Code Monkeys

Last night, I watched a new show on G4: Code Monkeys. Of course they were smart enough to use the JoCo song as their theme, already earning a point. The show is about a bunch of game developers (duh) in the ’80s, but the twist is it’s animated like a 2nd generation video game, with health rising and falling, characters side scrolling, typical music, etc. It’s a bit crass (think South Park), but still pretty funny. Repeats air all week if you want to check it out (I liked the first ep a good deal more than the second, but YMMV).

Also, there’ve been lots of cool videos for “Code Monkey”, but this is definitely one of the best. And here’s how to make a Big Warm Fuzzy Secret Heart.

More Pumpkins

I don’t know if I was really ready to tackle another big rock show, but I couldn’t resist seeing the Smashing Pumpkins in a small club. I’d tried to get tix when they went on sale last week and failed, but a little birdie told me they’d be releasing some on Monday, so I checked until I got some. No one I knew was interested, so I offered it back to the birdies, and had a quick taker. He lived in Herndon, so we met at the Bavarian Monstrosity and headed in. We didn’t get there until after 9, so we missed the initial festivities. Apparently, to celebrate the album being released, they had a parade, with the band in vintage cars (and security detail), cheering crowd, and protesters. Inside, the theme continued, with patriotic bunting, custom flags, and balloons released at the end of “United States”, the opening song. We did not miss the barbershop quartet before that, and that was fun.

I’ve been a Pumpkins since Siamese Dream, but only saw them live a couple times, on that tour and Mellon Collie. I saw Billy after that in Zwan (good stuff) and solo (eh), but it was the Pumpkins material I really wanted to hear again. The new material sounds like a progression from previous albums (leaving out the electronica tinged sounds of Adore, thank goodness), and it rocks live. New songs that were good live: “Bleeding The Orchid”, “Doomsday Clock”, “Tarantula”, “Starz”. And as far as it not being Pumpkins reunion with only half the original band: phooey – Billy writes the songs and plays the music, just like Trent Reznor in NIN, so if he says it’s Pumpkins, it’s Pumpkins.


still bald

The show started with a nice mix of old and new songs, “Today” again a standout. My favorite part was Billy alone with an acoustic guitar for four songs, doing awesome versions of “Thirty-Three” and “Rocket”. “Tonight, Tonight” was next, and I think my highlight – almost too dynamic for the club. They slowed it down with four new songs, but tucked “Zero” in the middle so that brought the crowd alive. They ended the set with killer takes on “Disarm” and “1979”, before coming back for the encore with “Cherub Rock”. The only part that dragged was the second encore, new song “Gossamer” was a self-indulgent piece that lasted nearly 20 minutes. Happily it didn’t end with that, they were dragged back for a third time to perform the vice president’s favorite song. I don’t know if I’ll go see them at Virgin Festival – I’m seeing all the acts I’d like to see there, plus they go on last, but this show was well worth the effort.

Live weekend part 2 – Live Earth

I was up and out the door early on Saturday. I decided I wanted to have my trip be as easy as possible, so I just drove to Metro and took the subway to Union Station. There was quite a line for my train, but I still had time to get some breakfast and get an empty seat. I read all the way up, and we were only 10 minutes late. My buddy Chris had done the mirror image of my trip down from Boston, and was waiting for me. We purchased tickets for the light rail trip to Secaucus Junction, then quickly grabbed slices of pizza as we were hungry and we had 10 minutes to kill before the next train. We got on and after a slight delay made it to the station, then ran into the only major delay: the line for buses. It took us about 20 minutes to get on a bus, then it was a quick trip to Giants Stadium. Lots of people tailgating and hanging out, but it was 2:30 and time to start.

We got inside a little late, but in time to see the end of KT Tunstall’s second song, too bad we missed “Black Horse And The Cherry Tree”, although she played “Suddenly I See” third, which I was happy about since it’s my favorite. Taking Back Sunday was up next and I only recognized “MakeDamnSure”, the last song from their set, but they were decent. Organizers had blown up beach balls with Earth designs on them, and we helped bat them around. Neither of us are big Keith Urban fans, but I’d heard he was doing something special. Sure enough, on the first song he brought Alicia Keys out to duet on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”. Killer version, then we headed outside.

