Sunday, August 14, 2011

Exit Light, Enter Night

Eyehategod / Impaled / Brainoil / Laudanum
Oakland Metro, Oakland, California
August 12, 2011

The day before the show the singer for the awful 80's Hair Metal band Warrant was found dead. Yes, any early death is sad... but Warrant were everything I hated about 80's Metal; bullshit pose over substance. Anyway, rest in peace Mr. Cherry Pie... but going into this show I was pretty sure none of the bands would be doing a Warrant tribute. Back in 1993 this is where I was at while Warrant were blaming Grunge for ruining their career:

San Francisco - 1993
(From the Umlaut Archives)

I had not seen Eyehategod in a long time since I missed their last visit to The Bay Area a couple of years ago. You know I'm an Old Fart because I had to make some coffee before heading across The Bay Bridge to West Oakland. The Metro is an old warehouse space located a couple of blocks from the Port of Oakland... Some will call it a shit hole but I like it because it reminds me of the old dives and warehouse spaces where I used to see bands back in the 80's and early 90's.

Even after all these years, underground shows in Oakland still have a better vibe than most gigs in San Francisco. More grit.. More grime.. More edge. Parking karma was in effect as I found a space a half block from The Metro and the thumping from the band that was already onstage echoed down 3rd Street as I made my way inside.

Rather then only using the main stage tonight, the organizers used a rotating stage schedule that had the support bands playing alternately on the main stage and on a smaller stage next door in the art space. As I walked into the art space I was greeted by a wall of volume from a support band whose name I never confirmed.. but who were quite good. Note to bands: It really does work to your benefit to have your band name somewhere onstage while you're playing. Advertising 101. After watching most of the set I wandered down the hall and through the portal into the main room.

It was in the big space that Laudanum soon lowered their insanely dense curtain of darkness. The band were even more unrelenting with their message of Drone / Doom than I remembered... Laudanum is crushing; listening to them feels like having your soul obliterated... which probably isn't something most people want to experience... but I was cool with it because it was Friday night and I had a beer in my hand.

After the darkness of Laudanum I had to go outside to get some fresh air... and forgot about the rotating stage schedule until the start of Brainoil's set dragged me back into the humid and volume filled smaller room. Next to the headliner, the main reason I ventured to West Oakland was to see Brainoil again. The last time I saw them was over a year ago when they supported Shrinebuilder and in that time I've been consistently told by friends how the band have stepped up their game even more. The band has just released their first new album in 8 years (!) and as soon as I was back in the small room I was sucked into the Brainoil volume vortex.

(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

Brainoil's special brew of Hardcore and Sludge bleeds Oakland and the East Bay with every note... and watching them explode with an audience in a crowded and confined space is my quintessential type of live band experience. Sludgey riffs washing in and out of heavy grooves.. Their great new album (Death Of This Dry Season) compels me to be the messenger and say Brainoil are the best Bay Area Metal band going right now... There.. I said it. They were simply awesome.

With my head still ringing I stumbled back down the hall and through the portal into the main room where Impaled had unleashed their theatrically-tinged Metal on the night (tonight they wore matching blood-soaked smocks). As with Laudanum and Brainoil, it had been awhile since the last time I had seen Impaled. To be honest, after Brainoil's set my head wasn't really in the mood for Impaled. My head was still reeling from the sludgy pounding it had received in the smaller room and I felt a bit detached watching Impaled entertain the crowd; I kept thinking about Megadeth watching them tonight for some reason... Impaled were great as always, but my head was still swimming in Brainoil.

(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

As the main stage was prepared for the headliners, ZZ Top played over the PA and I wandered around the space checking out the merch tables... and chatted with Dave Ed of Neurosis about the band's new album plans (!). How do you know you're seeing a show in West Oakland? Because you cut in front of Matt Pike outside of the Men's Room to take a piss because he's moving too slow.

Eyehategod are one of those real deal survivor bands... and it's cool that they've risen from the ashes again with 4/5 of the "classic" lineup intact. The feedback wail of 'Blank' announced the start of the set and watching the floor erupt into classic East Bay mayhem reminded me how shows in San Francisco never match the crowd action of an underground show in the 510.

(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

Best quote: "You make San Francisco look stupid." - Mike of Eyehategod

A new song with the heavy handed title 'New Orleans Is The New Vietnam' channeled the still burning rage that obviously fuels Eyehategod here in the 21st Century. After over an hour onstage, the band came back out and pummeled Oakland for almost another half hour... and when it was all said and done 90 minutes of Louisiana Sludge had buried Oaktown.

Number of Slayer hoodies = 1 (mine). If you bought one of every Eyehategod merch item you would have paid around $60. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. All in all, not a bad night on the right side of The Bay seeing some of the darkest bands from my record collection; I need to make more of an effort to see shows in the 510 moving forward. On another note, The Black Album came out 20 years ago on this date (August 12th)...

Umlaut backstage with The Cowardly Lion - Black Album Tour - 1992
(Photo by Mike Meals)

Time flies when you're getting old... Exit light.. Enter night.