Monday, December 15, 2008

They Are Not a Jukebox!: Blasted By A Sound Wave in Spartanburg

Ground Zero: often thought to be the location of the terrorist attacks that took place in New York City in 2001. In reality, Ground Zero is a heavy metal/punk/hardcore music bar located in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The two locations are not without some haunting similarities, even if Spartanburg probably doesn't make the terrorists' list of 1,000 places to jihad before you die. I recently journeyed to the very apple core of this rock n' roll fruit basket to see Local H and The Electric Six perform, and will now relate to you the horrors of what occurred within its hellish depths.
Ground Zero is located amidst the heart of the American textile industry. Unfortunately, like the rest of the products our nation once manufactured, these jobs have been outsourced to China or some other foreign land where chopsticks are considered necessary tableware. What I instead ventured into was an industrial wasteland reminiscent of Eastern Europe after the end of Soviet rule (or Northern New Jersey for those of you whose geopolitical understanding is limited to the United States).
Empty buildings of stone and concrete littered the landscape, which could only have been made bleaker if a series of tumbleweeds had rolled down the thoroughfare. One of these edifices happened to have the words Ground Zero sprayed on the side, in what appeared to be more of an attempt at graffiti than a rational attempt at signage.
Inside the warehouse, which is what the building had clearly been in a former age, a heavily tattooed and pierced middle-aged man laughed at my silly attempt to pay with a credit card, pointing out that they were lucky to even have electricity much less a computer system. After some negotiating I was allowed in, and I peeked around the corner to see what I had gotten myself into.
The soothing sounds of NOFX coming from the stereo served to decrease my apprehension immediately, and as I turned the corner, a huge open space appeared before me. With an entire football field's amount of room stretching before me, I wondered how many people would be coming to fill what seemed to be an abandoned airplane hangar.
As it turns out, this area, which the owners refer to as upstairs, was not the place where the performance was to occur. No, this empty cavern was home to the upstairs bar, which was crammed against the wall, myriad chairs crowding in around it like football players in a huddle. One wonders if they could have created a bit more elbow room, what with the 27 acres of openness stretching behind nearly into infinity.
Down a massive flight of six stairs was our true destination, where I found the surroundings much more intimate and homey. That is, of course, if you like the color black (or rather the absence of color) and concrete. The regulars were all dressed in black as well, and were remarkably friendly with the bizarre foreigners, of whom I was one, who so foolishly chose to garb themselves in another hue.
Visiting the urinal in preparation for the show, I was given the opportunity to multitask - I could pee on the stickers of various bands taped to the inside of the trough while compiling some phone numbers for later. FYI, if you are a girl, or a boy and you anticipate having to drop a deuce, wear a pair of Depends to the show instead.
Things quickly got underway with two opening acts warming up the crowd. I highly recommend checking out the first band, which was known as Automatic Dough. I would give you a link to their My Space site but since this is a newspaper, you wouldn't be able to click on it. The second band was named something and they played some songs, but that's really not worth getting into right now.
Thoroughly warmed up, I tensed myself for the entrance of Local H. Originating in Zion, Illinois, Local H (pictured above) is a rare two piece hard rock act best known for their songs "High Fivin' Motherfucker" (requests to hear this tune were turned down by a fellow audience member who pointed out that the band was not in fact a jukebox), "Eddie Vedder," and "Bound for the Floor" (the one where the guy uses the term copacetic so much you just had to look up that particular collection of letters in the dictionary).
After some initial problems with the sound (the sound check involved 20 different uses of the word fuck), the duo began to play, and in this writer's opinion, commenced to shred in a most effective manner. The drummer, Joe Daniels, smashed his sticks in violent thrashes reminiscent of the mentally ill. Comparisons to the character Animal from the "Muppets" were all too obvious for those of us in attendance. Scott Lucas, the vocalist and guitarist, was no slouch either, pumping out a driving guitar sound that, combined with the work of Daniels, made one wonder how two people could put out such an immense amount of noise. "California Songs" off of the album Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles was a definite highlight.
Just to give a contrasting opinion, I will mention that my friend Dan went to the upstairs bar and grabbed a drink, where he was informed that Local H did not kick enough ass to warrant the attention of those assembled there. Apparently, the regulars only like music if it is loud enough to make their ears bleed. To each their own, I suppose.
Electric Six took the stage to cap off the night. For those of you who have never heard of them, get off your ass and download, then purchase, either of their first two albums, Fire! or Senor Smoke. Both discs highlight the strengths of this eccentric crew. When at their peak the group combines all the best aspects of Queen, the Darkness, and various dance bands into a musical melange that would satisfy even the most sophisticated aural palette. I wore a fat smile as I jumped up and down to my favorites, "Dance Commander," "I Buy the Drugs," and "Danger! High Voltage," all of which were played during the hour and a half set.
I must warn you if you plan on seeing Electric Six play, that the singer does have a tendency to blather a bit in between songs, and his warped attempts at humor were successful only about half the time. Not a bad average for baseball I suppose, but there were a complete moments when awkward silence was the crowd's only response to the bizarre ranting.
Don't let this one bit of negativity keep you from seeing Electric Six , though, they truly are something for every music fan to experience at least once. I would say the same for Ground Zero - although not aesthetically the most welcoming place I have ever visited, the downstairs area where the bands played made me feel as if I was listening to these bands in a garage with some of my closest friends. What else can you ask of a venue?