Tuesday, May 09, 2017

25 Years Ago Tonight

Backstage tonight in San Francisco in 1992.. Garth Brooks, Boyz II Men, and M.C. Hammer were ahead of his band in the Billboard charts that week. CDs were still sold in long boxes. The San Francisco Giants were 15-11 for the month and the Dodgers ended up finishing in last place that season. Dave Righetti was pitching for the Giants out of the bullpen.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

No Remorse

Metallica / Iggy Pop
Foro Sol, Mexico City, Mexico
March 3rd and 5th, 2017

Prior to leaving on this trip I traded messages with The Front Man and told him how seeing The Band in a foreign land has been on my bucket list for a long time (Vancouver doesn't count...).  Not long after arriving in Mexico City I saw The Front Man in person and we chatted about me seeing the band in a foreign land for the first time again... and then later that evening The Front Man dedicated 'No Remorse' to me in front of a sold out stadium of 70,000 Latin Americans:

"This one's for Brian!"  What. The. Fuck.  Later at the after show gathering back at the hotel, The Front Man came over to me and asked "Did you like that?!"  Fuck yeah, I did..  and my mind was blown for a couple of days, man.  It was the emotional highlight of what was an epic 5 days south of the border.

These shows in Mexico City were basically "warm up" shows for Metallica to road test the latest version of their ginormous stadium stage they'll be using in U.S. baseball and football stadiums this Summer. The venue site was massive and felt downright medieval at times. Evidently Foro Sol used to be the home field for the Mexican national baseball team, but now it primarily hosts Formula 1 racing events.

What made these Mexico City shows extra special was having Iggy Pop as the support act.  IGGY.  POP.  The fact that Iggy was on the bill, and it was NOT a festival, was a complete "when worlds collide" event for me. At one point before the 2nd show I wandered around the venue and watched Iggy's band soundcheck without him. When my iPhone took this picture the band was running through 'Gimme Danger' into 'Search And Destroy':

Oh yeah, and Henry Rollins was there hanging out with Iggy, taking photos, and just being Hank.  I've seen Iggy live around a dozen times over the years, but never in front of a massive crowd like in Mexico.  However, any doubts I had about Iggy translating to a massive Metallica audience disappeared during his sets as he worked the entire stage (He's 69 years old!).  He stormed onstage with 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' and kept it going for a solid hour each night.

Oh, and Iggy (He's 69 years old!) dove into the crowd each night.  When I grow up I wanna be like Iggy!  It's easy to forget how many songs he's written or co-written as hit after hit after hit kept coming.  'Lust For Life'.. 'The Passenger'.. 'Repo Man' (!).. 'Some Weird Sin'.. and of course Stooges songs like 'Down On The Street' and 'Loose'.  Hands down one of the best support acts Metallica has ever hosted.  SO GREAT.

As part of this tour, Metallica have curated a traveling museum of memorabilia that is displayed at the venue.  When I first heard about it I thought it would be lame, but in reality it's pretty fucking cool.

The hidden treasures of the exhibition are found in the road case drawers that are labeled simply with their contents such as "Cliff".. "Fanzines".. "Tour Passes".  When I opened the Fanzine drawer I had a pleasant surprise when I saw my old 'zine Whiplash displayed with issues of the legendary Bob Muldowny's Kick Ass Monthly and Ron Quintana's Metal Mania 

I had forgotten that one of my Hetfield photos was on the cover of that issue of Kick Ass Monthly back in 1984-85  Peace in Rest, Bob.

Get this, the traveling museum also contains the ORIGINAL artwork (aka PAINTINGS) for Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets!  Holy shit, right?!  I can't believe they're shipping these priceless items around the globe for fans to see.

At this point you can cue 'Wherever I May Roam':  Since I was at the venue early on the show days I killed time wandering around the venue, eating the catering food, and chatting with friends.. and walking past random shit like this:

At one point during the weekend I found myself on the other side of a room divider from the band's tuning room.  For awhile I was serenaded by the sounds of The Bass Player practicing by himself and singing his band's new (and excellent) song 'Confusion'.  Needless to say, I now have a difficult time listening to that song without hearing The Bass Player's voice.  Awkward.

