I’ve got… High Hopes

Not more than 48 hours after the band breaks up, we are going full force in the direction that felt a long time off only 24 hours ago.

You see – we had some ideas about where to look for a new singer and guitar player since we found out about Dave and Jason leaving. And 1 piece just fell into place. Todd, our former guitar player (way before Phoenix Down), has been looking for a band to play in. And we happened to be looking for a guitar player of on-par or better quality than Dave. Being that Todd is more or less a virtuoso on the guitar, he exceeds this requirement.

Todd left the band, back then called Flight, to go to school at UMass in Lowell, Massachusetts back in 1998/1999. By the time he decided to move back out here, we had already formed Phoenix Down with Dave. We welcomed Todd to come and jam with us, which he did once or twice, but nothing else came of that. And yesterday, when we contacted him to see if he was interested in making this band even more awesome, he was ready to come on board. He even went as far as to say that he would go buy a new 7-string guitar so that he could play the PD songs that required it.

Now, Rickey, Randall, and myself are extremely pumped about the prospects of working with Todd again. The sky is not the limit with him involved.

But what about Jason and the search for his replacement? Well, Jason has decided to stay on for a while. He seems really excited that Todd wants to work with us, and he doesn’t want to quickly pass up the opportunity to work with Todd. So Jason will continue to sing for us until we find a replacement for him, although I don’t know if we will be actively searching for a replacement right away – unless he definitely doesn’t want to continue on. And Jason is willing to be at practices, even sing at shows.

There is no more Phoenix Down. But this band is alive and kicking. We will be picking a new name for the band and we will be ready to rock out with our socks on.

What’s next?

Dammit all to hell… Just when I needed somehappy times, my laptop shows up. Only problem is, there seems to be a bad connection between the video card/mobo and the monitor. So instead of seeing my crystal clear picture, I get crappy blue smear all over the place. And letters on the screen and the mouse seem to have a white shadow in these areas. Super de Duper!

So, apparently they are sending out a technician to take a look at it (and I am on the phone with Dell Tech support right now – on hold of course), but that could take 2-3 days. And what if it is not something that the tech can fix? I wait another 2 weeks for a replacement?

GRRR! I guess the good news here is that if bad things happen in 3’s, I have reached the quota.

A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

This weekend was awesome. Friday night, we had a final run through of our setlist for the show on Saturday night. Things sounded fine, and we knew that the show would be a success.

And it was. Saturday night rolled around and we were solid – receiving high praise from all those we talked to. Well, almost everybody… Dave’s girlfriend didn’t bother to say anything nice. Not that it is a new thing for her to treat the rest of the band like shit. But I’ll get into that in a second. The truth is, Randall and I (and probably everyone else; I just haven’t talked to the rest of them yet) knew it was our best show. And we had so much fun that we are pumped to get back on stage as fast as possible.

I want to personally thank those who came out to see us. From work (and good friends): Mark, John, Aaron and Laura (The Pampion of the Cheople did not show up as expected); Other Friends: Sarah, Holly, Amanda, Denny, Bob & Kel, DeAnna, Scott, Ken, Helen, Rye, Ryan from Danny’s, Adam & Jeanette, and all the others who I may have left out.

But the night was not perfect. We all noticed that the 2 or 3 times we had met Dave’s girlfriend in the past, she was a biatch. And Saturday night was no exception. Her condescending attitude towards each of us, on separate occasions throughout the night, was completely out of line. We have given her ample opportunities to be kind, while we ourselves have not been anything but kind. But in several instances over the course of the night, she managed to offend each and every one of us (with the exception of Dave), not to mention several people that we know and/or are related to. I will not go into too much detail about each of the things she did, but I will at least tell my offense. The second band for the night was playing and they happened to have a fat guy on stage dancing with his shirt off. We were all talking and laughing, and she walked by with her camera to take a picture of the monstrosity on stage. I called out to her and she turned; I said, “No pictures of that guy,” while shaking my index finger side-to-side, in a completely unharmful, playful, funny manner. She scowled back and gave me the middle finger, then turned and headed towards the stage. And this particular instance of bitchdom was the least of the offenses during the course of the night. I don’t feel the need to go into any more details, but why was it that I felt like this good-for-nothing hoohah was going to pull a Yoko Ono? I even commented about it last night to Johnny…

But anyways, I got to work early this morning and had a smoke with Randall. He proceeded to tell me that Dave and Jason quit the band. At first I thought, “Yeah right – you always make shit like this up.” But then it I realized that it was no joke. I don’t need to go into detail about why Dave quit, mostly because we don’t know exactly why he did, but have a pretty fucking good idea. Jason on the other hand… he basically felt constricted on stage; not his normal self. Even though this was the best show yet for him and for us, he felt out of his element and, if that was how we expected him to act on stage, didn’t want to deal with it.

