I’m not going to go too crazy with a long ass back story here like I normally would. You guys know why you’re here reading this post! The fact that Metal Riot hasn’t asked me to stop writing about my love for METAL CHURCH yet is nothing short of a miracle, which I believe we should be expecting miracles when the METAL CHURCH is involved. If you want the backstory, you can check back with my review of the phenomenal new album, XI. (editor’s note: We love Metal Church and encourage Drew in his allegiance, though we agree that it is a miracle…that Aberdeen produced both Metal Church AND Kurt Cobain).
This posting will be a tale of a dashing young metalhead (Me), a slew of kick-ass bands, and the return of one of metal’s greatest voices.
Our story begins Friday, April 8th outside The Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie. I’ve just arrived after a long work day, and a quick burger at the Nuddy Bar next door to the venue, but thankfully, I’m like 8th in line, so there wasn’t much wait time once the door opens. The game plan was simple – hit the METAL CHURCH merch booth first thing, throw my wallet at them, and walk away with every shirt I could get in my size. Then, run to the stage and claim “my spot” for the night. I had a few water bottles in my vest pockets, and absolutely no intention of moving my ass from that spot all night. The spot was just slightly to the left of the center mic, so that I would have a great view of everything.
The first band came on. A group by the name of DARK AFTER DAWN. I’m not sure how many shows these guys have had prior to this, but they were just filled with rookie mistakes. Musically, they were a pretty talented thrash group, but just kept doing things like unplugging their instruments and drowning out the crowd with static as they switched instruments around. With the time wasted, they could have probably given us two more songs. I’d definitely be interested personally in seeing / hearing more from the group once they polish their act a bit more.
Next up for the local acts was the CHRISTIAN GISONDI band. Watching the guys set up, I kept staring at the guitar player and thinking to myself “I fucking know that guy. Where do I know him from?” I must have had that look on my face, because he saw me, came right over and said “Hey Drew, remember me? Chris Rush, from SACRED ASH.” Ok, now I remember, and I remember SACRED ASH being a killer band. The band did not disappoint. Crowd reaction was unfortunately a little mixed for them, but I think it was mostly because people were looking to mosh a bit, and this wasn’t really a mosh band. No, the CHRISTIAN GISONDI band is more of a “take a step back, and watch some extremely talented musicians create magic together” kind of group. The band handed out some CDs after their set. I was fortunate enough to grab one, and am actually jamming out to it right now as I write this.
Next up, local legends PAINMASK took the stage. This is where the pit really started, but old school moshing, like real men do. No Cobra-Kai spin kicks or sweeping the leg here. When the pit started, it was like an old Kool-Aid commercial. PAINMASK singer Jay Avery started off the set telling us he wanted a pit. There were a few older women in the front, who I am guessing we’re mothers of band members, or long time METAL CHURCH fans who had the same idea to get up front that I did. I could hear them going down the line with “oh no”, “oh no”, and at that moment, some fat guy (not me, I swear!) charged through the people as if he were breaking down a wall and shouted “OH YEEEAAAHH!!!”. I took a ton of bumps pushing me right into the barrier, but I held my spot. Avery commanded a little crowd participation by getting us all to scream “We won’t let this scene die!”, and the crowd wholeheartedly agreed. As the band’s set time neared the end, a “One more song!” chant started. Me, being the jackass that I am, and friends with those guys, decided to yell out “Play some DOKKEN!”, which got some laughter, most notably, this girl that was standing close to me that revealed she had a DOKKEN back patch on her vest. (editor’s note: B title for this article is…Drew misses chance to seal deal with his soul mate. Or maybe he is lying and hallucinated this part of the night).
PAINMASK concluded the local bands on the bill. Next up, the band HATCHET! I admittedly had never geared of HATCHET prior to this show, so I had no idea what to expect. For those of you who haven’t heard them, be sure to check them out after you read this article. These guys were kinda reminiscent of an old school OVERKILL with a taste of ANNIHILATOR in the mix. I was impressed and immediately bought a copy of their album Dawn Of The End before I left the venue.
Now, it was time. Despite being rammed into by a few dozen big guys moshing, nearly being decimated by Mr. Kool-Aid, and temptation to walk away with the DOKKEN chick, I had managed to keep my place. I made it. The lights went down, and the Terminator theme song began playing. I had my first up, ready to fist bump my intended target, Kurdt Vanderhoof when he walked out. I didn’t get him until after the show though. I caught Mike Howe as he came out to sing “Fake Healer” as the opener. Fan boy achievement unlocked for you X-box players. Chris Caffery was even on board tonight as a fill in guitarist. The band played as many of the hits as they could fit into their set. “Date With Poverty”, “Human Factor”, “Watch The Children Pray”, and of course, “Badlands”. This fan boy even got the mic for a moment during the chorus of “Start The Fire”. The band also killed it with a few new songs from the XI album. “Reset”, “Killing Your Time” and “No Tomorrow”. Mike Howe sounds just as amazing today as he did when he performed his last show with METAL CHURCH back in the 90s.
After the show, the band told everyone that wanted to meet them to hang out. There was no charge to meet them and take pictures or ask for autographs, so I waited. This was METAL CHURCH, I would have paid if I had to! I had brought in a magazine that came with my XI preorder that I had the entire band sign. The biggest part of this night for me was yet to come though. I had caught Steve Unger and Kurdt Vanderhoof and asked them to sign my copy of The Weight Of The World, the first METAL CHURCH album with Ronny Munroe as the singer. This album had always been very meaningful to me, as it came out at the perfect time and helped mold my guitar playing and singing style into what it became. Steve Unger even said “Holy shit, I haven’t seen one of these in a while” as I handed it to him. I had a moment to talk with Kurdt shortly after that, and he was very genuinely thankful to hear what I had to say about the album. When I asked him about the tour, he responded “The shows have been amazing, and the fans’ reactions to XI have been more than we could have of ever hoped for”.
After taking some pics with the guys, and saying my goodbyes, and yes, I was the guy that straight up went right in for the hug with Mike Howe, I went out to the parking lot to climb into my van, and drive my ass back home. Now, you’d think that this was the end of my story, and if this were made into a Marvel movie, this is where the credits would roll, but don’t leave before the end credit scene. This end credit scene doesn’t feature Thanos or Loki though. Not even Howard The Duck. You see, I was at work all day before going to the show. Then, I held my spot for several hours without budging. Then, I hung out with the METAL CHURCH guys. What could have happened after I got in the van to drive home? Well, after things calmed down as I drove myself home, the adrenaline was no longer pumping. I got home, and as soon as I stepped out of the van, every bump, kicked and the fact that I was on my feet for virtually 18 hours that day, minus driving time, all kicked in at once and I fell right out onto the street. Thankfully there wasn’t any traffic at 330 AM or I’d have been run over. I kept my one arm up though, holding tightly on to the METAL CHURCH shirts. Like a soldier at war, I never let my flag hit the ground. It took me like 15 minutes to get up and get into the house, and I did it with a smile and a single line in my head – “We must rest to regain our strength!” METAL CHURCH fans will know and love that one.