Sep 1, 2012

The Most Moving Shows I've Seen

It is rare that I go out and see bands anymore.  There are several reasons for that, not the least of which is that my ears ring for several days after a show, and I need to be more selective about which bands contribute to my hearing loss.  There have been many good shows in my past, but a few in particular have made lasting impressions on me.  I would love for people to write me about their own experiences with live music which may have struck them as more profound than most.

These descriptions are in order of impact:

1) Mr. Bungle: Cat's Cradle, Carboro, N.C. 1999? - I had seen Mr. Bungle once before at The Brewery here in Raleigh and was one of the best shows I had seen at that time.  Even knowing how good they could be didn't come close to preparing me for this show in support of their next record "California".  The Cradle was sold out, and it was as packed as I have ever seen it.  It's hard to put into words what makes an event like a show something more than just a performance.  Mike Patton, love him or hate him, was like a mad scientist on PCP!  Sometimes you could see his head pop up with his mouth wide open, belting out vocals as only he can.  Sometimes you'd see an arm over the stage or even feet, which was confusing but amazing at the same time.  The entire band were an unstoppable force, and I've never seen so many people on a stage play even close to that tight before or since!  It was without a doubt the most indescribable show I've seen.  You can't describe certain drugs to people who have never tried them, and you simply cannot explain what was so mind altering about Mr. Bungle live.  I honestly can't imagine I'll ever see anything like that show again.
2) King Diamond: The Pier, Raleigh, N.C. 1997 - This was too good to pass up.  My favorite band, Trouble was opening this show and I had never seen them before.  There was no stop scheduled for this tour in Raleigh but some friends of mine and I called their booking agent so many times that I think they decided to go ahead and set something up here.  I thought I would flip my lid over Trouble live... loud... oh man!  I could not wait!  I thought that King Diamond would either be really good or so ridiculous that it would be hilarious.  Either way, I knew I would enjoy myself.  Trouble put on a good show, but they didn't blow me away. Basically, all of their decent parts sounded fantastic, but whenever they came around to the kinds of riffs I got wet thinking about their sound didn't do them justice.  It was frustrating, but it was the same way when I saw them a couple of years later opening for Danzig.

King Diamond was quite another story.  We were able to get in the club after he had his soundcheck obligations taken care of, but he was still out in the main room.  He had this weird, evil vibe about him.  Evil probably isn't the right word, maybe he put off a vibe like he was a conduit for things beyond most people's comprehension.  He looked like the kid from The Bad News Bears movie who smoked and rode a moped, only KD kinda creeped me out instead of just looking silly.  Once the band took stage, we were all held absolutely captive by their performance.  He was unbelievably energetic and he let us see a little more into that erie connection he had with his dark side.  A good friend of mine was at least as big a fan as we were and had been excited about the show as well.  Eventually she had to remove herself from the stage area because she was so freaked out by the sense that eye contact might not be the wisest thing with this guy. I saw her later in the set leaning up against a column towards the back of the club and she didn't want to be any closer than that. Most of the people I knew who saw that show felt whatever his aura was, and we all agreed he was not someone to mess with.

3) Slayer: The Warner Theater, Washington DC 1986 - I loved Slayer's first releases.  "Show No Mercy" showed me that there was a form of music that could get your blood pumping more than punk rock, and the "Haunting the Chapel" ep elevated the art form such that underground metal had the potential to be taken seriously, and other bands who wanted to keep up were going to have to put their big boy pants on and peel some skin back if they wanted to stay in the same league.  "Reign in Blood" made Slayer kings among the ranks of underground metal.  That record came out when Metallica was headed to the grammy awards, which was a double edged sword for the genre.  While Anthrax and Metallica were looking for a way to get invited "in", Slayer said "Okay you can do that, but why don't you just stay the hell OUT!  We'll rule the underground while you guys hobnob!"  This Reign in Blood show was going to be fierce!

Huge stacks of cabinets with huge upside down crosses, and a twenty foot drum riser... they were not joking around.  The lights went down and the first three tom flams at the beginning of "Raining Blood" exploded into the club with synchronized strobe lights.  It was on, man! Everyone rushed to the area of the historic theater between the stage and the first row of seats. It was so tight that if your arm ended up over your head it could be two or three minutes before you could pull it back down.  People were using my hair and anyone else's to pull themselves up so they could walk on our heads to the stage, just to come crashing back down on top of us all.  It was brutal!  No doubt there were panic attacks.  The crowd took on an energy all its own even as Tom Araya admonished them for taking what could have been one of the most amazing shows ever, and causing it to devolve it into a flurry of fists and spit while stage hands laid waste to anyone they could, just to try and get a handle on things. Security was covered in spit, and it seemed as though the audience was on the verge of becoming dangerous throughout most of the set.  Slayer were precise and lethal that night. People were stage diving off of the balcony at the back of the theater, and the first four or five rows of seats were flattened.  Down to the ground flattened!  A wrecking crew could not have been more thorough.  I remember wondering if the barely contained violence would turn into something horrible once the crowd spilled out onto the street.  What a crazy night!  

