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


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


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


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."


"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.."


"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."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Just Like Honey

The Jesus and Mary Chain
The Warfield, San Francisco
May 16, 2015

This run of special shows celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Jesus And Mary Chain's seminal debut album was limited to 10 shows in 9 North American cities.. with 2 of those shows in San Francisco that included tonight's opening night sell out.  However, since this show was originally announced in January it kind of snuck up on me these 4 months later.   Part of me had second thoughts about why I wanted to attend since the last time I saw JAMC 8 years ago the show had left me underwhelmed (mainly because Jim Reid left his voice at home that night).  However, The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways and tonight ended up being one of my favorite shows of the year so far.

For better or worse, I completely ignored the opening set by The Black Ryders due to lobby socializing... This despite the fact that the wife of Ian Astbury of The Cult is in the band.. and evidently he was in attendance.  Oh well...  Anyway, after being around 30 minutes late, the Jesus And Mary Chain walked onto a dark stage... Jim Reid mumbled something in Scottish... and the band slid into a mesmerizing half hour, 7-song opening set of hits and other songs not on the Psychocandy album.  This portion of the evening featured the band on a minimalist stage with literally only white lights and white strobes to punctuate the songs.

The opening blast of 'April Skies' into 'Head On' got the crowd into the show and behind the band perfectly and immediately.  I was hard pressed to remember the last time a band opened a show with a pair of their most well-known songs like that.  Other bands should take note and for the record 'Reverence' was the highlight of the set for me ("I wanna die just like Jesus Christ.. I wanna die on a bed of spikes.."). It was fookin' gleat!  Then it was time for the main attraction of the evening.

After the opening set the band left the stage briefly.. and then returned accompanied by a blast of onstage color via a video screen backdrop that had not been used during the graphite themed opening set.  The unexpected blast of color was jarring as it flashed the iconic Psychocandy album cover and then thematic archival film footage and images for the second half of the show.  The video presentation fit perfectly as the band launched into the debut album from start to finish.

  [Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

Tonight was far and away the best JAMC show I've seen in years and completely different than the last time I saw them at that bad 2007 Fillmore show.  It was compelling how strong and booming Jim's voice was tonight and I was reminded that William's dirty guitar fuzz tone is one of my favorites this side of Tony Iommi.  Whatever the Reid brothers have done to recapture their magic onstage left me almost teary-eyed because I've loved their songs so much over the years.. decades... lifetimes.

As the album's 14 songs unfolded onstage I remembered how cutting edge Psychocandy was when it was released... which seems weird now.  When I first heard the album in 1986 not long after its release it was so abrasive and non-traditional.  Like the Velvet Underground being put into a blender while the blender was being crushed by a hydraulic press.  Fast forward to the 21st Century and it's amazing how obvious JAMC's influence has been on the generation(s) of bands who followed them. 

Long story short:  In the mid-80's, as most others were just getting their denim vests dirty with Thrash Metal, Umlaut basically dropped out of the Metal Scene.  Metal was getting more popular, people who had previously dismissed me for being a Metalhead were suddenly showing up at Metal shows.  I grew disillusioned with Metal and I sought out other music to engage me that was still underground.  It was then that JAMC became one of my all-time favorite bands.  They managed to melt and form a sound that was based on so many bands I came to love after I dropped out of the Metal Scene... Music by the likes of Phil Spector, the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, and the MC5.  There was, and is, life outside of Metal.  Thank dog.

Other "80's bands" trot out a vintage album live and play it track for track but sound dated and the performance coming off like a desperate attempt to show relevancy here in the 21st Century.  Watching JAMC perform Psychocandy was the complete opposite of that.  Not everything that is old is irrelevant.  When the Reid Brothers have their shit together they're still a force.

If you bought one of every JAMC merch item I think you would have paid around $200.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. It's not often an old favorite band from another life proves why they're still great to me. Just like honey.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


noun informal
plural noun: selfies
a photograph that one has taken of oneself and shared via social media.

