Baseball, music and other thoughts

I went to an afternoon baseball game yesterday in Toronto. Here are some random thoughts about the experience.

Driving anywhere near Toronto and the outlying cities and major highways nearby is about as close to Hell as I can imagine.

$15 is a good deal for parking in Toronto. I wish I could get hundreds/thousands of dollars a day for an oversized driveway.

The Toronto Blue Jays are my team. They were touted as possible World Series contenders this year( as they have many times over the past 25 years), but they are languishing about 5 games under .500 now. It seems they continue to leave runners on base. I’m not sure I know how to fix this. Perhaps a rotation of the batting order.

MLB now allows for Team Managers to issue a video replay challenge. The manager is allowed to challenge. If he gets it right and the play is overturned he can challenge again, but if he is wrong he has no more challenges. This might be good for the team, but it sucks for the fans. The game was moving along nicely, when Shuck was called out at 2nd base. Robin Ventura issued a challenge. It clearly showed on the giant screen that the 2nd base umpire was wrong, and that Shuck beat the tag. It was shown over and over about 20 times. roughly 10-15 minutes went by until the play was overturned. I personally hate video replays in any sport, but if they have to be there, how about a 1-2 minute timeline to keep the game moving along.

Ventura challenged again a similar play. Shuck again was called out at 2nd base. The screen was obstructed by the players so there was no way to overturn the play. Even though he lost this challenge he tried again to challenge for a 3rd time. The knowledgeable fans knew he was out of challenges and taunted him for not reading his rule book.

If I were the baseball commissioner I would limit the amount of time for new pitcher warm up throws, or not allow them at all. In any other sport the play does not stop for a substitution player to warm up. They are in the bullpen throwing during the game, so why is this needed? Also, I would limit the amount of throws the pitcher can make to first base. I know you want to keep a fast base stealer close to first, but base stealing is exciting, and throwing to first from the mound is boring and time consuming.

The music they now play at ball games is pretty awesome. They play a diverse set of tunes to appeal to all. Some of the tunes I heard yesterday were Shephard of Fire-Avenged Sevenfold, Live it Up-Airbourne, Rasputin–Boney M, Summertime-DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Come With Me-Puff Daddy, and numerous others.

Even though the fanbase is much smaller than during the championship days, the knowledge of the game, the excitement level and intensity are back. I was there in the late 80’s and early 90’s when the team was awesome, and the fans reached 53,000. During those years the fans were loud and supportive. After the 1994/95 baseball strike, the attendance numbers nosedived and have never recovered. I went to games in the late 90’s and into 2000’s and the negative vibe from the fans towards the team was felt in the stands. Also, the ushers and stadium employees seemed to want to control the fans, telling them not to yell, and settle down. It seems the positive vibes have come back, and the owners realize it is better to have loud, boisterous fans.

My hope was to leave early if it was a blow out so I could try and beat some of that awful traffic. This always means the game will go into extra innings, and sure enough it did.

Josh Donaldson has taken over for Joey Bats(Jose Bautista), and Edwin Encarnacion as the best hitter currently on the club. He smacked a 9th inning solo shot to send it into extra innings. The night before he hit a walk off homer served up by the same pitcher to end the game. This man needs to be in the All-Star Game.

The music from my rock radio stations in Southern Ontario has never been better. As I hopped in my car I had my local station 107.5 Dave FM on. I heard Max Webster, Foo Fighters, Pink Floyd-Sheep, and the “Metal Moment“ song Rainbow-Kill The King. I also emailed the program director and asked for Jesus Left Chicago-ZZ Top to bring the Blue Jays luck against the White Sox. He played the entire Waiting For The Bus/Jesus Left Chicago version. Just after that song I was getting out of the range of my local station, so I switched to 97.7 HTZ FM. These stations arguably rank in the top 2 or 3 stations in the province, or possibly the country. I suggest to give both of these stations a go online. You won`t be disappointed.

Even big league players can make easy mistakes. A routine fly ball was lost in the sun by right fielder Ezequiel Carrera, which allowed 2 runs to score.

The Bronx cheer is found in other places outside the Bronx. Carrerra heard it the next time he caught a routine flyball.

It is completely awesome to be in the crowd and hear a fan halfway across the stadium taunting the opposing team batter. The batter, Sanchez stepped to the plate. Of course, the Dirty Sanchez chants started. Sanchez squared up to bunt, and then the guy above the right field fence started. SANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNCHEZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. This got hundreds of other taunts flowing from the crowd, including mine. Sanchez fouled a few bunts before deciding to swing and striking out. The crowd roar was great.

