Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Hollywood Kills

Mikayla, Stephanie and The Hollywood Kills.

                It was hot.   I do believe that fits so well that, though it’s been used before, (I'm sure I've read it somewhere...) I’m going to use it again.
                We finally arrived at Magic Springs theme part, near Hot Springs, Ark., on a steamy southern Saturday afternoon. My wife, Teri, and I brought our daughter, Stephanie, niece Mikayla and nephew Skylior for a day of roller coasters, water park coolness and over-priced theme park food. 
                More importantly, we were there for a show featuring power-house rockers 3 Doors Down.  We are all more than casual fans of this great band, so despite the temperatures reaching above 37 C (100 F – go metric or get left behind), we anticipated a good show.
               A good show we got.
              The band was as good as expected and better than advertised; 3 Doors Down established themselves as a great band that can put on a good show more than 15 years ago.   Today, they have a nice portfolio of rock standards that are, or a destined to become, classics.  (Whenever the so-called “classics” stations finally get over the Beatles…but don’t get me started on that.)
                Before 3 Doors Down, however, we experienced a serendipity that really made the whole evening:  They are called The Hollywood Kills.  We were unaware they were scheduled to play Saturday.  When they hit the stage and knocked off their first couple of songs, I was asking around to find out who they were.
Nobody I asked knew.  They introduced themselves as The Hollywood Kills, a 4-man band out of Nashville, Tenn.  They'd already peaked my interest.
I’m tired of the same old stuff -- hearing Zeppelin, the Eagles, Skynyrd and the Beatles over and over is just...redundant.  Because of that, I try to support our new music makers.   Bands like The Hollywood Kills are the future of our genre of music.  They are a rock band. They weren’t over-the-top screamo or, lord help us, eighties-retro techno crap.  These guys make solid rock and roll, put on a good show and didn’t take themselves too seriously (which obviously should be left to REM and U2.)  So while we all secretly yearn for the triumphant return of Eighties Hair Metal (or is that just me?), it appears that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
Therefore, we must make do with what we have.  Right now, we have The Hollywood Kills.
            They rock.  Saturday night, they rocked the whole stage.  Their music is good, vocals tight and the drummer does a great job with, what appears to be, the minimum necessary equipment.  Not only that, but when it became clear to them, and to us, that nobody knew who they were or why they suddenly appeared on stage, they just made the best of it.  By the end of their set, they had the crowd engaged and digging the jams.  That was accomplished with an authentic, friendly, happy-to-be-here attitude – and some damn good original music.   
                The Hollywood Kills are a good band.  Seemingly, based on what I saw at their Hot Springs concert, a good bunch of guys, too.  Perceptive and public relations savvy, they were happy to spend a lot of post-concert time at their merchandise booth signing CDs and taking photos with newly acquired fans.  This face-to-face time is the key to a long-term fan base:  They know that.  I took a photo of Stephanie and Mikayla with the band.  (Sorry about the evil red-eye and blurry's a phone I could do under the circumstances.) The girls were ecstatic.  I thanked the band personally and made the comment to them:  “You guys are good.  It was a great show. " 
            I didn't have to tell them those two girls will never forget.
            These guys are doing it right.  Watch them.
            I think The Hollywood Kills are going places.

(John P. Smith is a freelance writer living in Bee Branch, Ark.)

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Dungeon Siege 3

This may sound funny, but my Mom, who is 71, is an FRPG freak.  As am I.  (I got her addicted to Diablo slightly before the turn of the millennium.)  She pre-paid Obsidian and Square-Enix $50 for DS3 months before it actually arrived.  As did I.  That’s Dungeon Siege 3 for the PC.
 What’s she doing right now in all her copious free time?  Playing a third-party remake of Diablo II.   Why?  Because she has to take out her frustrations with DS3 on something!  
                Here’s the deal, Square-Enix:  You folks have made some pretty good games in the past with Dungeon Siege 2 topping that list.  But on Number 3, you blew it.  You guys clearly set out to reinvent the wheel and instead ended up with…the wheel.  Same old snot, with chrome.
                DS3 is a pretty game and has a great story line.  Maybe a little too much story line, but I always like the idea that my character is starring in a movie. 
                What I was expecting, and I don’t think I’m alone in this expectation, was a continuance of the awesomeness of Dungeon Siege 2.  I expected Square-Enix and Obsidian, two of the best game-makers out there today, to take what was clearly a superb game and make it better, faster, more powerful than before.  The fact that they did not do that disturbs me greatly. 
                DS2 was one of the most re-playable games ever.  I’ve been PC gaming since 1980, when I bought my first TRS-80 Model I, and in those years, I have enjoyed few games more than DS2.  Doom, of course, along with the original Wizardry games for the Apple //e.  However, for single play or multi-play, DS2 was the bomb.  The combat and stats system was easy to understand and the skill tree easily negotiated.   Square-Enix completely failed in this area.  DS3’s skills and stats are one click and done deals.  That may be okay for newbies, or console players, but for we who like a good RPG, we want to see numbers and to have more detail as we evaluate stats and weaponry.    (It’s one of the ideals of role playing games:  My character stands by a looted chest or in a magic shop holding two swords side by side, testing weight, balance, quality of the steel and asking the mage behind the desk for details of the enchantments and enchantments of both…and then making a decision.) 
             Finally, as a PC Gamer, I feel completely disrespected.
I know Square-Enix, Eidos, Taito, et al, primarily make console games, but come on people!  You didn’t even bother to give us the basic ability to remap our controls?  Seriously? 
                I am depressed.  And so is Mom.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Clamity in Japan

Watching video and news feeds from Japan -- it breaks my heart.  I loved living there and constantly tell people I'd go back in a heartbeat.  I'm wondering if there's some way I can join the relief efforts.  If I find something I'll post it here.

Meanwhile, my prayers are with the people of Japan, especially those on the east coast.

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Year...New Post

That seems to be the way it works.  I can't keep up.  I did miss my first day of work this year due to some snow and icy roads.  I'm going to try to make it in tomorrow, but it may be a close thing.  I really can't afford to miss too much.  Anyway.  Happy Freaking New Year.

I'll be back.