The $25 Tunes: May 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve done The $25 Tunes segment on this blog. That’s because, during the last couple of months, I was too preoccupied with RIFT to find some time and search for good music. But enough with the excuses. Let’s get to the good part.

Hisengen Blues by Graveyard – $7
The first time I played Hisengen Blues, I couldn’t stop my head from nodding. This album is just flat out awesome and one of the best I’ve heard in 2011. Its sludgy retro sounds, lyrics and songs titles screams classic rock. The band’s influence is very wide and can be traced to almost every artist from the 60’s and 70’s, be it Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath. So, if you love classic rock, you’ll love this album too.

Score: A

“Hisengen Blues” by Graveyard

The Collective by Scale The Summit – $9
I was at awe when I heard Scale The Summit’s album, Carving Desert Canyons. It was so heavy, yet atmospheric. The same can be said about The Collective. But its sound is clearly more mature than the band’s previous works. The rough metal edges have been smoothed out by jazz tones and it’s not guitar-centric anymore, which gave all members equal roles, enabling them to create a full-bodied sound.

Score: A-

“Whales” by Scale The Summit

Hymn of a Broken Man by Times of Grace – $8
When I found out that Dutkiewicz and Leach (ex-Killswitch Engage members) have an album out under their project, Times of Grace, I thought it would be worth checking out. But since it didn’t break new grounds, I was slightly disappointed with it. Although, Hymn of a Broken Man, with all its melodic metal, hard hitting riffs and surprisingly optimistic lyrics, I also find it a bit enjoyable to listen to.

Score: C+

“Willing” by Times of Grace

So, those are my picks for this May. I hope that you guys will enjoy them all. Especially Graveyard’s album, Hisengen Blues. That one is a gem.

SDCC vs. PAX vs. Lollapalooza

Going to the San Diego Comic-Con, Penny Arcade Expo and Lollapalooza have been on my bucket list for sometime now. So, I’ve been saving up some moolah since 2007, hoping that one day I could afford to attend any of them. Well, I’m happy to say that I will be able to go to one of these events this year.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t decide on which event I should go to. My original plan was to attend SDCC first, and then Lollapalooza and PAX in the years after. But special factors rose up that made the latter aforementioned events as desirable as the former, leaving me torn.

Anyways, I’ve listed down the pros & cons –which I’ve compiled from reading blogs and various sites– of each event. So, maybe, just maybe, reading them every day would help me narrow down my choices, which will eventually lead me to a conclusion.

SDCC
I’ve always wanted to go to SDCC, even before I got back into comics. It is, after all, the “Geek Mecca”. So, even though it’s a comics convention, it also has a lot of other things. Whether you’re into toys, anime or TV, as long as it’s geeky, SDCC will cater it.

But one of the main reasons why I really wanted to attend SDCC are the exclusive items, There are a lot of custom made toys on the convention that you won’t find anywhere else. Of course, you’ll also meet plenty of writers and artists from the comic book industry that’ll happily sign your books.

Unfortunately, since Comic-Con is so popular and offers different things, the crowd is enormous. Attendees, especially the new ones, seem to complain about the never ending lines and not seeing what they really want to see due to lack of time.

Personally, one of the chief reasons that I’m indifferent about going is the amount of money I’m going to shell out. It’ll probably cost me a total of $1,800 (airfare + 4-day weekend convention pass + hotel + food + merchandise that will be bought during the show), and that’s just for four days.

Pros:
Exclusive toys, lots of comic book writers and artists, celebrity appearances, cos-players, lots of free swag, panels, and tons of major comic book and film announcements.

Cons:
Too crowded, huge exhibit hall, lines are everywhere, and it’s very expensive (estimated cost: 1,800).

PAX
One thing I really like about PAX is that it only has one focus: Gaming. New games are usually announced in here. In addition, there are also gaming stations setup all over the convention floor where you can chill and play demos of upcoming games.

But the reason why I really want to attend this year’s PAX is because my guild, Gaiscioch, is having a meet-up in there for our 10th year anniversary. The convention will be held in Seattle too. So, I could also take this opportunity to visit the birthplace of grunge music.

Like with SDCC, it’s a bit expensive too. Although it’ll only cost me about $1,000 for everything (airfare + hotel + food). From what I’ve gathered, lining up to play a demo could also take up an hour or two.

Pros:
A chance to see and play upcoming games, and it’s in Seattle (always wanted to visit Seattle).

Cons:
Long lines to play games, and it’s a bit expensive (estimated cost: 1,000).

Lollapalooza
As a teenager, I never really cared about Lollapalooza (even though I also listened to alternative music). But when they resurrected the music festival here in Chicago, six years ago, I’ve since wanted to attend the fest and watch my favorite bands play live.

Honestly, however, I never planned to attend the show this year. But I had a change of heart when I saw Muse, A Perfect Circle and Deftones listed on this year’s line-up. Besides, the show is in my backyard. So, I only need to spend about $300 – $400 (3-day pass + food + drinks) for 3 days.   

Pros:
A lot of my favorite bands will be there (including Muse, APC and Deftones), it’s the cheapest event that I could afford, I don’t need to travel and there will be lots of sweaty girls on tank tops on the fest.

Cons:
The heat will be unbearable, it might rain, all my favorite bands might play at the same time on different stages, and there will be lots of sweaty, smelly dudes on the fest.

These are my “guidelines” of some sort to weigh all three events. I’m still on an impasse, however. So, if you’ve attended any of these events, please share some of you experiences in the comments section. Maybe it’ll help reach a decision before all the tickets on Craigslist are gone.

Backlist and Blues Licks

Marvel's Backlist Reading Chronology and the Beginner Fingerstyle Blues Guitar

With my gaming rig down for the time being, I’m left with a lot of spare time in my hands. I know this is only temporary. Because when I replace the broken graphics card of my PC, all the time I have right now will be squandered into playing RIFT. So, I want to take advantage of this free time right now and use it to fuel two projects: (1) read the Marvel comics backlist and (2) learn to play fingerstyle blues guitar.

As a recent returnee to comic books, there’s a huge hole in my knowledge regarding the DC and Marvel universes. I wanted to fill that hole ever since I started reading again. But, the problem is, I didn’t know where to begin. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of collected trades in the market. Trying to figure out where to start or how to read the trades in a chronological order is a disaster.

Luckily, Marvel released a reading backlist. Since it only cost for a buck, I jumped at it right away. It’s a pretty handy tool to have. It has all the collected trades that Marvel has ever printed, and they also listed it in a chronological order. So, if you want to follow the story of Thor from the very beginning to the most recent one, you can easily do so with the help of this backlist.

So, what I’m going to do is: I’m going to go through most (not all) of the trades listed in the backlist, starting with Spider-Man. I can only spare $20 a month though, which affords me 3 trades every 2 months. The going will be slow. But it’ll be fun.

As for the other project, I’m going to try and learn fingerstyle blues. Besides playing heavy riffs and learning the scales, I’ve never really done anything else as a guitarist (though I never really should call myself that). So, when I saw the book, Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar, which was on sale for $5 at Borders, I just grabbed it and never looked back.

The book seems easy enough to follow. It has tablatures and an audio CD that includes all the licks and exercises. Right now, I’m at the very beginning of the book where I’m doing some exercises for my picking hand. I have to say, for a guy who never used fingers for picking, this is not as easy as I thought it would be.

So, those are my two projects right now. I’m sure they’ll keep me occupied, for the meantime, while my PC is down. I’m going to review each trade I’ve knock down from my backlist in here. I’m also going to find a way to record my blues licks and post it here. That way I could gauge my progress.