Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What I Did This Summer

I've said this before in this space: If you're one of those whose perception of Green Day is stuck in 1994 then bummer for you, man.. You might as well stop reading this right now. For the rest of you: Back in April, Umlaut got a taste of what was ahead with Green Day when they did a series of local sneak shows. IMO Green Day have evolved into The Who of their generation and Umlaut, like, totally digs them... If this loses me even more of my overrated cred with Metalheads I really don't give a shit.. 'cause I'll always have more Metal cred than you... seriously. My resume is available upon request, dude. However, if it helps, I will try to work in as many references to Goatwhore into this piece as possible.

Back in 2004-05, Umlaut's Stalking Tour Manager Doug Tour took in a total of 6 shows in 3 countries and 4 cities and this tour has already eclipsed that mark. It's been another magical Music Geek adventure living the Lock 'N Loll Magic here in 2009.

The exciting sequel to Road Trip! New Orleans > Houston > San Jose > Sacramento... Here we go..

New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, LA
August 7, 2009

The Big Easy: It's been a couple of years since the last time Umlaut visited Skychick's hometown. Number of Texans who thought I was a chick during our layover in Houston = 1. We arrived a day and a half in advance of the show to hang out with friends. This was Umlaut's 3rd post-Katrina visit and it's shocking how much damage is still evident as the 4th Anniversary of that disaster approaches. It's still obvious how much Katrina changed N'awlins forever and there will always be an underlying sadness about the city, which I find very compelling and even attractive...because I tend to like the dark side of life. Dog bless NoLa and its inhabitants forever, man.

I'm sure you will agree that 97 degree heat with 90% humidity isn't fun weather even when you're doing the Lock 'N Loll thing. Earlier in the day we drove past the arena and I must give props to the 150-200 or so kidz who were waiting in line for the GA floor in that weather. Hardcore.. although I have to say the Panzerfaust I saw at the World War II Museum that afternoon was even more hardcore:

Prior to the show we had an awesome dinner and cold beers with friends at Acme Oyster House in The French Quarter; me love The Quarter long time... and Go Cups are such a civilized concept! Thanks to Tour Manager Doug (TMD) for arranging for us to bring our dear NoLa friends to the show.. and a shout out to Alida, Cindy, Rachel, Kelly, and Mark. We watched the show from Section 114, Row 2.. Nice...

Tonight was the Kaiser Chiefs final night on the tour and Green Day really knows how to prank their support acts! Prior to the show, the Green Day camp hired a local N'awlins jazz brass band and as the Kaiser Chiefs started playing their hit 'I Predict A Riot' the brass band stormed the stage to play alongside the Brits as members of Green Day and their crew covered the stage with toilet paper from behind the backline... The Brits had no idea what hit them; a fantastic prank by anyone's standards!

Of course, this night was highlighted by our close encounter with sometimes N'awlins resident Benjamin Button... which was rather surreal. Click HERE for Umlaut's previous post about that paparazzi moment. Trivia: Benjamin Button drank a Stella during the show brought to him by his assistant and a Green Day crew guy brought Maddox one of Tre Cool's drum sticks. Also, TMD revealed he sat us directly behind Benjamin Button on purpose. Yes! However, this celebrity close encounter didn't really distract me from the show and it actually made the night that much more special... Although my water bottle was in the cup holder attached to the back of Benjamin Button's chair; I had to be careful not to spill water on him so his bodyguard wouldn't take me out.

It's been documented how Green Day has a connection with N'awlins.. and that was evident during the performance. The band's energy, especially Billie Joe, were jacked up a notch as they blazed through the set... and the crowd energy was at flood levels the entire night. Special. The show in short: Green Day played at The Superdome when it reopened in 2007 after Katrina. To honor N'awlins: They performed 'The Saints Are Coming' mid-set (a song they hadn't performed since The Superdome's reopening and Billie Joe said they would only play it in N'awlins..), added a bit of 'When The Saints Go Marching In' during the saxophone bit in 'King For A Day', and Billie Joe sang 'When September Ends' acoustic that led straight into the show closing 'Good Riddance'. The former song means alot to many Katrina survivors (Katrina hit on August 29, 2005) and the band had not performed it on this tour until that moment (Note: This was the only time the song was performed on the just completed North American Tour..). It was a moment when the music became transcendent, man... The emotions in the arena was thick enough to cut with a knife at that moment; I teared up. Magic.

