Thursday, August 31, 2023

Blaugust Cliff Notes: Thanks for reading!

And here we are . . . another Blaugust comes to a close. It's pretty great to get fresh views on your site during the month and also get to read a bunch of great blog posts from other Blaugustians -- new and old! I've had a lot of fun clicking on all the links in our Blaugust Discord server. Unfortunately the month has also been pretty busy for me, so I haven't been as chatty as I typically am. (I tend to drop my social presence when things get busy -- my D&D buddies were worried.)

Just as a review, when Blaugust kicked up I was still in full Diablo IV mode, playing the new season and earning my seasons reward track. I was writing about quests in Scosglen and unlocking all my renown on my Sorceress. Probably my favorite post of the Diablo series was when I was listening to my wife watching Housewives while I was playing and ended up in a fevered-dream Diablo/Housewives crossover episode.  

Truly Trouble in Paradise . . .

Then Palia hit, and it was mega-fuel for the entire month! Almost half of my Blaugust was spent exploring this new world and just fishing up random stuff to try and impress Einar, my lovable robot boyfriend. It was so bad that even MassivelyOP noticed that I couldn't control myself and gave me top billing in their community Global Chat post last week. *blush* I usually don't get top billing there.  Felt pretty good, and I'm hoping Einar hears about it. (Thanks for helping me look good for my robot, Massively!)

pubescent caterpillar is still my favorite line in the game

Real life was definitely on my mind as I talked about my birthday and a trip to the new Meow Wolf in Grapevine, Texas. I'm still getting fuel from that visit, even making new trippy art for a psychedelic project over on the HITRECORD site, which is my new social media of choice lately. Also, my kid headed back to school and that flipped my schedule so I had to post at night instead of in the mornings. Also, speaking of psychedelic, the Beck/Phoenix concert was a laser light extravaganza!

I'm making weird art for HITRECORD from my pictures from Meow Wolf

I also talked about a few more cancelled games in my game portfolio posts. I still have one more left I could talk about believe it or not. Yeah. That's working in mobile games for you! It's such a highly competitive space. This site says there are 3,379 new apps a day on the Android store, which seems too specific to be true, but its heart is in the right place. Your app can drown in visibility very quickly.

Getting to storyboard these game comics was a job highlight I failed to mention

And finally I got to talk a bit about a few VR Games that were gaining dust in my virtual library. As it turns out, I typically don't have a burning desire to play exercise games and zombie/monster shooters -- go figure. Glad I got to "exercise" my typically not-seen side and shoot several things in the face. I actually have many more VR games I need to review that I've never played, and also VR games that I HAVE played but NEVER talked about on this blog, like A Fisherman's Tale (what a fun puzzle game that is) or Paper Beast (a trip into the wild and weird).

Didn't see myself doing this when Blaugust started . . .

Outside of all that, I mentioned how much I appreciated the band Low . . . and that there was the month of August in blogging. 

Unlike some who get the fire in them to keep it going well into the following months, now that a habit of posting has been established, I'm likely to take a bit of a break . . . but now I have some great ideas for things to write about! It's been a good month, but also quite busy. Mentally, it came in like a lamb and out like a lion for me, which typically happens every Blaugust. It's weird like that. All is well though. No worries. Just glad I made it through with a post every day.

Thanks for reading and as always . . .

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

VR Game Library Delving -- Walking Dead Onslaught

Hello, fair reader. I'm back with yet another blood and guts zombie game today from my un-played VR game library. Just a heads up that you will see pictures of, you know, me stabbing a zombie in the head. If that is something you don't want to see, you may want to skip this post. Just sayin'

And with that out of the way, can you believe it? Blaugust is almost to an end!  Today and tomorrow and that's it. Glad I'm able to end this month of posting with yet another VR game that I just spent the past hour or two playing. I figured I better stop now so I can write about it before it's bedtime and I have nightmares of zombies coming after me.

