Friday, March 21, 2014

Hub City Stompers: Three Times, Eight Days

In somewhat less than a two week period, I managed to find time to sneak in seven shows in the Northeast across three states.  The band I saw the most times was the Hub City Stompers, who I must admit I had never seen before, despite being a lifelong resident of New Jersey and having gone to more than my fair share of ska shows in New York City.  Actually, at the Big Apple Stomp was the first and only time I saw Inspecter 7.  By all rights, I should have been a fan earlier, either due to connections or access, but Radical Records never really hit me the way Moon Ska did and their track's position on Oi/Skampiliation Volume 1 did not lend itself to more review by me as it is between Ray Gun Sally by the Slackers and Rudy Don't Fear by the Insteps, which I always forwarded to, given how absolutely mindblowingly good the Insteps were. 

So, more armed with knowledge of their music, I planned to see them in Poughkeepsie, since they were opening for Pilfers, who I would definitely drive two hours for without question and then last Friday at Asbury Lanes.  The Friday before, I was sitting around my apartment with little to do and said, screw it, let's go to Dingbatz for their first show back.  Earlier in the day, I had familiarized myself with their sound with some of their music on Spotify.  I actually thought Dirty Jersey was a very good CD and when I arrived purchased the CD from the merchandise table, so I could listen to it in my car and without commercial interruption. 

As an aside, I am a big fan of the merchandise table.  It allows me, the consumer, an opportunity to provide direct, material support to the bands whose music I enjoy.  Generally, I spend less on a CD than I used to spend on lunch when I worked in Jersey City, unless it is the Slackers merchandise table, where I just buy everything I don't own.  But it allows me to make that direct impact, which is why I always go over the merchandise table and see if there is something I don't own or want.  Over the course of three shows, I purchased Dirty Jersey, Mass Appeal, Baa Baa Black Sheep and a Hub City Stompers T-Shirt, even though I don't actually wear T-Shirts outside of my apartment.  But again, that isn't the point.  If I want to be able to go to more Hub City Stompers or Slackers or Pilfers or Sammy Kay shows in the future, then I should buy merchandise for them, to make what they do financially viable for them to allow me to have fun.  As a random point, I was actually disappointed the Copacetics didn't have a CD in Rhode Island for me to buy, since I couldn't support them directly that night. 

As to the Hub City Stompers, they put on three great shows in eight days.  Each show was different, which is harder to do when you have a catalog of 30 songs instead of 150 songs like the Slackers.  Their sound is somewhat hard for me to describe.  There are definitely ska punk elements found in the music, but the not the lyrical sound of the band, which thanks to Rev Sinister takes on more of a toaster feel.  To draw an analogy, I have to move toward the Pilfers, but with a more fun, sarcastic take on their sound. 

To be polite, their lyrics definitely push boundaries and think if you don't have a good sense of humor, might be inadvertently construed as offensive.  But the lyrics are also exceptionally clever, which is very surprising from ska bands, who are notorious for thinking they are far more clever than they actually are.  But here, topics are pushed and pulled in ways you don't expect and usually in an enjoyable way.  Their horn work is very good as well, which is critical for a ska band.  It's not the subtle, intricate work of the Slackers, but it is a full on bombast designed to complement the punk and oi overtones of many of their songs. 

And their stage show is great.  Rev Sinister and Jenny Whiskey have great stage presence and chemistry together, doing bits together in perfect time.  The rest of the band plays strong and has just enough personality to not be completely overshadowed by the front of the stage.  Admittedly, they are one of those bands I could see three times in eight days and would definitely want to see again.  If I still believed in regret for what I did or did not do with my life in the past, I would regret not getting into the Hub City Stompers sooner, but I can only atone for that by going to more shows while they are in the area. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Look, My Fantasy Premier League Team is Famous!

For the last four years, I've played Fantasy Premier League, after we were introduced to soccer through a former co-worker who was a big fan for many years during World Cup 2010.  He felt we needed to have a league where we would pick players and jaw at each other for 38 gameweeks to get us to watch soccer.  Well, it worked, because four years ago, I never watched soccer, but now it is by far my favorite sport and really the only sport I go out of my way to watch on television. 

Now, in our work league, I am the two-time defending champion after a bad run my first season while I got an understanding of the rules of Fantasy Premier League understood.  I'm also nursing a 35 point lead with eight gameweeks to go and am very excited to be the three-time defending champion in the league, because bragging rights beat everything else in life and lording over people you know in a meaningless competition is one of life's great joys. 

This year, I broke down and sprung the $15 to join the Fantasy Football Scout in order to maintain my edge and win three years in a row.  Sometimes, you just need some additional OPTA statistics, sortable tables and members only articles to enhance your experience.  One of the benefits of being a member was being able to join the Members Cup this year, as a member of the site. 

