Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Album review: The Magpie Salute, High Water I (and they are on tour)

I've been looking forwards to The Magpie Salute's debut studio album, High Water I, since hearing a song a while ago: first attracted by the band's name (such an evocative image, a salute to magpies, those cheeky, beautiful, noisy and thieving birds... while there are black-and-white-and-sometimes-blue magpies around the world, did you know that the there is a special species of magpies with bright-yellow beaks unique to the Sacramento valley, California?), and then hearing the mix of finger-picking folk, southern rock, country, bluegrass, blues and hard rock... it all results in a unique, beautiful and timeless sound.

This is Send Me An Omen from High Water I:

The album is a beautiful and varied collection of songs, ranging from the modern-British-folky sound of Send Me An Omen, through the almost-pure bluegrass of Hand In Hand to the west-coast-USA sounds of the closing song, Open Up, whose harmonies would not sound out-of-place on a Jefferson Starship or Fleetwood Mac album.

One of my favourite tracks is this one, Sister Moon:

If you're a fan of the Black Crowes, you'll recognise several of The Magpie Salute's bandmembers: the band was formed in 2016 by former Black Crowes guitarist, Rich Robinson, and also includes Marc Ford and Sven Pipien together with Rich Robinson band members Matt Slocum and Joe Magistro.

The Magpie Salute are currently touring and will be appearing around the USA over the next couple of months, including a festival date at Louisville, Kentucky's Bourbon and Beyond... and this morning I was notified of a show here in the UK, at the Waterfront in Norwich, on December 9th (tickets go on sale this coming Friday). To see all the tour dates, including many newly-announced dates in Europe and the UK, check out the band's Facebook tour page. You won't want to miss this!

("Good morning, Mr. Magpie. Give my regards to your wife and children", I learned to say, as a child growing up in England. I still think the greeting in my head, when I see a magpie today. Sometimes you might catch me saying it out loud. That's a magpie salute!)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Album review and tour news: The Future, From Ashes To New

A few days ago, a car, stuck in traffic on the main street through town, windows down, and blasting, seriously blasting, From Ashes To New's song from a while back, Through It All. That was a first, I thought, a first for this town. May there be many more...

What's so special, you may well ask. We've been hearing From Ashes To New for a while, and they deserve blasting. They deserve being heard, and loud, from cars, at festivals, in concert halls, on our music systems.

What's so very special about hearing From Ashes To New blasting from a car here, is that this is not a town in the USA where they have toured, nor is it where they grew up in Pennsylvania, nor anywhere people have heard them on USA satellite radio, Sirius XM Octane. This is Cromer, a little seaside town on the beautiful, quiet and gentle North Norfolk coast in England, far from any venue or festival where hard rock and metal is played. The closest you get to hearing anything heavy is bleeding from my earbuds when I remove one, walking on the beach, so that I can hear if a cliff is going to drop on my head... or if the wonderful Bloodshake Chorus have a gig in town. You might hear a whisper of 70's punk when you wander past the community hall on Garden Street, if the record fair is in town. Other than that, it's tribute bands at the pier theatre and Cromer Hall... so yes, it was a big deal, and it made me smile.

I first heard From Ashes To New in 2015, when they were on tour and opening for Five Finger Death Punch, Papa Roach and In This Moment in Reno, and I saw them again at The Boardwalk in Orangevale in 2016. Since then, there have been some changes to the lineup, and a couple of weeks ago, the bands new album, The Future, was released on Better Noise. (Find it here.)

Matt Brandyberry, vocals, From Ashes To New
Matt Brandyberry, From Ashes To New
It's an excellent album, and well worth adding to your collection. Powerful lyrics, sung and rapped vocals intertwining, hooks to hang onto and several earworms... From Ashes To New expertly blend hip-hop, rock, metal, spoken word, pop... mixing it all with their own unique magic to create something that will appeal to wide audience.

Take a listen to Broken here:

And I particularly enjoy:

I expect to hear the entire album blasting from many more cars, both in the USA and over here in Europe, for very much of The Future. Because the Future is Now. (Couldn't resist...)

From Ashes To New are on tour and will make stops at San Antonio's River City Rockfest, Louisville, Kentucky's Louder Than Life, and at New Jersey's Rock Allegiance festivals, together with other dates around the USA. Find all tour details here on the band's website or the From Ashes To New Facebook. Not at Aftershock in Sacramento this year, but wait... they'll be at the Golden 1 Center on 13th November, supporting Five Finger Death Punch and Breaking Benjamin!