Here are 30 years of these guys taking selfies with me.  Ironically both are in bands whose names begin with "Me"...

Monday, May 11, 2015

I Gotta New Rose

Dead Men Walking with Jello Biafra / Barb Wire Dolls
Brick & Mortar, San Francisco
May 7, 2015

At the end of the night this was easily my favorite show of 2015 so far.. Yes, it was more fun than seeing Metallica for free with free food and alcohol.  Dead Men Walking were completely off my radar until literally 3 or 4 days prior to this show.  How can that happen in this Interwebs day of instant info!?   I quickly learned that Lemmy's rockabilly side band The Headcat was spawned with Slim Jim Phantom after his involvement with the Roots Rock / Rockabilly vibe of Dead Men Walking.  For the newbies (like Umlaut) here's a list of the revolving cast of musicians who have spent time performing in Dead Men Walking:

Slim Jim Phantom – Stray Cats
Captain Sensible – The Damned
Mike Peters – The Alarm
Chris Cheney – The Living End
Duff McKagan – Guns N’ Roses
Fred Armisen – Saturday Night Live / Portlandia
Kirk Brandon – Spear of Destiny
Glen Matlock – Sex Pistols
Pete Wylie – The Mighty Wah!
Billy Duffy – The Cult
Brian Setzer – Stray Cats
Lemmy – Motörhead
Topper Headon – The Clash
Bruce Watson – Big Country
Mick Jones – The Clash

Wow, right!?  Amazing.  Given the level of music history represented by the participants it's an interesting way for a band to exist in this day and age.  Tonight's version of Dead Men Walking was made up of Slim Jim, Captain Sensible, Mike Peters, Chris Cheney with a guest appearance by Jello Biafra.  I have seen all of the members in either their previous or current bands so I couldn't really picture them sharing the stage.  It was that sense of the unknown and the opportunity to see something inspired and new which made it easy for me to leave Casa de Umlaut for the show.

However, upon arriving at the venue I was stunned by how empty it was as there were literally only 6 or 7 other people in the room only minutes before Barb Wire Dolls were due to start... but it never gets old seeing Jello enter a show through the front door like any other civilian.  Thankfully once the night got started the room filled up to a respectable level.. but it was still not nearly as crowded as it should have been given the headliner.

I'll save time and simply say that Barb Wire Dolls started out of the gate good and the singer does her best to channel Wendy O. Williams... and they did hold my attention for a bit.. but then the songs got samey and the band really is very-L.A... so I'm sure they translate well down south.. but by the middle of their set I was deep in conversation at the bar with a Prohibition Ale.

I didn't know what to expect from Dead Men Walking since I knew so little about them...but once they strapped on their gear and got started I was totally into them.  No bullshit.  No pretenses... and all of the members were smiling from ear to ear the entire set.  It was obvious they were having a great time simply playing music together.

Chris Cheney.. Mike Peters..
 [Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

The band's original songs are not throw away songs and I recognized most of them from the quick listens I'd given their new album via a pre-release stream.  The old man Music Geek in Umlaut is still resistant to listening to music like that... but the 21st Century Music Geek in Umlaut liked what he heard and will be buying the album.

The set was peppered with nods to the participants other bands and included a couple of songs that Peters did with The Alarm.. but sadly not '68 Guns'.  Honesty is my only excuse:  Umlaut liked The Alarm.. They were a grittier U2 but from Wales and I saw them in the 80's.  Slim Jim's old band got the nod with a great version of 'Rumble In Brighton' and Captain Sensible's legacy was trotted out with 'Smash It Up'.  The camaraderie between the current members of the band was obvious as Peters and Slim Jim told the story of how they first met in London in 1980.  It was the type of loose, F-U-N vibe that my life has been missing by only going to see dour Metal bands.  Nothing against Metal of course.. but I'm needing the variety now more than ever.

