Monday, March 02, 2015

Got The Metal Madness

The secret project I've been assisting with for the past 8 months is finally being revealed...


Click HERE for the full story over at RollingStone.com.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Back To The Grind

Napalm Death / Voivod / Exhumed / Iron Reagan
Oakland Metro, Oakland, California
February 21, 2015


The Friday night commute traffic across The Bay Bridge seemed worse than it really was..but it was still a time suck.  However, we eventually made it to beautiful West Oakland.  Thankfully there was zero guest list drama but due to the traffic we walked in during Iron Reagan's last song.. They sounded great and I was bummed I missed them.  Sorry guys... Next time I'll arrive earlier.. Goddammit.

The Metro was packed solid sold out and with that came the old school uncomfortable side of the venue; muggy sweaty heat.  That being said, nothing comes as close to the old Ruthie's Inn Bay Area Metal Days as a sold out show at The Metro... so if you want to time travel back to 1984 it's as close as you'll ever get.  Adding another main room bar behind the stage was a solid move by the club.. and I appreciate how that, even in a divey venue here in the 21st Century, you can get quality beer despite a sticky floor.  

Local Bay Area heroes Exhumed were up next and delivered a solid, solid set.  I'm still bemused how Max channels James Hetfield circa 1988 onstage, but there's nothing wrong with that.  Also, to make this run of shows special, the band brought back original bass player Ross Sewage (Ludicra, Ghoul, Impaled) for the 5 West Coast shows to play songs off their first album... Which I don't own (honesty is my only excuse..).. but it was a great old school set. 

Exhumed
[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

The mighty Voivod landed on the Oakland stage next and were nothing short of magnificent.  Yes, there was another lineup change since the last time I saw them with Blacky leaving the bass position again... bummer.  As with every band from my salad days, it's impossible to expect them to still have their "original" members intact.. and Voivod at 1/2 of the original members is at the average ratio.  That being said, they absolutely killed it.  There are new faces but the same musical mastery that made them special in the first place is still front and center; the spirit of Piggy is still very much an aura around the band. Voivod's Prog Thrash resonates even more for me now and the 9-song set bent time and space.  Vintage tracks such as 'Order of the Blackguards', 'Voivod', and the Pink Floyd cover 'Astronomy Domine' were the cornerstones of the performance but I have to say the epic new song 'We Are Connected' was my favorite of the set.  There is still life in the Voivod machine!

Voivod
[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

To be honest, I didn't know what to expect from Napalm Death but everything I had heard about shows in recent times had been nothing but raving... and they completely delivered as well.  Grind is just about the only Metal that still holds my attention at this point in history (Sorry Death and Black Metals.. but.. you make me yawn now..It's not you.. It's me..).  Thankfully, Napalm Death has released a brutally great new album that has only reinforced Grind in my heart and that translated perfectly live.  The entire 22-song set was an unrelenting buzz saw groove abattoir of volume.  At times the assault was breathtaking (or maybe it was the sweaty claustrophobic Metro getting to me) and, despite having his right arm in a sling, Barney was in fine form both during and between songs. The new songs 'Smash A Single Digit' and 'How The Years Condemn' really did it for me tonight and it was inspiring that my favorite parts of both Voivod and Napalm sets were their new songs.  Maybe I'm not so completely jaded about Metal after all... maybe.

Napalm Death
[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

A nice Bay Area moment occurred when Jello Biafra joined Napalm for the appropriate cover of the Dead Kennedy's 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off'.. Although Jello is seemingly at every show (still!) these days... but more power to Jello because at least he's out there supporting the bands he likes... I guess.. Anyway.. it was a nice moment.

I didn't do a merch audit.. I meant to.. but when I went to the side room where all the merch was set up I started talking to so many people that I forgot.  Oh well.. I don't need anymore black t-shirts anyway.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags.   All in all, it was a damn fun night and easily the show of the year so far.. and no one got hurt and we all made it home safely.  I ate a bowl of cereal.. went to bed... and awoke the next morning to fight again.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Photograph

The teenage me in 1983:


It's a good thing I was able to shut the sales of the album down and it's only managed to sell over 10 million copies since then.....

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Ecstasy Of Gold

The exciting sequel to Damage Inc..

