Monday, May 17, 2010

Men At Work

Portal / Sanguis Imperem / Dispirit
Thee Parkside, San Francisco

May 15, 2010

As soon as this show was announced everybody knew it was going to be one of those sold out beyond packed shows on 17th Street... and it was. San Franfuckincisco was going to be only the 2nd city in the U.S. that Portal would play on their debut U.S. Tour. Yes, the band from Australia with the singer who wears a clock on his head like a helmet onstage. Metal as Theater!

Morbosidad had dropped off the bill so Dispirit were able to play a longer set. Dispirit's appearance tonight caused almost as much of a buzz in the local Metal Scene as the headliner. The lineup features John Gossard of the legendary S.F. Black Metal band Weakling (a band that also featured Saros drummer Sam Foster) and their live appearances have been practically non-existent to date. Dispirit delivered a Doom laden 50 minutes, played in complete darkness aside from some candles placed at the front of the stage, that included an astounding 20 minute closing song. Their set featured Umlaut standing practically on top of the band's smoke machine that was set up at stage left.

During the set I realized that I haven't inhaled that much smoke machine exhaust since probably 1983 at The Stone. It was a solid set by another excellent local Metal band; the Bay Area Metal Scene is so strong with so many good local bands right now it's frightening.

Before I go any further I want to say that I hate The Internet sometimes. As Sanguis Imperem played several of us received text messages that Ronnie James Dio had died... but he was not dead! Wendy Dio posted this on RJD's official Twitter not long afterwards:

"Don't believe the rumors, Ronnie is still hanging in there!!!" Hugs, Wendy Dio

Fuck The Internet for spreading false news! It put a real buzz kill on the show... but unfortunately Ronnie James Dio did pass away hours later... but the premature annoucement was so disrespectful. However, with that dark cloud of reality hanging in the air, seeing Portal's darker than black vision of Metal was appropriate tonight.

Out on the patio in between bands Umlaut had lively conversations with some of his favorite local musicians on topics such as the 33 1/3 series of books and, of course, the magic and power of Dio. It's rare that I can have a conversation with different people who are all just as in awe of someone as much as Umlaut, but that's the level of reverence that Dio earned. Thee Parkside was a veritable Who's Who of The Bay Area Metal Scene and autograph seekers could have had 1/5 of Neurosis, Black Cobra, 3/5 of Ludicra, and members of Vastum, Hammers Of Misfortune, Stormcrow, and Saros sign their denim vests.

Prior to Portal, Dave filled me in on the mythos of Portal... and I'm now completely fascinated by this band. Taken at face value most people think of them as "that band with the singer who wears a clock on his head"... but evidently their music, lyrics, costumes, and philosophy are deeply rooted in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and Horror in general. I need to talk to Dave more about Portal and their mythos... Okay, Dave? Beers on me.

Thee Parkside is one of my favorite venues because its layout, featuring an outdoor bar area, makes shows feel like they're part of The Scene. It really reminds me of back in The Day when I'm there on a crowded night like this. However, my one complaint about Thee Parkside is that the stage lighting consists of only ON and OFF. I mean, how much would it cost to install a fucking DIMMER SWITCH for the stage lights to adjust the ambiance!? I mean, fuck, I could install a DIMMER SWITCH for them! Of course, Portal chose OFF for their stage lighting.

Portal have been around for 16 years but this was their first visit to San Franfuckincisco. The Australians took the stage in complete darkness, but The Curator wasn't wearing his trademark clock headgear... Instead he was dressed in his Black Pope outfit and I was kind of bummed... until the band's wall of DARK VOLUME practically knocked me over for the next hour.

It was a surreal set since the only time the band became visible was when camera flashes went off.. Otherwise it was an all out assault on the senses. Blackness upon black upon darkness and volume... but it was compelling. It was the type of blackness upon black upon darkness that most people will never experience... and I liked that. For an hour I was immersed in a blackness that made me forget about The Real World outside the crowded sweaty confines of Thee Parkside. I could almost call it a cleansing experience... Also, I had to marvel at how Portal managed to perform in complete darkness while they all wore black hoods over their heads and faces in the hot sweaty club... Talk about being men at work (pun alert!) and evidently the band's debut show in America the night before in L.A. had been at a club in Compton...

Oh, one funny episode was when 3 young and drunk Hispanic Metalheads noticed Whenwedie's Baron Rojo and Tank patches... and for a minute I thought they were going to jump him and cut the patches off of him... but instead they threw their arms around Whenwedie in a show of alcohol fueled Metal Amigo bonding... I think.

All in all it was a fun night... but I didn't do a merch audit. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. Portal laid waste to San Franfuckincisco and, to quote that other Australian band, can't you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover...

Click HERE to see Photo Ray's scary pics from the show... and click HERE to see Whenwedie's spooky shots of the show from another angle.