Guns N Roses Concert


Last night, September 26, 2021, I saw Guns N Roses at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. This will be my review of the show. Please keep in mind, I went with my Aunt and we left before the encore, which, unfortunately, was Paradise City. But we did see and hear everything else. The reason we left early was to beat the crowd to the parking garage.

The show started at 7pm and I arrived around 6:30ish. Guns N Roses had an opening band called Mammoth WVH. The WVH stands for Wolfgang Van Halen, son of legendary guitar player Eddie Van Halen of the band, well, Van Halen. Unfortunately, Mammoth is their own entity and did not play any Van Halen songs. I feel I am saying “Van Halen” too much in this segment…

After Mammoth WVH finished up a half hour later, it was time for the main event: the one and only Guns N Roses. And before you complain that, “It’s not GNR without Slash”…I got some news. Not only is Slash playing with Axl Rose, but it is the majority of the original lineup. The only absence was Izzy Stradlin and their original drummer, Steven Adler. But the rest of the lineup, including Axl Rose, Slash, Dizzy Reed and Duff McKagan are all original members.

If you know anything about Axl Rose, you know he is known to go off on tirades and come on late. Not just a few minutes, either. We’re talking hours late! So imagine the crowd’s amazement when Guns N Roses, including Axl, took the stage at 8pm on the dot! Oh my God! Axl is on time! It’s a miracle! Let’s all join hands and sing Kumbaya!

Anyway, enough of my own little tirade. At 8pm, Guns N Roses came onstage. They opened the show with It’s So Easy, followed by Mister Brownstone and Chinese Democracy. From there, they launched into a cover of Slither by Velvet Revolver. Although is it a cover if someone in that band plays it? Hmm…Double Talkin’ Jive was next and Slash even did a Duck Walk during this one.

After that came the famous song Welcome to the Jungle. Axl introduced the song, as always, by screaming, “Baltimore…DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE FUCK YOU ARE?! YOU IN THE JUNGLE! YOU’RE GONNA DIE!” I will say, with Axl, he used to be skinny, attractive, and kinda dangerous with his antics. Nowadays, Axl is a little heavy and not as attractive or dangerous. Although I will say, based on footage I have seen in the past, he does look like he lost some weight. Having said that, Axl still tries to act sexy by doing his famous Snake Dance.

Better and Estranged were next, but I do not really know those songs, so I was kinda “ok. Cool.” about them. After those two came Live and Let Die, a cover of a song by Paul McCartney. I love this cover! It is a great cover paying homage to a rock legend and it sounds a little edgier.

After Live and Let Die came You’re Crazy, Rocket Queen, Shadow of Your Love and You Could Be Mine. After that, Duff took lead vocals for a great cover of I Wanna Be Your Dog by Iggy and the Stooges. Duff McKagan is the bass/guitar player of GNR. It was cool hearing one hard rock band cover another arguably heavier and edgier hard rock band.

Absurd was the next song, but, again I do not know that song so I cannot say much about it. After that was something pretty cool, though. The band played Old Skool live for the first time EVER! I am not all familiar with this song, either, but recorded it because it was the first time Guns N Roses ever played it live. So that was cool!

Civil War was next on the setlist. This is from the Use Your Illusion II album. This was neat to hear live. But after that came, for me, the highlight of the show. Axl introduced the band and, naturally, Slash got a standing ovation and a 15 minute solo. After that solo was, as I said, the highlight: Sweet Child O Mine. The audience was INCREDIBLY loud on this! You couldn’t even hear Axl over the audience! It is that popular a song!

After Sweet Child O Mine came the insanely popular November Rain with Axl on piano. Again, this was a song where the audience was insanely loud, even though this is a more mellow song.

After November Rain came probably the weirdest song. An acoustic cover of Wichita County Lineman, which is basically a country song. What the Hell? Oh well…at least it gave me time to sit down for a few minutes.

Patience was next. In case you can’t tell, they saved the majority of their most popular songs for last. Again, the crowd was loud on this one. This was a great song live with the audience singing! After Patience came Sorry, which was a debut on this tour. Meaning they have not played it on this tour up until last night.

Following Sorry came Knocking On Heaven’s Door. This was great! A little drawn out but a great song nonetheless. Axl let the audience take over at the chorus at one point. We left right after that. Nightrain would have been next, followed by Paradise City as the encore, but again, we did not hear those.

So all in all, GNR was a good show! I am glad I had the chance to see the original lineup. Axl has always been kind of a fascination of mine with all his antics. He was a lot tamer last night, but oh well. The one thing I cannot wrap my head around was the merchandise. They had merch for sale, of course. I bought a tour poster for $10. And that was actually cheap. For God’s sake, they wanted a whopping $50 for a shirt! That’s insane! And people were lining up to buy them! Don’t get me wrong. It was a cool design, but $50?! That should be illegal! Hell, the beer was cheaper than the poster! The beer was $5 at the bar, which is actually really cheap for a venue beer.

So that is my take on my experience with Guns N Roses at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. Thanks for reading!

