Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Lesson In Violence

Metal Alliance Tour
Anthrax / Exodus / High On Fire / Municipal Waste / Holy Grail
The Regency, San Francisco
March 28, 2013

Umlaut attended the debut Metal Alliance tour back in 2011 and it was a fun night out, but this year they really stepped things up. Anthrax headlining was one thing, but having Bay Area heroes High On Fire and Bay Area legends Exodus on the bill was amazing. The feeling of Bay Area pride that I felt in the air as I approached The Regency was thick enough to cut with a fictional knife.  The evening's magic started right away when I ran into old friend and former Exodus guitarist Rick Hunolt... and the secret was out that Exodus had a special hometown moment planned for their set.

Bonded By Caffeine

Rick went to go inside and a kid standing next to me said to his buddy "I heard Rick Hunolt is playing with Exodus tonight!" and I pointed at Rick as he headed up the steps and said "Rick is RIGHT THERE..".. and the kid flipped out and started shouting "HUNOLT!! HUNOLT!" 

The main downside of these package tours is that, even when the lineup is good, the shows usually start at a lame early time.  Case in point:  Tonight doors were at 7:00pm and Holy Grail went on right at 7:00pm.   Why even advertise a door time??  After navigating Will Call I walked in just as Holy Grail were literally saying "Good Night!" and walking off stage.  Bummer because I wanted to see them.

I watched most of the first song of Municipal Waste and realized how thirsty I was... so I went out to the lobby bar to secure a beverage and realized that there were a shitload of old friends and acquaintances around me.  It was almost overwhelming.  Long story short, I didn't watch Municipal Waste but I had quality face time with a lot of friends.  Good times.. Did I miss anything?

High On Fire were the obvious odd band on this Thrash bill and I was curious how the Stoner hometown heroes would go over. I should not have worried. Matt, Jeff, and Des used their 30 minutes to plow through a brilliant salvo of volume.  I think their short set allowed for a whopping 4 songs that included 'Rumors Of War', 'Frost Hammer', and closing with 'Snakes Of The Divine'.  According to the Umlaut Archives, I've seen HOF at least 20x dating back to  Day 1 (circa 2000) and I'm not blowing smoke when I say that, despite the short time,  this was one of my favorite High On Fire sets ever.  The guys were tight, to the point, and gave the night a Motörhead-like addition that was much needed and appreciated.

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

It profoundly warmed my heart how many kidz were in the house and how the old 80's Metal look (denim vests, with patches, high top tennis shoes, etc) is in fashion.  A couple of years ago I couldn't process kidz dressing as we did when we were their age.. but now I realize how full circle it is and I tripped on the kid who had a Tokyo Blade patch on his denim.  Does the kid even know who Tokyo Blade were?!  If I could have remembered a Tokyo Blade song I would have quizzed him.

When Exodus plays a hometown Bay Area show it's always special, probably more special than when any other old local band plays here, at least for Umlaut.  For me, Exodus will always be the soul of the original Bay Area Metal scene and that legacy. Being in the middle of the floor as they took the stage to a hometown heroes welcome was pretty awesome.  The pit action was massive for 'A Lesson In Violence' and the local pride was palpable both from the stage and from the crowd.  Latter day songs like 'War Is My Shepard' and 'Blacklist' are great, but it's the Exodus anthems from the Murder In The Front Row days that obviously resonate the deepest for me.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I got a bit teary-eyed during 'Bonded By Blood' and when Rick Hunolt was introduced and Exo launched into 'Strike Of The Beast' the full circle magnitude of it all was profound.  The H-Team of Holt and Hunolt reuniting again, even for 1 song, was historically special.

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

Not to sound too much like a jaded old fart, but I wonder if kidz these days will experience the same level of profound magic 30 years from now when they're seeing the Metal bands of this generation.  I hope so...  Hearing the young Metal kidz around me singing along to the vintage Exodus songs that date from back when I was their age made me feel young again.  Time travel does exist.

Exodus Hometown Pit Action

On this tour Anthrax are playing the Among The Living album in its entirety, which looked cool on paper.  However, I was disappointed to learn before the show that Charlie would not be on the drum riser tonight for Anthrax. The stand-in drummer (I didn't catch his name..) held it down okay.. but he's no Charlie.  Also, the stand-in guitarist (I didn't catch his name..) was a bit too European to pull off the Anthrax vibe.  He should take notes and follow Scott's lead onstage; work the front of the stage and stop the hair windmills.  Hair windmilling annoys me.  That being said, the remaining 3/5 of the original lineup stepped it up like pros and it's awesome that Scott, Frank, and Joey have found renewed life here in the 21st Century.  Because of them Anthrax still proved their relevance onstage in San Francisco tonight.

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

The best bonus track of the night occurred as Anthrax launched into 'I Am The Law'.  As the song started onstage I ran into original Bay Area Metal legend The Flauge for the first time since probably 1989!!

Amazing and profoundly full circle... and insanely ironic.  Anyway, later in the set, for their cover of AC/DC's 'TNT', Anthrax brought out our old buddy Kirk Hammett from that other Bay Area Metal band.  Cool, right?  Too bad Kirk didn't play with his old band Exodus as well. 

If you bought one of every Anthrax merch item you would have paid around $400.  As much as I loved how Exodus had the vintage Bonded By Blood and Slay Team shirts, I have to say that Anthrax had the coolest merch... On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags.  What a fun night that had one foot here in the 21st Century and the other firmly back in 1985.  Time travel does exist.