Sunday, December 17, 2017

Carolina Panthers v Green Bay Packers @ Bank Of America Stadium

Carolina Panthers 31 (D. Byrd 2, C. McCaffery, G. Olsen touchdowns, G. Gano 4 extra points, 1 field goal) defeated the Green Bay Packers 24 (D. Adams, R. Cobb, R. Rogers touchdowns, M. Crosby 3 extra points, 1 field goal)
Paid Attendance: 74,447

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Les Misérables @ Ovens Auditorium

For all the shows Amy and I have seen, it's hard to believe Les Miserables hasn't been one of them.  So when the opportunity arose at the nearby Ovens, we decided on an adults night out.

The night started at Bistro la Bon, a local favorite, close to both the house and the venue.  Tonight was a sub-par, service wise, for the restaurant.  We ordered a few tapas plates while sitting at the bar.  The bartender was too busy being in charge and controlling his bar back for us too relax.  Then the food came out unevenly spaced, in that the last dish had to scoffed down to get to our show.  May need to try something different next time.

Our seats on the main floor were off to right and a great spot for the show.  Les Miserables is a true musical.  Not a word was spoken and everything was sung.  I dot remember ever seeing that before, but I was not a fan.  A great story and I loved the set movements, but this pedantic, old man couldn't put all the singing behind him.  And the cherry on that cake is multiple people singing different things at the same time.  Just shits me!  Amy on the other hand, loved it all.  

While I love the very few adult only nights we get, tonight's show was not the highlight of all the things we've done.  I had a good night, but I doubt I'd see Les Miserables again.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Davidson v Virginia Military Institute @ John Belk Arena

On the day that winter arrived in Charlotte, Aaron and I went up to Davidson College for my first game of the season against VMI.  We made out stop at Char Grill for a quick bite before walking into the Belk Arena moments before tip-off.

Turned out tonight's winner would be the team that could hit the target at least a few times, as both sides were shocking in putting baskets away.

While not playing well, Davidson looked the more comfortable on their home turf.  Once they got their noses in front midway through the first period, it stayed in the Wildcats control.  Although it seemed pretty even up and down the court, it was Davidson that took advantage of points when needed.  In the end I don't think that VMI deserved to lose by such a large margin, it was only their accuracy that let them down.

On the drive up, Aaron had mentioned that rumor had Steph Curry coming to the game, with his Warriors due to play the Hornets the following night in Charlotte.  Though an ankle injury made that a bit doubtful.  As usual the Davidson crowd redded up the arena, but I don't recall seeing so many #30 shirts before.  Curry did try, unsuccessfully, to slip into his court-side seat unnoticed, however it felt like that was all people were watching for, because a wave of hub-bub hit the stadium (and kids ran from everywhere to near where he was seated).  I feel like it affected the players too, as it seemed like everyone was trying to put down a 3 pointer.  In the end both teams combined only hit 16/46 from outside.  Hardly Curry percentages.

Davidson Wildcats 74 (J. Gudmundsson 22, P. Aldridge 20, K. Grady 10) defeated  Virginia Military Institute Keydets 51 (A. Vereen 12, G. Gilkeson 10, B. Parham10)
Crowd: 5,295

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Charlotte Checkers v Utica Comets @ Bojangles Arena

The boys first professional sporting event.  Mom and Dad were excited, as the boys have taken an interest in all sports in the last year.  The boys couldn't believe it.  That and the email that said to dress the kids up in Halloween gear added to the excitement.

Now hockey is not a big deal in Charlotte, and this is not NHL - but the boys could care less.  We were about 5 rows from the ice and the small crowd meant B&L wouldn't get overwhelmed.  We were a bit disappointed to see not a lot of kids in their Halloween gear, but that didn't stop Kylo Ren and Captain Phasma staying in character the whole game.

The whole event was geared towards families, with Chubby, the Checkers mascot, very visible and accessible the whole game.  And the breaks, music and general crowd hoo-har was enough to keep the boys entertained between actual hockey.  And being dressed up meant the boys got on the big screen a couple of times, which thrilled them no end.

Kylo, Phasma & Mom at Checkers v Comets

The game itself  was great.  From the first dropped puck there were fisticuffs.  Had a real Dad moment as I started cheering the fight and had to be wound back in by Mom to show the boys that fighting is not good.  Utica got an early goal and the Checkers never really recovered.  The whole game is so fast.  For someone, like me, who is not a regular fan it was hard to keep up with the action.  And, like basketball, I have no idea why fouls were called, but we cheered when we were supposed to and booed the Comets when needed (and when Mom wasn't listening - bad sportsmanship is something she (rightly) doen't want instilled in the boys.

Great family afternoon out.  Shame about the Checkers losing, but the boys had a blast.  As seen by them coming home and wanting the NHL (any game) on TV while they played hockey outside.  Considering the price of NBA and NFL tickets, we'll be back to do this again soon.

