Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pandora rant, and an out-of-the-box road trip

I have to learn how to use Pandora properly.

I have the version without ads (the ads would drive me insane). And I know how to create stations, "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" songs, and skip songs... but Pandora can quite obviously only read my mind occasionally.

I replaced my old, 2001-model 5-CD player in my truck last week (it had eaten a CD and refused to regurgitate it) with a new tuner/Bluetooth player that easily connects up to my Windows phone (and which provides additional sport with voice-to-text... results are hilarious when using a US-English voice-to-text engine with an English-English voice like mine: if you receive a weird-but-amusing text from me, you'll know I'm yelling in the truck.) The new tuner latches on to Pandora on my phone and it's rather cool.


I just can't listen to the Pandora Marillion station. Even though Pandora's website says it has all the wonderful recent Marillion albums, it only plays one or two tracks from "Real to Reel". Heavily intermingled with Genesis, Pink Floyd, Fish and other really-old-school so-called "prog" stuff. So I try all the thumbs-down and skipping, then Pandora tells me I can't skip any more this hour cos they pay for the music and tough, you're stuck with another darn Genesis song, and you can't fix this without pulling over and messing about with the phone and there's a string of traffic behind you and a cop car watching so you just have to turn the volume down or fall asleep at the wheel.

If you want to sample the real-and-up-to-date Marillion, go here:

(I've never been into Genesis, apart from the one really-non-Genesis-like single from around 1975 about wardrobes... Fish does nothing for me since he left Marillion many many many years back, though I know a lot of Marillion fans who do love his solo music... Pink Floyd is wonderful on occasion, but is really not drive-time music. "My" prog is H-era Marillion, Peter Hammill, Van der Graaf Generator, maybe some King Crimson. Pandora, why can't you read my mind????)

So I switch to the Gemini Syndrome Pandora station. Now that one works: all the tracks from Lux, many of my favourite Five Finger Death Punch songs, lots of Stone Sour, some Breaking Benjamin... and I can about tolerate one Disturbed song an hour. Great for a long road trip. It's only when Pandora gets bored with itself and starts adding totally-unrelated bands that I change back to the Marillion station... and find it plays only wailing Phil Collins and another-boring Fish song, and no recent Marillion whatsoever.

Sigh... next road trip I'll remember to bring my CDs along.

(More about this road trip coming soon.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gemini Syndrome on tour, headlining, East coast and more... don't miss!!!~

My East Coast friends, here's a treat for you: Gemini Syndrome are headed your way. See all the tour dates on the Tour page of their website or Facebook.

Long Island:  Amytiville, December 10th.  OK?? It's just down the road!

Aaron Nordstrom, Gemini Syndrome, Aftershock 2013
Aaron Nordstrom, Gemini Syndrome, Aftershock 2013
In case you missed it, here's my review of Lux: and all the photos from this year's Aftershock Festival in Sacramento.

See. You should have been there. Next year?

Alessandro Paveri, bass, Gemini Syndrome, Aftershock 2013
Alessandro Paveri, bass, Gemini Syndrome, Aftershock 2013
More from other Gemini Syndrome showss in the Toon's Tunes Gemini Syndrome gallery.

HR Giger and Korn

While I considered Korn vocalist Jonathan Davis' mic stand was a beautiful work of art... and that it reminded me of H. R. Giger's work... duh.... I didn't realise that it actually was H. R. Giger's work!

In case you didn't either, here's the story on Giger's website.

Jonathan Davis, vocals, Korn, Aftershock 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

I'd like to hear more of this... wouldnt you? You can help!

Find the Steve Rothery Kickstarter project here:

And hear here:

And less than 24 hours from launch... IT'S FUNDED!!! You can still use the link to pre-order your music, CD, ticket to the launch show, etc. What a wonderful example of music and musicans being sponsored by the fans. And yet another example of Marillion fans being a worldwide family. Nice job everyone!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A band of orcs, doing what orcs do best. Oh and a little heavy metal too.

A Band of Orcs live 2013
A Band Of Orcs
(I apologise for taking so long to publish these. It was a hectic week, that week, believe me.)

I first read Lord of the Rings when I was nine years old. (Yes, I was that annoying kid-bookworm.) Blame it on Mr. Scott. Mr. Barry Scott, if I remember right. Used to ride a racing bicycle to school and back every day. Mr. Scott read us The Hobbit, one chapter a day, in class, and once he'd finished the book I had to go to the library and find and read the Lord of the Rings, all of it, all six books, and pore over the maps of Middle Earth and discover Orcs and Black Riders and Strider and Treebeard and Mordor.

