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Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse 2015 Update

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Plain and simple, this is the best true metal festival in the USA.  The list of bands so far for the 2015 festival is killer.  It’s already nearly sold out, so if you plan on going, get your tickets now.  This will be Warlord’s first ever USA show!  This also marks the return of my band, Eternal Champion, to Chicago to play the main stage this year.  Other highlights for me will be Attacker and High Spirits.  If you haven’t heard them yet, you’re doing yourself a real disservice.  Great straight up hard rock/metal.

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Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse 2014 in Review

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Holy crap!  What an incredible weekend I just had in Chicago April 3-6 at the Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse 2014 fest.  I was planning to attend the show this year but then my band, Eternal Champion, got added to the bill, so that made it a double bonus.  Having Riot V, Grim Reaper and Picture on the bill was enough to get me out of town.  My best friend of 30+ years, Kelz, got the OK from his wife and we started making plans to meet up there.

I got there Thursday afternoon and was greeted at the hotel by Bob B, one of the festival organizers, and David B who had just traveled from Australia for the fest.  They were waiting on some other folks who were on their way in before we headed off to go get some food.  I checked in, freshened up a little, met the rest of the group and off we went in a few different vehicles to grub.  I took Jeremy and Jamie from Heaven and Hell Records with me and also my buddy Dustin who’s drumming for Night Demon now.  I’ve known him for about 3 or 4 years from when his former band, New Liberty, would come through Austin.  I was pretty excited to see him and to share the bill with his band.  Good kid, good drummer.

We went to a place called Marcello’s Father and Son Pizza.  I ordered calamari and a small pizza with Italian beef and green peppers on it…and no, not Chicago style.  I’m a thin crust guy.  I did try a piece of Dustin’s Chicago style and it was good, just not my thing.  Mine was great as was the squid.  Plus they had Peroni on tap.  mmmmmmmmm…Peroni.  We left dinner and went to a cool little bar called The Mutiny.  There were a few venders set up there selling shirts, patches, records, books and CDs.  I kind of went overboard on patches.  I need a new vest to put them on.  My night there was great.  I got introduced to one of Bob’s friends, Mike and his girl Dahlia.  Such awesome folks.  Mike’s got ties to the San Antonio area and it was great getting to know the two of them a bit.  Classic metal was being played the whole night and it was quite incredible having 30+ people singing Running Wild and Warlock songs in unison.  The bar itself was great.  Just an old dive bar that loves metal and punk.  The guys from Riot V showed up later and we all partied down.  Don Van Stavern and I talked for quite a while as we have a lot of Texans in common.  Mike Flynt was hanging with us for a bit, such a super nice guy.  It was getting late and the long day was wearing on me, so I gathered my group and we headed back to the hotel.  Everyone was a bit wiped out plus we needed our strength for the opening of the fest.

One of my favorite things about The Mutiny was meeting the group of guys from Mexico.  Many of them didn’t speak English and it felt good to be able to speak Spanish with those guys.  I think they appreciated as well.

Friday morning came too early and I needed to pick up Kelz at the airport.  Mitchfest!  We went to the hotel, got him situated then went into downtown to get some food.  We ended up at Portillo’s and got the Italian beef sandwich.  I’m pretty sure they put crack in that thing.  It was tasty.  We went back to the hotel after that and chilled out for a little bit.  Now remember, we’ve known each other for over 30 years, so there’s always a ton of smack talk between us.  Tons of abuse.  Mama jokes galore.  At the hotel, we got our gear together for the night.  Him with CD covers galore and me with The Book.  I had purchased a canvas shoulder bag to carry that in and to house whatever swag I bought.

This fest has 2 stages and I’ll run through the main stage bands first.

MetalUSAfer was the “secret opener” at on the main stage at 5:30.  They weren’t my thing.  I think one or some of the guys from this band are in High Spirits who I haven’t checked out yet.

Chicago’s legendary Amulance came on next and just rocked the place.  While I felt that they should have been on later, the fest apparently has a “policy” of putting locals on early, no matter how big they were.  They were awesome and just super nice guys.  Singer Rick Baez made it a point to sign stuff for everyone after the show and wanted pics with the fans for himself.  Super cool.  Guitarist Bob and bassist Chuck were all super cool.

Night Demon is a SoCal 3 piece that now features my buddy Dustin on drums.  Awesome guys and they played a great set.  I recommend them!

Diamond Rexx was up next and I’ve always loved their album Land of the Damned, even if it was a bit cheesy.  They came on with their original lineup and played a mix of old and newer stuff.  They did alright.  I got to meet the guitarist and bassist who both signed The Book.  The singer didn’t stick around after their set unfortunately.  Oh well.

