Sunday, July 09, 2006

Ministry & The Revolting Cocks - 07/08/06

So let me tell you about the aneurysm I had last night!
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Lately I have been posting on my many musical adventures. Mostly pretty little word paintings of sweet, fragile electronic music shows that play out like The Last Unicorn Finds a Synthesizer.
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I don't know what the hell came over me last night but I ripped back 10 years of moody-but-controlled teen 30-something angst and fell into a Nineties-themed K-hole. Back to a time when I was nothing more than a Art History whore in college holding my shoes (which I named Rik and Vyv) together with safety pins and cussing under my breath about the first Bush regime and the so-called new world order. I had just come out of my Depeche Mode cocoon and was flapping my dark sinewy wings into a new musical wonderland called Industrial music which was ruled by Al Jourgensen and his band Ministry. Maybe I shouldn't even waste words on here about this but well, here you go.

!Look Ma! I actually went to a concert called the MasterBatour!
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The Back Story
When I first came to know Ministry, I actually had no clue who they were. The year was 1992 and I had been given permission to venture alone (with my parents car!) to attend Lollapalooza in St. Louis at the Riverfront where just the week before, Axl Rose was escorted off stage for some reason or another. I can't remember the circumstances but it was big news at the time. Besides that, I just wanted to illustrate that we all were hooked on Guns N' Roses and Warrant back then...musical Neanderthals. But that summer, music was changing and Lollapalooza was showcasing some of the biggest and brightest. Me and my buddies had come to witness Pearl Jam playing songs off their just-released album Ten, Soundgarden was teaching the grunge masterclass and we couldn't wait to get some of Red Hot Chili Pepper's white-hot shit! But Ministry? They were featured....nay, co-headlining that year's festival, yet I had never even heard of them. I remember actually making fun of them whilst sitting under the 100 degree sun baking my brain to the screech of Jesus and Mary Chain. I got stares of death from those around me who clearly knew who they were. I think I thought they were a heavy metal Christian group of some kind. That was until the sun set and they took the stage. It was everything I knew about Jesus in reverse. It was perverted, loud, scary and an onslaught on the senses that I had never before experienced. I LOVED IT!!!!
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After Lollapalooza, I learned as much as I could about Ministry: Their origins in Chicago, their embarrassing first album, their complete love of heroin!! When I become obsessed with something, I live it and breathe it non-stop. Thus my avoidance of anything during the tween pop explosion. Ministry was my religion during college and Al Jourgensen was my God!
!not a typo
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I had always told myself that if Ministry ever came through my town, I would drop whatever I was doing and go see them. Maybe give myself the chance to appreciate what I had no clue I was watching the first time around. Moreover, this tour was going to be equally special for me because touring with Ministry was The Revolting Cocks!!! YES! The Mutherfucking Revolting Cocks!!! I slammed down my $35 (whaaa?) and eagerly anticipated all the might await me at the Orlando House of Blues. Okay, I may be over dramatizing the excitement one should feel about a chance to s
ee The Revolting Cocks but you just don't understand how profound and historic this is! Oh, also you may use the term Revco if all this Cock talk makes you a little uneasy. This is a safe zone and I like to make my readers feel comfy.
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Revco was one of the many side projects of Ministry (ne' Al Jourgensen) and probably the most prolific and successful
one of them all. A super band composed of a variety of legendary talent, Revco was like danceable Industrial music....Industrial Disco if you will, the Revolting Cocks roster reads like a who's who of alternative music elder statesmen: Al Jourgensen, Nivek Ogre (Skinny Puppy), Bill Rieflin (KMFDM and now R.E.M, I kid you not), Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) and for a short time, Trent Reznor (as if you had to ask)! One of those weird things you do when you are totally obsessed with a band is buy anything that they produce sight unseen. During my formidable years investigating the realm of Industrial music, I came across Revco's album "You Goddamned Son Of A Bitch - Live." Knowing that is was crafted by Wax Trax out of Chicago, the same label that Ministry was on, I just had to check it out. And It had porn of the cover!!! Completely expecting the same precision guitars and machine gun fire drumming that I had become accustomed to on Ministry's albums, I was shocked to discover electronic beats and the heavy use of sampling...in addition to the precision guitars and machine gun fire drumming. Once again, my ears were opened to an entirely new facet of music that would soon lead to my modern day appreciation of electronic no-wave music. It's amazing what happens when you keep an open mind.