-Tom

Trifecta Food Truck Festival Review

Yesterday, September 25, 2021, I attended the Trifecta Food Truck Festival in Timonium, Maryland. Obviously there were food vendors there, but the highlight for sure was the music. They had two stages set up, one on either end of the Infield. The stages were “sponsored” if that is the right word, by 98Rock and 100.7 The Bay, two local radio stations. I spent all of my time, except for one band at the 98Rock stage, at The Bay stage.

The festival started at noon, but the real festivities started at 12:30. That’s when the music started. Kicking off the music was The Gathering Gloom, a CURE tribute band. And actually, all the band on 100.7’s stage were tribute bands.

I am not a huge CURE fan, so my Aunt, her friend and I walked around and got lunch. We ate at Charles Village Pub’s truck and we waited for what seemed like awhile for the food. But it was good food, so that made up for it. Also while we were walking around, I rode a mechanical bull, took a photo with the Oriole Bird, and probably my favorite thing…AX THROWING! It was not free to do this, but I will say I think it was fairly priced. It was $10 for 15 throws. So I decided it was worth it…until all but 2 of the axes missed the target and bounced off. Oh well. At least my arms got a well-needed workout.

After eating, bull riding, and ax throwing, we went back to The Bay stage for Bastards of Reality, the Black Sabbath tribute band. I stayed for about half their set then walked over to the 98Rock stage for a band more my “style”. See, I am a 90s guy. I was born in 1990 and grew up with 90s music as well as Classic Rock. And actually, it’s funny because music I grew up with in the 1990s are sort of becoming classics in and of themselves. 100.7, a Classic Rock station here in Baltimore, has recently started playing music like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Foo Fighters, and Nirvana.

Anyway, back to Trifecta. Here’s To the Night is a band that plays all 1990s music, and since I am old enough to remember when most of those songs came out, I decided I’d bite the bullet, relive my youth, and make myself feel old. Let me tell you, Here’s To the Night did NOT disappoint! They played so many songs I loved growing up and still love to this day! Some songs included Hey Jealousy by Gin Blossoms, My Own Worst Enemy by Lit, I Want It That Way by Backstreet Boys, and All Star by Smash Mouth. It was amazing!

After Here’s To the Night, I headed over to the Kooper’s Burgers food truck. I miss Kooper’s here in Baldwin. They had great music on weekends! Then they closed due to Covid, reopened, only to close again for good. I got a burger and truffle fries, which are fries seasoned with oil, garlic and Parmesan Cheese. This is sadly the one thing I was disappointed with. Usually Kooper’s has great food! But this time the burger was dry, the fries were lukewarm, and they didn’t have any beer. And with a name like Kooper’s Tavern, you’d think beer would be a given. Shame…

After waiting way too long for my food, I headed back over to the 100.7 stage for Petty Coat Junction, a Tom Petty tribute band fronted, funnily enough, by Kirk McEwen of 98Rock. Kirk and the rest of Petty Coat Junction did the late, great Tom Petty awesome and then some! Although the guitar player looks more like Tom Petty than Kirk does. But Kirk doesn’t try to be Tom Petty. He just rocks out to the music and does it well!

I will say the one thing that was sort of a pain in the butt was security. They kept telling people, myself included, to step away from the barricade dividing the bands and the audience. Um…WHAT?! Ok, look. I realize security has a job to do, protecting the bands and audience alike, but if you are merely standing there, legally, on the opposite side of the barricade, why stop them? All we were doing was standing there, singing and filming. Damn security!

After Petty Coat Junction, Kashmir took the stage. Kashmir is a Led Zeppelin tribute band. They were good, but I think I prefer Get the Led Out to these guys. Sorry, Kashmir… The lead singer looked like Robert Plant. He sounded mostly like Plant. So why am I saying they were merely “good” and not great? Part of me thinks they were trying too hard. Let me give you an example. Over the Hills and Far Away is a more mellow song by Led Zeppelin, at least the first part is. Kashmir turned it into a full-out electric guitar rock song. Uh….ok….. That is just me being nit-picky though.

After Kashmir came my two favorite tribute bands…Almost Queen and Several Species. Almost Queen are a Queen tribute band. Go figure… Now THIS, my friends, is how you pay tribute to a great band! Joseph Russo embodies Freddie Mercury flawlessly! All of Joey just screams “Freddie”! He’s got the look, he’s got the enthusiasm, he’s got the mannerisms, he knows how to work a crowd…what’s not to love?!

Almost Queen were a little late going on, so they had to cut their set kinda short. Same for Several Species. But having said that, they still put on a Hell of a show! The band, especially Joey, had the audience eating out of the palm of their hands! Of course, the highlight was Bohemian Rhapsody. I mean, it’s inevitable whenever that song comes on, you have to sing along!

