Friday, May 26, 2006

The Walkmen perform at 9:30 Club

by The Monitors

I could have sworn I stood in the middle of a circle of people having a screaming contest with megaphones last night, but apparently I went to The Walkmen show at 9:30 Club in D.C.

There are two things that are initially striking about seeing this band live:
1. The lead singer is not the dark-haired moody that you picture from the albums but is a tall, blonde, Lacoste-wearing frat boy. He may as well be an SAE at Florida State.
2. They are LOUD.

The first item isn't too hard to get over, especially in comparison to discovering that the Caesars' bassist is about 60 years old. But the problem with The Walkmen live (and I've seen them twice) is that their sound is very disorganized. I like my music loud, but it seems like they fired their sound tech and turned every knob to 11.

What's great about their album tracks is that each song is carefully crafted, often very slowly building up emotional steam and growing louder and becoming unraveled as the song reaches climax. And the instruments are very well laid down, one doesn't drown out another, and it adds to the potential energy.

But this is entirely lost in the live show. There is no control of volume, nor control of vocals, and it really confuses the ear terribly. I don't think a live song should mimic the album, but this band's greatest strength is drowned in a poorly conceived stage show.

They must have played about 6 new songs, and since the album came out only 2 days earlier, few people would have a chance to hear it. We all heard them at the show, but I couldn't tell you which ones are winners because the sound was so cacaphonous.

To their credit, they delivered "The Rat," "Bows & Arrows," "Wake Up," and "Thinking of a Dream I Had" excellently, and it really got the crowd moving, including the requisite inhibitionless fist-pumping white guy with the crazy afro.

All in all, I give this show 3.0 stars out of 5.0, with Andrew W.K. being 5.0 and The Cardigans being 1.0.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Intellectual Steve pulls a fast one on the Borgata

So, last week Intellectual Steve and yours truly headed up to Atlantic City and the Borgata to play some poker. Steve had gotten a free room from the kind, altruistic folks at Boyd Gaming, and he asked me a couple weeks back if I was down for the trip. I'm not one to turn down a free room and a good time, so I was there with gambling bells on.

We set out from his cozy pad in Riverside, MD and drove confidently towards the sordid, putrid marshes of the shittiest state in the Union. We had delusions of turning a few hundred dollars into thousands with little effort and expense, and we hoped to catch a free comedy show in the process. The world was our little oyster, and the pearl inside had a big black "B" and the Ace of spades on it.

the Borgata has been literally built and paid for by misguided blackjack bets.

Little did we know that our dreams were to be shattered, and that we were in for a rude awakening.

The trip got started on the wrong foot when Steve made the executive decision to start off the night playing blackjack. Historically, this spells disaster for your two heroes, as previous trips have featured Steve playing solid while I play like a drunken donkey and piss away all my chips as soon as I lose a couple of hands. Milk (blackjack) was a bad choice!

I always tell myself that I should never play blackjack, but when a friend of mine plays and asks me to join, who am I to ruin the fun and say no? I agreed to play along, which oftentimes is little better than riding shotgun with a notorious drunk driver and offering to pour him shots of Jager to "take off the edge" while he speeds to the nearest bar that sells discount six-packs of Natty Bo before 2 AM closing time. Blackjack is an evil game, and Steve and I had no problem taking on the Devil of all gambling Hell. Despite my better judgement, I took a shot with the understanding I would quit as soon as I turned a $25 profit.

The blackjack devils immediately sent a crystal clear message to the protagonists of this little tale by bending Intellectual Steve over and taking hundreds of his hard-earned dollars. A clear and ominous sign was sent out within the first 5 minutes of ill-advised play when Steve split 8's twice and also doubled down one of the splits, sending out $80 of his red soldiers against the dealer's paltry 6. Tragically, the 6 turned into an ugly 20 and Steve was down in the hole. Having learned that hard way that I suck at the game big time, I continued to bet $10 a hand like a little girl, losing a little before making a comeback and turning a profit for the session.

this looked alot like me and Steve, except Steve had a look of horror on his face, we looked more distressed, and we didn't look anywhere near as flamingly gay.

