Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What will you do this Memorial Day weekend? Here are a few ideas!

Tradional fairground ride
Memorial Day Weekend... all the fun of the fair!
So it's here again, at last... a long weekend, Memorial Day Weekend in the USA. What will you do with this precious free time? Here are just  few ideas...

The Memorial Day service... that's what it's all about, after all, remembering those who have given so much to protect this country. It's worth taking the time to check out one or more of the events around the region, especially Mount Vernon in Citrus Heights, which always has a moving service, lots of people, and a lot of shiny Harleys ridden by military veterans. This year's event is the 50th annual Memorial Day Tribute at Mount Vernon, and will be held from 11 to 12 am.  Don't be late.

The Sacramento County Fair kicks off the weekend early, beginning on Thursday, 25th and running all weekend at Cal Expo on Exposition Boulevard. All the fun of the fair! And, of course, livestock, monster trucks, bull riding (Saturday night), Jaripeo, tractor pulls, and much more. Check the website for info: General admission is an inexpensive $6, parking is $10, children under 12 go free. For the special events including the monster trucks, there's an extra ticket that needs to be bought in advance--best prices are online or at your local Walgreens!

Queen Nation, State Fair, Sacramento 2013
Queen Nation who will be performing at the Sacramento Music Festival this year
Sacramento Music Festival is this weekend too, in Old Sacramento and several downtown venues. With artistes from all jazz genres through to some wonderful rock tribute bands (Queen Nation, Super Huey, Steelin' Dan and Caravanserai, for example)...  local favourites and musicians from around the USA, there is something for everyone's musical tastes: jazz, rockabilly, cajun, ragtime, bluegrass, rock... Go and discover something surprising! All the information is on the festival's website:

Tom Rigney and Flambeau, Sacramento, 2013
Tom Rigney and Flambeau will return to Sacramento Music Festival this weekend

Robin Trower, Sacramento, 2015
Robin Trower returns: at the Crest, Sacramento, on Sunday
Robin Trower is in Sacramento this Sunday, at the Crest Theater. Highly recommended! I saw him a couple of years ago in Folsom, and the show was entrancing. You can read the review here, and find info about the Crest show here. Don't miss this one -- he's one of the great, British, guitar players, who has influenced so many other musicians.

Highly Suspect
Highly Suspect, seen here at Aftershock, will perform at this weekend's Bottlerock
And of course, this weekend is Napa's annual Bottlerock festival. If you didn't already obtain tickets, I fear it's far too late... with a lineup that includes Foo Fighters, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Maroon 5, Band of Horses, the wonderful Fitz and the Tantrums, Live (all together again!), Catfish and the Bottlemen (yay!!!!) and you-must-not-miss Highly Suspect... I'd love to be there, but sadly it's not happening this year!

Confetti, Fitz & The Tantrums
Fitz and the Tantrums, in the lineup for Bottlerock this year!
Whatever you plan on doing this weekend, enjoy yourselves, keep safe, and spare a moment or two for those memories.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

All the European Marillion weekends: photogalleries! And next weekend--Chile!!!

All of the Marillion photogalleries are now published for the three European Marillion weekends of 2017. The remaining weekend of this year's series is in Santiago, Chile, this coming Friday to Sunday, and if you are very, very lucky, you might still be able to obtain a ticket. Click here to find out more!  (I wish I was there, but... mustn't be greedy, right?) The shows in Chile will be recorded for video by Toward Infinity... which will be no doubt a stunning memory for those who attend, and a consolation for those who can't be there this time.

Here are the Alison Toon Photographer Marillion photogalleries from Europe (just click on the links below or go to

Marillion plus In Priase of Folly string quartet, Leicester
Marillion, Leicester, 2017
- Leicester, UK, England: my hometown, Leicester, and the wonderful venue, Leicester's De Montfort Hall

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
Marillion, Lodz, 2017
- Lodz, Poland at the Wytwórnia

Marillion, PZ 2017, Saturday
Marillion, Port Zelande, 2017
- Port Zelande, The Netherlands, at Center Parcs!

