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Don McGonigal
There are things that I loved and things that I hated about the 2nd installment of the Hobbit movies, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

[Spoiler (click to open)]
What I liked:

As always Jackson's use of New Zealand to create the feeling of being IN Middle Earth is wonderful and awakens an urge to go there and feel the grass between my toes.  Like LoTR, it looks right and good and I will always appreciate that.

The depiction of Thorin and Co. lost in Mirkwood.  Their confusion and delirium was well done even if there was opportunity for it to be set up much better.

The Spiders are amazing.  By far the best and most horrifying giant spiders of any film.  Sadly that scene is far too short and less clever than the chapter of the book it comes from.

The Halls of the Elvenking look great and I like the look of King Thranduil.

I actually enjoyed the barrel escape much more than I expected and accept that Jackson's choice to have open barrels instead of closed ones was cinematic-ally sound.  I'll even accept that the elven pursuit of the orcs was really entertaining. If you are stuck having an orc chase anyway, might as well make it fun to watch.

Lake Town looked pretty great as did the interiors of the Mountain.

Smaug really looked incredible.  They out-did themselves with that dragon.

and although there is a lot I don't like about Tauriel, there is a lot I do like.  I thing she is exactly how a Silvan elf would look and feel.

What went wrong:

I expect PJ was deliberately trying to make the Bree scene seem familiar by making much of it a repeat of the how it looked in Fellowship but I really didn't like it.  I think it takes away from how special Frodo and Co's arrival should be when we see it.  Sure, make it clearly Bree and clearly the Prancing Pony, but don't run it like a ditto machine.

My wife is devastated by the terrible treatment of Beorn and his introduction to the Dwarves.  He really is given short shrift here.  The clever two-by-two introduction is gone.  The feeling of goodwill the Dwarves leave with is over-looked.  This scene deserved better care than it was given, especially with Beorn's importance to the outcome of the Bo5A.

Having the Orcs as a constant threat is, I suppose, a necessary evil, but I hate it.  The unexpected arrival of the Goblin army lead by Bolg is key to the Bo5A.  It is supposed to be a surprise!  The fact that it is Bolg, the son of Azog coming to avenge his father's death is important and cool.  Sadly impossible in PJ's version, since a living Azog is a key element of his narrative.

STOP LETTING GOBLINS/ORCS HUNT IN DAYLIGHT!!!!   STOP IT NOW!!  This drives me CRAZY!  Until Saruman's Uruk Hai, this was unheard of.  This was impossible even with Morgoth running the show.

The forest path sequence should have at least spent a few minutes on the straight easy-to-see road before things went all acid trip.  I loved the acid trip parts, but I really wish they could have spent at least a little while on the path to make it seem like it would be fairly easy-going.  If you are going to skip the "don't drink the water" and "how do we cross this stream with no bridge?"  parts, at least show how they lose their way in a way that doesn't completely discredit the entire party (and Gandalf in absentia.)  Make it happen for a concrete reason.   THEN add spiders for maximum fun.

Bilbo's violence.  I hate that PJ has to corrupt Bilbo immediately.  It's like he doesn't understand why Bilbo was the perfect ring-bearer at this time in the ring's story.  It doesn't turn Bilbo into a dagger wielding madman with an ability to be terribly violent.  He is so much more clever in the book.  Using insults and throwing rocks (with tremendous accuracy) to deal with the spiders.

Why is it that everyone seems to always know everything about what the mains are doing?   Case in point: King Thranduil, who pinpoints that Thorin is after the Arkenstone (according to PJ's narrative in the movie) without the slightest hesitation or guesswork.  Come on!  I really liked the look and feel of Thranduil but I did not like this uber-knowledge.  It's a PJ thing, he did it in LoTR too.  Annoying.

