Friday, September 29, 2017

Aftershock set times!!! Set your watches! Set your alarms!

Afteshock 2017: Saturday
The set times and schedule for Aftershock have been announced: check here to see all the times.  Don't miss out by oversleeping -- it starts early and there are killer bands from beginning to end, both days!

Saturday kicks off at 11.40 with I Amvrka, with Nine Inch Nails closing the day.. then Sunday begins at 12.10 with Black Map and continues until Ozzy Osbourne, the final act of the weekend, on Sunday evening! (And early enough to get a good night's sleep before work on Monday morning... right?)

Aftershock 2017 Sunday
The layout of the festival has also been announced--it is very like last year, with quite a walk between stages if you haven't (yet) splashed out on the VIP treatment. There is a map here--useful to know where everything is beforehand. Hey... all that walking allows us to eat and enjoy more of the wonderful Aftershock food, right?

Tomorrow will be Louder Than Life! Yes, really! (And.. Be Great. Do Great Things. Visit the Muhammad Ali Center.)

Ohio River and bridges between Louisville KY and Jeffersonville ID
This is the view, looking west and towards downtown Louisville, from the middle of the Big Four Bridge, a pedestrian and cycle bridge that links Louisville, Kentucky, with Jeffersonville, Indiana. The water is calm; the sky, pure blue. I walked across the bridge from the Jeffersonville side this morning, meeting a few friendly walkers, everyone saying hello. Part-way across, chamber music, a string quartet, played through overhead speakers, and I no longer heard the freeway traffic on the two white bridges closer to the city.

Taking the opportunity, while in Louisville, to visit the Muhammad Ali Center, I walked into town from the footbridge. Google maps kindly advised me to walk on the freeway that runs parallel to the river; instead, I chose to go past the Louisville Slugger field and turn right on Main Street. The city is surprisingly quiet for an American city; it feels like Boston but warmer and without all the people or crazy drivers; Seattle but without mountains and with bourbon instead of coffee; quiet, friendly and sunny, and with a whole row of mid-renovation buildings that are, right now, just five or so storeys of brick facade, like a movie set. They will look beautiful when finished.

Everywhere in the town are reminders of Louisville's history, the good and the bad. If you go to the Muhammad Ali Center, you'll find not only the story of the boxer, but a lot of civil and human rights and spirituality too. While I grew up watching Cassius Clay and then Muhammad Ali fight--and win--and thought I knew all about his time in prison and his conversion to Islam, I really had no clue. If you have a couple of hours to spare while in Louisville, do go and visit the centre. Please.

Muhammad Ali Center. All exhibits and photos included in this
snapshot are copyright of the center. 
I walked back to my hotel in Jeffersonville across the Clark Memorial Bridge, which carries both non-freeway traffic and a few (brave or stupid?) pedestrians each side, on narrow sidewalks. (There's an unnerving bit at the end, where a vehicle had run off the road, across the sidewalk, and bent all the railings so that right now, there's a human-size gap which I really didn't want to dizzily fall into.) It wasn't at all quiet on that bridge, but the Ohio River still looked calm. Placid.

However... just a little way further out of Louisville past the Big Four Bridge tomorrow? It's Louder Than Life!  And you can guarantee one thing: it will NOT be quiet, or calm, or tranquil, or placid, not one bit.

I don't know what I'm more excited about... seeing my fellow Brit Ozzy Osbourne for the very first time (yes, seriously the very first time, despite having horrified my parents with Black Sabbath for several years when I was a kid); seeing many of my favourite bands again and discovering new favourites (it happens every time); to hearing each and every one of the bands in the line up; or having fun with all the fans who will be there from all over the USA and further! It's going to be a loud and fun weekend!

Will you be at Louder Than Life? Say hi! I'm the one with the cameras ;-)

And if you are still procrastinating and know that you'll kick yourself if you miss it? Go here and see if you can still get a ticket. Go on... I'll see you there!!! It'll be a knockout. Muhammed Ali, Louisville Slugger style!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

First photos: City of Trees, all the people, Blink 182, Dreamcar!

Faces in the crowd
Radio 94.7's City of Trees 2017, Sacramento's Papa Murphy Park
All photo galleries: many more phoros!

Sunday was a day of music and fun at  Papa Murphy's Park in Sacramento. Sponsored by Radio 94.7, Sacramento's alternative rock station, and Bud Light, City of Trees 2017 was headlined by Blink 182, with thousands of fans from very-very-young to older, spread out across the Sacramento Republic FC stadium and grounds within CalExpo: crowded onto the football (soccer) pitch, lounging on the bleachers, sitting in the shade or being sprayed with water by two happy young women who roamed the crowd all through the hot afternoon.

