Drivin’ N Cryin’, Cheap Trick Rock in Richmond

[cowritten with Karen Weis]

In order to experience DnC at its best as a hard driving rock and roll machine, it is recommended that you see them play live. At least twice. Preferably in a twenty-four hour period, if possible. And in two different states. There’s a limited time span in a band’s career when the opportunity arises to see them as both headliner and opening act in the same week. Such was the situation recently when Drivin’ N Cryin’ headlined in Richmond, VA and opened in Annapolis, MD.

The Flood Zone is a small club located in the heart of Richmond’s downtown area. To get the appropriate feel for the place, imagine Hammerjacks at half the size. The opening act, Raging Slab, a hard rocking Skynyrdesque band from Pennsylvania who recently released their second album, took the stage at 10PM. They performed songs from both of their albums, including their current single, “Anywhere But Here,” and a cover of the Beatles’ “I’m Down.” Other than that, the songs blended together in a blur of slide guitar riffs and the writers were relieved when it was over forty-five minutes later.

After what seemed like an eternity of roadies testing equipment, Drivin’ N Cryin’ arrived on stage at midnight in a cloud of smoke. They began the show with several slower songs, including “With The People,” which borrowed a line from the R.E.M. song “King of Birds,” before picking up the pace with “Around The Block Again.” The band’s set list spanned all five of their albums, from their newest release, “Smoke,” to their earliest, “Scarred But Smarter.” By the time they played the title song, the crowd’s energy level had resulted in the formation of a mosh pit, which continued for the next three songs and then restarted periodically for the rest of the show.

The set featured a variety of old and new songs, including half of the new album, including their latest single, “Turn It Up Or Turn It Off” and three or four from the others. Highlights included premieres of new songs such as “If I’d Been Born On The Right Side of the Tracks” and a solo performance at the close of the show by lead singer Kevn Kinney, who sang a song that may appear on his next solo album.

In contrast to the rowdiness of the Flood Zone crowd, the audience at the Naval Academy Alumni Hall was extremely restrained, probably due to the fact that ninety-nine percent of them were midshipmen. To get the atmosphere, just imagine a lame Patriot Center concert with all the GMU students dressed in white uniforms. Drivin’ N Cryin’ came on sharply at 7:30 and promptly launched into a nonstop rocking set.

This set focused more on their well known songs, such as “Fly Me Courageous,” “Build A Fire,” and “Straight To Hell,” which was a change from the previous night in which some of them were omitted. The lighting crew was also more in control, particularly during “Scarred But Smarter,” which gave the song added impact. The pace of the show never let up as the band sped through its forty-five minute set, forcing the crowd to participate.

The headliners, Cheap Trick, played a fairly short hour and ten minute set, including their hits “I Want You To Want Me” and “The Flame.” Absent, however, was their version of “Don’t Be Cruel.” Lead guitarist Rick Nielsen constantly kept the crowd amused by switching guitars at every song, throwing handfuls of picks, and pompously overreacting to the audience. The band’s encore, “Dream Police,” involved half the front row joining the band on stage to sing backup and play guitar and drums.

DnC’s forty-five minutes, while not as fulfilling as their two hour plus Richmond show, was a much more concentrated performance that left one wanting more. But many of the songs were expanded significantly in the club setting and were more enjoyable. In particular, “Indian Song,” which the band always plays live but has never recorded, was enhanced by the story that served as its introduction in the club. Kevn Kinney lamented the visible lack of symbols of Native American heritage in our culture. In addition, “Pushin’ Too Hard” featured an autobiographical vignette from Kevn on his choice of occupation before launching into “So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star.”

When the band headlined, they had the chance to kick back and relax and respond when a business card was tossed on stage by licking it and saying, “If you want me to look at your business card, you’d better have a tab of acid on it.” At the Naval Academy, however, they were more tense, with nearly no reaction to the audience, resulting in a faster set.

