March 2, 2009, posted by Crumbs
Former Machine Head gutarist Ahrue Luster remember his first tour.
I remember how I felt weeks before my very first professional tour with Machine Head, which was near the summer of 1999. I was very nervous about going on tour for the first time. I think I tried to block it out of my mind most of the time, but I can remember one time in particular that it just became overwhelming.
I was at a Slayer concert with Fear Factory as the main support band. While I was watching Fear Factory, I felt like I had huge rocks in my stomach. I was watching them perform in front of thousands of people at the San José event center, knowing that I would be doing the same thing in the not-too-distant future. I was absolutely terrified, but hid it very well.
I had only performed two other shows with Machine Head and they were both hometown shows in San Francisco. One was a secret show under the name “Ten Ton Hammer” at a small San Francisco club that I had played at for years called Club Cocodrie. The other was a full-on Machine Head show at the Maritime Hall in S.F., which held about 2000 people. Most of the people at those shows had probably seen me perform somewhere around the Bay Area at some time or another over the years, or at least that’s how I convinced myself to not go on stage during those shows, along with a “little” Absolute vodka.
The Ten Ton Hammer show was just a warm-up to break me in. We were supposed to just perform a few Machine Head songs, but mostly cover songs from bands like the Bad Brain, Slayer and the Cro-Mags. This was actually more stressful than playing just Machine Head songs, because on top of learning every Machine Head song, I had to learn about 10 additional cover songs. … Along with writing and learning riffs that would later end up on The Burning Red, which was Machine Head’s third and arguably biggest record. I was playing guitar so much that the tendons in my hands were inflamed and swollen, which made it extremely painful to even play. However, I had to keep rehearsing because I had to learn all those songs.
I don’t know how I made it through that show but somehow I did. The whole night I thought I was playing horribly and that I was gonna get kicked out of the band right after the show. I think the rest of the guys were pretty drunk so they didn’t realize this. The only highlight of the night for me, and … one of the most memorable moments in my career was that Kerry King from Slayer happened to be in town. He came to see the show and he got up on stage and played the Slayer classic, “South of Heaven” with us. Slayer had always been idols to me growing up. I couldn’t believe I was sharing the stage with Kerry King!
The Maritime show was a lot better. I played pretty good and had a little bit of confidence going on, but not a lot. I still felt like I was gonna puke during most of the show. I had been playing shows in the San Francisco Bay Area since the Thrash Days of the late 80s/early 90s, but for some reason this was just a whole other world.
A few months after that Maritime Hall show, we went into the studio to record The Burning Red. About three months after the record was done, we embarked on the first tour of that record cycle.
The night before our first show of the tour, we all met at our rehearsal space where we would be moved into our new living quarters for the next year – a big light blue and silver tour bus with an airbrushed picture of a tropical beach sunset on both sides. The bus was parked outside of our rehearsal space. The road crew was already on the bus and had all the gear loaded up in the trailer before we (the band) arrived. I was shown by our drummer, Dave, how to put my luggage in the bay underneath the bus and then given a brief rundown of the basic rules of the bus: No sh*tting in the toilet, sleep with your feet facing forward so if we crash I don’t break my neck, keep the bays and bus door locked at all times, never drink the water from the sink, never let the water run while shaving, never leave visitors on the bus unattended, etc. … Then I was given a bus key by our driver.
I will never forget our bus driver on that tour. His name was Bubba and he proclaimed himself, “the bagina mayster.” He was trying to say vagina master, but because of a combination of his southern drawl and lack of teeth, it came out “bagina” and “mayster.” He was from the deep, deep, deep South, like Deliverance south, and didn’t seem to have much of an education. The most interesting thing about him was that he wore a necklace that he had custom made. It was a long, gold chain with a golden vagina hanging from it. He took a great deal of pride in that necklace since he was “the bagina mayster.”
He had a sign hanging in the bathroom that I assume he made himself. The sign said, “NO FECIS IN THE TOILET.” He was trying to spell feces, but fell short. The writing looked like it had been done by a four-year-old child. When Adam, the bass player, and I saw the sign, we laughed hysterically. The joke had probably a longer life than any other inside joke in my history with the band. We pronounced it like (fe’ckis). We would use it in the place of the word “sh*t” in sentences. Like, “What kind of fecis is this?” or “He just ate a fecis sandwich.” I know that the way Bubba spelled it, the word would probably have been pronounced “fee’sis,” but “fe’ckis” sounded more like something Bubba would say.
Our first show was in San Diego at a club called the Brick by Brick. We always started our U.S. tours at the Brick by Brick because of the club’s size and capacity. The Brick by Brick is a small club that only holds 300 people. It was always like a little warm-up before the “big stuff.”
This time, the “big stuff” was the La Vida “Loco” tour. The headliner was Coal Chamber, we were main support, Slipknot was before us and then a band called Amen, who featured members of the legendary band, Snot, was the opener.
