Saturday, September 04, 2010

48 Hours Of Carnage

Slayer / Megadeth / Testament
Cow Palace, San Francisco

August 31, 2010

To be completely honest, this post was VERY hard to write... This 48 hours was so amazingly epic that my head is still spinning and I couldn't focus on where to even begin. Anyway, to quote Testament: "Into The Pit..."

To call the Cow Palace legendary is an extreme understatement. For the newbies: The Cow Palace hosted SO MANY shows back in The Day. SO MANY of my memories from early concerts are from the Cow Palace... and more than any other venue it was here that I paid my dues as a teenage concert goer. In many ways I grew up at the place and according to the Umlaut Archives this was my 25th visit to the Cow Palace dating back to 1981; click HERE for Umlaut's Cow Palace Archive project. As far as the connection with tonight goes, the original Clash of The Titans Tour (featuring Slayer / Megadeth /Anthrax / Alice In Chains) visited the Cow Palace back in May 1991:

(From the Timo Archives)

When the American Carnage Tour was announced last November, Umlaut and many of my friends were as giddy as little school girls because it was a show at the Cow Palace; the last Hard Rock / Metal show the Cow Palace hosted was Metallica back in 2004! In the years since the old venue has been on the brink of being torn down at least a couple of times, but thankfully plans for its demolition seem to have quieted down. The giddiness only intensified when the tour was postponed due to Tom Araya's medical problems... but after a delay of 8 months the tour finally launched.

As a nod to the original Clash Of The Titans Tour, both Slayer and Megadeth were playing their respective 1990 albums in their entireties (For the newbies: Seasons In The Abyss and Rust In Peace). Trivia: They couldn't call the current tour "Clash of The Titans" because MGM Studios owns the copyright to the title because of the 1981 movie! Also, Testament played on the European leg of the original 1990-91 tour. So there you go...

As I took the left turn off of Geneva Avenue into the parking lot I almost got misty eyed from the deja vu; it's always trippy visiting a place that meant so much to you as a kid. The tail gate action was in full swing and the line to get inside snaked from the entrance back into the parking lot since the doors weren't open yet. In time honored tradition, there was a small group of Christian protesters standing across from the front of the line with their protest signs while one of their group barked their ideology over a bullhorn... As I walked past the Christians I almost got misty eyed when the kidz in line started chanting "SLAAAYER!! SLAAAYEER!!! SLAAAYEER!!!!" to drown the God Squad out. Throw The Horns 'cause the kidz are alright.

There was some Will Call drama and as I waited for it to get sorted out I witnessed the doors being opened to let the Metal Mob inside. The first kid in the door started to yell "SLAA...." and then realized he was alone because those behind him were caught in the security search; it was like watching The Charge of The Light Brigade and I felt sorry seeing the kid's excitement deflated. The kid was told to keep moving inside... but instead of going quietly he raised his arms and yelled "SLAAAYEER!!" and bolted inside. Throw The Horns 'cause that kid is gonna be alright.

When I walked into the arena, one of the first things I noticed were the 3 skinheads who were openly flying their red suspenders and "White Pride" shirts. It was odd they had shown up early since Testament is fronted by a Native American (i.e. Non-White). It was also odd seeing the White Pride Tribe in San Francisco; I was expecting them to be out in force the next night in Sacramento. I assume they must be Megadeth fans, since 1/2 of Slayer is Non-White as well (Kidz, it's Tom ARAYA not Tom ARYAN...). Anyway...

The first time I saw Testament back in The Day they were called Legacy. It was cool that even though the local heroes were the first band on, they still had full production and lights for their 40 minute set, including an impressive stage with scrims and a backdrop depicting a castle. METAL! At exactly 6:55pm the houselights went down and Testament stormed their hometown stage with 'More Than Meets The Eye' and Umlaut's hometown Bay Area Pride spiked as the locals set the tone for the night.

Unlike the other bands, Testament's set was a balance between killer recent songs and killer old songs... and for me Alex Skolnick was THE Guitar God of the night. It was cool having Bay Area Metal represented on this tour since without our old scene Megadeth and Slayer would not have become the bands they are today. Don't argue with me; Umlaut was there. During the final song of the set ('The Formation Of Damnation') Chuck Billy led the crowd in a rousing Wall Of Death and I wondered if those skinheads who I'd seen earlier had gotten their asses kicked yet.

I have some history with Megadeth but I don't feel like trying to write about it; click HERE for the story in pictures. I tried reading Mustaine's autobiography and, to be honest, I stopped reading it after around 100 pages or so... although there are some cool old photos in it... some of which look very familiar. Let's just say that it wasn't fun to read for me... so I stopped. 'Nuff said.

I wandered out from backstage to watch Dave & Co. a couple of songs into their set... To be honest, despite my history with the band, I'm not the biggest Megadeth fan at all. That being said, it's undeniable that Mustaine is an iconic figure onstage and having Junior back in the band just looked right. However, after awhile I got bored and waded through the masses to the soundboard to watch the last part of the set with The Talent, which is always fun. With both the singer and drummer of his former band watching from stage right, Mustaine added 'My Last Words' at the end of the set and dedicated it to The Big Four coming to America. Evidently the song had not been part of the tour's setlist so that was a nice treat... I think Mustaine said the Danish drummer from his former band requested the song. Awww..

Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse

After Megadeth I wandered back through the concourse and it was SO OLD SCHOOL... The air was hot and sticky, the floors slick from spilled beers and the condensation from the 9,000 bodies crammed into the arena... There were an unusually large number of Hell's Angels giving hard stares... and the walls of the concourse were lined with the drunk and pit injured casualties. It was downright medieval and I almost started to get misty eyed; it was as close to being back in The Old Days as I'll ever experience here in the 21st Century! Since Umlaut attends so many Metal shows in clubs, it's easy to forget how much better Metal can be at a packed, general admission arena show. The thousands in attendance are equal at a general admission show... and at a show like this it was Natural Selection at its finest; the weak in The Pit were quickly weeded out. Survival of the fittest, whether in Pit Action or alcohol consumption... The weak are left to fend for themselves or die by the sword.

The packed floor prior to Slayer... Medieval.
(Photo courtesy of Timo)

I've been following Slayer since Day One but I don't feel like writing about it; click HERE for the story in pictures. A white curtain hid the stage as the houselights went down and swirling images of the band's logo and pentagrams were projected on it until the curtain fell to reveal the band hurtling out of the gates with 'World Painted Blood' > 'Hate Worldwide'. It was interesting that, instead of launching straight into their classic album, Slayer played 2 newer songs to warm the crowd up before jacking the mayhem into overdrive with 'War Ensemble' and the Seasons In The Abyss portion of the set was off and running.

Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse

I watched the entire set from stage left, which was fine for All Access shits 'n giggles but not the best way to watch a band onstage. I spent alot of the set watching the crowd, especially the kidz crushed down front on the rail... and I almost got misty eyed watching them headbang and singing along to SLAAAYEER. It reminded me how I used to be that innocently fanatical about bands in this same venue... and how I'll never react to a band like that ever again. I guess there is a downside to growing up. I was surprised by how many girls were coming over the rail after crowd surfing. I lost count, but there was at least one young lady who came over at least a half dozen times. It was Ladies Night at SLAAAYEER!

Slayer Cow Palace crowd action..
(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

I felt like a poser watching Slayer from the safe confines of the VIP Area next to the stage. My Inner Teenage Metalhead wanted to watch the crowd action up close, but my Inner Old Fart won the argument and I stayed put behind the barrier as I got text messages from friends "on the other side" informing me how insane the mayhem on the floor was getting. From my vantage point it was like watching an ancient battle scene from a distance where I'd catch glimpses of the carnage... arms and legs randomly appearing above the crowd... a beer or shoe flying into the air... a kid coming over the barrier and collapsing as he landed and the medical staff carrying him off to the side to perform triage. It was medieval. Then during 'Expendable Youth' this Old School Bay Area Metal Moment was provided by Chris Kontos of Attitude Adjustment:

R.I.P. Toby Rage.

The backstage scene at the Cow Palace was a mind boggling Who's Who of Bay Area Metal; actually it wasn't just Bay Area Metal represented because there were Metal luminaries from the East Coast and SoCal in attendance as well. What bands? Let's see... 1/2 of Metallica (the original half), 2/3 of High On Fire, current and former members of Death Angel, 1/2 of Machine Head... among other Metal scenesters, movers, and shakers.

The Cow Palace backstage is funny because the common area outside of the dressing rooms is basically the loading dock area; nothing fancy! However, the openness of the space contributed to an old school communal vibe that is rare at most concerts in the "VIP / All Access" area; I was introduced to at least one member of Metal Royalty who I'd only seen on t.v. and in magazines. There were also ALOT of Umlaut Nation friends and it was the closest thing to a high school reunion I'll experience because of all the people there who I've known since we were teenagers. One of my teenage friends in attendance was the guy who sings 'Master Of Puppets'... As we were talking the headliner's drummer came up and the two legends had a quick chat.

Best Backstage Quote: "Thanks for coming out! Go anywhere you want, man.." - The headliner's drummer to the guy who sings 'Master Of Puppets'.

... and with that the headliner's drummer left to get ready for his set... and the guy who sings 'Master Of Puppets' looked at me and I said "You can go ANYWHERE!" and we both cracked up. METAL. My favorite moment of the entire 48 Hours of Carnage occurred soon after that exchange: As we were standing outside of the headliner's dressing rooms we noticed a clanking sound... and the clanking sound got louder and louder. We stopped talking to see what the sound was... and it was Kerry Fucking King walking past us in his onstage battle gear on his way to the stage. I said to my friend "Now THAT'S Metal..."

(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

After the show, one thing led to another and we ended up in K.F.K.'s dressing room. Drinks flowed, no blood was spilled, but if the boys wanna fight you better let them. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. The best part of the night is that, unlike The Old Days, it only took me 15 minutes to get home... and since I hung out late the Prius was the only car left in the parking lot!

Then 24 hours later it was...