There are a few more photos to be edited--I have a "people of" collection for Poland still to come, plus support band photos--but all the Marillion pics are now edited and available. Put F.E.A.R. on the sound system and take a look...

For more info, see  And if you still haven't... check out the free sample music to find out why people flock from all around the world to see and hear this band.

New live video/DVD: Between The Buried And Me, Coma Ecliptic Live

Between The Buried And Me (BTBAM)
BTBAM, Ace of Spades, Oct 2016
Between The Buried And Me have announced a new tour with The Contortionist, Polyphia and Toothgrinder for later this year, following a date at Prog Power in Atlanta in September. For all the dates in the tour, see BTBAM's Facebook... no Sacramento date this time, but Santa Cruz is a yes!

In the meantime, check out their recently-released video of the full-length, live recording of Coma Ecliptic, filmed live on location at The Observatory, San Diego, October 4th 2016 (and appropriately title, Coma Ecliptic Live). To preview the video, and to purchase (physical, download or streaming are available), click here!

If you haven't yet heard BTBAM, check them out. Prog and metal fans... this is for you! You'll find videos on YouTube:

Between The Buried And Me
BTBAM, Ace of Spades, March 2016

Saturday, May 6, 2017

First Festival is this weekend!!! Riverwalk Park, West Sac!

I'm just back from almost two months in Europe, scrambling to catch up (both with sleep, and with what's going on here in Northern California)... and already Concerts in the Park have kicked off the outdoor music season, and today? It's the first day of First Fest!

This year, presented by 98 Rock, First Fest is happening in Riverwalk Park in West Sacramento. Get over there and support our wonderful local music scene!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Review and photos, Marillion weekend, Łódź, Poland... and yes, it's personal

Marillion, Łódź, Poland
Marillion, Łódź, Poland... Friday night
I've been in Europe for several weekends now, to photograph and to enjoy the three European Marillion weekends... and I'm taking advantage of the time over here to revisit old haunts and to explore places I've never been. (Whether it's a journey of musical journey, or moving through life in general, we have to keep on learning and venturing into new domains. IMHO.)

Kinderdijk, The Netherlands
The first Marillion Weekend of 2017 happened in Port Zelande, The Netherlands, and you can find the review and photo galleries here. The Port Zelande event is something that every Marillion fan should make their way to at least once in a lifetime. A bit like this place.

After that weekend, I whiled away a few days in Dordrecht, a beautiful, old city in the Netherlands. Years back, I'd spent three years in Apeldoorn, further north and east, and this was the first time I'd explored this part of the Netherlands. Tilting at windmills, searching for tulips, watching the water. Beautiful place.

Gdansk, Poland
Then off to Poland. The first time I ever visited Poland, it was with my then-husband, visiting his family in a little village near Malbork, where there were still horse-drawn ploughs and a steam train or two. We travelled on a rickety train from the Netherlands, passing through multiple checkpoints, slammed with passengers and TVs and goods from East Berlin to Poznań, where we passed our suitcases through the train window, and the children over the heads of other passengers. It was the year before the Berlin Wall fell, and on subsequent trips I've seen first, an overdose of commercialism, and now, today: a truly beautiful and proud country that has really found herself.

Malbork Castle
Inside the newly-restored church, Malbork Castle, Poland
The restoration work on the buildings of Warszawa and Gdansk, and the huge, mighty castle in Malbork, are wonderful examples of how a country's architectural heritage can shine. The way that McDonalds is present but in a very, very subtle way on the main shopping street in Łódź is an example of how globalization doesn't have to overpower local businesses. The new (war, holocaust, resistance, deportation, history of Poland) museums in Warszawa, and in Gdansk, are stunning, breathtaking, devastating and heartbreaking, and so very well presented that they each deserve a day, and a revisit, and should be mandatory experiences for all. Poland you have a very special place in my heart... I'll be back.

Cromer pier
Cromer, North Norfolk, England
And now I'm in North Norfolk, England, a place of so many happy memories, and so much natural beauty, that I never want to leave again. Why did I ever leave?