Apparently “The Wave“ is still a thing to some people. Some stood up, some raised their hands, but most realized it was 2015 and not 1995, and ignored it.

Concert Review-Faith No More

I have been looking forward to the reunion of this band for years. Then a few months ago my brother asked me if I would like to go to see the concert. For free. Well, let me think about that for 1/1000000000 of a millisecond. F*cking right I’ll go.

We got to the concert 5 minutes before the show was to start and parked. When we walked in we saw quite a range of audience members, but one thing was for sure. They were a little older. I don’t think I saw anyone under 25 there. It is not that the band is ancient by any means. They started in the 1980’s and their popularity didn’t spike until the early 90’s, but possibly because they haven’t been in the limelight, or the fact that they broke up for a long time alienated them from the younger crowd.

As we were walking to our seats the opening band,  Le Butcherettes were on stage, and believe it or not, if I closed my eyes I could have sworn Geddy Lee was singing. I have never heard a female sing this way. That was the only song that sounded like Geddy, as the band morphed into kind of a White Stripes sounding band at one moment, to a full on punk assault the next. They are a garage punk band from Mexico. Jamie Aaron Aux is the new bassist, and Chris Common the new drummer. They form a rhythm section that is entrancing. They are the rock of the band, the glue that holds it all together. Although I don’t think there is any glue strong enough to hold the lead singer still for long. Teri Gender Bender is the spastic, multi-talented, in your face, front person of the band. One minute she is speaking to you in Spanish, the next belting out beautiful lyrics in English, then rolling around and flashing her undies like a skit on SNL featuring Mary Katherine Gallagher. I was waiting for her to stick her hands under her armpits and “smell them like this”. Being I was sitting in the orchestra section I was not close enough to see exactly what was going on down in the floor section, but suffice it to say it looked pretty wild when Teri was weaving her way though the crowd, and probably showing off her undies(and perhaps more while rolling around on the floor). She seems like a real wild child. But when she climbs back on stage, grabs her guitar and belts out a tune, she isn’t fooling around. This band is worth seeing, and they may be a headliner some day. I enjoyed them so much I bought the newest record (review upcoming), and when I got home I was pleasantly surprised to see that Henry Rollins and Shirley Manson make an appearance on it.

I could not find a clip for the Toronto show for Le Butcherettes, and the one posted has older band members, but I wanted to show one with Teri’s energy.

During the intermission my brother and I ran into one of the people from my local rock radio station and we talked about music, and how we were all so excited to see Faith No More. All of us love them, but had never seen them live. The nervous anticipation was building, in the building. My brother said he witnessed a dude just shaking his head, saying “I can’t believe I am seeing Faith No More tonight. I can’t believe it” I think many shared that sentiment.

We decided to get a drink before heading to our seats before Faith No More hit the stage. We went upstairs hoping the line ups were shorter. Wrong. We were inching closer to the bar, looking at our phones and watches every few minutes. We got about 5 people away from the bar and we heard subdued screams. Do we leave our spot in line and sprint back to our seat. Wait. The screams stopped quickly. Ok good. Those were the screams of the uninitiated concert goers that scream when the guitar and drum techs go on stage. Still, the screams meant they were almost there, and the bar seemed like it was a distant mirage. Finally, we got our drinks, we raced to our seats and within 1 minute the time we had longed for had come. We barely got a chance to take in the visual display. A wedding planner, or a funeral director would have loved this stage layout. Frilly cloths and flowers were everywhere the eye could see. Then the band came on stage wearing all white. They looked like a cult, which was ok because I drank the Faith No More koolaid years ago.

Then the real screams started. Even middle aged dudes can scream like little girls on a roller coaster when a band as awesome as Faith No More hit the stage.

The first song was a new song called Motherfucker. “Get the Motherfucker on the phone. On the phone.” Apparently these guys mean business. Certainly not my fave song, but it makes an impression, and sets the tone for the rest of the night. A few songs from Angel Dust follow, Land of Sunshine and Caffeine. Both good songs. The latter featuring great drum work. The band slowed it down a bit with Evidence, but the energy from the band and especially the crowd ramped up 10 fold when Epic came on. There really is nothing I can say about this song. It’s popularity hasn’t wavered over the years. It is about the only Faith No More song still on the radio. Another new song Sunny Side Up, then back to the fast paced drumming and guitar work of Get Out.

