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   Judas Priest, 2019
Saturday, May 18 2019
This morning the weather was so nice that we moved out Saturday morning coffee ritual out to the chaise lounges in the yard west of the house. From there we watched Neville the Dog wander a little too close to the road and Diane the Cat slip into and out of her new "fort" multiple times. Her "fort" is a large forsithia bush just east of the driveway about halfway between the house and the road. Often now as I'm walking to the mailbox, she'll come out of that bush as I pass and follow with me some distance, in once case almost to the mailbox (happily, she didn't seem to want to cross Dug Hill Road). Seeing Diane going into and out of her fort was all very adorable, until at some point she emerged from it with something hanging from her mouth. It was a garter snake. There was, you see, still enough of last night's chill in the air for a cold-blooded creature to be at a decided disadvantage against an endotherm like Diane. This time, fortunately, I was able to get it away from her and it could slither off into the bushes.

I've been dissatisfied with the performance of the hot water collection system since getting it going after replacing the broken glass panes. Even after sealing heat leaks and using four or five gallons of antifreeze to replace all that had boiled away over the winter, the hydronic fluid has seemed to flow distressingly slowly. Today while up on the deck, I found that the hot water front from the auxiliary panels (the smaller ones that had been manufactured by someone other than me) didn't seem to be moving at all in a copper pipe as I held it in my hand (which works well as a subjective heat detector). The solution was to go down to the basement and force high-pressure fluid in from the bottom while draining it on the other end into a low-pressure tank for recirculation. But I couldn't end the process that way; I then had to fill in any voids at the top by adding antifreeze from the top. I was actually out of antifreeze at this point, so I added regular tap water (two or three gallons of it!). I haven't added tap water to this system for more than thirteen years, though I've added dozens of gallons of antifreeze. I figured it could stand a very modest dilution.
Once I'd done all that, the system seemed to be collecting heat at an acceptable rate on this gloriously sunny day. Gretchen took a much-needed shower that was just a wee bit colder than she would've preferred. Then, an hour later, I took a shower too, and it was perfectly comfortable.
None of this would matter much if we had a working just-in-time water heater. I'd ordered a replacement $200 unit from Home Depot and, when it was offered free, I had them deliver it directly to the house. That, it turns out, was a real mistake. On Friday, I'd seen the FedEx truck arrive, but Gretchen was gone at the time and there were only dogs there to greet the delivery. That apparently wasn't enough, so the truck had left without making a delivery. There was supposedly to then be a delivery today, but when the FedEx truck arrived today, it was only to make a delivery of some large parcels across the street ("That 80s House/the Fussies"). I don't know what was going on, only that I was really wishing I'd said I'd pick it up at the store.

