I was pretty excited when the first ASHES dIVIDE show in over a year was announced on a date that nicely coincided with my Alice in Chains LA trip. I mean, it was perfect- fly into the OC, my friend’s place is 15 minutes in one direction and the concert venue is 15 minutes in the other.
Even though my flight was delayed an hour, and we stopped to grab a bite to eat- where I got ready in the bathroom (always awesome under fluorescent lights)- we still made it there very early.
The Galaxy Theater is tucked away on a side street in strip mall suburbia. It’s very unassuming, reminding me of Soma in San Diego. After grabbing our tickets from will call, we walked through the front door and I saw a very familiar face. My friend and I looked at each other, and I said, ‘I think that’s Leo?!’ and she said, ‘yeah, I thought that, too!’.
My friend and I are NIN friends- we met in line at a show a year ago. Leo worked on NIN tours since the beginning of time or something, and since we followed them around, we got to know him a bit. I even got my pic with him once.
We walked through the cavernous venue to the stage to check out the first opener who was on. We quickly decided to go back out to the lobby. The theme of the night for all three opening bands ended up being ‘good band, but I don’t like the vocalist’. But we made the trek back and forth every time to make an effort.
The Galaxy Theater is a weird venue. The entryway has several cubby holes; as you walk towards the stage area there’s a large room with a bar, and then there’s the actual theater. It’s pretty big- the pictures were deceiving. There’s a semi circle with tiers, and booths line them with a bar at the back. And then there’s a small floor pit area. I feel like the place used to be a skating rink or a bowling alley before- the layout was weird, the sound felt too small for a big room, and then there were the people.
It’s the OC, so HRC is like a fish out of water…that’s a given. But it was this really bizarre mix of families, cougars, skatepark kids, emo twentysomethings, You Could Be a Part-Time Model types, and a smattering of rockers. They serve food there, so a lot of people were sitting in booths eating. I don’t like to mix rock and food. I sipped vodka crans in the back while my friend and I caught up on our drama filled weeks. Periodically Leo would patrol the area, just like old times.
Finally it was time for AD. Fog had filled the room, and they began with ‘The Sword’, which might be my favorite AD song. Immediately I was really frustrated with the sound…there was a lot of feedback. I could tell people were scurrying around working on it, though, but it persisted through several songs.
At the beginning, it was apparent that this was the first show in a while for them. They sounded good, but there was a definite stiffness there. This was new guitarist Jonny Radtke’s, formerly of Kill Hannah, first show with them. The original guitarist was Andy Gerold, who now plays bass for Manson.
We moved around to explore the sound. ‘Forever Can Be’ (maybe that is my favorite AD song) comes up, and things are sounding better. But it was when they played a new song- still untitled- that was the real turning point in the set. It was like a switch flipped, and from there on out, they relaxed and the sound was better. The new song sounds great- it’s on the harder, more up-tempo side of the AD spectrum…it got the crowd moving.
It was funny to see the stage lined with mostly Billy Howerdel fanboys, who were, oddly enough, in Tool shirts. Howerdel, who’s other project was (is? I hope!) A Perfect Circle, is a great songwriter and an interesting guitarist to watch. He’s so tall in comparison to the lithe Radtke that the contrast was almost cartoonish. It was good to see bassist Matt McJunkins and drummer Jeff Friedl (who I interviewed back in December) again- they will be hitting the road with Puscifer again soon.
I noticed a unicorn sitting on one of the speakers. I know that Combichrist’s Joe Letz also has a thing for unicorns, but the way this one was positioned on the speaker reminded me of Dave Navarro’s Barbie.
Howerdel spoke to the crowd a little- but he seemed hesitant. “I need a lesson on how to talk to the crowd like ’80s cock rock”.
After the new song, it was smooth sailing to the end of the set- ‘Stripped Away’ and ‘A Wish’ (maybe those are my favorite AD songs…hmmm…) were very strong, and they finished with ‘The Stone’.
Hopefully this is just the beginning of a big year for AD. I know fans are anxiously awaiting a new album and tour.
As we were walking out, we noticed another familiar NIN face- Danny Lohner! He was taking pictures and signing stuff for someone else, so we decided to go bug him as well. We told him how much we enjoyed the NIN show he played at during the final shows, chatted with him about Alice in Chains, and took this pretty epic pic where he wanted to go hip hop. I don’t know why, but it is hilarious:
He pointed out that Josh Freese was there, and also Leo. It was like a little NIN reunion…awwww….I swear everything in my life is like 3 degrees of NIN. Maybe 2.
We were going to hang out for a bit, but then some guy asked us if we ‘wanted to go party’, which never leads to any good….so we respectfully declined and left The Galaxy.