Atomic Bob goes to THE BIG 4 !!!
The best thing about being a musician is being able to play the music that you love. The next best thing would be to see all of your favorite bands playing on the same day and on the same stage. I got to do that last weekend and it was at a spectacular event in Indio, CA called “the BIG 4 concert” featuring Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax.
To understand why this venue was such a great time I can say that of all these bands, Metallica has been my main influence since I discovered music. This dates back to 1994 off the release of Metallica – Live Shit: Binge and Purge. The album was a box set that featured 3 discs, 3 VHS, a scary guy stencil, a backstage snake pit pass, and a 72 page photo book with all the missives and letters that were going on at the time all encased in a Metallica Tour Box. The videos were based out of their performances in San Diego and Seattle and the CDs were from a 2 or 3 day event in Mexico City. You might just think I was a fan of Metallica, but it’s always been about a little more than that.
My first real guitar happend to be a Kirk Hammett ESP KH2 Skully model with the skull and crossbone pearl inlays, dual EMG pickups, Original Floyd Rose Tremolo, reverse Jackson Dinky headstock. And it was from the second I played the first A chord in the intro to “Sad But True” that I really understood what rock was supposed to sound like. Being a guitar player is a bit different than being a fan, in my opinion anyway. The way the ear develops or the physical limitations that the body has to go through to understand a riff or a melody best describes why I like the music. Maybe it’s a bit defiant, a bit angry, a bit faster and more agressive… but the music has always been an outlet. A common idea that people that don’t play guitar would say based on some naive assumption is that the guitar makes me happy. The expression never transfered for me how someone elses opinion of what I do can somehow translate into being an emotion of me being called “happy”. Does that mean I’m not happy? No, it means I’m a guitar player and I like playing Metallica riffs. Why, cause their heavy and nothing makes a solid point better than a dark heavy riff played at mock speed.
I cut my teeth as a guitar player through Metallica and started off with the epic track “Seek & Destroy” moving straight from the riffs of Kill ‘Em All, then Ride the Lightning, to Master of Puppets, through …And Justice For All, and the Black Album. After reading the story of Metallica and their history with anthrax and Megadeth I quickly got into those two bands as well.
My first Antrax album was either the Sound of White Noise or Attack of the Killer B’s. I know all the songs off both those albums like the back of my hand. Something about growing up in Alaska and having long rides everywhere really helps things sink in a lot better I believe. The Sound of White Noise is still my favorite album beginning to end. It’s just so heavy. What’s ironic about the album is that I had come to California as a songwriter and had written a few riffs while I lived in New Mexico that I ended up keeping as the first couple tracks I would end up releasing on my debut CD Skate, Rock, Die!! and it wasn’t until I listened to The Sound two years after I recorded the title track that I realized one of my riffs was so melodically similar. I think it’s great that that influence was able to transfer on such a subconcious level.
The same thing happend with Slayer in 2007. I had read an ad in The Reader that said Kerry King would be doing a clinic at Guitar Trader. I always liked Slayer’s image and had an experience in their mosh pit when they toured with Marilyn Manson the previous year. Now I’ve been in mosh pits in and out for 15 years and had never experienced anything that cool. It was right off their album prior to World Painted Blood and I was continually liking this band more and more yet I had never bothered to learn any of their riffs. Why? My general attitude toward music revolved around riffs that made sense. Anytime that I had ever attempted a Slayer riff I just didn’t understand it. That included the guitar solos as well. Metallica, or Kirk Hammett for that matter always took a methodical approach to his solo playing in a context that I could understand. With Jeff and Kerry it seemed a bit off the cuff and the chaos really took off in the guitar solos. Needless to say, I needed the clinic.
