And if the snow buries my,
And if my parents are crying
then I’ll dig a tunnel
from my window to yours,
yeah a tunnel from my window to yours.
You climb out the chimney
and meet me in the middle,
the middle of town.
And since there’s no one else around,
we let our hair grow long
and forget all we used to know,
then our skin gets thicker
from living out in the snow.
– Arcade Fire, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”
I was feeling very fluish and antisocial last night, finding some people more irritating than usual, so after getting home I just did a few quick things on the computer and intended to retreat to some far corner with hot drink and good book.
Well, that sort of worked, but iTunes started playing Arcade Fire’s magical “Une Année Sans Lumière” and… as so often before, it grabbed me and I had listen to most of Funeral, once again. It helped, it has that ”this is what is important, ignore that other crap!” quality to it.
It’s a raw, dangerously romantic album, in many meanings of the word. There’s no slick production here, it’s all… strange and emotionally charged. Win Butler sings with an almost primal intensity, with wife Régine Chassagne providing equally charged vocal backing (the chorus on “Laika” being a good example). The mood shifts between almost whimsical vignettes and near walls of sound, with the whole (large) band going all-out with a crazy variety of instruments. The thing that matters most is the very real sense of danger, of people balancing on tightropes that just might break any second, with no guarantee of safety nets. I can’t explain it any better than that, it’s a feeling that the music evokes.
This is what matters. This is what you should focus on.
A symptom of life
In mental and environmental change.
The feverish flux
Of human interface and interchange.
A tired mind become a shape-shifter,
Everybody need a mood lifter,
Everybody need reverse polarity.
Everybody got mixed feelings
About the function and the form.
Everybody got to deviate from the norm.
– Rush, “Vital Signs”
Rush were in Helsinki for the first time ever yesterday, and it was a great concert; I liked it better than the previous (and only other) time I’ve seen them, in Stockholm. The guys played hard and long, clocking at about 3 hours of music with a 20 minute intermission. The setlist was great, with songs taken from albums spanning 1978’s “Hemispheres” to the latest “Snakes and Ladders”. The new songs, played after the intermission, worked the least well, but that’s the way it always is with new material (they weren’t bad by any means, just lacking in comparison to the classic stuff played before and after them). On the other hand, Janka likes their new stuff more than their old, so something for everyone.
The surprise of the evening was “A Passage To Bangkok”, played near the end of the set. Wasn’t expecting to hear that marijuana/hash-drenched song played live. No complaints, it’s a fun piece.
Neil’s drum solo was… most impressive. It’s a new one, from the new album, and… wow. Just wow.
Their newer albums are hit and miss, like most people I like their older material more – or maybe their “mid period material”, to be more exact. “Moving Pictures” is the undisputed classic, of course, and another personal favorite is the dark and apocalyptic “Grace Under Pressure” – an album that I’ve grown to appreciate hugely, despite being lukewarm towards it initially. Of the newer albums, “Counterparts” was pretty good. I’m not too wild about “Snakes and Ladders”, but that may change with more listens. “Armor and Sword”, from that album, is great though.
Radio Paradise played a VAST song today, and I was reminded of one of the best music videos I know, their old song “Pretty When You Cry”. Very Twin Peaks, very creepy, brilliant.
I also noticed that the band now has a webstore which sells their albums as high-quality no-DRM mp3s, at $4-$7 per album. Cool. Even cooler, they’ve also set up a site, buyvastmusic.com, which is aimed purely at people who find the band via YouTube and Radio Paradise, and which offers even better deals on some select download albums. As a final “made me laugh” point, they’ve priced the “Nude” album price there to be the same as the daily gasoline price per gallon in the U.S.. We live in surreal times…
Got back from Provinssirock at around 1am last night, the 400km drive is a killer – next time we’ll seriously consider the train, even though it costs a lot compared to a car. Driving five hours after a 3-day long weekend of alcohol & rock’n’roll isn’t a total party.
So, Provinssi. Not bad at all, I’m glad we went. A big thanks once again to friends in Ylistaro who housed us (and some other people, besides) and provided for excellent company, a luxury bacon&eggs + sparkly wine outdoor breakfast, and overall a fun (if a bit exhausting) weekend.
Friday had Tori performing in the big tent; a pretty good – and surprisingly heavy – gig. It was a bit too short and the mixing was slightly hit-and-miss, but overall good and at times pretty intense. Partly overlaid with that, Flogging Molly was raising irish-punk hell on the main stage – Janka was over there and reported the show as really good. I only saw the last couple of songs, which sounded like good, energetic Pogues-y type music. Never too much of that in the world.
