Dir En Grey with The Birthday Massacre @ Sonar, Baltimore MD

Kyo of Dir En Grey @ Sonar, Baltimore MD, 12/10/11. © 2011 Elizabeth V Bouras - DOOM! Magazine

Kyo of Dir En Grey @ Sonar, Baltimore MD, 12/10/11. © 2011 Elizabeth V Bouras

Seeing Dir En Grey is always somewhere between surgery and exorcism; they will yank things out of you whether you’re ready to face them or not….

The last time I saw them, in 2008 supporting the Uroboros album, they were so intense that I didn’t even make it through the set. Kyo’s performance was so desperate and anguished that it was like being on the other end of a suicide hotline – in a language you don’t speak, to boot – and I honestly wondered how he made it through. Last night was my third time with them, and I was prepared for anything.

The vibe was different from the start, though, thanks to the unexpectedly endearing opening band, The Birthday Massacre. (I should have gotten a clue when I got my first ever headbutt from a unicorn during their set, courtesy of an over-excited fan’s plush-animal backpack.) They played an enjoyable set of dark synthpop given visual appeal by the members’ distinctive looks and the nonstop bounce of singer Chibi, whose photo ought to be in the dictionary beside the word “perkygoth”. “Chibi” in Japanese means anything little and cute, and it’s well chosen here. Setting theatrical, quirky vocal power and control (I kept thinking of Bjork), against a schoolgirl uniform and pigtails, and nocturnal subject matter against boundless energy, she delivered an irresistible performance, decorated with dramatic silent-film poses and thumb-and-forefinger hearts. Can’t help but be charmed by someone having such evident and unrestrained fun onstage. –I had barely heard of TBM, but ended the set as a fan.

But OK, now for the big story. The album Dir En Grey are touring to support is called Dum Spiro Spero – “While I breathe, I hope” – and guitarist Die has said that “Ultimately, it means to keep faith and hope alive even though you are living the worst.” A guy I’m talking to comments that he’d heard they’re playing almost exclusively tracks from DSS on this tour, with older songs only in the encore. Will that mean a more positive tone, or just a desperate one? We’ll see…

Dir En Grey have a presence that holds you at arms’ length. Fourteen years in, tough veterans of the metalcore scene, they walk out with cool dignity, all in black; they don’t smile, or speak, or react when the fangirls squeal. And when Kyo makes his appearance, and the crowd goes ballistic, he looks out with lidded eyes and no expression whatever, as if thinking we’ve got no idea what we’re looking at. And maybe we don’t.

[Disclaimer: Kyo sings entirely in Japanese. My Nihongo is nowhere near good enough to follow him, and they don’t translate in their liner notes, so I won’t even speculate on what the songs are about.]

Seeing Dir En Grey is always somewhere between surgery and exorcism; they will yank things out of you whether you’re ready to face them or not. They are so raw, so ferocious, that you can’t assess what’s happening to you, you just hang on and breathe whenever you can get your head above water. This time Kyo doesn’t seem to be in the same sort of psychic pain as last time, but still sings like a man capable of punching in his own ribcage and hauling out his heart barehanded. He doubles over on the metal podium, howling, head down to his knees, and the band just calmly and solidly backs him up, watching him. Several times he stands on the podium and pours out long strings of syllables that are run through a processor, doubled back, raised and lowered and distorted into a strange incantation; several times his extraordinary voice sinks into a thick, bestial snarl that sounds as if he’s spontaneously channeled a pre-human ancestor. It’s not theatrics. It’s magick.

The set is consistent and strong, a little sprawly, but plainly all of contemporaneous material, one steady tone throughout. The band is tight, and Kyo’s singing – when he is just singing – is pure soul and clarity. I’d never say he sounds upbeat, but there’s more balance and resolve to the sound in between bursts of bloody-throated screaming, and a lot more control and elegance in his body language, which includes some flowing arm and hand gestures worthy of a Balinese dancer. Midway through the set he peels off the top of his track suit to reveal gorgeously detailed tattoo work, including full sleeves and backpiece, and when he turns his back to us we can clearly see it shows a seated Buddha-like figure. (Is it Arya Tara, the Buddhist Mother of Liberation, who appears on the album cover? Wouldn’t surprise me.) So maybe he’s come to some sort of peace, or is on the Way, perhaps. It would make sense.