From Ashes To New are Matt Brandyberry (vocals/guitar/keys/programming), Danny Case (vocals), Lance Dowdle (guitar), and Mat Madiro (drums). Find out more! (And I really must catch up with them soon... time for new photos! All the 2015/16 gigs are here.)

Lance Dowdle, guitar, From Ashes To New
Lance Dowdle, From Ashes To New

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Review: Bloodstock Open Air, Saturday, and the music

Lzzy Hale, vocals and guitar, Halestorm
This is NOT Alestorm. This is Halestorm, Aftershock 2017
See below for the real Alestorm info! (any excuse to include
one of my photos... any excuse. Pirates make a good excuse.)
Before anybody asks: I do not have photos from Bloodstock Open Air this year. I was there to enjoy the music as a festival-goer, not as a photographer... but that didn't stop me wanting to grab a camera each and every time I saw a picture... next time!

Saturday's lineup at Bloodstock Open Air: spread across four stages, from early until very-very late. These are the performances that most drew me in to their musical being. If you were there, you may have different favourites: that's part of the joy, we all find something to celebrate.

Orphaned Land  (Sophie Lancaster Stage)
I'll start with these guys because of all the Saturday bands, they were who I had travelled to see.

Would the show be as inspiring live, as Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs? on record? You bet it would... from the opening notes of The Cave, through songs from earlier albums including Mabool, to the very-last, post-midnight notes, they kept the audienced entranced, clapping, cheering. Such a presence. So very happy I heard Orphaned Land's music. And so very glad I made it to Bloodstock Open Air.

Performing on the S.O.P.H.I.E. stage, Orphaned Land performed immediately after main stage headliner Gojira's set on the main stage; unusual timing at the end of the night, but it allowed everyone to return from Gojira and hear the entirety of Orphaned Land's set. Brilliant move!

Next year in Jerusalem. It's a date. If you know what I mean.

Power Trip (Ronnie James Dio Stage)
Huge energy from Texas, Power Trip were on the main stage, early in the day. Inspired the first Wall of Death on Saturday at 12.13 p.m. You know, where the crowd splits in two, like the biblical Red Sea... and then rushes at each other. Never seen one? Google it and see. Ignore the motorbikes. There are no motobikes involved. Not one. Just a million crazy metal-heads having fun.

Septicflesh (Ronnie James Dio Stage)
Melodic-symphonic-death-doom-metal from Greece, with a wonderful, booming vocal. And cool artwork. Very, very cool artwork. Giger-esque but more organic. If that makes any sense as a description. I'm doing this without photos... mind pictures. Check out Septicflesh here.

Vola (Sophie Lancaster Stage)
Very interesting sound inspired by everything from 70's progressive through industrial to extreme metal; the band hails from Denmark. Take a listen here.

I totally fell in love with their set: the industrial, get-up-and-dance beat that went on, and on, and on. The two drummers, pounding, pushing the music. The makeup, the thrown and caught drumsticks, the runaway bass, the vocals. Not always the most-eloquent lyrics of all times, but hell who cares when you have that beat. We were dancing. Great set. I want more Combichrist.

Well-deserved main-stage headliner, Gojira brought not only their huge music from France (it's so beautifully heavy, it must take a mountain to hold), but also an enormous light show, best of the Bloodstock day. I have seen Gojira many times in the USA, and they always put on a wonderful show. Gorgeous... and if you went into the Bloodstock art exhibition, there were a set of paintings by Gojira drummer, Mario Duplantier. I wanted to take them all home...

Exhibition of paintings by Mario Duplantier

Cannibal Corpse
As well as pirates (see below), there were a huge number of people wearing Hawaiian shirts. In amongst all the usual black T's with band logos and inspiring messages: Hawaiian shirts.

Just blame it all on Ace Ventura.

(Cannibal Corpse was my teen daughter's musical weapon, just as Black Sabbath was mine. I can't say that I ever learned to love their entire repertoire, but over the years, I have learned to appreciate the skill and the complexity, the vocals and the following. And my mum loves Ozzy. It all works out in the end. It's all music.)

This was my very first encounter with Alestorm. You are hearing that right: Alestorm. I'm not dropping the H. Ale (as in beer) Storm (as in thunder). Not Halestorm, who I last saw at Aftershock late last year, and who have recently released a new album, Vicious... Alestorm are nothing like Lzzy and crew! Nothing. At. All.