Next weekend: it's Marillion, in Leicester, my home town, and at the De Montfort Hall, location of much misspent youth. So many Budgie concerts! So many other shows! Dr. Feelgood, with Wilko strutting about on the orchestra/choir steps! Doctor Hook even! I watched pantomimes there, as a kid, was introduced to opera there by my aunt and uncle, and even performed on stage as part of a Leicestershire kid's orchestra. So next weekend? It will be awesome.

Photos from the Łódź Marillion weekend are here!
Photos from North Norfolk, in this gallery (when I set up my B&B one day, you'll have to visit)
Photos from the Netherlands: in this gallery
Photos from Poland (there will be more added here, soon)

Aftershock 2017! Dates! Tickets!!! Presale!!! Don't miss!

 And Aftershock is back at Discovery Park in Sacramento again this year! The weekend of 21st and 22nd October. Click the link to find out more about tickets and to book a hotel if you need one. There are several within walking distance of the event!

Who are you hoping for in the lineup this year? Follow the festival on Facebook to make sure you see all the announcements!

Dimple Records has some presales tickets (record store day/weekend), but online presale begins tomorrow, 24th April, at 9 am Pacific time. Set your alarm clock and then click here to go to the presale page because you know they'll go fast. Very fast. Very very fast!

If you don't remember how much fun you had at Aftershock last year, take a look here:

People of Aftershock

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

If you like your rock a little prog, or your prog a little metal... check out Tides From Nebula

Post-rock, instrumental rockers Tides From Nebula are from Warsaw (Warszawa, Poland) are well worth a listen if you like your metal on the progressive side, or your prog with a metal/rock edge. This instrumental band opened for Marillion recently at the Klub Wytwórnia in Łódź, Poland, and I found them hypnotic, mesmerising, complex and intense.

Tides From Nebula are Tomasz Stołowski, Maciej Karbowski, Adam Waleszyński, and Przemek Węgłowski. Their latest album is Safehaven, available from your usual music store.

Find more info on Tides From Nebula on Facebook. They are currently on tour in Europe: find tour dates here!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Review and photos: Marillion Weekend, Port Zelande, The Netherlands: 2017

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
Marillion Weekend, PZ 2017
Every two years, the phenomenon called "Marillion Weekends" happens. Weekends-- with shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday--in several different locations around the world. This year, 2017, in Port Zelande, The Netherlands; in Lodz, Poland; in Leicester, England; and in Santiago, Chile. The Port Zelande (PZ)weekend sold out almost immediately, Leicester too is now sold out, but if you're lucky, you might still be able to get hold of a ticket for Lodz or Santiago today, and if you don't wait much longer.

Marillion, PZ 2017, Friday
Marillion Weekend, Friday, Port Zelande 2017
So what exactly is a Marillion Weekend? It's the coming-together of fans from all around the world--yes, they'll travel from Brazil and from Australia for a weekend in The Netherlands--plus Marillion playing long shows on each of the three evenings, combined with a wonderful light show (huge shout-out to lighting from Yenz Nyholm); plus a good variety of support acts, and at Port Zelande, because everyone is staying in the same place, there are additional activities such as a band trivia quiz, Q&A with the band, and much more.

Steve Rothery, guitar, Marillion
Steve Rothery, Marillion, PZ 2017
Marillion has brought the Weekend to Port Zelande and the Center Parcs holiday resort six times now: for long-time fans it's a chance to get together with Marillion family from around the world, every two years. The entire holiday village is filled with people who are there for one thing: to enjoy Marillion. It's a bit like a holiday camp for grownups who like progressive rock; you get sand in your shoes, the beds are kid-size, but who cares when you're full of the music.

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
Steve Hogarth, Marillion, PZ 2017
And once again, the band surpassed all expectations. So many times, I heard people saying how they had wondered if the band could still surprise, be better than last time, and then being blown away by what they heard and saw this weekend in Port Zelande. There are fans waiting for the three other weekends who may not wish to know the setlists from PZ, and out of respect for that I won't share the full lists here. (Those who do want to know the setlists for all three nights--go to and search for Marillion Port Zelande. That's what it's for.)

