Sunday, February 19, 2012

Q: How Do You Turn A Bro-Feast Into A Dinner Date?

A: Bronchitis.

When last I left off, I was all aflutter about going to see two of my favorite metal bands playing a show at the Knitting Factory in Reno with my buddy Jeremy. We have a system, you see. If I happen to be in town when a good show is going on, and I happen to have that night free, He buys the tickets for the show, then I drive up to his place in Carson City and pick him up, and buy dinner before the show. The last time this happened was about twenty months ago, when we went to the Knit to see Fear Factory. This show was also notable because I found out that one of the girls who works out at the Bunny Ranch was a major fan of Jeremy's band, because she accompanied the band's singer to the show.

That anecdote aside, Joy and I were playing with the grandbabies last Friday when Jeremy called up with bad news. He was sick as a dog, and wasn't going to make the show. I braced myself for the bad vibe of not being able to go to the show, but heard something I just didn't expect to hear:

"Come up to Carson and get the tickets, and take Joy to the show."

Totally gobsmacked, I was. I offered to buy the tickets, and all I got in return was a request to buy a shirt for him. He didn't want to disappoint me because he had the crud.

He is just the best friend a metal dude can have.

So Joy and I went up to Carson and got the tickets, then headed back to Reno for dinner and a show. The dinner was at the Damonte Ranch location of Genghis Grill, a Mongolian stir-fry place that we'd discovered earlier in the week. While the meal itself was excellent, the best part came after the meal was done, when I'd found out that the restaurant's rewards card that I'd applied for during the previous visit rewarded me with a free meal for my birthday - even though I'd applied for the card after my birthday!

We got to the Knit with about 45 minutes to spare before the doors opened. Joy was nervous that we wouldn't be able to get a place for her to sit in the hall's balcony bar, but said accommodations were never in doubt, as we were able to get into the building before anyone else due to Joy being on her crutches. And while there were no tables or chairs close to the balcony's railing, a few polite inquiries with the Knit's security allowed us to pull a chair up to the rail for her. And after a quick trip downstairs for the shirt, I was able to talk to a few friends of ours from the concert scene (Hi, Wheezer!) before the show got underway.

Local bands first, as usual. Envirusment was pretty cool, although I'm pretty sure that I could've done a better job with their material than their drummer did. Next up was Sinister Scene, and I could've done without them. Wearing argyle socks onstage is only cool if you're the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And I noticed that the crowd wasn't all that thrilled with them, either - a lot of people spent their set with their backs turned to the stage. I found it hilarious that the only moshing going on during the local band's sets were from a couple of teenage girls, quite possibly girlfriends of the bands.

Thankfully, the mood changed when Prong hit the stage. This was the third time in less than two years that I've seen them, and they've yet to let me down. Tommy Victor (guitar, lead vocals), Tony Campos (bass, backing vocals), and Alexei Rodriguez (drums) were clearly having fun onstage, and even a minor flub from Rodriguez on "Beg To Differ" was quickly passed over. Prong has a new album coming out in April, and while they played a song from that album, it was damn near the same set I'd heard from them twice before. Not that I had any complaints - they played all the songs everyone wanted to hear, and the crowd was happy to hear them.

Then Testament hit the stage, and the place went genuinely nuts. This was a band that had spent a fair chunk of the last decade and change on the ropes, as tastes changed, and key members of the band had gone their separate ways, most notably guitarist Alex Skolnick's desire to give up metal for smooth jazz (AUTHOR'S NOTE: the Alex Skolnick Trio is actually pretty damn good - check it out). And things didn't improve when singer Chuck Billy was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. But his diagnosis and subsequent recovery from that cancer was the tipping point in getting the band's classic lineup (Billy, Skolnick, guitarist and founding member Eric Peterson, bassist Greg Christian, and drummer Louie Clemente) back together. And four of those five took the stage last night, with Clemente preferring his post-Testament career of selling modern and antique furniture. Until recently, the drum chair had been taken by longtime Bay Area thrash-drumming icon Paul Bostaph, though an injury left him unable for the recording sessions for Testament's upcoming album. Which leads me to another question-and-answer for you:

Q: How does a metal band show its displeasure with their drummer?


Testament brought in the legendary "Atomic Clock" for the studio work, quietly announced Bostaph's departure from the group, and got Hoglan to agree to tour with them for the time being. And a weird tour it's been for them. They recently finished a run of co-headlining dates with Anthrax that was marked with three members of Anthrax having to take several shows off due to either illness (rhythm guitarist Scott Ian missed a show due to an emergency hospitalization), or family emergency (drummer Charlie Benante's mother - who is also bassist Frank Bello's grandmother - passed away during the tour). During these absences, members of Testament and opening band Death Angel filled in for the missing members, creating a de facto thrash supergroup that thankfully lots of YouTube videos chronicled.

Now headlining on their own, Testament came out like a house on fire. Of all the bands of their genre, Testament changed the least - no new haircuts, no weird collaborations, nada - and thusly, of all the bands of their genre, they still look pretty much like they did back when I was still in high school. And having Gene Hoglan along for the ride brought out some amazing stuff. While this isn't Gene's first go-round with Testament (he'd played the drums for them on one previous album, and briefly toured for that album), the comparatively slower tempos of Testament allowed Gene to really breathe some new life into their classic songs. And the crowd completed the picture of old-school vitality with massive circle-pits, lots of crowd surfing, and even a few stage divers - though one poor attempt to clear the two-foot gap from the subwoofers that formed the front of the stage to the security fence brought a good-natured teasing from Billy on the diver's lack of skill and athleticism.

The overall vibe of the show was just awesome, so much positivity and love for a band, and the band sending that vibe right back, that the buzz from the show was more than in just my ears. I could genuinely say that I had a great time, and so did Joy.

But now it's back to work soon. I'll have to call Mikey here in the next day or so to find out when we'll get together to set up at the Fandango in Carson City this coming weekend. Two nights later, this particular swing will be over, and while its' been fun, I'll be glad to get home for a breather - even if it's only for ten days.

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