Sunday, January 24, 2016

Holy Diver Stargazer

Fuck you, 2016.. The Rock Heroes just keep falling!!  Photo by the teenage me: 


Jimmy Bain with Dio... San Jose Civic, San Jose, California - October 5, 1983.. Holy Diver Tour.  Oddly, they played an early show in the afternoon and a late show that night. This is from the late show and both were recorded and later broadcast on FM radio stations around the country by the King Biscuit Flower Hour. 

When we arrived at the venue, Cliff Burton and Jim Martin were hanging out front and Cliff immedately offered me a beer from their 12-pack. Once inside I was smashed against the stage and after the support band Queensryche finished I needed to put a new roll of film into my trusty Canon AV-1. As I went to put the new roll in I dropped it and it fell into the void at my feet; I was jammed too tightly against the stage by the crush of the crowd to bend down and get it. Amazingly, the guy next to me had an extra roll of film and gave it to me!! I never found out who he was since he disappeared once the show got started and things got rough down front. 

Peace in Rest, Jimmy Bain.. To paraphrase from 2 of the most iconic songs he played on: "Oh I see his face.. like a rainbow in the dark.."

Friday, January 22, 2016

Sons Of Satan

Venom Inc.
DNA Lounge, San Francisco
January 20, 2016


A couple of days before this show the anticipation was so thick in the air amongst old school Metal friends you could cut it with a knife.  Yes, there are 2 versions of "Venom" active now here in the 21st Century.  One is fronted by Cronos (aka Venom) and the other features the other 2/3 of the original band plus Tony Dolan of Atomkraft on vocals / bass (aka Venom Inc.).  Honesty is my only excuse:  People focus too much on Cronos being "Venom".  The original guitar tone of Mantas and the drumming of Abaddon were as much a part of the original band as anything else.  This makes Venom Inc. completely valid plus Tony Dolan was there back in The Day in Newcastle, England fronting Atomkraft.  Ironically, my teenage Metal 'zine featured both bands in 1983:


The Atomkraft article was probably the first thing ever written about the band (Peace in Rest, Sam Kress).  A couple of hours before the show things suddenly got crazy old school full circle with this message from the band's tour manager:

"Hi Brian - Just shooting an email to you real quick - I've got ya down for tonight. Also wanted to mention that I have that copy of Whiplash mag - bought at my local metal shop in Arlington TX when it came out!! Hell yes!"

Crazy, right!?

When I arrived at the venue it was immediately obvious the show had brought a lot of old school Metalheads out of the woodwork.  It felt like a high school reunion seeing so many familiar faces; not bad for a Wednesday school night.  Beers were shared with some good friends before all Hell broke loose (in a fantastic way of course).

As the support bands played I met up with John, the tour manager, and it was as if we'd known each other for 30 years.  Most people believe only the old Punk scenes had a D.I.Y. underground ethic.. but the early-80's Metal scene worldwide had just as much of that.  The fact that John and I met for the first time here in the 21st Century but our easy conversation was like we were right back in 1983 was a testament to our roots (bloody roots).   It was during this time I also met Tony "The Demolition Man" Dolan and a circle started 33 years ago with my old Whiplash 'zine was completed.  Amazing!

 The only other times "Venom" has visited San Francisco

I was standing at stage left as the house lights went down for the headliners and I noticed someone standing to my right... and it was Abaddon.. drumsticks in hand... ready for battle... and he still looks exactly as he did in 1983... long hair and aviator sunglasses!  It was a profound moment because tonight was the first time Abaddon and Mantas had performed in San Francisco since 1985 on that first U.S. Tour.  The original band never returned here after that.  Crazy.

Obviously there was some doubts in my head about how this version of "Venom" would be onstage.  However, my expectations were fueled by very positive reports from friends who had seen Venom Inc. before... The set opened with 'Prime Evil' and then for the next 90 minutes it was full-on classic greatest hits one after another after another after another.  'Die Hard' into 'Don't Burn The Witch' into 'Live Like An Angel (Die Like A Devil)' into 'Buried Alive' into 'Raise The Dead'...  My expectations were completely hung, drawn, and quartered.  The band was fantastic... and judging by the rabid crowd action on the floor below my San Francisco Metal brothers and sisters felt the same.

[Photo courtesy of Umlaut's iPhone]

As the next song, 'One Thousand Days In Sodom', got going someone came up next to me, fist in the air, and shouted the lyrics into my ear as the band roared onstage.  It was the guy who sings 'Master Of Puppets'.   It was adorable watching the guy who sings 'Master Of Puppets' play air guitar and drums for the entire set... and after the show he hung out for a long while chatting and reminiscing with the headliners. 

[Photo courtesy of Venom Inc.]

Like I said earlier, tonight felt like a high school reunion.. and it was pretty fucking cool that the class valedictorian showed up, right?

