Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Thirty Years

Damn... 30 years ago today.. 10,950 days.  I wasn't going to post anything about this anniversary... but I decided I had to because.. you know... Cliff.

Thirty years ago today I was at home and it was a Saturday.  I got a call from my old friend Dave Marrs.  Dave had been an original member of the Metallica road crew from the first No Life 'Til Leather demo-era shows through the Ride The Lightning Tour.  I had not talked to him in awhile.  I was surprised he was calling me.

The next day I went and got the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle hoping there might be some mention of Cliff in the major hometown paper... and in the bottom corner of the general news section was this:

A very long time ago...

Damn, Cliff... 30 years!?  The first time I saw you play was when your old band Trauma supported Saxon at The Keystone Palo Alto.  I was up against the stage and when you were walking offstage I said something like "Great set!" and you looked down and thanked me.  Nine months later I met you before your first rehearsal with the new band and when the Danish drummer introduced us you said something like "I've been told about you!"   

Around a year after this we were at The Keystone Berkeley and Trauma were supporting Exodus.  When your old band played we both went to the front of the stage, because hardly anyone else was there yet, and we banged our heads practically by ourselves to your old bandmates.  You treated me like a friend from the first moment I met you... and I always appreciated how you treated me like a friend after that... even though I was just the nerdy Metalhead who wrote for those fanzines.

Anyway, cheers Cliff.  You will always be the Major Rager on the 4-String Motherfucker.

Photos by the teenage me:

"Bass solo.  Take one."

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The End

Oracle Arena, Oakland, California
September 15, 2016


Next to Motörhead the band that influenced me the most in this lifetime has been Black Sabbath.  In high school the jocks liked Zeppelin.  The normal kids liked The Beatles. I gravitated to Black Sabbath.  Sabbath pointed me towards the dark path, which hasn't been that bad at all.  This final Bay Area show tonight made me feel like that validated teenage misfit again.. In a good way.  Back in February I attended the band's show down in San Jose because it had been billed as "the final show"... but then they put this Oakland show onsale not long afterwards.  That kind of pissed me off and I didn't really think I wanted to see them again especially since the San Jose show had been amazing and perfect.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Casual Sabbath fans only focus on "Ozzy this" and "Ozzy that".  For me Sabbath has always been about the Hand of Iommi and tonight would be my 16th and final time being in the same room as him.  It should go without saying that Tony Iommi is my favorite guitarist.  Ironically the first time I saw Iommi live was only several hundred feet from tonight's venue in 1980 on the Heaven And Hell Tour.

Umlaut trips on full circle moments like this.  In 1980 I fell asleep in the stands during Journey.  Here in 2016 I was concerned about falling asleep on the BART train after the show.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Flashback to a couple of weeks ago and one thing led to another and the opportunity to attend this Oakland show with some veteran old Metal friends presented itself.  Sometimes the Metal Godz work in mysterious ways. First off, I was due to meet up with my concert buddies at Rosamunde in The Mission after work before heading to BART and heading under The Bay to Oakland.  I arrived early and one of the dudes who works there is a Metal guy who recognized me so we chatted, which was a nice way to start the night.  Then once my bros Chewy and Eric arrived we headed out.  However, I didn't get the memo because they were both wearing Thin Lizzy tees while I was flying Motörhead.  Awkward.  The BART ride was uneventful but I was inside the arena less than 5 minutes and miraculously ran into 6-7 old friends immediately.  METAL.  It was one of those shows that felt like a high school reunion more than a mere gig.

I've known these people since we were all teenagers going to Metal shows in San Francisco and the East Bay.  Oh Lord, yeah.

The final Bay Area performance of Black Sabbath started right around 8:45pm on this Thursday night on this fifteenth day of September in the year two thousand and sixteen.  The players known collectively as "the band" appeared onstage as the curtain fell with the unholy riff monster pounding darkness of the composition titled 'Black Sabbath'.. and for the next 2 hours or so we were given a final sermon by the band who started it all.

