Monday, March 25, 2013

KMFDM, Mr. Smalls, Millvale/Pittsburgh, March 22, 2013

Ok, so in my last post I discussed KMFDM briefly while stressing the importance of teaching children to be creative.  I had mentioned how I wouldn’t go on and on about KMFDM, but after experiencing that show Friday night, I can’t resist.

To begin, the show was in Millvale at Mr. Smalls, by all appearances an old, converted church.  We had stayed at the Hyatt on the North Shore of Pittsburgh between Heinz Field and PNC Park, and the drive to Millvale literally took ten minutes.  The show “started” at 7 PM, but I didn’t really care much to see the opening acts, so we left a little after 7.  I figured it would take a half hour to get there, a half hour to park, etc.  I thought wrong.  We were in the doors at 7:38 PM, and the first act hadn’t even started yet, much to my chagrin.

I did not care for Mr. Smalls.  First off, they did not allow readmission.  In other words, if you left, you were done.  I can understand this policy to some extent, except the place was small and crowded, and there was absolutely no place to go to sit or get some fresh air.  Not cool, Mr. Smalls.  I've NEVER been to a show that didn't have at least limited seating in a bar area or whatever.  Second, they had the vast floor divided roughly in the middle by a plywood barrier to allow for drinking in the back.  You had to be 21 to get back there, although they carded everyone at the door and gave out wristbands, so that was nice not having to show your ID each time you passed the guard at the entrance to the barrier.  I assume the no readmission policy was due in part to alcohol sales, but the plywood barrier was annoying, and there were so many people in the drinking section that you literally couldn’t get to the bar for a beer.  So strike number two.

Strike number three came when I had to pee.  The bathroom had four urinals, each separated by low plywood dividers (what’s with the plywood, Mr. Smalls??), but then to the right there was simply a CURTAIN separating the urinals from the only toilet in the men’s bathroom.  I happened to pick a time to urinate when someone was having some severe digestive distress of some sort, which was VERY unpleasant.  Even a swinging door would have been nice.  What, you can’t afford a DOOR to a bathroom stall?!?  I’m so glad my wife didn’t have to use their facilities—I can only imagine how bad the women’s bathroom would be there.

We paid $9 for two beers, $6 for two Jagerbombs, and $6.50 for a soft pretzel with cheese and a hot dog.  Not bad for the food or liquor, but really?  $9 for 2 beers?  I just don’t get venues and how much they charge for concessions.  They didn’t even search our persons (felt the bottom of my wife’s purse, that’s it) when we went in, and while I’m not a very big drinker anyway, I could see myself sneaking a beer or two in to avoid paying $9 for any future shows.

The first act was Reinforced from Pittsburgh.  It was basically a nerdy-looking black guy (like the character of Theo in Die Hard) playing keyboards and a white guy from a late-80’s metal band screaming lyrics.  One song was written about the lead singer’s battle with cancer, which was inspiring, but yet the lyrics were so literal that it was almost comical.  They actually went “The day I got the call, I lost it all, I had a disease inside of me.  I had a malignancy.  Malignancy.  Malignancy."  They weren't awful, but they definitely need another level--and some better songwriting.

The next band up, we thought, was Legion Within.  When they started playing though, I knew they were not.  Two guys playing tribal drums and keyboards with a ferocious intensity and an industrial sound, they revealed themselves to be Chant out of Austin, TX.  I have to say they were a huge surprise in terms of how well they sounded, and I really enjoyed them.  Check them out if you are into industrial music or percussions in general—cool stuff.

The third band was Legion Within.  They were on the playbill, and when they came out, I immediately wanted them to be over.  Their music isn’t all that bad, but the lead signer’s voice is nasally and whiny, and he looks like a rat when he sings.  KMFDM does a lot of collaborating with other bands, and I really REALLY hope they don’t collaborate with that guy.  And the rest of the audience felt the same way, I think, because I noticed several inappropriate gestures and even a few boos echoing throughout the crowd toward the end of their set.

Because of the extra band, KMFDM did not take the stage until almost 10 PM.  Had I known they weren’t going to come on until then, I would have left our hotel at probably 9:30.  My legs and back were hurting from standing so long (again, no place to sit and no readmission so we couldn’t even go out to the car to relax).  By the time they took the stage though, the place was insanely packed.  I was getting a little concerned because our relatively open space around us filled up quickly, and I knew we were on the wrong side of the plywood partition—the side where the mosh pit would open up, pushing everyone even further back.