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Sadly, The Revolting Cocks lost their edge and relevance somewhere in the early Nineties and disbanded. Either Al got tired or distracted or became sober. I'm not sure which came first, but either way, I thought I would never get to see them live. I do remember reading one article in Alternative Press one time where Al talked about a (never realized) last tour where they would do nothing but play their pre-recorded music on stage while lounging in togas eating grapes. Oh God, if only....
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The Concert
The crowd was what I expected for a band that has at least three generations of fans attending. There were the pre-requisite Hot Topic homeless, the Lynyrd Skynyrd southern rock dudes who are always oddly attracted to a Ministry show, something about scoring acid I think, and then the seriously dark ones. I actually arrived late enough to miss the mid-grade Slipknot knock-off opening band called Pit Bull Day Care, and was shocked to find that the floor was nearly empty. Having had a pretty good life so far and what-not, I made one of those spur of the moment life choices by taking one giant step down towards the floor, then slowly edging my way up as far as I could get to the stage. Kinda like I was joining a group of people I didn't know and trying to fit in by laughing at odd intervals. It wasn't long before I was completely surrounded by "all kinds" of people but very happy that I was center stage and only two people back! Oh Jesus, what have I done, I wasn't even brave enough to get this close for Bright Eyes!
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The Revolting Cocks set was amazingly....not what I expected.
Weaned on their mostly electronic DJ sets of old, I should have expected that their material would consist of their latter metal-heavy albums and of course this year's "Cocked and Loaded." Clearly an attempt to cash in on the name and reputation. Although I shouldn't be too harsh. I mean, Al Jourgensen is still in the band along and can still frighten the shit out of you with a flick of his gnarly dreads. Still, I was excited to finally see Revco live and in person however being that it has been almost 12 years since I had a hankering to see them, I knew that I wouldn't be completely satisfied unless they gave a note-for-note rendition of the Live album that I had poured over, right down to the the girl screaming at 8:03 into the album. I tried during this show but I just couldn't get my voice into that upper register. Most of the songs were unintelligible due to the fact that for every single one of them, they used a bull horn to scream into, however the band sounded great. The show wasn't a total loss because after playing the legendary "Beers, Steers and Queers" (come on, it's genius), they brought on stage (and out of retirement) founding Cocks member Luc Van Acker for "Attack Ships On Fire" which was indeed on my precious live album. Bringing back Luc got the crowd very excited as there had been so many great artists perform with them over the years including William S. Burroughs. Probably William's corpse would not be hauled out on stage tonight but the possibility of a Jello Biafra sighting loomed heavy over our heads until our dreams were crushed when they brought out their new lead singer, some skinny man with coffee pot eyes that made me very uncomfortable from my close vantage point. Later on he pulled his penis out, living up to the band's name....I could do without the literal translation. He was also very adept in moving like a demented mime and had a chesire cat grin on his face the entire time that made me want to search the sexual predator database. He did a pretty good job on "Stainless Steel Providers" and "Fire Engine" but lost me on their cover of Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" to which they brought 10 or so lovely ladies from the audience to dance "sexy" on stage, by which I mean forgetting to wear underwear and giving everyone within a range of five persons back a visual history of child birth. I ended up enjoying the Revolting Cocks for nothing else but the sheer novelty of it all. Maybe I shouldn't have gotten so excited about remembering them like I did when I was 19 years old, it's not like it is the same band...maybe a close faxcimile. It's kind of like when I saw Dead Kennedys a couple of years ago at this very same venue. Is seeing the Dead Kennedy's the same thing when they replaced Jello Biafra with the kid from The Courtship of Eddie's Father? Still, I think I see the point that the Revolting Cocks were trying to make all along....we're whatever the fuck we want to be, don't take us seriously, why else did we name ourselves the Goddamn Revolting Cocks!
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The crowd for Revolting Cocks was raucus enough but not nearly as brutal as what I was about to bear witness to for Ministry. In between their sets, I took in the visceral landscape of the cow skull/vertabrae mic stands being set up and the ever-growing stink of the five redneck kids who thoughtfully took acid before descending into my personal space. I was fortunate enough to have kept my perfectly aligned space in front of Al Jourgensen's mic stand even though I was elbowed about 20 times during the course of Revco's set. Fortunate enough to be up front and able to snap the amazingly cool picture above but also fortunate enough to be directly in front of a bouncer who noticed my camera in the process. Oh snap!