Next was Midlife Crisis, but this was not the normal version, which would have been good enough since it is such a great song. This version however had a cover of Lowdown by Boz Scaggs thrown into the mix. I love Boz Scaggs. I am not sure Faith No More do though. They asked the crowd if Boz Scaggs was Canadian. I assume this was a dig, as this was one of many insults hurled towards Canadians during the night. Mike Patton mentioned they were harassed at the border, so I’m not sure if that is part of it. Roddy Bottum spoke about his High School prom. He said he did cocaine, and asked what do we do in Canada at a prom? Incest? Mike also asked us why were still there half way through the show. He said he assumed we would all be gone playing hockey or curling.

Next up is Last Cup of Sorrow. Awesome guitar playing. The Gentle Art of Making Enemies is anything but gentle. Any self respecting metal band would be proud to lay claim to this song. Next is the song Easy. It is a cover of the Commodores song. If you don’t know who the Commodores are you should know the singer, Lionel Richie. The song does not suit the band. Faith No More is about as easy as a Sunday morning where you woke up in a jail cell and were still drunk and stoned from the night before. But I quite like it. And from the reaction of the crowd, I think they did too. Yet another song from Angel Dust, Be Aggressive, and this song suits them as they are much more aggressive than easy. Next is King For A Day, great vocals and use of the cop radio cb thing but amazing rhythm section.

Ashes to Ashes brings us some sick geetar work, and next comes another new song Superhero. If ever had any doubt that I would buy the new upcoming album this song would make the purchase mandatory.

The band says goodnight, but we know the deal, besides they have not played the songs I was hoping to see, War Pigs and From Out of Nowhere. The band leads off the encore with yet another new song. Matador is kind of a downer, and Mike even mentions this when the song is done. Here’s a thought. How about a rocking tune to play on that energy from the crowd cheering when you walk back on stage for the encore. Next is Digging a Grave. Shredding guitar, pounding drums, thumping bass, and screaming vocals. What is not to like. Last was The Bee Gees cover, I Started a Joke. Again, kind of a mismatched song, it was good, but not my favourite for closing the show. Again, the band say goodnight, and I assume that they will do a second encore as they had in some cities.  However, you know what happens when you assume. The house lights go up, and I realize I will not hear 2 of the tunes I wanted, but I did get to hear most of the others I enjoy so that is a small setback.

Part way through the show, my brother points out a guy in the crowd that is air drumming like a madman. After the song Mike Patton calls the guy out. ‘Guy in the green shirt, about halfway back, air drumming.” Then the guy takes his shirt off and swings it over his head and Patton says ” Squeal like a pig, Ned Beatty. Weeeeee Weeeeeee Weeeeee”. Today, I heard the air drummer guy call the radio and also say Mike Borden gave him a set of drumsticks which was nice, and then he won tickets to the next Faith No More Show from the radio station.

As for the concert, one thing I was concerned about over the passage of time was Mike Patton’s voice. Best rest assured it was in tip top shape. At times he sang into the mike, sang into a cop style cb radio, and also into a megaphone. No matter the amplification, it all sounded sweet and silky at times, and raw and edgy at others. The band was tight and sounded awesome, and there was no portion of the show that really sounded bad. It sounded like it could have been recorded in 1995 instead of 2015. There was not one portion of the show where I had that “gotta go for a beer” moment. That says a lot for a band that had been apart for a long time, has not released a new album in 18 years, and included 4 new songs most did not know in the set.

For Le Butcherettes I give a 10 for enthusiasm, effort and stage presence. I give them a 9 for their music, which is really high for an opening act I have never heard of. Seriously, check them out. For Faith No More I would score a 10/10. I will drop 1/4 point for the song selection and song placement during the night(they only played one song from their most popular album, The Real Thing), and 1/4 point for the Canadian digs, so 9.5 total for the night. All in all, a great concert. Not one moment where we were bored and it seems the crowd felt the same.

9.5/10

Happy Mother’s Day

Some special mother related tunes to debate which is the best Mother’s day rock song.

Mama Kin-Aerosmith

Mother-Pink Floyd

Mama we’re all Crazee now-Slade/The Runaways/Quiet Riot

Mama-Genesis

Mama I’m Coming Home-Ozzy Osborne

Tie You’re Mother Down-Queen/Lemmy

My first Album review-Kick Axe Vices

After reading Mike Ladano’s post #394 Between the Buttons, and the mention of Mike not owning any Kick Axe, I remembered how awesome they sounded back in the day. I dusted off my copy of Vices and gave it a spin.

