The Metal Files

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Helloween Concert Review, Mexico City, Mexico, October 21, 2017

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Friday morning as I was sitting at work I started seeing vids posted from the Helloween concert in Monterrey, Mexico from their sold out Thursday night show.  I thought they sounded great and I decided to just f’n go.  I had been hemming and hawing about it for a few months anyhow.  So I booked my trip.

I had never seen any version of the band and to be honest, I only like the Kiske era, but the setlist from Monterrey had just enough songs from that era to push my decision to a YES.  The flight I booked had only gone up a little from when I looked a few months ago and I got a good hotel at a decent rate.  I immediately took the decision of not bringing any luggage with me, just the clothes I was wearing.

Saturday Oct 21
The flight to Houston is only 30 minutes and was as smooth as could be.  When we boarded for Mexico, we had just pulled from the gate and then the plane stopped.  The pilot came on and said a warning light had come on and wanted to get it checked out.  Back at the gate, a couple of Southwest maintenance folks boarded and a few minutes later we were asked to de-board the plane.  The lady sitting next to me was an elderly lady who lived in Puebla, Mexico and was heading home from seeing her son who lives in Houston.  She didn’t speak any English and didn’t understand what was going on so I explained it to her in Spanish.  She asked if I would help her once back inside the airport and I of course obliged.  Gloria became my adopted grandma/abuela for the trip.  Southwest had a spare plane and we were delayed only an hour, but that hour obviously gave me less time to get to my hotel and to the show.  No problem.  Gloria stayed by my side at the gate and we sat together again on the new plane.  When they were passing out the customs and immigrations forms, she let the flight attendant know that she could neither read nor write.  I told her as long as she had her passport with her, I could fill out her form for her.  “Muy amable.  Gracias,” she said.  While in the air I got my forms filled out and then hers.  I said, “Gloria, usted necesita firmar aqui.”  She took the pen and placed an “X” in the space and that was that.  “Gracias, gracias.”  Once we landed in Mexico City, we were getting off of the plane and one of the airport attendants had a sign with her name on it for a wheelchair to assist her in the airport.  She didn’t see the sign and I said, “Gloria, tienen una silla para usted.  Fue un placer de conocerle.  Que tenga un buen dia!”  She was all smiles and she reached up and asked for a hug.  “Gracias por todo y para ser tan amable conmigo.”  I gave her a hug and said, “Por supuesto pequena.”  She was still all smiles.  I’ll never forget Gloria.

Once through customs, I got some pesos from the ATM and headed to the subway.  Last time I came, my friend Soledad was there to help but this time it was all me.  Once figuring out the ticketing for the metro train and purchasing ($0.50), I was on the yellow line north to the stop closest to my airport.  The train was pretty packed and I stood the whole ride.  It was that long but I was pretty tired from the trip.  Once off the train, I needed to get my bearings straight and started walking to the hotel.  While it was just under a mile, it felt like forever.  Once checked in, I laid down and grabbed a 20 minute pseudo-nap.  That gave me just enough energy to make it through the evening.

I called for an Uber ride and was off to the arena shortly thereafter.  Once dropped off, it was pretty crazy.  Much like the King Diamond show down there earlier this year, there were about 100 canopies set up selling bootleg band merch.  I didn’t buy any and went to the entrance to wait for Soledad.  I was going to try for some official merch but the line was insane and I didn’t want to miss any of the show.  So I got nothing.

I had other friends coming as well but ended up never catching up with any of them besides Diego from the band Voltax.  Great dude.  Once inside with Soledad, I needed to find some food.  This venue was huge.  We had tickets for the section down by the stage and headed down that way.  We had a food and beverage area which only served hot dogs, burgers, pizza and corn dogs.  I was famished and grabbed a corn dog and a Heineken.  That was my dinner…in Mexico City…a fucking corn dog.  haha.  I womped that down and we headed to our area.  We had to squeeze through a sea of people to get into the tiny gated entrance to the floor.  We realized pretty quickly that once we got in there, we weren’t getting out until the end of the show.

A few minutes after we were inside, Soledad’s boyfriend Alonso showed up.  And then boom.  The lights started to go down and Robbie Williams’ Let Me Entertain You came over the speakers.  Then a short pumpkin video came on the screens and BOOM, they open up with Halloween and go right into Dr. Stein.  Both Michael Kiske and Andi Deris split vocal duties in those two.  Then with just a short break and Kiske saying hello to the crowd, he went solo on I’m Alive and Kids of the Century.  I though both of them sounded great, especially Deris.  He’s still got quite a range.  Oddly enough, Kiske seem to be having a little difficulty in singing the lower parts in some spots but still sounded great.  Deris came back out and did 2 songs from his era with the band, If I Could Fly and Are You Metal?  Plain and simple, I never got into his era of the band.  His voice never did anything for me.  But man, he sounded great live.

After a few more songs from each of the 2 singers, it was Kai Hansen’s turn on the mic.  He didn’t get quite the same full song courtesy as the other 2 guys but did a medley of Starlight / Ride the Sky / Judas / Heavy Metal (Is the Law).  While I’m not even much of a fan of the Kai era either, he sounded great and I knew the songs well.  They did about 18 songs ending the main set with How Many Tears with vocals shared by Deris and Kai.  At the Monterrey show, Deris and Kiske handled the vocals.  Kiske seemed to be struggling in some spots but still got through most of the set fine.

The first encore consisted of Eagle Fly Free (Kiske only) and Keeper of the Seven Keys (Deris and Kiske but zzz).  The second encore was Future World (Kiske only) and I Want Out (Kiske and Deris) and that was that.  Show over.

