It’s been a hell of a rewarding Spring/Summer for me as far as kick-ass shows and festivals, and it seems as though the moment I recover from one grand metal adventure, I’m busy preparing for another one. (Hence my delay in getting these tour reports out to you all, so, many apologies…) My suitcase is never really “unpacked”, I just “rotate” through the contents, and leave it perpetually by the door, and ready to go these days.
Immediately after finishing up the Decibel tour, I spent two weeks at home slaving at my “real job” then headed out to Baltimore, Maryland to spend some time covering the Marduk/1349 “Serpent Sermon” tour. Obviously, I’ve seen 1349 more than a few times, but this would be my first time ever seeing Marduk live (I know, what gives?) and I was stoked to have one of my favorite bands ever, directly supporting another epic band whom I have been waiting eons to see. There was no way this was going to be disappointing.
And it wasn’t.
June 2, 2012, Baltimore MD, Sonar
Never having been to Baltimore, and knowing of Sonar only via Maryland Deathfest, this would not only be my first time to see Marduk, but my first time to visit a new city and new venue. Yay, for new experiences!
I flew out a couple of days before the show, and had some chill time at the nearby home of my buddy and partner in thought crime, Kim Dylla, who’d be assisting me on this tour run. I utilized her massive kitchen to prepare some gastronomical delights for a bunch of huge, hungry Vikings who would likely be living off fast food, and doing without the creature comforts of home for a while.
I went out on a limb, and prepared a Jagermeister and honey bundt cake from scratch, as well as two massive catering trays of baked ziti and meatballs.
Not the most domestic woman on the planet, and HARDLY inclined to “spend any time in the kitchen” this was an experiment that could either go REALLY WELL, or, well, kill everyone on the tour. Having spent some time touring with 1349, and knowing that there are two surefire ways to a man’s heart (one being wholly inappropriate, and the other being “through the stomach”) I decided to give this a try, knowing these boys would be hungry little marauders after the show, and some home cooked goodness might be just what the doctor ordered to soothe the savage beasts. Also, it’s nice to have willing guinea pigs on which to try out your attempts at cooking.
While mixing the ingredients for the cake, I was promptly reduced to tears when I realized that following the recipe was NOT working, and the texture and consistency of the batter was horribly wrong. A total scene. I knew then, that I had to “get wise and improvise” in order to save what I hoped would be a glorious creation that the bands would all go ape-shit over, but was now looking more like a pile of waterlogged dog crap, rather than anything fit to feed to a bunch of ravenous black metal gods.
A pinch of flour here and there, and a little ingenuity, and the batter finally appeared workable. I put it in the pre-heated oven and watched for what seemed like an eternity as it did…absolutely nothing. It wasn’t rising, it wasn’t bubbling, it resembled a bundt pan filled with gooey beige lead. Remembering my mother’s chiding voice telling me “A watched pot never boils”, I walked away, chugged a beer, and performed the Atheist’s version of praying for a bit.
When I returned, a glorious, puffy, golden brown wonder was swelling in the oven and with it, my little black heart swelled in tandem.
By the time I took it out of the oven to cool…I had no idea what it would taste like, but it looked…absolutely perfect.
I covered it in a sweet, gooey glaze of Jager, honey, melted butter and confectioner’s sugar, and set it aside for the journey to Baltimore the next morning.
Next up was the arduous task of making massive portions of three-cheese baked ziti with Romano and oregano infused mini meatballs.
SO. MANY. MEATBALLS.
However, this was less of an exact science than making the cake, and I was actually able to sample it before bringing it to the show, to be sure it was fit for human consumption. (Unlike the cake which would have suffered in its presentation had I cut a slice out of it before bringing it.)
The ziti came out pretty damn glorious if I do say so myself.
The next morning, armed with a gallon of Grey Goose, a gallon of Jagermeister, multiple bottles of local wines from Virginia, and enough food to satiate an army (or a few black metal bands) we headed to Baltimore.
