Milwaukee NOFX Concert

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Last weekend, I had a chance to go up to Milwaukee for some good food and a music.  I try not to pass up a chance to go to Wisconsin since there are so many cool places all throughout the state.  As for the states largest city, it had been over two decades.  The last time I was in the city for GenCon before it moved to Indy.

 

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Arriving relatively early, we stopped first at the Pabst Brewery.  The building was very well kept in an area in the mist of revitalization.  It being Sunday, we missed the last tour.

 

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Going with out any plan in mind expect taking the tour.  We drove around a bit and decided to eat at the Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery siting besides the Milwaukee River.  This small chain is known for brewing their own beers on site.  I tried their excellent malty Octoberfest that went down smooth despite the high ABV.  I paired it we Wisconsin Cheese balls that were similar to what the Pub II in Normal offers, but these were much larger with a higher quality of cheese.  This was a great pairing because the cheeseballs we some of the best I have ever eaten.

 

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After eating, to kill some time before the concert, we headed the Old German Beer Hall, which is a close rendition of a beer hall in Munich.  It was an interesting experience.  For one, they only served Hofbräu.  Fortunately, there were at least a dozen version on tap including Root Beer of one of the best German beers around.  Their lightly carbonated Oktoberfest went down too smoothly.   I could see getting lost in a stein of this brew.

The Rave/Eagle Club

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The was my first time going to The Rave and it is a place that I will not soon forget.  Built in the 1920s in a more prosperous era, it contains at least four stages on five floors.  The concert itself was on the lowest level and each time you went up a floor, there was another stage with the upper floor being an open air lounge.

 

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This loft which contained a bar full of microbrews such as those from the decent New Glarus Brewing Company.  The lounge itself was heated by large columns of fire offered and offered a decent view of the north side of the city as well as the night’s “Super Moon.”   Being a decent, if cold night, the area was well populated by people waiting for the main act to start.  I sort of felt sorry for the smokers who had to climb 5 flights of steps to light up.

 

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Upon entry to the venue, everyone received this PSA.  Really…In a punk rock concert?  It took about two songs from Useless ID before the mass of people near the stage started throwing themselves at one another.  It was sort of an odd sight.  Unlike Bassnectar I attended earlier, the crowd was much older.  There were a lot of younger Gen Xers and older Gen Y people in the crowd.  This shows that even people in their 30s and 40s can get thrashing (and then pay for it for the next week.)

Useless ID

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I never of heard of Useless ID before tonight.  The group is a standard punk band hailing from Israel.  Overall, their music was fast, loose, and very polished.  Given how long they have been around, it was little surprise they played a quality set.  I’ll be use to add them to my Spotify list to check out some more of their music. 

PEARS

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The PEARS, well they sucked.  The lead singer came out wearing little more than shorts.  Channeling his inner Scott Weiland, he bounced around the stage like ADD child off his meds.  There music was speed punk that was loud and boisterous but rather boing.  While the moshers seemed the like it, after listening to a few songs, I headed for the roof to wait out the band.

Nofx

Nofx is a acquired taste.  On stage, they are known for their variability of the shows they put on.  Because they are on their own label, the band members do pretty much what they want both in the studio and during shows.  You’ll never know if you’ll get a sober set or some lousy drunken attempt at music.

While technically punk, they dabble in SKA and have a habit of bantering with each other and the crowd between songs.  Some of this can be heard on their excellent first live album, I Heard the Suck Live.  During this show, the audience cursed and shouted out songs they wanted to hear as well as threw drinks and articles of clothing at the band.  They retorted and seemed to change up their songs according to the mood of the night.

Initially, I didn’t like their newest album, First Ditch Effort.  It is a dark and moody album that explores middle age problems such as razing children, going sober, and dealing with ex-wives.  After the concert I gave it a relisten.  It is better than my initial assessment once you get past the odd intros to the longs and long, awkward pauses.  However, it is still nothing like the awesome albums Coaster, Wolves in Wolves Clothing, or Punk in Drublic.

When they took to the stage, I sort of understand why their music has been weak recently.  They didn’t have a focus on their anger for the last few years.  Upon coming on stage via a karaoke cover song, they started blaming the crowd for losing the presidential election (Wisconsin went for THE Trump.) 