The San Jose show in February had been perfection with even the notoriously inconsistent Ozzy being strong of voice and not annoying at all between songs.  Tonight was almost a carbon copy of that show in the best possible way.  Having seen this final lineup twice before from up close it was actually a nice change to watch them from further back to appreciate the stage production and also the finer details of the great sound mix.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Tonight's setlist differed from January only by the exclusion of a song from that final new Sabbath album that I haven't bothered to listen to (yet).  So it was all old time songs performed in their original forms.  I still can't believe a Christian band hasn't covered 'After Forever' (yet).  'Hand Of Doom' was my favorite performance of the night.. but 'War Pigs' will always be my favorite song.  Watching the Hand of Iommi a final time in person was bittersweet but reminded me how music can be a time machine back and forth between moments in your life.  I know there are folks who crossed their arms and said "No Bill Ward, No Sabbath" which is unfortunate because the young gun drummer Tommy Clufetos plays like a young Bill Ward.  Geezer will always be the quintessential ying of Doom to Iommi's yang of Doom; the black vegan heart of Black Sabbath.  Ozzy is Ozzy.. Sometimes the worst example of Metal... but sometimes you're reminded how great he was and can still sort of echo.  Although he wasn't as chatty as at the past couple of shows, he was all business and his voice for this final Bay Area curtain call was strong.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Fourteen songs and then Sabbath said goodbye to The Bay Area (after) forever.  According to some Internets research the Ozzy-versions of Sabbath played 23 shows in The Bay Area (the 415, 510, and 408 area codes) between their first visit in 1970 to this year.  According to the Umlaut Archives I was fortunate to have witnessed 5 of these performances.  Given how good this final version of Ozzy Sabbath is it's hard to remember how profoundly Iron Maiden blew them off the stage at OzzFest 2005 even with Bill Ward in the lineup.  That being said it's awesome that Sabbath and the band's legacy is going to the finish line very strong.  Oh Lord, yeah.

[Photo courtesy of Timo's iPhone]

On the way back to my car via BART, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  Actually, a weird incident happened on the BART return trip when 2 other Sabbath fans and I were caught in a train that evidently was going out of service; I was still 2 stations from my final stop.   In typical BART customer service fashion no one responded to my intercom request when I pressed the button on 2 different "emergency" intercom speakers.  Finally one of the other trapped Sabbath fans simply pulled the emergency door release and we were freed.  Bizarre.. Then as I waited for the next train heading my way literally the only other person on the platform was a drunk guy who has a copy of Murder In The Front Row.  METAL.   Anyway, I eventually made it back to Casa de Umlaut safely.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Now I will say adieu and merci boucoup to Black Sabbath.  With Sabbath due to play their "final" show in December, who would have thought both Motörhead and Sabbath would cease to exist within a year of each other!?  My name is Lucifer.. Please take my hand.. one last time.

Oh Lord, yeah.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Five Years Of Murder

Five years ago on this date, the pre-order for Murder In The Front Row launched on our publisher's website.

Fast forward 1,825 days later and this hardcover thing is about to go into its 3rd printing.  Crazy.

Murder has been blessed with proper distribution, and a worldwide network of friends, and has been confirmed to be on bookshelves in places like Mongolia (!), Russia, Europe, Japan, South America, China, North America, and Australia.  It's also been translated into... Bulgarian?!

As our publisher Ian Christe of Bazillion Points said awhile back, Murder kind of took on a life of its own.  Click HERE to read about the most amazing thing associated with the book for me.  

It's been an interesting 5 years... with some new action in the works for the future.  If you're reading this and have a copy of the book, THANKS for the support!  It's much appreciated.

Trivia: All of the fonts used in the book are the same ones used on the Kill 'Em All, Bonded By Blood, and Hell Awaits albums.  Fonts matter.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

The Golden Ticket

The Regency, San Francisco
September 1, 2016

It was bizarre that Exodus would be on this bill supporting Killswitch Engage, but that was the case as our favorite Thrash band signed on for 3 shows in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas supporting KSE.  However, the bonus was that Gary Holt was back onstage with Exodus for these shows during a break in the Slayer touring schedule.  For the newbies:  Gary has been playing double duty with both Exodus and Slayer for the past several years.. which is both weird and cool depending on how you look at it.  As long as both bands are able to keep it going on their own terms I guess that's all that matters.

