The Warfield, San Francisco
April 18, 2014
Lemmy visiting San Francisco on Good Friday was very appropriate, right? Amen.
Thanks to Coachella's popularity and it now hosting 2 consecutive weekends of sunburned hipsters, San Francisco benefits by having some of its main bands spending the off week traveling the 500 miles north to play here as well. This year Lemmy, Phil, and Mikkey (as well as Graveyard) made the trip. Tonight was also #5 of only 6 Motörhead shows currently scheduled for North America this year. Special.
[Full disclosure: Umlaut also saw that other Coachella band Queens of the Stone Age the night before... It was around the 6th time I've seen QOTSA dating back to their club days but I'm not gonna rant about them here because there's not really much to say. The band was good and the show was ridiculously sold out to the rafters... but the venue (the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium) is awful. Arena Rock is alive and well.. but I could easily have stayed at home. At least I had some quality face time with friends. Anyway...]
Before heading over to The Warfield I sat with a couple of old friends at the legendary TuLan. Amidst the greasy spoon Vietnamese ambiance we had good food and a spirited conversation about the ironic brilliance of the lyrics and videos of Judas Priest. I wanna go hot rockin'! Then we few, we happy few, made the short walk over to the venue. If only all shows were this easy:
Tonight was sold out in advance and I'm sure many in attendance were motivated by the same thought: "This could be the last time..". Yes, a morbid motivation but if it meant Lemmy playing in front of an adoring sold out house then so be it. I'm still haunted by the memory of seeing what turned out to be Ronnie James Dio's final Bay Area show in this same room and it was not sold out. Blasphemy... so kudos to my hometown for showing Lemmy and Motörhead respect! I've been seeing them in this venue dating back to 1982 and I'm pretty sure they've played The Warfield more than any other Bay Area venue.
I finally *got* Graveyard tonight. I will admit that the last time I saw them 2 years ago I was completely bored and left early. Yes, I'm a poser but I'm also not above admitting when I'm wrong. Graveyard were awesome this time. There's something about Scandinavian bands doing American-style Rock that works better than most American bands. In order to play this type of Rock well you have to have swagger... and since Scandinavians in general have a natural swagger that's probably why around half the bands I like are from that region. Sorry America; the foreigners do *our* Rock better.
The backstage scene tonight was less crowded and more subdued than past Motörhead shows here. Yes, Matt of High On Fire, Phil of Machine Head, and Chuck of Testament were there to give it that local Rock Star flavor. There were also enough old friends with the right backstage pass who made being downstairs worthwhile since we could talk and not have to yell at each other to be heard. Old people problems...
Back upstairs at around 10:15pm the houselights went off and there was a legitmate roar from the crowd as Lemmy, Phil, and Mikkey walked onstage. There are not many bands with an aura of legend like Motörhead and I was taken aback how emo I suddenly got seeing them onstage again. I immediately geeked out that Lemmy was not playing his usual dark wood and elaborately carved Rickenbacker but was armed with an older, lighter colored Rick tonight. I wonder what happened to his weapon of choice?
Then Lemmy growled his standard introduction of "We are Motörhead!! And we play Rock 'N Roll!" and they launched into the vintage 'Damage Case'... and then proceeded to tear shit down with 4 more vintage classics in succession: 'Stay Clean', 'Metropolis', 'Over The Top', 'The Chase Is Better Than The Catch'. Yes, they're the same vintage songs the band has played on the last couple of tours but hearing them in the context of this time in the band's history made it a very special sequence. Also, midway through the set Phil Campbell said from the stage that The Warfield was the first place in the U.S. where he played with Motörhead.. which would have been this epic show:
Pretty cool, right?! Yes, Umlaut was there that night... and Motörhead had the legendary Bomber lighting rig with them. Epic only begins to describe it.
As the condensed set steamrolled towards its conclusion with a profound version of 'Killed By Death' I suddenly got caught up in the moment and panicked. I realized this could possibly be the last time I see Motörhead for at least a long time... 30+ years of fandom and worship exploded in my brain and, since I knew from experience what songs were coming next, I pushed my way to the front for the finale of 'Ace Of Spades' into 'Overkill'. I thrashed and banged my head like I was 17 again and yelled out the lyrics to the songs that changed my life a million years ago.
Throughout the set I felt that the crowd energy was on a higher level than other recent local Motörhead shows. Rather than it being mostly the expected older crowd, tonight's sold out house had a healthy mix of younger fans, many of whom who were probably seeing the band for the first time... and it was not my imagination that tonight's show was special. The next day the band's tour manager posted online how San Francisco had been "magic" and "one of the best shows ever" and the crowd had been "insane". IF this was the last time (at least for awhile... knock on wood..) it warmed my heart that San Franfuckincisco showed Lemmy and Motörhead such respect and adoration. The band and this city have a long history together.
Best quote of the night:
English Bob (to Lemmy as he walked past us after the set): "You rule, Lem!"
Lemmy (without missing a beat): "If I did I'd be a rich man."
HAHA, right?!! Lemmy still has it!! My hero. Always.
The sobering reality was that tonight was Motörhead's last announced headlining show in North America this year. This was around my 25th Motörhead show and who knows what the future holds. I just want to urge everyone reading this to see your old heroes now while you still can. No, it's not 1982 and, yes, the band is older but Motörhead were still great. I was down front at one of their shows again for the first time in a very, very long time and they turned me into that Teenage Metalhead again for around 70 minutes.
If you bought one of every Motörhead merch item you would have paid around $400. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. It is not an overstatement when I say that Lemmy and Motörhead completely changed my life in an almost supernatural way. Discovering Motörhead when I was an isolated teenager set me on a path in life that my Inner Teenage Metalhead could never have imagined. This EP was one of the first Motörhead records I discovered in a record store import bin circa 1981 and I was fascinated by the band photo:
They looked dangerous... and Heavy Metal.. and they were English. Yes, I still have that copy of this record; it's followed me through life all of these years. The first time I met Lemmy was in 1982 and I was completely intimidated... He was my hero.. and he still is... When I ponder and obsess about it, when it comes right down to it, Motörhead are my most sacred band. Born To Lose - Live To Win... always.
"The only way to feel the noise is when it's good and loud.."