EDITOR'S NOTE: Dearest End Hits Readers: We take our show-going duties very seriously here. But sometimes we like to mix things up and combine our two true loves in this world: live music and illegal gambling. That was the initial motivation behind 2009's End Hits Concert Challenge, where upon losing a bet, a blogger would be annexed at a show (of someone else's choosing). Since its inception, we've changed the rules some (no more gambling, all End Hits writers must attend a show against their will) but the concept remains the same.
I'll start with the smallest disappointment: Disturbed did not cover "Land of Confusion" last night. Or, if they did, I didn't recognize it, or (very possibly) was too brain-numbed to notice. The Chicago nü-metal band's set came at the end of a painfully long night of like-minded bands—five in total—which made the lineup of the Music as a Weapon V tour.
That's right: "V." There have been five of these fucking things. Disturbed has been putting together package tours roughly every other year since 2001, and last night the current edition hit Portland's Memorial Coliseum. The other bands were:
StillwellIt was the most excruciating show I have ever been to in my life.
In This Moment
Korn... oh, excuse me: Koяn
Since its inception, the End Hits Concert Challenge has steadily raised the bar on unpleasant concert experiences, but I don't see how anything could be more painful than what I went through last night. The lack of Genesis covers notwithstanding—Disturbed had a "hit" in 2006 with their version of "Land of Confusion"—the show was a meatheaded, wretched marathon of terrible, vaguely metallic rock. How I wished for the sweet, dulcet melody and needle-sharp social commentary of Messrs. Phil Collins, Tony Banks, and Michael Rutherford to release me from the sweaty, pooh-smelling grip of "Music as a Weapon V," but alas, it was not to be.
I should mention that as added insult, Tuesday is press day at the Mercury, usually a 10+ hour workday while we whip the paper into shape for publication. It's an exhausting day to begin with, and departing directly from work to the show, which started at 6:30 pm, was particularly tormenting. Not to mention that there was an exciting Blazers game just next door, and it was raining and windy, and there was nowhere to park, and the music editor of this paper departed earlier that afternoon to go to Austin, Texas, for SXSW where he'll see 900 million bands, all of whom are better than Disturbed or Korn. And the venue was general admission, which meant no assigned seat for me to curl away and pretend that what was happening, wasn't.
Okay, enough whining. I actually missed Stillwell, who must have started earlier than 6:30, and arrived in time to catch In This Moment, a "melodic metalcore" band from North Hollywood, fronted by a busty blond woman who shrieked with an impressively hoarse death rattle. But underneath her wailing was lamebrained, herky-jerky mook rock, the kind that was briefly in fashion in 1997 and became unbearable instantly afterwards. I guess I just don't know what to make of a "metal" band that calls themselves In This Moment. Wasn't that the name of the Billy Vera and the Beaters song that soundtracked the season finale of Family Ties?
"Let me see your fuckin' middle fingers in the air!" Busty Blondy screamed. The crowd obliged. In This Moment finished their set with her exhorting the audience, "On the count of three, I want everyone to say, 'FUCK THE WORLD!'" Can you guess what happened next? Yes, almost everybody in the crowd shouted along with her. I suppose it was some sort of catharsis. I refused to participate, mostly because I felt that outside the confines of Memorial Coliseum, I had so much to live for. Maybe I was being a spoilsport, or MAYBE I was being the ultimate rebel. Huh?
Sevendust was up next, so in between sets I sought out a desperately needed beer. Behind me in the beer line was The Nicest Guy in the World, who struck up a friendly conversation. He was STOKED. "What a great group of bands!" he enthused. I nodded grimly.
"Which band is your favorite?" I asked him. "SEVENDUST!" he replied. Then, as if on cue, we heard the first notes of Sevendust's set in the background. He looked stricken, torn between waiting for a beer or seeing the awesomest band ever. He looked apologetically at me, then said "I can't miss this!" before running back into the arena. I admired his dedication. I, however, opted to wait for the beer. (It cost $8.75! I could only afford a total of two. They didn't help much.)
What to say about Sevendust? I think at one point I tweeted, "Sevendust is the Hootie and the Blowfish of nü-metal. Is that racist?" I only meant by it that the band is white, the singer is black, and the music is shitty. Actually, The Nicest Guy in the World was correct: Sevendust was in fact the best band of the night... now, hold on a second. Think about that statement. "Sevendust was the best." That's the predicament I was in.
Armed with beer, I found a seat in the bleachers and tried to make time go faster. "Stand up!" shouted the Darius Rucker of Sevendust, probably specifically to me. "Do we have your attention? Stand up! You get to sit down when you go to your fuckin' house tonight!" Well, maybe, man... maybe some of us do get to sit down when we go home... But not if you're a HORSE. You ever think about that?
