Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Postal Service @ Hard Rock Live Orlando 06/05/13

It was a week before the show that I realized I had accidentally packed my ticket to The Postal Service show in one of my boxes for my upcoming move. I went through every box it could have possibly been in, to no avail. Had this been 10 years ago (when I first saw The Postal Service), I would have been completely screwed. Surprisingly though, Ticketmaster is not completely an evil empire, and actually allows you now to cancel lost tickets and just pick them up at will call. First sign that this was going to be a good show.

Second sign? I pull up to Universal Orlando, expecting to pay the discounted "after 6PM" rate, only to find out it's FREE for Florida Residents. So I parked at JAWS, and made my way through the never-ending maze of automated walkways and stairs to Citywalk. I picked up my ticket at will call and joined the already long line waiting in the rain. A light drizzle, nothing worrisome. Plus, they let is in earlier than they usually would have due to the rain.

The opening act came on right at 8PM. Ra Ra Riot. Not a big fan of that particular style, but they were a very good band. The performance was great, due largely in part to half of the band: the singer, the drummer, and the bass player. The singer belted out beautifully, his clear voice cutting easily through the venue. The drummer was tight as can be, and the bass player was the soul of band: his quirky basslines gave the music an interesting backbone. The other members....meh. The electric cellist wasn't too bad, she was just mixed too low. The violinist and the guitar player seemed like they were there just to visually balance out the stage. I only heard the guitar on a couple of occasions, and it was nothing memorable. Same with the violinist.

A little after 9PM, The Postal Service took the stage. Ben, Jenny, and Jimmy. Oh, and Laura Burhenn, although her contributions were pretty much inaudible for the entire performance (with the exception of her lovely voice harmonizing with Jenny's). Ben and the gang launched right into "The District Sleeps Alone" and followed with every song on Give Up. They also played a few songs that weren't on that album, as well as a cover and one of the new songs. The set was energetic, with Ben dancing along most of the time (stark comparison to their show in 2003 where he lumbered about awkwardly to the beat). Rather than update the songs to fit some of the current musical landscapes in the electronic world (*cough* dubstep), they kept everything faithful to the original recordings.

The highlight of the set was "This Place is a Prison." An incredibly depressing song hidden amongst a wave of unceasing upbeatness and happy melodies, the tune always creates an interesting counterpoint towards the end of Give Up. Live, it took on an even stronger sense of sadness, and was incredibly moving. It ended with Ben rushing over to the drums for the last part (something he did on some other tunes as well). His voice was great from start to finish, as was Jenny's. Laura's harmony background to Jenny's voice fit well. Jimmy even "sung" on a few tunes, although it was usually through some effect.

Lowlights of the performance were the Beat Happening cover ("Our Secret") and Natural Anthem; the former being a tad boring and not in the spirit of the show, the latter being an inaudible wall of noise and epileptic-seizure-inducing-lights that had no reason to exist other than to scrub everyone's ears and eyes clean. On the bright side, Ben was sporting his best John Stamos/Uncle Jessie look throughout the show. Jenny looked old...very old....but cute within that. It was mostly her face and her hair, she was rocking the hot G-milf look. (If they ever did a Golden Girls redo, she'd get my vote for Blanche.)

I was very lucky to be able to see The Postal Service perform what I consider to be the best pop album of the 00s live. Apparently the tickets sold out within the first few minutes (I got mine with the AMEX presale). I was able to see them once before on the only other tour they ever did, in 2003. It was in Orlando as well, at the Social. While this show was much more "professional" and a bit more fun, I think the show in 2003 was a better performance and a tad more enjoyable. If there's enough interest, I can write up a short post about that performance and include some photos as well.

Overall: 8/10
: 9/10 Sound: 8/10 Experience: 7/10
(Opening act: Ra Ra Riot)

You can check out these photos and more at my imgur album:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lichgate on High Road (Tallahassee, FL)

I came across Lichgate thanks to a friend of mine. I was visiting Tallahassee for work and had some free time so we were exploring Tallahassee. Lichgate was the first thing we did. Tucked away in plain sight, you could drive by it a million times and not know it was there (in fact, my second visit I had trouble finding it!).

What is Lichgate? Lichgate is the work of Laura Pauline Jepsen. She was a professor of English Literature at FSU from 1946 to 1978. The site of Lichgate features an incredible 200+ year old live oak tree, next to which Jepson built a English Tudor-style cottage. She named it after the Old English word "lychgate" which is a gate that separated the world of the living from the world of the dead.

Arriving at Lichgate you park in a small lot. There is a board there with information, and a path that leads through the trees. As you walk you start to get glimpses of the tree, and then all of a sudden you walk out into this large tract of land, upon the middle of which is a huge live oak tree. This thing is massive, and has branches that reach the ground.

The cottage is located behind the tree, and is unfortunately closed to the public (although I believe they do open it for special events). To the left of the cottage you can find a variety of gardens. First comes a butterfly garden. Overgrown, as a real garden should be. After that there are some benches that are used for special events at Lichgate. Finally you come upon some vegetable gardens, which are cared for by a local school.

Unfortunately on my last visit I noticed that they have cut down a lot of the trees in the front area. You can pretty much see the tree and the entire plot of land from the parking lot, so the suspense and surprise aspects are pretty much gone. Nonetheless, this is still a beautiful site worth taking the time to experience.

You can check out the rest of the photos at IMGUR:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Moses Creek Conversation Area (St. Augustine, FL)

I was up in Jacksonville for a few days a month ago, visiting my best friend while she was in town for a wedding. I had some time to kill while she did some wedding prep so I made my way down to the Moses Creek Conversation Area. It's about 15 minutes south of St Augustine, between US1 and US1A on the 206. It's a fairly large area, covering over 2,100 acres and serving as one of the few tidal creeks in the region that have remained undeveloped.

I parked at the east trailhead. There were a few cars around, and as I started the trail I encountered two separate families and a large group of elderly women out for a nice hike. I think they only make it to the campsite.  After 5 minutes the initial canopy opens up, and you are walking on a open grassy trail with pines on the side. Lots of green (and yellow). After 1/4 mile you can turn right to go to the campsite.

I kept on going straight instead. The grassy ground and surrounding trees turns into a white sand path with tree cover one one side, and a mostly open area on the right. The sand was a bit annoying to walk on, so I took to the edges by the trees which was somewhat grassy and firmer. There are a few forks and spurs here, but keeping on the widest patch of white sand keeps you going on the main path.

After another 1/4 mile you find yourself under canopy again. To be honest, the trail up until his point was a bit boring: mostly straight with not much to see. Plus the sun beats down on you. From here the path curves a lot more and the ever surrounding presence of trees leaves you visually stimulated.

At the 1.3 mile mark, you get to the bluff observation point. This was the highlight of the hike for me. You get a beautiful view of the Moses Creek (which is a tributary of the Matanzas River which is off to the east) as it winds through the marshland. The view is incredible. There are some stairs and a metal dock so you can get down to the creek itself. The hike had been virtually lifeless with regards to wildlife up til this point, but there were tons of birds in this spot.

Lack of adequate water supplies and a need to get back to my friend made me turn back at this point. There are miles and miles more trails after the spot I turned around at, which I will have to come back to some day. Moses Creek also has some mountain biking trails (I almost walked into one, before I saw a "Wrong way" sign posted on a tree haha) and you can kayak the river. Horseback riding, fishing, and camping are other activities you can enjoy here.

You can check out the rest of the photos at IMGUR:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Pennybacker, Mount Bonnell, Oasis (Austin, TX)

 Pennybacker Bridge

The Pennybacker Bridge (or as it's better known, the 360 bridge) is a beautiful structure. It helps the 360 Loop jump over the Lake Austin section of the Colorado river. On the north side of the bridge is the rockface that was carved into in order to make the 360 possible. The rock rises on both sides of the road, a sheer face on either side acting almost like the walls in a hallway. West side of the road has some unofficial parking on the shoulder of the road. From there, you can hike up all the way to the top of the rock, which gives you a gorgeous view of not only the Pennybacker and Lake Austin, but also a great view of the hilly nature of Austin.

