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

More Loose Ends and Random Bits

I’ve been neglecting this blog for a while now, and I wish I could say for certain that I’m back at it on a regular basis, but unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to do it up properly, so for now, I’ll continue sporadically updating on what I’ve been up to since my last update.

The main thing I’ve been up to that pertains to metal is that I am now also writing for Global Thrash Assault, an awesome website run by fellow thrash fanatic Chad.  I’ve written two reviews so far, both for albums by bands I’d never even heard of until Chad sent me the assignments, and I’ve really enjoyed both of them.  Greek thrashers Biotoxic Warfare lay down some dark and angry blackened thrash on their full-length debut Lobotomized, and Italian “Moshing Maniax” Blindeath combine dirty NWOBHM-style proto-thrash with balls out mid-to-late 80’s pure thrash metal and deliver an adrenaline-fueled kick to the crotch called Into the Slaughter that you’ll return to again and again.  Both albums are highly recommended.

One odd/interesting thing I’ve noticed during my relative blogging silence is that my post entitled “The Ten Best Thrash Metal Ballads of All Time” has been viewed at least once every single day since I first posted it back in mid-September, lending considerable evidence to my assertion that lists are the only thing most people read on the internet these days.  I noticed a couple of days ago that it was the second link listed if you search “thrash metal ballads” on the Google, which was very exciting, and I just now searched it on Google again to make sure it was still number two, and it is, in fact, number one now, which is obviously even more exciting.  So thanks, whoever keeps looking at my nearly five month old post!

Also, at least once a week, someone finds my blog by searching the internet for some variation of “bill kelliher haircut” or “brent hinds tattoo”, which I find endlessly amusing, and I can only assume that most of those people have not become regular readers of Stay Heavy.

I’ve got a ton of topics cookin in my brain, and eventually you’ll see the continuation of the Voivod saga, another Old-Ass VHS Review or two, some more reviews, some more mixtapes (which I will clearly refer to as “The Best (Whatever) of All Time” now, so that people will actually look at them), some more Metal in the Mainstream adventures, and a whole lot more.

That’s all I got for now.  Here’s some live Exodus with metal madman Paul Baloff on vocals, because today is the thirteenth anniversary of his death from a stroke at the age of 41.  The song begins at around 2:30.

“…and it ain’t about no trout!  This song is called…”

RIP, you crazy fucker.

Stay heavy.  It’s what Paul Baloff would’ve wanted.

A Tale of Two Goofballs: A Sort of Review of Day 2 of Rock on the Range 2014

Last weekend, my friend Dustin sent me a text telling me he got free tickets to Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio.  “Google that shit”, he said, and “try to get Saturday and Sunday off.  We’ll camp.”  If you’re not familiar with Rock on the Range, here’s what you need to know: self-billed as “Where Rock Lives”, ROTR has been an annual event since 2007, when it was a one-day only thing.  It is held at a professional soccer stadium (Columbus Crew of the MLS organization) just north of downtown Columbus.  ZZ Top headlined that first year, and the likes of Papa Roach, Buckcherry, and Puddle of Mudd played as well.

In 2008, the event was extended an extra day, covering Saturday and Sunday.  Stone Temple Pilots headlined the first day, and Kid Rock and Three Doors Down co-headlined the second day.  Other bands on the bill included Papa Roach, Disturbed, Seether, Five Finger Death Punch, Drowning Pool, etc.  If you’re noticing a theme to some of the bands, then you’ll understand why I wasn’t immediately sold on the idea.  Good bands have been known to play Rock on the Range, but for every Cheap Trick, Anthrax, Helmet, Clutch, Ghost, and Alice in Chains that have appeared, there have been dozens of Limp Bizkits, Korns, Hollywood Undeads, Godsmacks, Stone Sours, and Black Veil Brideses.