4) Slint: The Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, N.C. 2006? - I was introduced to Slint several years after their historic 1991 release, "Spiderland" altered the college music scene for a generation.  I had never heard of them until '96 when Fly Machine were recording material that was never released until earlier this year on Divebomb Records.  I never owned the Slint album until several years after that, but it has taken its own spot in my collection as an utterly irreplaceable 40 minute masterpiece.  They were long gone by the time I fell in love with the album, so when Monica and I saw that they were coming to Carrboro to perform the "Spiderland" album in its entirety we leapt at the chance to secure tickets.  We were pleased beyond our expectations.

Carrboro is really just a stoplight or two away from Chapel Hill, home of the University of North Carolina, the crown jewel of collegiate basketball and one of the bastions of college alternative music.  I'm a hard rock/metal guy and the press around here ignores almost anything that sounds like a testicle could have influenced the music an artist creates.  My excitement for the show kept me from noticing the crowd, but I imagine they thought we looked out of place.  The band did nothing elaborate at all for the show, which was precisely the right call for that album.   "Spiderland" is an unusually ambient record, and the band were appropriately subdued and focused.  I have never seen a crowd that size be so quiet during a set.  At least half of the album is hypnotizingly quiet, but no one... I mean NO ONE made a peep during the set.  It was the closest thing to watching a religious ceremony as I have seen at a show, and it was amazing!  They could not have been more reverent towards the band, who went through the set as though they were fully aware of the weight of every note.  I have never seen anything like it, and I have never been more proud of an audience for being so respectful of a band's creative needs.  Bravo, Slint and everyone who attended that magical show.

5) Corrosion of Conformity: St. Joseph's Church, Durham, N.C. 1984? - My first exposure to punk rock was at a huge battle of the bands event that my friend, Phil took me to when I was in the tenth grade.  Within nanoseconds of COC taking the stage their fans launched into what was at that point in time, an innocent though physical exhibition of slam dancing.  The big production stage hands had no idea what was going on and took it to be something much more aggressive and dangerous than it was.  I jumped up instinctively to join the slamming.  I was enthralled at a primitive level and was running towards the excitement when something caught my eye.  It was a body being hurled up into the air and down onto the bands' fans. The arch of an arm still onstage told me that the figure had been thrown, as opposed to leaping of his or her own will, and the scene turned ugly after about 45 seconds as punks and stage hands started going at it.  Everything was shut down before it ever got going.  Two weeks later COC had another show in Durham, and this time I had to dive in.

Slam dancing, stage dives, child tossing (I am not kidding!)... you name it and that dusty church basement had it!  Before COC went on a group of six to ten year old local kids were allowed in to see what all of these crazy looking teenagers with mohawks (the real ones that stood up a foot or more, not the slight break from a shaved head you see now) and spiked jackets were all about.  The kids had one of those sofa sized boom boxes that you'd see in the early 80's with them, so everyone cleared the floor and let them have a break dance show.  It was the only time I've ever seen that kind of interaction and it was one of those things that really makes an impression.  The kids stuck around once the band started, and for awhile we were throwing them around like volleyballs overhead.  They were having a blast, and it was really a hell of a lot of fun!  Maybe not the smartest thing to do, but no one got hurt.  That show tapped into a youthful exuberance that had me climbing upside down on a plumbing pipe over the audience.  I looked back and saw that others had followed my example.  "Uh oh, will that pipe hold this much...aaahhhhhhh!"  The answer was a resounding "No!" but we were all watched over that night and no one got hurt, except for the room itself.

I think that it may have been the next time that COC played there (if memory serves my crossover band, Bloodbath opened that show)  that they ended up chasing down the eighteen to twenty five year old locals who were running off with their equipment from the parking lot. Reed and Mike actually got stabbed.  Reed had a huge hole in his leg and Mike got stabbed near his stomach.  I prefer to think of the other show, and I'm sure they do as well.  It was a unique experience, as were all of the shows in this list.

Howzabout some of your own special club experiences?

1 comment:

  1. Oops, the King Diamond show was 1987 not 1997! Crap! That means I'm even ten years older than I thought! Thanks for the catch, anonymous tipster!