This is where the pirates come in. Just before Alestorm's set, when I had no clue what was about to go down, another pirate--this time a young woman in full pirate gear, from tricorn hat to swashbuckling sword, topped off by a not-so-pirate clear, plastic rain-poncho, almost barrelled into me yelling, "Where's the boat gone? Where's the Effing Boat gone?" swiftly followed by three other (male) pirates, and then disappeared back into the crowd. I looked up onto the stage, and there wasn't a boat, but there was a giant rubber duck. The crowd was excited, roiling, like a tide on the turn. The band came on stage.. perhaps the only member of the Pirate Metal genre, they are certainly unique, and we might want it to stay that way! Originally from Perth in Scotland, the band's music is a metal twist on the seashanty and other folk-inspired delights... it's rollicking good fun, and while they are singing and making the music, a whole ocean of beings swims across the surf of the crowd.

The Effing Boat reappeared on top of the audience, carrying the young piratess across the hands and heads of the crowd, right into the pit, over and again, many times with different yoyagers. Then there were at least three species of (inflatable) whale, a few sharks, and several dolphins. A swan, a flamingo, a huge, yellow duck, a few rubber rings, and a banana. There is always a banana somewhere. A large parrot put in a reappearance, looking a little deflated, hanging out on the shore up against the barrier. And the audience was full, full of pirates (somewhere in the middle, I hope, the revitalized and regenerated Comatose Pirate from the Sophie tent!

Alestorm have toured the world and have a huge following here; they've been to the USA on Warped and many other tours, but I somehow seem to have managed to miss them until yesterday at Bloodstock!

There were many, many more excellent bands; I've just highlighted those that grabbed me by the heart, eyes, ears and soul, or who are (still) holding my brain ransom for sixteen pieces of eight and a wooden leg. Full Bloodstock Open Air 2018 lineup here. Making your plans for next year yet? You bet!

See also: Review: Bloodstock Open Air, Saturday... the story, the experience, a near-miss, and a few comparisons with my USA experiences

If you are visiting Toon's Tunes/Cameras and Cargos for the first time, you can bookmark the site here. Photo galleries from many festivals and concerts worldwide, including Aftershock (California), Chicago Open Air, Louder Than Life (Louisville, Kentucky), Houston Open Air, TBD and City of Trees  (Sacramento, California), Cropredy and Cromer Folk (UK) and Marillion (Poland, Netherlands, UK and USA) can be found here. Follow @alisontoonphotographer on IG, @alisontoon on Twitter, and @therealtoonstunes on Facebook.

Review: Bloodstock Open Air, Saturday... the story, the experience, a near-miss, and a few comparisons with my USA experiences

(Note: where this article reads "USA festivals", insert, "USA festivals that members of the Toon's Tunes team have personally experienced during the past 18 years"--we don't presume to know the nuances of each and every festival held on USA soil since 2000!)

I just arrived home after driving back to Norfolk, England, from Bloodstock Open Air, at Catton Hall in Derbyshire. I was very happy to be able to attend the Saturday of the four-day festival this year: hopefully all the festival, next year. It was my first rock festival on UK soil since moving away from the country in 1988, apart from Cropredy Folk in 2014, (which includes some rock and progressive performers but is rooted firmly in folk). The first true rock festival homecoming (after thirty years... I wish I hadn't counted that!) I was expecting excellent, varied and very-heavy music, I was expecting the possibility of (a little) mud, and I was not at all disappointed!

People having fun at Aftershock
Happy festival attendees, Aftershock 2017
Festival one-day tickets are wonderful things. Even if you have other commitments or constraints that don't allow you to make a weekend of it, a one-day ticket allows you to see a favourite performer and experience all that the festival has to offer. Yes, being able to experience the entire weekend is huge, but don't ever let that put you off going for just a part of a festival. Take advantage of what the one-day ticket provides: go early, see all the bands, hear and see something new, taste the food (and drink) offerings... and see your stars. Festivals on both sides of the Atlantic offer both weekend and one-day options.

I'll get to the music soon, but let's begin with a few of the differences that I noticed between Bloodstock Open Air and the USA festivals.

