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Clockwise, from top left: Blackfriar's Theater in Staunton, VA, home of the American Shakespeare Center; National Cathedral in Guatemala City; church near Volin, SD; engraved stellae at ruins of Copan, Honduras; folk musicians in La Paz, Bolivia.

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My favorite movies

  1. Casablanca
  2. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  3. Raising Arizona
  4. Fargo
  5. Shawshank Redemption
  6. Field of Dreams
  7. Bull Durham
  8. Fiddler on the Roof
  9. Patton
  10. Bananas
  11. Fort Apache: The Bronx
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August 9, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Highlights from a few "recent" day trips

Now that school has resumed for many people (way too early, I think) it's a good time for a "what I did on my summer vacation" exercise. And so I present a brief summary of various day trips that Jacqueline and I have taken to various places in the region over the past nine months or so. (There have been no long-distance or overseas trips to report on this year, and the last blog post I did about travel was on October 6, 2017: "Washington weekend in review.") Last weekend, as described in the final section below, we went to the small towns of Brownsburg and Goshen in Rockbridge County, about 25-30 miles south of here. But the following summary will proceed in chronological order, beginning with our trip to Lexington last November. The other big highlights for this year are Charlottesville (March and April) and Washington, D.C. (including Arlington), in May.

This is another case of me trying to get caught up with various website chores lately. Part of what took so much time for this particular task (travel photos) was figuring out a smooth transition to incorporating higher-resolution photos on my Chronological photo gallery page. Since last year I have begun posting higher-resolution photos: 1200 x 800 pixels, rather than 600 x 400 pixels as I had been doing since 2008 or so. (That's when I got my first high-quality digital camera.)

Nov. 26, 2017: Lexington

On the last Sunday last November, Jacqueline and I drove down to the quaint and historic small city of Lexington, our first visit there in at least a decade. Given that it's only about 45 miles away, I'm surprised we don't go there more often. It happened to be Thanksgiving weekend, so the town was devoid of students and thus very quiet. Our first stop was at Grace Episcopal Church, which had been renamed from "Robert E. Lee Memorial Church" in August, just three months before we visited. (See religionnews.com.) After a fine lunch at Macado's Restaurant, we strolled along the streets of downtown Lexington. The brick sidewalks have a number of embedded engraved stones which bear the names of famous alumni of VMI, such as General George S. Patton. We stopped briefly at Stonewall Jackson House, which is near the Red Hen Restaurant, which gained national notoriety last month (July) after President Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was refused service there.

Washington and Lee University

Washington Hall, the center of Washington and Lee University.

Next we explored the Washington and Lee University (WLU) campus, which was one of our primary destinations. Our first stop was Lee Chapel, where Lee's body is interred, and we were very impressed by the history of the building and the institution. Lee customarily sat in the front pew on the left, we learned. The chapel is not used for regular religious services any more, however. Directly across from the chapel, perched along a long slope, is the defining structure of the University, Washington Hall. In back of it is the main quad, surrounded by classic brick buildings of a similar architectural style. But space is limited, as a steep slope further west descends into a wooded ravine, on the other side of which some of the athletic facilities are located. We then passed the James Graham Clyburn Library, which reminded me of Clemons Library at the University of Virginia, since both are relatively modern and built on steep slopes such that the ground level on one side is at least three floors below that of the other side.

Virginia Military Institute 2017

The Stonewall Jackson barracks at Virginia Military Institute. (NOTE: Other photos from Lexington can be seen at the 2017 Chronological photo gallery.)

Immediately to the north of WLU is Virginia Military Institute (WMI), renowned as the "West Point" of the South. There the architectural style is likewise distinctive: tan-colored fortress-like structures with parapets all along the rooftops. It's not just for show, as the cadets of VMI did indeed defend their institution from invading Yankee forces in June 1864, but were soon overcome. VMI buildings were burned by the conquering Union Army. I tried to find out whether the VMI museum and visitor center was open, but there was no one to ask. (We should have inquired at the southern gate where we entered.) I was fascinated by the arrangement of the buildings around the central field where the cadets train, and took lots of photos. This apparently raised suspicion, as we were questioned by security officers, just to make sure. Finally, we drove over to the football stadium to take some more photos, and were soon on our way home. We stopped for a quick libation at Devil's Backbone Brewing, located a few miles north of town, the first time we had been there. Passing through a historical site at Church Hill, a few miles farther to the north along Route 11, we learned that it was the birthplace of Sam Houston, leader of the Texas independence movement. Nearby was the former site of Liberty Hall Academy, which was founded in 1777 and was the origin of Washington College and (eventually) Washington and Lee University. In sum, it was a very enjoyable and educational day for us.