Utica Comets 6 (N. Goldobin, R. Boucher, E. McEneny, Z. MacEwen, B. Gaunce, B. Woods) defeated Charlotte Checkers 3 (M. Ferrantino, A. Poturalski, J. Gauthier).
Crowd: 4,436

Friday, October 27, 2017

Superchunk & Bat Fangs @ Neighborhood Theater

Finally get to see a Superchunk show.  While I've seen them twice before, those were at festivals...during daylight hours...short sets...with people not interested, just wanting a good spot for a later band.  This small club show was the real deal.

I kinda thought it would be Charlotte's UNC Alumni 90's reunion and was surprised by the smallish (maybe half full) crowd.  Bat Fangs had already started when Mike & I walked in the room and they were rocking.  SInger Betsy Wright had the swagger, moves and voice of a rock goddess and was driven by drummer Laura King.  Bat Fangs like what they do, and are good doing it.  I hope to hear more of their great rock.

Superchunk bounded on stage like a new band, not one that have been together for over 25 years.  They seemed happy to be in Charlotte after a 15 year absence, and after praising Bat Fangs started the rock that made them leaders in alternative rock in the 90's.  From the first notes of Out Of The Sun, Mac McCaughan was moving like a man possessed.  The crowd reacted accordingly and a great hour and a half followed.  I Got Cut and Me & You & Jackie Mittoo were standouts, but the energy from the set closer, Slack Motherfucker, rose three-fold.  Such a good song to end this great set.  A two song encore capped off a brilliant performance.  So glad I got to see one of their club shows.

Superchunk are a North Carolina band.  Lets get them back to Charlotte sooner than 15 years.

Superchunk Setlist Neighborhood Theatre, Charlotte, NC, USA 2017

The Crap Facts:
This is my 434th concert.
This is my 3rd concert at Neighborhood Theater.
This is my 67th concert in Charlotte.
This is my 76th concert in North Carolina.
This is my 239th concert in the USA.
Bat Fangs are the 497th band I've seen.
This is my 3rd Superchunk concert.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Spoon & Late Bloomer @ The Fillmore

After the fiasco of unsuccessfully trying to get into the Descendents show early in August to catch Late Bloomer, I got to the Fillmore just after 8 to catch this local Charlotte band play.  Great gig and a sound well suited to the headliners (not sure how it went with the Bronx/Descendents crowd).   I remember being indifferent when I first saw them open for the Screaming Females when I first moved to Charlotte.  This time, like the rest of the crowd, I was getting into it the longer the set went along.

Crowd size was a bit disappointing (curtain across the back of the first step up) but it is Charlotte, and it was a school night, so......their loss, and more room for me.  After a moody keyboard beginning, the band came out with all guns blazing.  Spoon were appreciative of those who came back after a washed out show in August . I was happy for the rain that night, as Amy was out of town and I would have missed it.  Do I Have To Talk You Into It set the tone for the night.  Fun, energetic and a well oiled band.  As is standard now, I was not familiar with any of the songs, and they didn't play the 2 songs I know (You Got Tour Cherry Bomb and The Way We Get By), but everything sounded great.  Inside Out and Beast & Dragon early on were the standouts.  A four song encore for their last show on the tour had the crowd in raptures. I liked Hot Thoughts in their "mini-set".

I saw Spoon at the Big Day Out in 2008 and on the strength of that show and the 2 previously mentioned songs, I came to this show.  And I'm so glad I did.  Spoon have their own unique sound and a stage presence which shows they love what they do.  Look forward to catching them again someday.

Spoon Setlist The Fillmore, Charlotte, NC, USA 2017

The Crap Facts:
This is my 433rd concert.
This is my 23rd concert at The Fillmore.
This is my 66th concert in Charlotte.
This is my 75th concert in North Carolina.
This is my 238th concert in the USA.
This is my 2nd Late Bloomer concert.
This is my 2nd Spoon concert.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dinosaur Jr @ Orange Peel, Asheville, NC

Another Dinosaur Jr show.  And another drive to Asheville (the 2nd in 2 weeks).  Had a really smooth drive up there - I love my new dad van!  I had dinner with the family in Charlotte first and arrived as Easy Action were finishing their last song.  Was bummed.  They were pretty good earlier this year in Carborro.

As usual Dinosaur Jr straggled on stage to not a lot of fan fare, and in went the earplugs.  Not sure if I was tired from the drive, but it took a while for me to get into it tonight.  All the right ingredients were there.  I was 4 rows from the stage, right in front of J Mascis, and the crowd was a good enough size that everyone had their own space.  But it wasn't until Out There that I started really enjoying the night.  Fell The Pain was frenetic and wild.  It was also great to hear Get Me and Start Choppin' again - Where You Been is my favorite Dinosaur Album.  And before the set finished with Gargoyle, they played an all time favorite song - Freak Scene.  I got goosebumps - again!  A 2 song encore was topped off with another blistering version of the Stooges TV Eye with Easy Actions' drummer and singer joining the fray.

I'm so grateful to see one of my favorite bands twice in one year, even if I had to drive a combined 500 miles to see them - and on a school night (thank you wifey and Uber job).  If my ears hold out I hope this is the 8th of many more Dinosaur Jr shows I get to see.

