Monday, November 30, 2015

Amaranthe, Butcher Babies, and Lullwater: review and photos

Elize, vocals, Amaranthe
Elize, vocals, Amaranthe
Friday's show at the Ace of Spades, almost at the end of Amaranthe's Massive Collision USA tour, at first seemed an unusual set of bands: Amaranthe, Sweden's "modern melodic metal" band with three vocalists, teamed with support from screamo-metal Butcher Babies, and rock/alternative Lullwater. Very varied vocal styles, different music, and potentially different audiences. On the night, it definitely worked as a show, especially when Lullwater's John Strickland came on stage with Amaranthe to add his vocals (Jake E. Lundberg was not with the band on Friday).

Click on any of these photos to see the full photo gallery for each band.

Amaranthe, Sacramento
Amaranthe, headliners, coming to the end of their long USA tour... last date was last night, in San Jose. Next appearances are in Sweden: keep an eye on their website for new show announcements.

Butcher Babies
Butcher Babies, Sacramento
Butcher Babies, high energy as usual, no blood this time (is that a trend?), and I swear I heard a more melodic voice, now and then. Fronted by vocal duo Heidi and Carla, they are always visually engaging and very entertaining. Their latest album, Take It Like A Man, was released in August of this year, they've been touring ever since, and they have already been named to support Cradle of Filth during their 2016 tour, so we'll see them back in Sacramento on February 20th, again at the Ace of Spades.

Butcher Babies
Butcher Babies, Sacramento
And Lullwater to have a new album, self-titled "Lullwater", definitely worth a listen. They have a couple more USA dates before the end of this year: keep an eye on their Facebook page for 2016!

John Strickland, vocals and guitar, Lullwater
John Strickland, Lullwater

Lullwater, Sacramento
All the photos from the Sacramento show:

- Amaranthe photo gallery
- Butcher babies photo gallery
- Lullwater photo gallery.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Let's rock Thanksgiving... thank you for the music!

A short playlist for a sunny-in-Sacramento, Thanksgiving day. Enjoying the day, but not forgetting. (And if you haven't already, think about buying a copy of the first song in this rock-and-metal playlist, because the proceeds are going to people who need help.)

Thank you for the music.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Blind Guardian, opening my eyes (and ears) to German metal; concert review and photos

Hansi Kürsch,, vocals, Blind Guardian
Hansi Kürsch, Blind Guardian, Sacramento
Stepping into the Ace of Spades on Friday evening, I had little clue what to expect from Blind Guardian or from the support, Grave Digger. After seeing the show was planned, I did a little YouTube listening, they seemed interesting, so there I was...  It was their first-ever visit to Sacramento, and there were many people in the audience who knew a lot more about the band than I did. I really hadn't listened to a huge amount prior to the show...

Blind Guardian
Blind Guardian, Sacramento
Oh but now I will. There's a huge back-catalog of music to hear now.

Blind Guardian
Blind Guardian, Sacramento
Imagine: Middle Earth, choirs, Tolkien, double-bass drum, heaven and hell, the Ring Cycle, Asgard, myth and legend, metal, soaring guitars, and a charismatic front-man... all on the small stage at the Ace at the start of the weekend, and all in the music. Yes, you should have been there; if you were not, you might hear it on an upcoming live album from Blind Guardian. Maybe.

Marcus Siepen, guitar, Blind Guardian
Marcus Siepen, Blind Guardian, Sacramento
Blind Guardian and Grave Digger have several more tour stops in the USA--see if they will be near you!

More photos in the Blind Guardian photo gallery:  <-- click on the link!

UPDATE: Grave Digger photos are online now too: see the Grave Digger photo gallery.  Great show from both of these bands!

Dreaming of Cathedral Walls: terror, or you could love

Woke this morning from an intensely-vivid dream; it started when I was surrounded by young men, boys, teens, threatening me with hammers then laughing, joking, and one, the one with gentle eyes, putting a bluetooth device in my ear and asking me to talk about love. I told them that love included acceptance of others with different beliefs, and they were shocked, but let me go wander. After a while, knowing they were listening, I started a monologue about love.

I was in a land with ancient rocks and ancient buildings, and beaches and water and tourists. One place was called Cathedral Walls, and we called, "Cathedral Walls" as we clambered and slid on the wet rock. The walls were beautiful, old, warm sandstone and stained glass.