Well, last week, I strategically played my wild card in advance of a pending double gameweek, where certain teams will play twice, allowing me to get to 22 games played instead of 11.  Having drafted a new team without penalty, I posted an excellent score, which ranked me 12,100 out of over 3,500,000 teams.  In doing so, my team was listed in the Members Cup article this week, as my team was the joint highest scoring team in the league.  I shouldn't enjoy this small piece of insignificant fame as much as I do, but I really do enjoy seeing my team or more correctly my user name of Idiottax in lights...or at least bolded with a hyperlink. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In Which That Hissing Sound Truly Was Fire Or How Not to Cook Your Corned Beef

Yesterday, the local supermarket, not requiring the effort of operating a motorized vehicle was out of corned beef, almost as an affront to the eight Irish residents in this town.  So, I was forced to wait to eat corned beef until after St. Patrick's Day, which admittedly is about the only non-racist part of the holiday. 

But today, the grocery store requiring motorized transport was full of corned beefs, mostly by virtue of not being in a specialized community.  So, I purchased a corned beef and headed over to the local liquor store to purchase a Guinness, because everyone who knows how to boil cow flesh in a pot knows you need pickling spice and Guinness to make it taste great. 

I arrive home, put the corned beef in the bottom of the pot, then reach into the blood filled bag to fish out the pickling spice, which was taped on the inside of the bag.  After a nice rinse for myself and the pickling spice, I coat the piece of beef with spice and add water to cover the meat.  After doing so, I then put 22 ounces of Guinness in the pot and put it on the stove for the boiling process.  I figured after 20 or so minutes, I could reduce the heat to simmer and cook until an hour after I get bored.

Pot on stove, I return to my couch to watch Chelsea and Galatasaray.  The volume on the television was not especially loud, since I have neighbors and am surprisingly not hearing impaired.  After about 15 or so minutes, I hear this hissing sound.  I look over at the heater and see nothing, but wisely decide to mute the television.  The hissing sound was fairly loud, so I walk into the kitchen and see a pot just about to be covered in flames.  Big, red, scary flames like you would paint on a car.

So, I casually walk over to the stove and turn off the gas.  Flames miraculously subside, decreasing the likelihood my apartment was about to burst into a fireball.  I put on some oven mitts and decide to move the corned beef from the stove.  Underneath was a pool of brownish liquid where the corned beef boiled over and was clearly made of previously burning Guinness and water.  So, I take some paper towels and slowly sop up all of the liquid.  Seeing the pot was dry from not springing a leak, I put it on the burners on the other side of the stove on a lower flame in the hope of finishing my dinner without starting a fire.

So, now my apartment smells like someone was burning a Guinness, which is surprisingly more pleasant than one would expect and I learned a valuable lesson, check your corned beef after ten minutes, since Guinness burns.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Slackers at 89 North: Not At All Like Chelsmford Prison

While I had high hopes for the show, I had low hopes for Long Island.  Aside from driving the endless highways reminiscent of Connecticut, 89 North might be the nicest place I ever see a ska show.  Patchogue is a town on the rise, full of antique stores, theatres and mediocre pizza, like many of the nicer towns I've encountered in New Jersey.  And the club was immaculate, with a huge stage, two bars, plenty of room to have a good crowd and great acoustics.  So, my hopes for Long Island, aside from paying $15 to enter Staten Island from the rest of New York, were well met. 

When I arrived at the show, the opening act was on stage.  I can neither tell you whether the band was good or not, because their style, with a white guy looking like a rapper and someone with samples prominently involved did little for me, but their keyboard player was very attractive, which is the nicest thing I can say about their work. 

With an early start, I was excited that I might get home by midnight after being out until 5 AM driving home from Rhode Island the night before.  With a big stage, I was once again able to get right to the front of the stage, by Vic's organ and prepared for a second set of the Slackers in a 24 hour period.  It was almost like going to a boat show, except I replaced my utter hatred of watercraft with 600 miles of driving...a fair trade in my book. 

I was also glad I went to see the Slackers in Rhode Island the night before.  As they always change sets, they did not have Sarah or And I Wonder? on the set list for the night.  But Married Girl was added for Sunday night's show and Married Girl never disappoints.  In fact, when the Slackers started off Married Girl, Vic decided he didn't want to play the song and took advantage of being in Long Island to play a few bars of Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, much to the chagrin of the rest of the band.  The band then segued right into Married Girl, which was excellent as always. 

The band also played a fair number of rarities.  I mean, they played Schooling the Youth, which is on The Slackers and Friends, which almost never gets anything off it played live, but that is the joy of tri-state area shows, you get a mix of songs you always want to hear, like Wasted Days, Have the Time and Runaway and you get deep, deep cuts, because there is a portion of the fan base that goes to more Slackers shows than my sixteen times.

During Runaway, Vic finished the lyrics to Scenes from an Italian Restaurant and I can say it is by far the best cover of a Billy Joel song I've ever heard.  However, during the encores, my request for What Went Wrong was shutdown by Glen Pine, but I assume that was solely due to my failing to provide my lyric from the audience the previous night, which is better than any other narrative I can cobble together.  They played Self-Medication instead, which I think I've heard once or twice before live, so I can live with that as well.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Slackers at Manchester 65: The Best Reason to Drive 200 Miles Each Way

The Slackers are my favorite band.  Last night, despite living in Central Jersey, I drove 200 miles, which took just over four and a half hours, thank you New York traffic, to see the Slackers at Manchester 65.  I nearly was unable to find the club, since I was not expecting Manchester 65 to be a formerly abandoned factory, surrounded by real abandoned factories, in a residential area.  I expect tonight's show at the 89 North in Patchogue to actually be located in the middle of Chelmsford, given some of the fine places I've been in the last few weeks.  Amazing, I arrived in time to see the first band and was struck by how much the place looks like someone shoved a bar and a stage in an abandoned factory.  Really, the opposite of the Chance in Poughkeepsie. 

But I made it in time to see the first band, Coronado, which might have been good, but sadly did not have the experience with getting the volumes right, but when you see people in a band half your age, you realize that is part of the learning curve.  The Ocean Roots were a very pleasant surprise, reminding me of the Pilfers, with a large trombone sound and a surprisingly non-offensive sample deck.  Finally, the Copacetics came on and were excellent, a nice slow down with more traditional sounds leading up to the Slackers.  Really, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the opening acts, which is always a plus. 

Finally, the Slackers were ready to play.  As I always try to do, I got right up in front on Vic's side of the stage.  I saw that Marcus passed out the setlist for the night.  Usually, I try to avoid looking at the list, in order to be surprised, but I couldn't help but look at the she right in front of me.  I also avoid looking, so I don't get that small pang of disappointment seeing that once again the Slackers are not playing Sarah or some song I really want to hear was not listed.  Of course, with a deep catalog of over 100 songs, almost all of which are excellent, the set is always fantastic.  However, I quickly noticed Sarah, which was part of the reason I drove 200 miles, since it seems they are more likely to play Sarah away from New York than near it. 

Then, my heart rose as I saw And I Wonder?, which is my second favorite Slackers song and contains my favorite line of all, "Counting all of the postcards I wrote but never sent", which sums my life up as neatly as any phrase ever will.  Despite 15 Slackers shows, I only heard it live once, way back in 1998 if memory serves me and seldom find it appearing on any of their live songs available anywhere, save the live Maxwell's show they released as part of their Big Tunes money raising reaching $30,000.  Of course, the show is uncut, so I don't have it as a track, but like all great Slackers shows, always worth a full listen. 

So, the hour arrives and the Slackers take the stage.  The show was, of course, magical.  I'm always impressed by the entire band and they delivered.  The set was full of songs from The Question, Better Late Than Never, and Wasted Days, three of the finest albums ever released.  Surprisingly, nothing from Close My Eyes, with nary an Old Dog to be heard for the first time in a forever for me and only one song from Redlight.  But this speaks to the depth of the Slackers catalog.  I think they could legitimately come up with 23 different songs for tonight and put on an equally amazing set.

Each solo and song feels intentionally picked out.  I never go away anything less than blown away by one of Dave Hillyard's incredibly long solos or watching him play the solo from the Fool with just one hand.  And the way Agent Jay just plays a tremendous solo which fits the song, even if it wasn't in the original.  Of course, I can never say enough good things about Vic and the way he leads so many of the songs and plays the organ. 

In addition to the amazing musicianship, the stage show was excellent.  The banter was always witty and fresh.  Vic managed to get the entire crowd to scream out the bass part to Wasted Days after destroying a beer on stage to open the encore, followed by some very funny shotgunning.  Glen was really great getting the crowd involved, though when I had the microphone shoved in my face, my mind went blank on the chorus of Attitude, which shames me to no end and in my youth would have led me to not going to tonight's show or at least hanging back, instead of jamming myself on the stage. 

I remain excited to see them again, which will be my 16th Slackers show and hold out the dream tonight is the night I am there when they play Stars live.  Though I'd easily settle for hearing This is the Night or really, whatever they want to play, it's all amazing and completely worth the 400 miles and 8 hours I spent in the car yesterday and the 200 miles and 5 hours I'll spend in the car today. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pilfers, Hub City Stompers and The Chance in Poughkeepsie

Saturday night, I made my first ever trip to Poughkeepsie.  There is something irresistible about a Pilfers show where there is hope that Vinny Nobile is back with the band.  Worried about a sellout, I pre-purchased my ticket a few days ahead of time and leave to arrive by 7 PM for the doors opening.  Amazingly, I avoid getting lost, even at the end and make the trip in two hours flat.  Arriving at a parking lot, I see another couple clearly heading to the show, given their ska fan appearance and some small amounts of checkerboard. 

Arriving, I see Rev Sinister from the Hub City Stompers standing outside, which is always a good sign the show is going on, but learn two things.  One, the club is not opening until 7:30 PM and two, Mephiskapheles and Rude Boy George pulled out of the show.  The first ended up being the far worse news, since I refuse to wear a jacket to a show unless required by long walks, but the second meant that I would see the bands I would enjoy the most from the original lineup only.

