The Metal Files

My Life. My Music. Your Voyeurism.

ProgPower XVII Review, Atlanta, GA, September 9-10, 2016

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Four years ago, Kelz and I went to Connecticut to see Arch/Matheos.  It was a pretty magical and at the time I didn’t think it could be topped…

That was until ProgPower announced that Fates Warning would be playing all of Awaken the Guardian with the band lineup from that album.

What?

I bought 3 tickets right when they went on sale last year as it was obviously going to sell out.  Kelz was automatically in and Rodney claimed the other.  Done and done.  And I mean done!  To be truthful, Fates and Refuge (aka Rage from Germany) were the only two bands on the lineup that I really wanted to see.  Anneke Van Gierbergen, formerly of The Gathering, was a little added bonus.

Thursday:  I flew into Atlanta that evening and Kelz was already at our hotel a couple of blocks from the venue.  We decided to get a couple of drinks and I contacted my friend, Charlotte, who is also from Austin about her whereabouts and knowing that she was planning to have dinner with John Arch and his crew.  She told me they had left the restaurant already but thought he may still be there.  I looked for them when we walked in and didn’t see them and just went to the bar to grab a burger and some beers.  After being there for a bit, all of a sudden like an apparition (yes, I went there), John popped up beside me at the bar.  My favorite singer of all time standing next to us.  What an awesome surprise.  He and his friends were on their way out and it was awesome that he saw us and said hello for a few minutes before heading back to his hotel to rest for Friday’s show.  We finished our food and drinks and went back to ours as well.

Friday:  We got up and made out way down to the hotel’s worthwhile breakfast buffet.  Mmmm…bacon.  After breakfast and getting cleaned up we headed down to the venue, Center Stage, in the Midtown part of Atlanta.  Doors opened at 1:30PM and we arrived about that time to see a few friends in line from here in Texas or from other festivals that we’ve attended.  Once inside, we jumped in line for band merch to get the 30th anniversary of Awake the Guardian shirts.  Done.  Canada’s Ascendia was on stage and I peeked in for a second to see the inside of the venue area.  I wasn’t into the band at all and to be honest not into any of the other bands that weren’t named Fates Warning or Refuge.

Fates was scheduled to do a signing at 4:30PM and the line was already forming by 3.  We got in line around 3:30 and just waited it out with our stuff to get signed.  I made the joke several times about all of the prog nerds in attendance, but I’m just as much of a nerd for the stuff that I love as well.  So the pot calls the kettle black…with glee!  Once the line got going and we get to the band, Joe DiBiase stood up and gave me a hug.  I gave him a Grand Slamm box set that he didn’t have as it was a spare copy.  He was stoked.  We’re both Thin Lizzy fanatics.  I just brought the first 3 album covers as I got all of my other stuff signed in CT at the Arch/Matheos show.  A few quick words with the rest of the guys as the line behind us was long.  We were originally told 3 items only and they were starting to limit it to 2 by the time we got to the band.  We got lucky to get all of our stuff done as the line was pretty long.  After the signing, Kelz took our stuff back to the hotel.  I’ve not been feeling so great for a week or so and am thankful that he made that run a couple of times.  I didn’t go in and listen to the next couple of bands either but by the time Kelz returned, we figured we should go inside, find some seats and hunker down as the room would surely be filled for Fates.  Rodney showed up right at this time and we went in and got some good seats on the side.  We sat through Gentle Storm’s set which was utterly boring except for the 2 Gathering songs she did.  Her voice still sounds great and her band was solid but the music just didn’t do anything for me.  I literally dozed off twice.  Scar Symmetry was direct support for Fates and I dozed for a second during their set as well.  They were heavy but….but…ugh.  I can’t deal with that stuff.  They have a lead singer who sings clean-style and a separate singer who does the cookie monster vocals.  NO.  That was a tough set to sit through, but we didn’t want to lose our spots.  After their set, they showed a video announcing the lineup for next year and it was very clear that I’d not go.  Angel Dust was the only interesting band named and from what I have been told, they don’t touch their first 2 albums, so I can’t really care.

