Updates & miscellaneous musings!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Could this still be real, or just some kind of Hell?

So, last Saturday (the 13th) we went to Ozzfest in Mountain View.

Angelo spent the night on Friday.
My dad woke me up at 7 am. Jamie came over at 7:30 and then we took off, my dad and Jamie in his car, and Angelo and I in mine.
The 3-hour drive from SLO to Mountain View was nice. We were menaced by a guy with a boat hitched to the back of his car (alias "Boaty") who thought it would be a good idea to be going 75-80 with a boat, but he went away soon enough and the rest of the drive was without incident.

They had us park in a makeshift dirt parking lot. When we got out, some guy gave me the CD for his band, which I've yet to listen to--I think it was called something like "Death to all", but I might've made that up.

When we got there, we were told that if we left again, we wouldn't be allowed back in. This meant we would be trapped in Ozzfest for 12 hours without our own food or drinks or (this proved the worst for me) books.
More strangely, they let us bring water bottles in, but confiscated their lids because, "you could use those to refill them with water". Any water purchased during the festival came without tops.
Um, alright.

The area immediately inside the gates basically looked like the Renaissance Fair--lot sofonly less nerdy.
No, wait.
It looked basically like the Renaissance Fair, only with lots of overpriced Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden shit instead of overpriced corsets and jester hats--so, just as nerdy, but in a more "metal" way.

Ozzfest was filled with nerds, and I don't mean that as a perjorative. I just mean we (me and Angelo) didn't stand out as the lame ones, even though I was wearing a Rhapsody shirt and he was weary a pirate radio shirt Bowen found on the ground that isn't even black.

The four of us ambled toward the second stage, a large propped-up affair surrounded by a mass of people, broken only by a semi truck (!) filled with PlayStation Portable demos, and some kind of VIP seating truck.

It was about 11 at this point, and a band was already going. I don't remember them very well, but my dad seems to think they had a girl singer, so with that information and the website I'm led to the conclusion that it was Arch Enemy.

Angelo and I kind of ignored them and walked around for a bit. Jamie bought a program for $15, and I saw a Rob Zombie shirt I liked, but it was $30, which is more than I'm willing to pay for a fucking T-shirt.

We went and bought some pizza, from the one place we could find that didn't look at me blankly when I asked if they had anything vegetarian.
The crowd was a hilarious combination of older metal dudes, gothy teenagers, misc nerds, and what Angelo calls "concert jocks", big mean guys. There were some (usually rather...Ruebenesque) women who put tape over their nipples and then painted themselves, usually in bright not-particularly-thematic colors.

When we came back to the stage, the singer from another band (Gizmachi, maybe?) was complaining about someone flashing something called "fake boobies" at them, and so someone dutifully flashed them properly. He referred to the audience as "'Frisco", which confused me, since we were a good 40 miles from anywhere one could reasonably refer to as 'Frisco.

After a few confused moments ("Wait, is this band called, 'Soilwork'? The fuck?"), we ambled back over to my dad and Jamie, who were off at these shaded picnic tables to the side of the stage. They were looking through the program, which didn't appear to be in any particular order. We let some guy borrow it so he could try to figure out when As I Lay Dying was coming on, and while I doubt it told him, they ambled out soon enough.

That guy was pretty nice, but for the record, fuck As I Lay Dying. Between songs the guy said vaguely angry stuff and then they went back to doing really generic distortion heavy thump-guitar and screaming "Yaaaaaaaaah!"
Angelo and I stopped paying attention to what they guy was saying and made up our between song banter and lyrics.

Me: Ok, this song's called "Return of the Land of Me Going 'Yah'."
Angelo (perfectly in time with a song he's never heard): Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Yaaah! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
Some metal guy: *looks at Angelo and nods approvingly*
Me: Alright, this next one's a little something called "Battle for the Planet of Me Going 'Yah'".