They played the "Stop Fucking with My Head" song, and some lady in the front showed her boobs. Mr. Metal-Dread Hootie virtually stopped the show to congratulate her. "Give it up for this young lady right here! You're very beautiful." Like the other 14,999 people in the venue, I couldn't see the boobs from where I was situated. I felt ripped off.
Korn was up next. Oh, Korn. What a terrible, terrible band. I don't have anything clever to say. They were just unspeakably bad. I thought they might have chops, but no. No musicianship to speak of. No good songs. Nothing really even that heavy. Just a total experience of shit. Jonathan Davis came out in his familiar Adidas tracksuit, looking like a fat, aging Jersey retiree despite the dreads. At one point, the band covered about a minute and 15 seconds' worth of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, then Jonathan Davis did a solo on the bagpipes.
You read that right: bagpipes. As far as I could tell, he only played one note. I know the bagpipes are not easy to play, and they're meant to be droney and everything, but it was obvious to me that he didn't really know what he was doing. Seriously, one note for around 45 seconds, then Korn went into their next shitty song, and the bagpipes were put away for the rest of the night. Do I need to mention that Jonathan Davis' bagpipes solo was the highlight of their set? The rest of the time Korn was boring. More important than that, they themselves seemed bored. As if they woke up that morning, looked around, and said, "Oh no, we're still Korn? Fuuuuuckkk." Korn had two extra bonus musicians hidden in the background, because, you know, their music is so full of nuance, every last bit of which could be heard through the crystal-clear acoustic of Memorial Coliseum. I decided at that moment that being a Korn sideman must be the absolute worst job in the world: to be in Korn, but not really be in Korn. At one point, Korn did the song that goes "One, two, buckle my shoe, three, four, shut the door..." And so on. I was amazed that the money-paying crowd did not rise up and methodically dismember the band for creating such a dumb song.
A gentleman nearby started informing everyone that today was his birthday. Happy birthday, dude. He was not wearing a shirt. At some point, someone (his girlfriend?) tried to return his shirt to him, but it turned out to be someone else's shirt. Actually, there were plenty of shirtless dudes at the show, and weirdly, I noticed the many disposed-of garments were abandoned, littering the ground of the Coliseum. As if the rock started and immediately the shirts came off, NEVER TO BE NEEDED AGAIN. Korn/Disturbed fans do not like their shirts, apparently, and when they take them off, they stay off. Forever.
Finally, Disturbed played. I thought that after the shitstorm I'd endured so far, they'd be a slight improvement. Not so. Disturbed—while not as supremely, wretchedly terrible as Korn—makes very, very awful music. Their lead singer is a short, fat, bald dude (no wonder they did a Genesis cover!) who sang like a hair-metal yowler from the mid-'80s, then would sort of growl a little to sound tough.
By this point, I felt angry. I felt depressed. I was tired, and my ears were rebelling against every part of my body. "Out! We want out!" they cried. But I had to stay until the end. Disturbed had a somewhat schmancy video backdrop, which they used to show graphics of flames and explosions and stuff, and, at one point, seemed to be playing the music video of one of their songs while the band played the song right in front of it. There has to be some sort of law against that.
"Are you ready to embrace the beast, Portland?" Not-Phil-Collins asked us. "Explore your primal side? Become the ANIMAL!" It was as ludicrous a request as that sounds. Then Disturbed launched into another unbearable song that sounded vaguely hard, maybe if you've never listened to music in your life. Not-Phil-Collins wailed some more, and there was a TERRIBLE* slow song, and then they played the "Oh Ah Ah Ah Ah" song (a quick Google tells me it is called "Down with the Sickness," which is how I feel right now remembering it).
At this point, a (shirtless) fellow in front of me dropped to the filthy, disgusting floor of the Coliseum and started doing push-ups to the music. I couldn't believe my eyes. I am trying now to determine what was going through his head. He was clearly fucked up. Maybe that song is on his workout mix, and he forgot where he was? Maybe he was trying to sober up? Maybe that's his move, you know, the one that gets him all the ladies? After around 40 push-ups or so, he stood up, wobbled around, then had to sit back down on the ground. He looked more fucked up than anyone I've ever seen in my life.
After "Oh Ah Ah Ah Ah," Disturbed left the stage. Phhhhhtt. They were done. The show was over. No big bang, no encore, no grand finale. I was puzzled, but extremely relieved. At this point, I am supposed to summarize the whole experience in a neat, pat little statement, like, "Well, at least the crazy kids liked it!" But most people listening to Korn and Disturbed are my age or older, and there is no excuse to be listening to such godawful music. I was in a bad mood following the show, and I'm still in a bad mood now. It was fucking awful.
* Oh dear god, so unbelievably, unspeakably terrible