Families: I saw more families at Bloodstock than at any USA rock and metal festival. While children are definitely allowed and are present at all ages at USA festivals, there are fewer families than at Bloodstock. There are two things that I believe contribute to this, which USA festival organizers might like to think about if they are aiming to become more family-friendly (and I hope they are): the pricing structure, and the ability to take strollers/pushchairs into the event. Bloodstock Open Air has significantly reduced prices for children, and those under four years old go free. That's huge. It's enormous. Taking a family of four or five to a USA festival can be a budget-breaker--and if the only alternative is paid child care, it usually means that the parents won't be there at all. If you have ever carried a couple of tired or sleeping children, and their stuff, around for hours, you'll understand how sensible it is to allow parents to take pushchairs/strollers along with the children. There's something magical about introducing children to live music at an early age (with the necessary ear-protection, of course), whether metal and rock or classical or jazz: removing or reducing the practical barriers, such as price and accessibility, is a huge stride in the right direction.

Belongings: There are fewer restrictions on what can be taken into Bloodstock than into most USA festivals. As well as the strollers/pushchairs: what stood out was the folding chairs. You can take chairs in, and you can buy them inside the festival (about 8 pounds/11 dollars US). People were sensible about where they put their chairs; around the periphery of the crowd for the main stage, towards the back inside the tents for the secondary stages. If you don't want to, or can't stand all day, it sure as heck beats sitting on a blanket on the UK soil when it's been raining (and I'm guessing the Bloodstock folks are really pleased to have brought their chairs today, after an evening and night of rain). I also saw people bring in various other things that they couldn't attend the festival without... a horse's head on a stick (which was, I believe, searched), various inflatables of all shapes and sizes, a giant pull-along rubber duck... (all will be explained in the music review, see the next post).

Comings and goings: I was surprised by the action of the audience after each show on the Ronnie James Dio main stage. While many people moved on to see performances on the Sophie Lancaster stage, the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage, and the little Jaegermeister stage, there was also an exodus, back towards the main gates. After it happened three times early in the day, I just had to follow and find out what was going on: was there another stage that I had missed? Nope... people were going back to their tents, or cars. In-and-out is managed differently at Bloodstock to USA festivals. (What this also meant was that nobody was glued to the barrier from 11 in the morning until the headliners took the stage, which is often seen in the USA. At least during the first half of the day, the barrier crowd changed with each band at Bloodstock. I don't know if this is good, bad, nothing special or just-because a lot of people were still nursing their heads from the night before. It was simply different and surprised me enough to comment on.) (NOTE: If you don't know about S.O.P.H.I.E and why the stage is named after Sophie Lancaster, click here.)

Sophie Lancaster stage
Food and drink: They let you keep the top on your water bottle at Bloodstock. You have no idea how happy that makes me, unless you are used to running from one end of a festival to another in 100 degrees F with 15lb+ of equipment and a topless water bottle. THEY LET YOU KEEP THE TOP ON YOUR WATER BOTTLE! The variety of food on offer was yummy and included quite a few vegetarian and gluten-free options (I sampled loads), while there was plenty for the carnivores too. I was a little surprised that more people were not queuing to buy food: the service was good and fast and that's part of it, but maybe this is the downside (to the festival and vendor accounts) of people returning to their tents and campers so often?

New friends and old: I went on my own. Don't ever be afraid to go to a festival on your own. (Don't be afraid to go anywhere on your own, for that matter, unless your spidey senses say it's not safe.) There are new friends there, just waiting to meet you. We all meet up in music! And you always, always bump into an old friend. Mine? How random is this. I was directed to park in the overflow parking, as the main lot was full. I pulled in two cars away from my pal Thomas, who I know from my coverage of USA festivals and who runs AntiHero Magazine. He was over from the USA to cover Bloodstock. I'd driven from Cromer, Norfolk, by way of a family event and a funeral; he'd flown in a few days earlier from the USA, and we end up one car apart in the distant parking field. Check out and bookmark AntiHero because they will have photos, interviews and reviews from the entire Bloodstock Open Air weekend, very soon!

Tented stages: While Bloodstock's main stage is out in the open, the three other stages are inside tents, and by "tent" I mean "circus big top" size and construction tents. Of course, this is practically a requirement given the changeability of the British weather, but what it also meant was that early in the day, the Sophie Lancaster stage had the best light show. The drawback was that because of the change from the bright sunlight outside to the darkness of the tent, you had to be careful to avoid falling over the dead pirate who was lying behind the sound desk. Yes, a dead pirate. He might have been a Comatose Pirate. I hope he was Comatose Pirate. What-shall-we-do-with-the-drunken sailor type comatose, or just-having-a-nap comatose? There were pirates everywhere. More about them later, when we get to the music.

