I have little faith in anything except that life always balances itself out. In fact, I’m kind of obsessive about it: the minute something bad happens, I get through it by knowing something good is coming my way. And then when something good happens, I know bad is lurking around the corner. Perhaps this would be ok if my life dealt in highs like winning $50 on a scratch off ticket and lows like a DVR malfunction. But my past 2 years have been a dramatic series of extreme highs and lows; the kind an outsider deems exciting or unfortunate, but to me, has both propelled me closer to my dreams and my destruction.
“Overwhelmed you chose to run…”
I sat in the small town nail salon watching the manicurist at work. I’ve chosen a deep shade of blue instead of my usual black. I’m thinking about leaving for Las Vegas the next day when it hits me: Black Gives Way to Blue.
Black. Bleak, the color of mourning. Emptiness, despair. Hopelessness. My last few months. This trip would be my first excursion back doing what I love. And while I knew it wasn’t a ticket to instant happiness, I was hoping at least it would be baby steps in the direction of just feeling blue.
“I don’t wanna feel no more, it’s easier to keep falling”
Mastodon: the band who’s album, Crack the Skye, accompanied me through a lot of life changes last year.
Deftones: their latest album, Diamond Eyes, has been in constant rotation for me since my mother’s death.
Normally this would be the kind of tour where I would have gone to several shows, but life got in the way. I was lucky to even be able to make it to the final show of the BlackDiamondSkye tour in Las Vegas.
There’s just something different about attending shows in Vegas. Add to the mix that this was the final show of the tour and the last shows in long touring cycles for both Mastodon and Alice in Chains, and there was bound to be some interesting twists and turns to the evening.
Waking up relatively early by Vegas standards in a marshmallow bed, we ordered room service and turned the TV up to drown out the loud sex our next door neighbors were having. I’ll put it this way, I could tell through the walls that that girl was faking it. Sorry, dude.
Then we were off to the spa, where my masseur played Depeche Mode over the speakers and we talked about music the entire massage. He even had a Trent Reznor story.
While trying to shop for our Halloween costumes, we walked by Mike Tyson, who is surprisingly short and made us feel like we were in our own version of The Hangover. He smiled at us, and I thought about how easily he could cease my existence.
We had VIP tickets for the show, meaning that our ticket came with swag, a meet and greet with Alice in Chains, and early entry to the show. We went downstairs to the hotel bar to have a drink, where we encountered several members from the opening bands, whom we bought margaritas for. Earlier, my friend had found a $100 on the ground, so we invested it back into the music.
We joined the lengthy line at our designated time for the meet & greet. Having done this once before, I wasn’t very nervous this time around. My excited/nervousness stemmed more from this being my first big show back in action after nearly a 4 month hiatus, and I could feel myself putting pressure on the night to be perfect.
So I was worried when it was announced to us in line that Jerry Cantrell had just been diagnosed with walking pneumonia and Sean Kinney had the flu. We were assured the show would go on, but it was impossible not to think about the implications this might have on the performance.
There was a large group of girls who apparently follow the band everywhere who seemed to be having some sort of meltdown, so they were handled separately from us, and we became the end of the line. The autograph portion came first, and the guys were all nice and chatty as they signed my poster. When I got to Kinney, who was last, I jokingly told him that earlier this year he had given a drumstick to two girlfriends of mine that I stood next to at shows, so I was starting to get offended. He promised to give me one if he made it through the set and could find me. Back in the line, we waited for pictures next. We squeezed in between them and got one ‘normal’ and one ‘fun’ shot. I’m sure they were stoked that we marked the end of these meet and greets…they have to be exhausting, especially when you are sick.
Back outside the venue, we experienced a little NIN style line drama as a bunch of people were in front of us that shouldn’t have been, and our main deal is that we like to have a good spot on the rail. However, once inside, we ended up with the perfect spot easily. All was in order to have a great time once we were over the placement hurdle.
pic from chaka chaka on buzznet
The Joint is a giant venue with little personality. The show was sold out, and the excitement and energy brewing behind us was palpable. This tour, to me, had several similarities to last year’s NIN/JA tour…3 bands with 3 different crowds, and I was in a minute minority of people who care for all three.
Mastodon took the stage at 8pm. It would be the first time for me to see them where they didn’t play CTS in it’s entirety. Wow, what a difference that made. Their energy was so much more chaotic, their playing, more frantic and unpredictable. It was a special set to me. It felt odd to hear the CTS songs out of context, but having them woven into the older material really showed off how they can stand on their own. You could tell the guys were putting everything out there at this last show, and were having a good time doing it. I saw William DuVall watching the set from the side stage and realized that there is an Atlanta connection there. It was hard for me to grasp that this was the beginning of the show and not the end. I just had one problem with the set- it was entirely too short!
“Don’t stay, run away…”
Colony Of Birchmen
Blood and Thunder
The Deftones’ set was brutal. The crowd pushed hard as Chino flailed and screamed above us. The ramp set up on stage for him to jump around on made it feel like he was standing on top of us at times….but being so close to his insane energy was rather amazing. Speaking of ramps, I found it to be an interesting coincidence that the hotel was hosting the Dew Tour Skateboarding/BMX Championship; when Deftones came into my life it was through friends’ homemade skateboarding videos in high school.
