Saludos Mis Amigos

As I reflect on 10 years in The Lou, I find myself reflecting on my life before and after that monumental move. One of the things I miss most is going to hear live music. With the smoke-filled rooms, my age and the early hours I keep, it’s not as easy as it used to be…that, and I’m not sure where in The Lou to go to find the local musicians who play the kind of music I might be in the mood for.

I was reminded of this last weekend when I went to Pop’s Nightclub with my parts of my lunch crowd.

It seams Savannah’s sister loves this band, Final Drive, and their chance to play at Pointfest on the Pop’s side-stage was hanging in the balance as they were in a battle with seven other bands who all wanted that same stage. This night at Pop’s would crown the winner, through votes cast by the bar patrons

Never one to miss a chance to hangout with the lunch crowd, I was in!

Now, I like a wide variety of music, as attested to on my iPod, but hard-core gangsta rap and death metal (where there’s more screaming than singing) have never been my favorites, and even if I knew going in that the night would prominently feature such acts I still would have gone.

There were eight bands that played and each had about 20-30 minute sets. The was made possible by two separate stages set up in Pop’s, which was a great idea and worked well since there was plenty of room for it.

We ended up arriving during the first band’s set, which is sad as Centerpointe was probably the most subdued and pop-like of all the bands. And in my eyes would make a great addition to Pointfest as I thought they were the most marketable.

Other bands of note included From Mars To Venus, who had this Flyleaf-like vibe. I say this as the singer tried to sound like Lacey Mosley but without the full-on attitude and great vocal range. Their music was OK but not a hit at our table.

My favorite of the night was Floodline. They were bluesy, ballsy and well-polished. The bass player looked like he could play with Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Doobie Brothers…and he could sing! Floodline’s music was energetic and well-written. Unfortunately, I don’t think they were a good fit for Pointfest. The kids going there won’t be looking for heavy blues…they want to mosh.

The last band of the night was, of course, Final Drive. They were actually quite good; tight, loud and heavy. Like I said, I’m not a fan of the scream/singing but there were plenty of people at Pop’s who really got into Final Drive’s music and really seemed to enjoy their set. I was left with ringing ears (forgot my earplugs) and a newfound appreciation for the local metal scene in The Lou.

As an aside, outside of Sirius/XM’s Liquid Metal, this music doesn’t get much airplay, which means that unless they tour heavily, scream/sing bands like Final Drive have a tough row to sow to make a living out of the music industry.

Here’s the full lineup from Pop’s Pointfest battle from Saturday, July 25th:

Here’s an old review of a car outside the ordinary:

2002 Mazda Protegé5

A Way-Cool Approach to the “H” Word

by James E. Bryson

Hatchbacks have never been too popular in the United States. Most people seem to prefer large wagons, an SUV, or a minivan, over smallish economy cars with an increased carrying capacity, compared to a sedan. Enter the new for 2002 Mazda Protegé5.

If you look around there are some new vehicles on our shores that could be considered hatchbacks, depending on how you look at things, and whether or not the manufacturer sees it as one. Mazda, on an upswing these days with many new and interesting products, has designed a “youth-oriented” vehicle that, they say, has exceptional seating and cargo capacity and flexibility and a distinctive, sporty style that reaches out to a diverse group of consumers. Can you say Hatchback?

Introduced as the Sport Wagon at the 2001 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Protegé5 is Mazda’s newest product to come from the Protegé platform, and is leading the industry in the new “five-door” niche with great looks and decent performance for an economically minded car.

Unlike the more pedestrian and useful station wagon of yore, the Protegé5 has a very small cargo area concealed by a rigid privacy cover. Most of us recognize this layout as the aforementioned “H” word. But, since doom and gloom come to carmakers that use the “H” word, most have decided to change the image of these runabouts by calling them something else, like a five-door “what-have-you”. We have been very impressed with the arrival of these vehicles because the five-door is useful and stylish all at once, unlike a lot of the frumpy hatchbacks we had to buy in the 70s and 80s.

All of these new vehicles, including Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, the Suzuki Aerio, the Pontiac Vibe and the Ford Focus ZX5, to name a few, are attractive and offer more cargo hauling choices than their sedan counterparts. The flexibility of the rear hatch to swallow large loads when the rear seats are folded is the best point of these vehicles. While they cannot carry as much cargo as the traditional station wagon, they are a compelling alternative to an SUV, stylish and utilitarian in one compact package. Another point in favor of the sedan-based five-door is better fuel economy and much better handling than any SUV could hope for.

On the flip side, directly comparing the Protegé5 with the best selling small SUV and the newest five-door, cargo capacity is at a premium for the Mazda. With the rear seats folded, a good measure of true cargo capacity, the Ford Escape has 64.8 cubic feet of space to stow your stuff. The new-for-2003 Pontiac Vibe has 57.2 cubic feet available for your mountain bikes or whatnot. Consequently, the Protégé5 has only 24.4 cubic feet to carry what-have-you.

At the least the “Zoom, Zoom” factor of the Mazda outweighs the apparent cargo-carrying deficiency.

When driving the Protegé5, you notice the crisp and quick handling within a few minutes on the road. The slightest movement of the steering wheel makes course changes instantly, while not being too twitchy. Cornering is above par on most surfaces, and traffic lines are cut as quick as the Fed has cut interest rates this year.

We really liked the full gauge cluster and ergonomic layout of the controls. We also liked the positive pedal feel and tight clutch. What was stellar was the shifter. It was the nicest front-drive gear selector we’ve driven lately and felt almost as good as its sibling’s, the MX-5 Miata.

Interior accoutrements are on pace with other vehicles of the sub-$20,000 class. We liked the cloth covering the seats; it’s texture and pattern suited the sportiness and utility of the vehicle. Controls were well placed and easy to use. We definitely like the separate stalk with windshield wiper controls.

And we were very impressed with the Protegé5’s engine. Torque and horsepower in this engine merge to form a formidable line that propels this vehicle to speed faster than you might expect. With 130 horsepower and 135 lb.-ft. of torque, this little wagon gets going pretty well. One passenger, though, commented that the ride felt rough and the car jerked around quite a bit. While we really don’t disagree, we at least can attribute the jerkiness to a touchy clutch and taut suspension.

The styling of the Protegé5 is boy-racer cool, with ground effects all around and a monochromatic color scheme that could make any adolescent drool. As part of the Protegé5 package, you get 16-inch alloy wheels, P195/50R16 all-season tires, large front fog lights, an adjustable roof rack, rear roof-end spoiler, front and rear air dams and side sills, and body-colored power mirrors, bumpers, side moldings and door handles.

Our Protegé5 tester topped out at $18,395 that included a base price of $16,335 plus a small list of options and the obligatory destination charge ($480). The options on our tester, of the few that are offered, were carpeted floor mats ($80), ABS with side airbags ($800) and a power sliding glass moonroof ($700), the last two had to be chosen together to get either.

The Mazda Protegé5 is a veritable bargain in its price class: You get superior handling coupled with enough power to make the most of the handling in an attractively stylish automobile. Long live the hatchback!

And now, the car of the day:

This is the Mercury Cougar Concept from the 2003 North American International Auto Show.

Cougar 1

It never saw production but we can always hope, right?

Cougar 2

This is one sharp car with great lines and that sporty look a lot of manufacturers are going for these days.

Cougar 3

This is just another example of Ford teasing us with a great design that never sees the light of production, but I’m not bitter ;O)


Published by

James E. Bryson

Cars make the world go 'round!

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