We tried to sleep late on Saturday, having gotten to sleep somewhere between 3am and 4am, and failed miserably due to a certain house guest arriving a bit after 9am and deciding that it’s an excellent time to test the house jukebox. The jukebox won out over need to sleep, and we stumbled outside sometime before noon for breakfast and some life-affirming alcohol. The gang finally made it to the festival area around 5pm-ish, in time to see Patti Smith perform. Patti was really good, she oozed street cred and her voice is as distinctive as ever. Good stuff, very old-school rock’n’roll vibe going on – in a good sense. Not surprisingly, Patti proved to be the highlight of the day, with Velvet Revolver being a total waste of stage time; utterly generic stadium rock. Yawn. We spent most of the rest of the evening hopping between beer tents. PMMP was pretty fun but the crowd was too… crowdy for Janka, so we bailed out. Disco Ensemble was ok, what little we saw of them. Fat Beat Sound System sounded like it might actually be pretty good, but our pre-ordered taxi was arriving around that time (a bit past 1am) and we couldn’t stay. Oh well.
Sunday we again skipped the early-afternoon festival program and stayed in Ylistaro, eating a grill-breakfast-brunch thingy and lazing around (with some light acrobatics on the lawn thrown into the mix). When we finally got to Provinssirock we heard that the other main performer of the day, Amy Winehouse, had cancelled “due to medical reasons”. Because it’s fairly well know that she has an alcohol problem, there was (and still is) quite a bit of talk about exactly what sort of “medical reason” we could be talking about here, and if it might be related to the “medical condition” a lot of us had in the morning… A bummer in any case, I was looking forward to seeing her. With Amy a no-show, the day’s musical offerings slimmed down a bit. We watched Grand Slam play old Juice songs, not high art in any sense but a good bit of nostalgic fun. In a happy turn of events, the final big-stage band (Scissor Sisters) turned out to be very good; excellent show, and fun “gay disco” dance music. They (also) poked slightly evil fun at Amy Winehouse, with things like “we’ll dedicate the next song to Amy, it’s about drugs”…
Anyway, I was pretty amused to see the Provinssi big stage final show, which so often has been yet another testosterone-poisoned heavy metal posturing band, be dominated by a NYC-based gay disco band this time around. Everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun, the sunshine helped create a good party mood.
After Scissor Sisters it was “find car, bundle in, drive forever”. Thankfully the roads were pretty empty and we made good time, being able to curl at home among the attention-deprived cats before it was ridiculouly late.
So… another Provinssi. No absolutely amazing musical performances this time around, but some “very good” ones. Add lots of nice people, fierce sunshine, copious amounts of alcohol and good food to that, and the result feels like a vacation.
Nice weekend. Even though it was pretty busy and at times exhausting, I had a lot of fun. We headed out Friday evening to Janne’s summer place, packing some VTES tournament decks and lots of card trade folders. Sauna and swim in the lake (about 10 C, brrr), was nice – first lake swim this summer for me.
Anyway, after an soundly slept night at the cabin and some breakfast, we headed to Turku and the EC qualifier tournament. Lots of people there (56 players I think), with people coming from all over Finland.
All in all, I did poorly; only got 0,5 VPs due to a timeout – a combination of my deck not being quite good enough (yet) for that tournament environment, some bad luck, and some mistakes on my part. On the other hand, all the games were lots of fun and the general atmosphere was nice and relaxed. I also got lots of ideas to improve my deck, which is also good.
I was playing my Serpentis/Temporis Temptation machine, which might have been a mistake (or not, hard to say). The first game started up very nicely and I was just about to get to speed when my predator (who had looked about to get ousted by a Lasombra s+b deck) suddenly played Palla Grande and I found myself facing 5 minions, all of which bled for 2 at stealth. In hindsight it was obvious, but I really didn’t see that Palla Grande coming. I had also overextended myself a bit, should have played a bit more conservatively. Oh well.
The second game had me in a nightmare position: predator was a pure Obf/Dem stealth bleeder, and prey was a Tzimisce intercept wall. Between a rock and a hard place, I managed some delaying action (partly thanks to some nice Banishment action from across the table), and almost managed to hold on enough for my Temptations to activate on all of my predator’s vampires (which might have changed the situation a slight bit). Almost doesn’t count, and I got ousted. No real mistakes on my part here, it was just a really crappy starting position for this deck.