Metallica
Salesforce 2015 Kickoff Party
Pier 48, San Francisco, California
February 9, 2015


Sometimes the Rock Godz work in mysterious ways... The week before tonight I found myself at a small social gathering with these things as the guests of honor:


Three in 5 years... Duck The Fodgers!  Yes... Metallica have their own clubhouse where they hang out with each other and put shit their fans throw at them onstage on the walls.  Oddly, there are no bras on display.  Lock 'N Loll?

Anyway,  I was minding my own business on the following Friday afternoon when I answered a phone call from Metallica's office asking if I would be "around" on Monday.  I thought about it and answered "Why.. Yes I will be "around" on Monday.." and was informed that the band were playing a "secret show" in San Francisco and that I was invited to attend.  Well, isn't that nice?  Lock 'N Loll.

Fast forward to the following Monday and it wasn't until around 5:00pm that I got the details about where and when to go for this "secret show".  Ironically, it ended up being at Pier 48 which is directly across McCovey Cove from my beloved AT&T Park.   When I arrived at the "secret" location it could not have been easier to gain entry.

Free parking?  Check.
My name on the guest list?  Check.
Only person wearing a Motörhead hoodie?  Check.

Once inside it was like entering the cover of the Load album except it was filled with table after table after table after table of free food and alcohol that seemed to go on forever. 

Umlaut goes into The Void



I won't dwell too much on the fact that tonight was a corporate gig with the band playing a private party for the employees of Salesforce to celebrate the end of their fiscal year.  If you can make it, take it.  We should all be so lucky to work for a company whose CEO is a Metallica fan who has enough disposable wealth to hire them to play his parties instead of Kanye West or Katy Perry. Anyway...

I had been told that the band would go on at 9:15pm but even after walking to the very end of the massive space I had no idea where they would be playing.  Very bizarre..  Then I stopped to chat with someone I know from the band's camp who also didn't know where the stage was..  Randomly, a passing food server overheard us talking and informed us that the hall was curtained off at the far end and it would be opened soon and that's where the stage was... She explained that it was set up that way so the "Metallica fans" would mingle instead of going straight to the stage to wait for the band. Ooookaay... I didn't see any obvious Metallica fans amongst the hundreds of suits and business casual folks around me... but whatever.  Armed with this new information, I headed back towards the far curtained off area and.. lo and behold.. it had indeed opened to reveal a modest stage at the far end.  Lock 'N Loll.

[Photo courtesy of Metallica.com]

I hadn't seen Metallica live in over 2 years and I will admit my jaded self got excited when I saw how intimate the show would be up close.  Despite the modest surroundings the stage allowed for "fans" to stand around it on 3 sides and then there were sections on either side with mics setup so it looked like a miniature stadium stage.  As I sipped my complimentary beer the band were late getting the party started... So I took out my iPhone and was posting something to my personal social media when a Salesforce employee next to me said something about not to hashtag "Salesforce" because this was a "secret" event.  My reply was "I don't work for Salesforce..." which caught Mr. Nosey off guard for a second until he then asked "How did you get in??" (I could see the wheels turning in his head about calling security...) but all I said was "I'm with the band..."   Was that a dick move on my part?  Maybe... because I wasn't really "with" the band.. but it shut him up.

Anyway, the house lights didn't go down until after 9:30pm when the CEO of Salesforce came out to address his minions and introduce the entertainment for the evening.  There was no 'Ecstasy Of Gold' intro tape and the hometown band casually launched straight into 'Hit The Lights' followed by 'Master Of Puppets'..

"Master..."

I quickly forgot about where I was and just focused on watching the band play because it was the closest I'd been to them onstage in a very long time.  I noticed that they all wore off-the-shelf shoes; Robert had on his signature pair of Vans.  It's the little things. During 'Sanitarium' this dude knelt down in front of me and we both had a flashback to The Stone, San Francisco - 1983:

2015

1983

The more things change, the more they stay the same... As the song ended that dude started to walk back towards the drum riser but turned and tossed this to me.. which I caught in midair (natch!):


Battle scarred by stage use...