The top of the hill is pretty flat, right a few trees giving some shade and scenery. To the left you can see the other tall rock, which is a virtual mirror image of the one you are one. I didn't get to hike that one (there's no parking on that side and there's a slight chance of "trespassing"), but maybe next time. Looking straight you see the bridge, Lake Austin, the 360, and a lot of green and hills. To the right, you see the west side of Lake Austin, and the hike continues for 50-60 more feet before you encounter a fence. Great views from every part of the rock!

Mount Bonnell

The Mount Bonnell scenic view gives you a much wider (and higher) viewpoint of Austin and in particular Lake Austin. Not entirely sure why they call a part of a RIVER, a lake, but that's how it is. The peak of the hill is almost 800 feet, although you drive up most of that. The amount you actually go up is closer to 200 ft. After you park on the side of the road there are two entrances: we took the southern one, which is a fairly long set of steep stairs (99 steps? 100?). The northern entrance is right at the level of the parking area; the hill descends from the peak down to that spot.

From the top you get an incredible view of Austin. The river/lake is right under you, as well as many ridiculous houses/mansions. I mean, if you have a lakeside garage for your BOATS, then you are really rich. And it wasn't just one person with this, almost every house touching the lake had one. Unforutunately that community is gated in so there was no way to explore that aside from above. There are trails to the left and right of the high point; if you go left you will descend a bit and get to a point where you cannot go anymore due to a fence. To the left of that spot is a view of downtown Austin.

Hiking to the right takes you down the 190 ft descent much more gradually through somewhat uneven white rock. This hike gives you a few more views, and also a few vantage points where you can get further out into the hill, right up to a few sheer drops (which I did, of course).


Ah, the Oasis...the latest and greatest in Tourist based shopping and dining! This place is similar to Bayside in Miami and Riverfront in Ft Lauderdale, a large collection of shops and restaurants grouped for the purpose of all-in-one tourist entertainment. This one is actually really beautiful, the design is pretty incredible since it is on the hillside and has many levels. Oh, and the twist that might actually bring locals back more than once is the spectacular sunset views; it's high on a hill facing the sunset and Lake Travis. We managed to race the sun and get there in time!

You can check out the rest of the photos at IMGUR:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Turkey Creek Trail (Austin, TX)

Next up on my Austin trails, is the Turkey Creek Trail at the Emma Long Metropolitan Park. This is considered by locals to be mostly a dog park, as was evident by the large amount of dogs present while hiking and also by the fact that I was the only one there without a dog. Regardless, this was a nice hike and unlike the Barton Creek Trail, this creek had some water in it!

From the parking lot you cross a forested hill and then end up where the creek goes under City Park Rd. The creek was pretty dry down at that point, so the footpath stones were a bit unnecessary. The Trail winds a bit away from the creek for a bit and then you get to the main part of the trail, which is right next to Turkey Creek. It's a pretty shallow waterway, but there were stepping stones at every part the trail crossed the creek (which happened a few times).

1/4th the way into the hike you reach a part where you backtrack a bit to the right and start hiking up the hill to the top. Whereas the first part of the hike was pretty flat, this is a bit of a climb. Once I got to the top of the hill, I managed to get a bit lost. Not lost per say, as I have a pretty good sense of direction, but I had no idea where the hell I was in relation to the map. There were a ton of crisscrossing pathways, none of which seemed to make any sense and all worn about evenly. I managed to make my way to the back of the valley, then around and down to the other side of the trail heading down. This back part was much dryer, with many empty creek beds to walk on. Eventually the trail wound back to the wetter part.