I'm not being dramatic when I say these shows in Mexico City were life changing on a certain level.  I can be the most jaded mofo when it comes to this band, but seeing them in front of massive crowds in a foreign land was inspiring.  Metallica sold 200,000 tickets to these 3 shows.. TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND tickets in ONE city! 

The Latin American fans were not there to pose or sit in a VIP area sipping expensive drinks and taking selfies of each other.  Each night, 70,000 were there for THE MUSIC and their love of THE BAND.  I don't think you can have that kind of authentic concert experience on this massive scale in the States anymore, at least for a Metal band.


It's hard for me to articulate how passionate the Latin American crowd was towards the band.  Before they came on, and even between songs during the sets, the entire stadium would start a soccer-style chant of "Ole!! Ole! Ole!! Ole! Me-tal-lica!!"  At times during the shows you could feel the ground and the stadium itself moving as the crowd went bonkers especially during vintage anthems like 'Harvester Of Sorrow'.  In addition to the entire general admission stadium floor pogoing and going nuts, several times I looked up to the farthest, deepest part of the stadium and even the fans in the very back nosebleed seats were going off.  It was amazing.

On the 2nd night I was down at the front dodging thrown beers but getting hit by at least two.  When I turned around during 'Battery' this was the crowd action going down behind me:

How do you say "Battery is found in me" in Spanish?

I like the new Metallica album quite a bit and I like how the band has their swagger back again. 'Moth Into Flame' and its groove is one of my favorite Metallica songs already, and live it's even better.  As I said earlier, Mexico City was a warm up for the band and crew to dial in the stage, production, and set... and as such there were some minor awkwardly weird moments.  Such as during 'Now That We're Dead' the band formed a drum circle mid-song (each of them on a drum facing each other) and attempted a tribal vibe moment.  That sort of thing works for Neurosis but not so much for Metallica.  In Latin America it kind of, sort of worked because the culture there loves drums.  However, if it continues in the States this Summer I can see it being the bathroom break in the Midwest.  A drum solo is a drum solo. Honesty is my only excuse.. Anyway, kudos to the band for trying something different.

Despite the brief warm up gig moments, the band completely owned Mexico City.  No band is better or sounds as good as Metallica on a massive stage in front of a massive crowd.  I've said this before, the bigger the crowd, the better the band performs. For the Sunday show I wanted to experience the show from the middle of the seething metal masses so we made our way to the platform attached to the front of house lighting desk. My iPhone took this picture during the "Die!!  Die!" chant in 'Creeping Death':

I had an epiphany moment as I watched the 3rd show from the lighting desk.  As 'One' started I ducked off the platform to use a porta-potty located next to it for the crew and guests... and as I stood inside of it the song's intro pyro was going off outside.  Okay.. on second thought.. maybe it wasn't an epiphany but it was a surreal moment.. Being in a Mexican porta-potty as 70,000 people are losing it around you and stage pyro explosions and gunfire recordings from the PA are going off.  Metal.

Away from the shows, it was a reality check to see how so many fans camped out at the band's hotel hoping to get a glimpse of their Rock God heroes. It was a profound seeing fans who were not jaded, who probably don't read Blabbermouth, and who simply love THE BAND and THE MUSIC.  Pure and easy.  It was straight up inspiring seeing that kind of devotion again, the kind that I used to have a million years ago.  Latin America es mas Metal.  I should also say that, away from the shows, I had the best time hanging with friends doing stuff and drinking stuff. Epic good times.

Anyway, in the 35 years (!) that I've been following Metallica I've been fortunate to have witnessed many amazing moments.  On the 3rd and final night one of those amazing moments happened again as the first song of the encore:

Full circle amazing and I loved how this collaboration was unexpected but made complete sense.  The charisma and intensity of Iggy onstage was a contrast to him at the after show party back at the hotel bar.  Seeing Iggy wearing glasses, comfortably slumped in a big leather chair, laughing and chatting is an image I'll always remember.

