Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Flashback: Anthrax Hanukkah & Christmas Card

I received Anthrax in the mail long before the attacks in 2001. The State of Euphoria inspired wording on the card leads me to believe it arrived in 1988, but two thousand gin and tonics later, my memory is a little fuzzy.

Heavy Metal Hanukkah.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Flashback: Pantera Christmas Card 1991

Once upon a time, you could write a letter to bands and if the stars aligned properly, you'd be added to their mailing list. The younger and less popular the band was, the better your odds were for receiving something from the band. I think I had Prodigy at this point, but it was well before the internet was widely used, and long before bands would spam you to death with stupid emails put together by someone who seemingly forgot what it's like to be a fan. But I digress.

At that age, when something would arrive in the mail for me, it was always cause for excitement. If that something was music related: bootleg audio/video, music mags, metal zines, band fanclub stuff, I'd go ape shit. And even though I wasn't that big a fan of Cowboys From Hell, I was pretty amazed when this showed up in the mail.

Primal Concrete Santa

"Now On Tour With Skid Row"

Vulgar Display of Power would be released in early February, and a couple weeks later we saw them live at the Vic for the record release show and launch of the tour.

Pantera with....Fates Warning?

A lucky choice of places to eat allowed us to meet 3/4 of Pantera before the show. But that's another story for another time.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Retro Review: Smashing Pumpkins at Metro, Chicago 1999

Smashing Pumpkins

Metro - Chicago, IL
December 20 + 21, 1999

Show poster signed by head Pumpkin.

I can't remember when it was announced, but the Pumpkins were going to play two shows at Metro for two reasons: One was to benefit a local food bank. They requested that all ticket holders bring two cans of food. The other reason was to debut their new bass player, Melissa Auf Der Maur, recruited from Hole, who replaced D'arcy on bass...because D'arcy was a raging lunatic crackhead.

It would also mark the first Chicago performances since Jimmy Chamberlin returned to the band. Exiled in '96 after a tragic episode in New York, the band was never the same without him. They were competent with Matt Walker, but Jimmy and Billy combine to take the music to a level unattainable by any other pairing.  

Anyway, it was insanely cold on this day, and the temps were in the single digits when we arrived to see fans huddled in blankets in a line that stretched down the block. Politics dictated that I wouldn't be on the guest list and was instead forced to actually buy a ticket on my own. I know, right? A bottle of Jager numbed our senses while the cold numbed everything else. At some point after the line started to move, we recognized a friend working security who escorted us inside sans Jager bottle. 

Rumors in the days leading up to the show were that the band would be playing new material. Pumpkins fans get mad when the band does this in 2013, but it's really been their M.O. for as long as I can remember. The four Double Door shows in '95 included almost 100% of new material. In fact, almost every tour I can recall leaned heavily on new songs. 

Anyway, the first few songs played this night were new. And they went over really well, especially "Heavy Metal Machine." And that may seem strange if you hate the version on Machina, but I can tell you that it rocked before Billy reworked it and Flood ruined it.

The most interesting thing during those two nights at Metro was the heavier renditions of older Pumpkins songs. I'll always like the originals, but I have a fondness for the dark energy in the songs during that period. 

That version of Zero just fucking rips. 

The same is true for Adore. I typically ignore the song, unless it's from this era.

Despite the coolness of hearing new takes on some of the older songs, I was most struck by how well Melissa Auf Der Maur (MADM) played with the band, especially with Chamberlin. Despite being behind the drum kit, Jimmy has enormous presence on stage and his playing commands so much attention it's almost as though he's the lead instrument on most songs. But MADM kept pace with him, which was stark contrast to D'Arcy...who routinely struggled just to keep the bass line, let alone hold down the fort with Jimmy. 

James Iha was, as usual, an understated but essential presence, conjuring the sound of evil violins and mutant hummingbirds with his strings, e-bows and foot pedals, weaving his solos into the fabric of the songs. But it was Billy who seemed most on a mission; intent to let everyone know he was still relevant in the midst of Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit saturating the radio airwaves. 

Night One featured a more standard set, if such a thing exists for the Pumpkins. Although "I Am One" was more of a rant than a song, and had alternative "lyrics." Night Two featured a similar core set, but also included blistering version of "X.Y.U." and a cover Black Sabbath's "Supernaut."

