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That’s right. I won a contest. Every month for the past 3 years I have entered Carvin’s online contest to win a gift certificate and I finally won. I didn’t believe it at first when I saw the email in my inbox, but sure enough after reading it 18 times and checking the originating email address I was convinced. I had more doubt and stress after that. You see they had to mail, yes MAIL, me the gift certificate. I then had to call them up and place my order and then mail, yes MAIL, them the gift certificate back. I was convinced it wouldn’t work out and that something would get lost somewhere. I was wrong! I received my order this past Tuesday. I ordered some strings and mic cables and an amp stand and a mic stand and a Carvin SX100 1×12 combo amp, in red tolex of course.

I am very excited. I’ve played it a bit and I really like the sound. It has emulator tech in it, but instead of Carvin trying to make it sound like another specific amp (i.e. making a Carvin sound like a Mesa Boogie Rectifier) they tried to make a solid state amp sound like a tube amp. An amp with 12AX7 tubes in it to be precise. What I love about Carvin is that their amps have a meatier, beefier,  sound to them. I dig Marshalls, but they can be too tinny for me sometimes.  The clean on this is reminiscent of a Roland Jazz Chorus minus the chorus. It has chorus, just not that Roland chorus.  The gain channel can do light to pretty saturated distortion. While it may not work for some death metal it is great for classic rock AC-DC style and even Metallica type sounds. There is also a blues button that switches the gain sound to, well, a blues sound. Additionally, it has Reverb, Chorus, Flange and Echo. Though you can only choose one effect at a time (I’m sticking with reverb for now) it is great to have options while recording. Which I hope to do so I can give you some samples.

One last bit that is exciting: extension speaker out. In my dream world I would get the Vintage 1×12 speaker cab to go with.

Carvin 1×12 Vintage Series Extension Speaker

So there you have it. This was meant to be a simple post about my good fortune, but, apparently, there was a ton I wanted to write. Thank you for taking the time to read a somewhat lengthy post (if you did) and thank you for just looking even if you didn’t read this (which means you didn’t read that).

And because I still don’t feel this post is long enough, here are the specs of my new amp from Carvin’s website:

Features:

– Active tone circuits for individual contour and extreme range
– Each channel features custom tailored Bass, Mid-range and Treble controls
– SmartEffects™ – Reverb, Chorus, Flange and Echo with 2 parameter controls for 256 total variations
– One Carvin British Series BR12 12 inch speaker
– Sealed controls
– Classic black knobs
– Classic red jewel lamp

Specifications:

– Strong poplar plywood enclosure – not particleboard!
– Covered in black tolex (they actually have many choices for the tolex)
– Premium components and solid design for years of reliable performance
– 100W Output
– Carvin British Series BR12 12 inch speaker
– CH1 EQ @ 80, 700 & 11.5k Hz
– CH2 EQ @ 50, 500 & 11.5k Hz
– Cabinet Voiced Line Out, Headphone Jack, External Speaker Jack
– AC Power: 90V to 255V, 50-60 Hz
– Dimensions: 19.5 inches wide X 10.25 inches deep X 17.75 inches high
– Weight: 37 lbs.
– Made in San Diego, California

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I recently acquired an older model Carvin SX-200 that I think is from the 90s. I got a pretty good deal. I traded a Cry Baby 535Q and a little cash. It doesn’t have the SmartEffects™ that the newer models have, but this baby is awesome. The clean is super clean, almost no breakup unlike Marshall or Fender and and it is not as tinny or twangy as either as well. The dirty channel is a lot like a Tube Screamer with heavier gain. The two 12″ speakers are Celestion which matches really well with the tube emulator circuit. It has a British feel and yet is wholly unique. Also, this amp is LOUD. You would have no trouble in a small to medium venue. And if you wind up in an arena it has a speaker output to connect a 2×12 or 4×12 speaker cabinet if you want, plus, you know, they have PA systems typically. I must admit I have a bit of a dilemma. I got this amp mostly to combine it with some other items and trade for a really awesome 1×12 since I don’t need anything bigger than that. But, I really love the sound and the look. Anyway, here are some pictures for you.

carvincoll

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DIY before it was cool. U.K. Subs: Punk Can Take It was directed by Julien Temple who you may know better as the director of The Great Rock And Roll Swindle (Sex Pistols, y’all). Resting on the pastiche of World War II films Temple shows the disillusionment and anger that fueled the punk movement in England. This film is messy and vile and not well done. Exactly as it should be. There’s not really a whole lot going on here, but that’s OK. Punk Can Take It is a wonderful little snapshot of a time when punk was no longer in its infancy and you get to see the U.K. Subs live. By 1979 the second wave of punk had already been around for two years, Sid Vicious was dead, Hardcore, Oi! and New Wave were under way. Check out U.K. Subs: Punk Can Take It. Have some laughs, get inspired, learn a little history (or remember it if you were there). At the very least it’s only 18 minutes 59 seconds out of your day.

