Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Because the boys love Thomas, and the tram in Charlotte, I thought I'd take them, and Mum, out for a ride on the train.  Just a quick one - Tuggerah to Woy Woy and back. We were out at Tuggerah at 10ish, later than peak hour.  Shouldn't be a problem right?  Except that it's New Years Eve and every man and his dog is heading to Sydney for the day / night.  The train is packed to the rafters , so we only got as far as Gosford, before we jumped off and came back.  The train back was great, pretty much had the carriage to ourselves as the boys enjoyed the view and the thrill of being on a train.

B, Nanny & L @ Tuggerah Station

We picked up Amy on the way back to Shelley Beach to eat lunch.  A stop at Blythe's Fish n Chip shop (my favourite food place on the planet) had me over order for one last time as we set up on the grass at Shelley.  Uncle Lindsay and Aunty Val also came down to join us.  Here is another activity I'll miss - the luxury of always being so close to the beach.

After lunch we went down to Kincumber, to the Sheargolds, for Lucy's Birthday Party.  Kel and Jase have a great house for hosting and have put on a great do for family, neighbours and friends.  B loved the opportunity to hold some more animals again (hold a crocodile - sure!) while L was in his element on the slip and slide.  King Of The Kids Jason, had everyone entertained all day.  While Kel put on a spread that was fit for kings.  No wonder her business, Yummy In Their Tummy, is a success.

Kel, Lucy, Max & Jason on Lucy's 5th Birthday

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Today is Lucy's 5th birthday, so Nan, Mum, and us meet the Sheargolds at the Davistown RSL for lunch, where the kids can play outside.  The kids, especially the birthday girl, had a great time.  A great park for kids to play in, while we sat outside in the shade.  Typical RSL food and good drink prices made for a fun day all round.

Me, Nan & Kel @ Davistown RSL

I have only noticed since being home how different the Pub / Club culture is here compared to the US.  Here the focus is on the family.  Come and have a beer, some food, we'll let the kids play in a dedicated area outside.  I just cant think of anywhere in Charlotte, or Vegas for that matter, that is that way inclined.

The leaving-blues are hitting harder and harder each day, so much so that late this afternoon I got a migraine and had to nap it off.  Meaning little was done in the evening.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Today I wanted to spend some time with Nan Fay.  In the last year and a half I've lost Granddad Fay and Nanna Hutch, so any time spent from now on with Nanna Fay is precious.  I drove her out to Palmdale, where Granddad Fay is buried.  I hate that I didn't come home for his funeral, but I wanted to make sure that I got out to see where he is.  It's also a good thing for Nan.  Such a mixed day for feelings.  I miss all my grandparents, alive or not, so to be with Nan (on my own - awesome) where Granddad is laid to rest (sad) made for a emotional day.  We sat at the cafe at Palmdale and just hung out and talked in the good weather.  It will be hard to say goodbye to her when we leave.  We went back to her place and spent the afternoon doing the thing she loved, watching the cricket. A good day for me.

Granddad Fay's Plaque at Palmdale

Late in the afternoon, Amy, the boys and I drove around to have dinner with Dad, Manuia and Kathleen.  I can't believe dad's place.  It is literally on the Wamberal  Beach.  Only 20 yards of grass separate the unit from the sand.  Salmon and a mango salad was a perfect dinner for a summer's eve.  I wish the surf hadn't been so rough so we could have let the boys have a swim.  

Wrapping up this holiday is starting to get hard.  Only a few days left to spend with everyone, and who knows when we'll get to see them again.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hunters Hill, NSW to Bateau Bay, NSW

After breakfast with Robbie, Linda and Toby we (with Robbie and Toby) headed into Darling Harbour to wander around with the Barnes.  A last catch up before we head home later next week.  A nice day and the kids had fun playing in the park and the water.  We took the train (for the boys sake) over to the shopping area where we had lunch and then walked back over the Pyrmont Bridge to where the car was parked.  It has been great seeing the Upcrofts and The Barnes' and meeting their new families.  The same can be said for everyone on the trip (Besters, Benefiels, Creans, Summers, Marshes), living so far away and not having the opportunity until now to see old friends in a different place in life has been amazing.

L&B @ Darling Harbour

The drive back up the Coast was uneventful, just another trip down memory lane.  The boys napped a bit in the car and were well up for a visit from their cousins in the afternoon at Mums.  We stayed in and ordered Thai.  Kelly stayed for dinner, but the kids went home early, very tired.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW to Hunters Hill, NSW

This morning we drove down to Epping for our biggest adventure of the trip. Epping was the venue for Tex's birthday. A beautiful park where the kids had a blast and we got to catch up with the Besters, Barnes, Matt, Creans, Robbie and Mr & Mrs Uppy (another we hadn't seen since I left Oz in 2000).  

With 2/3's of The Creans
THought we'd run the boys ragged and they might relax as we drove to Reggae and Phil's for a barbie lunch.  But there was no stopping them.  Even Tex powered through with a couple of buddies to run around the backyard with.  It was great to have just some alone time with Phil and Regs.  They've been great friends over the years and nearly 3 years since we'd seen them.  Not quite the same as before, now that there are 3 kids between us, but great fun.
After lunch we drove to Robbie and Linda's, where we are staying tonight.  Amy and Linda are staying at home as the boys are off to the cricket with a large crew.  Wanted Amy to come, but she didn't want to leave Linda to fend for herself, but any excuse for her not to go to the cricket.  We went to the 20/20 match (my first - this format has only come about in the last few years) at ANZ Stadium between the Sydney Thunder and The Sydney Sixers.  Thanks to Paula we have the luxury of the Commonwealth Bank's private box, right behind the bowler's arm.  The irony of being in the best box, owned by Commonwealth Bank, in ANZ Stadium, is not lost on me.  The most phenomenal seats with an awesome crew - Bob, Dave & son, The Fields, The Summer-Kay (including Mrs Summers), Buddah and Panos, and Philby.  The Sixers won by 16 runs, which didn't matter becasue both teams we're from Sydney so we couldn't lose.  Was a great game (11 sixes in a game is pretty impressive), but it was more about the company.

ANZ Stadium. Sixers vs Thunder

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

This morning we took the boys down to The Entrance water park. (Now that it was working again). The boys were in the water for ever and then enjoyed rides on the Carousel and slides. Thank goodness Nanny is there to spoil them.  One of the highlights of this trip has been that my Mum has had the time off work to hang out with us the whole time.  Getting time off in retail at Christmas is no mean feat, and I'm appreciative of her bosses giving her this time.  Unfortunately it will cost us her trip to Charlotte in April, but we'll take what we can get.  Not sure I've mentioned this, but it is amazing to see the boys on the carousel with my mum.  Nan used to take me on the same carousel when I was a kid.  And mum used to ride it when they'd come for summer holidays during her childhood.  We don't have anything in the way of family traditions, but this is one that I have a great fondness for.

