Live gigs- Pentatonix Sydney show

Scott, Kirstin, Mitch, Kevin, and Matt!

Wow! It has been a while since we last attended a live gig! And the Sydney leg of the Pentatonix world tour was a perfect gig to break that long 5+ year drought!

When the old Sydney Entertainment Centre at Darling Harbour was torn down, we were bummed as we thought that was the last of the large venues in the heart of the city for live gigs. However, the Aware Super theatre inside the International Convention Centre (ICC), was not a bad replacement with seating capacity for 9000, and with a macaroni shaped theatre lay-out there honestly was not a bad seat in the house!

And as we traipsed out of our apartment after dinner at an hour usually reserved for winddown activities in readiness for bed (7.45pm), we instead followed the crowd of people making their way to the ICC. Before we headed out, we were chatting about “what type of audience would the Pentatonix draw in?” I had presumed an audience made-up of heaps of Asians, and university aged kids. But boy was I wrong! The people we passed to get to our seats were middle aged and not what I had expected as fans of a Youtube famous musical group! But this only highlights the universal appeal of music! But as we settled into our seats at the Aware Super theatre (the furthest most right hand seats – halfway up), we were giddy with excitement as it had been such a long time since we got out and did something fun! I blame it on 3+ years of COVID!

The opening act was Bella Taylor Smith, the winner of the 2021 ‘The Voice’ Australia competition- a season which we had not followed. So, we were pleasantly surprised by her performance as we came in with next to no expectations. Her amazing voice vibrated through my bones, thanks to the huge overhead speakers, and after her act my hands were smarting from all the loud applause I was giving her and her husband (her guitarist). And after her 25-30 minute performance, it was the act we had all been waiting for! As the theatre lights dimmed, the 5 members of the Pentatonix stepped onto the stage and the crowd went wild! Scott, Kirstin, Mitch, Kevin, and Matt! And for those who are less familiar with the Pentatonix, they are an American 5 person acapella vocal group, who first came to prominence after winning a reality TV competition in the States and then gained a cult following on Youtube, as they harmonised their way through all the popular hits of the day. And for those who get into the Christmas spirit and play Christmas playlists throughout the month of December, I am sure you have heard a few of their renditions of Christmas classics on Spotify. 

And what stands them out from all other acapella groups, is their diversity and each of their diverse talents which they bring to the fold! Case in point, having a beatboxer celloist? And their ability to elevate any song even beyond the original that they’re covering? I think this is why they have become a worldwide phenomenon that appeals to an extremely wide audience.

And as they performed their 2 hour set, it was nudging 10pm, the usual time that I am already in bed and I had to admit I was starting to feel sleepy, but I was jolted back to complete wakefulness when they worked in some crowd participation! Usually I hate this sh*t, but I honestly got right into it and reckon it was the best part of the whole experience! As we (as in the 9000 of us), all participated in the Pentatonix’s next 30 sec TikTok video post, and then we were up on our feet swaying to their 8+ song dance mash-up!

Although they say that all we were going to hear that night were all sounds produced purely from their mouths, however at times there were some backing effects, which added to the grandeur of the moment. And when Kevin came back out with his cello  and played classical music all the while beatboxing, also broke the rules, however we can all forgive them for “the false advertising,” as the entire experience was so memorable!

With live gigs, you always run the risk of experiencing an in-person show which is not as good as their recorded performances. But Pentatonix? They are impressive as an edited Youtube package, but even better in person! 

So, if you did not catch the Pentatonix this time round in Sydney, I am sure they will be back again in a few years’ time. But in the meantime, you can enjoy all of their musical creations either on Youtube, Spotify and all the usual socials!

Product recommendation- Fender Rumble Studio 40 Bass Amp (Part II

Finding my guitars’ voices.

When purchasing the Fender Rumble Studio 40 bass amp 4-5 months ago, my wife had questioned my choice, as I was paying a $200 premium for the Studio model over the basic 40 model. The differences being the 100 different built-in bass effects and the connected capability of the amp to join your Wi-Fi   network to sink and up-date itself. In my opinion, the extra $200 was worth it!