When it comes to vintage Metal bands it's not often that the present is BETTER than the past.  However, Venom in this incarnation was without question BETTER than the "Venom" that last played in San Francisco in 2006.  The performance tonight was about THE SONGS and was one of the most focused, no bullshit sets by a vintage Metal band that I've seen in recent years.  Tony Dolan's vocal delivery and bass playing is more direct and less cheesy than Cronos... and his stage presence more appropriate for the songs now.

[Photo courtesy of Umlaut's iPhone]

This BAND is fucking tight!  No sloppy rambling interludes.  I started geeking out watching Mantas and Abaddon playing these songs again.  At times I only watched each of them, soaking in their individual performances, and being reminded how important each of them is to what "Venom" meant to me.  Mantas' guitar tone.  Abaddon's double bass thunder.  Even after all these years it's all still right where it belongs.  Time travel does exist.

The main set closed with probably my favorite Venom song, 'Sons Of Satan', and the epic timeless evening was encored to a close with 'Black Metal' into 'Countess Bathory' into 'Witching Hour'.. and then the gates to Hell were closed and the band said goodnight.  The after show hang was something the teenage me would not have believed possible as all of the band members told me separately how they still have their copies of my old 'zine Whiplash.  Wow..

For those who care, chew on this setlist:
  • Prime Evil 
  • Die Hard 
  • Don't Burn the Witch 
  • Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil) 
  • Buried Alive 
  • Raise the Dead 
  • One Thousand Days in Sodom 
  • Warhead 
  • Schizoid
  • The Seven Gates of Hell 
  • In Nomine Satanas 
  • Bloodlust 
  • Sons of Satan 
  • Welcome to Hell 
  • Black Metal 
  • Countess Bathory 
  • Witching Hour
All killer... No filler.

The subject of Venom (Cronos) vs. Venom Inc. (Mantas, Abaddon, Demolition Man) is not something I'm going to debate.  I have not seen the Cronos band since 2006 when he last visited The Bay Area.. but I have seen the recent footage posted online.  That being said, Venom Inc. captures the essence of what made the original band iconic to me in my salad days.  Ironically, a day or so after the show, I received a message from the band asking me a question:


I will leave it at that. 

I didn't do a merch audit... I was too distracted all night.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  It's rare for Umlaut to still be buzzing with excitement about a show days after it happened... but that's how I still feel after Venom Inc..  Amazing and this photo was 33 years in the making:

Abaddon.. Mantas.. Whiplash.. Demolition Man
[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

"Join Venom's Legions... 'cause we're going wild.."

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Only Way To Feel The Noise Is When It's Good And Loud


This live photo (by Wayne Vanderkuil) is from The Stone in San Francisco on August 13, 1983 which was the first time I "met" Lemmy. On that tour 'Overkill' was not included in the setlist, so my friends dared me to go up to Lemmy at the bar and ask him why the band wasn't playing 'Overkill'.

So I did.

Instead of punching me Lemmy said they'd forgotten how to play it...

Fast forward to this weekend and I attended his funeral after having worked with Motörhead and their management for the past 8 years. I'm not religious but the Metal Godz work in mysterious ways. 

Instead of flying back today, I opted to ride back with an old Bay Area Metal friend who had driven down and attended the services with me. We listened to Motörhead via my iPod the entire 6 hour drive back and, with the battery almost dead, ironically 'Overkill' from the No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith album was playing as we turned onto my street.  The song literally ended as we stopped in front of my house. 

No joke. 

Born To Lose - Live To Win Forever. 

Thank you and peace in rest, Lemmy and Motörhead.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Damage Case

As soon as I get my head around it I'll probably post a longer, more emo rant about what Lemmy meant to me. There's a lot for me to think about. However, for right now..

Random Lemmy memory: Boston - March 2011. I was visiting a business partner and planned the trip around the Motörhead show at the House Of Blues. All day my Boston colleague asked "Do you think you can get Tom into the show?" I had no idea who "Tom" was and didn't really respond.. Then as we were literally getting into the car to go to the show I realized "Tom" was Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith (my colleague also worked with them).

Long story short, Tom got into the sold out show and afterwards met with Lemmy. It was trippy watching the 2 bass legends chat about this and that. Then Tom asked to see Lemmy's gear so we went back to the stage. Tom admired Lemm's carved Rickenbacker in its case so Lemm handed it to him to check out. It was funny watching a Rock Star geek out..


Then Tom turned to me and asked if I could take a photo of him and Lemmy with my camera because he didn't have one.


I almost asked Tom to play the bass line from 'Sweet Emotion' but I chickened out.. On another note: Tom's son was with him and he was a legit Metalhead with an Amebix back patch on his denim vest. It was also literally sold out to the rafters in Boston that night..


Good times. Anyway... More thoughts on my hero soon.  Peace in rest, Lemmy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Live To Win

As soon as I get my head around it I'll probably post a longer, more emo rant about what Lemmy meant to me.  There's a lot for me to think about.  However, for right now..

Random Lemmy memory: For almost a decade I've been fortunate to have worked for the companies responsible for Motörhead and their merchandise.  Lemmy sketched things all the time.. including band shirt ideas.

