AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: DAYS OF THE DOOMED Day Two @ Blue Pig, Cudahy, WI, June 22, 2013

Day Two of the Doomed saw no fewer than 12 bands take the stage–and I can actually say I witnessed all of them.  Twas a long, slow, downtuned, distorted day, definitely.  And while my feet are still feeling the effects of 13.5 hours of heaviness (although to be fair, I just got off the treadmill), I absolutely loved every minute of it.

Whaler got things started on a high note, a heavy trio from Northern Michigan that showed shades of Sleep and Black Pyramid with tunes entitled “Blubbernaut” and “Seabeast Bloody Seabeast.”  Let’s just say I liked ‘em so much I bought the CD–which you can listen to by clicking on the first word of this paragraph. ;)

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Gorgantherron, on the other hand, doesn’t hail from Michigan, although I had to do a double-take cuz their frontman bears a striking resemblance to one of the Wolverine State’s favourite musical sons.  No, not Kid Rock…

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Now, Beelzefuzz wasn’t selling CDs, but they did offer Beelzefuzz Shots of a dark liquid from a large plastic container.  The bartender wouldn’t tell me what was in it, so I passed.  On a side note, they’re also the first band I’ve seen other than Macabre to employ that guitar/synch instrument, although they use it to achieve very different results…

days of the doomed 150Yuuup, another trio.  I’m starting to sense a trend…

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For their last song, Beelzefuzz brought up a special guest from across the lake…  Eric Wagner!  His appearance has changed a lot since the last time he toured with Trouble, so much that I hardly recognized the guy, but I definitely know that voice when I hear it.

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Chowder was, unfortunately, the first (and only) band of the day to suffer from technical difficulties.  Hey, at an event of this magnitude, it’s almost a given that at least one head would explode.  I’m talking about amplifiers, mind you.  (Al Morris to the Rescue!)  Anyhoo, the current edition of this Baltimore band features Maryland mainstays John Brenner and Ronnie Kalimon, along with Josh Hart–an awesome artist in his own right.  I’m talking about tattoos, of course.  But the man’s playing was so explosive it blew up his Sunn O))), so there ya go!

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Also unfortunate for amateur photographers such as myself is the fact that Kalimon suffers from Face-Blocked-By-Cymbal Syndrome, a condition that plagues several drummers.

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While it might have been Spillage‘s first-ever gig, it was hardly their first rodeo.  The Chicago sextet is the brainchild of Tony Spillman, who’d take the stage a couple hours later with Earthen Grave.  And speaking of Trouble, any fan of true doom is bound to recognize this guy on the left:

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GUITAR SOLO!!!!

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BASS SOLO!!! Erm, nevermind…

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King Giant was also on my most-anticipated band list, and being that this was probably the closest they’ve come to Canada (although I might be mistaken, hu-hu-hu-hu), seeing their set was a definite priority, even if it was getting close to dinnertime.  I’ve had a soft spot for so-called “southern doom” since my days of going to every single Diablo Red concert between 2006 and 2010, and while their Dismal Hollow album didn’t reach out and grab me at first, it’s really grown on me since.  Plus, did I mention they have a music video with hot chicks fighting zombies?  Oh right, I already did;)

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Suffice to say, their singer’s got a big mouth…

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I actually shared a ride in the Doom Shuttle with Leather Nun America a couple times.  Good guys.  (There was also a Leather Nun from Sweden, in case you were wondering.)  This trio flew in all the way from San Diego, and I think they musta watched every single band on the bill, on both days.  They didn’t seem to do too bad for themselves, either, selling out every CD and LP they could cram into a couple suitcases.  Sadly, I didn’t get one in time.  Shoulda said something in the van…

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Just as the Blackhawks and Bruins were facing off in Game 5, another Chicago band took the stage–Earthen Grave, that fiddle-doom outfit I was talking about.  Like I said, if you scroll up, you’ll notice that you’ve seen one of these guys before…

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Oh yeah, this guy also played in Trouble, too.

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Oh yeah, I said they had a violinist, right?

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Not content with being the world’s first fiddle-doom band, they brought out a second bow–for a rousing rendition of Rainbow’s “Stargazer,” no less!

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Their set also featured a premature appearance by this guy:

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At this point, several Chicagoan hockey fans were hanging back to watch the game on a pair of TVs at the back of the room.  Me, I opted instead to get a better view of Pale Divine–who I hadn’t seen in almost four years.  Within mere moments, I knew I’d made the right decision!

