A Year in Concerts: Part 2 (July-Dec)

July 16th, 2010/Trocadero Theatre/Philadelphia, PA

Swashbuckle, Augury, Death Angel and Soilwork

Three bands I really knew nothing about going in and one band that absolutely blew me away.  While Augury and Soilwork fall more properly under the death metal umbrella both Swashbuckle and Death Angel are rightly thrash bands.  While everyone did a great job this night the absolute standout of the even was veteran metallers Death Angel.  Just about every major thrash band from 90s was out on tour or putting out new albums in 2010 and Death Angel was amongst these luminaries.  The maturity of their act far eclipsed both up and coming bands Augury and Swashbuckle; while the raw energy of their act was infectious in a way that the brooding darkness of Soilwork’s traditional Swedish death metal could never be.

August 29, 2010/The Electric Factory/Philadelphia, PA

Apocalyptica and Dir En Grey

For those who don’t know who Apocalyptica is: shame on you!  These Finns took the cello and decided to turn it into a heavy metal beast.  While they debuted as foursome with an album of Metallica covers they have over the years moved towards original compositions and have paired down to three cellists plus a drummer.  They are also a band I’d been desperate to see live since I first heard about them and the weight was well worth it!  Dir en Grey on the other hand are a band I knew nothing about.  A Japanese progressive metal (I guess) band they play some pretty crazy music with a variety of influences.  Lead singer Kyu, a very tiny man, had a large box to stand on (seriously) and a big voice that is equally adept at clean vocals and metal growls.  Most impressive was Shinya’s drum set which featured a rather interesting placement for some of his equipment: They were use, but not frequently.  Dir En Grey put on a solid set and are an act I’d definitely consider seeing live again.  Apocalyptica though will probably go down as being one of my favorite live shows ever.  Founding member Eicca Toppinen was adept at handling MC duties, introducing band members and songs keeping the attention on the music more than anything else.  I did feel a little bad for newer member Perttu whose English isn’t nearly as good as Eicca’s and stuck have to talk to the audience for a bit.  The band played a great mix of stuff off their old albums, plus new material, plus some of their best covers (Master of Puppets and their arrangement of In the Hall of the Mountain King were the standouts there).  The guys play their instruments standing up, only sitting for one of the slower pieces.  The addition of drummer Mikko Siren really rounds out the band’s sound and I’m glad that drums have become a larger part of Apocalyptica’s music.  I’ll likely be reliving this show for years to come.

September 25, 2010/Susquehana Bank Center/Camden, NJ

Black Diamond Sky Tour: Mastodon/Deftones/Alice In Chains

Ferry troubles for a friend meant we missed a chunk of Mastodon’s set.  A sad fact but I have seen them live before (when the toured with Dethklok/Brandon Smalls).  Deftones is a band I had heard in bits in pieces for a long time now.  Their an interesting band putting out solid tunes that have parts I like but that as a whole never quite work perfectly for me.  I really ought to sit down with their most recent, Diamond Eyes, and give it another try.  Of course the main attraction here was Alice in Chains who were touring in support of their latest: Black Gives Way to BlueAIC are a band I grew up with but again a band that existed closer to the periphery of my youthful encounters with music.  There was always something about grunge that never sat well with me and AIC, more or less mislabeled as a grunge for most of their career, sort of fell by the wayside for me as a result.  Likewise, I haven’t talked about or listened to Black Gives Way to Blue as much as it deserves.  It is a phenomenal album that, whenever a track pops up in my shuffle, I am always pleasantly surprised by what I hear.  This is actually the second time I’ve seen AIC with this lineup (they toured with Velvet Revolver a couple years back) and I was once again impressed with vocalist William DuVall.  Layne Staley had a distinctive voice and while William’s certainly isn’t the same his own vocals are similar yet with a vitality and style that is all his own.  Of course it also helps that Jerry Cantrell has been a major creative force in the band handling the lion’s share of the writing and a fair amount of the singing as well.  Both Cantrell and DuVall has great stage presence and are animated performers who keep the audiences attention without distracting them from the music (the complete opposite of say Scott Weiland).

