Manic April Part 2

As I said the other day I went to see the Milk Carton Kids.  We saw them at The Ark which is the same venue we saw Frank Fairfield.  It is a perfect small venue I would hazard about maybe 200 people maximum.  If you are ever in the Ann Arbor area I would highly recommend going there.  The tickets are always affordable they have ranged from as low as 15 dollars to 40 dollars for a big name like Cowboy Junkies.  Often the general admission tickets we get are literally two feet from the artists.

Image

Now on to The Milk Carton Kids.  They are an up coming modern folk duo.  They both play acoustical guitars and sing in harmony.  How I used to always describe them was one part Simon and Garfunkle, and one part Everly Brothers.  Their harmonies are amazing and Ken Pattengale ‘s is amazing on the guitar as well.  Their passion for music, much like Frank Fairfield, is one of the many reasons I love their music.   Their love of music even goes as far as they allow people to down load their first two albums for completely free off of their website.  Now how cool is that?  So how did I find out about them?  Well the same friend who has a blog on cooking posted a link of them playing in a NPR’s Tiny Desk concert.

It was a bit ago when she posted it.  But I think she summed it up perfectly with “Absolutely beautiful.”  I was enthralled with their work immediately.  They have only been together since 2011 and they already have three albums out.  Their latest just came out the other month.  The other two are free to download.  Did I mention that already?

The concert at The Ark was the first I saw them live.  It will not be the last.  It simply was the best concert I have ever been to in my life.  I have never enjoyed a concert as nearly as much what they put out.  It goes up there w/ the Violent Femmes concert I went to.  Which I might add was amazing as well.. Men At Work, Smithereens and the Violent Femmes in one concert.  I now have to reassess how I describe their style now.  They are not only a combination of Simon and Garfunkle and The Everly Brothers. They are a combination of Simon and Garfunkle, The Everly Brothers and The Smothers Brothers.  I have never laughed so hard in a concert in my life.  They had a banter between songs that to quote Claptrap from Borderlands 2 “was absolutely highlarious”.  You get a bit of the banter in the NPR clip from above.  However, it does not do them justice.  The lyrics of their songs go from melancholy to happiness.  One of the sadder songs is the song that got Joey to want to work with Ken.  It is written from a dogs perspective as he writes down his memories as he dies due to being run over.

If they are the future of modern folk then the folk genre is in good hands.

Lastly… this a rather long one but worth listening to all the way through..

I would like to add that the opening act Aoife O’Donovan was rather good as well.

Lastly… if Ken or Joey you ever happen to read this your sound man knew his shit!  The guy had you guys spot on!  He is an amazing sound man.

Advertisements

Manic Monday! Make it a Manic April! Part 1

Yesterday I went to the best concert I have been to in a rather long time.  The Milk Carton Kids are an absolutely amazing group live.  Yes, I know I was all gaga about the Great Big Sea concert I went to a couple of weeks ago.  Plus, Frank Fairfield the other week was amazing as well.

First, Frank Fairfield is a bluesgrass artist from California.  He is a true throwback to earlier music styles of the pre-war era (as in prior to WWI).  He takes sheet music from that time and interprets it.  He has a very unique style with the banjo and his fiddling is amazing.  The man is a veritable fount of information of pre-war south western music. He is also an exceedingly humble musician as well. I first saw him at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival this year.  I was utterly amazed by his love of the music.  It just exudes from him as he plays away with a hoot here and a holler there.  It seems he plays each song with the same abandon and a complete ardor for the music. His emotions comes through in his music so he may seem a bit more rough than other old time musicians.  The funny thing he does not consider the music he plays old time music or Appalachian music.  He calls it urban music.  His reasoning is that all of his music comes from sheet music.  All of the sheet music was done in the big cities like New York and the like.  I had a quiet self chuckle because I had a vision of an anachronistic Eminem.

His love of music is not only for bluesgrass he is a collector of old vinyl.  One of the albums he released was a rerelease of old music from his personal 70rpm collection.  There is music on it from all over the globe from Japan to even Africa.  He has 2 solo albums of his own that are out a self titled one and Out On The Open West.  I was lucky enough to recently get a self released album he did number 120 of 500.  He made the CD to look like an old 45 vinyl record.  The recording was a bit rough since it was most likely a personal studio (ala his apartment in LA).

I will be talking about the Milk Carton Kids tomorrow.  These will be a nice segue into some thoughts on music in the gaming industry.

Here are some other tracks by him before I leave.

Two versions of an old standard Hesitating Blues (AKA Hesitation Blues)

Lastly… out on the street AFTER a performance.. the man loves his music.

Revisiting SWTOR and solo and group play thoughts.

