I step aside as the pair blows past. I peek inside and, for a minute, the normally serene Keller appears like a tepid update of Heavy Metal Parking Lot: patchy neckbeards collared by Guns N' Roses T-shirts, masculine bonding emphasized by aggressive back-patting, and a shit-ton of wallet chains fill the distinguished Portland auditorium.
Let me rewind a bit—I'm here to write about Faith No More, the writers of weirdo rap-rock classic "Epic" and the jumping point for my mid-20s love of metal. After a low-key aggravated email exchange with Ned Lannamann over the current critical value of the group, Ned offered me the chance to show him how great Faith No More is.
I say this because, as I survey the tribal tattoos, the smiling merch table workers surrounded on both sides by shirts that say "Motherfucker" with price tags affixed to them, and the gentle but perplexed Keller Auditorium staff, I remember I'm supposed to prove This Shit Is Tight.
An usher shows me to my seat (I'm fancy) as the staccato drum hits of "Epic" ring out through the auditorium (I'm late). Mike Patton bleats out the song's satirically empty lyrics to the packed auditorium, and for a moment all is right in the world, or at least this huge venue filled with screaming fans. On stage, each member and piece of gear in Faith No More stands clad in white linen, with the lights painting the stage wholesale in lush hues of red, purple, and yellow. More opulent than the white linen is the floral arrangement lining the stage and sitting on top of each amp. If Faith No More were attempting to make a big rock statement tonight, the flower arrangements would be the tipping point for me.
All of this adds up to a show that is... kind of shitty. I don't know, have you ever heard Faith No More? They rule on record, and "Epic" transcends the domain of rap-rock and sits among "Norwegian Wood" and "One More Hour" in the domain of Great Fucking Pop Songs. But for a continuous hour-and-a-half, their lounge/heavy metal/funk genre mashups aren't exactly my idea of a great time. While "Epic" makes a serious play for pop immortality, the rest of the catalog preys on John Zorn-ian genre mashups intended to discomfort, and, well, that's not super fun.
Their set pulls heavily from Angel Dust, their 1992 sample-laden weird masterpiece. They run through their would-be-fun-if-it-wasn't-so-creepy cover of "Easy" by the Commodores, replete with slow-dancing couples on stage and Patton pulling a fan up from the crowd. Although I'm only slightly familiar with the whole singer-pulling-fan-on-stage move, Patton appeared to cross some lines with his shtick, and frankly seemed a bit mean to the anonymous woman.
Patton is about as charming as a man with slicked-back hair, wearing linen pajamas, and grabbing his crotch can be. His dumb jokes about impregnating a female fan chafe, compounding his already menacing sexual presence, as he chortles about Portlandia (please remind me that Portlandia exists). Patton grins through an auditorium-wide sing-along, and I'm struck with the inevitable paradox of international superstar "alternative" bands: If Faith No More is playing a sold-out 3,000-person show, what is this the alternative to?
"Epic" and the whole of The Real Thing and Angel Dust still stand in my mind as golden greats, but Faith No More as a breathing entity embody the volatile masculine id of the bands they supposedly rebelled against. I'm not here to argue about the artistic merit of such reunions, but heading to this reunion felt like I was dredging up the best and worst of a two-decade old culture. In a fitting scheduling conflict, I had to choose going to this show over seeing friends play at the Anarres Infoshop, an intentionally anti-oppressive space. Not to say that anti-oppressive spaces represent don't come fraught with their own discussions, but as I look up and see Mike Patton uncomfortably run his hands over a woman fan's stomach during the cover of "Easy," I'm just glad that a true alternative exists.