Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chapter 91: In Which I Discuss Going to a Concert

New Orleans is some serious shit, my nigga.

I've been greatly stressed lately. There's too much to do and I'm not doing any of it to my full potential. It's that metaphor from Peter Jackson Tolkien come to life, "feeling stretched, like butter over too much bread." But music never fails to lift my spirits. At this moment I'm listening to "Princess Lily's Chant" by Jerry Goldsmith. It's a gorgeous song from the original soundtrack to Legend, the more classical OST they were going to use before the studio decided to be more "modern," replacing it with the now horribly dated Tangerine Dream soundtrack (for the record, I love both soundtracks [hate the movie (for the record ) ] ).

I found out pretty last minute that one of my favorite bands, the mighty NIGHTWISH, was playing at the House of Blues on October 11th. After a short debate with myself as to whether I should spend the money and time, I went on Ticketmaster, winced through their surcharges, and got a Greyhound ticket. Thus began my first Louisianan adventure.

I hate riding Greyhound. They charge you the most for the worst service. They also left me at a truck stop once, and refused me entry on the next bus because my precious ticket was on the last bus. You know, the one that left. Hate them. Megabus all the way. Nevertheless, there was no choice. The pricing was ridiculous as usual: 70 bucks for a 5 hour round trip. I should have walked. Anyway, while waiting in the station, I saw an electrician replace the old and broken Cruisin' USA game with a new Capcom Marvel Heroes game. This makes the Lafayette station the most impressive Greyhound terminal I've ever been in, because I've never known them to even fix their arcade games, let alone order new ones.

Nightwish is one of those bands who give me escape. I can listen to a song like "Sleeping Sun" and forget life for a while. Very few bands can do that for me, and very few power metal bands, despite the genre's mythic and fantasy content. I'd learned a few days before the show that Annette Olzon had left the band, so I wasn't caught off-guard when this giant woman strolled onstage with the band. The last time I was going to see Nightwish was in Batimore, but Annette got the flu. Now she leaves the group. I'm starting to suspect Annette was never real, but some kind of weird Japanese virtual idol. I've never seen her in person, so it's true.

Sometimes I feel embarrassed to be a Nightwish fan, because they have to be the biggest drama queens in all of metal fandom. You've never seen so many fits thrown over lineup changes for a band that has had THREE lineup changes in SIXTEEN years. Everything turns into some knockdown, drag-out flame war over Annette versus Tarja and it's tiresome. They also love to speculate about the members' personal lives. "Tarja acts like a diva." "Toumas is a dictator and he backstabbed Tarja." "Annette couldn't cut it." "They fired Tarja in such a mean way!!!!!!!111111" Obsessed with backstage interpersonal crap, like they're commenting on an episode of Vampire Diaries. And seriously, bands like Styx and Journey have had ten different lead singers. It happens. All that matters to me is the music, and Nightwish has maintained incredible quality over a long period of time.

The rumors say Annette left to start a nursing career. I'd be pretty impressed if the nurse treating me was a multi-platinum selling rock star before she found her true calling.

But I get ahead of myself. I got to see some of the Louisiana landscape.



The marshland is very interesting geography, and got my writerly mind imagining. That's always the best part of going somewhere new. After a dreary stop in Baton Rouge, I wound up in the Cresccent City.
The sight of the Superdome scared me. I don't know how your average New Orleanean relates to the thing, but I could only imagine people lying in their own filth, abandoned, forgotten, murdered and raped in the stinking football field. The story of the Superdome always stood out to me among the horrors of the hurricane. I kind of wish they'd torn it down.
Hurricane Katrina is easily the American tragedy of the 21st century. With 9/11, the fall of the towers precipitated a Genghis Khan-like rampage of justice, retribution, revenge, whatever you call it. We've murdered uncountable civilians in the Middle East, littered the sand with Muslim dead. Anybody who felt sore over the World Trade has a mountain of corpses to salve their victimhood. What did the gulf get for their troubles? An oil spill.

Heavy metal pigeons: "We come for your soul, and your bread crumbs."

New Orleans is one of those places you have to see, because explaining it to someone doesn't work. Your average American has no frame of reference because there's nowhere else like New Orleans on the continent. It reminded me of Havana. It looked like Havana. It smelled like Havana. (That's the smell of waste, btw). I arranged to meet with some folks at Petit Espresso to discuss touring in December. Turns out Petit Espresso closed six years ago. Thanks, Google. Anyway, I finally caught up with them and had a business meeting in New Orleans. That's about as official as it gets. I'm like Donald Trump in here.

"For the New Orleans native did chafe at what he deemed the effrontery of the Yankees, with their inscrutable ways , tres etrange, and the manner in which they unfurled red and white banners that said 'Coca-Cola' over the streets, until their presence seemed less an invasion than a virulent plague..."
                                                                                                    -George Cable, Old Creole Days

The concert itself was badass. Such gifted musicians. And it felt wonderful to be surrounded by my fellow Nightwish fans.

Overheard dialogue: "Wouldn't it be cool if somebody had a show with real live bats? Not like Ozzy, though. No biting the heads off."

I've decided to unleash bats at me next reading, just for that kid.

About a Korn concert : "People were even moshing to the dubstep." "
"How can you mosh to dubstep? It's like rock 'em, sock 'em robots."

I had a mind to tell the kid that I find even non-heavy metal dubstep mosh-worthy. It's great sex music, too. Man. Korn. That's a band I haven't seen live in ten years. I must rectify this.

