Friday, July 18, 2014

Old Friends

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
The Warfield, San Francisco
July 7 and 8, 2014

Some trivia:  These shows were Umlaut's 20th and 21st times seeing Nick Cave dating back to 1990.  It was also the 12th and 13th times I've seen him at The Warfield.  As I've said several times in this space over the years, Nick Cave is my favorite songwriter... and he's also the only artist whose art has seemed to grow with me over the years and kept me engaged.  Yes, some of his albums have left me less interested than others, but I'm not one of those fans who only listens to his "old" stuff.   I'm a fan of the complete oeuvre of Cave (fancy word... Google it..).

NIGHT ONE:   Prior to the show I met up with a couple of old friends for dinner which was a nice opening act.  Also, while passing the line in front of The Warfield on my way to dinner I ran into 2 other old friends who I had not seen in awhile.  Cave shows bring people out of the woodwork.

Mark Lanegan and his deep I-fell-down-a well-while-lost-in-the-forest voice was the perfect opener for Cave tonight.  Also, his presence was made even more valuable when he sang 'The Weeping Song' with Cave & the Bad Seeds later in the night.. but I'm getting ahead of myself.

One thing I always geek out on when Nick & the Bad Seeds come into town is how the Bad Seeds are configured onstage.  This tour's configuration seemed to have the band members more segregated than in the past but I guess it's to give Nick more room to roam.  As with the performances last year, Nick worked the stage in an aggressive way that I haven't seen since his iconic early-90's shows.  I don't know what's gotten into him but it's pretty amazing.

The old warhorses like 'Tupelo', 'From Her To Eternity', and 'The Mercy Seat' still hold up, but I think my favorite song of the night was the newest song 'Jubilee Street' with its slow build up that smashes against the wall driven by that maniac Warren Ellis on violin.  Does anyone else remember Warren when he first visited San Francisco in 1995 with his band the Dirty Three wearing an AC/DC t-shirt onstage?  It's almost impossible to imagine it's the same person.  The deep cut tonight was the very vintage 'Sad Waters' (!) which hasn't been in a Nick setlist in 11 years.   The 4-song encore was given a special nod when Nick asked a fan down front what they wanted to hear, he listened, notified the band who switched instruments, and they launched into 'Jack The Ripper'.  Nice.

After the show this happened:

The backstage action was very sedate and the only Bad Seed milling around was Jim Sclavunos; I don't think I can name another drummer who is almost 7 feet tall.  Then 24 hours later it was...

NIGHT TWO: Prior to the show I met up with several old friends for dinner which was a nice opening act.  From experience, for some reason the 2nd night is always better when seeing a band on back to back nights and this is especially true with Nick & the Bad Seeds.  Night #2 in San Francisco was even more intense right out of the gate... Although the set tonight was 1 song shorter but who was counting (I was of course.. but anyway..).  There were multiple deep cuts pulled out including 'Do You Love Me' and the extremely vintage 'Watching Alice' (!); both songs evidently have not been played live in 11 years.

Unfortunately almost 2 weeks has passed since these shows and my post show excitement and inspiration has faded with time... so writing this post mortem of these special nights isn't as fiery as I would like.  All I can finish up with is that Nick Cave is literally the only artist and musician who has kept me completely engaged as profoundly as the when I first fell into that dark space of his creativity many years ago.  It's a very rare artist who can perform a song from his first album that was released 30 years ago and have it be as menacing and relevant sounding as it did in the last century, but that's what Nick did with 'From Her To Eternity' both nights.

It's an even rarer artist who can pull the past into the present so easily and then minutes later slam the here and now down with compelling songs released only a year ago.  For those wanting to know the score, Nick & the Bad Seeds played 22 songs from his cavernous catalog over the 2 San Francisco sessions this time around. Seeing Cave is still a reality check for me about what I value about music and the experience of being a Music Geek.  Metal is like having a cold beer.  Cave is like having that cold beer followed by a glass of wine with an amazing meal.  Food analogies!  Discuss amongst yourselves.