The Regency has generally been an easy venue to attend shows at but tonight parking took a bit more effort and I guess the terrorists have won because there were 2 imposing airport style metal detectors scanning punters at the entrance followed by a "should I smoke after this" extreme pat down search.  However, I'm pretty sure no terrorists made it into the building tonight to harsh the Metal so maybe the terrorists haven't won after all.  I guess.

As the middle band this evening (playing after that band Unearth who I know I've seen before in a Mayhem Festival (R.I.P.) parking lot somewhere..) the hometown heroes were allotted a criminally short 8 songs and 45 minutes onstage.  The mid-set 'Blacklist' is always a highlight for me.. but.. yes, I got teary eyed when Exo launched into 'Bonded By Blood'.. which is a song that now resonates for me in a more profound way than it did when I was a pimply-faced teenage Metalhead.  Then they followed it with 'Toxic Waltz' and (cue pathetic old man voice) I suddenly got all nostalgic hearing both of those quintessential Bay Area songs back to back. The hometown heroes closed with the still brutal 'Strike of the Beast' and for a few minutes the ghost of Ruthie's Inn visited us again.. then it was gone.  

It's true the Bay Area Metal scene (such as it is here in 2016) is based on nostalgia to a very large extent.. but what's wrong with that?  Most cities that had scenes saw them wither and disappear whereas it's impressive that the key Bay Area Metal bands (or at least their current 21st Century versions) are still alive and roaming the globe.  Not that I trip on it too much, but in this day and age it's easier for the Internets to ridicule and tear shit down instead of celebrating it.. but whatever.  Exodus.  Metallica.  Death Angel. Testament.  All still creating music.  All still touring.  Dog bless them.

On a personal note, I was completely gobsmacked when Gary Holt came onstage wearing a t-shirt with the cover of my old zine Whiplash on it!

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

It was kind of emotional to be honest.  Thanks to Umlaut's old friend Tom for making the tee.

Sometimes the Rock Godz work in mysterious and ironic ways.  Example:  At Will Call along with my ticket I was given a glittery gold wristband.  When I asked what it was for I was told it was for After Show.. which was fine but I wasn't planning to hang out until the end of the night once Exodus were done.  Anyway, I put the wristband on and headed into the show.

After Exodus I was about to leave when a friend who I'd told about the gold wristband said a mutual friend working the show said that one (1) person had been given a gold wristband and that it granted the bearer All Access to all the magical places of the show tonight.  Evidently the venue's security were informed about this one (1) golden wristband during their pre-show briefing.  My response was "Really??"

So I went to the backstage door and showed the security guy the wristband and his response was "Oh.. YOU'RE the one with the gold wristband.." and he opened the door that allowed me into the magical, sweaty, and cramped backstage of The Regency.  Hilarious, right?  

The Golden Wristband.. There was only one...

Somewhere the ghost of Gene Wilder smiled.  "So shines a good deed in a weary world."

During my Willie Wonka golden ticket / wristband moment I had a nice visit with the Exodus guys on their bus before heading back to Casa de Umlaut.. and was walking up to my front door at just about 10:30pm.  A fun, short night for this old person.

No, I didn't watch a note of Killswitch Engage..  I've seen them around a half dozen times over the years.. and I'm happy for them that the one guitarist no longer wears a cape onstage.. but.. sorry KSE.. it's you not me.

Exodus were selling flip flops.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  Time is a weird thing and this show was an example.  A band who I've been following since their earliest days still grinding it out 30+ years later and seeming to still enjoy it despite being the middle band on a bill in a less than half full venue.  Dog bless them.

"It's time to run.. or fight.. off the strike.. of The Beast."

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pimply-Faced Teenagers

Four months ago back on 4/20 (Dude!) Umlaut found himself at Metallica HQ in Marin County, California in front of a professional film crew from Spotify talking about *that band* again.  It was a long afternoon but a fun experience.  The results are launching today as a 4-part, 27 minute long documentary called Metallica: The Early Years as part of Spotify's new Landmark video series.

Take 3...

Honesty is my only excuse:  I've never used Spotify... but everyone I worked with during this project from the company were very nice and appreciative.  Spotify also licensed the use for quite a few photos from Murder In The Front Row for the film which was much appreciated by my co-author Harald and I.

So.. now whenever I see something on the Internets ranting about Spotify destroying the "music industry" or something like that I'll be conflicted and confused.  Anyway, you can watch the first episode on the Spotify Facebook page and all 4 episodes only on the Spotify mobile app (non-paying members have access to them).


