Take Me Out To The Hell Game: Athenar of Midnight

satanic royalty

Midnight are one of the current bands that keep me engaged with metal these days with anthems like ‘You Can’t Stop Steel’, ‘No Mercy For Mayhem’, and ‘All Hail Hell’.  For lack of a better description, they do “Venom” better than Venom.  They bring the Satan with the type of loose intensity that made NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) so addictive.  Plus, Midnight are a great in-your-face live band.  

athenar SF
Athenar onstage with Midnight in San Francisco (Photo by Raymond Ahner)

A week or so ago, I attended the San Francisco stop of this year’s Decibel Magazine Tour featuring the all killer, no filler metal bill of Kreator, Obituary, and Midnight.  The last time Midnight desecrated S.F. was 5 years ago.  Their return to Giants orange & black country was highly anticipated and the band embraced the occasion by printing an S.F. event tee featuring the Giants colors. Impressive.

midnight sf tee

Although they had an abbreviated opening set,  the hooded ones from Cleveland delivered the goods and engulfed the stage with their infectious black aura with a set heavy on the heavy hits. An added bonus for me was being introduced to Athenar after the show by a mutual friend and trading cell phone numbers with the bass and vocals Dark Lord.  Oh, what dark things would this exchange bring upon me?

Athenar

Fast forward a week or so after the show and I got a darkly cryptic text message from Athenar. He inquired about an online exchange I had with a mutual friend concerning the iconic pitcher from the 70’s and 80’s Kent Tekulve.  What madness was this!?  It turns out that even Lords of Hell had baseball heroes growing up.

Tekulve

Our electronic exchange continued for a time and then Athenar revealed the following insight into his past that continues to weigh heavily on my mind:

“My hamster as a kid was named Willie after Mr. Stargell.”

1981-fleer-willie-stargell

79 pirates

“We Are Family” indeed!   All hail Hell.

A Visit To The Mound: Dale Crover of the Melvins

The Melvins have been one of my favorite bands since 1991 when I saw them live for the first time.  Much like baseball, it’s easy for lazy people to miss the nuances that make the Melvins great.  Drummer Dale Crover is a legend for hitting things very hard with wooden sticks, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he loves baseball.  Also, Dale is a die hard Dodgers fan and I’m a die hard Giants fan and although I’ve seen the Melvins live 43 times since 1991, ‘Pound The Giants’ is still a shit song..  😉 -Brian Lew

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What’s your earliest baseball memory?

It could maybe be watching Hank Aaron hit #715. I remember watching with my family and it being a big deal. I would’ve been 6 years old.

Have you played ball?  If so what number did you wear?  Did the number have any significance?

Yeah, I was in Little League as a kid. I probably wanted to wear #44 like Reggie Jackson. I liked the Yankees back then and saw them play the Mariners a bunch at The Kingdome.

DALE KID

The Dodgers are your team.  Was there a profound moment, game, or event that made you swear a blood oath to Dodger Blue?

Not really. I hadn’t been to a game in years. I went once with Buzz and Adam from Tool. Walking into Dodger Stadium and seeing the field reminded me of that first time going as a kid. I got that rush, man! After a few more games I was hooked and developed a big baseball habit. That’s when I turned blue!

Do you have a ballgame ritual? Favorite snack?

I like sitting in the reserve level behind home plate. I think it’s the best view of the game and what’s going on.  For snacks I’ll go to the stand that sells sushi and salads. There’s never a line there, surprise, surprise! They have 5 dollar fake beers and peanuts.

I went to the Twins park last year. They may have the best food of all the parks I’ve been to. There’s a constant smell of bacon and they even have an Indian food stand!

TWINS FOOD

What has been the greatest thing you’ve witnessed or experienced at a baseball game?

I have a friend who’s a camera man for the local news. He was covering Dodgers games and took me as part of the news crew once. We were allowed on the field before the game, got to watch from the press box AND go into the clubhouse after the game and interview players!! That was a trip! It was like being in your favorite band’s dressing room after the show. All of the sudden I’m holding a microphone in front of Adrian Gonzalez’s face and asking Dee Gordon questions!

DODGER STADIUM

Beloved Dodger Stadium organist Nancy Bea Hefley.

Favorite heckle?

“BAAARRROIIIID!!!!”

Sorry, I had to since you’re a Giants fan. I went to few of the games here when he was about to tie the HR record. He was ruthlessly heckled, but everyone had their cameras out every time he was up, hoping to see him do it.

Given your baseball fandom, is touring the States in the Summer different now than back in The Day?  Are you able to influence tour routing to catch games?

No, but sometimes it works out that we can see a game or two on tour. I always check team schedules to see if anything coincides with our’s. I’ve been to half the MLB parks and a few pretty cool minor league parks on tour. Made it to a Spring Training game last year. I’ve been to the Louisville Slugger Museum a few times. Someday I hope to make it to Cooperstown

If you played a position, which of the 9 on the field would you be?  Or would you want to be a DH and only hit things with wood.

I’d say DH because I’d suck as a position player, but I don’t really like the DH. I like National League rules where the pitcher has to hit.

For me, the 5-4-3 put out is my favorite play in baseball.  What’s your favorite play or situation in a game?  

Mine is the unassisted triple play, which is one of the rarest plays in baseball. So if you ever see one, consider yourself lucky! Actually, if you saw one you’d probably wonder what the hell just happened.

Have you ever played baseball bat sized sticks like Bun E. Carlos?

bunecarlos22

Did you know that Bun E. Carlos is a switch hitting drummer? He’s the only guy I’ve ever seen who can set his kit up either right handed or left handed and have the same drumming average. What a freak!!!

