Nick Cave at Tennessee Performing Arts Centre

I might have titled this "Nick Cave Live at Tennessee Performing Arts Centre, but that would suggest a concert.  I've been to two Nick Cave concerts, with more to come I hope, but this definitely was not a Nick Cave concert.

I wasn't misled, though.  The evening was titled "Conversations with Nick Cave."  For a stage set, that includes just a piano, Nick and a spare microphone (plus assorted VIP$ stage tables).  Cave fans already know this, but in case someone strays into this post, Nick Cave is an Australian musician (songwriter, etc.) who creates challenging music, at times described as gothic, or, as Wiki puts it, with themes of "death, religion, love and violence."  I'm not his biggest fan of his earlier decades of work, but I'm a big fan since 2004.  

This show, as well as his last album, were impacted by the accidental death of one of his 15 year-old twin sons in 2015.  How does the artist respond?  In part, by appreciating the outpouring of support from his fans and, later, finding a means to continue to engage in the human experience with them.  Thus, he started The Red Hand Files, a forum in which his fans can ask him anything and in which he responds to a great many.  So, why leave that to a forum?  Thus, "Conversations" takes that engagement live.  Or, what he said on postcards for the audience as they entered:

For three hours, Cave would sing a couple of songs, field five to eight un-moderated questions from the the audience, sing a couple of songs, answer more questions, etc.  Typically, concerts offer very little in terms of glimpses into the performer.  Too many play their set with a breif mention of "Hello (insert city name)!" and others feign being personal with canned patter between songs.  And that's okay, but it's rare, post-Sinatra, when the artist just... talks.  This linked review does well in pointing out some of the questions and responses for this particular evening. 

But I'll add my own.  Nick Cave, solo on a piano, is a beautiful thing.  My favorite song, "Jubilee Street," which is one awesome thing with his full band, the Bad Seeds, is now quite another.  Each song was given its due, with his vocal performance and piano expressions as naked without his band as he was in the face of the "who knows what" questions that would come from his audience. 

Each pair of songs appeared to be the result of those he intended to play mixed with those that related in some way to a question presented by the audience, limited only by which ones he had handy for sheet music.  Honesty: "I can't play that one."  In any case, Cave didn't sit back on his chair to appreciate the audience response.  He quickly got up, hustled to the microphone at the front of the stage and pointed to a questioner in one of the lines.  While in no way subtracting from his performance, his desire was clearly for the Q&A.

Tidbits - I've paraphrased as I wasn't recording the show, so if contested, others may be right:
  • On what he thinks of remastered recordings (ala the Beatles catalog):  Once released, the songs belong to the audience - how they sound, how they relate to the moments that they're in.  In other words, he's completely against it.  "If Neil Young ever remixed 'On the Beach' I would fucking seek him out and strangle him, because it's my song!
  • Vegans:  "I would be a Vegan, but the shoes are so fucking bad."  "Vegetarians are unhappy people when people are eating meat all the time."
  • Grief:  A funeral director asked what expressions of grief were offered him, I think asking for better words than the trite expressions generally offered.  Cave mentioned that people often say "he'll remain in your heart" or similar.  Someone told him to "take him out of your heart and put him beside you."  That helped.
  • On terror:  Was terrified performing with a lot of anxiety before shows.  Is terrified of losing people.  Terrified by the Q&A.  Was terrified of giving up drugs and its effect on writing songs.
  • On his shirts:  "A gentleman never talks about his tailor.  But I can play you a song."
  • His more recent songs being obtuse:  "My songs are porous and dependent on the audience for meaning." This was affirmed by one questioner who rambled something fairly unintelligible, but possibly about connecting themes in two songs that may have something related to, eh, we'll say Area 51 and you get the idea.  Cave:  "I have no fucking idea what you're talking about," as politely as he could.
  • On feminism:  "Fuck. I should have taken the question from the woman behind you." He talked about Nina Simone and the strength that she had in her songs and career, which he admired.

So, he's familiar with the F word.  But these were far outnumbered by quick articulate answers that spoke to the question, the questioner, and the audience, often deeply.  Intelligence, humor, insight, introspection - there's a lot to like.
  • On his favorite bible verse:  Matthew 9:20-22. He didn't quote the scripture or the verse, but mentioned the lady with the blood disorder, who reached to Jesus as he passed in the crowd and grabbed his robe. His view is that people, and artists such as himself, should always be reaching for the light.  No mention of the power that flowed from Jesus when the lady touched the hem, but, hey, it's what he took away from the verse.
Three hours of Nick Cave.  I yearn for another concert, but this type of artist encounter may never come around again, and if it did, I'd probably be disappointed in the artist that tried after this.

Also, Adele's rocks for those looking for a restaurant in Nashville.


