Calling from the Funhouse, with my song

I am ‘the excite’, as I was informed the millennials say. (I thought it was the kids, but I’m even more out of touch than I thought.) The news I found today was something of a bolt out of the blue, and to call it a welcome surprise is putting it midly.

Tapes have been found of the last show of the Stooges original lineup, apparently found in a Michigan farmhouse’s basement of all places. The show was at the Goose Lake Festival, August 8 1970, and is a full run through of the album Funhouse from go to whoa. To fans, this is massive. I spent most of the afternoon after getting the news in a state best described as a quivering mass of excitement. A far more eloquent writer than I described it as the ‘Rosetta Stone of punk’, and I can’t dispute that.

There’s been myths for decades about professionally recorded Stooges shows. Yes, there’s the legendary Metallic KO album (The only live album I know of where the singer keeps track of what’s being hurled at the band from the audience), but as performances go it’s far from optimal. There’s been dozens, if not hundreds, of bootlegs and rehearsal tapes issued and most of those from the bands later, more destructive days or from the mid 2000’s reunion. So to find tape like this, let alone in such quality is rare as hen’s teeth.

How can I describe this to non-fans? It’s like finding a copy of  Loves Labours Won, or footage of Frank Oz performing Miss Piggy on Dagobah during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back. The band produced some of the most vital and influential music in their/all time and there are bare scraps of footage of them in their prime. One track has been uploaded to streaming services, with the full show to be released on August 7th. I can’t wait.

I have been accused (mostly by myself) of being evangelical about the music I like and on that charge I’m proudly guilty. I can’t help wanting to share this with people – it makes me so happy, so maybe it’ll have the same effect on others, right? Mostly it doesn’t, but from time to time things have worked. I got my wife into the New York Dolls, and she was very nervous when she told me she preferred them to the Ramones. Look, that’s OK, everyone has different opinions. It’s not that OK, but far from a deal breaker. But I can’t help wanting to share the things I love with people in the hope that I can share the love.

Digging around, whether through bargain bins or old interviews can produce amazing things. That’s how I discovered music in my early days. “So, this band said they liked these bands, so I’ll check them out.” That’s how I found about the New York scene centered around CBGB’s, and the Detroit scene of the late 60’s. Things can turn up in unexpected places – Mongolia or Central Australia for two examples. Look, this pandemic has made me realize I miss a lot of things. To go into the street and not worry, to play RPG’s face to face instead of over Discord, fencing practise and I really miss dressing up for LARP. But what I miss most of all is live music. The sweat, the excitement, the shared feeling of joy. Of a group of strangers coming together to share in something they all love.

I got reminded a few weeks back that I should have seen Iron Maiden by now, and they might not be back until 2022. As much as I want people to be safe, and I do, I miss the shared atmosphere of a concert, whether the intimacy of a tiny room or a stadium filled with people. A life without live music, you might as well remove a limb, it’d be less painful.  Stay safe people, and take care of each other. Remember to be kind, even, especially when this is over.

Be seeing you.

7 Album Challenge

So, a friend recently challenged me to the latest Facebook fad, that of challenging people to name albums that have influenced them, no comment or explanations. Of course, asking me about rock and roll and saying not to comment on that? Yeah right. I wrote a little about each album, but my muse punched me in the back of the head today, so you’re getting an expanded version. Also, I’ve had ‘Istanbul, Not Constantinople’ stuck in my head ALL DAMN DAY, so hopefully this will help dislodge it. It’s not that the song is bad per se, but it reminds me of a time in my life I don’t much like to remember, so. It’s not been a pleasant day. I feel I should set the atmosphere with this excerpt from Almost Famous, the scene that made me fall in love with the film.

And he’s correct – it is NEVER too early for Search and Destroy.

Let’s get to it.

1: Ramones, Rocket to RussiaR-2573759-1487956469-3937.jpeg

Their first album has a more iconic cover (There are walking tours that’ll go past the spot where it was taken) and It’s Alive is the greatest live album/Greatest Hits of all time, but for my money this album can’t be beat. It’s a perfect summation of the band and the last time the original lineup recorded a studio album. Look, it contains Sheena is a Punk Rocker, what more do I need to say?  It’s been a  dream of mine for seemingly decades now to meet someone with that name so I can ask are they a punk rocker? That that, add the likes of Cretin Hop, I Don’t Care and We’re a Happy Family, and you’ve got perfection. All killer, no filler.

