OK, so not to take away from anything I’ve seen during this season, but this was the show I had been waiting for all Summer long. I mean, we haven’t had the Big Four here in the States (well, not yet at any rate…and the fingers are crossed). But Slayer, Megadeth and Testament all on the same bill? Yeah, I’ll take that any day.
Camera in hand I made my way down to the UIC Pavilion in thick Chicago traffic. About the only thing I had been listening to in the car for about a week was a burned CD-R in my car with Rust In Peace and Reign In Blood. Today it was turned up a little louder than usual.
I pulled up to the lot and grabbed my interview gear. In the lot I met up with Paul, our main man for artist photos. Rounding the corner we met with Kerry King’s long-time tech and our friend, Armand. After our hellos he handed us our passes for the night and we ran down the ramp to find our interview room and get settled.
Running through the backstage area was like a bit of a family reunion. Most genres of music will involve an intertwining of musicians and crew. Metal is a very tight community. Established metal is entrenched. It’s very possible to go to five different tours and see people from each at the others. More on that later.
After some quick hellos we got led to our room for an even quicker set-up. We Artist Relations guys wear a few hats, and on days like these we are our videographers and interviewers. I was tucked in to a bit of a corner getting everything double-checked when I became aware of Paul speaking with someone else in the room. I peeked out to see the first interviewee. There stood Dave Mustaine.
We sat down and talked for about fifteen minutes. Hopefully we’ll have the interview up soon, so keep your readers on this blog (or my Twitter feed @Richard_ShureAR) to see when and where it posts.
After chatting for a while Dave had to run. I had not met him before, save almost literally running in to him backstage at another show. I found him to be extremely cordial and hospitable.
After Dave departed, we had about two minutes to set up for our next session: Kerry King.
Kerry and I have known each other for a while now. He’s a celebrity, of course, but I also consider him the unofficial “King of NAMM” (no pun intended, really). If he’s late to an autograph session, it’s because he’s signing autographs in the aisles all the way to said session. We got to speaking about the importance of things like NAMM and playing festivals hit by tornadoes. And no, I don’t mean by the ones generated by their astonishingly violent mosh pits, though if you’ve ever seen one or been in one you might think it’s possible.
We wrapped up Kerry’s interview (again, keep your syndication software here, or follow the Twitter account above for when it posts) and left the room to go explore a bit. In the backstage hall we ran in to Doug Short, who is Front of House for Megadeth. He and Scott Boculac (Megadeth Monitor Engineer) were our third interview of the day. They ran us up on to the stage to take a peek at Shawn Drover’s drum kit. They had outfitted the toms with custom May internally-mounted Beta 56As and Beta 52As (floor toms).
We scoped out the kit, then checked on the wireless that they were using during the show. It was a combination of UHF-R and ULXP setups. After that, we ran back to the room to get some on-camera time with Doug and Scott.
As that wrapped we could hear Testament take the stage. Earlier in the evening I had come across Martin Walker, who usually mixes FOH with Judas Priest and Halford (with whom Doug had also mixed FOH…see? Intertwining, indeed.), now working for Testament. I joined him at the FOH position to check them out. Mucho talent in that band, I must say. Alex Skolnick is a guitarist I suggest everyone go and see in their lifetime. If metal is not your thing, you can see him playing jazz in the Alex Skolnick Trio. Paul Bostaph, who had been a drummer for Slayer through three albums (again with the intertwining!) was behind the kit. I know their material the least of the three, but I do know that they are perhaps the most under-appreciated band in all of thrash metal.
Following their set, Megadeth took the stage. The members came out one-by-one, completed when Dave took the stage. As the intro music and the crowd crescendoed together hands went in the air. Then a split second of silence was shattered by the opening riff to “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due”. They continued playing all of Rust In Piece. A few added tunes and a recapitulation later and they had left the crowd exhausted. However, all a crowd like this needs are a couple minutes to get whipped back in to a frenzy.
And there was still Slayer to go.
About the best way to say anything that needs to be said about Slayer is to stick your horned hand in to the air and at the top of your lungs yell, “SLAAAAYERRRRRR!!!” Seriously, that does it. You can do it anywhere at any time and anyone who knows the band knows what you mean.
Just as Megadeth powered through Rust In Piece it was Slayer’s turn to put everyone through the whole of Seasons in the Abyss. The crowd was ready and responded to the brutality in kind. Around the time of “Dead Skin Mask” I left the FOH position and found Armand on the side of the stage. I was lucky enough to hang on both Kerry’s and Jeff’s support positions. If I were any closer to the band on that stage, I would have been playing guitar.
After the show I hung for a bit and chatted with everyone who had made the evening possible. Dave came back to bid me a farewell (which made the inner geek in me totally, well, geeked). More craziness ensued, but this brief blog post has already gotten out of hand, so we’ll just say I’m left counting down the days until the show of the Fall: Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax.