Babyland / 400 Blows / Midnight Laserbeams @ The Fenix - 5/07/99
Gus Gus / Esthero @ The Showbox - 5/17/99
Gwar / Godhead / Christdriver @ DV8 - 5/18/99
The Ladybug Transistor @ The O.K. Hotel - 5/04/99
Motörhead / Dropkick Murphys / Hatebreed @ the Ballard Firehouse - 5/05/99

[ babyland ]
Babyland / 400 Blows / Midnight Laserbeams
The Fenix
May 7, 1999
Seattle, WA


After arriving at The Fenix with my giggly Earpollution cohort, Jeff Ashley, we were in search of the mighty brew and a table for our viewing pleasure. It was early and we succeeded in getting both. Not many creatures were out yet or at least not here. As we settled in for the festivities, Midnight Laser Beam from San Francisco came on. They comprised two drummers and a singer, all sporting old-school motorcycle helmets with flashlights taped to them like miner lamps. Having never seen or heard these guys, we didn¹t quite know what to expect, but we were in for an enjoyable ride. They put on a fantastic show! Two very well timed drummers pounded along with the emotional moaning and whining vocals all backed with symphonic/spasmodically melodic electronics. As the singer informed me later, "No they do not sound like Killing Joke!" They even incorporated the use of walkie-talkies into their set. I just got this working class industrial feel from them. If you're in the Bay Area check them out--guaranteed good time.

Next up were L.A.'s 400 Blows--three guys dressed in black, military boots, etc. Expecting this to be in the industrial vein, we were surprised when these guys cranked out very tight hardcore/metal crossover without a bassist. The singer has a unique style in that he had the mic lowered as low as it would go in the stand and supported his weight as he leaned down on it, singing about the world's largest miniature. The singer was hilarious with his yapping style, the drums were super crisp and hard, playing along to some great riffage.

The main attraction was up next, Babyland. They are two guys and their toys: steel drums (as in 55 gallon), plastic barrel drums, metal pipes and the coolest cymbal metal pipe setup I have seen. For only two guys they sure had tons of electronic equipment. Babyland plays a great set of driving industrial, with tons of energy and enthusiasm. One song had a circular saw against a steel drum to the rhythm of the song with the singer running in and out of the sparks. All in all, Babyland never fails to deliver a spectacular show of kerosene-soaked sweaty industrial. If you are looking for a couple of younger newer bands then check out Midnight Laser Beam and 400 Blows.

-Steve Weatherholt
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[ gus gus ]
Gus Gus / Esthero
The Showbox
May 17, 1999
Seattle, WA

Gus Gus

It was evident the Seattle show was early in the tour. The technical aspects were still seeking their preferred level; not so much that the shows were stopped and the ugly glare of the lights inflicted upon the audience while a tech crawled around on the stage looking for the disconnected plug, but rather, just slightly off. The audience got to know Esthero's sound guy and even join in a little group demonstration of affection between numbers and Gus Gus seemed latitudinally stretched during the early part of their show. Maybe it was just their way of finding out who the rhythmically challenged were, shifting their throbbing beats just a little east of the skittering melodies and just a little south of the lovely languidness of Daniel Agust's voice.

They came onto the sparse stage like Kraftwerk, four young men rushing for their racks of electronics, disappearing but for a bouncing head and a pumping arm (alright, so that's not very Kraftwerkian), hiding beneath the projected film which ran through the entire show. And yes, Gus Gus know the Five Rules of the Successful Video, augmenting each song with clips from their exquisite videos and blossoming collages of color and textures (and cake too!). Using songs from both albums, they quickly found a groove and laid into it.

The trouble was, they never seemed to really get out. The beauty of their albums is the diversity of sound, an element which was lost in the heady pulse of their live act. Maybe it had to do with the disappearance of Hafdis Huld, whose silky vocals were covered by the coquettish falsetto of Magnus Jonsson (whose range, by the way, was pretty amazing). About the time they hit "Believe," the first single from Polyesterday, the groove had worn itself into the floor. It didn't help that they decided "Believe" was going to be the showcase number for their set and turned it into a dance remix that lasted longer than Cecil stood in line for tickets to the new Star Wars movie. I have to admit I started thinking about rearranging my sock drawer and soon after drifted out to the street.