They walk off with the same abrupt dignity they arrived with, but the crowd stamps and yells for more, “One more song! One more song!” turning into “Dir En Grey! Dir En Grey!” and when they reappear there are actually some smiles. Smiles, wow! The encores include, as I’d heard, older songs – “Kodou” from Withering to Death, and “Red Soil” from Uroboros – before Kyo climbs up onto his perch once more and proclaims in emphatic English, “Last song!” I cross my fingers for “Spilled Milk”, but oh well; It’s “Rasetsukoku”, one of the tracks from Macabre remixed for the new album, and the band members actually play it up, coming to the fore one by one for solos. (Kaoru’s purple-glitter guitar decor sports, as ever, his great logo “Japanese Zombie Heroes”.) I let Liz get in front of me with her camera and go lean on the wall to soak it in while they roar to the finish, raise guitars in salute, and disappear into the darkness.

Long may they breathe.
(All photos taken by and © 2011 Elizabeth V. Bouras, All Rights Reserved)

Hauntology: Nick 13 at the Black Cat, 6-25-11

Nick 13 @ The Black Cat ©2011 Elizabeth V Bouras

Nick 13 @ The Black Cat ©2011 Elizabeth V Bouras

Hauntology is a term current in literary and other criticism that (if I have this right) refers to a sense of being infused or inhabited by the past; or to music that references a sound or style from another time, playing on the memories and resonances it evokes, especially when the moment referenced is something long-gone and nearly forgotten. I thought about it a lot during this show.

I’d been excited about this solo project of Nick 13’s since I first heard of it, because Tiger Army, of which he’s the prime mover and crystalline voice, has never been your typical psychobilly band. While decidedly capable of kicking tail and rocking out, they’re dreamy, spooky and cerebral, pursuing the mysteries of the beyond and the road to dark romance instead of the ghoul girls at the hop, and they’re as well-known for their purist clarity as their iconoclasm (I doubt you can name me many other bands who’ve covered both Eddie Cochran and Morrissey). So when I learned that Nick had fulfilled his dream of recording a roots-country album with Nashville musicians, I had no doubt it would soar; which is why I was with Liz at the Black Cat in DC for this stop on his debut solo tour.

But I’m ahead of myself here, because I don’t want to overlook the opening band, Billy Woodward and the Senders. Ladies and gentlemen, this is one hot little combo, and I commend them to you wholeheartedly. Impeccably executed R&B/rock played with snap and polish, stage presence, and a huge sense of fun. It’s great to hear someone dust off 1960’s songs by the bands people don’t remember, and play them with the same joy and excitement they had then. I was already thinking that their sound was more British Invasion than rockabilly when they kicked into “Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance)”, and topped it with a sparkling cover of “Rock’n’Soul”, a song I hadn’t heard in decades (and still can’t remember who I knew it by, but I loved it then too). Lead singer Billy sounds as sweet as an Everly Brother but pours out sweaty energy, Mike Centrella spins and tangos with his double bass, and the set is crazy fun and super tight at once. I’d go see these guys again anytime.

Setup commences: Nick’s exacting care of his voice is often remarked upon, and now the roadie who’s bringing water bottles and clean towels carefully sets a cup of hot tea down by the bass drum. The lead-in music is an inspired choice: Johnny Cash’s recording of Glenn Danzig’s “Thirteen”. As the Man in Black’s cavernous rumble fades out, the members of Nick’s band – old-school C&W guys in rose-embroidered shirts and string ties – walk out one by one, and kick it off: then 13 himself steps out to a wave of cheers. He’s wearing a tailored dark suit, a scarf and black snakeskin boots; he smiles, and launches straight into “Restless Moon”.

