strumzilla

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

Filtering by Tag: Rush

Alex III

I got the ES-355 VOS in classic white on Friday and I've had a little bit of time to mess around with it. This is the guitar I really wanted, it's got the vibe I was going for and no major problems. There were initially some small buzzing issues, but it arrived tuned to Eb and tuning up to standard cleared up most of that. It plays great and is very acoustically resonant (not surprising given it's a semi-hollow body). I was happy to discover that the gold hardware is more faded in real life compared to its saturated look in the picture. I'm guessing they thought that was a selling point, but I prefer the faded look. 

I'm having a bit of a Rushenaissance with the new guitar. My AxeFx III has been pretty neglected since I got it a few months ago, largely due to the etflp class. I've started to get back into tweaking it with the intent of recreating some of these classic sounds. I had a set of tutorials for the AxeFx II that I never completed but now the same instructor (Cooper Carter) is releasing a new set for the Axe III. I plan on going through those once available, but I'm already starting to experiment and get the Axe III in running shape. 

Someone on the the FAS forum had posted a tutorial about getting the MFC 101 Foot Controller (designed for the AxeII, but also a fully capable MIDI controller) running with the AxeFX III so I was able to get some basic functionality including patch changes, scenes, individual FX on/off, and expression pedals. I've still got a bit of tweaking, but my first experiment is going to be trying to record a cover video of Xanadu. I've got some plans for kimono/wig silliness as well. I'm hoping I can at least play the bass part as well, although there are a few challenging runs in there that I don't have down just yet. 

I might also record a few snippets of the drum part, but make it a joke since I can't play the whole thing by any means, at least not yet. Some of those triplets are still a year or more away. 

Zee latest...

Got back to work this week after a very nice extended Thanksgiving holiday. We spent T-Day with le fam at my sister Debbie's house. All in all a decent day. The Cowboys found a way to lose to the skins at home on T-Day, which is apropos of the last 15 years. The highlight of the break was seeing Rush on their Clockwork Angels tour at AA center in Dallas. We went for the VIP tix and weren't disappointed. We got 3rd row center just a few seats off center of mass for Neil's drum kit, but with a perfect view regardless. Luckily we had a short lady in front of us, so Aeyong had an unobstructed view which is a rarity on the floor for her. It was a great show with an 80's centric set list which I initially wasn't thrilled about but I eventually warmed up to the idea and it was really nice hearing some of those tunes for the first time in a long time. It was about 27 years ago when I saw Rush at Reunion Arena for their Power Windows tour and a few of those tunes hadn't been played since that tour. Even better, they filmed this tour's DVD in Dallas & Phoenix (and the rumor is that it will be mostly Dallas) so we'll have a video record of the show to enjoy in the future. I've only had that experience once before, at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas and out of that whole video I probably only attended 50% of those shows in person. There's a chance we may even be able to spot ourselves in the crowd shots since we were that close, so we're looking forward to that as well, although I'm not holding my breath.

We're trying to move forward on the housing front. We've had a few back & forths with a local custom home builder and they are quoting a bit high for our preference at this point. Hopefully we can talk them down to our range and get the house we want. If so, we may be moving in to a new home this summer. Time will tell. There's still a bit of uncertainty about the housing market and mortgage rates. Everything points to a rebound (it's already happening essentially) and that means housing costs and mortgage rates will rise. The big uncertainty revolves around the "fiscal cliff" looming for our government and the good chance that tax rates will increase across the board. If this happens I expect home sales to flatten out and we may be better off waiting to see if the prices will drop again. All that being said, if this builder will respond to our requests and give us our minimums within our price range, we'll probably press Go.

I think since the last post I moved some things around in the music room. I decided to bring the roland piano back onto the desk so I would be more inclined to play it and to give me access to a full 88 key midi instrument as well for recording. I also started practicing bass again. I had focused on acoustic for several weeks in preparation for my grandmother's memorial service back in August and I hadn't ever gotten back to my regular schedule of piano in the morning and then bass for about 30 min to start off my evening practice session. I'm still trying to work on the songs I was putting together for my "Guitar Hero" (not the game) project. That is a slow process since I'm exploring a few songs that involve relatively new techniques for me. Just "Rock Around The Clock" alone is quite the challenge. It's a very fast, clean solo and there's nothing to hide behind when you play it. You either play it right or it's obvious if you don't. Similar to many acoustic songs in that respect.