After a rip roaring main set, Jello Biafra swaggered onstage (introducing himself as Fred Armisen.. HAHA!) and watching him sing The Stray Cats 'Rock This Town' while swinging his hips was a complete revelation!  This was followed by a great version of the DK's 'Let's Lynch The Landlord' dedicated to all the renters in rent-crazy San Francisco and then a rip roaring 'I Fought The Law' (non-Dan White lyrics).. and then the F-U-N night closed with Jello and Captain Sensible sharing vocals on The Damned's 'New Rose'.  Fantastic!

Jello.. Captain Sensible.. Slim Jim..
[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

This show was the type of head cleaning live music experience that I sorely needed.  I didn't do a merch audit... I've really been spacing about remembering to do them.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced kids called me a fag. Full disclosure:  Umlaut will probably not be ranting about too many Metal shows in this space for the near future.  Even if I attend some my head has simply been hard pressed to think of anything I haven't already said before about the Metal shows.  We will see... but I can't imagine any Metal show being so positive and F-U-N like this was without spraying (fake) blood on folks.

"I gotta New Rose..."

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Enter Sandman

On this date in 1992 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.. The Black Album Tour at home.. The night the xeroxed Umlaut 'zine met the Cowardly Lion:

Also, after the first show KRK told me how he was in the middle of a solo onstage and realized he had forgotten to put an old friend of our's on the guest list.  I still trip on the fact that he was in front of 14,000 people when he had that thought.  

"Something's wrong shut the light..  Heavy thoughts tonight... and they aren't of Snow White.."

Monday, May 04, 2015

Hit 'Em All

AT&T Park, San Francisco
May 2, 2015

"Bodies fill the fields I see, hungry heroes end..."  Umlaut love Metal.  Umlaut loves baseball.  Metallica are one of my favorite bands.  The San Francisco Giants are my favorite team.  I've been a Giants fan since I was around 5.  I've been a Metallica fan since I was around 17.

If you had said in 1982 that the San Francisco Giants would (1) win not only their first World Series Championship in S.F. but also 3 in 5 years and (2) there would be a Giants game dedicated to Metallica you would have been an insane person... but here we are in 2015 and all of that has come to pass!

The 3rd edition of this "only in San Francisco" event found things more dialed in than the previous games.  The Metallica theme was more complete throughout the entire game and also more successful in capturing the vibe of the band.  This extended to the marketing campaign leading up to the game which included the launch of the Giants new black alternate home jersey the team will wear at Saturday home games for at least the rest of this season.

Fade to Black!  Metallica + San Francisco Giants + Humor = Awesome.  More Metal bands (including Metallica) should have a self-deprecating sense of humor.  Metal bands are way too serious now.. which makes Metal fans way too serious.. which makes me bored.  I'm talking about more stuff like this too:

"... a huge statue of Cthulhu would come out."

Anyway, what makes these Giants / Metallica games even more awesome is I see Metal friends and Baseball friends in a setting that's more casual to chat and shoot the shit than at a gig.  We don't have to shout over a PA to hear each other and the food is better.  Thankfully some of my best friends are on the same page as me about this game, this team, and this music.  Pretty damn cool and so full circle, man.

As at the previous Metallica games, things kicked off with the best rendition of the National Anthem EVER.

Please rise...#SFGiants #MetallicaDay #FadeToBlack
Posted by Metallica on Saturday, May 2, 2015
[Photo courtesy of]

In years past the go-to Bay Area musician to perform the National Anthem at a Giants game would have been, like, Huey Lewis & the News.  They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating... and I say fuck that.  METAL.

However, one thing that annoyed me at the past Metallica games was that some of the elements that were supposed to give the game a "Metallica theme" were tone deaf... Such as having the stadium's at-bat images of players given "funny" Hair Metal wigs for the night.  Is there anything that is completely not Metallica than that??  Thankfully, this year they figured it out and the players' at-bat images were given simple dignity and metalization with the "Metallica font" used for their names instead of silly Photoshopped wigs and hairbands.

Simple.  Effective.  Metal.  Awesome, right?  This despite the fact I'm pretty sure in real life neither Crawford or Panik are Metal fans.. but that's cool.  Only the Oakland A's seem to have legit Metal fans on the roster... but Umlaut is not a fan of American League baseball.  Anyway...

The Giants charged out of the dugout and onto the field with 'Battery' blasting from the PA.. which ruled.  Another music highlight was Maiden's 'Run To The Hills' that segued into 'Frantic' during an early inning.  The Metallica tunes and other appropriate songs (such as Sabbath's 'The Wizard' and Thin Lizzy's 'The Rocker'!) held up until the 9th when ZZ Top and The Rolling Stones made it jarringly clear a longer Metal playlist would be needed next year.

Another aspect of this year's game that made it better was each band guy did something individual during the game.  James did the team intros.  Robert got things rolling with the traditional "Play Ball!" cheer and rode around the field with his family and Lou Seal in his golf cart between innings.  Lars threw out the first pitch (wide and outside but over the plate) and he, his wife, and son hosted an in-between inning event on the big screen.  Best of all, during the 7th Inning stretch Kirk played 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game' atop the visitor's dugout armed with his axe and a wah wah pedal.. which was awesome.

What?   Oh right.. There was also a game played!  This year the Giants held on to defeat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (HAHA.. Lame name..) 5-4.. which sort of.. kind of.. made up for the 2002 World Series.. but not really. For the record, the outcomes of the past Metallica games were:

May 3, 2013:  The Giants defeated the fucking Dodgers 2-1 on Buster Posey's first walk off HR ever in the 9th! Seek.. and .. destroy..

May 16, 2014: The Giants lost to the Marlins 7-5 when the bullpen collapsed and gave up 2 runs in the Top of the 9th.  Sad but true..

After the game we few, we happy few, made our way across Lefty O'Doul Bridge to The Yard for some victory beers.

 ... 'cause you're Metallica.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  In high school, the baseball jocks were the worst assholes in the school.  In the original Metal Days, when jocks started showing up at shows (like Metallica) they brought their bullshit to The Pit and used it as an excuse to simply fuck people up.  Jocks have ruined a lot of things over the years.. So, yeah, part of me realizes this is all so ironic... but the truth is in the mid 80's when Umlaut became bored and disillusioned with the original Metal scene I started following the Giants hardcore as something to be passionate about.  Also, players come and go and I've always worshiped the game and this team and not the jocks.  Am I rationalizing?  Maybe... but the fact that two of my favorite hometown things have joined forces like this is mind blowing, amazing, and above all... F-U-N.

Click HERE to get this hella awesome patch..

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Full Analog Circle

The exciting sequel to Got The Metal Madness!

1982 to 2015 full circle..

This tape literally changed my life.

In hindsight, the original lyrics to 'Jump In The Fire' are really silly but this tape was written and performed by 4 pimply-faced guys who were only 18-20 years old.  However, these primordial versions of the songs still hold up and I also like how the band recreated the vintage TDK logo for their own Blackened Recordings logo on the reissue.  Clever.

Monday, April 20, 2015

There's No "I" In Scene

Electric Wizard / Satan's Satyrs
Slim's, San Francisco
April 17, 2015

Electric Wizard have been around for 20 years or so but this is their first U.S. Tour in 12 years.  As a result the hype was in and the beards were out for this show.  Tonight sold out a couple of months ago and I snoozed on a ticket, so a big THANKS to Electric Assault Records for getting me on the list. Hail!  That being said I'm just going to cut to the chase and say the crowd tonight was the worst asshole collection of humanity that I've been around at a show in ages.  The asshole vibe and behavior completely overshadowed the music for me tonight... which was extremely unfortunate.

However, before all the bullshit started, Satan's Satyrs came out and played one of the best support sets I've seen in a long time.  As a counterpoint to the Doom theme they had a classic power trio energy that Umlaut is a sucker for... I guess if I was to use a cliche "blog" analogy they were like if Motörhead and Grand Funk Railroad were conjoined at birth... or something like that.  Good 'ol fashioned foot stompin', beer drinkin', headbangin' music.  Dig it!

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

During the changeover the air was suddenly filled with the pungent smell of burning sage... which in hindsight was funny because sage burning is supposed to cleanse an area or person.. but obviously this Hippie shit doesn't affect Hipster Metal beards who have Sabbath patches on their vests and / or jackets... but more on that in a bit.

Burning Sage 
[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

As the lights went off and Electric Wizard started up their "Satanic" machine the energy of the crowd went from zero to sixty immediately as 'Witchcraft Today' got things started... and the band sounded good... but then the asshole vibe in the crowd took over.  After 3 songs Photo Ray and I decided it would be a grand idea to retire to the back and enjoy the rest of the show with a cold beer in hand.  Wrong...

A Hipster Metal beard called me an asshole for pushing past him.. and then another refused to move to let me past eventhough I was trying to go BEHIND him and I was moving AWAY from the stage.  The unmoving asshole outweighed me by probably 50 pounds and 3 inches in height but I finally just shoved hard and kept moving.  I'm sure if I had hesitated and looked back I would have caught his fist somewhere... which is exactly what happened to Photo Ray on his journey AWAY from the stage.  I did not see Photo Ray again the rest of the night.

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

Long story short... I ended up at the back of Slim's and tried to enjoy the rest of the set but the asshole crowd behavior just started to annoy me more and more as I continued to witness it.  The next day I heard numerous stories from friends about random fights breaking out.. a random elbow being thrown into a girlfriend's face... just random lame behavior.  A drunk hipster Metal kid tried to give another drunk hipster Metal kid a $5 bill for cutting in front of him in the bathroom line... Then all of Electric Wizard's set started sounding samey and I remembered the only Doom you really need is Black Sabbath albums.  Only Sabbath is real.

It was a bummer how there seemed to be zero sense of community in the crowd compared to the usual Bay Area Metal shows.  I sensed this as early as when I was standing in the Will Call line and thought to myself "Who are these people??  I don't know any of them.."  Once the liquor and music started inside it became Lord Of The Flies-style with seemingly most of the Hipster Metal kidz out for themselves.   Also, does anyone else think it's weird that it's bands like Electric Wizard and Pentagram who these self-absorbed posers have embraced?  They seem to think having a Sabbath patch on their jacket / vest is a badge of cool and if you didn't have one you were not worthy.  It reminds this old man of when jocks started showing up at Metal shows in the latter-80's and changed the vibe of shows by using the pit action as an excuse to fuck with people.  Fuck. Off. All of you. Thanks.

I had the opportunity to do a merch audit but didn't.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  All in all it was a disappointing show but thankfully the following two things made me feel better once I was back inside the warm confines of Casa de Umlaut:

I was glad I ripped the flyer for this upcoming gig off the bathroom wall at Slim's.

I was glad I stopped for my favorite post-show veggie burrito at Taqueria Cancun.

I was also thankful I'd been introduced to Satan's Satyrs because they're my new favorite band this week... However.. there is no "I" in "scene", kidz.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Crypt Keeper

Kirk von Hammett's Fear FestEvil
High On Fire / Orchid / Ghoul
Rock Bar Theater, San Jose, California
April 11, 2015

It's cool when an old friend has the means to take a childhood hobby to the next level as an adult... and that's exactly what Mr. Kirk Hammett has done.  What began as a child with an obsession with horror movies and comics has evolved into an adult world class collector of all that is dark and fun.. and it's been made even cooler that he wants to share it with the public instead of sitting in a dark room surrounded by his valuable rarities.  This was the 4th official Kirk von Hammett event dating back to the book release party in 2012.   As with last year's event, this year was a 3-day celebration but Umlaut was only able to attend the Saturday event which featured performances by my longtime favorites High On Fire, Orchid, and Ghoul.

