With Stabbing Westward, Monster Magnet
and Bird 3
Tu. June 19, 2001 - SDSU
Open Air Theatre
Review by antiGUY
Chapter I: In the Beginning....
It was a perfect day to throw an outdoor
concert. The mild southern California summer had just began and the temperatures
hadn’t yet climbed above the 80’s, the sky was crystal clear and better
yet whoever put this lineup together know what the hell they were doing.
Being a virgin to the live Cult experience, it was with great anticipation
that I hoped into my Mustang, put down the top and headed out for the hundred-mile
drive south to the University of California, San Diego. I didn’t
mind the drive, I had the Cult’s latest CD "Beyond Good and Evil" to keep
me company. I did get some strange looks from other commuters, I guess
they found a long hair guy in a convertible rockin’ out humorous. What
ever…They don’t know what they are missing.
Chapter II: The Flight of Bird3
I got to the venue just in time to catch
Bird3 take the stage. This was an added bonus since I’ve been listening
to their debut CD constantly for the past couple of months. Lead vocalist/guitarist
Bird really lives a charmed life. This guy moved to L.A. from Chicago,
within six months he had teamed up with bassist Greg Coates and drummer
Michael Miley and landed a record deal. Their good fortune doesn’t stop
there, not only did they land an artist of the month slot at antiMUSIC,
their CD wasn’t even in stores a week before they got hooked up with two
major tours!(count that as three as they have just been added to the Warped
tour as this article goes to press -ed) It isn’t just a Midas touch; it
has to do with the music. These guys are seriously great where it counts;
the music. Bird is a gifted songwriter and he couldn’t have picked a better
team to help bring his music to the masses. Ok, they sound great on CD
but can they deliver live? I give you a big resounding, hell yeah!
During most shows the people who actually
get there early enough to catch the opening band usually choose to go get
a beer or check out the opposite sex instead of watching the band. As soon
as Bird was into the first chorus of their opening number "Research Man",
people started filtering down to their seats to see what the guy wearing
angel wings on stage was up to. At the end of the song the crowd cheered
and Bird smiling from ear to ear as he thanked the crowd for coming early.
They gave high-energy performances of several songs from their debut including
"Aircrisp", "Glow" and their current single "Mess". The crowd ate up every
second. Then suddenly during the encore, "Girl Next Door", Bird missed
a vocal queue, threw up his arms in frustration, walked to side of the
stage, grabbed a cigarette from a roadie then jumped down into the pit
and started messing with the security guard. Then he put his guitar over
the orchestra pit railing and gave the crowd an impromptu two or three-minute
guitar solo before he climbed back on stage and completed the song. I don’t
know if that whole thing was staged, if not, then he played off his screw
up like a master. One thing is for sure; Bird3 earned some new fans in
San Diego that night.
Chapter III: Stabbing Westward.. Not So Far Away from perfect.
By the time Bird3 left the stage it was
the California sky had turned an array of pinks and oranges providing a
perfect backdrop to an outdoor concert. Stabbing Westward took the stage
with an electrifying rendition of “Save Yourself”. Having never seen
this band live before I didn’t know what to expect; they easy proved to
be masters of the stage. Lead vocalist Christopher Hall seemed like a reincarnation
of Jim Morrison as he pranced about the stage, encouraging the crowd to
revel in the music. Derrek Hawkins provided the six-string magic to the
songs while bassist Jim Sellers joined
with drummer Andrew Kubiszewski in crafting the moving rhythms Stabbing
Westward is known for. When playing live Stabbing Westward go far beyond
simply delivering the studio tracks, the songs are played with a much deeper
intensity and harder rock edge than we have come to expect from their CD’s.
A perfect example is keyboardist/guitarist Walter Flakus who provides much
of the underpinning to the band's studio sound with his programming and
keyboards. I was surprised to see Walter spent most of the show wailing
at a guitar and entirely ignoring the keyboards. During the songs when
we would normally expect Walter’s keyboards or sampling
we were treated to some intense guitar playing. Where you might think that
this would take away from the songs, it actually took them to a whole new
level and that is exactly the reason people shell out their hard earned
dollars to see a band play live, otherwise they would be no better off
then simply sitting at home and listening to the CD’s.
After treating the crowd to “Save Yourself”
from their 1998
release “Darkest Days”, the band launched into “High”; the first song of
the night from their new self-titled CD. The new CD not only solidifies
Stabbing Westward’s rock n roll credentials, it also proved the idiots
(a.k.a. rock critics) wrong in the notion of writing these guys off as
a Nine Inch Nails knock off. While there are some similarities to the NIN
sound, overall Stabbing Westward’s songs go way beyond the styling of Trent
Reznor. You just have to take the time give them an honest listen.
There was no mistaking who was ruling the
stage that night as Christopher Hall led his music brigade through a few
more new tracks like “The Only Thing” and “Happy”.
Christopher showed us his humorous side by strapping on an acoustic guitar
and breaking into a few bars of John Denver’s “Country Roads”. He also
took time to joke with a concert goer who kept yelling, while holding up
a t-shirt with a pot leaf on it; “Smoke it if you got it.” Christopher
joked, “Get high now, go get some pizza and be back in time for the Cult”.
It wasn’t all fun and games, Stabbing Westward was there to rock and they
proved that by captivating the crowd with their new single “So Far Away”.
Old time fans got a special treat as the
band closed their set with an ultra heavy rendition of “Shame” from
their 1996 album, “Wither Blister Burn & Peel”. By the time they left
the stage the sun had fully set and they had set the stage for an intense
night of music. My only complaint, the set was too short, I know I wouldn’t
have been heart broken if Stabbing Westward swapped spots with Monster
Magnet in order to play more songs.
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Photos by Debbie Seagle. Copyright 2001 Groove
Quest Productions. May not be used without permission all rights reserved.