Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lucky 13 photos for 12 months' worth of stellar gigs

Cro-Mags chaos at The Vera Project in Seattle. (All Cat Rose photos except where noted)

"Every Picture Tells a Story," Rod Stewart sang in 1971 ... and that's what we've got on tap here in our final entry of 2011. So many gigs, such an array of pictures to choose from, and we feel these shots best exemplify our musical adventures of the last 12 months. So grab your tasty New Year's beverage of choice and enjoy!

See ya in 2012...

Corrosion of Conformity at Death Fest in Baltimore.

Steve Ignorant belts out Crass songs at Neumos in Seattle.

Archers of Loaf at Neumos.
The Avengers at Neumos.
Scream at the Funhouse in Seattle, (Andy pic)
Oxbow at Neumos.
Mudhoney at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle.
Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go's at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. (Andy pic)
Zero Boys at The Vera Project.
The Fastbacks at the West Seattle Street Fair. (Andy pic)
Stag at the Comet Tavern in Seattle.

Dmitri Coats of OFF! at Neumos. (Andy pic)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Back in Black ... Flag, that is, at Goldenvoice 30th Anniversary gigs

Chuck Dukowski attacks his bass during Black Flag's short set. (All McHank photos)

We missed out on the big gigs last weekend, saluting the Goldenvoice gig-promotion team at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The weekend featured sets by punk luminaries like Social Distortion, Bad Religion, X, the Descendents, the Dickies... Black Flag ... and more.

Our trusty correspondents McHank and Steve Coombs covered the action for us on the final night. Here's their stories:

By McHank

So, I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach on Saturday, December 17, 2011. This feeling, you know, that the Descendents were going to play the next day in Santa Monica, and that I was going to miss that show, all because of a four-hour drive, each way. I got on Facebook (if you know me, there aren’t long periods of time when I’m not on Facebook.) and I see someone post that Black Flag are going to be playing the Goldenvoice 30th Anniversary show on Sunday. With the Descendents. The show I’d been making excuses to not go to.

Having heard rumors about bands playing and showing up at shows and it not happening, I knew better than to take one person on the Internet’s rumor as the absolute truth. Then I started seeing more posts about it, and more details, and everything seemed to line up. Black Flag’s official page said that Bill Stevenson, Keith Morris and Chuck Dukowski would be performing with Stephen Egerton filling in for Greg Ginn, but they would really be doing a Black Flag set. Yes, I know, No Ginn, No Flag. But still --not something I wanted to miss.

So, I was sold, and then I got that same pit-of-my-stomach feeling that it would be impossible to get tickets. So, I put the plan into motion, found a friend that was willing to go, and got tickets. It was happening.

I had been to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium a few years back, but for some reason it was way smaller than I remembered it. How could THIS venue be big enough to accommodate THIS crowd?

So I went in thinking, the show would be the Descendents, the Vandals, the Dickies, and hopefully, I felt pretty confident, Black(ish) Flag. Someone in line says, “Ill Repute is opening” so, that’s pretty cool, I hope they’ll sound good.

The show starts and we see a banner for Love Canal. I had never heard about them, so I looked them up on my decidedly unpunk iPhone, and see they were a Huntington Beach punk band from the mid-‘80s. Cool. Well, they start playing, most of them look like regular dads, but the singer has that look where you can tell he’s been a character for quite a few years, gone through some shit. I can kind of tell that they probably used to be kind of good, but they sure didn’t seem like they’d played much since 1985. Well, still, I think, pretty cool to see that someone remembered them. The sound person wasn’t doing them any favors, drenching all of their vocals, including between-song banter, in enough reverb to make it sound like we were in a baseball stadium. I could kind of make out that there would be some special guests.

The crowd loved it anyway, and there was a circle pit as soon as the first notes were hit.

As soon as Love Canal finished, Shattered Faith came out and played a few, maybe three songs. The singer looked like a latter-day Johnny Rotten. They started out really strong, the first song sounded pretty rehearsed. The second song fell completely apart, and they struggled through one more. Not terrible, but mercifully short.
John Phaneuf: Nardcore style with Ill Repute.
Ill Repute came up next, sound problems were fixed and they played tight and fast. Finally, a band that had stayed a band -- you could really hear a difference. The singer, John Phaneuf, was electric. Strong stage presence, good awareness of what his voice could and should do. They were great. If they'd monkeyed with their sound since "What Happens Now," they didn't show it. This sounded how I would like to think they sounded when that was new.