2: Radio Birdman – Radios Appear
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This was one of those rare albums without a dud track, a dud solo or even a dud moment. Even the gaps between tracks command the attention, as you desperately try to get your breath back before the next track kicks in. From the crashing waves that signal the start of  Aloha Steve and Danno (a tribute to the band’s favorite cop show) to a final ferocious run through the 13th Floor Elevators classic You’re Gonna Miss Me, this takes no prisoners. When I got a copy of this I listened to virtually nothing but it for weeks. It’s burned into my brain to a degree I thought not possible. I have trouble remembering important things like relatives birthdays, computer passwords and the like, and yet this I can hear this in my head at a moments notice. It’s over 40 years old and is still as vital as the day it was first recorded. Essential.

3: Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast
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The first Maiden album I bought was A Real Live One, which to be charitable, is no Live After Death, but the title track to their third album was the first Maiden song I heard, and I was immediately hooked. From the spoken word intro (Recorded by a Vincent Price sound alike after the band couldn’t afford his fee), the atmosphere of the intro (That nearly drove singer Bruce Dickinson mad recording) and then it hit me. That. Big .Scream. I was never the same from that moment on. It’s been near 25 years, and I’m still just as devoted to the band. Yes, about a side of the album is a little sub par*, but the other half more than makes up for it. really, when that half is is comprised of  stone cold classics the likes of the title track, Run to the Hills, The Prisoner and the almighty Hallowed be thy Name, anything will pale in comparison. Up the Irons!

4: Motorhead –  No Remorse
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i’d heard stories about the band and their leader, the mythical creature known simply as Lemmy, and his famous boast that ‘If Motorhead moved next door to you your lawn would die.’ And then, Bambi. The Young Ones was a revelation to young me. It was crude, violent, foul and anarchic, all things that I kind of wanted to be but were in reality far too polite and guilt ridden to even think of being. And then with a command of ‘Music!’ from Christopher Ryan, Motorhead appeared.  (I’d like to say my eardrums have never been the same, but that was thanks to the Rollins Band) This was the first album of theirs I purchased, a best of compilation with a few new tracks to show off a new (and short lived) lineup, but as an introduction to the band it worked like a charm.

Much like our next act, they never really changed their sound once they’d found it. Sure, there was the odd deviation (1916 never fails to make me weep), but no matter the year, you hit play on a Motorhead album you know what you’ll get. As Lemmy said to intro shows “We are Motorhead, and we play rock and roll.” Truer words have rarely been spoken.

5: AC/DC – Live
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Again, I knew of them beforehand, having heard Who Made Who, but this made me a fan. Sure, the guitar solos during The Jack and Jailbreak are overlong, but it cuts most of the mid 80’s dreck and gives you a solid mix of the Bon Scott and Brian Johnson eras. Yes, the Bon stuff is superior (Would you rate Thunderstruck over Highway to Hell?) and I’ve not met anyone who’ll deny that, but the Brian era has it’s share of gems – I can’t help but get worked up during the cannon fire of For Those About to Rock. It’s meat and potatoes rock and roll, but played with incredible consistency – I’d wager no-one alive has picked up an Acca Dacca record and not known what you’re about to get, and they should be celebrated for that. Live is where music is best experienced after all.

6: Dub War – Pain
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There were a few albums around this time that turned my head and opened my ears to sounds anew – Faith No More’s The Real Thing, Sepultura’s Roots and Fear Factory’s Demanufacture among others. But Dub War were like nothing I’d ever heard before – a mix of punk, metal, reggae and electronic all chucked in a blender to mesmerizing effect. That description may sound bonkers, and you’d be right, but the boundaries they laughed at made it all the more joyful. Hell, I even bought their remix album for crying out loud, something I never thought I’d do previously. Underappreciated in their time, like all great artists, their spirit lives on in singer Benji Webbe’s current band Skindred.

