So as far as shows go, this one was pretty epic. Even the dreary torrential rains and the cold San Francisco weather couldn't keep the atmosphere down around the DNA Lounge where an almost repeat lineup from an earlier in the year show was to take place.
Tonight on the bill is Epica, Scar Symmetry, The Agonist and Canadian favorites, Blackguard. The night started off kinda dodgy; to be honest I almost turned around when I hit a quarter of the way to San Francisco; the rain was coming down in buckets and I was afraid my truck would end up hydroplaning into a wall or something, but thanks to some previous communication with Blackguard's front-man Paul Ablaze and my setting up an interview for That Devil Music, I couldn't pass this opportunity up. I also had a meet and greet experience with Epica, and you just don't pass that up either.
I got there early, made my initial contact with Blackguard's bass player Étienne Mailloux who kindly passed on my arrival to Paul. While waiting, DNA staff placed a sign on the walls reporting that tonight's show will be recorded and streamed live on their website. I called Rob Liz, informed him of said awesomeness and later learned that he streamed it on That Devil Music. Looks like we'll be doing that more as time goes on.
After getting searched, through the doors and out of the rain, we were lined up to get our autographed poster (and my other items) and were able to chat the few minutes at the table. The line then circled around again and we then waited to get our pic taken with the whole band (something I have yet to accomplish in the previous meetings with them - until tonight). On a quick note, though I have two or three Epica shirts, I had decided to wear my Blackguard (to show my support) and Mark had joked to me as I walked up for my picture that I was wearing the wrong shirt. I know he was just messing around, but as far as I'm concerned, I was in exactly what I needed to be in..
So, being true to his word Paul came and grabbed me and we went up to the VIP area for our interview. He was truly thankful to have us do the interview and little did I know he was very talkative (which was unexpected and awesome). I guess I expected a metal musician to be of fewer words but I was pleasantly wrong. We talked about the beginnings of Blackguard, the comings and goings of band members (including the recent departure of keyboardist Jonathan Lefrancois-Leduc, old labels and their new partnership with Victory Records and a little bit of this an that. You can see part one and part two here:
For part two, I had to cut it short. There was a "DJ" there, and although he played some great music, I wish he wouldn't have started until I had a chance to finish my interview. You can still hear our conversation well enough though. Oh, and by the way: Eff you, Rob Metal.
All in all it was a great experience. Even though they tour non stop they still feel that they might not be as well known as they would like to be, hopefully with the new label behind them and a new Album (entitled "Firefight" due out in March 2011) on the way that will change. They all certainly have the drive and the passion to climb up the ranks of metal's finest.
After the interview (again, thanks Paul!) I headed over to the Merch tables which was packed with some great stuff (if only I could have registered there for Christmas gifts). I chatted with Terry Roadcase (off camera) and made a couple purchases. They are all dedicated all all know their roles. I always see Terry at the table, chatting with fans and selling their goods. They are all passionate about getting their names and music out there, as well they should.
After getting my spot at the right side of the front of the stage (which apparently was the spot to be because everyone who was watching the show online could see me clear as day (though I'm not so sure that's a good thing). And I waited patiently for Blackguard.
They never seem to disappoint. This is the third or fourth time seeing them and they always a packed with energy and give the crowd back the energy they're being given, which was a lot. They treated us to the greats from Profugus Mortis, This Rounds On Me, Allegiance, The Sword and also we were given a sneak peek to the upcoming release. It sounded amazing and I can't wait to get my greedy paws on it. As a treat during one of their numbers a smoking hot blue-haired pixie came out on stage and sang along, well more like screamed along. I wouldn't know her identity until the next band's performance.
Next up is Montreal's The Agonist. I can honestly say I know nothing of them though as their set went on I had realized too little too late that their lead vocalist and the blue haired angel who popped in on Blackguard's set was familiar to me. I actually read an about Alissa White-Gluz in the pages of Revolver Magazine in their "Hottest Women in Hard Rock" pictorial. Yeah, great choice Revolver.
So from my perspective, standing that close to the stage with ear protection, I really enjoyed their set. In talking to people who watched the show online they weren't too impressed with her performance but I also heard that there were issues in the streaming of it. I'll have to check out their music in the privacy of my own iPod to make a final decision on them. What I could tell from the show is that Alyssa is freakin' gorgeous but appears to be kinda over dealing with fans, dunno why, just an impression I got watching her body language and demeanor while she worked their merch table. I kept trying to get a good shot of her on my camera but she never really moved around the stage like Paul or even Simone or the guys from Scar Symmetry and her guitarist kept cock-blocking my camera (most pics attempted of her ended up with knees and crotch - not at all what I had hoped for).
Still I was entertained by their set which was just a touch longer than Blackguards. The band, for the most part seemed to love being on stage and playing music and it showed in their set.
Next up was Scar Symmetry who I've seen before with Epica in February at a venue down the street. That time I was only there to see Epica and Blackguard and couldn't care less about Bands I've never heard before. This time however, I made it a point to really pay attention to their performance. I'm glad I did. I really enjoyed the two vocalists and how they both seemed to blend really well together. Again, not really knowing much about them it seemed that they had a clean vocalist and a growly vocalist though at times I'm pretty sure I saw them both do clean vocals and some great harmonizing. I think I need to give their studio stuff more scrutiny because I think they put on a really good show, even missing a guitarist who was there but apparently broke his arm at a previous venue. They mentioned something about karate kicks and failed landings. After getting a good look look at the guy (who looked a LOT like Kerry King), I could see why the karate kicks wouldn't be a good idea.
Last but certainly not least was Epica. What can I say, they're amazing; though now I realize as I think about last night that this is truly the first time I've seen them live. My first time to see them, Simone Simmons was ill and they had Amanda Sommerville cover her spot. She really did an amazing job and I'm very thankful for her being there so they could keep the date. The second time I saw them, earlier this year in fact, Coen (their keyboardist) was getting married and so they had asked Kamelot's pianist Oliver Palotai to cover for him. He, of course, did a fantastic job and it was amazing to meet him and see him work his magic live. This time, however, it was the full Epica experience.
They were amazing. It was everything I had hoped for. Simone sounded great, the band was awesome (though it appeared that they had a couple technical difficulties here and there). All in all, they lived up to their standards and gave us all the Epica package we all spent our money to get. You put on an Epica live CD, that's what you get: Perfection.
Here's a pic with me and Epica
Here's a pic with me and Alyssa from The Agonist
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