The Dickies came on next, and having seen them a year ago, I had a pretty good idea of what I’d be in for. Solid band, obviously since they’d lost several members to death, not all original, but Leonard Graves Phillips’s voice still sounds great, even if he looks a little like a melting Richard Belzer. Stan Lee still is playing the blazing guitar parts, the Stuart puppet still comes out, and they are just incredibly entertaining. Phillips recounted having seen Emerson Lake and Palmer in the same venue we were in when he was 15, and said, “who would have thought, 80 years later, here I’d be…”
If Leonard could talk: Graves Phillips did with the Dickies.

The Dickies had a guest appearance: East Bay Ray from the Dead Kennedys came out and played Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” with them. The crowd was a bit more stationary, but The Dickies left everyone happy.

The Vandals were next and there was a palpable shift in energy. A lot more shoving, a lot more people flying on top of the crowd. The Vandals aren’t my favorite band for records, I can appreciate a novelty song here and there, but I wasn’t expecting TOO much. I have to say, despite maybe not having the strongest straightforward punk songs, they do put a hell of a show on and they are tight and funny. Reminded me to loosen up a little bit and enjoy it. I wouldn’t be so judgmental on The Dead Milkmen, so why be with them. They were great.
He wants to be a cowboy: Vandals singer Dave Quackenbush.

So if there was a shift in energy when the Vandals started—there was a seismic shift in the room when Keith Morris walked out on stage. This was HAPPENING. There was Dukowski, pacing the stage like a hungry lion about to make a kill. Bill Stevenson… everyone could feel we were in the presence of something special. This wasn’t even a lineup that had existed—sure three of the four people about to play were Black Flag band members, but never in this configuration. No matter.

They were announced and there was an absolute CRUSH of people infiltrating their way forward. Black Flag*, with an asterisk , was off and running from the first second. They tore through their set, the entire “Nervous Breakdown” EP in shortly over six minutes. I started the set at the barrier in front of the stage, and by the time they finished, thanks to various pushers, shovers, punchers, and pit goers, I’d been propelled to the back of the floor. Fifteen feet has never felt farther.

There was a strong sense when they finished, almost a “that was it?” feeling. But it hit like a hurricane. I’ve spent most of my life going to concerts on a regular basis. I don’t think I have ever felt that much energy in a room. It was astonishing. I do believe if Ginn had played, there would have been a full-scale riot, just like in the old days. Egerton did a noble job, as he is quite able. The crowd protested a bit that the set was over. Keith came out and apologized that that was all they had rehearsed, and at that it was only that day during sound check. I know for me, and the couple of friends that I had there, there was NOTHING to apologize for.
All grown up: Stephen Egerton and Milo Aukerman of the Descendents.
The Descendents took much longer getting to the stage than any of the other bands had. It didn’t matter, a load had been blown, and people were satiated. The Descendents were amazing by the way—fantastic. They played a solid career-spanning set, and each member of the band was completely on their game. You almost forget just how many incredible songs they have, in so much that the set could have easily been the greatest-hit track listing for an entire generation or three. Milo’s voice sounded as good as it ever has. Perfect. The crowd for them was decidedly more female than male. Not fair-weather fans, either. This crowd was dedicated and came out to worship. The Descendents brought some young kids out and had them recite the All-O-Gistics from ‘stone’ tablets... It was an excellent way to round out the event. 

