The weekend in review.

Mar 17, 2016

Lyssa and I spent a good portion of Saturday sitting around relaxing. Lyssa had preordered the first season boxed set of Beauty and the Beast and we watched the first disc on Saturday afternoon while I wrote and hacked for a while on a project I've been working on. Later in the afternoon we headed out to get sushi for dinner at Konami in northern Virginia, and then set forth for Jarin's apartment for his Chinese New Year party, which almost didn't happen. One of Jarin's upstairs neighbors had had a fire earlier in the weekend, and not only had they shut the power off at one point but the water sprayed by the VFD to douse the fire had seeped through the floor and ventilation ducts and done quite a bit of visible damage to the paint and plaster. Jarin almost cancelled the party because he wasn't sure if the power would be turned back on, but by the time we'd left to get dinner everything was proceeding as expected. Lyssa and I hit the supermarket on our way over to pick up some munchies for the party and then proceeded to remember must but not all of the way to get there...

Oops. Yes, we got lost, but thankfully Jarin was able to talk us in. We parked on a side road that was still mostly covered with ice, though the travel paths themselves had been worn down by what traffic there had been that week.

Note that there was still ice; this will be important later.

The party consisted of Lyssa and myself, Jarin, Kash, and Duo hanging out and relaxing. We nibbled. We made strange ranch dressing flavoured popcorn. We watched a couple of episodes of Scrubs and then Bleach and Trinity Blood, stored in the Tivo. When I discovered that the manga Death Note had been made into a series and the fansubbers had gotten hold of it, I immediately started searching, and pulled down the first two fansubbed episodes.

It's actually not bad... the animation quality is impressive, and it's a bit more focused on the shock-horror aspect than the manga is (which tends to psychological horror). Unfortunately, because it's been licensed by ADV it'll probably become harder to find the fansubs in the near future.

Trying to leave Jarin's to go home and sleep swiftly turned into a comedy of errors as I tried to get my car back onto the road?

Remember that ice storm that's been making me cranky all week? The DC area was completely unprepared for it. In Pittsburgh, they would have deployed salt trucks dumping a mixture of rock salt and cinders on the roads and prepped the plows for a quick head-out. Not so in our nation's capital. They just let it happen, waited a day or two before salting, and a small number of counties actually sent out plows. When they did plow, they forced everything into the rightmost driving lane, or whatever passed for it, which effectively narrowed the roads.

They also did this in many parking lots by filing up entire parking spaces with snow and salt, and when they couldn't do that, they just pushed everything forward to compact it, which shortened the remaining parking spaces by two to three feet in places.

Anyway, when I'd parked I'd done two things: One, something in the front undercarrage of the TARDIS caught on the ice and popped loose. It's part of the body, and a cosmetic part of the front end that only mechanics and armed people would get to see, but it drags on the ground and makes loud grinding noises, which also implies that it's being damaged. Secondly, I'd gotten stuck in the ice (again!), but this time I couldn't get out. Traction was so nonexistent that coasting backwards down the hill (did I mention that we parked on a hill? no? oops.) barely moved the car. We had to call Jarin & co. to help push us out. Thankfully, two of his neighbors were passing by and were nice enough to bring us a box of kitty litter to grit the salt with for traction.

Even then, it took five people to push the TARDIS free of the ice. How embarrassing.

The very next day I bought kitty litter on our weekly grocery run. The very next day the temperature plunged again and it started snowing while I was at the store (both times!). Many bad words were said.

Laurelinde came over for dinner last night, though, which did much to help my spirits. We don't get to see her very often, and she's good people (as Rialian would say), so we had an interesting evening. We talked about some of the stuff that's been going on lately, and discussed a couple of the books that I'd gotten for my birthday, and then retired to the kitchen to put dinner together. This necessitated a second trip to the store to replace a couple of things (dammit) but we got things back on track in relatively short order. Lyssa and I got changed and then we set forth for southeast DC to hit Club Lime to catch the Cruxshadows concert that we spent so long trying to track down tickets for.

Club Lime isn't actually in that bad a part of DC, much to our surprise. It's not too far away from where Chiar Ouscuro used to be held, near the Naval Shipyards. More's the point, there is real industrial parking there, so you don't have to pay the crackheads to watch your wheels while you're inside. The three of us found it without too much trouble (just one turn-around) and arrived early. Early enough that we found parking within sprinting distance of the front door, which came in very handy due to the rapid fall in temperature earlier that day.

Picture forth goths packed into the stairwell of a nightclub, huddled together for warmth because standing outside would mean death by hypothermia. We got friendly in that stairwell, after fighting for positions as far away as humanly possible from the door that let in the deathly cold air. Unfortunately, most of us retain body heat about as well as the inside of a lab refrigerator, so the jockeying for position was as much to generate body heat as it was to get as many bodies as possible between us and the outside. Also picture all of us looking on with envy at the club's staff members who cut through the line and went upstairs, away from the biting cold time and again. Shortly after they let us into the club, Rialian and Helen rolled in to join in the festivities.

We had a good forty minute wait until the first band took the stage, Angel Spit from the continent of Australia took the stage. They're a studio band, which is the best way of saying that they had a mini-rack of equipment, a guy with a dreadhawk (a mohawk composed of dreadlocks) who looked like an extra from the movie Hellraiser and a lady who could probably posed for a Neuromancer photo shoot without too much trouble. Two mikes, one keyboard, a sequencer, a sampler, what appeared to be an embedded computer (and not the Macbooks that are de rigeur with stage performaces these days, and a theremin, of all things. "Okay," I thought to myself, "let's see how they do."

