Trip Report: Kings Island
August 18, 2007
Greetings, and welcome to another trip report. Man, I have to get better with the timlieness of posting these. Anyway, as you might note, it is yet another summer August Saturday, and yet again I am headed to Kings Island. This time, I'm not the one that's nuts, its the performer I am going to see who is nuts. This particular trip was strange in its planning. First, I receive an email slugged "Geauga Lake" with a message asking if I wanted to go to Kings Island on Sunday. I replied that I would, while pointing out the discrepency between subject and message. I got a response back that, oops, they did mean Geauga Lake, but that they we going to see Weird Al at Kings Island on the Saturday and asked if I had interest in that. Now, I have heard a fair amount of Weird Al's stuff, mostly through watching Robb Alvey's coaster videos. (Admit it Robb, you use a fair amount of Wierd Al in your soundtracks) So, I decided, that I would like to go see Wierd Al.
The next subject was tickets, and according to Kings Island's website, season pass holders were eligible to purchase tickets for just $9.95. Remember that price, it plays into our story a bit later. So, I dutifully went out to TicketMaster, found out that yes the season pass offer was offered online, that there were plenty of seats left, and that the TicketMaster fees on an order of three tickets would total about $18. TicketMaster: You can't live with it, you can't live without it, thier business practices still suck. So, I report back to the group, and we decide to just wait until the day of show, and purchase the tickets at Kings Island as walk up sales. I then offer to handle the ticket purchasing as I knew the rest of the group were coming in from Columbus, and would be arriving fairly late in the day. In this case the group would consist of Dave Althoff Jr., April and myself.
That was either Thursday or Friday night. Saturday rolls around, and for going to an amusement park, I was decidedly sluggigh and bordering on disinterested. After all, its nearing the end of August, its Saturday, the weather outside is beautiful, its one of the very few days in only the low 80's after having a fortnight or more of above 90 days. In other words, I knew perfectly well the park was going to be jam packed, and since i have the luxury of going on very slow days, i'm a bit spoiled when it comes to ride lines.
So, I don't leave the house till almost 2, then I decide I am not paying for a Cedar Fair meal, so I stop at Wendy's on the way to the park, and they had a sizeable line, but it seemed to move at a decent rate. So after a relaxing meal at Wendy's, I head to the park and arrive just before 3:30 pm.
I walk up to the front gate, and I must point out it has been 15 years or so since I have been to a concert at Timberwolf. I head to where they used to sell Timberwolf tickets, key word there being "used to". I have no trouble getting through security as I spot an open lane that everybody else seems to not be able to see. I head to the park gate, and find an admission lane that had just opened. I note the admissions person was personable, commenting on my shirt, a Xavier Musketeer Alumni shirt, which has bearing on the story as I noted on the big electronic sign out front, that it is "University of Cincinnati" day at the park. She also noted the Bengals shirt in my season pass photo. As I said, a friendly personable admissions person, then I head into the park and head directly to the Return Visit Offer booth. I somehow manage to dodge the Keyhole Photo ambush and arrive at the booth unscathed. Now. on the sign above the booth it tells me I can buy (emphasis mine) : Return Visit Offer, ***Concert Tickets***, Season Pass Upgrades. So I walk up to the one open window, and ask for 3 tickets for Weird Al. "We don't sell concert tickets here", I glaringly look up at the sign. "Yeah, I know, the tickets are out in the Group Sales Building" The person makes it clear that they are just as annoyed about that sign directing people to her booth as I am.
So, argh, this means I have to go back out of the "secure zone". So I head back to the main gate, remembering to get a hand stamp. I note the park is back to using the "magic light" UV stamps, only they are different than before. Cedar Fair must have set them on the right course. Before they used an ink pad which looked like it contained some toxic green slime, and twhen they stamped it on your hand, they used copious quantities to the point where you could clearly see the yellow mark on your hand without the light, for hours to come. Now they use a more normal stamp pad, and the magic light ink disappears from view within seconds of being applied.
So I exit the security gate, and head to the Group Sales building. I spot two lanes, one for will call tickets, and one to purchase tickets. I head to the window to purchase tickets, and ask for three Wierd Al tickets. No problem, I see tickets come out of the ticket machine. That will be $44.85 please. Wait, it says season pass tickets are only $9.95. I find out they are $14.95 when purchased at the park. So much for dodging the TicketMaster fees. I'm still sore over the park tacking on a $3.95 service charge for tickets to their own event, now they are tacking on a $5 service charge for concert tickets purchased at the venue. No wonder Cedar Fair attendance is down, between the hidden service fees, and the hideously overpriced concessions, they are actively trying to tick off their guests where it matters the most, in their billfolds.
