I haven’t done a “best of” rant in quite a few years. However, 2016 has been such an unprecedented log flume of starkly contrasting personal zeniths and plummeting public disasters that I find myself compelled on this winter solstice evening to at least attempt a summary of a few of the more triumphant moments of the past 12 very confounding months. Perhaps dwelling on small victories here might somehow thwart the current momentum of things, and dam the flood of bullshit from spilling into next year and contaminating us all with slack-jawed impotence. Despite what your Gregorian calendar suggests, 2016 actually began on December 28, 2015, the gloomy Monday when Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister finally blasted a hole through the space-time continuum and rode his silver machine out of the sun forever. That evening, it took us three bars, all blasting Motörhead, before we found an establishment that wasn’t sold out of Jack Daniels. Such was Portland’s love for the man, and of that alcoholic reverence I will remain proud despite my growing resentment for a city that has turned its back on what it once was and could have been (for the record, we ended up buying our own fifth of Jack and kept candles lit at home all week). If only it could have been the day the world fell silent. Instead, it was the day that the most reliable cigarette-slashed voice of rock 'n' roll resistance was finally drowned out by the whimpering din of castrated mediocrity and toothless imitation – the “mounting opposition,” to paraphrase our beloved Commander. Lemmy is not a legend simply because of the massive body of music that he left in his stubborn wake, from his formative recordings with the Rockin' Vickers in 1965 through Motörhead's crushing twenty-second (22!) studio album, Bad Magic, released exactly four months before his death. He is a legend because at some point over the course of his five decades long recording career he lived harder than the outlaw bikers that comprised his earliest audience while navigating an absolutely indifferent music industry and, without any pretentious aspirations, became a living archetype of the intangible and paradoxical spirit of something we might earnestly refer to as the tradition of defiance. Or, to put it another way, totalitarian anti-authoritarianism. I worshiped Motörhead long before I knew what my claw was for. In fact, I loved the band before I heard a single note. I used to stare at the cover of Iron Fist on the vinyl rack at Caldor, it was an album he didn't much care for himself, trying to imagine what this band of Frazetta villains could possibly sound like. And here's the thing. When I finally got to hear that record, through my older brother's best friend, it was louder, tougher, scarier, and altogether more transcendent than my prepubescent brain could have ever imagined. Bet your life you don't need religion? Yes, sir! And in the blink of an eye, the man who set it all in motion for me was gone. To make matters worse, Lemmy’s unsurprising but no less gutting demise (just four days after his 70th birthday and four months after he limped offstage during a Texas concert like a soldier who knows the war is over) seemed to precipitate an entirely unexpected funeral procession of highly publicized celebrity deaths that only the most steadfast among us could possibly catalog, much less comprehend with any meaningful emotional intelligence. It was as if the good Dr. Rock had left the door wide open behind him in one final winking prank on us earthbound bastards. And it was this star-studded runaway train to the eternal void, punctuated as it was by genocide, mass shootings and the most embarrassing election season of my lifetime (they’ve all been a shameful mess), that came to characterize 2016. Loss upon terrible loss. And still more stinging loss. Yet, shining moments of pleasure, power and ecstatic mad intoxication can be attained by those willing to venture forth. And venture forth we did! Here are just a few salient moments from the year that have come to symbolize much more than the fleeting moments we captured on our phones. These pictures represent deep friendships and even deeper love. Love that sets fire to doubt, depression and destitution. Onward and upwards! I wish you, dear reader, the very best in 2017.
Crystal Ballroom - January 2, 2016
We've started many years with Portland's best kept rock 'n' roll secret (and quite a few Halloweens and even more random wild nights than I can remember). It's become something of a tradition in itself. This year Fred and Toody Cole took the stage with our old friend Kelly Halliburton filling in on drums for Andrew Loomis, who hadn't been looking well for many months (so, more accurately, this was Pierced Arrows playing Dead Moon songs). They opened the night with Walking on My Grave, a song that at the time seemed like a joyous salute to Fred's harrowing medical condition and recent successful bout with open heart surgery. Two months later, Andrew Loomis was gone.
One of the last times we saw Loomis perform with Dead Moon, he came up after the show and handed us this rolled up set list wrapped around his drum stick. Not sure why, except maybe because we had been having so much fun that night making faces at each other and laughing together while he banged away behind his decrepit kit and uncooperative candle. He was just that kind of dude. We miss you, man. Let it rain, as the song goes.
Dynasty - January 9, 2016
I've had the pleasure of celebrating quite a few Thrones anniversary shows in recent years. This time it was an intimate affair at a cozy bar right in my own neighborhood. The perfect setting. We found out David Bowie died about two songs into the set, when everyone's phones started going crazy. There's nowhere I would've rather been and nobody I would've rather been with to receive the news. We are the dead chanting for the ever circling skeletal family. We are future legends. R.I.P. Starman. Up the Thrones!
DEMONS / RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR
Hollywood Theatre - March 12, 2016
|Photo by Jesse Lanier.|
Discussing rape, racism and rats with the beautiful Geretta Geretta!
One of the more bizarre moments of our exhaustingly bizarre (i.e., totally amazing!) weekend with Geretta Geretta occurred over brunch in our favorite cafe. We were nursing hangovers from the night before and rambling madly about 80s post-apocalyptic flicks when I noticed this gorgeous young woman at the table beside us listening in intently. If you've ever been around Geretta, you know this woman is commanding, so the eavesdropping was understandable. Finally, she leaned over and said, "I'm sorry to interrupt you, but I overheard you talking about Rats: Night of Terror. That was co-directed by Claudio Fragasso, who also co-directed Troll 2." It was true. "My dad," she went on, "Played Farmer Walts in Troll 2!" You can imagine what happened next. Typical, eh?
Rose City Strip - March 19, 2016
|"Dear God, you don't exist. Only Thor is real."|
Thor. Performing Only the Strong in its entirety. In a heavy metal strip club. With my friend Mason assisting on vocals. Nuff said.
While we're on the subject of strip clubs, a few weeks after his death we organized a proper memorial for Lemmy at Rose City Strip on February 27th, and played nothing but Lemmy's music all night long. We met this beautiful wild child who called herself "Strawberry" that night. In fact, she made the night. And guess what? She died too. It takes, takes, takes. R.I.P. Strawberry.
SATAN / DANAVA / VIOLATION WOUND
Mississippi Studios - March 27, 2016
My record label Wyrd War hosted Satan again this year, this time on Easter Sunday, and I booked them at one of Portland's best venues. We invited Chris Reifert's band Violation Wound up from California for the occasion and summoned our brothers in Danava to anchor it all down with their tentacled extraterrestrial road riffs. The expected chaos ensued. Another night for the history books.
|Photo by Amanda Selmick.|
|Here's something you don't see everyday. Chris Reifert of Autopsy/Violation Wound toasting Steve Ramsey of Satan from the crowd!|
|Photo by Amanda Selmick.|
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART 2
Hollywood Theatre - May 28, 2016
|The indomitable A.K. Wilson was with me for some of the best moments of the year. They were the best moments because she was with me!|
|Eating oysters with Bill "Choptop" Moseley.|
14 year old Dread was very fuckin' impressed with me this year.
Dante's - June 10, 2016
Photo by Alyssa Herrman.
|C'mon, did you think I was gonna hang with Away and not tell a totally hilarious story?? By the way, that's Andrew Loomis' image flippin' the bird in the background.|
DANAVA / THRONES / SUSAN VASLEV
Enchanted Forest - July 9, 2017
This short video montage by Shelby Menzel sums up one of my proudest accomplishments of the year. We made a record that sold out very quickly. We threw a record release party at a hand built amusement park that also sold out very quickly. Hmm. It was so fun we might even do it again in 2017...
|If you were there you know what's going on here. Northwest history being made.|
|Photo by A.K. Wilson.|
DESTROYER 666 / BULLDOZER / EXCITER
Reggies - July 15-17
Deströyer 666 at Metal Threat in Chicago was hands down the best performance of the year. Period. Fuck off. Photo by A.K. Wilson.
|Bulldozer was devastatingly good.|
So good, in fact, that they played Whiskey Time twice. Photo by A.K. Wilson.
