This past Friday night after rehearsing and demoing new MH jams all day, I went and saw the punk rock / hardcore band Attitude Adjustment. It was at the long-running punk rock club in Berkeley world famously known as "Gilman St.," which I hadn't been to in maybe 15 or 20 years.
Truth be told I always hated Gilman St., no booze, and most of the people running the joint back-then were dicks, and there was no love lost from them towards Machine Head either. So you can say the lack of love was truly mutual! Machine Head was were banned (well, voted against by committee) from playing there, mainly on the grounds that we would just fight people, and bring a bunch of our fans who just wanted to fight people the whole show.
Now before you gasp with your mouths agape, they had every right to believe this because this is basically what happened at every local Machine Head gig back then. We individually had already been in a few fights in front of Gilman previously so they had some grounds to stand on, and we had already been banned from 3 other Bay Area clubs for fighting (The Stone, One Step Beyond, and The Omni). So in retrospect, it was probably all true, but they were still dicks anyway.
Tim Armstrong (or "Lint" as everyone called him back then) from Rancid actually spoke on our behalf at one of the committee meetings where they decided what bands were "ok" to play at Gilman. He tried to talk them into letting us play, but in the end, they voted us "off the island.” We gave em' one more shot back in ‘94 when we were shooting the "Davidian" video and we wanted to try and shoot some footage there, but again, they wouldn't let us. However this time it wasn’t based on our violent past but because we were signed to a "major label" Roadrunner Records, which ironically back in 1994 was actually still very much an independent.
I gave up on Gilman after that. So while we had genuine roots in the punk and hardcore scenes and were absolutely a part of them, looking back it’s rather simple. It was probably best for everyone involved as Machine Head was and is a metal band.
I still went there a couple more time to see bands I liked, Neurosis during the "Souls At Zero"-era (fucking mind-blowing, and I never missed a show of theirs back then, big influence on "Burn My Eyes"), and also to see my buddy Ray Vegas play in his band Social Unrest, and it would be Ray who brought me back to Gilman St. for the first time in a long time.
Ray and his wife Carla are part of The Flynn Camping Crew, and he now plays guitar in Attitude Adjustment, he still jams in SU, but "not as much" he says. AA got back together a few years ago and recorded a new album (which I have yet to check out) but it was apparently well received and really good. The drummer on our first album, Chris used to be in Attitude Adjustment. I freakin' LOVED AA's first album and used to go to Ruthies Inn (also in Berkeley) and see them play. At this point in time they had Kevin Reed singing, he was a formidable frontman and definitely a little out of his mind. They ended up being at the forefront of the crossover movement, playing equally dexterous on punk shows and metal shows.
Most people familiar with the AA story know the Andy "Airborne" Anderson version of AA. Andy was the singer after Kevin and he appeared on the CLASSIC debut "American Paranoia," and was already locally infamous for his death-defying stage dives at Exodus shows where he was immortalized in a photo collage on "Bonded By Blood", hence the nickname "Airborne."
And while I thoroughly enjoyed the Andy Anderson-era, it was the Kevin Reed-era that I saw first and always seemed to be a little more connected to. I saw shows with both singers but Kevin was and is intense. Pissed. He had "problems". He was fuckin' scary to watch, intimidating, I loved that! I saw him a few times at BART back-then, wasted, panhandling for money with other punk rockers, ready to punch anyone out who looked at him funny, dude's the real deal. In the early 90's when their 2nd album "Out Of Hand" came out, Kevin Reed back in the fold and I saw a bunch of those shows too, it was still brutal and awesome, and was inspiring for early-Machine Head.
So Friday night I meet up with my buddies Joey Cabral and Bill Callow at the Pyramid Brewing Company across the street and had a few beers (we all agreed the Alehouse Amber was the best). Ray and Carla soon joined us, I saw my old friend Gary Wendt (ex-Sacriledge B.C. / Skinlab and current Ghost Next Door guitarist) and his wife Bekki, and after a few beers we all headed over. I had to buy a new $2 Gilman membership card, as I think I wiped my ass with my old one, so I paid my $10 bucks and waltzed into the joint like I owned it. Oppressed Logic was playing and I was instantly taken back to the early 90's where I used to see them all the time at warehouse shows in Oakland.
Time has stood still in Gilman St., literally not a single thing has changed, it was exactly how I remembered it, and there was a weird charm to it, they kept their world exactly as they wanted it.
AA took the stage and was happy to see our ex-fill-in-drummer Walter Ryan (later-of-Madball), I guess he's now playing drums for them. Old school MH fans may remember Walter from Australia dates around '95, he did a couple of euro festivals back then in Holland and Belgium and played the 1995 Monsters Of Rock in England with us. He killed it, I forgot how good he is.
Here's a YouTube clip of "A Thousand Lies" with him and us back in '95 and me talking a lot like a black guy.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHYX9k_tysM
Attitude Adjustment was awesome, people were going fucking nuts, old school punk rock skanking, endless whirling circle pit, it was a blast. Eric "Bobo" on the guitar with Ray making a devastating punk rock racket, a new dude on bass who just held it down hard, and Kevin Reed who hasn't lost a bit of that intensity. Ferocious. Didn't smile fucking once.
Played a lot of new stuff, which sounded great and went down great, but for me it was all about "Dead Serious" and "Dope Fiend", when they hit "Dope Fiend", that thing happened, that thing when music is done just right and you feel this thing physically take over your body, where this energy just compels you to scream the words, point your hand and sing the words back at the band. It was fucking awesome. I needed it. And to hear these simple songs with these simple, powerful messages / slogans / rants was fucking rad. Inspiring. Reminded me what it's supposed to be about.
If I had one complaint: They should run a few clusters of songs together. Song, break, song, break, it's fine every once in a while, but it broke up the momentum quite a bit over a whole set. Maddeningly, they didn't play "Grey World" which is a straight up punk rock CLASSIC, a fuckin' HIT!
For the first time in my life I actually enjoyed being at Gilman St. I'm glad Gilman hasn't changed, I'm glad they banned Machine Head, I'm glad they kept the outsiders out and just stuck to what they believed. That's the problem with the world today, everyones too quick to be someone else just to be accepted. In the end, that "un-acceptance" (on many fronts) made Machine Head a better band, and Gilman St. a better place for punk.
Attitude Adjustment - Dope Fiend w/ Kevin Reed
Attitude Adjustment Spotify Playlist: http://tinyurl.com/q9fscp5
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