The Descendents at House of Blues


17 November 2017

House of Blues; Cleveland, OH

Public Squares, Frank Iero and the Patience, The Descendents

The best news I’ve gotten this year was that the Descendents would be on tour and be stopping in Cleveland. These guys have been my favorite band for a few years and I keep hoping to make it to a concert, but I’ve only seen them playing at Riot Fest and my budget doesn’t allow me to go to Chicago for a long weekend.

I haven’t been to a show in about a year, so it was time to get to one. Music is best experienced live, but there’s that damn job thing that keeps me from going to shows every night… and also provides me with money to buy concert tickets.

The night began with Public Squares, a trio from somewhere not of this earth. I’m a sucker for extraterrestrial bands in matching outfits who tell us the only reason the rest of the universe hasn’t destroyed us is that we gave them rock and roll. Is there a way to not love that? If there is I haven’t discovered it.

Their music is great too. It’s your basic punk rock, which is exactly what I was hoping to hear. Things did sound a little too classic rock for my taste by the end of their set, but I’m still looking forward to checking out their album. They’re the best local band I’ve seen in quite a while.

I’ve gone on record about my dislike of emo music many times so it should come as no surprise I’m not a fan of Frank Iero and the Patience. I tried to give them a chance, but when I saw the long hair and incense burning on stage I had a feeling it wasn’t for me. On the bright side, I’ve finally realized what I dislike about the genre: it’s too serious. I can’t help but think that this might not have been the best group to open for a band who has written so many songs about farts.^

The lady friend wanted to head to the balcony for the Descendents to get away from the crowd, so we made our way up. I like checking out bands from a different vantage point, but the balcony at House of Blues isn’t the greatest. You have to pay more than double to get a seat and since I’m too cheap for that we were back in the standing room only section. I’m happy to say we still managed to get a good view.

They opened with “Everything Sux” and “Hope.” Both great tunes, but it took Milo Aukerman a minute to warm up. After the first few songs the band was the well oiled machine I expected. I was a little surprised Milo is such a great frontman. I suppose I should be, he’s been doing it for longer than I’ve been alive. But I’ve heard him described as an ‘Uber nerd” and didn’t see anything to make me think anything else (especially the Camelbak he wore). When my girlfriend said “He looks like a college professor” I had to reply “I think he is.”*

I believe I pointed out in my review of Cool To Be You that the Descendents are the least cool band I’ve ever come across and that’s just as apparent live. Not that they don’t rock, but they definitely resemble the caricatures from the cover of the Live Plus One album. Except for Bassist Karl Alvarez who’s hair has moved from his head to his face and turned gray, making him look like a punk rock Tommy Chong. Caveman Bill Stevenson is the only drummer I’ve ever heard a crowd chant for. With good reason, he’s the main songwriter and quite a few of those great songs we heard sprang from his head.

Cover illustration for the Descendents’ “Live Plus One” album by Chris Shary

I was surprised to recognize so many of the songs they played. It wasn’t until I started researching this post that I realized I own 7/9 of their full-length albums. I’d love to just post the entire setlist because it contained so many great tunes. “Clean Sheets,” “Silly Girl,” “Pervert,” “Suburban Home,” “When I Grow Up,” “Weinershnitzel/No All” and about a million more. Most tracks came from the new Hypercaffium Spazzinate and I Don’t Want To Grow Up.   

The biggest highlights were the resistance anthem “Who We Are” which I wasn’t familiar with, but I’m pretty sure I like better than anything off the most recent album, and Milo running into the crowd for “Thank You.” There were definitely a few ecstatic fans that got to sing that chorus with him on the floor. I managed to get in the pit for the encores and do a bit of slam dancing for “I’m the One” and “Bikeage.” It was a good thing I took my girlfriend to the balcony. I forgot how intense those punk rock pits can get.

Of course, there were a few songs I was disappointed to not have heard, but I’m guessing just about every attendee could say the same thing. When you have as massive a catalog as these guys there’s going to be a few that don’t make the final cut. If I had it my way I’d just go see them the next day and hopefully they’d play “Cool To Be You” at that show.