This is a tee he did for the 2007 Australia / New Zealand Motörhead Tour.. He wanted the tour dates on the back upside down because it was "Down Under".. Geddit!? It was classic Lemmy humor but the printer (and some fans) thought the shirt was printed wrong.

[From the Umlaut Archives]

Most people only focus on how much Lemmy drank blah blah but since I was a kid I've always loved his sense of humor and how knowledgeable he was about many subjects.. including the stars on the national flags of Australia and New Zealand in this case.

Anyway... More thoughts on my hero soon.  Peace in rest, Lemmy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Golden Years

Now playing back in Umlaut's early-1980's teenage Metalhead bedroom:


Fast forward to Umlaut's 21st Century adult Metalhead reality:

Lemmy's 70th Birthday Party
The Whisky A-Go-Go, Hollywood, California
December 13, 2015


One thing led to another and on a blustery Sunday afternoon I found myself on Southwest Flight 5872 flying down to Hollywood to celebrate my Capricorn hero's 70th birthday that night.  If you had told the Teenage Me I would find myself at this event I would not have believed you.


December's child the only one,
What I do is what I've done,
I realise I get so cold,
When I was young I was already old,
My life.. My heart.. Black night.. Dark star,

Capricorn


Here in the 21st Century, the Sunset Strip is a mere ghost of its former glory with so many places gone and others being replaced by hotels due to redevelopment.  The steady march towards the area becoming an anonymous massive strip mall is on profound fast forward these days.  Upon arriving in L.A. I chilled for a bit before walking down to Book Soup... and across the street was this example of how time travel does exist.. at least on the outside:


It was extremely surreal to see the Tower colors flying on that iconic space again.  However, it's only temporary as the paint job had been done for the premiere of the Tower Records documentary.  It's still empty, cold, and vacant inside the space.. just like the record industry now.  Anyway, after trying unsuccessfully to get served at a crowded bar showing 3 NFL games at once (Is it baseball yet?!), I found a relatively empty bar a block away to have a beer(s) and wait for my colleague friend to text me so we could meet at The Whisky.. and it wasn't long before that text arrived.

As I approached The Whisky I could hear the soundcheck going on and, to my surprise, the front door was wide open and I just walked right in.  Donde está security? Stepping inside of The Whisky is still like stepping into a time machine.  I've only seen a few shows there but the walls really do ooze Lock 'N Loll history.  Given the magnitude of the evening's event I was shocked how mellow things were.. but it was very cool of course.  After taking a quick look around the room I realized who was soundchecking:


That would be Billy Duffy, Billy Idol, Matt Sorum, Duff McKagan, and Steve Jones.. Star power! Crazy, right?!

It was pretty damn amazing to be able to witness the soundcheck for this once in a lifetime event.  In between jams I also ran into several people who I knew (crew guys.. band guys.. industry guys..)... and it always surprises me when I see shows in L.A. that I actually know people there.  I forget.. One of them was the guy who took the band photos in Appetite For Destruction who was filming the show tonight.  Another cool jam featured 1/2 of Anthrax, Slash, Robert from Metallica, and the guy who sings in Ugly Kid Joe (currently residing in the "Where are they now" file..):



After this round of "check one two" was completed my friend and I popped out to get dinner and to catch up since we hadn't seen each other in awhile.  Upon our return we found the entrance closed and a Will Call line forming as the night became a bit rainy.  Thankfully we easily killed time when my friend Rob came over to chat with us.  It was good to catch up with him and hear how his film project and his up-and-coming band are doing.  At one point the Whisky's photographer asked to take his photo for their website as I was standing directly to his left.


I'm sure it was a big thrill for Rob to have his image posted!  Hopefully it will help generate interest in his band and give them some juice to make it to the next level.  Anyway, there was absolutely no Will Call drama and it wasn't long before we were back inside the dry confines of The Whisky.

Tonight was a private, invite only event and the guest list was limited to several hundred "friends" and associates of Lemmy.  It obviously wasn't public knowledge since there was no mob scene or paparazzi out front.. and it was funny that The Whisky's marquee listed a random battle of the bands-type event during the day.

The vibe of the event with the doors open continued to be very mellow and surprisingly not that L.A.-style douchbag at all.  I was surprised.. Maybe it was because those in attendance all understood the magnitude of being invited... especially with Lemmy himself holding court from the front of the balcony overlooking the main floor.  It was one of those classic L.A. events that was entirely a "V.I.P." audience but the upstairs area was an additional level of "V.I.P." area that required you to have a silver sticker on your laminate to enter.  Thankfully Umlaut rated the silver sticker so it was upstairs I went.