Around that time there was also Mastodon. Before they came on, Angelo said, "Isn't that the band where all their songs are about Vikings?" And I couldn't understand a word, so I couldn't tell you if that's true or not. But Wikipedia tells me they could be classified as "Progressive Sludge Metal". I don't know what that means, but it's ok by me. Keep on truckin', Mastodon.

Soon after that came Killswitch Engage, who my dad likes a lot. They're pretty good generally. They do the "screamy than pretty" thing vastly better than most bands, and all around I approve. But live, the pretty part doesn't work well, because the audio levels are balanced for screaming, so when the singer isn't screaming he just gets covered by the guitar.
Speaking of which, their guitarist wouldn't shut up, which was sometimes pretty funny--"This show is so fucking metal. You know how fucking metal this show is? Look on that hill right there! (Points to a mounted police guy) There is a guy on a fucking horse! That's fucking metal! FUCK!"
But my dad didn't like him because he said a song was about eating pussy instead of about broken hearts, like it's supposed to be.

After Killswitch finished, we knew it was time for what we'd all been waiting for--Rob Zombie. Zombie was a big enough act to get onto the first stage, with Black Sabbath and the rest, but he likes the energy of the second stage, with its lack of assigned seating, so he chose to play with the smaller bands.

Angelo convinced me to move closer to the front, which wasn't too difficult. I was behind a lady with a Korn tatoo on her neck, and I felt bad for her.

After too much waiting, the generic between-band music stopped and the Alvin & The Chipmunksesque preacher from "The Sinister Urge" tellilng us we'd "All Burn in the painful everlasting firey hell!"
Then a guitarist in a skull mask came out and started rocking, followed by a similarly dressed and comically overzealous drummer. Soon, Zombie himself came out. The gaunt creepy figure on the cover looked so little like the guy we saw talking about movies at Comic-Con and I'd wondered what he'd look like on stage. It was a pretty good balance between the two. He looked badder as than he had in San Diego, but he didn't look all dressed up and stupid.

He played all of his and White Zombie's most notable songs, including Living Dead Girl, with the unfortunate exception of "I Feel So Numb". He and his new band sounded great and they did great audience participation stuff, like throwing beach balls into the crowd, and he threatened to dub in the audience from Denver in our place on the live CD if we didn't rock out hard enough.

I don't understand how anyone could prefer As I Lay Dying and thier ilk to Rob Zombie. One sounds good and is silly and fun, and one is "Yaaaaaaaaaaaaah".

The down side to Rob Zombie was he was too popular and good to support the size of the second stage. For some reason, as soon as he started, people wouldn't stop moving. Not, like, mashing and stuff. That'd be fine. I could've handled another bloody nose.

But no. It was just people ambling around like jackasses. Everyone at the front wanted to be at the back. Everyone at the back wanted to be at the front. Then they'd change their minds and switch back. One fat greasy guy just decided to sit on me for awhile.
So I wormed my way to the back (becoming that which I hated most) and hung out with my dad and Jamie again.
Fucking Ozzfest assholes. No manners.

After Rob Zombie, the second stage was through and everyone made migrated to the main stage, a permanent assigned-seating venue that's actually the point of the place. The walk there was crowded and tedious. Some dude yelled in my dad's ear, and some person hugged me (!) and kept moving.

We finally got there, and slumped into our seats, which were to the left side and very close to the stage.
We came in when some band I ignored was finishing up. After they were gone, big TV screens projected Ozzfest promos from some premium-only music channel called Fuse, which consisted mostly of this girl being annoyingly "sassy" and giving the metal sign and then asking band members if they liked metal.
There were also ads for The Devil's Rejects and some piece of shit show about an escapist magician. I thought it was called "Crisis Angel", but it's actually "Criss Angel: Mindfreak"--"Chris" is just spelled all retarded for no reason. The show has nothing to do with metal other than that he has long hair and they let Rob Zombie be in one episode (apparently)--A&E just threw a bunch of money at them.
and one of the first bands on that stage was Black Label Society, who I generally approve of and who eschewed Ozzfest's typical strategy of putting the crap at the beginning.


