Review of Alice Cooper gig at Merriweather Post Pavilion

So Sunday the 17th of October 2010 I drove up to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland for the Halloween Hootenanny concert. I had won a pair of lawn tickets from MPP’s Twitter account a couple weeks before otherwise I probably wouldn’t have paid to go. There were a lot of bands playing that day, 2Cents, the Murderdolls, Children Of Bodom, Clutch, Alice Cooper, Black Label Society and Rob Zombie. This was because there were two tours that combined for this final show of the season at Merriweather. Since the set times weren’t revealed I got there too late to see a few and honestly I really just wanted to see Alice Cooper the most. They also had midget wrestling going on at some point, but again I was too late for that. I’d have liked to have seen Children Of Bodom again but since they played so damn early I missed them. I did catch a bit of Clutch and Zakk Wylde with BLS, but I didn’t stick around for Rob Zombie’s show as I’ve seen it a few times and really, I’m not that into techno. Those bands I’ve all seen before anyways, so it wasn’t a big deal, but I hadn’t seen Alice Cooper before and of course I’d heard a lot about his live show. I guess my point is, he’s one of those guys I wanted to see live at least once, though after that show I’d probably go see him again and pay for better seats too. Still, I can’t complain with free tickets.

I got there early enough to get a decent spot in the center of the lawn about as close as I could get without being too underneath the large monitor above. It’s been a few years since I’ve headed up to Merriweather and I’d never seen a second stage set up there. It was sort of awkwardly placed on the lawn on the side of the main entrance to the venue. Not the end of the world, but the farther back you were the more downhill you’d be. It was nice being able to hear Clutch play from my spot on the lawn while I was waiting for Alice Cooper to hit the stage. It was dark by the time he did start playing which really helped the setting. Right away he went into School’s Out followed by No More Mr Nice Guy, which sort of seemed odd since I kind of assumed he’d close with one of them. I think maybe he knew he had to play them and just wanted to get them out of the way. He then went into I’m Eighteen, which is one of the songs I had hoped he’d play. It was his first hit and really the song that got him noticed and it was nice to see he still played it. The set was a decent retrospective of his career. He played old classics like Billion Dollar Babies and Poison, and also had a few newer songs in the mix like Vengeance Is Mine and Dirty Diamonds. I didn’t recognize some of that newer material, and some of the songs they played I hadn’t heard since I was a kid. So that was kind of cool, he didn’t play Hey Stoopid or Bed Of Nails, which I guess I wanted to see since I at least remembered those songs. However, he did play the song Feed My Frankenstein, which of course was made famous by that scene in Wayne’s World. It’s a pretty damn goofy song, full of even more overt horror metaphor as sexual innuendo than your typical Cooper song, but it was damn entertaining. Hell, the giant cyclops monster thing that came out on stage to fight him during that song was pretty cool too. And that’s the thing about this show, when Alice Cooper is on the stage he’s always entertaining. He’s constantly doing SOMETHING! Maybe just walking around flipping his cane around like a baton or getting the audience to join in on some of the chorus lines. And then there’s the props. He did the classic guillotine decapitation, which is something I had always heard about but never seen, so that was awesome to see. He also had some thing where he was put into a box and had swords run through him. He did a song sitting in a chair in a straight jacket as well as having other characters come out in costumes to interact with him on stage for various songs. In one case he had Nurse Rozetta come out and inject him with some neon green fluid in a giant syringe (it sort of reminded me of Re-animator). However, he did not do the famous gallows noose hanging, which I was hoping he’d do (he refused to do it for several years after an accident happened performing the stunt once). One cool thing was he sort of had storylines going from song to song, for instance in one he’d commit a murder, then in the next song he’d be executed for it, then in the next he’d be waking up in hell. As I said before, the entire time he was on stage was pretty damn entertaining, whether I knew the songs or not. But that’s the one problem with the show, he wasn’t always on the stage, most notably during a long instrumental segment that involved a drum solo and several guitar solos. This went on for entirely too long! Now I was kind of expecting Alice to come back on stage with some crazy costume or something that obviously required several minutes to put together, but he didn’t really have anything that crazy on when he came back for Vengeance Is Mine (I have video of it below). I know he’s not the youngest performer around, so maybe he just needed a break but damn that jam session went on forever and was certainly the low point of the show for me. Not that the guys in the band weren’t talented musicians, but it just seemed to go on and on and on to the point that we were making jokes about them being a hippie jam band. Regardless, the show was certainly worth seeing and I’m glad I got to see Alice Cooper at least once, though I could have done with a few less crotch shots on the jumbo trons.

