“Now you’re lying on the floor
Yeah, you can’t take anymore
The devil’s laughing in your face
Give me another taste, yeah”
~House of 1000 Corpses
When it was announced that Rob Zombie would play a club show in Santa Cruz, I had a hard time wrapping my head around it. Why would an act so tied to an extensive production not suited for a small club play such a stripped down show? And why play a small run of club shows in Northern California when you’ve already been touring fairly extensively for the past year or so? Billed as a warm up for their upcoming UK tour, a multitude of factors led to my being at this show. One: Seeing a band of that magnitude in a small club is always something to witness. Even when I first saw White Zombie in 1996, the venue was much larger. Two: The show was to occur four days before I needed to be in LA to start my gig as the GRAMMY rock blogger. Three: I had always wanted to go to a show at The Catalyst, a legendary venue where everyone from Nirvana to Neil Young has played. And four: It was about time I return to the Bay Area to visit after quickly departing 7 months ago.
I had been avoiding returning to SF because I knew it would be hard for me. Since leaving and living though my family tragedy, I’ve been to LA four times, Las Vegas twice, and New York once- even though many of my friends are in SF. I just knew it would be one more stage of the grieving process. And sure enough, the day before my flight, I started reliving the events that occurred from June 6-July 17 in my head over and over, not sure it happened to me. And on the flight, terrible anxiety and nightmares had me jumpy, much to the dismay of my neighbor. And then upon hopping in my rental hybrid- just like what I drove when I lived there- and exiting the freeway by where my apartment was, the most bizarre out of body type sensations started happening.
It’s really hard to rationalize the past. The way that memory works; it tricks you. When you visit a place you used to live, it feels weird to be there again. It’s like physically touring a memory. Your brain sees all of these landmarks, and it tries to revert to your former self that lived there. But that is now a past life. It leaves you feeling disconnected, discombobulated; in a state somewhere in between being like you never left and like you never lived there at all.
We left our romantical bed and breakfast dressed to kill and lined up outside the venue. The streets of Santa Cruz were dead due to the fact that it was Superbowl Sunday. All that filled the sidewalks were Zombie fans, crazy homeless people, and burnouts which I’d like to say were especially baked due to it being Bob Marley’s birthday, but were probably like that every day. While waiting in line we were treated to all sorts of interesting methods to try to panhandle money, including a song about being homeless in California, a guy with a Crystal Vodka skull piggy bank around his neck, and others who just tried to creep you out to the point that you’d give it up to get them to go away. The burnouts cruised the street on bikes and skateboards, one with a trailer attached to his cruiser just to play Bob Marley music very loudly. When pulling up and subjecting the line of Zombie fans to Marley, who yelled at him, he swiftly glanced through his iPod and changed to Iron Maiden. Okay….
Santa Cruz is a weird place. The only other time I had seen a show here was down the street, where I thought I might die seeing Goatwhore. The only way I can rationalize darkness in a place as picturesque as Santa Cruz is by remembering that one of my favorite childhood films was set here:
Despite it’s legendary status, The Catalyst is a weirdy little venue. First of all, the security is kind of a hypocritical, contradictory hot mess. First, no cameras were going to be allowed, leading to running back to the car to stow it. Then once inside, everyone had cameras, so my friend had to leave to go back to the car to get hers. Then, halfway through the show, they told people to stop taking pictures, only to have the same security guy who put his hands in someone’s face about putting away their camera immediately start taking pictures with his blackberry. Ha!
However, everything was very timely…I know this because there was a giant fucking digital clock with the seconds ticking by that blinked on the minute mark. Clocks like this for me are like television for some people…..I could not stop staring at it, like it was counting down to the end of time or something. So annoying! I want to get lost in the performance, not have to think about rational things like time and curfews and….reality.