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days of the doomed 308(Holy six-string bass, Batman!  I coulda sworn the last time I saw that guy he was playing guitar–and didn’t have a beard?)

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Not content with simply playing a set as Penance the night before, our Pittsburgh musicians (and possible Pens fans) returned for an encore performance as Dream Death.  While one can hardly capture the vast sonic differences between the two bands through photography, it’s safe to say Dream Death uses a lot more stage smoke. ;)

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As I anticipated, Victor Griffin’s In-Graved was one of the highlights of the fest.  The true-doom riffmeister brought a fresh batch of tuneage with a high-energy backing band, to boot!  Too bad my batteries died during the first song of their set…

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Now, here’s where Amateur Concert Photography Hour gets its name.  My camera’s batteries were so drained by the time The Gates of Slumber went on that I couldn’t even zoom in.  And I only had enough juice for four photos before I had to switch to my iPhone, which was also almost dead.  Let’s just say it wasn’t my finest Hour…

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Camera-phone time:

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And finally, here’s my DOTD III haul.  Yes, that is a Kings Destroy key ring…

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TOP 10 CONCERTS OF 2012

Y’know, it almost feels like I didn’t attend as many concerts as I did last year.  Mind you, if I were to count up and tally every local gig I went to, there’d probably be twice as many shows that didn’t make the cut as there are gigs on here.  And hey, looking at this list, there’s really nothing but quality from start to finish.  As it were, the top gigs I saw in 2012 spanned two countries, three states and five cities, although most of them occurred in Toronto, naturally.  Here they are in ascending order…

10. Accept/Kreator @ The Phoenix, September 12th

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Accept was one of the bands that first got me into metal back in the day, and I certainly can’t complain about their latest post-reunion album, either.  The subsequent tour saw them team up with Teutonic thrashers Kreator for what turned out to be a pretty bitchin’ double bill.

CHOICE WORDS: And yes, they still played all the hits, “Fast as a Shark,” “Restless and Wild,” “Breaker,” “Princess of the Dawn,” “Balls to the Wall” and “Teutonic Terror”–the latter of which firmly belongs in the Accept canon.  If they can pull a couple more “Terrors” out of their army helmets in the next studio session, I know I’ll be back for Round 4 — Accept: Third time’s slightly less charming… (Hellbound.ca)

Click for more pics!

On that note, check out my top 10 German metal bands.

9. Melvins Lite @ Opera House, July 5th

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The Seattle sludge forefathers/idols of Cobain were sporting a slightly different lineup this time around.  Eschewing their recent double-drumkit attack, they went out as Melvins Lite, a three-piece featuring Trevor Dunn (of Mr. Bungle fame) on standup bass.  That said, I can now attest that this incarnation is almost equally excellent as the full-bodied, five-per-cent-alcohol version. ;)

CHOICE WORDS: Having seen the Melvins last time, I sorta knew what to expect.  They went on right at 10, played for 75 minutes, didn’t really do an encore (although both Buzz ‘n Dale left the stage for a Trevor Dunn bass solo) and left everybody satisfied yet wanting more. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: MELVINS, Retox @ Opera House, July 5, 2012

They also did a bitchin’ cover of Sir Paul McCartney’s “Let Me Roll It.”  I count down my top five Melvins cover tunes over here.

8. Corrosion of Conformity/Torche/Black Cobra @ Opera House, June 21st

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Another reinvigorated, stripped-down lineup performing at the Opera House, and just as couple weeks before the Melvins, as it were.  I’ve really dug COC’s self-titled comeback record–and that new EP ain’t too shabby, either!  When they took their act on the road with possibly the best stoner/sludge/whatever lineup to hit Toronto this year, needless to say I made sure to mark it on my calendar.

CHOICE WORDS: Seeing a good chunk of the record in the flesh a few feet from my face only reaffirms its status as a top contender for Album of the Year 2012 in my books.  And it’s safe to say that Mike Dean isn’t lip-synching on stage, either.  His voice is just as raw, his delivery as garbled as it was in ’85. — COC still sounds good to me! (Hellbound.ca)

More pics here!

7. Iron Maiden/Alice Cooper @ Molson Amphitheatre, July 13th

(This was taken by someone with a much better camera than me.)