The Ship Song
The Weeping Song
Where's the Playground Susie? (Jimmy Webb)
Shoot Me Down
Love Letter
Papa Won't Leave You, Henry
Into My Arms
Palaces of Montezuma
Sad Waters
The Mercy Seat
Avalanche (Leonard Cohen)
O Children
Jubilee Street
Stagger Lee

King Crimson - Live at Cobb Energy Center

A month shy of two years since their previous visit to Atlanta, King Crimson returned, this time in a modern theater as opposed to a more intimate but aging rock show venue (Center Stage).  There is good and bad with that.  Let's see... Good: Newer bathrooms, which I didn't use.  Better restaurant selections pre-show.  Closer to home.  Seats that don't feel worn to the spine. That's about it.  Bad: exiting the parking area, less intimacy/greater distance to the stage, and worse sound.

The last point is arguable, but Center Stage had far superior clarity than that from the front row of the upper tier at Cobb Energy.  Vocals were generally incoherent, the bass was audible only when the rest of the band was largely silent, and Mel Collins' brass/woodwinds dominated the aural mix, though still quite enjoyable.   That said, the drumming was crystal clear, and Robert Fripp's guitar, as sneakily as it enters into songs, sounded great.  In other words, it's a concert venue.  You get what you get.

Before I get to the rest, if you're unfamiliar with the band, maybe try this (it builds slowly):

Or, this, their defining song, "21st Century Schizoid Man" from their first album.

The band once again threatened expulsion for those who might try to take photographs during the show.  I get that it's distracting to others, and the band is fairly static in their presentation.  Plus, there's a lot going on musically that demands attention.

The set list, below, featured twelve songs from the night I saw them previously (they had a two night stand in 2017), and the remaining eight choices were... disappointing.  The lead songs for both halves of the show were extended drums/percussion pieces, as the band is literally fronted by three drum sets.  This is entertaining to watch, especially for the first time, but there is enough showcasing through the remaining songs that one three-drummer "solo" song is sufficient.  Still, they were amazing to watch as they rarely played the same beats/sounds, and often traded turns through sections of songs, as guitarists might alternate licks.

A closer look.  "Neurotica."  The 80's KC made some high quality music, but then-vocalist Adrian Belew had a voice that took some getting used to, at best.  Vocalist Jakko Jakszyk (also playing guitar and keyboard) renders all of the bands songs well, regardless of era, but Belew's songwriting was built around his particular vocal style.  I'd rather just hear the excellent instrumental songs from that era, please, until such a time that Belew rejoins the band.

There are a number of songs from Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind, a 2016 release that largely included, I believe, live works that were otherwise unrecorded.  In other words, these are a blend of musical prowess and curiosities for King Crimson collectors.  Every show should have a song or two that is rare or a surprise, but when the canon has so many other worthy songs, there's no need to overindulge.

The Power to Believe songs - Every fan has a favorite album.  I'd imagine this album had fewer than most.  The selections here - "Level Five" and "Elektrik" - are very technical songs among a live set of technical songs.  They're good, but a better balance would have been reached in the first set had they included just one or two of their more melodic songs.  Heck, update "Dangerous Curves" for example.

"Cat Food" is perhaps an attempt at a more conventional song for the play list, but it has silly lyrics ("No use to complain / If you're caught out in the rain / Your mother's quite insane / Cat food cat food cat food again".)  Any other song from this album would have been splendid.  Instead, the fly in the ointment from that album filled the same role here.  The lyrical part of the song completely upends the instrumental music to which it yields.

The second half, then, was the better half by far.  Still, if picking through older songs, "Exiles" and "LTIA Part II" would clearly be crowd favorites over some of the selections here, but I get it.  King Crimson isn't a greatest hits band, and they like a musical challenge.  So... fellas, "Asbury Park" hasn't been heard in a long, long time.  And, it would bless the audience with, well, I guess it would have been a second extended Robert Fripp solo.  And we all want that, right?

Fan-rant over.  It was a very good show.  Bassist Tony Levin posted some comments and photos on his blog about this show, their last in the US for this tour.  Below is his audience pic that he takes at the end of each show.  I've highlighted my son and myself at the upper right.  Maybe we should be pumping our fists, but, hey, at least we're not checking our cell phones like the schmuck in the blue shirt I highlighted in the lower right.

From the stage, it appears we're a mile away, but the seats were actually quite good.  We could clearly see everyone's hands and facial expressions as they worked their instruments, and the height added a better view, particularly of the drummers, than we had at Center Stage.  