By Steve Coombs
The Goldenvoice 30th Anniversary fest was this past weekend, and I decided to attend on the final day when the Descendents, the Dickies and the Vandals were the headliners.
The word had quickly spread over the Internet that a Black Flag reunion of sorts was taking place to cover the “Nervous Breakdown” EP. It was going to be Keith Morris on vocals, Stephen Egerton of the Descendents on guitar, and rounding out the rhythm section was the legendary Chuck Dukowski himself being kept in time by Bill Stevenson. Although this line up had never existed at the same time or played on the same stage together, this was as close as I was ever going to get to a Black Flag reunion, who are probably my all time favorite band. I had seen the Rollins 2003 show with Keith at Amoeba Records when they were covering Flag songs to raise money for the West Memphis 3's legal fees. The sheer power of that performance was overwhelming. The one-two punch of Rollins and Keith going through the classics was a great memory for me to have. Chuck came out and sang "What I See" and totally went berserk. The chance to see him actually play Flag songs was too good to pass up.
 I arrived at the show late, and missed Love Canal, Ill Repute, and the Dickies, but I was never a big fan of them so I didn't feel like I was missing out.
All wound up: Vandals axeman Warren Fitzgerald.
The Vandals (in name only) had started for the nearly sold out capacity crowd of 3,000, and the place was going nuts. They performed all of their hits --"Wanna be Manor","Urban Struggle", "Pirate's Life", "legend of Pat Brown" and "Anarchy Burger." They sounded good, and Josh Freese is an excellent drummer, but the band has no original members and has added metal solos to all of the songs. For a band with a large amount of new material, they seem to be dragging a dead corpse around by only playing the first EP that none of these guys recorded on.
After a short wait I left the seats to engage the crowd for what I had come to see, the Black Flag set. I had already seen the message-board gods debating if this is a glorified cover band or a legitimate second coming of the Flag. I didn't care, I just wanted to see it live.
Chuck came out and was slapping his bass around, like I read he use to do back at the old Flag shows. He was pumped up, despite the graying beard and hair. Keith, Bill and Stephen came out and wasted no time getting into the music. They broke into “Nervous Breakdown” and the place went apeshit. People were throwing plastic cups of beer through the crowd. The small contingent of moshers up front was constantly at war with the bouncers pushing back the crowd surfers into the pit or hauling them over the barricade.
Twenty seconds in, the huge PA system blew out, so the sound became muddled, but the band didn’t give a fuck. It was almost impossible to hear Chuck, but I could see him giving it his all. Egerton is not Greg Ginn, but I would bet he could play any of his riffs with equal proficiency. Stevenson was a beast, and Morris resembled the same form I have seen him give in OFF! in recent shows.
They blazed through "Fix Me", "I've Had It" and finished with "Wasted", which might have gotten the best reaction. It was short. They exited the stage, and some people booed. Keith came back out and said they only had a chance to practice today and those were the only songs they had rehearsed. I guess people were expecting more. For one practice, they sure sounded good. Not as good as the 2003 show, but pretty damn close.
Drum Ogre: Stevenson once again jammed with Flag and the Descendents.

Bassmaster General: Karl Alvarez

The Descendents were on next, and broke out into the song of the same name as their band. No small talk, no intros, just straight to the music. Unfortunately, Egerton's amp blew out. He kept playing the song, but they were minus his sound for the first two songs. They stopped to set up another amp and got right back into the thick of things. The sound was pretty badly mixed, but you could tell the Descendents were in top form. They played songs from all of their albums, and played a heavy dosage of stuff from "Everything Sucks", the 1997 comeback album.  They also did the classic songs justice, including "Bikeage", "Myage", "Catalina" and “Suburban Home.” They closed the set with "I'm Not a Loser", and even brought out their kids to read the commandments of ALL on "All-o-gistics." 
Kids on coffee? Nope, it's "All-o-gistics" time.
For the encore, Bill announced, "Maybe we can get through three songs without any problems." They closed with "Sour Grapes,” “Coolidge” and "Thank You." People looked happy. I saw couples hugging each other. I saw first-generation fans with their kids. I saw one kid who shaved half of his hair off and had the rest just left there. I didn't see any fights or bullshit for the most part, which is always a good sign. Despite the sound problems, this was a solid show, and I am glad I finally got to see the Descendents and Chuck play live.
Packed house for the Descendents. No telephone booth here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Q and A with Robinson and Yow, raging sets by Oxbow and Scratch Acid in Seattle

Eugene Robinson rips through Oxbow's set in Seattle. (All Cat Rose photos except last two)

Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson once told David Yow after his band Jesus Lizard played in San Francisco that when people left the gig, they were ecstatic. When people exit an Oxbow show, Robinson noted that he doesn’t ever want to see them happy.
On Saturday, Robinson and Yow sat down for a Q-and-A session with writer Chris Estey at the Comet Tavern in Seattle before Oxbow and Scratch Acid slayed the crowd across the street at Neumos.
Here’s some Cat Rose pics and choice quotes from the Q and A (Cat was only able to shoot Oxbow because of Scratch Acid's photo policy -- thanks to Robinson for getting Cat clearance to photograph his band):

Way back to being a kid … Ray Charles, James Brown, The Beatles. But I think the first music where things started to happen differently for me …was in 1977, I got Eddie and the Hot Rods, somebody gave me “Teenage Depression.” And the first live show that I saw of a band, I actually saw the Plasmatics. They kind of became jokes later on, but the show I saw had Wendy O. Williams like shot-gunning the fucking stage to bits, and I don’t think I’ve seen a show like that before or fucking since. It was completely out of fucking control. (He added that the “baddest-ass rap guy” has nothing on that gig.) -- On his musical upbringing

Robinson sings in the crowd during the acoustic portion of the set.

I wanna do a whole list of things under the heading of “How I See Myself.” And I’ve recently done up my Facebook page and I’ve put some Little Richard clip in Paris where he plays, where he just stops playing the piano and somebody’s fucking pissed him off or something in the audience. And he’s shirtless and he’s stopped playing the piano, he’s got stocking feet on and he just goes to the edge of the stage, he’s kind of singing “Ready Teddy,” but kind of not really singing it—and I was like, ‘That’s him, Tom Jones, this is how I see myself, Teddy Pendergrass… in a wheelchair.’ -- On his influences

Oxbow's Niko Wenner.

If anybody’s having any conversation with me at all about doing something for cash, they’re already insane, right? So, it’s not like Oxbow is gonna start doing pop for TV commercials, it’s impossible, impossible, not because we can’t, but because we choose not to. -- On selling out

Oxbow bassist Dan Adams.

Friends of mine have encouraged me to write a memoir, but there’s no fucking way I could do that. I can’t even fucking talk about the possibility of writing a memoir; I’m enough of an egomaniac where I’d like to, but the life that I’ve led, I can’t fucking write about it. -- On writing

Yow and Robinson at the Q and A.

Yow with Scratch Acid Nov. 12 in Chicago (MXV photo)
(Are we) music for lovers? Pretty much everything I’ve been involved with. Before Scratch Acid ever played a show, I made some posters for us and one of them had a really cool photo of a girl’s butt, and it just said, ‘Scratch Acid: music for and about beautiful women.’ And I don’t know how that applies to anything.
I don’t think we had any high hopes. I don’t think we had any sort of vision or anything like that. God, I remember the idea of making a cassette and being able to sell it to people you don’t even know -- that was fucking thrilling, and then we sold like a thousand records—that’s like punk-rock gold. -- On the early days

We had toured most of the US and Europe before we came to the West Coast, and I was scared to go to LA -- I thought, ‘They’re gonna beat the fuck out of me’ … um, fortunately, they didn’t. Yeah, I know we had some bad reactions, but I don’t know if it was necessarily because of dumb-ass skinheads or whatever in the audience. -- On touring

I think a lot of it was sort of based in my sense of humor—spending too much time with people like the Butthole Surfers and stuff like that. -- On his lyrics

Before I was into punk rock, Led Zeppelin was my favorite group, and I liked fusion and stuff like that. And then on a Halloween night, a friend of mine and I, we’d heard about this club called Raul’s (in Austin) and we went and saw the Huns play—and it blew my fucking mind; it had never occurred to me that you could go see musical entertainment and be afraid of the people on stage, and I thought that is fucking cool shit. And just the whole energy and everything, it completely changed my world.
If you pay your hard-earned money, it’s nice if you can leave when it’s over and go, ‘Wow, that was worth the three bucks I just paid.’ -- On seeing bands, performing