Yes, this blog rant is about something that happened over a month ago, but better late than never I suppose.  To be honest, much more happened in Mexico City and my head has been too overwhelmed to attempt to document everything... Plus, real life shit meant I couldn't spend a lot of time trying to fill this space with words.  So, I've simply tried to capture the vibe of my Metal time in Mexico City with my favorite band.

Number of Murder In The Front Row fans who recognized me in The Snake Pit  during a show in Mexico City = 2.. Amazing! On the way back to the United States, some pimply-faced teenage TSA agents called me a fag. Who knows what other Metal adventures await over the next year now that Metallica are back on The Road.. 

All pictures courtesy of Umlaut's iPhone.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Baseball Über Alles

Since today is Opening Day of the 2017 Major League Baseball season...

After 13 years I'm struggling "creatively" to keep up with this space.  No, I'm not going to stop being Umlaut and I will continue to post here as the mood or opportunities strike me.  However, in order to keep things fun and interesting for myself I've now started to "blog" about baseball on a new site started by an old merch industry buddy.  It's called Baseball Über Alles!

A couple of things I've posted so far are:
Anyway, check it out if you're interested and especially if you dig baseball!  There's also an awesome Baseball Über Alles logo t-shirt available for a mere $20 via the store link on the site.  The logo concept was mine but my old merch buddy was the one who executed the great artwork.

Again, I will continue to post in this space now and then... so stay tuned.  I do have a couple of things planned when the time is right... and rants about gigs too.  In the meantime,  PLAY BALL!

 Full circle:  1987 to 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

35 Years Ago Today

On this date in 1982 I went to Tower Records in Mountain View, California with my best friend at the time and we bought this new album that came out today. 

We were already fanatical fans after finding the Killers album in the Tower import section a year or so before. I later found this Japanese import because I collected all my favorite albums on Japanese wax back then. Maiden are the band that made me forget about Van Halen. Four months later Maiden visited The Bay Area for the first time and it was game over, man.. Game over.

Anyway, 35 years today.  Crazy.. Hope I die before I get old.. and to quote the title song:  

"Just what I saw in my old dreams...  Were they reflections of my warped mind staring back at me?"

Maiden.  Always.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Strike Of The Beast: 15 Years Gone

Fifteen years ago today, Paul Baloff left this mortal coil at the too young age of 41. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.. so here are 2,000 words on Baloff. These photos were taken by the teenage me.  I took many photos of Exodus between 1982-85,  but these 2 images are my favorite ones of Baloff.

The Stone, San Francisco
March 5, 1983

Wolfgang's, San Francisco
July 11, 1983

Peace in rest, my old friend Pavel.

His legacy is forever and heavier than time.

Listen to the Bonded By Blood album and remember him.

Wolfgang's, San Francisco
January 30, 1984

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Restless and Wild

Slim's, San Francisco
January 21, 2017

Since the world is going into the shitter, it was nice to start this new year with this time machine show as a distraction.  It had been pissing down rain all week as well.  However, this only added to the atmosphere for what turned out to be one of the best shows Umlaut has seen in awhile.

As weird as it sounds, the last time Udo Dirkschneider visited The Bay Area was in 1993 with Accept.  However, before tonight he had never performed here as a solo artist, which is pretty mind blowing.  The first 4 Accept albums (Accept, I'm a Rebel, Breaker, and Restless and Wild) were hugely important to me as a teenage Metalhead and this show reminded me how sacred they still are to me.  While the vast majority of people only know the band from Balls To The Wall, I hated that song but that album was the first time Udo and Accept visited The Bay Area. 

[From the Umlaut Archives]

In San Jose back in 1984 we left after Accept played and skipped Saxon so we could make it back to San Francisco in time to see Megadeth at The Stone.  Those were the days, man.

Meanwhile here in 2017, Udo is playing a set of all Accept songs as a career victory lap, but I went into this show with zero expectations.  Although I had heard positive things about the earlier shows from friends on the East Coast, at this point you never know how it's going to be seeing your old heroes as old men.  Despite the storm outside, Slim's was comfortably filled... Not sold out.. but full enough that it felt good.  There were also a lot of old school Metal faces in the crowd as people came out of the woodwork for this special show.

