Sunday, October 23, 2005

Time is on my side, or, gathering no moss

If you had told me back in 1975 that in the year 2005, Keith Richards would still be alive and well, I would have said "yeah, right, and you'll be able to carry a thousand songs around with you on a credit card-sized device clipped to your belt. Take another hit, dude".

Well, not only is Keef alive and well, he is ROCKIN' OUT!!! On Friday, October 21st, I saw the Rolling Stones in person for the first time in spite of having been a fan ever since Brown Sugar blasted across my transistor radio when I was in the 6th grade. I was aware of them in the 60s, but nothing "fired my imagination" like Brown Sugar. At the show, I'm afraid I sat there with a big s**t-eatin' grin on my face the whole time, except for one song, which I'll get to in a minute.

That said, here's my thoughts on the show -

Arena: Grade A - I would give it an A+, except for the expected first-event ever glitches and the lame-o beer selection. The credit card system quit working shortly after the doors opened, fortunately I had lots of cash, and some of the beer taps ran dry early on (what did they think, no one was gonna drink beer at a Stones concert???? ). Everything else seemed to be running smoothly, the facility is first rate, it is not as large circumference or diameter-wise as the old coliseum here in Charlotte, but rather taller vertically (at least it seems that way, from the first level to the second, they have one of those mile-long escalators like in the Atlanta subway). I was on the first row of the upper deck, and I have a prediction - during the life of the building, someone is gonna fall over, there was only a very low concrete wall with about a 4-inch piece of plexiglass on it, I nearly fell over myself getting into my seat. Great for sightlines, not so great for safety.

Opening Act: SEX do you remember all the controversy SEX about subliminal advertising? SEX
Nothing subliminal about SEX Joss Stone SEX the opening act. Someone SEX forgot to SEX tell her that SEX the Britney Spears SEX almost-nekkid look is out, add SEX that to the SEX baby-making soul SEX music she sings and the gyrating hips SEX and it all adds up to SEX. Not to mention she is HOT, but that's all SEX I'm going to say SEX about her, since I'm old enough SEX to be her daddy. Her guitar player does have the biggest pedalboard I have ever seen, and can wail. In spite of all the SEX, her music is kinda boring, at least to me.

Beer selection: Grade C - The usual BMC (BudMillerCoors for the uninitiated) crap, with the exception of one bar downstairs that had Sam Adams and Heinies on tap, and one upstairs that had Sam, Heinies, Bass, and Harp. I got a Sam downstairs, a Bass upstairs, both were green, I think they must have put those kegs in a month in advance, when I got the Bass, the guy had to go to three different taps to fill my smallish cup. Speaking of the cups, not only did they charge you $7, (large BMCs were $6.75) but it was in a tiny cup. I ended up getting large Buds for the rest of my beer consumption, they tasted much better, they weren't skanked. On the plus side, I never had to wait for a beer, they have plenty of stands.

Stones: A+++++++ I had to keep pinching myself to make sure I was really there, I was, and these geezers kick butt. If you came from another planet, and didn't know their age, you would think they were in their 40s at most, Mick is still Jumpin' Jack Flash, and Keith, Ronnie, and Charlie were rockin' hard. Keith and Ronnie play all kinds of variations on the beloved song licks with ease, like they been playing guitar for 50 years or something. Oh, yeah, they have. Keith's axe of choice was a big ole black Lucille-lookin' ES 335, Ronnie switched on just about every song. Ronnie beat Keith easily on the flipping-guitar-picks-to-the-crowd contest, he was doin' it in mid-song.

Here's the set list, in rough order, not entirely correct I'm sure, but you get the idea:

Start Me Up
You Got Me Rockin'
Shattered (SHA-DOOBIE!! )
Ruby Tuesday (brought tears to my eyes, sentimental ole fool that I am)
Oh No Not You Again (funniest moment of the show, as there was a mass exodus for beer/bathrooms)
Tumbling Dice
All Down The Line (One of my personal favorites, I had the S-E grin on big time for this one, it was SMOKIN' - four piece horn section including the venerable Bobby Keys. Worth the price of admission for this one alone)

The Night Time is the Right Time (awesome as well, Mick and the female backup singer traded vocal licks while Ronnie and Keith sat in front of Charlie and laid down fierce blues licks, Keith enwreathed in cig smoke)
The Worst
Nameless new song (sorry, no clue, Keith sang it)
Miss You
Somewhere around this point, the center of the stage took the boys, along with Darryl Jones and Chuck Leavell, out down the center aisle to a small stage at the other end of the floor.