So, I brave the mean streets of Poughkeepsie and head over to the Family Dollar, which looked like the most inviting place to spend fifteen or so minutes.  Aside from the panhandler who hit me up for money, the trip was uneventful, but I would say the urban decay would not encourage me to ever go to Poughkeepsie without great reason.  Walking back, we only have to wait another 15 minutes in the cold for the door, which was fine, since it was about 40 out and I was wearing a short-sleeve soccer jersey.  And I'm immune to the cold. 

Going inside, I see this amazing concert venue, which could only exist in a blighted area.  The Chance is a 1920s theatre with two levels, a pit area, tables, and a sizable bar.  It speaks to you if you like antiquity and history in your life, which I certainly do.  The bathrooms are in a deep cellar, which I did not care for at all, but you cannot have everything in an old building.  The acoustics are also excellent, which is not surprising, considering it is two stories and designed as a theatre back when people cared about aesthetics.  As a venue, you could only ask for a better location, but I would not call the area unsafe, unless you are not aware of your surroundings. 

There was also a merchandise area, which I am a sucker for, if for no other reason than I like supporting what I enjoy.  I saw that Coolie Ranx, the front man for the Pilfers was manning his own table, with whom I suspect was his wife.  I decide that after seven Pilfers shows, I need a Pilfers shirt and ask him about the blue and orange Pilfers shirt.  When he didn't have it in the arena, he was nice enough to go out to his car and get another bag of merchandise in order to find the shirt in my size.  I purchase the shirt and thank him for his efforts and the great shows over the years.  We even talked for a moment about the record release party for Chawalaleng back in 1999, which was a crazy and amazing show in a super no vacancy Wetlands.  I also picked up another Hub City Stompers CD, because I greatly enjoyed Dirty Jersey, purchased at the prior night's show. 

The Hub City Stompers came on and I managed to score a good standing area at eye level near the bar under an awning.  As with the night before, they put on a really great show, with some very clever, but admittedly non-PC lyrics.  Also, for a band putting on their first two shows in over a year, they have great chemistry and stage presence, to go along with some really great Oi-infused ska.  I enjoyed myself so much, I'm going to see them again, this Friday, at Asbury Lanes

Finally, I saw the Pilfers set up and was super excited.  I knew Vinny Nobile played with the Pilfers in mid-January, which was the reason I decided to drive two hours to see them, but was slowly crushed by the presence of an organ, which Vinny does not play.  I knew this meant the other trombone player who performed with them at the Big Apple Stomp would be performing this night.  Now, back in May 2013, he was what I would charitably call, not very good, then shown up by Vinny Nobile playing a few songs with his trademark style and sound.  In retrospect, the biggest issue was trying to play the trombone into a standing microphone like most people, unlike Vinny, who puts a wireless mic at the front of his trombone.  Well, I noticed that Ben was doing the same thing...and I drove all the way there...and Coolie was super nice to me, so I was willing to give it a chance. 

And I was not disappointed in the least.  They opened with the Intro and Dr. Kevorkian from their debut album and Coolie was great and the rest of the sound was there.  It wasn't quite as good as Vinny Nobile playing with the Pilfers, but then again, I don't think anyone plays the trombone as well as he does in this context.  For most of the night. though Yakuza and Show No Fear were a little off (but played back to back, like I do in my car), but not to ruin the experience, the horn parts sounded roughly similar, with the right level of sound, critical to get that real Pilfers sound.  And the rest of the band were great as always.  Coolie puts on a great show and even put the microphone to me in the audience to yell into, which never happened at any of the other 100 or so shows I've been to in the past. 

Given that, I went back, bought the first Pilfers album on LP to eventually hang on my wall, realized that I was hoarse from singing for the last hour fifteen, like Coolie wanted us to be, then headed home, knowing that I would pretty much go see any Pilfers show within a reasonable distance, which is probably shorter than Rhode Island, but further than Delaware.  In essence, the Pilfers are still one of the best live experiences you will ever see from a ska band and definitely something you should never miss unless required by work, law or unreasonable travel. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dave Hillyard & the Rocksteady 7: 15 Years in the Waiting

In full disclosure, I purchased Playtime by David Hillyard & the Rocksteady 7 on its release day about 15 years ago, give or take six months.  And somehow for the next fifteen years, despite never living more than a public transportation trip from New Jersey, I always managed to avoid going to one of their shows.  Most of my excuses fall into either I was unaware they were playing or Brooklyn is about as friendly a place to go by public transportation as a wolverine's den, especially if you need to stay late.  Last weekend, they played in Brooklyn, which I convinced myself to skip under the modified version of public transportation to Brooklyn, which was driving to Brooklyn and having nowhere to park the car on the snow covered streets when I get there.  Really, just a life of excuses. 

