Monday, October 30, 2006

Swashbuckle with Deathamphetamine, Revocation, and Despotic Robot (plus Reverend Grundarr CD-release) [O'Brien's Pub, Allston, 10/29/2006]

Even though this was booked as a single show (Thrash Till Fucking Death part II, may or may not make it to Somerville in 2 weeks for part III), it was really more of two shows, because it's not reasonable to expect that a normal band could headline over Swashbuckle on a show like this, as the scores will bear out.

This was a matinee show, so I was able to make a whole bunch of gin chicken (recipe later) and do up some sandwiches to take in on the T. Not knowing the lay of the ground, I didn't wear my kutte in, though I probably could have, and will in the future. Taking public transit is always preferable, because metal is better enjoyed with beer, but seldom possible in this country. Interesting point walking up Harvard Ave from the Green Line stop: "Varg Lives" graffiti (with a burning church graphic) on some cafe or another. Of course Varg lives, n00bz, he still gives interviews from jail every so often.

I got to the venue right about doors and held 'em open for Despotic Robot's load-in; O'Brien's, for people who haven't been there yet, is a smallish pub that has become a smallish concert venue by putting in a stage and removing almost all signs of tables or chairs. When pressed, it might hold about 50 people, but this was not an issue with this show; even by the end, there were only about 20 or so people there who were not in bands on the bill -- and 22 who were. This is kind of endemic to local music, but in Boston a little more might have been expected. Beer prices were decent, with Stella flowing at $4 -- I could have been drinking PBR for half that, but I also could have punched myself in the face for free. You gotta watch the slippery slope.

Despotic Robot [6/7]
For the first band out of the gates, and despite what the vocalist described as a fairly long layoff (don't follow them, so I dunno when their last gig was), they were pretty impressive, and definitely set the thrash tone for the night. The board sounded really well-tuned for them, though this may have been an artifact of their fairly melodic sound, which was heavily rooted in Metallica's first three discs with a few hardcore touches. Fun music in good humor, but also thoroughly competent and it got everyone up and moving around.

Revocation [6/7]
The sound board wasn't as good to these guys, who mimed along to Death's "Crystal Mountain" during their soundcheck but presented a sound much more in line with Atheist or Imperium as regards technical thrash. The guitars were a little buried at times, but they still had a strong share of good music, and the bassist is fuckin' sick. Still a good show, but they need a second guitarist or just better guitar amps to really move up.

Color me totally retarded, but I didn't realize that Revocation is Cryptic Warning under a new name, modulo a new drummer. Of course, this is probably because it's been 4 years since I got their first demo, and spent most of the intervening time either out of state or out of the country. I got both CDs and a shirt from them, for coolness and to support the scene, not just because I felt guilty for sticking that early demo with a 3/7 score.

Also between Revocation and Deathamphetamine, I saw on the bar TV that Green Bay had defeated the rapidly self-destructing Cardinals. Go Pack Go!

Deathamphetamine [6/7]
If I had to put this band in a national nutshell, I'd have to go with Nevermore for their mix of the brutal and progressive. However, they don't really-really sound like Nevermore at all. They were the first band to spill off the stage, probably because their guitarist's effects board wouldn't leave him anywhere to stand if it had to get sandwiched in between their cabs and the front monitors. This set was ambitious as well as thoroughly well-delivered, and their overall total tightness got them a lot of extra style points. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to score a CD from them, as they'd sold out, so I got a shirt instead. They're going to do another pressing, and it's not like I'm never going to see them again; a band this good in an area as rich with metal shows as eastern New England will never lack for local-support slots.

Swashbuckle [7/7]
These guys were ready from the get-go, changing into their pirate costumes almost as soon as they got to the venue and not taking too long to get their heavily prop-laded stage set up and ready. However, the stars weren't the oar or the inflatable pirate ship, but Admiral Nobeard and crew as they tore through song after song of Running Wild-flavored brutal thrash and got the crowd churning, both on normal pit dynamics and an actual circle pit (which I took a single mostly non-voluntary turn in, though without injury) around one of the supporting poles in the middle of the floor. We raised our pirate hooks (do the horns, put your pinky back in your fist, then hook the first finger) and got both taunted and praised for buying into the gimmick -- sure, gimmicks are gimmicks, but there ain't nothing wrong with them when they're backed up by pure undiluted AWESOME. It's difficult to describe how cool this set was to someone who wasn't there, other than to tell people to go see this damn band's shows, and buy their damn swag. Their Crewed By The Damned CD is great, and I also scored a "Wooden Legs and Emptied Kegs" shirt -- which another showgoer picked up for his roommate, who recently had to have a leg amputated and chose a peg leg over a normal prosthesis. Now that's fuckin metal.

