Scraping Genius Off The Wheel

LOBBING JÄGER BOMBS AT BEST BUY

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The unbearable brutality of winter (and the company of a damn good woman) drove me indoors for much of these past couple of months. Having not seen a single band live since December, I grew restless and twitchy on my Egyptian cotton sheets. I was born to rock, and with the snow finally melting, I seized the oh-so-golden opportunity to catch the Jägermeister Music Tour, which featured Buckcherry in the headlining slot with support from Hellyeah, All That Remains, and The Damned Things.

For some people, this might seem like a fun night out. But not for me. I was desperate.

The only band on the bill I even liked walking into New York City’s Best Buy Theater this past Tuesday was Hellyeah, whose 2010 cro-magnon opus Stampede deftly melded countrified willful ignorance with metallic willful ignorance. Nothing about their sound could qualify as groundbreaking per se, but there’s something enthralling about a band whose raison d’etre is so rigidly shallow. What’s even more fascinating is the sort of person who’d pay money to experience it in concert.

I arrived at the venue not long after 6:30PM. The Damned Things, a vanity Anthrax-EveryTimeIDie-FallOutBoy abomination hardly worth calling a supergroup, were winding down their set for a decent crowd unexpected at this early hour. Such a turnout suggests either a rotten local job market or a fierce lunkheaded loyalty to Scott Ian’s formidable fossil. Given the static quasi-punkish rock, I saw no reason why six grown men were needed onstage to make such pointless noise when the same outcome could have been achieved by a four-piece. Mercifully, their set ended not long after I arrived, which gave me a chance to survey the scene.

In between sets, a DJ who I dubbed “Brad From Marketing” attempted to pump up the crowd with asinine shout-outs to corporate sponsor Jägermeister and limp laptop metal mashups. During these breaks, I noticed just how much the liquor company behind this tour had taken advantage of their position. Imposing signage dominated the venue to offensive extremes. All the bands — save for the headliner — were made to perform in front of a giant Jägermeister banner, even though two additional banners adorned the sides of the stage. Posters covered the venue like wet filth; TV screens played three promotional images on a loop. Even Brad From Marketing had a Jägermeister sticker affixed to his DJ stand, which was obscured during the bands’ performances by an orange Jägermeister towel. Holographic representations of the signature bottle were projected on the walls. At one point, a half-dozen female “Jägerettes” were marched out inexplicably for a shot/toast, appealing perhaps to the shared misogyny of sponsor and attendee alike. The only place you could go to escape this hyper-capitalist assault on the senses was the toilet, much to my cynical surprise. I defiantly nursed a $7.00 Bud Light.

After a brief intro, All That Remains took the stage and jumped right into their sorta-hit “Two Weeks,” eliciting an immediate positive crowd response. I liken the band to Staind with testicles, sensitive enough to play for your girlfriend but hard enough to windmill to. Jason Costa’s oppressively loud and frequently abused drum triggers consistently drowned out the rest of band, though not enough to mask Phil Labonte’s noticeably strained singing voice. His banter with the crowd — which included a presumably obligatory show of appreciation for Jägermeister — was innocuous and numbingly generic. “You guys wanna hear some heavy metaaaaaaal?!” You get the picture.

A quick set change, replete with more gratuitous promotional noise from Brad From Marketing, and then Hellyeah took the stage to an ominous combo of thunder and Johnny Cash’s monologue from “When The Man Comes Around.” This is what I came for, and opener “Cowboy Way” brought my first smile of the night. Curiously, however, only one-out-of-the-five was even wearing a cowboy hat; frontman Chad Grey’s style skewed more nu-metal, with camo shorts and a short sleeved tee over long sleeved shirt. Grey’s shape-shifting this decade from Mudvayne’s main shock rocker to Hellyeah’s redneck nihilist is an artistic evolution on par with David Bowie’s transformation from glam guignol to new wave decadent. The raucous, grizzled set — only marginally louder than All That Remains’ drum triggers — plowed through recognizable standouts and singles like “Better Man” and “Hell Of A Time.” And yet, the crowd seemed strangely subdued, frustrating Grey who registered genuine disappointment in the audience’s unwillingness to participate in a “You Wouldn’t Know” singalong. Things devolved quickly thereafter, and “Alcohaulin’ Ass” closed out on a low, perfunctory note — though the real nadir of their set came when Grey asked the audience to “make some noise” for the amusement of Jägermeister executives masturbating up in the V.I.P. balconies.

The stream of Jägermeister plugs and shitty mixes from Brad From Marketing that followed Hellyeah’s set was mercifully cut short to make room for Buckcherry’s needlessly oversize set pieces. With their own banner blocking that of Jägermeister, the Guns N Roses mid-season replacement nobody asked for took the stage. (One of their guitarists wore a black hat — just like Slash!!!) I stomached a few songs led by tambourine playing frontman Josh Todd, including “Rescue Me” off Black Butterfly and “All Night Long,” yet not even a Jaegermeister jello wrestling match would’ve kept me there any longer. The need to rock had been met, albeit minimally.

I’ve never been to a Scion Rock Fest, but I can’t imagine it being as vulgar as the Jägermeister Music Tour. Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s J. Randall would’ve died of an aneurysm here.

-GS

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