Click HERE to check 'em out.  No Life 'Til WiFi... 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Chinese Democracy

Guns 'N Roses
AT&T Park, San Francisco
August 9, 2016

One thing led to another and Umlaut found himself with a last minute ticket to this self-proclaimed "Tour Of The Year" a mere 3 hours before start time.  I was not a big Guns 'N Roses fan back in The Day.  Obviously their debut album deserves a place in record collections, and they did torch away the hairspray from L.A. Hair Metal, but after massive success hit they became just another out of touch band to dislike.  Axl jumping off an oil tanker to swim with dolphins in that music video that cost $4 MILLION to make summed it all up.

The most ridiculous Rock music video ever.

Since getting to this show was so easy and it included free parking I put history aside and made it to AT&T Park with enough time to watch the Giants road game from Miami on a television in the Club Level while the opening band called The Struts (who?) did their best to warm up the San Francisco evening.  Ironically I ran into some of the same friends who I would also see at a Slayer show.  Discuss amongst yourselves.  The last time I saw GNR was at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena during the Summer of 1992 when the "support" bands Metallica and Motörhead wiped the stage with them.  My 1992 self asked "What the fuck are you doing here!?"

Dude / Dad: "Where's the escalator?"
Chick / Mom: "I thought we were VIP."
Me: (forehead slap)

Despite the 20+ year old reputation for arriving onstage late, GNR and Axl actually went onstage early tonight.  This must have pissed off the thousands of fans who were still trying to enter the stadium.  For Umlaut it was only annoying as I stood in a bar line as the first song 'It's So Easy' rumbled out of the PA on the field.  The woman behind me in line said "That sounds like them.." and when I confirmed that it was "them" she said "Oh well... I'm not going to rush.. I'm not 20 anymore!"  It should be noted that this Tuesday evening was definitely a Mom & Dad date night and the most un-Rock crowd I've been around at a "Rock" concert in ages.

For all of the hype over this "reunion" tour, and the rationalized modern mathematics that 3 of 5 original band members equals a "reunion", tonight's show was not completely sold out.  It was full to be sure, but I didn't encounter any long lines for anything compared to Metallica in this same venue earlier this year.  Not that I was complaining at all of course, but can we all agree that having reserved seating on the floor for a stadium concert is the worst thing to happen to concerts maybe ever.  Reserved seating killed the arena and stadium concert experience and made it "safe".  Thank dog for Slayer shows.

Surprisingly, I have to admit that Guns 'N Roses were not awful here in 2016.. but I also admit my standards are much lower than they were in 1992.  It's obvious that Axl is in shape again and consistently sounded like "Axl" during the set.. but I didn't see him shimmy once.

"One gourmet CHEEEESE tray.."

For old times sake, Axl broke out the white leather jacket; I wonder if it has its own bus on this tour.  Duff still does the bass player swagger thing better than most.  Slash carries the band by being a solid guitar god type dude onstage.  I have no idea who the other band members are on this "reunion" tour.  Don't talk to the hired help.. No, don't even look at them.

Anyway, I think it's safe to assume that the songs I didn't know were off that Chinese Democracy album.  'Rocket Queen' would be the song I liked the most tonight, but 'Live and Let Die' reminded me how much I hated GNR in 1992.  At one point during their set I traded texts with the guy who so eloquently read their concert rider on camera back in that Summer of '92.  The screams of all the Moms losing their shit as Slash played the intro to 'Sweet Child 'O Mine' was a bit unsettling.  No mosh pits opened up on the floor during 'Out Ta Get Me' which was disappointing. I hope the people who left early during the set closing 'Night Train' were leaving to score smack.  The show closing and final encore 'Paradise City' was good in that "kidz getting crushed to death at Donington '88" way.  The biggest let down of the night was that Slash did not stand on Axl's piano during his solo in 'November Rain'.

Kudos to GNR for having a Dirty Harry themed event t-shirt for San Francisco tonight.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  The bottom line was I had fun tonight and it was an easy gig for Umlaut to attend.  It was better than spending a Tuesday night on the couch, right?  However, my main thought as I left the stadium was that as Guns 'N Roses were onstage their hometown Dodgers had won their game to move into a tie with the Giants for 1st place in the NL West. Irony is a dish best served cold.

