This is proof positive that is it possible to have a heart heavy with sadness and one that is filled with joy inside of a single breath. On October 19th my beloved Barbara Ellen, wife and partner of 31 years, very suddenly and unexpectedly passed from this world.
A shocking event, to say the least. I’m still reeling. One day she was happily planting bulbs in the her garden for flowers that will bloom in the spring, and the following morning her lifeless body was found lying on the floor next to her bed.
In a curious example of synchronicity not uncharacteristic in our relationship, I fell out of my bunk onto the floor of my cell, the only time ever in my life that this has happened, at what was very possibly the moment of her passing. The cause of physical death was subsequently determined to be a cerebral hemorrhage. It was quick, no prolonged suffering, just the sort of way Barbara would have preferred to go when her time came (may we all be so lucky). No muss, no fuss, no lingering illness, no significant debts to be a burden to her family. Just gone. It’s as though she has been stolen from us, as a dear mutual friend aptly put it.
I miss her physical presence in my life, of course, every time something happens that I want to share with her, at least a dozen times a day, and I have to remind myself again that she is no longer here among us. We had a 31-year conversation, probing heart and mind, exploring our humanness while aspiring to the higher levels of wisdom. I will miss that conversation like I will miss her gaze, her touch, her uninhibited laughter, her embrace, her kiss, and even those human foibles and faults that sometimes annoyed and frustrated me. There was never anything about her that could realistically stand in the way of my love for her.
Ours was a relationship founded on sacred ground, and therefore not subject to threat from something as wholly natural, commonplace, and ultimately trivial as death. We only borrow these bodies to play in this world for a time. This is why our relationship held together all these years despite some foolish lapses of dignity and the hardship of my incarceration. But Barbara was so sturdy, I always assumed I would be the one to go first. I’ve been caught off guard, and now I grapple with unaccustomed depths of emotion, mourning the loss of her, while knowing full well that she is not the least bit lost to herself.
Some of you had the good fortune to know Barbara personally; others of you may have known her at some distance, or only about her. In any case, I would like to offer the following words of rememberance, written by Barbara’s son John only days after passing:
“Barbara was, and always will be, a shining example of a how a person can live in peace, harmony and freedom. She gave more than she took, she loved more than she feared, and she nurtured everything and everybody around her. We will remember Barbara as a woman of strength, courage, compassion and wisdom-a true Mother Goddess incarnate, treading softly yet powerfully upon this Earth”.
So, yes, there are some waves of sadness lingering in the spaces where Barbara once lived, since her passing. No one needs to worry that they may draw me into some morose stupor, however. Barbara would have little patience for that sort of thing. Anyway, she would not have left when she did if she had not been sure that I would remain a strength to her children and grandchildren, and I won’t let her down in that regard. She would not have any of us feel sorry for her, or for ourselves. Any why should we? Barbara lived on her own terms and died exactly as she would have wanted to. I salute her for that, and celebrate the wealth of gifts she brought to the world.
PIERCED ARROWS January 1, 2012 (Ash St. Saloon - Portland, OR)
"10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 ,2, 1...HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!" Just like that the uncontested king and queen of rock 'n' roll kicked 2011 right out the fuckin' door and launched into Guns of Thunder. The next hour or so was a breathless fist banger that reaffirmed my place at the frontline of this weird war called Life. Fred and Toody Cole never forgot the sweaty redemption of rock 'n' roll and they never forgot you. They played most of their debut LP plus On The Move, Let It Rain, This is the Day, Paranoia, and some other songs I can't remember now. Keeping with tradition they encored with a few Dead Moon classics before the houselights went on and we stumbled back out into the cold new year morning. Less than 12 hours later, as the hangover wore off, we were sipping on some hair of the dog at the Hollywood Theater and watching a rare 35mm print of George Romero's Day of the Dead! This was a very fortuitous omen...
"Choke on 'em, 2011!"
Photo by AK Wilson.
GRAVEYARD January 31, 2012 (Doug Fir Lounge - Portland, OR)
Portland had a tough choice to make this evening. Due to an inexplicable touring/booking coincidence, Ghost and Graveyard were playing the same city on the same night at different venues. What to do? The choice was easy for me. Start the night with a 35mm print of Suspiria and boogie over to catch Satan's Finest at the more intimate club. They played a terrific set and, probably much to Joakim Nilsson's chagrin, I crooned along to every song right up front (anyone who has ever had the displeasure of hearing me "sing along" knows that I don't exactly know when to "come in"). Speaking of vexation, this would be a good time to remind you assholes that not every live musical event is a Municipal Waste concert. Some dickhead who clearly couldn't handle his booze arrived mid-set to show off his mosh moves and ability to throw elbows into the throats of skinny women who had their eyes closed (because it was a goddamn slow blues song best enjoyed with eyes closed) and then disappeared as quickly as his embarrassed girlfriend could drag him out. One of the highlights of this gig was the organic light show provided by a very nice older gentleman whose name escapes me at the moment. Later in the night he shared some cool stories about how he learned his ink and projector technique back in the 60's. This dude was the real deal and this night was just perfect.
Another amazing photo by AK Wilson. How the hell does she do this while holding a drink and booking airline tickets to the next festival?
BUDOS BAND February 21, 2012 (Dante's - Portland, OR)
The fabulous furry Budos Brothers never fail to bring some mean street metal menace to their funked up proceedings and this gig was no exception. While everyone seems to be going ape shit over that new band Goat, whose live footage seems to be no more or less embarrassing than the exotic cracker tripe being performed at any street fair in any city across America that just gentrified its poorest neighborhood, these soulful disciples have been refining their heavy afro-cuban-whatever jams for years but probably won't turn up on any doting "best of" lists anytime soon. If you listen between the lies you'll realize that these cool cats inject a heavy dose of black venom into their urban voodoo sans masks and on this particular night they tore up Dante's once again and had us all shakin' our asses like Josie and the Pussycats on a Spanish Fly bender. We missed Andy the trumpeter and "Space Ace" on the congas who apparently couldn't make it out for this tour but the usual suspects more than held it down. Herding this many dudes onto a stage every night is a major accomplishment in itself. Also, at some point this happened...
Cue hotel security.
WATAIN April 20, 2012 (El Corazon - Seattle, WA)
I sure hope you didn't foolishly jump on the "backlash bandwagon" and stay home when this tour rolled through your town. If so, you missed a few of the best metal bands on the planet at the height of their abilities practically performing for each other and upping the ante every night. The only bummer about this tour was the early set times that caught a lot of fans unaware (many missed this show because who the hell goes to a black metal concert at 7:30pm???) and the oddly "corporate" vibe that crept in around the edges at times. We rolled up to Seattle just in time to catch The Devil's Blood (we missed In Solitude because who the hell goes to a heavy metal concert at 7:30pm???) who warmed up the intimate environs of this modest dive with their blood-drenched rock 'n' reap. Next up was Watain who delivered a nearly perfect set of black metal magic. The only things cramping their style tonight was the low ceiling and those damn pillars in El Corazon that make it difficult to see the stage depending on where you're standing. I realize it's rather chic to disregard a black metal band that has broken out of the underground ghetto, especially a band that considers the theatrical dimension of their art nearly as important as the music but I'm afraid the whiners are entirely missing the point. No matter how many shirts they sell or how many rock star photos pile up on the Internet, Watain will never be the styrofoam spikes and karo syrup posers that frustrated critics are trying so desperately to portray them as in message boards and magazines that no one will be reading in three years. Their onstage performance and recorded trajectory is still absolutely chilling to behold and they've had plenty of opportunities to go soft, sell out or play nice. But enough of all that nonsense. This evening was the beginning of a very memorable few days. By the way, I'm counting these next few installments as one gig because it was a tour, dig?
IN SOLITUDE April 21, 2012 (Rickshaw Theater - Vancouver B.C., Canada)
I didn't get out of Portland much this year but this show was one of the few exceptions. How the fuck we made it through customs is anyone's guess. Ahem. It's a coin toss deciding who was most inspired on stage in Canada but, probably since I missed them the previous night in Seattle, In Solitude really blew me away. I saw them at MDF in 2010 but it was mid-day at a festival and I was a bit distracted by Voivod (among other things) so I didn't feel like the setting quite did them justice. Tonight they were simply possessed with the burning fire of ancestral heavy metal as it was intended! This was a spectacular event in an impressive venue that was originally built in 1971 by the Shaw Brothers. Yes. The Brothers Shaw of the legendary kung fu movie empire that defined the American martial arts craze of the 70's and had me dragon stomping around the house as a kid with a kamikaze bandana tied around my head. Apparently it was a thriving movie theater until kung fu became not-so-cool in the mid 80's and eventually it was re-opened as a live music venue after sitting dormant for many years. If those slimy red walls could talk...what terrible tales of wino stabbings and $5 blowjobs they would tell! Today the Rickshaw (imagine that Hong Kong font from Chinese take-out menus) sits on the fringes of the jaw-dropping concrete jungle affectionately known as "Heroin Alley" in local parlance. The very first thing I saw as I stepped off the bus was an uncapped syringe in the middle of the sidewalk. Welcome to Hell Canada, eh? Later the Blasphemy guys showed up to spill beer upon the altar and all manner of shenanigans and photos ensued...
I have no idea who took this classy photo but it's a keeper!
