Friday afternoon decided last minute to go with Mike and Cleve to see Motörhead in the city. I’ve never been a metal-head at all, but this is a band I’ve somehow learned to respect without ever owning any of their records. They’re like the progenitors of the entire speed / metal / thrash / lineage. Even though I haven’t heard much, I’ve always known that theirs is very pure music – absolute rock with no silly metal trappings or pretense. The weird thing is that Motörhead sits in the middle of this sea of bands that are all about pretense – big hair, satanic or christian mumbo jumbo, really bad lyrics, really bad cover art … the whole Spinal Tap trip, but without the irony.
We show up at 3rd and Townsend and the place is swarming with black leather and chipped black fingernail polish. Pop a few vics and get in line, get frisked, get inside. The smell of hair care products and stale beer fills the air. Righteous. T-shirt vendors everywhere. The whole metal scene is all about the t-shirt – hardly anyone there not wearing some band’s shirt – and it’s uncool to wear the shirt of the band you’re there to see – it’s got to be the shirt of the band that the lead singer of the band you’re there to see was in in the early 80s or something. So there are all these shirts of obscure, half-baked metal outfits from 15 years ago. And every stand has like 10 designs. Found a Motörhead shirt that says in big gothic letters on the back, “Everything Louder Than Everything Else.” The classic original Motörhead design on the front. Can’t resist, buy one, now part of the machine.
Four bands on tonight. “Speed Demon” are clearly lying – half of them are too huge to be speed freaks. And they sound like parodies of themselves – close your eyes and you really are at a Spinal Tap show. Next up “Today Is the Day,” which sounds all nice and rosy until you realize they basically mean “today is a good day for an apocalypse.” So they’ve got something in common with your Revelations-reading grandmother, except your grandmother probably isn’t wearing a shirt that says “Kill or be killed” across the front. The singer shrieked relentlessly, totally unintelligible. The drummer defined new levels of posession – played with his eyes rolled back in his head (freaky), throwing his entire weight onto the kit, sweat splashing everywhere. Seemed like he would take a drumstick and start stabbing the heads at any moment. Amazing, but kind of pathetic too.
“Morbid Angel” was the next band – what an idiotic name. Total reliance on that double-bass drum sound Metallica pioneered – 30 minutes of hammering 1/64th notes. Vocals over that were all a single low note – lame attempt to sound satanic. Gimme a break. So much intensity from these bands, but so much of it doesn’t seem sincere. Well, this is the day’s sounded kind of sincere, but the other bands didn’t – more about the shtick. Popped another vicodan, bought another beer. If we’re going to be here, better get into the right frame of mind for it.
A total relief when Motörhead came on. All the pretenses ditched – still a super-high level of intensity, but – my god – there were actual songs buried in there somewhere. And – shocking – some actual pyschic communication between the players – cohesion, kung fu. Sounded so fscking great, totally exhilarating. To enjoy this, you have to just drop all your associations about the metal scene and all of its negative associations, and give yourself over to the purity of it. It’s like racing through the hills on a motorcycle, playing with the edge, hanging on but just. In total control, but knowing that if they took it one level higher the whole thing could fall apart. Incredible.
Lemmy is in his 60s – beautiful to see a man that age up there rocking that hard. Best cockney accent: “I’m not just a little deaf, I’m totally f*cking deaf! Is it loud enough for you out there?” I wore earplugs through the whole thing, but removed them for their unbelievable cover of the Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen” and again for their Ramones cover (forget which song). And again for “Ace of Spades.” Ears ringing pretty badly today. Not sure if that’s because I took the plugs out a few times or whether it was just loud enough to do ear damage right through the plugs. Hard to say.
Motörhead rocks. Great to see Cleve again too (lived with him in the early 90s). We should hang more often.
Kind of hung over today, but went to breakfast in Point Richmond with Chris and Amy, then kicked around on Solano ave. Checked out some birthing classes – we’ll get started on those soon. In the afternoon went to a matinee of Lantana, which was very good but not what we had expected. Ah well. Rented “Made” (by makers of “Swingers”) and watched in the evening. Down-time day. Tomorrow back on track with all the crap piling up.