Saturday, August 15, 2009

Prison Yard

Down / Melvins / Weedeater
The Regency Ballroom, San Francisco
August 14, 2009

When did they rename this place "The Regency Ballroom" from "The Grand Ballroom"? Also, I remember when this space was a movie theater; I'm pretty sure I saw James & the Giant Peach and The Hunt For Red October there. Anyway.....

The security check to enter The Regency was the most ridiculous in recent memory! They weren't allowing anyone to enter who was wearing a belt that even had the most generic studs on it; I know of at least one person who couldn't go in because, like, his belt was actually holding his pants up! WTF... Security is one thing, but common sense is another.. Mr. Security Guard wouldn't let me take my pen in (which I use to jot down notes for this space, but I guess in theory I could also use it as a shiv.. I guess..) and when he took it from me he said "This is a nice pen!"... Yes, he actually said that. I hope you choke on it, motherfucker.

Anyway, as we entered the main floor just as Weedeater were about to start, I wasn't paying attention and thought to myself "Hmm, there's quite of bit of room in the middle of the floor..".. Then I realized I was walking right through the middle of The Pit and almost walked into a shirtless, sweaty Skinhead dude who was pacing The Pit with that cocked pistol body language. It was kind of funny seeing a shirtless, sweaty White Boy stalking The Pit eventhough there was no band onstage.. but no worries. I sidestepped him and kept walking to the far side of the room. When you encounter a wild animal it's best not make any sudden moves.

Umlaut digs Weedeater and they played one of their classic sludgy sets that was highlighted by a nice sludgy cover of Skynyrd's 'Gimme Back My Bullets'. I think by the time they finished there had already been 3 fights on the floor, which was an indication of how the rest of the night would be. After Weedeater's set, I was walking back across the floor towards the lobby and almost walked into a guy being held up by his buddy as he puked. Woah, dude! No worries, I sidestepped him and kept walking to the lobby. Splish, splash.

Longtime readers (and by "longtime" I mean back to the xeroxed 'zine version of Umlaut) will remember that the Melvins were an integral part of Umlaut: The 'Zine... but that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. For the newbies, the mutual appreciation society between myself and the Melvins culminated in Drumb:

Drumb was a mini-'zine written by Dale Crover and included as an insert in Issue #10 of Umlaut. Pretty fucking cool, right?! Click HERE to download a PDF of Drumb.

According to the Umlaut Archives this was around the 35th time I'd seen the Melvins dating back to 1990-91; they were my favorite band for a long time, man. The current Melvins lineup of Buzz > Dale with Coady and Jared of Big Business is seriously great... and for the 3rd time this year my senses were assaulted by a guitarist wielding an all-metal guitar, with Buzz joining Steve Albini on a Travis Bean and Isis (who had their EGC axes).

I had a SERIOUS nostalgia trip when the Melvins launched into a classic double shot of 'Anaconda' > 'Zodiac'... and then they laid another oldie on the crowd with 'Hooch'. Wow... The Melvins were the main part of my soundtrack when I first moved to San Franfuckincisco a million years ago and it was really good seeing those songs live again. However, it was odd seeing the Melvins lay down their eclectic brand of volume underneath the massive Down backdrop, but a good portion of the crowd were obviously there to see them.

I think it's safe to say that many of the Melvins fans split before Down, but they were replaced by many Down fans who arrived late or who had been hanging out in the lobby. By the time Down came on the main floor looked and felt like a prison yard.

The floor (and upstairs balcony for that matter) was packed, especially after the Melvins finished, and it was one of those Regency shows where the only ventilation seemed to come when the doors to the lobby were opened as someone entered or left. The prison yard feel was ratcheted up by the gang of shirtless White Boyz who paced in a circle in The Pit even between bands. You know the type... Who let the dogs out?

It was a bummer that Rex Brown had decided to sit out this part of the Down tour (to deal with some "personal issues" according to the press release), so the aura of having 1/2 of Pantera onstage was missing. However, 'The Path' and 'Lifer' (the latter dedicated to Dimebag Darryl) were my highlights of the set, but by the time they hit 'Temptation's Wings' (my favorite Down song..) I was burned out from being in the prison yard's heat, pot smoke, sweat, humidity, and the sticky floor coated with spilled beer and puke.

Not long ago, Umlaut friend Invisible Oranges wrote something titled 'Love The Band, Hate The Fans' and it came to mind during Down's set. Although their NOLA album is one of my all-time favorites, I always forget how the band's crowd reminds me why I never embraced Pantera. The crowd had that same jockish meathead Friday Night Lights vibe that tends to feed upon itself with fan-on-fan violence.. Prison yard, man.

I tried to do an accurate gender audit of the crowd and I figure the Dude-To-Chick ratio was probably 95% dudes to 5% chicks... Which is funny to me because the Dude-To-Chick ratio at a Slayer show these days is more even; chicks dig Slayer. Discuss amongst yourselves.

That being said, there was a crazy number of Umlaut Nation friends at the show... so a shout out to Timo, Photo Ray, Joey, Rafa, Jason, Wexford Girl, The Bassist, DeVito, Photo Alan, Stacy, Sven, Jenn, Dan, and Nikki Blakk.

I'm getting really bad about not doing merch audits; I might just lay off of them for awhile. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. At some point this weekend I have to use my chainsaw (yes, Umlaut owns a chainsaw..) to trim back the branches on a tree in the backyard; I should take off my shirt and start pacing the yard in a circle to get in the mood Prison Yard style.