‘Keep it secret. Keep it safe.’ A unique night with Puscifer at the Fox Theater Oakland

PusciferPhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Scotland Miller //

Puscifer with Luchafer //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland
December 8th, 2015 //

The current tour from the musical collective known as Puscifer has taken yet another step in redefining what it means to attend a concert. The band has a real knack for putting on a show. Whether it be a storyline-driven, sketch-comedy act combined with tongue-in-cheek country renditions of their songs or a campground setting in the desert complete with lawn chairs, a barbecue and an Airstream van, Puscifer never fail to disappoint when it comes to a live performance. Where else would you expect to see Mexican Luchador wrestlers on stage during a concert?

In support of their third full-length release entitled Money Shot, Maynard James Keenan and friends have established themselves as not just a group of musicians who play songs on stage, but rather an assemblage of entertainers that provide their viewers and fans with something they may not have ever seen before — a true experience. Paying homage to the likes of Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd and the glory days of the rock opera, Puscifer have a very special way of combining their music with a stage show that offers so much more than just music.

Luchafer

Many artists choose to dedicate the opening act to another band. On this tour, Puscifer are giving the spotlight to a group of masked wrestlers known as Luchafer, with one male and one female wrestler per team duking it out in their respective colored capes and spandex. It was the red team against the blue team, though there was also one roaming fighter dressed all in black who seemed to fight for himself. They punched and kicked and suplexed each other off of the top ropes of an on-stage wrestling ring as the crowd at The Fox Theater cheered and clapped while bodies were hurled to and fro. The tag-team battle lasted for about 30 minutes while the theater filled with a sold-out crowd. The stage setup, complete with small bleachers on either side, provided a unique feel to the rest of the night.

As is customary with Puscifer shows in years past, the evening started with a comical video presentation from Keenan’s onstage character “Major Douche,” who expressed his distaste for “hashtag hippiepunks,” aka people who drive below posted the speed limit in addition to the typical anti-photography/video demand for the evening. This gave way to another video of beloved character “Billy D” lining up shots of tequila and burying his nose in a pile of cocaine while rambling on about the evolution of man. The diffuse rumblings were accompanied by Jeff Friedl (The Beta Machine, A Perfect Circle) on the drum kit as the show opened with the song “Simultaneous”. The lights came up to reveal Keenan and vocalist Carina Round taking their places in the wrestling ring with their retro microphone stands and matching navy blue suits. In tribute to the ongoing theme of the night, Keenan was his usual covert and enigmatic self, dawning his own luchador mask with his scraggly mohawk jutting out from the top.

Puscifer

The remaining members of the band — Mat Mitchell on lead guitar, Paul Barker (Ministry) on bass and Mahsa Zargaran (Omniflux) on keyboards — were scattered beside them. “Galileo” and “Agostina” followed as the luchadors slowly made their way back to the stage, enticing the crowd and continuing their battles with each other throughout the night. The stage was definitely full of activity but never felt overcrowded or overstimulated, even with the lights and projections behind the stage. Overall, everything worked together very cohesively and complemented each other in a way that only Puscifer could achieve.

The setlist consisted mostly of material from the 11-track Money Shot, but it also served as a great representation of Puscifer’s body of work over the last eight years. A few highlights of the night included new songs “The Arsonist” and “The Remedy” being paired together, the rarely-ever-played-live versions of “Polar Bear” and “Breathe” and lastly the ribcage-rattling combination of “Money Shot”, “Man Overboard” and “The Undertaker”. And oh yeah, let’s not forget about the miniature, remote-controlled cock-fighting ring in the third act. Yes, you read that right: miniature, remote-controlled cock fighting.

Puscifer

Before the encore of “The Humbling River” and “Autumn”, the earlier message from “Major Douche” was revisited. Keenan asked the crowd to embrace what they had seen that night and implored us all to not ruin it for others by spewing pictures and videos captured from their cellphones all over the Internet (although he said nothing about writing descriptive reviews). He echoed the legendary words from one of J. R. R. Tolkien’s great characters and asked us to protect this special evening to only those who witness it with their own eyes.

“Keep it secret. Keep it safe.” Those were his words.

