Attention shoppers: Mall moshing & dancing on blue-light special

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Attention shoppers: Mall moshing & dancing on blue-light special

Trips to the mall on Friday nights no longer are a popular choice for teens and 20-somethings merely intent on shopping or hanging out. Those who enjoy metal on their weekends have a new reason to shop — or mosh — till they drop thanks to a promotional company hoping to show there’s a new sheriff in town, even after the stores and food court have shut down.

A local metal shebang, featuring St. Louis natives Hallow Point touring in support of Blacklight, rang throughout the second level of Rolling Oaks Mall on Sept. 27 courtesy of Julian “J.C.” Cruz and Roland Torres. Collectively known as JC & RT Productions, the duo is bringing various acts to their Anthem Entertainment Center. The spacious hall, with an open bar in the middle, stage in the back and plenty of room for merch booths, hosted hometown bands Pigweed, Meridian, Ammo For My Arsenal and openers Lonestar Massacre in addition to Hallow Point. And even that came with a twist.

Between bands, local quintet ensemble Onyx Elite Dance performed silhouetted routines to various songs (see 71-photo slideshow below and ATM Facebook Live footage here). They raised the ante during Meridian’s set when brunette Courtney Garcia and blonde Breanna Huther joined the metalcore act for “The Way You Move” (ATM Facebook Live footage here) before the entire troupe posed for photos with the band.

As with most things in their infancy stages, not everything went smoothly.

Set times were pushed back 75 minutes from the original start time of 7 p.m. for Lonestar Massacre. As such, Hallow Point was moved up in the middle of the package to ensure that the only national band wouldn’t go on too late. That, combined with some drama within their camp, led to locals Cauterized dropping off the program. And by the time Pigweed wrapped up the night post-11 p.m., the number of members on stage equaled those remaining, which by that point was media, promoters and bartenders. Not to mention the fire alarm that sounded throughout the mall (though no evacuations were necessary).

But, too, as is the case with metal intentions, it’s all about the music. And while early bands Ammo For My Arsenal and Lonestar Massacre could count most of their supporters as school friends and those in other bands such as the guys from Send Help, each act had its own way of inspiring mall moshing and headbanging.

Watch Pigweed on “Needles” and “Eye of the Wasp” plus their cover of Sepultura’s “Roots,” along with Ammo For My Arsenal and Lonestar Massacre. Hallow Point can be seen below on “Acedia,” My Resistance,” here and doing a cover of Slipknot’s “Psychosocial.”

Other shows scheduled for Rolling Oaks Mall include:

  • From Graves, Shaping the Legacy, Snake Father from Austin, Life Eats Life, Forever For Now and Send Help on Friday, Nov. 1 for $8 (minors $10; (details here)

  • Lilac Kings, Marila Voe, So Soon The Truth, Buried Alike, War Within Dreams and Perfect Season on Saturday, Nov. 2 for $5 (minors $8; details here)

And if those don’t float your boat, Torres and Cruz are planning on bringing more local artists to the Alamo City Comic Con from Nov. 1-3 at Sunset Station, which will be highlighted by appearances from Batman’s Michael Keaton and Beetlejuice. Band submissions are being accepted by calling 210-367-3175.

And yes. Since you’re wondering. The Onyx Elite Dance girls will be there too.

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Concept of celebrating 'Operation: Mindcrime' still resonates with Geoff Tate & S.A.

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Concept of celebrating 'Operation: Mindcrime' still resonates with Geoff Tate & S.A.

When it comes to history’s most iconic albums, Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime has reigned supreme in the hard rock/heavy metal conscience for 31 years. It’s gotten to the point where both existing factions of the band — Queensryche featuring replacement vocalist Todd La Torre and Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime — could play it in its entirety whenever they visit San Antonio, and no one would cry themselves a river.

The original voice on that concept album, Tate returned to the Rock Box last Sunday night and played it all the way through for the fourth time since 2013, and second time in 14 months (last year’s coverage here). And while the performance was similar every time, save for a couple of rare instances on this night where Tate may not have sounded as clean as in previous performances (but is still better than 90 percent of the vocalists out there), the method to the madness was different.

