Monday, May 18, 2015

Cryptopsy with Disgorge, Erimha, Soreption, The Convalescence, and Parasitic Extirpation [Ralph's, Worcester, 5/14/2015]

Having gotten turned back at the door for Saxon the night before, I was wary about going all the way out to Worcester for another ticketed event, but this bill was so fucking good that I couldn't, in good conscience, pass it up just out of pessimism.  I headed out as early as I figured I could swing, and ended up at Ralph's about half an hour before official doors, where I blagged my way in for a modest premium on top of the advance price; nothing ventured, nothing gained, indeed.

Inside, this was set up along the back wall:

I could feel my wallet sublimating just standing there.  With a large (indeed, larger then expected) number of touring bands, all of whom were at max merch selection (this was the first date of the tour), the impulse to get just damn everything needed a lot of active restraint to scale back to what my finances could survive.  Same as ever.

Fortunately, in a world of ever-escalating beer prices, at Ralph's, Yosh will still twist you open a Gansett bottle for two-fifty, also same as ever.  Non-band-preempting drink in hand, I tried to stay out of the way for a bit as Blue shuffled Parasitic's merch from one side of the front to the other, out of the way of both the touring bands and the audience, before the band went on, earlier than expected because the tour had expanded.

Parasitic Extirpation [6/7]
I hadn't seen Parasitic since last year, which is not so bad considering that it's gotten to be multiple years between seeing good local bands lately.  That was before Putrid Crown actually came out; on this gig, they basically read the record straight down, but closed covering "Maze of Torment" as well as the Carcass tune that's on the disc.  I've seen better sets from them, but this was a pretty damn good one to be sure, despite the short and early slot, and laid down a marker for the touring portion of the bill.

Opening barrage.

Blue ripping on a sponsored axe; the guitarists in this band are some of the most particular and knowledgable gear heads in New England, so it was a little weird to see them wielding identical 7-strings, at least until you crack open the current EP and see that they're officially endorsing the maker.

The Convalescence [5/7]
This band satisfied the minimal standards of technical competence and execution to go on a national tour.  Unfortunately for them on this gig, that national tour was not this national tour, where thoroughly interior death metal dudes are coming out to see Disgorge and Soreption and check whether Cryptopsy's gotten over the brainfart from the middle of the last decade and started being awesome again.  Behemoth-lite black-death changed up with brutal hardcore, this Toledo outfit was about the dead-worst fit for this tour imaginable -- and I saw Seax opening for Engorged and Sapremia in this building a couple years ago, so I have plenty of imagination for weird fits.  The music was not bad as such, but the reaction -- yellow-shirted one-man moshpit aside -- was extremely tepid and got slacker the longer they continued going with their set.  Metalfest was three weeks ago and like half a mile away; doing deathcore in corpsepaint in smaller spaces in New England is seldom going to get a positive reaction.

The Convalescence, before the paint came off; Ralph's is kind of hot normally, and standing on light-up boxes on top of that probably did not help them melting over the course of the set.

To a certain extent, I felt bad about not buying any of their stuff, since they do have to get to their next stop and nobody else here was going to buy anything off them.  However, no bands tour because they have to; The Convalescence thought this tour was a good idea when they took it, and a couple dates of not getting paid because there is next to zero audience overlap between them and the headliners is a powerful inducement to check how good ideas actually are in the future.  Also, they were selling branded hotsauce from their merch desk, and fuck that, seriously.

Soreption setting up.

Soreption [6.5/7]
I had not seen or heard Soreption before; all I had going in were vague intimations of awesomeness, and the nagging suspicion that I knew Frederik from somewhere.  I still haven't been able to place the second bit (probably a merch desk or infield bar somewhere in Europe, the dude is pretty distinctive-looking and Party.San gets in everyone from everywhere), but the first was blown up and completely burned down.  Absurdly locked-in and run through with exactly the kind of early-'90s jazz influences that I moan about not hearing around any more, this was an excellent performance of excellent music, barely marred at all -- and at that, mostly by a complete mic drop-out for almost an entire song that was really out of the band's control.  This gig ran the full range of brutal death metal varieties from Disgorge's direct if constrained slams to this ceaseless technicality, but those who would be smashing dudes in half in two more sets were equally as dialed in and thrashing out for Soreption.  Excellent band, excellent set; it hurts to get old and not learn about bands like this for a while, but when you do end up getting into them, that wasted time starts to matter less.

Ripping up the crowd.

Erimha [5.5/7]
This showed that the little things still matter, and that fitting exactly into a predefined range on a tour is neither necessary nor sufficient for getting a good reaction.  Despite looking like third-wave crust hoboes, and following on a bill where The Convalescence had gotten golf-clapped for everything short of announcing that they were going to stop, Erimha delivered a solid outing of melodic but not completely trend black metal to a decently good reaction from the crowd.  There's definitely some room for improvement here, both in execution and in the diversification and development of their sound, but there are decent foundations here -- and enough Dissection twinges floating in from the edges of the Dimmu Borgir to give the hope that that promise is going to be delivered on.

Erimha jamming themselves to acceptance.

On full hobo power, but probably still not going to get any shine from brooklynvegan.

Disgorge [6.5/7]
Due to a problem with the DIs for what looked like was probably the drum triggers, Disgorge got a later than expected start; because of this, and because this tour was trying to pack six bands into what was initially booked as a five-band slotting, they got cut off a little earlier than they expected to.  That was not real cool, but the whole time that they were actually, like, playing was another thing entirely.  Because I don't go out to shows that much any more, I can't accurately comment on how violent the pit was relative to the normal run of death metal shows here, but it was pretty damn violent among those that I can remember, at least; without gimmicks, but with so many slams being dished out that no gimmicks were necessary.  Abstractly, I'd've liked to get the full-length, full-content set that Disgorge prepared for this tour and were planning to play here, but the Disgorge that we did get was pretty fucking good, and they were able to squeeze one song's worth of encore in before the need to set up for Cryptopsy cut them off for real.

Angel roars for violence.

In this break I picked up my Disgorge merch and let Mark bark me into the new Composted record, which is finally out and goddamn hilarious.  Hopefully, I'll see them out here with Deceased before heading off to the east, but from the last year, I've learned how futile it is to commit to going to shows in advance.

No peeking while Cryptopsy sets up.

Cryptopsy [6/7]
Things had been pretty full all the way through, but with the headliners finally up, it got ridiculous, and I shifted way, way, the hell to the back.  I was unsure what to expect, but Flo has done most of a(nother) complete bandectomy relative to the wack 2008 incident that -- in fairness combined with Kataklysm's contemporaneous if less egregious sellout -- soured a lot of people on Cryptopsy, and the resulting lineup both held up the older material to nearly classic standard and made a strong argument for a return to form with the new stuff.  The ...Suffering material is not going to catch Whisper Supremacy or None So Vile in the public imagination, but it's still pretty good, cool for us here at this gig to get, effectively, its public premiere, and definitely a hell of a lot better than anyone was expecting from new Cryptopsy seven years ago.

Matt gets the crowd going, or at least the front of the crowd.

With a full work day coming, I nabbed the most recent record Cryptopsy had available on their merch desk as soon as the band finished, then beat feet the hell out down to the Pike.  Coming back wasn't too bad, and as can be seen, I got this turned around relatively quickly thanks to a relatively quiet on-call stand.  There are shows on the calendar in the near future, but this is a tight time of year for me, and I've got another on-call in another two weeks that's probably going to block out Aborted, which is going to suck.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Kamelot with Dragonforce [Worcester Palladium, 5/1/2015]

Through a nefarious combination of work/on-call, study commitment, and slowly but surely turning into this dude, I had not really been to a show in a while, though not quite as long as it looks on here -- I was at Onslaught in November and Dark Tranquillity back in January, but both of those got boxed out as a result of delays around a writeup of Argentina/Uruguay that ended up not getting posted because I didn't do anything especially adventurous in the week I was there.  I do go to shows now and again, or at least try to, and I'm not completely retired yet; this show though, in all honesty, does have kind of a refamiliarization-tutorial feel about it.

After slinging my work stuff in the trunk and heading straight out on the Pike, I got in (modulo the usual weekend traffic) right about doors, to boggle at a line-up that ran all the way down the block and around the club the next street over from the Centrum.  These are kind of mass bands, and this gig was booked into the much larger downstairs, and on a Friday at that, but despite this it's still weird to come in from the outside (or up from the underground, whichever), and see how popular this kind of music remains.  Yes, there were a lot of kids there, but the Palladium doesn't do concessions pricing; someone, at least, put up thirty bucks a head, minimum, to get them through the door.

Popular as it was, though, this wasn't a sellout, and I was easily able to buy in at the window and get through security with a minimum of hassle as the line of prepaids inched along the far side of the building.  Once inside, I nabbed a beer with ease and went down a couple levels to wait out the lack of local openers.  I can see the argument that most of the audience would not have been interested, and cynically must note that this tour was popular enough to reliably meet guarantees and other operating costs without resorting to p2p bullshit, but $30 and go up on day-of is a pretty big ticket, and there was easily enough latency for a single 30-minute set without disturbing either set times or prep times for the touring bands.

Dragonforce [6.5/7]
They acknowledged, midway through the set, that this building was the site of their first US gig (Metalfest 2006), and while it's certainly possible (and, indeed, wicked easy) to look at how little they've changed since then, it's also valid to acknowledge what has changed.  Though the crowd here skewed younger, there were fewer prop weapons than you'd get on an average "pagan metal" gig these days, and also the persistent sense that these are all metal fans -- yes, young, green, and power-metal-liking metal fans, but metal fans nonetheless.  The emos and posers who were into Dragonforce ironically ten years ago are no longer into Dragonforce ironically, and they're no longer prominent enough to profit from current waves of unserious pisstakers: against all indications from their early days, Dragonforce has become a for-serious actual metal band, playing metal for metal fans.  Yes, it is frequently silly metal, and they're obviously having fun with it and not afraid to take the piss out of themselves, but it's done with professionalism and at a high execution level.  There's not a whole lot of difference between Dragonforce on record in 2000 and in 2014, but Dragonforce playing live in 2015 is a hell of a lot more able to actually execute that material live than they were in, say, 2005, with a vocalist who can hit all his marks live and roadies who can keep Sam's guitars in tune for more than a song at a time.  This was a fun set from a talented bunch of guys, and if you had to laugh at a couple points, at least you weren't wincing.

In the break I put down for the new record and some gear for overseas use, then got my order misheard at the bar and ended up with a much better Gansett at a negligible premium:

The basic pisslager from this brewery is pricing in at six bucks for a pint can here now, which is verging on outright robbery when they have the seasonals/collabs in stock for six-and-six-bits in the same size.  Probably the best kept secret in New England beer is "Narragansett specials are actually worth the money you pay for them"; normal Gansett lager remains a perfectly functional Saufenbier, but at this long since the brewery revived and started putting out excellent limited variations, you've got to suspect that people are deliberately not informing others about it in order to hog more for themselves.

Kamelot [6/7]
I've seen this band a couple times in the past, but never been terribly impressed or convinced; this was a better performance and a bigger set than any of those, but it still doesn't really turn the corner for me.  I feel this way about Dream Theater and to a sightly lesser extent Symphony X as well; self-consciously progressive bands in this vein for whatever reason just don't hit the right notes, despite my well-documented insatiable appetite for any kind of brain-bent noise that comes with a blastbeat and gurgling vocals.  This was a well-done and enjoyable, high-production values performance; those who came for Kamelot definitely got their money's worth, and those who were still in the building because hell, they paid already, why not got another set of proggy power metal that truthfully didn't lose a whole lot to the openers in the process of staying completely serious all the way through.

After a single encore, the lights went up on schedule (sure, it's a weekend night, but that doesn't change the audience's transportation-access options any...), and with a modest push I was able to get back home shortly after midnight.  Work and other stuff will make the next six weeks a little complicated, but I should be able to skim the time for Saxon, if not Cryptopsy as well, before I have to go back on call again.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Crowbar with Revocation, Havok, Fit For An Autopsy, Armed for the Apocalypse and My Missing Half [Worcester Palladium, 9/16/2014]

Somehow, the rolling disaster ongoing at work over the past two weeks mostly resolved itself, or at least the part I was working on, in time to head out early to Worcester for this one.  Despite a lot of blandishments about lane closures, I managed to get out in decent order and get in shortly after nominal doors to an empty venue; this would be a lot easier if they'd foregone the local opener for a bill that was already five bands deep, but the subtleties of venue operation are not within the areas of my expertise.  This didn't matter, of course, to normal people who were going to skip the local openers anyway, but I continue to show up early by nature, and I might as well give new bands a fair shake while I'm there.

My Missing Half [4/7]
"Fair shakes", though, must coexist with "high standards", given that there is a lot of good local music in this area, and by those standards, this set shook out to about replacement level.  It wasn't really bad per se, and they had problems with the mix like basically every band would on the night, from nearly everywhere on the floor, but the overwhelming indication is that this band is already at their ceiling, and that ceiling is "passionately mediocre".  There's definitely an audience for rehashed NWOSDM with reheated aspirational post-rock breaks, but the supply of that music is still at saturation levels, and these guys are not close to being or developing into a best-of-breed at it.  This was indicated by the sparse crowd's lukewarm reaction to them, not just my old-guy grumping, but this is, perversely, probably a good thing: if you take a bath on tickets, as one suspects this band did, you will do it exactly once when you figure out the "exposure" con, and refocus on improving to the point where promoters pay you to play shows, rather than the other way around.

My Missing Half in a room half-full.

In this break, you can jam out to Thin Lizzy's "Waiting For An Alibi" while waiting for A4A to start, because this is a thing that happened at the gig as well.

Armed For Apocalypse [5.5/7]
From the band's name, initial press, and merch designs, I was more than a little skeptical about what we were going to get from them.  Fortunately, this surface stuff was all predictable side effects of coming out of Cali; the guitarist's Reproacher shirt was a much better contraindication.  Of all the openers, they were probably the most consistent with the headliners, laying out a gravelling fusion of doom and grind that didn't get nearly the floor response that it ought've.  Blame the first couple pit ninjas for scaring people, blame the thrash-revival kids here for Havok for not getting into anything without a polka beat, blame yourself and your old beat-up knees for not getting stuck in and doing something about it yourself.  Many of the people who would be especially into this music are not likely to have been at a Palladium show on a Tuesday, though; hopefully these guys will come back, in a smaller room closer to the coast (whether Boston or Providence) and give that audience a shot as well.

Armed For Apocalypse, committed to crushing.

In this break I picked up another beer, and also the A4A record; it's not quite as good as their live stuff, but it's smaller than and not as noisomely-designed as their shirts, and a good pick to support a good band for a good set.

Fit For An Autopsy [5/7]
They've changed singers for a more Crowbar-consistent model (not just more massive, dude also has a huge black fleur-de-lis on the inside of his arm) since the last time I saw them in this building, but this is about all that's changed: FFAA remains in their groove of grooving brootal slam khed death metal, and almost quite as Jersey as it is possible to be.  This remains good, moshable, slamming music, entirely within itself and not pretending or aspiring to anything different.  I tend to like more challenging death metal, especially in its more brutal forms, but there's nothing wrong with half an hour of this stuff to get the pit swirling.

Fit For An Autopsy pump up the slams.

Running low on cash, I decided to get the last bit of my merch done before I completely drank up the rest of my wallet, and headed up to nab a Revocation shirt and what turned out to be a preorder card for Deathless: the actual album isn't out for another month, but for the low price of $10 and a burner email address to throw in Metal Blade's marketing DB, you can get it shipped straight to your door.  This is a kind of leveled-up version of what Hessian (and probably others) were DIYing since a while back, and it's still cool in the corporate form, with the main part of the album art fitting pretty well into the oblong form factor.

This in turn led to the stupid gonfallon moment of the night, as the Havok guys happened to strike this immortal intro while checking/tuning up, and exactly on cue, Phil (out for "2 tours" with a busted arm), Revocation's merch guy, and I all simultaneously yelled "THERE GOES THA NEIGHBAHOOOD!" to the surprise and confusion of the younger fans ahead of me in line, most of whom probably had not had an obsessive steeping in the many varieties of '90s thrash.  A gonfallon is not really a real association, but social signifiers are still social signifiers: in this case, that older metalheads are fucking weird.  BODY BODY COUNT BODY MOTHAFUCKIN COUNT.

