Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Mile Till Dawn, State Fair, California... better and better and better

They are all grown up! Every time I see them, I hear how much work they put into their music. They perform, and perform, and perform again. Catch A Mile Till Dawn at one of their shows. Well worth a listen.

ALISON TOON: A Mile Till Dawn &emdash; A Mile Till Dawn at the State Fair, 2014

More photos from the show at this year's California State Fair:  http://alisontoon/amiletilldawn

ALISON TOON: A Mile Till Dawn &emdash; A Mile Till Dawn at the State Fair, 2014

ALISON TOON: A Mile Till Dawn &emdash; A Mile Till Dawn at the State Fair, 2014

ALISON TOON: A Mile Till Dawn &emdash; A Mile Till Dawn at the State Fair, 2014

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

And now for something completely different (said in a Monty Python voice): Australian bluegrass?

So what do you think of this?

Given the success of Mumford and Sons, there's no reason why these guys can't become big, too! Currently in the USA, originally from Australia... and playing bluegrass.

Tour dates and more info on Mustered Courage's website!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Blaze of Glory, (almost) Bon Jovi at the State Fair

It was the last night of the State Fair, and the final concert on the big Golden 1 stage, the end of the Toyota concert series for this year, and the last band for this year's fair was Blaze of Glory, a Bon Jovi tribute band.

ALISON TOON: Blaze of Glory (Bon Jovi tribute) &emdash; Blaze of Glory play Bon Jovi at California State Fair

ALISON TOON: Blaze of Glory (Bon Jovi tribute) &emdash; Blaze of Glory play Bon Jovi at California State Fair

While I can say, without a doubt, that Queen Nation do a really excellent job of "being Queen", I'm not in the position to say that about Blaze of Glory. I think you really have to know the music and the band to truly appreciate how close a tribute band come to the original, and I don't know enough to make that judgement. I'll leave it to the big Jovi fans out there! And I know there are lots!

ALISON TOON: Blaze of Glory (Bon Jovi tribute) &emdash; Blaze of Glory play Bon Jovi at California State Fair

And let's not forget Sharon Ramsey, the American Sign Language Interpreter, who has interpreted each and every one of the State Fair concerts, putting not only words, but emotions and the sense of the artists into the signing. From rock to soul to tribute and country, she has taken on and shared the personas of the artists who performed. Nice job, Sharon!

ALISON TOON: Blaze of Glory (Bon Jovi tribute) &emdash; Blaze of Glory play Bon Jovi at California State Fair

More photos from the Blaze of Glory show here:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Aftershock 2014 preview: Godsmack, 1000Hp, new album out August 5th

Godsmack headline day two, Sunday, of Aftershock, along with Rob Zombie and Five Finger Death Punch. New album, 1000Hp, is out on August 5th, with a couple of tracks available for pre-order now.

As a taster, here's the title track (no video, just sound):

Ready for the real thing? September 14th, Sacramento. Be there Saturday, too!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jana Kramer was there, too

Young actress-turned-country-singer Jana Kramer opened the show on Wednesday evening at the California State Fair, followed by Blackjack Billy.

ALISON TOON: Jana Kramer, California State Fair, 2014 &emdash; Jana Kramer at California State Fair, 2014

More photos from Jana's set:

Blackjack Billy, redneck rock, did I tell you that this was my kind of show yet?

Sometimes, you choose a book by its cover, an album by its sleeve, a dish on a menu in a strange restaurant, "just because". Not because you know the author, the artist, the flavour; "just because" something, somewhere, appeals. If you try to analyse why you made the choice, you fail, because it doesn't make any logical sense.

Blackjack Billy at California State Fair, 2014
Blackjack Billy, California State Fair 2014
That's how it was when I requested permission to take photos at Blackjack Billy's show at the California State Fair last night. I hadn't heard their music, I knew nothing about them, and those of you who have been reading Toon's Tunes for a while will know that country isn't really my thing, apart from a couple of exceptions. And "Nashville", of course.

Jeff Coplan, Blackjack Billy at California State Fair, 2014

Blackjack Billy's website and Facebook talk about redneck rock. I was thinking, maybe something along the lines of Lynard Skynard? Allman Brothers? Driving to the show, I plugged Blackjack Billy into Pandora. Darnit. Out popped Tim McGraw. Keith Urban. (No Blackjack Billy.) Sigh. I went back to my Gemini Syndrome station and blasted Stardust at the traffic on Fulton.