Observations:  I think there were about 12,000 people there and it was sold out by show time.  Just like at the King Diamond show, it was pretty incredible being in a crowd of superfans like that.  Everyone was singing every word and I was surprised and impressed that everyone seemingly loved the Deris era stuff.  Everyone I met at the show was super friendly.  On Facebook the day before the show, people were saying that Kiske was lip syncing at the Monterrey show.  In one video I saw, I heard what I thought was a backing vocal track that you could hear but not see his mouth moving.  It was in the chorus to I Want Out.  Saturday, backing vocals were handled by Deris, Kai or the third guitarist (Sascha Gershner exFreedom Call) who was able to almost mimic Kiske’s vocals perfectly.  He seemed to be able to help as needed.  While Kiske sounded great and hit some sweet notes, the other three were definitely there to support in the endeavor.  I neither saw nor heard any evidence of any canned vocals at all.  Period.  The whole band was awesome.  It was so cool to have Kai, Michael Wiekath and Markus Groskopf together with Kiske again.  Weikath didn’t come out to the front catwalk very often, but Markus had no problem coming out there.  Also, drummer Daniel Lobel was incredible and no issue playing Ingo’s parts perfectly.  RIP Ingo.  Just an incredible show and I’m so glad I went.  Between some songs, they showed some silly pumpkin cartoons.  That wasn’t surprising really.  The crowd seemed to enjoy them.  I was impressed that Deris spoke pretty good Spanish.  It was really apparent that like myself, he spoke Castilian Spanish, and used some terms that are primarily only used in Spain.  But he did well.  Orale! I wish they had played Twilight of the Gods, but oh well. I also realized how little I care for the Keeper 2 LP.

After the show, you get assaulted by taxi drivers. Both Alonso and I called for Uber rides and they took about 20-30 minutes to arrive.  Traffic was nuts.  They left and a few minutes later my car arrived.  Riding around Mexico City during busy times will stress you out.  I couldn’t believe we didn’t get into an accident the way that everyone cuts in and out of traffic.  Seemingly it’s the norm.  Once back at the hotel, I asked the clerk if their bar/restaurant were still open.  Nope.  Does anyone deliver?  Not at this hour.  So I was relegated to a pack of chocolate Emperador cookies and a Pepsi for dinner in the room.  Then off to sleep.

Sunday Oct 22
Woke up and went downstairs for breakfast.  Eggs, bacon, hash browns, fresh orange juice, fresh guava juice and chilaquiles con salsa verde y crema.  The chilaquiles were pretty tasty.  I went back to the room and took a nice long shower.  I rested for a while and looked up record stores that would be open during the free hours I had before my afternoon flight.  I may have dozed off for a little bit.  I needed that.  I was wiped out and my knees and back were killing me from the night before.  I checked out and called for a ride to Retroactivo Records which was opening the earliest at 11AM. I got there at 11:05 and the doors weren’t open yet but people were mulling around the streets eating and drinking at the food stands an open air cafes.  It was nice to see.  A few moments later the owner showed up and I started digging.  Didn’t find much to speak of and headed off to Dejalo Ser Records (aka Let It Be Records).  They had 4 huge crates of metal.  Lots of cool stuff but not much stuff that I wanted for my own collection.  I still spent quite a bit and got a good cash discount.  Much of the stuff I bought is to flip.  Great store and they lady who runs it was really sweet.  I met two guys from Puerto Rico there as well.  They both live in Mexico City now but are headed back to PR next week to help in relief efforts.  They said they had been once since the hurricane and it was surreal.

From there it was time to head to the airport.  Uber is so cheap there.  My almost 30 minute ride to the airport with Jorge cost $8.  He was jamming Dream Theater the whole way.

I got checked in and through security quickly and waited at a café for a little while drinking Cubanas.  Delicious.  And then off to Houston for a 3 hour layover.  I got through customs quickly although I was questioned about my lack of luggage.  No biggie.  That long wait was a bit brutal as I was really tired and treated myself to some seafood.  I was back home and in bed by 11:30PM, wiped out.  I’m still tired today but also energized from another great trip to Mexico.  Time to explore Monterrey and some beach destinations next.

I don’t know that this tour will come to the States.  I don’t see them doing well outside of LA, San Antonio, Chicago, NYC.  Those places might get 500-1000.

 


 

Written by The Metal Files

October 23, 2017 at 2:26 pm

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Frost and Fire III Review October 5-8, 2017

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I’ve been lazy with reviews lately, surely you’ve noticed.  haha

What a long, wonderful and exhausting weekend and was about as perfect as it could get.

Kelz and I met up for yet another Mitchfest (our term) and it was, as usual, filled with mom jokes, ritual verbal abuse in general, jokes, tacos and all around camaraderie.  You might remember him from such reviews as Frost and Fire II, Ragnarokkr 2014-17, Arch/Matheos and ProgPower 2016.

Thursday, Oct 5
We both had super early travel times and got to LA early Thursday morning.  I arrived a couple of hours before him and got the car sorted out and such.  Once picking him up, we headed up to Ventura making a few record store stops along the way.  We got checked into the ClockTower Inn and walked to Main St for some grub.  A quick nap and a shirt change and we were off to the Ventura Theater for the pre-party concert.  The Ventura allows no in/outs so once you’re in, you’re in.  Also, beers are $10.  I hadn’t been drinking for a couple of weeks and held off for that night as well.  Also it would have put me to sleep pretty quickly.  So let’s get to the bands.

Glare – Kind of a thrashy thing.  Solid.  All of these dudes were in other bands and it was kind of a throw together but they pulled it off well.

Pounder – This band features my pal, Tom Draper, on guitar.  I met Tom at the first Frost and Fire (FF).  He’s an English lad with great guitar skills and did some time in the recent touring version of Angel Witch.  Pounder were solid and Tom’s solos were fucking great.  He’s a great player and look forward to seeing/hearing more from them.

Ruthless – They’ve been around since the 80s but I care as much now as I did back then, which isn’t much.  While they laid down a heavy set, I’m just not much into them.  I met the singer and the bassist after their set to sign The Book.  Great guys.  The bassist also played in Bloodlust, so that was cool.  Nice guys.

Cage – zzzzz.  I’m not into Sean Peck’s vocals at all and the band does nothing for me.  Seems like a nice enough guy, though.  He made sure to interact with his fans before and after their set, which is good.

Night Demon – Well-oiled machine.  Jarvis and co. have it down.  They played a killer set, the crowd was into it and I can’t see them enough.  I will say that I prefer seeing them on smaller, more intimate stages, but Jarvis and Armand make good use of the space.  Getting pictures of them standing in one spot is difficult.  They rule.  If for some reason you’ve not checked them out, do it.  The new album is fantastic and after getting to know these guys over the last several years either from Night Demon or Armand and Dustin’s previous band, it’s really nice seeing them do well as friends.  Lots more good things on the horizon for them for sure.

