Saturday, 19 November 2011

A Great Gig You All Must Attend!!

Hello, blog followers!

I am writing to inform y'all of a very special upcoming event. It's now two weeks away tomorrow! Yikes, that's pretty close now.
It's my first performance as a Bass solo performer in quite some time, and a lot of work has gone into preparation for it. I've had to learn a couple of legendary bass pieces that I'd never even heard of before but, now that I have, have massively educated me and enriched my creative palette.

Whatever happens after this, this will be one of the most important performances of my career as a musician so it is not to be missed.

Here are the technical details:

Date/Time: 4/12/11 - 14:12
Venue: Yorkshire College of Music and Drama,
St. Mark's House,
St. Mark's Avenue,

For Tickets/Info contact: 07857 981769

This is all you need to know. Be there, please! =)


Saturday, 23 July 2011

Dream Theater: O2 Academy, Leeds, 22/7/11

Here's the setlist, and what a setlist it was... it got more and more exciting for me as the night went on!

Under A Glass Moon
These Walls (I know, right?? At last!)
Endless SacrificeDrum Solo!!Ytse Jam Peruvian Skies (Oh, man...)
The Great Debate (...O...M...G...!!!!!!)
On The Backs Of Angels
Caught In A Web (OH Yeah...!!)
Through My Words/Fatal Tragedy (At this point I realised that a dream had come true...)
The Count of Tuscany (Can you believe it??)

Metropolis (What else?)

So, I arrived about ten minutes before doors opened... and despite joining the end of a queue that circled the entire length of the building, actually found it very easy indeed to walk very close to the front as soon as I got inside!

There was this support act, Eden's Curse... they were pretty cool, admittedly. I really liked the singer, he had an amazing voice and attitude, and it was great to see such diversity among the band members themselves. He told a very inspiring story about how he first heard about DT... on MTV, funnily enough, back in 1990 when Pull Me Under was starting to get some serious rotation, and how that drove him on in his quest to rock.

The term "sausage fest" often pops in to my head when attending a rock gig and this occasion was no exception. The only girls I saw there were the girlfriends of some of the guys, who may or may not have been dragged along. But, who cares... right? We're all there for the music, aren't we?

There wasn't as much of a grandiose opening to this set compared to the last time I saw them on the Black Clouds tour. No curtain in sight!! Still, it was very exciting seeing the 5 members eventually pop out of their hiding places... I started to scream and jump up and down when I saw JP...

The intro tape was an extract from "Dream is Collapsing" by Hans Zimmer. I must say, it's really for me not to wonder if things like this choice of music and album concepts for "A Dramatic Turn of Events" have anything to do with Mike Portnoy's leaving of the band... I'm still highly skeptical of Mike Mangini becoming a member for good. But the guy deserves every chance, so I waited excitedly for him and the others to show me what the new DT is capable of.

They launched into Under A Glass Moon, and I quickly realised that this feels exactly the same as previous gigs... in a good way, because the fact that MM was playing MP's drum parts absolutely BANG ON... you could just shut your eyes and you wouldn't be able to tell it was someone else playing those parts.

I was there very pleasantly surprised to hear the intro sample to These Walls... I had been just about convinced that they never ever would play this song live or had totally forgotten about it! It then got me excited thinking about what other hidden gems could emerge...

The drum solo was absolutely NUTS. Just like I was hoping. Like other Mangini solos I had witnessed... he seems to just groove for the first few minutes, but then it just gets absolutely insane. Every jaw in the room hit the floor. Just YouTube the guy, seriously... I can't tell you in words how sick this guy is at drums (Not because it's a secret, but because I lack the necessary literary articulative capacity).

I wasn't too impressed with the inclusion of Forsaken and Peruvian Skies, to be frank... I always found those songs kind of underwhelming and they didn't do too much for me live here, either. But some of the other songs the band chose to play SERIOUSLY made up for that...

