By: Susan Welch Dusse
We all think it...so, why not make a list? Do you agree? Disagree? We'd love to see your list!
In no particular order:
Black Star Riders – Saxon – Judas Priest – Show Review, Portland, Oregon – April 17, 2018
By: Susan Welch Dusse
It felt like the 1980s again…not quite Heavy Metal Parking Lot 1980s, but 80s all the same. The venue, the Memorial Coliseum, brought back so many amazing memories, seeing arena worthy bands of my youth…back when life was simpler…when the biggest decision I had to make was what to wear to school the next day, and wondering if my crush of the week liked me back.
I remember the first time I heard Judas Priest. It was a KGON announcement for the June 21, 1980 British Steel tour in Portland, Oregon. I was standing in the laundry room of my childhood house, and I stopped cold. What was I hearing? I’d never heard anything like it. It was Sad Wings of Destiny’s “The Ripper.” Now, I’d just made the leap from Leif Garret to Boston to Van Halen, and had just discovered AC/DC, but none of it was like what I was hearing. It was a defining moment in my life-long love affair with metal.
Too young to go to the show, I waited patiently by my radio, with a fresh cassette inside, waiting to push play when that song came back on. Fast forward a year (1981), and my parents hesitantly let me attend Motorhead and Ozzy Osbourne with my best friend, her older brother, and his friends. Third row, Paramount Theater, Portland, Oregon…Randy Rhoads…Rudy Sarzo side…I was forever in love with live music.
In 1983 I worked at Portland’s Pine Street Theater and was immersed in the local Portland metal scene, tape trading, and a love affair with musicians; it was the 80s after all. Someone gave me Judas Priest’s “Unleashed in the East,” Saxon’s “Denim and Leather,” and Warlord’s “Deliver Us.” I played them until they were unplayable. I was so taken by Saxon, that I had the Saxon “S” tattooed on my body at 17. It was 1983 when tattoos were not mainstream.
My friend and I were in downtown Portland and got the tattoos on a whim. We lied about our age, and I remember enjoying this new feeling of being “bad,” “unique,” “metal”! The “S” was tattooed right where the beltline of your jeans hit your body…you know those snazzy San Francisco Riding Gear jeans that are now called Mom Jeans. Well, I had forgotten about it, (mostly because I personally couldn’t see it), until that one evening when I was doing the dishes. I had my sweet jeans on with a cropped t-shirt. My dad came in and yelped, “Come here right now Susan.” Oh no, that tone always meant I was in trouble. He didn’t call me by my nick name or the more common “Susie,” this was a stern “SUSAN.” Knowing he meant business, I slowly went to him, a little perplexed by his tone, totally unaware of the situation. He grabbed my belt loop, licked his fingers, and tried with all of his might to rub off the tattoo from my skin. “That better wash off,” he opined. Well, that was the end of my freedom for a while.
Now 18 and full of shit, I moved out of the house, found a boyfriend who loved metal as much as me, and well, the rest is history. From that point on, whenever Judas Priest was in town, I was there.
So, last night, at the Memorial Coliseum, I was flooded with nostalgia, and beyond excited to see two bands that had such an impact on my life and taste in music.
Black Star Rising was up first, and I was unfamiliar with them. So, of course, I spent an hour or so the night before perusing YouTube videos, and their discography, taking note of how much they sound like Thin Lizzy. Not doing my due diligence, I didn’t check the members or read Wikipedia. To my surprise, at the end of their set, they announced the Thin Lizzy connection. “Black Star Riders began when members of the most recent line-up of Thin Lizzy decided to record new material, but chose not to release it under the Thin Lizzy name. While Thin Lizzy will continue on an occasional basis, Black Star Riders is a full-time band” – Wikipedia
They were solid, good, relatively entertaining, but they were really just filling time, as we anxiously awaited Saxon and Priest.
Biff Byford and his band Saxon hit the stage to shrieks of excitement. While he has obviously aged in the 40-year span of his career, the only way you’d know that for sure was the fact that his jumps started from a little lower point, his stride a little slower, but his voice was nothing but perfection.
