Thursday, March 30, 2017

Flaming Lips & Clipping @ The Fillmore


No mention of an opening act anywhere so I didn't race to the Fillmore early.  I did walk in to the sounds of Clipping, a rap/electronica group, and instantly I was taken aback.  Generally I don't like a lot of rap, but this was good.  Clipping has an off-beat flow, and time changes, gradual and sudden, that sound amazing.  They worked well with the already there Flaming Lips props, and while their musical style makes for an unusual pairing with Flaming Lips, you can tell there would be a great mutual creative appreciation.  There is also a sense of humor in his lyrics that was relatable to the audience.  By the time his set had finished, the full Fillmore was lapping it up.  I would definitely go back and see one of their shows again.

This is my 3rd Flaming Lips show, and so far my favorite (though that 1st one in Vegas comes super close).  The Fillmore was packed to the rafters and within the first few bars of Race For The Prize was filled with confetti and beach balls.  Wayne Coyne looked like he was ready for a good time, while the band hid behind blowup stage props and streamers.  As they played There Should Be Unicorns, Coyne jumped on a full size stuffed unicorn and was dragged through the crowd, much to everyone's crushing delight.  He passed within inches of me, but I was not quick enough to get a picture.  Another prop the crowd soaked up was the "Fuck Yeah Charlotte!" balloons, which the girl in front of me was determined to get as many as possible.  Coyne got into his hamster ball and rolled out into the crowd to sing Bowie's Space Oddity, in which he was drowned out by the crowd going apeshit.  Highlight of the night - and maybe of all Fillmore shows.  Overall a great spectacular - now just a gig.  Visually and audio-wise it was sensory overload.  Do You Realize finished out the 2nd encore, and I bet people will be talking about that show in Charlotte for a long time.

Flaming Lips Setlist
Race For The Prize / Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Part 1 / There Should Be Unicorns / Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung / What Is The Light? / The Observer / How?? / Space Oddity (David Bowie cover) / Feeling Yourself Disintegrate / The Castle / The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power) / Are You A Hypnotist?? / The W.A.N.D. / A Spoonful Weighs A Ton
Encore: Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast / Silver Trembling Hands
2nd Encore: Waitin' for A Superman / Do You Realize??

The Crap Facts:
This is my 418th concert.
This is my 18th concert at The Fillmore.
This is my 55th concert in Charlotte.
This is my 61st concert in North Carolina.
This is my 223rd concert in the USA.
Clipping are the 488th band I've seen.
This is my 3rd Flaming Lips concert.
Flaming Lips are the 100th time I've seen a band in Charlotte.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Tea Party & The Road Heavy @ Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, ON

I must still be in Toronto, because it's still effing freezing!




Today I started the morning heading over to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).  A little closer to the hotel and therefore a little less painful to get to.  It was nice to get there early again and be ahead of a weekend crowd.  A few of my highlights are as follows:
1) The European Gallery which had two walls each of impressionist and academic paintings.  Explanations throughout explained the differences in styles and also the difference in hangings.  The academic filled as many square inches of the wall as possible, whereas the impressionists use of space highlighted their work.  Great to see to contradictory styles in the one room.  My favorite picture in here was by Luigi Bazzani, called Arch of Septimus Severus.
2) The Henry Moore Sculpture Center.  Many of the same sculptures that graced Aria Resort & Casino's (Reclining Connected Forms), that sat behind the Concierge desk.  All the pieces had been donated to the museum by Moore himself.
3) Pop Up On The Dot Talks.  Museum staff will pick random pictures and discuss them with anyone around.  As it so happens I passed 2 employees standing in front of a painting (for the life of me I can't remember the paining), with no one else interested in a talk, so we spoke for half an hour about the painting.  As a non artist, and a very passive art admirer, this conversation allowed me an insight into these pictures I never would have got on my own.
4) The art of native Canadian sculptor, Manasie Akpaliapik.  I always use the phrase "I don't know art, but I know what I like."  And Manasie's sculptures, done in bone, ivory, wood and stone, are just magnificent.  

After the gallery I walked down to Queen Street in search of lunch.  I had chosen Chippy's - a fish and chip shop in English-influenced Canada, can't go wrong.  I am never satisfied when having that meal in the US, so I was hoping for the best.  What I got, after walking a couple of miles away from town, was a store closed for the season.  I ended up in the expensive Burger's Priest, as hunger took over and I wanted to eat there and then.

