Confessions of a Casual FNM Fan: Faith No More, White Trash Debutantes, Neil Hamburger, and the El Camino High School Cheerleaders @ The Warfield, 4/14/10
I went to this show afraid. Very, very afraid.
I’ve always heard people talk about Faith No More, and Mike Patton in particular, with a certain tone in their voice, a particular look in their eyes. For people who know music- live music- this is one of those bands. The kind that resemble a religion, creating followers, myths, disciples, and fanatics.
I have a very vivid memory of watching the video for ‘Epic’ in my friend’s brother’s room in the early ’90s. As a pre-teen who had a stack of GNR, Metallica, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam CDs…I found the rap-ish vocals laid over rock music…confusing. So I never dove into Faith No More’s catalog, and the band’s existence dwindled by the time I started exploring music more. I did listen to a lot of Mr. Bungle in high school since my best guy friend was super into them.
Fast forward back to 2010, and I’m well aware of FNM’s influence on……well, everyone. I’m also well aware that FNM are supposed to be one of the best live bands, and that Mike Patton, well, he does things to people. So when I had the opportunity to see them on their home turf reunion show, I jumped on it.
The first show to go on sale ended up being the last show as two more were added earlier in the week due to high demand. All three sold out. The excitement for these shows by my friends, my readers who noticed it on my calendar and sent words of excitement, the tweets I read from other shows, was kind of incredible. All of them boiled down to Mike Patton, and what a phenomenal front man he is.
My only experience with Mike Patton was a sideways glance at Throbbing Gristle last year that was both intriguing and uncomfortable.
As the show approached, I started to get nervous. Am I going to fall in love with another band? Am I going to get hooked? I was happy my show would be the last, so it wouldn’t be possible for me to add two more after the first one. But as I walked up to the line spanning the block in front of The Warfield, a nervous excitement brewed in the pit of my stomach.
A spot secured at the front of the first tier, the wait began. Neil Hamburger sauntered onstage and provided us with some hit and miss jokes…the hit being a Nickelback related one. Everyone loves a good Nickelback joke. The hecklers started in, and one in particular annoyed him so much that Hamburger threw his cup of liquids in his face.
He introduced the White Trash Debutantes….which started out dreadful, and then worked up to some fun covers which somewhat redeemed them. When I say fun covers, I’m not including ‘Livin La Vida Loca’….no amount of trannies and half naked women could make that song palatable. But they did dedicate ‘Time Warp’ to FNM, and then covered L7’s ‘Shitlist’, which I had forgotten about…time to dust off my L7 discs and find some anthems to help me work through my recent bout with feminine angst.
I believe it was at this point when I read through twitter and discovered that Peter Steele had died. Type O Negative was one of my faves as a teen….what a bummer.
I was happy when that was over, but then Hamburger came out and introduced the El Camino High School Cheerleaders. You know that sound when a record skips? That what my brain made when a sizable squad of high school girls bounced out on stage with ‘Colts’ emblazoned across their uniforms. They danced, did some pyramids, basket tosses, trust falls, toe touches, all to auto-tuned hip hop and generic dance music. Nervous smiles were plastered across their faces, pony tails adorned with sparkling bows…I watched uncomfortably….but not as uncomfortably as some of the guys up front. I felt kinda pervy, until the end when they stomped and clapped shouting FAITH! NO! MORE!, and then I laughed it off.
Quite a long set up occurred for FNM, and I couldn’t help but notice that the techs looked rather un-stereotypical. The mic tech was a big, muscular guy wearing a Rhymesayers t-shirt. I used to be way into the Rhymesayers roster in the early 2000’s, and this made me think about FNM’s hip hop leaning vocal elements even more.
Oh boy, Neil Hamburger again. More hit and miss jokes…..but the best one of the night was this:
What was the official restaurant of Michael Jackson’s funeral? Jack in the Box.
Hamburger apparently likes to talk about Smashmouth, so in order to get FNM to come onstage, he asked us to yell ‘Smashmouth’ really loudly over and over. Instead, we yelled ‘Fuck you!’.
After seeing Interpol, I told myself that bands that wear suits on stage are probably not for me. However, when the band walked out wearing dapper yellow suits, and Patton hobbled out in a red suit with a cane, they began crooning ‘Reunion’ and all my biases melted away.
It is immediately apparent that Patton defies all the types of frontmen that I have encountered in my rather robust concert history. He’s R&B….now it’s almost operatic…now it’s hip hop….now it’s metal. One of the only people I can mildly compare him to that I’ve seen is Serj Tankian. And it’s not only his voices and the seemingly impossible ‘pigs to the slaughterhouse’ screeches that he makes, but it’s his mannerisms that really solidify his unique stage presence.
Patton faces the drums almost as much as he faces the crowd. There’s often a look in his eyes, coupled with the non-specific place where his attention was focused, that made me think that he was seeing things beyond what I could see. You know how you see a painting and sometimes wish you could see the world like that artist must? That sentiment came to mind when watching him perform.