I have jumped back into SWTOR because it is free to play now.  I am now feeling more comfortable playing in it since I have been away from GW2 for at least 3 months now.  The dodge mechanism in GW2 made it next to impossible to play SWTOR when it first went F2P for me.  I kept on trying to dodge much to my chagrin my smuggler just laughed at me.

Image

There are several things about the game that I still much love.  The stylized graphics I actually like them.  Champions Online was the first game that I felt had stylized graphics that I liked.  SWTOR was the second.  I like several of the lightsaber animations and several of the force animations as well.  The story aspect of the game is a love or hate thing for most players.  The people who hated it felt that the game was a theme park game on rails.  You would be hard pressed to argue against that thought.  However, the ones (like me) that actually liked the story looked past the theme park ride and just enjoyed the story that Bioware was telling.  Lastly, I really liked the idea of having a companion for soloing.  That was one of my biggest issues with Star Wars Galaxies is that it was more Creature Wars Galaxies when I first played.  The idea of having a companion you could summon to solo or flesh out a group that was short a person a great idea.

However, the companions caused a problem in the game.  They made the game much more soloable.  But, they also made groups much more ephemeral.  That is one of my only issues with way MMOs have been going lately. Don’t get me wrong I really don’t want to go back to the EQ days where my shaman was the red headed step child in getting a group.  Any group missions on planets were literally a onetime deal with players.  Hardly ever did I join a group for a mission to have it last beyond that one mission.  Yes, there are flashpoints for grouping but the leveling up portions of a player on the planets were limited.  Plus, the flashpoints were a grind fest to me.  EQII was more group based early on then they moved to the spectrum of WoW for soloing.  There are still dungeons that are contested that players can go into.  I like that. Places like that build community.  Dungeons build community.  I made several friends in EQ in Karnor’s Castle and in Highpass.  One of my favorite dungeons in EQII was Stormhold.  I loved to teach new players how to tank there.

Solo verse grouping it is a hard balance.  Most games these days seem to balance it by separating them.  Solo equaling outdoors while grouping equaling dungeons.  I miss grouping in the outdoors like I did EQ and earlier EQII.  However, I also would love to crawl a dungeon on my lonesome.  I would like to see games tackle this in a more innovative way.  A simple way off the top of my head would be scaling of MOBs.  The more people in a group the more “heroic”.  Each additional person in the group increases the XP the MOB gives out. Plus, the additional people also puts the MOB on another loot table for loot and coin.  This way groups and solo players could co exist in the same zone.  The only downside I could see with this is that people would most likely tend to solo still.  I don’t know if the additional XP and loot would be motivation enough to group.

Beta thoughts again.

Well as I get ready for a sleep study for my sleep apnea. However, I am trying to do this on my iPhone with the Poster app from the iTunes app store. I have used it in past to modify posts. I figure I would give it a whirl for a full up post. So please excuse any glaring grammar errors. I use MSword as grammar crutch. I have some time to return to Beta thoughts. David “Scooter” Bass from Carbine studios tweeted earlier today the following “@CRB_Scooter: ARGH EXCEL WHY WON’T YOU WORK?! I just want to invite people to beta! (Just kidding.) (Or am I?)”. Could this mean another wave of invites? Inquiring minds want to know!

Seriously though. . . Is being invited to a Beta to play of a game you are waiting for with bated breath a boon or a curse? On one hand you have the potential to work
with the development crew to mold, improve, and polish a game you have similar passion for. The other hand you are playing the game you are so expectant for. This could very well lessen then”new car smell” of the first few weeks after game release. What I have done in the past is try different classes that I would not normally play. I also try to play a different race as well. But who am I kidding I usually end playing the class and race I like.

Lastly, Poster is pretty neat. I can add photos and links as well. Well photos from the phone just have to figure out how it seems.

Well I guess I did that is my brother on Easter Day. Us Irish celebrate it a bit different I guess.

Betas Open and Closed

What brought on talking about betas?  Well recently the Folks at Carbine Studios responded to a leak of their patch notes.  Their response was epic.  Jeremy Gaffney even did a Q & A on WildStar Central.  Gaffney responded to crap load of questions.  The thread is a veritable fount of information about the game.  I even weighed in and just put some thoughts and wishes that were not even a part of the patch notes.  Gaffney even responded to that.  How cool is that?  The guys and gals at Carbine are an amazing bunch in my opinion.  Their passion for gaming and gamers goes a long way in my book.  Gaffney cemented even further my faith in Carbine to make an amazing game that I cannot wait for release.

shut-up-and-take-my-money

I have been in some closed betas and I always try to get into open betas if possible.  Many game studios these days seem to use beta periods more for hype building instead of fixing the game.  The guys at Carbine Studios seem to be going the opposite direction which is a Good Thing ™.   Beta periods should be about refining the game and finding the quirks.  Game breaking bugs like crashing and such are usually found with in-house QA.  UI testing and the such can be done with automated testing programs.  WinRunner was one I used to use back in the day when I was in QA at a software company that made time and attendance applications.  Supposedly Vanguard Saga of Heroes went the other way I do not know if the following is an “urban game myth” or truth.  I would hazard a guess it is both.  However, the scuttle butt I heard was that devs there changed the game there like Elizabeth Taylor changes husbands.  If there is truth to this then it seems that there was a lack of focus in the vision.  It was this lack of focus that made the game so bad at release.  Vision can only go so far without focus.  The guys at Carbine seem to have both the vision and focus right now.