March 23: Highland County

We didn't get out much during the winter months, other than a drive up to the Weyers Cave area on January 23 (when I took a great closeup photo of an American Kestrel), and January 24, when we went to the JMU Arboretum in Harrisonburg. In fact, we missed this year's Highland County Maple Festival, which we try to attend almost every year, but we at least made it to Highland County one week later, on March 23. It was a bright and sunny day, just after one of the big storms we had, and all that white made for some dazzling photos. Unfortunately, there were no craft vendors at all in Monterey, and several of the stores we had hoped to browse were closed that day. So, after buying some bottles of hard cider at the Big Fish Cidery, we drove north toward the town of Blue Grass, crossed into West Virginia for a few miles and then returned to the Old Dominion, stopping at the McDowell Battlefield for a few minutes before proceeding home to Staunton.

Monterey Big Fish Cidery

Monterey's Big Fish Cidery

March 26: Charlottesville

Three days later we drove to Charlottesville to buy tickets for the Don Felder - REO Speedwagon - Styx triple concert on April 4; see my July 19 blog post. Then we went over to nearby Davenport Field (home of the UVA Cavaliers baseball team), where I took some photos of the recently-enlarged grandstand. It was another sunny day, perfect for photos! Then we spent about an hour at the Ivy Creek Nature Area on the north side of town. We used to go hiking along the steep trails there when we lived in Charlottesville in the 1990s. Next we headed downtown to see the controversial Robert E. Lee statue, which had been covered in black for a few months but was uncovered that day. The plastic fences and warning signs around the statue were clear signs that vandalism and/or violence was a real possibility. After more window shopping and sightseeing, we returned home.

Robert E. Lee equestrian statue

The Robert E. Lee equestrian statue in Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park), downtown Charlottesville. Virginia appeals courts have blocked the City Council's attempt to remove that statue and put it elsewhere.

Charlottesville City Hall

Charlottesville City Hall, featuring the likenesses of three presidents who once lived in that area: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.

May 26: Our Nation's Capital

On May 26 we drove up to Northern Virginia to see Jacqueline's brother Roberto, who was visiting the United States for the very first time! Along with her sister Gloria's family, we did some sightseeing in and around Washington. On the Virginia side of the Potomac River, we spent a couple hours at Arlington National Cemetery. It was Memorial Day weekend, and I was afraid that traffic would be intolerable, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected. We saw the Kennedy gravesites (JFK, RFK, & EMK) but were unable to get into the Lee Mansion because of construction activity there. We did quite a bit of walking through sections of the cemetery that I had not previously visited.

John and Jacqueline Kennedy gravesite

John and Jacqueline Kennedy gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.

In Washington, I saw the National Museum of African-American History for the first time since construction on it was completed last year. Then we drove along Constitution Avenue past the Federal Triangle buildings, and took a slight detour so that I could see (and photograph) Capital One Arena, the home of the Washington Capitals hockey team. They had just advanced to the Stanley Cup NHL finals, and a week or so later, they emerged triumphant and the whole city of Washington went nuts in the championship celebration. In the Eastern Market area, we saw the Marine Barracks and had dinner at a Mexican-Salvadoran restaurant called "Las Placitas," and went back home. Finally, we drove past Nationals Park, which was festooned with banners heralding the upcoming MLB All Star Game, and nearby Audi Field, which was then in the final stages of construction. It hosted the inaugural match of the D.C. United soccer team last month.

National Archives building

The National Archives building in Washington. (All photos that day were taken with my iPhone.)

June 10: Manassas battlefield

Two weeks later (June 10), we returned to Northern Virginia and I took my brother-in-law Roberto (and niece Shary) on a visit to the Manassas battlefield. Roberto is fascinated by the American Civil War, but unfortunately the visitor center there had no books in Spanish for sale, merely a one-page typewritten summary of what happened in the two battles that took place there. Nevertheless, Roberto really enjoyed seeing it for himself and imagining the clashing armies. In light of all the recent heated partisan fury over the proper way to remember the Civil War, the battlefield assumed greater significance.