7: The Hu – The Gereg
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Mongolian throat singing and heavy metal – two amazing things that sound even more amazing smashed together. Most folk metal (at least that I’ve heard) has a Viking or Celtic bent, but with bands like this and Tengger Cavalry, it’s challenging the white European centric view of metal and that is a damn good thing. (Yes, I’m aware that Tang Dynasty were the first, but work with me here.) Back to the band, they’re metal as fuck but in a chill kind of way. This is made for listening to when walking across ancient mountains, or while writing Dungeons and Dragons games, rather than frenzied moshing. Not that I wouldn’t jump in the pit though, for the KHAAAAAAAN!

The real kicker? Owing to Covid 19 they’re currently (As far as I know) stranded in Australia and can’t play  shows. So close, and yet so far…

Sleep beckons. Be seeing you…

*Still better than the likes of Quest for Fireor Don’t Look to the Eyes of a Stranger mind you. I adore the Maiden, but they’ve a few stinkers in the back catalogue that’s for sure.

It’s only rock and roll.

No. It’s not. Mick Jagger lied. To borrow a line from, I think an English football manager, it’s not life or death, it’s much more important.  I recently mentioned I was curating a playlist about my aging. Well, this is it. I’ve tried to keep this short, and somewhat on topic. I could have just added songs I like, but that would have been a massive list and kinda defeated the point of this. I’ve tried to keep it to a few pertinent observations on each track, though I should warn that requests for more detail I can do.

Culling things wasn’t easy, though keeping it to things on Spotify helped slightly. For starters, that cut the Rollins Band’s All I Want, while a lovely song (at least compared to their usual output), brings back some mighty painful memories of my youth. Of going out into the world being like an untrained puppy, looking for affection or attention, but with no idea whatsoever of how to get it, or deal with it. Ahhh, memories.

Anyhow, here goes.

 

I’m 18 – Alice Cooper. The epitome of teen angst and confusion. It doesn’t get better than this. It’s a notch on my bucket list that I’ve seen Alice perform this twice.

I Don’t Want to Grow Up – The Ramones. A cover of a Tom Waits tune, it hits me where I live, so to speak. That fear of the future, of struggling for an answer to ‘what to do you want to do with your life?’ I hated that question as an adolescent and still do.

My Shit’s Fucked Up – Warren Zevon. What more is there to say? Zevon had a wonderful knack for the macabre and miserable, and he sums it up perfectly here.

Trouble In My Brain – The Sunnyboys. Lead singer and songwriter Jeremy Oxley was a master at songs such as this, and knowing he was suffering from undiagnosed schizophrenia at the time only adds to it’s poignancy.

Don’t Damn Me – Gun’s and Roses. It’s slightly mortifying to me how swiftly this implanted on my brain from the time I first heard it. “Sometimes I wanna kill, sometimes I wanna die. Sometimes I wanna destroy, sometimes I wanna cry.” Me at 14, and still today, to no small degree.

My Pal – God. Just flat out brilliant. Written when the band were in their teens, it’s just amazing. The footage of them performing it on Countdown (I think – it seems to be live, which that show rarely, if ever, did) is well worth a watch.

I Believe in Miracles – The Ramones. Alas, the album version isn’t on Spotify, so this one (From 1991’s Loco Live) will have to do. It’s a haunting tune about being a fuck up, but still having hope, like a lot of Dee Dee Ramone’s best songs from the later era of the band.

Do Not Go Gentle into the Good Night – Iggy Pop. From his most recent album, it’s smooth jazz over Iggy’s reading of the poem. That description may sound odd, but it’s utterly hypnotic.

Midlife Crisis – Faith No More. I’ve just turned 40. How could I possibly leave a song with this title off the list?

Paranoid – Black Sabbath. It’s not the quintessential Sabbath tune for my ears (That’s Black Sabbath or War Pigs for my money), but this sums up how early 20’s me felt about my place in the world. Plus, that riff.

Descent into the Maelstrom – Radio Birdman. It’s not New Race or Aloha Steve and Danno, but for me the surf drums, the barked “2,3,4!” and Rob Younger’s howl all combine into one of the most electrifying openings of any rock song. The recent film about the band is mandatory viewing for those with an interest in music doco’s.

Depression – Black Flag. Short, fast and ugly, Henry Rollins roar has rarely sounded more berserk.

