Metallica night at the Sharks

So I attended the San Jose Sharks v LA Kings game last night. It was Metallica night! The Sharks’ theme song is Seek and Destroy by Metallica, and the bad were there doing interviews and giving away t-shirts. One cool thing is I got to see the Sharks 5000th franchise goal, and they won 4-2.

 

A night with ZZ Top and Guns N’ Roses

Despite being a music fan, I’ve only ever been to a few concerts: David Lee Roth, Aerosmith, Jimmy Barnes, Sammy Hagar, Van Halen, Garbage (along with Alanis Morrisette) and a few others. I’ve been to plenty of gigs at pubs and whatnot. Back in my Uni days I’d follow Chain around from pub to pub, and occasionally catch Dave Hole and other shows at smaller venues. Of all the bands that I’d been a fan of and had an influence on me, I’d pretty much seen them all.

There has always been two glaring omissions from this list. I have been a ZZ Top fan since before I can remember… early high school is where I started my appreciation for blues and I always considered ZZ Top, and in particular Billy Gibbons, to be the finest blues musician to ever pluck the guitar strings. This was way before 1984s Eliminator and 1986s Afterburner. Wailing blues just reached out and grabbed a hold of me in ways that were hard to explain.

I started Uni in 1988, and was exposed to more people and their musical tastes than during my time at high school. I was introduced to Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses. It was released six months prior, but for some reason I’d never heard it. There are twelve songs on this album, and from the intimidating, aggressive opening of “Welcome to the Jungle” to the close of the last song “Rocket Queen”, every song is powerful strong, and all merge together into a perfect album. Indeed, to this day it is the highest selling debut album in history and my introduction to Punk Metal, and I was hooked. No piece of media had grabbed my attention like this since the movie Blade Runner.

Anyhow, despite hemming and hawing and coming close a couple times and finding excuses such as unjustifiably high concert ticket prices I never actually saw either of these bands live. So it was with great surprise that Suzanne booked us two tickets for a double bill featuring both bands at the new Perth Arena!

Rose Tattoo were the openers. I have seen these guys a couple times at different places, but they were never my cup of tea. I recognised various songs, but I wasn’t there to see them and while they were enjoyable, I was getting restless to see my good friends Billy, Dusty and Frank.

They opened with “I Thank You” from their 1979 album Deguello, and while they didn’t go all the way back to ZZ Top’s First Album, there were plenty of songs from the early 70′s, through the 80′s, 90′s, 2000′s all the way up to a rockin’ “Gotsta Get Paid” from last year. Their repertoire covers five decades. They’ve played and stayed together for more than forty years! There aren’t many bands who can claim the same. Their concert was silky smooth, and almost effortless. It’s simply amazing how two guitars and a drum kit can sound so “full”, feeding the dynamic range from high to low frequencies. Billy Gibbons is simply amazing.

Compare this to Guns ‘N Roses, who have up to five guitars at a time on stage, plus keyboards and two sets of drums. I’m not saying one sounds better than the other, mind. It’s just mind blowing how Gibbons can seemingly play rhythm and melody at the same time, leaving bass to Hill.

Also, Axl Rose is the only current member from the original band. Not that having a revolving door it’s a bad thing either way, because it’s mostly about the music.

Guns N’ Roses played the best songs from Appetite for Destruction, Lies, Use Your Illusion I & 2 as well as the new songs from Chinese Democracy, which I’ll admit I didn’t recognise as I don’t have that album on my iPod. The show was great! Very enjoyable and memorable. Axl suffered from some poor reviews in the newspaper saying that he struggled with his range in some songs, but from where I was sitting he didn’t put a foot wrong.

In all, it was a great night, albeit a very tiring one as I’d only got off the plane from Singapore early that morning.

Now I have only two more concerts I ever want to go see: Oasis and Jamiroquai. If we ever find these two touring Australia on a double bill, you can bet we’ll be getting tickets.

 

My first personal music player

Behold, my first personal music player, which I laid down $800 for in 1996. The trusty Sony MZ-R30 Minidisc! Why Minidisc didn’t take over and rule the world is still a mystery to me.

Sony MZ-R30. The R stood for "Recording"

To copy an album, you’d link your MD recorder up your CD player using a cable. I used a digital TOSlink cable I payed $80 for, essentially a short fibre optic cable to carry the digital out signal from the CD to the MD.  And just like cassettes of old you’d press play on the CD while pressing record on the MD. Mine was super cool because I didn’t have to go back and add the track breaks later! And I had the fun of using the cool jog wheel to title the album and each of the tracks!

Back then, new music albums cost $25-$30. I figured I could buy blank MDs for about $2.50 each from Japan in bulk (blanks retailed for around $8-10 locally in Perth) and hire music from the old CD Library in Wellington St. I was friendly with the staff there and they’d let me hire 15-20 discs at a time instead of the usual 5. Anyone remember the CD Library? I think they had a branch in Fremantle too.

Looking back it would have been a total mindscrew to know that in 10-15 years Minidisc would be dead, and dedicated MP3 players would largely be a thing of the past as playing music is now an ancillary mobile phone function. But that’s the nature of consumer tech.

The best movie soundtracks

As you know I like movies. And I like music. Though I enjoy most movies and music, I have specific tastes in both. Sometimes, but not often, the two come together to form the perfect movie soundtrack. These are my favourites.

