"if your parents don't like it, it's good." -- Lemmy
Tomorrow we’ll be at the Mayhem Festival in San Bernardino. There is one reason we’re going: “Anthrax / Motorhead / Slayer.” That’s one reason because you’d have to be impaired to not give that lineup a second thought. The problem is all the other bands. I don’t get them. Probably because I’m old. I did get High on Fire; in fact I love them.
And before a couple weeks ago, the “other bands” included High on Fire. Like a genius bit of propaganda to show the kids what’s what. Matt Pike knows what it means to be on a bill with Motorhead. Before he entered rehab this month, he was on track to become our version of Lemmy. But that’s not happnin now.
Why? Well it’s a long story. For now, let’s just say that growing up in California and dealing with the socio-economic climate here as a teen / young man doesn’t give one the breathing room of 60’s England and doing so much acid and speed that whisky becomes a mood stabilizer. Call me Marxist, call me Mormon, I don’t give a fuck, but Matt Pike going into rehab causes a little re-evaluation. ‘Nuf said.
(Lemmy was a roadie for Hendrix (anger, love, depression, altogether now). He’ll be in San Bernardino tomorrow. Bow down kids, bow down.)
There’s a bunch of other bands too. This show is associated with the company that does the Warped Tour and Kevin Lyman. Speaking to Lyman a few weeks ago, I asked if the Warped Tour would ever feature the “Old School Stage” again. (That’s where Fear on the little stage plays opposite Bad Religion on the big stage, and people over 40 look down and shake their heads.) Lyman said probably not. After all, we’re getting older. He pointed out that The Used is now an old band on the Warped Tour. “Fuck”, I thought, “he’s right”, and they were that band with the whiny guy who dated Kelly Osbourne back when I could afford cable.
Tomorrow I will listen with open ears. I didn’t understand the Warped Tour three years ago, and I don’t understand most of these bands now. I watched the Whitechapel video. It was a guy lecturing another guy who was on his knees. Mapplethorpe did a picture like that in the ‘80’s, and it was banned. Actually, with Mapplethorpe, one guy was pissing in the other guy’s mouth, but whatever… the message is the same: a guy talking to another guy on his knees is gay. One scene gets banned, the other plays out 30 years later in a tour that goes through Idaho where everyone’s parents are so busy being pissy about an African-American President that they aren’t paying attention. If you’re a gay teen in Idaho, you need this show. Throw on some Bowie and have a big laugh at mom and dad while you’re at it.
Anyway, to me, here’s the deal: these bands are all playing the same 12 notes. Mix them up, put them through 97 Line 6 effects or emulate the “Voodoo Chile” amps. They’re all dealing with the same palette. Lemmy is going to be there tomorrow playing derivative blues filtered through speed and volume. Slayer is going to be there pounding the fuck out of the devil’s triad via Dave Lombado’s rhythmic attack. That’s enough for me.
When I was a kid a big show (i.e., Judas Priest and Dokken at Cal Expo; Dio and Y&T at same) meant (i) getting fucked up and (ii) dreaming about fucking. Maybe actually fucking. Hopefully making out with a random femme from a high school faraway. Kids now… I don’t know. Growing up in a world where the prescription drugs make even the greatest pot seem like beer. Where the video games stimulate the frontal lobe more than the greatest porn. Where their parent’s houses were valued at $500k six years ago and $200k now. Where there is a huge national debate on whether getting health care is a basic right or a free market choice. That teenhood might provoke some anxiety.
Maybe growing up in that world means screamo emo is a vital part of your life. It’s not mine, but I can’t knock it if it gets you to work at Best Buy and you’re 20 years my junior. (Unless you are some attitude-ridden management trainee who rides your fake power over your former schoolmates, in which case you deserve the rented townhouse mediocrity that will be your entire life.) I’ll be there with open ears. If you’re twenty two, I hope you will be doing the same. There’s gonna be a sixty year old on stage talking about the sex and booze and volume and stuff that will sustain you. There’s gonna be a Catholic from El Sereno fronting some serious dudes showing you where to put your anger. There will be some guys in masks and some kids playing with distortion and dynamics and deep self-loathing as a means of avoiding suicide. I’ll be around taking it in, if not approving of all of it. If you bother to pay the parking, fight the crowd and deal with the BS just to see music, I’m with you. Cheers, mates.