Worst Concert Experience Ever!
September 2nd, 2010

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I had been looking forward to the August 31st show at the Cow Palace, featuring Slayer, Megadeth, & Testament for MONTHS! And then the Cow Palace had to go fuck everything up. Great. Thanks a lot.

Note: This not a review of the performances of these bands, or the show itself even. This is merely my documenting my experience at the aforementioned show with a whole lot of complaining about the overall lameness of the venue.

First, some background. This show was originally scheduled for January of 2010. I had been tinkering with the idea of going, but eventually ended up having a gig of my own that night, so I called it a wash. However, I had not realized that this show ended up being cancelled because Slayer singer/bassist Tom Araya needed intensive back surgery. While it’s a bummer (but no surprise I guess – guy’s been headbanging for 30+ years) that Tom needed back surgery, it did work out in my favor when I found out that the show was rescheduled for August 31st sometime in March. I bought a $50 ticket w.o hesitation.

Over the months, I knew this show was coming up, but couldn’t really visualize the experience. At all. Eventually, the date finally came, and I found myself about to rock out to 3 killer thrash metal bands. I was especially looking forward to seeing Testament (and had been for months), as I was not as familiar with them and had never seen them live (this being my 3rd time seeing Slayer and 4th seeing Megadeth). I eventually figured out getting there via Muni (or what I call, the loserbus) wouldn’t be too bad, so planned on that. Something told me not to ride my bike there, and I’m trying to get better at listening to the voice in my head.

Admittedly, I left a little later then intended. I’d hoped to leave around 7 pm (when the doors opened), but didn’t get out of the house for a bus until more like 7:30. No bother, it should only take a half hour to get inside. Hopefully I’d still catch some of Testament.

After two buses, I was at the venue, and things started crumbling down at that point. The line was unimaginably long. It curved around the outside of the parking lot, then swung back around (past the entrance) to the parking lot gates, where I got in line. In retrospect, I should’ve moved on and cut. But I was alone, and while an asshole, I’m not a douche.

I waited in that line for probably 40 minutes, the beginning full of ticket scalpers and a few t-shirt sellers (for 10 bucks, a good, but likely illegal, price). In that time, Testament (who must have started right at 8), finished their set (I found this out about 15 minutes in from someone in line, who’s friend called to say that they were awesome, and also, over). I wonder how they felt knowing so many fans were outside?

Megadeth also played one of their albums (one of their best ones) in it’s entirety before I actually got onto the concert floor (I literally walked in during the outro of the last song and asked someone what I had missed to confirm they played the whole album). They played another 30 minutes or so – an uneven set of classics and a few singles. Unfortunately they sounded awful – but I don’t think it was their fault. The drums were the loudest thing in the mix. Mustaine’s vocals only cut through about half the time – and his voice has obviously dropped since the last time I saw them. There was no bass in the mix, and the guitars, while audible, had no presence. In retrospect, it sounds like they just kept the Slayer settings on for Megadeth, a drastically different band. Whoever did sound for them that night should be ashamed. At first I thought maybe it was just where the mixing booth was, but later realized I was maybe 10 feet to the right of it. Poor job. Megadeth looked like they were playing pretty well, and most of the crowd seemed to love it.

I thought about getting a beer at one point, as the Jack Daniels I’d drunk before leaving was starting to work its way out of my system, but upon further inspection found that a)coors light draft beers were 8 bucks, and b)in order to have the privilege of buying one you had to stand in another huge line to get a wristband. I decided not to give any extra money to the Cow Palace and instead found a place to sit for Slayer.

I found a good one – center stage in the first balcony. This meant I was very far from the stage – but could see everything decently and also watch the crowd in every part of the floor. As a people watcher and mosh-pit enthusiast, this was a prime area, especially since I was a little tired of standing and just wanted to get my brain blown away by Slayer at this point.

Of course, first I had to sit through a super long sound check, in which it seemed like EVERYONE near me smoked at least 2 cigarettes. So I was both buzzed (good) and lightheaded (not as good) from a ridiculous amount of second hand smoke. My clothes stink, btw. Even as a cigarette smoker I never liked indoor smoking venues – not that the Cow Palace allows smoking. It’s just that this is California and most of the big venues don’t pay attention to this shit, especially not junky ones like the Cow Palace (the Regency Ballroom, maybe).

The good news is, Slayer was out of sight and they sounded great. The light show was also spot-on. I love Slayer for a lot of reasons, but they really are the LOUDEST fucking band on the planet. They had two walls of Marshall Half Stacks – 6 x 3 on each side, with two other larger speakers underneath the drums. I could feel the bass drum rattling my body. Afterwards, I felt beat up, even without going into the pit. Musick is powerful stuff.

I also got a chance to really marvel at how tight and together this band was, even when they were playing musick that didn’t really work together. Seriously, every solo they played was a mess of noise and technique without much (if any) thought behind construction, music theory, or scales. Nonetheless, they were meticulously planned out and and really helped push the atmosphere past that of just another rock band.

(Side note – they played AC/DC for pretty much all of their filler music. That threw me off guard. Not cuz AC/DC isn’t awesome, but is that 1)Really what Slayer listens to, and 2)Really what Slayer thinks their fans listen to?)

They played for a pretty long time, although they didn’t play an encore. It seems big bands don’t feel the need to do this anymore? What gives? I’ve seen Faith No More, Danzig, Tool, and Slayer this year. Only Danzig did an encore. Big bands are supposed to do one, if not two encores, so long as the fans want it, right?

After the show I wasn’t sure the best way to go home – I was perfectly willing to pay the surcharge and avoid the loserbus (ie, take a cab), but a bus pulled up just as I was passing the street. I got in line, and soon realized I could be wasting tons of time by taking the loserbus for this reason: The vast majority of the riders did not have a Muni pass. This meant they all had to pay the $2 toll – which takes time. In the time it took one group of people to pay their toll, the crosswalk had gone a full rotation, and allowed another group of concert attendees across the street, which promptly scurried towards the muni line. I can’t say how many times this happened, and I knew that I could probably walk to Mission Street in the time it would take the bus to get there, but felt like I needed to stick it out for the sheer hilarity of the situation. Besides, it was only 11:30 (I guess Metal Bands have early bedtimes now).

Anyway, I made my transfer shortly thereafter and was home quickly. Then I opened up a can of my favorite ginger beer, Bundaberg (from Australia, but purchased at a bar down the street from me), and drank that while I slowly realized that this was the worst concert experience I may have ever had. But Slayer was fucking awesome, and I drank a Bundaberg, so I guess I can’t complain. I just will know better when I go to the Cow Palace next time.

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