I could easily have lived there for four days. Coming and going for four days would've been a drag. But the combination of friendly yet functional security and a crowd to match would've made it a very nice place to live, listen to music, and sit in the sun. As it was, one day was all that was possible this year.
- Inside the gates
Cool: Being able to find free street parking within even Houstonian walking distances to the venue, saving $15 and avoiding a rutted patch of earth that probably would've done unspeakable things to my undercarriage.
- Behind the VIPs
Lame: Jacking the price up by $10 at the door ($55 to $65). Would've not been lame if it was explained that way, but as it was there were two publicized prices -- $55 one day or $125 all four.
- The stage, pre-Jetboy
Cool: Security. No virtual strip search at the gate. No needless hassles inside. Letting you take your general admission ass down front into the VIP section for first band Jetboy, as otherwise no-one but the pro photogs would have been down there. Things like these really improve your quality of life in an old dirt patch under 95 deg. Houston sun.
Cool: Reasonable food ($6 for good-size burger + fries), cheap water ($2).
Lame (but to be expected) $6 beers.
- Mickey Finn, Fernie Rod, Michael Butler
On to the show? You bet. Jetboy launched it an hour late (12:30), but holyshit did they launch it. More punk than glam, with riffs, attitude and stage presence to spare, they truly didn't seem to mind or notice that the crowd probably hadn't even reached 3 figures yet. I'll have to dig out 'Feel The Shake' and try to figure out why I didn't bother with these guys back in the day (my guess, and the ruin of many a fine band, is over-polished production). In any case, if they were a brand new band -- any of whose musical asses they could surely kick -- I'd be heralding them as next ginormous thing. As it is, they're the newest entry to my 'favorite band ever' list.
(Sadly) lame: Gilby Clarke. I saw this dude play with D-Generation at some place up Kuykendahl back when he was touring 'Pawnshop Guitars' as a new record. He had edge and polish. Both. This time he had neither. It was mostly a covers set, played by him and two other dudes who seemed like they'd only run through it once together before. The original 'highlights' -- 'Cure Me Or Kill Me' and set-closing 'Tijuana Jail' -- suffered from a half-stepped delivery which cut them off at the balls. And though I can understand being proud of Guns n' Roses (and even Kill for Thrills), dude, you can leave SuperNova off the resume and out of the repretoire.
Gilby did, however, provide some much needed information. Between songs early in the set: "You might've noticed Faster Pussycat [who were supposed to follow JB] forgot they had a show today. No, just kidding, they actually had an airplane problem and will be playing one of the sidestages later today sometime."
I got tired enough of GC's set to check out the lay of the land and make sure Faster weren't already playing somewhere else. They weren't, and along the way I found a nice, sponsor-provided tent with shade, big AC fans, and ... massage chairs! Ahh, yes. The advantages of showing up early.
Lame: NO-ONE (including those at the 'information' tent) with a staff shirt on able to help flesh out the details of Faster's eventual performance. Most didn't even seem to know anything was amiss.
Cool: Eventually finding a sound guy at one of the stages who has enough cool and courtesy to pick up the phone and call someone he has access to (but apparently no-one else does) who provide him with the answer: this stage, 7 pm.
So. Just when you've figured out the way to survive yet another example of George Lynch's seemingly never-ending quest to prove that Don Dokken was the only song-writer in his former band [musical segments so far 7; melodies 0, hooks 0, memorable riffs 1.5 = songs 0.5] is to surrender to his prodigious guitar might....
You find yourself suitably recovered from the day's first bout of dehydration (remember to add some water to the tank every once in a while kids, not just beer and MD 20/20) to wander back as close to the main stage as you can now get and catch Dave Meniketti and Y&T.
Wow. Now that's guitar playing! And Y&T? The second holyshit of the day! These dudes are a tight, thunderous, grooving, rock machine. It's not really a fair fight. They've always had more in common with classic rockers like Humble Pie, Free, Uriah Heep, April Wine, hell...even Rainbow, then with the hair metal some marketing tool probably strong-armed them into as a requirement to sell 'Summertime Girls,' and it surely showed today. Men among boys. Still. 'Hurricane,' 'Midnight In Tokyo,' 'Eyes of a Stranger,' and of course 'Mean Streak' (goose bumps?..yeah baby) were just the highlights of a set that could've lasted much longer without causing any pain.
Oh yeah. Forgot. I was talking about Lynch Mob. Thanks for the reminder, Dave. Their block was so painfully turgid it coud've stopped after four songs. Meniketti, about three songs into Y&T's set: "Well, we had hoped to be able to play our whole set today. I think it's been about 20 years since we've been down here. We'll squeeze in whatever we can." Further clarification 3 or 4 songs later: "I'd like to. But George Lynch told me we had to cut our set short so he could play over."
