Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hometown Heroes

A Benefit For Marin Rocks
Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium, San Rafael, CA
September 11, 2009

It's been a pretty amazing year for Umlaut when it comes to Metallica. I came full circle with the band both as a friend and a fan which gave me a surreal sense of how life really can take you on weird adventures... If I hadn't met certain people 27 years ago... or if I'd gone to a different show 27 years ago... or if I'd listened to a different album 27 years ago.. or if I'd read a different music magazine 27 years ago.. I would not be in the place I am with Metallica today. For the newbies, click HERE for the back story on what I'm talking about.

This concert was a benefit for Marin Rocks, a local non-profit that plans to open a music center in Marin County to serve as a museum for the area's rich musical history (unfortunately alot of Hippie Shit, but that's cool I guess..) as well as a place that will serve to teach kids an appreciation of music and music history; a very noble and cool mission statement. It was cool that Metallica chose to support such a local cause since most of them reside in Marin and their families are part of the community.

Umlaut wasn't planning to attend the event due to the hefty benefit ticket prices, but The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways and a ticket came my way 48 hours before show time. Hail! Once I realized I would be attending, my Inner Teenage Metalhead started geeking out over (1) Metallica were playing in a small 1,960 seat venue (the smallest local venue they've played since their 2003 shows at The Fillmore) and (2) it would be a chance to see them on a regular stage versus the in-the-round stage they've toured arenas with for the past decade or so.

The tone for the evening was set as soon as we arrived in the parking lot: A dude literally chased us down to tell me that he and his buddy recognized me from back in The Old Metal Dayz... He then gave me a beer, so Timo and I hung out and chatted with them for awhile. Nice dudes... and in a twist of fate they were sitting directly behind me during the show! Metal.

We didn't want to watch the opening set by Moonalice, a band fronted by former Saturday Night Live / Hall & Oates / Bob Dylan guitarist GE Smith because they were definitely NOT METAL and it was *so* Marin that kind of band was opening, but whatever. Anyway, we hung out in the lobby bar and had some adventures there instead. It was a good decision since I ran into alot of friends and also met a couple of guys who had traveled from POLAND for the show.. POLAND! Crazy fans. Oh, a shout out to Timo, Photo Ray, Leah, Paschke, Vickie, Photo Alan, Tinman Bruce, Craig, Bret, and Harald O..

The mood in the lobby was so mellow that it was hard to remember this was a Metallica concert... I mean, you could buy COOKIES with your beer or wine at the bar.. Cookies with beer!? Yeah, I had a cookie with my Lagunitas IPA because I was starving.. but if this had been a Metallica show circa 1989 it would have been cookies with Jaeger.. I'm just saying. However, my mood quickly changed.

Umlaut had decided to wear his Anvil - 'Metal On Metal' shirt to the show just to see if anybody would acknowledge it since Anvil are the feel-good Metal story of the year. After purchasing my cookie and beer, a dude got my attention and told me my 'Metal On Metal' shirt was the best shirt he'd seen all day and said how he'd seen Anvil supporting Slayer in New Mexico in the 80's. Metal! Awhile later, I visited the Men's Room and fucking lo and behold but a dude directly in front of me in line was wearing... a 'Metal On Metal' shirt!!

Metal On Metal Twinsies

Hilarious, right!? We took a quick pic (for which the dude wanted to pose with his pipe) and then he proceeded to quiz me about Anvil! HaHa! "What's your favorite Anvil album??" When I answered honestly 'Metal On Metal'... He gave me one of those "Are you a poser??" looks and lectured me how Anvil's best albums were 'Forged In Fire' and 'Pound For Pound'... I defered to him.. but made it understood that I was, indeed, as Old Metal as him. After the show I spotted another dude wearing an Anvil shirt... but enough about Anvil.

When I found my 11th row seat, I was sitting next to a woman who was an über Metallica fan who had traveled from out of state. She told me almost right away this was her 18th Metallica concert... and then she asked me how many times I'd seen them. To be honest, I get uncomfortable interacting with über fans because sometimes they seem more concerned about bragging rights than anything else ("I'm a bigger fan than YOU...")... So I simply told her the truth: This was my 36th time seeing Metallica. She looked at me blankly for a second and said "Oh... wow.." However, she was wearing a shirt that said this on the back:


There is no other band that I'm more jaded about than Metallica, but as soon as the houselights went down and the band's standard 'Ecstacy Of Gold' intro tape started my Inner Teenage Metalhead slammed aside my Inner Umlaut Adult and took over my psyche as the hometown heroes charged onstage with 'Creeping Death' > ' For Whom The Bell Tolls' to open..