Manassas battlefield cannons

Roberto Jacobs inspects one of the cannons at the Manassas battlefield on June 10. A closeup photo I took of that monument shows the inscription, which must be in honor of Union soldiers from the way it reads:

"In memory of the patriots who fell at Bull Run.
July 21, 1861"

Aug. 4: Brownsburg and Goshen

Finally, last Saturday we drove south and west of Staunton, pausing in Middlebrook and other scenic spots along the way. A mile or so before the town Brownsburg, I was surprised to see a large brick building with a cemetery in back, and learned after stopping that it is the New Providence Presbyterian Church, founded in 1746. The attached three-story building in back is devoted to religious education but is not, as I originally surmised, the site of Brownsburg Academy, which the church built in town during the 1830s. In Brownsburg itself, we took a look at the historic homes and visited the museum which featuring quilts, household items, and artisan products from the 19th Century. The lady there was very friendly.

Brownsburg Museum

Brownsburg Museum.

From Brownsburg we headed west, and I was thinking about finding the location of the set of the 2005 movie War of the Worlds (in which I was cast as an extra!), but the roads were confusing and I decided it was more important to get to the other primary destination, which was the incredibly scenic Goshen Pass. The Maury River cuts through a mountain ridge, and with all the recent rains, the water that day was unusually high. I stopped there during a birding venture last summer, but otherwise we had not been there in almost fifteen years! I convinced Jacqueline that it would be a good picnic spot for the near future, but we were hungry and decided to go straight to the town of Goshen, where we had a nice lunch at a local restaurant. Then we headed northeast, bought some fresh tomatoes and other veggies at a produce stand in the town of Craigsville. (The canteloupe is incredibly tasty!) Finally, we stopped for a few minutes at Augusta Springs, which is one of the renowned birding locations in this area, but not much was happening, so we went home.

Goshen Pass, Maury River

The Maury River passing through the Goshen Pass. (Taken with my iPhone.)

The next day (August 5) we went for a vigorous hike along the Shenandoah Mountain trail, the same place where I had led an Augusta Bird Club field trip on May 26. There weren't many scenic photo ops, but I did take one of all the trees being cut near Braley Pond to make way for the pending Atlantic Coast Pipeline. I posted it on the Chronological (2018) photo gallery, along with many more photos that are available for your enjoyment and/or edification. And now I'm officially up to date with recent travelogues ... another one from three years ago will be posted soon!


July 28, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Five months of music, three more shows

Once again, I am struggling to get caught up with my documenting my varied activities. Obviously, music has consumed a great deal of my time over the past year (or two!), getting in the way of blogging about various topics, such as -- ironically -- music! I try to keep track of which songs I have played in public, so that I don't repeat myself, and this blog is my primary way of doing that. But since I have dithered for so long, I have lost track of things in the five months since my last music blog post on February 28. Whenever I do a music show, I make meticulous plans for what I'm going to play, and make note of any changes or omissions afterwards. But for the informal open mic events in which I participate, it's a hit or miss situation. I often jot down on paper what songs I plan to play, and sometimes I post my mini-set lists on Facebook afterwards. In some cases it was quite a challenge to reconstruct my set lists, and I have made note of those dates on which some uncertainty exists. (The following paragraphs and setlists are in chronological order, with the open mic events interspersed among my own shows.)

At Queen City Brewing on March 28, I attempted some rather challenging songs that I had recently learned, with mixed results. Having missed open mic for three straight weeks, I was a little rusty. I started off with the Beatles' "Penny Lane," which was never really a favorite of mine, but as often happens, I came to appreciate it more through the process of learning how to play it. Aside from all the sound effects, it has some offbeat key changes which were highlighted in a video that I saw (and shared) on Facebook last year. (See it for yourself at culturesonar.com.) The guy who explains that song made a big deal about one particular chord that defines the mood of the song, which he claims is a B minor 7, but I think it's a G major 7! What's more, the host of the open mic events, Fritz Horisk, agrees with me, so that must count for something.

NOTE: The " # " (hash) symbol indicates songs on which I used the harmonica along with the guitar.

