Sounds of the Underground – [Live]

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

The Sounds of the Underground tour coming to Irvine was a lot like a bunch of Hell’s Angels crashing a baby shower. In fact, on that sunny Saturday afternoon, I’m sure plenty of Irvinetians (extraterrestrials perhaps?) happened to be celebrating the arrival of their August babies or even half a baby, according to the statistical data that reveals upper-middleclass suburbanites can somehow have 1.5 children. Who knew that children could be conceived in a town so sterile? I’ve actually seen Irvinetians have sex. It’s really crazy. A man and a woman will arrange two naked life-sized cardboard cutouts of themselves into a sexual position (missionary of course) while the real couple browses through an Ikea home furnishings catalog. But, while the clinging and clanging of mimosa-filled champagne glasses ring through suburban backyards in celebration of a new life and a cute set of infant pajamas from South Coast Plaza, up the hill at the Verizon Amphitheater, GWAR’s road crew is double checking the pressure in the blood-filled tanks and making sure that all their grotesque stage props will decapitate, amputate and bleed properly. The contrast makes me smile.

MZ and I pick up our press passes and work our way backstage to get ready for an interview with Ravi Bhadriraju, the lead guitarist for Job For a Cowboy. While we’re waiting, we check out the band that happened to be playing when we arrived. I believe they were called The Devil Wears Prada. I thought this was an odd name for a band that’s on a metal/grindcore tour. I was expecting to see a couture-clad Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway on stage machine gunning the crowd with their BC Rich Warlock guitars. Instead, it was a few dudes called The Devil Wears Prada??? WTF? Based on their hairdos, I think a more appropriate name would have been The Devil Wears Product.

The most striking thing about Job For a Cowboy was how good the guys were for being so young. Ravi is only 19 and his bandmates look the same age. For a guy who just graduated high school a year ago, sharing the stage with veterans like Shadows Fall, GWAR and Suicidal Tendencies is a dream come true. It was refreshing to see the perspective of a young dude whose enthusiasm for the music overshadows everything else involved in the music business. The Sounds of the Underground tour is not a major market tour, and as a result, the bands spent more time together and learned from each other. When asked how everyone on the tour is getting along, Ravi sums up his perspective of the tour when he says, “It’s crazy because going into this tour we didn’t know what to expect from all of the bands on the tour, like if they would accept a younger band. But everyone is just there for each other and it’s so weird to meet all these people from different places and different countries, but at the same time we’re all here for one reason. Then at the end of the day we can sit down, drink together and have a good time. It’s the best thing in the world.”

An interview with Shadows Fall bassist Paul Romanko, pretty much echoed Ravi’s thoughts that the overall theme of The Sounds of the Underground was intended to pull the impersonal arena factor out of the performances and as Paul puts it: “…to get your finger back on the pulse on why you started to do this in the first place. It all started from this point. Some bands break out and go in other directions, but at the end of the day, without the underground, music would be a pretty boring thing. So it’s really cool to come back to where you came from.” When asked what sort of Shenanigans the bands have been getting into during the down time, Paul says, “Me and John from Darkest Hour were taping a bunch of bottle rockets together and the guitar player from Heavy Heavy Low Low was shooting them out of his ass in Cleveland. Fucking things got stuck, he put ‘em in too far. Scorched his fucking balls I think. Then he did another one.”

Later that day Shadows Fall take the stage and just kill it. They have been playing together for a long time and the flawless execution of their set spoke volumes about how good these guys are. Any band that can make playing really fast metal look that easy, has definitely arrived.

As dusk sets in, GWAR’s crew begins preparing all of the mechanical gadgets and props that go into making the best stage show I have ever witnessed. Having never seen GWAR, I always passed them off as a nonsensical act not worth any consideration. Boy was I wrong. The security guards manning the front stage began putting on plastic protective ponchos and looking a bit nervous, a clear indication that we were going to soon find out what was in the pressurized tanks hidden on the sides of the stage. Suddenly GWAR comes out on stage wearing something you’d see in Conan the Barbarian or Mad Max but way more satanic, violent and alien looking. Oderus, the lead singer of GWAR, is wearing a large black leather dick with what appeared to be black leather complimentary balls and a thong that exposes his equally gross white ass. He takes the mic and says something about GWAR being the infernal overlords of our despicable and disgusting human race and that we should grovel at the feet of GWAR, our true rulers, and pray for a swift and painless death before GWAR inflicts eternal pain and pestilence upon us lousy, worthless humans. At this point, Oderus is stroking his evil prehistoric-looking cock and begins shooting a 50-foot stream of blood out of the thing while he sings a song about how vile humans are. Hundreds of shocked and puzzled people at the front of the stage and beyond get blasted with what seems to be an endless amount of Oderus’s red ejaculate. This is the most extreme version of reverse psychology I’ve ever seen. I was amazed and couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next.

While GWAR tears through their death metal set laced with some classical music riffs and solos, I can’t believe the things I’m seeing on stage. GWAR’s slaves bring out several large creatures and Oderus takes a huge sword and cuts off the heads, arms and legs of every single one of them while blood showers the audience in buckets. This is an everything-goes type of show, and believe me when I say that, everything went. Nothing was safe from mutilation. Not even a dog. Oderus picks up a GWAR dog and asks the audience, “Who wants to fuck my gay dog?” A few people raised their hands and then Oderus takes his sword, cuts the dog’s throat, and shoots a stream of fake blood all over the crowd. Again, I’m amazed. By the time GWAR was done with their set, nothing was left alive on the stage. Amps were thrown all over place and the amount of fake blood or “GWAR juice” on the stage and on the audience was insane. It looked like a bomb landed right on the stage. It was awesome. At that point I realized Suicidal Tendencies had their work cut out for them. How the hell do you top a GWAR show? Answer: you don’t.

As GWAR was ending their set, it was equally entertaining to see the looks on the faces of the Suicidal Tendencies fans in response to GWAR. Dudes with pulled up socks, bandanas over their brows, and Dickies shorts were looking at each other as if to say, “What’s up with all the dead fuckers and blood and shit, holmes?” Based on their eagerness to mosh, their drunkenness, and unusually low collective IQ, I figured the Suicidal crowd was at least worth one good fight. Two songs into the set, I got to see the fight I had expected. A brawl in the pit spread quickly until tons of security guards and cops swiftly brought it to an end. The rowdy crowd was reminded that they were in Irvine, home of the police state and fiefdom of the Irvine Company, rulers of all vile creatures known as humans. Oh wait, GWAR are our rightful rulers…almost forgot. Fuck you Irvine Company. We stuck around for a few more minutes and got the hell out of there before we got shanked.

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