Set list:

1st Half:

Hell Hounds of Krim - Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind, 2016
Neurotica - Beat, 1982
Suitable Grounds for the Blues - Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind, 2016
Cirkus - Lizard, 1970
Red - Red, 1975
Moonchild - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969
Cadenzae (ornamental section by various members)
Elektrik - The Power to Believe, 2003
Cat Food - In the Wake of Poseidon, 1970
Radical Action II - Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind, 2016
Larks Tongue in Aspic 5 / Level Five - The Power to Believe, 2003

2nd Half:

Drumzilla - Concert only
Epitaph - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969
Lizard - Dawn Song - Lizard, 1970
Larks Tongue in Aspic (Part IV) - The Construkction of Light, 2000
Islands - Islands, 1971
Easy Money - Larks' Tongue in Aspic, 1979
Indiscipline - Discipline, 1981
Starless - Red, 1975
In the Court of the Crimson King + Coda, self-titled, 1969


21st Century Schizoid Man - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969

Delta Rae - Live at Terminal West

Sixth time seeing a band? That's a record for me, one that will likely increase the gap over whoever is #2.  Seeing them now is less about watching their growth since Asheville's Belle Chere festival in 2011.  They're older, writing about more complicated things.  Maybe they've lost their innocence, but in no way have they lost their enthusiasm.  They've persevered through life and the grand politic of building a career, including inadequate record deals.  But they're here and still going strong.

Delta Rae
So I can't say enough about how special their recordings are.  The band can write to any subject, and they build beautiful music around it.  But, they're what a fan carries with them when they can't see Delta Rae live.

Live, that's the thing.  Personalities explode, the pieces join together in a spiritual way that can't be decoded by bits and bytes, the stage is for one and the stage is for all.  It's a six member band that says "family" heedless of DNA, and they "carry their fire" through the precious moments and the theatrical ones.

Britney Holljes
Elizabeth Hopkins

Yeah, I'll stop wringing the prose.  This is a band that everyone should see live, and get there early enough or pay a ticket price to get close to the stage.

Ian Holljes

Eric Holljes

Touring guitarist Ellen Angelico, who added brought both swagger and a punch to some of the band's songs.

These two have each others' backs

I can't find a setlist anywhere, but below are the songs I (think I) remember.

  • Morning Comes
  • If I Loved You
  • Bottom of the River
  • Dance in the Graveyards
  • Run
  • Outlaws
  • Any Better Than This
  • Hands Dirty
  • All Good People
  • The Wrong Ocean
  • You Can Tell Him

DragonCon 2019

I guess I feel obliged to post something to document the annual pilgrimage to Atlanta's DragonCon.  I took pictures, right?  A record 85,000 attending the 33rd annual convention over what is now considered a five day convention.  (It's really a 3 day convention that spills over to each side).


A slow day, but one that included touring the Art Show, junk hall, and Comics Alley.  In terms of panels, there was

Heroes of High Fantasy, featuring fantasy/sci-fi authors Aleron Kong, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson and Marie Brennan.  Much wit abounded as well as insights into what makes good stories and good characters.  Other than the condescension of Brennan, it was an enjoyable panel.

And I later had several books signed by Sanderson.  He writes a lot, so it's hard to keep up.


I skipped the hordes at the DragonCon parade, and settled in for a little WWII history.

U-505, a Uniquely Unlucky Submarine - This was presented by Capt. Mark McDonagh - a physicist and retired Navy submarine Captain.

This particular U-boat, launched on 5/24/1941, which he had researched extensively, suffered from a deteriorating home port in Lorient, France (due to Allied attacks), bad leadership (one captain ordered the crew to abandon ship but they ignored it and saved it anyway, one captain shot himself while being depth charged but did not die so the crew smothered him when they found him), bad decisions, sabotage by French workers (such as battery acid poured on valve seals, small hole drilled in an oil bunker), and was eventually spotted by Wildcat aircraft, depth charged, and abandoned without scuttling.  U-505 was the first foreign man of war captured on the high seas by the US Navy since the War of 1812.  The captain of the Navy ship was focused on getting the Enigma cryptography device, unaware that the Allies already had it.  McDonagh covered each mission and each failed attempt to leave port without mishaps, in great detail.  He also has been an instructor at the Naval War College, and he and others hold mini sessions each year at DragonCon to highlight a hot spot around the world and try politically, economically and militarily (I think) means that might be brought to mitigate "it."

"The Expanse" cast:

One of my favorite book series was also a Syfy series and is being continued by Amazon.  Four of their cast were present last year, and another four this year.  Good comaraderie and laughs.  Two (Holden and Amos) had read the series before they were even asked to audition.  Their harts are in it.

Steven Strait (Jim Holden), Wes Chatham (Amos), and Chad Coleman (Fred Johnson)

Meanwhile, costumes abound.

Indiana Jones generations
Daenerys Targaryen

And food trucks are scare.  A corn dog for $7 from a convention hall vendor?  Bad price and over-fried! Blech.