Reverend Grundarr and the Unholy Trinity [5/7]
Though this band took an egalitarian tack by setting up in the middle of the floor -- which had previously been serving as backstage for everyone else as the stagefront emptied over to the bar area between songs, they still came off as a little flat. Maybe it was the setup, maybe it was the fact that they empasized the grind in grind-thrash and grind bands really have to almost be Napalm Death or Nasum to really get my head turned, but most likely it was the fact that they were following Swashbuckle and everyone was just leaning on one of the bars or supports resting up. They played a good set and executed well, but the necessary falloff in awesomeness level was still apparent. Their new CD is better than they were live, so maybe this was an off night; I'll see in a couple weeks how they do building up energy for Hirax.

After picking up the CD and a patch from Grundarr et al, I hit the road back -- giving a YARRRRR! to Swashbuckle as I passed their van in the parking lot. Fun times and an awesome show; this sort of gig should be an obligato every time the Patriots play Monday night and the Bruins don't have a Sunday night game. No pics from the Rev on this one, which is too bad, but he was covering a festival in NYC on Saturday and can be kind of excused -- though other people will have a harder time.

How to make gin chicken:
This is a newly developed recipe that is now officially out of beta. It combines stir-frying and boiling to create tender chicken pieces that can be used in just about anything. I can't wait until I have the leisure time (and non-moldy steamer trays) to do some Chinese steamed buns around these. For the sauce you need hoisin sauce, soy sauce, water, and a clove or two of garlic. In your wok you'll need a shot or so of cooking oil and a shot or so of shochu (or Chinese cooking wine, or Han vodka, or some other mostly-taste-neutral spirit of your choice). These can be extended over a basically arbitrary amount of chicken.

Dice up the garlic real fine and put it in a small bowl. Add about 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 heaped teaspoon of hoisin sauce, and 1/2 cup water. Mix thoroughly.
Take your chicken breasts and thoroughly remove all fat and gristle. Slice 'em as thin as you can get, with the grain; about 1/4 inch should be a good thickness.
Put the oil and booze in the wok and get your heat up; start adding chicken slices until the area covered by liquid is full. Pour the sauce in over them.
Turn the chicken periodically to make sure both sides of the slices are cooked. As soon as one batch of pieces is done, take them out and put new chicken in. Continue until all that you've cut is cooked.

The resulting chicken has a slight Chinese taste, but not overly strong, and it can be used in just about anything. I've had it with pasta, couscous, on sandwiches with various kinds of cheese, the works. The secret of its extensibility is that the sauce has no thickeners, so it cooks into the meat rather than onto it, and can be easily washed right out of the wok once the cooking's done. This dish is also stupidly easy and quick to make up; I went from 'no cooking gear or ingredients out' to 'finished making the sandwich and washed up' in 15 minutes on Saturday, including all cooking and prep. If you can keep the sauce ingredients in stock, there's really not any excuse any more for not fresh-cooking stuff.

Monday, October 23, 2006

my pocket change wants me to go hikkikomori

So I got back from Chinese class on the earliest possible train, got some fast eats, and decided to flip 7 coins to decide whether I drove up to Katatonia or not, because I was tired from getting up at 6AM, still sick (still am, and a show in NH, where they still let you smoke inside, would not have helped) and my feet were hurting. Four heads would have gotten me pointed north, but I flipped 5 tails in a row. Now, as a clear-eyed death metal materialist I know this means nothing, but the superstitious black/viking metal neopagan who still hangs up bizarre wood, bone, leather, and steel fetishes to protect against trolls was not fooled. This was an omen, so I ended up sitting on my couch watching college football (but not Michigan, damn -- "What's happenin' ta mah boys?! Ah can't see what's happenin' ta mah boys!!") and playing some Silkroad.....and getting wasted by stupidly giant tigers.