Fuck the Dodgers.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Murder On The Big Screen

Friends of Murder In The Front Row -

We wanted to let you know that production has started on the Murder In The Front Row documentary film. We are working with a director and producer who have a long history and list of credits documenting music and we think they're the perfect filmmakers to tell the story about the birth of our original Bay Area Metal scene. Thanks again for all of the support you’ve given the book and we'll keep you updated as this new project progresses.

Bonded by Blood!

From earlier today: Cliff's dad Ray Burton with Murder. Mr. Burton spent time today being interviewed for the film. We are so honored he was happy to contribute his insight and stories for us.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

South Of Comic-Con

One thing led to another and Umlaut found himself in San Diego for a week working at the iconic global event known as San Diego Comic-Con.  From a nerd fan perspective it must seem like a magical celebration of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and entertainment (oh yeah... and comics).  However, if you're working Comic-Con it's mainly a shit show of long hours, hard work, and humanity on an insane scale in a confined space:

That was the human gridlock outside of our booth because of a Game Of Thrones thing that was literally 100 yards down the aisle.  Comic-Con in Umlaut's world is basically just like any other tradeshow (meetings with partners, customers, and industry friends) so it could be far worse.  At least it wasn't a plumbing tradeshow.  Anyway, the Rock Godz work in mysterious ways and, miraculously, two of my favorite bands had shows in San Diego while I was there... which went a very long way to keeping me sane outside of the work stuff.

July 21, 2016
House Of Blues, San Diego, California

Slayer were participating in Comic-Con 2016 due to their comic collaboration with Dark Horse Comics with this show (I thought I heard $17 tickets were sold first to Comic-Con attendees) and a couple of autograph sessions at the convention.  Metal.. Pretty cool, right?

Upon arrival at the venue there was no Will Call drama, but I didn't have a pass.. Which wasn't that big of a deal since it was such a small venue.  However, one thing led to another and after a couple of text messages I found myself standing at stage right getting a bro hug from that old friend who I've known for over 30 years who now plays with Slayer at stage right.


I'll cut to the chase and say this was the best Slayer performance I've seen in recent years, certainly during the post-Hanneman era.  I would need to consult the Umlaut Archives, but I can't remember the last time I saw SLAAAYEER in such a small venue (1,000 capacity).  When I arrived the room was already packed, drunk, and the lack of ventilation made the floor slippery from the condensation and spilled beer.  Perfect.. and the setlist was a SOLID 18 songs.. All killer.  No filler. 


Also, the stripped down stage with no production outside of lighting jacked up the vintage atmosphere as well.  The songs and performance ruled on this night, with the band having a loose gunslinger quality onstage that fed profoundly off the drunk Thursday night crowd.  On top of that, Tom was downright chatty between songs.  Clearly, a happy Slayer is not a bad thing.. sometimes.

Adding to the old school vibe, a punter spit on Tom so he stopped the set to confront the asshole... which led to a guy down front getting beaten by dudes in the crowd and then dragged over the barrier to be tossed out.  Hopefully it was the right guy and not some innocent dude... SLAAAYEER!  The show was delayed another time because of the wave of drunken humanity coming over the barrier on the stage left side.   A SLAAAYEER show should not be any other way and it made my heart happy that it can still feel like a dangerous place.  The only Metal band that still matters?  On this night I would say YES.

Oh... and this is what happens when your old friend flicks his pick at you after his band played 'Angel Of Death':

Adorable, right?!

Seeing a show in a foreign city meant I had to "prove" my cred:  On my way out, some smart ass San Diego Metal guy noticed my Maiden - 'Number Of The Beast' tee and pointedly asked me "What's your favorite Maiden song!!?"  Without missing a beat I said "Prowler..." and kept walking and I heard him say to his buddies "I didn't expect that..."  Fuck you too, dude.

After the show I literally tried 3 times to get a Lyft and Uber ride to go meet up with my co-workers, but all of them failed.  I ended up going old school with a reliable cab and was informed Lyft and Uber drivers usually don't pick up from the House Of Blues after shows because they're afraid of trouble.  Noted.

A perfect night.

Then 24 hours later it was...

