Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Come On a Quick Saturday Night Journey Thru Camden

I know the woman who has put together a incredibly awesome two day fest in Camden at the many venues that make this part of London the freakin' best! The vibe in Camden is one that is not duplicated almost any where else in the world. Artists, musicians, Amy Winehouse, addicts, dealers, music fans, drunks, hipsters, vendors, restaurants, pubs and whatever else makes this pot of people make it what it is; beautiful in a ugly, urban way. Have to experience it for a few days to soak up the vibe and all that this small part of London contains. So this event is called; The Camden Crawl (, as that is what you will be doing by nights end. Must be 20 or so venues to see hundreds of acts over two days. Some big ones (Gang Of Four, Cornershop) and some new buzzing acts (The Drums; everyone wanted to see them), but it is void of any HUGE promoter (ie Jam, Live Nation, AEG) so it had a nice indie vibe and products were not being shoved down your throat at every turn. Very refreshing for a change! Only sponsor I got out of it was a cider company and MTV was doing some promo blasts on cable. I have to say that Lisa (my friend who put this together) did a top notch job!

I had four tickets to the early show at the legendary Roundhouse venue (; so David, Terrie Jean, Lidia and myself loaded into a black cab and headed for Camden from our location in Dulwich!
It wasn't raining, but it was ready to unload and unload it did when we arrived near the Roundhouse. We jump out of the black cab and find our bearings, The Roundhouse is ahead about a block as it starts to rain heavier. This place is way cool and has a ton of history, it was originally used to turn the locomotives around and was the only place The Doors played in London. It is round and very maze like on the outside and on the inner outside halls while the main room is very "thunder dome" like. Some cool iron work and has a very nice flow to it with some killer sight lines; even Lidia could see from the back!! We are inside on the ground floor and I am trying to figure out where the hell the venue is. We do find the bar; it's England and it's a law a bar must be within so many feet of every social event, so we order some beers and cider. I find the stairs and we ascend to the second floor and enter the the space to the beginnings of Calvin Harris with a full band.

Now I discovered Calvin several years ago as he burst onto the UK chart and dance scene with a sledgehammer of singles that are the most infectious and danceable ditties you ever wanted to move to. "Acceptable In The '80's" "Girls" and "Merrymaking At My House" were the three breakout songs for this wee Scottish lad in the UK charts. It was part of my soundtrack for half of 2007 and most of 2008. Just some of the best and most simple dance grooves from this decade! He is a bit nerdy, the lyrics are funny and the music is nothing but aural goodness

He does two types of shows, one a DJ set and the other with a full band and that is what I wanted to see and we did. The band was tight and spot on for each song. Calvin was part DJ, part maestro and part lead singer; all culminating in a very nice front man. This was the early show of two different shows at The Roundhouse this evening and Calvin's show was PACKED! We missed the support act; The Sugarbabes, a all girl act from the UK that has charted quite a bit over the years (more about Lidia's Sugarbabes encounter after the show later on in this story). What we walked into was a full on dance party with Sir Calvin orchestrating the band and crowd into a frenzy. It seemed like hit after hit, just kept drinking and moving to the groove. He has a interesting cross section for an audience; gays, little girls, club kids, the indie crowd and all of us were dancing fools; happy dancing fools. He played all the hits including "Ready For The Weekend" and "You Use To Hold Me" which put a big smile on my face. We walked out to the patio/balcony bar during the encores for a quick drink and some rain.

I was still massively buzzing from Calvin's set and the beers, that is when I had a genius idea! Instead of walking around Camden in the rain, queueing (this is a national pastime in the UK, they love a good line) in the lines outside each club; I am going to buy 4 tickets to the Pendulum and Plan B show in The Roundhouse in ninety minutes. I do like Pendulum and they are doing a 'Live" set tonight and BBC 1 have been all over Plan B, so let's do this! I run down to the box office and am told "Sold Out"; shit! Go outside and look for the touts (ticket scalpers here in the states) and I spot one right away as the rain goes into overdrive. My man has only two tickets and I say I need four and start to leave, "No mon, my partner has more". So I stand there in the rain as I try to suss the situation and eyeball my new acquaintances; these guys are way to small and thin to try any funny business. His guy comes over to us and says he has one ticket; hold on, two tickets emerge from his pocket that look like my homework from the first grade; F*CKEDUP!! I peruse the scraps and determine now they are all legit and I now go into negotiating mode with my two new, tiny London friends. You have to understand that I am one of the tallest people in London when I visit; or so it seems. Everyone is so small and fairly skinny. As I stated before, they are very small, thin and very street. I am predicting in my mind I should be able to close a good deal for the four tickets. Now the two ticket gangsters try their bit on me (their accents are half south London mixed with a Jamaican drawl and half of what they are saying wizzes past me) and say they need one hundred pounds for all four tickets and I let out a big laugh and stand a bit taller over them. "Guys you must be really high, I was thinking fifty and that's generous" is the reply from my dripping head. We settle on sixty five and I leave happy with my four tickets and meet the gang at a lovely kind of do it yourself tapas place across the street from the venue. Nando's I believe is the name and a chain to boot also. We had some lovely small plates and some more lager. When I sat down, I think it was Terrie Jean said one of the Sugarbabes (Amelle Berrabah) was right over there eating with a guy. No entourage and no security, she actually sang on their biggest single which was number 1 for a month. Almost immediately Lidia and I had the same "light bulb" moment; we have to get her a Evil Kitty card and say we would love to send her some designs. But how does Lidia do this without seeming like a stalker or crazy? It took her about twenty minutes to screw up the nerve to approach her and when she finally made her move.....Amele was GONE....ARGHH!!! We blew a opportunity to get Evil Kitty on the paparazzi pages in the UK tabloids. Just as we were sinking back into our seats, she emerges from the loo; brilliant. Lidia makes a beeline to her and she is quite friendly and receptive. She takes her business card and says she will let the other two girls know about it also. Score and nice one Lidia.

