Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vomitorium Los Angelis

Friday - As expected, our expedition to The Angels was an improvement over our previous experiences; the weird curse it seemed to visit on us was lifted. The flight out was without incident, and we were met by Sherman of the long-running thrash band Insecticide at the airport. He had a converted short bus (insert the obvious "how appropriate" joke here) that had been stripped of its seats and replaced with easy chairs and a couch. It reminded me of The Road Warrior with Sherman in the role of the Gyro Captain and it was strangely reassuring. We went on to collect our rented gear and then proceeded on a protracted Friday afternoon drive from El Segundo to Pomona. LA is second only to Sao Paulo in terms of gridlock and the length of time it take to get from one place to another. The ride seemed like it took forever.

Once in Pomona, we checked into the hotel and rested while listening to a stray copy of the new Metallica album. It's terrible. They recycle riffs from as far back as Master of Puppets and then meander through the rest with Hetfield's tone-deaf wailing and Lynard Skynard parroting. I haven't liked that band since 1989, so there's no love lost. We then went to the venue, which was basically a strip mall moose lodge with a bar and dance floor. Our new label-mates Sothis were there, and they assisted by lending us their amps for our set. I could lie and say that the turnout was great but unfortunately it was thin. The LA suburbs are basically remote outposts where only the locals show up, and our show was no exception. Those in attendance were enthusiastic, so it was not a total loss. The bigger problem was the PA and stage mix which turned our performance into an aural abbattoir with the three of us butchering the songs due to a complete inability to hear one another. That might be overstating it a bit; we played reasonably well given the circumstances but despite our best efforts it still sounded like shit. Vlad the promoter was unhappy with the PA situation as well but we had higher hopes for the Black Castle the following night. In any event, we talked to people afterward and they were downright charitable about the set so we took it in stride. Sherman drove us back to the hotel and was in general very accommodating in serving as our driver and self-appointed roadie.

Saturday - The next day we slept in late as none of us had any sleep on Thursday night in preparation for the very early morning flight. Vlad drove us to our hotel in West Hollywood (The Saharan, which is next to the notorious Seventh Veil strip club - both are featured in the video for Mötley Crüe's "Girls Girls Girls"). It sounds more dangerous than it is- the room was clean and comfortable and the surrounding area was relatively stable. I took the walk down to In-N-Out for my beloved "animal style" burger, and I was struck to see that neighboring Hollywood High School was taken over by local teens who were thrashing like crazy with their skateboards all over the landings and stairs. It looked like something out of a Tony Hawk game, and it was hard to believe that the cops would not chase them off due to property damage or potential lawsuits. It was something of a throwback to better times in America - thin, active kids and a permissive place for them to have some fun without being yelled at and driven back to their homes to play Xbox forever after.

We went to a grocery store across the street from the hotel, and the city did not fail to put on a show for us. As we came outside, three police cars were blocking up the lane and we quickly realized that the officers were out with guns drawn on a large Hummer. The driver exited gingerly with his hands up while the cops screamed, "GITONNAGROUN! GITONNAGROUN!" in tandem. LAPD lives for this moment. The whole thing seemed so much like a television show that we glanced around to see if there was a film crew present (there wasn't). Later, Sherman and the Gyrobus arrived to take us to the show. He declined to take the highway for fear of more traffic snarls, so we drove down the whole of La Brea Boulevard and actually saw quite a wide sampling of the city. Sherman has lived in LA all his life so he pointed out many places of interest from where famous people lived and movies were filmed. There were sites like the tattoo shop where that semi-fat rocker chick hosts a television show and the Jim Henson studios featuring a giant Kermit the Frog statue, and then we blasted through a panoply of neighborhoods that featured a variety of ethnicities, interesting landmarks, and varying degrees of urban decay until we finally arrived at the club deep in the heart of the dreaded South Central LA.The Black Castle itself was a perfectly fine venue with plenty of space and a good sized stage. It would be an ideal metal venue anywhere else, but the common refrain of the attendees was that the area was extremely dangerous. Sanguine and I could not really figure that out, since we stood out in front of the club throughout the night and the street itself was just a low-end shithole commercial district like every other low-end shithole commercial district that we've played in any number of major US cities. There were no signs of violence or apparent gang activity at all, but it seems like the location was a deterrent for some as the turnout again was below expectation (though not like Pomona by any stretch). Interestingly, many people who showed up weren't even from Los Angeles but from the San Diego area where we had that crushingly awesome show last February. It was validating to think that we made enough of an impression that anyone would drive two hours into an urban war zone to see us. Our friends Morgan (whose photos appear below) and Jessica of Nuclear Blast (and also of Texas) showed up and we were pleased to see them. We sold some merchandise though it seems that bootleg shirt penetration is total in this region; I'd never seen so many Finnish black metal shirts in one place.