Playing a combination of old and new songs, my only disappointment was purely personal; they cut Princess of the Night short, and didn’t play my favorite Saxon song, “And the Band Played On.” As they played, I smiled, remember everyone saying, “You’re going to regret getting that tattoo when you are older.” Well, I’m older, and, nope…don’t regret a thing! Saxon were awesome and exceeded my expectations. They opened the set with Olympus Rising prior to taking the stage. They followed it up with a fast-paced set consisting of: Thunderbolt, Power and the Glory, The Secret of Flight, Motorcycle Man, Nosferatu, Dallas 1 PM, They Played Rock and Roll, fan favorites: Denim and Leather, Princess of the Night, Wheels of Steel, and ending their set with Sons of Odin and Heavy Metal Thunder.
Standing next to my left was a metal head and his nicely dressed girl. To my right was a new friend who loved Priest and loved the seat next to me that was reserved for Jerimia who was taking photos. Behind me were two guys that were also there just to see Priest. I was in middle, and we all bragged about our Judas Priest pedigrees.
The giant banner dropped and Judas Priest took the stage. I was pleased that the two new guitarists did not try to mimic KK and Glenn’s synchronization, rather, they just played the music. Rob Halford, looking eclectic in his bedazzled robe, silver pants, and evening slippers, slowly, but deliberately, waked across the stage, singing new and old songs with the intensity of what you’d expect on a perfect night. The behemoth of a screen behind them often displayed the album of the song they were going to play next. Of course, the beloved old songs received the loudest response, but the new songs were just as groove-oriented and good, just not as familiar.
The highlight of the night was when they played “Grinder.” As the familiar song started, the guy to my right tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a high five. Just as that happened, the guy to my left turned to me and smiled and held out his hand to give a high five, but instead intertwined his fingers in mine and shook our married fists with a giant smile of happiness.
I knew that we were all one at this moment. Knowing the nuances and every twist and turn of the familiar songs, we collectively banged our heads to the band that made us love metal.
There was a touching moment when Glen Tipton came out for Breaking the Law and stayed for a song or two. The applause was deafening, as the beloved guitarist, who now suffers from Parkinson’s disease, stood still with guitar in hand. The replacement guitarists vanished from the stage, out of our sight, but still obviously playing… allowing Mr. Tipton his rightful applause and adoration.
I wish for the younger generation that there will be a band as powerful as Judas Priest. A band that will stay with them for a lifetime. A band that will begin their love affair with music. A band that will never let them down.
Judas Priest’s set list included: Firepower, Running Wild, Grinder, Sinner, The Ripper, Lightning Strike, Bloodstone, Saints in Hell, Turbo Lover, Freewheel Burning, Evil Never Dies, Some Heads Are Gonna Roll, You’ve Got another Thing Comin’, Electric Eye, Hell Bent for Leather, Painkiller, Metal Gods, Breaking the Law, Living After Midnight.
Judas Priest is a class act, and I’m sad to think that this might be the last time we see them.
By: Susan Dusse
It was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been for an interview since my first ever interview with the drummer from Dying Fetus about eight or nine years ago.
I’m not the biggest Misfits fan, and do not like Danzig, but when I heard I had the interview with Doyle, I got my hands on everything I could of his, including every interview I could read, listen to, or watch. I knew what an icon he was and was intrigued the more I found out. I listened to his two releases, and really enjoyed the music, so that was a fantastic surprise. But the more I watched the interviews…the more nervous I became. You see, Doyle is a no-nonsense, direct guy, who has no problem being blunt, and telling you to get off the bus if he doesn’t like your questions.
I was given a head’s up early on regarding what to stay away from, and the best piece of advice was, “if you ask questions that would yield a one-word answer…that is what you’ll get. And if you ask, “can you elaborate on that?” he will say no. I was giddy with the challenge, yet sort of scared. What if the interview sucked. I’ve never been kicked off a bus.
The interview was scheduled during the first band’s performance, so I missed it completely. We arrived at the tour bus and waited in the cold. The tour manager came out and asked if we were “Ryan,” or some name like that. We said no. Apparently, the interviewer before us was late. So, he returned and said, “Doyle is getting dressed… if it’s audio, you can come in.” By that time, Ryan or whatever his name was arrived. I said, “Oh, Ryan is here now, do you want him first.” The tour manager said, “Nope, come on in.”
Here we go… I thought.
