Ziggy Marley: 9/10/2021

This was my first concert at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. Ever since moving out here to California, people have been telling me that this is an amazing place to see a concert. An intimate 2500 seat outdoor amphitheater situated atop a mountain with spectacular views of the surrounding area, it really is a magical place for a concert.

When they announced the lineup for this year’s shows, there were many great options, so my wife and I decided we would each choose two concerts, and this was one my wife picked. I had seen Ziggy Marley many years ago as an opening act at a larger concert, and he was good (from what I can remember). But this show was fantastic.

First off, it was made clear that this was a tribute to his father, Bob Marley, and that they would be performing only songs from Bob Marley’s vast repertoire. That was a big plus for me. While I like reggae music, I am not a huge fan, but I do really like Bob Marley’s music.

We arrived at the venue and got our seats, which were fairly close, but immediately I realized that there is not a bad seat in the house. If I were in the last row, it would still be a good seat. After a somewhat long wait (it did not start on time), Ziggy and the band took the stage. He quickly announced to the audience that his brother Stephen Marley would be performing with them. Then they kicked right into the music.

The crowd was really responsive, and most everyone was up and dancing for the entire show, which felt great. It was almost like dancing away the negativity from the past 18 months and replacing it with “Positive Vibration.” It was so much fun and just what my soul needed.

Here is the full setlist, and I am including a few pictures from the show. Thanks for stopping by, and keep on jammin’.

Setlist:

  • Nice Time
  • Positive Vibration
  • Jamming
  • Burnin’ and Lootin’
  • Three Little Birds
  • Stir It Up
  • No Woman, No Cry
  • Get Up, Stand Up
  • War / No More Trouble
  • One Love / People Get Ready
  • Coming in From the Cold
  • Iron Lion Zion
  • Running Away / Crazy Baldhead
  • Is This Love
  • Exodus
  • Could You Be Loved

Encore:

  • I Shot the Sheriff
  • Lively Up Yourself
  • Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)

SiliCon: 8/28 – 29/2021

SiliCon is the new name for the Silicon Valley Comic Con, hosted by Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame. Since I kind of fall into the nerd category, it should come as no surprise that I could not resist attending a con a mere 15 minutes from my house, especially when one of the key sessions was a Q&A with the legendary William Shatner from the original Star Trek. Anyway, I decided to splurge on the VIP pass, which would get me preferred access to sessions, access to a VIP lounge with refreshments, and an autograph session with a guest to be announced. I wound up getting an autograph session with Mark Sheppard, which I was excited about being a big fan of “Supernatural” (he played Crowley, the King of Hell).

A “convention” in the time of COVID was a little weird. First off, it was pretty small. I had attended this con a couple years back and it was packed. This year, the exhibition hall was about half the size, and there were very few attendees. Which was fine with me, since it made me feel more comfortable. Additionally, masks were required, and cosplay masks did not qualify. But in spite of these health restrictions, it was a fun couple of days.

Not surprising, the high point for me was seeing the great William Shatner. For someone who is 90 years old, he was in great shape, had entertaining stories to tell, and was just inspiring. Also, I really enjoyed Mark Sheppard’s session. He was really witty and eloquent.

On Day 1, I attended the following sessions:

  • Opening Keynote Session with Adam Savage and astronaut Cady Coleman
  • Q&A Session with Bruce Boxleitner (IMDB Page)
  • Q&A Session with Mark Sheppard (IMDB Page)
  • Q&A Session with Denise Crosby (IMDB Page)

On Day 2, I attended:

  • Session with Adam Savage
  • Everyone to Beam Up: Q&A Session with William Shatner
  • How the Pandemic Changed Tabletop Gaming Forever
  • Lana Parrilla: A Q&A Session with Once Upon a Time’s Evil Queen

I had also planned to attend Dirk Benedict’s session (IMDB Page), but that got canceled, which was a bit of a bummer, but OK. All in all, it was great to get back out in the world and gather with some fellow nerds.

