Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Sun Dodging

I absolutely love summer. I'm a summer baby and I live for June to August, spending as much time outdoors as possible doing summery-type things with friends, such as barbequeues and walks or just lazing in someone's garden. Lets face it, this summer has been shit. Last weekend I was getting drenched at Bloodstock, this bank holiday weekend was absolutely amazing.

Not that I saw much sunshine.

Sure, Saturday evening was spent enjoying a nice barbequeue in Jamie and Chrissy's garden (until the attacking flying ants took back the garden), but for the rest of the weekend I was shut away indoors with my 360. Even when I was literally drenched in sweat with the desk fan blowing directly into my face could I not tear myself away from the glorious weekend of gaming that I'd been gifted with.

It doesn't happen very often these days - I can no longer spend more than a couple of hours with a game until boredom strikes but let me tell you: Bioshock ticks all the right boxes. It draws you in with gorgeous visuals, pins you in your chair with an atmosphere that absolutely
oozes style, slaps you round the face with tense gameplay and refuses to let you look away with its fantastically deep storyline. To make sure I don't miss any of the story, I printed out a list of the locations of all the audio logs in the game, and I've been making a point of collecting them all. That involved some backtracking, but I'm fairly certain I've collected them all up to my last save point. I'm currently just over half way through the game.

I imagine that I would have finished Bioshock this weekend if it wasn't for Space Giraffe. As I mentioned in my last entry, I purchased this wonderful little Llamasoft game on XBLA just before the weekend and now I've fallen in love with it. It's a lot more involved than a straightforward shooter, and awards tactical gameplay over lightning-fast reflexes, which suits me fine. I'm currently sitting at about #200 on the leaderboards, but I know that I'll be able to get in the top 100 with little more effort, maybe even the top 50.

This weekend I finished reading
Peter F. Hamilton's "The Dreaming Void". I don't get a lot of time to read, but when I do I'm currently favouring sci-fi novels, particularly the works of Hamilton and Iain M. Banks. This particular book is the first in Hamilton's lastest trilogy and is shaping up to be another page-turning journey and I enjoyed this book just as much as any form the Night's Dawn trilogy and the Commonwealth Saga. As always, the book ended with a couple of great cliffhangers and it's going to be a long wait until next year's second part. In the meantime, I'm going back to Banks' "Use of Weapons" which is a seriously hard slog of a book. After that, I'll get on with the rest of Banks' Culture series.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Mister Bubbles!

If Gameplay.com deliver on time as usual then I should be playing Bioshock tonight. Can't wait for that - the Live demo blew me away, as it did for thousands of gamers around the globe. So far I've managed to stay spoiler-free, despite following the Bioshock thread on Somethingawful.

As well as Bioshock, which really requires no further discussion (buy it now!), yesterday saw the release of
Space Giraffe on XBLA. As a fan of Jeff Minter's work, I shall be laying down my 400 points after quickly running through the demo this morning. Yes, it's another shooter on XBLA, but it's a Llamasoft shooter. Every self-respecting Brit should purchase this trippy masterpiece and support Jeff in his future endeavours.

Last night's gig elicits some mixed feelings from me. The crowd was awesome (thanks guys!), and Polonium and Penny's were wicked to gig with as per. However, a slight mix-up over the gig (England match last night meant we couldn't get going until 10pm) and several technical hitches from our side (my guitar having a loose connection and James' guitar losing tuning) tarnished what should have been a brilliant night. Couple that with me messing up on a couple of tunes (the covers actually, I know our shit inside-out) and I'm left feeling somewhat deflated. Still, we got an awesome response from everyone there who must have been oblivious to the screw-ups, and that leaves me somewhat satisifed.

Today needs to go faster, dammit. Looking forward to my first weekend of gaming in an absolute age!

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Procrastination Station

It's been ages since I last blogged. I have no excuse either! Sometimes I feel like writing, other times not so much. I've decided to compile the last couple of months into a new blog post to make up for lost time. So here goes...

