Category Archives: Concerts

John Scalzi – “Redshirts” Book Tour – 6/6/2012

Certainly not a concert, but a great event nonetheless. Had the opportunity to attend a reading and books signing with John Scalzi, one of my (new) favorite authors. Normally, this is the type of thing I’d manage to talk myself out of going to, but I wasn’t able to muster up an argument against attending that I could believe.

Initially I’d planned to drive in, but there were two very good reasons not to. First, parking in that area of the city would’ve cost at least $18. And second, since the event was at 6:30 and I get out of work at 3, I would’ve had to kill at least three hours wandering around. I’m quite happy to do so with a friend, but without someone to bounce snark off of it would have been boring.

The train was $11 round trip, and didn’t take substantially longer than driving, particularly with the construction on the Platt bridge. I still had a bit of time to take a walk & grab a slice.

Where are the red shirts?!?

I got there around ten to six, bought my book on the way up, and grabbed one of the last chairs. The sixty or so people completely filled the small space. I could be wrong here, but I’m guessing that if anyone had stuck their head in and asked if someone knew anything about computers, at least fifty of the sixty heads would’ve turned. Two surprises: the crowd was much older than I would’ve expected, and the gender balance was backwards – more female than male.

We don’ need no stinkin’ mics!

Despite having tweeted he intended to show up in a blaze of laser light, no one was disappointed as quietly  walked out at exactly 6:30 to a solid ovation. Noting that we were the official first stop on this book tour, he began by reading Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains” – a particular favorite of mine anyway, and made all the more poignant by the obvious emotion displayed during the reading. There were few dry eyes left at the end.

At this point, he gave the audience a choice – he could either read from “Redshirts”  or read parts of a new super-secret project. Yeah, a roomful of sci-fi geeks – “Oh please, read to us from the book we just bought”. Naturally, and to no one’s surprise, we went for the secret. He pointed out that on his last book tour, he’d spoken at 16 different locations to what amounted to hundreds of people, and not a single person had mentioned anything about that particular project. After swearing us to secrecy with a completely  ridiculous and funny oath, we had the privilege of hearing a chapter of the newest work. And no, I’m not telling!


The special guest previously hinted at turned out to be Paul Sabourin of the duo “Paul & Storm” and previously “DaVinci’s Notebook”. He took part in an absolutely hilarious reading based on the concepts in “Redshirts”.

“No, I will not lend you bus fare.”

The Q & A session was equally funny. His discussion of trying to write from the perspective of a 16-year-old girl for “Zoe’s Tale” had everyone rolling – hanging out with teen girls at the mall turns out to not be such a great idea. Who’da guessed?

One of the things I’d always wondered about had to do with plotting story arcs, and as it turned out he said that while the basic idea for a story may be in mind, when he starts to actually write he has no idea how it will end or how plot points will resolve themselves. “Old Man’s War” was written this way, and was never intended to be part of a series. This led to the problem of later books contradicting points made earlier, but he treats those as further opportunities instead of nuisances.

He also explained that he intentionally cultivates a likeable, approachable public persona but is very careful to keep his private life private. Despite that, I got the distinct feeling that if I lived next store I’d have no hesitation in asking to borrow his hedge trimmers.

Since I was up front, I was one of the first to get my book signed. I thought it was very cool that he incorporated things from the interactions into the signatures. In my case, I mentioned that I came across his work by accident.

Having missed the 8:08 train, I took some time to grab a frozen yogurt and talk a leisurely walk up to Market East. Apart from the fact that I can never remember which street the entrance to the station is on, it was uneventful & I got back home around 9:30.

All in all, a great evening, and I’m really glad I went!


Thomas Dolby at World Cafe Live -3/24/2012

Ever have the experience of hearing an artist’s new album, disliking it, and then finding that it grows on you?
“Map of the Floating Cities”, Thomas Dolby’s first album since 1992’s “Astronauts and Heretics”, is one of those. I had previously heard the “Amerikana” and “Oceanea” EPs, and wasn’t terribly impressed. The first seemed too forced – “Hey! Look at me! I’m a Brit relating the American Experience!” and the second, too mellow and bland.

On further reflection, though, it’s all good music, just different. Which after twenty years is probably to be expected. I find it amusing that the WikiPedia entry for the album lists it as “New Wave” – apart from stylistic issues, can that even really be considered a genre any more?

This was the third time I’ve seen Dolby at World Cafe in Philly, and the third or fourth time eating there as well.  I’ve found the food to be surprisingly good.  Dinner was roasted salmon with lentils, parsnips, and butternut squash. The only minor disappointment was that the peanut butter pie I’d had previously wasn’t on the dessert menu.

