Friday, March 28, 2014

The 2014 Decibel Magazine Tour: Carcass/ The Black Dahlia Murder/ Gorguts/ Nausea and Noisem @ The Observatory, Santa Ana. 3/25/14.

This tour was destined to rule from the onset. Three of the four bands on the package (Carcass, Gorguts and Noisem) released albums that made my best of 2013 list last year, the other has been one of my favorite live bands for the past decade, and we Southern California blokes got local grind legends Nausea thrown onto the bill as a special regional opening act. This show felt like a late Christmas gift or something.

Noisem kicked things off with a thunderous wall of sound. These Baltimore lads may be young (comprised mostly of teenagers) but seriously, they fucking rip. After a pesky van accident on their very first national tour caused them to miss their last Southern California show, the Noisem boys came out swinging as the first act on this stellar bill. Their old school thrash/ proto-death metal sound coupled with their youthful energy onstage made me feel like I had stepped into a legit time warp. By the end of their set I'd say they gained more than a few new fans.

Los Angeles grindcore legends Nausea immediately followed and brought an air of precision that took me totally off guard. Not that I expected them to be sloppy, I just don't recall them being so locked when I caught them opening for Nasum a few years back. Like last time, the highlight of their set was the batch of Terrorizer songs they played off World Downfall (best grind album ever?).

Next was Gorguts, the band I was most excited to see. They've been gone for more than a decade and returned with Colored Sands, one of the best albums of 2013. I wasn't too familiar with the band before talking with Origin drummer John Longstreth a few years ago when he informed me he would be drumming on their come back album. Well, as fate would have it, Longstreth's commitments to Origin yanked him out of Gorguts before this tour rolled out but luckily, his replacement behind the kit was pretty phenomenal himself. I was curious how the surreal/eerie vibe from the album would transition into a live setting but Gorguts pulled it off masterfully.
The crowd went absolutely nuts for band, with mosh pits and crowd surfing galore. Unfortunately, the band suffered some technical problems toward the end of their set and had to pull the plug on their performance a bit early, which meant no old Obscura material for their die hard fans. Alas. Hopefully they come back before 2024.

Although a popular metal band in their own right, The Black Dahlia Murder were the odd ones out on tonight's bill in the eyes of many. They lack the "old school" and "underground" cred most the other bands on the lineup bathe in so some people scoffed at a hugely popular modern band like TBDM joining the package as main support to the headliners. It's funny however, because the lineage between Dahlia and Carcass is pretty obvious, they borrowed heavily from the melodic death metal framework Carcass laid down on albums like Necroticism and Heartwork. TBDM's vocalist Trevor even has the Tools of the Trade artwork tattooed on his arm for Christ's sake! Either way, I saw no problem with The Black Dahlia Murder's spot on this tour. In fact, judging by the crowd's response it seems like they basically stole the show. It was like a never ending flood of crowd surfing during their set. The security staff was beyond occupied which meant the photographers in the photo pit were getting smashed left and right by human projectiles coming over the barricade. Like last time, the band played mostly all new material from their last two albums which got older TBDM geeks like myself a little butt hurt. They still put on a killer show and seemed to have most everyone inside the venue in the palm's of their hands (the bitter metal elitists probably went for a smoke outside).

Finally, there was Carcass. Metal/grindcore pioneers and the dude's behind one of the great comebacks of recent memory. Their first album in 17 years turns out to be killer and their rejuvenated lineup is powerful enough to appease the jaded old-schoolers and young, extreme metal upstarts alike. I have to admit, I was never a huge Carcass fanatic before their reunion in late 2000's. I was familiar with their work and enjoyed that reunion gig even though half the band was comprised of Arch Enemy, but I gotta say last year's Surgical Steel album and this current lineup is better than anything I expected from the band. Funny story, Carcass' current drummer, the inhuman machine named Daniel Wilding auditioned for The Black Dahlia Murder like seven years ago but didn't get the gig. Now he's in Carcass and headlining above them. Crazy.

Quite the rare show, where I arrived on time, enjoyed every band, didn't get ridiculously sweaty or injured and even bought some merch. Thanks Decibel. You've just guaranteed another years subscription. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Between The Buried and Me & Deafheaven @ The Glasshouse, Pomona. 3-12-14.

The prog/math metal chameleons Between The Buried and Me brought Deafheaven, Intronaut and a band called The Kindred along with them as their "smart dudes of metal" (my name, not theirs) tour rolled through Southern California earlier this month. The Kindred seemed like nice, enthusiastic fellows but their performance was easily the lamest of the night. A little too much posturing for my taste. I used to consider myself a huge Intronaut fan back in the day, but I've steadily lost interest in the band over the years. They are still a tight live band with one of the best rhythm sections I've ever seen (Danny Walker, Joe Lester...keep shredding dudes) but sadly, the lack of an engaging frontman, the flat vocals and the monotonous vibe of their new material translates to a pretty boring live experience. I almost nodded off during their set.

Deafheaven- "Sunbathing"
So Deafheaven comes out and just blazes through their massive, three song set. Ha. Yes you read that correctly, but their tracks are like 10mins long give or take so it was fine. Strange, a single mammoth sized Deafheaven song held my attention longer than 3 dull Intronaut ones. Deafheaven just ripped through their material with such passion and energy, it felt like a bolt a lightning went through the venue. Even during the trippy slow parts of their songs, like the swaying last portion of "Sunbather" there's an unmistakeable charge emanating from the stage. This is a young band barley two albums into their career, but right now, they're exciting as hell.