KMFDM came out with absolute ferocity.  I tried to remember all the songs they played and created a playlist on my phone.  They started with DIY, which was the ringtone on my phone for YEARS.  In no particular order they performed Kunst, Ave Maria, Pussy Riot, Animal Out (favorite song on the new album), Krank, Rebels in Kontrol, Lynchmob, Amnesia, Free Your Hate, Hau Ruck, WWIII, and Son of a Gun.  They also might have performed Attak/Reload, but I can’t quite remember exactly.  They took two intermissions, and when they returned from the first one (after everyone chanted “KMFDM sucks!” for several minutes), they played Sucks, Anarchy with the lead singer of Legion Within filling in for Tim Skold’s vocals, and I<3 Not off the new album.  I must be a huge KMFDM fan (obviously, considering I’m blogging about the entire show), but I<3 Not was actually sung to the music of Don’t Blow Your Top, which was just so entirely mind/top-blowing that I’m still thinking about it three days later.

They then had their second “intermission” so to speak, and when they returned, they performed Megalomaniac.  My wife was hoping to hear that one, and she got her wish.  When that song ended and the next one began, for a brief moment I think I actually feared for my life.  The last song of the night was, you guessed it,  A Drug Against War.

I’ve never seen a pit so aggressive in my entire life, and while for most of the show the pit was a good twenty feet in front of us, during A Drug Against War it opened up to the point where we were only six feet away.  The guy in front of me literally had his back up against my chest, and my back was up against this stupid plywood divider.  There were a few “techno-Vikings” in the pit as well—guys 6’6” and 350+lbs just slamming into one another, and so it was definitely scary.  Luckily it only lasted one song and then they were done, because claustrophobia was beginning to kick in!

At some point prior to KMFDM taking the stage, we had these two guys come up and stand near us.  One was taller, and he stood right in front of me but had the decency to ask if he was in my way.  He was, but it’s not like he could have really gone anywhere else, so I just shook my head.  His friend was shorter—and disturbingly agitated.  I noticed them arguing at one point about some guy back in the bar area, and he seemed OK then.  A bit angry, but OK.  However, he must have taken Ecstasy or some other drug at some point, because as soon as KMFDM came on, he started dancing and throwing his fists out like he was punching the air.  Think Elaine from Seinfeld only with punches.  He got into an argument with a skinny kid at one point, and I thought he was going to start a physical altercation, and the skinny kid’s girlfriend even got involved and was acting like he was going to punch her.  The tall guy he was with broke it up, but then that guy seemed annoyed and left this little aggressive guy by himself—standing directly beside me, dancing, punching the air.  During one of KMFDM’s faster songs, a couple of young girls in front of us started moshing a bit, and he shoved them away numerous times, each shove harder than the next.  At one point I thought we’d have to call security over to drag this guy out, but he showed me all sorts of respect (which had my wife laughing).  Every time he’d bump into me, he’d say, “Oh, sorry, man.  I’m sorry.  I'm so sorry, man.”  Of course, I had probably six inches and a hundred-twenty pounds on him, and his anger seemed to be only directed at skinny goth kids and women.  A few songs into the KMFDM set, his weird girlfriend/wife came over and started dancing with him, and several times she brushed up against me in a way that began to make me feel a little uncomfortable.  I just ignored her for a while, but then I actually turned to the side, away from her, and she thankfully got the message.  When people are dancing and singing and pumping their fists to loud, fast, aggressive music like that, you are going to be jostling against one another whether you like it or not.  But man, that’s one area where being a big guy can come in handy.  Nobody messes with the big guy at shows.

Being an industrial band, KMFDM’s performance sounded so much like the album songs that the music was just unreal.  During Pussy Riot¸Sascha did not sing some of the lyrics, but other than that they did not fail to impress.  I’ve always said that the best performance I’ve ever seen was KMFDM in 1997, but the 2013 act may have tied that one.

As we were leaving, there was a guy with a flashlight on the stage shining down on all of us as we exited the ONLY door open for us to leave.  I watched him shine it on each and every person, and when I got close I asked him what he was looking for.  He smiled and said, “Just alcohol,” which made sense afterwards, but maybe they needed a different exit for people in the bar and people on the dance floor?  Again, I wasn’t impressed with Mr. Smalls AT ALL, and I won’t be too inclined to go back unless it’s a band I REALLY like.

As we walked down the stairs out front, I saw Steve White, KMFDM’s guitarist, stroll by right in front of us.  They had their tour bus parked right out front, and as he stopped to unlock the door of the bus, I walked past him and said, “Great show, man.  You guys were awesome!”  He turned and looked at me, nodded, and said, “Thanks, man!”  So freakin’ cool.  I talked to Steve White!!  If only it had been Lucia or Kapt’n K himself…

So that was my KMFDM experience.  Great times, for sure.  If they come to PA again, I think I’ll try to catch them maybe in Philly rather than in Pittsburgh, unless of course they go someplace other than Mr. Smalls.  But in all I’d say their performance was beyond incredible.

Were you there?  If so, what did you think?

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