Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Last Minute

Black Diamond Skye Tour
Alice In Chains / Deftones / Mastodon
The Event Center, San Jose, CA
Rocktober 11, 2010

Back in February, Alice In Chains played a stellar show in Oakland that ranks as one of my top gigs of 2010. When the Bay Area stop of the Black Diamond Skye Tour was announced it was a letdown because it was booked at my least favorite local venue. The February show in Oakland had been at a historic art deco theater while this show would be in a concrete box on a college campus. I decided I would pass on it.

Fast forward to the day of the gig and at 5:50pm I received a text and e-mail from the Mastodon camp saying I was "on the list" for tonight's show... DOH. To make it even more last minute, Mastodon were due to go onstage at 7:00pm and the drive from Casa de Umlaut to the venue is around an hour with Monday traffic. Long story short, Skychick and I got our shit together and made the mad dash south down Highway 101 to the valley of my birth... and on the drive we listened to the Giants wrap up Game 4 and win the NLDS in Atlanta on the radio. FUCK YEAH!

An envelope with my name on it was waiting at Will Call as promised, but unfortunately we had completely missed Mastodon's brief opening set and caught about 1/2 of the Deftones. I've never been a Deftones fan and the only other time I'd seen them was last October when they supported Slipknot in this same venue. The kidz on the floor were certainly into them but the band were definitely a contrast to Alice In Chains. I was curious how AIC's more cerebral volume would compare following the Deftones testosterone-fueled party. Missing Mastodon was the perfect reason for someone to develop an affordable transporter ala Star Trek. Can some Science Nerd get on that, please? Thanks..

As the Deftones stirred the crowd up, we walked around the concourse in search of a cold beer and a glass of classy Event Center wine. It was then I was reminded that I had seen Alice In Chains on the Dirt Tour in this very same room:

(From the Umlaut Archives)

Life and Lock 'N Loll come full circle, man. Alice In Chains were one of my favorite bands back then and here in the 21st Century they are again; what goes around comes around.

After the Deftones' set ended, and with drinks in hand, we made our way to the safe confines of the guest area at stage left. We immediately ran into several people I know including that guy who I see at alot of shows... the manager of that band... the guy who I haven't seen in a while... the tour manager of that band... and Umlaut Nation members The Bassist and Wexford Girl. The guest area also included a rather surreal mix of Bay Area Jocks and Rock Stars with 4 players from the San Jose Sharks, 1/4 of Faith No More, 3/4 of Machine Head, and local resident Tony "I Didn't Make The Playoffs" La Russa. Again, a transporter ala Star Trek would have been nice so some of the S.F. Giants could have been there to rub their NLDS victory in La Russa's Cardinal face. Can a Science Nerd PLEASE get on that...

The changeover between bands was pretty quick (20 minutes tops..) and AIC took their places onstage behind a white back lit curtain as their intro tape played right on schedule. As the intro tape ended the curtain dropped as the band went straight for the throat with 'Them Bones'... and then proceeded to play the first 3 songs off Dirt back to back to back ('Them Bones' > 'Damn That River' > 'Rain When I Die').. WOW... Epic... and, yeah, I had a flashback to that 1993 San Jose show. Pretty cool. Trivia: My hair was Jerry Cantrell-long in '93.

Umlaut's view from stage left..

Whenever I watch a band from the side of the stage my attention tends to wander as I notice things about the production... or the staging... or something in the crowd... or something a band member is doing in between songs. Tonight I became fixated on watching Sean Kinney's drumming.

Kinney's playing has kind of an odd flow about it; he plays with more of the swing and swagger of a Jazz drummer than with the caveman pounding of a Rock drummer. Kinney's demeanor is also less hyper compared to other Rock drummers which was especially evident as the band played 'Rooster':
  • As Cantrell and DuVall began the song's intro, Kinney casually puffed on a cigarette ("Ain't found a way to kill me yet..."). Then he..
  • Took a sip from a beer ("Eyes burn with stinging sweat...")...
  • Puffed on the cigarette some more ("Seems every path leads me to no where...")....
  • Stared up at the lighting rig ("Wife and kids household pets.. Army green was no safe bet..")....
  • Took another sip from the beer ("The bullets scream to me from somewhere...")...
  • Put the beer down next to him and took a last puff on the cigarette ("Here they come to snuff The Rooster...")...
  • Picked up his sticks ("Yeah, here comes The Rooster... You know he ain't gonna die..")...
  • Raised the stick in his right hand and waved it above his head ("You know he ain't gonna die..")...
  • Pointed the stick at the crowd and brought it down to hit his first beat of the song ("Here come The Rooster.. yeeeeaaahhh.. He ain't gonna die...")
Pretty Lock 'N Loll... and Rock Drummer 101 in a nutshell. I should also note that I can't remember the last time I saw a band smoke onstage as much as AIC.. At any given time at least one member of the band had a fag on his lip. Lock 'N Loll. Also, it's always interesting to me what shoes Rock Stars wear onstage; it was nice to see Jerry and Mike wearing Rock Star issue pointy boots to go along with their cigarettes. Plus, I'd like to know where AIC buys their jeans.

As far as the set tonight, San Jose wasn't as transcendent as the AIC show in Oakland earlier this year. It was still a great performance and the band were definitely on the top of their game (despite Cantrell being sick). In general, it was a solid workmanlike performance by a band that's been on the road for a year. That being said, I couldn't help but notice the contrast between AIC 1993 and AIC 2010: AIC '93 onstage were powerful because of the charisma coming off the stage but the band didn't move around as much. AIC in the 21st Century are a band reinvented and with DuVall they're a more dynamic live band in some ways. It's not often a band can reinvent themselves and have their old self meld so effortlessly with the new incarnation to create something special all over again.

Anyway, it was a solid 100 minute set that was a healthy mix of old AIC and the newer songs (which I like as much as the Layne-era material). I have to say 'Rain When I Die' was the top old song for me tonight but 'Lesson Learned' was my overall favorite moment of the night. The show ending encore sprint of 'Nutshell' > 'Man In The Box' > 'Would?' was perfect. At the end of 'Would?', as he's done every time I've seen AIC, Cantrell took off his guitar and literally threw it at his tech... who caught it. As the band made their exit stage left, Cantrell came over to Tony "I Didn't Make The Playoffs" La Russa and gave him a greeting and a hug. Awww. Jocks and Rock Stars getting along... but have all Rock Stars forgotten that it was The Jocks who were the biggest assholes to them in school?? I'm just saying...

If you bought one of every Alice In Chains merch item you would have paid around $360. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. All in all, it had been an unexpected Monday night out that reminded me (once again) that The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways. To quote AIC: "In your darkest hour you strike gold..."