Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Rainy Night

Slim's, San Francisco
January 24, 2008

Slough, England is associated with two of Umlaut's favorite things in recent years: The original UK version of The Office and Gallows. Six months ago in this space, after seeing Gallows on the Warped Tour, Umlaut made this bold statement:

"I predict that within 6 months, hundreds of the Mt. View kidz who were strolling around the concession area while Gallows played will claim they saw the band at Warped 2007 (LIARS!!)."

Now, 6 months after that Warped show my prediction seems half-baked... Judging from the less than half full attendance at Slim's, the hype surrounding the Gallows last Summer has given way to the pathetic reality of Music these days: Alot of kids would rather wank off playing Guitar Hero than leave the safety of their futon to seek out new and meaningful bands in a setting where they might get punched.

(Trivia: Hey kids! The Gallows song 'In The Belly Of A Shark' is featured on Guitar Hero III...)

Umlaut is an old fart, but Gallows are the type of band I would have been fanatical about when I was in my teens: They are angry, genuine, and English. Hell, I'm practically fanatical about them now and I'm old enough to know better... Although I was able to see the band twice last year (at Warped and again in NYC supporting Bad Religion), the Gallows' debut headlining tour of the U.S. was still something for me to look forward to at the start of this year.

Of course, this night could easily have been "Stay At Home Night" for Umlaut, given the fact that the weather sucked and Miatomic had come over to Casa de Umlaut for a lovely dinner followed by quality hang time with Skychick and the Umlaut Menagerie. However, Umlaut is a professional and I rolled the Prius out of its docking bay a bit past 9:30PM. Thanks to Umlaut friend Ray for texting me which opening band was onstage so I could time my arrival as close to Gallows time as possible.

It's not often Umlaut finds a Men's Room urinal at a club covered in puke and blood, but that's exactly what Slim's offered me tonight; I'm guessing that isn't something the kids playing Guitar Hero have to deal with very often. Anyway, I thought that lovely image was an indication of how hardcore (dude!) the evening was going to be. I was wrong.

As the lads swaggered onstage and threw the opening punch of 'Friendly Bombs', the crowd should have erupted into a molten frenzy... but instead the "audience" was amazingly tepid. Was it because of the cold and rainy weather? Was it because it was a Thursday school night? I was, like, "WTF?"

It's not often that the singer of a band says "We played L.A. last night and I fell off the lighting rig and hurt myself badly...".. but that's exactly what Frank Gallows said to explain his unusually tentative nature onstage; he was in obvious pain. The confessional moment was punctuated by someone in the crowd shouting "C'MON ENGLAND!!!" and I half expected the punters to start whistling 'The Great Escape'.. but it didn't happen. Frank didn't look like he was in any condition for a kickabout anyway.

Later in the set, the band stopped 'Abandon Ship' to see why a guy was getting manhandled out of the club by security.. Frank was halfway off the stage to stop the injustice when he was informed that the guy had evidently punched a girl.. "He was fighting a girl?? I ain't getting off the stage for that.." said Frank.. and the band launched back into the song. Nice. If there's a song called 'Fighting A Girl In San Francisco' on the next Gallows album you'll know what inspired it.

Later still, and despite his injuries, Frank managed to leave the stage and climb onto the bar to sing the Limey version of Black Flag's 'Nervous Breakdown' and their own classic 'Sick Of Feeling Sick' (Umlaut's fave Gallows song BTW) . Umlaut has been seeing gigs at Slim's since it opened in 1988 and I've never seen anyone work the crowd from atop the bar before. Nice. Frank's quintessentially British sense of humor was in full flight when he incited the crowd to get a circle pit going after pointing out that the sign next to the stage only said "No Stage Diving, Moshing, Or Crowd Surfing" but it didn't say anything about "Jogging" or "Running"... Hilarious.

However, despite all of that tomfoolery from the band, I have to say again how tepid the crowd was.. If it hadn't been for the band's charisma and angry passion the show would have been pathetic. It was the type of show that separates the shite bands from the great bands; you find out alot about a band by how they react to adversity like injuries and a lackadaisical crowd. Gallows are one of Umlaut's favorite bands because, instead of pandering to a lame situation, they still attack their performance as if it's all they have to live for... and at this point in their lives that just might be true. A fookin' gleat band, dontchaknow.

Another positive to the evening was that Umlaut's Old Metal ex-patriot friend Brad was back in town from the Czech Republic and able to add his .02 cents (how much is that in Czech money?) about the gig just like old times:

"I couldn't help but wonder what the deal was with the passive crowd. A few light bumps that wouldn't count as fouls in a basketball game. I've seen harsher pits when Bjork played at The Polo Fields 7 or 8 years ago, and that was to an Army of Me remix.. Sheesh. Yeah, singer was in legit pain.. He may have taken a slug of something before hand, but he was clearly not able to give the performance he wanted to. Major props to him for standing on the bar, hanging by the chandelier.. 20+ years at Slim's shows and I've never seen that."

Thanks Brad.. Godspeed, you magnificent bastard.

Number of people wearing Iron Maiden merch = 1 (Umlaut.... dork!). If you bought one of every Gallows merch item you would have paid around $150. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. When I got home I ate a bowl of cereal and thought that my autographed Gallows poster will probably be just as "valuable" as my 1982 Raven autographed poster someday. That sound you're hearing is 95% of the readers of this space asking "Who?"

(From the Umlaut Archives)