Havok [5.5/7]
Though the audience trolled them a little less than the last time I saw them up here, Havok's output was mostly the same: high-quality but still pretty predictable thrash revival that colors within the lines drawn for them by the Big 4.  Good music remains good, and they got probably the second strongest floor response, but the 'revival' aspect of the music is the most problematic part of thrash revival: too many bands restrict themselves too rigorously, and end up doing something barely distinguishable from Nuclear Assault cosplay, playing originals barely separable from covers.  Havok is one of the better band still operating in this style, and this was a good set, but they still haven't broken completely free of the revival tropes.

Havok get the room thrashing.

If the kids in Lich King shirts continue to dig them, though, there's no reason why Havok should have to change to suit the whims of some old kuttentraeger.  And it's not like the personally more interesting, more developed, more diverse thrash of the 1990s was going to go unrepresented here, vice...

Daveocation [5.5/7]
Ok, that is not fair.  In real terms, Brent and Dan are full members of the band, and for real this was 3/4 of Revocation, 1/4 emergency patch for yet another bite from the injury bug, and a good, solid set of mostly-new material (we got two or three off Deathless, the material selection being driven partly by the coming release, partly because the live drummer can't be expected to know "Chainsaw Sacrifice Ritual" because people who saw these guys in VFWs a decade ago are yelling for it) that nearly won the battle with the mixing board.  Revocation have done better sets, and will do better with this lineup on other dates; it's just that weight of memory that has old campaigners looking at this and seeing Dave Davidson doing Joe Satriani.  This is now, though, not then, and this is Revocation as they actually are -- and surprise, the band is still a top-class death-thrash metal outfit that remains inspired by the stuff we were getting from the likes of Demolition Hammer and Coroner at the turn of the 1990s, but not so thoroughly attached to revivalism as to limit themselves off from other influences.  We don't get as much live Revocation around Boston as we used to, but more surely than the other touring bands, they'll be back sooner rather than later, and still turning out cool, brutal, continually-evolving music.

Revocation melting faces off.

Crowbar [6/7]
While they weren't actually, per their hype earlier in the night, the heaviest band ever (and not just due to reductions in average member mass, though this is also a good thing for people interested in another 25 years of Crowbar), there was no need for them to be, boiling and churning out a thick set of absolutely hypnotizing sludge metal to an almost fully packed room.  I've not, historically, been really into Crowbar, but this was an excellent set even for me, and of course much more for the more committed fans, even if crowdsurfers were occasionally washing over them even down at the back end of the bar.  With 25 years of history to get through, the band kept it pretty tight, clicking on for a good hour or so and keeping the latency between the end of that set and the start of the obligatory encore to a minimum.  Quality, front to back.

Kirk and Matt, bringing the pain.

When the lights went on for real, I beat feet and managed to get back home in pretty good order, despite more than a few lane closures on various highways; that's a Tuesday for you.  Unfortunately, work turned into a full-on shitshow for the rest of the week, which is why this is so late.  Next gig, if I don't end up going out to see Prong, probably isn't until the middle of next month, and that's dependent on an on-call schedule that isn't set in stone yet.  If it's not one thing, it's another.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hexis with Plebeian Grandstand [Spotlight, Beverly, 8/16/2014]

Despite the strain and liver commitments of the fitba season kickoff, I managed to get out of the bar and sobered up in time to drive on back up to my old home town for what promised to be a fairly odd show.  With what appeared to be plenty of time, I stowed my car in one of the many practically-free lots ($0.25/hour, not enforced after 5 pm) between Cabot and Rantoul Streets, then hiked over to get some good, fairly-cheap Indian food at Anmol before going the last block up to the bar.  This was only a little after five, the initially-declared doors, but the bands had been pushed earlier (to avoid conflicts with the Black Light Body Paint Experience party kicking off at 7) and I missed Reproacher and the very start of Plebeian Grandstand coming inside.

Plebeian Grandstand [5/7]
What I did see of Plebeian, though, was a strong vindication of the decision to come up for the gig.  There's a lot of different ways you can do third-wave black metal, but the way that they do it is unadorned, direct, and kvlt, picking up a lot more from Leviathan and Striborg than the likes of Alcest.  They had some electronics out of a sample box, and more than a few hardcore touches around the grimy edges of their sound, but this is a legit black metal band, and a pretty good one at that.

Plebeian Grandstand raging under Christmas lights.

In the break I got a Shiner, talked with some old friends, including on the topic "it is so damn weird to see touring bands in this bar", and did a first-run merch grab that included making sure I got something out of Reproacher, at least, before settling back for Hexis.

Hexis [5/7]
Direct, intense, and violent, Hexis pounded out a straight-ahead set of relentless blackened hardcore that turned the flip side of what Plebeian Grandstand were doing.  This was necessarily a little less diverse, but still excellent in quality, and in a region that's produced Morne and Trap Them, it's kind of a shame that they weren't able to get in front of a larger audience at the likes of Anchors Up or the Democracy Center.  Those who were there, though, got a kickass set, and one that still got out with the sun up.

After nabbing one CD and a pin -- they were sold out of the other they brought across, so I'll probably have to dig it up on bandcamp or something -- I headed out to meet up with my youngest brother and find something else to do, it still being damn early.  This, hopefully, will become less irregular in the future: the somewhat over-the-top local boosterism in the intro aside, Spotlight (which used to be the Overtime the last time I saw metal bands there) is not a bad place for a show, and Beverly is not a bad town to see gigs in.  While the room setup is weird and they don't clear enough tables out to get to a decent capacity, the Spotlight is about as big as Roggie's (off the list, probably, due to legal problems) or O'Brien's pre-renovation and definitely viable for DIY touring or local shows in that capacity.  As regards transit, Beverly has better rail access than any other town on the northern 128 belt (the Depot gets every train on both the Newburyport and Rockport lines) and better highway access than any other town on the commuter rail (62 drops you right in downtown, and there are all those practically-free lots).  It's not better than Anchors Up or Sammy's Patio -- both larger rooms with a larger built-in local audience -- but depending on your access method it may be easier to get to, and it's realistically better than the likes of Champions or random metal-detected nightclubs in Saugus as far as second-tier venues between Boston and the NH border go.  Spotlight is making a decent fist of it as a music venue mostly on the back of cover bands and college-town dynamics (there is an art school downtown, and a preppy SLAC for academically-disadvantaged children of financially-gifted parents out on the fringes), but it's not impossible that they might get decent shows on a semi-regular basis going forward.

Friday, August 15, 2014

King Parrot with Abolishment of Flesh and Parasitic Extirpation [Ralph's, Worcester, 8/14/2014]

The lack of coordination between "appealing Metal Thursday shows" and "weeks I'm not on call" over the last year has left me still not 100 percent sure of how to Ralph's from my current apartment, so for this one I got a little later of a start out than I'd've liked to, but it was clean sailing until the point where MassDOT decided for whatever reason to effectively close the Pike westbound.  This added a little delay, but it was only like a mile and a half from the last neckdown to the 290 exit, and I got up to Ralph's about in normal time.  It turned out, though, that this was actually with ample time to spare, because Beyond Creation hadn't gotten down from Canada yet, and this show was going to go on with only three bands.  There was still some time before Parasitic went on, so I finished my beer, and tried, at least for the time being, to refrain from BUY ALL OF THE DEATH METAL!  This would mostly end up happening anyway, but I already have far too many shirts, and need to be better about not buying stuff that's going to immediately head for the discard pile.

Jim goes all-digital on kicks.  Since bass drums are among the more cumbersome things a band has to lug around, it makes sense to go smaller (since there's really nothing you're going to be able to do about guitar/bass cabs, the other big offenders), and in a slammy technical context like this where you're going to be using a lot of triggers anyway, it makes even more sense to skip the head damage and just play the trigger out into the PA when you hit it.