Then Fates came on and the packed house went crazy.  They opened the show with The Sorceress and played all of Awaken in its entirety.  John looked very happy to be there and very comfortable.  His interactions with the band and the crowd were great and his voice was just plain fucking awesome.  The whole band was great although there were some apparently some technical difficulties with their monitors which caused a couple of slight mishaps but no train wrecks.  It was great hearing that whole album live, especially Guardian, Fata Morgana and Giant’s Lore.  Again, John’s voice was out of this world and I think he sounded better at this show than in CT 4 years ago.  After they finished with Exodus, the stage went dark for a few minutes and they came back for a 4 song encore which included Damnation, The Apparition, Kyrie Eleison and Epitaph. Their Keep It True show had Night on Brocken in the Kyrie slot. Their setlist showed both songs but DiBiase told me after the show that it was going to be one or the other and they obviously chose Kyrie.  So many emotions and great memories during their set.  They could have played any of those first 3 albums all the way through and I would have felt the same.

After the show we went out to the street.  The entire crowd was in awe and all you could hear was everyone praising the show and with good reason.  After a few minutes out there, John comes up to me and says, “Grab your friends and come with me.”  Wait. What?  YES SIR!  So I grab Charlotte and Steve when they were coming out and the 5 of us went backstage.  I really didn’t expect that but there we were just outside of Fates’ dressing room.  I saw some other friends back there as well.  After a little bit of time, we were welcomed into the dressing room.  It was very casual and I got to speak with DiBiase and his son for quite a while.  John hung out with us for a bit.  What an awesome guy.  He’s just a dude like us…but not really.  Mike Portnoy was back there and I said hello.  He didn’t care.  haha.  I wish I would have had the Book with me, though, as he’s listed with Majesty.  Oh well.  As things were winding down back there, we got to say goodbye to the band and I got to talk to Matheos for just a minute along with Zimmerman.  The conversation was pretty humorous but that story will be left in the dressing room.  Afterwards we met up with Oliver from Keep It True and Kiri at Gladys Night’s Chicken and Waffles.  The perfect end to an incredible night.

Saturday:  Another roll through the breakfast buffet.  Their bacon is on point.  We were trying to decide if we wanted to head back to the venue to do the Anneke signing or go bumming around to some records stores.  The record store decision won out.  I found some cool stuff at Fantasyland Records and Wax N Facts Records.  After returning to the hotel and getting our Rage stuff together, we grabbed some very boring pseudo-Mexican dinner then got back to the venue right before Refuge hit the stage.  We grabbed our seats and waited for the band to start.  It was clearly obvious how under-attended Saturday’s show was.  The floor was pretty open and there were tons of available seats.  Refuge hit the stage and just blasted through their set playing only material from their era as a trio, which meant I’d not get anything from my favorite album, Execution Guaranteed.  They sounded great all the way around.  Peavey’s vocals were solid and they were obviously having a great time on stage.  I remembered about 5 or 6 of their songs and seeing the songs Don’t Fear The Winter and Refuge live were certainly highlights.  It was just a fun set overall.  Haken was on next and I popped in for a minute before getting line for the Refuge signing.  BORING.

The Refuge signing line went pretty quickly as most of the folks in front of us were just getting either their tickets signed or the festival program.  Kelz was ahead of me in line and had quite a few items and they happily signed it all.  I had them sign the Book.  The guitarist was slightly interested in it, the drummer was just happy to be there and Peavy was asking questions about it.  Another great addition!  After we finished with the signing, Haken was still playing.  Ugh.  Devin Townsend was up next but neither of us cared so we went down to the merch room for a bit, had a couple of beers, said our goodbyes and went back to the hotel where we ordered a pizza and drank a beer while reflecting on another incredible weekend that is also another one of our Mitchfests.  Then sleep.

Sunday:  What?  Yes…breakfast buffet.  My flight wasn’t until later in the day so we hit one more record store at noon and didn’t find anything of note.  Kelz dropped me off at the train station, we said our goodbyes and I headed off to the airport on a couple of different trains filled with Atlanta Falcons fans.  That was fun.  At the airport I met Malik, who was also at the festival.  Great dude that loves prog metal.  He gave me a spare copy of Serious Black’s debut that I have yet to listen to, but I will.  I love the metal connections.

As I’ve said elsewhere, this show was the tops for both of us.  I can’t think of another show that could ever come close to that again.  I said that after Arch-Matheos as well, but this was even more intense than that show.

I met a lot of new friends of friends and it was great catching up with some older friends that I don’t get to see very often.