Blink 182
Blink 182, City of Trees 2017
The lineup included Blink 182, Iration, Bleachers playing their very first show in Sacramento, Bishop Briggs, supergroup Dreamcar, Sir Sly, New Politics and The Greeting Committee within the main stadium, on two stages, and local Sacramento bands The Moans, Write Or Die, Element of Soul, Our People, Petaluma and Rituals of Mine, plus six DJs, on stages on the grounds surrounding the football (soccer) field. Add lots of food, a river of drink, some really cool artwork with M5 Arts present, and we had a festival!

Tony Kanal, bass, Dreamcar
Tony Kanal, Dreamcar, City of Trees 2017
While many in the audience couldn't wait to see Blink 182, I was most of all anticipating a show earlier in the evening: Dreamcar. They didn't disappoint.

Dreamcar, City of Trees 2017
Dreamcar: Davy Havok working with No Doubt members and not a Gwen Stefani in sight: take the best of 80s New Age and pop music, put it into a blender, add the talents of each of the band members (Havok, Tony Kanal on bass, Tom Dumont on guitars, and Adrian Young on drums, plus some very cool backing singers) and you have a wonderful, upbeat, show. Look out for these guys! Their first album, also called Dreamcar, is out now.

Travis Barker, drums, Blink 182
Travis Barker, Blink 182, City of Trees 2017
Blink 182 and drummer Travis Barker steals the show. High on a podium above the stage, he deserves all the accolades he receives. If you don't know Mr Barker's story, read it here. He's an inspiration for anyone who has every suffered an injury or struggled... do read.

Mark Hopper, vocals, Blink 182
Mark Hopper, Blink 182, City of Trees 2017
I have to say that City of Trees 2017 wins the prize for the most people crowded into the pit for the first three songs. No elbow room for photographers, and I very much hope that we didn't obscure the view of the young people who had spent hours crowded against the barriers at the front of the audience! Take a look at the People of City of Trees 2017 photo gallery--you might see yourselves here. So many happy faces!

Here are the photo galleries so far:

- Blink 182
- Dreamcar
- People of City of Trees 2017

More photos from the other bands coming very soon--the links will be added here, or just go straight to  and bookmark the page.

Also check out Radio 94.7's big collection of photos, videos and inteviews here.

SACRAMENTO, 24 September 2017:  City of Trees, Sacramento, California.
Happy people. Thousands and thousands of them! City of Trees 2017
If you'd like to see what other events are planned at Cal Expo, click here for the schedule. The next concert and festival at the same site will be Pepe Aguilar on October 14th, and Punk In Drublic, a major punk and craft beer festival, on October 15th. Tickets are available now!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

It's time for festivals!!!! City of Trees, Punk in Drublic, Aftershock and it's all going to be Louder Than Life!!!

Quite a few festivals are coming up, beginning with today in downtown Sacramento, and happening right now: Farm to Fork festival on Capitol Mall. Lots of opportunities to eat well, and some good music too!

Then tomorrow, at Papa Murphy's Park, Cal Expo, Sacramento, it's City of Trees, presented by Radio 94.7 and headlined by Blink-182, and also featuring Dreamcar and many others, including a set of Sacramento musicians and some new sounds to discover! If you haven't seen the entire lineup, here it is, and I think you might still be able to get a ticket.

Then (also at Papa Murphy's Park at Cal Expo), on October 15th, the Punk in Drublic festival tour stops off in Sac, with NOFX, Flogging Molly, Goldfinger and many more bands. Plus, of course, all the craft beer you can imagine and probably more than that. Check out all the details here and don't forget to buy your tickets!

And then... drumroll... October means Aftershock!!! The weekend of 21st and 22nd October, (just before my birthday, please bring gluten-free cake!) Aftershock takes over Sacramento's Discovery Park, with not only huge metal and rock bands, but also food, food, and even more good food; Maynard James Keenan's wine at the Caduceus Wine Garden, Heavy Grass (the loudest weed brand in the world), free samplings of Monster Energy drinks... the wonderful Music Experience for kids and young adults and musicians of all ages... Dyin' to Live and FXCK Cancer, bringing some wonderful experiences and help to people who are fighting cancer.

