Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Year Of The Rabbit

Vintage Old Metal Decal

To quote Metallica: "Welcome to where time stands still..."

Long story short: 2011 was a surreal and amazingly great year for Umlaut. A profoundly huge amount of events and things came full circle in my life this year... most of which can basically be traced to the release of Murder In The Front Row. The book was meant to be a yearbook and tribute to the original Metal days in The Bay Area... and I think it accomplishes that... but enough shameless self-promotion. Ironically (or maybe not) Umlaut's sign in the Chinese Horoscope is The Rabbit and 2011 was The Year Of The Rabbit. Maybe there is something to the superstitious mumbo jumbo of my Yellow ancestors after all.

I've said this many times in the past, but I rant in this space mainly to keep my mind sharp; I like putting words together. The fact that I mainly rant about bands and music is kind of secondary. I rant here for fun and I just do my own thing. Umlaut will continue to fight the hordes, sing and cry, and we will see what the next 8,760 hours bring.

I will now quote that British band: "Let The Music be your Master, will you heed The Master's call?"... and with those words, here's my 2011 scorecard:
  1. 01/08/11 - Melvins - Great American Music Hall
  2. 01/15/11 - Neurosis / Yob / US Christmas - Great American Music Hall
  3. 01/16/11 - Neurosis / Saviours / US Christmas - Great American Music Hall
  4. 02/02/11 - Motörhead / Clutch - The Warfield
  5. 02/04/11 - Social Distortion - The Warfield
  6. 02/21/11 - Prince - Oakland Coliseum
  7. 02/24/11 - Prince - Oakland Coliseum
  8. 03/01/11 - Motörhead / Clutch - House Of Blues [Boston]
  9. 03/20/11 - Acid King / Carlton Melton - Bottom Of The Hill
  10. 04/03/11 - Helmet / Saint Vitus / Crowbar / Kylesa / Red Fang - Mezzanine
  11. 04/08/11 - Volbeat / The Damned Things - The Fillmore
  12. 04/09/11 - Jeff Beck & the Imelda May Band - The Fillmore
  13. 04/14/11 - PJ Harvey - The Warfield
  14. 04/23/11 - Metallica / Slayer / Megadeth / Anthrax - Empire Polo Club [Indio]
  15. 04/28/11 - Accept - The Regency
  16. 05/18/11 - Rammstein / Combichrist - Oakland Coliseum
  17. 05/28/11 - Tony Bennett - Davies Symphony Hall
  18. 06/03/11 - Orchid - Club Cocomo [San Francisco]
  19. 06/07/11 - Orange Goblin / The Gates Of Slumber - Bottom Of The Hill
  20. 07/10/11 - Megadeth / Machine Head / Testament / Suicide Silence - Shoreline Amphitheatre
  21. 07/22/11 - Soundgarden / The Mars Volta - Bill Graham Civic
  22. 07/25/11 - Fucked Up / Trash Talk - The Independent
  23. 07/29/11 - Black Dahlia Murder / White Chapel - The Fillmore
  24. 08/07/11 - Slayer / Rob Zombie / Exodus - WaMu Theater [Seattle]
  25. 08/12/11 - Eyehategod / Impaler / Brainoil / Laudanum / The Burial Tide - The Metro [Oakland]
  26. 08/17/11 - Diamond Head / Evildead / Slough Feg - Elbo Room
  27. 08/27/11 - High On Fire / Black Cobra / Embers - Uptown
  28. 08/31/11 - Metallica - Moscone Center
  29. 09/16/11 - Rorschach / Brainoil / Needles - 924 Gilman
  30. 09/29/11 - Saviours / Bison B.C. - The Independent
  31. 10/03/11 - Warbringer / Lazarus A.D. / Landmine Marathon - The Key Club [Hollywood]
  32. 10/09/11 - Orchid - Thee Parkside
  33. 10/19/11 - Foo Fighters / Cage The Elephant - Oakland Coliseum
  34. 10/23/11 - Anthrax / Testament / Death Angel - The Warfield
  35. 10/27/11 - Judas Priest - Concord Pavilion
  36. 11/03/11 - Mastodon / Dillinger Escape Plan / Red Fang - The Warfield
  37. 11/07/11 - Warbringer / Landmine Marathon - Thee Parkside
  38. 11/19/11 - Kyuss / Black Cobra / Papa Wheelie - The Regency
  39. 12/05/11 - Metallica / Apocalyptica - The Fillmore
  40. 12/06/11 - Iggy & the Stooges - The Warfield
  41. 12/07/11 - Metallica / Armored Saint - The Fillmore
  42. 12/09/11 - Metallica - The Fillmore
  43. 12/10/11 - Metallica / Death Angel - The Fillmore
  44. 12/16/11 - D.R.I. - Slim's
The last part of this year has been a blur and, for the first time in the 7+ year history of this blog, I blew off ranting about some amazing shows. To be honest, I hit a wall with writing and ranting... but I'll do my best to salvage something right here, right now.

2011 Shows: I'd say my favorites were (in no specific order)...

The year started off with two of my all-time favorite bands, the Melvins and Neurosis, obliterating San Francisco with sets that transcended being merely "concerts". In a year where I was submerged in my past a good amount of the time, looking back at these shows reminds me where I went after the Old Metal Days and where I ended up. In a perfect world these shows would have come at the end of the year instead of at the very beginning.

I caught Motörhead at two stops on their never-ending tour in Boston and San Francisco; my 14th and 15th Motörhead shows for those keeping score. It's still a charge for me to see Lemmy, Phil, and Mikkey onstage.. but this was my highlight from these shows in Boston:

'Sweet Emotion' meets 'Ace Of Spades'
(Pic by ümlaut)
Rammstein was the greatest spectacle I saw all year and it was made even more amazing because I was in Frankfurt, Germany the day before the show... and Prince was hands down the most talented musician I saw this year. The man has more musical talent in his little finger than all Death Metal musicians combined. There... I said it.