Blade Runner.

 It took an eternity for this soundtrack to be released. I owned a couple sub-par imitations of this soundtrack by the New American Orchestra and others, so every time I visited my local “reccastow” I’d search for the real deal. It wasn’t until about 15 years after the movie that this was actually released, but the wait was worth it. The entire album is laden with atmosphere and seduction, and each track flows into the next with well placed movie dialog. It’s a perfect companion to the best film ever made, and my favourite music to lose myself to when travelling on the train.

Paris, Texas.

When have so few notes said so much as when Ry Cooder’s slide guitar introduces Harry Dean Stanton emerging, parched, from the desert? Cooder adds another whole dimension to an already somber movie about a tortured soul with perfectly timed flowing musical commentary.

Tron Legacy

Daft Punk’s original score fits like a perfectly crafted digital glove over the hand of the perfect digital fantasy woman.

The Crow.

The hard driving, edgy, alt-rock tracks on this non-score movie soundtrack album with a mix of grunge, industrial and alternative perfectly captures the angsty atmosphere of the film. I understand that when the movie came out none of these tracks were available on regular albums. They were specifically created (chosen, at least) for this movie. The album punishes you one moment, and soothes you the next. As a soundtrack of independent songs brought together, it is unsurpassed.

Drive.

A friend recommended this soundtrack to me, and thinking that I knew better I decided to be polite and give it a listen so I’d stop being pestered. After one listen, though, I knew that this was going to be among my top five favourite soundtracks.Well, half of it anyhow. Most of the contents aren’t standalone pieces but need to be taken as a whole to work well. It wasn’t until I saw the movie the other night that I was impressed with how good this soundtrack really is. It perfectly matches the dark, brooding and intense atmosphere of this violent film. I highly recommend Drive as a soundtrack and a movie if you like music and film.

This what you’d call the “signature track”, I guess. Night Call by Kavinsky. Enjoy.

More than meets the eye

This is a little project I finished a while ago. I bought this non-working Panasonic cassette/radio from eBay for about $10 a couple years ago.

I then ripped the guts out and padded it with neoprene I bought from Clarke Rubber and used it as a case for my iPod.

OK, no I can’t control the iPod without opening the case. That takes a little more electronics skill than I possess. There isn’t enough room to make use of the existing headphone jack and port it through to the iPod, so I had to drill a hole. On the plus side, the silver locking mechanism you see on the bottom left still works, and it’s covered in sexy orange reflectors and just oozes 80s appeal. It’s pretty cool and gets some strange looks from other passengers when I’m on the train.

Kids remember the darndest things

We had a little trip on the weekend from my parents place out to the Busselton Jetty and accompanying Underwater Observatory. The jetty is 145 years old and, at almost 2km, is the longest timber-piled jetty in the southern hemisphere. The Underwater Observatory is like an aquarium in reverse letting you take a walk 8m below the waves to check out the sealife making it’s home in and around the jetty pylons.

While waiting for our scheduled tour, we had a walk around the local Pioneer Cemetery. For some reason the kids are obsessed with checking out names and dates on headstones in cemeteries, and always ask if we can stop and have a look if we have the opportunity. In that cemetery we found lots of names like “Bunbury” and “Bussell”, obviously after whom these South West towns were named after.

One caught my eye. The name on it was Samuel Isaacs and without reading the inscription, Suzanne and I both turned to each other and said “Wasn’t that the guy…?”. Turns out it was the guy, and we both remembered the story from our school days. Isaacs and another local girl by the name of Grace Bussell (after whom Gracetown is named) rode their horses through the surf into the ocean to rescue people from a sinking ship. They ferried people back to the safety of shore by dragging them behind their swimming horses. You can read more about it here.

Samuel Isaacs monument, Busselton

Samuel Isaacs monument, Busselton

On the way back the kids were disappointed to find that they brought the DVD covers but not the DVDs themselves so they couldn’t watch their favourite movie on the way home. You gotta hand it to them, though. It was a whole 6 minutes before the inevitable question came: “Are we there yet?”.

We stopped at a gas station for some road cokes (and chocolate milk for the kids) and while Suzanne way paying for them I dug out the trusty iPod as a backup with the intention of playing a little ZZ Top or Aerosmith. The Rolling Stones Forty Licks would surely get us home. When I plugged it in and pressed play, it was already playing Derezzed by Daft Punk from the Tron: Legacy sound track. Ashton said she wanted to listen to the entire album. Jett wasn’t so keen but it was he who left the DVDs behind so we let Ashton choose.

Ashton and Jett have seen Tron once only, and they really enjoyed it. Hey, it’s an enjoyable Disney movie so it’s understandable. But by listening to the soundtrack she was able to recall and describe pretty detailed parts of the movie. “This is the part where Sam meets Kevin Flynn for the first time. Only he’s CLU,” and “I remember this is where they are falling in the elevator,” and “This is where CLU gave his speech about “out there is our DESTINY“, but Kevin Flynn said the same thing about “in there” being our destiny at the start”. Derezzed is pretty much the signature track on the album, and instantly recognisable from the movie. But soundtrack albums also tend to have a lot of slower background atmospheric music, especially in scenes heavy on dialog. But Ashton knew pretty much where she was in the movie based only on seeing the movie and hearing the soundtrack once. Pretty impressive.