B&L at The Entrance Water Park

On the way home we had to stop at Lakeside Plaza for some grocery shopping before a quiet afternoon at home.  Later in the day, Amy and I went down to The Bateau to catch up with The Marhes, Steve and Buddah (and his new partner Panos).  Was a great afternoon sitting in the beer garden having a few beers and catching up.  It's been 15 years since I'd seen Steve.  Hard to believe his kids are in high school.  Buddah is as crazy as ever, and Luke and family are doing great.  Loving Melbourne, but enjoying the Coast for Christmas.  Sadly we all showed our age when the kids and partners left, as we all had to move closer to the TV to watch the cricket.  Getting old.  However, the ultimate age insult was that Steve's daughter was the one that drove us home.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Today was a great day.  Just hanging out with the family.  Mine, Dad & Kathleen, The Sheargolds, The Coffeys, Mum and Nanna Fay.  We met Archie (and Cameron) for the first time and I loved seeing Kara play mum.  After opening a couple of presents at mums, we spent the best part of the day in Kincumber at Kel & Jason's.

The kids, and some of us adults, spent a ton of time in the pool - the weather did right by us.  While lunch was traditionally as Aussie as we could get.  Barbie, cold cuts, salad, beer, prawns, pavlova.  Man, I've missed this.  I had a great day.  So did Amy and the boys.  This is only my 2nd Christmas at home since 1999.  I gotta get back sooner.

B&L Christmas Morning

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Christmas Eve and, like last time we were in Australia for Christmas, the weather is not nearly as good as it could be.  We started the morning at Toowoon Bay Beach.  Thought it'd be sheltered as always, but a huge wind almost had us blown away, not to mention how rough the water was - It's Toowoon Bay for Christ's sake.  We moved around the beach and found a protected spot which was good for everyone and we stayed until the early afternoon.

Because of the boys love of fire trucks, we stopped at the station at Bay Village so they could see an Aussie fire truck, and we could drop off some Christmas goodies for the good folks who are protecting us and not spending Christmas Eve with their families. We stopped at the Byrnes house on our way to dinner at The Entrance.  Always happy to show off the new favorite children to the old favorite children.  We met Dad and Kathleen in the park and had fish and chips for dinner.  Also had the great fortune of running into Michele and Bowie (again from high school).  It may be 20 years since I'd seen them.  Unfortunately the weather wasn't very Christmassy so we didn't stay for Carols in the Park, but we walked around the carnival before heading over to the ice cream shop, where Caitlyn took care of desert.

Am excited for tomorrow.  The boys first Christmas in Australia.  Hopefully the first of many.  Lets just hope the weather does its best.

L&B getting their fire truck fix at Bateau Bay Fire Department

An informal Christmas Eve dinner setting

At The Entrance Park

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Ahhhh! Vacation at home.  Another easy day today.  Amy and mum went and did some shopping this morning. While they are gone the boys and I walk to up to Crackneck.  They love to see the ocean, and I like the familiarity of being here.  While we were up there I ran into Tanya (from high school).  Hadn't seen her since we left England 13 years ago.  She was back on the coast for Christmas and was out and about with her grandmother.

The rest of the day was spent around mum's place, until dinner time.  We ordered a pizza from Latina  Pizza, a new to me place at Bateau Bay shops.  We took dinner down to Shelly Beach and despite the cool breeze, enjoyed a great pizza overlooking the ocean.  These are the things that will make me homesick when I return to Charlotte.

B&L at Crackneck.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

This morning we went down to The Entrance so the boys could play in the water park.  But Wyong Council decided the first day of school holidays would be the perfect time to do maintenance, and therefore it was closed.  We did stay for the carousel and the playground and a few goes on the slides down there.  On the way home we stopped at Lakeside Plaza to do some grocery shopping.

With Mum and Nan we drove to the Sheargolds in the afternoon.  Dad and Kathleen came as well.  After a great swim we had dinner there at the house.  Unfortunately, L took a fall after his swim and has given himself a great shiner for a souvenir.

 The boys ride the carousel with Nanny & Mom.  The same carousel Nanny used to ride as a child.

L's shiner

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

This morning we went to Terrigal Haven with Dad and Kathleen, enjoyed the good weather and swam.  We took it pretty easy all afternoon (boys are still napping each afternoon - we wear them out and I'm not sure the jet lag has worn off them either.

Tonight just Dad and I head down to the Entrance to the Water's Edge for dinner.  We tried to sit outside, right on the lake, but the wind was too much and before appetizers came out we retreated inside.  Great meal.  I had oysters and mahi.  Dad enjoyed his too.  The highlight thou was being on the lake.  Really made me feel at home.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Today is the day we decided to have the boys Baptised.  Thanks to Kelly, the boys are being baptised by the wonderful Tim Goldsmith.  His service was informative while informal, which is a good fit for our crowd.  The boys weren't wrapped in the service, but then again they are 3.  We asked Aunty Kel & Uncle Jason, as well as Robbie and Reggae to act as godparents, to which they were all delighted.  I have to thank Amy for this.  Because we live on the other side of the world, she graciously let Australina friends and family enjoy the boy's milestone today.

B & L

L&B with Reverend Tim

With Godparents

Afterwards we went back to the Sheargold house to celebrate.  Was now an opportunity to catch up with friends and family who have not been seen in 5 years.  A perfect afternoon, time in the pool and 2 incredible cakes made by Kelly's friend Heidi.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

This morning we headed out to Mum's work, Target at Tuggerah Westfield.  The boys are well know throughout the store as proud Nanny loves to talk about her grandchildren.  It was important to her to have the boys meet her friends.

Afterwards we headed to Shelly Beach to have some fish and chips and let the boys play on the Big Yellow Bus.  This is an old school bus that has been converted into an indoor / outdoor playground for the kids.  The boys loved it, only by tempting them down to the water could we get them away from it.

Barrett & Leland on the Big Yellow Bus @ Shelly Beach

Weather was really windy and the afternoon was spent at Mum's and dinner saw the Sheargolds and Nanna Fay come around for a barbeque.  It is great to see Mum and Nan revel in having the kids around.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

I know we are visiting family, but we are still on vacation, so doing the minimum is not a bad thing.  This morning we went down to Dads at Wamberal for the morning.  The four of us, Dad and Kathleen walked along the beach, around the lake and to park near a fire station (we were hoping it would be open for the boy).  After playing in the park, we headed back home for the boy's afternoon nap.

That night Mum took us to Bateau Bay Bowling Club with Nan so we could have dinner at Nan's favorite spot.  We were joined by Nan's twin, Aunty Vi, Mum's cousin, Julie, and the Byrnes family. It was great to see Lisa & Mark, and how the favorite children interacted with the boys.  

While not a significant dinner, this was the place my Granddad was vice president of for years and somewhere dear to Nan's heart.  While not the greatest picture below, it is my favorite of the whole trip.  A picture of my 3 year old identical twin boys with their 88 year old great-grandmother and her twin sister.