It would be easy to dismiss this performance but, in the spirit of simply having fun and not being a negative creep, I realized it was just like watching the band rehearse.  There was no real pressure on them since they weren't playing for *their* crowd.  It was a casual audience at best.  There was free food and open bars everywhere.  It was probably the best free concert I've ever seen.  Also, it had been many, many years since the last time I was against a stage during a Metallica set and felt it vibrate from the volume.  It was cool.

A solid 14 song setlist... All killer and no filler.  There was no production and no intro tapes; it was a performance basically stripped down to the very bare essentials and that made it unique despite the corporate nature of the event.  Like I just said, it was like watching the band rehearse but they did break a sweat.  However, it was awkward when the Salesforce crowd chanted "Yeah!" instead of "Die!" during 'Creeping Death'.   I literally laughed out loud.. Yeah.. awkward.  For those who care the setlist was:
  • Hit the Lights
  • Master of Puppets
  • Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
  • Sad But True
  • The Unforgiven
  • Fuel
  • Wherever I May Roam
  • One
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Battery
  • Nothing Else Matters
  • Enter Sandman
 Encore:
  • Creeping Death
  • Seek & Destroy
Not bad for a free show on a Monday night, man.

Before the band came out I chatted with another Salesforce employee next to me who works at their office in Australia.  He was a legit Metallica fan and out of his mind with excitement and couldn't believe they were playing his company party.  A nice guy who also had a proper camera with him:

  [Photos courtesy of Nish Veer]

"We're scanning the scene at Salesforce tonight.. We're looking for YOU to start up a fight!" 

The party closed with the standard 'Seek And Destroy' and it was nice to see the song done without the beach ball drop that happens at "real" Metallica shows these days.  It's bizarre to me how 'Seek' has become the "party" song of a Metallica set when back in The Day it was a song that made me want to fuck shit up.  Weird...  Hope I die before I get old.

Anyway, as the song ended and The Four Horsemen took their bows, The Master Of Puppets turned around, caught my eye, and tossed one of his sweat-soaked wristbands to me... Uhhh...  I picked it up, looked to see if it even had the band's name on it (which it did not) and then I said out loud "This is fucking gross.." and tossed it onto the drum riser.  In hindsight I should have probably kept it to sell on Ebay, right?  Oh well.. Honesty is my only excuse. I mean, how would he feel if I tossed my dirty laundry at him in public?

Tonight's corporate gig was much better than the Salesforce gig 3 years ago, but that was because I had made the effort to be right up front against the stage and not 50 yards back standing with indifferent hors d'oeuvre swilling guests who would have been much happier if their CEO had hired Kanye West or Katy Perry to perform instead.  I had fun.  I ate and drank for free.  I was home in 20 minutes.

There was no Metallica merch for sale.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.   After I got home this text exchange happened between Umlaut and the Master Of Puppets:


Awww.. Battery is found in me.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Fade To Black

The historic and bummer sequel to The Holy Grail.

Umlaut is a history geek.  I'm fascinated by how events that happened years ago can still influence and affect events now.  I'm also fascinated by how an event in history can hold your attention for years, even decades, because there's an existing mystery or lack of knowledge about its outcome.  One such subject is the video footage of Metallica's legendary set at Oakland Stadium on August 31, 1985:


Umlaut was down in front of the stage that warm August day and it was one of those rare events where I really did feel something special was happening... and that things were changing before my eyes.  Metallica went to another level that day... They really did. 

Every Metallica fan has dreamed and hoped that somehow the band's entire Day On The Green set was filmed.  Over these many years there have been rumors and old memories that the set probably wasn't completely filmed... After all, Metallica were still an underground band who were the 4th band on a 6 band bill.  However, that iconic 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' footage, and the couple of minutes of other footage, have kept the fires of hope burning in the minds of Metalheads... many of us who now have grey hair.  Well, now my friends, we finally have what I think is a definitive answer about this Holy Grail of Metal.

This week a photo surfaced courtesy of an old Bay Area Metal fan named Anthony Valadez:


There are a couple of important things about this photo... First, that denim vest clad guy in the photo pit is none other than my Murder In The Front Row co-author Harald O.!  Second, and sadly, there is no camera man at the video camera that was used to film the existing concert footage... which pretty much proves that Metallica's entire set was not filmed and captured for posterity.  Damn...