Setlist:
Simultaneous
Galileo
Agostina
Vagina Mine
Horizons
The Arsonist
The Remedy
Life of Brian (Apparently You Haven’t Seen)
Rev 22:20
Grand Canyon
Polar Bear
Breathe
Toma
Telling Ghosts
Money Shot
Man Overboard
The Undertaker

Encore:
Smoke and Mirrors
The Humbling River
Autumn

Amongst flowers and a gimp, Faith No More make a triumphant return to The Warfield

Faith No MorePhotos by Greg RaMar // Written by Scotland Miller //

Faith No More with La Plebe, Frightwig //
The Warfield – San Francisco
April 19th-20th, 2015 //

There are only so many times in a person’s life that they get to witness greatness return after a long absence. Five years removed from their last performance in SF, 18 years since their last album release and more than 20 years since their last extensive North American tour, the members of Faith No More delivered two sold-out shows at The Warfield this past Sunday and Monday. The history of the SF band can be traced back to the City during the early 80’s, and they proved that they still know what it means to do what they do best and play their unique style of music.

Sunday’s show started off with a feverish set from local Latino “punkiachi” outfit La Plebe, performing their politically charged mix of skater/surf/ska-punk-meets-mariachi-goodness. It was a great warm-up set that was highlighted by a cover of The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton”, which had a few skanking ska heads bobbing around and stomping their feet as the floor filled. For the most part, the venue was still half empty before the flowers came out.

Faith No More


Faith No More dressed The Warfield’s stage in fresh flowers.

It can be hard to know what to expect from a crew like Faith No More and their eccentric, yet prolific members. The entire stage was dressed in white, from the curtains to the amplifiers to the mic stands. Lining the entire length of the stage and any flat surface that would support them were thousands of dollars worth of beautiful, fresh flowers. The abundance of purples and pinks, reds and yellows created a very comfortable and soothing, yet incredibly eerie feeling as to what was about to happen next. Once the setup was complete and the lights dropped, the crowd was let in to the stark contrast that is the weird world of Faith No More. Out walked a man dressed fully in black leather from fingertip to toe, wearing a bondage mask that exposed only his mouth, and from the collar around his neck hung a leash. Out walked The Gimp.

Faith No More


Faith No More lead singer Mike Patton

Roddy Bottum (keyboards), Mike Bordin (drums), Billy Gould (bass) and Jon Hudson (guitar) all took the stage in white linen clothing as The Gimp took his place on his knees next to Bottum. The song “Motherfucker” from their upcoming album Sol Invictus began the set. Lead singer Mike Patton took the stage with his golden microphone and stood tall before a worshiping crowd of loyal, loving fans. With his face filled with pride, he gazed out into a packed hometown crowd with a floor full of ravaged moshers and a balcony teaming with eager faces, all ready and willing to take whatever he was about to give them.

Faith No More delivered two nights of spot-on alt-metal featuring a towering setlist of hits like “Land of Sunshine”, “Midlife Crisis”, “We Care a Lot” and “From Out of Nowhere”. Of course, there was the groundbreaking megahit “Epic”, too. But with every headbanging song of FNM’s comes an equally soft and crooning ballad, which they also supplied with their for-the-ladies cover of the Commodores’ “Easy” on both nights as well as a lovely Burt Bacharach cover of “This Guy’s in Love With You” to close out their second night in SF.

April 19th setlist:
Motherfucker
Land of Sunshine
Caffeine
Evidence
Epic
Sunny Side Up
Get Out
Midlife Crisis (Lowdown (Boz Scaggs) tease)
Last Cup of Sorrow
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
Easy (Commodores cover)
Cuckoo for Caca
King for a Day
Ashes to Ashes
Superhero

Encore:
Matador
We Care a Lot
Pristina

Encore 2:
From the Dead

April 20th setlist:
Motherfucker
From Out of Nowhere
Caffeine
Evidence
Epic
Sunny Side Up
Surprise! You’re Dead!
Midlife Crisis (Lowdown (Boz Scaggs) tease)
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
Easy (Commodores cover)
Spirit
King for a Day
Ashes to Ashes
Superhero

Encore:
Sol Invictus
Digging the Grave
This Guy’s in Love With You (Burt Bacharach cover)

Primus bring Danny Carey from Tool into a Bay Area tradition

Primus_postPhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Scotland Miller //

Primus – An Uber Drum Spectacular //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA
December 31st, 2014 //

There are few things in this world that are as much of a sure thing as a local New Year’s Eve show from the kings of oddity and tweakerdom. If you are unaware, Les Claypool and the boys of Primus have established a tradition in the Bay for the past 25 years, and don’t show signs of stopping any time soon. In his first banterings of the night, Les joked and welcomed everyone to the “45th annual New Years show … only 73 to go!”