If you like industrial, almost pure noise, they'll probably be right up your alley. If you don't, then stay away from them because you'd probably die of a brain haemorrhage.

I can't really say anything about their music because their equipment, in short, just wasn't working. Their microphones were dead, the theremin wasn't working, and the rest of their sound was distorted and garbled, and not in the good power noise kind of way.

Their gear betrayed them.

Still, they had a sense of humour about the whole thing. The frontman of the pair (oddly enough, their names aren't on their website) joked around about the whole affair and was rather personable about it while they frantically tried to knock their gear into working again. They handled the technical difficulties much better than a lot of bands would, I think. I have to give them props for not only doing their best but for not letting it get the better of them. The crowd even took it in stride, which doesn't often happen.

Next up: Ayria. One extremely energetic blonde woman (one Jennifer Parkin) with hairfalls and vinyl, and one console jock with a does-it-all-and-even-makes-espresso synthesiser who looks like my friend Mark and dresses like Vin Diesel in PItch Black (Shaun Frandsen). I'm not saying this to denigrate either of them, I'm just telling it like it is; without photographs I have to describe them, though without any sleep I can only point out examples and let all of you come up with your own mental images.

I greatly enjoyed their show and their music. They play the bouncy, operatic, riff-laden techno that I loved so much back in high school that originally got met into the scene. Parkin has an excellent vocal range, and managed to make it all work with hard, crunchy, make your dinner quiver in your belly beats. I especially liked how Frandsen got out from behind the keyboard and got into the act; not a lot of console jocks will do that. It was also plain to see that they were having the times of their lives up on stage, and it carried over into their music. I'm definitely going to pick up their CDs.

Last, and certainly not least was the headline act, the Cruxshadows. You know a show is going to be good when the DJ plays Insoc and Fiction 8 to warm the crowd up, and neither group seems to get much club play in DC. When the Cruxshadows took the stage, the entire club went silent for about a minute, before they started their performance.

There's something that's been nagging me for a while: Rogue of the Cruxshadows looks and sounds like Kurt Harland (of Insoc) did about fifteen years ago. There is such an eerie resemblence, a couple of times I was waiting for Rogue to start singing Think or Walking Away, in fact.

The Cruxshadows have a slightly new lineup: In addition to Rogue on point, Rachel McDonnell playing the violin (a new variant of one, actually - there is a bridge and strings, and a plastic framework in the shape of one third of a traditional violin; I can't comment on the sound quality due to the shakiness of the speakers at the Lime), and George Bikos playing the guitar, Jennifer Jawidzik was on the keyboards and there were two backup singers/dancers flanking the stage (Jessica Lackey and Sarah Poulos).

My short description of the Cruxshadows is this: They Get It.

A longer description which actually makes sense to the other 99.997% of the people out there is that they perform new-school goth music with an old-school sense of meaning and style. Their lyrics are introspective and depressing about half of the time (I think they have to be, or the Goth Union would revoke their membership), but they're hopeful and often rallying at a personal level the other half of the time. Their lyrics, by and large, aren't fluff; they've got something to say and they say it in such a way that you can't help but sit up and take notice. On this, I highly recommend listening to the song Sophia, or at the very least read the lyrics and think about them a little.

The Cruxshadows are unusually friendly and approachable. They don't buffer themselves from their fans, either - Rogue came down from the stage and walked around in the crowd, singing through a wireless headset the whole time. At one point he pulled a Hunter S. Thompson and tried standing on a barstool in the middle of the dancefloor during a song; unfortunately; the end result was almost the same as herr Tompson's, namely, the barstool collapsed and he took a header. Thankfully he was all right, and was able to continue. They're also not afraid to touch people, either, as Lyssa and I discovered when Rogue walked along the front of the stage shaking everyone's hands, or afterward, as I'll get to in a moment.

Most of the songs they played were off of their new album, Dreamcypher, such as the aforementioned Sophia, Pygmalian's Dream, and Ariadne. They also played some of their earlier songs in the second half of the set, like Cruelty. I was very surprised to hear them play their track off of the tribute CD Where's Neil When You Need Him?, Wake the White Queen (inspired by the movie Mirrormask), complete with ornate Victorian-style masks. Just before the end of the concert, Rogue spoke for a couple of minutes to the audience, detailed everything that'd gone on during the course of the Dreamcypher tour, such as driving through a blizzard in the dead of night in Norway and headlining a heavy metal festival in Germany when neither the organisers nor the fans knew that they weren't metal...

Talk about a show you wish you'd been there for, eh?

At the very end of the concert when they did their finale, they decided to jam on stage with every band that was there that night: Ego Likeness, Angel Spit, and Ayria to perform Marilyn, My Bitterness. Most of the musicians were looking sideways at one another because no one really knew how to play it, but play it they did, and quite well, let me tell you. So well that the crowd started singing, and the band started letting everyone on stage to dance.

Somehow, and I'm not entirely certain of how this happened, I wound up on stage in the very front dancing for the second half of the song.

By the time the concert was over, the logistical problem of getting everyone off of the stage safely arose. Those of us nearest the edge helped everyone else down and away from the coils of boa cable that would have done unkind things to stiletto heels and mispositioned six inch platform boots.

The five of us parted ways, and Laurelinde, Lyssa, and I headed back to the TARDIS to figure out how to get ourselves back home. If nothing else about DC, at 0300 EST/EDT on a Sunday morning, both streets and highways are all but deserted. Tumbleweeds. No matter how lost you get, you don't have to fight traffic to turn around, which isn't a bad thing, given the area.