I went crazy for Ytse Jam, as I would have done for any song off of When Dream And Day Unite!! And The Great Debate... a highly underrated track, a fantastically insane piece of music that goes down and absolute storm live (imagine screaming "LIFE TO SAVE LIFE...!!!").

On The Backs of Angels. I was wondering when they were going to get to playing the new track... it usually happens earlier in the set. Still, I had only listened to this track once thus far as I wish for it to be fresh when I hear the whole album in September. It seemed better than I remembered it, and I have a feeling that my appreciation for it will grow with the number of listens I give it!

Caught in a Web was sick, duh. Always is. ALWAYS. I never get tired of this one.


I got my wish. I heard Jordan being to play the first few notes of Through My Words... and realised that this would almost certainly lead into Fatal Tragedy. Guys... this is a song I have ALWAYS wanted to experience live. It never happened in my first 5 DT shows... tonight was a magical first. It made me night.

Following that was a big surprise. The Count Of Tuscany. I had thought that they almost certainly wouldn't play this, having done it to death on the last tour. But it was absolutely fantastic, just as always. I remembered that there was a little bit of a different melody in the first part of the swirly-dreamy-volume-swelly-guitar and dreamy keyboards section, which I really enjoyed. The whole twenty minute epic was magical... and I realised that this is quite possibly the single greatest piece the band have ever written. And who'd have thought it would come in such a late stage in their career... and how even more thought-provoking is the fact that it is technically the last recorded DT song before MP decided to step down (well, actually, wait... there was Raw Dog. But... that's not a proper album track. So, yeah.).

Metropolis. Pretty much the standard DT encore we've all seen loads of times. People don't seem to get tired of this song.. I myself would much prefer Learning to Live any day! But this is the play-it-safe classic DT encore that most of the fans go wild for.

So, it was a fantastic gig and I found it got more and more enjoyable as it went on. It was great being close to the front once again, and being able to make eye contact with James Labrie every time he sang down to us lot!! Speaking of James... his singing was absolutely amazing, I don't recall ever being so impressed by it on any other live performance I've seen. He went REAL high a couple of times.
John, John and Jordan were at their usual impossibly high standard. Speaking of Jordan, check out MusicRadar's poll for greatest keyboard player of all time that just happened.

And finally, Mike Mangini. Let it be clearly stated by me that I think the guy is absolutely on fire... there is no more any human being on earth could have done at this point to fill those big shoes he has to fill.

But... is this really right?

MP and the others went through so much, and I couldn't help thinking that it was MP's undying fire and passion for music that kept DT shows exciting for me again and again, so it doesn't ever just seem like the band playing a bunch of their songs. The synergy of those five performers together always made it so much more than that. Some people might well say "who cares, he's only the drummer", but that's just not right... those people are unfortunately really missing the point. Still, I hold mighty respect for both DT to carry on with their passion and even more so for Mike than having to sacrifice his place in the band which had been his baby for 25 years, just to do what he felt like he was forced into doing.

I shall remain optimistic and reserve total judgement until hearing the next album i.e. the one after A Dramatic Turn of Events, by which time hopefully MM should have some creative input. Still, very much looking forward to hearing ADToE and to attending all future shows that I can!!


Saturday, 2 July 2011

Chatting up a girl in McDonald's

So, the other day I went to McDonald's.

The girl who served me was very pretty. She looked extremely out of place with her massively radiant smile and gorgeously long flowing hair and pleasantly pure skin complexion.

She flashed me her pretty smile and said "Hi!"
I responded with a cheery "Hi" right back, as is custom, before silently congratulating myself for my incredibly well-timed and sophisticatedly immaculate chatting techniques.