October 20, 2010/Best But Theatre/New York, New York

w00tstock 2.7 ft. Jonathan Coulton as Wil Wheaton, Paul and Storm, MC Frontalot, Adam Savage, Marian Call, and Drew Curtis

Another show I’ve been waiting to hit the east coast since it debuted in San Francisco in 2009.  The brainchild of blogger/actor Wil Wheaton, comedy musicians Paul and Storm, and Adam Savage of Mythbusters w00tstock is “3 hours of geeks and music.”  While Wil couldn’t make it to the New York show, internet superstar Jonathan Coulton did a fantastic job handling things.  In addition to stellar musical performances from there were talks/routines by Adam Savage who talked about his kids, Grant Imahara who talked about playing C3po for Lucasfilm marketing, and Fark.com founder Drew Curtis.  In between sets were short videos, some of the past and present viral videos that have made the rounds, as well as short videos with Wil Wheaton (Wil Wheaton Enjoys a Guiness being the best).  MC Frontalot, Paul and Storm, and Jonathan Coulton are all acts I’ve seen before and all were just as awesome as they were in the past (though this night’s version of “The Pirate’s Wife’s Lament” may have been the most hilarious).  I had no idea what to expect from Marian Call, and was pleasantly surprised by music both humorous and soulful (plus a typewriter played as a music).  Sci-fi Song’s John Anealio was spot on when he said:

As a vocalist, Marian has full command of her instrument. Never showy or over the top, her voice is both powerful and subtle, perfectly suited to express her unique point of view as a songwriter. Speaking of which, her songs are a sweet blend of folk storytelling and pop melodicism with bits of the Gershwin songbook thrown in for good measure.

In a year of great shows w00tstock stands out as one of the best.  If you’re a geek I’d recommend keeping an eye on w00tstock.net and jumping at the chance if it rolls into a town near you.

November 9, 2010/Western Union Center/Philadelphia, PA

The Wall 2010

I really should have written about this show right after it happened.  I also should have ignored the bold faced “No Cameras” printed on my ticket.  Believe it or not this was my first time hearing Pink Floyd’s The Wall in its entirety.  It was also one of the most ridiculously over-the-top amazing shows I’ve ever seen.  As in past live performances of The Wall as Roger Waters and the band performs the titular wall is slowly constructed between the band and the audiences.  Images, words, and film clips are projected onto said wall.  Giant inflatable puppets of a grotesque mother and grotesque teacher caper on stage.  At one point a flying pig flies out over the audience.  At the show’s end the wall comes tumbling down.  This was a pretty stunning show, the music was spot on and Roger Waters (at 67) is still a damned fine performer.  While Waters is winding up his North American tour those of you in the UK still might have a chance to catch it in 2011.  An amazing experience that fans of rock music should definitely look into.

December 3, 2010/Izod Center/East Rutherford, NJ

Halford/Ozzy Osbourne

When a friend asked me if I was in for seeing Ozzy live this year I hesitate.  You see I had caught Ozzy live at Ozzfest several years ago and was so disappointed by what I heard that me and my friends left barely two songs into Ozzy’s set.  I hesitated, but I said yes, and it’s a good thing I did.  I’m not overly familiar with Halford’s solo work, or really most of his career outside of Judas Priest’s British Steel and Screaming for Vengeance.  Which was unfortunate since he played mostly non-Priest material and I would have killed to have heard “United” or “Breaking the Law”.  It was still a good set, though there was a certain coldness to Halford’s stage presence that left the sensation that he wasn’t all there, and Halford’s voice is still impressive.

Ozzy’s set on the other hand was damned impressive.  Now sure, Ozzy isn’t anywhere as polished as he was in his past, but for a guy was turning 62 the night of this show and whose hard-living has not been kind to body or mind, he put on an energetic and completely fun show.  Sure while not every note was where it should be, and while more recent songs required liberal use of the teleprompter, the classic Ozzy tunes we all know and love were all about as perfect as they could be.    We even got several great Black Sabbath tunes including one of my personal favorite: “Faeries Wear Boots”.   Ozzy took a break while the band performed the Black Sabbath instrumental “Rat Salad” which served as an opportunity for new guitarist Gus G and new drummer Tommy Clufestos to show their metal.  Gus G is amazing, while he isn’t Randy Rhodes his style falls more closely to Randy than it does to Zak Wylde.  Clufestos was the bigger surprise, while maybe not on the level of the big prog-rock drummers, the man has some serious chops and was a welcome addition on the stage.  This show far exceeded my expectations and was a great way to celebrate Ozzy’s birthday!

