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Slash 5/1/15 @ Starland Ballroom. My camera got a much better view than I did.

Well, last night was the Slash concert at the Starland Ballroom. I’m not going to post ALL the pictures here, because the post would never load. 🙂  But, the entire album can be found on the facebook page (here), for your perusal.

A few points of contention before I get rolling:

Things have changed a bit since the last time I was at the Starland (a few months ago, I believe for the Alter Bridge show). Now, you get a pat down coming in. Ok, whatever, it’s a safety thing, no big deal. Even teeny bags holding nothing but sunglasses and mentos get checked (again, whatever. Different from what I’m used to at NJ venues, but not dissing it.)

When you order a bottle of water, they now pour it off into a plastic cup. Uhhh….wtf kind of harm to myself or others do you people think I pose with a plastic bottle? So me and my plastic cup of water went toward the stage, and I figured out before the show even started that I was just going to have to down my cup quickly and hope my bladder would hold for the next 5 hours, or I was going to be wearing more of that $3 water than drinking it.

One for lists of ‘shit that always happens to me’. Somehow, by will of the gods or bad concert karma (maybe I was douchebag at concerts in past life? lol.) I always somehow end up smashed between the following three concert stereotypes:

1) The extremely cuddly couple: they don’t bother me much, except, if you happen to be next to, or behind, them, the male party seems completely physical incapable of not moving his big dumb head every 15 seconds, usually partially eclipsing my view if I have the misfortune of being slightly behind him.

2) The bubbly perfume cloud.  You know the one – that lady who wants the band to smell her from the stage, even if she’s nowhere near it, and as a result makes everyone around her gag at the sheer amount of perfume she bathed in. On top of that, she’s almost always a perpetual hair flipper, and is usually also ‘elbow girl’ – you know, that girl who lifts her arms and almost smashes her elbow into your face EVERY TIME. Yeah, her. Hon, you’re excited; I get it, but if you could maybe tone it down just enough to try not to aim for my head, that would be GREAT.

3) The ten foot tall metalhead. (Why the ten foot tall guy is always a metalhead, I have no idea, but he’s nearly always wearing a Pantera or Metallica t-shirt.)  And somehow, I never start out behind him, but always end up behind him. I watch the flow of the crowd, manage to find a view that isn’t completely eclipsed, and then…he steps exactly into that view, and blots out everything except is long, unkempt hair, which it looks like he hasn’t brushed since 1985, and unruly bald spot. Every. Time.  Inch the other way with the flow so maybe I can see past his other shoulder. That lasts about 1 minute, and then he steps THAT way.  Why does this guy always end up directly in front of me at EVERY concert?! No fair.

4) The Poser Douchebag.  Do I have to describe this guy? You know The Guy. The one who hangs out in back for the opening act, then shoves himself in your face to try to get on top of the stage the moment the main act comes on, paying no heed to any casualties in his wake. The guy who claims every single thing the superstar does is ‘world altering’. The guy who lights up a cigarette in an indoor venue (which is not even fucking legal in the State of New Jersey, btw.). The guy who styled his hair EXACTLY like Slash’s. The guy who ALSO has zero concern at who he takes out with his fucking elbows, tries to get half of the audience to come see HIS band, and only succeeds in unwittingly labeling himself a complete dickweed not worth the oxygen he’s consuming.  …and who crashes his elbow down on the top of your head at least 3 times when everyone is giving him PLENTY OF DAMN ROOM BECAUSE NO ONE WANTS TO BE NEAR HIS SMELLY ASS.  Ahem, was that a little too bitchy? 🙂

They’re stereotypes, so do understand there’s a degree of humor to my ranting, but these four types always end up being the four people surrounding me, in my 5’4 of apparent invisibility. So, was only able to catch glimpses of the stage for about 45% of the concert, and when I say glimpses, my phone was WAY above my head to take these photos.  There were parts of the show where I found myself watching Recording Girl’s(stereotype 5: the girl who puts her cell phone on record and holds it up for nearly the entire show. lol) smartphone because it was the only view of the stage I had at all.

So in summary of my bitching – Starland Ballroom apparently thinks water bottles are dangerous, but cigarettes indoors are just fine. There was not one smoker; there was a whole posse of them. I refuse to believe this went unnoticed.  My reactive airways close up faster than a door slams in the face of a door-to-door salesman around cigarettes. So when I say that was a joy, I mean it with the most sarcastic tone of voice you can possibly conceive in your head.  It was a packed venue. It’s not as if I could have escaped (and sacrificed my “stellar” view) even if I wanted to.  Lots of people have legitimate health issues brought on by cigarette smoke. It’s fucking rude.

