The year was 1988. I was fourteen and it was the beginning of my adolescent rebellious stage. It was the first time I had heard Slayer and my intro to the band was the song “South of Heaven.” It was a departure from their previous album as they had slowed things down significantly, but somehow they managed to turn up the evil factor a notch or two. This moment changed my life. I had discovered my new favorite band.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that twenty five years later I would be watching this band play one of two sold out nights at one of the most beautiful theaters in the country. Slayer is not just a metal band—they have become a way of life for a lot of metal fans around the world. The one thing you will never hear a critic or fan say, “Slayer returned to their roots on this tour.” Because they never left them behind. There are few bands these days that can lay that claim.
The second the blood stained curtain with the enormous Slayer pentagram on it dropped, the onslaught had begun. It would go on for nearly two hours as the band pummeled the capacity crowd, playing below 4 upside down crosses and a giant evil skull. These guys sounded better than I have ever heard them before and they looked completely in control.
There comes a time in every great artist’s career where they go off the deep end and try something experimental. It’s sort of like a George Costanza opposite moment for a musician—they do the exact opposite of everything they know and it leads to great success, at least for a little while. For Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas that time is now and it comes in the form of a new record called Tyranny with a his new band The Voidz.
Tyranny is a hipster hat tip to the post punk avant-garde era that was ruled by Television, The B-52’s, Talking Heads, and later immortalized by Joy Division. It’s a time and place that Casablancas is very familiar with as The Strokes were pioneers in the ’90s revival of this movement which would pave the way for many.
Casablancas and company brought their eclectic show to the Regency Ballroom and a near capacity crowd—and let me just say right upfront what was surely on everyone’s mind that evening; Tyranny is a really fucking weird record. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s certainly not anything like The Strokes, nor should it be.
I’ve seen some crazy sh*t when it comes to heavy metal and punk rock shows, but nothing could prepare me for the insane show that Gwar brought back to the Regency Ballroom last week. The scumdogs of the universe delivered an insane tribute to Gwar’s late frontman, Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) who passed earlier this year.
It’s called the “Gwar Eternal Tour 2014″ and it’s the christening of two new members who share lead vocal duties— Michael “Blöthar” Bishop and Kim “Vulvatron” Dylla. Blothar is some sort of viking warlord with a set of six udders that shoot out multiple streams of blood simultaneously, while Vulvatron is sort of a hot, punk rock chick who decapitates monsters and shoots blood out of her breasts. Now, I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Let me backtrack a bit and do my best to try and explain the absolute mind-f*ck of a story that unfolded before me while I was constantly dodging stage divers, enormous amounts of fake blood, and giant spurts of space jizz.
If a band’s lead singer steps down and they choose to continue with a new one and all parties are in agreement, then so be it. Flyleaf is more than one person and let’s be honest, if you don’t agree, then just move on as there are many more things to worry about in life than having to constantly comment all over social media about a former lead singer. Now that that’s out of the way, I’ve seen Flyleaf numerous times, and the Flyleaf that I saw last week here in San Francisco has reinvented themselves, they have evolved.
New singer Kristen May was outstanding. She was singing as if the world was going to end the next day—it was nothing short of stellar. Opening up the set with the classic Flyleaf song “Fully Alive,” the band would make a statement that Kristen can hold her own and as they went into their new single “Set Me on Fire” shortly after, you could tell the original members of Flyleaf were very confident in their choice.
Flyleaf has left Octone Records and moved over to Loud and Proud, which in my opinion is one of the only really hard rock labels left these days. They hired famed producer Don Gilmore (Bullet for My Valentine, Korn, Lacuna Coil, Linkin Park) to give their new album a sonic upgrade and that’s exactly what they got. It’s not as “heavy” as their eponymous debut, but again the band is evolving—they seem to be more focused on songs and melodies now instead of pure heavy grooves as they did in the past. And it works for them.
The year was 1987. I was 13 years old living in a suburb of St. Louis, and that’s the first time I remember hearing King Diamond. Headbanger’s Ball had debuted the video for the song “The Family Ghost” from his first concept album, the epic masterpiece Abigail. I was hooked and ran straight to the record store to buy this record.
There was only one problem—my parents wouldn’t let me listen to this type of music thanks to the PRMC (Parents Music Resource Center) and their “Filthy Fifteen.” Led by Tipper Gore at the time, this list would come to force music companies to add Parental Advisory stickers to records they found objectionable.
This tactic would end up backfiring big time. We would all find out very quickly that when you tell someone not to buy or listen to a band because they are “controversial,” it very often leads to curiosity and ultimately a ton of record sales. My friends and I would go to record stores back then looking for Parental Advisory stickers as a seal of approval. We would seek out he most evil-looking record covers we could find that we knew would piss off our parents. However, there was another problem—with this new Parental Advisory label you had to be 18 to purchase these records. But, I found a record store that wasn’t checking IDs, so that’s where we shopped—crazy to think about having to do this now, right?
Has it really been 31 years since King Buzzo started the Melvins? Hard to believe that these guys have been sludging up the metal scene for more than three decades, and they still got it. Touring in support of their new record Hold it In, the Melvins played to a sold out, jam-packed Great American Music Hall last week and tore the roof off the place. The latest album showcases the band at one of their finest moments in my opinion, and is the first lineup to feature Buzzo and Crover, with Butthole Surfers members Paul Leary and Jeff Pinkus.
