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Frost and Fire II Concert Review, Ventura, CA, October 7, 8 & 9, 2016

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Last year I attended the one day Frost and Fire Fest and had a wonderful time.  It was a foregone conclusion after that weekend that the mighty Cirith Ungol would be playing this year’s fest.  It was announced several months ago that this year would be a 3 day fest with days 1 and 3 at the Bombay Bar and Grill again and day 2 at the Majestic Ventura Theater.  I bought 4 sets of tickets automatically as I knew Kelz, Rodney would be interested and obviously I’d be able to hold the other set for someone.  So flights and accommodations got booked and it was just a long countdown until the actual time to go.  Ultimately I had to sell the 4th set as one friend who wanted to go had some other issues to take care of.  Our friend JT/Petey was slated to come as well, but unfortunately life happens.  He was severely missed but we’ll see him in Richmond in a few weeks for Satan.

Our 3 flights all arrived at LAX around the same time, we grouped up and took the rental car to Ventura.  Upon arrival and checking into the Clocktower Hotel, we ran into the guys from Midnight.  Their main man, Jamie, is a huge Steelers fan so we chatted about that briefly.  Rodney peeled off with them and Kelz and I hit the Saloon BBQ for some tri tip beef, a shot and some beers.  We had been up since super early to catch our flights so we went back to the hotel for a quick nap.

Doors were at 5PM and we got there right around that time to get in line, get our tix for Friday and Sunday and go in the venue.  Having attended FF previously and the last 3 Ragnarokkr Fests, I knew quite a few people there.  Fans traveled from all over the world to attend and that was great seeing many of them.  Ran into Jerry Hartman from Lethal and his lovely wife, Sue.  He gave me a CD of his latest project (pictured below).  Can’t wait to listen to it.  Tim, Robert and Jim from Ungol were hanging out as well and I got Jim to sign The Book.

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Here’s the Day 1 band rundown:

Livin Alive – Watched a little bit of them but nothing caught my ear
Seax – Had seen them a time or 2 before and enjoyed them much more this time
Vanlade – Watched a couple of songs but couldn’t get too interested.  Solid though.
Salvacion – Listened to them from the patio while hanging with some friends.  All great guys but just can’t get into them
Resistance – Missed their whole set
Widow – Only heard them from the patio
Midnight Chaser – Delivered another solid set comparable to their Ragnarokkr show.  Highly recommended
Blade Killer – Always delivers!  I caught most of their set inside then the last couple from the patio
Thrust – Solid performance.  Met Ron and had him sign The Book.  Super nice guy
Slough Feg – Enjoyably odd band to watch
Omen – Got to catch up with Wittig before their set to get my stuff signed since we didn’t get time at their Austin show.  They delivered a great set to a packed back room and I finally got to hear Teeth of the Hydra.

By the end of Omen’s set, I was starting to feel the drag from the travel and 2 hour time difference.  Totally worth it.  Hung out with some friends for a bit before they emptied the venue and people watched for a bit before heading back to the hotel.  Also had some incredible Al Pastor tacos from the truck outside.  The mom in the truck was cooking up a huge pan of red chili peppers for blending and it was mesmerizing to watch.

Saturday morning.  A little tired and some back issues.  Getting older sucks.  Kelz and I grabbed some breakfast at the hotel and then headed out for a bit to do some record shopping.  We started at Salzer’s Records which I had been to the year prior.  I picked up MSG’s Assault Attack in VG+ condition for a good price.  We then went to American Pie Records.  That is an experience.  Their owner, Dennis, is quite the character.  He has a ton of stuff in there, too much to have gone through in a day but I did find 2 KISS records to add to my collection.  From there we went to Grady’s Records in downtown Ventura.  Small metal section but I found some good rock pieces that I had been looking for.  From there back to the hotel for a 30 minute or so nap.  It helped.  We then walked over to the Majestic Ventura Theater for Day 2.

