The Chapel is a new venue for us. First impressions were less than stellar – our “e-tickets” were coming up as “invalid” when they were scanned, causing some problems that had to be sorted out by the staff. It turned out to be equipment error on their scanner and it all worked out, but that was a rough start. I will say though, the staff was very nice and polite during the entire thing and very apologetic when they realized it was a problem on their end. So, hats off to the Chapel staff for excellent customer service!
Cloe Wilder was the opening act, however we got a late start and the aforementioned ticket issues, so we missed her set completely…
Dylan Conrique was already on stage when we got in the door. We didn’t have any idea of what to expect, as we were unfamiliar with her work, but suffice it to say, there were no surprises. Her “band” consisted of one guy, alternating between guitar and keyboard, and a laptop. Not exactly exciting to watch. It was the musical equivalent of cotton candy… overly sweet, full of hot air and almost completely without substance. I couldn’t help but think this young lady must have grown up on a steady diet of Disney movies and Arianna Grande… To be fair, she’s really, really young so there is a LOT of room for growth. Her voice is actually nice, but her music is bland and a lot of it WAY TOO DULL for a live setting. She has a lot to learn about pacing her set and song selection. I doubt eliciting yawns and eye rolls was what she was striving for, but that was the reaction of this writer…
Spencer Sutherland came out, and honestly I didn’t know what to make of him from the start. Picture this: sleeveless, yellow satin, bell-bottomed jumpsuit with white fringe! I mean, honestly? I couldn’t tell if he was being “ironic” in the hipster sense, or if that is what the cool “new” thing is. Between the outift and his weird “Kung fu moves”, it was a bit like watching someone imitate Harry Styles, channeling Elvis Presley. Frankly it was a little off-putting and just weird for weird’s sake.
Musically, he sounded good BUT he relied HEAVILY on backing tracks, which is kind of a bummer to me. On the one hand, I get it – touring is very expensive and paying all the expenses for an extra few musicians can make the difference in whether you can go one the road or not. On the other hand, when you’re watching a singer engaging with the audience, his mic is NOWHERE NEAR HIS MOUTH, and yet you’re hearing his voice along with 3-part harmonies(and nobody in the backing band is singing!)…well, that’s a WTF moment for me. And a lot of other music lovers I know. ESPECIALLY in a small venue! You can maybe fake it a little better in the Enormo-Dome, but from 15 feet away, you’re not fooling anybody.
His band was solid, but nothing stands out in their performance. Spencer didn’t engage with them at all during the set, and they didn’t do anything to add to the visual aspect of the show whatsoever. It could’ve been a studio session based on the band’s excitement level.
And again, when you rely on backing tracks extensively the band is LOCKED into a precise tempo and length of the song, so there is no room for improvisation, no letting loose, no “life”… which kinda defeats the purpose of a LIVE show, right?
Did they sound good? Yes. Was he entertaining? Yes, fashion sense aside. But was is a great show? Nah. I’ve seen worse. FAR worse. But I wouldn’t be rushing out to see him again. Which is a shame really, as I do like his music.
To be fair, this was his first tour as a headliner, so he’s still gotta find his feet and I suspect he will continue to get better if he keeps it up.
All in all, it was an OK night. Nothing earth shattering, but nothing horrible either. I’d give the whole shebang a B-.
Friday night was a great night of laughs for us! Our daughter was kind enough to pick up tickets for a comedy night at a legendary local comedy club, Rooster T. Feathers, in Sunnyvale.
The featured comic was Chris Porter, one of our favorite current comedians. This was our second time seeing Chris live and we were thrilled to get the opportunity to him him again!
The club itself was great. I’d never been there before, despite the fact that it’s been in our “backyard” since the 1980s. The Mrs. had been there once before – at her Bachelorette Night, 31+ years ago! It’s a small room – we were maybe 10 feet from the stage – but it’s a great place for comedy. Nice room, decent sound, friendly staff, and spotlessly clean bathrooms. I’d be more than happy to go back, and would absolutely recommend the place.
The MC for the night was a young man by the name of Maxx Eddy. He was pretty funny and certainly shows promise as an up-and-comer.
