Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Metal Salute

Let's talk a little bit about a symbol that's probably near and dear to all of our hearts: the devil sign. The goat horns. The evil fingers. The Pommesgabel. The metal horns. The frickin' metal salute, man. They might have been invented by Gene Simmons. Maybe Dio is responsible. Wikipedia claims Jinx Dawson started the whole thing by making them on the cover of her proto-metal band Coven's first album, which would be hilariously ironic - a woman inventing one of male-dominated metal's most iconic gestures. Of course, unless I'm missing something, Dawson isn't making the gesture on the cover of that album.

In any case: you can do it one-handed, you can do it two-handed. You can even put both hands together to let the world know it's just too much metal for one hand. But for the sake of all that's holy and unholy: you don't do this with your hand, unless you're trying to tell the band someone that maybe you should work out face to face, without the amplifiers blaring. Normally I'm not one to go for false metal stuff - I listen to far too much stuff (including Manowar) to make those sort of stupid categorizations - but come on. If you're going to call yourself a metal fan, at least make an effort to pick up one of the basics of the culture.

Friday, February 16, 2007

And I Couldn't Feel My Feet for 45 Minutes...

Here it is, folks: the first official review of the year, Destruction at Studio B, Brooklyn (review here, pictures here), from a show fraught on the fringes with danger and more danger, plus sheer exploitation of my title as journalist. Let's start with the exploitation, because as John Lennon once said, "Power corrupts. Absolute power is kinda neat."

I assume many of you have heard of Almost Famous, the Cameron Crowe semi-biopic where a wannabe young rock journalist goes on the road with a rising-star band to chronicle their trials and tribulations for Rolling Stone. I love the movie for two reasons: first, it's got Jason Lee sporting a full beard singing a song called "Fever Dog" and generally making an ass of himself. Second, I can relate to how much William Miller, the main character, loves the music he's covering. At one point in the movie, William is listening to Lester Bangs expound on why it's simultaneously so awesome and so terrible to be a rock music critic - and one of the reasons why it's good is because you get free albums.

I've been the beneficiary of this quirk before, but the night of the concert was the first time I got to use it in person, when a member of Sanitarius's street team came up to me and asked if I wanted to buy a CD. I lied and said I didn't have any money on me (which is my standard response), but then I remembered I could get the goods in exchange for a review, so I told him I was a journalist, gave him a card and got a free CD to review. Exploitation for personal profit is fun!

The danger part was less cool - not because I'm against danger per se, but because this danger was danger with absolutely no upside. Studio B is located in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, an area (for those of you not familiar with the geography) made up of alternating groups of residences and miles of warehouses. Studio B was in the middle of one of these warehouse blocs, 15 minutes walk away from the subway station. I walked quickly, hoping I wouldn't see anyone because I figured that would reduce the possibility of getting knifed. Given the amount of empty warehouses in the area, I'm a little confused as to why someone decided to build a club in middle instead of at one of the fringes.

I arrived outside Studio B at 6:30, which was when the show was supposed to start. The doors were not open, although the club had put up the crowd control to form a line outside the door. Normally, not a problem: this is rock and roll; it works on its own schedule, published times be damned. However, February 5 was at the start of the cold snap that continues to dominate New York City and it was 18 degrees and windy outside. Keeping the doors closed for 45 minutes past the supposed start of the show while people queued up outside in the freezing cold? Not cool. Bands might have been setting up inside, but it's OK to expose someone's sound check to the public to prevent hypothermia.

Monday, February 12, 2007

"Fast" Eddie Clarke Ate All My Cookies

I was at my parents' house this past weekend, enjoying some delicious E.L. Fudge Sandwich Cookies with my wife and my sister, when I noticed that the shapes stamped on the front of the cookies were labeled with names of the cartoon elf workers that supposedly make these cookies, including one named Fast Eddie. I walked around for the next hour with "Ace of Spades" stuck in my head.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I'm the Muthafucking Prince of Darkness!

Ozzy Osbourne fascinates me. He's metal's original anti-hero, a guy with long hair and funky glasses who somehow looks like a more decrepit version of himself from thirty years ago. He's got Black Sabbath god status, the solo career, the footage from Decline of Western Civilization II where he can't, for the life of him, pour his orange juice properly, The Osbournes, the feud between Shannon and Bruce (which always make me imagine Ozzy sitting in the background, looking confused as to what's going on), that whole speaking thing where you can't figure out what he's saying - and probably wouldn't want to anyway - and Ozzfest. Can't forget Ozzfest - the tour that launched a thousand careers.

This year Ozzfest gets a new wrinkle: it's free. According to, Ozzy made the announcement yesterday by spray painting FREE on a poster at a concert industry trade show in LA; confirmation is on the Ozzfest Website. The reason, according to Sharon, is to combat the rising ticket prices of summer festivals - Ozzfest sees itself to be a leader in this area and making the tour free for 2007 might reverse the trend.

From what my friend Seth tells me, Ozzfest was always pay to play for second stage and lower main stage bands; he worries that making every band play for free (except for merch sales) will kill the possibility of any major act besides Ozzy signing up to do the tour. I don't know for sure how the payment structure for Ozzfest works - whether or not being a high-profile band means you get paid instead of paying for the pleasure of touring and whether there's a scale depending on your manager/label's negotiating ability - but I think there's some validity to his point. My feeling is that either this year's tour will be Ozzy and a host of unknowns, or Ozzfest will end up paying for major acts to fill out the bill when necessary and add that as another small drop to the total revenue loss on the tour.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Metal Meltdown

This past Thursday I had the pleasure to witness the genesis of an event that just might save heavy metal in Manhattan and Brooklyn: Metal Meltdown. Ok, "save" might be a bit of an exaggeration; it's not like there's been a dearth of metal shows coming to NYC from the outside world, but you certainly don't go from a West Village or Red Hook practice space to BB Kings in one shot - a local scene that doesn't involve a run up to Westchester or out to Jersey is necessary. The point of the Metal Meltdown concert series is to restore that scene (or create it anew - and there's an important distinction there) in NYC, because (according to the group's MySpace page): "the scene was like this back in the day. METAL MELTDOWN is all about taking the power of Metal we all love, and giving everyone a stage and a fully stocked bar."

Here's why the concept excites me: besides making think of the Priest song of the same name every time I read the title, I've always harbored a secret desire to be a part of a scene. My problem is that I needed some sort of outside reason to go find one to join; something like writing about music to provide an impetus. I also needed a scene I wanted to a part of - I went to enough indie rock shows after I first to moved to Brooklyn three years ago to know that I wasn't a hipster. Metal Meltdown is an opportunity for me to see a bunch of (potentially) good metal bands on the cheap and feel like I'm helping to create something cool.

It also didn't hurt that I had a kickass time at the first show, which was refreshingly heavy on prog and power metal, with all of the wow-factor that sweeping picks, guitar duets and screaming falsetto can bring. I'm not sure if the organizers are planning on keeping the (hopefully monthly) shows at Don Hill's, or how they'll be choosing future band lists, but I applaud their all of their efforts.