At Queen City Brewing (henceforth "QCB") two weeks later (April 11), I began by hailing the onset of baseball season with "Talkin' Baseball," that corny but pleasant paen to Our National Pastime that came out in the early 1980s. I then called attention to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by playing a Neil Young song which is the English translation of Zuckerberg's German name. With empty slots that evening, we had time to do extra songs, and the next four I did were all repeats that I am familiar with. But the final one was a bit of a stretch: "Africa," by the group Toto. I learned it a long time ago, but it has some rather challenging jazzy chord sequences and a unique rhythm. The drums played by percussionist Craig Austin were especially helpful on that song, which actually sounded pretty good.

On April 19 I went to the open mic (a.k.a. "open mike") event at Barrenridge Vineyards for only the second time this year. I felt pretty comfortable doing some rather challenging songs, and I did a live rehearsal of "Wild World" in preparation for my big show on the following night.

Bedlam Brewing #5

April 20 marked my return to Bedlam Brewing after a five-month hiatus; see my December 31 post for a review of my previous show there. I was very happy to see many of my friends there, and it was a nice-sized crowd overall. I started off with some songs that I had learned recently, and with a couple exceptions, I played very cleanly. I was especially proud of having mastered "Wild World" (Cat Stevens), especially the descending-note sequence in each refrain. Among the surprises I unleashed upon the audience were "Aqualung" (Jethro Tull) and "Don't Stand So Close To Me" (Police). I did OK on "Wild Horses," but have since decided that the original key (A minor) is a bit high for my voice, so I have started playing it in G minor instead. I was very happy with how that evening went.

Seq-uenceSong titleGroupHarmonica? (key)
1Wild WorldCat Stevens
2The VoiceMoody BluesG
3Breathe In the AirPink FloydA
4TimePink FloydA
5Day After DayBadfingerBb
6The Old Man Down the RoadJohn Fogerty
7Standing On The RockOzark Mountain DaredevilsC
8I Walk the LineJohnny Cash
9Wicked GameChris IsaacsA
10Found Out About YouGin BlossomsG
11You've Got a FriendJames Taylor
12Carry OnCrosby, Stills, & Nash
13Norwegian WoodBeatles
14Pink HousesJohn Cougar Mellencamp
15Sugar MountainNeil Young
16Witchy WomanEaglesC
17StormyClassics IV
18Mrs. RobinsonSimon & Garfunkle
19AqualungJethro Tull
20Don't Stand So Close To MePolice
21Wild HorsesRolling Stones
22RefugeeTom PettyE
23Into the Great Wide OpenTom PettyG
24Only Want To Be With YouHootie & the Blowfish
25Piano ManBilly JoelC
26Tears In HeavenEric Clapton
27If You Wanna Get To HeavenOzark Mountain DaredevilsF
28Hotel CaliforniaEaglesG

Back at the QCB open mic night on the following Wednesday (April 25), I paid tribute to the the Don Felder / REO Speedwagon / Styx concert that Jacqueline and I saw on April 4. (Felder used to be lead guitarist with the Eagles.) As I noted in my July 19 post, it inspired me to learn a few "new" songs, but I only did one of those this time: "Lady." It was OK, but I should have done better. I closed with John Fogerty's baseball tune "Centerfield," which has some tricky lead parts; at least I did better on it than I had before.

Shenandoah Brewing #2

On April 27, exactly one week after my show at Bedlam, I had my second gig at Shenandoah Brewing in downtown Staunton. Unlike my previous show there (February 17), the weather was fine. My hopes for a big turnout did not pan out, however, as only a modest number of folks showed up. Almost all of the songs were ones I had known for a while, and as always, I strove to avoid repetition. I got off to a pretty good start and was pleased to do well on "Here Comes the Sun" (Beatles) and "The Last Time" (Rolling Stones), but some of the later songs just didn't have the "punch" that they should have. I played for almost a half hour beyond the expected two-hour time slot (8:00 - 10:00), feeling obliged to make up for getting full pay after the previous event in spite of the (weather-induced) low turnout.

