The past is gone but something might be found.

Wow, this might be the longest I've ever gone without posting. In the last couple of weeks, I've attended two concerts, gotten sick, gotten better, watched a ton of movies and otherwise wasted time doing things other than writing. So hey, let me just say it's good to be back. Today's my first day of vacation, so hopefully that means more adventures and more blogging. So I'm here all week. Also, try the veal.

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.

[Warning: heart-warming anecdote] At one point, Robin Wilson saw a little girl in the audience who had brought her own tambourine to the show, so he brought her on stage to play a few songs with the band. She was probably 4 years old, and Fat Janis could have learned a few things about rhythm, because she never missed a beat. She kept better time than the drummer in the band. At the end of the show, Robin asked her if she would trade tambourines with him, and she said yes, so he autographed his and gave it to her. It was pretty cute, and she was thrilled.

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....


  1. Ha, opeth is actually one of my favorite bands, and I listen to a broad spectrum of music. The cookie monster vocals can be a bit hard to swallow at first, but once you get into their music, it all fits. Not the only metal band to include a jazz flute solo, but they have an amazing way of mixing types of music and moods, all well keeping an incradible flow. If you listen to them enough, you relize that most of their songs (and in my opinion, all the good ones) are not depressing but instead inspiring, triumphant.

    Funny how I have no problem getting past the death metal growls yet fully agree with you about Dream theater. Can't stand them.

    Do yourself a favour and check out a band called "Fair to Midlands." They have a self titled cd that came out last year that is amazing. Odd, but amazing, and they might be a little more your style.

  2. I usually refer to Opeth's "style" as "Puke Rock". You have two singers, one who can, and one who can't.

    So the guy who can't sing does what he can. He makes noises like he's puking.

    Bllaaaaaarrrrrrrgh, blupubublaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!

    I can tolerate that if I'm really in the right kind of mood.

  3. Jeff, I'll do that - I think I've actually heard of them. The funny thing is, when I got home I started reading some of Opeth's lyrics and listening to their on-line music, and I have to say they are also talented guys. I think what weighs against them in a venue like the Armory, which is basically a hockey rink made of steel, is that the complexity of their songs gets lost in the shitty acoustics and turns into a muddy mess. There's a lot more interesting stuff going on when you can actually hear it.

  4. Anonymous11:22 AM

    Thank goodness you're back. I'm just about through with all of your archives. I need fresh Johnny!

    I was beginning to think that this was going to be another Kathy Sierra discovery. I happened to find her on the day she quit.

    Don't ever leave me, Johnny Virgil. I need the funny.

  5. Anonymous11:54 AM

    Gentle Intro, smack in the face riff, horror-movie evil singing voice, reverts to normal singer more horror-movie evil singing voice.
    Sounds like Alice Cooper on really bad speed.
    Dammit it's growing on me.

  6. I love the Gin Blossoms. "Lost Horizons" was on repeat in my crappy old Rx7 for months. I had no idea they had a new album out. Good to know. And good to have you back blogging.

  7. I've totally been to the venue in CT you're talking about. The Ridgefield Playhouse, right? My husband and I are from CT (not the swank rich part, though) and we saw Duncan Sheik concert there and we were totally weirded out by the crowd. You're correct. Those people just have season subscriptions to the concert series and will go see whatever. Duncan Sheik warned people that his next song would have swearing in it, and at least 20 people got up and left. Heh.

    My husband and I are "(sort of) fans of Dream Theater, too... (We actually met because of Jordan Rudess.) it was great to read a non-fan's impression of the show.

    *sort of... we're not in love with the new albums and we hate going to see them live because of the fans and the strange opening acts. :)

  8. First of all I have to say that I LOVE the Gin Blossoms! Second of all I am glad you are back...missed having all the laughs you provide, and lastly, you never cease to make me laugh my ass off! (Good thing, too, since my ass was getting way to big...)

    Keep it coming!

  9. Nice to see you back ~ I was gettin' worried!

  10. Anonymous8:52 PM

    "Cookie monster rock"

    I'll be chuckling about that for days. Sigh... *wipes tear*

  11. Anonymous9:51 PM

    Re: the Gin Blossoms: the day I put New Miserable Experience on my iPod was a day to realise how much time has passed since I first sang, in a car, in college, the words "we used to drive around this town, let the cops chase us around" ... ah, memories. Thank you for reminding me of that particular, sweet, relatively uncomplicated joy.
    The Armory? As a former Capital District resident, I would have guessed from your parking (lack thereof) description that it was the Palace ...
    Glad to see you're back.

  12. Yeah! Gin Blossoms!
    LOL 'Cookie Monster Rock'
    Glad to see ya back.

  13. Anonymous11:50 PM

    wow Dream Theater is still around?

  14. Anonymous11:55 PM

    dangit forgot to add that the Gin Blossoms rode their success on the two songs Doug Hopkins wrote before he was booted from the group.

  15. Anonymous12:02 AM

    Are you SURE it was David Duchovny and Tea Leoni at the Ridgefield Playhouse for the May 9 Gin Blossoms concert?

    Another site has photos of DD with his son in Malibu on May 10.

    Besides, DD just started shooting his Showtime series Californication in and around LA and I doubt he'd be at a concert in Connecticut in the middle of it.

  16. Anonymous12:28 AM

    The Gin Blossoms are scheduled to perform Sept. 9 at the 20th Annual Taste of Danbury, though.