Love Song – The Damned. Sure, it doesn’t match the theme of this playlist, but to me it’s the greatest love song ever written and I will fiercely defend that to the end of my days.

Blow Up the Outside World – Soundgarden. Haven’t we all had days where we felt like this? RIP Chris Cornell.

Wasted Years – Iron Maiden. This one brings back painful memories of wandering around Melbourne one night in, I think 2001, listening to this on repeat, lost both in body and soul and utterly missing the point of the lyrics. I found where I was staying on the trip after about 2 hours of semi random wandering hoping for a landmark, but didn’t get the point of the song for many years afterwards. Better too late, than not at all eh?

So, I’m 40. Happy Birthday to me! And now, GET THE HELL OF MY LAWN, YOU DAMN PUNK KIDS! 🙂

Be seeing you…

Cancelled.

Rough week. I am feeling rather ill-equipped to face today. Dropped a sleeping pill last night, and while it didn’t hit me as hard as last time, I’m still in something of a haze.

In the space of roughly a week, the following events have been cancelled or postponed:
Download Festival
The Iron Maidens
Blackpowder and Bloodlines
Iron Maiden
My 40th birthday celebrations
Tuesday sword for the rest of term, possibly longer.

How am I dealing with this? About as well as could be expected.

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I can’t complain about it, given the current situation they made the right call. Public safety’s an important thing, especially when beaches and bars still seem to be full of people and virus cases still seem to be ramping up here. But I’d be lying if I wasn’t cut up about them, as I’d been looking forward to them for quite a while. While bemoaning the state of things to my wife Friday night, she asked me an irritatingly armour piercing question, as she does. I’m not remembering it exactly, but hopefully I’ve got the theme correct: “Is your regular life so miserable that you need these things to look forward to?”

Honestly, I don’t know?

There’s been times when yeah, the thought of an upcoming show or event has helped me to get out of bed. I’m rarely as happy as I am at a concert, so that seems natural to me. Being in a crowd full of people normally isn’t my thing, but there’s something wonderful about a Maiden crowd. I bloody love that band, to a degree my skill with words can’t properly convey, and being amidst a crowd all there to share our in our love of them, well, I feel at home. There’s a lot of love in that crowd, more than at other metals shows I’ve been to. But I’m digressing, as tends to happen when Maiden get mentioned. Back to the point, it’s not the only time I feel that way, but it’s one of the big ones. On a regular basis that’s probably not healthy, but that’s another thing to discuss with my brain doctors.

Getting back to the question, maybe? It certainly feels that way some days. My therapist has said having things to look forward to is good, but it’s possible I’m using that as a distraction to mask other issues. Wouldn’t be the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Maybe I need the distraction more at the moment? My heads above water, but not by much or so it seems. I need stuff to look forward to, or the day to day grind becomes oppressive. My regular games are still on, and they’re great for my health, but they aren’t always enough.

Will ponder this. Be seeing you.

Can’t sleep, so writing.

It’s another night of ‘Oh Gods, I can’t sleep’, or in the words of Lemmy, ‘I should be tired, but all I am is wired’ so here goes.

The brain is a bit wonky. The heat has subsided somewhat, mercifully. Having a tooth pulled on Saturday wasn’t fun, though the dentist staff were bloody lovely, both when I charged in looking like a drowned rat and apologizing profusely for accidentally pulling at my beard. The recovery hasn’t been too bad, thankfully, though the mouth ulcer on the same side of my mouth as the removed tooth was remarkably ill-timed. Also, my wife has let me nap a lot, which is lovely. She’s the best.

Phenomenon submissions have opened, and I hope to have mine done this week, for my Babylon 5 freeform. It’s more than a bit nerve wracking, because I think it’s a solid idea for a game, and I really don’t want to screw it up. I love the B5 universe and while I’m wary of what players could do to it, I really want to see what happens. It’s a problem I have when running games for settings I love, in that I have a vision of that setting and don’t like it when it’s fucked with, so we’ll see what happens there. The game’s set in a time of the show basically untouched by canon, which should help. I’m quietly confident, but it’s pretty different from the last two games I’ve submitted, so I’m not treating it as a lock.

Council
In Valen’s Name…

Alas, and with much sadness, Good Society was cancelled owing to low ticket sales. I’m more than a bit sad about that one, as I was really looking forward to getting my Firth on. Or, as my wife put it, “It’s a romance game based around manners, that’s exactly your jam.” Politeness is one of my things, to say the least. I joke when queried that ‘You’ve not met my mother, you don’t know the level of polite to which I was raised’, and it’s frequently hilarious when friends meet her and discover just how intensely I mean that. She’s a saint.

 

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If only there had been a pool at the venue…

The prep for Blackpowder and Bloodlines continues, and it’s mostly been flailing. The old standbys of ‘Hey, here’s other character ideas’ and ‘Look at all those beautiful costumes, can you possibly match that standard?’ crawled into my head late last night and refused to leave. It’s not that I haven’t found kit that fits the character idea, it’s just been a spate of overthinking whether it matches the costume brief and of it either being horribly expensive or cheap as shit. (Wish, I’m looking in your direction… And while we’re talking, could you please stop recommending me sex toys?)

There was a few minutes early this morning I was tempted to go ‘Oh hang it all, I’ll just play a musketeer and be young and stupid’, or any of the myriad other ideas I’ve had for the game. I at least know what nation I’m from, so that helps narrow things down a bit. It’s much the same problem I have when game writing, especially a month or two out from the convention, when I get enough ideas for the next 3 conventions. I’m pretty sure that’s where the Ewok game came from though, so sometimes good comes from it.

Sure, I’ve a pile of leather scraps I’ve been tempted to try and turn into a half cape (They were originally purchased for an Orcish war skirt) and that’s an option. My wife’s holding a craft day this weekend, so I could certainly look into it. I should be able to drape it over the back quiver I have and not have it affect my shooting, I hope. In other options, the signet ring I was after is now out of stock in my size and while I’ve found either a vest or jerkin that I think will work, my over thinking and budget concerns has me doubting things. Or do I go for a short sleeve gambeson instead? Stupid brain. Also, said brain continues to insist that the my character idea is dumb and mostly pinched from Aragorn. Stupid anxiety. And I still can’t find a shirt or tunic I like that doesn’t have giant billowy sleeves. Harrumph.

For those who came in late, the character idea is thus: A noble scion who’s next in line for the family fortune, but who’s siblings are getting somewhat aggressive about getting the cash. To the point of sending assassins. Therefore, he’s journeyed to the New World, under the pretext of trophy hunting, slightly incognito (Hence the fancy signet ring that’ll easily identify him to any would-be assassins – what’s the use of a secret if it doesn’t leak?) till things cool down. I’ve a reason to be there, something to do, and something that’ll cause complications. I think that’s a good start.

I should probably start putting all the possible kit for the game in one place (I know I still own the pants I was going to wear, having previously worn them at my wedding), but I should check they still fit properly. Quitting sugar has taken a surprising amount of weight from my waistline, and according to my wife I’m still shrinking.

I’m gonna sign off and try and sleep again. Before you think it’s all angst and horror, there’s some genuinely good news to report: I’m seeing Alice Cooper Saturday night, Faith No More are touring soon and there’s a new Testament album incoming, though I still need to get a ticket to Download. But looming above all things, is an event I’m looking forward to almost as much as my anniversary – it’s under 3 months till Iron Maiden! *air guitar solo*

More to come. Be seeing you.

DEATH TO FALSE METAL!

Ross the Boss / Night Legion / Carbon Black
The Metro Sydney, Nov 23rd 2019.

Guitarist Ross ‘The Boss’ Friedman first came to my attention through his work with NYC punk group The Dictators, who’s first album ‘Go Girl Crazy’ is both a classic of the genre and among the first punk albums released. But tonight isn’t a night for that – there’s no time for Two Tub Man or sign of Master Race Rock. Tonight we’re here to celebrate his other well known act, the speaker exploding loincloth wearing kings of metal, the one, the only, Manowar!

