I’m high in the sky above California. On the JetBlue TV in front of me, a Behind the Music: Judas Priest, which leads into One Hit Wonders: Alternative Edition. Temple of the Dog’s ‘Hunger Strike’ and Luscious Jackson’s ‘Naked Eye’ play before my eyes, along with mentions that 16 years ago today, the body of Kurt Cobain was found. My head is spinning. Since returning from SXSW, things just haven’t been right. Drama has touched every aspect of my life: health, family, friends, work, home, this website. And when I enter a phase like this, my reaction is to go into edit mode: I start thinking about moving out of SF, a career change, cutting and dyeing my hair, shutting down my site and starting something else. But as I left for this event, my last planned out of town trip after a slew of them in 2010, I decided that I was going to put all of this crap away just for one day. Today, I would be happy. I will pretend like I belong. I will have fun. I’ll be confident. And what’s my reason not to? In a few short hours, I would be at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards…aka Mecca for pretty much seeing every musician I’ve listened to throughout my life.
I started thinking about being 14 years old, and finding out that Kurt Cobain had killed himself. How I used to only be able to obtain CDs through those awful Columbia House mail order ‘deals’ since my town didn’t have a record store, and that Temple of the Dog and Luscious Jackson were definitely two that I had ordered. How my self-dyed black hair had those same blonde streaks up front as the girl from LJ, and was undershaved. I envisioned myself in my room at 14, with all of these posters on the wall and Columbia House CDs by my player, laying on the floor listening. Thinking. And then I thought about how I was about to be in the same room with that guy in that Judas Priest doc, and the drummer from that band who’s singer killed himself. And the guy with the top hat, the drummer in the cowboy hat, the Vampire of the Sunset Strip, the Prince of Darkness, the Zombie, the men in Chains. People from those very CDs that sat in that stack. A lot may have happened since I was that 14 year old, but a lot has stayed the same. I spend so much time and energy trying to find myself, when really I’ve been right there the whole time.
We began our descent into LA, and I turned off my introspective mindframe and turned on my HRC persona. Today would be perfect. Stepping off the plane and into the golden sun at the tiny Long Beach Airport, I walked down the ramp and almost slipped and fell. OK, so almost perfect….
Mel is waiting for me outside. I throw the horns at her before getting in the car. I wasn’t even planning on coming down for this…..but she gave me the hard sell and we obtained VIP tickets back in February. Twist my arm to fly in to one of my favorite cities for a star studded event for 18 hours, right? I had tried to obtain press credentials, but never even received a response after several follow ups. However, Mel’s friend who runs Amateur Chemist let us go on his behalf. Mel would be shooting the black carpet and show, and I would be trying to get video with my flip and tweeting live.
We finished getting ready in the car. As we walked towards the LA Live complex, I started having flashbacks to my adventures earlier this year as the Rock, Metal, and Alternative music blogger for the GRAMMYs. After covering several red carpet events for that, I felt very prepared for the black carpet- I know how catty the press can be to each other, how hectic and crowded it gets, and this time I will know who almost everyone is!
We went to check in for press, but it didn’t open for another 45 minutes….so we went and did shots at ESPN Zone. I’m not much of a drinker, but I have realized lately that having a drink before doing something like this really does make it more fun. Walking back over to get in line for press again, I started people watching. I saw Blasko standing there. Then Andrew W.K., one of the hosts for the evening, walked up. Then I see Rob Halford walking up, and he and Andrew W.K. hug. I think watching the stars interact with each other is one of the most interesting things about events like this.
Listening to the press people around us was…entertaining. The people in front of us were obviously not ‘metal’, based on their attire, but were there on behalf of some major press outlets. I ran into my friend Julia from Metal Assault– always good to see another friendly face. When we finally got to check in, it was odd to find out that there were no credentials needed for the black carpet, just a wristband for the actual show. We book it over to the carpet because getting a good spot is everything at things like this. The guy who checked us in runs after us, apparently he was distracted and forgot to have us sign our releases. So we have to run back over and do that, losing our prime positions. Then, since I wasn’t standing there with a camera, one of the PR people came and made me move away from Mel to the opposite end of the carpet for video.
