Friday, June 10, 2011

Why the U.S. Cares About Yemen

Ever wonder why we here in the U.S. should care about Yemen?

You know, Yemen? Yeah, me too...never would have thought about the place until recently.

But here are three things to consider in order to get to the answer of why our country cares about Yemen and uses our military to intervene there...
  • First, think about how dependent on oil our economy is, and how much of that oil comes from the Middle East.
  • Second, think about how that oil gets from the middle east (by ship) and where it has to go to get to us.
  • Then third, look at this map...

That's right. Yemen sits there at the opening of the Red Sea...a major waterway up to the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean and onto the Atlantic. Or, going the other direction, it sits there right at the gap leading from the Red Sea into the Indian Ocean and Pacific. Either way you are shipping oil by ship, you're more than likely to need to go through that gap. Control that gap, you control the flow of oil shipping. You don't control that gap because of a rouge regime or anarchy? Well, could be problems gassing up you Escalade.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gig Report - Mona in Seattle

One of the new and upcoming bands I've been keeping and eye and ear on is a Nashville-based group called Mona.

They play what I'd call "rock and roll." What? You not familiar with that type of music?  Unfortunately, U.S. music fans and music labels have in large part turned their back on rock and roll these days in preference for hip-hop, dance music, country (or what passes for it these days), diva singers, pop songs and similar fluffy genres. So, that's pretty much all you see and hear on the radio, packaged up for you to buy on iTunes or (where they exist any more) featured in music stores. You have to go out of  your way to find good rock and roll. And indeed, bands like Mona have to go to the U.K. to get gigs, build up a reputation, make some money and get an album produced.

However, they took time out from trying to make it in the U.K. to play as the opening act for a short portion of a U.S. tour by a band called The Airborne Toxic Event. One of the stops was Seattle, so me and a buddy went to go check out Mona at the Showbox SoDo Wednesday evening. You know, a chance to see a new band up close. We weren't disappointed. (Below: Mona on stage in Seattle.)

 As the opening band for the night, their set was fairly short - about 40 minutes. However, the guitar-bass-and-drums driven songs were tight, compelling and - as good music does - makes you feel something, makes you believe. Singer Nick Brown's voice sounded just right...a combination of tuneful singing and guttural emotion. The rest of the band sounded tight and on their game. To my ear each song came across well, and you could see the band was enjoying playing to the crowd. You can see and hear some of Mona over at their Web site media page.
Beyond simply cranking out solid tunes with energy, a couple moments stuck out. As singer/guitarist Brown slowly started the chords of a song and the rest of the band held off, a female fan shouted out, "That's hot!" This cracked Brown up and he had to stop, laugh and say, "That's funny. Usually, it's usually some drunk guy yelling something." With that laughed again, then restarted the song and went on from there. Also, to sing the song Shooting The Moon, Brown ditched his guitar and walked the stage as he sang that intense song.
(Left: Nick Brown (l) and Vince Gard (r) of Mona on stage in Seattle.) 

You can check out a few more pictures I took at this gig over on my Flickr Photostream HERE and HERE.

The set list as I can reconstruct it here a day later was...
  • Trouble On The Way
  • A song that I do not know the name of
  • Teenager
  • Cloak And Dagger
  • Lean Into The Fall
  • Taboo Lights
  • Say You Will
  • Listen To Your Love
  • Shooting The Moon
  • Pavement
  •  Alibis
Mona have just put out their self-titled debut in the U.K. and I think it's due out in the U.S. later this year. Anyway, my verdict is that the band is pretty cool. They sound good live, I'm digging their album and will see what they do next. If you're looking for new American rock, check 'em out.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gig Report - Glasvegas Live In Seattle 2011

NOTE: Anyone finding this post seeking info on the Glasvegas show performed in Seattle on Feb. 28, 2014...check out my review of that gig HERE.

After more than two years, this past weekend Glasvegas returned to Seattle for a live gig. In the intervening 26 months, this band from Scotland toured itself around the world and nearly to extinction, took a break, replaced its drummer, moved to L.A., recorded a new album and now are back to touring.

See my review of the band's previous shows in Seattle HERE (April 2009) and HERE (January 2009).

