Thursday, November 07, 2013
Due to a bunch of mostly-unrelated stuff, I wasn't able to get out the night before to see Dying Fetus/Exhumed/Devourment/a bunch of less notable touring bands/Dysentery among like 900 locals, so it was a definite point of emphasis to make it out to this one; not only as the tentpole big show in a weekend of more big shows than I could actually afford to do all of, but also because it was fucking Kreator and I kind of have a complex. I got out of work about on time, but the highway was jammed as usual for a Friday with the sun dying right in everyone's eyes, and I didn't actually get up to the venue till about 10 minutes past doors. Of course, this wasn't ever going to have been right-in in the first place; a short line for tickets and then a longer one, wrapping back around to the diverted upstairs entrance, to actually get frisked and processed in. I ended up in a little past 7, got a beer, and went down to the next deck but the last from the floor.
I had not heard of this band previously, and their unsearchably generic name fit in well with their over-long and absolutely undifferentiated set of 'AAF-core. There were flashes of nostalgia at times, as you'd expect from a band fusing the likes of mid-'90s Corrosion of Conformity with Shinedown or not-yet-completely-wussified Staind, but just because something reminds you of what you were listening to on the radio when you were young and didn't know any better doesn't make it necessarily good, or even interesting. Massachusetts has a habit of producing bands like this, as well as the kinds that I normally report on, and they have the chops and sound to make it farther in the mainstream if that happens for them. That said, this region also produces a lot of bands that would make better openers for a thrash metal package: Crypter and/or Phantom Glue would have killed it to this crowd in this slot, but Crypter is propping up the Kataklysm show in two weeks and Phantom Glue have more savvy than to let the venue promoters here run game on them. So we put up with Rope wearing out their welcome over a set that ran about three songs longer than it needed to, and waited for the touring bands.
Rope, at a safe distance.
In this break I got another beer, considered going forward, and figured out how to turn off the flash on my phone, so that later, I could be less obnoxious taking nine million pictures of Kreator that didn't come out.
I should have known this was going to be a great night when Warbringer came out and hit it dead on. This was probably the best set I've seen from this band, which truth told is not saying a whole lot, but for the material they have to work with, this was a class performance. The IV material is a distinct step up from the stuff they've been shoveling since the first album, and the old songs were also blasted out with critical fire and energy that got the floor going like mad. Maybe if I were ten years younger, and had heard War Without End at eighteen, not knowing Kreator, rather than at 28, after seeing their examples live in Germany and a decade after first spinning Out of the Dark..., I'd react differently to this band, but I really suspect that the shortfall in the writing department would dominate. Someday, Slayer and Kreator and Exodus and Destruction are going to hang it up, and Warbringer will be left as the living exemplar of thrash metal -- and until and unless they go back to not only their influences, but the bands that influenced them, and level up their songwriting a little more, something is going to be permanently lost. So what if they're still young? Mille was still in high school when Endless Pain came out, and had to seriously get a note from Noise Records to get out of class and go to Berlin for recording.
Warbringer opening up.
Honestly, this was a good performance, and Warbringer is getting to the level where they ought to be able to play at least the upstairs as a headliner on their own. However, the bands to come made the divide between 'thrash' and 'thrash revival' really, really obvious.
The Phantom Antichrist banner, because I know that once Kreator starts playing, you're not going to be able to see this for shit.
This is what the best set Kreator has played in this building looked like:
From Flood Into Fire
Pleasure to Kill
Hordes of Chaos
Riot of Violence
Enemy of God
(solo - Sami)
United In Hate
Flag of Hate
Modern material cheek by jowl with ancient classics, blasted out at a hundred miles an hour through their typical fan-camera-hostile "rolling barrage" stageshow: smoke, unpredictably shifting spotlights, and strobes triggered off the bass drum. You have to be here to experience it; there is no way that those of us who were there can bring it out to you with stuff that will get through the door inspection.
As might be expected from a fourteen-song set with no obvious weak points, this was fucking incredible. I've seen Kreator a lot over the past eight years, and obviously been into them even longer, and thus have some standing to describe this as the best set I've seen from them on this continent, and coming pretty close to what I've seen from the band in Germany. The selection shows that despite other people pigeonholing them into the '80s and their first three records, Kreator in 2013 is still an alive working band, and Mille is as confident in the stuff he's put out since 2001 as that which came out before 1990. Sure, I'd abstractly have liked to get more stuff off Coma of Souls, "Bomb Threat" instead of "Phobia" for the '90s track, and maybe a few off Extreme Aggression, but here is the kicker: you cannot assume, playing four-figure capacity halls, that everyone in the audience is a longtime veteran who has heard all of your catalog and wants you to play wicked deep cuts, or you will soon end up playing in converted Pizza Huts again. Those who were at their first Kreator gig got an excellent view of Kreator as they are, as they choose to represent their catalog in the light of their current releases, as well as the excellent set that us old guys got, and perhaps they too will end up hooked for good.
The rolling barrage opens up on "Phantom Antichrist".
Mille with blasting spots behind him.
The rest of the stage actually visible.
Speesy and some dude putting up the horns.
Mille, side-stage solo.
While they didn't hit quite the heights that Kreator did, or cover nearly as much of their catalog, Overkill still smashed out an excellent set of thrashing metal in excellent fidelity, and if the crowd didn't move as much, it was mostly because the floor was packed a lot fuller. Bobby made multiple references to the health issues he had after their last gig here, but was in fine fettle, and if he spent most of his non-singing time offstage, presumably huffing oxygenated steam or something, he spent the time on-stage hitting his marks absolutely, which is not something that can be said about a lot of other air-raid singers his age. Music this intense is a young man's game, by and large, but Overkill are still able to play fast, scream high, and hit hard with the best of them, entering their sixth decade of age and fourth decade as a working band. This was a killer set, and if it closed up before midnight and didn't include more recent stuff (like, say, "Old School", which people were actually yelling for), it still didn't exactly go gently into that good night.
