Friday, September 30, 2011

The Big 4, The Bronx, New York - Yankee Stadium September 14, 2011

What you are about to read is a stream of consciousness in regards to the events of September 14-15th, 2011.  I need to stress, what I am about to write should not come across as gloating or in a braggart sort of tone.  This is just what I experienced during a brief 26 hour visit to the Rotten Apple! So read it, don’t read into it!

I think there are two very strong opinions on the whole ‘Big 4’ phenomenon.  And let’s face it, no matter what it is you think of it, it is a HUGE deal.  I’ve now been witness to two US ‘Big 4’ Festivals and I have had a total blast at each.  This stream of consciousness is definitely not a “review” of the show.  Basically both the Indio, CA show back in April and the one in New York share many a similarity.  However the differences between the two will be noted below.  Both will always be “deathbed” memories.  I’m serious.  I love my kids, of course.  Love my wife, without her I’m not here.  But my love of music? My music that has never left my side, my music that has been like a life saving device in my head ever since I can remember.  Some of these musical memories, especially those that have happened in the past several years sometimes leave me speechless.

I arrived into LaGuardia right on schedule.  No bags to check so I was out and about in a New York minute (sorry, last pun.)  It was a lot hotter here than in Chicago I could already tell.  In fact, it was hotter than fuck!  Back home it was a comfortable 40 degrees; here it was mid 80’s.  I jumped in a cab and instructed him to go to Yankee Stadium.  I was never the biggest sports guy in the world, but I love my baseball.  Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you it’s a big part of our family’s life.  I was excited as all hell to see the stadium.  It totally didn’t disappoint.  Even for a newer place, its vibe is inescapable; it was definitely an honor of sorts to be there, especially for this!  

I had time to kill so I tried to grab a burger at one of the many sports bars surrounding the area.  The first place I tried was packed with Metalheads!  Air-conditioning cranked it was wall-to-wall black t-shirts and it was insta-vibe.  Not that I needed a boost or something, but it wasn’t until I was surrounded by my kind that it all dawned on me.  I spent some time talking to local freaks before I decided to get on my way.  Crossing East 161st street I grabbed a slice and went on an exploratory walk.  

Sometime towards the end of my walk I received the call I was waiting for.  My friend Robb and his friend Monte had taken the subway in from Manhattan and were looking for me outside the stadium.  We ran into a friend of Monte’s named Todd Gordon.  Todd signed Exodus to their first ever record deal when he owned Torrid Records.  You may have seen him interviewed in ‘Get Thrashed,’ very cool guy.

So after some walking we found the check-in tent and we entered near what looked to be the receiving area of Yankee Stadium.  By this time it was about 3:45 and we headed straight for the stage.  There was a short video presentation of Anthrax getting an award from the president of the Bronx association or something.  We arrived backstage at about the same time as the band and watched the set from Scott Ian’s side of the stage.  
Us, along with Eddie Trunk and Mike Portnoy watched Anthrax storm the stage with new song “Fight ‘Em Till You Can’t.”  I won’t go song by song but I will say this.  This was one of the best Anthrax sets I’ve seen in maybe 15-20 years.  Yes the first “reunion” show in 2005 was killer, but this was different. That felt cool, but this was way more serious and it was a set delivered with intent.  

1. Fight 'Em Till You Can't
2. Got the Time
3. Madhouse
4. Caught in a Mosh
5. Antisocial
6. The Devil You Know
7. Indians
8. Metal Thrashing Mad
9. I Am The Law

New songs sounded great, the band was giving it 110% and even though it’s basically the same set-list as Indio, like I said this was way different.  This didn’t feel like a heritage band playing 20 year old classics, and let’s face it there’s been a lot of times I’ve seen Anthrax act as one. 

Still can’t stand “AntiSocial,” and “Got The Time,” these songs went over huge.  What do I know?  Truthfully though Joey Belladonna kicks ass on ‘Worship Music’ and he killed it at Yankee Stadium.  

Speaking of killing, the Bronx crowd came to rage and rage they did.  This was one of the biggest differences between the two US shows.  The NY crowd was way intense.

Megadeth were next and well, they played.  Of their set-list we saw maybe three or so songs before deciding it was time to grab some food.  This is the second time in as many months I’ve chosen food over Megadeth, not just any food, but this time it was Yankee Stadium’s finest.  The spread was out of this world and it was great to escape the heat and relax for a while.  

