I would never have imagined that, a mere six months after my first Kindo show, I’d have an opportunity near enough to go again. Especially after all the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” I endured for not being able to attend their Residency shows in NYC late last Fall.
But, here we are. A night that centered on the performance of the song collection (formerly called an “album”) known as “Rhythm, Chord & Melody” in its entirety, plus a few other treats bookending the set.
To be sure, the band has experienced some member changes since the recording and release, so it might not be what some might call “genuine” or “authentic.” However, 1) the music/songs have their own integrity and stand on their own, 2) with the musical talent of the current Kindo lineup (including mainstays Joey Secchiaroli, and Jeffrey Jarvis), they more than adequately give these songs continued life and fulfillment.
It amazes me how accessible and genuine these guys are. At this particular show, I had the opportunity to chat with each member (before AND after the show), and they were so chill. I tried REALLY HARD not to fan-boy all over the place.
Anyway, on with the show!
Not to sound cruel, but I really had no interest in the openers, Changing Scene and Del Florida. They were certainly talented, but I didn’t really have the energy or focus to spend on their whole sets.
Kindo opened the evening with “Nightingale,” a song of love and sudden, tragic loss, followed by “The Hero, the Saint, the Tyrant & the Terrorist.” From this rousing start, they turned to the Main Event of the night, playing the now twelve-year-old “Rhythm, Chord & Melody” from start to finish.
I’ll spare the track-by-track observations.
From the beautifully gentle, opening piano arpeggio of “Moments In Between” to the raucous energy of “Hold Out,” this show just flowed. The most curious part is the adaptation of the original horn and string parts into piano/key/synth and guitar parts. They blended well, and the songs didn’t seem lacking one bit, perhaps because of the sheer energy invested in their performance. This collection of songs brings all the melancholy, pensive, and joyful emotions, all the musical range of styles and skills, and all substance of well-crafted, memorable tunes. This really was a unique and special night.
After slipping in a brief plug for the pre-order of “Rhythm, Chord & Melody” on gatefold, double-180g vinyl and their long-standing Patreon perks, they offered up one of those Patron-only tracks in the form of “Who Does the Devil Blame.” The night closed with two of the more recent Kindo classics, “Human Convention” and “Smell of a Rose,” both of which have been provided with crowd-funded, live-in-studio video performances. (links provided below)
Before I knew it, the show was over. Of course, I would have stood for more, but, it also felt complete and satisfying.
And, after all of that, these guys gave themselves back to their fans and just hung out throughout the venue, chatting, selfie-ing, and just simply being kind and gracious human beings.
Thank you, guys, for everything you do, everything you are and everything you give.
One final note: It was, indeed, another night of RAIN, as well during both sides of the 90-minute commute.
A seemingly innocent enough observation while standing in line outside a concert venue with a hundred or so folks, waiting for the doors to open. On its surface, it is a reassuring statement that indicates “you are where you want/need to be,” a safe place, if you will, where the things held in common provide comfort because, here, in this place, at this time, you are not an outsider/outlier.
However, the statement above was offered as a somewhat questioning observation and expression of disappointment and/or discouragement. It came on the heels of a few voices among the gathered crowd of like-music-minded fans deciding it would be “cool” to shout/curse/verbally accost a small group of people who had assembled to raise a protest. Yes, hard rock/heavy metal, and numerous other muscial genres have their roots in non-conforming, rebellion, aggression, in-your-face, speak-my-mind-no-matter-what attitudes. But this little incident just didn’t sit well with me.
This “harmless” little incident and observation stirred thoughts of belonging and what is expected (demanded?) of members of any group, formal or ad hoc. To be certain, belonging is not exclusively a conscious, voluntary decision. However, for purposes of my observations here, that’s the aspect I will be leaning on.
Belonging is part of our basic, human-ness. While it is not the primary aspect of being, it certainly can’t be overlooked. The need for belonging was identified and explored as part of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, adequately explained here, and it provides a basic insight into our motivations, although from a humanistic approach. I would say that belonging is part of our created nature. In the second creation account in the Hebrew Scriptures (later adopted by Christians), G-d declares “It is not good for humankind to be alone.” (Gen. 2:18) In the first creation story, G-d “automatically” creates humanity in tandem. (Gen. 1:26-27) Both accounts place humankind in relationship to the rest of the created world.
So… What do I/you/we do when a portion of the group in which we have found belonging acts aberrantly? Do we shrug it off, discounting a (hopefully) non-majority voice? Do we speak out and condemn/correct the behavior? Do we withdraw our participation and belonging to such a group?
It has taken me this long since the original event to draft/edit/complete this post simply because there isn’t one answer, one choice; no two offenses or offenders are the same. But, is it ever acceptable for responses to be contextually justified, or are/should these responses be universally non-negotiable? Especially since these are voluntary membership groups? To be sure, these types of incidents are not exclusive to the realm of music, but rather are evident in ANY group of two or more: fans of sports teams, fans of actors/actresses, fans of authors, artists, etc., obviously political parties, and, yes…even churches/denominations/religions.