And here’s where hauntology gets its ghostly grip. It’s a classy set – contained, polished, pretty as a dream – and it doesn’t just respect the past, it yearns for it like a heartbroken lover. It’s as though 13 hopes by his own vision and a wealth of meticulous detail to erase your knowledge of crass show-biz Nashville, to recreate the old world of country music in all its pure and lonesome darkness. (At one point he refers to “the country music of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, not what they call country music nowadays,” and I know you can hear the icicles dripping off that last phrase.) The songs are mostly new ones, but you can tell just from the titles what spirit they’re meant to speak: “”Nashville Winter”, “Carry My Body Down”, “All Alone”. Footnoted at every turn (one song was “inspired by the Bakersfield Sound”; the 1928 “Blue Yodel #4-California Blues” is credited to “the father of country music, Jimmie Rodgers”), it’s part homage, part history lesson, all loving determination and steel control. The little world in these songs is like the adamant pool of light in a George Ault painting, holding off corrupting force by sheer clarity of focus. Wistful, pretty, silky smooth; but fierce.

There are a couple of retooled Tiger Army songs in the set as well, and one of them, “In the Orchard”, is dedicated with a big smile to “Elizabeth, Jennifer, and all the Tiger Army fans who’ve seen us perform from coast to coast”. =) Another is the encore, “Outlaw Heart”, from way back on TA’s first album, and it seems right at home here. == It might seem like a major gamble for a rock’n’roll guy to set his band aside and seek out his roots, but judging from the turnout, the warm reception, and the music, the dice have rolled Nick 13’s way.
Never die.


American Gods: Neil Gaiman in DC, 6-23-11

A sold-out National Press Club listened spellbound last night, as teller-of-tales Neil Gaiman told the story behind “American Gods”–and quite a few more.

The event, DC’s stop on Gaiman’s tour to promote the 10th anniversary edition of his multi-award-winning novel, took place appropriately in a stubborn and devoted haven of the printed word. The National Press Club is Washington’s hangout for newspaper journalists, and has been since 1908; its emblem is the owl, standing, they say, both for wisdom and for keeping watch late into the night. (A nice package of symbols for a writer and admirer of myth and its imagery– I hope he enjoyed it.) He’d spoken here once before, when his Sandman collection “A Game of You” won a GLAAD Media Award, but they told us this was the biggest crowd they’d ever had for a book event. (And tickets were only $6.00!) I’d bet it was one of the most interesting, too, with several cosplayers and some strikingly inked people in attendance.

Taking the stage in his trademark black-on-black, Gaiman opened with a haunting reminiscence, saying that his first signing for “American Gods” had been held in June 2001, in the Barnes and Noble bookstore in New York’s World Trade Center. He had continued his tour, returning home on September 8th, and three days later his opening stop no longer existed. Considering the theme of the book it somehow seemed appropriate, he mused, to an audience now sitting in awestruck silence. –and he does that; he holds the listener in absolute thrall; he is a story-teller of magical powers. I wish I could convey his graceful phrasing, the thoughtful, considering way he holds a pause, as though it might reveal something unexpected. His humor is bone-dry, his tone can slide from wry to deadly stern in a second, and as a reader he’s peerless.

He told a few funny stories of his experiences as a transplanted Englishman in America (“this huge and wonderful and quite peculiar country of yours”), and he talked at length about the genesis of “American Gods”: how the idea came to him on a sleepless night under the midnight sun of Reykjavik, how he had deliberately tried to shake off what he called the “British narrative voice”, how his 40-year study of world mythology had come into play as he chose (and invented) the gods who became characters in the plot. (One deity of his invention, he noted in mixed bemusement and pride, now appears in several reference works on mythology; “it would be churlish to correct them”, he said, but he also seemed to just quietly dig the idea of his baby goddess making her way out into the world, leaving her mark, becoming just as real as her time-honored sisters. And I mean, who wouldn’t?)