Dinosaur Jr. Setlist The Orange Peel, Asheville, NC, USA 2017, Get a Glimpse of What Yer Not

The Crap Facts:
This is my 432nd concert.
This is my 2nd concert at The Orange Peel.
This is my 6th concert in Asheville.
This is my 74th concert in North Carolina.
This is my 237th concert in the USA.
This is my 8th Dinosaur Jr concert.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Mastodon & Eagles Of Death Metal @ The Fillmore

I am very aware that 3 days after the shooting spree that killed 58 people in my previous home city of Las Vegas, I am seeing the band, who, with their fans, suffered from a terrorist attack while they were performing in Paris in November 2015.  It's not often I get nervous, but tonight is definitely the exception.

The Eagles of Death Metal, on the other hand, are not.  They are ready to rock like it's no one's business.  From the outset when Mastodon's Brent Hines joined for the opening song I Only Want You EoDM decided this was going to be their best show ever - which I'm sure they do every night.  Frontman Jesse Hughes was a ball of energy, bouncing, pogoing and dancing from one side of the stage to the other.  While I don't know any EoDM songs (yet) there is an engaging energy that bursts into the crowd, and a four-on-the-floor rocking beat which gets any crowd moving.  Jesse Hughes is a showman in the vain of Vintage Trouble, Hives, Cage the Elephant and, of course, Iggy.  His enthusiasm and the the great music make for an awesome show - and a challenge for a headlining band.

Eagles of Death Metal Setlist The Fillmore, Charlotte, NC, USA 2017

Mastodon had a crowd full of loyal fans and they were happy to oblige them with over 100 minutes of  heavy, sludgy rock.  While most songs came off the unfamiliar to me new album, Emperor of Sand, (I should know this from the last time I saw them and The Hunter dominated the set), there was plenty of familiarity throughout the show.  Divinations & Crystal Skull back to back got me started. and I really enjoyed Black Tongue, Colony of Birchmen and Oblivion through the middle of the set.  I began to tire near the end of the night and a lot stuff sounded a bit samey, except for the excellent Crack The Skye.  Mastodon do a great job of creating their unique sound, but unfamiliarity leads to you only to appreciate the musicianship instead of enjoying the songs.  I wish I'd heard Emperor of Sand before tonight.  Would have made for a better show for me.

Mastodon Setlist The Fillmore, Charlotte, NC, USA 2017, Emperor of Sand

I walked into the venue to hear only the last song of Russian Circles.  I wish I'd gotten there earlier to see them, cause what I heard sounded great.  After 13 years I got to see only my 2nd Eagles Of Death Metal show (back in 2004 thew killed it opening for the Strokes in Vegas).  Tonight they were even better.  And again Mastodon keeps metal relevant.  Great night all round.

The Crap Facts:
This is my 431st concert.
This is my 22nd concert at The Fillmore.
This is my 65th concert in Charlotte.
This is my 73rd concert in North Carolina.
This is my 236th concert in the USA.
This is my 2nd Eagles Of Death Metal concert.
Eagles Of Death Metal are the 100th different band I've seen in Charlotte
This is my 5th Mastodon concert.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Trevor Noah @ Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, Asheville, NC

I didn't realize Trevor Noah was coming to Charlotte in February or I would have taken the easy option, but thanks to Uncle Drew, Amy and I took advantage of staying in Asheville for the night.  We drove up in the early afternoon and spent time meandering around the River Arts District.  Some great galleries up there, and plenty of gift ideas for Christmas.

We checked into the Double Tree near the Biltmore (thanks to Amy's Hilton points, as hotels are ridiculously priced in town), with enough time to clean up and Uber back into downtown and catch dinner.  We walked passed Zambra when we were here for Nick Cave in June, so opted to dine there.  What a great choice!  The tapas was fantastic, and while some food was slow coming, we had a great seat watching the kitchen go bananas.  We've always wanted to try Curate, but am more than happy we found this place around the corner from the venue.

As usual I'm not going to retell jokes that Trevor Noah told in his 1 1/4 hour stand up show.  Needless to say he was funny, and knows his audience.  He told some great American stories from a foreigner's perspective (very relatable to me) and some good political stuff, while, surprisingly, going relatively easy on Trump and his administration. 

A sleep in - ahhh no children.  A quick breakfast at Well Bred before we drive back to Charlotte.  A nice quick getaway.  Something we should do a little more often.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Litchfield Beach, SC

From the 19th to 26th August we spent our 4th annual summer trip to the beach back at Litchfield Beach.  This time we had the added bonus of seeing the solar eclipse in totality (ahh....that's why the rooms are scarce and more expensive).  Besides that it was beach and pool time with plenty of visits to a couple of restaurants and our favorite ice cream store.

Quigley's Pint & Plate - a good first night dinner, overlooking a pond with alligators.  (A sentence I never thought I'd type.)
Hanser House - just outside the resort.  Good food, but we left it too late and the boys turned hangry waiting for food.
Chive Blossom - a favorite from last year, great to sit outside and enjoy a fantastic meal.
Habenero's - pretty sure we'll find a better Mexican restaurant next time

 Solar Eclipse -  21 August

Litchfield Beach Solar Eclipse -  21 August - same day last year this beach was ours alone.