Aside from all the bands performing, the Halloween Hootenanny had some other things too, midget wrestling (which I missed) as well as at least one ride that I went on and a haunted house as well. I went to the show kind of expecting all that to cost money, but was surprised to find they were all free. I went on that spinning ride that makes ya stick to the walls and then rotates up into the air. It was ok I guess, the view of the bathrooms was exquisite from the the top. The haunted house was much more fun though. They made you wear these 3D glasses and had painted things so they’d glow in a black light. Spinning rooms, the ground painted to look like steps that weren’t there, and people jumping out that really did blend in perfectly with the backgrounds when you had the glasses on, and other illusions were all part of it. There was a confusing part with checkered sheets you sort of had to fumble your way through. That was more confusing than scary. Overall it was pretty entertaining and was certainly worth the wait in line. After that I caught a bit of Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society and then we decided to head out early to beat traffic. In all it was a great concert experience, especially since we got tickets, posters, buttons and rides all for free! I really wouldn’t mind seeing Alice Cooper again, though hopefully next time he’ll get to play a longer set and it’ll be a bit closer to home for me. Now below you’ll find the videos I shot there. Keep in mind I was on the lawn so they are by no means the best videos I’ve ever posted.

A Post About The Dead Kennedys?

Yep, I’m making a post about the Dead Kennedys on my heavy metal blog. I went to see them on Saturday the 16th of October 2010 at the Rock And Roll Hotel in Washington DC, and no I’m not going to do a full review of the show here. Instead I wanted to post somewhere that I think I’ve got the first footage, posted online at least, of the Dead Kennedys playing their two new songs, Area 51 and You’re Such A Fake. Wouldn’t be such a big deal but they haven’t written a new song since they reformed in 2001 without their notorious vocalist Jello Biafra. Well, not that I know of.

I’m not a huge punk rock fan, if you haven’t been able to guess yet I’m a big metal head. Growing up in this area it’s pretty hard not to be exposed to some of the punk scene though. When I was in high school a lot of my friends were into those classic punk bands like the Ramones, the Misfits, Black Flag, and the Dead Kennedys as well as local acts like Minor Threat and the Suspects. Back in the day I’d be getting them to listen to Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel while they were playing me Fugazi and the like. My point in all this is, I’m not some die hard fan of punk, I don’t care that it’s not the same to see the Dead Kennedys without Jello Biafra singing or it’s some un-punk cash grab or whatever. To lose all my punk credibility I still go to see the Misfits sometimes too. I enjoy these bands mostly for the nostalgia of it all, if you have a problem with that take it somewhere else, I really don’t care. These shows are fun to me and I’m tired of people in the underground scene coming up with reasons not to see bands all the damn time. Plus I saw the Dead Kennedys play Jaxx back in May 2002 with Brandon Cruz on vocals and I really had a great time. Klaus Flouride was still in the band then too. Anyways, seeing East Bay Ray and D.H. Peligro play all those songs with a bunch of my old high school friends was pretty damn fun.

Now, that all said, since I do run a metal blog and often shoot video at concerts to post, I generally do that at any show I see these days, regardless of genre. I was planning on posting the videos to YouTube but I wasn’t planning on making a blog post about it. I happened to get a shot of the setlist after the show ended, but that wasn’t strange. What I didn’t notice until I was uploading the files and trying to sort out the song names was that I didn’t recognize two of them. Now I know the Dead Kennedys haven’t put out any new material since they reformed without Jello Biafra in 2001, mainly because everyone talks about how he doesn’t like that the band reformed without him but still uses the name to play all the old songs. And since I’m not extremely well versed in punk rock, maybe these songs are covers of other bands, but I don’t think they are. I think they are two new songs from the Dead Kennedys with their new singer Ron “Skip” Greer on vocals. Even Google and YouTube searches haven’t turned up anything by them with these song titles, so I think I’m the first to post these songs online. Correct me if I’m wrong here though.

This first video is actually three songs recorded in a row. The first is Kill The Poor and there’s nothing particularly interesting about this version of it. The second song, starting at about 2:50 is MP3 Get Off The Web which is really just MTV Get Off The Air with lyrics changed to be about people downloading mp3s and how much they suck for doing it. And although I don’t believe that telling your fans at a concert that they are the problem with the music industry is a smart idea, the part that I really don’t like is that the new guy is changing Jello’s lyrics. This was the only song they did this on, I think, but if you wanna do that then just fucking write a new song, don’t butcher the classics if you’re not the guy who wrote it. It would piss me off to no end if Dio had changed lyrics to Ozzy era Black Sabbath songs live and this was much the same to me. Anyways, the third song in the video below is Area 51 and it starts at about 7:38. Check it out, new DK tune. UPDATE: As mentioned in the comments below, the song Area 51 is actually a song by East Bay Ray’s other band the Killer Smiles. However the other song, You’re Such A Fake, is not by the Killer Smiles and so I think it is a completely new composition by the Dead Kennedys. Not only their first new song without Jello, but their first in 24 years.

The next video here is of the final two songs the band played (it was their second encore of the night). The first is the other new tune You’re Such A Fake. After that, at about 2:45, is the classic song Chemical Warfare which isn’t too odd other than they play a bit of the Lynyrd Skynyrd song Sweet Home Alabama in there at about 5:55. I really wasn’t expecting that.

Well, those are the new songs, love them or hate them it looks like the Dead Kennedys might be getting ready to put out some new material, the first since what, Bedtime For Democracy in 1986? And yes, you heard it first on a heavy metal blog. With that, I’ll leave you all with the rest of the videos I shot at the concert below, classics like Holiday In Cambodia and Too Drunk To Fuck. Enjoy!

Review of Katatonia gig at Jaxx

On Thursday the 7th of October 2010 I headed over to Jaxx to catch Swallow The Sun, Orphaned Land and headliner Katatonia play the final show of the 26 date Night Over North America 2010 Tour. Katatonia is a sort of doomy dark metal band from Sweden that, at least in recent years, uses clean vocals exclusively. Swallow The Sun is a band from Finland that actually fits on this bill rather well, though they do use mostly harsh vocals. Musically their sounds are pretty similar and I’m sure their fan bases has a lot of cross over. Orphaned Land is sort of the odd ball on this tour. They are an Israeli metal band with a traditional hebrew and arabic folk elements and themes. There were also a couple local openers, but I didn’t get there in time to see them. The place was pretty full, always nice to see a good turn out at Jaxx.

To start off, Swallow The Sun and Orphaned Land switched places in the evening’s band line up order, so Swallow The Sun played first. I’m not sure if this meant they had a shorter set though. I think this was probably a better order than if Orphaned Land played first, mostly because I think Swallow The Sun and Katatonia have similar sounds and putting the other band in the middle keeps the sound from getting stale. Swallow The Sun played a good set though, including my favorite songs of theirs, Falling World and Swallow (Horror Part 1). Before playing the song New Moon, which I’d always wondered if it was about those stupid Twilight books and movies, vocalist Mikko Kotamäki said that the song was in fact about them, but implied it was making fun of them. He said that “Vampires used to suck blood but now they suck cock.” When they played their song The Justice Of Suffering, Katatonia’s singer Jonas Renske came out after a couple minutes and sang parts of the song live. As a side note, I noticed he had a Bloodbath shirt on but when he came out with his band later he had switched to an Autopsy shirt. Anyways, Swallow The Sun was pretty good, and for a slower band than much of what I’m used to seeing live, they never had me feeling bored at all. Really they were a perfect opener for setting the tone for the rest of the evening.