Canada’s Axxion came on next and their mulleted singer delivered soaring vocals over top of great riffs and drumming.  While they were trying a little too hard to be an 80s retro metal band, they did a good job at it and I’d like to see them again.

The Skull features original Trouble members Eric Wagner, Ron Holzner, Jeff Olson along with Lothar Kellar and Matt Goldsborough who was recently in Pentagram.  They were there to play their new new demos which sounded fine.  I had walked out for a minute to get some air when all of a Sudden I hear Trouble’s The Tempter being played live.  I think I may have knocked over a few people trying to get back in there.  The also played Assassin and End of my Daze.  They sounded great and seeing Matt on guitar was a nice bonus.  I had met him when Pentagram last came to town and he’s a cool guy.  Catching up after their set was great.

Picture came up next and played a damn solid set.  I’m not a huge fan but it was great to see some Euro legends on the stage and for their 2 original members to sign The Book.

Finally came Riot V, the version of the band touring after Mark Reale’s death (RIP).  I’ll just say this.  They ruled.  While having Bobby Jarzombek on drums would have been cooler, the touring drummer did a fine job and Mike Flynt did a wonderful job on guitar.  The new singer is no slouch either.  They were the perfect ending to an awesome night on the main stage.

As far as the second stage bands on the first night, none of them really stood out but I did stop in briefly to see NC’s Dogbane and Dark Design.  I can’t say I’m much of a fan but they were both solid.  To be honest I didn’t see any of the other bands on the second stage as the main stage that night was so ass kickingly good.

After Riot V, we went back to the hotel to pass out and to get some energy stored up for the next days sightseeing and festivities.  We bounced around Chicago a little bit but I didn’t want to get too crazy that day as my band, Eternal Champion, was slated to play at 8PM on the second stage.

I started on the main stage again with Salt Lake City’s Visigoth who just got up there and slayed the crowd.  The singer had trouble talking but was able to power through vocally.  The whole band was killer.  Can’t wait to see them again.

Austin-based Witches Mark came on next and played a solid set.  They’re goods pals of my band and it was cool to have another Texas band representing at the festival.

Because we had to play, I didn’t see Axemaster or Crowhaven but did pop in to see Black Death Resurrected, which was just OK.  I was never a fan.  I did meet Sickie Spacek after the show but didn’t have the book with me that night.

I also missed Argus as I was getting my gear situated after we played.  However, I did catch Mexico’s Voltax and those kids are kick ass!  High energy power metal and a singer with pipes of gold.  Amazing seeing him hit those insane high notes.

Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper closed out the night on the main stage and feature Nick Bowcott on guitar for the first time in about 25 years.  They played an incredible set and I’m so glad that I got to see them live finally and to meet Steve and Nick.  Steve’s voice sound great.

Now on to the second stage.  To be honest, I didn’t much pay attention to anything going on as I was getting mentally and physically psyched up for our slot.  One of the show promoters kept telling me about the hype surrounding us and that a lot of folks were excited to see us.  That being said, Midnight Hellion came on right before us and played an enjoyable set.

Next up was Eternal Champion.  Us.  This was only our third show since our inception in December 2012.  My local pal loaned us a sword.  During Midnight Hellion’s set, I could see a lot of people filing in presumably to get a spot in there to see us.  We get on stage, set up, tune up, get introduced and blasted through our 30 minute set like a hot knife through butter.  I think because of the adrenaline rush and the reactions from the crowd, I don’t really remember much about the set we played other than it was too fast.  Not surprising really, as we don’t rehearse as much as I’d like since some of us don’t live nearby.  But we make it work.  The crowd went nuts between every song and at the end.  It was sheer madness and some of the most fun I’ve had playing live.

I didn’t really catch anyone else on the second stage.

I just want to say that this little festival is the perfect size as far as the venue and crowd size go.  The promoters treated us like gold and I hope we’re able to come back next year and play the main stage.  I met some awesome people in Chicago and look forward to going back to just hang out.  Also, Leather Leone of Chastain fame was an MC for the show and I got to speak with her several times over those 2 days.  She was awesome.  Very sweet and funny.

Great times!