Parasitic Extirpation [6.5/7]
On this avalanching sample, Parasitic is completely back -- and likely has been there for a while, given that I haven't seen this band since goddamn forever, shortly after they swapped out 3/5 members.  The pretaste we got of their coming EP (slated for sometime this fall) shows the band taking another determined step forward, but the Casketless material filling the bulk of the set was similarly delivered, continuing to pile technicality on relentless technicality, and tuned up and arranged to hit even harder than it does on record.  All in all, an excellent set from an excellent band, and hopefully more to come.

Parasitic ripping it up.

With only three bands and a not-super-delayed start, the set changes were quick, aided by partial backlining between Abolishment and King Parrot, and so soon enough the music was going again.

Abolishment of Flesh [6/7]
I hadn't seen this band before, but had been kind of peripherally aware of them, cobilled on western fests/shows with bands from this region that I follow more closely.  This was an impressive New England debut; pounding, fairly technical death metal with fewer slams than might be anticipated in these days of Devourment/Insidious Decrepancy-style TXDM, and more of the brutal melodics and riff structures that you'd get from the likes of Immolation or older Hypocrisy.  There wasn't as much floor motion as they'd probably have liked, without the familiarity factor of Parasitic or the total insanity that King Parrot would release, but this was still a good, strong set, and it still got a good, strong reception from the audience.

Abolishment as they kick it off.

A little clearer, as Ramon's standing still for the moment to do some vocals.

Reid and some two-handed tapping; between him and Damon, there was a lot of good technical four-string bassplaying going on over the first two bands, which, for bass nerds in the audience, may almost have made up for the lack of Forest Lapointe.

In the second and last break, I got a last beer -- Gansetts are not exactly trippels, and King Parrot was going to play a long set -- and did nearly all of my merch, which ended up less than desired as Parasitic had run out of "Icon of Torment" shirts in sizes larger than Medium, and while I'm not quite as large as I've been in the recent past, getting down to a Medium is probably not going to happen, like, ever.  Still, I secured a patch, the King Parrot full-length, and NEARLY ALL OF THE DEATH METAL that Abolishment had along; a good haul that did not leave me completely broke even as it armored up my pockets for the pit to come.

Youngy stares off at the first row as King Parrot sets up.

King Parrot [7/7]
There is high intensity, and then there is King Parrot level.  You expect (or ought to) after Blood Duster and The Berzeker (alums of both of whom have been in this band at various points), that Australian grindcore is going to be completely rammed to 11 all the time, but such expectations aren't always delivered, nor delivered to the level that has several members of Demoralizer simultaneously crowdsurfing in a sub-100-capacity venue.  This set delivered not only mile-a-minute devastation and high-quality sleaze weirdness, but also the first wall of death I've participated in at Ralph's and probably the most stagediving this venue has ever seen for a single show since, um, it is a bar and not a regular host to youthcrew shows that will have a lot of stagediving in a room this small.  It was hell of fun, and nobody got a hospitalization-level injury from a close encounter with one of the steel support poles, making this an unambiguous success.  The touring part of this bill is hooking up with Origin (and, hopefully, Beyond Creation) for a run of a couple weeks that may turn out better, generally, than this gig, but this was a fucking amazing set to tie off a class night any way you slice it.

King Parrot set this shit off.

After the lights went on and King Parrot started breaking down their shit, I went back and grabbed one of their shirts -- if you think there's a better catchphrase than "I'm not here to fuck spiders, mate", guess what, you're wrong -- and then headed out, an easy ride with minimal construction that got me home in time to get rested enough that I could bust this out without delay.  The weekend is going to be mostly fitba, with the Prem kickoff consuming most of the mornings, but there's also a bizarre-ass matinee black metal show in my home town that I'd like to get up to: bands from France, Denmark, and Wyoming in a bar that my high school friends' cover bands play like three nights a week.  We'll see if I can get up for that -- and if it ends up happening, and if it is not absolutely the weirdest thing to occur in said building.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer Slaughter 2014 - Dying Fetus with The Faceless, Thy Art Is Murder, Goatwhore, Origin, Decrepit Birth, Within the Ruins, Fallujah, Boreworm and Reborn Divided [Worcester Palladium, 8/9/2014]

Since for once I wasn't on call for a major tour, I bit down on the high door price and the large number of bands I wasn't particularly interested in and headed out for this one; it's no Party.San, and missing Benediction was probably the biggest price I paid for the China thing, but there were still a lot of quality bands on this bill, and it's not like there was much else going on.  Despite the usual midday tie-up on the pike, I got over about half an hour after doors, got in and through, and did some merch and got a beer while waiting for the bands to start.

Reborn Divided [3.5/7]
I could have waited a little longer.  These guys opened up the downstairs with a preschool-level set of My First Deathcore, about five songs with two compositional ideas at one (pointlessly slow) tempo.  This is not the worst band I've seen in this room, and the score improved a little when the drummer showed in the last song that yes, he was capable of playing a blastbeat, but it was pretty fucking bad -- like "a bad version of ten-year-old Acacia Strain B-sides" bad.  I tried for most of their set to find something else redeeming, or that would indicate that there was some potential for improvement, but...just...nothing.  No key changes.  No tempo changes outside of a couple ten-second blast sections.  No special technical competence from the instrumentalists, and no particularly appealing breakdowns: you don't need to do either or both, especially in deathcore, but if you can't solo, you better have some good breakdowns, and vice versa.  Nothing.  Whether due to excessive self-satisfaction or simple lack of ability, this band is probably at their ceiling and can be safely disregarded until such time as they can find professionals to say nice things about them.

Feeling fairly confirmed about what kind of things can be expected to happen when I go to larger tours, I went back, grabbed another beer, and got down in time for the next band up.  I could probably have tried harder to see the upstairs as well, but there wasn't, like, a fairly obvious running order posted anywhere -- one sheet with times on it taped in a forest of posters next to each of the staircases from the lobby to the downstairs, that's it -- and I wasn't really looking out for any of the local openers.  The good ones, I'll see at some point on a local show; the less good ones, I won't waste time and the chance of missing Decrepit Birth on.

Boreworm [5/7]
The other Battle-for-Summer-Slaughter winner on the bill (Reborn Divided placed between first and third at the first round of regionals in Trenton back in February, which is a hell of a thing to have to put in your press kit, and an additional reminder that the "wisdom of crowds" depends pretty heavily on the composition of those crowds), Boreworm won the final to go from southeast Michigan to the whole national tour, and to their credit held their end up with a pretty good set of brutal death metal flavored with post-metal bits.  Though the next time they come around, they're more likely to be at Ralph's, they commanded the large stage well and gave the audience a good time; you can ask more from openers, but not realistically expect much more.

Fallujah [6/7]
I had low to no expectations of this band, based on mostly national press and the fact that most of the bands who play Summer Slaughter, I tend not to like too much.  They completely blew those expectations away with a solid, crushing set of quality brutal death metal leavened with space-influenced tech breaks; more Obscura than Decrepit Birth, but Decrepit Birth was kind of already playing this show also, and Obscura wasn't -- and in any case, more quality death metal never goes amiss.  If you're also an old crank who tends to give new bands a miss for no real reason, this tour -- loaded with old known-good bands -- is an excellent opportunity to remind yourself that newer music does not necessarily suck, and that some of this stuff is pretty damn good.

Afterwards, I tried to buy their new record off the merch stand, but rather than pay for vinyl to get snapped in half during the coming Decrepit Birth/Origin rail stand, I ended up with the old one, which I didn't have yet either.  Retail is still a thing occasionally, right?  I can just go to a store and get physical music, right?  Maybe not; only about three bands had records on their merch tables, a clear sign that digital delivery is dominating physical music generally and CD format in particular straight out of existence.  Whether bought on Itunes or boosted on bittorrent, the assumption is that the audience here is pulling the music out of the ether, and lugging physical copes around is wasted van space that can't be used for shirts, which people are going to buy.

Within the FlamesRuins [5/7]
As an old North Shore head, it is good to see that Gothenchusetts is still a thing.  It is less good to see that it is this silly of a thing, loaded with decade-old tropes and rounded out with electro shadings that make it seem like this band should be opening the Crossfaith tour in a couple months, but I'm not really the audience for this band.  People who are still in the age bracket that I was in when Life In Vain was the greatest thing to ever happen to a VFW will find these guys less silly, less cheesy, and a whole lot more fun to get in the pit for, which is kind of the point of this music.  This is not old-dude-in-armored-jacket music, but it is an enjoyable way to pass the time between heavier bands.