 

So after a year of concerts what do I take away from it all?  I don’t really know.  Seeing music performed live is something completely different than hearing it off an album.  Not better and not worse but different.  I’ve found that while I can like a band on an album what really makes or a breaks a band for me, what leaves the most lasting impression, is my experience with a band at a live show.  It’s easy to write off the polish on album as production but seeing those same songs performed line, in many cases with touches and flourishes that are absent on a studio recording really elevates my opinion on a band.  Will I do this again next year?  Probably not.  I stuck to a pretty rigid schedule and was actively looking for a concert to attend every month; between that and arranging schedules to fit that goal (between two jobs) and it was actually a little exhausting.  Either way it was great experience and I definitely look forward to more concerts in the future (starting with MAGfest 2011).

A Year of Concerts: Part 1 (Jan-Jun)

Zombies during JoCo's RE: Your Brains

In December of last year I hastily decided that in 2010 I would attempt to attend at least 1 concert every month.  Why?  I could wax philosophical about music being a performance art but, truth is, I just like music.  Was it perhaps a bit fiscially irresponsible?  Arguable, but I had fun doing it.  So who did I see in the great year of 2010?

January 3t, 2010 / Trocadero Theatre / Philadelphia, PA:

Scale the Summit, Cynic, Devin Townsend and Between the Buried and Me.

This was an excellent show to start the year with the main act, Between the Buried and Me putting on such a solid, energetic performance that it was a show I was constatnly comparing later acts with.  With frequently indecipherable screaming of Between the Buried and Me can be off-putting to many (re: most) it takes nothing away from the phenomenal talent of the band members and drummer Blake Richardson is perhaps one of the best up and coming metal drummers (there was a supposed Mike Portnoy sighting at this show if that says anything).  In the progressive metal scene acts can vary widely in style and tones and in this show in particular was split 50/50 with both Scale the Summit and Cynic tends towards a more mellow style while Townsend and Between the Buried and Me tends towards a more aggressive style.   I only mention this because because the show was arranged as follows: Scale the Summit, Devin Townsend, Cynic, Between the Buried and Me.  Now Townsend frickin’ killed, he had the audience absolutely pumped and more-or-less bouncing off the walls (and each other ‘natch) when Cynic took the stage.  The unleashed agression of the audience was a bit of a tough nut for Cynic to crack and I don’t think they ever managed to win the crowd over completely, something that was not at all aided by their mid-set pause to have us do “metal yoga.”  It was a weird way to arrange the acts, one that I don’t think benefited the talents dudes in Cynic at all.  Between the Buried and Me absolutely destroyed their set.  In fact the mosh pit grew so large in the admittedly small Trocadero that me and my friend found ourselves wedged uncomfortably against the sound booth with a protective wall of  Event Staff between us and the pit.  It was a damned awesome show.

February 20, 2010/ Brighton Bar /Long Branch, NJ

East of the Wall EP Release Show w/ Rosetta, Fake Gimms, A Fucking Elephant, Restorations

With the February 26 Flogging Molly show sold out I was saved from breaking my New Years quest early when my friend Matt of A Fucking Elephant let me know that East of the Wall was playing an EP release show.  I ventured out into the frigid cold on the promise of good times with friends and a trip to Long Branch’s own Jr’s; all of which I got in spades.  As typical for shows at the Brighton Bar things ran late so I unfortunately missed most of East of the Wall’s set but I was impressed with the energy, enthusiasm and talent of the Fake Gimms (now Zombie Club America).  I’ll be honest I do love bar shows, I don’t know why but there is something kind of special about loud music, beer, and good friends.  Maybe it’s the beer.  Just kidding…kind of.

March 26 & 27, 2010/Hynes Convention Center/Boston, MA

PAX East 2010 Concerts: Metroid Metal, The Protomen, Anamanguchi, Video Game Orchestra, Paul and Storm, Jonathan Coulton, and MC Frontalot.

