Evo Experience on 9/21 – Quick Post and A Few Pictures

Jonna and I attended the Steve Vai Evo Experience at the House of Blues last night. Jonna played photographer and took about 300 or so pictures. We are in a rush this morning, but I have gotten a few up. Throughout the week I will continue to sort through and upload pictures.

Real quick review, too many people at the EVO experience this time. Last time it was about 25 and was really nice. This time it seemed there were close to 40. However, given all that, watching the soundcheck and rehearsal was completely fascinating. This guy gets better every time I see him and the new band is absolutely incredible. Probably the best Vai show I’ve ever seen. Definitely check them out if they come to a town near you.

I hate the House of Blues as a venue, however. We basically stood for 7 or so hours. We were completely dead by the end of the show. All and all though, the music and the band were second to none. Best show I’ve seen so far – ever.

More pictures will be added to the set as we have time to sort through them, and I plan on putting together a more extensive post as I have time.

A Hard Landing At Galt Airport

Last night we attended the Hard Landing event at Galt Airport in Woodstock. The featured bands for the evening were Hudson McCoy, Rare Earth, and Blue Oyster Cult.

I had never been to a Galt Airport event, so I had nothing to compare it to, but we had a pretty good time. Rare Earth and Blue Oyster Cult are seriously at the top of their game. They sounded absolutely great.

Hudson McCoy was pretty good as well, if you like blues music. I’m one of those people who likes blues, but when I’m seeing a band live its more meaningful to me if I have heard their music before. I tend to me more receptive to unfamiliar music with an album than I am seeing a live band. Most of the Hudson McCoy set seemed to be originals that I had never heard before. So overall, for me, Rare Earth and BOC was the highlight of the evening.

We tried to get pictures throughout the night, but we didn’t get many that turned out well. Our camera just doesn’t do very well at long distances when it starts to get dark.

The event was quite a bit smaller than, say, a Ribfest – and it showed. One of the things that they really have to work on for next year is having more hand washing stations around the washroom area.

I’m a compulsive hand washer – its one of those weird things for me that I’ve never been able to get under control (though, thinking about it, it seems that if your going to have an obsession, hand washing is a good one). For me, there is nothing more horrible than walking around somewhere and having the urge to wash your hands and having one station available that is completely out of water and / or soap. Worse than that though, is watching so many people come out of these washrooms trying to wash their hands and having no water available to do so.

Last night there were two scenarios. In one instance there was no soap in the station. For a neurotic like me, washing your hands isn’t washing them without soap. The second scenario was worse though – only soap and no water. For some reason, having soap all over your hands with no ability to rinse it off just sends my brain off into a ‘tizzy’ – that’s my obsessive-compulsive side at its finest. I wound up going to the beer tent and asking the people attending there to drop large handfuls of ice in my hands so that I could rinse the soap off.

So to summarize, the event was fun. There was great music and the crowd was considerably more laid back and considerate than they were at the REO concert earlier this month. The organizers definitely have to make some improvements in the hygiene facilities moving forward though.

Ribfest 2006 in Naperville

We hit Ribfest again this year in Naperville. This year, REO Speedwagon was the headlining band. Consequently, all the 80’s heads (us included) came to see the show and the festival wound up selling out for the third time since its inception.

There were three bands in total that played yesterday while we were there. The first band was called The Hacks. I enjoyed their set (it was a long one). The crowd was minimal at this point in the afternoon and there was plenty of space to walk around, or sit back and enjoy the music.

The second band was a band called Hello Dave. I really enjoyed these guys. They play country / blues / rock and mixed cover tunes with originals. I don’t think I heard one song I didn’t enjoy. I definitely want to look these guys up the next place they are playing and check them out again. During this set is when the crowd really started building up. Hello Dave played until around 7:00 or so.

Once Hello Dave finished is when the crowd really started building. It was literally impossible to get through the crowd at points to get back to your seat if you, say, had to make a bathroom run. People were packed so tight that there were rather large groups just looking for one little piece of free showing grass to set their blanket down and squeeze in for the show.

REO was scheduled to start at 8:00, but the band didn’t hit the stage until around 8:20p. It was really amazing to watch this sold out crowd and how into this band they are. Attending a show like this and watching the crowd that assembles when they play really shows what a huge impact this band had on the music scene in the 80’s. What surprised me was that even the younger kids knew the words to the songs.

The band also played a couple of songs from their upcoming album (due to be released in December or so). They were pretty good, and I might just pick up the album when it comes out. I thought the band put on a pretty good show.

Aside from hearing the songs that really were a staple on the radio during the 80’s (and there weren’t many REO songs that I didn’t like), the most fascinating thing for me through the whole thing was watching the crowd once the band came on the stage. I felt compelled to take as many pictures of how the crowd grew as I could, just to show what a draw this band still is after 30 years.

I’ve uploaded 88 photos from the event yesterday to the photo album. Some are family shots, many are of the crowd, and the rest are pictures of the band that we took from the overhead projection screen next to the stage. One of them is an interesting tattoo that Jonna noticed on a guy who later was quite happy to let me take a picture of it. The tattoo cracked me up.

Overall, the event was fun. I love going to see these bands that we liked so much in high school as they tour these festivals and watching how much people are still into them after all these years. Its a totally cool thing to watch.

Oh yeah, aside from the music, the ribs were pretty damn good too. I think we’ll definitely be heading out there again in 2007.

A Saturday at the Beloit RiverFest

We spent yesterday hanging out in Beloit, WI at their Riverfest. The main reason we were there was to see AlterBridge and Collective Soul, but rather than go down at the end of the day we decided to make a day of it.

The festival is not something you can “make a day of”.

We spent a lot of time walking around, but not much time doing anything. Carnival games is not something we’re really interested in, so a lot of time was spent just sitting together and talking, or watching the kids play tag to kill time.

However, we did see some good bands. The band 529 opened on the main stage where AlterBridge and Collective Soul were to play at about 5:30. One thing we noticed immediately was that, although the ads for Riverfest that we had seen said, quite explicitly, that no cameras were allowed, everyone except us ignored the restriction. So out of everyone there, we were the only ones unable to get pictures except for a couple I tried to take with Jonnas cameraphone that wound up being worthless. So the first lesson, when they say they don’t allow cameras, they don’t really mean it apparently.

I enjoyed 529 a lot. They were a cover band, doing a lot of Nickelback, Seether, and Green Day stuff. They sounded great.

AlterBridge was incredible. Mark Tremonti is an excellent guitar player and the band really put on a good show. I found this show to be the most enjoyable of the evening. I really wish we would have ignored the stated camera rules, because we had some great seats and would have gotten some incredible pictures. The show was awesome.

Towards the end, however, we got tired of all of the people around us and decided to move way to the back of the park, so that we could listen to the music without dealing with the people. People at these kinds of shows are extremely self centered, and don’t look at the fact that they are positioning themselves in front of a group of people that have been sitting there all day to aquire their seats. I really wish people were more socially conscious sometimes.

Collective Soul was good, but we didn’t enjoy that show as much as the AlterBridge one. They’re a great band, but for some reason we weren’t that into it. We stayed for most of it, but wound up leaving to beat the mad rush out of the grounds.

So to wrap up and present a summary:

  • Go for the show not the day unless you’re very good at amusing yourself
  • bands — good
  • people — rude and self centered

Jakes 15th Birthday

Jakes 15th Birthday

Photo by rbieber

Jake and Kelsi "strike the pose" with his new PSP he bought with "birthday money" — a currency that children seem to trade for products and services these days.

Yesterday was Jakes 15th birthday. For his big day he received “birthday money” to which he added to “other money” to purchase a Sony PSP.

We also went to see Night Ranger at McHenry Fiesta Days. Jonna and I thought they were pretty good, but the kids had a lot of comments like Kelsi’s statement of the evening “there’s too little words and too much guitar”.

Too much guitar???!
Is that possible?

I enjoyed the show. They sounded great and Brad Gillis and Jeff Watson were excellent as usual. I’ve always liked Brads playing and it was cool to finally see him play in person.

Our children are definitely “post Nirvana” children though, who do not understand the value of a great guitar solo and the incredible feeling of an air guitar in hand …

SummerFest 2005

Repent!!!!The sign to the left was the first thing you saw walking into Summerfest going in, and almost the last thing you saw going out, if you don’t count the people giving away grilled Spam sandwiches outside the gates. The idea that someone would spend their whole day standing in front of a festival holding a sign like this has always puzzled me — and at the same time it really amuses me. People are so tied and will do so much for their beliefs, no matter how goofy they are. But what the hell. I’ll give them some free press, just because they made the effort.

Yesterdays trip was pretty uneventful, except that we did see two fairly decent bands there. The first was Think Floyd, a Pink Floyd tribute band. They did a really great job of playing this stuff live and I would definitely go see them again. Just to give you an idea of how decent they were, I’ve uploaded a picture of the crowd they drew as they were playing.

They were a really decent band, and did a great job on every song they played. The only one I didn’t like was “Wish You Were Here”, as the band tried to get the audience to sing the song rather than the band. What wound up happening was a very good instrumental version of the song. They should have just sang it.

Before the Think Floyd, however, Jonna and I went to the Rock Stage and saw that there was a band called Beatallica playing at 6:30. Both being fans of Metallica we made a mental note that we definitely wanted to hit this show. There’s nothing better than a Metallica tribute band on a hot day — unless you are actually seeing Metallica live.

Now, around 6:00 pm the crowd started filing in. There were obviously a LOT of Metallica fans at Summerfest. By 6:15 the band started to play. They opened with a cover of “Back in the U.S.S.R [mp3 link]“, Metallica style. It was AWESOME. They sounded really good, but I kept thinking to myself — “This sounds really good. When did Metallica cover this song?”