Thrash hard, strobe out.
A little more stable view of Overkill.
It did, eventually, close up, though, and after the lights went up rather than opening on a second encore, I beat feet for the exits and headed back. My weekend was otherwise occupied, so I didn't make it out to Death Angel and Revocation, but absent something major I should be able to get out to Morbid Angel, presuming I can still nab a ticket.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
A month and a half is too long in between gigs, but it happened, partly due to inconveniently-timed on-call shifts, partly due to laziness, and partly due to getting sent to goddamned Canada in the middle of it. I'd passed on two other Roggie's shows due to concerns about transit (and laziness), but with another Canadian deployment looming -- which would cause me to miss Wormed and Infernal Revulsion -- I had to get over to this one, and the earlier start/finish due to a noise violation (not for one of the metal shows) earlier in the week made that a more attractive proposition to do by T.
It wasn't a clinically perfect ride over -- I really should've bailed out of the bus at Porter rather than bumping another 10-15 minutes through Cambridge -- but despite the nine million people wedging the train until bailing out at Kenmore for the Sox game, I got out to Cleveland Circle about as well as could be anticipated, and then stumped the rest of the way up to the venue. I was initially a little confused about where exactly the show was at; no door dude visible, and the visible parts of the place were, like, empty, despite it being well after doors. Fortunately, some of the Phantom Glue folks showed up, loading in, around the same time, and headed straight for the basement. I followed, paid Blue my $8 on entry, and got myself situated.
Roggie's, despite an inconvenient location at the ass end of the Green Line but without reliable parking nearby, is in a lot of ways the kind of venue that Boston needed: a basement show with a liquor license, and a club that's willing to work with bands rather than give them the boot. The downsides are limited; besides the access thing, this is a small room that was pretty damn full with 30 patrons, making shows with a more expensive guarantee a dicey proposition, and the limited space in combination with the kind of weird layout means people are frequently stumbling over each other. The upsides, though, are huge: this is an intimate venue with a positive staff a stone's throw off public transit, and they do 25oz beers for $1 more than a normal draft of the same. That's like the "50 McNuggets for $10" of metal. I shouldn't have to explain this; suffice to say that literally everyone at this show who was drinking beer was drinking it out of one of the big mugs, all the time, and if Roggie's keeps having metal gigs downstairs, 25oz is going to be the standard, and "small" drafts will be $1 off.
Eventually, of course, I got over the novelty of having an almost Germanic-sized container of Molson available for $4 and actually started drinking it, looked over the merch to plan out where the remaining contents of my wallet were going to get strewn out to, and Living Void finished setting up and started playing.
Living Void soundchecking. Roggie's is, as mentioned, an intimate venue, and I haven't figured out how to turn the flash off on my phone, so I wasn't going to be that d-bag strobing the crowd while people are watching the band; hence photos only with the lights on.
Living Void [5/7]
In the long time since I'd last seen this band, they've cut back a guitar player and further developed their sound. What we got was a solid set of Napalm Death-styled grind, the simple and elemental concept of punk/death metal code switching, mostly fast but with more than a few bulldozingly slow parts; solid without really being exceptional. I remain, probably, the wrong audience for grindcore, but this was a good time, a good warmup for the following bands, and an excellent test of the acoustics. Roggie's is too small for a full PA, so the vocals were coming out of a speaker by the bar, and everything else was straight out of the cabs, but in contrast to some other small venues, now and then, you could hear everything and the band wasn't too loud for the room. And when a grindcore band isn't too loud for the room, it's difficult to think of what kind of band is going to be.
Casuals probably know of this band, if at all, because Anthony used to be in Revocation, but people seeing them should also pay attention to Mike Read's uniquely barbaric take on playing drums. He was less mad at his gear than in the past, but still showing off his signature technique of bashing the fuck out of his rides with as close to the whole barrel of the stick as possible. This can't be long-term healthy for the stick or the cymbal, but hitting this way does produce a pretty distinctive sound.
In the break, I got another beer, then picked up a shirt and CD from Gigan, on the theory that I was going to sometime, and I might as well kill time sooner rather than later. Eric comped me a poster in the process, which I had no easy way of carrying, but I took it anyway. The folds will come out sometime.
The whole lineup didn't make it all the way from Melbourne, but Dan and Ricki picked up a touring vocalist from this continent and gave us a brutal, straight-up shot of goregrind. The quotes from bands out of the first wave of death metal were occasionally transparent, and there's a limited amount you can do to make goregrind exceptional, but this was still a fun, heavy, mile-a-minute asskicking. I've bitched about merely functional bands dragging themselves out of Australia in the past, but Odiusembowel got well past the 'functional' level, and a tour of gigs like this, in comparison to airfares out of Australia, is not intended as a moneymaker: this is a circuitous working vacation in the US, playing local gigs like local dudes, and the audience here reacted to them like any other local Boston band in this setting. Good times.
In this break, I got another beer, and went over to try to get a shirt out of the Kiwi-transplants, because seriously, airfare out of Oz is fucking expensive (I checked it out trying to set up another trip, but couldn't do it financially in the same year as Russia). The band, of course, were busy breaking down, so I got to talking with Juan (Untombed) and Alex (Scaphism, Forced Asphyxiation), and ended up hearing about a potential coming tour on the level of the Wormed-Infernal Revulsion package that I'm missing on this deployment. Nothing is final yet, so I'm not going to go leaking stuff, but if this comes off, those who miss it will be turning in their graves.
Phantom Glue [5.5/7]
I hadn't seen these dudes for a while either, and like Living Void, they've also taken it up a notch. Their basic doom sound remains, but they've started to bring in more melodic elements and more guitar leads, resulting in a cumulative effect that recalls a doom version of 1985-vintage Metallica. I'm pretty detached from the mainstream, but still hear enough to recognize that this might be something the likes of BrooklynVegan would be all over; nothing wrong with appealing to a wider audience, if you can, and doing so while still playing basement shows with terminally underground bands should insulate you from charges of sellout. This was by any measure the least heavy band of the night, but dudes were still into them, and despite a few problems with vocals cutting through at the start, a more than solid performance.