Umlaut can be a very jaded mofo, but as Udo and his band took the stage I got caught up in the moment and moved closer to the stage than I normally do at Slim's.. and it was worth it.  Although I saw Accept back in The Day, they didn't play many of their early songs.  As a result, I'd been waiting since I was 17 to be in the same room as Udo as he sang Accept songs like 'Breaker', 'Son Of A Bitch', 'Midnight Highway'.. and he sounded great! Amazing.

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

There were some nice moments in the show where I felt like I was hearing songs for the first time again.  How did I never realize how punk 'I'm A Rebel' is before?!  I remembered that 'Restless and Wild' is one of my all-time favorite songs... and after all these years I was finally in the same room as Udo to sing along with him during 'Son Of A Bitch' on one of the greatest Metal lines ever written ("Cock sucking motherfucker I was raped!").  For the newbies:  The song was written about their record label at the time.

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

Udo's band was competent with his son playing drums... which was kind of weird since it was like watching 2 Udos at once onstage.  The guitarists lacked the defining Wolf Hoffmann tone of the original recordings, but they weren't bad despite their constant mugging and funny face-making.  Also, the sound tonight was one of the best I've heard at Slim's in a long time.  There have been many shows in recent years where Slim's has had the worst sound of any venue in The Bay Area.  Thankfully tonight someone had their shit together.  For those who care, this was the solid setlist from the show:
  • Starlight
  • Living for Tonite
  • Flash Rockin' Man
  • London Leatherboys
  • Midnight Mover
  • Breaker
  • Head Over Heels
  • Neon Nights
  • Princess of the Dawn
  • Winterdreams
  • Restless and Wild
  • Son of a Bitch
  • Up to the Limit
  • Wrong Is Right
  • Midnight Highway
  • Screaming for a Love-Bite
  • Monsterman
  • T.V. War
  • Losers and Winners
  • Metal Heart
  • I'm a Rebel
  • Fast as a Shark
  • Balls to the Wall
  • Burning
Four songs off the Breaker album.. Five songs off Restless and Wild.  Not bad.  My inner teenage Metalhead left the show feeling giddy.  Time travel does exist.  I'm still not a fan of 'Balls to the Wall' but tonight was the first time I didn't hate it.. but it was cool Udo closed with 'Burning' like Accept did in their glory days.

I completely forgot to check out the merch tonight.  It's weird how I don't care about that stuff anymoreOn the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags.  It's times like these that I'm glad I'm a pack rat with certain things, such as old cassette tapes like this one. 

Accept on the Restless and Wild Tour in 1983 in their homeland.  It's one of the best audience bootlegs I've ever heard.  The taper must have been in front of a PA stack because the sound is stellar and there's just enough of the crowd so you feel like you're getting elbowed in the face by drunk teenage German headbangers while getting beer spilled on you.  Time travel does exist.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Lived To Win

A year ago today. The teenage me will never be able to quite comprehend that I was invited to attend Lemmy's funeral and service. The adult me still can't quite believe they served guests shots of Jack Daniels in the lobby in Lemmy memorial cups.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Moonage Daydream

Okay, throw 2016 into that box and nail it shut.  Here's my obligatory final blog post for this year...  To start, here are my 3 favorite photos from this year:

PHOTO 1: Taken on January 10th at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles the day after I attended Lemmy's funeral.  After the memorial service at Forest Lawn the day before, Lemmy's ashes had been placed in his final resting place with only his closest friends and family as witnesses.  Before heading back to The Bay Area we returned to the cemetery to see him.  On the way in these Metal kids and their dog walked past us and it was obvious they were looking for Lemmy too... So I told them to follow us.  Lemmy's crypt didn't have a marker yet (it now does) so there was no way to know it was him.  The kids didn't expect this but I assured them it was Lemmy (we had confirmed the location with the cemetery staff upon arriving).  The kids and their dog then approached Lemmy and we stood back and this happened.

