Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dave's Thoughts of the Day: August 12th

The Peach Revolution is spreading!

Coach had a lady friend over on Sunday while I was out, and when I got back I was formally introduced.  Anyway, we're chatting about the weekend and I start getting into how a Train concert experience is different from a Roger Daltrey concert experience and I said "it's Apples and Oranges, really."  THEN, Coach says "Speaking of apples and oranges..."

First of all, that is a *great* segue, and I said to him "Wow, that's a great Dave style segue!"  I see my style of speak is rubbing off on him since I moved here to Santa Monica.

Anyway, he goes on and says "speaking of apples and oranges, I hope you don't mind me giving two of your peaches to my lady friend.  I owe you two peaches."

I said "Oh, no!  I think that's great!  I'm very happy to spread the joy of peaches."  Then I asked the lady friend what she thought of them and she thought the peaches were fantastic.  Folks, I was PUMPED.  We are getting the word out about peach season.

Coach was telling the lady friend "I always see Dave eating peaches, he eats two or three peaches a day."  And my response was "Oh yeah, it's peach season!  You should have seen it earlier in the week, the fruit drawer in the refrigerator was *stuffed* to the brim with peaches."  It was great.  We all got a kick out of the peaches.

It's been an eventful weekend.   I will admit, however, that Orange County, as beautiful and hassle free as it is, doesn't have nearly as many things to do as the LA Metro.   The beaches, harbors, and people:  gorgeous.   But as for attractions and restaurants, that list is much smaller.  The ones they have are tremendous, though.  In particular I was introduced to the Irvine Amphiteater aka the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater which I thought was *awesome.*   Lots to tell, so much so that I'm writing this a full day early and putting off the "Breaking Bad" premiere to write this entry, so pull up a chair and climb aboard for an extra long blog today.

All right, so first of all, the impetus for the trip to OC was a two fold:  I wanted to give Coach a chance to entertain a friend visiting from out of town (see above), and further, I decided to, for the first time, give our neighboring county an in depth look.  I'm more than familiar with Anaheim/Placentia/Fullerton from my years and years of visiting relatives and going to Disneyland and Angels games.  In that foray, an entire southern half of the county was overlooked.   This past weekend, we had the USMS Summer Nationals Meet at Mission Viejo's Nadadores Aquatic Center and many of my Masters team mates were competing.  So, it was killing two birds with one stone and *finally* making a weekend trip to explore and enjoy what was out there.

This actually yielded a third opportunity I hadn't thought of until I left home: the OC Fair.  To summarize, it was just a larger Ventura County fair.  I have to be honest, I wasn't impressed.  Even the big amphitheater had acts about on par with whatever VC did.  Musical concerts and that thing.

The trip to the Irvine Amphitheater was a complete surprise.  I didn't even know there *was* a Train concert until I drove up the freeway and passed the marquee.  The sign said "Tonight -- Train w/ Gavin DeGraw and The Script."  So I didn't think much of it until I got to Mission Viejo Nadadores (MVN for short) to watch my friends at the meet.

It was good to catch up with everyone from the swim club on Day 1.  Honestly, the meet was fantastic to us all.  My only regret is that I didn't swim it myself.  Huge mistake.  I assumed for years that if I didn't meet the listed qualifying times I had no shot at swimming.  It's just not true -- once I looked it up, it said that people not meeting qualifiers still can swim but would only get to do three races.  Ha!   I really blew it -- that would have been a lot of fun to swim.  MVN is a great pool, and its trained numerous olympians over the years.  Not just swimmers, but divers as well.   Lots of my mates swam really well here, and one such swimmer was a story onto itself.  I think I'll save that story for tomorrow since this entry is already going to be so enormous as it is.  She did a FANTASTIC job in her only race of the day.  I'll explain the deets on the Tuesday Daveblog.

*Anyway*, while all of this was in action, I went on Stubhub on my phone to see what the ticket prices were for Train/DeGraw/Script.  Holy hell, they were going for 30 bones.  I was like "That *can't* be right... even has-beens get double that ticket price, and I'm getting three acts with hits *ON* today's music charts for 30?"  Well, I had to jump on that one, friends.   I drove over to a nearby FedEx office to print out the ticket and we were ready to roll.  To be fair, the ticket price was 40 bones after fees, but I later found out that includes the price of parking, so it was a virtual bargain.