Last weekend was supposed to see the seventh annual River City Rockfest turning the Alamo City and AT&T Center grounds into the mecca of metal for two days. Instead, the festival was canceled in early summer, of which Tate was supposed to be a part playing an approximately 45-minute set. That meant he wouldn’t have had time to play Mindcrime in its entirety. But when the festival got axed, and Tate was offered a chance to return on his own, he swept up the opportunity with Irish guitarist/singer Mark Daly and locals Gandhi’s Gun, Hellgrimm and The Steel Soldiers providing support (see 37-photo slideshow of the three main acts below).

In 2014, Tate told ATM “the past is over” and that he was “definitely ready to move on from” Mindcrime. But he also conceded Mindcrime is what promoters buy and, in perhaps the understatement of 2014 that still applies in 2019, “Mindcrime is a very successful tour” (watch below).

Once again, Tate was backed by Canadian guitarist Scott Moughton, Scottish guitarist Kieran Robertson — who’s also the boyfriend of Tate’s daughter Emily Tate, who fronts Till Death Do Us Part with Robertson on guitar — and bassist “Smilin’ “ Jack Ross while being joined for the first time by Brendan Bell on drums. Tate even had longtime guitarist Kelly Gray in the house watching as a fan. Tate whipped through Side 1 of the album before offering his patented, “Shall we continue” prior to “The Needle Lies,” “Breaking the Silence” and the rest of the record (ATM footage below).

Perhaps because it was a Sunday night, Tate limited his encore to just “Silent Lucidity.” But while he visits San Antonio on an annual basis and even sometimes multiple times in one year, a return next spring might be even more exciting given that Tate will be playing all of 1986’s Rage For Order and 1990’s Empire each evening. For the first time in ages, Tate will be performing tunes such as “Gonna Get Close to You,” “I Will Remember,” “Hand On Heart” and “Anybody Listening?”

Daly, a southpaw acoustic guitarist, and his band made their first visit from Ireland to a crowd that was on the verge of becoming restless after three local openers in waiting for Tate. But with the exception of a couple of sarcastic apples in the crowd, Daly seemed to please if not impress the majority of the roughly 500 in attendance with his brand of rock.

Gandhi’s Gun, meanwhile, has opened for Tate and the other version of Queensryche on multiple occasions. That included Saturday night’s show with Queensryche in Cedar Park six days after warming things up for Tate. These eyes and ears have seen and listened to Gandhi’s Gun play in front of 10 people on a Sunday night at Boozehounds and open for Tate at the Aztec Theatre, and of course Sunday at the Rock Box. They’ve also made San Antonio proud by playing the Whisky on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip and filming a video there, and the band lived up to its energy again (watch “Broken” below).

The night concluded a back-to-back exhibition of Rockfest spillovers, with Jinjer having headlined the Rock Box’s Vibes Event Center the night before (coverage here). The shows bookended a long and tiring, but fruitful, weekend for Rock Box owners Micaela and Steve Rodriguez and their staff, not only making sure things ran smoothly for both shows, but simply getting the venue ready for Tate after Jinjer and its support acts nearly sold out the Vibes.

It may not have been the weekend that could have been. But for new-schoolers and old-schoolers alike, it delivered what fans came to hear.

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International flair of females brings roaring Vibes to Alamo City

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International flair of females brings roaring Vibes to Alamo City

The seventh annual River City Rockfest was all set to feature one of the most sought-after and intriguing bands to hit the scene recently for the first two-day Rockfest in San Antonio history last weekend. Except for one problem.

The Rockfest was canceled. Which led to the search and effort by Din Productions to atone for the cancellation by bringing some of those scheduled bands here on their own tours.

Jinjer was happy to oblige.

The quartet from the Ukraine, led by the mesmerizing vocal style of Tatiana Shmailyuk, swept into town, and demand was palpable. In what may have been the first metal show designed to be on the Rock Box stage of the Rock Box building, only to be moved to the larger Vibes Event Center within the facility, roughly 1,100 fans turned out last Saturday to hear and witness the Ukranian wonders.

Kansas City natives The Browning provided direct support in a shroud of darkness (watch ATM footage of “Awaken the Omega below), but it was Toronto quintet Sumo Cyco that had the crowd jumping early. Fronted by Catwoman-suit wearing Skye “Sever” Sweetnam, who body surfed her way into the audience on more than one occasion (see 80-photo slideshow below), Sumo Cyco increased the energy after locals Wulfholt and Desolate A.D. warmed things up. Watch Sumo Cyco perform “Move the Mountains” below and click here for Facebook Live footage of “Run With the Giants.”