Now, though, I read through the comments on RTTP, and I'm bummed that I missed out, since it seemed like it was a killer show, and I wouldn't've gotten any flak for leaving before Moonspell went on, if only because it seemed like everyone else did. So much for taking a weekend off. This weekend, Skinless is still going to be a game-time decision (band known for unduly violent pits in a smoky dive an hour and a half away by fastest road? What a great idea for an asthmatic with no working joints after running around Boston all day!), but I'm almost definitely going in to O'Brien's for Swashbuckle and four other thrash bands on Sunday. "Almost" definitely, because if I end up with one or more wrecked joints courtesy of Skinless, it's back to the couch again.

upcoming shows I'm not going to miss under any circumstance:
Celtic Frost (11/4)
Hirax (11/12)
Hypocrisy/Decapitated (11/17) -- Suffocation got ripped off by their bus company, hopefully this will get straightened out and they'll be able to make the tour
Blind Guardian (12/1)

Busy month next; somehow I've got to also find time to write that book, do my Chinese homework, and also all my real work.

Friday, October 20, 2006

shows, vacation and indecision

I've got my ticket for Daylight Dies, Katatonia, and the local support (don't really care about Moonspell) for tomorrow, and I did up my vacation for November to allow optimum writing and show-going time, but I'm looking ahead at early next year and gripped by indecision.

I want to go to Heathen Crusade, if only because I'm not likely to ever see Rudra or Skyforger any other way, but this does mean going to Minneapolis in the fucking dead of winter. I'm a hardy soul and could probably hack it, but the time off from work that even flying would require would mean that I basically couldn't take off any time during Impromptu Metal Winter Break, in which Destruction, Dark Funeral, and Unleashed all play in Boston or New Hampshire within a span of four days. This will be definitely two days off, maybe as many as four, and for various reasons I don't have that kind of time to burn if I'm out in the upper Midwest two weekends before.

The most important of these is the fact that my vacation counter sets back to 40 hours on January 1 if I don't burn down below that mark. Hence about 6 days off in November (well, 5 and then 12/1 so that I don't have to worry about transpo for Blind Guardian). However, while I'll be safely at 32-36 hours to start the new year, I'll only have a day and a half or so beyond that by the end of January. The math gets really tight, but doing both is possible, assuming I fly out Thursday and back Sunday (I'm not gonna try flying out and going to a show on the same day, I remember how well that worked at Wacken) and then only take off when I'm driving back from New Hampshire at stupid o'clock in the morning over marginally plowed roads, not when I'm coming back from Cambridge under similar circumstances.

The other factor (besides the fact that I need to pile up time for Wacken and Mass Metalfest) is that I'm looking at Wacken-level expenses for a much less attractive bill at Heathen Crusade. A round-trip plane ticket inside the US plus three hotel nights still doesn't touch the transatlantic connection, but it's more expenses that I don't strictly need. Staying local, all I pay is gas...but there's the chance that weather conditions may keep me out of one or more of the Bedford shows.

This bill involves about $400 of travel and lodging expenses:
Grey Skies Fallen
Vesperian Sorrow
Dark Forest
Will of the Ancients
Hordes of Yore

This bill involves about $100 in gas plus the chance of not seeing one or more blocks due to it being winter in New England:
Municipal Waste
[more local support likely]
Dark Funeral
Abigail Williams
[+ local support]
[+ local support]

If it wasn't for the fact that I go to Wacken and will thus probably see half the headliners of the local shows there in the next year or two, there wouldn't be any debate about this. Neither would there be any debate, additionally, if the Heathen Crusade organizers would hold their festival sometime when people aren't going to say "Minnesota?!? In January?!? Are you fucking kidding me?!?" There's a fine line between 'restricting the audience to the true heathen cult' and 'planning like a moron', and the orgas here are treading very, very close. Do this on the summer solstice (or earlier to account for the Euro festival season), and I'm there.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Sevens