The theater had a no ins or outs policy so we had to decide if we wanted to try and survive whatever food they served inside or grab a bite nearby and miss an early band or 2.  We chose to go in and ultimately the food was palatable.  Beer prices were steep.  $8 for PBR draft?  $10 for premium beer?  Not that I planned on drinking a lot, but that kept it to a bare minimum.  It is a nice big venue with several tiers for viewing.  It was great running in Attacker’s Mike Sabatini outside and Steel Prophet’s Steve Kachinsky.  Awesome dudes.  Upon entry I jumped right in the merch line for Ungol.  I got a shirt and blinked on getting the limited edition Paradise Lost reissue LP.  When I went back for it, they were all gone.  img_4907

Day 2 band rundown:

Spellcaster – They rocked it although it was a really short set.  Great seeing them again.
Axxion – I had seen Axxion in Chicago in 2014 at Ragnarokkr.  I think they were a little better this year, stage costume selection notwithstanding.  See pic below.
Visigoth – Do I really even need to say anything about them?  Aside from them being the nicest dudes, they are great live and Jake Rogers is the best frontman in metal right now.
High Spirits – This band seems to be a love em or hate em band.  I personally love them.  Great hooks, solid vocals, positive energy.  It’s happy rock for sure.  They were great as always and look forward to seeing them on tour in 2017.  I bought a shirt, LP and 7: from the new album, Motivator.
Night Demon – This is Jarvis’ fest and fitting that Night Demon is on the bill.  They laid down a solid set including a new song, Stranger in the Room.
White Wizzard – At first I thought they were a weird choice for the fest but after seeing them play all of their High Speed GTO EP with James Paul Luna (Holy Grail) on vocals, my mind was changed.  Solid set even though I was never really a fan.  They played Hollywood Tease by Girl and I couldn’t place who wrote it until after their set.  Thanks for clarifying, Rodney.
Mindless Sinner – Probably the biggest surprise of the fest for me.  I had listened to them in the past but still wasn’t huge on them.  Their set was great.  They were absolutely great.
Midnight – While never owning anything they’ve ever done, I always enjoy seeing them live.  Super energetic show with some good tongue in cheek lyrics.  Saturday’s set was on par with previous viewings.
Cirith Ungol – A band that I’ve always liked, but never loved.  They were fringe.  They are fringe.  When they were announced to do the meet and greet last year, I revisited the catalog and grew a new appreciation for them.  By the time they were coming on, we went to the upper balcony and sat.  My knees, back and feet were killing me and this was perfect viewing.  They opened with Join the Legion from Paradise Lost and went right into I’m Alive from Frost and Fire.  They pretty much played everything one would expect to hear at a Cirith Ungol show except for maybe Death of the Sun.  I was absolutely blown away by Tim Baker’s voice.  He still sounded like it was the early 80s.  Mind-fucking-blown.  The whole band was great.  Garven’s enormous drumset with Paiste cymbals and gong looked and sounded fantastic.  Jim Barraza handled most of the leads with ease and Greg Lindstrom handled the rhythm and some leads beautifully.  Jarvis handled the bass lines perfectly and added some great backing vocals.  It was really just a perfect set by them and I couldn’t be happier.

After the show, everyone was ushered out of the venue and just hung around the sidewalk.  Everyone was in high spirits (pun intended) and I got to see a few folks that had come in just for that day’s show.  I was pretty elated but also dog tired and went back to the hotel.  Kelz went across the street to this tiny venue for an after party show with Hessian and Alchemy (MX).  I went back to the room and fell right asleep…happily.

Sunday morning…worn the hell out.  Woke up with only about 5 hours of sleep.  Went down and had breakfast with Rodney and Midnight.  Most of that discussion was about the Steelers.  Perfect!  Back to the room to clean up.  Kelz went down and had breakfast while I did some packing and such.  Luckily I ran into the Mindless Sinner guys in the lobby and got them to sign The Book.  Doors were at 10AM at Bombay.  We stopped in there for a minute to check out the merch and I picked up a few things.  From there we went to Jockomo Records where I found a few more classic rock pieces.  Ashbury wasn’t scheduled until 4:15 so we decided to grab lunch and ate some extremely bland Indian food.  The garlic naan was great, though.  Afterwards it was back to the hotel for a recharge nap.  NAPS!

Back to Bombay where I finally got to talk to their owner, Diego.  We have a mutual friend in common who used to play there a lot but now lives in Austin.  It was way more relaxed on Sunday.  He bought me a shot.  Sweet!  The crowd started flowingimg_4908in common who used to play there a lot but now lives in Austin.  It was way more relaxed on Sunday.  He bought me a shot.  Sweet!  The crowd started flowing in for Ashbury’s set.

