Friday, October 28, 2011

The Big 4, 6, & 7

Anthrax / Testament / Death Angel
The Warfield, San Francisco
October 23, 2011

It's taken me several days to get my head around this night. This show represented A LOT of things in Umlaut's past and present that have come full circle this year... and it was kind of overwhelming a couple of times. This was the biggest Metal show to hit The Bay Area in 2011 and was the perfect bookend to Umlaut's epic experience at The Big 4 show in Indio back in April. However, tonight's bill carried more emotional weight because 2 of the 3 main bands were playing in front of their hometown! EPIC.

Prior to the show Photo Ray, Sensory Abuse, and I performed the all too common pre-show ritual of pints and food at The Irish Bank. Then we few, we happy few, made our way to The Warfield for a night of vintage Metal. Within literally a minute of arriving at The Warfield two people commented on The Record Vault shirt I was wearing, including Ted of Death Angel who said he was wearing his Vault shirt onstage tonight! The Bay Area Metal pride was thick in the air and I hadn't even gone inside yet... Once inside I was overwhelmed by the number of old friends who were at the show; it felt like the high school reunion that I never attended in so many ways. However, before I could really socialize I had to take care of some work related responsibilities, but it was all good. Just another day at the office...

(Photo courtesy of Cable Car)

Death Angel were the only band that had the crowd chanting their name before they hit the stage. The hometown heroes detonated immediately with one of their newer songs 'I Chose The Sky' before blazing into 'Evil Priest' from their classic 1987 debut album. The band has been on the road for 18 months and it showed; they were simply awesome. No band works a stage better than Death Angel and their San Francisco hometown pride was in full effect with Ted wearing his Record Vault tee and Will on drums wearing a Niners jersey. I literally got chills down my spine as the hometown crowd (including the balcony) went off during the band's set. It was very special and the first time Death Angel had played The Warfield since 1990 (!). 'Seemingly Endless Time' is always the highlight of a Death Angel set for me... Oddly the band did not play their original war cry 'Kill As One' which was kind of a bummer; it would have been cool to hear the big crowd singing that chorus with the band. It was a criminally short 35 minute set but Death Angel was my favorite band of the night. It's so fucking great to see the band rising above the lineup upheavals of recent years to recapture that fire which made them special to begin with.. and it warmed my heart to hear the crowd chanting "Death Angel... Death Angel.." again after they left the stage.

Death Angel
(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

Click HERE to see Photo Ray's Death Angel shots!

For the only time on this tour, Testament had their full stage show for tonight's hometown appearance. Whenever Testament walks onstage I get kind of overwhelmed because the band is so larger than life to me now. There's Chuck Billy's gigantic charisma of course, but the rest of the band also exude a swagger that makes me proud to call The Bay Area home along with them. Their hour long, 13 song set exploded with a 1988 double shot of 'The Preacher' into 'The New Order'.. WOW. Testament were even more crushing tonight than usual, with the mix and volume being more thunderous even by their standards. 'Into The Pit' is always the set highlight of a Testament set for me... especially when Chuck Billy holds his half mic stand like a Metal Wizard churning a cauldron of metal to get the crowd action going. The set was so solid, heavy, and loud it kind of left my head spinning... At that point I should have gotten a beer but I don't think I did.

(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

Click HERE to see Photo Ray's Testament shots!

Not long after Testament's set one thing led to another and I found myself having an enlightened chat with Alex Skolnick in his dressing room. It made me wish for a day when all Rock Stars were cool and intelligent human beings... Just saying. I then managed to duck upstairs to the stage just as the stage changeover was completed for Anthrax. As the houselights went down I found myself at stage left with Joey Belladonna doing his vocal warm ups right in front of me. I'm not a singer so I found it interesting...

It had been 5 years since Anthrax last played inside the San Francisco city limits. To be honest, the set Anthrax played was very strong but it didn't blow me away. The new songs work well live, but playing a cover of Sepultura's 'Refuse / Resist' seemed misguided when they have so many of their own songs after 30 years. However, the old classics like 'Madhouse', 'Antisocial', and 'Metal Thrashing Mad' were top notch and Belladonna proved he's still a great front man.

While Anthrax raged onstage, the area around me at stage left filled up with a Who's Who of Metal featuring Kerry of Slayer, Gary of Exodus, Robb of Machine Head, Mark of Death Angel, and Kirk of that band Metallica. Impressive, right?! I was also impressed when Scott Ian gave a shout out to San Francisco and mentioned his band's first show here in 1984 at The Kabuki with Raven and Exodus. Who else reading this was at that show besides Umlaut?

Mr. Kerry Fucking King
(Photo courtesy of Cable Car)

The end of Anthrax's set turned into one of the quintessential Old Metal moments of the year. As they launched into the set closing 'I Am The Law', Kirk Metallica snuck behind the PA stack at stage left watching the song. It was cute watching the kids in the front row notice their hometown hero and lose their shit. Then when the chorus of the song came, Kirk and Mark Death Angel casually walked onstage to share vocals with a surprised Scott Ian. When you think about how much shared history Metallica and Anthrax have together it was cool seeing it all come back around onstage in Metallica's hometown. As the song ended Anthrax suddenly started an impromptu version of 'Whiplash' during which Ian took off his guitar and handed it to Kirk... and the impromptu version of the song took flight for several more minutes. So. Fucking. Cool.

(Photo courtesy of Cable Car)

Although I should have, I didn't do a merch audit, but Anthrax did have the best merch IMO. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. It was an epic night and I didn't roll back into Casa de Umlaut until 1:00am.. and it was a school night... but the Metal Godz had blessed us with a spectacular night... and it was cool to be able to catch up with two of my favorite non-Caucasian band friends:

Ted Death Angel

Not Dave Mustaine
(Photos courtesy of Cable Car)