So, on short notice, the Crazy Baldhead appearance in New York scheduled for last night was changed to a Dave Hillyard & the Rocksteady 7 appearance, in Manhattan, on a Sunday night starting at 10:30 PM.  Dave also promised to play three songs from Dave Hillyard Presents California, which in my estimation is the best album to come out in at least five years and probably a good deal longer.  In my youth, I would have used the time as an excuse not to go or something else.  And even yesterday, I was close to not going, sitting in my apartment by myself, with nothing pressing lined up for today.  It would be my third show of the weekend, which I never accomplished in my youth and going to NYC is always a pain.  Excuses mounted in the corner, ready to leave me to watch the True Detective finale live.  But rather than just sit around, I committed to going, remembering something important I learned recently, there is never a time I went to a show and regretted it. 

I make the epic 10 minute walk to the train station and arrive in plenty of time to see the set at the Drom.  The Drom was an especially posh bar for its location, located downstairs and downtown on Avenue A.  A little early, I head inside and order what turns out to be a nine dollar Heineken Light, which in my estimation was a good deal for the location.  Hoping for once in my life that a show would start on time, my dream was dashed as 10 PM rolled past.  Instead, prior to going on the DJ was playing a great selection of Skatalites songs, which is oxymoronic, given how few, if any, Skatalites songs are anything other than great.  Still, considering it is one of those bands I never found the right CDs to purchase, it was an enjoyable setup.

The show started and was a great experience I should have availed myself of earlier in my life. All of the songs were full of life.  A tremendous and by tremendous, I mean best, version of I Can See Clearly Now was played by the band.  They played Won't Back Down, Guilty and Green Dolphin Street from California live, with Guilty being my favorite song of the night, mostly because I might have been the only person in the crowd who knew every word in the song by heart due to listening to the song 150 or so times over the last nine months.  The rest of the nearly hour and a half set was filled with tremendous ska, reggae and rocksteady sounds, lots of tremendous horn work and even a special appearance by Buford O'Sullivan, who I hadn't seen on stage since he was with the Toasters back in 2001 at the Wetlands. 

The most impressive part of the show was of course, Dave Hillyard.  With my 15th Slackers show set for Sunday, I've seen Dave play many times over the last sixteen years, though admittedly, I almost always end up on Vic Ruggiero's side of the stage, since he does most of the banter and interaction, along with Glen Pine.  While Dave Hillyard is by far my favorite saxophone and really any brass instrument player, he doesn't need to be the personality tour de force for the Slackers in addition to being one of their musical tour de forces.  But tonight, as the star of the show, he had tremendous stage presence as well, which I usually don't get to see.  He comfortably told some great stories and anecdotes and genuinely seemed to be happy doing what he does best, which is play the saxophone.  For the last song of the night, he let everyone else go first, then said something to the effect of needing to come up with his solo and put together an absolutely awesome and inspired two, two and a half minute solo.  It was another show which reminded me why I love going to shows and why I would definitely go out of my way to see Dave Hillyard play with the Rocksteady 7 again.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hardcore at 35

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I would be at a show at age 35, where hardcore was prominently featured.  Yet, last night, as I was sitting around my apartment, I decided what the heck and headed off to the Hub City Stompers show at Dingbatz, even though I'm going to see them open for the Pilfers tonight in Poughkeepsie. 

Opening for the Hub City Stompers were both Mental Abuse and Social Decay.  I caught the tail end of Decrepit Youth, but really got there to see Mental Abuse hit the stage.  My understanding is they were something of a thing in the 1980s, which was readily apparent from seeing them on stage.  The average age of the band members had to be 55, which leads me to believe there is an emerging market for old man hardcore.  The lead singer was a balding fellow who looks like the neighbor from hell, as he sung to the left and right of the stage, but never straight ahead.  Now, when I watch a hardcore band, I expect a burlier singer, at least that was the trend 15 to 20 years ago, when I actually went to hardcore shows of my own volition.  The rest of the band all wore hats and might have been confused as a Grateful Dead cover band if you were deaf.  The music though was appropriately raucous, as you would expect from a hardcore band.  But I just stood there and could not get past the fact our heroes and other people's heroes get old and grey.

Social Decay was actually a far better band.  They managed to get that old fashioned, wall of sound that hardcore is notorious for going throughout the club, which had low ceilings and painfully loud acoustics.  They also looked like a hardcore band, with a stocky guy wearing a hardcore shirt with a bastardized Hartford Whalers logo on the front of the shirt.  Even though, all hardcore lyrics are indecipherable and there was limited breaks between songs, making it hard to know when the shifts were coming, they put on a good set.  I also enjoyed their set went on late, because the drummer needed to go to a Daddy/Daughter dance, which was both touching and ridiculous as we all clutch at the fading remains of our youth.  Not a good enough to get me to listen to hardcore on its own, but good enough to enjoy in the moment.

One non-hardcore aside, King Django has an interesting idea for a horn section.  Usually, you mix and match different horns to get variation in sound.  However, with his regular saxophone player in tow and two members of the Hub City Stompers on hand who play the saxophone, he went for the three saxophone lineup, which mostly consisted of Django's regular saxophone player doing most of the heavy lifting, while everyone else did a lot of standing around, since about 1/3 of the way through, everyone realized three saxophones is not better than one.  Bonus points, the Hub City Stompers trombone player, not on stage.  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

QPW: Well Worth the Wait Review

If you don't already own Quintessential Pro Wrestling's (QPW) Well Worth the Wait, go buy it now.  Seldom is there a new wrestling promotion which puts out a great, must own product, but QPW is the exception to this rule.  Their first two shows are available on YouTube, but this show was the first you can own and support the company from anywhere in the world. 

Even though this show took place the day after PWG's DDT4 2014, this show made it from taping to doorstep in under 14 days, while I impatiently wait for tomorrow's DDT4 ship date and early next week's arrival date. The DVD arrived about two weeks ago, I was finally able to get some time to sit and devote to watching the DVD, rather than leaving it on the background while I do something else like I do with most other wrestling DVDs. 

To be honest, there is a lot to be excited for on this card.  The first Kevin Steen/Chris Hero match since Hero's return from the WWE and the only time I've seen a wrestler change gear middle of the match, Joey Ryan wrestling Cheerleader Melissa, Willie Mack!, Brian Cage!!!, Candice LaRae and Christina Von Eerie in an intergender tag match against PPRay, a mat classic between Kyle O'Reilly and Brian Kendrick and Drake Younger against Adam Thornstowe, who I've heard a lot about and was excited to see.

Outside of PWG, there is almost never a card where I am excited to watch all of the matches.  Even Ring of Honor will have a few matches where I'm like, oh boy Jimmy Jacobs and BJ Whitmer, there's a match I don't need to see.  But this is an amazing card which delivers. 

Before discussing some of the matches in further detail, the rest of the disc is very good.  Having Excalibur and Nigel McGuinness as the commentators was an excellent choice.  Even though they started off trying to work this as a family show, once they found their groove and watched Joey Ryan wrestle Cheerleader Melissa, the commentary became a bit more risque, but you do realize that Excalibur relies are far more than just his great storytelling and knowledge of adult topics, as he excels at telling the story of a wrestling match.  Nigel is a good compliment to Excalibur, more from the school of people who want you to believe in the physics of wrestling, which is a nice change of pace. 

The camera work is good as well.  I thought the hard cam was a little far away from the ring, but that is likely due to the nature of the building.  However, the lighting is correct (go watch a ROH DVD from before 2010 to see how hard that is to get right) and the camerawork from the floor was good as well, capturing the action from a different angle.  I actually expected this to be the hardest part to get right, but fortunately for us, they are far ahead of most promotions out of the gate.

As always, the Joey Ryan as the evolutionary Andy Kaufman was excellent, with just the right amount of sleaze to tell the story and Cheerleader Melissa, aside from some weak strikes, was excellent in carrying most of the offense in the match.  Melissa's strikes were made worse by Candice LaRae and especially Christina Von Eerie's strikes in their match with PPRay, which in something of a surprise was one of the best matches of the night. 

The real disappointment of the night was the Chris Hero/Kevin Steen match.  The action and story telling was good, but I wanted it to go significantly longer, even though Kevin Steen went from regular Steen to Young Bucks Steen during the middle of the match, though I suspect I will see this match again in the next few months in some promotion.  The same could also be said of the O'Reilly/Kendrick match, which I think could have went another three to five minutes as well, but as with Steen and Hero, the work in the ring was excellent. 

The main event was very good.  I think Thornstowe has a bright future in wrestling, but needs some additional polish.  Though admittedly, I have a soft spot for anyone who can get away with wearing And Out Come The Wolves trunks.  With a more unique finisher than the frog splash, something more high impact given his size, I think he can definitely be a regular in PWG and might even be the local guy who moves to the top of their cards.

As for Drake Younger, he was excellent as always.  He mixes in the right amount of technical wrestling and brawling and introduced just enough weapons to make the match interesting.  Drake also showed tremendous personality, including a spot which appeared on Kevin Steen's Weekend Escapades and going on commentary with Excalibur and Nigel during the match.  Really, I can watch Drake wrestle just about anyone and really enjoy it, so the fact this was a good main event with a true big match feel was no surprise. 

Anyway, go order the DVD.  It is a great product and gives you a chance to support a growing, local company. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sylvain Sylvain and Glen Matlock at Asbury Lanes

There is nothing more punk rock than going to a five hour show on a Tuesday night in the middle of nowhere.  Now, those of you who live in South Jersey might disagree with my sentiment toward Asbury Park, but having lived in New Jersey for over thirty years, I have only gone to Asbury Park for some kind of show and admittedly, Asbury Park is a far cry better than most of South Jersey, especially after the last decade of improvements. 

I was fencish about going to see the Sex Dolls at Asbury Lanes, since Asbury Park is not the easiest place to get to after leaving the Parkway and I'm not really a New York Dolls fan.  But when I heard Vic Ruggiero was joining Sammy Kay to open the show, I was priced in, as I have a hard time saying no to seeing Vic Ruggiero do anything. 