I continued my walk through the city, passing the CN Tower (didn't have the balls to go up) and down to the waterfront.  Watched folks ice-skate in a rink by the harbor.  I looked for a rental place, not that I would've done it, but it seems it was locals only with their own skates.  Afterwards I continued walking around the city, just taking in the sights until the cold got to me again and I ended up back at the Double Tree late in the afternoon.


The plan was to head out to Danforth, eat dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse before heading to The Tea Party.  HBO, cold weather, a Die Hard and uninterrupted-silence-of-no-children changed that to arriving at the Danforth Music Hall a couple of songs into the Road Heavy's set.  Another solid set from them entertained a more enthused crowd tonight.

Tonight's show seemed better than last night.  Not sure if it was because I was on the main floor, close to the stage.  Regardless, both the band and crowd were in better form.  Again the Transmission set sounded better than the album itself, with Babylon and Temptation being the highlights.  There were a couple of small changes in the 2nd set, which made my night.  Firstly the snippet of Tool's Sober in the middle of Release Me, led into the song I'd traveled 1600 miles to see.  Fire In The Head is the Tea Party's greatest song as far as I'm concerned, and tonight they played it just for me (I could tell).  The local crowd however went bananas for the Brian Eno/Daniel Lanois song The Messenger, which I'd never heard before.  Again the encore was a medley of the fantastic Winter Solstice and Sister Awake, which included short cuts from The Stone's Paint It Black and Bowie's Heroes.

Overall 2 great nights.  I'm glad to see the Tea Party still has it after not having the opportunity to see them for so long.  Hopefully there will be a chance to drag them further south in the future.Had a blast in my first visit to Toronto (I want to come back in not winter).  What a great city!  Was also grateful to just have a couple of days away on my own - this is something I like to do and with kids, doesn't happen often any more.

Tea Party Setlist
Army Ants / Babylon / Psychopomp / Gyroscope / Emerald / Alarum / Release / Transmission / Pulse / Aftermath / Temptation
2nd set: The River (with Sober snippet) / Fire In The Head / The Messenger (tour debut, Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois cover) / The Ocean At The End / Save Me
Encore: Winter Solstice / Sister Awake (with Paint It Black and Heroes snippets)

The Crap Facts:
This is my 417th concert.
This is my 2nd concert at Danforth Music Hall.
This is my 2nd concert in Toronto.
This is my 2nd concert in Ontario.
This is my 3rd concert in Canada.
This is my 2nd Road Heavy concert.
This is my 7th Tea Party concert.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Tea Party & The Road Heavy @ Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, ON

Holy shit!  It's cold here.  The day started at 10 degrees Fahrenheit and barely got warmer.  I thought a walk to the Royal Ontario Museum would be be a good start - only 1.5 miles - but by the time I arrived I was so cold, my jaw was frozen.  Not only that but I arrived a 1/2 half hour before opening.  So I want across the street to the Second Cup for a hot chocolate - just to hold (the first of a few of these this weekend).


The Museum itself is a work of art.  Architect Daniel Liebskind leaves his distinct mark as the building reminds me of Crystals (another of his designs), next door to Aria, where I used to work.  You walk in and get the obligatory dinosaur skeleton to amaze you from the get go.  THe first floor was full of Asian artifacts, as well as a First Peoples Special Exhibit.  

The 2 totem poles that the stairs circled up to the next floor were stunning.  Leading up to the Natural section of the Museum.  Dinosaurs, bio-diversity, birds and mammals, and a large increase in the number of children were the main features of this floor.  The standout for me on this level was a model of the sunken HMS Erebus, a ship that was abandoned in The Victoria Strait in Canada in 1848.  The wreckage was only discovered in 2014, and the model shows it still in good condition, apparently only in 10 metres of water.

On the 3rd level was the World artifacts (Grecian, Roman, Egyptian, Middle Eastern, African and Asia-Pacific artifacts held my attention for a long time.

Lastly was Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit on the 4th level. These photos were amazing and deserving of all the accolades they received.  Saw a couple of Aussies in the mix.  Scott Portelli and his photo of cuttlefish was amazing and Douglas Gimesy's very Australian "Caring for Joey" photos.  Categories ranged from land to sea, urban to wildlife, and even age groups (some of the 10-13 years olds stuff was brilliant.