Boris / Earth
July 22, 2016
The Casbah, San Diego, California

According to the Umlaut Archives, I hadn't been inside The Casbah since 1994 when I was on a brief California tour with the Melvins and Acid King.  I realized I'm working for the right company when the common band between myself and 7 co-workers is Boris and we all geeked out that the band were playing while we were in San Diego.  The anticipation for the show made the pummeling work day at Comic-Con that much easier.

The Casbah felt like entering a time warp back to the early-90's, when venues like this ruled my world; it felt familiar.  Honesty is my only excuse and I have to admit I wasn't into Earth tonight... or at least my head wasn't into them.  I spent most of their set leaning against the FOH area waiting for the Japanese to come onstage. Sorry, Earth.. It wasn't you.. It was me.

Shortly before Boris started their set, a guy in a wheelchair made his way to the front and everyone let him through so he could be against the stage in front of Wata.  It was very cool and I ended up standing directly behind him with the the handlebars of his chair ending up on either side of me.. which ended up being both a blessing and a curse as the show progressed.

Tonight was the first show of U.S. Tour and for 90 minutes Boris leveled San Diego with their wall of volume and it was by far my favorite time seeing them.  On this tour the band is playing their seminal 2006 album 'Pink' in its entirety and the crowd's familiarity with the material gave the night an extra boost of energy. 

Phone pics by Joe and Brandon 

The crowd action got a little rough (I would say a 5 on a 10 scale) and it was a challenge a couple of times keeping the overzealous punters from crashing into my wheelchair-bound friend.  I ended up teaming up with the guy standing to my right and we did our best to run interference, which ended up being really cool in that unspoken concert brotherhood way.  We didn't say a word to each other all night, just helped out, and at the end of the set did the bro handshake and that was it.  It was an experience that inspired me to remember that seeing bands live is still my favorite thing... next to Giants baseball games of course.

However, seeing a show in a foreign city meant I had to "prove" my cred: I was wearing a Motörhead  - 'Iron Fist' tee and I know every other guy wearing a Motörhead tee thought I was a poser.  Fuck you too, dudes.

After working the combat zone that is Comic-Con, with another 2 1/2 days to go, Boris was the exact kind of head cleaning I needed.  Volume blasting the nerd slime from my brain.  A perfect night. Following the show my co-workers and I wandered around looking for late night food and found some shitty, over-priced pizza place that served its purpose.  We just had to ignore the nod time guy passed out in the booth next to us.  Lock 'N Loll.

Since I no longer work in merch, I didn't do a merch audit.  On the way back to the Bay Area, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag on the plane.  For the record, the "best" costume I saw at Comic-Con 2016 was an overweight Hispanic dude dressed as a Japanese anime girl.. complete with short skirt and ankle socks.  You can't unsee that level of wrong.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Don't Sweat It. Get It Back To You.

It's taken me awhile to realize that Lemmy's death affected me more than I realized.  This week will mark 6 months to the day that he left this mortal coil.. and it's still very weird that he and his band no longer roam the Earth.  Things seem boring now.  Trivia: The "Motörhead Delivers" design is from the final tour last year and was based on a sketch that Lemmy did himself.

I attended Lemmy's 70th birthday party in December.  I attended his funeral in January.  The emotional swing and magnitude of both events was obviously profound.  To be invited to both events celebrating someone who had been my hero since I was a teenager was mind blowing and I did not, and never will, take the honor for granted.  His funeral and the private reception afterwards was a sad, surreal, and amazing experience.  I honestly can't imagine ever visiting The Rainbow again.

Ironically, both Lemmy events coincided with the first "career" change I've experienced in almost a decade.  However, The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways, and as one door closed another one opened for me.  I'm now in a different (but also not that different) part of the "entertainment" industry.  Thankfully it is one that is more rational and stress free than my recent past professional life.  I'd like to think my Karma Bank deposits over the years finally paid off... and my colleagues now include such badass dudes as Yeti Wing Kong.