The opening comic was Emily Van Dyke. We’d never heard of her, and while I wouldn’t say she was great, she certainly had her moments and there were more than a few LOLs during her set.
Chris Porter delivered a fantastic set and had us rolling pretty much the entire time. He did all new material, with the exception of one “old joke”, done by request of the peanut gallery.
We had one drunkard in the audience that kept blurting stuff out loud to Chris – not exactly a heckler, but a distracting dingbat nonetheless. Chris took it all in stride and managed to riff off her nonsense, which turned the interruptions into some great laughs. A true pro!
All in all, we had a great night. Chris Porter just keeps getting better and we look forward to seeing him again as soon as the opportunity arises. And we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on the upcoming shows at Rooster T’s, it’s a fun place and right up the road. A great change from driving all the way up to San Francisco!
I can still distinctly remember the very first time I heard The Church. It was the Fall of 1982, my Freshman year of high school.
A Senior by the name of Art had “taken me under his wing” in the marching band’s drumline, and one day he invited me over to his house after school to listen to records. Earlier, he’d brought a couple LPs to school for me to check out – the Ramones “Road to Ruin” and the Sex Pistols “Never Mind the Bollocks”, two albums which forever changed me. So an invitation to explore his record collection was an exciting endeavor, despite the 3 1/2 mile walk to get there!
Amongst the mind blowing artists he introduced to me that day were The Church, starting with “The Unguarded Moment”. I had never heard music like that before and I was instantly hooked.
Art dubbed a copy of the album onto cassette for me and I wore it out, listening to it over and over and over again all through my high school years.
I was lucky enough to see them live TWICE – once in the late 80’s and again in the 90’s, and both times they were outstanding.
Several months ago I saw that they were once again on the road, so I snapped up a couple tickets for the Mrs. and I to see them again. I figured, these guys are no spring chickens, this may very well be the last opportunity to see them on stage, how could I NOT go?
I’d been on an elevated excitement level for a couple weeks prior – it’s hard when you sit on tickets for months, those last days before the show can be excruciating!
Then the day came and…things went horribly sideways. We had our unannounced inspection by “The State” finally show up. If you’ve ever worked under the watchful eye of government regulations and regulators, you know how much it sucks. If you’ve never had the pleasure, let me tell you, it sucks. Big time. Some inspectors are better than others, but none of them are what you’d consider a “friendly”. They are the ENEMY. Their ONLY reason for existing is to find “deficiencies” in your operation. They crawl up your a** with a magnifying glass and a fine tooth comb and they don’t relent until they find SOMETHING to write you up for. A typical inspection (called a “Survey”) lasts 3-4 days, and I’ve seem them go longer. We’re still in it now in fact. But I digress…
So there was that AND simultaneously our company got hit with a “cyber attack”, taking down our entire network. 95% of what I do requires access to our network, putting me even further behind.
Then, to add a little excitement, we had a MASSIVE storm roll through too- mudslides, road closures, flooding, trees falling over. General mayhem that only Mother Nature can provide. Good times!
The cherry on top was losing power again at home, where the Mrs. was home, having succumbed to ANOTHER cold.
So, instead of catching one of my all time favorite bands in what could very well be their last Bay Area show EVER, I was sitting at home, mostly in the dark, with a sick wife, fretting over how much food we were going to lose THIS TIME. (We were without power for 3 days back in January and lost quite a bit, which at today’s food prices is not a happy situation!)
I hope the show was great and that our Aussie friends felt the love from the Bay Area. Hopefully the storm didn’t stop too many folks from making it out to the show. The rain was treacherous and the winds worse! I’m sorry I missed it, barely beating back depression while I was “in the act” of missing the show!
But life goes on. There will be more shows, just maybe not The Church… At least I have the distant memories of yesteryear! Better than nothing, right?!?
Just shy of a year ago, I lamented in a post about putting off what you need for so long that the item is no longer available. We’ll, in my case it wasn’t something I needed, just something I really, REALLY wanted.
