Saturday, November 01, 2014

Trial By Fire

Elbo Room, San Francisco
October 25, 2014

My friends, sometimes time travel does exist!  This show was a direct link back to 1983 San Francisco and the original Bay Area Metal Scene.  Although they've played on the East Coast before, this was Satan's first ever U.S. Tour.  The NWOBHM legends were one of the cornerstone bands for that original Bay Area Metal Scene via the tape trading and import records scene; we embraced the band as much as we did Mercyful Fate.  There were probably more bootleg Satan patches and shirts in The Bay Area than anywhere else outside of the band's hometown of Newcastle, England.

Bootleg Satan Patch - Aquatic Park, Berkeley - August 1984
[Photo by Harald O. from Murder In The Front Row]

Tonight was a moment I had been waiting for since 1983 and never thought would happen.  I was penpals with singer Brian Ross back in The Day and even talked to him on the phone although I couldn't really understand his Geordie accent at the time (HA!).  However, it was also bittersweet as there were many ghosts in the room.. including my old friend Sam Kress (R.I.P.). Sam introduced me to Satan.. and it still amazes me that Sam and I and our 'zine Whiplash were thanked on the Court In The Act album. 

Prior to the show I watched Game 4 of the World Series (GIANTS!!) from the comfort of Casa de Umlaut and then headed into The Mission with Photo Ray for the gig.  I was expecting the hipster infused Mission to be an overflow of vomiting post game revelers, but it was not!  Parking was found a mere 2 blocks away and, as I would soon realize, The Metal Godz had much planned for us tonight.

It still surprises me that some bands, even those who have been around a long time, might not comprehend the impact they've had on people.  The first member of Satan who I saw was guitarist Russ Tippins as he was getting out of their van.  When I approached him and asked "Are you Russ?" he answered almost warily with "Yes....." like I was a stalker.   HAHA!   It was all good... and then this happened:

[All photos courtesy of Photo Ray]

Words cannot completely articulate how profound this moment was for me... Full. Fucking. Circle!! Satan.. Whiplash.. I was speechless.. It was a moment that had been in the making since 1983... and I wish that my old buddy and co-editor Sam Kress could have been there with us on that bench on Valencia Street in San Franfuckincisco in 2014.  Amazing.  Except Russ Tippins was MIA for the photo... Oh well.

This show transcended merely being an oldies concert by an old band.  It felt like a high school reunion since SO MANY people who I first met as a teenage Metalhead were there.  SO MANY.  It was pretty emotional to be honest.  It was a moment that brought us all back to when we were pimply-faced Metalheads: The original lineup of Satan onstage in San Francisco!  Hope I die before I get old...  Due to the magnitude of the night I found myself down at the sweaty front as the band launched into 'Trial By Fire' then into 'Blades Of Steel'... and the time space continuum was shattered for the next 75 minutes or so and I was 18 years old again.

Obviously, nostalgia can cause you to look at an event like this through rose-colored glasses and rationalize any shortcomings a band might display.  Let's be honest:  Satan are a band who emerged over 30 years ago and, while it was great that it was all original members, we all know how this scenario usually plays out.  The older version of the band we loved as kidz isn't the same band from our salad days.  People get older and the youthful spirit that fueled them 30 years ago has naturally evaporated over the years.  However...


I was completely floored by how fantastic they were!!  They were NWOBHM legend tight and, dog bless him, Brian Ross and his voice sounded timeless and powerful.  During the set I was surrounded by old friends and at several times during the set we looked at each other and said "Holy shit!" at each other.  It was pretty special to feel 18 years old again in the company of people who I actually knew when I was 18.. back when I had a baby's brain and an old man's heart.

Graeme English (bass) and Sean Taylor (drums) anchoring the band and the twin guitar greatness of Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins put me right back in my teenage Metalhead bedroom again.  It was an epiphany to discover that Russ Tippins is the unsung Guitar God of my generation!   We never knew who played the guitar solos on specific songs and his live solos transcended any studio recordings.  It was a revelation, man... and it just added to the entire magical nature of Satan finally laying waste to San Francisco after all these years. 

I did not want the set to end.  The instrumental 'Dark Side Of Innocence' was the perfect aural bridge in my head back to the early-80's when life really was more innocent.  I felt like I had drank from the Fountain of Youth and could rage all night with one of my life-defining Metal bands again... but alas.. all things come to an end.  Appropriately the set closed with my fave Satan song 'Alone In The Dock'.. and as the sweaty heat from this blazing fun set hung in the air the night's quintessential moment came when Brian Ross dedicated the set to our departed brother Sam Kress (R.I.P.) before they left the stage.


After the final notes rang out I made my way to the band's dressing room.. and each of the band guys greeted me with a spontaneous bro hug.. and 30 years melted away just like that.  Then when I walked outside I encountered most of the old friends I mentioned before and we all gave each other hugs.  This was as close to a high school reunion as I've ever attended and it was amazing that a Metal show could remind me of that long ago youthful bond again.  I hope the current generation of Metal kidz can have this kind of life affirming Metal moment years from now.  Then maybe some of the newer Metal bands who I dislike so much now will have served a purpose after all. 

As I said at the start of this, time travel does exist. Finally meeting these lads from Newcastle after 30+ years made up for the pain I got from my parents when they got the phone bill in 1983 after I called Brian Ross in Newcastle, England long distance to chat about Metal.  Amazing.

Special THANKS for my Asian Brutha from a different mutha Henry who was part of the Satan crew.

If you bought one of every Satan merch item you would have paid $95.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. When I got home I realized that both of my upper arms were covered in bruises from the crowd action.  I still got it.

Click HERE to see more of Photo Ray's shots from this magical night!