Slayer / Megadeth / Testament
Arco Arena, Sacramento, CA
September 1, 2010

At around 4:00pm, Photo Ray, Healy, and I hit the road and headed up I-80 North towards Sacramento. I tried to write something about the previous night as I sat in the back seat of Photo Ray's car, but I didn't get much done. Despite all the fun and unbelievable nostalgia at the Cow Palace show, I didn't feel like I got the full experience of watching the bands because of all the social distractions. I was looking forward to focusing on watching the bands in Sacramento.

In many ways, Sacramento Carnage was the complete opposite of San Francisco Carnage. I had absolutely no drama at Will Call and I gave an extra ticket from my envelope to a random kid for free. In contrast to the prison yard atmosphere of the Cow Palace, Arco Arena was pretty civilized. Although it was in the 90's outside, inside the arena's air conditioning was in full effect. BOO!! A show like this needs to be experienced without air conditioning. However, I wasn't complaining..

We were a bit late and entered the arena just after Testament had started their set. It was smaller crowd than the night before but the floor was already full as Testament laid waste to the Central Valley. It was cool to see so many people showing up early to support the locals and The Wall of Death during 'Formation Of Damnation' that closed the set did Sacramento proud.

According to the Umlaut Archives this was my 10th time seeing Megadeth. We watched Mustaine & Co. come onstage from down front as they launched straight into the Rust In Peace album from start to finish again. During 'Hanger 18' we moved back to the soundboard for awhile and watched the Central Valley crowd soak in their Metal. I got the vibe that Sacramento was more of a Megadeth crowd than a Slayer crowd tonight.

As I had the night before, I got bored and wanderlust took me over. The floor was less crowded than at the Cow Palace so wandering around was much easier. I ended up in the stands and watched the remainder of the set from up there because I wanted to watch the crowd action almost more than the band onstage. At one point I noticed a timer set up at stage left that was counting down the time remaining in Megadeth's set:

"Countdown To Extinction" = 2:26 minutes...

Don't get me wrong, it's cool that Megadeth are experiencing a rebirth with Junior back in the band... but to my ears here in the 21st Century Megadeth are too clean sounding... sort of like the crisply ironed button down shirts they wear onstage. As I've gotten older I need more darkness in my Metal. Am I Evil? Yes I am...

According to the Umlaut Archives this was my 21st time seeing Slayer. However, in some ways, I felt like I was watching the band for the first time. In this age of blast beats and drum triggers, Lombardo's old school drumming was an epiphany all over again. When he'd launch into a burst of his trademark double bass I looked around to see if the crowd appreciated the effort as much as me; they did. Much has been made about Tom's surgery and the fact he's not headbanging onstage anymore. Aging is a bitch, but as far as Slayer goes, it doesn't matter. Despite the change in Tom's stage behavior, his voice is sounding better than ever and Jeff and Kerry have stepped up with their onstage presence by being more engaging onstage and trading sides of the stage more often. I loved how Slayer contrasted with Megadeth; Mustaine & Co. had a brightly lit stage with Rust In Peace themed staging while Slayer were all business with nothing but Marshall cabinets and 2 steel Eagles hanging above the backline. Light vs. The Dark... white button down shirt vs. black t-shirt. Give me 'Spirit In Black' any day.

'South Of Heaven' from the soundboard..

I was impressed by how great Slayer sounded (everything was clear and crisp) with 'Temptation' being my favorite song of the night... However, after the completion of Seasons In The Abyss the end of the set was beyond crushing: 'South Of Heaven' > 'Raining Blood' > 'Aggressive Perfector' (!!) > 'Angel Of Death'. Very few bands can shotgun 4 unrelenting classic songs of that magnitude and leave the stage as if walking away from a murder scene. It was like getting 4 shells from a 12 gauge in the face and it never gets old to me. SLAAAYEER! During the show, this Old School Bay Area Metal Moment happened: Debbie Abono onstage with Slayer one last time...

Photo courtesy of Canada Dave

R.I.P. Debbie. Besides being a mindblowing musical event, the 48 Hours of Carnage was a reunion for many of us original Bay Area Metal crew and reminded us of what we have and what Metal gave to us in regards to friendships and life experiences. It's pretty amazing to have something that profoundly influenced your life when you were a kid to still have an influence on you as an adult. The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways, man.

Best Backstage Quote: "Do you want to go take your picture with the Slayer Eagles?" - Canada Dave

Yes, Umlaut lives in a retarded state of adulthood... Backstage was MUCH quieter tonight, which was fine since we had a 90 minute drive back home. However, in a random small world moment, I met the brother of an old friend (Hi Ruth!)... although I guess it wasn't that random because their cousin is Paul Bostaph of Testament. Too funny!

On the way back to San Francisco some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags... which makes sense I guess. It will be difficult to top the 48 Hours of Carnage as my favorite experience of 2010... EPIC. When it rains blood it pours...

Man, it's been 2 days since these shows and I'm still not caught up from them; the price of having consecutive epic nights during the week. I almost fell asleep while driving home across the Bay Bridge yesterday... and tonight I'm fading while trying to finish this fucking post. The price I pay... and to quote from 'Temptation' by SLAAAYEER: "Have you ever wondered why it seems that Evil you're attracted to..."