Well, I’m happy to say that after 50+ weeks of relentless hunting and several strikeouts, I’ve finally obtained my unobtanium guitar!!
At Christmas I was convinced that I was never, ever gonna get my hands on one of these beauties, and came very, very close to pulling the trigger on an alternate. The thing was, this guitar WAS my alternate in the first place! And I’ve dreamed of owning a guitar like this since about 1982! Anyhow, thankfully I talked myself out of it and just a couple short months later I found THE guitar I wanted – used, but you’d never know by looking at it! And the best part is I picked it up with a factory hard-shell case (a pricey option!) for less than the guitar alone would have cost me a year ago, had they not been discontinued. Small blessings! So yeah, I had to hunt for a year but in the end I saved over $300, not too shabby!
It’s not very often that I’m the recipient of “good luck”, so I’m really relishing this moment.
I’ll say right up front that I only recently learned of the existence of the band Lettuce. The Mrs. actually discovered them first and played a track of theirs while we were in the car about a month ago, and I was knocked out by how great the song was. Fast forward 24 hours and I’ve got a dozen or so songs of theirs on my playlist, in heavy rotation! During the course of my digging into their repertoire, I discovered they’ve been around for over 20 years!! I was shocked to say the least. That a band could be so good and yet – as a dyed-in-the-wool music fiend – I had never even heard OF them, much less their music, was astounding to me. Frankly, I was embarrassed. But, better late than never!
As luck would have it, just a couple weeks after I learned that Lettuce existed, I found out they were playing two nights at The Fillmore in San Francisco, one of our favorite venues. Even luckier, after mentioning it in passing to the Mrs., she picked up a pair of tickets for us as a surprise!
The opening act of the night was a guy by the name of Keifer. We listened to a couple of his tunes before the show and thought, m’eh… We got there a little late and he and his band were already into it on stage. The first thing we hear when we walk in is the drummer breaking into a drum solo… Eye roll… I’ve been playing drums myself for 45+ years, and I pretty much hate drum solos. So we made our way over to the bar to grab a couple drinks before heading back onto the floor.
The band was comprised of keys, bass and drums. All clearly talented, but the music was a little bland. They finished the set however, bringing out the keyboardist and trumpet player from Lettuce to augment the band and that was a STONG finish!
After a short intermission Lettuce hit the stage and BOOM! They were off and running. Now, I’m much too much of a newbie to their discography to know the names of their songs (and I’m terrible with song names anyway, especially in instrumental music!) but wow, they just grabbed the entire room right outta the gate! Heads were bobbin’, everyone was grooving, it was a GREAT vibe!
The band is a 6 piece unit – guitar, bass, drums, keys, saxophone and trumpet. The perfect combo for a funk outfit! And let me tell you, every single one of these guys was ON POINT! They were so locked in as a unit – and this is some pretty complex music – it was really something to see. It is just awesome to witness a group of musicians so in command of their instruments and yet simultaneously just flowing, like it’s second nature to them. It’s just not the same as seeing a symphony or a highly technical jazz or prog-rock act. When skill and soul unite, the outcome is nothing less than spectacular. I was beyond impressed, I was MESMERIZED! The icing on this delicious cake was their bassist. I don’t know his name or anything about him, but he was absolutely, positively stunning. His groove was so deep, and solid as a rock. He was slinky and gritty and funky and just straight up phenomenal. The kind of bass that’ll give you “stank face” it’s so damn groovy! What a delight!! I’ve played with dozens of bass players over the last 30+ years and out of those dozens I’d say 3 of them were spectacular. The bassist from Lettuce was every bit as good, if not better, than those 3. Really special.
Another aspect of the band that really caught my attention was that whenever there was a gap for a particular instrument, one of those players had some sort of percussion instrument in hand, filling up the sound. On the surface you might think how much difference can a tambourine or a shaker make? Well, it makes a BIG difference. All those little extra voices, those nearly imperceptible accent notes really just gave a glistening polish to an already stellar performance.
I can say with full confidence that I am officially a FAN of Lettuce! I have a lot of their material to absorb still, but I seriously dig what I’ve heard so far. It may have been my first show with them, but it certainly won’t be my last!