A Morgul arrow?  REALLY?  This again takes away from how things play out with the Morgul blade and Frodo being stabbed.  Especially if you are going to have it be Athelas and Elven magic for the cure.  This whole sequence should not exist.  It is a mistake.  Let Tauriel and Legolas hunt Orcs if you have to, but leave out this crap.  I like Tauriel and the hunt was fun, but I think the 'friendship' with Kili is contrived and stupid.  I didn't like their storyline at all.   Sadly I think I know why it is there.... more on that later.

Dwarves vs. Smaug.  PJ sacrifices longer Beorn scenes to play out an agonizingly long and pointless 'battle' between Thorin and Co and the dragon.  It's great action, sure, but it really doesn't work for me at all.  It could have been shorter or even absent all together.  Bilbo's theft of the cup in the book has more tension than this entire sequence.

Expecto Patronum!!  Gandalf versus the Necromancer...  Why not have this done right with the White Council actually pushing the Necromancer out?  I'm sure that's how it is going to go in the 3rd book.  Why wait?  Bleh.  I don't like how this is done.


So, Tauriel and Legolas.  What's really going on here?  I'll tell you what I think, I think that PJ is setting it up so that Tauriel will die and Legolas will blame the dwarves.  Thus setting up his dislike for dwarves in general.  Something he should already have as an Elf of his background.  My gut tells me I'm right.   It is stupid and heavy-handed but I'm calling it now.

Will we even get to see Fili and Kili die protecting Thorin's body?   Probably not, since Kili's fate is probably tied to Tauriel's now and it will be some stupid unrequited love moment at the end instead.

Also.  Galadriel to the rescue.   Her patronus is a swan.

So there.
Current Location: Lake Town
I'm listening to: Dwarves Singing
Don McGonigal
19 June 2013 @ 08:46 am
Last night's finale of the Voice Season 4 was an incredibly entertaining end to a fantastic season.  Many of the 'Confessionals' and other vignettes were extremely funny.  The Voice has consistently managed to make me laugh and to make care about the performers and the coaches.  Congratulations to Danielle and to everyone involved in making this a memorable and enjoyable season.

I'm not going to dwell on how great I am at predicting outcomes on this show.  My wife can bear witness that this season and last season I was almost flawless in my predictions once the live rounds got started.  I like getting the eliminations right, but I like it even more when I can predict a song choice.

What I really want to write about though is how much I enjoy the Voice as a reality TV show.  For a number of years now American Idol has left a bad taste in my mouth.  It took me a while to realize that my problem with Idol was the parts where people were mocked and cut down by the judges.  I hated the audition process because it spent far too much time on the bad performances and the judges making fun of people who clearly weren't ready for competition of this kind.  Why bother with that?  Why tell someone, "You can't sing.  Never sing again.  You are awful." and the like?  Why not encourage them to take lessons, keep trying, to just enjoy themselves?  Why not just thank them for their time and send them away.  Every season that the AI producers put the snarky, unkind, unhelpful judging on TV they undermined the spirit of the Arts.

Compare SYTYCD with Idol in that regard.  How often do you hear Nigel thank someone for coming out and encourage them to keep dancing when they clearly were no where near good enough for consideration as a contestant.  "I'm sorry but it's just not strong enough this year.  Keep learning and come back again next year."   How much nicer is that?  Certainly better that than saying, "That was awful, never dance again."   I've never understood how Idol could be so different in tone and spirit from SYTYCD with Nigel involved in production of both shows (until last week when he was let go @Idol.) 

That's where I find myself in love with the Voice as a competition.  Other than Christina Aguilera, the judges are consistently focused on the successes rather than the failures when they speak after a performance.  They leave the in-depth critiques to the competitor's specific coach behind the scenes and instead almost always point out what they liked about a performance.  They may acknowledge that a performance was not that competitors best or was not a perfect fit for their style, voice, range etc. but the spirit of the show is much more positive.  The judges don't fight with each other and they don't run down the competitors.  They strive to build them up - to work with them.  I wonder if taking this season off of the Voice will help Xtina to be more like the other judges on the Voice and less like an Idol judge when the Voice returns in the fall?

