The Metal Files

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Hellion Concert Review, Austin, TX, October 24, 2014

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Hellion was a band that was always just in my peripheral in the 80s.  I owned their album The Black Book and liked it, but still never listened to them that much.  When I saw that they were playing downtown on Friday, I had to go.  I was absolutely exhausted from the events of the week with Kelz, who I had dropped off at the airport earlier that day.  I tried to get a nap in before heading downtown but it wasn’t a good one.  Normally I take a ride via Lyft downtown because I know that I’ll be drinking.  I didn’t have the energy or wont to drink that night so I drove my car.

San Antonio’s The Blitz Krokus tribute band played right before Hellion.  I love Krokus and was excited to see that my pal Chris Cronk (Karion/SA Slayer/Fates Warning/Jag Panzer) was on vocals.  They were fun but their set got cut short.

Hellion had a stacked lineup in the band backing Ann Boleyn.  Georg Dolivo from Rhino Bucket on rhythm guitar, Maxxxwell Carlise on leads, Greg Smith (Wendy O Williams/Nugent/Alice Cooper/Rainbow etc) on bass, Scott Warren (Keel, DIO, Heaven and Hell) on keyboards and Simon Wright (AC/DC, DIO) on drums.  This made for some great signatures in the book!

The band was rock solid and Ann’s voice sounded good.  The whole band was great but I was especially drawn to Greg’s bass playing.  That guy is just a beast of a player.   One of the best I have ever seen.  The whole show was fun and after getting the sigs in the book, I went straight home and straight to bed.  Highlight for me was Living In Hell from the Black Book.  Great song.

Raven & Night Demon Concert Review, Austin, TX, October 11, 2014

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As far as NWOBHM goes, much of it is hit and miss for me.  Raven was always the miss.  I could never really put a finger exactly what but I think it started with their look and the lyrics.  It was just a bit too goofy for me.  I had seen them live previously in 2000 and was able to have lunch with the Gallagher brothers and their families that day as we shared a common close friend.  That was a great day and those guys are really fun to hang out with.

I ran into John again earlier this year when I was in Richmond, VA for the Satan show there.  Always polite.  Flash forward 14 years and Raven is doing a 2 month long tour across the USA with my pals in Night Demon (Ventura, CA).  I had met those guys in Chicago earlier this year when Eternal Champion played the Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalyspe.  I had known the drummer for a couple of years prior from his other band that used to come through Austin on the regular.  Great guys.  I was excited that they were coming to town and offered up my house for them to stay after the show.

The night before the show I was downtown in my favorite bar and there was a couple sitting next to me.  The guy was wearing a venom shirt so I struck up conversation.  They were from Chile.  Victor spoke perfect English but Javiera didn’t really speak any.  I speak Spanish pretty well so we all had a nice talk.  She had won a VIP contest to ACL, all expense paid.  Pretty cool.  Neither of them really cared for much of the music at the fest but weren’t going to turn down a free trip.  I asked him if he liked Raven and he said, “Hell yes!  One of my favorites!”  I let him know about the show the next night and they were excited.

On to the show.  Sweat Lodge opened and I’m just not into the hippie stoner rock stuff that much.  I guess they’re good at what they do, I’m just not into it.  Night Demon comes on and blaze through their set efficiently.  Their brand up upbeat NWOBHM inspired metal went over well with the crowd that was there.  They especially got everyone’s ear by playing a cover of Road Racin’ by Riot.  Riot is a big deal in Texas and it was only coincidence that Night Demon played it.  The metal faithfuls loved it.  They gained a lot of new fans that night.

Raven comes on and the crowd loved it.  There were about 10-15 people right up front who all first saw Raven and Metallica in 1983 in Austin and this show was a bit of a reunion for them.  That was pretty cool to see all of them right up front singing every word.  As stated above, I’m not into Raven but they are energetic live and John can still hit the high notes pretty well.

Satan Concert Reviews, San Antonio and Austin, TX, October 21-23

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Days 2-4 of Mitchfest with Kelz consisted of 3 straight shows with Satan in San Antonio and Austin and it’s just easier to satanALLIMG_6402combine the reviews all in one post.