 

^As always I say this with the caveat that they were playing to a much larger and more interested audience than I’ve ever entertained.

*He was an adjunct professor at the University of Deleware. I can’t help but wonder what his lectures were like.

 

 

Advertisements

The A.N.C. @ The Cleveland Agora


ANC in Cleveland 17/7/201617 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

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

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.

Helmet

Helmet

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.

Ministry

Ministry

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.

Ministry

Ministry

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.

The Best of 2015


 

Bad Guys “Prostitutes (Are Making Love In My Garden)” Thanks 1537

 

Eyes Set To Kill – This album actually came out in 2013, but because I only discovered this band in 2015 it meets my rigorous and thorough standards to appear on this list.

Marilyn Manson  “The Pale Emperor

Ghost – Meliora

 

Coal Chamber/Fear Factory tour

Finntroll – Haxbrygd (Thanks to Mike Ladano)

 

The Death of Scott Weiland – I’m not trying to say this was one of the best things to happen this year, or even a good thing, but I don’t do a “Most Important” list so it ends up here.

 

John 5 finally goes on a solo tour

GWAR still Rocks!

Faith No More – Sol Invictus

 

Happy New Year!

 

GWAR @ The Agora


GWAR Agora 11/8/20158 November 2015

The Agora Theater; Cleveland, OH

Demons Within, Solipsist, Battlecross, GWAR

There were two reasons I felt this show was a must-see: 1) I needed to see how the band had weathered the passing of longtime vocalist/front man, Oderus Urungus and 2) GWAR fucking rocks and I was sure it would take more of an effort for them to put on a shitty show than it would for them to give a great performance. I wasn’t sure what to expect without Oderus, he seemed to be the glue that held everyone together. All I really wanted was some blood, gore, celebrity dismemberment and fun. I did not leave disappointed.

The opening acts had several things working against them. For one, I’m not a huge fan of death/black/speed metal. I realize now that there may be a speed limit to my musical tastes. Anything faster than 120 BPM sounds like mush to my ears. As always there are exceptions to this rule, but speed isn’t really something that impresses me much. The other thing working against all of these talented, hardworking musicians is that they were opening for GWAR! I don’t want to see you wankers! Get off the stage so GWAR can come on!

Demons Within were a last minute addition to replace the cancelled Born of Osiris. I think they may have been the fastest band of the night. It wasn’t really music you could bang your head to, but more like music to have a seizure to. The did have the best lead guitar acrobatics of any local band I’ve ever seen.

I swear, Richard O'Brien is the bass player for Battlecross.

I swear, Richard O’Brien is the bass player for Battlecross.

Solipsist is another local band that is brutally metal as fuck. Listening to them was like getting hit in the head with a sack of rocks. Something strange about heavy-speed metal is that the more I listen to it, the more I understand and appreciate it; and their set closer was by far their best song.

Battlecross are another group that break my BPM speed limit, but they manage to put some pretty awesome grooves into their music. It’s fast as hell, but it has a nice beat and you can dance to it. They get bonus points for having Riff Raff from the Rocky Horror Picture Show playing bass for them. I wondered what happened to that guy.

Then is was time to put away the appetizers and move on to the main course. A brief intro introduced us to ‘The new and improved GWAR,’ two guys in costumes doing a dance version of ‘Sick of You.’ They only made it to the breakdown before the real GWAR entered and slaughtered them to “Crush, Kill, Destroy.”

Now, I had planned on staying toward the back of the theater and watching from a comfortable, dry spot. I’ve “seen” GWAR twice before on the Sounds of the Underground tours, but I was always so close to the stage that I was constantly getting sprayed in the face with spew and could barely hear any of the songs. This time I wanted to actually watch the performance. I even wore a new shirt and my leather jacket to dissuade me from traveling up front. This all went out the door when they started “Saddam A Go-Go.” I rushed up front and hopped in the pit. By the end of the show it looked like I had egg yolk all over my face and I was very, very pleased.

