The Final Embedded Reporting Installment: Los Angeles, and "The Power of the Riff" Show...
I had only been to Los Angeles once before, and I was actually in the city for just a few hours before Monica picked me up and took me to her parents' house when she was still in high school. The only thing I remember seeing in the city was a group of Hispanics getting frisked by the police against a wall. Monica's first trip into City of Angels stuck in her mind because she saw a woman squat and pinch a loaf right on the sidewalk. Yes, L.A. has it all if you know where to look.
It was strange sweating on the sidewalk in a short sleeve shirt just five days before Christmas with palm trees all around. Not that it's that cold in Raleigh in late December, but it certainly doesn't usually hit the low to mid 70's during the day. Load in was pretty early since there were so many bands, which meant that we had some time to kill before we had any obligations. We asked someone on the street where a decent selection of restaurants could be found and as it turned out, we were only a few blocks away from such a place. Sunset Boulevard was just a block or so behind the club and we found a pretty good vegan place that had something for everyone. Los Angeles felt kind of strange to me. It has the second highest population of any U.S. city but it didn't really feel like a huge city. When you see it from afar it seems to go on endlessly, but as we walked around it never felt like there could be four million people within its limits. It felt more like Tucson, Arizona ( I have an aunt and uncle who have lived there for over thirty years ) which is pretty big, but it's flat and not so full of big buildings that you feel swallowed up by concrete and steel. I think that's the thing... L.A. felt really open and we never hit a section that had thousands of people within a stone's throw of us like you find in New York City. Also, as was the case with every other city we played in out West, everyone was genuinely nice and affable.
After filling up on a Mexican spiced, grilled seitan sandwich, red cabbage slaw and sweet potato fries we went to the Amoeba Records about eight blocks down Sunset. This store was just like the one in San Francisco... enormous! With a few hundred dollars I could've spent all afternoon in there. Fortunately, that wasn't a problem by the end of our trip. I was lucky to have a few hundred pennies at that point! I window shopped and saved my cash for the trip back. There really wasn't much to see around the club, though the famous Hollywood sign was visible at every cross street, and the round Capitol Records building was in plain sight from the front of the club. I spent the biggest part of my spare time rolling up t-shirts so they might fit into our bags. Pretty exciting stuff! No groupies, no drugs... just masking tape and shirts as far as I could see.
The theater was pretty interesting on the inside. At one point it must have been very high end and ornate, but now it was adorned with perhaps the most appropriate wallpaper for the bands that were playing and the Mayan prophecy... Heironymus Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights" has one of the most famous, and oldest surreal panels known to the art world and that panel had been converted into a wall covering that went the full distance, roughly thirty five feet from floor to ceiling, everywhere within the main room of the club. Pretty dang cool if you ask me, and as I mentioned, completely appropriate for this particular show.
Much to our surprise, and contrary to what had been suggested, we got a brief soundcheck. I had to rush to throw the drum set together at the last minute to do the soundcheck, but I got it up in record time. By now we had become seasoned veterans of metal bludgeoning, so we were pretty ready for this show. It was cool to play with C.O.C. after so many years, and it felt like old times to see Reed Mullin to the side of the stage, just behind the curtain during our set. He sat in on a Loincloth practice once years ago, but it had been ages since he last saw Confessor, and he was excited to see me play again. They were always really easy to get along with, and there was something comfortable and familiar about having him there while we blazed through our set.
We played better that night than we did at any of the other shows. Playing a string of shows will get you into shape like nothing else. There is no pressure at practices. No real pressure anyway, as they are typically filled with jokes from junior high school days and laughter. Shows are different, and you learn a lot more from them. Actually, the only mistake that I noticed while we were playing that night was my own fault. Any time I have ever found myself thinking, "Man! We are kicking ass, and this is going great!" I have snapped out of that train of thought completely lost. If anyone posts video of "Stealing Pictures" from that night you'll hear it at about 1:45 into the song. Then there was something minor that I did a little later, which is not uncommon after derailing like that. Things stay shaky for a bit once you lose your place. The mistake I made was one that I have made at practice when I stop paying attention, but it's one that stands out. I haven't noticed anyone else's drum kit down at our practice space since I got back, and no one has called for a "band meeting", so I think I'm safe. Maybe they're waiting until after the show here in Raleigh next weekend to tell me I've been replaced. I am a genuine red-headed step child, so I have to keep glancing over my shoulder. We are right there with rented mules on the totem of acceptable groups people are allowed to abuse, free of guilt. Actually, I think it's a totem pole comprised of no more than two images, that of a mule and someone who resembles all red heads. The rented mule may in fact be riding the lowly red head, which tells you that us "Gingers" have been nature's bottom of the barrel from day one. As Eric Cartman pointed out in a South Park episode, we "... have no souls".
I think that all of the bands had a really good night at The Fonda Theater. The crowd seemed to eat everything up, and there were a ton of people in the room when High on Fire and Sunn were playing their sets. This was the only show during which I was able to see much of Sunn's set and I have to say they have managed to meld two cultural kindred spirits; heavy music and horror movies, into a unique, impacting live show. People may liken them to Gwar because they both have a certain amount of theatrics, but visually the differences are like the immense Heironymus Bosch painting that covered the walls at the club, compared to a Mark Rothko painting. Both tickle your dark arts bone, but one is over the top while the other has a slow creep that becomes haunting if you allow it time to sink in.
I had a really nice conversation with a guy named Chris, who writes for Metal Urges about Godflesh, The Maryland Deathfest ( where we both saw Godflesh earlier last year ), and the differences between being a member of Loincloth and a member of Confessor. It was one of the only times I really got to speak with someone for more than thirty seconds throughout the entire trip. Though there really wasn't much to see or do around the club, I had a good time in L.A., and I was especially glad to get what felt like a great, solid performance for our last show. Some comfort slices of pizza with Craig after the show and the fact that the world did not come to a fiery end made the night that much better!
The trip back to Raleigh started for us immediately after the show, but not one moment of that was enjoyable except for the comic relief of watching baggage handlers from my seat on the plane. If you ever have a chance to check them out, be prepared to have mixed emotions. On one hand it'd be hilarious to watch the unparalleled neglect in a movie, but on the other hand the bags that fall continuously off of the luggage trolly and loading belt are full of things that are special to people, and often irreplaceable. Once, when Confessor was flying overseas we watched the baggage handlers in hopes that we would see our bags, which had special tape wrapped around them with the word "Fragile", specifically so they'd be careful with them. They "took care" of them alright! They looked at the bags with electronics packed into them, read the "Fragile" tape and threw them up into the air about two feet so that they came crashing down onto the conveyor belt from about head high! I am not kidding! Our bags were the only bags they did that to, and happened to be the only bags we saw with "Fragile" warnings. Our trip back from Los Angeles offered no high drama like the baggage handlers on that excursion, ( though I did lose count of how many bags they watched fall three or feet at LAX ) but over the course of the 22 hour journey, which included a missed flight and a rental car that cost exactly twice what we were told, we felt as though we were the ones with "Fragile" tape wrapped around us and that we had been tossed up into the air to crash face first onto the tarmac.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Greg, Stephen, Attila and Tosh ( I never saw his name written out ) of Sunn for extending the invitation to play these shows with them. Also, I'd like to thank their tour manager, Pete for helping things come together. And best of luck to Blake, Bo and Hank from Dead in the Dirt, along with Ben who traveled with them. Thanks to Chris, Brian and Cary for loaning us their road cases, and last but not least... thanks to Tannon, Thomas and Craig for making all of this possible. Hail, the Mighty Loincloth in 2013!