We mess around Austin for a little bit before heading back to the house to rest up for Tuesday night’s show with Satan in San Antonio at The Korova.  We got there a little before Satan showed up and helped them load their personals from the van to Korova’s green room.  They looked pretty good after playing Houston the night before.  They recognized us from the Richmond show earlier in the year.  Satan was being backlined on this tour by the venue and/or the opening acts.  Seemed that there were a few compatibility issues with guitar heads to the effects that Ramsey/Tippins used but those quickly got fixed with the arrival of a couple of Marshall amps.

Austin based Firestarter ’82 opened the show and I stuck around for their set as their bassist is a good pal of mine.  She did a fine job as always.  Local thrashers, Aggravator, played next but we missed them as we were having a couple of drinks next door.

We get back right before Satan hits the stage and as expected, they delivered an awesome set to about 40-45 people.  The crowd size was quite unfortunate, especially for a city that often touts itself as the metal capital of the USA.  Things change I guess.  And it was a Tuesday night…but still.  How often are you going to get the chance to see Satan?  Satan played flawlessly as expected.  They were great when we saw them in Richmond this year and I expected no less this time.  They did not disappoint.  It really can’t be stated enough how great of a guitar duo Russ Tippins and Steve Ramsey are.  Ross’ vocals are stellar, especially for a 61 yr old man who can still belt out the falsetto with no problem.  Sean and Graeme held the bottom down as Satan rolled through a mostly similar set to earlier this year with only a few changes.  They were awesome and have become one of my favorite live bands.  Brian’s not a big talker between songs beyond introducing the next song and I’m fine with that.

It was also great seeing some old pals that I hadn’t seen in a while, namely Rob Doom, Jaime, Mando and of course Rodney who was the show promoter.  A new friend, Henri, came in from Holland just to see these shows with Satan and Militia.  Pretty cool!

Kelz and I left promptly after the show for the 75 minute drive back to Austin.  Of course it was full of conversation about the show and old times.

Satan Setlist The Korova, San Antonio, TX, USA 2014

Day 3 of this Mitchfest didn’t consist of much other than foraging around town for food and resting.  This night’s show consisted of Satan, local speed/thrash metal legends Militia and my band, Eternal Champion, opening up.  What a perfect bill of classic styled metal!  We had to be at the venue by 730 to load in and we were backlining all bands that night.  We did a quick rehearsal and then headed over to Beerland to load in.  We got everything set up and then grabbed a quick slice of pizza and a beer across the street to wash it down.  There was a good crowd rolling in after the doors opened at 9.  Lots of friends who work for one of my company’s clients came.  It was awesome seeing a bunch of non-metalhead friends show some support like that.
We hit the stage a little after 10PM and breezed steadily through our set.  Minus my bass being out of tune for the first verse of the first song (wtf?), the set seemed tight and was extremely fun.  The crowd was right up front with us and it was a blast.
Up next came one of my favorite bands, Militia, who have been here since the mid-80s and reemerged about 5 years ago.  Original drummer Phil Achee came to town from Alabama to play this show and it was great seeing/hearing him on the skins again.  It just felt right.  Mike Soliz’ vocals were on point and I’m still amazed every time I see and hear him on stage.  He’s a beast of a singer and one awesome guy.  I think they gained a lot of new fans that night.
And then Satan.  The crowd had thinned out a little but not that much and Satan rolled through the same set as the night before.  I enjoyed seeing and hearing Graeme playing through my bass rig.  He made it sound a lot better.  haha.  After finishing their main set and destroying everyone who was left for their set, the house lights came on and the music from the soundboard started playing.  The band was a little disappointed that they didn’t get to play their encore.  So was I.  But it was a great show.  I’ve not had that much fun playing a show in ages and getting to do that with 2 of my favorite bands made it even more special.

