Author Archives: Alan Snodgrass

TVD Live Shots: Billy Idol and Down and Outlaws at the Mountain Winery, 8/19

Perched in the hills with stunning views of Silicon Valley, The Mountain Winery seems to have found itself leading the way as music venues in the Bay Area start reopening. Rolling with the ever-changing guidelines, the sold-out crowd was required to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test before getting in, but what a small price to pay for a return to a bit of normalcy after the complete shitshow of the last 18 months. And of course, there was the night’s headliner, Billy Idol!

Local rockers Down and Outlaws kicked off the evening as the sun started to set and the guests availed themselves of the ample wine selection, filling the seats as Billy Idol, Steve Stevens and the rest of the band took the stage and launched into “Cradle of Love,” his mega-hit from 1990’s Charmed Life.

All smiles, Billy played it up for the front row which was literally swooning as the band wrapped “Dancing with Myself” and Billy did a quick change of his shirt in front of the drum riser … likely an intentional tease before busting into “Flesh for Fantasy.”

While the setlist expectedly covered all the hits, there was even a little something for those wanting more, hitting on new material from his upcoming EP “The Roadside” (out September 17) with “Rita Hayworth” and “Bitter Taste.” While not rocking to the level of his early work, the pair of tunes fit in nicely with his earlier ballads “Eyes Without a Face” and “Flesh for Fantasy.”

The good news for the guitar nerds in the house is that Steve Stevens was granted some substantial airtime to show off his underrated skills. First a lengthy solo that meandered into Led Zep’s “Over the Hill and Far Away” and “Stairway to Heaven” and then a full length instrumental of the “Top Gun Anthem” highlighted why his legacy is well-deserved.

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Save Our Stages: The Alarm, Modern English, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel at the Regency Ballroom, San Francisco, 8/2/19

During this period of historic uncertainty, the fight for the survival of our independent record stores is directly mirrored by the dark stages of our local independent theatres, clubs, and performance spaces which have been shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been cited as well that 90% of these concert venues may never, ever return.

Enter the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) whose #SaveOurStages campaign has provided a spotlight on this perilous predicament with a unique mission to “preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters throughout the United States.” Without help from Congress the predictions are indeed quite dire and TVD encourages you support the S. 3814/H.R. 7481, the RESTART Act, by telling your legislators to save independent music venues via the form that can be filled out and forwarded right here.

This week and next we’ll be turning our own spotlight onto previous live concert coverage as a reminder of the need to preserve the vitality of live music venues across the country—and indeed across the globe—and while we’re at it to celebrate the work of the fine photographers and writers at TVD who are all itching to get back into the pit. 

The Alarm are on the road for their “Sigma LXXXV” Tour along with Modern English and Gene Loves Jezebel (the Jay Aston incarnation) in support of their June, 2019 release, Sigma. The ’80s throwback lineup brought the expected middle-agers for a Friday night set at San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom for what would prove to be much more than an evening of nostalgia.

Gene Loves Jezebel kicked off the evening with a 40 minute set of their classics that got the San Francisco crowd moving to their hits such as “Heartache,” “Break the Chain,” and “Desire” as a surprisingly youthful Jay Aston bounced around the stage.

Next up, the legendary Modern English, best known for their 1982 album, After the Snow, but certainly active in the years since with several original members. As a band that’s at risk of being labeled a one-hit-wonder, Modern English’s setlist covered their entire catalog before finally pulling out “that song” … you know the one that everyone’s waiting to hear … at which point frontman Robbie Grey implored the crowd to “put down your fucking phone,” with little impact as the crowd sang along.

The Alarm’s first US show ever was opening for U2 at the Bill Graham Civic and they have been back many times since. It was not surprising, then, when Mike Peters and the band took the stage, they were met with a warm welcome from the San Francisco fans.

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TVD Live Shots: The Struts and Starcrawler at The Warfield, 3/3

The Struts hitched up with Harley-Davidson for a California mini-run, aptly dubbed the “Tour de California 2020.” Along with openers Starcrawler, Super Tuesday found them at San Francisco’s Warfield for a welcome reprieve from the relentless barrage of politics.

Opener Starcrawler kicked things off in front of a crowd that was clearly hip to what was about to go down, having not only arrived early but staked out a spot on the barricade. Simply stated, Starcrawler is a band that must be seen to be appreciated. All arms and legs, the waif-thin Arrow de Wilde commands the stage and demands attention with not only her vocals but, with her bodily contortions that are only accentuated by her 6’ 3” frame.

While this night’s set was arguably tame by Starcrawler standards (much to the appreciation of the germophobes in the photo pit), the band surely impressed in no small part due to guitarist Henri Cash’s shredding which didn’t miss a note even as he hopped into the crowd during the set closer “Bet My Brains” before hanging his guitar around a befuddled fan’s neck while he walked off the stage and the crew began to pack up.

