Blackdiamondskye Featuring Mastodon, Deftones & Alice in Chains
10/11/10 – Gibson Amphitheatre – Universal City, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito/concertconessions.com
When rumors of a Mastodon/Deftones/Alice in Chains fall arena trek began to gain steam earlier this year, I found myself very excited. All great bands on both record and stage crisscrossing our nations arenas, what could go wrong? Well as it turns out, lots could go wrong with Blackdiamondskye as I found out first hand at Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, CA.
In the weeks leading up to the announcement of west coast dates, this was going to be the one fall tour I refused to miss. Yet when I learned that my local stop would cost $50+ dollars for a seated venue on a Tuesday night, I had no problem missing a tour that featured bands I have seen numerous times over the past year. It was at that very moment that I decided I would save my heard earned cash and skip Blackdiamondskye.
So why are you reading this? Well it turns out that somewhere along the line, I entered a contest for free tickets and a pair of Vans tennis shoes. Guess who won the contest? So I called up a friend and we headed up to California’s worst amusement park/tourist trap for a night of hard rock.
Mastodon is one of my favorite bands, and they never disappoint live. I wish I could tell you all about the groups opening set, however the same folks who got me into the show for free (a little company called Live Nation, you may have heard of them) are the same reason I missed the bands entire set. You see, it turns out that I am not the only person who didn’t want to see these bands for a high price in a venue that is better built for Neil Diamond then hard rock/heavy metal. With only a handful of tickets sold 48 hours before the show, Live Nation decided to drop the price down to $10. A great deal for fans, but as anyone who has been to a show in North America knows – Live Nation will do anything to fuck over those fans. I am going to guess that 4000+ fans bought $10 tickets starting Monday morning. Knowing it’s a week night and that fans would be traveling in heavy traffic from all over the Southland, how were fans greeted? Two people working Will Call for 4000+ people. After 45 minutes in line, I finally made it to the window and I almost snapped. The envelopes were apparently not in alphabetical order which caused an overworked staff member to sort through hundreds of envelopes to find my tickets. With the line not getting any shorter, part of me wanted to give her a hug and donkey punch her employer. I get that Live Nation lost their ass on this tour, but can you not afford an intern who can put the tickets in alphabetical order? Could you not afford four or even eight Will Call employees? So while I am stoked I won some silly Live Nation contest, the way they handled the entire process only makes me hate the company more. So I am sorry Mastodon, I really was looking forward to rocking out with you guys.
As a CSC security guard was busy fondling my man boobs looking for drugs, the Deftones were opening their set with “Rocket Skates” from their impressive new album Diamond Eyes. I know up next was “Around The Fur” but I am not really 100% sure since I was trying to get a drink before making my way in for the night (thanks to the rad bartender who gave me way more then he probably should have. That shot looked like 2-3, and I made sure he was well tipped). I made it into my seat just in time for the bands third song “My Own Summer (Shove It).” I was shocked at how packed the venue was (especially after Jay Porks MSG review), apparently the $10 ticket sale worked.
As a lifelong Deftones fan (this was show #15 for me) I could tell right away that this gig would be one to forget. Gibson is the wrong venue for the band – Deftones and seats mix much like peanut butter and ranch dressing. The crowd could care less that the band was playing intense versions of songs like “Diamond Eyes” and “You’ve Seen The Butcher.” Hell, the crowd hardly noticed the bands biggest hit “Change (In The House of Flies).” Deftones are a band who are powered off crowd reaction and energy. With it feeling more like a funeral then a rock show, you could feel the frustration from the band, which is why I am shocked at how they chose to finish the set.
With front man Chino Moreno wishing his daughter a happy 6th Birthday, the band launched into a three song segue fest that would have made many Phish fans proud. From their debut album Adrenaline and dedicated to their fallen brother Chi Cheng; the band got straight up nasty with “Birthmark>Engine No. 9>7 Words.” For the first (and I assume only) time all night, a small pit broke in the venues small and unseated pit area. As someone who first saw the band almost 15 years ago on the Adrenaline tour, the playing on the final three songs was my highlight of the night. When they want too, the Deftones still have that old school kick you in the teeth flair. Here is looking forward to show #16 in a venue that does not have seats.
Alice in Chains
Last summer, when I saw Alice in Chains for the first time, I was levitating above the Fairplex in Pomona. A fan for years, I was in shock that I was finally seeing a band whose music has made such an impact upon my life. So heading into the venue, I was eager to see the Seattle four piece play a full headline set. While the set was not terrible, you could tell the group was drained from non-stop touring around the world. The band started off on a good pace, performing three songs from the classic album Dirt. “Them Bones” is a perfect was to kick things off, and “Rain When I Die” is one of my all time favorite AIC songs. The band who has released multiple greatest hits packages busted out many of the big guns early. “Again” was hard and heavy, however the band started to fade quickly during the recent rock radio smash “Check My Brain.” Lead guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell tried to encourage the crowd to celebrate California, get into the music and check their brains. Yet most just looked on dazed and confused trying to act cool by not letting loose.
It was clear all hope for Alice in Chains was long gone by the time they dove heavily into songs from their comeback record Black Gives Way To Blue. “Your Decision” gave most of the crowd reason to sit down, and “Acid Bubble” gave the masses a chance to empty their bladders. It got so bad; Cantrell would point to pockets of fans rocking out in order to encourage the rest of the audience to join them. This move failed and as the band busted out the Facelift classic “We Die Young” you could tell that the fearless foursome were counting down the final days of a tour that has tanked from coast to coast.
Depressed and under-stimulated, my friend and I left during the encore break. Sure we could have hung around and watched a tired band struggle to make an impact with hits like “Man in the Box” and “Would?” but why watch something you love suffer? Looking back, for as excited as I was for BlackDiamondSkye, I see why it failed. In the last 14 months, the Southern California area has seen Mastodon three times, Deftones six times and Alice in Chains three times. I am not sure if it was Warner Music, Live Nation or perhaps a combination of both who decided it was a smart move to place these bands together with a steep ticket price during a bad economy. It’s a shame as both bands and fans deserve better. At least I got a free pair of shoes out of the deal (updated 08/11 – I am still waiting for my shoes to show up).