Sunday, March 6, 2016
Global Black Sabbath Convention
February 24, 2016
New York City
“What a gloomy fucking day!” My friend T said when I met him outside his job near Gramercy park, “Typical weather for Sabbath!”. Indeed even as early as 4 pm, it was already a dark and dreary afternoon. It was one of those days where it wasn't really raining, it was misting, and you felt like an idiot whether you used your umbrella or not.
We weren't going to let rotten weather spoil our good mood – we were on our way to the Global Black Sabbath convention – a place where Sabbath fans and “insiders” could hang out, swap stories and revel in all things Sabbath.
We walked over to the event venue, Slake on 30th street off 8th, right around the corner from where the mighty Sabs themselves would be playing in just over 24 hours from that time. We were greeted outside by a gentleman with a crew-cut and a huge Lemmy style Iron Cross hanging around his neck against his Volume 4 shirt. This was Dave Davis, co-founder of the Convention. He had pure positive energy just radiating off him – you could not be in this man's presence and not smile. I later found out he was an army and prison chaplain and we discussed that maybe it was his faith that radiated off him (even to us heathen types) .
From that moment on it seemed like every person we met was someone we had known forever. There were a few Facebook friends who we had never seen before in person, including convention co-founder Ben Fahl who greeted us with a big smile and even bigger hugs. He introduced us to one of the evening's keynote speakers, noted heavy metal writer Martin Popoff. Martin's always been one of my writing heroes growing up, I always saw his name in metal magazines and really admired his style. Of course I picked his brain about obscure NWOBHM bands (shout out to Elixir) and was impressed that aside from obviously being very knowledgeable, he was one of the nicest guys you could want to meet.
I'm embarrassed to admit that in a very unprofessional manner I had a few pints of my favorite Lager from convention sponsor, Brooklyn Brewery, so the order of events may not be totally correct.
The festivities started a little past 6 pm as people started trickling in. On the stage was Phil Jakes, a finger-style acoustic guitarist playing Sabbath to an enraptured crowd. Every single person was singing along to “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and “Hard Road” among others. A great way to get the night going.
Writer Martin Popoff came out to do a quick lecture about the origins of heavy metal, I think I cheered the loudest when he brought up “Uriah Heep” who started around the same time as Sabbath.
Next up were brand new band Bible Black NYC – covering the best of Dio-era Sabbath. I had met vocalist Elaine Tuttle earlier in the evening and she told me it was their first gig – talk about trial by fire! I told her not to worry, there was so much positive energy in the room that everyone was going to love them. I couldn't have been more on the money. From the opening notes of “Die Young” to the final of “Neon Nights” -the crowd were on their feet, singing along to every word. The band themselves were on point – it seemed that they had been playing forever. I'll definitely be seeing them again, check them out at : https://www.facebook.com/bibleblacknyc/
At some point in the evening, probably between my second and third pint (I probably should have indulged in some of that free pizza but eh – borderline anorexia for me!). Dave Davis and Ben Fahl took to the stage to honor some of the men who make things work behind the scenes. Terry Welty - Geezer Butler's bass tech (in a cool Dr Who inspired scarf), Mike Clement - Tony Iommi's guitar tech, and Mike Exeter, Engineer on the most recent Sabs album, “13” among other high profile metal records. The guys were all very humble and down to earth and seemed to be as happy to be there as everyone else in the crowd. I can't say enough how there were absolutely NO EGOS involved in the night at all which made everything a whole lot easier for the event's organizers I'm sure.
A few lucky fans won a pair of Sabbath converse in a raffle, Into the Void's guitarist Aaron Kipness was holding a guitar built by Lou Moritz of St. Moritz Guitars (http://www.freewebs.com/stmoritzguitars/) - the “monkey” guitar replica of the one he built for Tony Iommi , used to record the album “13” and played by Iommi on the tour to support that album. As Dave was gushing about the positivity and the love and just about to burst into tears, the guys in Into the Void (Ozzy era tribute band) started their intro tape of “Supertzar” .
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Into the Void. (http://www.intothevoidtribute.com/) They are the most on point Sabbath tribute I've ever seen. They started off with “Tomorrow's Dream” which got everyone's head bobbing and during the course of the set pulled out some deep cuts like “Megalomania” , “Junior's Eyes” and my two favorite Sabs songs, “A National Acrobat” and “Cornucopia”. They dedicated “Sleeping Village / Warning” to Ben Fahl – who actually was in tears by that point. Bless him.
With the final notes of “Killing Yourself To Live” ringing in our ears, the security at the venue was quick to usher us out of the main room so we filed into American Beauty bar in the front.
I had a nice conversation with Nick Didkovsky from the band Vomit Fist and we bonded over all things Alice Cooper Band related (if he had a white SG he'd be the spitting image of Glen Buxton onstage!)
It was time to say goodbye as it was last call at the bar – we all left with huge smiles on our faces and new friendships and memories that will last a long time.
Huge thanks and appreciation to Dave Davis and Ben Fahl for putting this all together (and Dave thanks for the encouragement and good vibes), Karen DiZefalo, Johnny Patterson II for the photos and Ricky Woods from Into the Void for helping me out.