Ask anyone who attended Friday night's Suicidal Tendencies and Terror concert at Backstage Live what it was like, and a likely adjective would be "Slammin'!" And that wouldn't be a simple case of slang or "today's terminology."
When it comes to ST, the 30-year punk/thrash skateboard band from Los Angeles still fronted by original singer Mike Muir (left), such descriptions can be taken literally.
The return of the mighty ST was also reflected by just as mighty of a turnout. For one of the few times this year, an indoor-exclusive show at BSL was filled to nearly the 1,200 capacity of San Antonio's downtown venue. Credit Friday the 13th vibes in the air, the quality of the bands, the style of metal they play or all of the above. You think something's funny? Laugh at this: Friday's 1,000-plus attendance outnumbered BSL indoor gigs by Fates Warning (which calls two San Antonians as members), Wayne Static (also on a Friday) and Drowning Pool (a Texas band) -- combined -- all in the previous nine days.
The gig marked a homecoming for ST lead guitarist Dean Pleasants, who attended Sam Houston High School and joined the band in 1997. At the end of ST's gig -- which concluded with "How Will I Laugh Tomorrow . . . When I Can't Even Smile Today" and the anthem "Pledge Your Allegiance" (Click on setlist at left for the SAMME's footage and here for Part 2 of the latter with fans taking part on stage) -- Pleasants debuted a couple of instrumentals off his forthcoming solo release. He also saved a hearty handshake for the SAMME in the photo pit as Muir introduced him and bassist Tim Williams, a fellow Texan, after second song "Institutionalized."
But first, ST and Terror had bodies flying all over the place.
Suicidal Tendencies mixed opener "You Can't Bring Me Down," new tracks "Smash It" and tour namesake "Slam City" and the older "War Inside My Head" with Muir's messages of standing up for oneself and not letting people hold you back from what you want to accomplish in life. Only a couple of songs from the setlist were omitted, and "Possessed To Skate" occurred earlier than scheduled. It was a slight surprise the band did not perform "Trip at the Brain" and was probably a long shot that it would even bother with mellower tune but personal favorite "Nobody Hears."
Muir, who explained to the SAMME during our November 2010 interview (read here) that he's had three back surgeries, ran around the stage like a man possessed most of the evening, particularly during the first seven songs. At one point, Muir brought up a boy, probably about 6, and asked him his name. Muir then said, "Tony, let me hear you say, 'Suicidal.' " The youth responded with "OK," drawing laughter before actually saying it. Muir then brought the boy's parents up to the side of the stage before walking to the other side and asking how many skaters were in the house.
Before you knew it, 10-15 fans were invited up to mosh between the drum kit and the rest of the musicians during "Possessed To Skate" as the venue's security earned their salary by fielding the slew of bodysurfers, many of whom were female. Moments later, a teenaged male tried to make the long leap off the stage over security and back into the crowd, only to come up woefully short by smashing face-first into the barricade. The staffers, with their backs to the stage, hadn't seen him coming but helped him up. The fan arose with blood gushing from his left eye and completely covering his nose, making him look like Rudolph. He then yelled while raising both of his devil horns in excitement, no worse for the wear from the early Christmas gift he had bestowed upon himself.
Trash Talk and Inspector Cluzo were also on the bill, but it was fellow Los Angeles hardcore band Terror that had the challenging honor of setting the table for Suicidal Tendencies. Some bands might find that to be a thankless task, but Terror and vocalist Scott Vogel live for such a situation.
Terror was at Backstage Live on Aug. 9 as part of the All-Stars tour. Undoubtedly mindful of the fact that particular tour is attended by 99 percent teens and twenty-somethings, Vogel made no reference to it. Rather, he asked who was seeing his band for the first time, knowing that an ST crowd is mixed with youngsters and the older generation that were kids when ST was in its prime.
"We are an anti-racist band," Vogel said. "We don't care if you have long hair or short hair."
Vogel, wearing a Tim Connolly No. 19 Buffalo Sabres hockey jersey, spent a better part of the first two songs telling the lighting man to turn the spotlights completely on or completely off. By the third tune, Terror was awash in near-darkness, which hardly benefited those in the back of the venue. Vogel then denounced the existence of the barricade that for the allotted first three songs enabled the only photojournalist covering the show to keep both eyes on the performance rather than peeled toward the path of incoming bodies. But his point was well-taken. Vogel wanted the band to feel that much closer to the fans, and he went ahead and pleaded with them to "come up here."
"We're five f'd-up kids who grew up on ST just like you," Vogel said of he and his bandmates. "I never wanted to be on a magazine cover or (a) rock star. F--- that s---. This is what I wanted, the energy in this room."
Even with the presence of Whitesnake's "Still of the Night" and Queensryche's "Best I Can" serving as musical intermission buffers between Terror's set and Suicidal Tendencies' entrance, nothing could calm the storm of moshing and slamming that was about to unfold with ST. Terror had done its job of warming up the crowd for the headliners while bringing its music to new fans, many of whom were won over and headed for the band's merch booth. And upon closer observation, hearing "Best I Can" wasn't as odd as it may have seemed given that ST opened for Queensryche on that Empire tour in 1990-91.
In the end, San Antonians made Pleasants proud to see his hometown represent the concert scene so well. While it can be argued the Kreator/Overkill show four weeks earlier may have been the heaviest one of the year in this city, there's little denying the Suicidal Tendencies/Terror freight train that came slammin' through left a path of uninhibited thrash, blood, sweat -- and smiling faces -- in its wake.
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