However, at the back of my mind, I had been thinking if I had again fallen for a gimmick with functionality which I’d never use.

But I’m here to say, the Studio 40 has been fully worth it and here’s why!

For the first 2 months of Bass amp ownership, I had only used 2 effects and thought I had squandered $200. As for the first couple of months I had purely only played 2 different basses on the Rumble amp. So, the other 98 built in bass sounds remained unexplored and unused. And perhaps here was where the problem lay, when I first bought the amp I was scrolling through the various bass sounds, and the second pre-set already caught my fancy, and I stuck with this sound effect for the first 2 months.

But a few weeks back, I was determined that I was going to explore all 100 bass sounds, just to hear what they all sounded like. So, I pulled up a chair, plugged in one of the other basses whom I hadn’t found ‘their voice’ yet, and literally forced myself to go through all 100 sounds, plucking a few lines to hear what suited that guitar.

And the amazing thing is this! Each of my 6 basses has their own unique character, thus needed their own voice.

For the Fender JMJ Mustang bass, it has a powerful split-coil pickup placed in-between the bridge and the neck, and with flat wound strings, the deep 02 Basic Bassman OD was the ideal sound! As it emphasizes the almost up-right bass sound of the JMJ with its flat wound strings.

While for the Sterling by Musicman Sting ray bass, as this bass was best for slap & popping, then 29 KGB – 800 Slap was the ideal sound! This effect emphasizes the sounds coming from the string, like just sliding your fingers along the strings these sounds are captured and magnified thus perfect for some thumb slapping!

For my very first guitar, the Fender Player Mustang PJ, this guitar undoubtedly has the weakest pickup of them all. Toggling to Jazz, the sound is so muffled and barely audible that you simply can’t use it.  And toggling to Precision, it’s better but still very underwhelming as an instrument. So, to give this thing a sound boost 09 Deep Rumble was perfect! This pre-set is so booming, any other guitar would cause things on the walls to vibrate. But because the Mustang Player has cheap pickups, the weakness of the guitar and the power of the amp actually gels perfectly to create an acceptable tone.

The Hofner Contemporary Club bass is a hollow body bass, so the sound effect it needed was something to emphasize its hollow body nature. 24 Basic Tube Pre does just that! I scrolled all the way to 100, trying to find the perfect sound for this guitar, and in the end I came back to 24, as it just works with a hollow body!

The G&L Tribute Series Fallout bass was the hardest to work with, as this guitar is like an untamed wild beast. The humbucker pickup is by far the strongest and I already replaced the round wounds to flats to try taming it’s natural booming voice. Literally using the previous 4 pre-sets with this guitar was ear piercingly painful, as it hits a frequency which literally hurts my eardrums. And the only way to get around this problem was to turn down the sound on both amp and guitar by half. But wanting to find its own unique voice, I ended up on 25 Basic Redhead, it’s hard to describe the end outcome, but this is the only setting which makes this guitar sound good. From being something which literally hurts the ears, with this effect the guitar actually sounds melodic and on the D and G strings, it literally sings like a bird! So, it’s funny the guitar has gone from being like a Death Metal singer, to the Vienna Boys Choir! Haaha.

And lastly, my latest purchase, a Fender Made in Japan Jazz bass! At first I was just plugging it in and leaving it on whatever setting I had the last guitar on. But I just kept thinking to myself, ‘boy, this thing sounds pretty crappy’. But that was until I started to play around with the sound effect toggle nob, and the best sound for the Jazz was 07 Fender Rumble V3 Vintage. Although I wasn’t particularly looking for a vintage sound from the J-bass, but this sound just suits it so well! And brings out that Jazz sound which I’d been chasing down ever since bass guitar number 1 with the Mustang PJ.

So, now that I’ve found the voice for each of my basses, of course my end verdict is that the Studio 40 has been a good buy! There’s no question of that. And if you want to geek out, you can literally customise each sound to your hearts content! Not to mention there’s a Fender community who create their own tones, and then shares them through the app for all to download, as you have an additional 100 empty channels to save new sounds to. So, the Rumble Studio 40 can certainly be the first and last bass amp you ever buy, as who needs another, when your existing amp keeps getting better as time goes by?

So, to check-out the Bass amp which I’ve been raving on about, click HERE to learn all about the Fender Rumble Studio 40! Boom!

Netflix recommendations- Perfect Match (Season 1

Not exactly you’re Greg Evans’ Perfect Match game show from the 80’s!

When I first saw this pop-up on my Netflix app, I was thinking ‘Oh yeah’, I know what you’re all about. As being a kid of the 80s, I remember the game show of the same name, which aired on Australian TV. A dating game where a male contestant quizzed 3 females with a series of scripted questions to gage their compatibility, whilst being unseen behind a sliding screen (Blind Date for you Americans). But O boy! The Netflix version of Perfect Match was nothing like that show from your childhood!

No studio set here,  no studio audience, no scripted questions (I lie, there were some of that), and not a lot of clothing either- Netflix’s Perfect Match is truly a reflection of the era we live in.

First of all, the guys and gals on screen are all familiar faces! It’s like Super Smash Bros, Netflix style! As all these people had previously appeared in other Netflix reality TV shows. People from the Circle, Love is Blind, Too Hot to Handle, Sexy Beasts, Selling Tampa, The Mole etc. It’s a whose who of the Netflix reality TV genre. I joked with my wife and asked how come there weren’t any of the contestants from the Cooking Reality shows! Imagine that! Haaha.

But these guys were hand picked for their attractiveness and presumably lack of luck in the love department, inserted into a mansion in Panama, with alcohol to lower inhibitions and organised challenges to test couple’s compatibility. And these TV elements were tried and tested ingredients, to produce a saucy Netflix series! But what kept it fresh from previous similar Netflix shows like Love is Blind or Too Hot to Handle, was the fact that each couple had to be paired up by the end of the night- so where Love is Blind was a slow process to get to know one another like peeling back the layers of an onion, Perfect Match was like a mad rush around to find your “Match”, like an adult version of musical chairs. And where Too Hot to Handle was all about restraint, Perfect Match encouraged a ‘try it before you buy it’ approach, the blindfold kissing challenge comes to mind.

And where Netflix tries to justify their antics to be altruistic, as they positioned the show as if they were on a mission to help these hot singles find true love. But from my perspective, it was just throwing young attractive people into compromising situations, for the entertainment of paying viewers. And I have to admit, it was entertaining for us, but I’m sure probably not that helpful and perhaps traumatising for some participants.

The most interesting part of the show, had to be when the winning couple from the challenges were given the power to enter the boardroom, where they could bring in 2 new singles and set them up on a date with two others already in the house. And as each person in the house were essentially playing a game, as at the end one couple was going to leave the house with the title of “The Perfect Match”, so most moves to bring others in were for strategic reasons. And oftentimes this broke up still blossoming relationships, which was sad to see. And at the end of the night, as the injection of 2 more guys (or gals), resulted in a gender imbalance, then the cliff-hanger part of the show came where we learned which two unmatched individuals were going to leave the house.

But what I most most, liked about the show, was the fact we’re reunited with familiar Netflix faces again! As we’re not on Instagram and unaware of what they get up to after they’re Netflix famous,  it was really nice to see them again and hear how they’re getting on after their 30 seconds of fame. But unfortunately, for half of them, this second time around had left me with an even worse impression of them, as they weren’t as likeable as I first thought them to be. But while saying that, a few really represented themselves well and hopefully more good things will happen for them down the track.

And I guess as sceptical as I am of Netflix’s motivations for creating these shows, but I have to admit it ended well and perhaps a few of them did end-up finding their long-term Perfect Match’s! Which wouldn’t of been possible, if it wasn’t for Netflix and the show. And for once, Netflix didn’t dangle a cash prize at the end to entice players, but there was a pleasant surprise at the end in what the winning couple ended up walking away with, aside from each other.