It’s a little funny to be standing with a little flip camera amongst people with a bunch of professional equipment. I’m standing there watching everyone set up when a woman approaches me. She’s with one of the camera crews on the black carpet (not behind the line like the rest of us). She asks me if I’d be willing to pose with the Harleys that are set up against the backdrop of the carpet as they are looking for some ‘hot girls’. Resisting the urge to look over my shoulder to see if she’s talking to someone else, I say, “of course!”. I’d already posed with one for a silly twitpic earlier…I love Harleys. I had a black cat named Harley when I was 14.
So I walk over to the bike and a blonde girl joins me. I sit on the bike and she stands next to it. We’re told that the footage is for VH1, and to just laugh and look like we are having a good time. I’m thinking this is like a 30 second shot, so I throw some horns and then the camera keeps rolling….and rolling….I look over at the girl next to me and she starts saying some ridiculously funny shit so we start cracking up. I look back at the camera and realize it is in my face….my chest actually….good thing I wore my best push up bra! Hahaha. Then they ask us to go over to another bike to pose. We’re chatting in the meantime, and the blonde girl introduces herself as Jackie. I ask what she does and she says she’s a VJ/DJ. Interesting. So we’re saying more ridiculous stuff to make each other laugh….like how we don’t really know where this footage is going….what if it airs with something like ‘metal sluts’ across the bottom. I start making up a song to the tune of Duran Duran… “Girls on Bikes”. They’re fiddling with the camera and this other guy with a camera swoops in and films some. I’m like “who are you?” and notice that behind him there are little signs posted for the major press…..TMZ and E! Entertainment…..oh man, who knows where this will end up- if it ends up anywhere at all- but it was absolutely hilarious.
photo from the Mayhem Fest Facebook
I go back over to where I was standing and surprisingly still have my spot, but am soon asked by one of the PR coordinators to step back for a more professional entity to take my place. Oh well, I was still able to see and take pictures and capture a tiny bit of video without getting in too many people’s way.
It was a really slow start as I was essentially at the end of the carpet. Some of the lesser known people came first, the kind who the press ask each other ‘who is that?’ and their respective publicity folks try to pimp them out by coming up to the different entities and saying, “would you like to talk to so-and-so, they were formerly in Outkast’s band and are transitioning to rock”. Or “this is _______ band, they are brand new, from _____ city, releasing an album on ______ date. I was particularly watching these PR people tonight as I contemplate new career options. Some of them actually had the info printed out on signs that they held up for the press…one even had it written on her chest in black marker! Very interesting.
I was able to eavesdrop on the interviews occurring around me. Josh Barnett, an MMA fighter nominated for Most Metal Athlete, was interesting to stand near…..I couldn’t stop thinking about how he could probably mangle everyone here with his pinky. Robert Englund, otherwise known as Freddy Krueger, was another cool one….just seeing him that close, talking in his Freddy voice, gave me goosebumps. Then the big stars started coming through, and it took them forever to get down the relatively small carpet. As they started getting close enough for my iPhone pics, I realized that I felt really…normal. I’m exchanging smiles with the likes of Vinnie Paul and Zakk Wylde, and I don’t feel starstruck anymore. I think I’ve hit that point where I’ve gotten over that stuff….seeing so many stars off the stage has made them human to me. I actually think I still get starstruck when they are on stage. Maybe if I had been interviewing it would be a little different, but I was more excited than anything. The rock stars had to walk behind me to get to the entrance of the carpet, and hoots and hollers had me turning around to see the top hat walk by, as well as, to my surprise, Mr. Marilyn Manson. But the highlight was right before I ducked off the carpet early to go into the show, when I was within a few feet of some of my most favorite people, and they were all talking to each other: John 5, Mike Inez, Jerry Cantrell, Vinnie Paul, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper……it was insane.
Here’s a short video montage I took of the black carpet madness….play Where’s Waldo for Rock Stars!