Upstairs featured a bar that was giving away beer for free for awhile and food catered by The Rainbow down the street.  Also on display next to the bar was a magnificent birthday cake:


I was surprised that no one accidentally fell into it after too many Jager shots.. but it was a Sunday school night so maybe folks were holding back.  Anyway, in this "V.I.P. V.I.P." area Umlaut rubbed shoulders with the likes of 1/2 of Metallica (the rhythm section..), 1/2 of Anthrax (the 2 members with beards..), Sebastian Bach, Ross Halfin, Dave Lombardo, other various band people whose bands I can't stand, as well as various record label types, band managers, and recording professionals.. and the guys who host That Metal Show.. among others.  Trivia:  Steve Vai is not as tall as I would have expected.

A couple of friends and I managed to snag a prime table next to the soundboard and watched the beginning of the entertainment from there.  Things kicked off with a couple of bands who I honestly didn't catch the names of.. but one did originals fronted by a kid who took his shirt off for their set and the other a cover band fronted by a girl who, in all fairness, knows how to front a band.  However, the beer(s) in my hand held my attention more... as did the party favors:


Onstage Matt Sorum acted as MC for the night.. which was a nice surprise since I'm sure everybody expected Dave Grohl to be there.. and I'm glad he wasn't because when was he ever really Metal?  Honesty is my only excuse.  I was told prior to the night that the setlist would not be all Motörhead songs because that's understandably the last thing Lemmy would want to hear.. so the setlist was made up of songs and bands that Lemmy loves.. as it should be since it was his party!

The proper celebration featuring Lemmy's band friends kicked off with a combo featuring Sorum, his wife on vocals, Gilby Clarke on guitar, and I can't remember who else doing Zeppelin and Stones songs.  The rotating list of guest musicians moved on to include Sebastian Bach for a song or two and also Steve Vai and Nuno Bettencourt doing passable Hendrix covers.  Everybody knows that Lemmy famously roadied for Hendrix, right?

The combo of Zakk Wylde on vocals / guitar, Sorum on drums, and Blasko on bass did a surprisingly excellent blast of Sabbath's 'Fairies Wear Boots'.  I say surprising because I've never been a fan of Zakk Wylde.. but he won me over at least for tonight.  The only Motörhead song performed was '(We Are) The Road Crew' sung by the guy from Ugly Kid Joe (random... but evidently he's a longtime friend of Lemmy's..) with Scott Ian and Slash on guitars, Charlie Benante on drums, and Robert of Metallica on bass. Quite good.

Midway though the proceedings a screen dropped in front of the stage and a really nice video slideshow honoring Lemmy was shown.  It featured vintage photos of the Birthday Boy with audio and video testimonials from some of his famous friends and kindred spirits.


I actually got a bit misty-eyed watching it since it gave a perspective on Lemmy and his life of music, hellraising, and his sense of humor.  My Hero.  Your Hero.  Right?  At this point I also moved downstairs to watch the rest of show from the less crowded floor and in the sweet spot for sound.  However, the night hit a brief awkward snag when they announced the Birthday Boy would be taking the stage and his tech set up his Murder One rig and his Rickenbacker was brought out... However there was an obvious change of plans because the screen dropped again and Murder One removed from the stage.. but Lemmy still watched over his party comfortably from the balcony.

The party eventually closed with the best guest combo of the night featuring Billy Duffy, Billy Idol, Sorum on drums, Duff McKagan, and Steve Jones smoking through 3 oldies to bring the entertainment to a really fantastic end.  'Shaking All Over' into 'Something Else' into 'God Save The Queen' were perfect.



To be honest the end of the party was a bit anti-climatic but given that it was meant to be a party for Lemmy and not a public event the understated way it played out really was perfect.  I imagine Lemmy does not like being the center of attention all of the time.  My hero.  Your hero. Right?

As the party was officially announced as being over I mingled a bit... said goodbye to a couple of people.. met a couple of people who I'd only known via online interaction.. and then made my way back out into the rainy Hollywood night.  Before heading back to where I was staying I stopped at Mel's Drive-In for a late night meal.. and the waitress thought the Lemmy mask I had was of some pro wrestler whose name I can't remember.


Happy 70th Birthday to Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister!  It was an honor to have been there to celebrate it in such an epic way.  A really fun night.. obviously.  On the way back to The Bay Area, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  Sorry to now get Emo, but I'm at the point in life where the heroes who inspired me in my salad days are gone or slowly fading away.  Thankfully Lemmy is still here, hanging in there, and doing what he's always been doing as best he can given the march of time.  The Golden Years are whenever and whatever you make them, my friends.  To quote Ronnie James Dio: Live for today.  Tomorrow never comes.

Lemmy.  My hero.  Your hero.  Right?!!


Photos courtesy of Umlaut's iPhone.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Vote With A Bullet

Corrosion Of Conformity / Brant Bjork & The Low Desert Punk Band / Saviours / Mothership
Slim's, San Francisco
November 18, 2015


Hello blog, my old friend.. I've come to talk with you again.   Yeah.. I've been on a writer's block hiatus from "writing" in this space for most of this year.  I have seen a few great shows but I just haven't been motivated to write about them.  It's not you, it's me...  Let's see how I do with this as I attempt to get back on the horse.

The first word that came to mind when I heard about this tour was "volume".  As is usually the case with Slim's shows, Umlaut's arrival was surgically precise and completely without any guest list drama at all.  It should be noted that according to the Umlaut Archives this was close to the 100th time I've attended a show at Slim's since it opened in 1988.  Anyway...  My beer of choice tonight was Speakeasy Prohibition accompanied by the following...

Mothership - A friend suggested I arrive early to check this band out.. so I did.  Their Texas-style foot stompin' energy onstage was infectious and a perfect warm up for the night.  That being said, their inclusion of Zeppelin's 'Heartbreaker' in the middle of one of their songs kind of summed it up for me.. in a good and a bad way.  Good inspiration for their riffs.. but all of their riffs sound like someone else's.  Honesty is my only excuse.

Saviours - I was fearful that this Oakland band would disappear into the ether awhile back when 2 of the guys moved to L.A. leaving the remaining member(s) in The Bay Area.  Thankfully the move seems to have only made the Saviours better, stronger, faster!  Their new album is absolutely monstrous and the songs pound like crazy live.

[Photo courtesy of Umlaut's iPhone]

I will arm wrestle anyone who disagrees with me that Scott is the heir to Cozy Powell's double bass drum throne.  I will also arm wrestle anyone who disagrees with me that Austin and Sonny are the closest thing to the Dave Murray / Adrian Smith harmony drenched guitar duo The Bay Area has ever produced.  I liked how Saviours dedicated a song to Oakland.  I liked how Saviours played my fave song 'Acid Hand'.  I also liked how I was able to chat with the guys after their set.  Great band.  Great dudes.  Saviours have been road dogs for years now and it's inspiring to see them still fighting the good fight and keeping shit real.

Brant Bjork - I haven't kept up with everything that Bjork has done but I can say I've seen him in Kyuss, Fu Manchu, and Kyuss Lives over the years. That being said, and this coming from someone who was a huge Kyuss nerd back in The Day, I found his set boring.  My head just wasn't in the desert tonight I guess.. so I hung out at the back waiting for the headliner and let my beer take selfies with my phone.

Corrosion Of Conformity -  The reunited and most popular version of C.O.C. finally visited San Francisco with Pepper Keenan and those MTV Headbangers Ball hit songs back in the fold.  Having seen the original version of C.O.C. several times in recent years I'd forgotten how popular this version of the band was almost 25 (!) years ago when MTV Headbangers Ball was a thing.  As soon as C.O.C. walked onstage it suddenly became very 1992 in the room.

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

It was so 1992 that I found myself standing in the "VIP" area at stage left behind 1/2 of Metallica during the set.  Watching the guy who sings 'Enter Sandman' play air guitar as the guy who plays drums on 'Enter Sandman' take pictures of C.O.C. with his phone was absolutely adorable.  I will arm wrestle anyone who disagrees with me that Reed and Mike are as important of a rhythm section as Ian Paice / Roger Glover to heavy music.  Locked and loaded as one entity with a profound dose of groove.  The version of 'Long Whip / Big America' was tonight's best example of this and it was nice to see the punters go off during the set and keeping the Slim's security mosh pit detail busy.  The show ending early-90's double shot of 'Vote With A Bullet' into 'Clean My Wounds' was so good it made fanny packs in style again.

For the record, besides the members of the local band who were right about Napster, other Bay Area music types who stood next to me were Jello Biafra and members of Death Angel, Ghoul, and Forbidden.  Star Power.  Ironically today was also the birthday of the guy who plays lead guitar on 'Enter Sandman'... but he chose to celebrate it somewhere else.

I'm out of practice and didn't do a merch audit.. but I did stare at the merch for awhile.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  All in all a solid and easy Wednesday night out in San Francisco.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Overkill

Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor left this mortal coil last night.  The classic Motörhead lineup changed my life in a way that no other band ever did.... and this is the song that made Motörhead my favorite band when I was a pimply-faced teenager and they made me forget all about Van Halen:


"The only way to feel the noise is when it's good and loud!" 

This 12" piece of vinyl has been following me around since I was 17:


This is my favorite classic lineup photo.. Everything about them is embodied in this one image:  the sense of danger.. the swagger.. the sense of humor.. the Metal.  I was fascinated by it as a suburban teenager.  It was one of those band photos that made Motörhead seem larger than life.. but also approachable.. and they were both.  When it comes down to it this lineup is the only band that matters.  All other bands that came after this trio are posers in comparison.  All of them.

Peace in Rest, Philthy Animal Taylor.

"Don't sweat it... Get it back to you.."

Friday, October 30, 2015

All Access

My first backstage pass ever...


Halloween 1983.. The Keystone, Palo Alto, California.  Obviously this would have been difficult to counterfeit given the red ballpoint pen...

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Validation

The exciting sequel to Murder In The Library!

This is the most amazing thing I will see all year.. The National Museum of American History (aka the SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION) filmed and produced this video:


To be completely honest watching this leaves me speechless.  Umlaut has been a History Geek since I was a little kid so this is very, very special.   I guess this means we are officially part of American History, guys... like Abraham Lincoln! 