Noll Billings, Blackjack Billy at California State Fair, 2014

First half of the show was performed by Jana Kramer. Yes, the actress from One Tree Hill, now turned country singer and insurance ad. model. I swear 95% of the audience were her TV soap fans, teenage girls all kinda grown up, and the other 5% were grown men shouting, "Aflac! Aflac!" (Wrong insurance, guys, wrong insurance.) (Jana's songs are the sort of country that I think of as country. Past romances, curse on your ex, lost dog... I don't think she sang about a lost dog, but you know what I mean.) Photos from Jana Kramer's set 

Rob Blackledge, bass, Blackjack Billy at California State Fair, 2014
Then Blackjack Billy arrived on stage and within seconds, I knew that my seemingly random choice had been totally-and-utterly right. They were outstanding. Musically, vocally, light-wise, animation-wise, fun and entertaining. Brilliant!!! Really! Why were more of you not there to see it? The place was packed to the gills the evening before for Pat Benatar, but there was plenty of room last night. Those of you who were in town, and not there; well you missed a treat.

If this is what's labelled "redneck rock": I love it!!!

Those of you outside of Sacramento: go check Blackjack Billy out.  And that includes you guys in Canada and in Australia.  And Patchogue, NY. They are on their way to see you!

Jeff Coplan and Noll Billings, Blackjack Billy at California State Fair, 2014

Blackjack Billy's EP, "Get Some", is available now from your usual music store.

Tour dates:!tour/ 

In case anyone has any doubt at this point: Blackjack Billy, my kind of show. Thank you for allowing my lenses into your space. I hope you enjoy the result.

Here are all the photos (and there are a lot) in the Toon's Tunes Blackjack Billy gallery

Blackjack Billy at California State Fair, 2014

(And if you like the energy of Blackjack Billy, you might also enjoy The Soft White Sixties.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo rocking the California State Fair

Love is a Battlefield has always been my favourite Pat Benatar song; it was the highlight of last night's show, for me, at the California State Fair, and it was singing in my head when I woke up this morning. Memorable and meaningful.

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, Sacramento State Fair
The show began with a very cool video and photo collage, telling the story of Benatar and Giraldo's growing-up and growing-together in music. The stage backdrop looked like the inside of a warehouse or barn; broken windows, corrugated metal, and a subtle light and video show.

Audience enjoying the Benatar-Giraldo show
The concert area was packed, both the seated area and outside, as Sacramento fans congregated to watch one of rock's best-known couples--and female rock singers.  (I just wished they had all arrived and seated themselves on time, early, before the show began.)

In the past few years, I've been lucky enough to see Debbie Harry, Joan Jett, Pat Benatar. Only missing Chrissie Hynde from the group of women rockers who somehow go together in my head/musical memories. And, of course, I'd just love to see Annie Lennox again.  Maybe next year?

A few more photos:

Pat Benatar

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bret Michaels, California State Fair, and making it real.

This was the real Bret Michaels, rocker, musician, showman, entertainer. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to see him live, on stage, with the crowd of Sacramento fans at the California State Fair. There were many Bret Michaels hats and bandannas on display as we waited for the show to begin.

ALISON TOON: Bret Michaels &emdash; Bret Michaels band, Sacramento July 2014
Bret Michaels at California State Fair, 2014
Opening with a couple of early Poison songs and then segueing to Skynard's "Sweet Home Alabama", we were all singing along already.

ALISON TOON: Bret Michaels &emdash; Bret Michaels band, Sacramento July 2014

Bret does a lot of work for various charitable causes, including childhood diabetes. If you would like to donate to any of these causes, visit

ALISON TOON: Bret Michaels &emdash; Bret Michaels band, Sacramento July 2014

(Before the show, I was waiting in the crowd, looking for Daisy, but she wasn't there. That's a good thing: while the reality shows were fun and terribly-addictive, I much preferred the guy that I saw on stage last night to the unreal-reality TV persona. Very glad I had the opportunity! Thank you for a great show, Bret Michaels Band!)

More photos from the show: 

ALISON TOON: Bret Michaels &emdash; Bret Michaels band, Sacramento July 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

California State Fair: fairground art and my fairground muse

Each year I return to the California State Fair fairground, the "Midway", to see the WaveSwinger. I don't understand why it's not surrounded by photographers day and night, like a gorgeous celebrity: she shows a different face early on a summers day to late on a party night. She moves gracefully, calmly, yet excites all who see her. She is beautifully painted and has a classic, almost-Victorian beauty.

ALISON TOON: Fairground the Midway &emdash; Riding the WaveSwinger on a sunny day

The WaveSwinger is my fairground muse.

ALISON TOON: Fairground the Midway &emdash; Riding the WaveSwinger on a sunny day

Have you seen her, yet?

