Wednesday, September 15, 2010

48 Hours Of Sleep

Sleep / Thrones
The Regency, San Francisco
September 12, 2010

Umlaut sure has been attending a good number of "reunion" tours this year: Saint Vitus... Alice In Chains... Faith No More... and now Sleep. According to the Umlaut Archives I saw Sleep at least 12x back in The Day. The first time was when they supported MDC at The Cactus Club (R.I.P.) in San Jose in '92 and the last time was when they supported the Melvins at Slim's in '94 (Evidently that was Sleep's final show (!)... until this reunion of course.. Acid King were 3rd on the bill that night as well..). Good times.

Sleep back in The Day: S.F. - 1992 and San Jose - 1993
(From the Umlaut Archives and FlyerAnnex)

So, if my math is correct, this was Sleep's first hometown area show in 16 years. At this point I've seen Matt and High On Fire more times than I saw Sleep and I've seen Al with OM and Shrinebuilder a half dozen times combined as well. Also, while this was billed as a "reunion tour" it's one of those cases where it was really a "reunion" in name only since Chris decided to not take his place behind the drums on these dates. While that was disappointing, it made historical sense to have Jason of Neurosis behind the drums, not only because of the Bay Area connection, but also because Sleep and Neurosis shared so many bills back in The Day. Also, when Sleep put out their 1st album we called them "Melvins Jr." because The Stoner Kidz (Al, Matt, Chris) seemed to mimic them. Of course, The Stoner Kidz had the last laugh.

Tonight brought people out of the woodwork and there were so many Old School faces and friends in the house that it felt like San Francisco circa 1992-94 before the Boom ruined so many things about this city (affordable property values, reasonable rents, influx of hipsters, etc..). It was also a Who's Who of Bay Area bands in attendance. What bands? Let's see... Members of Acid King, Black Cobra, High On Fire, Ludicra, Neurosis, Saviours, Totimoshi... Yeah, it was epic.

Up first on this night was Thrones, aka Joe Preston (who is in Umlaut's record collection via his work with the Melvins, Earth, Sunn O))), Harvey Milk, High On Fire..) alone and solo onstage... and I'll cut to the chase and say I wasn't into it. Joe introduced his set by saying "The next 20 minutes will be really boring.." Not to be a dick, but he was right. Sorry, Joe... but I was front and center for so many Melvins shows back in The Day that maybe I earned a free pass for this one. Thanks.

Fast forward to 9:30pm and seeing Sleep on a big stage with a big sound system behind them was sort of a revelation to me since I'd only seen them in clubs and bars back in The Day (there was that show supporting Tad at a weird space on Hollywood Boulevard with shag carpeting on the floor and most of the stage lighting came from a soda vending machine that was at stage left)... Jason was a great replacement for Chris on drums; he kept to the Sleep floor plan and didn't attempt to bring anything new to it, which would have been wrong. However, it was weird seeing Sleep onstage with Marshall stacks instead of their trademark Orange and Green amps. Still, experiencing songs like 'Dragonaut' and 'Aquarian' live again was crushingly great... but I'm not sure how I feel about their cover of Ozzy's 'Over The Mountain'. Yes, they did an Ozzy cover.... I mean... I *get it*..."Holy Mountain"... "Over The Mountain"... and Ozzy's lyrics fit the Sleep credo... but... I might like it better if Al or Matt were wearing chainmail onstage like Ozzy circa the Diary Of A Madman Tour. I'm not bagging on the guys, but I'm simply befuddled over their need to do a cover song when their own material transcends Ozzy in so many profound ways.

The set was complimented by video (created by Josh Graham, who also creates the stage visuals for Neurosis and Mastodon) projected behind the band featuring images like NASA footage, animated dragons, and undersea scenes. Dude, pass the bong! It definitely complimented the band's performance... but... not to sound too much like an Old Fart... I liked it more when they used just raw NASA archival footage behind them in '94 (back when Al used to wear a jacket with a NASA back patch). The Geeks shall inherit The Earth! However, the band's trademark space theme did extend to their roadie who was dressed in a space suit as the band's Marijuanaut mascot for the show. Hilarious! For the newbies: Iron Maiden have Eddie... Sleep had the Marijuanaut.

Photo courtesy of Photo Ray

To be honest, I couldn't get my head around the show. Sleep are one of those bands who I associate with a specific time in my life... It was a time when I went from not really knowing who the fuck I was to ultimately finding myself and my life falling into place. During that time I also went from knowing Sleep as those Stoner Kidz whose bassist worked at Tower Records in Mountain View with my friend John, to that band who were actually pretty good, to them becoming that great band who imploded just as the outside world started to recognize them. Long story short, it's still trippy to me that Sleep went on to become such a revered and influential band. It's weird, man.. Anyway, I rolled with the show and went with it... Seeing and hearing Sleep onstage again was GREAT... but part of me wasn't *there* because seeing them again opened up a Pandora's Box of thoughts in my head... about my life... where I had been... where I was now... where the band was now... or maybe I was high from all the doobage in the air.

