So back to these shows I attended -- The Gin Blossoms and Dream Theater. No, it wasn't a double bill, although just considering the possibilities of that makes the part of my brain that likes music want to curl up in a ball on the ground and beg for sweet, merciful death.
If you're familiar with both of these bands, you'll know they reside on very opposite ends of the musical spectrum. I was a big Gin Blossoms fan back in the day, and they sound just as good now as they did back in the 90's. I'm relatively new to Dream Theater, but my friend Rikk is their tour manager so I got to experience a show on Sunday. I'll have more to say about that experience later.
I'll talk about the band that the sane people go to see first. The Gin Blossoms show was in a little theater in Connecticut, just over the NY border. It's a crazy-rich neighborhood, and just about every other car in the parking lot was some sort of Mercedes Benz, Lexus or BMW.
Put it this way: David Duchovny and Tea Leoni were in the front row at this particular show and nobody cared. (I'm not sure if that was because the people in this town are used to celebrities in their midst, or if it was because it was David Duchovny and Tea Leoni.)
The show itself was really good, and the band played a lot of tunes off their newest CD "Major Lodge Victory" released in late 2006. If you were ever a GB fan, you need to check it out. It will bring back memories and make you want to put the top down on your 911, put your arm around your best girl and just burn a hundred bucks-worth of gas that used to cost about twenty. But you don't care, because you're rich and you do what you want.
Initially, the crowd was a little stiff, and I think it made the band a bit uncomfortable. After the first few songs, Robin Wilson practically begged everyone to just get out of their seats and come down near the stage, so a lot of people finally did. He then pointed out the security guards, said there were only two of them, but if everyone behaved they could probably stay there for the rest of the show. Behavior really wasn't a problem -- given the average age of the audience, the area in front of the stage was basically just a broken hip waiting to happen. I am not entirely sure, but I think this particular venue is treated as a "night out" by the locals, and they tend to go see whatever happens to be there. I have to admit, I liked the crowd better when they weren't all riled up and clackin' their dentures. Mostly because when they were sitting down, I could see the stage.
We had pretty good seats. Since the place is so small, there really aren't any bad seats, so this was my view for every song except for the big hits:
During the hit songs, however, my view changed to this:
That's because Giant Shiny-Headed Guy stood up for the entire length of any song he recognized or even thought he recognized. It was pretty fucking annoying, but not as bad as what was going on a few seats over. My wife had Fat Janis Joplin doing the bad-acid dance right in front of her, which was way more annoying for multiple reasons. Picture Mystery Science Theater 3000 with a silhouette of Miss Piggy instead of Tom Servo, and you'll have a good idea of what we were up against.
I think my wife was most annoyed by the constant flipping-hair move, while I (being a drummer) was more annoyed by the fact that she was doing this spastic dance in double-time. This made her look as if she were being stung by bees, which is hard to not watch. Eventually, my wife took a walk and said something to her boyfriend to the effect of "if she's going to dance like she's on fire and trying to put herself out, please tell her to do it in the aisle with the rest of the crazy dancing folk."
So she did, and life was good. I've realized that some people are really so oblivious to their surroundings that they don't even know they're messing up someone else's good time, and if you point it out to them, they are sometimes willing to stop doing whatever it is that they're doing. I've also realized that this is not always the case, and if you intend to pursue this course of action, you must choose your venue -- and your target -- wisely. Girl at concert in rich neighborhood = Good. Large, tattooed biker in strip club = bad.
At any rate, if they are coming to a town near you, I highly recommend you check them out. They are as tight as they ever were, and Robin Wilson's voice hasn't diminished in the slightest. They also looked like they were having a blast on stage, and I love that.
The Dream Theater show happened, as I said, because a friend of mine is their tour manager. Also, they haven't played Albany in 15 years, I have never seen them play, and my friend Yort is a fan of theirs from way back. It was the perfect storm of rock. Well, maybe not, but it was a free show and an excuse to hang out with a couple of friends for a bit.