So I was at the meet for the entire day, then I left around 6pm to go to the Irvine Amphitheater.  For those keeping score, I got an approved day off in order to venture into town that day.   Getting to the Amphitheater was a struggle.  Office parks and windy roads.  I took the wrong exit and I didn't have a dock installed for my phone yet, so it was a struggle.  To compound it, the phone was already down to 5% battery life as I used it a ton that day, so navigation tools were limited.   I was early enough where it wasn't a major problem, but it was annoying.

Traffic, I'm proud to say, was *not* an issue.  This is the single area where OC (especially the area around Irvine) owns it over Los Angeles.  Friday evening traffic for a big concert featuring 20,000 fans?   Traffic was A-OK.  Loved that part.

So I get to the concert and it's my first trip to the Irvine Amphitheater after years of speculating about going there for concerts.  I wind up going when it's a concert that was fully unplanned, good times.  It takes a while to get from the car to your seat.  There's a long walkway just to get to the gate.  Then another one to get to the seating bowl.  Then you find your seat in this massive circular out-door theater.   At this theater, two video screens flank the proscenium to offer closeups and such.  Train added a few other electronic displays which were used once they did their set.

I was burned  a few times in the past for going to a concert, then waiting about half an hour after the posted start time before anybody played music.  Weird Al concerts are pretty miserable at starting on time.  There's a pretty tangible reason for this: they don't have an opening act.  For at least the last 15 years it's just them and that's it.  In fact, my first concert was Weird Al, so I was really thrown off when I went to see a concert of someone else.  The "opening act" went on all those years ago and I said "The heck is this?  They have a concert before the concert?"  Today, I'm rather happy to have warmup acts just as they do in comedy shows.

I was awed too by the venue.  It is enormous.  I thought the Amphitheater was a one or two thousand seat venue, but I was told later it seats up to 20,000+ people.  WOW!   I thought to myself, how are they going to fill up all these seats?  but they did!  It just took a while.

We were about 30-40% full when Gavin DeGraw's band started their set, which ran an hour solid.  They hit the stage at 5 after 7pm, the listed start time.  Tremendous job by the concert staff to get that going right away.  The stadium filled up about half way through Gavin's set... I had no idea that Gavin DeGraw had so many recognizable songs.  He was a fun listen.  

Next to the stage... the Script, coming off that huge hit "Hall of Fame" on the radio.   Here's something I didn't know about the Script until I saw them live:  these guys are a bunch of jokers.  I love it!  Their knack for interacting with the crowd is amazing.  They're hilarious when they converse between songs.  You get the frontman who does occasional keys, the bald guy who plays lead guitar, the big dude for bass, and I think some other guy for synths.  They're all from Dublin, Ireland.   and THESE guys, actually went up to the crowd and asked if they could borrow a girl's cell phone and have her dial her ex first.  So she did and they were doing this whole breakup song while they were on the phone.  There's no way to know whether the guy actually was on the phone sitting through all this but the whole thing was a hoot.

The practical jokes I was seeing from the Script was a pleasant surprise.  There were a couple other earlier hits they did (it jogged my memory as they played them).  Then it all led up to the big finish, their live version of "Hall of Fame."  Surprisingly the crowd didn't pick up on the song earlier, because they had a low-key intro and the chord progression was definitely recognizable but it wasn't until the keyboard guy did his opening riff that everyone went bananas.  It was *great.*    The Script was also on for an hour solid.

We had intermissions between these acts and a third one before Train started their show.   Once the lights dimmed and the opening montage started (it was a loud audio clip of a train leaving the station) the place went nuts and I mean NUTS.  You saw all this stage smoke and lights behind that, it looked like a train was coming up onto the stage from behind, a great effect.

Then the lead singer steps out of the smoke, huge ovation, and he starts with "Calling All Angels."  Obvious synergy with this song and Orange County, since the Angels used the same song before every Angels Baseball game at the ballpark.  I don't know if he always opens with "Calling All Angels" or if he specifically started with it for the OC, but whatever, it was a stroke of brilliance.

Train knows how to play the crowd.   Really fun concert, with special effects, electronic displays, and everything.   Over the 15 years he's done music, he built up a pretty good catalog of fan favorites and I believe he covered all of them.   I was fascinated by all the covers he did too... he had a Beatles medley, a medley of other random songs covering everything from Macklemore to Bob Marley, and he also brought in Country Singer Ashley Monroe to do a song they collaborated on.   Afterward, Monroe performed one of her own songs with the Train singer on backup vocals.