Barrett, Leland, Aunty Vi(standing) & Nanna Fay

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

What a big day!  Kelly has planned a day at the Australian Reptile Park for the family.  This place is a Central Coast institution - that I've never been to.  When we moved to the coast I was too old to go with school excursions.  So after moving to Bateau Bay in 1987 my first trip is also a first for Amy and the boys.  And this is only 40 minutes from where I grew up.

What Kelly arranged was to have a park ranger show us some of the animals and give us a guided tour around the park.  We got out of the cars and a downpour started.  I couldn't believe weather may ruin this day.  We ran for the shelter of the park's entrance.  Got inside and sorted out our meeting place with the ranger, stepped outside and the rain was gone.  Happily, we didn't see any more rain until the drive home.

We start off at the picnic tables and the ranger brings over some animals for us to handle.  Lucy, Max and the boys love it, and show no fear as they hold a blue-tongue lizard, some sort of dragon, a skink and a snake.  The kids are great with the animals and love all that's going on.

B&L and a Blue-Tongue Lizard

 Me & a dragon

  Leland, Lucy & Barrett hold a snake

After then having a tawny frogmouth perch on our arms and stuffing pine cones with fruit to fed to some birds, we went for a walk around the park.  The kids got to pat a kangaroo, which roam freely around the park.  We went into a lorikeet cage to leave the pine cones.  Leland got bit by a bird here and had all sorts of trouble recovering.  We then went into the koala enclosure and patted a koala.  Again this is a first for me - very un-Australian of me to not ave touched a koala before.  When we went back to the picnic tables, our ranger bought over a wombat for us to hold.  We were then on our own to explore.  We didn't last much longer as the kids tired out.  But needless to say the day was a blast.  The kids could barely contain themselves, and the adults weren't far behind.  What a great day!

  Barrett & Lucy meet kangaroos

With a koala

Mom & the boys hold a wombat

The Australian Reptile Park

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

This morning we drove back to Kelly's and left the boys there while Amy and I went to meet Reverend Tim at St Paul's Anglican Church to discuss this Saturday's baptism of the boys.  I really enjoyed meeting the Reverend - a young guy who has twin 1 year olds, and had spent a some time in various parts of the US.  His friendly demeanor and want to be flexible for the ceremony made me excited for the coming weekend.

Afterwards we pack up the kids and drove to Avoca Beach (Amy's favorite) with Kelly, Lucy and Mum. We ordered lunch from the take away shop at the beach and sat on towels enjoying the outdoors and the kids playing in the water, even though it was pretty cold.  In the end we had to leave because of the rain, much to the adult's relief and kid's disappointment.  I did come at the right time though, as the boys needed a nap.

We spent the afternoon at Mum's and the boys painted on the balcony.  We bought Nan around for the afternoon, and dinner.  One of Mum's lasagnas - an all time favorite of mine.  Dad and Kathleen also came around and spent the evening with us.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

It is a day of easy recovery today.  As we adjust to the time change, temperature, surroundings and humidity we start the day at Erina Fair.  We do a little bit of shopping (grocery and otherwise).  It was here that I ran into and old school friend, Karen, who I hadn't seen forever.  Was nice to see her and hear that her family, including another school friend Stephen, are doing great and living the good life on the Central Coast.  Running into someone you know was definitely a sign that I was back home.

After a nap for everyone - I see a theme building here - we drive to Lucy's preschool at Green Point and pick her up on our way to the Sheargolds' in Kincumber.  Kelly's house is near Brisbane Water so we take a picnic lunch and walk along the water to a park where the kids can play, and we have an early dinner.

Lucy, Nanny (in her element) and Barrett in Kincumber

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Los Angeles, CA to Bateau Bay, NSW

The flight itself turned out to be pretty uneventful.  Leland and I sat in the bulkhead close to the window, while Amy & Barrett sat across the aisle from us.  Dinner was served once we leveled out and Leland struggled to stay awake (it'd be 12.30am Pacific Time by the time all was cleared away).  And he got a good 5 hours in while I dozed on and off.  It took Barrett a little longer, but I think Amy had the same experience.  Thankfully the flight was smooth all the way. Once the boys woke up, we still had a long way, but they were content with the iPads, playing games and watching movies and episodes of Peppa Pig, Thomas and Word World.  It was a relief to finally land and get out of the plane.  After all the worrying Amy & I did, the boys handled the flight better than I possibly could have imagined.  So proud of them.  Now the test of meeting all and sundry and seeing how they react.  We took a frustrating eternity in immigration, no thanks to me not having the right forms. Finally we get out to the concourse to be greeted by Mum, Dad, Kelly and, surprisingly, Regs,  Phil, Tex and Caryn.  Considering how tired the boys were they did great.  Nanny is a hit and a familiar face, but the boys took to everyone.  I drove back to coast with Mum and Dad, while Amy and the boys went with Kel.  As expected we had a pretty easy day.  A good nap during the day gave us some afternoon energy as Jase, Lucy and Max came over to Mum's (where we will stay for the entirety).

 Kel, Barrett, Me, Leland, Amy, Mum & Dad at the airport

Later that afternoon Nanna Fay came over to join us for dinner at Terrigal Haven, dad bought Kathleen as well.  After losing Granddad Fay and Nanna Hutch this year this was an emotional afternoon, as I know she desperately wanted to meet Barrett and Leland.  If nothing else happens this trip, at least this the boys got to meet their great-grandmother.

Kathleen, Lucy, Barrett & Leland at Terrigal Haven

Friday, December 12, 2014

Oxnard, CA to Los Angeles, CA

Up again at the crack of dawn to some awful weather.  We did a quick run to Target to get some last minute travel needs and by the time we got back AC had returned.  We spent the afternoon with her and in the early evening we left for the 90 minute drive back to LAX.  We gave ourselves plenty of time as we expected the worst with LA traffic, but the drive back was easy.  Returning the car was a breeze and we were at the airport with tons of time.  Thoughts of rest and dinner before we got on the plane disappeared quickly when we couldn't get checked in.  No United staff around to tell us what was going on.  Panic started setting in as boarding time got closer.  Eventually we found out there was problem for international check ins and we were manually checked in and made the gate with enough time to change some diapers and get on the plane.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Oxnard, CA

Thankfully it was an early night as the boys don't adjust to the time change causing a 5am start this morning. Amy has some work to do, so I take the boys out for a while.  Weather is wet and grey, so it's hard to find things for them to do, especially with all the park equipment wet.  We end up at Ventura Beach and play on the sand and walk out on the pier.  We are all starting to tire so I considered heading home only to realize it was only 8.45am. Instead we drove to Carpenteria up the 101.  This is supposed to be a pretty town, but construction at the freeway exits made it near impossible to get around.  Patience was lost early and we turned around and head back to AC's.  An afternoon was spent inside, out of the weather and vacation cooking was done when a pizza was delivered for the boys while mom had dinner out with some work colleagues.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Charlotte, NC to Oxnard, CA

Well here we go. A test I've been dreading for a long time. It's not that I don't want to go home- it's been 5 years and I'm more than ready. Plus the boys get to meet my family. It's the flying. Not only do I not like flying that much, this is a long way. And who knows how the boys will take to it. I am very happy we decided to break the trip up into 2 legs each way. I hope that helps. On the plus side, I can't wait to see everyone, get the boys to meet Lucy & Max - their cousins, the summer weather, and eat the good food I grew up on but can't get here in the US.