Today's game is Walking Dead Onslaught. Apparently there have been a few Walking Dead VR games. Today's game and then there's also Walking Dead Saints and Sinners 1 and 2. All I know is that the game I have in my library came to me as a part of a bundle from like a year ago, and I've never played it until today.

The picture should feature more knife and less crossbow and gun.

Quickly flipping through reviews, it seems like Saints and Sinners had a bit of a better reception than this game, but I gotta tell you, compared to the zombie wave shooter I played yesterday, this has a lot of potential to be pretty cool. They have a base building aspect to the game. Weapons can be upgraded. There's a story mode. There's a mission mode. It just feels more complete as a game that will give you multiple hours of replay-ability.

The tutorial walks you through the basics like how to grab a zombie by the throat and stab it. This is actually a very important maneuver because they definitely don't give you enough ammo to just kill everything with a gun. Side note, I really wish they gave you enough ammo to just kill everything with a gun. Then again, the rag doll physics of grabbing a zombie by the throat and flailing them around is pretty funny. I think the developer really liked the stab in the head action.

The Walking Dead throat grab. It's a thing.

After the tutorial the game puts you into a prologue mission where you encounter Daryl Dixon and work your way to a van to escape to your new home base. Now . . . I never watched the Walking Dead series. Oh my goodness, I just heard a collective gasp from like 3/4ths of you reading this blog post. I'm sorry. What I do know is that Daryl is one of the main characters from the series so it makes sense you get to play through his story, to which I believe I'm reading there are 7 chapters.

Chattin' things over with Daryl

The story is pretty much on rails, but you can miss items if you don't look around at all the corners and edges of the map. As you reach certain points, Daryl chimes in like a Dungeon Master talking about things you just encountered or were about to encounter. It's a good way to do story telling in an action game. No complaints here. (In fact, it seems like most of the complaints were that there just wasn't enough story) 

Daryl is all "Took you long enough!"

Story mode is fun and all, but these survival missions are pretty crazy. You are outnumbered and it's basically a dash and grab to try and get as much stuff as you can and then fight off a horde until an escape route opens up and you can make your way to it. I failed the first one twice until I found a happy medium between killing zombies, grabbing loot, and running away from zombies and finally won.

One bullet left and a horde of zombies left to go. fun.

Once you return to camp, win or lose, you'll use any loot you've gathered to upgrade your weapons and build out a town. I honestly can't wait to find a haul of better weapons. Again, not that knife stabbing a zombie in the head doesn't have some entertainment value in and of itself, but a crossbow or a shotgun would be nice to have.


Anyway, I liked my time in the game, and I could see myself returning to this one to play through the entire story and build out my town. Feels like I could maybe get 10 hours out of it, which isn't bad for a VR game at all!

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

VR Game Library Delving -- Propagation VR

Hi. I typically run a family friendly blog, but ya gotta know that I'm looking at a FREAKING ZOMBIE KILLING GAME today, so there's your warning. There's gonna be pictures of zombies and blood and stuff, so . . . um . . . sorry. (But, since I used to talk all the time about 7 Days to Die and no one complained, I doubt anyone is going to complain -- just being upfront here.)


Continuing my look at games that I haven't played from my VR library, today I'm offering up a little horror wave shooter game known as Propagation VR. It originally released in 2020 and apparently it warranted a follow on game known as Propagation Paradise Hotel just this year!

The grabbing hands, grab all they can. All for themselves after all, it's a zombie-ish world!

In Propagation VR, you're thrown into a subway tunnel and asked to survive waves of zombies (and other things) swarming your position. You have your fists, you have a handgun, and you have a shotgun. That's it. That's the game. OH wait, there is a story to it all as well. After you finish a bit of killing, you get a bit of a respite while your "saviors" come to the rescue. You're a cute civilian with an unlimited supply of ammo, and they're in full gas-masked getup. 

I did find a quick way to end the game here by the way. All you have to do is shoot one of the friendly NPCs, and they give you one free Game Over screen. How can anyone resist not shooting these guys in the face?

How did the NPC survive a gun shot to the face? HOW?