“Membership has its privileges.” (American Express ad campaign, c. 1990’s) But, does membership within a group also have its responsibilities? If so, how stringently are (should they) be enforced? And, by whom?
American psychiatrist, Dr. Murray Bowen, spent his career studying, documenting and theorizing on the science of human behavior. His work is carried on by The Bowen Center. One of Bowen’s foundational concepts was that of Self-Differentiation. The Bowen Center provides this overview:
Families and other social groups tremendously affect how people think, feel, and act, but individuals vary in their susceptibility to a “groupthink” and groups vary in the amount of pressure they exert for conformity. People with a poorly differentiated “self” depend so heavily on the acceptance and approval of others that either they quickly adjust what they think, say, and do to please others or they dogmatically proclaim what others should be like and pressure them to conform. A person with a well-differentiated “self” recognizes his realistic dependence on others, but he can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality.
So now, I find myself pondering whether or not those behind the verbal offenses were acting out of their own self-differentiation, or if they were trying to behave in a manner they perceived would deepen their own sense of belonging in this particular voluntary group. You and I will never know the answer for sure. And I’m certain I have been those voices, for those different reasons, when I viewed the world very differently than I do these days.
I feel like I could continue to ruminate and write/edit on this and it would never be “complete.” Maybe I’m just short-cutting to an end to get something posted. But…this incident and these thoughts it stirred haven’t left me. While they are not constantly on the top of the heap of conscious thought, each time I find myself feeling at odds within a particular group to which I believe I belong, it brings me back to this.
How important is it to belong to certain voluntary groups? Will I stop attending live concerts because I don’t wish to be associated with a group where such things (or worse) may happen? Or am I self-differentiated well enough to observe, react, interact, reflect and move on?
I guess I will see, the next time something comes up…
It is entirely possible that, by title alone, you would get the impression that a pastor would be writing about the theological nuances of “atonement theories.” If that is the case…please look elsewhere, at least for the present time. I am certain there are many other blogs/bloggers that would scratch that itch for you. One particular resource that I think is quite helpful is David Lose’s “Making Sense of the Cross,” available as individual book, as group study curriculum with accompanying DVD, or even as an open online course via ChurchNext.
This post, on the other hand, will contain my observations related to the newest Killswitch Engage album entitled, aptly enough…”Atonement.”
I have to admit, I wasn’t sure I wanted to even invest in this latest release. I have been a fan of Killswitch since the pre-release, online stream of “The End of Heartache” way back in the early 2000’s. I even gladly threw money at the Anniversary/Reunion tour for “Alive or Just Breathing” as well as the follow up “Disarm the Descent.” It was fantastic to have that opportunity after the many, wonderful times seeing them with previous vocalist Howard Jones.
But, when “Incarnate” arrived, I found the lead singles “Hate By Design” and “Strength of the Mind” not particularly compelling. In the time since, I have listened repeatedly to this album via an online streaming service, and it still doesn’t resonate with me.
But now, here we are. Following Killswitch lead vocalist Jesse Leach on social media over the past years, both as an individual and as an artist, has been a bit enlightening, if not occasionally just a bit odd. Anyway, social media provided some additional hype around this release, particularly when it came to light that Howard Jones would be making a guest appearance on at least one song.
I’ve generally credited Jesse and his spiritual upbringing/background/perspective as an element that connected with me. His lyrics seem to often center on inner strength, standing up and fighting injustice, and unity across the breadth of humanity. What’s odd is, many of the same themes seemed to be present in the Howard Jones era, as well, so…maybe it was really Adam D and not Jesse all this time. Who knows? Not the most important aspect, overall.
In a single word, “Atonement” is a very “raw” piece of work. Not raw in the sense that is needs to be cooked a little longer, but just emotionally raw. This is attributable to the many personal issues at work in Jesse Leach’s life, including, but not limited to, his divorce, his vocal surgery and recovery, his diagnosis and dealing with mental health issues, and so on. Jesse himself has been very public about his highs, his lows and his love of a more punk/hardcore life/style/approach to his art, and it shows quite a bit on “Atonement.” From the opening roar of “Unleashed” to the closing challenge “What would you die for?” of “Bite The Hand That Feeds,” the guttural, throat-rending vocals are in full use.
That’s not to say there aren’t any sung parts or vocal harmonies across the tracklist. There’s just A LOT of emotive, primal screaming present throughout. And it is indeed impressive that this can be sustained through a live performance and a career of 20+ years. Granted, Howard did his share of this type of vocal, so it IS a part of the band’s style.