I remember being hopeful about the new album, which I vaguely recall Billy describing as "Joy Division meets Black Sabbath." Sadly, it was neither, and the versions played live in '99 remain far superior to what ultimately ended up on the album. And just one year later, Billy would pull the plug on the whole thing.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Flashback: Metallica at Broadway Jack's, Chicago 1983


Broadway Jack's - Chicago, IL
Early and Late Set - December 15, 1983

Show Flyer and Kirk's setlist from late show

I've only missed three Metallica shows in Chicago, two of them were performed thirty years ago today.
After a performance at Metro with Raven on the "Kill Em All For One" tour earlier in the summer, Metallica returned for an encore appearance in the Windy City.

A friend who was lucky enough to be in attendance was underage. After the all ages first set was finished, he and his friend hid under a pool table so they could see the second show. Early Metal Dedication!

Metallica - Broadway Jack's, Chicago 1983

Metallica - Broadway Jack's, Chicago 1983

Bootlegs of both shows can easily be found, and besides looseness of the band and banter between band and fans, one of the more interesting things is the inclusion of "When Hell Freezes Over," the working title of the song that would ultimately become "The Call of Ktulu" on Ride The Lightning when it was released in July 1984.

Metallica - Broadway Jack's, Chicago 1983

Metallica - Broadway Jack's, Chicago 1983

Recently, the contract for these two shows along with the rider (reused from their summer tour with Raven) have been unearthed. Metallica commanded $625 per 75 minute set that evening. A far cry from the $4M nightly average Metallica pulled in 2012. 

It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock n roll.. 

Enter Sandwich

"Time has taken its toll on you...The lines that crack your face."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Retro Review: KISS at Tiger Stadium, Detroit 1996

KISS | Alice in Chains | Sponge

Tiger Stadium - Detroit, MI
June 28, 1996

I was born in ‘76.  As such, I missed the KISS heyday of the 70s. One day while watching 3-2-1 Contact, they did a special on light and sound.  The segment consisted of the inner workings of a KISS concert. They showed the roadies setting the stage and lighting rig up, flying the speakers, etc. During the show, the focus was on the soundboard and the gigantic panel of knobs and switches. One guy working the sound while the other cued the lights. Then they went backstage and we saw the pyro guys. In addition to this, were cuts of the actual concert itself.

All of this combined to overwhelm my senses and when you’re a five year old boy, these things combine to BLOW YOUR FUCKING MIND.

As chance would have it, sometime very soon after that experience, I was in my cousin’s house looking through his record collection.  There, somewhere in the middle, was KISS ALIVE II.  Have you seen the gatefold?


I stole that record from him, and in a short amount of time stole his entire KISS collection. He also had old Circus, Hit Parader and 16 magazines with KISS on the cover. Circus and Hit Parader focused on the music and live shows. 16 told me what kind of ice cream Paul liked the most. They also had order forms for back issues, and I requested an assload of these for my birthday. I still remember as each package of 20-30 magazines arriving. Pouring over the info, cutting out the photos and creating a custom KISS wallpaper in my room.

I have to thank my parents for being cool about it. It must have been strange to have their five year old son obsessing over a rock band who, in ‘80-‘81, were about as cool as Milli Vanilli is today.
The KISS obsession was short lived. The introduction into rock music led to other bands, and ultimately my word was turned upside down when my cousin took me to a Metallica concert in ‘85. But that’s another story for another day.

Fast forward (go back?) to 1996. KISS announced their Reunion Tour and I kind of laughed it off. During the 80s, there was always talk of the original band reuniting and putting the makeup back on, but it never materialized. When tickets went on sale, I blew it off. And then I heard on the radio that the first show at Tiger Stadium had sold 45k tickets in under an hour. The first Chicago show was sold out, a second was put on sale and also sold out.

Call me a follower. Call it the hive mind mentality. Call it whatever you want, I had to go see this fucking show. And I had to see it in Detroit Rock City.

So began my love/hate relationship with ticket brokers. I loved that I could have access to great seats, but hated that they had gamed the system to aquire said great seats. The ridiculous prices proved no match for my credit cards and I secured tickets for the tour opener and subsequent shows in the area.

Detroit ROT City. Upon arriving in Detroit, we found that whenever KISS wrote that song about this city, it must have been a much different time. Many jokes are made about Detroit, but unlike Cleveland - a place I fucking hate and consider the most boring place on earth - I actually felt bad for Detroit. But enough about that.