A big thank you to the bands and the crew that make these shows happen. And an extra big THANK YOU to the Mrs. for the great surprise!
It gave me a smile when I learned that 2023 was to be the Year of the Rabbit in Lunar (Chinese) New Year. The last Years of the Rabbit were pretty good ones for me, so I took that as a good omen.
Little did I know that the Year would go flying by as quick as a Rabbit! Holy smokes, where has January gone?
That being said, so far so good, even at “warp speed”.
We had our gnarly couple weeks of storms, but other than 3 days without power and losing some perishable foods, no real damage sustained on our end.
I’ve started a new book, which I may write about down the line… I’m only about 15 pages in thus far, and it’s a different kind of read for me, so I’m not sure how I’ll take to it.
I’m getting slightly more consistent in getting to the gym and my strength seems to be coming back after the last year of poor overall health, which is very encouraging.
One of my music projects is starting to make headway, which is super exciting. Last night we auditioned a new bassist and she (yes, she!) was pretty great and we seemed to gel very well right off the bat. If you’ve ever tried putting a band together, you’ll understand how important that is, but also how incredibly RARE for things to click right outta the gate. We’ve got another bassist lined up for next week, who actually seemed like a better fit “on paper”, but now he’s really got his work cut out for him! But overall, I’m extremely inspired right now and just want to keep pushing myself musically as much as possible for as long as possible.
I’ve got a lot of work to do around the house, as I got pretty lazy and overwhelmed during the holiday season, but I’m chipping away at it and making progress, so I can’t complain. Just gotta put one foot in front of the other, as they say…
This weekend we’ve got an outing up to SF (I’ll be writing about that Sunday) and a plan to pull out our emergency bags and “regroup” after the lessons learned from our bout of storms. And if time allows, I’ll be working on putting together my IG profile. Yes, very, very late to that particular party. I’ve completely ignored social media up til now, but I’m finding that if I want to keep up with what’s going on in the world of music, I’ve got to have access to it, as that’s where all the kids these days are putting out their info. And when it comes time to put out our music, it will be a necessity- for better or worse. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em I guess…
And last but not least, we have a new addition to our family as of last weekend.
Now don’t get me wrong. This is NOT because it happened to be the Year of the Rabbit, it was just a timing thing. I used to raise rabbits waaaay back in my Boy Scout days, and my wife and I have had “house rabbits” almost our entire 30 years together. There have been some gaps in between them, just like any pet it takes a while to get past the grief when you lose one, but this little guy is our 4th house rabbit in 30 years. Our last one lived to be about 12 years old, which was staggering. He doesn’t have a name yet, we like to get to know our critters before bestowing a name upon them, but he’s already getting real comfortable in his new home.
Well, that’s really about it for now. I try not to go so long between posts, so forgive me. I appreciate all of you stopping by and sharing your time with me. Hopefully next week will bring something a little more interesting!
Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for reading!
Saturday night the Mrs. and I went and did something completely different, we experienced our very first Burlesque Show at the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts with the one and only Dita Von Teese.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know much about her other than her bringing the “art of burlesque” back into the mainstream, I just knew my wife always appreciated her aesthetic. So when I saw she was coming to the city I grabbed a pair of tickets so we could go see for ourselves what all the fuss was about.
If you’ve never seen the Palace of Fine Arts, you should. It is really a sight to behold. Stunning in both it’s design and in the craftsmanship of the buildings themselves. In fact, it’s such an amazing place, the Mrs. and I had wedding photos taken there over 30 years ago! And the view at night is really spectacular.
The Theater was someplace we’d never been, and it was smaller than I’d anticipated. (I learned after the fact, the capacity was 961) It was however, packed with patrons, most of whom had really gone all out for the night and were really dolled up, so to speak. The “people watching” aspect was as enjoyable as the show itself!
The show was described as a “variety show”, and I wouldn’t exactly call it that. Not in a traditional sense, anyway. There were however a number of different performers aside from Dita herself. Some were great, some were m’eh. We were a bit surprised at how slow- paced the acts were. We had expected a more high energy sort of spectacle, but it was entertaining nonetheless.
