Review of the Rock Yourself to Sleep Tour in San Diego
By Orin Jones Photos by Leo Malevanchik (click on the thumbnails below for a slide show and a better view of these phenomenal shots!)
Ah, good old all-ages SOMA Club,San Diego,CA. When I saw Girl Talk here a few months ago, the crowd was slightly older than it is tonight, but not by much. I’m 32 – easily twice the age of the average age of a SOMA attendee. At least photographer Leo is nearly twice my age and, unlike most of these fans, he’s finished growing. Never ceases to amaze me: the more time passes, the more cell phone screens shimmer across the crowd. How do venues prevent bootlegging when most of the viewers are video recording? I guess we’re finally past the dark era of charging for (low-quality) informational content…right? Please? I wore my black Chucks and so did everyone else. Hey, at least I fit in a little.
Couldn’t figure out what time the freakin’ show started, so we missed the first few act: Memphis May Fire, Serianna, and Atilla. Well, we caught the end of one band, who were actually quite good, but no idea which one. Before the next band came out, there was that awkward time that always comes between bands at any show, of any style of music (like during sex, when you break to pee). I walked Leo to the “photo pit,” the area between the screaming fans and the stage, where the largest bouncers lurk, incessantly pushing limbs and bodies back over the rail, or lifting them in to be briskly escorted out the side. I stood chatting with Leo at the entrance to this area; without a wristband, I couldn’t go in. Suddenly, the lights dimmed and the crowd went bezerk. My head was only a few inches from a set of speakers larger than my bedroom. I moved a bit back and Leo began snapping pics.
On the way in is a large banner: “IF YOU PUSH, THRASH, KICK OR MOSH, YOU WILL BE IMMEDIATELY EJECTED!” Of course, hundreds around me were doing all of these things; I considered getting into it, but meh. It has probably been over a decade since I moshed. At least I’d like to know a song or two to get pumped. The band, A Skylit Drive, was so-so. Actually, the guys on instruments were quite good — steady rhythms and lots of energy. But I couldn’t get over the lead singer, a short, funny looking guy, reminiscent of Riff Raff, the handyman from Rocky Horror Picture Show. ASD, if you’re reading, get rid of this dude. The other singer on stage, the more nondescript one, had a better voice, less effeminate moves and even (with the mic) took a running start before diving over the photo pit into the crowd. Each band-member wore jeans tight enough to cause injury, as did all of their fans. Showing my age yet? Gosh I hate when bands tell me to wave my hands, but the crowd was into it. At one point, the singer intoned, “This next song is about sex, drugs and rock and roll.” The crowd roared as I puked in my mouth a little.
Before the final band took the stage, I went to the smoking area with Leo. He told me that during the set he’d almost been crushed many times by kids landing all around him. Also that, at one point, the lead singer had jumped onto a ledge mere inches from Leo’s very expensive camera equipment. He was also being showered, as band members were spraying and spitting water everywhere. The climate was sultry, to be sure, but I don’t know. I just can’t help remembering back to concerts of my youth, where bands sprayed beer and passed joints as large as…well, me at the time. I kinda miss that. I moved for a few girls to pass through. An obese Mexican kid crouched against the wall hollered at them: “Wanna talk to my friend? He’s 14 years old and drunk as fuck!” I guess the spirit is still alive somewhat.
The next band, headliners Alesana, was more to my liking but still not great. The crowd galvanized. Like the previous bands, the members were mostly in their young twenties. This group, however, had one older bald guy, maybe my age or a little older even. He was the designated screamer. Is this “screamo”? Guess so. I couldn’t understand a word out of his mouth. Between songs, the lead vocalist (not a screamer) told us, “This next one’s called ‘The Murderer.’ It’s a song about a guy who walks into a bar, locks the door and kills every son of a bitch inside.” The drums, guitar and bass began, followed by incomprehensible screaming. I LOL’d. The song might just as well have been about Mother’s Day. I used to rock out to Deicide and Cannibal Corpse, which have even more cryptic lyrics (like “Satan spawned the Caco Daemon” ad infinitum), so I really can’t talk smack. Seems that at some point in some teens’ lives, they feel the need to listen to shitty music. They probably don’t like these awful sounds either, but know it bothers everyone else, and that’s just how they’re living their thus far meaningless lives. The screamer’s faded “And Justice for All” tour t-shirt was too small, exposing his beer belly. Wonder if he was around for that tour, or just bought it at a vintage store. I would’ve loved to hear a cover off that album, although Alesana probably couldn’t, due to licensing restrictions. Fucking Metallica.
In the lobby, a tiny blonde tween pushed her near-twin-tween friend to meet one of these rock stars. I got a close look at this guy: sweaty, pale and donning dark shades (inside, at night), he resembled a fatter, more depressed Lars Ulrich. Or a morose zoo beast. He clearly needed another bump, or at least a record deal. Were there any here tonight? What the hell was the point of this “Rock Yourself to Sleep” tour put on by Motel 6, what the fuck does Motel 6 want with these mediocre musicians, and where is the asshole who penned this awful tour name?
Before Alesana finished, Leo and I decided we’d had enough. At 13 years old, I began frequenting the heaviest heavy metal shows at the filthiest clubs in NYC. Driving home after this show, I thought back to the sublime emotions I’d bring with me, leaving those clubs at all hours, drunk, stoned, floating. Granted I left this venue sober (SOMA does not serve), and I’m a few years older, but I just didn’t feel even a pinch of that same elation. On this night, I felt content, but it was different. I rolled down my windows, blasted Pantera all the way home, and went to bed early. I did, after all, have work in the morning.