Once inside and snuggled up against the right rail in front of one of the taller stages I’ve ever seen, in a no drinking zone (it’s a 16+ venue that only allows alcohol consumption in the balcony and an area at the back of the floor sequestered by some orange construction fencing- no joke), Eyes Set to Kill came on at 8:28:06pm. The only thing I knew about the band was that there are two sisters in it, as they have been Revolver’s Hottest Chicks in metal or something, which makes me feel kind of weird that I know that, but not as weird as when my friend nudged me to look at the guy in the balcony staring at the girls with his arms outstretched in a very inappropriate sign for a ladypart. While the sisters are fun to watch, I could not get into their hardcore with a female touch style. Once Lexia stopped fiddling with her shirt, I thought she was a pretty engaging guitar player….or maybe I was staring at her giant Frankenstein arm tat. The unclean vocalist was sick or something, and the amount of slobber spewing between his mouth and the mic made my stomach turn at times. I also just generally thought they were a strange fit as an opener for Zombie.
Zombie was about 5 minutes and 39 seconds late taking the stage. I had been wondering who would be drumming- Joey Jordison was in Europe with Murderdolls and I’d heard murmurings of John Tempesta coming back- and when the person sat behind the drum kit my eyes bulged because I did not recognize him at all. In fact, it seriously looked like they grabbed one of the homeless guys who hassled us for change earlier. Judging by the acoustic guitar on a stand sitting there, I knew it was going to start the same as the last few Zombie gigs I had seen. And when homeless drummer started hitting at the beginning of the ‘Sawdust in the Blood/Electric Head’ mash up -> ‘Jesus Frankenstein’, I could tell he was pretty good and my worries subsided.
Once John 5 came out and was doing his whole I’ve-just-been-released-from-the-asylum demented act I was enthralled. But that quickly waned when Rob Zombie came out and I sensed a very peculiar energy. Then he put his foot on the monitor.
Uh-oh. The first thing to go are the shoes when you get old. The whole rest of the ensemble was the same- though his Zombie belt buckle was missing the ‘O’- but the boots were gone. Laugh at me all you want, but to me this was significant.
This was my sixth time seeing Zombie in the past year and a half. In fact, I was there the last time they played, in Corpus Christi. It didn’t take me long to realize we were essentially getting the same set as the last few shows I’d seen. Even though Zombie said we’d be treated to songs that hadn’t been played much, the wow element, that specialness that’s supposed to permeate a club show like this, never reared it’s head. Perhaps my expectations were too high- I had ‘Black Sunshine’ on the brain- but when the one variant was the new and seldom played ‘Pussy Liquor’, I was a little shocked. So I spent half the set mulling over the fact that I’m so jaded….I love the Zombie aesthetic, the old songs and some of the new ones, the musicians….but the act has become stale to me. A Zombie show is too carefully curated to follow for too long. From his walk along the rail, to the crowd participation, to the way songs are introduced….it’s all very set.
Part way through the set, Zombie took a moment to introduce the drummer- a temporary fill in for Jordison. Right before he said the name, familiarity vaguely hit me. Ginger Fish?! The somewhat meek drummer for Marilyn Manson now looks like a member of the Black Crowes with some pink hair extensions and blacked out teeth?! It was much like the transformation Robin Finck underwent when he left NIN and joined GNR. That meant that John 5 and Ginger Fish were performing together for the first time in many years. For me, this became the most interesting part of the evening.
John 5 is one of my favorite guitarists, and I spent the majority of the evening drooling over his playing. While I love his whole aesthetic and the music he’s played in both Manson and with Zombie, I would actually love to see him go through a Robin Finck/Ginger Fish style transformation and play in a band that highlighted his southern rock guitar style. He’s amazing at it, and you only get to hear hints of it in his guitar solo.
Over the course of the evening, the pit was going bonkers around us. Beyond crowdsurfers and dudes who use the pit as an excuse to get hand-sy with you, there were a lot of rowdy women there. Incidences of hair-pulling and face-punching were not uncommon. I thought I was out of harm’s way….but woke to many black and blue spots on my legs.
The set spanned about an hour and a half, ending at approximately 11:05:22. Granted Zombie songs are short, but I was really expecting a longer set. My sense that something was not right pervaded…and come to find out the next show in Reno was canceled due to an ‘unspecified illness’.
The show was fun, but I think my time with Zombie is done for a while. I’ve been seeing him play for 15 years now, and in a variety of circumstances: metal festivals, awards shows, Halloween, with legends like Alice Cooper and Pantera, and now I can add a club show to the list.
‘Blood on her skin
Dripping with Sin
Do it again
Living Dead Girl’