The whole time we are watching the line outside The Roundhouse grow to monstrous proportions in the downpour. As I said before, the English LOVE a good queue and this was staring to take on length of three city blocks. Since it seems to rain everyday in London at some point and loving queue's; I guess standing in line in the rain is something that is ingrained into their DNA; just love that stuff and I can not stand waiting, lines or the rain. Bit of a fascist when it comes to those three, but I was soon queueing in the rain and loving it. We went to a pub next door and drank two pints in the rain and I was lectured by the women how I need to get a grip and learn how to wait. OK; Let's go stand in line in the rain, i give....uncle!! It wasn't that bad and it only took us about ten m unites as the idea to get some pints led to the line being drastically reduced. Now all this before has just been the lead up to what I actually want to tell you what I witnessed as the support act started the second show. This is what I want; no, need to tell you. This kicked my ass and blew me away.....Plan B!

To get a small picture of what I saw and heard this night; you need to check out his two most recent singles. "Stay To Long" and the amazing "She Said".
Plan B is basically this white kid from London with a tight backing band and singers. The band is very young also and hot as hell. Ben Drew (Plan B) has been called the British Eminem. That is so far off point it makes me laugh...HA! He is a bit that; but only a tiny part. He sings like Marvin and Al, he has the soul in his voice that comes thru like you hear in "Heard It Thru The Grapevine" and "Tired Of Being Alone". It was one of the single best sets of music I have witnessed in years. We danced and grooved for the better part of an hour. He finished and brought the house down with "Stay To Long" and it rocked us and the four thousand people to the roof of this terror dome. I felt like I had witnessed the next thing that will shake up the stagnant music world. I was tingling and happy as could be. What a discovery and we still had Pendulum. Oh yeah, Pendulum. Don't get me wrong, they rocked and we did stay for six or seven songs, but I was Plan B'd up and wanted to leave before that buzz in my head died. So we jumped in a cab and headed for Dulwich and beers and silly talk 'til dawn. I still listen to both those songs everyday and think this is the shit. Best night, Best wife, Best friends, Best band, Best place to be.....

Monday, April 19, 2010

Peter Steele RIP....My Brush With An Interesting, Mysterious and Sad Man

I had not seen or talked to Peter Steele of Type O Negative for over a decade. In fact I kind of forgot about him and his band the last ten years I guess. Not that I stopped being a fan of his band or of him personally; I dig both (and will always have a special place for both in my ticker). No; it was just I stopped promoting metal shows, managing metal bands and stopped touring all together. Peter was the essence of opposites. He was very dark and private, yet he would always initiate every conversation when I would see him and he had the best and darkest sense of humor. His music and lyrics were also the same. A goth band who were too metal and a metal band that was to goth and punk. Their first lp was "Slow, Deep and Hard" is a classic album in every sense. It broke so many boundaries in the metal and goth scenes; hell the whole music scene and business. They were their labels first gold record; something they accomplished against all odds. So reading he passed away last week was a real bummer and has been playing in my movie theatre in my head since I heard over the weekend. I had some moments with Peter and the band and all that came rushing back into my video player in my head. I promoted a bunch of his shows, toured with him and had some great (intense now I look back) conversations with him. I have met a lot of people (too many?) in my life and .01% ever really impacted my life with their personality and presence; Peter definitely did and some of it has stayed with me in life and business (we both sucked at love then).

I first met Peter....wait a minute, let's back up almost a year to the day in 1991 when Roadrunner Records sent me the promo cassette and lp of "Slow, Deep and Hard". There were metal bands and there were goth bands; but no one had successfully combined the best of both (god knows both genres have some bloated, cheesy types) to really take it up a notch. Well Peter and his long time buddies from Brooklyn were well up to the challenge. They delivered a record that to this day still sounds fresh and boundary breaking; just a really good album from start to finish. It was tongue in cheek lyrics, pounding rhythms, song titles than were mind boggling and Peter's insanely deep vocals. Nothing generic or phony ever seem to enter their realm. They knew it was just music and loved to poke fun at themselves and the ironic world we exist in. The cheese was meant to be way cheesy and the metal was a hard as anyone, some of the songs were a highway that incorporated almost ever musical style you can think of. A Baroque piano solo then a slow funeral chant that takes a right turn into the fasted 4/4 punk rock beat and ends you in a haze of Pete's deep growl, pounding drums and whirling keys. Thinking man's metal and goth? Hell no, real music from a real world with all the escapism you need to cope. I just remembered I had actually first had contact with Peter by phone in the mid 1980's. His first band was Carnivore, a NYC metal band that I had tried to get to come out to Chicago to play one of my shows. As a punk and metal promoter in the '80's I was way into the whole NYC hardcore and metal scenes. I had brought out Agnostic Front, Murphy's Law, Cro-Mags, Ludichrist, Crumbsuckers, Leeway all for their first shows here in Chicago. So I was trying to track down Carnivore as they had no agent or manager at the time. They pretty much only played the east coast as they all had decent, good paying straight jobs. I had somehow gotten a hold of a 718 (Brooklyn!!) number. Someone at their label said call this number and someone from Carnivore will answer. So I called, Peter answered and we proceeded to talk about them coming out to Chicago to play one of my shows at Metro. He explained that he had a good paying job with the parks department of Brooklyn and they could only play locally weekends. But he was hoping they could do a small tour when they all had vacation dates together. Well they broke up before that and all the planning in my head went south.