I witnessed sets by my friends Acid King, Black Cobra, and Landmine Marathon that were among the best that I've seen them play. In a year where I revisited the old days with bands from my past, it was so awesome to stay connected with newer bands who I'm friends with NOW. The past isn't that bad, but I've found myself feeling weird about mentally spending so much time there. Meanwhile back in the 21st Century...

I saw Metallica 6x this year; the last time I saw them that many times in 365 days was back in 1983. This included the band's 4-night, 30th Anniversary celebration at The Fillmore here in San Francisco on December 5th, 7th, 9th, and 10th. These shows were completely overwhelming to me. The band treated this event in the same way they had 2 years ago for their Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame induction... They sought out and invited as many original fans as possible... which made the shows feel like the high school reunions I've never attended.

Unfortunately WAY too much happened at these shows for me to attempt to relate here, but you can get all of the details about the amazing guest appearances on the Internets. What made the shows overwhelming to me was not just what happened onstage. The most epic aspect of the week was that SO MANY old friends from near and far were at The Fillmore; I saw friends in double digits every night... I reconnected with old friends... was able to hang out with local friends... and I even met friends from back in The Day who I'd never met face-to-face before. AMAZING. These shows went a long way to wash the bile from my mind that was created by the bizarre corporate gig that I saw Metallica play back on August 31st.

I will say that the absolute musical highlight was MERCYFUL FATE reuniting onstage for the first time in 18 YEARS!! HOLY. FUCK. I knew that it was happening in advance... but when King Diamond, Hank Shermann, Michael Denner, and Timi Hansen walked onstage I lost it. At that exact moment a kid wearing a denim vest covered with band patches pushed past me and I instinctively followed him all the way to the front. As Metalli-Fate launched into the 'Mercyful Fate' medley everyone down front was singing along, including me, and it felt like 1984 all over again! "Howl like a wolf... and a witch will open the door!" Dude, I almost started crying. Seriously. Fate were a VERY special band for alot of us back in the original Murder In The Front Row Metal days... and to see them again left me speechless... literally... because I ended up losing my voice over the next couple of days due to the late nights combined with a long term cold / cough that I was battling. The Fate reunion was made even more profound because The Fillmore is practically across the street from where the Kabuki Theater used to be. In 1984 Fate played their first San Francisco show there and before the encore that night King summoned Metallica to the stage; Lars, James, and Cliff climbed out of the crowd to air guitar. Full circle, man. Full circle.

(Pic by ümlaut)

Anyway, my brain is starting to get overwhelmed again so I'm not going to rant here much longer... but I do need to add that SLAYER were the most METAL band I saw this year; the more things change the more they stay the same. Their performances at The Big 4 show in Indio and later in Seattle with Gary Holt standing in for Hannemann were pure magic. The fact that Gary has been playing with Slayer after all these years is so Murder In The Front Row full circle it's mindblowing... There is so much history there; when Kerry King joined Exodus onstage in Seattle for 'Strike Of The Beast' it basically symbolized everything that's been going on for me this year. SLAAAYEER!! Also, it was appropriate that the final show I saw this year was a sold out D.R.I. show on December 16th with my co-author Harald O. tearing it up on his home stage the week that our book came out. Special.

Harald onstage in San Francisco
(Pic by ümlaut)

However, The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways and my year did end in the same Umlaut Real World vein that it began. Iggy & the Stooges played a show in the middle of the Metallica - Fillmore run on December 6th and it could not have been more perfect for me. From my arrival at The Warfield's entrance to my Lower Loge seat I ran into a roommate from 20 years ago... 6 or 7 friends... a reporter who interviewed me about Murder In The Front Row... a stranger who recognized me because she reads my blog... and my boss who I thought was still on a plane flying back from London... and then Iggy & the Stooges destroyed San Francisco.

The latest incarnation of the Stooges detonated onstage with ‘Raw Power’ that went straight into ‘Search And Destroy’ and the energy was unrelenting for the next 80 minutes. Iggy is 64 years old (young) but he was in the crowd at least 7x during the set. By comparison, Marianne Faithfull is also 64 years old but she didn't even attempt to dive into the crowd during her guest appearance with Metallica at The Fillmore. Just saying..

Witnessing Iggy’s surreal and timeless energy in person has always made me think that anything is possible. As unbelievably special as the Metallica shows were, the energy level was nowhere close to being as raw and primal as what the Stooges created both onstage and in the crowd. As the Stooges raced through 'Search And Destroy' it was as if they were channeling all of the angst and anger ever experienced by every person in the room. As Metallica started 'Seek And Destroy' as the final song each night at The Fillmore it signaled a balloon drop. It was disappointing that the most violent crowd action at all the Metallica - Fillmore shows happened during the balloon drop as greedy fans fought each other for the commemorative coins that were in the balloons. 'Seek And Destroy' made me want to fuck shit up back in the Murder In The Front Row days; now it's the balloon and beach ball drop song at Metallica concerts. Sad... but true.

(Pic by ümlaut)

Just as the Melvins and Neurosis had reminded me of my post-Old Metal self at the beginning of the year, seeing Iggy again did the same thing for me at the end of this crazy year. "I'm the world's forgotten boy... The one who searches and destroys.." On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. Upon returning to Casa de Umlaut after the Stooges show I made toast.

2011 Reality Check Moment:
Anyway, this has been my quick 'n dirty review of 2011... THANKS for all the support, readers and friends. 2012 will mark the 8th Anniversary of this space... so let's see what happens next. I'll see you on the other side.