Today we honor the memory of Chris Cornell with the Rock File’s review of Soundgarden live in 2013.
January 23, 2013
New York City
I remember seeing Soundgarden on June 16, 1994 at the New York State Armory on a sweltering day when there was no air-conditioning, no beer, and people were taking off their shirts, even the girls.
And here are some thoughts on seeing Soundgarden live nineteen years later…
How utterly unchanged the voice of Chris Cornell is, who has seemingly lost none of the powerrage and range of that purely singular banshee-howl of his. And that image of Cornell really leaning into—stomping even—that molten riff towards the end of “Rusty Cage,” and isn’t that one of the most killer riffs you’ve ever heard? And how pleased Cornell looks to be leading this great American band once again and what a truly colossal body of work this band is rediscovering together and sharing with an adoring crowd.
Man, it’s fucking freezing out there.
And why is Kim Thayil not considered one of the great electric wizards of his generation? Or maybe he is. And we don’t get to see and hear nearly enough of this somewhat strange and quiet sage who is as inventive and quirky and esoteric on his instrument as say, Larry LaLonde, and if only Thayil was out there making more music with like a bunch of electric sitarists or something like that. And that image of Thayil floating across the stage like the lost shadows of time…
That’s a pretty big plastic cup of Jack Daniels, isn’t it?
And how Matt Cameron on drums is kind of an anomaly because he looks like such a nice young boy of maybe seventeen but he’s one hard-hitting mofo who has benefited greatly from joining Pearl Jam because he’s been playing pretty consistently since the demise of Soundgarden all those years ago. And this most certainly is the smallest venue he’s played in a very long time because doesn’t Pearl Jam own like the other half of the globe that U2 hasn’t paid for in full? And Cameron is certainly a better drummer in this band as the music is way more challenging and interesting and he’s smiling throughout knowing full well he’s the propeller of this very noisy band, and when drummers get to play more demanding music it makes it better for everybody involved apparently. And that image of Cameron rocking harder than he does with that other band.
The guy behind me keeps saying I’m backing up into his shit but I say something like “if you wanted to stay still, you should’ve gotten a seat in the old fuck section” or “you know the Earth is constantly moving on its own axis so maybe you should just hold the fuck on,” but then of course it’s in and out of my own personal mind riot in a matter of like seconds because Soundgarden is making this asshole utterly obsolete.
And that image of Ben Shepherd standing robot-still with a look of pure evil dread on his face.
And what’s up with Shepherd anyway?
Which makes me consider the nature of Soundgarden itself, a bunch of hard-rocking avant-gardists playing with noise and feedback and unlucky time signatures. It kind of makes you wonder if they’re just trying to like fuck with you this whole time. And of course this ultimately leads one to consider where this band fits in the long and unfolding story of heavy music and what exactly would you call Soundgarden then? There are hints of pre-eighties metal, seventies hard-rock, doom, gloom, sludge and, can we even use the term grunge in this new century without getting slapped in the face? Or maybe Soundgarden occupies their own space-time thing, which of course you know they do.
Weren’t we up in the balcony for that Pixies show several years ago?
And sometimes this music is so dense and layered you feel like you’re in the middle of a very long and ridiculously fucked-up passage in Wittgenstein’s Mistress or even some philosophical treatise on the nature of god and love and suicide and the like, but aren’t those all the same things at the end of the day?
That Badmotorfinger graphic is still super fucking cool.
And of course there’s the impossibly long setlist that clocks in at an utterly unhinged two point five hours of music which really is just meant to push you to an edge that you never thought you’d have to face, at least not tonight. It’s like enduring the sight of a thousand Francis Bacon paintings in one sitting and realizing there’s just as much beauty as violence contained in that great master’s vision and wondering how Soundgarden makes you feel the exact same thing and what that says about humanity and hope and existing outside your own mind riot, so to speak.
And so at this moment I’m not even gonna go into the whole people with cell phones ignoring this beautiful live music experience and instead opting for a life spent on a fucking handheld geek box.
So back to my own mind riot…
Searching with My Good Eye Closed
Live to Rise
Been Away Too Long
Blow Up the Outside World
By Crooked Steps
Blood on the Valley Floor
Black Hole Sun
The Day I Tried to Live
4th of July
The Atomic Bitchwax October 5, 2016 Gold Sounds Bar Bushwick, Brooklyn
This week, from Rock File editor Evil Kel, we get a trench warefare view of catching The Atomic Bitchwax in Brooklyn amid a clusterfuck of MTA problems. Thank god there was bitchin’ music, Turkish beer, and Punjabi food along the way.
We’re out in Bushwick, deep in the heart of old Brooklyn, to see The Atomic Bitchwax play live again, after catching a scorching set at St. Vitus in 2014.
They did not disappoint. The set was short, but we felt every note vibrating through our bodies. Cool new venue Gold Sounds Bar sported a slightly larger crowd and we were all in.
Getting there by train was another story…
Cool Steve arrives from PA and immediately hits the Doaba Deli on Columbus Ave, which serves up the best damn Punjabi food in town. We eat in Central Park before heading over to the watch tower where we down a mixture of green and red shishito peppers with an Efes Pilsen Turkish beer. We depart to the Cathedral Parkway station where we wait endlessly to ride the Gravy Train or the Crazy Clown C train. At Penn Station we’re informed of delays ahead in the form of “Police Investigation at West 4th Street” and the conductor barks orders to leave the local Clown train and take the 8th Avenue Express, which we do and wave goodbye to the Crazy Clown local, only to see it leave without us.