Ahem, okay, bitching out of the way, let’s move on to the actual show:

The openers were Unlocking the Truth, a tiny tot metal band from Brooklyn. Lol. I say that lovingly, these kids had to be, what? 14 at most? And certainly know their way around their instruments. (That said, I don’t see myself buying the album.)  It just got me thinking about how many people see prodigy things like this and feel like their wasting their lives. I see the opposite. It seems almost tragic to blossom before puberty has even really set in.  Really hope these kids have a solid support system, or things can go really, really wrong for them by the time they hit 20.  Maybe I’m jaded, but I think we all know child stars who grow into well-rounded functional adults are a bit like sightings of Bigfoot.  I did pick up guitar for the first time when I was 14, but there’s a part of me that’s glad I didn’t actually learn anything then; I wasn’t ready. And, I know I wasn’t ready then, because I didn’t learn anything. See how that works? If I was ready, I would have learned. I wasn’t, so I didn’t. I’m a late bloomer, and I have been blooming lately, and that’s as it should be.  But, I do hope these kids manage to beat the system and not end up like the celebrities I think we can all name.  But, jaded grown-up brain says there is definitely clear and present danger ahead if they don’t have some pretty solid role models.

Now, this was a weird show, because I’ve never been to one that only had two acts. Usually, it’s 3. I think it probably should have been three, because they took FOREVER to get the ball rolling. Doors at 7 usually means the show starts at 8-8:15 when it’s running behind. This show didn’t start until after 8:30. There was a LOT of standing around going ‘wtf is taking so long?!’ Unlocking the Truth had about a 30 minute set.

Then, Slash w/Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. There is really nothing bad you can say about this lineup. Slash and Myles are both superstars, and they’ve pulled together a fantastic band.  I positioned myself on the side of the stage where I thought I would be able to see the bassist. Since I’m learning, there’s real value in being able to get an up close look at technique and hand positioning, but I really couldn’t see much of anything. I did notice though, that Todd Kerns was playing pick style. That’s normal in punk, but this isn’t punk, so it made me wonder if he was a guitarist turned bassist. You know I had to look that up when I got home. Sure enough, in Sin City Sinners he’s guitar/vocals. (He did sing a few songs in the set, Doctor Alibi off the first Slash album, and a Guns n’Roses cover (I forgot which one, wtf, memory?!).

I’ve been paying attention to that lately, of the bands I listen to most often, how many of them are pick style players, how many finger style? The answer, it seems, is that there are more pick-style players in my day to day playlist.  I like finger style – it’s looser and more fluid, there’s less potential for unnecessary tension when you’re not holding something in your hand, but I also know, to play all of the genres I love, I’m going to have to start practicing both ways. Pick vs no pick is a different sound, and in spite of angry elitists that bash all pick style players, all the time (I lurk on bass forums. I don’t know enough to add anything, really.), I think that both styles exist for a reason, and can harmoniously coexist, if we stop listening to angry people.  I mean, frankly, if I want to play Green Day, Alkaline Trio, probably the Ramones, and all the old school punk bands, etc…that CAN be done fingerstyle, if you’re advanced enough to pull it off, but these songs are definitely more accessible pick style. On the other hand, if I want to play the blues (have I even mentioned on this blog that I also really dig the blues?) then playing finger style is the more obvious choice.  So, I know I need to get over my pick aversion and start dividing up my practice time. I think I’ll need to choose pick days and non pick days, and decide which things to work on based on which day it is. Given that my favorite genres use both, if I want to play both, then I have to learn both. There may be ways around that when you’re a more advanced player, but there’s no way around it when you’re still a beginner. Learn everything you can. There will be time to trim out unnecessary things once I’ve learned enough to determine which things are which.  There’s really no room for being stubborn as a student.

Still, back on topic, I do wonder (idle curiosity) what percentage of bassists started as guitarists.  You read things like this all the time, about a guitarist who became a bassist because whatever group they were working with didn’t need another guitarist, or who started with guitar, but didn’t take to it and switched to bass. (Ah, the stereotype that all bassists are failed guitarists. lol. It may be true that I’m doing alright with bass and piss poor with guitar, but I’m also playing the guitar the least. And, I’m certainly not about to suggest that all bassists are failed guitar players. I would actually suggest the ones that are didn’t take to guitar because the instrument didn’t speak to them the way the bass does. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t play guitar if they wanted to, just that they don’t necessarily feel as compelled toward that instrument.)

I dunno, maybe I’m wrong.  The job of guitar and bass in a band are very different, and I think the one you take to first appeals to the player’s basic personality. It’s not as simple as ‘this is easy’ or ‘this is hard’.  I feel like that saying that ‘all bassists are just failed guitarists’ (this can ONLY have come from the mind of a guitarist. lol.) is a bit like saying ‘all cellists are just failed violinists’.  No one would EVER  suggest that.  It’s pure nonsense. But, since the bass has a similar shape to the guitar, it seems it gets a lot of grief and is really misunderstood. And, since a significant percentage of famous bassists also play guitar, that just lends to those misunderstandings. Food for thought, in any case.

As an aside, that only a geek would understand, is it just me, or does Slash’s drummer, Brent Fitz, kind of look like Severus Snape? lol. (totally unrelated to music, I know, but it was my first thought when I saw him, so I felt compelled to share. He’s a badass, either way.  I was not tall enough or fast enough to get a good picture of him, but I think in the album you can see a tolerable shot of him behind Myles in one of the photos.

I was also going to talk about about the ukulele in this post, but it’s become a long ramble already, so I’ll write about my progress on the ukulele later, in a separate post.

Until Next time, Rockin’ the four strings. Going light on the six.

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