That was the human gridlock outside of our booth because of a Game Of Thrones thing that was literally 100 yards down the aisle. Comic-Con in Umlaut's world is basically just like any other tradeshow (meetings with partners, customers, and industry friends) so it could be far worse. At least it wasn't a plumbing tradeshow. Anyway, the Rock Godz work in mysterious ways and, miraculously, two of my favorite bands had shows in San Diego while I was there... which went a very long way to keeping me sane outside of the work stuff.
July 21, 2016
House Of Blues, San Diego, California
Slayer were participating in Comic-Con 2016 due to their comic collaboration with Dark Horse Comics with this show (I thought I heard $17 tickets were sold first to Comic-Con attendees) and a couple of autograph sessions at the convention. Metal.. Pretty cool, right?
Upon arrival at the venue there was no Will Call drama, but I didn't have a pass.. Which wasn't that big of a deal since it was such a small venue. However, one thing led to another and after a couple of text messages I found myself standing at stage right getting a bro hug from that old friend who I've known for over 30 years who now plays with Slayer at stage right.
I'll cut to the chase and say this was the best Slayer performance I've seen in recent years, certainly during the post-Hanneman era. I would need to consult the Umlaut Archives, but I can't remember the last time I saw SLAAAYEER in such a small venue (1,000 capacity). When I arrived the room was already packed, drunk, and the lack of ventilation made the floor slippery from the condensation and spilled beer. Perfect.. and the setlist was a SOLID 18 songs.. All killer. No filler.
Also, the stripped down stage with no production outside of lighting jacked up the vintage atmosphere as well. The songs and performance ruled on this night, with the band having a loose gunslinger quality onstage that fed profoundly off the drunk Thursday night crowd. On top of that, Tom was downright chatty between songs. Clearly, a happy Slayer is not a bad thing.. sometimes.
Adding to the old school vibe, a punter spit on Tom so he stopped the set to confront the asshole... which led to a guy down front getting beaten by dudes in the crowd and then dragged over the barrier to be tossed out. Hopefully it was the right guy and not some innocent dude... SLAAAYEER! The show was delayed another time because of the wave of drunken humanity coming over the barrier on the stage left side. A SLAAAYEER show should not be any other way and it made my heart happy that it can still feel like a dangerous place. The only Metal band that still matters? On this night I would say YES.
Oh... and this is what happens when your old friend flicks his pick at you after his band played 'Angel Of Death':
Seeing a show in a foreign city meant I had to "prove" my cred: On my way out, some smart ass San Diego Metal guy noticed my Maiden - 'Number Of The Beast' tee and pointedly asked me "What's your favorite Maiden song!!?" Without missing a beat I said "Prowler..." and kept walking and I heard him say to his buddies "I didn't expect that..." Fuck you too, dude.
After the show I literally tried 3 times to get a Lyft and Uber ride to go meet up with my co-workers, but all of them failed. I ended up going old school with a reliable cab and was informed Lyft and Uber drivers usually don't pick up from the House Of Blues after shows because they're afraid of trouble. Noted.
A perfect night.
Then 24 hours later it was...
Boris / Earth
July 22, 2016
The Casbah, San Diego, California
According to the Umlaut Archives, I hadn't been inside The Casbah since 1994 when I was on a brief California tour with the Melvins and Acid King. I realized I'm working for the right company when the common band between myself and 7 co-workers is Boris and we all geeked out that the band were playing while we were in San Diego. The anticipation for the show made the pummeling work day at Comic-Con that much easier.
The Casbah felt like entering a time warp back to the early-90's, when venues like this ruled my world; it felt familiar. Honesty is my only excuse and I have to admit I wasn't into Earth tonight... or at least my head wasn't into them. I spent most of their set leaning against the FOH area waiting for the Japanese to come onstage. Sorry, Earth.. It wasn't you.. It was me.
Shortly before Boris started their set, a guy in a wheelchair made his way to the front and everyone let him through so he could be against the stage in front of Wata. It was very cool and I ended up standing directly behind him with the the handlebars of his chair ending up on either side of me.. which ended up being both a blessing and a curse as the show progressed.
Tonight was the first show of U.S. Tour and for 90 minutes Boris leveled San Diego with their wall of volume and it was by far my favorite time seeing them. On this tour the band is playing their seminal 2006 album 'Pink' in its entirety and the crowd's familiarity with the material gave the night an extra boost of energy.
The crowd action got a little rough (I would say a 5 on a 10 scale) and it was a challenge a couple of times keeping the overzealous punters from crashing into my wheelchair-bound friend. I ended up teaming up with the guy standing to my right and we did our best to run interference, which ended up being really cool in that unspoken concert brotherhood way. We didn't say a word to each other all night, just helped out, and at the end of the set did the bro handshake and that was it. It was an experience that inspired me to remember that seeing bands live is still my favorite thing... next to Giants baseball games of course.
However, seeing a show in a foreign city meant I had to "prove" my cred: I was wearing a Motörhead - 'Iron Fist' tee and I know every other guy wearing a Motörhead tee thought I was a poser. Fuck you too, dudes.
After working the combat zone that is Comic-Con, with another 2 1/2 days to go, Boris was the exact kind of head cleaning I needed. Volume blasting the nerd slime from my brain. A perfect night. Following the show my co-workers and I wandered around looking for late night food and found some shitty, over-priced pizza place that served its purpose. We just had to ignore the nod time guy passed out in the booth next to us. Lock 'N Loll.
Since I no longer work in merch, I didn't do a merch audit. On the way back to the Bay Area, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag on the plane. For the record, the "best" costume I saw at Comic-Con 2016 was an overweight Hispanic dude dressed as a Japanese anime girl.. complete with short skirt and ankle socks. You can't unsee that level of wrong.