Pete Trewavas, bass, Marillion
Pete Trewavas, Marillion, PZ 2017
Friday night, the show was a mix of twenty or so huge, emotional songs, provoking discussions about the theme of the evening. Were they all protest songs? No...  not quite but wait... what was the connection? Maybe the connection was simply that they flowed together and worked as a show.

Mark Kelly, Keyboards, Marillion
Mark Kelly, Marillion, PZ 2017
Saturday night included songs from F.E.A.R., Marillion's studio album from late 2016, released to unprecedented appreciation from a general public who have, at last, started to understand what all these fans from all around the world have know for so long. You have to hear Marillion. You have to see them live.  (If you haven't heard F.E.A.R. yet, take the time to listen. It is so fitting to the times we are living in.)

No doubt, there will be people who only-just discovered Marillion through F.E.A.R., and who are planning on attending the Leicester weekend. They are in for a treat.

Ian Mosley, drums, Marillion
Ian Mosley, Marillion, PZ 2017
Sunday... oh, Sunday. From the swooping open of the red velvet curtains to reveal the bewigged, be-powdered string quartet In Praise Of Folly, to guest appearances by sax and trumpet players (Phil Todd and Neil Yates) and an obviously-beloved lyricist John Helmer (wrote lyrics for Marillion for several songs over the years, including Pour My Love on Sounds That Can't Be Made), to vocalist Steve Hogarth's sudden-and-unintended-and-must-have-been-painful disappearance down a hole the back of the stage, through the long silence while audience, band and crew alike waited to hear that he was OK (he was, and he was back on stage ten minutes later), to the beautiful, confetti-filled finale... that was one big wonderful weekend.

Marillion, PZ 2017, Sunday
Final encore, Sunday, Marillion PZ 2017
The days after a Marillion Weekend are like a black hole where all fans want to do is turn the clock back to last Thursday, and start all over again. You're picking up the pieces and trying to get back to mundane, boring-tawdry "real" life, but talking the hind leg off friends and family, telling those who weren't there why they should have been, reminding those who were there what you saw, did, heard together; congretating in Facebook groups, watching the 'family' on their way back to their many homelands,

"Is it really over"? "Are you going to Poland/Leicester/Santiago?" "PZ 2019!!!"

Photos from Alison Toon Photographer are now up in the galleries:

- Marillion PZ 2017: Friday
- Marillion PZ 2017: Saturday
- Marillion PZ 2017: Sunday

Photo galleries for the support bands will be added soon.

Also, follow Marillion (MarillionOfficial) on Facebook and on Instagram for photos and updates from the band and other photographers who were at the PZ weekend.

See you in Lodz!

Marillion, PZ 2017, Sunday
Marillion and string quartet, Port Zelande, 2017

The March-April European tour: the days between the (Marillion) weekends!

Kinderdijk, South Holland, The Netherlands
Yes, Alison Toon Photographer is on the road/in the plane/on the train/on the bus, again! In Europe until early May to cover all three European Marillion Weekends. Taking some time to see the sights, too: this week, it's been the Netherlands.

Red tulips
Field of early red tulips, Lisse, South Holland, The Netherlands
I lived in The Netherlands for three years, many years ago, and it's been so nice to come back here and get to know the country all over again, It's a wonderful place.

Nieuwpoort, South Holland, The Netherlands
Some of my favourite impressions about living here, and visiting again: water, windmills, waterbirds, carillions, liquorice, chocolate, bicycles, cumin cheese, tulips, Oude Goude, bicycle bells, daffodils, Chin-Ind takeaway, sheep, steep stairs, big skies, kind people, trains, bicycles with baskets, bicycles with three children on board, Wil je buiten spelen? Any one of these things evokes a memory...

Dodrdrecht old town
Dordrecht, old town, The Netherlands
Tomorrow I catch a flight to Warszawa, Poland, to meet up with friends for a quick trip around the country before the Marillion weekend in Lodz. (I almost changed my flight for a train ticket, but found out that the sleeper that used to run all the way from Amsterdam to Warszawa doesn't run anymore... that's a shame, it was fun... but that's another story.)

More photos from my travels in The Netherlands are here; more will be added!

So for the next few weeks, you'll see travel posts interspersed with the music posts. First Marillion weekend review coming up very soon!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Social Distortion, Ace of Spades, 14th March 2017: photo gallery

Mike Ness, vocals and guitar, Social Distortion
Social Distortion, Ace of Spades, Sacramento
Social Distortion filled the house late last week, at Sacramento's Ace of Spades. For a full photo gallery, click on the photo above, or on this link.

Fronted by original member Mike Ness, harking back to the original days of punk -- they formed in 1978 -- Social Distortion has long been a mainstay of punk in the USA, but with a clear rockabilly influence to their music making them unique.

More dates to come in the tour--several are, like the Sacramento show, sold out--catch your tickets while you can!

Mike Ness, vocals and guitar, Social Distortion
Mike Ness, Social Distortion
While the band put forward their best, I can't say that much the audience did the same; it was a sweltering mess of puffed-up testosterone, not with the political activism that I know and love from British punk fans, but with beer and self-righteousness, and all crowded as close as possible to the front of the venue, blocking the view of smaller and more female members of the audience (there weren't many). Sacramento, dudes, that was just rude.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

This is dope... no, seriously, this is DOPE! Plus Andy LaPlegua of Combichrist!

Thieves!!! (The Ministry song.)

Consider it a sampler from the upcoming album, Blood Money Part 2 (no, I don't have a release date)... and also a commentary on today's world. No explanation needed... but you might not want to watch this at work, or where Great Aunt Susan is watching ;-) Don't like politicians? You'll love this ;-)

For more information--and for the current tour dates where Dope and Combichrist are co-headliners--see Dope's Facebook page!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Watch out for this: Burn the Ships, from Blacktop Mojo

I've been a little busy, a tad distracted, the past few weeks: publishing a series of books for children, plus my first novel (if you missed the launch, click here for the website, and here for the press kit.) There have, no doubt, been a few major launches that have missed my ears, and one or two concerts that yes, I should have covered but didn't.

But I want to make sure that nobody misses this one: to be released on 10th March, it's a new, full-length album from Blacktop Mojo titled "Burn The Ships" (they self-released their first album, "I Am", in 2014). A mix of hard rock, melodic metal rhythms/bass/guitar, bluesy-rock and some beautiful acoustic work, I know this album is going to be on repeat in my house for a very long time. It's seriously, seriously good.

The album has the kind of artwork that would have me picking it up off the shelf in a record store, even if I'd never heard them before. Sometimes an album cover will still do that.

Check out a video of them performing recently on Good Morning Texas. They also recently won a competition to open for Bon Jovi, before a huge crowd in Dallas at American Airlines Center.

Here's an example: yes, it's a cover, but it's a really good cover (and here's another one): and then wait, impatiently, to get your ears on a copy of Burn The Ships on March 10th (click that link for a pre-order).

Blacktop Mojo come from Palestine, Texas, and are vocalist Matt James, drummer Nathan Gillis, lead guitarist Ryan Kiefer, guitar player Kenneth Irwin, and bassist Matt Curtis. To find out more, check Blacktop Mojo's website and Facebook,.. plus several videos on YouTube, and when the album is released, listen to it, end to end, several times. You might find it on repeat in your house, too.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Art Street, don't miss it!!! Only a couple of days left to visit.

Art Street
Art Street, 2017, Sacramento
If you haven't been yet, there are only a couple of days left to visit the Art Street temporary, free and multi-disciplinary arts project. In a warehouse (owned by the Mill at Broadway) and around the property at 300 1st Avenue, Sacramento -- close to the river end of Broadway, there's over 65,000 feet of space... full of inspiring, thoughtful, thought-provoking, provocative, sometimes-shocking, sometimes-not, art and painting and sculpture and photography and just about everything you'd include in "the arts".

(And yes: the property is going to be demolished sometime soon.)

