Friday, April 29, 2011

Big 4 Review

The song in my head right now is "Peace Sells," so let's start there shall we?

The VIP area was very peaceful. We set the O/U at fights witnessed at 10, but we only saw one involving a mosher and a young lady's spilled beer and that was just shoving and pointing and one hand gesture I believe conveyed "Toss off." We did see a couple security takedowns of intrepid interlopers in our pristine VIP area--one of impressive middle linebacker-ian power--but, overall, the mood was festive, rather than maniacal. At one point during Slayer, we were in a thin safety area between two thrashing pits, but the vortex never closed in on us. Even those circling with relish were a conscientious lot, following pit etiquette and creating what my friend Salk once terms, "A Pit of Good Intentions."

So, VIP? Totally worth the extra hundred bucks. Trying to think of $100 that has ever been better spent, I can only come up with two:

1) When Iggy paid donkeypuncher that same sum to ride in the front seat on the way back from Key West.

2) When I wagered that amount on Mrs. Human Head to take down Phil Gordon in Roshambo.

The boys (Al, Blood and StB) and I figured there was room enough for about 1500 humans in the VIP area, which arced out in a half moon from the stage. Behind two restraining barriers, the huddled masses were jammed together like Vienna sausages. It was insane. Ninety minutes before the first note, those crazy kids had packed themselves in, midday Indio sun pouring down on them. It was with more glee than guilt that we stood in our spacious area, stretched out our arms and marveled at their commitment. My single act of charity was to toss them a bottle of water and ask them to share.

Not sure they did.

As for the VIP beverage area, we were promised "better" food and drink selections. The food was fine, including a burger truck cleverly entitled "Grill 'Em All" (which I'm sure Lars slapped with an injunction of some sort), but the beer selections were Coors Light and Blue Moon, neither of which I could consider better than the amassed and mingled sweat of those kids in the front row. Fortunately, I fired up my craft beer radar and tracked down the Stone Brewing tent (arriving there at the exact same time as StB, who had taken another route; eerie), not that there was time or inclination for epic sudsing, but that Stone IPA was a far finer quencher of thirst while waiting for Megadeth.


I suppose you want me to talk about the bands some, eh? Bear with me. I've been backed up like a Beijing traffic jam with the writing and it's presently flowing, so I have no desire to edit or stop, so you get stream-of-consciousness or you get nothing you sniveling snivelers.

Though I've always admired Anthrax, I pretty much got off their train after the first album. It's the only one I ever owned, though there was plenty of "Among the Living" blasted into the hallways of my college dorm. My biggest contention with them was always Joey Belladonna, who did not sing on the first album. Even so, I was looking forward to their set, party since I'd never seen them, party because Al's enthusiasm was infectious and partly because I knew that they would be fun.

Of all the bands, they were the happiest to be there and it showed. Joey was probably the most happy, since he was admittedly "higher than a (compound curse word") and appeared to have aged double of everyone else. That fake tan he had working achieved the opposite effect of what I figure he was going for (that's our first winner of the day: Joey wins the Keith Richards Award). Their sound wasn't that great--first band curse--but the energy was fantastic and Scott Ian's maniacal stomp-dance entertained. The highlight was "Metal Thrashing Mad" (from the first album), edging out "Indians" and the playful admonition from Charlie Benante that our War Dance was less than stellar.


The second winner of the day, in lieu of a segue, goes to the dude in the blue shirt who was listing dangerously left, making his way (somehow) through the VIP area at a 45-degree angle to the ground. When he led with his right foot, he looked ready to fall over, but the left would magically find terra firma just in time to keep him from a public face plant. I sincerely doubt he made it through all four bands without some sort of trouble, but he can be proud of the fact he was our Big 4 Lewey Award winner.


Megadeth opened with "Trust" and then went into "In My Darkest Hour," which succeeded in whipping me into an off-key singing frenzy. It was the one song I told Blood I wanted them to do and it was superb. The song has a lot of history, especially with Metallica in the compound, and Dave Mustaine sang it with full bitterness and anguish, feelings he no longer feels, but was able to summon for the occasion, which is exactly what was demanded.