Tyrant – I saw Tyrant at Spring Bash in Wisconsin this past April and I couldn’t tell if they were bad because of technical difficulties or if it was just because they’re an awful band.  Thursday’s show pretty much nailed them to the “awful band” wall forever for me.  Just a week or so prior to the fest they announced that Robert Lowe (Solitude Aerturnus/Candlemass) had joined the band…and that they would be playing only new songs for FFIII.  What?  It would be one thing if they were supporting a new album that was out but that was not the case.  While it was a ballsy move to do their first show with their legendary new singer this way, it also should have been a dose of reality for them.  Especially since after their 2nd song or so, 90% of the people at the venue left.  Yes, they were that bad.  I wanted to think that maybe it was because they were getting used to the new songs and singer, but again, I think they may just be an awful band.  I left after 4-5 songs but wanted see how Lowe sounded with them.  I got what I thought I’d get, and that’s the Candlemass Lowe.  I didn’t like his releases with them either.  It wasn’t even worth sticking around after their set to meet Robert again for the first time since seeing Solitude in the early 90s.  The band is a bit delusional and I heard some horror stories about their “importance” while chatting with some folks over the weekend.  As most bands would, they touted their performance on Facebook as being great but showed a full stage shot of the band with a whole 8 people watching.  What a disappointment.  I’m done with them.

Friday, Oct 6
After getting up and grubbing at the mini breakfast buffet with Raven, we headed off to Thousand Oaks to do more record shopping.  Let me tell you, Breakfast with Mark and John Gallagher is awesome and intense.  I’d met both of them in 2000 and got to spend the day with them and a mutual friend in the DC area prior to their show that night with UDO.  When I had mentioned that to Mark, he stated without even batting an eyelash, “We ate that a nice Asian place, right?”  Fuck, I had even forgotten that detail.  It was great listening to them talking about the bands they had seen in the UK in the 70s.

So off to buy records.  Found a few things, mostly stuff to flip but a few cool pieces for myself.  Once back at the hotel, we opted for a nap (I’m old), then got cleaned up and headed over to The Bombay for the fest.  It was great seeing friends from festivals past and meeting a ton of new folks.  So, to the bands!

We missed the two openers, Gate Krashor and Bewitcher.  Bewitcher got rave reviews though.

Riot City – I had seen these guys in Chicago previously and they delivered an awesome set.  Can’t wait for some new recordings.

Substratum – It was great to see Amy on stage finally.  She commands your attention and she and her band delivered a well-received set.  Hope to catch them again.

Walpyrgus – This is a band that I should love.  It has members of Twisted Tower Dire and probably some others, but they just don’t catch my ear.  Everyone in the band is skilled and the vocalist can wail, but I’m just not into it.  I watched their first 2 songs then went outside and hung with friends.

It was about this time that I went to dinner with Oliver from Keep It True, Jim from Cirith Ungol and a couple of others to a fancy-ish Mexican place.  It was quite tasty.  Because of dinner, I missed Spell, Volture and Cauldron.  No biggie.  Not a fan of any of them.

Jaguar (Jarvuar?) – Garry Pepperd is the only original member left in the band and recent shows have featured Jarvis from Night Demon on vocals.  HE NAILS IT.  While it’s odd seeing him front a band without a bass strapped to him, he did a great job and the crowd loved the set.  Gary’s guitar playing is spot on.

Savage Master – It’s always great to see my friends in Savage Master live.  Friday night was no different.  Luckily for me I get to see them again this week.

Raven – Most folks that know me know I’m not a Raven fan, but I do like seeing them live.  They are putting out 100% at all times on the stage and it’s great seeing them and the crowd interact.

Back to the hotel for some rest.

Saturday, Oct 7

Another quick breakfast and we headed up to Santa Barbara for more records.  That was a bust in the one store we stopped in.  I didn’t realize until after we left that there was another store right around the corner from the one we went to that apparently had a better selection and prices.  Oh well.  Back down to Ventura for some grub and another nap.  Kelz went to the club early.  I needed to rest my back and knees some.  I missed Hellfire and Ovvl completely.  I don’t think I missed much that I would have cared about.

Skelator – Jason and company delivered a killer set and I’m always impressed with his insane vocal range.  One funny thing happened when he was calling out the next song.  “This next one is about a samurai!”  Someone screamed out, “Cultural appropriation!”  I was rolling.  Great set, dudes.

Venomous Maximus – My friends in VM were up next and delivered a great set.  I adore their new album.  Minus a few technical issues, they were great and were well-received.  A little history, their guitarists and drummer were the original guys that recorded the first Eternal Champion 7″ with Jason and me.

Iron Thor – I skipped them.  Thor sucks and I don’t expect a tribute to Thor to be any better.

Twisted Tower Dire – I’m not a huge fan but they’re killer live and the crowd was going nuts during their set.

Mythra – I’m relatively new to them and have only just recently started listening to their classic NWOBHM stuff.  It’s pretty damned good.  They delivered a killer set to the packed backroom.  It was a pleasure talking classic rock with their singer, Vince High.  He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll meet in the business.

Amulet – Skipped.  zzzzz

Cirith Ungol – The back room was so packed and hot that I didn’t actually get in there but watched a couple of songs through the side door and heard the rest through the window.  I’m still blown away that Tim can still sing like that.  They sounded great.

Manilla Road – They packed out the front room and played their asses off as they always do.  The crowd was singing along the whole set.  I’ll see them again this week.

Sunday, Oct 8

This was going to be a slow day.  I ended up meeting with some Texas friends, Rodney and Rob, and Jamie from Midnight to watch the Steelers game at 10AM.  That game sucked and I just went back to the hotel to chill while Kelz was out doing some sightseeing.  Ashbury and Bitch had early sets and I wanted to have the energy to make it through.