As we walked in, smack dab in front of us was Doyle, sitting on his bed, no shirt, full face makeup and his signature hairstyle called the devilock. He patted the bed and told me to have a seat. Jerimia sat opposite us, and I got right to it. His bedding was black and neat, and there was a picture stuck to the wall of Alissa of Arch Enemy, his love interest.
Before the recorder was turned on, I said, “You are my 106th interview, and I’m a little nervous. I’ve watched every interview I could find.” He laughed.
The interview went very well, and we gleaned some great information. He continued to get dressed while he talked, and we even had a cool interruption by his singer. I ended the interview saying, “I know you have another interview, and go on pretty soon, so we will conclude.” He said, “Fuck that guy.” We laughed.
Originally the post said Doyle would be performing in the lounge of the venue. I couldn’t wrap my head around how that would work, because it is tiny. As we entered the venue, to our delight, plans had changed; we’d be seeing him perform in the regular part of the venue.
Doyle came out to screams of delight, and they began to play. They were incredible! The singer, that we had just talked to, morphed into this 1980’s English punk front man, starting the show with, “This next song is a Love Song,” which it was not. With 100% accuracy, he started every song that way, and the crowd loved it. He spent most of the time on the floor, or spewing water all over himself. He was awesome! During our interview with Doyle, he had said that for young kids in today’s time, “start a band, get laid, and get a good singer.” Obviously, Doyle followed his own advice…well with the front man anyway.
Doyle. What an amazing man to watch on stage. Rather than strumming, he pounded. He walked across the stage as if he was a 400-pound behemoth of a man. He was ridiculously fit, energetic, and the crowd was awestruck, and in love.
Wearing pounds of Velcro, and very tight tights, Doyle was an inspiration to me, and to the crowd. For doing this so long, he seems to genuinely love it still.
I didn’t want to ask him the obvious question of how he maintains his amazing appearance of healthiness, but it came up in conversation. And his world ring true to me today. “If you don’t want to smoke, don’t. If you want to get fit, do. If you want to diet, don’t eat the cake.” I’ll remember that for life I think.
He’s vegan, he’s direct, he’s fit, and he’s awesome...oh, and he writes really fun music.
Fozzy, Through Fire, Santa Cruz, Dark Sky Choir, Noise Brigade – Show Review – March 15, 2018 – Dantes, Portland, Oregon
By: Susan Dusse
First off, I’m a girl, and not a wrestling fan…so I have no idea what it’s like to watch Chris Jerico wrestle. All I know is that he can sing, and people love him. I love this band, mostly because I love Rich Ward’s Stuck Mojo, and he is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever had the privilege to interview. I just interviewed him within the year, so we thought we’d wait until next year to request an interview; I was more than happy to just experience it as a fan and write this review.
I arrived at the venue just as the first band was started. As I got out of my car, over walked Brian Allen, the singer for Dark Sky Choir. He grabbed me and took me to the bus to meet his band mates…and then he disappeared back in the venue, leaving me with his band. They were very nice, and after a bit of conversation, I ventured into the venue with Jerimia, who was excited to shoot this show.
I arrived inside just as Noise Brigade were ending. Jerimia and I walked towards the front, and to my delight, two of my very tall friend were standing right in front. They pulled me in front of them, so I was just at the stage…stage right. My friends were able to see over my head by miles…so, although I continuously asked if they wanted to switch spots, they told me no.
Brian Allen, one of our local Portland rock stars, is also the singer for the East Coast band, Dark Sky Choir. He is an amazing front man; one who fronts many bands. Dark Sky Choir was energetic, technically great, and the buzz around the venue was that the bassist was the bassist for Disturbed, which took fan’s respect level and interest up 10 notches it appeared. They looked seasoned, but except for Allen, they didn’t interact with the crowd much. I guess it is an unfair comparison, as the marker for this show is Fozzy, and their fan interaction is crazy good.
Up next was Santa Cruz. I was positioned directly in front of the bass player, and he was awesome. The singer looked like he was 15, but clearly had the maturity and voice of a veteran performer. They were reminiscent of early Guns and Roses, in sound, in looks, and in movement. I stood next to a pretty girl and her husband. I know this because I saw their rings. Her amorous gaze never left the bass player, and I just kept thinking…I wonder if she is fantasizing about the bassist in the presence of her normal looking husband, as I remembered the 80s when there was no fantasizing necessary. I really liked the energy of this band, and besides Fozzy, they were one of the highlights of the night.
