Monday, December 17, 2007

A pretty good live-show

Blender Theater, Manhattan :


I was actually a little unsure if I should be attending this event because I still had some work to finish for the semester and didn't want to botch it up with last-minute frenzy like in the past. However, just like so many other conclusions that unfailingly repeats itself, things are headed in the exact same direction yet again. However, being locked in the apartment for over 3 days, partly due to the unfavorable weather, I realized I needed a break if I was to stay sane and ventured to go despite warnings of bad weather a few hours before. New Brunswick is a convenient place to be if you have no personal vehicle and your destination is New York. Just head to the train station that is easily accessible, catch the NJ Transit rail that is scheduled once every 20 minutes, travel for less than an hour in a relatively empty compartment, and after you cross the underground tunnel across Hudson river, you've reached Penn Station at W 33rd Street. As simple as that.The weather was surprisingly moderate when I got there. Blenders Theater was a fair walk from Penn Station and when I reached there, it was 7.10 , 40 minutes past the start of the show. Unfortunately , as I was realize a few minutes after, it was not late enough to avoid the tasteless opening act, Shat ( an outfit led by the former bass player of Dilinger). The lyrical content and imagery of the band is exactly what you can imagine from the their name. It is an all-out dick/fart jokes porngrind band who came on with the most outrageously homoerotic costume anyone can imagine. Let me just say it was 90% male nudity with the remaining part mostly covered with dildos. And they ended their insipid set list with a song daring chicks to show their tits (that must have been their index to rate their success). Unfortunately, not even the biggest sluts in the audience would have considered amusing them for this pathetic show! Needless to mention, I didn't see any tits that night. And the less I say about the music the better. How the fuck these guys got to tour along with the other bands is beyond me.

Next, there was Genghis Tron from Philadelphia. Ok, these guys seem very unique. I say seem because they incorporate electronic music in their songs and that is not something I would listen to if I had a choice. But these guys were good. Basically, they are a 3 piece band, the guitarist, a vocalist who along with the third guy takes care of the programmed music and keyboards. The music itself shifts from regular pop beats to full-throttle blast-beats in no time. And there are times when all this blends really well with a fast keyboard piece, metal riffs and maybe an additional programmed layer to create something, which at times sounds rather odd and unplacable at others produces something undeniably arresting. It was momentarily brilliant, intense and very captivating .

Following that was the mediocre A Life Once Lost. They are one of the umpteen MetalCore bands in the US and since I don't care much for those grating half-riffs,the annoying screams and most other deviations from Classic Metal, this band just got on my nerves for the most part. However, I did hear some sections that was definitely sounded like Metal and just as I was beginning to get into it, it was completely destroyed with a reintroduction of "Core" elements.

After they cleared the stage, it was time for the headlining act to take over and by then the crowd had expanded to twice its initial size and the standing area was packed ,with anticipation growing during the sound check as most of them had been there just to watch Dilinger During this time, I squeezed my way across to the bar and got a beer. Shortly afterwards, the band kicked off and from then on, there was not single moment that was disappointing. To start matters, it is worth mentioning that they have a hyper-kinetic stage presence. All band members go berserk while playing and particularly one of the guitarists whom I often caught sight of in the middle of some acrobatic leap across the stage. Of course, had the music sucked, none of this would help redeem it in any way but in this case, it certainly enhanced the overall experience. And the music was good. This is a technical band that is very tight, discharging a burst of energy in each song but loading them with some incredible work on the instruments. The drumming is the standout. It is quick, sharp, very precise and has several tempo changes. The drumming somewhat tended to drown the guitars, as it usually happens when you see a band play songs you haven't heard before. Nonetheless, it was distinct enough to note the jazz-influenced magic that was being weaved out in that sector. Overall a great performance and I'd be inclined to attend their next show when they come around.

When I got out of the theater, it was a few minutes past eleven. Grabbing something to eat at Penn Station I got back to New Brunswick only to be left shivering in the terrible weather I had been duly warned of earlier that. That was for about 30 minutes before the campus bus came along.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Big Debate -Part 1

For a beginning graduate student in Physics, it is not particularly easy decision to choose a certain area of research and a suitable advisor. Even if you have narrowed down your interests to a certain field , say for instance, Condensed Matter or Astrophysics, it can be hard from there on to zero in on what you are likely to enjoy the most (or, put differently, get the least frustrated by) . Ideally, you would like to try your hands in everything and develop some expertise and a feel for the nature of research activity involved. However, that is too much to ask in a normal circumstance given the limited duration to explore the options. Not to mention the courses and other things that keep you occupied for a substantial part of the time.
If High Energy Theory happens to be your inclination, then aside from the above predicaments, there is a whole new troublesome issue to deal with. That is if you are considering String Theory, a field whose ambitious goals are only matched by the controversy surrounding it. Over the past few years, this topic has become an issue that majority of people who are aware of it fall into distinct categories: those who passionately advocate it's mertis and those who severely condemn it as a grand failure. The middle ground in this case is virtually empty. And it is all the more bizarre that many (by no means all) of these very-opinionated individuals seem to have little or no understanding of the actual content, though somehow that fact does little to refrain them from foming premature opinions.
There is so much being said about it, strong reactions coming from everywhere, and when the subject is as advanced and mathematically sophisticated to the point that introducing it in more quick, direct manner would involve great oversimplification to render it quite useless for serious consideration, it is difficult to form a meaningful opinion yourself. And when the whole hoopla has reached crazy proportions, with some proponents going so far as to issue death threats against critics, it makes you all the more uncertain. Go over to any popular Physics blog or speak to any academic about it and you cannot escape the heat of this controversy. I am not an expert on the history of Physics, let alone science, but I can't think of anytime when something has been argued on for so long and with such energy but with no resolution in sight. Sure, the first quarter of the previous century can ring a bell as one reads this but the big difference in that glorious era was that opinions were ultimately tilting one way or the other. However, here it has been static for more than half a decade ( counting from the sharp rise in criticism, not the origin of the approach itself ) and what's most frustrating is that (and ironically the only thing in this issue that is definite), there is every reason to believe this is how it is going to be in the foreseeable future.
Some of the physicists working on it are even practical enough to advise students not to get into it in view of the poor job situation. But that is not a convincing reason to deter the curious and motivated. Or is it?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dilinger Escape Plan