Opening act Esthero was a bit of a surprise. I had thought I'd be hearing glacial Bristol-influenced pop and instead got treated to the sun-drenched squirm of salsa. Björk meets Sade and they go on tour together with a five-piece combo that turns the sweep of the strings from the studio tracks into these funky Latin-tinged numbers. Made me dig out the album again when I got home and refresh myself, made me rescue it from the forgotten pile and put it back in regular rotation.

-Mark Teppo
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[ gwar ]
Gwar / Godhead / Christdriver
May 18, 1999
Seattle, Washington


Tuesday night and loads of work to do and I wanted to see Christdriver. I didn't really want to see Gwar. They have been doing the same shtick for 10+ years and I'm not into their cheesy metal. All ages shows seem to pull in a good cross-section of the population and all forms were present at DV8. The club seemed prepared for the bloodbath that is Gwar. Anything that needs to not get wet or ruined was wrapped in plastic. Gwar fans are some of the most loyal--punishing the opening bands to make them feel unwanted or to simply act out in defiance. Except for Christdriver. The hometown opening act was not to be fucked with. Christdriver came out trying to blast the speakers apart, but the sound was muddled and didn't clear up to the ferocity they are known for until the end of their set. They had a short set and ended with Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," which was churned through the Christdriver brutalizer. This gave a whole new meaning to Pink Floyd for me. Christdriver seemed a bit nervous and tentative, which is unusual for them.

Up next was the black vinyl made for MTV, Godhead. I have never heard them and was informed that they sound like Machines of Loving Grace. Well, I can't say that was true since Machines of Loving Grace rocked in concert. What came out was generic new metal with some piano parts alongside distorted Rob Halford vocals. Chaotic intros led to metal riff and a slow ballad in the middle. They don't know how to write a good song--Crunch crunch, soft melodic parts then shit! The loyal Gwar fans hated them and yelled "Gwar! Gwar! Gwar!" throughout Godhead's songs. A group of about 10 people had middle fingers in the air chanting "Gwar! Gwar! Gwar! You suck! You suck!" Godhead launched into their second to last song and instantly you could tell it was a cover, because you knew they could never have written this great of a song. Godhead performed a very good cover of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby." I asked "the man in the crowd" for his opinion of the band: pretty shitty. Enough said.

I did not feel like getting slimed by the almighty Gwar, so I planted myself in the back next to the soundboard. I had an all right view until some girl got on her boyfriend's shoulders. I moved over and got prepared for the blood, theatrics and cheesy metal that is the behemoth Gwar. I shouldn't be surprised that they are still milking the same bloody cow. They have so much Styrofoam castle pieces on stage that it's a wonder it all fits. I wonder if their costumes are too big for the low ceiling? Gwar had paper separating the props on stage, having slits in it so they could jump through them easier. With a roar, Gwar burst out and proceeded to hack something to bits and start the blood and metal fest. I wonder if the music or the blood appeals more to the crowd. A couple of guys found a pipe to monkey-swing over and out to the middle of the pit. Gwar proceeded to give them their money's worth in blood. In another song, a Marilyn Manson creature came on stage and had part of his head hacked off--blood spraying all over. The Gwar woman peeled his face off, gushing more blood, and then she skinned him completely. The blood, guts and skeleton went running around the stage. The crowd definitely loved showing off the blood bath they received. Like it was a hedonistic aftermath of some sort of sickly baptism coated in costumes and cheesy metal. I left after this with more fond memories of that which is named Gwar.

-Steve Weatherholt
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[ the ladybug transistor - photo by robert zverina ]
photo by robert zverina

The Ladybug Transistor
The O.K. Hotel
May 4, 1999
Seattle, WA

The Ladybug Transistor

The band room at the O.K. Hotel was jam-packed as Beulah opened late so we headed to the bar where the stereo played Velvet Underground and The Fall and I had the best martinis I've ever had in Seattle. By the time the Ladybugs plugged in it was pushing twelve o'clock and the crowd had thinned.

In addition to arranging the wide array of instruments The Ladybugs use--keyboards, horns, and a variety of items you blow through, bang, or shake--lead singer Gary busied himself decorating with props painted by the bands: flute-playing ladybugs, mushroomy abstractions, and other splashes of color which brightened the black backdrop of the stage. He shifted them around, trying and switching as one does furnishing a room, the final effect being that of an enchanted forest clearing in which, from a distance, you watch nymphs and elves play.

The first notes put a smile on my face that stayed there the whole time they played--from new Sail the Albemarle Sound tunes through Ladybug favorite "Rushes of Pure Spring" to their always haunting cover of the Bee Gees' "Massachusetts." The crowd hung back, forming a semicircular space between artist and audience in which the sounds unfurled like sail canvas on a summer day. No one stepped too close to the stage, as if to come too close would cause the mirage to fade away but more likely it was just the better to hear the music--relaxed, ethereal, poised, with mellow vocals and a number of subtle mid-song instrument switches (Gary from guitar to trumpet, Sasha from flute to keyboard...), all of which added up to the feeling that everything would be OK.

-Robert Zverina
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[ motorhead ]
Motörhead / Dropkick Murphys / Hatebreed
the Ballard Firehouse
May 5, 1999
Seattle, WA

Dropkick Murphys

I arrived late at the Ballard Firehouse (old folks home for touring bands) because of a fajita and margarita party I started out from, which was too bad because they jacked the ticket price up to $35. I missed the opening band Hatebreed (sorry Sabrina). The group that I was meeting said Hatebreed sounded like an angry New York hardcore band. Well, so much for seeing all the bands. My young group of friends wanted nothing to do with the Dropkick Murphys, so we went to another pub for some beer until the main attraction came on.

We arrived back at the old folks home about 11:00 and we squeezed our way though the hot sweaty drunken crowd of metalheads, hardcores, punks, some college students and a few average Joes. Motörhead was done setting up and we waiting for Lemmy and crew to come on stage. I was taking down a few notes when this guy started up a conversation. I asked him how Dropkick Murphys were? He said that they did not play, something about Lemmy wanting to come out earlier and cut their set down to 15 minutes. Dropkick Murphys said "fuck this," and left. This might explain why the crowd was a little surly. By now it was 11:15 and no bands had played since 9:30. Waiting, as each in-between filler song ended, wails of "Motörhead" rang out. Next song, waiting for Lemmy and crew to appear while being bumped around, walked on, over and under. It seems like every time I go to a show there is an exit sign over my head and people need to use it--namely as an excuse to walk through me. I don't mind it so much in-between bands, but what the hell are people doing when the bands are playing? Aren't you fucking there to see the bands?

Waiting some more, I started thinking that Motörhead might not play. Lemmy had vowed in 1982 on the Iron Fist tour at the Paramount, with only about 200-300 people in attendance, that he would never play Seattle again, but in the late '80s he opened up for Guns n' Roses and Metallica. Now, there seemed to be a problem with the ceiling fans that were slowing the train up. Just when the crowd was getting rowdy Lemmy and crew came on stage. It was weird seeing the once-behemoth Motörhead dwindled down to a handful of amps and a small stage. No overhead bomber stage lights, no wall of amps, and you could hear the guy next to you talk. Motörhead consisted of Phil Campbell, Mikki D. and Lemmy. They came out trying to scream with "Bomber." It was not very loud, the acoustics sucked and Lemmy sounded like he just took a hit of helium. I'm thinking, "Great, deprive me of my ear bleeding," so no earplugs. After the second song, "No Class," Lemmy said, "this shit's not loud enough," and turned up the knobs on his amps. They proceeded to crank through a set of older and newer material. Playing one or two songs off Orgasmatron, 1916, Sacrifice, Overnight Sensation, and Snake Bite Love, plus the standard favorites, "The Chase is Better Than the Catch," "Shine," "Iron Fist," "Killed by Death," and encores "Ace of Spades" and an extended version of "Overkill."

It was saddening to see Motörhead reduced to this place and not atop the Rock 'n' Roll kingdom. Finally making it out to the cool night air with second-stage hearing loss we all agreed it was a great show. We'll all be "Tone Deaf Forever."

-Steve Weatherholt
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