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A fragrant reward.

It’s 2:20 in the morning.  We all know I should be in bed. I arrived home about 45 minutes ago from the VAMPS concert at Best Buy Theater in NYC.  The theater reminded me of the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, but with longer lines and meaner security.(They took my water – fine, I had it b/c I was expecting to drink it while I was on line outside, I just never actually drank it. But they also took my Kind bars, which I was going to eat on the train ride home  – and which are not cheap, while we’re on the subject 😦 – ..and basically threw both into the street. I had not a moment to even say ‘but, that’s for the ride home…’ or anything about the giant mountain of food allergies I have, or the fact I carry a bar or two by necessity, as I occasionally get light-headed…’ No small glimmer of a second to say ‘please don’t throw that very expensive emergency ration that I plan to have AFTER I LEAVE YOUR ESTABLISHMENT away’. Thank you New York, for reminding me, again, that you are the unfriendliest place on Earth.)

Even in NYC, with food allergies, you can’t assume that at 12-1 am you’re going to be able to find a bite to eat AND catch your train in time, and I knew there was a fairly good chance I’d be racing for the last train. The schedule said I didn’t have to worry, but the last train has been cancelled on me before, so I decided to work on the assumption that the 1 am train was a hoax that didn’t really exist, which meant racing for the midnight train – that was going to be cutting it close, for sure, there was not going to be time to find another kind bar, or a bag of plain chips, when I had 12 blocks to walk in probably about 10 minutes.

Note to self: next time, stuff the bar into that little zipper pocket they never think to check. Honestly, my purse was such a tiny thing, I was hoping they wouldn’t even check it. All the NJ venues basically only check bags above a certain size. In any case, as a result,  I had not a crumb of food after 5 pm. With a weak digestive system, it’s a small miracle I don’t feel like utter crap right now – generally the only way to keep the tum in check is to give it a paltry serving of SOMETHING every 2-3 hours (I’ve been known to stretch it to 4, but much past that, and you really don’t want to be around me. I’m intolerable. lol.) I load up before concerts in hopes that that’ll be enough, but I also stash bars and hard candies. The candies, at least, they let me keep. I’m guessing because they probably looked like cough drops. lol.  Whatever the case, lesson learned. You will have NO chance of promising you won’t eat it inside at Best Buy Theater, so hide it better than I did. lol.

New York always over does the mood lighting. The interior was so dark walking in that I nearly needed a flashlight just to make it down the stairs toward the stage.  I had a similar issue at a sushi place when we went in for Amanda Palmer’s book tour – the place was so dark, we mutually agreed that it was not inappropriate to read the menu by smartphone flashlight.

In any case, would I go back to the theater? Sure, I guess. But it would have to be, like tonight, something special. Cost of tickets + train fare (just under $30 for me, on a weekend when I don’t also have to pay to park), and the $6 lost to a bottle of water and two kind bars that are in an NYC waste bin (at least give it to a hungry homeless person, or something, if I can’t have it. There are people starving three feet from where you’re standing, and you’re throwing food away.)  Point being: it’s a trek, and it’s a lot more than I normally spend to go to a concert, at venues I like better, so unless it’s someone I love and I know is unlikely to ever come to New Jersey, it’s really not worth it. This was a good $75 concert for me between my ticket and travel expenses alone, when most of my concerts break at $30-40 + random amount of $ spent buying band merch. (Hint: even with the merch, it’s rarely that much.)

Ahem, but you don’t care about my whining about food and expenses, right? You want to get into the interesting stuff, the music!

The opening act was From Ashes to New.  I only took two pictures, and they both ended up being duds, so I have none to share.  Did I like them? Meh?  Honestly, I’d have to really youtube them.  There’s something about live concerts where the first act is always barely audible. There’s a lesson in acoustics there, but I don’t know what it is.  I did find the band’s  set up interesting though.  Two vocalists – which is something you don’t see often, two guitarists (I think, to be fair, I know there was a person on the far left of the stage, and assume he must have been playing a guitar, because I could see the bassist).  There was a weird sort of chemistry there.  You always hear about bassists being virtually invisible.  When I think of my favorite bands, this is so often true (exception: power trios), where I can mentally picture every member…except the bassist. The bassist is usually just ‘some guy in a baseball cap’.  I’m being facetious, but really, what the hell is it about rock bassists and baseball caps?!  This bassist was really front and center, really rowdy, to the point I found myself forgetting the guitarist was even there.  It was a really different attitude to what I’ve noticed in past concerts. Not a judgement, but an observation.

Point in fact, this is actually the first concert I’ve been to since I started learning bass.  It really gave me a better feel for the bassist’s job than a book ever could, and it made me realize why I like my music LOUD; I think there’s a part of me that’s always trying to recreate that vibration you get deep in your chest at live shows, that is really impossible to achieve without the physical presence of the bass. Food for thought, in any case.

Next up, Like a Storm.  I saw these guys with Alter Bridge…fairly recently? I think it was this past fall that I first discovered them. I want to ballpark it around September-ish? Earlier? It was before winter, and I know I was comfortable enough in a hoodie while waiting on line. I forget the actual date.  In any case, they won me over at that show, and I’ve been a fan since.  They didn’t disappoint me tonight, either.

