Tag Archives: Concerts

Guns N’ Roses At Mile High Stadium 08/02/2017

I want to start this post by stating the following: I’m a lame, hipster. I’m not a real fan.  Nothing ever at any time in my entire life has made me happy. I am taking out my own personal frustrations on a millionaire rock star. I am jealous of Axl Rose. I am a terrible writer and this post is full of typos. I am a derogatory term for a homosexual. I am ugly, stupid, bad, dumb, full of shit, hopeless, worthless, and a talentless hack.

There. Now that I’ve already pre-insulted myself, the Guns N’ Roses kooks that come out of the woodwork to complain about this post are going to have a (slightly) harder time thinking of something original to say. I’m not going to beat around the bush kids, I saw Guns N’ Roses live in concert earlier this week and if kinda sucked. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s do the whole concert-wrap-up-post.

 

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The view of Mile High from the neighboorhood where I currently work.

 

The concert was held at Denver’s beloved Mile High Stadium, where I saw Metallica earlier this summer (more on that in a moment). I was a little wiser from my experience at that show, so while the evening played out roughly the same way, I was able to refine my strategy. Once again, I walked from my (current soon-to-be-former) office just outside downtown Denver and took a popular urban walking/bike trail to the Stadium. I arrived shortly after 5:00 pm and immediately went to Little Machine Beer for my pre-show libations and tacos from True West Tacos. This beer and those tacos are the real-deal people, I strongly urge you check them out if you are in the Denver area.

 

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Ordered the exact same thing. 10/10 would eat again.

 

Little Machine sits at the very edge of the far parking lot of the Stadium, so just like before the Metallica show, it was filled with concert goers. But there was a real difference. People tend to think of metalheads as “scary” and “dangerous” but the crowd waiting for the GNR show was much rowdier. They were also less…what’s the most delicate way to put this? Sprinkled with hate. I sat on an outside patio next to a bunch of biker dudes, one of whom had a patch on his vest shaped like the continental United States which was emblazoned with the slogan “We’re full…FUCK OFF!” While I’m sure there were some shitty dudes/dudettes at the Metallica show (after all there were way more people) the shitheads seemed to gather in larger groups and were thus more prominent.

 

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An empty-ish parking lot 2 hours before show time.

 

I finished my dinner and drinks spending around $30 and was then 100% completely done spending money for the evening. I did not, as with Metallica, buy any beers at the show and while I checked out the merch booth, I did not buy anything. Why? Well, I had an early morning appointment the next day (so I stopped drinking) and the merch was crappy, stupid looking, and over priced. The shirts were mostly $45, which isn’t too bad, but $500 for a jacket? Who is buying that? Anyway, I was/am very broke so I saved my (non-existent) money and made my way to my seat. I was four rows from the field/pit area, directly center to the stage. When I arrived at my seat, there were only three people in my row, of course, one of them was sitting next to my seat. He was a pale, very thin, young rocker-kid who was constantly coughing (because he was hitting a vape pen, naturally). Two rows in front of me, a burly biker dude was already throwing up. That’s right, the opening act was only halfway done with his set (Sturgill Simpson, a kinda flat/boring alt-country blues guy) and this guy was already in the puking phase of his evening. This gentleman, whose girlfriend sat stoically next to him, threw up three more times. Near as I could tell, he was just throwing up on the ground next to his seat. Eventually, a pair of stadium employees (poor kids, who were probably making $7 an hour) came a silently mopped up his vomit. The dude didn’t even acknowledge them or say he was sorry. As soon as they were gone he started hitting a vape pen. I expected him to vanish during the show, either dragged off by the staff because he was staggering/falling over, but he was there the entire show.

 

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My vantage point. 

 

Once Sturgill Simpson was finished, we were treated to the best music of the evening: a mixtape of kick ass Ramones songs played over the stadium PA. Getting to hear The Ramones played at maximum volume in Mile High Stadium was so rad, it made me sad that we weren’t going to get to see them rather than GNR. Those songs play like gangbuster whilst sitting in a sticky plastic chair watching a biker try not heave while hitting a vape pen. Highlights included “Danny Says” and “Swallow My Pride” two songs that are definitely in my Top 20 favorite songs of all time. Eventually, The Ramones faded out and Guns N’ Roses took to the stage. This is where the evening started to fall apart. The band opened with “It’s So Easy” and from jump-street, Axl sounded like shit. I’ve been trying to put my finger on exactly what was so crappy about it and all I can think is that he had no spark, no enthusiasm. He also screeched way more than sang throughout most of the night. And it’s a damn shame because Axl once had the greatest range of any pop singer. But time and drugs/hard living have ravaged the voice that was Guns N’ Roses.