One leg of flying down and completely uneventful. It helps we had 1st class in US Airways and were fed and the boys each have an iPad to keep them amused (how did people do this before this technology?). In LA there is a long wait at Hertz before we can get on our way to Oxnard, where we will stay at AC's. Fortunately it's an easy drive to Oxnard and the boys get a nap in. AC is not home until Friday, so we have the run of the place. After take away for dinner from Pirates Bay, it is a early night in for this exhausted family.

Me & Leland

Barrett & Amy

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis at Belk Theater

So when the name Wynton Marsalis is mentioned - I may not know anything about him musically, but when the phrase "legend" is constantly associated with him - you think that here is a performer I need to see.  

Tonight was not what I expected but still a great night's performance.  Without researching what the Lincoln Center Orchestra was, I just assumed this would be Marsalis playing with a supporting small jazz band.  But no, this is piano, double bass, drums and 12 piece brass / woodwind orchestra that he leads.  And while his name headlines, these are some incredibly talented musicians with resumes as long as your arm.

The first hour was a series of Duke Ellington songs, that allowed solos to showcase the various players and allow the audience to enjoy some of these players arrangements.  All was great, but I am not a fan of the solo that seems to play faster than the tempo of the song.  To me is sounds disconnected from the song - like some manic running around a yoga studio.

An intermission saw us return with a good mix of both jazz interpretation of various performers and a couple of original pieces.  Liked the first half but much preferred the second.  Once the performance was finished the brass / woodwind sections left and Marsalis performed a final song as a quartet with piano, bass and drums.  This is what I was expecting, and a great finish to a fun evening.  Jazz would not necessarily be  a choice of something I'd see live but I'm glad Amy & I made the effort.

The Crap Facts:
This is my 383rd concert.
This is my 2nd concert at Belk Theater.
This is my 29th concert in Charlotte.
This is my 31st concert in North Carolina.
This is my 190th concert in the USA.
Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis is the 455th band I've seen.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Day Out With Thomas @ NC Transportation Museum, Spencer, NC

Man, this was an awesome day!  I am surprised that the boys' heads didn't explode.  They were just in heaven.

We didn't tell the boys where we were going - it was a surprise.  An easy drive 1 hour north to Spencer and as we pulled in to the North Carolina Transportation Museum the pictures of Thomas and Percy become more noticeable to the guys, and while they are as stoic as their dad, you can see that they know something exciting is about to happen.

When we get out of the car the boys can see train tracks (which is almost exciting enough) but after a quick walk they are face to face with Thomas and their disbelief is just adorable.  It's Thomas!  Their current favorite character - and for two 3 year olds this is a big deal.  We explain to them we are going for a ride on the train and they are beside themselves.  Once on the train it is only a 20 minute trip around the grounds, but along the way we cross paths with Percy, who is staged in another part of the museum.  Again excitement levels peak.  The look on there faces is just priceless.  At 3, they can't really express themselves greatly, but you know that everything that is going on in their heads is all good.

After the ride, there are opportunities to have a picture near the train, needless to say it was hard to keep them away.  The Museum itself is a great spot (though God knows how I'll be able to come back here with the boys without them expecting Thomas and Percy).  We wandered the grounds, saw a lot of model railroads as well as the shed loaded with great old trains, right by a turntable (Tidmouth Sheds as far as the boys we concerned).  As well we lunched in the abundant grasslands and let the boys play on a fire engine from Spencer, there for the occasion.  

The boys watch Thomas go by with Mom

While walking back from the sheds we did run the gauntlet by going into the merchandise hall.  Yeah we spent some money, but it could've been a whole lot worse - thankfully the boys aren't demanding in that way and are more than content with what they get.  Outside there was an photo opportunity with Sir Topham Hatt.  We waited in line for about 25 minutes and when we finally got to the front the boys were a bit freaked out by the character and decided just to see him from a distance (again inheriting some of dad's traits)

As we were about to leave, Amy realized she had lost her phone somewhere, so while she went over where we had been, I took the boys over to Percy's station and let them get up close and have some photos with him.  

Percy & The Boys

Overall I can't fault this event.  A ticketed event with a timed departure for the train (which went smoothly - but we were there early).  Photo opportunities that gave you the option of taking your own or having professional ones done.  Perfect weather.  It was a day that made me feel great to be a parent.  To give this gift to my kids and see their whole world light up was all those things I'd heard other parents talk about that I'd once dismissed (Can't be that good).  I get it now.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Riot Fest @ Humboldt Park, Chicago, IL

On the last day I wanted to get there early enough to see Kurt Vile & Billy Bragg.  We were there on time but walked to the smaller stages as The Whigs came on.  These guys were great a rocking show, not what I expected for an early afternoon opener.  So Kurt Vile was put aside for this Georgian 3 piece.  Will look for some of their albums when I get home.

Because The Hold Steady started as the Whigs finished we stayed in the same area, skipped Billy Bragg, and I saw THS for the 4th time.  And every time they are just as good as the last.  Craig Finn's narratives were kept to a minimum as their 50 minute set contained just about all songs that I knew.  Sequestered In Memphis is always a favorite, but the 3 song ending of Your Little Hoodrat Friend,  Southtown Girls and Stay Positive was the icing on the cake.

The Hold Steady Setlist
I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You / Stuck Between Stations / The Swish / Sequestered In Memphis / You Can Make Him Like You / Constructive Summer / Hot Soft Light / Spinners / Chips Ahoy! / Your Little Hoodrat Friend / Southtown Girls / Stay Positive

Missed the start of Superchunk as we made the increasingly harder trek to the other stages (a lot more people here today - could be the lineup, the good weather, or the fact that a majority of the mud had dried and life was easier underfoot).  The indie faves blasted through a solid set.  I am not familiar with their music but do I remember the same reaction from the Coachella 09 crowd when they broke into Slack Motherfucker

Superchunk Setlist
Cast Iron / Digging For Something / FOH / Punch Me Harder / Learned To Surf / Driveway To Driveway / The First Part / New Low / Me & You & Jackie Mittoo / Slack Motherfucker / Precision Auto

Next up was an in-the-distance listen to Naked Raygun.  We took a break and sat way back from the stage and listen to some Chicago punk legends - that the hometown crowd were stoked for.  Sometimes at these festivals you just need a place to sit, recharge and be away from the throngs of people.  That's what we did listening to Naked Raygun.

Naked Raygun Setlist
Rat Patrol / Surf Combat / Gear / Metastasis / Leeches / Roller Queen / On / I Don't Know / Libido / No Sex / Only In America / Stupid / Managua
Encore: Walk In Cold / Vanilla Blue / Knock Me Down

Tegan & Sara were my surprise packet for this festival.  They seemed not to be quite the right fit for the Riot Fest ethos, though there were plenty of fans they interacted with down the front.  I have a few of their songs in my collection and they were played with perfection.  Made me wish I'd pulled my finger out and seen them in Charlotte earlier in the year.  Wedged in between Naked Raygun and Dropkick Murphys, Tegan & Sara held there own and hopefully (deservedly) on over a lot of new fans.

Tegan & Sara Setlist
Goodbye, Goodbye / I'm Not Your Hero / Back In Your Head / The Con / Walking With A Ghost / Living Room / How Come You Don't Want Me / Shock To Your System / Drove Me Wild / Closer

Back to the smaller stages again for Hot Snakes.  It was now close to impossible to get from these larger stages, past the Dropkick Murphys crowd, and too the smaller stages.  However we succeeded and again we found a shaded area that we could relax a bit, but this time have a good view of what was going on.  I enjoyed this set and it wasn't until a long time later I realized why.  This is a John Reis band - he of Rocket From The Crypt.  While song names were never known, that sound RFTC is associated with could be heard as an undertone of Hot Snakes.

Hot Snakes Setlist
10th Planet / Past Lives / If Credit's What Matters I'll Take Credit / Automatic Midnight / No Hands /
I Hate The Kids / Gar Forgets His Insulin / XOX / Who Died / LAX / Suicide Invoice / Past Lives / Braintrust / Hi-Lites / Retrofit / Think About Carbs / Plenty For All

After waiting 14 years to see Mudhoney, I have now seen them twice within a year.  And happily so.  Erik and I stood right behind the sound booth to have a clear view of the stage and watch Mark Arm & crew tear it up.  Again the outdoor sound was not great but the performance itself as undeniably good.  From the new I Like It Small to FDK to Flat Out Fucked, Mudhoney played with an intensity of a new upcoming band.  I got to hear an all time favorite Touch Me I'm Sick again and the the blitzing final song - Black Flag's Fix Me - was just jaw droppingly hot.

Mudhoney Setlist
In 'N' Out Of Grace / I Like It Small / You Got It (Keep It Outta My Face) / FDK (Fearless Doctor Killers) / Broken Hands / Flat Out Fucked / Judgement, Rage, Retribution & Thyme / Touch Me I'm Sick / What To Do With The Neutral / I'm Now / The Final Course / Chardonnay / The Only Son Of The Widow From Nain / Fix Me (Black Flag cover)

GRRRRRRRR!  This was the band conflict that I hated most, because I saw a band I didn't particularly want to see.  Cheap Trick were on straight after Mudhoney and were playing the 1978 album Heaven Tonight.  The crowd went apeshit when they came on stage and they blazed through Surrender and On Top Of The World.  It was there that we decided to leave in order to get a prime spot for the Cure - the sole reason we came to Chicago.  While it took a while to get where we wanted to be, it seemed like an eternity before Social Distortion finished their set.  I never got into Social Distortion and understand that it may be a southern California thing - because that is who worship them.  I think because all I wanted to see was the Cure, there set seemed to drag on and on.  Not even the Johnny Cash Ring Of Fire cover could appease me - mainly because they had gone over their set time and were cutting into Cure time.

Social Distortion Setlist
Through These Eyes / Don't Drag Me Down / Crown Of Thorns / Gimme The Sweet & Lowdown / The Creeps (I Just Wanna Give You) / Another State Of Mind / Cold Feelings / Machine Gun Blues / Ball & Chain / Gotta Know The Rules / Misery Loves Company / Story Of My Life / Ring Of Fire (Johnny Cash cover)

It was a shame in a way that Primus and Weezer were playing elsewhere, while the Cure were on the main stage as these are bands I love to see (and had already this year) but it was also a blessing as a lot of people went to see them instead of overcrowding the main stage.  As always the Cure were incredible. While sound was a problem for the opening 2 songs Open & Fascination Street, once sorted, the band played gem after gem.  In Between Days was the first song to get a huge rise from the crowd.  And it just got better from there.  Lovesong, Just Like Heaven, A Forest, Close To Me, Hot Hot Hot, Friday I'm In Love - how can you go wrong?  Not only do I love the Cure in general but I am a huge fan of the fact that each of their shows last a long time (135 minutes in this instance - only stopped by stupid curfew at 10pm) and they play so many songs from a huge catologue - 27 songs covering 11 albums.  I didn't want it to ever end.  This was the reason we came to Riot Fest and fantastic way to end an awesome weekend of 24 bands.  I really don't think I can do festival retirement again while line ups this good are still around

The Cure Setlist
Open / Fascination Street / Sleep When I'm Dead / Push / In Between Days / Play For Today / A Forest / Before Three / Lovesong / Just Like Heaven / From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea / alt.end / Pictures Of You / Lullaby / Close To Me / Hot Hot Hot!!! / Wrong Number / The Caterpillar / The Walk / Mint Car / Friday I'm In Love / Doing The Unstuck / Bananafishbones / Want / The Hungry Ghost / One Hundred Years / End

The Crap Facts:
This is my 382nd concert.
This is my 3rd concert at Humboldt Park.
This is my 3rd concert in Chicago.
This is my 3rd concert in Illinois.
This is my 189th concert in the USA.
The Whigs are the 450th band I've seen.
This is my 4th Hold Steady concert.
This is my 2nd Superchunk concert.
Naked Raygun are the 451st band I've seen.
Tegan & Sara are the 452nd band I've seen.
Hot Snakes are the 453nd band I've seen.
This is my 4th Mudhoney concert.
Social Distortion are the 453rd band I've seen.
This is my 3rd Cure concert.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Riot Fest @ Humboldt Park, Chicago, IL

A slightly warmer and, more importantly, drier day today.  This made the day comfortable but it was still soggy underfoot.  More people for day 2, so you had to keep an eye on where you stepped.  Day 2 started at the big stages to see Tokyo Police Club.  Nothing to memorable, but nothing bad in the same thought.
Tokyo Police Club Setlist
Argentina (Parts I, II, III) / Nature Of The Experiment / Citizens Of Tomorrow / Toy Guns /  Favourite Colour / Be Good / Bambi / Hot Tonight / Tunnel Vision / Juno / Wait Up (Boots Of Danger) / Your English Is Good / Cheer It On

Next was the Dandy Warhols or Buzzcocks toss up.  Saw the Dandy's a couple of years back and really loved them so thought I'd stick around again.  Seem like this was a bit of a mistake.  The set was lackluster and the sound awful and a ill timed phone call meant I missed a top 25 favorite song - Bohemian Like you.  The Dandy's are best left for a small club.

