Sunday, March 10, 2013

Coheed and Cambria @ The Fillmore Miami 03/08/13

(Opening acts: Between the Buried and Me, Russian Circles)

After a long hiatus of 10 years, I finally got to see Coheed and Cambria again. I got into them around Second Stage Turbine Blade, my interest fueled by a few tracks I found on Napster that ended up actually being recordings by their previous side project, Shabutie. From that point on though, I was hooked. I saw them open up for Thursday with Thrice at Club Ovation in Boyton Beach. It was a mediocre performance from them: the music was cool, but Claudio could really not recreate his recorded voice well in a live situation at that point. Plus, since that venue was basically a gutted out Winn Dixie (large supermarket with a tall ceiling, the sound there was always atrocious. Side note: Thursday was amazing. I had actually fallen out of listening to them at that point a bit, and went more for Coheed, but Thursday stole the show.

Flashfoward 10 years, to the Fillmore Miami in South Beach. I got there very early with Carlos, and we ended up spending $10 on "Fastlane" tickets that got us into the venue 20 minutes earlier. I'm glad we did this, because there were already 30+ people in front of the stage when we got in, and by the time the doors actually opened there were 70+ people crowding the front of the stage.

Russian Circles: Pretty good opener, they were a hard rock/metal instrumental band. 3 piece, very loud. Not something I would listen to ever, but the music was good enough and they performed very well. Well...mostly. They guitar player did a LOT of work with a looper, and there were a few points where the loop was a bit off.

Between the Buried and Me: I had seen these guys once before at this venue, opening up for Dream Theater on one of the Progressive Nation tours. I was only familiar with their first album at the time, and they only played 2 songs that time, both of which were from Colors. This time, they mainly played new songs. They did do Ants of the Sky and Selkies though, which were great. The downside to their set? I had managed to get a front and center position by the railing, and the Fillmore's speakers do not reach anyone in the front. Most venues are like to this some degree, but you can usually get some aural information from the main speakers or the monitors. Not at the Fillmore though, it's a complete void of mixed sound and if the band isn't blasting their amps on stage (BTBAM and Coheed weren't) you will not hear much.

That being said, watching the drummer the entire performance was pretty fantastic. Super tight player and great sounding kit. About the only thing we could really hear more of the time. The whole band played great though. They came out in costumes, one in a guayabera, one in a skipper's shirt and cap, and the other dressed like a casual cuban gangster from the 40s.

Coheed and Cambria

Stage set up:  Front of stage was mostly bare, the Fillmore has a pretty large stage area and the drums and back set up were pretty far back. Josh was up on a small riser, and there was two glass structures on either side of him that contained 4 white mannequins in interesting positions. There was a large video screen behind them, but I don't think they used it as well as they could have, there wasn't a lot of great material happening on it. There were no amps on stage, so like I mentioned before the stage was pretty bare. They did have 2 small 2 x 12 Mesa Boogie cabinets but I think they were mainly serving as a place to put the lights that were on top of them, and also to help go along with whatever Mesa sponsorship requirements Claudio/Travis might have. 

The performance: The show started with the band coming out and Claudio with a ukulele and them launching into Pretelethal. That led to a very high energy "Sentry the Defiant." The performance overall was pretty good, with some really great moments (Sentry, Secrets, Welcome Home) and a few less than great. Claudio looked pretty damned tired, while playing "The Crowing" I could have sworn he was about to fall asleep. Nonetheless the show was pretty great. I would have preferred a significantly different setlist: don't get me wrong, they did play two of my favorites (No World + Crowing - although they were not played with as much energy as I would have liked) and I totally understand the emphasis on the Key Entity Extraction motif songs. I just feel there were WAY better songs on the Afterman albums that they could have done like "Hard Sell," "Number City," and "Away We Go." Obviously setlists will never please everyone though, and it wasn't a bad one at all.
My concert experience: I managed to get one hand on the railing during the first band, and was making my subtle attempt to claim a spot. I REALLY hate people that force themselves into the front of a crowd, because my thought process on this is that if you want to be close, get there early, don't get there late and be an asshole about it. So I was being delicate about the operation and not forcing myself in. I was just waiting for the crowd to start moving, as they always do, and jump in when I got a chance. Let's be serious, unfortunately at a rock concert you WILL get squished at the railing and you will no have leg/arm room. This is a given.

