Download Down Under!

Download Festival Australia – 09/03/19

Long queues for food and toilets, garbage strewn all around and a horrifying smell coming from the portaloos – yep, it’s a music festival. It’s also threatening a downpour, which brings to mind faded memories of reading reviews of the mud pit Alternative Nation festival in, I think, 94? I do have to say this to my fellow attendees first off though: PICK YOUR GARBAGE UP PEOPLE. More bins would have been handy sure, but that’s little excuse. The place was strewn with food scraps, containers and cans, and I’ll put money on the cleaners not getting paid enough no matter what they’re getting. Mind you, in a perfect world cleaners would be paid as much as CEO’s are now, but I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

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The author mid Anthrax, photo requested by his wife.
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It’s been a while between drinks rock and roll festival wise – with the collapse of both Soundwave and the Big Day Out in recent years, so Download has been a sight for sore eyes, and eardrums. After something of a trek to get there (Thanks Gladys, choice weekend for trackwork down my train line), both cloak and security compliment my kilt (The first of more than a few) and I make my way inside. I have a bit of a wander round, and arrive at I PREVAIL’S singer doing a shoey at the urging of the crowd. In his words, “tastes like athelete’s foot.” The rain’s sprinkling, and the clouds aren’t that dark, but there’s potential for a mud fest. Goody. My afternoon begins properly with AIRBOURNE, who for a band that claims to be playing their first gig in a year and a half, don’t show it one fucking bit. They bring all their ferocious dedication to rock and roll and then some, hurling themselves around the stage, with singer Joel O’Keefe at one point clambering onto a security guard’s shoulders and going out into the crowd, still playing. If anyone deserves to be AC/DC 2.0, it’s them. BEHEMOTH start the next stage over, and while they aren’t my cup of tea, I have to observe that corpse paint doesn’t go so well in bright sunshine.

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Airbourne kicking it out.

I go off in search of food, which means times queing, as is the festival way. Thanks to me being picky and possibly not being in the right queue, I abandon my search and return to the main stages in time for ANTHRAX. Having one of the Big 4 on at 4:30 in the afternoon raises my hackles a little, but that’s burned away by their set – few bands can match them. Yeah, you could say it’s a greatest hits set, but how many other bands can casually walk onstage playing Cowboys from Hell, and have the likes of Caught in a Mosh, Got the Time and I Am the Law as the first three songs? Be All End All went on a bit (Lads, you’ve only got 45 minutes), but a crowd participation double bill of Antisocial and Indians finished things up nicely, and all of a sudden it was over. My quest for food returns anew, and stops me getting to RISE AGAINST, who sounded pretty good. Sorry lads, but kilted metal head needs food badly. I highly doubt the ‘cheese’ on my schnitzel is genuine, but I’m hungry enough not to care. While eating I discover that THY ART IS MURDER aren’t to my taste, but watching them get a circle pit going around the sound tent was fun. It’s finally getting dark and the bats are out. Excellent. This leaves me ready for HALESTORM, who don’t disappoint. Alas, I have to make a small detour to get my jacket back (trying to beat the end of day queues) and put my phone onto charge, as I’m running low and will need more power for later. Upon returning, Lizzy and co haven’t stopped rocking out, and I kick myself for not hearing them sooner. Also, their drummer has a fantastic knack for mid song drum stick twirling.

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Scott Ian. What a guy…

At this point I return to the main stage as ALICE IN CHAINS are finishing up, and go down a treat based on the audiences reaction. All of a sudden, there’s an air raid siren and BLACK SABBATH’s War Pigs thunders out. But Ozzy had to cancel I hear you say, what the hell? JUDAS PRIEST hit stage, roaring through Firepower and things go more than a little apeshit. They only up the ante, with Delivering the Goods, Sinner and Lightning Strike following and at that point my smile is so wide it starts and ends in different time zones. Yeah, to my ears Rob Halford’s voice was a little buried (Unlike his relentlessly cheery Instagram) and he may well have been using a teleprompter, but overall it didn’t matter a bit. The between song breaks for (I’m guessing) instrument changes and for Rob to change jackets start to drag, but the power of the songs cuts out any issues. Plus, at one point he comes on wearing an ankle length denim battle vest covered in patches, a garment that almost no-one else could carry off with such style.

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JUDAS FREAKING PRIEST. METAL GODS.

