[Symphonic Metal] Nightwish USA Tour 2016 – Diamond Ballroom

Last week, I finally was able to attend a Nightwish live performance in North America that was within driving distance (understand 4-5 hours drive) and without any severe weather (driving through the Texas-Oklahoma panhandle with a tornado watch in mind is surely not a good idea).
I attended Nightwish gig at the Diamond Ballroom at Oklahoma City (OKC as we call it). First time I attend an event in OKC, that cuts from the routine 5.5 hours I have to drive to attend an event in Dallas-Fort Worth area. Also it was a good time to take the kids out for their spring break. In brief, it was hitting two birds with one stone.
I purchased the VIP “Meet and Greet” experience back in December during one of these 50% OFF special price and since I rarely attend a gig, I thought it would worth the experience. The venue was taking place at the Diamond Ballroom, located just east from OKC:

The venue does not look that fancy from the outside but indeed was fairly big from the inside and well-designed for the indoor live performance, with ample space to fill 2000 persons at full capacity. The sound system was pretty good and not too much pushing on my ears, thats fairly important as I start to grow old :D.
The VIP package consisted of a meet-and-greet, a personal photo taken using your own smartphone (or camera), a signed poster (and anything extra you wanted sign) and a photo booklet from the North American Tour in 2015. The VIP experience was okay in terms of experience but maybe overrated for the regular price ($200 for that, whereas Epica VIP experience was also providing a T-shirt free of charge for half that price).
As I was waiting in line (we were about 40-50 persons with the golden VIP ticket), I thought it would be nice to buy some merchandising.


The hard copy of “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” was very well priced ($10) that can get some added value once signed (thats some unique experience to have a CD signed by the band) and foremost a T-Shirt as a trophy to complete my collection. Nightwish has nicely had this reproduction of Darwin’s “tree of life” illustration that doubled-down on me as a metal fan and a biologist. It was some nerd alert.


As we were waiting in line, Delain was warming up and testing their equipment (this I would talk about a bit later). What I like about attending metal concert is you meet nice and friendly people from all over the place. I friended with a guy from Venezuela (or Columbia) that was studying at Oklahoma University. A lot of people from Tulsa, OK were attending the gig as well. We were chatting, discussing, sharing playlists and thoughts until our turn came.

Then came the time to meet Nightwish. It was a great experience to shake hands with the band, one by one. Of course, they were seasoned to these VIP sessions but was great to meet in person with Marco, Kai, Floor, Tuomas, Emppu and finally Troy followed by a photo.


The time was counted but I wish I could chit-chat with Tuomas to ask him what was inspiring him to dedicate this album to Darwin and evolution. As a biologist, I got bathed in it and after all these years I still remains in awe about evolution and developmental biology. Among other fans, I also met that guy that really nailed down scientific certitude to have a nice phylogenic tree and DNA doublestrand tattoo-ed on his left arm (dear guy, if you recognize yourself in that pic please let me know :D).

As we were waiting for the GA door opening, I was chilling a bit and was able to see Delain rehearsing “Turn the Lights Off” on stage.


That was some of a blast because first time I ever hear Charlotte Wessels sing live and it also felt much heavier than the album. That was a blast for me that night.


The evening was pure awesomeness: Delain, Sonata Arctica and Nightwish that drove for over 5 hours the Diamond Ballroom into a shark frenziness.

Delain opened her act with “Sucker Punch”, followed by “Army of Dolls”, “Get The Devil Out of Me”, “Turns The Lights Off” and “We Are the Others”and the feature song “Sing to Me” with Marco on their playset.


What a great performance from the band, I was meh based on their album (because their sound is maybe too electronic and not enough heavy) but they were definitively sounding heavy. Charlotte voice is definitely refined and is simply awesome.
The next act was played by Sonata Arctica opening their act with “Wolves Die Young” and pursuing with some of their best songs such as “The Cage”, “Dont Say A Word”, “Last Drop Falls”, “Full Moon”, “The Misery”.




Oh yeah, to have some of the best powerful metal ballads sang by Tony and guitar riffs was simply awesome. Finally came the “plat de resistance” with Nightwish. 90 minutes of pure joy with the entrance of Nightwish with “Shudder Before The Beautiful”, followed by a scan of their 20-years of discography re-exploring some classics like “Wishmaster”, “Ghost Love Score”, “Nemo” as well as some more obscure to me like “I want my tears back”, “Lips are Still Red” (because I skipped Nightwish Annette-era) to several songs of their latest album such as








That was a blast! After all these years, I finally able to watch Nightwish and Sonata Arctica live performing as well as Delain. It was some of these life experience that you said worth the money.


[Symphonic/Gothic Metal] Rhenium – Rise Above the Sea (EP)

Rhenium - Rise above the sea

Internet and social media has opened the possibility for small artists and solo projects to have a much greater exposure than ever. Even more, through crowdsourcing it gives life to projects that otherwise would have kept dormant in a drawer because records labels would have deemed such project was not worthing a risk taking, as small as it can be.
I support good music by buying my albums (digitally most of the time because it removes the issues of S&H and storage on a media with a physical lifespan), attending local gigs and buying merchs (Tees and physical CDs) and sometimes trading a cup of Starbucks latte for supporting a band through Bandcamp or Indiegogo.
Rhenium is one of these bands I have supported through crowdfunding. A band? I may just say a one-person band impersonated by Christina Pucci, aka Christina Rhenium from Milton Keynes, UK. A similar one-band project as recently illustrated by Myrkur, a Danish black metal one-female-fronted band that has been buzzing around for death threats she received from some piece of shit.
Christina has been able to collect enough funds to work on her project and just delivered her first EP “Rise Above The Sea”. For a one-person project, it is a nice discovery to try.
It is a six-tracks EP using synths, guitars and drums giving a nice gothic metal feel, with a slow and heavy tempo but also very minimal sound to it. In times where some symphonic and gothic metal bands maybe sensory overloaded it is always welcome.
The tracklist is nice and very accessible, making easy for a neophyte to get introduced to Gothic Metal without being rebutted. Christina’s voice is nice but still has room for improvement, especially considered in a market that is saturated with a lot of female-fronted metal bands. Some numbers advanced estimate about 500+ bands, so it can be a very competitive market if Christina decides to make a living from Rhenium. But for a start and considered it is a one-person project, it is a good start.
Check out her video and her playset in ReverbNation.

If you like, please show support to Christina and purchase her EP coming out this month.


[Sciences] International Stroke Conference 2016 – Day 2 & 3

As I am writing this post, the #ISC16 is slowly concluding. This is my third ISC (2011 and 2014) and I was glad to see high quality basic science build up over the years.
It was so instructive and intense in terms of science that shut my brain off by the end of the day.
The basic science was very interesting, with a presentation by Dr. James Faber (University of of North Carolina – Chapel Hill) that explored the strain differences between mice in terms of brain vascular collateral branching. The brain is mostly perfused by two main arteries: the anterior cerebral artery (ACA) and the middle cerebral artery (MCA). These are big pipes that branches out into smaller pipes to provide collateral branches, very similar to what you would expect from having faucet water pipes, all being fed by a main water pipe from the city water utility. Dr. Faber nicely described how two different mouse strains (the C57/Bl6 and Balb/c) have opposite collateral densities: one has a lot, the other has almost not. Why it matters? It matters because it can tell us how much the brain tissue is perfused and how well it can sustain ischemia. If you have an auxiliary supply, you are at better odds to cope and recover than if you are lacking it.
Dr. Faber indeed found that one single gene was dictating why these two mice stains show major differences and such differences in branching was only present in the brain but absent in the retina.
Another interesting study was published by Dr. Franklin West (University of Georgia) that have been using pigs as a model for stroke injury and even generating porcine induced pluripotent stem cells (piPSCs) to differentiate into neural stem cells. I found it was a very exciting and interesting aspect as it can help assess the relevance of iPSC-derived model of the BBB by allowing us to directly compare and benchmark iPSC-derived porcine BMECs versus primary porcine BMECs (that can be readily obtainable from pig brains harvested from slaughterhouses).
Aside from scientific presentation, there was also some exhibition mostly focused to clinicians but one key aspect was the development of stroke mobile units as displayed below:

Yep, a CT scan on wheel, specially designed for stroke emergency. As we have mentioned, time matters during stroke injury. However an  important bottleneck in the door-to-operating table is the diagnostic between ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. On the former, you want to dissolve a clot. On the latter, you want to induce a clot to stop the hemorrhage. This can only be done by doing a CT scan. Thats takes time and by the time you arrive at the hospital and being headed to the radiology, precious minutes have been vanished.
I found that was some impressive advances in technology to have a CT scan on wheel allowing the specialized paramedics to make the diagnosis on the way to the hospital and have the patient directed straight into the operating room. In the evening, we had our poster session and it was an interesting moment to be the senior author, shadowing my student describing the poster:

One sad moment as we were un mounting the poster was to see the poster graveyard were orphaned poster are left abandoned by their owners, like pets on the roadside during holidays. Unfortunately, no poster shelters for these poor folks. I always consider that posters should be brought back to the lab to display your lab achievement and only die due to aging (outdated data).

As the conference ending up, there are some special lecture. The Willis Award was given this year to Dr. Ulrich Dinargl (Center for Stroke Research, Berlin), also co-editor of the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism. Dr. Dinargl nicely advocated for preclinical models of stroke, as we learn from failures and from negative experiences. The recent move of several journals, including JCBFM, to have a “negative results” section is a welcome move than can save valuable time and money to other research groups and avoid others to engage into scientific dead-ends.

Auld Lang Syne, as the curtain drops, we are already eyeing on next year……with a much closer venue. Glad to see the next ISC being held in Houston, Texas.