Fat Mike went on a tirade about how he wanted to kill him and complained bitterly about having him has our soon to be president.  This fired up the crowd and once they started to play the pit went wild.  Beer and bodies flying everywhere.  Even being three rows from the mayhem was no protection against hyped up punk rockers and flying boozy projectiles.

 

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The intro song Six Years on Dope from their newest album and they went on to play a mixture of protest songs from the Bush era like The Man I Killed and Franko Un-American.  During the middle, they change to playing songs off their newest album.  It didn’t fit the mood and the somber music left me feeling cold.

 

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Fortunately, because this is punk with most song lasting between one and three minutes, it was only a matter of time before they switch it up again when they started playing Seeing Double at the Triple Rock and Bob.  As the show progressed, the band member started switched instruments with each other, playing trumpets, trombones, and finally the accordion, which closed out the show.

Overall, it was a great concert with lots of energy in one of coolest venues around.

Bassnectar Concert

imageOn Halloween, I arrived in Downtown Peoria about half hour before my first dj concert.  It was odd to see such a large town so empty at 6 pm on a Monday.  No eateries opened except bars.  Peoria is really dead at times.  Fortunately it made the walk to the Civic Center a breeze.

Upon entering the arena, a woman in the security line yell out “No glow-sticks.”  Seriously?  Later I passed a stand near the entrance to purchase them (ah…monopolies.)  However, for many in the security line, it didn’t seem to matter.  They had other ways to amuse themselves such as lighted hula-hoops and glowing juggling balls. 

While standing in the line to get patted down, I immediately noticed two things.  The first was that I was a decade older than the average concert goer. 

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The next was that I was too plainly dressed.  About half of the people where in costume.  There was a wide gamut.  Some looked like they used their girlfriend eyeliner and drew some odd patterns over their face.  Others had clothing that might have been illegal in some southern jurisdictions.  Still others had costumes so well made few that they would have been right at home at ComicCon.

High Fidelity: "Mouthful of Cavities" - Blind MelonPicture of a typical party goer.

Overall, security was intense.  I think I had to go through more security here than when I last flew.  Of course, it was just for show.  During the concert an hour or so later a couple in front where happily smoking a metal bowl.  Yea security theater.

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TekLife

(DJ Spinn & Taso) from Teklife opened the venue.  Their music was a mix of hip-hop and electronica, which the duo played rather conservatively.  The vanilla beats wouldn’t win any awards for being novel, but I generally enjoyed their show. 

One odd thing about the set was that about a half dozen or so people would come out in front of the stage and dance.  Well dance is a bit of a strong word for it.  More like hop around out of step with the music.  It made the whole thing seem like a high school talent contest. 

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At this point I initially thought that the concert would only be sparsely attended, with the floor only about half full at this point.

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As to was general admission, the taught was to stay away from the hard core revealers and get a good spot in the second bowl section.  Not that I wouldn’t mind getting closer for the rest of the show, but there is a tendency at this type of concert to both get hot and and have a drunk spill beer on you.

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G Jones

At first this dude came up and started jamming on his laptop with no introduction.  I didn’t even know who he was until I Googled it out the next day.  The artist, G Jones, had a much more technical trance and beat set.  While he was good at the art, he couldn’t get the crowd into what he played.  There was too much futzing around with the music every 10-20 seconds or so.  He would get a good grove going and the switch the beat.  You could see the crowd having a hard time adjusting with it as they would start to sway and then bam, a different tempo. 

It must have not matter to the musician though.  He was quite animated throughout the set dancing and rocking out to his own music.   The set reminded me of someone singing in the shower.  Personally, it was OK with the tunes played.  There were some great rifts here and there but I wouldn’t go out of my way to listen to his stuff. 

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At the end of his set, the audience grew rapidly, with a full floor and the bowl about half filled.  Soon my seat 2/3rds of the way up was in the middle of the crowd.

 

IMAG1053Intermission

Bassnectar

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I stumbled on Bassnectar while listening to dubstep radio stations on Spotify a few years back.  After listing to his catalog, I purchased the excellent album Vava Voom.   I like his earlier stuff more than what he produces now as it is a bit more trance and less bouncing rhythms.

http://www.bassnectar.net/wp-content/gallery/family-photos/Bassnectar-FamilyPhoto-20161031-Peoria-aLIVECoverage.jpgCrowd picture from the start of the set.