I just couldn't bring myself to care. I felt really drained from the oppressive crowds on Rob Zombie and the trek between stages and despite all the noise I was ready to take a nap right there.

Through the power of text messenging, Angelo suggested we get dinner, as it was about 5 o'clock and the prospect of listening to Shadows Fall (which is a way better livejournal name than band name) followed by Mudvayne (which is a way better name for a sewer pipeline than a band).

We went and bought mediocre $6 burritos and topless water and went up onto the grass behind the seats where we'd get a much quieter view of the procedings. Speaking of topless, there were these two 15-year-old girls who did the boob paint thing, only with confederate flags, and quickly became Angelo's arch-enemies.

We sat on the grass for awhile, watching the horse on the hills, the people playing golf in the distance (I'm sure they were crazy about the inescapable noise of Ozzfest), and occasionally talking about how much we hated Mudvayne or Nazis. Speaking of which, Mudvayne had these big red banners with black-outlined white circles on them. Sound familiar?

But they made sure to let us know that they support our troops, so that makes everything ok.

Just kidding. Fuck Mudvayne hard.

After 2 or 3 weeks, Mudvayne finally wrapped up. At this point, we were very much not feeling the Ozzfest spirit and just wanted it all to be over. It occurred to me that Metal has no pretense of having any sort of real principles behind it--Like, a punk rock show where water costs $4 a bottle can cause riots (and has), but metal's only ideals seem to involve being loud and maybe wearing black.

I thought about how the metal that I like (from Rhapsody to Rob Zombie) is very fun and tranparently silly, compared to the aggressive unpleasantness of Mudvayne. But neither has more of a legitimate claim to the term.

Iron Maiden was supposed to be next. They'd been one of the acts I was most excited to see (the other being Rob Zombie), but I was feeling so burned out I wasn't even sure if I could enjoy it.

I decided to pee, which I really should've done during the band I hated instead of between bands, but I'm dumb. Eventually I got into a bathroom. It was crowded as hell with goofy metal guys.

Then one dude, having just finished washing his hands, turned to everyone and said, "Who came here to see the greatest fucking band in the world--IRON MAIDEN!"
It was hard for me to clap with peeing, but I appreciated the sentiment. So many metal people just like to be assholes and act like they're better than you cause they're meaner, and here's this guy trying to make a positive connection with people.

Then some asshole retorted, "If you think they're so great, why are you in the bathroom when they're about to start?"
I didn't stay to see if the guy gave the obvious answer ("Cause I had to pee").

I hobbled out to our seats and saw that Iron Maiden had just begun.
Within a few minutes, all my negative feelings were gone.
The stage was perfectly laid out, in a beautifully garisharray of spooky imagery exactly as it would have been in the early 1980s. The band was all dressed in tight clothes, with the lead singer wearing pants with frills all the way around. They had four guitar players.*

I didn't know every song, or even most songs, but they sounded great, and the crowd was really into them. Were these the same people who'd just been listening to Mudvayne? It hardly seemed possible.

The singer ranted to us about how much he hated corporate America, and how in contract with other metal celebrities (read: Ozzy), "Iron Maiden's never going to suck corporate cock!"
He ranted between songs, barely comprehensible in his hilarious English accent.

Iron Maiden guy: I fucking hate venues like this one, with "assigned seating"!
Guys in front rows: Yeah! Metal!
Iron Maiden guy: And I hate you assholes in the front rows who are only there because you paid more!
Guys in front rows: Yeah! Metal!

And the best part--
"I fucking hate venues like this one! Iron Maiden hates venues like this one! You know why we're playing here? You know the only reason? Cause we fuckin' hate em!"

I don't know.
But it was badass.

When they played "Number of the Beast", they had a Baphomet-type goat god rise from under the stage, and every time they said, "Six! Six six! The number of the beast!" a giant 666 flashed behind them.
While I'd never been super into Iron Maiden (though "Beast" and their hilarious version of "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" have been staples of my car music all summer), they're undeniably kin to all the bands I do listen to a lot (particularly Gamma Ray), and hearing them, and seeing their ridiculous outfits, and their senseless-but-well-meaning anti-corporatism, made me remember why I'd go to something like Ozzfest in the first place.