No Surrender is dedicated to Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton (who’s battling Parkinsons) and Rob waves a lightsaber around during Rising to Ruins (No, I’ve no idea why either). He also drives a Harley onstage for Hell Bent for Leather, a feat that has me jumping with glee. Things end with a ripping Painkiller, but a faint suspicion that it ain’t all over. How could it possibly be, as we haven’t heard, wait… What’s that? Yes, it’s The Hellion, followed by a storming Electric Eye, and, of course, Breaking the Law. I nearly weep with joy at this point. We may never see their like again, so appreciate them while you can.

Next stage over, things get more, well, evil. As the curtain drops, SLAYER open their final Sydney show with a ripping Repentless. They also have a pyro set up that if you put me at Dave Bostaph’s drum kit it would have made me load my trousers and flee – I’m a good distance back and can still feel my eyebrows being scorched. Alas, after a shredding War Ensemble I have to depart, as GHOST are soon to start. Cardinal Copia and the nameless Ghouls are (to my ears) hampered by a bass heavy sound mix, but the quality of the songs and the Cardinal’s cheeky stage banter (At one point commenting that the next song will ‘wobble our asses and tickle our taint” wins out over any sound issues – Ritual is received raptorously and the explosion of the end of Pinnacle to the Pit makes me jump. Before we know it, there’s a shower of sparks from above the stage, the band take their bows and it’s all over.

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Ghost doing their thing. Equal parts spooky and sexy.

As the motley horde shamble their way to the train station (with only the occasional scream of “SLAAAYYYER!”) to break the conversation, I consider myself fortunate to live in such an age. I saw 5 other kilts, had a guy ask if he could get a pic of me and his wife and am still deciding what was my favorite t-shirt was (I’m torn between Frenzal Rhomb’s Pell Awaits or the bright pink Death Metal number). I bloody love live music. It was a good day, a bloody good day. Sure, there was the odd pocket of testosterone fueled shit behaviour, but it was damned encouraging to see so many women there as well. Metal’s for all and long may it remain so. *throws horns*

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He was very confused when I asked for a photo.

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RUM! BEER! QUESTS AND MEAD!

Alestorm / Rumahoy / Christopher Bowes and his Plate of Beans
The Metro, Sydney – 08/02/19

Heavy metal is at it’s best when is embraces the ridiculous. From the theatrics of Kiss and Alice Cooper, Sabaton using a tank as a drum riser and Iron Maiden’s Eddie, metal attracts what would in other circumstances be considered utterly absurd. And Alestorm fit that bill perfectly – songs about drinking, pirates, wenches and more drinking, who can resist that? Yes, I’m aware that being teetotal myself and delighting in tales of alcoholic and chemical excess means I have issues, but I figure by this time I have subscriptions.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the Metro, but the smell of spilt beer and sticky carpet bring back memories. Seeing the Datsuns turn the 6 minute Freeze Sucker into a 15 minute epic was one of the greatest nights of my life, and possibly the closest I’ve come to death from sheer exhaustion. Also, seeing the Town Hall McDonalds on a Friday night filled with a mix of very pretty early 20’s people pre clubbing, and a motley hoard of people dressed as pirates was, quite frankly, fucking hilarious and should happen more often.

Thanks to the rain delaying my train and a need for food I miss most of CHRISTOPHER BOWES AND HIS PLATE OF BEANS (AKA Alestorm singer Bowes new side project), arriving for the final two songs, which, well, weren’t quite to my taste. In all fairness, it was their first show, but songs about beans just don’t seem to be my thing. The length of the merch queue puts me off, and I choose to wait for RUMAHOY, who continue tonights pirate themed shenanigans, though oddly they choose to hit stage all wearing balaclavas, which means many a mid song adjustment. It’s not bad, and I’ll give them another shot, but a few songs in I decide to brave the merch line, and come away with a snazzy t-shirt.


The plate of beans really wasn’t pulling it’s weight.

The between set Queen mix-tape prompts a surprise singalong, and it’s the first show I’ve been to where I’ve heard the theme to Blazing Saddles. Finally, ALESTORM hit stage*, and things really start jumping. Ripping into Keelhauled, they waste zero time in getting things going, and put on a set so fun I’m shocked the NSW government didn’t shut it down half way through. The packed out crowd need no signal to start singing along, and a section of the pit even commences rowing during Nancy the Tavern Wench. Choruses are lustily bellowed along to, and Bowes comments that this is the biggest crowd they’ve played to in Australia, which brings cheers from the crowd, matched only by the boo’s when one of the support is introduced as being from Brisbane. The Queenslander in question then proceeds to down a bottle of Jagermeister at speed, and seemed little worse for wear. I’m not quite sure what the giant inflatable duck was doing on stage (I know not to pick them up in dungeons, but what about at concerts?), but a slightly smaller version was hurled into the crowd, and swiftly destroyed upon command.