So, as of this moment, there is no more Phoenix Down. Randall, Rickey, and I remain devoted to each other (at least I certainly hope that they are devoted to me because I know that I am devoted to them).

In any case, I am now depressed, upset, angry. Sure I will wait things out to see what happens. Hopefully, if nothing else, Randall, Rickey, and I will move forward with a new project and be all that much happier. But in the mean time… Now that my true love has been temporarily taken away from me, I will be a wreck.


Finally, I just got a call from my friend Stephanie. She was the one who was out here a couple of weeks ago to visit her ailing father. He secumbed to lung cancer last night. I pray for her and her family.

I’m On Call…

What to do… What to do… The next couple of weeks will be interesting.

First off, Jott just took off to Costa Rica for business for the next 2 days, leaving Abbi here (and due to burst any time). Not to mention that Chris is off to Alaska tomorrow morning, and my parents are in Vegas for my cousin’s wedding (not a typical Vegas wedding – she actually lives there so is having a normal church wedding).

What does this mean? Well, if Abbi has any issues in the next 2 days, she calls me. I have to house-sit for my parents for the next 2 weeks because both of them are gone, and so is my brother. Them doggies and kitties need some eat’uns (and the medicine that 2 of them are on).

But the real question is… where do I take the ladies after the show? My place, or the empty parents’ house?

Summertime Spending

It seems that the hotter it gets in Phoenix during the summer months, the faster money burns holes in my pockets. For one, there is usually 1 or 2 kick ass concerts that need to be seen. This summer it is Gigantour – a co-headlining tour with Dream Theater and Megadeth. Not to mention Fear Factory, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Symphony X (all bands I look forward to seeing).

Of course, you can add System of a Down, OzzFest, Tool, and Michael Bolton to the list of potential shows to see this summer as well – that’s $150-$250 just on concerts.

Then you have Phoenix Down, who is playing this Saturday Night. I’ll probably go and get a new pair of pants and possible a shirt too so that I look money; you know – like the bomb. Plus we will be trying to get 2 more shows this summer and we are planning to record a full-length album in September or so. $$$

Finally on my list is the splurge purchase. Last year, I bought my keyboard (Motif ES 8). This year, I decided to get a “Mobile Music Creation System”, aka “Portable Full-Tilt Poker Money Desintegrator”, aka “Do Workstuff from Starbucks (if need be) Machine”, aka Dell Inspiron 9300 laptop (with 1GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM).

Next stop – Dodge Magnumville. But that is quite a long journey from here…

The Redeeming Qualities of a song

“Robert” really likes the Gwen Stefani song, Hollaback Girl. I think that the song sucks. It got me thinking to myself (and aloud), “What are the redeeming qualities of a song?”

First, there must be music involved in the song somewhere. And I’m not talking ambient noise or arpeggios. Hollaback Girl has the arpeggios, played by guitar in the background and later played in unison by some atrocious synth brass. And that’s it! Other than the drum beat and a rare half-sung line, there is nothing else to the song.

Next, there should be some coherent thought within in the song. Saying Shi* 37 times in a 3:19 song doesn’t quite do it for me. “The Shi* is Bananas – B-A-N-A-N-A-S” – WTF is that?

Originality – granted the song doesn’t have to be completely original. I believe that this song was better… when it was called “We will rock you” by Queen. Repeating the same lines over and over and over (and over) is not very original or creative. Why would I want to listen to 99 bottles of beer on the wall? I wouldn’t.

Standing the test of time: Not time in the eternal sense, but do you get sick of the song after 10 listens? How about just one? I was sick of this song after the first listen. I did force myself to listen to it 3 more times before and during the writing of this post so that I could get some facts straight, but no more Hollaback Girl for me.

A song should be a song. I don’t listen to much rap music (I have a hard time actually calling it music), because my definition of a song is that it should have a musical structure, actual singing, and flowing lyrical ideas. Most rap has the flowing lyrics, but this song doesn’t even have that (not to mention the lack of musical structure and actual singing).

