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Music

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Miley CyrusSo, I think it’s been pretty well established that I enjoy cheap entertainment.

What, with my stories of Jordan Knight, They Might Be Giants (twice!), and Smash Mouth just in the past year or so…

And to think, I never even mentioned that I’d also taken in Weird Al Yankovic, the Jonas Brothers, Aaron Carter, Bowling for Soup, and some kid from High School Musical (I forget his name…) recently as well. We even saw those two hip-hop violin guys that are on America’s Got Talent right now…

Some are big names. The Jonas Brothers, specifically, are apparently HUGE right now.

Others, well, admittedly, are not. Like Aaron Carter. Or the violin guys…

But all of these concerts have had one thing in common — they’ve been cheap. Highest ticket price so far was last weekend’s rather disappointing Smash Mouth show. Twelve bucks.

I bring this up because later this month Miley Cyrus is coming to town. Now, she’s not exactly one of my favorite artists — I can’t name a single song she sings — but I’d still be interested to see what all of the fuss is about.

And I’ve no doubt that someday, in the future, I’ll see her at one of the agricultural fairs or something similar. No doubt.

But not this year.

Her tickets are (ready for this?) $300, $250, and $150 per seat.

Can you believe that? It’s real. No joke.

A nosebleed seat to see Miley/Hannah will set you back $150. Now, most of her fans aren’t old enough to go on their own (and the venue happens to be in a casino), so make that $300.

If you actually want to visually see her, well, that’s a minimum $600 investment.

I can’t believe I just called that an investment…

Ironically, it was only a few years ago that I blew off seeing her father perform at a po-dunk little agricultural fair because I thought it would be a dud of a show.

I mean, he had, what, maybe one or two hit songs?

Don’t get me wrong, I know he was HUGE, but still, it’s not like he was on his way to becoming a music legend.

History will undoubtedly repeat itself — I wouldn’t be surprised if I see Hannah Montana perform for less than $20 in fewer than three years once the hype runs it’s course.

But back to those INSANE ticket prices — it blows my mind that someone can command that kind of ticket price and still sell out in a matter of minutes. It also blows my mind that ticket prices can be so high for an artist whose songs I’ve never even heard on the radio before.

I mean, I get out.

I don’t live in a box.

Or maybe I do? Who the heck is Lil’ Wayne?

Anyway, I know what Hannah Montana looks like and I’ve stumbled upon her TV show numerous times, but does she even have “a” hit song? Does she have two hit songs?

Let’s be serious, that’s A LOT OF FREAKING MONEY for a concert!

I’m trying to think of anyone I’d spend $300 to see.

The Beatles can’t happen. McCartney on his own isn’t that big a draw. Springsteen? No way. The Rolling Stones are a complete joke at this point. Led Zeppelin? Nah, still not worth $300.

Maybe Michael Jackson? Sure, he’s wacked out and a little creepy these days, but he’s got an endless supply of hit songs and, well, based on what I remember from the 1980’s, he has the ability to put on a show good enough to make people pass out. You don’t see concert footage like that anymore…

Put them next to one another, Miley and Michael, and ask yourself, who’s the bigger star?

Age aside, who would you pay more to see perform?

It’s a no-brainer. This Miley Cyrus concert is a complete rip-off…

In my mind, Miley ranks about as high as Steve Harwell

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Steve Harwell of the band Smash Mouth

This is Steve Harwell, the lead singer for the band Smash Mouth.

We saw him yesterday at the 148th Woodstock Fair and I took this picture.

For the record, he can’t sing. He was terrible. The rest of the band wasn’t so great either.

I like this band. I thought I liked this band.

Actually, now having seen them live — I like them less.

The played all of their hits, which was good, and a ton of Van Halen for some reason, which wasn’t so good.

Actually, the guitarist actually seemed to know what he was doing on the VH songs, but once they broke into “Walking on the Sun“, well, I could have been playing guitar up there. Very strange. Had it not been for the bassist staying consistent with the bass line, the whole thing would have fallen apart.

They finished up the show, expectedly, with “All Star“, but Steve’s voice was totally worn out at that point.

He was flat for the entire show, beginning to end, and worn out for the last few songs.

Often Smash Mouth is criticized for being a campy 60’s cover band and, now, having seen them up close, well, they almost sounded like a cover band of themselves.

The criticism is well deserved.

Thankfully, admission was only $12 each and we got to pet cows, sheep, chickens, and other things too…

We also saw a number of bearded ladies and even a few one thousand pound men too… Though they all probably paid twelve bucks to get in too…

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Woo-hoo!  It’s Fair season!Yep, it’s that time of year again in New England.

Agricultural Fair season.

Now, I’m not into pigs, cows, sheep, and chickens or anything. Tractor pulls don’t get the blood flowing either, and trust me, these fairs are overflowing with that sort of thing.

I like the fairs for the low admission price and the top-notch entertainment — though much of it has fallen off the radar screen when it comes to mainstream.

Longtime readers may recall that last Labor Day weekend, we saw Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block fame.

Laugh all you like.

Jordan KnightI said then, and I’ll say it again now, that I was never really a fan of NKOTB, but he put on a really good show.

Afterwards, I even downloaded “Hanging Tough”.  Again, continue to laugh…

Done laughing yet?

See, it only cost $10 to get in to see the show — and you could pet pigs, cows, sheep, and things if you really wanted to! That’s a deal.

Now, Jordan Knight will be back in the area later this month — but guess what?

He’s not playing local fairs this year.

He’s back to playing arenas with his bandmates. Tickets at the venue closest to my house are $62.50 and $47.50 each. Wonder if all those suckers that bought tickets for this tour realize that just one year ago these guys were playing local fairs.

And to think, for a 600% mark-up, you probably don’t even get to see a ribbon winning chicken or witness a sheep shearing contest. I’m not sure the New Kids could hold my attention long enough to make them worth $47.50…

Anyhow, I’ve got this year’s fair schedule set in stone already.

Over the next month or so, we’ll be sitting on some trampled grass or in uncomfortable bleachers watching bands such as Smash Mouth, America, and The Guess Who.

Up first, tomorrow afternoon, is Smash Mouth.

They haven’t completely fallen off the map so I’m expecting it to be a little crowded but for a few bucks, hey, they’re a band who still have three or four songs in heavy rotation (All Star, Walking on the Sun, and the covers of I’m a Believer and Can’t Get Enough of You, Baby) on the radio station I listen to.

I’m looking forward to it.

And, hey, maybe next year they’ll be back touring arenas and amphitheatres too…

But really, if you live in a part of the country that has these types of fairs, you really should look up the entertainment because, more often than not, a few of them will have an act you’d really like to see at a bargain price!

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John Linnell - Mohegan Sun - August 9, 2008Ever get stuck talking to someone that you’d really rather not be stuck talking to?

I’m not talking about how sometimes it seems like you’re the go-to guy when someone needs the time or something. Though I don’t wear a watch, and that’s plainly visible to all around me, it seems that anytime I’m in a public place, a stranger will single me out and ask if I have the time.

Because I don’t regularly carry a cell phone either, the answer has always been, “Nope, sorry…”

Anyway, last weekend at the casino while waiting in line (for 3+ hours) to get into the They Might Be Giants show, we ended up behind a kid that was by himself.

I’m not one to judge — actually, I am, but I wasn’t on this occasion… I’ve gone to concerts by myself too. It’s one of those things that you almost have to do when you’re not really into Top 40 or mainstream music. Or hockey. Why doesn’t anyone like hockey?

Anyway, to better pass the time, pretty much everyone who stands in line by themselves is sorta looking for someone to talk to and something to talk about.

While I would have been perfectly happy silently observing people at the blackjack tables right near us, or just commenting on all the people walking by with my wife, this kid needed to talk to someone and I was the someone because I just happened to be the guy right behind him.