Scratch Acid in Chicago (MXV photo)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Another Raucous Rock & Roll Circus at Darrell's Tavern

Hard Roller's Jonah Bergman (All Cat Rose photos)

When we browsed through the vinyl section at the “fabulous” Jackpot Records in Portland, OR, recently, Cousin Eric scored the 1972 debut album from Captain Beyond, featuring Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly guys.
On Saturday, Hard Roller – with Presidents of the United States of America guitarist Andrew McKeag at the helm – grooved through some of those rockin’ Captain Beyond-type sounds at Stag’s Rock & Roll Circus 6 at Darrell’s Tavern in Shoreline, WA. After sending off a text to Eric in San Jose, CA, about Hard Roller’s tunes that evening, he replied: “Sick!”

Not a bad way to describe the entertaining hard-to-soft, pop/rock/mod sets by Hard Roller, Stag, Gavin Guss, The First Times and The Sterling Loons.
Here’s some more action-packed Cat Rose pics to prove that the good times do indeed roll at Darrell’s:

Stag's Lincoln Barr

Stag's Steve Mack up top ...

.... and bottom half while jumping, with Barr to his side.

Stag's Ben London, left, and Pete Nordstrom

One attendee dancing hard to Stag.

From left, The First Times' Shane Herrell, Jason McAllister and Travis Morrison.

The Sterling Loons' Eamon Nordquist.

Dave Fox, left, and Gavin Guss

The Gavin Guss band's drummer Dusty Hayes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rollins rants about pain, The Beast and backstabbers on Black Flag's 'Damaged I'

Black Flag in full attack. (Photo: Tiffany)

Rollins. Ginn. Dukowski. Cadena. Biscuits.
These Black Flag guys tore the On Broadway in San Francisco apart on July 23-24, 1982. The high-quality bootleg proves this … killer, absolutely raging.
“Damaged I” (titled “My Life” here) clocks in at 8:59 the first night and a whopping 10:29 the next gig.
Here’s what old Hank had to say (THIS IS SOME SERIOUSLY GOOD SHIT):

July 23 --
It’s right here, it’s right here, right here! Right here! It’s in here, it’s in here!
It’s in here. It’s in …side. Inside, inside, inside, I’m on the inside. Inside of my eyes
Behind, these eyes… on , on the inside, you know. I live inside. I have eyes, things go by. I know why… because I, because I live inside!
What about -- him? What about him? You know, that guy who lives inside you--- inside me, too. I have a name for him… I call him THE BEAST, THE BEAST WITHIN, the beast that lives inside, but sometimes HE COMES OUT FOR A WALK! HE COMES OUTSIIIIIDE!! And when he does, IT’S UGLY – IT’S UGLY… It’s so ugly, oh man!
The beast, inside, his blood, runs deep – his blood runs deep, and it’s pain inside… pain, his fear.
Come meet the man … he might be big, but he crawls and fear makes him mean: fear makes him VERY DANGEROUUUUSSSS!!!
He goes like this: goes down; he makes a noise, it’s a noise of pain: REEEEEEEOWWWW! OHAWWWWW!! (nine more screams) … Oh, god … ohhh… can you see my, see my --- pain? Watch it go like this ….(more screams)
I think …….I think he wants to die; he wants to …DIE!!! DIE!!!
You know what I mean? You decide—he’s shaking the bars off this place, he’s shaking the bars … he’s going: Let me out—I WANT OUT! I WANT OUT! I WANT OUT! LET ME OUT! LET ME OUT! LET ME OUT!
It’s a look, you might as well call it my life.

July 24 --
Yeah, I know why
These don’t lie, that’s right
Behind my eyes, that’s right
Yeah, it’s so funny, it’s so funny
It’s so hard to find, it’s so hard … to find
Except, your lies… are so easy, aren’t they? Your lies are so easy… to stick in someone’s back—like a knife!
You know, the backstabbers—backstabbers!
They wanna stop my life, b---, backstabbers—people who sit on their ass and don’t do nothing, and they won’t even look me in the eye… you don’t even look me in the eye! That’s right, look away—look away!
But inside, I see on the outside, things go by, I know why—I know why! Ahhhh! I know why!
Because… I’ve got these things inside, inside, inside… my thoughts, I live, I live… on the inside—on the inside.
My eyes are seeing things, you look at me, but you don’t know, you can’t feel my pain
And then, and then I look at you—I can’t see past your eyes. I don’t know about your pain; I don’t know about your pain. I can’t see inside you
I don’t know – I DON’T CARE, I don’t care… because, I’ve got problems in my own mind, my own mind, my own miiiinnndd!!
So, why not now? Why not now? Let my muscles tear, let ‘em tear, let ‘em just go …. Ahhhhh!! (four of these)…..
Uh, oh! Waa, ahh! Waa, oww! Ahh, ahh! (more screams…)
I look inside, and I wonder… does anyone alive feel like me?
Don’t tell me, don’t tell me about … your love; don’t tell me about your love
Your love for me, don’t tell me… about how your love is gonna keep me alive--- It’s lies… IT’S LIES!
I live inside, I live alone; I live alone, alone, alone… and inside, I’m all alone
Nothing can save me… from myself; nothing can save me from myself
My life, my damage—my dirt, my self-destruction
Just remember, that when the day you’re born… days go by, you slowly die … That’s right, you’re not getting any younger—Just think that you’re dying very slowly—I KNOW I AM! I can feel it, I can feel it!
And now I know, now I know… I can’t run, I can’t run no more. Cuz when I run, I’m just chasing my own tail… turning inside, turning inside!
Drilling deeper down--- Oooooohhhhhh!!!
You see that? Right there? That’s uh, seven stitches where I went through a mirror… I wasn’t trying to be Mr. Tough Guy, I just didn’t like what I saw. I just hated what I saw.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kill or be killed with the monster that is Black Face

By Andy
Someone mentioned the other day that OFF! has about 33,000-plus more Facebook “likes” than Black Face.
Upon listening to the band’s newly released “I Want to Kill You/Monster” seven-inch on Hydra Head Records, do you think Black Face is counting? The band’s legion of 500 or so will surely grow in time, but the numbers game is not what’s important here, folks.
For their kind, Black Face is -- how bassist Chuck Dukowski would say -- “nice and friendly.” They’re right up in your mug -- hollering and pounding away. That’s a true friend, indeed, someone you’ll never forget and who won’t let you go despite what’s “trending” at the moment.
“You can try to hide, but you won’t get away,” singer Eugene S. Robinson unleashes on “I Want to Kill You” (Side Death), which possesses a nasty, swirling guitar riff from Milo Gonzalez that plays off his dad Dukowski’s creepy bass – a loving father-and-son duo, for sure.
“I enjoy your misery,” Robinson continues, as his voice claws into your neck.
But, with drummer Tom Dobrov steadily keeping the death ride on course (or off?), Black Face gives the listener a halftime break of sorts, decelerating the song … before building it back up again. It keeps sticking you.
And in the end, there’s a warning: “You can’t close the door on me.”
On “Monster” (Side Trip), Dukowski digs in again to a song that appears on SWA’s “Winter” 1989 record.
Like a good friend, he gives this one a second chance—leading in with that spine-tingling bass and adding a demented psychedelic guitar riff and layered fucked-up screams. It’s a slow-breathing song that hits hard at spots, but never gives you a chance to turn away. You’re trapped.
“I need a soul, and I want yours,” Robinson offers on the remake, which isn’t as twisted as the original, but still carves out a chaotic path. “I love you … there’s nobody else in here, but me for you.”
Black Face is waiting for you. Come inside, friends.


More Black Face bloggage:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Punks venture into the metal slam pit with Exodus, Metallica and the rest of the 'bangers

Exodus' raging vocalist, Paul Baloff (RIP). (All William L. Tuck III photos)
By Andy

I'd heard some Motorhead and Venom from my friend Pat (aka Adam Bomb-- DJ and bass man) in the early '80s, but when bands like Metallica and Slayer came across my path soon after, it was game on.

I grew up a rocker -- UFO, Van Halen, Thin Lizzy, KISS, Cheap Trick, etc. -- and then hooked onto the power, chaos and lyrical inspiration of punk in '79-'80 and let it rip from there. (I'd heard the Sex Pistols on the family AM radio in '77 or so and seen some punk specials on TV, but I remained a rocker for a while longer.)

After testing the headbanging waters with Metallica and Slayer (the latter of whom my buddy John and I hung out with on Pat's show, "The Final Countdown" at LMU in the Los Angeles area), my friends Corrosion of Conformity came to town and unleashed their walloping hymns into my brain in the summer of '84 at the Cathay De Grande. Although punk was my primary thing, I was ready for more clenched-fist metal, for sure.

So I -- along with others in the punk scene -- soon got caught up in the speed/thrash-metal scene a bit, mixing in with the longhairs at gigs featuring Possessed, Exodus, Hirax, Detente, Dark Angel, Savage Grace, etc.

COC, DRI, Dr. Know, GBH and other punk/metal hybrid bands were usually on the bills, as well, so those raucous gigs were begging to have us in attendance.

"You guys are fucking raging," Exodus singer Paul Baloff (RIP) screamed to a crowd at the Balboa Theater one fine evening.

Exodus' Baloff and Gary Holt at the Country Club.
Speaking of Exodus, my pal Jim (nowadays known as "Bobo" on TV's "Finding Bigfoot") and I took in a gig with the Bay Area's premier thrashers at the Country Club in Reseda in April of '85. They were sadly backed by the horrible, glammy Ruthless, but Baloff and company tore the place apart with their crucial tunes from the "Bonded By Blood" LP.

Ruthless, once again, were so lame that one young Exodus fan chucked pieces of ice at the singer and was yanked from the gig by a security guard. Much to his dismay, the headbanger missed the band he saved up his pennies to see that night, but the rest of us raged with Exodus tenfold.

In March of that year, I brought my friend Roween along for the metal ride for Metallica and Armored Saint at the Hollywood Palladium.  (Speaking of Roween, Carrie thinks it’s funny that he went to a metal show. She used to carpool with him in high school and he would always drill her about music, stating she had to pick either punk or metal. One or the other, but you could not like both. Carrie would say punk, even though she loved the metal also. )

Metallica actually opened that night and hit us with blast upon blast from the "Ride the Lightning" LP along with earlier tunes. From the initial strains of the melodic intro to "Fight Fire with Fire," some 'bangers in the crowd were already slam dancing... and then when the song kicked into gear, the place fucking erupted, with bodies flying everywhere, voices and fists raised and noggins properly banging -- it was a beautiful sight.

Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett tear up the Hollywood Palladium.

William L. Tuck III, another punk from back in the day, also joined in on the thrash/speed-metal action. Here's his story about Metallica and Exodus and those killer gigs of '85:

My experience with Metallica started when I saw an ad for them in BAM magazine back in 1983 when they did a national club tour with Raven. My thought was, "Who the hell are these country-rock-lookin' dudes?" --especially Lars Ulrich with his beard and Levi's jacket. Then "Kill 'em All" came out at the same time I was getting into Venom (I already was a strong Motorhead fan by this time). I saw that same picture on the back cover of the album, but when the needle hit the wax, I realized how wrong and way off I was in my assumptions of this band.

It wasn't that much time from "Kill 'em All" and "Ride the Lightning," and, for the most part, checking Metallica out live flew under my radar because I was so ensconced in the hardcore scene at that point that I had no desire to "hang" with the metalheads.

What a difference two years makes. With the advent of thrash and speed metal, I could not wait and craved for live shows by this new breed of bands. Metallica were, in my opinion, at the vanguard of this new movement. By 1985, things were going pretty good for them. They had just secured a deal with a major label and they were big enough to play a place like the Hollywood Palladium, a far cry from the places they used to play.

Metallica wasn't even mentioned on the ticket ... Andy scribbled them in.
I was quite stoked to finally witness the band that I grew to love over the last two years. Walking into the Palladium as a full-blown punk rocker was an experience in itself. Some of the metalheads were throwing looks our way as if we didn't belong there. With a bit of hubris, we felt that they borrowed the good aspects of "our" music and felt this music belonged to us as much as it did to the metal guys. Based on that, we knew damn well that we belonged there. 