THEN, after an already raucous night of enjoyable songs and other entertainment, Train said farewell... then we had the whole ruse of them leaving, stage going dark, etc. etc., lots of cheers, and THEN the encore.  We've seen the whole encore process.  Most of the same elements in effect here.  Pretty good encore.  A few down-tempo songs and one other big hit he had.  Already a tremendous night, Train didn't stop there.  He brought out Gavin DeGraw, the Script and Ashley Monroe for *all of them* to sing a rendition of a song from The Band: "The Weight."  WOW.  That's all I gotta say, folks.  It was impressive and really really enjoyable.

...a concert that came completely from nowhere!  One other observation I had about Train that I'll share with you:

The lead singer said "Four years ago we were at the House of Blues in LA and we only had 500 people show up.  You've really been great!"  That's really great to see the Irvine crowd give him such a big boost.  To be fair, a big chunk of the crowd drove in from LA too (including me obviously by way of SM).  The point is, it seemed to me, as it did to Train, that the crowd was simply electric.   Honestly I was in awe of it too... everybody was really into it that night, singing along, doing the dance, reciting all the lyrics.  Amazing.  I think if you go back those four years, I recall somewhat that the "Hey Soul Sister" song hadn't hit the chart yet, so indeed Train was in a lull.  You want to talk about a comeback, here it is.

It was a rare moment where everything hit spot on.  I was privileged to be in attendance.  I mean ok, it's not "Hot August Night" with Neil Diamond per se, but in my limited inventory of concert experiences, we're looking at top three for sure.

There's nothing in life like those pleasant surprises.  I went into the weekend not knowing of the concert at all, yet, it became the highlight of my weekend.

I went to one other concert the next night, the legendary Roger Daltrey of "The Who."   It was, in my eyes "The Who over Two" i.e. Half of the current-day Group without Peter Townshend, but as the concert unfolded, I realized it was much more than that!   Into the evening, Daltrey introduced the band and we he said everyone on stage is the same touring band that travels with formal "The Who" concerts.  That *included* the guy filling in for Townshend on guitar, and he happened to be Pete Townshend's younger brother.  I tell ya, man, he even looked and sounded like Pete on stage.  It was a sight to see for sure.

This concert, which unfolded the night after, took place at a venue called Pacific Amphitheater within the confines of the OC Fair.   There were a few things which were disappointing about the concert, none of them had to do with Daltry himself, oh man, THAT guy's still got it!  He hit all the notes, still brought such great energy, and it was an honor to be in the same zip code with the guy.  Nah, the disappointing elements were...

-- The fact that Ray Manzarek couldn't be with him.  I found out just before arriving that the concert was originally a duo of Daltrey and the Doors' Keyboardist, which would have simply made my evening.  It made my evening as it was, but it really hit home how much we miss Manzarek here in California.  Dude was so great.  Manzarek died a few months ago.
-- No sellout.  I mean, you're talking about 90% of the modern-day Who on stage.   They performed nearly all the biggest songs of their career.   They put in a pretty damn-good performance, and ticket prices were not expensive at all.  I got mine even cheaper than the Train concert!  All that, and the best they could do was draw 75% attendance?
-- The opening act...  it was a small low-fi group called "The Steven Roth Band."  NOBODY had heard of them.  People next to me were asking me "Who is this guy?  Did you catch the name?"  I said "Steven Roth, I might have to google it to make sure" only to see him say right after I said that "My name's Steven Roth, hope you're having a good time tonight."   I don't think Roth's band was really that bad, just underwhelming.  It wasn't really the kind of act that usually would precede a group like Daltrey and most of the Who but I'm told Daltrey himself selected him.  Roth's group is also a locally based band.   Listen, I could go to the Music Department at UCLA and grab a few guys to make a band too, that doesn't mean we'll resonate w/ the crowd.  I felt bad for Roth... he tried to stage a singalong with one of his songs and *nobody* sang along.  He even said sarcastically "Great Energy!"  These guys did the best they could, but it was a coffee house group playing an arena crowd... it did not appear to be a great match.  One of the guys was on drum, yes, literally ONE drum.  I hope they manage ok though and eventually hit the chart.   They have good heart, for certain.
-- Crowd energy, or lack thereof, but this was to be expected.  It's an older crowd, plus you're looking at a concert within a county fair.  It would have been tough to get serious energy with this setup.   For a while it reminded me of that gag from "This is Spinal Tap" where the Tap hit rock bottom and did  a small show at Magic Mountain and the little sign said "Puppet Show and Spinal Tap."  Hahahahahahahahahahaahaha.