We go to get through security, and Mel gets held up because of her camera. It turns into a venue vs. event PR situation….there was some miscommunication about credentials, and she got stuck out there for half an hour or so. I went inside to suss out the situation. We thought we were supposed to be able to get into the pit with our VIP tickets, but apparently that wasn’t the case. The security guy wouldn’t let me in it, even when I tried to sweet talk him…”it’s an entirely different ticket…but you smell nice!” OK. Then I remembered that we were supposed to get a poster and shirt with our ticket, so I had to go ask where to get that….it was pretty disorganized. Then I decided to go check out the VIP lounge and get a drink. That was interesting….and really overwhelming. At one point I was standing next to the three Dallas Cowboys players that were nominated for Most Metal Athlete, and Pantera came on the speakers, and they started singing along and headbanging….weird. So weird! I think I was the only person in there by myself- definitely the only female- so people started looking at me funny and I said hi to a couple people I knew and left.
Finally Mel got inside, and we took a spot on one the the floor tiers, right where the podium for giving and receiving the awards was. It was also a good spot for watching the rock stars who were presenting come out from backstage. It was not the best place to see the performances from, however.
Sitting in on a live telecast like the GRAMMYs was a strange experience, but this ended up being even weirder. It was being filmed for broadcast next month, and this led to a lot of interesting hiccups that annoyed the contingency of people who were fans there for a show. The hosts- Chris Jericho (I’m taller than him!) and Andrew W.K. warmed up by doing some of the dialog on the teleprompter before the show started.
The show began with Zakk Wylde playing the Star Spangled Banner as some men and women in uniform marched out on stage. How patriotic. Then the stage spun around, revealing Chris Jericho, Andrew W.K., and Rob Halford sitting atop Harleys. They did a quick introduction to the show, and the stage spun around again. Slash played with his newly assembled band, first with Wolfmother singer Andrew Stockdale, then with his touring vocalist Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge. I thought they sounded great; I’m really looking forward to catching that tour. I thought the bassist, Todd Kerns, was really good, too.
Then one of the highlights of the event occurred, as the band left Slash on stage, and Dave Grohl hopped behind the drum kit and Lemmy walked out on stage. Their ear-rattling performance of ‘Ace of Spades’ really had the crowd going. It was one of those moments where I thought to myself, ‘yep, this is THE place to be tonight…music magic’.
Ozzy came out and presented Halford with the Golden God award. Then Kerry King presented the Best Guitarist award to Zakk Wylde. Everyone was complaining that we couldn’t hear anyone at the podium…..Kerry heard us and they tried to adjust it. After the award they flat out stopped the show to try to fix the problem, with a production guy walking around on stage trying to entertain us and fix things at the same time. They also filmed Andrew W.K. introducing one of these things after it happened, two or three times…it was funny to me but annoying to most.
I quite enjoyed As I Lay Dying’s performance…I’m not very familiar with them but this was a good introduction. They were introduced by that MMA fighter Josh Barnett…and he was wearing a Goatwhore shirt!
Jerry Cantrell and Mike Inez of my beloved Alice in Chains presented the Best Vocalist award, and it went to Ronnie James Dio. Vinnie Appice was one of the first to go down the black carpet, and I overheard him say that we might see Dio when someone asked him about Dio’s health. The crowd went ballistic when Dio walked out on stage to accept, looking frail but full of energy. I fully understand and admire Dio’s contributions to the metal world even though I am personally not a fan of his vocals, but it was pretty awesome to stand a few yards away from him- the originator of the devil horns- and throw them back at him.
At this point, we decided to go and sit in our seats in the balcony, since we had front row, albeit they were not together. As we got off the elevator and went to the balcony, Mel turns around and tells me to prepare to freak out. Jerry and Mike walk right in front of us and surprisingly, it barely phased me. Once we got to the balcony, I discovered that a girl was in my seat who was very resistant to move, so we decided to go over to Mel’s which was on the exact opposite side. There was someone in her seat as well- the balcony was kind of a free for all of VIPs. A security guy came over, looked at our tickets, kicked out the people in the whole row of seats, and let us sit together. I was stoked!
Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie were presenting the Best Underground Band award- which was my favorite of the night. The list of bands aren’t underground to me- they were some of my favorites: Behemoth….Converge….and The Dillinger Escape Plan won! I didn’t think they would be there to accept, but Greg Puciato and Ben Weinman did go up there, though I couldn’t hear any of their speech.
A couple more awards were presented- including Best Live Band, which went to Metallica (who were the only winners not present- they sent in a video acceptance)- and then a performance by The Devil Wears Prada was introduced oddly enough by Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson of Testament. TDWP are not my thing. Mel and I giggled because as soon as the vocalist started screaming, something flew out of his pocket. Mel thought it was his ID, I though it was his parking ticket….either way, it was kinda funny.