Here I finally got that shirt off Odiusembowel, being the whole of the merch they had available. Support bands, always, and especially support bands who come from the literal far ends of the earth -- and it's a pretty neat design to boot.
With the time counting down to the enforced end of business, Gigan started up, in fog and pinging sound effects, and almost immediately as they hit into it, added strobe lights and buzzers from the rear of the hall. It worked with their sound, but wasn't intended or positive -- their smoke machine had set off the fire alarm. The lights went up shortly, but significantly, the plug did not get pulled, and while the lights went up, the band continued on, fogger shut off, as the staff vented the room back through the kitchen access area. No disruption to the set or show. If you go to DIY gigs, you know how huge this is, and how rare it is for this to be the case, rather than venue staff spitting the dummy when the band does something disruptive, even unintentionally.
Gigan with the lights on. Since this wouldn't be any more disruptive than having the lights up, why not picture?
The band of course powered on, crushing as well as headwreckingly complex, right up until the 10:30 cutoff. It felt a little short, but good performances always do, and this was set up to go on later; regardless, there's every indication that they got their whole set, or maybe the whole set but one, in, and the assembled folks were ceaselessly appreciative. Killer conclusion to a really, really, good night of heavy music.
On the way out, I nabbed Living Void's new Squalor, because they only had it on vinyl, and vinyl doesn't belong in your hands at a DIY show any longer than absolutely necessary. After this, I bailed immediately, because I had two trains and a bus to catch, and hadn't timed any of this out. As it was, I probably could have stuck a little; the next train was at 10:50, and there was probably another one in the early 11 o'clock hour that would have gotten me to Park in time to catch the Red Line up to Harvard before the last of the 77s rolled out. Regardless, I got back to my place shortly before midnight, unslung my stuff, and sacked out. I might have had a shorter commute by car, but the route is twisty and turny all through the back of the northern inner-ring suburbs, and that would have meant fewer 25oz beers; it's a tradeoff I'm willing to make.
As noted, Canada means no Wormed, so the next gig is probably Dying Fetus in Worcester for Halloween; there's two more after that, and things may go to shit at work depending on how this deployment goes, but from my perspective, "no Wormed, Infernal Revulsion, Condemned, Cognitive, and Parasitic across the street from my normal bar, and one train and one bus out of my house" is already pretty well gone to shit.
Monday, September 09, 2013
Gorguts with Sexcrement, Nemecide, Scalpel, Untombed, and Necronomichrist [Worcester Palladium, 9/8/2013]
Between Russia, moving to a new apartment, several ill-timed on-call shifts, and a bunch of other stuff, I had not gotten out to a show in a long while. The fact that Gorguts is only just now back "together", combined with this, meant that I was going to have to get down, even though I needed to get on a plane to Canada the next morning. So I figured out my new pike access, threw my jacket in the car, and headed out, ultimately getting in well ahead of doors and having to sit around in the car and chill/overheat for a couple minutes before going up to get my ticket.
At least at doors, this one was severely underattended, and the staff were a little lackadasical getting the full processing done. However, with a minimum of going in circles, I got correctly processed and banded, and picked up a first beer, which was mostly gone before Necronomichrist started, more or less on time.
This is what the upstairs looks like now, at least a month and a half out of Rock and Shock. The "freakshow" vibe is a noted contrast to the previous "dilapidated hole we don't care about" vibe. And, oh yeah, I has a new phone since last time. The photos still suck, but at least they're wider!
It had been a while since I'd seen these guys, and in the interim they've gotten more consistent and more original, but this remains a band heavily inspired, for their best parts, by Hypocrisy's mid-'90s. I really dig this style of death metal, so it's an open question as to whether I give them a break for their more pedestrian stuff for the occasional shadings of The Fourth Dimension breaking through, or whether I hold them to a higher standard because they've shown the ability to write that kind of music, but don't do it often. Regardless, this was a solid opening set from a decent band who may be on the way to getting some more traction. Their new record wasn't out, due to technical hangups somewhere in the pressing process, but I did pick up the promo for it, and am looking forward to being able to listen to it once I get back from this stupid work stand.
Necronomichrist get it going.
It was past seven, so I got my second beer as well as the Necronomichrist promo and a Sexcrement patch. I have no idea where it's going, as the jacket is kind of crowded, but I should have the time this fall to get this stuff stitched up.
I got a little further forward for Untombed, and while they had a couple technical difficulties, both with the stage right guitar setup that seemed to afflict most of the opening bands and with all of the members being able to hear each other, the resulting hammer barrage was worth it. They're putting the finishing touches on their new disc right now, but we got a good chunk of it in this set, and it's sounding goddamned killer, even accounting for the Palladium. There's a little more tech and slam in the mix, really showing off what it's possible to do in this style with an expanded (six-man) lineup. Good stuff -- any time these guys play "Bloodstained World" second, you know they're really high on the material, and that confidence was vindicated here.
Untombed attack full out.
Untombed, with Dave actually in the picture.
It had filled in a little more; while the venue didn't completely fill up at any point, it was getting towards 2/3 capacity here, and it'd stay that way into Gorguts. They finished up at 11, though -- serious questions for anyone who left early and didn't have to be at work at like 7. In this break, rather than beer 3 (timing reasons), I picked up a shirt and promo off Untombed. Again, I can't listen to that CD for a week, but the shirt design is pretty damn cool, albeit with an overly-obscure backpiece. The "XXDM" formulation is obvious, and the "B" at the bottom is probably for Boston, but I'm not sure what the top letter is. The band's membership and main catchment area to date would suggest an "E" for East Boston Death Metal, but it doesn't really look like any "E" I'm familiar with, and I've read a lot of death metal logos in my day.
