Barret-Jackson 2007

I was finally able to go to Barret Jackson this year. I have never been to one, and yet have been to plenty of car shows in the Valley over the years. There were some sweet ass cars there, which you usually don’t get a chance to see. I forgot to bring my camera, as did Mark (though he got pics on the Bidder’s Preview day), so I took some shots with my phone. Here’s what I came out with (some quality issues though). Enjoy!

Note: Clicking the vehicle description brings up the Barret-Jackson description page, and clicking the images opens the full size image.

[tags]Barret-Jackson, Cars, 2007[/tags]

Carry on, Wayward Son

It’s been an interesting week. Since my last post has run its course, it’s time to move on. Let me catch you up.

Last Tuesday, Guitar Hero 2 finally came out. I handily beat the medium difficulty, but the hard difficulty is already giving me some issues (not to mention Expert level). They definitely ramped up the difficulty levels on this one. But it is fun with lots of killer tracks. Co-op playing is sweet too – having 2 separate tracks (such as lead guitar and bass, or lead guitar and rhythm guitar) to play in 2-player mode is much more fun than having 1 track that gets divided among 2 players.

On Wednesday, Mark went out and got GH2 as well. His son liked the game when he tried it out at the local Best Buy, and Mark seems to enjoy the game as well. Oh yeah, he didn’t have a PS2 so he bought one of those as well. Since we had the console and the game, we played it for a bit in the office (after hours – not that it matters) before heading home.

On Thursday, I was believed to be gay. (Some back story: There is significant construction going on in our office to split up a large open space into a couple of individual offices.) So when the construction crew came in on Thursday afternoon to get some work done, it was a convenient time to head out of the office for a bit and go to Mark‘s son’s first basketball practice. Besides, the practice was literally only 2 miles away from the office so it was a no-brainer to head there and get away from the noise and what not. Shortly after our arrival to the practice, the coach asked us (Mark and I) which one was our son (I’m summarizing because I don’t remember exactly how he worded the question). Yikers. After work, we went back to the practice to pick up Mark’s son and at one point the coach asked how many kids we had… If it wasn’t for the fact that I was going over to Mark’s for dinner and to show off my l33t Guitar Hero sk1llz0rz for the kids, I wouldn’t have been there and the “mistake” would not have been made. I think Mark eventually set the coach straight (by saying that I was his business partner, not his life partner), but it was definitely an eye-opener. I think the coach may have seen my earrings and jumped to conclusions. Just because I have not had a girlfriend in 3+ years does not a gay man make.

I went over to Mark’s place and had some Kobe beef burgers (yum) and jammed out some Guitar Hero (although I probably didn’t impress them as much as I could have if I had a bit more practice with the new game). John MacLeod thought everything I was playing was easy. I can assure you that it is not. Regardless of difficulty, it is a fantastic game. If you have a PS2, or want a good excuse to get one, get GH1 and GH2 now.

On Friday, it was Veteran’s day. We didn’t take the entire day off, but one thing led to another and I took off from work at about 2:45. I headed over to Albertson’s for a wedding card (see Saturday below), and ended up getting there right when Rickey was getting off of his shift. We ended up heading over to his place for a bit while he changed clothes, then headed to my place so I could change clothes, then finally to Randall’s place for pizza, wings, Ghost Recon, Ghost Recon: Advanced War Fighter, and Guitar Hero 2. We played games for a while, and then Nayt, Scott, and Sean came over from the wedding rehearsal dinner. We had a few beers and a few laughs and finally headed home around 1am. Saturday was to be a fun, and at some points brutal, day.

On Saturday, my friend Matt was to be wed. It turned out to be a Looney Bin family reunion. There was Rickey, Randy, Nayt, Scott, Sean, Mike, Ian, Jarrod, and myself – all original members of the LB. Plus there were Matt (the groom) and Jason, the honorary members (or West Side LB). The only people missing from this group were Ben Parten, Ryan Anspach, and Jason Surguine. Let me tell you, we had one hell of a time!

Mike Iles was hysterical. He was wearing his Class A’s (Army Dress Greens), as was Jarrod. As a back story, Jarrod was always the bitch. Always being picked on. He was also the youngest of the group. Fast forward to Saturday: So, considering that Mike was always the cut-up funny guy with a razor-blade-like wit, he took it upon himself to verbally destroy Jarrod – like old times. And the guy did not let up the entire time he was there. Man, is he missed. But being stationed in Texas (I think) and having a mean hag of a wife and 2 kids does not help him get out here so often. But any time I hear that he is around, I will make sure not to miss out on him.

