Oh what a trip yesterday was.
For those that care, I got to see Megadeth last night. Though just putting it like that is greatly understating everything else that went down.
For starters, I got the VIP package. Meaning, I got to meet Megadeth themselves! The legendary Dave Mustaine, Co-founder David Ellefson, their latest shredder Kiko Laureiro, and touring drummer Dirk Van Bueren from Swedish melo-death trendsetters Soilwork (whom I also got to see this year), and their awesome mascot, Vic Rattlehead. I got to shake hands and take pictures w/ heavy metal royalty.
Oddly enough, even before I got into the building, one guy asked me if Megadeth was any good? And he was part of the VIP package. Just...what?
Of course being that these things are early, we got unprecedented access to the merch tables. One Amon Amarth tour Tee + Thor pendant & the latest Suicidal Tendencies album 'World Gone Mad' was what I started with, but I'd make my way back.
Being early also meant choosing your spots up front. Pick your place on the barricade and defend it at all costs. While there, those of us from the meet & greet plus the early arrivals got to talking, about concert experiences, favorite bands, shows we would've loved to have seen. This older dude, Kurt, had apparently done it all. Told the story of how Tom Araya signed his bass during the Reign In Blood tour. Then it got wiped off. How he took the members of Death Angel to a mall. How he saw Iron Maiden during the Piece Of Mind tour. How he found himself standing next to KK Downing, and got his signature on the back of his jacket. He was hyped for Metal Chruch. Shocked that they were back and touring. Drew their logo on his textbooks. Really wanted to meet Mike Muier from Suicidal Tenancies. While another of our crew, Duncan, got to meet Brian Weltch from Korn at the local Dennys, and talked about how chill he was. We talked about bands we were all in. I wasn't, but it was still interesting. Maybe I should get to leaning an instrument. I've got a guitar. Got two. Also, it was Duncan's girlfriends, Aliese (?) first show. Metal by association. Also two girls were texting next to me about the meet & greet. She got a reply: "Did you meet Dave Mustaine?" And she said. "I guess?" And her mom went. "You just had a picture with him!" And she was like "Oh s--t....don't judge me!" We all had a laugh at that.
Then our convo got cut short when Butcher Babies took the stage. Kurt didn't know who they were. We summed it up as two ex-play boy bunnies who sang death metal. Apparently I was the only one who knew that one of them was a former mortician. They found that fact amazing. Not a bad showing from the band. Personally too much stuff off the new album. Not a long enough set. One of the guys was so in love w/ singer Heidi. He flipped when she came to our side of the barricade right in front of me during first album closer 'Magnolia blvd.'
Not long after, Metal Church took the stage. An old fashioned middle ground between British speed metal & American thrash. The new stuff off album XI went down pretty well, especially single 'No Tomorrow.' Unfortunately, Kurt got into an argument w/ another lady & her friend which got pretty distracting. Luckily neither were thrown out. In the end, Metal Church was well received, and got a bunch of chants during the set. I'd consider that a career resurgence.
Decided to bid farewell to my new colleagues, as they were gonna get crushed when Suicidal Tendencies came on. That much was for sure. Was hungry. Actually got arena food. Pizza slice (like the one I'm eating now, 'cept sausage). Just managed to get out of line as the opening chords to 'You Can't Bring Me Down' began. First time I ate pizza during a show. Also, the realization hit me. Suicidal had a new drummer. And it was none other than Dave Lombardo. The master skinsman that once hailed from Slayer.
The crowd was relativity tame up until that point. But when 'Bring me down' came on, that pit erupted. Front row to the violent spectacle of pushes, shoves, tackles and grand machismo. But it wasn't long before the locked away inner So-Cal skate punk in me came calling, and I had to join in. Me, 140lbs, soaking wet. In a pit full of burly bikers & jocks. I was tumbled around like a sock in a wash. But it was an experience, getting to exorcise my macho side for once. Even saw some girls in the pit and thought "Yes! They're are others!"
Mosh pits are an excuse to do lots of silly and or crazy stuff. Awkward dancing like a goof. Stomping and chest beating like a cave man. Being picked up for a piggy back ride, only to be slammed against a wall of onlookers, like I was. Never had that happen before. So absurd I couldn't help but laugh. Old fashioned punk pit. Closed out their set to 'Pledge Your Allegiance', w/ all of us marching in a circle around the headbangers, chanting "S T!" like an army on the move. Walked away w/ a good share of scrapes, my VIP wristband cutting into my arm in a few places, my knee getting scraped up, or maybe it was the scar tissue getting reopened. Hard to tell.