Last night, Gretchen had asked if I wanted to see Judas Priest this evening in Albany. I thought she was joking, but she wasn't. I asked if Rob Halford would be singing, since I had no interest in a Judas Priest fronted by anyone else. When it turned out he was, I said I'd think about it.
By today, it was clear that Gretchen wanted me to want to see Judas Priest. For her part, she was hoping there would be performances of either "Dreamer Deceiver" or "Diamonds and Rust" (originally by Joan Baez). She also just wanted to go to Albany, where we could have good Thai food and get some essentials at the Honest Weight Food Coop.
So at around 3:00pm, we headed off., though we first made a detour to our Wall Street rental house. Our tenants (two young women) wanted to put a vegetable garden somewhere, and were seeking our blessing. Originally the plan had been to put it in the backyard, but by the time we got there, the location had switched to the front yard, replacing a stupid rectangle of turf. As ardent opponents of the idea of the American lawn (one of several fundamentally stupid Americanisms), we both enthusiastically endorsed this new plan. I added that it would make the street look more like one in Portland, Oregon, which is never a bad thing. We also encouraged the women to remove any of the japanese barberry bushes they wanted to, as they're just an invasive weed (even when trimmed to resemble a cube). We left them our battery-powered hedger to help with that, though it would've been better to leave them with a chainsaw. Just before leaving, we entered the swirling vortex of evangelism, which had Gretchen up on her soap box making the case for veganism. In all fairness, the women (who are already ethical vegetarians) had expressed curiosity. I always find this sort of thing embarrassing and tedious, especially when we have some place we need to be going, but Gretchens gonna Gretch.
Our first stop in Albany was the Honest Weight Food Coop, where Gretchen needed products to showcase the range of vegan savory food to our friend Chrissy. She also needed cake baking supplies (especially vegetable oil) for a wedding cake she will soon be baking. She'd brought a bunch of containers so she could get things in bulk, though some of our old Mason jars proved too musty to hold fresh ingredients, and we had to take from the take-a-jar/leave-a-jar tray. Everything went well until we tried to get refills from the bulk soap dispensers. That proved impossible to do without making a mess. Fortunately, the bulk kombucha tap was near the trashcan. so every time I had messy paper towels to throw away, I could get another little sample cup of the blood-orange kombucha. That stuff is good!
With that out of the way, it was time for dinner, and Gretchen had a place very much in mind: Sweet Basil, a cozy little restaurant located in a conventional house on Delaware Ave.
I was initially dismayed to see that Sweet Basil has no liquor license, which implied that we'd be going into a Judas Priest concert totally sober (if full of excellent vegan Thai food). Fortunately, I'd anticipated problems with the alcohol supply and had filled two plastic 100mL liquid containers suitable for airline carry-on with booze. One contained Rum leftover from the Costa Rica trip and I'd but Duggan's Dew scotch in the other. All I had to do was order a glass of lemonade and discreetly add rum. The food, by the way, was good, though I didn't think it quite as mind-blowing as Gretchen had led me to believe it would be. Dinner conversation was mostly on the subject of our friends make us feel about ourselves, simply by reflecting that back onto us. Gretchen said, for example, that David (of Marissa and David) makes her feel good about herself simply because he seems to like her personality. Susan (of Susan and David), by contrast, makes Gretchen feel like a bumbling oaf. I agreed that I too have such experiences when interacting with friends. For example, there's something about Dan, the guy I used to work with at Mercy For Animals, that keeps me from being able to make my points, and it's not anything he's explicitly doing. It's just me imagining what he is thinking that somehow distracts and disrupts. I have completely different problems for similar reasons when talking with other people.
Judas Priest would be performing tonight at the Palace Theatre, and Gretchen had paid extra so there would be easy parking. After dropping off the Prius (and yes, I've made the "Judas Prius" pun in the past), we joined the throng of people who had come here to see Judas Prius. As expected, this was an older crowd, mostly in their 50s and 60s (though one person our age brought his daughter, who looked to be about 14. I would only see her yawn once). The crowd was also incredibly white. Once we were in our seats, I turned around and looked at the hundreds of people behind me and saw only white faces. The only black people in the venue were there because they were being paid to be there.
To a person, the Judas Priest fans all wore the same uniform: blue jeans with a black tee shirt bearing the logo or tour shirt of some heavy metal band, not necessarily Judas Priest. I saw Pantera and Five Finger Death Punch, among others. The lamest one was seen by Gretchen: Foreigner. At the time, I wasn't really dressed correctly for a Judas Priest concert. I was wearing my slim maroon trousers and a long-sleeve blue-with-white-floral-pattern shirt over what might've been appropriate: a black music-event teeshirt. But it was for Summer Hoot, a small Hudson-Valley folk music festival, and the main imagery on it was of a banjo. As for Gretchen, she was doing the jeans-with-teeshirt thing, but her teeshirt's biggest single feature was the word "VEGAN."
Security consisted of a cursory wanding with a metal detector around our torsos and waists, mostly to catch would-be mass shooters. I'd put the two small bottles of liquor into the tops of my socks, where they went undetected. The Palace Theatre was a grand old venue, perhaps from the opulent golden age of pre-cinematic communal mass entertainment. It had all the great details of such places as UPAC (in Midtown Kingston) and the venues we'd been to on Broadway in Manhattan, including faux skylights revealing brightly-illuminated paintings of unmoving clouds (now dingy with decades of grime).