There's not much else to say about the trail. Like I mentioned before, even though this is considered to be a dog trail by most, it's still nice and mostly easy going, especially if you go the opposite way I did (make a left at the fork and climb the long the long gradual way, and leave the more strenuous climb on the right for your descent. Even in the drought there was a good chunk of the creek which was wet, and I can only imagine how much nicer it would be when it rains.
Bonus point: while leaving the park, I found a random payphone in the middle of a small field between the roads. Weird!

Here's an Imgur album with these photos and more:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Barton Creek Greenbelt (Austin, TX)

I had to take a trip to Austin for work back in early March. It was SXSW week, and I was needed at the Gibson Showroom. I didn't get to see much of any actual SXSW goings on outside the showroom, but managed to see a few cool bands playing while helping out. I decided to spend the weekend there, since my friend Eddy lives in Austin and I had yet to visit him. Having been to the Dallas/Ft Worth area before, I was incredibly surprised at the nature of Austin. It is very unlike the other parts of Texas I had been in, and I was caught off guard by how hilly the area is.
I hit up a few people for suggestions on things I should see, and since a few mentioned the Barton Creek Greenbelt I decided to check it out. Instead of the usual starting point at Zilker Park, I decided to make for the entrance off the 360 and Mopac. Actually, the way it went was this: my friend suggested that entrance, but not having looked up how to actually find it I continued on to Zilker. Once at Zilker though I wasn't really feeling it, so I looked up how to find the Mopac entrance and made my way over there. It's located right next to a business park, but has it's own parking lot.
One thing I should mention is that the creek that the trail runs alongside of is usually wet...being in the middle of a drought though, it was completely dry. I was a bit surprised though at how much green still existed in Austin, and in the trail. There were some trees that were pretty dry (particularly the ones closest to the creek, but it wasn't as bad as in South Florida when we've had a drought. I guess their green is well equipped for the heat. While some wetness and reflectivity might have come in handy photographically, I found the trail to be pretty beautiful as it was. It was also very cool being able to walk ON the creek bed!
Hiking down from the parking lot to the trail,  I found myself facing the Seismic Wall. This is one of the many rockfaces on the trail that are designated for climbing use. There were a few people climbing it when I got there. From there I went left (south) on the trail. For the most part the trail is easy going. You can certainly climb up the hills at various points (which I did) but there's not much drastic elevation change within the marked trail itself. After a little walking I came up to the 360 bridge that passes overhead. It's pretty impressive, having such a tall man-made structure flying over you. Right before that though were some signs of wetter days: ropes hanging off a tree that are used for swinging into creek when it's there.
Hiking along I came to a part of the trail that was close to mountain bikers. It was flatter than the bike trail, but they were in the process of letting some of the nature grow back. After that I came across some chains on the wall...another reminder of wetter times (they are to help you cross some slippery rocks). The trail then crosses the creek and continues on the right hand side of it. I walked all the way down to Twin Falls which was, of course, dry. This seemed to be a popular gathering spot, as it was the busiest part of the trail.
I turned around at this point, and decided to hike up the hill on the right. This took me to the Gaines Creek entrance. I was pretty tired at this point (it was REALLY hot out!), and was not looking forward to having to hike half a mile back down the hill and then another half mile to get to the point where I was at, lower on the hill. So I decided to go down a really steep path on the north side of the hill. It was fun, and got me down to the creek in no time. I crossed the dry stones under the bridge, avoiding the slightly muddy ones, and hiked back to the start. I passed by the climbing wall and watched them a bit. It was a pretty intense wall, and not one I would want to do until I was much better at rock climbing!
Few notes:
-There was grafitti a plenty on the made made structures (bridge columns, etc). Most of it was artistic in nature though, and even the "tags" had some visual worth.
-This seems to be a pretty popular mountain bike trail. The section I did had no real offroad paths, but there is enough elevation change to warrant riding here.
-I took a detour halfway to Twin Falls, and found and interesting circular depression in the rock, which was obviously used as a "chill spot" for people at night (remnants of fire, some mild littering). I proceeded to climb further and found myself on the top of the rockface that the creek path goes along, with a sheer drop down to the path in some places. Pretty cool!

You can check out some more images from my hike at imgur: