Smaug

Goddess and I just got back from the movie theater, where we saw a 3D showing of “The Hobbit“.

It’s the first movie that we’ve watched in a theater in a couple of years.  And our first 3D movie ever.

Well, not counting the TV replay of that horrific (not horrifying) “Jaws 3D” that came out in 1983.

And the 45 minutes of commercials, with just a small number of movie previews, reminded us why we don’t go often.  Nothing like turning an almost 3-hour movie into a 4-hour slog.

But the movie was good.  As were the 3D effects.

We were thankful for the intermission, plus the opportunity to buy beer at the concession stand.

Smaug

A Flash…

…from the past.

And a flash from a different angle.

Tonight we had an impromptu evening with the neighbors.

A great time.

It also meant that I sat in a chair that I rarely sit in, other than to get kitted up for my bicycle commute in the morning.

But I rarely look around at that hour.

So tonight I was sitting there, enjoying the company and looking at the photos on the wall.

Here’s one from just over seven years ago.

Gion, Kyoto, Japan.

Hands down, still one of our favorite cities in the world.  Especially in autumn.

A place that Goddess and I have seriously discussed moving to and settling until our last days.

It touches us that much.

So this pic, 14×20″, matted to 20×26″ and framed, hanging on the wall, holds a special place in our heart.

She’s a real maiko, in training to be a geisha.  Headed out for an evening of entertaining.

We stood across the street from her home, a training center for aspiring geisha.

We stalked like paparazzi.

As soon as this young lady emerged from the doorway, dozens of flashes popped as she strode stoically to the waiting cab.

I lucked into the right angle, with just enough flash to not overpower the overpowered flash of someone to my left.

Perfect timing.

And likely for the person to my left, an overexposed image.

Paparazzi

A geisha fan forum did some research soon after I posted this photo on the web and there was much debate on the identity of this specific maiko.

It was all very interesting, but not as interesting as the culture and hope that her presence portrays.

Bellagio Waterfront

The afternoon before and across the lake from yesterday’s post.

Bellagio, Italy, located at the tip of a peninsula jutting into Lago Como, holding a point to separate two large legs of the lake.

It is a beautiful little place.

Even in decidedly unfriendlier weather.

Bellagio Waterfront
Bellagio Waterfront

We could stay there.

Although we were glad that it is the off-season.  The vast majority of the shops were closed, as the owners were on their own vacation after a long summer of what has to be a crazy, crazy season.

And the thoughts of that are enough to keep us away.

Even with the supposedly tantalizing thought that George Clooney is like George Washington here, but instead of sleeping at each establishment, apparently Clooney drinks coffee at each one, based on the pics on the walls.

Odd.

Pirate Napoleon

One of the neighborhood kids that stopped by for some Halloween treats.

We all agreed that despite his pirate costume, he more closely resembled Napoleon.

Napoleon Pirate

Handheld, 50/1.8, 1/250@f4, ISO 25,600

And I remember being wowed by the capabilities of a roll of ISO 3200 film some 23 years ago.  It could not hold a candle to this.

From Classical to Fist-Pumping

After last weekend’s trip to Glasgow, Scotland to enjoy two nights of classical music with Phillip Glass (and others), we took one day to catch our breath (although I went into work to catch up a bit), then it was off for more music.

This time it was Rock am Ring, a classic in its own right, this being the 27th edition.

A full-on three day festival, requiring camping on site.

Now that we’re back, I am glad to be home.  We loved the experience, although if we never see 85,000 people in such a small place again, we are fine with that.

Held at Nürburgring in Western Germany, with a sister concert at Nuremberg held the same weekend, both venues pull in approximately 150,000 fans.  That’s a lot of people.  It’s so popular that both venues sell out quickly and they end up showing a good part of the concerts on TV (see below).

BTW, if you click on the Nüburgring link above, it will open to the satellite view of the ring, which happens to show the concert setup, without the people.  Although it would be amazing to see it with the people.  But if you click on that link, you’ll see all of the campsites set up around the ring, scattered amongst the rolling hills, as well as all the way around the race track.  Go ahead, zoom in.  You’ll see the individual tents.  Although this must have been early in the week (they open camping three days before the start of the concert).  The field that we were staying in doesn’t even have cars or tents.

Yet.

So Goddess and I got there mid-day Friday, which was later than the Thursday evening we had planned.  It worked out better that way, since a long series of storms had swept the area Thursday night – it was nicer to sleep in our own bed.  But once we got the campsite set up, we headed straight in.  With 83 bands playing over the next three days, we needed to cover a lot of ground.  There was no way we’d see them all, but Friday turned out to be the hardest, since several bands that we wanted to see were overlapping play times between the three stages.

Here are the daily lineups:

Quite a lot of awesomeness in there.  Plus a smorgasbord of music that we had never heard before.  And we’re willing to give everyone a chance.

Friday started the trend of us getting to the ring around 3pm only to return to the campsite at 3am.  That made for long days.

Saturday was a bit of a lull for us, not being familiar with many of the bands.  But it was OK, since we spent a lot of time walking from stage to stage and sampling the goods.  But each walk took longer than we expected, since it was the busiest day, with all 85,000 of the ticket buyers there.  That’s just too many people for us, so it did put a damper on the day.  By 1:30am, we were more than ready to leave, even though there were still acts that we wanted to see, if only for a few minutes.