One change in the set since the beginning of the tour was Billie Joe did a medley of METAL riffs at one point.. which was great because it was so unexpected. In N'awlins he did a selection of Van Halen riffs; I'd forgotten how cool 'Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love' sounds in an arena.

After seeing so many shows on one tour, my Inner Music Geek noticed little things.. Things like changes and tweaks in the stage production and the setlist since the first arena shows in July; visuals had been changed and some regular songs were switched around in the main setlist. The biggest change since the start of the tour was that the band was now switching up the setlist every night mid-set and also during the Billie Joe's solo acoustic portion of the encore; it made each show unique and more interesting.. Highlight: The previously mentioned 'When September Ends' > 'Good Riddance' emotional doubleshot to close the show.

New Orleans Afterwards: All Arenas Look The Same

Goatwhore are from N'awlins, but I think I might have been the only Goatwhore fan in the house tonight. Behemoth shirts = 1 (mine). On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. I have to say New Orleans was my favorite show of this leg of the Stalking TMD Tour... none of the other shows had the raw emotion attached to it IMO. Magic.

Toyota Center, Houston, TX
August 8, 2009

There was some flight delay drama at the New Orleans Airport the next morning and for awhile it was looking like Skychick and I might not make it to Houston. However, every once in awhile The Rock Godz give Umlaut a reality check... and in the end everything fell into place and we made it to Texas just fine... 'cause Texas is the reason, y'all.. but it did take us 6 fucking hours.

Prior to the show we had an awesome meal with friends at The Broken Spoke where they had Chimay Blue on tap (!); so civilized. Thanks to TMD for arranging for us to bring some Houston friends to the show including a trio of cool kids.. The 11-year old girl owns a pony and has a huge Rock Star Crush on Billie Joe... The 2 boys (15 and 16-years old) play guitar and *know* music... I was genuinely impressed to meet teenagers who don't play Guitar Hero or Rock Band but who wanted to talk about how awesome they think Metallica is and how they were thinking about learning to play the banjo. Those kids are gonna be alright! We watched the show from Section 107, Row 7.. Nice.

After seeing so many shows on one tour, my Inner Music Geek noticed little things.. Things like miscues with the production. In Houston, the thematic video during '21 Guns' didn't start playing until the middle of the song. I don't know, I found that interesting... Anyway..

One change in the set since the beginning of the tour was Billie Joe did a medley of METAL riffs at one point.. which was great because it was so unexpected. In Houston he did a selection of Mötley Crüe riffs and I'm pretty sure he also threw in ZZ Top's 'La Grange'. Note to bands: The easiest way to win a Texas crowd over is to play a ZZ Top riff and put a cowboy hat on.. It works everytime... 'cause Texas is the reason, y'all.

Highlight: A good solid set and they played 'Murder City' for the first time on the arena tour. However, the one thing that stuck in my head was how the crowd booed when President Obama's name appeared on the jumbo tron screen in between bands... and I found it ironic that so many Red State voters wanted to see Green Day. Hmm... Discuss amongst yourselves.

Other Goatwhore fans besides me = 0.. Nine Inch Nails shirts =1. On the way back to the San Francisco, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags... which kinda makes sense I guess. On the flight back to S.F. I was seated next to a WAY too chatty old man! In the time it took (1) For me to sit down next to him and (2) The plane to taxi from the terminal to the runway the chatty old man told me (1) He had just returned from Honduras (2) He was dismissive of technology such as e-mail and (3) His grandson plays chess. To which I said to myself "SHUT... THE... FUCK.. UP!!" However, since I have manners I shut him down by (1) Not responding with some personal trivia of my own and (2) Pulling out the latest issue of Decibel with Nergal of Behemoth on the cover and a full page ad for the new Suffocation album on the back.

HP Pavilion, San Jose, CA
August 18, 2009

Prior to the show Skychick and I ate at the New Orleans themed Poor House Bistro, which actually wasn't bad (usually N'awlins food outside of Louisiana doesn't cut it..)... and it brought Umlaut's August full circle in a way.

As we approached the Will Call window we passed a couple of Christian protesters with a bullhorn (YES.. Christians were protesting at a fucking Green Day concert!).. At practically the same moment we noticed TMD walking in the other direction attending to something, and as he passed the Christians he shouted them down with pro-Satan rhetoric. Watching TMD represent evil like that gave me a sense of deja vu back to when we were teenage Slayer fans; nicely done my brother! We then walked into the arena with TMD via the truck ramp and were able to spend a bit of quality time hanging in his office backstage eating cookies. Lock 'N Loll.

The Umlaut Nation was nicely represented at this show, so a shout out to Skychick, Teri, Timo, Jerry, The Man, The Sheriff, and Photo Ray. Thanks to TMD we were able to upgrade the concert experience for a 17-year old member of Teri's clan visiting from New York City.. Long story short: Green Day are his favorite band > front row seats > backstage > photos with band members. Awesome. We watched from Section 128, Row 1.. VERY nice.

The show in short: A marathon 3 HOUR homecoming set... WOW. During the main set closing 'American Eulogy' they threw in a bit of 'Homecoming'. They say a picture is worth a thousand words... so here are 2,000 words on the San Jose show:



After seeing so many shows on one tour, my Inner Music Geek noticed little things.. Things like miscues with the production. In San Jose, one of the pyro sparkler things during '21 Guns' malfunctioned a bit and burned longer than the others. I don't know, I found that interesting... Anyway.. One change in the set since the beginning of the tour was Billie Joe did a medley of METAL riffs at one point.. which was great because it was so unexpected. In San Jose he did a selection that included 'Master Of Puppets' and 'Stairway To Heaven'.

Highlight: A tough one since the entire set was ratcheted up all night due to the homecoming nature of the night, which included Billie Joe having his Mom come onstage... but I have to say the nightly one-two of 'Longview' > 'Basket Case' was especially great; the sequence featured a kid from the crowd onstage to sing 'Longview' who was then made to do a running stage dive accompanied by a drum roll... and as the kid hit the air some PYRO was blown and the opening riff to 'Basket Case' kicked in and the crowd's reaction blew the roof off the arena. Magic.

San Jose Afterwards: All Arenas Look The Same

Other Goatwhore fans besides me = 2 (Timo, Photo Ray). On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. This was Umlaut's 50th concert of the year; I've had a busy year, man.

Arco Arena, Sacramento, CA
August 24, 2009

In recent years, the only band I've made the trek to Sacramento for has been Slayer, because there's nothing like seeing Slayer in the cradle of California White Supremacy. However, I don't think White Power made an appearance at this show. Unfortunately, Skychick couldn't make this gig, so I was accompanied by Old Metal Tim for the 180 mile roundtrip to California's state capital. On the way we had to make a pit stop in Vacaville because we were starving and, for better or worse, chose Mel's Diner. The merits of that decision can be a subject of debate... but let's move on.

When Old Metal Tim and I got to our seats, I noticed the man next to me holding some photos and he soon made it obvious he was trying to get my attention with them since we were wearing VIP laminates... and I bit.. which was a mistake. The couple were the parents of the kid who Green Day pulled onstage to play guitar during 'Jesus Of Suburbia at the first show in Seattle. While they sat in the stands, their son was down at the front hoping to get pulled onstage again. To be fair, their kid was good during his 9 minutes of "fame" in Seattle.. At first I thought it was cool, since I'd witnessed their son's performance. However, the parents were acting like HE was a member of the band now. It was weird.. They had photos of their son taken with the band at a Meet & Greet.. a pic of him onstage in Seattle... I asked if he had a band and they said "No" and I realized I shouldn't have started talking to them; it was like talking to the parents of someone in a cover band. Thankfully the houselights went down at about that time and I ignored them the rest of the evening...

