Saturday, October 31, 2009

Star Trek Fridays: Happy Halloween!

For Halloween, we're gonna celebrate Star Trek stylee. While there have been a handful of "horror" themed episodes throughout the Trek franchise, season 2 of The Original Series featured a very obvious "Halloween episode." It's not one of the classics, but it's somewhat charming in its own way and features something unique for Star Trek - some very non-human looking aliens (tip: gotta wait until the end for that payoff). This episode can be so ludicrous it's fun, and not a bad way to get prepped for a night of Halloween fun:

The Original Series - 2x7 - Catspaw
(note: the lamers at CBS seem to have turned embedding off. Weak.)

Enjoy the episode and have a Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

R.I.P. Chuck Biscuits [EDIT: Glad You're Alive!]

[EDIT: Turns out Chuck Biscuits is alive after all. Excellent news.]

One of of the most important figures in American Punk (and music in general) passed away last week. Chuck Biscuits was only 44. Some of his most important work was with bands like DOA, Black Flag, the Circle Jerks and Danzig. He also performed with such groups as Social Distortion and Run-D.M.C. To honor his memory, here's a video:

 R.I.P. Chuck Biscuits...


and a bootleg of his studio recordings with Black Flag (to me, despite the fidelity issues, these are the greatest recordings Flag ever did). I only have them in 128kbps mp3s. If anyone has an upgrade, I'd be happy to replace them:



Friday, October 23, 2009

Star Trek Fridays: Halloween Trek - The Pregame

While I was hunting for, well, something else on YouTube I came across a couple videos tagged as Halloween Star Trek videos. They are, uh, Voyager montages set to a couple of popular songs (one a Halloween classic and one just an all around rock n roll classic). Now, admittedly, Voyager isn't what we would call "good," but I was nonetheless entertained by these videos. So, to get us warmed up for next week I present you with two Star Trek: Voyager Halloween music video montages:






Have a good weekend, all!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saw Bob Dylan Last Night...


...and thought I'd do a little write-up. This was originally written for a webforum I frequent, and I've tried to weed out anything too referential to that particular community, but apologies if I miss something. Without further ado:

-Appetizer-

To set the scene, it's vaguely worth noting that Denver had a snow storm coming through which added a bit of atmosphere as folks were arriving but also seemed to have made a lot of folks late. The show was pushed back a short while to let folks get filtered in (the place was still half empty when the show started but when the lights came on after the encore the arena was totally packed. It had been a sellout show, iirc). The short wait just got the energy flowing a bit more, as happens at concerts sometimes.

So, much to the shame of my punk rock roots I didn't get the general admission floor SRO tickets but, instead, managed to snag a set of seats to the right of the stage and, well, they may have been the best seats I've ever had at a concert. As it happens, Dylan's keyboard was directly facing me so Bob and I were looking directly at each other the entire night (barring when he hopped up front, in which case I was still getting an awesome views of the proceedings. With the stage layout I got to see every member of the band clearly too). So, anyways, that probably helped make the concert even more awesome.

So, as has been circulated from other concert goers on this tour, the band configuration this time around was excellent. I've honestly enjoyed pretty much every backing band I've seen Dylan with, but having Charlie Sexton on guitar helped out a lot - and the rest of the band is no joke either. Here's the full backing lineup for those curious:

Bob Dylan - guitar, keyboard, harp
Tony Garnier - bass
George Recile - drums
Stu Kimball - rhythm guitar
Charlie Sexton - lead guitar
Donnie Herron - banjo, pedal steel, lap steel, Trumpet

Overall, as I mentioned last night, Bob Dylan seemed really on target throughout the show. I know from firsthand experience that sometimes his interest seems to waver on songs on any given night. But he seemed really dialed in last night, belting out songs and dancing around on his scrawny chicken legs (Dylan's really short and kinda scraggly). When he was out from behind the keyboards he was pointing and gesturing all over the place and just seemed really into it.

-Main Course-

Okay, onto the set:

Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again - This was a great arrangement of the song and maybe opening with a really strong version of the classic helped set the tone for Dylan. I had to help some folks around me identify all of these earlier songs since they sound so damned different now.
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel, Charlie on telecaster)

It Ain't Me Babe - In terms of the "classics," I never had a major hard-on for this song. I like it well enough, and this was (as per usual) an eminently enjoyable arrangement, but it just doesn't turn my crank as much as some other songs from that period. Still, good energy from Bob and the band, and notable since it's the only time Dylan picked up the guitar for the show. Side note: it's been interesting to see Dylan's instrument usage change over the near-decade I've been catching him live. When I first saw him he played electric guitar the whole show, with a few acoustic songs thrown into the mix. The next few times he was closer to 50/50 on guitar and keyboards. The last time I saw him I don't recall him actually playing guitar at all, tho I bet he did a few times (I could look it up, but whatever). In all those previous shows I don't remember him playing harp nearly as much as he did last night, and with Charlie Sexton on guitar, I'm just as happy with Bob focusing on keyboard and harp anyways.
(Bob on guitar, Donnie on pedal steel, Stu on acoustic guitar, Charlie on white Gretsch)