My favorite part of this set was ‘Diamond Eyes’->’You’ve Seen The Butcher’. It was great to experience live what has been accompanying me at high volume on many drives lately, taking my hot rod on sharp curves at high speeds to the sound of the pounding guitar, heavy bass, thudding drums and screams. What Chino is doing up there is how I feel inside a lot lately. The disco ball during ‘Sextape’ was an interesting touch….for some reason it is my least favorite song on the album, probably because when I saw the title I didn’t expect it to be so mellow.
Oddly enough, just like the night before, there was a marriage proposal on stage. Seriously! I can’t escape romance being rubbed in my face even at a metal show. Brent Hinds came on stage and sang a bit on one song, and then returned with a giant rainbow Afro wig at another point, just strolling around. And then someone dressed as a Teletubby came out and danced around. Gotta love final show antics. We survived several crowd surfers crashing over us, drinks being thrown from both the stage and the crowd, and some inappropriate advances from people behind us. Regardless, this set was very cathartic for me.
“When the coffin shakes and the needle breaks, come right away with me.”
Hinds as a guest vocaist
Can you find HRC?
Around the Fur
Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)
My Own Summer (Shove It)
You’ve Seen The Butcher
Change (In the House of Flies)
Engine No. 9
As there was another changeover in people around me, I realized how exhausted I was already. But I knew once The Band came on, all would be well.
Starting off with the first three tracks from Dirt, I reflected on my relationship with the music of AiC. Having recently returned to the place where I first listened to that album, I’ve realized that they had more of a presence in my life than NIN did back in my formative years. Old scrapbooks reveal doodled AiC logos from an ex-boyfriend for a potential tattoo, a Facelift postcard from an old flame who moved away. I’ll drive down a road and remember listening to SAP and who I was with. In fact, days before leaving I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in over a decade, and he pulled out the Jar of Flies album and taught me how to play ‘Rotten Apple’ on the bass. And I’ve finally been able to listen to them in the car again without wrecking….so far. The haunting harmonies, the heavy riffs…they have been and will continue to be there for me in the best of times and the worst of times. And in my usual style, I’m experiencing both at once, this very minute.
Despite the illnesses, the band played beautifully. Having seen them on pretty much every tour since 2006, I’ve watched them evolve in their reinvention, fine tune the machine, but never lose the spirit that is special to this band.
My readers know that ‘Love, Hate, Love’ is my favorite AiC song. This tour, I’d heard that it hadn’t made it on the setlist every night, but it did this evening. I felt it before it even started. While some sort of magic has happened to me every time I’ve heard this live, this time wins. Halfway through the song, DuVall walked over in front of us. “Lost inside my sick head…I live for you but I’m not alive”. He reached his hand out to us, taking my friend’s first. “Take my hands before I kill”. Then he takes mine and looks into my eyes and we sing “I still love you, but, I still burn” at each other.
Now, I realize that he does this every time this song is performed. I have seen it from afar. It is completely meaningless to him. But for me, it was everything. I needed that moment, and it will stay with me forever. That was not even just my song, but my favorite verse in that song, and out of the thousands of people in that room, I was literally touched by it. ‘Love, Hate, Love’ has the balance of extremes that is my life, and the bad that would balance this great moment out perfectly would come a mere few hours later.
Another highlight was ‘Lesson Learned’. “In your darkest hour you strike gold.” The spirit of this song fits right now; the dark with the light, the good with the bad.
‘We Die Young’: I think about how my mother’s death has affected my outlook towards life. I was once a very cautious person with my health, thinking I could fight nature. Now I don’t know. I feel like my body is a ticking time bomb- cancer is on both sides of my family. My mom barely drank and didn’t smoke….look what happened to her! Now I do what I want when I want….getting old is overrated.
As the main set wrapped up, Kinney emerged from his drums and not only kept his word, but gave me both of his sticks from the main set. He held them out and I think I froze at the gesture before my friend helped grab them and put them with the rest of our stash before someone else did.
Onto the encore, I would have to say the song of the night for me was ‘Nutshell’. As it has been for a while, the song is prefaced with the evening’s only mention of Layne Staley by Cantrell. Now, I have probably heard this song hundreds of times over the last decade or so, but tonight, it was like I was hearing it for the first time.
“We chase misprinted lies
We face the path of time
And yet I fight, and yet I fight this battle all alone
No one to cry to
No place to call home
My gift of self is raped
My privacy is raked
And yet I find, and yet I find, repeating in my head
If I can’t be my own, I’d feel better dead”
Finishing up with ‘Man in the Box’->’Would?’, we were showered with guitar picks. The band photographer took a final picture of the guys standing together before they left the stage for an indefinite period of time.
So that’s what I look like…
Dam That River
Rain When I Die
Check My Brain
Love, Hate, Love
We Die Young
It Ain’t Like That
Man in the Box
We left the venue very satisfied, even though our bodies had suffered damage that took back everything the massages had given us earlier.
After a quick recharge in the marshmallow bed, we returned downstairs to have some drinks to celebrate a successful weekend in Vegas. I should have never gone back downstairs. Deemed the ‘Fear and Loathing’ portion of the evening by my friend, I had my very existence questioned in one of the most intense conversations I’ve ever had with someone who doesn’t even know me. It’s part of the balance; my greatest strength is my greatest weakness…I am the type of person people feel like they can instantly open up to, and sometimes that does more harm than good. I may not be a musician, but I do consider music to be my life….and to have someone tell me that what I’m doing is killing music broke my heart.
As I left for the airport the next day, it was raining, but the most brilliant rainbow decorated the sky. My demons did indeed chase me here, and it was time to fly again.
“Was it something I said, held against me?
Ain’t no life on the run, slowly climbing”