Ashbury – PERFECT.  Always.  I can’t recommend them enough.  Great guys, great band and eternal thanks to Dennis at Rockadrome Records for his initial re-release of their  Endless Skies LP.  They played for nearly two hours and it was great.  Mixed up originals with some covers by bands that they were inspired by (Who, Tull, BOC).  Always a pleasure.

Bitch – Betsy and I first started corresponding a little in the early 2000s and I still need to type up the handwritten history that she sent me back then.  I’ve been a fan forever and had never seen them live.  I wanted to see them in NYC a few months ago at Defenders of the Old but just couldn’t swing it.  No biggie, FFIII for the win.  The band went on and just rocked it.  I stayed right up near the front for the whole set and was just blown away by Betsy’s voice and performance.  She was awesome.  The 30+ year wait to see her live was well worth it and I hope to see them again.  Live for the Whip!

After the Bitch set, it was time to start saying goodbyes to those who remained for the Sunday show.  Always bittersweet.  We went to Dargan’s Irish Pub for a bite to eat and a beer then ended up at Sans Souci for another drink (or several).  That was fun and just what we needed to end the weekend’s festivities.

If I had any negatives, it would be about stumbling drunk asses.  I wanted to beat one guy down at the pre-party.  The next few nights he seemed to have it under control.  There was also a dude during the Bitch set that was about to get pounded, but Larry from Savage Master and I got him out of the crowd.  That stuff is to be expected, but it still sucks.  And it’s at no fault of the festival.

Monday, Oct 9

I’m not dead yet, but was a little slow and my back was not doing me any favors.  Nevertheless, Kelz and I packed up and headed down to LA to bum around for a bit since we both had late flights.  We stopped at a couple of record stores around Hollywood but the best part was stopping at Forest Lawn Cemetery to see the graves of Lemmy and Dio.  While standing at Lemmy’s, I could still hear him say about my back tattoo, “You should have picked a better album cover.”  His marker was small and quite unassuming.  He wouldn’t have cared.  Dio’s was grandiose and larger than life.  I doubt he would have cared either.  Also while riding around, we stopped at Pinches Tacos, my favorites in LA.  As always, they were delicious.

After all the running around in LA, it was time to drop off the rental car and head to the airport.  Kelz and I travel a lot together so I’m always happy to send him off because it’ll be too soon to see his bitch ass again.  haha.  Always a great time with him, though.

I’ve already received hints of FFIV and it will be another great time, I’m sure.  Great job to Jarvis, Dustin and Armand of Night Demon and all of their helpers to keep this festival running smoothly.  Things at Bombay were perfect especially with the Metal Market overflow area.  I love that bar.  And always great to see friends from festivals past…too many folks to name.

Click here for festival setlists.

 

Written by The Metal Files

October 11, 2017 at 8:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized

L.A. Guns Concert Review, June 16, 2017, Austin, TX

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Newsflash, Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis are back together playing rock and roll again.  The current reunion tour rolled through Austin last Friday night and yours truly (me) was there.  I’m going to do this one a bit differently with a Pros and Cons review.

Pros
1. Tracii and Phil are back together
2. They sounded great
3. Phil Lewis doesn’t age
4. Tracii is a killer guitarist
5. They played everything I wanted to hear plus a couple of new ones
6. I got so see some friends that I hadn’t seen in a while
7. $20 show

Cons
1. The show was at Texas Mist which means horrible sound and horrible lighting.  Cut the grass on your patio, too.
2. I saw 3 of the 4 opening bands.  Bummer, although the guitarist in Litzbomb is really fucking good
3. Vodka
4. I hate that Michael Grant is in the band and not playing solos.  That guy is an insane talent.

Written by The Metal Files

June 19, 2017 at 11:32 am

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Yngwie J. Malmsteen Concert Review, June 10, 2017, Houston, TX

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Last night I witnessed the over the top guitar playing of Yngwie Malmsteen for the 9th time since 1986.  While he is my favorite guitarist, I haven’t liked any of his releases post-Alchemy and his latest one with him on vocals is pretty boring.  That being said, I always love seeing him live.

Local (to Houston) band Apocalyptic opened up.  They were super tight technical shred thrash that at times reminded me of Agent Steel with a singer that could hit insanely high notes at will.  The only real issue I had with them is that the singer wouldn’t shut the fuck up between songs.  They could have played one more song with all the time he spent between songs talking about how cool it was to be there or “show me your horns” or “scream for me, Houston” over and over.  Less talk, more rock, please.  Their main lead player and bassist were also really good.

Of course Yngwie comes on and the wall of Marshalls is lining the back of the stage.  For the record, only 2 heads were actually used.  They opened with Rising Force and the bassist sang.  He sounded good but what irked me to no end was that they only did the first verse then the solo section.  What?  Most of the show consisted of instrumentals, which was fine.  That meant that Yngwie didn’t sing.  In Seventh Sign, the keyboardist sang and they did the whole song.  Sounded great.   Demon Driver and Heaven Tonight were also first verse and solo sections only.  To be honest, if you’re gonna cut out sections of songs like that, just do a full night of instrumentals.  In the encore, they ended with I’ll See the Light Tonight and, yes, first verse and solo sections only.

Beyond that silliness, Yngwie was awesome and I’m glad I went.  His back up band, basically tucked into one corner of the stage, was really good. Of course Yngwie threw a bunch of picks out and only high kicked a few this time.  I’m really glad he didn’t sing

The venue, White Oak Music Hall, holds 1200 and I imagine about 600-700 people were there.  Hopefully the 10th time I see him won’t be too far in the distant future.

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Written by The Metal Files

June 11, 2017 at 10:55 am

Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) Concert Review, May 31, 2017, Austin, TX

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It’s a given that my older brother, Robert, was my music ambassador in the 70s and early 80s.  Most everything that he liked, I liked, too, and one of his top favorite bands was Jethro Tull.  I had to miss the version that played here a year or two ago because I had to be out of town but last night made up for it.  Basically the albums from “Benefit” to “War Child” hold a special place in my childhood memories, especially “Aqualung.”  That album is perfect front to back.

For whatever reason, I had it in my head that Ian mostly just played flute and guitar these days and had a singer handling most songs, but that was far from correct.