By the time The Struts took the stage, the floor of the Warfield was packed and San Francisco was ready to party. So it was a good thing that compared to their last visit to San Francisco (The Fillmore, November, 2018), The Struts kicked things up a notch in terms of production—taking full advantage of the larger stage.

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TVD Live Shots: Black Label Society, Obituary, and Lord Dying at the Regency Ballroom, 3/1

It’s been a while since Black Label Society passed through the Bay Area, so when they hit San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom on a Sunday night, the fans packed the joint to the rafters for what would prove to be an epic evening of metal.

Portland, Oregon’s Lord Dying kicked things off early (7:30 PM!) to a room that was already filling up nicely. Clear concerns over the Coronavirus hasn’t reached the heavy metal community and by the time Obituary finished pummeling the room with their 40 minute set, plenty of bodily fluids had been sent flying from the pit.

After Obituary wrapped, the crew hoisted a curtain in front of the stage to hide the set change. Unfortunately, the height of the curtain was limited by the balcony to which it was affixed, leaving only “lack Labe” visible to the fans. Not that it mattered anyways, because it was pretty obvious to anyone watching the opening bands that under those black sheets was a wall of speaker cabinets.

A creative mash-up of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” with Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” (“Whole Lotta War Pigs”) blasted over the PA and pumped up the room as the band set up before finally launching into “Genocide Junkies” from 2002’s 1919 Eternal as the curtain dropped. Game on San Francisco!

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TVD Live Shots:
Machine Head at the
Fox Theater, 2/21

It wasn’t that long ago that Machine Head’s future as a band was in question.  Long time members Phil Demmel (guitar) and Dave McClain (drums) both abruptly announced their departures from the band before what was certain to be an awkward final tour for everyone.

Leave it to Robb Flynn, front man and only remaining founding member, to dust off and move forward. Adding Vogg Kiełtyka (guitar) and Matt Alston (drums) to the lineup, Flynn went even further and announced that Machine Head would also be reuniting with Burn My Eyes-era members Logan Mader and Chris Kontos to celebrate the 25th anniversary of that album.

All this manifested into a five-week “Burn My Eyes 25th Anniversary” run across North America which wrapped up Saturday in Anaheim, California—but not before what would prove to be a hometown show of epic proportions at Oakland’s Fox Theater.  Sticking to the “evening with” format which the band tested with huge success in support of Bloodstones & Diamonds, Machine Head kicked things off early and proceeded to pummel the audience for well-over three hours.

Split into two sets, Machine Head kicked off with a raft of classics that got the pit humming along at a good clip. Wrapping the first set up with “Halo,” Machine Head had already delivered a nearly two-hour set that most mortal bands (and their fans) would have been more than content with.

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TVD Live Shots: High On Fire, Power Trip, Devil Master, Creeping Death at the UC Theatre, 12/6

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride of late for Oakland, California’s High On Fire.

Their 2018 release Electric Messiah won a well-deserved Grammy award for Best Metal Performance a matter of weeks after the band was forced to cancel their touring plans (for the second time) due to frontman Matt Pike’s risk of losing part of his foot due to complications from diabetes. Fast forward to December and Pike’s medical issues properly sorted, High On Fire has made their triumphant return for a hometown show at Berkeley’s UC Theatre.

Creeping Death and Devil Master warmed up the sold-out room but things kicked into high gear for Power Trip’s raging set. These Texans’ special brand of thrash has developed a strong following in the Bay Area and the pit was flat-out bonkers. When their set finally wrapped, there was a mass exodus from the pit of sweaty dudes looking for fresh air and maybe a refreshing beverage leaving the question dangling—how the hell is High On Fire going to follow that!?!?

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TVD Live Shots: Pixies and Kristin Hersh at August Hall, 12/5

It wasn’t that long ago that Pixies passed through the San Francisco Bay Area with Weezer. But if the lack of intimacy of an arena show coupled with a setlist confined to a supporting slot left you wanting, look no further than the band’s brief North American winter run.

Those lucky enough to secure a ticket to the show at San Francisco’s August Hall, which maybe holds 1,000 people, were treated to Pixies in epic proportions. From the opening notes of “In the Arms of Mrs. Mark of Cain” as smoke filled the tiny stage to the set closer “Bone Machine,” Charles/Frank, Joey, Paz, and David did not once take the foot off of the gas.

For their part, the enthusiastic crowd settled in for the long haul and soaked it all in, not knowing whether such an opportunity would ever present itself again as the Pixies plowed through their catalog including a heavy dose of their September release, Beneath the Eyrie.

