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.

Rise Against Setlist Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre, Charlotte, NC, USA 2017, Wolves

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.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Paul Simon @ CMCU Amphitheater

I do like it when I get a chance to see a show with mum when she comes to town.  We've seen a couple of great ones before.  Namely Elton John and Santana.  This is another one to add to the collection.

Because it was at the outdoor CMCU Amphitheater, Amy decided not to come in order to not to enforce her rain curse on us.  So I actually went to a concert with my mum and in-laws (I sound like a kid).  I got my usual seats about 20 rows from the stage, just left of center.  And as always these were great.

Paul Simon walked out to a standing ovation and then proceeded to dazzle the audience song after song from the beginning.  I wouldn't say I am a fan of his, but there are the songs that just about everyone knows, and there was plenty of those scattered through the set for me.  

Boy In The Bubble was a great start.  America was a song I didn't realize I knew.  My highlight half way through the set was Me & Julio Down by The School Yard.  When he finished with a couple of Graceland hits, Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes and You Can Call Me Al, the crowd was going crazy.

A 3 song encore before he cam back out with a mellower Questions For The Angels, and we started heading for the exit.  He did play Sounds Of Silence as his only song for a 3rd encore, but fortunately he skipped the song I really wanted to hear - Mrs Robinson.

Never really thought I'd see Paul Simon, but this was a good show.  His voice is fantastic - he sounds no different than I remember hearing on record.  Clocking in at over 2 1/2 hours, another veteran performer has shown stamina and showmanship that is definitely lacking with some of today's bands.

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

The Crap Facts:
This is my 425th concert.
This is my 6th concert at CMCU Amphitheater.
This is my 60th concert in Charlotte.
This is my 67th concert in North Carolina.
This is my 230th concert in the USA.
Paul Simon is the 494th band I've seen.