Old Metal Tim > Umlaut > Cover Band Parents
(Pic by Wexford Girl)

The show in short: GD played the 2nd longest set of the tour... a staggering 3 HOURS and 15-20 MINUTES onstage! Unbelievable.. Best moment: Billie Joe noticing a meathead causing trouble down front, going to the lip of the stage and getting the guy's attention and asking him what his problem was... and the meathead telling Billie Joe to fuck off... to which Billie Joe replied "Fuck ME?! Fuck YOU!!" and as the meathead was escorted out by security the arena went nuts. I had forgotten how Arco Arena is a bit smaller and configured differently than other arenas, which gives it a more intimate atmosphere than other big venues. Plus, the stands are PLYWOOD and during the show they were bouncing as the crowd went nuts and also allowed the crowd to make a deafening stomping sound with their feet. Dramatically awesome.

One change in the set since the beginning of the tour was Billie Joe did a medley of METAL riffs at one point.. which was great because it was so unexpected. In Sac he pulled out all the stops and did a Metallica medley ('Fight Fire With Fire' > 'Master Of Puppets' > 'One') as well as Scorpions ('Rock You Like A Hurricane') and Van Halen ('Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love' > 'Eruption'). Billie Joe can play guitar, dude.

Highlights: This show had even more a homecoming vibe than San Jose and the crowd energy was off the hook all night. A surprise bonus encore of 'Going To Pasalacqua' was great... as was the audible of 'J.A.R.' when Billie Joe noticed a kid at the rail holding a sign requesting it... but as at all of the shows on this leg of the tour I was blown away how GREAT the band's new songs sound in a big space; Arena Rock at its finest. Although the hometown area San Jose crowd was great, I have to say the band's hometown area Sacramento crowd was better.

The Umlaut Nation was nicely represented at this show, so a shout out to Old Metal Tim, The Man, Wexford Girl, and The Bassist. We watched from Section 119, Row 5... Nice.

According to the Umlaut Archives, this was my 20th Green Day show dating back to circa 1992 when I saw them in an art warehouse space at 18th & Mission in S.F.. Other Goatwhore fans besides me = 1 (The Bassist). On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. The heavy Sacramento Police presence that lined the streets on the way out of town was so unnecessary, but they gotta have something to do on a Monday night I guess.

Fuck all the non-believers: Green Day Rules. They are THE best live band going these days. No other band out there is throwing down 2 to 3+ hour sets every night with as much energy, unpredictability, good songs (and PYRO!) and the cross generational makeup of their fanbase now is cool to behold. Yes, my soul is Metal... but I always leave a Green Day show with a smile on my face.. and sometimes that's more important than Metal. It's a live experience that transcends being simply "a concert"; it's a life-affirming thing... and it's profound and rare to get that from a band these days.

So ends Umlaut's Stalking Tour Manager Doug North American Tour 2009... 10 shows.. 2 countries.. 8 cities. Europe next? Hmmm... THANKS as always to TMD for the hospitality! Keep it real out there... for The Kidz!

The Pot calling The Kettle black in New Orleans..

Speaking of The Kidz: The best part of this Summer was being able to expose some kidz to the Green Day concert experience for the first time. Seeing amazing Arena Rock shows changed my life when I was their age and, in this age of computer games and so many other distractions, it was awesome to see the look of awe and excitement all of the kidz had on their faces after the shows. I totally remember that feeling... Also, Green Day are the perfect entry level substance for young Music Geeks that can lead them to harder stuff; I'm already burning some Goatwhore CDs.

What did I do this Summer? I did missionary work for The Rock Godz.