Wave 1 is not bad. It's a mix of standard run-of-the-mill zombies . . . a couple fast ones . . . a couple that like to shoot you back . . . a bunch of slow hobblers. You know, zombies. of all kinds.

Zombie Meat Chunks EVERYWHERE!

Reloading is pretty simple, you grab a cartridge of bullets from your side and slot it in your pistol or you load your shotgun pellets one by one. OR, you go into the options and make it so when you press A it loads for you. Took me a couple times through the first part of the game to figure that out.

Pressing A is great, but I actually like the feel of loading shotgun shells, putting the shotgun behind your back, grabbing the handgun from your waist, loading a cartridge of bullets, and backhanding a zombie if they get too close while you reload. It has a nice rhythm and feel to its death march.

Shell goes into shell slot. Got it. Gotta quickly reload those shells while you can!

Wave 2 features these, featureless human meatbags that like to get down on all fours and skitter toward you once they take damage. It's . . . not pleasant looking. Pro-tip, turn up the Gamma so you can actually see these things, or keep it low if you like being spooked by sounds. At the end of wave 2 you're greeted by a couple of the army NPCs that ran ahead and got ate, now returning as military zombies.

Bloody fleshed-over-eyes buddies!

Wave 3 is all about the spiders -- giant ones and small ones that pop out of the giant ones! Lots of creepy spiders all around you. Shotgun works wonders here. At the end of the Wave, a MEGA spider comes out and claws you with two of its legs. As Dory would say, "Just keep shooting, just keep shooting, just keep shooting." (Well, Dory if she was in a zombie apocalypse that is.)

Big jumpy guys with eight tiny eyes!

Wave 4 is simply a boss wave. A big ol' creepy man jumps out of the corpse of the giant spider and we get to have a great session of pop the boils on his back, stomach and arms. The most terrifying part of course is when he attacks you from above. Eventually you shoot him in the back and he falls over on to the subway tracks, getting run over . . . and you win with a scoreboard tallying just how horrible you did on your way to victory.

He needs those boils lanced and everything will be fine. 

. . and that's it.  There's nothing more to it other than to up the difficulty and try again for a better score. I guess if it's Halloween and I have people over who want to play a spooky game, Propagation VR fits the bill, otherwise it feels a bit like a once and done experience. Not bad though.  I think it may actually be free now that they have the paradise hotel version

If you want to play it co-op with another player, they have a $10 DLC you can buy though.  It could be fun playing back to back with someone, although I did ram my fist into the desk once trying to swing at a zombie's head.  Co-op would be dangerous if you were actually back to back. Best not do that.

Happy Dueling!

Monday, August 28, 2023

VR Game Library Delving -- PowerBeats VR

Whew . . . ok team, I need to catch my breath here. I just got done playing a few rounds of PowerBeats VR and I'm all hot, sweaty, and tired. Oh man . . . did I tell you I mostly lead a sedentary lifestyle over here? I  mean, yeah, I go walking with a little Pikmin Bloom and some Peridot, but this is cardio I just got done doing! *catches breath*

Ok, check it out. So, PowerBeats VR is another game I got in a bundle about a year ago, and I've never fired it up, UNTIL TODAY! WHY?! I'VE GOT A BLAUGUST POST TO WRITE! I told you all a couple days ago that I'd go delving into my un-played VR games, and so here we are.

She needs to watch where she's swinging!

The rhythm game slash workout is a perfect game for VR. Ever since humans could swing a beat saber, we knew it was a thing. PowerBeats VR is an ok rhythm game, but an absolute knock out of a work out. Instead of swinging a saber effortlessly to the beat, you are punching balls that come flying at you, ducking under and to the side of pillars, and following a golden rope up and down on a path.

(Btw, the balls that come flying at you are a bit of nightmare fuel for me since it channels an old childhood reoccuring dream of pushing back giant balls ala Sisyphus.)