Walked away to use the can and get some water. Came back, and the set had completely changed. The good thing about an arena, is that you can use a bigger stage. And viking metalers Amon Amarth finally brought their massive long boat to the states. Complete w/ drum set! Kicking things off in grand fashion w/ one of my favorites of theirs, Twilight of the thunder god. And the pit was back. Btu this was different. Less of the punk rock fooling around, this was more intense. Every man and woman giving it their all to the sounds of battle. And that's what it indeed looked like. The old scenes of warfare that the Norse warriors too pride in partaking in. And this time, it was the call of my own Norse ancestors, my inner Viking, that lead me to partake in the display of bravery and brutality. A show of my inner fortitude.
And I was tossed around even crazier. Got pulled in at the wrist by one of the lady moshers, telling me "Come on you pussy!" So I did. And got bowled over for my troubles. I actually got scooped up and carried around in a buff dudes arms as he ran around the pit, using me as a human shield. Again, so absurd I had to laugh. But even amongst all that chaos, there were moments of order. Like when Amon Amarth began playing their new single, 'First kill.' The moshers divided to either side and we formed ranks, our side facing the another. and once the tempo kicked into overdrive, we charged at one another like opposing armies in the heavy metal staple Now it really felt like a Viking reenactment.
It looked something like this
We tried it again for Deceiver of the Gods. Even planned it out in advance. Unfortunately the other side had no clue what was going on. So it ended up being a wall of dudes + me rushing at a group of unsuspecting pit goers. Still lots of fun. Lots of shoulder to shoulder headbanging. Almost got my knee blown out when a dude was sent tumbling into us. Got pushed over, tripped up, knocked down, landed ass first on the concrete, then shoulder first, got another scrape on my knee for my troubles. Saw a dude get carried around over another dudes shoulder. Other dude tried to put him down but his cargo was a bit tipsy, so he ended up getting slammed down from a good height up. Something I usually see in Pro wrestling. But all is good, as your never down for long. The moment you go down, you'll have everyone trying to get you back up. Because even in these chaotic pits, there are rules of etiquette and codes of honor. You take care of yourself and you take care of others. One hell of a show. Lots of drinking horns were emptied. Wish the set list was longer though. Fun fact: 15 years ago, Amon Amarth held their first ever U.S. show, right here in Milwaukee. Very special night indeed.
And that special night kept going. cause as part of the VIP experience, those that forked over extra, got a special treat: Side stage passes. Me and a handful of others got to stand on the actual stage with Megadeth! It was quite a view, seeing an arena full of people from up there. And then this happened.
Those sing alongs. Those horns in the air. That pit being seen from afar. Being waved at by my newfound buddies in the front row. First song off the new smash hit record Dystopia, 'The Threat Is Real' went down a storm. That'll be a keeper in the set. Song three was a crowd pleaser. The flipped their collective s--t when Tornado Of Souls was finally played. And Kiko owned those guitar solos.
Another fun fact: A couple that was w/ me on stage were sporting merch for our own local thrash heroes Conniption. Apparently, the guitarist was right up next to us the whole time. Didn't even realize it was him. Good band. Go check them out.
Unfortunately that was as long as we could stay on stage. Left just as they started playing one of my personal favorites in 'She Wolf'. We all got escorted off and we all got a group pic, before I stormed back in. Rest of the show went pretty damn well. Lots of stuff off the new album played. A rare thing for Megadeth to do. The proceeding events were closed out in grand fashion by Dave telling a story, about how he played a gig in North Ireland back in the late 80s, how he met a dude selling shirts at the venue. Apparently it was for 'The Cause', giving Ireland to the Irish and a bunch of Catholic/ Protestant BS that hadn't died 300 years earlier. So Dave, the unapologetic drunk that he was back then, said to the crowd "This one is for the cause!"
The next day, he woke up at the hotel. Ellifson was giving him the cold shoulder at breakfast. Dave asked what happened. Ellifson said "You don't remember do you?" "No I was hammered. That was the point. Must've been pretty f--king good." "You said, 'This is for the cause!' which caused all the Catholics to go to one side, the protestants to go to the other, and us kicked out of the venue and having the police escort us to Dublin in a bullet proof bus." Having heard that story, the next day, Dave wrote Holy Wars.
And thus ended the show w/ said song in a display of seemingly impossible soloing. One of the best tracks to hear live. And as per usual, a great way to end the show.
Went back to the merch booth to receive our VIP goodie bags, complete w/ bandanna, custom guitar picks, custom pins, a signed poster and a signed set list. But beofre I could leave, guess who I met at the merch table? Suicidal Tendencies. Mike Muier and the boys (minus Lombardo). Even signed my CD and shared my story of seeing them for the first time w/ Exodus & Slayer years back. All good guys. All made for a great night.
And today I wake up sore. Ears ringing. And with a maddening need to catalog all this down.
For those that care, here ya go! A headbangers journey! Immortalized for all time!