This was a no camera, no loud noises, no whistling (yes, this was requested by Ian himself).  As security is mentioning the rules as we  were walking in, I asked, “Are we allowed to look him in the eye?”  She laughed and said, “Get outta here!”  I had purchased a decent seat on the floor in middle section on the outer aisle but my back has been bothering me lately and sitting in those tiny uncomfortable seats was not going to do me any favors, so I stood off to the side along the wall as it feels way better on my back.  Fortunately security never said a word about it and it was on with the show.

The band comes on and opens with Living in the Past which I always loved but thought it sounded like a song you’d hear while watching a film in elementary school.  I’ll go ahead and say this right up front, Ian can’t really sing any more, but he tries.  At times you’d get that pure sound from him, but mostly it was just him trying to get it out.  Even then, it wasn’t really that bad, not at all.  They stuck close to the early 70s and a few late 60s numbers which was fine for this aged crowd…I include myself in that moniker.  It’s no surprise that his backup band was incredible, especially his bass player.  Man, that guy was awesome.

While Ian’s voice may not be what it was, his flute playing was just fine as was his acoustic guitar playing, although it seemed that there was some canned guitar work going on.  They were obviously playing to some sort of click or backing track as every song was synced up to a backing video.  Didn’t really matter.  I thoroughly enjoyed the show and it was great seeing some good friends there.  They played most everything I wanted to hear except Cross Eyed Mary, Bungle in the Jungle and Fat Man (my theme song?).  I was super happy that they played Farm on the Freeway from “Crest of a Knave.”  I’ve always loved that album even though it really sounds more dated than the 70s stuff.

While it was an older crowd, they weren’t too old to rock and roll. :)

Written by The Metal Files

June 1, 2017 at 8:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

New Kids on the Block, Paula Abdul & Boyz II Men Concert Review, Austin, TX, May 21, 2017

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You read that right.  I went to the above concert.  It was important that I went.

History…

I like to give some personal background on the bands that I see, especially bands that have been integral to my musical life.  As strange as it may seem, Paula Abdul is in that mix.  Her first album came out in the summer of 1988.  I had just graduated from high school, had tickets to the upcoming shows by Yngwie, King Diamond and Iron Maiden.  But I saw a poster or maybe it was on MTV at a friend’s house (I grew up without cable TV), but I saw her face and just like in The Godfather when Michael first sees Apollonia, I was stricken by the thunderbolt.  BOOM.  I was knocked out, some might say.  From that day forward, she has always been the most beautiful woman on the planet that I had never met.  I bought the tape for Forever Your Girl soon after and actually liked it.  Cheesy pop songs, but enjoyable.  I do like some of that stuff as you are likely aware if you’ve been reading this site for a while.  With Paula, I became a fan of her music and bought her next 2 albums as well.  All 3 of them are really good for what they are.  And seeing her in videos throughout those years always made me all gushy.  I will even admit to watching the first couple of seasons of American Idol with the volume turned down just to see her pretty face and that gorgeous smile.  Most any of my friends that I’ve known for a while have known about my obsess…erm, crush on her.

Flash forward to not too long ago and when a friend alerted me to this concert announcement.  I had never seen her live and don’t ever remember her coming around my hometown area in the 90s.  She probably did, but I was a little less apt to see pop shows back then.  Nowadays, I don’t care what someone may think.  I wasn’t thrilled about the other two bands on the bill but it made sense.  I saw that there was a VIP presale for NKOTB and I wanted to be as close to the stage as possible, so I got the best I could get without buying the meet and greet.  Right.  Don’t really care about meeting the grown boy band.  Boyz II Men had announced their VIP package shortly after but nothing about Paula’s mentioned on the venue page or on her website.  Bummer.  A bout a month or so after buying my tickets, the venue announced that her VIP package was forthcoming.  So of course I hyperventilated briefly and checked the site daily for an update.  After about another month, detail finally appeared and the sale was on.  I’ll just say that it was a painful purchase as I bought the top tier pass which included an “intimate Q&A” in her dressing room.  I’m thinking, “A lot of people are going to be in there and it’s going to suck, but whatever…”  *Click*  Done.  I had a brief moment of buyer’s remorse but quickly got over it.

So a few months passed of just getting myself mentally prepared to finally see and meet her and then the actual day arrived.  My friend Sarah Beth accompanied me and we got in before the crowds.  Since I had the NKOTB VIP tix, we got 2 swag bags full of stuff.  I gave them both to her.  It had a hat, socks and some other stuff in there.  I couldn’t care.  I was just getting more and more giddy the longer we had to wait.  Originally the meet was supposed to be after her set but they moved it to before Boyz II Men so that we wouldn’t have to miss any of the show.  Okily Dokily.  So they line us up at the backstage door and asked the three of us with the super access to go last.  There were only 15ish people for the meeting.  Boyz had about the same amount and NKOTB had 140.  That was an interesting crowd of people to see.

They start herding in the first folks for their photograph and it was happening fast.  Her tour manager came out and said to just wait after the last of that group was done.  Then we were all three ushered into the photo room.  It was us 3 guys, Paula, her photog and another tour manager.  The first guy went up, she gave him a hug and they snapped a few pics.  I was second.  I was dying.  The moment was here.  The voice in my head right now as I write this is of the narrator from A Christmas Story.  haha.  So the first guy is done and she puts both of her hands out and says, “Come here.”  Yes ma’am!  She looks at my vest and looks up at me and says, “This is awesome.  You’re precious.  Give me a hug!”  Yes ma’am!  Here’s where things got difficult.  She gives me a huge hug and I gushed hard, almost to the point of shedding tears.  I said in her ear, “I could so easily cry right now.”  She said, “Go ahead!”  I responded quickly with, “I don’t want to mess up your makeup.”  She let go and laughed.  “That’s funny!”  We snap a couple of pictures with her in my arms then she says, “OK, I’m going to kiss your cheek now.”  FUCK.  I bend down a little and wrap my arms around her again and she kissed my cheek and they snapped another picture.”  The world stopped for that moment.  To be honest, I’m still not sure it has started spinning yet.  I said, “May I kiss you back?”  “Of course!”  Sadly the photog didn’t get a pic of that one.  The last guy went next and had her hold a sign for his friend.  He was only in town on business from Belgium and a friend from back home wanted him to hold a sign with his friend’s name on it with Paula.  She was gracious and obliged.  He was a pretty interesting guy.  As we were in line, he showed me pics of his son with Dave Murray and Adrian Smith at a restaurant in Italy from a while back.  Super cool.  After this, the manager said to hold on a moment and then we’d be escorted to her dressing room.

