Friday, September 30, 2011

A Message From Cliff Burton's Dad

Too sweet not to share. I'm sure all parents who had the misfortune of burying their child would want their memories to live on, internationally revered, immortal in their convictions and talent.

This one's for you, Cliff. Can't believe it's been a quarter of a century since your passing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Some Things I Take Seriously... Like Opeth

On Monday, I had no plans to see Opeth and Katatonia over their two-night stint at Webster Hall. But the latter's publicist made me an offer I couldn't refuse... so there I was, interviewing Katatonia for backstage during the headliner's set when one of my most beloved songs, "Face of Melinda," began.

In my head, I kept thinking, 'It's OK, you've seen them do it live before.' But in reality, it wasn't. So I thank Brian Rocha for trying to hook me up with the second show so I could hear it. Below is our text message exchange. And thanks to Opeth and Katatonia for both putting on such compelling performances. Someone needs to make a best-of reel of Mikael Akerfeldt's hilarious between-song banter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Slayer Post of the Week

It still blows my mind that a week ago today, I witnessed Slayer live at Yankee Stadium. It's been a few years since they toured through medium-sized venues, and I'm not a huge fan of arenas. Yankee Stadium, though? That was history in the making. And though everyone is surely sick of Big Four coverage, I just couldn't help posting this drum-cam view video. Look at all those metalheads!

BTW: Dave Lombardo is the only member of the band I choose to be Facebook friends with.

Monday, September 19, 2011

RIP Emo's Outside... The Beginning of the End

The Melvins @ Emo's Outside, 11/17/06. Photo by Mikey Brick

Even though it's roughly 1,500 miles away from New York City, Austin's Emo's club has always felt like a second home. Located on Sixth Street and Red River, the music venue has been the linchpin of the downtown scene since 1992, with a large outdoor space (replete with smoke-friendly bleachers) connected to a smaller indoor club via spacious outdoor drinking area, known for its diverse nightly bookings and psychedelic pop art decor. Everyone important—and not so important—has played Emo's. I've forgotten seeing more bands there than I can probably remember, but one particularly epic Melvins show a few years back serves as my favorite.

And now, after catching dozens of shows there, hosting several HIGH TIMES parties, drinking countless Shiners, and two bartender make-out buddies, Emo's on Red River is slowly closing down. This past Saturday, a show by Death From Above 1979 marked the outside stage's last concert. Though the inside space will remain open a little while longer, it too will shut down and the Emo's operation will relocate to Emo's East on East Riverside Drive, which I'm told is the same space once occupied by the Back Room (true story - I once saw Yngwie Malmsteen play there during SxSW).

Downtown won't be the same. I'm bummed, y'all.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Big Four... and Hating on Metallica

I probably talked shit about Metallica for a full week before the Big Four concert at Yankee Stadium, even though I'd long secured a good seat for the show. And damn it, I felt entitled to. No band—not even U2—have managed to pull such an incredible 180-degree about-face in their values and ethos.

Believe me, I fully affirm Metallica's capitalist right to go modern-day DIY and fly their own G5 plane around. But I don't support the notion that when they tour Europe, they camp out at the Four Seasons in Paris and fly back there every night from around the continent. Just imagine their carbon footprint. And how silly it is that a band that once abhorred music videos now sells "All Nightmare Long" light switch plates on their website?

It all started so innocently. In my early 'tween days, Metallica were my stars, my moon, my galaxy. I first became aware of them in an issue of Hit Parader, thinking these guys must've been really good to be that ugly yet manage to take editorial pages away from Motley Crue and Poison. I sought out their back catalog, and it was love from there on out—until I discovered punk rock as a high school junior. Then sometime between their suddenly suspicious appeal to local guidos via the Black Album and their attack on Napster, I opted out completely.

Did my initiation make me inherently hate their latter day work? Absolutely not. Metallica and I both aged and evolved, albeit in different directions. And that's within both of our rights. I've often thought about the fact that Jesus Lizard's Goat came out the same year as the Black Album, and how different my musical preferences could have been had I discovered them in 1991. That said, I salute Metallica's 30-year longevity and worldwide success.

And then I made my way to the Bronx. The near seven-hour concert began at 4:00pm, and the wraparound lines to get in foretold my company for the day, 54,000+ BMI-challenged metal fans wearing a nearly split amount of Metallica and Slayer T-shirts. The first of the Big Four, Anthrax, were already onstage and despite having the home team advantage, churned out a sonically flaccid performance to a quarter-packed stadium that included oldies like "Metal Thrashing Mad," "I Am The Law" and "Indians," with its irresistible "Waaaaar Dance" breakdown. I never thought I'd miss John Bush so much.