The third game went on the longest and gave me my meager half VP (which almost became 1,5 VPs). It also uncovered my stupidest mistake: I had misread a certain Temporis action mod and hadn’t noticed that it also requires Auspex. Head, meet wall. Since my bleed power was based on that card and it was suddenly partly unusable (bleed reduce still worked), I was badly lacking in forward momentum. My predator was Teemu’s Imbued deck, which went on to win the whole tournament – and to my suprise my deck did pretty well against him, staying in the game until timeout. However, because of my lack of bleed power I was unable to oust my Dominate bleed + voter prey, even though I had him on the ropes and he was down to 2 pool when the game ended and I had Temptations ready to activate on his minions; had I gotten my turn, I would have ousted him without problem.
This game also had me do all sorts of mistakes, some stupid and some sort of understandable:
- I forgot to take pool from the edge twice. Stupid.
- I forgot to put Temptation counters on the cards once. Slightly stupid, but no big deal in that tactical situation.
- I totally forgot about Carlton’s special ability (burn Carlton to burn diablerist), and went on to diablerize Marcus Vitel so I could get his Helicopter. Poof goes Hesha, next round. Annoying, but I don’t blame myself that much for it – not many people remember that special, and at least it got rid of both Vitel and Carlton.
- I tried to steal one of Teemu’s Imbued with an Entrancement, even though I fully knew that he had the Conviction card that prevented stealing. No idea why I did that, total brain fart. Stupid waste of an action and an Entrancement that I could have used to bleed.
Sigh. The good thing is that I probably won’t make the same mistakes again soon. Some different ones, sure…
Kudos to Teemu for excellent play, as always, and especially for playing Memories of Mortality on my Synesios. Due to the card wordings, it actually prevents Touch of Pain also, which Teemu realized when he played it and I found out when I tried to use Touch of Pain. Nice (well, not nice for me, but a clever thing to realize).
Janne also did pretty poorly (1 VP total I think), so we decided to call it a day and head back towards Helsinki instead of staying to watch the finals.
The next day I slept pretty late, did some stuff in the garden, and then headed toward town with Janka. We tried to go to see Footlight’s student show (some friends had an acrobatics performance there), but it turned out we had the wrong place; we were at Aleksanterin Teatteri when we should have been in Hakaniemi. Duh. We didn’t have time to make it across town, so we went to Plan B and walked to see the remnants of the “World in the Village” festival, had a few drinks at the Kaisaniemi terrace, and finally walked to Jäähalli to see Placebo in concert.
The concert was ok, but not great. The song selection was ok; Janka liked it but it was missing many of my own favorites and concentrated on their newest album which is ok but not my favorite. The biggest problem, however, was the volume. Either by mistake or by some misguided purpose, everything was turned up way too loud, and Molko’s distinctive voice tended to get drowned under the distorted wall of guitar and drum; the end result was a sonic mush, much of the time. Earplugs would have been a good idea. Some nice moments, though, I really like their version of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”, and at times things rocked nicely. Mostly, however, I much prefer them on CD compared to this. Nine Inch Nails proved last time that you can do a wall of sound without everything getting distorted into mush, at precisely the same concert venue. For generally melodic stuff like Placebo, I think going the “this one goes to 11!” route is/was a mistake.
In any case, it was a fun day and it really felt like summer in many ways. When the concert ended the heavens opened, with a major thunderstorm and heavy rain crashing down. We got a taxi after some small hassle but were still soaked. Soaked and not minding it much, since the rain was warm. Another sign of summer, I guess.
make it easy, make this easy
it’s not as heavy as it seems
wrapped in metal, wrapped in ivy
painted in mint ice cream
we could be bouncing off the top of this cloud
(i put on my silver)
bouncing off the top of this cloud
well you can stare all day at the sky
but that won’t bring you back, that won’t bring you back
you say you’re waiting on fate
but I think we decide, I think we decide
where we take our lives
– Tori Amos, “Bouncing Off Clouds”
I’m trying not to be overly optimistic, but it’s starting to seem like the Tori I love is back. The official site now features three tracks that you can listen to online. “Big Wheel” I had heard before, it’s nice but not spectacular. But after that we get “Bouncing Off Clouds” and it’s wonderful. Wistful/sad/hopeful lyrics layered over a pulsing dance track, quite lovely – sounds a bit like stuff from the To Venus And Back era, it has the same sort of intense flow that “Siren” (another favorite) has.
The third song is the album opener, “Yo George”, which makes Tori’s opinion about GWB quite clear.
In addition, hereinmyhead has some live tracks from Dutch/German radio. “Almost Rosey” and “Beauty of Speed” sound great, the jury is still out on “Roosterspur Bridge”.