So, to paraphrase the structure of this song, we have:

[Chorus – 2x];
Oooh, this my Shi*, this my Shi* [4x];
[A spoken word verse];
[Chorus – 2x];
Oooh, this my Shi*, this my Shi* [4x];
[A spoken word verse];
[Chorus – 2x];
Oooh, this my Shi*, this my Shi* [4x];
The shi* is Bananas – B-A-N-A-N-A-S [4x];
[Chorus – 2x];
Oooh, this my Shi*, this my Shi* [4x] 

Wow – this song is deep. What was I thinking??? Wait, I know what I was thinking

99 bottles of beer on the wall
99 bottles of beer
Take one down, pass it around,
98 bottles of beer on the wall.
98 bottles of beer on the wall
98 bottles of beer… 

Hollaback Girl Report Card
     Music involved: FAIL
     Coherent thought: FAIL
     Originality: FAIL
     Test of time: FAIL
     Is it a song: FAIL

Final Verdict: FAIL

Here – try this quality song on for size (right-click, save target as…), and tell me that Hollaback Girl is better than it. Of course, doing so automatically disqualifies you from being my friend anymore 😉

Full length review of Dream Theater’s “Octavarium”

In a previous post, I had given a brief review of the new Dream Theater album, Octavarium. The reason I kept it brief was because the album had not yet been released and I did not want to give any spoilers away to the Dream Theater fans who may come across it. So now I want to write a full review of my thoughts, especially since I have listened to the album 8-10 times through and have a different overall verdict of the album than I did previously.

Dream Theater – Octavarium

This latest album seem to be quite a departure from the traditional Dream Theater style. Sure, they have had changing styles all throughout their career, especially the differences between their last album, Train of Thought, and their other previous ventures. Where ToT went the metal direction (\m/), this new album, for the most part, goes backwards – not to the styles of Scenes from a Memory, Awake, or Falling Into Infinity – but backwards to the classic prog rock styles of Pink Floyd, Genesis (Peter Gabriel, not Phil Collins), Rush, and even Yes. Of course, not all of the tracks take this route, but the title track most definitely does.

The Root of All Evil: This is part 3 of Mike Portnoy’s homage to Alcoholics Anonymous, with the previous 2 being The Glass Prison and This Dying Soul (from Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence and Train of Thought, respectively). This song brings some familiar elements into the new album, due to the subject matter that we have heard 2 times before, and the musical similarities between the 3 songs.

The Answer Lies Within: The first of 2 ballads on the album, although it seems like 70% of the album is slower-themed. Very pretty musically; nice use of live strings (not played by keyboard) with piano and bass. And LaBrie’s vocals are fitting for the mood of the song – very calm and soothing.

These Walls: This song starts out with a grungy, distorted, electric guitar riff and then really takes off. But it then calms down for a bit in the verses, where once again Labrie’s vocals take over. The choruses bring it back to full steam again. The bridge in this song adds a new element to this album – a guitar solo. However, this is a very concentrated effort from Petrucci – nothing fancy or over the top, just right for the music.

I Walk Beside You: This is a very mainstream ballad/uptempo song, in that you could probably see this track on a U2 album. The song starts out with a tick-tock of a clock, which to huge Dream Theater fans will say this is an addition to “Scenes From a Memory”. Although the subject matter doesn’t seem to match the genius of Metropolis pt. 1 and pt. 2, you could definitely feel that this song is a reference to Nicholas and Victoria.

Panic Attack: The first heavy song on the album, at least the first to go start to finish in a metal style – yet not as heavy as the heaviest moments in ToT. It starts with a great bass riff, and then guitars, keys, and drums join in on the fun with the same riff. There is a little Rudess interlude before the choruses, which calms down the song, if for even 5 seconds, but then it is right back at it in the chorus. The bridge section of this song gets some fun instrumental work, with a featured solo from Jordan Rudess, followed by John Petrucci really kicking some ass. And then there is the unison Keys and Guitar work before the prechorus comes back in, which is solid as ever. I believe this is the song that the record label is shipping for radio. You can download a sample (edited) version of Panic Attack here (MP3).

Never Enough: This is probably my favorite song on the album. The subject matter is directed at the 1% of fans who no matter what DT does, they complain (as stated by Mike Portnoy). The choruses in this song really make an impact on me, not because of the lyrics, but the music – Just really strong song writing here.

