Monday, June 30, 2014

All the bands, all the music, all day long at SacTown Rocks! Photos here!

It was a full day of music; Sacramento's music scene, new and more mature, were well represented at SacTown Rocks. And there were sightings of other local bands, out to support everyone else, not playing at this festival this year, but next year maybe? We've certainly got enough of a Sacramento music heritage, a live music scene today, and up-and-coming youngsters to make this an annual event. Want to see more pictures? Click on the links or on the images themselves.

Tesla, SacTown Rocks, June 2014
Headliners were Tesla: rockers who have been together, except for a short "hiatus", since 1982, and who have a new album out now, "Simplicity".. Can't believe it's the first time I've seen them live, but I did grow up in another country.  More photos: 

Tesla, SacTown Rocks, June 2014
Tesla fans had been waiting for them all day. Lots of lyric t-shirts on view; crowds waiting at the stage for these local heroes.

Tesla, SacTown Rocks, June 2014
Earlier in the day, the festival had been opened by Alex Vincent (of Alex Vincent Band), who shredded the national anthem superbly. More photos: 

Alex Vincent playing Star Spangled Banner, SacTownRocks 2014
Alex Vincent
Then it was RiotMaker's turn and they launched the day from the "Local Licks" stage. Photos: 

Riotmaker, SacTown Rocks, June 2014
Back to the main stage for Hero's Last Mission. They have such a happy drummer! Photos: 

Hero's Last Mission, SacTown Rocks, June 2014
Hero's Last Mission
White Minorities (who also had a sign-language interpreter, rocked it!): photos, 

White Minorities, SacTown Rocks, June 2014
White Minorities
Soul Motor, with several well-known local musicians among the lineup: more photos see 

SoulMotor, SacTown Rocks, June 2014
Some Fear None, whose bass player was I think the only woman musician on stage at SacTown Rocks. More photos: 

SACRAMENTO, 28 June 2014: Some Fear None playing on the Local Licks stage at SacTown Rocks, a Sacramento music festival held on Capitol Mall, Sacramento, 28th June 2014
Some Fear None
Oleander, who I saw for the first time since Aftershock 2012. Wait... is that the very same T-shirt?  More photos (including those from Aftershock 2013) here:

Oleander, SacTown Rocks, June 2014
Element Of Soul, with a crowd of dancing fans, some very very young: photos, 

Element of Soul, SacTown Rocks, June 2014
Element of Soul
Middle Class Rut, making an incredible amount of music for a two-man band. Photos: 

Middle Class Rut, SacTown Rocks, June 2014
Middle Class rut
And a band who always put on a great show, another that I first saw at Aftershock 2012:  FallRise: apart from Tesla, who are veterans, FallRise were my favourites of the day. More photos, including those from Aftershock 2012, here: 

FallRise, SacTown Rocks, June 2014
Very entertaining day out. Let's make it happen again, next year!

Much thanks to Soundz of Norcal!  And to 98Rock and Pat Martin for making this happen.

For the people pictures,  click here for the review

Sunday, June 29, 2014

SacTown Rocks, and everyone had fun. Local music, the city rocked!

Put in motion by 98 Rock's Pat Martin, SacTown Rocks took over several blocks of Capitol Mall, between the Capitol building and the golden doorway to the city that is Sacramento's Tower Bridge. Running from just after 2pm until around 10 pm, the show featured two stages, eleven bands, loads of food trucks and drink vendors, a VIP area with its own beer cellar; Budweiser, lemonade, barbeque, plenty of water, big screens for those who preferred not to squash their way to the front, and a very-very sunny and warm (hot!) Sacramento summer's day.

Great music for us all to share! (All the band photos are in a later post: click here.)

People having fun at SacTown Rocks, 2014

The crowd grew during the day; Tesla is an inevitable draw in this town, the town where they first started, and where, 27 years later, they are still an active part of the music scene. But more about the bands later... this post is all about the people!

People having fun at SacTown Rocks, 2014

As with Aftershock, you're the ones that this is for. You listen to the music, and you buy the tickets. You dance and rock to your favourite musicians. You raise your kids with music. You bare your beautiful ink to the sun, and show your tasteful (and in some cases, less-than) tattoos. You support the music, and without you, these events wouldn't be possible. You're the fans, the audience, the applause and the cheering, the metal horns and the clapping and the waving and smiling. You're the EMTs and the security guys who keep everything in order, and everyone safe, and you're the guy dancing like no-one is watching.

People having fun at SacTown Rocks, 2014

You made it a great day!  Thank you to everyone who was there!