The first person to greet us upon arrival was Mr. Jager Meister himself, Ravn, vocalist for 1349. Knowing all too well his penchant for Jagermeister, and his discerning palate when it came to food, I timidly presented the cake, trembling with fear, and nearly wetting myself over the prospect that it might taste like old shoe leather, and I’d be forever booted out of the black metal “circle of trust”.
He diligently removed the wrapper, and inspected the cake with laser sharp scrutiny. When I informed him that the main ingredient of the cake was Jagermeister, he looked interested, but perhaps a bit skeptical. I think I detected a brief unilateral eyebrow arch.
He promptly cut himself a large slice, and…smelled it. (???) His expression was just as unreadable, steely, and Norwegian as it always is, and I peed down my leg just a tad.
Finally, after what seemed an agonizingly long period of him “inspecting” the cake, he bit into it. Masticating slowly and deeply, he gazed straight ahead, stoic and grim as ever. I felt minute beads of perspiration forming on my brow, and small rivulets starting to trickle down my ribcage. A quick downward glance revealed that I could actually SEE my heart pounding through my wee, bony chest. The silence was maddening. I was beginning to suffer a catastrophic apoplexy. The tips of my fingers had gone numb.
When I’d reached the point of near anoxic coma and loss of bowel control awaiting a response, he finally made eye contact, nodded subtly, and declared in a low, composed baritone, “This is quite good.”
“Yes,” he affirmed. “It’s REALLY good.”
He then devoured the rest of his portion and took another. FUCK, YES! Whew!
The first member of Marduk I encountered was their drummer Lars Broddesson. He strolled onto the bus and was about to breeze right into the back lounge when he spotted the food on the table and stopped abruptly. His eyes fixed on the bundt, and got very large and inquisitive. He demanded, “You’re eating cake?!” and continued to stare at it, almost a bit wild-eyed.
With newfound confidence, I offered him some and he tore into it, and also concluded it was “very, very good!”
Eventually, the remainder of the bands and crew filtered in, and once they caught sight of the cake, it was like a school of pirhana stripping the carcass of a cow clean in 30 seconds flat.
Day one of the tour: Off to a good start.
By the time showtime rolled around I was feeling all intrepid and determined to take the best photos EVER. My plan fell hideously flat when I approached the stage, positioned myself at an optimal spot to line up my crosshairs, and soon realized that there would be no usable light. None. I think there may have been a dark red light on SOMEWHERE in the venue, but I can’t rightly recall. I could not see my hand in front of my face. Being a “no flash” kind of gal, this just wasn’t going to work for me.
Abrupt change of plans: Stash camera, rock out, get pickled. WHOOT!
In my defense, I’d be covering seven shows, and really just wanted an opportunity to just enjoy the bands’ performances, and have some quality time with so many friends from around the globe who were now in the same city, on the same night. Since there were zero photographic prospects happening on this night, I deemed it “a night of fun”!
Starting things off were two blackened/death metal bands, Withered, from Atlanta, GA, and Weapon from Canada, neither of whom I’d seen before. They successfully rattled the rafters with some good and crunchy rhythmic chaos, and were quite well received by the crowd at Sonar. All in all, a very solid and heavy bill featuring four bands, all possessing a unique sound that both held its own, and worked in befitting conjunction with the other bands.
1349, as always, destroyed the place, and after seeing them so many times in the past year in other parts of the globe, it was heartwarming to have them back on U.S. soil again for the first time since the 2010 tour with Triptykon – which was the first time I’d ever seen them.
Unfortunately, their drummer Frost was unable to attend this tour due to a prior obligation with his other band Satyricon, but Jon Rice from Job For a Cowboy filled in for him and did an astonishingly good job of it. Frost isn’t exactly an easy drummer to emulate, but Jon managed to perform his fills nearly identically, and really just kicked ass on every level, both personally and professionally. Massive kudos to him for a job very well done.
Closing out the night – my first Marduk show! I was so damn ready.
They were vicious! Possessing a raw, unfiltered, old-school style black metal sound, they proved that after twenty+ years of making kick-ass records they have not only stayed true to their original sound and structure, they’ve actually gotten blacker and heavier.