PHOTO 2: Taken on April 16th at 3132 Carlson Blvd in El Cerrito at the after show party following Metallica's Record Store Day in-store performance at Rasputin's Records.  The party was meant as a thank you to those who had contributed to the reissue box sets of Kill 'Em All and Ride The Lightning.  In the most epic homage to their Garage Days possible, the band rented the old Metallica Mansion from the current owner and had a production company stage the interior and outside in an old school East Bay Metal theme.  Words can't really describe how amazing it was to be back in that house with 100 or so guests, most of whom were old friends from back in The Day.   MANY old photos had been printed and placed in frames around the house, including the one I'm holding here.  It was taken in the Summer of '83 in that same room as Rich Burch (R.I.P.), James, myself, and a Canadian Metal buddy Gerald Yoshida raged while listening to an advance tape of Kill 'Em All.  At one point James was in the old kitchen (in the doorway behind us) and I grabbed this frame, tapped him on the arm, showed him the picture, and pointed to the next room.  He seemed to know exactly what I was asking (HAHA!) and this happened..  The two of us standing with that old photo in basically the exact same spot where it was taken 33 years (aka a million years) ago.

PHOTO 3: Taken on October 27th at Casa de Umlaut.  My Tommy and his Wing Kong brothers.  Just because.

As far as live music went this was my 2016:
For those who care, these are my 3 favorite non-gig posts from this year:
Obviously, David Bowie and Carrie Fisher leaving this mortal coil affected me.  When I worked at Lucasfilm a co-worker was working on a project in the photo archives and let me pick one photo to get a copy of on the down low... and this is the one I chose:

Yesterday,  I happened to be near the Lucasfilm / ILM campus in San Francisco and made a random stop.. and this was waiting for me to see:

Cue 'Leia's Theme'.

Anyway, that's it for another year...  As it's been in recent times, I haven't been "writing" in this space as often as I should..  but I'll continue to add to this thing as the mood strikes me in the New Year.  For those keeping score, this year marked the 12th Anniversary of me ranting in this space.  Crazy.

To quote Bowie:  "Freak out in a moonage daydream..."

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November 29th

Where I was tonight in 1982 in San Francisco: A band from down south returned to S.F. to headline their first show here on a Metal Monday night. Also on the bill was Exodus with KRK. The nervous headliners taped a note to a monitor to remind them what to say to the audience. Adorable, right?  

Afterwards at the hotel it raged late and I lied to my parents that I was crashing at a friend's house and would be going to school in the morning. 

I didn't go to classes the next day and instead hung out with the band all day in S.F. as they added a last minute 2nd show the following night at the Mabuhay Gardens as a benefit for Ron Quintana and his Metal Mania fanzine.

Stay in school, kidz.

Friday, November 18, 2016


My obligatory favorite band released their first new album in 8 years (!?) today.  Cliff was in the band for only 3 years and they wrote and recorded Kill 'Em All, Ride The Lightning, and Master Of Puppets in that time.  I know it was different times, the band guys were different people.. etc. etc. but still.

That being said, I haven't been this close to a Metallica album release since Ride The Lightning.  It all started 2 years ago when I was asked by the band to assist with the deluxe reissues of their first two albums and then being asked to be involved in a Spotify thing for the releases.  It was a trip being part of that historical process with a band who I've known since they only had a cassette tape demo out.  The Metal Godz work in mysterious ways.

Fast forward to almost 3 months ago and I was invited to hear the new Metallica album at their HQ in Marin.  I went straight from the airport after landing from a business trip in Dallas. I was running on fumes but when The Metal calls you must abide.. but at least it also included free pizza and beer.. but then I couldn't talk about it publicly until a couple of weeks ago... which was fine.