What would you say, if I walked away
Would you appreciate, but then it’d be too late
‘Cause I can only take so much of your ungrateful ways
Everything is never enough. 

I have read in several other online reviews that this song sounds very similar to Muse‘s song, Stockholm Syndrome. Not ever hearing that song, I cannot confirm or deny this, but if Never Enough is like Muse, then I will want to listen to their album because there is a good chance that I would like it.

Sacrificed Sons: This is a song about the 9/11 attacks. It is quite an emotional piece in the begining, but picks up steam after the first chorus with a bass interlude, followed by some nice instrumental work. I have the sense that this song is part 2 of “In the Name of God” from Train of Thought, mostly because of a musical section in the choruses of the song, not to mention the subject matter. Where “In the Name of God” was about cults and taking lives and beliefs in general, Sacrificed Sons goes very specific about terrorist activity and that these terrorists believe they do it for the good of their god.

Who would wish this on our people, and proclaim that His will be done
Scriptures they heed have misled them
All praise their Sacrificed sons. 

Octavarium: The title track, a 24 minute masterpiece. I don’t want to go into too much detail because it is such a long song, so here are some generalizations. The song starts out with a very cool Pink Floyd “Shine On” vibe, with Jordan Rudess playing a new toy – the Continuum (I don’t even know what this thing is…). Petrucci joins in and adds some nice guitar work which really adds to the Crazy Diamond feel. We also get some flute thrown in which adds to the thinking that this is a classic prog rock influenced piece.

Soothing vocals come in finally around the 5 minute mark. The song is broken into 5 different vocal sections. The 2nd section is called “Medicate (Awakening)”, and is based on the movie Awakenings. A nice touch.

In comes a Rudess feature – Jordan really shines in his keyboard playing here. In fact, his playing on this album is the most extensive and cohesive yet in any DT album he has been involved with. This is a great sign because his keyboard voices can at times sometimes be obtrusive to the sound of a song, but not on this album.

The next vocal section is one of my favorites on the entire album. This section takes several references to songs, bands, movies, etc, and melds them into quite an interesting vocal line

Sailing on the seven seize the day tripper diem’s ready
Jack the ripper owens wilson phillips and my supper’s ready
Lucy in the sky with diamond dave’s not here I come to save the
Day for nightmare cinema show me the way to get back home again 

There is also a theme here – going full circle. The start is the same as the finish. Not being able to break free from an enclosed “Octavarium.”

The next section, entitled “Intervals,” has some wicked work – each phrase (there are 8 of them) begins by somebody saying a word in the background, such as “Root” for the first phrase, “Second” before the 2nd phrase, etc. and the lyrics of the phrase are describing a song from the album, in order:

[Root] Our deadly sins feel his mortal wrath, Remove all obstacles from our path — The Root of All Evil
[Second] Asking questions, searching for clues, The answer’s been right in front of you — The Answer Lies Within
[Third] We try to break through, Long to connect, Fall on deaf ears with failed muted breath — These Walls
[Fourth] Loyalty, trust, faith, and desire, Carries love through each darkest fire — I Walk Beside You
[Fifth] Tortured insanity, A smothering hell, Try to excape but to no avail — Panic Attack
[Sixth] The calls of admirers, Who claim they adore, Drain all your lifeblood while begging for more — Never Enough
[Seventh] Innocent victims for merciless crimes, Fall prey to some madman’s impulsive designs — Sacrificed Sons
[Octave]Step by step, We try controlling our fate, When we finally start living it’s become too late — Octavarium

Note that the song titles are not said or sung (they are just in the above quote section as reference. Another really interesting tidbit to this section of the music is that WAY in the background of each phrase is a faint line or melody from the corresponding song – for instance during the sixth phrase, you can hear “What would you say” faintly in the background (the chorus of “Never Enough”). Just amazing… I wonder if I will ever stop finding small tidbits like this on the album 🙂

The song ends with a wrap-up of the begining vocal section – bringing everything full circle. And as if this was not enough, while the song fades out, the intro to the entire album comes back in. Quite a cool addition to the theme.

Final Thoughts: This album has everything that I look for in good music – from Metal to classical, Prog to alternative, it has it all. Each time I listen to the album, it gets better. Of course there is a point that it can no longer go beyond (which is 10 out of 10), and Octavarium is almost there. I really love some of the slower sections of the songs because they have a real Neal Morse vibe to them – almost to the point that I half expected to see his name in the writing credits.