If you'd like to laugh a bit, watch me trying this expert level for the first time.  I get a B-. :(

The game comes with three environments and a leveling system where you can unlock new hands/weapons as you play. I've put about an hour on the game now, and I think I'm about halfway through level one. Next level I get a hammer. If only I unlocked the song Hammer Time when it happened . . .

Probably the coolest feature of this game is its completely open music library option. You can pick any song in your computer's library, and PowerBeats VR will generate a workout for you based on the parameters you set. Of course, being a songwriter type myself, I had to play a couple songs of my latest release: Rotted Leisure Rooms.

Here's a swing at beginner level workout with my song Wyrd Beard using the Egyptian desert environment.

. . . then I take it up a notch to an Advanced workout with my song Clear Plastic Game Boi, which actually works pretty well as a workout song.

If I were to spend an additional $3 for the DLC to this game, I could also open up a whole slew of new backgrounds to play in, and the ability to load in my own 360 photos to view while I work out. I was actually tempted by this since you know how I love to take 360 photos. There's working out, and then there's working out with some fun 360 photos from Meow Wolf in the background.

Anyway, glad I tried this. I prefer the stylized drumming found in a game like Ragnarock or swinging sabers in the one and only Beat Saber, but this was still pretty fun. I was really happy to find that there actually is a level editor for the game if I wanted to truly make something that matched my songs. 

Who knows, maybe this could be my new workout when I'm not walking my Peridot. Glad I delved into my VR Game Library to give it a shot.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Palia -- All that and a gaggle of glow worm fish

I haven't had a chance to play as much Palia these past few days, so I thought I'd check back in and report a bit more on my Blaugust progress.

First things, I've got my aquarium room all sorted out and it's looking pretty good.

Largest on stage right, Mediums on stage left, and smallest on the upstage.

Second things, I dinged level 11 (only 9 more to go to get my extra cool fish tank).

It's one better than 10!

Because I've been away from the game for a bit, my glow worm farm chugged out a lot of the little yellow guys for me to use all over Palia and score a few new fish that I haven't shown off yet. So without further ado, here's the new crew!

The Bahari Pike

From a Bahari River and not Pike Place Market

The Black Sea Bass

From the Bahari Ocean and Not the Black Sea

The Blob Fish

It objects to the term blob and prefers spherically challenged

The Cactus Moray

When a cactus hits your eye and it hurts like a stye that's a cactus moray!

The Crimson Fangtooth

It's a Crimson Fangtooth, not a fun colored Lanternfish

The Fathead Minnow

Not fond of slurs like fathead.

The Honey Loach

Honey Loaches are the bees knees

The Hypnotic Moray

When you get hypnotized by a fish of this size that's a moray!

The Indigo Lamprey

*hangs head* I missed the cool New Fish screenshot on this one . . .

The Midnight Paddlefish

It's got stars upon thars!

The Swordfin Eel

Answering the question, what if a sword fish and an eel had a baby?

And after all that I STILL haven't caught all the fish that are available in Palia. It's kind of crazy. Hopefully someday I'll be able to check them all off my list and proudly say I'm done, but today is not that day.

Happy Dueling!

Saturday, August 26, 2023

VR Game Library Delving -- Doom VFR

Here we are in the final stretches of Blaugust, and I've decided I want to take some time and delve into a few un-played VR games from my library. Most of these games were purchased as a part of a bundle either from Humble Bundle or Fanatical, and I just never got around to playing them! In fact it was a year ago that I purchased Doom VFR as a part of a bundle from Fanatical that included one of my all time favorite games, Karnage Chronicals, which I talked about last Blaugust.

The F stands for "Fun," right? right?!

I'll be honest, I tend to shy away from frantic shooters, but I own the game so why not give Doom VFR a shot . . . BANG!

Taking down a ground pound-y dude in Doom VFR

The game was originally made by Bethesda in 2017 for the Vive and for the Playstation VR. It was a big splash at E3 when they revealed their trailer, and let's be honest, they've made some of the most well known and best games in the business (VR or otherwise). Going into this, I expect to have a blast, but I also know I'm going to die a lot. It's Bethesda. It's Doom.

