Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco
Rocktober 4, 2010
It's hard to believe that it's been over 5 YEARS (!) since Guitar Wolf's last U.S. Tour and visit to San Francisco. The fact that original bassist Billy (aka Bass Wolf) died of a heart attack only 2 weeks after that S.F. show is still unbelievable; he was only 38 years old, man. In the years since, Guitar Wolf has been on hiatus for quite awhile until they reemerged last year with new guy U.G. on bass. The Bottom of the Hill was the final stop on the band's brief 7-city U.S. Tour and my anticipation leading up to tonight was off the charts.
By the time I got to the club the “Sold Out” sign was already posted on the door... and bummed fans stood around outside in disbelief.
Rookie mistake, kidz... If you wanna see a band really bad you gotta buy in advance. Anyway, as 11:00pm rolled around, the crowd was pressed down front and I was reminded how uncomfortable Bottom of the Hill is when it’s sold out packed… but I stood in basically the same spot as I did 5 year ago to witness The Beast From The East up close and personal again.
Number of beer bottles thrown onstage before Guitar Wolf came onstage = 4. Number of beer bottles that hit their roadie in the head before they came onstage = 1. There is more excitement in the first minute of a Guitar Wolf show than most bands have during their entire set! As they took to the stage, Seiji worked the crowd as U.G. and Toru (aka Drum Wolf) laid down a groove… Then Seiji put on his guitar, grabbed the can of Kirin sitting on top of his amp and slammed it, tossed the empty beer can into the crowd, held his guitar pic dramatically aloft… and then brought it down to hit his first chord of the night… and ALL HELL broke loose!! The Wolf was loose in San Francisco again!
Guitar Wolf and their fans detonate together like no other combination of band / fans; the only other mutual concert mayhem that I can compare it to is the Dillinger Escape Plan live experience. It’s simple chemistry: You mix an alcohol fueled and volatile Japanese Punk band with 250 of their alcohol fueled fans, jam them all in a small space, and ignite them with volume. The result is terrifyingly fantastic! At the height of the mayhem bodies were literally flying everywhere… Off the stage... on top of the crowd… and people were hitting the floor face first at an alarming rate as the set got crazier and crazier.
It’s hard to describe the Guitar Wolf live experience with mere words. I’m sure it's not unlike when World War II vets attempted to convey how combat against the Japanese was on Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima to civilians. Words are simply inadequate to describe the smells, the sweat, the fear, the crushing of bodies, and the volume of close combat with the Japanese. Every song of Guitar Wolf’s set was a Banzai Charge of leather jackets, sweat, and volume that ended up in our foxhole to impale us on its bayonet.
At one point, Seiji brought a dude onstage to play his guitar, which was pretty funny… but the guy could play and looked vaguely familiar; I wondered what band he used to be in... Then during the encore Seiji pulled people onstage to form a human pyramid (!?) which he then tried to climb. It was like he was trying to build a throne of Westerners upon which The Rising Sun could Lock 'N Loll.
(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)
As the human pyramid shenanigans went on and on, I realized that I was super dehydrated so I pushed my way from the front towards the back. I mistakenly thought the pyramid was as crazy (or as us Orientals say “Clazy”) as it was going to be for the rest of the set… but I was wrong! The human pyramid ended with an onstage brawl between U.G. and Seiji… and the night closed with the band spewing out one more song and leaving the stage… Only then Seiji returned to the stage alone to play solo completely out of tune. This went on for 10 minutes as the crowd thinned out as both band and fans admitted the battle was over; Samurai Seiji finally threw down his guitar and crawled offstage... another city conquered with sweat and volume. Thanks to Sensory Abuse for filling in the details.
Number of Motӧrhead shirts = 3. If you bought one of every Guitar Wolf merch item you would have paid only $15… because they only had 1 (ONE) shirt for sale. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. The best thing about seeing shows at Bottom of the Hill is that I can be home in 10-15 minutes... Lock 'N Loll!
Click HERE to see Photo Ray's shots from the night!