A near-miss. I nearly washed my hands.  OK, everyone's favourite question: "what were the toilets like?" At Bloodstock, as at USA festivals, there were lines of portapotties, and they were all kept very clean, stocked with loo paper and with hand sanitizer. The first time I checked them out, as you do, I saw that the sinks, for washing your hands were all at the end of the line of portapotties. But as there was hand sanitizer aplenty, I used that instead. As I left the loo, out of the corner of my eye, I swear I saw a dude peeing in the sink. Too much beer too early in the day, I thought, but goodness... a couple of hours later there was a whole line of men, peeing in the sinks. Then the penny dropped... they were not sinks, they were urinals. The urinals at Bloodstock looked just like the hand sinks at USA festivals, I am so glad I realised before I barged in to wash my hands!

Conclusion: Wonderful festival! Bloodstock is not so enormous as to be overwhelming, but it's a serious-festival-goer's event with a big attendence and long history. The music is on the heavier side of the metal/rock spectrum, with something for everyone's ears and with performers from around the world. It takes place within beautiful settings in the middle of England, not far from the birthplace of heavy metal in the West Midlands. There are lots of camping and ticket options, the pricing is family-friendly, and if it rains, which you know it will at some point, there's a big top or two complete with music. Put Bloodstock on your calendar, in your diary, for next year. If you are bringing your own tent? Bring a waterproof one, not a beach shelter! (My gem of wisdom for today, based on a couple of conversations after the rain began. Yes, people do that.)

Anyone who has been to one or more of the USA metal and rock festivals would feel at home at Bloodstock Open Air, and vice-versa: if you love Bloodstock, why not experience a festival on the other side of the pond, too? There are several happening soon over there: Louder Than Life (September 28-30),   Rock Allegience (October 6th), Aftershock (October 13-14) to name but a few. Just... guys please don't be confused by the sinks by the portapotties, OK? The ones at USA festivals are for washing your hands.

A few thoughts on the Saturday music at Bloodstock Open Air are here.

If you are visiting Toon's Tunes/Cameras and Cargos for the first time, you can bookmark the site here. Photo galleries from many festivals and concerts worldwide, including Aftershock (California), Chicago Open Air, Louder Than Life (Louisville, Kentucky), Houston Open Air, TBD and City of Trees  (Sacramento, California), Cropredy and Cromer Folk (UK) and Marillion (Poland, Netherlands, UK and USA) can be found here. Follow @alisontoonphotographer on IG, @alisontoon on Twitter, and @therealtoonstunes on Facebook.

Friday, August 3, 2018

On micro-stock photography... earnings, getting rich, and finding-out where your photos are used

Sea glass and cockle shells, for licensing through Adobe
There has been a story making the rounds this week, about a woman discovering where her photograph has been used. She signed a release allowing the photographer to sell her photo, the photographer put the image up for sale, and it has been used around the world. There's another story in the news, too: about a political campaign is using Shutterstock images to suggest that people are changing their political views. Shutterstock, along with other micro-stock agencies including Fotolia (now part of Adobe Stock), are agencies that I have been approved to submit images to, and I have had a (very) small subset of my portfolio available through those channels for a while. The photographer has zero control over who buys the images. The only way you can find out where an image has been used is to search for the image (hint: right click on the image, then choose Search Google for Image.)

You wouldn't believe how much I have earned!!! No. Seriously. You wouldn't believe it.

Receiving a cheerful email that says, Congratulations! You just sold an image! and announcing that you have just earned $0.29 is a little disheartening. (Example of what the buyer pays? Adobe charges $29 a month for bloggers and other buyers to download three images. Shutterstock charges are here. The prices are not enormous, but they are huge in comparison to what the photographer earns.)

Yes, I hear you, all the $0.29 sales add up. Full disclosure: all those $0.29's (and an occasional $2 for an extended license) have, so far in 2018, earned me less than $300. Pre-tax.

It's my own fault and I am not complaining... much. While big-scale business marketers are paying lip-service to "authenticity" in images, what they still buy, more than anything else, is the ubiquitous posed, multi-racial-and-mixed-gender-group-with-toothpaste-ad-teeth-and-at-least-one-person-wearing-designer-glasses group shot of people, and I don't do those. I don't do posed people, I'm not into "lifestyle" family images-for-hire, and I just won't sell photos of children through micro-stock sites. So I'm not really expecting to make the top-stock-seller list anytime soon. Much as I would like to earn a fair price from the photos that I do sell there, my focus (sic) is on other types of photography.