 

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The first of many dumb looking hats.

 

When I was a kid, I used to think that there were two people singing Axl’s parts, a dude with a really high voice and another with a deep, low voice. I actually thought that Slash was the dude with the really deep voice. But it was just Axl and his amazing range. Earlier this week, I flipped through the “Fat Axl” memes online, kinda dreading how bad Axl might look. I didn’t think he looked any fatter than any rich dude his age. However, Axl looked fucking ridiculous all night long. He always wore a bandana (which is okay, because he always did that) but atop that, he wore a series of stupid hats. Now look, I like hats too. My friend in St. Louis, Jake, has sold me many a dumb hat at the hat store where he works. The dumber a hat is, the more I want to wear it…in public. These giant leather monstrosities looked incredibly stupid and swapping them out between songs only emphasized just how desperate Axl is these days to keep his head covered. What are you hiding, Axl? I get that losing one’s hair (allegedly) is terrible for men, but here’s the thing: Axl is rich enough that he doesn’t have to get up and perform on stage these days. If you’re that paranoid about your hair, don’t do these shows. Or just wear the bandana. The vest/jacket that Axl wore throughout the night also changed, and while most of these were just terrible, the brown leather with fringe number he wore near the end of the night was truly egregious.

 

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Slash keeping it Slash-y.

 

For the most part, the song selections were about what you would expect from a reunited Guns N’ Roses in 2017. Mostly selections from their debut album (all the hits you can name) with selections from the USE YOUR ILLUSION albums sprinkled throughout. There were, however, more covers than I was expecting and that’s where the band exceeded (somewhat) my expectations. Of course they were going to cover the Wings/Paul McCartney classic “Live and Let Die,” but I wasn’t expected the touching Chris Cornell tribute cover of “Black Hole Sun” (which, if I’m being honest, fucking rocked) and brilliant instrumental cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” Speaking of instruments, Slash and bass player Duff McKagan were both aces. Despite having lived just as rough a life (or even rougher?) than Axl, these two are still able to hold their own on stage. And Slash looked even better than when I saw him open a few years ago for Aerosmith. Dude looks like he’s been hitting the gym, good for him. And speaking of McKagen, before I forget, I want to mention the single coolest part of this concert: every time the cameras focused on McKagen’s bass playing we got to see the Prince symbol. Yes, McKagen has the Purple One’s symbol proudly displayed on his guitar. I know that most of the people at the show probably didn’t like Prince, but the shout-out to a legit guitar hero, gone too soon, was awesome. This was the best thing that GNR did on stage that night–they had a small piece of Prince with them.

There were, predictably, only two songs from CHINESE DEMOCRACY: the titular track and the song “Better.” I really like “Better” so I was glad to hear them play it…until they started playing it. The overwrought production of Axl’s infamous album just isn’t replicable live on stage.  They did have a (very young) woman playing keyboards with them who provided occasional backing vocals, which she did on this song, that was also pretty cool. Hearing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” live with Axl singing the vocals (I saw Slash do this song with Myles Kennedy) was noteworthy, but really it sounded like someone else doing a cover. Axl sitting down at the piano for “November Rain” was a legit moment of badassery. At the tail-end of the Slash instrumental cover of “Wish You Were Here,” Axl launched into the ending piano riff of “Layla.” I forgot that Axl was a decent piano player, and the sappy MTV ballad actually sounded decent once he launched into “November Rain.” This was the closest we came to hearing old-school GNR.  Then the band went into the Chris Cornell cover and I started to think, “Maybe this concert was worth it after all.” The band finished that cover and immediately followed it up with the Dylan cover “Knockin’ On Heavens Door.” Despite the ridiculous cowboy getup, Axl did this song justice, too. But then they finished the night’s set with an ear-splittingly bad version of “Nightrain.”

