On the Road
Maybe the band should have expected strange things to happen when they headed out on tour with Hollywood Undead. Considering their own name, American Fangs, this couldn't have come as a complete shock. Because this sounds more like something that would happen in an episode of HBO's True Blood.
The Houston alt-rockers were winding their way through the upper Midwest with L.A. masked men Hollywood Undead when members of the quintet were involved in an altercation with a fan outside the La Crosse Center in western Wisconsin the night of May 14. According to the La Crosse Tribune, a 23-year-old man assaulted a guitarist for Hollywood Undead after throwing a barricade through the window of that band's tour bus. Fangs guitarist Nik Slimp was roughed up in the ensuing scuffle and wound up chipping a tooth.
Oh, and one more thing. The alleged assailant, one Scott Mehtala, reportedly told police he was a vampire. Perhaps more pertinently, Mehtala told police he was high on heroin and had a blood-alcohol content of 0.12, the Tribune said.
Fangs lead singer Gabriel Cavazos remembers Mehtala as a large, "pretty intimidating" fellow. He says the band had already played their set that night, and Slimp and two other guitarists in the band were outside the venue changing clothes when they spied Mehtala apparently trying to break into the Hollywood Undead tour bus.
"They tried to calm him down, and he sucker-punched one of them, and the other two got to him and beat him up," Cavazos told Rocks Off last week on the way to the band's show in Clifton Park, New York.
Slimp is doing fine now, the singer adds, likening the battered guitarist's post-brawl appearance to that of the title character of '80s B-horror movie The Toxic Avenger.
"Actually, today is the first day we're like, 'Wow, you don't look like total crap,'" says Cavazos. "He looked like the Toxic Avenger. His face was pretty banged up. He had to have a tooth grinded down because one of his teeth were chipped from the punch.
"But it was good," he adds. "After the fact, we couldn't stop laughing."
The moral of the story, agrees Cavazos, is that "drugs are bad."
The singer says he was actually inside watching Hollywood Undead when all the vampire excitement happened, and that he enjoys mingling with fans after the group performs. Inside the arena, he chuckles about his vampire-fighting bandmates, "is where they should have been."
"I was [wondering], 'Where are the guys at?' and our bass player comes in covered in blood," recalls Cavazos. "He was like, 'You won't believe what happened.'"
Ironically, the show happened the same night that American Fangs' Sony-distributed debut album, American Fangs, was released. Eleven songs loaded with super-size pop-punk choruses and assorted nods to '90s alt-rock heroes like Weezer, it's a worthy heir to the buzzy but sincere albums once made by the likes of blink-182 and Foo Fighters.
Since it's also been completed since February 2012, Cavazos says playing songs they wrote awhile ago every night almost makes it feel like a different album.
"I don't think we're the only band that deals with that," he says. "But at the same time we're so proud of it, and we hadn't really had a chance to share it, that the newness comes right back. Especially when you're playing outside of Houston or to people who have never heard of us."
Although American Fangs has just been released, Cavazos jokes that the band has already talked about writing a song about the Great La Crosse Vampire Battle of 2013 on their next record.
"There's a bit of humor in some of our songs," he allows. "It would fit well, but it would all be for shits and giggles."
American Fangs perform 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 1, on the Neptune Stage at the sold-out Free Press Summer Fest in Eleanor Tinsley Park, and open for Fall Out Boy at Bayou Music Center Friday, June 7.
Straight-talking Texas soul man Delbert McClinton has known some "brazen" Houston women.
William Michael Smith
It's noon, and 72-year-old Delbert McClinton sounds like he's just woken up and maybe had the first cigarette of the day. But he's a pro and is ready to talk about his career; his forthcoming New West Records album with old running buddy Glen Clark, Blind, Crippled & Crazy; and his experiences in Houston.
Rocks Off: You've been at this a long time now. Has there ever been a moment when you thought you'd just hang it up, try something else?
Delbert McClinton: Nah, not even once. I was lucky enough to get a little taste of success early on, and I just kept showing up. It's a cliché, but I really wouldn't trade what I do for anything.
RO: We were listening to the album with a friend who described "If I Could Be Your Lover" as "Sehnsuchtig."
DM: Say what?
RO: Yeah, I know. It's a German word that means regretful or filled with regret. Seemed like a perfect description of that song and that voice you get into.
DM: Wow, that's deep. I've got to remember that one.
RO: For lack of a better word, they're very sexy, like songs you'd put on for a make-out session.
DM [laughs]: Yeah, well, that never hurt any record sales, I don't think.
RO: Before we go, we want to ask if you've got any special memories of Houston.
DM [clears throat, laughs]: I'll just say this: Houston is loaded with some of the most brazen women in the world.
RO: Oh? You want to explain?
DM: Man, I better not start telling tales. I'll just say I've been to a lot of places in Houston where I started out being the life of the party and ended up feeling like the world's biggest fool. Houston's one reason I'm kind of over women. I don't need no more of that kind of trouble.
RO: Houston is getting a lot of national press right now as being a great place to live or visit.
DM: Maybe so, but honestly, I've never figured Houston out. A man can sure get in some trouble there, though.