Beyond Here Lies Nothin' - One of the best tracks on the new album. Since it was just released this year, it doesn't sound too dissimilar from the recorded version, except maybe a little more ragged, which is a quality I like.
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on trumpet, Stu and Charlie on stratocasters)

Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine) - Now here's one I really, really love and the rendition last night was rockin' and rollin'. He had the crowd boppin' on this song.
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel, Stu on acoustic guitar, Charlie on stratocaster)

Cold Irons Bound - This was the performance of the night for me (although the next song is a close second). Bob's at the front playing harp and singing and the song just captures the essence of all the turmoil and emotion of today, which is actually a theme that ran throughout the evening (for anyone familiar with the songs, ya'll know what I mean). This song has aged well since it was first released.
(Bob center stage on harp, Donnie on lap steel, Stu on telecaster, Charlie on black Epiphone)

Workingman's Blues #2 - This follow up song to "Cold Irons Bound" struck as much of a chord as that song, and carried a lot of the same themes, emotionally. Even more potent than when it was released a few years ago, Bob's take on the song was equal parts defiance and eulogy. One of my favorite recent Dylan songs, with a tremenous live performance last night.
(Bob center stage on harp, Donnie on pedal steel, Stu on acoustic guitar, Charlie on stratocaster)

High Water (For Charley Patton) - Bob's back on the keyboards and things get a little more rockin' again. Still, the lyrics are pretty intense when you stop to listen to them. This must be one of Bob's favorite songs to play as it seems to appear in the vast majority of sets he's played since the song was released. That's fine since it's such a good number. I'd go so far as to say one of his all time best.
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on banjo, Stu on acoustic guitar, Charlie on telecaster, Tony on standup bass)

Spirit on the Water - Another great song from Modern Times. Played a little faster with more rock & roll in the mix than the album version. I like both but this arrangement was more appropriate for the evening. A nice showcase for the versatility of the backing band, too.
(Bob on keyboard then center stage on harp, Donnie on pedal steel, Stu on telecaster, Charlie on stratocaster, Tony on standup bass)

Honest With Me - Another really solid track from Love and Theft. This was never one of my go-to songs on that album, but the rendition from Bob was beautiful and it's a darn well constructed piece of songery.
(Bob center stage on harp, Donnie on lap steel, Stu on stratocaster, Charlie on telecaster)

Man in the Long Black Coat - Ahhh, the "unusual" Dylan song choice which seems to crop up every show. In the past I've been treated to him playing cuts like "Song to Woody," "Under the Red Sky," and "In the Summertime" (the last one was, I believe, the first time he'd played it live. Or first tour anyways). I'm embarrassed to say it actually took me until the song was about 3/4 of the way through to remember which album it's from (Oh Mercy, one of his best efforts in the 80s). Another song which played into the rather somber theme (lyrically, anyways) of the evening. Also of note is the double whammy of Bob on keyboards and then playing some magnificent harp for this song.
(Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on lap steel, Stu on acoustic guitar, Charlie on telecaster)

Highway 61 Revisited - A fantastic rendition of this classic, people all around me were audibly commenting on how good this version was. I was worried this was going to be the beginning of Bob starting to fade and just perfunctorily going through the "classics" to finish out the show, but he stayed lively throughout. Fun stuff.
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel, Stu on stratocaster, Charlie on telecaster)

When The Deal Goes Down - Another excellent choice from Modern Times. I'll use this opportunity to say that, overall, this crowd more than any other Bob show I've been to was really keyed into his new material. His new stuff was getting just as big applause as any of his old songs, and maybe even bigger in a few cases. That said, due to the heavy amount of new material, their was a rather small but irritatingly vocal minority of folks bitching about him "playing all these songs we've never heard before." Luckily, most of the complaints I heard were shot down by fellow concert goers, although some of the ill will seemed to take the form of shouting out requests for classic songs, which seems inappropriate to me. It's Bob fucking Dylan after all, not some shitty bar band. It'd be like going to see Jerry Lee Lewis or something and shouting requests at him because you weren't satisfied with the song selections. The dude's a goddamned legend, he can play what he wants.
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel, Stu on acoustic guitar, Charlie on white Gretsch, Tony on standup bass with bow)

Thunder On The Mountain - Holy crap, another Modern Times song! He must luuuuurve that album (I do too). A rollicking rendition, even more rockin' than the album take. Since their had been some particularly annoying bitching behind me about song selection right before and during this cut, I made sure I was on my feet whoopin' and hollerin' throughout (as were almost all the crowd)! This is also, apparently, the first song in a preconfigured end to the show and encore, so all these songs were playing like a well oiled machine.
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel, Charlie on silver telecaaster)