I left while the crowd clapped and stamped their feet in order to demand an encore. Partly because I’d seen enough and partly because, like Axl, I too was getting old and couldn’t stay out all night. I told my wife the next day that seeing Guns N’ Roses live made me wish I’d died at 25, but after careful consideration, I don’t think that’s right. No, I don’t think it’s better to burn out than fade away or whatever other rock cliches you can conjure. I think that it is better to keep living, get old, and give up on staying young forever. Sure, an old man can be goofy compared to a virile young man, but a young man pretending to be young still is even goofier. I can’t be certain, but I don’t think “goofy” is what Axl is going for these days. To all the young bands playing out there today: grow, change, morph into something mature and when you’re 55+ don’t try to be 25.

 

 

Aside: If you’d told me at the start of the summer that the best show of Summer 2017 was going to be Metallica, I wouldn’t have believed you. But boy did Metallica beat GNR in every way. From the live performance, stage presence, pyrotechnics, hell…even the weird stuff they projected behind the better was better produced/not laughable (the GNR material was crappy 2000-era CGI guns and rose petals). 

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Where Have I Been? & 2017 Concert Updates

 

Hello Everyone,

It’s been three months since I’ve been active here at Defending Axl Rose, though I’m trying to get “back on the horse” as they say. I’ve been busy working…like a lot of working. I didn’t mean for so much time to pass, but here we are with so much time having passed since my last substantial update. Last year I didn’t attend very many concerts, but already 2017 is shaping up to be a HUGE concert-going year for me. On the horizon: I’m attending a Metallica show in June and a Guns ‘N Roses show in August. I kinda gave up on seeing GnR for a little while, but after the initial rush of ticket sales, the prices for decent seats at the Denver show dropped to where I was comfortable plunking down my hard earned coinage. I know that for a guy running an Axl Rose-themed blog this will sound like heresy: but I’m more excited to see Metallica at this point.

I have a couple of albums that dropped over the past few months that I want to review, I also have a book I need to finish and review on Jellyfish, and I have a couple of classic albums I want to revisit. There are things we have to do, and then there are important things we should do but don’t always have the time–and this website has always been in the second category, but sometimes life gets in the way.

Lastly, I didn’t write it up, but last month I attended an Against Me! concert up in Fort Collins and was totally blown away by them! If you happen to live in a city where they’re rolling through I highly recommend you check them out, they are so good live. Also, it’s not music-related, but I would like to take a moment to plug my friend’s blog Trope & Dagger where I sometimes write about pop culture stuff that doesn’t fit with DAR’s mission statement. I plan on writing something over there really soon, too.
I still check my email for this website, but it’s been a while since anybody has sent me anything cool. If you have a band or know a band that you want me to check out shoot me an email: defendingaxlrose@gmail.com. And if you want a positive review I can tell you where to send the check…

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I Might Actually, Maybe, Possibly, Perhaps, Get to See GnR Live!

I’m still smarting from the whole Kanye West concert debacle, but news came a few days ago that Guns N’ Roses were going to hit-up a bunch of US cities not on the original leg of their Not In This Lifetime reunion tour. I remain cautiously optimistic about my chances of seeing the band, even though my native St. Louis and current home Denver are on the list of cities blessed with a tour stop. I mean, Axl Rose is no Kanye West, but he does have a reputation…if I buy a ticket for one of these shows will I be dooming my fellow concert goers?

I missed the first leg of the tour, though my parents (of all people) saw the band in Kansas City and apparently had a good time. This year has been on of many crushing defeats and moments of terrible disappointment…but I’m going to tempt fate one more time and buy a ticket to the Denver show this Friday when they go on sale.

The new tour dates are:

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Denied by Kanye: Mr. West Uncharacteristically Spazzes out and Cancels Remaining LIFE OF PABLO Tour Dates

File this under Shitty News That Actually Doesn’t Surprise Me: Kanye West has canceled the remaining dates of his LIFE OF PABLO tour. This comes on the heels of Yeezus losing his mind over the weekend in California while “performing.” I put that in quotes because Mr. West, after making the crowd wait over an hour for the show to begin, only performed three songs before storming off stage. He apparently went on a long jag attacking Jay Z and Beyonce while at the same time praising president-elect Donald Trump. People were, understandably, confused and little pissed. For their part, Ticketmaster decided to do the right thing and refund people the money they spent on tickets to the concert.