Through Fire took the stage and I have to say there were one of the nicest looking bands I’ve ever seen. They were very polished and put together, looking a bit more like millennial metrosexuals in an Australian metalcore band, than simply rock musicians. Their look was unified and a specific style, until the singer came out. The stark contrast between his all black modern urban outfit, juxtaposed with his spectacular red hair. It put a twist on what I thought the band would sound like…and I’m glad that happened. They were really great. They were excellent musicians, with catchy and well-constructed songs, played perfectly. I did some further research on them after I saw them live, and found that I wasn’t alone in my thoughts about them. They are currently experiencing some great airplay with their songs. Their fame, and the hype around them is justified.
Disco music played between sets in preparation for Fozzy. The group in the venue was very diverse, with many fans that I’d never seen before. I think Jerico’s popularity must be the reason. Timely, out came the band, sans Jerico, and the place erupted. Like a dribbling volcano…causing excitement, but not the full eruption. Then, Jerico hit the stage. Fans absolutely went crazy. His energy and the way about him was so pleasing. He is a good singer, with an incredible band behind him. I think of Rich Ward and his Stuck Mojo, and how long he’s been doing this. Fozzy seems to bring out a breath of fresh air for Ward, and his little dance steps, and infectious smile complement Jerico’s celebratory persona. They all look like they are truly happy to be there.
Fans were brought up on stage, Jerico had outfit changes, each member had eye contact with every fan, and Mr. Ward, made the way up the catwalk on stage right, to play over the audience. It was spectacular.
You’ll never be disappointed if you see Fozzy live.
Watain, Destroyer 666, Degial - Show Review – March 14, 2018 – Hawthorne Theater - Portland, Oregon
By: Susan Dusse
I was so excited for this show. We were granted the interview with Erik of Watain, and I’d known this for weeks. Being a fan of Watain, I wanted the interview to be flawless, plus…I have a burning desire to try and understand black metal in its entirety. I don’t mean simply the music; I mean its full essence. I love how I feel when I listen to black metal, but I must admit, sometimes feel like I am not worthy. I know that sounds weird, but I feel like I can never fully understand it in its entirety.
Buying the traditional Voodoo Donuts seemed silly for Watain, so I settled on a nice box of hand-selected Moonstruck Chocolates, made right here in Oregon.
We have a rule at MIRP that we don’t get on a tour bus alone, and because the interview was so early in the day, and I wasn’t sure MIRP founder and photographer Jerimia would be there in time, I made arrangements with the venue to conduct the interview inside. My contact at Portland’s Hawthorne Theater was incredibly accommodating, and I felt a bit relieved.
Jerimia arrived just in time, and I emailed the tour manager that we were in the venue. We were shown to the booth where the tour manager sat. I said, “We are from MIRP and are here for an interview.” He laughed, and said, “With me? It isn’t going to be very exciting!”
He had us sit, and said he would fetch Erik when Watain was done with sound their check. Sitting there, listening to sound check was awesome; it’s one of my favorite parts of this job. I read over the questions quickly, and sat there... nervously awaiting Erik, who was high on my list of “must have” interviews.
He came through the door accompanied by the tour manager, and introductions were made. He sat on the opposite side of us, and I quickly felt ridiculous for having a box of chocolate as a gift. We exchanged small talk for a moment and then proceeded with the interview. It was fascinating, revealing, and thrilling.
He was soft spoken, with really kind blue eyes, andWe talked about the essence of black metal, which countries they were most free to do as they wanted on stage, how much of an impact Metallica had on him, and how their belief system is pivotal to Watain. After we finished the interview, Jerimia and I had a few hours to kill, so we did.
Just in time for Degial, we positioned ourselves front row, stage right. The buzz in the venue was that real animal blood would be used, and, in fact, there were two signs posted on the entry doors that read: “No animal parts allowed in the venue,” and “Real animal blood used tonight.”
The first band up was Degial. Degial is band that hails from the same town as Watain (Uppsala, Sweden). Their music was fast-paced, and they were a great opener for the night. I wondered if there was some relationship between Watain and Degail since they came from the same city. Again, they were good, but not quite a seasoned as a band like Watain.