Seq-uenceSong titleGroupHarmonica? (key)
1I Won't Back DownTom PettyG
2Stop Draggin' My Heart AroundStevie Nicks & Tom PettyG
3My Favorite MistakeSheryl Crow
4Hotel CaliforniaEaglesG
5Country GirlOzark Mountain DaredevilsG
6The Sound of SilenceSimon & Garfunkle
7Nobody Knows You When You're Down and OutEric ClaptonC
8The TeacherJethro Tull
9You've Got To Hide Your Love AwayBeatlesG
10Here Comes the SunBeatles
11The Last TimeRolling Stones
12MelissaAllman Brothers
13City of New OrleansSteve Goodman
14Proud MaryCreedence Clearwater Revival
15Never Goin' Back AgainFleetwood Mac
16With Or Without YouU 2
17Invisible SunPolice
18Space OddityDavid BowieC
19Tuesday AfternoonMoody BluesG
20Hey YouPink Floyd
21Comfortably NumbPink FloydA
22Dust In The WindKansasG
23Behind Blue EyesThe Who
24Outlaw ManEaglesG
25China GroveDoobie Brothers
26Constant Cravingk.d. langBb
27If You Could Read My MindGordon LightfootD
28Follow You DownGin BlossomsG
29Rhythm of LovePlain White T's
30Jackie BlueOzark Mountain Daredevils
31Bennie and the JetsElton JohnG
32Love Me DoBeatlesC

I don't like to make excuses for not performing well, but it happens that on April 27 I was obliged to accept an assignment on short notice as a substitute teacher, which left very little time or energy for me to practice that day. I was frankly a little rusty on some songs, and in some cases my voice faltered. For anyone who gets paid to play music, such lapses are almost inexcusable. The upshot is that I'm not likely to get another solo gig at Shenandoah Brewing in the near future.

Andrew at Shenandoah Brewing 27 Apr 2018

Yours truly at Shenandoah Brewing, April 27. Many thanks to Sue Buerkel (fellow parishioner at Emmanuel Episcopal Church) for taking photos of me.

More open mic appearances

For some reason, my recollections of QCB open mic nights in May are a bit foggy. I'm almost certain I was at the May 9 event, and I clearly recall "Abraham, Martin, and John" (Dion), about three martyred leaders in the United States: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and John F. Kennedy. I remember when that song came out in 1968, and how they added a fourth verse after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated on June 5 that year -- half a century ago! These are the songs that I probably played:

Likewise, I'm almost certain I was at the May 16 QCB event. I thought "Hold Your Head Up" (Argent) sounded fine, but it just didn't elicit as much crowd response as I had hoped. You never know. These are the songs that I probably played:

On May 23 at QCB, the slate was fairly full, so we only got to do four songs each. As is often the case, I strove for "topical" songs, touching on (respectively) the weather, a new restaurant in Staunton, the end of the school year, and (implicitly) drug abuse. (I am certain about these songs, by the way.) I thought I had learned to play "Mr. Bojangles" (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) many years ago, but only recently did I figure out the right way to play the whole thing. It sounded just great, and School's Out" (Alice Cooper) was OK.

Bedlam Brewing #6

On May 25 I had my sixth show at Bedlam Brewing (hard to believe), nearly one year after my first show there. For some reason, I wasn't at my best for some of the early songs, such the "bird medley" songs I had done for the Augusta Bird Club in December 2016: "Kentucky Woman / Warbler," "Cinnamon Girl / Teal," "American Woman / Wigeon." Gotta practice more. Nevertheless, I got better during the second half of the show. The crowd was appreciative, applauding several times, and one guy sitting at the bar was especially happy with the song selection.

Seq-uenceSong titleGroupHarmonica? (key)
1Take It On the RunREO SpeedwagonG
2LadyStyx
3One of These NightsEaglesG?
4NoahOzark Mountain DaredevilsBb
5Here Comes the SunBeatles
6Summer BreezeSeals & Croft
7All You Need Is LoveBeatlesC
8You Can't Always Get What You WantRolling Stones
9Luckenbach, TexasWaylon Jennings
10Folsom Prison BluesJohnny Cash
11All Along the WatchtowerBob DylanE
12Mr. BojanglesNitty Gritty Dirt Band
13Kentucky Woman (Warbler)Neil Diamond
14Cinnamon Girl (Teal)Neil Young
15American Woman (Wigeon)Guess WhoE
16The ChainFleetwood Mac
17The Story In Your EyesMoody Blues
18Hold Your Head UpArgent
19DanielElton JohnC
20I'm Not In Love10 CC
21Hey YouPink Floyd
22Year of the CatAl StewartG
23Baker StreetGerry RaffertyC
24China GroveDoobie Brothers
25Barely BreathingDuncan Sheikh
26Mary Jane's Last DanceTom PettyG
27Hey JudeBeatles

Recent open mic appearances

Back at Queen City Brewing on May 30 I did one of my occasional "curve balls," songs that you just wouldn't expect to be played by a solo acoustic guitarist: "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet," by BTO. I had only recently learned it, and was surprised how authentic it sounded simply by using the capo on the third fret. I also alluded to the raging controversy over racist comments by comedian Roseanne Barr by playing the Toto song "Rosanna."