For some reason I decided to go into the game on normal mode instead of easy mode. Perhaps that was a mistake. Perhaps I shouldn't think I'm good enough for this nonsense. Perhaps I'm a glutton for punishment. Who knows.

Anyway, Doom VFR starts out easy enough, but I was struggling with the controls quite a bit in the tutorial. I'm using a wired Oculus Quest 2 to connect to my PC to play. To teleport, you have to actually press down on the control stick and move it around, which may not seem difficult, but my sore thumb right now begs to differ. I guess I don't understand why they made me press down and not just push forward and release? 

The most important part of the game

I'm sure it has something to do with the way the touch pad on the Vive controllers works, and this game was never really made with the Quest 2 in mind.  Alternatively, I imagine playing with a game controller on the PlayStation would be a superior experience all around for this reason.

It's pretty cool though. Lot's of neat touches in this one. For example, teleporting, as it turns out, is a key element of game play in that if you stagger an enemy with gun fire, they begin to flash blue. When they're flashing, you are supposed to teleport inside the demon and rip them apart from the inside out. 

They're blue! Time to Telefrag!

Telefraging -- guts go flying everywhere and you feel like teleporting has an actual reason to exist in the game rather than to just get the heck out of a tight situation (something it's also good for, but feels slow since you have to click down, then move . . . I digress).

I don't quite understand yet how to cycle through my weapons, and I think that's part of my problem. I keep ending up on a slow shotgun and just hoping to run out of ammo so I can auto-switch to something more powerful. Um, I need to figure that out.

Basically campaign game play switches between puzzle solving quests and tense enemy after enemy combat ala Doom style, and they don't go easy on you at all. Typically in VR games, the difficulty lightens up a bit knowing that people naturally react a little slower than in regular games, but not Doom VFR. It's super intense.

When they bring out the flaming, flying skulls of death, you know it's bad.

The puzzles themselves are relatively simple so far. Things like, grab a missing teleporter piece and bring it back.  Find a missing door key and bring it back. Twist some locks around to open a door. Stuff like that. I almost wish the puzzles were more intense and the action was a little less intense. Or, yeah, I just need to turn down the difficulty . . .

Anyway, it's pretty fun. I hear it's only a few hours long if you don't keep dying over and over like me, but there are three save files, which ups the replay value. From what I understand the game has dropped as low in price as $5, but it's regularly $15. At one point it was as much as $30! For the amount of fun I've had today playing it, I'm sure whatever price I paid for it as a part of the bundle was well worth it.

Happy Dueling!

Friday, August 25, 2023

HITRECORD -- Jumping into a creative's social media

 A couple years ago I watched a Ted Talk from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the actor. It all seemed to begin for him with child acting roles (things like Family Ties and 3rd Rock from the Sun) and led to pretty well-known movies like Inception and Dark Knight Rises. In his Ted Talk, he talks about "How craving attention makes you less creative." It's worth a watch!

To sum it up, Social Media is designed to make you crave attention, and there is no amount of attention you can get from Social Media that makes you feel like you've arrived. However, getting attention is different from paying attention, which is a core experience he has as he undertakes his collaborative part in the creative endeavor of creating movies. But, his feeling is that experience of paying attention isn't just for actors, it's something all creative people can experience.

To him, the Internet shouldn't be so much about getting attention, as it should be about paying attention because some of his favorite creative activities are from collaborating with people he hasn't even met. When you're part of a collaboration with all these people, you find flow and you find a safe space to just be creative. All that said, getting attention feels pretty good when it happens . . .

And that's why he started the site with his brother Dan. Basically, it's social media for creatives. Here's the sales pitch.

I guess I'm super late to the party and even after watching Joseph's sales pitch, it took me a few years to try it, but this year . . . I finally did, and I have to say I'm pretty interested in continuing the journey. So far I've only dabbled a bit with writing poetry and short stories, shared a picture based off of a prompt, and uploaded a song birthed out of a therapy session conversation I had. It all feels clean, and I like that. I like that I've contributed to things creatively that I normally wouldn't have done.