After Almost Queen came the closing band and my favorite local band…SEVERAL SPECIES! I have been an avid fan of this band since the early 2000’s and they never cease to amaze! Their original singer, Marc Davis, left a few years ago for personal reasons then their current lead singer, Tim Morrison, took over. Tim is a great guy! Super nice and down-to-Earth. When Tim first started singing with the band, I was unsure how he would fit in. He seemed kind of nervous. But being your first time with a well-respected band with a rabid following in Baltimore, who wouldn’t be? Now Tim is very well adapted to the band and Baltimore in general. Oh, and did I mention the original bass player, Bob, is back in the band? Bob left a few years before Marc did. Dave DeMarco took over for years, but now Bob is back and kicking ass! Like Almost Queen, Several Species had to cut their set short due to an 11:00pm curfew. I got their setlist after the show, and there were a few songs on there they didn’t have time for, namely Wish You Were Here. However, the songs they did play were incredible! My favorites were Pigs (Three Different Ones) and the last song they played, Comfortably Numb. During Pigs, they had a giant inflatable pig named Arnold.

So all in all, it was a great day and night! I enjoyed Trifecta and cannot wait to see some of the bands again in the future!

-Tom

Burtonverse Theory

So there is a theory about Tim Burton and all his movies. Well, let me rephrase that. There is a theory about Tim Burton and all his original movies. Most notably Corpse Bride and Nightmare Before Christmas, my favorite film. The theory is that all the films are interconnected, a theory known as The Burtonverse Theory. Today I am going to explain my personal take on this and why (spoiler alert!) I think it is bull.

There are multiple theories out there about Disney films and how they are connected as well. The same goes for Quentin Tarantino films, except Tarantino basically confirmed his personal “verse” theory. An example of this is in Pulp Fiction, the characters go see Kill Bill. A confirmed Disney theory is the Merchant in the beginning of Aladdin and the Genie are actually one and the same entity.

But back to the Burtonverse. The theory alleges that Victor from Frankenweenie, Victor from Corpse Bride, and Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas are all the same, just aging. Likewise, Victor in Frankenweenie and Victor in Corpse Bride also have dogs. Sparky in Frankenweenie was going to be experimented on by Victor. Victor’s mom put Sparky up for adoption to save the dog, and he was ultimately taken back by a now-older Victor in Corpse Bride. If you have ever seen Corpse Bride, you know that Sparky (now named Scraps) dies and is resurrected in the afterlife as a skeleton dog. Now flash forward years later. Victor dies and becomes Jack Skellington. Jack’s dog, Zero, is Scraps (aka Sparky) is the decomposed ghost of said dog.

Confused yet? Good. Me too. In my opinion, this fan theory is complete bogus. Why do I think this? Because Jack appears in other Henry Selik and Tim Burton films such as James and The Giant Peach and Coraline. In James and The Giant Peach, Jack makes a cameo as a dead pirate. And if this theory did have any merit, how do you explain Jack’s cameo in Beetlejuice years before Nightmare came out? I think Tim Burton and Henry Selik are merely paying homage to possibly the best movie either of them have ever created.

I can neither confirm nor deny the Burtonverse theory. I do think it is an interesting idea, but I do not personally buy into it. What do you think? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading! Oh, and to help further explain the Burtonverse theory, I have attached a link below. I suggest you check it out for yourselves and come up with your own conclusions.

-Tom

Homer Simpson

NSTOP? I think I have tackled this before. But to be honest, I have writers block and some new thoughts. In case I have not written this before, here is (was?) my theory. Homer Simpson is on the Autism Spectrum.

I know Homer is just a cartoon character but there might be something ”up” with him. In this post, I will use a point-counterpoint system, so if it seems like I am contradicting myself, that is why. I am merely looking at both sides.

So we all know Homer Simpson is, for lack of a better word, a dumbass. But is that entirely his fault? I think Homer merely is oblivious and unaware of his surroundings at times. These are hallmark, telltale signs of Autism. But then again, maybe just maybe Homer is an idiot due to his love of Duff Beer. It is a known fact that beer kills brain cells and Homer and his friends drink nonstop. Just look at the character of Barney for example.

There is a theory that Homer, and by default, all the Simpson family, are geniuses. In one episode, Homer almost solved a near-impossible math equation, and in another he proves to the Bible-loving Ned Flanders that “God does not exist”. In that latter example’s episode, “Homr”, it is revealed that Homer Simpson has a crayon lodged in his brain.

Which brings me to my next point. Homer shoved a 16 pack of crayons up his nose when he was a kid. But why the Hell would Homer do this? Listen, I realize Homer did this as a kid and kids do dumb shit, but 16 crayons? There is something off about that. And the stupidity does not stop there. Homer works a mediocre job at the Nuclear Power Plant. While this is not a sign of Autism, (lots of “normal” people have crappy jobs) the fact that Homer is very distracted at work might just be.

While I am on the subject of Homer’s job…he stays unnaturally calm in emergency situations. In fact, he is almost totally nonchalant. Look at the episode “Homie the Clown”. Homer is distracted by the idea of going to Clown College. Lenny comes in and tells Homer, “Hey Homer! The section you are supposed to be monitoring is on fire!” Homer’s response? Seeing his coworkers literally burning alive and instead of doing anything, he sees a bunch of circus clowns and proclaims, “Clowns are funny!”