The next band to play was Orphaned Land. Though I’d heard of them before from that Global Metal documentary, I wasn’t really familiar with much of their music. They certainly didn’t sound the same as the other two bands on this tour, and that’s fine. These guys have a more traditional approach to heavy metal, maybe you could call them thrash or very soft melodic death metal, but the real part that stands out is all the hebrew and arabic stylings. They certainly aren’t as fast or brutal as a band like Melechesh but they’re still definitely a heavy metal band with distinct middle eastern influences. Their set was pretty entertaining to watch, though a lot of it was kinda hokey audience participation stuff like getting everyone to wave their hands or hop in place like they were at a ska show. A few times members of I guess other bands or the crew came out on stage doing goofy shit. One time they came out wearing towels on their head mocking turbans and one guy had a green sock that was supposed to be a snake while another guy was the snake charmer with a horn thing made of tin foil. This sort of thing became a recurring theme throughout the evening, I suppose because it was the final show of the tour. That’s fine for the Orphan Land stuff that’s kind of goofy and upbeat anyways, but the distractions and interruptions got kind of annoying after a while during Katatonia’s set. Orphaned Land’s vocalist, Kobi Farhi, was wearing some white get up that looked like a baptismal frock or something. He was also barefoot the entire set which I found quite brave. It made me think of all the times I’ve seen stuff like Glen Benton spit on that same stage. At one point he said that in case the audience was wondering, he was in fact Jesus Christ and that he loves heavy metal. He then said “Mayhem is a great band” which I found to be quite an awesome statement from these guys, but I think Mayhem might be a bit heavy for many in the audience at this gig. The band was missing a couple members, most notably Shlomit Levi, the woman who does the female vocals on their records. They did play her parts from recordings a couple times during intros of songs, and I think Kobi sang the rest of her parts himself. Their upbeat middle eastern folk metal seemed to be quite a hit with the audience and you could tell that some people were here just to see them. In all, even though the set was corny and at times just goofy, it was still rather entertaining.

The final act of the night was the headliner, Katatonia. I hadn’t seen them since September 2007 and while their new album wasn’t my favorite of theirs, it did have a couple new songs I enjoyed. The first thing I noticed about their set was that one of the guitarists was new, as well as the bass player. Not the end of the world I suppose, but different. I hadn’t kept up with the line up changes apparently. The next thing I noticed was the sound was shit! I could barely hear the vocals over the instruments in the mix, and for many bands that’s ok but Katatonia is one of those bands where the vocals and lyrics add a lot to the music. Now I was close to the front and in the center, not always the best place for sound quality at a place like Jaxx where the speakers face straight out, but still, the audio was crap and I could see the bass player was having problems with his instrument which actually happened the last time they played Jaxx also. They did play for almost two hours though and the sound had gotten a bit better by the end of it, though the vocals volume was still low in the mix from where I was standing (check out the videos below to hear what I mean). Katatonia has a lot of I guess “sing along” type songs and people in the audience didn’t hold back, particularly on some of their more famous songs. For some reason they never play a favorite of mine, Deliberation, and always play the monotonously repetitive Soil’s Song every set, I’ll never understand that choice. They didn’t play much older material and the setlist focused mainly on their newest album, Night Is The New Day, with a few other songs thrown in from the previous two albums. This was certainly not a show for fans of their older, harsher material, but then, I think everyone knew that going in. They certainly have a catchier sound these days, too heavy to be rock, and too melancholy to be stoner or doom, it’s their own distinct sound, and it’s well polished too. Jonas has a great voice and his lyrics are always very personal, though sometimes you’d be fooled by a song’s atmosphere as to what the song is actually about. For example, Leaders sounds like a song about a break up or something at first but it seems to actually be a song about the traps of the record industry. Speaking of Leaders, that was their final song of the night and while I really do enjoy it, apparently members of all the other bands and crew on the tour decided to come out on stage shooting silly string and throwing balloons and even taping gay porn to one of the guitars while the band played. Kinda ruined the mood though they’d been doing similar stuff all night. I’ve got video of this song below also, so you can see what I’m talking about. There were some cool moments too, like when the drummer for Swallow The Sun, Kai Hahto, came out to play drums on Teargas, and their vocalist also came out to sing with Jonas on that song. And while the on stage antics were a bit distracting for some songs, and certainly taking away from the serious tone of a lot of the music, it was still kinda funny seeing a couple guys doing a Jewish dance in the middle of Ghost Of The Sun. At one point the band had everyone in the audience turn to the mixing board and sing Happy Birthday to the tour manager. At the end of the set Katatonia did the typical planned encore thing, which made the new guitarist decide to take his shirt off showing his “sodomizer” stomach tattoo, haha.