During the tour, we tended to gel more with Slipknot and Amen than we did with Coal Chamber. Several of the Slipknot guys were always up on our bus partying and/or playing video games. The Amen guys were really cool, too. That’s where I first met Shannon Larkin. He was Amen’s drummer at the time but then went on to play drums for Godsmack. He’s really cool and down-to-earth for being such an amazing musician and performer. One of the guitar players of Amen, Sonny, also became a long-time friend of mine. Sonny started his career in Snot, where he first played with Shannon. Then he went on to play in Hed Pe and Sevendust. Now he’s back in Snot, which I’m very happy to see.
The tour started on the West Coast and headed east. As the tour was progressing, I was getting more and more comfortable in my new role as a professional touring Metal guitarist. I was playing tighter and tighter, and I was developing more and more confidence on stage. About three weeks into the tour I started to feel really good about my performance and really started to come into my own.
During the tour, we had a lot of problems with Coal Chamber and their manager, Sharron Osborne. It always seemed like it was a constant battle, on and off the stage. We were fighting for stage space, set times, sound and lighting restrictions, bus parking – you name it.
You see, sometimes when a support act is getting a better crowd response then the headliner, it’s quite common for the headliner to try to cripple the support act in whatever way they can. Like … limiting the support acts stage space, putting a DB limit on their sound, not letting the support act use the whole lighting rig, and things like that. … And usually, in my experiences, it has the opposite effect. It gives the support act fuel to go out on stage and try extra hard to just crush the headliner. I actually like being the main support act more than being the headliner because I think being in the underdog mindset brings the best out of me.
The most memorable night of that tour was the night the tour came to the Roseland Ballroom in New York City. The Roseland is one of New York’s most historic venues. It holds about 3,500 people and it was close to being sold out that night. The air was thick that night, and the club was packed from wall to wall.
New York shows, as well as Los Angeles shows, are usually the most important shows of a U.S. tour. Not only are the shows bigger than the rest, but there are all kinds of industry people at the shows that include record company people, booking agents, entertainment lawyers, managers, as well as tons and tons of local, national and sometimes international press people, from magazines, radio, webzines, TV, etc. So you absolutely HAVE to pull out everything you have for these types of shows.
Slipknot and Amen both had great shows that night, but at that time in history, Machine Head had the love of the New York City Metal crowd. From the second we set foot on the stage, it was mayhem. The crowd erupted into a rabid frenzy, feeding off of the sound of downtuned ripping guitars. I remember looking out and seeing at least five to seven circle pits going at once. Then they would start to combine until the whole floor would erupt into one huge circle pit with hundreds of people going nuts. That was the first time I had ever seen an insane crowd of that magnitude.
Finally, we closed the set with the Machine Head classic, “Davidian,” which has always been Machines Head’s closer. The crowed was even more insane than they had been throughout the rest of the set since they knew it was the last song. It was pure pandemonium. When the song was over, everyone in the crowd directed all of their energy into cheer and applause. It was thunderous and seemed to go on forever. It was too loud for our frontman Robb Flynn to even speak. So he had to wait a few minutes for the cheering and applause to quiet down before he could express our appreciation to the New York fans for their amazing energy.
Robb started to speak to the crowd. He was speaking from his heart with the utmost sincerity about how incredible the audience had been that night and how we loved playing for them, when all of the sudden, while Robb was in mid-sentence, Coal Chamber’s Kabuki, which is a gigantic banner that goes in front of the stage while the stage is being set up, was lowered in front of us while we were still on stage and while Robb was still talking to the audience. It was obviously done intentionally and maliciously by the Coal Chamber camp … and the crowd knew it!
Outraged, one of the fans in the first row started to tug on the Kabuki. The tugging turned into pulling. Seconds later a few more joined in until the banner started ripping. Most of the fans in the first few rows joined in as well. They were pulling the huge canvas banner to the ground like a pack of hungry wolves as the rest of the Roseland was cheering them on. They had managed to tear the whole entire Kabuki down and proceeded to rip it to shreds until there was nothing left. I don’t think there was a piece left that was bigger than a foot long.
We were in disbelief and amazement, but at the same time we felt like vengeance was being served by the hands of our fans. We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to an already perfect night. We couldn’t have asked for a better story for all of the press and industry people that were there to see it, and we couldn’t have asked for a better response from our fans ... and we knew that there was no way that Coal Chamber was going to try to top that.
When Coal Chamber went on, there wasn’t nearly the amount of electricity in the room as there was during our set. There were even boos coming from some of the people and some people started to leave as well. It wasn’t an all out failure, but I’m sure it wasn’t what they had hoped for.
Later than night, we were outside the bus signing autographs and talking to fans. A lot of them were people that were in the front few rows. They actually had pieces of the banner that they had ripped down earlier as mementos that they wanted us to sign. It was the coolest thing. One of the people that I met was a 14-year-old kid. And not just any kid, he was the first person to start tugging on the Coal Chamber banner. I remembered seeing him do it. I signed his piece of the banner and hung out with him for a while. I even stayed in contact with him over the years, and I’ve watched him grow up. His love for music would guide him on a path similar to my own. He’s made a name for himself recording and touring as the singer of Divine Heresy. Now, Tommy Vext is touring as the frontman and lead singer of Snot. X
TakeMyScars.com - A Place Dedicated to the Mighty Machine Head!