June 29, 2010

Dream Theater: Progressive Nation Tour

On August 8th of last year, I went to the Brookhaven Amphitheater to see the Progressive Nation Tour. It was an awesome concert, headlined by Dream Theater.

An interesting story is that Dream Theater formed in Kings Park, the next town over from the town where I live. They were a bar band around here during the early to mid-80s. I knew the original members of the band very well. They used to rehearse in the basement of a hair salon and I would join them for a jam session every now and then. I lost touch with them after they made it, but it's amazing to me that over twenty years later, I now go see them playing in big venues. I'm still a big fan of their music and in the arena of Progressive Rock, the world basically hails them as being the best. I am so overjoyed to see them doing so well and I can honestly say, I've seen them play many times, but this last concert was the best ever! There is nothing quite like the energy and passion of great music being performed live. I danced in the aisle and sang along with every song until I had no voice left. I walked out of the venue on a cloud, completely high on the experience. I could barely go to sleep that night because of all of the beautiful energy that I had floating around in my body!

The warm-up band was Zappa Plays Zappa. I absolutely adore Frank Zappa’s music and it was great to hear it being played live again. I had the opportunity to see Frank in concert, but I passed it up and now I regret it.

Today, may your heart beat a graceful rhythm and may all of your dreams be symphonies!

“Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth;
and break forth into singing, O mountains:
for the LORD hath comforted his people,
and will have mercy upon his afflicted.”

~Isaiah 49:13


June 27, 2010

Yes/Peter Frampton

One of my favorite venues to go for an outdoor concert is the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater. It is situated on Zack's Bay in the Jones Beach State Park. On a sultry summer evening, it is a wonderful place to sit beneath the full moon and stars with a cool breeze coming off of the water and enjoy live music. Last night, I went there to see Yes.

Known for their great musicianship, Yes have been a staple of progressive rock since 1968. For this tour, the band's long-time members guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, and drummer Alan White are joined by keyboardist Oliver Wakeman and featured vocalist David Benoit.

It was an electrifying night! The band tore through a diverse set list of classic songs, including "Yours Is No Disgrace," "Owner of a Lonely Heart," and the progressive anthem "Roundabout." After nearly 40 years of rocking, the band is still a vital entity, performing with raw energy and enthusiasm.

Opening the concert was iconic performer, Peter Frampton. Frampton reached the height of his career in 1976 with the release of his breakthrough double live album "Frampton Comes Alive!" No longer donning his long blond locks, he played a fun set which featured a few unexpected moments, including the Beatles "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and, very surprisingly, "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden.

A personal highlight of the evening for me occurred on line at the pretzel stand. There was a group of Indian people standing behind me: one woman, two men, and a young girl. Soon, I felt a tap on my shoulder; it was one of the men. He explained to me that they had been admiring my mustache and asked if I would mind if they took a photograph with me. I thought it very amusing and I agreed to it immediately. Of course, being that I speak functional Hindi, I took the opportunity to answer them in their native tongue. They were quite surprised and huge smiles washed over their faces. I guess they never expected to befriend a shaven-headed, handlebar mustachio'd man tattooed in Sanskrit who speaks Hindi at a Yes concert. Somewhere out there, an Indian family has a photograph of me and an interesting memory to tell. Experiences like that make life so much fun. Wouldn't you agree?


"So, whether you eat or drink,
or whatever you do, do all
to the glory of God."

~1 Corinthians 10:31


June 26, 2010

Falling for Niagara

Last August, I took a road trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario. I had heard so many great things about the naturals wonder of this place and it did not disappoint; it is absolutely breathtaking!

There is a boat ride called "Maid of the Mist" that takes visitors right up along side the falls. The crew hands out plastic rain ponchos before departure, then the boat sails right into the mist. In photographs, the boat looks like a toy beside the falls, but it is really a huge ship. Being next to so much rushing water makes the heart race. The steady drumming is awe-inspiring! The mist kicked up just surrounded me and I felt like I was standing in the middle of an amazing outdoor shower. Another great way to experience Niagara is to take the "Journey Behind the Falls"--an elevator takes guests to a system of tunnels that run in back of the falls. To be so close to such a force of nature is humbling, to say the least.