Next up was the controversial Destroyer 666 from Australia. Labeled as racists, misogynists, and more, this was a band that I’d never seen, and felt that I should see at least once, as a music journalist. In my effort to not be judgmental when it comes to music, I watched… I watched for a few minutes, and then went to explore the merch, food, and visit with others who were not watching...and there were quite a few. Their music was alright, but nothing spectacular. And, I guess they were memorable only because it is so rare to see them live. I left because they were mediocre, and I don't support misogyny or racism.
The venue was a buzz with preparations for Watain. We were given a heads up by the staff at the venue that we might want to consider not standing in the front row…that (insert specifics regarding timing and quantity of blood used) would occur. I’m leaving it out here on purpose, so that no secrets are revealed for future shows on this tour. Jerimia and I discussed it, and decided that, yeah, we wanted to experience it all. All of it. So, we stood in the front. After all, we’d just done the interview and I now had a better understanding of what Watain was about...more than just the music.
Being vegetarian and an animal lover for many years, I had a moment of feeling like support for this live show might be wrong, but then I decided that that thought was wrong. I’ll tell you why: My immediate reaction was that it was wrong for them to use real animal blood, and I was consumed with thoughts about my judgement about it. Just as I had a handle on how I felt, I remembered the interview and hearing Erik passionately talk about Watian and their belief system. To me, from that conversation, it appeared that in some ways, Watain is a way of life. As I struggled for a solid stance in my mind, it hit me! I realized that in the hours between the interview and the show, at dinner, Jerimia ate a hamburger. Both animals died. So what is the difference if it is for a hamburger or for ceremony? Who am I to judge what parts of the animal are used for what purpose?
I stood stage right, front row, with a quick exit strategy for the timed bloodbath. The members of Watain came out amidst thick fog and red lights, and the atmospheric, dark music began. I was excited.
That was until the smell hit me.
At first, I thought the horrible smell was the fog, but it soon became apparent that it was a putrid smell of death. Once I realized what I was smelling, I looked for Jerimia, who was in the photo pit, right up against the stage.
A girl pushed past me with her hands to her mouth, as if she was vomiting. A few people held their noses. I wasn’t sure what to do.
After a few songs, Jerimia appeared next to me, and we gave each other a look of confusion. Instinctually, we both headed for the back of the venue without saying a word to each other, and gasped when the fresh air hit our nostrils. We quickly discussed what to do, and decided that the smell was too strong for us, and we ventured outside.
We enjoyed the rest of Watain through the venue walls and the fresh Oregon air. However, during the ride home, and the subsequent crawling into our respective beds, we both reported that the smell stayed in our nose for hours…much akin to when you inhale too much bleach.
I wondered how the members of Watain could stand being so close to that smell. How do they douse themselves in it? How do they clean up? Where do they store it? I wondered if they had become so used to it that they didn’t notice. I wondered if they liked it?
I membered that the last time I saw Watain in 2012. They were more heavily restricted on what they could use in their ceremonial performance at that same venue. I remembered that during my interview with another band the day after Watain played that year, I smelled something so disgusting that I had to see what it was. I searched around and found myself by a big dumpster. Against my better judgement, I opened the dumpster, and found the sun baked, rotting remains of what could not be used. I HAD smelled that smell before.
I like Watain's music, and respect that they have a spiritual belief system so strong, that it unifies the three core members. I like how I feel when I listen to them. There is beauty in the darkness, and an element of magic in the mystique. I feel proud that the majority of the questions I asked were not routine, and that Erik was so forthcoming and honest.
I stepped out of the venue during Destroyer 666 because I have a problem with misogyny and racism, and felt just fine with my decision to do so. I stepped out of the venue during Watain because I couldn’t stand the smell…not that I had a problem with their spiritual belief system or use of blood. Look, I am vegetarian and an animal lover. I was raised Lutheran. I’ve read the bible through with an emphasis on the book of Leviticus. I was raised as a hunter and fisherman. I am very aware of the world and the seemingly unpleasant use of animals that I don’t personally support in my life. I’m vegetarian and don’t eat meat, but I leave your personal decision up to you. Who am I to decide which animals are OK to kill, and for what. Who am I to decide what parts become food, shoes, clothing, or sacrificial fluid? Believe me, I’ve spent hours considering how I feel about this. I don't like it, but am dumbfounded by the hypocrisy that surrounds what we consider appropriate (eating a hamburger) and what we don't (blood sacrifice). Seriously, 95% of the people in attendance likely had meat before they came.