The State Fair was being held at the Meadowlands, and they had wisely both closed access to the public and made it free for concertgoers. Early in the day almost no one knew this, and there were no lines for anything (although it was a little creepy in the rides area). Chris and I got some food, I wanted a hot dog and a corn dog, plus a smoothie. It was nice to have someplace that was free of the noise and crowds inside the stadium, and in that regard it was much like the HFStival – if only they’d had bands outside, instead of pig racing (yes, pig racing – and named after celebrities like Britney Spare-Ribs).

We came back in during AFI as they cranked out a nice Bowie cover, then waited for Fall Out Boy to hit the stage. They wisely stuck to all hits, got the crowd moving a little for “Dance, Dance”, but it was still fairly warm under the sun. We left again as Akon was next for some refreshments, then returned for John Mayer. He was pretty good, I like his new album’s blues focus which came out nicely with his performance of “Gravity”. I figured he’d throw in “Waiting For The World To Change”, and he did – I like that one, too. Melissa Etheridge was up next, and she gave us the musical low point (that I saw since we skipped the rappers) and the political high point as she randomly ranted during her two new songs and “I Need To Wake Up” (from An Inconvenient Truth) about all kinds of things (go to 6:24pm). Alicia Keys kicked an old school medley of “For The Love Of Money”, “Living For The City” and “Mercy Mercy Me” before doing her new “That’s The Thing About Love” and ending with a well received “If I Ain’t Got You” (man, can she sing – we didn’t get the full Alicia at Live 8).

The crowd finally lumbered to its feet as Dave Matthews Band came out, performing a number of their earlier environmentally aware songs: “One Sweet World”, “Don’t Drink The Water” and finishing with the nice jam of “Anyone Seen The Bridge?” into “Too Much”. I was happy to see Kelly Clarkson – she canceled her tour so this will be one of her few performances this year. She had the crowd happy with “Walk Away”, new song “How I Feel” was good, and people were familiar with “Never Again” because it was a single, but you could feel the energy dissipate when she tempted fate to play a third new song, “Sober”. Too slow, but she got it back by playing “Since U Been Gone” (made me buy her album and I never thought I’d buy one by an Idol). She did have a good band, including a nice string section. We took one more break at the fair as Kanye West was up next, I wanted a pretzel and Chris wanted some fries. It was starting to get busy, but we still found a place to sit, but not too long as it was time for the big finale.

Up first, hometown heroes Bon Jovi. Amazingly, the crowd was on their feet even for new song “Lost Highway”,but after that it was a string of hits. After playing “It’s My Life”, Jon asked us to rise for the “national anthem”, “Wanted Dead Or Alive”. Last year’s big crossover song “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” went over well, but not as big as finale “Livin’ On A Prayer” – fun to hear everyone there singing the chorus. Next, the reunited Smashing Pumpkins. I’m a long time Billy Corgan fan – I’ve got everything from him I could find. I saw him in Zwan and his solo tour, but his work with the Pumpkins is the style I like, so I was happy he’d returned to the material. The man’s got some big balls, because he opened with “United States” – the longest song of the new album, and not the single. Still the crowd enjoyed, though not as much as when he broke out “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (nice to hear the whole place screaming the “rat in a cage” lyric). New single “Tarantula” got a good response, but the place erupted for the riff from “Today” – great ending song. Makes me very happy that I did score tix for their 9:30 club show today.

The best was yet to come. Roger Waters hadn’t impressed me as much as David Gilmour last year, but Saturday he brought a tight medley of Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall tunes that was perfect for the occasion. He came out with his band with no intro (the only ones that day) and played the intro to “In The Flesh” before playing shortened versions of “Money”, “Us And Them”, “Brain Damage”, and “Eclipse”. During that, someone started passing around inflated glow-in-the-dark condoms, and they were interesting to watch, especially since tossing one would almost come back to you. Finally, “The Happiest Days Of Our Lives” led into a children’s chorus coming out to join in on “Another Brick In The Wall Part II”, and the stadium shaking to “we don’t need no thought control” as the pig floated by.

