I inadvertently added 3 hours to one of my least favorite days of the year by flying home from the NYC Alice in Chains show on my birthday.
Then I had to get in a fight with someone. But just when I thought I might star in The Bridge Part 2, Mel arrived, the clouds parted, and the rest of the day ruled.
This would be my second show of the BRMC tour. It was 5:30pm, and doors opened at 7. We weren’t hungry, so we decided to go ahead and go to the venue.
There were only a few people in line, so we knew we’d get to stand exactly where we wanted right away. We’re freezing, standing in line against the wall, but we are smiling because we can hear soundcheck going on inside. A casual version of ‘Love Burns’ pours through the cracks in the doors and into our ears as we shiver. We check into foursquare, and Mel alerts me that I am now the mayor of Slim’s! I find this highly amusing.
The girls in front of us have followed BRMC around on every show of the tour, we overhear. Mel and I exchange knowing glances, as we are having NIN flashbacks. We met standing in line for NIN shows, listening to the girls who followed that band to every single show of the tour. Deja vu.
As the time approached for will call to open, I hopped over to that line. I wanted a printed out ticket with my birthdate on it for this show. I’m waiting in line when the older man behind me strikes up conversation. He’s wearing a Whigs shirt, and apparently is very into the drummer. He doesn’t even know BRMC, so I’m explaining a little to him. I also ask him who his other favorite drummers are, since I’m into drummers myself. He seems to think I probably won’t know any of the names he’ll say. Then he asks about BRMC’s drummer, and I tell him that ‘she’s great’. And he goes, ‘she?!?!’. And I was like, ‘oh hell no’ and turned around.
We get inside and get to the right spot. We’re so cold we have to stand there trying to defrost before we can even think about drinks. Then I hear a familiar voice behind me, and am surprised to see my friend Laurence wishing me happy b-day.
The Whigs came out promptly at 8pm. I literally have to drop my head back to be able to look at the singer/guitarist- I’m that close underneath him. He’s jumping around doing his altered version of Angus Young’s duck walk, much more so than in Sacramento. It often looks like he’s kicking a cymbal to help out with the drumming. I enjoy the set, it’s just that this time I saw them it confirmed that their music just isn’t ‘me’. Their song ‘Half the World Away’ somehow reminds me of The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’ though, which may be my favorite Beatles song.
Between sets another familiar face pops up- Victoria. The last time the four of us were together was the final NIN show.
Mel and I can’t resist peeking at the setlist when it’s taped down in front of us. At first I think ‘Red Eyes’ is missing, but am glad to see ‘666 Conducer’. Then I realize that ‘Red Eyes’ is just moved up near the beginning.
As the lights dim, Mel and I exchange the glance that’s like, ‘this is gonna be good’.
At the end of the opener, ‘War Machine’, Mel leans over and whispers that this is like that Cantrell solo but for the whole set! We’re literally underneath Peter’s guitar.
‘Red Eyes – Reprise’ takes my breath away. Literally, I have to remember to breathe. I’ve noticed that when a song comes on that I’m in love with, I tend to put my hands in a prayer position at the beginning. Perhaps it’s part bringing myself into focus, and half a response to being close to a Guitar God. Seeing sweat trickle down Peter’s face like a tear was a nice added effect for the song.
(not from this show)
This night was not only my official 30th birthday, but also the release date for Beat the Devil’s Tattoo. At one point, Robert talked about it being special for them to spend this evening in their home town. He also said that they were nervous, because now we’ll know what the songs are supposed to sound like.
I’ve always noted and loved the dynamic between Peter and Robert. This brotherly love was particularly pronounced tonight, probably because of the release date. They smiled at each other a lot, and at one point they were talking about something and there was a little shoulder pat, butt kick exchange. It’s good to see that their bond is still strong after all these years, which bodes promising for their continued collaboration.
I know the new songs better this time, so ‘War Machine’, ‘Mama’, ‘Evol’, ‘Aya’, ‘River Styx’, and ‘Shadow’s Keeper’ are now becoming old friends like the rest of the songs. And after hearing ‘Love Burns’ outside, it was great to hear it inside, all warm.
Watching them do ‘Spread Your Love’ made me have an epiphany about why I love this band so much. They truly split the song, where they trade off on a lot of the other ones. But that’s just it- listening to BRMC is like getting two distinct styles that you love in one band.