ALISON TOON: Fairground the Midway &emdash; Riding the WaveSwinger at night

More photos from this year's fair:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Queen Nation rock the State Fair. Again!

I loved seeing these guys at the State Fair last year, and I say it again: I never expect to like a tribute-band, cover-band, but Queen Nation just rock!

Queen Nation at CA State Fair, 2014 Working Men's Club, which was where a family could go; Dad could have a pint of beer, Mum a Babycham, we kids bottles of Vimto or Tizer drunk through straws, and packets of Walkers Crisps. The bands were local and often dismal, but some were good. But part-way through each and every show, when the bands were playing their own music, the same group of grown-up young women used to start shouting for the band to play The Shadows "Apache". And, as all young bands did in those days, the band went to playing covers for the rest of the evening.

Queen Nation at CA State Fair, 2014

(I say they were grown-up. They wore makeup and stiletto heels and carried handbags, and had hairdos. Looking back? They were probably sixteen or seventeen, recent school-leavers, happy with their weekly wages as haidressers' apprentices or shop workers. They seemed grown up to a pre-teen... but already I questioned their wanting the musicians to re-do the same stuff that we'd heard the week before. And the week before that.)

Queen Nation at CA State Fair, 2014

Queen Nation are not that sort of band. Queen Nation take the music of Freddie Mercury and co., and keep it alive and real. They are fun, it's true, but the music is a great tribute to Queen. (I think I've learned the meaning of "tribute".) They don't just play the music: they take on the personas of the band, and very well they do it.

Queen Nation are musicians, and Gregory Finsley has one hell of a voice. (At one point last night, I realised that he and Mike McManus can channel David Bowie too.)

Queen Nation at CA State Fair, 2014
They are, in my mind, the best-possible band for a State Fair. We know the songs, and can sing along. We know they are not "the real thing", but the music is true. They are real professional musicians, yet they take themselves only as seriously as the situation demands. They are totally enjoyable: the seats were packed, there were people standing outside of the concert area and behind the stage and all along the sides, listening and singing through the whole show.

Queen Nation at CA State Fair, 2014

Oh and yes. Brian May's hair was there.

Come back again next year, Queen Nation!

Queen Nation are Gregory Finsley (Freddie Mercury), Mike McManus (Brian May), Pete Burke (Roger Taylor), and Parker Combs (John Deacon).

(If you're every hungry to see Queen in Freddie's heyday, check out the LiveAid DVD.)

More photos:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

And now for all the fun of the fair: State Fair!

ALISON TOON: Fairground The Midway &emdash; Fair and fairground rides
Fairground ride, California state fair
I'm off to the fair, today. Goats, sheep, llamas (I hope!), horses, heavy horses, new-born calves; ferris wheels, crazy rides (I'm an observer, not a participant), bungee jumping, catch-a-rubber-duck, dart-a-soft-balloon, ice-cream-on-a-stick, deep-fried Mars bars and caveman turkey thighs... and the crowd.

And to top off the day, Queen Nation on the Toyota stage!

See you there!

All the fun of the fair:

If you're going to Aftershock, check out Knotfest too!

Worthy of a road trip? You bet!

Check out Knotfest here:

Slipknot, Danzig, Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat.... and many many more.

(But I'm still wondering where Gemini Syndrome are in the West Coast festival lineups this year...)

ALISON TOON: Volbeat &emdash; Volbeat live at Aftershock Festival 2013
Volbeat, Aftershock 2013

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bleating on and on

Surprised Goat
What do you mean, you haven't been to the State Fair yet? I'm shocked! There's so much to see! And eat! Get over there, right now!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Buckcherry.... did you miss them last year?

Don't worry, you'll get another chance, they are part of the lineup at Aftershock again this year.

ALISON TOON: Buckcherry &emdash; Buckcherry live at Aftershock Festival 2013

More Buckcherry from Aftershock 2013: 

Did you get your tickets, yet?

Photography: Apple discontinues Aperture, happy I stuck with Lightroom!

So Apple have announced that they are discontinuing their Aperture product. Having recently moved to an Apple work environment, I was half-heartedly wondering if I should shift my photo workstream from Adobe Lightroom to Apple Aperture, but now I don't have to wonder.

As both Aperture and Lightroom have significant functionality in comparison to simple photo apps, we'll just have to wait-and-see what Apple delivers in this space later.

Thank you, Apple, for making my mind up for me!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Angel of Mercy from Black Label Society: see them at Aftershock!

I am really looking forward to seeing these guys for the first time, at Aftershock festival here in Sacramento.

Here's the latest video from Black Label Society: "Angel of Mercy":

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Quirky, on reflection. Quirky.

As I've said several times today, I've been flying so often lately I've grown a beak, and some feathers.

