Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pagan Altar in the US Part II – Armageddon


About ten minutes before the bands set, singer Terry Jones informed the crowd that he had forgotten the intro tape at home “So you'll all just have to hum it...”

I can't explain how surreal it was when at the stroke of 5 pm, in broad sunlight, Pagan Altar came out onstage.  Terry was in the middle, in his long coat, frilly shirt and top hat, and spoke the words, “Samael, I call you, Metrotton come, I invoke you!" - the invocation at the beginning of the song that bears the bands name.  Crunch! Alan Jones guitar blasting out a doomy power-chord followed by a hail of notes “Dawning of a brand new day...” Terry  crooned, his voice a bit unsteady, but It didn't matter.  Pagan Altar were here – in America – after every mishap you could think of – the show was going on!  Every single person in the rapidly growing crowd had a huge smile on their faces.  There were plenty of us there who knew exactly what was going on, sang along with every word, pumped our fists at key points in the music, we couldn't believe the band was here with us. Then there were the curious, who weren't really sure what Pagan Altar were all about, but felt themselves drawn in by the music and the charismatic front-man.  As the song went on and gained momentum so did the band, and Terry's voice steadied and he hit all the notes.  The band themselves were on point.  This was a song I knew backwards and forwards and if there was a lick out of place I would have heard it. 

    The set went by quickly – too quickly.  One new song “Dance of the Vampires” was strategically placed in the middle and did not sound out of place at all.  It didn't make the older tracks sound dated, in fact it showed the timelessness of the band's music.  Honestly I don't remember at which point in the set Terry dedicated the bands performance to the late Sam Kress of Whiplash magazine.  Apparently Sam was one of the bands earliest champions, extolling their virtues to anyone who would listen.  It was his dream to see the band play in the US and sadly he was not around to witness it, although he was there in spirit I'm sure.  The crowd roared their appreciation for someone most of them had never heard of but who obviously meant a lot to PA. 

    The band had posted the set-list on Facebook a few days earlier, so I wasn't surprised, but I was chomping at the bit to hear my favorite Pagan Altar song, “Judgement of the Dead”.  When I heard the opening notes, I almost jumped out of my skin.  Here they were performing it only a few feet away from me!!  Sometimes I do the fan-girl thing, I can't help it!!  For the entire length of the song the heavy riff took over me and I was doing some serious neck-damaging headbanging!!  At one point I looked up and saw Terry looking over with a smile of approval on his face, as if saying, “yep  - got her!” .  If you have never heard this song, go look for an audio clip on Spotify, then by the album!!  It paints a picture of another world, where the dead are judged by those who sent them to their graves.

    I should mention a few things at this point.  First of all, and for some reason this always bothered me whenever I saw incorrect information in articles about the band: Terry and Alan Jones are father and son. They aren't brothers, cousins, nephews, or two English gentleman who just happen to share the same last name.  It's not a big secret, but it has been erroneously stated otherwise several times.  Terry isn't ashamed of the fact that he's old enough to have a 50 year old son. If anything, he has a sense of humor about it, on the bands website, http://www.paganaltar.co.uk – in the bio section, Terry boasts that he was born “before Christ” :)

    Also – Alan apparently has a very “British” sense of humor – going onstage in an Statue of Liberty t-shirt and American flag hat because he wanted to “blend in”.  I honestly hope he didn't march around the streets of Baltimore like that unaccompanied!!! 
    The 45 minute set flew by and the crowd did not want Pagan Altar off the stage.  Terry said something about wanting to come  back to the US later this year and judging by this reaction, a tour would be quite successful.

    After their set the band got swamped by fans who just wanted to say how blown away they were.  Despite obviously being exhausted, the guys posed for photos and signed autographs and spoke to anyone who wanted a word!  There was even a soldier who had toured Afghanistan and emailed the band prior to the gig saying he was working on a documentary of his and his fellow servicemen's experiences.  He requested permission to use Pagan Altar's music in it as the band helped him get through some rough times in the service.  Terry posed for a photo with him and later posted on Facebook how upset Al was to have missed him! 

    I know people say this about band members often, but I spent most of the fest with the Pagan Altar dudes, and they are all genuinely nice guys.  There were absolutely no egos involved at all.  In fact they all seemed to not take themselves very seriously – and you could tell they were having the time of their lives.  I only wish I had captured Dean's “special dance” on video, but I was laughing to hard I couldn't get the camera to work and ended up taking a still shot!  Also it was cool watching the guys absorb American culture  - bass player Liam Gallagher was marching around with a tall boy of Colt 45, and my friend and I had to explain that’s what we drank when we were young and broke.  “But it was $2 at the corner store!!” Liam said happily, “Yep, that’s why we drank it!”

    Also when it came time to eat, Terry, Lynn, Blaise and I ended up at a stand selling gyros, sausage heros and corn dogs.  “What exactly is a corn dog?” Terry asked, “Its a hot-dog coated in corn meal and then deep fried,” We told him.  He ordered two and he LOVED THEM. 

    At one point Lynn turned to me and dead asked me, “Can you tell me where I am?”
    “You mean geographically?” I asked,
    “Am I in America?” Lynn seemed confused, maybe it was the jet-lag,
    “Yes Lynn, you are in Baltimore Maryland and you're talking to someone from New York city,”.       “I just wanted to hear that I'm in America,” she said, “I still can't believe it!”


   Terry couldn't walk three feet around without someone invariably yelling “PAGAN ALTAR” and running up to him for a photo and a chat.  That was cool – they didn't hide in their hotel rooms – they all enjoyed seeing the other bands and it was “interesting” checking out Sleep and Pentagram with them (never mind my whole history with an ex-drummer of theirs...).

    At around midnight, along with Manilla Road, the band had a “meet and greet” session lined up at the merch area indoors.  I don't know if it's because of bad timing, with Venom's set  being cut off early due to curfew, but things didn't really go smoothly.  We got shuffled from one room to another in the building that used to be club Sonar, then we ended up outside by the second stage where the band did a video interview.  I looked over at my traveling companion and he was ready to go home.  Since he was the one who would be driving the roughly 200 miles back to Brooklyn, he was the one calling the shots! I was originally going to interview Terry for the Ripple Effect on the spot, but by the time he finished with that session we were all too exhausted at that point so we arranged to figure something out online.  Blaise and I said our goodbyes and headed to his car – which had a $10 parking ticket because the lot we parked in had a broken ticketing machine!!  Ten dollars! Wooooo fines are STEEP in Baltimore.  Somehow we made it back to NYC in about 2 ½ hours blasting Scandinavian death metal, Secret Chiefs 3, Morbid Angel and Sepultura just to name a few bands on Blaise's mixed CD.

    When he dropped me off I was still buzzing!  I couldn't believe this band had finally come to America! But I had the pictures, and the swag and the memories to prove it!

Coming next – Part 3: Judgement of the Dead


--Rys


Photos courtesy http://www.returntothepit.com and http://www.invisibleoranges.com

1 comment:

Pagan Altar said...

Well done Rys, great job you did on putting that all together, might get you to do the next part of our Bio, Ha Ha! PC.

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