Iron Maiden Live Show Review (Deer Creek Music Center (a.k.a. Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center), Noblesville, Indiana, 08/24/19)

In case I haven’t made it clear enough on these pages, Iron Maiden is my favorite band. I saw them live for the first time in St. Louis (well, Maryland Heights, but close enough), on the Maiden England 2013 tour, and it was one of the greatest nights of my life. I cried, I screamed, I cried, I laughed, I cried, I met some very cool people (and one total dud), and I cried some more.

In 2017, Mrs. Stay Heavy and I made the trek back to St. Louis see them again, this time on The Book of Souls World Tour. It was also a badass show, but being that it was a tour for a new (at the time) album, I enjoyed it a bit less, mostly because I hadn’t taken the proper time to familiarize myself with the new songs.

Tangent: I do not dislike The Book of Souls (I do not dislike any Iron Maiden album as a whole), but like most 21st century Maiden, it suffers from a lack of editing, and from a tendency to repeat the name of the song a thousand times during the chorus. The seeds of the latter issue could arguably be traced back to my Second Favorite Iron Maiden Album, 1986’s Somewhere in Time. Lots of the hype surrounding TBoS focused on the fact that it was the band’s first double album ever, and on the fact that album closer “Empire of the Clouds” was the band’s longest song ever. Long runtimes do not automatically make an album less good, but they also do not inherently make an album better. Anyhoo…

That was also a great show, and even 100+ degree temperatures couldn’t keep us from enjoying ourselves. It contained some notable highlights, such as “Powerslave”, “Wrathchild”, and “Blood Brothers”, and I still got plenty choked up, especially during “Wasted Years”.

Time continued its ceaseless march toward humanity’s much-deserved end, and I continued loving Iron Maiden and counting the days until my next Iron Maiden Live Show Experience, knowing that it would likely be another tour built on classic songs, given the band’s touring history these past 20 or so years. When the Legacy of the Beast tour was announced in November 2017, I started to get hyped. When US tour dates were announced a year later, I almost lost my gotdamn mind: they were playing Indianapolis (well, Noblesville, but close enough)! I was finally gonna get to see Maiden without having to drive 4 hours! (The last time they played Indiana, I’d just started a new job and couldn’t get the day off, and all the times before that, I was either terrible with money and couldn’t afford it, or I wasn’t old enough to be able to afford it.)

I bought tickets the day they went on sale, the missus booked us a hotel room (with shuttle service to and from the venue), and I continued loving Iron Maiden and counting the days until my next Iron Maiden Live Show Experience while time continued its ceaseless march toward humanity’s much-deserved end. Finally, after an especially exhausting month-and-a-half at my job, the day was upon us, and this past Saturday, Iron Fucking Maiden delivered the motherfucking goods.

I honestly didn’t think I could enjoy their live show more than I did that first one back in 2013, but I’m here to tell you, friends, that I was very, very wrong. I’ve been reading about this tour, and about the shows, since the first one, in Estonia, on May 26, 2018, so I knew what to expect; I knew the setlist front to back and back again, and I knew about all the props and Bruce’s costume changes, and I still had my mind blown clean apart. It was like watching a movie (or more properly, I suppose, a theater performance) while my favorite band provided the soundtrack.

My only beef with the setlist going into the show was that they’re still not playing any songs from 1990’s obscenely underrated No Prayer for the Dying (at this point I’m just gonna have to resign myself to the fact that I’ll never get to hear “Tailgunner” live in person), and that they included “For the Greater Good of God” from 2005’s A Matter of Life and Death instead of, for example, “Tailgunner”, or maybe “Man on the Edge”, or even something from 2003’s Dance of Death, which is my personal favorite “post-reunion” Maiden album, but ultimately, “For the Greater Good of God” is still a Very Good Song, so I wasn’t about to let one little hitch get in the way of my enjoyment of the otherwise rock solid setlist.

I bought a shirt immediately after entering the venue, then we hung around and did some talking and people-watching while The Raven Age played. They were fine, but I did not/do not care about them.

Here’s my shirt. I don’t know why the back showed up first, but whatever.

Here’s the front. I spent too much money on it, but I don’t give a single fuck, and I’d do it again.

The show started out with a spectacle that most bands would save for their closing number, but when you bring in the kind of money that Iron Maiden does, you can afford to make every song a closing number if you want. A replica Spitfire WWII-era plane “flew” above the stage during “Aces High”, and it was amazing, but then they followed up with “Where Eagles Dare”, and the transition was flawless, and I almost died of Iron Maiden, and then they played “2 Minutes to Midnight” and “The (motherfucking) Clansman” (Bruce: “This song is called ‘The Clansman’. When you put it on social media, make sure you get the spelling right.”), the Blaze Bayley-era song about William Wallace, and if you think it wasn’t absolutely fucking amazing and liberating to scream “FREEDOM!” along with some 24,000 like-minded Maiden fans, you’d be even wronger than I was when I thought I couldn’t enjoy their live show more than I did that first one back in 2013.

*breathe*

“The Trooper” followed, and it remains the Perfect Heavy Metal Song (in case you were wondering), then they played an absolutely crushing rendition of “Revelations” (if you’re keeping score at home, that’s already three songs from 1983’s Piece of Mind, which happens to be my Favorite Iron Maiden Album), and then they started into “For the Greater Good of God”, and I was suddenly glad they were playing it instead of, for example, “Tailgunner”, or maybe “Man on the Edge”, or even something from 2003’s Dance of Death, because I had to rock a piss like I’d never peed before, and while I walked to the restroom amongst the throngs of fellow middle-aged dudes who were leaving their seats for the first time since the first notes of “Transylvania” played over the PA, it occurred to me that the band knew what they were doing when they included that song in the setlist: old dudes need to pee, and they don’t wanna miss out on “Revelations” while they do it.

I got back to my seat approximately 30 seconds before “The Wicker Man” started, and it was just excellent, and then they played “Sign of the Cross”, and it was fucking epic, and THEN THEY PLAYED FUCKING “FLIGHT OF ICARUS” AND BRUCE SHOT FLAMES INTO THE AIR AND THE OVERSIZED ICARUS ABOVE THE STAGE COLLAPSED INTO ASH AT THE END OF THE SONG, and then “Fear of the Dark” started, and the crowd sang along with every note just like they do in South America (though nowhere near as loud), and then they played “The Number of the Beast”, and then “Iron Maiden”, and then they left the stage, but obviously they weren’t finished yet, because I still had some voice left for shouting and some tears left for crying, so they came out for an encore of “The Evil That Men Do” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Run to the Hills”, and to steal a phrase from Pantera, it was goddamn electric.

One thing of note: this dude sitting in front of us asked us before the show started if we were sitters or standers, and went on to say that he was in attendance at the Pittsburgh show on 8/17 was yelled at several times to sit down. We then found out that he was, in fact, attending his 5th show of the tour, with one more to go before returning home to Atlanta!(!) Iron Maiden fans are insane, and Justin from Atlanta is one of the good ones. When the show was over, he turned to me and said “how is Indianapolis the best?” I replied “I don’t know, it’s often the worst”, and I wasn’t wrong about that, but no bullshit, that crowd was absolutely figuratively on fire.

I’ve been to hundreds and hundreds of shows in all kinds of venues over the past 26 years or so, and this was certainly one of the two or three best shows I’ve ever attended, and hands down the most exciting. Music is my religion, live music is my church, and I absolutely saw the face of god on the night of August 24, 2019.

Thanks for reading, friends. Stay heavy, and Up the motherfucking Irons.