Very impressive, but I was waiting for the reunion of a band that broke up before I started going to shows. I’ve seen Sting a couple times and like his solo stuff, but the Police songs just have the raw power he hasn’t captured since. We got a taste, and I for one can’t wait ’til Jill and I see them in a couple weeks. Good choices, as they opened with “Driven To Tears”, then a big reception to “Roxanne” (better than on the Grammys) and “Can’t Stand Losing You”. They did make a mistake on finale “Message In A Bottle” – John Mayer was fine, but Kanye West was out of place (sample lyric: “Sting, you the only police that’s good in the hood”).

Afterwards we fought our way to the buses, getting to the train station with only minutes to spare before the last train in an hour departed, so we hurried over to catch it. Penn Station was shutting down when we arrived around midnight, but I’d found a 24 hour diner 2 blocks away and I had a tasty reuben that hit the spot. Unfortunately the trains home left at 10PM and 3AM, so we still had some time to kill in the waiting area chatting before departure. I napped fitfully and read on the way back. We got to Union Station a little early and I had to wait for the Metro to open for the first time ever, next to some escalators that sounded like dying dinosaurs. I slept for a couple hours when I got home, then watched some of the Sydney and Tokyo concerts while I read the paper and prepped an eBay auction.

I wore my Woodstock ’94 shirt on the trip, and it made me think of the Saturday night show there, one of the best lineups ever – Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, and Aerosmith. Live Earth was nearly its equal, the final four bands certainly bringing several hours of classic rock in the purest sense. I think the misstep by the Police gives the edge of best performance to Roger Waters, and if I never get to see any of Pink Floyd perform again I’ll be happy with the memory of that. A great show, worthy of the trip (though I hope the HFStival returns next year). Most interesting thing was the section to the left of us starting a wave – I’ve never seen that before.

Live weekend part 1

Started off the big concert weekend in a low key way. Jill and I headed over to Wolf Trap at 3, because we’d signed up for the VIP Pat McGee Band package, which included a private reception with an acoustic concert to kick off the show. We enjoyed food and tasty beverages, then gathered around for a nice half hour set with all the musicians that would join them on stage with no amplification whatsoever. Very cool. Jill was still hungry, so we headed over to Safeway for a sandwich for her, then picnicked until the main show started. Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers were good, but Carbon Leaf really had a great night, lots of classic tunes including an cool take on the end of “Free Bird” and an epic version of “Torn To Tattered”.

Pat McGee Band was what brought the crowd to its feet. I was glad Todd Wright came out during the second song and stayed on stage all night, but Al Walsh joining everyone for “Haven’t Seen For A While” was great, and Michael Ghegan returned to play sax with a nice horn section. The expanded lineup definitely gave the songs more muscle, and new songs like “I Don’t Think I’m Listening” and “Come Back Home” were really good. My highlight was the great jam during “Minute”. I’ve got more photos here.

The puzzle is coming together

So I, like many, will be traveling up to New York (ok Jersey, but I stop in NYC) tomorrow to see the US Live Earth show. I’m getting into the spirit, even going green. I was so hoping that there’d be a DC version of the event, and now there is. Too late and too little for me, I’m psyched about the lineup at Giants Stadium. The tricky part is that information about the concert has been tickling out slowly – I bought train tickets several days ago with the assumption I’d get there at 2:30 and leave at midnight (they pushed the start time back on Monday). They wouldn’t even say who started and ended the show, let alone what the end time was, but now I have the lineup (and start times):


Kenna 2:30
KT Tunstall 2:51
Taking Back Sunday 3:07
Keith Urban 3:30
Ludacris 3:56
AFI 4:21
Fall Out Boy 4:46
Akon 5:04
John Mayer 5:32
Melissa Etheridge 5:58
Alicia Keys 6:21
Dave Matthews Band 6:50
Kelly Clarkson 7:22
Kanye West 7:52
Bon Jovi 8:20
Smashing Pumpkins 8:52
Roger Waters 9:25
The Police 9:56

Not quite as cool as getting the entire itinerary for London, but useful for planning my day. If you’re at home, Universal HD will air 22 hours in HD, starting at 4AM, in addition to the webcasts and prime time show. Still, at least I’ll get to see the reunited Smashing Pumpkins (especially good since I failed to get tix to their show here Tuesday) and my first glimpse of The Police.