After 790 records reviewed, and the increasing feeling that my musical selection on my work laptop was getting a little old, I abstracted all the records that got 7/7 out of the review database; work path on this will be rip->compile superplaylist->burn all to a DVD->listen until this gets old, or I generate another 100 or so albums in that target range. Here's the list:

Agalloch – The Mantle
Agalloch – Ashes Against The Grain
Amon Amarth – Versus The World
Amon Amarth – Fate Of Norns
Apocalyptica – Plays Metallica By Four Cellos
Atheist – Piece of Time
Atheist – Unquestionable Presence
At The Gates – Slaughter of the Soul
Bathory – Bathory
Bathory – Under The Sign Of The Black Mark
Bathory – Nordland I
Bathory – Nordland II
Black Sabbath – Heaven And Hell
Blind Guardian – Tales From The Twilight World
Blind Guardian – Somewhere Far Beyond
Blind Guardian – Imaginations From The Other Side
Blind Guardian – Nightfall In Middle-Earth
Borknagar – The Olden Domain
Burzum – Det Som Engang Var
Burzum – Filosofem
Carcass – Heartwork
Carcass – Swansong
Carnivore – Carnivore
Cynic – Focus
Dark Tranquillity – Damage Done
Death – Leprosy
Death – Human
Death – Individual Thought Patterns
Death – Symbolic
Deicide – The Stench of Redemption
Demons & Wizards – Demons & Wizards
Dew-Scented – Issue VI
Bruce Dickinson – The Chemical Wedding
Dissection – The Somberlain
Dissection – Storm of the Light’s Bane
Dissection – Reinkaos
DragonForce – Valley of the Damned
Dysrhythmia – No Interference
Edguy – Rocket Ride
Emperor – Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk
Enslaved – Mardraum
Enslaved – Below The Lights
Evergrey – In Search of Truth
Evergrey – The Inner Circle
Finntroll – Midnattens Widunder
Gamma Ray – PowerPlant
Gamma Ray – Blast From The Past
Gamma Ray – No World Order
Halford - Live Insurrection
Helloween – Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I
Hypocrisy – Abducted
Hypocrisy – The Final Chapter
Hypocrisy – Hypocrisy Destroys Wacken
Hypocrisy – Hypocrisy
Iced Earth – Burnt Offerings
Iced Earth – Something Wicked This Way Comes
Iced Earth – Dark Genesis – Burnt Offerings
Immortal – At The Heart Of Winter
In Flames – The Jester Race + Black Ash Inheritance
In Flames – Whoracle
Iron Maiden – The Number Of The Beast
Iron Maiden – Powerslave
King Diamond – Abigail
Kreator – Enemy Of God
Manowar – Kings of Metal
Maudlin of the Well – My Fruit Psychobells…a Seed Combustible
Mayhem – Live In Leipzig
Meridian – The Seventh Sun
Metallica – Master of Puppets
Moonsorrow – Verisakeet
Morbid Angel – Covenant
Necrophagist – Epitaph
Neurosis – Times of Grace
Nevermore – Dreaming Neon Black
Nevermore – Dead Heart In A Dead World
Nevermore – This Godless Endeavor
Nile – Annihilation of the Wicked
Noctuary – When Fires Breed Blood
Nokturnal Mortum – Goat Horns
Obituary – Slowly We Rot
Obituary – Cause Of Death
Onslaught – The Force
Opeth – Blackwater Park
Opeth – Ghost Reveries
Orphaned Land – Mabool – The Story of the Three Sons of Seven
Pelican – Pelican
Pelican – Australasia
Pelican – March Into The Sea
Pelican – The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw
Pestilence – Malleus Maleficarum
Primordial – Imrama
Primordial – Spirit The Earth Aflame
Primordial – The Gathering Wilderness
Rumpelstiltskin Grinder – Buried In The Front Yard
Running Wild – 20 Years In History
Running Wild – Rogues En Vogue
Satyricon – Dark Medieval Times
Shadows Fall – The Art of Balance
Sigh – Imaginary Sonicscape
Slayer – Reign In Blood
Slough Feg – Atavism
Summoning – Oath Bound
Testament – The Legacy
Type O Negative – October Rust
Ulver – Nattens Madrigal
The Vision Bleak – Carpathia
Vital Remains – Let Us Pray
Vital Remains – Dechristianize
Xentrix – Dilute To Taste