My pocket was heavy. They had somehow returned my cell phone, yet it was doubled up, with two connected screens, and was no doubt transmitting everything I said or heard, or where I went. The young man followed me and I avoided people and places who I knew he considered his enemies and targets.

I tried to let my friends know not to say anything meaningful by pointing to the bluetooth device in my ear. I didn't think to remove it. I couldn't find a pen or paper to write on, nor did I ask for any.

Nor did I wonder, not until the alarm clock had me fully awake, if the boys had given me a bomb to carry, as well as the heavy phone.

I was trusting of the young man with Jesus eyes.

(I can easily understand why young people are enchanted by a message and a philosophy that paints a picture of a different world... but it has to be a better world. We have to teach them about love, and how it never includes the destruction of life.)

Or you could LOVE...

(Cathedral Wall is the song immediately before A Few Words For The Dead, on Marillion's Radiation album. Find all the lyrics here: especially meaningful right now, in the wake of the Paris, Lebanon, Mali and other attacks.)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Eagles of Death Metal, Aftershock and Paris... and the world has gone mad

Jesse Hughes, guitar and vocals, Eagles of Death Metal
Jesse Hughes, guitar and vocals, Eagles of Death Metal
Yesterday evening, I was happily editing these photos from Aftershock, and remembering, with a smile, how much fun we had, how the Eagles of Death Metal are entertaining, how happy the audience was, what a great time we all had.

Josh Homme, drums, Eagles of Death Metal
Josh Homme, drums, Eagles of Death Metal
I'm sure that's what the hundreds of people at the Bataclan in Paris, France, were experiencing too. Happy people out for an evening of rock music (they are not death metal, it's a name, they are heavy and they are rock and they are so darn entertaining it hurts). And other people, out enjoying a Friday-evening meal at a restaurant. Or attending the France-Germany football (soccer) match. Or living in Paris in general, on Friday 13th November 2015.

David Catching, guitar, Eagles of Death Metal
David Catching, guitar, Eagles of Death Metal
And now, the world has gone mad... many attacks on people in Paris, including hostages taken in the venue where Eagles of Death Metal were playing... families are in mourning, or they will be, once we know who died, how many people. All those lives lost... for what??? There will be no answer. There IS no answer.

Matt McJunkins, bass, Eagles of Death Metal
Matt McJunkins, bass, Eagles of Death Metal
As I'm writing this, it appears that the Eagles of Death Metal are safe, but the stories are still fluid. People died at the venue. People were held hostage. Deftones were due to play at the Bataclan tomorrow evening, beginning a three-night stand in Paris.

What special hell must it be for a band to be caught up in a tragedy.

Thinking of you guys. And of everyone in Paris, France, the world, who is trying to make sense of yet-another senseless attack. There are no words. This just has to stop.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Some Fear None's new song, Driver, is right inside my ear

Some Fear None, launch of
Some Fear None, Sacramento, August 2015
Sacramento's Some Fear None released a new single this week, Driver. It's different, and it showcases Nathan Giguiere's voice perfectly. It's a bit like coming across Miracles when listening to Jefferson Starship... the song was still in my head when I woke up this morning, so here it is for you to enjoy too.

You can buy Driver on iTunes, together with To Live and To Die, Some Fear None's latest album.

Some Fear None are Nathan Giguiere (vocals/guitar), Chuck Carrasco (guitar), Jason Weisker (drums) and Gina Salatino (bass/guitar). Find out more on the band's website or Facebook.

Photos from a couple of Some Fear None shows in the photo gallery!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Stone Temple Pilots, Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, split ups and covers, and Aftershock

Chester Bennington, vocals, Stone Temple Pilots
Chester Bennington, last show with Stone Temple Pilots, Aftershock, 2015

Chester Bennington, vocals, Stone Temple Pilots
Chester Bennington with Stone Temple Pilots, Aftershock, 2015
I think I put off posting my SDP (Stone Temple Pilots) photos from Aftershock late last month, because I couldn't think of anything to say in a review, other than "they sounded like Linkin Park singing STP songs"--and that statement failed to do justice to the show, which was really good. Chester Bennington is an excellent, strong and present front man. STP's music is great to hear. And implying that this was just a Linkin Park cover of classic 80's-90's rock just didn't do the show justice. And so I procrastinated, published other Aftershock photos and reviews, went on a trip to the UK, did other stuff.