Here are a few pictures.

Mark Sheppard
Denise Crosby
William Shatner
Lana Parrilla

Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros: 7/24/2021

Yes! Live music is here again. This marks my first concert since Patti Smith at the Fillmore in March of 2020.

Earlier this week I was having breakfast with my wife, and she was reading the newspaper and asked me, “Did you know that Bob Weir is playing this weekend in Berkeley? Says tickets are $75.” I said I wasn’t aware and asked if she wanted to go with me, and she said yes, so I promptly went online and ordered two tickets to pick up at will call. Being a long-time Grateful Dead fan, it seemed appropriate that this would be my first post-pandemic concert. And I was particularly excited to go to the Greek Theatre. This is one of those legendary concert venues, so that just made the event all the more special.

When I ordered the tickets, I was notified about Covid restrictions. All concert attendees must present either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test. I had been procrastinating getting my official “Covid Passport” through the State of California, even though I am vaccinated. So I got that, and had a picture of my vaccine card on my phone, just in case.

Berkeley is a good hour’s drive for us, so we left early, since it was a general admission show, we had to deal with will call, and we wanted to grab some dinner before the concert. We got there and there were lines of Deadheads extending from both the north and south gates, two hours before show time. I wasn’t really worried, though. We went and got the tickets easily enough, then walked about a half a mile to a Mexican restaurant called Celia’s. The service was quick and the food was good. My wife and I both had combo fajitas.

After dinner, we went and got in line. Gates were open at this time, and entry was seamless. We did have to show our vaccine record, but that was easy and in no time, we were in the Greek. I have to say, just the stage itself was impressive.

The show started at just a few minutes past 7:00, and they opened with “Not Fade Away,” a Crickets’ cover which was a standard Dead song but I had never seen it played as an opener. The band sounded really good, and we particularly liked the horn and string ensemble that was supporting them.

About halfway through the first set, Bobby announced that a guest would be joining them for a song, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. For those of you who are not familiar, Ramblin’ Jack is an American country/folk icon. At 89, it is amazing that he was able to join the band on stage. They performed a cool version of “Mule Skinner Blues,” which I really enjoyed.

While the rest of the first set was solid, I have the say that the second set was amazing. It was like Bobby was playing to the fans, connected on a spiritual level, and each song seemed to have some poignant meaning. The lights were amazing, and we were on our feet dancing almost the entire show.

If I had to pick a high point, I would have to go with “Standing on the Moon.” I love that song, and they did it so beautifully, I felt truly moved.

The show concluded with “Ripple” as an encore, segueing into a reprise of “Not Fade Away,” bringing the musical experience full circle.

Again, I cannot emphasize enough how much I have missed going to live music performances. I’m glad they are back.

Here is the full setlist from the show. Stay safe, and rock on!

Set 1:

  • Not Fade Away >
  • Cassidy
  • She Says
  • Friend of the Devil
  • Black-Throated Wind
  • Tennessee Jed
  • Mule Skinner Blues (with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott)
  • Weather Report Suite >
  • Let It Grow

Set 2 :

  • You Win Again >
  • Scarlet Begonias >
  • Playing in the Band (with ‘So What’ by Miles Davis snippet) >
  • Uncle John’s Band >
  • Playing in the Band (reprise) >
  • Estimated Prophet >
  • The Other One (with ‘So What’ by Miles Davis snippet)
  • Standing on the Moon
  • One More Saturday Night

Encore:

  • Ripple >
  • Not Fade Away (reprise)

Brian Eno’s 77 Million Paintings: 10/28/2011

This ticket was for admission to an art installation by Brian Eno which was part of MoogFest in Asheville, NC. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Eno, he “is an English musician, record producer, visual artist, and theorist best known for his pioneering work in ambient music and contributions to rock, pop and electronica. A self-described “non-musician”, Eno has helped introduce unique conceptual approaches and recording techniques to contemporary music. He has been described as one of popular music’s most influential and innovative figures.” (Source: Wikipedia)

