Tuesday, May 18, 2010

CONCERT REVIEW: Fear Factory, Prong, Silent Civilian, Thy Will Be Done - Knitting Factory Reno, Monday 5/17

God help me, but I was jonesing for this show the minute I heard about it. Fear Factory is a band that I loved the minute I first heard their music, and the band's reactivation after years of acrimony and months of legal issues between current and former members was largely cheered by the metal community. My boy Jeremy from Idekay went way overboard for me - I asked him if he was going to the show, because I'd be in Carson City and had the day of the show off - and bought me a ticket without me even asking him to do so. So I offered to do the driving, and bought dinner for us at the Eldorado. Idekay's singer came with, but there was only room for two in my little truck, so we had to squeeze in close to get Josh to a restaurant on the other side of Carson City, where a friend of his would pick him up.

Jeremy and I got in to Reno, had our 'bro-feast' at the Eldorado's buffet, then made our way over to the Knitting Factory Concert House. The Knit, as it's called, is a welcome addition to the list of concert venues in the Reno area, having opened last New Year's Eve. It's clean, well-run, and has an excellent sound system, and is a great improvement over venues like the New Oasis and Club Underground. As Jeremy and I walked along Virginia Street, we found Fear Factory's singer (Burton C. Bell) and bassist (Byron Stroud) on their cellphones, probably letting people know that they'd made it into Reno okay - we found out later that their bus wouldn't start that morning when they tried to leave San Diego, and had only made it into town within the last hour, and Silent Civilian also had car trouble, and very nearly missed the show.

We went around back to get in line for the show, and within a minute Josh and his friend showed up. His friend was an attractive young blonde in an Aqua Teen Hunger Force Mooninites t-shirt ("Observe Our Digital Dongs" - I'm not the biggest ATHF fan, but that shirt was hilarious!). We were introduced, I didn't quite catch her name, and chose not to press the issue, because she looked familiar to me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on where I'd seen her before. Anyhoo, we got into the Knit only to find that the doors would open about and hour later than scheduled due to the bands that arrived late. The crowd was kinda late as well, with many not arriving until the first two bands had already played. And as it was, there were only about 300 or so in attendance. And they'd only managed to sell that many tickets because the Knit wound up selling many of them for half the price Jeremy had paid for ours. He wasn't terribly happy about it, but he eventually shrugged it off. We found our way up to the Knit's balcony (an excellent spot to watch drummers in action) and waited for the show.

First up was Rhode Island's Thy Will Be Done, which was good but pretty straightforward metalcore, though much more 'metal' than 'core', and that's just fine with me. I really didn't know these guys at all, but I liked what I heard. They brought lots of energy to the show, which is really what an opener should do. After them came Silent Civilian from LA. This band I could've done without. But since the band is the de facto solo project of former Spineshank singer Jonny Santos, and Santos has deep ties with Fear Factory (Spineshank got their record deal through their friendship with Fear Factory), that's probably how they got their slot on this tour. The music was passable, not terribly original, and while Jeremy and I liked their drummer's style of play, his snare drum sounded positively awful - Jeremy actually said "that snare sounds so bad it makes me want to punch babies." I'd have settled for going down to the stage and tuning it up a bit for him.

Next up was Prong. This was the second time we'd seen them in about seven months, having seen them previously in November at the New Oasis. Like Fear Factory, Prong's music has always been a little ahead of its time with its strong industrial-music overtones. Seven months ago, Prong..... well, Prong main-man Tommy Victor seemed to want to get the show over and done with ASAFP. He basically had a brand-new backing band at the time (Static-X bassist Tony Campos and Alexei Rodriguez on drums), and while that show was good, there was still a visible lack of ease onstage. Last night, there was a much more relaxed vibe amongst Tommy and his bandmates, and they blew through their set with with a vengeance. In years past, Tommy has been saddled with a reputation of being difficult to work with - understandable once you've seen how many people have worked with him in Prong over the years. And when Prong was inactive, Tommy has been a sideman, playing guitar with Danzig for several years and playing on Ministry's last few tours as well (where he met up with Bell, who sang on Ministry's C U LaTour). From what I saw, I think Tommy has, how shall I say it, aged gracefully? He just seems to be happy just playing. And had it been anyone other than Fear Factory headlining the show, I would've said that Prong stole the show. They were clearly having a great time onstage.