Piggybacking on that same thought, Homer is very easily distracted and even easier to influence. In the same episode, earlier, Homer passes a few billboards on his way to work. One reads, “Best in the West BBQ Sauce!” Homer’s response, “Best in the West…hehehe. That rhymes!” The second billboard reads, “This Year Give Her English Muffins”. Homer’s reaction is an enthusiastic “Whatever you say Mr. Billboard!” But the third billboard, the most colorful one for Clown College, distracts Homer for the rest of the day. He scoffs and says, “Clown College?! You can’t eat that!” Yet the ad lingers on Homer’s mind for the rest of the day, impacting his train of thought and endangering lives. Oh, and later in the episode, Homer and his family are shown eating English Muffins. So yeah…he is easily influenced.

On the flip side of the coin, while he remains calm in situations that merit nothing short of panic, Homer absolutely flies off the handle in mundane situations. His go-to method of coping? Swearing and/or strangling Bart. Now granted, Bart is a little Hellraiser, but I do not think anything Bart does merits strangulation. Also Homer tells Lisa to “STOP PLAYING THAT SAXOPHONE!” What that says to me is noise sensitivity. Then again, maybe Homer just hates saxophones.

So is Homer a closet Autistic or just a complete moron? I don’t know. I did not create Homer and cannot see into Matt Groening’s mind. But it would be interesting to hear what others think on this. Having said that, I do think that if there were to be an episode where Homer is diagnosed, seeing as it is a comedy show, it would have at least one person on the Spectrum being pissed off. And I am sure the Simpsons would go about this issue tastefully, but still…

Look, I can neither confirm nor deny Homer’s Autism diagnosis. These are merely my own personal thoughts. So what do you think? Let me know in the comments section and thanks for reading!

-Tom

Favorite Haunts

As we creep closer and closer to Halloween, I thought it would be fun to go over my favorite haunted houses and attractions. This will be a ”ranking” system of sorts. While they are not haunted “houses” per se, I will be including ghost tours and places that are allegedly haunted. Keep in mind, just because one thing ranks lower than another does NOT under any circumstances, mean I do not enjoy it.

In last place is, sadly, one that holds some sentimental value to me. That is the Trimper’s Haunted House in Ocean City, Maryland. This is not a walk-through attraction, but rather a dark ride kinda similar to Haunted Mansion at Disney. There are a few “jump” scares but it is based towards families. The biggest, scariest part that I personally can recall is the train scene. You honestly think a train is going to hit you.

The next one I want to talk about is the famous Haunted Mansion…but not the one you are thinking of. This Haunted Mansion is located in Elysburg, Pennsylvania at a park called Knoebels. Haunted Mansion is often voted in the Top 5 “Dark Rides in the World” by the coveted Golden Ticket Awards. In all the research I have done on this, I have not seen Haunted Mansion rank any lower than Third Place in the Golden Ticket Awards. From my perspective, it is easy to see why! It is a ride system similar to Trimper’s Haunted House and that other Haunted Mansion at Disney. Truth be told, this ride and the world-famous Phoenix roller coaster are the two main reasons I visited Knoebels in the first place a couple years ago…and they did NOT disappoint!

Now I mentioned I love both of these rides to no end. So if that’s the case, why are they so low in my ranking? Well, frankly, it is because I prefer more “hands-on” or “interactive” haunts. So keeping that in mind, next up we have Bedlam In the Boro in Lineboro, Maryland. This is an entire area that has actors in it. They have games, a walk-through Haunted House called House of Horrors, and their signature attraction: a 3 mile long Haunted Hayride through the town and woods of Lineboro. I had a little bit of fun at my sister Caroline’s expense here. We were walking through the House of Horrors and an actor jumped out at me. I pulled her aside and told her the next person’s name was Caroline. So I casually keep walking and I hear, “Hey Caroline!…” After we got out, Caroline goes, “Dammit Tom!” I played dumb but she knew.

The next Haunt I want to highlight is not really a typical scary thing. Rather it is a show. A few years ago, I visited Universal Studios Orlando in March. You’re probably asking yourself, “Wait…Halloween is in October, not March.” And you’re right, but this was a year-round show at Universal Studios called Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show. I guess this could be more of an afterthought or Honorable Mention, but I am a movie nerd so seeing how they did the special effects and make-up for classic horror films like Frankenstein, Mummy, Wolf Man, American Werewolf in London, et cetera was beyond cool for me!

The next thing I want to discuss is Sach’s Covered Bridge in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This bridge has multiple legends surrounding it, depending on who you talk to. The most common legend/story is that some Union soldiers were hung from the bridge during the Civil War for desertion. I have yet to do this bridge at night or on a “real” ghost tour, but it is on my bucket list to do that.

The next thing is also a bridge, this one a little closer to home for me. I am referring to Jericho Bridge in Kingsville, Maryland, about 15 minutes away from my house. Legend has it that if you drive over Jericho Bridge, which is unpaved and in the woods, your car will stall out and you will see feet dangling from the rafters. The feet allegedly belong to a couple teens who were told they couldn’t be together so they hanged themselves. Others maintain Jericho Bridge is where runaway slaves were lynched. I have visited Jericho Bridge once…last year on Halloween Night. Needless to say, it was spooky! It was rainy and foggy that night, so that just added to the mystique. My cousin, his girlfriend and I walked across the bridge while the rest of my family in attendance drove across. This is another place where I decided to have so fun. You are supposed to turn off your headlights when you drive across the bridge. So I snuck up behind my Mom’s car, banged on the passenger side window and yelled. It worked!…on my cousin’s girlfriend. I thought she knew what I was gonna do. She screamed bloody murder! Um…mission accomplished, I guess?

