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

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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.

Oh, Tell Me That’s Not Glorious: A Thing About Racebannon

This post has been a long time coming.  Even before I started to consider starting to consider starting a blog, I’ve been writing about this album.  I’ve filled probably 20 pages or more, between my hard drive and my notebooks, about what is easily one of my Top 20 personal favorite albums, in any genre (and honestly, it’s in the Top 10 most days).  Naturally, most of those pages are not fit for human consumption, but I feel pretty confident that I can put together something at least remotely meaningful about Satan’s Kickin’ Yr Dick In, the third album by Bloomington, Indiana’s own genre-defying metal/punk/noise juggernaut Racebannon.  I’ll start with a bit of background on how Racebannon came into my life.

promo_racebannon1

Photo from musicalfamilytree.net

The year was 1998.  I was still very much a Metalhead, but I was also sad, which led me to the dark, sad world of emo (back when emo was played and listened to by sad dudes with receding hairlines wearing sweaters and khakis, and not skinny dudes with haircuts that swooped over one eye wearing gaudy t-shirts and their little sister’s jeans).  Jawbreaker was an immediate favorite, because I have ears and a soul, and Jawbreaker vocalist/guitarist Blake Schwartzenbach’s post-Jawbreaker band Jets to Brazil was also big shit to me.  I also really dug the Promise Ring (they once played Rhino’s All Ages Club with a little band called Jimmy Eat World opening for them – that’s history right there, kids), Braid, and early Alkaline Trio (I still listen to their first two albums several times a year).

Anyway, one Sunday afternoon shortly before my 21st birthday (April 12, 1998 to be precise – sometimes it pays to keep a journal), my brother-from-another-mother Travis and I went to the aforementioned Rhino’s to see an all-day mostly emo show, headlined by Braid.  A total of seven bands played, most of them forgettable, but the fifth band would go on to have a profound effect on my life, albeit several years later.  Travis and I had never heard of Racebannon (in fact, we thought they were called “Rayspan”), and all we knew was that they were a local band.  We assumed they would sound more or less like the other bands on the bill.  I can’t speak for Travis, but personally, I’ve only been more wrong once in my life, and that was when I married my ex-wife.

Four scruffy-looking dudes around the same age as Travis and me got up on the stage, and the one with the giant pile of curly hair on top of his head walked over to a chair with a tape player sitting on it and pressed play.  Some forgotten sample began to fill the small room as the band stared menacingly out at the crowd, the curly-haired frontman pacing back and forth like some kind of escaped mental patient.  The tension built for maybe a minute or so, and then all hell broke loose in a concussive explosion of skull-splitting drums, chest-rattling bass, and riffs thicker than a Porterhouse steak.  The instant the music began to crash out of the monitors, the frontman began to convulse and flop and shriek and scream, and we had to get the fuck out of that room.

If you’ve never been to Rhino’s All Ages Club, it may be difficult to understand how bad the sound can be in there; they often have really good/great shows, but if you’re not standing in just the right spot, the sound can be atrocious – all cacophonous and drenched in echos.  Imagine standing under an overpass of a busy interstate highway during rush hour, directly beneath the flight paths of the nearby international airport while someone stands next to you repeatedly hitting a metal trashcan with an aluminum baseball bat, while another person stands on the other side of you and yells directly into your ear.  That should give you a tiny bit of an idea what Racebannon sounded like in that tiny club that gray Sunday afternoon.  But in a really good way.  We ended up watching their set from the other side of the big front window of the club, safely out of range of permanent hearing damage, and it was a thing of demented beauty.

Fast forward to late August 2006.  I’m separated from that ex-wife I mentioned earlier, and have moved back to Bloomington after three years in Austin, Texas.  I’m living in a tiny bedroom in a house in the middle of Campus Partytown, USA with two hippies, an aloof self-styled philosopher/scholar, a dog, and four cats (for the record, I still love all those people and animals dearly, except for one of the cats; Monk was a total asshole).  I was sad and angry, and I was desperately searching for something that would speak directly to my soul.  Meanwhile, I took a part-time job at a fantastic restaurant/brewpub, where something about one of my supervisors stirred some unknown thing in the dark recesses of my memory.  I knew that I knew this guy from somewhere.