We moved over to the smaller stages where I remained for the rest of the day.  First up was the brutal Face To Face.  Good hardcore punk - even though it was a bit early in the afternoon for this.
Face To Face Setlist
You've Done Nothing / 123 Drop / Walk The Walk / A-OK / Bill Of Goods / Ordinary / You Lied / Velocity / Bright Lights Go Down / Blind / I Won't Lie Down / It's Not Over / Disconnected

Next up was the Mighty Might Bosstones.  It had been a while since the opportunity to see the Bosstones had come around.  And I'm glad it came around today.  A fun 45 minutes of ska with the set almost brick ended with the always great Rascal King & The Impression That I Get.  Not sure if the don't tour much anymore, but I long time near anywhere I lived,  Hope to see them again sometime
Mighty Mighty Bosstones Setlist
Dr D / The Rascal King / Kinder Words / Graffiti Worth Reading / Someday I Suppose / 1-2-8 / Everybody's Better / You Left Right? / Hell Of A Hat / Don't Worry Desmond Dekker / They Will Need Music / The Impression That I Get / Devil's Night Out

Speaking of fun, the stylings of Me First & The Gimme Gimmes were next and as usual their humor shone through.  I always find it great to see people so into a particular type of music (in this case punk) get excited by a different type of music.  From the beginning of I Will Survive M1&GG were on fire.  In between song banter saw Fat Mike take up where he left off yesterday in NoFX's set and leader Spike Slawson loved to reminded everyone "This next song is a cover".  Hard to pick a favorite from this set but I'm gonna go with Paula Abdul's Straight Up because I'd never heard them do it before.  Pink Hawaiian shirts forever.
Me First & The Gimme Gimmes Setlist
I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor cover) / Sloop John B (Beach Boys cover) / Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard (Paul Simon cover) / Science Fiction/Double Feature (Richard O'Brien cover) / Jolene (Dolly Parton cover) / Ghost Riders In The Sky / Summertime (George Gershwin cover) / Straight Up (Paula Abdul cover) / Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Judy Garland cover) / Teen Age Idol (Ricky Nelson cover) / I Believe I Can Fly (R Kelly cover) / Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver cover) / Rocket Man (Elton John cover) / End Of The Road (Boyz II Men cover)

I stayed in the same are to see the Get Up Kids.  I know nothing about this bad, but I was way in the minority.  This as another whole album set this time - Something To Write Home About and a good size crowd was into it.  While nothing musically was a standout to me, it was a rockin' set and their fans were the ones who may have had the best time of the festival.
The Get Up Kids Setlist
Holiday / Action & Action / Valentine / Red Letter Day / Out Of Reach / Ten Minutes / The Company Dime / I'm A Loner Dottie, A Rebel / My Apology / Long Goodnight / Close To Home / I'll Catch You / Coming Clean / Shorty / Don't Hate Me

Back on the other stage was Cock Sparrer.  Classic English Oi!  Erik left me to go and see the Flaming Lips & The National but I stayed for another band I didn't know much about.  These guys have been doing this for decades and look like the kinda blokes you find watching the football in East London on any given Saturday.  Their set was tight, and as fast as I would imagine it back in the day.  Teenage Heart, Argy Bargy, AU and England Belongs To Me were the best of the hour.
Cock Sparrer Setlist
Riot Squad / Watch Your Back / Working / Teenage Heart / Droogs Don't Run / What's It Like To Be Old / Get A Rope / Tough Guys / Argy Bargy / AU / Running Riot / I Got Your Number / Because You're Young / Take 'em All / Where Are They Now? / England Belongs To Me / We're Coming Back

A seemingly much anticipated Descendents were up next to play a west coast cult-classic punk album.  Loved the start as singer Milo Auckerman, backpack on, came on to the stage asking the crowd whether he was in the right class at San Diego State.  On came the band and they tore through  the 15 songs of Milo Goes To College in about 30 minutes.  Could have done a whole other album, but instead went for a variety of songs that had the crowd in a frenzy.  They played the only song of theirs I knew.  I Like Food - 17 seconds of mayhemed bliss.
Descendents Setlist
Myage / I Wanna Be A Bear / I'm Not A Loser / Parents / Tonyage / M-16 / I'm Not A Punk / Catalina / Suburban Home / Statue Of Liberty / Kabuki Girl / Marriage / Hope / Bikeage / Jean Is Dead / Everything Sux / Silly Girl / My Dad Sucks / Rotting Out / Coolidge / I'm The One / I Like Food / Van / Talking / Weinerschnitzel / No! All! / Clean Sheets / Coffee Mug / Get The Time / I Don't Want To Grow Up / Thank You / Descendents

I have seen Danzig 6 times before, most of those he had Doyle play some Misfits with him, so I thought the opportunity to see Samhain would be a good one.  I may have been wrong, and gone to the National instead.  Samhain played the 30 year old Initium in its entirety, but at times it felt like it had been just as long since these songs were played.  Out of tune and timing I didn't enjoy this set as much as I wanted to. 
Samhain Setlist
Initium - Samhain / Black Dream / All Murder, All Guts, All Fun / Macabre / He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named / The Shift / The Howl / Horror Biz / Archangel / I Am Misery / Unholy Passion / All Hell (w/ Lamb of God's Randy Blythe)
Encore: To Walk The Night

Getting home tonight was so much easier.  It was a relatively quick 3 blocks to the bus stop taking us back to the hotel in a timely manner.  So much better than last night.

The Crap Facts:
This is my 381st concert.
This is my 2nd concert at Humboldt Park.
This is my 2nd concert in Chicago.
This is my 2nd concert in Illinois.
This is my 188th concert in the USA.
Tokyo Police Club are the 444th band I've seen.
This is my 2nd Dandy Warhols concert.
Face To Face are the 445th band I've seen.
This is my 3rd Mighty Mighty Bosstones concert.
This is my 2nd Me First & The Gimmie Gimmies concert.
The Get Up Kids are the 446th band I've seen.
Cock Sparrer are the 447th band I've seen.
Decendents are the 448th band I've seen.
Samhain are the 449th band I've seen.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Riot Fest @ Humboldt Park, Chicago, IL

We are staying in downtown as I couldn't find any accommodations near Humboldt Park.  Once we worked out it was only a $20 cab ride, and a taxi stand was staged for our return we were even happier with the hotel.  The get home however as a different story - which I'll mention later.  We got to the venue not long after the gates opened and wandered around the wet grounds to get a feel for how to get between the stages (7 in all - but we are only interested in 4).