On June 13, I started with a reference to the (very wet) weather once again, with the second song coming next in my repertoire's alphabetical order. I closed with one of my very favorite songs, "Hey Jude," which I had hoped to play two weeks earlier, but the schedule was filled up. It sounded good, and I made sure to shorten the extended second half of the song ("Na, na-na, na-na-na-nah...") to just a few repetitions, and Fritz appreciated that. smile

On June 20, I was a little flat on the first couple songs but then got better. As I recall, I played the theme from M*A*S*H and "Iris," a song by the 1990s group Goo Goo Dolls. That's a decade that often gets overlooked by rock music aficionados.

I was raring to go on June 27, doing just fine on three "new" songs as well as one ("Harvest Moon") on which I had muffed the harmonica part the first time I played it at QCB. This time it sounded just great. On the first song, "The World I Know," I called attention to the fact that it has virtually identical chords to "Iris," the final song I had played the week before. Imitation? The final song, "Locomotive Breath" was another of my surprise tunes, and it went pretty well in spite of the fact that I had just learned it. I've gotten even better on it lately.

There was no open mic night on the Fourth of July, because of the big event taking place at the park nearby; see below. At the next QCB open mic night (July 11), I gave Fritz a CD full of photos I had taken of him on July 4, and played yet another challenging Beatles tune. Fritz was impressed.

Unfortunately, on "Long Road Out of Eden," I forgot to use the harmonica, which serves for me as the lead guitar part. I missed the following two open mic nights at Queen City Brewing (July 18 and 25), so I really need to get back there soon!

Happy Birthday, America!

For the second year in a row, the City of Staunton put on a big "Happy Birthday, America" celebratory event in Gypsy Hill Park. They always have a big fair in that park on July 4, but last year they brought back one of the old traditions from the days when the Statler Brothers ruled the musical universe in this area. Headlining the event was the country music duo Wilson Fairchild, consisting of the sons of two of the "Statler Brothers": Wil Reid and Langdon Reid, the respective sons of Harold Reid and Don Reid. (Statler is just a stage name.) One of the featured musicians that afternoon was none other than Queen City Brewing open mic host Fritz Horisk, and I was glad to oblige his request for me to take photos of him performing. Fritz played an amazing set of songs from every genre, paying tribute to various states such as John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads," as well as his own very nice composition "I Love America." Before Fritz got started, I saw a group called Prime playing classic rock tunes, including "China Grove" (Doobie Brothers). They were very good as well.

Fritz Horisk, guitar - 4 July 2018

Fritz Horisk at the Happy Birthday, America 2018 event; roll your mouse over the image to see a closeup of The Master in action.

Whew! I am now officially caught up on blogging about music.


July 19, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Triple concert: Felder / REO Speedwagon / Styx!

It may be over three months late, but here goes. Way back on Wednesday, April 4, Jacqueline and I drove to Charlottesville to see a concert featuring three separate acts: Don Felder (former lead guitarist with the Eagles), REO Speedwagon, and Styx. I had seen Felder once before, with the Eagles in 1980 or so, but I had never seen the other two groups before. I like all three of the featured performers, so for me this was a wonderful opportunity. (Jacqueline enjoyed it as well, but she wasn't quite as passionate about it.)

The last rock concert we attended was in the same venue about a year earlier: Stevie Nicks, in March 25, 2017. (Likewise, there was a big time lag between the event and the blog post.) This time we had much better seats, in the lower level. Tickets were reasonably priced (ours were in the $60 range), reflecting the modest demand for second tier classic rock groups. Most of the fans in attendance were at least our age, though there were some youngsters as well. The upper deck was curtained off because of the empty seats. I would say there about 5,000 people in attendance.

John Paul Jones Arena int pan

Interior panorama of John Paul Jones Arena before the show began; click on the image to see it full size.