Chicago Concert Review, Austin TX 4/15/2013

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Last night I saw Chicago. Yep. Another non-metal band being reviewed at The Metal Files. My history with this band goes as far back as my history with hard rock. Maybe even a little further back thanks to mom’s musical tastes. As a little kid riding in the back of our silver ’73 Chevy Nova 2dr, it was AM gold all the way when mom was at the wheel. At that time (mid-70s), Chicago was huge and always on the radio. Through my whole life, because of that background, that 70s smooth rock will always be near and dear to me and I’m proud of it. Into the late 70s and early 80s, Chicago’s popularity had waned a little and I was more into the metal. That wasn’t to say I didn’t like hearing Chicago, but they weren’t priority. I was discovering newer and heavier things. Then in 1982, Chicago 16 hit the streets…and the airwaves. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing Hard To Say I’m Sorry/Get Away and Love Me Tomorrow. They were all over MTV as well, but we didn’t have cable so I’d only see it occasionally at a friend’s house. Then just 2 years later they release Chicago 17 which went even bigger than the previous album. Stay the Night, Hard Habit to Break, Along Come a Woman, You’re the Inspiration. They were huge. Then Peter Cetera left to pursue a solo career. Chicago picked up Jason Scheff , whose dad was a touring bass for Elvis. The band had some more hits with Will You Still Love Me and Look Away. From that point on they lost popularity again as MTV and the radio completely switched gears. Cetera’s solo career did pretty well and I love his albums Solitude/Solitaire and One More Story. I’m a sucker for a good romantic ballad and Chicago had no shortage of them. Hard To Say I’m Sorry/Get Away is my fave by them. Such a great tune and such a shame that when it’s played on the radio, Get Away is always left off.

When I started playing drums in 1984, I practiced to a lot of their music. Danny Seraphine was/is a great drummer. 25 or 6 to 4 was a great song to learn double bass to, even if there’s none in that song.

I first saw Chicago in 1991 at Chrysler Hall with my friend and her mom. They were great and I’m not sure why I never went to see them again before last night’s show. But that’s not important. What is important is that they were absolutely incredible last night. I brought my best friend Amelia along with me. It was her first wedding anniversary a few days prior so I thought this would make a nice gift. The hubby stayed home. He’s not a fan. Oh well.

This show was at the ACL Live at The Moody Theater. I’ve rambled on before about how much I love this place. I was dead center balcony in the front row again, only a few seats over from where I sat for Pat Benatar a few nights earlier. It’s my favorite spot in the house, although there really aren’t any bad seats there.

They opened up with an instrumental that I don’t recall the name. Hopefully someone can clear it up for me. Recent shows listed Ballet For a Girl in Buchannon but that was played later in the set. In their first set they stayed primarily in the 60s and 70s with the exception of Look Away and Will You Still Love Me. Jason Sheff’s vocals were great. He was the perfect replacement for Peter Cetera. Everyone’s vocals sounded great, actually. These dudes, the original guys anyway, are not spring chickens. They’re in their mid to late 60s. Impressive musicianship, especially in blowing their horns. I was amazed by how energetic they all were, especially the over the top Jim Pankow. He was all over the place. He played a little percussion as well and obviously has the chops. During If You Leave Me Now they had a special guest singer who had one a charity auction bid to sing with the band. I had read about it online and thought it would be just like a backup singer sort of thing. But no, dude came out and NAILED it. Apparently he’d been on stage with them before. I’d like to know what his final bid was to do that. I would’ve asked to play drums for a song. But again, the guy sounded great. Good on ya, man! It was also great hearing Wake Up Sunshine from Chicago II! In between one of the songs, I believe it was Pankow who said, “Go ahead and take all of the pictures and videos you want. Post them everywhere. If we like any of them, we’ll use them too!”

They took a short 15-20 minute break and came on with a second set which started with Old Days. They kept rolling through their hits from the 70s and 80s and finally got to Hard To Say I’m Sorry/Get Away. I really do love that song. It’s an incredibly sad song about breaking up and reminds me of some simple times in the early 80s when the only thing I had to worry about was homework, music and chores…and girls. This song also reminds me of the days at the Suffolk Swimming Pool. It’s a place where I met some friends that have remained close friends for life. That was a special place and really just ridiculous in a lot of ways. Those are stories for another time. But, they always had Z-104 playing over the PA at the pool and Hard To Say I’m Sorry seemed like it was played once an hour in that summer. Music certainly can take you to places in the past. It’s always done that for me. They also played Street Player from Chicago 13. A bit of an off cut but it was a great album. I have all of Chicago’s stuff up to an including 19. I love it all.

They closed the second set with Feeling Stronger Everyday. A quick minute off of the stage and they came right back for their encore of Free from Chicago III and 25 or 6 to 4.

The show wasn’t sold out but it was close. It was one of the best non-metal shows I have ever seen and it makes me regret not going more often in the last 22 years. I’m still flying high from last night. Good string of shows coming up, too. Bob Mould, Black Flag, Hall and Oates, Steely Dan and Iron Maiden. What a life!

Goodnight everybody!

Goodnight everybody!

Written by The Metal Files

April 16, 2013 at 6:01 pm