He read two passages from the novel, and then answered a selection of questions from the audience, which provided even more fun and some cool tidbits of news. He discussed how it felt to write a Doctor Who episode after being a fan of the series since the age of three (“The closest I’ve ever come to actually feeling like a god”) and said he’d like to do a novelization of that script including all the material that didn’t fit into the episode. He also confirmed that HBO is creating an “American Gods” miniseries; the first arc would take up the entire first book, and he hopes it will take until 2014 to complete since by then he may have a second book done.

But the funniest of all was Gaiman’s final story, in response to a question on whether he planned to write more children’s books. He had already been thinking that he’d like to write something for very young kids, he said, and then it had come to his attention that just about the only country in which his earlier kids’ books aren’t available in local translation is China, because they disapprove of stories in which children disrespect their elders’ authority. (Yeah, I can’t see “The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish” meeting that mark.) But our man welcomed the challenge, a crafty gleam in his eye. “My task was clear,” he intoned; “to write something aimed at two-year-olds, which does not respect authority, and which the Chinese still can’t find a reason not to publish.” Cheers and applause.– It’s called “Chu’s Day”, and Chu is a baby panda with a chronic sneeze, which causes Bad Things to Happen. Can’t wait to see how it goes over in Beijing. =)

A memorable evening with our of our finest fantasists. (And we got photos too!


My Chem and Yours: MCR @ the 9:30 Club, Washington DC, 5.10.11

My Chemical Romance @ the 9:30 Club, Washington DC 5.10.11 ©2011 Elizabeth V. Bouras

My Chemical Romance @ the 9:30 Club, Washington DC 5.10.11 ©2011 Elizabeth V. Bouras

Now THIS is the My Chem I came for.  With a welcome night off between Jersey and DC, the Killjoys brought the noise to the Nightclub 9:30 with a loud, kickass, rabble-rousing set. And the rabble loved it.

The evening started with another awe-inspiring display by the MCRmy, who began camping out on the sidewalk Monday night and by Tuesday evening had formed a queue stretching five or six blocks from the club.  I have been going to shows at the 9:30 a good 20 years and, X my heart, I’ve never seen anything like it. Man, I love these kids. =)  –More variety of band shirts than we saw at the Starland, but My Chem shirts of all vintages vastly predominated, along with the expected scattering of masks and bandanas. Some killjoy—er, spoilsport—in club security had apparently gotten wind of this crowd’s preferred décor, as there was a never-before-seen sign among the posted warnings—“No toy guns will be allowed in the venue”—and while, thankfully, no one had to abandon his or her treasured Zone-issue zapgun, we did see a few tossed-aside space pistols, including one shiny Buzz Lightyear model.

The Intrepid Liz and I spent the Architects’ set on the upper level  (pretty much same as Saturday’s, just longer) and then decided to try our luck on the floor, which was crowded but not packed.  Good decision, as we were able to maintain good sightlines and Liz finally had camera space, hooray!

Thursday, to my great happiness, were once again the main openers for My Chem, and put in another beautiful set.  The new material sounds great live and the band, while not as lit up as for their home crowd, were just as clear and strong.   I’ll say it again: I’ll take their ramshackle grace over some auto-tuned polished performance any night of the year, and I was right with the blonde girl two feet from me in the pit, tears spilling down her face as she watched Geoff reach for the sky.  Guess I’m emo…

ANYway.  Kids buzzing and cheering as the Killjoy stage is set up: the roadie who sets Mikey/Kobra’s helmet on its amp pauses and gestures for effect as he does it, and grins at the howl of joy he gets. == [ Note: I can’t help but be sorry that this tour isn’t  more Killjoy-centric.  I can’t believe they haven’t been hanging out on the Web and seen how the fanbase has taken this mythos to heart, the fanfic, the costumes, the fan videos and new names and the whole Dustverse fantasia;  and my gods, their own website is amazing, hours of weird little videos and commercials and Fact News clips set in  the Killjoy universe; why’d they decide not to play in their own sandbox after all? Too constricting? Bad experiences when they were the Black Parade? I d’know, but… sigh. me’s sad.]