 

Alice Cooper Concert Review, Austin, TX, August 21, 2016

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Alice rolled into Austin again for the 3rd time in 2 years…and there’s nothing wrong with that!  I’d go see him every week if I could.

As it was last year, we were served an evening with just Alice Cooper.  I was quite pleased to see that the setlist was different for this tour.  I ended up with 3rd row seats at stage right on Ryan Roxy’s and Chuck Garric’s side.  Ryan pitched a pick perfectly to me towards the end of the show.

Overall it was great and Alice’s voice was in good condition and his backing band was as solid as ever.  One of these days I’ll get Garric and Hendrikson added to The Book.

The only down side to the show was the amount of fucking camera phones being held up the whole show.  Don’t get me wrong, I will snap some shots but I don’t keep my phone out and held up the whole show.  It was really annoying.  But I digress.

Highlights would be Ballad of Dwight Fry, Elected, The World Needs Guts and a good rendition of Ace of Spades.  It was a strong set overall.

I used a couple of my own photos as well as some from Christie O. and John A.  Thanks!

 

 

Written by The Metal Files

August 22, 2016 at 11:02 am

Joe Lynn Turner & Blackfoot Concert Review, San Antonio, TX, August 20, 2016

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I had a ticket and flight booked to see Joe Lynn Turner (JLT) at the Whisky in West Hollywood a couple of months ago and had to cancel the trip.  That was a major bummer.  That blow got lessened recently when Sean McNabb, bassist for George Lynch, mentioned to me that he was also playing with JLT and that they were playing in San Antonio.  Shortly after that Lynch show, the JLT show was announced.

Also announced was Blackfoot as the opener.  A quick check to see who was still in the band led me to their website which showed that they had no original members but were still managed by Ricky Medlocke.  Alright then.  I’ve never been a big fan fan of southern rock although hearing Strikes takes me back to being a kid as one of best friends, Petey, always loved that record.

After some time bouncing around San Antonio record stores, Rodney and I grabbed some dinner then headed to the venue to meet up with Matt who had tickets for another friend, Diego, and me.  The weather was complete shit.  The show was originally scheduled to be outside rain or shine but the rain was pretty heavy and it was moved inside.  Upon walking in, the place was packed, uncomfortably so.  I stayed inside for part of Seance’s set then just decided to wait out Blackfoot outside.  I could hear them perfectly and they were solid.  This new lineup had been together for 4 years.  It was weird after seeing them arrive to think that they were Blackfoot.  They looked like kids and 2 of the guys in the band were sporting mohawks.  Even prior to them finishing their set, I noticed some people leaving making comments about the lineup as they were walking out.

Then it was time for JLT.  I was pretty excited since I hadn’t seen him since he sang on Odyssey tour with Yngwie Malmsteen, one of my favorite concerts ever.  The band hit the stage to a thinned out crowd opening with the snippet of Over the Rainbow and going right in Death Alley Driver. The band was tight and Joe’s voice sounded great.  I Surrender and Power were up next.  The crowd was really into it.  Unfortunately they were plagued with some technical difficulties throughout the night but they worked through them and completely rocked.  Street of Dreams was a highlight as were Stone Cold, Spotlight Kid and Malmsteen’s Rising Force.  JLT has Steve Brown from Trixter on guitar and he was pretty damned good, even handled the Yngwie guitar solo pretty well.  It was a fun set.

After the show was the meet and greet with Joe.  It was inexpensive and I wanted Joe added to The Book.  They were letting us in 2 at a time and Matt and I went in together towards the end of the line.  Joe was very talkative and inquisitive about the patches on our jackets.  He was loving Matt’s Riot patch and mentioned how much he had loved that band since their early days.  I mentioned as I was pulling out The Book that I brought Riot’s Privilege of Power CD cover with me.  “Whoa, let me see that.  I haven’t thought about this one in years.”  I mentioned seeing the 1988 Yngwie show at The Boathouse and he said, “I remember that place.  A bit of a dump.”  Most bands say that.  haha.  We talked briefly about his time with Yngwie and both agreed that there should have been a second album with him on vocals.  While finishing up the signing and photos, I mentioned that he was my favorite singer for Rainbow.  I know that is not a popular opinion but whatever.  Totally true.  I like the Dio era a lot but it’s the JLT era for me any day.  He was also quite pleased to see the Odyssey album.

What a great show although I’d prefer not to see another show at this venue.