Anyway, to answer your question…

DALE STICKS

Buzz is also a baseball fan and the Melvins recorded a rendition of ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’.  Does the love of the game influence the band that often?  

Sometimes. There’s a song on the Mike and the Melvins record called ‘Pound The Giants’ 😉

Has there been incidents when your rock ‘n roll life crossed over with your baseball life?

For a brief period they would play ‘The Water Glass’ with a video montage of the Dodgers right before the team took the field. It was a big surprise to us because we had no idea they were going to use the song!

If you were pitching to Eddie Vedder, would you serve him some chin music?

I wouldn’t be afraid to throw inside. I’d go high and tight on the first pitch and try to get in his head, sure!

Anything else you want to say to the Baseball Über Alles crowd?

Happy Opening Day!

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Dale and Buzz of the Melvins can be heard on the new album by Crystal Fairy, a band they’ve formed with vocalist Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes and Omar Rodríguez-López of At the Drive-In / Mars Volta.  In addition, Dale will be playing drums for the mighty Redd Kross on their U.S. Tour that kicks off in mid-April with shows into July.  The Melvins will be back on the road again later this year.

Play ball!

The Melvins – ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’ (from the Basses Loaded album)

Strike Of The Beast

Old school San Francisco Giants fan Gary Holt flying the team colors onstage with Exodus at Aquatic Park, Berkeley, California… August 17, 1984.

gary 2

Meanwhile, on the other side of San Francisco Bay at Candlestick Park at around the same time, the Giants were playing the Mets and lost 2-0 to rookie Dwight Gooden in extra innings.

The Giants finished last in the NL West that season.

Photo by Brian Lew.

This Week In Baseball: Chin Music

Does anybody remember the ‘zine Chin Music!?  Published between 1997 and 2004 outta The Bay Area it was the quintessential crossover ‘zine between punk rock and baseball.  The ‘zine was done by a team of writers who had a deep knowledge of baseball and baseball history as well as a great sense of humor.  Note the cover of their “New York Issue”.

chin music

Aside from the standard fanzine band interviews and record reviews section, every issue also  focused on baseball stories or baseball stories involving bands.  Some of my personal favorite Chin Music! features were:

  • Billy Bean interviews Johnny Ramone.
  • An interview with metal drummer Mike Piazza where he recounts jamming with Motörhead.
  • A Gwar Meets the Oakland  A’s photo essay where the band attended a game in full costume.
  • MaximumRockNRoll’s Tim Yohannan details his hatred of the Yankees going back to his childhood.
  • A history of the mustaches of closing pitchers in the 80’s.
  • An extensive interview with Dock Ellis.

This list doesn’t do justice to the greatness of Chin Music!.  Every issue was densely packed with a variety of all things baseball and music.  Sadly only 7 issues were published in the 7 years it existed and no website archive seems to exist for its content.

Look for old issues online (aka Ebay) I guess.  As with most ‘zines from the late 20th Century, Chin Music! is a profound time capsule to a simpler time when you could still slide hard into 2nd and the catcher could block the plate.

This Week In Baseball: Power Trip

Baseball in the early to late 1980’s will always be my favorite MLB era because that’s when I became obsessed with the game.  The game still had the last vestiges of old school grit then.  The players still had the last vestiges of old school grit then.

Will Clark is my all-time favorite player.  He became my favorite player during his rookie season with the Giants in 1986 when he hit a homer off Nolan Ryan in his first major league at bat.  The Giants lost 100 games the season before, and Clark’s clutch plays and his don’t give a shit attitude was the personification of the team’s rebirth in ’86. This is one of my favorite Will Clark moments from 1988 in St. Louis:

Clark took on 4 Cardinals by himself before the benches cleared.  Don’t take no shit in The Pit! That’s what I meant that the game and players had the last vestiges of old school grit in then.  It’s also a time machine to see footage from old Busch Stadium when games were played on that vintage astroturf.  By all accounts it was like playing on concrete covered by a thin carpet and in the Summer it was like playing on a blazing hot stove.

Anyway, the Dallas band Power Trip give me the same feeling as when I watch old footage of 80’s baseball.  Gritty with a retro swagger and willing to throw punches before thinking about the consequences.

Power Trip are currently on tour in the U.S. and their new album, Nightmare Logic, on Southern Lord rules.   It’s hard ‘n heavy… like Ozzie Smith getting punched in the face.. over and over again.

Bye Bye Baby

I’ve been a San Francisco Giants fan since I was 5 years old.  I got it from my Dad who has been a Giants fan since they moved to S.F. in 1958.  When my sister and I were little he would record us on his reel-to-reel recorder.  Somewhere at my parents’ house there exists a recording of my very young self saying “Bye Bye Baby!” which was what Giants broadcaster Russ Hodges would say when the Giants hit a home run back in The Day.

As Spring Training starts every year, I remind myself of this as I mentally prepare for the grind that being a baseball fan is over the next 6-7 months.  I remind myself that somewhere in my head I’m still that 5-year old kid and not to forget that sense of innocence no matter how frustrating the upcoming season gets.

Baseball über alles!  Only 14 days ’til Opening Day, mofos!

Thanks to Rich for getting this baseball geek thing off the ground.

Chuck Berry… Baseball..

Peace in Rest, Chuck Berry.

“Two, three count with nobody on
He hit a high fly into the stand
Rounding 3rd he was headed for home
It was a brown eyed handsome man that won the game
It was a brown eyed handsome man”

Obviously, we can overlook the “2-3” count in the lyrics ’cause it’s a great song…