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We’re Scanning the Scene in the City Tonight: A Long, Convoluted Thing About Seeing Metallica Live at the KFC Yum! Center on 03/09/2019

My Metallica Weekend has come and gone, and I still find myself getting giddy and emotional when I think back on the show, but the day wasn’t all harvesters of sorrow, creeping deaths, and lepers messiah, friends. For a day that started out so great, and had so much potential, things got extremely fucking terrible for a while. However, through  sheer force of will (along with some help from Metallica, as well as the wonderful bartending and kitchen staff at Bluegrass Brewing Company), the night ended up being pretty damn perfect. Here’s my rundown…

A quick origin story to set the stage for the extremely fucking terrible part of the day: two months ago, we tried to book a hotel room for the night, only to find insane rates everywhere we looked (within walking distance, anyway – we could’ve stayed 10 miles away from the venue for a decent price, but we wanted to have the option of walking to the show, weather permitting). We later found out that in addition to Metallica, John “Johnny “The Coug” Cougar” Mellencamp was playing in town, and on top of that, our usual downtown Louisville hotel destination is in the process of being remodeled, so they have fewer rooms available than usual. Long story short, we decided, with much hesitation, to give Airbnb a shot.

Both of us had been wary of using the service, mostly because of the lack of accountability it provides, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and we found a listing that was just blocks from the venue. It was not cheap at all, but it was cheaper than any hotel in the area, and it was an entire loft apartment. I booked it, and we were go – approximately one year after Mrs. Stay Heavy purchased the tickets (as an early birthday gift for me), it was all finally starting to seem real.

We left town around 11:00 AM and drove straight to the New Albanian Brewing Company Pizzeria and Public House for delicious pizza and excellent craft beers (all very affordable, as well – do look them up if you’re in that area!), arriving there around 1:30. I contacted our Airbnb hosts and indicated that we were in New Albany, and that I would call them when we were leaving, as Google Maps indicated the drive would take 15 minutes. One of them got back with me and said that would be great, and that they would meet us in the lobby of the building at 3:30 (which was 30 minutes after our  agreed upon check-in time, but it was raining very hard, and I thought maybe that played into it a bit, so I didn’t worry much about it).

With our bellies full, we got in the car and I called the number given to me when I booked the apartment, only to get a business voicemail. I declined to leave a voice message and instead messaged them through the app, telling them that we were on our way, and that we would see them at 3:30. When we arrived in the parking garage across the street, I still hadn’t heard from them, so we walked into the lobby and waited…and waited…and waited…until about 3:45, when I sent another message indicating we were there. At 3:50, I called the number again, leaving a voicemail this time. At 3:55, a woman who earlier had walked through the lobby and gone up the elevator approached us and asked if we had a 4:00 PM check-in.

We indicated that we, in fact, had a 3:00 PM check-in, but were asked to meet the hosts at 3:30. She told us that she was there as a representative of her sister, who in turn works for the hosts. Her sister was out of town or some such, and she was sent to clean the room for us, but turns out the guy who stayed the night before hadn’t checked out yet, all of his stuff was in the apartment, and he was nowhere to be found. She spent the next 15 minutes trying to contact one of the hosts (one of which was out of the country on vacation, while the other was apparently in some kind of business meeting), and eventually she was told by someone to go ahead up and clean the room for us.

We followed her up to the loft and were greeted by a room in complete disarray: TV left on, laundry in the washing machine, air matress inflated in the middle of the living area, dirty clothes and dishes all over the place, and, as expected, no sign of the asshole who clearly had no intention of leaving anytime soon. The poor woman who was acting as the face of the hosts started trying to clean for us while we stood there frantically looking for a hotel room somewhere close, hoping like hell this fuckwad wouldn’t come back while we were all in there, because fuck a bunch of that awkward bullshit. We booked a room about 1 mile from the venue (for an obscene amount of money), told her we were not comfortable staying in this room, for many reasons, and that we were gonna stay somewhere else and get a refund on this ridiculous situation. She replied that she was glad we said that, because she wasn’t comfortable with the sitation either.

We left the buiding, walked back across the street to the parking garage in the torrential rain, and drove to our newly-booked hotel. The front desk staff and the place were very nice (although obviously overpriced), and I’d recommend the Vu Guesthouse to anyone staying in downtown Louisville. We got in the room, freshened up, and requested a Lyft – we still had plenty of time before the show started, but we wanted to stop at the Bluegrass Brewing Company for a small bite to eat and some much more affordable beers before entering the  overpriced confines of the KFC Yum! Center (official motto: A Very Nice Venue With A Very Bad Name*).

We stood out in the rain and watched our Lyft driver speed past us without even looking our way. I got a notification that he was waiting on us, and would be leaving in 1 minute, so I called him and told him where we were. He responded that he was there, too, and after a much-too-long phone conversation, we realized he was in the parking lot behind us. We got in his car to the sounds of some kind of god-awful pop music and proceeded downtown in the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced in Louisville. The one mile trip took us almost 25 minutes, and if it hadn’t been raining so very, very hard, I would’ve gotten out and walked. I told the missus that I was going to have a good time tonight if it killed me, and that I was confident that everything would soon be coming up Milhouse.

We arrived at BBC right around 6:00 PM and were told by the hostess that it would probably be a 1 hour wait for a table. I told her we were gonna go grab a beer and wait inside somewhere, and she said that was fine, as long as we didn’t stand on the stairs. We ordered a couple of pints (the keg blew while the bartender was pouring mine (because at that point, why the hell wouldn’t it?), and she gave me three quarters of a beer for free while she poured a different beer for me – “Milhouse!”, I said to the missus) and found ourselves a back corner next to the stairs. The place was fucking packed, and the music was blaring, almost uncomfortably so – I think they were trying to get people pumped for the show, but I think they may also have trying to get some people to clear out. Only one of those possible motives had the possible desired effect; the crowd was clearly into the jams and had no intention of leaving until the rain lightened up.

“Hey Joel, are you ever gonna get to the fucking point and talk about the goddamn show?” That’s a fair question; we’ll be there soon, I promise.

We chatted up another couple standing near us, both of whom were very friendly, and after about 15 minutes the rain did let up, and over half the crowd (including our new chums) cleared out, seemingly all at once, and crossed the still completely jammed up intersection to wait in line outside the venue. Three seats opened up at the bar, we snagged two, and within one minute, we were able to order food and more beers (“Milhouse!”). Our food arrived in record time, and just as it was placed in front of us, one of the bartenders switched the music over to a strictly Metallica playlist (“Milhouse!”). We finished up, paid our tab, and crossed the still completely jammed up intersection to wait in line outside the venue. We got in quickly, found our seats, and mostly enjoyed the comedy stylings of funnyman Jim Breuer, who for whatever reason is the opening act on this leg of the tour.

Jim Breuer is down there somewhere.

Sometime around 8:15, the lights went down and the crowd roared as the strains of Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy of Gold” began to play over the sound system, accompanied by the scene that accompanies it in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I was overcome by emotion, due both to the moment and to the beauty of that song and movie, and I may or may not have started weeping uncontrollably. Next thing you know, the band is onstage and ripping through the first two songs from their latest offering, 2016’s Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. James addressed the crowd briefly, then they laid out a killer rendition of “Seek and Destroy”, followed by “Harvester of Sorrow”, then a whole bunch of other rad shit for a set that ended up being somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 hours long.

Here’s the stage minutes before Metallica ruled it.

The band was tight (as they should be), and it might’ve been my imagination, but it seemed like they were playing songs faster than the studio versions, which was extra cool, but did make it a bit more challenging to sing along. James kicked ass on vocals, which honestly was my primary concern going into the show. I’ve seen and heard plenty of live footage of the band from the past several years, and his voice has often sounded strained, but he sounded great, as he has on every live video I’ve seen from this tour so far. He had to pitch a bit lower on the older songs, but every band from the old days has to do that (with the notable exception of Death Angel). He was able to adjust without making it sound weird, and I was very glad about that.

The light show was dope, but I especially enjoyed this, during “Halo on Fire”.

I enjoyed the songs from the new album very much, although I did take a pee break during Lars’ drum solo in the midst of “Now That We’re Dead”, which proved to be a very popular time for a pee break. They played several songs from 1991’s Metallica (a.k.a. “The Black Album”), and I say with absolute certainty that those songs have never sounded better. I even enjoyed the live rendition of “Fuel”, from the band’s much-maligned multi-platinum 1997 Reload, although further research has indicated that I still do not enjoy the studio version.

