Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Clear Windowpane

Metalliance Tour
Helmet / Saint Vitus / Crowbar / Kylesa / Red Fang
Mezzanine, San Francisco
April 3, 2011

Umlaut has been on hiatus from Metal shows for the past month or so; I had hit a wall and nothing with volume was engaging me at all. Even this bill, which included 2 of my favorite bands (Saint Vitus and Kylesa) didn't light a fire under me until literally the morning of the show. I'm old and jaded... but sometimes The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways and by the end of this night I was at one with the volume again.

The Mezzanine is a weird 1,000 capacity venue located in an alley and it's basically a concrete dance club with a decent size stage shoved in a corner. However, despite its appearance, the sound was surprisingly clear and loud... so kudos to the venue's owner and staff... Although it was weird being at a Metal show where the security staff wore suits.

Man, no offense to anyone involved with this tour, but 7 band bills are ridiculous... Timo and I rolled into the Mezzanine late and missed the first 2 bands (apologies to Atlas Month and Howl). I'm old and jaded and simply can't sit through more than a couple of support bands; quality over quantity. Sorry.. Just being honest.

Red Fang: The band from Portland were already onstage when we arrived... and they were good in that meat 'n potatoes Rock way that I'm a sucker for... However, the band cranked things up a huge notch by bringing Wino onstage to sing vocals on a GREAT cover of ‘Suicide’ by Dust. WOAH!!

Wino with Red Fang
(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

Pretty fucking cool... and after that they played one more song... I finished a beer... and then it was time for…

Kylesa: I said earlier how I've been burned out on seeing bands recently... and it's always interesting that whenever I get to this low point ('cause I'm old), I eventually see a band that kicks me in the ass and brings me back to center. Tonight was around the 6th time I've seen Kylesa and it was probably the best. Their performance was so focused and seamless from the past 6 months of touring..

(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

I like how the keyboards and theramin are used subtlety and nicely integrated into their live sound, but neither are gratuitous. At this moment in time, Kylesa weaves a volume journey that few bands are capable of presenting effectively live. They are as much a fuzzed out Pink Floyd as an ambient Black Sabbath. It takes a lot to inspire me to buy a band’s merch these days… but there I was at Kylesa’s merch table after their set.

Crowbar: The anticipation in the crowd before Crowbar's set was palpable... although I have to say I've always been more of a Down fan. A lot of dudes were channeling their Inner Pantera down front during Crowbar's set... and the Lousiana Sludge sounded pretty good... but during their set I found myself holding a beer and talking to Jason of Black Cobra back by the soundboard. Just being honest… and Dave Chandler of Saint Vitus was at the bar as well.

Saint Vitus: Umlaut was fortunate to have seen the mighty Vitus 3x last year, with 2 of those shows being the closest thing to religious experiences that I'll ever let myself have... and I was completely awestruck when I had the same experience all over again tonight. It spoke volumes about what Vitus are about that, as the opening bands played, Dave Chandler was casually hanging out at the bar and Wino killed time at the merch table and also just hung out chatting with fans on the main floor. Old School approachable.

'Living Backwards' > 'I Bleed Black' opened the set and the clouds parted and the sunshine of volume enlightenment seared into my brain. The look on Wino's face when he's onstage is like watching a soul whose voice isn't bound by time or mortality.. and, when combined with the holy thunder of Chandler's TONE and the mighty bottom end anchored by Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez, the stage becomes a church for me. I don't say that lightly... because I'm a jaded mofo... but it's hard to describe the feeling of having my mind cleaned and my eyes cleared so quickly and profoundly after having spent the past month being bored with everything. Sacred stuff, man.

(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

When 'Clear Windowpane' started, the lyrics reminded me just how *off* I'd been feeling recently because of my concert inactivity. I'm still going to stick to my "quality over quantity" mantra for seeing bands... but the most important thing is my head is back into the volume again. It's always weird when you're not feeling yourself... but now I am again.

During the break before they played 'White Stallions', Wino handed his bottle of Jack to a guy in the crowd. Once the song started the empty bottle ended up back on the stage... where it proceeded to bounce around on the vibrating stage caused by Vitus' volume! The bottle was joined by some empty beer cans in a bizarre version of the Saint Vitus Dance. WOW.. Even more ironic was that the band were playing 'Dying Inside' as this macabre liquor dance was going on. “Drinking has wasted my life.. and I’m dying inside..”

Note: The cans were vibrating and are not out of focus! Saint Fucking Vitus!!

Besides The Hits, Vitus also played a new song (evidently titled 'Blessed Night') that showed the band's reunion is fueled by something more than nostalgia or a paycheck. Seeing Vitus play their new music was like watching a band reborn. Take it from an Old Fart like me, age is only a number and "getting old" has more to do with your attitude.

Unfortunately, a package tour like this meant Vitus had an abbreviated set time... and their short volume sermon closed with 'Born Too Late' that ended with Wino stage diving and Chandler jumping off the stage to deliver one final devotional volume blast with his SG to the audience up close and personal. AMEN!! After all of that, Wino was hanging out in the crowd chatting with fans again literally 5 minutes after leaving the stage. Wino... Saint Vitus... The real fucking deal.

I Bleed Black: Wino > Wino's BÖC Tattoo > Umlaut
(Photo courtesy of Photo Ray)

As this tour’s admat said, Helmet are playing the entire Meantime album on this tour. According to the Umlaut Archives, I saw Helmet 4x on the Meantime Tour in 1992-93.

Meantime Tour - 1992
(From the Umlaut Archives)

However, as good of an album as Meantime was back then, I COMPLETELY burned out on it... and I wondered how hearing the entire album live would hold up for me here in the 21st Century. Well, I guess I’ll never know… The 21st Century version of Helmet (Page Hamilton, his pink ESP, and some guys) took the stage at around midnight. Unfortunately, since it was a school night, I lasted 1 1/4 songs because instead of launching straight into Meantime they opened with songs I didn’t know… and suddenly it was 1993 again but not necessarily in a good way. I’m so glad I didn’t get a tribal tattoo back then! Anyway, it was late and after Saint Vitus I didn’t need anything else except sleep.. so we bailed. In the meantime: THANKS to Steve for getting me sorted for the show!

I didn’t do a merch audit, but there were an unusual number of Death Angel shirts in the crowd tonight. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. The next morning I was still buzzing from Kylesa and Vitus and Kylesa's merch girl Tweeted: "So Wino cold knocked a dude out last night." Saint Vitus... Wino... the real fucking deal.

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