Sunday, February 23, 2014

Weekend Of Horror

Kirk Von Hammett's Fear FestEvil
The Regency, San Francisco
February 6-8, 2014

The exciting sequel to Too Much Horror Business!

Yes, it's taken me a couple of weeks to pull this out of my brain... but better late than never.  Anyway, sometimes you have a friend when you're a teenager and that friend grows up to be a multi-millionaire Rock Star... and sometimes that millionaire Rock Star friend spends his hard earned money on insanely rare and cool things that meant a lot to him when he was a kid.  You can read more about this friend's collection HERE.

Thursday:  Preview Night
Tonight was the advance preview night for "VIP" fans and guests that featured Mr. KRK Hamster hosting a food 'n drink party in the upstairs Masonic Temple of The Regency aka The Lodge (!).  It's an amazing space and it was made even better by having artifacts from KRK's horror collection displayed effectively all around the room.  At one point this fanboy moment happened:

Carcass. Fanboy.
[Pic courtesy of Cable Car]

Yes, only half of Carcass caused me to get a "deer in the headlights" look because inside my head I was screaming "HEARTWORKCHANGEDMYLIFE!!"  Nice guys and one of my favorite bands, like, ever.   At another point I had a brief conversation with Kirk Von Hammett (aka The Host) and it was so cool that the very first thing he said to me was how excited he was to be playing with his old band Exodus.  He was genuinely giddy.  Not all Rock Stars are jaded muthafuckers.

Not Playing

Tonight was the social evening and I was able to hang out with several out of town friends who I had not seen in awhile and several local friends who I also had not seen in awhile.  Some good food was served by people in zombie makeup... but the beer selection was, for lack of a better term, lame.  Budweiser vs. Heineken.  Oh well.. It was still a really good time.  Then the next day it was...

Friday:  Exodus / Carcass
After some initial Will Call drama the Rock Godz worked their magic and this happened:

I'm with the band.

From that moment on the day and evening was pretty much a blur.  Scott Ian sat in a chair on the main stage for 3 hours having makeup applied by a Hollywood makeup artist to "transform" him into Jack The Ripper.  Three. Hours.  It was literally like watching paint dry.  Needless to say Umlaut did not watch the entire process.  The end result was pretty cool, but I wonder what the appropriate time ratio is for keeping elaborate monster makeup on versus how long it took to apply.  Maybe Scott is still wearing it..

The vendor area in the basement was interesting but I wasn't in a buying mood.  However, it was an impressive mix of the standard toy and collectible vendors as well as Iron Maiden's original artist Derek Riggs (!) and Doyle of the Misfits (?).  One of the most poignant images of the weekend for me was a throng of people crowding around Riggs' table to meet the creator of Eddie while at the table right next to him Doyle (in full makeup and devilock) sat quietly alone staring at his phone and texting.  I remember Halloween too, Doyle... I remember.

Anyway, as the time for the bands drew near they cleared out the main room so Carcass could soundcheck.  Which was awesome because there were maybe only 5 other people in the room.. and it looked like this via Umlaut's blurry iPhone:

After watching Carcass getting their levels set we few, we happy few, wandered down the street to get some food and caffeine fuel before returning for show time.  By now the main room had been reopened and was nicely full for the return of the Grind Gods to San Francisco.

Carcass opened with '1985', the first song off their insanely great new album Surgical Steel, and then went into the brutally iconic 'Buried Dreams', the first song off their insanely influential (for Umlaut at least) album Heartwork.  Nicely done, lads.  I will admit to being concerned when Michael Amott left the band in 2012, but the current guitar duo of Bill Steer and new guy Ben Ash were steel encased solid and surgically brilliant.  I should not have worried.  It was also very cool that Jeff Walker gave The Bay Area and Bay Area bands a heartfelt shout out in between songs at one point.  Carcass are a band that changed my life at a time when I thought I was too old and *done* with Metal.  I didn't think anything in the genre could inspire me again.  Carcass restarted my Metal heart and seeing them again reminded me of their role in my life.  However, since Carcass will be back here at this same venue in March on the Decibel Tour, halfway through the set I made my way back upstairs to say "Hi" to tonight's headliners and witnessed this:

Holt Awaits

It seemed like all of the throat-scratching fog from Carcass' onstage smoke machines had drifted upstairs because the dressing room hallway was choked full with it... (cough cough)... So I went back downstairs and witnessed the rest of Carcass' beautiful evisceration of San Francisco from stage right.  Then I think I met friends in the lobby for a beer.  I think.  Probably.  Needless to say I'm really looking forward seeing Carcass again when they play a full headline set next month.

Carcass Stage Right:  Tools Of The Trade

I missed Exodus' rare headlining hometown show in December so it was a priority for me to soak up as much of their old school energy as I could.  Unfortunately, the Umlaut Archives doesn't have an accurate count of how many times I've seen Exodus. However, it's safe to say it's around the 40 show range dating back to when Kirk Von Hammett was still in the band.  Tonight was full circle special for that history alone.

Exodus came out and played a steamroller 8-song set that culminated with their original guitarist KRK joining them on 'Pirahna' and then a very inspired (the actor who was the original Godzilla was one of FestEvil's guests) cover of Blue Öyster Cult's 'Godzilla' featuring Godzilla himself dancing onstage.  Godzilla is much shorter in person.  Later I asked Gary why they hadn't played an early Exodus song from the KRK era... like 'Impaler' or 'Whipping Queen' or 'Death and Domination' or 'Warlord'... and he said it would have been "too much work".  Fair enough.

