03.02.14 — 6:54AM Eastern — Sunday morning — Detroit Metro Airport
“Aw, seriously? We blew it…” — Rob Sefcik
Though I think I already made it obvious in my last post, I’ll put it out there straight away that my head wasn’t in this one from the beginning. My thoughts were elsewhere — getting to the airport, though that plan materialized pretty well and before the show actually started — getting back to New York, driving north, finding a time when I might be able to sleep, seeing my wife, eating a meal, and so on. I guess if I was actually playing the show, that might’ve been an issue.
As it was, I decided to give myself something of a break for the closing night of Kings Destroy‘s tour with Pentagram and Radio Moscow, and when it came to the start of the show at In the Venue – a mid-sized space cleverly named — I was an odd combination of stressed about the impending travel and relaxed about the show itself. I already knew I wouldn’t be seeing all of Pentagram‘s set, and basically I said to myself that I’d already had six gigs’ worth of photos of these bands, and that it was okay to take it easy for the last night of the run.
Seems to have worked out, at least as regards my general well-being. Local support tonight — though by now it’s really “last night,” I just haven’t slept — was from Merlin‘s Beard:
I couldn’t tell you the last show I was at where there was a genuine circle pit. It’s been a while. But punk-stoner-thrashers Merlin’s Beard seemed to arrive ingratiated to the early-arriving local SLC contingent, and all of a sudden, there were kids in hightops and denim vests skipping in circles like something from a demented nursery rhyme. Can’t stop the children. I didn’t see their whole set, but Merlin’s Beard seemed to have it together in playing on the hesher-metal thing, which has been in full bloom all along on this trip, but they made their blend with earlier-hardcore punk work smartly and offered a raucous start to a night that, once it got going, had a party atmosphere as only the end of a tour can.
They were rushed from the very beginning. When Kings Destroy (plus Jim Pitts and I) arrived at In the Venue, Merlin’s Beard were already set up on stage. Since the band couldn’t very well tell them to get off so they could backline their gear, the switchover happened afterwards, and since Pentagram were also using said gear, basically two bands had to soundcheck before Kings Destroy could start their set. The sound guy told them, “You’ve got 22 minutes,” right before they started, but if they were rushed, the intensity suited both them and the occasion. I’m fairly certain they went past that 22-minute mark, but they still sprinted through their five song set, opening with “Dusty Mummy” before easing into “Embers,” which at this point sounds ready to record or at least close to it. Their adrenaline kicked in early, so when they shifted from “The Toe” to another new song, “Mr. O.,” the fact that it was the fastest thing I’ve ever heard from them seemed like a solid fit. A blazing riff, strong hook, and big ending, it’s probably the nearest thing to heavy rock I’ve seen them play, and that’s not at all a complaint. I wish I had gotten to see it more than once while on the road with them, but if it’s a Salt Lake City-only kind of memory, I’ll take it. They sounded like they could do another week or two touring easily.
If Radio Moscow were harried by nearly rolling their van in the bad weather between Denver and Salt Lake City — there was reportedly an accident on I-25 North outside of Denver that involved 104 cars, with which fortunately none of the three touring acts was involved — they didn’t show it on stage. They were dialed in and immediate, and it once again being an all-ages show, a younger crowd got way into it. That was the case all along, at all the shows, really, but in back, there was also a dude easily in his ’60s grooving on it, so maybe Radio Moscow have more of a cross-generational appeal than they get credit for. Or maybe they get credit for it and I just don’t pay attention. Either way, the point stands. I’m more than a little bummed I’ll have to wait until their new album Magical Dirt comes out in May to hear “Death of a Queen” again, but with “No Time,” “Open Your Eyes,” “Broke Down” and the rest in studio form to tide me over, chances are I’ll make it through. Still, what a track. It’s rightly gotten a great response at each show and In the Venue was no exception.
I said so after the Denver gig as well, but it’s worth repeating that in this incarnation of Pentagram, everybody was killing it. It wasn’t just Bobby Liebling and it wasn’t just Victor Griffin. They’re great, don’t get me wrong, and they handed the crowd its collective ass once again, but bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley offered stellar support in both sound and stage presence to their legendary counterparts, and once again Pentagram as a whole underscored both the timelessness of their classic material and the relevance of what they’re doing now. I might’ve liked to stay and see them finish out their set and thus the tour as a whole, but my head was going to explode if I didn’t get to the airport gate immediately, so when it was time to go after “When the Screams Come,” I offered no argument whatsoever. It was, indeed, time to go.
I’ve been falling asleep at the keyboard since I started typing, so I’ll try to be quick. The first of two flights to New York is over, from Salt Lake City to Detroit. This is a three-hour layover that started around 7AM and will go until 10:05AM when the next plane is allegedly going to take off. There’s enough snow on the tarmac outside that I’ve got my doubts. Still, until I hear otherwise, that’s what I’m going with.
We took off from SLC a little after one in the morning. The band had grabbed a bite to eat at one of the silly airport places but I abstained and sat with headphones on instead. Splashed some cold water on my face and felt like a new man. The airport wasn’t crowded, but the plane was. Full, in fact, and they kept the lights off just about the whole time. I wasn’t always awake, but I was never quite asleep. That’s about as good as I can usually do on an airplane. When we got in to Detroit, the KD guys almost immediately crashed out on the floor in various spots. There weren’t very many people around this little enclave of gates, though it’s gotten crowded since as Sunday has become its own entity rather than the weird extension of Saturday it is when you haven’t slept. I always had trouble deciding when the day actually switched until I learned broadcast days began at 6AM. That’s generally the measure I use these days, when I think of it or need to.
This will be the last of these posts, so I need to thank Kings Destroy — Steve Murphy, Rob Sefcik, Aaron Bumpus, Chris “C-Wolf” Skowronski and Carl Porcaro — for their incredible generosity in inviting me to embark on this tour with them. From Pacific Northwestern forests, to low Nevada desert, to the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, I saw things I’d never seen, met many, many excellent people along the way, and was treated night after night to what I knew was the best possible show I could be seeing at that moment. It was a thrill and a delight, not just to do these things, but to be fortunate enough to be able to do them with these people, whom I consider myself lucky to know and whose work continues to stun with its honesty, accomplishment and forward-minded defiance of genre and expectation. Whether it was in the sprinter impersonating Paul Stanley stage raps with the ultra-competent Jim Pitts at the wheel or standing in front of a surprisingly wide variety of stages to watch them nail their set night after night, rest assured, my best times out west were with Kings Destroy.
There were times where I asked myself what I was doing. I never got to tour in bands other than a weekender here and there, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m thankful to have had the chance while doing this, while writing. The fact about what I do is simple — no one outside a very small sphere cares — but as I look around me at the morning hustle at the airport in Detroit in a quality of light that has that Vaseline-lens haze due to lack of sleep, it’s that writing that got me here. I’ve spent some time recently wondering what the endgame is to all of this, this site, the music, where it’s going and what it leads to, but doesn’t it lead to things like this? Isn’t the opportunity to see new places with such wonderful, inspiring individuals the reward, even if it’s also the work? And isn’t the work, being able to do it, the reward too? I don’t always believe it is, but I do right now, and with that, I’m ready to get on the plane and go home. Soon.
Special thanks to The Patient Mrs. for supporting me through things that can sometimes seem completely nonsensical, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading.