Concert review: Black Label Society/Kyng/WovenWar, July 25, 2014

Once again I had the opportunity to enjoy one of the best benefits of living in metro Atlanta: I got to see a concert by a major metal act. This none was a super tough choice for me, one that I made last minute. As it turns out, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster were playing lees than ten minutes from the Black Label Society show. It was a decision that boiled to the fact that while I love MASTSOD, the BLS show gave the benefit of seeing Kyng, another of my favorites, and I couldn’t give that up.

I’ve already written about the all of the non-musical components of the night earlier today. The music, however, is what made the night. Well, the music AND getting to hangout briefly with Eddie Veliz of Kyng. (Eddie is one of the nicest guys in metal. Fantastic singer and guitarist, funny and personable. A guy that will talk about hitting the gym in one breath and his favorite guitar brand in the next. Should you get to see Kyng live, make your way to the merch table and tell Eddie,”Hello”; you’ll be glad you did).

Kyng opened the night with fun, but short six song set. Being a big fan of the band, I could have listened to Kyng all night. But, being an upcoming band has it’s limits and they got the opening slot. Eddie, Tony and Pepe hit hard and offered up a tasty serving of swampy metal, providing the best guitar tone of the night. Dean Guitars were never my thing (yes, yes, I know Dimebag was a fan of them), but the way Eddie slings that axe makes my head spin. Kicking off the night with “Burning the Serum”, Kyng slapped the slack jaws of a lethargic crowd. Sadly, the none of the five original songs seem to make an impact on a solidly BLS crowd. Only a spot on cover of Van Halen’s “Hot for teacher” caught fire with this beer drenched crowd. I felt genuinely bad for the boys. They are getting great exposure with the BLS tour, but the last two times they have played Atlanta have seemingly fallen short of being great experiences (one bomb scare crowd and one laconic crowd).

Eddie remained upbeat and extremely personable. I snagged a Kyng shirt (the boys do need some new designs; I have all the current choices, including the “Scooby” shirt that is only available online) and a pic with Eddie, talked guitars and amps and went for a Diet Coke.

WovenWar ran me out with the first 30 seconds of their set. They remind me quite a bit of Motionless In White. My wife would probably enjoy them, but they fail to impress me.

BLS hit the stage around 10:15pm. Zakk has a new rhythm guitarist in the band, some sorely needed fresh blood. His bassist is rock solid as his drummer, but this show is all about Zakk. They hit pretty hard. “Funeral Bell”, “In My Dying Time” and “Overlord” all made the playlist, which pleasantly surprised me. The wall of Marshall amps assaulted the crowd like a maniac with a ballbat. Zakk maintains impressive biceps, and a lumberjack beard. It was a bit over the top when he changed guitars with every song, but he kept the town entertained. His signature extended guitar solo lacked imagination, in my opinion. It was simply musical masturbation. What initially was exciting to the crowd ended up boring. “The Blessed Hellride” made an appearance, though I am not a fan of the residual vocal melody changes from the UNBLACKENED shows. My night with BLS ended with a somewhat tired sounding version of “Stillborn” and me heading to my car.

It is almost 48 hours later and my ears are still ringing. I see the show overall as a good thing. Kyng has the potential to hit the top of the metal world. I hope they don’t sour on fickle Atlanta crowds. WovenWar goes on my list of bands I prefer to never see again. I’m sure they’re nice guys, but their music doesn’t move me. As for Zakk and BLS, I’m torn. On one hand they provided the first REAL metal show I have seen in a while. The ‘colors’, the theatrics, the thundering music all add up to a potent combo. Zakk combines classic Southern rock simplicity with modern metal and serves it hot. However, it bores me. I crave more from a live show. Perhaps it’s the crowd (which I already addressed in my earlier blog). Perhaps it’s me. Either way, of the three bands seen, only Kyng remains on my list of bands that I MUST see again. And I will, every chance I get. Talent like that band can’t be ignored.

Changing attitudes and latitudes (with thanks to Jimmy Buffett)

I went to see the Kyng/Black Label Society show Friday night. Yes, it’s another of THOSE blogs. But, this isn’t the typical “Zakk is so badass” entry. It’s more about mentality of crowd based on location. Kyng was fantastic, Wovenwar needs to be locked in a crate with Motionless In White and other bands of that ilk and BLS was good (though not as good as when I saw them in 2011). I’m more intrigued by the differences in how the crowd interacted based on locale change.