The Kerry King clinic was awesome. I knew for 2 weeks before hand that I was going to go. I unfortunately didn’t know what I was supposed to know or what was going to be taking place so I didn’t have anything preparred other than a good 15-20 minutes of playing their songs by ear to get psyched up. There were 4 or 5 songs that I figured out in a pretty short amount of time and had spent the entire morning using my hand gripper just to remain pumped up. I went out there with my friend April and her boyfriend and it was just a fun experience from the preshow all the way until we got there. I think April brought him a brew from her homestate of Oregon just to share with him. I on the other hand brought out my guitar and a CD Digipak from the same album they toured on during the Manson gig the year prior. Kerry came out and started talking and getting the crowd to give him a Q&A on all sorts of things Slayer. After all the talking he invited people up to start playing with him. I was ready and after about 6 or 7 people went up they were all playing the songs that I had already practiced. I think the 7th guy went up there and played “Angel of Death” or something and I thought I knew the next part. I raised my hand and Kerry called me up. This is why I’m a huge Slayer fan today… I told Kerry I was going to play the next part and not only did I not play “Angel of Death”, but I busted right into “Raining Blood” which happend to be the song Kerry told everyone to hold off on until the end. To save myself, I didn’t actually know I was playing “Raining Blood”. So I took off in to the riff, and I’ll admit I have a really well developed ear but as soon as I went into the gallup piece I knew the guitar was in an alternate tuning than I had played it at home. This forced me to shift the entire intro into 1st position rather than 2nd position and really sounded off. Kerry let me know the song I was playing was in 2nd position and played the whole intro and main riff with the 2nd shred piece right after. I’d never seen anything so fast! I have been a much bigger fan ever since. Turns out their riffs make just as much sense as Metallica’s and the solos are just as fun if not more exciting that a lot of Kirk’s melodic work.
Even more cool, last week I met Megadeth (Chris and their bassist Dave) out at Guitar Trader as I did Kerry King a few years back. I didn’t get on stage or jam with them this time around, but I got to see in close detail as to how Chris attempts to recreate the guitar solos of previous Megadeth guitar players such as Marty Friedman of whom I saw play up in Soldotna, Alaska at the Sports Arena. They started off w/ “Sympony of Destruction” and ended with “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due”. I saw one of my students there after the show and that was pretty nice gettin’ recognized at such an event.
The Big 4 show in Indio started off in traffic as arriving in the desert there were two ways to get into Coachella. Had I arrived 2 hours earlier there was plenty of tailgating going on. The line in wasn’t that bad, they were letting girls go in first which seemed like a strange way to break up couples before the show even began but I wasn’t fazed. After arriving I felt it would be a good idea to pick up a couple shirts at the merch booth to support the bands that I came to see. The line was a bit long and Anthrax started immediately as scheduled while I was still in line.
Rushing onto the fairgrounds was a bit liberating. There was still enough room to play a game of soccer (had I brought a soccer ball) all the way up to the first half of the green. Anthrax played a great show and although I really like the band and have a huge amount of respect for them, they didn’t play one song off of The Sound of White Noise. I didn’t expect them to, I went and saw the Big 4 Live on the Sonosphere when they played in Europe and did the broadcast live and projected it to the theaters here. I just feel that the band still had a lot of important things to say on that album due to the amount of posers that it was aimed at at the time and still being relevant today. Plus, they were just great songs if I haven’t mentioned that yet.
Megadeth came on second and by this time I just remember my forehead was starting to crisp due to the intense heat. I heard from a lot of people, primarily on the radio that Megadeth put on the best show. I think a lot of this is because Megadeth has been the underdog their entire career and people like to go for that. When it’s easy to look at another band who has done a lot more with their career and then you look at the other band who stayed true to their roots it becomes more and more “Wow, Megadeth really is the best band here. Look at that guitar solo!” And not to stray too far from the subject of the Big 4, but I just picked up a signed copy of Dave Mustaine’s new book, and after reading everything that he had to go through just to remain as successful as he is was really inspiring. But the band did come before Slayer and really… nothing is heavier than Slayer.
Now, although I said that Slayer was the heaviest band there that doesn’t mean that Metallica didn’t put on the best show. Metallica by far had the best show and well, I knew and could sing along to all of their songs. Like everyone else at the show, I was blown away. They played “Orion” on stage for the first time since the Cliff Burton days. The pyro at the peak of the show was awesome. James had all the members from the other Big 4 bands come on and play “Am I Evil” at the end. I thought it was cool how they didn’t do this in New York and did the Motorhead instead and in another venue play the Misfits. It was an awesome day all around and it was nice to see how the bands had set aside all the b.s. and all rock out on the same stage.
There has been a lot of stuff printed up and video footage made since this show that is really worth checking out. Guitar World dedicated an entire issue to it. Revolver came out with the Big 4 trading cards. And I’m sure, like me… everyone got a ton of pictures. Thanks for checkin’ out my blog and I’ll see you all next time!