Why a duck?

Things come to an end far too soon, with a riotous run through Shipwrecked, followed by the encore, that ending as Bowes introduced the song that would tell us how he felt about us, which meant the crowd roaring the gleefully offensive Fucked by an Anchor back at him.

It was thoroughly stupid, and equal amounts of fun. I can’t wait till they return.

* Side note: Bowes was kilted, which meant I was no longer the only kilted person in the place.

Moffat, fandom and nerd rage.

As opening lines/statements of intent go, “I’m a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm” should be up there with the greats. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.

As with many Doctor Who fans, I have issues with Steven Moffat’s stewardship of the show. Over reliance on continuity and season long arcs, a lack of female writers (I was ecstatic to see Rona Munro return) and a hope that someday I’ll visit the alternate universe where Matt Smith and not Peter Capaldi was the Doctor in Robot of Sherwood. Curiously, Clara isn’t one of them. Yes, Jenna Coleman was hard done by, probably stayed a season too long and the Impossible Girl plotline could have used another rewrite or two, but none of those is really her fault.  But the reaction that Clara inspires, well, I haven’t seen it since Adric, or possibly Donna. I admit, I was far from a Donna fan at first (Not being aware of Catherine Tate’s comedy), but that was till Turn Left. Now, I’m itching for the next series of Ten/Donna adventures from Big Finish,  the announcement of which caused what seemed like half my Twitter feed to stand up and shout “CRIIIIBBBBIIIINNNNSSSS!”

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Best. Companion. Ever. (Who isn’t Ace or Sarah Jane)

It’s the level of fury that get’s me, nerd rage I’ve not seen since the Star Wars prequels. Yeah, I was young, dumb and angry, and said my fair share of stupid shit about them, but I’ve let it go. I’m not saying I’ve matured, but I’ve grown enough perspective (and grey hair) with age to remember that actual people who worked on those films, people who’s lives were made a living hell by something that should have been the happiest moment of their lives. I’ve tweeted a couple of times to Ahmed Best recently, saying if he’s ever in Sydney I’d love to buy him a drink by way of apologies. I can’t take back what I said about him in my younger days, but I can learn from it and not do it again. I’m not an apologist for the films as such, but I’ll sure as hell defend the people who worked on them.

Geting back to Who, I can’t fathom the idea that someone would stop watching the show, as some proclaimed, whether that be owing to a production team or a character they can’t stand. I loathe the character of Adric (The Wesley Crusher of Doctor Who), but I’m still going to watch his episodes, otherwise I’d miss out on Kinda (One of the most perfect and utterly brainmeltingly good bits of Who from any era and Earthshock (Spoilers…) People seem to expect the show to fit their whims, or to be always good, and people, that’s not what Who is about. A consistently good season? A season without at least one “Ohhh, that could have been a bit better?” THAT’S NOT MY SHOW. I need the rubbish to balance out the brilliance. I can’t quite explain it, but consistency isn’t one of the show’s strong points and that works for me.

You see, I love Doctor Who. (Shocked, gambling, winnings etc…)
I love it when it’s great.
I love it when it’s rubbish.
I frequently love it more when it’s rubbish – my adoration and uncritical love for The Horns of Nimon is well known. For those not acquainted with it, there’s some crap monsters, a minor character who splits his pants at his death, some of the most bored extras I’ve ever seen and the Doctor and the main villain are in a scenery chewing contest, while Romana plays it deadly straight. It should be unutterably awful, and yet I adore it with a joy that I’m sure has made my wife hope that someday I’ll talk about her like that*.

Getting back to the earlier point, I’m trying to praise Moffat, not to bury him. You see, despite all the bitching I may do, there’s some joyous moments during his tenure that make me punch the air and shout “That’s my show!” So, here’s a couple you may not have heard of, taken from Moffatt’s novelisation of The Day of the Doctor (Yes old time fans, Target novelisations are back!) Firstly, when all three Doctors are inside the Black Archive, and find copies of the Peter Cushing Dalek movies. There’s a lovely aside between Clara and Kate Stewart about how UNIT tried to suppress them, but they kept showing up on bank holidays, and that Cushing and the Doctor became great friends. Of course, they only found this out when Cushing started appearing in films made long after his death…

Secondly, is this extract, taken from when the Doctors are translating Gallifrey into the statis cube:
It took the better part of a day to translate the world of Gallifrey from one plane of reality to another, and the General was right. The planet screamed and burned and raged.

There was a town, on the southern shore of Lake Calasper, ripped apart by a giant earthquake. No one should have survived, but everywhere the people ran, they found a  blue police telephone box standing in front of them, opening it’s doors.
A tornado tore through a tiny village, till a ring of blue boxes spun round the storm in the opposite direction, shinking it into the ground.
As cities and towns and villages burned all around the planet, blue boxes came hurtling through the smoke, rescuing people from windows and rooftops.
A sky transporter, plunging towards the heart of the Capitol, was suddenly being piloted by a funny man with big ears and a black jacket. Everyone on board stared out of the windows, as he climbed along the wing, to rewire one of the engines.
A ship on the high seas, about to capsize, was suddenly captained by a strange little man in a frock coat and check trousers, who kept offering people gobstoppers and complaining about his aunt being giddy.
There was man with a ridiculous umbrella, who evacuated a school as a mountain crumbled towards it, and kept everyone laughing as they ran. A gentle cricketer took command of a hospital on fire, rescued the patients and completed an operation as the flames licked at the theatre door. A man with a cloud of white hair and swirling cape stood on a beach, and with a tiny silver rod, froze a whole tsunami as it thundered towards a town.  A laughing joker in a colourful coat led a party of miners out of the tunnels that had come crashing down around them. Four children, trapped on the side of a cliff face, knew beyond doubt that no one was coming to their rescue, till the end of an absurdly long scarf dangled down in front of them.

I was everywhere I was needed that day, across all my lives, and I believe I have never run so fast. If I sound proud, forgive me: it is the inverse of the shame I carried for so many years. That was the last day of the Time War, but it was no longer the worst day of my life. Instead, this was the day the people of Gallifrey rose up, and put 2.47 billion children safely to bed. This was the day I remembered who I was, and swore never to forget again.

This was the day of the Doctor.

Yeah, that could be said to be overly long and emotionally manipulative. And it’s working. Now,  you’ll excuse me, there’s some dust in my eyes. Yep, just some dust. And who the hell is chopping onions at this time of night? *ugly crying*

PS: I do have one last thing to say about Who at the moment: BINRO WAS RIGHT.
*She hasn’t watched it, but when her schedule frees up, in oh, 2028, I’ll sit down with her and some popcorn and pop it on. I may even live tweet the proceedings. 🙂

What’s the time?

That’s right kiddies, it’s time for another instalment of everyone’s favorite program, “Gav talks about his mental health!”

So, what’s been happening to me? *deep intake of breath* BRUCE DICKINSON OF IRON MAIDEN ANSWERED A QUESTION OF MINE. IT WAS A DUMB QUESTION, BUT IT WAS MINE AND HE ANSWERED IT.  Sorry for the shouting, but as a Maiden fan for more than half my life, that meant a lot to me. To explain: Bruce was out here promoting his book and put on a show about it, followed by a Q&A. Everyone who bought a ticket got a signed copy of the book (I HAVE SOMETHING HE TOUCHED) and a bit of paper you put your name and question on, which got put into a tub. Word has it they got shuffled around and chosen randomly, and mine was one of the ones he answered! So, I’ve heard from the man himself: His stage clothes do not have an online store, they are a gift from God. Words can’t quite capture just how happy that made me, but I’m slightly gutted that my wife wasn’t there to see it. (She likes seeing me happy, surprisingly)

I ran 8 sessions of Flash Gordon at Phenomenon and, I like to think, did pretty damn well at it. 8 tables of happy players, and from what I heard, more than a few people excitedly comparing notes post session. I’m happier with some sessions, which always happens, but overall think they went well. Warms the heart and fires the blood it does, which is needed to push through the tired. I felt, well, appreciated running for them, in a way I’ve not felt for a while now. There was communication from the orgs, support and encouragement both online and off, all very useful things for a GM who’s more than a bit nervous at his first interstate con. Didn’t hurt that everyone who sat down at the table understood the sort of event I was running (A cheap BBC 1970’s serial, complete with jokes about crappy props and wobbly sets) and ran with it full pelt. I’m hoping to stay longer next year, to make the post con drinks and lunch afterwards. Also, to book the week off afterwards to sleep. I’m not as young as I once was and it really takes it out of you.

Oh, there were stories. Many stories, some cracking jokes and some truly harrowing puns. Ask me in person and I’ll recite some. But the one I’ll tell here is involves a team called the Dragon Ladies, 4 11-13 year old girls. I’d volunteered to run for them, as I only had 2 other players in that session, and while I normally run for 5, I had 6 PC’s so why not? I was bloody petrified, as it was my first session at the con, and running for children is something I don’t have much experience with. I didn’t have to worry a bit, as within seconds they got it. I’ll try to describe my favorite moment. To set the scene – the PC’s have boarded the first passenger vessel between Earth and Mongo, and things are getting trippy as they move between Earth and Mongo space.
ME: “The stars start to swirl, as the sky dazzles with kaleidoscopic colours. Eruptions of light and colour float through the skies. A strange blue box flies past you.”
DRAGON LADIES, in unison: “TARDIS?”
ME: Followed by a phone booth…
Seeing the looks on their faces was priceless and I’d happily run for them again. It took no small amount of willpower not to give them trophies right there. Speaking of that, I might have found my new schtick – smallgoods. I’d mentioned on the blurb there’d be prized for Biggest Ham and Largest Cheese, and as such, procured ham and cheese to give away. Prizegiving seemed to find this incredibly amusing, as did the winners of said prizes. (I overheard “Let’s make a sandwich” between them as they walked back to their seats) To all who played my humble event, I salute you and look forward to next year.

Alas, post con comes the post con crash, and this one hit hard. I knew something was really up when watching Tick Fucking Tock the day after the con ended and almost weeping. There’s a part in Episode 1 where Paul Livingstone’s playing The Auld Triangle acoustically and I nearly broke. I cry pretty much at the drop of a hat, as anyone who’s known me for more than 10 minutes can testify to, but this wasn’t the regular sort of thing. Emotion has frequently been a boom or bust thing for me, as much as I may hope to regulate it. The little things pile up and all looks bleak, with only the small rays of sunshine to light the way. Some days you’re the windshield, and somedays you’re the bug. Or, to quote my favorite author, gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth…

There’s been other events that have messed with me, that I’m still coming to terms with. So, I had a dentist appointment that didn’t exactly go to plan, and I’m staring down the barrel of some pretty heavy dentistry. Who knew self medicating for depression and stress, combined with the attendant lack of self care and dental hygeine, for the better part of 4 years would be rubbish for your teeth? Explaining that at Sunday dinner with the in-laws wasn’t part of the plan either, but what’s done is done. As a result of that (And to save money to pay the dentist bill) I’ve cut sugar as much as I can out of my life, and that’s a bastard of a thing. Given that it was something of a mood stabilizer for me, seeing that last Tim Tam on the table, sitting there uneaten, taunting me, has made me want to scream “SOMEBODY FUCKING EAT IT OR I’LL KILL YOU ALL” more than once.

I’ve even found myself comparing ingredients on chips to see which has less sugar, something I never thought I’d do. On the bright side, I’ve lost weight to the point my wedding ring is loose at times, so some good has come from this. There’s also the wanting to go out and do stuff again, like using swords and bows! Alas my regular LARP isn’t running at the moment, as I have a shiny new rapier (that I’m fucking rubbish at using) to play with. I’ve had my fill of trying to play anti-heros or scoundrels, and just want to swash my buckle – is that so bad?

Look, it’s rather late, and I really should be sleeping, so I’ll wind this up. Thank you as always dear readers, for your indulgence. I’m going to leave you with some advice, some of the finest advice I can hope to give. 4 simple words, that will improve your lives no end.

LISTEN TO BLACK SABBATH.

Be seeing you…

ROOOOOOOOTS BLOODY ROOOOOOTS

Max and Iggor Cavalera / Skindred, Sydney Big Top Sep 22 2017.

Sepultura’s album Roots holds a special place in my heart, as what helped expand the visions of what metal could be, sending me down a different path. True, it didn’t eclipse my burgeoning love for all things Iron Maiden, but that passion was both A: in it’s infancy and B: still something of a guilty pleasure for me, a feeling that took me a good few years to openly embrace. Given the nature and ferocity of their split, or rather frontman Max Cavalera’s split from the rest of the band, I’d long figured I’d have had no chance of seeing the songs performed live. True, Max had reunited with Sepultara drummer (and brother) Iggor in 2006 and formed Cavalera Conspiracy, among Max’s numerous other projects, but when it was annouced the two brothers would be touring the Roots album in full, well, I was there. The fact ragga metallers Skindred would be supporting them was less the icing on the cake for me, and more the cake itself. Sure, it did seem a little akward to be keener on the support than the headline, but I figure support bands deserve love all, right?

I trundle my way down to the venue, check in my bag and already curse both the venue’s no steel cap shoe policy and my being raised Lawful Good. *sighs* I make my way to the front early, wanting to be right up there for Skindred, and after an epic wait, the strains of the Imperial March ring out and the band hit stage. Singer Benji Webbe, sunglass clad and impossibly cool, climbs up on the monitors, Under Attack kicks off and my head begins to thrash. They put on an impeccably cheerful set, freely admitting that they’re here to get people warmed up for Max and co, but in no way slacking off because of it. Kill the Power has the audience roaring, Machine (From the then forthcoming new album) howls like a banshee and we end Warning with the now traditional Newport Helicopter. The cheeky gits even leave the stage to a burst of Nobody Does it Better

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Benji Webbe – LORD OF ALL HE SURVEYS.

After putting my shirt back on, I vacate the mosh pit in search of food and drink. And safety – I have what could be charitably called a piss poor tolerance for pain, and I can see the size of the people behind me. Making my way to safety (AKA the upstairs seating), I settle in for the main event. Anticipation builds, the mosh pit grows even more frenzied and the they hit stage. what can I say about Max, other than he looks just like someone who’d give you a quest in a post apolyptic RPG. He grabs the mic, bellows “ARE YOU READY? ROOTS, BLOODY ROOOOOTS” and we’re off. Goddamn, I’d almost forgotten how hard that song hits, and I can barely draw breath. Attitude has the crowd roaring, and Cut Throat is extraordinary, to say nothing of the look of awe on my face at hearing Ratamahatta played live. Things slow down a little mid set , but picks up with a storming Endangered Species and album closer Dictatorshit. I’m lathered in sweat and ragged and 16 year old me can’t believe what he’s just seen. The encore of a medley of early Sepultura goes down a treat, as does covers of Venom’s Black Metal and Motorhead’s Ace of Spades, ending with a reprise of Roots, Bloody Roots.


See, I have proof!

Alas, none of my photos of the headliners turned out OK, and I don’t remember who the rest of the band were, though their moves came straight from the ‘Big Book of Metal Stage Moves’, complete with wide stance and head bob. But I can’t bring myself to mock much, given the faces I’ve pulled while playing Guitar Hero over the years.

As we shamble out into the night, battered, only slightly bleeding (Small cur on the finger, nothing to worry about) and very happy, I once again think just how much I love live music. There’s nothing like it.

MAIDENS! *clapclapclap*

A long overdue review of the Iron Maidens/Gypsy gig, Sydney Manning Bar 31/05/18.

It’s a cold and breezy night in Sydney, not a night to be kilted, as I am. *ahem* After an interesting amount of bus and foot travel, I arrive as Gypsy are ripping through Kiss’s I Stole Your Love, and continue in that vein, playing a set chock full of NWOBHM inspired rock, culminating in a blast through Judas Priest’s Steeler to close. They certainly put their all into things, and while the mid set bubble gun and balloons don’t set the audience alight as perhaps hoped, they deserve an audience that’s keen to see them, and not just the headliners. With a loud cry of “We’re Gypsy and we’ll see you at the merch desk!” they depart, and the wait for the headliners begins.

20180531_212228Sooty and Maiden go way back.

Thus begins the change over, during which I notice the Maiden’s drum kit features Sooty (As is customary) and an already rather inebriated man next to me tries to claim that since it’s his birthday I should buy him a drink. No mate, not happening. Nor do I care for the busty lady in photoshopped ‘I love thrash metal’ shirt wallpaper on your phone you keep trying to show me, nor indeed the large amount of wolf whistling from the crowd during the Maiden’s set. Really people? Moving on…

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SCREAM FOR HER SYDNEY!

After what seems like an eternity (Actually about 40 mins), the strains of UFO’s Doctor Doctor (As covered by Blaze Bayley era Maiden) rings out and the Maidens take the stage. Churchill’s speech begins, and we’re off with a bang as Aces High takes off! Yeah, I went there. We get a set chock full of classic era (The youngest song is from 1992) hits with a couple more obscure numbers thrown in (I don’t think anyone expected The Duelists) and whilst I was hoping for Wrathchild, seeing Alexander the Great done live was quite the treat – Steve Harris rhyming ‘334BC’ with ‘Aegean Sea’ still makes me smile. I almost turned in my fan card at discovering what I’d thought was Children of the Damned turned out to be Murders in the Rue Morgue, but in my defense both songs intros do sound a little bit alike. A giant cyborg Eddie takes the stage during Wasted Years and we end with a huge sing-along to Fear of the Dark, with, what else but Iron Maiden as the encore.

Do you call them a covers band? Well, yeah, they aren’t playing original material. But what shines through is their genuine love for the music and an incredible amount of skill at it – Maiden themselves haven’t played Alexander live. It was a hell of a night, and I hope they return soon.

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Photo from the Iron Maidens Twitter. I’m somewhere down the bottom left.

SET LIST:
Churchill’s Speech / Aces High
2 Minutes to Midnight
22 Acacia Avenue
The Trooper
The Duelists
Number of the Beast
Alexander the Great
Murders in the Rue Morgue
Wasted Years
Children of the Damned
Fear of the Dark
ENCORE:
Iron Maiden

Long time.

So yeah, been a while.

Stuff.

What’s happening? Not much. Work, gaming, laundry and sleep. The odd concert or show. I’ve a pile of half written reviews and posts that writer’s block has been getting in the way of. My mental health contines to pinball around, but the highs are relatively high, and the lows aren’t as low, which is pretty bloody lovely. Progress is progress.

My latest con game had it’s first playtest recently, and went well. It was a hell of a thing, as my brain and my GM’ing havent felt as if they’ve been working in unison of late, but more on that later. Anyhow, some stuff to do on that one, a few tweaks and adjustments. I’ll likely playtest it again before Pheno, to see how the changes work and get a bit more XP under the belt. It’s been fun to write, which has been a welcome change of late. Productivity in that area is useful, but still somewhat frustrating, as every time I try to write more stuff for the Conan LARP I ran a couple sessions of last year I want to put my fist through my monitor with frustration. Hello writer’s block, my old nemesis.

I’m increasingly of the mind that I should just run one shots every few months and bounce around settings and genres. Given how my ideas range about the shop, trying to stick to one settting after that initial burst of enthusiasm has faded is tricky. I’ve had issues writing sequels to my tabletops in the past, so this might be for the best. Realizing this, oh, a year and a half back might have been fucking useful as well, but better late than never. I enjoyed running Hyborian, it taught me that I can run something, but that I need more help and deadlines. On the bright side, I’m working on something of a freeform nature, of which I won’t reveal large details of (For once) but I’ll say this: I want to run it on a beach and I’ve been browsing Etsy for a tricorn hat. Make of that what you will.

The other big change has been the cancellation of the Star Wars game I’ve been running. Alas Team Fish Nipples is no more. There’s a variety of reasons, but mostly is that’s it’s become something I’m not enjoying. It’s not that it wasn’t fun, and my players certainly seemed to be enjoying things (My main critieria for running games), but I was getting increasingly cranky at them, and they don’t deserve that. I got all inspired by Rogue One, and my players went more in that direction than I was expecting or comfortable with. I don’t blame them at all – it’s my fault for not setting the tone and expectations in the first place, and they deserve no end of thanks from me, as I’ve said previously.  I still want to run for them, as they’re a lot of fun to run for but I don’t know what yet. I’d rather not announce it yet until I have a setting and campaign set up. I certainly have ideas, but I’m experimenting with fully developing them, having a campaign plan, authority figure NPC’s who are happy to see them – shit I haven’t always done before.

So yeah, I’ll try and clear the backlog of pieces, or at least post most often.  Thank you for your patience and indulgence.

 

 

Your Kung Fu’s alright eh? Right mate, carpark!

So, for those of you keeping track of my terrible game ideas, well, I’ve had another one. Prompted in part by an old idea (Wanting to set a Feng Shui game in Australia), reading the blog Ninja’s all the Way Down* and a recent viewing of Hercules Returns (Which none of the cast and crew at the post film Q&A had seen in 25 years), I present you thus:

AUSTRALIAN NINJA: ENTER THE YOBBO.

A 1 session 5 player game that uses the Feng Shui system.

With nothing more than that I’ve already had 4 people I know go “Yep, will play.” I’m not sure what that says about my reputation in local gaming circles, but whatever it is I’m happy about it. Maybe even a little proud.