A last beer, and I hit the front; Decrepit Birth into Origin was kind of mostly why I came out for this, and if I can't do two sets' worth of rail stand, I should really stop going to shows altogether.

Decrepit Birth setting up.

Decrepit Birth [6.5/7]
You can pick points with this set.  The only one that matters is that it was on a super-package tour, and thus had to stop at some point.  When Decrepit Birth is on like this, there is not ever really enough Decrepit Birth, only varying degrees of "not enough"; this was "not enough", true, but it was a good, long deep toke of "not enough", technical, melodic, floor-churning, brutal, and mind-expanding in the way that the best death metal is.  With the short set time as a constraint, the band kept the pedal down all the way through, and the results were pretty fucking impressive, holding the entire hall rapt straight on to the end.  Excellent.

Bill roaring away; the clouds of smoky haze are exactly what you think they are.  There were technically some other pictures, but they came out even less than these did.

Origin [7/7]
As they've been in the past, Origin set off an explosion of brutal, hyperblasting death metal that made no compromises and barely stopped over the full runtime.  With the larger stage and larger floor, there was also enough room for Jason to bust out a couple of the old Skinless Stupid Mosh Tricks; they needed more time for actual music, so there was no Tsunami or Zombie Wall, but Jason remains the one guy who can plausibly get people to do a silent Wall of Death, and Origin one of the few bands where this is a better idea than trying to go on the music.  As expected, the floor was a sea of violence for most of the set, contested only by the even less inhibited violence coming out of the PA.  Surgical precision, devastating results: death metal does not really get much better.

At this point I was done for a while -- until Dying Fetus and the decision whether or not to stick for Morbid Angel -- so I got some food and moved back a ways to see the next couple bands.

Goatwhore [5/7]
Exactly as expected, Goatwhore continues to be as they have been since they succeeded Krisiun as the default opening band on every show: attempting, with intermediate success, to follow up "...Black Sun Cult".  They played this song second, but might as well have played it in every other slot as well, since it is quite literally all they have, a conclusion that grows more and more obvious with every passing year.  It's a good song.  Copying it on every other song has gotten them to be an acceptable 1349 ersatz.  But there's still nothing in this set to indicate this band is ever going to do anything different, or ever get any better than "good enough".

I got another beer, and since the lower hall was getting fuller, changed sides before the next band.

Thy Art Is Murder [5.5/7]
For a poing-by-numbers deathcore band, these guys were all right, and kept a pretty good sense of humor through the set.  Their music's well-executed, but not really memorable, the point of it being mostly to have something going on audially so dudes can jump up and down in time.  There are better bands from Australia, but not many that are both better and so perfectly pitched to this tour's expected audience.

One last beer -- it was becoming clearer that I probably wasn't going to stick around for Morbid Angel, and I needed to dry out a little -- and it was back down, getting a decent place that I could also keep for Dying Fetus.

The Faceless [5.5/7]
This was a pretty good outing from a band that I habitually ignore; good, but not disruptively so to the degree that I'd actually develop an interest.  Their take on death metal is well-worked and usually interesting, but a lot of their more melodic or prog parts are a lot better in conception than in execution -- especially the ones that call for clean vocals from the guitarist, who either is really not capable of doing them at all, or needs to invest in a working in-ear monitor ASAP, rather than soldier on with one that's obviously broken.  They're still a good time overall, though, and still continuing to develop and do different things while keeping a good baseline of brutality, so I'm going to continue to make sure to see them when they're inevitably on another festival/tour that I'm going to see other bands at.

Dying Fetus [6.5/7]
This is probably not the best set I've seen from Dying Fetus; that honor will probably end up going to the gig a couple years back with Carcass, but it was pretty damn close.  Ceaselessly explosive and exactly on point for a good, full, set that could easily have gone on like half an hour longer without any complaints, they pounded the crowd into small pieces and kept on hitting.  For those who, like me, were going to end up bailing rather than sticking around to see how much Illuderp material Morbid Angel was going to try to get away with, this was an excellent headlining set from an excellent band.  For those who were going to stick around and hope that the headliners were going to pretend that the twenty years since Domination didn't actually happen, this was a hell of a mark for them to come up to.

After Dying Fetus, as alluded to, I headed up and out, accompanied by more people than I was really expecting.  I don't think it's the wheels coming off for Morbid Angel, not really, but this was a pretty good tour from about 1600 to 2100, dudes were exhausted, the kids who came for the metalcore had a curfew, the diehards all saw Morbid in Boston back in November under better circumstances, and their last album is a steaming turd.  I've seen enough Morbid Angel festival sets, and don't really need more, until such time as they get their shit together and put out something new and non-horrible.  Missing them in November sucked, but they weren't going to play that set on this date anyway.

Owing to the relatively early start (seriously, it was like 10, on a Saturday night in the summer -- the hell, Palladium), I got back in good order, did not get too soused watching the Community Shield on Sunday, and turned this thing around in decent time.  Next up should be King Parrot and some death metal bands in Worcester; the surprise that they're back from Australia is overshadowed by the relief that they're appearing with appropriate touring partners, rather than whatever nominally-metal bands their tour agency could scrounge up.

It was because of this show that I didn't go out to RPM Fest; there were several bands on that bill that I was interested to see, and the festival experience is always a good thing to support.  From the latest iterations in the thread of ceaseless screaming drama, it looks like the fest went ok: neither such a failure that the trolls could claim victory, nor such a success that they would be shut up and left to slink off with their tails between their legs.  Regardless, the success or failure of a festival isn't decided on the internet the week after, but by the organizers in the month or so to come, when they decide if they do a second.  At a minimum, they fulfilled the requirements I mentioned a couple years back, and depending on which pictures from which angle and what time you trust, may have gotten up to the 200 headcount point that previous examples in Germany have established as a baseline for something that's not going to immediately collapse in on itself.  However, they did a bunch of stuff wrong that made it difficult to support going in, and eventually made me decide against going out.

The first was bad scheduling around the fest.  When you announce a festival two months in advance, you should maybe make sure that is not booked against the one date of the big summer tour in the area.  Putting Saturday night against Summer Slaughter was just stupid, and unnecessarily locked out, um, everyone in New England who was interested in seeing Dying Fetus or Morbid Angel.  This is kind of a large slice of the metalheads who you'd want to show up for a DIY festival on its first run out, and this fest could have gotten them back easily by booking just two weeks later, which would conflict with neither Summer Slaughter nor Pray For Death.

The second was the scheduling internal to the fest.  If you look at any other multi-day camp-in festival, anywhere else in the world, you will never see bands going this late into a Sunday, the reason being that it is a lot easier to take off, or take off a couple hours earlier, on Friday than it is to take off Monday.  Sunday morning is for pack-up, Sunday afternoon for travel back to wherever the hell you came from.  It'd've been a lot more friendly for people outside the immediate catchment area -- western Massachusetts is not well served by highways, and most of the population centers are at a pretty fair distance -- to open the gates at 5 PM Friday, with bands starting at 7 or so, and either push later on Friday and Saturday or just cut some of the fat from the schedule.

The third is the unnecessarily bloated schedule.  There ended up being 32 bands on this thing, and many of them were (by investigation in advance) pretty bad.  You do not need the best bands in the world on your fest -- seriously, check the Party.San bills for the first five years, and see if you can avoid the conclusion "this is all late-90s unlistenable garbage" -- but you do need to avoid the impression, prominent here, that the music is going to be a dump truck's worth of suck.  This bill could easily have been trimmed back to 15 or 20 bands without trimming the audience, giving more of them better sets and eliminating the need to play all Sunday to fit them all in.

Provided that they do a second, and that it's not booked against stuff that will take precedence -- even with China, it was a close-run thing to not spend this past weekend in Schlotheim -- it's likely that I'll be out for it, despite the road miles involved, to take in the experience for myself.  But seriously, smarter scheduling and a more selective filter on who plays will make that decision a lot easier for others who might be on the fence about the camp-in idea.