The band has broken attendance records at several of the venues they’ve played on this absurdly long tour, and our stop was no different, with a final tally of 23,084 (beating the previous record held by country superstar George Strait since 2014). Our crowd also holds the distinction of being the largest crowd so far of the North American leg of the tour. Oddly enough though, for an extremely loud sold-out crowd on a Saturday night, we were the only people in our section who stood at any point during the show, save for the people behind us (who only stood up after we did, which was immediately upon hearing the opening strains of “The Ecstasy of Gold”) and one other dude down the way from us. In fact, all throughout our level, we could see people just sitting, as if Metallica was not rocking their balls and/or tits off. That was weird.

SETLIST

  1. Hardwired
  2. Atlas, Rise!
  3. Seek and Destroy
  4. Harvester of Sorrow
  5. The Unforgiven
  6. Now That We’re Dead (with extended middle drum solo/pee break)
  7. Creeping Death
  8. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  9. Halo on Fire (followed by Kirk and Rob’s solos, featuring “Too Rolling Stoned” (Robin Trower) and “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth“)
  10. Motorbreath
  11. Fuel
  12. Moth Into Flame
  13. Sad But True
  14. One
  15. Master of Puppets

ENCORE

  1. Battery
  2. Nothing Else Matters
  3. Enter Sandman

To sum up: I laughed, I cried, I screamed, I cried some more, and I nearly lost my goddamn mind. After almost 33 years of surviving the ups and downs that accompany being a Metallica fan, I finally got to see Metallica live. I can’t help but think that after all the bullshit in the hours leading up to it, I had an even better time than I would otherwise have had, but either way, it was one of the greatest and most cathartic experiences of my life.

At the risk of sounding like a total goober, I’m just gonna go ahead and say that for a couple of hours on Saturday night, March 9, 2019, nothing else mattered. Thanks for reading, friends, and stay heavy.

*Not their real motto.

I Wanna Disconnect Myself: A Thing About the First Time I Met Henry Rollins

The second time I met Henry Rollins was embarrassing, but only in retrospect. At the time, I was brimming with confidence (which is part of what makes it embarrassing).

I went with my buddy Owen to see Rollins Band in Cincinnati on the Get Some Go Again (2000) tour, and afterward, we hung around the bus because I wanted to give him a copy of a collection of poems I’d put together. My writing style back then was very much influenced by his writing style back then, and I put the book together during a time of relative depression in my life. Writing everything down helped me get it out and feel more normal, but in hindsight, I really wish I hadn’t given out so many copies so freely.

Aside from the writing itself, what made my giving Rollins a copy so retrospectively embarrassing was my decision to include a note inside, encouraging him to contact me with any thoughts or feedback he might have. The only part of the entire experience that does not currently embarrass me is the fact that he liked the title (All Aboard the Joel Train), which, as it happens, is the only part of the entire collection that I am not currently embarrassed about.

The first time I met Henry Rollins, though…that was embarrassing then and now, but it’s also pretty hilarious, and that’s what we’re gathered here today to discuss…
A whole mess of us (myself, along with Travis, Darin, Casey, and maybe Casey’s cousin) drove up to Indianapolis to see Rollins Band on the tour for 1997’s Come in and Burn (an album that I don’t listen to often, but which I still feel is underrated). The band was amazing (Melvin Gibbs’ bass is still causing my insides to jiggle), and the crowd was amazing, and everything was amazing, and then then show ended, and everyone (excluding Travis and myself) wanted to hang around the bus and meet everyone.
I should point out that it’s not like we didn’t want to meet Henry Rollins; it was just that as voracious readers of his self-published writings, we knew that he wasn’t into the whole shaking hands/small talk thing (Which I totally get – small talk is the fucking worst!), and he wished that people would/could be happy with the band pouring their hearts and souls and guts out all over the stage, and we didn’t want to come off as some of those people who seemingly couldn’t understand that. In short, we thought we were very cool.
Anyway, we’re all hanging around the bus, along with some other like-minded fans, and the entire band comes out (sans Rollins), and they’re extremely friendly and more than happy to chat with us for a bit (I told Melvin he was a “bass god”, which seemed to embarrass him, but I stand by that assertion). They all signed stuff for us, and it was cool, and then Rollins came out and began to make the rounds.
I remember Casey showing him his driver’s license, which indicated that they have the same birthday, and Rollins saying something like “cool, are you a genius too?” Then everybody else talked to him, and I spent the entire time trying to think of something cool and memorable to say to the man who was, at the time, one of my idols.
It finally comes down to me – Go Time. “Don’t be nervous, just say something cool”, I said to myself. Instead, the following exchange took place:
Me (sweating profusely): That was a really great show.
Rollins: Thanks very much, I appreciate that.
Me: I really loved your part in The Chase. That’s like the greatest movie of all time.
Rollins (dumbfounded): Oh, wow. You really should see more movies. Maybe check out A Streetcar Named Desire. It’s a lot better than The Chase.
Me (sweating even more): Um…yeah…um…
And it just ended there, which was probably for the best.
I didn’t think The Chase was the greatest movie of all time, or even “like” the greatest movie of all time! Why did I tell Henry Rollins I thought that?! Why did that come out of my mouth?! What the hell was wrong with me?!?!
In case you are unfamiliar with The Chase, here’s the synopsis from Wikipedia: “The Chase is a 1994 American action film directed by Adam Rifkin and starring Charlie Sheen and Kristy Swanson, depicting a wrongfully-convicted man who kidnaps a wealthy heiress and leads police on a lengthy car chase in an attempt to escape prison. It features Henry Rollins, Josh Mostel, and Ray Wise in supporting roles, with cameo appearances by pornographic film actor Ron Jeremy and Anthony Kiedis and Flea of the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers.”
Rollins and Mostel play the cops who are in primary pursuit throughout the titular chase, and they have a Cops-style camera crew in the car with them. Rollins enthusiastically plays the role of Over-the-Top Asshole Tough Guy Cop, and is easily the most consistently entertaining part of the entire movie, which I have to say again, I have never once considered to be the greatest movie of all time, even though I told Henry Rollins I thought that.
If The Chase sounds like it could be a pretty fun and/or probably really dumb movie, that’s because it is in fact both, but I have to make sure I’m being crystal clear about something: as much I used to enjoy watching The Chase, and as much as I thoroughly enjoyed Henry Rollins’ performance as an over-the-top asshole cop, I have never once even considered considering The Chase to be anywhere near even the bottom of any list of “Greatest Movies of All Time”, past or present, even though I told Henry Rollins I thought that.
Travis probably talked to him about John Coltrane or something cool like that, but Henry Rollins definitely left that encounter thinking I was some kind of idiot, and I can’t say that he was wrong to think that.

We Turn It On And You’ll Be Going Crazy: A Sort of Review of Voivod Live at Zanzabar, Louisville, KY, 02.29.16

This show happened five days ago, and I’m just now feeling up to the task of trying to write about it. There are many reasons for the delay, but chief among them are lack of time, lack of energy, and, quite frankly, lack of suitable vocabulary. Voivod crushed the shit out of Louisville, Kentucky on Leap Day 2016, and my brain was among those casualties.

I woke up with the plague that morning, and was as sad and angry as I’ve been in a long, long time. I told Mrs. Stay Heavy that if I didn’t feel any better by the time I got off work, I didn’t think I’d be able to go. I felt like my head was caving in, and there was no way I could miss the next day of work, plus I had to drive 2 hours each way for the show, and like Detective Roger Murtaugh, I’m too old for that shit.

toooldforthisshit

As the day progressed, so did my health, and by the time I got home from work, my body was operating at an estimated 78.3% capacity. That was good enough for me. The missus was getting over her own seasonal bullshit sickness, and she was feeling a bit better, too, so we hopped in the car and drove down, arriving at Zanzabar a little after 7 PM.

This sign greeted us outside. I kinda wish I'd gotten the Cobb salad.

This sign greeted us outside. I kinda wish I’d gotten the Cobb salad.

We ordered a pizza, which was just okay (though our service was great, which was a welcome change for us). While we ate, Black Fast did their sound check. I hadn’t listened to them before, but I liked what I was hearing. After eating, we scoped out the premises. It’s a small, weird, eclectic space; pinball machines abound, along with some arcade games. I got the chance to play the Star Wars pinball machine that is partially responsible for my dropping out of college my freshman year, and I’m still just okay at it, but it’s still fun as fuck to play.