However, the opening was nothing I’ve seen in years.  The show started with such a wave of sonic intensity that it rivaled hard rock acts like Pantera and industrial icon Ministry.  It was LOUD with the bass to intense that you could feel it in your teeth.

 

IMAG1067So many lights that the shots of the stage sucked.

With this the crowd went wild.  Even siting high up, there were people were dancing everywhere, in their seats, along the pathways, and in the stairwells.  It was like a ground well of humanity as thousands of attendees partying wildly.  Simply amazing.

 

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The banning of glow sticks was of little consequence now.  Their pale glow was only visible through the fog and light show within a few paces.  Many concert goers had LED lighting attached to their clothing.  I have seen lighted clothing at conventions, but never figured they would be interesting to wear until now.

On the floor, there was a person decked out as jellyfish with the tendrils encased in moving led lights.  A young lady sitting to my left was dressed up as an anime magic girl.  Her attire and wand had various light sewn in that sparkled.  Here and their people played with all sorts of glowing objects from balloons to flash settings on their phones.

There were slow spots to give the crowd a rest, but the music never really stopped.  Instead of a traditional set in a song-stop-banter-song rhythm that traditional artists employ, songs flowed into one another.  Actually, it was clips of songs that transitioned and sometimes an earlier song would make a return.  I got to sample from all of his ten albums along with one of the two I came to hear Ping Pong.  The other called Pennywise Tribute was skipped for other remixes.

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It was later in the show when Bassnectar started playing remixes of other artists.  Snoop Dog and White Zombie featured strongly while I got to hear the hardest version of Frank Sinatra ever.

Overall, the convert experience was above average.  The venue has decent acoustics and its shape fit rather well to the light show.  It will likely be my first and last dj concert, and I think of few better ways to spend Hallo’s Eve than rocking out in great band.

PS4, The Return of Sony’s Deaf Ears

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Attribution: Sony

Sony is an odd corporation in that I hold two positions about the company.  I like their hardware division.  It puts out good and sometime even innovative products.  However, their media division is often consumer hostile and its management control freaks.  Looking through its history there are a long line of things preventing consumers from using their products in unapproved ways.

Enter the PS4. It was nice to see Sony releasing an FAQ of its capabilities prior to launch.  So I read it hoping it would be a good candidate for a media center.  I like playing music and podcasts and only dabble in console gaming.  The previous incarnation, the PS3, is the only media player I have used without a horrendous U.I.  Since mine broke last year, I thought I’d wait until the next gen system came out and upgrade my listening experience. 

Much to my surprise:

2013-11-06 05_23_00-PS4_ The Ultimate FAQ – North America – PlayStation.Blog

2013-11-06 05_23_24-PS4_ The Ultimate FAQ – North America – PlayStation.Blog

Ever since the PS One, Sony’s game systems as well as DVD and Blu-ray players could play CDs.  I cannot think of any consumer electronics with a disk drive not being able to play one (as long as the CD fit.)  Obviously the hardware is there, they don’t want to enable it.

Not being ale to play MP3s is also weird choice given the habits of consumers over the last half decade.  The reason these music files are popular is the ability to play them on any device.  Even I have moved digital, forgoing disks in favor of convenience.

My conclusion is the media division got involved with hardware design.  This is likely because consumers would have used it to consume pirated material (it also cannot play video files) and force users to pay for their approved Music Unlimited service or apps like Pandora.  In this way they want to control the user experience like Apple, Amazon or to a lessor extent, Microsoft.   Too bad they are going about it in the wrong way.

There is a subtle difference in Sony’s philosophy.  It crosses the line into consumer hostile territory, which it has times treaded in the past.  Limiting usage choice simply because people might not use your services and not for technical reasons is anti-consumer.  It artificially limits the system to hard core gamers, a bad move given the rise of competition from other devices, namely phones.

Unfortunately, Sony does not have the market clout to do this.  It doesn’t have the brand cache of Apple to micromanage their ecosystem, the breadth of content Amazon provides, or the polish the Microsoft brings to its software (most Sony apps are poorly made.)

I wanted to like the PS4 and hoped it would be the media center of the future.  While Microsoft’s gaming systems offer a good music experience, but I don’t want to pay a yearly subscription fee to Xbox Gold to be shown ads. I guess I will wait for the SteamBox unless the Ouya improves it user experience.