If you're still out there Mr. Scott, thank you, I hope you enjoy these Orcs too!

A Band of Orcs live 2013
A Band Of Orcs, Ace of Spades, Sacramento
Having been introduced to Orcs at such an early and impressionable age, imagine my excitement seeing them walk on stage at the Ace of Spades to open the show for GWAR! And to do real Orcy stuff, like lurk in the dark, play real death-thrash-reallyreally-heavy metal, and drool all over the photographers and front line of the audience! Wow! A Band of Orcs!!! (Tolkien kept the musical skills of Orcs hidden. We might have been too sympathetic to them. But now... the truth is out. Orcs really rock!!!)

(These guys totally cracked me up. I can't remember any of the songs that they played, other than that they were loud, heavy and metal, but they were incredibly and thoroughly entertaining. Made my night. Go see them if you dare!!!)

A Band of Orcs live 2013

According to their Facebook page, A Band of Orcs are Gogog Bloodthroat (vocals and a lot of growls), Cretos Filthgrinder (lead guitar),  Hulg ElfR.I.P.per ("Crunchy" guitars... crunchy???), Gronk! (shamanic bass) and Oog Skullbasher (war drums).

See all the photos from the show in the Toon's Tunes gallery of A Band of Orcs.
A Band of Orcs live 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Review: Five Finger Death Punch, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, volume 2

On public release on 19th November, my copy of Five Finger Death Punch's new album, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, volume 2, arrived early that morning, the music accompanied by a live performance DVD and a coupon for a free T-shirt. I'd been looking forwards to hearing this since seeing FFDP live at Aftershock earlier in the year, and had avoided listening to the album streaming the week before, preferring to wait until the recording was truly and physically here. (No matter how high-def the radio or streaming is, I still prefer a solid, physical recording for my archive.)

Why "Volume 2"? Because they had so much good material it didn't all fit on Volume 1 (released July 30th). And because the two volumes fit together: not as a concept album or a major theme, but just because the songs all work together and fit together and flow together.

Ivan Moody and Jason Hook, Five Finger Death Punch, Aftershock 2013
Ivan Moody and Jason Hook, FFDP, Aftershock 2013

They have fast become one of my favourite bands of all time. Hard to imagine that, this time last year, I'd heard very little of their music. (And how I'd missed out. Why? Remind me to find that article I wrote a while back, about only finding music in the USA when you know what to look for because no radio station is going to introduce you to it. Remind me to reminisce about Old Grey Whistle Test and John Peel and others, and to once-again acknowledge that my roots are showing.) Anyway... Five Finger Death Punch's music is intense, deep, angry and very, very real. It's not commercial and it's not-at-all shallow; there are musical depths that many heavy metal bands wouldn't ever dare to plumb. Jeremy Spencer's powerhouse drumming, Zoltan Bathory's virtuoso guitar, and Ivan Moody's vast vocal range make sure of that.

I've had "Cold" playing on repeat for hours now. It's a classic. It's a song that I'll listen to for a very, very long time. It's melodic and it's raw and it's Moody.
Ivan Moody, Five Finger Death Punch, Aftershock 2013
Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch, performing at Aftershock Festival

If you assume that you know the character of Five Finger Death Punch from a few song titles, from the words "American Patriot" and "War is the Answer", and haven't taken it any further... you're missing out on something wonderful. And you may also be missing the subtleties of some dry, almost British humour...

I am so very glad that I had the opportunity to see these guys live in Sacramento this year, at Aftershock. Absolutely obvious that each and every member of this band is a master musician.

Final track on WSHRSH-vol2 is The House of the Rising Sun. Five Finger Death Punch take some liberties with the lyrics--New Orleans becomes the City of Sin, which makes sense today, where New Orleans is synonymous with Katrina, not houses of ill repute--and it's a song that so many people have tried to make their own, from Woody Guthry to the Animals to Bob Dylan and Tracy Chapman. But this new version is stunning. It's made new again, like it was made new by the Animals; and it's a classic all over again. And as a classic, it also embodies all Five Finger Death Punch's trademarks. If you've never heard them before, start right there.

Lots of press around Five Finger Death Punch this week: an interview with Jeremy Spencer in Rhythm magazine (along with an interview with another great drummer, Ian Mosley of Marillion); a front-cover and article in Metal Hammer magazine (intriguing interview with Zoltan in this one). Look out for more. And thank goodness for the British music press (which also dominates the magazine stands here in California).