Of course, the falls aren't the only thing to do in the city of Niagara Falls. There is an extremely touristy section called Clifton Hill. It is a street filled with max museums, haunted houses, miniature golf courses, theme park rides, gift shops, 3-D movie theaters, restaurants, etc. Clifton Hill has an incredible nightlife. All throughout the evening, the street is lined with people; it is like the world's greatest carnival set in the middle of Times Square, if that makes any sense. One can truly feel the pulse of the city running through Clifton Hill. I had lunch there at the Rainforest Cafe, a restaurant decorated to look like dense jungle. I ate my meal among the wild animals, beneath the stars. Once every twenty minutes, a thunderstorm passes through, it starts to pour rain inside the restaurant and all of the animals come to life. It is a very unique place. There is also an attraction in Clifton Hill called "Skywheel." It may look like a small ferris wheel in photographs, but it is really tremendous. It gives a panoramic view of the Falls from high in the air.

One funny story that immediately comes to mind took place in the "Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum." Ever been to one of those? It's a fun place, a museum of oddities. In one of the first rooms of the tour, there is a huge mirror on the wall, below it is a sign that reads "Only 60% of people can roll their tongues" with a photograph next to it of a person demonstrating proper tongue-rolling technique. Of course, one is immediately inclined to look in the mirror and roll one's tongue. I can recall a few of us standing in front of the mirror for several minutes giving it a try. Most of us found that we were able to do it, myself included. Well, the museum tour continues through many more rooms, passing by the world's tallest man (over 9 feet), passing the man who could swallow a light bulb and regurgitate it unbroken, finally arriving in a special room at the end. This is where I discovered a large group of people standing in front of a window, all laughing. I had no idea what was so funny, until I spotted the people on the other side, looking into the window rolling their tongues. It was two-way glass! Oh, the sinking feeling when you realize that you've just been rolling your tongue in front of an audience. Embarrassing, to say the least. One woman confessed, "I stood in front of that mirror for ten minutes; I fixed my hair and make-up there!" It was all in good fun and I got a great laugh out of it afterwards. :)

Some of the less touristy things to do in Niagara Falls are the Bird Aviary, Niagara Botanical Gardens, Butterfly Conservancy, and the Floral Clock. The Bird Aviary is amazing. Inside of the building is like a step into a system of ancient ruins. Exotic tropical birds fly all around without fear. There is a waterfall cascading off of the rocks that creates a serene atmosphere. I was so surprised to find such a beautiful setting; the exterior of the building lent no clue as to what waited inside. It is a wonderful place and it was a pleasure to stand there and become part of it, allowing the lush surroundings to absorb me.

I also got the chance to visit the Niagara Casino. I'm not a big gambler, so I only lost $20.00. One evening, I also took in a dinner/theater show called "Oh Canada, Eh?" It was wonderful; a lot of fun and laughs! Everything about it was traditionally Canadian: the music, the costumes, the food... The cast really made it into an intimate experience; they not only performed on the stage, but also served the food! :)

One the way home, I stopped off on the American side of Niagara Falls to visit Old Fort Niagara. It is a place rich in history, constructed at a time when men fought wars with muskets and cannons. All of the people working there were dressed up in the authentic garb of the era. It was fascinating and a little bit spooky at times, with its underground bunkers and gunpowder storerooms. I got the chance to see a cannon fired. It was so loud and powerful; the earth shook! I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be on a battlefield in the middle of heavy cannon fire.

The very best thing that I did during the trip was to see Niagara Falls at night. After the sun sets, the Falls are illuminated with brightly-colored spotlights. On Friday and Sunday evenings, a fireworks display is lit up over the Falls. It is so lovely; I hope my photographs capture a little bit of the magic...

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him, so that you

may overflow with hope by the power
of the Holy Spirit."

~Romans 15:13