One piece in place

Although some of us have known this for a while, the AirHogs finally announced this week that Skipper Ricky VanAsselberg has signed a two-year deal to continue managing the team. So, the skipper will be back from the championship team. Now, we just have to wonder how much of the crew will return. The transaction log has been relatively silent (for the AirHogs, anyway), but I assume that will be changing as the countdown to the start of the season begins in earnest.

Underwater

Saw a photo of the ballpark underwater this morning – well, the dugout, anyway. Had a flashback to earlier storms during games, watching players head for higher ground. If the bench is under water, it may be a wee bit wet on the field.

Rain delays were always a good time to meet the players – the only dry areas are usually where the crowd would be.

I miss baseball. It’s almost time to start the final countdown to the home opener, May 21st.

Retiring from Live Performances

I’m old. I admit it. I don’t even bother to act young any more, even if people don’t think I act my age. Still, even though I’m a decade or more away from “real” retirement, I’m getting ready to retire from live performances.

Now, this is nothing like the Beatles quitting touring in 1966 – mainly, since I don’t perform at live shows – I can’t play an instrument and I can’t sing, although I suppose with backing bands and Auto-Tune, I could still make a record – it’s worked for any number of Idol winners.

However, I do try to attend shows – support local music! – and support the venues that host live music.

Here’s the problem – first of all, I’m old (as mentioned before) and as far as I can tell, a bar owner will want a band to play until closing time, which around here is 2am. Actually, they want them to finish just before 2am, so people will clear out before actual closing time, so there’s time to clear the bar and mop the puke. (Next time you’re in a bar, check the clock. Either there isn’t one in obvious view, or it’s set at least ten minutes fast.) So, if you finish at one-thirty in the morning, last set starts at 12:30am, given an hour-long set. There was a break before that, which probably started at midnight. Second set started an hour earlier, or 11pm. Break before that started at 10:30pm. First set started an hour earlier, or 9:30pm, which is why the announcements say the band starts at 9pm, because people are always late and the band generally forgets to tune up.

All that math is approximate, but anyone who has followed a local band for any amount of time knows all set times are approximate.

So, first problem – the music won’t start before 9pm at the earliest. For the younger crowd, that’s early. For old farts, that’s getting to the point where you’ve realized you’re not going to leave the house that night after all.

Second problem – the band ends at 1:30am or later. If they’re playing on the weekend, that’s one thing, but I know people who play this schedule on “school nights”, which is fine if you can sleep until noon, but I usually have meetings in the mornings (yes, I would like to sleep through them, but it’s frowned upon at the office.)

Third problem – a lot of the places that host bands I like are not particularly large, so they fill up quickly. If you get there early enough for a good seat, you have an hour or so with very little to do but drink, or enjoy delicious bar food – which is why you drink. When you’re at my age and alcohol experience level, this is not much of an issue. For some of the younger crowd, this means they will be plastered by the time the music starts.  (For any of my younger readers, there is a concept called “pacing” – it saves money and it could save your liver.)

So, late start, drunk crowd, small venue. Does this sound like a recipe for enjoying a band?

The final straw for me was the other night at Pearl, which is traditionally very good for live music. Jason Elmore was home from a Canadian tour, so it was his “welcome home” party. Towards the end of the first set, a rather large woman just across the room from me started howling after every guitar solo. Now, I love Jason, but some solos are more howl-worthy than others, and two bars of music does not a solo make. By the time the second set started, she was howling at random at a pitch that put most dogs in the area and some of the glasses on the bar at considerable risk. Plus, everyone was wrapping up their conversations from while the band was on break, so it was pretty noisy.

That’s when I hit me – “I can’t hear the fucking band.” This is not a string quartet, this is a blues-rock band with three electric guitars, an electric bass and a drummer. They’re in a pretty small room with speakers all over. Yet, they were being drowned out by a whole bunch of people theoretically there to enjoy the band and a rather large howler monkey with a short skirt.

After that night, I think I’m done. It’s not the band, it’s not (necessarily) the bar, it’s the audience.

I suppose the real issue is that many bars publicize they have live music, because some marketing person decided it was a good idea. However, if the majority of the crowd is just there to drink or hook up, the band is basically background noise, even on a good night. So, if you’re going to the bar to actually hear the band, you are not only in the minority, you may be the only sober ones left by the time the band takes the stage. Also, the idiots drowning out the band are running up bar tabs, so it’s not likely they’re going to get evicted for being drunk and obnoxious.