I was very happy to see AiC win Comeback of the Year. Marilyn Manson came out and discussed the West Memphis Three, which was a slightly awkward but serious speech about a terrible situation to an audience of people who were probably also picked on for how they dressed and what kind of music they listened to as kids. A glass of absinthe was set on the podium for him, as was the speech printed on paper. He started reading from the teleprompter, then had to pause and collect his thoughts and continue reading from the print out. He took a swig from the glass as he left the stage.
This is the point where I thought about metal drama between people who were under that same roof…Ozzy and Wylde….Manson and John 5….interesting stuff.
Robert Englund was given the Honorary Headbanger’s Award by Kat Von D and Fireball Ministry. I got goose bumps again as he was wearing the claw this time, and he said some lines from the films…it was pretty awesome.
The Brian Posehn Supergroup- consisting of Scott Ian of Anthrax, Brendan Small from Dethklok, John Tempesta of White Zombie, and Joey Vera of Armored Saint- performed their song ‘I’m More Metal Than You’…twice. Something went wrong with the first take, so they had to redo it. It was cool, though, because Small filled the dead air between takes by doing Skwisgaard, Explosion, and Pickles voices! Bonus for HRC! I adore him.
The Hottest Chick in Metal award went to Maria Brink of In This Moment…which kinda bummed me out. I’m all for the celebration of women in metal, but she’s too much of a pinup to make it feel meaningful, you know?
The Best Drummer award, presented by Vinnie Paul and Joey Jordison, was posthumously awarded to Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan, and his family accepted for him. Even though it’s pretty sketchy that he won that, it was really, really sad.
Fear Factory performed next, and I decided to stand up because it just felt wrong to sit during the music, even though most were in the balcony. I don’t have a fear of heights, but there is a sheer drop off with only a thin rail in front of us, so I felt like I might fall over the edge. It was fun to see Fear Factory again since the last time may or may not have been at Ozzfest in 1997. I would be seeing them the following night back in SF.
The hecklers in the crowd were starting to get even more mouthy as the show ran over. This was especially the case with the hosts, as Chris Jericho mouthed off to some people who were yelling at him. Come on, Jericho, jump in the crowd and DDT them! Where’s the folding chair to smash over their heads? I used to have to watch wrestling with my ex-BF….so I know WAY too much about professional wrestling circa 1996-2002….Mankind = most metal athlete IMO.
Jericho was introducing Dave Grohl as a presenter. Grohl proved to be one of the funniest people of the evening, as he did certain ‘gestures’ at Jericho as he fumbled over his lines. Hope they caught that on film for the broadcast! Grohl presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Lemmy. I was just thinking how it was cool that everyone was there for their awards, how the acceptance speeches were just a few words of thanks…and NO ONE thanked God…but then we got to the Most Metal Athlete award, which went to the Dallas Cowboys. Three accepted and they had more traditional speeches, which got heckled. Why does this award exist? And why was Dave Mustaine the presenter?
The final award of the night was Album of the Year, presented by the hosts of That Metal Show. I was very happy that it went to Alice in Chains.
The stage spun around to reveal the setup for Rob Zombie…the centerpiece being new drummer Joey Jordison of Slipknot’s drumset, adorned with cow skulls but so small and bare looking compared to his usual gear. The back of the stage was a metal fence, with Bud Light and Jimmy Kimmel signage.
As they set up, I thought about how this show could be improved, though in it’s second year I heard it is vastly better than the first. Beyond the weird press setup, VIP ticket miscommunication, and retakes and out of order shots and audio issues……there were two things. One- there was one tiny screen to show video on….no one could see it well. Two- the sponsorship situation was seriously whoretastic. Every award had a different sponsor; it was really overwhelming. I think the whole thing would be better served with fewer, bigger scale sponsors. Oh one more thing…..HELLO? Why no Best Bassist award?! That’s….bacist! Buh-dum-bum. 🙂 Oh, and there was very little love for Mastodon…..which I thought was odd.