There's been such a large amount of transition in my practice area, computers, gear and practice time in the recent past that I'm just now starting to feel as if I can settle into a regular schedule again and start prioritizing my practice schedule. It's funny how that although you don't practice something you may still notice improvement. I think our nervous system takes longer to respond to our demands and it doesn't necessarily stop working just because we stop. I have noticed on various occasions in the past that if I have had a break in practicing an instrument that when I return to it I will sometimes find certain things slightly easier to play than before. I think when you practice something every day that if you are making progress it's so slow that it doesn't seem to be happening, but I believe even when you stop practicing for awhile your body is still trying to adapt to the demands you placed on it before, so in a sense, progress is still being made.

Troops...

It's another glorious Friday in the dee-eff-dub...

Tonight we're going to see Asia for the third time, this time in support of their XXX album as well as a sort of 30th anniversary of the original Asia album. They're supposed to play most of the album (although it doesn't appear to be in album order) as well as few from the new album and select songs from the others. They're playing at the Granada which is a decent small venue on Greenville in Dallas. We saw Eric Johnson there in October and I would swear I had seen shows there way back in the past before I joined the Army but I couldn't find any ticket stubs to corroborate that. I know I saw a lot of shows at the Arcadia, which is not too far away, so maybe I just remember the name. We originally had gen admission tickets but luckily they offered seats as an upgrade later after the original on sale so we took advantage. I hate asking Aeyoung to stand for two hours, especially when it's a band that only I really get into.

Next week is a short week before Thanksgiving on Thursday and starting on that day I have 11 days off in a row. Which is nice. We don't have any special plans other than decompressing. Well, there is the Rush show the following week. That's kind of a big deal, at least for me. Rush announced two days ago that they would be filming Phoenix and Dallas for the next DVD which was a pretty big surprise. I'm not sure what motivated them to shoot in these locations, but I'm pretty happy about it. The only other concert video I have of a show I actually attended is the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas from 2004. That's a compilation DVD and I didn't attend all the shows on the DVD. I did make a very brief appearance (in the audience) in the small set by Union Station (Man of Constant Sorrow), which was the band a set or two before the real reason I was there, Eric Johnson. We have VIP tickets for Rush and our purchase was complete at one minute past the on sale time, so I'm cautiously optimistic we'll be somewhere close enough to actually show up on the DVD at some point. Even more important, we'll have a concert video of a show we attended to enjoy for the rest of our lives. That is a great thing.

There haven't been any other world shaking developments on the homefront. We're starting to put money away each month with the eventual home purchase in mind. I transferred most of the music related artwork & paraphernalia from the big bonus room to my studio/home theater room. It seems trivial, but having all that music memorabilia on the walls and scattered about the room really enhances the vibe. I'm actually pretty happy with the overall size of that space and I think it would be fine for our eventual home. I definitely plan to separate the home theater and music studio at our eventual home, but I know I don't necessarily need a huge room for my music studio.

I've learned a few hard lessons thanks to Apple, Inc. lately. Mainly that they have started to morph into a more MS Windows kind of experience in the recent past. The more systemic chronic problems really began with my purchase of Mountain Lion when the installer informed me my hard drive was about to die. Too bad I didn't know then that Apple would eventually deem these hard drives defective and offer free replacements (3 months and one new hard drive too late for me). Adding to the Apple frustrations were my even longer standing issues with Itunes and my portable devices (iphone/ipad). My problems always stem from not being able to get complete information transferred from my computer to the device when adding new music. I still buy new music several times a month and for whatever reason, itunes just arbitrarily (it seems) will fail to copy album art, or the complete album, or some other frustrating element whenever I try to copy new music over to my devices.

After multiple attempts to fix the problem manually I eventually have settled on periodic complete wipes and restores of the devices. This seems to be the only effective way to ensure that everything from the mac will transfer to the device. I'm not really ocd about much, but my music collection (and the problems associated with itunes) can make me certifiable. I don't know why with the long age of itunes software that it's still such a common problem to just transfer media files between the mac and the device. I understand the need for DRM, but I don't download much of my music at all. It's about 99% (literally) ripped from cd's I have purchased, because that's still the way I prefer to buy my music. Knock on wood, it seems to be working for me.

Right along with the itunes/media devices frustration I started to experience problems with mountain lion itself. The two most important peripherals (not counting my backup hard drive) I use are my presonus mixer and axefx. These both worked as audio devices initially when I upgraded to mountain lion. But for some reason over time, one and then the other stopped being recognized by the system. I went through the whole nutroll with deleting all traces, reinstalling, updating, lather, rinse, repeat with both devices. I reinstalled mountain lion several times. Then I got desperate. I wiped the mac and installed mountain lion clean. No joy. I then jumped through several hoops until I could get Lion installed on a usb drive so I could perform a complete wipe and fresh install of Lion. This also now seems to be working for me.

All of this with no significant changes on my end, just wanting to add music to my mac/devices and to use the gear that had previously been working. During the process I got to a point that I thought my mac was truly dead and I was going to have to replace it. I had also been thinking about getting a pc at the time (mainly so I could play guild wars 2) to use separately because for some reason along with mountain lion, the mac no longer wanted to let me install a bootcamp partition. So I got the pc during the time I thought the mac might be truly dead but it made a comeback once I went back and wiped everything and started over. Now I have the mac dedicated to music and just basic mail/internet browsing. Hopefully that will provide some more longevity so I'm not compelled to upgrade too soon. With the software I own, I still feel the mac is better suited for music production. Unfortunately I'm starting to get the feeling apple is more concerned with selling portable devices since that's where the real money lies, and they are going to continue marginalizing the power users.

Concert Calendar Update

It's a good thing I periodically check artist websites, because I would otherwise miss out on some great shows. A random check of Eric Johnson's website showed he was playing the Granada in Dallas in October and then checking their website I found out Asia is playing there in November, and performing their eponymous first album in its entirety. So tickets have been purchased for both. I got Aeyong a seat for EJ and I bought a gen admission ticket for myself so I can get close. Asia is all gen admission so we didn't have a choice for them.

So September is actually looking light with only Slash (an understatement, I've been wanting to see him and Myles Kennedy for awhile now), October has Australian Pink Floyd, Eric Johnson, and Joe Bonamassa and then November will have Asia and Rush. 2012 has been a pretty good concert year. I've seen Opeth, Mastodon, Ghost, Roger Waters, Boston and Tenacious D for the first time(s). You could add Led Zeppelin 2, who, despite being a cover band really did nail LZ in all aspects. It was really close to what seeing them circa 1977 must have been like. Add Tommy Emmanuel, Van Halen, and Iron Maiden to the repeat concerts and the previously mentioned upcoming shows proves it's been a fairly stellar concert year. We're at a point now that we're still fairly selective about who we see.

There are a few shows we skip depending upon the night of the week, venue, whether we've seen them recently, and other reasons. We missed Tool since they were the same night as LZ2 and we already had tickets (no, I would never have skipped Tool for a cover band otherwise). We skipped Coldplay, because although I really like their 2nd album, their subsequent albums have progressively lost a little bit of what made the 2nd album great. I would still see them, but I really didn't feel like hanging out with loads of iFans at American Airlines. No disrespect to Chris Martin, but, the few times I've heard him live I've been less than impressed as well.

There are still a few big gaps in our concert history. Right now among the large venue bands it would have to be Foo Fighters and The Killers. Hopefully we'll get chances to see both although I don't relish the large venue ticket sticker shock I'm sure will be the case. I know Aeyong would enjoy Jason Mraz, and Mark Knopfler as well. Knopfler's playing as opener for Bob Dylan and I'm tempted, but we'd probably rather see him do a full solo show. I respect the hell out of Dylan's songwriting, but I've never gelled with his vocal/music style live.

New Rush Day!!!

Well, technically the real New Rush Day is in June, but they released the first new single (since Caravan/BU2B last year) for their new album, "Clockwork Angels". 

 

If the three songs released so far are any indication, this album is going to be one of the all time Rush classics. Yes, I'm biased, but even taking that into consideration, this thing is sounding epic. Listen for yourself.