After Maiden, Angelo brought up an interesting point--if there's enough of a market for a band like this that (it appears) people are more interested in them than shit like Mudvayne, why don't they invite more bands of this type and less of that? Probably because they're more confident in their ability to make money through selling overpriced water than by having good music.

After more stupid TV promos, we got to Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne's band who essentially created Metal. I've never listened to Black Sabbath much (except for "Iron Man", which is a great song), but they were quite awesome, and I liked that they were them because they were something everyone could agree on. Aside from one dude who yelled (jokingly, I hope) "Get off the stage!", everyone at Ozzfest wanted to hear Black Sabbath.

Ozzy Osbourne is a ridiculous man, but you knew that.
What's great is that he knows it too. Angelo thought he acted too bouncy and insufficiently scary, but he's far too ridiculous to ever intimidate anyone, and I'm glad he didn't try.
He just went out and saw a bunch of people who all like metal (and, by extension, him) and he just looked happy to see everyone. He hopped around while singing and just looked happy.
He was wearing all black, but it also looked to be a sweater and sweat pants. He mooned the crowd goofily and then threw his shirt into the audience, revealing his flabby body, of which he didn't seem remotely embarrassed.
He finished with "Iron Man", then came on with three or four encores with very little prevocation. He just didn't want to stop.

Finally, with an urging from Ozzy that we not drink and drive, Ozzfest was over. It was about 1 am, meaning we'd been at Ozzfest for 15 hours.

We went out to the car and realized that there was no chance in hell of us getting out soon, since the cars were so piled up. We decided there was no point in, in my dad's words, "sitting there getting carbon monoxide poisoning", so we had what is apparently called a "tailgate party", where we sat on the back of his car and ate sandwiches. Not knowing that we wouldn't be allowed in and out, Jamie had brought large amounts of food, a combination of vegetarian lunch meat and sandwich supplies, and stuff from her job at the hot dog stand.

Some people offerred us beer, which we declined but was kindly, and then one guy wanted a sandwich. He was kind of tripped out by the idea of people who don't eat meat ("So...what do you barbeque?") but he seemed to enjoy it, and he was nice.

And before we knew it, the dense wad of cars had drizzled out, and we were ready to leave.
We parted ways with my dad and Jamie, and gingerly made our way to Nikki's house in Santa Cruz.

Our time in there was nice, but uneventful. I dragged them to some comic stores, we found a dragon-themed shop run by two middle-aged women which amused me to no end, went to the aforementioned beach, and watched a movie where Malcolm MacDowell plays HG Wells, fighting Jack the Ripper in modern-day San Francisco. We went to the boardwalk, which I'd never really done, and rode some roller coasters and went in the awful haunted house. We got and shared good Chinese food.

And on Tuesday evening, Angelo and I decided to head back to San Luis. I bought an Iron Maiden CD on iTunes (they made a convert out of me), which became the soundtrack for our treacherous return drive.
We'd made the mistake of taking the 1 instead of the 101 and were stuck on a hilly ocean drive that I'm sure is very pretty in the daytime but at night is desolate, slow, and dangerous.
The average speed limit was 35 mph.
The most interesting thing we saw the whole way was some pigmy foxes who wouldn't run away from my car cause they were picking roadkill off the road.
We stopped in a "town" (three buildings) called Gorda (my subconscious keeps renaming it Puta), where I asked for a bathroom and the guy made fun of me and I didn't realize it until after we'd left.**

After hours of no civilization, we were dropped off in San Simeon and from there it wasn't long to Cambria to Cayucos to San Luis. A car full of 15 year old putas pulled up next to us in Cayucos, and then mooned us. If a fat guy moons someone, it's presumably supposed to be gross. If a girl flashes someone, it's presumably supposed to be sexy. This failed on both counts, and we gave exactly the approrpriate reaction--none.