L, Mom & B

 L, Dad, B and Mom

Friday, August 4, 2017

Descendents & The Bronx @ The Fillmore

Thanks to some lawsuit Ticketmaster lost, tonight's show is paid for by them and a chance to see the Descendents close up in a small venue, after seeing them from a distance at Riot Fest in 2014.

In a twist of fate against rock and roll, I had the hardest time getting into the Fillmore tonight.  As I was driving in, Kidz Bop fans were leaving the amphitheater out the back.  Traffic was chaos.  Then it seemed the Fillmore was light on staff taking tickets and doing security checks, so I missed Late Bloomer, who I wanted to see again after seeing them open for the Screaming Females in 2013.

So first up was, for me, the unknown Bronx.  From the get go I thought this band was special.  Singer Matt Caughthran was up for a good night, and it showed from the outset.  His bouncing/stalking/rocking out from the first song set a high standard for the night's energy.  It took only 3 songs for him to dive out into the crowd and by half way through the set he was back in the crowd, controlling the pit, blasting out 4 songs.  All the while the rest of The Bronx delivered a faultless, driving beat that forced energy into the Fillmore.  I knew nothing about this band before I came in (and I don't wanna be the guy on his phone typing song names to try and remember what was what), but you can bet that I am going to look for more of their stuff to listen to, and hope they come back, even if it's as Mariachi El Bronx, real soon.

I don't remember The Descendents being that big in Australia.  Maybe I was too young and not yet into punk.  But as my music awareness expanded, you hear of the importance of this band.  That's what I came to see more of tonight.  Starting with Everything Sux, The Descendents spent the next hour blasting out song after song that people around me remembered with fondness and belted out at the top of their voices.  I Like Food is the only song of their's I actually know - and I got my 15 seconds of bliss about 2/3rds of the way through the set.  While The Descendents had a ferocity that defied their age, it was a little amusing to see  singer Milo use oxygen between songs.  

A great high energy show from both bands, who I would see again any time they passed through town.

Descendents Setlist The Fillmore, Charlotte, NC, USA 2017, Hypercaffium Spazzinate

The Crap Facts:
This is my 430th concert.
This is my 21st concert at The Fillmore.
This is my 64th concert in Charlotte.
This is my 72nd concert in North Carolina.
This is my 235th concert in the USA.
The Bronx is the 496th band I've seen.
This is my 2nd Desecendents concert.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Primus & Clutch @ CMCU Amphitheater

To tell you the truth, I wouldn't know a Clutch song if I fell over it.  I know Neil Fallon did an awesome version of American Waste on Rollins' West Memphis 3 CD years ago, and that was enough to get me to their Primus opening slot.  As usual for the outdoor show, rain in the area was trying to put a dampener (no pun intended) on things.  The rain eased to a drizzle and Clutch hit the stage as I walked from my car into the venue.  I went side stage (where I watch the poorly sounded Bush last year).  A few core fans there had the benefit of a new, extra speaker, so the sound was great.  I still don't really know a Clutch song, but they had the crowd engaged in their 75 minute set (Pretty long for an opener, right?).

Clutch Setlist Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre, Charlotte, NC, USA 2017, Psychic Warfare

Before Primus came on I tried to take advantage of the $10 seat upgrade offer the venue was advertising.  I assumed as a single I'd be good for an OK spot.  But apparently you can only pay with a credit card on your phone, and I'm too old and paranoid for that.  However, they accept cash only for a VIP seat upgrade.  What? Considering the amount of empty seats in both sections, sounds like a policy that needs to be reviewed.

Primus came out and it didn't take too much to realize they were going to rehash setlists from the last 2 times I saw them (last year with Tool, and the year before with Dinosaur Jr).  While their visuals that accompany the songs are great, it is time to mix it up a bit - new videos or how about adding some different songs to the playlist.  Frizzle Fry was the first great song for the night for me.  And Mr Krinkle is an all time favorite, so there is no denying the joy of that video / song combination.  Damned Blue Collard Tweekers got the crowd out of a mid-set funk and the new song, The Seven, is as Primus-y as you can get.  Except for the intro to The Seven, and Claypool having a dig at drummer, Alexander, for missing the end of Mud, audience interaction was at a minimum.  Only an extended Southbound Pachyderm was played as an encore and I didn't feel that the show had all the energy you usually find at a Primus gig.  We'll let them off with this being the first show of the tour - but I hope it gets better for the crowd's sake.  Don't get me wrong - I'll come back until I hear Tommy The Cat again, but lets hope that is sooner rather than later.

Primus Setlist Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre, Charlotte, NC, USA 2017, 2017 Summer U.S. Tour

The Crap Facts:
This is my 429th concert.
This is my 8th concert at CMCU Amphitheater.
This is my 63rd concert in Charlotte.
This is my 71st concert in North Carolina.
This is my 234th concert in the USA.
Clutch is the 495th band I've seen.
This is my 9th Primus concert.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Deftones & Rise Against @ CMCU Amphitheater

Ahhh! Rain and the Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheater go hand in hand more often than not.  This is the 3rd time I've stood in the rain for a show here (Violent Femmes/Barenaked Ladies & Weezer), and 2 other times we didn't even bother to turn up (Counting Crows & Ray LaMontaigne).