"... anything we could do to not be a Hair Band is the way we went."

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Abracadabra

High On Fire / Pallbearer / Lucifer
The Regency, San Francisco
August 1, 2015


I didn't see any bands play live in July.  I can't remember the last time I've gone that long without standing in a room with a band and a PA system.  However, sometimes life throws a web of stress at you so thick it's hard to untangle yourself from it.  I'm still entangled but I guess when life gives you lemons.. make lemonade.. or in Umlaut's case get back to seeing bands.  If anything they're a distraction from "real life".

An early evening family commitment had me an hour south and I wasn't sure I would be able to make it to the show at all.  Thankfully the Rock Godz work in mysterious ways, as did the Traffic and Parking Godz, so I made it into the city and found a parking spot only 2 blocks from the venue.  This was amazing considering it was a Summer Tourist Season Saturday night!  Given this good fortune I breezed into The Regency just as Lucifer were starting their set.

I was dubious when I heard Lucifer had risen so quickly out of the ashes of The Oath even though the new band was a collaboration between Johanna of The Oath on vocals and Garry Jennings of Cathedral (!) on guitars.   I liked The Oath and saw them live in London in December 2013 at a Rise Above Records show (headlined by Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats.. natch!).  Unfortunately, The Oath seemed off that night and I was disappointed.  Fast forward to tonight in San Francisco and I'm happy to report that Lucifer more than made up for that night in London.  They were fookin' great!

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

Despite my fandom of The Oath, I had only heard the debut Lucifer 7" and had not paid a lot of attention to the debut album that recently dropped.  As I just said.. I was dubious.  So it was perfect that I became a legit fan seeing them live and onstage.  Johanna was much more confident tonight than when I saw her front The Oath and projected a Stevie Nicks-like charisma.. and that's a good thing.  Lucifer's sound is rooted in Classic Metal and Rock which is Umlaut's DNA.  However, unlike other recent new bands who have attempted to conquer this route (i.e. Blue Pills), Lucifer nails it because they bring the essential swagger to the mix.  The moment I became completely in league with Lucifer was when they pounded out the new song 'Abracadabra' with its timeless mid-tempo voodoo stomp.  I was hooked..  "Abracadabra... say the magic word.."

Just tonight I read a new interview with Johanna where she listed her Top 5 albums and this says where Lucifer is coming from perfectly:
  • King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King
  • Aphrodite's Child - 666
  • Black Sabbath - Technical Ecstasy
  • Scorpions - In Trance
  • Fleetwood Mac - Rumours
There you go.

During the changeover I grabbed a beer with Photo Ray and also saw several other friends and acquaintances.... which reminded me that one of the things in life that's always kept me sane and grounded is seeing bands I like and experiencing it with like-minded friends.  Reality check.  Noted.

Pallbearer.. Damn.  It's astonishing how great they've become as a live band since their first tour only 2 years ago.  It's not often at this point in my life that I'm able to witness a band go from tentative live band with a great debut album to a seasoned live band with a couple of great albums.  I'm always impressed seeing a band become more confident and polished as a live entity... and with Pallbearer it's more entertaining because 2 years ago it was a novelty they were from Arkansas.. and now they look like they could be from New York City (haircuts!).  I don't mean that as a negative.. I mean it shows that Pallbearer have become more worldly from their travels and it translates to what a potent live machine they are now.

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

Pallbearer.. Damn.  They profoundly crushed the 415.  Someday I will see the band play a full headline set.  This was my 3rd time being in the same room as the boys from Arkansas and the 3rd time I've seen them play no longer than 45 minutes.  No matter.  It was still one of the best sets I'll see all year and I was surprised they dropped their signature song 'Devoid Of Redemption' so early in the set.. but it set the tone.. and tone is what a great band like Pallbearer is all about.


According to the Umlaut Archives this was least the 20th time I've been in the same room as High On Fire and their equipment dating back to one of their first shows.  That being said.. It's not that I don't still care.. but they are a band I know I take for granted these days.  Anyway, by the time their set ended I had been back at Casa de Umlaut for awhile.

I'm out of practice and didn't do a merch audit.  However, Lucifer's merch guy seemed to know me.. I assume from Murder.. which was cool.  For the record I supported Lucifer and Pallbearer with merch purchases.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  Besides blowing off attending shows last month I've also been blowing off updating this site.  I just haven't been motivated to put words together lately.

For what it's worth:  In June I saw Ides Of Gemini, Whitesnake, Acid King, and the final Mayhem Fest with SLAAAYER and King Diamond.  All were great shows.. but I just didn't feel like writing about them.  However, this amazing moment happened:

"At the sound of the Demon Bell..." 

Anyway, this site is not dead... but after 11 years I guess it's on semi-hiatus.  At least until the writing bug hits me regularly again.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Stallions Of The Highway

The exciting sequels to No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn, Random Rock Star Moment: Bon Scott, Welcome To Hell, and Over The Top!