Act I: Don Felder

Right on time at 7:00 Don Felder came onto the stage, and [he quickly] lit into "Already Gone," one of the Eagles' first big hits. His lead guitar playing made that song something really special; it was from their third album, On the Border. Felder joined the group during the recording sessions, and he had a big impact on the group's style in subsequent years. Unfortunately, he was never given the chance to share in the credits, and that's one of the main reasons for the group's breakup in 1980, and for his exclusion from the band after their "Hell Freezes Over" reunion tour of the mid-1990s. It's a real shame that those guys couldn't work out their differences. For example, there is a dispute over who really wrote "Hotel California," the music of which he claims was almost entirely his. That was, of course, the finale of the evening; his nine-song set lasted a little under one hour. I was unaware that he wrote the theme song for the movie Heavy Metal, which he also played. Felder is a great guitarist and not a bad singer, even though he hardly ever sang lead parts on Eagles songs. Since the Eagles are probably my favorite group, I was just delighted with that part of the concert. Big smiles!

As befitting a rock star, Felder's attire reminded me of the line in Tom Petty's song "Into the Great Wide Open": "His leather jacket had chains that would jingle." His official website (donfelder.com) currently displays a link to a story in Guitar World that "Hotel California" was chosen as the all-time number one 12-string guitar song, in their list of 30 such songs. As usual, I took notes of the song titles as they were played, and for this part of the concert at least I didn't need any help in identifying them:

  1. Already Gone
  2. One of These Nights
  3. Heavy Metal
  4. Seven Bridges Road
  5. Witchy Woman
  6. The Long Run
  7. Heartache Tonight
  8. Life In the Fast Lane
  9. Hotel California
Don Felder

Don Felder shakes hands with fans at the end of his show. (Roll your mouse over to see a closeup of him playing.)

Act II: REO Speedwagon

After a short break, REO Speedwagon took the stage, with front man Kevin Cronin clearly in charge. He is a diminuitive fellow, and wore odd glasses, kind of like Elton John. I only had a vague idea of the complicated history of that group, and Cronin's role in it. I clearly remember their first big hit "Ridin' the Storm Out" from my college days, but that was recorded while Cronin was out of the band. He joined in early 1972, left in 1973, and then rejoined for good in 1976. He plays guitars, sings, and does some keyboard work. Among the other band members, keyboardist Neal Doughty is the only one of the original members (1967) who has stayed with the group all the way through. Bruce Hall has been the bassist since 1977, and Dave Amato has been lead guitarist since 1989. He replaced Gary Richrath, a major creative force who joined in 1970. (He died in 2015.) Bryan Hitt became the drummer in 1989, at the same time as Amato. The group had its origins in the suburbs of Chicago. For more info about albums, tour dates, etc., see the group's website: reospeedwagon.com

It was in the late 1970s and early 1980s that REO Speedwagon reached its peak of success. It always seemed to me that their songs from that period had more of a pop music appeal, not as much hard rock as before. For a while during the latter years of the classic rock era, they were a veritable hit machine.

So, I had high expectations, and for the most part the group met and surpassed them. I wasn't familiar with some of the songs, but that's OK. They were tight, well-rehearsed and enthusiastic about playing some great old tunes. You can't ask for more from a bunch of guys in their 50s and 60s!

  1. Don't Let Him Go
  2. ( In Your Letter ) **
  3. Keep Pushin'
  4. I Can't Fight This Feeling
  5. Tough Guys
  6. Whipping Boy
  7. ( That Ain't Love ) **
  8. Take It On the Run
  9. Time For Me to Fly
  10. Back On the Road Again
  11. Ridin' the Storm Out
  12. Keep On Loving You
  13. Roll With the Changes
  14. Listen to Your Heart (Tom Petty cover)

** Song title from setlist.fm.

I noticed that several of the REO songs had alternate guitar tunings, such as "Time For Me to Fly." That inspired me to learn a few new songs by them, in addition to "Take It On the Run" and "Ridin' the Storm Out," which I already knew. (I've played them both in public.)

REO Speedwagon

REO Speedwagon: In front is Kevin Cronin (wearing platform-sole shoes), bassist Bruce Hall, drummer Bryan Hitt, and keyboardist Neal Doughty. Another member, lead guitarist Dave Amato, is apparently off to the right, but it's hard to tell. Taking good photos with the harsh glare of concert lights is very difficult.

Act III: Styx

The final and perhaps leading act of the evening was Styx, named after the Greek mythological river that marks the border of Hades, the realm of the afterlife. Although I was not familiar with the three songs they played from their new album (The Mission, about a space adventure), I enjoyed them all. "Blue Collar Man" and "Lady" really fired up the crowd.