We get in there and there are 2 sofas.  She gives us each a nice little hug again and asks us to sit.  The 3 of us on one sofa and her and her 12yr old Chihuahua with her on the other.  The lights were low, some candles were burning and one of the managers poured each of us a glass of champagne.  She welcomes us and thanked us for coming.  Then asked if we had questions.  I don’t remember what the first guy asked.  She gave him a nice long thoughtful answer and then I asked her about the album that she had supposedly recorded in the late 90s or early 2000s and why it never came out.  She explained about her plane accident and subsequent surgeries and that she wasn’t physically able to tour, so she didn’t want to put anything out if she couldn’t support it on the road and then American Idol happened and took up a lot of time for the next several years.  “I have so much stuff recorded from those sessions and even some newer stuff that I’ve been working on.  You’ll hear new stuff soon.”  The Belgian fella asked a question about Idol and about how she handled seeing the rejection of very talented singers.  Again she gave a nice long answer.  We got to ask another question but the first guy didn’t have anything.  So I asked if we were going to get anything from her third album, Head Over Heels, in the setlist tonight.  She said that Crazy Cool was talked about but that it ended up that nothing from the album was happening.  Bummer.  I really like that album a lot and I told her that.  “What’s your favorite off of that one?”  Loaded question and I had to try not to get all uber nerd, so I just said right off the top of my head, “If I were Your Girl, My Love Is for Real and Missing you.” “Oh wow, that’s sweet.”

We were in there for about 20 minutes and they said it was time for us to go.  She thanked us again and as we were about to walk out, I asked, “Paula, may I ask one more thing?”  She said, “Of course” and I asked if she’d sign my arm.  “Absolutely.”  As she’s walking over to me to sign it, I told her that I was going to have it tattooed in after the show.  She looked me dead in the eyes (me dying again) and said, “That’s incredible.  I will absolutely do this.  May I draw a little heart, too?”  My obvious answer that probably sounded like MushMouth from Fat Albert was, “You may do whatever you’d like, Paula.”  She signed it carefully and the photog snapped a couple more pics.  Again.  Dying.  Well, dead at this point, really.  I snuck in one more little hug and floated out of the room.  We were then ushered back into the photo room where dude was printing out one of the photos and put them in a frame for each of use.  As we’re waiting, a girl comes in with a pro video rig strapped to her and on of the managers said she was filming the tour documentary.  She asked us about being fans etc and then said, “Which one is getting the tattoo?”  I acknowledged and she turn the video camera back on and asked about it.  She filmed me and the sig on my arm and said, “This will most certainly make it to the final footage.  This is so awesome.”  One of her dancers came out and snapped a pic with us.  Cool dude named Gianni(?) from Amsterdam.  And that was that.  We could hear the intro music for Boyz II Men starting as we were walking out of the backstage area.  Some tall guy wearing all white damn near knocked me over running by me and turned quickly and said, “Sorry man!  Didn’t mean to hit you!”  I said, “All good!”  He ended up being of the singers for Boyz II Men.  haha.

Sarah Beth was waiting for me in the lobby area with a beer waiting for me.  She saw the look on my face and understood where my brain was.  I sent a quick text to my buddy Chris Carlton that she signed my arm and I needed his services after the show.  “Done.”  We had discussed previously and he was stoked to do it.  We finally go in and BIIM was on.  They were really good.  I’m not a fan at all but they put on a really good performance.  Two of them played instruments while covering a couple of Lenny Krazitz songs.  We were 6th row center, but were still pretty far back because of a catwalk and NKOTB party pit in front of us.”  BIIM was out near us quite a bit.  Again, they put on a great show.

After a quick set change, Paula was on.  Much of her set was all the way up there at the stage with her dancers so were weren’t really that close.  But it was good.  During her more intense dancing songs, she was obviously lip syncing, but on some of the slower ones, she was definitely singing and she sounded just fine.  For the last 2 songs, she was out on the catwalk in front of us.  I was still just in awe of everything that had just happened and that I was finally seeing her live.  It was just awesome and I’ll admit that during Rush, Rush I got choked up.  Total time and place type of song, ya know?  She closed with Forever Your Girl and that was that.  The show was over.  Her set was shorter than BIIM’s which was a bit of a bummer.  But let me tell you, at 54, she’s still got the moves, in heels even, and she is still absolutely extremely beautiful.  I hated that it was over.

New Kids came on and I don’t really know their stuff beyond The Right Stuff.  The middle aged women in there were loud.  LOUD.  When they were infront of us on the catwalk, their main guy, Jordan(?) looked at my vest and gave a thumbs up.  Whatever holmes, I’m not here for you.  haha.  After about 4 songs, they all came out into the crowd and did some other song I didn’t know.  That was pretty cool.  Then they all donned UT football jerseys and did another song from the rear stage.  As that ended, both Sarah Beth and I had had enough.  We were both tired and hungry so we left mid set and took a pedicab down to Valhalla where Chris was hanging out.  We grabbed a quick bite then walked across the street to the tattoo shop.

Fifteen minutes later, the tattoo was done.  We all went back to Valhalla where I bought a couple of rounds for our group and then I went home.  I was wiped out.  So much of an emotional drain.

Meeting her was special and pretty much a once in a lifetime kind of thing.  It was a great experience reminiscent of meeting John Arch or Adrian Smith.  HUGE.  She was so incredibly kind and sweet.  Hopefully we’ll get a new album eventually.

For the record, I washed my vest a few days before the show.  It was pretty ripe.  I also got a haircut and trimmed my beard.  I needed to look good for her.  Well…as good as I could.

Written by The Metal Files

May 22, 2017 at 8:59 pm

King Diamond, Exodus & Strike Master Concert Review, Mexico City, Mexico, May 6, 2017

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This could also be titled “Monkey Boy Goes to Mexico.”