 

The best part was that the performance was like a play. They played a lot tunes from their catalog and also performed as actors. The set-up came when their manager tells them that the internet is saying bad things about them. He tells them that they need to kill the internet it they want more crack. So they visit several sites (SpewTube, Kinder (like tinder but for child molesters), and Instagram (where they buy several grams of crack instantly)) and then kill the people associated with these sites. After proclaiming their mastery and defeating their foe, Balsac gave a warm, moving speech about how we could now enjoy life and no longer had to serve our digital overlord that had been enslaving us. Or something like that, I was thinking about what I was going to write in this blog.

I've seen a lot of bands dedicate albums to the memories of fallen musicians, but these guys names a star after their friend. What a bunch of saps!

I’ve seen a lot of bands dedicate albums to fallen musicians, but these guys named a star after their friend. What a bunch of saps!

They very rarely broke the fourth wall. The only time I can remember them doing that was to lead us in a chant for “the best rock and roll singer to walk this or any other planet” O-DER-US. You know, for a bunch of intergalactic warriors who make their living slaughtering humans for entertainment, GWAR are some sentimental fucks.

There were quite a few song that I didn’t recognize. I’m sure some may have been new and others might have come from albums I’m not that familiar with, but the set was great. “Babyraper,” “Meat Sandwich” and “I, Bonesnapper” all made the cut. Hillary Clinton and Kanye West emerged only to be slaughtered during “Salamanizer” and they closed the set with “Sick of You.” My only complaint was the omission of anything from America Must Be Destroyed. I can understand they were focusing on songs that Blothar could sing well, (seeing as how he is very different from Oderus) and can understand excluding something like “Have You Seen Me?”, but I’ve really been digging on “The Road Behind” lately and loved the parts Blothar sang (as Beefcake) back in the day.

Photo by Jon Lichtenberg. Click image for more.

Photo by Jon Lichtenberg. Click image for more.

I’m still digesting everything I saw on Sunday, but I know I didn’t see the death throes of GWAR. Maybe I just say this because I’m such a huge fan and think they’re the best band in the world at what they do, but I’m pretty sure those who are writing them off are going to end up eating their words. Just like critics of AC/DC and Alice in Chains. The good news is that if you haven’t seen GWAR yet in your lifetime it’s still not too late.

 

Coal Chamber & Fear Factory @ the Agora


11270704_10153269105956061_8145256622501936446_o16 August 2015

the Agora Theater; Cleveland, OH

Madlife, Saint Ridley, Devil You Know, Fear Factory, Coal Chamber

I don’t listen to heavy metal like I used to, but I find it’s really difficult to let go of the bands I listened to in high school. So when I saw a chance to see two of my favorites from yesteryear (and for only $20) I jumped at the chance. This is how I ended up jamming to sci-fi metal and horror metal last Sunday night when I should have been in bed resting for work on Monday.

A long Burger King line and last minute bowel movement made me just a little late to the show. I only caught the last song from Madlife, which was disappointing. Judging from my Spotify research they were the opening act I was most interested in seeing. They had a sound similar to Fear Factory, but mixed with nu-metal. Not anything I’m going to run out and buy, but something that sparked my interest.

Saint Ridley

Saint Ridley

Saint Ridley was a good heavy metal band. Unfortunately they were a typical heavy metal band. I didn’t really hear anything to differentiate them from hordes of other bands vying for my attention. They played a great set and managed to keep my attention, but this is the kind of stuff I would have been into 10 years ago.

Devil You Know

Devil You Know

I can’t say that I care for Devil You Know any more than I did for singer Howard Jones’ previous band, Killswitch Engage. I’m not sure what it was that turned me off from metalcore, but I never really cared for KsE. And DYK sounds very similar (though noticeably heavier). It hurts me to say that because aside from being a fellow Ohioan, Jones comes off as a really nice, funny guy. I also have to give them props on being killer musicians (I really dug the bassist Ryan Wombacher’s backup vocals), but it’s just not my cup of tea.

But all was right with the world after the lights dimmed and Fear Factory took the stage. I couldn’t help but feel a little scared as they broke into their buzz-saw guitar riffage and the mosh pit threatened to engulf the whole floor area.