In all the show was a lot of fun, and you could tell the bands were having maybe more fun than the fans for this one! I can’t wait to see them again, though I hope next time they play a set with a more ‘best hits’ style setlist with material from their entire history. Oh and there was that wasted guy that wanted to start a fight with me. Of all the crazy metal shows I go to, it’s the bands ya least expect that people seem to want to fight. I mean really, Katatonia gets you violent? And no I did not fight him, call me a pussy if you want but I don’t hit. Anyways, he left the front of the crowd and I never saw him again so no big deal really. Enough about that, now go check out the videos I shot below!

Review of Slayer and Megadeth gig at 1st Mariner Arena

What a great show! I’m usually rather weary of concerts at larger venues like this, but I’m really glad I went. I didn’t get there in time to catch Anthrax, but I’m not a huge fan of theirs anyways so I wasn’t too upset about it. I was there for Megadeth and most of all Slayer. I hadn’t seen either of them play in several years. This tour, originally called Leg 2 of the American Carnage Tour was renamed the Jagermeister Music Tour and there were some random college girls walking around giving out Jagermeister merch, and Kerry King even did a shot of Jager on the stage between songs at one point. It was weird seeing product placement in the middle of a Slayer gig like that. The main draw to this tour though was that Megadeth was playing their classic 1990 album Rust In Peace from start to finish and Slayer would be playing their album Seasons In The Abyss, also from 1990, straight through also. It was in Baltimore, and I’d never been to the 1st Mariner Arena before, but I couldn’t miss that.

I was coming to the show after work, where a friend had met me. I had called the venue ahead of time and they told me Megadeth would be hitting the stage around 8pm and Slayer at 9:30 so I had a frame of reference on how to get there. There was a bit of traffic when I left around 6:45 and we were sweating making the gig on time. When we got to Baltimore we parked in a garage directly across from the venue and booked it inside. Just by sheer luck we had parked on the side that was general admittance tickets only, which is what we had. So we quickly got down there, realized Megadeth wasn’t playing yet and got beers. As soon as we walked back out onto the main floor the lights dimmed and the show started, you can’t plan timing that good! Megadeth started with the Rust In Peace album right out of the gate. Holy Wars… The Punishment Due was the first song but people weren’t getting into the show right away. A lot of heads kinda bobbing and fist pumping but I don’t think I even saw a mosh pit until half way through their set. Megadeth’s main man Dave Mustaine switched out guitars several times through the night, even pulling out some double neck flying V (does that make it a flying W?) guitar at one point. He also mentioned the problems with their last concert in Baltimore, the one where someone poured a drink on the mixing board three songs into their set so the show was canceled. More info on that fiasco here. He also called that venue, Rams Head Live, a piece of shit, which got people laughing a bit. They had the Rust In Peace album cover backdrop up while playing the songs from that album, but switched it to an image with Megadeth’s mascot Vic doing a sort of fist bump thing with background artwork from their latest album, Endgame. They also had a guy wearing a suit and a Vic mask with skeleton gloves come out on stage during Dawn Patrol, I suppose to distract people from the weakest song on Rust In Peace. One thing that sucked was Dave’s vocals during Megadeth’s entire set were shitty! They weren’t consistent at all and just sounded awful, which you can hear in the videos I posted below. I don’t think it was his voice as much as the PA not working correctly or something. The band seemed to be having a lot of fun up there and even did an encore. I always think it’s kind of odd when a band does that who isn’t the headliner. Especially since Slayer did not do the encore gimmick this show. Regardless, it was fun seeing Megadeth play some of those killer though less played songs on Rust In Peace like Five Magics and Poison Was The Cure. I didn’t see them last March when they came to the 9:30 Club playing the same album, so this was great. After they had played the album they played Head Crusher from their latest album in a mix of Megadeth classics like Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? People were really into the show by the time they finished and everyone knew the intensity was about to go up once Slayer hit the stage. Another odd thing, Dave said “God bless you” to the audience as he left the stage, which wouldn’t be that weird (we all know he’s become a born again Christian) except for the fact that fucking Slayer was up next.