The opening band was a proto-glam dude named Adam Bomb (not the aforementioned Pat!). We conveniently missed that as to not cloud our minds and be able to witness Metallica to the fullest potential. We made our way up to the front of the stage so that I could take pictures with my trusty 110 camera. 

Your mother cuts hair in hell: metalers had to look good, too
As the lights went down, we suddenly heard the acoustic intro to "Fight Fire with Fire" and out comes the band. I go crazy as does the crowd. The pit was unreal-- it was as if the entire place erupted. I remember being at the bottom of a giant dogpile and being scared shitless, thinking I was going to die like those people at that Who concert did a few years earlier. Fortunately, that didn't happen because everyone was on the same vibe and we were all helping each other. This was a first for me because up until this point, there was always a strong division between punks and metalheads. Longhairs were picking me up and patting me on the back. The band ran through all the select songs from the first two albums and the whole show was spot on. 

I think for Metallica, it was an amazing experience, too, because up until this time, L.A. had dissed them pretty hard and when they came back, they came back in a big way because people were finally getting it. The amazing thing was that Armored Saint were pretty big at this point, big enough to headline, yet after Metallica played, there was but 200 to 300 people left in the audience. A pretty good sign that things were changing in metal music.

This was the first and last time I saw Metallica. A year-and-a-half later, Cliff Burton was dead and they were playing bigger and bigger venues with higher ticket prices. I had no interest in being a part of that. That being said, I feel fortunate to have seen a band of this magnitude at a good place at the right time and I will always remember it being one of the best shows I've ever witnessed. 

Exodus' Holt with an evil stare.

I had started listening to Venom in the summer of 1983, and a year later got turned on to Slayer by these kids I met at Tower Records in West Covina and I was hooked. Reading various metal zines and by word of mouth, I started to hear about the burgeoning Bay Area thrash movement. Bands like Possessed, Metallica and the band I was told was the most extreme: Exodus.

Slayer's Tom Araya


Exodus already had a name for themselves as THE band that hated false metal (ie: Ratt, Motley Crue, etc.). Also, Kirk Hammett was a former member, and if that wasn't a stamp of approval, then I don't know what is. Without even hearing the band, we caught news that they were playing the Country Club and drove out to check these guys out.

They were sandwiched in between two bands called Ruthless and Savage Grace. By Bay Area standards of the day, these two bands would be considered false or posers. 

Ruthless came out in Motley Crue-style leathers and makeup. The crowd, for the most part, was not pleased with this-- they not only began booing them, but spitting on them, as well. It got so bad that one guy went up and tried to punch the singer and was quickly ejected from the club by a huge bouncer. I think they cut their set short in fear of the onslaught that could have potentially ensued had they gone further. I don't remember the music being too bad, just a bit of Priest worship in all the wrong directions.

Up next was the band we came to see: Exodus. They came out with a fury. Five regular dudes that came out and owned the stage with powerful riffs and an angry troll of a vocalist named Paul Baloff. Paul really knew how to work the crowd into a frenzy with his classic in-between-song banter about "killing posers" and "kicking ass." Though not tall in stature, he made up for it by being very intimidating in his demeanor. He was probably 5'6" in height, but carried himself like he was 7 feet tall. The band blazed through their set, which consisted of the songs from "Bonded by Blood." I remember Gary Holt doing the intro to "No Love," a little traditional Irish folk ditty that blew up into a heavy-ass riff. By the time the show was finished, we were believers of not only this band, but Bay Area thrash.

The headlining band was L.A. local posers Savage Grace and we were in no mood for that shit. We promptly left with great memories intact.

In a final twist of irony, I recently bought some tickets to see Saxon from the singer, Sammy, of the reformed Ruthless who were opening the show. I spoke to him a bit about that '85 show and he was pretty embarrassed about how they looked and acted. He told me that in L.A., you pretty much had to look like that to get gigs, but he wasn't too proud of it. I saw them open for Saxon and they were without the makeup and corny leathers. Hell, they even have Jim Durkin from Dark Angel in the band now. Much different band now-- and in a good way.....

Ruthless in '85 ---- ugh.