While I will likely never grasp the entirety of the essence of Watain, through their live performance, they provoked me to understand that I have a stand to make.
You can listen to my interview with Erik of Watain below:
By: Susan Dusse
It was an uncommonly beautiful February day in Portland, Oregon. The sun was out, there was no typical rain, and Cyhra was in town. Not only were they in town, but it was their first show as a band on US soil.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that Cyhra’s “Letters to Myself” is one of my favorite albums for 2017. I’m a big Jesper Stromblad fan and have been for years, but there is something more to my fandom for Cyhra. The album brought me to tears when I first listened in its entirety, and the song “Letter to Myself” holds a very sentimental place in my heart. It served as the soundtrack to something I was personally going through. So, to say I was excited for this night would be a gross understatement.
Touring on their first album, “Letters to Myself,” in the opening spot for monsters Kreator and Sabaton, I could hardly stand the wait. I purchased my ticket the date Cyhra was announced, and took the day off work. I had to take the day off work…. I knew I had the privilege of interviewing and reviewing this very special band on their first ever US date.
Whenever I am granted an interview with a band I love, a gift of Portland's historic Voodoo donuts is typically the norm. We at MIRP like to let bands know we appreciate them giving us the gift of their time. Being a Cyhra super-fan (I’ll give myself that title willingly), and knowing Jesper’s sobriety, I also ventured out to our beloved Stumptown Coffee and asked the barista for a recommendation on the very best coffee they roasted. Coffee secured, it was on to Voodoo Donuts. Portland is known for a lot of things, and Stumptown and Voodoo were the best and most appropriate gifts I could think of in this town of legalized marijuana and the most strip clubs per capita.
Jerimia, MIRP’s photographer and I arrived to the venue early, and called the tour manager at the arranged time. As it was the first show, it was obvious that they were busy. We agreed to do the interview after they played. I mentioned I had a gift and wondered if I could drop it off to someone beforehand. “Come on into the venue now,” was the response I was met with. “Sweet!” I thought. So, Jerimia and I ventured in. There was gear all over the floor, but in an organized fashion, and it was impossible to decide who and how to drop off the gifts. So, we headed to the balcony and just waited for a good obvious opportunity, and then we’d be on our way and out of the way until show time.
Hours past. A friend of mine showed up who is a rock star in his own right. He is a friend of a member of Cyhra, and this being his town, he told me to follow him to the floor. As I’m a little shy and don’t like to be where I’m not supposed to be… I was hesitant to follow him. But after he grabbed my hand and the gifts, I followed.
To my delight, it was right in time for Cyhra’s sound check. It’s one of my favorite things to experience. It always feels like the band is playing just for me; it is such a privilege.
We ventured to the side of the stage as they put down their instruments, and I stood against the wall with my obnoxious pink box of donuts, and bags of coffee. It was one of those slightly uncomfortable moments like in the movie Dirty Dancing when “Baby” says, “I carried a watermelon.”
My friend and Jake came down the stairs and stopped where I was standing, staring at the pink box. I presented the donuts to Jake and told him how excited I was for the show. Right behind him, Jesper began down the stairs. That’s when I got a little nervous. You see, I’m a big fan of Jesper. So, I quashed the butterflies in my stomach and remembered I was a professional. I’m not often star struck…this, after all, would be my 104th professional interview, and I meet musicians (often my heroes) all the time. So, as he cleared the final stair, he stopped when he got to me, and I handed him the two bags of coffee. We ended the short meeting with hugs of gratitude, and they disappeared.
Jerimia and I left the venue, and got the appropriate approved credentials, but I was told I’d have to go through security, and they sent me to the back of the line. While I had the interview and responsibility of the show review, I had no official pass; just an email verification and my MIRP credentials. It was 6:39, Cyhra was to go on at 7:00, and I was now standing in a line that was about two blocks long. I was about in tears. I was sure I’d miss my beloved Cyhra.
I took a deep breath.
The venue did an amazing job moving the line along, and I was in with three minutes to spare. Knowing how much I love this band, Jerimia stood in the spot that I had earmarked earlier as “my spot.” I made my way there quickly. Stage right, front row, just in front of where Jesper traditionally stands.