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Why 7? Because this is filler. Plus, haven’t lists rounded to the nearest 5 or 10 been overdone? In the meantime, if you want a top 10 list, post a comment with 3 more movies to round this list out and you will get my eternal gratitude and a cookie!

Dig!

Wonderful movie about the mutual admiration of The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre and how it all goes wrong, for one band. Best line in a movie EVER, “You fucking broke my sitar, mother fucker!”

The Flaming Lips: Fearless Freaks

Made me really appreciate what they’e about by learning more about their process. It’s all about the process.

Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster

Band loses bass player, band finds bass player, band loses bass player, band loses singer, singer comes back, band finds bass player, and Bob Rock is adorable. I should know. I watch this movie 40 times a year.

Les Paul: Chasing Sound

Just amazing. See why every recording artist, regardless of genre, owes this man just about everything.

Shut Up & Sing

Or Why Country Music Fans Hate America No Matter How Patriotic They Sound. In all seriousness this is a must see. The Dixie Chicks kick ass.

History of Rock ‘N’ Roll

Want to learn how every major genre of rock music started and be entertained? No? Oh. Well watch this anyway.

LoudQUIETloud: A Film About The Pixies

Find out that indie cred doesn’t make you cool in real life. Oh, and Frank Black’s man boobs!

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You’re Gonna Miss Me is a documentary about Roger Kynard “Roky” Erickson. For those of you not in k the know Roky was a co-founder, guitarist and singer for 13th Floor Elevators, one of the first psychedelic bands of the 1960s. The film opens with a court scene in which Sumner Ericskon, Roky’s youngest brother, is attempting to gain guardianship of Roky from their mother Evelyn. So we have our set up for the movie-a family power struggle of sorts. Next we see the band performing their best known song “You’re Gonna Miss Me” on a 1966 TV appearance on Dick Clark’s show of while the likes of Billy Gibbons extol the talents of Roky and the glorious future 13th Floor Elevators should have had. Director Keven McAlester then juxtaposes the image of a young Roky and words of how amazing he was with a shot of his current self; older, heavy set, and, well a little off his nut and in need of someone else’s care. The rest of the film takes us through Roky’s drug use and persecution by local law enforcement and his incarceration in a mental facility. We get to see that even after 10 years of being commited Roky was able to come out and be fairly successful and prolific as a musician. And here’s the kicker, his music with Roky Erickson and the Aliens was good! But this is not a story of triumph, not yet anyway. Roky was mentally ill and needed treatment and medication the whole time after he was released. Instead he self medicated with a variety of illegal substances that contributed to his decline and eventual need of care.

You’re Gonna Miss Me is as much about Evelyn Erickson as it is Roky. She clearly has her own issues and spends a lot of time creating large murals and collages chronicling Roky’s rise and fall. We also get a little bit about how her husband and father of her four boys may have been a pedophile that completely jacked up one or all of the boys, but there is no follow up. Roky and Evelyn are kindred spirits. Both artistic and both a little bonkers. We get to see the filth they both live in. Evelyn and Roky appear to need visual and aural clutter to calm their frantic minds.

In the end Sumner does get guardianship of his brother and helps him get treatment with Sumner’s own therapist, or “mentor” as he calls her. The therapy scenes were physically painful for me as they don’t look at all like they would be helpful. She has the brothers march/walk in a circle. There is also a moment when the therapists asks Roky what he wants to do when he is better and he says he wants to go see his mother and talk to her. Sumner is visibly upset. Despite my opinion, the therapy has apparently worked as Roky has Roky Erickson and The Explosives and has been playing shows again, including 2007’s Bumbershoot.

This is an interesting film and is full of interesting characters. There is actually a lot to digest and I recommend multiple viewings. So much I haven’t touched on, like Evelyn’s exploitation of Roky for her wacked out home movies or a beautiful shot of the Erickson patriarch leaving Sumner’s house and walking right next door to his own. You have to see this to understand why it had such an impact on me. You’re Gonna Miss Me is a great documentary about some one who should be more famous and more successful than he is, but it is also a story of the triumph of brotherly love and responsibility.