"Welcome to McDonald's. What would you like today, sir?"
"Hmm... let's see... I would like...11 McBurgers, a large Big Mac Meal, a double XL Whooper Meal..."
"Sorry sir, we don't do those."
"Oh, sorry...that's McBurger King. 15 Chicken McNuggets, some McBeef, McChips, hold the McKetchup and McSpit on all of these, by the way... and a McDrink or two, let's see... a strawberry McMilkshake and some McCoffee, with extra McMilk and McSugar..."
She was starting to giggle an awful lot now. This was a big order too so she was concentrating hard.
I continued... "...and five Chicken McSandwiches, some McSalad and some McIce Cream. Oh, and a McTea for my McFriend over there at the McTable.
She looked up at me again. "Anything else?"
"Lots of McMayonnaise. What's the McToy in the McMeal this week?"
"A giant killer McRobot with chainsaw arms and some McMachine guns," she answered, laughing a lot.
"McYes then, an extra McMeal."
Only at this point did she start to play along. "That's a lot of McFood, sir!"
"Yes", I replied, "well, I'm a McBodyBuilder, you know. Got to keep my McStrength up after lifting all those McWeights at the McGym."
She McLaughed again. "Would you like it all in a McBag on will you be sitting in the McRestaurant?"
"I'll be McGoing, actually... unless I can eat it here at the McCounter".
"Alright then, sir."
"Cash or debit?"
"McMoney," I replied, getting out my McWallet.
"That will be two hundred McPounds then, sir."
I paid her, and asked "can I have a McReceipt for my McRecords please?"
She giggled yet again. "Of course".
A McBloke handed over my McFood on a McTray, even though I said I didn't want one as I was taking it away.
"You're very McPretty, by the way."
"Thanks! You're funny..."
"Can I have your McNumber? I'd love to continue this McConversation sometime."
She smiled widely and said "Ok...", whipped out a pen, accidentally dropped it (perhaps I made her McNervous) and scribbled it down on my receipt.
"What time do you McFinish?"
"Then maybe we can go on a McDate and you can wear a McDress". I did wonder at this point whether I had taken the McFlirting too far and whether it was somewhat lacking in McSubtlety, but in any case it was too late for her as she had written her number down so I could save it onto my McPhone.
"Here's your McChange."
She laughed again. "See you McLater. Have a nice McDay!"

Then I confidently McLeft through the McDoor, but tripped on the McPavement and fell on my McFace as soon as I stepped outside, breaking my McGlasses. Then a McPigeon almost dropped a McPoo on my head, but McMissed.



P.S. If anyone dares call this piece of writing "McRubbish" or some such, I will McPunch them.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

No Looking Back

Just now... I very literally took a walk down memory lane.

I had set out with the intent of being able to revisit and remember a particular, special memory of friendship. Down that road, as the twilight was gradually fading to darkness, with the perfect summer breeze that would never waver.

As I got further and further away from my present, curiosity kept taking me a few steps further. Let me just go stand on that road... no, I want to see what's up ahead... ok, just a little further... on and on it went.

I was alone, having now wandered from that path to another in the midst of an enormous grassy field, with old, giant trees casting their giant shadows. This is a place I had not come to in some time... since I was almost an entirely different person.

Although it was all so long ago now... I felt something me calling me back towards it... so I kept on moving. I felt happy.

I kept looking up at the stars.

Then I saw a light in the distance... that was the place.

I really shouldn't go much further, I told myself. Getting too close to that past could be dangerous. But still, I felt drawn in by the light.

I'll just go a little further. So I can at least see the outline of the house... for the trees were obscuring it from my view.

So I kept on going... and I broke into a run... it was all so easy now...

On and on I went, as the memories came flooding back...

...but then I felt a growing sense of uneasiness... I going too far?

I'll keep going until I get to that fence that bars my way.

I run a little further... and then I see that the fence is not in my way at all.

But still... I realise I can go no further.

I cannot go intruding upon their lives now. I had never meant for things to turn out this way... but jumping right back in is not the answer. Things have turned out for the best... I cannot go messing that up.

I looked on and saw the outline of that house start to take shape... multiple lights escaping from the windows. As I had promised, I moved no further. But I stood for a moment and looked on... and uttered a promise to those I had had to leave behind. A promising ensuring that they will never be forgotten. Nor will that one special person.