June
...saw a lot of band-related happenings. Discussions about the future of the band, polishing our awesome live show and putting in practice for the gig we did at the end of June at the Liquid Lounge in Ryde. The turnout was pretty damn good for a Wednesday night and much fun was had by all. Here's a video:



That's our latest "new" song, Just A Man. We've still got a couple of new songs under wraps that we're finishing off - we hoped to have them ready for this month's gig but had to sideline them due to lack of practice time.

Also in June, the band had its first official photoshoot. This was a first for all of us, but the experience was nonetheless exciting and the outcome was better than any of us had expected. An old friend of mine (Thanks Alv!) came down from London to try out some ideas for an outdoor shoot and we were happy to be subjects for the day. After going out and about to scout for a location, we settled on a rocky beach in Freshwater Bay. The elements were all against us for the shoot - lighting, weather and the tide - but somehow the photos came out really well! Judge for yourselves:



And here's a short video from behind the scenes:



July

...was the month of birthdays. Several of them, all rolled into three weeks of pubbing, clubbing, and parties. My birthday fell on the 21st and I headed out in Southsea to Subversion (at club EQ), a local alternative night. Despite only having one floor open, the music selection was awesome and much fun was had by all.

The 8th of July was very special. Metallica at Wembley Stadium. Best gig I've ever seen. We managed to get access to the pit area right in front of the stage shortly after Metallica began their set. What a night to remember. I posted video on Youtube:


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Another gig at the Cellar rounded off the month, with us supporting
Penny's Dropped, a band that I'd been looking forward to playing with for a while. The evening didn't disappoint, though our set could have gone a little more smoothly (as always).

The end of the month was taken up with preparation for my trip to
Wacken Open Air with Dan, which kicked off August with a bang and was the first of two festivals I attended this month.


August
...and we're almost up to date!

The trip to Germany was pretty harsh to say the least. With five of us crammed into a Focus hatchback, needless to say we got to know each other fairly well. The outbound journey took around 16 hours from Portsmouth to Wacken. It took a while to warm to the festival - I'm not usually one to go to a festival for the
experience, I go because I want to see some kickass bands that I like. I only only saw around ten bands at Wacken properly, but the atmosphere, the beer, the food and the people were all top-notch and I'm definitely considering going again in 2008 regardless of the line-up.

Up next was
Bloodstock Open Air. Not so far to go this time - Derby is about two hours from Southampton by car and I drove myself, Dan and Carl up in relative luxury compared to the nightmarish journey to Wacken. Bloodstock promised much and I certainly wasn't let down by my three favourite Melodeath bands : Dark Tranquillity, In Flames and Arch Enemy. I spent a lot of time checking out the unsigned stage on Saturday during the inevitable downpour and got to see The Hanging Dolls, Hollow Earth Theory and Exit 10. Some of the other unsigned acts were pretty average and I'm fairly certain that Puritan Slain could easily play that stage. I'm going to research exactly how we get there for next year!

I'm not sure if I'll be returning to Bloodstock next year. The lineup would have to be exceptional given the relatively poor organisation, the expensive (and sub-par) food and the patchy stage management. At the end of the day though, it's a British festival in its infancy with a 7k attendance and the chance to get close to some pretty huge bands.

A few other things of note - I caved in and took my ESP F-100 in to have the pickups upgraded to EMGs (81/85 set). It's taken three weeks so far and I desperately need to get it back either today or tomorrow as we're playing the Liquid Lounge again tomorrow night. Time to get on the phone and raise some merry hell.

Also, Bioshock. Eagerly awaiting delivery of my Collector's Edition either Thursday or Friday. If you haven't played the demo on Live (or the PC demo if you're machine's up to the task) then I suggest you stop what you're doing and go play. It's going to be an awesome gaming experience.

And on a final note, I've finally installed Gallery 2 on the webserver! Been meaning to do it for ages, but now I've finally got somewhere to offload all the pics and videos I've got hanging around.
Clicky Linky!