Saturday, August 23, 2008

van halen


van halen
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc

In it's own way, this little gem is far more embarrassing than Danzig.

I know.....that seems off. I mean, Van Halen is royalty. The single most wonderfully talented guitar player of his generation, and one of the great American bands of all time. How on earth could this be more embarrassing than a short little guy who looks like the neighborhood mechanic and spends most of his energy trying to convince everyone that he's evil?

Simple really: This is Hagar-era Van Halen. And Van Hagar was a horrible, horrible facsimile of everything that was awesome about Roth-era Van Halen.

There are people who sometimes try to debate this with me, and I can't even bring myself to form a full argument without losing control. When I think of the VH Roth era, I think of other great American bands like the Ramones and Areosmith and the Allmans.

When I think of the Hagar era, I can't quite think of anything much more impressive than Eddie Money. Or maybe Journey. I think of guys that I can only see as perpetually-middle-aged, slightly paunched, and past the point of being all that interested in groupies and blow. I think of guys that have sobered up, guys who hawk hot sauce, and guys who write weak-ass Buffett-style anthems about tequila.

Why, then, did I go see the Hagar-era Van Halen??

Because my roommates made me.

It was the last week of senior year of college, and my roommates were a pair of guitar nerds. We were all about to go our separate ways, and these guys totally thought that Van Halen at the Spectrum would be a great way to cap off college.

That....and they called the arena the day of the show to see if any tickets had freed up once the stage was constructed to the venue's specs (an old trick, but a very effective one).

Front row, stage left. How on earth was I supposed to turn this down?

So this was the Balance tour, a tour behind an album for which I can't even remember one single. Not one.

Still I can't honestly say that it was a bad night.

It was one of Eddie's first sober tours, and we were actually on his side of the stage. At one point he and I actually made eye contact, and I made some sort of shocked face when our eyes met. Without missing a note, he mimicked my facial expression, grinned, and moved on. It was pretty awesome, I must admit...In fact, I smile anytime I think of that exchange. It was a great, great moment.

At the end of the night, someone threw a hat on the stage, and Sammy Hagar threw it back in the crowd. I caught it and gave it to one of my roommates.

Collective Soul opened, and did a respectable job for themselves.

Somehow, I still find it embarrassing, despite what a wonderful memory it is.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

danzig


danzig
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc
OOoh boy. This one's gonna be tough.

Despite a singularly excellent debut album, I probably don't need to tell people why I was roundly mocked for liking Danzig so much. The pageantry, the macho bullshit, the cartoonish satanic imagery, the nods to bear-culture.....it's easy to forget that this guy was at one time, one of the better song-writers to come out of the punk generation, and arguably one of the single best vocalists punk rock vomited up.

Nope. Now he's just the MUUUUTHA!! guy.

Now, I don't quite remember whether this was before or after Beavis and Butthead gave Glenn their endorsement, but needless to say, even the smart kids with Misfits records thought that Danzig was a joke.

Me? Not so much, I guess. I like cartoons. I like scary stuff. I like camp. I like baritone voices. I like loud guitar rock.

And, yeah, yeah, everyone already thought that I was gay in the 90s, so I guess I'll go ahead and say that I like little short guys with big muscles and tattoos, even though I totally just thought that Danzig was just kinda cool and bad-ass, and I never actually wanted to suck his dick as bad an everyone assumed I did.

(Listen, fuck you all, ok!? I was not a particularly masculine individual and maybe I just liked to idealize men who were not as testosertonially challenged as I was. Not that anyone reads this shit, but I'm getting tired of defending myself around here).

Shocker: Ended up going to this one alone because my friend got really sick and I didn't know anyone else who wanted to go. This would be the first in a long string of concerts where I learned that if you're going to insist on having questionable tastes, you're just going to have to go see bands by your damned self.

This was the Danzig IV tour - probably his second-best album since the debut, and a fairly high point for his songcraft, I still believe.

Danzig had just fired Chuck Biscuits and I didn't much care for the new drummer. It took Glenn about one minute into the the first song (Brand New God) to leap into the crowd and start beating on a guy who threw a piece of ice at him.

Danzig is such a 'tard sometimes.

Eerie Von looked like a walking corpse (as advertised in videos and on album photos), and John Christ was stiff but had a pretty awesome guitar sound going.

I also remember that Danzig got his mic cord tangled up under the drum riser during "Long Way Back From Hell" and had a minor tantrum over that for a moment. Literally tug-of-warring the cord while his roadie ran around trying to free it up and looking like he was ready to throw a cup of water in the AC adapter.