The lights dimmed, and the opening tones and prerecorded spoken words of “Dead to Me” began. Jake appeared on the stage alone, and began to sing. His voice heartfelt, the audience quiet…listening contently…pleasantly surprised with the complexity, range, and purity of his voice.
While I was in that long line prior to entry, I asked everyone around me who they were there to see. The responses were always Sabaton or Kreator. I thought to myself…you guys have no idea what you are about to see, and I told everyone who would listen about Cyhra and how amazing I knew the show would be.
As Jake winded down that first song, Jesper, Euge, and Alex entered the stage. The crowd came alive at the sight of Jesper, and they went right into “Letter to Myself.” Knowing this album intimately, I sang every word, as the men in Cyhra performed it perfectly.
Visually apparent, the members of Cyhra have achieved that level of magic that translates both audibly and visually. A smile between members, pure engagement with the audience, a kiss on the check or a pat on the back…it seems as if Cyhra is exactly what Alex, Jesper, Euge, Jake (and Peter) are meant to do.
While Peter was obviously not present visually, they did a fantastic job with pre-recorded adjustments so that the music wasn’t without the necessary bass.
The 30-minute set felt very short. They followed up “Letter to Myself” with “Here to Save You,” “Heartrage,” “Closure,” and ended with “Karma.”
As expected on this first day of the US tour, there were a couple of equipment snafus, but they handled it professionally, without skipping a beat.
While the individual members of Cyhra are each seasoned in their own past experiences, there is something very special about them as a unit…as a band.
As I exited the front and made my way to the back to meet up with MIRP’s photographer after the set, I heard a continuous buzz about how great Cyhra’s performance was from the fans.
Part way through Kreator’s set, I was called downstairs for an industry meeting. I quickly texted Cyhra’s tour manager to formalize the interview time, and it was arranged to occur after they got settled and had a bite to eat. Our industry meeting ended, and we too grabbed something to eat. It was the only restaurant around, and it was about to close, so we grabbed something quick, and scarfed it down to be there in time for Sabaton. As we took our last bites, over walks Euge, Alex, Jesper, Jake, and Seattle photographer Diane. We hadn’t seen them previously, and truth be told, wouldn’t have bothered them had we seen them.
We went in to see Sabaton, and the phone call came. I was escorted to a tiny room downstairs in the basement of the venue, and to my delight, Jake, Jesper, and Alex were all there. My interview was scheduled with Jake, but Jesper and Alex participated at times. The interview was a success, but unfortunately Sabaton was so loud above us, and Jesper was a bit far from the microphone, so some parts are a bit hard to hear. While I could have edited those parts out, I chose to leave them. There is a part where they speak to having an impact on people’s lives through their music, and Jesper speaks to his sobriety and the responses of encouragement and gratitude he receives from his fans that was very heartfelt.
When it was over, I appropriately reached under my shirt and pulled out my official Cyhra fan club laminate. I explained that theirs was the first fan club I’d ever joined, and we all smiled. They each grabbed a sharpie and said, “then we must sign it.”
Talented, kind, gentlemen make up the band that is Cyhra, and they make amazing music.
By: Susan Dusse
With yesterday's announcement that Slayer are doing one last world tour, and today's dual announcement that Elton John will do the same, and Neil Diamond is done touring because of a Parkinsons diagnosis, it made me wonder what public opinion was on when the right time to "stop" playing live is.
Is it better for a band to retire while they are on top? Or is it better for them to continue until they simply physically can't anymore?
The Rolling Stones, or even Black Sabbath are great examples. Do you want to see them for the last time while they are at their best, or is it more important to see them for as long as you can?
And, what is the line for being on top versus sliding down the hill? Is it music quality? Is it age? Is it appearance? Is it energy? Is it relevance of the genre? Is it music sales?
Is there a point where it becomes a side show or just plain sad?
My personal opinion is that they should go out while they are on top. Seeing them breathe oxygen off stage, or dance in a fragile way when they once writhed energetically makes me feel sad. However, I know many of them would likely die if they had to stop. Some, well likely it is greed, but certainly for some, it is their life-line.