All of this being said, nothing has been inspiring me this year.  Yes, I've still been hitting gigs fairly regularly.. but I've also passed on a good number as well. For the record I've been at these shows so far in 2016:

  • Rancid / OFF! / The Interrupters - The Warfield
  • Metal Allegiance - The Whiskey, Los Angeles, California
  • Mastodon - The Chapel
  • Venom Inc. - DNA Lounge
  • Metallica  - AT&T Park
  • Black Sabbath / Rival Sons - SAP Center, San Jose, California
  • The Mummies - Elbo Room (27th Anniversary Show)
  • Megadeth / Suicidal Tendencies / Children Of Bodom - The Warfield
  • Neurosis / Sleep / Vhol - The Regency
  • Melvins / Dusted Angel - The Ritz, San Jose, California (Pre-tour warm up show)
  • Slayer / Testament / Carcass - The Warfield (2 nights)
  • Satan / Night Demon / Hellfire - Elbo Room
  • Abbath / High On Fire / Skeletonwitch / Tribulation - The Regency (Decibel Tour)
  • Iggy Pop - The Masonic
  • Metallica - Rasputin's Records, Berkeley, California (Record Store Day) 
  • Saviours / Ides Of Gemini / War Cloud - The Chapel
  • Napalm Death / Melvins / Melt Banana - Slim's
  • The Cure - Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, California
  • Armored Saint / Metal  Church - DNA Lounge
I haven't been a recluse, but I also haven't been motivated to write about much.  I had the epiphany that posting on my personal social media has marginalized the "creativity" I used to channel into this space.  Cutting back on that white noise posting chatter needs to happen I guess.  There were definitely events that I should have captured here.. THE major one was Record Store Day 2016 that featured Metallica performing live at Rasputin's in Berkeley and immediately afterward hosting a private party for invited guests at 3132 Carlson Blvd.. aka The Metallica Mansion.

The party was to thank those old friends and associates who helped the band with the massive reissues of Kill 'Em All and Ride The Lightning.  At some point I intend to document my involvement in this project, which began with me sitting at a kitchen table with Jaymz and Larz over a year earlier and them revealing their reissue plans and basically hiring me to be a consultant on them.  Full circle.  Anyway, until I do that they say a picture is worth 1,000 words... so here's 4,000 words to hold you over about this.

Top photo by the teenage me:  December 28, 1982.  Bottom photo by the adult me:  April 16, 2016:

Two Motörhead fans recreating that photo from Summer 1983 taken in that exact same spot:

If you really need to know what happened on that magical day and night right now, click HERE for what the band posted about it. I'll get around to documenting the profoundly full circle experience of being involved with the reissues.. even though it's already old news.

Truth be told, baseball is the only thing I really give a shit about at the moment... and I'm annually obsessed with the San Francisco Giants at this time of the year anyway but I'm more ratcheted up this season because it's also the 30th Anniversary of the amazing 1986 team.  That 1986 team is my favorite Giants team ever.

Anyway, that's basically where my head has been this year so far.  I needed a reset... and I'm not sure I've gotten one yet.  On the way back to the blog, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  This space has been running since 2004... 12 (twelve!) fucking years of ranting about shit.  There are some major things in the works.. some happening soon.. others happening further down the road.  All are pretty fucking cool.

Eventually I'll remember how to put words together in an interesting way again.  Hopefully sooner than later.  To quote Motörhead:  "Don't sweat it.  Get it back to you."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Pain Of Mind

Neurosis / Sleep / Vhöl
The Regency, San Francisco
March 4, 2016

It's funny that The Bay Area is revered for its Thrash Metal history but there's another era here that was just as influential on the generation of Metal that came after the Thrash scene that gave the world bands like Neurosis and Sleep.  Echoing what Metallica did a few years back, local heroes and icons Neurosis celebrated their 30th Anniversary with 3 sold out hometown shows featuring support from bands who have been their friends and comrades over the years.  The magnitude of this event was simply shown by how many people traveled from out of state and from far and wide to attend.  Tonight's opening night bill was the most epic and the most symbolic of the band's Bay Area roots with their brothers Al and Matt of Sleep (with Jason Neurosis now on drums of course) and Vhöl, a band featuring veteran musicians from such beloved bands as Ludicra, Hammers Of Misfortune, and Yob.