Sunday was a bit more relaxed, since we woke to ~12C (55F) and pouring rain, which probably thinned the crowds.  Plus, I suspect many had to head back home to be at work or school the next day.  And this is where Goddess is most amazing.  We were standing in line, waiting for the shuttle bus, getting soaked by the cold rain.  She gave me a few “you’ve got to be kidding me” looks, but never complained.  And I know that by the end of the evening, she was glad that she didn’t call off the evening, which she could have done.

With only a small bit of protest.

There were a lot of great moments during the three days, but here are a handful (video clips [ripped from the satellite feeds] linked where available):

Cypress Hill – watching the crowd react to this band was great.  We just had to make sure we stood upwind from the crowd.

Soundgarden – being right up front, just a few meters from the stage, watching Chris Cornell do his thing.

Tenacious D – what a hilarious (and musically gifted) band.

Metallica – they always put on a good show.  This was my seventh time seeing them in the past 25 years.  They never disappoint.  And since 2011 was the 20th anniversary of the release of their “Black Album“, they played the entire album in its entirety.  Thankfully not in order.

Dick Brave and the Backbeats – nothing like bopping to this rockabilly crew.  We need to see them again.

Dropkick Murphys – my first time seeing one of my favorites.  The weather made it better.  Between bouts of rain, DK thrashed the crowd while the steadily lowering clouds eventually obscured the Nürburg Castle, on a hilltop just to the left of the main stage.  Very atmospheric.

The Offspring – a fun band.  Too bad the crowd we were in the middle of didn’t think so.  They wouldn’t even sing along to “Why Don’t You Get a Job“!  Seriously, did someone spike the Warsteiner with downers?  Well, it was Warsteiner…

Die Toten Hosen – literally, “The Dead Trousers”.  Figuratively, “The Dead Beats”.  Arguably one of the best German rock bands out there.  Period.  Forget the one or two that make it big overseas (I won’t name names, since the big ones quit making good music 20 years ago).  While Metallica does a good job of working a crowd of this size into a frenzy, Die Toten Hosen does a GREAT job.  Nothing like seeing 60,000 (like the first time we saw them) or 85,000 fans getting into each and every song.

Plus, many more.

But the best moments were the people.  Out of 85,000 people, you’re going to get characters.  And the crowd did not disappoint with some very creative costumes and shenanigans.  Goddess and I just laughed and laughed and laughed the first two days.  On Sunday, the rain kept everyone covered up, although it did not dampen the shenanigans.

What’s it like to be in a crowd of 85,000?  Not comfortable for us.  Goddess being just 5’4″, she’s not a fan of crowds.  Honestly, neither am I.  So when the two of us are in crowds, I get very protective of her, which doesn’t turn out well for anyone who acts aggressively towards her, whether it be purposefully or through sheer stupidity (drunken or not).  Because of that, we have an understanding – we try to stay where we don’t get in those situations.  So for most of the big acts, we stood near the back.

If you watched any of the video links above, there would be camera angles from the top of the stage looking outward towards the back of the crowd.   You’ll see that there’s a long building to stage left (looking towards the crowd).  We often stood near the back, where we could still see the screens and be situated between four sets of amp stacks.  But that also meant that the stage was a bit distant.  Distant as in right at 1/4 mile (400 meters) away.

Distant.

And that 1/4 mile between us and the stage was 150-200 meters wide, full of people.

Oh, the humanity!

And because of that humanity, Goddess has now set a limit.  No more concerts with crowds over 60,000.

Regardless of the lineup, I think I’m OK with that.

Glass in Glasgow

Goddess and I just got back from a wonderful eight days in the United Kingdom.

A lot to catch up on here in the house, so I don’t have much time to update.  But I wanted to share the impetus for the trip.

A few months ago, Goddess was doing her internet perusing (dreaming), looking at travel destinations and/or concerts.  As you probably know, we’re big fans of traveling to new places.  And if we can sync up a concert with those travels, all the better.

So Goddess scored.

By finding a concert in a place we haven’t been.

Two nights in Glasgow, Scotland to see Philip Glass perform live.

The rest of the trip (to be covered later) was to be built around that.

Friday night was a double treat – Philip Glass performing with Kronos Quartet, another favorite of mine.  They performed Philip’s soundtrack to the Bela Lugosi‘s performance as Count Dracula.

Here’s a quick of Philip talking about the evolution of the project (along with a view of the performers and stage setup):

And it was Goddess’ first time ever seeing the movie, so that made it fun.

And just in case you haven’t seen it:

The second night was originally billed to be just Philip solo on piano, which is always incredible.  But just a couple of weeks ago, we found that the evening had been modified to include Tim Fain, an accomplished American violinist.

As it turned out, it was this exact same show, which was fine, because it’s so much better in person, especially with seats just 30 feet away.

http://www.metmuseum.org/metmedia/video/concerts/glass-chamber-works-with-philip-glass-and-tim-fain

That now makes three times that we’ve seen Philip Glass perform live.  I hope for many more, since I’ve been a huge fan of his for thirty years now.  The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall was quite nice, but I don’t think it was a match, both visually and acoustically, for the Schermerhorn in Nashville.

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Image ©Thomas Clay

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a better resolution image of the inside of the Glasgow hall.  It certainly wasn’t lacking for quality.  I just preferred the Schermerhorn.

And if you look on the left side of Glasgow hall, you can see the forward corner of the loge level, just next to the front row.  That’s the corner that Goddess and I sat in for the showing of Dracula.  So we had front row seats.  For the second night, we picked the opposite corner, but just a few seats to the left, so we were even with the second/third row.

And those tickets were an unbelievable £25 (about $38 US) each!  And neither performance was sold out, which was a shame.

All in all, the music and the experiences were amazing.