YOUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD WARBRINGER LIVE AT THE WHISKY
My lifestyle is such that I have ample opportunity to stare blankly into space and fantasize. And in those fantasies, I resemble the evil Vincent Ludwig in The Naked Gun and am similarly devious. Like, when I want my goons to depart a discreet conversation/bribe attempt, I’ll signal them by adjusting my cufflinks, that kind of thing. And all mega-powerful businessmen with awesome hair are driven by passion, so my (imaginary) days would be devoted to metal and the execution of my plan to manipulate city hall in order to convert the Sunset Strip into a historically accurate recreation of the ’80s hair rock scene, complete with Graceland-style museum pieces and human props a la Disneyland.
Back in reality, the Sunset Strip Metal Preserve and Theme Park project has been stuck in the research phase for a while, but at least that inertia allows for serendipitous nights like Sunday at The Whisky. It was then and there that Warbringer, along with four hours of local bands, unknowingly designed a working exhibit on the SSMP+TP experience: A neighborhood thrash metal show.
The neighborhood show. It’s the holy grail of live music. Forget hitting the highway or throwing away half your day on public transit; the show’s right down the street. Forget scouring for parking spaces and liquor stores; you might as well don a mesh body stocking and hula-hoop your way around the corner while popping amyls. It’s your neighborhood! You don’t even need to ice-grill the tough guys in your path; those knuckleheads buy Klonopins off you since junior high!
Now of course, West Hollywood is not my neighborhood (although I banged Kate Hudson once does that count?) but on Sunday night, it just felt that way. Shit, The Whisky was Heartland U.S.A., where smiling heshers trade nods and the door guy totally looks like your cousin. The head of amiable Warbringer vokillist John Kevill can be seen bobbing through the crowd, strangers point air guitars at each other to Far Beyond Driven on the house p.a., and nary a drink is sloshed all over your goddamn Kill ‘Em All shirt. I half-expected someone to hand me a plate of potato salad.
At times, maybe it was too chill. Throughout Warb’s furious 70-minute set, breaks were met with brief cheers then expectant silence. Shouts from the crowd (ostensibly) influenced the set list just like at warm-up* gigs or birthday parties for band members. I even saw some conspicuous tight shirt/hair product guys gesturing toward the stage, as if to say “Whoa will you geddaloda this fuckin’ band our brother/friend/co-worker is in! What a piece of work!” And holy shit the merch area was deserted after the show. Maybe we had begun to take a hot young metal band for granted.
But nah, those were just the quiet moments, the frame of the picture. Indeed, while Warbringer was actually playing, the place was an asylum. During ‘old’ favorites (“Combat Shock” or “Systematic Genocide” from War Without End back in ’08), I spotted a bona fide scrum of headbangers, which to my knowledge had never before occurred outside of an Accept video. And you may be wondering how wild a pit could be at a show attended by fewer than a hundred people. The answer is really wild, especially if it involves nearly all of that hundred (I was among the few holdouts oy my aching feet). The scene was surprising! Warbringer is all about energy and a tight live show, but on this night they played rusty, regularly bumped into each other on stage (guitarist John Laux, noticeably uncomfortable hidden by ceiling-mounted monitors on stage left, caused continual gridlock at center stage), and even unplugged guitars mid-song (again, Laux). It didn’t even matter! And, again, this was on a quiet Sunday following a Lakers loss and without the benefit of high-impact support bands. I found out that night that Warbringer is more than that energy and um tightness that made 2009’s Waking Into Nightmares one of the year’s best**. Yes, they were revelatory even in their moments of cruddiness: they’re underrated as songwriters. Cuz even without the aforementioned precision and energy, the men of Warbringer and their kick-ass songs kick enough ass to make for an explosive show anyway. That means Warbringer is awesome!
*Actually, it was a warm-up show for the European tour with Evile.
**According to, y’know, me.