It’s funny how I’m beginning to recognize all of the techs. I see John 5’s guitar tech (who is not very nice, BTW), and Joey Jordison’s tech- who used to be Ilan Rubin’s when he played with NIN. I see a setlist of four songs go down on the stage…four good songs….and that was more than I was expecting. Rob Zombie and the guys come out on stage, and Zombie seems pissed- he’s going on a rant about award shows and the crowd, and then leaves. The guys stand there, and end up leaving as well. I’m noticing how Piggy D and Joey look like twinsies. I’m wondering what the hell is going on, when Danny Fucking Trejo comes out on stage, rips off his shirt Hulk style, and walks off! WTF?! That was awesome/weird! Then the band came back out on stage and tore it up. The balcony, which had almost completely emptied before, was now filled back up and people were on their feet.
I love Zombie…say what you will about his music, but his aesthetic and all of the guys’ performances are so much fun. ‘More Human Than Human’ made me feel more human than human, and Zombie jumped to the rail immediately and I think all the fans down there that might have been somewhat disappointed by the show so far were redeemed. Some crazy crowd crawlers- one repeat offender in particular- kept trying to get to Zombie, and at one point Zombie just reached down and pushed him away. Mel also pointed out that a dude in a motorized wheelchair- a quadriplegic (he had the device where you blow into a tube to make it go)- went into the pit and started running into the backs of people. Insanity!
Zombie tells us that he will only make us sit through one new song, but it was the killer track ‘Mars Needs Women’. I’m pretty sure he said it hadn’t been played before- I know I didn’t hear it at the two shows I went to last year. John 5 used a toy laser gun thing as a slide at one point, and threw it into the crowd after. After that, the Kimmel-Bud Light signage was swiftly taken down (those first two songs will air on Kimmel next Friday), and he pleased the crowd with ‘Dragula’ and ‘Thunderkiss ’65’. I’m headbanging and catch out of the corner of my eye that Vinnie Paul is standing behind me. OK, so, weird circle of life moment here- my first metal show was White Zombie/Pantera….and here I am watching Rob Zombie with Vinnie Paul about 5 feet behind me…whoaaaa freak out!
I love Piggy D and John 5….and while I think Joey is a badass, I do miss Tommy Clufetos. It just seemed odd to see Joey drumming so….slowly? I dunno. Plus, he will always not seem permanent, and I feel like that takes away from the band a little.
Zombie proved that he is the ultimate badass when he decided to give us one more song for all that we had to sit through that evening…’Superbeast’. He jumped into the crowd again, and walked into the middle of the crowd to many people’s surprise. It was a killer way to end the show…I love those guys and am much looking forward to seeing them a couple times at Mayhem Fest this summer.
But wait, there’s more…
I turned around to leave and see Ben Weinman- guitarist for The Dillinger Escape Plan- standing there. He looks up and I tell him congrats for winning and that I’m a big fan (his guitar playing is incendiary!). I mentioned that I just saw them in Austin at SXSW. He asks if I’m in the industry, and I tell him not really, I’m a blogger. He said that that is being in the industry, which I thought was nice, because there are a lot of blogger haters out there. I name dropped my site, and he says that he is aware of it, from twitter. I think the color may have drained out of my face at that point, as I recalled a particular line from my last DEP review. He actually thanked me for my support….wow! At this point his friend joined the conversation and it kind of devolved into social media hijinks. Yay for being geeks! They were on their way into the afterparty, and tried to assist Mel and I in trying to sweet talk our way in, but the security guy was not having it. But it was a funny way to end the evening. Later on I would realize that it was 2 years and 1 day ago that I first saw them, in one of my favorite sets of all time. I was awed and humbled by the conversation.
On the drive back to Mel’s, we both saw a falling star. I made a wish.
As Mel and I walked into her apartment, I was excitedly geeking out about something that happened that night and tugged on my ear. Mel laughs and pulls back her hair- we are wearing the same snake earrings.
I had a 7am flight back to SF, so that I could go to work the next day. I don’t think I really slept in the three hours I was in bed for…I just laid there and thought about all the rock stars I saw and their music…just like when I was 14.
The VIP poster and shirt:
Special thanks again to Amateur Chemist.
Be sure to catch the Rob Zombie performance on Jimmy Kimmel next Friday, April 23rd, and the Revolver Golden Gods Awards air on VH1 Classic on May 22nd.