(I was somewhat disappointed that the balcony section wasn’t opened. I’m a bit older now so I appreciate being able to sit down while watching a band, even if they are one of the heaviest in the known universe. Plus I’ve had a few harrowing experienced on the floor of the Agora Theater. When Primus played “Too Many Puppies” at Tour de Fromage in 2003 I thought I was going to get crushed to death and Ministry’s C-U-LaTour in 2008 resulted in several stitches on my forehead and years of Harry Potter jokes. (That Ministry show also featured both Fear Factory’s vocalist Burton C. Bell and bassist Tony Campos.))

But still, I was pumped to see Fear Factory. The last time I saw them was in 2004 and aside from Bell, it was a completely different band.* I was a little disappointed to not be seeing Raymond Herrera’s drumming again, but Mike Heller proved to be a very talented replacement. The last time I saw them I wasn’t very familiar with their material, but I’ve listened to them quite a bit over the past 11 years so I was able to sing along with “Edgecrusher” and “Replica.” I’m pleased to say I resisted the urge to hop into the pit during “Demanufacture” and only caught one elbow to the face from standing too close to the edge.

My biggest bitch of the evening is that FF only played a 50 minute set. I was thinking that they could have been the headliners. Until Coal Chamber took the stage.

Coal Chamber Cleveland Agora 8/16/2015I’ve hear Coal Chamber slammed a few times on sites like Metalsucks for being part of the nu-metal scene, but they’ve aged really well. I find their simplistic three chord metal songs catchy and driving. Plus they’ve definitely inspired a new wave of musicians. They’re the band that every nu-metal cover band has to cover, like a 2000’s AC/DC. I found a great spot just stage left of the barrier for the beginning of their set. You could feel the tension rising as guitarist Meegs Rascon played the opening lick to “Loco” and as soon as Dez Fafara sang “Pull” the crowd went nuts. I wanted to move around to get a better look at the pit, but I didn’t have to move very far. Little mini-pits kept popping up all around me like a whack-a-mole. One minute the guy next to you is a normal run-of-the-mill metalhead and the next minute he’s bouncing Coal Chamber Cleveland Agora 8/16/2015around like a three-year-old who just chugged a Red Bull. It was awesome! Within 5 songs they covered all my favorites with “Loco,” “Big Truck,” “Fiend,” and “Rowboat.” I didn’t care what they played after that. I was surprised that they didn’t play more off the new record, but I can’t complain because I knew most of the set, which helped keep me to singing along.

Perhaps the best part, and something that led me to crack up a few times, was how Rascon would spit straight up in the air and catch it in his mouth. Gross, but hilarious.

Bitch number 2 has to do with how the crowd immediately dispersed after “Sway.” Haven’t any of these people been to a show before? You stand around and yell really loud until they come back out and play another song or two.

Really though, it was the best show I’ve been to in a long time. I have to give props to the staff and roadies for their quick set changes. And though I’m not a fan of all the bands, they all gave really great performances.

I know there are only a few more shows left on the tour, but if you get a chance- get to one! You wont regret it… well, maybe you will if you get in the pit.

 

*2004 FF featured Bell, guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers, founding drummer Raymond Herrera and bassist Byron Stroud (formerly of Strapping Young Lad) 2015 FF features Bell, founding guitarist Dino Cazeres, bassist Tony Campos (Static X, Ministry) and drummer Mike Heller.

En Esch – The Spank! Tour


En Esch The Spank! Tour 2015The Spank! Tour

28 June 2015

Fastbacks Brewhouse and Grill; Brookpark, OH

One Man’s Failure, Blight Vs. Blight, Syringe, Ghostfeeder, En Esch

I was a little hesitant to attend another Industrial show after the last one I went to was such a downer and my feelings on the genre have changed over the years, but I was pretty excited to see longtime KMFDM member En Esch playing at a small venue in Cleveland so I took a chance that it would be worth it.

Turns out it was a great show!