Day 3 band rundown:
Ashbury – This band just seems to set me right.  I think it’s a combination of the demeanor of Rob and Randy Davis.  These guys are so laid back and peaceful.  They played a 2 hour set consisting of 8 songs from Endless Skies, 3 songs from Something Funny’s Going On, 5 covers (3 from Jethro Tull, 1 from BOC and 1 from The Who), and two new songs, Out of the Blue and Mean Guitar (Rock and Roll Star).  They were great.  They’re always great.  I love seeing how many metalheads love them as well. They didn’t hang out much after their set, though.  That was too bad.
Black Death Resurrected – I watched a little bit from the back of the room but just wasn’t that interested.
Grim Reaper – Steve and company laid down a solid 17 song set which included several from their new album, Walking in the Shadows.  His current lineup is solid and his voice sounded great.  I’ll see them again this weekend in San Antonio.

After the goodbyes to friends in the club and on the street, we headed over to Dargon’s Irish Pub for a quick bite before heading back to the hotel.  We had to be up at 430AM to drive back to LAX to catch our flights.

I’ve done 3 Ragnarokkr fests, 2 Frost and Fire fests and 1 ProgPower and this past weekend tops them all for the overall experience.  The location is perfect because of everything there is to see and do within walking distance in Ventura, the lineup was superb and just the overall feel of the event from the patrons to the organizers.  No fest is perfect, but this is as close to perfect as I have been to so far.  I can’t wait for FFIII!

Extra special thanks to Jarvis Leatherby (Night Demon/Cirith Ungol), the Night Demon guys, Cheryl and the whole FF crew for making this a success by obviously working their asses off on this.  Also to Oliver Weisenheimer for his generosity and for being so fucking cool.  It’s always great seeing the Visigoth guys as well.  Great bunch of dudes.

To see the setlists played, click here.

Saint Vitus & The Skull Concert Review, Austin, TX, September 27, 2016

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Saint Vitus, The Skull and Witch Mountain kicked off their latest tour here in Austin, TX Tuesday night to a moderately sized crowd at one of Austin newest venues, Grizzly Hall.  This place has a great setup and sound system.

Newish Austin locals, LadyKiller opened the show with their brand of what I have seen called “Camaro Rock” to a slowly building crowd.  They seemed to start off a little flat but by the middle of their 30 minute set, they were doing their thing smoothly.

Witch Mountain was up next but I missed their entire set hanging outside on the patio with some friends.  I could hear them but wasn’t interested enough to go in.  I had checked them out before and well, pass.

The Skull was up next.  I’m a huge Trouble fan of everything they released up to and including their 1990 S/T classic.  I’ve seen them 4 times now, including Tuesday’s show and really like the stuff they’re doing now.  They’ve gone through some lineup changes since I first saw them in 2014 in Chicago but Eric Wagner, Ron Holzner and Lothar Keller have remained constant.  Lefty Rob Wrong (Witch Mountain) is handling additional guitar duties now and for this tour in Sean Saley’s absence, they have former Poison Idea drummer Steve “Thee Hippy Slayer” Hanford.  They opened the set with Trapped Inside My Mind from their 2014 release entitled For Those Which Are Asleep.  Three of the next 4 songs were also from that album.  They played “The Longing” from their latest EP as well before going into 4 classic Trouble songs including Pray for the Dead from Trouble’s 1985 album The Skull.  The band sounded fantastic and Wagner’s voice was still as shrill as ever.

Saint Vitus were up next and I’m not much of a fan although I’ve seen them several times.  Their drummer, Henry, is a good pal so I go to support.  He took me to the green room prior to The Skull to get Dave, Mark and Scott to sign The Book.  All were really cool guys and Scott was up front with us watching The Skull.  I watched their first 3 or 4 songs and have to admit that I enjoyed them more than ever.  Having Scott on vocals helps quite a bit as I’m no fan of Wino aside from his Hidden Hand stuff.

After the show I was beat.  It was getting pretty late for a work night so I headed home.  The tour bus that they were going to use was stuck in Dallas broke down so instead of them driving back to Dallas after the show, I had offered my place up to The Skull.  They had to drive back to Dallas the next day for a show, but were happy to be able to sleep before making that drive.  It was a bit surreal knowing that Eric and Ron, dudes from a band I’ve loved for 30 years, were just hanging out in my house with my cat, Taco, while I was crashed out.  haha.  Good dudes.  I did come home for lunch and Ron had just woken up.  “Your cat is awesome.”  True.

Through my pal, Felix Griffin (DRI, BAT), I was introduced to former DRI bassist, Josh Pappe.  I got him added to The Book as well.

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