Aptly titled opening track, “Unleashed” launches the chaos after a very brief, jangly guitar intro. The staccato guitar riff and pounding rhythm drive this from start to finish. Lyrically, this is a bit of a vitriolic diatribe without a specific “target.” It lays the credit/blame on another who has summoned forth this previously contained inner wildness. No wonder it is the opening track.
“Signal Fire,” the track that features an appearance by Howard Jones, is an instant favorite (possibly because of my predisposition toward Howard’s involvement with this band). This furious little song is a “call to arms” to gather our strength and look for the beacon of hope to lead us away from the current (and ongoing) dystopian world into a better future. Again, it speaks less of individual heroics and success and more to recognize the plight of others…and to act to do something to correct it.
“Crownless King” – the band themselves commented they wrote this song with Testament vocalist Chuck Billy in mind, so it makes sense to have him doing a bit of guest vocals on this track. And, he sounds GREAT! It also seems like this could have been a bit of leftover from the Howard Jones era of KSE. As good as Chuck sounds, I also think Howard would have crushed this tune. This may be a less-than-subtle political commentary about the state of this in the U.S. Or, I’m just projecting…
“I Am Broken Too” is Jesse Leach’s ode to mental illness/mental health issues. He is certainly not alone as more and more voices work to #EndtheStigma of mental illness. This is perhaps the most melodic tune of the set. It speaks to those who may be fighting hidden battles, offering a promise that they aren’t alone. He utilizes the phrase “I’ll reopen my wounds” as a way of telling others he has traveled a path and perhaps experiences and wisdom to offer. This calls to mind, for me, the writings of Henri Nouwen, particulary “The Wounded Healer.” Nouwen advocated knowing and claiming your own “woundedness” before you could help others. In a sense, it makes us (hopefully) more empathic, empathetic and compassionate to those around us. It really is a powerful song, even if not the most musically complex.
“Take Control” sounds to me like either a leftover from the first Times of Grace album, or something that could have appeared on the next one. Not totally out of character or style for KSE to do such things considering Times of Grace‘s main players are Adam D and Jesse. Again, not a bad track, and may have even fit on the self-titled KSE album recorded with Howard Jones in 2009.
“I Can’t Be the Only One” – they aren’t the first band to have recycled or reinterpreted ideas from time to time. This song jumps right of the speakers as a revised version of “Hate By Design” from the album I didn’t buy. It was an immediate first impression and I haven’t been able to shake it with successive listens.
It seems odd to me that the whole escapade ends with a slow, chugging guitar fade out of “Bite The Hand That Feeds.” Maybe it was meant to bookend with the jangly opening, but…who knows.
Overall, this is a relatively short collection of songs with the longest track being right around 4:30, and a couple not quite hitting the 3:00 mark. This isn’t a HUGE stretch for the Killswitch brand. It still has some blast beats, some great guitar work, and a few anthemic hooks. I do think it may be the first time they have included guest vocalists. This is a safe, solid addition to the KSE catalog, but in the couple of months since its release, “Atonement” still hasn’t fully reconciled itself among my preferred pantheon of their material.
Very few experiences may qualify as “once in a lifetime.” This night, for me, was one of those rarefied points in time.
Since the somewhat belated discovery of this Iced Earth/Blind Guardian side project, and the purchase of their eponymous debut album, the idea of seeing them live has lived solely as a dream, of sorts. With full credit to one of my favorite concert partners, this dream took a considerable step toward reality in the Spring of 2019, when masterminds Jon Schaffer and Hansi Kursch announced they would be doing a “very limited” tour in conjunction with the release of the remastered Demons & Wizards catalog (of two albums). They also used it as an opportunity to stoke the interest in the still pending THIRD album sometime in the future.
With less than 24 hours of consideration, we agreed that a trip to NYC for the last date of the tour would likely be our only option. It all hung on the strength and speed of an Internet connection to be able to secure tickets before it sold out (which we anticipated). As of an excited text on April 12 which simply declared, “WE’RE IN!” this dream was taking shape. Ten days later, I received a photo of the actual tickets (without a ransom note, too!) It was…ON! (as colloquially appropriate).
Fast Forward 4-1/2 months – we filled the gas tank, hit the ATM and away we went for the ~3-hour drive to NYC. Thankfully, we gave ourselves plenty of time and had pre-purchased a parking space in a garage on W 42nd St., blocks away from Times Square and the Sony PlayStation Theater, sight of the anticipated spectacle. We arrived without incident. Once parked, we made our way to Maoz for some falafel and sides. We had a little time to wander aimlessly around Times Square before taking our place in line at the venue entrance, one-hour-plus before doors opened, but…you do what you have to.