Some of these are already ripped down; just need to organize them and make tough decisions about what to leave off in case of disc overruns.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dismember with Vital Remains, Grave, and Withered (but not Execution Agenda or Demiricous) [Middle East, Cambridge, 10/13/2006]

OK. Seriously, these weekday shows have got to stop. I was stuck working late, so I went straight from work to the show...or more accurately, straight onto the highway. From the entrance of 128 to 93 took a whole hour -- to go a distance that normally takes about 20 minutes. This was part of the reason that Execution Agenda -- who were supposed to be doing local support -- didn't show; the backup on 128 was most likely driven by the even more titanic backup on 93, which was caused by a huge accident that basically closed down the southbound side just a few hundred yards north of the entrance from 128. From there the driving was easy....or at least as easy as driving in Boston ever gets. Nearly two hours to travel probably less than 45 road miles.

At least parking was cheap, and I could slump on the bar for half an hour waiting for the show to go on. This was in the restaurant, not the basement hall where the gig was, so I got to see Withered eating, and Dave Suzuki and Anthony Geremia from Vital Remains drinking some vodka-and-Red-Bulls. The Rev from RTTP was ofcourse im Effekt as well -- he had somehow fought his way down from Salem, New Hampshire, but didn't arrive much after I did. Two hefeweizen finished with apfelkorn -- no Malteser on hand, of course, but the somewhat neurotic Germany-emulation was able to proceed regardless.

Downstairs, I made up for the local support not showing up by dropping 60 bucks at the Pathos table before he got pushed out -- shades of a certain Ignite song, but while "I came to support these touring bands", I did that as well. Two shirts, two patches (both of which will be going on the primary jacket), and a hat, spread across all four bands. Withered's patch was of the "cheap printed" variety, while Dismember's was of the "real" species, but if it's what it takes to bring patches back to the US, I'll take it. There's going to be some difficult sewing to put it on my collar, but the results will be worth it.

And now, the bands:

Withered [6/7]
The sound in this show was much more of Mastodon Junior than it was at Metalfest, but still cool and still fully original. There was less fuzz in the sound, which may have cut away the weird overtones that I found so cool the first time, but it really allowed the sound of their actual playing to come out. I went down front after about half of the first song, and stayed in the second or third row all night, far forward enough that what I was hearing was mostly out of the amps rather than out of the PA. So it was a local show...with bands that came from Georgia and Sweden as well as Rhode Island, and a cumulative like 50 or 60 years of death metal experience. This was a good set made better by a great spot, but it would probably have been just as good from anywhere else in the hall... or, anywhere not obstructed by a supporting pole. The history of the Middle East is very evident in the downstairs.

This club started out as just a restaurant, but started bringing in bands as well as belly dancers in the late '60s and early '70s; eventually they redid the basement as a music hall, and later put in another one upstairs (slightly smaller, and where I saw Sigh back in 2002), and at some point it became perhaps the premier rock club in the metro Boston area. The main level is still a trendy restaurant, but almost every night there's underground music either upstairs or down.

Grave [6/7]
Grave had at some point, if I recall correctly, expanded in membership after reuniting, but for this show they were back to a three-piece, back to the essentials of the Grave sound and experience. The pounding and explosiveness were just as expected, though, truthfully, they were probably the least memorable band of the night. I know Grave's material less than any of the other bands on the bill (well, only because I had seen Withered live before), so this is understandable from a personal standpoint, but also, their fairly doctrinaire brutal death attack, even on a really good performance like this one, has to lose out a little next to the absolute musical and stage insanity that Vital Remains was about to present, and to the total thrashparty that Dismember would throw to end the night.