And last thing, it was funny to see that the Netflix family of reality TV talent was quite small, that people from other shows had dated each other, knew each other’s business and were fans of each other (for those who hadn’t met before). So, I found that fascinating and I do wonder if there will be a season 2 of Perfect Match, would it feel like a second rate show? As they have already used-up all of their big guns for this first season? I guess we’ll see in 2024?

So, if you’re curious to check-out Perfect Match season 1, and in general you’re a fan of the Reality dating TV genre, check it out! Find it on your Netflix app! And thank goodness it wasn’t Perfect Match from the 80s, as we don’t need another AI love bot called Dexter in our lives!

Audiobook recommendation- The Casual Vacancy

Where is this thing going?

So, for us last year it was all about J. K. Rowling, as we spent almost 6 months re-reading all 8 books in the Harry Potter series (inclusive of the ‘Cursed Child’). And since then, I wanted to read all of J. K. Rowling’s books, anything that I could get my hands on. And from the library service which I’m subscribed to, I was surprised to find that they have each and every one of J. K. Rowling’s creations, from ‘Quidditch Through the Ages’ to the Cormoran Strike detective series (which is pretty much a Muggle Mad-eye Moody).  To date I’ve powered through the magazine sized Hogwarts textbooks/library books, battled through the Cuckoo’s Calling, but I’m really struggling with ‘The Casual Vacancy’. Boy, it’s a hard read.

For those who aren’t familiar with J. K. Rowling’s first novel after the Harry Potter series (and first book for adults), it’s based on every-day characters living out their normal every-day lives in a small country-town. The story begins with a middle aged man who suddenly drops dead from a suspected stroke,  he being a member of the Parish council thus leaving a “Casual Vacancy” on the council board. And the story is about the ripple effects of his death on the town folk. Doesn’t sound very riveting hey?  I’d described it to a friend, and the best way to describe it was like imagining the first chapters of every Harry Potter book when he’s back at 4 Privet Drive, and the Casual Vacancy feels like that. And if you’re like me, and you hated those opening chapters when Harry Potter is stuck in the Muggle world, then you’re not going to like this book at all.

Thinking about it now, it was like J. K. Rowling needed to write a book completely different and opposite to her previous works, like a therapeutic method to rid herself of the spirit of Harry Potter. And maybe it’s because of this, is why The Casual Vacancy is so different? 

Where HP was glorious fantasy where it swept the reader away from their reality. However,  The Casual Vacancy (hence forth to be referred to as TCV) was completely rooted in normality, boring old reality. So much so, that when I was talking to a friend who had worked as a Social Worker, I gave her a heads-up that one of the characters was a Social Worker, so she might want to avoid the book to avoid being reminded of her old job.

Where HP’s storyline was purely focused on Harry and no one else, in TCV there isn’t a main character but jumps from character to character. jumping around so frequently that most times it takes me a few minutes to work out which character it is anymore- as they’re names are so drab and boring (and it’s probably my fault as I’m starting and stopping the book every other day). And it’s probably due to this, is the reason why I’m not invested into the book, as I honestly don’t care about any of the characters.

Where HP avoided all controversial topics (it was a children’s book Afterall), TCV raised my eyebrows several times already, leaving me to wonder “oh really? Is that J. K’s opinion?”. As although she might be writing from the point of view of an abusive husband or a bigot, however, to manifest the character I imagine she has to insert some of her own views, even if it’s heavily reliant on stereotype’s.

Where each HP book had a very clear plotline, 6 hours in (a third of the book) I still don’t really know where this story is going or how it’s going to land!

And finally, where HP was a page turner where you wished each book was twice as long, TCV has taken me 6 weeks to get through 6 hours. And there’s still 11 hours to go! Argh!!!! So, it’s a Harry Potter sized book, but without the driving storyline to help readers along.

I honestly haven’t struggled through a book like this before, I would usually give up on a bad book a few hours in if it was this hard going. But the only thing which keeps me going is this……. I trust J. K. Rowling, I trust that she has a story to tell, and sooner or later I’m going to understand her magnificence! And because of that hope, I’m going to keep persisting on!

I’ve made an active effort to avoid all online reviews, as I’m avoiding spoilers. But I want to have this recorded in writing, at the 38% point of the book, I’m still trusting in you J. K. Rowling! I’m trusting that you’re going to bring this baby home with a remarkable safe landing, and the passengers (your fans) will be cheering in their seats as the metaphoric wheels of this nightmare flight touches down. I’m still believing for that. So yeah, fingers crossed that J. K. doesn’t let me down.

I’m fully setting myself up for disappointment right? *Smile*. It feels like I need to write a part 2, straight after I finish the book to capture my thoughts and feelings when all is revealed, but at this rate it’s not going to happen in the next 11 weeks. D’oh!

Product recommendations- ChatGBT

Is this the end of

This week I didn’t have a clear plan on what I wanted to blog about, however the topic of AI kept arising, frankly it was a bit hard to avoid! How would this change all of our lives as we know it! Yeah yeah, that sounds overly dramatic, but it’s true for bloggers like us! Take the below as an example.

Earlier this year I was geeking out on Fender Play, the online guitar learning platform, and now that I’ve finished all the bass guitar lessons, I’m wondering what else is out there!? Whilst kicking myself hard that I paid in advance for an entire year, thinking that a 10% discount was a no-brainer! But fast forward 6 weeks and I’ve already completed all of the bass lessons. D’oh! So, the natural next step would be to explore other similar platforms like Scott’s Bass Lessons, yes those guys with all of those annoying Youtube ads which I skip as soon as I can.

And in the past, I would of eventually signed up to Scott’s Bass Lessons (SBL), and after a month I probably would write a compare and contrast blog, comparing Fender Play to SBL. But pump them brakes! There’s now no need to wait for a further 12 months for this blog content, instead I plugged that exact query into ChatGBT (specifying to make it conversational and in Australian English,  and it produced the below:

No worries mate! I’d be happy to give you a rundown on Fender Play and Scott’s Bass Lessons in a more conversational, Aussie-style.

Fender Play is an online app for learning guitar that’s perfect for beginners and intermediate players. They cover a range of styles like rock, pop, blues and country, and provide step-by-step lessons on chords, scales and techniques. They’ve also got a ton of popular songs that you can learn to play.

Scott’s Bass Lessons is an online platform designed specifically for bass players. They offer a comprehensive curriculum covering everything from basic techniques to advanced concepts. There’s also a community of bass players where you can connect with other musos and get feedback on your playing.

Here are some key differences between Fender Play and Scott’s Bass Lessons:

  1. Focus: Fender Play is focused on guitar players, while Scott’s Bass Lessons is all about bass players. This means that Scott’s Bass Lessons is likely to be more specialized and comprehensive when it comes to bass-specific techniques and theory.
  2. Curriculum: Fender Play is more structured, with lessons organized into courses and levels. Scott’s Bass Lessons, on the other hand, is more flexible, allowing you to pick and choose which lessons you want to take.
  3. Learning Style: Fender Play provides video-based lessons that are easy to follow and understand. Scott’s Bass Lessons, on the other hand, provides more detailed lessons that are geared towards intermediate and advanced players.
  4. Community: Scott’s Bass Lessons has a strong community of bass players who can provide feedback and support. Fender Play, on the other hand, doesn’t have a community feature.
  5. Price: Fender Play is cheaper, with a monthly subscription starting at $9.99. Scott’s Bass Lessons is more expensive, with a monthly subscription starting at $20. However, Scott’s Bass Lessons offers a free trial, while Fender Play doesn’t.