Anyway, Black Fast took the stage at 8:30 sharp and played a super heavy, super tight 30 minute set. The relatively small-ish crowd that was gathered around the stage was really into it, and the band clearly fed off their energy, giving it back in spades. I could feel myself regressing a bit, so we went back to sit near the bar after a couple of songs so I could reserve my energy for the main event. I was unable to see the very low stage from my seat, but they sounded great throughout, and I look forward to hearing more from these dudes.

Vektor did a fairly brief setup, during which I played more pinball and checked out the merch, then played their ferocious set to a pretty good number of true believers. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’d only heard one Vektor song prior to that night, and I only listened to that one a couple of weeks ago, after I bought the tickets to this show. Suffice it to say, I was a god damn fool. Vektor were fucking breathtaking, and I wish I could afford to purchase their entire discography right now.

I had to step outside at one point during their set, because in addition to my slowly declining health, I was starting to get sleepy, too. The missus came with me, and we stepped out the door just in time to see Snake walking by. We exchanged a casual “hello” with him, and I played it cool, but my inner fanboy was about to piss himself with excitement. We went back inside and caught the last song-and-a-half of Vektor’s set, then made our way toward the front, managing to snag pretty premium spots right near the front of stage right, a.k.a. Chewy’s side.

After what seemed like decades, the fantastic and disorienting sound of the delayed bass from around the 2:50 mark of Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” came thundering over the PA, and the heroes of the evening took the stage, smiling like little kids on Christmas morning. They cleaved the top of my head off with “Ripping Headaches”, then continued to slowly cut me into little pieces throughout what is easily one of the top five shows I’ve ever gotten the chance to see. I got three shitty pictures right at the beginning…

Snake is so much fun to watch.

Snake is so much fun to watch.

Chewy in action. I was also in action. I put my camera away after this.

Chewy in action. I was also in action.

Away, dematerializing.

Away, crossing dimensions.

…and then put my phone away and let the show transport me to another dimension – a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. The set was absolutely flawless, and the band was obviously having a blast, and sounded tighter than a duck’s asshole. I almost lost my shit during “Inner Combustion”, “Killing Technology”, “The Prow”, and “Psychic Vacuum”. I screamed along until I almost puked during “Voivod”. And I cried like a little baby during “Astronomy Domine”, just as I do every time I watch live footage and Snake dedicates it to Piggy.

By the time the set was over, I felt like I’d been hit by a car and knocked down a flight of stairs. Every song was stellar, and the only downside to the entire show were the three assholes who were standing right around me. Here’s a little bit about them…

There was the drunk guy – I’ll call him “Drunky”. Drunky was okay at first, but he repeatedly leaned on Chewy’s monitor, causing it slide around, and inexplicably just kept pointing at Away, as if to indicate to all of us that Away was, in fact, there. His shit got old before it was all over, but he was mostly harmless. I saw him getting practically dragged down the sidewalk by two friends after the show, so I know he wasn’t necessarily in control of his facilities, but hopefully he learns to handle his booze a little better in the future. Prolly not, though, as he looked to be mid-40s. Anyway…

Then there was The Couple…the missus referred to the guy as “the poor man’s Brendan Fraser”, but I maintain that Brendan Fraser himself gets that distinction, so I called him “Brendan Fraser’s Dumb Looking Cousin”. He was there with his ladyfriend, who we’ll call “Backpack”, since she was wearing one and clearly did not give a shit about the fact that it was constantly knocking into people. These two douche canoes spent 80% of the goddamn show taking pictures and video with their goddamn phones. It was bad enough that Snake said to Brendan Fraser’s Dumb Looking Cousin at one point, “I’m not getting in your way while you’re filming, am I?”, which prompted Backpack to yell out, “but he loves you guys!” As if the rest of us fucking don’t, right?

But did BFDLC get the point? Clearly not, because shortly thereafter, he pulled his goddamn phone out of his goddamn pocket again, only to lose his goddamn grip and send it goddamn flying onto the goddamn stage, immediately to the right of and behind Chewy’s foot. He managed to lean over and picked it up without incident, but he could have easily tripped Chewy, and I was reeeeaaaaly hoping Chewy would step on it and break it. And Backpack just spent the whole show bumping into me with her backpack and holding her phone way up in everybody’s way.

HEY DUMB DICKS: IF I WANTED TO WATCH THE SHOW THROUGH YOUR GODDAMN PHONES, I WOULD’VE STAYED HOME AND LOOKED THAT SHIT UP ON YOUTUBE THE NEXT DAY, YOU DUMB DICKS.

And I get it; I understand that people want mementos, a little something to remember the show by, but sometimes memories should be enough, and I believe if Brendan Fraser’s Dumb Looking Cousin and Backpack had just fucking let themselves get lost in the experience, like I was mostly able to do in spite of them, they wouldn’t need 700 shitty, blurry pictures to remember the night.

“But Joel, you took pictures too, you hypocrite,” you might say. To that I respond: I took three pictures. The picture of Snake was within the first minute of the show, and the pictures of Chewy and Away were both taken during the same song, and from a low angle, so I wasn’t blocking anyone else’s view when I snapped them. That’s part of why they are shitty pictures.

Anyway, the show ended, and Chewy gave me a pick, and I told him and Rocky and Snake that the show was great, and I told Away, in all honesty, that it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness, and his response was “Oh, wow, thank you so much. And thank you for coming”, and I’m just like, wow, how fucking amazing is that man – one of the true geniuses of our time, and I don’t believe he could’ve been more polite or humble.

Good lord, am I in some kind of comma splice contest or something?

We hit the merch table on the way out, but they only had the Killing Technology shirts (which is the one I wanted most) in size small, and I didn’t really have the money to spend on a shirt anyway, so I bought three buttons and a sticker, and we began the drive home, arriving back a little after 2 AM. I felt like absolute hell, but I somehow managed to get to work on time and do a serviceable job, and I’ve been living in a strange kind of daze ever since. Part of that is related to the fact that I’m still recovering from this bastard of a sinus infection and am on various and sundry medications, but the bulk of the daze is undoubtedly due to the time I spent in Voivod’s multiverse on a day that only exists once every four years. It is a day I will never forget, even though I only got three pictures.

                                                         SETLIST:

 

  1. Ripping Headaches (from Rrröööaaarrr, 1986)
  2. Tribal Convictions (from Dimension Hatröss, 1988)
  3. Overreaction (from Killing Technology, 1987)
  4. Kluskap O’Kom (from Target Earth, 2013)
  5. Inner Combustion (from Nothingface, 1989)
  6. Post Society (from Post Society EP, 2016)
  7. Killing Technology (from Killing Technology, 1987)
  8. The Prow (from Angel Rat, 1991)
  9. We Are Connected (from Post Society EP, 2016)
  10. Psychic Vacuum (from Dimension Hatröss, 1988)
  11. Forever Mountain (from Post Society EP, 2016)
  12. Voivod (from War and Pain, 1984)
  13. Astronomy Domine (from Nothingface, 1989)

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, and remember to stay heavy, always.

 

Only You Can Free Yourself: A Sort of Review of the Today Is the Day Show at the 5th Quarter Lounge, Indianapolis, IN, 09.09.15

Cathartic. Intense. Passionate. Heavy. Loud as fuck. These are a few of the words I’m able to string together off the top of my head as I sit down to write about Today Is the Day’s absolutely flawless performance in Indianapolis on Wednesday, September 9, 2015.

All the cool kids were apparently at the Murat Theater for the Motörhead show that night, but the few people who chose to visit the 5th Quarter Lounge instead were treated to a show they are not likely to forget anytime soon. Vocalist/guitarist/founder Steve Austin poured his heart and soul out all over that room, and drummer Douglas Andrae and bassist Trevor Thomas formed a completely impenetrable wall of rhythm to help drive Austin’s demented vision straight into my very core. “Professionalism” is another word that has been rolling around in my mind since the show; I have no doubt that if the place had been sold out, the performance would’ve been exactly the same. A lot of people in a lot of different lines of work could certainly learn a thing or two from the professionalism on display there.