"How does 'Impaler' go again?"
[Pic courtesy of Photo Ray]
"History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.."
[Pic courtesy of Photo Ray]

In all seriousness, it was profoundly awesome to see KRK so happy and obviously having F-U-N onstage.  Let's be honest, I'm positive that sometimes being in Metallica is more like a job than being in a band. That's not meant as a negative, it's just what comes with the territory of being in the biggest Metal band of his generation.  So it was just awesome seeing KRK being that pimply-faced kid again onstage. Somewhere Baloff smiled.

Ironically, because I had just seen them a week before and had been geeking out on them again, I happened to be wearing a Blue Öyster Cult shirt tonight.  It was a completely random coincidence; sometimes The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways.  Later at the After Party I had some quality time with a couple of old friends who I've known since before any of us could buy alcohol legally.. and this happened:

Holt. B.Ö.C. shirt.
[Pic courtesy of Cable Car]

Hammett.  Hanneman.
 [Pic courtesy of Photo Ray]

Right after this photo was taken KRK reminded me that he's known me since he was 19 years old.  Trippy... and pretty cool he even remembers that, right?   Then 24 hours later it was...

Saturday:  Death Angel / Orchid
Due to a prior commitment I had to forgo the Horror part of the fest and arrived not long before the band portion of the day was to start.  One thing led to another and despite my late arrival I ended up here:

Standing at stage right with Orchid I asked if they did a pre-show band bro hug before playing... and they did one right in front of me.  Awww!  I then had a special geek chat with Mark and Theo before they walked onto the hot 'n sweaty stage to pound their hometown under their boot heel of tone.  The local lads were given a full hour so they were basically able to recreate their recent European headlining set on a big stage in front of family and friends.

If I had to choose I'd have to say Orchid was my favorite set of the weekend.  The other bands on the bill are veterans with years in the trenches and who are used to having "famous" friends and admirers.  While Orchid are not kids, the deserved adulation and attention they've been getting recently is something they're not used to yet.  Their fanboy appreciation about being asked by KRK to play at his event was profoundly cute (for lack of a better more endearing term) and translated into how they took over The Regency's stage confidently and made it their own for their allotted time.  Great guys.  Great band.

Tonight was the 3rd show on Death Angel's latest U.S. Tour and it's pretty amazing how the band has come back to be such road dogs in the last several years.  All of that work has paid off as they were the most well-oiled Metal machine of the weekend despite a couple of the guys being sick with flu (cue Purell).  Thirty or more years on from the Murder In The Front Row days and I'm not ashamed to say I get kind of emo watching Death Angel here in the 21st Century.  The current version of Death Angel is so good it's frightening and it's inspiring to see a band that has survived and adapted but remained true to their roots.  It was also an appropriate reality check that tonight also happened to be Mark's birthday, which was celebrated onstage with a cake presented by some of his best friends.  Adorable!  At one point while I stood at stage left between songs this happened:

Mercyful Fate Fanboys

Okay, now get back out on that stage, Mr. Guitarist...

Anyway, 'Seemingly Endless Time' was, as it usually is, my favorite song of the set but the new song 'Fallen' was especially crushing as well. The set and event closing cover songs jam with KRK on 'Heaven And Hell' and 'Trapped Under Ice' sealed the fact how special this event had been.  In all seriousness, it was profoundly awesome to see KRK so happy and obviously having F-U-N onstage with the band whose demo he produced a million years ago.

Let's be honest, I'm positive that sometimes being in Metallica is more like a job than being in a band. That's not meant as a negative, it's just what comes with the territory of being in the biggest Metal band of his generation. So it was just awesome seeing KRK being that pimply-faced kid again onstage.

Apologies that I all but glossed over the Horror aspect of the weekend which was just as impressive as the music side.  Actually, it was probably more impressive to many attendees but truth be told I am a very casual Horror fan.  I watch Walking Dead and read the Walking Dead comics but that's literally it for me and Horror.  I'm just not qualified to comment on it, no matter how cool it all looked to my casual Horror fan eyes.  Yes, that guy who's a makeup artist and a producer on Walking Dead was there.  Yes, the actors who were Ultra-Man and Godzilla were in attendance.  Yes, P.J. Soles was there.  Again, sorry... but I'm sure there are other places on The Internets to read about that side of this event.  Yes, this means I'm not Metal and I am a poser.

I will say that in addition to the music (and the Horror), Kirk Von Hammett's Fear FestEvil had a profound sense of community around it.   The Bay Area vibe was very thick in the air for me due to the host being a local boy made good and the double digit number of friends who were in attendance.  I'm sure this event would still be special if it were held in other cities, but there's something very special about home cooking.

I didn't do a merch audit and I forgot to score the special event tees that Carcass and Exodus did for the weekend.  Oh well... However, it was obvious that there were more SLAAAYEER shirts than any other band shirts amongst attendees.  Interesting.  On the way back to the car all 3 nights, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  Full disclosure:  Writing this blog entry felt like a homework assignment and was a real struggle as I wrestled and did hand to hand combat with the words and sentences.  Writing can be hard.

Click HERE to see more of Photo Ray's awesome photos from the weekend.