If you bought one of every Cave merch item you would have paid around $470; as much as I love Nick his merch has always been boring.  Oh well... as long as his art doesn't suffer.  On the way back to the car both nights, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  A special shout out to The Sheriff, who has been my Cave fanboy compatriot since 2001.  It's trippy how 25 years of following an artist can go by just... like.. that:

1990 - 2013

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Hype

Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
July 2, 2014

I literally knew nothing about Deafheaven before the show and, dog's honest truth, I had not heard one note of their music.  The only "facts" that I knew about the band going into the show was (1) they're evidently from San Francisco and (2) they're one of the most hated Metal bands amongst purests.  Both of these facts intrigued me so much that awhile back I decided to avoid listening or reading about the band until I saw them live.  My brain was hard pressed to remember the last time I went to see a band without having heard their music first.  I was curious to see if the hatred towards Deafheaven was warranted based on their music or if people hated them only because of their hipster fanbase. 

Anyway, I still don't believe Deafheaven are really from San Francisco.. but if they are I would like to know their favorite S.F. taqueria.  I think only 3 other people seemed to recognize the 'Jump In The Fire' riff when their tech played it during the changeover.  Of course, Metallica are that band their parents listen to anyway... I was also fascinated how well coiffed this "Metal" crowd was with the guys being very metro.. and no one was wearing a band tee except for me and a kid wearing a Forbidden shirt.  Awkward.  Then a hipster wearing a beanie and hipster chino shorts stood next to me but he smelled like a crust punk.  I was confused.

The set began promising with around 5 minutes of an ambient drone played over the PA as an intro tape; I liked that it wasn't the standard "Metal" intro.  Then the "local heroes" walked onstage... the packed in crowd got very excited... the band started... and then the singer started screeching.  I guess Deafheaven are called "Black Metal" because of the vocals?  If this is "Black Metal" it's the shopping mall Twilight version of it.  They'd be better if they had songs as I got bored pretty quickly.  Two songs into the set and I was also reminded how the whole 80's Post Punk sounding Metal thing confuses me.. but Agalloch and Beastmilk do it in a better and more interesting way.  Another random thought that popped into my head as I watched Deafheaven was that their crowd would be terrified at a Neurosis show.

My Deafheaven experiment ended up not being nearly as dramatic as I thought it might be.  They are an average "Metal" band whose singer is admittedly charismatic and has stage presence... but the screeching vocals subtract a lot of points.  The music isn't necessarily bad but I got bored pretty quickly.  I still don't know if all of the hate towards them is justified (there are ALOT of average Metal bands out there... ALOT..); I disliked Liturgy more when I saw them.  I am curious if Deafheaven are one of those "safe" Metal bands that serve as a gateway band for their fans to discover the real deal Metal.  Discuss amongst yourselves.

If you bought one of every Deafheaven merch item you would have paid around $160, which is weird because their fans don't seem to be a merch wearing crowd at all.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. I didn't hate Deafheaven but I did clean out my head on the drive home with another San Francisco band.

Yes, I have 490 Metallica tracks on my iPod.. and none of them are from Load, Reload, or St. Anger.  Guilty as charged... but dammit... it ain't right.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Full Circle

The Fox Theater, Oakland, California
June 28, 2014 

This show represented THE most full circle thing ever for Umlaut!   Flashback to 1984 in Berkeley, California...

[Photo courtesy of Harald O. - From Murder In The Front Row]

The teenager wearing the DEVO tee is Tour Manager Doug with members of Slayer, Exodus, Suicidal Tendencies, and Possessed.  At the time Doug was a member of Slayer's first road crew.  It's an iconic photo for many reasons, but for me because Tour Manager Doug's favorite band was Devo and he wore that t-shirt to practically every Metal show.  He suffered the abuse of his Metal peers who did not appreciate Devo but he never wavered from his support.  Fast forward almost 30 years later and that photo and friendship led to this on a Saturday night in Oakland here in the 21st Century:

This is what happens when one of your oldest friends ends up working for the first band he ever saw live in 1980 and who are also his favorite band.  Yes, that teenage Tour Manager Doug from 1984 is spending part of his Summer issuing backstage passes and looking after Devo here in the 21st Century!  The Fox Theater is not far from where that 1984 photo was taken as well.  Like I said, it's the most full circle thing EVER!  A-MA-ZING!

The pre-show backstage scene was very quiet and it took me a moment to realize it was Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale who were floating around the room.  Sadly, with the passing of Bob2 in February, this brief tour could very well be the final trek for Devo.  What impressed me is that on this tour the band is only performing songs from their formative years of 1974-77 and none of their 80's hits that made them famous.   

 [Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

Most other bands would simply go back out on the road and play the hits, no matter how painful it might be so soon after losing a founding member and brother.  Not Devo.  This tour is a tribute to their salad days when they were weird kids in Ohio trying to figure it all out.  It's a nod back to a time when things were innocent and life probably felt indestructible for them.  The Devo-ised version of 'Satisfaction', 'Be Stiff', 'Uncontrollable Urge', and 'Jocko Homo' were my obvious touchstones that kept me engaged with the show, but I literally didn't know the rest of the songs... and I was fine with that.  Umlaut is not a hardcore Devo fan but this show was charming, emotional, and simply great.  I vicariously fed off the energy and excitement of the fans around me who understood the theme of the show and embraced it completely.  To be honest, I don't think any of the most important bands from my salad days could cause me to react like that; I'm just that jaded unfortunately.  Honesty is my only excuse.

The night closed with a song called 'Clockout' that was being performed live for the first time on this tour... and joining the band in Oakland (and I believe in Los Angeles the next night) was Bob2's son Alex filling in for his dad.

 [Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

How full circle is that?  Bittersweet.. but still full circle.  I was introduced to Alex Bob2 Jr. briefly after the show and evidently he's a huge SLAAAYEER fan!  FULL. CIRCLE.

If you bought one of every Devo merch item you would have paid around $150.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. It was a perfectly surgical evening.  A big THANKS to Tour Manager Doug... and Peace In Rest, Bob2... and long live de-evolution!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Revelation

King Buzzo / Field  
Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
June 15, 2014

This space has been both the bane of my existence and my "creative" outlet for 10 years now.  Right now it's a grind for me to put words together.  It feels like homework and that's not good.  So, with this in mind, I'm trying to hit reset and basically took a month off from ranting about shows in this space. For those who care here's where I was during that time:
  • May 15th - Sammy Hagar with James Hetfield & Friends - Acoustic-4-A-Cure Benefit - The Fillmore, San Francisco.  Hetfield sang a Beatles song... Yeah.  It was definitely one of those "only in San Francisco" nights and it was for a good cause.  Oddly tickets were going for up to $500 via StubHub but Umlaut has a good friend who bought a ticket at face value only the week before via Ticketbastard.  Hmm...
  • May 17th - Scion Rock Fest 2014, Pomona, California.  I had a TON of FUN and it was cool hanging with friends. I finally saw Midnight but was disappointingly underwhelmed; they had a large crowd but would have been better in a smaller space IMO.  Orchid's first show ever in Southern California and they owned.  Saw King Buzzo solo for the first time and I was impressed.  Then I walked the streets of Pomona with him for a bit which was entertaining.  I missed Coffins but Windhand were my favorite band of the fest.
  • May 22nd - Black Cobra / The Cutthroat 9 - Slim's, San Francisco.  A satisfying evening of massive volume with my bros Jason and Rafa with support from Cutthroat 9 who feature Chris Spencer on guitar from the legendary Unsane and Will Carroll on drums from Death Angel.
  • June 4th - The Damned - Slim's, San Francisco. The band were great.  The hits were played.. but old Punk crowds are WAY more uptight than old Metal crowds.  Lighten up, Punks Not Dead.
Yes, all of these gigs should have made for interesting blog rants..  Anyway, let's attempt to hit reset, shall we?  Here we go...