While Sumo Cyco easily won over new fans with their energetic performance and meet-and-greet afterwards, it was Jinjer that most came to see. Set to release Macro on Oct. 25, Shmailyuk lured listeners in with her girl-next-door pink jumpsuit, white sneakers and sweetened clean vocals before unleashing her patented roars that would shame many death-metal male vocalists on tracks such as “Ape,” new single “Judgement & Punishment” and finale “Pisces.” Judge for yourself on ATM Facebook Live footage of “Dreadful Moments” and see the setlist in the slideshow below.

Guitarist Roman Ibramkhalilov, bassist Eugene Abdukhanov and drummer Vladislav Ulasevish brought their own sense of metal fury as Shmailyuk roared to her heart’s content in a nearly two-hour set. While many bands these days incorporate two singers splitting the clean and metalcore styles, Shmailyuk’s ability to handle both distinctively with ease by herself is a large part of the lure for Jinjer fans, making the band different than most.

Wulfholt and Desolate A.D. brought riffs, drums and heavy vocals to the local portion of the night, with the former band generating a slew of flying panties that made their way into the photo pit (see slideshow). Watch both bands in action, respectively, via ATM Facebook Live footage of “Volatility Quotient” and “Fight For Another Day.”

While the first of back-to-back Rockfest spillover shows delighted a near sold-out crowd that flowed into a room not originally anticipated, the entire weekend would not have been possible without the tireless work of Rock Box owners Micaela & Steve Rodriguez and their staff. In addition to making adjustments on the fly within the facility and ensuring admission was run as smoothly as possible, they had to turn things over immediately after the Jinjer show cleared out for Sunday night’s second spillover appearance of Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime.

Stay tuned for coverage of that show. And keep in mind that with a little more demand from the fans, those two acts won’t be the only Rockfest 2019 alums to actually appear on stage rather than just on paper.

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L.A. Guns-led local showcase goes over the edge for all

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L.A. Guns-led local showcase goes over the edge for all

Anytime there are 10 bands on a one-night event, there’s bound to be a little of everything. Saturday night at Quatemain’s Pub was no exception. But not always for the right reasons.

It was L.A. Guns a blazin’. Emotions a flarin’. Electrical power a disobeyin’. And scheduled set times a goin’ up in smoke.

Sunset Strip veterans L.A. Guns headlined the two-story bar in Live Oak on a two-stage program (30-photo slideshow below). But things got interesting, and put out of whack, before the first band even took to the indoor and outdoor platforms.

Touring in support of The Devil You Know, the band featuring original vocalist Phil Lewis — listen to our interview below — and guitarist/founder Tracii Guns along with guitarist Ace Von Johnson, bassist Johnny Martin and drummer Scot Coogan was scheduled to go on at 11:45 p.m. But L.A. Guns wasn’t down with that.

According to a source, Martin told him the band insisted during the day to go on at 10 p.m. An announcement was not made via Quatemain’s or L.A. Guns’ social media outlets, so anyone planning on showing up just to hear hits such as “Sex Action,” “Never Enough” and “The Ballad of Jayne” close to 11:45 would’ve been out of luck. But as the concert began, a happy medium of sorts was reached for L.A. Guns to go on at 10:45 p.m. even though this was the last night of the current leg of its tour.

While L.A. Guns delivered the goods — watch ATM Facebook Live footage of first two songs “Over the Edge” and “No Mercy” here — the change in stage time continued a chain reaction of some of fhe locals being affected:

  • Hellfire Mafia, scheduled to kick off the night inside at 7 p.m., went on at approximately 8:30

  • Top Heavy, scheduled for 9 p.m., was scratched entirely

  • Dokken tribute Dream Warriors, featuring the debut of Jessikill wunder-guitarist Jyro Alejo, now had part of its 10 p.m. outdoor set conflicting with those wanting to get a good spot to watch L.A. Guns inside at 10:45

  • Outdoor headliners Budderside basically became a wash during its 11 p.m. set now that L.A. Guns was going on virtually at the same time inside