One recent trip was to London. All that new glass, all the old buildings... couldn't resist the quirky shots.

ALISON TOON: Reflections of London &emdash; Reflections of London

More here:

Sunday, July 6, 2014

California State Fair and the Toyota Concert Series

ALISON TOON: Fairground The Midway &emdash; Fair and fairground rides

July 11th is coming soon!

There are some oldies-but-goodies in the lineup for this year's California State Fair concert series:

- John Kay and Steppenwolf
- Macy Gray
- Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
- America
- Bret Michaels
- Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo
- and Queen. OK not really Queen, but Queen Nation, a great tribute band. If you missed them last year, make a point of NOT missing them this year: they're fun, and that's what it's all about.

And of course, there's the midway-fairground, the animals, the horses, the exhibits, and everything else that makes up the State Fair. And never-forget the deep-fried-ice-cream-on-a-stick!

Full 8 p.m. concert lineup is here: 
All the CA state fair info: 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

4th July, fireworks, California drought, French versus American fireworks displays?

It does seem a little odd, that a state stricken by drought and often rampaged by wildfires, allows the sale of fireworks, in the street, in some towns (but not others). It also seems really strange to me that, for the most part, the fireworks are sold for the benefit of various religious organizations, churches, groups, and that they always-without-fail say that the prices are significantly lower than retail... when the street stands may be the only place that you can legally buy the full range of available fireworks.

ALISON TOON: Fireworks on 4th July &emdash; Fireworks on Independance Day, USA

Go figure that one out.

ALISON TOON: Fireworks on 4th July &emdash; Fireworks on Independance Day, USA

This year, the 4th July 2014, I was at home in Citrus Heights, California, having a restful day, catching up on sleep and reading after a lot of international travel over the past couple of months. A quiet day at home. Went to see the fireworks display in Carmichael. Came home, set off a few in the street, bucket of water at hand. (Earlier in the day, there had been a major grass fire near the location for a bigger display in Sacramento, but it had been put out in time for the fireworks. I wanted to be closer to home.)

Same day, last year, I was out of the valley, up in Sparks, Nevada, for a Gemini Syndrome concert.

I like fireworks. I think they are beautiful, fun. I like the ones that are deceptively pretty, then BOOM and your insides rock, but they don't seem to have them often in the displays here. I like the French, "Son et Lumière" firework events, on Bastille Day, La Fête Nationale, Le quatorze juillet, with the weird and wonderful voiceovers, themed displays, such as movies or battles or historical stories. I never did see Clint Eastwood appear in the sky, but the fireworks over Grenoble's Bastille were beautiful. Orchestrated. The sound was never all patriotic songs, but a mix: recognition that this was a day of national pride, then moving on to the sound-and-light theme of the evening. Incongrous? Maybe, but it made for a great show.

Grenoble is a city, but not much bigger than a suburb of Sacramento, given that it's enclosed by walls of mountains. And I remember the Grenoble displays as being much bigger, better-choreographed, and grander than any fireworks display I've seen in the USA so far (no, I've not been at a San Francisco or New York display yet, but that's like comparing Paris or London with Carmichael or Fair Oaks).

So I had to make sure I'm not looking at the past through late-evening, rose-coloured glasses.

I'm not. Here's a snippet, just a small part, of last year's July 14th fireworks from Grenoble, France, uploaded to YouTube by paraca78. If you want to see them this year, you still have time to jump on a plane-- Bastille Day is celebrated all over France, on 14th July, with some minor towns having their own fireworks on 13th, so that you get two nights of celebration.

My fireworks shots from last night, in Carmichael and in front of the house, were all taken hand-held, no tripod and no long exposures. Enjoying the show and just grabbing a few shots. A few more ptotos:

ALISON TOON: Fireworks on 4th July &emdash; Fireworks on Independance Day, USA

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Aftershock lineup, new additions, and... Atreyu???

OK I admit it.

I have absolutely no clue who Atreyu are, nor why everyone seems to have gone bonkers this morning with the news that not only will Atreyu be reuniting, but they'll be doing it at our favourite rock/metal festival, Sacramento's and Monster Energy's Aftershock.

That's brilliant! Another band to discover! If you're happy, I'm happy too! Even though I had not heard of them until this morning. Forgive me!

What I'm really happy with is the announcement that Escape The Fate will also be playing Aftershock. It will be the third time I'll have seen them since Aftershock 2012. Don't miss them, they bring some excitement to the stage too.
Escape The Fate live 2014
Escape the Fate at Sacramento's Ace of Spades
Also added to the lineup this morning: Tech N9ne and Islander!

Bought your tickets, yet???