If Scenes from a Memory is the best album by Dream Theater (at least to me) and I give SFAM 10 out of 10, then Octavarium is only slightly behind – 9.5 out of 10. Get this album 🙂

Wanted… Dead or Alive

I, along with John, went to the birthday party on Saturday night. I certainly didn’t add my 2 cents to the musical stylings while the party was hopping. I had to go see a friend’s band play, so I left the party early. But I did return. And also sang a very poor rendition of “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Jon Bon Jovi. I couldn’t find anything that I would normally be willing to sing (such as “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd or “I’m Just a Girl” by No Doubt), so I gave it a shot and realized that I just couldn’t hack it. Thanks to the B-day boy, we made it through it. And by that point there were maybe 7 people left there.

It figures – I may be incredibly musically talented, but I just cannot hack the lead vocals – especially the higher stuff. My voice just cracks and then my throat is sore and I talk funny for the rest of the night. But if you come to the Phoenix Down show in 3 weeks, you will see a different side of me 🙂

Really, though, the most interesting part of my weekend took place on Friday night. The guys and I went to see an old friend, who was in town to visit her sick dad (my prayers are with you and your family, Stephanie). And I expected to see Courtney for the first time in over 2 years. Which I did. There she was, sitting a bit away from the main table, conveniently on the opposite side of where we were sitting. After a beer and a smoke, I made the move to talk to her. I went up, tapped her on the shoulder and gave her a big hug. We talked for a few minutes, but like is usual in a bar, you can barely understand what one or the other is saying. Then that was pretty much it for the rest of the night. There were a few minutes of friendly banter, including a nice slap on the shoulder from her for me still smoking. I just smiled and laughed.

I think I came out as the better of the two of us. First, I approached her; I don’t think she had the guts to approach me. Second, while the group was talking for most of the night, she took several phone calls and was writing text messages. Most likely to the new person in her life about what she was thinking while I was there. Not that I am judging her, but hey – I was comfortable talking with her, why was she so worried about talking to me?

Either way, it was good to see her again and to get some demons out of my head. Also, it was great to see Steph. I always cherish her company, even if some others don’t. I think I may take a vacation this summer and go to Chicago to visit her. And see a Cubs game.

I knew I should have posted my weekend report sooner…

I planned on posting a weekend update yesterday, but got caught up creating a flyer for the Phoenix Down show.

And now that I am doing an update about my life, you’ll just have to trust me that I had planned what I am going to say before the **** (cow excrement – thanks Paul Shirley) hit the fan.

My weekend

Started Friday night, with beer at Carlos O’Brien’s, which was followed up with beer, pizza, and ****** (movie title that could be misconstrued as a slang female body part). ***** (a completely unrelated coworker) came over and John and I enjoyed her company.

Saturday: Went to the parents’ for the Suns game [we lost :-(], then to Mark’s new place. Had some beer and Apple something Martinis.

Sunday: Went to Mark’s again for BBQ, and had spiked Strawberry Lemonade (with Grey Goose Vodka), White Russians, Beer, and beer.

Monday: International Alcohol Day at my parents’. Had Irish Car Bombs with outdated Bailey’s. Still yummy. Had hamburgers and hot dogs, and watched the Suns game [we won :-)].


Finally, the reason for my disclaimer at the top of the post (about trusting me). I had already decided that it just wasn’t worth it. As much as I think this person is cool and nice, and that we could have some fun (read: go to a dance recital, drink Pepsi, smoke incense) for a few months, it ultimately would not be worth it. For either party. I ultimately just wanted to be a friend in a strange city, but it appears that has been shot. 

Thank you very much. I appreciate it when I am told that I have violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. I just hope that word doesn’t get back to Tom Cruise that I talked trash about him dating Katie Holmes

BEEEEEEP!

Consider this post an apology.

I, in a post which is now deleted, referenced a coworker. Nothing derogatory towards this person was said. But the FCC made it known that it should be removed.

I don’t feel as though I did anything wrong, but probably should not have used the name of someone who doesn’t read my blog – the chances of it getting back to that person are relatively small, and yet these things happen to me on a regular basis.

So, from now on, I censor my own posts. If you are not a relative, best friend, or subscriber to my blog, then your name will be withheld. Nevermind that this is my personal journal – it just doesn’t happen to have a lock on it.

*********!