This was a night for the diehards. A night where battle vests were donned like knights of old donned mail, where mighty warriors came to celebrate the music they love, hair was let down and much air guitar was played. Sure, sections of the crowd looked closer to Cohen than Conan, but that lends further evidence to my theory that there’s going to be some amazing retirement communities in a few years. Anyhow, I feel I should begin by apologizing to the woman in front of me for the volume I was screaming in your left ear at  various points through the show. Sure, you didn’t seem to notice (It was very loud), or were too polite to say anything, but I was raised to be what some folks consider overly polite.

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It was also a night to wear earplugs. I keep meaning to invest in a quality pair. Maybe for Download or Maiden next year. Owing to some fun with trackwork and a post sword nap that was over long, I found myself rushing to get there just as Ross and co was due to hit stage, so there was some relief at their set starting 15 minutes late. My heartfelt apologies to the supports, it ain’t easy, especially when the attendance isn’t great. The Metro seems about half full, and and I’m able to make it to the front with ease. Things fill up a bit more as showtime grows closer, but it’s still only half to 2/3rds full.

While the set starts strong, with Blood of the Kings opening, it’s not till Blood of my Enemies that things really get going. Kill with Power has the crowd roaring along, and Bridge of Death has all the pomp and ceremony/absurdity of the original intact. Battle Hymn fucking DESTROYS and as dodgy as Hail and Kill’s lyrics are (If you don’t know them, then you’ve been warned), it still goes down a treat. And before we know it, it’s all over.

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We got was was promised, the Manowar album Hail to England, played in full (Minus the bass solo Black Arrows, who’s intro I was quite looking forward to) as for the band, they played it beautifully – Ross hasn’t lost any skill with age, the bass player was phenomenal, the vocalist has quite the scream and a fine command of cheesy metal stage patter and their drummer was both fantastic and well, damn… I’m not saying I’d switch sides (He’s not Nathan Fillion circa Firefly), but I certainly noticed him, unlike most drummers.

All in all, it was a grand night. Heavy metal was played. Horns were thrown, heads were banged and much fun seemed to be had by all. Can’t wait for the next one.

Another update

So, update time.

I have a floor ticket for Iron Maiden’s Sydney show next year. *throws horns* I’m so damn excited about this it’s not funny. I’ve waxed lyrical many a time about my love for that band and will no doubt do so again, and to be in the pit on this tour, possibly the most over the top one they’ve done stage wise, promises to be a night I’ll never forget.

The lineup for Download next year was also announced, and there’s enough bands I dig to get me there. I’m still waiting for the second run of announcements before buying a ticket and hoping for sideshows. I’d love to see The Hu in a smaller venue, as they’re metal as fuck, but not the thrashing kind, whereas seeing Testament a few years back in a tiny venue nearly melted my face off with awesome. Don’t get me wrong, they were fantastic at Soundwave, but being that close as they roared through Dark Roots of Earth was fucking amazing. In other shows, Ross the Boss is this Saturday night and Halestorm hit town in a couple of weeks. The Iron Maidens are also back next year, which should prime the pump nicely for the real thing soon after. I’ve had issues with tribute/cover bands in the past, but seeing how much joy they take in playing those songs, I get swept up in it all. Also, they’re really fucking good at it.

In other good news, Niece, Age 11 is DMing a game of her own. She’s been excitedly talking to me about what’s happening in her game, and about talking D&D near her non-nerd friends and their confused reactions. I’m so freaking proud of her. She only has one set of dice, and I had to laugh and say “Oh my sweet summer child, we’ll fix that.” I’ve tried to pass down what GM wisdom I’ve learned from my years at the table, but I don’t need to say much – the kid has her head on straight to a degree that’s scary. Sure, I’ve still given advice and asked questions about her approach, but there’s been moments where I’ve had to stop her and go ‘Save some awesome for the rest of us alright?’ I’m hoping to get her to a con at some point soon, or run for her one of my old games. The next generation is on the way, and I couldn’t be happier.

Sword continues to be a blast. We’re doing quarterstaff and shaska (Cossack cavalry sabre) this term and I’m really enjoying both. And yes, every time I pick up a quarterstaff I get a certain cartoon in my head… Then there’s a problem in not being able to settle down to study one weapon/historical text, when there’s so many I’d love to learn. I haven’t done any sword and shield/buckler, staff has me wanting to do more spear/polearm and how could I say possibly no to learning the cutlass? Well, it’s less a problem and more an issue with too many weapons and not enough time. Where’s a TARDIS when you need it?