Quick backstory: Mrs. Stay Heavy and myself had every intention of attending the Motörhead show, as mentioned previously in these pages, but when Lemmy’s health took a turn for the worse and they started cancelling shows and cutting them short not long before their scheduled Indianapolis stop, we decided to not get tickets. In addition, the Murat Theater is a less than ideal venue for a band like Motörhead; it’s the kind of place that Chris Isaak plays, and I can’t really imagine seeing Motörhead in a fancypants seated theater-type venue. At any rate, Today Is the Day added a show in Philadelphia and a show in Indy on their way to Salt Lake City, where they are set to kick off their tour with Abigail Williams tonight, and even though my wife is not quite into such extreme sounds, she knew I really wanted to go, and she agreed to join me, and that’s just one of the many reasons why she is such an amazing human being.

The venue appears to be located in a former church, or perhaps a YMCA – a basketball court remains upstairs (and was definitely in use throughout the night), and the men’s room was very much also a usable locker room, which I imagine works out well for touring bands who find themselves in need of a shower. It was a pretty sweet venue for a show of this nature, and I am very much looking forward to seeing D.R.I. there later this month. It had that familiar dive bar funk to it, pool tables off to the side, and the drinks were priced right.

View of the venue from the li'l parking lot across the street.

View of the venue from the li’l parking lot across the street.

We walked in and scoped out the room, and when I noticed the TItD merch station, I went over to take in the amazing t-shirt selection. No one was behind the table yet, so I turned around to wander back to the missus, when a longhaired fella who looked familiar to me said “Hi! Who are you?” “I’m Joel,” I replied, and MSH introduced herself, and he said “I’m Mike, I’m in (opening band) Photian Schism. Thanks for coming out tonight.” I told him I saw his band open for Death Angel Continue reading

Join Us Or Step Aside: A Sort of Review the Death Angel Show at The Headquarters, Indianapolis, IN, 04.26.15

I’ve always loved Death Angel, since the first time I heard “Mistress of Pain” on the Rising Metal compilation tape my cousin Nathan bought at Wal-Mart back in 1989. My cousin Jason and I each picked up a copy of the band’s original swansong, Act III, as soon as possible after its April 1990 release, and we each played the ever livin fuck out of our copies, to the point where I’ve had to buy two replacement copies (so far). I was bummed when lead singer Mark Osegueda left the band in 1991, so much so that I never got around to checking out the band that rose from the ashes, The Organization, which consisted of the the remaining four members. I was stoked when I heard they reunited for the Thrash of the Titans show in San Francisco in 2001, and even more stoked when I heard they’d decided to stay together and record new music. And I was giddy as a schoolgirl when my cousin Jason and I finally got to see them live in 2012, when they opened for Anthrax and Testament in Indianapolis. They only played for 30 minutes, but goddamn did they ever tear up that stage!

I love every album from the band, but I have to admit that when I’ve thought about my favorite metal bands, thrash or otherwise (which happens pretty often), Death Angel has never topped the list. That changed forever on Sunday, April 26, 2015. Death Angel put on a show that will be goddamn near impossible to top, and I’m left with the unenviable task of deciding which band gets booted out of my personal Top Five Favorite Metal Bands of All Time (for the record, I still haven’t decided yet). Nine days later, and I’m still flying high from the experience.

Death Angel is currently on tour with Cavalera Conspiracy, Corrosion of Conformity Blind (which I would fucking love to see, as I firmly believe that Karl Agell is the best vocalist COC ever had, and Blind is my favorite COC album, but that’s a matter for another time), and a band called Lody Kong, which I’ve never heard, and which I’d never heard of before this tour was announced, but which has a kinda dumb name, but I digress.

The tour had a day off between their Milwaukee and Minneapolis shows, and Larry Rasener of Metalhead Productions offered Death Angel a headlining show that night, and they drove some 300 miles out of their way to kick our fucking asses at The Headquarters before driving another 600 miles to meet back up with their tourmates the next day.

We arrived after openers Death Collector (from Mooresville, IN) started, but we got to see the last three songs from their set, and they were really good. If I’m not mistaken, the members are all under 18, which makes them all the more impressive. They describe themselves as groove/thrash/speed metal, and I don’t recall hearing a lot of speed, but they definitely have a groove that cannot be denied, and when they thrash, it’s unmistakable. Keep an eye out for these dudes! I did not get any decent photos of them, unfortunately, so I guess you won’t know what they look like.

Indianapolis’ own Photian Schism played next, and they were super enjoyable and high-energy. They were fast as fuck, heavy as shit, and tight as hell, and the vocals reminded me of a cross between Napalm Death and another band that has since escaped me, because I’m getting old, and I forgot to write it down. At any rate, good shit.

Photian Schism's vocalist works from down on the floor...

Photian Schism’s vocalist works from down on the floor…

...so that he can more easily incite pits like this one.

…so that he can more easily incite pits like this one.

Killzone provided the direct support, and they, too, brought some serious metal goods; a solid groove, some thrashing riffs, and vocals in the same general ZIP code as Metal Church. If you get a chance to see any of the above bands live, I highly recommend them all.

Killzone action shot.

Killzone action shot.

At just a hair past 10:00 PM EDT, Death Angel took the stage, blowing the tops of our heads clean off with the opening 1-2 salvo of “Left for Dead” and “Son of the Morning”, from 2013’s absurdly great The Dream Calls for Blood. They went on to play a TDCFB-heavy set, but they also played at least one song from every album in their catalog, pulling out a couple of tunes from 1988’s Frolic Through the Park, which Mark indicated they pretty much never play live, and even graced us with the presence of “Voracious Souls” off their legendary debut (and recent Decibel magazine Hall of Fame inductee) The Ultra-Violence (1987).

Rob Cavestany, Riff Master General

Rob Cavestany, Riff Master General.

Mark Osegueda, the Golden-Lunged Warrior.

Mark Osegueda, the Golden-Lunged Warrior.

The band seemed to be into the show just as much as all of us were (if that’s even possible), and Mark had only good things to say about the crowd and the metal scene in Indianapolis. The final attendance was 200, and we made that room sound like it was a sold-out 500 capacity venue; the band rewarded us by playing as if we were 5,000 strong, and they were absolutely fucking flawless. You might say that Death Angel’s dream called for blood, and that we all spilled enough…buuuuut, you might also be a big goober.

Death Angel 9

Mark and Rob, being their own North Star(s).

Death Angel 18

Rob and his Partner in Thrash, Ted Aguilar.

It was seriously one of the two or three best shows I’ve ever had the pleasure to see, and I’ve seen hundreds of shows. Iron Maiden live in 2013 is the only show I can even think of at the moment that compares. Literally the single problem I had with the show is that I only got to hear one song from Act III. Well that, and the fact that they had to stop playing. Truly, it was a show for the ages.

But then after it did end, this happened! HE WAS SO FUCKING NICE!

But then after it did end, this happened! HE WAS SO FUCKING NICE!

Setlist

“Left for Dead”
“Son of the Morning”
“Claws in So Deep”
“Fallen”
“Buried Alive”
“Succubus”
“Execution – Don’t Save Me”
“Mistress of Pain”
“Seemingly Endless Time”
“Truce”
“The Dream Calls for Blood”
“Caster of Shame”
“3rd Floor”
“Bored”
“Voracious Souls”
“The Ultra Violence” Intro / “Thrown To The Wolves”

Final Thoughts: Like the Testament/Exodus show the prior week, there were lots of kids at this show, too, although it was an all-ages show, so it totally makes sense. Still, though, it’s fuckin awesome to see so many young people sincerely enjoying great music. Also, I really thought the sound at The Headquarters was gonna be shitty, as it’s located inside a warehouse/industrial/storage-type facility, but it was great! I cannot recommend enough that you see a show there sometime; just be prepared for the place to become a sauna, and to probably have to wait in line for the single restroom.

Maaaaan, look at this bitchin-ass shirt.

Maaaaan, look at this bitchin-ass shirt!