Skid Row came up next, and was way better than I was afraid they were going to be. That being said, vocalist Johnny Solinger was shockingly inconsistent, able to tackle slower and mid-tempo stuff ('18 and Life' or 'Piece of Me') but so off on faster songs ('Sweet Little Sister') that you had to actually listen to the words to tell what the hell he was singing.
Scotti Hill and Snake Sabo have never sounded better though, and their duel guitar solo was one of the better takes on the ritual executed in a long time. Rachel Bolan (aside from looking a little lost in this setting as obviously clean as he is) and Dave Gara did fine.
Arrive at the side stage in time to get down front for Faster Pussycat. They start arriving one by one, milling about, pale, all in black, Taime Downe bringing up the rear. Once assembled on stage the band launches into 'The Power and The Glory Hole' and the most human yet deadly set of rock delivered in ages follows. This is a rock band. The backline alone is loud enough to make your ears crackle. This riffs are huge and instantly memorable. The songs -- 'Porn Star,' 'Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll,' 'Slip of the Tongue,' 'Bathroom Wall,' -- tell their tale well and our make believe tale even better. The most animated crowd of the day goes suitably apeshit throughout.
- Faster Pussycat
They all look real, and some real close to leaving here, but are also powered by that other-worldly rock energy which elevates and removes from even three feet away. Put shortly, they are, to a person, scary as fuck, exactly the way rock should be. Even 'The Greatest Rock Drummer In The World,' (Chad Stewart) though 'normal' seeming in this company has the manic energy you wouldn't leave alone with anything of value for even a second.
- Bass player hair lift
Taime does speak from time to time. Most comically when he tells whoever turned the stage lights on as the sun was setting: "That's OK, man. You can leave those lights off. I was kind of digging it like that."
What makes all this actually great? You mean that's not enough?! Try a run through of 'House of Pain' that makes any other emotion displayed so far today seem downright fey. Fucking awesome. Do not miss Faster Pussycat ever again.
- House of Pain - Band
- HOP Taime
So do you leave after what you know was the best set of the day. Hell no. Arriving back at the main stage, Ratt fire it up with 'Tell The World.' They seem far away and quiet at first. But the eyes and ears eventually recalibrate and are treated to a surprisingly strong set of the '80s soundtrack to our lives. Seriously, you forget how deep their catalogue is until they play for an hour and 20 and you still haven't heard anywhere near everything. To their credit, they spent most of the night on the crunchy and/or fast end of the spectrum ('I'm Insane,' 'Lack of Communication,' 'Wanted Man,' 'Lay It Down,' 'You're In Love,' 'Back For More') to make up for things like 'Way Cool Jr.' and 'Giving Yourself Away.'
It takes Stephen Pearcy a song or two to get rolling (and for one's ears to adjust to what he may or may not be capable of doing), but it's great to see him back on stage with these dudes and all in all he turns in a fine performance. Same for both Warren DeMartini and Bobby Blotzer, neither of whom are necessarily as spectacular as they once were, but with a catalogue like this, who really needs spectacle anyway. Robbie Crane did his normal great job on bass.
Robbin Crosby is still missed over on stage right (as my brother once put it, reminiscing fondly about 1984's 'American Rock Festival,' which Ratt opened with 'Wanted Man' at 10 am at Timberridge Ski Resort in Kalamazoo, Mi., "that big blonde bitch over there just banging out those power chords"), but as special guest tonight we get Carlos Cavazo (who replaced John Corabi in the position). He still looks like the new guy, but given the setting, it was great to see him up there.
Flawless. And Metal. Those are the two words to describe Queensryche. Their set (short of opening with 'Best I Can' and closing with 'Silent Lucidity') was unremittingly dark even by their standards, and especially given the day's company. 'NM 156' anyone? Or 'The Killng Words'? Or that other crazy thing whose name escapes me but that has Geoff talking through a Demonizer for half the number?
Oh yeah. And dude's anger with his dad hasn't subsided in any way. Check this out. After 'Hands': "It's sometimes tough to imagine disembodied hands. But I think of it like this. You know those people in your life who walk around, metaphorically, with a baseball cap on that says 'I have no excuse for my pathetic existence'? They could be a friend. A neighbor. The ones who always have their hands out needing something? Who you're always bending over backwards trying to help? But who never do anything in return. Never even say thank you? Back home, we've got a name for these people. We call them losers. This song's about a loser. 'The Bridge.'"
Even Geoff's aware of the mood. A couple of songs later, he voices the need to change it and launches into a couple from 'Operation: Mindcrime.' Hahaha. Everyone, feel the lightness!
But seriously, this is one perfect band. Michael Wilton still shreds pure metal. He and Mike Stone are great together. Eddie Jackson remains one of the world's underrated metal bass players, and Scott Rockenfield a simply mesmerizing drummer. All in all, it's a band and a set that make you wonder why they aren't touring the world's stadiums on their own.
Then you remember, the commerce of music is 9 parts fashion for every 1 part quality. And we're here today celebrating that which is no longer deemed fashionable.