We finally moved to the back stage to prepare for the show and about half the people in attendance were back there as well, which is true to form for this town. There was one guy who had a black gym bag full of LPs for sale or trade and he was also sporting a monstrous and bloody razor gash down his arm that looked like a diagram of the San Andreas fault (as The Carcass described it). Chris Hatewar was also present and he gave us some DVDs of live footage from our previous California appearances. We finally took the stage under a phalanx of well-applied red lights that were tempered with white ones for a somber effect. We launched into "Vomitorum Angelis" as our opener and from there we did not miss a note. The stage sound was completely coherent, and we were able to perform with full force unto a willing audience. The Carcass also pulled some wild stunts including accidentally breaking a stick and then continuing to play the blast beat with the broken handle end. His performance was bestial and flashy, and before long many up front were chanting his praises. Sanguine and I were in the perfect mode where our minds are tethered and we can anticipate each other with utter clarity. This is when the entity called Averse Sefira manifests and rises like a black shadow over us, and in these moments we do not falter. When it was over we were met with praise and a few overwhelming hosannas but soon enough everyone seemed to scatter. Nobody wants to hang around South Central after midnight I guess. We packed up into the Gyrobus and saw the glitz and excess of a Saturday night in LA while bathed in the bus' dreamy blue interior lights.

Sunday- The Carcass was tired and stayed in while Sanguine and I decided to explore West Hollywood. We ended up walking many blocks up Hollywood Boulevard and checked out the myriad rock shops along with the endless parade of nubile girls armed with warhead tits and armor-piercing nipples. This town has truly cornered that market. We made it over to the well-stocked Amoeba records and furrowed our brows at much of what passes for extreme metal these days. I found a used and seldom-seen copy of Mercyless' Coloured Funeral on CD as well as the original soundtrack to Apocalypse Now. I also managed to find a great leather vest on the boulevard, which for some reason is not easy to do in Texas. Despite a pleasant breeze, the sun started to have its way with us by 4pm so we took a short rest and then proceeded down La Brea for more browsing. At some point we came across a small, 1950s-era garden apartment complex that I was sure was the residence of James Ellroy when he was a child. We had no way to be certain, but Sanguine and I are both avid fans of his books so we strolled through just in case. We finally decided that we needed to see the Sunset Strip proper, so after some deliberation we waited until nightfall and set out for the Rainbow Room. As promised by the doorman of one of a dozen strip clubs we passed, it was almost an hour walk. We also ended up passing a lot of cool stores we would have liked to visit including a dedicated Mesa/Boogie dealership, and we cursed ourselves for walking the wrong direction earlier in the day. Despite the ever-present smog there was an almost ominous looking mansion in the hills above us with spot lights and purple and red underlighting that made it look as though it was suspended in the night sky like some kind of wizard's castle. Nobody we asked had any idea what it was. One random guy we asked was walking the same direction and he ended up latching onto us. It was a little odd, and I thought before long he would ask for money or drugs but he ultimately did neither. We passed the Chateau Marmonde that Jim Morrison helped make famous, and there was some big time celebrity junket going on. The amusing part was that an older couple stepped out of a car at the entrance and had dozens of photographers shooting them, and we couldn't begin to guess who they were. They looked wealthy so that was probably sufficient to be a big deal around there.

Many paces later we arrived at the Rainbow Room, which among other things is Lemmy Kilmeister's home away from home, but we decided not to go in. Five dollars just to cross the threshold? Go to hell. I think Motorhead is still on tour anyway. We grabbed a cab for the ride back and laughed at ourselves when it took the driver seven minutes to get us back to the Saharan. The hotel itself was leaking stuck-up looking club chicks from its rooms as we walked up the stairs. Women like that all look like robots to me - generic and manufactured. The next morning Sherman came out to get us and took us over to his neck of the woods in Manhattan Beach. It was well kept and pretty, and it seemed a world away from the rest of the city. We had a hearty meal of Mexican food at a local favorite walk-in diner and then walked out onto the beach at the bottom of the hill. It was nice to visit a beach that wasn't jammed with idiots and for the first time ever I touched the waters of the Pacific Ocean. It was somewhat undercut by the fact that I managed to step in some well-hidden tar that embedded itself in the track of my boot like the most noxious hellborn chewing gum ever. From there, we went straight to the airport and returned home without notable issues.

So to the curious- we liked Los Angeles this time. It wasn't as aupicious as our high-profile package tours but at the same time we still enjoyed ourselves, the city, and the people we met. Everyone was very good to us and we will not forget it. Thanks to Vlad, Jose, and Absolute Void, Chris and IIKRANEOS, Chris Hatewar, bands Necrite & Ent, and a huge vote of thanks to Sherman Insecticide for making the entire thing go. As always, see you next time.