Let’s just say I’ve got quite a few tales of political activism from my past (I lived in Tallahassee, FL during the 2000 election and in Ohio during the 2004 fiasco), but for the most part I tend not to get up on a soapbox when it comes to the issues. However, I think the Internet Radio Equality Act is extremely relevent for this particular blog and I want to help spread awareness as much as possible.
In a nutshell unless the public is successful in petitioning Congress in the next day or so, pretty much all internet radio will be forced to shut down on this Sunday, July 15th. For more information on the details about the new internet royalty structure and how it will affect internet broadcasters across the country visit Savenetradio.org.
I’ve been aware of the issue for awhile, but I didn’t think the proposed measures would seriously pass, and I definitely didn’t think the fallout would be so imminent. I hope you will feel compelled to take 5 minutes out of your day to call the offices of your congressional representatives to lend voice to the cause. I figure with all of the other major issues on the political agenda this probably isn’t being considered by the political bigwigs as much as one would hope. With that in mind I’d hope that a few earnest pleas from the public would be enough to help convince them that the public really cares about this issue.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to a real metal show and outside of the music itself last Thursday I was reminded all at once of the things that I like, as well as all the things I really don’t miss. If you need a short list 1) metal chicks are hott, 2) school is out so if she doesn’t have a drink in her hand you can all but assume she’s jailbait, and 3) oh yeah, scenesters.
Minor reality checks aside (I guess I really am getting old), the show was rather enjoyable I’d say. I’ve never been to the Gibson Ampitheater before and it’s actually quite nice. This was a show I’d been looking forward to for a while, and I was hoping it would be a good night. I’ve actually heard mixed reviews of the Deftones live, all coming from sources who love the recorded material. Then there’s the notorious story of the Agora in Cleveland where Chino split his pants on stage in the middle of the set. (I guess I’m not the only one getting old.) But from what I could tell from this particular gig I was watching a band in their prime still rocking it 12 years out of the gate.
I actually rather liked the venue despite the inescapably obvious corporate interest that adorn every free inch of what could even remotely be considered commercially viable advertising space. And maybe it was the fact that I had just seen shows at Dodger Stadium and The Hollywood Bowl, but for some reason I expected it to be bigger inside. Not that the place is small by any means. One thing about the aforementioned scenester mentality though, if you can be anywhere else in the vicinity when the band you came to see isn’t onstage then you will. It’s also very necessary to trash anyone who is not said band that dares to try and get some exposure by playing for the audience. Granted sometimes this attitude is warranted, but that’s besides the point. I’ve discovered a number of my favorite acts by chance when they were opening for someone else so I always try to give openers a good look if I can.
This night while a good majority of the crowd was hanging out in the lobbies we were treated to Fall of Troy who gave us a nice succinct 4 or 5 song set. I was actually quite impressed by the trio myself. While not perfect they did stand out quite a bit in my mind. They started with a nice extended “math-rock” intro and once the meat of the song kicked in I immediately knew that my review was gonna have to make some sort of comparison to The Mars Volta.
Lead singer and guitarist Thomas Erak actually has a decent voice… when he sings, but instead he often prefers to go for stylized “metal shrieks” instead. Personally I could do without those. I mean I can dig stylized vocals as well, but his just don’t do it for me. That set aside, there is no denying his insane guitar work.
Luckily a good portion of their songs embody long instrumental passages which rocked pretty damn good and apparently they do have songs where he employs a regular singing voice, so overall I give them a thumbs up. Unfortunately they didn’t have any of their merch at the main tables from what I saw or else I would have grabbed a CD. An impulse buy that I would not have regretted by any means, but that I’m not inclined to put in front of my long list of other titles I’ll be looking for on my next trip to the record store. Especially now that I know they have several albums out and I have no idea what their setlist was to help me decide which one I’d want to buy. I actually tried to see if I could find them hanging out after the show, but I guess I just didn’t look hard enough.
Now… I hate to be overly negative, but the next portion of this post is probably going o end up more of a rant than anything else… deal with it. The other opening act that played that night was “Dir en Grey” a name I’ve heard before, but was totally unfamilar with personally. First of all I will say that the band was pretty solid actually. The set they played was a little heavier than what I normally go for, but with the right touch I could see myself getting into it. Sadly that touch was not displayed this night. My disclaimer here is that I can only base my judgements off of what I saw that night and quite honestly the lead singer ruined it for me.
After the huge build up of a prerecorded intro the band came out to take their places right before the singer made his “big entrance”. I was pretty far back, but this guy is noticeable shorter than the rest of his bandmates, and he gave off the vibe of a serious Napoleon complex just from the way he walked out on stage.
Now as a rock star you can usually get away with being full of yourself. Sometimes you can even get away with a lack of any real talent. But rarely can you combine the two. As I said before the band itself was pretty solid actually and I could hear what the intent was in the vocals, but it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. I could see a little studio magic making it work, but in person the simple fact of the matter is, the guy doesn’t have the vocal range of say Jimmy Urine from MSI.