Chester Bennington and Dean DeLeo, Stone Temple Pilots
Chester Bennington and Dean DeLeo, STP, Aftershock, 2015
Rumours of a split started circulating this weekend, and Rolling Stone published a report yesterday, stating that Chester Bennington and STP were no longer together: Chester to focus on Linkin Park.

Robert DeLeo, bass, Stone Temple Pilots
Robert DeLeo, Stone Temple Pilots, Aftershock, 2015
As Aftershock was the last time STP and Chester performed together, we had the final chance to see them as a unit... even though it did sound very, very much like Linkin Park singing Stone Temple Pilots. And I seriously do not mean that in any negative way.

Eric Kretz, drums, Stone Temple Pilots
Eric Kretz, STP, Aftershock 2015
What next for STP? Will they invite Scott back? He was here too recently, playing a much smaller venue, Orangevale's Boardwalk, with the Wildabouts. There would be a lot of long-time STP fans who would be "wild about" seeing the band reunited... as long as there is sobriety involved!

Take a look at the full Stone Temple Pilots Aftershock photo gallery by clicking right here! 

Still more photos to come from Aftershock and other shows: if you want to be notified, follow @alisontoon on Twitter, or like the Toon's Tune/Cameras and Cargos Facebook page. 

Chester Bennington and Dean DeLeo, Stone Temple Pilots
Last show together: Chester Bennington and Dean DeLeo, STP, Aftershock 2015

Monday, November 9, 2015

Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy, London

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Sold out show: Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy
A year ago--23rd October 2014, to be precise--I covered a new, young band from the UK who were on their first USA tour, and who happened to be performing at the Assembly, here in Sacramento. There were perhaps thirty people in the audience, maybe fifty if you include the staff; half of the paying crowd had driven up from San Francisco, where they had seen Catfish and the Bottlemen the night before. And yet, the band put on a performance worthy of a huge, full crowd... like a premonition, like a plan. They were so much fun to watch and listen to.

Since then, the Assembly has closed, Catfish and the Bottlemen have toured more of the USA, they've performed to a huge crowd at Reading Festival, and they've done another sold-out tour of the UK or two. And that's the sort of crowd they should be drawing: full-house, festival-happy, music-loving fans and followers.

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy
In London last week for work, checking out possible shows to see on Friday or Saturday night, and I saw that Catfish and the Bottlemen had not one, but two dates over the weekend, Friday and Saturday, both at the O2 Academy venue in Brixton, just south of the river Thames. But of course, both evenings were sold out months back.

Thanks to StubHub, where you can resell your show tickets if you can't make it (and hopefully not scalp buyers), I was able to find one ticket for Saturday's show at little more than double the face ticket value. To my mind, it was well worth it.

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Audience, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton, London
Saturday morning and early afternoon, London was awash with heavy, torrential rain. Coming from four years' of California drought, I was enjoying meandering slowly through rainy England to my hotel near Heathrow, returning the rental car, generally getting ready for an early-Sunday-morning flight back to the USA. But when I arrived at the O2 Academy in Brixton late on Saturday afternoon, I found a long line of plastic-poncho'd people, who'd been waiting in line for at least six hours, in the rain, in the wet, with huge smiles on their faces! This is the kind of fan that Catfish and the Bottlemen are drawing in the UK. Inside the venue, I met young men who'd come down from the north of the country to see the show, who'd already travelled to Manchester and other gigs too. (If you look at a map of the UK and think, so what, those distances are tiny compared to the USA, believe me: it's as big a deal to travel from Cumbria to London for a show as it would be from Sacramento to New York. Think about it like this: how many bands will you travel outside your local area to see? That's what people from all over the UK are doing for a chance of seeing Catfish and the Bottlemen.)

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Audience, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy
The venue: classy, theatrical, art-deco; built in 1929 as a theatre-cinema, and retaining much of the original decor and character. The main floor is raked, meaning that the further away from the stage you are, the higher you are, in theory giving everyone a good view of the stage, in practice in a sold-out show, there's aways some tall dude who plonks himself right in front of the shorties. But stepping out of the crush and closer to the side and rear, you get a great view, and the sound is good, not deafening, just well-loud-enough and powerful. There's also a huge upstairs balcony, seated, too.