To sum it up, Fender Play and Scott’s Bass Lessons are both excellent online learning platforms, but they have different focuses and teaching styles. Fender Play is great for guitar players who want a structured learning experience with a wide range of musical styles. Scott’s Bass Lessons is ideal for bass

It’s pretty wild hey!? ChatGBT’s article was both factual, informative and balanced. Much better than my usual bias gushing blogs…… But it does expose some weaknesses in the program- as ChatGBT isn’t aware of facts/details after 2021, therefore unaware that Fender Play has now introduced a Bass path, increased their monthly fees, and they now also provide a 14 day free trial just like SBL. But aside from these small issues, it’s incredible in how it produced a solid and factual ‘blog post’, a post which could of fooled anyone into believing that it was written by a human who invested time, effort and money to bring you their unbiased opinion. So back to the opening question, is this the end of

Well, I hope not! As I really enjoy writing and leaving an online  journal of my experiences/thoughts/life for all to read on the internet as a proof of my existence. But will there be the odd occasion where I’m too lazy to write my own blog posts and lean on a Chat bot to essentially take-over my hobby? Well,….. Let’s see hey?

To check out ChatGBT, just Google it, just make sure you don’t call it OpenGBT, it doesn’t like that and corrected me harshly for my mistake. Haaha.

Podcast recommendations- The SBL Podcast

I can’t get enough of this!

You’ll know ‘Scott’s Bass Lessons’ if you’ve ever googled about or watched a bass guitar video on Youtube, as thereafter you’ll constantly be bombarded with ‘Scott’s Bass Lessons’ Youtube adverts- which I then quickly skip each time they pop-up. To the extent that I was quite turned off by them and had quite a negative association towards Scott’s Bass Lessons (SBL), that I’d actively avoid all of his videos. Until, until I watched an unboxing video by him, and then another unboxing video of a rare short scale bass (Wilcock Mullarkey) by their channel but by this other American guy- and in his video he refers to their podcast. And honestly it was the American host which piqued my interest to check them out (he has a great voice).

So, since following their podcast last week, I’ve probably listened to at least 7 episodes! And each and every one of them has been fantastic thus far! They interview the biggest names in bass (e.g., Marcus Miller), and at first I was thinking, how engaging can these conversations be? But they’re awesome! These OGs in bass talking about how they started, their tales of working with the biggest names in rock/pop/funk, and the best part is when they listen back to their old iconic bass recordings, and with bass in hand they start playing their well known riffs! It’s truly amazing! And when the SBL guys aren’t chatting to other bass players, Scott and Ian (the American) then just chop it up on whatever bass related topic they happen on. My favourite thus far was the two-parter conversation about bass pickups! I’m 100% more knowledgeable about pickups now! And I love the fact that these guys have heaps and heaps of bass guitars in their mancave sheds/ basements, so they can always pull one out and we get to hear the gorgeous sounds of amazing vintage/rare guitars which we’ll never be able to afford.

Now that I’ve heard over 10 hours of their podcasts in just over a week, I’m learning to like Scott aka Scott Devine, in his SBL Youtube adverts, he comes off like a ‘Used car salesman’, like all salesy and a little bit untrustworthy. But now that I’ve gotten to know him, he does seem to be quite a nice guy, and quite down to earth- like in reality he’s not an know it all. While Ian aka Ian Allison is probably the more knowledgeable of the two- but from the get-go I’ve always warmed to him and found him to be very genuine and likeable. So, as a pairing, they’re a great partnership and just listening to them chat about bass, it’s actually quite an enjoyable listen. When the first new episode dropped this week since I’ve been a follower, it honestly felt like Christmas! I was super excited and couldn’t wait to listen to it. It’s definitely a podcast which I like to listen to when I can devote my full attention to, and love listening to it through a Bluetooth speaker, as the bass sounds come out much better through an external speaker compared to the speakers just on your phone.

And now, I’m kicking myself for paying for an entire year of Fender Play, as now I’m tied in to that training course for the next year, when I’m so tempted to get Scott’s Bass Lessons instead. *Grumble Grumble*.

So, if you’re a bass player, and desire to fall back in love with playing again, or you just want to go deeper and deeper! Check out The SBL Podcast, just listening to these guys motivates me to pick up the bass and just play more often! Luv you Scott & Ian!