This was no doubt one for the record books.

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TVD Live Shots:
Snoop Dogg, Berner, Warren G, and RJMrLA at the Fillmore, 12/2

No one can throw a party like Snoop Dogg—just ask anyone who packed the way-sold-out Fillmore in San Francisco for the kick off of his “I Wanna Thank Me Tour.” By the time opener RJMrLA took the stage, the wait staff was already hitting a feverish stride as the drinks flowed and puffs of smoke rose above the crowd as folks pondered the stripper poles that flanked either side of the stage.

The great thing about rap shows is the minimal change-over between sets—swap out a DJ and a microphone and the next act is up, so the momentum was never lost as the legendary Warren G picked up the mic in front of a room that was well-versed in his material and happy to play along.

Local boy Berner kicked things up a notch, striding on stage with a fat joint which he was more than happy to share with the front row. Afterall, what better way to market your own brand of weed than sharing it with a captive audience—even going so far as tossing out bags of his signature strain while instructing the fans to “roll it and share it” which is indeed what they did.

By the time Snoop took the stage a tad before 10 PM, there was a cloud hanging over the now-baked crowd—there was simply no escaping the inevitable contact high. With a microphone in his right hand and a joint in his left, Snoop proceeded to wow the crowd which by then was clearly pushing the capacity limits of the venue where a squadron of firemen and body-cammed police could be seen in the back trying to look concerned but obviously enjoying the spectacle as a pair of pole dancers made impressive use of the aforementioned stripper poles.

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TVD Live Shots: The Aquabats, PPL MVR, and Jacob Turnbloom at the Regency Ballroom, 11/23

The Aquabats wrapped up their current tour this past Saturday at San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom. The fans turned out early for their superheros and the kiddos were running rampant on the general admission floor well-before the openers took the stage.

Supported by some backing tracks, Jacob Turnbloom kicked things off with a solo set of originals but while the music was approachable, the vampire shtick made no sense. Nevertheless, he had a good-sized crowd that was receptive to vamp rock as they geared up for the Aquabats. But first they had to suffer through PPL MVR.

Never heard of PPL MVR? Imagine an unholy alliance between a yeti, Chewbacca, and the Grinch delivering abominably auto-tuned drivel designed to torture mankind. Unfortunately there were many small children in the room that will be forever scarred.

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TVD Live Shots: Plain White T’s, The Mowgli’s, and New Politics at the Fillmore, 11/19

The Plain White T’s are currently crossing the United States on their “3 Dimensional Tour” along with tour mates The Mowgli’s and New Politics whose ample set times make the tour like a triple-headliner (possibly the reason for the “3D” tour name?).

New Politics kicked off their opening set in San Francisco with a trio of tunes from their brand new record, An Invitation to an Alternate Reality, to an enthusiastic crowd. After 10 years as a band, this three-piece came across as rejuvenated, effortlessly working a crowd which was largely not familiar with the new music. Of course there was time for the hits and New Politics wrapped up with the crowd favorites including their hit, “Harlem.”

After what seemed like a particularly long set change, The Mowgli’s took the stage. At this point it was pretty clear that anyone who was coming was already there. 20/20 hindsight points to a smaller venue with less open space as a wiser option, but both the bands and the attendees made the most of it and the Bay Area is not surprisingly a sucker for The Mowgli’s set closer, “San Francisco.”

The Plain White T’s finally took the stage at 10:20 in front of what appeared to be a mostly-intact crowd in spite of the late hour on a Tuesday night and proceeded to light up the room. A healthy dose of tunes from 2018’s Parallel Universe was augmented by a smattering of songs from their other releases and, of course, they couldn’t ignore “Hey There Delilah” which teed up the evening closer, “Our Time Now.”

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TVD Live Shots:
Flogging Molly, The
Devil Makes Three, and Le Butcherettes at the Greek Theater, 9/26

It doesn’t have to be St. Patrick’s Day to get your party on when Flogging Molly comes to town. Their Thursday evening session at Berkeley, California’s Greek Theater with co-headliner Social Distortion proved that again to be the case.

The evening kicked off with a fiery set from Le Butcherettes that featured a mesmerizing performance by vocalist Teri Gender Bender which demanded the attention of the gathering crowd. A quick change-over later and The Devil Makes Three was on stage and the general admission floor was packed. Hailing from Santa Cruz, TDM3 is pretty much considered a local band in these parts and the crowd welcomed them as such, dancing and singing along with a fervor that’s rarely reserved for the opening acts.

As the sun set over the San Francisco Bay, the drinks were flowing and the eager crowd was sufficiently lubricated as Flogging Molly took the stage, Dave King toasting the crowd with a can of Guinness, before appropriately launching into “Drunken Lullabies.”

