a vague collection of daily struggles, hourly arguments, minute concerns, and secondary impulses.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

let him eat a napkin, it's Christmas.

(This post finally appeared on May 22.)

I am still trying to find the sweet spot between dictating an event as it lingers fresh in my mind -- or in today's case, rings loudly in my ears -- and giving my description a chance to brew to fruition. Too close to the former, and I leave out valuable details, which leads to multiple posts about a single event that probably was not that interesting to begin with ... but too far gone to the latter, and I am left to simply spit forth a vague description full of sentence fragments.

This wordy meandering leaves us with Type O Negative, Irving Plaza, May 7, 2007, with Celtic Frost opening. Three white suburban kids, each aged at least 28 years, but none as much as 30. We met at Rick's house, ate filth, played music, until Chris announced that, yes, now he officially had to leave to make it to the city in time for his union election. He first announced eight o'clock, which was later relaxed to nine. After his vote was cast, he announced the deadline was ten the whole time; apparently his knows Rick's sloth far better than I do.

After a stop at the 7-11 -- "smokes and road beers; be quick" -- we settled into the 80mph minimum of the Parkway. Rick's iPod made its first appearance in the living room, that is, until it skipped to a Madonna song that "came with the iPod" (as well as much ridicule). As we rode and skipped songs -- especially the band of honor -- I mentioned that though my love for Type O Negative was great, it was pretty compartmentalized, Ziploc'd away for use only at certain obscure times throughout the years. (And this was a band that most people already have in check; whether you go to a show in October, August, or January, fans are dressed for Halloween.)

Rick took the mic and mentioned how after James Brown died, he decided he needed to own some new music. I vomited with excitement and moved on to tell about the renewed love for Sly & the Family Stone. The branching into Damian Marley albums. Suicidal Tendencies. The Mars Volta. As I babbled (and nearly quoted myself), the next song to come on was nothing short of "Welcome to Jamrock". My foot planted into the gas and I nearly steered the car into a guardrail, barely missing the eye of a State Trooper lodged in the foliage near the Arts Center. My heart raced and my mind was giddy; these hands are shaking right now as I relay this bizarre coincidence. (A second playing was immediately in order.)

The drive slunk into typical Turnpike garbage: out-of-state cars clogging the useful lanes, missed exits, unfortunately late phone calls asking for directions and parking advice. A quick PATH trip later and we were walking around Union Square, looking for Chris' voting location and keeping an eye out for filthy street vendor fare. A few beers, kabobs, hot dogs, pretzels, cold sodas, and Celtic Frost songs later, we were drenched in "The Chicken Dance" over the Irving Plaza PA. And by over, I mean over, and over, and over again; a good twenty minutes of my life was lost to the drivel. The noise gave way to the Kazakhstan "national anthem" from Borat, and eventually, the band.

One word to describe this outfit, nearly 20 years after they hit the scene? Tired. Johnny still has genuine optimism and charisma, but the rest of the four seem to be going through the motions. I first saw the band at an amphitheater, and a leaner, younger Peter had far more stage presence from 100 rows away than he did here, closer, older, bulkier. He drank freely from a Jack Daniels bottle then; red wine was the choice now. It could have been motor oil for all I cared; it seemed to affect his memory -- Kenny sang more parts than usual -- and his voice -- mumbled lyrics and garbled vocals came in between sips.

Perched behind this muffled madness was Josh. You know, "the nice one". Seriously, this guy may be a teddy bear in real life -- judging from limited exposure through DVDs and stories from people close to the band, he seems to be just that -- but he has to be one of the scariest looking people on this fucking planet. Already sporting full sleeves, every concert makes me wonder if he somehow managed to find blank skin for yet another tattoo. No doubt he has looked into getting a few more arms attached to his spindly body -- not for playing keyboards, but for fresh ink. Long known (har har) for his giant head of hair, he now has a thick Karl Marx beard to go with.

After starting with Borat and an ears-bleeding rendition of "The Magical Mystery Tour", the pulled settled in and started pulling liberally from their early catalog. "Der Untermensch", "Xero Tolerance", "Kill You Tonight", and "Hey Pete" were offered. Bloody Kisses saw the usual attention paid by "Christian Woman", "We Hate Everyone", and "Black No. 1", which closed the night. October Rust was represented only by "Love You To Death", making this my first concert without "Cinnamon Girl". World Coming Down was ignored completely, keeping in line with Steele's strong feelings about that album and the era of his life it represents. Their set was rounded out by "Anasthesia" from Life is Killing Me and two songs, "The Profits of Doom" and "These Three Things", from their latest album Dead Again.

Before the last encore, roadies and hangers-on scrambled across the stage, setting up stacks of toilet paper. A few albums ago, I saw this same mess unfold at the Trocadero; a relentless array of catch and release was on the way. Johnny managed to hit me right in the forehead, before the guy in front me returned the favor with a shot directly off the drummer's nose.

Between 1947 and 1953, the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers met in the World Series four times -- 1947, 1949, 1952, and 1953 -- with the Yankees winning all four. They met again in 1955, and bettors the world over decided to stick with the Yankees; trouble is, Brooklyn finally won, four games to three. Almost fifty years later, I approached this concert much the same; after years of (relatively) radio friendly songs, concert staples, and boring stage talk, I was ready for an exciting but trite concert from Type O Negative. They surprised me by pulling back to the days of Brooklyn and really belting out the older, forgotten catalog pieces.

What does this bode for the future? The Yankees and Dodgers met again the very next year. The 1956 World Series was business as usual as the Yankees won in seven, and the next year the Dodgers moved out west. Rumors of breakup or retirement have swirled around this band for their past two or three albums. I wish I was the same angry kid in high school who bought Bloody Kisses in the mall, but I am not; these men have gone through relationships, marriages, children, tours, diseases, war, famine, and death. Can you expect to live past forty or fifty years old with a deep, powerful penchant for pain and negativity?

When compatriots Life of Agony released Ugly, their mature, albeit milder follow-up to the self-explanatory debut River Runs Red, singer Keith Caputo once explained that he had changed quite a bit in the few years between albums. RRR was recorded at the tail end of high school, with the world still new and unforgiving. A bit of touring and world-beating had mellowed him out, and Ugly, while still powerful, had a different feel.

Besides, when a band warns you about being a product vehicle, as all previous Type O Negative albums have alluded if not stated, then we have no right to complain. The trouble is, just when I was getting used to being a consumer -- I used to tell people that Type O were a joke, and I get the joke -- they reminded me why I started listening in the first place.


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