The day of the show was awesome. There atmosphere was electric. There are very few times when you go to an event, and it lives up to it’s hype and just feels like something really amazing is about to take place. This was one of those events. There were TV trucks galore surrounding the stadium; every major news and entertainment channel had reporters interviewing fans outside. It reminded me of being outside of a stadium the day of a World Series game.

Inside, KISS WORLD was in full swing. Previously, I thought the merch stand at Rolling Stones and Iron Maiden shows was crazy, they didn’t hold a candle to the KISS merch phenomenon. I wanted a t shirt, and waited about 40 minutes to finally make my way up to the front, during which time the guy in front of me spent $600 on various pieces of Kiss Krap.  We drank some a lot of beer and made our way down to the seats on the field.

I was indifferent about one opener, and ecstatic about the other.

Indifference: SPONGE   Ecstatic: ALICE IN CHAINS

I had seen AIC at Lolla and then later that same year on the Dirt tour. Besides that, AIC rarely toured due to Layne’s never ending substance abuse problems. Stone Temple Pilots were originally supposed to have the support slot on this tour, but Scott Weiland had been ordered into a court-ordered rehab.  Thus, ironically, AIC filled in.  Layne looked pretty frail and didn't move around very much, but their set was great, and although they were huge KISS fans, they mockingly did a few bars of "Beth" and the rabid crowd quickly turned on them. Anything and everything was thrown at the band.

And then we waited.

It got dark and helicopters circled overhead. Finally, the stadium lights were turned out. Darkness.
The anticipation level jumped a notch, or twelve.

The dark rumble boomed from the speakers, blue spotlights were everywhere in the crowd. And then, of course, “You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world….”  The crowd was louder than the PA at the moment “KISS” was screamed. The curtain dropped, explosions erupted and THERE. THEY. WERE.

After many many years of reading about the legendary KISS show, and having only seen a crappy 80s glam era hair band crap version in ‘86, and a couple sad iterations in the early 90s, here was the real deal. The field wasn’t general admission, but flimsy folding chairs. Unlike most places that go with these types of chairs, they weren’t zip-tied together. It should also be noted that after AIC, many many people were flooding the field. Security was lax, and didn’t know how to deal with this many people. If you had a ticket in the stands or upper deck and really wanted to get on the field, it wasn’t hard to accomplish.

So, while it technically wasn’t general admission. Our already pretty awesome center section seats were dramatically upgraded when a crush of fans came up behind us. You either moved forward, or you were pushed to the side. And then the chairs started being thrown — not at the band, but straight up in the air.  All around us, pinwheeling chairs in the air. Security began imploring everyone to pass the chairs to them, at the rail.  Also of note: The people in line with us getting beer who bragged about spending $4000 on front row tickets were now about three people behind us.

The front section was about 40 rows, followed by a space, and the rest of the rows. We looked back and in that space, there was a line of security guards with their arms interlocked to prevent more people from rushing forward. Now, compared to a metal concert, this wasn’t any worse. It was definitely manageable, but some people were furious in light of the money they spent for their little piece of real estate that was now gone.

The setlist was perfect. I thought I noticed a few screw ups, but nothing that made me shake my head or think it was anything less than a success. And the crowd… The crowd reminded me of concerts in the 80s, when EVERYONE was engaged and involved. It had lived up to, and surpassed everything I imagined a KISS concert could be. Pyro that didn’t stop. Gene spit blood, and flew to the top of the lighting rig. Ace’s guitar shot rockets. Risers for the band at the finale, and Peter’s drum solo that propelled him 30 feet in the air.

I caught Gene Simmons’ pick after it bounced off someone’s hands. It was a great show. We left with our clothes drenched in sweat and completely satisfied.  It would be a few months before bootleg videos of the show would hit the various bulletin boards online. I finally received the video in the mail - remember VHS? The video, a line feed from MTV's footage, revealed a ton of mistakes by the band and kind of shit all over my once perfect memories of the concert.

Coincidentally, KISS’ decision to carry on, largely as a nostalgia act has also dampened my view of the band. Yeah, I was happy they came back and made untold millions to pad the retirement account, and yeah I was happy to see them make concerts special again and show the contrast with bands who charge top dollar to watch them stand on stage and stare back at you.  But the drive was gone, the new music they did put out sucked, and they became a caricature of themselves. But for that brief moment in ‘96-‘97, those shows were damn near magical.