It seems like it is the rare case where rock/metal musicians who are approaching (or are into) their 70's can pull off a live show with the intensity and vigor that they once had. There are some exceptions, but it seems that unless it's a toned down acoustic show or some other iteration of their past (I'm referencing Scorpions' "Accoustica live in Lisboa," for instance,) it just doesn't work.
I wonder what you think.
By: Susan Dusse
I knew my 100th music interview was approaching, and I was pleased to see that it was with Kyle Baltus of 36 Crazyfists.
It has been an incredible journey for me. From my very first interview with Trey of Dying Fetus (with TCOR Radio,) to now, I’ve had experiences that I could have only dreamed of.
I’ve met incredible musicians that I respect, and been so terrified and nervous for an interview that I nearly threw up. I’ve done flawless organic interviews, and some absolutely terrible ones. I’ve elicited information that was never shared before, been told it was the best interview they’d ever done, and those two things makes me very proud. What goes hand in hand with that, however, is the fact that I’ve also had some that were extremely awkward and awful. I remember having to physically sit on my hands as I interviewed Trey of Dying Fetus that first time, because my hands were flailing about due to nerves, and I could tell that he was distracted by it. I’ve walked out of an interview when the person gave me one word answers and clearly didn’t want to be there (Chris of Six Feet Under). I’ve made a mistake as to the person’s position in the band (Orion of Behemoth), I’ve lost a file from one of the best interviews I’ve ever done (Max Cavalera), and I’ve been so mesmerized by one’s beauty (Ola of Grave) that I actually forgot what I was doing and just gazed at him, unable to speak.
I feel humbled, honored, so lucky, and amazed at what I get to do. I take great pride in loving music, seeing music, keeping up on new music, and in being intrigued by the people who make it. I approach each interview from scratch, never having “stock” questions, and I enjoy the research and writing portion of the process as much as the actual interview. Be it a local band, or a national or international band, the musicians that make the music we love are fascinating. I love writing to try to properly communicate their stories of inspiration, magic that happens as they perform their music, hearing their stories of success and failure, learning about them as human beings, and hearing about their families and lives away from music.
I have a goal to interview every local band here in town, and I hope to take a big bite out of it in 2018.
In alphabetical order, I’ve conducted an interview with either the band, or a member of the band listed below, culminating in interview #100 with Kyle Baltus of 36 Crazyfists.
By: Susan Dusse
Two of our beloved venues close in 2018. Yes, it sucks. It really sucks.
It’s a sad thing. The places we loved to go to meet up with friends…our home away from home. A place where we saw the bands we love, both local and national/international. A place where the staff were our friends, and a place where we felt loved, safe, and that we belonged. The sting from Ash Street was swift, but the follow-up news of Rock Hard PDX closing was devastating.
People say our beloved Portland is dying…and maybe it is. But why not try to stop it? Why not try to take our town back? I say…that is exactly what we need to do.
Money and greed from the owner’s perspective? Maybe. But everyone needs to make a living and make the hard decisions regarding their own business ventures. I can’t imagine that a restaurant will do better where Ash Street was in the sea of amazing restaurants we already have in Portland, or that we need another strip club in an overly saturated town of naked dancing girls. However, I think that we need to be careful where we put blame and anger, because we, as fans, likely share in some of that blame.
Supporting music is necessary if we want to keep venues afloat. I know money can be tight and we have priorities for our own wellbeing and family. But if you love music, do support it as often as you can.
Pay to get in. That way the bands at least recoup their gas and expense. Buy merch, that way the band can eat. BUT most importantly...GO! When we pack a venue, the numbers do not lie. Owners of a consistently packed venue aren't going to quit to do something else if the venue is full.
Is it an issue that we don’t know what shows are in town? Is it overly saturated with too many choices on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? Are we lazy? I don’t know the answer, and likely the answer is as individual as we each are.
Perhaps we all need to do a better job of promoting and getting information out. Share events. Talk about them. Invite your friends. I always know what is in town, from bands that fill the Rose Quarter, to the smallest club hosting an underground metal band that no one has ever heard of...but I have to work really hard at it. MIRP works hard at it. I know things are a bit complicated by not having a metal radio station anymore, but with the web and social media, that should sufficiently bridge the gap. Can we do better? I know the answer is "Yes"!
The Portland metal community has always stuck together. Collectively we are strong and powerful. We can make a difference.
Let’s take our town back.