I looked up at the stars once more with a smile, and bravely turned my back on the past... making a semi-hasty retreat, as it was a long road back to the present, and the darkness was nearing ever closer.

I moved back home quickly as I become more and more inspired, with fresh hope for the future emerging and filling me up inside... and then I returned, having beaten nightfall.


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Beginning?

Goodness me, my titles are getting worse every time. What will I call my next entry?? "The Middle Bit"??

Anyway, I'm writing tonight because tomorrow I start a new part-time job. It's only temporary and I don't start 'til 12.30, but what that means is that this is the first evening for a while where I have to... do something in the morning. I mean... something in the work sense. Something other than leisure or something of my own desire. It feels like... one of those nights which were the night before going back to school after a term holiday, or 4 years ago when I went off to my first real job. This is the first evening since I came home where time has actually meant something. As such, it's also one of the first times since I came home where I've really had a chance to reflect on my inner feelings - because, when I all the time I wanted to do anything I wanted, facing the things inside was not a priority and not something I needed to worry about or be bothered by. Now that there's just the slightest bit of pressure, I suddenly find myself faced with these feelings and concerns.

Today, I also really realised that I really miss Canada (yes, there was a lot of "real" sounds in that sentence, wasn't there?). I miss the money, the people, and even the climate (not so much the winter, but y'know =p). And yes SANA, I miss you too! Obviously.

But I just carry on doing things, don't I? I kinda miss just being able to talk and talk and talk to her...


Monday, 2 May 2011

The End?

Let me get serious, for once.

Today has been one of the stranger days of my life. Strange, because the latter part of it has just been so... normal.

So, after all my 8 months in Canada, today I arrived home. Earlier, When Sana and I parted ways at the airport it was way more difficult than either of us had anticipated, and even though I (just about) held it together then, I too found myself lost in sorrow for a time, starting from after I had been on the plane for a couple of hours. Only then did the enormity of the situation begin to sink in... how long it might be until I get to see her again, how I was going home after all this time and how all my adventures that I had built up for so long were at an end.

But I stayed strong, knowing I had no reasonable alternative. I found my spirits lifted somewhat upon landing, but... since then, I've just felt weird. When I arrived home, it really felt like I had never left. Or, that I had literally just been there. It's so very strange. I even went to work at the village hall again today... when eight months ago, I made such a big deal out of the fact that I was going there for the "last time" and I would be going away for such a long time. As soon as I walked through that door, it was as if no time had passed at all. It literally feels exactly the same way it did last summer, as I was preparing to leave for Canada.

I sat with my parents in front of the T.V. to eat dinner, and watched the snooker with my Dad and later a couple of episodes of Peep Show... but I'm totally weirded out by how familiar this is. I expected to feel different after my experiences, or at least that some significant time has passed.

Don't get me wrong... I definitely had an incredible time in Canada. Made so many friends, went to a lot of parties and did a lot of adventuring and exploration, and even met someone incredibly special. It just seems weird that the last time I was here, I hadn't met any of those people or done any of those things, and yet here I am again and I feel exactly the same. I was expecting some sense of massive relief and comfort when I returned here... but I feel the opposite. I don't feel settled at all.

Now, I just feel at a little bit of a loose end. Even though I haven't slept in almost two days, I don't feel like sleeping at all right now. I just feel unsettled. I had some plans for what I would do when I came back that I was thinking about for the longest time, and I haven't put any of those plans into action yet.

I guess what I need is a couple of days to sort myself out.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

1001 Gold Balls

There was a man with lots of golden balls. And I don't mean Jasper Carrot.

I was running around like a crazy person on a 2.5 dimensional plane, when all of a sudden these sparkly gold balls started spewing out of this beanstalk. So, I started to run up and down, jumping around and grabbing as many of them as I possibly could, determined not to repeat the failure that was my last attempt. I would give it my all.
I collected 993, and that was all. But I needed more. That's when he appeared. Like a mysterious benefactor, he threw 7 more golden objects my way, and I attempted to gather them all up. As I was already holding on to almost a thousand, it was difficult, and I dropped the last one - but the kind man helped me by picking it up and giving it back to me.