There are many more photos on my website. If you spot yourself and are so inclined, go ahead and share the photo using the Share button (it will make the picture just the right size for Facebook, Twitter etc.)  All the "people" photos are here:

People having fun at SacTown Rocks, 2014

I was at SacTown Rocks with Soundz of Norcal (click the link to find out more). Photos of all the individual band sets can be found here: All the bands, all the music, SacTown Rocks!

The only thing I found a little incongruous about the whole festival was the booth run by a DUI Attorney. The assumption should be that it's never OK to drink and drive. It's not acceptable. By putting a DUI Attorney's sales team at an event where alcohol is on sale and people are partying seems, to me, to be saying heck, so what if you get into trouble, we can get you out of it. It's sending the wrong message, and it was making an assumption that everyone who listens to rock is likely to drive drunk. I found it quite bizarre...

As a photographer, I love crowds...there's no posing, no organization. There's someone with their eyes shut, another whose toe has just been trodden on, someone who has just spotted a friend or a member of the band, the guy who loves hamming it up for the camera, a kid looking on in wonder, two friends taking selfies... all in one shot. I'm working on a collection, "A Face in the Crowd".

Hope to see you all at Aftershock 2014, Sacramento's next major rock and metal event! Have you bought your tickets yet?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Today Sac town rocks... literally, SacTown Rocks!

Capitol Mall, 3pm to 10pm today, Budweiser and 98 Rock present SacTown Rocks: an open-air festival in the middle of Sacramento, on Capitol Mall, featuring many of Sacramento's own rock stars.

Lineup includes Oleander, FallRise, and Tesla! (I am looking forwards to seeing Tesla. They are another of the bands that having grown up in Europe, I'm not so familiar with... today is going to change that!)

Are you going to help make today the biggest party downtown Sacramento has ever seen? I'll be there and so will Soundz of NorCal!

ALISON TOON: FallRise &emdash; FallRise live 2012
FallRise at Aftershock 2012

ALISON TOON: Oleander &emdash; Oleandar band live 2012
Oleander at Aftershock 2012

Aftershock 2014: more bands to be announced on July 1st!

Who do you think they will be?

Here's a clue: there will be bands who did NOT play Monster Energy Aftershock last year...

Watch the website:

It's going to be a brilliant show!

ALISON TOON: Aftershock 3013: People having fun &emdash; People of Aftershock 2013

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jetlag music, new one to look (listen) out for: Rag'N'Bone man

Driving up the M1 in England today, from Heathrow airport to Leicester, listening to Radio One all the way, several DJs, don't remember names; one was giving away four tickets to Glastonbury festival, next weekend, I should be there...

Mostly the music was somewhere in-between Kings of Leon and Rihanna, with some electro thrown in, nothing hugely memorable (no actual KoL, just several guys who sounded like them but with voice transformers and no guitars)... until they played this guy.

The DJ started raving before playing. I thought, Yeah, Yeah... but...

I loved it. It's out on video, and out on CD? download? in July.

Rag'N'Bone Man.  Lay My Body Down.

More info: 

Back to London tomorrow. Wonder what I'll discover on the way?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Looking forwards to open air shows and festivals--a few lined up!

While I'm doing a lot of travelling this year, I do intend to cover a few shows or a few hundred! Looking forwards to the festivals: Aftershock of course, can't wait. It's going to be huge. Did you buy your tickets yet?
ALISON TOON: Butcher Babies &emdash; Butcher Babies live at Aftershock Festival 2013

Butcher Babies will be there, and I think Heidi has changed her hair colour since last year!

ALISON TOON: Five Finger Death Punch &emdash; Five Finger Death Punch (FFDP, 5FDP) live at Aftershock Festival 2013
Five Finger Death Punch... I want to hear them play House of the Rising Sun live. It's a classic song, they made it their own, I love what they did with it... you may not agree. But this is where we have an intersection of classic(al) music and the rock/pop world. Classical? You remember the composer, and the conductor and soloist if it's a really special rendition. Rock, and more than ever, pop? It's the performer you remember. So when a favourite song is covered by someone else, it's more-than-ever the proofpoint for whether it's a long-time piece of musical genius, or a throwaway ditty.

Case in point: Five Finger Death Punch's cover, and all the other covers of House of the Rising Sun. Everyone made it their own, and the song shines through. It's a classic.

Another example: this one.

Now I absolutely prefer the original. But these kids could not have done this without a classically-beautiful, original song. And to me, it proves itself.

(I'm still hopeful that Gemini Syndrome will be one of the ???? spots still showing on the Aftershock lineup. Fingers crossed! Toes crossed!)