Once inside, we made a quick stop at the merch table and found, for us, the most idyllic spot: center, unosbtructed sight line, elevated rear of the floor, at the railing. Perfect! Now, all we had to do was wait through the two opening bands (with whom we were unfamiliar), TYR and Lizzy Borden. The venue staff had provided the following running order: 7:30 – 8:15 – TYR 8:30 – 9:15 – Lizzy Borden 9:45 – 11:00 – Demons & Wizards
Hailing from the Faroe Islands, this band of viking-styled marauders took the stage right on time. These four gents play a pretty traditional-sounding style of heavy metal with lots of viking themes, legends, imagery, etc. They feature two guitars, bass and drums. Vocals are clean, clear and melodic, with no screams or growls. They were quite tight as a unit, and they spared very little time for banter with the audience. They appeared to be enjoying themselves quite a bit. Perhaps the most awkward moments were the few times the turned the house lights on, seeming to encourage audience sing-along. However, those moments were when they decided to sing (in quite nicely blended harmonies!) in what I will presume is their native language (?) which left the crowd kinda…WHA? (or maybe it was just me) They played an 8-song set that went by rather quickly, but the gathered fans seemed sated and I can imagine they perhaps increased their fanbase.
I’m old enough to (vaguely) remember at least the band name from the 80’s metal scene, although I would not have been able to offer any opinion on style, quality, etc. I suppose it is enough that a band from that time that seemed to not be a “global household name” was tapped as a direct support act for this tour. As with TYR, they were right on time and the band arrived on-stage to a recorded symphonic intro track before erupting in power chords for the newer tune, “My Midnight Things.” Lead singer/namesake Lizzy Borden arrived on-stage with a chrome mask, cape. shimmering body suit and boots, and a weird set of spikes/cowl. Each song thereafter came with another wardrobe/costume change for Lizzy which was almost amusing, but mostly annoying, as they were all variations of facepaint, capes and the like. I guess if you did a visual mash-up of Kiss, Blackie Lawless, and Alice Cooper, this would come close. Again, musically, not terrible. I have certainly had to endure much worse opening acts in my concert-going career, so…not a total loss. They completed a 9-song set including an extended “There Will Be Blood Tonight” which began with Lizzy running an axe over his tongue and spewing blood everywhere, then crawling along the barrier to smear it on adoring (?) fans. Given this act has been around since I was young, the visual impression I got of the band was of an aging rocker who hired a bunch of young talent to help re-animate a career. I’m not sure it was or will be successful, but hey! I bet they don’t have day jobs!
Finally, the anticipation was nearly ended. The stage was set. And, under a shroud of blue lights and with the pre-recorded track “Rites of Passage” chanting its way out of the sound system, along came:
Demons & Wizards
The band hit the stage with the furiously galloping “Heaven Denies,” and raised the performance bar incredibly high. Just in time for the first verse, Hansi entered and proceeded to sing as if 20 years hadn’t passed since he first recorded this tune. He made it look effortless!
The set continued with “Poor Man’s Crusade” before turning to the title track of the second album “Touched By The Crimson King.” Hansi took a brief moment to incite notify the crowd that the venue had a strict curfew time and suggested they may have to cut “a song or two.”
Wait. Wha? Is this NOT Times Square, New York City?! The “city that never sleeps?!?!” WTH?!
Onward. Following “Love’s Tragedy Asunder,” Hansi provided a brief history of the band before playing Iced Earth’s “Burning Times” followed by Blind Guardian’s “Welcome To Dying.” In a word, FABULOUS! While Hansi’s voice isn’t the deep, husky type that is most fitting for Iced Earth, he truly made it his own. Jon Schaffer (and the rest of the band) looked like they were having a blast!
An odd low point (for me) of the evening was the acoustic “Wicked Witch.” But, you can’t have everything. There are always songs you wish would/wouldn’t have been played. A few more cuts from the “Crimson King” album and the band gathered up for another pair of shared covers: “I Died For You” (IE) and “Valhalla” (BG).
After initially discovering “Horror Show,” IE’s Spawn-inspired “Dark Saga” found its way into my library, and “I Died For You” is easily one of the best cuts. Once again, Hansi was doing a fine job owning this song, and…
OH MY GOD! Is that MATT F’IN BARLOW walking in from the back of the stage holding a mic!??!?!? NO F’IN WAY!! <total giddy screaming fanboy me at this point>
Indeed. Matt Barlow, arguably Iced Earth’s most popular vocalists appeared to ramp up the “magicalness” of this encounter.
After much shrieking/wailing/keening/screaming, the band was able to move forward with “Valhalla,” which brings with it its own history of “crowd participation.” Always amusing.
The set then closed with the final trio of songs from the original album: “Tear Dwon the Wall,” “Gallows Pole,” and “My Last Sunrise,” and they were still performing quite on-point. “Gallows Pole/My Last Sunrise” is every bit as powerful as the first time I heard it, and still Hansi was more than up for it.
A brief break, with some more a capella crowd “Valhalla” before the band returned to the stage to play “Blood On My Hands” before closing the night with “Fiddler On The Green,” the sorta unofficial title track of the first album.
