There’s something exciting about rushing out of work right at 5 on a Friday, transforming into my metal attire, and hitting the road for the hour long trip to San Jose. I’m maximizing the weekend and I’m about to enter uncharted HRC territory: a new venue in a new city with bands I’d somehow never seen before. With Photo Ray at the helm, and Umlaut riding shotgun, the vets once again took HRC under their wing for another adventurous evening.
We walked through the side door of the venue with our various passes and were surprised that Deftones were already on stage. The San Jose Event Center is on the San Jose State campus…it’s actually a gymnasium! Cue ‘My Own Summer (Shove It)’….a song that reminds me of high school, skateboarding, and making skateboarding videos. Yeah…..so luckily the ‘King of VIP passes’ hooked me up, so I got to watch from the side of the stage and didn’t have to deal with the massive rough crowd.
This was one of the first Deftones shows since the bassist was in an accident that left him in a coma. With a replacement bassist in tow, Deftones put on a surprisingly mellow show. The only member that moves around is the singer- granted he does that a lot- but it got kind of boring. After a few songs, we decided to go exploring backstage.
We found a hallway and walked into catering. It was a very small room, and there was a family- mom, dad, and four kids- sitting at one table. In walks ‘the tall one’, Jim Root, or #4. He’s wearing his mask, and he bends down to talk to the kids and takes pictures with them. We thinks it’s funny that he greets them in his mask. My partner in crime takes a covert pic….my closest thing to a picture with Slipknot:
Exit #4, enter #1, Joey Jordison. Also in his full mask and attire, he greets the kids and takes a variety of pictures. It was at this point that I notice that the kids are wearing buttons that say ‘Make-A-Wish‘. My heart breaks. What a heavy situation…..not only do I become aware that one of those kids must have a terminal illness, but I start thinking about what this night must mean to them, and how the band must feel about being the choice for his wish…..heavy stuff.
I enlist a woman in catering to help me find the lady’s room, and she escorts me across the back of the stage to the crew bathroom….which was VERY interesting, a) because as she left me, she said, ‘I like how small you are’ and pointed at my waist…..WTF? and b) it was the crew bathroom, with various hoodlums milling around and shower curtains concealing urinals……anyways, I hike back to catering in time to see #7 greeting the kids, to which the mom says, ‘they’re a little scared of you’. They all were so nice with these kids- such a stark contrast to their appearance that it was a little mind numbing.
At this point I hear ‘Change (In the House of Flies)’, my other favorite Deftones song, so we go out and watch it from a different side of the stage. I realize that this is the most access I’ve ever had backstage…just wandering around wherever. I could get used to this.
When the set is over, we are walking to the back dressing room/catering area again and I collide with the very sweaty Deftones drummer as he’s on his way back to his dressing room….oops! Then we stop in the hallway while my partner in crime talks to some of the Machine Head guys….and I realize that this is the second time in a week or so that I’ve stood within a few feet of Robb Flynn. He stood next to me at a show at the Regency Ballroom recently…Lacuna Coil I think…or maybe Children of Bodom. I’ve been to too many shows lately.
I was granted a photo pass, so I went into the photo pit with Photo Ray to await Slipknot. As soon as I walk in there, one of the security services company guys remembers me from STP earlier this week– he was the one who had the drunk girls all over him. So we laugh about that. Then I start getting the usual question from the rail people: ‘Are you with the band?’. I don’t know why people always ask me this- apparently I don’t look like a photographer (ok, I’m not that either- my camera sucks). I use the opportunity to make some new HRC fans. They want their picture in the review….I promise to take one once the show starts, and I kept my promise:
The pit is already looking rough as the show is about to start. ‘Runnin’ with the Devil’ plays, and everyone sings along- security, all the photographers, the crowd….it’s a fun moment. Then the lights go down and the guys start trickling out, and I shoot for (sic)->Eyeless->Wait and Bleed. To say the guys are hams for the cam is an understatement. They stand there staring at the crowd for what seems like an eternity. And then it begins.
I’m walking around trying to capture each member’s tediously thought out costume. I get nailed by a crowd surfer getting ejected from the pit. It was really the easiest band to photograph that I’ve done so far: they see you trying to take a pic, and they move in full view so you can get one. It was quite entertaining, in fact; I laughed multiple times because of it.
Slipknot put on such a high production show- and there’s so many of them- that I had to remind myself I was taking pictures lest I just stand there and start taking it all in. Drums go up, drums go down. Someone jumps on something. It’s like an amusement park ride.
After photographing, I had heard I wasn’t going to be able to watch from the side again, but I really didn’t want to go out in that crowd, so I flashed a smile and they let me back. On my way back there, Clown must have jumped off stage and walked right by me….I was like, ‘isn’t that one of the band members….is he going to go mosh with the crowd?!’ Apparently he did something by the soundboard. A few more songs in, their head of security came and looked at me and asked me who I was with….to which I replied…..’um…Slipknot’…….to which he stared at me….to which I said ‘I’m not sure exactly who, someone just gave me this pass’. And he let me stay 🙂
It was very interesting to watch things from the side. I watched ‘Clown’ work: drum, jump off and walk around the kit, beat something with a baseball bat, drum, turn cameras on some chicks, drum, go up and drum, come down and drum, have one of the other guys come over and hangs from the kit, drum some more.
It’s interesting from this perspective, because I become highly aware that the guys are working. This is their job. What a fucking job. The crowd is going crazy. There’s a kid in a clown mask with a drum stick held high, mimicking Clown’s beats and staring at him the entire night. The mosh pit is a swirl; surfers are being ejected from it over the rail at a rate of one per minute.
Corey Taylor has a great voice. Last time I saw him was on the Justice Tour with Tom Morello. Sometimes I’d see him walk towards the back of the stage and wipe the sweat that collected at the bottom of the mask away with his hand. How they handle the heat in those masks I have no idea. Isn’t that bad for your skin? Nevermind…..girl moment.
I know the sound isn’t great from the side, but I can still tell that what I’ve heard is true: there’s a lot going on at a Slipknot show. The guitar gets lost in the percussion. Sometimes it feels like its not quite about the music. But it doesn’t really matter because everyone is having fun. Despite the masks and ‘ominous’ aesthetic, there isn’t some overlying sense of danger and the devil at a Slipknot show. It’s just a hard and fast good time.
When they came back for the encore, I spied a familiar face going to fiddle with the drums…..the drum tech from the past several NIN tours! AHAHAHA! Me and my girlfriends would always drool over him while we waited for NIN to come on. Small world. Anyway, I was ecstatic when all that preparation led to Joey’s drum kit going upside down- something I had wanted to see when I saw Tommy Lee earlier this year. It was especially good that I was able to watch Joey Jordison from the side of the stage, where I could actually see him work, because he is so tiny you can’t really see him over his kit!
At the end of the set, the guys threw various swag into the crowd, and several of the members came over (once again, one by one) and made sure the Make A Wish kid got a bunch of goodies. My eyes got a little glossy.
I have to say, I was kind of impressed by this show and the Slipknot guys. They may not have the best songs, or even the best sound, but there’s something to say about The Slipknot Experience. It’s a fun time.