27 May 2008

'Tis Music All About the Land

Sorry about the delay in posting, folks. Still recovering a bit from my ear infection, although that has been greatly decreased and just also a wee bit swamped at work, too. Work is really getting the better of me, honestly, and a vacation is going to have to come soon or I risk severe burn-out later. I've also been working on a few projects here around the house as well, prepping for summer and all...a few art projects here, a few household repair things there, the odd plant purchase or two...those kinds of mundane things I figure few want to read about.

That said, I'll make a quick post to the 'entertainment updates' of this blog:

  • This upcoming Friday, May 30th, it's a win-win for the locals around here looking in two different varieties of music. Choose your poison: catchy, albeit slightly offbeat and poignant piano-driven charmers or a more rock-infused Celtic band with a slightly PG-13(+) song list.

    The more known act (so far), the simply wonderful Ben Folds (and former resident of the area), is breezing through for a one-night-only stand over at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. He got a rather nice mention in the local papers, but admittedly as a long-time fan who has not followed his personal life as much as his professional one, I found myself a bit dismayed that he's already on marriage number four and is now again residing in Nashville. I had clearly been under the impression that marriage number three, fatherhood, and a long-distance move to Adelaide (this is Australia) had done the witty pianomeister good...very good even. Sadly, very sadly even, not to be. Dear Ben's not that much older than me...and I can't help but wonder what dismissive songs about marriage, breakup, and divorce are just waiting to be penned from his creative inkwell. A biting, sarcastic, but very thoughtful inkwell. I have no doubt the constant challenges he has faced personally continues to make him the great, and at times very brutally honest, artist that he is professionally. For the uninitiated, that fact alone makes seeing Ben a 'must do' item. Seeing him in the intimate Koka Booth setting is an added plus.

    If there is one thing, however, I have learned from all of my Ben following it is this: never presume to know his next move or his current sentiment, for both will surprise you. His hit list is nothing short of unconventional material...songs about going with a girlfriend to her abortion, to angry declarations of war against ex-lovers still holding his possessions, to solemn promises of eternal father loyalty to his newborn children. It's never been about the music so much...which is quite fabulously good in its own right...but more about the message that music is carrying. And Ben, God love him, lives to tinker with that message as much as he can. Two of my all-time fave songs from Ben are "Battle of Who Could Care Less", and "Jesusland" (do a search on YouTube for the videos, as embedding of such is not available for these songs; the links above go to LyricsMania for the song lyrics).

    Tickets are $35 for the general seats at Koka and the show is scheduled to begin at 8pm. Considering this is Cary and the Koka Booth with its sometimes poorly organized parking detail, I'd be there by no later than 6:30pm, though.

    The second option for the evening is my new good friends, My Three Kilts, down from Goldsboro way. In some sort of six degrees of local bands who play The Pogues covers, I found about these lads one night while attending a Hercules Mulligan show. My beloved Hercs, (who have reconstituted their lineup since the winter and now are composed of Chris King, Dave Cauthorn and new fiddler Lisa Wolff), were on the same schedule with them somewhere and the WR and I stayed around to give them a listen (and drink the beer), I think off Dave Cauthorn's strong recommendation. Impressed we were with that first go around, we caught them again at the recent Tir Na Nog's raucous St. Patty's Day celebrations. Since then, they've become my second favourite local Celtic-based band (sorry, guys, but I believe in the being-true-to-your-school thing and the Hercs still come first, nothing personal). I'm still searching, though, for the proper adjective description for them: they are a bit more 'plugged in' than the Hercs, and they are more rock-infused versus the strong bluegrass background of Dave with HM. And although the dear WR may disagree with me on this, I still contend that MTK bassist Scott reminds me of Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick...in a very good way.

    Both HM and MTK do some of the same songs (but that's a rule de naturale with most Irish bar bands, frankly), but hearing the differences in approach can be very interesting. Just like the Hercs, MTK has an excellent rapport with the audience and their enthusiasm is contagious. Good guys, this Scott, Rob and Shane. For those who can make the trip down to the metropolis of Goldsboro (and you know you want to), they are playing at The Flying Shamrock also on Friday, but their show starts at 9pm. (For those that can't make it to Goldsboro, they play again at Tir Na Nog in Raleigh on June 27th at 7pm. Likewise, my long-beloved Hercs play again there on June 13th, also starting at 7pm.)

    (Editor note, May 31: Highly recommend The Flying Shamrock in Goldsboro. Good food, excellent staff, more 'fresh-tasting' beer even, enthusiastic crowd. Well worth the trip and gas expense.)

    Slowly, ever so slowly, a Raleigh-based Celtic 'scene' emerges...LOL.

    And, finally, next week on June 2 and 3, for those of you who have far more money/less hangups about the ticket price than me, The Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, SC, officially opens with great anticipated fanfare. Ideally, when I first heard about it, it sounded like a helluva outing: 2 fabulous bands breaking in the joint, and then the ticket price also included theme park admission, parking, some 'opening weekend' souvenirs, that kind of thing. Considering I've not had a vacation yet this year (other than an odd single day or two) and haven't been to the beach in awhile, it sounded like a really good deal for a bit...until I saw the price tag, excluding my gas, food and hotel expense. For one ticket, friends, which you cannot break down to see just one band on one night, nor just see the bands and skip the park is...drum roll, please...$284+. Again, that's not counting travel, food, or lodging expense.

    Now I do love The Eagles...a tremendously influential and wonderful band, of whom I am the owner of several of their albums. And long-time friends will admit I've been a lover of The Moody Blues since my teens...20 years after they started hitting the scene, if you're keeping score...so much to the point that one of their signature lyrics doubled as my quote in my senior yearbook. I'm really not doubting the value of the bands themselves...but, as a longtime fan of both, I also have a good 'working idea' of what each is worth in the current market. I recently shilled out $85 to go see Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band in Greensboro and that was, essentially, a general admission (bleed) seat...and unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that even the mighty Bruce & Co did not sell out the Coliseum (especially in the upper tiers). Something a little less than Bruce...The Boss is always my barometer in these things...for each of these bands would have given me pause to consider. I've seen The Moody Blues several times, albeit being one of the younger audience members generally, and have adored The Eagles for more years than I care to recall (their "Hotel California" is still the unofficial air-guitar, air-drums, and air-bass song of my former reservations employer). In short, this is not/should not be a hard sell and has a mass audience potential.

    However, when you throw in the mandatory theme park cost...not so much me (being afraid of heights and all as I am, that sort of greatly reduces the truly 'fun' ones for the adults)...and then the other 'opening weekend' razzmatazz: I can take it or leave it. And frankly, 'being first' anyplace for anything really screams against my basic nature. Then when you throw in a minimum $60 for a round-trip tank of gas from here and a night's lodging in Myrtle...it freakishly soon teeters on a month's rent allotment. So 'left it' is where the idea has come and died, unfortunately. Clearly, I'm not the only one having some buyer's anxiety out there: as I write this, about only a week out from the shows, lots of tickets are still available. Word to Hard Rock Park: don't give people ticket shock before you even develop your customer base. In case you've missed it, there's a recession going on and you just might want to take that into consideration when pricing your entertainment.

    A great idea for an opening, albeit very poorly executed given the current (and very anxious) economic climate I fear. If someone does go to the opening gala, I'd be interested in hearing from you about the crowd and an overall review. In the meantime, though, I'll just have to content myself with playing my air drums while I drive...listening to the "Greatest Hits" CD.
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