King Buzzo certainly lives up to the “King” part of his name. The crowd was full of adoring punks, metalheads, burnouts, and even a sprinkling of hipsters who came to show their loyalty to one of the most eclectic artists in recent memory. (I even saw punk legend Jello Biafra hanging out.) Buzzo stalked across the stage wearing an outfit that looked like he was going to run to the top of a temple and welcome a new alien species to earth immediately after the show.
The live set was nothing short of a spectacle as these three dudes might be the heaviest trio on the planet right now, as far as I’m concerned. The setlist that night was missing a few classic Melvin “hits” if you will, but new songs such as the brilliant “Bride of Crankenstein” made up for any of the expected staples from their classic albums.
There are a few bands on this planet that are so unique you can identify their sound almost immediately. One of those bands is certainly Placebo. Formed in London in 1994 by singer-guitarist Brian Molko and guitarist-bassist Stefan Olsdal, they have released seven studio albums, all of which have reached the top 20 in the United Kingdom, and have sold around 11 million records worldwide.
Placebo released their latest album Loud Like Love last year and are currently touring the US for the first time in seven years. These guys do exactly what legendary artists do—they evolve their sound while staying true to the formula that their fans have grown to love. Frontman Brian Molko is a perfect example of an iconic eclectic rock star in every sense. His thought-provoking lyrics are genius and his ability to effortlessly combine elements of post-punk, glam, and electronica seamlessly layering them one on top of another creates incredible songs.
With the release of Loud Like Love, Placebo have crafted an absolute masterpiece from start to finish. Every song on this album stands on its own. Brian Molko is one of those rare singers with such a unique voice that he needs no harmonies or special effects to enhance, only a massive sonic landscape as a foundation. And the live show is the perfect showcase for such brilliance.
What’s there really left to say about Hall & Oates? They continue to bring their unique brand of Philly rock and soul to adoring fans around the US and they sound better than ever doing so. Returning to Northern California for their annual pilgrimage, the duo delivered a stellar set to the sold out crowd at the recently renovated Masonic in San Francisco. The crowd was a mix of longtime fans and city dwelling hipsters that have likely just begun their celebration of the two 60 something legends.
Hall & Oates have sold more albums than any other duo in music history including thirteen gold and platinum albums. The setlist for the night featured all the hits you know and love: “Sarah Smile,” “Rich Girl,” “Out of Touch,” and an amazing, extended jam of “I Can’t Go For That.” Returning to the stage twice in response to standing ovations, the band came out with the hits a-blazin’, finishing off with “You Make My Dreams Come True,” “Kiss on My List,” and “Private Eyes.” Hall and Oates delivered a flawless performance and proved that they are truly a one of a kind, timeless group.
The Masonic provided the perfect environment for the hits-a-palooza that evening. The mid-century auditorium formerly known as Nob Hill Masonic Center has been made over into a concert venue called The Masonic and reopened last month. The multi-million dollar renovation added a new stage, state-of-the-art sound system, bars and concession stands, and an open general admission space below the tiered seating. The venue’s capacity is now 3,300, giving S.F. concert-goers an opportunity to see big name bands in a space that’s less than half the size of Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
Earlier this year it was announced that Anberlin would be disbanding after recording their seventh and final studio album and embarking upon one final tour. Somehow I completely missed this band during their heyday, but I’m glad that I got to see them live before they call it quits. The show last week at the Regency Ballroom was beyond capacity and seemed to be a fitting way to close out an impressive 12 year run with 7 albums selling more than 400,000 records along the way.
These guys should have been on my radar though, as guitarist Christian McAlhaney was previously in the Columbia Records band Acceptance and released the brilliant but terribly under-celebrated masterpiece Phantoms back in 2005. Acceptance was another one of those bands that was “supposed to be a breakout,” but the major label system destroyed any chance of that happening, so I am thrilled to see McAlhaney found a home with Anberlin. After this final tour I would expect him to eventually do something equally as brilliant.
Even though I didn’t recognize many of the songs that night, the fans were going absolutely crazy over these guys. This band has some incredibly dedicated fans and the entire crowd was hanging on every last note as Anberlin played their swan song for the Bay Area.
Why is it that the UK appreciates rock ‘n’ roll more than we do here in the states? Kasabian are hailed as one of the best British Bands of the 21st century overseas and in 2010 they won the coveted Q Award for “Best Act in the World Today.” So why are they not selling out arenas on this side of the pond? I have no idea, but they sure as hell own the stage and put on a concert for the ages wherever they bring their brilliant live show.
I’ve seen these guys numerous times over the years and I have celebrated the band’s catalog since the beginning. When I worked at Sony Music years ago I remember the folks from RCA records claiming that they had just signed the “next big thing.” I used to hear this all the time, but 9 times out of 10 the “next big thing” would be forgotten as we move on to the next priority. But Kasabian was different. Here’s a band that takes the mind-bending groves of the Stone Roses and combines them with the attitude of Primal Scream and poetic lyricism of Oasis, and then takes it to a whole new level. (And I’m sure they are sick and tired of this comparison, but it too damn perfect of a description.)
If I had to describe the band in one world it would be bombastic. The core of the band lies in two of its original members; vocalist Tom Meighan and guitarist and vocalist Sergio Pizzorno. These guys are nothing short of magical live as they feed off of one another, queuing up song after song without skipping a beat.