Vital Remains [7/7]
The session members -- three to the band's two full-timers -- were eminently good enough to join on a full basis, but the real stars were Tony Lazaro and Dave Suzuki, on some of the sickest-looking guitars ever built. While Withered's soundcheck rocked more than some bands' sets, Dave is the first guitarist I've seen to rip through something as complicated as Death's "Altering The Future" as a warmup. His right hand was moving so fast that it blurred, as was Tony's when I got a view of it (I was stage left, right in front of Dave, and Tony was stage right, so there was a ton of people's heads in the way). As sick as this was, it was nothing next to the insanity when they actually started playing. If you think "Dechristianize" sounds awesome or insane on record, you don't have any friggin idea. The place absolutely blew up when they started up, and didn't let up at all until the end of the set. We were charging the stage, and the frontman was just short of diving over the rails and running around through the crowd, respectively while singing and while the instrumentalists were annihilating on that or another solo or riff passage. There's nobody else doing this kind of insane combination of the intensely melodic and the ultrabrutal out there, probably because no one else can; as a result, if you're a metal fan who's looking for the absolute best, there's really no other choice than to catch Vital when and wherever you can. This is quite about as good as it gets in terms of combining technical ability with great songwriting and delivering both live; it's difficult to describe the experience to someone who wasn't also in the middle of it.

I have a souvenir Bible page from the one that they shredded during the third song; I'm currently debating what the hell to do with it, because like most thrown-off-the-stage stuff, there's no real immediate proof that it came from the band you say it came from.

Dismember [7/7]
Dismember has never made a record that got rated this high. So how do they reach a new high on live material with just the same material? A lot of it is the collection of their best material over fifteen years and a ton of records, but more of it is the fact that Dismember's style translates so well live. For moshing or banging, it seldom gets any better than those thick, meaty, low-end riffs, and this show delivered a full hour of them and more. They did do an encore, but it was kind of overshadowed by their closer, where everyone else from every other band on the bill charged over the stage, banging, putting weird hats on the band (Dismember had done this during Withered's set and also come out periodically to hang with every other band), spraying beer on the audience, and generally going nuts. The hot-pants-and-stockings merch girl was up shaking it as well -- though this was the equal-opportunity half of the show's fanservice component; the girls and 'non-traditional males' had already gotten an eyeful of Dave Suzuki ripped and shirtless during Vital's set. The eye candy was only an occasional bonus though, as the main focus was on the band -- whenever they were visible through the mass of bodies and the chaos of the front -- and on the crazed thrash party throwdown going on in front of us and all around us. In the underground, the line between performers and audience is exceedingly fine in all cases, but this was the first time since Nevermore's set at Metalfest '03 that both sides blended to this degree. Even though they didn't do "Collection In Blood", this was a great set that the experience made even better.

The experience, of course, was made better by the fact that I was down front for the first time at a non-local show since I lost my last fully functioning knee. I didn't go into the actual pit, but did stand the pit wall and push a bunch of people fore and aft, without injury at all. This is probably a result of general strengthening since the last time I messed either joint up, and the natural recovery of prioproception -- a fancy word meaning the body's sense of itself in space that I got from Football Outsiders -- that comes after any serious joint injury as a function of time. It's probably also smart thinking about how and where to put my feet and how to take hits from various directions, when to set and push back, and when to just fall back and use crowd pressure rather than my own ligaments to catch myself. It was a great feeling to get back in the middle of things again, and also an encouraging sign for the show next month at the Palladium, where I kind of have to push up to the front row for Hypocrisy, but may, as often, get pushed back, or just not get to the venue early enough, though it's on a Saturday and ought to suffer from less of the road congestion that made getting in today such a headache.

Although, it's nowhere near as mental as 93 North was when I went up to Mark's the last time; they let people drive in the breakdown lane almost all the way to Lawrence, and the result is the most pure traffic zoo that I've ever seen outside China, almost as bad as the Ring Roads in Beijing. Just widen the damn highway already! And I'm going up that way next Saturday again for Moonspell and Daylight Dies....

Monday, October 09, 2006

Iron Maiden with Bullet For My Valentine [Agganis Arena at BU, 10/6/2006]

So I spent Friday catching the second show on Iron Maiden's current US tour, which as anyone who pays attention to Blab or other participatory news sites already knows is stirring quite a bit of shit in the scene. Basement-dwellers and nostalgists are getting their knickers in a twist, actual metal fans are slapping themselves in the forehead, and everyone else is shaking their heads, bewildered that a 30-year old metal band whose most innovative and influential days are long behind them is still able to kick up so much controversy. Given this situation, any show review also has to address a lot of other stuff, as this one is going to do.