I was no so close!! And then... the man presented me with one last, and very special, dazzling gold ball. The 1001st!! I had 1001 Gold Balls! I had done it!!

And right on cue, the big broadway band started to play, and I was raised up with the stage, the wires suspending me high above the chorus as I sang with them. I knew I didn't have to be fully in tune, so I kinda relaxed and let the elation I felt carry me through the music as I was backed up by the amazing harmonies and music being performed.

"At last, I've got 1001 gold balls..."

Then my big solo bit before the final, epic finale... I had to sing two words, a cappella, each one acting as a fermata. "And now..."

But my voice was so strained and it could barely escape my throat. It was weak and I felt that this anti-climatic failure was out of my control... and I had let everything down. Then it all went very wrong... I screamed...

...and then I was awake.


Saturday, 5 February 2011

Back to Yesterday

This is going to be a very short note.

Because I could talk about so much, but I can also see that there would just be no point.
All that really matters is, I'm proud of how very far I've come.
And I know truly that time won't wait for me to look back.

I really wish there was somebody I could just talk to all night about this stuff... who would not only listen, but understand. And appreciate it all.

But it never stops. Further adventures await, as do more exciting times.

Some funny videos to come at some point!


Friday, 14 January 2011

For those who refuse to trust.

Alright - so I'm not talking about the kind of trust that means you believe stuff you find in the media, in the natural world or anything like that. I'm just talking about human beings trusting each other on a personal level.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been reminded of how little in life is absolutely certain. I think, therefore I am. What else can we say for absolute definite? This is why we can't get very far in life without taking a few risks and making a few assumptions. Trusting and having faith in each other is something we have to do to support each other, otherwise we would each be isolated and as a race, making no progress.

Now, we've all been through bad relationship or other personal experience in which some other person has betrayed our trust. Most people are inclined to hide themselves away, becoming much harder to get to know and a lot less willing to trust other people they meet after such experiences. Now, I am not for one second being unsensitive to these people. But I have had this happen to me way too many times, especially recently. Off the top of my head I can think of at least three instances in the last couple of months where I've been getting on really well with someone but been held back from getting anywhere near close to them because they have trust issues. These people refuse to trust because they were abused, betrayed or otherwise dicked about by someone I've never met, in events that have no relation to me whatsoever. This may be understandable to most people reading this, but... is it fair?

I wonder how many of you have thought about this from the other person's point of view. I was talking to one of the aforementioned three last night, and once I had helped her understand this she conceded that the thought had never crossed her mind, and that she had been selfish in not thinking about it.
What if someone really wants to get close to you? What if someone is absolutely prepared to anything for you... to protect you with their life, to never leave your side and to move mountains just to see you smile? Have you ever thought about how much it hurts to be denied trust when you care about that person in such an intense way? In such a way that these feelings could just break your heart?
If it helps, just think about someone you really love, or have loved. As in, REALLY loved. And just think about what it would be like if they told they just can't trust you, because "I've been hurt too many times", or "I've been through some hard times", or "I have a past"...

Newsflash to those people who would say such things: So have most of us.

It happens to all of us. People can be scum. Greedy, selfish, and unreliable. And sure, in many cases you can be let down. Sometimes it can be more serious than others. I understand that. And we all have to understand that each of us, as individuals, may very well not be the centre of the universe.

I'm not saying anyone is wrong in being hesitant to trust. I'm just trying to encourage them to try and see it from the other person's point of view.

I prefer to have faith in people, personally. Sure, I'm going to be let down from time to time, but that's just life! Something I think we all need to accept and move forward. I know it's HARD, but... isn't that the whole point? To challenge yourself and overcome those challenges?

Just think about it.