To be honest, I was most impressed with the stagecraft of the whole thing. The costumes, the lighting, the props…all of it was really top notch and a lot of fun to see. My only gripe was the sound system, it was not good. At all. But otherwise, I can say without reservation that it was a visual spectacular unlike anything I’ve witnessed in my life. Due to the “adult” nature of the show, picture and video taking was prohibited, so I don’t have anything to share, but trust me, visually it was very well done.
The Mrs. and I both really enjoyed the show and were glad to have gone. Though we did both think it was probably something we wouldn’t do again, unless there was some very particular reason to, such as some special guest we are interested in or something. Regardless, we’re glad we went, we had a fun night out and got to see a lot of interesting people and experience a side of the Palace of Fine Arts we’d never seen. And yeah, Dita looked beautiful too!
Just heard the news, legendary guitarist Jeff Beck has passed away at 78 years old.
Jeff’s career was underway before I was even born, but I’ve been a fan of his since I’ve known who he was.
His was such a unique voice. Both Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page eclipsed him in the fame and fortune department, but from my perspective Mr. Beck ran rings around the both of them. He was truly one of a kind. Iconic. A vessel.
On top of his profound playing, he was also an avid hot-rod enthusiast, which just made him all the cooler to me.
Rest in peace Mr. Beck. Thank you for all your contributions throughout the decades. You will be missed.
This morning has me facing a big reality check in my ability to deal with “unforeseen circumstances”. In short, I’m beating myself up pretty good this morning.
As I write this, we’re at about 30 hours without power. I realize that for some of you, this is nothing. For us, it is extremely unusual. I’ve lived within a 25 mile radius of where I am now my entire life and to the best of my recollection we’ve never gone more than 24 hours without power. Outages are usually resolved within 12 hours, most in less than 8. So yes, we’ve historically been a little spoiled.
But that was then… Our utilities company (Pacific Gas & Electric) has been really dropping the ball the last couple years. One of my colleagues that lives close by, but in a more rural section, has routinely gone without power for 4-5 day stretches half a dozen times a year since 2019.
Around 5:00am today – 27 hours into the failure we got an update from the Utilities stating the “expected” restoration is by 10pm TOMORROW. This is unprecedented in our area. We’ve lived in the same apartment for 16 years and have never, ever gone 3 days without power.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been a big believer in preparedness since my days as a Boy Scout back in the 70’s and 80’s. Emergency preparedness has been part of my job for the last 20+ years. I’ve been an active member of my Town’s Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.), I’ve trained with County Fire Depts. in two different counties, and done FEMA emergency response training. In short, I know this stuff, and have a knack for imagining a “worst case” for any scenario.
I’ve spent years and countless dollars preparing for emergencies and this minor blip caught me with my pants down…
Don’t get me wrong. We’re not suffering or in any kind of danger, but I have never felt so unprepared in my life.
I’ll start at the beginning…
When I woke up Tuesday morning, I just went to the gym expecting that by the time I got home the power would be back on, but stopped off at a 7-11 on the way home to get coffee for the Mrs. and I, just in case. Which turned out to be a good thing, ‘cuz the power was still out when I got home.
I showered and dressed for work by battery operated lantern and got ready for a day at the office. The Mrs. happened to have the day off and was going to be home, so before I left I pulled out our “solar generator” and hooked up the TV and our modem so she wouldn’t be bored and also have the capability to recharge her phone if necessary. I left for work fully expecting the power would come back on at some point during the day. So far, so good.
By mid-afternoon, still no power and no update from PG&E on restoration. By this time, we’re getting concerned about the food in the fridge and freezer.
I left work a little early so I could stop by our mini-storage unit and pick up our “big” cooler, then detoured to the nearest Quickie-mart and grabbed 20 lbs. of ice.
I got home to find the Mrs. had distributed candles throughout the apartment and had a couple battery lanterns running as well. She’d turned the solar generator off to conserve energy – it was down to about 70% capacity by that time.