Art Street
Collidescope, Art Street, Sacramento
Brought to us by M5Arts--the same folks from last year's Art Hotel project--and with contributions by over 100 artists and performers (there's music at night), there's also food and drink available. But the main thing: drink in the art.

Homeless, Art Street
Remembering Sacramento's lost homeless people
Each work is likely to create a different reaction in everyone who visits. The homeless-people piece brought me to tears, the sexual assault alley to anger and more tears; several pieces of art I wanted to cut down and bring home and put on my wall; one set of paintings made me think I'd forgotten to put my contact lenses in (and that might have been the objective... if you see that set of paintings, you'll understand exactly what it means to be near-sighted/short-sighted).

Art Street
Painted by the light, Art Street, Sacramento
A huge thank you to all the artists and the M5Arts team.

Art Street
Art Street, Sacramento, 2017
Here's my complete photo gallery: click here. I'd love to label all the works with the artists' names, but was unable to find many of them. If you are one of the artists, and wish to be credited in the gallery, email me with the URL of the photo plus a link to your website/info.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Growlers, City Club tour, at the Ace of Spades: sold out show!

Brooks Nielsen, vocals, The Growlers
Brooks Nielsen, The Growlers, Ace of Spades
Reportedly one of Ellen DeGeneres' favourite bands this year, creators of the annual Beach Goth festival in Southern California, The Growlers filled the Ace of Spades last night, selling out way before the day of the show. The line stretched right around the block long before the doors opened at 7 p.m., and even though the evening was cold, drizzly and grim, many fans were dressed for the beach, no doubt inspired by the band's beach-goth style: a mix of West-coast surf-rock-and-pop, country, with Brooks Nielsen's vocals often reminiscent of a young Bob Dylan.

The Growlers
The Growlers, Ace of Spades, Sacramento
There was no support act: instead, the stage remained dark, anticipation building in the crowd, until 8.30 p.m. sharp, when Brooks Nielsen, Matt Taylor, Kyle Straka, and the touring members of the band took the stage, to the delight of the young fans crowding the floor.

The Growlers
The Growlers, Ace of Spades, Sacramento
A neon light to stage right shines out: "City Club", the same words on the back of Nielsen's boiler suit. The show did have a club feel to it; the audience were certainly a club of fans. This photographer would have loved to see a little more light on stage...
Brooks Nielsen, vocals, The Growlers
The Growlers
For more photos of last night's show, click here!

The Growlers' major City Club Spring Tour continues: check out all the dates here. And check out the album, City Club, here.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

AWARD: ZO magazine, Platinum photography award, for "Multitudes" from Chicago Open Air

Chicago Open Air
Fans in the crowd at Chicago Open Air, 2016
I won another award for a photo! From ZO Magazine.

This photo was taken at Chicago Open Air, a Danny Wimmer Presents event, last summer, and entered into the competition as "Multitudes".

I'm ready for festival season to begin already... aren't you???  See you in the crowd!!!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Rag'n'Bone Man: debut album, Human, out now!

I've just spent a few weeks in England, and usually I return with a handful of new music to share and to listen to further. This time, with BBC Radio One tuned in the rental car, driving from London to Leicester, then to North Norfolk and back, much of the playlist was annoying, high-pitched, auto-tuned disposable electro-pop, with a very, very few exceptions: Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, (who are receiving good airtime here, on Octane),  and this man, who I first heard when driving the M1 a while back: the exceptional, wonderful Rag'N'Bone Man.

Rag'N'Bone Man's debut, full-length album, "Human", is available today, worldwide: the vinyl goes on sale in the USA very soon, but you can already download the digital version (I did).

Soulful, bluesy, strong and such a very memorable voice. Take a listen to the title track above, and the entire album. There are some beauties: it's an album that will grow with every listen. And find out more about Rag'N'Bone Man on Facebook and his website. Nominated for the Breakthrough award at this year's Brit Awards: if you're a UK resident you can vote here!

(For those who wonder, what's the meaning of "Rag'n'Bone": you can find out here.)