Live Gig Report by Chris Martin (Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Sometimes shit happens. In the music business, shit always happens. I don’t typically go into great detail about the inner workings of what I do as far as on a “professional” level (I use quotes because I’m anything but pro, but for lack of a better word it works.) Most of the time I go to a show it is primarily as a fan and secondarily to write and take photo’s. Every once in a blue moon I get the chance to “work” a show, and what that usually entails for me is that I get to be upfront in the photo area or in rare cases I get to interview a band member or two. If I’m being honest, I hate “working” a show. I don’t do it very often (perhaps four shows in the last few years,) and when I do it makes me nervous and jittery. I don’t like doing interviews because, especially if it’s a band I have loved and admired a long time, I get really nervous. For the most part I am a quiet and reserved guy, initially, and then once I get to know you I get a lot more comfortable and loose. That first time though I’m hard pressed to say a lot, or really even approach a person. AJ usually prods me to go over and say something. I am also not a photographer. I have a decent point and shoot digital camera that in its day was a badass machine, but that’s been some years ago. My phone takes pretty good pictures, and I get lucky and pull off a good shot from time to time, but when I’m there “working” as a photographer, it increases my stress levels because I’m worried about getting any good images or fearing they will all wind up looking like garbage.
This evening I was doing pictures and interviewing someone from Symphony X. I was already planning on going to the show, and have been a fan of theirs a long time, as well as Overkill who was touring with them. Once I found out about the interview opportunity (around the same time I got confirmation on the Evergrey interview) I was battling between nervous and excited. Unlike Evergrey, I have seen Symphony X a few times live over the years, so I more or less knew what to expect from the show (same applies for Overkill too, but I wasn’t going to be talking to them) so I was a bit more at ease except that interview was driving me batty. I got my questions mapped out and typed up several days prior to the show, unlike the last one where I did them the night before, so I wasn’t concerned with that, but I still had anxiety about talking to whoever I was to interview. I was given instructions to call the tour manager to get the final time schedule of when to be there. I called about 10:30 the morning of the show and was told it was a bad time because he was “dealing with the locals” and to call back in a couple of hours. I was fine with that. I’m not that far from Charlotte, but sometimes traffic is a bitch making the travel time longer. I called back about 12:30, and he still didn’t seem overly interested in talking to me, but he asked me what time I was told to be there. I told him 5 o’clock. He was frustrated by this news and said, “We’ve got a meet and greet at 5:15. Can you be here by 3:30?” I replied in the affirmative and got AJ and myself working on getting ready.
I wasn’t overjoyed about getting there that early because there was going to be a whole lot of extra time to waste before the show, but I agreed to it so I was going to stick with my commitment. AJ was no where near ready at the time I needed to leave so I went on without her, and she would drive herself. Traffic wasn’t as bad as usual, but it wasn’t great. I got there a little after 3, and sat in the car getting my mind right (mostly listening to Dio on my satelitte radio.) About 3:15 or 3:20 I started walking towards The Fillmore and called the tour manager to let him know I was there and where I needed to go to meet him. He told me to go to where the buses were parked by the club. I did that specifically. I waited there for about 20 minutes and no one ever came to get me, and the only people I saw were some guy working on his bicycle tire and Mike LePond (SyX bassist) getting off the bus and heading towards the back entrance of the club. I finally looked at my phone and noticed I missed a couple of phone calls from the tour manager. Apparently my phone went straight to voice mail, and he basically told me since I wasn’t where I was supposed to be that I missed out on the interview. I was somewhat miffed about being told I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, but fairly relieved about not having to do the interview. I called him back and left a message saying I was there, so forth and so on. If he meant for me to be right beside the bus then he should’ve said so and been out there. Fillmore are pretty stiff about dealing with people not wearing laminates or stickers, so had I gone under the rope I might have found myself in a power struggle I wasn’t interested in. I remained out there in the hopes that maybe it would happen later on, but the only person that said anything to me was Bobby Ellsworth, singer of Overkill, who waved and said hi. Before AJ got there Kevin McGee arrived, who was supposed to assist his friend Andy Frisk by taking some candid shots during Andy’s interview with a person from both bands. He was apparently running late getting there so he was unable to get photo’s. Andy walked over (very cool guy) and said he got to interview Blitz, but that it was a no-go for SyX as whoever was to be interviewed was under the weather. Once AJ and Andy’s wife got the the club (not at the same time as that would’ve been awkward as hell as they hadn’t met yet,) we decided to head over to a place called VBGB’s for something to eat and drink. I’d never been there before, but I can assure I will again. The food was fantastic! The only thing better than the food was letting The Blitz pass me in line to get his order in. I geeked out a little.