The picture at the top of this post is one of my best-sellers, as it appears today on Adobe/Fotolia. I shot it in a fit of pique one day, after studying micro-stock sites, seeing all the (what I felt were) contrived images, and trying to work out what sells. I took a dollar-store jar of sea-glass and cockle-shells, dumped them on a table, and took the shot, indoors, no studio lighting, nothing. And yeah... it sold then and it still sells. Usually for $0.29 a pop.

Baby raccoon ventures from nest
Rocky (or Rochelle) Raccoon, born under my home in New York in 2008
My other top seller? This dude! I call him Rocky, but she might be Rochelle. He (or she) has appeared on many pest-control websites, including this one, badly distorted, and on this one, and accused of being smelly and destructive and nasty. He is part of an Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo in Arkansas (see the video at the top of the page), a character in a tale about wild birds, he's apparently been to Hawaii, he (or she) is the best-looking raccoon on this rather suspect 'naval' website and many other "cute animal" sites that you probably don't want to visit. He's present on many stock and photo sites that I, the photographer, didn't directly license him to BUT those sites just buy an extended license from another site and lo... Rocky's picture is for resale, everywhere. And I promise you, he didn't sign a release form, I just pimped him out for pennies. Don't be surprised if he sets up his own Twitter feed to complain. If he does, I'll expose the story of how his ancestors Ate My Goldfish.

Baby raccoon ventures from nest
But seriously... most of my photos will never end up on micro-stock sites. None of my photography of performers, for example--they are for editorial use only (talk to me directly about those). But I am very happy to have discovered a new stock photography site, PicFair.com, which strives to be fair to photographers. If you buy photos for a blog, or for your company, please consider photos found there, because... they are fair to the photographers. Think of it like Fair Trade coffee. I'm waiting to see if it works.

(You can find Rocky/Rochelle here now on PicFair and on my own website for prints here, where the licensing costs for editorial or commercial use are extremely low in comparison to rights-managed Getty Images, but way higher than any micro-stock site. Confused, yet? Me too!)

All of my photos for print, and for editorial and/or commercial licensing can always be found here: http://alisontoon.com  It may be easy and inexpensive to buy images from a micro-stock site; if you are concerned, at all, about fair trade, maybe it's time to consider another way of finding the images that you need.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Going to Bloodstock Open Air??? You are in for a treat!

By this time, next year, I promise to have my house in order, my ducks in a row, my boxes crossed and checked, and everything else done that I have to do to be on time, up-to-date, fully-informed and right there for all the UK and European festivals. I will have found, or created, my festival calendar. I will have my press credentials sorted, cameras ready, and my place in the pit arranged, on time and fully loaded to bring you the best of British! This year... well this year is just this year. Think Transition. If you've never moved internationally, don't judge ;-)

One festival that I should have known about wayyyyyyy far in advance, is coming up soon: Bloodstock Open Air, in Catton Park, Derbyshire, from 9th to 12th August--that's a week tomorrow! Not ony is the lineup huge, the whole experience looks amazing... including all the camping options (which, my bad, are of course all sold out now). Camping, glamping, and even beach-hutting-without-the-beach-but-with-lots-of-metal. Here's all the info on the variety that was available. Where I would have been staying, had I been awake.

Joe Duplantier, vocals, Gojira
Joe Duplantier, Gojira, at last year's Louder Than Life, Louisville, Kentucky
And the music? That's what it's all about!

Birmingham UK's own Judas Priest, heros of heavy metal headline Friday's show; Gojira from France are Saturday's top-of-the-bill, so heavy and so very, very good: with Nightwish from Finland closing the whole event on Sunday night, but there are so many bands from around the metal globe on four stages, beginning Thursday: see the full lineup here.

Check out Fozzy, on Sunday, for example. I last saw them in Sacramento, California, last year at Aftershock... another wonderful festival. Hey here's an idea... Bloodstock Open Air next weekend. Louder Than Life at the end of September. Aftershock in October? Don't mind if I do...

Bloodstock Open Air is going to be enormous. It's going to be so heavy, the planet might melt.

Me? Believe it or not, there are still a few day and weekend tickets available. I grabbed one for Saturday. I'll be right there to see Orphaned Land, on the Sophie Lancaster stage, on Saturday. Can't wait! (Yesterday, I thought that they were performing near Liverpool (fixed it now)... I need to revise my British geography. Been away far too long.)

Now where the heck will I sleep...

Chris Jericho, vocals, Fozzy
Chris Jericho of Fozzy, Aftershock Sacramento, and in the Bloodstock lineup