After a lifetime of being too lazy to get a passport, I finally got it late last year.  Originally my first out of country trip was going to be to Germany to hang out with Marco and see the RockHard Fest but work got in the way.  Right around that time this show got announced for Mexico City and I asked my friend Soledad if she was going and could be my guia (guide) if I came down.  She obliged, I sent her money for my ticket, booked my flight and that was that.  Other than Puerto Rico a couple of years ago with Rodney, I’ve never been off of US soil.  I have several friends in Mexico City (DF) that I’d previously met at metal fests here in the US and was looking forward to seeing them again.  It was going to be a quick trip…fly out Friday morning and come home Sunday night.

My flight was from Austin to Houston, Houston to DF.  The flight to DF was slated to be full and I sat with a nice older lady from Dallas who was headed down to see her dad.  We ended up being the only row with the middle seat left open.  Fortunately I speak pretty good Spanish although I don’t get to use it enough these days.  Having it spoken to me at normal conversational speed is my weakness, especially if there’s a lot of other noise going on, but I did well with the passport agent and final security guy.  Soledad met me outside of the terminal and we walked a ways to get to the subway.  Lots of damned stairs which wouldn’t have been so bad if I didn’t have my suitcase with me.  But I managed it and needed the exercise anyhow.  We hopped on the subway and headed to La Zona Rosa part of DF where my hotel was and where she lives.  All eyes were on the big white guy with the grey beard on the subway, that’s for sure.  But I never felt uncomfortable once.  We arrived at the first hotel, I checked in and we went up to the room.  NOPE.  What a piece of shit, to be honest.  We ended up going back down and she got it refunded minus a small fee.  It wasn’t that expensive to start with, but still.  Her mom suggested another right around the corner and it was perfect.  Inexpensive, clean and secure.  That was that.  Once I got settled for a few minutes, we headed out to grab a bite to eat before meeting up with Sara.  You might remember her from such concert reviews as Spring Bash 2017.  We went to a nice quaint restaurant nearby called Las Chalupitas.    I wasn’t super hungry but we had an appetizer and I just ordered a pibil taco and she got something that was on masa with mole, chicken, and cheese.  I tried one and am still not sure whether I liked it or not.  I’ve had several different types of mole in the last ten years, but this was really different.  My taco was great, too.  With the 4 beers we had, the total was about $15USD.  What?  Orale!

From there we went over to McCarthy’s Irish Pub.  Unfortunately they were out of many of the local beers, so I just went for German beers that they had.  Sara showed up shortly after and started ordering Cubanas, which is sort of like a michelada.  They were pretty good.  I got a message from a friend from Monterrey, Marco, who was in town just doing some recording with a band, not going to the show.  He’s the bassist for the killer band Maligno.  We hit the beers pretty hard then decided to go to El Deposito…for more beer.  I really liked that place a lot.  Another friend, Fernando, from Monterrey was also in town and he met us there for a few minutes before heading to meet up with other friends.  Soledad’s friend, Alonso, showed up as well and we had a great time.  Sara went hope after McCarthy’s.  After we decided that we had had enough to drink, we hit this little taco shop that was really good.  After eating, we said our goodbyes and Soledad and I walked a few blocks back to our respective habitats.  Again, never felt uncomfortable at all.  SLEEP.  I was wiped out.  The bed was hard as a rock and didn’t do so well with my ongoing back problems.  I didn’t sleep that well at all.  The room had shades that blocked all outside light, so one of the times that I woke up, I checked my phone for the time and it was almost 9AM.  I opened the shade and it was sunny out.  I threw on some clothes and went down to and had breakfast in the hotel.  It wasn’t good.  Whatever.  I walked down the street and hit the 7-Eleven for a red bull.  I contacted Soledad to see if she was moving yet.

After a shower and some chilling out, we met up and headed to El Chopo.  This is a huge flea market type thing that is filled with art, bootleg band shirts, CDs, DVDs, food etc…and records.  Very important.  The records.  It was part of the reason I wanted to go to DF.  We got there a little later than I had hoped but no big deal.  Next to El Chopo is the library, which was pretty neat.  We walked in and looked around.  It was set up pretty well.  Once at El Chopo it was a sea of black…meaning a shit ton of metalheads everywhere.  It was awesome.  We met up with friends Peter and Mau who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years.  Great guys.  They introduced me to a lot of their friends, all who were super cool.  I bought 9 records, but could have easily bought 50 more had I taken more time.  I didn’t want to bore Soledad too much but she was great help if I couldn’t understand someone very well.   Next time I go, I will be better prepared to at least try and haggle.  I didn’t try that with anyone but was happy with all of my purchases.  I also ran into my friend Sarai who was hanging out with Olaf from Ambush and his girlfriend.  That was a pleasant surprise.  After El Chopo we went over to El Espanol, which is a bar with no AC that sells 40oz bottles of Leon beer at 100 pesos for 2.  What a deal!  Decent beer, too.  It was great being in the middle of all that.  Soledad’s lovely friend, Alba, met up with us at El Español as well.  After killing that 40oz together, we took the bus back to La Zona Rosa.  I needed to drop off my records and wanted to get a quick siesta.   We stopped for some quick food and I got some al pastor tacos that were absolute perfection.  I got about 25 minutes of sleep which was perfect.

I met them in front of Soledad’s building and we all rode with Alonso to El Palacio del Deportes for the concert.  Riding with anyone on the highways in DF is pretty terrifying but he got us there safely.  It was nice seeing other parts of the city, even if they weren’t the best parts of town.  We get to the venue and park quickly.  Along the sidewalk area there were 20+ vendors selling all bootlegged King Diamond and Mercyful Fate shirts and related stuff.  This show was a bit of a big deal there as it was King’s first appearance ever in Mexico.  I didn’t buy a bootleg shirt in hopes that official merch would be available inside.  They had some official shirts but didn’t have any in my size, which was a bummer.  Oh well.  Once inside the only beer they sold was Corona.  Gross.  I had one and couldn’t stomach a second one.  Luckily I found a bar serving whisky and cokes.  After seeing a few more friends, we ventured inside for the first band.

