Strumzilla

​A blog/journal about my life and the stuff I like. Popular subjects include music, guitars, gear, books, movies, video games, technology, humor.

Oh kids...

Another infrequent update. Spring is here, mostly. The official yard cutting season began last Friday and continues today. Relevant events since last: Queen is touring this summer and they'll be making a stop in Dallas. Other than a few opportunities back in the early 1980s, this will be the first time Queen has come anywhere close to where I live. Obviously the original lineup would be the dream gig, but they'll be touring with Brian May & Roger Taylor and they're two of my all time favorite musicians. Brian has always been a favorite of mine on so many levels: tone, songwriting, and just a general approach to life in his intellectual curiosity. He's an astrophysicist in his spare time, how many musicians (especially such influential musicians) can say that?  Well, one, actually. They have Adam Lambert of american idol fame, and he's done several gigs with them in the past. Based on what I've seen, he's a perfect replacement for Freddy, even if he doesn't sound precisely like him.  This is one of the all time most anticipated shows I'll ever see. Only Zeppelin or Floyd would rival seeing Queen.  

Another "first time" concert next week will be Alter Bridge at the HOB in Dallas. I've seen Myles Kennedy two times with Slash, and he's just as amazing live as he is on record. I'm looking forward to a band I've been listening to for four years now. I got into Creed primarily because I like Mark Tremonti's tone, even if I don't consider him a primary influence. I never liked Scott Stapp, he's the definition of a douchey lead singer, but I can generally ignore the singer if I like the musicians. It's really fortunate they had a falling out, because Alter Bridge is a superior band on so many levels. 

I also got tickets for Yes, who'll be stopping by at the Verizon GP in August. They're going to perform Fragile and CTTE in their entirety along with tracks from their upcoming album "Heaven & Earth" and some other hits. They performed CTTE on the last tour, but as far as I'm concerned they could do that every tour and I wouldn't get tired of it. The most unique aspect of them performing Fragile will be all the solo tunes. I'm pretty sure I've seen them perform all the group tunes on the album, but besides MFAD, I don't think I've heard the other tunes live. I'm looking forward to this new album. Apparently the newest singer (that position in the group has had more turnover in the past 5 years than almost any other spot) Jon Davison contributed to some of the songwriting. Steve Howe also contributed and I'm not sure about the other members yet. The went with a different producer from Trevor Horn this time with Roy Thomas Baker, who they were apparently supposed to collaborate with a long time ago but it fell apart for some reason. I think they wanted to try something where the band were the sole songwriters since on the last album the title track "Fly from Here" was largely an old Trevor Horn song from the Drama days. 

I also picked up the CD for another "new" band, The Winery Dogs. The band is composed of Ritchie Kotzen (of Mr Big, Poison, solo, etc. fame), Billy Sheehan (in my opinion, the equivalent of EVH on Bass, literally), and Mike Portnoy (previously of Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold, Flying Colors).  It's a unique blend of over the top musicianship (they are not afraid to engage in the fiddly bits) with a sort of hard rock/pop song structure. Tone wise they're somewhere between 70's hard rock and 80's pop metal. The songs are fairly pop in the construction, but they benefit from how amazing all three players sound individually and combined. Not to mention that Ritchie Kotzen is not only a monster guitarist, but he's an amazing vocalist as well. I knew he was a great player, but I had no idea he was such a powerful vocalist. Billy and Mike are great backing vocalists and there are some really interesting harmonies in these tunes. They're going to play the Granada in May, and I actually bought the concert tickets before I had heard the album, because I knew I wanted to see Billy Sheehan live and that if nothing else they would all impress as musicians. Now that I've heard the album a few times, I'm really looking forward to this one. 

I was set to get tickets for Fleetwood Mac who are touring with the complete Rumors era lineup since Christine McVie has rejoined the group. Unfortunately, they followed the whole corporate greed ticketmaster process and so the first presale was AMEX which means all the online scalpers got the tickets before anyone else. When I last checked individual tickets within the first 20 rows were running $450 plus. It's sad since were able to see them in 2004 with fan club tickets for $200 a ticket and we were 4th row center. We'll probably just look for a video after the tour.  I really prefer the approach that bands like Rush and Iron Maiden have adopted which requires the ticket purchaser to be at the venue when the tickets are scanned in. This essentially eliminates any online scalping. The couple of times I've had the chance to get tickets this way, I've alway gotten great seats. We had 3rd row center for Rush. 

On the musical gear front, I got the Roland V-Drums about a month ago and I'm slowly learning to play them. They're awesome to have and I'm trying to train my four limbs to keep time independently. As with any instrument, you don't become aware of the nuances until you play it. Keeping a basic 4/4 beat that will cover a huge amount of pop/rock music is easy enough, but real mastery is going to take years. Right now I've really got to focus on my right foot in it's role to keep the main pulse of the song going. It really has to have a mind of it's own so I can be free to play fills and move around the drum set without losing the beat. It's hard to quantify but I've been feeling that there has been a collective musical benefit from playing these various instruments. I know for certain that the physicality of playing bass has strengthened my fingers beyond where they were despite playing guitar for over 10 years now. I see it in my guitar and keyboard playing in that certain movements or chord shapes that were previously very difficult, have become easier over time. I also believe my ears have improved, ironically in that I've been just randomly picking tunes to play bass (heavy emphasis on the Police since the physical effort is generally easy enough, although the timekeeping is challenging since they play odd time signatures and really focus on the upbeat) lines with, and I've found that the more often I just randomly pull up tunes and play along, the quicker I'm able to latch on to the chord progressions. 

Aeyong and I celebrated our 24th Anniversary a week ago. She didn't really want anything specific, but we had a small financial windfall since we overestimated (on purpose) our escrow payments and I got a performance bonus at work. I used this to get her a nice 60in LED TV for the master bedroom. We had moved rooms around after I got the drums, because I was trying very had to minimize the sound transmission of the kit. Even though it's digital and relatively quieter than acoustic drums, there are still physical contacts being made and some of the low end sound really cuts through walls and floors. I built (with an assist from Aeyong) a drum platform based on designs seen online. It's two 3/4 in MDF boards with tennis balls in between and wrapped in low indoor/outdoor carpet. The whole platform sits on a 4 or 5 piece thick foam exercise mat system. It doesn't eliminate the sound transmission, but it does reduce it, and that combined with her being able to retreat to the master bedroom and watch TV has helped make my nightly noisemaking a bit more tolerable.