The next thing I want to highlight are two ghost tours I have done. One was in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and the other was in Fells Point in Downtown Baltimore. Nothing out of the ordinary happened here, but it was cool to explore allegedly haunted spots in historic places so close to my house! Oh, while I am on the subject, if you ever find yourself in Fells Point, there are two places I want to suggest if you are into history, more specifically haunted or macabre history. The first place is The Horse You Came In On Saloon. The Horse is America’s oldest still-operating saloon, opened in 1775. It is also the last place Edgar Allan Poe was seen alive. He was drunk, incoherent, and saying “Reynolds” over and over and over again. The second point of interest in Fells Point is the world-famous Bertha’s Mussels. The history of Bertha’s is too extensive to go into here, but look it up. It’s freaky!

Up next is Fort Howard Haunted Dungeons in Sparrows Point, Maryland. I have only done this once, when I was a Senior in High School, and have been dying (no pun intended) to go back ever since! The Dungeons are real. There are no, or very little, fake sets. The Dungeons are from the War of 1812 and was used as a military installation. So people were actually locked up and probably tortured and died there. There are actors in there, but the Dungeons do not need them. They are dusty, decrepit, and pitch black. It really is chilling.

Next is Cedar Point’s HalloWeekends. This event is at Cedar Point (go figure…) in Sandusky, Ohio. Cedar Point is my favorite amusement park, tied only with Dollywood in Tennessee. I have only done this event once and I still remember it vividly! That is mostly because of the weather. It was cold, windy, and rainy the whole weekend. Having said that, it was still a great time and is probably my favorite Halloween amusement park event! So why is it not higher? The crowds. We went pre-Covid in 2019 and it was PACKED! All the lines for all the rides were horrendous! Weirdly enough, the haunted attractions were all no more than a 10 minute wait.

Right above that is Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I think Cedar Point did do Halloween a little bit better, but Busch Gardens is one spot above due to the crowds…or lack-thereof. I visited in the midst of the Covid pandemic in October 2020. The park had staggered entrance times, so only a certain number of people were allowed in at at time. It was great! Again it was cold, dreary, and we had torrential downpours at the end of the night, but that paired with the lack of any lines made this memorable!

Now we get to the good stuff. Taking the Bronze is Ghost Ship at Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey. This is a haunted house themed to a damned abandoned ship. Unlike most other haunts in the United States, this haunted attraction is year-round and the actors are allowed to grab you. And it’s a long walk-through, too. It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk through the whole thing.

In Second Place, Silver, is Mysterious Mansion in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Unlike Ghost Ship, the actors in here are NOT allowed to touch you. Likewise, you cannot touch them. So what makes this place so good? Well to start, it was overcast, drizzling, and the Mansion sits all by itself back away from the main strip of Downtown Gatlinburg. This is NOT a straightforward walk-through haunted house, though. It relies on psychological horror and scares as opposed to jump scares. The actors, or lack of, add to the ambiance. There are probably only 2 or 3 actors in the Mansion…and the Mysterious Mansion is 3 levels, so they follow you sneakily. Also this walk-through is year-round and is what I like to call an Escape Haunt. It is not timed, but there are hallways that lead to dead ends, and a circular room with doors. Only one door leads the way out. The other doors are either dead ends or have some sort of scare. I am not going to give away everything about this place, but it freaked me out! And it takes a LOT for me to say that!

And finally, taking the Gold, is a choice that may surprise you. I am a kid at heart. I alluded to this earlier, but taking my personal #1 spot is Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom in Florida. I know it is a family ride. I know it is not particularly scary. In fact, it is corny and hokey. But there is very little that screams “Fun” more than the Haunted Mansion at Disney. I mean, this is one of the main rides you think of when you think of the Magic Kingdom or Disneyland. You’ve got Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain (man, Disney has a LOT of mountains don’t they?) the dreaded It’s A Small World, and the Haunted Mansion. What could be more fun that interacting with 999 happy haunts at the Happiest Place on Earth? Oh, and that stretching room with the hanging bride and the comical paintings? Purely Disney!

So do you agree with my ranking? I can tell you it was harder than Hell to rank all these! I love haunted attractions, so ranking and rating them really was a royal pain in the butt! Let me know what you think and thanks for reading!

-Tom

Anniversary


I know I am two days late on this, but today I want to reminisce on one of, if not the, darkest days in American history…September 11, 2001. I am 31 years old as of Wednesday, September 8, 2021. This means I was 11 and still in Elementary School when the attacks happened.

Now here is where I might catch some flak but bear with me and hear me out on this before jumping to conclusions. I was in Math class in the 6th Grade at the now-closed Saint Anthony of Padua school in Baltimore. I hate Math. So when our Principal came over the PA system and announced all students could go home early (it was around 10am at that point) I was happy. As our Principal did not tell us what had happened, and as a naive 11 year old without a cell phone, I had no idea what the Hell was going on. All I could think was, ”Yay! Early dismissal!”