As per usual I see Rise Against because of a good line up.  However, they are growing on me.  Some great energy tonight and a lot of humble appreciation being thrown to the crowd for coming out in such horrible conditions.  I actually sat in my car for 15 minutes deciding whether I'd go in or not.  Definitely glad I did.  Ready To Fall kicked off the frenzy of Rise Against fans (these are some loyal people - the girl I was next to was talking about this being her 12th show - she happened to be in Charlotte for work and is going again next Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida).  A few other songs I was familiar with like Savior, Re-Education and Prayer For The Refugee littered the 50 minute set.  A couple of new ones thrown in as well fit in quiet nicely to Rise Against sound.

Like a lot of the older people in the crowd, I waited in the rain for the Deftones - some of the Rise Against kids left early (not knowing the greatness that came before their time).  From the get go the Deftones brutal sound had the crowd amped.  My Own Summer (my favorite song of theirs) was the 2nd song played and it sounded great.  Chino was on fine form, letting everyone know it was his birthday.  He played the crowd well, getting off the stage a few times to the delight of all nearby.  Rosemary was awesome, as was Knife Prty and Change.  I love Deftones use of the quite/loud dynamic, mixed in with slower and faster beats.  And Chino is a great frontman - better when he's not playing the guitar.  Age has not wearied the Deftones.  This show was as intense as any of the other 4 I've seen dating back to the Australian version of The Warped Tour in 1999.  With that in mind, I can't wait til they come back through Charlotte.

Deftones Setlist Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre, Charlotte, NC, USA 2017, Till the End

This is my 428th concert.
This is my 7th concert at CMCU Amphitheater.
This is my 62nd concert in Charlotte.
This is my 70th concert in North Carolina.
This is my 233rd concert in the USA.
This is my 5th Rise Against concert.
This is my 5th Deftones concert.
Deftones are the 50th band I've seen at least 5 times.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

New York, NY

With so many iconic spots throughout New York, there was one left to take mum to - Central Park.  We started the morning walking down to the Flatiron Building, just because I wanted to see it.  Then we walked over to the subway on 23rd St & Park Ave and caught the subway up to East 86th and walked around the Upper East Side (where Drew and Erica lived for a year) before seeing the Guggenheim Museum and The Met as we entered Central Park.  We walked forever, directionless, through the park.  To the Loeb Boathouse, Bethesda Fountain & Terrace and eventually to near Central Park Zoo, even though I thought we were on the west side of the park at the time.  The more we walked, the heavier the rain got, until all of a sudden we were near the middle and stuck under a tree for shelter.  After about 40 minutes, we decided it was not going to let up, so we made a run for it over to 5th Avenue and eventually got an Uber back to the hotel.

Bethesda Fountain, Central Park, New York, NY

The rain lasted another hour or so, and with most of the day still to go, we Ubered back to Central Park.  This time starting on the west side, near John Lennon's Dakota building and Strawberry Fields.  With no agenda we walked aimlessly around the park, yet still managed to end up near the south-east corner - at the Plaza.  We zigzagged our way back down to Times Square and then sat on the Red Steps and watched the world go by for another hour.

Times Square, New York, NY

We got back to the hotel in time to get changed and walk 2 blocks over to biricchino for dinner.  We had a wonderful last New York meal in this old school Italian restaurant.  We were in relatively early, but by the time we left, the place was hopping.  Was a great end to Mum's first New York visit.

Friday, June 16, 2017

New York, NY

The morning started with a 4 block walk west to the High Line.  We missed the start by a quarter mile but headed south and walked the rest of the mile and a half elevated walkway..  It is a fantastic traffic-free walk along a reclaimed rail line and a great view of the city throughout.

W 23rd St from the High Line, New York, NY

We kept going south, through Greenwich Village and Lower Manhattan until we got to the 9/11 Memorial Pools - where the 2 World Trade Center Towers once stood.  Wow what a feeling!  Here you are in the middle of New York, and the quietness is deafening.  You can't not be saddened reading the names of those who were killed in 2001 along the wall that marks where both the towers once stood.  In August of 2000 I went to the observation deck and roof of one of the World Trade Center.  As someone who does not like heights, it was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life.  Now standing in the shadow of the new One World Trade Center, I can barely bring myself to look up at it, let alone go inside the building and go to it's viewing deck.  Mum and I spent about an hour here, reflecting on life and how lucky we have been with ours and our family.

When Amy & were here in 2003, you were still unable to get near this site, so it was overwhelmingly humbling to be able to come and pay respects to so many unfortunate heroes.

Mum at September 11 North Memorial Pool, New York, NY

The disappearing-in-the-fog One World Trade Center, New York, NY

There were so many people lined up for the 9/11 Museum, we decided to continue on instead of wait the 2 hours.  I had hoped we could've had some sanctuary in Trinity Church (between World Trade Center and Wall Street) but I felt weird walking into the small church during a service.   Instead we forged on to Wall Street and saw the NYSE from the outside and walked through Founders Hall.  I was unaware that this was the first capital building for the US and the National Parks Service has a great display in there.

