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Metalliance Tour 2011 @ House of Blues

Kim Kelly

. . .

I still don’t think Kylesa need two drummers. They certainly want to sound big, though. It’s interesting not just to hear but also to see their big rock ambitions: two drummers, keyboards, theremin. The sound is booming. It’s reverberating around the House of Blues. It has volume but not impact. The air is cool. I feel like I’ve taken cough syrup on a clear spring day. I’m woozy, and I know every song.

Our Kim Kelly is doing merch for Saint Vitus. Kim, any words?

This has been without a doubt the most taxing touring experience I’ve ever had. The logistics and routing have been nightmarish, load-in/load-out every night is nearly apocalyptic (remember, seven fucking bands), and I can’t remember the last time I had a decent night’s sleep. But you know what? At the end of the day, I’m still on the road working for one of my favorite bands and hanging out with some of my very favorite people every day. I really can’t complain.

Kylesa just finished, so Kim is back doing her job. People are really lining up for merch. This is your typical mellow LA crowd. Cheap beers are flowing, the bartenders are easygoing, and members from the bazillion bands on this tour are walking around. Dale Crover is here checking things out. His hawk-like visage reminds me of that ’80s TV show Manimal – anyone remember it?

. . .

Kylesa

. . .

My fellow Decibel writer Etan Rosenbloom is here. Etan, any words?

Yes, I have words. I think I’m losing my edge. Kirk Windstein is up on stage bellowing at me soulfully. I will witness Saint Vitus for the first time when he’s done. And then Helmet is going to play all of Meantime, one of my first favorite metal records. And yet all I can think about is how bad the beer selection is here, and going over and over in my head how weird my interaction with Larry the bathroom attendant was. I am probably the only person who has ever ordered floss from Larry. And I did it at a metal show. Is that weird? Did all the hessians that passed by me mid-floss wonder what the hell was happening? Or was I working out a vicarious fantasy for all surly metalheads who have ever had meat stuck in their teeth but were too ashamed to floss in public? These things concern me now, not the awesomeness of Crowbar’s set. That’s concerning. Almost as concerning as the beer selection here. I wonder how Larry’s doing.

Crowbar sound great. Wow. Such power, clarity, and soul. The sound is so pure. Sludge can be triumphant. This is what Kirk Windstein was meant to do.

Kim, how are you feeling?

I LOVE CROWBAR! They bring it every single night, no matter what, and I’m incredibly stoked to call them my friends. Heavier than thou, son!

. . .

Crowbar

. . .

My fellow Decibel writer Jeff Treppel is here. Jeff, any words?

ALL I HAD I GAVE

Evidently Jeff didn’t have much.

Etan asks, “Is this music easy to play well?” I say no. The notes aren’t hard to play. But it’s hard to play them this well as a group. Give 10 bands the same three chords, and they will play them 10 different ways. Crowbar’s way is heavy and measured. It is a unity. Four men, one sound. Kim is throwing horns at me from the merch booth. She gets to hear this every night. Lucky gal.

I never imagined I’d ever see Saint Vitus play. Even now, as they make the floor rumble, they seem almost too alive. Dave Chandler, unfrozen from black and white photos, is wiggling the hell out of his vibrato. Wino’s voice is blown out, no doubt from touring. He’s not singing so much as growling. But Chandler follows suit, firing off spiky torrents of wah-wah. The vibe is feverish and viscous. Reefer smoke coats the air. Wino wearily paces around like an animal caged for years. Chandler steps out into the crowd, pumping his fists. Dozens of fists shoot upwards around him.

. . .

Saint Vitus

. . .

Helmet launch into Meantime without a word. They play Meantime without a word between songs. It’s strange in every way. This show is like BeardMetalFest + Helmet. It seems like a marriage of convenience. The Atlas Moth, Red Fang, Kylesa, Crowbar, and Saint Vitus benefit from Helmet’s name. Helmet benefit from the other bands’ hipness. I wonder what Page Hamilton thinks when he watches the other bands. Does he even watch the other bands? He is 50, playing an album released when he was 32.

Surprisingly, he plays it like he’s the age of his bandmates, who look like they’re 23. His voice no longer has the Ozzy-like body it had. But he hits most of his notes and occasionally his snarl has its old bite. His guitar playing is as fascinating as ever. I understand now why he rips out the neck pickup of his guitars. He plays a lot there, close to the neck, and the pickup would get in the way. His picking style is strange, almost intimate. He cradles the the pick between his thumb and index finger and pushes the pick around with this thumb. It’s a deliberate approach well-suited for jazz, which is where I suspect his heart lies now. It’s one thing to replicate riffs from one’s past; it’s another to solo over them like one is hurtling into the future. Hamilton squawks, skronks, shreds, and strums like each solo is his last. He and Chandler are the elder axemen of this tour – and they’re the most interesting ones.

. . .

Helmet

. . .

Meantime, too, is a case of almost unnatural vitality. The album comes to life. It is in front of me, accompanied by stage lights, roadies, and people jostling me. The sound is as I know it, but now it is a three-dimensional present, not a two-dimensional past. This is the third album of yore I’ve heard played in its entirety. Rust in Peace and Seasons in the Abyss were the others. I don’t care for nostalgia – I went to hear Megadeth and Slayer, not Rust and Seasons – but it is strange and cool to hear the past become the present. I don’t think it should be a regular practice; some movies (I can’t think of names right now) teach us that when dead things come back to life, the result isn’t necessarily roses. Some things should stay dead. That’s perhaps true for bands, but it isn’t true for music. Music is greater than the human vessels that bear it.

— Cosmo Lee
w/ Kim Kelly, Etan Rosenbloom, and Jeff Treppel

. . .

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