In a recent interview Tori has said that she intentionally reined herself in for the previous album due to her young daughter, she was afraid that her normal not-always-suitable-for-children stage/artist persona would be too much to handle. Afterwards, it has become clear that the daughter in question can quite well distinguish between mommy and the for-adults Tori, which resulted in the new album being a lot less restrained. By what I’ve heard so far, I think I’ll like this one, maybe a lot.
Tuesday had us at the Nine Inch Nails concert, which I had managed to almost forget about until sometime that same day (somehow I remembered it being the next week). Ooops. I’ve always been some sort of NIN fan, Janka was bravely along as mascot even though she doesn’t much care for their music.
Well, what can I say; it was another excellent concert from them. I find it hard to compare this and Provinssirock, I maybe liked Provinssi even better but that might have been just because there I was among the crowd there instead of seated. NIN does very physical music, you feel a bit like an outsider unless you’re in the action. Very energetic show, with Trent and the guys bouncing around the stage, and the musicianship was again impeccable – very exact, very professional. They delivered their trademark “wall of sound punctuated with brief bursts of silence” sound with style. These guys are very good on stage. Not that they exactly suck on CD, either.
It showed that this was the last concert on their tour. Some goofing around, and all that. It must be quite a project being on one of these big tours, you’re basically on the road for months on end, performing to huge crowds nonstop. I can imagine it’s quite exhausting, mentally and physically.
The warmup band, Ladytron was in the “mostly harmless” category. I’ve seen worse, but have seen lots better. Some of the tracks probably work well as dance tracks (Seventeen, notably), but here not that much. Their lyrics were simplistic and stage presence so-so. Mostly harmless.
Anyway, looks to be a nice upcoming concert summer/fall, notable stuff includes:
- Sunday 27.5: Placebo (managed to get tickets via huuto.net, yay!)
- Friday 15.6 - Sunday 17.6: the Provinssirock festival, with Tori Amos, Patti Smith, etc
- Monday 29.10: Rush (if I manage to get tickets)
Holy batshit, Batman.
Seems she’s touring as a trio this time (with bandmates Jon Evans and Matt Chamberlain). The tour will be centered around the upcoming American Doll Posse album; only heard one song from it so far (Big Wheel), but already it promises to be better than the slightly disappointing Beekeeper. Tori’s at her best when she has attitude, and the new album is reportedly more confrontational and even somewhat political; it opens with the song Yo George – and you can guess which George that refers to.
We’ll see. I absolutely loved Scarlet’s Walk, so I’m hoping Beekeeper was just a glitch. It wasn’t bad as such, just mostly bland.
As an aside from the “don’t know if I want to laugh or cry” department: apparently many U.S. radio stations are refusing to play Big Wheel, because if contains the (repeated) refrain “I’m a MILF”… where MILF has the fairly established meaning of “Mother I’d Like to Fuck”. So welcome to the sad ol’ Puritanical U.S., where even abbreviations get caught in the “no sex please, we’re Americans” filter. Sigh.
With the album main promo image having Tori standing in a suburban driveway, with a Bible in one hand and “shame” written on the other, and blood running down her leg from under her skirt… this album might just contain some attitude. Here’s hoping.
Fun but slightly exhausting weekend; spent most of it in Turku at a knife fighting workshop. In a way it was a fun mini-vacation, spending a night at a hotel makes it feel that way even though you’re just away from home a short while. Of course, most of that time was spent at the salle/dojo, not much time for rest&relaxation.
This time around we studied various ways of carrying a knife, and how to draw it quickly into different grips. In the beginning it was pretty straightforward, but got harder (and much sweatier) when we bundled on our outside coats and some gloves, and then did all sorts of “draw knife quickly” exercises lying down, etc. Tricky stuff, it’s pretty easy to get tangled up in bits of clothing for many critical seconds.
The most fun exercise consisted of all but one person standing at one end of the room, and one person at a time walking towards them and doing some off-the-cuff maneuver to draw his/her knife into a ready position without the other people seeing the knife. Very challenging; some people managed to do it pretty smoothly but my “oops, I dropped my keys” routine only half worked, I didn’t manage to totally hide the knife. Instructional exercise, in any case. We also did speed-draw stuff, with a timer.
The rest of the time was spent with the normal pair drills with different types of knife hand / secondary hand timings, and in doing some more slow & careful sparring with sharps. No cuts this time, my packet of band-aids stayed in my bag.
After that was finished I hopped in the car and drove back home, showered, and headed towards town with Janka to see the Rachid Taha concert.
It proved to be an… interesting experience.