Fourth

We spent most of the holiday being excessively social. Tuesday night my coworker Marc was hosting a happy hour, so we went over there for a while before stopping at Trader Joe’s on our way home. Jill made a salad for the party our neighbors Denice and Chris were having, and we went over there in the afternoon, played games, consumed mass quantities and didn’t come home until the fireworks were over. Today feels like a weird combination of a Thursday and a Monday – I guess it’s only fair since Tuesday felt like a Friday.

The Simpsons

Cool stuff is coming out to psych us up for the upcoming movie.

· Several 7-11s are being turned into Kwik-E-Marts, including one in Maryland (although I don’t know if I want a Squishee bad enough to travel there)

· Green Day, in addition to being in the movie, will cover the theme song for it.


· The movie website lets you create your own character in the inimitable Groening style

· You can vote for which Springfield gets the movie premiere (although there’s only 14 of ’em, and the Virginia one didn’t make the cut)

Carolina on my mind

Friday afternoon, Jill dropped the dog off and picked me up at work, then we headed south. The last time we were down that way we started from Williamsburg, but we’d be competing with beach traffic, so we went down 95, then jumped off and headed down back roads roughly southeast until we arrived in Hertford, NC. Our friends John and Meredith were already there, and we unloaded our junk, then hung out and chatted. The other couple joining us hadn’t left Richmond, so we went over to Captain Bob’s seafood and BBQ joint. I thought about having seafood – Jill had the fried scallops, but decided I needed to try some BBQ Carolina style. I ordered the sliced BBQ and hush puppies as bread. What I didn’t realize was the bread I ordered would have made the sandwich, ad the meat came almost devoid of seasoning – no matter, I devoured the hush puppies and poured some of the vinegar sauce of the meat and ate it. Very different from the BBQ I’m used to, but very good. Steve and April finally arrived, and we stayed up for a bit, but I was first to bed – had been getting up very early to work long hours so I could leave so early from work.

A good night’s sleep refreshed me, and I got up at the crack of 11 the next morning and made scrambled eggs and sausage for everyone. In the afternoon folks scattered. I was on the porch in back for a while reading newspapers and popping in and out of conversations, then headed down to the dock with some Rolling Stone mags and papers and some beer. My favorite bit was discovering I could stand in the water and read – that was refreshing after being in the sun for a while.

In the evening we made a return visit to the Beechtree Inn, but it wasn’t the same, now the restaurant part was called “Emilio’s Bistro”. The hostess claimed her husband was a “four or five star chef”, but when the guys all ordered the prime rib medium rare and there was only the faintest hint of pink on the cuts, we kinda doubted it, especially since it was served with steamed rice and what appeared to be canned peas and carrots. Still, the crab appetizers I had were meaty, and the blue cheese dressing on the salad was homemade. Later on, we celebrated Jill’s birthday with peanut butter and chocolate ice cream and cupcakes, then played an epic guys vs. girls game of Cranium (guys winning of course).

Everyone was up early as most of us wanted to get back early (Meredith was staying as her parents were headed down). We retraced our route to 95, tried 295 instead of 95 through Richmond, then became tired of the inchworm pace as we approached Fredricksburg and got off on 3, taking 15/29 up to 50 over to pick up Illa. I spent this afternoon walking Illa (he’s wanted to go out a lot), watching the Concert for Diana on MHD while finishing off my periodicals, and grilling a tenderloin for dinner. Next: surfing time.