Side one starts with “Heavy Metal Shuffle”. Beginning with a Quiet riot inspired drum beat(more on this later), and a scream that Rob Halford would be proud of, this song morphs into a kind of Helix themed rocker. “Vices” continues the 80’s metal/rock theme, but unlike many bands of the era, the backing vocals add to the flavour of the song. The lyrics on this song are a little weak, but for some reason the band chose to put a portion of them on the back cover of the album. (We all live in our vices. We’re indulging tonight. it’s just part of this crazy world we like.) Ok. The band also chose to include the name of the drummer as Vice Brian Gilstrom. He was apparently in charge of drums, vocals, & responsibility. Similar to the lead vocalist George Criston who was in charge of vocals & inspiration. All righty then. “Stay on Top” is a good song, again with weaker lyrics, but the weird part is the end, with a weird drum solo that seems a little long, then a slowed down transition to the next song “Dreamin` About You”. This is the required 80`s ballad, albeit much heavier and less cheesy than most ballads of the day. It is a nice change, that seems just right. another weird song transition with some kind of wolf pack howling thing leading into `”Maneater”. Sorry 80`s crap music fans, not a remake of the Hall & Oates cheesefest, but a rockin` hair metal romp with some sweet geetar and drums to keep everyone happy.

Side 2 is so good it probably could have been the first side of the record, but I will soon see a reason why it is not. “On the Road To Rock” is awesome. Nothing more can be said. Great song. Played on Much Music back in the day. “Cause for Alarm” is a fast paced rocker, similar to Live Wire by Motley Crue, but kind of like Motley Crue fronted by Kevin Dubrow. This is the point of the album, that I feel this album has a lot of similarities to Metal Health. A quick google search tells me why. Spencer Proffer was the producer. He had just produced Metal Health the year before, and he practiced the if it ain`t broke, don`t fix it. On side a, George Criston occasionally sounds like Dubrow, but on side b he  often sounds almost exact. That is not a bad thing in my mind. And Dubrow sounded almost exactly like Noddy Holder, so there you go. Perhaps they did not want the casual fan to think they were a Quiet Riot/Kevin Dubrow copy, hence the song placement. “Alive & Kickin`” is a great rock anthem. “All the Right Moves” is a sweet tune. I dare you to listen to this without bobbing you head or tapping your feet. “Just Passin Through” is a decent song. Other than mentioning vices again, as if the song, lyrics, drummers name etc. were not enough. The cassette version also included a cover of the Humble Pie song “Thirty Days in the Hole”.

Around this time the lead singer was being considered to join Black Sabbath, and songs from Kick Axe were considered by Black Sabbath for the new album as well. The band also wrote “Hunger” and “Piece of the Rock” for Carmine Appice-King Cobra, and “Running Wild in the Streets” for W.A.S.P. So it was obvious the talent was there, and the metal world realized this.

As for this album I give it a solid 9.5 of 10. It would have earned a 10 outright except for the occasional weak lyrics and for the excessive use of vices. For the 80`s hairband nostalgia awesomeness though, it is a perfect 10. I suggest to find a copy of this album and enjoy.

Turntables Part 2

If anyone is interested I will give a few pointers on buying a used turntable.

There are generally 3 types of drive systems to a turntable. Belt drive, rim drive and direct drive. They all have an electric motor located inside the turntable, under the platter. When it is plugged in, and turned on the motor spins. Different things happen when you switch between 45, 33 1/3 ( or sometimes 78), on the three types of drives.

On a belt drive, the belt is moved to either a larger or smaller diameter step on the motor pulley, depending on what speed is selected. On some models, the platter has to be removed to manually switch between 45 & 33 1/3. On a rim drive, the motor spins a rubber wheel. This wheel runs against the inside/underside of the platter. When switching speeds the rubber wheel moves up or down to either a thicker or thinner section that spins the platter. On direct drive the motor is connected directly to the platter. The speed change is either handled by gears or magnets.

Each style has its advantages and disadvantages:

Belt Drive Disadvantages: Belts are made of rubber, wear out and stretch. Whenever buying a used belt drive always factor that it should have a new belt, and if you can’t change it yourself there will be labour costs, so factor that into the purchase price. even a belt that is not brand new can have some stretch and affect speed. Sometimes platter has to be removed to change speeds.