The all-seeing electric eye of AK Wilson strikes again! I have no reason to believe she wasn't simultaneously building a website, booking a trip to Vegas and feeding her cat when she snapped this photo. THE DEVIL'S BLOOD April 22, 2012 (Hawthorne Theater - Portland, OR)
This was the show that unequivocally proved to me what a tremendous band The Devil's Blood has become. Three nights in a row they played a different set, each seemingly better than the last, and it dawned on me at some point as the amplifiers throbbed and pulsated to a deafening silence on this particular night that they could effortlessly play anywhere/anytime for any length of time and I would remain 100% engaged. I never thought I had the attention span for a "jam band" but it's nearly impossible not to follow and drown completely when they dive deep as a totally unified leviathan of rhythm and soul into the River of Gold or Voodoo Dust. No drugs required. They also opened this set with their brilliant rendition of White Faces which they make entirely their own. I think they only played this song once or twice on this tour so everyone who was in attendance can consider themselves lucky. World without end. Amen.
Deathcharge by AK Wilson.
DEATHCHARGE / DANAVA / LEBENDEN TOTEN
June 2, 2012
(Slabtown - Portland, OR)
If you haven't already guessed by my pedestrian musical taste and generally shitty attitude toward you and your dumb scene, I'm an old bastard. In punk years I'm like 169. Too old, too cold, get off my lawn, I-would've-gotten-away-with-it-if-it-wasn't-for-you-meddling-kids, blah blah blah. I'm comfortable with my grey whiskers because I've already outlived my expected expiration date and can still out drink, out fight and out fuck most of you twenty-something downloaders. Alright, maybe not. I'm out of breath just typing that. But I still saw Conan the Barbarian in the movie theater on opening day in 1982 and went to school with a Kiss lunchbox long before they went unmasked. What the hell was I just talking about? Oh yeah. So Portland threw me one hell of a party for my 40th birthday this year! Normally being the center of attention is awful but when three of your favorite local bands get together to play in your honor it's pretty easy to just grin and bear a few pats on the back, lap dances, spanks on the ass and embarrassing toasts. Especially when the room erupts into a sweaty whiskey-fueled mass of leather, spikes and cupcakes. This entire weekend was sincerely humbling and, unfortunately for those who wish I would just go away, it bolstered my resolve for another 40 fuckin' years!
Lebenden Toten by AK Wilson.
Riding Hoods. Who took this? Meadow?
Yup, AK Wilson.
MIDNIGHT / DANAVA / DEAD CONGREGATION
July 8, 2012
(East End - Portland, OR)
Remember last year's East End Block Party? Me neither. But I hear it was fun. This year's block party was fun too but somewhat mired in drama and missteps so this little gem of a gig makes the list just for happening at all. I won't bore you with the details but, suffice to say, there were some lineup changes, lots of confusion, the police shut down the outside festivities and I had a blast the whole time! After some tedious performances throughout the day, the clock ticked closer to last call on Sunday night and everyone wondered if Midnight would actually get to play due to a total lack of stage management. That's when the cops showed up to announce the party was over. Those of us still sober enough to walk down a flight of back alley stairs quickly joined forces to dismantle the outdoor stage while Portland's finest watched from the street and by sheer collective effort the gear was quickly relocated to the sweaty dungeon-like basement. Way too many people piled in down there but it looked like things were moving forward without any more "hangups." That's when some real cool cokeheads barricaded themselves in the backstage room with the drummer's gear inside. "Be right out, bro!" Here's another tip: cocaine makes you an even bigger dickhead, pal. Eventually Danava hit the stage and laid it on us like the heavy droogs they are and Midnight soon delivered the essence of satanic royalty to the rabid sunburned hordes. At some point during my long stint behind the wheels of steel I dropped a Saturnalia Temple LP on the turntable and ran across the street to watch Dead Congregation at a totally different club. When I returned someone had flipped the record and three people came up to compliment my DJ'ing. Now THAT'S professionalism (insert winking emoticon here)!
I took this one, which explains why everyone is out of focus.
July 14, 2012
(Hawthorne Theater - Portland, OR)
Ever heard of this band? They're pretty good I guess. Har har har. Another whirlwind 24 hour run with some of the straightest shooters I've ever had the pleasure of drinking whiskey out of a plastic jug with (as Reifert taught me, the plastic jug makes it bounce right back into your hand when you drop it). Autopsy made their first Northwest appearance ever right here in Portland this summer as part of the sorta awkwardly named Revelations of Death festival. I don't really need to say much do I? Look at that set list. Heads were crushed, blood was spilled, and the dead walked the earth 'cause obviously there's no more room in hell up here in Sasquatch Country.
Service for a vacant summer!
AK Wilson's clever photography suppresses the almost uncontrollable urge to purchase expensive merchandise that never quite looks as good as you hoped in your living room.
IRON MAIDEN July 31, 2012 (White River Amphitheater - Auburn, WA)
No big surprise here but Maiden's return to the northwest on the Maiden England tour was another smashing success. This was the thirteenth time I've seen 'em and I've yet to be disappointed. It should be stale by-the-numbers bullshit by now but...they're just untouchable! They barreled through a set of classics with only a few post-Seventh Son of a Seventh Son numbers and I have to admit that Afraid to Shoot Strangers is a fucking awesome live song that I totally overlooked in the 90's. Afterwards we shut down the local bar, made some new friends, lost a game of pool, went midnight swimming, and did not have sex with a horse. Win/win.
I think one of the guys from Glorious Days took this great photo right after Wehrmacht's set!
WEHRMACHT / WILD DOGS September 21, 2012 (private party - Portland, OR)
I realize you'd never guess (much less care) from all these goofy photos of me broin' down but, to be perfectly honest, I'm not much of a partier. I'm actually socially awkward unless I have some very specific purpose and I don't necessarily excel at small talk when there are more than six people in the room. But when Wehrmacht invites me to a kegger, I make exceptions to my stay home rule. Original singer Tito Matos is off pursuing a successful DJ career so the re-united shoe brothers have recruited longtime friend Eric Helzter to handle vocals and he brings ferocious energy and enthusiasm to the current incarnation of these pukecore pioneers. This one took place in a sweaty low-ceiling basement in northeast Portland, precisely how this band got its start and is intended to be heard! They blasted through a killer set that included Biermacht, Shark Attack, Gore Flix, Radical Dissection, Napalm Shower, United Shoe Brothers, Drink Jack/Beer, E!, Night of Pain and some other whirlwind bullshit I either didn't recognize or can't remember right now before encoring with an Accept cover! To top it all off, the Wild Dogs warmed up the night with a really fun set and later I got my ass kicked at the heavy metal foosball table. Portland actually has a pretty serious love for foosball- Tony Saiz of Xinr was a nationally recognized player- so imagine everyone's disappointment when they had to deal with an over excited "spinner" at the table. Goddamn this was a fun night!
Photo by Amy Wright.
THE MOB October 27, 2012 (Black Water Records - Portland, OR)
The Mob is one of my favorite UK peace punk bands of all time and if you're not already a fan I suggest you seek out their anthology Let The Tribe Increase immediately. Don't listen to the overcompensating cider swillers who call them "post-punk" or "emo" or whatever. Those terms didn't even exist when this trio was belting their hearts out for inevitably disinterested anarchist resource center squatters and I'm sure if you just downloaded their catalog online without the proper context they don't sound as ripping as, say, Axegrinder or Antisect or whatever band makes you strut around like a smug cunt. Anyway, I never thought I'd get to see these guys live so it was a real treat to see them twice in one week this year! The first show was admittedly a bit of a dud mostly because some smartass punk (I'm looking at you, Keith) booked them at the "intimate setting" of a bar not much bigger than my kitchen. The place was so packed we couldn't get in so we enjoyed a rare 35mm screening of Cannibal Holocaust across town and raced back just in time to slip into a room that smelled like a dirty diaper and caught the tail end of their set. Now's a good time for me to remind you all of another little pet peeve of mine. If you're not actually in the band or serving some function that is absolutely essential to the songs being performed, you should never linger on stage longer than it takes to find your footing and jump the fuck back off. Got that? My daughter grew up with The Mob in heavy rotation and can sing along with the most grizzled veterans among us so she ecstatically joined me for the last show of their North American tour at the newly re-established all-ages Blackwater. It's difficult to articulate the joy I experienced sharing an event like this with my beautiful little lady at my side but it was a night I'll truly never forget and I'm not ashamed to admit that I got a bit misty eyed during Our Life, Our World. This was just days before Halloween so my daughter was adorned as Death, which turned out to be perfectly appropriate for the barrage of depression they delivered with almost no unnecessary stage banter. Feeling bad never felt so good!
I have no idea who took this photo but...thanks! We really need to work on our frowns.
"There's no presents, not this Christmas!" ~King Diamond
The last time a 35mm print of Black Christmas rolled through town was back in 2008 so I'm basically re-posting my previous rant for this week's run at the Hollywood Theater (man, it just occurred to me that I've been bangin' away on this blog for six years now!). Bob "A Christmas Story" Clark directed this seminal holiday horror flick and laid down the blueprint for the entire slasher genre, popularizing archetypes (or cliches depending on your enthusiasm level) such as the deranged maniac calling from inside the house, predator's point-of-view camera angles, psycho-sexual undertones, and subverted holiday themes. This is one of my personal favorites and it holds up damn well considering it's almost 40 years old. Fun fact! Distributors were afraid it would be confused for a blaxploitation flick so it was retitled Silent Night, Evil Night for dumb American audiences. It was a box office flop until they re-marketed it with its original title. It also features John Saxon so wear your denim and leather!