At first, it was a pleasant banter like, “How many times have you seen TMBG?” or “Where are you guys from?”

That’s fine. I answered honestly and kinda figured the conversation that I wasn’t real keen on having anyway would fizzle out in a few minutes and I could go back to playing blackjack over some stranger’s shoulder.

But he wouldn’t stop. And he was weird!

“I play bass in a two man band. That’s all I have to say about that…” And then he’d, like, air guitar some bass lines and wiggle his fingers.

Um… Okay?

I mean, how am I supposed to pleasantly respond to that? In any other situation, I would have smiled politely and walked away, but I wasn’t about to give up my place in line.

As the time passed, and more awkward moments ensued, he decided that we should list the TMBG songs that we hate.

Yeah, that’s a great idea. Here we are standing in line to see a band that we supposedly both like a lot, so let’s list out their songs that suck. Yep, that sounds fun…

Huh?

I played along and apparently every song that I wasn’t real fond of (or pretended not to like) was one of his favorites. I get it; he wants to be Mr. Confrontational.

This whole time, I’m thinking, “Please let this conversation end.”

Then he went on a bit of a tangent talking about how he works a dead-end nightshift job at a gas station and how sometimes guys in their 60’s will come in to buy cigarettes or something and say “Hey there, what kind of music do you listen to?” and he responds with something rude like, “Yeah, let’s not go there. We’re just wasting both of our times…” because he’s in to bands like, well, he listed off a bunch of indie crap that I’d never heard of.

Now I’m thinking, okay, not only is this kid a social weirdo, he’s a rude jerk too… I should have told him an hour ago that I didn’t really want to talk to him… Too late for that now…

I told him my second favorite band was the Jonas Brothers… No, I’m just kidding.

Then he started to list off all of the TMBG albums he had as if to impress me or something. Yeah, kid, of the 200 or so people standing in this line, I’m pretty sure 80% of them have every album you do. Then he started contradicting statements he’d made earlier when listing the songs he hated…

“Yeah, this song sucks, this one too, that one… Basically tracks 1-12 are terrible.” An hour later, to him, that album “was a pretty strong record. That’s all I have to say about that.” Sigh…

Apparently, “That’s all I have to say about that” was his tagline. He didn’t say it like Forrest Gump, but I couldn’t help but hear it that way.

Then he started quizzing me so as to show me up or something. I think that in some ways I surprised him with my knowledge. I mean, physically, I don’t scream psycho fanatical fan of a band few have ever heard of. But at the same time, I do happen to know about as much as those psycho fanatical fans. I just keep it in the closet.

Fine, you can be the bigger fan than me — that’s fine. I let him win. I’m perfectly happy owning all of the albums, knowing all of the words, and going to a concert or two every time they come to my area. He can be the guy who drives 8 hours for free shows for a band that endlessly tours in New England anyway and recite set lists of shows he never attended. (Kinda reminds me of those guys in high school that could recite the batting order of the 1927 NY Yankees, but wouldn’t actually swing a bat in gym class…)

Then, as if he hadn’t said enough, he started to get all philosophical… Talking about how such and such an album was the soundtrack to a really nostalgic part of his life…

Um, yeah, I really don’t care. That’s your life, not mine, and quite honestly, yeah, I just really don’t care. Of course, I didn’t vocalize my thoughts…

Finally, around a half hour passed without him saying anything… I thought I was home free.

Then he turned around and said, “Have we met before because you look really familiar?”

Having never actually been inside a gas station before, I said, “Nope, don’t think so. Unless you were at this show last year. Or the year before. Or at a show in Lenox, Massachusetts back in 1992…”

At the mention of 1992, he was shocked and asked, “How old are you?” I told him I’d be 32 in a few days… He said he was 25. Hmmm, might explain why we had pretty much nothing in common (other than this band).

He turned back around. It was at his time that I started to do a little math in my head… The album that he claimed to be the soundtrack of the most nostalgic time in his life came out in 1990. He would have been seven.

I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t having many eventful life altering moments when I was seven. At the very least, nothing that I would call “nostalgic” to a complete stranger.

I had some pretty sweet birthday parties at that age and a few nasty wipe-outs on my bike that I recall, but really, nothing that would make me all misty eyed now thinking of days gone by. Maybe that time I drew a moustache on myself with a sharpie. Nah, that was just cool.

Then, as luck would have it, a weathered sketchy dude (there are a lot of them at the casino) came up to the line, like many passersby do, and asked who was playing tonight. The kid responded, “They Might Be Giants”.

The dude, looked over at my wife and said, “Smurfette?”

Sketchy Galore knew my wife!

Nice guy, but the type that you’d almost expect to find at a casino. Yeah, that sounds like a dig, and it sort of is, but I really had nothing against him. He seemed like a nice personable guy and better yet, he’d actually seen They Might Be Giants before. Probably back around 1992… Basically, in this line and at the time, he was an ally that I wanted to have. Gave me some street cred — through association.

He hadn’t seen my wife in over a decade so it was a really neat moment (dare I say nostalgic?) for her.

For me, I was like, cool, this guy probably scares the crap out of the kid in front of me and now that he can see that we’re like friends or something, he’ll leave me alone.

He and my wife caught up for a few minutes and at the end, they sighed, “Small world… Great seeing you.”

I was thinking to myself, yep, small world but a big freakin’ casino.

Now, last year I mentioned that one of the members of the band, John Flansburgh, worked the line handing out stickers before the show and how I was shocked that no one in the line seemed to know who he was. Honestly, they treated him like an average roadie or something.

This year, about an hour before show time, the other member of the band, John Linnell, walked right by the line twice in an “I’m lost” sort of way (obviously trying to get his bearings before finding something to eat before the show). My wife noticed him, gave me the nudge, and I was like, holy crap, that really is him. Cool.

Again, this year, no one in the line noticed it.

Even the kid in front of me didn’t acknowledge it. Wait a minute, this kid was just claiming to be their biggest fan ever and he doesn’t even know what they look like… What’s up with that?

As if it couldn’t get any worse, he turned back around and said, “You know, you look like a combination of two people I know…”

I snidely responded, “Oh, you’ve met my parents?”

This response got a chuckle out of the woman behind me in line. I had a feeling she was feeling my pain listening in to this epic conversation that was clearly uncomfortable from the start. She lucked out and chatted with my wife for a bit while I was stuck keeping the socially challenged occupied…

Who hasn’t heard of Charo?When the venue finally opened, we thankfully weren’t seated at the same table as him… Big sigh of relief.

This year, again, we were to the left of the stage, but also again, less than 10 feet from the band.

Total bill for the night was $4.

Tonight’s free show is Charo. Cuchi-cuchi!

Speaking of Charo – the kid in front of me had never heard of her… Does he live in a cave? She even did a Geico commercial?!

Anyway, we’re not going… Can you imagine the people in that line?

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They Might Be Giants - July 28, 2007 at the Mohegan SunA little over a year ago now, my wife and I visited the semi-local Indian Casino, the Mohegan Sun, to take in a free concert performance by my favorite band of all time, They Might Be Giants.

It was our second time taking in the band for free at the Mohegan Sun and both shows were most excellent. No joke, we were less than 10 feet from the stage each time.

Last year, I even had a pseudo conversation with John Flansburgh before the show.

(For me, that was a “Holy Crap!” moment that I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life… I didn’t squeal like a little girl or anything, I’m just sayin’… it was a moment.)

Well, they’re coming back.

TMBG Promo

That’s this weekend.

Saturday *AND* Sunday.

And it’s free.

100% free!

Next week, it’ll cost you $32.50 (plus any associated TicketMaster surcharges) to see them at the 16,000 seat Nassau Coliseum (where the NY Islanders play).