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Chris Brooks
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Matt Brooks

(I attempted to get a pic of Kent, too, but…far side of the stage. The one I did get was such a blur you can’t even tell it’s a human being, let alone a bassist.)

I realized tonight that LAS has basically taken the place of Sick Puppies for me, which is good, I suppose, since I’m very disenchanted after the split. My hopes are low for the future. Shimon Moore has been mentioning the process of forming a new band, writing new songs. But Emma and Mark have basically gone into radio silence.  I’m still following both ends of the split for now. If the music is good when it comes out, that’s really all that matters, but the thrill is gone.
Enter: Like a Storm. They really filled a void I didn’t quite realize i was missing. It’s a very warm, fuzzy sort of feeling that I can not properly describe with musical jargon.

Now, the headliners: VAMPS, hailing from Japan.  Now, I knew I was a fan. Heck, I knew I was excited enough to go into New York (I loathe the city.).  But, there’s a moment when you realize ‘shit, I’m a bigger fan than I realized’, and a split second later, ‘but clearly not as big a fan as that guy.  There’s always ‘that guy’.  In my life, there are a lot of ‘that guys’.  It’s funny, because I can get super excited on the inside, I can gush about them all over the internet, but when it comes to transferring that excitement to my features and my behavior? No dice. Clearly, my face is broken.  Because I was totally pumped!  But, that wasn’t enough to make me succumb to the (nonexistant) temptation to wave my hands in the air and do a lot of jumping. Honestly, that all looks exhausting! How am I supposed to stare in awe at the band if I’m too busy bouncing to get a good look?

And boy, VAMPS fans are BOUNCY. And hyper. And pushy. I thought New Found Glory fans were the most hyperactive bunch I was ever going to encounter. (I got hit in the head with a beer can; don’t worry, it was empty. And someone threw a bra on stage.)  Guys, I knew nothing. I was young, and naive. There were no beer cans or bras, but there was a totally different kind of group think/high energy tonight that I was not wholly prepared for, because  I’m in it for the music. I’ve always been like that; I respond to sound first. Everything else happens later. And I adore Hyde – because he’s insanely talented, and makes great music, and that music makes me adore him. But, fans of Japanese bands seem to be in it more for the people. They pick favorites, as if the band members are characters in some elaborate play in their heads.  I can help but think ‘is this how the pop music world is?’  Because, honestly, I wouldn’t know. And, that’s a real difference – someone who loves the music and therefore loves the people who make it, versus someone who loves the music because they love the people who make it. Read that last sentence again if you need to. Go ahead, I’ll wait. It’s a subtle difference, but a really important one.

Now, that sounds counterintuitive, because I said ‘I love Hyde’, not ‘I love VAMPS’ (actually, I love both), so let me throw out a bit of history here. My first discovery of Hyde was from his solo albums. I mean, I knew he was a famous Japanese person who made music, because occasionally there would be a L’Arc~en~Ciel song as the theme of an anime I was watching, so it’s not as if I was totally blank. But somehow, some way, I stumbled across the Rotengen Album.

I worked my way backward and forward from that. So I love VAMPS, and I also really like L’Arc~en~Ciel, but I wouldn’t have really discovered either, without first discovering Hyde’s Faith and Rotengen albums. So, basically he’s the nexus where all these awesome things come from and where they meet. See? So if I’m a bit of a fangirl (and I realize to my horror I kind of am, which I hate admitting to. I don’t think it ever sunk in that I was THIS MUCH of a fan until tonight. The VAMPS albums and solo albums are definitely in my top 10. L’Arc is in my top 15, but it’s not like I play them constantly. It’s not like I have them memorized word for word (seeing as I don’t actually know Japanese, it would be really hard to learn ALL of them. lol.), it’s because he’s the central point that expanded my world, first to his associated acts, and then to other similar acts, and it all sort of snowballed from this one weirdly perfect, out of the blue moment when I clicked some random thing in the youtube sidebar (a hobby of mine) and first heard Cape of Storms.

So, I say with utter disappointment that, thanks to the chaos, I did not get a single truly great picture of anyone in VAMPS.  I got a bunch of mostly blurry, mediocre to horrible pics, though.

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The no camera rule was clearly bullshit. They were everywhere, which made it virtually impossible for me to get any pictures, in spite of the fact that at this part of the night, tall afro-dude had moved off to the sidelines and everyone in front of me was either my size or shorter, so I SHOULD HAVE been able to see perfectly. Nope, not through the camera war. I swear the guy behind me used my shoulder at least twice as an arm rest.

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(there was a keyboard, too…yeah, no chance in hell I was getting that picture. lol. And geezus, that has to be the biggest drum kit I’ve ever seen.)

All in all, it was a really great show. One that’s going to stick with me for a while. At the end of the night, rose petals were thrown out at the audience, and I caught one! (yay!)  I kind of want to find some way of preserving it for posterity.  This particular combination of awesome (VAMPS + Like a Storm) is probably not something I’m going to get to see more than once.

Until Next Time, going to bed. Seriously. It’s almost 4 am and I’m still in jeans. How did I get distracted enough writing this that two hours disappeared? Did I fall asleep typing and not notice?  

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