So we move ahead several years and I am doing shows at a all ages club called Medusa's and I have a Exploited show at the club. Exploited are the consummate knucklehead punk rock act from Scotland. Wattie is the singer and thick as a brick. But he has one of the best mohawks in music...super dumbass though. I booked the show and then was told they had two NYC support acts; I should say BROOKLYN acts; Biohazard and Peter Steele's new band, Type O Negative. Weird I thought as neither band was punk by any means; but I loved both acts and this will be a packed show. I remember Peter and the boys walking up the stairs at Medusa's; four black and leather clad, black long hair and not a smile in sight as they strode towards me. I said, "Peter?" and with a huge baritone comeback I heard "yes" in a slow Brooklyn drawl. I proceeded to explain to them were to load in their equipment and who was my sound man to check in with. I mean they had long blacker than black hair and they all has black leather trench coats and huge, heavy boots....yeah, yeah BLACK!! They looked awesome and fearless. They looked like they meant business and were all about kicking ass on and off stage. So i figured that this would be a very interesting situation; as they were goth, metal rockers and the vast majority of the 500+ crowd was hardcore punk. I have to say that there was a ton of puzzled looks from the mohawked ones in front of the stage waiting for their Scottish hero, Wattie. Peter stepped to the mic and said something in the vein of where they were from and who they were and that everyone was probably going to hate them. I had to chuckle as they launched into some amazing songs off their first cd. Needless to say the punks hated them, BUT Peter and the boys more than kept their own and his derogatory, self degrading humor disarmed any tough guy ready to step up and challenge old boy.They did a blazing thirty minute set and just said goodnight. I found Peter backstage and said how much I loved the set and thought that he was hilarious and I dug how he handled the adversity of the situation. They hung for Biohazard's set and then left.
Next time I saw and hung with Peter and the band was on their Bloody Kisses tour I was the promoter here in Chicago and did it at a cheesy metal club above a dinner and pinball arcade. This was the record that went platinum and broke new ground for a lot of fellow bands. They ended up touring over two years to make this record go thru the roof. My show was early on this mega gigantic tour that would see them play every part of the world and open for every major rock act. This was a small headline show that the band seemed into. They were not as nearly burnt as when I saw them over a year later supporting Pantera. Bands seem to blow up over night, but it is a slow, arduous grid at best. It can steal your very soul right before your life. It can be the best of time and the very worst of times. Reality and real relationships seemed suspended in this nefarious area as you drift from state to state and country to country. I did see Pete laugh and joke, but that was mostly the early years. He never really loved touring I felt, but understood the necessary evilness of it. This was also the first time I saw how he had become; "wanted" and "needed", something that I think freaked the shit out of him. They played a thunderous sound check and Pete and I were standing outside the club talking about a lot of stuff; this guy was smart and worldly, something most of his metal compatriots severely lacked. I remember this very clearly, this woman who was intensely striking and even more so goth, walked up to us; or I should say Pete and basically handed him a black rose (with thorns of course) and a bottle of the darkest red wine. She whispered into his ear for a good 30 seconds or so and he said "Goodbye Sean, I will see you in a little while" and proceeded to walk off into the sunset with her. But I wasn't finished Pete!! Dude come back.....(Just Kidding!)
I saw him briefly backstage at a few big shows they were supporting the afore mentioned Pantera tour, Queensryche and some other big rock act that escapes me. The band seemed to be in a whirl, as the record seemed to just gain more momentum a year after it had come out. New radio versions were recorded for single play and the cover of Seals and Croft's "Summer Breeze" was getting a lot of a lot airplay. Brilliant cover version that they completely make their own and make it slow and hard! Skip several years ahead to their nest release "October Rust" and I spend several weeks on tour with him as I get my band I was managing on several weeks worth of Type O dates. The last record went platinum and pressure from their label seemed to be high, as they wanted even more sales. So this record became their most accessible, but still had some awesome moments. Now I must digress here for a moment to give a bit of back history about a girl we both had spent some time with differing ends for each. A friend who had become more than a friend to me had been very taken with Pete and she had gotten close to him over several tours on the previous record. From the beginning Pete was in HUGE demand from the girls backstage or anywhere for that matter. A 6' 8" Goth Adonis; even I was impressed and thought the ladies must have good taste. So we end up going out for a while and I finally ask her about the man and the interludes, her feelings and what happened and I should probably shut up; but kept banging on as I quite liked him and was infatuated out of my mind with her. He was everything I thought, someone deep, considerate and not really into the temporal things life on the road offered up every moment. Plus she said the Playgirl photo's were pretty spot on; OMG!! Ironically our feelings mirrored each other, but for the wrong person. I was into her and she was way into Pete. She had been with other rock stars, but Pete seemed to be the one that struck that special mark. So we went our separate ways and I think she saw Pete one more time and they just had a drink and chat and he was gone. So back to the tour, we arrive in Colorado Springs and it's the first night of the tour and the stage is small; really small. Most acts would have kicked us off the bill, Pete laughed and said there was plenty of room and we played a set in front of a sold out house. This was to be one of many nice things Pete did for me and my band thru out the tour. He had his own tour bus at this point and I hung with him several times on it. The most personal time I had with Pete was in Lawrence, Kansas the night the tour was playing the Granada theatre. The dressing rooms were in the basement in catacombs and we had the smallest one as we were the first of three acts on the tour (Life Of Agony were middle act and there because of Pete also) and he found us as usual and asked us what he always asked us. "You guys ok?” you guys need anything; let me know" and "That was a good set the other night in Colorado". He always watched the support bands every night for at least 4 or 5 songs. I know because he would watch my sad band with me each night of the tour. So Life Of agony are playing inside and I feel like a bit of fresh air and walk out into the alley. On one of the loading doors someone had pinned Pete's Playgirl centerfold to that door. I know it's a college town, but it seemed like a sad and desperate attempt at humor. I took it down trying not to look to closely and have this burned into my tiny mind. He was ripped and he was hung is all you need to know! I walked over to the tour bus area and saw Pete standing by his bus. I walked over and said hey and once again thanked him for being so Pete and cool. As usual he said it was absolutely nothing at all. His pleasure and I truly believe that to this day. I asked if I could check out his ride and I got the tour. It was pretty freakin' cool. His own bus with a small gym, a recording studio to do demos on tour and a kind of master bedroom. The place so many wanted to be, but never made it. We talked for a while and talked about more than the tour and music. He was very philosophical and loved the irony in everything. He seemed way older and wiser than his years and he seems very alone. I know he was a bit bummed about the Playgirl thing, as I think he was misled as how big the female readership was: 25%. Not regretful at all, just felt fooled I think. I told him how our mutual acquaintance had big feelings for him and she was pretty worthy of such undertakings. He said she was very nice, but that he had a hard time with relationships lately and also touring so much leads to nothing but trouble in steady relationships. Seemed so sad and final in his mind regarding that other person of matter. We ended the tour a few shows later and we all returned to our previous lives. Pete went home and from reports had a bit of a hard time mentally and emotionally. He had some issues with the law and lost some close people to him. I truly cherish the time and experiences I had with Pete and his band. Only thing I regret is I could have had more face time, but such is life. He seemed a bit adrift in a packed city and industry. Like that video EBN/OZN (the video, not the song content) where the guy is stationary and everyone is flying by (; kind of disconnected. Not really positive what he died of: heart attack they are saying, but I am sure it was a long time coming. The music world will miss a true genre pioneer, but more sadly the world will be one down on the "Good Guy" count. Goodnight Pete and THX again for sharing a moment or two with me: it always rocked in my mind. Peter Steele (January 4, 1962 – April 14, 2010)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Depeche, Johnny Rotten and Freezing London

It has been way too long since I wrote some things that have been happening and building in my brain. December was insane and Lidia and I did not have a extra minute for anything. We did find out that Kirk and James did get the clothing for their kids. Lidia did her last Evil Kitty event at her new space in the Creative Lounge in Wicker Park and did very well! We had several orders for Xmas on Evil Kitty website from Russia, South Pacific, Ireland and London which turned out to be only several miles from where we spent 12 days sleeping. We are both in the middle of changes and major decisions for and about Evil Kitty and the Abbey; announcements will be made here first!

So with that all said; I am standing outside on a fast boat ripping down the Thames River on a Tuesday night in mid December drinking a beer. Yes it's London and "Hell Yeah" it's on. It's been less than thirty six hours since I was packing at 4am after my last show on my way to O'Hare. No sleep Sunday night and maybe five tough hours Monday night after I arrived. So it's rush hour in the Docklands area along the Thames in southeast London and I feel as if I can almost fly. For the next 2 weeks, I have little if any responsibility back in Chicago (in London I only have to stay alive) and everything looks, tastes and feels magnificent. So standing on a fast boat cutting it's way down the heart of London is the best place in the universe to be right now. I have been past tower Bridge tons of times are have never seen it move an inch; but tonight it is going up for a tall ship and it looks pretty freakin' cool; as do all the modern buildings along the river that have a fierce sparkle to them tonight, or is it me? I am in the company of David and the lovely Terrie Jean. She is basically the group leader as David and I are "three sheets to the wind" (arrhh...nautical talk matey). We find the massive O2 and disembark not having bought the tickets and realize it is not possible to sneak by gratis. So we buy the tickets and leave the pier for Depeche Mode at the Godzilla looking O2. I have to say one of the things I like about London at Christmas is that it's usually anywhere from 50 degrees to mid 30's; comfy and moist. This year it was a hard freeze gripping the UK and most of Europe and tonight was one of many cold ass nights we were to experience. Man it was cold, so of course the will call line was outside and I had to wait for our tickets. Once in hand, we had to decide what to do as the O2 is a massive structure and the arena is only as small part of it. There is a huge multiplex, numerous bars and restaurants. No or little heat in the bar areas had us running into the arena and the main floor. Grab beers and walk out onto the main floor and find a place that was near and not to crowded a third of the way back. I had been trying to find out if there was a support act and who it was; no one seemed to know until I finally asked the sound man and he mentioned "yes" there was support and "blah blah blah" were the act. Crap I thought, we are too early and we have to suffer thru a opening act we need not see; ever! Sometimes being early for a show can lead you to see a great band that will break thru in a year or so. On the other hand, it can be a really boring and upsetting 45 minute to an hour of sh*t music. It was the latter for this evening and it kind of brought the party to a slow down. I have purposely blocked out their name as they were the epitome of cool but translates as Dumb-asses. They acted as if this gig was a huge bother and they couldn't wait to go back to their flats. So the answer was a piss, more beers and bits so that by the time the guys from Depeche started their set; I was levitating a bit and was ready to move to the groove.