The crowd had its moments.  I thought it responded great with Squeeze Box, Pinball Wizard, Who Are You, etc.  Daltrey went outside the box too, and he relished all those moments.  Always cool to see artists draw from their other inspirations.  He did a pretty good Johnny Cash medley that I would not have anticipated.  Once he got to "Ring of Fire," we got going.  All in all a pretty good concert which simply needed a better venue and opening act.

I don't know if it's Fair policy or something, but it seemed like Daltrey's group couldn't do a proper encore... they did a pseudo encore where the band left the stage but Daltrey only went half way out and came back again.  Then he got a Ukelele and tried to do an encore song with the Keyboard guy adding textures.  I don't know if he meant to do this or what, but the whole song fell apart, and Daltrey forgot words, and he just gave up and said "G'nite!"  Then the OC Fair kicked all of us out.  It was 11pm by then.

Now on to the other things from the weekend.

I was driving around one of the nights and had Jack FM on.  It was an 80's Flashback weekend, so all 80's songs.  During the drive I thought "I bet you they play either a Genesis song or Phil Collins during the drive!"  THE VERY NEXT SONG was a Genesis song!   How cosmic was that???  Do the dance!

Concerts are a deceptively great place to meet women.  I can't say I met anyone specifically but I was chatting with people here and there at the two concerts I was at.   I should have been more assertive talking to others in the crowd during intermissions.  There was a babe (an absolute babe, like a no-doubter home run of a babe with the blond hair and all that) at the Train concert with her mom.  They were a couple seats over.   I wasn't thinking.  Just absorbing the moment, but those two were chatting up the couple between me and them in the same row.  Boy that just reminds me what a fun night it was.  Really really great.  Groups of ladies in pockets all over the stadium.  Then, during the concert, they sent out balloons and we were bouncing balloons all over the place.   During the Train set, they threw all sorts of beach balls at us.  Dodger Stadium was a clear inspiration for that night.

The Newport Beach Brewing Company has fantastic in-house beer.  I was there and tried a Newport Steam.  Seriously, that beer rocked the socks.

Laventina's Pizza.  I went there on the recommendation of a friend.  I was hoping the sauce would deliver more than it did, but it was otherwise a solid pizza.  Loved the crust, and the pizza was so cheap too!  6 bones for a medium 12"?   8 bones for a large?  No wonder it's a big hit with the college crowd there.

Balboa Village so somewhere in between the big concerts and the swim meet I found time to go to Balboa Village somewhere on the Newport Beach peninsula.  Small neighborhood but classic streets and shops, the whole thing.  It also was bordering a harbor which was really fun to enjoy.  On the other end, which bordered the ocean (very small peninsula we're talking about), was Balboa Pier.   Gorgeous.  Unheralded and unpublicized, but gorgeous.  The ocean water was extra blue that day.  Many others were fishing and we had people on the beach having a good time.  Families and singles and all sorts of beautiful people.  That was a good time.

Wouldn't you know?  Balboa Pier is also the home of the very first Ruby's Diner which opened there 31 years ago.   I could have sampled some history and had lunch there, but I still was able to visit the place and check out the building.  Classic Building.  Ruby's is a 40's themed diner (exceedingly rare anyplace.. many places tried to do the 50's and 60's).  It also had these bullhorn loudspeakers playing 40's music for everyone to hear outside while they fished and soaked in the rays.  They have an outdoor patio at Ruby's, indoor booths, AND rooftop seating no less.  What a place!

Can you believe what the Dodgers did this weekend?  I mean that is incredible!   6 run comeback, unbeknownst to me until after the fact when I saw comments about it online.  Then another win, THEN another one against Tampa Bay.   It's been such a joyful ride for the Dodgers.  Who knows where it ends, but I'm just so glad they're playing this well today.

I have to admit, for all the love I've said of Orange County, I ran out of things to do after a while.   There weren't enough original restaurants or other attractions to sustain more than a couple days.  That's not all bad, it just means there's limited value for the tourist aside from Disneyland and such.  It seems like a tremendous place to live and the OC is huge USC country.  Lots of love for SC out there, and I can dig that, friends.

Whew!  At any rate, more to come from this writer's pen tomorrow.  Have a good Monday, everyone.

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