Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Space Lords

Nik Turner's Hawkwind
Amoeba Records, San Francisco
November 23, 2013

As crazy as it might sound today, the last time I saw Hawkwind was on February 15, 1994 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco and the support bands that night were... Sleep and... Acid King.  Crazy, right?  Now fast forward to the 21st Century and I'll be honest and admit I have not really paid attention to the different versions of "Hawkwind" that are going around today.  Long story short, "the other" version of Hawkwind recently postponed their U.S. Tour but Nik Turner continued with his trek.  However, I didn't feel it was worth paying to see either one of them.   So, thank dog for free shows at Amoeba!

The start of the set was pushed back 15 minutes.. but then Nik Turner landed onstage wearing some spacy make up, which was matched by his witchy hippie dancing female keyboardist.  The band was rounded out by a drummer, guitarist, and bassist.  Jason Black Cobra and I both thought we recognized the bassist from "somewhere" and it turns out Nik's entire band lives in The Bay Area while he resides in Wales.  Odd, right?  That being said his band were top notch and it really made a difference seeing Nik backed by such pros.

The fact that Nik's band had his back made up for the awkward moments when his voice was out of tune or the songs went a bit too far *out there* with hippie spacy stuff.  They acted as his life line back to the mother ship.  'Earth Calling' opened the afternoon's entertainment and for the next hour or so Nik and his troupe of astro-volume dealers took us to infinity and beyond.  Nik dedicated the set to Lemmy and appropriately 'Silver Machine' was the highlight of the set.  Afterwards, Nik met with his fans and signed autographs... so this contact high happened:

A pretty fun afternoon that didn't cost anything.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  Then 72 hours later it was...

Monster Magnet / Royal Thunder
The Independent, San Francisco
November 26, 2013

It was ironic that I would be seeing a band who Nik Turner and Hawkwind obviously influenced only 3 days later.  It was also really weird that Monster Magnet were playing the same San Francisco venue where I saw them play twice back in 1993.  Back then the space was called the Kennel Club.

 [From the Umlaut Archives]

August 25, 1993:   The video for 'Face Down' was all over MTV's Headbangers Ball and the show was sold out packed with Raging Slab supporting.  October 13, 1993:  It was a different story less than 2 months later as the same room was less than 1/2 full with Clutch supporting.   Now fast forward 20 years and I entered the same room again to see what Monster Magnet 2013 was like.  The band are on their first U.S. Tour in 10 years and to my pleasant surprise the show ended up being pretty old school full. 

I've seen Royal Thunder before and while I appreciate what they're doing... and people worship them... I'm still not inspired enough to buy their merch.  Yes, MLny Parsonz is a compelling voice and presence who sort of sounds like a mumbling Janis Joplin.  I just wish she'd mumble more coherently so I can understand what she's saying.   Just saying (pun intended)...  That being said, I liked Royal Thunder more than I have in the past as the guitarist has legitimately stepped up his game; his playing was thumbs up for me tonight when in the past I've been dismissive of him.

As the stage was prepared for the return of Monster Magnet to San Francisco I mentally prepared to be disappointed.  Old people like me know what that means; seeing old bands can very much be a double edged sword.  The songs remain the same in your head, but the current day performances can end up being sad.  Old dudes trying to act young can be so awkward and unsexy, right?  So as Dave Wyndorf and Monster Magnet 2013 walked onstage I was apprehensive despite the beer I had enjoyed... but then they lurched into 'Nod Scene' from the first album to open the set.  'Nod Scene' is my favorite Monster Magnet song... so all was right with my universe for the next 75 minutes or so.  "Screw you if you think I care... Smoke.."

Aside from Wyndorf I have no idea who the guys are in Monster Magnet 2013... but they were damn good.  It was a pleasant surprise how on point the band is today.  Yes, Wyndorf is older like all of us and he gives off a definite Mickey Rourke vibe now... but he's still got it.  The vintage 'Look To Your Orb For The Warning' and 'Powertrip' were pretty damn amazing.  Suddenly it was the 90's again and people listened to bands on albums they bought at record stores again and my hair was half way down my back again and I was drinking Red Hook on tap again.  Good times again.. at least for one more night. 

They did not play their 1993 hit 'Face Down' which probably was a good thing because I think a lot of the middle aged ladies in the crowd would have expected Wyndorf to take his shirt off during it.  I don't think anyone needs to see that here in the 21st Century... and I think Wyndorf understands that.  He kept things classy onstage with his leather jacket and black t-shirt.  Tonight was made even more nostalgically special because I stood with Lori Acid King close to the same spot where we had watched Monster Magnet 20 years ago.  Life long friends in Rock!  So special... The main set closed with a nice communal version of the band's signature (aka biggest "hit") song 'Space Lord'.  "Space Lord motherfucker.."

Sometimes when I go see bands who I was *way* into from 20 or so years ago it's a sad affair.  Hope I die before I get old.  Trying to act like you're in your 20's or 30's when you're in your 40's or 50's can be a sad thing.  So, it was a damn cool thing to see that Wyndorf and Monster Magnet 2013 have recaptured enough of that youthful spacy thing so that it still works.  A testament to this was an encore that included an 11 minute (ELEVEN MINUTE) version of a song off the band's new album... and the song did not suck... far from it actually. I need to buy their new album.

If you bought one of every Monster Magnet merch item you would have paid around $230 I think.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  I'm typing this out around 24 hours after the show and I'm still tripping on how good Monster Magnet 2013 were.. and I forgot that Wyndorf signed my copy of Spine Of God back in The Day: