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Dream Theater with Spock's Beard, San Francisco, August 2000

Yup, these two bands are playing at the Maritime Hall in San Francisco tonight! I had bought tickets online as soon as I heard about it, in my usual fashion.

We stop working and leave the house early, at around 6:15pm, with the following plan: park the car in the city and then find a place to eat a quick dinner before getting to the concert venue at 8:30.

At about 6:40 we are approaching Market Ave planning to cross over at get to first street when we encounter a traffic jam, and I am talking grid-lock here. It turns out that a bus has broken down, and everyone is trying to cross over in front of everyone else. I swear I saw the traffic lights turn from red to green and then back to red for a total duration of 1 second at one point, which I'm sure wasn't helping. No traffic cops in sight...

A crazy woman in a car started crossing over in front of us, apparently intending to go straight across to the other side, ignoring the fact that there was a enormous bus directly in her path. At this point things got worse until a passer-by elected himself traffic director and decided to help out. He started standing in front of cars preventing them from moving into the gap as the traffic left the intersection and enabled the woman to inch out, letting some SUVs go across the front of the car, until she was facing the side of the bus. Over the course of the next 10 minutes she did a five-point turn in the middle of the grid-locked intersection until she was facing the wrong way into the one way traffic, and went around the back of the bus. She would never have been able to do it without the help of the guy, but the truth is that she should never have entered the intersection unless she was planning to turn left and "go with the flow" and find an alternate route.

So that used up about half an hour. The next half hour was spend with the back half of our car sticking out into the north-bound lane on Market street waiting for traffic to clear in First street. Here the obstruction was a big truck with a sign on the back directing traffic to merge left. What was not apparent until we were passed this (30 minutes later) was that the truck itself was trying to get into the right lane, then stop and let the orange-vested guys out to lay traffic cones... argh.

Anyway, by then it was about 8:00 and we drove up and parked a fair way away from the hall, but frankly by then we'd given up on trying to get anywhere by *driving* and walked the rest of the way... it wasn't very far, actually.

We got to the theatre, showed our tickets, and climbed the stairs and passed the t-shirt and program stall, and found some excellent seats right up the back of the theatre. At least, we thought they were excellent, because no one was behind us to kick us or vomit on us. Unfortunately, people were walking to and fro in front of us all through the show because it was the aisle "most likely to be mistaken for a walkway". Dunno why.

Spock's Beard started their set early, which we knew about because I've been following the news on their web site. Dream Theater had asked them to start early so that their slightly overlong set didn't cause DT to start later and then go over time themselves...

Spock's Beard were great. They played some of their "hits" and also one track from their new album which I hadn't got yet. They are a very energetic and entertaining band, playing together tightly and with much fun and exuberance. I think they played about an hour and 20 minutes in total, before getting off the stage and letting the roadies set up the stage for the main act, Dream Theater.

Dream Theatre were disappointing. Yes, they can all play 100 notes a second, and their music rocks, but I agree with Lisa when she said "they kind of phoned that one in, didn't they?" meaning that the band was on autopilot. Also, they were somewhat self indulgent, allowing themselves solo spots for keyboard and guitar, when basically their whole repertoire is keyboard and guitar solos with occasionally vocal lines. And the singer was not at his best that night.

(Hey Walter you might be interested that Jordan Rudess seemed to handle the entire concert with one keyboard- an 88-key Kurzweil K2600 I think.)

They played most of their latest album - the good parts, thankfully - and a mish mash medley of other tracks that was so boring Lisa fell asleep. I knew the set list from the discussion groups on their web site, so when they'd got past the instrumental section of _Learning_To_Live_ I suggested to Lisa that we split and beat the crush and traffic after the show. I knew the encore was going to be _A_Change_Of_Seasons_ which is a 20 minute epic, and frankly I didn't need to hear it.

(Oh - for those of you concern, we used ear-plugs this time, and the concert was enjoyable instead of painfully loud as a result.)

As we drive away back towards the Golden Gate Bridge, congratulating ourselves for avoiding the most uncomfortable part of the concert, another car fails to stop at a four-way stop and nearly hits us. Ulp! Luckily, he brakes and misses us, but that didn't stop the adrenalin rush from making me shake for the next few intersections.

We get home at about 12:45, hungry. We still hadn't had dinner!

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