So, I arrive at Asbury Lanes in a timely fashion and was able to park my car just in front of the place, which was a little worrying.  Admittedly, the crowd for the night would best be described as intimate, but when you put on an acoustic punk rock show in New Jersey on a Tuesday night, that is always a risk. 

Sammy Kay opens the show, accompanied by Vic Ruggiero and one of the members of the Fast Four.  I previously saw Sammy Kay with the Fast Four at Skalapalooza in 2012 and was not left impressed, though admittedly, that was a very long show for a Sunday and I was there to see Edna's Goldfish and the Pilfers.  In the interim, I heard a few of his other tracks and liked the sound, so I figured it was worth seeing him again.  Admittedly, even if I hated his work in the interim, knowing Vic Ruggiero would be there was enough to get me to attend.  This time, Sammy Kay was much better.  I would say the set was the second best of the entire night, as the music was far slower, more stripped down and traditional.  Vic mostly played the harmonica and sang on a few tracks, but that was more than sufficient to get me to pay $17 for a night of live music.

They were followed by Dez Cardona and Penny Farthings.  I can tell you they played a Velvet Underground cover, there was a bit where Dez played the guitar riff from Third Stone from the Sun by Jimi Hendrix, but otherwise, it was an interchangeable band, since I am not a Black Flag fan, which I suspect was most of the allure.

Finally, as 11 PM hit, Sylvain Sylvain hit the stage.  Not being a New York Dolls fan, I was not expecting much, but admittedly was blown away by Sylvain.  He had a stage presence which was undeniable.  Working the small room, he played a lot of fan service songs from his New York Dolls era, which ended up being quite good stripped down and told stories.  He told stories and spoke to the crowd a lot like your dirty old uncle, who can captivate a room, which is exactly what Sylvain did.  With each song, I enjoyed his work more, because he knew how to make it personal to the audience.  Without hesitation, I would recommend seeing the Sex Dolls tour, just to see Sylvain Sylvain unless you absolutely hate the New York Dolls. 

With Sylvain departing after a 40 minute set, Glen Matlock hit the stage.  I felt bad for Glen, as he looked out to a mostly empty room, following someone who knew how to play the fans for what they were worth.  Glen is a fine musician, in fact, for someone who was the bassist for the most infamous of punk rock bands, he is a perfectly find guitarist.  Sadly, for Glen, he doesn't have the same way with the crowd that Sylvain does.  Also, Glen was very insistent on playing a lot of songs from his own album, which probably one person in the room heard before last night.  Towards the middle of the set, he engaged us with an acoustic version of God Save the Queen which was technically good and exciting, but it also reminded you the signature sound of the Sex Pistols is Johnny Rotten's sneering vocals.  Actually, this is also the reason there are no good covers of Sex Pistols songs, because the sound is not in the notes, but the voice.  We meandered along for another 20 minutes, with Stepping Stone by the Monkees popping up for the fans in the audience.  Glen closed with Pretty Vacant, which was actually better than God Save the Queen and really got the fans going for their joint encore. 

The encore was Bang a Gong by T-Rex and Personality Crisis by the New York Dolls.  They invited all of the women in the front area up on stage and the four of them still in the club and at the front gamely joined them.  It closed the show strong and really showcased the personality gap between Sylvain, who was once again phenomenal and Glen, who admittedly is just a bloke like the rest of us, just with the fortune to be part of one of the most famous musical acts of all time. 

In all, it was a good show and would recommend the tour.  Sylvain is a real professional who understands audiences and deserved to be playing before a bigger house than was at Asbury Lanes last night. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Amazon: Sunday Shipping and Add On Shipping

For some reason, I am in my second year of Amazon Prime Membership.  I thought it was a good idea the first year and perhaps I would cancel my Netflix subscription, but aside from Absolutely Fabulous, I cannot remember anything I watched with regularity on Amazon Prime.  But there was also the free shipping, which was nice every so often when I wanted a book, but I doubt I really got my money's worth out of the product.

Having missed my window for cancelling, I began year two, actually using the service less than year one.  That being said, last week, I ran out of cage wipes for my guinea pig.  The wipes are essentially animal safe Clorox wipes without the bleach.  But they are really good at cleaning the bottom of a cage or carrier and I've developed a dependency on them, even though the independent pet store refuses to carry the wipes I so desperately need. 

Knowing I could not buy them at the regular pet store, I quickly searched for them online and found them at Amazon, where they were half the price I pay in the store.  Realizing I might get some mileage out of my Amazon Prime membership after all, I go to put them in my cart, when I come to the realization they are an add-on item.  Now, if I pay you $80 to ship me items throughout the year, I expect you to basically ship me any item in your store.  I shouldn't be forced to find $25 worth of other items to pad my order, when all I really needed was cage wipes.  However, I really needed those wipes, so I went and bought 120 liters of bedding, which is a significantly heavier item, but always ships free and was sufficient to meet the limit to get me my two containers of cage wipes.