But this weekend only, you can see them for FREE in a venue where a capacity crowd is 300 people…

Hmmm… Wonder where I’ll be this weekend???

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Jordan KnightAs September rolls around, the “Agricultural Fair” season begins in New England. It’s a good inexpensive way to spend a day, that is, as long as you’re not into going on lots of carnival rides at $3 per ride.

Yesterday, we spent the day at the Woodstock Fair. It cost us $5 to park and $10 each to get in. Not exactly a cheap day, but it’s all about the quality entertainment. And did I mention the entertainment is second to none? That’s right. Second to none.

We saw Jordan Knight — of New Kids on the Block fame. Don’t laugh. I mean, in some ways it’s sad that his career has declined to the point that he’s doing county fairs and things, with the smell of cow poop and swine in the air, but I found him pretty entertaining.

He opened the performance with an upbeat song I’d never heard — probably something new — and then a couple of the slow NKOTB songs. Not exactly my favorite. I mean, being a guy, I didn’t exactly have a NKOTB sleeping bag in the late 80’s so…let’s just say it wasn’t my thing. I knew their hits though, but just because of their overexposure at the time.

The audience, well, there was a crop of late 20’s aged women singing right along and swooning through out but when he got up to the “Right Stuff” and did a snippet of the “New Kid” dance, well, he had the crowd. And only then could you tell he really was a pro and not just some crappy low budget entertainment.

The best part was that he even made fun of himself, saying things like, “This was a big hit with the honeys back in…”, then he’d pause and sheepishly say, “1988.” The women up front would scream like they would have back in 1988.

We sat a bit farther back and had some of the teenage “Paris Hilton” wannabes standing near us. You know, just kinda standing there with their mouths open in that “this is so lame, but I’m so hot” pose.

HUGE sunglasses are so NOT hot.They obviously didn’t get it, understandably because of their age, but to not be able to foresee that this was just Justin Timberlake up on stage in 10 years — you know, that sort of thing just went over their heads. At that age, I would have figured that out, but then again, at that age, I wasn’t wearing blinders, err, sunglasses that covered my entire head.

And you know what? Going back to their overexposure in the late 80’s, I wasn’t really a fan, but the New Kids were bigger than the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, and ‘nSync ever were, even all three combined. For a few years there, you couldn’t go to any department store without a full section dedicated to them. Towels, sheets, curtains, sleeping bags, underpants, toothbrushes, action figures. They even had their own shampoo. Everywhere you went, at all times, at least one pre-teen girl within a 10 foot radius had a NKOTB t-shirt on. Always. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a t-shirt, or a sleeping bag, with, oh, say Lance Bass on it? Have you?

He ended his show with “Hangin’ Tough”, which he called a headbanger from back in the day. Then he corrected himself and said, “Well, maybe it wasn’t a headbanger…” Either way, just listening to this version, if some band had the nards to cover a NKOTB song, I dunno, maybe a band like the Darkness, that one would work with a heavier sound I think.

During the last song, I think he did some of the old school dancing again, as some of the women in the crowd were doing it along with him. He got the crowd to do the “Hangin’ Tough” arm swing thing — my wife stopped me from doing it, almost immediately — but when it was all over, I was glad I’d sat and watched.

Storage UnitThis past weekend we spent a few hours over at the storage unit we’re renting for around $140/month.

Earlier this month, I vowed to clear it out this month so as to stop paying for it. It’s really the only sizable monthly expense left that hasn’t been cut.

Well, it became apparent that, this late in the month, it’s not going to happen before the September rent is due. Even an amount like $140 in the wrong direction hurts when you’re trying to pay down the credit card debt like crazy. Grrrr…

We did, however, make *some* progress. Three full contractor bags worth of stuff went to the dump. The storage space is still filled to the ceiling, but that was still quite a step for me.

One of the stranger things I threw out was a box with piles and piles of Columbia House and BMG catalogs from the late eighties and early nineties. Vanilla Ice on the cover of one, Shanice on the cover of another. They were all stacked neatly — like I treasured them. Seriously, why did I hang on to stuff like that? Ridiculous.