Snap on the dot of 9:30 they appear with “Look Alive, Sunshine” and  a scorching “Na Na Na”;  Gerard instantly wins the locals’ hearts including mine: “—alright, legendary 9:30 Club DC! How are ya?”  (Check the Wiki:  the 9:30 Club is our city’s most storied rock’n’punk venue, everyone has played here, I saw Nine Inch Nails here when Trent was still clambering on his jungle gym. It’s just THE place.  Good one, G.)  –The sky’s the limit from there.  It’s a total experience, Frank bawling the choruses, Ray’s headbanging intensity, Mikey’s fragile spaciness,  Gerard’s front-and-center red-alert authority.  They’re so strong, this band, so wry and bitter and yet with so much heart.  (And even though facing a wall of tiny glowing screens, smartphones and cameras held up above the crowd to throw their faces back at them a hundred times, whicb has gotta be a weird moment.) They storm through the set—even G marvels at how fast it goes—a dreamy “Summertime”, a roaring, fists-on-high  “DESTROYA”,  throw in a fast-charging “House of Wolves” which wasn’t done in NJ,  tougher and more raw by the minute, and then comes the crescendo.  A gorgeous, surging “Sing”, led into by a barrage of flung challenges:

“So, what’re you gonna do, when they try to fix you? When they try to make you pretty? When they try to take all the edges out of everything and make it perfect, what’ll you do, DC?”

(–And I tell you, OK, so maybe he’s been a jerk online, yeah, I know, but. BUT. The way he said this, the way the whole 1500+ packed club stood up and sang with their whole hearts, for the world, as one: I feel for the kid he laced into, swear I do, but , but, this transcends.  It DOES.  This power, this beauty: I can’t stay mad at a person who can bring this into being. )

And after that the only right thing was “Helena”—“so long and good night”—and we didn’t stay for the encore.  Had enough, more than enough.

I love this band so much.

Photograph ©2011 Elizabeth V. Bouras


[[Three footnotes:  (1) There are few moments of cognitive dissonance quite like standing in a crowd of over 1000—3/4 of them too young to drink legally—all  loudly and gleefully singing “Teenagers scare the living shit out of me”.  I mean, I get it, and I’m pretty sure they get it, but still.   (2) What the fuck is with these people who come and go from the bar even while the headliners are playing?! I mean, WHAT?  Cripes, if you’re just here to drink, buy a bottle and stay home instead of shoving your way back and forth past those of us who are here to actually see the band.  Sheesh.  (3) Ray Toro and I were wearing the same shirt (#singitforjapan). Woo! My little moment =)]]

Michael Way of My Chemical Romance, 5.10.11. (c) 2011 Elizabeth V. Bouras

A Killjoy Homecoming: MCR at the Starland, 5-7-11

The digital billboard in the Starland parking lot said it all: on the desert backdrop of the Danger Days album cover, the words WELCOME HOME. This venerable Sayreville, New Jersey venue, unofficial home base of My Chemical Romance, hosted two nights of their World Contamination Tour this weekend, and everyone on the East Coast apparently knew it. Saturday night was sold out and then some: Starland took the unprecedented step of posting a website notice that not only set a starting time of 2 PM for the entrance queue, but sternly forbade overnight campouts on the venue grounds.

There must have been some amazing line just to start said queue, too, since by the time we arrived at 3:30–having left Maryland about 11 AM–the “StarParking” priority admission line was already nearly the length of the building, about five times what you’d see for an average show here. Crowd was pretty young, overwhelmingly female (I’d estimate a female-to-male ratio of 4 or 5 to 1), and had a single-point focus that made a surgical laser look vague and indecisive. My Chem shirts and jackets—some hand-painted—hoodies and accessories predominated (this is the first time I can remember not seeing even one Misfits ‘’Crimson Ghost” shirt in a gig crowd), with Killjoy masks and bandanas here and there, and judging by the overheard conversation, it was the first show ever for some. Tailor-made for a torrential display of pure love. (Taking advantage of the captive audience, a local band called Audacity set up to play an acoustic set in the parking lot, give out demos and plug tickets for their Starland show on the 15th. Talk about fearless marketing.) Meanwhile, the non-priority line had already coiled out across the parking lot, and by 6 PM was nearly to the front gate. We decided not to dare the floor, and scored seats in the over-21 section by the left-hand bar.

The only announced bands were MCR and their old friends and allies Thursday, but we soon learned two more were on hand, and the show began punctually on time to give everyone their due. First up: This Good Robot, apparently a Thursday discovery/protege (their EP is produced by Thursday bassist Tim Payne). This band was a LOT of fun. Energetic, clever, with a strong singer and a penchant for odd time signatures (waltz time, tango…), they introduced one of their five songs as “about the villain of our story” (“Woe is Barnaby Black”) and another as “a lovely little number about the zombie apocalypse”. Reminded me of Dommin but with more bounce and humor; I hope we hear more from them.

Next up: The Architects: hailing from Kansas City, a classic American guitar-rock band with a touch of rockabilly. Think, say, the Blasters or Jason and the Scorchers. They played a solid, capable set, but didn’t seem well-matched for this tour; just a little too commonplace and earthy. The crowd, in a generous mood, treated them well, but they didn’t make much impact.

Then, the official supporting band: NJ’s beloved Thursday. They came out all but glowing and got a rapturous reception. Geoff Rickly took the mike and surveyed the room in awed happiness: “Are we glad to be back in Jersey? Fuck yeah—“ and they were off. — I love these guys. With their off-balance blend of huge stomping power and soaring emotion they always remind me of some handmade flying machine in a Miyazaki anime—it never seems possible it’ll really get off the ground, but it always does and in the air it’s beautiful to behold—and last night they were all that and more. Intensely focused, with Rickly’s voice in flawless form, they delivered an inspired set showcasing their new album (No Devolución, released on April 15th), one of the first times they’ve played it live. The crowd was lit up like crazy by the time they left, and were the stars of the show any less loved I’d’ve said they couldn’t possibly top that…

BTW, had a county fire marshal stepped in at any point in this evening, I think the whole thing would’ve been closed down. By this point the club was literally packed stage-to-wall, and I can’t believe the place wasn’t oversold to a point past capacity—like, several hundred people past capacity. By the end of Thursday’s set the crush at the barricade had reached critical mass: during their last song a security guy hustled out and headed for the door with a limp, out-cold kid over his shoulder, and during the space between Thursday’s set and MCR at least three girls signaled the bouncers to haul them out as well. Bitter hard, that, to lose your spot after fighting for it so long. But the place was so lit up and vibrating with anticipation that nothing could discourage it.

The stage set took shape, amp cases looking like weathered and stained metal, stenciled, plastered with tape and “American Widow” decals—the Danger Days spider logo—with details carefully added: a Drac mask, some stuffed toys, Mikey’s bright yellow Kobra Kid helmet. The effect was of a rehearsal space in the Killjoys’ garage, and the kids howled with glee at each new addition. –I dared hope: was this gonna be a full-dress concept set a la the two-bands-in-one format of the Black Parade tour? The suspense!—

Then lights out and the crowd recited every word of “Look Alive, Sunshine” along with Dr. Death Defying, and there they were. =)