My Mom picked up me, my sister Caroline, and my best friend to this day, John. As a side note, John is now a cop in Baltimore City, which I commend him for. Anyway, my Mom told us what had happened. Again, as an 11 year old kid who had no concept of what terrorism was, it kinda went over my head.

So when we got to my house, my parents were glued to the TV watching the events unfold. As for me and John? We went up to my room and played ExciteBike 64 for hours. My parents, who obviously are older than me, were freaking out.

It took me a few years to actually ”get” what had happened. When I was probably 13 or 14 on the 9/11 anniversary, they were running a tribute to the victims and events. They still do this to this day. I was watching this and I remember thinking, ”Holy shit! I can’t believe I was so oblivious!” I hate myself for not fully comprehending the gravity of the events when I was 11.

Now that I am older, I find it horrifying that an event like that could take place in America. Let alone the fact that Washington, DC, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and New York City are all within 3 hours away from my house. That is concerning.

So maybe this is more me reminiscing as opposed to a ”tribute” per se. But I think and hope you get what I am going for. For me and my opinion, 9/11 is my generation’s Kennedy assassination or the Challenger explosion. What I mean by that is anyone who was alive and old enough to remember the events of that day will never forget it.

I have visited Ground Zero in Manhattan and it is sobering to see in person. I went to the 9/11 Memorial Museum and there was a sense of respect around the area. Very few people were talking to each other, no flashbulbs from cameras, just reverent silence.

I am a sucker for history, so in a way, I am enamored with the events for lack of a better word. I have nothing but awe, admiration and respect for the victims, survivors, First Responders, and their families. I hope you felt at least a little something reading this. Thanks, as always, for reading.

-Tom

Haunted House?

So I just watched a video about a walk-through haunted attraction called Blackout. I actually watched multiple videos about two separate attractions. I am going to focus on Blackout in New York and not the other one (McKamey Manor) since that one seems waaaaaaaaaaay too sadistic to talk about on a blog.

As a disclaimer for those of you wanting to do this, I do not know if Blackout is still going as of September 2021 due to Covid. I just checked their website and the latest update was 2019.

So what is Blackout and why is it noteworthy? Well…this haunt does not focus on ghosts, goblins or boogeymen. No, rather this one focuses on your fears. Pitch black, strobe lights, claustrophobic, simulated assaults, nudity, and audience interaction. Oh, and one more thing. You have to do it ALONE! No friends, no family, no groups…just you!

Now obviously none of this is “real” per se, but it is enough to leave you shocked and trying to comprehend what the Hell happened for days after. I used to work in a haunted house in Baltimore and it was a neat experience. I am not going to give away any behind-the-scenes secrets but I will say this: we CANNOT touch you! And you are not allowed to touch us.

So back to Blackout. I know some people are reading this going, “Hell no!” but I am curious. I don’t know if I’d do it, but I am curious about what it’s all about. I’ve done multiple haunted houses in my life, probably the best one was Mysterious Mansion in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Would you ever try Blackout, assuming it opens up? I know I might, but risk messed up for awhile.

Thanks for reading and Happy Fall!

-Tom

Hella Mega Review

Last night, I got the opportunity to catch the Hella Mega Tour at Citizens Bank Park in beautiful Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. So what exactly is Hella Mega and why is it so “Hella Mega”? Well stating the obvious…it’s the first major music tour in about two years. The lineup had Weezer, the Interrupters, Fall Out Boy and the headlining band. Who was the headlining band? None other than GREEN DAY!

The Interrupters opened the whole thing at 5:30pm. That may seem early for a major concert to start, but keep in mind the damn thing didn’t end until 11:15pm. So the audience was treated to basically 6 hours of music. The Interrupters did not play for very long. I assume it’s because they are a newer band. They played a cover of Bad Guy by Billie Eilish and closed with She’s Kerosene. They were entertaining.

Weezer took the stage next. They opened their show with Hero and ended about 45 minutes later with the ever-popular Buddy Holly. In between were Island In the Sun, Hash Pipe, Beverly Hills, and, of course, Undone (The Sweater Song). They also played a cover of Africa by Toto. And man, you couldn’t have asked for more perfect timing! Up until that point, it had been overcast but humid and dry. Once Rivers Cuomo (the lead singer for Weezer) sang “I bless the rains down in Africa”, it started POURING!

The rain continued through the rest of Weezer’s set and continued into the next band, Fall Out Boy. Admittedly I am not the biggest Fall Out Boy fan. I only know maybe three of their songs. But I gotta give credit where credit is due. They know how to put on a kickass show! Think of the best bonfire you’ve ever seen…now put that fire on instruments and add musicians playing them. That’s a Fall Out Boy show! Fire shot from basically every inch of the stage during their set. And this set was a little special for Fall Out Boy because it was only their second show back on tour from a Covid case hiatus. So it was cool seeing that!

Finally, we had Green Day. Green Day is not the kind of band to casually stroll onstage and play music. Uh-uh. Nope, nope, and HELL NO! First they blasted Bohemian Rhapsody over the PA system and got the entire crowd to sing along to it. That was magical! A baseball stadium packed to bursting at the seams all singing Queen? It is something that can’t be explained. But I posted a video below that proves unity through music is possible.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vqRLQuvMGI

After Bohemian Rhapsody ended, a drunken pink bunny took to the stage to entertain the crowd while Green Day made their entrance. So Green Day’s entrance was very theatrical. Without saying a word, the band launched into American Idiot. Halfway through the song, Billie Joe Armstrong told the crowd to “Put your phones away! We’ve been staring at our phones for an entire year and a half now! We have each other now!” And boy did we!

After American Idiot, they played Holiday. Both songs are highly political, so they for sure got the crowd amped up. From there, they played Know Your Enemy from the 21st Century Breakdown album. Following that was Boulevard of Broken Dreams. The entire stadium was lit entirely by cell phone lights and lighters. The band had the house lights turned off so the only lights were by cell phone and lighter. That was surreal!

I am not going to go over the whole setlist. But I will mention one or two songs they did. They played a cover of Rock and Roll All Nite by KISS and Knowledge by Operation Ivy. Knowledge was cool because they had two people come onstage to play guitar with the band. The second person stage dove.

Among some other songs were Longview, Jesus of Suburbia, Brain Stew, Hitchin’ A Ride, and Minority. Of course they also played Wake Me Up When September Ends and you could tell Billie Joe was trying to hold it together during that song. Wake Me Up When September Ends is about Billie Joe’s dad dying when he was a kid, so it makes sense.

The concert ended with Billie Joe and an acoustic guitar. He played Good Riddance (Time of Your Life). I snuck into the pit General Admission area for this song.

This truly was a memorable show! Before I wrap up this post, I wanted to mention the pyro show Green Day put on. They had fireworks going off essentially every other song and after Good Riddance, they had a full-blown fireworks show to end the night.

So yeah. The Hella Mega tour was HELLA EPIC! Do I suggest going? My back and orthopedic doctor would say otherwise, but the rest of me says yes! This was an unforgettable night! I know I usually reserve a “score” for movies, but I am making an exception in this case. Out of 10, I am giving Hella Mega a 50! Yes it is 5 times more, but screw it! I loved every damn second of this show!

-Tom

My Day at Hershey

Today I went to HersheyPark again. I figured I’d get as much use out of my King Size Season Pass as possible. So in this post, I will be going through my day at the Sweetest Place on Earth. When reading this, keep in mind I did not ride Wildcat, Laff Trakk, Lightning Racer, or Fahrenheit. They all had lines I felt were unnecessary for their rides. Hell, Wildcat, the roughest coaster in the park, had a nearly hour wait all day. Also keep in mind I did not ride SkyRush, as that has been closed for a few months due to a cable snap on the lift.

As part of my membership, I get what is known as “Sweet Start”, meaning I can get into the park an hour before the park officially opens to the public. Is this perk worth it? Um… I am leaning towards yes. But there is a caveat to that. It is only a certain part of HersheyPark that opens an hour early for Passholders.

So the first ride I rode was Candymonium. I wound up riding this B&M Hypercoaster twice. Once up front and once in the back. After getting some amazing floater air on Candymonium, I headed to SooperDooperLooper. I swear, this ride’s loop never ceases to amaze me. Again, I rode in the back. I didn’t feel like waiting for the front, as it would have probably added 10 minutes to my wait.

From there, I headed to the park’s classic wooden coaster, Comet. In case you are starting to notice a trend, I rode yet again in the back row. On a wheel seat. The very back row of any roller coaster is more than likely going to be less comfortable because you are sitting directly over the wheels. Yes, I got A LOT of airtime, but I think I compressed my spine in the process.

At this point, it was about 11am so I headed to the back of the park to ride my favorite ride in the park (apart from SkyRush), Storm Runner. On the way there, I noticed the pendulum ride, The Claw, was a walk-on. The ride, while fun, didn’t really do a whole lot for me. It kinda just swung and didn’t really provide much thrill to me.

And now we get to Storm Runner. There was NOBODY back there at this point. The wait was a mere ten minutes. That’s unheard of for this ride! So what did I do? I took full and complete advantage of that minimal wait and rode Storm Runner five times in the course of about 40 minutes. Two rides were up front, the other three in the back. And truth be told, I cannot decide which row I prefer on this ride. The front is incredible due to the sheer power of that 0-72 mph in 2 seconds launch. You feel like a speeding bullet! But don’t disregard the back. In the back, the launch feels like it has more pull to it, and on that first 150 foot hill, you get rocketed out of your seat! It freaked me out.

After my five rides on Storm Runner, I walked onto Sidewinder, the park’s Boomerang coaster. Normally I’d forego this ride due to it’s only having one train and can get a little bit of a line. But it was still early and no line, so I bit the bullet and rode it. On almost any other Boomerang coaster, they have bulky shoulder restraints and cause you to hit your head. They generally are not smooth rides. But with Sidewinder, it has wider restraints so your head is nowhere near the harness. This allows you to feel the full 5.2 G’s on the ride. These rides are intense!