Another band that I’ve been listening to for a really long time, and for whom I’m guaranteed to be in attendance at their biennial Toronto concerts, is Iron Maiden.  I’ve seen ‘em at the Amp a couple times now, as well as the ACC.  And while I’ve never been able to get floor tickets at the former, you really don’t need to be in front of the stage to enjoy Maiden in concert, lemme tell ya!  They also got bonus points this year for bringing Alice Cooper along as an opening act; twas worth getting there early, that’s for sure…

CHOICE WORDS: Though they didn’t have me leaping out of my seat by starting their set with “Moonchild,” the elaborate stage production coupled with a classic set certainly won me over by the end of the night.  By injecting the aforementioned “Trooper” and “2 Minutes” into the set, along with “The Number of the Beast,” “Run to the Hills” and “Phantom of the Opera,” it certainly made the material from their 1988 release appear more palatable. — Maiden pulls out all the stops to make Seventh Son number one! (Hellbound.ca)

In case you’re wondering how they stack up, I compared Maiden’s back catalogue to Cooper’s–albeit with a 10-year distance–back in July.

6. Witch Mountain/Blood Ceremony/Castle @ Hard Luck Bar, June 13th

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The first appearance of Witch Mountain on Torontonian soil–surprisingly, they’d be back by October–was arguably the best stoner/doom gig this city had seen in 2012.  (OK, maybe second best–more on that later…)  Bolstered by support bands Blood Ceremony and Castle, this three-headed Medusa delivered an unhealthy triple dose of female-fronted doom, capped off by the headliners showcasing the just-released Cauldron of the Wild album in its entirety.  The initial live impression might not have been as overpowering as when I first stumbled across South of Salem, which I’d later crown as album of that year, but it was definitely right up there, to be sure.  You can bet their new record figures on my list for 2012, too–more on that tomorrow! ;)

CHOICE WORDS: I was a little disappointed that they only played one song offa South of Salem, opting instead to play their new album in its entirety, but y’know what, that new record is pretty amazing in its own right–as seen last night. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: Witch Mountain, Blood Ceremony, Castle @ Hard Luck Bar, June 13th

On that note, check out my list of the top 10 female-fronted doom bands going!

5. All That Is Heavy II feat. Iron Man, Blood Ceremony, Blizaro, Revelation @ Mavericks, Ottawa, May 12th

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Yes indeed, Blood Ceremony appears twice on this list.  (Their gig with Ghost back in January missed the cut, mind you.)  But while they headlined this biennial(?) festival in the nation’s capital, the biggest draw for yours truly, who’s seen BC about a dozen times, was the first-ever Canadian appearance for Maryland doomsters Iron Man.  Hey, if you’re keeping score at home, Iron Man finished two spots higher than Iron Maiden this year. ;)

CHOICE WORDS: New frontman Dee Calhoun is quite the imposing figure, but this band is truly the Al Morris Show, the man channeling Iommi for some serious doom riffage!  And I must say, Mr. Morris and his cohorts were much more animated than the last time I remembered… — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: All That Is Heavy II @ Maverick’s, Ottawa, May 12th

4. Church of Misery/Hail! Hornet/The Gates of Slumber @ Studio Seven, Seattle, WA, June 9th

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I don’t wanna say that Seattle is like a home away from home–fact of the matter is, I’ve only been there twice.  But as a long-time Seahawks fan, I definitely feel a certain connection to the city.  And while I didn’t fly out there back in June solely to see Church of Misery (along with TGOS and Hail! Hornet), you could say I feel a certain connection to the Japanese serial-killer stoner-doomsters as well.  And since the closest date on their first-ever North American tour was Philly, well, I figured I’d head out to the Land of the Hawks instead…

CHOICE WORDS: This being the last date of the tour, Church of Misery brought Karl Simon and T-Roy up on stage for a rousing rendition of “War is Our Destiny” with the other members of TGOS and Hail Hornet lurking in the background.  This is the great thing about seeing the last date of a tour–the headliner not having any merch left, well, that’s the not-so-great thing. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: CHURCH OF MISERY, Hail Hornet, The Gates of Slumber @ Studio Seven, Seattle, June 9, 2012

3. Saint Vitus/Weedeater/Sourvein @ The Grog Shop, Cleveland, OH, September 29th

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Incidentally, Vitus also took the third spot on last year’s list, albeit their all-too-brief Metalliance Tour appearance left me wanting more.  Fortunately, with a new record in the can, the band embarked on their first North American tour in nearly two decades, and a Saturday night in Cleveland Heights was alright with me, merci!  (That said, trying to catch a cab in Cleveland at 1 am isn’t tons o’ fun…)  You could even say the added bonus of Weedeater and Sourvein made the seven-hour bus ride worthwhile.