–I’d love to say My Chem were awesome. They weren’t really. They seemed tired, a bit uneven, Gerard’s voice a little ragged around the edges. (And no Killjoys gear, no use of the concept at all besides the stage set: sigh.) But the crowd’s ecstatic welcome and flood of energy was received with genuine gratitude, and the band gave back 100% of what they’d brought; plus, it’s hard to fault a setlist that mixes Danger Days with a roster of My Chem’s Greatest Hits. (The choice of “Vampires Will Never Hurt You” from Bullets/Love I thought a very witty bookend to “Vampire Money”, which is also in the set. And it was introduced with an eerie, keening “Some day that sun is gonna die”…) They did what you should do when an adoring fanbase is willing to carry you—accept some, resist some, sometimes lean on it and sometimes push back, goad it to even stronger displays and then challenge that—and were just so damn heartfelt and honest. Due to our seats I could only see Mikey, Ray, and the now clean-cut Frank sporadically, and Michael not at all, but every time I could I certify they were dug in, hauling the weight, Ray in a nonstop blur of thrashing curls. Gerard knows the crowd will sing every syllable of every song and takes it as a personal challenge to out-sing them anyway, throwing one voice and an adamant will against 2500+ sets of lungs: he wins every time. (And—oh hell, I’m a fangirl, I admit it—the infra-red hair, the acetylene eyes, that smile…)

In short: These guys do not cheat. A solid set of great material played with grit and heart, and trust me, you could see a whole lot worse. –There was a single encore, “Bulletproof Heart”; a parting shot, “Never stop running!”; and at 1 AM, so long and goodnight.
So: well. It’s great to be brilliant, but there’s no shame in just delivering the goods, and MCR, ably assisted, delivered. So far so good.

[Next review: May 10th, MCR at the Nightclub 9:30 in DC.]

Epic, Failed: 30 Seconds to Mars, 4/27/11

Let’s get straight to the point: 30 Seconds to Mars’ appearance (I won’t call it a show) at the Patriot Center last night was a lazy, sloppy, self-indulgent mess. Jared Leto used every single page of the Slacker Frontman’s Handbook – some of them multiple times – to deliver a performance with no drama, no momentum, no structure and a damn small number of songs (I counted seven, maybe eight, in a 90-minute set). To name just the worst excesses:

==having the house lights brought up, not once but three times, so “we can see you guys”

==playing the old, old, hokey game of “who can yell louder, the left side or the right side”–twice!

==having the audience sing instead of himself. Yeah, everyone holds the mike out to the front row once in awhile, but Leto let the crowd sing practically half the set, contenting himself with choruses and a line or two per verse five songs out of seven.

==interrupting every single song except one, beginning barely a minute into the set, with constant exhortations to “jump” “scream” and “get crazy”. (Um, dude? people will usually do that without being told to, if your show is, you know, exciting.)

worst of all: wasting an entire half-hour, house lights up, on Leto picking people out of the crowd and calling them up onstage for the “Kings and Queens” grand finale. Mind you, the band had sold 15 or so pricey “Golden Ticket” packages to this show, with one of the main perks of same being stage access; yet here were dozens more people being brought onboard purely on whim. (I’d love to know how the fans already onstage, who had paid $400-500 apiece for the privilege, felt about that.) –By this point the band was so disengaged from the set that they decided to play some Metallica, and had gotten through “Sad But True” and the intro to “Enter Sandman” before Jared-chan was satisfied with his posse and got back to work. (–Tip to anyone considering buying a Golden Ticket pack in future: take your cash to a stylist or eBay instead. Great hair and vintage 30StM shirts got onstage ten to one.)

Getting the idea? I hope so. I mean, there seemed nothing he wouldn’t do to kill time. He brought a crew member on and had the fans sing “Happy Birthday” to her; he introduced the kids who’d won the local radio station contest; he told us about a million times how amazingly crazy we were. And so on and so on. It’s not that the guy’s pipes weren’t in good shape: in the one bright spot of the show, he brought out a guitar and sang three songs solo, and he sounded great (the centerpiece, “Night of the Hunter”, was the only song of the night with no interruptions, and it was genuinely beautiful). It’s just that for whatever reason he chose to blow this one off. Yeah well, whatever, too bad, DC.

I honestly never expected a band that’s this deeply invested in epic drama, and that owes its fans this much, to turn in a set so indifferent and slipshod. It disrespects both their material and their listeners; it’s a shoddy, dishonest thing to do, and if there was any kind of reason for it, someone ought’ve said so. Personally, I’d like to see some of those kids who shelled out 4 or 5 C’s to stand onstage ask for some of their cash back. In fact, maybe we all should.

