Monday, May 23, 2005

"I'm too old for this shit!"

So I went to a Nine Inch Nails concert this past Saturday night. It is now Monday morning and I still ache all over. It's been a while since I've been in an actual mosh pit, and this wasn't one for beginners.

First off, the Tabernacle in Atlanta is such a fantastic venue. It's an old church that has been converted into a concert hall. It only holds about 2000 people, so you know you're surrounded by the most serious hardcore fans. You have your choice to sit back and enjoy the show from the two-tiered balcony, or you can join the unwashed masses on the floor. You know which one I chose.

On the floor, once the music starts, you just have to accept that you are no longer an individual. You are simply a cell, making up a larger organism. Even in other mosh pits, I have never been packed so tightly against the people surrounding me. You must simply give in and flow along with the crowd. Every once in a while you can maybe push someone out of your way and make it toward the front, but it takes tenacity and determination. Thankfully I have both. I made it as far as I could to the front, where the only people in front of me were those who had a death grip on the front rail and were not letting go. When it was all said and done, I was bruised all over and drenched in my and a hundred other people's sweat. It was amazing. Trent Reznor even jumped into the pit at one point (and landed on top of Griffin, be sure to ask him about his whole experience).

The opening band was the Dresden Dolls. I had heard mixed reactions about them, but they weren't that bad. Their most famous song "Coin Operated Boy" sucked, which may have been the reason that so many people don't like them, but some of their other stuff was pretty cool. They also did "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath and "Amsterdam" by David Bowie, which were both awesome.

Then came the main attraction. Trent Reznor certainly knows how to put on an amazing show. Even without the amazing stage props (giant plasma screens and whatnot) from when I saw him 5 years ago on the Fragility tour, he still did awesome stuff with the lighting. The sound was great as well (but, it helps being five feet from the stage as opposed to being on the lawn at the Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheater). My only complaint was that it was way too short. They played for about and hour and a half, which I guess isn't that bad, but I'm used to bands like Pearl Jam who normally play well over two hours. He also didn't do an encore, which probably made it feel shorter.

I was kind of surprised that he only played three songs off the new album (plus one new b-side). He didn't play "Getting Smaller" which is my favorite new song. I was pleasantly surprised that Trent did "Something I Can Never Have" solo on the piano, which was amazing. They also played most of the necessaries, like Head Like a Hole, Sin, Closer, Hurt, Starfuckers Inc., etc. No "Down in It", but I guess you can't have everything. . .

There were numerous technical difficulties throughout the show: problems with microphones, monitors, and at one point Trent had to go over and scream at the guy who was operating the sound board. (Which may have been the reason they didn't do and encore). They even had to stop Closer halfway through and restart it. But these really didn't detract from the over all show, and I can't say that I was disappointed at all.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I Have A Pool Table!!

I suppose it's a pretty reasonable statement to suggest that a true test of friendship is their response to "Hey guys, will you come help me move my pool table?"

So, thank you Josh, Mike, and Hoser. You've passed the test.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

CD Review: With Teeth

I've always thought the best way to listen to a Nine Inch Nails album is with headphones. This is because Trent Reznor uses a stereo sound field better than anyone. With that in mind, it's no surprise that his latest album, With Teeth, is an aural masterpiece in 5.1 DVD-Audio.

Probably more than any other rock musician of our day, Reznor truly understands that music is best when it's not just played at you, but completely envelops you. They figured that out with movies about 15 years ago, and hopefully others will follow Trent's example and bring that quality to producing albums as well. This isn't just a case of the music being piped to all the speakers that are surrounding you, its completely obvious that careful though was put toward which sound comes from which speaker. There will be a pounding Dave Grohl drum line coming from the front speaker and Reznor will be singing in a small voice from the right rear speaker. There will be a guitar riff surrounding you from the four quadraphonic speakers and a single piano playing in the center channel. It is an amazing experience. Two instances really stood out to me. In "You Know What You Are?" at one point Trent's voice begins to flicker in and out. As it does this, it bounces randomly from speaker to speaker, really heightening the schizophrenic feel of the song. And in "Every Day is Exactly the Same" the song starts with a very beautiful piano piece playing in the front channels. Then a discordant static starts growing in the surround speakers, then expands to overwhelm the piano. It's an awesome effect.