Not so classic? The Gaga song I heard recently being played by a string quartet... You might disagree but... ouch.

Other live shows I'm looking forwards to? The Cropredy Festival in England in August (Marillion!), Kiss and Def Leppard in early July, Alice Cooper and Motley Crue at the end of the month! And there's more... watch this space!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Beautiful, beautiful Ireland: here's your virtual tour.

Recently, I've been doing a lot of travelling with my new job at Smartling (oh, you thought taking music photos paid the mortgage? Not quite, my dear, not quite!). Turkey, USA east coast, Palm Springs, the South of France, and now... Ireland. With several conferences including Localization World and TAUS more, and business meetings, I was lucky (really lucky) and had a weekend in the middle. So I took that weekend, and ran with it. Tracked down a couple of bed-and-breakfast places on AirBnB, rented a tiny car from Enterprise, and then scooted off, straight across the country to Galway, and beyond. (The motorway runs out at Galway.)

Beautiful and wild inland Connemara, Ireland

I don't know how many miles I drove that weekend, I dare not count.

Beautiful and wild inland Connemara, Ireland<

The hills and mountains of Connemara are so beautiful, I was in tears. Thinking of how desperate the people must have been, to have to leave this land. I now understand why you might become maudlin, longing for this home, when you've crossed the ocean to a cold and grey city with no green and no mountain and no heavy horses in sight.

Horse, Connemara, Ireland

While I have known many exiles, whether through war, or politics, or loss of homeland, or economics, or just sheer wanderlust (indeed, you can count me in that last category), I think this was the first time that I truly understood what the loss of homeland might mean. I left my heart behind each time I turned a corner in the road, and found and lost it again with each and every valley, mountain, river and rock-strewn beach.

Dunguaire Castle, Kinvarra, near Galway, Ireland

On the Sunday, driving through The Burren's stark yet bountiful land, down narrow roads no wider than the little car, noticing each and every turning point or slight widening of the walls, in case a bus, car, tractor or horse came the other way; yet I met almost no-one, just some windswept horses grazing in the warm rain.

People in the city (Dublin) worried about the weather. It didn't matter. It was just right. Grey and green go well together.

Dry stone walls, The Burren, Ireland

There were tourists at the Cliffs of Moher, and yet they seemed inobtrusive. Cliffs of that scale do that to you. Yes, they are people at the top. The cliffs really are that high.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland>

For a long time, I wanted to visit the Outer Hebrides, because I imagined them like the Ireland I found. I think I was already dreaming of Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Ireland, I will return. You borrowed my heart. I may just allow you to keep it.

Cemetary and Irish crosses,  Connemara, Irelanda>

Many, many more photos:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Classical music, why it's important, and what the UK is doing about it

I know I've said it before, but I feel incredibly lucky to have grown up and been educated at a time when the arts, including music and theatre, were considered not an extra, but a vital part of the school curriculum.

Our high school, Wreake Valley, in Syston, Leicestershire, was complete with both a beautiful theatre/auditorium and also a studio: an enclosed room below-stairs, dark but with full theater lighting, perfect for improvisation, dance classes, and in-the-round theatre performances. But more than the facilities, it was the teachers who inspired and who created real interest in so many students whose lives otherwise would have been empty of these arts. We performed West Side Story, and young musicians were encouraged when they formed bands. We had an orchestra, and opportunities for everyone to try musical instruments, even to do jazz improv. And all this built on what we had already learned in our junior schools, all across Leicestershire--in my case, it was at Syston's St Peter and St Paul's junior school, where we were given the opportunity to learn to play classical instruments from around the age of seven. I can still remember how to play the violin, though very badly.

We listened to classical music, too. "Music and Movement" classes to Peter and the Wolf, or one of the Planets, or the Hall of the Mountain King. It was a whole-child experience: sound and movement and imagination. 

No matter how inspiring or how boring you thought the classes, I don't think any of us can deny that this education opened our eyes, and our ears, to more than just the names of the composers.

That's why I was very happy to read an article in today's Guardian newspaper, about a UK-wide initiavive to introduce children to ten pieces of classical music. Surprise! Some of the ones from my schooldays are there! In The Hall of the Mountain King! 

The BBC is taking classical music to the youngest children in schools around the UK: when will the USA do the same, I wonder? Here's more information about the program While it's a shame that this is considered something new (that means it was taken away for far too long), it's brilliant to see this happening.

Now I'm going to step stealthily through the house to the kitchen, imagining I'm once again seven years old, and making my way through the hall of Gynt's scary King.