Ballad Of A Thin Man - Oh hell yeah. One of my favorite tracks from 60s Dylan and it hasn't lost any of its nastiness or contempt. I've heard comments that Bob can be a bit out to lunch for this song, but he seemed full of piss and vinegar last night. I never get tired of this song. I wonder if people who were complaining about the lack of familiar material realize the irony of them then getting excited about hearing this song. Maybe they should go back and listen to some of those '66 bootlegs. Marvelous track to end the main set on, too.
(Bob center stage on harp, Donnie on lap steel, Stu and Charlie on telecasters)

(Encore)

Like A Rolling Stone - If (if!) there was one flat song of the night, this was it. Don't get me wrong, it was still fun as hell, but I'm afraid that even with the "new" sound, there's a problem of over-familiarity with this tune. Bob didn't seem to throw himself quite as much into this one as the previous songs, and I honestly wasn't quite as interested either. It was still good times, but not quite as excellent as all the other songs had been. Still, it's not even a "blemish" on the show so much as just a slight tick down in radness for a moment. In retrospect, he should have played something off Knocked Out Loaded just to really piss off the folks who wanted to hear a greatest hits show.
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel, Stu on Les Paul, Charlie on silver telecaster)

Jolene - Ha, the only other song from Together Through Life. A great one too. A lighter tone than a lot of the rest of the set had been. Fun. Oh, and not a Dolly Parton cover either.
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel, Stu and Charlie on stratocasters, Tony on standup bass)

All Along the Watchtower - He closes with this one a lot, I think. Not quite as industrial sounding as when I saw him in Lincoln, but with Charlie Sexton the guitarwork was phenomenal. Dylan-covering-Hendrix-covering-Dylan, as they say. A nice, raucous song to end the show with. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

-Dessert-

And that was the end. At the moment the lights came on the evening had felt too short, but he played for about two hours. Time just flies when you're having fun, I guess. I had been saving some cash for souvenirs, so I picked up a t-shirt and event poster and called it a night. I'd say the vast majority of the crowd had been thoroughly pleased with the show, and I was actually close enough to the stage and with a good enough view of everything that it looked to me that even Bob had a satisfied expression on his face as he and the band were exiting.

So, yeah, maybe this was even better than the Lincoln, NE show. What it lacked in crowd mayhem it made up for in spades by being the most consistently excellent Dylan performance I have been treated to yet. I'll be remembering this one for the rest of my life, I think.

Further Reading:
Bob Links - 10/21/09 Set List
BobDylan.com - Concert Page
Denver Post/Reverb Concert Review

Monday, October 19, 2009

(A Little) On Gay Rights

Sorry for the lack of updates, life has been interfering a bit so I haven't been posting. Anyways, just wanted to point out a little tidbit that Gene brought to my attention:

In March, American anti-gay activists traveled to Uganda for a conference that pledged to “wipe out” homosexuality. Seven months later, a draconian bill has been introduced that pledges to make good on this threat. The “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009” is so severe that it is designed to shred the spirit and suffocate the soul of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Ugandans. If it passes, Uganda will become a predator state that actively hunts down GLBT people to destroy them.

Uganda already punished gay intimacy with life in prison. But, apparently that was not harsh enough, with this bill penalizing anyone who “attempts to commit the offence” with up to seven years in jail. Additionally, a person charged will be forced to undergo an invasive medical examination to determine their HIV status. If the detainees are found to be HIV+, they may be executed.

This barbaric legislation stifles free speech by threatening anyone who is accused of “promoting” homosexuality with five to seven year prison sentences. Snitching on gay friends and family members is strongly encouraged because “failure to disclose the ‘offence’ within 24 hours of knowledge makes somebody liable to a fine or imprisonment of up to three years.”
Hmmm... terrible stuff, obviously. Locally, I think the biggest thing to take away from this is that for folks who involve themselves in anti-gay coalitions these are the consequences of your actions. Your money, the power you give to those in and out of office who perpetuate the anti-gay agenda, the rhetoric, the contemptuous religious bigotry, all of it. Maybe most folks just think of it as denying their fellow human being a few rights here and there, but the beast they help create isn't content to simply cease at some arbitrary line of "reasonable repression."

The sad truth is that this is a common tactic for evangelical powers like The Fellowship: harness in-state contempt of unprotected populations or hot button issues, amass wealth and power from the outraged citizenry, and then export that wealth and power to exact an even more hardline policy in other countries around the world. It's not just GLBT issues, evangelical churches having been using this tactic successfully for years in their fight against sexual education and their fight against controlling the spread of AIDs (aided by the U.S. government in this case).

The causes we support and the institutions we ally with have consequences. Global consequences that can mean life or death for many, many people.