A short walk saw us get on the Staten Island Ferry for a free ride beyond the Statue of Liberty.  I had been on the island before, but Mum was content to see it from a distance.  It still amazes me that I get to see something as iconic as the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.  It makes me very grateful for the life I have and the decision I made to travel. 

At Staten Island, we got off the ferry but didn't realize that the one returning was leaving so soon.  Needless to say, these 2 tourists missed it.  Time enough for a Subway sandwich and a cup of coffee before the 45 minuted ride back.

Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry, New York, NY

Statue of Liberty, New York, NY

Back in Manhattan the rain had set in so we jumped on a train up to Times Square to see if we could find a show to see.  This was a lot more difficult than I thought.  So many attempts (Hello Dolly, Alladin, Dear Evan Hansen and The Lion King all sold out).  Unbelievably we got tickets for A Dolls House Part 2.  I say unbelievably because last weekend it had been nominated for 8 Tony Awards. with Laurie Metcalf winning Best Actress.  

We walked back to the hotel, got caught in a storm that soaked us through, and spent the afternoon recovering from the day's adventures.  Then back out for the walk back to the John Golden Theater (17 blocks) for the show.  We picked a winner.  With only 4 performers this play was amazing.  It's easy to understand all the nominations.  The story picks up from an American classic (the I've never read, A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen) and tells the story of a wife/mother who left her family to find her own life, only to find she wasn't legally divorced and everything she has done since is illegal, in an age where women's rights were near non-existent.  As with most dramas, miscommunication and different interpretations of the same matter create conflict and spur the story.  It's been years since I've been to a play, but Mum and I picked a special one.  I know she wanted a musical on Broadway, but I think she enjoyed herself.

A Doll's House Part 2, John Golden Theatre, New York, NY

One last walk back to the hotel through the New York Night, including Times Square, was the icing on a wonderful day.  We covered nearly 13 miles on foot (Fitbit says 26,230 steps) and have one last day of exploring the city tomorrow.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Washington DC to New York, NY

At checkout, Amy and the boys took Mum and I to Union Station and they went on to a couple of days with the Chichester's in Annandale.  Mum and I caught the express train to New York's Penn Station.  The 3 hours in the train was relaxing and gave us fleeting views of Wilmington, Philly and Baltimore.  The Chelsea Hilton was only a 4 block walk from the station and we were able to check in and get our gear away before going exploring.

Mum said that it wasn't necessary to go into museums and exhibits, but she just wanted to see the city.  So what better place to tart that 14 blocks north, in Times Square.  This is America and New York at its most iconic and just amazing to see mum's reaction to the crowds, lights and general buzz of the area.  From there we walked over to Radio City Hall (wish something was on while we were here) and then to Rockerfeller Center.

From there we made our way to St Patrick's Cathedral.  Wow!  What a beautiful structure.  Too big from the outside to get a good look, but inside is very impressive.  Mum and I found a pew and just sat for an hour, soaking up the breathtaking view.

Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York

On our way back to the hotel we detoured though Grand Central Station to look around.  We spent an hour relaxing in the hotel, resting our weary feet, and deciding on dinner.  We opted for Rare Bar, a simple bar & grill with the unreal feature of only being 2 blocks away from the hotel.  A good meal to end the day.  In all we covered 7 1/4 miles (and that's with most of the day on the train).  More exploring tomorrow.

View from 23rd Floor of Chelsea Hilton.  One World Tower is the lighted building in the distance.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Washington DC

Our last day in DC and while I would love to head back to the mall (and spend a couple of weeks) it's off to the DC Zoo today.  We took the boys to the the Reptile Park last time we were in Australia, and mum and I have taken them to the NC Zoo in Asheboro, so technically this is their 3rd zoo trip.  But they were into it.

We got there fairly early, and met up with Chase, who spent a few hours with us.  We wandered from cage to cage.  The pandas were the big draw card, and when we eventually found them (they weren't in their enclosure, but an air conditioned room) they played up to the crowds and entertained everyone.  The elephant enclosure was a stand out, as were the seals.  In all a great place.  Again I really enjoyed doing this as a family and seeing the boys' reactions to the day.  They loved it by the way. 

Smithsonian Zoo, DC

Because we had the car, we thought we'd try to get to a couple more monuments, so we tried Arlington Cemetery first.  Boys did a fantastic job adhering to the quietness (not easy for 6 year olds), actually they did a lot better than others who should've known better.  I know it sounds weird to say, but I like being at these war cemeteries.  It reminds me of the unnecessary loss of life and how fortunate I (and my generation) have been not to have to such an horrific fate.  White gravestones mark the field as far as the eye can see in every direction - so much needless loss.  I would have liked to get to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but it had already been a long day and the boys were fading.  We made it to the eternal flame at JFK's grave, which was again a special (right word?) moment.  It's funny how the grave of someone who died before you were born and has no connection to you can affect you in such a way.

Arlington Cemetery, VA

We battled peak hour traffic to get back to the house.  Again dinner was from H Street.  This time we sat outside at Impala for a Mexican meal.  After walking another 7.5 miles (15638 steps) today - a couple of Corona's and margaritas were just what the doctor ordered. A great way to spend our last night in DC. 

