Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Nine

Slipknot / Deftones
San Jose State Event Center, San Jose, CA
October 23, 2009

Slipknot are another band who has crossed professional paths with Umlaut in the past. While I can't say I'm a huge fan, I do like their image and aesthetic... which translated well to this piece of merch that I made happen awhile back:

Umlaut... helping to swag up Rock Stars... one item at a time. Although that professional relationship has since run its course it was cool that it still earned me an envelope at Will Call.

The Events Center is just about my least favorite Bay Area venue. It's nothing more than a concrete sweatbox college gymnasium, but given its medium size (7,000 capacity) it's been hosting more concerts again recently. According to the Umlaut Archives, I've seen a good number of shows in the space dating back to 1991 (including Alice In Chains, Beastie Boys, Motörhead, etc..). However, given that it was a Friday night, this was a good excuse for a road trip with Umlaut's serious music journalist friends Photo Ray and Hard Rock Chick down to the valley of my birth.

After watching some of the Deftones set from stage right, we wandered backstage and ended up in the Catering Room. I helped myself to a cup of coffee as Slipknot's Jim Root held a meet and greet with a family on the other side of the small room. It was funny watching him talk to the kids and their parents through his mask, but I was taken aback by how nice and sweet (yes, sweet) he was to the kids! He posed for pictures with them and instructed them to hold their hands in The Claw so they would look "METAL!". He also made sure they got all the autographs they wanted and gave them a copy of the night's setlist (autographed of course). After Root left the room we realized that the kids were there because of the Make-A-Wish Foundation; one of the kids was terminally ill and obviously Slipknot are his favorite band. WOW... The kid, who was probably around 12-years old, got very excited when he saw that 'Duality' was being included in the setlist; I wanted to throw The Horns at him because he was so happy!

Not long after this drummer Joey Jordison entered the room and treated the kids with exactly the same amount of kindness. I seriously became a bigger Slipknot fan just from witnessing this interaction; it was beyond cool. The family was told the other band members would be coming to meet them shortly... but at that time we decided to leave and watch the rest of the Deftones set from stage left this time.

After a reasonable setup time between bands, Van Halen's 'Runnin' With The Devil' blasted from the PA and then the houselights went down and it was time for The Maggots to go off. Slipknot are a great live band and you can't argue with that despite what you might think of their music. Onstage they have great stage production, the nine members are non-stop mayhem, they know how to work a big crowd, and their fans are rabid; a Slipknot crowd is the type that sings along to every song while beating the crap out of each other... I watched most of the show standing next to the lighting guy on a raised platform that was just behind the soundboard. Before Slipknot hit the stage I noticed an odd effects board set up on the platform that had been taped off with a pentagram:

It was an odd place for an effects board, but I forgot about it once the show started. Then at one point midway through the show the lighting guy and another crew guy motioned for myself and the other VIP guests to move off the platform, so we stepped down into the empty row of seats just behind the platform. I couldn't figure out why they had us do this, but thought maybe they were going to blow pyro or something.

However, the next thing I knew the band's percussionists Clown and Chris Fehn had climbed onto the platform where we had just been standing after wading through the crowd from the stage! I still don't know what they did, but basically Clown fell face first onto the effects board I'd noticed earlier and proceeded to scream into a microphone as Chris stomped on the effects pedals on the board. Then Clown stood up, kicked the board away, and the two of them made their way back to the stage as the crowd around us went nuts... Then myself and the other VIP guests were allowed to return to the platform. Funny and bizarre.. but the fans loved it.. whatever it was...

I was actually really into the show for about half of the set, but then something hit that has happened to me every time I've seen Slipknot: I literally hit a wall and all of the songs started to sound the same to me... and the onstage action also took on a routine tone to me. Clown's riser would go up, other members ran around, Clown's riser would go down... repeat.. repeat.. repeat. At that point I decided to be proactive and shake my experience up, so I waded through the masses and watched the rest of the main set from backstage at stage left.

Since I was basically behind the PA from that angle the sound sucked, but I spent the time watching the sold out crowd go off. I felt envious watching the faces of the kidz at the rail who knew all the lyrics and who had that maniacal fan look in their eyes. I used to be just like them once a LONG time ago when I saw my favorite bands. I was envious how they were living in the moment and so caught up in seeing their Rock Heroes in person.. At this point in my life I'll never go off like that at a concert again. Hope I die before I get old.

The band played the double shot of 'Psychosocial' > 'Duality' which was by far the highpoint of the set for me since I genuinely like those 2 songs... and during 'Duality' I couldn't help but think of the Make-A-Wish kid from earlier (who was standing in front of me) and how excited he had been that they were going to play that song. As the main set ended, Joey Jordison came over to our side of the stage with a pair of drum sticks, pointed at the Make-A-Wish kid, motioned for him to come over, and handed him the sticks. It was beyond fucking cool and, again, watching Slipknot interact with that kid and his family made me a fan despite of how I might feel about their music.

At that point I decided to be proactive and shake up my experience again, so I moved back to the soundboard for the encores... which featured Joey's drum riser elevating 30 feet into the air and spinning ala vintage Tommy Lee.

As a finale Corey Taylor directed some nice crowd participation mayhem by having the crowd kneel down like him.. and then going off as the song kicked back in.

Note Joey's spinning drum cage.. kinda cool, right?

Number of shoes thrown in the air during Slipknot's set: I lost count at 12. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. A completely fun night, which we celebrated afterwards with food and pints at Gordon Biersch. However, as I type this I can't stop thinking about that Make-A-Wish kid and how last night was probably THE best night of his young life.. Perspective, man... Perspective. All the best, kid.. whoever and wherever you are: METAL.