Then this morning I awoke to find that many friends and family on social media were directing me to news articles stating that Kanye had canceled the rest of the tour. I checked my email but as of writing this post, I’ve received no correspondence from the ticket company who sold me my upcoming (next Monday!!!) concert ticket. For the briefest of moments, I thought that maybe this was a hoax or had been blown out of proportion. I went on Kanye’s website and everything seemed normal. However, when I clicked through to see if tickets could be purchased for upcoming concert dates I was greeted with this bit of cold reality:

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So that’s it then. What a whirlwind. You’ll recall that my journey to Yeezus-ticketdom has been fraught with much pain and sorrow. There was my failed attempt to raise money online in order to see Mr. West perform in Vegas. Then, just as my soul had accepted that I wouldn’t be seeing him perform, he surprisingly announced another leg of THE LIFE OF PABLO TOUR that would come to my town! I eagerly waited for tickets to go on sale and plunked down $69 (giggity) to see my idol (and the person who will probably feature at top of my Best Albums of 2016 list) perform live. I must say, it’s not easy being a Kanye West fan. The media circus the man cultivates detracts so much from his music that when I tell people I love his music they almost always look at me as though I’ve lost my mind. The disgust that they exhibit is no doubt for Kanye the Media Personality, who is both irritating and at this point controversial for the sake of being controversial.

At this point, I still love Kanye, but as he said on LIFE OF PABLO: “I miss the old Kanye.” If I could offer Mr. West some advice it would be this: give up the hype train and the constant need to be in the news. Downsize your life and follow the example of The Beatles–give up touring and appearing in public and retreat to the studio. Focus on making your complex, amazing music and stop messing around with politics, shoes, fashion shows, and the Kardashian soap opera. There is still time to salvage your career and your reputation as a serious artists, but only if you get back to doing what got you famous in the first place.

UPDATE: Just as I was about to post this I got an email about my refund:

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Campaign to Send Me to See Kanye West Official Over

You might recall a few months ago when I started a Go Fund Me campaign in order to send me to Las Vegas to see Kanye West perform live. Don’t remember that? Well, it happened. Fueled by the  desperation to see the man perform LIFE OF PABLO live in person and a lack of funds in order to travel outside of Denver, I emulated my musical hero and took to the Internet in order to (essentially) beg for money. So how did I do? Well, I made $6 more than Kanye made when he infamously sought money from Internet Zillionaire/Facebook Mogul Mark Zuckerberg…of course, that means I only raised $6. Well short of the $900 I was asking for. Now, let me admit now that that figure was pretty high, but consider the fact that I need airfare, a hotel, and a ticket to Yeezus’s show. I only guestimated, so $900 might have been on the low side…who knows?

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The campaign is over, I’m no longer accepting donations, mostly because it’s too late for me to raise money to attend the Vegas show. But don’t shed any tears for this middle-aged rock blogger, for every time Yeezus closes one door he immediately opens another (and then tweets about it). This week it was announced the second leg of Kanye’s tour would come to my beloved Denver, Colorado! Huzzah! So this Friday at 10:00am I’m dusting off my credit card and paying whatever number fate demands I pay in order to see Mr. West. I wish the show wasn’t on the Monday after Thanksgiving, but we do what we can with what we are given, right?

I’m going to document the shit out of this concert, so stay tuned for updates!

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Van Halen Announce 2015 North American Tour–They’re Playing Where You Live

I’ve been out of it lately and I’ve been meaning to do some writing…well today Van Halen announced a pretty big North American tour and shook me from my malaise. I missed the band the last time they reunited and toured–so this news has me pretty stoked. Sure, Michael Anthony is still out of the band and he-who-shall-not-named is still playing bass (and fat), but this announcement has me reaching for my Visa card.

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Sure, I’m still trying to recover financially from buying a pair of Replacements tickets, but this is Van Halen. Van fucking Halen. One of THE last truly great, truly massive rock bands. I’m sure this won’t be their last tour, but this will probably be the last chance I’ll ever get to see them.

