Bay Area Thrashfest in San Francisco

By Perrin Wolfson, Pure Rock Patroller
Friday, April 4, 2003 @ 6:07 PM

Bay Area Thrashfest Live at th

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Bay Area Thrashfest:
Death Angel
Cattle Decapitation
Social Evil

Thrash returned to the San Francisco bay area in a big way on Saturday, March 29th. Vio-lence, Death Angel, and Testament showed why this city became a hotbed for this type of music in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and then the man who arguably had one of the biggest influences on the birth of this type of music, Rob Halford, took the stage and shook San Francisco to its very foundations. This isn’t to say there weren’t some bumps along the way. Bus crashes, personality conflicts, death threatening illness, and fast forwarding to last night, poor promotion and organization all played a part in where we stand today.

First to the promotion: In the defense of the promoters, this is a new venue in San Francisco (actually an old one reborn), and having a bill of this magnitude as the first metal show proved to be difficult. The sold out crowd grew impatient as the doors, announced for a 4:00 pm opening did not open until 6:45 pm (strike one). Next, instead of sending some of the sub-standard opening acts on their way, or drastically reducing their sets, Social Evil, Impale, Cattle Decapitation, and Exhumed all played full sets, with varying degrees of competency ranging from ridiculous to fair, despite the evening running two hours behind schedule. This, coupled with the fact that Vio-lence, Death Angel, and Testament were asked to reduce their sets, still resulting in a 1:30 am start time for Halford, left many scratching their heads (BIG strike two). The final point of note is that this venue needs to ensure better sound and lighting support, as several sets were plagued with sound mix and technical issues, as well as by a follow-spot operator who seemed to always be one step behind the featured performer (strike three).

On to the show: Dispatching with the amateurish preliminaries, Vio-lence took to the stage and performed only what can be described as a ferocious 35 minute set. Focusing on older material, Sean Killian worked the stage (and mosh pit) like a madman, often surfing the crowd as he provided tortured vocals. The band’s set jump-started the stalled evening, and in all honesty was where the evening’s festivities should have begun.

Death Angel were next and complemented Vio-lence’s ferocity with a set that was equally heavy, but with the addition of the signature Death Angel groove that the band seems to capture like no other in their genre. Singer Mark Osgueda and guitarist Rob Cavestany led the band through a set of tunes from all three of the band’s major releases. Highlights included set openers “Seemingly Endless Time” and “Voracious Souls”; underground classic “Evil Priest,” and set closing sing-along (due to mic issues) “Kill as One.”

Chuck Billy and Testament are truly a wonder. After a battle with cancer, Chuck is back stronger than ever. His performances seem to grow more energetic with each passing week, and the band seems poised to retake their place atop the thrash metal genre, a position they were forced to vacate several years ago after their stellar outing The Gathering, due to Chuck’s illness. The band slashed and burned through numbers from The Gathering, as well as classics “Low,” “Into the Pit,” “Over the Wall,” and “Disciples of the Watch.” The band were extremely tight, sounding as if they had been on the road together the last couple of years, and not biding their time will Chuck recovered. Testament’s set was the highlight of a long evening.

Finally, after a long wait, Rob Halford took the stage at about 1:30 am to a noticeably thinned and tired crowd. Halford was in fine voice, his band was in fine form, and the diverse set included gems from throughout Halford’s remarkable career, however after being pummeled by the three previous bands, the crowd could take no more. The response that greeted the Metal God as he opened with Priest classics “Painkiller” and “Jawbreaker” was subdued at best. “Resurrection,” “Made in Hell,” “One Will,” “Crucible,” and Fight numbers “Into the Pit” and “Nailed to the Gun” shook the floors of the once filled venue, but nothing Rob Halford and company did could bring the throng to the heights that earlier acts did. Even closing the evening with one Priest classic after another (“Electric Eye,” “Breaking the Law,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” “Living after Midnight”) didn’t garner more than polite cheers from the clearly spent crowd. I am sure that Halford’s upcoming Metal Gods tour will exhibit a higher degree of professionalism, as ALL bands are veteran performers, and the festivities will surely be better organized than they were this night in San Francisco.

Final verdict: A terrific night of talent and energetic performances marred by poor decision making on the part of organizers. Halford, Testament, Death Angel, and Vio-lence played sets that bode well for the past, present, and future of metal – too bad too many in the crowd were busy minding their watches and worrying about when they would need to wake up.

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