The band's setlist that afternoon was:
  • Creeping Death
  • Ride The Lightning
  • For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • The Four Horsemen
  • Fade To Black
  • Seek & Destroy
  • Whiplash
  • Am I Evil?
  • Motorbreath 
Since the only footage that has surfaced are a couple of frustratingly brief snippets of 'Ride The Lightning' and 'Bells' I think it's safe to assume that the cameraman started filming during 'Ride' and stopped to go backstage and snort coke (or whatever concert video cameramen did back then) as 'The Four Horsemen' started.  Anyway... It is what it is after all these years.. so I guess we should just treasure the 5+ minutes that we do have from that iconic set and not dwell on "What If"...


"Life it seems will fade away... Drifting further every day.."

Thanks to Anthony Valadez for giving me permission to post his photo!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

On This Date: January 8th


Tonight in San Jose, California in 1999: The first Black Sabbath reunion tour with Pantera and..  Incubus??  This was only the 5th show of the tour and they had just played L.A.; Ozzy said from the stage how lame the L.A. crowd had been compared to S.J.. 

As I was making my way to my seat I ran into Steve Von Till and Dave Ed of Neurosis who were sitting in the section next to me. Full circle. Thanks to a last minute ticket switch I ended up with a great seat only one row up from the main floor on the stage left side.  It was my first time seeing the original lineup and I was completely geeked out... and a great 'board feed bootleg emerged from the show as well.  The limited edition boot done by some friends:


It was only the 5th show of the tour and Bill Ward fucked up at the start of 'War Pigs' by coming in way too early.  Awkward... but as I type this I'm listening to the show again after 16 years and for the most part Ward pulled it together for the rest of the set after that.  The band were dialed in and Ozzy sounded great.  Needless to say, Tony and Geezer were godlike.

Ozzy after the opening song 'War Pigs': "I gotta tell you guys.. We just played Los Angeles but you guys fucking kick their asses, man.. This is where it's at!!"

In hindsight it was a pretty emo show for Umlaut since Sabbath are one of my all-time favorite bands and are without a doubt the one band that influenced my head the most in my salad days.  Seeing the original lineup in a packed arena was, like, special.... man.



Sabbath confetti from the show.. Never throw anything away.

"Faeries wear boots.. yeah.. you gotta believe.."

Monday, January 05, 2015

A Sun That Never Sets

Neurosis / Tragedy / Author & Punisher / Kowloon Walled City
Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
December 30, 2014


At this point in Umlaut's life, there are actually a few bands that I've shockingly been following for almost half of my life.. which for you keeping score at home means at least 25 years.  Hope I die before I get old..  Anyway, Neurosis is one of those bands.  It's been profound watching them evolve from playing pizza parlors and warehouses into the elder statesmen and volume icons they are here in the 21st Century.  Trippy, man.  I remember when they were hardcore vegans.  I also remember when they started eating meat again.  Full circle shit, man.

[Photos from the Umlaut Archives]

Top photo:  Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly with the xeroxed Umlaut Issue #2 'zine at Brave New World (R.I.P.), San Francisco circa 1992.   Bottom photo:  Neurosis visuals equipment on tour in 1992 at Spanky's Pizza (!), Orange County, California.

In what's turning into sort of an annual tradition, Neurosis closed out another year with hometown shows (tonight and a New Year's Eve shindig).  Considering that 2/5 of the band now lives out of state and this is about as heartwarming a gesture as you should expect from these dark lords.  Combined with the fact that several old friends who I rarely see in person were also in attendance and it made me glad I had ventured out on this very cold and windy San Francisco night.

I arrived early enough to catch the last part of the opening set by locals Kowloon Walled City.  I've seen the band a couple of times over the past several years and I will admit I wasn't really a fan early on... but they've won me over since then.. although I didn't think tonight was one of the better performances that I've seen by them.  Do I sound like a dick?  If so... sorry.. I honestly didn't mean to.. Anyway...