And look at all the chances Van Halen is giving me (and you) to see them this summer:

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And the dates keeps going! Too many dates for one screen grab!!!

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That’s pretty much every American city worth a damn, and then some. Hell, the band is even playing my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and they only have one horse! Since moving to Denver a year ago, I’ve yearned for seeing a concert at Red Rocks (Morrison, Colorado) and this might be my chance to finally pull the trigger and visit that epic outdoor venue. But who will accompany me? Mrs. Defending Axl Rose ain’t the biggest Van Halen fan, and these tickets are gonna be expensive. I hate dragging her to stuff, but I really hate dragging her to concerts that cost $100 a pop. My fantasy list of people I’d like to see this show with would be: my Dad, Robin Renee, Gandhi, and maybe my 8th Grade Science lab partner who liked to scribble “Van Halen” on his trapper keeper (sorry dude, I have forgotten your name).

Alas, I’m broke as hell but I’m gonna fill out a home equity loan application tomorrow so I can buy tickets for this tour. I’ll keep you all posted. In the meantime, how about a little mood music?

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Overpaying For Concert Ticket PreSales Suck Or How I Learned To Relax And Love LiveNation (NOT)

About a week ago there was a major announcement in Defending Axl Rose-land: The Replacements were going on tour. Luckily for me, one of the stops would be my hometown of Denver. The band reformed about a year ago for a few festival dates, but I wasn’t able to attend any of those. This announcement was the second-chance I never thought I’d get. Once the initial thrill of a Replacements tour dissipated I was left with one thought: these tickets are going to cost a fortune.

Anytime a legendary band re-forms and goes on a reunion tour there’s a ton of money to be made. The Replacements broke up in 1991 and though they’re highly influential, I don’t know anyone personally who actually likes them. So I had no idea just how highly coveted would these tickets be. I’m a terrible judge of popularity—the larger populace more often than not greets the things that seem incredibly important to me with a resounding “meh”. Still, there was no way in hell I was going to pass up a chance to see The Replacements, so I resolved to see them. No matter what. Come hell or high water. *Insert other cliché here*.

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My first move was to see when tickets would go on sale, so I hopped online and went to the band’s trusty website…which immediately linked me to LiveNation. Fucking LiveNation. When I clicked that link I swear my computer made a cash register sound. I won’t bore you with my own personal tale of poverty; I know that there are people worse off. But let’s just say that despite being paid a handsome salary as President & C.E.O of Defending Axl Rose Industries; I don’t have an unlimited supply of funds. Anytime I deal with LiveNation I end up spending double what I thought I was going to pay. Going on their website is akin to being pulled over by a police car. Scrolling through the website is just like rolling down the window and forking over my driver’s license. How much, I think, is this shit going to end up costing me?

LiveNation’s website indicated that The Replacements tickets were going on sale to the public on Friday but that there was a “Presale” the day before. Gripped with a nerdy fear that I might not get to go due to a lack of tickets, I instantly jumped on the hope that this mysterious presale offered. There was zero information explaining what the rules or requirements of the presale was, so I had no choice but to set a timer in my iPhone and check back at the time of the presale.

I know exactly none of you care what my opinion of presales is, but I’m going to tell you: I hate them. Essentially presales are insulting to most fans, rewarding the lucky few who possess a Visa Rapid Rewards Card or who belong to KQRC’s Morning Madness Fan Club. Want the privilege of buying overpriced tickets before anyone else? Sign up for our annoying ass mailing list. Despite being such a massive music nerd, I have no love for fan clubs and don’t think I should have to give the Kaiser Chiefs my personal info to score tickets to their show before all of you other sweaty basement dwellers.

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When the day of the presale came I hit up LiveNation’s website to see if they’d explain what hoops I’d have to jump through to score tickets. It turned out the presale wasn’t for a credit card or fan club I didn’t belong to…it was for a local radio station and users of the LiveNation app! The idea of downloading a free to app to score a code to buy tickets a day early didn’t seem so bad. I went to the App Store and quickly downloaded the app. Then I spent five minutes or so setting up an account with the app. Then I navigated to the Replacements concert within the app, thinking there I’d be allowed to purchase tickets for the show. Nope.