Front man Mortuus (Daniel Rostén) was utterly terrifying onstage. Possessing a hulking and choleric presence, he was a furious bastion of seething rage and vitriol. He emanated a dense black cloud that hovered around him and actually seemed discernible as negative space that one might fall into and vanish if they got too close. With every lyric he screamed, it was as if he were vomiting up ten thousand tortured souls, and while I stood there rooted to the spot, watching him deliver his violent, guttural vocal payload, a nagging voice in the back of my mind told me he might just lean down and punch me directly in the face.
I like that in a front man!
I made a mental note to be sure he got a large portion of the baked ziti, and a lot of hugs when the show was over.
In a nutshell, the show was extraordinary, and all four bands kicked ass. I ended the night with a whole new respect for Marduk, and they turned out to be extremely nice guys as well.
Um, I mean they were horribly evil and vile. ;)
The remainder of the evening was spent gorging ourselves to the point of gastric rupture on baked ziti and drinking ourselves vomitous and amnesic.
I even suspect that after a large plate of the ziti, a healthy amount of wine, and a few well timed hugs, Mortuus smiled just a little. One corner of his mouth may have turned upward for a split second.
I can neither confirm or deny this with absolute certainty, however.
The following day was spent weeping, dry heaving, eating fistfuls of Ibuprofen & TUMS, and driving to New York City.
June 3, 2012, Brooklyn, NY, Williamsburg Music Hall
Tonight was a night of business, as the lighting was adequate, and the conditions right to start gathering some photographic evidence of this extraordinary tour.
Williamsburg Music Hall is a large, open venue with a generous capacity, and a sizable stage. The bands had plenty of room to own the space and truly bring the pain with an adequate arena in which to do so. Typical of a New York audience, they threw themselves into it, and showed support loud, clear, and with a tightly balled fist.
Later that night we headed over to good ol’ Duff’s of Brooklyn for a little after party and more cake! Customized to perfection by Jessa at Slaytanicakes, this little beauty was ready and waiting to welcome 1349 back to the United States. Pure evil on the outside, and delicious red velvet on the inside, it was utter heaven. A perfect end to a perfect night, for certain.
June 14, Vancouver BC, Canada, Venue
After a brief hiatus at my other job in CA, I rejoined the tour in Vancouver at a very nice venue called…Venue, that I’d never been to before.
Having grown accustomed to the gritty ‘hood of the Rickshaw Theater, I was surprised that this particular show was NOT booked there, and I was unsure what to do with myself in such a classy neighborhood. I decided I’d do what I always do, and just rock the fuck out.
I arrived early to check out the venue and sort out my angles from where to snap pictures. Much like the first two venues, I noticed there was no barricade in front of the stage so I’d have to get creative about how to execute my shots. It was, however, a tremendously nice venue with a large upper deck/wrap-around balcony, and what appeared to be a great lighting rig.
One odd thing that made me laugh for days on end, was the fact that part of the upper deck was closed, and if I wanted to shoot from upstairs, I had to literally scale and jump the gate every time – because it was BOLTED on, and could not be opened. At first I thought security were messing with me, but no, not the case. A brief inspection revealed it was indeed bolted shut, and apparently, according to the staff, it was a long and arduous task to remove it when they did open that portion of the club. Thankfully having spent a good portion of my youth as a gymnast, I could vault over it with little effort, and it became a bit of a joke for me to make my leap over the gate more dramatic, daring, and flamboyant each time. Surely, there was a safely violation in there somewhere, but since this was Canada, and not the U.S., I was free to be as ridiculous as I wanted to be, and I ALWAYS want to be ridiculous if the option exists.
This night was mostly spent being all business, all the time though, save for some gymnastic feats, as we had a border crossing directly after the show, so maintaining sobriety was a must, since we’d all be “perp walked” though customs, and be questioned by border guards, have our passports inspected and what not.
It went remarkably smooth, however, and we were allowed back into the United States, with little fanfare, much to the chagrin of the entire nation, I’m sure.