As to the album itself, I think it's really good. Of course, it'll take me a while to fully digest it, but I like it quite a bit. "Every Day is Exactly the Same", "Only", and "Getting Smaller" are real standouts to me. My only real criticism is that it sounds a little bit too much like The Fragile. This isn't an inherently bad thing, The Fragile was amazing, it's just that there has always seemed to be significant growth and change between albums. If I ever hear a B-Side or unreleased track by NIN that I hadn't heard before, I can still usually tell which album era it was from. But With Teeth sounds like it could be a third disc to The Fragile set. So like I said, it's good, just not as groundbreaking as I had hoped.

Monday, May 02, 2005

A Dichotomy of Hilarity

As I'm sure you're all aware, the funniest cartoon not named South Park has been resurrected (although, this was a spectacularly mediocre season of South Park, so its title may be in jeopardy).  The first new Family Guy in three years aired last night.  Not a spectacular episode to be sure, but it picks up right where they left off before they were canceled.  However, that's not what I'm here to talk about.

Family Guy was followed by a second cartoon by the same creator, Seth MacFarlane.  This show is called American Dad, and the pilot aired following this year's Super Bowl.  At the time, I found it to be a painfully unfunny experience.  But I figured it was only a pilot and I was pretty drunk at the time, so maybe I misjudged it (faulty reasoning, I know . . . Family Guy improves as a direct relationship to blood-alcohol content).  So I watched the new episode last night.  To pretty much the same verdict.

So I've been trying to figure out just how the same guy can make a show that is soooo funny, then follow it up with one that draws more cringes than laughs.  And what I've come up with is this:  American Dad is supposed to be a parody of sit-com stereotypes.  The too conservative dad, the hippie daughter, the nerdy son, the repressed mother, the effeminate alien (ok, maybe that one's not a common stereotype).  But it takes everything so far to the extreme that it goes beyond parody into caricature.  Saturday Night Live does this all the time, but they deal with 3 minute sketches, not half hour episodes.

What makes Family Guy so funny is that the come out of left field with so much random and absurd stuff that you can't help but laugh.  But when the super-conservative American Dad acts like a misogynist, it's not strange or absurd, its just playing to a stereotype.  Just because you push it so far that its ridiculous, doesn't necessarily make it funny.

I guess I'll keep watching since it does come right after Family Guy, and maybe they'll be able to right the ship.  Let's pray for that, at any rate.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

CD review: Devils and Dust

I can't even remember the last time I bought a compact disc.  What would lure me back to this archaic technology from the glory of my iPod?

There has been a new development in the area of CDs called dual-discs.  In this format, one side of the disc is the regular CD, just like it has been for the last 15 years.  (Really? CDs are 15 years old? I remember when they first came out.  God, I'm old.)  But on the other side of the dual-disc is a glorious remix of the music in 5.1 DVD-Audio.  The sound is absolutely fantastic.  While I'm still incredibly happy with my iPod for portable audio, I don't know if I can ever put a regular stereo CD into my home entertainment system again.  If you got a good set-up, I absolutely recommend that you pick up a dual-disc and be blown away.

There's just one problem.

The album that I bought to try this thing out was Bruce Springsteen's latest, "Devils and Dust".  To be quite frank, it sucks.  Those who know me know that I'm a huge Springsteen fan.  I've even been known at times to say that he's my favorite musician.  He's definitely in the running, at any rate.  But this album is just so out of character for him.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for singers trying to branch out artistically.  But the Boss is a Jersey boy, and an album about life in the southwest, cowboys and Mexican immigrants and whatnot, just doesn't ring true.  Also, his voice is so ravaged by years of hard rocking that him singing solo with just an acoustic guitar for most of the album doesn't work.

Hopefully the album will grow on me, but right now I'm having a lot of trouble working up the urge to play it over and over.  At least the audio is fantastic . . .

I'll be picking up a dual disc of the new NIN album sometime this week, so I'll be sure to weigh in on it as well.