2014 marks the second consecutive year that the event has been extended to a third day.  I checked out the website, and here are the three headliners, in order, Friday-Sunday: Guns ‘n’ Roses, Avenged Sevenfold, and Kid Rock.  Understandably, I was not super fired up about driving four hours for this shit.  When I looked further into the Saturday lineup, however, I knew I had to find a way to go: Slayer, Exodus, and Suicidal Tendencies were making this the last stop on their short US tour, and I had a chance to see them for free, and all I had to do was drive us there?  Sign me right the fuck up!  If you’ve read more than a few things on this blog, you know that thrash metal is my lifeblood, and I had never seen Exodus or Slayer, so I was definitely into it.  I was also kind of pumped about seeing Fozzy, and Don Jamieson of VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show was headlining the “Old Milwaukee® Comedy Tent”.  I’ve only heard a couple of Fozzy songs, but Chris Jericho was one of my favorite professional wrestlers in the mid-to-late ’90s, and I’d never seen or heard any of Don’s stand-up, but he’s pretty funny on the show, so I figured I might as well check them out while I had the chance.

Here's the full lineup.

Here’s the full lineup.

I already get Sundays off work, so all I had to do was figure out the Saturday situation, which I managed to do pretty quickly: I’d go to work at 5:30 AM like I always do on Saturdays, and I’d leave at 9:00, drive an hour north to Indianapolis to pick Dustin up, and head three hours east to break my fucking neck headbanging.  When I finally had a chance to research the event properly, a major hitch became apparent: camping was only allowed for people who purchased a “Camping Package”, which was sold out, and which cost $869 – EIGHT HUNDRED SIXTY-NINE FUCKING DOLLARS – for four three-day Field General Admission tickets (Field GA allowed access to the floor in front of the stage, while Stadium GA only allowed seating in the stands – this will come into play later), a campsite (no tents allowed), and four festival t-shirts.  With less than one week before the start of the festival, the only available hotels were $300 a night, so we had to figure something out.  After much discussion, I managed to talk Dustin into only attending Saturday, since we hadn’t paid for the tickets anyway, with the deal being that I would drive us back to Indianapolis afterward.  He was only really interested in two bands on Sunday (Trivium and the Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience), and I was only interested in Gojira, but I was obviously fine with not paying $300 so I could stay in Columbus and watch a band I’m only marginally familiar with play for 30 minutes.

I arrived late to Dustin’s house (thanks for fucking nothing, Mapquest), so we got to the venue about an hour later than we’d anticipated, and thus had to pay $20 to park 1.5 miles from the venue.  Dustin is the head brewer for Cutters Brewing Company (which is how he scored the tickets, and which you should definitely check out if you get the chance), so he brought some beer, and I’m a kitchen manager at a co-op grocery store and a bourbon enthusiast, so I brought some expired bread and cheese and a flask full of Four Roses.  We were about to jam econo, Heavy Metal Parking Lot-style.  We had an awesome conversation with the most Kentuckian couple I’ve ever met (which is quite a feat, considering that my wife and her entire family are from Kentucky), and we traded beers for more bourbon, and the man (who was very excited to meet a Brewmaster) said “Man, I hate to say it, but Guns ‘n’ Roses kinda sucked last night” [which came out more like “Mayun, Ah hay-eete ta say-ee it, but Guns ‘n’ Raoses kanda suucked last naht” – seriously, it was so much fun to talk to them (and I’m not making fun)].

Heavy Metal Parking Lot 2014

“Congratulations, kids, and welcome to the real world.”

We continued to eat and drink our free food and beer, and then I began to notice a slow trickle of people in suits walking around the parking lot, which struck me as odd, until we realized that we were tailgating in the middle of a parking lot filled with cars parked by people who were attending a high school graduation.  Congratulations, kids, and welcome to the real world.  By and by, I realized that we had already missed the beginning of Fozzy’s set, so we hung out a little longer before finally heading for the venue.  I immediately scoped out the grounds to find the Jagermeister® Third Stage, where Exodus was set to go on at 6:00.  After locating the stage, I found an amazingly badass Exodus t-shirt (which surprisingly only cost $25, and which I’ll share a picture of here later), we bought a couple of $6 PBRs each, and settled our way in near the front of the crowd.

Murder in the front row.

Murder in the front row.