Also thrown away were tons of computer programs on the old 5.25inch floppies. Sure, I’d like to go back and play the original Space Quest again, but in the 20 years since I last played it, it hasn’t been enough of a draw to actually do it. And so, into the garbage it went.

One suggestion my wife had, for things that should really be thrown out but still brought back memories, was to bring a camera and take pictures of the items before tossing them into the garbage bag.

I’m not quite there yet — maybe when I go through the boxes a second time to lighten the load even more before bringing it all back home.

Looks like we’ll be paying for another month. Sigh.

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They Might Be Giants - July 28, 2007 at the Mohegan SunSo, last night, my wife and I headed over to the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut for a free show by my favorite band of all time, They Might Be Giants.

They did a free show there last year and, while we had to stand in a line for 4 hours, it was good enough to have us head back again this year.

We stood in line for a good two and a half hours this time and had seats almost as good as last. In fact, the nice couple from Providence we shared a table with actually made the seats seem even better than last year.

While standing in line before the show, John Flansburgh (one of the two band members) quickly walked down the line handing out free stickers — and upon reaching me said, “Hey, nice t-shirt!” in regards to the 15 year old concert t-shirt I was wearing from their 1992 tour. I ‘sort of’ had a conversation with him. By ‘sort of’, I mean I just said “thank you” in response, but like I said, he was moving quickly and I wasn’t about to slow him down.

Anyway, what really stuck me was that *no one* in the line seemed to know who he was!?

Honestly, I’d think that if you’re the type that is willing to stand in line for hours on end to see a band as obscure as TMBG — chances are, you know exactly what John Linnell and John Flansburgh look like. You’d think anyway.

That experience was pretty cool. Not saying it’s one of those moments I’ll never forget in my life, or anything, but it felt pretty good.

Making the night even better, as we were seated, we were each given a signed copy of their newest album, “The Else“, which just came out earlier this month.

This worked out great as I’d not yet purchased the album (that saved me some coin), and the albums were both signed.

I’d always kind of wanted their autographs too, and checked on eBay every now and then for them, but it was never anything I’d consider paying a lot of money for. I’ve just always wanted to collect autographs of the people I liked from my youth. Silly, I know, but now John Linnell and John Flansburgh can join Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, and Bill Gates (I think his was done with an auto-pen) in my tiny collection.

The concert wasn’t as good as last year, as it heavily favored the new album full of songs that few people knew. But they played the standards you’d expect like “Istanbul”, “Birdhouse in your Soul”, and “Dr. Worm”. That last one I call a standard, but being an old-timer now, I think of it as a “new” standard.

They threw in a couple of old ones that I’d never seen live before like “Put Your Hand inside the Puppet Head” and “Letterbox” and one that I hadn’t heard since the 1992 tour, when I saw them twice, “Twisting in the Wind.”

Those three got some of the better crowd response. Or, more accurately, I thought so anyway — it was probably just the 30+ crowd that had actually heard those songs before they were re-issued on compilation albums — or owned them before CD’s even existed.

On the way home, we listened to the new album — not sure it’s a great one, but it’s definitely better than the last few they’ve released.

When I was a teenager, they were one of those bands where I could listen to the entire album through and through over and over again. That lasted for, well, I’d say their first 5-6 albums. Essentially, 1986 through 1994.

After that, for the next 6 albums, well, let’s just say I’ve used the fast forward button from time to time. That said, each album definitely has had at least two songs that would have fit seamlessly into their first group of albums, so they keep me coming back for more.

In the end, had I not bought a $25 t-shirt, the night would have cost $5 total. Two $2 sodas and a $1 tip. Not bad for a concert where you get to sit maybe 10 feet from the band and you get two free signed CD’s which just came out in stores at around a $15 each.

Now that’s a bargain Saturday night!

Can You Dig It?

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