Fastbacks Brewhouse is located right next to the Ford Engine Factory in a suburb of Cleveland which it makes it a perfect venue for Industrial music. It’s not an ‘industrial wasteland,’ but I’ve always associated Industrial music with factories and there’s a huge one right across the street.When I first walked in I worried I was in the wrong place. Alan Jackson was playing on the jukebox and I couldn’t hear what was happening downstairs. I visited the men’s room and was surprised and confused by a handful of pennies in the urinal. I’m wondering if this is a variation on the practice of leaving coins on soldier’s graves. Perhaps a penny just means I pissed here. Maybe a nickel means I saw another guys wiener. I’m guessing dimes and quarters denote some George Michael type shit.

Blight Vs. Blight

Blight Vs. Blight

I’ve gone on record saying I don’t like performances with one guy and a computer, but One Man’s Failure gets a pass because he was playing a guitar. I can’t be totally mad at someone who makes it as much of a live performance as he can and lets me know what an EBow sounds like. I thought one of the riffs he was playing was Alice in Chain’s “Sludge Factory,” but it wasn’t. If he had rocked that I would have loved it.

The last time I saw Blight Vs. Blight I remember thinking that what he does is really close to hip hop. He’s the only guy-with-a-computer band I’ve ever dug and I think it’s because the focus was always on the beats and his voice. I never heard much prerecorded crap and was able to just enjoy the basic groove of his music. Now that he’s added live drums and guitar the band has only gotten better. Adding dark Industrial beats with some thrash guitar is always a recipe for success as far as I’m concerned. Plus you can’t not like a guy who screams “no swimming allowed” in such a way you get it stuck in your head.

My only problem was not being able to hear the guitar solos. This could have been due to the acoustics in the room or the amp settings. I’ll have to check them out in the future to see if I can hear them. I was surprised at how low tech this show was. I didn’t see any drum mics and very few for instruments. But with as small of a room as it was there wasn’t much of an issue.

Syringe

It was great to see Syringe play a good show. After writing them off quite a while ago I was surprised to see them rocking out and playing through amps instead of running through a computer and stage monitors. This gave their live performance a healthy dose of presence and allowed the sound to come through cleanly instead of being blended together. It was nice to hear the drum machine and synth in the background where they belong. I’ll take live drum fills over prerecorded ones any day.

Ghostfeeder

Ghostfeeder managed to confuse the hell out of me. I’ve seen a few bands where 2 guys play keys and/or guitar over drum machines, but I’ve never seen it done well. The stuff they were playing was upbeat, in key, in time and (strangest of all) enjoyable. With their backdrop and light show I couldn’t help wonder what they were doing at Fastbacks and not at SXSW or Lollapalooza. I think if they put some more ‘suck’ in their sound they could really go places. If they just work on it a little bit more so they can drive a guy like me outside to get away form their music they might just be the next big thing.

En Esch 6/28/2015I wasn’t really sure what to expect from En Esch. His former band, KMFDM, just played the House of Blues in Cleveland and will be back on Aug 8. I know what to expect from them, but what do I get from him? It was a very small intimate show with a small crowd, just a few guitars, drums and a laptop. I was surprised there weren’t more people there, but I was happy about it. The atmosphere was much more like VH1 Storytellers than a rock concert. They started off with a bluesy number sung by co-vocalist Lady E and Esch showing his chops on a black Fender strat. I’m surprised Industrial and the Blues haven’t been mixed more considering the big industrial label, Wax Trax!, was based in Chicago.

From there is was onto the dark dance music I know and love from KMFDM. I’m sorry to say I only recognized 2 songs, “Leid Elend” and “Juke Joint Jezebel,” but I did find myself singing along to one tune I heard from Spank! I couldn’t believe how low key the show was. The dread-locked guy I thought was a roadie for Ghostfeeder turned out to be Esch’s drummer and GF’s guitarist Luke Dangler joined them for most of their set. 

Patrick Nicholls of Syringe singing "Juke Joint Jezebel" with En Esch.

Patrick Nicholls of Syringe singing “Juke Joint Jezebel” with En Esch.