Satan Setlist Beerland, Austin, TX, USA 2014

Day 4.  We’re tired.  Lack of sleep, not eating properly etc was catching up to my old ass.  haha.  We went out and got some tacos and bounced around to a few places before getting the nod from Satan’s tour manager that they were ready to eat.  I had offered to take them to my favorite BBQ joint in town and we chowed down.  Two of them are vegetarians so their options were limited but they seemed satisfied.  The others loved the ribs, sausage and pork tenderloin.  I think they were happy to just get something that wasn’t pizza or from a fast food restaurant.  I have to admit that it was a bit surreal having a meal with those guys.  Yeah, they’re just people, I know that.  But they’re also people that I’ve been listening to since the early 80s.  It was fun.
This night’s show featured a totally different lineup consisting of Sweat Lodge, Ditch Witch and Natur, all bands that I’m not into in the least.  Not at all.  0%.  Although I think Natur could be a little more workable to me if their riffs went somewhere.  These bands also draw the “we dress like we’re 1975 hippies”.  I’m pretty sure most of them were born in the mid to late 80s.  Not my thing but whatever.
I stayed outside for the two openers and watched about half of Natur’s set.  I was strictly there for Satan.  As they were setting up, Kelz and I staked our spots right up front.  I wondered how many people there would be familiar with them but it seemed like a decent amount of people were.  A pit lasted throughout most of the set and Kelz and I were flung to the stage a few times each, but I didn’t mind.  It wasn’t a violent pit at all and reminded me of the 80s a bit.  Satan played through their set and were great again.  Two nights in a row they didn’t get to do their encore.  They also didn’t do their instrument as there was no where for Brian to stand during that song.  He had trouble getting to to the stage during the opening song as the crowd was packed up there.  Again, Satan destroyed another show.  After finally getting kicked out after closing, we were exhausted.  Completely.  Totally worth it.
This show marked the last night of MitchFest.  It was great seeing Kelz come to my city and hang out.  We had a blast and always look forward to the next gathering of Mitches.

Blaze Bayley Concert Review, Austin, TX, October 20, 2014

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I found out last minute that former Iron Maiden singer, Blaze Bayley, was coming back to Austin again to play a couple of shows at the Anderson Mill Tavern.  I’m still confused as to why he plays that far away from downtown, but I believe this was the third year in a row that he’s played there.  I saw him last year at another strange place on the outskirts of town.  With even a little bit of minor promotion they could easily have had a crowd at a downtown bar.

My lifelong friend, Kelz, got to town that night for a week long MitchFest and he was down for going to see it.  We left straight from the airport to the bar.  When we got there, the lady at the door said, “You came late but it’s still $20.”  Ouch.  There were maybe 20 people there.  We walked in as he was talking to the audience and they went right in to Man On The Edge followed by The Trooper…and that was it.  Wait.  What?  After a few short minutes, they came back out and played an obviously unrehearsed version of Wasted Years and that was that.  It was similar to the version that they played last year, which was to say that it wasn’t good.  Sorry.  It was horrible.  I’ll give Blaze credit that he works the crowd pretty good, like he’s playing in front of a huge amount of people.

The only real bright spot to the show was that AJ Pero from Twisted Sister was playing drums for these few USA shows.  So of course I had The Book with me as well as the first 3 Twisted Sister CDs.  We got to speak with him after the show and was in good spirits.  We talked about the Sister 2004 show in Richmond, VA at an open air venue when a violent storm came up and they cleared the place.  Sister came back out to about 1/3 of the original crowd and just killed it.  He signed out stuff, took some pics with us and Kelz and I headed downtown for a beer at Jackalope before finally heading home.  We had a busy week ahead.

I doubt I’ll see Blaze again if he comes to town unless he brings someone else that’s in The Book with him.

The Eagles Concert Review, San Antonio, TX, October 15, 2014

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eaglesThroughout the 70s, the Eagles were everywhere. You couldn’t get away from them at all. They were played on the country and rock stations. They made millions. Snorted and drank away millions as well. To say I was a huge fan back then would be a big exaggeration. I’d easily say I like them more now than I did back then. My oldest brother, Mark, was more into country and southern rock than the heavier stuff that Robert and I were in to. In 79 or 80, I remember him bringing home The Long Run LP. Something about that album caught me. It’s easily my favorite by the band and I spun Mark’s copy dozens of times over the years. I Can’t Tell You Why is my favorite Eagles song of all time with King of Hollywood, In The City and Take It To The Limit rounding out the top list. I knew In The City from The Warriors movie which I saw in a drive in theater a year or so prior to this album coming out.