Chris Kael, bass, Five Finger Death Punch, Aftershock 2013
Chris Kael, Five Finger Death Punch, Aftershock 2013
(I do have to remember to think before singing along to the Five Finger Death Punch songs playing in my head. There are times when it's fine and appropriate to do so. There are times when doing so will get you fired.)

If you like Five Finger Death Punch, you should also check out Gemini Syndrome, who have been touring with them this year, and their album Lux.

(All photos in this article copyright Alison Toon and taken at this year's Aftershock Festival in Sacramento, California. More photos from Aftershock can be found at in the Toon's Tunes music photo gallery )

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Aftershock retrospective: Megadeth

(Bear with me... trying to find the best way for search engines to index images.)

ALISON TOON: Megadeth &emdash; Megadeth-Aftershock2013-5178-HR

A face in the crowd (Aftershock 2013)

One of my favourite crowd shots from this year's Aftershock Festival in Sacramento. If you're that guy, let me know.

ALISON TOON: People having fun &emdash; People-Aftershock2013-1502

Aftershock website: 

Why don't Google and/or Bing index images?

I'm a tad peeved by the slowness, or failure, of search engines to index images correctly.

So once again, I've worked on and resubmitted all metadata and site text etc. etc.

Yes I know search engines can only index text.

So search engines, take a look at this link again:

And in particular:

Playlist for the first autumn rain, and Apple is no Genius

Sometimes "shuffle" amazes me, by its apt selection and segue-ing of songs. Yesterday afternoon, as I was working on a business presentation, this is what it found to keep me company. I'm calling it the Rainy Day playlist.

If I Had a Tail: Queens of the Stone Age
Going to a Go-Go: Smokey Robinson
July Morning: Uriah Heep
Wedding Celebration: The Bottle Dance, from Fiddler on the Roof
A Headlong Stretch (4): Peter Hammill
Jersey Girl: Tom Waits
Song for Janie:  Tim Buckley
Swing: Tabitha's Secret
So Far Away: Dire Straits
When You Smile: Calvin Russell
You Do Something To Me: Paul Weller
Remember Everything: Five Finger Death Punch
Holidays in Eden: Marillion

There was a time I could have created the play list on iTunes, then shared it with you. However, some Genius (sic) decided to remove the iMix function from iTunes version 11 onwards... so I've added links above to the source album for each of the songs on Amazon.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue

It wasn't the usual crowd at the Ace of Spades last night. There was no barrier separating the crowd from the stage, there was no crowdsurfing and no mosh pit. Extra seating was set out around the floor. People were dressed up, not down, the women carried handbags, and the men were dashing. The age range was on the higher end of the scale... which really surprised me, given that Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews is so darn young. Young, and extremely talented. Young, and very hard-working.

ALISON TOON: Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue &emdash; Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue: live in Sacramento 2013

Yes, I really was surprised that there were fewer younger members of the audience. Why? Because this music is young. It's energetic. It's real and it's street-smart. They cover classics and make them supafunkarocking all over again. They make jazz/funk/blues/rock brand new.

ALISON TOON: Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue &emdash; Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue: live in Sacramento 2013

Guitar, saxes, drums, trombone and/or trumpet. Very happy energetic drummer. Great rapport between all of the band members. They were having a lot of fun, and so was the house-full of people!

ALISON TOON: Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue &emdash; Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue: live in Sacramento 2013
And wow.... We were treated to the longest sustained note I have ever heard a brass player voice. It must have been circular breathing... either that, or TS is training to swim the ocean. Underwater. I was ready to faint, automatically holding my breath in an empathetic and unconscious hour. (It felt like an hour. It might have been five minutes. It was definitely an age, as far as a wind instrument goes.)
ALISON TOON: Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue &emdash; Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue: live in Sacramento 2013

People were dancing. People were enjoying the very, very good "supafunkrock" that this band delivers. Fifth visit to Sacramento so far? Definitely should not be the last. Great show. Really really good.

See and hear more on the band's website:  Catch up with them later on the tour.  Latest album, "Say That To Say This", is available now.

For many more photos from the show, see the gallery:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

... and also, The Attack were there too (Misfits tour 2013)

Supporting the Misfits throughout their USA 2013 tour, The Attack are from Florida, and play a loud mix of hardcore and punk. Read more about them on their website or Facebook page.

The website describes their music as "vintage melodic hardcore", early American punk, which again underlines for me the differences in the original British versus US punk/punk rock movements.

ALISON TOON: The Attack &emdash; The Attack live: punk from Florida

The Attack's tour with the Misfits continues through December with--wait for it--a gig in Patchogue, New York! That's just down the road from where I lived on Long Island. (Great to see that some major bands are hitting the south shore!)