In efforts to keep things fresh and new smelling, each year’s celebration is centered around a fantastic and goofy theme to accompany an already weird and bizarre psyche that is Primus. Past motifs have included a night with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 3D projection screens and full-album performances. This year was dubbed the “Uber Drum Spectacular”, featuring a second set guest appearance by the percussive giant Danny Carey (Tool, Pigmy Love Circus, Volto!). As if Tim “Herb” Alexander (Laundry, Blue Man Group, Puscifer) wasn’t enough?

There is something especially dirty about having two 180-degree thunder kits next to each other on stage playing “My Name is Mud”, with the closing drum rolls lingering until utter hysteria breaks out in the crowd.

Primus_post2

The atmosphere at these well-known evenings is always a feature of the night and rarely disappoints even those who aren’t on some sort of psychedelic substance. “Some people, like Dave Grohl, need to drive around the country looking for inspiration. What do we at Primus do? We suspend a 60-foot inflatable sperm whale in the air and gaze up at it as we play.” It was as if the show was contained in an deep sea wonder world, watched over by Spermy. The patterned ceiling of The Fox was splattered with bluish lights that served to resemble the shimmering of aquatic world of the epic Moby Dick. This would eventually lead to the “Uber Drum Spectacular” that was the post-countdown antics and song selection obviously inspired by the mighty Bonzo himself.

As the second set hammered on with “Herb” and Danny dueling away on such songs as “Last Salmon Man” and “Southbound Pachyderm”, the clock neared midnight. “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” ended, and Les dribbled his way through a Hendrix rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. 2015 closed in and the balloons fell like backwards bubbles from above Spermy’s watery home. The oh so familiar engine-like rumblings of Van Halen’s classic “Hot for Teacher” began as a long, unseen member of the Primus family appeared. Bob C. Cock performed the vocals in his best David Lee Roth garb and impression, only substituting the chorus with “I’m hot for cock”. The “Spectacular” culminated with an extended rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick”.

Primus has had very few lineup changes since their original EP release Suck on This, but the addition of Danny Carey to the mix is surely to be a well-remembered appearance. After filling in for “Herb” earlier in the year, it was a great surprise to see his name on the bill.

PRIMUS SUCKS!!!

Set 1:
Sailing the Seas of Cheese
John the Fisherman
The Toys Go Winding Down
Frizzle Fry
Lee Van Cleef
Del Davis Tree Farm
The Heckler

Set 2 with Danny Carey:
Those Damn Blue-Collar Tweekers
Last Salmon Man
Southbound Pachyderm
Too Many Puppies (Ænema chorus included)
Eleven
My Name Is Mud
Jerry Was a Race Car Driver
The Star-Spangled Banner (countdown to midnight)
Hot for Teacher (Van Halen cover with Bob Cock)
Moby Dick (Led Zeppelin cover)

Encore:
American Life
Here Come the Bastards

Down pay tribute to ‘Dimebag’ Darrell at The Fillmore

DownPhotos by Greg RaMar // Written by Scotland Miller //

Down with Orange Goblin, Bl’ast and King Parrot //
The Fillmore – San Francisco
December 8th, 2014 //

Is there any better way to celebrate the life of one of the heaviest and most revered riff-masters in history than slamming around in a Monday night mosh pit at The Fillmore?

We didn’t think so.

The Southern lords of heavy agreed and delivered a near two-hour set on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the day that the late “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott was shot dead during a live performance.

Down was joined by UK stoner/doom metal giants Orange Goblin, Santa Cruz hardcore punk outfit Bl’ast and a recently discovered, sludgy, thrashcore band from Melbourne, Australia, known as King Parrot. As was the theme for the entire show, this Monday night served as one hell of a celebration of heavy. Down is currently wailing around North America on the “Punk Rock But Kinda Not” tour and is sure to deliver many great shows to close out 2014.