    If you went to Ridgefield, you can drive the five miles to Danbury. Maybe the Duchovnys will be at THAT one. LOL

  17. Nah, I'm not sure. I'm just going by what Robin Wilson said from the stage. I didn't go investigate.

    Although other people said they saw them too, so who knows. I would have picked different stars if I was going to make something up, but maybe that's just me.

  18. The things we do for love...I went with Himself to see Dream Theater a couple of years ago down at the waterfront in Baltimore. He loves them like a fat kid loves cake so I was just going to throw myself into the experience and go with it...plus Kings X was opening for them, and I like them well enough. We got there and, inexplicably, the show had started 30 minutes earlier than the tickets indicated so we missed most of Kings X, which was a mercy because they sounded so bad I assumed that we'd walked in to the sound check. Dream Theater was excellent and I know they are talented, I just wish I liked them more. The Baltimore crowd was much as you describe, with an extra smattering of 45-50 year old biker dudes and approximately six women, all of whom I wanted to gather up and take somewhere for a martini until the show was over. I guess my interest in concept albums petered out somewhere between The Wall and Operation: Mindcrime.

  19. Anonymous2:04 PM

    Sorry to hear you were sick, JV, but it's nice to hear from you again. I have to admit that I would be terrified to admit my musical tastes to you. I'm afraid I would be banned from your blog for life

  20. Now you have to tell me. C'mon. I can take it. (please don't let it be rap, please don't let it be rap, anything but rap....)

  21. Sounds like a good time, for the most part JV. I have to admit that I could not think of any song by the Gin Blossoms as I was reading this. I had to look them up online and listen a bit. I recognize a few of the songs.
    I would have to put them into the category of bands that I don't hate, but did not love enough to ever think about. Kwim??
    Glad your back.

  22. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Gin Blossoms! I'm glad to find out they've got a new album out. I'll have to pick it up soon. Too bad they aren't coming anywhere near my town on their tour. I would LOVE to see them.

  23. Excuse my ignorance, but I've never heard of the Gin Blossoms. Is it a Canadian thing I'm missing?

    My musical knowledge is normally awesome -- I'm totally across the top 40.

  24. I noticed a guy at the gym the other day who, for some reason, had no idea what his surroundings were.....He had his stinky foot...up on the counter (in the locker room)...blow drying his junk. WTF is wrong with some people?

  25. Anonymous10:37 PM

    Okay, you asked for it. But remember I'm a tad older than you are.

    My iPod has lots of.... (cringe)Billy Joel and Queen. In my defense, there's also a lot of classical (but not opera). Showtunes, lots of showtunes. There are also some things you might not hate, really classic old stuff like the Doors, CCR and Three Dog Night (even before my time!), and some really eclectic pieces like Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Chuck Berry. Tons of Motown.

    I'm pretty much all over the map. But I know you're going to slay me for the Billy Joel and Queen. And I LOATHE rap.

  26. Um, Piano Man is one of the best records ever put to tape, and nobody, NOBODY sings like Freddie did.

    So there.

    However, I do know the first three seconds of every Doors song ever played on the radio.

  27. Moe, I hope he burned his nads.

  28. Anonymous10:25 AM

    It's about damned time you posted again. I was starting to have some ugly withdrawl symptoms...

  29. Anonymous1:14 PM

    welcome back...you were missed.

  30. Anonymous1:22 PM

    >>>my wife took a walk and said something to her boyfriend

    you surprise me JV - you went to the concert with your wife and her boyfriend? Very liberal and open minded of you. I would never have expected this. Was your girl friend along also? hehehe

  31. Anonymous5:03 PM

    Thank heavens you're back! Please don't go on blog vaca again. I need my daily laughs.

  32. Anonymous6:30 PM

    Brian Posehn had a song called "Metal by Numbers" on his Live In: Nerd Rage CD that's a pretty dead on impersonation of the cookie monster vocals genre. Check it out sometime.

  33. Anonymous11:39 AM

    Thanks, JV. I'm relieved that I'm still allowed to read your blog and comment occasionally. And while a lot of the bands you mention are a mystery to me, I not only know who the Gin Blossoms are, I like them. Intelligent lyrics are so rare, and so worth listening to.

  34. Anonymous4:02 PM

    Hey Johnny, my life would really be complete if you could post an audio of you and your friends singing nursery rhymes and Christmas carols like Opeth. That sounds freakin hysterical!!

  35. Welcome back, thanks for yet another good laugh! Look forward to alot more this week....
    oh, and good to hear that you're feeling better.

  36. Anonymous6:35 PM

    Missed you, love the new look...it makes me hungry.

    One of my kids (students) LOVES DT - I think I'll take your opinion over his. I'll also check out the new(ish) GB CD. I loved them back in the day. Even got to do coffee with them once at a local college show - they were very down to earth & cool guys.

  37. i got to see the gin blossoms perform in san diego at the house of blues in october.

    i was already a huge fan of theirs and to see them live was just the icing on top of the cake.

    they seriously rocked out and sang every single one of my favorite songs.

    they finished their 2nd encore with rocketman. ahhh such a good show!

  38. Hey man - love the new graphic.

  39. My nephew LOVES Dream Theater, otherwise, I wouldn't have a clue what you're talking about. He actually drove from Detroit to Cleveland last year just to see DT.

    The funny thing is that he's so not a black-wearing, tattoed 20-year-old at all.

  40. I thought I was the only person in the northeast that had heard of Dream Theater! They're one of my favorites!