17 July 2016
Agora Theater & Ballroom; Cleveland, OH
Sunless Sky, Two Dead Roses, Garblejunk, Otep, Suicide Machines, Helmet, Green Jelly, Ministry, Next to None
When I heard the Republican National Convention was going to be held in Cleveland, my first thought was that there was going to be an awesome punk rock show going on somewhere in town at the same time.
I was half right. The A.N.C. wan’t a punk show, but it was fucking awesome.
Me with Vermin Supreme
I made it to the Mistake on the Lake a few hours before the show to join a march to shut down Trump and the RNC. It’s both good and bad that this was a peaceful protest. Good because I didn’t get hurt and bad because it doesn’t make for a very good story. The most exciting part was that I got a selfie with presidential candidate Vermin Supreme.
Then we hoofed it from 18th street all the way back to 50th in time to catch the first notes of the evening. I wished we would have stayed a little longer. Sunless Sky were a good band, but not really my thing. They had a sound like an updated Judas Priest.* It was good enough to get my head bobbing and their singer had an awesome set of pipes, but I was hoping for some incendiary political commentary.
Things didn’t really start to heat up until Garblejunk took the stage. Unlike when I saw them at Scio Showcase a few years ago they didn’t sound Garble-y or Junky. I was somewhat disappointed, but their acoustic metal came through the PA crisp and clear. A good sound coupled with good energy made for an enjoyable set. The best part was looking at the crowd and seeing the looks of confusion… followed quickly by smiles.
The Suicide Machines
One of the main reasons I bought the ticket was to see Otep. I saw her perform at Ozzfest in 2004 and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Sadly, her performance Sunday was about the same length as at Ozzfest. They rocked their asses off for the half-hour they had and I enjoyed every minute of it, but I would have loved to have heard more than five songs from them.
While it was an awesome show with a great eclectic mix of artists it would have been nice to have had more time with a few of them. I also didn’t care much for having to bounce back and forth between the theater and the ballroom, but I suppose having both stages going was the only way to fit all the bands into 6 hours. Still, it was a little much.
After Otep I stepped into the smaller room and found myself immediately bored by the Suicide Machines. It was such awful noise that I took a minute to check my Facebook. Then they broke into the catchy “War Profiteering Is Killing Us All” and I realized they were a hardcore band and supposed to be awful noise. From that moment I was hooked. I’m not a big fan of the clean guitars of ska, but in a live setting it is pretty enjoyable. And I think I was the only person in the room to cheer when the singer asked if there were any factory or steelworkers in the audience. It was the kind of political rabble rousing I paid my hard earned money to see.
Unfortunately, I missed the end of their set in order to get a good spot for Helmet. Helmet are dinosaurs. They started in the 90s and Page Hamilton is only two years younger than Al Jourgenson, which means he was born in the neolithic era when bands had to carve their instruments out of rocks. They’re also dinosaurs in the sense that they produce fucking monstrous sounds. You can say “It’s a shame I didn’t get to see them back in the day,” but I’m not sure how they could have been any better in 1996 than they are in 2016.** Then after they were done I felt like I’d been trampled by a herd of brontosauruses. (This concludes the prehistoric-comparison paragraph of this post.)
I wasn’t very impressed with Green Jelly, but I suppose that is somewhat to be expected. When you spend 30 years touring as a joke band and you only have one hit you’re bound to disappoint a lot of people. I was outside smoking when they did “Three Little Pigs” so I only caught the end. I did catch “Anarchy in Bedrock” but it wasn’t the same. By the time their singer climbed onto a ladder to sing “Puff the Magic Dragon” I was bored. I managed to find a chair and waited for Ministry to hit the stage.
MC Jello Biafra wasn’t quite as cool as I’d hoped for. I liked his political rants; though I don’t agree with everything he said. There wasn’t enough time for him to get his point across and he mainly just introduced the bands. I would have paid just as much money to go to an even that was just him, Al Jourgenson and Otep giving speeches, but I think a few other fans just wanted the music. Surprisingly, there were a few Trump fans in the building too. I wonder if they know they paid money to watch a refugee and a lesbian perform.
Ministry is a perennially awesome band. This was the third time I’ve seen them and though I haven’t cared too much for their last few albums it may have been my favorite performance. I loved their opener “Hail To His Majesty.” It seemed like a new song written just to mock Trump, but it turns out it’s on their most recent album From Beer To Eternity. They played a few songs from Rio Grande Blood, which is my favorite of their recent albums, but things didn’t get totally awesome until they hit the one-two punch of “N.W.O.” and “Just One Fix.” The best thing was that they’ve updated them up a little so it wasn’t the same performance I’ve already seen twice before.
I was shocked to hear them break into “Thieves” and “Stigmata.” I’ve never heard those songs live. I had to hand my buddy the Otep CD I’d bought so I could hop into the pit for the latter. When they left the stage and the lights didn’t come on I wondered how they could top that, but they did “Psalm 69,” “So What” and “Khyber Pass” as an encore. They wrapped up with DEVO’s “Gates of Steel.”
From there the show deteriorated to the point where it was just a commercial for Surgical Meth Machine, Al Jourgenson’s new project. The giant projector continued to play videos with some dancier music in the background. I was about to head out when I saw Uncle Al and guitarist Sin Quirin pop around the side of the stage. I managed to make my way over and get a handshake from both of them. I’m pretty sure that was the highlight of my night.
For some reason there was another band playing after Ministry, but I didn’t stay to check them out. I had been on my feet for 8 hours and still had a long drive home. I was ready to leave and I even called in sick the next day to get a little extra rest.
It was all worth it.
*Before you take this as an insult let me point out that I am a fan of Judas Priest. If I wished to insult you I would have compared you to Iron Maiden, who for some reason I’ve never gotten into.
**I ran into the drummer later on and made a comment about his Local H t-shirt. He told me they’ll be on tour with that band in the fall so they may be featured in another post this year.