Exodus came on promptly at 6:00, and proceeded to blast my skull wide open for the next half hour.  They kicked off with “Bonded By Blood”, vocalist Rob Dukes said hello to everyone, then said “There’s a lot of fuckin great bands playin here today…lot of fuckin shitty bands playin here today too.  This one’s called ‘Piranha’.”   Then they played “Blacklist”, “War is my Shepherd”, and “The Toxic Waltz”, (they may have played “A Lesson in Violence” next, but I really can’t remember) before closing with “Strike of the Beast”.  It didn’t last nearly long enough, but it was an absolutely fucking amazing set (although I would’ve loved to hear “And Then There Were None” live).

One of my favorite parts of the set was during “The Toxic Waltz”: Dukes said he wanted to see “the biggest fuckin circle pit I’ve ever seen”, and while I’m 100% certain he’s seen bigger circle pits, the pit that opened up and maintained itself for the entirety of that song was easily the most fun, respectful pit I’ve ever borne witness to.  No meatheads swinging their fists wildly in the air, no one kicking at other people, no mindless, aggressive shoving, just good, friendly, violent fun, with a crowd of giddy Metalheads dancing in a circle for 5 minutes.

I was on the edge of the pit, afraid of breaking my glasses.

I remained on the edge of that amazing pit, fearful of breaking my glasses.  This is what I saw.

This is the only clear shot of the circle pit that I could manage to snap.

This is the only clear shot of the circle pit that I could manage to snap.

Dustin had heard Exodus for the first time in the car on the way to the show, but he was pumped afterward.  He told me he loved it, and that he was definitely gonna be adding some of their stuff to his collection.  And seriously, I implore you, if you get a chance to see Exodus live, fucking DO IT.

Next on the agenda was a trip to the bathrooms.  We had an hour to kill before Suicidal hit the Ernie Ball® Second Stage, and Chevelle was playing on the main stage, so we walked around and did some people watching, got more beers, and made our way toward the stage to wait.  A couple of total bro-looking dudes stopped and chatted us up (one of them was very excited about my ALL and Descendents buttons), and the taller of the two told us that Guns ‘n’ Roses were “fuckin awesome last night” (for the record, based on what I’ve seen on YouTube in the past year or two, I’m inclined to believe Mr. Southern Kentucky’s assessment more).  Taller Bro was really stoked for Suicidal, and Shorter Bro seemed on the fence, as he was there for some of the shittier bands, but agreed to come give them a chance.

Still cyco after all these years.

Still cyco after all these years.

For my part, I’d seen Suicidal once before, on the Vans® Warped Tour back in like 1999 or 2000, so I had already decided to watch part of their set, then head over to the comedy tent to check out Don Jamieson’s stand-up set, which began halfway through ST’s set.  The band came out and started the opening strains of “You Can’t Bring Me Down”, then Mike Muir’s voice came from the ether, “Columbus, I just got one question for you…”, then he appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and shouted “What the fuck is goin on around here?!”  The band played the song flawlessly, but it seemed to me that Muir was getting winded pretty quickly, as he failed to actually sing large parts of the song, leaving the band to fill the space with backing vocals.  They followed with “War Inside My Head”, and Muir seemed more on top of things this time, but it still seemed off.  Dustin indicated that it seemed to him that there might just be something wrong with the sound.

At any rate, when they started in with “Subliminal”, we made a beeline for the comedy tent.  That was easily one of the Top 50 Worst Decisions I’ve ever made; Don Jamieson was not one bit fucking funny.  His set consisted of “Any KISS fans here? (insert joke about KISS)”, followed by a joke about having sex with his girlfriend, followed by a racist joke, followed by “Any Ozzy fans here? (insert joke about Ozzy)”, followed by a joke about jerking off, followed by a racist joke, followed by “Any Mötley Crüe fans here? (insert joke about Mötley Crüe)”, followed by a joke about having sex with his girlfriend, followed by a racist joke, etcetera, etcetera, for like 25 minutes.

Don Jamieson, being not funny

Don Jamieson, being not funny.