The rebirth of Fear Factory hasn't been without controversy. It actually started almost by accident. The band had torn itself apart when there had been a falling-out between guitarist Dino Cazares and the rest of the band. Fear Factory basically broke up, then reunited without Cazares (with bassist Christian Olde Wolbers switching to guitar and hiring Strapping Young Lad's Byron Stroud to take over on bass). The band recorded two more albums, but something was missing. The band members went on to other projects (Bell founded the band Ascension Of The Watchers and worked with Ministry, while Olde Wolbers and drummer Raymond Herrera started the band Arkaea) while Cazares stayed busy with his side projects, Asesino and Divine Heresy. One night Bell and Cazares met by accident at a show, and over time managed to reconcile their differences. They brought Stroud back into the fold, and recruited Stroud's Strapping Yound Lad bandmate, metal-drumming icon Gene Hoglan for the drums. Initial efforts at playing live were stymied by legal actions taken by Olde Wolbers and Herrera against their former band over the rights to the name Fear Factory. I'd presume that either the actions were settled or an injunction has been put in place, because the band has moved on, toured, and released their new album, Mechanize.

Their set was awesome. It was the first time Jeremy or I had ever seen Gene Hoglan play live, and that man is a 300-pound pile of drumming awesomeness. Their set was amazing, but Jeremy noted something kind of odd. Dino seemed to be having an off-night, his playing seemed a little sloppy. He just didn't seem to be quite as in-synch with Fear Factory as we'd seen him six months before with Divine Heresy. I figured it was just an off-night because of their travel issues. But to be honest, I just didn't care. This was an awesome show, and I was in full fanboy mode for their entire set. The songs that stood out for me were "Mechanize", "Edgecrusher", "Linchpin", and the set-closer, "Replica".

On our way, I noticed something odd - while the merch booth had Fear Factory's albums for sale, the two albums that didn't have Dino on them were not available. And Dino, along with Prong's bassist Tony Campos, were right alongside the merch booth, signing merch and taking pictures with the crowd. I think I know who really runs Fear Factory now, and I really don't have a problem with that.

And on the way home, Jeremy filled in a blank for me. Remember I told you that I'd thought I'd seen Josh's friend before? I was right. Y'see, his friend.... well, I won't tell you her real name. She's better known as Bunny Love, and works at the Moonlight Bunny Ranch. She's a huge metalhead, and a big fan of Idekay. She's even told them that she'll try to wear her Idekay hoodie a lot when HBO's cameras come to the Ranch to tape the next season of their show "Cathouse", which chronicles the goings-on at the brothel just outside of Carson City. It's kinda weird - I'm actually developing ties to the Bunny Ranch, without ever having been there. Y'see, one of Steppen Stonz' closest friends here in Carson City (who Joy actually appointed to be my 'caretaker' here in Reno and Carson when she couldn't be here herself), her mother works at the ranch in housekeeping, while her aunt is better known as "Air Force Amy", one of the top girls at the Ranch. And another friend of the Stonz got a housekeeping job at Dennis Hof's two brothels through my 'caretaker' Sara's connections.

Jeremy also told me that Idekay will be hitting the road in a few weeks, and will even come up to play a gig in Tacoma in a few weeks. I told Joy, and she nearly hit the roof! Needless to say, we'll be there for that. He also told me something pretty big, but I won't say what it is. Let's just say that this could be a big summer for him and Idekay.

Last night was a pretty awesome night for me. But there's always blowback, and mine is coming up quickly. I told Jeremy's wife Alison that I'd teach her the intricacies of driving a car with a manual transmission today, and I'd better get going. Jeremy tried to teach her once, and he claimed it nearly ended in divorce.....

Is that impending doom I see coming?

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