1. Deuce
2. King Of The Night Time World
3. Do You Love Me
4. Calling Dr. Love
5. Cold Gin
6. I Stole Your Love
7. Shout It Out Loud
8. Watchin´ You
9. Firehouse
10. Shock Me (with Ace guitar solo)
11. Strutter
Rock Bottom
13. God Of Thunder (With Gene bass and Peter drum solos)
14. New York Groove
15. Love Gun
16. 100.000 Years
17. Black Diamond

18. Detroit Rock City
19. Beth
20. Rock And Roll All Nite

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Live Review: Corrections House at Empty Bottle, Chicago 2013

Corrections House | Bloodyminded

Empty Bottle - Chicago, IL
November 30, 2013


Supergroup is a term that 1) is used too often and 2) scares me. For every Cream and Down, there's many more bands like Hellyeah, Chickenfoot....and Damnocracy. I had reservations about Corrections House, but their lineup does come with influential pedigree: Mike IX Williams of Eyehategod on vocals, Scott Kelly of Neurosis on guitar, Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont handling noise, backing vocals and sax (more on that later), and prolific producer/Minsk member Sanford Parker at the helm of a laptop, drum machine, and sampler.

My concern was how they'd bring their respective styles together into one cohesive unit. I'm a huge EHG and Neurosis fan, but -- despite their Chicago backgrounds -- less a fan of the creative output from Lamont and Parker. I was going to skip the show, but then I received two texts from friends at Empty Bottle. So I caved, called a car on Uber and headed over.

The skinny pants/neck beard crowd was out in force for this show. I had a beer, or four, and Bloodyminded went on stage. I'm not going to pretend to know their history, but apparently they just released an album for the first time in seven years. People around me seemed to care, at least as much as that type of crowd shows it cares: subtle head nods while otherwise looking bored to death with their existence on this planet.

To me, Bloodyminded sounded like the bullshit droning sound effects some bands put between songs. Sort of like Rob Zombie, but without the kitschiness. I kept waiting for something to happen, but instead it just droned on and on and....I had to exit. I see that Pitchfork has given their new ponderous bullshit album a favorable review. Nuff' said.

When Corrections House finally took the stage, they were all dressed in black uniforms with a CH logo on their arm and back. It kinda reminded me of Anthrax lately, Slipknot, or.... Devo. Anyway, Parker laid the groundwork with a bunch of Industrial Metal sounding beats, samples, and noise. Lamont joined him to add to the flourish of volume. And that's when I noticed the saxophone. I had forgotten about Lamont playing the sax, but I recoiled in fear at the thought of willingly subjecting myself to it. I'd rather get a root canal than listen to a saxophone.

I blended the CH logo with the band onstage because I can be pretentiously artsy too.

The sounds being created wore thin on me. Finally, Mike IX and Kelly appeared, and the sweet and familiar Scott Kelly tone made its appearance. Mike IX clutched a notebook and alternated between spoken word and more of his typical screaming/singing. There were moments when it worked, and it worked well. A violent storm of Mike IX's guttural screams of desperation, and Kelly's tone and low end vocals layered over the existing noise is something you'd listen to after the end of the world.

Unfortunately, there's a very fine line between experimentation and obnoxiousness. And this set veered toward the latter far too much. I'm all for ugly, loud, and punishing music that challenges me. But the art project component here killed the vibe. And then there was that fucking saxophone. It didn't matter that Lamont ran it through an effects pedal. It's still a saxophone and it still ruins my night.

Subsequent listens of the new album Lost City Zero have created a weird scenario where I enjoy the album more than the live experience. But even then, it's not an album I'll listen to on a regular basis. I like it when artists try to veer from the center and do something uniquely their own -- but only if it works. And it turns out that doom + drone + noise + spoken word + fucking saxophone doesn't work.
Corrections House, whose lineup reads like a list of influences. Mike Williams of Eyehategod on vocals, Scott Kelly of Neurosis on guitar, Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont handling sax, backing vocals and noise, and producer/Nachtmystium member Sanford Parker - See more at: http://theobelisk.net/obelisk/2013/01/22/corrections-house-live-review/#sthash.6vRNU8Yt.dpuf
Corrections House, whose lineup reads like a list of influences. Mike Williams of Eyehategod on vocals, Scott Kelly of Neurosis on guitar, Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont handling sax, backing vocals and noise, and producer/Nachtmystium member Sanford Parker - See more at: http://theobelisk.net/obelisk/2013/01/22/corrections-house-live-review/#sthash.6vRNU8Yt.dpuf