A million years ago in the Old Metal Days, Wade Brooks, Trace Rayfield and Umlaut were penpals and soldiers in the Metal War.  The Midwest and East Coast Metal fans always had earlier and more opportunities to see new bands because that's where the record labels focused to break bands initially.  I remember Wade and Trace sending me photos and letters about their amazing Midwest and East Coast road trips following the bands we worshiped and who I only dreamed of seeing live until they made it to the West Coast.  One of those bands was Saxon.  Now all of these years later, Trace and Wade hit the road again in search of the Heavy Metal Thunder... so, without further adieu, here's their Stallions Of The Highway report 2015!  Time travel does exist..

The Eagle Has Landed... Again.
By Trace Rayfield
 

“Where were you in ’79 when the dam began to burst?  Did you check us out down at the local show?  Were you wearing Denim, wearing Leather?"  The immortal words of Biff Byford from the title track of Saxon’s 1981 classic “Denim and Leather”.  This was the album and subsequent tours that broke the band in America.  With the release of arguably their two best efforts the previous year “Wheels of Steel” and “Strong Arm of the Law” fans of the underground NWOBHM – New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene, like me and my best friend Wade Brooks were already “full on” hardcore fans of the band.    


 After gig party - St. Louis - 1982

It was their 1982 appearance in St. Louis supporting UFO that began our relationship with the band. We were lucky enough to spend time backstage interviewing Biff and watching founding guitarist Graham Oliver warm up for the show.  The best was yet to come as Wade and I, along with several of our friends, went to the band’s downtown St. Louis hotel for an after gig party to rival all after gig parties.  We literally took over the hotel bar for several hours of alcohol induced mayhem.  The band couldn’t have been more accommodating as they signed every autograph and posed for every picture requested.  We went on to see Saxon two more times that year supporting Krokus and Cheap Trick.  I was craving another chance to see Saxon and made the ultimate road trip to New York City to see Saxon headline at the now defunct Palladium Theatre in Manhattan. 


We had gotten pretty spoiled getting up close and friendly to our favorite bands before and after the shows, but going on a drive with Graham Oliver to listen to Judas Priest brand new release ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ would forever be one of our best memories. The setting was Alpine Valley resort and amphitheater in Wisconsin. Graham commented to Wade driving from the back seat sitting next to me “I smell petrol.” For us in America, Graham smelled gasoline. After we got back to St. Louis Wade found out he had a cracked fuel filter. Imagine cruising the back roads of Wisconsin jamming to Priest with one of your favorite guitarist like Graham Oliver.

 Graham Oliver - Alpine Valley, Wisconsin - 1982

 Warming up in St. Louis - 1982

Although Saxon continued to release strong efforts, most notably “Power and the Glory” and continued to tour the States, they just never quite made it to the level of their NWOBHM contemporary Iron Maiden with their mascot Eddie.  Then in the late 80’s and early 90’s the band had a series of set backs including the death of their manager and departure of original bassist Steve Dawson and ultimately the departure of key original guitarist Graham Oliver in 1996.  That in addition to the Grunge factor which affected all forms of Metal bands and their popularity in America and worldwide, left Saxon in a state of flux.

As the band struggled into the new millennium, it was Europe where they concentrated the rebuilding effort most.  Continual touring along with a steady diet of new releases allowed Saxon the outlet needed to regain their lost fame.  In fact they are bigger now on the Continent than at the peak of the NWOBHM.  So popular that they even headlined one night at last year’s huge Wacken open air festival in Germany which is no small feat.  

As part of the “Warriors of the Road” world tour Saxon returned to the U.S. this year for a headlining club tour with Armored Saint in support as well as four arena shows supporting Judas Priest which is where we caught up with Biff and long time drummer Nigel “Pongo” Glockler to discuss their current resurgence in America as well as Nigel’s recent near death health scare.


Biff fondly recalled their time with Priest back at the dawn of the NWOBHM as they took them on tour in Europe for what they jokingly referred to as the “Steel” tour as it was JP’s “British Steel” tour as well as Saxon’s “Wheels of Steel” tour which he gives credit for breaking them outside their home country.  This in addition to returning home to support Motörhead on their British tour proved to be the fuse that lit the stick of dynamite for the band.  When asked what it will take for them to regain their status in the States, Biff responded that more arena tours with bands like Priest as well as festival type concerts where they can reach large numbers of metal fans would be the key.

I asked Biff the tough question about any possible reunion with the original NWOBHM line up which he quickly shot down.  Hey, I had to ask.  He feels they are loyal to the current members and since they were not key members such as a singer or highly recognizable player, any plans of a reunion are for the fans to dream about.  Speaking for myself, I would love to see Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson back in the fold since they helped create the best songs they band has released.  I believe it may also have more to do with the legal wrangling between the different factions over the continued use of the name Saxon which Biff won in a court case back in the 90’s.