Our first band (as the rain began) was GWAR on 1 of the 2 smaller stages.  I had always wanted to see them, and thought with Oderus' death, I may have missed my opportunity.  Fortunately this is no the case.  And I don't have to be the guy that compares them pre-and-post Oderus.  The music itself is not for me, but lyrically and theatrically this act is hilarious.  Even with the continuous rain throughout the day, you could tell who was up the front for GWAR.  Covered in "blood" and with a permanent smile on their faces.
GWAR Setlist
Madness At The Core Of Time / Hail, Genocide! / The Private Pain Of Techno Destructo / Tormentor / Gor-Gor / The Road Behind / Slaughterama

We walked around to the main stages and watched Failure.  Sorry, but there was nothing impressive about this band.  No stage presence, no audience connection and no good songs.
Failure Setlist
Screen Man / Smoking Umbrellas / Frogs / Another Space Song / Pillowhead / Magnified / The Nurse Who Loved Me / Stuck On You / Heliotropic

It was a matter of turning around to the other stage to see NoFX.  By now the temperature had dropped blow 40 and the drizzle to light rain had settled in but NoFX were on fire.  Everyone seemed to be in Fat Mikes cross hairs, whether it be Failure, Henry Rollins or the crowd - everyone got a serve with some funny between song banter.  NoFX were one of 10 bands scheduled to play one of their albums from start to finish, but in typical NoFX fashion "Punk In Drublic" was not played in order.  I thought Leave It Alone and Don't Call Me White were excellent, and this show rivaled their Punk Rock Bowling performance of 2012.  Unfortunately they decided to finish with the epic The Decline but were cut short due to time constraints - maybe a little less Fat Mike abuse would've fit it in.
NoFX Setlist
Perfect Government / Scavenger Type / Leave It Alone / Dig / The Cause / Lori Meyers / My Heart Is Yearning / The Brews / The Quass / Dying Degree / Fleas / Linoleum / Jeff Wears Birkenstocks / Punk Guy / Reeko / Don't Call Me White / I Wanna Be An Alcoholic / The Decline

As NoFX continued talking into the now turned off microphone, Gogol Bordello sauntered on stage and, in their unique gypsy-punk way, tore Humboldt Park apart.  This band's energy knows no bounds, which is great, because you can only have fun at a Gogol show.  The only song I knew the name of was Start Wearing Purple and it definitely was a crowd favorite.  Darkness had fallen by the end of the set and you had forgotten it as cold and wet because Humboldt Park was literally steaming as Gogol Bordello finished.  This was my first conflict of bands for the festival.  Mastodon were also playing at the same time on another stage.  Fortunately whatever the choice I was going to win, Ultimately I went for the convenience of location - and happily so.

Turning around again for some nostalgia.  The Offspring playing the 20 year old (gulp!) Smash in its entirety.  I remember seeing them in January 95 at Selina's in Coogee.  It still ranks as one of the 10 best shows I've ever seen.  Today it seems like - well - we're all 20 years older.  Songs seem a little slower, some notes can't quite be made and the bands energy (given this is an outdoor venue and the Coogee Bay was a 1200 person barn) is not as high tempo.  That said it was great to hear some old faves.  Come Out & Play, Self Esteem and Gotta Get Away all bought back some good memories.
The Offspring Setlist
Nitro (Youth Energy) / Bad Habit / Gotta Get Away / Genocide / Something To Believe In / Come Out & Play / It'll Be A Long Time / Killboy Powerhead (Didjits cover) / So Alone / What Happened To You? / Not The One / Smash / Self Esteem
Encore: All I Want / Why Don't You Get A Job? / You're Gonna Go Far, Kid / Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) / The Kids Aren't Alright

Next conflict: Jane's Addiction playing Nothing's Shocking or Slayer doing Reign In Blood?  I went with Slayer, having never seen them before.  Erik stayed for Jane's and I walked over to the smaller stages and got a really good spot.  Even surrounded by Slayer fans but I still couldn't get into that much.  Sound was muddy and swirling (no pun intended considering the weather).  Maybe I was just done for the day.  It was so cold by the end I couldn't get money out of my wallet to buy a t-shirt.  
Slayer Setlist
Disciple / Hate Worldwide / Mandatory Suicide / Born Of Fire / War Ensemble / South Of Heaven / 
Angel Of Death / Piece By Piece / Necrophobic / Altar Of Sacrifice / Jesus Saves / Criminally Insane / Reborn / Epidemic / Postmortem / Raining Blood

Overall a great 1st day...until we attempted to get home.  While we were pretty high up on the cab line, there was not a cab to be found.  After half an hour we gave up and started walking back to the city, until something came along.  About an hour into it a bus come past saying it was headed to Nay Pier.  Close enough to the hotel for me.  Ended up being an easy, inexpensive ride which will be our savior the next 2 days.

The Crap Facts:
This is my 380th concert.
This is my 1st concert at Humboldt Park.
Humboldt Park is the 105th venue I've seen a concert.
This is my 1st concert in Chicago.
Chicago is the 45th city I've seen a concert.
This is my 1st concert in Illinois.
Illinois is the 12th state I've seen a concert.
This is my 187th concert in the USA.
Gwar are the 441st band I've seen.
Failure are the 442nd band I've seen.
This is my 3rd NoFX show.
This is my 3rd Gogol Bordello concert.
This is my 5th Offspring concert.
Slayer are the 443rd band I've seen.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Charlotte, NC to Chicago, IL

Meeting up with Erik in Chicago for a weekend of rock and I couldn't be happier. Every time I go to a festival I declare it to be my last - and then Riot Fest comes along and makes The Cure the headliner and all bets are off. Thanks to some old friends at Lake Las Vegas, I managed to get a good rate (considering it was NASCAR weekend in Chicago) at the W Lakeshore. We met on the Thursday night and I had to eat at the local institute of the Chicago Chophouse. For 2 carnivores married to vegetarians this was heaven. Big steaks, couple of beers and within a mile of the hotel (thankfully as the weather was a lot cooler than the 84 degrees I'd left in Charlotte).

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wild Dunes, Isle Of Palms, SC

From 24 to 28 August 2014

Again this is just the family's trek to the beach for our end of summer week.  We returned to Wild Dunes as it was a case of better the devil you know.  We had a different apartment this year (about a mile north of where we were last year).  Great spot again, right on the beach.  I was however concerned with the amount of erosion happening on the beach.   A lot of work was being done to the complex next door, but our building was getting closer to the water daily (and that was because water was coming under a man-made break wall).  Not a lot to report as we only ever went to the beach or to a pool.  Over all it was nice to be at the beach again.  While the boys weren't 100% well, the delight they get from the beach and pool is fantastic.

View from our condo


Annual Family Bike Ride

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden @ PNC Pavilion

Great line up, but I still am not completely cured of my dislike of seeing shows in a big venue.  This outdoor amphitheater north of Charlotte would be a test.

Unfortunately Mike and I arrived too late to see Dillinger Escape Plan - which is a shame because their angular rack would have been a great compliment to the 2 headliners.  We could hear Searching With My Good Eye Closed as we were entering the grounds and got to our seats halfway through Spoonman.  From there Soundgarden continued to pump out a ton of their classics.  My Wave was great.  The first notes of Jesus Christ Pose sent shivers up the spine and Rusty Cage was phenomenal.  Overall a fantastic set.  Nine Inch Nails would have there work cut out for them to outdo their opener.  The only downside was how far back we were.  My eyes kept wandering to the big screen instead of the stage.