On the same night that U2 played to a football stadium sized crowd across town, Glasvegas took the stage in the intimate setting of the storied Seattle club known back in the day as Moe's Mo' Rockin' Cafe'- and now known as Neumos (get it?) - to what I would call about a 2/3 full house. And this suited me just fine. I'd much rather be at a gig where I can be really close up to a good band for less than $20. And hey, as much as I like U2 - we saw their 360 Tour up in Vancouver back in 2009 - unless you're willing to literally pay thousands of dollars to get close to the stage, you might as well be watching it on TV or DVD.

Anyway, I've been anticipating this Glasvegas gig for a while. I really enjoyed their previous two outings in Seattle, and I've listened to their new disc plenty since it came out earlier this spring and appreciate some of the changes from their first record. Good stuff and the band is definitely one of my modern favorites.

You can read my review of Euphoric Heartbreak by clicking HERE. You can also see pictures of the June 2011 gig near in my set of rock pictures HERE on Flickr.

Before the show, our little group sat down for a bite to eat at nearby Oddfellows. Aside from a wonderful meal, we also met the drummer from Glasvegas, Jonna Lofgren, as she happened in to pick up a to-go order. We said hello, thanked her and Glasvegas for coming to Seattle and a engaged in a little other banter and then she was off. A nice person.
(Left: Glasvegas on stage in Seattle)

After a round of pre-gig drinks in the adjacent bar as the opening bands played their sets, our group headed into the venue to await the main event.

Stationed very close to the stage, we were in perfect position to see the band stroll out under the atmospheric tones of the opening song from their new album Euphoric Heartbreak called Pain Pain Never Again. The as-expected lineup consisted of singer and main man James Allan all in white attire and shades, guitarist Rab Allan in black, bassist Paul Donoghue in black and new drummer Lofgren at the back of the stage behind her stand up drum kit guessed it...all black. After a few words thanking the crowd for being there, the band burst into the song The World Is Yours for a high energy start to things. We were now officially rocking.

Glasvegas proceeded to run through an excellent set of songs from their new album and their debut - with Geraldine, Euphoria Take My Hand, Lots Sometimes and Shine Like Stars as highlights for me. The sound system seemed dialed in well to my ears. Lets put it this way, I had no problem hearing each instrument and Allan's voice. No one of them overpowered the other. And, at least for me, it wasn't too loud that my ears rang later. That's pretty good.

In terms of performance, the previous two times I've seen Glasvegas, while impressed, I felt there was just a little something missing...a little spark or extra dose of energy...that kept them from really blowing the crowd away. Sure, good shows, but...something. Not this time. Allan and gang were on their game big time. Lots of energy was coming off the stage as Allan enthusiastically belted out his songs, the guitarist and bassist moved around the stage and the drummer hit the skins hard while moving around behind the kit. This was Glasvegas in "full go" form. Also present this time around was a healthy set of talk to and with the crowd. I like a band that is confident enough and energetic enough to talk with the crowd, and there was no lack of interaction this night. So, between the excellent songs and the now equally impressive performance of them, this easily takes the cake as the best of the three shows I've seen this band perform. (At right: Rab Allan of Glasvegas)

Beyond the general performance, there were several stand out moments in my book:
  • One was when Allan said a few words about being in Seattle, referenced Nirvana and then began to sing Come As You Are before ultimately breaking into a scorching version of their own song Euphoria Take My Hand. You can see the Come As You Are section and lead into the next song on video by clicking HERE. (Not a video I took, someone else did.)
  • Another was following the encore when Allan admitted they had accidental skipped their song Go Square Go in the main set, joked around with his cousin and guitar player and then struck into the high energy song to make sure everyone got what they wanted. As always with this song, the coda or ending repeat phrase was shouted by the entire crowd. If you don't know what I'm talking about, well, check out the song.
  • When they came back out for the encore, the two Allan's took the stage first and did a stripped down version of their song about the sudden and tragic loss of a child called Flowers and Football Tops - featuring only keyboards and vocal. Video of that performance HERE.
  • At one point the guy standing next to me yelled out that he had left the U2 show across town to come see Glasvegas. Aside from the fact that this was practically impossible given the time it would take to get from that venue to the one we were in, as well as the fact that the guy saying this was in full Vancouver Canucks gear (giving away that he had really just been watching the Stanley Cup finals nearby)...the comment did inspire James Allan to talk a bit about U2 - all very complimentary and calling them all "very nice guys." To those who don't know, Glasvegas was an opening band for some of the European dates for the U2 360 tour last year and got to know them at that time. Anyway, somebody from the crowd must have asked if James or Rab were "good guys," because Rab, with a laugh, said something like, "oh, yeah, he's a good guy (pointing to James), but I'm just a dick." James agreed, again with a laugh.
  • James also informed the crowd that the woman selling the band's merch at the side of the stage was none other than "Geraldine" from their song by that same name. Pointing to the merch table, he said something along the lines of, "over there is Geraldine. When I was unemployed, she helped me get a job. You may recognize her in our next song." (Below: James Allan of Glasvegas)