 

 

Holy Grail, Exmortus & Spellcaster Concert Review, Austin, TX, August 3, 2016

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The Fellowship of the Strings Tour rolled in to Grizzly Hall yesterday featuring bands full of really good guitar players.  Having seen all 3 bands before, there were no real surprises here.

Spellcaster hit the stage promptly at 815PM.  Yes, you read that right.  An early show on a weeknight.  What a novel concept!  There was no local opener and set times didn’t get announced until about an hour before the show.  Had this show been downtown, it likely would have been a 10PM start time.  For us day job folks, these early shows are great.  Spellcaster’s slot was only 30 minutes and they blew through their set with ease.  The crowd was at about 60 people by my rough count during their set.  They sounded great.  I can’t recommend their latest album, Night Hides the World, enough.

Immediately after the set I hustled next door to grab a couple of al pastor tacos from Taco More.  Delicious I tell ya!  There was only 15 minutes between sets as all 3 bands were sharing the backline.  Exmortus was already on by the time I got back and I enjoyed their set a little more than I did last time.  The growing crowd was really into it and I think they may have had about 80 people.

Holy Grail rolls through Austin on the regular and the crowd had thinned out a little, but was still very much into the show.  To be honest, this may have been the best of the 4 shows I have seen by them.  James Luna’s voice was pretty much flawless.  They finished around 1115ish and all three bands just hung around and drank with the remainder of the crowd.

I bought a Spellcaster shirt, said a few goodbyes to them and some other friends and went home.  It was a fun early night.

 

Helstar and Omen Concert Review, Austin, TX, July 30, 2016

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I love Metal Blade Records for being one of the first metal labels that were accessible in the mainstream record store market as a kid.  About 90% of their first 80 or so titles were winners.  One of those bands that stood above the fray was Omen.  My first listen came when Danile bought Battle Cry.  From there I was hooked.  Before owning any physical copies of their stuff, we traded dubs of their first 2.  Kelz had a dubbed cassette of those first two that was passed around between our circle of friends.  Would love to see the j-card of that again.  Such great memories.  Those first three albums are essential to any fan of traditional metal.  JD Kimball’s (RIP) vocals are the best.  After he left and their followup albums came out, I admit to losing interest.  I did buy their latest one, Hammer Damage, last week and I like it a lot.  It’s certainly got that old school Omen vibe to it.  They never came through Virginia back in those days and I had missed festival appearances in the last decade so last night I was able to scratch off another band from the list.  To be honest I had a little trouble sleeping the night before like a kid on Christmas Eve.

Come show day, I gathered up my CD covers, marked the spot in The Book, took a nap, showered up and headed to the show.  Doors were at 7PM and the first of the 6 bands was going on at 730.  I grabbed some tacos at the place next door then went in and caught the openers, Metalriser, from San Antonio.  I’ve seen them a few times in San Antonio and I like them a lot.  Very Sepultura-ish with slightly cleaner vocals.  It was a solid 30 minute set.

Locals Force of Rage came on next.  Pass.  Not a fan.  By their second or third song, my date had shown up and she hadn’t had dinner yet, so back to the taco place!  We had missed all of the next band, Death of a Dream.  After listening to their stuff earlier in the day, I was ok with missing their set.  We returned right as Black Thorn Halo came on.  She looked at me when their second song started and said, “Outside?”  Haha.  YES!  I’m not a fan of that band at all, 0%,  although I think their guitarist is excellent.  He also plays in a local Dio tribute.  Fantastic guitarist in general.

As we were outside waiting for them to finish, I let her know about my rabid fandom of Omen and she was understanding.  We went in as Omen was setting up and went right to the front of the stage.  I was utterly surprised how under-attended the show was, especially since Omen rarely plays Texas even though Kenny lives in Dallas and because it was Helstar’s album release party and they generally do well in Austin because of how infrequently they play here.  My guess is that there were maybe 100 total from beginning to end, but the crowd had thinned out by the time Omen came on.  But we were there, at the front of stage when they opened with Death Rider and Dragon’s Breath.  This is right at the beginning of their tour with Helstar and even though things were a little rough, they were still fantastic.  I was just so excited to see them, singing along with everything.  They played the title track from their new album, Hammer Damage, and singer Kevin Goocher forewarned us that it was only their second time playing it live and that it would be a little rough…and it was, but that was ok.  To be honest, it’s my least favorite song on the new album, but it’s not a bad one by any means.  They played 8 songs total and were scheduled to close with Teeth of the Hydra (!!!) but the other bands ran long, so Omen had to pay the price and get cut by one song.  Add to the fact that Helstar had a hard start time.  It’s my favorite song of theirs.  Bummer.  I met up with their singer right after the cleared the stage to sign my CD and he mentioned that Steve Wittig had left already as he had to catch a flight.  So none of my stuff got signed by him, but no biggie, I’ll see them again in California is October for Frost and Fire II and again April 2017 for Spring Bash.  Funny, waited 32 years to see them and now I’ll have seen then 3 times within 8 months or so.

Helstar came on and pretty much just destroyed the place.  They were promoting their new album, Vampiro.  It may have been the best I had ever seen them play.  Currently lineup features on Larry Barrigan as the other remaining original member and he’s a fantastic player.  The remnants of crowd (pun intended) that were left there piled into the floor and were very vocal and animated during the set.  James’ voice was as precise as I have ever heard it.  It was a fun set and the new songs sounded great.  My date enjoyed both bands as well, having never heard them before.

She was patient with me as I spent a few minutes with Kenny Powell to get some CDs and The Book signed.  “I love signing stuff, I appreciate anyone who appreciates us.”  I mentioned how much I liked the new album and he mentioned how much trouble they had in writing and recording it.  I said that it sounded like Omen.  “Perfect,” he said.  “That’s what I needed to hear.  I wanted it to sound like classic Omen.”  Mission accomplished.  He signed the CDs and paused to see the Best of Metal Massacre.  “What’s this?  Never seen this before.  Another comp that I never knew about!”  He signed the book and his wife was enthralled by it, taking a picture of the cover to get one of her own.

It was a great night overall seeing old friends, making new friends and seeing one of my favorite all time bands.

 

 

Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ Concert Review, Austin, TX, July 20, 2016

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Night two of DnC’s stand in Austin.  The band went on a little later this time, around 945PM and played until 1215AM.  My friend Molly came, which was quite a pleasant surprise.

What another great night.  DnC mixed up the setlist as they’re apt to do every night and played some more deep cuts.  As an added surprise Cheetah Chrome from The Dead Boys joined the band on stage to sing and play guitar on Sonic Reducer and just guitar Out in the Middle of Nowhere.  That was pretty cool.

It was a bit of a smaller crowd and I saw some of the same folks there from the night before.  It felt hotter in there as well.  Sweatin’ it out!  It felt good, though.  Rock and roll feels good.

Written by The Metal Files

July 21, 2016 at 9:16 am

Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ Concert Review, Austin, TX, July 19, 2016

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Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ (DnC) are in town on a 2 day stint and that makes me happy.  A band I was in back in the early-to-mid 90s played a handful of their songs and they became a band that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I didn’t get to see them back in those days and the first time seeing them being only 2 years ago during SxSW.

I was surprised to see that they got booked at The Sahara Lounge in Austin’s far east side.  This is a true dive bar in an area that’s starting to gentrify.  I had only driven by the location before last night.  Nothing was clear online as to when the band would start so I showed up at 8PM and parked.  There were only 2 other cars there and I thought to myself that this was going to be a poorly attended show.

The band rolled in a few minutes after I did and I offered to help them load in along with another guy who had arrived early.  This bar is tiny but has a lot of character and a friendly staff.

DnC took the stage at 930 and played for 2.5 hours straight.  Wow.  It was hot in there, too.  The little wall unit ACs just barely took the edge off of the heat, but I was fine with sweating it out with the band.  The band now features Warner Hodges of Jason and the Scorchers fame and is a top notch guitar player.  The rest of the band, including main man Kevin Kinney, sounded great.  DnC has a lot of material and I’m mostly familiar with some of the earlier stuff, but it all sounds like DnC.  Kevin is a great riff writer and lyricist.

All said and done, I think there may have been 50-60 people there, maybe a little more.  It was a very welcoming crowd as well.  They played everything I would’ve wanted to hear except for Smoke.  It was one of my favorites to cover and I love the riff in that one.  After the show I asked Kevin if we’d hear it at Wednesday’s show.  “We’d have to relearn it, mainly me.  I haven’t played that one in a long time.”  Bummer.  That being said, I’ll be at the Wednesday show as well.

 

Written by The Metal Files

July 20, 2016 at 12:10 pm