I’m not saying I dislike Megadeth, but unlike Anthrax, what (little) I saw here left a lot to be desired.  The band was tight enough, but at the same time they looked under rehearsed…does make sense? Adding insult to injury, Dave Mustaine’s neck injury seemed to take its toll, vocally. Chris Broderick remains a highlight of any Megashow and watching him shred was what I missed most during lunch. 

1. Trust
2. Hangar 18
3. She-Wolf
4. Public Enemy No. 1 (new song I didn’t hear)
5. Head Crusher
6. A Tout Le Monde
7. Sweating Bullets
8. Symphony of Destruction
9. Peace Sells
10. Holy Wars... The Punishment Due 

Slayer on the other hand…Slayer were fucking great!  I was blown away by the band with Gary Holt in Indio, but this was next level kind of brutality.  I don’t know if it’s because Gary is so in-tune with the band at this point or what, but they put a hurting on the Bronx.

Opening with “Disciple” from 2001's "God Hates Us All,' the crowd were so into it the time between Megadeth and Slayer must have felt like forever in the crowd, when Slayer took the stage the place just erupted! The sound for the whole show was superb, the clarity during Slayer's set was remarkable.  So for the next 50+ minutes time stood still as the band tore through a catalog of classics and new ‘World Painted Blood’ material to a maniacal response.  

As I mentioned before Gary Holt has locked in with Kerry King and together they make a devastating pair flanking front man Tom Araya.  I’ll be blasphemous here and say the two Holt-Slayer shows I’ve seen have destroyed some of the Hanneman era stuff of the past several years.  Maybe it’s the new blood infused or maybe it’s just a satanic coincidence?  Not sure, but if Slayer continue to dominate live like this, they can tour for the next decade or so health withstanding.

In five months (February 2012) Dave Lombardo will celebrate his decade back on the throne for Slayer and I couldn’t imagine anyone else back there.  Paul Bostaph did a fine job during his tenure, but no one plays like Dave.  I was fortunate enough to watch the man work up-close for the first time in several years, his playing was simply extraordinary! He was like a metallic Keith Moon with the abstract way he attacks the kit.  It was amazing to see him work within the context of the band as the three stringed members of the band would come back to the kit and watch him and watch for cues.  Awesome.   

Also, I have to say the intro to “Raining Blood” was way fucking E-V-I-L!  I’m serious, I’ve heard that song how many times live?  Well this was the first time since oh, say 1988 that I actually got goose bumps during the intro.  Not fucking around, it was awesome!  

2. 'Postmortem'
3. 'Hate Worldwide'
4. 'War Ensemble'
5. 'Psychopathy Red'
6. 'Mandatory Suicide'
7. 'Chemical Warfare'
8. 'Silent Scream'
9. 'Dead Skin Mask'
10. 'Snuff'
11. 'South Of Heaven'
12. 'Raining Blood'
13. 'Black Magic'
14. 'Angel Of Death'    

Metallica took the stage at the early time of 8:30 or so and as much as I enjoyed Anthrax, as much as I enjoyed my catered lunch, and as much as I enjoyed Slayer…it was all over with the opening riff of “Creeping Death.”  People, you cannot fuck with the catalog of hits Metallica have up their sleeves and it’s almost impossible not to have a great time while the band is performing.  Sure you can stand there and critique or take pot shots at the band for a number of reasons, but at the end of the day they’re one of the most powerful live bands I’ve ever heard, stadium setting or not. 

Their set, like the other bands was very similar to Indio, but truthfully I felt it was a great selection back in April and still do now.   Well paced with old and new material, the new stuff was given an incredible response and the classics?  Again, just a wealth of material to choose from and all delivered like the band had something to prove.  I’ve been seeing Metallica live since 1986 and have yet to see them phone it in. 

Getting to re-live this show with my brother Robb was something I won’t soon forget.  Over the years we’ve talked at great length about Metallica’s impact on our lives.  When he toured with them in 2009 I felt privileged to get to hear stories and experiences and he has this way of including me in some of these experiences, tonight was one of those nights.  

