Brocas Helm -- San Francisco, CA -- November 22nd, 2013
This was one of the best days of my entire life.
I started off by heading to Aquarius Records in SF, which carries the coolest and most obscure Bay Area metal releases around. I walk into the store and who do I see working the front desk? My pal Harry Cantwell, who drums for a little band called Slough Feg. We chat for a little bit and catch up- he eventually has to get back to work, so I spend time perusing the stacks of music. I find a sealed vinyl copy of The August Engine by Hammers of Misfortune and a CD of Made in Poland by Slough Feg, both incredibly rare releases- total score. Then I hear my name said by someone from the back of the store. I look and who is that I see? Mike Scalzi of Slough Feg standing there, dropping by the store to pay Harry a visit. I walk up to say hi and catch up with Mike, and the guy sees the Hammers and Feg albums in my hands. He picks them up and says to me, "Why are you buying this crap?!" and laughs. For those who don't know, Mike also sang and played guitar on the Hammers of Misfortune album that I was buying, and of course played on Slough Feg album too. Craziest coincidence ever.
Mike and I then exit Aquarius, and we walk towards my car which is on the way home for him. I mention I'm going to grab some food after stashing my new purchases, and he recommends this hole in the wall taqueria in the Mission. Mike has time to kill, so he joins me for some food. What follows is probably one of the most incredible conversations I've ever had with anyone. Mike and I chat about the philosophy behind scientific reasoning for nearly two hours while I eat the greatest burrito I've ever had. Every thirty minutes my brain darts away and I'm thinking, "I'm having dinner with the singer and guitarist of one of my favorite bands and we're debating the causality of natural events. What the actual fuck."
Mike and I part ways after this out of nowhere excursion, and I head to Trakworx Studio, where I intern and where a bajillion amazing metal albums have been engineered: Slough Feg, Hammers of Misfortune, Ludicra, Brocas Helm, Agalloch, VHOL... if it's rad, Trakworx has probably been involved. I get there to meet the owner/engineer Justin Weis- my hero, my guru and my friend. Again, more "WTF, is this actually happening?!" is going through my head, as often happens when I head to Trakworx. We hang out for an hour or so, just geeking out about gear schematics, engineering, music and life. He then hands me his first microphone, an AT4033 and says it's mine now. It's my first microphone, and now I can begin engineering on my own. "WTF is this actually happening?" I profusely thank Justin, and I head out to the show.
I arrive at Thee Parkside and the next few hours are filled with just way too many events. Throughout the night I catch up with all my buddies in Hatchet and Midnight Chaser, along with a lot of my other friends that came out. I find Bob Wright of Brocas Helm, introduce myself since we'd only talked over the phone before, and immediately we begin picking up where our last coversation left off. He then gives me a t-shirt and all three of Brocas Helm's albums. I'm basically overwhelmed by how nice and awesome Bob is. Then he busts out a camera and says he wants to take a photo with me. The singer and guitarist of the best band in the world want to take a photo with me, a dorky writer/engineer kid. "WTF is this actually happening?" I then temporarily say goodbye and try to hunt down Jim Shumacher and Jack Hays to do interviews with them. I eventually do and the conversations are fun, informative and cool. Very nice guys all around.
In the middle of all this I run into Aesop Dekker, former drummer for Ludicra and current drummer for Agalloch and VHOL. We talk about how awesome Justin Weis is, how The Tenant by Ludicra is the best engineered black metal album ever made (which it totally is) and how cool it is that Ludicra are becoming this cult band now. We also spend a bit of time geeking out over Brocas Helm of course. Minor update for Agalloch fans: tracking for new album begins in a couple months with Billy Anderson.
Mike Scalzi shows up somewhere in this and we agree that we're stoked to see Brocas fricken Helm. I also do an interview with Midnight Chaser at some point, their new album's going to destroy you all.
Now for the bands. Midnight Chaser was up first and they killed. They're the perfect throwback to my favorite era of metal, the NWOBHM, and they were just incredibly tight on this night. An outstanding set from one of the coolest bands around.
1. Lions Choice
3. White denim
4. Cry wolf
5. Down for Whatever
6. The Hunt
I missed most of Exmortus because of interviews and seeing friends, but the band sounded fantastic from what I did hear. Much much better than two years back when I saw them in LA. They were good then, but they were just insane tonight. I also only caught the last couple songs by Hatchet for the same reason. This was my first time seeing them with the new bassist and he did a fine enough job. The road has really tightened these guys up as players, and what I did catch sounded as strong as I've ever heard them.
Last of course was Brocas Helm. Objectively speaking, the set had mistakes and flaws. But I gave no fucks. This was my favorite set all year, and I was going nuts during every single song. The setlist was basically completely improvised and all fan requests. It was so cool. These guys were all just insane at their instruments and Bob told some really hilarious stories. He also did a long guitar solo with the King of the Hill theme finger picked and a bunch of other riffs. The setlist was almost perfect, just missing Skullfucker. Other than that, the band was just amazing. Absolutely amazing.
1. Time of the Dark
2. Black Death
3. Blood Machine
4. Ghost Story
5. Defender of the Crown
6. Fly High
7. Into Battle
8. Drink and Drive
9. Drink the Blood of the Priest
12. Cry of the Banshee
I meet the band outside and me and a ton of friends take photos with everyone. We then spend a solid hour just shooting the shit with Bob, talking about the old Bay Area metal scene and other random crap. Then somehow my Impaled article gets mentioned and Bob takes a minute to talk about what a good writer I am in front of my friends. I'm just fricken speechless at this point. "WTF is this actually happening?!" I finally say the last goodbyes, and give a few friends rides home. And so ends one of the coolest days ever, and I will wake up in 90 minutes to fly back to LA. Goodnight internet.