There, not only did they crank up the guitars, but they played
It's Only Rock'n'Roll
Honky Tonk Women
Rough Justice (excellent new song)
Then they went back to the main stage for:
Brown Sugar
Jumpin Jack Flash
Paint It Black (Ronnie was playin' this wild lookin' electric sitar thingy)
Sympathy For The Devil (excellent, Keith was rockin!!!, Charlie was POUNDING on both this one and Paint It Black)

You Can't Always Get What You Want (very cool double-time section at the end)
Satisfaction (not entirely satisfying, by this time the guitars were so loud it disentegrated into heavy-metal noise)

I told my wife the next morning that the Lord can take me now, I have experienced THE STONES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

PBO in the Land of the Sky

Just back from my 19th wedding anniversary trip, we went to Asheville. First let me preface this by saying that I have been going to Asheville all of my life, as my dad's family is from those parts, and I remember it as a sleepy mountain town with no hippies. A few years back, the town finally paid off their debts from the depression and "re-vitalization" began in earnest. Well, as you all know, it is now known as one of the premier hippie cities in the land, oh my Gawd, I had no idea how much.

The hippies I can handle, they don't bother me, I aspired to be one for much of my youth, however, as my ever-astute wife pointed out, there seems to be a high incidence of mental illness here. That and full-of-BS pseudo-intellectuals, you never overheard so much crap in your life, from the cooler-than-thou jazz "expert" in the Asheville Wine Market, to the "Bush sucks" employees in Malaprops bookstore pontificating on a menage-a-trois involving Nixon and Kissinger (if I saw one more anti-Bush bumper sticker, I was gonna puke. I mean, get a life, people).

Anyway, we had to get out of downtown fast, I went to the excellent used-book joint, Downtown Books and News, picked up a copy of "The Tolkien Reader" for 50 cents, "World's End" by Joan D. Vinge (been looking for that for years) for $1.50. I should have paid more attention to the fact that they had a resident cat, I felt like something was nibbling on me the whole time I was in there, by the time we got back to the car (Dana wouldn't let me go into the used CD stores, which sandwiched the skateboard shop, there was one of those mentally-ill types out front telling a bunch of 12-year-old skater wannabes that "the cops will f*** with you, man") I had rising welts on my legs and arms, I remembered the cat and said "that bookstore was infested with fleas!" (some of the clientele looked to be as well, the 50-something woman in striped kneesocks in particular).

Anyway, you know me, when I go somewhere, I'm all about the beer, the Asheville area has several breweries, Highland, which most folks are familiar with, Pisgah, and French Broad. When we first arrived in Asheville, we hit the Grove Arcade, which is a don't miss, I won't get into the story of the building here, you can look it up yourself,, suffice to say it is very cool. (Side note, dude outside Grove arcade at one of the stalls selling homemade jams under the name of "Imladris", which of course is the Elvish name for Rivendell, I was impressed). We had lunch at Cats and Dawgs, which offers catfish sandwiches and gourmet hot dogs, as well as the aforementioned French Broad brews on tap. I had a Wee Heavy (which is a Scottish Ale) it was quite tasty (they were on sale, so the inbred mountain dude running the tap gives me a plastic cup that by the time the head settled was about 3/4 full, pissed me right off).

That evening, we had dinner on the Sunset Terrace at the Grove Park Inn - WOW!!! Stunning view of the sun setting over the city and the mountains behind, most spectacular, they had an interesting selection of beer on tap, Highland Gaelic Ale (been there, done that, one of my personal fave session beers), Yuengling (for the unsophisticated), Sweetwater (Atlanta brewery) Exodus Porter, and the aforementioned French Broad's Octoberfest brew. I chose the Sweetwater Porter, was surprised that it came in a frosted pint glass, this is a Wine Spectator-awarded establishment, obviously they need some education when it comes to beer. I had to wait 20 minutes until it warmed up to where I could taste it, a decent porter, but nowhere close to Sierra Nevada or Anchor's porters.

Saturday, for lunch we went to La Paz in Biltmore Village, I had a 25-oz Dos Equis Amber, whilst sipping they played one of my faves from back in the day, Cheap Trick's "California Man"

Get that real guitar boy shakin',
I'm a California man

I had forgotten how much that tune ROCKS.

When we got back to the hotel after lunch, I found a brochure for the now twice-mentioned French Broad brewery, turns out it was five minutes from the hotel, they have a tasting room open on Thu and Fri nights (with live music) and Sat afternoon (with brewery tours). We were 20 minutes too late to take a tour, but went and had a couple o' pints, and tasted all the brews (except the pilsner, they were out). Good but not great beers, definitely better than macros. Very laid back, cool bar chick, excellent tunage playing, nice T-shirts, they dont' bottle their brews yet, she said they hoped to by the end of the year, I coulda bought a growler, but had no way to keep it cold in the hotel.

Next up: PBO goes uptown (Charlotte, that is, new work assignment), or maybe I'll type my U2 manifesto