Even with a co-headliner in toe, playing Berkeley’s Greek Theater with a capacity just shy of 6,000 was an ambitious endeavor. And while certainly nowhere near sold out, at no point did the venue feel empty; in fact, the extra elbow room on the general admission floor made room for some pretty epic pit action … I mean, what else are you supposed to do when the band busts out “Devil’s Dance Floor?”

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TVD Live Shots: The Who and Liam Gallagher at the Chase Center, 10/9

Since San Francisco’s Chase Center opened a little over a month ago, it has packed the house with some of the biggest acts in the world including The Who’s “Moving On!” Tour which, for the third time since the Chase Center’s opening (Metallica’s two S&M shows being the others), featured a full orchestra.

Liam Gallagher’s brief 25 minute opening set was mostly met with apathy on and off the stage as the San Francisco crowd gathered (though it should be acknowledged that 7:30 on a Wednesday evening is not an ideal set time for anyone). Clearly the crowd was there for the evening’s headliners and every seat in the house seemed to fill quickly as the crew prepared the stage while the 48-strong orchestra and conductor Keith Levenson started to set up and settle in for what would prove to be an epic evening.

The band took the stage a smidge past 8:30 and launched into the instrumental “Overture” from Tommy as frontman Roger Daltry bashed away on a pair of tambourines. The band continued on with the Tommy material, the orchestra providing a nice but not necessary dimension to the material without overshadowing what was a truly inspiring performance by Pete Townshend. The crowd totally lost their shit when Pete broke out the windmills during “Pinball Wizard” as Roger spun his mic around.

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TVD Live Shots: Obituary, Abbath, Midnight, and Devil Master at the UC Theatre, 10/5

A stroll down University Avenue in Berkeley this past Saturday night may have left many confused. Four weeks ahead of Halloween, corpse paint was on full display in anticipation of what was about to transpire within the walls of the UC Theatre where Obituary was preparing to unleash the metal in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Slowly We Rot.

By the time Devil Master kicked things off with their opening set, the room was already filling up and the crowd was clearly ready to rumble in spite of the lack of familiar tunes. But things truly kicked into gear with local favorites Midnight, a Bay Area favorite who clearly appeal to those thrash metal roots.

Midnight were a tough act to follow but Abbath showed that they were worthy of the challenge, blasting through an hour long set that included a few Immortal songs which got the floor spinning out of control. With Obituary, however, the UC went full-on sideways with a steady stream of crowd surfers keeping security busy as they poured over the barricade. The particularly brutal set kicked off with instrumental “Redneck Stomp” and paid special attention to Slowly We Rot.

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TVD Live Shots:
Incubus and Dub Trio
at The Masonic, 9/24

Incubus is out on their “20 Years of Make Yourself and Beyond Tour” in celebration of their 1999 breakthrough album including two nights at The Masonic in San Francisco with openers Dub Trio who tore through their 30 minute instrumental set in front of an already packed house.

Incubus kicked things off with a 10 minute documentary that served to further pump up the already anxious crowd which clearly delighted in the interviews and home movies of the band from their Make Yourself era. When the band finally emerged—flanked by cages of super-VIPs on either end of the stage—and launched into “Privilege,” The Masonic went absolutely nuts.

As Incubus wound their way through each song from Make Yourself in no particular order, the crowd erupted in delight each time a new tune started. For his part, front man Brandon Boyd was genuinely overwhelmed by the response, pausing to tell the crowd to keep doing what they’re doing.

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TVD Live Shots: Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, Dorothy and Diamante at Concord Pavilion, 9/18

Breaking Benjamin brought their ambitious five band tour to Concord, California’s Concord Pavilion for a Wednesday evening of rock and roll. Those lucky enough to brave the evening’s particularly horrendous traffic to the burbs to catch the 5:20 start, were rewarded with two fantastic sets by openers Diamante and Dorothy before the sun started to set.

Three Days Grace kicked up the energy with a 50 minute set that got the crowd, which had finally reached critical mass, singing and moshing along before Chevelle balanced things out with a little groove.

Breaking Benjamin finally took the stage at 9:20 in front of a packed house as they continue to tour in support of 2018’s “Ember.” With enough air conditioning to cool the general admission floor, frontman Benjamin Burnley proceeded to belt it out much to Concord’s delight. And when “Breath” came up early in the set, the entire amphitheater was more than happy to help out on vocals.

The ninety minute set flew by way too fast as the band covered highlights from their entire catalog while still saving time for the most unlikely cover song mashups of Pantera, Nirvana, Queen, Metallica, and Rage Against The Machine … which all culminated in a drum solo by their resident master of the skins, Shaun Foist.

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