For those wanting more info, I don’t have any. Well, outside of one character’s equipment list will have ‘Hotted up Ford’ and ‘Complete works of AC/DC’ and I want to stage the final fight on the Harbour Bridge. I’m tempted to add a cliffhanger where a fleet of Kiwi accented pirates sail into Sydney Harbour for no readily apparent reason other than it amused me, but I seem to be on a pointlessly obscure cliffhanger kick at the moment (For example, the cliffhanger/epilogue to my last convention game used Iron Maiden lyrics as flavour text).

Plot? What? I did have an idea of going full Godfrey Ho – take a regular Australian film’s plotline, add ninja’s, and then redub the whole mess. I don’t remember much of Moulin Rogue and I never saw Australia, but I’m fairly certain both could be improved by random ninja attacks, much in the same way there’s no film that couldn’t be improved by having Bill and Ted appear halfway through.**

So yes, that’s another game for the list. I’ll chuck it on the pile and now that it’s out in the public eye and try to get back to the stuff I should be writing first. For example,  I just submitted an idea for Pheno and whilst it’s not been accepted yet, more work on it is a good thing.

Be seeing you…

*Don’t trust me? Read their review of Ninja Terminator.
** There’s films that don’t need to be improved, but that still could be.

Black Panther. (Spoiler free)

So, Black Panther. Bloody fantastic. I’m keen to see it again, not just so I won’t be badly needing to pee during the second half, and to try to pick up on some of the dialogue I missed. (I’m a suburban white guy from the North Shore of Sydney – there were words here and there I didn’t catch) I can understand how that’s been as lauded as it is, how it’s inspired so many people. The fact they made an origin story that also wasn’t one was even more impressive. As said previously, I’m a white kid who’s never been oppressed in his life* so my laughter at a white character being addressed as ‘coloniser’ also contained more than a little bit of awkwardness, like a good round of Cards Against Humanity.

I’m keeping things vague to avoid spoilers, so here’s what I can say. Wakanda is bloody gorgeous and the costuming and design teams deserve all the awards they can get. I remain incredibly happy this wasn’t the film they screwed up (Because sooner or later one’s going to be terrible, and not on an Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World scale). I believe a sequel has been all but confirmed already, and I’m already waiting impatiently for it. It’s tricky – I want to see more of this group of heroes, but post Infinity War I’d like to see others get the limelight.

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And I want that sleeveless outer robe in my wardrobe, please.

The fight choreo camera work wasn’t to my tastes, bit too much juggly cam in places, but not too much – like they accidentally added a pinch of Michael Bay to the recipe. Don’t get me wrong, it fits with the story they and each character has their own style, but it’s occasionally tricky to work out what’s going on. Still, many points to the stunt team and fight arrangers – the last 20 years have seen some amazing advances in those fields. It wasn’t till Fellowship of the Ring that I saw fight work where each culture felt different to each other, but I’ll stop now otherwise I’ll just keep talking about swords till the cows come home.

And now I guess my thoughts must turn to Infinity War. To prepare myself for the scale of the thing, to enter in the almost certain knowledge that characters I’ve been watching for almost a decade may well perish. To hope the CG on Thanos has improved from the trailer. To once again hear Alan Silvestri’s Avengers theme and feel the effect it has on me, that being wanting to stand on a mountaintop posing like I’m in a Frank Frazetta painting. Seriously, listen to this – the pertinent part starts about 2:25 in, but the whole thing is worth listening to for the buildup. How does that crescendo not stir the blood, to make your hands itch for an absurdly over sized weapon and your body almost involuntarily pose like you’re on the cover of a Manowar album?

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OTHER BANDS PLAY. MANOWAR KILL.

But look, no matter how much I may speculate, try to guess plot details and look forward to the film, my brain keeps coming back to one thing, and one thing alone.

Chris Evans with a beard. Daaaaammmmnnnn.

I’d always thought he was a bit too pretty for my tastes (The only permanent residents in my man crush list are Liam Neeson** and Nathan Fillion), but I guess I’ve a new addition. I might be starting to understand what my wife felt at that first image of Chris Hemsworth, shirt all damp, arms straining to lift Mjolnir. Ahem. I think I’ve said enough for the time being.

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Just keep running towards me, it’s OK…

Be seeing you…

*Not being allowed to see Masters of the Universe at age 7 doesn’t count. Besides, the films far, far funnier watching as an adult.
**The bit in Rob Roy when he comes out of the lake and wraps his kilt around his waist just in time, I don’t care what side your bread’s buttered on – WOOF.