CHOICE WORDS: Vitus came through with a solid 13-song set that included all the non-instrumental numbers off their new album, a fistful from Hallow’s Victim, and other classic tunes like “Dying Inside,” “I Bleed Black,” “The Troll” and of course, “Born Too Late.”  Unbeknownst to me beforehand, the 29th was Wino’s birthday, and even though he’s now 51, old age didn’t stop him from stage diving on a couple occasions. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: SAINT VITUS, Weedeater, Sourvein @ Grog Shop, Cleveland, OH, September 29, 2012

Leading up to this gig, I reviewed every single Saint Vitus album.  Perhaps that’ll give you some idea of what you missed. :P

2. Dream Death reunion @ 31st Street Pub, Pittsburgh, PA, April 21st

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If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably noticed quite a few big-name metal bands on this list.  However, one of the best gigs I saw all year was when I took a little trip down to Pittsburgh to catch a cult band that only released one album–way back in 1987.  Although they don’t fit its modern-day description, Dream Death actually coined the term “sludge metal,” and like several sludge bands, their sound is somewhat of a head-on collision between hardcore punk and doom.  This home-town, one-off (well, they are playing next year’s Days of the Doomed fest…) gig was sold out in advance, packing a bar about twice the size of the Bovine, and the energy was certainly palpable.  Now this is why I collect Air Miles, right here! ;)

CHOICE WORDS: As Dream Death took an awfully long time to set up, you could feel the anticipation building, along with the urge to urinate–but hey, I was NOT giving up my spot for this.  It was, after all, their first gig in 24 years!  But the band sounded as good as ever, hell, better than some of the dodgy demos and bootlegs in their discography. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: DREAM DEATH/ARGUS @ 31st St Pub, Pittsburgh, April 21, 2012

1. Kyuss Lives @ Cherry Cola’s, January 1st

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I may have initially balked at shelling out 200 bucks to see Kyuss Lives on New Year’s Eve, but I eventually came around.  Hey, your average New Year’s evening of dinner and dancing costs at least 50–and they don’t have Kyuss.  It turned out to be a good call, especially since this was effectively the outfit’s last gig before the lawsuits started rolling in.  (More on that below–if you’re on the homepage, that is.)  Vista Chino might end up playing venues the size of Cherry Cola’s, but it just won’t be the saaaame, maaaan!

CHOICE WORDS: It’s one thing seeing ‘em on a massive stage, and quite another being in a tiny bar, where the bouncer knocked over half the drumkit while forcibly removing a patron from the premises.  Unfortunately, I did not have my camera out when that happened… — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: Kyuss Lives @ Cherry Cola’s, January 1st, 2012

AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: DREAM DEATH/ARGUS @ 31st St Pub, Pittsburgh, April 21, 2012

It’s a good thing I took the band’s advice and bought my ticket in advance.  When I arrived at the 31st St Pub, on the outskirts of Pittsburgh’s Strip District (thing an elongated Kensington Market), the sign on the door said SOLD OUT tickets only, or something to that effect.  The bar is sort of a double-wide Bovine, albeit with its stage at the back of the room.  They had a big cupboard full of skulls, and the ceiling and back wall were decorated by drum heads, cymbals and guitars from the likes of High on Fire, Weedeater and Antiseen.  Also behind the bar was a G.G. Allin clock along with his obit and a ticker that said Fuck (pretty much every other venue in the city).  Classy joint.

The opening band was some sorta Pantera/Hatebreed hybrid, and since I noticed the low battery indicator flashing on my camera, I decided not to waste any juice on them.  As a result, I didn’t get too many pictures of Argus, either.  But lemme tell ya, they put on a great set.  One of my favourite epic doom bands going, they busted out material from their two studio albums, with affable frontman Butch Balich noting “This is definitely the biggest crowd we’ve played to in Pittsburgh–and also the ugliest!”  (I suppose I was partially responsible for that remark, being up front and all…)

As you can see, the force of Butch’s headbanging knocked my camera out of focus!

As Dream Death took an awfully long time to set up, you could feel the anticipation building, along with the urge to urinate–but hey, I was NOT giving up my spot for this.  It was, after all, their first gig in 24 years!  But the band sounded as good as ever, hell, better than some of the dodgy demos and bootlegs in their discography.  The live sound added bite to those lost classic tracks offa Journey Into Mystery, while they also included stuff from some of their demos (compiled under the Back from the Dead comp) in their 75-minute set and even busted out a brand-new tune.  Twas truly an evening to remember…  These pics hardly do it justice!

(Turns out I had plenty of battery life left, after all!)

ONE WEEKEND IN PITTSBURGH: I’m back… from the dead!

Just got in from Pittsburgh a couple hours ago.  Nice city, very modern, friendly people, etc.  Had a minor hiccup at the airport as I was leaving, but other than a hefty phone bill that I should rightfully be able to charge to United Airlines–if only it worked that way–I’ve got no complaints.  Dream Death was great (so was Argus), and the Pirates have a real nice stadium, although outdoor baseball in single-digit (Celsius) weather is definitely not for me.  Also, the Senator John Heinz History Center is well worth the 10-dollar price of admission–but I’ll have more on all that later, throughout the week.  Another memorable part of my trip was the food.  Being the fat fuck that I am, you know I was going to chow down on this trip!

For example, this was my breakfast on Saturday morning, courtesy of local institution Primanti Bros:

Good thing I didn’t grab anything at the airport beforehand, eh?

(Oh, and the title of this post is a Dream Death reference, in case you missed my write-up on Journey Into Mystery below.  There’s nothing dead about the Steel City as far as I can tell…)

CLASSIC ALBUMS REVISITED: Dream Death – Journey Into Mystery (New Renaissance, 1987)

I won’t be blogging this weekend because I’m heading down to Pittsburgh to catch a one-off reunion of Dream Death, the band that coined the term sludge metal, on the 25th anniversary of their one and only full-length release.  Journey Into Mystery was recently named one of Terrorizer’s 50 Definitive Doom Albums, and while it doesn’t fit today’s definition of sludge, you can still hear the vintage crossover thrash colliding head-on with downtrodden doom on this one—not unlike a couple bands that would come out of New Orleans just a few years later…

Dream Death kicks things off with “Back from the Dead,” a song whose opening notes ooze pure, undistilled doom before kicking up into a steady chug, faster than your average band.  Brian Lawrence (Goodbread) sneers with the best of ‘em, young messers Mustaine, Hetfield, Baloff et al, spitting out the titular lyrics over some slow-mo riffage on a tempo-changing chorus.

“The Elder Race” starts off as a slow crawl, a lo-fi nod to Saint Vitus with a touch of thrash thrown in for good measure, then picks up the pace slightly with some buzzsaw, jackhammer riffing.  “Bitterness and Hatred” crawls along at a similar pace, Goodbread spewing some bad blood on this one.  About halfway through, we’re treated to a significant change of pace, complete with divebomb guitar solo, before this one takes another turn into mid-paced crossover country.

“Black Edifice” opens with a crushing doom riff that soon dissipates into another mid-paced stomper, sorta reminiscent of Winter’s Into Darkness album, albeit with slightly better production.  There are also no death growls here, though Lawrence does sound a little more upset than usual at one point.  “Divine in Agony” takes the opposite approach, frantic thrash riffs descending into slow, instrumental doom passages.  The late-game tempo change offers a solid slithering riff with Lawrence adding his vocal venom overtop.

“Hear My Screams” is one of the more memorable tracks on this platter, a ball-busting thrasher (think Razor) with a headbangable galloping pace and some eerie reverb on lines like “Scream – fighting for your life/There is no insight/Darkness rules supreme/No one hears you scream.”  Sure enough, “Sealed in Blood” slows things down a bit, its intro sounding similar to Black Sabbath’s namesake number, though this tune as a whole is more mid-paced, a squealing three-note riff offsetting the downtuned doom despondency.  As with most of the material on here, this song doesn’t stay at one speed for too long, moving into the fast lane with a menacing chug, then winding back down.

The album ends with the band’s signature tune, “Dream Death,” which serves the same purpose for this Pittsburgh quartet as “Iron Maiden” or “Angel Witch” did for their respective authors.  A slightly more-than-mid-paced thrasher, this one is all about the anthemic chorus…

“Dreeeeam Death – somebody get me out of this nightmare!

Dreeeeeam Death – never thought life could be so damn evil!”

I’m already warming up my lungs for tomorrow nite!