I think the most impressive part of the night was when as I was leaving Esch was chatting with members of the opening bands. I’ve never seen that before. It’s nice to see someone who’s been playing music and touring the world as long as I’ve been alive still taking an interest in the scene and his fans.

I’m definitely going to be listening to a lot of KMFDM and Esch’s other project, Slick Idiot, over the next few weeks. Then the next time he comes around I’ll recognize more of what I’m hearing. I just hope it’s still in a small intimate venue. 

Rock on the Range 2009


2009 Rock on the RangeI was hoping to make it to Rock on the Range this year, but the ticket prices are a tad too high for me. Not to fear though, I’ll still cash in on the events popularity by digging up this unpublished review from the vault that I did way back in 2009. Hope you enjoy!

Columbus Crews stadium is close enough to the freeway that with the windows rolled down you can hear the bands playing on the way to the venue, which is great because you’re rocking before you’re parking. A gentleman with a couch on wheels pulled us to the front gate on a bicycle. Once inside we were surrounded by all the summer festival staples: bongs, t-shirts, overpriced food, portable toilets, and an ATM in a van. I loved the irony of seeing roaming beer vendors soliciting in the child play area. But we weren’t interested in elephant ears or $4 bottled water, we wanted rock! And rock we received.

I kicked off my day in a pit; from there it was a nonstop journey across three stages watching dozens of bands. The sky was overcast but anyone who’s ever been to an outdoor festival will tell you that this is preferential to blue skies. The clouds block out the sun’s heat and keep the day cool. Plus stage lights would have been asinine on a sunny day. The open-air stadium was a great place to see a show. The staircases and landings offered multiple views of the side stages. We even headed up to the nosebleed section and turned around to get a bird’s eye view.

Once Flyleaf took the main stage the clouds parted and the sun broke through, proving once and for all that Christian bands are good for something. But the clouds would not be deterred for long and soon the rains fell. Solid drops only lasted about five minutes but a light mist persisted throughout Chevelle’s set. The drizzle didn’t last long and a few women took the opportunity to remove their wet tops during All That Remains. (The singer for All That Remains tried to make a grand entrance by running onto and leaping on the stage. The rain made the stage a little slippery and he ended up slipping on his face). I usually have to shove dollars into garters to see so many boobies! The crowd was crazy at this show; I even saw a wheelchair that had to get in on the crowd surfing action.

After a scrape on the knee and a few kicks to the head we found some great seats for Alice in Chains. The question of the day was how well could the new guy sing these songs? William Duvall filled Layne Staley’s shoes so well he should be submitted to weekly drug screens. And even if he passes he should be sent to rehab! The only downside to seeing this classic band was that the wind blowing through the arena prevented me from holding up my lighter during “Rooster.” (During which they were joined by Duff McKagan)

After ten straight hours of bouncing back and forth between the stages and having to pick and choose between bands playing simultaneously it was nice to relax a bit and check out the great view of the Columbus skyline the stadium offers. Once Slipknot hit the stage the night was over. We sat in the bleachers and watched the crowd bounce back and forth, savoring the last moments of our day at Rock on the Range.

 

Cleveland Narrowly Averts Tragedy


mr_brownstone-nye

17 April 2015

House of Blues; Cleveland, OH

Masters of Destruction Tour

Mayhem and chaos nearly spilled onto the streets of Cleveland last night after a stop on the Master of Destruction tour featuring tribute acts of Guns N Roses and Metallica.

“It was a total rip off,” said one concert goer. “I would start a riot, but the tickets only cost $20. So I’m not really that pissed off.”

The trouble began when The Four Housemans’ singer/guitarist Anse ‘Devil’ Hatfield was wounded by some misplaced pyrotechnics.

“It sure is a good thing we can’t use real pyro,” lead guitarist Randall McCoy said. “As it turned out he only burnt himself on a sparkler. It was when he lost his balance and stumbled to the ground in front of the fog machine that he was really wounded.”

Hatfield was treated for smoke inhalation at the Cleveland Clinic. He also suffered 1st degree burns from the sparkler.