The opening singer / songwriter was named Field who evidently is also the drummer for the guy who sings for System Of A Down when he does his solo thing.  Field did exactly what you would expect from an evening of "acoustic" music.  He sat on a stool with an acoustic guitar and sang as if the ghost of Nick Drake would anoint him simply for sitting on a stool with a guitar and singing.  Field's time onstage made me ponder that if Nick Drake had lived 'Pink Moon' likely would have disappeared into obscurity and never been used to sell Volkswagen.  Discuss amongst yourselves.. Anyway, before the show this happened downstairs:

The Mary Poppins Guitar
 [Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

Half of 7 Year Bitch were also downstairs, which was a nice surprise since I hadn't seen them in a long time.  Then Buzz went upstairs and set up his own gear.

I had seen the Buzz acoustic machine play an abbreviated set last month at Scion Rock Fest 2014 and it was an epiphany.  Seeing Buzz solo was like seeing the Melvins for the first time; I thought I knew what to expect but the reality was something different... and great.. and made me appreciate music in a different slanted way.  Buzz did exactly the opposite of what you would expect from an evening of "acoustic" music. He still brought the volume.

Buzz smartly opened his solo set with 'Boris' into 'The Ballad Of Bright Fry'.  These are songs that Melvins fans know well so they were old friends.. but the solo arrangements and interpretations made them new and engaging.  Alone on stage Buzz's guitar thunders and his voice booms.  Unlike with the Melvins, the words were as crushing as the chords. It was a revelation after having only known Buzz with an electric guitar in tandom with obliterating drums and bass all these years.  Buzz solo onstage was like having Thor slam the stage with his mighty hammer.  He also chatted with the crowd and told amusing anecdotes in between songs. Buzz was downright charming.

The songs off his brand new This Machine Kills Artist album work great in a live setting with 'Drunken Baby' being my fave of the night. Halfway through the set I moved to the back of the room to get another perspective.  I was struck by how completely Buzz filled the room with his voice and presence in a different way than his band does.  I've seen the Melvins more than a few times at the Great American and it was funny seeing only Buzz's hair onstage, but it worked.  It completely worked.  A very inspired and great version of the Melvins classic 'Revolve' closed out the 70 minutes and then it was Thankyouandgoodnight.

I didn't do a merch audit but there was a shit ton of Buzz merch for sale, only 2 of which were t-shirts.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  It's very, very cool that an artist who I've followed for so long can still engage me and remove my jaded view of things and crush it under his shoe.  King Buzzo does that. 

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Longest Day Turns 70

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of The Longest Day.  Last Fall, Umlaut accomplished a life long goal of visiting Normandy, France and the D-Day battlefields.  Calling the experience epic doesn't begin to do it justice.  Anyway, I have not been in a writing mood recently (which is why this space has been silent) but since a picture is worth a thousand words here are several thousand "words" on my pilgrimage: 

Sainte-Mère-Église [Note the tribute to Pvt. John Steele]
Sainte-Mère-Église.  This site is now a public restroom.... Awkward.
I stumbled into Carentan, France almost by accident.  If you've watched Band Of Brothers you understand why this was a big deal... Unfortunately, the plaque on the village's monument to the 101st Airborne was badly oxidized and hard to read.

 Dragon's Teeth - Juno Beach
This view is looking down on the Omaha Beach killing zone from the bluff where the Germans were entrenched in 1944.  It's now where the American Cemetery is located.

What I listened to while walking on Omaha Beach.  Maiden.  Always.

This is a panoramic shot of Omaha Beach taken from the water's edge and looking towards the bluff where the Germans were entrenched in 1944 and where the American Cemetery is now located.  I walked from the water's edge all the way back up to the top of the bluff.  Images from the dozens of World War II books that I've read since I was a kid and the scenes from The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan almost blinded my psyche.  It was one of the most intense experiences ever and was made even more profound because I was literally the only human on the beach... which tripped me out.  As my feet sank into the sand with each step I felt like I was walking on the souls of all the dead soldiers.

Two of Robert Capa's famous Omaha Beach photos taken in the heat of combat on D-Day.

 Master Of Puppets.. The American Cemetery - Omaha Beach

I have no idea....

Pointe du Hoc.  The ground is still scarred and misshapen from the June 1944 combat.  The ruins of old German fortifications are everywhere to climb into and feel the ghosts of war. 

How do you say Master Of Puppets in German?  The German Cemetery - La Cambe, France

An Unknown German Soldier

An Unknown British Soldier.. The British Cemetery - Bayeux, France

 German Hetzer Tank Destroyer... I think.

German Panther with a shell hole in the right side of the turret that probably killed it.

Operation Overlord Cookies.  Deliciously liberating!
The American Cemetery Visitors Center - Omaha Beach

This has been my obligatory June 6th rant.  On the way back to America, some pimply-faced World War II vets called me a fag.  I'm way behind updating this space with Metal and Lock 'N Loll stuff... Writer's block is a bitch.  Stay tuned and let's see if I get my word mojo back. Until then, remember and commemorate this day:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Lads Are Back In Town

Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
May 9, 2014

In the late-80's and into the early-90's I abandoned Metal for various reason; mainly because I was bored with it.  I gravitated toward other bands and genres that had loud guitars and one of those bands was Loop... along with their peers and rivals The Jesus & Mary Chain and Spacemen 3.  For the newbies, click HERE for a good piece on Loop, their history, and why you should give a shit about them (Note:  The link to a "Loop" Facebook page at the bottom of the article is wrong.. so don't bother visiting it.).  Tonight was just one stop on the band's first U.S. Tour in 24 years. 

Going into the show I felt like I was walking back into 1991 and I was very dubious about it.  When you see a band that you followed 20+ years ago you remember them through rose colored glasses.   The reality of seeing Loop here in the 21st Century had the potential to be a huge reality check bummer that could confirm that I was an old fart with no grounding in the present.  Thankfully Loop was not a bummer.. but they were a reality check.. but in the best way.  Also, in the room with me tonight were a couple of friends who I've known for over 20 years including one who introduced me to Loop (and many other influential bands) a couple of lifetimes ago when we were co-workers.  Yes, it was a full circle show for Umlaut.

As soon as Loop walked onstage and Robert Hampson picked up his guitar and filled the space with his THICK guitar tone it was like no time or days or years had passed since 1991.  I actually turned to my friends and held up The Claw... which you kidz normally display for a silly Black Metal band.. but to me it means the grip of TONE.  Then Loop here in 2014 cut the rope and dropped the room into their signature song 'Soundheads' and a figurative screwdriver was jammed into my skull for the next 10 minutes... and it felt good.  For the remainder of the night my head was shoved into a bucket filled with profound tone and volume that I rarely experience here in the 21st Century.  Favorite song of the set?  'Pulse', dude... 'Pulse'.  Yes, many bands are "loud" but few bands now are capable of harnessing "loud" and ride it like a bucking bronco.  Few bands wrestle with "loud" and bend and mold it as you would molten glass.  Even after all these years Loop can still do that.

 [Photo courtesy of English Bob]

Back in The Day when I'd see a band like Loop, who filled the air with atmosphere that would crush eardrums, I'd close my eyes and shove my psyche into their dark space.  I haven't done that in a long time until tonight... I suppose some might call it meditation or whatever Hippie Shit might define it... but for me I've only been able to do it in the presence of a great live band of the same mindset.  Loop are one of those bands for me.   A couple of lifetimes ago, Loop were one of the bands that showed me you could fuck people up with cerebral volume instead of simplistically elbowing them in a mosh pit.  In the mosh pit your body will get bruised... with Loop it's your mind... and the bruising is a good thing.

If you bought one of every Loop merch item you would have paid around $150 I think.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags.  It was life affirming to leave a show feeling truly inspired and reminded that some old shit isn't bogged down in narcissistic nostalgia.  Some old shit can still be relevant and youthful.  Then 96 hours later it was...

Skid Row / Black Star Riders
DNA Lounge, San Francisco
May 13, 2014

I avoided the "reunited" Thin Lizzy like it was the Ebola virus; I never saw them and it was on purpose.  How could they call themselves "Thin Lizzy" without Phil Lynott??  Blasphemy, right?  For the newbies:  The name "Thin Lizzy" was recently retired and the 2014 version renamed themselves Black Star Riders in order to continue playing music.  I applaud this move.  Peace in Rest, Phil.

Anyway, going into this show I felt like I was walking into a show that could make me feel very old and very disconnected.  As I've said many times in this space, seeing my old heroes can be a double edged sword... because how can my salad day memories of them live up to the reality of time and age?  Then again, I've also said many times that you should see your old heroes while you can because one day they will be gone.  However, I didn't decide to leave Casa de Umlaut for the DNA until literally only a few hours before doors; getting a late guest list confirmation will do that.

As the opening bands played I hung out and caught up with a few friends in the DNA's pizza parlor that is connected to the main room.  The space has turned into a nice element to seeing shows at the venue... and, holy shite, but Scott Gorham himself spent a couple of minutes hanging out in the pizza space as some backstage issue was sorted. I suppose it would have been too fanboy to have sent him a pizza slice.

I'll cut to the chase:  In order it was 'Are You Ready', 'Bad Reputation', 'Jailbreak', 'Rosalie', 'Emerald'... Then 'Cowboy Song' into 'The Boys Are Back In Town' to close.  In between they played some assorted Black Star Riders originals... most of which sounded suspiciously like Thin Lizzy songs.  However, I will cut them some slack especially since only 1/3 of the crowd seemed to know 'Bad Reputation'.... What. The. Fuck.  No matter... because when Gorham kicked into his solo during 'Bad Reputation' I looked over at my buddies and we all had the exact same look on our faces: "Fuck... Yeah.." Magic.

 [Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse]

It's not often these days that I have an epiphany during a concert, but I had one during Black Star Riders.  It specifically happened as Scott Gorham stepped up and into his solo during 'Rosalie'.  I realized that tonight was a case of THE SONGS transcending the moment.  No, it wasn't Phil Lynott onstage... but it was his lifelong band brother Scott Gorham... and that is the closest thing to Thin Lizzy that is possible here in 2014.  Umlaut generally loathes cover bands (sorry friends who are in cover bands... honesty is my only excuse..) and for all intents and purposes Black Star Rider are a cover band.  

However, magically, the old Thin Lizzy songs that brought Scott Gorham back to San Francisco on this Tuesday night are still all powerful and timeless.  I also realized how I've taken these Thin Lizzy songs for granted and I was surprised how emotional I got during the set.  Magic... and 'Cowboy Song' combined with 'The Boys Are Back In Town' are the greatest bar songs, like, ever.. and if the boys wanna fight you better let 'em.  I will also add that Mr. Gorham still looks and plays and performs like a badass muthafucker and does not look like he's 63 years old.  A Guitar God of the highest order.

Anyway, yeah... Skid Row.   I was never into them... but for some reason '18 And Life' became a closet fave song for Umlaut somewhere over the past 20 years or whatever.  A spoiler alert look at the setlist said it was the 5th song of the set... and they played it...  and then I was gone.  Yes, some would say I was misguided especially since right after I ducked back into the club Scott Gorham appeared and I could have "met" him again... but that's not the way this night played out.  No worries or regrets.  "Time is my crime.."

I didn't do a merch audit tonight.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. I would see Black Star Riders again in a heartbeat to bask in the warm youthful embrace of those old Thin Lizzy songs led by Mr. Gorham again.  I listened to nothing but Thin Lizzy the next day and pulled this out of the Umlaut Archives:

Gorham signed it for me in 1992 when he came through town with a band called 21 Guns... but I only went to their in-store appearance and not their show.. and I had completely forgotten about 21 Guns until right now.

"That jukebox in the corner blasting out my favorite song...  
These nights are getting longer and it won't be long... It won't be long...  
Til Summer comes and The Boys are back in town."

Thursday, May 08, 2014

May Day

Mastodon / Gojira / Kvelertak
The Fox Theater, Oakland, California
May 1, 2014

This was one of those rare all killer, no filler bills featuring 3 bands that fall into Umlaut's favorite category.  Attending shows at The Fox was made infinitely more surgical when Rudy's Can't Fail opened next door; pre-gig food and libations was never easier.  I don't know if it's merely a coincidence but it seems like guest lists always arrive late at The Fox.  I'm not saying this to slam anybody.. but it's odd.. but in the end everything usually works out fine.  If only all shows were this easy:

According to the Umlaut Archives this was the 3rd time I've seen Kvelertak.  Due to the slight Will Call drama and the early set time,  I missed the first song or two of Kvelertak's short 30 minute set... which was a bummer because I've come to be a huge fan of these Norwegians.  I always enjoy when an opening band takes over a stage and makes it their own and that's what Kvelertak did.  There was a decent crowd on the main floor to urge them on, but our pre-show meal was longer than their set.  Given the circumstances, I was just happy to have seen these warriors from the North again.  However, I did miss the owl mask which left me feeling empty.

According to the Umlaut Archives this was the 5th time I've seen Gojira.  The Frenchmen were as brutal as always and had more stage production than the headliner which was interesting. The set's 2nd song 'The Heaviest Matter of the Universe' was quintessential and the best I've ever seen the band lay it down.  Yes, their songs all tend to sound blast-beaty samey, but I admire how they can generate pit action that is as frothy as a café au lait at a Parisian cafe in the Spring.  Croissant 'N Roll!

According to the Umlaut Archives this was the 16th time I've seen Mastodon, which is hard to believe.  It's weird how trivia like that pops up after you've been following a band for 10 years.  They opened with the vintage 'Hearts Alive' and it reminded me there was a time when I was annoyed that Mastodon basically "borrowed" so much from Neurosis (song structures.. vocal stylings..).  I stopped short of calling it plagiarism because Scott and Steve of Neurosis both played on Mastodon albums.  If they didn't have a problem then neither did I and once I got past that I became a Mastodon fan.  Compared to past tours the staging was stripped down simple with no video screeens... but they did break out the lasers mid-set.  Tonight also featured a nicely compelling setlist that pretty much spanned the band's entire discography but did not include 'Blood And Thunder'... but did debut the great new song 'High Road'.  Speaking of "high".. there was alot of pot smoke being generated by the crowd.  Contact.  High.

If you bought one of every Mastodon merch item you would have paid around $350.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags.  As I was typing this I realized just how much I've been around Mastodon over the past 10 years and I had not really thought about it until now.  It's interesting how 16 shows in 10 years fly by just.. like... that.

[From the Umlaut Archives]

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Body And Blood

House Of Blues, San Diego, California
April 26, 2014

Ghost has been my favorite band for the past 2 years or so and sometimes the Rock Godz work in mysterious ways.  One thing led to another and I found myself in San Diego for the first time in several years and it wasn't for ComiCon!  I did not take this blessing lightly given the fact that Ghost are not visiting Northern California on this tour.

Before the show I had to wander over to the venue for a work related mission.  I must give a shout out to the pair of House Of Blues security guys (Terrance and another guy whose name I missed).  They went above and beyond assisting me despite the fact I didn't have the proper backstage pass yet.  The House Of Blues chain has a dubious reputation for being dogmatic with their "house" rules, but the attitude of these guys was very un-House Of Blues like... and for that I thank them and I hope this doesn't get them into trouble.   Long story short, a door was held open for me to enter and, among other things, I was able to witness tonight's ritual site being erected.