[Photo courtesy of Metallica.com]

Back in The Day an "album leak" was called an "advance tape".. but we still bought the album when it was released.  In those salad days we bought the album mainly to feel part of something.  The experience of going to a record store and holding the album in your hands, opening it, putting the disc on the turntable, and reading the liner notes during that first play bonded you with that band and that music.  I know, old man talking.. but we all interact with music differently now here in the 21st Century including me.  For the record here's how a Metallica album release day has been for Umlaut over the years:
  • Kill 'Em All - The Record Vault, San Francisco
  • Ride The Lightning - Tower Records, Mt. View, CA
  • Master Of Puppets - Tower Records, Mt. View, CA
  • And Justice For All - Tower Records Stonestown, San Francisco
  • The Black Album - A Record Factory, San Jose, CA
  • Load / Reload / St. Anger / Death Magnetic - I didn't buy any of these on day of release... 
  • Hardwired - Metallica website (for the deluxe CD) and Amoeba Records (for the indie only red vinyl) 
When Ride The Lightning came out I heard Tower Records in Mt. View had a copy in the Import section the night before release so I drove to the store at around 10:00pm to get it... and I still have it.  I couldn't wait a minute to get it  

I still have a vivid memory of walking into the same Tower Records for Master Of Puppets and being greeted by their full end cap display for the album and thinking "What the fuck.."  I had been going to that Tower for years discovering the music that changed my life.. and now a band who I knew (actually Metallica were the first band I ever became friends with..) were having an album release of this magnitude there.  Crazy, man.

Times have changed and trivial events like an album release are now something you can participate with on your phone while sitting on the toilet.  However, deep down inside my Inner Teenage Metalhead is still excited today and remembers when this was how a Metallica album release day felt and looked like:

In honor of my obligatory favorite band releasing their new album today: This is my old friend Rich "Bang That Head That Doesn't Bang" Burch (R.I.P.) outside of The Record Vault in San Francisco on the day Kill 'Em All was released.  From the pages of Ron Quintana's legendary Metal Mania fanzine.

Bang that head that doesn't bang, forever.  Forever..  and, yes, I do like the band's new album.  Quite a bit actually.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

A Year Ago Today

Someone once said to me how The Bay Area needed to stop "holding on" to the old Murder In The Front Row days and we needed to "move on" and "get over it".  Yes, they were historic times, but that was then and this is now, and we're living in the past blah blah.  For the record, this person was not from The Bay Area.

All I can say is for me personally I am not "holding on" to those days; THEY are holding on to ME.  Over the years many things and events have happened to me as a direct result of those old Murder In The Front Row days.  I am not religious, but there is a karma / mojo thing out there.  Here's an example that happened exactly one year ago today:

At the end of October last year I received a layoff notice from a business I had been a part of for almost 10 years.  Shit happens, things were changing.  I got it and I understood the reasons... but it did not lesson the feeling of dread of "What the fuck am I going to do now??"  I've been through layoffs before and they are never easy but somehow I've always found myself landing somewhere.  The last time I was laid off I literally didn't work for a year and that memory weighed on my mind.. because how often can lightning strike?  I am not a "career" person and I've never followed any kind of defined or traditional career path.  However, sometimes the Metal Godz work in mysterious ways.

Randomly, and only a few days after my layoff notice, an old acquaintance posted something on his social media.  I had met this guy a few years before when we met about possibly doing a collaboration between his company and bands who were clients of my old company.  Unfortunately, nothing panned out but we stayed in touch over the years.

His post was about how he had found a bunch of old Punk and Metal fanzines at a local flea market and one of them caught my eye and pulled me straight back to the Murder In The Front Row days. One of the 'zines he found was a 1986 issue of the legendary San Francisco 'zine Metal Mania done by my old friend Ron Quintana.  I had contributed to Metal Mania and I have all of the issues except one... and that one issue was part of this flea market find!  The issue is Ron's tribute issue to Cliff Burton after he passed away.  Only 500 copies were xeroxed and stapled together back in those sad days after Cliff was gone.

The copy even had a Record Vault price tag on it!

Anyway, long story short, I sent my acquaintance a message and asked if he could possibly scan or copy that Metal Mania for me.  However, in true old school fashion he offered to give it to me!  WOW, right?!  No ego.  No greed.  Old school.   Also, one thing led to another and I mentioned my current job situation, which I really didn't think anything more about at the time.

Fast forward and it had only been 16 days since I received my layoff notice and I was invited to the office of my old acquaintance for lunch and (as far as I knew) to pick up the old copy of Metal Mania.  We went across the street to a place to eat and I was prepared to have a mellow conversation catching up about things... but instead the conversation was about how he wanted to bring me on board with his company.  They didn't have a specific role yet but they could work with me to figure something out.


The gist of the conversation was that he believed shit happens for a reason.  My recent layoff, him finding that old issue of Metal Mania, and me contacting him about it felt like something was aligning.  His company was about to start growing due to new partnerships and he needed to ramp up his office staff with professional and qualified humans.  It was a fucking amazing lunch and one of those moments where my life literally changed unexpectedly.

Long story short, it took a few months for the company to be in a position to formally offer me a position.  However, in that time I was able to consult for a certain band on their webstore and I basically worked for them for a month at their Marin County HQ.  This was surreal in a full circle way and it was ironic running into The Frontman at the office and talking about Venom in front of his other employees.

Which brings me to today and it being exactly 365 days since that fateful lunch in San Francisco.  I now find myself working for an old Skate Punk and his company Super7 and our office feels like a secret club house instead of a traditional workplace.  I feel part of a gang and we're taking on the world... and we are in many ways.. and it's about to go next level for us in a good way. 

As I said earlier, shit happens.  Sometimes shit happens for a reason.. and sometimes things that were put into motion 30 years ago involving bands and a local music scene can still affect my life in a very real time, modern way.. and that's exactly what happened a year ago today.  It's almost like the ghosts from the Murder In The Front Row days are looking out for me.. which is comforting in a Metal way.

Bonded by Blood!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Thirty Years

Damn... 30 years ago today.. 10,950 days.  I wasn't going to post anything about this anniversary... but I decided I had to because.. you know... Cliff.

Thirty years ago today I was at home and it was a Saturday.  I got a call from my old friend Dave Marrs.  Dave had been an original member of the Metallica road crew from the first No Life 'Til Leather demo-era shows through the Ride The Lightning Tour.  I had not talked to him in awhile.  I was surprised he was calling me.

The next day I went and got the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle hoping there might be some mention of Cliff in the major hometown paper... and in the bottom corner of the general news section was this:

A very long time ago...

Damn, Cliff... 30 years!?  The first time I saw you play was when your old band Trauma supported Saxon at The Keystone Palo Alto.  I was up against the stage and when you were walking offstage I said something like "Great set!" and you looked down and thanked me.  Nine months later I met you before your first rehearsal with the new band and when the Danish drummer introduced us you said something like "I've been told about you!"   

Around a year after this we were at The Keystone Berkeley and Trauma were supporting Exodus.  When your old band played we both went to the front of the stage, because hardly anyone else was there yet, and we banged our heads practically by ourselves to your old bandmates.  You treated me like a friend from the first moment I met you... and I always appreciated how you treated me like a friend after that... even though I was just the nerdy Metalhead who wrote for those fanzines.

Anyway, cheers Cliff.  You will always be the Major Rager on the 4-String Motherfucker.

Photos by the teenage me:

"Bass solo.  Take one."

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The End

Oracle Arena, Oakland, California
September 15, 2016


Next to Motörhead the band that influenced me the most in this lifetime has been Black Sabbath.  In high school the jocks liked Zeppelin.  The normal kids liked The Beatles. I gravitated to Black Sabbath.  Sabbath pointed me towards the dark path, which hasn't been that bad at all.  This final Bay Area show tonight made me feel like that validated teenage misfit again.. In a good way.  Back in February I attended the band's show down in San Jose because it had been billed as "the final show"... but then they put this Oakland show onsale not long afterwards.  That kind of pissed me off and I didn't really think I wanted to see them again especially since the San Jose show had been amazing and perfect.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Casual Sabbath fans only focus on "Ozzy this" and "Ozzy that".  For me Sabbath has always been about the Hand of Iommi and tonight would be my 16th and final time being in the same room as him.  It should go without saying that Tony Iommi is my favorite guitarist.  Ironically the first time I saw Iommi live was only several hundred feet from tonight's venue in 1980 on the Heaven And Hell Tour.