Like REO Speedwagon, Styx has its origins in the state of Illinois, and likewise the group has endured more than its share of personnel changes over the years. They rose to rock stardom at roughly the same time as the other group, but their appeal was perhaps a little narrower due to what might be called their special artistic vision. Styx was a prime example of progressive rock, following in the footsteps of Yes and Pink Floyd. Kansas (one of my favorite groups) bears some stylistic similarities to Styx, except that Styx was always more self-consciously theatrical. The "missing person" was Dennis DeYoung, the singer and keyboardist who wrote or co-wrote most of the group's hits. He was with the group from 1970 until 1984 and then for two separate periods in the 1990s; he left for good in 1999. (As with REO Speedwagon, the personnel history is based on the CDs I have as well as wikipedia.org and the group's own website: styxworld.com.)

  1. Gone Gone Gone #
  2. Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
  3. The Grand Illusion
  4. Lady
  5. ( Light Up ) **
  6. Radio Silence #
  7. Miss America
  8. Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)
  9. Too Much Time On My Hands
  10. Khedive #
  11. Bohemian Rhapsody (part; Queen cover)
  12. Come Sail Away

  13. Rockin' the Paradise
  14. Renegade

** Song title from setlist.fm.
The three songs marked with hashtags (#) are from the new Styx album, The Mission (2017). The song "Light Up" (which I could not identify that night) was from their album Equinox (1975), which also featured "Lorelei," which I do remember.

As with REO Speedwagon, I was inspired by the concert to learn some of Styx's songs, but most of them are just not suited for a solo guitarist like me. I did learn "Come Sail Away" and "Lady," and managed to do a fair job on the latter in public once or twice. I learned "Fooling Yourself" many years ago, but have not yet played it in public.

So all in all, it was a fantastic concert experience, and one of the best music values (dollar-wise) that I have ever had. As classic rock groups age and start to retire, the opportunities to see some of them are dwindling. I would highly recommend seeing any of these performers, either alone or in a paired set (or triple set), as the case may be. Don't miss them!

Styx

Styx, with Tommy Shaw in front on the guitar and vocals, James Young (also guitar) behind him, Todd Sucherman on the drums, Ricky Phillips on top with the bass, and Lawrence Gowan (in red) on the keyboard. (Roll your mouse over to see a the stage being prepared for the show, in better light.)





Major world languages

Language 2002
(mn)
2010
(mn)
Chinese * 874 # 1,213
Spanish * 322 329
English * 341 328
Arabic ? 221
Hindi 366 # 182
Bengali 207 181
Portuguese 176 178
Russian * 167 144
Japanese 125 122
German 100 90

# : 2004 data for Chinese pertained only to Mandarin speakers, whereas data for Hindi speakers were defined more broadly.
Asterisks (*) denote the official languages of the United Nations, which also includes French (68 million speakers).

SOURCE: The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 & 2012

I speak Spanish, some Portuguese, and have dabbled in German, French, Italian, Russian, Catalan, and Quechua.


Major world religions

Religion 2002
(mn)
2010
(mn)
Christians 2,038 2,281
Muslims 1,226 1,553
Hindus 828 943
Chinese folk 389 454
Buddhists 364 463
Sikhs 24 24
Jews 14 15
Local, other 32 379
Non-religious 925 798

The obvious discontinuities in the last two lines of data are of uncertain origin.

SOURCE: The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 & 2012

I belong to the Episcopal Church and am annoyed at the recent polarization. According to a Theology quiz, I scored as a "Classical Liberal."


Ten Commandments

  1. Worship ONE God only
  2. No graven images
  3. No taking God's name in vain
  4. Keep Sabbath day holy
  5. Honor parents
  6. No stealing
  7. No murder
  8. No adultery
  9. No bearing false witness
  10. No coveting what others have

Seven deadly sins

  1. Pride
  2. Covetousness
  3. Lust
  4. Anger
  5. Gluttony
  6. Envy
  7. Sloth

Proverbs 6: 16-19

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies,
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Romans 12: 17, 21

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.

Niebuhr's
Serenity Prayer

Reinhold Niebuhr was a leading theologian of the mid-20th Century, and often wrote about foreign policy from a "Christian realist" perspective. From wikipedia.org:

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

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