All in all, it indeed was a VERY magical encounter, one that I will not soon forget. For who knows when this little “side project” will tour the land again.
The time had come. The crowd had swelled to between 150-200, which is purely a guess on my part. Voltage Lounge was certaily fuller than when I arrived and…the air was, indeed, electric!
The energy of this band, from start to finish, was very high. And, I believe that was fed by the reciprocated excitement of the crowd. As evidenced by the setlist, they performed a good mixture of their catalog, despite this being part of the tour cycle for their most recent album “Happy However After.” There are always songs you wish they would have played, but…I can’t really complain.
Opening with “Let Me Be” seemed to be a great way to kick things off. “Human Convention” has become a favorite and they made this beautifully seamless transition from “Impossible World.” They followed this with “Whispering On The Wind,” a song that is only accessible to Patreon subscribers, which Joey took a brief moment to explain. I’m certain I enjoyed hearing it, but I can’t pick a particular moment out of my memory from it.
Next came the grouping of “Bullets in the Air,” “Romancing A Stranger,” and “Return to Me,” all songs I had grown increasingly familiar in my weeks of pre-concert listening prep. This band is SO on it, performance-wise! The “rhythm(s), chord(s), and melody” were all on display, and well-mixed from where I was. The band looked like they were still having as much fun playing, as the crowd was, although I’m not sure who was bouncing more…Rocco on the keys or Rodney Flood on percussion. I’d say Rodney, from my perspective, as I worried he was going to bounce right off his stool! And he just had the biggest smile the entire night! (No offense, Rocco.)
“Return To Me,” for those unfamiliar with it, is a bit of pensive reflection on lost love and the wish/hope/desire to have that love return. While it starts as a fairly “mellow” tune, there is a great electric guitar break in the middle, and Amit nailed it!
As much as I enjoy a diverse collection of music, there are some songs I don’t particularly care for, no matter how well they are performed. Case in point, the decision to play a cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” I never was a fan of the song, but the Kindo folk did a fine job, and the crowd seemed to appreciate it. And, maybe it holds a special place for the Kindo players. <shrug>
The rest of the show maintained the excitement, energy and fun, right through the end and the “non-encore.” Again, due to the venue’s restrictive time schedule, the band didn’t exactly do an encore. Rather than leave the stage, Joey simply said, “We’re just going to play more music.” Surprise, surprise…no one objected, and they performed the 3-song set of “Feeling In the Night,” “I Hate Music,” and “Just Wait.”
“I Hate Music” and its commentary on the state of musical entertainment is an obvious crowd-pleaser, and it did not disappoint. If memory serves (and at this point, it may not), this included a thundering “drum duel” between Kendall and Rodney. I would declare Rodney the winner, but…a total delight!
While the gathered Kindo fans were still reeling in the final, lingering moments of fun, Joey stated they would be hanging out for just a bit by their merch table (squirreled away at a back corner of the balcony), and encouraged people to stop by. Before the band could even descend the stairs at the side of the stage, the venue staff made their way through the crowd loudly proclaiming “We gotta clear out! Everybody has to go!” I was out of the club by 9p.m. on a Friday night (although it DID facilitate a much earlier 2-hour drive home). Easily, the only negative part of this whole experience.
I had SO. MUCH. FUN!
I am beyond thrilled to have had the chance to catch this band live, and in such an “intimate” setting. As they had only two dates remaining at this point on the current run, I imagine it may be just a little while before I have the opportunity again. I’ll “just wait” eagerly for whatever may come next.
Having stepped into the cool air of the Voltage Lounge, and being affirmed by the staff that I looked old enough to not have to be ID’ed for a “drinking wristband,” I made my way to the bar and ordered a favorite, local beer – Victory Golden Monkey – and sat. Band members and staff appeared largely indiscernible, although Reign of Kindo mainman, Joey was instantly recognizable as he was helping make final tweaks to soundboard settings. He was kind enough to come over, introduce himself, and thank me for being there. I was able to chat very briefly with him. A really delightful guy!
Perhaps it was due to being such an early schedule, but by the time things started, I counted <10 patrons in the venue. Not necessarily a good sign, and one that had me wondering if the band(s) were going to just drop out, or not give their best effort. I imagine it is more than a little demoralizing to play to a largely empty venue, for contractual obligations. But, on they went.
First up: Rocco of the Snow Comprised of current Kindo performers Rocco Dellaneve (keys/vocals), Kendall Lantz (drums) and Amit Peled (guitars), they took the ivy-endowed stage for a brief set. Very talented and enjoyable! As they played, a few more concert-goers were added to the number, although most seemed perfectly satisfied to hover near the rear of the room. Stand out track for me was “Gotta Wonder.”