Back in The Day the space that is now the Rock Bar was a gambling joint called Garden City Casino.  It was odd seeing how they've basically jammed a stage into the space to fit the existing floor plan.  Interesting and odd.  This was my first visit to this relatively new venue and I had heard nothing but good things about it.

Upon arriving there was a ginormous line waiting at the entrance so I killed time in the vendor tent adjacent to the entrance as well as a small carnival games area that was next to it.  The FestEvil vibe was definitely in effect as costumed humans wandered the area.. but it was only a matter of time before things were sorted out for me.  If only all Horror conventions were this easy:

Once inside there was time to kill before the bands started... Running into friends, chatting with friends, drinking beers with friends, and also checking out this year's version of Kirk's Crypt featuring some of his collection on display.  Honesty is my only excuse:  Umlaut only has a casual interest in Horror films and there were really only 2 items that caught my undivided attention... mainly because I am a fan and had seen the items at past events but had failed to take pictures of them.  Not this time...

Yes.. Umlaut is one of those now-mainstream types who adores The Walking Dead.. The show and the comics.  Anyway, one thing led to another and this happened..

"Devil's grip.. The Iron Fist.."
[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

... and in case you were wondering this is what "backstage" looked like at FestEvil:


As the sun set outside the musical portion of the event started up.  Ghoul are one of my favorite bands and it warmed my heart that these band friends were asked to perform.  Obviously they were a natural fit and it was cool that they immediately won the crowd over during the first song even as they sprayed the front row with blood-like liquid.  Orchid are another group of band friends and they were making a return performance after having been included in last year's party.  The Orchid lads were as thunderous as ever but their set was a bit overshadowed by guitarist Mark's vintage Motörhead 1983 Tour shirt in the dressing room:

According to the Umlaut Archives this was the 18th time I'd seen High On Fire.. but I only watched moments of their set as I found myself socializing with friends again more than rocking out.  Again... Honesty is my only excuse.. but I was just going with the flow, man.

Far and away the highlight of the day was the jam session finale featuring the host lead guitarist backed by High On Fire as well as guest appearances by Corey Taylor of Slipknot on vocals, John 5 on guitar for most of the set, and Charlie Benante of Anthrax taking over drums for half of the set as well.  Before all of that Rock Star power hit the stage this happened in a hallway behind the stage:

The best thing about this All-Star jam was that it did not include the usual cover songs that every Metal All-Star jam usually plays (cue 'Highway To Hell'..'Iron Man'.. etc..).  This being Kirk Hammett's party he dug deep into his teenage album collection and pulled out some nerdy song choices!

 "BRAIN!!"  Yes, autographed by the host after the show..

For the newbies that would be Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Uli Roth-era Scorpions, Riot, Venom, and Judas Priest.  FUCK. YEAH.  The performance was loose as all of the Rock Stars seemed to tap into their teenage heads again for the duration of the jam.  Oddly, I watched this once in a lifetime moment while kneeling inside a fake fireplace at stage left that evidently is a remnant of the space's previous incarnation.  The suburbs can be very weird, man.

Kirk and High On Fire channel Phil Lynott as they launch into 'Emerald'

I did not do a FestEvil merch audit.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced suburban teenagers called me a fag.  FestEvil is the type of event that people in The Bay Area tend to observe with a jaded ho-hum hometown attitude.  "Oh great.. A member of Metallica doing this and that.. blah blah.."  If this event were held in another city the buzz and the energy around it would probably be on another level.  Instead it was just another of many, many "only in The Bay Area" events and moments to add to the list.  Ain't we lucky!?