Thursday, October 01, 2009

800 Miles To Hell And Back

Kylesa / Bison b.c. / Landmine Marathon
Chasers, Scottsdale, Arizona
September 29, 2009

On the road again...

It seemed like it had been MUCH longer, but only 41 days had passed since back in August when Umlaut was scorched, blackened, burned, and left for dead by Landmine Marathon. Since then, the band's 2nd album (Rusted Eyes Awake) has been reissued by Prosthetic Records and they completed recording a new album that's slated for release on the label early next year.

Since that S.F. visit, Umlaut has struck up a friendship with Landmine and it only seemed *right* that I make a pilgrimage to their desert homeland to see them. Also, given the fact that the band is on the cusp of taking things to the next level, I thought it would be cool to bond with a band who weren't local and follow them on their march to glory. Joining me on this Metal adventure was Photo Ray.

The night before leaving for The Grand Canyon State, I consulted The Weather Channel app on my iPhone to see what Hell to expect in the desert: "Near record high temperatures. High near 105 F." However, in reality the temperature when we arrived was only a balmy 101 F... BUT we arrived on the day that a new Arizona state law went into effect that allows citizens to carry concealed firearms in bars and restaurants (with a permit of course). Our hotel was right out of No Country For Old Men and, since this was my first visit to Arizona, I hoped I wouldn't be pulling a bullet out of my leg in bloody bath water later that night.

Anyway, after getting jacked around by the GPS directions, we arrived at the venue to find a charming space nestled in a strip mall with a liquor store conveniently located right next door. Photo Ray and I agreed that we've become jaded from going to Metal shows in S.F. all our lives, where these days clueless tattooed hipsters show up simply because it's something to do and jaded old Metalheads show up to complain (guilty!). The Phoenix Metal scene felt like the S.F. Scene, only without the hipsters and the jaded; seeing a Metal show in a different city can put everything back into perspective. We were also bemused that while a club in the Arizona desert like Chasers maintained a comfortable temperature and good ventilation inside, certain venues in S.F. and its mild climate make their patrons suffer through sweat box conditions. Trivia: Evidently Neurosis played at Chasers in 1997 and someone was stabbed in the parking lot. Metal.

Soon after arriving we met up with the lady and lads of Landmine Marathon and shot the shit over drinks as the first band played. Even after all these years and following all those bands, I still get caught up when I first get into a band and their music. I still tend to put bands on a pedestal in my head and think of them as larger than life to a certain extent... so when I eventually meet the band I'm sometimes still surprised that they're just regular people. Yes, I suppose it's childlike, but part of being Umlaut is existing in a retarded state of adulthood... Anyway, long rant short, it was really cool to hang with Landmine before their set. They seemed shocked that Photo Ray and I had traveled from The Golden Gate Bridge to see them... but why wouldn't we? When The Rock Godz give you a task you must complete it. Hope I die before I get old.

Anyway, as I said back in August, Landmine simply detonate onstage; it's literally like watching a switch being flipped as the first note of a song is hit. Their cauldron of volume is bolted down solid by Matt (bass) and Mike (drums) with the firestorm around it created by the twin Jackson onslaught of Ryan and Dylan; I can't understate how magnificent this unit is and how confident their volume comes across... and igniting all of it is Grace with her vocals and chaos. Landmine onstage are a force of nature as Grace throws herself around the stage, into the crowd, and back onstage like she's a puppet on the strings of the band's volume.

The Mistress Of Puppets onstage in Scottsdale
(Pic by Photo Ray)

Landmine are genuine and remind me what Metal in its purest uncut form can be like... No bullshit.. No pose... Just Metal. My only concern is that due to the glut of crap Metal bands these days, the fact that Landmine are the real deal might get lost amongst the sea of crap that's out there. Not if Umlaut can help it.

Landmine's set included 4 new songs from the recently recorded new album... and the new material was full-on flame thrower stuff and it was cool how the band threw themselves into the new songs as if they'd been been playing them for years. That being said, my favorite of the set was their early classic 'Crisscross Thoughts', which has been coming up on Umlaut's iPod on shuffle unusually often recently.... Odd... or is it? Discuss amongst yourselves.

I've been through the desert on a horse with no name... but if that horse had a name it would be Landmine Marathon... 'cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain... or something like that.

How's THAT for random!? Sorry... It just popped into my head as I was typing. I can't explain it. Metal? No.. but I like the song. Anyway...

I'd seen Bison b.c. almost a year ago when they supported The Sword in S.F... but since we had barely eaten anything all day Photo Ray and I skipped out to find food. Unfortunately our options were very limited, but we did find "food"... although it was basically the equivalent of eating lead paint peeled off a wall and served on a bun. It wasn't the dinner I had been hoping for... but it did the job and we felt okay having drinks again once we returned to the club.

Another thing that made this trip worthwhile was seeing Kylesa since I wouldn't be able to see their S.F. show in a couple of days. Kylesa has become one of my favorite bands since I saw them with Mastodon back in April, which is funny since I had dismissed them 2 years ago. Their set was fucking great and featured a performance of their latest Static Tensions album in its entirety. It was obvious the band has been on the road for months and months; they were tight, self-aware, and confident.. like seasoned soldiers. The band's Prog elements managed to transcend the club's limited sound system and, as Photo Ray noted during the set, no matter what city or state you're in there's always some dude in a Pantera shirt trying to start a pit. However, the really mindblowing moment of Kylesa's set was when they encored with an awesome version of the vintage Pink Floyd song 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun'... HOLY SHIT! I was floored and then bummed that I wouldn't be able to see the band again on this leg of their tour.

As the dust settled and the club was clearing out, Landmine did a fun photo shoot with Photo Ray out back next to their styling van... and we also witnessed "The Grace Phenomenon" first hand. Fascinating.. THANKS to Team Landmine (Matt, Ryan, Grace, Mike, and Dylan) for the hospitality and Metal.. Twas a really fucking good time.. See y'all again soon!

The next afternoon Photo Ray and I killed time before our flight at the British Open Pub where we fought off a 45 minute block of Bon Jovi on the jukebox with pints. We were halfway there, living on a prayer.... wanted... dead or alive. On the way back to San Franfuckingcisco, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. This post is rushed... but I have to be on a plane again in about 7 hours. Umlaut is headed out for more adventures at the behest of The Rock Godz. No rest for the wicked, man.... no rest.

South Of Heaven

Click HERE for the exciting sequel: 800 Miles To Hell And Back REDUX!