Despite some minor transpo delays (missed the preferable train by about 30 seconds, but it turned out not to really matter), my brother Jake and I got into town, onto the B train, and over to the venue without difficulty, collecting more and more fellow fans on the way. This is the really great thing about taking public transit to a gig or festival; at every stage, the number of metalheads around increases, giving a greater sense that you are 'home' and getting everyone more pumped up. You do have to watch out more closely for your stop, especially on the B line where the signs at T stops have been mostly effaced, but you also don't have to deal with parking and trying to get out after the show

In any case, we got in, and the coal-raking started. Let's start with three basic facts:
1) Iron Maiden is making a net profit on shows from ticket sales, especially in the case of a sellout like we had here.
2) Most of the bands that I go to see at the Palladium, Mark's, or the Middle East are making chicken scratch on the ticket price.
3) Normal underground bands thus depend on merch sales for survival.
Why are these important? Because of fact #4:
Most t-shirts sold at underground shows run $15 to $20, but Maiden was selling theirs for fucking 35 bucks. Yes, these were special tour-only designs, but still, 35 bucks? This is a total ripoff and shouldn't be tolerated. Unfortunately, metal fans are catastrophically weak against Iron Maiden tour-only shirt designs. I still bought one and was thinking about buying another. Even the whiners who were bitching about how much the show sucked on the T on the way back (more on them later) were fully decked out in new tour shirts. Economics is a dismal science because of what it tells you about your own priorities. Food and drink were not as bad, though the 'non-shitty' level of beer that goes for $5 in Worcester was selling for $6 here. Then again, a lot of things are cheaper in Worcester than they are in Boston.

Fully provisioned, we got down to our seats, which were almost worth the retarded scalper premium that I had to pay to fucking RazorGator to get them, and certainly much better than the ones in the rear of the hall, at the nosebleed ring, that I'd've been able to get from Ticketmaster. Scalping services still suck. We were about 10 rows back, right on the edge, basically parallel with the stage, and with enough elevation to see almost everything. Not the best seats in the house, but pretty damn good, and much better than being down on the floor. This is because the organizers were apparently retarded, and carpeted the floor of the arena with chairs, leaving only about 4 feet immediately in front of the rail. What the hell kind of setup is that for a metal show? The only other time I've seen seats that close is at ampitheater shows, but they're kind of built that way; there's no reason to put folding chairs out like that for a band like this. They should have put wave-breakers halfway across the floor and put seats behind there for the whiners who were going to bitch about Maiden doing new stuff regardless, then left the front open for general admission, and I can guarantee you that the reactions to this gig would have been unilaterally better.

So we sat around for a while, and then the lights dimmed and Amon Amar-- strike that, Bullet For My Valentine's intro music came on, with about 20% of the crowd actually in the hall. Opening for Iron Maiden is a tough gig, but in such a case you have to just rise to the challenge. Did BFMV? Nah, not so much.

Bullet For My Valentine [4.5/7]
They had some flashes of adequacy, and they were fighting a tough crowd in a nearly empty hall, probably the toughest situation I've seen since Metalfest, when Burn In Silence had to do their set in front of a total of like 50 people, 30 of whom were camping the front row for DragonForce. However, the fact remains that they were not terribly distinctive or original (that was me asking halfway through their set if they were paying royalties to In Flames), and that they're still a metalcore band. If they though they were going to gain any extra fans or sell any extra records by opening for one of the world's most distinctive and exciting heavy metal bands, they were totally mistaken -- and if Rod Smallwood thought that adding them to the bill would pull in more of the younger crowd, he's totally mental. Nobody likes them in this country. Younger people like Iron Maiden as Iron Maiden already. Overall, they were ok, but for the hype they get in the British press, they should have been much better. Support music, not Malcolm Dome's blatherings!

Following their set, I went out to get a beer and some nachos while the roadies re-dressed the set and everyone else got into the hall. In line, I got more than a few positive comments on my jacket, though there were a few other people in similar rigs there. It does kind of stand out -- just a little -- so this is understandable. BFMV only played about half an hour after starting early, so by 8:30, the lights were coming down again, and this time with almost every seat in the house occupied. Well, more like every seat in the house had someone standing in front of it.

