LA's Kingpins of Crossover Return on "Slam City" Tour
December 12, 2013-- Flip baseball caps, blue bandannas and button shirts welcomed Suicidal Tendencies to the Mohawk in Austin, Texas. In a sense, the group was in town to visit old friends--fans with a devotion that stretched back to the early '80s. A large faction of youth, possibly the children of these older fans, helped provide the spark to keep ST's fire burning bright. This is not saying the older crowd members ever lost their passion for the group; I witnessed men in their '40s stage diving, crowd surfing and slamming to one of Los Angeles' most popular heavy acts.
Suicidal's musical mash-up of hardcore punk, thrash and funk works well with a variety of styles. I first witnessed the unbridled energy of ST front man, Mike Muir in 1992 on MTV's Headbangers Ball tour with Megadeth. That tour was marketed to the thrash crowd. Back then "Cyco Miko" burned up a stage several times larger than at the Palace of Auburn Hills near Detroit, Michigan than Mohawk's outdoor stage. Tonight's tour, dubbed "Slam City" after the track on the group's latest full-length recording "13," focused on the band's hardcore side with supporting acts, Terror and Trash Talk.
The French group Inspector Cluzo was the lone, non-hardcore band. The two-man group's stage antics dealt more in comedy than bruising breakdowns. The band occasionally rocked out and gave its mosh-hungry crowd a bone. Although out of place, the band kicked off the show in a fun fashion. Trash Talk has gained a reputation for putting on wild shows. This show was no exception. Their younger crowd fed off the band's energy, constantly stage diving and transforming pit areas into a no-standing zone or as DRI said, "thrash zone." One fan on the right side of the stage jumped from the overhead railing onto the top speaker column, then made a graceful dive into the crowd without injury. Vocalist Lee Spielman climbed to to the area where the audience member stage dove to finish his set with an air of danger. Terror vocalist Scott Vogel, revealed why he's known for motivating his crowds to mosh and dive.
Although Muir is twenty-one years older (rocking the skullet-tino) and with an entirely different lineup, his "Slam City" performance resembled more of what I imagined a ST show to be. The energy was there. Fans were allowed to participate at their discretion. Sometimes, to the annoyance of stage hands and the band, fans overstayed their welcome on stage. There were a couple of stage divers that did not make a smooth landing, but most of the crowd eluded injury.
Muir doesn't seem to have lost a step. He only needed a few steps to mosh his way across the stage during each song. He came equipped with his Latin lizard dance and plenty of motivational speeches. He often spoke about breaking down metaphorical walls and proving naysayers wrong. One can't overstate ST's influence on skateboarding culture. One of Muir's better speeches was on this topic. He introduced "Possessed to Skate" by recalling how much he idolized his pros-skater (watch for him in the movie "Lords of Dogtown") brother while growing up. And with this being a headline gig, the group played more classic cuts not heard previously.
Suicidal Tendencies' current incarnation includes Eric Moore (drums), Tim "RAWBIZ" Williams (bass), Nico Santora (guitar) and Dean Pleasants (guitar). Pleasants has the most experience working with Muir, going back to the initial period of Infectious Grooves. There was no Robert Trujillo on stage tonight, nonetheless, the group was in fine form. Using a mixed cast of young and old works well for Muir as the band delivered excellent stage banter. When Muir cracked a joke, Moore hit a rim shot. The show was fun and the crowd ate up ST's positive vibe.
Opening with "You Can't Bring Me Down," from the pinnacle of their success "Lights...Camera...Revolution." Mike is still waiting for that Pepsi as shown on "Institutionalized." "Subliminal" followed with its vertigo-effect tempo changes. Tim Williams played funky bass lines while singing "I saw your mommy," before Muir stepped in to describe her dead body lying in the sewer ("turned her over and realized I knew her.") Latter-era songs "Slam City" and "Cyco Vision" went over well enough to be future "choice cuts." Ending with the familiar chant "ST," Suicidal Tendencies closed the evening with "Pledge Your Allegiance." Taken from the "How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today" album, this track has became their anthem, a song one can expect to hear end a Suicidal Tendencies show.
Dean Pleasants nailed every soaring Rocking George solo. The band played most of the songs their fans wanted to hear, and the venue allowed its patrons to have fun like a raucous show from 1985. Eat a bowl of Fruit Loops, pour yourself a Pepsi and slam your way into the next city Suicidal Tendencies plays.
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