Seriously guys, what letter is this?
If I recall correctly, Scalpel has significantly changed up the lineup since last time, and they're clearly trying to make some other changes as well, working some more technical parts and more ambitious arrangements into their previous combination of pure slam and pure energy. The arrangements aren't quite there yet, and as a result the technical stuff occasionally loses its way, but there is enough slam, at high enough energy, from Scalpel to make this set a good experience. This band is in the process of changing into something else, but even as they are, this was a pretty sweet 30 or so minutes.
Scalpel get ripping.
I picked up another beer here, and checked again to see if Gorguts had merch out. I was able to get a shirt of Luc, but he was out of CDs at the moment, so I'd have to come back. As luck would have it, going up to the merch deck meant that I got back to the floor in what would be about the perfect position to see Nemecide.
I had seen this band before, and thus had some idea of where to stand to avoid the worst of it. Their sound is polished, and certainly death metal, but them on a Gorguts bill really highlights how this genre has expanded in the last 25 years. There are other Palladium shows they will do better on, and those shows will have fewer old dudes in armored jackets standing in the back trying to decide if the technical difficulties that struck in the middle of their set were bad, because the singer had to substitute his rotten stage banter for the music, or good because for the time being at least, the band wasn't playing.
Minimum safe engagement distance for Nemecide.
It wasn't quite 9 yet, but I picked up my last beer regardless, and went up; I had seen some of the tricks Sexcrement had up their sleeves in the preparation, and regardless, when this band plays, you go up.
Evan wins the "Forever Kvlter Than All" competition for the night. Seriously, if you like this band enough to have their shirt, it's because you bought EVERY death metal album that came out in 1992.
The all-ages environment meant that Adam kept his dick in his pants, and the dancers had to keep their underwear on (and electrical-tape pasties on under their fishnets), but that aside, this was about as good a Sexcrement show as could be expected under the circumstances. The band's absolutely devastating slams supercharged a pit that had been steadily getting more violent since Untombed, and the technical stuff underlying those breakdowns was absolutely on point. This wasn't the best Sexcrement set I've ever seen, but it was pretty damn good -- and probably in the conversation for "best Sexcrement set limited to ciswomen dancers and partial nudity".
The stage setup meant that the dancers had to enter and exit through the crowd before and after, and for costume changes; the crowd was sufficiently pasted that a couple people got a little mouthy, but fortunately not grabby. This remains a general hazard for women in their underwear at death metal shows, but not for women generally; it's progress, I guess.
Luc dodges fanboy questions about his custom.
Colin Marston is ok with his monitor levels. This is why Gorguts is "back"; the band is now 50% composed of Dysrhythmia members, but for the sake of argument, this is "Gorguts" rather than "Luc Lemay and His All-Stars Play Gorguts". Touring bands don't put records out, and this lineup did just release Colored Sands.
I stuck up front for a couple songs, then moved back; this wasn't as incredible a return as, say, Carcass at Wacken, but it was pretty damn quality. The new stuff is good, and the selections of old material that we got were pretty killer as well; the limitations of playing it live and not going out of time or out of tune probably restricted the amount of Obscura stuff to what we got, but this was always going to be the case. The main run of the set crushed all for a good long chunk of time, and they inserted a minimum of egregious time-wasting before attacking into a three-song encore. Then, despite it only being 11, they closed up; Sundays are what they are, after all. Luc gave ceaseless appreesh to those who stuck to the end, but a large chunk of the crowd had unfortunately cleared out by that point. I stuck, and ended up comped issue 2 of the Codex Obscurum by Josh Staples, along with a flyer for their (Abnormality; Sarcomancy is on hiatus, and Josh is amazingly not in any other alive bands at present) gig opening for Morbid Angel's Covenant live set, then went upstairs to grab the records Gorguts had on offer.
Gorguts, back for certain values of "back", and in full flow for all values of "in full flow".
The reader is referred to the previous remarks on issue 1, which I bought with my own hard-earned, for confirmation that any positive reactions to Codex Obscurum are not a result of getting it for free. This is a cool zine and a quality product from quality folks, and worth supporting with your $2/$3/whatever when and wherever you find it.
The new route was good to me on the way back, and I got back home a little after midnight, then hit the hay and in the morning, bashed this out waiting for the plane to Canada. No shows these five days -- the area of Toronto where gigs take place is too far, and all I have are goddamned khakis -- but next weekend, Alcest if I can get in the door, or Internal Bleeding if it isn't cancelled.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
This is a picture that was in the Vladivostok album; I've cut it down to just the poster at full resolution (click, duh) to take a look at what DIY metal is like at the end of the world.
You can pick out the names of the Vladivostok bands pretty easily -- Genom is in readily intelligible Roman letters, and Khaos Labyrinth is the only one of the five with a metal-archives page. The others are a little more interesting. Artyom (the flyer's kind of misspelled, or the promoter has an accent), S.V.D.'s hometown, is where the Vladivostok airport is located, and Arsenyev is also in Primorskiy Krai, so Galirad doesn't have that far to go either.
Prakh Imperiy, though, are coming all the way from Blagoveshchensk in Amur Oblast. This is 1500 kilometers away, reckoned at a 17-hour drive assuming all the roads are passable -- never a sure thing in Russia -- and probably longer by rail. It's about as far away as Byelogorsk, which as noted is nearly a full day's train ride (24 hours) from Vladivostok. This is a long damn way to go for a gig. Outside the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic, there is nothing in North America that is 17 hours, minimum, away from a major city.
The band might be on tour, you say. Well, sure. They could play a gig in Khabarovsk on one leg, play in Vladi, and then come back through Harbin, assuming that the Chinese and Russian border authorities were not as completely mental as they are about making crossing as painful as possible for anyone whose pockets aren't overflowing. These are the only settlements with potentially nontrivial concentrations of metalheads. A three-date tour, with an 8-hour minimum required drive between every stop, in the kinds of vehicles widely available in the Russian Far East, contending with Russian traffic norms and the Russian highway system. You'll have bands beating down the walls to sign up for that.
The more logical conclusion is that the band is down for a one-off, traveling light, borrowing other people's gear, and will go back the way they came. For a one-off gig with a $9 cover. The club is on last.fm with a fairly meager history; looked at through that lens, it looks like the "Legion Fest" is from the same roughly-semiannual mold as Bobfest, and similarly gathers mostly-local bands. It's just that "mostly-local" has a different definition in the DV -- Blagoveshchensk is relatively close to Vladivostok in the same way that Eugene, Oregon is relatively close to Phoenix, Arizona: they are still in the same country, and on the same general side of the continent.
It's also worthwhile to look at the stylistic mix on offer on the bill, and in the scene via FVRC.ru. The diversity is not, I suspect, as much "we want to make a festival, so we'll book one of every kind of band", as "these are the five bands we could get on the same day we got the club". In more remote parts of the world, people will go to a show no matter who's playing, because live metal does not happen just all the time the way it does in areas with more population density, better finances, and/or better transport links. Even just researching this, and recalling the time spent in Vladi, it was an eyes-bug-out moment to see the flyer for Katalepsy headlining a grind bill back in March. Seriously, Katalepsy -- a good band, but no one's idea of the best slam band ever, or "they're headlining, must go" -- unless you live at the ends of the earth and they are coming all the way out from Moscow, which never happens. Metalheads are not abstractly better or more numerous per unit population at the ends of the earth; it's just that ALL of them go out to ALL the shows, because shows are rare, and they tend to go crazier, again because the opportunities to thrash out are more limited.
The intent of this piece is not to run down Vladivostok, or anyone doing the hard work to make DIY metal go in the Russian Far East. In an ideal world, this would not be "the ends of the earth", but rather part of a vibrant cross-border scene with northeast China, the way Vermont usually looks to Montreal, and an essential stop for any bands coming from European Russia or the EU heading to Japan. It's just that the Russian and Chinese border controls are not really set up for that right now, and it's pretty hard to get farther from Moscow, which is still the cultural center of the Russian Federation. This, though, will hopefully a) help advertise the scene to a slightly wider audience, and b) maybe clue in some of the people in the Boston area, this interblag's primary musical catchment area, that there are worse things than having to drive to Providence occasionally to see a show every other week. Vladivostok has a well alive metal scene. Boston's is certainly to fuck not dying because the police are squeezing a couple venues and the national bands are all playing Euro fests at the moment.
Thursday, August 08, 2013
7/14 - Hiroshima
Despite staying up all stupid hours to watch anime, I'm up with the dawn again. After getting a midmorning shinkansen connection time, I just need to go buy the ticket, refill at the bank ($15/box for momiji manju is a killer), then repack, junking the stuff that's out of use, and hit the road. Temperatures are expected to be ridiculous today, so I need to minimize time under load -- and cut that load down if I can.
1023. A morning look out from the hotel.
1024. Train crossing east of the station. Shortly after, it opened. This crossing is never open. Sundays.
1025. Telephone/power/light pole, Showa district southeast of the station.
1026. Sewer cover with the Carps mascot. This is in front of a little Carp fan bar on the edge of the tracks that I really regret never having the time to go in to.
In Hiroshima, I didn't go to Iwakuni more than to change trains, I didn't get to the Mazda plant/museum, I didn't see either the Carp or Sanfrecce live, and I didn't really explore the city center at all. However, I'm pretty well satisfied with what I did see and do, and I'm not going to be carrying too many regrets on to Osaka.
By the simple expedient of throwing out everything no longer needed -- med kit, rope, half the tissues, reverse souvenirs, backup-camera batteries -- I was able to repack everything with room to spare. The sandals and the knife will get ditched in Osaka, but they retain their use for now. I'm going to have to re-repack tomorrow to get into an airmobile configuration, but I'd need to unpack anyway to sew my pack back together. Stupid vodka bottle tearing stuff loose.
1027. Reclosable beer flask. This is also coming back; the cap doesn't count, but the bottle is useful for trolling at work.
By luck -- and by 1050 Sunday -- I managed to get a seat. It's about an hour and a half, and this train terminates at Shin-Osaka.
1028. Zoom-Zoom Stadium as the train gets cranked up.
video29: There's no speed indicator, but this is probably a personal land record. Even in comparison to the Munich-Nuremberg run last year, this is kicked up to Ridiculous Speed.
My ears are constantly popping like nothing on land since the climb out of Stockholm. Some of this is altitude change, and some of it is the extreme amount of tunnels and what that means, just in terms of physics, for cabin pressure.
- Osaka -
1029. Passage under the JR station.
1030. The rather imposing hotel. I arrived early, sweated a small oil slick on the counter, and in most ways caused too much trouble for the staff. Another black mark against foreigners in Osaka. :(
1031. Clock that old-school setup -- one tap, two knobs, sink, bath, or shower. The note is a nice touch.
The yukata here is not quite long enough for a selfie where I can be sure my junk isn't hanging out, but it's broad enough in the chest and gut that if it was, I could wear it out of the room with no fear of arrest. Another Osaka stereotype reinforced.
1032. An impressive look out. That's a lightbulb reflection, not some nightmarish multiplicity of suns.
1033. Street and ominous clouds.
1034. Sky over apartment blocks.
1035. Stackable parking, Osaka.
1036. The wind blew most of the weather east.
1037. Another five-minute downpour detonates in Osaka.
1038. A second wave in the next intersection.
1039. Eromanga ni made mou -- tadashii michi!
As suggested, I went out and got dinner, porn, and a bunch of beer, then made an early night of it. All I had in Osaka was Tsutenkaku -- which I don't really care about -- and takoyaki, and I'm not super nuts about octopus either. Better to stay in, drink, watch sumo and Sazae-san, and prep for the flight tomorrow.