That’s all I got for now, folks. I didn’t intend to take so long getting this finished and posted, but, y’know, life and all. Until next time, stay heavy. Always.

Making the Legacy Known: A Sort of Review of the Testament/Exodus Show at the Mercury Ballroom, Louisville, KY, 04.21.15

I am in a fair amount of pain today, and it’s a mostly good pain, but still, I hurt. I am a reasonable, rational adult (more or less), so I understand that I am responsible for my own actions, but Testament and Exodus must shoulder some of the blame for my current state; if they weren’t so fucking amazing, and hadn’t played the Mercury Ballroom last night on the Louisville stop of their current Dark Roots of Thrash II tour, I very likely would not be sitting at my computer alternating an ice pack and a heating pad on my neck and shoulders while I attempt to put words to what I witnessed last night.

I suppose I should begin by saying that this tour has been slightly mis-advertised; from the very beginning, it’s been clearly stated that Testament would be “perform[ing an] exclusive new set list, including The Legacy & The New Order in their entirety + select Practice What You Preach lp cuts”. I understood that to mean that they would be performing those albums beginning to end, followed by an encore of songs from 1989’s Practice What You Preach, and that did not happen, but that’s on me; the words “beginning to end” have never been a part of the advertising for this tour. Testament instead played a set of songs from both albums – a set which covered all of their 1987 debut The Legacy, but which did not cover all of 1988’s The New Order, as it left out the hauntingly beautiful instrumental pieces “Hypnosis” and “Musical Death (A Dirge)”, along with their badass cover of Aerosmith’s “Nobody’s Fault”, which I was very psyched to hear live. In addition, the “select cuts from Practice What You Preach” ended up being the title track (which they play live on a pretty regular basis), and nothing else – no “Nightmare (Coming Back to You)”, no “Envy Life”, no “Time is Coming”, no “Greenhouse Effect”, nothing…just the title track, which totally fucking rules, but can hardly be considered “select cuts”.

Anyway, that’s a minor issue overall, as the show was fucking amazing, and quite frankly, I would be making plans to see it again at Bogart’s in Cincinnati on May 2 if I could swing it financially. Here’s a rough breakdown of the night…

My cousin Jason and I (who grew up listening to metal with me) got in the doors toward the end of opener Shattered Sun’s set. I wasn’t in a hurry to get in, as I didn’t really care about seeing their set, but I have to admit that the little bit that I did see was pretty damn good. Yesterday happened to be the release date for their debut album, Hope Within Hatred, and I doubt I’ll purchase the album, but I would see them live again if I had the chance. They’re pretty tight.

A relatively short break followed, made complete by $8 beers (at least they were draft Stella Artois) and a pee-pee break, then the lights went out, a roar went up, and Dan the Automator’s fucking sick-ass beats began to boom out of the sound system, signalling the imminent impact of Exodus and “Black 13”, the opening track from last year’s monstrous album, Blood In Blood Out. The band took the stage as frontman Steve “Zetro” Souza flashed a devilish grin to the crowd, pointed randomly out to various parts of the crowd and twirled his finger in the air to indicate that he was not about to allow this crowd to not become a circle pit. Roughly half of the crowd obliged, and most of that group did not ease up until the band left the stage. Exodus fanatics are some tough SOB’s.

The band flowed from “Black 13” directly into the title track from the new album, and the crowd did indeed rage, and I can’t help but believe that Paul Baloff would have been proud. After “Blood In Blood Out,” Zetro finally addressed the crowd, which was followed by two Rob Dukes-era songs, “Iconoclasm” and “Children of a Worthless God” [Both songs originally appeared on 2007’s The Atrocity Exhibition…Exhibit A, which is a seriously kickass album, which is a true statement about all of the Rob Dukes-era albums, even the highly controversial Let There Be Blood (2008’s re-recording of the band’s classic first album, 1985’s Bonded By Blood). I am a bonafide Rob Dukes fan, and I make no apologies for it. But I digress.]

I was interested to hear those songs with Zetro’s voice, but “Children of a Worthless God” especially, as it is notable for a recurring clean vocal passage, but I have to say that I was pretty goddamn impressed with Zet’s delivery. The band then taught us all “A Lesson in Violence”, then played another song from the new album, “Salt the Wound”, which is notable in the studio version for featuring a guitar solo from Kirk Hammett, who formed Exodus in 1981 before being poached by Metallica. Hammett’s solo sounds pretty much like every other Kirk Hammett solo from the past 20 years, and the song itself is the weakest on the album in my opinion, but it was much better live. In fact, I thought Zetro’s voice on all the new songs sounded better live than on the album, where it tends to take on a very Cobra Commander quality. I am not wrong about this – listen for yourself:

To be clear, in no way does this diminish my enjoyment of any era of Exodus. But I continue to digress.

The lights went out again after “Salt the Wound”, and the spoken intro to 1989’s Fabulous Disaster played, followed by that album’s opening song “The Last Act of Defiance”, followed by the remainder of their set (highlighted by perennial crowd favorite and fond ode to moshing, “The Toxic Waltz”), followed by a much-needed break for yours truly. It was really difficult to not expend every bit of my energy on Exodus, and I had to constantly remind myself that Testament was yet to go on, and that I had a two-hour drive back home after that.  The crowd cleared out a bit when the lights went up, so Jason and I moved closer, scoring some pretty sweet spots directly in front of the sound board.

This was where our view began, before the insane crowd caused us to move a bit to the left.

This was where our view began, before the insane crowd caused us to move a bit to the left.

A fairly quick set change took place, and soon the lights went out again, and the mighty Testament began to crush everyone in the room with their fucking flawless thrash metal. They kicked off with the first four songs from The Legacy, in order, then jumped ahead a year and played a brilliant version of “The Preacher” before reaching back into the debut for “Do or Die” and “First Strike is Deadly”. Chuck then introduced The New Order‘s outstandingly good “A Day of Reckoning” by indicating that they almost never played it live until this tour (which, quite frankly, has been a pretty stupid decision).

“Apocalyptic City” followed, then a block of the first four songs from The New Order, in order, followed by the remainder of The Legacy, “Alone in the Dark” and an almost unbelievably fast version of “C.O.T.L.O.D.”, which I anticipated bringing about the most intense pit action, but which was instead relatively mild, which I attributed to an exhausted crowd that simply gave too much too soon. The band left the stage for the standard encore break, then played their “select cuts” from Practice What You Preach before ending an amazing night of amazing music with the unfuckingtouchable “Disciples of the Watch” (OBEY!), during which it became clear that the crowd was not out of energy yet. Holy shit, friends, “Disciples of the Watch” can incite a fucking pit!

This is as close as I could get to capturing the whole band in a picture. Standing still while Testament plays is HARD, y'all!

This is as close as I could get to capturing the whole band in a picture. Standing still while Testament plays is HARD, y’all!

Exodus Setlist

“Black 13”

“Blood In Blood Out”

“Iconoclasm”

“Children of a Worthless God”

“A Lesson in Violence” (from Bonded By Blood)

“Salt the Wound”

“Blacklist” (from Tempo of the Damned – 2004)

“Bonded By Blood” (from BBB)

“War is My Shepherd” (from TotD)

“The Toxic Waltz” (from Fabulous Disaster)

“Strike of the Beast” (from BBB)

Testament Setlist

“Over the Wall”

“The Haunting”

“Burnt Offerings”

“Raging Waters”

“The Preacher”

“Do or Die”

“First Strike is Deadly”

“A Day of Reckoning”

“Apocalyptic City”

“Eerie Inhabitants”

“The New Order”

“Trial By Fire”

“Into the Pit”

“Alone in the Dark”

“C.O.T.L.O.D.”

— encore break —

“Practice What You Preach”

“Disciples of the Watch”

Final Thoughts: There were quite a few kids there (with parents), which was fucking awesome! Both Zetro and Chuck noticed and commented on it. Also, I still haven’t heard any songs live from Exodus’ second album (and their debut with Zetro) Pleasures of the Flesh (1987), and I don’t care for that fact. Also, I finally got a Testament shirt with The New Order album cover on it! Also, the sound at the Mercury Ballroom is pretty great, but it’s kind of an awkward place to see a show, what with the support poles positioned around the floor area. Also, the place supposedly has a capacity of 900; being a Tuesday, the show wasn’t sold out, and I’m not good at estimating crowd sizes over about 30, but if there’d been 900 people in that venue, someone might’ve died. Also, I came nearer to getting into a fight than I ever have before (and hopefully ever will again) at a show; that white trash jackass can still fuck off.

There's a good chance my shirt is cooler than your shirt.

There’s a good chance my shirt is cooler than your shirt.

That’s all I got for now, friends. I gotta go rest my neck for Death Angel in Indianapolis (in four days!). Y’all stay heavy…I definitely will.

Thrashy Birthday to Me

I’ll be celebrating my 38th birthday later this week, which is an incredibly difficult thing for me to wrap my brain around. Next Tuesday (4/21), my cousin Jason and I will be travelling to Louisville, KY to catch Testament and Exodus on the Dark Roots of Thrash II tour (Texas band Shattered Sun will be opening, but I don’t care about them), and as you might imagine, I am fuckin pumped.

I might not make it out of this alive, y'all.

I might not make it out of this alive, y’all.

Testament will be playing their first two albums (1987’s The Legacy and (my personal favorite) 1988’s The New Order) beginning to end, followed by “select Practice What You Preach LP (1989) cuts”.

Holy.

Fucking.

Hell.

My favorite thrash band (and second favorite overall band) will be performing two of their greatest works in their entirety! “Over the Wall”! “Burnt Offerings”! “First Strike is Deadly”! “Alone in the Dark”! “Eerie Inhabitants”! “Trial By Fire”! “Into the Pit”! “Disciples of the (motherfucking) Watch”! And all the rest! I might figuratively die from blood loss to my brain from the raging thrash boner I’ll have, if I don’t figuratively die from a broken neck first!

Oh, shit!

God damn!

Plus their badass cover of a badass Aerosmith song (which I admittedly only know because of Testament’s cover)!

Whut?!

But before that even happens, Exodus will thrash my balls clean off with a set consisting of songs from throughout their storied history. A quick perusal of setlists from the past few nights of the tour shows 12 songs, which is pretty sweet, although it does seem that I’m still not gonna get to hear “And Then There Were None” live, which is a bit of a bummer, but I can’t really complain. Plus, they’ve been playing “The Last Act of Defiance” on this tour, which is rad as hell.

See?

Also, they’re playing two Rob Dukes-era songs, and I look forward to hearing those with Zetro on vocals.

But wait! There’s more!

Five days later, on 4/26, Cousin Jason and I will be heading north to Indianapolis to see the mighty Death Angel live, on one of only two headlining shows on their current tour! This will be the first time Death Angel has played Indianapolis since 2012 (when they opened for Anthrax and Testament at the Egyptian Room), and their first headlining show in Indianapolis in 25 fucking years! Motherfucking shit-tits, friends, this is an exciting goddamn month!

Here’s the title track off the band’s latest album, 2013’s fucking phenomenal The Dream Calls for Blood:

Here’s “Truce”, from 2011’s Relentless Retribution, which is the album they were touring on when I saw them a few years back:

And here’s one of my favorite songs of theirs, from 1990’s Act III, which was the last album they released before their original breakup:

A quick shout-out and a HUGE thank you is owed to my amazing wife, who had a hand in making both of these shows happen for me.

Reviews of both shows will of course be forthcoming, and if things work out, there’ll be an extra surprise on these very pages in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned, and stay heavy!

In Your Head, Where Fashion Lives: My Evening With Helmet – 03/15/15

I sadly never got a chance to see Helmet live in their first or second incarnations, as I was always broke back then (high school/early college days, y’know) and/or they would play at bars before I was old enough to get into them. As such, I have no reference point for what I witnessed this past Sunday night, other than the first time I saw the band, back in 2004, when they were touring for the comeback album Size Matters, which is not as good as any of the albums that came before it, but which is definitely worth a listen or several. That show was great (Frank Bello was in the band then!), but the circumstances of my attendance were less than ideal, and I was sad that I didn’t get to hear so many of the classic songs, because they were understandably playing several songs from the new album.

I have never seen (and very likely will never see) Helmet live with the original rhythm section of Henry Bogdan and John Stanier in place, and that’s a bummer, because those dudes are absolute motherfucking beasts on their respective instruments. However, as the sole original member, guitarist/vocalist Page Hamilton has assembled a damn fine team of musicians to help him carry on the Helmet name, and while I’d rather be able to see Henry Bogdan staring at my soul from under the bill of his cap while his bass tone turns my internal organs into so much goo, the alternative to Helmet circa 2015 is no Helmet at all, and that is just not a world I want to live in. But enough prattling on, I’ve got a show to review!

The Vogue Theater in Broad Ripple (Indianapolis), Indiana is a pretty good place to see a band; good sound, spacious floor area, plenty of tables along the sides, and a balcony that gets opened up for bigger shows. The stage is pretty low, and there’s no barricade, so you can get very close, if that’s the way you like to do it. Like any bar venue, the drinks are quite overpriced, but there are plenty of other bars located in the surrounding area at which you can whet your whistle before entering.

Helmet marquee

Something about the phrase “An Evening With Helmet” made me giggle.

 

Mrs. Stay Heavy and I had a good meal and a couple of beers at Hop Cat, which is located across the street from The Vogue, while we waited for the doors to open at 7:00. We got in around 7:15, and chilled out at a table to do some people-watching until I could no longer handle not being in front of the stage. I took a leak and bought a sweet shirt, then around 7:30, I walked down and planted myself directly in front of Page’s monitor, where I immediately noticed the setlists for each set. I already knew that the glorious 1994 album, Betty, would comprise the first set, but as I perused the list for the second set, I found myself pretty excited that it included four songs from 1997’s super-underrated Aftertaste, though pretty bummed that it only included two songs from 1992’s Meantime, and only one song from the 1990 debut, Strap It On. The double row of asterisks gave me hope, however, and my faith was rewarded; the encore consisted of another song from Strap It On and three more songs from Meantime, which, if you’re keeping track at home, means they played half the album!

Not a great picture, but it did the trick.

Not a great picture, but it did the trick.

Two brothers soon came up and stood next to me, and one of them asked me if I like Clutch, and the three of us began to chat about music. They were super-nice, but I failed to get their names, because that’s the way I do things. I did learn that they drove in from Champaign, Illinois for the show, and that they were in attendance at the last Clutch show I saw at The Vogue, probably 2-3 years ago. One of them told me that “that guy over there (I think he was talking about the bartender) said that they’ll probably start later than they’re supposed to, since there aren’t a lot of people here yet.”

A shitty picture of Page's pedal setup.

A shitty picture of Page’s pedal and effects setup.

That guy over there was correct, and the 8:00 start time promised on the tickets came and went with nary a peep. 8:30 then came and went, and I was starting to get antsy, and a little bit annoyed, but a few minutes later, the lights went out, a roar went up from the crowd, the band came on and, without a word, began the opening strains of “Wilma’s Rainbow”. The place went apeshit, and I started to bang my head like I’ve never banged my head before. They plowed through the album with very little in the way of pausing, and no one in the band spoke until after the last notes of “Sam Hell” faded away into the ether. I was relieved to finally get a break, because I literally could not stop banging my head, but the band had other plans.

I did get a small break during the quiet part of "Beautiful Love".

I did get a small break during the quiet part of “Beautiful Love”.

Page thanked everyone for coming out on a Sunday night, mentioned that they haven’t played Indianapolis “in a really long time” (he estimated 3-4 years, while a guy in the crowd estimated closer to 7; I have no idea who’s right, but either way, they were overdue), told us they had a “kind of special” setlist planned for us, with a few songs they haven’t played in a while, then they rolled into “Like I Care”, “Birth Defect”, and “Unsung”, the last of which sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy. I paused for a few seconds during “Unsung” to rest my rapidly deteriorating neck and looked behind me to see a row of probably 5 or 6 dudes with their arms around each other doing what appeared to be a can-can style dance.