I was treated to a rage-inducing notice that tickets would go on sale the next day. Well played, LiveNation. The whole purpose of the app-only presale was to get me to stupidly download their app and give them my information, which I happily did. Too bad I wasn’t paid in kind for my cooperation. I double-checked myself, just to make sure I hadn’t missed something. When I was sure that I hadn’t, I angrily deleted the app from my phone. Then I went back on LiveNation to see if I was confused or had missed something. The website insisted that as an app user I’d be provided with a code I could use for the presale. I resigned myself to having to wait a day to buy tickets. Then about 20 minutes later I downloaded the app for a second time and tried it all over again.

Pissed off and feeling foolish, I decided to double-down on the amount of time I was going to waste on this presale and went back to LiveNation’s website in order to file a complaint. At the very bottom of their page I found a FAQ/Help link. There I found a section about presales which offered this nugget of wisdom:

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Guess what, LiveNation: FUCK YOU.

I couldn’t believe it, could it really be that simple? Did all I need to do was type “beatbox” and I’d magically be allowed to give them my money? Yep, it really was that simple. I deleted the app off my phone for the second time and swore under breath. Then I dropped $121 I didn’t really have on concert tickets. Much like songstress Jewel, these foolish games are tearing me apart.

I get that with this presale LiveNation wanted me to download and use their app, but without doing what they said it was going to do (i.e. give me a code to buy presale tickets) it makes it look like LiveNation doesn’t know what it’s doing. Being a multi-million dollar company, this level of incompetence casts LiveNation in an evil, manipulative light. So which is it, LiveNation are you incompetent or evil?

Sadly it doesn’t matter if they’re evil, because even though I wasn’t happy with them, I still gave them my money. What choice did I have? I guess I could have waited a day and half and gone down to the venue to purchase tickets, but I’m not even sure if I can do that anymore. And waiting on tickets can mean missing out on shows, especially when scalping computers swoop in to buy up all the tickets for those shady online re-sellers.

I can’t even remember the last time I bought tickets anywhere other than online. Much like cable companies, LiveNation and other giant ticket sellers have all us music fans by the balls. I love seeing bands play live, but I hate everything about buying concert tickets. As the music industry shrinks faster than the polar icecaps, I get understand that concert revenue has become increasingly important. I get that high tickets are paying for my evil, music streaming-ways. And if I truly love a band, I’ll pay way more than I should to see them in concert, but why do ticket retailers like LiveNation have to give me an electronic wedgie when I try to give them my money?

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El Monstero & The Tribute-Band Phenomenon

Last night I saw the most amazing rock show I’ve ever seen.  Local Pink Floyd tribute band/St. Louis heroes El Monstero didn’t just put on a concert, it was a full-on spectacle.  The music of Pink Floyd was faithfully performed with not only a band, but with classy female back-up singers, sax players, a children’s choir (you know what song that was for), and a bitchin’ laser show.  There were costume changes, towers of multi-colored flames, confetti cannons, and an honest-to-God 70’s mirror ball.  They also landed a helicopter for the opening of “Another Brick In The Wall.”

The alternate name for El Monstero should be “Pigs N’ Hammers.”

Back in the 1970’s, this level of excess was commonplace, but not so in today’s cash-strapped times.  Oh sure, you can see U2 put on a rock-spectacle, but they are one of the few bands big enough to pull-off (and afford) such dizzying overindulgent rock theatre.  I think gimmicks are stupid as a rule, but if you’ve got the music down, a little spectacle can push the amazing into the awesome (as in actually inspiring awe).

El Monstero is not a good Pink Floyd tribute band, they’re an exceptional one.  I don’t know if they sounded like Floyd sounded live, I am too young to know, what I can tell you is that El Monstero perfectly replicates the way the albums of Pink Floyd sound, in every single detail.  That by itself is no small feat, and worthy of much praise.  The band’s been around for over a decade here in St. Louis, slowly building a rabid fan-base.  Apparently the band started out in the (sadly gone) Mississippi Nights night club, playing for a few hundred people.  Last night, the band upped their game playing for a few thousand.  Rather than just “merely” replicating the sound of Pink Floyd, the band replicated the theatrical nature of the band, and their famous 70’s tours (like the one they did in support of THE WALL).  Equal parts rock show, opera, circus, and LSD trip, the concert at Riverport (aka The Verizon Wireless Amphitheater) blew just about every other tribute band I’ve seen out of the water.

