Tuesday, March 13, 2007

No Fear - It was a good concert.

This past Friday, I went to The No Fear Music Tour stop in Columbus, OH. The line up, in order of appearance, was He Is Legend, Chimaira, Dragonforce, and Killswitch Engage.

My friends and I got there just as the first band, He Is Legend, started the sold-out show. They were okay, which is the same reaction I got when I listed to samples of them on iTunes before the show. They seemed a little more "rock 'n' roll" than metalcore, to me. The singer reminded me, in the way he moved and the poses he struck, of the singer from Tesla, even though he doesn't really look like him. They ended with some of Pantera's "Broken" mixed into their final song.

Chimaira was up next. Mark Hunter, the vocalist, was visciously intense. The whole band was solid, grooving, and heavy. Their set list was great, with Resurrection, Pure Hatred and Nothing Remains all being hit up front.

During their set, with one pit about 10 feet in front of us, I found myself on the fringe of another pit for the first time in probably eight years, this time behind us (where I didn't see it coming). In the early-to-mid 1990s, I was in and around pits frequently, but I have since lost my "sea legs" for them; I got shoved from behind and a third of my drink ended up on the people in front of me. Sorry!

It was a shift in gears going from Chimaira to the next band up: Dragonforce. Dragonforce's sound harkens back to the power metal and guitar pyrotechnics of the late 1980s. It is uplifting music, with soaring vocals and frenetic instrumentation. I read a review once somewhere that described their sound as Journey at 10x speed, and there's some truth to that.

Killswitch Engage were the headliners, and when they took the stage, people got very excited, and Killswitch put on an appropriately good show. It turns out that, despite the band hailing from New England, the Killswitch singer, Howard Jones, is originally from Columbus, Ohio, so it was a sort of homecoming for him.

In the end, I thought Chimaira put on the best show of the night. They weren't as technical as Dragonforce, but they were intense, with sophisticated drumming, rock solid guitars and bass, nicely subtle keyboards and backing vocals, and the brutal Mark Hunter on lead vocals.

The concert was worth paying for all of that TicketMaster convenience.

At the show, my friend Jason and I discussed his observations on how people come to be fans of metal. Some come to it from the hardcore scene (his situation), while others come to it from other sub-genres. In my case, KISS was the start of my path to loving guitar-driven music. Before discovering KISS, I liked Elvis and Beatles, but once I heard (and saw photos of) KISS in about 1978, things would never be the same for me. That started me on a path that lead me to a show like this all these years later.

After the show, Jason and I met up backstage with my brother-in-law Casey (who went to high school with members of Chimaira), where we hung out with a handful of people including Jim LaMarca, bassist for Chimaira, and ZP Theart, singer for Dragonforce. It was an entertaining way to end the evening.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Little App, Big Joy

I can't live without Launchy anymore!

I think I went through a pretty normal evolution to get here. Once upon a time I used the regular Windows Start|Programs to launch applications. Then I graduated to a BAT file to start up the apps I most commonly used. Then I switched to using the Quick Launch toolbar. I've used Start|Run for various things, or even an omni-present cmd.exe console. I've even looked at some other "application launch pad" apps before, but was never impressed enough to continue using them. Now that I've become hooked on Launchy, though, I'm going to give them another look. A good list of them can be found at Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen blog. It was in another one of his posts that I first came across Launchy, I think.

I started using Launchy (http://www.launchy.net/) a couple of months ago, and now I feel lost (and slow and frustrated) on the rare occassions when I have to manually find what I'm looking for under Start|Programs!

So, what is Launchy? It's a tiny app that allows you to launch programs or files very quickly, in a keyboard-driven way. Just type Alt-Space, and a text field appears mid-screen. Start typing, and matches appear. If you type enough for a single match, that's all you see.
If you type something with many matches, it will present a likely match first; then, if you don't select that match immediately, a selection list of more matches appears. It seems to remember what you've selected before and puts those items highest in the match list (or maybe that's a result of what I've usually typed, or else it's just my imagination. :-)

A feature I didn't realize it had at first was a form of pattern-matching. I can type 'itx' and it will match Internet Explorer (InTernet eXplorer), for example.

It quickly indexes your Start Menu/Programs, your Desktop, or whatever set of directories you want to match against. The ability to focus on a few places rather than the entire hard drive is nice; otherwise, you'd end up with too many matches, I think (unless other heuristics are involved, which some other similar apps appear to have).

It has some configuration options and alternate skins, accessible by right-clicking on the border of the text field. Disappointingly, most of the techniques described at http://www.launchy.net/#tips don't work for me. Hitting Tab only selects the text I've entered so far, which doesn't seem like what I expect should be happening.

There are other programs much like Launchy that I've come across since, but I've stuck with Launchy (version 1) so far. Once in a while it crashes on my laptop (running Windows XP SP2) and I have to (GASP!) go to Start|Programs to re-start it. I'll probably check out one or two alternative apps, then donate to support the one I end up using. I'll try to remember to post a comment or update this post with my final selection.