I'm so glad we came to DC, despite the relentless heat.  This was an active vacation for us - usually it's just a week at the beach in summer when we take the opportunity.  A good test for what the boys are capable of.  And I'm glad mum got to come somewhere she'd never been before, and did so with her grandsons.  Does put some pressure on us to find another great spot next year, though.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Washington DC

Today is another day of record heat in DC, so I'm all about supporting my employer as much as possible today.  We Ubered from the house to the Air & Space Museum.  I came through this museum on my own in 2000, and it was just as good as I remembered it - now I get to see it as well through the eyes of the boys.  

We started off in the Planetarium where we watched a movie about space and communication.  The size of the screen was overwhelming for me - I felt like I was getting vertigo at some points, and probably missed most of the movie with my eyes closed.  I feel like the boys suffered the same, though they weren't able to verbalize what they felt, both ended up in Amy's and my laps.  The museum has such a great, interactive variety of aircraft, from a replica of the Wright brothers' first plane all the way through to NASA replicas.  The boy's attention span didn't allow us to look through the whole museum, but I'm so glad I came back to this one.

B&L, Air & Space Museum, DC

After a McDonalds/pizza lunch inside the Air & Space Museum we caught an Uber to the Lincoln Memorial.  Not sure why I didn't get to this last time, but this place is incredible.  While there are a tonne of people around, it is a very reflective atmosphere.  The boys have a basic knowledge of President Lincoln so it was definitely good for them to experience this.  We also took in a rest on the stairs of the memorial.  In the shade looking down the Reflective Pool, Washington Monument, all the way to the Capitol, was a nice mid-afternoon people watch to break up the day.


Lincoln Memorial, DC

We opted to walk on the south side of the mall back towards the Washington Monument (forgoing the Vietnam War Memorial) and headed towards the Korean War Memorial.  This is a stunning and somber memorial for all those who fought in this war.  

Korean War Memorial, DC

We didn't get far enough south to get to the Martin Luther King Memorial, as we were all starting to fade in the heat. The eastern end of the Reflecting Pool is the home for the World War II Memorial, and while not American, gave pause for me to think about my grandfathers who fought in New Guinea and the Philippines during this war. Part of the memorial is a starred wall. The 4048 stars each represent 100 deaths of American troops during this war, and a real fitting and touching memorial to those who sacrificed their lives.

For ease of pick up, we walked over to Constitution Ave & 17th St to have the Uber pick us up and take us home.  Once their I had to take a quick nap, as a migraine began to kick in. Though we only walked half as far today, the heat is definitely taking it's toll on me.  an hours rest and an ibuprofen later and I was fine to walk back to Imm Thai to pick up takeaway for dinner (I told you that place was good).

Monday, June 12, 2017

Washington DC

We've got a lot to discover today in DC, and we are going to have to do it in record heat.

We started the day catching the tram from H Street to Union Station.  At 10am it's already hot.  Hope the boys are up for this (actually, hope I'm up for it).  We walked down to the Capitol Building to take a look first.  Things have changed since I came through in 2000.  Then we took pictures on the the steps at the back of the building.  Now you can't get near them.  We got a good look around and did all the touristy pictures (see below) before heading down to the National Mall and finding as much shade as possible to continue our walk.

 Capitol Hill, DC

Our first museum was the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum, which walked to via a beautiful sculpture garden.  As much as I'd rather be in other museums this was the place to be with a couple of 6 year olds.  The museum is fantastic and it was wonderful to show the boys everything and see the things that peaked their interest (or completely dismiss).  We reached a hangry point and decided to eat as soon as possible, which meant eating in the museum's large cafeteria area.  I the end it was into vacation mode with a much needed ice cream on the Mall before we made the long walk doown to the Washington Monument.  The boys are at a good age where they are learning so much and most information they just soak in.  They were bummed that the Monument was closed and we couldn't get to the top.  But they were feeding off the energy of everyone around, loving all the flags and being able to see other landmarks from this central spot.

B&L, Washington Monument, DC

 L, Me & B @ Washington Monument, DC

Because they could see the White House from the Washington Monument, the boys (and mum....and us for that fact) wanted to get a closer look.  Not unlike the Capitol we could not get really close to the White House.  We could see an event was taking place on the front lawn, but we were so far away you couldn't distinguish who was there or what was being said.  We couldn't even get around to Pennsylvania Avenue.  In the end we decided to finish the day, and grabbed an Uber back home.

Mum gave us the option to go out and have dinner and a drink, so we took up the free babysitter option and walked over to Granville Moore's on H Street and sat at the bar and had an awesome meal.  I had some incredible mussels while Amy had a beautiful salad.  Really nice meal.  We were exhausted after dinner and opted not to go for a drink afterwards, only to be heckled by mum for having a free babysitter and being home before 9pm.  I know - We're old....and lame.