If you haven't gotten your Aftershock tickets yet, what the heck are you waiting for? Ozzy will be there. Nine Inch Nails. A Perfect Circle. Stone Sour. Five Finger Death Punch. Marilyn Manson. Highly Suspect.... and oh so many more great bands. Check out the full lineup!

And in case you fancy jumping on a plane with me next weekend, on the other side of the country there is Louder Than Life in Louisville, Kentucky! Prophets Of Rage, Incubus, Gojira... here's the full lineup to tempt you!

The next few weeks are going to be loud. Very, very, loud!!!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Nothing More, and The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Jonny Hawkins, vocals and additional drums, Nothing More
Nothing More at Chicago Open Air, 2016
Nothing More's new album, The Stories We Tell Ourselves, was released late last week, and is already receiving rave reviews... and I'm adding to that list. This is a rave review. This is the best hard rock album I've heard so far in 2017. I can't stop listening to it.

Powerful, heavy-hitting and emotional lyrics, beautiful sounds, intense drumming, each song very different but so very connected; haunting earworms, moving from hard, headbanging and screaming rock to ballad and back; at times metal, at times prog, a touch of industrial, but always Nothing More.

The lyrics: a decaying relationship... hanging on in love... family members growing older... anger, resentment, hope... Don't be surprised if you have an emotional, as well as a musical, response.

The Bassinator, Nothing More
Nothing More, Chicago Open Air 2016

You may already have heard two or three of the songs on the radio; at one time recently there were three Nothing More songs in the Octane Big 'Uns. But this is not simply a collection of songs, packaged together; it's a true album, a listen-all-the-way-through rock album, the sort of thing that we used to wait months and years for, back in the days before streaming and MP3. Just start at the beginning, and listen to it all the way through...

Everybody always wants to change the world, no one ever wants to change themselves

I first saw Nothing More at Aftershock Festival, Sacramento, in 2013. That year they played early in the day, tucked away on the smallest stage. Then again, last year, at Chicago Open Air, on the main stage before a much bigger crowd.,Their live show is something to see (described here).

I plan on experiencing the show again in a couple of weeks, at Louder Than Life, in Kentucky, and then here in Sacramento, back at Aftershock once more!

The bottom line is above our heads

And go buy the album, if you haven't already. This is one for the ages. (There are a very few special packages left through Pledge here, including vinyl, and the album is for sale through all the usual outlets and CD stores.)

IMHO, Nothing More will be headlining festivals worldwide, very, very soon.

Nothing More are Jonny Hawkins, Mark Vollelunga, Daniel Oliver and Don Anderson. For more info, see their website and follow them on Facebook. As well as the festivals mentioned here, Nothing More are in the middle of a huge USA and Canada tour, and then they are off to the UK and Europe. Find a date or two near you here!

Here's Go To War:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

California Capital Airshow: Patriots Jets, Patriot Parachute, Kent Pietsch and Bill Stein photo galleries

Patriots Jet Team
Patriots Jet Team at California Capital Airshow, Rancho Cordova

(All photogalleries click here.)

Last weekend, the Mather Airport in Rancho Cordova, near Sacramento, California, was home to the annual California Capital Airshow. With parachutes, one-and-two seater planes through to giant examples of aviation engineering, both the skies and the ground were filled with the spirit of the air, past, present and future. Beautifully-restored vintage planes, all flown in to compete in the National Aviation Heritage Invitational, all correct down to the last rivet. Huge, military transport planes, big enough to carry a village. The first-ever airshow fly-by by a Doomsday plane. A huge audience of military veterans of all ages, young families and teens; people with stories to tell and pictures to paint in the sky; food to be eaten and water to be drunk by the gallon under the relentless, close to 100 degree September sun.

The sky overhead was a beautiful, clear turquoise, and the planes made their own clouds, streaming red white and blue, orange and yellow, across the sky. Sacramento's 70-plus days of poor air quality was evident closer to the ground, appearing like a foggy haze against out of which the low-flying jets zoomed.
Patriot Parachute Team
Patriot Parachute Team
The ex-and-currently-serving Navy SEALS from the Patriot Parachute Team started each day by jumping in with the stars and stripes, bringing the flag to the runway, and then jumping again, later in the day, stacking up three parachutes in a chain, one man upside-down, as Bill Stein flew around. (There's an amazing photo on the Parachute Team's website showing... well just take a look here!)