Amazingly, there are TWO hipster-moe vampire mahou shoujo shows this season, and only one of them is by Type Moon. What the hell is this is I don't even. Also, as an airsoft fan I probably need to follow Stella Women's Academy High School Division Class C3, even though it is just Gainax doing K-On! with guns instead of electric guitars. Why? Because I already watched K-On! for the instruments rather than anything plot- or character-related (exception: club advisor's backstory) and Gainax is probably your best bet for "TV animation that is also not garbage intellectually", to the extent that such things exist.
1040. Tada de getto. I won this gum at 7-11 while buying provisions; sticking your hand into a box to pull draw cards is also Japan.
7/15 - Osaka
The flight's at 2, so I want to catch the 10:15 Haruka out to the airport -- which means leaving the hotel around 9 -- in an hour -- to be sure I can get the ticket and find the track in time. Let's boogie.
1041. Clouds over the tracks; it was dripping a little on the hike to the station.
video30: Cicadas - loud as all hell.
1042. ICOCA poster with mascot (promoting buying soft drinks with your railcard). This is a rail card that is also a pun; pronounce with a long i and a hard c as per カード and you'll get it.
I tried to shoot Tsutenkaku from the train, but it didn't work out. Saw it but; now if I can get some takoyaki at the airport, I'll complete Osaka without doing anything.
The city is just endless; the heavily-built-up area stretches almost the entire way out to the airport, which is built on reclaimed land. Tokyo is even bigger; dunno if, or when, I'll go and see myself. This is a big damn planet, and our time is short.
- Kansai International -
Half an hour till the counter opens. Fortunately, I've gotten re-rigged, and it's marginally better than sitting around waiting for the later train.
1043. They still make it.
1044. The contents; the last brick of slightly chocolate-flavored shortbread out of four in the pack. It's not bad, but it's definitely meant for caloric value alone rather than taste. The name's not just Engrish.
On gear: back at the start of book 1, I set up two test conditions. Both were directly satisfied. It's unambiguous that the modern-day field-ready fitba shirt is the best choice for warm-weather light tourism -- and probably for nearly anything as a primary base layer. Weighing almost nothing, easily cleaned in cold water, practically indestructible, and quick-drying, there is no reason to wear anything else on the top half of your body, especially if you anticipate having to wear the same shirt at least two days in a row. I should ideally have had more with me -- or, been non-fat enough to wear the Ecuador shirt -- but I did not need my non-fitba t-shirts at all.
In order of utility, it was about like this:
1) adidas Russia "sash"
2) Nike Celtic "1888 hoops"
3) adidas AC Milan "guido pocket"
4) Nike Celtic "green/black away"
DNW - (unknown) Ecuador
The new shirts beat the older ones easily; the material science behind these things keeps advancing by leaps and bounds. However, now's not too soon to put these in your travel arsenal. If you don't have a team, the major manufacturers will still sell you field wear in basic colors intended for youth/club teams, so you can get the science without necessarily flagging as a supporter of some club or another.
The tech components were also as useful as hoped. The most essential piece of equipment on the Trans-Sib is your slippers/sandals, but the second most essential is a Kindle. Light, slim, and high-cap, this will stave off boredom for well longer than the eight-day train ride without either the weight or bulk of conventional books. The tablet was a less dramatic improvement over my netbook, but still eminently useful. This tech load has been thoroughly vindicated.
1045. No, Megatokyo didn't make it up. This reclosable glass jar is also coming home as an extra souvenir for my dad, since I was not 100% satisfied with the cash fan I got at Miyajima.
The flight is delayed, so it's about two hours to liftoff. Enough to finish the water and sake, and maybe to take another bite of the Bulwer-Lytton. :shudder:
I get a sticker I'm supposed to put on my stuff as a transit passenger to avoid wasting my China visa, and as expected, I don't have to bag-transfer till the USA. I should still have enough time to count a China touch, though -- especially if I get a non-minimart meal in the terminal in yuan.
1046. Takoyaki getto! Osaka, kansaishimashitta!
That was a pun, and yes, it's terrible. If you don't get it, keep on not studying Japanese, crap like that is normally thought of as a feature of the language rather than a bug. Still done.
You can really tell when a flight's from China by the number of cardboard boxes unloaded. Not freight, just passenger luggage. Check for it, the next time you're in an international baggage claim.
1047. Spider on the terminal window.
A Few Words On (80):
Eugene Aram (E.B. Lytton)
This book is about two or three times longer than it needs to be. Most of it is soporific early-19th-century filler, but there's enough good material that you keep sifting through. Boring boring boring.
A Few Words On (81):
Falkland (E.B. Lytton)
This is a weird and disconnected novelette that is half ghost story, half martial romance, that at least is over quickly. Lytton didn't write too many of those, so cherish the chance to get through something of his in less than an hour.
A Few Words On (82):
The Haunted and the Haunters (E.B. Lytton)
This is another quick novelette, a ghost story that might easily be taken from a D&D module, so straightforward and exoteric is its one-path haunted-house plot. Blackwood and then Lovecraft would have -- and did -- worked this germ of an idea further forward, but this is a worthy predecessor.
- Guangzhou -
1048. China touch GET.
This doesn't look like much, because I was trying not to attract attention. Nevertheless, this is outside concrete, feet down in the PRC, gray skies above and rain falling. I would not take this as a first touch in China, but I've been here before, so it's ok. On to LA -- and hopefully my bag will make it, unplundered.
A Few Words On (83):
Lucretia (E.B. Lytton)
This book is super long and super useless. You should be able to see the twist ending long before everything is in place, but the volume is so stupidly verbose that you will probably be bleeding out of your ears by the time you get there. Deadly dull and torturous to finish.
