Archive | February, 2012

This is here

8 Feb

Insightful, informed, articulate. If this was Jeopardy!, who would really go with “What is a punk rock frontman”? Probably only those who have witnessed the crafty spoken word performance of wordsmith Henry Rollins. Having graduated from the gritty stages that Black Flag and The Rollins Band toured many moons ago, Henry has been “getting intense on the mic” for a few years now without the help of those angry vocals his fans knew and loved him for. What you see before you when you go to a Henry Rollins show today is a rock icon that delivers anecdotes, stories and thoughts with the kind of clarity you’d want some of your country’s leaders to have. The topics range from politics and music to Henry’s travel, friends, versatile work engagements like National Geographic documentaries or his role in Sons of Anarchy to the hair-raising stories about his “time at the office” where he is joined by an assistant referred to only as “The Demon”.

Henry Rollins @ Gloria Theater, image courtesy of henryrollins.com

If you’ve never been to one of these spoken word shows, there are three things to keep in mind. 1. You will be laughing out loud. 2. You will feel intense pain as your body and the usually quite uncomfortable seating fight it out for three hours. 3. You will only get to experience and cherish memories of 1. and 2. if you act fast as Henry sells out pretty quickly. As I am a veteran Henry-goer, I scored my ticket early for this last tour – or rather, my veteran Henry-goer ally scored it for me. So off we went to the Gloria Theater in Cologne which sounded pretty glorious at first but still managed to greet us with said rock-hard chairs. However, I knew from the start it would be worth it. So in I went and down I sat, looking forward to being mesmerized for that bitter sweet eternity.

The thing with Henry is: he really keeps his promises. He answers e-mails in a flash, he doesn’t forget those less fortunate and he always comes to town with an amazing amount of stories you really want to hear. This last week, Henry told us about his travels to India, where he discovered the culinary delight that is rat’s liver; his trip to North Korea, where nothing is as it seems and humor is misunderstood; and his trip to Haiti, where soap and footballs made the eyes of children light up with delight. He also told us about visiting Tibet, where the sad faces of the people under Chinese surveillance made him appreciate the trial and error English of his guide as a philosophical notion. After all, saying “This is here” upon arrival at a sightseeing destination is pretty existential stuff, when you take the time to think about it.

Henry also talked about the numerous biographies written – or not written – by former president bush and his associates, his work with Drop in the Bucket, screaming a Frank Booth impersonation at Dennis Hopper and his ladder-buying experiences at the hell that is CostCo with “The Demon”, whose actual name is Heidi. While all these anecdotes are truly entertaining, the thing that makes Henry stand out of the wordsmith crowd is his talent to story-arch back and forth, effortlessly weaving and intertwining the plots until you’re left with a neatly packaged Henry experience that will stay with you long after you leave the venue. And when a sweaty Mr. Rollins exits the stage after 180 minutes of an intense verbal roller-coaster ride and a standing ovation or two, you can bet everything you have on the fact that you are going home with a few blown synapses and a smile. Inspiring stuff. If you’re punk-rock enough for it.

Find out more about Henry, The Demon and the tour here!

Pale Horse Part 2

7 Feb

 

After the rocking show in Wiesbaden, I just had to go see A Pale Horse Named Death again in Saarbrücken, supported by solid doom metal four-piece No Hope.

A Pale Horse Named Death @ Garage Saarbrücken As always, A Pale Horse Named Death did not disappoint. Although it was my third time at a show in support of the debut album “And Hell Will Follow Me”, the set just doesn’t get old. Beautifully dark songs, masterfully crafted tunes and an awesome attitude from the band itself once again. I get the feeling this is exactly how music is meant to be performed and bands are meant to interact. Kudos. APHND really knows how to make their fans happy.

 

 

 

Flickr APHND here.
More on A Pale Horse Named Death here.
Tickets to Garage Saarbrücken here.
Flickr NO HOPE here.

Mighty Mastodon

4 Feb

I dropped history as quick as I could in high school. Still, I did think I knew what a Mastodon was. Prehistoric, huge elephant-type, right? Now, I am not so sure. I am thinking a Mastodon is an animal of magic. Or at least that’s what it was last week. And it had a number of tricks up its furry sleeve.

1. No-frills rockers Red Fang in the support slot
Hailing from Portland, this authentic four-piece is lovable for so many reasons. They make awesomely insane videos. They seem totally down-to-earth. They look like they immensely enjoy being on stage. They make you wonder how they ever found each other. And they really, really rock. A solid circa three-quarter hour set long. It was awesome to see these guys do their things someplace else than youtube. And what a monster groove. My buddies, all Red Fang fanboys, were elated. It definitely calls for getting all the music available and diving headfirst into it (possibly holding a liquid refreshment in each hand).

Mastodon @ Frankfurt Batschkapp and Essigfabrik Cologne2. Letting The Hunter speak for itself
There are chatty bands and there are not so chatty bands. I usually like it when there’s some talk between songs but for a band as atmospheric as Mastodon, shutting up really suits the show. They simply let the songs do the talking. Lots of stuff from the new record “The Hunter” on this tour, but also a few favorites from previous albums, lined up snuggly to form what feels like a narrative one could get lost in. I’ve never been to a show that told a story before. It semi-boggled my mind.

3. Charisma
Yes, I used that word. It’s usually reserved for self-important press outlets and frontmen like Bono. And it’s usually not used for four guys based out of Atlanta, sporting some very individual concept hair. But, regardless of the billions of years of jading gigxpertise under my belt, Mastodon did manage to create the illusion that they were truly playing for me – well, and everyone else there, obviously. Experiencing that is like the rock-version of finger-pointing, and it wraps you up in this beautiful gig bubble. It’s an incredible feeling and contagious, it seems – looking around the audience I saw a lot of blissed-out faces. And the best news is: this “high” lasts for a day or so. I mentioned this to a bearded ally of mine who has close ties to Mastodon and there was little surprise. Supposedly, I got a full dose of the Mastovibe. Which would explain why I went to see them again just four days later.

4. Sound you want to wrap your head around
Mastodon’s thickly layered sludge rock is the metal equivalent of 500 count Egyptian cotton. You can sink into it. You can feel it’s layers. It’s densely woven and intricate. It’s almost impossible to wrap your head around. But when you do, it’s like somebody pressed play in your mind. And the movie that follows is one of the best you’ve ever seen.

See, it was magic. All the way from the highly energetic “Dry Bone Valley” to the sing-along set-closer “The Creature Lives”. If you’re not intrigued yet, I fear you may have the emotional landscape of a Keanu Reeves character. If you’re a little petrified of experiencing this for yourself, I totally understand. However you feel about it, I would recommend that you do go see Mastodon for yourself. But if you come out a relentless fangirl/fanboy, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

More on Red Fang here.
Read Red Fang’s awesome blog here.
More on Mastodon here.

P.S.: On the subject of connections in metal, I read that bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders’ brother is Kyle Sanders of Bloodsimple, one of my all-time favorite bands. Looks like some families get all the talent.