After about 4 hours I left the museum and caught the train to Union Station (I would've preferred to walk, but the cold was too much for me.  I walked over to St Lawrence Market.  I thought there would be a great spot to eat there, but it is more of a market for locals, with butchers, fishmongers, florists, bakers etc.  Before coming away I did some research on Lonely Planet and picked a few places to see and eat at.  One of those was Schnitzel Queen.  It's hard to find schnitzel in the US, but this place (in the dodgy part of town the Concierge told me not to go to) was fantastic.  Lunch at 3pm was a Schnitzel BLT the size of my head, and my first Coke in about 10 years.  It was well worth the walk.

From there I wandered around town aimlessly until eventually I ducked into a shopping center just to get out of the cold.  Once out the other side, I was on the street where the hotel was, and decided a hot chocolate and a rest were on the cards before I headed out again in an hour.


At 6.30 I caught the 2 trains needed to get to the Danforth Music Hall.  Train timing was perfect and in with time enough to spare I wandered up Danforth Ave to Greektown, spotting some places for dinner tomorrow, before going into the venue.

Tonight I am in a seat on the balcony.  Ideally not how I'd see the Tea Party, but still after all the walking I'd done today it was nice to sit down.

The Road Heavy opened, playing some Southern Blues/Rock.  A good size audience reacted well to this local band,who would not sound out of place in any southern honky-tonk.

October 1999 at the Central Coast Leagues Club was the last time I saw the Tea Party.  With my leaving Oz for England and eventually the US, and their extended hiatus, the opportunity had not arisen until now to see this great band again.  Thunderous applause greeted the band and the opening 1-2 of Army Ants and Babylon was top notch.  I had forgotten how good this album was, but with great versions of Release and Temptation (amongst others), it was easy to get back into the night.

The 2nd set started with their most rocking song, Writing's On The Wall, which was the highlight of the night and a hell of an crowd energizer.  The Bazaar was my much needed Edges of Twilight fix, and it was also great to hear the All Along The Watchtower and Stairway To Heaven woven into Heaven's Coming Down - which seemed to be the favorite of the Canadians.

This night ended with a medley of the underrated Winter Solstice and the awesome Sister Awake, with snippets of The Stones' Paint It Black and Bowie's Heroes.  The Tea Party are definitely still a band who put on a great show, no less that my last gig 17 years ago, and have a following that still worship them - as shown by both shows selling out here in Toronto.

Tea Party Setlist
Army Ants / Babylon / Psychopomp / Gyroscope / Emerald / Alarum / Release / Transmission / Pulse / Aftermath / Temptation
2nd set: Writing's On The Wall / The Bazaar / The Ocean At The End / Heaven Coming Down (with All Along the Watchtower and Stairway to Heaven snippets) / Save Me
Encore: Winter Solstice / Sister Awake (with Paint It Black and Heroes snippets)

The Crap Facts:
This is my 416th concert.
Danforth Music Hall is the 118th venue I've seen a concert.
Toronto is the 50th city I've seen a concert.
Ontario is the 14th state I've seen a concert.
This is my 2nd concert in Canada.
The Road Heavy are the 487th band I've seen.
This is my 6th Tea Party concert.
The Tea Party are the 950th time I've seen a band.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Charlotte, NC to Toronto, ON

So for my birthday I decided it was time for a trip away.  It has been over 2 years since I was on an airplane and when the Tea Party announced a tour celebrating it's 20th anniversary of Transmission, I thought 3 nights in Toronto, a city I'd never been to, would be as good a spot as any.  Thanks to some frequent flyer points, no airfare was paid for, and Amy had enough Hilton points for 3 free nights at the Downtown Doubletree.

The downside was I had to fly via Dulles, and with only a 45 minute window, I was always going to struggle to get my connection.  And, of course, with our flight an hour late taking off, I missed it.  I was instead put on a 5pm flight onto Toronto, which, again, was delayed, getting me in at 9 pm (instead of the 2pm I had planned on).  Regardless, I look forward to exploring Toronto over the next two days.  And seeing my first concert in 3 months, as well as seeing the Tea Party for the first time in 18 years.

Surprisingly when we arrived in Toronto, we were parked at a gate where we had to get out on to the tarmac before getting into the terminal.  Had United not paid the rent here?  This was my first experience of the cold weather I was to face for the next couple of days.  Yikes!