Saturday’s Missing Link show at Oakland’s Fox Theater was the coming together and combining forces of two of the spring’s biggest metal tours, one headlined by High on Fire and the other by their Volcolm-sponsored brethren, Mastodon.
It was an eight band line-up, beginning at the god-awfully sunny hour of 4 o’clock in the afternoon:
The list appeared impressive, until I remembered that try as I will, I cannot make myself like Mastodon. Despite their darling status in the metal community, their party-awesome camaraderie with one of my favorite bands, their good musicianship, and threats by my own friends of disownment, their sound fails to alleviate my mammoth disinterest. Plus, I’d already seen half the bands at a smaller venue, where they all played longer sets (or at least, they’d seemed to, I know High on Fire did for sure).
Yet although Missing Link was more missing-and-lacking than the crazy rager for which I’d hoped, there were some highlights beyond shooting the shit with various long-haired friends. North Carolina’s Valient Thorr, for example, was good ol’ fashioned party metal, accentuated by vocalist Valient Himself’s spastic running-in-place (the naked beer gut ran in place, too) in skinny pants and booties. The riffs were fast and tight, but it was the energy and philosophical showmanship of Valient H. that made them any different than other relatively good metal bands. He introduced one song with the advice not to seek vengeance but instead to head out the door on a vision quest. Sure these dudes are from the Dixie dregs and not Cali or New Mexico? Towards the end of their set he led an increasingly-amped audience in a “P-A-R-T-Y/we don’t need no alibi/we party!” cheer as “PARTY” flashed in big white lines on the screen behind them, which was hilarious and not nearly as disconcerting as the El Camino High School real cheerleaders who opened up the Faith No More show at the Warfield in April.
Here’s a video so that, in the words of Valient Himself, you know what I’m talkin’ about!?:
I was excited to see Baroness as well, if just to give them a second chance. The last time I saw them was in December at a sold-out Bottom of the Hill show and, like Mastodon, I wanted to like them as everyone has said such good things. Decibel magazine voted their Blue Album the best metal release of 2009. And again, like Mastodon, they’re cool dudes, great musicians, etc. etc. but nevertheless, their songs and sound never get me off, so to speak. With both bands there is a vital drive that’s missing and causes me to just not care. Baroness does, however, have very intriguing, romantic art. Singer and guitarist John Baizley draws the album covers and most of the posters and T-shirts I’ve seen, as well as for other bands too; most are lavish with languid botanical representations in addition to the requisite skulls and beautiful babes.
Despite my lackluster attitude about the show overall, the venue was mightily impressive. Re-opened February 2009 after a 33 year hiatus, the Fox is a grand space, complete with garish gold Viking-Buddah statues (we couldn’t determine which) and a three-tiered balcony (that never seemed close to filling up, at all). The staff was wonderful, which was especially note-worthy considering we’ve all gone to too many shows where the bouncers are entitled assholes. Major props to one of the women at the front doors who, after disappointing a couple of cute attendees with the *surprise!* no ins-and-outs policy (Really? This isn’t the Great American?), graciously offered them the rest of her own pack of cigarettes because they’d wanted to momentarily leave to grab one at the liquor store across the street.
I was lucky the show was rather mellow, for the following morning I had a six-hour field trip to the SF Botanical Garden as part of my Botanical Illustration class. I was hardly up to the challenge of drawing all day after headbanging the previous evening away and spending an extra, unnecessary hour at a west Oakland dive bar. So I’ll admit, wandering around the garden I mostly shunned my pad and pencil and instead took photo after digital photo — reveling, droopy eyed and cloudy-headed, in my non-talented and very lazy way of portraying the natural world.
We had a lesson in light later in the afternoon, though, that was particularly illuminating (heh heh heh, so bad….). Many botanical artists end up drawing their subject indoors, making the illustration ultimately inaccurate; by contrast, in the field there is natural light influencing colors and creating shadow in a way that drawing indoors and out of context can never represent. With this in mind, we studied the agapanthus in the Zellerbach Garden and learned about three types of light we need to consider.
1. Local. This is the color of the surface (of a petal, leaf, stem, etc.) when it is neither darkened by shadow nor brightened by sunlight. It is the color that just is.
2. Reflected. This is the color of the surface when light is hitting it and bouncing off. I mean, not just the normal process of light doing this to everything we can see, but when the light tends to strike a surface and whiten it, because the surface is bent or convoluted or creating some disturbance causing the light to reflect at different angles.
3. Transmitted. This, I think, is the coolest. It’s the color you see when light passes through a surface.
For example, with the Gunnera we can see all instances: local light on the spiky stems, reflected light on the leaf lying horizontal to the sun in the left-hand bottom corner, and transmitted light through the leaf segments between the insane veins. I normally feel I’m a good observer of lots of little intricacies and sublime changes in the out-of-doors — 1/4″ Pittosporum flowers, orb spiders in the fall, periwinkle Ceanothus panicles morphing into clusters of teensy fruits — but I now realize I almost never pay attention to how sunlight is affecting how I see, which is one of the biggest-picture things in the universe, really.
But even bigger than this revelation and certainly heavier than any of the “heavy” bands at Missing Link was the following Monday night’s botanical illustration class in which Jack Laws demo-ed that red is not a primary color but the primary is actually magenta. MAGENTA! Wha…?? Bust out your watercolors and try it, and you too will be struck dumb with empirical proof that red is no longer in the primary color club with yellow and blue. Try to make a good purple. Blue + Red, right? Does your purple look like shit? Yep. Now try to make hot pink? Is it working? Nah, just a faded, watered-out red. Now combine blue and magenta to make a vibrant violet, or make red — which we’ve been wrongly led to believe is impossible for generations by the-world-is-flat color theorists — by adding a little yellow to magenta. You can mix “Fire Engine Red.”
And so, in celebration of the world actually being magenta, some pinky flower photos from my lazy day in the Botanical Garden: