Showing posts with label Arizona. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arizona. Show all posts

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Gauntlet

The Gauntlet is one of Umlaut's favorite Clint Eastwood movies and also Umlaut's favorite movie set in Phoenix.

The plot is completely ridiculous but the finale is oh so METAL! Yes, Umlaut owns The Gauntlet on DVD and as we boarded Southwest Flight 686 I imagined myself as Ben Shockley returning to Phoenix.

Ludicra / Black Hell / Landmine Marathon / Nightgaun
The Underground, Mesa, Arizona
April 28, 2010

The saga of Ludicra's U.S. Tour is one of THE Metal stories of 2010 and I ranted about it HERE. However, even before the drama unfolded, Photo Ray and Umlaut had already plotted to be in Arizona for this bill featuring not only the undisputed headliners of The Bay Area Metal Scene (LUDICRA!) but also the mighty LANDMINE MARATHON! The fact that 2 of my favorite bands were sharing a bill made this road trip a no-brainer. However, after Ludicra's misfortune, the trip became even more important for Umlaut to be there simply to show support for bands who mean alot to me. Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Christians trek to wherever the image of Jesus appears in the bark of a tree or on a piece of toast. Umlaut goes where his bands are... because Metal (and Music in general) is as close to religion as I've ever experienced.

To quote *that* band: "Let the music be your Master... will you heed the Master's call?"

Our hotel was right out of No Country For Old Men and I hoped I wouldn't be pulling a bullet out of my leg in bloody bath water later that night. From what I was told, The Underground was a legendary Phoenix-area venue back in The Day and the fact that it recently reopened is a big deal. Very cool. Tonight's show was being held in the venue's basement gig space (appropriately called "The Basement"). The only buzz kill (literally) was that the venue doesn't have a liquor license, so Umlaut had to figure out something else to do during the show with his right hand instead of holding a beer.....

When we showed up at the venue the bands were shocked (or freaked out) that we'd made the trek, but I guess they still don't know who they're dealing with... Umlaut comes from the generation of Metalheads who had to WORK for their Metal. I was the nerdy Metal kid in the pre-Internet days who took a bus to a BART station and spent 90 minutes traveling each way just to visit a record store that MIGHT have a new import only 7" single or album by one of my favorite bands. No... I never called record stores to ask them if they had something in stock... The trek was part of the adventure... and now that Umlaut lives in a retarded version of adulthood here in the 21st Century that same mindset translates into how I follow bands. In my Inner Teenage Metalhead mind, it's perfectly reasonable to travel 800 miles to see two of my favorite bands in a basement club in bumfuck Mesa, Arizona. However, I guess I probably should have called first... My bad.

Best Quotes:
  • "What's San Francisco doing here??" - Christy of Ludicra
  • "You guys are insane..." - Ryan of Landmine Marathon
Nightgaun: Nightgaun belongs in that fraternity of Hardcore bands who have been playing basement venues like The Underground since time began. To be honest I lost interest after a song or two... but I think I would have dug them more if I could have had a fucking beer in my right hand. Sorry dudes... I know I was on your turf.. but Umlaut was thirsty... but not miserable.

Landmine Marathon: It felt like it had been years since Umlaut's Big Adventure with Landmine in Ohio and Texas, but it had only been just over a month. Time is weird, man. Also, this was my 7th time seeing Landmine and I've had to take a plane to 6 of those shows. WTF... Dude, they FINALLY played 'Steadfast Hate' with Umlaut in the room! It was the best 7 minutes I've spent in Arizona to date. EPIC. The vibe of their set was different than the recent Landmine shows I've witnessed, which had been out of town showcase deals in foreign lands. The vibe at those was different simply because Landmine was on the road as their self-contained combat unit out to fuck with any and all comers. Tonight it was about them detonating in front of a hometown crowd of friends. The energy was different in that there wasn't that nervous violence I'd witnessed a month earlier; Grace didn't kick any dudes in the nuts tonight. Since this was the middle of the week and a school night, instead of being fueled by on tour combat rage this set seemed more about Landmine using their time onstage as a catharsis for the bullshit of their real world week; like 40 minutes of volume therapy. Everybody's workin' for the weekend! I've said it before in this space: It's been cool watching Landmine perform under so many different circumstances and witnessing them be consistent in channeling their demons (or whatever) into mayhem that feels comfortable to me. They're like a noose of barbed wire around my neck that's about to give me that blast of enlightening silence. Landmine will be marching out on a U.S. Tour in June / July and they are the type of band who are more dangerous when they're away from home... So get in the ring, motherfuckers!