A white curtain was dropped to hide the stage while Slayer set up. The crowd was in a state of anticipation when they started projecting the Slayer logo onto the curtain. I worked my way to the front as close to the center as I could get, ended up about 3 or 4 people back the entire show. I saw Slayer play Reign In Blood in 2003 at the now razed Nation so I figured I’d see them play Seasons In The Abyss too, since that album is also awesome. Maybe they’ll play Show No Mercy straight through for the next tour! I had assumed that Slayer would start their set with War Ensemble, the first song on Seasons In The Abyss, but they surprised me and played a couple songs off their latest album, World Painted Blood. The title track and Hate Worldwide are decent songs I guess, but that’s not what people were here for. Just as the crowd’s enthusiasm started to wane Slayer burst into War Ensemble and got the show really going. The audience instantly came to life and the pushing and shoving up front started and didn’t stop until the end of the show. I’d say War Ensemble is one of Slayer’s more “mosh friendly” songs, but really how many Slayer songs aren’t great for moshing to? For those who have not seen Slayer before, their mosh pits are intense! They have one of the most rabid fan bases in all of metal, which is really saying something. And let me tell you it’s not easy taking pictures or shooting video in the middle of all that! Hell, just keeping yourself relatively still while Slayer is 10 feet in front of you playing Raining Blood or Angel Of Death is not an easy task even if nobody else was there. But I’m no rookie to mosh pits, I love this shit. I did see a few kids getting pissed about all the pushing and elbows they were getting, but I mean it’s Slayer, what were you expecting people to be standing around staring blankly like it’s a fucking Fugazi concert? They actually had the security pull them out of the crowd to leave the front and avoid having to go back through the mosh pit. Those kids could not handle the Slayer! This was the first time I’d seen Slayer since Tom Araya had his neck surgery, after which he no longer head bangs. Kind of weird but not a huge deal, it did mean I could get more good pics of him throughout the show though. They played Seasons In The Abyss as advertised and again it was great hearing them play some of those awesome songs that never get played live from that album. Temptation really got people going crazy too, which I wasn’t really expecting. The sound seemed better for their set than the Megadeth show, though you can judge that for yourself with the videos below. They finished the set with just a few of their classics, South Of Heaven and the like. The only odd thing was after playing Raining Blood they immediately went into Aggressive Perfector, which is a bonus track from the Reign In Blood album. They didn’t do an encore and you could tell when the show rather abruptly ended after Angel Of Death the audience still wanted more. Some people started chanting Slayer for them to come back but really that wasn’t going to happen. I was covered in sweat and bruises but damn if that wasn’t a fun show. I really liked this venue too, they had an open setup and the fact they let me shoot video the entire time was great too. After the show someone told me that somebody had broken a leg or something in the pit, apparently toward stage left. I’m definitely glad I got the floor tickets instead of seats, the intensity of being up front at a Slayer show is second to none, though I’m glad I wasn’t the one with anything broken! Now check out the two Megadeth and six Slayer videos I shot last night that are posted below. Enjoy!