Exciting?  I guess so... but watching someone assemble a drum kit is about as exciting as watching someone put IKEA furniture together... but I admit I can be a jaded mofo.  Anyway, after doing what I needed to do for work it was off to a delightful pre-show dinner with great company.  Then we few, we happy few, made our way back over to the venue and up to the Will Call window.  If only all shows were this easy:


It's been an interesting ride watching Ghost over the past 2 years as they've gained momentum and attracted a worldwide following.   The first time I saw them I knew this was going to happen and I still pity those who can't suspend their jaded attitude and simply have F-U-N with a band.  Ghost reminds me how fun it was to follow a band when I was a kid and also makes me realize I can be a kid about a band again even at my age.  A band who sing melody soaked songs about Satan and who aren't afraid to create an air of mystery around themselves despite the fact that the Internet prevents anything from being a secret.  The killjoys can find out what Papa's human form looks like... but who cares?   So many of the Metal heroes from my salad days are aging or passing away now.  It's nice to simply follow a band that rekindles that sense of escapism which attracted me to Metal bands in the first place; for an hour or two I can forget about real life.  Anyway...

After watching a song or so of the opening band I was summoned via text for an audience with Papa Emeritus II and the Ghouls.   While I had met Papa Emeritus I several times, tonight would be my first audience with his successor.   Our meeting was as intense and cerebral as you can imagine and included Papa's observations on Star Wars toys and other sobering and profound subjects of the day.  Papa Emeritus II is a worthy successor to Papa Emeritus I and I came away feeling inspired and even more motivated to evangelize on behalf of Ghost. They say a picture is worth a thousand words... so here are 3,000 words about my meeting:

The most profound moment came when Papa Emeritus II said "We have met before..." to my associate, who had only met Papa Emeritus I previously.  I took this as proof that part of Papa Emeritus I still lives on in the being that is Papa Emeritus II.  Discuss amongst yourselves.  Amen.  Alas, our audience with Papa and the band had to end as they needed to prepare for tonight's performance.  Papa graciously bid us adieu with a handshake and a hug as we left the dressing room just as 2 nuns were being ushered in... Hmmm.

Seeing Ghost again gave me the shot of adrenaline that I needed in my Music Geek brain.  They are the Satanic Beatles.  They are the most F-U-N band here in the 21st Century.  It was interesting seeing them in a city they were visiting for the first time in front of an audience who were mainly Ghost virgins.  I glanced around the crowd during every song to watch the awestruck excitement on the faces of San Diego as they fell under the spell of this band.

 [Photo courtesy of Cable Car]

For the geeks:  The setlist on this tour has been mixed up nicely compared to last year's run. 'Ritual' is placed in the all important 2nd song of the set slot.   For me, the 2nd song of a band's set can be the make or break part of a live set... It's when an audience's excitement is still riding on the high of the band coming onstage.  This is the point when a great live band should take their audience to another level with a roundhouse kick song... and that's what Ghost did.  'Ritual' has closed the set on past tours; having it early in the set blew the roof off things.  Magic.

This night in San Diego was my 8th Ghost ritual since their debut U.S. Tour.  The crowd was a mix of Metalheads and, for lack of a better term, normal people.  The pit was more like a fistfight than a proper pit and that was good.  There were a pair of grey-haired older gentlemen standing to my right who looked somewhat out of place.  However, they were completely engaged with the show and stayed for the entire duration.  Evil has no boundaries even with age.

As the night progressed it was filled with other memorable moments.  The pair of nuns who we had seen backstage came out during 'Body And Blood' to offer sips of sacramental wine to the front row from golden goblets during the song.  Papa noticed a child with his parents in the front and told the crowd to "Look after the little one..." and then later berated a crowd surfer for ignoring these instructions. The return of 'Here Comes The Sun' (The Beatles) to the setlist and the inclusion of 'If You Have Ghosts' (Roky Erickson) could not make it more obvious where the musical roots of Ghost lie.  The rapturous reception and response to 'Year Zero' was godlike and the crowd / band interaction during the show ending 'Monstrance Clock' mirrored that song's lyrics profoundly:

"To the sound of The End of Days.. Mesmerized the assembled sway.. Black candles burn all minds aligned.."

It was a perfect evening.

If you bought one of every Ghost merch item you would have paid around $500.  On the way back to San Francisco, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  Anyway, haters are still going to hate on Ghost but I still love everything about them.  Besides, how many bands quote Goethe on their day sheets here in the 21st Century: