Sunday, October 20, 2013

Roseland Ballroom

The Roseland Ballroom was like one of those old wooden roller coasters that always looks like it's about to fall apart. It wasn't the safest choice, and it didn't always work, but it could also be counted on for a thrill. Off the top of my head, I can remember three times where the sound blew out, including one where the performer ended the show early. But Roseland Ballroom had as much character as one could expect in a nearly 100-year-old venue. It was either the diviest ballroom or the fanciest dive, one of the only spots that deserved to be in Times Square in 1993 as much as 2013. It's no wonder that Keith Richards, whom it's fair to say has played his share of venues, singled it out as one of his favorites in his autobiography.

Roseland is closing in April, and I'd advise anyone in the New York City area to go before it's too late (Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage and Testament this Friday is currently the best thing on their roster). Until then, here are 10 great metal and alternative moments from the Roseland Ballroom.

1. Ministry, 2003

Straight out of rehab, Al Jourgensen raged back with Ministry's best album in a decade and a show that almost made my ears bleed through my earplugs. As if to prove he could still be crazy without drugs, Jourgensen smashed a guitar early on and brought out Skinny Puppy's Nivek Ogre for an encore of "Burning Inside." Bassist Paul Barker quit shortly after--he had handled two decades of Jourgensen's debauchery, but for some reason this tour was the last straw.

2. Liz Phair, 2004

Touring behind her "sellout" album, Liz turned out to be a cheerful, excited performer whose new songs, when freed from the Matrix's production, sounded fine next to "6'1"" and "Divorce Song." I stood next to a pair of perky kids who brought a homemade sign, sang along to "Why Can't I?" and looked terrified when she played "Fuck and Run."

3. Marilyn Manson, 2004

It was just the Marilyn Manson show that one could hope for. Promoting his first "Best of" album, the former Brian Warner played all the hits and brought out all the old costumes and props. This was also one of those show where the sound blew out, but after the "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" mosh pit, they were lucky the walls were still standing.

4. The Dillinger Escape Plan, 2006

Inexplicably thrown in between A Nightmare of You and AFI, Dillinger proved themselves the only real punk band on the bill with a blisteringly loud set. Greg Puciato, the most violent frontman since Iggy Pop, broke a speaker and a mic stand and was pulled back by security at the height of his presentation. To this day, I've never seen so many people cover their ears for an opening act.

5. Lamb of God with Machine Head and Gojira, 2007

With Gojira on their first American tour, Machine Head on their Blackening comeback and Lamb of God on their biggest headlining tour to date, metal packages did not get much better than this in 2007. After 17 years on the road, LOG were suddenly able to pack a space like Roseland with the heaviest metal to ever reach the Billboard Top Ten. Also, the only show that ever inspired me to start a blog.

6. Mastodon, 2007

Some promoter decided that a co-headlining tour with Mastodon and Against Me! would bring metalheads and punks together into filling out a bigger venue than either band was used to. Instead, the punk kids left before Mastodon came on, and we had a half-empty, 3,200-capacity room to thrash around in under the might of "Circle of Cysquatch" and "March of the Fire Ants."

7. The Pogues, 2009

The Pogues' soon-to-be legendary St. Patrick's Day reunion shows were a testament to the power of mankind, overcoming Shane's physical deterioration and the band's creative downfall to make something special. Like the Ballroom itself, the Pogues were old, wobbly and still capable of magic.

8. Them Crooked Vultures, 2009

Their album hadn't been released yet, and none of us had any idea what a band with Josh Homme, John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl would sound like. It turns out that even pretty good songs can be mind-blowing when they're supported by a fantasy rock rhythm section, and that the ultra-composed Homme was the perfect ringleader.

9. Lamb of God with In Flames and Sylosis, 2012

This was Randy Blythe's last tour before his manslaughter trial, so when I say that Lamb of God played like it might be their last night in New York, I'm not exaggerating. Seeing Lamb of God at their most emotional and political is like seeing Dillinger at their wildest or Andrew W.K. at his partiest.

10. Meshuggah with Animals as Leaders and Intronaut, 2013

Jens Kidman had fallen ill that month and Meshuggah had played their last few shows without their singer when they stopped in New York. Most of us assumed we'd be getting an instrumental show, until a minute into the first song, when Kidman ran out onstage and got a deafening burst of applause. Nothing less than "Swarm" and Kidman's angry samurai face could have prevailed over the noise, so luckily that was next.

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