Slayer and Anthrax touring together—who would have ever thought? These were, and continue to be, two very different bands with limited crossover potential. Slayer pushes the very boundaries of heavy metal, guided by satanic images and driven by aggression, while Anthrax fueled a culture of skaters and comic book geeks through a genre-defining thrash metal moment. Of course, they were both part of the Big Four alongside Megadeth and Metallica, but Slayer fans and Anthrax fans in many cases came from two different places. To see them come together for a tour is something I thought I’d never see.
Last week in Cleveland this became a reality with Anthrax touring in support of their new record For All Kings and Slayer touring in support of—well, because they can and should always be on tour. I’ve seen Slayer half a dozen times in my life and they continue to bring the fucking house down. The coolest thing about this time around is that axeman Gary Holt is no longer the “new guy” in the band. Holt doesn’t look comfortable, he looks commanding.
If there was ever a question of whether or not Holt should be made a permanent member of the band, it was thrown into the bowels of hell in 2016. This guy is a fucking beast on guitar and is the perfect complement to Kerry King’s rip your face off Flying V onslaught.
Worlds collided for me last week in Cleveland with my all time favorite band in the world, Cheap Trick in town at one of my favorite marketing conferences in the world. Taking a break from the band’s current tour in celebration of their well deserved (and better late than never) induction into the Roll and Roll Hall of Fame, the legendary rock foursome from Rockford showed a bunch of content marketers what it’s like. And corporate gig or not, it was f*cking spectacular.
The magnetism of Robin Zander, the charisma of Rick Nielsen, the thundering 12 string bass of Tom Petersson, and the bombastic drums of Nielsen’s son Daxx—the band didn’t bother catering their setlist to the corporate world. Instead they delivered a mix of classics, both old and new, along with the fan favorites.
I have seen Cheap Trick live more than a dozen times now and they never cease to live up to the announcement that precedes this legendary quartet as they take the stage: “The best fucking rock band you’ve ever seen.” You could tell it was a genuine Cheap Trick gig even though the surroundings might have been a bit different.
When Axl Rose was rumored to be auditioning for AC/DC earlier this year, I thought it was the most insane thing I had ever heard. Then it became a reality and I ate my own words. Social media thought this was destined to be a train wreck, but then the world witnessed the first show and the critics were silenced. Fast forward to last week when I was lucky enough to witness this, for lack of a better phrase, “not in this lifetime” moment first hand.
I saw AC/DC earlier this year in San Francisco with Brian Johnson and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life. What in the hell is this going to be like with Axl? As one of my favorite singers of all time, I was expecting something very cool, but also admittedly came in biased. What I got was the second best show I’ve seen this year—and actually one of the best I’ve seen in the past decade.
From the very first note of the blistering opener “Rock or Bust,” it was apparent that Angus and company had taken an intelligent risk that would pay off tremendously. Axl hit every note absolutely flawlessly. He wasn’t mimicking Johnson, but instead brilliantly paying tribute to the original while maintaining his signature “fuck off” snarl.
PHOTOS: JUDIE VEGH | Katie Crutchfield loomed tall on center stage, wearing black leather shoes with thick soles. Her twin sister, Alison Crutchfield, seemed smaller in her ballet slippers and short, pixie haircut. They had been in bands together since high school until their last project, P.S. Eliot, disbanded and they each started their own separate projects. Katie Crutchfield started Waxahatchee, who I saw play at the Beachland Ballroom Monday night. This was her band, so she was taller. She was center stage. By the end of the show, she was the only one on stage.
It was only fitting the show ended the way Waxahatchee itself began—just one woman with a guitar, singing darkly into a microphone. But that wasn’t how most of the night went. The Waxahatchee of 2015 is a different beast from the band’s stark, sometimes brutal solo beginnings.
The band had an airiness about them, reminiscent of the Crutchfield sisters’ P.S. Eliot pop-punk days. Even as the instruments drown in the shallow waters of distortion, Katie Crutchfield’s vocals felt measured and comforting. It’s the resolute calm in her voice that made her solo offerings at the end of the night so haunting and the full-band romps the rest of the night breezy and joyous.
On Sunday night, after Against Me! played a killer 20+ song set, I thought it appropriate to wait outside for about 2 hours for a chance to meet the band. How many times in my life was I going to be able to meet a band I respected so much and had followed for years?
The buzz from the show was still ringing in our ears and in our veins as people perched on the sidewalks near the tour buses. When Laura Jane Grace finally came out, she was greeted with hugs, gratitude, and stories of personal turmoil and bravery. Inge Johansson and Atom Willard also came out to greet fans. When asked how he felt about the Cleveland crowd, Willard said, “This crowd, the energy was so high… you could feel it, you know? And we’re really receptive to that.” This was a perfect explanation of the night, because both the audience at the House of Blues and Against Me! gave it their all.