I ended up cashing out up $25 as I promised myself. Steve did not fair quite so well, as he fired $100 bet salvos into the highly-oxygenated Borgata air only to bust like a Ben Affleck movie, or watch the dealer destroy his 20's with blackjacks and fuck up his double downs with bricks and sick 5-card 21's. I had seen this before, and I could feel his pain.

Steve was getting whored, so I suggested we play poker. He sheepishly obliged in order to get a change of pace and halt his profuse hemorrhaging of chips. We took seats at a $1/$2 no-limit table before I got beat badly in a hand to the tune of $100 (my AK vs AQ, and the douchebag with AQ hit a Q on the turn after we both flopped Aces) and demanded we move to a limit table (no limit is for pansies, I always say). Not even 5 minutes elapsed when Steve took out his cell phone, and stood up from the table.

Intellectual Steve: "Hey man, I'll be right back, I just need to make a quick phone call."

me: "Sure dude, I'll be right here."

Well, Steve was bluffing, as he never returned. The game broke, so I went straight up to the blackjack tables, where I assumed Steve must have returned to resume his sadistic thrashing. Lo and behold, he was firmly planted in a seat, with a pile of greens and a look of desperation in his eye. "Oh hey, are you still playing?" said a mildly uncomfortable Steve, who was sweating his hundred dollar bet and barely paying attention to my answer when I explained the game broke as a direct result of his absence from the table downstairs.

Steve continued to take a pummeling. He couldn't get a winner to save his life. After a table change in vain to change his fortunes resulted in more profit for the evil Borgata gaming conglomerate, Steve and I decided to lick our wounds by drinking at the bar and relaxing for a bit.

After all, drinking always makes things much better, right??

We looked to grab seats at the bar, where strategically placed video poker machines entice drinkers to gamble even more, as if losing the family mortgage at the craps tables weren't enough. These casino fuckers are relentless.

Luckliy for Steve and me, I had stumbled onto a little trick to use the casinos video poker machines against their nefarious masters. You see, the B Bar at the Borgata will give you free drinks as long as you are playing the retarded video poker at the bar. So, I discovered a system where you throw 5 bucks into the machine, and bet 25 cents a credit ONLY when the bartenders come up to you and ask you for your drink of choice. The goal is to refrain from gambling and losing any money in between drink orders. This way, you never have to pay the absurd $8 a beer or 20 fucking dollars for mixed drinks, or whatever those bastards charge us poor suckers. It's pure genius, and Steve and I have been using it abusing it as soon as we found out about the policy.

They might take hundreds from us at the blackjacks tables, but we're going to get drunk for free, bitches! It feels damn good to be cheap sometimes.

As soon as we arrived at the bar to implement our scheme, we discovered that the only two available 25 cent machines were broken, as a technician of some sort was opening the things up and repairing them. Both of us waited patiently until they were repaired, with Steve jumping on the first one while I waited for the second to be fixed.

It was here when Steve busted out a brilliant move from his gambling playbook.

Without hesitation, Steve took out a crisp 5 dollar bill and inserted it into the vacuum of a slot machine. He immediately hailed the services of one of the metrosexual bartenders and ordered one of the most expensive items one the drink menu, a tart but delicious glass of red wine, normally a whopping $15. Steve pretended to be feverishly playing the video poker to make sure the drink was free, and was doing a damn good acting job.

Despite his theatrics, Steve is still a true gambler. He was ready to win a few quarters while getting free shit, so he pressed the "Deal" button and was dealt four cards to a straight. Fucking fantastic!

Now, I had noticed that the machine was still acting funny, since the lights on it kept turning on and off, and the graphics kept resetting at odd times. We even had to give it a couple of love taps to make sure it was working properly.

"I don't know about this Steve, I'm not sure it's working, you don't want to lose your five bucks in the machine, you know they'll screw you over for it," I said, honestly not really caring if he lost that much.

Steve, however, did not give a rat's ass, and as soon as he had the chance, he drew one card to get his straight. His hand was K-Q-J-10-5, so he held everything but the five. We gazed intently into the machine while the computer distributed the card, dust and grime gleaming off the screen. The new card was an ugly 6. Steve had lost.

Just then, the machine lights turned off again, only this time the screen completely reset. Steve's remaining $4.75 in credits was nowhere to be found. It was gone, possibly forever.

It was our good fortune, however, that a casino floorlady happened to be overseeing the technician's repairs. I quickly told Steve to get with the program, pretend to be pissed as hell, and tell the floorperson that the malfunctioning machine had robbed and embezzled him of his $5. After the requisite verification and questioning, the casino rep filled out a form for the lost monies. Casino refunds are a big deal to the house, and casinos rarely give them out unless you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are owed money on account of incompetence by the casino.

suck it! Steve walked away with a cool 5 dollar bill, quite similar to the one pictured above.

The beauty of this whole play was that Steve had played a losing hand of video poker. He clearly had a busted straight. The last time I checked, 6-10-J-Q-K did not make any sort of legitimate straight in any English-speaking modern societies.

Calmly imbibing his glass of otherwise ridiculously expensive red wine, Steve thanked the floorlady as she apologized for the inconvenience and handed the con artist a brand new 5 dollar bill.

"Do you want to keep playing?" I asked the shady wine drinker.

"No - let's get the fuck out of here!" he retorted; he was already walking quickly for the exit as soon as he realized he had shafted the casino out of a glass of wine AND a whole quarter.

I had a huge smile on my face. Steve had just dumped hundreds playing a table game he could not walk away from. As soon as he got a few cents from the casino illegitimately, he was happy as a kid in a candy store. For a few moments, we were big winners in the casino that night. I'll never forget the day Steve took the Borgata down, even if it was just a moral victory.

Cheers, brother!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Blogger Shout Outs

Sorry for not updating sooner, but I've been busy with work and whatnot.

Just wanted to take some time to thank some bloggers who have frequented this site, all of whom have great blogs of their own.

Check them out:

Scatter o' Light

c loves her U2 and especially her Bono; to say she worships the humanitarian rock star might be an understatement.

She's turned me onto some good music with her many MP3 selections, and her love of soccer is much appreciated. In fact, I'll be doing a World Cup Blogger Pool which she is running, and we're going to try to get other people to join in. Definitely stop by Scatter and check out c's musings.

Mars Needs Guitars

merz contributes every so often here, and his blog is as good as it gets for MP3's. His blog is one of my favorites, and I recommend it for any rock fan looking for new bands to get into.

He'll be making another post soon, so look out for that.

Meandering Endlessly

Whitney showcases his highly sarcastic sense of humor on this hilarious blog. A contributor to this blog, Whitney likes to keep his own a little more private, but I still like trying to send more readers his way. He's an underappreciated source of comedy. His posts on David Williams' adventures in porn and a thesis on the merits of a couple of poker hotties are classics. I always look forward to reading his stuff and I hope he posts another rant soon.


Wallycrawler is one funny dude.

From his lofty perch in Canada, he basically makes fun of celebrities and George W. Bush with wreckless abandon. His hatred of Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology is something we can all celebrate.

The man has a talent for sarcastically ripping apart his subject matter, and it's a pleasure to check out his posts because I know I'm going to laugh at the expense of all the idiots in our entertainment culture that he blasts.He also appreciates hotties like Jessica Alba and Scarlett Johansson. It's truly been an honor to have Wally stop by here on occasion, and I consider him a blogging brotha.

Highly recommended, although sometimes a nipple or two from Paris Hilton will make an appearance, so beware at work.

Quest of Closet Poker Player

cc has quite an interesting blog which details his poker exploits as a working man with a wife and three kids. He's interviewed a few pros for Poker Works, including a couple of guys I have played with, and he has a few tournament personalities lined up for future interviews. A great read for anyone who wants the perspective of a player trying to get better at a difficult game, balancing a time-consuming passion with the demands of a career and raising a family.

Craig is a class act, and I'm looking forward to getting a book (Positively Fifth Street by Jim McManus) he was kind enough to give away on his blog as part of a recent giveway.

other high quality blogs...

Rock 'n' Roll Star

Steve is an ultra-cool blogger who covers great bands and shows, and his site is one of my favorites to check out when I need my rock fix. He has great taste in music, and he manages to cover some really money shows.

Music Glob

Dan runs an awesome blog, and he also covers some of the most exciting bands out there. As far as rock music goes, this is one of the best I have seen for CD and concert reviews; honestly, I wish my own was as good as his.