Next up: Adrian Bellue Clearly, this is NOT the guy associated with classic/art/prog rockers King Crimson. However, he was absolutely AMAZING! A lone, acoustic guitarist who played beautifully and furiously through his set. He made so much sound with just his guitar. Possibly the most engaging part of the set was his demonstration of how he produces all of the sounds LIVE, without benefit of looping or sampling technologies. He encouraged those in attendance to draw closer, which they did, and thereby asserted themselves as an actual audience. Stand out tunes: War Games and Stringslinger. Also had the opportunity to chat with him after his set. Very personable and approachable. And, sadly, I don’t have an accompanying photo to insert.
Rounding out the Openers: Sirin Tip In direct contrast to Adrian Bellue, this woman came to the stage with a couple of stands to support her effects boards, laptop and synth/controller. Primarily an individual artist who works with layers of live-created loops, she collaborated with Rocco and Kendall for one tune. Interesting to see, beautiful voice, but maybe not entirely my interest. She was the first to bear the brunt of the venue’s imposed running time restriction. She indicated she had “a couple more songs” and was promptly informed that she could do one more (and that seemed iffy).
By now, the attending crowd was filling in and becoming more of a presence. I still had plenty of room to move freely and was able to obtain and maintain a place right at the front of the stage.
If you have perused ANY/MANY of the pages or posts that have been published under this identity, you should already know there is more than just “metal” in the air. What will follow is a review of my first live experience with this particular group of musicians. But first…
The Reign of Kindo came into my awareness sometime in early 2019, thanks to a rather unexpected recommendation from my son, the grad student. Over the years, we have found some common ground in musical tastes. Perhaps it was “payback” for my exposing him to Dirty Loops or Dream Theater, or something totally unrelated. Perhaps it had absolutely nothing to do with me (oh, the horror!), but from a friend of his at grad school.
PSA: If YOU don’t take responsibility for your child’s musical entertainment choices, they will be swayed by others beyond your sphere of influence. And we can guess how THAT usually turns out, right? RIGHT?!
Anyway, I digress.
After spending months listening to The Reign of Kindo via YouTube and Spotify, I recently bought their digital music catalog, minus the 8-bit remixes that are a thing unto themselves. I already had some favorite tracks, so it was nice to be able to spend more time giving a closer listen. While doing so one day, I stumbled upon a social media post by the band that indicated they were touring (!), and I thought I had missed my chance. But luck/providence/karma/etc. had a different plan. It turned out that I had missed MUCH of the tour, BUT there was an opportunity drive two hours on a Friday night to get the full-fledged LIVE experience. Oh, and the tickets were only TWELVE DOLLARS!!! “Shut up and take my money, “or so I think I’ve heard the young people exclaim at similar developments.
Tickets indicated “Doors at 5:00p.m. Show at 5:30p.m.” Realizing it was at best a 2-hour drive…on a Friday afternoon…to a center-city destination…on a holiday weekend…well, that was going to take some effort. BUT…I managed to mostly pull it off. After 2-1/2 hours, including a 35 minute traffic delay, I arrived at an “in the vicinity” parking lot (and being wildly overcharged) at around 4:25p.m. I walked the couple of blocks down-and-around and arrived. FIRST! I could hear the band sound-checking. Door was unlocked, so…in I went. And…was promptly asked to wait out in the late afternoon sun on the sidewalk.
Voltage Lounge is a new venue to me, and it is NOT particularly easy to locate, as evidenced by the many other concert-goers trying to find an adjacent venue (Franklin Music Hall, formerly Electric Factory) who had no idea why I was standing outside some random glass door for a band they had never heard of, which also was NOT the band or venue they were seeking.
By the time the doors “opened,” and I was admitted, the pre-show crowd had swelled to…three.
Based on the success and fun of my first Bikes & Beers ride, it didn’t take much thought to consider expanding my range of experiences by taking on a second event in 2019. This was also helped along by the previously mentioned holiday registration discount. Oh, and the fact that Victory Brewing makes some beers I really enjoy.
Due to various work obligations, and (largely) my aversion for riding in rain storms or unseasonable heat/humidity, I had not been on my actual bike since the Troegs/Bikes & Beers ride six weeks earlier. I did, however, continue with the weekly Spinning sessions. As an added bonus, my lovely wife agreed to join me as a non-participant, providing moral support and a friendly face at the finish line.
The commute time was a bit longer to get to Victory’s Parkesburg, PA location, although it wasn’t a terrible drive on a Saturday morning. But, due to the forecast weather/heat, the event organizers alerted all riders to arrive earlier as they had bumped up the ride dpearture times. Overall, it was a great decision, but when I had to get up even earlier to get ready and drive to get there, I was a tad grumbly.