I never saw them live before and when they toured in 94-96 for Hell Freezes Over, I was pretty much disinterested in seeing anything non-metal related.

Then The History Of The Eagles documentary started airing on Showtime. I watched it a good 10 times. I love band documentaries and this is one of the best I’d ever seen. It rekindled my interested in the band and I went back through and started listening to the back catalog again, pre-Long Run as that one is always in rotation with me.

When they announced the “History” tour, I missed getting tickets to the Dallas show and was a bit disappointed until the second leg of the tour got announced and they scheduled a date at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. Sweet! I got tickets a little later in the day that they went on sale and didn’t get good seats at all, but I didn’t care that much; I just wanted to be there. So I got 4 tickets for my friend Gordon, his wife and whatever friend I decided to take. For this show it was Margarita. She’s a good concert companion and lives on the way to the venue.

We get to the venue around 7:15 but it took us almost 40 minutes to just get into the parking lot. It was a pain in the ass but we got in the venue, hit the bathrooms, grabbed a beer and went up to our seats, side stage damn near the top of the venue. I’m not afraid of heights, but these seat locations were a bit up there. One wrong move standing up and losing balance and you could easily roll down some rows over people. I wonder how often it happens during Spurs games there. The seats up there weren’t comfortable in the least. We were right on top of each other with zero leg room. I’ve sat in lower sections there and it’s much better. Lesson learned.

Then the lights go down and there’s Glen Frey on stage with an acoustic guitar. He goes right in Saturday from the first album. Bernie Leadon comes out and sings Train Leave Here Tomorrow Morning and little by little the other remaining members come out…Don Henley, Timothy B Schmidt and Joe Walsh.

They played 12 songs to start with ending that set with Take It To The Limit with Frey on vocals as Randy Meisner is obviously not in the band now. The entire band sounded 100x better than I expected a bunch 65+ year old guys to sound. I was utterly blown away by that. Guitar playing was spot on as well. During the break I decided to grab a tshirt. They had 2 designs that I liked so I bought them both. Expensive but whatever, I love black concert shirts with tour dates on the back. BUT WAIT. Where’s San Antonio on this list? I got back in line to get a refund as SA was not on there. The lady looked through all of the other shirts and couldn’t believe SA wasn’t listed. Then she refunded my cash. Unfortunately during that time, they played I Can’t Tell You Why. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan! Schmidt sounded incredible; I just wish I had seen it. *sigh* My buddy was working one of the other merch booths and apparently some of the shirts did have SA listed. I think he grabbed one for me.

Best as I could tell, the band didn’t sound tuned down at all to help with the vocals. Even if they were a half step down, it was still impressive. Timothy, Don and Joe all sounded like they hadn’t lost anything. Glen’s voice was a little hoarse when they started and he even mentioned it at the beginning, but he still sounded fine. If there was a high note he knew he couldn’t hit, he just didn’t try. Respectable. But the other guys were nailing the high harmonies.

I never realized how big Joe Walsh’s hands were. I swear they looked like gorilla hands and they just swallowed the guitars he was playing. He’s listed online as 5’10” but looks a lot bigger. They played Pretty Maids All In A Row, In The City, Life’s Been Good and Funk 49 in the 2nd set and it was impressive. First encore was Hotel California and we took the decision that in the 2nd encore (after looking at the setlist online) to leave. They started Take It Easy and we bailed. We missed Rocky Mountain Way (blech!) and Desperado (the reprise was played earlier, so we got a taste of it). It was a good decision. We got out and onto the highway home fast.

Side note: walking in, security staff said no pictures or video allowed and it was announced a few times before the show started. It was nice not staring into everyone’s cellphones all night.

Another great show with great friends.

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Written by The Metal Files

October 16, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Lizzy Borden Concert Review, San Antonio, TX, August 16, 2014

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Last night marked the third time since 2001 that I’ve seen Lizzy Borden.  I’ve been a fan since being introduced to them via their first EP.  They’re currently touring on the “30 Years of American Metal Tour” and last night was the 3rd of three shows in Texas.  One of my lifelong friends lives in San Antonio so I picked him up before the show and we headed to Fitzgerald’s after grabbing some Thai food.  We missed the first band and stayed outside on the patio during the second band.  Not my thing.