After Sidewinder, I headed over to a ride that has a lot of personal and sentimental value to me. That ride is Trailblazer, Hershey’s Mine Train coaster. This time I opted for the front. The ride is a little slow and does kinda meander, but I love it because it is the first coaster I remember riding as a kid.

Following Trailblazer, I decided to head to 1906 Grill for lunch. I got a grilled cheese sandwich and fries, which were included on my Dining Plan. The food was decent. I’ve definitely had better, but it got the job done.

Since it was starting to warm up, I decided to ride the park’s Log Flume, Coal Cracker. This Log Flume is scenic (it gives some AMAZING views of The Hollow area of the park) and has a surprisingly good final drop. Most Log Flumes have decent final drops. You may get a little wet, but nothing too crazy. Coal Cracker’s drop is deceptively steep and has a smaller hill at the bottom. And might I add there is NOTHING holding you in on Coal Cracker, as with most Log Flumes. So you get some shocking airtime. It felt like I was going to be thrown out of the log. And to prove my idiotic “hands up” policy, here’s a photo.


After Coal Cracker, I sort of just walked around, taking photos. I eventually made my way to Tidal Force, Hershey’s Shoot-the-Chutes water ride. This ride, unlike your average Log Flume (like Coal Cracker), these rides will get you DRENCHED! And I had my phone, wallet, and camera in my pockets. So what did I do? I cannot believe the park allowed this. I rode shirtless, shoeless, and nothing on except my shorts. So yeah, I rode this essentially half-naked. It was AWESOME! Having said that, Hershey kinda underwhelmed me with their operations on this ride. See, they have two boats both capable of holding 16 people in 4 rows (4 rows of 4 people) each but only opted for one boat this time. This made the wait miserable! It was a 35 minute wait when normally it is about a 10-15 minute wait. So not a huge fan of that decision…

Following that, I decided I’d slow down a bit and see a show. HersheyPark has a Seal and Sea Lion show three times throughout the day. I absolutely LOVED this show! It was funny, the animals looked content, and it was educational as well as raising conservation awareness. I took a great photo of one of the Sea Lions.

As I was getting worn out, I decided to do one more ride and call it a day. Luckily my last ride of the day was memorable. All of HersheyPark is memorable, but this ride was a little different. I rode the park’s Inverted coaster, Great Bear as my final ride of the day. The ride was sporting a 25-30 minute wait, which actually isn’t that bad. I wanted to ride up front for the unobstructed view, but after overhearing some riders say the back row was insane, I thought “OK. I have to try this!” Plus the wait for the front would have added an extra 15 minutes and there was no wait for the back. And you know what? I think I liked the back row just as much as the front! Yes, the front row has better views, but the back row is more intense. I legit grayed out on the bottom of the drop. And the loops were insane in the back! You are pinned to your seat!

So that was my day at HersheyPark. I had a lot of fun, despite the crowds. I cannot wait to go back! Luckily I am getting my money’s worth out of the Season Pass! I am looking forward to going back for the holiday events, HersheyPark in the Dark (their Halloween event) and Candycane Lane (their Christmas event). Let me know if you have been to the Sweetest Place on Earth and your thoughts on it! Thanks for reading!

-Tom

Yellow Dubmarine Review

That’s right! It’s that time. Time for another concert review. This one comes courtesy of a local radio station, WTMD. The band in question is a Beatles cover band called Yellow Dubmarine. Pretty clever name, if you ask me! But there is a twist (no shout) with this band…they add reggae music to the Beatles.

So how well could that possibly turn out? They are two entirely different genres! As it turns out, INCREDIBLE! Yellow Dubmarine may very well be the best Beatles cover band I have ever seen! They are just so unique in their style! These guys do not try to “imitate” The Beatles. What I mean by that is that there are no fake Liverpool accents, no time-period costumes, nothing. These guys are just themselves playing the music we all know and love!

Now I have to preface something about this YD show. It was a show kind of aimed at kids and families. So I, a 30 year old guy there by myself, was not really the “target audience”. But as a die-hard Beatles fan, how could I pass this up?! The Beatles are timeless! And it definitely 100% showed at the Yellow Dubmarine concert! There were grandparents with their kids and their kid’s kids. So three generations of family all enjoying the same music. And they were little kids too! It made me feel good knowing these parents are raising their kids on the classics!

After the show, I was able to talk to the band, get a setlist, autographs, and photos. And I could not be happier to say that these guys could not be any nicer! One thing I love about this band is that I have seen them three or four times (all through WTMD) and each time they play different songs…with some exceptions. For example, they always play Ob La Di Ob La Da, Yellow Submarine, and the B Side to Abbey Road. Like, the entire B Side from You Never Give Me Your Money through Her Majesty. Abbey Road is probably my favorite album by The Beatles and my sister’s namesake. Golden Slumbers is my Mom’s favorite Beatles song, so I have almost an emotional connection to the song and album as a whole.

So do I recommend seeing Yellow Dubmarine? Um…DUH! This band is amazing every time I see them and I always leave their shows blown away! Those are my thoughts on Yellow Dubmarine. Let me know what you think of The Beatles in the comments and thanks for reading!

-Tom