Monday, January 20, 2014

Tomorrow's Dream

A Benefit For Nikki Davis
Robb Flynn & Friends Black Sabbath All Star Tribute
Oakland Metro, Oakland, California
January 17, 2014

This was the type of event that made me damn fucking proud to call The Bay Area my home and the Bay Area Metal scene my people.  Murder In The Front Row alumni and Bay Area Metal band leaders Robb Flynn (Vio-Lence / Machine Head) and Craig Locicero (Forbidden / Spiralarms) organized this event and it was a gathering of the tribe for a very profound and worthy cause.  As the official event statement explained:

A good friend of ours and all around great person, Nikki Davis, was in a motorcycle accident with her husband Jeff. Sadly, Jeff died at the scene. Fortunately, Nikki survived but she was unconscious for a few days. She awoke to the daunting reality that her husband, soulmate and best friend had passed away. It was heartbreaking to all of us in the Bay Area scene.

Click HERE to read the complete statement about the night.

Tickets went on sale a week before and the show was sold out in less than 24 hours; it was by far the hottest Metal ticket of the year so far.  The specific lineup of players was not completely announced in advance so the element of surprise only elevated the once in a lifetime nature of the show.   The cast of players ended up being as follows:
  • Rob Flynn (Vio-lence / Machine Head)
  • Craig Locicero (Forbidden / Spiralarms)
  • Chuck Billy (Testament) – vox
  • Brad Barth (Spiralarms) - keyboards
  • Paul Bostaph (Forbidden / Slayer) - drums
  • Will Carroll (Death Angel) - drums
  • Cornbread (Spiralarms) - bass
  • Dean Dell (Vio-lence) - bass
  • Phil Demmel  (Vio-lence / Machine Head) - guitar
  • Andy Galeon (Death Angel) – drums
  • Eddie Hermida (Suicide Silence) - vox
  • Gary Holt (Exodus / Slayer) - guitar
  • Tom Hunting (Exodus) – vox
  • Jeff Matz (High On Fire) – bass
  • Tim Narducci  (Spiralarms) - vox
  • Jim Martin (Faith No More) – guitar
  • Matt Pike (Sleep / High On Fire) - guitar
  • Damien Sisson  (Death Angel) – bass
  • Robert Trujillo (Metallica) - bass

Holy shit, right?  It was basically a Who's Who of Bay Area Metal bands, all with long histories. Of course, there will be the negative assholes who will point out who was not there, but if you have that attitude you have no clue or experience about what made The Bay Area scene special back in The Day and what continues to make it special today when it matters.   Besides, tickets were only $20... Twenty dollars for a show with that lineup.  Not only was tonight in support of worthy cause, it was also an insane value for the money.  Leave your negative attitude at the door, man.

Apologies to the rest of the world, but no other area could have pulled off a show like tonight featuring this level of Metal history and hometown talent. It was epic.. and I still don't have my head completely around it.  The night was about all of these major band guys being onstage with zero egos.  The night was about these Black Sabbath songs that we all grew up with.  The night was about celebrating life while supporting Nikki Davis, a longtime member and friend of the Bay Area scene.

Opening the night was an ACDZ, an AC/DC tribute band fronted by scene veteran Zetro (Legacy / Exodus / Hatriot) on vocals.  Given the atmosphere of the event, what better songs to get things warmed up with than Bon Scott-era AC/DC.  Perfect.

I was able to talk with several of the band guys before the main set backstage and the sense of happiness and positive energy was very profound.  Obviously, the reason for the night was profoundly sad... but the sense that this was a celebration of life was the unstated but obvious vibe.  It's not often that something born of sadness can create something so life affirming.

The epiphany of the night:  Who knew that Tom Hunting of Exodus could sing?!  The drummer nailed the vocals for about half of the setlist while channeling his inner Ozzy in a heartfelt and not in a cheesy way despite his awesome kimono.  "We love you all!!"

There were so many other moments and details that made this night F-U-N and special.   Although the setlist was Ozzy-era Sabbath songs I loved how the running order didn't follow expectations and they went for inspired deep cuts.  As I mentioned earlier, besides being a benefit for a friend in need, the show was also a celebration of the songs that put us all on the life path that we're on now.  I think it's safe to say that Sabbath influenced the lives of everyone in the room.  The fact that all of the band guys onstage were constantly smiling also showed that Sabbath influenced some of us in the room to do even greater things with our lives.