Belt Drive Advantage: The potential for sound quality is the best with a belt drive turntable. The rubber belt helps to isolate the vibrations, motor rumble and noise that emanate through the speakers.

Rim Drive Disadvantages: Usually only found on older models. Higher noise caused by the motors. The motors spin at very fast speeds, so can burn out quicker. Rubber wheels wear out.

Rim Drive Advantage: Most common issue is rubber wheel slipping. Often lightly rubbing with very fine emery cloth etc. will scuff it enough to make it not slip, so this drive may be cheaper and easier to service.

Direct Drive Disadvantage: This design leads to the most issues with rumble and noise emanating through the speakers, especially when the bearings get worn. If something needs replacing, it is usually a more expensive part that fails.

Direct Drive Advantage: Less Maintenance, is the best at speed regulation, and getting up to speed quickly. For these reasons this is the style dj’s prefer.

Cartridge(the end of the tone arm into closest to the record) and stylus(needle): When buying a used table, check to see if it has a cartridge, ask how old it is, and research the make and model. This could easily make a decent $100 turntable turn into a $200-300 or more turntable. Also check the style of cartridge. Some are a p-mount design which limits the available cartridges that fit the tone arm.

Check the weight of the turntable. Usually a heavier model is built solidly, and will have less chance of emitting noise through the speakers.

One thing to consider is what amp or receiver you will be using. Since the 1990’s, most receivers do not have a dedicated phono plug. If you look on the back of your receiver and it does not say phono above a plug, you can not plug your newly bought turntable into it. So you will now need a pre amp, an electric device that changes the frequency so it can be played through your receiver. They can be bought as cheaply as $20, but you often get what you paid for. The above is also something to consider when shopping for a receiver as well.

Do some research on any model you want to buy. Check forums such as stevehoffman,  audiokarma, head-fi etc. Google your make and model. I have made the mistake of bringing home a cheap turntable only to find it needs a p mount cartridge(which have way fewer and more expensive options), needs a belt, and a complete service. If I had invested the money in the repair, I would have a lower end model worth half my investment. It sometimes is worth spending a little more to find an “audiophile” quality turntable that has been looked after and perhaps recently serviced.

I am in the process of restoring a Dual rim drive turntable. I will submit a new entry when I am done, and perhaps another one comparing the sound quality of the same record played on 3 turntables with different drives.

For now, I will leave with an article from 1958 that is still relevant in 2015.

Good luck on the turntable search.

http://www.djsociety.org/Turn%20History.htm

In other words

Recently I have requested interviews with different bands/musicians/etc. Usually the requests go to a middle man/woman. Often the promoter, venue employee, etc. They have all gone just about the same. “What media are you with?” “I am doing this for my own blog”. “Oh, the band is really busy. They won’t have time for you”

In other words. Frig off. You are not important enough to warrant 5 minutes(that was all I asked for). I am finding out the hard way that it is like getting into Fort Knox to interview more famous people. I know they use up a lot of energy performing live. I just wanted 5 minutes, before or after the show. I offered to do an interview by telephone, email etc., but no dice. I think in most cases the bands do not even know my requests were denied. I wonder if they know how this could negatively affect the way people like me look at their band.

I have already interviewed some opening acts. Some are previously from pretty big bands but are in a new band now, some just starting out, and possibly some will be older bands that have slipped in popularity. Either way, I am finding these people do not have the walls up blocking interviews, they all have been awesome to talk to, and grateful for any press. I know I will never become famous, but if  ever did, I would instruct my people that no matter how big or small the media outlet or blog, let him do his interview.

In some upcoming blogs I will post some interviews, reviews of the shows and music from these lesser known bands.

R.I.P Ms. Pacman

It is with great sadness I inform you that the Ms. Pacman machine that I have played for over 20 years is no longer in service. Sonny’s is an landmark in my local city. It has served thousands of customers through the years, and only ever had one video game to play. The restaurant is close to the University and a few of the watering holes that are crammed from Tuesday-Saturday night. Back in my college days I would go there after the bar, order a burger or gyro, and play Ms. Pacman. Just hearing the music brings back good memories of good food, and fun times.

I have not gone there for quite some time, but went in last night and found the screen blank, and some shooting game beside it. That was weird. I had to put in 50 cents instead of the 25 Ms. Pacman cost and my game was over in about 2 minutes. I used to play Ms. Pacman for 20 minutes.

Oh well. I guess change is inevitable, but I am going to miss the old girl.

I have never seen this video before. This player is completely awesome.