Next up were Megadeth. In the days prior to the show, rumors percolated that there was a chance they wouldn't play given leader Dave Mustaine's neck injury. Soon related stories emerged, from Exodus booking flights as replacements (I would've preferred Testament) to having ambulances on standby to escort the cantankerous ginger straight to the hospital for surgery immediately following their set. Mustaine ultimately pulled through and performed a nearly triumphant set, at times looking visibly in pain. Though some complained about their set list—not enough off of Peace Sells... But Who's Buying, too much newer material—I thoroughly enjoyed Megadeth. They were technical, precise and riveting when playing "Holy Wars," "Hangar 18," "Peace Sells" and "Symphony of Destruction." Even with his health on the line, Mustaine still managed to make a few political statements. To that end, playing "Foreclosure of a Dream" instead of "A Tout Le Monde" would have been more apt. Get well soon, Dave. Sorry for all the schadenfreude.

As dusk set in, Slayer finally emerged and then came the moment I'd been waiting for: to hear the "Slayer!" chant echoing throughout Yankee Stadium by the thick crowd and all the sweet subversion it brought. By far, Slayer were the loudest, the best sounding and the most relentless act of the day. Even the New York Times couldn't front on the fact that they blew Metallica off the stage. Bathed in red lights, their hour-long performance was a well-concocted greatest hit selection that plowed through "Chemical Warfare," "Dead Skin Mask," "Mandatory Suicide," "Disciple," "Silent Scream" and my beloved "War Ensemble." Not even the absence of guitarist Jeff Hanneman (Exodus' Gary Holt subbed and did a fantastic job) deterred from their laser focus. No bullshit, all pounding metal. I headbanged. To quote a first time witness: "I was waiting for Satan himself to show up."

It was nearly time for Metallica. Surveying the packed house before their set gave me a proud feeling, reminiscent of my very first concert—the Headbanger's Ball Tour '89 at Madison Square Garden's Felt Forum, featuring Helloween, Exodus and Anthrax—and how it awed me to be surrounded by so many like-minded people who understood all the ostracizing and prejudice that came along with having "different" musical tastes and wearing black T-shirts emblazed with skulls.

Despite the nostalgia, I wondered how many songs I'd manage to last through. Four? Less? The majesty of Metallica opening with "Creeping Death," followed by "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "Ride the Lightning," could not be denied. But during "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" something happened. I found myself disconnected and unmoved, associating the song with its ominous presence in the Paradise Lost documentary, rather than the track on Master of Puppets that exposed the band's fervid side and completely drew me in. And quite frankly, after seeing Some Kind of Monster, it was difficult to ignore the connection between psycho-speak and James Hetfield's whole "Do you feel good? We want to make you feel better!" banter. That was the moment it crystallized that any emotional connection to the Metallica "tribe" I once had was gone forever.

Though I'm glad I caught the second-ever live performance of "Orion" on my way out (I hope y'all have realized that Robert Trujillo is by FAR the coolest dude in the band these days), it disappointed me to learn that the last two songs of Metallica's main set—the marquee, signature songs they saved for last—were "Nothing Else Matters" and "Enter Sandman." [And seriously, did "Blackened" need the accompanying laser show? The fucking song is called "BLACKENED."] Still, considering I stayed for 10 whole songs, I'd like to think I gave them a chance to recapture my attention and faith, but it's clear they belong to the masses now. So I dub thee unforgiven.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Leftover Sludge

Photo by Samantha Marble
As much as I love the instant gratification of digital media, there really is nothing like seeing your name in print. And though I've kept busy reviewing records and doing the occasional filler piece, it's been a while since I had time to write a full page worth of copy. 

What got me out of my slump was one of my favorite all-time bands, Eyehategod. Though nothing pleased me more than getting them ink in HIGH TIMES, it was much harder than I imagined to craft the article. I wanted to give them their proper due, but I also knew I had to make them a little cuddlier for the HT crowd. (This is the same audience that doesn't always understand why you'd want to taint a photo of giant nugs with a chick in a bikini.) In the end, I hope I succeeded and the band digs it, then goes on to make the comeback record of 2012.

But, of course, there were word restrictions. Naturally I dorked out on Jimmy Bower and Michael Williams during their interviews, and probably have enough material for a hefty Q&A outtake post... which I might do eventually. But for now, I wanted to keep it light—and with all respect to the band—present five completely random Eyehategod omitted quotes without including any context. It's just more fun that way.

"I never thought we'd have a tribute album. I kept thinking, 'Why did they want to do this?' That's a really cool thing to have right there." — Michael Williams 

"The first time we went to Amsterdam in ’93, we got really high on Northern Lights and walked around. Eyehategod’s a really short band, and everybody in Holland is very tall with those ching, ching, ching bicycle bells." — Jimmy Bower 

"Yeah, the guy from Eyehategod likes cats..." — MW
"I used to read that magazine [XXL]... It's an easy magazine to get in jail." — MW

"Not to sound egotistical, but maybe newer fans think we’re like the new Black Flag, kinda? But I don’t want to pat myself on the back. When we play, it’s like, 'let’s Flag this bitch off.'"— JB
For the full Eyehategod feature, check out the November 2011 issue of HIGH TIMES, which also includes an interview with Phil Anselmo.