Photos by Wild Don Lewis
LABOR DAY METAL MASSACRE
at La Hacienda Real, September 6
You didn’t need to book a flight for remote Northern European cities to witness topnotch extreme metal on this Labor Day. Inside this dank grotto, some two dozen of the genre’s sickest puppies (many from right here in L.A.) slithered, yowled and vomited blasphemies into the wee hours in honor of all us slobs who punch a time clock. And at a workingman’s admission price of $12, too, Mrs. Osbourne.
The detrimental effects of this many decibels aside, you’d think 10 hours of impending apocalypse would get samey. In fact, the Metal Massacre was a miracle of exhilaration. The pinwheeling manes of waist-length tresses were more annoying than brutal, but overall, the tensile strength on display (metacarpal, vocal and percussive) and the complete avoidance of useless introspection were utterly impressive, whether it came from Pacoima’s Sepsism, Los Angeles’ leather-vested Anemosity or local thugs Crematorium, whose lead singer I coulda sworn looked at me when he yelled, “Real headbangers appreciate the metal, and don’t stand there with their arms folded like an elitist piece of shit.” And though the technical mastery of Cerberus and Tchildres (dude’s hands were spider-walking on the fretboard) was smug, you couldn’t say it wasn’t diverting.
Had a team of anthropologists been on hand, they would have been able to ID subgenres solely from pit behavior: Circular rotation was trad- and/or death metal (Gatekeeper; Saprophagous); random ricocheting was speed/thrash (Phobia); and those vaguely jujitsu-looking moves were the province of
hardcore and screamo kids, the latter kicking and thrusting away to Graf Orlock’s angular jags and snotty sense of humor: “Sorry our hair’s not long enough!” But the comedy honors go to Fetus Eaters, kazooing cutesily along to their choppy grind like a dork version of Anal Cunt. The synth-friendly entries were few but pleasingly distinct: symphonic black metal from the Funeral Pyre; the haunted-house kitsch of the Meat Shits; and Winds of Plague’s majestic power-prog, which would have been at home in Hanover or Trondheim. The nuances proliferated with the crosshatched guitar strata of Vehemence, the sinewy hardcore of Frisco’s Animosity, the tectonic groove of All Shall Perish, and the night’s penultimate set from Baltimore’s Misery Index, boasting a hypnotically fluid drummer and a nutso guitarist — each group successfully (and surprisingly) bas-reliefing its stylistic niche.
Cephalic Carnage’s early-morning swan song was also a siren song of sorts, and an unnerving reveille. Slogging onto the dais well after 1 a.m. with the house lights on in front of 20 bleary-eyed souls, the self-described “hydro-grinders” — so called for the fuzzy bud clumps they adore — aren’t stoner rock by anyone’s yardstick. Rendering extractions from their Exploiting Dysfunction and Lucid Interval with startling precision despite the pre-gig bong session, C.C. assembled an uneasy confederation of crust, grind, doom and jazzy spirals that added up to a bona fide head-scratcher: shunning all of metal’s rules and still ending up heavy as fuck. Fortunately, we were too thrilled to sweat the paradox.
THE RAMONES 30th Anniversary Party
at Avalon, September 12
Indie 103 took a chance with this event and pulled it off to the delight of Ramones fans, both audience and performers — all on equal ground, as evidenced by Rodney Bingenheimer, down on the floor with the scrubs, clutching his take from the souvenir stand.
The Dickies opened with a typical set that included their cover of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” — great, but were they confused about the event’s theme? X, the “secret” band billed by host Rob Zombie as “the Ramones of L.A.,” kicked it old school with their “most Ramones-sounding tunes,” also having learned “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” for the occasion.
In the long lulls between performers, the crowd was kept entertained (for a while) with old videos and a memorabilia exhibit complete with Johnny’s guitars
(on loan from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and, yes, Joey’s glasses. Tommy Ramone made a special appearance, reading a speech offering tender personality profiles and many thanks.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers blazed the stage in true punk form, running tight renditions of “I’m Against It,” “I Wanna Be Sedated” and a surprise “It’s a Long Way Back to Germany.” After Rob Zombie read a short letter from the night’s absent guest of honor, Johnny Ramone, the intense emotion in the room prompted a cell-phone call to the guitar churner at home. Johnny’s reaction was signature: He implored Zombie to stop holding up the show.
The night finally fell into its rhythm as Marky Ramone, CJ Ramone and producer Daniel Rey
re-created the famous wall of sound to back a cavalcade of special guests. Robert Carmine (a.k.a. Robert Coppola Schwartzman) of Rooney delivered spot-on renditions of “The KKK Took My Baby Away” and “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.” Pete Yorn contributed “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” and was subsequently upstaged by a powerful Dicky Barrett doing “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg.” Tim Armstrong and Brett Gurewitz allowed Eddie Vedder to keep up as they supported him on “I Believe
in Miracles.” The show capped off with Henry Rollins and Steve Jones bringing the rock on “Judy Is a Punk” and “Blitzkrieg Bop.”
Rollins left the stage declaring, “Ramones number one forever,” and we believed him enough to earn an encore of “Pinhead” with CJ on the microphone. Two Zippy mascots appeared; black and white balloons fell and were noisily popped. It was one hell of a memorial service.
KAIJU BIG BATTEL
at Avalon, September 8
Think Godzilla, think Mothra, think King Ghidora. Then think again. The skyline-trouncing creatures of Kaiju Big Battel are the unrequited love children of Toho movies, anime cosplay and professional wrestling. Brought to you by Boston’s Studio Kaiju, this battle (I mean battel) between mutated monsters inside a chainlink-fenced wrestling ring — complete with miniature cityscape — was not unlike catching the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in a drunken barroom brawl. The evening’s MC, Louden Noxious, and painfully mustachioed referee, Jingi, did their best to keep order (“This is completely unexpected!”), but the evil Dr. Cube, the cardboard-box-headed mastermind intent on world domination, would not let his minions fail. Much punching and kicking and body-slamming ensued: Robox vs. American Beetle vs. Neo Teppen vs. Call-Me-Kevin (the lobsterlike loser).
In his Los Angeles debut, disco-dancing, hand-clapping boogie monster Super Wrong hustled his way across the ring only to get kayoed by “walking compost heap” Gomi-Man within seconds. And as smiley-faced heroes Los Plantanos — twin plantain peels in camouflage pants — joined “J-pop idol” Chikako in a tribute to previously defeated and wheelchair-bound Silver Potato, her lip-synched track (“Peel Me Now”) started skipping and she fled the stage, commencing a banana-bashing free-for-all.
While the frequent merchandise sales
pitches could have been cut (the crowd was subjected to video-screen “commercial breaks” promoting Studio Kaiju’s DVDs and T-shirts before nearly every matchup), the adrenaline-inducing finale was worth it: Unibouzu, a “one-eyed demon from the dark side” (picture Hulk Hogan coifed like a sea urchin); a too-drunk-to-fight Hell Monkey; soup-can-bodied martial artist Kung Fu Chicken Noodle; a Super-Dimensional Slug; and three Dr. Cubes! It was almost like ballet, if ballet were a lot more violent.