Blind, Crippled and Crazy will be released June 18 on New West Records.
The five most insane acts to see live right now.
I don't know about most people, but my favorite thing about seeing a band live is the energy. I just can't get enough of the frenetic intensity that pervades shows and runs back and forth between the manic audience and the performer, even if the actual playing is off because of it.
When a performer is bored or listless, even if he or she gets all the notes right, it kills me. I guess that's why I like seeing punk rock bands more than folk artists.
Sometimes it can be hard to find that ultimate bit of pure magic, though. Plenty of bands bring the right vibe to the table, but it's a lot harder to find the kind that I like the most: one that plays heavy, fast music like cracked-out acrobats.
5. Touche Amore: One of the best post-hardcore bands to come out in years, and one of the most energetic bands out there today, Touche Amore perfectly employs the classic sounds of "emo" (before it turned into pop-punk) and hardcore to make incredible two-minute bursts of lightning in musical form.
Their live shows are absolutely awesome and feature groups of hundreds of kids chanting every single word, the band going nuts, and lots of crowd surfing and stage diving. In other words, Touche Amore in 2013 is everything that was great about live punk shows in the '80s.
4. Trash Talk: When it comes to Trash Talk, the band loses it, the audience loses it, everyone loses it. No one is left standing still, and those who are often get knocked out. Literally. I've seen it happen.
If you can handle the inherent danger in being in the audience for a Trash Talk show, though, it's one of the most fun live experiences out there. And much credit to front man Lee Spielman, who gives every single show his all, even when he has a broken leg, as he did at their SXSW show this year.
3. Converge: Converge aren't quite the acrobats onstage, but their intensity and passion are almost unrivaled. Front man Jacob Bannon's connection with fans is unparalleled, and the emotion that pours through in each and every performance he gives is overwhelming. With music as crushing and affecting as Converge's, it would seem hard to sustain such unbridled enthusiasm. One might think the misery would eventually give way to boredom, but Converge hasn't lost a step over the years.
2. B L A C K I E (All Caps With Spaces): B L A C K I E's shows are the kind parents will tell their kids about in 20 years. They're the kind of thing that might not last forever, but will live in infamy long after he decides to stop doing all this crazy shit. And luckily for us, we don't have to go far or wait very long to see him, since B L A C K I E is Houston born and bred.
The intensity he brings defies naming, genre or explanation. Most artists are lucky to have one show on a tour that matches this kind of insanity, but B L A C K I E brings it every single time he performs. Of course, in Houston it's a lot more fun because we get it.
1. Dillinger Escape Plan: The scene: Revolver's Golden God Awards 2013. The band: The Dillinger Escape Plan. Just as they launched into "When I Lost My Bet," their latest single from their new album One of Us Is the Killer, front man Greg Puciato, bloody-faced and stalking the stage, shouted at the audience, "This is real shit, motherfuckers!"
This band is made up of some of the most talented, accomplished instrumentalists in rock music today, but what makes their live shows so insane is that they mix their particular form of already intense music with some of the craziest, most intense showmanship in the business. On top of it all, they never miss a beat despite the intricate complexities of their music.
Ask Willie D
Should a male co-worker bring another man's girl roses at work?
Dear Willie D:
This happened some time ago, but it's been bothering me. I dropped in on my girlfriend at work two days after Valentine's Day and saw a vase filled with a dozen red roses on her desk. When I inquired about them, she said a male co-worker gave them to her. When I asked why, she said it was because all the other women were receiving flowers on Valentine's Day. When he noticed she didn't have any, he had some delivered.
The co-worker is a douche. I know he likes her because he's always making excuses to talk to her on the phone about work. When I told her that I didn't want some other dude sending my girl flowers, she turned the tables and became upset with me.
She said if I had done what I was supposed to do, he would have never bought the flowers. I don't know what she means by doing what I was supposed to do, since I didn't tell her I was sending flowers. I'm also currently unemployed, so I don't really have the money to splurge like that.
I know women expect things for Valentine's Day, but I cooked for her at home and gave her a card. She never indicated that there was a problem. I told her I don't trust the guy, so she knows how I feel. Is it just me, or am I right to not want another man sending my girl flowers?
It's not just you. Most men would have a problem with another man sending their girl flowers, especially on Valentine's Day. When you told your girlfriend you didn't trust her co-worker, that was her cue to distance herself from him socially and put you at ease about them working together. Instead, she poured gasoline on a micro-flame and created a wildfire.
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Your girlfriend turning the tables is an old blame-the-victim strategy that the guilty use to minimize responsibility. She could benefit from a few courses in girlfriend etiquette. In my opinion, floral arrangements are cool, but there's no adventure in them. Even if you weren't unemployed, I think what you did by cooking for your girl was a far better gift because it was personal and it took more effort.
Assuming you guys can put this behind you, going forward your girl needs to know that it's disrespectful to accept flowers on Valentine's Day from anybody other than her man or father or brother or something like that. And you need to know what your girl's love language is.
Some women respond favorably to touching. For others it might be words of affirmation or quality time. Apparently your girl's love language is gifts, so next time just buy the damn flowers, man.
Ask Willie D appears Thursday mornings on Rocks Off.