Iron Maiden [6.5/7]
The band tore out of the gates with "Different World", and quickly made their intention to play the whole record front to back known. This may have disenheartened some people, but nobody where I was at, and over at least the first third of the arena, not an ass hit a chair from the first note of the intro music to the last of the last encore. The energy level fell a little over "Lord of Light" and "The Legacy", but with the amount of punch that "Fear of the Dark" brought back, it's hard not to think that this great show could have been even better if Maiden had adhered to their previous formula of doing six new tracks interspersed in a bunch of older material rather than playing the whole record. The show was still awesome, both in music and in production, but might have been better with a different concept.

However, that concept in itself is what makes this tour new, different, and so thoroughly controversial. Playing the new record in its entirety is a violently confrontational declaration that Iron Maiden is NOT in any way shape or form a nostalgia band, grinding out the bucks by being a heavy metal jukebox for fans there to relive the old days. It's also an affirmation by the band of their confidence in their new material -- and possibly a slap at Kevin Shirley, because the new stuff sounds a lot rawer, heavier, and overall better live than on record, where something must have happened in the production chain to make it generally meh. This confidence is justified (mostly), with the exceptions being in the way that the record trails off at the end. This isn't something that the band can just adjust to and get around, unlike the out-of-tune acoustic guitar that the techs dropped on Janick at the start of "The Legacy". Overall, the performance was great, though a little held back by the material.

On the way back, we got to take the pulse of the fans regarding the show by listening in on various conversations. Most people were impressed and thought the new material, and the decision to play it all, was cool, but on the T, there was this little knot of people just nonstop talking shit about how the new material sucked, how Iron Maiden "didn't play anything", and how disappointing it was. This was counterbalanced by me laughing at them inside, and my brother and a large group of people behind us restraining themselves with difficulty from kicking their asses, but still is evidence that though 70-90% of Maiden fans support the band in taking this risk, there's still 10-30% jukebox fans in the audience who are going to talk shit no matter what, because the band didn't follow the setlist on their personal best-of playlist.

"Didn't play anything?" What fucking show were you at, you retards, because I heard this out of Maiden:
Different World
These Colors Don't Run
Brighter Than A Thousand Suns
The Pilgrim
The Longest Day
Out Of The Shadows
The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg
For The Greater Good of God
Lord of Light
The Legacy
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden
2 Minutes To Midnight
The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name

Did you just not hear the entire frigging arena singing along on "Fear...", doing the woah-oh-ohs like a German festival crowd? Were you in the bathroom when everyone in this American audience that supposedly didn't know any of the new stuff was singing back the whole chorus on "These Colors Don't Run"? "KISS wouldn't've done something like this"; "KISS never disappoints" -- of course not, you retards, because KISS isn't a band any more. They are a brand that Gene Simmons keeps in the news so he can take more of your money; they couldn't do something like this because they haven't put out a new record at all in 8 years, or a decent album in the last 20. These were the people talking shit despite being decked out in new overpriced merch; as KISS fans, their "eat what's put in your bowl" reflexes are unparalleled, and their "appreciate music as music" nodes are naturally somewhat atrophied.

I'm a metal fan who's into this music for the music and for the transformative effect that it can create personally and culturally. If this is you as well, you will love this tour and the idea behind it. If, however, you view bands more as general entertainers than specifically musicians, you will also come out of your ~local (only 11 shows in North America on this run) date pumped up about the tank, but bitching that they didn't fire the cannon or play your personal favorites from 20 years ago. If this is the case, don't forget to go to the Golden Years tour in 2008 -- and watch out for me and my bro there, because we'll punch you right in the head if you have the nerve to bitch about them not playing any new stuff.

I am still inspired and excited about the community-building and ennobling effects of underground metal, but the more larger shows I go to, the more I have to acknowledge that Wichser Hoert Mit (ask a German friend for translation). This weekend is Vital and Dismember, though, so there should be more underground cameraderie (not like this was really lacking) and much, much, less bitching from retards, who will for the most part probably be too scared to show up. SILENT ARE THE WATCHERS!!