Brain however has been rather wonky. There was a massive crash following Pheno. I’d expected it, but not quite to that degree. Conventions can take it out of you, there’s the lack of sleep, nerves and as much fun as GMing is, it’s a lot of work. There’s the panic and tension leading up to the con, the adrenaline and chaos of when it’s happening, and then it’s over and what the fuck do I do now? I’ve been trying to write more concerning the brain goblins and the general weird in my head, but that’s not ready for public consumption. Therapy continues to unpick things, in addition to what rattles around in my head on a regular basis. I’d love to be able to publicly talk, but I’m not comfortable sharing around some of this yet. Working out how I’m dealing with it seems paramount before going public. On the bright side, I’m already planning for next year’s Pheno – a freeform this time.

Speaking of planning ahead, I’m hoping to attend Blackpowder and Bloodlines, a weekend LARP in Victoria next year.It’s a while since I’ve been to a weekender, let alone so lethal seeming a system. I’m a big fan of perma death in LARP – I don’t want it to be easy, but I like knowing the threat of death is there. There’s tentative plans to group up with a couple of others, without which I may not attend. I’d rather have someone I know there, outside of IC links. Getting to make so many IC connections and backstory at pax Europa spoiled me, and I’d love to try to recreate that sort of thing.

And that’s it for the moment. Be well, and be seeing you

What could possibly go wrong?

Rock and roll has a long and glorious history of on-stage stupidity and absurd set pieces.

Alice Cooper has been guillotined, electrocuted and otherwise murdered on stage in various methods for over 40 years, while Ronnie James Dio once fought a dragon. (On stage that is. I’m not sure what he did on his days off, but I’m betting dragons were involved. If anyone knows if he played D&D, please get in touch)
Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee has had various flying or upside down drum kits, while Sabaton use a tank as a drum riser.
KISS use enough pyro to supply a small conflict per show, in between Gene Simmons regular bouts of spitting blood, breathing fire and having an ego so large it can be seen from space.
Amon Amarth and Manowar have had long-ships, or parts thereof, as part of their stage sets while GWAR once decapitated a Tony Abbott mannequin, yelling that “he was no Costello.”

Many bands have also done stupid or ill advised things in the name of publicity. One only needs to look at Blackie Lawless’s collection of codpieces (Of the buzz saw and fire breathing variety), or the Norwegian black metal scene’s brief fad for setting churches alight.  The Dwarves once faked the death of a band member (which got them swiftly sacked from their record label) and if half the stories about GG Allin’s onstage activities are true, well, don’t look him up unless you’ve a strong stomach.

But there is one band who can always be relied upon to take that level of madness and stupidity and go one further. From humble beginnings, with a kabuki mask that would spew fake blood over their drummer’s head in a small London pub, to the arena filling juggernaut they are today, they have consistently delivered live, both in terms of songs and spectacle. Their artistic fortunes may have waxed and waned over the years, but they have never had less than 100% commitment to their live show, and I can give no higher compliment than that to a band. I mean, they staged a WW1 era aerial display before a festival gig several years ago, at which their singer was flying a replica of the Red Barons triplane. I’m sure the likes of Beyonce or Taylor Swift put on a hell of a show, but have they ever done that?

I’m sure many bands have planned tours around what themes they can use for their stage sets, or how much pyro can they stack around the stage without immolating half the band. Sure, Rammstein have been known to set themselves on fire a fair bit, and I’d be remiss in not mentioning the time that James Hetfield stood on top of a flash pot during a gig in Montreal. Ooops. Historical note: Guns and Roses delaying their set till the advertised time, then playing for barely half their time-slot caused a riot that night. Turns out there is something that will make Canadians angry enough to riot over…

Fun Fact: The guitar he was playing at the time has the imprint of his hand on it. I’ve seen pictures, it’s impressively creepy.

But there’s only one band to have a meeting about what they’ll do on their next tour and between discussions on the set list, costume changes and the like, someone digs into the suggestion box and goes “I know, why don’t we strap flamethrowers to our singer for a song? What could possibly go wrong with that?”

Please step forward the one, the only, Iron Maiden.

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.

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.