Kent Pietsch, Interstate Cadet, aerobatics
Kent Pietsch, gliding down from 6,000 feet
Kent Pietsch was like the airshow clown in his Jelly Belly decorated, Interstate Cadet aerobatics plane; first stealing out of Folsom jail with his plane and party-crashing the show, scraping a wing on the runway, losing an aileron and a wheel or two and a roll of toilet paper (which he then caught), landing on top of a pickup truck, and then taking the yellow plane up to 6,000 feet, and gliding it back down to earth, loop-by-lazy-loop through the sky. The smoke from the wing-tips look like puppet strings, gently guiding the plane down, though you know it was Mr Pietsch's skill that brought him safely to earth again.

Bill Stein, aerobatics, Edge 540
Bill Stein at the California Capital Airshow
Bill Stein in his Edge 540, a plane painted like a dragonfly; iridescent, changing colour with the angle of the light; purple and yellow, orange and green. Amazing aerobatic show; circling the parachutists, tumbling through the sky, spiralling and swirling and zooming way, way up again; skimming the ground, upside-down. Look closely at the photos, and you can see him grinning, he's having so much fun up there!
Patriots Jet Team
Patriots Jet Team at California Capital Airshow
The Patriots Jet Team, headlining the show: six sleek, shiny jets, flying in formation, roaring through the sky, inches apart: red, white and blue smoke flagging where they had been, in case you blinked and missed it. Delta formation, then separating and flying at each other from the four corners of the county, crossing with what seemed like millimeters to spare. Loud, exciting, awe-inspiring. Men and machines as one.

Bill Stein, aerobatics, Edge 540
Bill Stein... which way is up???
An airshow is a photographer's dream... challenging, spectacular, so many moments to capture.

Here are the first photo galleries: more coming soon, jets and the Doomsday plane, an A-10 and the Heritage Flight, the ground show and much more! Links will be added below as the photos are available.
For more info on Alison Toon's photography, and to book a photography session see

Patriots Jet Team
Patriots Jet Team

Friday, September 8, 2017

California Capital Airshow this weekend!!!

North American Aviation P-51 Mustang

Tomorrow and Sunday, it's the California Capital Airshow at Mather Airport: last chance to buy discount tickets is today! Click here for more info.

I'll see you there... and in the meantime, click here to see photos from last year!

Golden Knights parachute team

New single from Marillion: pre-order now available!

Marillion, Leicester, England
Marillion, Leicester DeMontfort Hall, 2017
Marillion today announced the release of a new single, Living in F E A R, a new edit of the song from the recent, huge, F.E.A.R. album. Release date is October 6th: you can pre-order now!

There are four tracks on the single:

1. Living in F E A R (edit)
2 The Leavers: One Tonight (live)
3 Neverland (live)
4 Dry Land (live).

The single is available on limited edition CD, a numbered 12" vinyl, and by digital download.


More info:

Friday, September 1, 2017

And another thing to do this weekend. This one won't keep! 30% OFF AFTERSHOCK! Louder Than Life!

Did you get your tickets to Aftershock yet?
How about nipping cross-country to Rock Allegiance? Or Louder Than Life?

It's time for more festivals! Check out Fall For All right here for more details.


Rock Allegiance has a special deal on tickets this weekend, too. The deals start at midnight tonight... if you've been procrastinating, now's the time to stop and get those tickets safely in your pocket.

This is the weekend to buy those tickets... with that much of a savings, you can hop on a plane and take in the other festival too, right??! (You know one festival a year is never enough!)

What to do in Sacramento this Labor Day weekend? Here's a couple of not-to-miss events

Gold Rush Days 2016
Gold Rush Days, 2016
Whatever you plan on doing, it's going to be really, really hot... so don't forget the water, the sunblock, and maybe a portable iceberg or three.

Gold Rush Days are happening in Old Sacramento! If you've never been, it's like a trip back into the wild, wild west, with all the fun and games and drama that go with it: the pony express, the ladies of the night, a gunfight or two... cowboys, gold prospectors, and Sacramento as it was in the days of the Gold Rush. Because it's going to be so hot, get there early: take a tour through Sacramento's original streets--underground... it's going to be a tad cooler down there than above ground! Check the schedule to be sure of finding a tour.

Part of a design by Andrea Johnston at last year's Chalk It Up

A little further into Sacramento, the Chalk It Up festival is happening too: at Fremont Park, on 16th and Q streets. Sacramento's annual chalk art extravaganza, plus a lot of music! There's a list of all the performers and times here. You'll see a huge variety of creative, beautiful, quirky--and temporary--art at Chalk It Up--always a fun event!