The best example of this for me personally is when a project came up to write a tiny story that was inspired by a picture of a little felt ghosty dude, which was a filting creation made by a collaborator at HITRECORD named Yellowsicktoad.

Yellowsicktoad's felt ghost

This was created by Yellowsicktoad and shared under a visual art project for making random crafts. JoeFed62 on HITRECORD then used this picture as a writing prompt for others to contribute to:  "Week 45: write a tiny story inspired by the picture 'The Little Ghost And Her Red Rubberboots' by Yellowsicktoad."

As I was surfing HITRECORD one night, I came across that prompt and wrote a little poem to go along with it because why not?! That little dude is pretty cute, so I penned this:

Small, fuzzy ghosts
-- flit along the filtin’
Smaller red boots
-- soft, playful kickin’
You say it’s only August
 -- but candy bags need fillin’
put me in your pocket
-- till October we be chillin’

In essence, it's a little poem that I would have never written if I didn't stumble along the Tiny Story challenge. 

Then this week I began to get pings from HITRECORD that other people were remixing my poem into pictures. (Side note: Remixing on HITRECORD is when you use someone's creation to create something new yourself.) The reason why was because JoeFed62 had posted this prompt: "Week 48: Combine the image 'The Little Ghost And Her Red Rubberboots' by Yellowsicktoad with the text 'small, fuzzy ghosts' by Stingite."

So that's my small example. Now just imagine finding a group of collaborators to make a full album of music with, which is something that's been done on the site back in 2012. Everything was collaborative from the sounds to the words to the music to the cover art. It's kind of genius.

Now, my honest critique of the site: As much as I love the idea behind this site and agree so much with what it stands for in creativity, it feels like it needs an update, is a touch confusing to use, and could use more people interested in inspiring others (paid community management?). 

I do know that the site has been around since 2005. It refreshed its website in 2010, and throughout the years it's had minor updates to its look, but the site we have today is pretty much the same layout from three or four years ago based on what I'm finding on images from the Wayback Machine. 

Something about HITRECORD's search and organization feels a bit dated. I've searched for new music projects, but it feels like all I'm finding are old projects that have completed but are still open for contributing, which is confusing and discouraging. 

On the other hand, writing prompts, graphic prompts, and voice acting prompts all seem readily available, but there might be a need for more JoeFed62 type of people for music. That's the kicker.  The crux of what makes this site really work are people that are interested in inspiring participation. Without them, the site kind of falls apart. If HITRECORD isn't paying someone to prompt others with community projects, it should.

Outside of those critiques though, I think this is a type of social media I could really get into. The idea of being a part of a social media platform based around creative collaboration is a huge selling point for me.

So there you have it . . . when you're feeling creative and in need of paying attention collaboratively to gain attention from others, this feels like the corner of the Internet that could shine the brightest. It just needs some attention itself and perhaps a touch of new polish.

Happy Dueling! 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Palia -- I'm the worst at Gardening

Gardening in Palia started out for me as nothing more than a cotton farm empire. It was all about the touch and the feel of fabric, as they say, and I cared nothing for what happened. Soon I discovered it was pretty easy to craft up vegetable soup and I had a few free carrot seeds in my bags, so the crop became a split between cotton and carrots.

Fast forward to today and I've started to branch out to wheat, rice and potatoes as well. Now here's the ugly truth. I've just been throwing these things down any old willy-nilly way because ain't nobody got time for figuring out gardening beyond, I put stuff in the ground, I water it, I get stuff out.

It's like I went to the haircut place and said in a chad voice, "Just mess me up."

The above is the view of my garden from in game. Pretty ordinary garden shot . . . not the largest garden by any means. I'm working with a 6x6 plot. I could expand that all the way up to a 9x9 if I wanted, but up to this point gardening has been entirely an afterthought to fishing.

Give me the messy look, ma'am, you know, "Just mess me up."