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Still, I was determined to not lose my place at this point and even though my weapon of mass blogging had been confiscated, I was ready to prove to myself that I still had what it took to hold my own at a Ministry show. Call it a Gen-Xer's mid life crisis, I had something to prove. Taking a cue from The Faint, Ministry had a video playing in synch with their precision "industrialism" mostly showing clips of dead bodies and President Bush. Being familiar with Ministry[s ouvre, the Bush sentiment wasn't surprising and dead bodies are as common as dried fruit in Martha Stewart's kitchen. As soon as the first guitar riff was hit, the entire floor opened up into a massive mosh pit save only a thin perimeter around the stage, of which I was fortunate enough to be included in. You could feel big gusts of air and sweat hitting you almost immediately. Due to the immense pressure behind the mosh wall, I became very familiar with the geography of the guy's back in front of me. I was very careful as to what position I froze my hands because one false move and we would have been seriously dating. It took almost 5 minutes to completely move any part of your body, it was like a giant sleep over where everyone was in the same sleeping bag. This is what it must feel like on Uranus. Luckily I sustained only minor wounds. A few elbows to the back, something that looks like a monkey bite on my arm and a very stiff neck resulting from the detached caboose of a girl train which went flying through the air in a failed attempt to cross the lip of the mosh pit. That's what you get dumb ass girl train! There was also a fight between two very "normal" looking girls directly in front of me on the first row just before I finally had enough and sailed to higher ground, not sure what that was about.
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The great news is, the sound was amazing (vs. Revco's set. hmmm) and they didn't disappoint by playing some of their best songs: "New World Order" (awesome!), "Thieves" (even awesomer!) and "So What" (my absolute FAV!!!). They also played "Stigmata" and "Psalm 69" which closed the show as their second encore. Oddly missing was "Burning Inside" but I guess the floor could only take so much at that point. Just out of curiosity, I would have loved to have heard something off of their synth pop debut album "With Sympathy" but I imagine that the amount of dollars and psychoanalysis that Al has put into making it disappear has hindered any possibility of that happening. I actually really like everthing from that album on up to Psalm 69.
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I have nothing but great things to say about taking a trip down nostalgia lane, however it might be a little while before I go by myself to a Ministry show again. Nothing wrong with them, heck...I used to fall asleep to The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste (somehow I would always wake myself up during "Cannibal Song"). But I am glad I did it if nothing else but for the sake of paying tribute to the roots of my musical awakening. Thank you Al!
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A Ministry video growth chart
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One of the great early tracks that no one wants you to hear
"I Wanted To Tell Her" from With Sympathy

Virtually overnight, Ministry became aggresive industrial dance.
"Land of Rape and Honey" from Land of Rape and Honey. Amazingly the British accent is gone.

Darker and more aggressive, "Burning Inside" is from what many Ministry fans consider the golden period. From The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste. Not to mention the best album title ever!

"Stigmata" from In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up: Live. If you are new to Ministry, cut your teeth on this album.

"New World Order" from Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs. Probably the best Ministry album ever. Capturing them at their finest.
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Other great resources:
Ministry'sHomepage
Meta-Rules Masterbatour Review (great pics)
WikipediaWikipedia Resource to Ministry
Ministry's MySpace Page (yes, even them)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

What are "coffee pot eyes"?

Anonymous said...

"Coffee-Pot Eyes"

It's a gay reference, applies to the "predators" that tend to stare at their "prey".

It reference comes from the glass tops of old perculators and how they were bulbous & round.

A slight variation on "googly-eyes".

A different use would be, "Check out that old queen with the coffee-pot eyes..."

betamike said...

I saw this term in the movie "Broken Hearts Club" and stole it. I use it at least once a week now. Anonymous #2 is correct although, I like to think it also means that when some leacherous person stares at you their eyes "burn right through you"