Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Home Team

Testament / Overkill / 4Arm / The Butlers
The Fillmore, San Francisco
January 30, 2013

The feeling of Bay Area pride that I felt in the air as I entered The Fillmore was thick enough to cut with a fictional knife.  It's been amazing to witness so many bands from back in the Murder In The Front Row days who have gotten a second (or 3rd... or 4th..) wind in recent years and come back stronger than ever.  Testament is one of those bands from the 415 / 510 who are now seemingly immortal here in the 21st Century.  The Butlers were already onstage and a lot of old friends were there early as well.

Umlaut generally loathes cover bands, but The Butlers are so good that I must admit I dig them.  The band features former members of such veteran Bay Area bands as Exodus, Jetboy, and Ruffians so their musical chops are as real as the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was a nice 35 minute warm up of Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, and Alice Cooper tunes.  Then the band played their trump card by bringing out their buddies Phil Demmel of Machine Head for UFO ('Shoot Shoot') and then Rob and Mark of Death Angel for Judas Priest ('Green Manalishi'!).   Dude, it was one of those only in The Bay Area moments!  I thought it was funny that the kid on the rail with the Machine Head back patch on his denim vest got WAY more excited about Rob and Mark then he did for Phil.  Kind of awkward...

Rob of Death Angel and Craig of The Butlers
[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

I spent the entire duration of 4Arms set in the upstairs bar getting some food / beer and quality hang time with old friends (Hail to Photo Ray, Cable Car, and The Behrhorsts!)... and then this happened:

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

Yes, Phil Demmel of Machine Head (and Vio-lence) carries around his copy of Murder In The Front Row with an old school written-on-a-piece-of-paper autograph hit list of people in the book.  His list is not just band people but also old friends and local Metalheads who are in shots.  So fucking cool... Murder is our yearbook.  Yes, I was on his list.  Anyway, meanwhile downstairs there was a Metal show going on...

Overkill...I'll be honest.. I've never been a big fan.  Although I do still have their original 1983 'Power In Black' demo tape that an East Coast penpal sent me back in The Day. Overkill are at 2/5 original members these days and they were good.. MUCH better than the last time I saw them. The had the crowd action going nicely all night especially during older songs like 'Wrecking Crew'.. and Bobby did have the best quote of the night with "Sweet baby Jesus in a Slayer shirt we've got ourselves a Thrash show!"   I couldn't have said it better myself... I guess.

It was the first night of the tour, which always means there will be some fine tuning needed.. but despite a couple of miscues Testament destroyed their home field tonight.   The 4 songs performed off their great new album Dark Roots of Earth fit right in with the older material; Testament are a machine of mayhem these days from their seemingly endless touring.  The vintage 'The New Order' was the highlight of the set for me but 'Practice What You Preach' was the quintessential moment when the hometown band became profoundly one with the hometown crowd.

Chuck and Greg of Testament
[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

It's still mind blowing watching Testament onstage with the legend that is Gene Hoglan sitting atop the drum riser.  The guy is the Cozy Powell of his generation and he never seems like he's phoning a performance in despite the fact he's playing with, what, 2 or 3 bands at the moment?  Drum God.  After the main set, and after a good chunk of the crowd had already left, Chuck Billy and the guys came back out for an unscheduled version of 'Over The Wall' that was not on the printed setlist.  Nicely done.. Home cooking rules! 

If you bought one of every Testament merch item you would have paid around $220.  My only question is why don't they have a simple logo tee?  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  Five days after this show the Niners returned to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years and lost because they couldn't score from 5 yards out... Ridiculous... but I'm sure Testament were okay with that since they're Raiders fans.