Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Half Empty Half Full

Rob Zombie
San Jose State Event Center, San Jose, CA
November 3, 2009

Prior to this show Umlaut's afternoon unfolded like this: Bought the limited edition version of the new Slayer album on the day of release > hellacious rush hour traffic going towards San Jose > coffee pit stop (latte!) > my favorite old skool San Jose taqueria (Super Taq!) > easy free street parking 2 blocks from the venue.

I was into White Zombie for awhile back in The Day (Remember when they played the DNA Lounge? Me too..) but after Rob Zombie went solo I became more of a fan of his style rather than his music.. I like his whole Horror aesthetic alot, but I can only say I like maybe 3 of his solo songs.. maybe 2. The only reason I wanted to attend this show was to see what kind of extravagant show Zombie would stage... However, the overriding thought in my head going in was how this was the 2nd time in 2 weeks I was visiting the Event Center for a gig after having only been to the venue once in the previous 14 years (!). Remember when White Zombie headlined the Event Center in 1995 with Babes In Toyland and the Melvins supporting? Me too.

As we entered the venue, the next thought in my head was "Wow, this place is really empty..".. and it really was empty! Unlike the sold out Slipknot show a couple of weeks ago, the bleachers of the Event Center had been pulled out to fill up as much of the floor as possible and 1/4 of the seats on either side of the stage were blocked off by curtains; sure signs of *light* ticket sales. However, even with these optical illusions in place, it was obvious the Event Center attendance was not ideal; my guess is around 2,500 in the 7,000 capacity space, which surprised me. It was empty to the point where they were actually taking down 1 of the only 2 merchandise stands BEFORE the headliner came on because the lobby was basically a ghost town... and the show was so empty an usher AND a supervisor guarded a pile of vomit while a mop was retrieved...

WTF!? Guarding a pile of vomit?! This was a CONCERT for dog's sake, not a mall! Vomit is a concert hazard that dates back to the dawn of time, but that's the kind of slow night it was at the Event Center. Also, there were literally no kids in the audience! I know it was a school night, but it was still very weird and it gave me the feeling that I was at a Classic Rock show... with an *older* act whose best creative days musically are in the past playing for an *older* audience wanting to spend an evening reliving their past.

That being said, Rob Zombie and his band know how to work a crowd and John 5 is one of my favorite guitarists to watch perform. The stage production featured cool video graphics, the familiar 10-foot robot from past tours during 'More Human Than A Human', and raised box platforms at the front of the stage that Zombie, John 5, and bassist Piggy D. used constantly to interact with the front row and beyond... and, despite several problems with his mic during the first half of the set, Zombie's onstage charisma is still undeniable.

Now, with that being said, despite the charisma and the confidence, Zombie has always lacked songs... There, I said it. The majority of his songs tend to have that same electro-rhythm sample running through them that makes the songs more *Dance* than *Metal*, which I guess is the whole idea. Eventhough this was my 3rd time seeing him solo since White Zombie disbanded, to my ears Zombie's songs sound dated here in the 21st Century. I just kept thinking how this was Classic Rock for the Affliction crowd now... Although it was funny watching how old hits like 'Living Dead Girl' and 'Dragula' seemed to make all the women around me, and some of the guys, want to jump on the nearest stripper pole.

It's interesting that for most of the past decade, Zombie has become more well-known because of his films rather than his music... and I think the attendance tonight reflected this change of focus. It actually might be a relevant career move for Zombie to follow the Anvil live model and stage shows that feature a screening of one of his movies followed by a live performance by Rob Zombie: Rock Star. I'm not saying that Umlaut would pay to see that, but it would be a credible way for him to combine his two worlds so he's not playing in front of a half empty college gymnasium again.

If you bought one of every Rob Zombie merch item you would have paid around $420. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. Given the number of great shows Umlaut has seen this year to date, I have to say this was not one of them... but it was still an extremely easy and fun night... and ultimately that's all that matters... AND I had the new Slayer album to listen to on the drive home!