They were damn good and awfully tight, Mustaine and Chris Broderick trading technically superior riffs while banging away (Best Hair Award goes to Broderick; I told Blood the only reason I ever wanted to grow my hair long was to whip it around in Broderick-ian fashion. Sadly, I don't look nearly as cool as when he does it). Mustaine was short of audience interaction, but before launching into "Holy Wars" he decried the "brother against brother" nature of our world today.

Well said, Dave.


Here's the metaphor I used to describe the Slayer performance to Blood:

"Hi, we're Slayer. These are large steel-toed boots and we would like to come on stage and use them to kick you in the teeth."

Wow. Wow. Wow. They opened with "World Painted Blood" (a song I once used to illustrate to Emet what is awesome about this music I enjoy), followed by "Hate Worldwide" and "War Ensemble." Three absolute punishers. Sure, you can make that case for most of the Slayer canon, but they do have the ability to offer nuance. They simply decided not to in their entire set, which contained songs from 1983's "Show No Mercy" all the way up to 2009's "World Painted Blood" and there was not the slightest variation in quality or pause for respite. Kerry King spent 65 minutes pummeling his guitar. Tom Araya, always the coolest guy in the room, wailed away and when not singing, stepped back, surveyed the scene in front of him and offered that self-satisfied, bemused smile of his. It's a look of pure confidence. "Take that!" it seems to say.

"Silent Scream" was an unexpected addition to the set, but the biggest surprise was when regular guitarist Jeff Hanneman came out for the encore, his first appearance with the band since October. He'd been rehabing from necrotizing fasciitis (google'd it), which is flesh-eating bacteria, likely caused by a spider bite. He made sure to cut the sleeve off his t-shirt so we could see the atrophy and scars as he ripped through "South of Heaven" and "Angel of Death." Really cool moment for him and for us.


I'm a Metallica apologist ("St. Anger" excluded). I've always backed them ("St. Anger excluded) even when Lars exposes his most douchey side (frequently). They were the band that started it all for me. I went from Top 40 to Metal thirty seconds after I heard "The Four Horsemen" in 1983. But I have to say, they were terrible.

Okay, perhaps not terrible. Just...out of place. A parody, closer to Spinal Tap than to Slayer, with their flash pots and double-decker stage and goofy guitar designs (Kirk Hammett) and big, black beach balls and the way they positioned LArs's drum kit to make sure he'd be in the background of every video projected onto the big screen and the way he jumps up from behind the kit at the end of every song (sit down and play!). It was all rather silly. Even worse, they did not play well. "For Whom the Bell Tolls," which followed the opener, "Creeping Death," was horribly botched, especially by Hammett, who didn't seem to find the pocket until midway through the set.

The songs they chose weren't bad. Only one song from the years between the "Black Album" and "Death Magnetic" and heavy on the first four studio albums. The best was a startling and fantastic "Orion," which was dedicated to the late Cliff Burton, a nice touch from the boys.

Of course, there were the songs none of us wanted to hear, though we protested less vociferously than the guy near us in the Pit who thrust his middle finger at the band throughout the entirety of "Sad But True" and then stoically turned his back to the stage during "Nothing Else Matters" and "Enter Sandman."


The encore with all the bands was both telegraphed and onerous, but it was still kind of fun to see them up there together. Not all. Araya passed, later saying he didn't approve of the song selection ("Am I Evil?"), but he would have happily participated if they'd chosen something more "metal" like "The Four Horsemen." That would have been awesome (Big 4, Four Horsemen; get it?) and you know Mustaine knows the song already. Alas...

All in all, a vital and must-seen adventure for me and I was happy to share it with the others, a great bunch (as you all know) who made the experience that much better. I think my metal concert-going days are over now and I can't think of a better way to have gone out.

Well...on second thought...I'll probably go see Slayer again.


At 11:06 AM, Blogger StB said...

Tom Araya, always the coolest guy in the room, wailed away and when not singing, stepped back, surveyed the scene in front of him and offered that self-satisfied, bemused smile of his. It's a look of pure confidence. "Take that!" it seems to say.

Araya still haunts me. I watched him float around the stage, staring at the audience with a self-satisfying look that read "I have you all in the palm of my hand. You will dance when I say dance." And everyone did.

Great writeup!

At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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