At any rate, as mentioned, there was a lot of talk from the stage and I liked it. My recollection of the set list was as follows....
Pain Pain, Never Again
The World Is Yours
It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry
Shine Like Stars
Whatever Hurts You Through The Night
Lonesome Swan
Come As You Are...into Euphoria, Take My Hand
Ice Cream Van - caught on video HERE
Flowers And Football Tops
Go Square Go
S.A.D. Light
Lots Sometimes
Daddy's Gone

In the end, this was a top show for me. Here's hoping it isn't two years again before this band is back in Seattle. And for all of you who went to U2, I am sure you had a good time reliving past glories with 60,000 of your "closest friends." We did back in 2009 when we saw them. But, on this night, I am pleased to say our crew went to go see the present and future of really good rock and roll in the form of Glasvegas.

NOTE: Pictures displayed in this post were taken by Marc Osborn and not authorized for any use.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Weiner Is A Dick

It turns out that Rep. Anthony Weiner is, in fact, a dick.

Yep, he today - after a week of denying it (lying) - he admitted that, yes, indeed he did send that now infamouse picture of his crotch via Twitter. Story HERE.

And for that, he has confirmed his status as a first class dick.

D-Day Anniversary - How To Learn Some More

Today is the 67th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy France on June 6, 1944.

The landings were conducted by the Allies - the U.S., the U.K., France, Poland, Netherlands and others fighting the Germans in World War II.

Here are three ways to learn more about this major, major turning point in the history of the world...

  • The Longest Day - a massive film from the 1960s featuring a whole constellation of stars, this movie definitely is a "Hollywood" production. However, it's well acted and communicates the broad sweep of the events of D-Day through the various vignettes that skip between overall strategy, individual personal stories, from the German perspective, from the British and American perspective and more.
  • Saving Private Ryan - starring Tom Hanks, this modern film tells the story of one mission that took place during the events of D-Day. Through the telling of the story of one little group of soldier's mission to find one man among the armies fighting in Normandy, you get a sense of what happened at the D-Day landings and after.
  • D-Day by Steven Ambrose. While the focus here is virtually only on the U.S. participation in D-Day, it is a first class telling of the history from both the high level and personal level. Very readable.
  • There are loads of photos online about the D-Day landings, both vintage from the time of the invasion as well as newer ones taken many years later. So, check them out to see what things looked like (or look like now) where the battles were fought. One suggestion is a set of pictures I took on a visit to the D-Day beaches and other battle sites in 1994. You can see those by clicking HERE.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Glasvegas - First Pictures In

More pictures and a review of the Glasvegas gig in Seattle June 4 on the way, but in the meantime here are a couple and a link to more...

Pictures taken by Marc Osborn and not permitted for any use without prior written permission.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Alternative to U2 this Saturday in Seattle

Interested in going to a good concert this Saturday night?

Can't get a ticket to the U2 show that evening?

Prefer shows where  you can see the band up close and personal?

Don't want to spend hundreds of dollars for a ticket that still puts you in the nose bleed seats and reliant on a huge monitor to see what's happening on stage?

I've got the gig for you...

Glasvegas on Saturday, June 4 at Neumos in Seattle's Capital Hill neighborhood. That's where the cool kids will be.

$20 tickets
Small venue
Hot band (even have some similarities to U2)

Come check it out.