Sunday, June 26, 2016

Don't Sweat It. Get It Back To You.

It's taken me awhile to realize that Lemmy's death affected me more than I realized.  This week will mark 6 months to the day that he left this mortal coil.. and it's still very weird that he and his band no longer roam the Earth.  Things seem boring now.  Trivia: The "Motörhead Delivers" design is from the final tour last year and was based on a sketch that Lemmy did himself.

I attended Lemmy's 70th birthday party in December.  I attended his funeral in January.  The emotional swing and magnitude of both events was obviously profound.  To be invited to both events celebrating someone who had been my hero since I was a teenager was mind blowing and I did not, and never will, take the honor for granted.  His funeral and the private reception afterwards was a sad, surreal, and amazing experience.  I honestly can't imagine ever visiting The Rainbow again.

Ironically, both Lemmy events coincided with the first "career" change I've experienced in almost a decade.  However, The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways, and as one door closed another one opened for me.  I'm now in a different (but also not that different) part of the "entertainment" industry.  Thankfully it is one that is more rational and stress free than my recent past professional life.  I'd like to think my Karma Bank deposits over the years finally paid off... and my colleagues now include such badass dudes as Yeti Wing Kong.

All of this being said, nothing has been inspiring me this year.  Yes, I've still been hitting gigs fairly regularly.. but I've also passed on a good number as well. For the record I've been at these shows so far in 2016:

  • Rancid / OFF! / The Interrupters - The Warfield
  • Metal Allegiance - The Whiskey, Los Angeles, California
  • Mastodon - The Chapel
  • Venom Inc. - DNA Lounge
  • Metallica  - AT&T Park
  • Black Sabbath / Rival Sons - SAP Center, San Jose, California
  • The Mummies - Elbo Room (27th Anniversary Show)
  • Megadeth / Suicidal Tendencies / Children Of Bodom - The Warfield
  • Neurosis / Sleep / Vhol - The Regency
  • Melvins / Dusted Angel - The Ritz, San Jose, California (Pre-tour warm up show)
  • Slayer / Testament / Carcass - The Warfield (2 nights)
  • Satan / Night Demon / Hellfire - Elbo Room
  • Abbath / High On Fire / Skeletonwitch / Tribulation - The Regency (Decibel Tour)
  • Iggy Pop - The Masonic
  • Metallica - Rasputin's Records, Berkeley, California (Record Store Day) 
  • Saviours / Ides Of Gemini / War Cloud - The Chapel
  • Napalm Death / Melvins / Melt Banana - Slim's
  • The Cure - Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, California
  • Armored Saint / Metal  Church - DNA Lounge
I haven't been a recluse, but I also haven't been motivated to write about much.  I had the epiphany that posting on my personal social media has marginalized the "creativity" I used to channel into this space.  Cutting back on that white noise posting chatter needs to happen I guess.  There were definitely events that I should have captured here.. THE major one was Record Store Day 2016 that featured Metallica performing live at Rasputin's in Berkeley and immediately afterward hosting a private party for invited guests at 3132 Carlson Blvd.. aka The Metallica Mansion.

The party was to thank those old friends and associates who helped the band with the massive reissues of Kill 'Em All and Ride The Lightning.  At some point I intend to document my involvement in this project, which began with me sitting at a kitchen table with Jaymz and Larz over a year earlier and them revealing their reissue plans and basically hiring me to be a consultant on them.  Full circle.  Anyway, until I do that they say a picture is worth 1,000 words... so here's 4,000 words to hold you over about this.

Top photo by the teenage me:  December 28, 1982.  Bottom photo by the adult me:  April 16, 2016:

Two Motörhead fans recreating that photo from Summer 1983 taken in that exact same spot:

If you really need to know what happened on that magical day and night right now, click HERE for what the band posted about it. I'll get around to documenting the profoundly full circle experience of being involved with the reissues.. even though it's already old news.

Truth be told, baseball is the only thing I really give a shit about at the moment... and I'm annually obsessed with the San Francisco Giants at this time of the year anyway but I'm more ratcheted up this season because it's also the 30th Anniversary of the amazing 1986 team.  That 1986 team is my favorite Giants team ever.

Anyway, that's basically where my head has been this year so far.  I needed a reset... and I'm not sure I've gotten one yet.  On the way back to the blog, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  This space has been running since 2004... 12 (twelve!) fucking years of ranting about shit.  There are some major things in the works.. some happening soon.. others happening further down the road.  All are pretty fucking cool.

Eventually I'll remember how to put words together in an interesting way again.  Hopefully sooner than later.  To quote Motörhead:  "Don't sweat it.  Get it back to you."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Pain Of Mind

Neurosis / Sleep / Vhöl
The Regency, San Francisco
March 4, 2016

It's funny that The Bay Area is revered for its Thrash Metal history but there's another era here that was just as influential on the generation of Metal that came after the Thrash scene that gave the world bands like Neurosis and Sleep.  Echoing what Metallica did a few years back, local heroes and icons Neurosis celebrated their 30th Anniversary with 3 sold out hometown shows featuring support from bands who have been their friends and comrades over the years.  The magnitude of this event was simply shown by how many people traveled from out of state and from far and wide to attend.  Tonight's opening night bill was the most epic and the most symbolic of the band's Bay Area roots with their brothers Al and Matt of Sleep (with Jason Neurosis now on drums of course) and Vhöl, a band featuring veteran musicians from such beloved bands as Ludicra, Hammers Of Misfortune, and Yob.

I've known Neurosis for around 25 of their 30 years and they are a very important band to me... Not only because of their music and vision.. but because I spent a good amount of time with them in those early years.. Hearing early demos of what was to become the Souls At Zero album at Steve VonTill's house in San Jose after he served the first vegan meal I'd ever had (here in the 21st Century neither one of us is vegan).  Going on tour with them a couple of times including a legendary night of debauchery and mayhem in Tijuana, Mexico.  Watching the Metal mainstream via OzzFest try to assimilate them and Neurosis deciding not to go towards that light but instead building an independent empire for themselves.  Neurosis is one of the few "old" bands who still blows my mind and reminds me of the mayhem I experienced seeing them with smelly crusties at random shitty venues and pizza parlors back in the days long before The Internet.  According to the Umlaut Archives tonight was around my 25th Neurosis show. 

Before the gig I stopped at a work function to celebrate the opening of a new store.  I had a good but brief time with my new co-workers over complimentary Lagunitas... and with cool stuff like this hanging on the walls around us:

Then I made a polite early exit and made my way across town to The Big Rock Show.
In surgically precise fashion I found a parking space across the street from the venue and inside it was old school style gathering of the tribe.  Many old friends from far and near.  It was good to see that kid who used to work at Tower Records in Mountain View who always wanted to talk about Black Sabbath with us... and who would bring his bass to work so he could practice on his breaks.. and then who formed a band which we thought was adorable.. and then he told us about the band and how the band was called Sleep.. and then he grew up, grew a beard, and became an icon.

It's a reassuring thing to bro-hug Al every couple of years.. our Stoner Rock Tiny Dancer.

It was a big deal to me that Vhöl were on the bill.  I believe tonight was only their 10th show ever and the 2nd time I've seen them... and their most recent sophomore album is a revelation.  Obviously I was initially drawn to them because the band is made up of members of some of my favorite bands like Ludicra and Yob.. but the new album is a diverse hammer of progressive punk-tinged volume that translated well onstage.  While members of the band disagreed with me when I saw them after their set I honestly thought they killed it.  So there.