He squats down like he’s giving birth to the songs right there on stage. He hops around in a circle like he’s about to fight an invisible being. He holds the mic at times like he’s pretending someone else is holding it for him. It was interesting, for some reason I had inferred from everyone’s comments about him as a performer that he must have one of those intense crowd connections when he sings, but really I felt that he was oddly disconnected, almost giving us a ‘bedroom’ performance, and then at times would swoop in and be really present.
Either way, I spent the entire evening trying to figure him out unsuccessfully. Was there anyone else on stage? Any time I spent watching them was…accidental. They didn’t move around much.
‘From Out of Nowhere’ is one of my favorite FNM songs, and it started with the mic stand being tossed into the newly erupted pit, and ended with a Patton patented stage dive.
The set progressed quickly. It’s interesting to watch the pit from only slightly above it….it looked really bad at times, but probably not as bad as ones I stand near at some metal shows. There were quite a few exuberant crowd surfers, one being a female in cutoffs and ’80s boots who posed and kicked her legs up and down like a dancer as she surfed. At one point, a blond guy emerged from the pit and doubled over right underneath where I was standing. He was completely out of it, and when he looked up I could see his quickly swelling face and blood seeping from multiple places. Confession- I faint at the site of blood….and while this was minimal I’m glad I had a rail to grab onto as my knees weakened and stomach flipped….I hate that feeling.
Patton’s vocal knobs and doo-dads rested atop of music stand. Watching him tweak them was very reminiscent of Trent Reznor. In fact, the whole evening reminded me of the final NIN show last year. Tweets had revealed that tonight would be extra special. The Warfield has a similar set up to the Wiltern. The fans were brimming with the same kind of nervous excitement as we were there. Only this time, it’s a reunion instead of a goodbye, and I’m an outsider instead of a fanatic. I almost felt bad, like I didn’t belong there…especially reading emails and tweets from people all over the world that wished to stand in my very spot.
Hearing the ‘Poker Face’ intro to ‘Chinese Arithmetic’ was funny…and then I realized that the song was actually much more enjoyable when not being performed by this generation’s unfortunate Madonna imitator.
There were some quick efforts at crowd involvement, one of them being a question of how many there were from SF. Only about a third of the audience raised their hands. This reminded me that via twitter I learned that the Dillinger Escape Plan guys were at Monday’s show (THAT’S why we didn’t get an SF tour date?! :-p), and that Alessandro Cortini was there on Tuesday. While I didn’t spot any celebrities on that evening, I’m sure some were there.
It was great to hear ‘Caffeine’ and ‘Midlife Crisis’ live. Finishing up the main set with ‘Epic’, Patton looked like he almost slipped and took a spill over the front monitor. The set ended with Patton coming to the side of the stage closest to me at the end of ‘Just a Man’. He sat down, taking a person’s ball cap and putting it on, and wiping his face with a sweater that had landed on the speaker in the flurry of clothing that flew around earlier on in the set. He stood up, looked down at the crowd and asked, ‘Why are you all pointing your phones at me? You know I’m about to jump on you.’ They swiftly put them away, giving me just enough time to open my shitty cell phone video app and capture the moment for my twitter followers to see instantaneously. Technology is cool.
As the vocalist-less band took the stage for the encore, the moment that had been the source of speculation occurred. Original vocalist Chuck Mosley joined them on stage for not one, but the entire four song encore. His Matrix meets Mad Max appearance added a different vibe to the set, and it was fun to hear him do ‘We Care A Lot’. I watched the amazed superfans around me and thought about what it meant for them to see this take place, even though I got the sense that Mosley is the butt of a lot of FNM fan jokes.
The second encore brought Patton back to the stage to ‘Chariots of Fire’. Mosley joined him for the final song of the evening, ‘Introduce Yourself’, where the two vocalists hopped around each other at times like they were about to box.
Since the first show of this mini-residency had a fourth encore that materialized after much of the audience had left, everyone stuck around thinking there was more. Someone behind me even yelled ‘Smashmouth!’ in an attempt to make it happen. But when the tech unscrews the cymbals, it’s the equivalent of the fat lady singing.
I generally walk into a show with the goal of leaving with my ‘clever’ title to my piece figured out. For this show, I had an obvious choice in my back pocket- ‘Epic’. Was this show epic? No, not for me. Was it really really good? Yes, yes it was.
I left the show a little bit more of an FNM fan, but mainly with an increased interest in exploring Patton’s solo projects. I finally opened the email containing the early release for Mondo Cane.
Reunited (Peaches & Herb cover)
From Out of Nowhere
Land of Sunshine
Gentle Art of Making Enemies
Chinese Arithmetic with Poker Face
Last Cup of Sorrow
Cuckoo for Caca
Ben (Michael Jackson cover)
Ashes to Ashes
Digging the Grave
King For A Day
Just a Man
As the WormTurns (with Chuck)
Death March (with Chuck)
We Care A Lot (with Chuck)
Mark Bowen (with Chuck)
Chariots of Fire/Stripsearch
Introduce Yourself (with Chuck and Mike)