Most of my concert attendance is at Atlanta’s famed Masquerade. This much vaunted club has been around since…well, as long as I can remember. I first went there in 1991 and it was old back then. It’s hosted artists as diverse as Motorhead, The Ramones, Megadeth, Rise Against, Dr. Dog, Ziggy Marley, TI, D.R.I., Bad Brains, Bad Religion, In This Moment and the list goes on. It’s actually three clubs in one: Hell, the basement club, holds about 200 tortured souls and leans towards alternative and metal, though they used to have a fun disco party on Saturday nights; Purgatory, more of a corner pub feel with middle of the road bands and a horrible lay out; and, Heaven, a large concert venue that hosts mostly national acts. For me, the real difference that sets The Masquerade apart is the attitude of it’s regulars. I see many of the same faces, over and over, as I attend the shows at there. There’s a definite respect between regulars. There’s the occasional fight, but they are few and far between. Pits can get rough, but there’s concern for your fellow moshers.

Friday’s concert did not take place at The Masquerade, instead it was held at The Center Stage (slightly larger venue with fixed seating and a large center pit/standing area). It also holds three separate concert/viewing areas: Vinyl (leaning towards alternative and acoustic music), The Loft (more of the same) and The Center Stage (everything from Metal to Rap). The difference seems to be in the lack of a regular base. The Masquerade holds metal shows several times a week; The Center Stage a few times a month. The difference could be felt while waiting in line.

Waiting in line at the Masquerade is generally pretty fun. Conversations with complete strangers to discuss the latest bands lead to laughs and before you know it, the doors are open and you’re in line for t-shirts, drinks or you’re securing your spot for the night.

Waiting in line at the Center Stage was boring. Attendees seemed to be closed off into cliques and it had a high school feel to it. I attempted to start several conversations, only to be fully ignored. Strike one.

The lay out of the two clubs is night and day. I’ll use Heaven as the reference point for argument’s sake. Heaven is basically a giant room with a stage at one end and two bars at the other end. Seats are limited to maybe 20 chairs. Be prepared to stand all night. View of the stage depends on your physical height, the height of those in front of you and your proximity to the stage.

The Center Stage is well laid out with multiple bars and food/drink kiosks laid out through the ante area surrounding the arena. The Arena is laid out similar to a theater, with rising/descending seats leading to a large standing area in the center, all facing the stage. View is based on location and who is in front of you. Points to Center Stage on this. This has little to do with the attitude of attendees, but it does lead to the general discussion.

The crowd was the biggest difference. When Kyng has played The Masquerade in the past, there has been an enthusiastic audience, a pit and a lot of fun. The crowd at Friday’s show were stiff and boring. Eddie tried vainly to rouse the audience with every cheap pop he could, but he couldn’t have lit up that crowd with a gallon of gasoline and a match. This was a BLS crowd, not a metal crowd (there’s a difference).

This crowd failed to ignite for WovenWar, as well. Ok, so did, preferring to sit in one of the plush alcoves surrounding the ante-arena area. It was during this time I bought yet another Kyng shirt, got to hang with Eddie Veliz for a bit and ended up getting hit on no fewer than four times. Drunk chicks apparently dig That Nerdy Metal Guy. Score another point for the Center Stage.

BLS finally hit the stage around 1015pm and the crowd was hot and overly inebriated. Sweaty, heavily muscled idiots pushed/attempted to push their way through the crowd, causing several fights. I counted ten arrested individuals being carried from the show as I was leaving (I left half way through the general show closer of “Stillborn”). I haven’t seen a concert this violent since I saw Lynrd Skynrd at the Georgia Jam in 1991.

I was shocked at the change in attitude associated with the change in venue. I saw BLS at the Masquerade in 2011. The crowd was enthusiastic, but polite. Drinking beer and headbanging were performed, but there no fights, no arrests and no hassles. I remember one guy trying to start a pit at the 2011 show and he was gently led aside by a gigantic, lumberjack looking BLS patch holder. The 2014 crowd had too many idiots in the crowd who had too much alcohol.

My next planned metal show is Mastodon and Gojira at The Tabernacle, possibly my favorite venue in Atlanta for shows. I’m hoping to have a better experience. (I’ll write an actual concert review later today)

Hairy, sweaty love

As I have continued my re-immersion into metal after my binge on Bowie and Jeff Beck, I have focused on Motorhead. There’s something oddly soothing about Motorhead to me. “Soothing” and “Motorhead” are not words that often go together, but it makes sense to me. Lemmy’s Cookie Monster choking on gravel voice, Mikkey Dee’s machine gun drums and Phillip “The Beast” Campbell’s vicious riffing are like a warm blanket to my ears. After two days of intellectually stimulating lyrics and mathematically complex arrangements, it’s nice to relax my brain.

My particular album for my morning was ROCK’N’ROLL. Not known as one of the band’s best selling albums or anything close to a fan favorite, it’s been one of my regular listens since my junior year of military school, even surviving my blues phase. I’ve had this album on cassette, CD and mp3, making it one of five albums share that distinction in my collection.