About a week into the job, one of my co-workers mentioned an upcoming Racebannon show.  Here’s what happened in my brain:  “Racebannon!  Holy shit!  Mike A. is that insane curly-haired lunatic from Racebannon!  Why did I marry her?!  I’m so scared of him now!  But he seems so nice!  I should buy a Racebannon album!  Goddamnit I hate her!  I wonder which album I should buy?!”  I had a lot to work out in my brain.

Next payday, I walked directly to Landlocked Music and perused the Racebannon selection, settling on the one with the title that made me laugh: 2002’s Satan’s Kickin’ Yr Dick In.  I walked home and put it on the stereo, and it literally did not leave my stereo for the next two months, except for the day I listened to it on the way to and from work through a borrowed Sony Discman (I cut a full three minutes off my walking time that day).  I would work, walk home, press “Play”, select “Repeat”, and sit in my room, usually reading the lyrics.  Sometimes I’d try to write, but the album was too distracting to write much.  Sometimes I’d hang out with some friends, and sometimes I’d watch a movie or something, but when I wasn’t working, hanging out, or watching a movie, I was listening to Satan’s Kickin’ Yr Dick In, over and over and over again.  I would fall asleep every night listening to it on repeat, which meant that I would wake up listening to it.  Maybe you’re wondering what drew me so strongly into the album, and I wish I could put my finger on it, but I have never been able to do that.  All I know is that I could not stop listening to it.  I even bought all the rest of the Racebannon albums to try to break myself out of the trance, but after a few songs I’d put it right back on.

I suppose I should say something about the album itself.  It’s a concept album (one of the greatest ever made, and I’ll fight anyone who tries to argue that) which tells the story of a frustrated young man named Rodney Mitchell, who wants nothing more than to be a star.  One night in a fit of desperation, Rodney smashes his face into the bathroom mirror, declaring, “My pointless vanity has finally broken me.  Still, fuck this world!  I wanna take it all!  I would give my soul just to take it all!”  Old Scratch himself then appears before Rodney and makes the young man an offer he can’t refuse before disappearing with some parting words: “And remember, one day I’m coming back.  Till then, show the world what yr made of.”

Rodney wakes up to find himself transformed into Rhonda Delight, who quickly rises to the top of the entertainment world, becoming the most famous and most-loved diva the world has ever known, star of stage and screen, hobnobbing with the likes of “Sean Penn, Thurston Moore, and John F. Kennedy, Jr.”  Like the very best Faustian bargain stories, this one finds the protagonist quickly spiraling out of control while living a life of excess (“Let me kill this fifth of whiskey and I’m good to go.  I’ll perform fine.  Aww, what do you know?  I could do this paralyzed, deaf, blind, fuck you, I’m ready to go.”), only to end up on life support as the Father of All Lies comes to claim what belongs to him.

There aren’t a lot of words I can think of to describe how this album sounds, but a few come to mind: terrifying, beautiful, spastic, sublime, perfect.  Satan’s Kickin’ Yr Dick In is absolutely fucking superlative.  I’m listening to it (for the fifth time in two days) as I write this, and parts of it are moving me to tears.  It is SO FUCKING GOOD.  I can’t recommend it highly enough, but I do recommend that if (when?) you check it out, you do it up right: cancel all meetings, send your kids to their grandparents’ house (where applicable), turn off your phone, your television, and anything else that might distract you, get yourself a tasty beverage, sit down with the lyrics in front of you, and press play.  If you enjoy any form of extreme music, I can’t begin to imagine that you’ll be disappointed.  Just know that you might have trouble getting away.

I should point out that the rest of their albums are really great, too.  This one, however, has what the French might call a certain je ne sais quoi.

Until next time, Stay Heavy, you heavy fuckers.