And, honestly, once you've been mooned by the Prince of Darkness himself, everything else just seems tame.

*One of them was probably a bass, but that's still a hell of a lot of guitars.
**He told me the bathroom was on the other side of the road. But see, there's nothing on the other side of the road but ocean. But see, you could pee in the ocean. Comic gold.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

What powerful but unrecorded race/Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

Today's picture is sort of a combination of these really pretty rock formations we saw at the beach today and this really not-pretty Iron Maiden album cover.

I'm in Santa Cruz, at Nikki's house. Angelo is here with me. Saturday he and I went to Ozzfest in Mountain View, which I will describe in detail soon. Now we're hanging out here for a few days.

Ruins are cool.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Just a test...

I just realized you can upload pictures to blogger, so I'm going to try it out.

Classy, girly, and mysterious, this little number keeps all the super men guessing!

Santa Barbara
Last Wednesday I went to Santa Barbara with my mom. I drove all the way both ways, which was good because I haven't done a lot of freeway driving in the past, and I need to practice. It went really well. Passing large trucks still makes me nervous and I tend to overcorrect, but not enough to be a real problem.
My mom is easily goes frantic while riding in a car she's not in control of, but she remained unfreaked for the most part.

It took forever to find parking in Santa Barbara, a city which seems to have decided not to have parking decks as a point of pride, but hasn't bothered to come up with a decent substitute. Ah well. Once we did find parking, it was pretty reasonably priced.

We ate lunch at a place called something like The Natural Cafe, cause my mom wanted something organic/vegetarian/healthy/whatever. I got tempeh tacos and guacamole, cause I fell in love with tempeh in Santa Cruz, and you know me and guacamole. It was pretty good, though the hippieness of the establishment compelled them to put sprouts on it which, while not unappetizing, isn't very Mexican.

Then we went to this place that sells gourmet dog treats, because "Floberz wouldn't like it if she found out I was here and didn't get her anything."

We stopped in a Scientology place (reading room?) that had these hilarious psuedo-futuristic touchscreens that played video clips of L. Ron Hubbard talking about releasing evil energy from your body. They looked very expensive, yet somehow still very unimpressive. I took a pamphlet, which explained (among other things) how the invention of psychology directly lead to the holocaust. In the words of Andy Richter, their religion is laugh out loud stupid. But such fun!

Then we stopped at a Pottery Barnish place for my mom and then the comic store for me.
Santa Barbara's Metro Comics is weird place, because it's a pretty good comic store, but still very much a comic store. They have a good selection organized in a comprehensible way (something completely alien to Captain Nemo's in San Luis), but that also makes some of the frustrating quirks of comic stores apparent.

Suppose you run a bookstore or a comic store (or for that matter, an auto supply store or a supermarket). You order 6 of product x, 6 of product y and six of product z.

In one week, you've sold 2 of x, 2 of y, and all 6 of z.
In two weeks, you've sold 5 of x, 2 of y, and you no longer have any z.

So, what do you do?
If you're a normal bookstore, you probably keep your order of x the same, drop your order of y down, and increase your order of z.
A comic store, in contrast, would keep all their orders at 6, figuring they were right about x, y will sell eventually and z is just a fluke.

No wonder comics don't sell (Angelo suggested this weirdness is the fault of the distributors, not the actual stores, and considering one company has a virtual monopoly* on distribution and can pretty much make up the rules, he may have a point.

So that was exciting.

Tom Petty
The next night, my dad and I went to see Tom Petty at the Midstate Fair. Jamie had to work at her hot dog stand, so he had asked me to go with him.

It took about an hour longer to get there than expected because the fair traffic made getting into Paso Robles, the shithole town nominally in SLO county, is normally non-existant, but the fair made it packed.
At the freeway exit, traffic was dead stopped, and we were behind a Honda Element (ick) who was pased by a Hummer (ick ick). I can't believe people actually drive those.

I'm not even going to talk about parking.

On our way from the car to the fair, we saw a wad of drunken teenagers. One of them yelled my name, and I realized I knew her from, like 10th grade. Then I realized I knew all of them. Man, being in San Luis is awkward.
They bragged that they'd taken the 1 instead of the 101 and so they probably beat us there. Then we got into line before them because they were drunk and goofy. Then it didn't matter because there was assigned seating.

The fair is basically a grease and beer filled monument to hillbilly capitalism. It doesn't seem like something that exists in the same world as I do, about as familiar as the Mos Eisley cantina.

I decided to refer to everything large and fair related as a Tilt-O-Whirl, regardless of whether or not it tilted or whirled.

We had slightly shitty seats, on high school-style bleachers to the right of the stage, but we could see ok.
The crowd was an odd bunch, roughly 1/3 indie kids my age, 1/3 yuppies my dad's age*, and 1/3 rednecks who were probably at the fair anyway and just gravitated toward the loudest thing that was near a beer vendor.
People started throwing a beach ball around the crowd, and a loud balding guy and a mustached fellow who looked like the Alabaman Freddie Mercury decided to take charge and yell at everyone who didn't throw the ball the way they wanted.
Bizarrely, both men dissapeared once the show actually started.

After waaaaay too long, Tom Petty came out. There was no opening act though, and once he and "The Heartbreakers" appeared, they immediately started rocking out.

Believe it or not, there's a time when I was really into Tom Petty, when if you'd asked me my favorite song was I would've told you "Into the Great Wide Open".
It should be noted however, that at that point I was also 8, and I haven't listened to Tom Petty much since my age has been in double digits.

This meant most of the songs sounded earlier familiar and I could usually remember the chorus but nothing else. Still, they sounded great and my memory was enough that I didn't feel totally out of the loop. I used to feel awkward at shows because I was worried people'd be annoyed if I didn't look sufficiently into it, or would make fun of me if I was too into it.
(In my blood-loss-Gwar-delirium, I was worried the singer would jump off stage and throttle me if I didn't flash the metal sign ferverently enough.)
But, of course, no one at a concert has any reason to be paying attention to me, and (from my vantage point) everyone seemed to be having a pretty good time.

Some people right next to me smoked cigarettes, which pissed me off, and (different people) smoked weed, which while not ideal, was much less bothersome, and was quite funny when a perfectly-timed puff hit me during the first chorus of "Last Dance with Mary Jane".

They didn't play my aforementioned favorite song of theirs, but they did do just about every other one I'm familiar with. My dad correctly predicted the encore ("Refugee") and felt even more badass than usual.

Since then...
Last night I watched The Hulk with Angelo, which is a weird movie, because you can tell they wanted it to be good, but they failed miserably. The first half is really talking and boring, and the second half is all CG fighting...and boring. The goofy scene transitions were probably supposed to look like a comic book, but they didn't, and evoked a late 60s B movie more than anything. Ah well.

Finished my comic pages on time this week and, uncharacteristically, I feel pretty good about them. Hopefully this trend will continue.

I hadn't seen my mom in awhile, so then she spontaneously showed up at my work today, so we ate together, which was nifty.

After work, I went with my dad to Staples, because he stepped on my headphones and broke them so we needed replacements. Staples has stopped selling cheap headphones that don't have a microphone attached. You can either buy ones without a mic for $30 or ones with a mic for $15. So after checking both Staples and grumbling, we got those. I guess I mic could come in handy...eventually.

Then we went to Jamie's for dinner and watched some of the mediocre-but-fun T3, and then I came home and watched some Tales from Crypt with Jessy, which was good fun.

The bad news is I can't find my wallet, but I'm pretty sure that it has to be around the house, so I'm trying not to be too freaked out.

*Doesn't "Virtual Monopoly" sound like a horrible CD-ROM that would've come out in 1995?
**Though of course I'm not indie and my dad is certainly not yuppie.

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