The concept of the art installation is a combination of visual images and ambient music generated through software to create a continually morphing experience. “The title is derived from the possible number of combinations of video and music which can be generated by the software, effectively ensuring that the same image/soundscape is never played twice.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Anyway, MoogFest was a weekend-long electronic music festival, and this year I was doing the full festival (more on that soon). I decided to check out the art installation, to get myself in the proper mental-state-of-being for three days of mind-expanding music. And this definitely did that. I spent a fair amount of time basking in the sights and sounds that can only be described as consciousness-altering. After that, I was primed and ready to indulge myself into the rest of the festival.

This is one of those things that needs to be experienced. Words fail to adequately convey what it was like. As such, here is a link to a 7-minute sliver of Eno’s multimedia masterpiece on YouTube. Check it out. Headphones recommended.

Vatican: 4/19/2011

OK, so this is not a concert ticket stub, but it is a ticket stub and a pretty cool one in my opinion. Back in 2011, my wife and I took a trip to Italy, which was amazing. Often, you have expectations of places that you visit and they don’t quite live up to them, but Italy does not fall into that category. It surpassed all my expectations.

Rome was the last stop on our trip, and we definitely wanted to see the Vatican, particularly the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Basilica. Because it was Easter week when we were there, the crowds were larger than usual. Someone who was a veteran traveler to Italy suggested that we pay for a guided tour, which allows you to skip the lines. I have to say, it was money well spent. The line literally stretched for miles, and our tour guide took us up to the entrance whisked us right in.

Now, we all know what the Sistine Chapel looks like. We’ve seen plenty of pictures. But I have to say that when you are standing there, looking up at this massive work of art, it is an experience that is totally transcendent. A picture cannot do it justice. The sheer scale of this masterpiece boggles the mind. I could have spent a week there, gazing up at the ceiling and losing myself in the images, symbols, and colors. It was a moment in my life that I will treasure.

After the Sistine Chapel, we went to Saint Peter’s, which was packed. It was almost impossible to move inside there, but we slowly made out way around, taking time to marvel at Michelangelo’s Pieta. But what I found the most fascinating in St. Peter’s were the mummified popes. Yes, throughout the basilica, glass caskets displayed the mummified remains of various popes. I personally find the whole concept of religious relics to be intriguing, the belief that the physical remains of a spiritually powerful individual can convey mystical power to those in its presence. I must confess, there did seem to be some tangible energy in the atmosphere.

After the tour, we wandered the streets of Rome until it was time for dinner, and indeed, food in Italy is worth the trip. After dining there, you’ll never set foot in an Olive Garden again.

Ciao!

Patti Smith: 3/9/2020

Patti Smith has been on my bucket list of musicians/bands that I want to see before I die for a long time, and has actually been at the top of that list ever since I saw Steve Winwood. So when I saw that Patti was playing at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, I was psyched, until I realized to my dismay that I had heard about it too late and tickets were long gone for both nights. I looked at the “verified resale” prices and balked at the fact that they were well over $200. As much as my wife and I both wanted to see her, we did not want to do so that badly. I opted to play the waiting game, checking back occasionally to see if anything appeared within the limit of what I was willing to spend. My patience paid off, and I managed to secure us some tickets a couple weeks before the show. Still paid more than the face value, but at least it was within our budget.

And then came the coronavirus.

The Bay Area was reporting a number of cases, and health officials were advising individuals to avoid crowds. Yes, a sold out concert constitutes a crowd. My wife and I discussed the risks, and decided to go for it. This might be our last chance to see Patti in concert, we spent the money, and chances are, we would not be going to any more concerts for a while. In fact, the word is that now Santa Clara County is banning all large events, so this would definitely be the last show for a while.

