Monday, June 11, 2007

Doro Pesch with Joey Belladonna, Chris Cafferty, Meliah Rage, Steel Assassin, Candy Striper Death Orgy, and Troll [Mark's, Bedford, 6/9/2007]

This show was not only kickass, but also informative; as we can see below, doppelgangers touching does not cause either to explode, and they aren't compelled to kill each other when they come in close contact either.

Photo credit goes obviously to Rev. Aaron Pepelis; Ms. Doro Pesch (right) appears as herself, "young Doro" (left) played by Ms. Megan (Hekseri) Leo. Meg didn't get the old-school heavy metal band she's been trying to put together up and running in time to play this gig, but the show was still seriously cool.

Despite starting out a little late and the ususal concern about going north early on the weekend in the summer, I got in right around doors and was one of the first in, though not the very first, and ran across yet another shortcoming in club security, which I'm going to try and exploit next weekend if I actually end up going up for God Forbid. This may be documented later, but for now I need to keep it sealed to do the proof of concept. When I got in, Troll was soundchecking, so I had time to go poke around the merch tables and talk to Aaron for a while before the bands started rolling. By this point, I had already seen two anime accessories hanging off various people and seen the New Hampshire chapter of the KISS Army setting up a merch station, and thus was not feeling enormously optimistic about the show. Any gig where I am among the thinner and more active people, at 115 kilo or so and two bad knees, has to be evaluated critically. This was probably the first show I've seen at Mark's, even counting Metal Church where there was a lot of the same support, where the no-mosh regs probably were not an active factor in crowd control.

This implication may not be entirely fair, because when the bands did start, people did move around a little, and it's difficult to believe that "Caught In A Mosh" would not have provoked same when Joey finally got around to it in his set, as it does everywhere else they do it. For most of the bands, though, this wasn't really an issue.

Troll [4/7]
There were slack parts in their set, but there were high points as well, and if I hadn't revised the split scores across, this would have been a 4.5. However, the material that last time came off as pedestrian felt not only pedestrian but a little tired in this outing; the songs are decent, and the performance was pretty good this time as well, but there is practically nothing in their WBLM-core to make anyone actually sit up and take notice of it. Troll's music entertains en passant, but gets old desperately quick, and all the craftsmanship in the world can't hide the shortcomings in the writing. The first time that you hear Troll, they're enjoyable, and there are enough good points in their sound that they provide a cool backing track for doing other stuff if you aren't really listening to them, but if you're there paying attention because you have to pay attention (like, say, you think that other people for some reason care what you think when you write long-winded and elitist concert reports later), the most salient thing about Troll is the emphasis of just how much work, passion, and skill it takes to be even a desperately average metal band. This shit is not easy, and as such the band's dedication is obvious, but at the same time they've also managed to avoid writing anything that has any significant degree of lasting appeal.

Here I went back and got some merch, which wasn't completely out earlier; the one CD Meliah Rage had in stock and a snappy "got thrash?" shirt from CSDO. I continue to be disappointed by the lack of Steel Assassin swag; they should know by now that they're awesome and that this induces people to buy shirts and CDs; a band this good without merch available is effectively shoveling cash out of their van. The KISS Army was flyering for a demonstration in Cleveland to try to get the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame to induct KISS; I probably wouldn't've gone anyway, but it's on the same weekend as Wacken, and from this end of the country, if you can get to Cleveland, you can probably get to Germany, and thus anyone who goes to this has their priorities messed up. Of course, those who'd go to this are rabid KISS fans, so that kind of goes without saying, but still.... :roll:

Candy Striper Death Orgy [5/7]
More than any other band on the lineup, CSDO was negatively affected by the no-mosh regs and the power-metal crowd; when they eventually got warmed up enough to execute hard, they did a decent job, but there were quite a few confused or uninspired parts, for an overall effect significantly less impressive than when I saw them Thursday. Of course, this may also be partly due to the fact that Eric was the only member present onstage with both long and permanent standing; Cliff couldn't make it, so they had a replacement bassist, and the drummer (also in Graveheart) is a recent addition to the permanent lineup. Aaron also mentioned that he's mostly seen them with a second guitarist; this would also have helped thick up the sound, but the bigger issue is probably being the heaviest band on the bill and not quite knowing how to handle this kind of relatively non-thrash crowd.

I finally got a good look at CSDO's logo, and yes, those are candy canes crossed below the gas mask. There's definitely an argument to be made that this is the finest example of career suicide by silly name that has yet been observed; CSDO is a good band, and even if they weren't this practiced back when they were starting up, they were definitely good enough signed back when Meliah Rage originally did if they had a) not waited until 1993 to record anything and b) called themselves Obliterator or something, or seriously, any band name that didn't start with the word "candy". Names and image shouldn't matter, but CSDO's is weird enough that unless someone explains it to you or you take the time to sit back and think about it, it just makes no sense and does not really convey the sense of a band that likes Slayer and Nuclear Assault a lot.

Steel Assassin [6/7]
Another seriously impressive set from Steel Assassin, very successfully evoking late-80s Iron Maiden (a definitely underappreciated chapter of the band's history), but it wasn't quite as inspiring and absolutely awesome as the last time I saw them. Oddly enough, though, I was standing in exactly the same place but managed to hear pretty much all of their sound, and didn't get my knees broke by the bass pulse; I noticed this from several other locations around the main stage (the only one open this time) and definitely got the impression that the sound setup has been improved either in hardware or tuning, because the acoustic shadows are pretty much gone; no idea whether this is permanent or an artifact of not having the second stage open to potentially pull equipment out.

Meliah Rage [6/7]
While they didn't really have the same fire to them that they had when they played with Metal Church here -- overall a much more energetic night than this one, which might have contributed -- this was still a really good set that got better as it progressed. They played a little more new stuff and if I recall correctly, previewed some stuff that's going to be on their forthcoming disc, but there was also the sense that their set was shorter than expected. Theirs was a good performance, but they were also the last band to not mention that they had to cut parts out of their set.

Yes, that's right. All three of the headliners had to make some cuts to their sets, despite the fact that the show was still running on time. The problem is partly that there were four local openers and no second stage to put them on to reduce latency, and partly a natural consequence of pay-to-play policies: the locals are putting money into the club, but the nationals are taking money out, once the performance has been simplified to this kind of abstraction. What's odder is that this kind of show will support itself without pay-to-play (and may have, actually; almost all of the locals are high-profile enough that they should have gotten paid rather than selling), as it's getting people outside the normal scene who will buy their ticket at the music store rather than hunting up a band member. Whatever the reason for it, there's no excuse for cutting the sets of the touring bands, who most of the audience came to see, rather than just cutting one of the locals off the bill. On a touring show like this one, the local openers are there basically at the sufferance of the tour; if they don't like this implication, they should book gigs without a tour where they can be the focus. The only positive out of this is that hopefully tour management concerns will hear about this and book through places besides Mark's where they won't get cuts.

Chris Cafferty [5/7]
Chris came out wearing W:O:A gear ('02 artist edition), and played a cool but fairly short set of mostly original material, with the only exception being "Edge of Thorns". This was in contrast to Belladonna, who followed him, but unfortunately he also spent a lot of time talking about how his set was getting chopped. It was cool to see him on a stage this small, demonstrating a lot of sophistication as well as pure technical chops, but the mix of songs that survived the cuts didn't really hang together as a whole or present an optimal picture of him as either a guitarist or a solo artist. This was a decent set, but you definitely got the feeling that it could have been much better if he had been allowed to go on for the full scheduled set.

Joey Belladonna [6/7]
Wisely, Joey refrained from the state-fair connotations of running this lineup out as "Joey Belladonna's Tribute to Anthrax", but this didn't change the fact that most of the material in this set was from Joey's time with Scott, Charlie, Danny, and Frank. It's what people want to hear, though, and the performance was really good on all the covers -- including "Antisocial" which was double-covered in that they played it down basically in exact replica of the way it's done on State of Euphoria. The floor got a little turbulent during "Caught In A Mosh", but no full-scale pits broke out, which was really a shame. In normal circumstances, it's not possible to play this song without inducing a circle pit, which may say more about the crowd than the venue. All in all, this was a kickass set, and if Joey isn't quite being Bruce Dickinson as regards originality, he's definitely also not being Paul DiAnno.

Between Joey and Doro's sets, I got noticed by some other scene doods who I hadn't run into before, and had to do the full turn-around thing to show off my jacket. Upon completion, I was pronounced "nearly as cool as Batman", which is allegedly quite an accomplishment. (Shortpacked! jokes not implied in original conversation.)

Doro [7/7]
Despite the few cuts that had to be made, this was still just as cool and anthemic a set as might possibly be desired, with the reigning Metal Queen transforming a bar in New Hampshire into probably the world's smallest festival infield. The performance covered basically all of Doro's career, from a couple cuts off the first Warlock album right up to several tunes from the new one, including at least one song that's never been officially released in the US, and the performance was of uniformly high quality...though it probably helped in this regard that Chris Cafferty, who was playing lead guitar for this tour, was still fresh due to only playing like half his set. The performance was really awesome and the crowd response was impressive as well; though the other touring bands had gotten a decent rise out of the crowd, this was at a different level that made you almost forget that this was about the lowest turnout that I've seen at this place, or that this was, in the last analysis, a bar in New Hampshire. This is the hallmark of real professionalism, and the result was just a stellar set, as thoroughly expected. Despite a lot of ranting and cheering from the audience, there was no encore, and people made their way out the exits. Good show, good night.

Of course, the salient point for the Boston scene is that Megan and Doro didn't try to kill each other. This either proves that clones don't do that, or that they aren't clones in the first place, though the first is a lot more likely, because there was definitely a moment early in her set where Doro came to the side of the stage where Megan was for the first time of the night, and visibly pulled up, as though wondering where whoever got the time mirror out of, and why they set it up in a hall like this one. You can't really tell in the picture up above, but they are within millimeters of the same height as well as exactly the same build, and the facial resemblance is straight dead on. It is a singularity and a deep wonder of our universe, but one that nobody will care about because both women are metal musicians rather than characters in a sci-fi novel, and have other gigs to do.

I wasn't feeling well enough to go down to see Discreate et al Sunday night (overwork + three straight days of drinking + messed-up sleep hours + beat-up throat from seeing a show in NH), so the next show is either going to be God Forbid back up at Mark's on Saturday, or Zircon and The Accursed on Sunday if my brother ends up going to Germany and has his sendoff party Saturday night.

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