Monday, September 17, 2012

Road Trip

Anthrax / Testament / Death Angel
Ace Of Spades, Sacramento, California
September 14, 2012

Sometimes this blog writes itself. What should have been a surgically precise Metal Road Trip with my Murder In The Front Row co-author Harald O., the great Ian Christe of Bazillion Points and Sirius XM Liquid Metal, and Photo Ray took a very Metal turn when Harald's cell phone rang mere minutes after getting in the car. On the phone was none other than the mighty Chuck Billy of Testament asking if we could stop at the band's rehearsal space and pick up their... SMOKE MACHINE. Dude, I could not make this stuff up! Anyway, long story short, we ended up at the Oakland Music Complex picking up Testament's SMOKE MACHINE.

At this point in our Road Trip, I sort of half expected a call from Death Angel asking us to stop at their Mom's house for the sandwiches she made them for the road. Also, parked out in front of the studio was a blue Ford Festiva with a Watain sticker on it:

Cue "Out on the road today I saw a Watain sticker on a Ford Festiva.." sung to the tune of that Don Henley song 'Boys Of Summer'. Long story short, after this detour the 90 mile drive was not as hellish as expected. However, things got decidedly more upscale and New York City / European when Mr. Christe broke out the... WHITE WINE and CHEESE (??!) while the Scorpions Animal Magnetism album blasted on the car stereo.

NOT METAL... but classy... I guess.  To quote the Scorpions:  "Have you ever had a secret yearning?  Don't you know... It could come true?"

Anyway, upon arriving in Sacramento we sort of got hijacked into paying for parking by a dubious parking lot "attendant"... and then Harald disappeared as he went to deliver the SMOKE MACHINE to Testament backstage. At this point the rest of us had a decision to make: Should we risk missing Death Angel and get some much needed FOOD. I strongly suggested the latter (Sorry Death Angel!) and we found ourselves at the pub next door to the venue called Burgers & Brew. We were joined by Murder In The Front Row alumnist Chris (who can be seen in the photos on pages 97 and 99 of Murder!) for some excellent food, beers, and conversation. The meal was punctuated by me receiving a text message from the guy who sings 'Master Of Puppets'. What a nice Metal touch, right? Right after the meal we ran into Ted and Mark of Death Angel in front of the pub who confirmed that we had missed their brief opening set. Sorry, my brothers... but Umlaut will see you next month in Oakland!

Trying to enter the venue proved to be an adventure unto itself. First, a security guard told us that Will Call was across the street and wasn't willing to explain it further when I pointed out that the only thing across the street was an empty sidewalk and a parking lot. However, a 2nd security guard informed us that Will Call was actually inside the venue (DUH!)... but once we got to the Will Call window there was nobody there. So, as Testament charged through the opening songs of their set we stood waiting until the person "working" Will Call finally returned to their station. Cue impatient foot tapping... but thankfully there was no guest list drama. When it comes to gigs, Sacramento has always been a "2 steps forward, 1 step back" place and I honestly don't know why.

Testament were in full on roar when we finally got inside and it quickly became obvious that the venue was way too small for this bill. The capacity of 1,000 was filled to the brim with humanity (a high percentage of whom were wearing Iron Maiden shirts) and the air was thick with sweat and spilled alcohol. Metal. In all honesty, Testament looked great on the small onstage but the sound pretty much sucked. I'll just chalk it up to it being the first night of the tour and things weren't dialed in yet and leave it at that.

It had earlier became obvious there was way too much security and rules for a Rock venue, and this was only magnified once we were inside. Inside you couldn't bring your drinks outside of the designated bar areas.  Outside you couldn't stand in certain places in front of the venue.  We were told by the club's security not to stand on the sidewalk and to move to the bricked area next to the street... and then Sacramento cops told us we couldn't stand in that bricked area! WTF Sacramento... It probably didn't help things that the police station was only a few feet away on the next corner.

Anthrax moshed onto the stage and were entertaining as always; I always like to watch kids react to 'Caught In A Mosh'. However, the annoying rules of the venue made me choose between watching the band or going to the bar that didn't have a sight line of the stage for a beer. I chose the latter. It turned out to be a good decision because over the course of my stay in the bar I was handed 2 beers that a fan of Murder bought for me. Thanks, dude! Sorry I forgot your name, brother.

At that point, Anthrax had worked the Salt of the Earth residents of Sacramento into a frothy Metal frenzy. I then found out that Mr. Ian Christe had been ejected from the venue by the overbearing security for literally looking at one of them wrong. WTF Sacramento? I'm sure the 3 Sacramento cops hanging out in the lobby during Anthrax bobbed their heads when 'I Am The Law' was played. However, by the time that song was played we were back next door at Burgers & Brew for another round, good conversation, and a nice moment with Chuck Billy of Testament who was also there hanging with his family and friends after his set. Chuck is one of THE nicest dudes in Metal. Later, as we zoomed back towards San Francisco, Baloff was our co-pilot:

"Murder in the front row.."

If you bought one of every Anthrax merch item you would have paid $360; Anthrax had the best looking merch IMO... On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. Yes, we drove all the way to Sacramento to basically hang out more than to watch the bands. Yes, it was worth it. Yes, it was one of the most fun nights of the year so far.