James Rivera’s Metal Asylum came on next playing songs from many of the bands that’s been involved in over his career as well as some of his favorite cover songs.  The sound in this venue was horrible and I’m not sure that it was equipment issues.  Beyond the huge shows at the AT&T Center and Alamo Dome, every bar gig that I see in San Antonio sounds like shit.  Last night was no different.  Rivera sounded good through most of his set, but it did seem that he was having trouble hearing himself.  Between going in and out during most of his set, it was enjoyable.

While on the patio during the second band, I saw Lizzy and his bassist, Marten, by their RV and spoke to them for a minute.  Lizzy asked how the crowd was and I told him, “Maybe 100, probably a little less.”  He looked disappointed.  By the time that they came on stage, a lot of the crowd had already left.  I figured that would happen as a lot of the crowd was there to see Rivera as he’s still very popular in Texas.

Lizzy came on and the sound issues continued through his set.  I stood up front for much of the show but moved around to gauge the mix and it was just awful.   Nonetheless, the band was solid although I was surprised to see them with only one guitarist which happened to be Ira Black who has notably played with Metal Church and Vicious Rumors as well as being on the last Lizzy album.  He played well but some of the guitar harmony stuff was noticeably absent.  Lizzy did costume and mask changes between every song which got a little tedious.  I’d love to see him just do a tour with no makeup.  Maybe I’m just getting old but I don’t need the theatrics to keep me interested in a band or their show.  His music stands on its own for me.  But that’s his thing, so be it. It was good to see them again and I really liked watching Marten’s bass work.  He’s good.

It was a fun show and a great night with one of my best friends.  And for the record, Lizzy and drummer Joey Scott (Lizzy’s brother) signed The Book in 2001 back in Norfolk.

Firefall Concert Review, Austin, TX, July 25, 2014

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I’ve been a Firefall fan since the 70s.  AM Gold from Mom’s car radio or in the house.  I love a lot of this 70s rock and obviously Firefall is no exception.  I’ve never seen them although I’ve had plenty of opportunities over the years.  It needs to be stated that Strange Way is one of my favorite songs ever.  The simple keyboard part in the chorus just makes that song intense for me.

Last night’s show was at the One World Theatre on the outskirts of Austin.  It’s a small venue (400ish?), all seated and not a bad seat in there.  It’s a non-profit venue and I love seeing shows there, although they are always a bit more expensive.   I didn’t make the decision to go last night until just a few hours before the show started.  After doing some quick research of the band members, I saw that their bassist, Mark Andes, was in Heart during the 80s, and Spirit and Canned Heat in the 70s.  I looked him up in The Book and he’s listed with Randy California, so that solidified my decision to go to the show.

The band hits the stage and I was a curious as to how they’d sound vocally with all of them being in their 60s.  That curiosity was quickly satisfied.  Those dudes can still sing.  Non-original guitarist/singer, Steven Weinmeister, nailed the high vocal singing duties.  He’s been in the band since 93.  Original members Jock Bartley, David Muse and Mark Andes all sounded great vocally and Jock’s guitar solos were killer.  Solid drummer, Sandy Ficca, has been in the band since 85.   The band just nails it.

I was happy to finally hear Strange Way live, but also Cinderella and Mexico.  They told cool stories about playing Austin in the 70s as well as playing on Austin City Limits.  I had a huge smile on my face the whole show, albeit it was a short set.  At the end, they said to hang out and they’d meet everyone afterwards.  Everyone came out except for David Muse.  I did speak to him at the stage right after.  That guy is a killer saxophonist and flutist.  Sitting in on percussion with Firefall was One World Theatre executive director, Hartt Stearns.  That was obviously not his first time playing percussion and was quite impressive.

After the show I met Mark Andes and as usual I get, “What book is this?”  and “Why am I listed in here?”  haha.  I showed him the Randy California page and he smiled and said, “Wow, that was a long time ago.”  He signed the book, we spoke for a minute about his years with Heart and I moved on.  The rest of the band was sitting at a table signing autographs and taking pics and I had the rest of them, sans Muse, sign my ticket.  Cool dudes and they were all in good spirits.

 

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