Seat 74H is in the upper deck of the A380; not the most legroom in the whole world, but not bad for 13 hours around the rim to LA. We'll see how things go -- and if the Kindle has enough battery to fill the time around sleeps.
I don't plan to sleep too much, mostly because I seldom do, but also so that I can sleep from LA to Detroit and get back on Eastern time. The trick is to sleep little enough to sleep across the Midwest, but enough to not pass out in immigration moving toward that flight. Even yet, I'm not real good at this. Likeliest case is I'm ticking over 24 hours active getting on that first Delta flight, then I sleep like a rock.
Delays...at least I've got my customs form done and nearly four hours im Plan at LAX. Nearly a quarter of that is already burned, but that's what I built the time in for on the pre end. We'll be on the ground for another hour at least -- at least; no telling the actual time.
Takeoff was virtually unnoticeable. This generation of superheavy is really something.
After a fitful sleep, it's now 1700 Boston time. We're due in to LA in a little over 5:20; it'll be late, and the 90 minutes on the ground is a lot less than I'd like to have to clear immigration, change terminals, re-check, and clear security, but these things happen coming from China, and we've already made up time from anticipated. I should have bit the bullet and gone through Tokyo with no backtracking, but that's not really here or there now.
A Few Words On (84):
Pelham (E.B. Lytton)
This is so far the only long-form work of Lytton's that's been worthy of its pagecount. Between the adroit satire of the novel of manners and the locked-in crime story, there isn't a whole lot of fat in these pages, and the flashes of moralizing, philosophizing, and authorial asides are few. As odd as it sounds, this is a meaty Lytton worth reading, and almost compensation for some of his other dreck.
A Few Words On (85):
The Coming Race (E.B. Lytton)
This tiresome utopian pamphlet is of historical interest only; not so much for its sterile utopia, but because this is where the word 'vril' comes from, which is an interesting look in a web of pretend government and language footnotes. It also probably inspired an excellent Hypocrisy song, but the time's better spent per unit listening to "A Coming Race" than reading this.
A Few Words On (86):
This weird volume is kind of a mash-up of bad Goethe, Chaucer, and a discount Midsummer Night's Dream. Some of the serial tales in the frame are good, and some are crap, and the frame barely hangs together for itself, let alone support the stories mounted on it. Lytton gets a lot worse than this, but that's not the same as this book actually being good in its own right.
The Chinese breakfast option -- thick fried noodles, vegetables, a few scraps of meat -- helps with the clock reset. It doesn't feel like near on 8pm -- the sun outside isn't helping -- but this variety of food will help the conceit.
- leaving Los Angeles -
Somehow, I went three terminals at a dead run and through two lines, chaffing all kinds of coins and crap, and made a non-connected connection in 90 minutes total ground time by little short of a miracle. Long strides, sure feet, indomitable spirit. I'm on such a crazy competitor's high that I can't sleep now, absent more Bulwer-Lytton; I should be able to sleep across to Boston.
A Few Words On (87):
Zanoni (E.B. Lytton)
This book is not as long as some of Lytton's others, but it's quite every bit as crappy, full of philosophical/religious claptrap and copious unnecessary quotations, dragging on and on and on and stupidly on. Guillotine the cast, guillotine the author, and read "...Charles Dexter Ward" and A Tale of Two Cities as the separate books they were intended to be.
A Few Words On (88):
Four Max Carrados Detective Stories (E. Bramah)
Hot on the heels of Holmes came other detectives; Carrados is probably the first with a significant disability. Blind as he may be, his mind is still on the level of Doyle's hero, even if Bramah's writing isn't quite up to the master's. It's an interesting gimmick well-worked, and if there aren't as many adventures, at least they're all pretty choice.
A Few Words On (89)
Kai Lung's Golden Hours (E. Bramah)
The 1001-nights conceit is an old one, but Bramah's stories all fit their frame well, and the surrounding plot is fairly self-connected. The slavish imitation of too-literal Chinese phrasing and translation really gets on this person's nerves after a while, but it's better than reading dialect stories at least. Good, but after my time abroad -- and three H.Y. Bros flicks on the last plane -- I'm almost hearing the characters speaking actual Chinese, which may be an additional help.
A Few Words On (90):
Max Carrados Mysteries - An Anthology (E. Bramah)
In addition to 3/4 of the other Carrados volume, this one packs in four more, in many ways superior. The shadow of Conan Doyle looms large still, but despite his blindness Carrados often comes off as more believable than Holmes -- less a superhuman genius, more of an honest if exceptionally sensitive applicant. Good stuff, and by volume probably the Carrados collection you want.
The wholesale garbage of American TV is ever unwelcome to come home to. Yes, Japanese and Russian TV has a lot of garbage on it too, but the virulent stupidity and useless hyperactivity of our television will go wanting an equal for a long time. Give me the real world, and with it low voices, silence, or teeth-shattering death metal -- never, in any measure, the amplified derping of Americans to one another on subjects that don't even hold the interest of the conversants.
7/16 - Detroit
Eastern time. Changed to USD. Real food down. Loose, open, quiet flight. The long airy halls of Detroit again -- as Guangzhou reminded me of them -- in contrast to the mad yammer of LAX on a Sunday night. I may even be able to sleep this leg; whether my bag makes it or not, I'm kind of past caring. This is why I run a crashbag, in the final analysis -- razor/dental/deo supplies aside, there is nothing absolutely essential in that crumbling green monstrosity, and everything important is in the bulging black canvas bucket I keep on me always.
video31: Smoking vents. This happens when the plane's drawing humid outside air in on the ground, but I know people who get freaked out by air travel, and to the unprepared mind, this is fair freaky. Not as bad as that sludged Coke bottle that I and others thought was a hydraulics leak back in '07, outbound from Germany, though...
My camera took a bad knock and lost the battery gate somewhere on the last plane. It sucks, but I didn't expect to get through this thing entirely unscarred. None of the internals are exposed, so it's safe to handle, but I'd be less sanguine about using it wet, or with wet gear. Shorting out the capacitors in these things is seldom fatal, but always hurts like a bastard. Something to fix before the next one.