Everyone knew all the words, all the songs, all of The Balcony. Going with the band's preference for playing known songs live--rather than experimenting with the audience and new material--the setlist for Saturday's show didn't differ much from the show in Sacramento late last year, just after The Balcony was released--just the addition of Business and Hourglass, I think. And while this format works, and the audience absolutely loved the entire show, I and probably many others are now looking forwards to the next album, because these guys are going to keep on getting better and bigger and hopefully, over here again soon.

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Audience, main floor, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy
Note: if you're in the UK and going to an event at a O2 venue, and you have an O2 phone, take it with you--you might be given an upgrade and/or early admission to the show!

Photos: I was too late to plan any kind of professional photo access for the event, as this was a last-minute trip. I checked with the venue press office, and was told that cell phone and compact cameras were allowed, just no "pro" cameras. These photos were taken with a Sony Cybershot compact, and my aim was to capture something of the atmosphere rather than the band in action... though I'm rather happy with this one shot of Ryan "Van" McCann, taken from way back at the side of the floor!

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Van, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton, England UK
Follow Catfish and The Bottlemen on Facebook, Twitter, and on their website (USA visitors--it redirects you to a US-only landing page. Add /home to the URL to get to the full site.)

More crowd photos from Saturday's show at the O2 Academy, Brixton, in the Catfish and the Bottlemen photo gallery (both from this show, and the one in Sacramento last year).

This is, No Reptiles. So don't you be a stranger.

Every time I'm back in England, I listen to the radio--either Radio One, or local radio station, or satellite as popular in the UK--and I come back to the USA with something new. Not long ago, it was Rag'N'Bone Man, who is now part of my must-listen collection... this time, Everything Everything, and this single from their latest album, Get To Heaven,

The lyrics are either sheer artistic genius, or something else entirely.

Take a listen. Let me know what you think.

(In case you need British-to-American translation, a "pushchair" is a stroller.)

Find out more about Everything Everything on their website, and follow them on Twitter here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Coheed and Cambria, #Aftershock photo gallery

Claudio Sanchez, vocals and guitar, Coheed and Cambria
Coheed and Cambria, Aftershock, 2015
Claudio Sanchez, vocals and guitar, Coheed and Cambria
Claudio Sanchez, Coheed and Cambria
Hot off the release of their latest album, The Color Before The Sun--their eighth album, and their first album which is NOT based on the Amory Wars Saga, Coheed and Cambria took the stage at Aftershock at Gibson Ranch, Elverta, near Sacramento, on Sunday, October 25th.

Josh Eppard, drums, Coheed and Cambria
Josh Eppard, Coheed and Cambria, Aftershock, 2015
They have gained themselves a prog-rock label--probably more through the association with sci-fi, themed and concept albums, rather than any progressive rock musical influences or sounding anything like Yes--but their sound appeals very much to a young audience, as witnessed at Aftershock. (And who worries about labels, anyway. We like it, we listen. Take a listen to Coheed and Cambria, and find out if they push your own musical buttons.)

Travis Stever, guitar, Coheed and Cambria
Travis Stever, Coheed and Cambria, Aftershock, 2015
Coheed and Cambria are Claudio Sanchez on guitar and vocals, Travis Stever on guitar, Josh Eppard on drums, and Zach Cooper on bass guitar.

Zach Cooper, bass, Coheed and Cambria
Zach Cooper, Coheed and Cambria, Aftershock, 2015
They'll be touring further in the USA for the rest of this year, and the UK and Europe early in the new year.

Take a look at the full Coheed and Cambria photo gallery by clicking right here! 

Still more photos to come from Aftershock and other shows: if you want to be notified, follow @alisontoon on Twitter, or like the Toon's Tune/Cameras and Cargos Facebook page. 
Claudio Sanchez, vocals and guitar, Coheed and Cambria
Claudio Sanchez, Coheed and Cambria, Aftershock, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Five Finger Death Punch launch new video: Wash It All Away

Wonderful new video from Five Finger Death Punch just released: "Wash It All Away". Five Finger Death Punch are in Europe, touring with Papa Roach, catch them if you can!  I'm in England this week, and I wish I was here the 28th November, 'cos I would be at Wembley, without a single doubt...

Have you Got Your Six, yet?