The first set was looser and more diverse, giving increased exposure to the band’s catalogue, but the second set was more powerful and intense, leaving one breathless. Both sets could have stood on their own, but seen back to back they offered more insight into the unique rock and roll experience that is Drivin’ N Cryin’.

[Originally published in Expulsion, an independent George Mason University student newspaper]

Mason Registration: Add a Class and Drop the Lines

I thought that already working for Expulsion would make my enrollment into the graduate program easier. Boy, was I wrong.

My tangled path started last January, with the School of Information Technology and Engineering’s Graduate Program Open House. It was extremely informative, with advisors from every program there to answer questions. From that, I was easily able to decide which program to apply for.

I applied in April, and received my acceptance letter in June. With it, I received the Fall Schedule Of Classes. I tried to analyze its cryptic contents and determined that I had to register sometime between then and August. I decided to wait and see if anything else would arrive that would make things more clear.

In July, I got a copy of the graduate catalog, and received two pieces of mail from Mason. The first was about a general graduate orientation to be held on August 23rd. The second was about an orientation for computer science graduate students the night after. It also said that registration forms would be signed. Great, I thought. I could learn everything I needed and take care of registration at the same time.

I arrived for the first orientation in SUB II about halfway through the opening speeches (Hey, it ain’t my fault I don’t get off work until after six). I signed in and received an interesting packet and the Mason Student Handbook. The packet contained a graduate newsletter, a handout on resources, a schedule for The Center For The Arts, a handout for music classes, a pamphlet on sexual harassment, and an ad for Mason Money. I found it interesting that the Mason Money ad mentioned that you could use it at Domino’s, but didn’t mention that it was the only off campus merchant to have the system in place to use it. I also filled out an application for a parking sticker (which of course I haven’t received yet.)

Anyway, what I heard of the speeches was an explanation of some of the handouts, plus some Mason propaganda. It’s interesting that people think Mason is going to have a great basketball season, even though the new coach hasn’t been in an actual game yet.

But I digress. After the speeches, I went to an information session on the Mason computer system. Miracle of miracles, it was actually informative, covering topics such as how to get a computer account, how to find documentation, how to figure out an Internet address, how to logon to Mason mainframes from a home computer, and how to get help, as well as a brief discussion of where various software and hardware are.

The orientation the next night was held in a classroom in S&T II. The professor who hosted it provided information on people CS graduate students should know, some information on email and getting accounts, and most importantly, waited patiently to answer every question on courses and signed registration forms.

I left the orientation feeling moderately prepared and ready to register for classes. I thought perhaps I would register the next day. Further examination of the Fall schedule and consultation with other students made me change that plan, as registration was closed each of the next three days. The earliest I could register was Monday, the first day of classes.

I arrived in Fairfax about 8:50 that next Monday. I found a parking space about 20 minutes later, aware that perhaps all of these people were here for a reason. When I arrived at Krug Hall, the line for registration stretched out of the office and down the stairs. After several minutes of waiting in line, it quickly became obvious to me that I wasn’t going to make it to the front of the line within the half hour I had left before I had to be at work. I left, and decided to come back the next day, when the office was open until 8.

The next evening I came back, and the line was much shorter. I sat down in the office and of course discovered to my dismay that my first and second choices were both closed. I signed up for my third choice, which had already had the first class the previous day. As a matter of fact, the professor who teaches the class is an adjunct and doesn’t have an office, so the only way to talk to her is to go to the class, which kind of blows the idea of finding out what the assignment is.

I went to the course I really wanted, to see if I could talk to the instructor. Unfortunately, about 15 other people had the same idea as I did, forcing the instructor to cut the class short since there was no air conditioning and the room wasn’t designed for that many people. The professor did offer to try and find a new room to teach the class in, though.

I learned from this experience that in the future I’d better sign up for classes at least several weeks in advance. I would like to see a little more information sent to new students, like an abridged version of the information presented at the orientations, plus a suggested timeline of events, such as talking to advisors and registering.

[Originally published in Expulsion, an independent George Mason University student newspaper]