Depeche Mode; a band that is very chameleon like, but yet always stays to their core roots. The core is a beat that no matter the speed of the song, defines it in it's essence. This is not throw away pop like Brittany or N'Sync and it is not the guitar driven pop of REM or U2; it's seems to be a hypnotic chorus with a big dance floor rhythm coupled with intensely personal and sing song-ey lyrics. I did see them on this tour in early August at Lollapalooza and they sucked; rather the whole thing sucked and sucked hard. Never saw a bad DM show and that was a stunner. I blame Lolla organizers and DM also. 8pm starting time in a field full of yuppies is the the conducive arena for Depeche; no way! Sound blew, the crowd was annoying and the set was a "phone in" from the boys. I left really upset and was left thinking that all these past shows, tours and records were all a lie....F*CK! So the stars were aligned in that I was in London and got tix to see once and for all if they do suck now; say it ain't so Dave! I was right, it was the venue and the wrong place and time for them in Chicago. Depeche came out and threw down and rocked the 20,000+ at the O2 this evening; even me. They started with three new songs off their newest cd; Songs Of The Universe. Not sure why three right in a row; maybe that was the oft putting thing at Lolla, but they started with "In Chains" then into "Wrong" and "Hole To Feed". The guys seem to do fairly well with all the nuances that differentiate them from most pop and electro acts and they seem to be able to pull off most of these nuances in such a monstrously massive venue! "In Chains" is one of these songs and it did come right across brilliantly this evening; something that was missing this past August. By the third song, I was ready for a few hits and hits out the ass they have! Fourth song was a rocking version of "Walking In My Shoes" and it seemed to take off skyward from there. "It's No Good" followed and was one of the highlights for the night. Just a building beat and intensity made this huge place a small, packed disco for five minutes! The hits just keep flying by at high speed; "Precious", "World In My Eyes", a killer version of "I Feel You", "Policy Of Truth" and they end the set with "Never Let Me Down Again". Just a great and fun set from a band that does have the goods still and can deliver in convincing fashion. We lose David some how, but I find him and then promptly lose both David and Terrie Jean. So I jump in a black cab and go home with the O2 still buzzing in my head and body. Well done for night one of the vacation.

It was cold the whole time there; really cold for the UK. It snowed an inch in London and everything shuts down; truly unbelievable. One of THE major economic hubs of the entire world and they freak out at an inch of snow and ice. WTF! I think Heathrow Airport has one snow plow and it was parked in another part of the country. No salt, just sand or "grit" as they call it. Come on guys, come out from underneath the bed and buy some snow plows and salt and it will all be better; I swear! I drove to a ATM during one of the inch plus blizzards, the whole trip was 2.5 miles and it took us two hours and ten minutes from door to door. it was insane and a bit funny; just never get accumulation in the south of the UK. This down turn in weather was met with more beers and partying which seemed like the logical thing to do. Pubs were visited, groceries were bought, snacks were made, Monte came and went with deliveries and we ended up on Monday afternoon getting ready for Johnny Rotten and Public Image Limited'slivereturn to the stage at the world famous Brixton Academy. Woo F*ckin' Hoo.

Now it's Monday the 21st and we are getting psyched to see Johnny and his band at the Academy in Brixton. Nice and famous place, but they seem to over sell it when they have good shows; more on this later. It had been drizzling all day and it seemed to be threatening to freeze again over night, so the whole country was in a state as the trains were frozen and down for most of the weekend. "STAY OFF THE ROADS", was the call to arms on the evening news. Shots of 30 mile long queues in the north of Britain and cars sliding all over the place was the montage that was featured at 6pm on all the news outlets. "SALT I TELL YOU", is what I am saying to the TV, "BLOODY SALT" (so they would understand better)!! With all this intelligence streaming in about the big freeze coming to grip jolly ole England, we decide to drive to Brixton! Cooper has volunteered to make the drive as we don't need a cab then; more beer money! We head off to the venue not really knowing if there is a support act or not. Not on the tickets or any adverts I had seen. Thinking it could be someone really cool or new and buzzing. It wasn't any of the above! Johnny was obviously saving money by NOT having a support act, but just a DJ playing dub. C'mon now, couldn't you find some awesome London based act to play 30 minutes? I am pretty sure the Academy does not have any heat, it was cold as balls in the bar and holding a pint seemed both comforting yet absurd. I would say that there are two distinct PIL's; one that was the band that put out it;s initial release, Metal Box and Flowers Of Romance and the one who was on MTV singing mildly annoying pop songs, I was banking on the good one showing up and doing all the hits of my college years! Well it was what I had been hoping for, PIL played almost everything I had wanted to hear in their marathon set. It was Grateful Dead like in it was over two and a half hours. We bailed after almost two full hours of the band. They opened with their theme and it was rockin' to say the least. Up next was one of my all time favs off of Metal Box; "Careering". Brilliant and Johnny still has that weird presence that only he seems to be able to carry off. "Poptones" and the intensely depressingly awesome "Albatross" were thrown down and accepted nicely with the sold out Academy. "Death Disco" and "Flowers Of Romance" were two others that really stood out and hit home with the London crowd. My feet were freezing at the end as well as the hand that had a pint in it for most of the set. I think "Memories" was the last we heard as I walked on what felt like stumps to the lobby. Found the car pretty quickly and went home for some tasty food by Coop's and some great UK TV. Not too shabby for a cold as hell Monday night in London.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Metallica Magnetic....The Sh*t Really Sticks