I found myself drawn to the track “All for You” this morning. When the album was first released, this track was an oddity for Motorhead: a love song. In true Motorhead, form, it’s not mushy or saccharine. It’s uptempo, heavily distorted. Staccato riffs and gunshot snare fill the song. But, it’s a love song. It’s the ups and the downs, the joy and the loss. I personally never figured out why it never got picked up in rotation on AOR stations (back before satellite and internet radio became a reality).

Many metal fans don’t like to discuss the idea of love songs entering our beloved musical realm. It makes perfect sense to me. If metal is the ultimate in emotional outlets, why not address the most intense and confusing emotion of them all?

And who better to preach this message than the High Reverend Kilmister?

Sleeping with the fishes

I went on a bender. Not drugs or alcohol. I didn’t wake up in a fleabag motel with a dirtpile where an easy woman had been. I went on a musical bender. Delved into a side of my musical youth that i hadn’t investigated before. I downloaded five of Jeff Beck’s 70’s jazz fusion album and five of David Bowie’s early to late 70’s albums. My brain has been swirled, twirled and hurled. My musical soul has been diced and respliced. And now, I’m spent.

I grew up listening to David Bowie’s hits. Hell, we all did, at least in metro Atlanta. “Fame”, “Changes”, “The Jean Genie”, “Let’s Dance” and on and on. They were played on the radio, on TV, in movies and even in my collection of 45rpm records. I saw Bowie on AMERICAN BANDSTAND and SOLID GOLD. Just like everyone else, I KNEW Bowie.

Or, so I thought. Listening to albums like HEROES and HUNKY DORY in their complete form shows a hole different side of Bowie. He makes more sense, is less bizarre. The stories in the lyrics become complete tales, not just a jaunt down to Suffragette City. The music is more in tune with avant garde jazz, not top 40 pop lists. My beliefs are shaken, not broken, but definitely shaken.

The same way I thought I knew Bowie, I thought I knew Jeff Beck. I knew “People get ready”, I had his classic TRUTH and BECK-OLA albums and had been reading about him for years in guitar magazines. I had seen him hailed as one of the greatest guitarists on the planet. Then I listened to WIRED, BLOW BY BLOW, THERE AND BACK, BBA and JEFF BECK WITH THE JAN HAMMER GROUP LIVE. No smoky Rod Stewart vocals belting out blues classics. No acoustic remakes of English standards. No reworkings of Yardbirds hits. A different Jeff Beck is revealed. Smooth guitar genius is revealed. Les Paul snarl is replaced with Stratocaster smoothness. 4/4 time gives way to jazz tempos. Oh sure, there’s standards reworked, but they are now Jazz standards. “Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat” takes on a new life. Even Stevie wonder’s “Cause we’ve ended as lovers” is invigorated and mutated into something even more moving than the original.

I have spent the past two days listening to these ten classic albums. I feel I have discovered buried treasure. Gems that were neglected because there were other nuggets close to the surface. I ended my day at the office listening to Jeff Beck’s “Constipated Duck”. I closed out my day and walked calmly to car. No replaying the musical journey I had been on.

I got in my car, put it drive and put on Motorhead’s classic NO SLEEP ‘TIL HAMMERSMITH. To heck with expanding my mind. Pushing boundaries can wear cement shoes in the river at high tide. Right now, I need simplicity.

Riding off into the sunset

Judas Priest has done the unfathomable and has released a new album. It’s not horrible, but not great. Halford’s once mighty shriek has taken a beating from a 40+ year metal career. Glen Tipton continues to create interesting riffs and licks, but overall, I’m done.

I have been listening to Judas Priest for thirty years. It all started with a friend playing “Living after midnight” for me and I was hooked. I had to have more. HELLBENT FOR LEATHER, SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE, SAD WINGS OF DESTINY…all found a home in my collection. DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH raised the bar another notch, taking the Road Warrior personas to their zenith. I filled in my collection, picking up STAINED CLASS, POINT OF ENTRY, UNLEASHED IN THE EAST and SIN AFTER SIN. ROCKA ROLLA even found a home with me. I flew my Priest flag proudly.

Turbo came out and ruined everything they had built. Then the poorly produced JP LIVE hit the shelves and their empire seemed to crumble. Halford left the band to form Fight, Ripper Owens was brought in and I was left to my old albums.

PAINKILLER was a nice return to form and seemed to bring the phoenix back from the ashes, but it was short lived. Rob seemed more interested in his real estate holdings and KK became addicted to golf. Dave Holland became embroiled in legal troubles and the band seemed to be a relic without a home. They never really went away, but they never regained their status.