Jared Leto/30 Seconds to Mars, 4-27-11, photo by Elizabeth Bouras (c)

Letting us do his job for him. Jared Leto, 2-27-11

Manson Tour Diary: NYC, 11-23-98: Kristen

We’re jumping way ahead in time here, because we’ve lost someone, and I wanted to remember a moment in time we had with her. Her name was Kristen McCullough, and she was one of the front-row Manson gang, our inner circle. She was the most classically beautiful woman I’ve ever known; she was a driven perfectionist; she was smart, sweet, compassionate (a champion of animal-rights causes and a full-time emergency room nurse at Cedars Sinai), a cat lover, a photographers’ model, a beam of sunshine at all times; and she was never, ever, good enough for herself. It didn’t matter who told her she was wonderful and beautiful and a good and dear friend, in her own mind she was a failure, plain, lonely and useless. And like too many of our MM friends – the lost, damaged, sensitive kids who gravitated to what Manson was and meant for a few crucial years – she couldn’t take the pain anymore, and yesterday she ended her own life.

Near the end of this review you’ll glimpse her as she looked in 1998, a cherry-blossom ballerina, with her friend and sometime-twin Carrie Schulman. Carrie passed on by her own hand, years ago. Now Kristen is gone as well. Wherever they are, I hope it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Sayonara, pixie.


Manson Tour Diary #2: March 10 and 11, 1995

Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro (near Raleigh) NC, 3/10/95.

Our story so far: EVB and coyote (much-appreciated fact checker for this account =), who had seen MM twice prior to March 9th, raved an’ drooled to me about how mindfuckingly brilliant they were live, convincing me to come see them next chance. Next chance was three shows in a row in North & South Carolina, in March. I had tickets for all three shows, but EVB was careful to assure me that if I saw them and didn’t like them, it was OK, I could just crash in the hotel on nights two and three.

So I saw them for the first time on March 9th [as related in the post “My 16th Mansonversary”]…
Well, here’s night two, and you couldn’t have kept me away with a pit full of Gaboon vipers. =)


Alcatrazz/Club X, Columbia SC, 3/11/95.

(This one’s hard to post. It’s the most emotional and subjective, and difficult, of the lot. It comes with a mild disclaimer: namely that I can’t, of course, be sure that the Rev was going through exactly what I perceived him to be going through. I can only say that the sibs I’ve talked to who were there agree with the substance and mood of my account.

Join us for a night of psychic horror and collapse… ==a==)


A Manson Tour Diary, 1995-2000: brief introduction

From here on out, in addition to more current things, I’m going to post the contents of my Marilyn Manson show review archive, “Cities in Dust”, which covers the shows I saw on all the MM tours between 1995 and 2000. There are a lot of them. =) Before we start, a disclaimer:

1) No objectivity is involved or should be expected. I was a devoted and very emotional fan calling it as I saw it.
2) I was very, VERY naive about the real state of affairs in a touring band at the time. Feel free to laugh at my assumptions about the innocence of things that were in all likelihood not so at all.
3) At the time period mentioned, this band was one of the most important things in my life. Literally; they were my study, my primary obsession and my #1 creative focus. I recall saying, one night about 1 AM in a diner in–um, Ohio I think–that the only things more important to me than Marilyn Manson were air, Judy and the English language. MM has faded off my radar, and I don’t have Judy anymore (she moved on to the Big Garden in 2007), but I’m still breathing and I still have words, which I hope you will enjoy reading.
4) And most important: all descriptions and theories (unless otherwise noted) in these reviews are my own, and are offered subject to the possibility that I was, and/or am, flat-out wrong.

Thanks for your attention. Next post: Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC, 3-10-95; and Alcatrazz, Columbia, SC, 3-11-95.

My 16th Mansonversary

It was 16 years ago tonight (yes, I’m old), in a chilly little roadhouse in North Carolina, that I saw Marilyn Manson for the first time and changed my life forever.  Take a walk into the past…