Once our food was done we made our way over to The Fillmore. I’m not going to beat that dead horse. You should already know my feelings about that place. This was my first time going there to take pictures, and I had heard some horror stories about how that goes, but it ended up being fairly pain free. I was given a sticker to put on and just prior to the band taking the stage I could go up in front of the barricade and had three songs to take pictures, then would have to go back out in the crowd where I could take as many other pictures as I wanted. We stayed near the front the whole night anyway, but it was kind of different being that close to the action at The Fillmore. A couple of the back levels were blocked off by a curtain, but the venue eventually filled up fairly well what was open. I was glad that I was going to be allowed to shoot all three bands because I had an opener I could practice on.
The opening band was a local act called Kairos. I had never heard of them before, which was odd to me. You see, The Fillmore doesn’t really do much for local bands so the fact that these guys were on this bill and I, someone fairly up on the local scene, hadn’t heard of them prior was a tad odd. They were a very young band, super talented musicians, but if I’m being honest they’re not my style of music (djent) and even for this genre not even the best from our area. I don’t want to sound like I’m harshing on them because I’m not (beyond my style issue with what they play not being my thing they were very talented musicians,) but it made me wonder why all of a sudden The Fillmore was being kind to a local band for a change, yet it wasn’t even a band that has a well known name. AJ thought they were great (sadly, she’s a fan of djent,) but she agreed when I rattled off a couple of other bands that would’ve been better suited for that slot. But hey, the music business has never been truly fair to most bands so kudos to them for scoring a pretty cool opening slot. Maybe this is the first step of The Fillmore being a little more helpful to the area bands, we’ll see.
Next was Overkill. I’ve seen them a couple times over the years and they have always been such an amazing band live. This show was no exception either. Bobby Ellsworth is a magnificent frontman. He always has so much energy, and has the uncanny ability to connect with each person in the crowd. He hasn’t lost a bit of his voice either. Being that close and watching these guys in action was incredible. There were times I found it hard to concentrate on the task at hand of taking pictures because I was so swept up by the show (I had the same feeling during Symphony X, too.) It seemed like in no time at all the three songs were up and it was time to shuffle back to the crowd. Of course this was where I noticed that guitarist Derek Tailer was aggravating a couple of guys in front of us, trying to get them to smile or react instead of just standing there. I don’t think he ever got anything out of them though. He did notice that it was cracking me up him messing with those guys, which was pretty cool and cracked him up. Their setlist encompassed so much of their early stuff, playing I think only one song from their latest release, White Devil Armory. When they played “Playing With Spiders/Skullcrusher” all three guitar players came out with double neck guitars. You just don’t see that everyday, and the way the fog and lights worked, it set up a really neat moment. Overkill were so good I was a little concerned for Symphony X. They’re always amazing too, but knowing that at least one of the members might possibly be sick and the fact that Overkill was so phenomenal I was not sure if SyX was going to pull it off.
I will say this: you could tell that Russell was not on top of his game, but having said that they were still incredible. I suppose I shouldn’t have worried at all. They have never put on a bad show that I have been to, and are consummate professionals as far as putting on a concert. Much like the last time I saw them they came out and played essentially the first half of their new album Underworld. Their last album, Iconoclast, is may favorite album from them, but the new one is pretty amazing as well. Hearing these songs live made me enjoy the album even more. For the rest of their set they played tracks from earlier on and the last few records, ending the night with the title track from their previous album. Despite Russell not feeling great, he still gave a masterful performance, wearing various masks, wielding a cane, and taking on various roles acting out portions of the songs. Since the current album is their interpretation of Dante’s Inferno, there was darker lyrical content, and it was brought to life with his gesturing, not to mention the fact that Allen is one of the best singers in metal today, with such an amazing range and power to his voice. It also doesn’t hurt to have a guitarist of the caliber of Michael Romeo either. It blows my mind at how fast he can play, but by that same token be as melodic. He has been labelled an Yngwie clone many times in his career, and that influence is very evident, but I think he’s miles beyond Malmsteen (and I am a fan of his as well.) Plus, with the exception of bassist Mike LePond and Russell, you have the core of the band as originals with Mike Pinella on keyboards and Jason Rullo on drums, so you have this cohesive unit of musicians that have played together so long and have such a familiarity with each other it makes for a perfect musical union. Symphony X are truly one of the best live experiences you could have.
After the show we bid farewell our friends we’d spent the evening with (new and old,) plus ran into Alaric Walker, Ron Dalton of Final Curse and Cliff Stankiewicz of The Reticent, plus we saw earlier and on our way out our great friend Fernie Ortega. Even with the hiccups of the interview not happening earlier that day it ended up being a fantastic night. And I will say this: the couple of Fillmore staff members I interacted with this evening in regards to the photo access were super helpful and very nice to deal with. I was expecting there to be a lot of negative crap to come out of this experience but overall I was pleased with the staff there for a change.