On a personal note, I was noticing a serious internal tension/anxiety seeming to build as I drove toward the event. I’m not entirely sure exactly of the source, but I think it was rooted in not really knowing the course/route landscape, my anticipated ability to perform, and concern for the “fun” factor for my wife while I was turning cranks, as we knew no other participants. But..we arrived and got the whole thing underway.
Unlike the Troegs ride, this one started was right on schedule. Even with the earlier start time, things were as expected. I had time for good pre-ride stretches, etc. Thanks to the collaboration of Bikes & Beers with the Ride with GPS app, I was able to get a glimpse of the planned course days earlier. Maybe I just psyched myself out? Anyway, the course map looked like this:
The course was quite nice, and very well marked thanks to the organizers use of a product called “Route Arrows.” Navigation was quite easy and made even easier by having downloaded the route on Ride with GPS which provided audible signal cues to stay on course. At one point, another rider was passing, heard my phone chiming, and said, “So, you’re the one to ride with today!.” Winding our way through the farmlands of Lancaster County is really nice. Well, if you don’t mind the occasional “aromatics” and animal “byproducts” scattered over the travel lanes by Amish buggy horses.
I felt surprised by how well I was making the first part of the ride. Bike was operating well, I felt I was maintaining an even enough pace to not burn out. As is my usual experience, after the group start, I find myself generally behind the pack. But, I found myself “feeling” like I was hovering somewhere in the middle through most of the ride, and occasionally being able to accelerate and pass a few small groups. The descents were great, the climbs were challenging, but not crippling for me.
I was more than a little surprised that I managed to get to the hafway rest stop (which actually WAS halfway, at approx. MM 15) in 1h 14m wih an average speed of 12mph. And, I felt GREAT! I took on some water, some bananas, did a few stretches, then back in the saddle.
Thankfully, the cramping and fatigue I typically encounter between miles 20-25 on a given ride were minimal and unobstrusive. Along the second half of the course, the route appeared to follow a creekside trail that offered a bit more shade, which was a much welcome relief as the heat of the day was climbing quickly.
Now, @CheapCyclist has ridden with me in the past, and knows I am generally a ride/task focused rider, with little time taken for route scenery beyond general visual observation as it rolls by. He, on the other hand, recognizes that it is NOT a race and has stopped mid-ride to photo-document some of his routes. As he wasn’t able to physically participate with me in this event, I offer the following “route scenes” in honor of him and to really give an indication of how nice the route was:
By the time I knew I was closing in on the finish, my pace felt like it had slowed just a little, but I didn’t feel worn out. I had enough time to send a text message to my awaiting (adoring?) wife who was (hopefully) enjoying shade and cold beers. Good thing, I did, too, as she was able to capture this moment:
The post-ride gathering was a great improvement over the Troegs event. More tents/seating, more space, in general. My wife had secured a great spot at a picnic table under a tent not far from the finish line. She had been socializing with several other non-participants and indicated she got a lot of enjoyment “just people watching.” We got our free beers and some food and hung out talking to the various other riders who circulated through sharing the table with us. There was talk of other rides, other routes and a general camaraderie that I don’t typically get to experience. We hung out until the raffles were completed and we didn’t win anything. There was a Bikes & Beers group photo taken, and off we went toward home.
Some observations: *events like this bring a broad spectrum of riders and equipment, and I think that is awesome *for all the “elite”-looking gear, most of the fellow riders are supportive and inquisitive of anyone who stops roadside, offering check-ins, asking about needs, etc., rather than just leaving it up to the SAG team *because I only own/ride (1) bike, and it happens to be a 40yo Huffy (steel frame), I get some glances and the occasional “compliment:”
Rider: That’s a pretty cool bike. Me: Thanks! Its about 40… Rider: What, pounds?! (pulls away chuckling)
Cranks still turn, wheels still roll, I still completed the ride. #getoutandride
Just less than one year after a fantastic inaugural event, the second Bikes & Beers event hosted by Troegs Brewing came up on the calendar. To be clear, this didn’t come as any sort of surprise. I had been anticipating it since completing the route the first time. To add excitement, I was able to take advantage of a “holiday discount” offer from Bikes & Beers to make it slightly more (financially) appealing to participate. That same discount also led me to take on a second event in the season at Victory Brewing, Parkesburg, PA. That ride, just over a month after the ride discussed here, will be documented in a subsequent post.
There was just a bit more excitement headed into this year’s event, mostly due to feeling more prepared than last year’s which I basically rode “cold.” Thanks to a spouse with a very benevolent employer, I have had (free) access to a fully equipped fitness center. I also have a very benevolent spouse who encouraged us to utilize said fitness center for our mutual benefit. So, beginning after Thanksgiving 2018, we began a 3x/week regimen of treadmill, rowing and various weight machines. There were rumors of Spinning classes, but having never participated in one, and having a work schedule to adhere to, I figured it was best to avoid.
