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).