I didn’t realize until we arrived that locals Strike Master were opening.  I had been wanting to see them so this worked out…sort of.   They got shafted on the sound.  Absolutely horrible, but they played their asses off.  Up next was Exodus.  While I loved the Pleasures and Fabulous albums back in the day, they don’t do anything for me now.  We watched most of the set from the back and ended up back in the lounge area until it was time for King.  Right as Exodus was going on, I sent a message to King’s bassist, Pontus, to see if he had time to say hello.  He said to meet him at the gate at stage left so I did.  I had first met him a couple of years ago when King played Austin.  I got to tag a long for dinner with him and King’s usual sound man, also named Pontus, who I also knew from a few years prior seeing Hammerfall.  It was nice to catch up with him for a few minutes.  He said he had been ill for a few days and I asked if he had drank the water.  The look on his face said everything.  Haha.  Moctezuma 1, Pontus 0.

Exodus played fine, I guess, I just couldn’t get into them at all.  Sound was pretty bad for them, too.  I think the venue is know for its terrible sound.  I recognized much of the set, but really just didn’t care.  If I never heard Toxic Waltz again, that would be ok.  I guess I should be glad they didn’t play Cajun Hell, eh?

A curtain with King’s logo was raised in front of the stage and after a quick removal of Exodus’ gear, the lights go down and Uriah Heep’s The Wizard started.  It sounded like everyone one of us there were singing it together.  It gave me chills a couple of times.  Lots of positive energy.  The curtain came down and then came the intro from the album Them, Out of the Asylum.  Fists and horns were in the air and unfortunately a bunch of camera phones.  The band whips in to Welcome Home, Sleepless Nights and Halloween all sounding superb.  King’s voice sounded great and he doesn’t hide the fact that he uses 2 background singers now.  You could easily hear his voice along with theirs in the higher notes.  He introduced the band and they played Eye of the Witch, Melissa and Come to the Sabbath.  King and the band were excellent and the crowd loved it.  And then Funeral started launching the Abigail part of the set.  It’s my favorite album that King has done, solo or with Mercyful Fate.  It’s perfect front to back.  We were all having a blast.  It was a bit funny though that the band messed up the order of the set and flipped Abigail and The Possession.  King made a little joke about it and moved on.  Then Black Horsemen started, which made me a bit sad all of a sudden.  It meant that the show was almost over.  But it meant the an incredible show was almost over.  I was waiting for the ending solo/reprise part of the song and then finally pulled my phone out to catch the last 45 seconds.  For me that is the greatest and most powerful ending of any album that I have ever heard.  The way it builds up, the solo, the double bass drums and the ride cymbal and the crescendo at the end…then the acoustic outro.  Then a heavy sigh from seemingly everyone there.  That was it.  Done.  El fin.  Joder tio.

After saying goodbye to some folks we piled back into Alonzo’s car, dropped off Alba near her place then went for some late night food.  The wanted Pozole and I just needed a taco or two (hundred).  We went to this very busy 24hr place and I ended up getting a quesadilla which was very different than what you get on this side of the border.  It was fried, but perfect.  The chips with crema and salsas that they give as an appetizer were absolutely incredible. I had never had them with the crema but will ask for it at some local places.  From there it was back to the hotel.  It wasn’t really that late but we were tired.  I slept a lot better this time.

After waking up the next morning, I threw on some clothes and took a walk down to El Angel de la Indepencia.  It was only about a half mile from the hotel and it was a clear, cool and gorgeous morning.  I walked into the 7-Eleven and grabbed a Red Bull and started walking.  Almost every person I met along the way said, “Buenos dias” as I walked by.  The little food stops were cooking and people were eating, reading the paper and just hanging out along the way.  It was very nice to see.  Once I got to the Paseo de la Reforma, it was filled with people skating, running and cycling.  The roundabout at The Angel is huge and was closed off to cars for what appeared to be some sort of marathon.  The whole scene was really nice.  I crossed the roundabout over to the monument and snapped some photos.  It was pretty neat and really pretty.  The sun was shining and there was a nice cool breeze.  I contacted Soledad on my way back to the hotel to see about a late breakfast before leaving.  My flight was at 4pm and it was recommended to be at the airport 3 hours before takeoff.  I went back, packed up, showered, checked out and met her out front.  We went to the little café next to my hotel called Quo and had chilaquiles rojos con crema y queso.  They were delicious and I couldn’t finish them even with her help.  The waitress asked if it was too spicy and Soledad replied to her in Spanish with, “Not at all, he loves spicy food.”  Most food there wasn’t spicy although some of the salsas were perfectly hot.  After closing the check we walked out front and said our goodbyes.  I was feeling really sad, to be honest.  I had the best time in such a short time and just didn’t want it to end.  Soledad was the perfect guia (guide) and just a wonderful persona all around.  I called for an Uber ride to the airport and she waited with me until he arrived.  Then our hugs goodbye and a photo and I was off to the airport.  The driver was super nice and didn’t speak any English.  We had a nice conversation about the City and I told him how much I loved it there and that I wanted to come back soon.

Once at the airport, I breezed through check in and security.  I checked my main bag and kept my records with me just in case something happened to my bag.  Once at the gate, I ran into my new friend from the flight in and we caught up about our weekends.  We ended up sitting together again and kept our middle seat open.  The flight out of DF was delayed about 45 minutes and I almost didn’t make my connection in Houston due to the customs and bag retrieval/re-check process and in the insanely long line through security.  I had an “A” group boarding pass and the “B” group was halfway through when I walked to the front of the line and handed my boarding pass to the agent.  “There you are!”  I grabbed a seat and we were off to Austin shortly after.

I was pretty wiped out when I got home.  Tired and a little sad, too.  But also extremely happy.  This was a perfect trip to make as my first one out of the states.  No problems really to speak minus the first hotel and the delay upon leaving.  Everything worked out just fine.

Tengo que regresar pronto!  Gracias a mis amigos en DF y estoy muy agradecido por mi amiguita Soledad.  Gracias por todo, gueya!  :P

 

Written by The Metal Files

May 9, 2017 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized