opening the show was Far and Ultraspank; I've previously posted the Far show, and Ultraspank will be coming soon. Incubus were clearly having fun on the road, and the energy of this show reflects that. This nearly hour-long set contains performances of nearly the entire S.C.I.E.N.C.E. album, as well as two songs from their Enjoy Incubus EP. One funny moment occurs when Far vocalist Jonah Matranga jumps on stage to sing "Eye Of The Tiger" with Brandon, and the band even plays a bit a Iron Maiden's "Powerslave" before launching into "Calgone".

My interview with Brandon later proved valuable in establishing an amazing working relationship with Atlantic Records. One of the PR staff (whose name I'll leave out) at Atlantic happened to be high school friends with Brandon. My interview with him was one of the first in a national publication that she had seen. In appreciation of me giving exposure to her friend, she went far above and beyond the normal call of duty to help me with access to the biggest metal bands and events in the world - Metallica, AC/DC, Pantera, Ozzfest, a private event at the Viper Room hosted by Lars Ulrich - I could go on and on about this. It felt surreal to be the only person allowed to shoot photos at an AC/DC concert alongside the Los Angeles Times. On a last minute lark one week before a major Metallica concert in Los Angeles, I thought I'd see if there was a long-shot chance of being able to shoot some photos. I called my friend to sheepishly ask, and she cheerfully said she'd work on it but she couldn't guarantee anything because all photographers had to be approved by their managers. Amazingly, she called me a couple days before the show to tell me I was cleared - only about one of ten or so people allowed to shoot this show. I'll never forget the loyalty, friendship, and immense help of this individual. You hear a lot about the worst of people in the recording and entertainment industry, but this person was proof that there are genuine, caring people in the industry willing to do anything to help others out.

Enough of my misty-eyed reflections, here's the Incubus set:

Incubus - We Drive Around In A Little Van (mp3 @ 192 kbps)
April 2, 1998
Kansas City, Missouri, Hurricane

1. Redefine
2. Magic Medicine/A Certain Shade Of Green
3. Hilikus
4. Vitamin
5. Idiot Box
6. Eye Of The Tiger/Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song)
7. Favorite Things
8. Glass
9. Calgone
10. You Will Be A Hot Dancer
11. New Skin

The download link (to a zip file containing artwork) is here. As always, share, but please share this blog post link rather than the file link.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Back Up and Running (Almost)!

What the heck's been going on here? I hope to have things back to some semblance of order soon. Everything disappeared for a while, and it's had me confused, too. It seems that my entire Google account got caught up in a suspend-and-purge frenzy that's been going on this year at Google. This not only affected this blog, but all of the Google products that are associated with it: YouTube, Calendar, Picassa, get the picture. Just one day everything was gone - poof!

No explanation was given to me when some of the services were restored, but I can't help wondering if having links to the file storage site Megaupload (which was forcibly shut down under dubious circumstances early this year) tripped an automatic suspension of service. Of course, I've never uploaded any copyrighted videos, music, or photos, and only post album artwork under legitimate fair use. So it's a mystery as to why this blog (as well as all of the other services) were targeted. I'm still waiting for my YouTube account to be reactivated.

Please bear with me as I try to continue to get all of this resolved. As you can imagine, there's a lot of things I have been unable to update during this time and some things that are still not fully functional on this site, and it won't all get done overnight. In the meantime, expect a complete update to the Concert Calendar as well as some miscellaneous posts until everything is completely functional. I appreciate your patience and loyalty! Please keep checking back regularly for many more fun things to come.