We were able to once again go on the road and see the mighty Metallica in Grand Rapids last Monday ( We had seen them in Indy a few weeks before and I thought the show and band were "back in the saddle" so to speak. Before these two shows, I had last seen them new years eve at the Hard Rock Casino in Vegas in 2003 and they seemed a bit tired and distant (never had seen that before) and then saw two shows on the St. Anger tour and definitely thought they were not comfortable onstage and they seemed to be going thru the motions a bit. Sad; very much a bummer, this was something I had never experienced with these guys on any level. They always came thru and never phoned it in; never I say. Music has been a intense influence and fabric of my life since I bought Alice Cooper's "Schools Out" lp when I was 11 years old. Black Sabbath's "Vol. 4" was next and it has been a amazing journey I would not trade for a BILLION dollars! So naturally when I first heard the guys song "Hit The Lights" on Metal Blade's first compilation way back in the summer of 1982; it was all over for me, I was there for their incredible ride. The production was very bad, but you could hear something that had really never been done on record before. Just sheer intensity, fast as shit playing and pissed off singing. They had captured the punk quickness and anger, then loaded it up with Marshall stacks and some crazy low end. Thus you have the initial seeds of what would change the landscape of music, the metal genre and millions of peoples lives.

The show in GR had been sold out for months; I mean three solid months in advance. It had been five years since they had been in GR and the demand had not waned a bit in the intervening time. We missed the opening act of Volbeat who are from Denmark (land o' Lars) and I would think Lars' choice for support as he is a fellow Dane. They are more punk and rockabilly than heavy metal and the singer definitely has a Glenn Danzig vocal sound; nice and big. I wonder how they went down, forgot to ask the Metallica crew I know. Next was Lamb Of God from Richmond, Virginia and super, duper heavy! We watched a few songs and they seemed to be rocking the crowd for the most part. Ten years ago and I would have watched the whole set, but it all seems a bit forced and contrived for me at this point. I tell myself it's not because I am getting older; my tastes have improved (LOL). Metallica always have a huge say in who supports them and I think this will always be. They have had some amazing acts with them;Kyuss, Suicidal Tendencies, Corrosion Of Conformity, The Cult, Queensryche, Machine Head, The Sword and many other worthy acts that deserved and got mass exposure. They have no problem giving props to new acts that kick ass and the older acts that influenced them (the; Garage Days, Inc. cd, is a massive tribute and financial support (to most of the acts covered; I doubt Black Sabbath, Queen and Bob Seeger need the royalties) to 18 acts they cover on the cd).
So Lamb Of God finish and we find our seats and they are pretty much right there about 15 rows from stage and I thank Kirk again for killer seats that Lidia can see them (she is a shortie in height; NOT stature, she is a giant there!!). There is always a palpable buzz that permeates the air right before the guys hit the stage and commence their throw down. It is parts excitement, anticipation, the unknown and the scary. A lethal mix for a amazing 2 hour plus pummeling. I have been to thousands of shows in my life and there is nothing quite as organic and amazing as the run up to the start of the intro music and then the start. It is nothing short of the start of a drag race followed by mach 4 speed the rest of the way and it does leave most beat, sore and the happiest they have been in months or years.

The show for this tour is about 18 songs per show that rumble like a freight train but glides as precisely as a world class figure skater. They have cornered the market on heaviness but apply this with a intensely crafted velvet hammer. They have these incredible paradoxes in heaviness and quiet, precision and break neck speed, that no other band has come close to interpreting this and thus they seem to own it outright. The current cd and following tour show them at the top of their game once again, as they reclaim the summit in this barren of genres. So it was this second viewing of the "Death Magnetic Tour" that I was able to focus on the set and the delivery. They started this night's set with "That Was Just Your Life" off the new cd. It is the perfect song to launch the evening's festivities. The song basically jumps jumps off and never looks back. This new cd had the intensity that was so organic in the first decade of their existence. Everything that was wrong with St. Anger has now been turned back into the lifeblood that made and now again makes them the band that crushed, cares, knows what pains you, is your soapbox for the shit all around and in you; just the best and most refreshing slap in your face you could ever want or experience. James has found that space where "Battery", "Master Of Puppets", "Shortest Straw" and so many others have come from. That space had been abandoned or deserted either purposely or unintentionally; but what ever drove that action, ended up nowhere near what the Metallica juggernaut produced or stood for until that cd and movie. James is back on his game lyrically and you can feel it in "That Was Just Your Life", "Broken, Beat & Scarred" and the war inspired "The Day That Never Comes". They capture the daily struggle, the daily grind and the fact that we all have and deserve our dreams. They sing about the evil in the world and the fact that we all must not roll over to them and we must always fight the fight. I don't see the CEO's of aig or citigroup, bush or cheney listening to Metallica for inspiration or a bit of insight. They were and always will be a band "of the people" and some won't ever get or relate to this. Second song was "The End Of The Line" which went into the epic "For Whom The Bell Tolls" and then into the legendary "The Four Horsemen". Six new songs were thrown down and were thoroughly consumed by everyone in sight. This is a testament to the power of "Death Magnetic" as most performers trot out 2 or 3 of the newbies when they tour; usually the single everyone knows and then couple other new ones so the fans can get a beer or go to the bathroom. That doesn't happen at a Metallica show, leave at the risk of missing R'n'R history. Get your beers and pee before they start is what I tell Lidia!!