"Snakes of Christ" and "Bringer of Death" both sounded good that night.

Type O Negative opened, and they totally delivered on all the underground hype around them. Peter Steele didn't pull and of that macho crap that Danzig was so big on (and that Steele regrettably came to embrace in a similarly homoerotic way), and yet the band was infinitely more scary and intimidating. They looked like complete dirtballs, and their music was loud and thick and layered and sludgy in a very good way (For real, it was an excellent performance, and the acoustics of the theater were very kind to their sound).

These three goth girls in the balcony with me actually shrieked during the intro to "Black # 1". You definitely got the feeling that you were tapping into an upcoming band at the right time.

Of course, I would ruin this for myself by obsessing over the band to the point that friends of mine literally stopped being their fans. More on that in future posts.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

stones at the vet


stones at the vet
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc
At some point I'll have to explain myself for continuing to see the Stones over and over and over again. To a great many music snobs, this is simply unconscionable in the face of their rising ticket prices and declining studio output.

What can I say? They're my favorite band. And they've built an increasingly robust set list over the past several tours, eschewing the "by the book greatest hits" song selection that bands with half as much material prefer to do.

Second show of this tour for me. Not as stellar as the first, but at the very least they got rid of some of the cornier theatrics from opening night in D.C. (like the inexplicable guy in stilts that came onstage during "Monkey Man"... Yikes).

Opened the show with Not Fade Away. Awesome, awesome seats on the floor/field, maybe 15 rows back. Most of the set list was the same as the first night, but they did a different cover instead of "Can''t Get Next to You" and the swapped out "Memory Motel" with "Wild Horses."

No idea who opened for them.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

metallica


metallica
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc

Me and Metallica had some good times together. And as tired as it is to discuss how one band or another had some profound impact on one's life, the fact is that Metallica meant a lot to me for a long long time.

As someone who has spent the majority of his teen and adult years defending his questionable tastes, the very presence of that "Ride the Lightning" tape in my collection was a massive validator....even if it did appear along side of various duds by Tesla, Whitesnake, and that preposterous second album by Danzig.

Even with all the kids who scoffed at metal and directed their attention towards bands like the Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen and the Smiths (bands that it would take me years to come to appreciate), I knew that Metallica was quality, and that they were doing sometime pretty damned amazing that the "smart kids" were missing out on. I'd like to think they all caught on sometime in college, the same way that I finally begrudgingly accepted the awesomeness of Morrisey, but who the hell knows....Metallica crapped out "Enter Sandman" about a week before I touched down at college, forever damaging their cred to anyone who had worn a stupid patch on the book bag or denim jacket, or sketched a few hundred Metallica logos in their text books).

Whatever....

I guess the point I'm getting at is that this was kind of the beginning of the end of me and Metallica.

Now, this was supposed to be a triple bill with Suicidal Tendencies and Alice in Chains....interesting choice. Restate your thrash cred with the ST crowd, then grab a hold of one of the more interesting alt-grunge-rock acts on the big time scene. Given the number of rich kids and middle-of-the road music fans who had been on the bandwagon ever since the Black Album came out (not to mention that Guns'N Roses debacle), it totally seemed like a good way of staying grounded.

Well, no one knew that Layne would get himself a case of the heroin and not be able to make it, so Candlebox took over the tour.

CANDLEBOX????? Lars must have had his face in a Tony-Montana-sized mountain of cocaine when this decision was made.

(Gah...Fuckin' Candlebox!?!??!? This decision irks me to this day!!!!)

To be fair, Suicidal was pretty terrific. It was a rainy summer day, and everyone on the lawn went nuts, turning the slope on the lawn into a giant mud slide.

But Candlebox was horrible. Mostly, they were just a boring, FM radio band, but the dedication of "Far Behind" to Kurt Cobain was inexcusable. It's bad enough that they were the only 100% non-metal band on the bill, but to then go ahead and invoke the spirit of the guy who kind of single-handedly destroyed metal was a slap in the face. (Yeah, yeah....Nirvana was awesome. That's not lost on me, but it's also not my point).

Anyway, everyone cheered when he made the dedication, and at that moment a lot of my fears were confirmed. There was maybe a split second when the cheers went up when I found myself wondering if perhaps this crowd was especially open-minded for a bunch of metal fans on the East Coast...If perhaps people who loved metal were accepting that punk and grunge were perhaps musical genres that were complimentary and not competitive to that which is metal - not unlike the way that Motorhead and the Ramones are practically half-brothers, or how Mudhoney and the Crue might have actually combined for an enjoyable arena bill, had the record labels supported the idea.

Of course, I was very wrong for that split second. These were not open-minded metal fans. These, in fact, were not really metal fans at all. I was just surrounded by a bunch of Marines, blonde chicks and frat boys who really didn't give a shit about metal, grunge or punk, and who would be just as happy at a John Cougar Melloncamp concert as long as they served beer, and lots of it.

All of this somewhat distracts from my original point, which is to emphasize that Candlebox was the one band that took greater lengths - far greater lengths, in fact - than Soundgarden to at once cash in on 90s metal and grunge at the same time.

Yep, I just dissed the mighty Soundgarden.

On to Metallica's set...

Metallica, unfortunately, was much like Candlebox in that they also were forgettable. The highlight, without a doubt, was the performance of "So What?" during the encore.

The Lowlight? Cramming all the "Ride the Lightning" and "Kill 'Em All" songs into a Vegas style medley. ("Fuel" is great and all, but let's be honest: the fans who bought your albums before you went all MTV/DC101 want to hear more than 75 seconds of "Whiplash". And fellas? PLEASE tell me you've done away with the nut-numbing 14-minute version of "Seek and Destroy"...)

You used to go to a Metallica show expecting to be knocked on your butt. Nothing of the sort happened this night.

On top of it all, Hetfield was still refusing to chop off that fucking mullet. And I could be wrong about it, but I seem to remember that Lars had those goddamned stretch pant-shorts on. It was arguably the peak of Metallica's irrelevance.

Like I said, me and Metallica weren't really ever straight with one another again after that show. No doubt, they have done a handful of things I've enjoyed in the past 15 years. But it's pretty fucking hard to forgive them for boring the shit out of me that night.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

stones - opening night voodoo

Opening night of the Voodoo Lounge tour. I think Counting Crows opened, but I'm not positive on that one. I know we missed them, whoever they were.
This was my second time seeing the Stones, and there was some massive drama between my friends because not everyone could sit together. (seriously, what a bunch of little girls I hung out with back then...)
I do clearly remember that I was kind of being a jackass and standing up and dancing through most of the show, which got me yelled at by all the old people sitting behind me. As everyone knows, those old people who were all like "I was there in the 60's, man!" are the exact same fuckers who seem perfectly fine with paying $40 to rock out in a seated position.
I fucking hate hippies.
It was honestly a pretty exciting show. They opened this tour with a kind of heavy, plodding version of "Not Fade Away"...an odd choice, considering the frantic, nearly punkabilly interpretation they gave when they originally recorded it.
Highlights were "Money Man," which I'd never known them to play live), and "Shattered," which was great, except the rhythm section sort of fell apart during the bridge - something painfully evident in a bootleg of the concert I stumbled upon a few years later....
And then there was "Memory Motel," which was one of the single best performances of all the Stones shows I've ever seen. Jagger played piano, and the jumbotron shot him in a back and white split screen; half the screen was tight on his face, and the other half was grainy stock footage of run-down beach towns. It sounds corny as hell, but it worked. (Fuck you. I liked it).
Lowlights were the cover of "Can't Get Next to You" and a painful extended version of "Hot Stuff".  I love that band but some days they can't tell the shit from the peppercorns...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

keith richards


keith richards
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc
It's not lost on me that I'm a fortunate person, who has led a fortunate life. And yet, it's pretty clear to basically anyone who has ever met me that moments of triumph have been few and far between for me on this planet. It makes those memories, as Whitman might say, both sweet and sad.
Everything about the decision to attend this concert was foolish. The show was in Washington on a Wednesday night. I was attending college in Philly...and didn't own a car.
But I bought the tickets anyway.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I looked at the class syllabus in January and realized that I had a test the afternoon following this concert.
Throwing common sense to the wind, I decided to take the train home to D.C., go to my parents' house, grab dinner, round up my brothers, and jump on the metro.
Keith opened up by covering Eddie Cocheran's "Something Else" and it just might have been the sharpest moment of the show. I remember that he played "999" and "Time Is On My Side", as well as a healthy number of other Stones covers.
But the moment of the evening was when the band went past their allotted time, and the sound was cut off during an extended vamp on the end of "Happy".
Yep, they pulled the plug on Keith Fucking Richards.
Don't ever let anyone tell you D.C. isn't a union town.
I overslept the next day but still managed to make my train back to Philly. And I got an A on the exam. 
And this, my friends, was probably the closest I came to a moment of triumph in the year of 1993.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Washington Bullets vs Atlanta Hawks