Umlaut trips on full circle moments like this.  In 1980 I fell asleep in the stands during Journey.  Here in 2016 I was concerned about falling asleep on the BART train after the show.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Flashback to a couple of weeks ago and one thing led to another and the opportunity to attend this Oakland show with some veteran old Metal friends presented itself.  Sometimes the Metal Godz work in mysterious ways. First off, I was due to meet up with my concert buddies at Rosamunde in The Mission after work before heading to BART and heading under The Bay to Oakland.  I arrived early and one of the dudes who works there is a Metal guy who recognized me so we chatted, which was a nice way to start the night.  Then once my bros Chewy and Eric arrived we headed out.  However, I didn't get the memo because they were both wearing Thin Lizzy tees while I was flying Motörhead.  Awkward.  The BART ride was uneventful but I was inside the arena less than 5 minutes and miraculously ran into 6-7 old friends immediately.  METAL.  It was one of those shows that felt like a high school reunion more than a mere gig.

I've known these people since we were all teenagers going to Metal shows in San Francisco and the East Bay.  Oh Lord, yeah.

The final Bay Area performance of Black Sabbath started right around 8:45pm on this Thursday night on this fifteenth day of September in the year two thousand and sixteen.  The players known collectively as "the band" appeared onstage as the curtain fell with the unholy riff monster pounding darkness of the composition titled 'Black Sabbath'.. and for the next 2 hours or so we were given a final sermon by the band who started it all.

The San Jose show in February had been perfection with even the notoriously inconsistent Ozzy being strong of voice and not annoying at all between songs.  Tonight was almost a carbon copy of that show in the best possible way.  Having seen this final lineup twice before from up close it was actually a nice change to watch them from further back to appreciate the stage production and also the finer details of the great sound mix.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Tonight's setlist differed from January only by the exclusion of a song from that final new Sabbath album that I haven't bothered to listen to (yet).  So it was all old time songs performed in their original forms.  I still can't believe a Christian band hasn't covered 'After Forever' (yet).  'Hand Of Doom' was my favorite performance of the night.. but 'War Pigs' will always be my favorite song.  Watching the Hand of Iommi a final time in person was bittersweet but reminded me how music can be a time machine back and forth between moments in your life.  I know there are folks who crossed their arms and said "No Bill Ward, No Sabbath" which is unfortunate because the young gun drummer Tommy Clufetos plays like a young Bill Ward.  Geezer will always be the quintessential ying of Doom to Iommi's yang of Doom; the black vegan heart of Black Sabbath.  Ozzy is Ozzy.. Sometimes the worst example of Metal... but sometimes you're reminded how great he was and can still sort of echo.  Although he wasn't as chatty as at the past couple of shows, he was all business and his voice for this final Bay Area curtain call was strong.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Fourteen songs and then Sabbath said goodbye to The Bay Area (after) forever.  According to some Internets research the Ozzy-versions of Sabbath played 23 shows in The Bay Area (the 415, 510, and 408 area codes) between their first visit in 1970 to this year.  According to the Umlaut Archives I was fortunate to have witnessed 5 of these performances.  Given how good this final version of Ozzy Sabbath is it's hard to remember how profoundly Iron Maiden blew them off the stage at OzzFest 2005 even with Bill Ward in the lineup.  That being said it's awesome that Sabbath and the band's legacy is going to the finish line very strong.  Oh Lord, yeah.

[Photo courtesy of Timo's iPhone]

On the way back to my car via BART, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  Actually, a weird incident happened on the BART return trip when 2 other Sabbath fans and I were caught in a train that evidently was going out of service; I was still 2 stations from my final stop.   In typical BART customer service fashion no one responded to my intercom request when I pressed the button on 2 different "emergency" intercom speakers.  Finally one of the other trapped Sabbath fans simply pulled the emergency door release and we were freed.  Bizarre.. Then as I waited for the next train heading my way literally the only other person on the platform was a drunk guy who has a copy of Murder In The Front Row.  METAL.   Anyway, I eventually made it back to Casa de Umlaut safely.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Now I will say adieu and merci boucoup to Black Sabbath.  With Sabbath due to play their "final" show in December, who would have thought both Motörhead and Sabbath would cease to exist within a year of each other!?  My name is Lucifer.. Please take my hand.. one last time.

Oh Lord, yeah.