One bonus about the virus scare was that the roads were free of traffic. The drive to San Fran, which would usually be close to two hours during rush hour, was an easy one hour. Parking was a breeze. We actually found street parking on Fillmore Street a few blocks from the auditorium. We figured we would grab a cup of coffee before the show, and saw the familiar Starbucks sign as we got closer to the venue, but they were closed – at 7:00 pm! WTF? What kind of a caffeine pusher closes their doors at 7:00? Well, we just went to the Fillmore and got in line.

They guy behind us coughed, and my wife told him he needs to be covering his mouth. That’s why I love her! He assured us that he was getting over a cold and it was not corona. Fine, but we kept a safe distance anyway. Then the woman in front of us struck up a conversation. She was a big Patti Smith fan and had gone to see her the previous night. Hearing her rave reviews just made us more psyched.

When we entered the Fillmore, I was truly awestruck. This place was home to the music that I grew up on, that is integral to who I am. The walls were covered with vintage photos: The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who with Pete sending his guitar sailing into the air, Eric Clapton when he was with Cream, on and on. The building seemed to resonate with the energy of concerts passed. I felt like I had entered the rock and roll Garden of Eden.

We found a spot, not too crowded, and checked out the opening act, Oliver Ray. Interesting. Three guys, Oliver on acoustic guitar and vocals, one guy on electric guitar, and the third dude on pedal steel. They had a unique sound that was hypnotic, almost too hypnotic. If we were sitting, my eyes would likely have started rolling into my skull. When they finished, I noticed Patti Smith on the side of the stage, watching them. I thought, “Now that’s cool. Supporting your opening act.”

In the break between bands, the place got packed. My germaphobia kicked in, and I tried not to let anyone press or rub against me. Not really possible at a general admission open-floor concert. I resigned myself that I would just need to sterilize myself afterward.

At long last, Patti and her band took the stage. And she was AWESOME! You know, sometimes when you have high expectations for a band, it is not easy for them to live up to the expectations. Not the case here. She was every bit as great as I had hoped. She played a nicely diverse set, interspersed with a couple readings from her books and some fun banter with the crowd. Her voice was strong, and she had more energy at 73 than a lot of musicians half her age. She proved that she is still the Godmother of Punk.

High points of the show for me… hands down the peak was “Land” segueing into “Gloria” to close the set. I’m getting chills now just recalling it as I write. She did a haunting cover version of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” which was very poignant. And finally, “People Have the Power” as an encore left me feeling hopeful and empowered.

As we were exiting after the show, we got a nice bonus. The staff was handing out really cool concert posters (see pictures at end of this post). We will definitely have to get them framed.

Anyway, here is the full setlist, after which I’ve included a few pictures from the show. Rock on, and keep yourselves healthy in these strange times.

 

Setlist:

  • Ask the Angels
  • Privilege (Set Me Free)
  • Don’t Say Nothing > “Footnote to Howl”
  • Reading from “Year of the Monkey”
  • Dancing Barefoot
  • Maria
  • Nine
  • Because the Night
  • About a Boy
  • Citizen Ship
  • After the Gold Rush
  • Reading from “Just Kids”
  • Pissing in a River
  • Land
  • Gloria

Encore:

  • People Have the Power

MoogFest: 10/29/2010

This stub was from the first MoogFest held in Asheville, NC. I went with my wife and our older daughter, who was very excited that MGMT was performing. I was unfamiliar with MGMT, but my daughter gave me some of their music to listen to, and it was very cool. Anyway, we got tickets only for the first night of the three-day festival.

There were more bands playing than we had the opportunity to see, and of the ones we did see, some of them we only caught part of their sets, since the festival was taking place at multiple venues (Civic Center, Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, Orange Peel). Of the bands that performed on the Friday night, these are the ones we got to see:

  • DEVO
  • MGMT
  • Big Boi
  • Girl Talk
  • The Octopus Project

Couple things to note. One of members of DEVO had a death in the family and could not attend, so the remaining members performed with Octopus Project, which was cool. Big Boi we only caught a couple songs. MGMT was definitely the high point. We went up fairly close (they were playing in the Civic Center). It was general admission with an open floor, so lots of freaks dancing to the music. My daughter had a friend with her, and the two of them were psyched. It made my wife and me very happy to be there and to see them having so much fun. Live music is such a great bonding experience.