When and where that will be, though, is up in the air. That unused Chinese visa is going to continue burning a hole in my pocket, and I've been kicking about some mad schemes -- they all involve HK's airport and crossings by subway and helicopter for some reason -- but I just spent several days reviving my personal connection to Asia, and I kind of want to go somewhere else. Maybe Q4 to Palestine, a haunt of a couple days, then do China a la hardcore in May into June 2014...but nothing is decided yet, not who, not when. This battered old passport is on its last legs; that and only that is certain. I will have to take the chip like an ippanjin, and have a noob's crisp cover again, but nothing is forever. We have only the time, ourselves, that our visas for this place are stamped for, and no matter what condition it's in at the end, one-popped to Canada or double-extended with the evidence of a well-attempted Badass Cert, expired is expired. To the box, for history; others for use.
Even if these journals were not clogged with near on a hundred book reports, the above should make it pretty obvious that I've been reading a lot of pre-WWI potboilers lately. Herp.
A Few Words On (91):
The Mirror of Kong Ho (E. Bramah)
One of the things about the post-civil-rights era is that we really don't get books like this any more, where a white man can openly pose as an ignorant nonwhite foreigner reacting to white society. This is a good thing -- Bramah is usually the least racist, by a long piece, of the writers I've read much from on this trip, but this book is uncomfortable in addition to being unreadably obtruse. It's not that whites can't write nonwhites, it's that Kong's thoroughly written down, most of the time, for teh lulz, and it's no joke to watch someone else get a kicking when you imagine the boot in your own ribs as much as on your own foot.
1049. Boston harbor from the air.
Since we didn't get to the gate till like 0940, I was quite surprised to be able to get logjammed going out, exchange a few words and a couple bars of "Bright Side" with a cutie who was being obstructed by roller bags from reaching her bus, nab my present-and-mostly-nonlooted pack off the belt at first grab, go all the way A-B-C-E-lot-Blue Line on the bus, then get bailed over at State and hiked up to North Station before 1030, leaving well enough time to get lunch at the 7-11 across the street, all inside vendors being either stuck on the breakfast menu or just plain not open. The train's not for a while yet, and I needed a different ticket -- which on purchase got me like $5 bonus back from the machine as a homecoming present -- anyway. No sense rushing; this is the 25th day I've been out on my current travels, and I don't have to be back at work till tomorrow morning.
Around noon, I got back to my current digs, having spent, as noted, most of 25 days on the road. I didn't get back on cycle for another week, and finishing writing this up took another week after that besides. At 44000+ words, this compares pretty well to many of the books I read en route
So, how much did this thing cost? Well, the short answer is "it was wicked fucking expensive". The long answer is a little more involved; I'll break it down into Transport, Accommodation, and Cash On Hand.
I spent about $1800 on flights and $1300 on trains in Finland/Russia. The train bit was more expensive than list because I was using an agency, but as noted, if you don't go through Real Russia, you better have a friend on the ground in the Russian Federation to book your trains. The expense is justified. I spent about $200 between postage and consulate fees on my Russian visa -- again, I could have done this cheaper in New York, but I was going through Real Russia anyway for my trains, and they have the significant advantage of putting together an internet package that takes most of the guesswork out of the somewhat complicated and obfuscatory consulate form. The ferry to Japan cost $310, and trains in Japan accounted for another $250. So all told, $3860 on transportation to go around the world in 25 days, or $154.40 per day.
I spent the following on hotels: Moscow, $160; Ekaterinburg, $100; Irkutsk, $155; Vladivostok, $580; Hiroshima, $285; Osaka, $55. In total, $1335 on accommodations. The truly hardcore could probably take $255 off that bill by not getting off the train, but at $53.40 per day, the train -- and ferry -- is already saving me a fuckload on sleeping arrangements.
As to cash on hand, I took over about 800 USD and 150 EUR, drew 200 EUR in Finland, then about 100 USD in Vladivostok (3000 rubles) and 400 USD in Japan (40,000 yen). I came back with about 60 USD, 50 EUR, and 12,000 yen, so it looks like I spent about $1495 overseas. However, a lot of that is double-counted. I paid the ferry and the Japan trains out of cash on hand, which knocks it down to $935. Considering I live (gas excluded) mostly on cash for my normal day to day expenses, at a burn rate of about $200/week, this is about $235 over normal expenses for those three and a half weeks, which is suspiciously close to what I ended up spending on souvenirs. In the real world, I needed to have, over the 25 days, an eventual $1500 on hand, but how much of that was extra expense is a little illusory.
So, final expenses:
Transit paid in advance including Russian visa: $3300
Non-train/ferry accommodations: $1335
Cash on hand including transport paid en route: $1495
Grand total: $6130
As noted, "it was wicked fucking expensive". Like, $245 per day expensive. I could have saved money by booking a single train rather than getting off and using hotels, and by selecting my Hiroshima accommodations on price rather than "is it right on top of the JR station", and some of this will scale with multiple people, but the fact remains that going around the world is kind of super fucking expensive. It's possible and achievable, but it isn't really something you can do on a shoestring, thanks to those transoceanic flights.
This does not count gear that I bought for the trip and threw away rather than trucking home, or discarded on return. This probably comes to another $75. It also doesn't count equipment bought specifically for this trip that was NOT disposed of or destroyed, since these kind of have inherent residual value. I probably could have brought back the med kit, wet wipes, iodine tabs, tissue packs, rope, extra duct tape, flipflops, and baby-blue santoku, but there was no reason to, and it saved pack space and weight. One of the most important things to get used to for extended overseas operations is the decision process of when to get rid of stuff, and what can be safely junked. After a while, you not only learn what to not bring in the first place, but what of the stuff you do bring isn't going to make it past point X, and what will only survive to point Y.