  • ‘80s cover band Big Bang, which went on nine minutes late at 10:09 p.m., found itself setting the table for L.A. Guns, a job originally relegated to Austin band Black Heart Saints’ scheduled time of 11 p.m. To allow for a 15-minute changeover, that meant Big Bang should’ve known it now only had till 10:30 p.m. But its suddenly shortened 21-minute set caught singer Sean Nations of Even In Death and his bandmates by surprise when, as Nations said to the crowd, “We promised you some Faster Pussycat,” his mic was shut off after three tunes and before he could say the name of the fourth

  • Black Heart Saints arguably was screwed the most, forced to be the only band to go on after the headliners after making the 75-mile drive from Austin

Promoter Richard Reyes lamented to the crowd that “L.A. Guns wanted to go on earlier” and asked fans to “stick around for one or two songs.”. To their credit, more than a handful of metalheads more than stuck around, rocking out to Black Heart Saints as Lewis and Guns headed offsite and Von Johnson and Coogan made their way to the merch area. However, Black Heart Saints should’ve been afforded similar or better lighting than L.A. Guns given the change they were forced to endure and the distance they drove. Instead, they received the same red, bleak lack of brightness as the support acts.

But the headliners weren’t immune from what some would refer to as cluster-fuck moments either.

During “Gone Honey,” the only track performed from the new album, the power went out on stage. Sure, those things happen, and it came back rather quickly as Lewis urged his band to resume from the second verse. But after adding “Some Lie 4 Love,” “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “Speed” to the set, Lewis was in the midst of spotlighting his mates during encore “Rip and Tear.” After calling on former Ace Frehley and Lita Ford drummer Coogan, Lewis had just introduced the Ramones-resembling Martin, who grabbed his mic and appeared set to address the crowd for the first time when the stage’s power failed again.

Martin simply flipped the mic to the ground and exited. Lewis and Guns, the only original members, didn’t get to give one another an intro but proved to be good sports about it by smiling and joining Von Johnson in acknowledging the cheers. On a side note, for those who rely on Setlist.FM, L.A. Guns did not perform “The Devil You Know” or “Kiss My Love Goodbye” as the Quatemain’s set on there would have you believe.

Reyes and Quatemain’s announced more ‘80s style shows coming, with BulletBoys on Oct. 18 and Enuff Z’Nuff — which recently had a show at Fitzgerald’s canceled due to low ticket sales — on Jan. 11. Fans can only hope, if those end up being more 10-band showcases, that lessons have been learned on the homefront so the performances, not the mishaps, become the story.

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Zakk Wylde showcases wizardry of bloody Sabbath riffs

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Zakk Wylde showcases wizardry of bloody Sabbath riffs

From the precocious 19-year-old introduced to the world on a “Headbanger’s Ball” episode in 1988 as Ozzy Osbourne’s new guitarist, to a long-bearded, kilt-wearing, chest-pounding, six-string slinging maniac, Zakk Wylde has grown before our very eyes.

Wylde has played with The Ozzman Cometh for 20-plus years while fronting his own Black Label Society. Last Wednesday, however, he brought another faction to the Aztec Theatre — his tribute to Osbourne’s Black Sabbath days in the form of trio Zakk Sabbath.

Introduced by “That Metal Show” co-host Don Jamieson after part of the comedian’s opening monologue included the fact that Wylde once went 77 consecutive days without showering, the beast behind the axe took to the stage with his BLS bassist John “J.D.” DeServio and energetic drummer Joey C. In addition to the 2-hour plus performance of Sabbath tracks from the first four Osbourne-sung albums, Wylde gave fans a treat by including several rarities on the setlist while omitting entirely, or merely including a portion of riffs, of the likes of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” “Black Sabbath,” “The Wizard,” “Symptom of the Universe” and “Sweet Leaf” — the latter revealed by Jamieson as his favorite Sabbath tune.

Opening with “Supernaut” (setlist in 30-photo slideshow below), Wylde often turned the Sabbath songs into his signature long but entertaining guitar jams and solos. Unlike with BLS, though, the more informal occasion of paying tribute to another band yielded the green kilt-wearing Wylde the freedom to play among the fans. And he liked it so much, he did it twice.

Wylde first went into the back of the general admission area during “Into the Void” and shredded away while fans encircled him while filming every note with their phones. As he walked back to the stage, Wylde played his axe behind his head the entire way. No professional media footage was allowed of the concert. But after rare track “Wicked World” and crowd favorite “Fairies Wear Boots” (ATM Facebook Live footage here), Wylde, who was often pegged as the favorite to replace the late “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott if Pantera had ever reunited, broke into a riff of “I’m Broken.” It was his only deviation from Sabbath material all night in a virtually non-stop exhibition of pure guitar madness.

