Sunday, May 28, 2006

VH1 Rock Honors Taping at Mandalay Bay

The day started early. Jacki and Darian were flying to Texas and I was off to Vegas. We got to the airport around 6:45am and we went to our different flights. I got to Vegas about 9:30am and checked into the hotel. I stayed at the Aladdin which is about 3 Vegas blocks from the Mandalay Bay. I attempted to get some sleep but was restless even though I only had about 4 hours of sleep. I hung out in the hotel room until about 12:30.

The one thing I told myself is I wouldn't get stuck in the casino, but when I checked in they gave me $10 of slot play. I burned through that and then burned through another 40 bucks and decided no more gambling. Off to Mandalay Bay.

It was hot by the time I got outside. Easily 95 degrees, but a dry heat :-). After a good 25 minutes of walking and catching trams I got to the hotel. I walked through the casino and found the restaurant area. As I was eating I started to see people walking around with KISS shirts. I figured the only thing I was here for was the show, and although check in wasn't until 3pm, I didn't want to get lost in the casino. I found the area where check in for the seat fillers were supposed to be and arrived around 2:20pm. There were about 10 people there. The VH1 people said we were in the right place and they would start lining us up in abou 10-15 minutes.

They lined us up around 3pm. We were now in the first holding area. We spent about 30 minutes in the first room and then proceeded to the second room. Another 30 minutes and then we received our wrist bands. And then to the next room. 2 more hours of waiting. As we walked into this room I was asked how I found out about the event. I said through the KISS website and then a guy handed me a KISS Thanks You card.

By the time it was time to go into the venue the last holding room had at least a couple of thousand people. It was unreal how many seat fillers were there for this thing. Clearly VH1 didn't sell too many tickets.

They had the Pit lines, which I was in, Red carpet lines and then seat fillers for filling the the unfilled arena seats.

Getting there early paid off. I ended up being the 10th in a line of a couple of thousand. Around 6:15 they finally took us over to the event. We passed the red carpet, although it was black. And then they lined us up in the concourse of the arena. Soundcheck was occuring so another round of waiting.

We could hear the set up from the arena. Tie Your Mother Down by Queen started playing but you could tell Dave Grohl was singing. Sounded great. Then the next Queen song soundchecked was Under Pressure then the Show Must Go On, Paul Rodgers was no singing.

We then got lined up at the curtain and could peak into the arena. We saw the final soundcheck of We Will Rock You / We Are The Champions with the Foo guys on drums with Queen. After they finished they finally took us to the floor.

Fortunately my place in line was maintained and I ended up being the 10th person into the arena and down to the floow. I ended up getting a spot against the stage right in front of where Gene Simmons would be later in the night.

As the crowd came in Vince Neil sat up with his wife in the lower part of the arena. Needless to say all you saw was him shaking people's hands and taking pictures. After just about everyone in the section had done this he was finally able to sit and enjoy the show like the rest of us.

Around 8pm the familiar voice of Riki Rachtman came on and warmed up the crowd. The show started around 8:15.

The stage was set up with 3 drum kits, 1 for dave Grohl, 1 for Queen, and 1 for Taylor Hawkins.
The night kicked off with Foo Fighters and they proceeded to play through the songs that were soundchecked.

Foo Fighters -
Tie Your Mother Down (joined by Brian May and Roger Taylor)

Queen -
Under Pressure
Show Must Go On
We Will Rock You (joined by Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins)
We Are The Champions

When Paul Rodgers came out and started singing Under Pressure he came over and shook my hand. I know a lot of people have given him flack for singing Queen but the songs they played were amazing. Great energy and good performances. Having soundchecked last they had the benefit of having near perfect sound.

As Queen wrapped the stage rotated and Godsmack appeared with gear fully set up. I wish all set changes could be this quick. 3 minutes later and Godsmack was up. Godsmack was playing a tribute to Judas Priest.

Godsmack -
Hellion / Electric Eye
Victim of Changes
Hell Bent For Leather

Another stage rotation and the mighty Priest appeared. I had never seen Judas Priest so this was one of the parts of the night I was looking forward to. They came out and sounded great.

Judas Priest -
Breakin The Law
You've Got Another Thing Coming
Green Manalishi With The Two Pronged Crown

The odd band out for the night came on next, All American Rejects. As they were setting up the guitarist noticed his guitar wasn't in tune. They had about 1 minute before th filming started again so he ran off stage to his guitar tech. The tech tuned and gave him back the guitar. As he came back over in front of me the bassist pointed out that he still wasn't in tune. And at this time the VH1 people did the countdown to being back on-air 5-4-3-2-1. A slightly out of tune guitar to a song that you could really tell.

All American Rejects -

Maybe they will fix the out of tune guitar in post editing. The intro of the song and the guitar solo were noticeably out of tune. And all the guitarist could do was give a look like oh well nothing I can do now. At least he was grinning about it.

Another stage rotation to Def Leppard.

