The Metal Files

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Flotsam and Jetsam Concert Review, Austin, TX, May 14, 2018

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This could also be titled:  “NEEEEEEEERRRRRD!”  I guess most of my posts could be called that.

Last night was pretty huge for me in general.  Since first hearing Chastain’s Ruler of the Wasteland in high school, I’ve been a huge fan of drummer Ken Mary’s work.  Most folks know about his time in Chastain, Fifth Angel, Alice Cooper, House of Lords, TKO and a slew of others and there’s no need to go too in depth on his discography as that info is all out there for anyone to look up.

In recent years and thanks to the internet I’ve been able to connect with Ken and always had hopes to meet and see him play.  A year or so ago Fifth Angel did a reunion and I considered flying out for that but saw that Ken had some shoulder issues and had to bow out of the shows.  Recently he stepped in with Flotsam and Jetsam after Jason Bittner left to join Overkill.  He ended up doing the Keep It True show in Germany a couple of weeks ago and is on Flotsam’s upcoming album.  He’s also doing the current tour with them and that’s where this story gets us to yesterday.

Doors for last night’s show were at 7PM and I arrived around 6:30 in hopes to catch the band, do some metal nerd stuff and whatever.  As I pulled up, Erik AK was outside the bus while the trailer was getting some welding done to the ramp gate.  We started talking and I asked if they had dinner plans and if not, I’d be glad to take them to dinner.  He rounded up the troops, did a quick round of introductions and we walked over to the Jackalope for some burgers and beers.  Of course I was stoked to hang out with Ken and jibber jabber on the walk over.  Once at the Jackalope, the guys took pictures on the giant rabbit and I ordered up drinks and food for everyone.  It was great talking with them about the old shows at the Boathouse in Norfolk, VA where I had seen them several times in the 80s and 90s and talking with Ken about his time in Chastain, Cooper etc.  The guys really enjoyed the food and the restaurant in general.  As we walked back I mentioned having some stuff to get signed and was invited on the bus to get that taken care of.

Once there, the first thing I had Ken sign was The Book.  Obviously he’s got numerous entries in there but I wanted to have him sign on the Chastain band photo.  I already head Leather, David and Mike sign it in recent years and Ken was the final piece.  Michael Gilbert, the only other original member with Eric AK, signed my Doomsday and Flotsam (2016) LPs.   I had gotten his and Eric’s signatures in The Book a few years back.   Added bonus was Michael Spencer being back in the band on bass.  I had him sign in the Sentinel Beast section.  Score!  Of course I had a stack of LP covers for Ken.  It was really cool having him tell stories about each of the bands.  I had the rest of the band sign the 2016 F&J LP as well and then I made my exit off of the bus to let them rest up before their show.  Added bonus, I got to hear 3 rough mixes from their upcoming album while we were on the bus.  “Want to hear some of the new album?”  “Is that a real question?”  It sounded killer and Ken’s on drums for that one, too.  I also asked if they were playing Der Fuhrer from the debut LP.  Eric said they sound checked with it but didn’t plan to play it.  “We’ll add it for you.  Thanks for dinner.”  SWEET.

After putting my nerd stuff back in the car, I needed to just chill out for a bit before their set and hung out on the patio and caught up with some friends.

Flotsam was scheduled to go on at 10:20PM.  Love early shows!  They ended up going on closer to 10:30 and opened with Monkey Wrench from their 2016 LP then went into Hammerhead.  The already small crowd thinned out a little but the ones who stayed let Flotsam know they were appreciated.  The setlist mixed up a lot of stuff from Doomsday, No Place, the 2016 LP and one from Drift.  The band was solid and Eric’s voice sounded good.  This was the first show of the latest leg of their Forbidden Territories of the World Tour and we were lucky to have them as a headliner as they end up in the opening slot with Hammerfall for much of the tour.  That tour rolls back around in June in San Antonio and I’ll likely hit that show as well.  Michael Spencer is a beast of a bassist, very impressive.  Michael Gilbert and Steve Conley (F5) shred well together and of course the highlight for me was watching Ken play.  He’s not an overly busy drummer but adds the right amount of flash and technique when needed and had some nifty stick tricks here and there.  After the encore song, Doomsday for the Deceiver, Ken handed me a stick and Steve gave me his pick.  They were done just before midnight.  PERFECT.

What an incredible evening all around with a killer band and some good friends.  Super thankful to Ken and Flotsam for letting me intrude on their time for a bit.


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CJSS & Thruster Concert Review, Cincinnati, OH, October 9, 2015

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posteruseI’m tired, but tired in the best way possible.  It’s a rejuvenated sort of tired.  This past weekend was another road trip for a show, but perhaps the longest trip I’ve made for one so far.  It was dubbed #MitchfestCJSS

CJSS announced a few months back that they were doing a reunion show, their first since 1999.  I’ve been a Chastain fan since around 86 when I heard Ruler of the Wasteland.  David Chastain was churning out albums pretty quickly back then with Chastain, his solo gig David T, Chastain and with CJSS, who released 2 in 1986.  He was a busy dude!  I had always wanted to see them and remember a few times that Chastain was to play the Baltimore area but I couldn’t make any of those shows at the time.  I posted the show link to Kelz’ page saying something to the effect of, “I’m just going to leave this right here.”  He took the bait and we started making plans.  Flying into Cincy was going to be costly.  I could have flown into Chicago and driven 5 hours and met Kelz in Cincy or the final option was to fly to Raleigh and ride with Kelz to Ohio.  So that’s what we did.

I arrived in Raleigh Thursday around noon and we rode around taking care of a few errands.  He’s got a wife and kids so we had to manage some of that coordination with soccer, school etc.  Good times.  After an NC style BBQ dinner (the best style!), we hung out in the basement having a few drinks and watching football before starting to fade out.

Friday morning we got up, got the kids out the door to school and got on the road for the 8ish hour drive to Cincy.  We arrived to our hotel in Bellevue, KY around 530, checked in and went and found some food.  Donato’s Pizza to be exact.  Good, cheap pizza and fast.  Well the pizza came out quickly, Kelz’ Stromboli not so much.  The manager apologized and offered free pizza coupons but we explained that we were in town for a show and couldn’t use them.  This will come back into play later in the night.  So we opted for 2 free chocolate chip cookies.

We get back to the hotel, freshen up a bit, get our stuff together for signatures and call Lyft for a ride across the river into Cincy for the show at Bogart’s.  Doors were at 7PM and we got there around 730.  Lots of people lining up to get in and it was apparent that some of the folks attending this show hadn’t seen each other in a long time.  Thruster and CJSS are from the area and played around there pretty regularly.

Once inside we scope the place out a little bit and get some drinks…expensive drinks.  But whatever.  We find a spot on the floor about 10′ away from the stage and out comes Thruster right at 8PM.  I had only listened to a little bit of their stuff on YouTube and liked what I heard.  Good solid 80s metal.  They opened with Back In Time and Excellorater.  It was pretty apparent that these guys kept their chops up.  Both guitarists were pretty bad ass, especially Russ Willoughby.  McFarland’s vocals were strong and their whole set was pretty enjoyable.  Third song in they played Maiden’s Revelations.  I was a bit surprised to hear a cover in their setlist but I’ll just go ahead and assume it was a live staple of theirs from back in the old days.  They covered really well, by the way.  I usually cringe when bands cover Maiden, but they pretty much nailed it.  Their whole set was enjoyable and it was cool hearing the crowd sing along to much of it.  Back in Time, Screams of Pain, M.I.A. and Enemy Below were the standouts for me.  Their set clocked in at just under an hour.  Great show.

There was a 45 minute intermission between bands and we mulled around for a little bit, bathroom break and got a second drink, hanging out with the promoter of Chicago’s Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse fest.  Good seeing him.

Kelz and I found a spot in dead center of the stage with only 2 people in front of us.  CJSS hit the stage at 932PM opening with Out of Control and went straight into Praise the Loud, two of my favorites by them.  Admittedly I didn’t pick up any of CJSS’ material after Praise the Loud so there was a lot of material played that I was unfamiliar with.  But it didn’t matter.  They were great.  One always wonders after so many years how the band is going to be after a long absence of playing shows, especially on the vocal front.  I’ll just say this, When Russell Jinkens took the microphone and started singing, all those doubts went away.  CJSS hadn’t played since 1999 and I don’t know if he’s been involved with other stuff since then, but he nailed it as did Mike Skimmerhorn on the songs he sang on. The band was tight and it was great to finally see Dave Chastain play live.  His unique style and tone were certainly noticeable.  Dave stayed pretty stationary while Russ and Mike moved around quite a bit.  Les Sharpe’s drum solo was solid.  Dave did a cool guitar solo which added riffs from Ruler of the Wasteland and Angel of Mercy, of which the crowd sang with.

The main body of the set closed with Welcome to Damnation and World Gone Mad, followed by a one encore of Metal Forever and then another one song encore of their take on Tull’s Locomotive Breath which has a cool guitar solo part that Dave jammed out on.  They ended right at 11PM.  Of course I brought The Book with me and Kelz has a stack of CD and tape covers.  After the place cleared out a bit they came out and hung out with everyone.  I tried not getting too into fanboy mode.  I was hoping they’d all come out and figured they would since it had been so long since their last show.  We met Les, Russ and Mike first and got the signatures and photos taken care of.  Then we saw Dave.  He recognized me from Facebook and said hello and we got to talk to him for a few minutes.  It’s always a little surreal sometimes to meet bands that I’ve been listening to since I was a teenager.  These guys were all super cool and I don’t think Kelz and I could have been much happier in how it all played out.  They were thankful of the travel that we made for it and I was just thankful to be there and to have witnessed it.  If I had to lodge one complaint, it would be about the lighting during CJSS’ set.  It just wasn’t good.  But that didn’t distract from the great concert.

After finally being kicked out by the staff, I called for a Lyft ride back to the hotel.  Kelz and I decided we were hungry again and a little research showed that the pizza place was still open.  So we called in, walked up to the drive thru and ordered pizza and walked it back to the room.

After some chowing down and downing of some water and Mountain Dews, it was time to wind down and get some sleep.  A few traditions from our childhood sleepovers in full effect, of course.  Mama jokes, Back In the Village, and just talking about the olden days.  It was perfect.

Next morning we headed back for the 8hr drive, finishing up the playlist I put together on my phone.  As normal, lots of air drumming and more ball busting.  It was a perfect drive.  Back to his place around 8 with some Asian takeout, a couple of beers and Stoned Age on the TV.  It was the perfect ending to a great trip.

My overall trip went something like this…
By air – Austin – Atlanta – Raleigh
Car (going) – Raleigh thru VA thru WV thru KY
Car (returning) – KY thru OH thru WV thru VA thru NC
By air – Raleigh – Tampa – Austin
1025 miles by land and about 3000 miles by air

Let’s do it again!

Written by The Metal Files

October 12, 2015 at 7:14 pm