When a dose of flaming heavy metal is needed to kick off holiday festivities, you call on arguably the fastest guitarist on the planet. Go ahead and toss in another axeman who looks up to him and is following a similar path on the instrument. A fire breather doesn't hurt the cause. Neither does a vocalist whose name is Flame and boasts a "voice" from the Ukraine.
Add it up, and Friday night proved to shred in more ways than one as Michael Angelo Batio brought his double guitar concoction and lightning quick over/under ambidextrous technique to Bonds 007 Rock Bar for Memorial Day weekend.
The evening also served as a multi-faceted occasion for direct support local act Jessikill. Bassist Arturo Knight promoted the show, bringing Batio to town for the first time since he played the then-Tequila Rock Bar in 2015 and held an instructional clinic at Sam Ash Music store in 2014. Guitarist Jyro Alejo, who met Batio at that clinic shortly after having unleashed a YouTube video of himself covering Batio's "No Boundaries" instrumental, was also celebrating his birthday. And oh by the way, Jessikill unleashed debut full-length album Another World for its official CD release party (the album had been available on Spotify several weeks prior). Alejo's cake, presented by Bonds owners John and Dirce Eguia, was decorated in the album cover.
Proving the artists could have their cake and shred it too. But it wasn't the only presentation of the evening.
Knight and Batio raffled off an electric guitar to one lucky fan, who held it aloft while Batio autographed it (see 115-photo slideshow below), capping off an electric night in general. Opening acts Wulfholt, Trejo, Jason Kane & The Jive and Down Generation warmed things up for the first 3 1/2 hours (ATM Facebook Live videos of each available here), as did a fire-breathing female entertainer who could've literally burned the house down but thankfully didn't.
Down Generation, led as always by drummer and founder Jason "Shakes" West and vocalist Mauricio "Malls" Adan, revealed that new tracks would be coming this summer as they rocked Bonds to their mainstays such as "Down Generation," "Lose it All" and "Self-destruction." New guitarist Steven Bernal teamed with Kurt Thompson, Adan's bandmate in cover band Chill Factor, and they were joined by fill-in bassist Orry Zickefoose of Enceladus. Though the band was scheduled to end the two day Memorial Day Metalfest at 1 a.m. Sunday night at The Rock Box, Down Generation pulled out of that event, making the Bonds appearance the only chance to catch them over the holiday.
Jessikill, led by its namesake vocalist, along with Alejo, Knight and drummer Alan Cisneros performed one of its few shows that featured all-original tracks. Leaving the covers and tributes at home, this gig was all about taking that next step now that Jessikill is officially a recording artist after more than five years of putting together its material.
Newer tunes such as pulverizing album opener "Dead of Night," which follows keyboard intro "Evil's Warning," segued into "Save Me" and the title track to Another World. Knight took over lead duties as he always does on older offering "The Beast," which appears on the group's 2015 Metal Knights EP and whose songs have joined forces with the fresher ones to comprise the new album. The track also features Alejo's fastest solo, which he revealed is 658 notes in one minute.
Was 666 too much for "The Beast?"
Not to fret. It was time to shred. Over, under and upside down.
Batio began innocently enough, for him, with a few instrumentals on a "regular" guitar. Known for strictly instrumental performances and story-telling between songs, Batio somewhat surprisingly only shared one anecdote. But it was an extra meaningful one to Texas, as he recounted how he met the late "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott before dedicating a set of Pantera riffs to him.
Batio also churned out some Metallica, "especially the Cliff (Burton) era," though he also mixed in "Enter Sandman" among "For Whom the Bell Tolls," "(Welcome Home) Sanitarium" and "Master of Puppets" (ATM footage here). Batio went so far as to say the Bells riff "changed my life." Watch and listen to Batio tell more stories during our 2015 interview here.
Batio then took a seat for a couple of acoustic covers as he introduced Ukrainian vocalist Marsy Flame. With reality show "The Voice" to her credit, Batio revealed that Flame is on her first tour of the States. As the crowd welcomed Flame, and undoubtedly took note of her black leather "flaming" pants adorned with "69" and "2 hot" on either leg, she joined Batio for "Gotta Run" (ATM Facebook Live footage here), Jefferson Airplane's "Don't You Want Somebody to Love" and Blondie's "Call Me" as Batio demonstrated a more eclectic side. Ironically, Batio sang backup on the acoustic tracks after acknowledging during his previous visit that he's only cut out vocally in a backup sense while bashing Joe Satriani's decision to be a lead singer on his 1989 album Flying in a Blue Dream (coverage here and video here).
Of course, the former Nitro axeman saved his best for last, unveiling the double guitar and his simultaneous skills with both hands. Starting out low, Batio held the instrument upside down while fiddling away to famous riffs of Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Ozzy Osbourne before raising it slowly over his head as he kept pounding out the notes (ATM footage below). Flipping the conjoined guitars back to their original level, Batio closed out the night to a shredding version of cheers from his fans.
On a weekend that honored those who served past, present and future for Americans, Michael Angelo Batio and his guests served up a uniquely fun night of metal that was fiery in more ways than one.