Siki Spacek was...er...very popular...at Metal Threat. Every time this man gets on stage, dudes fold their arms and smirk smugly. And every time this man walks off stage those dudes' girlfriends do this. UNTIL WE ROCK!!!!
DUDES / SUBURBIA
Hollywood Theatre - August 25-26, 2017
An event even true believers didn't think we could pull off. The Dread Family (most of 'em anyway) imbibing negative ions with Penelope Spheeris at Multnomah Falls.
Sunlight Supply Arena - September 13, 2016
|Photo by Angie Moss.|
We saw Black Sabbath up in Tacoma in February with admittedly low expectations. I mean, who wants to see some hairy young toned-up stud sitting on Bill Ward's throne? Well, they blew us away. Every moment was sheer perfection. A few months later I received an unexpected text from a very good friend who informed me that I was on Sabbath's guest list for the evening. When security escorted us to our seats we had to pinch ourselves to believe how close we were. It was The End, indeed. Thank you, Black Sabbath! Thank you, Jason Charles! Eternally.
Hollywood Theatre - October 3, 2016
Here I am explaining to Fabio Frizzi that as a kid I used to record Lucio Fulci movies on VHS with my boombox just so I could play the cassettes back and listen to his soundtrack music. He seemed duly impressed. Or troubled. Hard to say.
|After the concert, Frizzi and his very gracious keyboard player conspired to place this pick in my hand as a small token of appreciation. I think I'll keep it.|
BLACK DEATH RESURRECTED / CIRITH UNGOL
Venture, California - October 7-9, 2016
Taking Siki Spacek to visit Jimi Henrix's grave in Renton, Washington was most definitely a high point of 2016.
Watching Black Death Resurrected convert a room full of true headbangers at the amazing Frost & Fire Festival was even better!
|"C'mon and riiiide...The Black Machine!!!!"|
I have to salute Jarvis Leatherby for organizing one of the best U.S. metal festivals I have ever attended. It was pure magic. Thank you, Jarvis!
Tim Baker of Cirith Ungol still has golden pipes and is one of the coolest dudes I met down in Ventura.
Cirith Ungol drummer Rob Garven is such a cool dude that he plucked this pin right off his denim vest and placed it in my hand when we met after their first performance in 25 years! October 10th is now and forever CIRITH UNGOL DAY!
THE SKULL / SAINT VITUS
Star Theater - October 16, 2016
You ain't seen Saint Vitus until you've seen Scott Reagers' Saint Vitus!
The only time I ever saw Trouble was in 1990 opening up for Danzig on the Lucifuge tour. It was Halloween night in Port Chester, New York. This year I had the pleasure of seeing their triumphant return, as The Skull, with Steve "Thee Slayer Hippy" Hanford of Feel The Darkness era Poison Idea smashing the skins just like Chuck Biscuits did all those years ago. You wanna talk about rock 'n' roll salvation? Eight years before this concert, almost exactly to the day, a very strung out Hanford turned himself in to Portland police after robbing a bunch of local pharmacies for opioids at knife point. It was beautiful to see his return to slim hard-hitting form behind a drum kit, where he belongs. What a goddamn show!
Keller Auditorium - October 22, 2016
|I guess this guy invented something called "Shock Rock." I think it's gonna be big.|
Our seats were pretty damn good, but once The Coop started in with The Ballad of Dwight Fry, I realized I needed to get a close-up. So I walked down to the very front of the stage with my phone and politely asked some fat old slob if he would mind if I stood in front of him for a few seconds to get a quick photo (I'm short, man). His jowls shook with the kind of indignant rage that comes with the sort of net income that affords one $800 front row tickets to Alice Cooper and he said, "As a matter of fact, yes I do mind!" So I nodded, walked around him and took my position just as Alice Cooper locked eyes with me and froze like this until he saw that I had my perfect shot. Then he proceeded to shake his way out of that damn straight white vest that has been causing him so much grief all these years. Money don't always get the last laugh, chump!
That's all I have the stamina to report, dear reader. The lows were abysmally low. The highs were soaringly high. Here's to a better new year. Live to win!