Angered, I place my order on a Friday afternoon and see that both items have different ship dates.  The bedding will arrive on Tuesday and as of this time is only in transit, but the cage wipes, the Add-On item, are being shipped separately and were scheduled to arrive on Sunday...

Now, perhaps you might feel differently, but if you tell me that I need to order additional items to get shipping, I expect everything to ship together and I don't expect to get specialized Sunday shipping on the Add-On item, yet Sunday came and the cage wipes were waiting for me when I got home from the grocery store, so Sunday delivery works, but at the same time, I cannot help but think I could have just ordered the cage wipes in these circumstances.  But I was denied the rational option and look forward to having another 120 liters of bedding tomorrow.  Needless to say, the chances of being an Amazon Prime member for a third year are very slim. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Station Agent

In what I would call my youth, but were really my law school years, I was very into independent film.  I suspect this all stems from being New Jersey and watching Clerks the week it came out on video as an impressionable 15 years old, but for the last 20 years, I've generally preferred films, with a story, a limited cast and a small budget.  I suspect I probably like theater, but have actually only seen one play in the last 15 or so years, which was an Arthur Miller play where I was a stand in for my mother.  I even used to frequent the Angelika in my youth, which only had their movie selection going for them. 

In my law school years, I purchased more DVDs than I would care to admit to.  Seeing as I had a limited social life and had already amassed a large collection of CDs, DVDs were a natural extension, though you can listen to a CD repeatedly, while most movies and television shows require one viewing at most.  Of course, this is why I own five seasons of Stargate SG-1 for the last ten or so years, but whatever.  I also frequented the local video store, which I think officially went extinct in 2004, unless your primary clientele were ladies and gentlemen who preferred adult videos, at which point you made it to 2009. 

For some reason, I was repeatedly drawn to The Station Agent, but always found something else I wanted to see just a little more, including the time I rented Chinatown, which was just dreadful.  But I never picked up The Station Agent.  I mean, I've bought more $5 DVDs from Blockbuster when they were going out of business then I care to admit as well, but somehow The Station Agent always eluded my grasp. 

So, today I was checking out Instant Watcher, because I lack the will to figure out what is new on Netflix when someone does the heavy lifting for me, when I saw The Station Agent was available.  After 11 years of delays, I decided I could wait no more and cleared 90 minutes from my schedule to watch it. 

The wait was correct.  I think, seeing it in 2003, the movie would not have resonated with me in the same fashion.  You need to experience loss and need friendship before you can appreciate the art of doing it right.  As a film, it worked.  The ending was not too sweet, but felt achievable for all of the characters and gave their struggle depth.  The acting was amazing, but considering basically the entire cast ended up in cable prestige dramas, that is not surprising.  And the story worked because it acknowledges that Peter Dinklage is a dwarf, without letting it be consuming to the point where you cannot identify with him, which is why Life's Too Short didn't succeed.

So, I can cross another movie I needed to see of my list, not that I repopulate it that regularly. 

The Downside of Giving Up Caffeine

As it is after 4 AM, I am learning a valuable lesson in giving up caffeine.  About six weeks ago, I gave up caffeine, which was fairly hard for about three days, but otherwise, long term beneficial.  My caffeine delivery system of choice for the last 30 or so years was soda, usually a brown liquid capable of killing anything, but Sunkist has caffeine as well and if you are truly interested in caffeine, then you should know all of the ways to ingest it. 

Despite having made a clean break, I have an exception, which is the one soda a week rule.  Sometimes, you are out somewhere and it is difficult to either just have a water or find another available beverage that you are capable of drinking.  Think a bar, which might have juice, but without the alcohol, Tang is not acceptable for anything. 

So, the last few weeks, I had one and it was OK.  But tonight, I was having a moment and used my one soda at Target, where I had a Coke around 9:30 PM.  Well, the Coke certainly took the edge off how I was feeling, but at the same time, it left me wide awake.  So, I saw 1 AM and 2 AM and 3 AM and even 4 AM.  Sitting here, I'm not quite tired, but not quite awake and have that feeling that the stimulant factor is all that is stopping me from enjoying a few hours of sleep before the snow hits. 

But the stimulant is coursing through my veins.  Back in the day, I could have a Coke, then go straight to sleep.  Now admittedly, I slept poorly, but even after giving up caffeine, I wouldn't declare myself a good sleeper and still suffer from nightmares in the dark and waking up about every 90 minutes, just around the edges of REM sleep.  It's really terrible.  Of course, being full of caffeine, which used to be table stakes for existence, stimulates your mind and keeps you wide awake.  Horribly so, requiring me to write meaningless journal entries about my empty life at a time where the vast majority of the people in my time zone are dead to the world.

Lessons learned, I will work on not having that one soda per week so late, especially if I am just heading home to do nothing. On the other hand, I did learn that I can fit into my old pants today, so I can stave off finding new pants to purchase for another few months, so it was not an entirely bad trip into the day.