Creeping Death!

Fuck yeah!! 'Creeping Death' is the band's quintessential opener.. and whenever they put the song in the opening slot it makes their set that much better IMO. The band played on a bare bones stage with only a backline and drum riser; it was just like the Ride The Lightning Tour sans even a stage backdrop. It was stunning to see the band without their usual Arena Rock trappings and for one gig it was just about THE MUSIC again and not The Big Rock Show. Given the relaxed hometown vibe of the night the entire band was noticeably loose and on fire... Dude, I'm serious, the vibe from the band was so much like 1985 I got chills down my spine a couple of times.

Now when I say the show was "like 1985" I don't necessarily mean they played only old songs; although the set was heavy on old classics the band also pounded out 'Fuel' and 2 songs from Death Magnetic.. What I mean is that they performed like it was The Old Dayz again.. On this night Metallica played with a fire and energy that echoed those long ago magical Metal times, and because of that the setlist was elevated to another level not because of the songs, but because of the performance. Metallica on this night were the mightiest band on the fucking planet.
  • Creeping Death
  • For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • Fuel
  • Harvester Of Sorrow
  • Fade To Black
  • Broken, Beat, and Scarred
  • Cyanide
  • Sad But True
  • One
  • Master Of Puppets
  • Battery
  • Nothing Else Matters
  • Enter Sandman
  • Hit The Lights
  • Seek And Destroy
Something else that was profoundly amazing about the show was the band's sound. Normally Metallica has amazing live sound anyway, but within the small confines of this auditorium their sound was "crunchier" than at any other time I can remember since the Ride The Lightning Tour... Everything had more of a "bite" then the band's usual Arena Rock mix.. and, when you combined that with the fact the venue was basically the size of a college lecture hall and the band onstage was Metallica at the top of their game, it made for a special and epic night.

As I type this my voice is still hoarse from singing; I haven't sang along to Metallica in concert since Cliff Burton roamed The Earth, man... but it felt right to do it at this show. I can't say enough about how old school the vibe was in the room.. My favorite song of the night was the brutality of 'Harvester Of Sorrow'... "Anger... misery... you'll suffer unto me.. Harvester of Sorrow.... language of the mad..." Fuck yeah... but the sequence that sent things over the edge was the bludgeoning 1-2-3-4 punch of 'Sad But True' > 'One' > 'Master Of Puppets' > 'Battery'... Go ahead and read that again... I know, right?! Holy shit. The old school vibe of the night extended to Kirk's solo spot, where he included the riff from the Tygers Of Pan Tang song 'Tyger Bay'... NICE!

Speaking of The Lead Guitarist: His performance in Marin was even more on another level than the rest of the band.. His trademark solos were even tighter and his breaks during 'Master Of Puppets' and 'Battery' in particular really pulled those songs from the past and into the present as his solos seemed to be exorcising demons all over again for the first time. My Inner Teenage Metalhead almost lost it.

During the thunderous version of 'Enter Sandman' that closed the main set I finally admitted to myself that I've been in denial about Metallica for a long time. When it comes down to it I have to admit, more to myself than anyone else, that Metallica are my favorite band... I simply have too much history with them to deny it... Sad but true... and the next morning I had a very cool message exchange with The Lead Guitarist that only supported this epiphany. Also, I've gone off a couple of times in this post about how the show felt like it was 1985 again.. Well, The Lead Guitarist said that it felt the same way from the stage! So there you go; it wasn't just my imagination. Metal.

If you bought one of every event merch item you would have paid $240. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. They say a picture is worth a thousand words... so here are 1,000 words about how epic this show was (Thanks to Umlaut Nation friend Rob for sending this over!):

Marin Metal

After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge back into San Franfuckingcisco, Timo and I stopped at our go-to late night Mission stop Taqueria Cancun for much needed food. The night ended with fantastic parking karma, a typically excellent burrito, and then a quick run back to Casa de Umlaut.

Epilogue: Umlaut was woken up at around 4:00AM in the morning by a rare and unexpected thunder and lightning storm... The Rock Godz send their messages in mysterious ways sometimes. Cue Ride The Lightning.