Thursday, September 27, 2007

Megadeth at Irving Plaza

It's a good night to be out; the weather is cool without being cold, with a little too much humidity that makes any time outside uncomfortable only with some exertion. We're not outside for any real extertion; we wander with a purpose in the Union Square area, waiting for the 9:45 hour, when the bands with metalcore names leave the stage and Megadeth comes on. We sit in a bar, and drink, and talk about music. The sound system is high-end, large sound-reinforcement type speakers dominating a room so shitty-looking it could be out of a punk documentary. The speakers and the room are diametrically opposed in quality; they shouldn't be in the same two block radius, let alone the same room, but the whole thing works. Maybe it's because of the weird mix of tracks: Jawbreaker, Minor Threat, Embrace, James Brown. I'm told to expect "The Trooper" to come on at any second. We talk about Ian MacKaye and his DIY ethic, Blake Schwarzenbach and how he now teaches English at Hunter College. It's a good way to warm up for a concert; a much better way than listening to whatever crappy bands Roadrunner's packaged on this tour.

Seeing Megadeth has become a common occurrence; five times in two years far outstrips my frequency for any other band. It's a little ironic; I remember thinking after I heard that Dave had hurt his wrist that it sucked I would never see that band live. Maybe I'm making up for lost time.

Irving Plaza is packed, almost to the gills. We start out below the overhand, where the sound sucks and for some reason they're not using the extra speakers they've added. As Megadeth takes the stage we squeeze our way through the crowd and into an open area near one of the doors. The difference in sound between the overhand and the open room is palpable. The sound still sucks, but it's gone from a dull roar to a wall, a wall of high frequency fuzzed harmonics and deeper guitar distortion, interspersed with the rhythmic smashing of the drums and the indistinct wailing of whomever is singing. It's like having your head cut off with a sound wave. The air is electric and it feels good.

Mustaine has a cold, or some sort of sick thing that makes it hard for him to sing; he apologizes but tells us he didn't want to cancel. We love him for it and we let him know, just like we let him and the band know how happy we are to be there after every song. The crowd - whatever the capacity crowd is for Irving, small but not insignificant - doesn't sound like 1,000 people in a club when we cheer, but 5,000 or 10,000 or more in an arena or a stadium. It's huge; it reverberates from the ceiling of the old concert hall and startles me every time it happens. It adds to the atmosphere, to the excitement of seeing this band do their thing and do it well once again.

Megadeth, as always, plays a mix of the very new and the very old; think "Washington is Next" meets "Hangar 18" meets "Kick the Chair" meets "In My Darkest Hour" meets "Symphony of Destruction" and you'll get the idea. The crowd doesn't know the new material as well and no one can hear Dave, so the new tracks turn into respectful silences and physical breaks for the crowd, who throw everything they have into every old track the band plays. I sing at shows, when I know the songs; it helps me let myself go into the music more. I'm singing - but I'm always singing - but it feels like everyone else is, too. It's communal, unifying, and it makes the show that much more memorable, because we're all getting our faces melted together and we all know it. They play the new version of "Toute le Monde," and I realize that Dave's little remake trick must be working; there are a lot of women in this crowd. They play "Tornado of Souls" and the fifth time I hear it live is just as good as the first. I lose my shit; I love that song.

It's 11:20. The night's over, the set finished just on the cusp of going too long. We stumble out into the street, swap stories of other shows and other good times built around music and metal. I walk back to the subway, thoughtful. Nights like these are why I go to shows, I decide, in search of the high that only good live music can bring. It's a good addiction.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Super Happy Metal Fun Time!

I work in the editorial department of an online publishing company, and we get a lot of random stuff from PR agencies: books, CDs, press kits, product samples; we even got a bunch of cleaning products in a wooden coffin once, which was a little odd. Since our writers work off site we need to determine whether or not to send this barrage of material on to them; most of it goes on its merry way, but some things, especially the stuff that's misaddressed (sent to one of parenting writers, say, when it really should go to one of the home & garden writers), stay in the office and join our collections of Weird Desk Stuff. I'm the Metal Guy of the editorial department, so when the Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book by Aye Jay Morano came in, addressed to our classic rock writer, I snagged it and added it to my desk display, which includes, among other things, a model of this place, a signed print of this online comic, and a postcard promo of this album I picked up outside of an Opeth show in 2005.

Of course, I opened it first and delighted at cheekiness within. Besides an endorsement from Dio, who no doubt loves metal enough to laugh at the music and the culture at least once in a while, the Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book features an introduction by Andrew W. K. (he's metal now?) full of insipid thoughts about the nature of reality, and then the centerpiece: page after page of all of those pen-and-paper activities you did as a kid, all with a metal twist. There's a word seek with songs by Neurosis; a maze where you help the members of Spinal Tap get to the stage (get it?); two pages where you can color in the 1983 and 1989 versions of Metallica; etc., etc., etc. My favorite is the Death Metal Sudoku, where all of the pre-filled numbers are sixes.

For the retail price of about $10, the Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book doesn't price up to a car ride diversion like the books it's modeled upon, but that's not really the point. I don't want to fill out the activities in my copy; I just want to open it up every once in a while and smirk my way back into a good mood.

Short Meditation on Street Sounds

Walking down into the subway this morning on my way to work, I heard the strains of a solo violin, playing something in a classical figure. Street musicians abound in New York and even though the MTA makes anyone playing in subway go through a licensing process to improve the quality, they aren't always good. This guy, though...something about the silence of the morning as people waited for their morning train, the chill air outside and stuffy warmth down by the tracks, the stone-lined surfaces that turned his concert hall into a miles-long reverberation chamber; all of it made the sound so pure and so sweet that anyone who could hear was happy to just listen and anyone who couldn't feel some sort of tug at their soul is as dead to the world as a freshly departed corpse.