June 15, 2012, Seattle Washington, Studio 7
This day brought two very amazing things – a venue with a shower, and a visit to some of the scenic attractions featured in the television series “Twin Peaks”, including breakfast at the famed T-Mar diner, now called “Twede’s” and indeed featuring “a damn good cup of coffee” “the world’s greatest cherry pie” and, in my humble opinion, the best fried chicken and french fries ever, with big-ass, “stick to your ribs” American sized portions! It may have been 0900, but I bypassed breakfast altogether and went straight for the fried chicken.
We were all highly amused when our waitress glanced out the window and declared “Oh, no, here comes Crab-Ass! You know he’s gonna bitch about his coffee not being on the table fast enough!” And sure enough, a cantankerous and grizzled old fella whom we later learned was named “Dale” (really) strolled in, took a seat in the corner with some “good ol’ boys” who were already holding court in the diner, and bellowed “Where’s my coffee?!?!” The entire restaurant erupted into laughter, and it was obvious that ol’ Dale was a local character who had become as much of the diner’s folklore as the cherry pie itself.
It was kind of a beautiful morning.
The show was terrific, with a very respectable and vehemently responsive turnout, and as usual, the staff at Studio 7 were highly accommodating, and top notch in every way – they even made us a nice spaghetti dinner.
We couldn’t have asked for a better night, thank you Seattle!
June 16, Portland, OR, Bossanova
There was a strange energy in the air on this day, not entirely unpleasant, but just a little unusual. It was again, unseasonably, blisteringly hot in Portland, just as is was nearly two months prior when the Decibel tour rolled through. Hot, muggy, and slightly uncomfortable, it was less than pleasing to the tour crew that all gear had to be lugged up huge flights of stairs into a maze of a building, and onto a very low stage that was oddly positioned in a strangely shaped room that logistically made no sense, and offered no air conditioning.
There was just enough weirdness in the air to put the bands and crew on edge a tad, and I decided that the best possible solution for this was a trip to the famed Voodoo Doughnuts, stat, to once again feed and soothe the savage beasts, and prevent them from getting too restless.
I made a quick detour to visit some local friends Arthur and Sierra, and take a 30 minute long scalding shower, and hang with an adorable beagle, two cheeky cats, and two feisty little bearded dragons. According to Sierra, one of the bearded dragons, named “King Diamond” had a “developmental delay” due to some sort of “issue that happened to him when he was in his egg”. I found this description a bit amusing, and inspected him closely looking for telltale signs of this delay. He looked pretty ok to me, maybe just a little stoned.
The visit was a fun and much appreciated reprieve, but I had business to tend to, namely two dozen of the funkiest, tastiest, most outrageous doughnuts on planet earth. Coated in Captain Crunch, Fruit Loops, Cocoa Puffs, adorned with pentagrams, or perhaps cut in the shape of voodoo dolls with pretzel stakes through the heart, Voodoo Doughnuts are both clever and delicious.
The line was long, but the wait well worth it. When I returned to the bus with two giant pink boxes of hyperglycemic coma inducing treats, the boys were like little kids on Christmas morning. Inspecting and assessing all the donuts, they all picked the one that appeared the most appealing and interesting to them. It was telling sociological experiment to see who picked what, but shit REALLY got real when Marduk’s Morgan appeared, immediately grabbed the large “Voodoo Doll” doughnut, promptly bit his head off, peered inside his neck-hole with a smile, and declared, “Hmmmm…jelly” then proceeded (I shit you not, and swear on my grandmother’s grave) to cram the entire body into his mouth and swallow it whole with one audible, and assertive gulp.
It was like watching a python unhinge his jaw and swallow a baby.
Stunned, I asked…”How did you do that?”
He casually replied, “I always eat like that. I’m usually too busy to chew.”
Dumbfounded, I probed further.
“Have you ever choked on your food?”
“Nope! And I can eat a whole extra large pizza in under three minutes”, he stated with great pride.
My favorite thing to do on this tour quickly became watching Morgan “eat”.
I squealed with stunned amazement when he swallowed a Big Mac whole, using two fingers to shove it down his throat. It disappeared within a few seconds, and I could actually visualize the massive expansion of his upper esophagus through his neck as the burgeoning food bolus slithered by.