As for the party atmosphere of Saturday… it didn’t stop but for 3 hours total all day. After the wedding, the LB went across the street to a bar and had a drink or 2 (or 3), since we knew that there was not an open bar at the reception and that booze prices would be rediculous at the Marriot. Once we arrived at the reception, we got more drinks. And drank with lunch. And afterward. Once the reception ended around 4pm, we decided to… get some drinks across the street at Friday’s. After leaving Friday’s, we went to relax for about an hour and change clothes (I didn’t go home so I didn’t change). Then we headed out to the west valley for a party, where we drank. The drinking finally stopped at around midnight (nearly 12 hours of drinking total). I was happy when the day ended and I could get those dress shoes off of my feet, because damn. But it was a great day for all of us.

On Sunday, I chilled. I needed a break from drinking and my feet still hurt. I watched some football, turned off the Cardinals game in the 3rd quarter, watched Jedi, watched some more football, cooked some Mac & Cheese, and had some more champagne. Mike K., one of John‘s friends, came by to celebrate his purchase of a new residence. We had champagne. Then I watched some more football, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Cars (which was a good movie). Finally, I went to my room and caught Empire (which I saw several times this weekend due to Skinamax airing all 6 movies back-to-back-to-back… -to-back…), falling asleep when the Millenium Falcon attempted its departure from the asteroid and the mouth of some monstrous asteroidal creature.

So, how was your week?

Little League…

Question: Are any of the Tigers‘ relief pitchers capable of throwing a ball to first or third base?

Just curious… I haven’t seen any of them successfully do it in the World Series. You know, this isn’t a good play. I can’t find a video of the Game 1 error by the pitcher, because nobody scored on it, but the end result was this error.

And then there are these assholes (from last night’s game 4)

So, if the Tigers lose the series, they can blame little league for not teaching them how to field a ground ball.

[tags]World Series, Pitching Errors, Detroit Tigers[/tags]

Dream Theater Scores

I wasn’t really planning to do a review of Score, the latest live DVD/CD set from Dream Theater, mostly because when I do one of these reviews they tend to be relatively lengthy and ultimately only benefit 1 or 2 people who would even read the entire review. But then I got called out by Rickey. So begins my review of Score. And, it’s long…

Before I get too deep into the review and start losing readers, I want to tell you that this is probably the best concert I have ever seen. evAr. Sure, it helps that I am a big Dream Theater fan, but the music is played to near perfection (see next paragraph) and the orchestra… is so awesome. After Metallica did their S & M album, I hoped that one day DT would do the same. And on the final show of their 20th anniversary tour, they did. And it worked. Extremely well. (Mark, you can stop reading now)

Question: Is a live concert CD or DVD really live if the band goes into the studio to overdub musical flubs in the live show? I think not. This is something that Mike Portnoy has mentioned his distaste for in the past, and therefore there are no such overdubs in this concert. You will hear the blatent Jordan Rudess piano flub in the intro to Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (About to Crash), John Petrucci‘s missteps in SDoIT’s Solitary Shell, etc. You hear exactly what you see played. And overall, it is magnificient.

The thing that stands out the most about this live show, as opposed to the 4 other live shows in the DT catalog, are the vocals (well, that and obviously a live orchestra). James LaBrie, who ruined his vocal cords while vomiting after getting a sever case of food poisoning in Cuba back in 1994, sounds fantastic throughout the entire show. Fans of DT who have seen him perform live in the past 10 years can attest to his amazing recovery. After every DT show that I have seen since 1998, the comment has been made by one of us (myself, Randy, or Rickey) that James’ vocals are better or worse than the last time we saw DT. In the last 2 years, we have mentioned how good he has gotten (in particular hitting an extremely high note in “Learning to Live” the last time they came to Phoenix, something that he hasn’t done in… a long time). But his voice is tits during this concert. It really makes a huge difference to hear good, clean, in pitch vocals in a live concert, and James was masterful at this show. Along with James’ vocals, I should mention that the normally on-or-sub-par background vocals provided by Petrucci and Portnoy were quite awesome here too. And once again, you can certainly hear flubs in both of their voices, but overall the vocals were top notch.

I have rambled on for quite a bit about performance, and have yet to actually talk about the concert, song selection, live orchestra, ect. Before I move on, just know that the performance is teh awesome. And I would put this performance up against any other live show, by any other band (assuming the non-use of studio overdubbing), ever.

The concert itself is… wow. The first set features the band playing through some of the 20 years of music that they have created up to Scenes from a Memory. Included in the set are DT classics, such as Innocence Faded and Under a Glass Moon. Mixed in are a couple of rare treats in Another Won – one of the first songs ever written by DT and previously unreleased, Afterlife – from their first CD release When Dream and Day Unite, and the popular Falling Into Infinity B-side, Raise the Knife. After finishing the set with the emotional The Spirit Carries On, the real magic begins (well, technically after a 15 minute intermission which is not captured on the DVD or CD).

The orchestra starts playing, sans band. They start with the Overture to Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence: a 6-minute intro that had previously been played via MIDI through Jordan’s rig as a precursor to when the band would take the stage to begin playing part 2 of SDOIT (About to Crash). This worked out well, with the exception of some tuning issues throughout the orchestra (once again, a real live recording). Jordan begins playing About to Crash, and from there the band comes in full swing with the orchestra for the remainder of the 42 minute opus. I really liked the orchestra taking over instrumental duties from John Petrucci’s guitar for the Goodnight Kiss section, and the outro of Goodnight Kiss into Solitary Shell is astounding with the full orchestra and Petrucci’s solo. The song ends like it should, with the drum fill via Portnoy, capped off with a solid gong crash. The second set is off to a resounding start, and it is only 1 song (albiet 40+ minutes) into the 1 hour and 40 minute set (which is more than most bands even play these days – and this is the second set).

My only concern with the orchesta being present was what Rudess would be doing – he usually handles the strings and other orchestra sounds in concert, so what would he be doing for this one? Well, he played some outstanding piano and lead voices, things that were previously left out in concert (due to him only having 2 hands). I was rather pleased by how the orchestra stood out, and yet Jordan still managed to stand out with the parts that he was playing. A fantastic mix.

Next up was a beatiful orchestra and vocal version of “Vacant” from Train of Thought, a haunting song in itself due to it’s lyrical content. To quote Randy: “I hate that song – every time I hear it, I want to cry.” Songs don’t really get much better than when they bring out emotion in the listener. Finally moving into Octavarium (the album), the band ventures forth into The Answer Lies Within, Sacrificed Sons, and the title track, Octavarium. It is in Octavarium that the full orchestra truly shines.

Octavarium begins with Jordan Rudess playing the Continuum and Lap Steel Guitar, just like the album version. The orchestra and band joins him for the rest of the intro, which sounds majestic – just like it should. Without detailing the entire 27 minute track, let me just say that the orchestral elements really shine throughout and LaBrie is awesome in this song. From the soothing vocals early on, to the Screamed “Trapped inside of this Octavarium”, he really kicks ass.

The song ends with a beautiful and emotional solo played by Petrucci with the orchestra (so awesome here – may be my favorite section of the entire concert) and band backing him, and the moment I had been waiting for – the French Horn ending. French Horns rock. This song just utterly kicked ass.

The mix of rock band and orchestra never sounded better, until the encore. Metropolis Part 1, the fan favorite which spawned the entire SFAM album (of which the actual title is Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory). If an avid Dream Theater fan were listening to or watching the concert, and was not aware of the track list, this song would have taken them by surprise (as it did the entire crowd at Radio City Music Hall that night). Normally, we are used to the audio intro coming on before the band starts playing. Instead, what we get here is Portnoy playing the hi-hat and the orchestra playing the intro to the song. Once the orchestra (complete with sleigh bells) begins playing, the crowd goes wild. Oh yeah. It is so sweet. Just as good, if not better than I imagined on April 2nd, when I first read the list of songs that were performed.

Sure, there were a bit of mixing issues in the song, where the orchestra became a bit too loud in the mix, but ultimately the song just works. In some ways, it may even be superior to the original recording. Yes, it is that good. I was happily amazed hearing the orchestra doing some of the difficult technical runs, normally played by Petrucci and Rudess, to near perfection. Did I mention that French Horns rock. I love the use of the horn in this song during the intro, verses, and choruses. And to top it all off, the final hit of the song with the full orchestra is brilliant.

Final Thoughts: Like I said earlier, this is probably the best concert I have ever seen – period. From LaBrie’s strong vocals, start to finish, to the superior chops of Rudess, Myung, and Petrucci, to Portnoy’s rock solid performance and smiling face throughout, to a live freaking orchestra, this concert has it all. The mix is solid throughout (with some minor issues here and there). You can even hear the bass stylings of John Myung clearly, something that is usually a DT fan complaint about live shows.

Now this is totally my opinion, but I truly believe that this live album is done so well that you can easily pick it up, listen to it, and at times forget that it is actually a live recording. It is that good. Yes Rickey – you who hateth that which is live recordings, should even get this. If not the CD, then definitely the DVD. It is a can’t miss for any DT fan, and anybody who likes concert DVDs/CDs. Sure, DT has a knack of kinda standing around while playing (lack of stage presence, if you will), but being technically superior to all other bands has it’s downside. It’s still awesome to see the close-ups of JP”s and JR’s solos (and MP and JM), so this doesn’t detract much from the experience.

A+++

And I’m spent. Yeah, I told you it would be long.

[tags]Dream Theater, Score, Music[/tags]

I’m only quarter Jewish…

Oh man. I like Mel Gibson, I really do. I think he is a fantastic actor. Braveheart is one of my top 5 all time favorite movies. But he does have a drinking problem. And he said some anti-semitic things while drunk… He asked for forgiveness. I forgive him.

But now he has a new website to explain his, erm, remarks – I Hate Juice dot com.

It’s messed up, yet it’s a bit funny. Someone had too much time on their hands to create this in 1 week.

[tags]Mel Gibson, I hate Juice[/tags]