So now that the Voice is done for a season, I will turn my attention to SYTYCD.
I'm listening to: Hey Monday - Obvious
Don McGonigal
18 June 2013 @ 09:07 am
Okay.  Danielle is going to win.  Let's just get that out of the way.  As incredible and deserving as Michelle is, she is going to come in second place tonight.

Danielle's repeat performance of "Maybe it Was Memphis" was her best performance of the season.  More importantly though, it showed how much she has already grown as a performer in the short time since she originally performed it.  She flat out sang it better this time.  More nuance, more emotion and all the God-given precision she has been gifted with.  When you add her closing out performance of Sara Evans'  "Born to Fly" you have a recipe for voter overload.  She <i>will</i> win it tonight.   And didn't I say a few weeks ago that Sara Evans was a perfect fit for her vocally?  Didn't I call that?  Yep.

Michelle's performance of "Why" might actually be the best performance of the season by anyone.  It was amazeballs as Terry Mac would say.  Her duet with Usher was also an incredible performance.  I want her to be the winner of this season.  I have her versions of "Clarity" and "Call Your Girlfriend" on my active playlist right now.  I love the tone of her voice and the power and depth she brings to her performances.  I will be waiting to see what happens after the Voice ends. I have no doubt Usher will be involved somehow.  The friendship between them seems genuine on both sides.

The Swon Brothers really have made a strong argument for deserving to be in the finals.  They have really come together as a duo and it seems that their very best moments happen beside a piano.  They were solid last night and you can expect to hear them on the radio for years to come.  They are the real deal.  "I Can't Tell You Why" was a surprising choice and showed another facet of their sound.

I thought it was funny that Michelle sang "Why" and the Swon Brothers sang "I Can't Tell You Why."  It's too bad the producers didn't think of having Michelle sing her song first.

All-in-all, it has been a great season on the Voice and I am sad to see it come to an end.  I can't believe Blake is going to win for a 3rd straight season.  He really should take a season off and let Miranda sit in his big red chair for one round.   If I keep saying that, maybe it will happen.  
I'm listening to: Marie Digby - Clarity (cover)
Don McGonigal
11 June 2013 @ 11:24 am
I'm going to say right off the hop that I didn't feel that last night's show was very strong for a Top 5 performance night.

Every contestant had a good night, but compared to last week... the overall show seemed to have fewer real moments of greatness.

One of the things that makes this part of the season interesting is the power the contestants have to rise or fall based on their own song choices.  Amber and Sasha both chose to climb mountainously hard songs and I think that will likely be why they don't make the finals.  Amber's take on "Firework" missed on a few levels.  Shakira was right in saying it is a song that should be put on the "very hard" list.  I liked Adam's choice of "Sad" for Amber.  It said a lot about his personal connection to her and  she did a great job of it.  Sasha rocked on the Donna Summers hit "Bad Girls" but even with her rich beautiful voice, "I Will Always Love You" proved to be just out of reach from my point of view.

I think the Swon Brothers benefited the most from the evening.  Both songs were strong choices and although I wish the production on "Danny's Song" had been different so I could hear Colton better, I think it will be the stand-out song of the night when all is said and done.

Danielle was steady as she goes with her performances and "Who I Am" was the ideal song for her and she'll win votes just for singing to her family in the stands.  She's only 16 years old but sings with such an easy confidence.  If there is one thing, she needs to work on going forward, it's connecting to the dynamic markings in the music.  She can sing a line perfectly and you can't fault it technically, but as Adam has said before, sometimes it's the imperfect emotional delivery that makes that line mean something to the listener.  Danielle has a whole long career to learn that part of her craft.   I still think she is the one to beat this season.

Michelle version of "Clarity" rocked!  It was almost another moment for her.  I think people will love her version of "Time after Time" but I found it a little uninspired.   Colton Dixon did a modern version of it on Idol last year and I still have that version on my main iPod play list.  I wish Michelle had gone bigger with it.  It was much more fun after the clock shattered and Michelle brought her full vocal to play.   Michelle is my dark horse candidate to win it.  I think she is close enough to Danielle to steal if she has the right
songs next week.
I'm listening to: Colton Dixon - Time after Time
Don McGonigal
04 June 2013 @ 10:46 am
Okay. Let's try this again.  (I just lost 6 paragraphs of blog to an accidental mouse click)  *fumes*

Another solid, entertaining night from the Voice.  I love episodes like this where you get to see what the contestants want to sing and contrast that with what the coaches suggest.  Sometimes it can really point to how much they understand each other.

Blake Shelton played it very safe with his artists last night.  Maybe too safe in some cases.   I have to say that I thought his choice of "Oaky from Muskogee" for the Swon Brothers was somewhat contrived and felt just a little manipulative.   The boys had a solid night performance wise, but I didn't really feel that they increased as a threat to win it.

Danielle Bradbury was probably Blake's safest choice of the night.  Going back to the well and choosing another Pam Tillis song hoping lightning can strike twice.   I found it interesting that Danielle went to Sara Evans because I'd felt for a few weeks now that Evans was an ideal match for her vocally.  Which proved to be true when she sang "A Little Bit Stronger."   Danielle is still very much a threat to win it all.

Holly Tucker had a solid night.  I thought she was very strong with "My Wish"  (loved the lighthouse set.)  It was an interesting song choice and reinforced to me that Holly will likely see a lot of success in the Inspirational Country side of the genre.  My gut tells me that Holly is in danger tonight. 

Usher made all the right moves with Michelle Chamuel.  I've got to say though.  Singing Keane is hard for anyone.  Tom Chaplin has a very unique voice and style.  Michelle did the song justice.   Where she really got a change to shine was with Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble."   She rocked that song to the ground.  I may actually prefer her edgier version to the original.  Great spot with TS actually crashing the rehearsal. It's a pity Christina Milian spoiled that surprise in her earlier segment.  This song was another important 'moment' for Michelle and I think puts her in strong as a finalist. 

Shakira's choice to go Country could have backfired badly if she hadn't realized that it wouldn't work unless Sasha Allen could connect to the song better.  "New York Style" was exactly what Sasha needed to give that song to make it her own.  Putting that on top of her incredible performance of "Ain't No Way" makes a strong case for Sasha continuing on.  I also think that Michelle and Sasha will benefit from the voting silos of country and non-country that are likely forming as the season progresses.  I've already had friend comment that they hope Michelle and Sasha make it through because they don't like country.   Silly way to go about things, but that is how it goes sometimes.

Adam Levine did what I felt he needed to do and let Amber Carrington go Country.  But naturally he couldn't just do it straight up, he had to do it his way.   Going with "I Remember You" by Skid Row is a calculated risk.   It worked I think.  It created a Country original that will likely have a life of its own.   What really caught me was Amber's choice of a Patsy Cline song.  She nailed it!  That is really not easy to do.  She got everything she needed to get out of last night in my opinion and should survive another night.

And that's really it isn't it.  Holly Tucker is likely to be the victim of the Country vote split.
I'm listening to: Michelle Chamuel - Call Your Girlfriend
Don McGonigal
True story.  Most nights as we watch the voice I tend to be able to call the eliminations with a very high accuracy.  Last season, I called the top 12 correctly including who America saved and who the judges saved.  It was kind of surreal.

So here we are in season 4 and down to the top 6.

Let's talk about what happened last night.  Shakira commented at the top of the show that if Sasha Allen went home it would be her coach's fault.  As soon as she said it I thought of Adam's team and the choices they had made song-wise.  I already had a hunch that Sarah Simmons would go because Gotye's "Somebody that I used to know" is generally the kiss of death on singing shows.  (Just watch the Vegas week of this season of American Idol for proof of that.)

Judith Hill sang the wrong song on Monday night.  She sang "#ThatPower"  very well because she is an amazing vocalist, but it was the wrong song and her choice of non-standard jazz-infused arrangements of songs always disconnected me from the performances.  I could never fault her singing.  Not once.   I faulted her arrangement choices almost every single week.   Here's the rub though.  Her performance of "Sweet Nothing" with Michelle Chamuel on the elimination show was pure power and had she sung THAT song on Monday night, she wouldn't be eliminated now.  I'm certain of it.

Watching Amber Carrington and Holly Tucker duet "Does he Love You" last night underscored one key thing that Adam needs to consider;  Amber is an incredible country vocalist.  Let her sing country next week and beat Blake at his own game.  With all his eggs now in one basket, Mr. Levine needs to go back to basics.  He needs the best Amber he can get.  He needs her right in her wheelhouse.

Usher's sole survivor Michelle Chamuel is incredible.  I love how much she's grown and how centered her performances have become as she has made the most of Usher's unorthodox coaching.  I want her to win the whole thing.  She has something special vocally that really gets to me each week.   The problem is team Blake.  Specifically, Danielle Bradbury.

Danielle has a combination of doe-eyed innocence and faultless vocal talent that is hard to fight against.  Other than last nights lackluster "A Thousand Years" duet with Sarah Simmons, Danielle has been a juggernaut of consistent excellence.  Week in and week out she has laid down a performance worth note.  She's out charted her competition the same way that Cassadee Pope did last season.   She is the one to beat right now.   The rest of team Blake isn't exactly shabby though.  The Swon Brothers are going to have a great career no matter what happens here and Holly Tucker made the right move this week in going for a strong lively country song.  Team Blake is Country Strong and he is going to be hard to beat!

We're at the top 6 now though, so all it takes is that perfect song and performance to shake everything up.

Sasha Allen (my crush of this season) needs that moment badly.  I see her as being on the cusp right now.  She has managed to stay in it but has yet to have a genuine moment.  This coming Monday would be the best possible time to capture the ears and hearts of America and propel herself forward.

I've really enjoyed this season and Usher and Shakira have been a nice breath of fresh air to the show.  I miss Cee Lo's quirkiness but find that XTina's absence has improved the tone of the show in a variety of ways.  I understand that Cee Lo and XTina are back for season 5 then Shakira and Usher return for Season 6.  What I'd like to see is Adam and Blake swap out as well.  I like to see Miranda Lambert take over Blake's chair for a season. Maybe season 7 can be Usher (in Adam's Chair) Cee Lo, Shakira and Miranda.   That might prove very entertaining.
Don McGonigal
04 September 2012 @ 03:40 pm
I have to admit that the news that City of Heroes would be shut down in the coming months it me harder than I expected.  Even though  I had let me subscription lapse and had played very little in the past year.  I'm saddened to see one of my favourite MMOs close down. 

Back in 2007 my kids came up from New Zealand and spent a couple weeks with me.  During that time I was still playing Guild Wars quite a bit, but I'd received a City Of Heroes trial code that gave me a month of play.  I was enjoying my CoH experience and showed the game to Kaithan.  He was all over the character creation engine!   How awesome to have SO many options and customization available on the first screen.  Unless you want to look like someone else, you were guaranteed you could be unique and recognizable from the first moments in the game. 

A couple years later I offered Kaithan a one year subscription to the MMO of his choice and I was satisfied that he chose CoH because it gave me an excuse to get a subscription as well.   I had vowed I would never pay-to-play, but CoH was so much fun I broke that rule.  My first character was a conversion of a pen and paper character from years ago named Pinwheel.   An energy blaster.  She was a lot of fun.  I can still remember how excited I was when she finally got her flight power and I could fly around the zones.  

I experimented with other builds.  A huge brawling tank named Paedrag (who, in concept, was a giant angry Leprechaun). A martial arts master named Master Hoshida (basically a Master Roshi rip-off). A flame controlling demon named SoulCandle.  The variations were seemingly endless.  Eventually I came up with the character that would become my favourite.  Her name was Delicious Jailbait.  She was a Japanese magical-girl who was an energy blast and healer.  

I've always been a sucker for the healer role.  In Guild Wars, my main character Teana was a monk.  DJ was tricky to play solo, but once she was playing on a team she really did shine.  I loved the CoH release that let us change the colours of our powers so that all her effects were pink.  She was a ton of fun to play AND hugely popular in groups because she was cheeky, funny and a great healer.  

The thing I most enjoyed about CoH was the hours and hours that Kaithan and I played together.  Meeting up each week to play together was something I looked forward to all week long.  We played with skype running so we could talk together and joke around.  There was a LOT of very funny stuff that went down.  My guildmates from GW can attest that I am all about the accents when I'm gaming with a live microphone.  I suppose the only thing I missed was those exact people in CoH.  The Boat Crew in GW was an amazing bunch of people to play with.  They were, as Rurik would say, "Good and excellent friends!!"  

I came to really enjoy playing on full teams and going into really tough missions.  The challenge of keeping people alive under difficult circumstances was always fun for me.  I loved the zone events and holiday events.  Eventually I had a couple other characters that I enjoyed playing more for solo work.  Both were sword weilding scrappers Angelic Vendetta (who was my CoH tribute to my wife Natalia) and Weapon Canuck.  Those two could survive crazy situations fairly unscathed.   

I was never very good at playing the bad guys, so pretty much all my characters were heroes.  I loved how heroic other players could be.  I always felt like people were looking for an excuse to help others out.  The random heals and buffs you would get as you slogged it out solo were always something that made me smile (even though I know there are people who HATED that - weird.) The RP server Virtue was my home in part because it was where the most helpful players seemed to be.  Certainly the most interesting people were found there in my experience. 

I'm genuinely saddened to see the game fade off into the sunset.  I've looked at DCUO and Champions and I've read about the upcoming Marvel game and they just aren't CoH.  It's a shame that so much creation from the excellent devs and the players alike will disappear on Nov 30th when the lights go out.  I'll probably play that day just for the sake of being there to pay my respects. 

I feel: sadsad
I'm listening to: Ramones - Spiderman
Don McGonigal
21 August 2012 @ 12:34 pm
As I was saying last post.  I'm pretty passionate about my music.  I've noticed that some of my friends who went through a musical awakening like I did in the early 80's seem to be stuck in that decade still.   What a shame for them.  I have a friend who basically said that he stopped listening to new music in 1992.   Think about that!  20 years he's been recycling the same mix tapes.  I think his wife jokingly said that he has the Tears for Fears album the Hurting on constant loop.   It's a great album to be sure, but there is more out there that is just as worthy of his ear drums. 

I have on my iPod a playlist called Massive 80s that has 282 songs in it.  That makes up less than half the 651 songs I have on there.  Most of the music is from the last 10 years.  I think some people are still trapped in the 80s because they don't know where to find good music and are stuck with whatever is being poured onto them via the radio.   I don't know what it's like elsewhere, but Vancouver BC has pretty terrible radio stations. There's a real lack of good alternative music on the airwaves here.  You get a bit of hipster/coffee house alternative from the Peak and the Shore does a decent job of providing 'Adult' alternative music, but there are a lot of flavours missing. 

It really isn't easy finding good music if you are relying on the radio to feed it to you.  I used to rely heavily on movie soundtracks to find new music by bands that were on the cusp of something great.  That doesn't work quite as well these days, but it is still worth it to keep an ear open.  Some directors have a very nice touch when it comes to soundtracks.   It's also worth it, when you can afford to see a live show, to pay attention to opening bands.  I discovered Augustana when they opened for Snow Patrol and then discovered Vega4 when they toured as opener for Augustana.   

The best source though is through friends who have similar tastes who can expose you to new ear candy as they discover it.  My former roommate is responsible for a very large chunk of my modern music playlist.  The music industry is so wide, the soundscapes so vast, that there is always something new somewhere that you can enjoy.  You don't have to hide behind your blancmange vinyl fearing that grunge never gave way to something else.   It is safe to come out of your music cave. 
I feel: cheerfulcheerful
I'm listening to: Owl City - Vanilla Twilight
Don McGonigal
12 January 2012 @ 11:52 am
Music has been my passion for 30 years now. I love to listen to music and I LOVE to discover new music that transports me somewhere when I listen to it. I have been and remain very opinionated about music. I like what I like and when I dislike something it is usually with some amount of passion.

Coldplay for example. Can't stand them. I think I like one song in their entire catalogue. After that I just can't listen to them. I will dive for the radio dial when they come on. I cannot understand their massive appeal. They leave me... wait for it... cold.

Ironically, There are bands that are sonically similar to Coldplay that I enjoy. One in particular is a great independent band from Minneapolis, MN called Weaver at the Loom.   I discovered these guys by accident a few years back and ordered their EP and a T-shirt as soon as I had finished listening to a couple songs.  For Christmas I purchased the new album from iTunes and fell in love with the song "Simple Rules (for a life in Hiding)"  which anyone listening to it will say carries heavy Coldplay influences.   It's true, but it's Coldplay as if Sigor Rós was playing it.   Which makes all the difference in the world really. 

I'm listening to: Weaver at the Loom - Never Really Dying (but going to live)
Don McGonigal
31 December 2009 @ 12:22 am
I'm listening to: Last Winter - Kiss so hard
Don McGonigal
14 October 2009 @ 02:23 pm
So here it is. Perhaps the final echo...

For the first time in 7 years, I am not renewing my paid account. I am so rarely even here. Facebook and twitter have long since claimed my attention and I have just stopped blogging like I once did. Still fun to occasionally peruse my friends page or dig back into my archive of posts. Perhaps someday I will feel the urge to blog my life again.
Don McGonigal
15 August 2009 @ 12:44 pm
Another summer means another Warped Tour for me. Attending the Warped Tour is key event in my summer schedule each year. Something I look forward to with significant excitement. Even on years like this one where it seems that I don't have a lot of bands that I am specifically looking forward to, I am excited by the prospect of discovery. I've never left the Warped Tour event without at least one new solid musical discovery. This year is no exception.

Hit the event with Scott and Eiichi and crossed paths with Chiemi, Kumiko and Chris throughout the day. Weather started cool and overcast and ended clear and sunny. Enforcing our desire to make it a WT tradition, Scott, Eiichi and I wore plaid shorts like we did last year (with Claudia) at the Gorge and took a picture of it in the same style as last year's. Scott will no doubt post the pic.

There were some real changes to the tour this year. One main stage instead of two being the most noticeable. To offset that, the Ernie Ball stage was located down in the main bowl and their sets were timed to fill the gaps between the two. This gave a lot of up and coming acts a chance to be heard by the people wandering the merch tent mall that probably wouldn't have gotten ears on before. There were less bands on the line-up as well, which made the event feel a little smaller at times.

I'm sorry to have missed most of Under0Ath's set since they were first on the main stage but I enjoyed their last couple songs as we made our way down to the Event board to work out our schedules. Tons of conflicts this year where the few bands I wanted to see were all on stages at the same time. Even more than usual. In the end, I made only one choice that I wish I had chosen the unknown over the familiar.

Bands I watched (in order):

The Maine: Good set. Wish the lead singer had taken off his sunglasses. It made him seem pretentious. Great cover of Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard. Generally speaking, if a song by the Maine came up on my iPod, I wouldn't skip it. This was a respectable start to the day. Thanks go to Scott for this recommendation.

Fighting for Ithaca (local band): Went and watched these guys on the Ernie Ball stage. Musically fine, I was underwhelmed by their lead vocals. Saw 3 songs before I headed up to the top. Glad they got a chance to play on the Warped Tour. That has to be a highlight moment for them.

Forever the Sickest Kids: Caught their last 4 songs and was really impressed with the energy of it all. They all wore blue t-shirts for no apparent reason. I like the random goofiness of that decision. I'd like to see them again and hear more.

Senses Fail: Put on a great set, but played none of the songs I love by them off the first album. At this point I could have been watching We the Kings or have left their set to see all of You Me At Six who started 15 minutes later. This is, in my opinion, the only mistake I made as far as band picks all day. Senses Fail is a great band, but I should have picked one of the other two. The other mistake I made was not bringing sunscreen with me (which I have for years since the terrible Warped Tour sunburn of 04. )

You Me at Six (from the UK): Caught their last two and a half songs - blown away. Desperately wished I'd seen their whole set. These guys are this year's winner as my new discovery. I loved the songs I heard. It earned them a t-shirt purchase too. Stopped by their tent afterward to thank them for a good set and invite them to come back to Vancouver sometime so I could see them again. They promised they would. Let's hope they bring Hundred Reason's with them so I can finally see them too. I think this one was an Eiichi AND Chiemi recommendation.

Took a rest at this point and sat in the stands to watch Bad Religion. Again. I always seem to be sitting in the stands for them. It's weird how consistent that is.

VersaEmerge: Eiichi had already introduced me to these guys a while back. They are a very good. They draw easy and favourable comparisons to label-mates Paramore but they deserve a listen in their own right. Their lead singer noticed me during one song (just as I stepped forward from the sun into the shade the stage rigging cast) and oddly enough winked at me. I was amused by that, but it got funnier when she told the crowd at the beginning of the next song that she wanted them to 'move' for this song and it was easy, we just had to jump up and down. "All of you, even the only bald guy watching the set." Yeah. I got a shout out from Sierra Kusterbeck. Life is funny like that.

Kill the Lights: Caught the end of this set. Sounded good. They kept talking about how polite, how unflappable we Canadians were. "Man, it's impossible to insult you guys! So polite! Okay, do any of you have dead Mothers? Anything? Okay maybe that was too far!" It was fun. One of their guitarists reminded me of Emerson. This also amused me.

Madina Lake: You know. I should count this as a mistake, but I've already seen them and I knew that I wouldn't really enjoy their set, but it was fun and funny to make Scott watch them and I'm pretty sure Eiichi has some really nice shots since he was deep in the crush when the lead singer decided he needed to high five every one in the first two - three rows.

Alexisonfire: As always these guys laid down a monstrous and perfect set. This was Eiichi's first time seeing them and I'm glad that they did what they always do and simple tore through their set like men on a mission. Love these guys and I'm glad they dominated the main stage.

Bayside: caught the last couple songs of their set while I was avoiding hearing ANY 3oh3's who were down on the main stage being more popular than I can understand. Just happened that one of the songs Bayside played is the one I have on my iPod, so that was cool.

Cash Cash I mention them only because I was sitting near the stage where they were playing while I was waiting for 3oh3's to finish. They had the small crowd watching them going pretty good with their song "Party in Your Bedroom." I had to laugh at the keytar solo. Man, those things are popping up everywhere these days.

Merch purchases: Green "Atticus" t-shirt. I was wearing my red and black Atticus shirt for the event. Pink "Ramones" classic t-shirt for Natalia. Because she's cool like that. the "These lips belong to someone else" t-shirt from the You Me at Six guys. Which I am wearing right now as I type this. :)

I would have picked up the To Write Love on Her Arms hoodie but Chris didn't have any large. I will order it from the website at some point then as I'd like to have it.

Despite buying sunscreen midday I still managed to get a sunburn. I can feel the tightness of my skin on my head and face. Not a bad one. but a sunburn nonetheless. It's a small price to pay once a year for an event that never fails to be fun and worth while. Huge thanks to Moisander for the hard work to get us amazingly cheap tix for the event. Good times.
Don McGonigal
13 May 2009 @ 10:16 am
It's official. 21 episodes in. LOVE it. Will have to start buying the series. Like the main story, love the extreme takes and humour. I understand completely why there are so many Bleach cosplayers at cons now. Wish I'd checked this out sooner. I think Natalia will love it.
I feel: interested