Being unfamiliar with the band’s two most recent albums, I planned to utilize the time during “Welcome to Algiers” to rest as much as possible, but it sounded so good that I couldn’t, and then before I knew it, “You Borrowed” was starting. I tried again during “On Your Way Down”, but again, no luck. “Murder” was performed with such vim and vigor, the vocals nearly hemorrhoid-inducing, that I wondered how Page could possibly perform it on even a semi-regular basis, but then when it ended, he said that it was the first time they’d played it live in 10 years! He then told the story behind the song, a tale of living in New York City’s East Village, back when it was only desirable for the cheap rents. Seems a person was murdered in the apartment next to Page’s and the body was left there for several days before it was discovered (he said he assumed a rat had died in the walls).

I tried to rest again during “Miserable”, but was denied by the groove once more. “Exactly What You Wanted” and “Crisis King” almost killed me, but then they left the stage, Page leaning his guitar against his amp, filling the room with 1-2 minutes of the most hellacious feedback I’ve ever heard. The band (mercifully) came back out, but Page didn’t just pick up his guitar and move it away from the amp, no, that wouldn’t have been fucked up enough. Instead he strapped it back on (ha!) and continued to hold the head against the amp while the opening drumbeat from “Rude” pounded through my nearly decimated skull, and they followed that song with “Ironhead”, “Give It”, and “In the Meantime”, and I honestly didn’t care if I lived another moment after that, as it seemed unlikely that anything else could ever be so fucking fantastic.

The band left the stage, but Page stuck around for at least 10 minutes, signing autographs, shaking hands, telling stories, and posing for pictures with a lot of sweaty, stank-ass dudes. He was extremely nice, gracious, and funny, and he said that he loves playing Indianapolis because the energy from the crowd is always so amazing, and that even though they play to crowds 3-4 times larger in bigger cities, those crowds usually don’t seem to appreciate the shows as much. I will say that I personally unleashed at least 3 hearty “FUCK YEAH!‘s” during the course of the 2+ hours, and all the people around me seemed equally stoked, except for the girl directly next to me, who got shitty with a guy for bumping into her. Front row. At a Helmet show. She was an asshole, as was her li’l male companion, who apparently suffers from a severe case of Little-Man Syndrome.

See?

Not pictured:  approximately 35 lbs of sweat in my Testament shirt.

All in all, it was one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen…top 10, easily. Do not hesitate to catch them live on this tour if you get a chance. They’re playing in Louisville in two days, and I would definitely go to that one, too, if I wasn’t legitimately afraid I would end up in the hospital.

Highlights: The entire show was a highlight unto itself, although I wouldn’t have been angry if they’d played “Renovation” and at least one song from Size Matters. Also, meeting Page was rad (high school me would be jealous as fuck), those two brothers seemed pretty cool, and I finally got a badass new Helmet shirt, to replace the one I’ve had since I was 16.

SETLIST

Betty

“Wilma’s Rainbow”

“I Know”

“Biscuits for Smut”

“Milquetoast”

“Tic”

“Rollo”

“Street Crab”

“Clean”

“Vaccinate”

“Beautiful Love”

“Speechless”

“The Silver Hawaiian”

“Overrated”

“Sam Hell”

*****************

“Like I Care” (Aftertaste)

“Birth Defect” (Aftertaste)

“Unsung” (Meantime)

“Welcome to Algiers” (Seeing Eye Dog)

“You Borrowed” (Meantime)

“On Your Way Down” (Monochrome)

“Murder” (Strap It On)

“Miserable” (Seeing Eye Dog)

“Exactly What You Wanted” (Aftertaste)

“Crisis King” (Aftertaste)

*****************

ENCORE

“Rude” (Strap It On)

“Ironhead” (Meantime)

“Give It” (Meantime)

“In the Meantime” (Meantime)

How could you not want to go to one of these shows? That’s a rhetorical question; you couldn’t not want to go.

That’s all for now. Stay heavy, y’all.

Earth Tone Suits You, So Give It a Smile: Another Thing About Helmet

The countdown has officially begun. In approximately 143 hours, Helmet will begin performing their 1994 masterpiece Betty live on stage, in front of me and my shit-eating grin, at The Vogue in Broad Ripple (Indianapolis), Indiana. Then, somewhere between 45-60 minutes after that, they’ll begin a second full set of songs from the rest of their catalog. I’m fucking giddy with anticipation, friends.  As mentioned previously in these pages, I saw Helmet live once before, at Emo’s in Austin, Texas, on the tour for Size Matters, their 2004 comeback album. Guitarist/vocalist Page Hamilton was the only original member in the band at the time (he remains so today), John Tempesta was on drums (which isn’t so amazing on its own, as John Tempesta has played drums in every single metal band that has ever existed, but he’s really fucking good, so that was pretty sweet), Chris Traynor (who previously toured with Helmet on the tour for 1997’s underrated gem Aftertaste) was on second guitar, and the incomparable Frank Bello (who left Anthrax for the first time since joining that band in 1984, only to leave Helmet before the conclusion of the Size Matters tour to rejoin Anthrax) was on bass.

It was a pretty brilliant show, even though I was married to an asshole who didn’t much like to have fun, and who wouldn’t come with me to stand near the stage, but who also got mad at me for leaving her to stand near the stage. This time, though, I’m married to an awesome human being who enjoys having fun at least as much as I do, and I’m confident that she will either stand with me or, if she doesn’t feel like standing, let me stand wherever I want, so long as I promise to not leave without her. Also, as mentioned previously, Helmet will be performing two full sets, one of which will be my favorite Helmet album from beginning to end, with no opening act. Folks, I’ve seen some footage of shows on this tour, and the shows run somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 hours and 15 minutes. That’s 25-to-30 songs per show. If this doesn’t get you fucking amped up, I don’t know how you can be happy in this life.

She really is quite a Betty.

She really is quite a Betty.

And I am fully aware that at this point, what we call Helmet is merely Page Hamilton plus three hired guns. I am also fully aware that I do not give a fuck, because the songs rule. It would obviously be better and more exciting if original bassist Henry Bogdan and original drummer John Stanier were along for the tour, because they surely constituted one of the finest rhythm sections ever in heavy music, but since the odds of winning the lottery while getting struck by lightning while being eaten by a shark are better than the odds of Bogdan and Stanier ever rejoining Hamilton on stage, I’ll settle for the current package.  At least we’ll always have this footage of their 1994 performance on 120 Minutes

Here’s a full show from last year’s European run of this tour, filmed and uploaded by one of the greatest heroes in history. They played 35 songs at this show. I can’t stop watching it.

Also, while researching for this piece, I learned that the band played at least one show last year, in Glasgow, that consisted of the Betty set followed by 1992’s Meantime in its entirety. That’s literally the only way I could possibly be more excited about this show. Goddamn, y’all, I am STOKED!

Here’s one of my favorite songs from their noisy, angry bastard of a debut, 1990’s Strap It On.

Here’s one of my favorite songs from their noisy, angry bastard of a follow-up, 1992’s breakout Meantime. I can still remember sitting on my sister’s couch watching MTV when this video came on. My mouth was agape for days after that.

Here’s one of my favorite songs from Betty, which I did not like very much upon its initial release, but which grew on me like fungi on a dead tree, eventually becoming one of my favorite albums of all time.

Here’s one of my favorite songs from Aftertaste, which kicks so much more ass than that windbag over at AllMusic would have you believe.

“I get a ‘D’ for disappointment
Now there’s nothing to regret
Everybody’s good for something
At least you know what you won’t get”

Now those are some song lyrics, folks.

And finally, here’s one of my favorite songs from Size Matters (which was written after Hamilton’s breakup with Winona Ryder).

I have not really listened to either 2006’s Monochrome or 2010’s Seeing Eye Dog, so I cannot comment on them, but I’ll get around to it eventually, and I’ll be sure to report my findings here posthaste.

That’s all the time I have today. Daylight saving time is a motherfucker. I’ll definitely be reviewing the show here at some point in the near future, so be on the lookout for that, if you give a shit.

Until next time, please do stay heavy.