Def Leppard
Rock Of Ages
Rocket (w/ extremely extended guitar solos)
20th Century Boy (joined by Brian May of Queen)

During the Def Leppard set a girl squeezed her way to the front right next to me. Needless to say the VH1 cameras liked her and she got the attention of the band. During 20th Century Boy Joe Elliot came and grabbed her hand, I'm pretty sure this was caught but the cameras so you will see me on VH1 right next to her.

Next up was the Tribute band to KISS. There was a rumor that Ace Frehley would be joining so the KISS fans were quite anxious. Out came Slash, Rob Zombie, Tommy Lee, Scott Ian and Gilby Clarke. As they started the announced special guest Ace Frehley and launched into God Of Thunder. Scott Ian was liked an animated comic book character on stage. He was playing a Gene axe bass and did his best Gene impressions.

Tribute -
God Of Thunder

And then the reason that most of the people on the floor were there. KISS. They had the biggest stage set up with the big KISS sign and a scaled down version of their full stage set up. The audio mix was geared for Gene so most of what I heard was Gene's bass. A very interesting mix.

Detroit Rock City
Love Gun
Makin' Love

I didn't realize this was going to be the case but the night was all a build up to KISS. They also delivered a great set by not throwing in the usual TV friendly tapings of Rock And Roll All Nite or Shout It Out Loud.

As the show ended the other bands came out for a final bow.

Def Leppard, Queen, KISS, and Judas Priest were all on stage. When everyone was on stage the crowd started chanting one more song. Jamie Pressley, the host of the entire night, started to ask on her mike, can they play one more song. She got the ok and KISS set back up and the stage cleared.

KISS played Makin Love for their encore. Paul had to ask Tommy what album it was on, and with Tommy's help got the album, Rock And Roll Over, correct.

The show ended around 10:45. Back to the Aladdin and I caught a cab back to the airport around 6am.

The VH1 Rock Honors airs next Wednesday. Considering I was against the stage and had a camera in my face a good portion of the night odds are high I'll be on tv. I'm sure I look like a fool, but it was fun.

As you can see I took some great pictures, although on a crappy camera. A few are mixed in this entry and the rest are on flickr.

So 4 days before the show I had no idea I'd be seeing KISS much less any of these other bands from the front row in Las Vegas. Thank you KISS and VH1. The night couldn't have gone any better.

Monday, May 22, 2006

VH1 Rock Honors

Over the weekend I saw KISS had posted a link to request pit tickets to the VH1 Rock Honors taping in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay on Thursday. On a whim I sent in my request and actually received a pass. So it looks like I'm headed to Vegas on Thursday to see KISS tape a tv special that will air May 31st.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The San Francisco Vacation Part 3

Friday morning arrived and it seemed we had already experienced the adventures of a full vacation. We ate breakfast at the hotel and headed out late in the morning. Off to San Francisco. Along the way we passed through Gilroy, the self proclaimed garlic capital of the world. We ended up taking the 101 up into the city.

We had no destination in mind, other than the hotel, so we just headed to the city around the Moscone Center, a place I've been many times for conventions. We headed to the Metreon food court, for no other reason than I knew it was there.
I had some great barbecue and Jacki and Darian had an asian noodle type thing. I guess we were a little stir crazy after a morning of driving and for some reason we decided to take some goofy pictures with our "cool" faces. Judge for yourself. At least I got a "MySpace" picture out of it.

By this time it was mid-afternoon and our next destination was the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). Jacki and I went to the NY MOMA back in 2001 and that ended up being one of the highlights of that trip, so we thought we'd give the SF one a try. The musuem was quite large and had exhibits ranging from historical, to some things that left you wondering why was it even in there.

The piece that immediately left you wondering was a white canvas, titled "untitled". I liked to call it "unstarted". Then to top that there was another white canvas with a green border right next to it. At least that artist got farther than the previous one. Needless to say it was categorized as minimalist. Yeah right!

The pieces I enjoyed were the Warhol and Salvador Dali pieces. They had a historical exhibit of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The pictures of devastation were unbelieveable, as were the quality and beauty of the pictures from so long ago. One of the photographers of the time hoisted up a camera off a kite and was able to take bird's eye pictures of San Francisco from 1500-2500 feet off the ground. Remarkable views of the city and a perspective you wouldn't expect to get from 100 years ago.

We spent a couple of hours at the museum. It was interesting that the things the three of us were interested in looking at differed quite a bit. I liked one half of the surreal exhibits but hated the others and Jack and Darian liked the exact opposites on the surreal exhibit floor.

After the museum we walked back up to Union Square. Jacki And Darian got some drinks at the Coffee Bean. We walked around and went into a couple of stores. By this time it was starting to get into the evening so we ended up eating an early dinner. We ate at a little Italian place, one of my favorites in San Francisco, called Puccini and Pinetti. I can never remember quite how to get there so we wandered aimlessly trying to find it. In the end we found it and were able to get seated. Dinner was a hit. I think Jacki and Darian both loved it.

Next destination was our hotel 25 miles south in Newark, California. It wasn't close but the price was right. And Darian and us had separate rooms which makes things a little easier. We called it an early night anticipating the long day ahead on Saturday.

Here is our complete journey mapped out. See Yahoo Map.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The San Francisco Vacation Part 2

As our trip continued we got back onto the road after leaving Hearst Castle. Our destination was our hotel in Salinas, CA. Only 110 miles away, or so we thought.

The problem started with our departure time. We left Hearst Castle around 9:15pm. It was dark and the only road heading north was the PCH. The next 90 miles was some of the most trying driving I've ever done. When we started I thought we were going to make great time. No cars, and clear roads. We cruised about 10 miles in a little under 10 minutes, and then it hit. The PCH drive, in pitch black.

The PCH for those of you that don't know stands for Pacific Coast Highway. It is one of the most scenic roads in the US and runs along the West Coast with picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean. However in the dark you can't see a thing, no ocean, no road, and no peace of mind.

We averaged 65mph for the first 10 miles up the PCH and then for the next 3 hours we averaged about 25mph. The roads twisted and turned, the visibility in some cases were no more than a few car lengths, and then with all of the rain parts of the PCH were even washed out resulting in us driving over loose gravel.

A couple of times the road straightened out for a mile or so and I thought the bad part was over. And then the twists and turns were back. At one point there were rocks through out the road and I had to drive around them as though I was driving through an obstacle course.

Jacki got sick, I had white knuckles and 3.5 hours took us through Big Sur, 17 miles scenic drive, and Monterrey. We didn't see a thing. Over 3.5 hours of driving we probably only passed 10-15 cars in nearly 100 miles of driving. I guess I missed the memo telling us to avoid PCH at all costs in the dark.

And then when we finally did get off of PCH we couldn't find the right exit to Salinas. We ended up calling On Star from Jacki's Saturn. My first time. They told us we were headed the wrong direction and gave us directions that got us back onto the highway to Salinas.

We arrived at the hotel a little after 1am. A late night fast food run to Wendy's and then a good night sleep.

Needless to say the next morning we took Big Sur and Monterrey off of our list of things to see. There was no way we were going to get back onto PCH on this trip.

Here is our complete journey mapped out. See Yahoo Map.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The San Francisco Vacation Part 1

A couple of weeks ago (April 20-23) Jacki, Darian and I went our first driving trip through California. It also turns out that this was our first family vacation outside of visiting relatives in a year and a half.

We started off mid morning Thursday and headed towards Santa Barbara. It took us about 2 hours to get there and along the way we begin to see the many cities I had heard about but didn't know where they were. Thousand Oaks, Oxnard (home of dw drums), Camarillo (heard about via a Zappa reference) and others quickly passed by. About 1/2 way to Santa Barbara I recalled one of my business partners at Helio had headquarters in Santa Barbara. After a couple of phone calls driving north on the 101 we were able to get some easy directions that took us to the shopping district of the city.

One thing we noticed along the highway were the numerous bells on poles. Not sure what these are for, but later in our trip there was a vague reference to earthquake bells. Perhaps these had a practical purpose at one point but now are simply used to decorate the sides of California highways.

We made it to Santa Barbara and did a little shopping and ate at Santa Barbara Brewing Company. Darian bought some sun glasses and Jacki bought some shoes at the little shops. Because women can never have enough sun glasses and shoes. Good thing Darian didn't get the feather boa.

We spent about 2 1/2 hours in Santa Barbara and decided to get back on the road. At this point it was probably 2 in the afternoon. Our next destination was Hearst Castle.

We spent a few hours driving up the 101 towards San Luis Obispo. Since I had never done so, I decided I wanted to check out a winery. Every so often you would see highway signs saying, "... vineyard ahead." Being from Texas I'm used to seeing signs for sausage smokehouses, fresh fruit and vegetables, maybe even peanuts but never a vineyard. We stopped at Laetita Vineyard just outside of San Luis Obispo.
We did a little wine tasting and checked out the scenery. And yes I confirmed that I still don't really like wine. Since we did the "free" wine tasting and not the paid wine tasting I do have to assume that I was getting what I paid for. It was an interesting experience and at least now I can say I did it.

It was now about 4pm and we knew that if we wanted to make it to Hearst Castle we better get going. We continued driving north on the 101 through San Luis Obispo, and then cut over to Highway 1. We arrived a little after 5pm.

Since we arrived so late there was only one tour left for the day at 7pm. The night tour. We purchased tickets to a movie about Hearst Castle and then went on the night tour. I must admit my expectations were very low for this part of the trip but the castle was amazing and is highly recommended. Definitely one of the highlights from the trip.

Here is our complete journey mapped out. See Yahoo Map.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Helio Launches May 2, 2006

We've launched! As of 9:01 PT May 1 / 12:01 ET May 2 we are official. The first phone is the Kickflip showing our exclusive MySpace on Helio application at $250, and the second is the Hero at $275.

Check out and buy a phone or two!

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