And the Marriott caved to political correctness, where a former men's room (half urinals, half stalls) is now open to women.  Men are pigs.  You don't want this.

Roy Thomas - Comic writer:  Another of the legendary authors, artists, letters, etc. that enjoy speaking of the golden days of comics ($0.35 per issue or less, in my view). Thomas was the first successor as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics after Stan Lee.  He created Wolverine, the Vision, Iron Fist, Carol Danvers (Mar-Vell), Luke Cage and Ultron among others. 

Disney purchased Marvel is now trying to figure out who created what as royalties are due.  Thomas indicated that contracts were written on the back of checks in the early days, and much of the documentation has been lost.  By the 70's, everything was work for hire with no rights, and it was evident that creators weren't getting paid as they should for heroes, so he started focusing on creating minimal villains until heroes were worthwhile.  He's not bitter about his career, which spanned many comic publishers, but wants the credit where it belongs and the checks that come with it.  

In a side note, he left DC comics after a week to work at Marvel, which was clearly a step down.  But when DC went to $0.25 per issue and 48 pages, Marvel surged.  Trivia point:  Martin Goodman, the founding publisher of Marvel Comics, almost died in the Hindenberg on a return trip from their honeymoon.  They had tickets but couldn't find seats together, sot hey chose to take a plane instead.

Roy Thomas

Based on A True Story

I have vague memories of this panel.  It was attended by a lot of people who were very familiar with details of real murders, but there was generally doubt about the real events, rather than movies portrayed them. It was good to sit for an hour.

How Technology Shapes Star Trek: In which three very smart brothers discuss Star Trek technology, the same who participate broadly in skepticism regarding magic and religion.  Made up science, though... It was interesting, and they seemed to know their science.  I just need to take notes on some of these things.

Match Game in the 20th Century - hosted by Gil Gerard (known as Buck Rogers in the '79-'81 series).  This was an evening panel, and I have yet to hit one that was truly worthwhile.  Humor was attempted, at least.  But, like the TV game show, it always turns to sex. Panelists included actors from Farscape, Stargate Atlantis and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  That's Buck with the microphone, an perennial attendee at DCon.

William Shatner:

Hot off a win in a horse carriage race (for which I could not find a reference, but try this), Shatner was, as everyone hoped, full of himself for DragonCon.  Everyone by now should understand that he is a ham, and that equates to a great audience experience.  Two of the takeaways this year, if you're asking him a question, use proper grammar.  "Me and my wife were wondering.." [interupted by Shatner] "My wife and I."  "Oh, my wife and I were wondering..."

And, after a number of fairly lengthy and often tangential responses to audience questions (who line up at microphones), he might catch someone walking back to their seat when he pauses for a breath. "Wait, I'm done yet!"  And, the person comes back to the microphone.  Oh, and a brief reenactment of his gremlin-on-the-wing scene in The Twilight Zone was hysterical.

Zachery Levi:  What a difference a couple of years makes... and one hit movie, Shazam.  Last time, he was wanting a better world, lamenting the fan experience at conventions and generally an open heart.  This time, it was a celebrity event, full on entertaining and engaging the audience.  He still has a big heart; good to see that things are picking up for Chuck.

Star Trek Discovery cast panel:  I watched the first season.  A friend points out that it's too action oriented.  Compared to past series, it certainly is, but I generally liked it, despite the technology and special effects that clearly eclipse the original show... when this is supposed to occur prior to that.

In any case, what a dud of a panel.  Season 2, which I haven't watched yet, is supposed to be better, and... there was no cast chemistry at all.  It's like they were called to Congress under subpoena.  Anson Mount, who plays Capt. Christopher Pike (to rave reviews), was often sitting with his head resting on his hand.  Fail.

It was overall an enjoyable weekend, a bit hit and miss, but there's still something for everyone.  Like, what if Dr. Otto Octavius (Spiderman nemesis) was Lady Doc Ock?

Yeah, the arms move.

Portland, ME Photowalk

And it's already been a while.  Not much to comment on, but this is a beautiful city... in the right weather, which is exactly what we had in June.

Prepping the decks for the daily tourist jaunts into the bay.

Does the appearance of a building influence your buying decisions?

Not in Portland

Hugely popular.

The Thirsty Pig = crafty hot dogs with craft beer

The photo doesn't capture the gentle flowing of the ivy with the breeze - cool, calm, relaxing.

An active port, cruise ship stop, tourist haven, and also site of the brief Battle of Portland in the Civil War.

Tourists needed

Counter arguments?

Brick roads remain where they haven't been covered up.

Has anyone actually tried this fire escape?

Portland could be renamed The Drink Exchange

What to do with those old DVDs...

Novare Res Bier Cafe

Fairly warned.

The lobster industry is thriving.. adjacent to redeveloped condos and restaurants