Next up was the one-man metal shop class come to life that is Author & Punisher.  I was only familiar with A&P by name only but my friend filled me in how it's the work of industrial artist Tristan Stone who made all of the harrowing equipment himself.  Honesty is my only excuse:  I can't imagine anyone listening to A&P at home or in their car.  It's like watching and listening to a drill press... but in a live setting A&P are kind of hypnotic.  My only smart ass suggestion is that it would be, like, totally cool if he manufactured trinkets during the show with the equipment (like maybe those souvenir pressed pennies..) to give out or sell after his set.  Just saying..  Anyway...

The final support act tonight was Tragedy.. and I knew absolutely nothing about them although the members looked like they've probably been to Gilman St... although the Interwebs informed me they're based in Portland.  I did not mind their Punky ways at all.. Anway...

Neurosis are probably the only band who can still turn my head inside out and affect me in the same way as they did in the 20th Century.  Their dark energy has matured and fermented into something that I find positive in a foamy dark way.  It creates a vacuum in my psyche that also pushes my mind out.  Hmm... Does that sound like Hippie Shit? 


I realized early in the set that, although this was around my 30th Neurosis show (dating back to 1991 or so), it was the first time I'd seen them headline a show without their once trademark visuals.  For the newbies:  The band jettisoned the visual side of their live performances in favor of a stripped down vision... and it completely works.  Back in the day the band's visuals were pretty cutting edge and relied on analog equipment like a slide projector and colored film placed on a bicycle rim turned by a film projector (see the photo I posted here).  Fast forward to the 21st Century and any half baked "artist" can "create" a "visual presentation" and use it with their "band" via their laptop.  Technology has ruined so many things by making them too easy, man.  I think Neurosis realized this and took themselves back to their roots... bloody roots:  Sound.. volume.. words.. music.

Opening with the appropriate 'At The End Of The Road' the set hit an early peak with the now vintage maelstrom 'Eye' coming early in the set... but the night's thematic heart came during 'Distill' for me.  It burned.. Tonight was possibly the most understated Neurosis set I've ever seen.  The energy level was a slow simmering darkness instead of the manic heated boiling madness of other shows I've witnessed.  It was mind bending for me in a different way than the past.  It was just an example of how this band can communicate differently within their own realm.  A slow burn destroys as effectively as a flash fire.  Closing the set with the constricting beauty of 'My Heart For Deliverance' (my favorite recent Neurosis song) was beyond perfect.

I didn't do a merch audit.. but I did drop $5 for a Neurosis patch and it was cool that their merch guy said how much he liked Murder In The Front Row.  Right on, man!  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  In between bands there was a Von Till dog pile with some other dudes who I've known for 20+ years and who I first saw Neurosis with back in the hazy Red Hook-drinking days:


It was a brief but special moment.  This was also my final gig of 2014.. which was also the 10th (!!) year I've been ranting in this "blog".  Crazy, man.  The more things change.. the more they stay the same... sometimes. Let's see what 2015 brings...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

World Painted Blood

The other night Umlaut was having dinner with some old friends in The Mission District of San Francisco.  Near the end of the meal one of the friends mentioned how he thought there was a mural nearby that included some old school looking Metalheads.  Odd, right?!  Umlaut lived in The Mission in the early-90's but I had never heard of such a mural but it sounded awesome.

However, my friend couldn't remember exactly where it was and it had been at least 7 or more years since he'd last thought about it.  Since his memory said the mural was sort of on the way back to our cars we headed in that direction... and after walking down a side street we came across a crazy cool mural painted on the side of a building!

It had various scenes of Mission and San Francisco life and seemed to date from 1980's S.F. since there were details like Joe Montana in his full Niners glory depicted... and near the end of the mural were these two dudes:


Heaven & Hell

Show No Mercy

To quote Slayer:  "Trapped in purgatory... A lifeless object alive.."   Of course, The Interwebs was able to reveal the story of this awesome mural.  It was done in 1985 so it does date from the time of the original Old Metal Days of San Francisco!  Amazing!!

Click HERE for the story and location of this piece of San Francisco art history.


To quote Dio-era Black Sabbath:  "If it seems to be real.. It's illusion.."

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Never Mind The Baubles

A year ago Umlaut was in London for Christmas and happened to channel surf onto this amazing documentary on the BBC.   It tells the little known story of a benefit show the Sex Pistols performed for the children of striking firefighters in Huddersfield, England on Christmas Day 1977.  It was also the final show the Pistols would play in England.  Watch it and be amazed and inspired:



From The Guardian's post about the program a year ago:

"As well as documenting what would be the last home stand of one of Britain's most influential groups, Never Mind the Baubles captures a different side of the band. Here are Britain's most notorious punk band putting on daft hats and being kind to children.

As Temple remembers, they arrived in Huddersfield at the height of a moral panic and tabloid frenzy. "To most people they were monsters in the news. But seeing them playing to seven- and eight-year-olds is beautiful. They were a radical band, but there was a lot more heart to that group than people know."  


By December 1977, the Pistols were banned from playing almost anywhere in the UK. "They were even banned from Holiday Inns," says the director. "Like Mary and Joseph."

Meanwhile, the firefighters had been on strike for nine weeks and were struggling to feed their children. A benefit gig was ideal for both sides.

"The cake was the size of a car bonnet and had 'Sex Pistols' written on it," policeman Jez Scott, who had been a 16-year-old punk at the gig, said in 2007. "I got a yellow skateboard with pink wheels – like the Never Mind the Bollocks album cover – by winning the pogoing competition. The gig itself was great, very exciting. I remember they played Bodies, but omitted the swear words because of the children."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Defenders Of The Faith

Judas Priest / Steel Panther
City National Civic, San Jose, California
November 16, 2014 


Although the Silicon Valley is the land of my birth, I'm always surprised what a ghost town downtown San Jose becomes after 6:00pm on a school night.  However, this was a nice mini-road trip down with 3 good buddies but it was weird to see a show in this building again.  I hadn't set foot inside the Civic since the 80's when the likes of April Wine, Dio, and Iron Maiden played there.  Anyway, if only all shows were this easy:

 Fonts


Steel Panther are awful... I get it.. They're supposed to be funny but I'm not laughing.  All I will say further is that I couldn't understand why they were on this tour...until my friend on the Priest crew informed me that 1 or 2 of the members were in Fight with Rob Halford.  Nepotism uber alles I guess.  Perhaps the worst thing about them being on the bill was the 3 or 4 jock types who came to the show dressed in "Hair Metal" costumes complete with wigs and spandex.  One of them didn't take kindly when I said "Halloween is over.." as they walked past us.  So lame... During Steel Panther's set I wandered into catering... where it was empty.. but it was interesting that probiotics are on the 2014 Priest backstage rider.

  
Delivering the goods?

I suppose Priest played as solid of a set and song mix as you should expect here in the 21st Century.  The current tour not only features the new album but also celebrates the Defenders Of The Faith album... but as they started my least favorite song of their entire catalog ('Turbo Lover') I went to get a beer and discovered that San Jose beer sales were already cut off... and it was barely halfway through their set!  WTF San Jose...  No beer.. No KK Downing at stage right.. but at least 'Beyond The Realms of Death' came a couple of songs later... and it was a really great version.  That song and 'Devil's Child' reminded me how much Priest meant to me in my Salad Days a million years ago in a suburban bedroom just down the freeway from this venue.

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

I'm not going to nitpick about Priest and this was the 2nd time I've seen the current lineup.  Tonight was a good show and I enjoyed it.  Halford was more animated and sounded better onstage than he has on the past couple of tours.  I will also admit that Richie Faulkner is a really good guitarist and holds his part of Priest 2014 down admirably... but he's not KK.. and the fact that Priest still plays KK's signature song 'Victim Of Changes' with his replacement bothers me... but I said I'm not going to nitpick about Priest.  I had beers.  I had fun.  Priest played songs I like.

 Living After Midnight from stage right..

If you bought one of every Priest merch item you would have paid around $400 I think.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-face kids called us fags.  As mixed as my feelings are about seeing Priest 2014 I caught myself from being too jaded.  I reminded myself that I must pay respects and see my old heroes.  They will not be around forever, man... and they're still better than 95% of the newer crap Metal bands out there today.  O.K.. Old Man rant over.

"Feast your eyes on a whole lot of sin..."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Black Magic Nights

Slayer / Suicidal Tendencies / Exodus
The Fox Theater, Oakland, California
November 11, 2014


Yeah, these shows were almost 2 weeks ago... but better late than never in the name of this "blog".  Anyway... This year is closing out with a tidal wave of great heavy shows here in The Bay Area (Melvins, Satan, King Diamond) but I have to admit I had been looking forward to this event most of all.  It's not often that a big Metal show rolls into town at a proper venue featuring a bill of this historic caliber... and when was the last time there were 2 sold out nights of Metal in a large indoor venue here... and it wasn't a lame 15 band bill in the local amphitheater and its parking lot.  Impressive.  I will also be honest and admit I got emo thinking about how it's been 30 years since the last time these same 3 bands shared a Bay Area stage at the legendary Day In The Dirt show back in August 1984:

[From the Umlaut Archives]

Of course, getting to the show on a Tuesday meant driving into the teeth of Bay Area rush hour traffic... and it sucked... but it didn't kill me so that's all that matters.  I should come clean and say that I used the commuter lane to get onto The Bay Bridge eventhough I didn't qualify to use it and risked a hefty fine... but I didn't get caught and it probably saved me 45 minutes getting over to the 510.  To quote the headliner:  "Blasting our way through the boundaries of Hell!"   Upon arriving I was pleasantly surprised that, despite it being the first night of the tour, there was zero Will Call drama.  If only all shows were this easy:


Since I arrived later than expected I quickly made my way downstairs to give my regards to the hometown heroes and old friends Exodus before they went onstage... and then watched from stage right as they hit the stage before moving out front.  For the newbies:  Although it might seem cool to watch a band from the side of the stage the sound sucks.  

Anyway, 6 songs was criminally too short of a hometown set for Exodus.  After opening with 2 songs off the new album the local boyz sprinted home with a solid punch of 'Blacklist' into 'Bonded By Blood' into 'Toxic Waltz' and closing with the old warhorse 'Strike Of The Beast'.   Exodus with Zetro back is great too. No more instructing a crowd to do a Wall Of Death but just letting the crowd action happen naturally.  As I said back in July, no disrespect to Dukes, but Zetro brings the East Bay vibe back to Exo that had been missing. The way he talks to a crowd, etc.. 

I guess I'm not a Suicidal For Life because I spent their set downstairs catching up with and chatting with old friends from near and far.   However, for the newbies: Backstage isn't as exciting as you might think.  Tom Araya used the dressing room blender and made a fruit smoothie while chatting.  Metal.

Back upstairs later:  Slayer pulled out an excellent setlist that was a cross section of their catalog but, since I'm having writer's block and still recovering from a flu thing, I think this photo courtesy of Umlaut's iPhone sums up the night accurately:


This dude standing in front of me took his shirt off because Slayer started playing 'Dead Skin Mask'.  SLAAAYEER!

As good as the show was performance wise I was a bit put off by how many hipster types were in the house... I mean the types who wear fashion correct denim vests with "the right" vintage looking band patches but who drunk dance to SLAAAYEER.  Anyway, who am I to judge... It was still a great show.  Then 24 hours later it was... 

Slayer / Suicidal Tendencies / Exodus
The Fox Theater, Oakland, California
November 12, 2014

Tonight I stepped up my game and arrived earlier and was able to watch some of Suicidal's soundcheck.  In the end, they were fucking with me subliminally.

War. Inside. My. Head.

After this I popped back outside to the civilization of downtown Oakland and met some friends for a pre-show dinner at the supernaturally convenient Rudy's Can't Fail.   The vibe at tonight's show was definitely cranked up a couple of notches from the previous evening as the crowd was more Metal, a little more liquored up, and a little more East Bay in general.  It was obvious that the bands picked up on this as well.  The set Exodus played, while again criminally brief, was one of my favorite sets by them in years.

Strike. Of. The. Beast.
[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

Again, I proved that I wasn't a Suicidal For Life as I managed to not watch their set.  Homies can bitch slap me and call me a poser the next time you see me, 'kay?  Suicidal still wanted a Pepsi but all this guy wanted was a beer... and I got one.. as well as good hang time with some old friends from near and far again.

Yes, Slayer played a different setlist tonight which was awesome. I took advantage and watched the set from different spots in the venue.

South. Of. Heaven.

