Sunday, May 19, 2002

Never Enough Kick-Ass Concerts Department

AH. Here it is, five days after the Mötorhead/Morbid Angel show, and I am fairly certain my hearing has returned to normal. All I know is, from this point on, I will bring earplugs to whatever show I attend. I will also make more of an effort to get into the moshpit, if it isn't too filled with muscled youth full of aggression, like this one was. (And with a much less slippery-wet floor!) I saw the skinheads--nice guys, really--who were in the pit and decided I was better off staying on the edge, occasionally bouncing off a friendly blow, picking up people when they fell down in the pit, and pushing people back into the fracas. One guy got cut on both temples from the sheer insanity. Maybe I'm getting too old and/or too girly for moshing. I got bruised anyhow, but without getting tangled up in bodies. Yay me!

(Readers who don't get into metal much might be tisking such carnage. But anyone who's heeded the call to mosh knows there are few finer experiences than when a driving riff sends you whirlpooling into a sea of bodies, each on their own trajectory while more-or-less following a chaotic spiral round the venue floor, colliding with grins, letting the savagery of the music soak in with each impact, knowing that if you falter the very guy who just slammed into you would not hesitate to stop and pick you up, shake your hand, and then catapult back into the fray. It makes tribal dancing seem dignified, and appeals greatly to those of us who have a bellyful of the hypocrisies of civilization. Such anarchic freedom, but without callousness, is highly refreshing, and the main draw for us life-long metal fans.)

The show opened with Today Is The Day. Originally, the tour included Speedealer, a Dallas band featuring Harden Harrison, formerly of Rigor Mortis. Part of me was let down when Speedealer didn't show up in Seattle, but I wasn't about to let their absence defeat me. So Today Is The Day did their set with a minimal soundcheck, throwing out samples and screams along with growls and tons of hardcore-influenced riffing. By the way, the carrier signal sound a modem makes is really hard on the ears when fed through guitar stacks and amplified through a club's PA system. But I guess that's the nature of today's metalcore bands. Destroy all ears before the main act shows up. All in all, they were pretty good, but not exactly my cup of tea.

During the intermission I went into the club's lounge for a cigarette and a place to sit. Oddly, I got hit on twice while in there. Alas, both times it was by guys. (I should wear something that screams "dyke" to the next show.) The first one was actually pretty cool, as he offered me a beer. I politely declined and he left me to my devices after that. I suspect that he mistook my friendly smile and nod as a come-on, rather than an appreciation for his air drum solo.

But despite the sexual handicap of not being the right gender for my heart or glands, Mr. Beer-And-Drums was Prince Charming in comparison to the second guy. He was dressed like Indy Rock Pete from the online comic Diesel Sweeties, but was big and stocky, and a bit slow. He bummed a cigarette off me then asked if he could sit with me. I pointed out there were no chairs at the table, and he just said "OK"--not noticing that he was standing right next to a vacant chair. I finished my cigarette and told him I was going to wander, so he could have my chair if he wanted. He took the seat, then said, "You know, you don't have to run off because of me." Ah, ya lummox, I'm trying to be nice and you're taking things way too personal. But you know, this IS a show, and I wanted to find a good spot for Morbid Angel's set.

There is apparently a small cult of Morbid Angel fans in Seattle, hopelessly devoted to the band that helped defined, along with Death, Deicide, and Cannibal Corpse, the world renowned Florida death metal scene. They had lined up along the barrier on the front of the stage and the pit area long before Morbid Angel's soundcheck, and were going crazy waiting for the appearance of Morbid Angel frontman and bassist Trey Azagthoth. When they showed up, the moshpit reached its zenith, as flying bodies smashed against each other, desperately trying to embody the exotic brutality of the riffs and the pounding of the drums.

It was a pretty solid show all in all, although Trey seemed annoyed at the lights--he once shouted at the guy in the booth to turn off "those fucking lights" in his face--and on the tiny stage at the Catwalk Morbid Angel seemed almost claustrophobic, but that didn't hurt the ferocity of their set any. Being more a fan of old-school death metal, I shrieked along with "Immortal Rites" and "Chapel Of Ghouls"; I was a tad disappointed that they didn't play "Opening Of The Gates," one of their newer songs and my favorite Morbid Angel song, but since their set was only an hour long I understood, and as far as I was concerned, they were most head-bangingly worthy.

Another intermission, another cigarette, and a bottle of water for rehydration, and I was floating. This time nobody hit on me. Still, reflecting back on it, I have to admit being flattered. I was worried how people might react to a transsexual at a metal concert, but I had no reason to worry at all, as I was ultimately a fellow metal fan. But the crowd was growing even thicker, and the pit was shrinking just because there was far less room. Time for Mötorhead!

There are a number of reasons why Mötorhead is one of the greatest bands ever. For one, they were punk before most punk bands had even formed, presaging even the mighty Ramones, which Mötorhead honored with a cover or two. They were also metal back when most "metal" bands were writing material that'd be comfortably played on any classic rock station in the country. Mötorhead frontsman and bassist Lemmy Kilminster has persued his vision of loud, heavy, blues-and-punk fueled metal for three decades now and shows absolutely no signs of turning down the volume, let alone stopping.

Furthermore, Lemmy is a bass playing GOD, let there be no mistake! While most bass players are most comfortable maintaining rhythm, Lemmy plays his bass with more zest and aplomb than Keith Richards has ever been able to summon in his whole junk-addled life. At the end of the show he held his bass like a rifle, "firing" into the audience note after soul-shaking note, before hanging the bass from one of the club's cables and letting the feedback give all his fans a deep tissue massage of afterworldly proportions.

There wasn't a period of Mötorhead's career that didn't have fair representation in the show, from the early hits "No Class", "Ace Of Spades", "Killed By Death", and "Bomber"; through the Orgasmatron classics "Doctor Rock", "Nothing Up My Sleeve", and "Orgasmatron"; right through more recent tracks like "Overnight Sensation." The only signs of age, if any, were that the band took two breaks, giving themselves and the audience five minutes to take a breath and a smoke, to drink their beers, then jump right back onstage and pummel our ears with their metal blessings.

Lemmy, as always, alternated between savagery and congeniality. One moment he called the audience "pathetic" for not yelling louder; the next he's assuring the crowd, "Don't take me too seriously, you are a great audience!" This works a lot better than the constant patronizing that most bands foist upon the crowd, and helps prove Lemmy and Mötorhead as true legends, cooler than all others, irreplaceable, and damn near immortal. If Mötorhead comes anywhere near your town, ever, GO SEE THEM--and wear earplugs unless you like to hear tinnitus for days on end! You will be grateful for heeding this advice, trust me.

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