BTBAM- Math Warriors
As well received as Deafheaven was, it was blatantly clear who the headliners were. Between The Buried Me and their legion of fans had quite the party this evening. I've been into BTBAM since The Silent Circus came out in (holy shit....) 2003, which of course was ages ago. They've got weirder and more spacey with every new album and I've always tried to keep up to speed with them over the past decade but their die hard fans who know every word and all the zillions of time changes in their music are just insane. They opened and closed with tracks from Colors, so old dogs like me might feel at ease I'm sure, played a ton of newer material off there last album, Parallax II Future Sequence, along with "Selkies..." from Alaska and a few off The Great Misdirect as well. I found myself at ground zero of guitar nerd heaven, and with the cool NASA themed stage setup and Tommy Rogers' soaring vocals, I was keen to play along. I love how consistent this band is. I manage to catch BTBAM live every few years and they just pull me back in. I'm convinced these guys are all math wizards with the crazy, inhuman time changes in each of their songs. I grew up listening to The Dillinger Escape Plan type chaos, but their tunes are relatively short  compared to BTBAM's epic material. In a nut shell, Between The Buried and Me were awesome and makes me want to go back to college.

Monday, March 10, 2014

FIDLAR @ The Echoplex. 2-27-14.

Raucous LA punks FIDLAR played a special "discount" show at The Echoplex in late Feb, brought to you by the corporate overlords at Red Bull. You register online at their designated website, hand over the keys to your facebook profile and bam, you get the chance to watch FIDLAR and three other LA punk/indie bands play for the low low price of $3. Sound to good to be true? Well, yeah it ended up kinda being that way.

The discounted price and the band's rising popularity amongst the social media savvy (re: kids) meant a shit ton of high school-ers swarmed the venue early that afternoon. We ended up waiting an ungodly amount of time outside The Echoplex in the cold to guarantee admission. I'd personally have rather paid a normal amount for a ticket than brave that monstrous wait again, but I'm old and cranky so whatever.

aka: Fuck It Dog, Life's A Risk.
Cherry Glazerr and Cheatahs whipped all the kids into a frenzy before FIDLAR took the stage to a packed and sweaty house. I've been to quite a few shows at The Echoplex before but this gig felt like a damn sauna. The band played all the jams off their self titled debut album as well as some new unrecorded material. My highlight of the evening was when they played "Awkward," because thanks to a filthy NSFW website I dare not link to, it's become the funniest song ever.

FIDLAR have quickly become one of my favorite bands around these days. There was stage dives and crowd surfing galore all throughout their set. I love the fact that 3/4 of the band ends up on vocals at some point on stage. I love that Max is such a solid and drummer, even when he's pushing tempos to "ludicrous speed." I love that Zac always looks like he's about to die by the end of their set. All the blood sweat and cheap beer is on display for all to see with this band and it's damn good fun. What better way to spend a day off than rocking out and snapping pics?


Monday, March 3, 2014

For My Grandmother: AMA

My grandma and I, unintentionally matching in the 90's.
My grandmother, Mary Rodriguez, passed away yesterday. She was the mother of seven children and grandmother of six...including myself. After a lifetime of living and working in Los Angeles, she retired to Las Vegas not long after the riots. I was about 8 or 9 when she moved away. Sure, I loved our visits during spring and summer time, but nothing beats the memories I have roaming the halls of her old house in Boyle Heights. I close my eyes and I'm playing on her old hardwood floors again. I see the giant tree where the pinatas from my birthday parties would taunt me. I'm sitting in her rocking chair watching TV, fighting the throes of that pesky afternoon nap. Something in my premie-south paw brain prohibited me from ever calling her "grandma." I literally couldn't say the words. Instead, she was "Ama," and growing up, she was better than Santa Claus.

She bought me clothes, toys, games, ice cream, anything I wanted but best of all, she showered me with her undivided attention. Apparently, I'm a bit of a motor mouth and have a tendency to babble when I talk. Ama would not only sit and listen to my juvenile rants, she hung on my every word. She learned about Ghostbusters and X-MEN, not because she cared about cartoons, but because I did. She never yelled or raised her voice at me because I never acted up with her. She said I was her "little pal," which implied notions of respect and companionship even a 4 year old could grasp. She was my mom's mom, my boss's boss, and she had MY back. I wasn't some kid she had to babysit or some genetic obligation, I was her friend. Ama made me feel safe and important. This means the world to someone when you can't tie your own shoes. 

I visited Ama in the hospital two weeks ago and although I didn't know it at the time, said my last goodbye in person. Seeing her in that bed, so sick and frail was beyond heartbreaking. She used to help me buckle my seat belt and now I was pouring her water. It was upsetting to see such a strong and active person (a yoga enthusiast of 40+ years) succumb to the inevitable ravages of time. It was worse to stand in front of my old pal as a grown adult, utterly powerless and unable to reciprocate the feelings of comfort and security she had once provided me. We talked about her old house and naturally...X-MEN. Turns out one of her physicians looked like Hugh Jackman she said. This from the woman who bought me my first Wolverine action figure...I couldn't help but smile.

My grandmother Mary lived a long and fruitful life. She was raised during The Great Depression and saw more world changing events in her lifetime than I can fully comprehend. I'm not sad because an elderly person died in their sleep surrounded by loved ones. We should all be so fortunate. I'm sad because even though she moved away close to twenty years ago, it's only now that my old pal is truly gone. I love and miss my Ama tremendously, and will always cherish my memories of her. Maybe one day I'll leave a similar impact on others when I'm gone. I should be so lucky.