Black Hell: It was funny that I recognized the drummer as also being in the Phoenix band Sorrower; I think Umlaut has been around too many Arizonians recently. I wasn't familiar with Black Hell prior to the show, but unfortunately this was their final show. It was obvious they meant alot to the locals and I liked their retro Rock sound, which featured some excellent dual leads (LIZZY!) and strong vocals. For lack of a better comparison, they were like a more sober version of Saviours. It's a bummer this was their final curtain call, but it was cool I got to witness it... but a bummer they didn't have any merch (CDs / vinyl) for sale.

Ludicra: This was the final show outside of California for Ludicra on their arduous 2010 U.S. Tour; only 36 days previously Umlaut had witnessed what was basically the first show of the tour when the band supported and wiped the stage with Pentagram. Whereas Landmine Marathon were in their hometown comfort zone tonight, Ludicra were deep in their on tour combat zone. I was interested to see how The Undisputed Headliners of The Bay Area Metal Scene were channeling the drama and daily grind of touring (27 shows in 27 days!!) into their performance; I got my answer as the first notes of 'Stagnant Pond' kicked the set off. Having seen Ludicra at least a dozen times at home, it was an epiphany of sorts watching them destroy a crowd in a foreign land. The Arizona crowd was in the palm of their hand from the start and many seemed to know the new songs. When they launched into an old song like 'Veils' it was as if a landmine (pun intended) had gone off in the small room as the new Ludicra did the Wonder Twin Powers thing with the old Ludicra. Fucking mind blowing... and the Arizona crowd got some really nice pit action going; I can't remember the last time there was a pit like the one in this basement at a Ludicra show in S.F.. The crowd also pressed down front and it was cute to see a pair of young Metal girls with their arms around each others shoulders raging in unison in front of Laurie. Man, after weeks on the road Ludicra are performing at a terrifying level of precision now. Even via a basement venue's PA Ludicra's music transcended the average and approached something larger. Ludicra are the type of band who could change your life; their music is that cerebral and that violent and that beautiful... and that terrifying. Listen to their albums... see them live... DONE.

Then it was over... Two of Umlaut's favorite bands... on the same bill... in the desert. All that had been missing was a fucking beer in my right hand. Cheers to Photo Ray and to Lilia for the shuttle service. Cheers to Ludicra for being such a terrifying force on and off stage. Cheers to Landmine Marathon for including me in their desert violence and for being Umlaut Nation friends. Oh, and cheers to Metal Val for keeping a secret.

Landmine Marathon ... 1/5 of Ludicra... Umlaut..

If you bought one of every Landmine merch item you would have paid around $80. On the way back to San Francisco, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags... which makes sense I guess. On the local news the next morning they announced that Shakira was arriving in Phoenix to protest Arizona's new immigration law. In the rental car the next morning, Phoenix Rock Radio 93.3 played 'Arizona' by the Scorpions and Klaus & Co. said it all: "Arizona really was a gas!" ... but not in the same way that Belsen was a gas for the Sex Pistols.. I hope.

Maybe The Gauntlet wasn't so far fetched after all! I need to watch it again...

Thursday, October 01, 2009

800 Miles To Hell And Back

Kylesa / Bison b.c. / Landmine Marathon
Chasers, Scottsdale, Arizona
September 29, 2009

On the road again...

It seemed like it had been MUCH longer, but only 41 days had passed since back in August when Umlaut was scorched, blackened, burned, and left for dead by Landmine Marathon. Since then, the band's 2nd album (Rusted Eyes Awake) has been reissued by Prosthetic Records and they completed recording a new album that's slated for release on the label early next year.

Since that S.F. visit, Umlaut has struck up a friendship with Landmine and it only seemed *right* that I make a pilgrimage to their desert homeland to see them. Also, given the fact that the band is on the cusp of taking things to the next level, I thought it would be cool to bond with a band who weren't local and follow them on their march to glory. Joining me on this Metal adventure was Photo Ray.

The night before leaving for The Grand Canyon State, I consulted The Weather Channel app on my iPhone to see what Hell to expect in the desert: "Near record high temperatures. High near 105 F." However, in reality the temperature when we arrived was only a balmy 101 F... BUT we arrived on the day that a new Arizona state law went into effect that allows citizens to carry concealed firearms in bars and restaurants (with a permit of course). Our hotel was right out of No Country For Old Men and, since this was my first visit to Arizona, I hoped I wouldn't be pulling a bullet out of my leg in bloody bath water later that night.

Anyway, after getting jacked around by the GPS directions, we arrived at the venue to find a charming space nestled in a strip mall with a liquor store conveniently located right next door. Photo Ray and I agreed that we've become jaded from going to Metal shows in S.F. all our lives, where these days clueless tattooed hipsters show up simply because it's something to do and jaded old Metalheads show up to complain (guilty!). The Phoenix Metal scene felt like the S.F. Scene, only without the hipsters and the jaded; seeing a Metal show in a different city can put everything back into perspective. We were also bemused that while a club in the Arizona desert like Chasers maintained a comfortable temperature and good ventilation inside, certain venues in S.F. and its mild climate make their patrons suffer through sweat box conditions. Trivia: Evidently Neurosis played at Chasers in 1997 and someone was stabbed in the parking lot. Metal.