Soundgarden Setlist
Searching With My Good Eye Closed / Spoonman / Head Down / The Day I Tried To Live / My Wave / Outshined / Black Hole Sun / Jesus Christ Pose / Superunknown / Fell On Black Days / A Thousand Days Before / Rusty Cage / Beyond The Wheel

Between sets, Mike and I went and got a beer and checked out the merchandise.  We were back in our seats 10 minutes before NIN were due on stage and nothing but a single keyboard was on the stage.  What was going on?  We were so far back that we didn't realize that the lone guy running towards the keyboard was Trent Reznor - I just thought the crowd were over-reacting to a roadie.  However he burst into Copy Of A and instantly the crowd came rushing back to their spots to see what was to be a spectacular set.  Band members were rolled around an elaborate pre-programmed light show as the group tore shreds off song after song.  March Of The Pigs, an all time fave, was colossal.  Closer was intense and the closing Head Like A Hole was amazing.  The 1 song encore was the haunting Hurt, which while mind-blowing, didn't quite fit the pace of the rest of the show.

A few years ago Nine Inch Nails opened for Jane's Addiction in Vegas during the NINJA tour.  NIN put on a great show that night and Jane's pulled out all the stops to equal them.  Tonight Soundgarden did the same thing.  After wondering how they could match Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails blew them of the stage.  Easily one of the great shows of the year.

Nine Inch Nails Setlist
Copy Of A / Sanctified / Came Back Haunted / 1,000,000 / March Of The Pigs / Piggy / Closer / Gave Up / Disappointed / Find My Way / The Great Destroyer / Eraser / Wish / Only / The Hand That Feeds / Head Like A Hole
Encore: Hurt

The Crap Facts:
This is my 379th concert.
This is my 1st concert at PNC Pavilion.
PNC Pavilion is the 104th venue I've seen a concert.
This is my 28th concert in Charlotte.
This is my 30th concert in North Carolina.
This is my 186th concert in the USA.
This is my 5th Soundgarden show.
This is my 4th Nine Inch Nails show.
Nine Inch Nails is the 50th time I've seen a band in North Carolina.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Liverpool v AC Milan at Bank Of America Stadium

My beloved Charlotte!  I can't believe this.  I had my ticket the minute the went on sale and couldn't be happier.  Well almost.  A lack of available babysitter meant that Amy could come with me, but Drew bought Erica, and her son Vince instead.  So still a good crew.

We arrived early and, as usual for Bank Of America Stadium, there are a lot of people milling around before heading in.  I'm not sure what I expected but I would guess roughly 90% of the crowd had Liverpool gear on, a few AC Milan shirts could be seen, and then a spattering of other English Premier League team shirts.  I paid good money and was happy with our seats, about half way between the penalty box and the halfway line.  And high enough up, but not in the nosebleeds.  We walked to our seats, past one of the boxes to see Robbie Fowler and Ian Rush having a beer.  I'm 10 rows in from of God and a Liverpool great who was a hero when I started supporting them.  I wish Nicky Meyers was with me - I didn't have the balls to ask for an autograph.  So  before kick off and I'm already on a high.

Bank Of America Stadium  -Liverpool v AC Milan

Liverpool looked really good from the outset and Joe Allen reacted quickly to slot a rebound off the post into net at 117 minutes.  Liverpool then continued to surge forward and won a penalty, which new boy Ricky Lambert took (a great penalty taker in years gone by).  He couldn't capitalize.  I hope this is not a sign of his season to come.

At half time I went and bought myself a scarf as a souvenir (a bit weird for the middle of summer) and the second half saw both teams make excessive changes as heat and pre-season fitness come into play.  The match became a little more back and forth and it wasn't until the last minute that Suso, right in front of us, secured the win from about 25 years out.  AC Milan don't have all the great names they used to and looked lost at times.  Having said that, Liverpool looked quite cohesive and attacking.  This result puts them up against Manchester United in the final on Monday.  I hope this is the start of a winning season.

Great to get some football in Charlotte.  Let's hope they bring it back here next year.  I'm pretty sure the 70,000 that showed up would be back.

Vince, Me, Erica & Drew

Liverpool 2 (Joe Allen 17, Suso 89) vs AC Milan 0
Attendance: 69,364

Liverpool: Simon Mignolet, Kolo Touré, Sebastián Coates, Martin Kelly, Jack Robinson, Jordan Henderson, Lucas, Joe Allen, Rickie Lambert, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Ibe
Subs: Brad Jones, Glen Johnson, José Enrique, Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel, Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho, Emre Can, Conor Coady, Suso, Kristoffer Peterson 

AC Milan: Christian Abbiati, Mattia De Sciglio, Adil Rami, Ignazio Abate, Daniele Bonera, Sulley Muntari, Riccardo Saponara, Michael Essien, Giampaolo Pazzini, M'baye Niang, Stephan El Shaarawy
Subs: Gabriel, Michael Agazzi, Philippe Mexes, Michelangelo Albertazzi, Cristián Zapata, Kevin Constant, Alex, Marco Pinato, Cristian Zaccardo, Keisuke Honda, Andrea Poli, Bryan Cristante, Mario Balotelli, Hachim Mastour

Kathleen Beryl (Ryan) Hutch

Nan & I - Boxing Day 1981

Nanna Hutch - Xmas Day 2007

b 27 April 1927
d 1 August 2014
Aged 87

Preceded in death, in 1993, by husband her husband of 42 years
Terrence Hutch

Survived by her children
Graeme Hutch
Terese Hutch (d 1956)
Wayne Hutch
Robert Hutch
Patricia Coffey

her grandchildren
Shayne Hutch
Kelly Sheargold
Kara Coffey
Jessica Hutch
Grant Hutch
Morris Coffey
Alexandra Hutch
Kathleen Hutch

and her great-grandchildren
Hailey Hutch
Lucy Sheargold
Barrett Hutch
Leland Hutch
Nathaniel Hutch
Max Sheargold
Cailin Smith
Scarlette Hutch  

Rest In Peace Nanna Hutch

Saturday, July 19, 2014

King Buzzo @ Visulite

It's as good as a Melvin's show, so I'll take King Buzzo on his solo acoustic tour coming to Charlotte.

Who knew what to expect here?  The Melvins have such a unique sound that I wonder if he is going to try and replicate it, or show us something completely new.  Turns out - a bit of both.  Buzzo has a solo record which he plays mostly off, but throws in some Melvins as well.  Lizzy was the favorite of the night (from Houdini).  Overall a captivating show without knowing many songs.  The normally quiet Osbourne was very chatty with this intimate crowd.  Told some great road stories about being with the Melvins, how different towns react, meeting and working with Mike Patton and generally some one on one with this small crowd.

My love of the uniqueness of the Melvins is well known.  This show just gives another aspect of their lead singer.  A musician, artist and, now, storyteller.  I'm glad I decided to go to this at the last minute.  I know a majority of music fans were at the PNC Pavillion tonight seeing Kiss, but I saw as good as (if not better) show here at the Visulite.

The Crap Facts:
This is my 378th concert.
This is my 4th concert at Visulite.
This is my 27th concert in Charlotte.
This is my 29th concert in North Carolina.
This is my 185th concert in the USA.
King Buzzo is the 440th band I've seen.