The set began with guitarists Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity) and Bobby Landgraf (Honky) taking the stage, followed by bassist Patrick Bruders (Goatwhore) and drummer Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod, Superjoint Ritual). Vocalist Philip Anselmo (Pantera) crept his way on stage only to find his earpiece not working. After some playful, yet intimidating banter with the sound guys and Anselmo crossing his arms in disbelief to the crowd, the show began. “Eyes of the South”, “We Knew Him Well” and “Witchtripper” started the blood pumping and the heads banging, as the vacant space in the middle of the floor began to fill. The pit was occupied, but only by a dozen or so anxious thrashers. Perhaps the presence of a few members of the Mayhem Motorcycle Club touting their colors had something to do with it?

Down

After Down’s opening three songs, Anselmo began to speak of the greatness of “Dimebag”. The overwhelming feelings of love and admiration for a fallen comrade were stark in contrast to the ferocity and speed of the music being played; that is what made this such a special night and such a tragic blow to the metal community, which lost a beloved family member in 2004. He spoke of the early days of Pantera and how San Francisco was the first city to truly embrace them as new artists. Out of pure savagery and utter fandom, several fans threw bags of weed on stage much to the delight of the band. These weren’t just dimebags either. After showing their appreciation, the ceiling came down and the pit erupted as Down exploded into the burliest and most churning section of Pantera’s legendary song “Walk”.

The energy and adoration between fans and band members continued throughout the night as Down delivered skull-crushing, neck-breaking and concussive performances of their best material to a drooling and worshiping fanbase. With a setlist spanning the entirety of their almost 20-year career, “Lifer”, “Ghosts Along the Mississippi” and “Pillars of Eternity” were all clear standouts. Drinks were spilled, bodies were tossed overhead and faces took bites out of the floor. At one point during “Pillars”, a fan in the front row had their phone in Anselmo’s face filming their next soon-to-be-trending concert video on YouTube. Anselmo snatched the phone away and took a selfie with some of the other band members all while maintaining every growl and shriek of his signature voice. Instead of handing the phone back to the fan, Anselmo decided to feed it to the Raptor massacre that was the front row and continue the song. A second fan tried to recreate this glorious scene for himself, and once again Anselmo obliged. However, this time, a stagehand was the final recipient of the fan’s coveted cell phone video.

Down

After some set-ending shenanigans with Keenan taking the mic and hesitantly singing a few tunes, which he thanked his fellow bandmates for by flipping them off multiple times, the encore began with Bruders laying down a rather funky bass line. “Hey kid, rock and roll/Oooh my soul” snarled its way from Anselmo’s ravaged vocal chords, as Down played the opening measures of David Essex’s classic “Rock On”. “Stone the Crow” and a dirty, drawn-out rendition of the stoner headbanger favorite “Bury Me in Smoke” rounded out the set, as members of the three opening acts all joined on stage to send the night off into a screaming mess of grinding, metal carnage.

All in all, it wasn’t bad for a Monday night.

In Memory of “Dimebag” Darrell Lance Abbott, 8/20/66-12/8/14: A deity to all metal heads.

Temples’ take on modern psych-rock is both exciting & sloppy

Temples-12Photos by Justin Yee // Written by Scotland Miller //

Temples with Wampire and Fever The Ghost //
The Fillmore – San Francisco
September 24th, 2014 //

There is no denying the fact that the early 1960’s had a remarkable effect on the sound of modern rock ‘n’ roll. The music from back then has a quality to it that just feels right. Imagine if you took a band like The Animals or The Moody Blues and smashed them together with the likes of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Well guess what? It has actually happened, and they are called Temples.

The four English lads that make up Temples played The Fillmore last Wednesday night and brought with them an echo of what the City used to be like, when LSD was popped like Jelly Beans and the colorful oil-and-water stage projections were cutting edge. The house was by no means packed, but that’s no surprise as these guys are not only foreigners, but they are also just cutting their teeth after releasing their first album, Sun Structures, earlier in the year.

Temples

Moments of the show were bursting and oozing with incredible feelings of flying through the air on the back of the mighty Pegasus, brushing the mountain tops of some distant, snow-covered range, while other moments were slow and sloppy, with wobbly and muddled vocals that sounded like the singer had marshmallows in his mouth. They did, however, succeed in truly embracing their genre and stretching out a few of their songs with some brilliant psychedelic jamming.

