Monday, June 02, 2008

48 Hours Of Back To The Future

Marty: "Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me that you built a time machine out of a DeLorean?"

Doc: "The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?"

Umlaut went back to The Future in a Prius:

Iron Maiden
Sleep Train Pavilion, Concord, CA
May 28, 2008

Question: Is there anything more degrading than standing around waiting for a band's guest list to show up at the Will Call window and hoping your name is on the list as promised?

Answer: Nope.

That being said, Umlaut was eventually sorted for his pre-arranged access to that magical place known as The Rock Concert... so let the magic begin:

Of course, the Umlaut Nation was out in force for Maiden.. So a shout out to Timo, Teri, Johnny, Dave, Richard, Raymond, Whitney, DeVito, and Eric CPA. It's reassuring when you're surrounded by friends and people you know at an event like this... It's, like, when you think you're alone because you're a freak, but then you realize you're not alone... and there are those around you who are just as twisted as you... METAL.

During the opening set by Steve Harris' daughter, I wandered backstage to find the rumored Hospitality Room for band guests. When I entered the room the only other guests present were 3 normal looking guys wearing polo shirts and 1 other normal looking guy wearing an FC Bayern jersey. I got a beer and started chatting with them; they were all Golf Pros and guests of Nicko McBrain (who is a fanatical golfer). Remember when you'd be backstage at a Big Rock Concert and the room would be filled with strippers? Me too, but not no 'mo, I guess. The guy wearing the Bayern jersey revealed that he wore it to "mess with" Steve Harris (who is a fanatical West Ham supporter)... Ooookaay... Dork.

For The Newbies: Bayern is a German soccer team. West Ham is an English soccer team. Cue the Maiden song 'Aces High'..

Maiden were due to hit the stage at 8:30PM, so I wandered back out to the amphitheater to stake out a place in the "Guest" area at the soundboard. When I arrived at the soundboard I noticed there were stairs behind it leading down to the venue's "VIP" bar... so I made a beeline for it. As I started to descend, a Security Guard who was probably fresh out of high school stopped me and said I couldn't go down there. I said "Uhh.. WHY??" and he said I needed a pass... So, I waved the ALL ACCESS PASS that was hanging around my neck in his adolescent face.. The kid then said "That's NOT a REAL pass... Where did you get that??"... and he turned to his colleague (another stupid kid) and asked if that pass looked real to him.. I was, like "WHAT THE FUCK..." and I asked them both if they had the xeroxed sheet of all the passes for the show that defined the type of access each pass gave. They stared at me blankly... At that point I wasn't going to argue with the stupid kids and abandoned my idea of visiting the "VIP" bar.

However, the stupid kids didn't try and stop me as I brushed past them and found a spot on the "Guest" platform in front of the soundboard to watch the show. Also on the platform was Chuck Billy of Testament and 2 guys who either were or are members of Exodus (I can't keep up with Exodus anymore... Is Baloff still in the band?).

Maiden hit the stage at around 8:40PM and I thought I'd gotten the worst of my Maiden Geekdom out of the way at the L.A. show in February; I was wrong. I will fully admit that I became a shrieking Maiden Geek as the 'Churchill's Speech' intro tape (accompanied by historical Battle Of Britain footage on the video screens) heralded the band storming onstage with 'Aces High' > '2 Minutes To Midnight'.. However, my Maiden Geekdom this time spiked during 'Powerslave' when Dave Murray and Adrian Smith went into their "doodle-lee-doo" dual guitar solo. Chills, man. Chills.

Best Time Management Moment: As Maiden launched into 'Can I Play With Madness' (a song from their late-80's sucky period that I cannot stand... keyboards?!), DeVito and I silently seized the moment and scurried down the stairs behind the soundboard to the venue's "VIP" bar to use the Men's Room; the stupid Security kids were now no where in sight to hinder us. DeVito and I then scurried back up to the soundboard just as the song was ending, thus missing the weakest part of Maiden's set. Fawkin' brilliant, right?

For the rest of the set I became fixated on watching my hero, the 52-year old Steve Harris, basically running wind sprints during every song: starting at the drum riser, sprinting across the stage parallel to the back line, and then along the front of the stage. There is a good reason why the man is a legend; no pussy Indie Rock band shows that kind of energy onstage. None.