Friday, July 25, 2014


This should have immediately followed the China posts; it didn't because I was swamped with work, but here it is because I have some time.  These are the best (active, music-available) bands in China, most of whom I didn't encounter because I didn't visit their cities, some of whom I didn't encounter because I wasn't there long enough or couldn't really get out of the tourist-available parts.  If you're around longer, try harder to find these dudes, and listen to them in the meantime regardless.

This only covers mainland, non-SAR bands; HK artists are pretty accessible and frequently do promotion in English and/or are allowed to tour elsewhere.

Annihilation (湮灭)
Beijing/Hebei Death Metal Corridor; technical brutal death metal
If you like Gigan, Decrepit Birth, and/or Suffocation, you will probably also dig these dudes.  An absolutely essential listen.

Delirious (精神错乱)
Nanjing; grindcore
Straight grind rather than anything really metallic, this band is also refreshingly devoid of anything resembling compromise in their approach.  Fast, dirty, and 1000% DIY, this is exactly the sort of immediate resistance music that you might not expect from China -- and that you'll be glad to find.

Eblis (伊布里斯)
Yinchuan; old-school brutal death metal
Hearkening back to the early '90s musically and in its conception resolutely anti-authority, Eblis are probably the band on this list most likely to be censured, especially given the growing tensions in China's other Muslim region.  They're also locked in to some good fucking music.

Excruciate (劓刖)
Tianjin/Hebei Death Metal Corridor; OSDM
Virtually alone in China, these dudes practice a grueling style of old-school brutality that will remind New Englanders of Blessed Offal and everyone else of Obliteration or Incantation's slower parts.  Excellent.

Shanghai; melodic death metal
If it was still five years ago, this would be trend.  That they're still doing melodeath when all the other trendies have moved on to emo-ified deathcore and (gods forbid) Crossfaith-esque dubcore, means it's not trend, and if you can't dig this even a little, you have completely lost your sense of fun.  I still like Dark Tranquillity, and so should you, probably, and if you do, you will like this band.

腐尸爱美丽 (Fushiaimeili/Beauty in Decay or something like that)
Chengdu; folktroll metal
Who knows where they found the accordion in Chengdu, but these dudes are regardless the best Finntroll imitators in China (surprisingly, this is not decided just by showing up) and still solidly listenable for those sick to fucking death of polka metal.

Ghost Bath (鬼浴)
Chongqing fuck these North Dakota shitbirds; third-wave black metal
A fully-functional replacement for [insert American third-wave hipster band here], these dudes have gotten some shine from Pitchfork, because of course they have.  Despite this, they're pretty good if not especially true, and you can actually send them a couple bucks by bandcamp for a zip of their album if you like, rather than having to put up with douban.
UPDATE 2016-02-24:  Sounds like American third-wave rather than any of the other bands on this list?  Turns out there's a reason.  All the tumblr cultural-appropriation shit aside, this is legit harmful: 1) it gives a false impression of the Chinese scene and the level of development of metal in China and 2) it wastes the time of people in the place you're pretending to be from.  There is a scene out there, even in Chongqing and other places in interior China; how many inquiries about setting up gigs between Chengdu and Changsha do you think they just dropped on the floor?  If there's a consistent rule in the underground, it's "don't deliberately cause problems for other people just to look cool".  Fuck these posers, listen to Desolate Hills and Duringlifend if you want actual Chinese DSBM or whatever it's being called this week.

合法武装 (Hefawuzhuang/Legal Arms)
Urumqi; German-style darkwave metal
You listen to this, and you're expecting lyrics in German a la Rammstein or Letzte Instanz, but you get them in Chinese.  Why?  Because there are more Uighur expats in Munich than anywhere else in the world, and a bunch more in other German-speaking territories, so musical influences currently live in western China/East Turkestan naturally get passed through a Germanic filter.  It's wicked interesting, and pretty cool for the genre to boot.

Hellward (向地狱)
Xi'an Hell Metal City; blackened heavy metal
A high-speed collision between Sabbat and Metalucifer, Hellward is an awesome feast of headbanging Satanism that puts an eastern spin on the same ideas behind Witchery and Nocturnal Breed.  One of several related bands from the unexpected metal hotspot in Xi'an.

Nine Treasures (九大圣器)
Inner Mongolia via Beijing; folk metal
Finntroll fans will dig the fuck out of this.  People sick of Finntroll will find zero accordions here, replaced with the sweet drone of horsehead fiddles.  Seriously, this is pretty fucking good, even if it's not as deathy as Tengger Cavalry below.

人彘 (RenZhi/Human Swine is probably a good approximation)
Shijiazhuang/Hebei Death Metal Corridor; slammy brutal death metal
If you were bummed out when Proteus and/or Terminally Your Aborted Ghost folded the tents, you could do a lot worse than check this band out; a feast of angular, heavily triggered death metal insanity, this is not real accessible or for the faint of heart, but if you're listening to Chinese death metal you're not worried about that shit anyway.

Tengger Cavalry (铁骑)
Inner Mongolia via Beijing; folk/death metal
With more death metal elements and more traditional instruments than Nine Treasures, this is the version of steppe metal for trueness purists.  Where Nine Treasures reminds me of the open grasslands of Siberia, this has more of a feel of the distant mountains and gray birch forests of the Amur country.  Regardless, it's good fucking music all around.

Yn Gizarm (英吉沙)
Xi'an Hell Metal City; Bathory-influenced black metal
In discussions of Chinese black metal, it is these guys first, followed by "everyone else" a substantial distance back.  Essential, period.

The Hebei Death Metal Corridor referenced multiple times above is not really an administrative division of China (and is actually almost totally contained by the Beijing and Tianjin provinces that got chopped out of Hebei for having too many people), but it is an easy way to talk about something that does exist: an extremely high prevalence of slam-influenced, high-brutality, frequently-technical death metal bands in the strip from Beijing down to the ocean.  (Shijiazhuang is located both south and west of this strip, but RenZhi are about as complete a HBDMC band as exists.)  This is an extreme concentration of population and industry that naturally gives rise to the sort of frustration, anger, and desire for violence that is easily and frequently vented out through instruments plugged directly into a computer, which is doing the drumming, in a tiny, crumbling, concrete apartment overlooking a cement-block factory built on a combination of seized farms and landfill.  There are other good bands, in other styles, elsewhere in the country; there are also good death metal bands elsewhere.  However, nothing is as authentic an expression of Chinese metal culture as the ceaseless violence of the Hebei Death Metal Corridor scene.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

China 2014 part 11 - Hong Kong


- Hong Kong -

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1108. First look at Hong Kong from the ocean.

I missed the hotel on the first pass, but got in on a simple double-check; I'm going to get an early dinner and hike southwest to see a bit of the infamy of Wan Chai.  I need to stay out of trouble, though, to hike over the hump to Aberdeen tomorrow morning.

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1109. Green walls and skyscrapers.

1110. (DNCO).

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1111. Greenery in an intersection near Causeway Bay.

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1112. Sweeping circle pedestrian bridge.

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1113. A small park at the west end of the Lockhart Road.

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1114. Into the Lockhart.  Except for the foreigner-friendliness, it's got nothing on the Portland from Jordan to MK.

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1115. Wan Chai back street.

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1116. East under the bridge on King's Road.

1117. (DNCO).

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1118. Library facade.

1119. (DNCO).

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1120. It's probably not pronounced that way, but yeah, lulz.

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1121. Built over the wall.

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1122. North Point at night.

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1123. Into the Java Road.

I did not get heavily challenged on my 空人-ness on the Lockhart; only barked once, and zero flyers.  However, between one thing and another, I hunted up another 5 or so caps, and should have no problem going in the bars for the CL final tomorrow morning -- provided I pack a spare shirt.

On the downside, I completely smashed up my left wrist not falling down the stairs to an otaku shop.  I don't have enough duct tape to dress it, so all I can do is hope it swells stiff overnight.  Crap.

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1124. Night lights inland.

Hong Kong

Today should be pretty simple: trams to Kennedy, then hike around the west side to Aberdeen and take some pictures, then come back and see what I've got time for.  This is the last real day of the trip -- tomorrow is going to be mostly packing and going to the airport -- and I want to make the most of it.