Unfortunately, the huge Marshall Eriksen looking motherfucker to my left either had never been to a concert in his life, or he was just completely dillusional. While I had almost enough space to squeeze in between him and the guy to my right, he had his feet so wide apart that I couldn't get in there (that's what she said). When BTBAM was playing though, some people started crowd surfing and landed on us. I had my chance and I jumped forward and threw my arms over the railing. All's fair in love and concerts, right?

WRONG. This asshole starts pushing and elbowing me with all his might, which I might have been able to fight off if the guy on my right wasn't doing the same thing. THAT guy I understood a little bit though, as he had his bag on the other side of the railing right under him and he didn't want to lose it. Granted, his gf on his left had a bit of space on HER right, but at this point that didnt matter. What mattered was the humongous asshole to my left. He kept pushing and shoving and elbowing me. Finally he starts yelling at me, saying "STOP PUSHING DUDE" at which point my brain almost imploded, because HE was the one doing all the pushing. I was simply resisting. I was able to grab a hold of a bar on the other side of the railing and not lose my spot. He didn't stop for 10-15 minutes, yelling the whole time, with me yelling back that I wasn't pushing and for him to stop what he was doing. 

By the time BTBAM and finished, he had stopped pushing, but I was in a really uncomfortable spot squished between two people. The guy on my right I had already cleared the air with, and I attempted to do the same with Eriksen by offering him a Starburst. He declined. Obviously, he is a mindless heathen. Fine though, I could deal with some lack of space. The concert was going to be great....until asshole #2 behind me showed up. I didn't think it was possible to be SO tone deaf, that you actually go into NEGATIVE tone deaf territory (in which you start sucking the correct pitch ability out of those around you), but that's where this guy was. So he yelled and yelled and yelled, in a super hoarse voice that was completely out of pitch. Nonstop. For 6 songs straight. But it doesn't end there folks, he not only had a terrible and out of tune voice, but he was also completely off time. He would "sing" the lines in cadences that would make Claudio cringe. Sometimes, when there was a break between lyrics, he would just "sing" the line a measure early. I don't think this guy could have been more obnoxious if he were trying to piss off all the people in front of him on purpose.

I mentioned he was doing this for 6's not that he stopped, no. It's that I couldn't take anymore. I was just not enjoying myself. Between him and Eriksen, who had started pushing me again, and the fact that I was getting slammed from behind by the crowd, I was just NOT enjoying the show. My back started spasming and I decided to leave. It sucked losing my spot...I had managed to be on the railing RIGHT IN FRONT of Claudio...great spot and got some great shots. I spent the rest of the show walking around and enjoying the concert (and actually being able to HEAR it properly now that I was out of the audio dead spot) at different spots in the venue. I even went upstairs to the second level and shot some video.

Overall the show was great. It wasn't the "mind blowing" amazing experience I had been building myself up for the last few weeks, due to a less-than-amazing performance and some assholes, but it was still a lot of fun and I am so happy to have seen this fantastic band again after all these years!

Overall: 8/10
Performance: 8/10
Sound: 7/10
Experience: 7:10
Finally seeing Coheed again after all these years: 10/10

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

West Orange Trail: Mile 5-15

The West Orange Trail is a 22 mile paved trail just south of Lake Apopka, west of Orlando, FL. It starts off near the southwest corner of the lake at the Killarney Station and makes it's way up to the town of Apopka. Most of the trail runs alongside what was formerly the Orange Belt Railway, winding around and through neighborhoods and communities. I had previously biked the first 5 miles of the trail on a WDW trip with Denise a few years back, and loved it.

That first trip had us turning around at downtown Winter Garden. It's a really cute, quaint little cobble-stoned town that's been around since the late 1800s (thanks to a train depot built there near the start of the citrus boom). This time though, my trip started AT Winter Garden. I stopped off at the Moon Cricket Grille for a burger and some homemade chips. Unfortunately the burger was boring and the chips were cold. Alas...but adventure awaited!

I rented a bike at a little shop near the east end of the downtown. $6 an hour. I was intending to only do about 10-12 miles roundtrip and thought I'd be back in an hour and a half. That did not work out as planned, as I will explain later on. I hopped on the bike and went on my way.

Whereas the first 5 miles of the West Orange Trail are non stop beauty, miles 5-15 have long stretches of not-so-beautiful surroundings in between the beauty. The first mile or so after the Winter Garden Station runs alongside what feels like a never-ending sea of boring white fences that allow nary a peek at the potentially nice houses behind them. There's a few times the path just runs alongside a road with not much to look at, most notably when it runs alongside Clarcona Ocoee Rd. There's zero tree cover there, and the path has a very slow going but noticeable grade which is a bit of a pain on the way back west, especially mixed with the sun beating on your face.

For the fact that it wasn't as "nonstop beautiful" as the first 5 miles, I will say that there was a lot of great riding and scenery to be found within the Mile 5-15 section. Right after the path curves away from Plant St there are some really cool houses on the left, paired with a really tall collection of bamboo trees on the right. There's a nice long dip in the grade as you get close to Ocoee High School, allowing for a long leisurely cruise in either direction, surrounded by tall evergreens. Shortly after that the path hunches along on the shoulders of a golf course (but no worries, there are tall fences with awnings to catch any stray balls - what's even better, is the green vine life growing on large sections of the fence) with a white sand shoulder on the north side of the trail to give a nice visual counterpoint to the dark colors of the fence and the plants. There was also another beautiful stretch under a tree canopy, with the dead orange leaves lining the shoulders of the path.

Around mile 14, the trail splits. The right path continues along up to the town of Apopka, and the 22 mile endpoint of the trail. I took the left path which ends at the Clarcona Horse Park (which is, as the name states, just a park for horses). This was the 11 mile point for me in my ride. I was only halfway, and managed to already eat up the miles I intended for the whole trip. I was getting tired and debated while I sat and rested: trudge on, probably not to the 22 mile point but at least another 6 or 7 miles to Apopka? Or turn back with some piece of mind that I could actually make it back in one piece?

After a half hour or so of recouping my energy, I decided to head back. The bicycle was not very good and I had been fighting it for most of the ride up until then. Not to mention the terrible seat was giving me a lot of trouble as well. The ride back was mostly smooth (with the exception of that incline at Clarcona Ocoee Rd), albeit with a LOT of stops. My total trip time was about 2.5 hours total, for a total of 22 miles biked. Prior to this the most I had biked was 16 miles and that was at night! Thankfully even though the sun was brutal, there was a nice breeze out.

My next adventure on the West Orange Trail will probably start AT Apopka, and I will bike from the 22 mile marker back down as far as I can that. Once I get my endurance up though, I'd really love to get those 44 round trip miles under my belt. Most likely during February when it's not too cold and not too hot!

Muse @ BB&T Center 02/22/13

Muse (w/Dead Sara) - BB&T Center (Fort Lauderdale) - 02/22/13 - 8/10

I remember running across "Sunburn" in 2000 and loving it, thinking to myself "This is like Radiohead...but intelligible and good!" Thus began a year long love affair with the band based off a few tracks I found on Napster (or Kazaa...not sure if Napster had folded by then). I may have gotten a track or two off of "Origin of Symmetry" but to be honest I never bothered to follow up with the band after that point.

Flash forward to "Black Holes and Revelations." I finally caught up with the band and fell in love with that album....about one month after they had come here in support. Tis my luck with bands sometimes, and in the next few years I would have to deal with constantly kicking myself for not having kept up with the band and seen them live. Youtube provided me with a glimpse of the amazing live shows that I had been missing, and the fervent need to experience the insanity that was a Muse live show grew.
The resolution of the screens was ridiculous!
Flash forward once again to 2012. I found out Muse was coming again. To be perfectly honest though, I found myself in a completely un-Muse-loving mood as the ticket sale date came close. I've been pretty apathetic about concerts the last few years, particularly bigger shows like this. I knew I would really kick myself for missing this one though, so I did something I had never done before: I bought tickets to a show (expensive tickets, noneless) that I had very little active interest in going to. I just knew I would regret it incredibly if I missed it.
Creepy use of the pyramid screens

Even this week, leading up to the show I was not that excited for it. The last two Muse albums...meh. Some good stuff, particularly on The Resistance, but overall poor efforts compared to Black Holes and other previous offerings. As such, I never really got into the albums that much and am not as familiar with the songs. I was much more excited for the Coheed and Cambria concert in two weeks, and The Postal Service concert in July.

 Cue last night...the show. I got there around 6 and got in line and waited for Carlos. The show had "paperless tickets" for the GA floor, supposedly to cut down on scalping. The procedure was this: show up, get in line, doors open, ticket takers scan credit card, print out a sticker, redeem sticker for a wristband. Took a quick last minute pee break, and headed to the floor. We were able to get pretty close to the stage on the left side.

Opening act was Dead Sara....meh. The band performed very well and were great musicians, but it was just such horrendous music. Very boring and Just no. The guitar player had a really sweet semi hollow LP Custom though, and the bassist was using an Epiphone Jack Cassidy bass.

From top left: magically appearing light up piano, EVOLVE!, the screen doing tricks, some pyramid screen graphics
Pyramid screen falling on top of the band, hiding them before the first encore.

Overall I'd give the show 8/10. The stage setup and lighting design was phenomenal. Incredible. Amazing. THE BEST I have seen from anyone, even topping the NIN show I saw at the Miami Arena in the early 2000s. Performance wise, the band hit it's high point at about halfway through the set...the first half was very strongly focused on the newer music, and it didn't seem like they were as into it as the older stuff (or the better new music). For me, when you have so many samples and electronic bs going on that you can't tell where the guitar/bass end and the digital begins, I start questioning the validity of what the band is playing and if they are actually playing it.
The "don't make fishing jokes" camera pole
Mr. Bellamy himself
Second half was amazing though, they got more into the music and so did the audience. The inverted pyramid of screens that was above the band started moving around and doing tricks. The first encore came when the inverted pyramid came down on the band in an actual pyramid form and made them disappear. Fantastic. There were lazers galore throughout the show, and even a few smoke pillar blasts near the end. To be honest, I almost wish I had moved back at some point as I feelI didn't get the full effect of the lighting show from so up close.
Matt cueing up the smoke pillars
With the exception of the full on dubstep bass beats, the sound was at a pretty respectable volume. I didn't need my earplugs at all (after the opening act, that is...heh) and the sound mix was pretty clear. Drums were my favorite part, clear and thumpy the whole time. In fact, the drummer was my favorite band member to focus on. Even with the triggers and electronic drums you could still hear him beating away at the kit. The lone semblance of analog beauty in a sea of digital insanity.
So in conclusion...fantastic show. Amazing second half. I wish they would have played some older stuff and more songs from Black Rainbow but getting upset at that is a losing battle, there's no way for the band to make everyone happy. Lights and lazers were amazing and synced with the show seamlessly. Stage setup and production was impeccable. I am most definitely VERY happy with myself for getting these tickets even though I didn't feel like it at the time!
Pyramid set to "fan cam" while the band says goodnight.