I saw Big Mick Hughes after the show. It has been quite awhile since I last saw and talked to him. Saw him from afar at Bonnaroo 2008 and Indy in September. He was one of the first people I met from the Metallica entourage back in 1988 and have had many a killer experiences with him. He is and always will be Metallica's front of house sound man. Truly the most talented sound man I have ever heard (you can add Stan Doty of Wilco to that tiny list!!) and have heard him mix over 100 of their shows. In tiny clubs, soccer arenas, velodromes, racetracks, open fields,etc..and he has never had even an average mix. Just dials it in immediately and lets it rip thru the crowd all set long. He is also quite the charming English bloke with a ton of great stories. So needless to say I hit him up for a few in Grand Rapids. I ask him how the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame show was with Jason returning to play with the band. Big Mick and Jason seemed to have a close relationship when he was in the band. Both are great guys and very knowledgeable of their crafts and music. I have sat in many a time and was entertained and educated by both. So Mick said it was great to see Jason again and they were able to talk for a bit. He also said something that I completely had forgot; Jason was in Metallica for fifteen years. That is a huge chunk of time for anyone. I also asked him about the internet rumor that took on a life of it's own right after Jason reunited for the one show. This is the one that had Metallica inviting Jason back for the rest of the "Death Magnetic" world tour to play bass on the old songs he recorded with them and Robert would do the new songs from the past two cd's. He said this was total rumor and that was never, ever mentioned or brought up. He knew nothing about the rumor also. He also stated that the tour will roll on thru November 2010; that's another full year! I asked him about the week's before Rock and Roll hall Of fame show at Madison Square Garden. The guys played with Lou Reed, Ozzy Osbourne and Ray Davies; performing each one's hits and being their backing band! Mick said that they only got one hour to check and rehearse with the three artists. This was the result of U2 coming in and taking over. He said they have a ton of people in their entourage and just naturally fill up and take over the space. Lou was not the nicest guy and I have heard that many times. He is very NYC (ie: dick) and the first thing he told the band was they were way TOO LOUD!! Too much, telling Metallica they are too loud. They performed "White Light/White Heat" and the seminal "Sweet Jane" with old Lou. I guess during the rehearsal, there was a mention of doing a rare Velvet Underground or Metallica song and Lou stated he only knows and plays his songs....again; TOO MUCH!! Ozzy was up next and Mick said he thinks this is the first time Ozzy played a show without either Black Sabbath or the Ozzy Osbourne band. He said it was a bit strange, but ok. Next was Ray Davies of the Kinks and a huge fav of mine. They did "You Really Got Me" into "All Day And All Of The Night" and he was his charming self onstage and at rehearsal. Mick liked him a lot and I think this is definitely one guy who you would love to have a pint with! We went backstage to drop off some clothes Lidia had made for Kirk and James children. James was digging Lid's designs when he met her in Indy. I really think you should get a hold of "Death Magnetic" and then get yourself to a show, it could very well change your life as it has done many, many times before. I am always up for taking people to their first Metallica experience; weak need not apply!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Briefly Re-Connect With The Metallica Guys And Watch Them Kill Indy!!

It has been awhile since Lidia and I have gone on a road trip to see a band and show. I think the last one was a year and a half ago when we went to see Radiohead on one of the first dates of the "In_Rainbow" tour in St. Louis. I book and produce over 250 shows and events a year, but I can always find a few days to travel and do or see whatever I would like. Now Lidia on the other hand runs our clothing company; Evil Kitty, an average of 10+ hours a day, seven days a week. Our company is entering it's sixth year and Lidia is really turning up the heat and making Evil Kitty thrive in this most barren of economic times. Basically she is the driving and creative force behind our company and it's slowly starting to pay off!! So needless to say that all my attempts to divert her attention from Evil Kitty does not in the least bit work these days, so when I came up with the idea to take our new Mustang GT (I love driving this rules!) on a little 200 mile ride to see the Metallica boys. Before asking; I was weighing the idea of going by myself, but that kinda sux as it should be a good one to share with another person. The chance I could find someone NOT annoying to take the three hour drive each way with is a bit daunting, but most of those people I know who are NOT annoying either do not live in this city, do not care one lick about the mighty 'Tallica, are way too much too handle for that extent of time or they just exist in my head. So on my way to speak to Lidia about this most awesome of roads trips, I was already thinking what I can barter for her presence at this kick ass event! I mention that I have reconnected with Kirk again and we have two tickets and two passes from him and we HAVE to go.......PLEASE!! I am stunned by her quick reply of; "Ok". I am floored as I have nothing to say initially, but quickly recover and say; "This will rock!" Lidia has never met Metallica and I am excited she may finally meet the guys and see the band that has been a nice and important part of my life.

