Friday, April 25, 2008

Uncle Al Makes Ginger's Ears Bleed

No my ears didn't actually bleed but they did ring for two days.

Thursday night I went to see Ministry with my friend D. Three things I know for sure: Al Jourgensen is freakin' nuts, Ministry is very, very loud, and I'm not really into whole metal scene anymore.

Last night was for me an indulgence--indulging a certain nostalgia for the past. The first time I heard Ministry was when I was about nineteen. It was the Psalm 69 album. My brother and I used to play it to drive my Evangelical mom crazy. I haven't listened to Ministry steadily since that period of time but I own the last two Ministry albums (Piper loves them), Rio Grande Blood and The Last Sucker. They're both, in my mind, metal orientated although The Last Sucker does have quite a bit of mixing and sampling. The albums are loud and heavy with those super fast guitar riffs and bass lines that vibrate your old shitty car. His voice amplified and distorted with machines, Uncle Al's hate of Bush punctuates the music. They're not bad albums but I'm finding myself not really interested in that kind of music anymore (despite really liking loud). Regardless, I couldn't miss Ministry's last tour.

The show was at the Tremont, a Charlotte venue and one at which I've never seen a show. D and I were a bit later than planned, and we had to park about two blocks away. There was a line when we arrived. We could hear Hemlock, one of the opening bands from outside. It was straight metal. There was a wide range of people: "normals," metal heads, punks, goths, and what my friend D calls "That guy." My favorite of the night was the guy in the cowboy outfit complete with cowboy hat. I wanted to tell him he was at the wrong show.

We made it in without getting burnt by the crazy drunk guy behind me. The Tremont is an old warehouse, and it still has both the look and the feel. In order to get in, you have to walk a long ramp in the dock area which still looks like a...docking area. Inside it's cavernous. There are still the glassed in booth where truckers checked in their cargo. There are two stages, a smaller one to the left and then a large area to the right. Smoking is allowed so it was too smoky (no ventilation). And it was hot!

We saw the last two Hemlock songs. Next up Meshuggah. I am not sure what to say about them. They would open with these great guitar licks that were definitely interesting, and a departure from most traditional metal bands. But suddenly, the singing would kick in along with the bass, and you lost the good thread; it was drowned out by everything else. At this point, it just sounded like thrash metal to me--not my thing.
The crowd loved them though, and there was a large "circle bang" (ummm...okay) which began to expand, at one point, up to where D and I were standing. All I could think was "Great we're about to become part of the Mosh pit of death." Now granted, this is Charlotte so there wasn't really all that much to fear.

After Meshuggah, the floor cleared up (everyone was running for beer). At this point, it was unbearly hot and I was sticky. The smoke was unbearable, and I felt like I was inhaling about ten cigarettes at a time. But D and I pressed on towards the front. I'm sure D was ready to kill me because I moved us front but toward the side. We didn't have a great view of anything but the very front of the stage as there were ceiling to floor speakers blocking our view. D was blinded by the strobe light a few times. Worst was the fact that we were about two feet from said speakers. Not a problem until the show started.

The show was super loud. When the bass started in, everything INSIDE my body started to shake. The riffs were fast, and there were these screeching crescendos that were almost unbearable. Uncle Al screeched into the mike, voice distorted and deepened. When he talks he has a surprisingly high pitched, kind of squeaky voice. The first set was all songs from the last two albums. They sounded amazing, and while there was a definite metal feel to the music, it was tempered with samples, talented players, interesting melodies, and a bit of electronic distortion. This was a different noise then say, APTBS. It was not so much creative noise as just really loud. It was not a noise that moved you, transported you, or altered your reality. It was a noise that continually hammered you into the floor. The music was an assault. I made it through three songs before I felt like I was going to vomit. I felt beat up. My ears were ringing, and I had to almost lean on my friend D to make it to the back. As we stood in the back for the rest of the set, there were many others stumbling to the relative safety of the back.

Al was in fine form. He started off one song with "Here's a song for our fucking idiot president." He referred to said president as the idiot for the rest of the night.
He then went on a rant about Christians: "This is for all you fucking Catholics,
Evangelicals, Christians." and slammed us with "I'm Still Waiting." After this song he started to fight with someone in the audience. It wasn't clear to me what was going on. I heard later that he was saying "Fuck Charlotte." He started to taunt someone (individual or crowd I don't know) and urged them up on the stage: "Get up here! I'll kick your ass." Then he went about how "Yeah I see you hands in the air. Big fucking deal." And then he spit on the crowd. During the next song, people started to tear one of the fences down. The guards (who at this point had been merely telling people to not take pictures) came running in and started slamming the crowd around. Al loved it. And thus proved himself a big ass rock star.There was no way I could not compare to this show to A Place To Bury Strangers. First, the noise. I told H that A Place to Bury Strangers was like BDSM. It's rough but you like it, and it's planned out, almost ritualized. Ministry is just like assault. APTBS is all about loud but it is a planned loud, a loud created with skill not just in playing but in creating electrical gadgets. Ministry is a loud that involves cranking up the amp, playing really loud and fast, and screaming into a mike. I KNOW that this is considered an art from by many (and yes I can appreciate it) but I don't always get it.

Second, the show itself was very different. I realized I have no desire to be a rock star groupie...maybe just a groupie to indie bands! Looking at the two performances, and thinking about the sheer...I don't know humbleness of both the venue and the band at the APTBS show...that made the whole experience. Al's taunting and then pleased reaction to his fans going nuts and subsequently being beat down just brought out the worst in the rock star mentality. Morrissey does this as well, and it's disgusting. It's this power play over fans.

Basically, I'm all about the really really small venues and maybe about those bands that just haven't made it to the big time. I get REM fans' feelings now when REM started to get airplay. There's a part of me that wants APTBS to make it big but another part that just loves that I can go see them in some small club.

Overall Ministry is professional, slick, and quite good but the intimate feel that APTBS brings to a show is seriously lacking.


Daren said...

WHAT!!!! I still have a faint ringing in my ear. It was definitely a nostalgia trip but one worth taking. I agree with the whole big show/small show argument you pose here and as I'm sitting here watching a DVD of a Jesus Lizard show I'm wondering how a band like Ministry got so big when a band just as loud live (and much more energetic, interesting, disturbing, etc.) was relegated to the "side stage" so to say. Both bands are great in their own way and each have their place but there is always the difference in going to see a "show" and going to a show and feeling like you are a part of something kind of simmering under the surface. Ministry was definitely a show but The Jesus Lizard was an experience. That's not to say that I won't forget either one, I'll just remember them for different reasons. I had a great time, we'll have to do it again soon.

Horacio said...

daren, i agree with the show vs. experience thing... having said that i'm still jealous about seeing ministry live! Ginger, you owe me one.

d & g i was expecting both of you to have been part of a ministry mosh pit of death... so dissapointed!

i love your review and it almost makes me feel like i was there (your crush on APTBS is making you be a bit biased though), so ihaveto thank you for it.

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

Yes Daren! That's it. It's an experience not a show. And yes we do have to do it again soon.

H, MINISTRY WAS AWESOME. My crush (as you so quaintly put it) did not impact that opinion. And yeah, okay, I'd much rather fan girl for APTBS than for Uncle Al...what can I say.