Is it an admission of bad taste to say that you're a Bullets fan?
I'm not talking about the Wizards, with their awesome downtown stadium that basically revived everything east of Metro Center
 I'm not talking about that team that boasts a handful of playoff wins and the league's wackiest player. I'm not talking about the team with which that The Greatest capped (crapped?) the end of his playing days.
I'm talking about the Bullets. The team that played in Landover, Maryland. The team that deducted laundry fees from their players' paychecks. The team who's owner was so cheap that he forced the team to stay at his brother's lousy motel every time the team came through Seattle, and who also managed to LOSE their franchise player for a day.
In the era of Magic, Jordan, Bird, Nique, Ewing and Barkley (to say nothing of Olajuwon, Rodman, Worthy and far too many others to name), choosing the team whose best defensive option, far and away, was this guy might better indicate immense loyalty rather than bad taste.
But either way, it certainly indicates bad judgment.
I remember nothing about this game, which is really sad. How on earth does one not remember seeing Dominique Wilkins play????? I think I went to this game with my friend Meghan.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Kiss


Kiss
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc
It's hard not to like KISS. 
In fact, for me, it's hard not to love KISS. I spent a handful of my mid-teen years bouncing around my bedroom listening to "Alive," and I'd be dishonest not to admit that one of the very first things I did once I had an iTunes account was to make sure I had a digital version of "Strutter."
But the unfortunate reality is that it's also nearly impossible not to loathe KISS. The band's output through the 80's is beyond embarrassing; in fact, were there such a thing as art crimes against humanity, Paul Stanley would certainly be at the Hague at this very instant for crafting the lyrics to "Let's Put the X in Sex."
On top of that, these guys have embraced consumerism in a way that makes even Mick Jagger wince. Simply put: Gene Simmons is in a league of his own when it comes to whoring himself, selling out, and generally fleecing his fans for every penny they have.
And I suppose that's where my little ticket stub comes in.
My college roommate of three years was a huge KISS nerd. Totally obsessive, completely apologetic for the band, and boundless (infectious, in fact) in his enthusiasm in seeing the tour behind the completely awful "Revenge" album.
I have no excuse. He totally convinced me to go to this with him and his old high school buddy. 
(True story, these two guys were totally stereotypical North Philly Italian-American mulletted, unshaven, hockey-enthusiast hobbits. They stood maybe 5'4" a piece, they dressed in sweatpants 24-7 and they were possibly the two most homophobic kids I had ever met
 Together, these two fellers had formed a band in high school, and named it after a KISS song entitled - no shit - "Flaming Youth." 
Sweardagod. You can't make this shit up).
Ok, anyway....
I think this was the last (or one of the last) KISS tours before they put the makeup back on.
It was not a memorable show by any stretch. Actually, it was totally weak. Gene looked as though his thighs and ass had been coated in Crisco to get him in the XXXL leather pants, but that didn't stop him from attempting a handful of clumsy dropkicks that made Elvis look like Mr. Miagi.
On top of that, the whole damned band were all doing that really lame choreographed hand motion during the chorus of "Tears are Falling". (Well, obviously, except whatever substitute teacher was playing drums for them in that era).
I missed the first half of this concert because the college jazz band had a show that evening that I had to play. Not only did I miss them playing my favorite KISS song ("Parasite"), but I think that I also missed Faster Pussycat opening up for them.
I never thought I'd find myself regretting missing Faster Pussycat, but weird things happen as you get older...

Friday, August 1, 2008

black crowes


black crowes
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc
Another fun night with Fran and this Greek kid Andy, who I believe also accompanied us to see Guns'N Roses that summer.

This was on the "Southern Harmony & Musical Companion" Tour, which I can't help to think of as the band's peak. (A handfull of mp3's I stole off the Internets, however, indicate that the Crowes never stopped doing awesome live performances and sick covers on tour).

Opened with "No Speak No Slave" -- seriously strong opening.

There was actually a small amount of controversy surrounding this show, as Chris Robinson got into an argument with a security guard, resulting in his allegedly kicking the guard in the head from the stage. Assault charges were subsequent filed. (Anyone who remembers how sickly and thin the Robinson brothers were in those days can appreciate the ridiculousness of these charges).

Chris Robinson may have also been threatened with charges for inciting a riot, as he repeatedly urged the people from upstairs to rush the stage. A big no no in the ultra-posh Constitution Hall. (As was standing on the theatre chairs and doing the white-man dance during "Hard to Handle", for which Fran the Man received a stern warning from a DAR usher).