Fact: Morgan Hakansson is a straight up motherfucking assassin!
Despite everyone’s misgivings, the show actually wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it was quite good. A nice crowd showed up, got fully into the proceedings, and a spectacular time was had by all. No worries, as it were. It was hotter than Hades in there, but otherwise, it was a damn fine time. It was also darker than the deepest loop of the bowels of hell, so I had another “beer and rocking out” night with some new friends I met that day. Not too shabby.
At the end of the night, I discovered the fellas had even saved me a doughnut.
June 17, 2012, San Francisco, CA, DNA Lounge
The road from Portland to San Francisco is a long and arduous one. A thirteen hour bus ride, it’s a trek that many bands dread, and often embark on without taking a travel day off. Time is of the essence, and making load-in in San Francisco is always a challenge of epic proportions.
This stretch often lends itself to long, strange conversations as the bus jostles and rolls down the dark highway, and you sometimes find yourself becoming deeply acquainted with the inner psyche of whomever chooses to stay up and talk with you over the duration of that ride…and someone always does.
Friendships, working relationships, and other types of interpersonal dynamics can either be made or broken on that trek, because there’s something about that particular leg of the journey that really just brings it all to the surface. The amount of time you have to spend inside the vehicle without any extended stops, and the fact that the bus gets extremely quiet and dark as everyone prepares to actually have 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep should they choose to take it, lends itself to the night owls who opt to stay up and burn the midnight oil, having a genuine open forum to share their innermost thoughts.
There may be booze involved, which makes the conversations flow in all that much more of a raw and honest manner.
If you choose to stay up and talk for 12 hours with someone on this long and lonely expanse of highway – be prepared to learn more than you might have ever wanted to know about them, be ready and willing to share a little bit of what makes you tick in return for their honesty. Above all, be prepared to guard that exchange with your life, ever after.
Conversations had between Portland and San Francisco are of the utmost sacredness.
San Francisco was as it always is in the dead of summer. Cold, windy, overcast and hectic, and the moment I stepped off the bus and into my ‘hood, I instantly felt a pang of longing for the hot, sunny, hazy, sluggish carbohydrate coma and surrealness of Portland the day before. With the way that most tour treks flow, San Francisco usually means my last stop, and I have yet to ever feel ok with that. It hurts every time.
It’s that proverbial icky feeling you have on any given Sunday, or the last day of summer when you know the party’s over.
DNA lounge is a fun and fantastic concert venue, but like all seven of the shows I covered on this tour, there was no barricade, no photo pit. (That actually is a bit of an oddity, to not even have one venue out of seven have one – so be prepared for all the photos in this gallery to be rather oddly composed.) But hey, ya work with what you’re given. ;)
San Francisco crowds usually never disappoint, though, and the DNA Lounge was jam packed with marauding metal heads who were relentless in their enthusiasm from start to finish. The energy on the floor was ruthless and unstoppable, and from my occasional vantage point in the sound booth, I watched a swarming whirlpool of psychotic dynamism whipping hither and yon, and spreading to every corner of the building. It was a veritable feeding frenzy down there!
I took in 1349’s performance, and recalled how they were the only band on the bill whom I’d seen perform in San Francisco prior to this date, and it was an indescribably good feeling to see the response they were receiving now. Not that they weren’t well received in 2010, they were, but this was exponentially more energetic…something had changed and evolved. They had truly come into their own here, after so much hard work and effort. Watching that happen before your very eyes is what it’s all about, and why no matter how strange, challenging, and unpredictable it may get out there, in “the metal world” – there is no place that feels more right – or more like home.
All in all, a brilliant tour that ended for me way, way too soon.
Special thanks to Marduk, 1349, Weapon, Withered, & all crew members (Jarrett, Jeff, Carlos, Chris & Trey – you RULE!) Jessa & Slaytanicakes, Voodoo Doughnuts, Arthur and Sierra, Kim Dylla and Rachel Dudley, Jimmy and the gang at Duff’s, and all the staff at all the venues we wrecked. \m/