DeServio, who was celebrating his birthday, became the recipient of a cake from Jamieson and crew members as he blew out the candles on stage. DeServio and Joey C., a wildman in his own right on the drums, were particularly impressive during finale “War Pigs.” That’s when Wylde left the stage again, this time using a security escort to visit the upper level of the Aztec, delighting fans up there. Wylde stood in the middle of the deck and riffed to his heart’s content before walking along the balcony railing and visiting those fans, security staff in hot pursuit. As Wylde eventually made his way out of the upper level, yours truly was the first to greet him in the hallway and received a sweaty fist-bump. Security continued to earn their keep as Wylde once again visited the center of the general-admission universe.

All told, the 15 to 20-minute solo had everyone fixated on Wylde to the point that some in attendance may not have realized DeServio and Joey C. never stopped playing throughout.

And with that, the Aztec Theatre was officially added to Zakk Sabbath’s San Antonio metal brotherhood chapter. And it was time for everyone to head home and hit the showers. Optional, however, for the man of the hour.

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Oft-maligned frontman leads charge as Muddfest brings back metal of 2000s

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Oft-maligned frontman leads charge as Muddfest brings back metal of 2000s

Perhaps more than any other act within the metal scene, it can be said that a Puddle Of Mudd concert can be intriguing as much for what could happen as for what actually does. That’s what comes with the track record of enigmatic singer, guitarist and band founder Wes Scantlin.

A frontman who has had more than his share of ups and downs, including bouts with the law and canceled shows, Scantlin has persevered through personal hard times and several lineup changes. He’s vowed that he has plenty more Rock N’ Roll to unleash, and the latest example will be the Friday the 13th release this month of Welcome to Galvania. But first, Puddle Of Mudd hosted its Muddfest last Tuesday night at the Aztec Theatre with Trapt, Saliva, Rehab and Tantric (see 45-photo slideshow below).

All eyes and ears were on Scantlin and his reputation for potentially being a ticking time bomb. For the most part, he passed with flying colors. Early on, Scantlin’s conversation with the venue that was more than two-thirds full on all levels seemed odd. At one point, he said San Antonio reminded him of Amsterdam and went on a brief diatribe while sticking out his blue tongue about how much he liked the latter city. That caused his bassist to give a look of bewilderment as he kept walking further back from his own mic until Scantlin was ready to begin the next song.

Other than that, Scantlin showed moments of gratitude and reflection. Oddly, during opening track and Puddle Of Mudd’s biggest hit “Control,” the band broke into Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” just prior to “Control’s” signature “I love the way you smack my ass” part. The choice and timing — barely two minutes into the show — of Scantlin already deviating from his own song was cause to think, “Oh, boy, here he goes again.” But alas, it merely served as a detour from the rest of “Control’s” rock and angst that helped make it a No. 1 tune on MTV and the charts in 2001. Ironically, as Puddle Of Mudd’s set began with a trace of Black Sabbath, Zakk Wydle’s Zakk Sabbath ended their electric performance with a 15-plus-minute version of the same Sabbath track the following night on the same stage.

Scantlin and his bandmates broke out other signature hits such as “She Fuckin’ Hates Me,” “Stoned” and “Livin’ On Borrowed Time” (ATM Facebook Live footage of both here) and the trio of “Bring Me Down,” “Psycho” and “Spaceship” (watch all below; setlist in slideshow).

Scantlin has had a love/hate relationship with San Antonio over the years. He played a solid gig during the 2010 Fiesta Oyster Bake but canceled a headlining 2013 Siesta Fest performance the night before when his rebellious nature got the best of him in another city. Puddle Of Mudd was supposed to take part in this year’s Oyster Bake as well, but the band could not get out of snowy Iowa in time and never made it to San Antonio. That one was out of Scantlin’s “control.”

But they made it up to the Alamo City at Muddfest. Through it all, Scantlin endured needless heckling from rotten apples in the crowd, one of which along the barrier yelled “You’re a dick” while another in the middle of the Aztec called him a drunk. Whether Scantlin chose to ignore them or heard them at all is something only he knows for certain. But for the most part, Scantlin delivered the goods on additional tracks such as new single “Uh-Oh” (which was on the setlist third-to-last but was performed second overall after “Control), “Away From Me” and smash hit finale “Blurry.”

The bill as a whole consisted largely of bands that had their heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s, perhaps best exemplified by Trapt, Saliva and Tantric. Trapt vocalist Chris Taylor Brown attempted to make a dramatic entrance from an opening underground, but it didn’t have the desired effect on the performance or crowd reaction, and he merely launched into “Still Frame” just as he could’ve done walking onto the stage.

Although those bands mostly had one or two hits that made them famous, they deserve credit for continuing to put out new music. However, they do mostly live off their past live. Although Trapt has been around for 20-plus years, they still felt the need to do a cover in Audioslave’s “Like a Stone.”

Saliva, however, was arguably the best band on the program and without a doubt the most energetic. Vocalist Bobby Amaru was fired up throughout the set and took it upon himself to bring a young child on stage for their biggest hit “Click Click Boom.” The same child, incidentally, was also brought on stage earlier this year by Hatebreed at Vibes Event Center. Saliva could very well have headlined a five-band mini-fest, yet still only played six tracks this night, including “Always” and traditional opener “Ladies & Gentlemen.” Afterwards, drummer Paul Crosby was out and about meeting with city insiders about potentially returning later this year or next year at a new venue to be determined.

The funky rap/metal of Rehab preceded Savlia, while Tantric and lone remaining original member Hugo Ferreira kicked things off at 6:25 p.m. The bill was similar to the Make America Rock Again tour of 2016 at the Rock Box that included Trapt, Tantric, Alien Ant Farm, Saliva and Crazy Town.

But Muddfest was all about Scantlin. With cell phones at the ready among an audience set to pounce and film any erratic action, Scantlin more than got the last laugh. He even made the crowd feel as if it was coming along for the ride in his own special spaceship.

“A lot of these songs that we’re playing for you guys were (ones that) big record executives (thought) they were fucking shitty,” Scantlin says in ATM’s clip below. “Until they went No. 1 a bunch of times. Thanks to you guys.”

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Into the Pit: Steve Grimmett

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Into the Pit: Steve Grimmett

Grim Reaper was a staple of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement and MTV “Headbanger’s Ball” era in the mid-1980s thanks to a trifecta of albums that still resonate with fans three decades later. See You in Hell, Fear No Evil and Rock You to Hell had the band trending upward long before trending upward, or even social media lingo or the Internet, were “things.”

It all came to a crashing halt, however, after that third and most successful Grim Reaper album mostly due to record-label issues. Vocalist Steve Grimmett resurrected Grim Reaper a few years ago with all-new members, and Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper toured behind fourth album Walking in the Shadows, venturing to the Rock Box in April and October 2016.

Then a more disastrous turn took effect. Not just on the band. But on Grimmett’s life.

Four months after those Rock Box gigs, the diabetic Grimmett was treated in South America for a foot infection that spread more quickly than it could be treated. Grimmett had his right leg amputated in Ecuador, but because his insurance company refused to cover his bills, a GoFundMe page was started just so he could fly home to England.

Improbable might be the best way to describe what has happened since. Grimmett refuses to allow his plight determine his career path. He has played a few shows alternating between a cane with a prosthetic leg and singing via headset while in a wheelchair. He has recorded fifth album At the Gates, which drops Oct. 11, with the first single “Venom” available now via various outlets. And he kicked off a North American tour this weekend in New York, from which he phoned in yesterday to Alamo True Metal for an exclusive interview.

With Chaz Grimaldi filling in on bass for this tour after playing both of the Rock Box shows, plus Ian Nash on guitars and Paul White on drums, Grimmett’s band was traveling through mountainous territory when the vocalist discussed his “traumatic” experience, why he decided to carry on musically, the new album, the MTV days, his memories of the 1985 Texxas Jam before 80,000 people and his uncanny resemblance to Greece’s “hated” prime minister.

Click below for a slideshow and to hear our conversation. Click here to hear our 2016 discussion that covered other topics. Special thanks to Grimmett and Chipster PR for graciously going “Into the Pit.”

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'Loudest bookstore in Texas' tosses local metal to imagination

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'Loudest bookstore in Texas' tosses local metal to imagination

On any given day, first-time visitors to Imagine Books & Records can walk in and view publications ranging from “Curious George” and William Shakespeare to Stephen King and vulgar comics. They can purchase cassettes and vinyl albums of ‘80s hair bands stationed next to Motown and Spanish artists, or Tina Turner breathing the same air as The Misfits.

Thanks to Don Hurd and his son Ezra, patrons can walk out on Friday and Saturday nights with ears ringing from live music that culminates their trip to the self-proclaimed “Loudest Bookstore in Texas.”

A five-band gathering of relatively young metalcore musicians plus instrumental and local trio Dojo were the latest example Friday night. The program, which also featured local acts Send Help, Lonestar Massacre, Ammo For My Arsenal and Kingsville natives Horus Ascending beginning the festivities, was made possible by the Hurds, who are about to celebrate eight years of their store in October.

“Back in the ‘80s, I was involved in the San Antonio metal scene,” Don Hurd, 58, says. “We’d go to venues, and a lot of them closed. Most of them were not friendly. Some were assholes. And I thought, ‘It shouldn’t be like that.’ I wanted a welcoming place.”

Imagine Books & Records, located at 8373 Culebra Road in a strip mall, used to be four doors down. The Hurds moved it to the corner, giving and accepting along the way. “Our capacity used to be 260,” Don says. “Now I don’t know what it is. Maybe 120. But we didn’t have this stage at the other place. We had to give up the wall that everyone signed. But the TV (above the stage) was left by the previous tenant.”

The Hurds take pride in their array of books, cassettes, albums, “45” records and posters - selections that are vast and furious.

“As a bookstore owner, you can’t just suit your own tastes,” Don says. “Dolly’s Mustache was our first show. Then we started to have shows every other weekend. By the end of 2012, we were full in with shows. We’ve had bands from Japan, Australia, Italy — you name it.”

As expected in a bookstore setting, Friday’s crowd was intimate. Most were family members and friends of the bands. In that respect, it wasn’t different from what you find at bars around town. Send Help, for instance, was selling merch outside along with a crockpot of $5 meatball sub sandwiiches.

Don Hurd cited Send Help’s trio of bassist/vocalist Camron Maldonado, lead vocalist/guitarist Joe Vitela and drummer Tyler Rosser as “living up to their name” by frequently helping the family relocate as well as playing live at the store many times. The same could’ve been said for the group’s generosity. As Lonestar Massacre ended its set and prepared to give way to Send Help, Lonestar vocalist Hondo Hernandez Jr. recalled how he recently broke the neck of his first Les Paul guitar. Maldonado draped his arm around Hernandez as Vitela and Rosser presented a guitar case to their touring mate, and an unsuspecting Hernandez proudly opened and held aloft his birthday present in the feel-good moment of the evening (see 55-photo slideshow below).

Dojo played instrumentals in cat-adorned pajamas (ATM Facebook Live footage here). Vitela growled deathcore vocals while wearing a hot-dog get-up (watch) and a pair of masked marauders moshed, wrestled and shook their rears attempting to distract their friends on stage. Lonestar Massacre tore it up in the dark (watch). Ammo For My Arsenal sang deathcore style songs about “Star Wars” (watch). Horus Ascending had its regular drummer play guitar, overcoming the fact its regular guitarist did not want to drive from Kingsville to play in a bookstore (watch). All in a night’s work for the Hurds.

One minute between bands, Ezra would spin Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind on vinyl throughout the store. The next intermission, he opted for what he said was his favorite album of all-time: Jr. Walker & The All-Stars.

Something for everyone. It could be the Hurds’ second slogan.

“Most bookstores only do acoustic shows,” the elder, gray-bearded Hurd says. “But we’re not trying to appeal to seniors.”

There is one senior Don Hurd doesn’t mind catering to, however.

“Please mention my wife,” he says of Irma. “She’s just as much a part of this.”

Imagine Books & Records is the Hurds’ way of giving back to the community they call home. A rare gem born out of the heavy metal capital that has spread its wings to a diversified audience focusing on those that are the future.

“I love this generation,” Don Hurd says. “They have a lot of faults, but I love ‘em. If they mosh and I walk through, they take care of me.”

They’re just returning the favor for what Don, Ezra and Irma Hurd have been doing for them for several years. And, if they have anything to say about it, for a long time to come.