Monday, April 6, 2015

RIPPLEFEST – A SLICE OF ROCK AND ROLL





The night started out just the same as any other night; driving 4 hours across state lines, parallel parking on the left side of a one way street, stumbling into an awkward conversation with a local bum just as we were mid dive into the Golden Bull in the heart of the Oakland ghetto. It's a wonder the cake made it into the bar unharmed. Wait cake? No not the band. I shit you not, we brought a cake to a metal show and it was the talk of the night and fitting start to what Ripplefest was all about. The event was a gathering of good friends from near and far to celebrate the brotherhood known as rock and roll.

The Golden Bull was the venue, nestled on the "safe" side of 14th street in downtown Oakland, CA. I'd never been to a show in the bay area and was excited to finally meet several of the folks in the Ripple family whom I communicate with frequently on the internet. Speaking of, it felt like we had all known each other for a lifetime even though we'd just met in person for the first time. Any of you notice or experience that in this technologically based era? It's actually quite a phenomenon. A little weird perhaps if you’re not into being friends with people you don’t know on the internet, but it’s also pretty easy to filter out the ones who you know you won’t click with. Turns out this edition of eHarmony worked out great. Anyhow, cutting to the chase, which was more of a vortex of metallic love than a chase, was the hometown opener Blackwulf. About to release their second full length album, first under the Ripple Music moniker, the local boys took the stage with confidence. A large chunk of the enthused crowd were wearing Blackwulf apparel and obviously there to support the hometown heroes.

Blackwulf started the night off in blistering fashion with a brand spanking new song called Colossus. Let me tell you folks the entire band put their heart and soul into it as evidenced by the tone in Alex's clean muscular voice and Pete's suave smile to accompany his shredding guitar, and Scott & Dave’s thrashy bass lines. The venue sounded pretty decent for its rather small size and the crowd was 100% engaged as the band played on. Of the 7 song set only two songs were released material, meaning the majority of the set was off their upcoming album. I caught myself bobbing my head a bit heavier than normal at times during the set to the groove of some extremely meaty riffs.

As you may remember in my review of their debut album earlier last year, where I tried to do it without saying the word "riff", I conceded from attempting this time due to the gargantuous riffs on display throughout their set. Pope John of Ripple fame himself even graced the stage midway through the set on "Red Eyes", which you may have caught on the studio clip teaser up on youtube a week or two ago. Blackwulf opened the show much like a headliner closes out a sold out show.
 
Next up was the mighty Zed. Ever since I discovered these guys I have imagined they'd put on a good live show and I was about to find out. As the crowd shuffled to refill their drinks and Blackwulf began to take down their equipment I cornered Mark Aceves of Zed to make sure he was up to the task of following that amazing set. We laughed as he admitted he wasn't sure if they could top it, especially since, apparently, he was so excited that he may have had one too many drinks pre-show. "I think I ate too much Ripple cake, hope I don't fall off the stage," Mark joked. However I was confident along with the crowd, and sure enough the strapping Zed finally seized the stage. Frontman, Pete Sattari broke out the set with his signature Cornell infused chops on 'The River' from their debut album ‘The Invitation’, rocking straight into the live debut of a new song "Across The Sea" which will assuredly please Zed fans across the sea and back again. Maintaining their signature funk infused grunge attack, the new material is a steady progression into the Zed era of rock. What I loved about the show was how engaged the band was to the even more engaged audience. Everyone at the show was extremely happy, smiling, banging their heads, raising the fists and rocking out to the bay area’s godfathers of rock, otherwise known as Zed. Knowing that I was going to attempt to do a review of this show I guess I should have taken some video or some cool photos, but I always struggle taking my attention away from the show, especially as riveting as it was up to the point of Zed. Playing classics from "Please", "Desperation", "Skin and Bones", "Killing Machine", and another new one "Man of the Mountain" towards the end of the set, Zed was firing on all cylinders. From the groovy drums and funky basslines to the polarizing vocals and catchy guitar riffs, Zed put on one hell of a show. Again, everyone was having a blast and the energy could be felt throughout the room. 




Zed's set finished up around 10:45 or so, maybe later, maybe earlier, I wasn't really watching the clock, but was definitely the peak of the night for me. The beer started to settle in, the cake began to rumble deep down and Mos Generator were about the storm the set. There were also rumblings that the legendary Matt Pike was in attendance laying low in the back talking music and conspiracy theory. The crowd attendees were diverse, ranging from established businessmen, anesthesiologists and engineers, to young students, bar hounds and punk rockers and everything in between. What remained constant were the attitude and open arms of everybody at the show. Well except for that one guy! There's always that one dude at the show that just doesn't understand that nobody else is on his team.

Mos Generator took the spotlight as we were all secretly hoping the Tony Reed had Ripple cake stuck in his beard, but much to our chagrin he's been around the block a few times and knows how to eat his cake and keep his beard looking tougher than ever, thus the cake beard was a no go. Belting a bluesier stoner dirge into the pool than the first two Ripples, Tony Reed and Mos Generator cut the stage alive making it look so easy. The red beard gone grey has such a presence on stage singing with commanding body language. He's a rock star through and through. While I can't remember, nor recite what each song was or what album they were from, I do know he sang a variety including a few off the Ripple release Nomads including the classic "Lonely One Kenobi" which came in early at song #2 of the night. The crowd was definitely going wild as the soaring chorus echoed through the small, stuffy showroom. Mos brought the fuzzy blues-based arena rock to close down the metallic and melodic Ripple rock fest. It definitely felt bluesy tone with hazy 70’s era solos aplenty.

At one point "that guy" was making a fool of himself and yelled to the band, "Don't be a Dick" right at a song's close and, without hesitation, Tony channeled the comments perfectly repeating, "Don't be a dick, folks, damn, I'm going to have a real hard time with that because I'm one hell of a dickhead," or along those lines. The crowd applauded. The dude was making everyone feel a bit uncomfortable with his abstract behavior wanting to start a mosh pit, but not really wanting to, and then having off-the-wall dialogue in between songs and giving high fives. He definitely didn't look "metal" and I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was just having an extra good time lacking common courtesy and communication skills. We all agreed he was high on something and was generally ignored. Mos Generator was on the stage and the Mr. Thug Life wasn't about to rain on our rock parade. All in all, Mos was "5000 to Awesome", another quote from Mr. Thug Life in the solitary mosh pit, but this time humorous and fitting. Whatever it means, it was made public during the show and has stuck since then and I'm using it here.

Mos Generator was a fantastic close to an amazing night. Nothing like a night of rock, and getting to meet new folks, unite with brothers and sisters from all reaches of the planet, and celebrate the joys of music existing as a common ground for everyone present. If you couldn't make it out there is always next time. In fact May 21st at the San Jose Stoner Rock Fest, Ripple team up with RidingEasy to bring us Mothership, Zed, Slow Season, Blackout, and another promising Bay Area band Forgotten Gods. I don't always travel for concerts, but when I do, I make sure it’s a Ripplefest!! Stay tuned for more detail on that show and in the meantime keep doing what you're doing and make sure to have your cake and eat it too. If you forget and are lucky, the local dive bar metal show will have an extra slice for you.

-The Huntsman

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