Soon after arriving we met up with the lady and lads of Landmine Marathon and shot the shit over drinks as the first band played. Even after all these years and following all those bands, I still get caught up when I first get into a band and their music. I still tend to put bands on a pedestal in my head and think of them as larger than life to a certain extent... so when I eventually meet the band I'm sometimes still surprised that they're just regular people. Yes, I suppose it's childlike, but part of being Umlaut is existing in a retarded state of adulthood... Anyway, long rant short, it was really cool to hang with Landmine before their set. They seemed shocked that Photo Ray and I had traveled from The Golden Gate Bridge to see them... but why wouldn't we? When The Rock Godz give you a task you must complete it. Hope I die before I get old.

Anyway, as I said back in August, Landmine simply detonate onstage; it's literally like watching a switch being flipped as the first note of a song is hit. Their cauldron of volume is bolted down solid by Matt (bass) and Mike (drums) with the firestorm around it created by the twin Jackson onslaught of Ryan and Dylan; I can't understate how magnificent this unit is and how confident their volume comes across... and igniting all of it is Grace with her vocals and chaos. Landmine onstage are a force of nature as Grace throws herself around the stage, into the crowd, and back onstage like she's a puppet on the strings of the band's volume.

The Mistress Of Puppets onstage in Scottsdale
(Pic by Photo Ray)

Landmine are genuine and remind me what Metal in its purest uncut form can be like... No bullshit.. No pose... Just Metal. My only concern is that due to the glut of crap Metal bands these days, the fact that Landmine are the real deal might get lost amongst the sea of crap that's out there. Not if Umlaut can help it.

Landmine's set included 4 new songs from the recently recorded new album... and the new material was full-on flame thrower stuff and it was cool how the band threw themselves into the new songs as if they'd been been playing them for years. That being said, my favorite of the set was their early classic 'Crisscross Thoughts', which has been coming up on Umlaut's iPod on shuffle unusually often recently.... Odd... or is it? Discuss amongst yourselves.

I've been through the desert on a horse with no name... but if that horse had a name it would be Landmine Marathon... 'cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain... or something like that.

How's THAT for random!? Sorry... It just popped into my head as I was typing. I can't explain it. Metal? No.. but I like the song. Anyway...

I'd seen Bison b.c. almost a year ago when they supported The Sword in S.F... but since we had barely eaten anything all day Photo Ray and I skipped out to find food. Unfortunately our options were very limited, but we did find "food"... although it was basically the equivalent of eating lead paint peeled off a wall and served on a bun. It wasn't the dinner I had been hoping for... but it did the job and we felt okay having drinks again once we returned to the club.

Another thing that made this trip worthwhile was seeing Kylesa since I wouldn't be able to see their S.F. show in a couple of days. Kylesa has become one of my favorite bands since I saw them with Mastodon back in April, which is funny since I had dismissed them 2 years ago. Their set was fucking great and featured a performance of their latest Static Tensions album in its entirety. It was obvious the band has been on the road for months and months; they were tight, self-aware, and confident.. like seasoned soldiers. The band's Prog elements managed to transcend the club's limited sound system and, as Photo Ray noted during the set, no matter what city or state you're in there's always some dude in a Pantera shirt trying to start a pit. However, the really mindblowing moment of Kylesa's set was when they encored with an awesome version of the vintage Pink Floyd song 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun'... HOLY SHIT! I was floored and then bummed that I wouldn't be able to see the band again on this leg of their tour.

As the dust settled and the club was clearing out, Landmine did a fun photo shoot with Photo Ray out back next to their styling van... and we also witnessed "The Grace Phenomenon" first hand. Fascinating.. THANKS to Team Landmine (Matt, Ryan, Grace, Mike, and Dylan) for the hospitality and Metal.. Twas a really fucking good time.. See y'all again soon!

The next afternoon Photo Ray and I killed time before our flight at the British Open Pub where we fought off a 45 minute block of Bon Jovi on the jukebox with pints. We were halfway there, living on a prayer.... wanted... dead or alive. On the way back to San Franfuckingcisco, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. This post is rushed... but I have to be on a plane again in about 7 hours. Umlaut is headed out for more adventures at the behest of The Rock Godz. No rest for the wicked, man.... no rest.

South Of Heaven

Click HERE for the exciting sequel: 800 Miles To Hell And Back REDUX!