But, what am I to do, but fork over $44.85 instead of the $29.85 we had planned on. Tickets in hand, its time to head into the park. So, its back through security, again a short line, then I learn you can reneter with a handstamp at any lane, and that the lanes have been equipped with the lights. So, I am back into the park, and its like a robot boots up program "Kings Island solo touring program" I mean, I think I do the same thing, or attempt to do the same thing most every visit.
Yep, I head to Delirium. There I find a full queue spilled out on the midway. I'll pass. I head to Face/Off, "Sorry, this ride closed...", Drop Zone "Sorry, this ride closed...", Son of Beast "Sorry, this ride closed..." I skip on Top Gun as it is such a long walk. I headed into Oktoberfest, note a healthy line for the Slingshot, and go to Adventure Express "Sorry, this ride closed..." Yep, Kings Island is making this walk through the park memorable for all the wrong reasons.
I get around to Racer, and hey its open! The line is backed out onto the midway, but none of the switchbacks are open. I opt for a ride on Racer Forwards. The line moves at a reasonable pace, and when I get into the station, I find the usual congestion towards the front of the sttion allows me to score a seat with ease at the back of the station. While waiting to board, I note I have not seen Firehawk run. After the ride starts, I pay special note to look at FireHawk while going up the lift. Okay, no one in station, both trains parked in station, and no queue hanging out onto the mdiway. I'm not sure its closed, but it sure is exhibiting all signs of being closed as well. At least they did race the trains on the Racer. I had another reasonably smooth rides that exhibits hints at floater air. I think the Racer is running better this year than it has in several years. We return to the station, and I note Adventure Express is cycling test trains.
I exit Racer, and head back to Adventure Express, and by the time I get there, the queue has been opened. I enjoy a walk on ride in the back seat. It's all about timing. Adventure Express has improved this season now that the special effects in the third and fourth tunnels have been restored, now lets work on the spears in the second tunnel, and whatever is supposed to happen in the first tunnel. (It's been so long, I forget), oh and the train warning bell at the start of the ride. Adventure Express is still running well, and except for having the service door open on the second enclosed lift, drowning the scene in light, it was a great ride on Adventure Express. How they managed to stack all three trains at the end of the ride, with 6 crew member on platform is a puzzlement. However, while riding Adventure Express, I saw Son of Beast testing. Can I pull off the "test rides walk on" again?
I dash over to Son of Beast. Nope, the queue stil isn't open, and the lineis back to the Skycoaster harness shelter. But since it is stopped at the top of the ramp down, I figure to give it 15 minutes. About 10 minutes later, Son of Beast opens, but not before I notice another Cedar Fair Unscrupulous Business Practice. All season long, the posted regular price for Skycoaster has been $15. Now, they rarely charge that, as they seem to be running a $10 special most of the time, and on rare occasions you can even see a $5 special. Today I look at the big bright yellow Today's Special" sign - Limited time offer: $15!!! Wait that is the regular price, or so I thought till I looked over at the ticket booth, where THAT sign has been changed to read $20. Artificially raising the price to create the illusion of a sale, I tell you. Yes, I realize retail pulls that BS all the time, and some have gotten busted for it.
But, back to what I was doing. We were then walked into Son of Beast, and when the dust cleared I was right up by the seat queues. I decided to forgo a walk on Son of Beast ride, and instead opt for this rumored excellent front seat ride. It would take about 8 trains to get into that magical front seat. Seems, just about everybody headed to that front seat lane. Rumour has it, that is the only seat that doesn't rough you up real bad. So my time comes, I board the train, and a ride operator jumps in with me "I need to give it a test ride" smirking the whole time. No problem, we head out onto the course. The rumours are correct! Up in the front seat, Son of Beast is wonderfully smooth. I don't think I have felt this ride run so good since maybe it's opening day so many years ago. It's still not a great coaster, but at least its ridable now, and the Gerstlauer trains actually allow real size Americans to fit comfortably.