“Unfortunately Devil has been injured and will not be able to finish the performance,” Drummer Lars Upchuck told an apathetic crowd. “We’ll make this up to you on our next stop in town. We now leave you in the competent hands of One in a Million.”

Guns N Roses tribute act One in a Million took to the stage 2 hours late and only played somewhere from 20-30 minutes because, as singer Prince Edward Arthur Charles Exl said, “We’re a true GnR tribute act. And that means that when a member of a Metallica tribute act get’s burned onstage we have to cut our set short. Even if it doesn’t happen in Montreal

Fortunately most of the audience had already left by the time One in a Million took to the stage so there wasn’t enough of a crowd to start a riot by the time they left.

“We really dodged a bullet tonight,” said a Cleveland Police Officer who wished to remain anonymous. “We could have had a sad, depressing day just like any other day in Cleveland, but instead something awesome happened and we get to be part of rock tribute history.”

One in a Million lead guitarist Slit could not be reached for comment.

 

John 5 @ Ripper’s Rock House


John 5 Flyer 2015 Akron8 March 2015

Ripper’s Rock House; Akron, OH

Dead in 5, John 5 and the Creatures

It seemed like serendipity that brought an advertisement for John 5’s first ever instrumental tour to my Facebook feed about a month ago, but over the past week or so that’s all I’ve been reading about.

It’s hard to believe that this is J5’s first time out as a solo artist. I bought his first guitar instrumental album Vertigo when it came out back in 2004 and since then I’ve been more interested in what he does with his telecasters than with what he’s done with Marilyn Manson or Rob Zombie. But the demand for instrumental guitar music isn’t as high as it was during the shred heyday of the ’80’s or even when Joe Satriani and Steve Vai did their G3 tours in the 00’s.

Still, there were enough people to pack Ripper’s Rock House. I was expecting the place to be a professional concert venue, but really it’s more of a neighborhood bar and grill with a stage. I always like being able to say I saw big time rock stars in little dives like this though. It makes for a better story. And there were a lot of people from all walks of life who felt the same.

I’m not sure if the opening band, Dead in 5, just got on the bill because of the number ‘5’ in their name. I wasn’t extremely impressed by their 80’s influenced type of metal. They weren’t awful, but I wasn’t interested enough to buy a CD.

Photo Courtesy of Aces High Photography LLC

Photo Courtesy of Aces High Photography LLC

And after a long-but-not-excruciating wait John 5 stood on the stage with a telecaster in his hands and a grill spouting green light in his mouth. Over the next hour and ten minutes I found it hard to look away from the stage. It’s not everyday you’re 15 feet away from the greatest guitar player on the planet. And aside from shredding some great heavy metal, J5 is also a pretty talented showman. He signaled every song was over by holding out his right arm like a carnival barker saying ‘there it is.’

Most of the set was heavy metal (I’m sorry I can’t name most of the songs, I bought his first two albums but sort of lost interest after that). But there were forays into other genres. I was especially impressed by his take on Spanish flamenco music. Once he started the finger picking I grew uncomfortable that the girl dancing in front of me would brush up against me and think that my boner was for her. Sorry babe, that was a full on guitar erection!

And don’t forget J5 is an accomplished country player:

 

There wasn’t much talking from the stage aside from a few song intros and some gabby ‘thank yous’ to all of us for coming out. It really seems like he wasn’t sure if people would pay money to watch him play guitar!

LIke most rock shows the best parts were saved for last. A liquid filled tele proved noise and feedback for an intro to “Feisty Cadavers” from Vertigo. This is the song that really made me love John 5. Sure, there’s plenty of fleet fingered guitar virtuosity, but there’s also a chorus theme that you’re almost able to singalong to. I feel most instrumental guitarists are more interested in self-absorbed masturbation of their instruments, but J5 is actually a talented songwriter.

The quiet part on the album was replaced by a bass solo live to accommodate one more costume change before they ripped through the cover of “Beat It.” That song is so much better without Michael Jackson. Not only did J5 invite a young kid on stage to play his guitar, but he also held it out in the crowd and offered the first few rows a grab. Quite a generous offer when you consider how much that thing must have cost.