At the time, I was not a huge fan of electronic music and hip hop, but I really enjoyed the energy and the light shows were mind-boggling. I made a promise to myself that next year, I would go all three days. And I kept that promise to myself. I’ll try to dig up my stub from that show and post on it soon.

Dead & Company: 12/31/2019

Although I am a long-time Grateful Dead fan, and saw my first Dead show back in 1980, I was never fortunate enough to make the pilgrimage to the west coast to see the Grateful Dead do a New Year’s show. But now that I am here living in the Bay Area, I was not going to miss my chance to see Dead & Co. on New Year’s Eve.

When tickets went on sale, I logged onto everyone’s favorite Ticketmaster website and was put in a queue, and I waited… and waited. Finally I got in and nothing in my price range. But I was patient. Refresh… refresh… refresh. Finally, a single ticket appeared at face value for under $100, so I snatched it up. The rock and roll gods had smiled down upon me.

As NYE approached, I weighed the options on whether to take the train into San Francisco, or drive, which is less than an hour. I opted to drive, since I don’t indulge. I was unsure how late the concert would go and didn’t want to miss the last train, which was about 2:00 am.

On New Year’s Eve, my kids were in town for the holidays. Thankfully, my family was very understanding about my need to go to this show, and they were planning a chill evening at home. I headed off after an early dinner and drove into San Fran, getting there a few hours before the show.

As I pulled up to the Chase Center parking area, I asked how much parking was. The attendant told me $50. “$50?!” I replied, aghast. “No thanks.” I drove about a mile or so away from the venue to another lot, and that was also $50. I couldn’t believe it! I’ve paid half that much for concert tickets. I grudgingly turned around and went back to the lot right next to the Chase Center. If I was going to get hosed for parking, at least I wanted to be close.

After parking and finding a restroom, I made my way to the hippie vending area (nicknamed Shakedown Street). Lots of tie-dyes, stickers, and an abundance of illicit substances. While I generally don’t care what anyone chooses to do in regards to intoxicants, I confess that all the people selling nitrous oxide balloons and all the freaks huffing them pissed me off. I wanted to yell at them and say “Hey! You know that nitrous is one of the major global warming gasses, right? You selling nitrous to make a quick profit makes you just as bad as the oil execs pushing fossil fuels to make a buck.” But, I bit my tongue, purchased a “Making America Grateful Again” tee shirt, and got in line to enter the venue.

My seat was straight back, so I had a good view of the light show, and the sound was decent for an arena. The band took the stage right at 8:00 and launched into “In The Midnight Hour,” a great song to open a New Year’s show. They played two sets, and then took a somewhat longer break as the countdown to midnight began.

Shortly before midnight, the lights went down and the celebration began. A huge art deco clock was lowered behind the stage, and a biplane took off, circling the arena with some skeletons sitting on the wings. Then the dancers hit the stage, kicking up their heels in a “roaring 20’s” display that was very cool. As the sequined dancers kicked and shimmied, Father Time stepped out and began the countdown. “5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Happy New  Year!” Colored balloons cascaded down from the rafters as the band started playing “Sugar Magnolia.” Perfect! Everyone danced throughout the third set, and the band closed the night with “Touch of Grey” as the encore. Yeah, a new decade, and I will survive.

The drive home was uneventful. I had a bottle of cold brew coffee in the car, so I drank that and listened to the Stones’ “Exile on Main Street.” Good driving music for a late night drive home.

Anyway, here is the full setlist, along with some picture I took from the show. Rock on, and may 2020 bring you lots of live music!

Set 1:

  • In the Midnight Hour
  • Big Railroad Blues
  • Iko Iko
  • Mr. Charlie
  • Loser
  • Tennessee Jed
  • Sugaree
  • New Speedway Boogie

Set 2:

  • Help on the Way >
  • Slipknot! >
  • Franklin’s Tower
  • Estimated Prophet >
  • Eyes of the World >
  • Drums (with Zakir Hussain) >
  • Space (with Zakir Hussain) >
  • Milestones
  • Standing on the Moon
  • Not Fade Away

Set 3:

  • Sugar Magnolia >
  • Uncle John’s Band >
  • Scarlet Begonias >
  • Fire on the Mountain
  • Sunshine Daydream

Encore:

  • Touch of Grey

Hamilton: 11/29/2019

So I have finally found out what all the excitement is about, and went to see Hamilton.

My wife and daughter were watching the parade on Thanksgiving morning, when a commercial came on advertising Hamilton in San Francisco, saying tickets were still available. My wife went online, and sure enough, we were able to get three tickets for the following day (we were not going to miss our shot!). The ticket prices were very reasonable, $99.00 each, which is way less than what I hear others have paid for tickets to a performance. The only down side was that the seats were not together, but we were in the same general area of the mezzanine, so that was fine.

While I’m not a huge fan of Broadway musicals, I do enjoy them, and this was definitely one of the better musicals I have seen. The songs were great, the story was engaging, and the stage was very cool. While I personally would not consider it to be $400-a-ticket good, it was well worth the hundred bucks a ticket we paid.

Since I’m not a theater critic, I don’t have much else to share. It was a cool show and I’m glad I went.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra: 11/26/2019

This was the first concert I had attended in a while. The past few months have been challenging: relocation issues and the passing of a loved one just a couple of the major things. As such, hitting concerts was not a priority. But things are settling a bit, so my wife and I decided to go see Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the SAP Center (affectionately called the Shark Tank since it’s home to the San Jose Sharks hockey team). I’d never seen them before and heard they put on a killer stage show, so I figured it would be worth checking them out.

We had lower level seats, pretty much straight back. I figured this would be a good spot to appreciate the lasers and pyrotechnics (I was correct in my assumption). The show started almost on time, and there was no opening act, just TSO.

So the first half of the show was Christmas Eve and Other Stories, and was comprised of about 15 songs, very much in the Christmas spirit. I have to say, if I’m being honest, I found it a little too hokey for my tastes. It was like being strapped in a chair and made to watch Hallmark Holiday Programming for an hour straight (note that Hallmark Channel sponsored the tour). My wife said it felt like being in a mega-church. So while there were some cool parts, overall, I was not impressed with the first half.

Thankfully, they redeemed themselves in the second half.

The second half was chock full of classical hits (Grieg, Mozart, Beethoven, etc.) amped up with wailing guitars reminiscent of Judas Priest. And the light show was mind-blowing! There was even a massive Tesla coil shooting out flames and bolts of electricity that crackled in time to the musical pieces.

So on the whole, I liked the show. I would even consider seeing them again, but only if it was not around the holidays. I would love to see a performance that was all hard rock interpretations of classical music. That kind of stuff brings out the prog rock fan in me.

Here are some pictures I snapped from the show, along with the setlist. Hope your holidays rock!

 

Setlist:

  • Who I Am
  • An Angel Came Down
  • Come All Ye Faithful / O Holy Night
  • The Prince of Peace
  • First Snow
  • A Mad Russian’s Christmas
  • Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
  • Good King Joy
  • Ornament
  • Old City Bar
  • Promises to Keep
  • This Christmas Day
  • An Angel Returned
  • Epilogue
  • The Storm / The Mountain
  • Handful of Rain
  • Mozart/Figaro
  • Christmas Canon Rock
  • Wizards in Winter
  • Can You Hear Me Now
  • Beethoven
  • Believe
  • Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness)
  • Requiem (The Fifth)
  • Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (Reprise)