After the houselights came up, a guy came up to me and said "I recognize you from your Old Metal pics on Flickr!" I was like "WTF..."... The guy explained that he had flown in from Florida for the Concord and L.A. Maiden shows because the band hasn't played in his home state in 12 years, and that he'd seen my Old Metal photos online. If he's reading this: Hey man, I forgot your name, but thanks for the kind words! The Internets can be a crazy place.

Maiden Geek Moment #1: After the show, I walked around a corner backstage and almost ran into the band's wardrobe cases... and then I noticed Bruce Dickinson's Trooper stage outfit hanging on a clothing rack. Then, while watching the crew tear down the stage after the show, I noticed the huge Mummy stage prop curled up in its storage case waiting to be driven to the next show. Cue photo ops both times.

Maiden Geek Moment #2: My NDA prevents me from divulging details, but the highlight of my entire day (No week... No month... No YEAR..) was being introduced to Steve Harris in the Hospitality Room... Steve Harris has, like, been my Metal hero since I was fucking 16-years old... Chills, man. Chills. Note: He's a bit shorter than me. Shocking.

Another highlight of the evening was when I was chatting with a guy backstage who was accompanied by his 4 teenage kids (3 boys and a girl) who were all sporting Maiden gear; I believe that the children are our future, teach them METAL and let them show the way. As he explained that his kids were huge Maiden fans, I realized he was *that guy* who directed *those movies*. Yes, you've seen the movies and, especially if you have kids, I'm sure you own the DVDs. A "Doh" moment for sure, like, totally.

Maiden 2008 Tour Picks (From the Umlaut Archives)

Types of beer offered backstage: Bass and Corona. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. I didn't do a merch audit, but as we entered the venue there were dozens of people lined up at the merchandise stand and they were all staring in stunned silence at all of the Maiden merch that was for sale; it was like they were at church and waiting for their turn at the altar... Ka-ching!!

Maiden... Always.

Then 24 hours later it was:

Arch Enemy / Dark Tranquility
Slim's, San Francisco
May 29, 2008

As much as I love Arch Enemy, I wasn't expecting this show to match the previous night's Maiden Metal Storm... but it did... but in a completely unexpected way:

I was standing at the soundboard and found myself staring at the back of a denim vest a kid was wearing... The vest looked ancient (older than the kid) and there were band patches on it that were incredibly vintage (Diamond Head, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Iron Maiden - 'Women In Uniform'..)... Then I noticed the kid's father standing next to him... He looked familiar.

After awhile the father and son moved closer to where I was standing... I watched them out of the corner of my eye.. Suddenly the father came up to me and started to say "Excuse me.. I was wondering if your name was Bri..." and I interrupted him and said "HANS!?"

The father was a guy from my original gang of Metal friends who I saw all of the early-80's S.F. Metal shows with.. I hadn't seen Hans since at least 1985!! Crazy... crazy... fucking crazy.

Hans' son is 17-years old and way into Metal... To the point where he's wearing his dad's old denim vest now.. and his Dad got back into Metal because his son found his old Metal albums in the basement several years back and asked about them.. Now they go to shows together. METAL: Is there anything it can't do? I kept tripping on seeing Hans' old Metal vest again, since mine is long gone.

Long story short, Rich Hellhound, Umlaut's best friend from HS and another Old Metalhead, was also in the house with his 18-year old son... so I guess you could say this show was the closest thing to a HS reunion Umlaut will attend this year. Time travel is a trippy thing, dontchaknow.

Also in the house was Timo, Johnny, and Raymond... as well as the guy who manages Machine Head, who Umlaut has known since back in the early-80's San Francisco Metal Days as well... It's reassuring when you're surrounded by friends and people you know at an event like this... It's, like, when you think you're alone because you're a freak, but then you realize you're not alone... and there are those around you who are just as twisted as you... METAL.

What? Oh yeah... Arch Enemy were good, but they were better the last time I saw them at The Warfield last year supporting Machine Head. They're the type of band who perform better on a big stage versus a club IMO; they're larger than life when the PA is bigger and the stage gives them more room to rage.

The Amott Brothers did rip it up good on their axes, and Angela commented how she'd eaten a burrito earlier in the day that wasn't sitting well with her now, and it was affecting her performance. T.M.I. or METAL? Discuss amongst yourselves.

If you bought one of every Arch Enemy merch item you would have paid $185. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. Umlaut can't remember the last time he was so tired after 48 hours of activity... Either I'm getting old or this 48 hours was that special.. I think it was the latter. METAL.

Footnote: Ironically, the Town Square set from Back To The Future was destroyed in a fire this past weekend.