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Or even heard of, until this post. Psychotic Waltz was one of the best progressive metal bands of the 80s and 90s. The band formed in San Diego in 1986. Originally they had gone under the name of Aslan, yes that Aslan, but had to change their name as there was already an Aslan, and that Aslan was punk. Hmmm, punk….Aslan, hmmmm. The name Psychotic Waltz came from a song of theirs by the same name which features a wonderful rant from a band members crazy relative. The rumor is they actually went to visit him at a mental health facility and asked him to expound on the term psychotic waltz. Anyway, Psychotic Waltz had an amazing sound. They were not afraid to push the limits, at least not in the beginning, but more on that later.

The original lineup Was as follows: Buddy Lackey-vocals; Dan Rock-guitar; Brian McAlpin-guitar; Norm Leggio-drums; Ward Evans-Bass. This was, in my opinion the best and only real PW lineup. Leggio and Evans had a wonderful rhythm section interplay were sometimes they were synchronized and sometimes offset. The guitar team of McAlpin and Rock was unbelievable. Amazing, intricate rhythms and soaring, blistering, emotional harmonized leads.

PW’s debut album A Social Grace is a wonderful mix of everything the band had to offer. You get the Ballad I Remember and the creepy sounding Spiral Tower. Lyrically Lackey has always worn his influences on his sleeve. From the name of the album (nod to Jethro Tull) to track 3 Another Prophet Song (Nod to Queen).Psychotic Waltz peaked rather early artistically and it is my opinion that their second effort, 1992’s Into the Everflow is the best PW album. The opening is ethereal and engaging and fades right on into a full blown mental and emotional experience that carries the listener on through to the last track Butterfly in which Lackey gives lyrical nods to almost everyone whoever influenced him musically.

The following two albums, Mosquito and Bleeding, are solid efforts and would be impressive from any other progressive metal or rock band. As follow ups to Into the Everflow, however, they fall a little flat. By the time of Mosquito Psychotic Waltz had seen their chance for major success come and go and slightly watered down their approach to be more accessible and yes, they were kind of selling out. Even with this Mosquito and Bleeding are enjoyable and PW does stretch itself a little with the psychedelic regae number Mindsong.

Ward Evans left the band prior to Mosquito and Brian McAlpin had to leave prior to the tour in support of Bleeding. PW also faced legal matters due to a blinded crew member on the video shoot for Faded. Pile all of this on top of increasingly disparate musical tastes and you get the end of Psychotic Waltz by 1996. Buddy Lackey had released a solo album around the time of Into the Everflow and continues to make music to this day, though now under the moniker of Devon Graves with his band Dead Soul Tribe, a rock/metal act and lives in Austria (Yes PW WAS huge in Germany). Dan Rock had the band Darkstar for awhile which served up progressive instrumental rock. Norm Leggio appears to be in the heavy metal band Cage, but I was unable to find more info on Ward Evans or Brian McAlpin. Whatever they are doing now, for a short time, the members of Psychotic Waltz made some of the best progressive metal around and inspired me personally to push myself musically.

I was lucky enough to see Psychotic Waltz live many times and even briefly took vocal lessons from Buddy Lackey. You can actually find them and the various side and post projects on Amazon.com. I highly recommend them for any metal, progressive, or rock fans.

Video for Faded


 

 

 

 

Psychotic Waltz (Demo) (1988)
1. …And the Dev
il Cried
2. Sucessor
3. Halo of Thorns
4. I of the Storm

 
 

 

 
 

 

 

A Social Grace (1990)
1. …And the Devil Cried
2. Halo of Thorns
3. Another Prophet’s Song
4. Sucessor
5. In this Place
6. I Remember
7. Sleeping Dogs
8. I of the Storm
9. A Psychotic Waltz
10. Only in a Dream
11. Spiral Tower
12. Strange
13. Nothing


 

 

 
 

 

 
Into the Everflow (1992)
1. Ashes
2. Out of Mind
3. Tiny Streams
4. Into the Everflow
5. Little People
6. Hanging on a String
7. Freakshow
8. Butterfly
9. Disturbing the Priest (Bonus Track)


 
 

 

 

 

 
Mosquito (1994)
1. Mosquito
2. Lovestone Blind
3. Haze One
4. Shattered Sky
5. Cold
6. All the Voices
7. Dancing in the Ashes
8. Only Time
9. Locked Down
10. Mindsong
(Hidden Track: Darkness)

 
 

 

 
 

 

 

Bleeding (1996)
1. Faded
2. Locust
3. Morbid
4. Bleeding
5. Need
6. Drift
7. Northern Lights
8. Sleep
9. My Grave
10. Skeleton
11. Freedom?

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Originally released in 2003 Betty Blowtorch And Her Amazing True Life Adventures is a movie about the ups and downs of the band Betty Blowtorch. Anthony Scarpa spent two years filming the band and got some great footage. We get to see video shoots and record deals go south and Vanilla Ice doing a bong hit, but at it’s heart this is the story of the life of Bianca Butthole (née Bianca Halstead).

The movie opens with one of many Betty Boop clips that are unfortunately peppered throughout the movie. I understand what director Anthony Scarpa was doing, but I would have preferred they were kept out entirely. After that we see the band filming a video and this scene sets up the whole movie by showing you what Betty Blowtorch is all about right away. Off camera the video directors calls for “play back” and Bianca responds “No thank you. Sound” indicating they are not completely comfortable with the set up. They want to rock not pretend. A little bit into the shoot Bianca is on the receiving end of too much glitter confetti and has to take a moment to stop lip syncing. The filming continues until she can shake the glitter confetti attack. I love this scene because it highlights the ridiculousness and artifice of the music industry and the fact that Betty Blowtorch doesn’t quite fit in.

We then get to see the creation and disbanding of Butt Trumpet, the pre-Betty Blowtorch band. There are some great interviews with Thom Bone whose goal was to start “the last punk rock band.” His altruistic ideas and desire to sell $8 not $20 band shirts causes a rift within the band and leads to his leaving, or getting thrown out depending on who is being interviewed. The movie then shows us how Betty Blowtorch came to be in the post Butt Trumpet fall out. We get interviews with Duff McKagan, and get to see Rob Van Winkle, AKA Vanilla Ice, do a bong hit (did I already mention that?). And when the ending that I knew had to come does in fact come I was actually taken by surprise.

Betty Blowtorch And Her Amazing True Life Adventures has a few problems. The main problem being, for me, the length of the film and the editing choices. The Vanilla Ice segment could have been shortened (he does a bong hit btw) and there is a road story involving flinging pies and poo between vans that I would have liked to have seen put in the end credits instead of in the middle of the movie. Also there is a point where the band members have a falling out and we are given vague answers as to what started it; normal band tension on the road, managers mishandling communications. Scarpa could have delved a little more into this and gotten the band to open up so we could really know what was going on.

While Scarpa does find a narrative he needed to tighten this up a little more and tell a more concise story. I believe he could have cut some from this film and still honored Bianca’s memory. Though it is slow at times and could have been presented in a more compelling manner Betty Blowtorch And Her Amazing True Life Adventures is a great find and is for anyone who is a fan of rock music and loves an underdog (or wants to see Vanilla Ice do a bong hit-oh, and also rap about how big his manhood is).

This film is not rated, but is definitely for the “R” crowd.

Betty Blowtorch And Her Amazing True Life Adventures: directed by Anthony Scarpa; director of photography, Anthony Scarpa; edited by Anthony Scarpa; produced by Scott Milano, Jade Robledo, Anthony Scarpa, Kelly Spencer; With: Betty Blowtorch, Bianca Butthole, Blare N. Bitch, Sharon Needles, Judy Molish

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Twice now I have gone to see specific headlining bands and wound up being blown away by the opening acts. Before I get to the who and how let me make one point. You’ve spent the money, it’s for both bands, why not go? I understand if you know the opening act and think they suck. Sure, don’t go then. But if you’ve never heard of them, go check ’em out.

Now the who etc.

First, we went to see They Might Be Giants. They are all that and a book on math. So good. The opening band was Oppenheimer. They are from Ireland. It’s just two guys, Shaun Robinson and Rocky O’Reilly. They use a prerecorded, preprogrammed portions of songs when performing live. Shaun sings and plays drums while Rocky plays guitar, provides vocoder vocals, and plays the mighty Moog. Oppenheimer has a synth-pop sensibility and et completely rock. From the slow jam of Breakfast in NY to the upbeat and catchy Saturday Looks Bad To Me Oppenheimer has it all.

Second, we wet to see The Go! Team. Best show ever! If you have the means I highly recommend checking them out. The opening band for that concert was Bodies Of Water. Bodies Of Water hail from some part of L.A. They have a decidedly retro feel. Bodies Of Water have clearly done their homework and sound authentic and yet new. They have an infectious energy. Especially from Meredith Metcalf, and especially at the end of These are The Eyes. Bodies Of Water also having a brilliant vocal approach that is both four part harmony and call and response.

Check out the above bands and see if they appeal to you. They both have something different to offer. But most of all go see the opening act. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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