The above is a 2D graphical representation of my garden from the site Palia Garden Planner. My current haphazard layout of stuff is so so. I'm getting minor quality increases, water retention, weed prevention, and harvest boons with my accidental layout. But what If my garden looked a little more like this?

got the root vegetables adding water retention and the tomatoes doing some weed prevention

Now we're looking a bit better on all the stats and definitely a more well rounded crop. Hmm . . . what if I double downed on the tomatoes and sacrificed a bit of the cotton in a layout kind of like this?

Rotating around the weed prevention, increasing tomatoes for profitability . . .

Oh man, I hate that I've found this site. Now I'm going to have to actually think before I garden . . . just imagine what it's going to be like when I expand the plot and start growing blueberries and apples! What a nightmare gardening is. To quote the Matrix, "Ignorance is Bliss."

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Checking out Beck's Summer Odyssey Tour

Last night my wife surprised me with concert tickets for us to go see Beck and Phoenix on their Summer Odyssey Tour stop here in Austin. The show also included performances by Sir Chloe and Weyes Blood. Unfortunately it took us a bit to get to the venue, park, and then hoof it to the Moody Center, so we missed Sir Chloe, but we did manage to catch most of Weyes Blood's set. All-in-all it was a great show! Since I have to write a blog post for Blaugust today anyway, thought I'd just detail my thoughts and share a few pictures from the concert.

Bathed in Pink during Weyes Blood

First off, let me just say that I don't get out to go to concerts quite as much as I would love to, especially here in Austin where a lot of talent rolls through and you can see them in more intimate venues like Antone's, which is where we last went when Joey Valence and Brae rolled through town. Before that we were able to hit up ACL Fest last year and really go crazy with three days of music outdoors in the sun. Before this, however, we really had a dry spell and didn't see any live music for a while -- not only because of Covid scares, but also because we're mostly homebodies.

Seriously, Bathed in pinkish purple light!

We support our local public radio and Weyes Blood gets played there from time to time, so while I don't own any of their music, we are familiar. Every time I've heard the lead singer (Natalie Laura Mering), I'm instantly reminded of something that could be a cross between Karen Carpenter and Mazzie Star. She has an incredible voice and the music of Weyes Blood is enchanting and beautiful. 

Natalie kept making jokes in between songs about the next one being a real rave party or a mosh pit song and then delivering something completely different. Most likely this was because she knew that the energy from Phoenix and Beck is something completely different. It might be part of the reason why the crowd was much thinner during her performance.

The ethereal sounds of Weyes Blood like a calm sea of stars.

She had on a beautiful thick white gown that occasionally the lights would flood through and you'd get shadowed hints of her body underneath. Tucked into the gown's chest was a red lighted circle that was briefly used during one of the songs when it got dark, and then simultaneously two smaller laser spotlights hit the crowd in a couple of spots, and it made the singer/audience connection come alive. Great moment.

For me I couldn't help but think about how much I would love to be on stage playing somewhere myself. Being a performer I think is a lost calling on me, and playing to a crowd this size would be absolutely amazing. It's kind of weird how thoughts like that roll through my head while watching a live concert. I'm there in the moment, but also somewhere else at times. I've only had the chance to play a larger crowd a couple of times. I miss it but it is anxiety inducing as well.

Anyway, after the Weyes Blood set we had some time to get up and walk around, so we headed out to the one merchandise vendor booth and waited a long time in line to buy a couple of shirts. For a venue this size, you'd think they'd have a couple of booths at least, but with four lines, it went relatively quickly. Probably the best comment I heard while waiting in line was a guy who joked with a friend that he stopped buying music around 1994. There were in fact, a lot of older folks like myself and my wife there who mostly just knew Beck's music.

Where the real money is made on tour

Next up was Phoenix. This is another band that I'm familiar with through radio, but haven't really owned any of their music. That should change. From what I'm now reading, we missed them at ACL last year (hangs head). There's just too many great acts at ACL and not enough time.

Probably the most notable songs from the set were Alpha Zulu, 1901, and I believe they played If I Ever Feel Better. You know, all the danceable, four on the floor hits. There were a lot of people there ONLY to see Phoenix and dance around outside of their assigned seating. They knew all the songs by heart and sang the words in perfect unison.

Phoenix rebirthing their hits on stage

Amidst all those happy dance jams, there was a pretty intense experience where the guys in the band played an instrumental song known as Sunskrupt and the screens behind them showed a guy sunbathing with his hand on his heart, listening to music. Then the camera panned outward to a simulation of 1000 million light years away and then panned back in to the guy . .  and then zoomed inward to a simulation of 1000 million microns into the sun bather's hand over his heart. That collective reminder of the infinite space around us when we're all crowded around with people at a public venue was kinda nice.

Possibly the most Rock Star moment of the whole night happened at the end of Phoenix's set when the lead singer (Thomas Mars), was handed a mic with a HUGE extension cord and he went into the audience making his way through all the way to the back and up into the stands to say thank you and hello to people, giving them fives along the way. In the end, he dumped the mic, and it all culminated into him being lifted up off the floor in the middle of GA with a little bit of crowd surfing while the band went nuts.

Thomas Mars, our champion for the night!

There was another break after Phoenix's set and we were able to get a bottle of overpriced water and chill before Beck took the stage. Uber Wife and I threw on our new Beck T-shirts that we purchased and waited for the Rock Star we were most familiar with.

I love this Dia De Los Meurtos styled Llama shirt . . . also my wife!

It's funny because I clearly remember going to see Beck at a venue, and Uber Wife clearly remembers going to see PJ Harvey at the same venue. Did they play together? Is one of us wrong?  We're talking like 1993-1996 range. Uber Wife tells me that I should just make up a story that Beck was the first concert we ever saw together after being married (it could be true!) and here we are now about to celebrate our 30th anniversary together and seeing Beck once again to celebrate. The concert was an early anniversary gift from my wife after all. I'll go with it!

I didn't really know what to expect when Beck's made, what, 35 albums or so? I remember in the late 90's being impressed with how prolific he was back then. There's whole swaths of Beck music that I'm unfamiliar with. On the way to the show I kept joking that really all I wanted to hear was Devil's Haircut sometime during the show and that would be enough. Guess what his opener was? I just looked over at my wife and laughed. There it was! The song I wanted! As the drunk guy a row away from us kept yelling, "When you're hot, you're hot!" (Seriously, he yelled it like six times throughout the night like it was his war cry.)

I had a Devil's Haircut on my mind

And really that set the vibe for the whole set list from Beck. He played the classics, the popular party music, and the familiar songs we aged to: The New Pollution, Wow, Nicotine & Gravy, Sexx Laws, Loser, Where It's At . . . all the jams. Mid set, Beck slowed it down and played a couple from arguably his most known slow heartbreak album (and my personal favorite) Sea Change. When he slowed it down, he played The Golden Age and Lost Cause -- both fantastic songs. The one I was hoping to hear was Lonesome Tears since I have a thing about that song, but alas, not played.

The band Beck was playing with last night is the same one he's been playing with since Odelay, and he explained this and made sure to call them out individually, which is nice. I imagine being a skilled musician backing a big front name like Beck, you tend to not get the spotlight. His praise for them didn't go unnoticed.

Near the end of the set, Beck was joined on Stage by Phoenix and they played the song they wrote together specifically for this tour: Odyssey. I was unfamiliar with it, but it was super danceable and was a great song I'd like to hear a few times again, felt like a very summer song.

At the very end of the show, all the bands got together on the stage while Beck sung about two turntables and a microphone and the audience was given a supply of giant balloons to toss around in one giant party moment. Spectacular to watch and provided my best photo moment of the night.

It was a huge party and a great way to end the night

Happy we were able to go to this show. We spent too much money and had a lot of fun. Ultimately it was a great escape and a great celebration. You have to love how music can bring us all together as we feel the bass in our chest and the drums in our feet while beautiful chord progressions can take us out of ourselves 1000 million miles above the earth.

Happy Dueling!