I got busy loading the contents of the fridge into the cooler, only to discover we only had cooler capacity for about 2/3 of the refer, using 2 coolers and an insulated cooler bag. Not good.
The freezer was packed pretty solid, so it acted as sort of a cold-battery. Everything was still pretty much frozen solid, but I hooked it up the to generator for a couple hours to recharge the cold, and put the small insulated bag into the fridge for extra insulation.
After all that, I ran up the road where they had power for some takeout tacos and burritos. Then we unplugged the fridge, and hooked up the modem and TV, watched a little TV for a distraction and then got ready for bed.
Again, I was expecting a resolution overnight. Turned out to be wishful thinking.
I got up this morning and went to make some coffee. First problem, I cannot find (in the dark) our kettle. We ordinarily use an electric kettle, but I bought a “camping” kettle for situations such as this. Well, I couldn’t find the darn thing anywhere. (FAIL!) No worries, says I, I’ll just boil the water in a regular pot. Now for the stove. I purchsed a single burner propane stove for emergencies several years ago. Nice little unit, never had to use it. I’ve got a dozen bottles of propane for it, which I found immediately, but again could NOT, for the life of me, find the stove. (FAIL!) No worries, says I, I’ll just grab the Esbit stove out of the go-bag. So I went to the wife’s go bag, and NO DANG STOVE!! (FAIL!) I know I got one for her, and was sure I put it in there, but I emptied the bag and it was not to be found. Then I had to dig out my go-bag, and turned one up.
I set up the stove, put the pot of water on and let it start heating. Unbeknownst to me, this little stove would NOT bring the water to a boil. Why was it unbeknownst to me? ‘Cuz I never trained with it! (FAIL!) I got impatient after the second fuel tab, and made the coffee (in a French press) with water that maxed out at 161 degrees. It wasn’t gross, but it wasn’t good either.
Another shower and shave by lantern light, then thought I should run the fridge a bit more before I left. At this point the generator is down to 12%. I was able to run the unit for about 30 minutes and then it died out at 0%.
Now I’m back at work, thinking about all the food that will likely be spoiled by the time the power comes back on.
So, a lot of lessons learned here.
I had a good solar generator BUT I had only one extension cord to plug things into it. (FAIL!)
Once the battery was dead, I had no way to recharge it since there is NO sun for the solar panels. (FAIL!)
I had a little backup battery for charging cell phones, but I’d let it die by not keeping it on the charger, so it was useless. Using that for charging phones could’ve given us a little more capacity on the generator. (FAIL!)
I wasted time and added stress looking for the propane stove, which I never found. (FAIL!)
We were both having issues with our cell phones – they were barely working without wifi. We realized we no longer have an old fashioned “land line phone”. We have the line, we just didn’t replace the last phone when it broke. And the last one was a cordless phone, which needs electricity so it wouldn’t have served us well anyway. (FAIL!)
Our “big” cooler is wholly insufficient for emergencies. Way too small. It’s fine for cookouts or weekend camping trips, not preserving the contents of a whole fridge/freezer. (FAIL!)
Also, it occurred to me that had the power been out at our storage place, I wouldn’t have been able to get to our cooler at all…
Having go-bags is GREAT, but clearly just throwing stuff into a backpack without a clear inventory is a rookie move. (FAIL!)
Having a bunch of emergency supplies is also great, but having said supplies so disorganized you can’t find what you need, when you need it, is plain dumb. (FAIL!)
We did have a couple fortunate things, our hot water is still working and we had heat in the apartment. That was especially lucky, as our furnace hasn’t worked for about 3 years, and we just got a new one a few days before Christmas. Up til then we were relying on electric heat. We’d have been sunk if that were still the case…
All things considered, this has just been embarrassing. But I have learned a great deal from this excersize and can guarantee that the next time will NOT be like this.
Most importantly I’ve learned there is a HUGE difference between “knowing” and “doing”. I know a lot about survival and preparedness but I’ve never really had to put that knowledge to the test before. Now that I have, at best a very kind instructor might give me a C-. Test your gear folks. You don’t want the first time use to be during an emergency situation, trust me on this one.