[Underwhelming photo courtesy of Umlaut's iPhone]

As much as tonight was about celebrating Neurosis, honesty compels me to say that Sleep owned this Friday night for me.   I think it had to do with them playing a rare support role and lumbering onstage to deliver their riffage in honor of their old friends.  ‘Dragonaut’ live never gets old.  It’s still weird that Sleep are now like the sage old wise men.  It seems like only yesterday they were those young and precocious weed smoke infused scamps.  Sleep played all of the (bong) hits and it was trippy watching them be an opening band again.. in a great way of course.

[Underwhelming photo courtesy of Umlaut's iPhone]

It was undoubtedly a huge moment for Neurosis to kick off their 30th year celebration in front of a sold out and rabid hometown audience.  The guys appeared onstage like a black fog off San Francisco Bay and launched into ‘Lost’ which I believe they had not played live in almost 17 years. Damn..  but as fanboy great as that was the set took a complete u-turn back to the future as they dropped nostalgia bombs from the Pain Of Mind album onto the hometown crowd.  Songs that had not been played in 20+ years lifted the event to another level.

When The Regency is sold out and packed it's possibly the most uncomfortable sweaty venue in The Bay Area... which only added to the dense sensory atmosphere.  There are some who lament that Neurosis have abandoned the visual side of their live shows.. and I get that.. because it's what made them the "Pink Floyd" of the dark underground.  I miss that aspect of the band's creativity to a certain extent... but now as the years continue to march on I think it's more appropriate that the band uses their music and audio aura to immerse a crowd.  You cannot be lazy at a Neurosis show now.  You're either paying attention or you should not be there.  I was almost brought to tears when they launched into the vintage strain of 'Takeahnase' and their equally vintage cover of Joy Division's 'Day Of The Lords' rang even truer now.   When it was all said and done.. 13 songs.. 2 hours.. and 30 years came back around full circle for Night 1 of this 3-night hometown stand.  The other nights just weren't in the cards for Umlaut and I was fine with that because this was the bill I "needed" to see and I'm glad I did.

Since I no longer work in the merch biz I didn't do a merch audit; change is good.  However, the merch line was hella long all night but the event screenprint was only $20.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me fag.  In hindsight I realize it's not very common to follow a band for 20 or 30 years of your life.  For Neurosis to still be around and completely relevant and with their integrity intact is something to behold.  No seed will grow of this barren Earth, like, forever, man..

Monday, February 15, 2016

Home Field Advantage

AT&T Park, San Francisco, California
February 6, 2016

I know.. I know.. It's been almost 2 weeks since this show.. but better late than never.  Long story short since this is old news:  There were some who thought Metallica should have played the clusterfuck that is the Super Bowl halftime show since it was being hosted here in The Bay Area.  Yada yada...It didn't happen and instead they were booked into playing their own show at AT&T Park as part of the festivities surrounding the game.  It would be Metallica's first proper non-festival, non-fan club only, non-corporate event headlining show on their Bay Area home turf in 7 years.

The show sold out in 28 minutes.

Fast forward:  The band did their soundcheck the night before the show in front of around 300 friends and fan club members.  I've seen a couple of Metallica tour rehearsals in years past but it was interesting to attend this; Umlaut tends to geek out on the production side of concerts in his old age.  Obviously it was pretty cool to see a glimpse of the "nuts and bolts" side of a huge Lock 'N Loll show so intimately without thousands of drunk fans falling into me.  I arrived at the designated time and, long story short, found myself inside the stadium ahead of most of the guests.. which really didn't matter.. but it was still a nice experience.

The band ran through around an hour or so of songs here and there, but it was really about them working out stage cues and other entertainment details of the show.   Trivial: AT&T Park is only 2 miles from where the teenage me took the following photo back in the last century:

The Stone, San Francisco - March 5, 1983
[Photo by the teenage Umlaut - From the Umlaut Archives]

Every now and then I still trip out on how far Metallica have come from that homemade plywood drum riser.  Crazy, right?   Anyway, probably my favorite moment of the entire weekend was finding myself alone as the only non-crew person in The Snakepit directly in front of the stage as the sound was checked:

Umlaut View of the Stage

Stage View of Umlaut
[This photo courtesy of Jeff Yeager /]

How this happened I kind of have no idea.. but it was special.. and also kind of awkward when I made eye contact with the various members of the band as they made there way around the pit's ramp.  Cue 'One'.   This also happened:

Is it baseball yet?!

The next day was the big Rock Show and the area around AT&T was buzzing and crowded like a Giants game day on steroids.  As I approached the stadium it was surreal seeing thousands of people wearing Metallica t-shirts on the streets with thousands of people wearing various NFL team jerseys and gear.  It made me realize that San Francisco was literally the center of the professional sports world at that moment.  It's too bad the Niners suck so bad these days.

Anyway, long story short since this show is old news at this point, the evening for me was like a high school reunion as I saw friends old and new from near and far.  One thing led to another and I found myself in the deepest bowels of the stadium in the dressing room area... where there was a really amazing art piece on display that was a gift to the band from the promoter:

... but, aside from grabbing some cold water bottles from a 'fridge and some snack items from the catering table, this is pretty much as exciting as backstage got:

However, one exciting moment did happen when a trio of SFPD officers with a BOMB SNIFFING DOG entered the dressing room area to make sure our homeland security was secure.  After some tense moments of "searching" all they found was Sammy Hagar.. who posed for selfies with them and the dog.  Thank you for your service.

Fast forward:  One thing led to another (again) and I found myself back in The Snakepit in front of the stage.  This time there were around 300 other folks with me while another 45,000 or so packed the stadium behind and on either side of us.  Obviously, unlike the night before, I was not alone but it was once again special as I was standing with a half dozen or so old friends this time.  My favorite moment of a Metallica show is when the houselights go off after a traditional old school song from our salad days is played over the PA (that song tonight was 'The Boys Are Back In Town') and they start 'The Ecstasy Of Gold' intro tape accompanied by The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly footage on the screens.  The fact that they've used this same intro tape since literally Day One back in the clubs at their first shows still gets me emotional.  Tradition, man..  Then they stormed onstage with 'Creeping Death' and for the next 2 1/2 hours Metallica owned San Francisco lock, stock, and barrel as hometown heroes should.

Long story short since this show is old news at this point (you can read legit media outlet reviews about the show on The Internets.. Google it..), but my favorite song of the show was the first encore of 'Whiskey In The Jar' dedicated to Cliff that featured Kirk playing the iconic Greenie Les Paul onstage.

So cool... and the other highlight for Umlaut were the heartfelt things each band member said to the hometown crowd after the final encore ("I was born 5 miles from here!" - KRK).  I think it was smoke from the fireworks or something in my eyes... Home cooking always rules, man.

If you bought one of every Metallica merch item you would have spent around $500.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced football fans called me a fag.. but before I returned to the car this happened:   One thing led to another (again) and I found myself at the After Show party not far from the stadium at a restaurant called Tres with a couple of hundred other folks who had the required wristband.   The atmosphere was extremely bubbly given the open taco and alcohol bars and it was a nice way to end the weekend with the old friends in attendance.  Yes, band members were there but THE Rock Star moment of the weekend happened when my San Francisco Giants fanboy brothers and I worked up the courage to approach Larry Baer.

For the newbies:  Without Mr. Baer there would be not be an AT&T Park, 3 championships in 5 years, etc. etc. He is also a born and bred San Franciscan who knows all about and appreciates local roots.  The best part was being about to thank him for everything he's done... and despite our initial nervousness, Larry could not have been cooler!  He even said "I like your shirt.." when he noticed my bootleg Giants Misfits tee. He even adjusted his Giants World Series ring to make sure it showed in the photo.  

Honesty is my only excuse:  I care more about baseball than I do about Metal at this point in my life.   Is it baseball yet?!  This year's annual Metallica Night at the San Francisco Giants game is May 6th... and it cannot come soon enough.  Hit 'Em All!

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,


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.