When I ducked out to visit the Men's Room I was greeted by the sight of a hipster wearing a sweater passed out face down on the floor in front of a stall. I resisted the urge to take an iPhone pic of him... so karma points for me... but it was a total Purell moment. Another guy tried to get the wasted hipster to his feet but I had my back to them when I heard a "THUD" and the good samaritan say "Oh dude..." As I turned to leave I stepped over the hipster who was now laying face up on the floor with his eyes wide open. I was about to go find a medical person, but one rushed past me to the wasted hipster's side. All I can say is I hope that hipster isn't raving about how awesome seeing Sleep was...

Sleep sold out of of 2 of their 3 shirt designs before they even came onstage! If you bought one of eacy Sleep merch item you would have paid around $100. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. Then 24 hours later it was...

Sleep / Saviours / Black Cobra
The Regency, San Francisco
September 13, 2010

It was mindboggling to me that Sleep could sell almost 2,800 (!) tickets to shows here... and tonight was the final show of their brief 7 city, 8 show 2010 Reunion Tour. Given the special nature of the night, it was appropriate that the bill featured 3 of Umlaut's favorite local Bay Area bands: Sleep (San Jose), Saviours (Oakland), and Black Cobra (San Francisco). Not many metropolitan areas can field a home team like that, right?

Although their tour ended just about a month ago, it was spit take cool that Black Cobra were added to the bill several weeks after this show was announced. It always kicks the Black Cobra experience up a notch seeing Jason and Rafa on a big stage and it was nice they were given a full light show as well. Great sound... All killer, no filler 30 minute set. Black Cobra made ears bleed just enough to set the table for the other bands. A good night's work... and they even had Anchor Steam and free Pringles backstage.

Jason Black Cobra > Pringles > Umlaut


Photo courtesy of Photo Ray

The East Bay lads have had a BUSY year with touring and being on this year's OzzFest. This was Umlaut's 4th time seeing Saviours this year and they knocked their set out of the park with their brand of vintage 21st Century Classic Rock. If this was 1975, Saviours would be onstage at Oakland Stadium playing Day On The Greens in front of thousands. As is usually the case, 'Acid Hand' was the highlight song of the set for me, but the guys closed with a great new song that made me want to jump into the nearest GTO and drive fast without a seatbelt. In true Rock Star fashion, the band's onstage beverages included shots of liquor, PBR, and cough syrup. Lock 'N Loll!

Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse

Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse

As I sort of said earlier, Sleep are one of those bands (like Neurosis and Metallica) who I honestly don't have a lot of perspective on since I was around them so much in the beginning. It was interesting watching people react to seeing Sleep for the first time and watching songs being performed that they'd probably only listened to in their room with a bong and the lights off. What Pink Floyd was to my generation, Sleep was to many others. DUDE! Discuss amongst yourselves.

Captain Fireball in The House..

I watched the first 1/3 of the set from upstairs and became a little hypnotized watching the crowd action sway and shove and sweat back and forth below me as Sleep's sludgy nostalgia puffed and flowed from the PA.... or maybe I was high from all the doobage in the air. Either way, I enjoyed Night #2 more than the previous night for some reason... Probably because I'd done all of my pondering the night before. The setlist was switched up from the previous night and my head was particularly caught up in 'Evil Gypsy' and 'The Druid' on this Monday night... and there was no sign of the Ozzy cover tonight. For those who care the setlist went like this (I think):
  • Dopesmoker/Holy Mountain
  • Dragonaut
  • Evil Gypsy
  • Aquarian
  • Some Grass
  • Nain's Baptism
  • Inside The Sun
  • The Druid
  • From Beyond/Dopesmoker solo/Proceeds the Weedian
  • Antarticus Thawed
  • Cultivator
'Antarticus Thawed' was amazing and I don't think they ever played that live back in The Day. Not to be redundant, but it was weird seeing Sleep again. The whole time machine aspect of these shows tripped me out; that which was old is now new and revered. I guess some things go in cycles and, ultimately, it is cool that here in the 21st Century the Stoner Kidz from San Jose are getting their due and their fans are able to get wasted while seeing them live.

Once again, Sleep sold out of 2 out of 3 of their shirt designs before they came onstage. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags... and just as suddenly as the time machine started then it was over. Matt and High On Fire kick off another U.S. Tour in 2 weeks in San Francisco. No rest for the wicked!

"Ride the dragon toward the crimson eye... Flap the wings under Mars red sky..."

Click HERE to see Photo Ray's shots from the night.

Umlaut's vintage 1993 GLOW IN THE DARK Sleep shirt

Umlaut's Fave Merch Item of 2010