Temples offered up an acid-flashback evening of flower-power rock ‘n’ roll with a splash of straight up heavy. Their old-skool take on modern psych-rock is exciting and shows promise for more good music to come.

ANTEMASQUE sell out GAMH with Le Butcherettes

ANTEMASQUE_postPhotos by Pedro Paredes // Written by Scotland Miller //

ANTEMASQUE with Le Butcherettes //
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco
August 12th, 2014 //

The harsh aftermath that are the days following Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival was soothed by a special sold-out Tuesday at the Great American Music Hall. Two bands that are sure to draw crowds wherever they go, ANTEMASQUE and Le Butcherettes, delivered a power-packed night of music complete with dropped jaws and torn vocal chords.

Pedro Paredes Haz-3

On support of their new album entitled Cry Is for the Flies, Le Butcherettes is fronted by vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Teri Gender Bender and drummer Lia Braswel, with production support from Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. They are billed as a garage-punk band from Mexico and rely heavily on the simplistic formula that is “screw you, I’m gonna play what I want.”

This tactic of sonic shock rock is accompanied by Gender Bender’s politically-charged lyrics and her onstage antics, which included a bloodied kitchen apron, a broomstick crucifixion, a deep-throat of the microphone and a bit of crotch-first crowd surfing. To put it lightly, this girl is an eye-catcher on stage and will certainly make you a fan after a live performance. She even hit the bass player in the face with her shoe from across the stage! The energy that emanates from this group is shocking and undoubtedly best appreciated live.

Pedro Paredes Haz-7

A new project called ANTEMASQUE emerged earlier this year from longtime friends and familiar duo Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala, formerly of The Mars Volta and At the Drive-In. They are also joined by fellow TMV drummer David Elitch, as well as efforts from the Red Hot Chili Peppers legend Flea. Originally intended to release only a few singles in April of this year (“4AM”, “Hangin’ in the Lurch” and “People Forget”), the project evolved into the digital release of a 10-track self-titled album (read our review here) released in July with a subsequent quick two-week tour, finishing up with two shows in Los Angeles. They put a progressive spin on blues rock and punk music in a way that feels very new, which admittedly is a holy grail in the music industry. Fans of The Mars Volta shouldn’t be disappointed with this new material, but instead should recognize the new direction of these talented musicians.

Pedro Paredes Haz-23

At the exact moment of conclusion of Le Butcherettes’ opening set, the crowd immediately elbowed their way closer to the tiny stage at The Great American. A giant mass of cookie-cutter faces with stretched earlobes, flannel over shirts, IPA T-shirts, corduroy jackets, fedoras and beards all pushed forward to get a closer look at their heroes. It’s amazing the ferocity that such artists can evoke in their fans. It was refreshing to see. Not only was the reception of this performance accepted with nothing but screams of elation, but every single lyric for every song was also spouted by the vast majority of the audience. This might not be much of a notable occurrence, if it weren’t for the fact that most of this music has only been available to the public for a matter of about five or six weeks.

Pedro Paredes Haz-24

The setlist consisted of about an hour of material not quite encompassing the entirety of their self-titled release. The energy level achieved by the opening act never let up. Some of the highlighted performances came during a vibrantly charged rendition of “Hangin’ in the Lurch,” and a ripping guitar solo and jam session during “Providence.” There were a few moments of story time where Cedric explained how his grandmother was responsible for his being allowed to sing as a kid, and a quick comment about how ANTEMASQUE as a band were able to defy the music reviewers and make some music that was “all proggy prog prog” and didn’t have “a bunch of crazy time changes,” but these moments were offset by the pure magic that this pairing of musicians produced.

The sounds of ANTEMASQUE are different enough from that of their previous works, which sets this project apart from being just another time waster. Music fans will surely enjoy this act if they are ever lucky enough to see it in person.

New Music: Death – Death III

DeathDeath III

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“North Street”
“Restlessness”
“First Snowfall in Detroit”

Album Highlights: Not very often does something come along and completely re-write the annals of music history in quite the same way as the discovery and release of …For All the World to See in 2009, an album from of the early 70’s trio named Death. Perhaps one of the most important revelations in recent musical lore, the commitment of showcasing the recordings done by three brothers from Detroit is now complete. Death III is a collection of songs recorded over a nearly three decade-long career, which for the most part, went unheard.