The opening act was the bluegrass duo of Aaron Jonah Lewis and Ben Belcher. During the main part of the show, Lewis came back on stage and played several numbers with Dolby.

Set list:

Commercial Breakup
One of Our Submarines
The Flat Earth
Evil Twin Brother
Road to Reno
The Toad Lickers
I Love You Goodbye
Love is a Loaded Pistol
My Brain Is Like a Sieve
Europa and the Pirate Twins
She Blinded Me With Science
Spice Train
Silk Pyjamas

Although this crowd in particular would not have been overly disappointed to have “Science” omitted – and replaced with “Windpower”  – he still played it with enthusiasm, noting that it had been very good to him.


All of the arrangements of the older songs were very well done, in that they were different enough to make them interesting to hear (and probably perform, as well) yet similar enough for the hardcore fans.  Even with sampled drums and guitar synthesis, having those sounds played by live musicians  made a big difference.

He seems to have largely evolved away from the mad scientist persona adopted earlier in his career, into a sort of retro-futuristic visionary. His Time Capsule (a very cool Steampunk-esqe trailer) allowed up to three people to record a thirty-second Message to the Future, which were compiled and added to his YouTube channel (It is to be hoped that there will be people around to view them someday.) Our group did wait while one of our friends recorded a message, but the rest of us declined.

In talking about it afterwards, we realized that even though we’re huge fans, at this point we’ve seem him three times in the same venue in four years, so it’ll be  a while before we have a compelling need to see him again. This was driven home after the show – one friend had gotten an autograph and mentioned that there weren’t a lot of people waiting; the rest of us decided not to bother going back in. Since I already have several signed items, adding to my little shrine seemed egregious.

All in all, a great show, and well worth the time.


Saw Devo at the House of Blues in Atlantic City Friday night. Awesome, awesome show. And that’s not just my own admittedly biased judgement – a friend of our who’s seen them many times said it was the best show he’d seen. One silly note – we were riding the escalator up to the second floor, and coming down on the escalator next to us was Mark Mothersbaugh. It was one of those “Did we just see…?” kind of moments. And yes, like deranged stalker fans we immediately took the down escalator and tailed him into the restaurant, but we also had enough empathy to not actually go up to the table. Can’t say it wasn’t tempting, though.

Trippple Nippples!

The opening act – Trippple Nippples – was…well, different. Sort of a manic combination of twisted performance art and a Bow Wow Wow revival, with completely incomprehensible rhythms – instead of 3/4, 17/3 might be more likely. Typical lyric- “I love my LSD! Scream till your eyes bleed!”.  And although there was no shooting of warm Bailey’s Irish Cream from fake rubber mammaries, it was outrageous enough to have a gentleman behind us screaming gentle encouragements such as “This sucks!” and “I hope you all die!” and “Get off the f***ing stage!!” Classy, that one. They were energetic, and in front of a crowd not composed largely of what appeared to be  middle-aged IT professionals, would probably have been received more warmly.

Devo came on at 10. We were on the main floor; apart from being closer to the stage it’s much nicer to be able to dance if the spirit moves you. The set list was a great mix of old and new – for me, I’d have been happier if they’d played MORE of the new album instead of just the three songs they did. Regardless, it was fantastic. They played straight through for almost two hours with multiple costume changes. Several of the songs had full videos played on the giant screen behind them and the audience was regularly pelted with with energy domes, shredded radiation suits, bananas, corn chips, and super balls. During the finale of It’s a Beautiful World, Mark Mothersbaugh left the stage and Booji Boy sang the second half. The (corrected) set list – the original post had one incorrect song and some in the wrong order.

  • Don’t Shoot
  • Peek-a- Boo
  • What We Do
  • Goin’ Under
  • Fresh
  • That’s Good
  • Girl U Want
  • Whip It
  • Planet Earth
  • Satisfaction
  • Secret Agent Man
  • Uncontrollable Urge
  • Mongoloid
  • Jocko Homo
  • Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA
  • Gates of Steel
  • Freedom of Choice
  • Beautiful World

Thing that surprised me – Didn’t realize the House of Blues is actually inside the casino, accessed by the longest most nausea-inducing escalator I’ve ever been on.

Thing that sucked – The foul-mouthed moron yelling during the opening act.

Thing made of Win! – We started out a fair distance from the stage, but what with dancing and crowd circulation, ended up about ten feet away, which almost feels like having the band in your living room. Yeah, and their drummer kicked serious ass.