We enjoyed going back to the roots of NWOBHM with Biff discussing the importance of Sounds music paper and Kerrang. Social media has played a big part in the bands recent return to the U.S fans attention, something that Biff enjoys taking a part in daily on both Facebook and Twitter.  Biff enjoys posting live crowd videos of their ecstatic reception at these recent shows.  When pressed for details on the new album he would only reveal the title of “Battering Ram”, which he assured us “it speaks for itself”.  Killer title for sure on the upcoming release in October, which will mean more North American dates with a just announced run with Motörhead this September and an upcoming Euro tour this fall with Motörhead and Girlschool now being added to the bill.

We had the opportunity to talk to long time drummer Nigel Glockler, which we had met back on that tour in ’82.  He even remembered the Alpine Valley resort gig because of the unique location in the Wisconsin woods.  The conversation turned serious when we inquired about he’s recent brain surgery, which very nearly ended his playing career as well as his life.  He was in a hotel in Newcastle he recalled when he was overcome with intense head pain, which he recognized right away was nothing he had ever felt before and he was in big trouble.  He was able to contact his wife who assisted getting him into a local hospital quickly which is the only thing that saved his life.  He joked with us that if he had been in some remote European location with less than stellar medical accommodations he more than likely would be six feet under right now.  Close call for sure.  As we showed him pictures from our first encounter some 33 years ago, Nigel’s spirits quickly returned to his normal cheerful self.  Since we were surprised by the sudden departure of the previous drummer Pete Gill, we asked Pongo exactly how it came to be that he ended up in one of England’s hottest up and coming Heavy Metal bands.

 Nigel, Wade, and Trace reunited in 2015

He received a call from someone in Saxon’s camp one evening as he sat down to have a roast beef dinner at his parent’s house.  Somewhat annoyed by the interruption to the ensuing feast, he dismissed the caller when pushed about possibly joining the band on the spot, when quickly telling him “I’m going to enjoy my dinner for now”.  At first Nigel recalled little interest in making a permanent move as he was experiencing success with his current gig in British sensation Toyah Wilcox’ self titled project Toyah.  What intrigued him most about joining up with Biff and co. was being an equal member of an actual band and not a player lost in the background of a popular singer like Toyah.  It was an odd first meeting as Nigel admits he was not exactly a metal head.  When they looked him up and down as he stood there in his yellow trousers and red trainers, Saxon thought they may have made a mistake.  Of course all of that went out the window as he pounded along to their classics that he had just crash coursed the previous day or two.  The rest as they say is history.

After discussing their current state of affairs with Saxon I had to ask Biff about a couple of recent collaborations he had with some Heavy Metal heavyweights. First there was his rendition of his classic “Motorcycle Man” that he performed with Metallica at one of their 30th anniversary shows in San Francisco.  Actually what happened was “Lars called me when I was living in France back in 2009 and asked if I would join them in Paris to perform one of their favorite Saxon songs”.  It seems Lars had just read Biff’s book and realized he had not paid one of the NWOBHM founders their due.  There was a time Biff recalled that Metallica didn’t always pay them respect.  It seems they have recently recognized Saxon publicly as being influences on their early career.  After a good time was had by all in Paris, Metallica asked Biff to be a part of their 30th celebration in America which he was more than happy to do.  

 
Metallica had only played ONE show before supporting Saxon - 1982

Most recently Biff sang lead vocals on a Motörhead version of “Starstruck” which appeared on the DIO tribute “Ronnie James Dio-This is your Life” release.  I asked him how that came to be and why not a full Saxon song.  He explained that they were prepared to submit their own tribute but that Lemmy asked him to step in due to his recent health issues.  Once again it was hard to turn down a request from a legend.  In fact Biff said that this actually was the first time he had recorded with Motörhead, which made the experience that much sweeter even though not under the best circumstances.

Saxon live is a must see regardless of how many times you have seen them. Saxon always kicks ass at maximum Heavy Metal Thunder. Saxon’s set in Chicago on May 21st had to be abbreviated which we found out on the bands tour bus when Biff got the word the venue had a curfew. Every song in their set roared. Biff is a great front man who pulls the fans into each and every song. The headbanging began with Motorcycle Man and continued with Sacrifice, Power and the Glory, Wheels of Steel, 20,000 Ft, Dallas 1 PM, This Town Rocks, Princess of the Night, Crusader and Heavy Metal Thunder. Wade made the trip up from St. Louis, so seeing and being with one of your favorite bands together with your old metal mate made this show that much more meaningful. A full circle moment for sure. This was Judas Priest headline show, so we could only imagine seeing Saxon headline on their own turf with a full stage show and full set list.

"If you're taking a flight, At the speed of light, You're shaking your heads to the band, If you're there on your horse, But you're not on the force, We're taking this place to the ground."


 
 1982

"In the heat of the night, When you're fists are alight, Forged on anvils of steel, If your body's on fire, About to expire, We go to the threshold of pain.."


2015

"Pull your head back, Hold your hands high, Shake your body, If it's too loud, And you're burning hot, fill your heads, With heavy metal thunder, Heavy metal thunder."