After his set, I turned to Dustin and said “I wish we hadn’t walked over here for that,” to which Dustin replied “Yeah, he wasn’t funny”.  Such is life, however, and Slayer was slated to start their set on the main stage in about 10 minutes, and we still hadn’t found a seat.  My feelings regarding Slayer have been discussed elsewhere in the pages of Stay Heavy, but here’s the short version: I fucking love the first four Slayer albums, and I consider Hell AwaitsReign in Blood, and South of Heaven to be absolutely essential.  Seasons in the Abyss has some great songs on it, but it marked the beginning of a noticeable change in Tom Araya’s vocal delivery, wherein he went from an amazing and sometimes frightening combination of screaming, wailing, shouting at the top of his voice, and creepy singing to a combination of shouting at the top of his voice and creepy singing, completely forgoing the screaming and wailing.  I like some stuff post-Seasons, but I have found every album since that one (and sometimes that one) to be boring, overall.

To add to that: when founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman passed away, followed shortly thereafter by Kerry King and Tom Araya firing original drummer Dave Lombardo over some business-related bullshit, I decided I didn’t really give a fuck about Slayer anymore.  Gary Holt of Exodus has been playing live with them for several years now, and he’s a guitar beast, but the Lombardo stuff all just seemed so petty and shady, and Hanneman’s death made me so sad, that I figured I wouldn’t be able to really enjoy Slayer live, and in fact I had decided less than one month ago that I would still see them live if given the opportunity, but I wouldn’t pay for it, as I don’t want Kerry King to make any money off me.

I am happy to report that I was sorely mistaken about not being able to enjoy Slayer live.  Even in that enormous stadium setting, where I could only really see the band on the big screens to the sides of the stage, they were devastatingly good.  Part of that, no doubt, is the fact that Lombardo’s replacement, Paul Bostaph, has been a member of the band before (throughout most of the 1990’s), and that Gary Holt is one of the best metal guitar players alive.  At any rate, I enjoyed the fuck out of it.  We got to our seats a bit late, but they opened their set with “World Painted Blood”, “Hate Worldwide”, and “Disciple”, so I didn’t mind as much as if I’d missed, say, “At Dawn They Sleep”.  Our tickets were stamped “Stadium GA”, which meant we were not allowed access to the field in front of the stage, but that didn’t stop Dustin from trying to walk out there anyway, pretending like he didn’t know we needed a wristband to get on the field.  He was denied, so we found the closest seats we could, and settled in as “Disciple” was winding down and “Mandatory Suicide” was beginning.

Fuckin SLAYER!

Fuckin SLAYER!

A guy next to me asked me if I’d seen Slayer live before.  I told him I had not, and he told me he was very happy for me.  We then discussed the sad nature of the people around us, noting that for the most part, they did not seem to give a shit about Slayer.  He postulated that a lot of people these days know Slayer as a logo, and as something that people scream in their faces at shows, but that they don’t actually know what they sound like, which seemed like a pretty solid line of reasoning to me.  At any rate, I alternated between banging my head, pumping my fist, throwing the horns, screaming along to the songs, and marveling at the lack of interest I was seeing from a huge amount of people (most of whom I found were there to see headliners Avenged Sevenfold, which I’ll get to later).

I yelled at them between songs:  “GO FUCKING MOSH TO SLAYER, YOU FUCKING JACKASSES!  YOU’RE STANDING AROUND LIKE YOU’RE AT A FUCKING KENNY G CONCERT OR SOMETHING, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES!  YOU’RE WASTING THOSE FUCKING FIELD WRISTBANDS, YOU FUCKING MORONS!”  My yelling only served to make several of the people around me laugh, but most of those people were oblivious to the fact that they were part of the crowd I was yelling at, so my yelling was clearly in vain, but it did make me feel a little better.

At any rate, Slayer went on to assuage my fears a bit and bring me back into the fold over the next 40 minutes by playing “Postmortem”, “Chemical Warfare”, “War Ensemble”, “Hallowed Point”, “Seasons in the Abyss”, and “Hell Awaits” before a new backdrop came down behind the band, and they closed their set with three of the best Hannemen-penned (or co-penned) songs:  “South of Heaven”, “Reign in Blood”, and “Angel of Death”.

So fucking rad.

So fucking rad.