The Protomen w/ audience members

This was a pretty epic weekend and both Friday the 26th and Saturday the 27th were amazing nights.  Sure we were all exhausted from a full day of convetioning and not all of us would make it through the evening on our feet but there is a special kind of magic specific to PAX that is difficult to describe.  Some of the pre-show waits were long but they were never short of fun; I never thought the wave could elicit such simple childlike joy, but apparently it can.

Video Game Orchestra

While all the acts on these two nights were top notch I was particularly impressed by The Protomen and Video Game Orchestra. The Protomen take the bare story of Mega Man and add a bit of rock opera flare.  Which is both ridiculous and awesome.  Though it might lack the budget of of similar mainstream acts it has twice as much heart.  Video Game Orchestra was present with their chamber group  and creative director/arranger Shota Nakama quickly won over the audience with humor and charm.  This is a phenomenally talented group of musician who are professional and well homed as any symphony orchestra.  I desperately hope that one day I’ll a chance to see them again live (note: they are still working on their CD).

Coultron!

Jonathan Coulton’s set was particularly notable since it birthed Coultron, the gestalt of JoCo himself and members of Metroid Metal lend a bigger, fuller sound to JoCo’s tunes.  This combination was sucessful enough that JoCo has been working on an album with a full band and, if his set in March is anything to go by then it is most definitely something to look forward to.

April 7, 2010/Terminal 5/New York, New York

Opeth

Opeth (I only had my shitty cellphone camera)

When I talk about music, and any band or artist in particular it is best that you add a silent “They’re not Opeth but…” before any praise.  I’ve only seen Opeth once before, at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ; but when I heard they were doing a limited engagement tour to celebrate their 20th Anniversary I was damned exiceted.  The Evolution XX tour was only six shows and I jumped at the chance to grab tickets.  The band played the entirety of Blackwater Park during their first set then came out and played one song of each of their other albums in chronological order; with historical notes and introductions by front man Mikael Akerfeldt.  Opeth are a live act that are as impeccably precise and spot on as they are on their studio recordings.  I, quite frankly, love this band and this was an absolutely amazing show.  If you’re at all interested in the Black Metal scene, and are coming from more mainstream corners, I could think of few better places to start.

April 20, 2010/Starland Ballroom/Sayreville, NJ

River City Extension/Big D and the Kids Table/Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly

A rescheduled show due to snow earlier in the year meant I was able to grab tickets to see Flogging Molly; a band I’ve been waiting to see live ever since I first listened to Drunken Lullabies .  This is actually they only concert I remember actually posting about so for my thoughts on this show see here.

May 3, 2010/Championships Bar/Trenton, NJ

Swashbuckle/Blackguard

The gents of Swashbuckle

When I struggled to find shows it always helped to turn to people I know.  If you had told High School Me that Justin Greczyn, AKA Swashbuckle’s Commodore Nosebleed, was going to be the lead guitarist in pirate themed thrash metal band (signed to a major metal label no less!) I would have glanced at the somewhat scrawny red-headed kid across the lunch table (maybe playing Magic: the Gathering) and scoffed.  Of course the idea that there would even be a pirate metal sub-genre would just have likely have baffled my fragile young mind.  As always the “gentlemen” of Swashbuckle put on a furious, energetic, and typically lyrically indecipherable show that still managed to win over the audience at Championships.  Championships is a tiny little dive bar in Trenton that books local, and some not-so-local metal acts, its a neat little place with cheap beer and loud music…really really loud music.  The gentlemen (and lady) of Blackguard power a little more from the power metal side of things than Swashbuckle does and they have practiced the art of synchronized hair swinging to near perfection.

Blackguard amazing hair swinging!

While the intersection of pirate lovers and thrash metal fans isn’t necessarily a large one it is nice to know that they are a number of bands catering to that group.

June = NOTHING

It was June where my year long quest failed.  No specific reason I can remember.  The only two concerts I was interested in being Scorpions at the PNC Bank Center and Entombed at the Grammercy Theatre.  I made it to neither.  However, things picked up again in July.  Stayed tuned next week when I catalog the remainder of  2010!