This particular venue is in a weird place, so there was absolutely nowhere to park. We ended up parking about four long-ass blocks away, and I was fully convinced that we would either get mugged or the car would be gone when we got back to it after the show. Luckily, neither of those things happened. I think it's because there were so many freaky white boys at this show, the normal riff-raff were scared to come out of the woodwork.
We were clearly the least tattooed people there. A marathon run of Miami Ink would have exposed you to less tats than this crowd. Way less Hep C, too. We were also the most colorful (while fully clothed, at least), since I had on a green T-shirt and Yort was wearing a gray hoodie. I would say that fully 90% of the crowd was dressed in black. Black leather, black concert T-shirts, black jeans...black eyeliner, you name it. These were old-school metal heads mixed with screamo fans and a smattering of people who looked like they just finished shooting a Federal Marshall in the head and gnawing the handcuffs off their wrists so they could come to the show.
There was a lot of weird hair, too. I saw one guy with a completely shaved head, except for a long top-knot pig tail that he thrashed around like it was some sort of head-mounted buggy whip. I saw another (white) guy with dreads down to his ass. As you would expect, there were surprisingly few women there. That's not to say the number was zero, but it was close to it. The one I remember best looked like a female version of Ethan Suplee's character in The Butterfly Effect. I'm still trying to unremember that, btw.
Actually, the worst thing about this show was that there were three opening acts: Opeth, Between the Buried and Me, and Three.
Being old, we hadn't heard of any of the openers, so we didn't realize how odd the musical bill was until the music started. Already almost done playing when we got there, Three was actually pretty good, in a Rush-like kind of way. Sort of proggy, and actually talented. They finished their last two songs, and left the stage. The next band up was Opeth, and we had no idea what they were about. They took the stage and the aural assault began. To give you an idea of what they sound like, I provide this example from one of their previous recordings. Go listen and then come back here.
If your thought processes are anything like mine, you will think, "Oh, hey that's pretty cool. He has a pretty good voice...I like the harmonies...I like the .......AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN MY FUCKING EARS!!!! And then you will feel the odd sensation of your soul being pulled slowly from your body. I don't know how that guy does that for a whole show without coughing up chunks of his larynx.
We had a couple of backstage passes, and in direct opposition to our immediate instincts, we walked toward the stage. It turns out that was the right decision, because once we got past the wall of noise, it turned into something akin to the rumble of nearby demolition and you could actually talk if you screamed at the top of your lungs directly into each other's ears. My friend Yort asked me where I thought Rikk might be, and I said, "As far away from this music as humanly possible" and I was right. He was in the production area at the front of the arena, behind a very solid oak door, doing all the things that tour managers do.
We walked in and said our hellos and introductions to everyone in production, hung out a bit, and discussed the bands thus far. I have to say the funniest description of Opeth's music had to be "cookie monster rock."
Then we all took turns singing nursery rhymes and Christmas carols in the style of Opeth, because we determined that it doesn't really matter what you're singing as long as you sing it with the proper amount of heart-felt evil. The funny thing is, their lyrics are actually pretty good.
After a nondescript set by Between the Buried and Me, Dream Theater took the stage.
All I have to say about Dream Theater is this: Goddamn, those dudes can play. Hol-E-Crap. I never saw such complete mastery of a guitar and keyboard in my entire life. Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci are inhumanly talented, and they play like they are a single person. Mike Portnoy is certainly no slouch, either. The music is very technical, and some of it is truly amazing, but unfortunately I'm not a huge fan of James LaBrie's voice. That's the deal breaker for me. Even though he has a great range, and rarely misses a note, he has a little too much Ronnie James Dio-meets-Queensryche in his pipes for me.
All in all, it was an interesting and impressive show and I'm glad we went. It was good to catch up with an old friend and have some laughs. And as an added bonus, I got to hear me some cookie monster rock.
You can't beat that with a nail-studded, black-leather-covered stick -- unless you like that sort of thing, of course.
If a humor blog falls a notch and everyone is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If not, I think it should....