Monday, July 9, 2012

My (Sorta) Retro Weekend

I spent the Fourth of July at my parents' house, and while there I found that they had saved all my old video game consoles despite their seemingly never-ending effort to clean out their basement. Even though video game emulators have been around for quite some time, there is something enjoyable about the tactile experience of plugging in the actual console, turning the game on, and playing it on the original joystick. Not that I have room for it, but soon I would be playing the Atari 2600. (The Sega Genesis is either broken or needs to be cleaned.)

The Atari was missing its power source, so that would need to be remedied. Because I am impatient, I wasn't going to order one online. Because Radio Shack's universal adapters are rather expensive I wasn't going there. So I did some searching online and found that surplus stores were a good source of random AC adapters.

As luck would have it, Milwaukee has such a store, and that store is American Science & Surplus. Awesome store if you're into the whole DIY electronics thing. Initially, the only 9V adapter they had didn't have the right plug, so I thought my plan had been foiled. But one last check of the "Very Assorted Adapters" bin proved lucky, and I had what I needed, though it is technically underpowered.

After some Googling, it was apparent -- though I figured it wouldn't be simple considering the adapter that came with the console was for 1980's televisions -- that it would take some re-jiggering to get the thing hooked up.

A trip to Radio Shack -- only $1.29 or so more than ordering it -- and I had my connector. (RCA to Coax)

After hooking it up through a VCR that I kept for some reason, I turned everything on and it worked. Sort of. It would turn on, but I couldn't get a picture with any game I tried. I wasn't sure if it was the set-up or the console or the generic plug I bought for a whole $2.50.

Ever the hoarder, I just so happen to have a legit old TV in the house, so I dragged that out and tried again. Eventually, success! The adapter doesn't always sit in the input so well, so I have to make sure it's in there tight. (That's what she said! Zing!)

I took apart the console to give it a good cleaning and to reset a ribbon cable that was making the "select" and "reset" buttons inoperable. Once that was all done, most of the games worked. It took some mild elbow grease, but in the end I was able to game like it was 1982.

 Later that night, I went to see Cake at Summerfest.

I am not the biggest Cake fan in the world, but I like their music well enough. Fashion Nugget is actually a pretty decent album. Lest you think Cake couldn't possibly be a draw, the overflow crowd at the Miller Oasis stage said otherwise.

Unfortunately the thing with overflow crowds is that half the people there are there maybe to see the one big hit and spend the rest of the time talking to their friends.

I'm not smug enough to delineate between true and fairweather fans, but generally when I go to see a concert -- whether it be at an indoor venue or at an outdoor festival -- I go to hear the music, not to socialize. (Whether I've actually ever been able to socialize regardless of situation is another story entirely.)

Cake didn't seem to care about that though. They went on and did their thing like they've been doing since the mid-1990's.

AV Club Milwaukee was dead on when they said "It’s somewhat like AC/DC in that its songs tend to feel fairly interchangeable, without a ton of distinction between albums; fortunately, it’s also somewhat like AC/DC in that the one Platonic song of which all its tunes are but cast shadows is enjoyable enough that it would be silly to make a fuss about it."

Cake sounded good overall, saving their biggest hits until the end -- "Short Skirt/Long Jacket," "Never There," and set-closer "The Distance." Also of note were "Frank Sinatra" and a Cake-ified cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs."

Singer John McCrea's voice occasionally struggled to be heard above the din, but when you're practically speaking the lyrics half the time, I suppose you can't expect much more.

And that's really the story of the show: I didn't expect much. I didn't get much more than that. It felt less like a concert and more like straining to hear an album at a crowded houseparty. But hey, I got to see Cake for a discount price. Cross another one off the 90's alt-rock bucket list. Maybe I'll go see Summerland after all.

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