High On Fire / Orchid / Ghoul
Rock Bar Theater, San Jose, California
April 11, 2015
It's cool when an old friend has the means to take a childhood hobby to the next level as an adult... and that's exactly what Mr. Kirk Hammett has done. What began as a child with an obsession with horror movies and comics has evolved into an adult world class collector of all that is dark and fun.. and it's been made even cooler that he wants to share it with the public instead of sitting in a dark room surrounded by his valuable rarities. This was the 4th official Kirk von Hammett event dating back to the book release party in 2012. As with last year's event, this year was a 3-day celebration but Umlaut was only able to attend the Saturday event which featured performances by my longtime favorites High On Fire, Orchid, and Ghoul.
Back in The Day the space that is now the Rock Bar was a gambling joint called Garden City Casino. It was odd seeing how they've basically jammed a stage into the space to fit the existing floor plan. Interesting and odd. This was my first visit to this relatively new venue and I had heard nothing but good things about it.
Upon arriving there was a ginormous line waiting at the entrance so I killed time in the vendor tent adjacent to the entrance as well as a small carnival games area that was next to it. The FestEvil vibe was definitely in effect as costumed humans wandered the area.. but it was only a matter of time before things were sorted out for me. If only all Horror conventions were this easy:
Once inside there was time to kill before the bands started... Running into friends, chatting with friends, drinking beers with friends, and also checking out this year's version of Kirk's Crypt featuring some of his collection on display. Honesty is my only excuse: Umlaut only has a casual interest in Horror films and there were really only 2 items that caught my undivided attention... mainly because I am a fan and had seen the items at past events but had failed to take pictures of them. Not this time...
Yes.. Umlaut is one of those now-mainstream types who adores The Walking Dead.. The show and the comics. Anyway, one thing led to another and this happened..
[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]
... and in case you were wondering this is what "backstage" looked like at FestEvil:
As the sun set outside the musical portion of the event started up. Ghoul are one of my favorite bands and it warmed my heart that these band friends were asked to perform. Obviously they were a natural fit and it was cool that they immediately won the crowd over during the first song even as they sprayed the front row with blood-like liquid. Orchid are another group of band friends and they were making a return performance after having been included in last year's party. The Orchid lads were as thunderous as ever but their set was a bit overshadowed by guitarist Mark's vintage Motörhead 1983 Tour shirt in the dressing room:
According to the Umlaut Archives this was the 18th time I'd seen High On Fire.. but I only watched moments of their set as I found myself socializing with friends again more than rocking out. Again... Honesty is my only excuse.. but I was just going with the flow, man.
Far and away the highlight of the day was the jam session finale featuring the host lead guitarist backed by High On Fire as well as guest appearances by Corey Taylor of Slipknot on vocals, John 5 on guitar for most of the set, and Charlie Benante of Anthrax taking over drums for half of the set as well. Before all of that Rock Star power hit the stage this happened in a hallway behind the stage:
The best thing about this All-Star jam was that it did not include the usual cover songs that every Metal All-Star jam usually plays (cue 'Highway To Hell'..'Iron Man'.. etc..). This being Kirk Hammett's party he dug deep into his teenage album collection and pulled out some nerdy song choices!
For the newbies that would be Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Uli Roth-era Scorpions, Riot, Venom, and Judas Priest. FUCK. YEAH. The performance was loose as all of the Rock Stars seemed to tap into their teenage heads again for the duration of the jam. Oddly, I watched this once in a lifetime moment while kneeling inside a fake fireplace at stage left that evidently is a remnant of the space's previous incarnation. The suburbs can be very weird, man.
I did not do a FestEvil merch audit. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced suburban teenagers called me a fag. FestEvil is the type of event that people in The Bay Area tend to observe with a jaded ho-hum hometown attitude. "Oh great.. A member of Metallica doing this and that.. blah blah.." If this event were held in another city the buzz and the energy around it would probably be on another level. Instead it was just another of many, many "only in The Bay Area" events and moments to add to the list. Ain't we lucky!?