I exit Son of Beast, and decide to follow the rule. I headed to Top Gun. The line was back past the chicken chute, but not quite back to the tunnel under the service road. At least the had two trains on, so after a lengthy wait that I clocked at 45 minutes I was heading to the front of the back car. Top Gun is still a great, intense, smooth and SHORT ride. The longer you wait for it only stresses how short the actual ride is. As I am exiting Top Gun, I receive a phone call that the rest of the group was in the area, that they saw the parking lot and concluded the park was jammed. They indicated they were going to grab dinner and then come to the park. I figure dinner at Skyline is worth about 30 minutes or so. I purchase a Strawbeery/Banana Chill. YA know, I have managed to avoid the Lemon Chill craze for numerous years, I had one in preseason this year, and now I am hooked. "Hi, my name is David Bowers, and I'm a Lemon Chill addict"
I enjoy my Strawberry/Banana Chill while perusing the International Street gift shops. I look at stuff, particularly in the Emporium, Thrillriders, and the "Clearance Sale Room" where they have taken all the old Paramount stuff. I admit, I alsmost bought some instant lottery tickets, except I could not see the cashier on duty. At around 6pm, I head to the main gate to meet April and Dave. As it would turn out, they didn't arrive at the park till almost 7pm. Some of that, however was due to finding a parking space in BFE and walking from BFE to the main gate since Cedar Fair discontinued the tram service. Come on, at least Paramount ran the trams on busy days. I was getting a bit nervous for them when shortly after 6pm (which is when you can enter the park on a concert only ticket), the admission gate was overwhelmed as they only had two lanes open, and the line to get in was backed up clear to the metal detectors. By 6:30 they had the full gate with all lanes open, and by the time Dave and April arrived they just walked right in. We then exchange greetings, along with money and tickets, then head into the park. Our first stop is the front gate gift shop to get some candy for the show.
We then decide that since we have reserved seats, we can casually arrive at the concert just before it starts. We head to Adventure Express, and see that the queue looks to extend all the way back to the midway, but hey its Adventure Express, veven that is only about 20-30 minutes. We then learn that it is because some people ahead of us had STOPEED in the queue for whatever reason. When they finally decided to get the heck out of the way and let those of us who really wanted to ride past, the actual line was only about halfway through the bridge over the track. Not that much longer, and we are boarding Adventure Express in the back car. It was, like the first ride, a good ride on Adventure Express. By the time the ride ends, it is 7:20. I note my concert ticket says 7:30 as the start time. I hardly if ever attend rock shows, being more of a Pops/Symphony man myself. In my culture, when a ticket says 7:30, that means you are in your seat by 7:20 at the very latest.
Dave and April convince me we have time for Racer, and so we head to Racer and the line is just back to the queue house. We wind up getting a back car ride on Racer. When the Racer ride ends, its 7:35. We then decide to head to Timberwolf.
As we walk through Oktoberfest, I note that I can't hear the concert. Having worked at the park a long long time ago, I know that with most acts you can hear the show in Action Zone and Oktoberfest. We walk through Action Zone, still not hearing anything. The entrance to Timberwolf is back near Face/Off's entrance. So we present our tickets at the checkpoint which is located direcrly underneath Congo Falls. Man, Congo Falls leaked 13 years ago when I used to work here, and it STILL leaks. Some genius stationed the checkpoint right under the leaky spot.
Kings Island has not invested in TicketFast, so they are still tearing tickets, then you step forward and some guy, in a not too nice manner is all "Left arm, Palm up!" then he applies a handstamp in black ink to the lower part of your arm, right above the wrist. The Timberwolf staff could be classed as being openly hostile. I attend concerts at Riverbend at Coney Island with some regularity and that venue is staffed with friendly people, and especially outgoing ushers who are willing to do just about anything for you. Here, they treat you like you are a nuisance to them.
We head up into the seating bowl, skipping the refreshment and souvenir booths, and find the show has not yet even started. Its now 7:45pm. We dutifully head to our assigned seats. We head to Section 4 row Y and find out seats at extreme left. This is bad for a variety of reasons. One is Weird Al, like most shows these days has installed a video wall behind the set, and a substantial part of the show required seeing the video wall. The other is the park seemed to put everybody in one area of the theatre. In other words they packed the front in solid, while leaving the back a ghost town. (Well the center was filled most of the way back). We last in our assigned seats for about 3 minutes.
We then realize that if we move just 5 rows back. we can sit on an aisle between the side and center section, with a lot more elbow room. We make the seat upgrade, and as luck would have it, never got approached either by an usher, or the rightful owner of those seats. In fact, I think others followed our lead. Note: the show still has not begun.
