Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Lads Are Back In Town

Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
May 9, 2014

In the late-80's and into the early-90's I abandoned Metal for various reason; mainly because I was bored with it.  I gravitated toward other bands and genres that had loud guitars and one of those bands was Loop... along with their peers and rivals The Jesus & Mary Chain and Spacemen 3.  For the newbies, click HERE for a good piece on Loop, their history, and why you should give a shit about them (Note:  The link to a "Loop" Facebook page at the bottom of the article is wrong.. so don't bother visiting it.).  Tonight was just one stop on the band's first U.S. Tour in 24 years. 

Going into the show I felt like I was walking back into 1991 and I was very dubious about it.  When you see a band that you followed 20+ years ago you remember them through rose colored glasses.   The reality of seeing Loop here in the 21st Century had the potential to be a huge reality check bummer that could confirm that I was an old fart with no grounding in the present.  Thankfully Loop was not a bummer.. but they were a reality check.. but in the best way.  Also, in the room with me tonight were a couple of friends who I've known for over 20 years including one who introduced me to Loop (and many other influential bands) a couple of lifetimes ago when we were co-workers.  Yes, it was a full circle show for Umlaut.

As soon as Loop walked onstage and Robert Hampson picked up his guitar and filled the space with his THICK guitar tone it was like no time or days or years had passed since 1991.  I actually turned to my friends and held up The Claw... which you kidz normally display for a silly Black Metal band.. but to me it means the grip of TONE.  Then Loop here in 2014 cut the rope and dropped the room into their signature song 'Soundheads' and a figurative screwdriver was jammed into my skull for the next 10 minutes... and it felt good.  For the remainder of the night my head was shoved into a bucket filled with profound tone and volume that I rarely experience here in the 21st Century.  Favorite song of the set?  'Pulse', dude... 'Pulse'.  Yes, many bands are "loud" but few bands now are capable of harnessing "loud" and ride it like a bucking bronco.  Few bands wrestle with "loud" and bend and mold it as you would molten glass.  Even after all these years Loop can still do that.

 [Photo courtesy of English Bob]

Back in The Day when I'd see a band like Loop, who filled the air with atmosphere that would crush eardrums, I'd close my eyes and shove my psyche into their dark space.  I haven't done that in a long time until tonight... I suppose some might call it meditation or whatever Hippie Shit might define it... but for me I've only been able to do it in the presence of a great live band of the same mindset.  Loop are one of those bands for me.   A couple of lifetimes ago, Loop were one of the bands that showed me you could fuck people up with cerebral volume instead of simplistically elbowing them in a mosh pit.  In the mosh pit your body will get bruised... with Loop it's your mind... and the bruising is a good thing.

If you bought one of every Loop merch item you would have paid around $150 I think.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags.  It was life affirming to leave a show feeling truly inspired and reminded that some old shit isn't bogged down in narcissistic nostalgia.  Some old shit can still be relevant and youthful.  Then 96 hours later it was...

Skid Row / Black Star Riders
DNA Lounge, San Francisco
May 13, 2014

I avoided the "reunited" Thin Lizzy like it was the Ebola virus; I never saw them and it was on purpose.  How could they call themselves "Thin Lizzy" without Phil Lynott??  Blasphemy, right?  For the newbies:  The name "Thin Lizzy" was recently retired and the 2014 version renamed themselves Black Star Riders in order to continue playing music.  I applaud this move.  Peace in Rest, Phil.

Anyway, going into this show I felt like I was walking into a show that could make me feel very old and very disconnected.  As I've said many times in this space, seeing my old heroes can be a double edged sword... because how can my salad day memories of them live up to the reality of time and age?  Then again, I've also said many times that you should see your old heroes while you can because one day they will be gone.  However, I didn't decide to leave Casa de Umlaut for the DNA until literally only a few hours before doors; getting a late guest list confirmation will do that.

As the opening bands played I hung out and caught up with a few friends in the DNA's pizza parlor that is connected to the main room.  The space has turned into a nice element to seeing shows at the venue... and, holy shite, but Scott Gorham himself spent a couple of minutes hanging out in the pizza space as some backstage issue was sorted. I suppose it would have been too fanboy to have sent him a pizza slice.

I'll cut to the chase:  In order it was 'Are You Ready', 'Bad Reputation', 'Jailbreak', 'Rosalie', 'Emerald'... Then 'Cowboy Song' into 'The Boys Are Back In Town' to close.  In between they played some assorted Black Star Riders originals... most of which sounded suspiciously like Thin Lizzy songs.  However, I will cut them some slack especially since only 1/3 of the crowd seemed to know 'Bad Reputation'.... What. The. Fuck.  No matter... because when Gorham kicked into his solo during 'Bad Reputation' I looked over at my buddies and we all had the exact same look on our faces: "Fuck... Yeah.." Magic.

 [Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse]

It's not often these days that I have an epiphany during a concert, but I had one during Black Star Riders.  It specifically happened as Scott Gorham stepped up and into his solo during 'Rosalie'.  I realized that tonight was a case of THE SONGS transcending the moment.  No, it wasn't Phil Lynott onstage... but it was his lifelong band brother Scott Gorham... and that is the closest thing to Thin Lizzy that is possible here in 2014.  Umlaut generally loathes cover bands (sorry friends who are in cover bands... honesty is my only excuse..) and for all intents and purposes Black Star Rider are a cover band.  

However, magically, the old Thin Lizzy songs that brought Scott Gorham back to San Francisco on this Tuesday night are still all powerful and timeless.  I also realized how I've taken these Thin Lizzy songs for granted and I was surprised how emotional I got during the set.  Magic... and 'Cowboy Song' combined with 'The Boys Are Back In Town' are the greatest bar songs, like, ever.. and if the boys wanna fight you better let 'em.  I will also add that Mr. Gorham still looks and plays and performs like a badass muthafucker and does not look like he's 63 years old.  A Guitar God of the highest order.

Anyway, yeah... Skid Row.   I was never into them... but for some reason '18 And Life' became a closet fave song for Umlaut somewhere over the past 20 years or whatever.  A spoiler alert look at the setlist said it was the 5th song of the set... and they played it...  and then I was gone.  Yes, some would say I was misguided especially since right after I ducked back into the club Scott Gorham appeared and I could have "met" him again... but that's not the way this night played out.  No worries or regrets.  "Time is my crime.."

I didn't do a merch audit tonight.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. I would see Black Star Riders again in a heartbeat to bask in the warm youthful embrace of those old Thin Lizzy songs led by Mr. Gorham again.  I listened to nothing but Thin Lizzy the next day and pulled this out of the Umlaut Archives:

Gorham signed it for me in 1992 when he came through town with a band called 21 Guns... but I only went to their in-store appearance and not their show.. and I had completely forgotten about 21 Guns until right now.

"That jukebox in the corner blasting out my favorite song...  
These nights are getting longer and it won't be long... It won't be long...  
Til Summer comes and The Boys are back in town."