The story really began Sunday afternoon when I purchased a drink at the airport and got back $6.66 in change:
I’m flying back from Las Vegas. We’re beginning the descent into SFO, when the most excruciating pain hits me. This head cold led to ear issues, and suddenly, I can’t hear in my right ear. It’s as if someone is sticking needles in my eardrum. The pain mostly subsides, but I will remain deaf in my right ear until the end of the evening. This prompts me into pondering a slew of what if scenarios…..where I reassure myself that if I ever lose my hearing, I can at least still go to shows to see and feel the music.
It feels like I just throw down my luggage and leave for this show. It’s in the low 40s and starting to drizzle as I wait in line to get inside DNA. It was nice to see the place already packed for the first opener, Merrimack. This French black metal band is definitely my thing…..they look great, they sound pretty good, too. The guitarist has an upside down crucifix glued onto his guitar. The one thing that kept making me giggle though was the size disparity between the vocalist and everyone else, but especially the other guitarist….the difference was like three feet. The vocalist is a giant…which makes him all the more daunting in corpse paint and spiked gauntlets. I felt like their energy could have been a bit better, and the lights a little dimmer. So I’m standing there checking out the band when I keep noticing this sound behind me, so I turn around to see this woman staring at the band repeating “wow wow wow wow woohooo wooohhoooo wow wow wow” non stop in a high pitched voice. It was so fucking weird it creeped me out more than the band. She had a roller bag with her, and once the band finished, her wailings continued, as she rolled the bag to the stage and then towards the back of the venue. Clearly she was either crazy or has some weird form of Tourette’s offset by French black metal bands, for I never saw or heard her the rest of the night.
After the set I spotted a guy in King inspired corpse paint and gauntlets. That reminds me….Santa! All I want for Christmas is for King to come to the US in any of his bands….PLEASE!
Black Anvil, from New York, were up next. For the first half of their set I was into it, and then they lost me. Perhaps seeing bright orange boxers shorts peer out from the rest of the singer/bassists’ all black attire interrupted their flow for me…..it’s the little things.
Mantic Ritual were the odd one on the bill. From Pittsburgh, these guys looks like they haven’t eaten a real meal in months….I wanted to take them home with me and cook them a nice meal. Once they started, the crowd came alive and went nuts. I’ve been having fun watching these neo-thrash bands like Warbringer, Lazarus A. D., Skeletonwitch, and Toxic Holocaust; I missed all of this stuff the first time around, maybe even the second….but I’m here now. Their guitarist is quite good; and all the guys smile a lot and really look like they enjoy what they are doing…which, once again, makes them the odd band on this bill. Not to say the other bands don’t enjoy what they do…but death metal boys don’t smile.
Between sets I said hi to a friend, who’s friend made an offhand comment to me about getting them backstage. I’d so had it at this point of the weekend, between the previous night and this….nsiogaoirgioarioenrgkn!!! You know, it’d be one thing if the reputation of being a groupie was warranted…..there’s nothing worse than having a rep for something that you’re not even taking part in.
Whoa…had it really only been six months since I saw Nachtmystium open for Pentagram? They have made some changes, for the better, I’d say. The crowd was definitely much more familiar with their music.
During setup, vocalist Blake Judd pointed out that the center monitor wasn’t delivering any sound. I’m not sure if they fixed it or not, but they finished setup and went upstairs. Approximately 10 minutes later, or the amount of time it takes for Judd to remove his shirt, put on his arm bands, and don black eye makeup, they return under the veil of dramatic lighting.
I’m still trying to figure out their music- which is a good thing. It’s a very different hybrid of things I like but wouldn’t normally put together- psychedelic and black metal. Coupled with the fact that I keep forgetting that these guys are from Chicago…Nachtmystium are puzzling, in a good way. Their set was much more brooding and dramatic than last time. The vocalist from Merrimack joined them for a song, once again dwarfing everyone on stage.
There’s a great interview with Judd here.
Marduk were supposed to be here earlier this year with Mayhem, but visa issues kept them out of the country. So anticipation for this set was high, indicative by the number of random emails I got from people who were excited about this show. There was one guy setting up for them, and granted, I don’t ever claim to know anything about instruments, but I was a little surprised to see a camo guitar emerge from that case.
When the guys descended the steps onto the stage, their appearance was a much more muted black metal look than Merrimack. The crowd chanted ‘Marduk!’ to pay their respect. As the set began, everything sounded a bit off to me, but I thought it was my hearing issues. They kept trucking along, so I thought for sure the issues were on my end, even when I started hearing high pitched feedback from that same center monitor that was giving Nachtmystium issues. I was standing at the side of the stage at this point, watching the faces of the ecstatic folks in the front row. And then I could tell that Mortuus, the vocalist, was getting really pissed off. Like not part of the music pissed off. He started spitting excessively and the tech was being summoned by both Mortuus and Evil to look at the equipment. The high pitched noise persisted and for the most part they chugged along…the sound was probably better for those in the majority of the venue than for me since I was essentially hearing what the band was hearing. But then Mortuus had it- he picked up a mic stand and looked as if he was going to throw it javelin style into the crowd, then thought better and slammed it into the stage along with the mic. I thought, ‘this is it, they’re done’, but they settled down and kept going. Evil and Devo would simply turn around and go into a musical holding pattern when Mortuus would have issues.
All of this was distracting for me as far as enjoying the music, though I did get off on watching Lars the drummer (funny, I saw another Lars the drummer the night before…) eloquently speed drum through the songs.
Another break to fiddle with equipment, and Mortuus explains that, obviously, they are having technical difficulties. And then, out of nowhere, this guy who I had seen up in the balcony appears behind Mortuus and puts his arm around him, and Mortuus essentially heaves the guy up and into the crowd like a wrestler. It was actually quite impressive. You know when something really unexpected happens at a show when everyone around you pulls out their phones and texts or tweets about it.
Despite all of this, they just kept going, and even came back out for a one song encore, though it was introduced by saying, ‘thanks for the worst sound on the tour DNA Lounge!’. I’m not sure who’s fault any of this was, but I don’t think anyone left that gig unhappy.
I left the venue and ran back to the car in the cold wet rain. It was the perfect weather.
Read another take on the show here.
See some awesome pics form the night here.