We covered 7 miles today (Fitbit says 14489 steps), which is a lot for me, let alone two 6 year olds and their grandmother.  And in the heat, everyone handled it like champions.  Now to do it all again tomorrow.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Charlotte, NC to Washington, DC

So with Mum coming in from Australia later than usual this year, we decided to take advantage of the boy's summer vacation and take the family to DC, and Mum and I go on to New York afterwards.  We had picked out what was to be a wonderful AirBnB in the north-east part of the city and decided with 5 of us to drive up.  

On the Thursday before we bought a Honda Odyssey so we could all fit in, and made the 8 hour (with stops at Bojangles and a 7-11) drive north.  It was a smooth ride most of the way with traffic becoming pretty heavy about an hour outside of DC - even on a Sunday.  When we were looking for a mini-van I wasn't sure I wanted a DVD player in the car, but after the quiet trip up, it seems like the best decision we ever made.

Once we unpacked, Amy and I went to Safeway and got some groceries The 5 of us then went the couple of blocks to H Street and got some pizza for the boys and some delicious Thai takeaway from Imm Thai for the grown ups.  

A long drive and a big day coming up meant an early night for all.  Big day exploring tomorrow.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Tegan & Sara @ Fillmore

So my knowledge of Tegan & Sara is limited to a few tracks from The Con & So Jealous.  However they were so good at Riot Fest in 2014 (my surprise pick - I wanted them to be good, and they were great) that I had to see them do their on show, in a small venue.  Needless to say, since those albums they have more of a pop sound to them.

The band came out to I'm So Excited blaring.  A more appropriate song for the crowd at the time, there has never been.  Everyone was hyped, and from that moment on Tegan and Sarah could not (ad did not) do wrong.  You could tell that circle of energy was happening.  The band has enjoying themselves, so the crowd was getting into it, so the band was having a blast and so on.

Banter between songs was good enough for any comedy club, and the girls' connection with the audience was heartfelt.  The music had the Fillmore non-stop dancing.  The Con and Nineteen were highlights for me, but the whole set was outstanding.  Throw in Walking With A Ghost during the 3 song encore, and you have one of the great pop shows I've seen.

While the direction of the music wasn't what I expected, it made their Riot Fest set even the more better, by playing what was appropriate for that crowd.  Fun was had by band and crowd alike.  While their musical style was not what I'd usually listen to, I'd have no hesitation in seeing Tegan & Sara again.

Tegan and Sara Setlist The Fillmore, Charlotte, NC, USA 2017, Love You to Death

The Crap Facts:
This is my 427th concert.
This is my 20th concert at The Fillmore.
This is my 61st concert in Charlotte.
This is my 69th concert in North Carolina.
This is my 232nd concert in the USA.
This is my 2nd Tegan & Sara concert.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds @ Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, Asheville, NC

This is the show I have been waiting over 20 years to see again. And with mum in town to look after the boys, I even got Amy to come along.  We got to Asheville with enough time to have a quick bite at Southern Kitchen & Bar, after scoring an amazing parking space in front of the restaurant, around the corner from the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium.

I was told the show started at 8, so of course I was in my seat 10 minutes early, which therefore lead to the Bad Seeds coming on stage 20 minutes late.  While the band started with 3 tracks from the unknown-to-me Skeleton Tree, it was clear that Nick Cave owned the stage.  He has that "it" factor, that won't let you take your eyes off him.  The crowd (yea, I'm not the oldest) erupted when the inevitable "I wanna tell you about a girl..." line preceded From Her to Eternity.  I was hooked!  Tupelo followed, the Jubilee Street, a song I was not familiar with, delivered the greatest line of the night (and one I'll use from now on) "And a ten ton catastrophe on a sixty pound chain" The Bad Seeds then played the stunning 1-2 of Ship Song and the ever-beautiful Into My Arms.  Oh!, then it got better.  From the first chime of Red Right Hand I got chills all over.  Such an awesome song.  Between his smooth voice and the cacophony of instruments, Cave stalked the stage.  And his improvised Trump lyrics - spot on.

"You'll see him in your nightmares
You'll see him in your dreams
You'll see him on the internet
You'll read his angry little tweets"

The Mercy Seat was also out of this world.  And the encore....Oh My God!  Starting with the fact that everyone was craving more, Cave started with The Weeping Song, straight into Jack The Ripper, and then sent the crowd and band into a frenzy with Stagger Lee.  It was phenomenal!  He then finished with the quieter Push The Sky Away, but in accordance with his repoire with the crowd throughout the show, he sung the song while climbing through the crowd, ending up about 5 rows in front of us.

And absolute marvel of a night.  I thought Flaming Lips would be hard to beat for a show, but Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds blew them away.  It was easy to drive back to Charlotte after the concert, I was so pumped.  I will make it a mission not to wait 21 1/2 years to see the Bad Seeds again. I think we even turned Amy into a fan.  She said it well, saying while it's not usually the music she'd listen to, there is no denying Nick Cave is a mastery of the English language.  A modern day poet!

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds "Push The Sky Away"

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Setlist Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, Asheville, NC, USA 2017, Skeleton Tree

The Crap Facts:
This is my 426th concert.
This is my 2nd concert at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
This is my 5th concert in Asheville.
This is my 68th concert in North Carolina.
This is my 231st concert in the USA.
This is my 3rd Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds concert.