Donning a “Gender is Over” tank, Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace took center stage, her powerful presence invoking deafening hollering from the crowd and clenched fists pumping in the air as the band opened their set with “Unconditional Love.” Grace beamed at the throng letting the cheers soak in and energize her—wide-eyed and wild-haired, strumming her guitar as she paced the stage. Bassist Inge Johansson and drummer Atom Willard matched Grace’s intensity while guitarist James Bowman took a calmer approach.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Let’s spend a few paragraphs getting some obvious stuff out of the way before I dig into what this review will really be about.
Spoon is a fantastic band. Like really, really great. Their discography is nearly impeccable, they sound awesome live, the whole band is loaded front to back with incredible musicians, and Britt Daniel is an all-world front man. They also seem like generally awesome people and go out of their way to keep their vinyl discography in print and at a low cost.
You should go see Spoon live. Their set last Friday in Columbus was great and that’s even with the first quarter of the set being completely marred by guitar issues. Daniel’s guitar straight up didn’t work and the lead guitar was all messed up too. They were visibly frustrated and were understandably a little sloppy through the first three or four songs, but when things pulled together, they were a treat.
Back to Britt Daniel for a second—the guy has something timeless about him. From the way he physically looks to the way he delivers his vocals, he just seems like a rock star through and through without coming off as a pompous jerk. He held his guitar high in the air and pointed at the crowd, and at that exact moment the house lights flick on and the audience roars. That’s a mastery of the moment to get a crowd whipped into a frenzy.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Nostalgia can be a hell of a drug. The wistful pull to what you’ve enjoyed in the past can be an irresistible siren’s song. It causes you to revisit things that you’ve made an emotional connection with but have since moved from.
The Third Eye Blind and Dashboard Confessional summer tour, which kicked off in Cleveland last Friday, has indirectly been positioned as a taste of late ’90s/early ’00s goodness. Two bands from a time when alternative radio was breathing its dying gasps and transitioning to a new world of MP3s.
This tour isn’t positioned as nostalgia bait by the artists involved, mind you. Both bands have had successful careers since their immediate success as new artists way back when, and Third Eye Blind has a new release on the way. When I say indirectly positioned, I’m talking more about this kind of stuff. It’s very easy for fans and journalists to read into this tour as a piece of nostalgic cash-in.
PHOTOS: JUDIE VEGH | “I don’t consider us a lyrics band, and I write the lyrics.”
This was Sadie Dupuis’s retort to a question about a subject that had been hashed over a thousand times in print—the weight and importance of her lyrics. She is the lead singer and guitarist for Massachusetts indie band Speedy Ortiz, and I had just made the mistake of accusing the band of being known as a “lyrics band”—a label I never thought of as accurate but seems to stick with the band anyway.
I chatted with the band on a clear blue evening in Cleveland Heights. The band sat on the concrete flower beds outside the Grog Shop where they would be playing that night. Dupuis and drummer Mike Falcone did most of the talking. Guitarist Devin McKnight chimed in agreements at sporadic intervals while bassist Darl Ferm silently smoked a cigarette to the side.
During their show, many of the songs employed a soft-verse, loud-chorus dynamic where the guitars roared to life on the choruses. Dupuis and McKnight had their guitars hooked up to a half-dozen or more effects pedals they slammed on and off throughout the songs. Ferm’s bass was a constant backbone through the set, grooving along during the choruses, disappearing under the guitar’s wall of sound during the choruses and reappearing like a ghost that had always been there but wavered between different planes of existence.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Music writers salivate when dumping a thousand words on a page about the trends of Record Store Day. Are the major labels too involved? How does the ordering work? Do small stores really get fucked over in favor of bigger “independent” retailers? Is it “good” or is it “bad?”
But what if the politics are put aside? What if stores just took that day for what it’s worth, ordered stuff they thought their customers would want, and tried to make it as enjoyable as possible?
This is the story of one store, on one day, and how that day doesn’t make or break the store.
My Mind’s Eye opened in Lakewood, Ohio in 1999, and has spanned two locations (it started on Madison Avenue and now is located on Detroit Avenue). If you can picture the ideal of a “traditional” record store, this would be it. Racks upon racks of records and CDs, stacks of god knows what behind the counter, and an owner that you like, but you can’t put your finger on just why.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | It was a night of psych rock of all kinds at Happy Dog, and let’s just say it got really weird. The best place to start is the main event for the night, Wand. Here’s some of the notes (verbatim) I jotted down at the show about Wand:
“Like beating your head against a wall, including the feeling of light headedness.”
“This is like a bag full of bricks.”
“Holy shit, they are actually making people leave… and it’s awesome.”
That last note summed up how awesome Wand was. This was the scene to give some context to explain why this was so cool:
Happy Dog is a fun little bar that also serves great hot dogs. Regardless if they are hosting a show or not, the place is usually pretty crowded on a weekend night. This Saturday night was no different. About an hour before the show, the place was hopping and there was some sort of party going on in the room downstairs. The vast majority of people weren’t there to check out the band and this is probably the case on most of the nights of shows.