I watched Leah drum a lot during this set. She’s so wide eyed and looks like she’s in a trance as she plays, intensely watching the guys. I really admire her.
Toward the end of the setlist, there was a ??? spot. Robert asked for requests, and I said ‘Rifles’ again (as did others), and I’ll be damned, they actually played it!
There was one point where I was watching Peter finish a song, and he crouched down to adjust his pedals while seamlessly pulling a cigarette from the pack of American Spirits in his chest pocket and lit it. He took a drag and played ‘The Toll’ (I think) with the cigarette stuck between string in the frets. I don’t know why I love watching musicians do this- but I think it’s because it feels spontaneous, maybe a little rebellious, and also kind of intimate.
They finished the set strong, with Robert jumping into the crowd and playing his bass in the middle of everyone.
We stayed in our spots trying to get a setlist and guitar pick for Mel, but everything was handed out on the opposite side of the stage. We’re standing there like ‘hey, over here!!!’ to no avail. I turn around and there stands a familiar face- Peter’s guitar tech. Amazingly, he remembered me from Sacramento. No one ever remembers me. He told me to stay put, that Peter somehow missed me last time and he’d be right out. I said, awesome, that’s perfect because today is my birthday. I asked him for a guitar pick for Mel, which he produced from his pocket- it has a red logo instead of the white one I got last time. Then I got really nervous.
I’m kind of awkwardly standing there with Mel when he walks out, but he’s immediately approached by several people. However, he kind of looks over and goes, ‘Happy birthday- I heard through the grapevine’ or something like that. Then I think he said to wait there. I think I almost fainted. I looked at my phone- it was 11:58p. Peter Hayes was the last person to wish me happy birthday. *Dies*.
So we’re kind of awkwardly standing there watching all of these people come up to him, wondering what to do. Finally he walks over and says he’s sorry to have missed me in Sacramento; he heard I had something for him to sign (it was the setlist I was given at the end of the show). I said something like ‘no worries, but I don’t have it with me now’. And he said, ‘what, did you throw it away or something?’ Mel practically shouts, ‘NO!’. She’s just seen my apartment for the first time earlier- every inch of my walls are covered with my posters, setlists, guitar picks and tickets. Then I can’t exactly remember what we were starting to talk about, because we were interrupted…..
Leah walks up with Jello Biafra, who has a bunch of BRMC merch in his hands and proceeds to inundate Peter with questions. ‘Is this the beginning of the tour? Are you guys drinking? There are a lot of lights on the stage.’ Nonstop questions. Peter keeps kind of looking over as Mel and I awkwardly stand there not knowing whether we should leave or not.
New term: Jello-blocked.
After about 10 minutes of awkwardness, I’m like ‘let’s go’. So I start to walk off, and Mel says, ‘don’t you want your picture with him- I’ll just walk over and ask him’. I was like, ‘yes, but but but……’ and before I could catch her she’s over interrupting Jello Biafra. Kind of ironic that it was for a picture with Peter and not the living punk legend…..but that’s how we roll….
I think I’m a bright shade of red at this point when I go stand with him for the picture. Mel goes, ‘on 3: 1…2…click’ and the camera goes off early. He says, ‘on 2…I like it!’ So she snaps another one, this time on 3. I was so flustered I didn’t even offer to take one of her and him…sorry, Mel 🙁
I think I said thanks and then he introduced himself. ‘I’m Peter’. Ummm, yeah….I know! So we introduce ourselves and Mel says she’ll be at the Echoplex show down in LA and I say I’ll be at SXSW. I don’t remember what happened after that, just that I walked out the door with a huge grin on my face bopping myself in the head with my poster saying, ‘I’m a dork’.
We giggled about being Jello-blocked all the way back to the car. It was rainy and freezing, but my heart was warm.
I can’t believe how nice Peter was to us. I’d always heard he was kind of standoffish, but he had a great energy about him. Really great.
Looking back over my pics from the night, I thought it was interesting that the ‘film’ I used in the Hipstamatic application has MAR 80 across the bottom, considering I was born in March of 1980.
Maybe my 30s won’t be so bad.
Big thanks to Mel, as well as Laurence, Victoria, Peter, and his awesome guitar tech for making my birthday end on such an amazing note.
No more fear, no more fear I’m in love
Photo courtesy Capital_M