What was mind blowing was how tight all of the performances were despite the revolving cast of players and only a week's worth of rehearsals.  This was not your typical "weekend cover band" playing Sabbath songs!   The gathered players are all seasoned and, in some cases, iconic musicians.  Robb Flynn acted as the onstage leader and master of ceremonies and his energy and awe about the night was palpable and genuine.  

'Into The Void' with Matt Pike and Jeff Matz 

I am not overstating it when I say tonight ranked up there with some of the most iconic Bay Area Metal events.  However, rather than give a routine review of the night I want to convey how special the atmosphere and vibe was instead of merely reporting who played on what songs with whom.  You can find that trivia on other sites here on The Internets.  To be honest, tonight was one of those once in a lifetime events where if you were not there, watching the videos on YouTube won't do it justice.  The sense of community and friendships was so thick in the air that you could cut it with a broad sword.  I lost track of how many old friends I saw; at least one of them I hadn't seen in maybe 3 years.  I also had beer spilled on me 3 times by random overzealous dudes, but it was all cool.

One particularly special moment happened during a brief delay before 'N.I.B.' when there was a problem with Dean Dell's bass.  Instead of letting the momentum die, Will Carroll and Flynn spontaneously went into a brief jam on the Vio-lence song 'Bodies On Bodies' which the Bay Area crowd immediately recognized.  Energy maintained.  Amazing!

As I've ranted a couple of times already, tonight was a celebration of life and also a tribute to Sabbath being a force in our lives.  In that spirit, the setlist was obviously put together and arranged by Sabbath fanboys for Sabbath fanboys and fangirls:

6. N.I.B.

So solid, right?!

Yes,  Matt and Jeff of High On Fire played on that song.. and Robert of Metallica played on those songs.. and Gary of Exodus played on that song.. and Jim Martin of Faith No More came out and played on that other song... and Will of Death Angel sang that song!  Who knew that he could sing?!   Between him and Tom Hunting it was The Night of the Singing Drummers.

'Paranoid' with Gary Holt and Will Carroll on vocals
'War Pigs' with Jim Martin and Chuck Billy 

Okay, my personal favorite songs of the night were 'Into The Void' with Matt and Jeff of High On Fire (which was the perfect song for Matt to play) and 'Killing Yourself To Live' with Tom Hunting channeling the Live At Last album to perfection.  "SMOKE IT!!  GET HIGH!'

Another especially awesome touch to the night was that only Dio-era Sabbath was played over the PA in between the bands and after the show.  It was perfect and kept the Sabbath theme going all night long.  Despite what Zakk Wylde thinks, Dio-era Sabbath is very legitimate and sacred to folks like me. So STFU Mr. Zakk Wylde.

Although it's only January I can't even imagine another show this year that will be this special.  If you bought the event t-shirt you would have paid $20.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags.  Unfortunately, the event shirt sold out so this is my favorite souvenir from this epic night:

As the event's statement said:  "We hope to raise enough money to help Nikki continue to get back on her feet because the healing is not finished. She still has medical bills to pay and we want to do anything we can to help our old friend."

My understanding is the support for Nikki from this event will continue, with online auctions and maybe other activities.  For those who couldn't attend the concert, donations can be made to Nikki's PayPal account at:  

Being part of "a scene" means more than simply going to see bands or following bands on Facebook.  Sometimes a scene has to rise up together for a just and worthy cause on behalf of one of their own... and that's exactly what The Bay Area Metal scene did tonight.  Dog bless you, every one of us!  Special kudos and karma points to Craig and Robb, the band guys, and all of the others who worked on and supported this event.  Tonight completely inspired me.  Of all the Sabbath lyrics that were recreated tonight, 'Tomorrow's Dream' rang out as the heaviest and most appropriate:
"We hope to raise enough money to help Nikki continue to get back on her feet because the healing is not finished. She still has medical bills to pay and we want to do anything we can to help our old friend."
For those who can't attend the concert, donations can be made to Nikki's PayPal account at

Read more at Of all the Sabbath lyrics that were recreated onstage tonight, these lines struck the heaviest chord to me:

"When sadness fills my days
It's time to turn away
And then tomorrow's dreams
Become reality to me.."

Hail and Amen.

[Live photos courtesy of Sensory Abuse]