One simple solution is to only follow corporate-sponsored bands with recording contracts that play stadiums or the larger venues, because there the focus is the music and not getting drunk, but the vast majority of bands in the universe are undiscovered and much more deserving than the crap LA, NYC and Nashville are forcing on us. Also, I’ve had people talking over the band at paid concerts, so it’s still an issue. People are idiots, drunk people especially.

The other solution is to follow very unpopular bands, but they don’t play very often, and there would still be alcohol in the bar, so they would just have hostile drunks yelling at them.

So, I’m looking for a realistic solution. In the meantime, I think I’m going into retirement from live shows.

 

New Year’s Cruise

Just back from a week’s cruise on the NCL Pearl, a Christmas to New Year’s cruise. We visited Great Stirrup Cay, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. The Spousal Unit discovered she loves snorkeling. I discovered a Nikon CoolPix AW100 is a kick-ass point’n’shoot camera. Nobody got sunburned. We took my son and daughter-in-law, and we’re all still speaking to each other.

We were told this cruise is one of the most expensive cruises of the year – not because of Christmas but because of New Year’s Eve. People apparently really like to sail on New Year’s Eve.

Strangely, every New Year’s Eve, I’m reminded how arbitrary the choice of the date is. December used to be the tenth month (“decem”, a distant memory from my Latin class), not the end of the year, and there is no seasonal, solar or lunar reason for January first to start a new year, as far as I know.

However, January first does start the year, for whatever reason. Suddenly, at midnight last night, a ship full of people who had ranged from isolationist to surly became friendly. Every bloody one of them said “Happy New Year!”, even the ones who wouldn’t say “Hello” as they passed you in the hall an hour earlier.

Maybe it was the turning of the clock. Maybe it was the hope of a new beginning, no matter how arbitrary. Perhaps, it was just the accomplishment of getting free booze from a cruise line (and the champagne was nice). For a few short moments, we were all friends.

New Year’s Eve celebrations always seemed rather silly to me – you get as drunk as possible up to the actual minute, but that’s all there is – when the clock rolls from 11:59pm to midnight, you’re done. Plus, since it’s purely a timing issue, you can’t move to another part of the ship for a better view.

So, the Captain counted down the seconds, the previous year ended, and that was that. Then, the realization that it was after midnight, you were drunk, and your bags had to be packed and outside your stateroom by 1:00am kicked in. After that, the truly unlucky realized their spouse had decided 7:45am was a reasonable time to disembark.

People did not look as haggard as I expected this morning, as they left the ship with six hours or less of sleep, but Lord, they didn’t look pleased.

I really feel sorry for the crew who got to manage a midnight mob of merriment, herd people back to cabins, and then spend the morning preparing for the passengers due to start boarding by noon. I have a feeling there was more puke to clean than usual.

I’m glad we wanted a cruise to get out of the house for Christmas and to visit ports we hadn’t seen yet, because I don’t understand paying that much money specifically to hear ten seconds counted down in a Norwegian accent.

I much prefer a cruise where all the  people are out-going all week, and not just storing all their happiness for a ten-second countdown on the last night.

It was a strange trip. People were very insular. Part of that may have been an “English as a Second Language” issue, as there seemed to be a higher percentage of passengers from outside the US than on previous cruises. Also, there were huge family  groups onboard – not just Mom, Dad and the kids, but Mom, Dad, kids, grandparents, cousins and more. Those two conditions gave the trip a completely different vibe than previous “mostly American, small families, couples, singles” cruises we’ve had before.

Fourteen people signed up for a Cruise Critic Meet ‘n’ Greet, which was a pretty low number. Two showed up, besides us and the kids. As the officers arrived, I was beginning to fear they would out-number us. So, there was no real passenger participation, which was a change from last year, where we were above 50% attendance or more, and had forty sign up. It was sad, because we made friends at the meeting last year and hung out with them the rest of the cruise. This was a ship full of individual groups, where in the past, we had made some friends relatively quickly. On this cruise, people had so many built-in friends, they either refused to make new ones, or just didn’t feel the need.

A bad cruise is still better than a week at work, and this was not a bad cruise. It was just disconcerting that it was so different from the previous ones.

If you check the calendar, I think it will be a while until Christmas falls on Sunday, the day many cruises from Miami begin. So, maybe next year, people won’t wait until the last night to acknowledge there are other families onboard.

If nothing else, 2011 has been defeated. Happy New Year!