Thanks to Metallica Security, we were allowed to watch the show un-obstructed from Kirk’s side of the stage…sitting on the stage!  No bullshit, it was fucking unreal, feeling the power of the band as well as the 40 or 50,000 in attendance was, yeah…something.  

1. Creeping Death
2. For Whom the Bell Tolls
3. Fuel
4. Ride the Lightning
5. Fade to Black
6. Cyanide
7. All Nightmare Long
8. Sad But True
9. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
10. Orion
11. One
12. Master Of Puppets
13. Blackened
14. Nothing Else Matters
15. Enter Sandman

16. Overkill (w/ members of Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, & Exodus)
17. Battery
18. Seek & Destroy

The “Overkill” jam was something of a surprise and went pretty kick ass from what I can remember.  I got a bunch of shitty pix from it, but what I remember most was all the smiles and how much fun everyone was having and needless to say that vibe of metallic bliss was contagious because everyone around us was in a really good mood.  One of the coolest things I can think of was getting to see Gary Holt and Kirk Hammett jamming together!  

Really, if the original “Big 4” jam in Indio was jacked to see Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield on the same stage this was kinda similar for different reasons, of course!   Fucking “Battery” followed up the jam, it was a raging version and the night ended with the beach ball drop during “Seek and Destroy” and that brought the music to an end. 

We went back to the underbelly of Yankee Stadium to have a few drinks and talk to the assorted people hanging around.  I don’t want to start name dropping more than I already have, but as a fan of Heavy Metal I couldn’t believe some of the people I’d come in contact with over the course of the night.  While mingling, Robb got his invites to the after party and like I said earlier, he has this way of looking out for me. 

Which was very cool, but one small problem, we’re in The Bronx with no transportation and the after party is in Manhattan.  We’re sure the fuck not going to take the subway, ya know?  So as we’re figuring things out Robb disappears for a few minutes. He comes back saying he found us a ride and we’re good to go.  So this is a good thing, right?  I think it was a 30 or so minute ride and it would have sucked to take public transportation, especially being loaded and un-familiar with the subway system as a whole. 

We walk through several doors of the cavernous Yankee Stadium and arrive at an area with several totally blacked out SUV’s…next thing I know I’m in one of these SUV’s with Robert Trujillo and Metalli-scribe Steffan Chirazi and a few of Robert’s guests on my way to the ‘Big 4’ after party!  So take a moment to re-read that shit… I had my Led Zeppelin, “The Song Remains The Same” moment, me in a limo leaving a NY arena after the rock show!   It was one of the most surreal moments in my life and like I said, “he has a way of including me in these experiences.”   The after party was legendary and I had so many amazing chats with people from all over the globe, two weeks later and my head is still spinning.

So that’s it.  26 hours in the Big Apple with an experience to last a lifetime is a small price to pay for how I felt that morning headed back to LaGuardia.  I’m not sure how to end this really, it was one of those moments that I was fortunate to experience and I guess that’s the way to go out.  Many thanks to each and every soul I encountered on this trip, those I missed meeting and those who I had no idea were even there!  Eternal thanks to my brother Robb for ALWAYS having my back. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


For the past 25 years now, the date of September 27th has been a somber one.  No doubt about it, it's a heavy day for millions and millions of Heavy Metal, as well as all sorts of Rock music devotees.  As a weird metallic twist, as we remember the departed on this day we also get a chance to celebrate!

In Stores (what are those? right kidz?) Today is the new album by MACHINE HEAD, 'Unto The Locust.'  It's been a long time since I've put my head in "review mode" so I'm not even going to try.  This album is about as good as it gets and if you choose not to listen, or even check it truly is your loss. 

I think the goal of any band is to progress and try to build on what you've already done.  A LOT of bands end up running out of steam and end up writing and re-writing the same thing year after year.  This is not the case with 'Unto The Locust.'  It speaks to me, it satisfies me, it motivates me.  No matter what you listen to, music should do this for you.  As a fan, I'm extremely proud of this album, has it been worth the four year wait?  

"Music My Savior, Save Me"

9.27.2011 - 25 years gone. 

Funny enough, I agree with Mr. Mick Wall...Cliff would have loved the Lou Reed/Metallica stuff.  From what I've heard of it, it sounds about as against the grain as you can be.  Right up Cliff's alley.   Regardless, lotsa people missing you dude.  You left your mark and will always be remembered.