Best Christmas Gift Ever!

I figure I would add some levity to the blog by talking about music. I first will warn you that I have a very eclectic taste in music. It is one of the many reasons for my my blogs title. My blogging about music may contain (but will not be limited to) country, classical, period, folk, rockabilly, bluegrass, blues, rock, renaissance, classic rock, prog rock, goth, trip hop, jazz, and alternative. I always jokingly say that I do not like opera because I can not understand the lyrics. Plus, my mother had a thing for Luciano Pavarotti. My childhood was filled with my mom singing along with him.

Last night my wonderful wife Shawna took me to see Great Big Sea. The tickets were a Christmas gift. We went to see them on their Twentieth Anniversary Tour at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. The venue was absolutely amazing it reminded me of the Fox Theater in Detroit. I would highly recommend both venues to anyone in the metro Detroit area.

The Great Big Sea are an absolutely wonderful modern folk/Celtic rock band. They are from St. Johns New Foundland. I was introduced to them by my wife. So I cannot claim finding out about them. Their albums usually are a good balance between sea shanties, Celtic and modern folk rock. There are other more popular bands of a similar milieu The Proclaimers, Spirit of the West, and Flogging Molly. I often tell people that they were Flogging Molly before there was a Flogging Molly. Both Flogging Molly and Great Big Sea shows have amazing amounts of audience participation and energy.

If you never heard of Great Big Sea I would recommend giving them a try. You will be surprised. Their concerts are up there w/ Men At Work and Violent Femmes as the best concerts I have attended.

Here is a couple links of their songs..

This one is the one that made me make up mind to propose to my wife..

Captain Wedderburn

Here is a more traditional shanties song.. Sean McCann’s voice is amazing.

Safe Upon a Shore

Hanging Johnny (with Gaelic Storm)

Something more folky rocky…

The Old Black Rum

Boston…

Well this blog is supposed to be about gaming, music, and miscellany..

I would of thought my first post would be about gaming and the MMOs I like to play.  That was the reason why I started this blog.  However, the bombing in Boston has my attention right now and I felt I had to put something down.  It has surprised me that something of this nature has not happened in the recent years.  However, we should not be dictated by our fears.  Similar actions of this nature have happened in the past.  It only seems in the most recent years that we have become consumed with fear.  The media in general feeds off of it since it brings ratings I can only assume.

As usual a cousin of mine on Facebook posted his thoughts on this.  As usual he has a much better way of putting it and summing it up than me.  I guess that law school is good for that.  So here it is..

Soapbox time:

I can remember sitting in a class over 30 years ago, and the professor said he saw a day in the future when people in the United States lived in fear – fear of people from across the globe, and fear from our very own neighbors. That we would feel compelled to lock up everything, arm ourselves, constantly feel compelled to watch our backs, not allow our children to play, not be able to shop, attend a sporting event, move about freely. I simply could imagine such a vision.

Unfortunately – that day is quickly descending on us.

As a child growing up in small town America, I used to wake up on summer day, and get lost – wandering from business, to farm to the library, to the ball fields, never checking in until the streetlights came on. My parents never worried. My interaction with friends and adults is what shaped me. One day I was helping the local vet treat an animal, the next day I was helping the priest give communion, and the next helping farmer put up his hay crop.

Fast forward to my first year practicing law in Lapeer, 1991. At the court house, there was no metal detectors, no locks, no cameras, no security but a single bailiff when there was a prisoner. My fellow lawyers remember that time. It wasn’t that long ago we would drink coffee with the Judge before a hearing, walking the back halls of the courthouse. That is now all gone. All public buildings are on 24/7 lockdown. You speak to a clerk through bulletproof glass.

We are watching OUR FREEDOM be blasted away with each passing event such as what happened in Boston today. You watch, next year’s marathon will be a locked down event – with police, metal detectors, guns & fear. Is this the country we are aspiring to be?

We need answers and leadership, and above all freedom from fear – not more barbed wire, cameras, restrictions and controls. Perhaps we need to respond to such events by saying so what! We won’t allow these atrocious acts to control who we are as a people – as a country. We are better than that. We are the US of A, dammit!

I long for the days of true freedom.

In the mean time, may God help us.