Then the second song [mp3 link] came on. It started like “Enter Sandman”, but as the singer started singing, he was singing the lyrics to “Taxman” – another Beatles song. Then it hit me. They are a “Beatles in the style of Metallica” tribute band. This cracked me up.

We stayed for a few songs, watching some of the people who thought they were coming to see a Metallica cover band start to walk out. Jonna is not a huge Beatles fan, so we left after a few songs (though to give her credit, she did insist that we could stay – I was really enjoying it).

This band put together the most unique interpretation of Beatles songs that I have ever seen. I thought the whole concept was brilliant. As I watched, I started to notice the “little things”, like while the lead singer had a Hetfield style guitar (and had those Lennon style circle sunglasses), the bassist was playing a Rickenbacker – the bass that Paul McCartney played in the Beatles.

The part of the show I saw was a crack up and — I think — totally worth the price of admission to a show. It’s an extremely original idea. Go see these guys if you find them playing somewhere in Milwaukee.

For more information on Beatallica, including tour dates and quicktime samples of their live work, check out their web site. As I was writing this I found that they also have download-able sets of their albums on their music page, including the hit albums “A Garage Dayz Nite” and “Beatallica”. It seems that they do not sell CD’s. They state their position on selling music on their web site as well. They want their music to remain free – as in free.

I’ve also put together a photo set of the pictures I took during the soundcheck and start of the show for your enjoyment.

These are definitely two albums that are going on the iPod — as a matter of fact, this would make a damn good podcast wouldn’t it?

Meeting Steve Vai – The EVO Experience

Ron with Steve Vai Last night Steve Vai and his band The Breed (Billy Sheehan, Tony MacAlpine, Dave Weiner, and Jeremy Colson) hit Chicago on the Real Illusions: Reflections tour.

This time around Steve put together a special package for his fans in which, for an extra fee, you were able to attend a meet and greet with him, where he would hold a Q&A session with you, and then you would attend the soundcheck before the concert. The package is called the EVO Premium Experience.

It was absolutely amazing.

The total number of people to purchase the package looked to be about 20-30. This made for a very intimate environment in which we could ask Steve questions and just sit and listen to him answer them. The whole discussion was fascinating, especially around one question asked about inspiration and how he comes up with the music he writes. Steve tried to explain the process, in which he visualizes the song in seconds, and in some cases it takes months to realize the original vision. Listening to him describe this process was incredible. You constantly wanted to pinch yourself to make sure you weren’t dreaming.

Steve is a very gracious host and consistently attempts to make eye contact with everyone he is talking to. The Q&A was extremely intimate and worth the extra money in and of itself.

As an added bonus, the people in the room now know the “secret” to the Secret Jewel Box box set we had bought in 2001 and have been collecting as the CD’s come out. I’ll leave that for you to figure out though.

Once the Q&A ended, we were escorted to the main stage where we were allowed to watch and take pictures of the soundcheck as it was happening. This included the whole band and was really cool to watch. I’ve never seen a soundcheck before and I was amazed at a lot of the things that go on during it. What is most amazing is that as Steve was on the stage, he was telling the sound guy the exact adjustments to make to the sound board. I guess that just shows the ear that the guy has.

Autographed Ultra Zone CDWhen the soundcheck concluded, Steve signed autographs on guitars and CD’s. Jonna had bought a special copy of Ultra Zone for him to sign (pictured to the left), as our wedding song was “I’ll Be Around” from this CD. She told him this as he was signing it and he said she was the third person to tell him that they had used that song for their wedding.

Once the EVO portion of the day was over, we took a break, where we had to take the camera back to the car and wait until the concert started. The opening act was Eric Sardinas. I’m not a big fan, so I was rather impatient for the Vai band to get on the stage. Eric played for about 40 minutes and then the stage went dark as we waited for the band to come out.

The concert was incredible. They did a perfect mix of the material off of all of the albums (except Ultra Zone). The highlight of the show for me was finally being able to see “Whispering a Prayer” and “Lotus Feet” live. These beautiful songs are, in my opinion, the essence of Steve Vai as a musician and, after the experience yesterday, as a person as well. Being in the front row just capped off the experience.

I need to also add that the band that Steve has put together is the “Dream Team” of music. You couldn’t dream of a better band than the five guys that were running around that stage.

There are very few times in life when dreams come true. I have idolized Steve Vai since I was a sophmore in high school and had my first exposure to him through a release of “Blue Powder” in a Guitar Player Magazine insert. I have followed him through the David Lee Roth days, through Whitesnake, and through all of his solo albums. The thought of ever meeting him was one of those things that I never thought would have been possible.

Actually meeting him was surreal. Rather than having an image built up of someone and meeting them only to have the image crushed, Steve Vai lives up to the image. He is a very sweet, humble, down to earth guy who is extremely appreciative of his fans and recognizes the importance they hold for him in their lives. The importance of music in his life is also something you cannot walk away from him without seeing.

This experience is something I will never forget. I have now completed another one of those “things to do before I die” items on my list.

Thanks Steve, for the great memory.