I blew the dust off my Priest albums in 2009, as I entered my new life after seven years in a hellish relationship. “Killing Machine” became my theme song. I cranked STAINED CLASS and UNLEASHED IN THE EAST as I roamed the north Georgia mountain roads, fearing little. Priest brought a power to my life that had been missing.

I continued my happy relationship with their music until I saw the EPITAPH concert last year on PalladiaTV. Rob was shell of his former self. KK gone, Ian looking horribly aged and Glen just not able to pull off the gig he has played for 40+ years.

This latest album makes me ask what I have asked so many times already: Why can’t these beloved bands just throw a leg over their Harleys and ride away? Is the lure of one more cash cow tour that bad? Is it Eddie Trunk and his ilk, pining for their childhood heroes? Why can’t my memories be left unmolested?

I will not be seeing Priest on this tour. I will keep my classic priest albums in rotation and will continue to list them as a favorite, but I won’t recognize this latest incarnation as Judas Priest.

Before I do that, I will be the one throwing a leg over my Triumph and riding off into the sunset.

Grocery lists and snobbery

Last night I found myself in a lighthearted discussion about 1980’s science fiction and fantasy movies. After I laid my views on the movies in question out for all to see, I was called a Hollywood worthy snob. I laughed and the conversation moved on. I woke his morning with the conversation replaying in my head (along with Electric Light Orchestra’s “Can’t get you out of my head”). I began to ruminate over opinions and interpretations. Of all the sub-groups of society I find myself allied with, metalheads may be the biggest snobs of all.

I see evidence of this at least weekly. I belong to multiple fan chatrooms, facebook pages, twitter feed accounts, etc that allow open discussions of musical likes and dislikes. Without fail snobbery appears in every discussion. No matter the genre, there has to be that one person who has to play troll. Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch seems to suffer from this more than others, though Disturbed/Device, Korn, In This Moment and Straight Line Stitch seem to get more than fair share of abuse. Some one shouts,”Slayer rules!” and the onslaught begins.

I will confess to being opinionated, but draw the line at snobbery. I try to keep an open mind regarding music. You never know when you’re going to hear that song that will change your day or your life. I had to soften my opinions as I have aged, opening my mind and my ears to bands that ten years previously.

I have challenged myself to check out something by a band I haven’t previously listened to at least once a day. Whether it’s Candy Striper Orgy, Nuclear Assault, Kreator or other bands I have passed by. I’m finding by opening my mind musically, I’m also opening a whole new world to me. I’m making friends that were closed to me before. All from simply not delving into snobbery.

Grocery shopping day is upon me. As I’m making my grocery list for the week, I’m also mentally making my metal list for the day. It’s a battle between Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Kyng, He Is Legend and Black Label Society. The winner gets my presence at their show this upcoming Friday night.

I personally find this list more entertaining than deciding which vegetables we need for the week.

The Illustrated Man

The world became a sadder place this past week. Johnny Winter, guitar slinger extraordinaire, died at the age of 70. Younger readers may not know why this shocking or even who Johnny was. Guitar players and blues lovers, however, should have a shrine erected to Johnny Winter in their homes, bowed to twice daily.

I was lad of nineteen when I discovered Johnny Winter. I was reading a guitar magazine and he was interviewed, hailed as the greatest guitarist to come from Texas. This was before Stevie Ray Vaughan would be hailed as the master of the Stratocaster. I was intrigued by this skinny albino, with his Erlwine Lazer guitar and black cowboy hat. I read further into the article and went out to pick up a copy of the album JOHNNY WINTER. I was blown away. “I’m yours and I’m hers”, “Be careful with a fool” and “Leland Mississippi Blues” exploded out of my speakers with their sheer power. Johnny was shredding faster than my metal heroes. KK Downing and Dave Murray seemed slow by comparison.

The real gem was an acoustic number called “Dallas”. This is no ballad. This is the heaviest metal ever created. Johnny, a National Steel guitar, a slide and that’s it. When Johnny warns to load your revolver and sharpen your knife, you take it seriously. The amazing tale of warning told between absolute aural fire. I went out that day and bought a slide for my guitar.

Johnny became the standard for playing for me. He took the white rock and roll mentality of the late sixties and mixed it with the swampy Delta blues. He skated the edges of mass popularity throughout the 70’s and had a huge comeback in the 80’s with the Alligator label, teaming with BB King for several lucrative tours.

I remember going to see him live in the early 90’s, before health issues began to plague his shows. He may be the only man who could possibly follow BB King and not be laughed off stage.

As I moved through life, Johnny’s music was a frequent companion. Whether the driving bass of “Mean Town Blues”, the angry snarl of “Boot Hill” or the humor of “TV Mama”, I could count on his gravelly voice and guitar lightening to improve my day.

Godspeed, Johnny. I hope you and Muddy are reunited in that Juke joint in the sky.