And then it was time for Avenged Sevenfold, a band about which I knew very little until the drive to Columbus.  I already knew they are Dustin’s favorite band (last night was his 17th time seeing them live), and that they were the primary reason he wanted to attend the show in the first place.  I also knew I didn’t really care for most of what I’d heard from them (in fact, I first heard their song “The Beast and the Harlot” on Guitar Hero II and kind of liked it, then later downloaded the song only to discover that the GH version was one of those “in the style of…” songs, and I actually liked it more than Avenged Sevenfold’s version).  Dustin informed me on the drive that I should be prepared for a lot of explosions and fire, and a badass show.  He played some songs for me, which I neither loved nor hated, and he was excited like a little boy on Christmas morning (or like me when I saw Iron Maiden), so I was getting a bit excited myself.  The stage setup took so long that Master of Puppets played to halfway through “Leper Messiah”, then the lights went out (15 minutes after the band was scheduled to start), AC/DC’s “Back in Black” started blasting out of the PA, played in its entirety, then fireworks went off, flames shot out the back of the stage, and the band began to underwhelm me for the next hour and twenty minutes.

Here’s the thing about A7X (as the kids call them): their stage set was amazing, they are musically talented, their setlist was crafted well, and frontman M. Shadows is a consummate showman, deftly controlling the crowd while all manner of stage trickery happened all around him (more flames, explosions, video footage projected on the stage behind them, etcetera), and the crowd ate it up, swallowed every bite, and asked – nay, begged – for seconds.  Despite all that, the whole thing seemed a bit contrived, and I was bored enough that during the last half of the set, I was predicting when flames would rise out the back of the stage with a pretty alarming accuracy.  To be fair to the band, though, it was very chilly up there on those aluminum bleachers, and I was so very, very tired, so it was hard for me to think about much except being asleep in a warm bed.

The premier Cafeteria Metal band in the United States.

The premier Cafeteria Metal band in the United States.

Anyway, I decided today that one might classify Avenged Sevenfold as “Cafeteria Metal” – i.e., the entire band persona seems to have been chosen À la carte from a menu of Hard Rock and Metal Things.  Here are some examples: they played a song that sounded very much like a Mötley Crüe power ballad; they played a song that had a main riff that was nothing more than the main riff from Metallica’s “Sad But True” played in a slightly different manner; they played a song that sounded eerily like a Use Your Illusion-era Deep-Voiced-Axl Guns ‘n’ Roses song (Dustin even leaned over to me during this one and said “I think this one sounds kind of like a Guns ‘n’ Roses song”.); they had tapestries on the stage adorned with inverted crosses, even though they’re about as Satanic as Selena Gomez (see above photo).  And their reliance on pyrotechnics struck me as a means of drowning out the fact that at their very core, they’re mostly just copying all their influences, rearranging them just enough that the casual listener won’t notice, and blasting them back at millions of people, albeit to the tune of three RIAA Certified Gold albums and one RIAA Certified Platinum album, as well as sold out concerts around the globe.

Eventually their set ended.  Dustin was thrilled with the performance (after one song, he said to me, “They haven’t played that song live in 8 years!”), we walked 1.5 miles back to the car, and I began the long, tired drive back to Indianapolis, finally returning shortly after 4:00 AM Sunday morning, approximately 21 hours after waking up for work the previous day.  All in all, it was a great day spent with a great friend.

I woke up at 7:00 AM to drive back home, and since I couldn’t stop hearing their songs anyway, I played Exodus’ 1997  live album Another Lesson in Violence, which I started as I pulled away from Dustin’s house, and which literally finished as I was pulling up in front of my house.  It was a helluva good way to cap things off.  Here are my final thoughts:

The Good: hanging out with Dustin (whom I don’t get to see very often), Exodus, Slayer, my new Exodus t-shirt, listening to Another Lesson in Violence in the car, Suicidal Tendencies

The Bad: $6.00 cans of PBR, $20 to park the car a mile-and-a-half away

The Ugly: Don Jamieson’s abhorrent stand-up comedy set

The Final Verdict: I would attend Rock on the Range again, but only if tickets were free.  Likewise, I would pay up to $15 to see Avenged Sevenfold again.

That’s all I got.  Stay heavy, friends.