A New York Moment in a New York Minute.
We somehow make it to the 14th street L, it’s rush hour, the train is jammed with angry New Yorkers trying to make their way home after a long day at the slog and grind, and the L is too plagued with delays to go anywhere. Meanwhile, I get a text from Joe Popp telling me which station to get off if the train ever makes it to Brooklyn. Joe’s commuting from another part of Brooklyn, which has a different time zone, its own climate, rainy season, and what not. When he arrived at the Metropolitan station earlier, the L train wasn’t running in either direction. It was like, no dice no way. He gives up on the L at Metropolitan Ave, walks a mile and half to the Lantern Hall, and meets us for beers and some plates of deep fried calamari and sweet potato fries.
We find our way to Gold Sounds Bar at 44 Wilson Avenue, where Popp knows a guy from the opening band; they’re fun live, great energy, having a blast on stage. I’ll definitely support these guys again. The next band is just ok, their bassist isn’t playing anything that’s moving me. The third band was, well, as Steve put it, just a bunch of posers dressed in flashy clothes.
We leave the venue for a change of speed and pace and hit The Little Whiskey for beers and get back to Gold Sounds just in time for The Atomic Bitchwax. They open up with a sick cover of “In the Flesh” that just magically blends into one of their tunes. We wish the bunch of posers dressed in flashy clothes had stayed to watch how a real band plays their instruments, and we’re provided with some much-needed comedy by the members of the Bitchwax. The whole show is tremendous, I take a handful of pictures, but it’s you gotta be here to believe it and the essence of the whole deal is for the lucky ones in the audience. At the end of the set, the band is allowed one more song, but they play two, starting with “Pigs on the Wing (Part One)” and slip perfectly into “Pigs (Three Different Ones).”
A fitting end to a short but vibrant set.
We walk out of Gold Sounds triumphantly, say goodbye to Popp, who’s got a longer way home than we do, and we just hope the L train problems are a thing of the past. Cool Steve and I hop a cab and head back to Gotham, but more precisely to ground zero – the Doaba Deli. We grab a couple of orders of Samosa Chaat to go and some other food goodness for Stella and Scarlett. We hit Bob’s Your Uncle for the all important night cap. Two Coronas go very nicely with the samosa chaats, and some local personality buys the whole bar a round of whiskey shots. That’s not an offer one turns down, so we toast to the Bitchwax and getting to hang with Joe Popp.
Just before the night ends, I realize Oh shit, I think I’ve lost my credit card in Bushwick. I try calling Gold Sounds but the phone just rings and rings and there’s no one home, so I cancel the card right away and I’m assured I’ll have a new card in a few days.
It’s getting late and a good time was had by all, so we decide to call it.
Oh yeah, and thanks Joe Popp for finding the show!
It hasn’t been two weeks since I saw Elder in Berlin and there’s still some leftover cosmik debris from their DesertFest set rumbling through my head but they’re blowing through Brussels so I’m all in and committed on this random Tuesday night. Traveling solo I roll into Gare du Nord which is a seedy desolation row train depot and reminds me of my own Port Authority in NYC which is the high water mark for the weird and surreal but it’s just another side of the rue so I amber down to the docks in the Northern Quarter business district which is dead quiet and ghostly. Magasin 4 is a burned out warehouse surrounded by junkyards and tangled rebar and inside it’s all busted concrete and punk flyers and I feel like I’ve been here before. It’s real deal and no-nonsense so I take in the scene and hit the bar and order the Kriek lambic in broken French but end up with a Grimbergen Triple but I keep quiet because this is as good a place to start as any. The dudes from Elder are rapping with some punters and another cat is selling records in boxes with titles like DOOM and BRUTAL PROG and CRUST. I find my place and wait for it all to coalesce and it’s familiar but also new and I hear Flemish and French and English and ain’t that a damn fine Belgian brew. Carousel from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania take the stage without anyone noticing and they bust into some amped up twin-guitar machine head rock from ‘72. I realize I forgot my plugs but it’s all good and I plunk down the 2 euro coin for the cheap ass Maes pils in a cup and it ain’t the Grim but what else is? I wanna get as close to the essence of Elder as possible so I’m dead center up front and they start at 9 on the dime cause there’s a curfew so let’s go and don’t get left behind but why there’s a cut off in this dead zone neighborhood is beyond me. The set resembles their Desertfest jam from weeks back and it’s harsh and loud up front with the stage volume low and clean and you can see up close how well oiled the band is. “Dead Roots Stirring” is urgent and scrappy and it’s an epic prog masterpiece I’m ranking right alongside “Close to the Edge” in stature and pure ass-kicking awesomeness. Everything else is smash and grab and the band encores with “Spires Burn” which wasn’t played in Berlin so the added bonus is a gift and damn they’re leaning hard in the pocket and having a shit ton of fun cause it’s all smiles and whoops and hollers. The power surge coming at me is devastating and my beer tumbles off the stage because it’s shaking and the rafters are about to come down but I give it all a nevermind cause this shit right here…