Bolt Thrower, Benediction, Hellshock & Night Nurse – Portland 29 May 2013
I arrived back in Portland on the Monday after MDF and was unsurprisingly pretty tired and knackered so that night we just took it very easy and Ryan barbequed some divine home made sausages. After 4 days of questionable MDF food it was so good to have a full meal. We also quaffed some tasty beers including my 2nd taste of a Westvleteren 12 which was similarly amazing and also my first taste of the lovely Duchesse De Bourgogne.
Prior to the gig we drove around sightseeing a bit more and they took me to a rose garden that was bloody huge and quite beautiful. It was an amusing contrast wandering around smelling roses just a few hours before seeing one of the heaviest bands on the planet! However I am a man of culture so I enjoyed myself and took way too many pictures of roses for my darling Ann back at home as she is very keen on roses.
We stopped by the 2nd Sizzle Pie pizza joint in town where I had several caffeinated beverages to try and stay conscious as I was still on east coast time. There was some quality crazy hobo action out the front of the place which provided some depressing entertainment until management convinced him to depart. We then walked to the venue and after the security looked strangely at my Canberra drivers license I was finally let in and was very pleased with the size and layout of the venue. I do enjoy large festivals like MDF or the old Metal For The Brain gigs in Australia however there is nothing quite like seeing a band you love in a medium sized venue and I reckon Star Theatre was about 500 capacity which was perfect. It looks to have had quite a history over the years which you can read about here with it being a burlesque joint and porn movie theatre and also owned by Gus Van Sant for a while.
I grabbed an oatmeal stout which was pretty decent and had a seat at a comfy booth while the first band set up. 2 random tweakers asked to sit at my booth which was fine and I had a great time listening to them talk complete shit. One guy had tattoos on his face and was rambling to his dopey mate about not wanting to show people his metal shirts as they only “for him”. He also said the same thing about his tattoos which was very amusing considering he had one on his forehead! We then had a chat about the pre-White Zombie band that I can’t remember the name of and can’t seem to find any information on so maybe it was all in his imagination. They then noticed there was an upper viewing area to the venue so they quickly cleared off leaving me to my beer. I ventured outside into the beer garden and commencing drinking PBR (the beer selection outside was somewhat limited) and was introduced to a few Portland metal folks including legendary growler Gurge (aka Dave) from Lord Gore and quite a few other Portland death metal bands who was a nice chap.
First band of the night were locals Night Nurse who played a crusty death metal style not too dissimilar to early Bolt Thrower and they were excellent. They had a female singer who had a great scream although after a while it sounded like a death metal band fronted by John from Nuclear Assault which was an odd combination. Portland is nearly as incestuous as Melbourne and sure enough Night Nurse had members of Splatterhouse, Blood Freak and also Hellshock who were up next. The guy from Hellshock was having guitar problems and took some time fixing them but it was understandable considering he had another set to play. Overall I quite enjoyed their set. Around about then I met fellow Aussie blokes Stu and Django who were both doing the same Bolt Thrower side gigs as me although Django is obviously the most metal of us as he was also going to Chaos In Tejas to see them. Apologies for the crap photos but it was quite dark and I hate using a flash plus I was pretty drunk.
Following them were Hellshock who I’d missed in New York a week earlier as I was too busy boozing outside and laughing at mates getting busted for pissing in the streets by an overzealous cop in a golf buggy (I hope you guys paid the fines). Hellshock are still metal but are a bit more crust punk than Night Nurse but to tell the truth I was expecting a little more from them. They seemed to lack a vital spark needed for that style and just sounded a bit too safe and inoffensive. I wanted more grunt and aggression from them. Don’t get me wrong, they certainly played well and the crowd seemed to enjoy it but I was somewhat underwhelmed.
Benediction were up next and my suspicions were finally confirmed that the current singer was the guy from Anaal Nathrakh who I had seen wandering around MDF. In fact now that I look it up he’s been with Benediction for 15 years which shows how much attention I’ve been paying to them. In fact I’ve never been a huge fan of Benediction with Subconcious Terror being the only album I own that I’ve listened to regularly but they were surprisingly good live even if I didn’t know any songs. Part way through Django observed that they sound like Harmony Corruption era Napalm Death and from there on I kept hearing lines from Suffer The Children whenever he sang which was quite amusing. I also noticed at that point that there are a lot of tall people in Portland!
Up next was the godly Bolt Thrower and this ended up being the best set of the whole trip!! Unlike the tent at MDF, I wanted to be able to see the band so I moved forward to a spot right next to the mixing desk (a trick I learned long ago to get the best sound) which was still in the boozing area and slightly raised above the pit. The curtains opened to reveal the huge Bolt Thrower backdrop that was actually too big for the stage and I also noticed that the rack toms on the drumkit were bloody huge and looked like floor toms. They opened with The IVth Crusade and I was stoked that the sound was near perfect and super heavy! I was so happy to be able to hear the killer solos perfectly, thumping drums, throaty vocals and of course the throbbing bass. The crowd unsurprisingly went wild and I coped some shoving as I was near the entrance to the pit area. Thankfully I’ve been to a LOT of gigs and am well versed in the art of allowing the crowd/moshpit to slide past me (even though I’m a fat bastard) while maintaining my position. Tonight the song War Master got a rest and they played Where Next To Conquer instead which was fine by me as it’s my favourite song off The IVth Crusade. From there they played …For Victory, World Eater, Cenotaph and No Guts, No Glory which was an intense section of amazing songs. They also had no time restrictions so we received a full setlist which included the full version of When Cannons Fade as well as the title track of the first album as part of the encore. Even though BT generally only play festivals, they really seemed to be enjoying the cozy conditions and put on a great show. In fact this would rate in my top 10 gigs ever and I think the other Aussies agreed that this was their best performance of the tour.
Apologies to Travis and his date who were standing next to me and probably got whipped a lot by my rapidly thinning hair. As soon as they finished I complimented the sound guy on doing such a fine job and then asked for his setlist which he gave me and is now a treasured possession.
It was pissing rain outside when we left and Ryan and I jumped into a cab and drove to a pub for a few nightcaps. It had actually closed for the night (it was nearly 2am on a Tuesday after all) but my host knows the owner who opened up for us and gave us a few free beers! Yay! The bar was in the process of being refitted and was nearing completion so it was interesting to hear about all the problems and issues and other business aspects even if I was a bit hammered at the time. No idea what beers we had but they were tasty and it was a cool end to an awesome, awesome night.
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