Tribute bands are a funny thing.  On one hand, you have grown men dressing up like 20-something-Liverpudlians, singing “She Loves You” while praying their wigs don’t fall off.  At the other end of the spectrum, you have serious musicians studying, mastering, and performing classic rock–basically treating Pink Floyd like it’s Beethoven.  And why shouldn’t Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin be treated like Beethoven or Bach?  Why do some fans cringe at the mere mention of the term “tribute band”? Rock ‘n roll has always been about celebrity, but I think it was MTV that cemented the notion that anyone playing the songs of Pink Floyd that isn’t Pink Floyd are only imitators.  I find this funny, because when the St. Louis Symphony plays the music of Beethoven no one considers that to be “low rent” or “low brow.”  Or ridiculous.  A symphony isn’t imitating Beethoven; they’re just playing his music.

Part of the issue is the fact that, as I’ve said, rock music is just as much about personalities/celebrities as it is about music.  That’s petty and sad, but unfortunately the truth.  Another part of the issue, though, are how these tribute bands focus on the wrong elements of their act–I think it’s better for a band to replicate the sound of Led Zeppelin than to necessarily look like Led Zeppelin.  Many of the Beatles tribute bands that I’ve seen over the years fall into this trap, sacrificing quality of sound for quality of visual presentation. El Monstero, for example, don’t go out of their way to “become” Roger Waters or David Gilmour. They don’t mess with fake mustaches or wigs; instead they’re about recreating sounds.

*Sigh*

The spectacle I witnessed last night, while not a direct copy of a classic Pink Floyd concert, captured the essence of the band’s giant circus-like tours.  Rather than being actors sticking to a script, a great tribute band will use creative license to replicate the music.  I know that seems pretty obvious, but I’ve seen Beatles tribute bands that tell actual jokes John Lennon said at early Beatles concerts.  I’ve seen jittery “actors” playing Paul McCartney do mannerisms that Paul did on film, often doing these McCartney-isms 50 times during a performance because it was something that Paul actually did (even though there’s no way he was that fidgety).

One thing that takes the so-called “cheese factor” off of El Monstero is that the band doesn’t stumble onto the stage, with fake British accents, and pretend that they’re actually Pink Floyd.  Instead El Monstero is just a band that just happens to play Pink Floyd tunes.  As time marches on, and we lose more classic rock bands (and the people who’ve seen them in concert), I think the demand for professional tribute bands will greatly increase.  I also think the “stink” of being a tribute band will also lessen.  It may take a very, very long time…but if we don’t blow up the Earth with nuclear war, I can foresee a time when elegant men and women will go to their local Opera Houses to see professional musicians perform the works of Lennon and McCartney sans-stigma, like they were going to see a classical music concert.

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The Worst Opening Act

I try to keep it positive here at Defending Axl Rose, but sometimes you have no choice but to be negative.  We’ve all been there: hot, sweaty, pressed up against complete strangers in a darkened room desperately waiting for your favorite band to take the stage.  But before they can rock your socks-off, however, you gotta sit through the opening act.  There was a time when I didn’t care much for seeing opening bands.  Most of the time, when you see a “big” artist in a “big” venue, you only have to sit through one band that you didn’t pay to see…but if you’re a club-rat, seeing a shitty band in a shitty dive, you usually get to see TWO opening bands.

So there’s two ways to look at this: there’s the glass half-full and the glass half-empty approach.

1. Half-Empty: You got to sit/ stand-pressed-against-a-fat-guy-you-don’t-know through two bands you didn’t pay to see and probably don’t care about.  

and

2. Half-Full: You get to sit/stand-pressed-against-a-fat-guy-you-don’t-know through two bands you didn’t pay to see and probably don’t care about.

Now what’s the difference? Your attitude.  Once I grew up and actually wanted to TRY and EXPERIENCE new things, I found myself actually excited to see what the opening bands had to offer.  In most cases the opening band is related, in some way, to the headliner.   That relation might be tangential at best*, but there is a relationship.  Once I started opening my ears and my mind, I found myself often walking out of dive-bars/clubs with a new favorite band.  In some cases, I actually liked the opening band better than the headliner.  Blasphemy? Only if you’re 13 years-old and you only want to hear the headliner’s latest hit-single.  Me? I’m a deep-album cut sort of fellow.