At around 8PM, the show finally begins! The tour was the Straight out of Lynwood Tour, and as you might guess, it contained a lot of the Straight out of Lynwood album. He started with Polkarama, which is especially fitting for play in Cincinnati, as it starts out with the Chicken Dance. You cannot have a wedding reception or other similar social event in Cincinnati without the Chicken Dance. Now I don't remember the set list, or the order of the set list. (Back in my culture, I am used to being handed a set list on the way in) I do rememmber the highlights though. One thing is the format of the show. Weird Al believes in costuming to fit each song, and to cover up these costume changes, they either play segments from Al TV (specifically the celebrity mock interviews) on the video wall, or play segments from TV shows and movies that reference Wierd Al. Don't get me wrong, some of the mock interviews are funny. Like the guy that just kept saying "You know what I mean", followed by Al saying "I know what you mean" repeat ad nauseum, the other artist who didn't want to talk about anything related to their career, the other guy that hit on Wierd Al during the interview. In other words none of them are serious, and are part of the comedy being presented. The one to pay note of is in the early stages of the show, Wierd Al works with his guest, explaining that he, Wierd Al, can make a song out of just about anything. The guest says "We all have cell phones, so let's get real" And Weird Al sets that line to music. He then lets it drop, but you shouldn't, it comes back later. Rideman and I agreed that there were far too many video presentations for our taste.
Other notable songs includes "You're Pitiful", the song he can do in concert but not record. During the song, in which he makes fun of others loser lifestyle, he changes t-shirts sevral times, by continually pulling off layers. One shirt proclaims "Atlantic Records SUCKS", and generally the shirts fit the lyrics. I don't know if its a standard part of the act, but he ended up in a Spongebob Squarepants shirt at the end of the song. Fitting for the park with the world's best kid's area, "Nickelodeon Universe". He then proceeds to remove his belt, and then his pants to reveal a pink skirt/tutu thing underneath. He still has the Spongebob shirt on. The audience goes crazy.
Speaking of kids area, I was shocked at the number of families who came to this show as a family. Call me conservative, but while I was loving this show, and laughing it up, I would not take children to see this show.
He also did, "Bob" a song that is written in all palindromes, or phrases that are spelled the same forwards and backwards. Just in case you have your doubts, they put the lyrics up on the video wall so you can see for yourself. It's a very clever piece of novelty work.
For the nerdy, there is "It's All About the Pentiums" which has the IT people in the audience, such as ourselves laughing. But all in all he did several of his hits, "eBay" about peoples addictions to eBay, a song about Spiderman sung to the tune of "Piano Man", noteworthy as Wierd Al doesn't have Billy Joels harmonica holder, instead someone else had to hold it for him. In one song Wierd Al came out dressed as Gilligan singing "I'm in love with the Skipper" while clips from Gilligan's Island played, and there was a song about the Flintstones, while Flintstones clips played.
I think a most noteworthy part of the show came about halfway through. I noticed about a hlaf hour into the show, the night novelty people started working the aisles, except the only novelty they had were Star Wars style light saber light ups. Then I noticed, it wasn't the children buying these, it was full grown adults with no children with then buying them. About halfway through the show, after sundown, the stage was overtaken by Imperial Stormtroopers, then Wierd Al comes out dressed like a Star Wars character and does "The Saga Begins" to the tune of American Pie, eventually joined on stage by Darth Vader. Ah, now the light sabers make sense. As not only is the audience waving their light sabers around, but there are also light saber duels going on up on stage. Even with all that thetricality, I just about lost it when during the peppy part of the song, the Stromtroopers started getting down and dancing. Weird Al quickly followed this song up with "Yoda" , to the tune of "Lola" another Star Wars themed song about everybody's favorite little green runt. Admit it, I know when I was watching Attack of the Clones, the whole theatre went nuts when the seeming fragile Yoda busted out a light saber and started kicking ass.
The way most of his songs go, he gives a hint, like playing the first 5 seconds of the video, or giving some other onstage clue, to which the true fans seemed to react with a knowing smile. Like when he comes out on stage riding a Segway, you know its time for his new hit "White and Nerdy", I guess I am geeky enough or nerdy enough that the lyrics hit home. They play the first 3 seconds of the video for "Amish Paradise" a song I will forever associate with Hersheypark and Dutch Wonderland, thanks to Robb Alvey. I swear I might have just thought this, but it seemed like all the stage lights went dark at the words "No lights, no phones, no motorcars"
No one or thing is safe from Wierd Al, who also sang "Pretty Fly for a Rabbi", I mean Wierd Al cam even get a hit song singing about going through the fast food drive in, in "Trapped at the Drive Through"which is a singsong almost storytelling about all the bad experiences you have ever had at a fast food drive through, or dealing with your spouse when it comes to getting dinner, all rolled into one.
He did so mang songs that I'm sure I forgot one or two along the way, all told the show ran 2 hours, without intermission. Towards the end of the show after what you think is the end of the show, he starts singing the words "We all have cell phones, so let's get real" then you realize it IS a real song, and he proceeds to sing it, while the audience holds their cell phones high in the air waving them. We walked out when he started singing "Albequrque" as we knew that was the last song in the set, you can hear it all over Action Zone, its not a good song, and we wanted to ride Son of Beast. You know what Wierd Al is missing? A big closer, the end of his concert just peters out, there is no song he sings that proclaims "This is the final showstopper!" I hear he used to use "Yoda" for that purpose.
So did I love the show, HECK YEAH! That was about the fastest 2 hours, with plenty of laughs.
So, we get to Son of Beast at around 9:55, we enter the queue and find it to be jest a station wait. April had heard that the back seat also produces a great ride. "I have a bad feeling about this" But, we head to the back seat queue anyway. While we are waiting the closing fireworks go off, and we are concerned we may not get to ride in the back seat, and may have to move to a middle seat, which we all know are rough. First Dave and April depart in the blue train. Then I am loaded into the red train, both of my rides today being in the red train. We depart the station, and head into the drop out of the station just as the blue train is returning to the final brakes. We make the curve to the lift approach, past the camera, and start up the lift. We barely start up the lift when the lift stops. I know the other train is well past the next block point, in fact I saw it hit the final brake. A couple minutes later, the lift restarts. We get near the top of the lift, the lift stops again. Moments later the lift restarts, and we crest the lift, and down the first drop. Up the second hill, down the second hill, and into the helix, and dang it, I KNEW this was a bad idea. I get roughed up pretty bad in the helix. We head into the mid course brake, and we stop. Total stop. A few moments later, we restart and roll a bit further down the mid course brake, and it stops again. Wait a bit, and we continue, luckily there are no more brakes until the end of the ride. At least coming off of a dead stop at the downtrack end of the mid course meant I could verify that the kicker tires that were there when it had the loop were removed. This may have helped as the the rest of the ride was just rough, and not brutal. Overall, I did not enjoy the ride in the back seat. We come up to the final brakes, and we of course stop again. Only this time I can see why, the blue train is being unloaded. Wait, you mean after all those stops, they are just now unloading the blue train? Something seems amiss. They then close the lapbars on the blue train, dispatch it empty, and bring us into the station.
As I would find out, I was on the last train that night. Those who were waiting for the next train did not get to ride. Apparently the ride computer started acting up, and they had to bring the train I was on around manually in service mode, overiding what the computer thought were block violations at every block point. They then unloaded the blue train, without giving them a ride, closed the ride, and jogged the blue train out to the lift so they could jog the red train I was on back into the station. A crew member noted that they have been having lots of downtime lately.
By this time, the park is closed, so we make our way up to International Street, out the front gate, and then make the long walk to BFE. Dave them gives me a photo CD from Coastermania, then proceeds to take almost an hour to get out of the parking lot. Did I mention the crowds were insane?
And that ends, Kings Island with Wierd Al, which means I can start to to work on my next big novel, yep, I went to Minnesota and Wisconsin again, that can only mean one thing. Trip Reorts from the Minnesota State Fair, Valleyfair!, Mall of America, Mt. Olympus, Timber Falls, and SS Billiards are about to head your way, that is when I get around to them, Considering it took my almost a month to get this TR out.
There was a woman on the first row singing along with everything and during All about the pentiums she put on a performance I would have paid to see. I think she took the song more serious than he did. You should have seen her acting out each line. especially the the last line "What you gonna do, be hackers code crackers? What? I think she'd hit someone if she could.
You got to give him credit for remembering all the words to Trapped in a drive thru, Albequerque and Bob as well as giving the band and Al credit for remembering all they do/say during Yoda. Yes, Yoda closed the lshow I saw a few years ago.
"Bobby Wierd Al YAnkovic blew his brains out in the late Eighties when people stopped buying his albums"
At least Al as the class to be able to laugh when he's the butt of the joke.
I laughed until I physically hurt! There were so many memories from that concert I could mention, but my favorites were...
- "You're Pitiful" Al's parody of the James Blunt hit, "You're Beautiful" Esp. Al's t-shirt that proclaimed "Atlantic Records Sucks!"
- I wanna b your lover" was a riot. Al in the red suit picking up women in the audience was a sight.
- Between 4000-5000 people singing along to just about every song was memorable. If you didn't know the words? Just listen or ask the person next to you.
- Lastly, the interviews were great. The already mentioned Jessica Simpson one was hilarious, but Eminem's made me nearly cry!
All around, one of the best concerts I've seen in years, if not ever. I'd go see Al again and again. You'll be hardpressed to find a performer who'll make you laugh as hard as Al does...and still keep it PG rated.
Al did record "You're Pitiful" with James Blunt's permission, but his label didn't want Al to release it on an album. It was downloadable from his MySpace page for a good long while.
And as for Al keeping it PG, I think he's slowly starting to slide toward an older demographic with "Fell in love with the Skipper".
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