December Column: “Dude At The Gig”
Dude At The Gig.
By John Guerra
Started December in the right way in the wrong place: Orange County. Not particularly fond of that section of Southern California, but if that’s where the gig (and slightly more important, a band worthy enough to drive out of my way for) is, then that’s where it is.
A band that has been on my radar for a while is Icon Of Phobos. Although they are local to here in Los Angeles, they were opening up for a band called Kommandant down in Fullerton. This will be my first time seeing them perform live as their self-titled first record did not leave my rotation for several months. While most black metal bands tend to stay stylistically and musically linear in their approach, Icon Of Phobos paint shades of gray to their sonic palate which not only sets them apart from their peers, it also adds a feeling of claustrophobia that intensifies the density in their already dense songs.
Visually, a good chunk of focus goes to their vocalist. For what he lacks in stature, he more than makes up for in presence and a voice that can rattle even the most damaged of eardrums. Cloaked in a crimson robe, he could remind you of the singer of Ghost, but as the set progressed, the only mask he wore was one of blood. What they project with sound, he is projects in vibe; a coalescence that makes for an experience not to be taken lightly or easily forgotten.
Switching gears (sort of), I checked out the MellowHype/Trash Talk/Antoine/Rotting Out show at the Echoplex. An interesting mix of people for an interesting show. Mostly kids, but what was cool was the punk kids were digging on the hip-hop as much as the hip-hop kids were digging on the punk. (To add another twist, the heavily tattooed DJ was wearing a Morrissey shirt as he was bumping everything from BDP to Biohazard). The singer of Rotting Out summed it up perfectly. “When we were kids, all we knew was punk rock and hip hop.” Like I said, the majority of the crowd were as equally well-versed with N.W.A as they are with D.R.I. Blond girls with beanies on their heads, Latino kids in slim jeans waving their hands in the air like they just didn’t give a fuck and slightly older types laying low in the back wearing shirts ranging from Bathory to Devo. To further illustrate this cultural/musical hodgepodge, after Rotting Out’s righteous set of metallic skate punk, a lone rapper named Antoine comes out wearing a vintage King Diamond shirt! I was really excited to see Trash Talk. Their latest, 119, has been on steady rotation and they did not disappoint. Even yours truly got whipped up in the frenzy (hence the not so focused picture). 36 and still in the pit! Fuck what ya heard!
I’ve always been leery of seeing hip-hop shows live for the simple reason they NEVER PLAY THE WHOLE SONG!! But I was pleasantly surprised with MellowHype. To be honest, I only know of them through their part of the Odd Future thing. Since that Odd Future Vol. 2 (along with Death Grips) promptly blew me away and got me listening to hip-hop again, I had to check it out. Again, times done changed when rappers are stagediving more than the punks and seriously threaten to fuck up the security (which was weird considering the amount of weed those guys were smoking onstage). They got they crowd hype and the girlies shaking their booties. Sweaty and stinking of blunts, isn’t that what a punk-hop/hip-rock show is all about?
Saw Goatwhore and Lo-Pan instead of the Power of the Riff Festival going on a mere 2 miles east on Sunset Blvd. Cool show, odd scene. The venue has two floors with two different shows going on. Downstairs was the black-clad, possibly stoned, eventually drunk metal types and upstairs was a dance club catering to fresh out of high school kids who couldn’t dance all that well who eventually stumbled and stuttered out the club coked out of their heads. To see one crowd eye the other was amusing. I didn’t remember much of the first band that I saw aside the fact they had a guitar tech. Touring bands at a certain level, I totally understand. A local opener? That is a No Bro. The fact that he had to walk around the crowd to bring the freshly tuned guitar to stand there and wait for the song to be over just added the absurdity of it all. A bit of advice: Save what little money you have and tune your own gear. Lo-Pan. Big dudes, Big sound. Straight up (albeit tuned low) Midwestern rock n’ roll that has groove. Many a beer were raised in approval. Which brings us to Goatwhore. I’ve really enjoyed their last two records, Carving Out The Eyes Of God and Blood For The Master. They were tight as tight can be and left no doubt to their slaying capabilities. It’s worth noting that Goatwhore’s guitarist, Sammy Duet, started out in Acid Bath (a great band also featuring Dax Riggs, whose music if you’re not already familiar with, you should get into sooner than later) and is underrated as a guitarist. Like his work in Acid Bath, his playing can go from heavy to haunting within a flick of his pick. Goatwhore are the Real Deal Evil Shit.
Back to Orange County? If I must, then off we go.
High On Fire, Corrosion Of Conformity and Goatwhore (again)? Oh Yeah!
Caught the last few Goatwhore songs but was fully set for COC. Their self-titled latest album has yet to fully sink into my ears, but hearing those new songs live hastened that process very quickly. What sucked was how unresponsive the audience was. There was C.O.C kicking it hard and aside from a few bobbing heads, they were met with blank stares and mild applause. This might be expected for a weekday show at a small club but this was a Friday night in a good sized hall with no shortage of metal enthusiasts. Hmm… The latest High Of Fire record, De Vermis Mysteriis, has not disappointed longtime fans and along the way converted more than a few new ones. Again, most of the crowd was simply not engaged. Even Matt Pike couldn’t help but notice the lack of energy from the audience. What a bummer. Strike 2 Orange County.
Last show of the month and the year was Peter Murphy doing an entire set of Bauhaus. Unfortunately, it was at the same place where I saw High On Fire two weeks earlier. Again, the crowd sucked! (scoping out the aging goth types did provide a tinge of amusement. Ladies, velvet is a more forgiving fabric that leather.) Despite Peter Murphy’s apologies for his choppy speaking voice, he was nailing it for She’s In Parties, Bela Lugosi’s Dead, Dark Entries, Stigmata Martyr etc, etc. With a solid set of musicians backing up Mr. Murphy, they performed a great set of classic tunes from a classic band. Now, if the audiences of Orange County can come to life when a band comes to town…
I would rather stay home.
Until next month.