Photo Courtesy of Aces High Photography LLC

Photo Courtesy of Aces High Photography LLC

I was a bit disappointed at the announcement of the last song, but it was a medley to beat the ages. They tore from one classic metal song to the next. Of course, “Thunderkiss ’65” and Manson’s version of “Sweet Dreams” were included. But also were “Running with the Devil,” “Living After Midnight,” “Crazy Train,” “Detroit Rock City” and just about any other song you’d imagine being packed in there.

My biggest problem with the show was the shortness of the set. I could have listened to John 5 play for another hour without getting bored. The only other issue I had was that Ripper’s Rock House is a bit of a small venue not really suited to being a packed house. I’d have rather seen the show in a bigger place with a bigger stage and more room to move around.

But maybe I’ll get all that the next time he comes around. I just hope he doesn’t wait another decade before he does it.

Wednesday 13 @ The Agora


Wednesday 13 Flyer Agora 201523 January 2015

The Agora Ballroom. Cleveland OH

Reverend Morbid, Dr. Dreadful, The Witch is Dead, Die So Fluid, Eyes Set To Kill, Wednesday 13

I was wholeheartedly expecting the Agora to be nicer than Peabody’s. I haven’t been there since Ministry’s C-U-La Tour in 2008, but I had fond memories of the place and remember is being a nice, clean and well-kept venue.

But then I flooded a urinal within my first two minutes. I guess someplace had to fill the void left by Peabody’s.

Luckily the music was better than the plumbing. I really dug the first band. They reminded me of Motorhead, but cleaner (that isn’t saying much, I’ve seen dog turds cleaner than Motorhead) and with horror punk lyrics. they had some awesome riffage and ever managed to play through an awful microphone malfunction that would have felled lesser bands.

Dr. Dreadful 2015/1/23

Dr. Dreadful

My only trouble with them came when I found out their name is Reverend Morbid. Don’t get me wrong; that’s a bad name or anything. But I imagine them looking at Dr. Dreadful and saying “Shit.” It made me wonder if the next band would be called Captain Corpse, Bishop Bloodyface or Governor Gruesome. with one band it comes of pretty cool, but when you see two bands with the same type of name something’s off.

I enjoyed Dr. Dreadful‘s female-fronted, Misfit’s-style punk again. I believe the first time I saw them was the last Wednesday 13 show I attended, but I’ve seen them a few times in the interim. It’s nice watching a band grow and change. I’ve been itching to hear some new music from them, but the changes in guitar tone managed to keep me entertained… for now.

Die So Fluid 2015/01/23Die So Fluid is an interesting band from England. They had a lot of the elements of progressive rock like spacey guitars, unconventional song structures and odd time signatures, but there was none of the virtuoso shredding of most prog metal bands. I can’t say I minded that though, I’ve never been a fan of John Petrucci so I found them quite interesting.

Eyes Set To Kill 2015/01/23I read a short piece in Revolver magazine at the Eyes Set To Kill merch booth that both impressed and disenchanted me. I was impressed that they were covered in Revolver, but article referred to them as Screamo, which let me to expect guttural growls and nasal, whiny singing. Still, I was interested enough to check them out and pleasantly surprised. Their songs are filled with great riffs and soaring vocal melodies. It put me more in mind of Kittie than… what’s a popular Screamo band? Sure there’s the gimmick of two sisters playing in a band together and wearing skimpy outfits, but they have some great harmonies and serious chops. I was impressed enough to buy their new album.

I was a little disappointed that after seeing him twice before and buying the EP Spook & Destroy I didn’t recognize more of Wednesday 13‘s set. It definitely wasn’t the same set I saw a year and a half ago. The band has added a keyboardist and the set was heavier. It’s not like they were ever a bubblegum pop band, but there was a lot more aggression, speed and drop-tuned bar chords. And a little less singing along.

Wenesday 13 2015/01/23

Still, it was a helluva good time.