Oh, yes, and this one kid sounded like he was from Long Island. Apparently, a New York and New Orleans accent sound just alike. I guess there's only so much you can stretch people geographically before the inflections start sounding alike.

This was a power metal crowd, as evidenced by the tiny teenage girls standing next to me. And I love that power metal shows don't have that moshing shit. I go to shows to enjoy the music, not participate in athletic contests. In fact, people were saving each other's spots in the crowd--not saving seats, but standing room--and just generally being respectful of each other's space. On this night I was not ashamed to be a Nightwish fan. I rocked the fuck out with my fellow fantasy nerds and it was glorious.

The hell?
Favorite audience member: that girl with the really long, high scream. Second favorite: the guy who who randomly yelled "bring it!" when the Kamelot singer was about to belt out a ballad. That earned him a well-deserved wry look from the singer.

Kamelot opened. I don't have a single picture of them that's remotely good. It was a quality set. The lead guitar's a real old school rock guy who did a lot of solos. They had two girls wearing black wings playing marching drums, and a girl who came out in a masquerade mask kinda thing, and the dudebro whose their new lead singer looks like that "Moves Like Jagger" guy but can actually sing, and at some point a girl in an S&M corset who looked like she stepped off the cover of Heavy Metal came out and started screaming. There were more people onstage than a Slipknot show. Good times.

After a musical introduction that seemed to last an hour, Nightwish came onstage. They are professionals, every one knowing how to work the stage, even those stuck behind drums and keyboards. Oh Nightwish. How you made me dance. I got to hear my favorites: "Dark Chest of Wonders" and "Ghost Love Score." Danced with my fellow fans. Did a do-see-do with one guy. I'm pretty sure at some point during the acoustic version of "Nemo" we folks in the middle got an obnoxiously long kumbaya sway going.

The band only sang songs off Once, Dark Passion Play, and Imaginaerum. This is the unfortunate part of having a new singer: the Tarja songs get jettisoned from the setlist. They've spent years gradually working those songs back into their live shows, making them suit Annette's voice, and now it's another do-over. "Ghost River" sounds great live, as does "A Song of Myself," even if they skipped the 7-minute long spoken word part (just kidding: I know that would've been awful live). I would have liked if they played "While Your Lips are Still Red," but no complaints. Surprisingly, they played the blues song "Slow Love Slow," not the kind of song I'd ever expect them to do live, yet fitting for the setting. That's what I love about Nightwish: they actually embrace the freedom that power metal provides to incorporate other genres. A song like "Slow Love Slow" shows their versatility more than any keyboard bombast.

People complain abut Tarja leaving the band when it was going in another direction anyway. Toumas was bored after so many albums of opera metal, and it's cool seeing him branch out.

Even in a state of calm, Marco Hietala rocks so hard a black hole opens from his very being

The giant blue woman reaches to high five the hand of God.


Eventually I stopped taking crappy pictures and watched the band. They had a bagpipe player who was going crazy on these pipes. Playing them like they were electric guitar. "Lasts of the Wilds" was just fun and I jigged my ass off. Jigging, headbanging, and swaying with my fellow Nightwish fans.

An amazingly clear picture of Floor. Don't get used to it.

I knew nothing about Floor Jansen, Nightwish's beautiful Dutch angel replacement singer, but that lady has some serious pipes. The audience was eating it all up, especially those guys behind me who kept yelling at Floor how much they loved her. Floor: I think you got the job.

Other notes: Toumas is very tall in real life and makes the funniest "I'm rocking so hard I'm in physical pain" faces. Marco has the thickest damn Finnish accent. I couldn't understand a word that came out his mouth. I also love the seven-man long devil horns some guys made (just kept adding fists), and all the dudes making hearts at Floor.

FLOOR: This has been a magical night. But, like all magical nights, it must come to an end.
GUY: Nope! Nice try.
OTHER GUY: Rewind!

Nightwish was doing autographs outside afterward, but I don't really care about such things, and already have their autograph on a copy of End of an Era somewhere. I had some time to kill before the Greyhound station opened. I killed it on Bourbon Street mostly. Everything people told me about Bourbon Street, well, I thought they were kidding. But no. It really is some disgusting shit. Drunk tourists stumbling around with giant drinks in their hands, grinding on each other in the middle of the street. Because New Orleans is where you go to to drink and fuck, not experience actual culture. I like that sexuality is open, with the myriad strip clubs and tranny hookers, because fuck that Puritan shit, but this nonsense was the kind of thing that makes me never want to have fun again. Just curl up in my monastic cell and live the ascetic life.

But damn, that city picks up at night. You wanna talk about never sleeping. My favorite part was the group of black women in the SUV, one of whom starts screaming at some white lady with a baby: "TAKE THAT BABY HOME! IT'S TOO LATE TO BE DOING ALL THAT! DON'T YOU LOOK AT ME, MUTHAFUCKA! WHO THE FUCK SAID YOU COULD LOOK AT ME!" After, you know, calling attention to herself. Bon temps.

Toumas triumphant

No encore

Other News

I recently ran into the guy who does the OTAKUAssemble Game of Thrones reviews, entirely randomly. Apparently dudebro goes to my school. I talked about the show with him a while, which was kind of crazy, because it was like watching one of his Youtube reviews, only right in front of me. Cool guy.

Other news? Eh. Something about a book, and a tour, and all my friends having books, and an international fantasy convention. I'll get to that.


All that great heart lying still
In silent suffering
Smiling like a clown until the show has come to an end
What is left for encore
Is the same old dead boy's song
Sung in silence


  1. This blog-post of yours is totally awesome. Found it by google when searching some Floorwish things.