A few years back I took my wife to see The Kings of Leon here in St. Louis.  The Kings of Leon were good but the opening band, The Features, blew us both away.  We fell in love with them and they soon became her all-time favorite band.  We’ve since seen them five or six times because we love them dearly (and they tour like madmen).  Now, what if we’d have skipped the opening act? What if we’d showed up just as Kings of Leon took the stage?   The Features are the better band and the only reason we ever heard of them was because we showed up early for the concert and politely listened to a band we’d never heard of.  The sad part is, I think that happens a lot—and by that I mean really great bands opening for ones that are just “alright.”  In a perfect world, The Kings of Leon would be opening for The Features, not the other way around.

The Features, 1000% better than any headliner.

Want another example? I saw Rooney back in 2003/2004** and was really impressed by their opening band The Redwalls.  The Redwalls had better songs and rocked harder than Rooney***.  To this day, I own more Redwalls albums than Rooney albums and I feel that my life has been enriched by waiting patiently through an opening act that turned out to be damn sweet.

Of course, there have been some really awful opening bands I’ve had to suffer through.  The worst of all-time was a band called White Williams.  I was seeing Vampire Weekend (again with the wife) and White Williams was the first of two opening bands.  Actually, that’s not right…White Williams was not a “band” but rather two dudes in sweaters.  One had a laptop and the other had a guitar.   I’m all for experimental music, and I think there’s some really awesome stuff some artists are doing with loops and simple guitar licks, but these guys weren’t actually doing anything.  One guy just stood there with his guitar, looking like he was asleep, while the other dude dramatically pressed a few buttons on his laptop.  When I say dramatically, I mean this guy was pressing one button on his laptop every few seconds like he was Eddie Van Halen SHREDDING on a solo.  He had that intensity on his face like he was lifting the continent of Antarctica on his shoulders while at the same time working on a cure for cancer. In short, he was a acting like a complete douchebag: all he was doing was standing there with a sweater…pressing buttons.

The lead-laptopist of White Williams, taking a rare break from lap-topping.

What does the name White Williams evoke? Does it make you think of bland, vanilla, anglo-static?  Well that’s what I think that name evokes for me, and it turns out that’s what White Williams sounds like.  They’re the worst, bland electronica you can imagine.  I seriously hope one of the guys in White Williams is in a relationship with someone in Vampire Weekend, because if having them on the bill that night wasn’t a John-making-Yoko-happy-by-letting-her-sing-on-the-album situation then Vampire Weekend are idiots****.  People often talk and check their cell phones during an opening band, but I saw people drift dangerously close to falling asleep during White Williams’ set.  I don’t think rock bands should do idiotic stunts, but you’ve got to do more to wow an audience than simply show up with your sweater and laptop.

Another mistake White Williams made was essentially play one song for twenty minutes.  During their set they said nothing to the audience, for all I know they really did only play one song.  The only reason I know they’re called “White Williams” is because the guy with the laptop mouth-breathed it once just before exiting the stage*****.

I know all of that seems pretty harsh, but you have to understand, I did not pay to see White Williams.  I didn’t make that choice, they were thrust upon me.  I think if you’re going to be in the ENTERTAINMENT industry you should, at the every least, be ENTERTAINING.  But there’s a bad apple in every bunch, and for the most part I still maintain that opening bands are worth your time and your respect.  Be an adult and let the White Williams’ of the world actually let you down before you completely dismiss them outright.

ENDNOTES:

* Like they’re represented by the same management or were called last-minute to fill-in.

**It was a long time ago, I can’t really remember.

***Who eventually turned into a just okay pop band, which by the way is not a crime.

**** Read: I hope the dude in White Williams is blowing someone in Vampire Weekend.

****That’s a systemic problem in rock shows these days, nobody bothers so say who they are anymore.  I can’t count the number of really cools bands that get onstage, rock my world and then leave without adequately explaining who the fuck they are.  Don’t want me to buy your records, visit your website, blog about you, become your fan? Okay dude, good luck with that. TELL US WHO YOU ARE MORE THAN ONCE!!!

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