I first heard of Metallica in the pages of Kerrang! magazine from the UK. There was a mention of a bay area band that was faster than shit and they had a demo cassette they were giving away thru the mail. I think this was the "No Life 'Til Leather" tape, which fast became a underground legend and a HUGE collectible. The first song I heard by them was "Hit The Lights", finally the perfect hybrid of punk and metal! You knew from that first listening to this song that this band had the right idea and knew how to get it across. I was able to purchase "Kill 'Em All" on their initial Megaforce Records release on cassette. I reviewed this record for my fanzine; Last Rites, and basically said this was the shit and everyone had better get with this San Francisco act quickly or be left in the dust! I loved the fact that this group was giving the world everything they had and no filler. They wore their attitudes and desires on their sleeves and meant everything they said. The fact that their press pics had them all sweaty, pimply and buzzed was a huge statement that no other metal or rock band had ever done. Warts and all is what the 'Tallica guys gave you and you either love it or lump it buddy!! Clash attitude with Sabbath heaviness; I was hooked and have been for their whole run (issues with St. Anger and Some Kind Of Monster; but other than that....PERFECT!!). I can't think of no other band that has been as consistently incredible in product and performance and have maintained their loyalty to their fans; NO ONE!! Their music is more than just a soundtrack for millions, it's a rallying cry, a statement and the reason you get back up and dust yourself off and attack the bastards again. I don't think the Stones, U2, Phish, AC/DC, Kenny Chesney or any other mega act can say this; except maybe for Bruce....maybe (jury is still out). That summer Metallica came to do 2 shows at a dive club on north Broadway called cleverly enough; Broadway Jack's. A all ages show and a 21+ show were scheduled and I headed there to review the early show for my fanzine. Needless to say that was one of many sets of music that was to keep me coming back to Metallica for the next twenty five years. My initial contact with the band was at this all ages show in this dive club. I was able to talk briefly with Kirk and we talked about GBH, a killer punk band from the UK that was bridging the punk and metal gap from the punk side. Little did I know at that point how many times I would intersect with the greatest metal band that ruled the Earth!

The next time I would run into Metallica was the start of the "Monsters Of Rock Tour" in the summer of 1988 at Alpine Valley for three incredibly wild days and nights. These also were the first big gigs for new bass player; Jason Newsted, who had replaced Cliff Burton who tragically died on tour in Europe. This was also the debut of songs from the soon to be released "...And Justice For All" lp. These shows were the start of this mega tour in the summer on '88 and it was to foreshadow how incredible the band were to become for decades and the intense connection between band and fan that carried them on this incredible juggernaut. That weekend I was able to get backstage and stay there for three days. I met and hung with their guitar techs, drum tech, sound man (still and always Big Mick!) and the band. They were second out of five acts on this monstrous mega metal tour and it was fun to see the guys crush Dokken (the act after them every show on this tour) and get encores only had by headliners Van Halen and Scorpions. That weekend I met and had a great drinking bout with James and ended up in some fans hotel room playing poker with him while they filmed the game and ask James questions; a bit surreal especially when the conversation turned to Cliff's death. That weekend was an amazing entry into the Metallica world that would led me to many amazing, legendary and funny experiences. I plan on writing about my many awesome and incredible things that happened to me while in the Metallica world. Riding the crew bus in Florida, sitting with Kirk at his guitar tech's wedding in Boston (that was a trip), seeing the band in Denver at Red rocks for two nights while a rumor of a suicide cult were going to off themselves during "Fade To Black" and the band deciding right there NOT to play that song either night & subsequently shying away from it for years because of this stigma and rumor from Denver, getting one of EVERY piece of Metallica merchandise from Jason (I had to throw out some of my clothes to bring all this stuff back from the road trip), being the only non-member of the band at their sound check at the Donnington race track in the UK and seeing them play "2x4" (off the killer "Load" lp) for sound check for the first time live, My bus ride up to Donnington with just Jason and Tim Duffy (rest of the band helicoptered to the site, Jason hated helicopters....lucky me) standing onstage at the tiny Astoria 2 in London watching them play for 900 people, staying at the hotel in Paris that was Hitler's Paris command center and was in La Femme Nikita, drinking with James and some Paris girls and being waited on hand and foot (most incredible hotel, you need to check it out:, riding back to the hotel after the Rotterdam gig with James and Jason in the van playing them the bands I managed and letting them have the demo's, signing all our drinks to Lars tab at the hotel in Manchester and many others it makes my head spin. Truly lucky to have been with and witness the best metal or rock band EVER!!!!

The Indy show was just what I needed after finally conceding that "St. Anger" was their first bummer of a record. I love everything they have ever done until this lp and the the following movie with that psychiatrist. I love the first record, I love Justice and I think "Load" might be their best complete lp of them all. My three favorite songs are; "Enter Sandman" (may be best metal/rock single of ALL time), "Whiplash" and "Seek And Destroy", anytime I hear those a instant smile goes thru my body and mind. So this new cd had me a little worried as I hoped they had regained the ground where all this over the top writing and playing came from (it had abandoned them for St. Anger) and I did not want to give up on a band and guys who had made such an impact in my life. So it took me a few months to finally buy the cd and listen to it. It was good, but I had no idea how good until I saw them drill it into me in Indy. They are back and it's all about the song crafting and intensity in all the right places (St. Anger was a pile driver with no rhyme nor reason; it seemed like a ode to Slayer or a 50 plus minute mid life crisis). I actually went out and bought the $150 box set and think this one stands up against the best of their best. The band seem much more comfortable in their skins as they seemed the opposite in the movie and the St. Anger tour I saw. All I can say is they are back and on top of their game; setting 'em up and knocking 'em down all over the world! I just hope they know a little tiny bit how much they have made my life a blast and given me the idea you can do anything, especially if loads of people are saying you can't do it. If you have never seen them live; even if you don't care for their music, you have to see one of their shows as it is the water mark every other band in the universe should hold themselves to. I have been able to get 100's of people into their shows (and most met the band before or afterwards) and they all come away with their jaws on the ground and a mad ass respect for them and the genre we all call and love.....METAL!!!!