Obviously, Slayer 2014 is different than the "classic" version but, as I've said before in this rant space, this lineup is so rooted in history it's profound. Both Gary and Bostaph are from the orig Bay Area Metal scene of the early 80's so the fact OG Bay Area and L.A. have joined together is profoundly full circle. More importantly this lineup has completely jelled and has a vibe that's better than you should hope for post Hanneman and Lombardo. Haters will always hate and complain because that seems to be what Metal fans do best now. Whatever.. The past is the past. Slayer 2014 is fucking great.

 Seasons. In. The. Abyss.

If you bought one of every Slayer merch item you would have paid around $500 I think.  On both nights on the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. All in all, a very great pair of nights in beautiful downtown Oakland amongst old friends and old bands.  Hope I die before I get old.

"Cursed... Black magic night.. We've been struck down.."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Return Of The King

King Diamond 
The Warfield, San Francisco
October 30, 2014

This was quite an epic week in San Francisco! The night before the San Francisco Giants got it done and improbably brought the World Series Championship back to The Bay.  CRAZY!  Ironically, this show also fell within a few days of the 30th Anniversary of Mercyful Fate's first visit to San Francisco:

[From the Umlaut Archives]

If I remember correctly, this was King's first U.S. Tour in 6 years.  Of course, the excitement around this trek was completely justified; the S.F. show was sold out around 2 months in advance.  It's not often a bona fide event like this comes to town.  It was an obvious reminder that, compared to Metal legacy acts like King Diamond, few recent Metal bands have the same level of mystique and history that can turn grown men into screaming little school girls... unless maybe it's Baby Metal. Discuss amongst yourselves.

After a little bit of Will Call drama I found myself in the lobby during the support band surrounded by many old friends, some of whom I've known since we were teenagers.  This included an old Metal penpal named Brian Slagel who still pursues his teenage hobby of putting out records by Metal bands.  It was cool to chat and catch up with Mr. Slagel again.  The entire lobby experience tonight was all a nice full circle moment.  Curiously, members of Rancid were also there.  I guess there wasn't a Punk show tonight?

When the houselights switched off the pent up anticipation, worship, and excitement that everyone in the room had been feeling exploded.  When King appeared onstage a lot of people.. for lack of a better term.. lost their shit.

[Photos courtesy of Photo Ray]

I'll come clean and say I've never been a big fan of King's solo material.  Mercyful Fate were and are one of the most important bands in my life... but I never gravitated towards King's other material as profoundly.  Honesty is my only excuse.  However, the stage show was one of most theatrical Metal performances (in a good way) that you could hope to witness.  Since King is such a larger than life figure, the fact that he was able to bring his full European stage production here in 2014 was nothing short of a blessing.  From the cemetery gates that divided the band from the audience for the first songs, to the simple iconic backdrops, to the excellent multi-level backline it was a show I can only imagine was life changing for the youngest fans in attendance.

 [Photos courtesy of Cable Car]

Combine that with some entertaining theatrical moments with characters such as Grandma (!) during 'Welcome Home' and later her burning during 'Cremation' and it was one of the best value for money shows you could hope for in this day and age.  More Metal shows should have magic tricks onstage IMO!  Of course, on top of all this magic was King and his top notch band of veteran musicians.  They were all solid and King sounded GREAT!  Given his recent health issues, it would be easy to expect King not to be able to perform to the same level of his past and cut him some slack... but there was obviously a reason why he's waited so long to return to the stage.  Recovery.  Rebirth.  His voice was top notch and his charisma was still undeniable... and when he and the band launched into a Mercyful Fate double shot of 'Evil' into 'Come To The Sabbath' the 3,000 or so in attendance.. for lack of a better term.. lost their shit.  As a bonus since it was that time of year, the set also included an especially nice version of 'Halloween' during the encores.

Hail Satan!  Go Giants!!

If you bought one of every King Diamond merch item you would have paid around $300 I think.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  I don't know what else to say... and I also don't think I said enough.  King has been one of my heroes since before I could buy alcohol legally and it's a special thing to know that one of my heroes is still basically at the top of his game. 

"Grandma, welcome home..  You have been gone for far too long.. Is this a dream?  Are you really back?"

Click HERE to see more of Photo Ray's shots from the night!