However…the benevolent employer, as part of their facilitation of healthy employees, subscribes to a video-no-demand (VOD) service for Spinning. And, as long as no one has a class scheduled in the room, it is open and accessible for use as anyone might desire (thus the “on-demand” part, I know). So the room looks like this:
Rather than detract from the main point of this post, perhaps I will elaborate another place and time about my discovery of Spinning with this setup. Needless to say, during the winter/spring months, I managed to do at least one 30-minute spin session each week prior to the Bikes & Beers event.
Onto the “main event.”
Last year, parking was directed to the factory outlets approx. 1/4 mile away from the brewery. This year, apparently that wasn’t an option, so the folks at Troegs mowed down their property to afford parking. Mostly nice to be contained to one site, but having long strands of grass getting caught in shoelaces, spokes and cranks while traversing to and fro was a bit annoying.
Event reminders indicate to arrive at least 30 min. prior to ride departure. I was on-site in plenty of time, and the first wave of 45-milers left on time. Unfortunately, for some unexplained reason, the first group of 30-milers (including me) suddenly got called to the line and set out 15 min. EARLY, which compromised my plan for last minute stretching. Fortunately, I was able to get, go and hit the road with just minor annoyance.
This year’s route was slightly different than the previous year, but largely the same. And…it’s a GOOD route. I felt strong and managed to cruise right past the 5-6 mile spot where I had such early difficulty last year. Weather was good.
One of the most challenging things about this particular course is a VERY long incline/climb. It starts at approximate elevation of 490′, then rises to somewhere around 785′ over the length of 4 – 4.5 miles, starting at about mile marker (MM) 12.
During the previous year’s ride, the rest station was located at about MM 13, so right before this long climb. For some silly reason, THIS year, the 30-mile route rest station was “conveniently” located…
…at MM 26! URGH!
At approximately MM20, my right calf felt like it was starting to tighten. I stopped roadside, briefly, to stretch and recover a little. By about MM 25-26, approaching the rest stop, my quads began to join the chorus of complaints. Several riders were kind enough to check-in with me to make certain I was OK, and had what I needed.
I made it to the rest stop and dismounted to refill water bottles, grab a couple of banana hunks and tried to do a few late ride stretches. Experiential wisdom made me aware to not stay off the bike too long. so off I went to finish the course. And, I finished strong, stronger than last year’s run, and happy with the overall bike performance after the pre-season upgrades.
Once again, another EXCELLENT event offering by Troegs and Bikes & Beers despite the minor difficulties/challenges, and I will look forward to participating again next year.
At various places on these pages, you will find references, recommendations, etc. with regard to musical influences and tastes.
Sometimes, though, something comes along that seems to deserve a little more than “just” being added to the “Music” page.
And, just when you think every genre has had its heyday, and exist only in your memories or hidden in the recesses of streaming services, along comes some new life into old sounds. To that end, here are two bands doing just that. One came by direct recommendation; the other by blindly stumbling into an online review link from some other article/website.
It is part John Parr/Starship/Chicago (Peter Cetera era)/Journey/Kansas/Survivor/Tubes – total FM “radio rock” with elements of The Alan Parsons Project, Deep Purple, early Whitesnake, Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO) and OH! so many more. Or, perhaps I’m projecting my own tastes/styles onto this wildly unique collection of sounds? When these songs are on, I’d almost swear that they were “hit” songs YEARS ago that I had simply forgotten. But, no. They are fresh. It is even more amazing that this project/experiment was birthed through a collaboration of various Swedish “melodic death metal” bands like Soilwork, Arch Enemy, Mean Streak and others. They are four albums into this and they just keep this trip rollin’!
To be honest, I stumbled into this band because I followed a link on some music news/reviews website (Blabbermouth). Being somewhat of a gaming geek/nerd/whatever, the name Gygax has automatic recognition, kinda like a signal flag. If you’ve ever wondered if classic, two-guitar rock and Dungeons & Dragons role-playing themes would ever work together (and why WOULDN’T they given the likes of Ronnie James Dio, Blind Guardian, etc.) the members of Gygax answer with a resounding, “Hell, yeah!” The reviewer likens the band’s latest effort “High Fantasy” to the best of classic Thin Lizzy melded with classic Iron Maiden, and…who am I to argue?
While this seems like a bit of a niche genre, three albums in the music holds up. Again, like The Night Flight Orchestra, these are musicians/performers who have CLEARLY done their homework and practice on the style, not simply as an effort to “reboot” something, but to bring a new vitality to a classic sound.
Now, I wouldn’t want to give you the wrong impression. These aren’t even guilty pleasures, at this point. Yes, tracks like NFO’s “Stiletto” and Gygax’s “Mage Lust” might be accused of “cheesiness,” I think it adds to rather than detracts from the entertainment value of the material.
Find them on your streaming service of choice, or wherever/however else you discover new music. I hope you enjoy being drawn back in to a (somewhat) bygone time.