I've known Neurosis for around 25 of their 30 years and they are a very important band to me... Not only because of their music and vision.. but because I spent a good amount of time with them in those early years.. Hearing early demos of what was to become the Souls At Zero album at Steve VonTill's house in San Jose after he served the first vegan meal I'd ever had (here in the 21st Century neither one of us is vegan).  Going on tour with them a couple of times including a legendary night of debauchery and mayhem in Tijuana, Mexico.  Watching the Metal mainstream via OzzFest try to assimilate them and Neurosis deciding not to go towards that light but instead building an independent empire for themselves.  Neurosis is one of the few "old" bands who still blows my mind and reminds me of the mayhem I experienced seeing them with smelly crusties at random shitty venues and pizza parlors back in the days long before The Internet.  According to the Umlaut Archives tonight was around my 25th Neurosis show. 

Before the gig I stopped at a work function to celebrate the opening of a new store.  I had a good but brief time with my new co-workers over complimentary Lagunitas... and with cool stuff like this hanging on the walls around us:

Then I made a polite early exit and made my way across town to The Big Rock Show.
In surgically precise fashion I found a parking space across the street from the venue and inside it was old school style gathering of the tribe.  Many old friends from far and near.  It was good to see that kid who used to work at Tower Records in Mountain View who always wanted to talk about Black Sabbath with us... and who would bring his bass to work so he could practice on his breaks.. and then who formed a band which we thought was adorable.. and then he told us about the band and how the band was called Sleep.. and then he grew up, grew a beard, and became an icon.

It's a reassuring thing to bro-hug Al every couple of years.. our Stoner Rock Tiny Dancer.

It was a big deal to me that Vhöl were on the bill.  I believe tonight was only their 10th show ever and the 2nd time I've seen them... and their most recent sophomore album is a revelation.  Obviously I was initially drawn to them because the band is made up of members of some of my favorite bands like Ludicra and Yob.. but the new album is a diverse hammer of progressive punk-tinged volume that translated well onstage.  While members of the band disagreed with me when I saw them after their set I honestly thought they killed it.  So there.

[Underwhelming photo courtesy of Umlaut's iPhone]

As much as tonight was about celebrating Neurosis, honesty compels me to say that Sleep owned this Friday night for me.   I think it had to do with them playing a rare support role and lumbering onstage to deliver their riffage in honor of their old friends.  ‘Dragonaut’ live never gets old.  It’s still weird that Sleep are now like the sage old wise men.  It seems like only yesterday they were those young and precocious weed smoke infused scamps.  Sleep played all of the (bong) hits and it was trippy watching them be an opening band again.. in a great way of course.

[Underwhelming photo courtesy of Umlaut's iPhone]

It was undoubtedly a huge moment for Neurosis to kick off their 30th year celebration in front of a sold out and rabid hometown audience.  The guys appeared onstage like a black fog off San Francisco Bay and launched into ‘Lost’ which I believe they had not played live in almost 17 years. Damn..  but as fanboy great as that was the set took a complete u-turn back to the future as they dropped nostalgia bombs from the Pain Of Mind album onto the hometown crowd.  Songs that had not been played in 20+ years lifted the event to another level.

When The Regency is sold out and packed it's possibly the most uncomfortable sweaty venue in The Bay Area... which only added to the dense sensory atmosphere.  There are some who lament that Neurosis have abandoned the visual side of their live shows.. and I get that.. because it's what made them the "Pink Floyd" of the dark underground.  I miss that aspect of the band's creativity to a certain extent... but now as the years continue to march on I think it's more appropriate that the band uses their music and audio aura to immerse a crowd.  You cannot be lazy at a Neurosis show now.  You're either paying attention or you should not be there.  I was almost brought to tears when they launched into the vintage strain of 'Takeahnase' and their equally vintage cover of Joy Division's 'Day Of The Lords' rang even truer now.   When it was all said and done.. 13 songs.. 2 hours.. and 30 years came back around full circle for Night 1 of this 3-night hometown stand.  The other nights just weren't in the cards for Umlaut and I was fine with that because this was the bill I "needed" to see and I'm glad I did.

Since I no longer work in the merch biz I didn't do a merch audit; change is good.  However, the merch line was hella long all night but the event screenprint was only $20.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me fag.  In hindsight I realize it's not very common to follow a band for 20 or 30 years of your life.  For Neurosis to still be around and completely relevant and with their integrity intact is something to behold.  No seed will grow of this barren Earth, like, forever, man..