(Maybe I'm wrong, and nothing changed in the years between my leaving school and today, and everyone's been having the same great education that I and my peers did. Feel free to correct me!)

(Oh and when the heck did Wreake and our junior school become "Academies"??? That's might posh for Syston!)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

In Dublin's fair city, I can't help singing about Molly Malone

Everywhere you go in the centre of Dublin, Ireland, you'll find music in one form or another.

ALISON TOON: Dublin &emdash; HR-Music-Ireland2014-8027

Buskers on the street in Temple Bar, the medieval-cobbled-narrow-street area on the south side of the Liffey River, Dublin's "cultural centre", full of traditional bars, and pubs, and more night-time entertainment than you have hours for.
ALISON TOON: Dublin &emdash; HR-Music-Ireland2014-8033

Performers in pubs and bars, not just at night.

ALISON TOON: Dublin &emdash; HR-Music-Ireland2014-8051

Dedicated music venues, such as the huge, classy O2, big-name venue: seats 14,500 people, one of the biggest concert arenas in the world; and The Academy, with three smaller rooms, hosting bands ranging from Slayer to Snoop Dogg, and providing rehearsal space to local musicians.

ALISON TOON: Dublin &emdash; HR-Music-Ireland2014-8057

And of course, traditional Irish music, everywhere; recorded in the shops, recorded in the pubs, live in the pubs, and live in venues for tour buses and tourists. Some is not as traditional as it might be, as we discovered during a show for a huge party, where I swear one of the male dancers broke into Gagnam Style...

I was tempted to drop in on Bono and maybe Enya on my first evening in Ireland--my cab driver told me whereabouts they lived--but was too tired from the three-leg flight. Next time guys, OK?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Gone too young: Rik Mayall, star of The Young Ones, one of the great comedians of our time, has gone

Sigh. Another of the people who, while "only" as close a part of life as the other side of a television screen, was a big part of my growing-up and young-adult years. I still find The Young Ones hilarious, much to the disdain of those on this side of the pond who don't get the British sense of humour. (You're missing out!)

Rik Mayall, star of The Young Ones, player with Black Adder, and the utterly-horrible right-wing MP (Member of Parliament) Alan B'Stard, passed away today.

The BBC published this set of "best words":

And if you only knew him for TV humour, here's something a little different.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

There's whiskey in the jar. There is, I tasted it.

I've been in Ireland all week, spend this weekend driving around some of the most beautiful countryside that I have ever seen. Earlier in the week, I was invited to a tasting and dinner at the Old Jameson Distillery museum and restaurant in Dublin. And then on Thursday evening, the conference dinner was accompanied by an Irish band, and dancers.

Though the dinner band did play this song, it's still Mr. Lynnot who breaks my heart.

... And if I listen to Whiskey in the Jar, I have to listen to this one too:

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Some of the best performances are totally unexpected

All this week, I've been in Dublin, Ireland, for work: TAUS (Translation Automation Users Society) and Localization World conferences and meeting and talking about languages and translation and localization and Smartling.

I have seen and enjoyed and participated in (and occasionally been a tad bored by) many conference presentations over the years. Never have I seen one as entertaining as the Localization World keynote this week, which was peformed by, not presented by, Magnus Lindkvist. (Overheard while walking from the session to next event of the day, "Best keynote presentation ever!")

Showing a map of the world that pointed out that Sweden and Finland have more heavy metal bands per capita than any other country in the world was a good way to grab my attention from the beginning. Magnus Lindkvist's use of images and videos to make points was funny and utterly memorable.

Five different shaped, sized, aged and coloured cats, all staring at one tiny caged mouse. They're all cats, and they all want to eat the mouse.

One horizontal row of different size, shaped, coloured and scented candles, all burning. They are all candles. Not one of them is a light bulb. The point: if you compete horizontally in business, you're just fighting for a minor share of an already-fading market. What's the future?

And another point: what is a failure today may not be a failure tomorrow. Needs to be right thing at the right place and the right time, and maybe even the right person. Take this song, and how many other people recorded it first. (OK "band name" might also need to be "right". I don't think "Ednaswap" really does it for me...)

Most of all... sometimes you have to be that crazy, awkward, lonely guy dancing in the middle of the staring crowd, dancing like nobody's watching, because he is really, really into what he's doing, and he and only he (or she) knows what it's all about. Because suddenly, that guy is the one that everyone else is copying, emulating, and following.

Go dance! Thanks, Magnus!

(And everyone who makes presentations, if you want to learn how it should be done, try to catch a Magnus Lindvist event some time. I'm sure you'll learn a lot.)