The best part about the discovery of Death is the raw guitar playing talent of David Hackney. The album begins with an instrumental track that features David and some of his six-string prowess. The next track, “North Street”, sounds like it just missed making the final listing of their feverish and now legendary full-length first album, and is an instant proto-punk classic. It makes you just want to get up and flail around the room to Oingo Boingo’s Who Do You Want to Be like Tom Hanks in the film Bachelor Party.

“Restlessness” provides the droning head bob that any fan of rock ‘n’ roll, of the heavier variety, is looking for out of their music. A vintage drum line opens this track, followed by a killer guitar lick that seems to birth the well-known, three-chord punk progression. David’s guitar solo speaks with the best of them and accompanies the storyline of a “poor man’s” blues by crying it’s way through the fills.

Album Lowlight: Due to the lack of popularity from big recording studios at their height as a band, many of Death’s recordings are a bit lackluster in terms of quality. It can be tough to get a bedroom or garage recording to sound good without the monetary help required for mastering. There are a few vocal segments that are tough to make out, and a few drum beats that get washed out by an over-milked guitar amp, as evidenced by “Free”. But overall, these tracks sound clean.

“We Are Only People” and “Yes He’s Coming” take the listener down a different path, a bit more of a Pink Floyd psych-rock path, almost as if they were experimenting with their own spirituality as well as their instruments, simultaneously.

As this is a collection of recordings and not a proper album release, there is no real flow involved when listening. The track listing is well put together with what there was to work with, but it’s missing a few uptempo songs in the latter half of the release.

Takeaway: Music is deeply rooted in emotion and feeling, and more often than not experimentation. The Hackney brothers of Detroit were full of all of these. Death III gives the listener insight into the minds of a young group of musicians in the 70’s transitioning out of the Flower Power era of the 60’s and into what would become the birth of punk music by bands like The Ramones and the Sex Pistols. Not only has this band been overlooked by the history books, but David Hackney’s guitar playing has been missed. Listen to “First Snowfall in Detroit” and try to not let your soul weep like it does when you listen to “Little Wing”.

~Scotland Miller

Green Jellÿ crash Winter’s Tavern in Pacifica

Green_JellyPhoto by Robert Bejil // Written by Scotland Miller //

Green Jellÿ with BRUBAKER, Bitter Loa, FUKM //
Winter’s Tavern – Pacifica, CA
March 21st, 2014 //

The Punk Rock Puppet Show, brought to you live by Bill Manspeaker himself, descended on Pacifica last weekend and sent unsuspecting patrons of Winters Tavern fleeing for the sake of their eardrums. In case you didn’t know … Green Jellÿ sucks!

For those who are unfamiliar with the Green Jellÿ story (actually pronounced “jello” despite the spelling difference, which stems from trademark infringement lawsuits from the name-brand jiggly treat) you might want to do a quick Google search and find out. Completely ridiculous, totally absurd, and accompanied by curious videos, Green Jellÿ is the creation of Bill Manspeaker and is described as one of the worst bands in history. But don’t worry, that’s the idea!

The show started with an empty stage and blown-out voice blaring through the microphone from the parking lot…ahem, excuse me, I mean dressing-room. “Green Jellÿ is an audience participation band! The more you act like an asshole in front of your girlfriend, the more funner it will be for all of us!!” After announcing the members of the band like at a boxing arena, which by the way are nothing more than recruited fans who can play instruments, Manspeaker took the stage in a t-shirt, boots, and his underwear. “If you are not drunk, or stoned on medical marijuana, this will be the stupidest fucking thing you have ever seen, and you should leave now!” I watched several folks do just that.

He then asked 10 people to become part of the show and to proceed to the dressing room. Outside, there were a dozen giant foam and duct tape puppet heads of evil clowns, dead rock stars and other weird characters from the band’s oddball claymation videos. These things were twisted. I couldn’t help myself and chose Layne Staley Frankenstein. I was introduced as the first puppet and made my way inside. He put me on top of a large box in front of the stage and they began to play the Alice in Chains classic “Man in the Box” … ha … ha … ha.

From there, the night became a hot mess of drunken, sweaty, yelling and screaming puppets crashing around the bar, knocking over drinks and people having a blast — not to mention the crazy antics of Manspeaker and his own outlandish costume changes and bar dancing.