At the beginning things went fine. The crowd was a bit static (the theater-like seating makes Savoy a bit sub-optimal for rock concerts), but Rachid and the band got people warmed up and standing by doing a funny “let’s all sleep” routine. The music started swinging and everything seemed fine. I did notice that Rachid himself seemed a bit spaced out and subdued, but I just thought it was his stage persona. He was also having serious technical problems with something, probably an ear mic – there was a lot of scurrying about by roadies.
Unfortunately, about halfway through things started to fall apart and it became painfully clear that Rachid wasn’t subdued as such, he was just totally shit-faced drunk. He started staggering around stage, leaning on things and sitting down, singing only part of the time.. and the end, he could not even stand up and had to be half-carried away from the stage amidst a chorus of “boo!”s. All credit to the band, they played well and did their brave best to salvage an impossible situation, but in the end it just fell apart. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone on stage that drunk since The Jesus and Mary Chain did Provinssirock way back when. Helsingin Sanomat also has some commentary about the whole spectacle.
Pity, since the man does good stuff on CD and I would have liked to hear him in proper shape, not as an (admittedly happily) drunk wreck. Hopefully it was a one-time serious miscalculation on his part, but in any case I can imagine that the hangover from this one won’t be pleasant; I’d think the band will have some… issues to discuss the next day. Most of all I feel sorry for the band, they were good and did what they could in a very pro manner. No complaints there.
Oh well, at least it was interesting, if not in an altogether pleasant way.
As I was writing this, a friend on an IRC channel transmitted the news that Rush is coming to Helsinki for the first time ever this fall. I’ll have to try and get tickets for that when they come on sale (whenever that is, no info yet). Saw them last year in Stockholm, nice gig but maybe a bit too much guitar soloing and (very) old stuff, it would be nice to see them on stage again, if only to compare.
Getting concert tickets and hearing about them is a bit of a pain nowadays. Placebo is coming to Finland in May, and I heard about it two days too late – of course it’s all sold out now. I’ll have to keep my eye out on huuto.net etc, but no guarantees. That’s another band I’d really want to see live.
We were going out to eat blinis (yum!) last weekend when by chance I noticed a poster advertising a Savoy concert by Rachid Taha, “the wild man of French-Algerian music”. It’s on Sunday the 25th (March), and I had to check my calendar – I’m doing knife fighting practice in Turku that weekend – but turns out I should easily be able to make it back in time. So I got us tickets, yay!
Rachid Taha performs a weird blend of traditional Arabic music, rai music, rock, punk, and whatever. He usually sings in Arabic, sometimes in French, so I don’t much know what he’s singing about; my French is very very basic and my Arabic nonexistent. I do know that there’s quite a bit of political commentary mixed in there, the rocking “Barra Barra” translates as “Outside”, as far as I know, and talks about the isolation of some Arabic cultures nowadays. Maybe. Or maybe it talks about the weather, or sports, or the importance of having an umbrella. In any case, his music is an interesting fusion of lots of different elements, and I like what I’ve heard on CD. So it’s time to see the man live.
So that handles the “rock” portion. The “silly science” bit was provided by the movie Sunshine, Danny Boyle’s new science fiction film which we went to see at a daytime (free) pre-showing arranged by the Helsinki Science Fiction Club.
Was it worth spending 2 hours watching it? Well… only just. I’ve seen worse, but…
Things I learned from it (trying to avoid huge spoilers):
- You can kick-start suns with a (relatively) tiny bomb. A fission bomb. Who knew?
- Gravity and atmosphere are linked. As soon as an airlock pressurizes, gravity returns instantly. That should come as a relief to all those people who have been trying to figure out ways to beat gravity. Just drain the air out, guys!
- It’s quite possible to build a heat shield that keeps you nice and cool even well inside the Sun’s corona, even the photosphere, all you need is some nice reflective metal. This SuperMetal will radiate away all the heat, even though weaker, inferior NormalMetals melt to slag in an instant (as the movie shows us). Do this properly, and said shield will even shelter you inside the sun, even though the shield is only pointing forward! Not bad.
- Time and space distort within the sun. Because you’re going really fast. Or something. This does not distort your space ship, of course, because… well, it just doesn’t. Ok?
In other words, a fairly silly movie. That said, the acting wasn’t bad, the set design was excellent generally and surprisingly hard-science & realistic considering all the major gaffes in the film; they got a lot of smaller details at least semi-right. The plot was a bit incoherent and got worse towards the end – I don’t want to spoil things, but the end part really should have been done differently. As is, it was a bit of a mess, with lots of “huh?” moments.
…on the other hand, I have seen worse. Lots worse. This was ok brain candy, but quite forgettable.