So, these guys and headlining a US tour accompanied by a bunch of opening acts that play an equally unusual, experimental, genre-defying Metal/Metalcore. I haven't heard any of these other relatively-unknown bands but this is what Internet sources had to say about them. In fact, until I got to hear about this upcoming event in New York, I didnt bother to find out about Dilinger themselves.
What then was the reason for me to suddenly give their music a try? The explanantion for this goes a few weeks back to that unforgettable Sunday when I experienced the first live show in New York (also the first in this country)and what a way it was to begin with that ungodly, devastating, skull-pounding trio at the forefront of the NYDM scene, the veterans Suffocation and Immolation opened by a growing outfit Skinless. Now, I did enjoy that evening in some weird way but not being a big fan of any of these bands (and American Death Metal in general) the combined intensity of these monster bands was a tad too overwhelming for my unsuspecting self (what the hell did i expect with NYDM in an indoor arena ?). Nonetheless, Suffocation ruled in their own right!

Somewhat disappointed, I now want to go in for something that I want to really appreciate an enjoy. Yes, I booked tickets for Iron Maiden concert a couple of hours after they were available. But that surreal night is about 4 months from now and before that there really arent many bands that I can get too excited about. Too bad, Celtic Frost concluded their US tour a month before I arrived and I somehow managed to miss a Rush concert amidst the initial confusion and chaos of my stay. And so when I was informed about this Sunday's event, it got me interested because DEP has been mentioned to me in different contexts and when I heard that they were into math rock kind of stuff, I grew all the more curious. I am always interested in listening to new bands especially those that are unique and innovative. Unfortunately, despite all that, there are only a handful of bands that I really enjoy while there happens to be plenty I love to hate.

Anyway, to make a long story short, today being the last day of my semester and no pressing deadlines ahead, I decided to download Calculating Infinity off the very resourceful, convenient and legal Ruckus . How did it turn out? First impression is good. Very good. First, these guys are clearly Metal and there cannot be two opinions on that. It is something like Strapping Young Lad meets Cephalic Carnage. Not quite as heavy as SYL but they score highly on the virtuosity department. Everything about this is loaded with technical prowess - the tempo changes, the stop/start dynamics, the incredibly creative drumwork . There are plently time changes and quite dramatic in their occurence and execution. The variations are pronounced and unpredicatble but never do the songs reduce to a directionless jam session. And don't forget the balls-out sections where one is subjected to solid,powerful slabs of riffs. I can hear some Meshuggah influence as well but this is certainly not some overlong repetitive snorefest. There is so much going on in each song that it takes several listens to fully follow the musical direction.
If my opinions stay this way , it basically means that I would definitely like to watch these guys blast away this Sunday. I should start checking out the other bands lined up for the night . If they hapen to be half as talented as these guys are, there is every chance I'll have a great time this weekend. Besides, it is tempting that the admission fee is just 15 bucks. Seems like BB Kings is the most expensive venue in New York.

Why Blog?

Well, this is something I need to address right at the outset. Why did I suddenly choose to direct my opinions, ideas, thoughts and various other expressions through this medium?Why now when the blogosphere has existed for so long?
I dont have a good answer now but will come back to this when I think of something meaningful.
In the course of one's life, there is a seemingly perpetual and inevitable generation of thoughts, ideas, opinions and imaginations in the mind. In a way, it is quite natural and there is nothing remarkable about it. Usually, they are not particularly creative , stimulating, intelligent, insightful or wise or for that matter useful. In fact, more often than not, it is largely a preoccupation of your mind that comes in the way of other more productive work. So, we are resigned to accept its omnipresence. When it occupies a significant fraction of one's wakeful, semi-wakeful , semi-asleep time and everything in-between (classification becomes important if you are have insomnia like I do) , it makes some sense to collect it together and give it a semblance of progression and structure. I plan to blog about such perfunctory thoughts and ideas and I believe that would automatically give it the structure it requires. So, that's part of the reason. Only part because I am not restricting myself to just that. Actually, I am going to post about anything and everything that I fancy. It can be about cooking idlis as it can about exact solutions to Einstein's Equations or annoying Hollywood movies. Of course, since they all originate from the same source, it is only natural that some pattern would evolve eventually. More so because I tend to have distinct tastes and strong opinions. But that is only incidental, and is not related to any of my purposes (not listed too many, have I?) to blog.