Green Jellÿ didn’t disappoint when it came to song selection. The band’s 1993 album Cereal Killer Soundtrack dominated the set with tracks like “Electric Harley House (of Love)”, “Obey the Cowgod”, “Anarchy in Bedrock” (yes, this is a Sex Pistols cover) and of course ending the night with “Three Little Pigs”. I fully enjoyed participating and making a fool of myself in the name of punk rock and have been wearing the gash in my forehead with pride all week.

“Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!!”

Tool pound out two sold-out nights at Bill Graham Civic

Tool_postPhoto by Kevin Raos // Written by Scotland Miller //

Tool with Failure //
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco
March 11th-12th, 2014 //

The Bay Area was visited last week by one of the most coveted live performance bands in existence. For two consecutive nights, the members of Tool blew away their fans with ear-splitting renditions and a laser-light show that would leave even the most seasoned of concert-goers totally dumbfounded. Their setlist has become a bit stagnant and has not evolved much since their previous trip through the bay in 2010. Perhaps this is due to the lack of a new release in almost a decade? With that being said, the show itself is in a constant state of change and makes each tour well worth waiting for. The setlist saw some minor changes after the first night but definitely rewarded the fans loyal enough to claw their way into both shows.

A band named Failure, from Los Angeles, opened each night and did a great job at making the crowd that much more anxious to see their most favorite of favorite bands on the planet. In the words of the guy outside standing in line next to me when asked by his friend if there was an opening act– “Who cares!?”

You haven’t really felt anticipation until you are amidst a crowd of a few thousand rabid and sometimes delirious Tool fans waiting for the show to begin. And when it does, you realize why you may have shelled out over $100 for the admission. The thumping heartbeat and voice of Timothy Leary began with what has come to be a welcomed opening sequence for these guys. “Think for yourself. Question authority.” That line echoed above screams of elation and the cries of suspense as squealy guitar feedback slowly built into the creepy grind of “Third Eye”. The set continued with two of their biggest hits, “Forty Six & 2”, followed by “Schism”, complete with extended jam sections perfected over their last few tours. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to hear one of those bits on “the new album”. The first set ended with “Pushit”, “Intension” and “Lateralus”, which created a trippy little cerebral journey for you to ponder during the break. I was exceedingly pleased to hear them play “Pushit” as I had yet to experience that song live and was unsure if they were ever going to add it to the catalog again.

The 12-minute countdown that was the intermission ended with Danny returning to the stage by himself and, well ya know, banging on those things called drums. As he so loves to do, he began his eight-minute drum solo with his undoubtedly limited edition, one-of-a-kind, uber-expensive modular synthesizer, which he used to interpret an obscure King Crimson song called “B’Boom” — a fitting title for the second set and the last four songs of the show.

“Jambi” started the swirl of the zombie-like pit that remained for the rest of the night as limbs were flailed and bodies were bashed around. After all hell had broken loose (as if it hadn’t already), the first words of “Opiate” creeped from Maynard’s voice, sending fans from the early days straight into the mosh. “Aenema” and “Stinkfist” closed out the show in the same way that a dad might close the door on a daughter’s new boyfriend: hard, loud, and in your face!

This time around, Tool brought with them a slew of mobile “screens” that shifted and moved around the stage, constantly changing position and orientation. I say “screens” because if you looked at them closely, they looked more like plastic chicken wire. That is to say that they were not solid — they were transparent when they were absent of graphics. At one point this “screen” dropped down in front of the stage and allowed images to be shown, basically superimposed over the band, all while still seeing the towering wall of graphics behind the stage. Incredible is a gross understatement — and you thought the 2Pac hologram at Coachella was cool? It’s no wonder that the balcony seats fill up before the floor.

Technology is at the forefront of everything we do in our lives, and Tool understand this. These guys go out of their way to put on a show for their fans. Some acts stand on stage, play their music and shine some lights in your face. Tool begs to differ. The next time they come to town, sell your iPad, sell your TV or sell your car if it gets you into the show!

March 11th Setlist:
Third Eye
Forty Six & 2
Schism
Pushit
Intension
Lateralus
(Intermission)
B’Boom
Jambi
Opiate
Aenema
Stinkfist

March 12th Setlist:
Hooker With a Penis
Vicarious
Schism
Sober
Intension
Lateralus
(Intermission)
B’Boom
Jambi
Forty Six & 2
Aenema
Stinkfist