Inside, it turned out that the beer lines weren't especially long, at least not on near our balcony seats. And a big 16 oz beer was only $7, so I went ahead and bought a Lagunitas Pale Ale (they didn't have the IPA). Surprisingly, it was more to my liking than the IPA. Maybe this whole time I've actually been a pale ale guy! As for Gretchen, she decided to get a glass of wine. It was $12, but it was the most generous wine pour I'd ever seen, coming to something like ten ounces. Wine is mostly a women's beverage, especially at a heavy metal show, and perhaps the thinking had been that the drunker the women, the better the audience.
We had good seats up in the balcony, stage right, next to fat guy who was the chief suspect in a rough silent-but-deadly meat fart incident. The opening act was Uriah Heep, a band I'd heard of but whose music I did not know. I also didn't know that they were of a genre suitable for opening a Judas Priest concert. It sounded like straight-ahead heavy metal to my ear, perhaps with more of a detectable blues influence than Judas Priest. The audience wasn't too excited by Uriah Heep, though a woman with batter-fried hair on the edge of our balcony might've been one of their superfans.
And then that was it, Uriah Heep was done, and the roadies quickly disassembled and removed their equipment. Then they lowered a large screen emblazoned with the words "Uriah Heep," revealing that they'd only been playing in the front half of a much larger stage. With the screen gone, we could see that the Judas Priest drum set was already set up, and all that was really left to do was the installation of a few risers in the from corners of the stage and directly in front of the drums.
When the lights went out, a devilish figure was illuminated from behind just before he parted a curtain and came out onto the stage as the guitars and drums rolled out a musical red carpet. The figure was Rob Halford, of course, and he wore a long cape and a hat enlivened with two black wings. He held a staff capped with a baseball-sized human skull. It was all a bit ridiculous, as the outfit and staff made him seem like dottering old man requiring a cane bumble around the stage. Halford is famous for his amazing multi-octave vocal range and incredible control, but all of that was lost in the muddy acoustics of the Palace. If I didn't already know the song (and thus the lyrics), there was no way I could make it out as Halford sang.
For the first half-dozen songs or so, Halford made a quick costume change between each one, usually emerging from the back in a different cape. There was no banter at all until near the end, when he made some perfunctory comments about his fans being "the best." Unfortunately, most of the songs were from the post-1970s part of their career, so I wasn't particularly familiar with them. But they did do a few of my favorites from Sad Wings of Destiny, including "Victim of Changes" (in which Halford sings from the perspective of a man with romantic attachments to an alcoholic woman), and Tyrant. Sadly, they didn't sing "Dreamer Deceiver," or, for that matter, the Baez cover "Diamonds and Rust."
Halford didn't get around to his signature stage move, riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle out from backstage, until at least half the show was over. Perhaps this was because after the motorcyle was there, it remained as an obstacle onstage for the rest of the show. After arriving on the motorcycle, he reamined on it, singing "Hell Bent for Leather" in its entirety before clambering awkwardly off.
Accompanying the music was a frenzied lightshow that fired machine-gun-like burst of light, sometimes directly into my eyes. There was also a large videoscreen behind the band that played various video clips, which featured things like depictions of 16th Century institutional violence in a manner seemingly geared antisocial teenagers. For the song "All Guns Blazing," they decided to show the lyrics, which seemed like a particularly bad decison given how unimaginative and repetitive they were. As I said to Gretchen later, "Judas Priest is not a thinking man's heavy metal band" and "Heavy metal is not a thinking man's genre."
Though the sound remained sludgy until the end, it did seem that Halford vocals improved over the course of the show, though I suppose it could've been that the producers waited until late in the show to include samples of his voice from earlier in his career, when they would be more plausible. I wouldn't say the band ever seemed to be working all that hard. I can't imagine ever being all that excited to be doing the exact same thing I'd been doing for weeks, but then again, I just don't have the disposition of a rock star.
And then, just like that, the band was bowing as if it was over. Normally in a show like this, there would be encores, but the fat superfans nearby took this as their cue to leave, and (as Gretchen pointed out) they probably knew better than anyone else there that there would be no encores. So we left at that point, beating most of the crowd as the Palace drained.
Gretchen had heard good things about a bar nearby called The Hollow, so that was our next destination. We arrived about ten minutes before the kitchen closed, so we could order things like seitan wings and a vegan version of a philly cheese steak. These weren't as good as they would've been at, say, Blackbird Pizza in Philadelphia. But they were damn good all the same. And the fries that came with the sandwich were about the best we'd ever had. It being Saturday night on a graduation weekend, the bar was crowded. There was also a weirdo wearing a tie-dyed Judas Priest shirt who tried to strike up a conversation with us about our food, telling us about the history of the Hollow and the names it had had in the past. I mumbled polite acknowledgments, hoping he'd give up on us. Eventually I saw him chatting with a plump woman who appeared to be there by herself.

I had a 10 oz IPA at the Hollow and had been drinking some of my smuggled booze at the show, so it fell to Gretchen to drive us the fifty-some miles back to Hurley Mountain.

The entrance to the Palace Theatre, viewed from above. Those are Judas Priest fans.

Gretchen with her generous pour of white wine.

The whiteness of the audience.

Judas Priest on stage.

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