I sweated entirely through my ironhide shirt, but got to Aberdeen in good order, toweled off, and changed back into my fitba rig.  This is an excellent hike, but I'd rather do it in the winter, and I'm taking the damn bus to get back.

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1125. Morning view; the other side has harbor views, but this is also kinda cool.

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1126. Dawn in North Point.

v68. Between two stops on the island tram in Wan Chai.

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1127. Part of the Western Market.

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1128. They liked it enough to put a permanent piece over it.  (Reference #056 from 2010.)

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1129. Island point between buildings.

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1130. Bridge and west Kowloon.

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1131. Lush slope; greener than it was that November.

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1132. West end of an island.

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1133. Hill and channel.

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1134. Down to a dome island.

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1135. Brilliant blue skies.

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1136. The tentacles of a banyan attack the pavement.

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1137. A notch in the greenery.

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1138. Out into the harbor.

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1139. Islands in the distance.

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1140. A path down into the jungle.  I had plenty of time, so why not?

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1141. Watercourse by the path.

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1142. An anomalous block of tile.

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1143. Lookout at the bottom of the hill.

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1144. Headland to the west.

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1145. A pan across from the lookout.

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1146. Cloud towers over the ocean.

1147. (DNCO).

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1148. Container ship rounds the head.

v69. The tide lashes the rocks.

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1149. Waterfall, heading back up.

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1150. Small boat, vast sea.

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1151. Weathered rocks in the surf.

1152. (DNCO).

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1153. Shrine by the path.

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1154. The channel's close in here.

1155. (DNCO).

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1156. Down to Sandy Bay.

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1157. Top of the morning.

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1158. Hill of tombs.

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1159. Built into the slope.

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1160. A stream down the cliff.

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1161. Below a sweeping curve.

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1162. A single pillar.

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1163. Down to the bay over the cemetery.

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1164. Back to the track in.

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1165. Across a deep gorge.

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1166. The dizzying drop to Cyberport.

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1167. Villas on the reverse slope.

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1168. Jockey Club clinic; Hong Kongers can "afford" low (not really; the average tax burden on the average HK resident is not much different proportionally from the US, it's just that the rich need fewer accountants to avoid paying something like a fair share) taxes due to the inevitable private tax paid to the racecourses.

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1169. Channel from above Cyberport.

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1170. Supports from a descending road.

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1171. Window in the wall.

v70. A storming cataract, coming in to Aberdeen.

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1172. Channel and islands.

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1173. Breeze blocks.

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1174. Slope towards Aberdeen.

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1175. Down away to the water.

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1176. Channel across the road.

1177. (DNCO).

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1178. Back up the road.

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1179. Arriving Aberdeen harbor.

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1180. Fisherman at anchor.

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1181. Temple gate and mountainside.

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1182. Green growth, white buildings, blue sky.

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1183. Fisherman statue on the Aberdeen Promenade.

v71. Old-style boats plying in the anchorage.

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1184. Trapper and basket.

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1185. The fleet at anchor.

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1186. Jumbo ferry running out.

The idea is to maybe check out the floating restaurant here, maybe hit the market, and then head on back, take a shower, change shirts, and see how Kowloon is.  As prophesied, Guangdong in late May is melting me into a puddle of finely rendered adventurer blubber.  Even before just taking the bus, I'll probably need to drain most of another 2l of water.

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1187. Sail structure over the park.  It was still too early (like 10:30) for a proper lunch, so I got a couple sausage rolls with my water and took a rest before the bus.

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1188. Cool skylight from under the structure.

This is ridiculous.  My ironhide shirt is so badly sweated that if I put it away without airing, it would probably rot.  For the afternoon's expedition, I'm going to need to go to a reserve dress shirt and known-unlucky shorts, because I have to reserve gear for tomorrow and the seat of the normal shorts is drenched.  It's a shame that I wasn't able to take the heli, but having all my gear has been a godsend.  Hong Kong is no place to sit around waiting for your only set of clothes to dry.

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1189. Fried flat noodles with assorted meat; mostly chicken, pork, and deli ham.  This was a $34 late lunch from Family Kitchen, right next to the hotel, and good for that point.  It'd be cheaper in Kowloon, but I'm not in Kowloon yet.

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1190. Ibis tower and nice sky from the North Point ferry pier.

Across on the Hung Hom promenade, east TST is heavily regenerated.  If the Nathan's gentrified as far north as Jordan, I won't be surprised.

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1191. Across to eastern Kowloon.

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1192. Central skyline from the sea.

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1193. On the Kowloon side.

1194. (DNCO).

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1195. Along the promenade to the Central waterfront.

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1196. Hung Hom rebuilt; this could be practically anywhere.

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1197. The harbor's still familiar, though.

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1198. Towers and sky.

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1199. Stormcloud over the harbor.

Hong Kong's infinite capacity for self-regeneration has been noted before.  At almost the same interval, it's really interesting to see what's changed between the last two points.  If you understand nothing else about HK, understand this: anything written down here has an even chance of being obsolete even as the pen touches paper, a chance that grows to lim(1) over time -- and that growth can be remarkably quick.

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1200. A solid front charging up from the south.

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1201. A hole in the beetling weather.

This stuff looks bad, but it didn't catch on the mountains of the island, so it's not going to catch on anything till it hits the NT.  I'm probably not going to get soaked.  Probably.

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1202. Adrift.

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1203. Not a stone of the old remaining atop another.

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1204. The new east TST -- wide streets and leafy trees.

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1205. Into the sky, waiting to cross Austin.

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1206. Back to the old Kowloon; this far south, mostly cleared out of the major streets.

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1207. Crowd at a press conference on Carnaveron.

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1208. For this guy.

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1209. Up the Nathan again.

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1210. Gentrification's not uniform or all-conquering -- but does extend well past Jordan into the middle 300s.

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1211. Church, old apartments, and sky.

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1212. Green and silver.

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1213. The Kowloon of Western imagination.

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1214. Old and new at another stoplight.

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1215. Enclosed; off Nathan towards the Portland.

1216. (DNCO).

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1217. The banyans still dream lushly over the Park Lane arcade.

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1218. This is the Chungking Mansions in 2014.  Almost all that's left is the infamous name.

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1219. True enough; forget for a moment that we're in China, which places rather severe restrictions on its citizens' ability to move around domestically, let alone internationally.

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1220. Clear skies from the Avenue of the Stars.

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1221. The spirit of Hong Kong cinema.

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1222. Without serious autotune, this is as close as this guy will get to being among the stars.  Like a Japanese v-kei singer with a tin ear...and if you know what weird 'melodies' you get from v-kei generally, that's saying something.

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1223. Sky and Central.

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1224. A slice on the Bank of China tower.

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1225. Avenue of the Stars; the Shaw brother with a title gets in.

1226. (DNCO).

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1227. Slice on the opera house.

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1228. Catamaran inshore for no reason.

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1229. He dies early in a lot of his flicks, but lived to put his hands in the pavement.

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1230. ...while Bruce of course didn't.

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1231. Sammo Hung is on the walk.

1232. (not germane)

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1233. Jackie Chan's star is popular with the ladies -- though nowhere near as much as Andy Lau's, which was too packed to sneak a picture.

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1234. John Woo attracts attention.

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1235. Some dude steps on Tsui Hark.

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1236. Tsui Hark, not being stepped on by some dude.

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1237. Of course, he's here as well.

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1238. Bruce Lee squares up.

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1239. Not forgotten among the action heroes.

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1240. Bruce and more of Central.

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1241. Stephen Chow's star is overlooked and frequently stood on, much like his usual lead characters.

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1242. I appear to be the only one who cares about Simon Yam.

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1243. The Aqualuna, the last of the red-sail junks.

v72. The old remaining, or passing away into the east?

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1244. Aqualuna and old-style major ad fronts.

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1245. Building the future today.

1246. (DNCO).

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1247. Perfect sky behind a forest of cranes.

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1248. Light, shadow, crane, sky.

I'm going to stick a bit, see the night lights, take the ferry across one last time, then head back by MTR to get some dinner and sack out.  It's been an eventful, productive, and very sweaty day, but it, and the trip with it, is coming to an end.  And well in time too -- I'm nearly out of book to note it in, and would prefer to not start a second to cover the last couple hours.

1249. (DNCO).

Final scores: South Asian Dudes Holla At Whitey
tailors: 7
watches: 6, the last of whom also offered drugs.

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1250. Lights rise to the south.

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1251. This guy can spell his English name any way he likes as a private citizen, but when you take out ads on buses, you're fair game.

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1252. Island and clouds into the west.

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1253. Lights come on west of the IFC.

1254. (DNCO).

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1255. This building was unfinished in '10; it's about the tallest thing in Kowloon now.

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1256. Palms and the corner of the arts center.

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1257. Tower and hotel.

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1258. A panorama across the pier promenade.

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1259. Across south to the light.

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1260. Around the Bank of China tower.

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1261. Further east.

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1262. IFC and western shore.

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1263. Dusk falls; the ferry roll accounts for the blur.

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1264. Neon in the water.

v73. A pan along the shore and back, crossing on the ferry.

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1265. Lit-up ferry.

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1266. Back to the Kowloon side.

1267. (DNCO).

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1268. Full-building ads.

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1269. The heart of Central and a hole in the sky.  I timed this crossing perfectly; the lights and darkness set up the other shots, but there's still enough light left to do a crazy wide like this.

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1270. Wide on the BoC.

1271. (DNCO).

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1272. Wobbly view on a motor junk.

1273. (DNCO).

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1274. Along Central, coming in to anchor.

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1275. The eastern reaches reflected.

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1276. Wide open above.

1277. (DNCO).

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1278. Landfall; castles by sunset.

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1279. BoC and neighborhood from the shore.

1280. (DNCO).

When I got back to the room, I pulled up lame; a huge blister under a callus needed addressing, and the dressed wound was still hard to walk on.  But my stomach reminded me that while it was ok now, repairing today's damage was going to suck without additional inputs.  So I hobbled down the street and got a nice big bowl of ramen -- it's what's for dinner at 9pm -- from the ramenya next to Family Kitchen.  Thus fed, it was home and sleep; it's a late start tomorrow, but I had a full day today.

Hong Kong

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1281. Morning view, last day.

I have to kill a couple hours this morning, so I'm going to go after Chinese-style vac-packed {xiaochi} after breakfast, go see if I can find another mushroom dude despite it being Sunday, and then head back and pack up, getting lunch somewhere on my block before heading to the airport.  I'd go up to Sha Tin, but I could only see like one race, and it's a hard hack from there back to HKG.

So while I wasn't able to find any airworthy 小吃, and the otaku store doesn't open till 11:30, the morning's hike must be reckoned a smashing success: checking the Wellcome by the Fortress Hill metro, I found six new caps, getting me to about 70 elements and over 60 caps.  I'd previously collected almost all the locals, but hunting the Island gets you the expat market as well.

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1282. A gleaming blue tower.

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1283. Sudden storm.

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1284. Lol China.

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1285. Hidden gold.

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,br /> 1286. Sampan congee and donut sticks; a better breakfast than lunch, but I was hungry from trucking my pack from North Point down to Tin Hau and elated to get 50% off another mushroom dude and a Doraemon blind-pack.

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1287. A gap in the buildings.

I still need something for work...airport snacks from the duty-free counter it is.  I've got that kilobill rattling around after all....

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1288. South and east at the Lantau Link.

I got to the airport too early again, re-rigged, and have about an hour or two to kill with a last novel before check-in opens.  No water.  No good.

On the plane, short booze and with an uncertain baggage situation, moved around due to others' poor planning.  It's par for the course; my journey's not over just yet.  I need more water, and hopefully to be less angry; it's not going to help anything.

- Qatar -

I've got nearly an hour before the gate opens, and though I could use some water, this is definitely Childe Harolde/Orpheus territory, and I'm doing enough damage by using their dumb airline.  Probably, I'll try and get my Philly boarding pass issued from the transfer desk so that I don't get marooned between arrival and recheck.

No pass issued.  Stupid security recheck.  Oh well; I'm at least capable of getting home from Philly, even by organization, on my own.  It might even, in extremis, be possible to call for pickup.  Long's I get on here, I should be able to get out somehow.

I seriously doubt this flight is overbooked, based on the volume of passengers available at the outset, but if it stops folk whining about middle seats, well enough.  Try 15 hours with one leg trying to leave the aircraft and a middle-school girl a few dozy inches away from a Love-Hina-"plot"-"twist" faceplant.  Try a day and a half in a bunk where you can't sit up nor lie straight.  This is a plane, ffs, and all the seats are wide and packing a private TV.  If you're not sharing a cabin with livestock (or British Med-resort-goers) or open to the air, it's not really possible to rough it on a plane...not and survive.

over Baghdad

If I don't sleep now, I can't reset; we'll be riding the sun west.

1289. (DNCO).

- Philadelphia -

Time to kill before Boston, my bag successfully rechecked and pass issued.  This was the first TSA point I've been through -- the fourth in the last 24 hours -- to be staffed by incompetents and tinpot dictators; people who travel by air mostly on holiday weekends may get more of these, as all the ones who don't suck can get the day off.  It's like an hour and a half till boarding; time for some more bad novels.

Finally, though, I got on the plane, dozed for most of the 45-minute sprint, and got through brief consternation at the Logan baggage claim because the idiots in Philly had just put my pack on the first plane out instead of the one I was on.  This handled, it was back to my place to sleep, recover, and over the course of the next week, get this report shipshape.


Looking back over the whole of the trip, there are some definite lessons to be learned.  First, May is probably too late for something like this; you have about a month, either in April or September, when you can use mostly the same gear north to south and not completely melt in Guangdong.  Second, doing this trip is probably not a good idea, because even under those constraints you miss stuff due to excessively hot weather north and south.  It'd be smarter to break this into two trips: a Shanghai - Qingdao - Beijing (most people will not have two weeks living in Beijing already completed) - Xi'an - Chengdu - Wuhan - Guilin -Shanghai loop done in the summer, and a winter trip to Harbin (by high-speed rail from and to Beijing), then down to Guangzhou - Macau -Hong Kong with an air insert.  This will require two visas, though, and the Chinese visa process is neither real cheap nor real friendly.

Third, I correctly identified the compass as an essential piece of gear for this trek, even if I fucked up and didn't pack a rainshell.  Most other places in the world, you can expect to be able to navigate off the sun and general map impressions, but not in China: the combination of pollution and weather means that you can't assume that coming out of the subway, you'll be able to find your bearings unassisted.  Your compass is your best friend, especially in the interior; I could have got along without it fine in Qingdao, but Harbin would have been impossible.

Fourth, this is eminently doable -- provided you're able to train up enough Chinese language proficiency in advance.  This was less expensive than Russia by nearly half, and a lot of that cost was in hotels, which scale.  Food is cheap.  Trains are cheap, and you can make them cheaper than I did.  You just need to be able to speak Chinese and read a little bit.  Five hundred characters, which was my vocab after about three months of intensive self-study, should be enough, provided that you can pronounce them all correctly, recognize them as written, and put them together into more complicated concepts.  If you want to see all these places in China speaking only English, you can do that too.  But it will be more expensive, and you'll have a guide mediating your experience.

Lastly, this is no longer necessary to do full Chinese tourism.  Recently, the government has opened up Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou as "72-hour transfer" cities: if you have a flight to somewhere else, you can stay within the city for up to 72 hours without a visa.  You can't sneak into China like this, not too well -- the rail stations and presumably long-distance buses require a passport (and visa for non-Chinese) to buy a ticket -- but you can still see a lot of stuff.  It remains to be tested whether it's possible to bounce Beijing-Shanghai-Guangzhou-southern SARs on the same trip, or if you have to take your flight ending the 72 hours to somewhere not in China, but in a way, we're back to where things started two hundred years ago, albeit with a different five "treaty ports".

Someone else will need to do that one; I've still got three continents not crossed off yet, so it will likely be a while before I go back to Asia, and if and when that happens, there are other countries to see that will take precedence over speed-touring and rule-bending in urban China.