Despite all of this I still wanted to give these guys a chance. Like I said, the rest of the band IS really solid. but it only became more and more apparent how full of himself this singer really was. The dramatic lighting cues, the fan helping his shirt billow around his exposed chest, the constant second guessing of “this must be the big finish” coupled with the startling realization that no, it was only more dramatics. It was all a little much for my tastes. Maynard Keenan he is not, and I wasn’t the only person who was a little perplexed at the spectacle as there was a noticeably defiant chant of “Deftones!! Deftones!!” starting to swell up from the rest of the crowd.
There were a lot of the girls eating it up in front of the stage though. Again being very noticeably diminutive in stature compared to the rest of his bandmates, I couldn’t help but think that this was a guy who got constantly picked on in school and then joined a band where the inevitable groupie love all went to his head. The size of this guys ego was only capitalized by the fact that later on that night we would be given humblingly redundant “thank you’s” from the headlining act in between every other song. I didn’t feel too bad about skipping out to make a few trips to the beer line and the restroom during their set.
Then I looked more into it before writing this review trying to figure out why people actually bought into his whole thing. I found out that these guys ARE actually foreign (band names are never good indicators of nationality when it comes to metal) and for some weird reason it made a little more sense to me. Maybe the fact that he wasn’t actually singing in English when I thought he was is what threw me. I can’t confidently say that it’s a cultural thing, but for some reason I was more willing to accept the ridiculousness of it all. They’re Japanese to be specific (I was too far away to make this out at the actual show) and I do have a thing for Asian cinema, so at any rate they have some pretty cool music videos. They seem to be even more popular in their home country and they do have quite a bit of an international following, but I still think my original impression has a bit of validity to it. For what it’s worth I shouldn’t have to know the history of an act before seeing them live in order to “get it”. In theory the music should be able to speak for itself.
That being said, I also stumbled upon this track which, is surprisingly tolerable considering my original thoughts. It’s actually quite the contrast to the heavy set I heard from them Thursday and the singing style is a little more appropriate for this track. Again the band is pretty solid regardless of how I feel about the vocalist.
After Dir en Grey left the stage, it was amazing how quickly the rest of the seats inside filled out. One of the minor points on the long list of scenester tendencies I could go without. Then there’s the random girl who mistook me for her boyfriend in the aisleway. (tip to the ladies: You should make sure you’re sure of who’s walking behind you before you start grabbing for things) After politely informing the young lady in question that I probably wasn’t who she thought I was, I got back to my seat just in time to catch the entrance of the NorCal hard rockers we all came to see.
Opening with “Root” from their debut Adrenaline, not a person in the house was left seated while Chino and company gave every indication that they planned to bring a full energy performance that night. The huge LCD screen behind the band as well as the monitor screens on each side of the venues projected old Bettie Page reels and other stock footage and vintage stag films throughout the night.
After the opening number we were launched right into the first of many crowd pleasers that night with “My Own Summer (Shove It)” and the audience was glad to get into it and sing along.
Running through an amazing setlist that covered a nice range of new and older material, both new and longtime fans were treated to many favorites. A fairly sizable entourage of lucky fans could be seen standing off to either side of the stage catching the action up close and personal and at one point a little girl somewhere between 10 and 12 years old was invited to come out and sit next to the drum kit for a few numbers.
About halfway through the set a short little intro played from a documentary about underwater volcanic eruptions right before “Hole in the Earth” from off of the latest album echoed through the halls. From there they slowed the tempo down for a few numbers including Xerces complete with piano parts and all. Then they played a few more fan favorites before bringing it all home with “Passenger” from White Pony. If I were to call it I’d say the selections from that album seemed to get the most response throughout the night.
Surprisingly when it came time for the encore, Chino asked the crowd if they were “ready to do this shit” and erupted into “Back to School (mini maggit)”. One of they bands more popular songs, it has been said that they actually regret recording it, as it was dictated by the label for them to make a more commercially viable “hit single” for an album that they already felt was complete. Nevertheless, they seemed to enjoy playing it for the fans this night.
Determined to make the encore epic, we then were also treated to “Change (in the house of flies)”and “Minerva” the only song from the eponymous fourth album represented that show. For the big finish the crowd was encouraged to join in and rock it out to “Head Up” with Chino holding the mic out for everyone to shout back “SOULFLY!!!!” during the chorus.
All in all a very good showing that I was rather glad to see. If any of those other disparaging reviews from the past were true the band on stage this night showed no resemblance as they ripped through the show with the confidence and accuracy of true veterans. I wouldn’t hesitate to catch them again next time around. For today’s bonus I give you a track that was brought up the last time I talked about the Deftones around these parts.
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