ALISON TOON: The Attack &emdash; The Attack live: punk from Florida

More photos from Thursday's show at Sacramento's Ace of Spades are in the gallery:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Avenue Saints and punk in general--thirty-or-so years later

"In a land of sheep and shepherds, we need more wolves!" 

ALISON TOON: Avenue Saints &emdash; Avenue Saints performing live: Sacramento punk
The band that I enjoyed most, by far, on Thursday evening was Sacramento's own Avenue Saints. From the first moment on stage, they are provocative and different. Upright bass? Irish hat? American punk... really?

Many bands that are today categorized as "punk" are to me "happy punk" or "fun punk" and while entertaining, not punk rock as I know it.. While the rhythm and insistency might still be there, the origins are not. (And I do understand that American Punk was different to, and more mainstream/commercial than, the British punk of the late 70's and early 80's.)  Punk was rebellion: rebellion against authority, rebellion against mainstream music and commercialism (though there were plenty who later made it commercial); punk was anti-fashion (which quickly became a fashion in itself, safety-pins and bin-liners (garbage bags) and shocking hairdos and piercings); punk was angry and assumptive and aggressive and secular. It was abrasive and it was not-very-musical, at least to begin with, because people were grabbing guitars and forming bands before they knew how to play a chord. It was overtly political, because our lives at that time were overtly political. It was ordinary people taking a step out of their lives bogged-down with Thatcher, strikes, the greyness of mediocrity and racism and inner-cities and not-wanting-to-be-like everyone else. It was anarchism in its purest form, right before it became sellable. It was breaking-through the complacency and expectations of the upper- and middle-classes into a vacuum that could be filled with music. Remember the Sex Pistol's version of "God Save The Queen"? Do you, today, have any idea how wrong and shocking that was to the older generations? It really was.

ALISON TOON: Avenue Saints &emdash; Avenue Saints performing live: Sacramento punk

(Malcolm McClaren. Best-known face of commercial punk rock. Simon Cowell's activities reminds me of McClaren today. But don't dismiss McClaren as simply someone who redirected a bandwagon towards open wallets... listen to his "Paris" first. He was good. Here's a review I wrote of Paris, back-in-the-day under the pen-name Ali Sinclair, on Consumable Online, one of the first-ever online music 'zines.)

ALISON TOON: Avenue Saints &emdash; Avenue Saints performing live: Sacramento punk

But Avenue Saints? They reminded me all the way... but in their own unique style.

Three guys, one bass, one guitar and a drum kit. Loved their rendition of Elvis' "In The Ghetto"--watch out for a downloadable version soon on their Facebook page.

ALISON TOON: Avenue Saints &emdash; Avenue Saints performing live: Sacramento punk

"In a land of sheep and shepherds, we need more wolves!"   How very, very true.

I'm going to see Avenue Saints again. Soon.

To see more photos from the show, click on any of the pictures in this post, or go to the gallery:

ALISON TOON: Avenue Saints &emdash; Avenue Saints performing live: Sacramento punk

Kill The Precedent at Ace of Spades

While I've been aware of their presence in the local music scene for a while, this was my first opportunity to see Kill The Precedent live. As one of the support acts for the Misfit's show, Kill The Precedent demonstrated why they were just voted Sacramento's best Live Act at the recent Sammies.

Kill The Precedent, Sacramento

While more hardcore than punk, their huge energy kept the room thoroughly hyper and entertained. Partner front men, Twig the Exfoliator and The Ugly American, clad in blood-splattered scrubs, probably the doctors you'd least like to meet in a case of emergency.

Kill The Precedent, Sacramento

What you might want to do is catch them live: for more information about Kill The Precedent and upcoming shows, see Facebook:   Their album, Dialogs With The Dead, is available now.

Kill The Precedent, Sacramento

More photos from the show:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Every day is halloween... if it's a Misfits show day!

Jerry Only, one of the co-founders of the Misfits, leading the band and still touring the world. They've been to Europe and are now part-way through the US leg... and last night, it was Sacramento's turn to be entertained by this rocky-horror-punk band which started way-way back, early-punk days, in New Jersey, and don't seem to be planning on changing or stopping any time soon. I don't think the fans will let them even think of that.

ALISON TOON: Misfits &emdash; Jerry Only of Misfits, live performance at the Ace of Spades, Sacramento, 2013
Jerry Only and one of the evening's skeletons
They brought a full house to the Ace of Spades last night, headlining a full evening of five bands, including local boys Kill the Precedent, Avenue Saints and The Secretions, and from Florida, The Attack, who are touring with the Misfits.

ALISON TOON: Misfits &emdash; Dez Cadena of Misfits, live performance at the Ace of Spades, Sacramento, 2013

The crowd arrived early for the show, suitably dressed in Misfits shirts and punk-tartan ("plaid", if you prefer), studs and leather and spiky hair. They were thoroughly entertained.

The set began with the sound of a thunderstorm... and then the show really began.

Everyone knows the Misfit icons: the grinning, leering skull-face; Jerry Only's devilock hairdo: but have you seen the range of merchandise, either on the tour merch table or the band's website? Collectible vinyls in gory splatter or pumpkinhead orange, (example... only 666 copies of orange-vinyl-with-yellow-haze "Misfits Meet The Nutley Brass" available for pre-order, only through the website), glow-in-the-dark skeleton shirts and gloves (I want those gloves), and exactly how many rows of teeth do those masks have???

ALISON TOON: Misfits &emdash; Misfits-AoS-14Nov2013-3395

To see more photos from the show, click on any picture above, or go directly to the photo gallery on

Friday, November 8, 2013

On a dark night in November... thrash rules!

(Oh it was dark alright--both indoors, and outdoors. Even with a few lights on. I know, the photographer's complaining again... "where's the light???". Anyway...)

Four metal/thrash bands in one show, starting with locals Solanum, then another local band Krippler, with the main support band being Havok, and headliner Soulfly, fronted by Max Cavalera, who you may remember was with Sepultura until 1996.

SACRAMENTO, 6 NOVEMBER 2013, Solanum, performing at the Ace of Spades, Sacramento, 6th November 2013
The evening was off to a great start with Solanum's set: their brand of thrash includes some very talented musicians. Intense rhythm and drums. Really, really good guitar. Well worth checking them out when you get the chance. You can find out more about Solanum on Facebook.

Then Krippler... another local band with their set of fans in the crowd... but really not my cup of tea. I could only hear the depressingly-repetitive cuss words, not the music. Sigh... More about Krippler on Facebook, too.

SACRAMENTO, 6 NOVEMBER 2013, Krippler, performing at the Ace of Spades, Sacramento, 6th November 2013
Then Havok. And they rocked the room! Thrash, but happy. Heavy, but musical. Energy? In buckets. Great show!!! Of the four bands that played, Havoc I enjoyed the most. Especially the guitar...

SACRAMENTO, 6 NOVEMBER 2013, Havok, performing at the Ace of Spades, Sacramento, 6th November 2013
Havok looked, and sounded, as if they were having fun on stage. It's infectious. If you missed them and want to check out the sound, there's music on their website:

(One of the first things that caught my eye when walking into the Ace of Spades on Wednesday, was a T-shirt on Havoc's merch stand. "No Karate in the Pit", it says, with a manic karateka on the front, and the blood-dripping white words on the back. I just had to buy one of those. Maybe I should wear it to the dojo...)

And then Soulfly!!!

Max Cavalera, Soulfly, Sacramento Nov 2013
Max Cavelera, Soulfly
I know my daughters would have loved to see Max Cavalera (after all, they used to deafen me with Sepultura regularly a while back), but one was on a plane back to New York and the other was studying, so I was there to represent them and to carry the family flag. Very cool to see Max's son, Zyon, on drums. Max's mic stand is a skinny skeleton. (I have to write about mic stands soon. Watch this space.)

SACRAMENTO, 6 NOVEMBER 2013, Soulfly, performing at the Ace of Spades, Sacramento, 6th November 2013

Security guy had to tap me on the shoulder, "get out of the pit" sign, at the end of Soulfly's first three songs. I can usually count to three all by myself... but the songs seemed to run into each other and I thought we'd only reached two. Ooops..

High energy crowd all evening, lots of space for the mosh pit. Lots of space for everyone, in fact. I was a little sad to see that the venue was by no means full. Wednesday nights can be tricky--I had a 6 am work call the next morning--but heck, Sacramento, surely you can do better than that...

Those who were there made up for those who were not. Soulfly, Havok: you have big fans here!

To see more photos from the show, click on the photos above, or go directly to the galleries:

Solanum, Krippler, Havok and Soulfly photos.

Sammies tonight!

Good luck to everyone competing for the Sammies! It's the 22nd year of Sacramento's annual music awards, and winners will be announced tonight at the Ace of Spades.

May the best musicians and bands win!!! (And even if you don't... don't stop playing!)