Fu Manchu - Club Hollywood, Tallinn, 21.11.2007
Fu Manchu - Club Hollywood, Tallinn, Estonia, 21.11.2007 by Ivor (21)
So my hands are almost bleeding and my voice is gone. What happened? If you guessed unbelievably groovy stoner rock, then you're right. Here I am, suppressing tears of both joy and pain trying to somehow summarize what seeing Fu Manchu live meant for me. I suppose one could say it was the ultimate dynamic between an artist and the audience, a noosphere of the personal kind, however you take it.
Good omens were plentiful before Fu Manchu's gig in Tallinn. A perfect game always starts with the perfect hot-dog. On the concert day I pulled my car over for a quick bite and went for the regular frankfurter. Now when you're ordering one, the chemical composition is extremely important - the hot-dog must have the perfect combination of ketchup, mayo and mustard. Now, ketchup is crap, but the mayo and the mustard are crucial. As I watched the maid whop me a big one I closely monitored her every move. She went easy on the ketchup - thank god. The mayonnaise bottle got a decent squeeze to my fortune and to top the bastard she added a healthy dose of the main ingredient. "Mother of god, it's the mustard queen!" I thought. It was on.
I made it to the venue early. It was frankly the first time I had been to Club Hollywood and since you could only spot a few early birds and overeager stoners, it made for a fantastic opportunity to familiarize myself with the place - after a few reaffirming drinks, of course. Rum with coke and beer are rarely a good mix but I am famous for my inability to maintain sobriety when placed into unfamiliar territory. And what territory it was.
The Club Hollywood is one of the coolest venues here - it's tidy but has a dirty atmosphere; it's trendy but the lighting turned the whole scene into a comfortable deja vu been-here-in-my-dreams mesh. There were plenty of spider-holes and quiet retreats around. After finding a darker corner and brilliantly executing my Silent Watcher/Praying Mantis shadow drinking style I set out to unveil whatever secrets this place held. The thing is Hollywood seemed rather small at first glance and the ridiculous steps in front of the stage predicted a violent malfunction in any moshing formation. But in reality the place had an ingeniously clever design as far as the space was concerned. It was almost impossible not to enjoy yourself every step of the way through this twisted multilevel maze.
Sadly I was still alone and had to spend a considerable amount of time in the specialized smoking room. Not that i was bored - on the contrary. The smoking room had the freshest air in the entire club and the 60's style sci-fi looking walls and interior made me feel like I was the sole survivor in a dead and tranquil space station. Yeah, I could almost hear Darth Vader breathing on my neck. In this calm cold place I had time to thoroughly analyze my position. I didn't know anyone who shared my love for Fu Manchu and as far as I was concerned, Ivor was gonna be one of the few familiar faces at the gig - and he was running late. Now unless I have someone to talk to I tend to turn into a fierce fighting machine with the sole purpose of destroying all of the world's alcohol supply. And on top of it all I technically had to be at work the next morning. However, since my to-do list was fairly empty I considered my duties expendable. I decided to head to the sofa lounge on the second floor balcony - hopefully it would cast a shroud on the plentiful bars littering the place. I was in luck - on my way upstairs I accidentally stumbled upon a couple of good friends of mine - sadly neither of them was exactly a role-model for the perfect citizen. But they'd help me keep my jaws moving and away from the wide assortie of increasingly stronger drinks. Besides, Truckfighters was preparing to open the show. After a quick resupply of beer we chose a spot on the balcony just above the stage.
Now, Truckfighters had their shit together. The few rather decent songs I knew earlier hadn't made a lasting impression on me. The live, however, added a whole new dimension to the band. The sound was absolutely brilliant and the band went flat out nuts. Those crazy Swedes used every inch of the stage and absolutely supercharged their entire fuzz-rock performance. Should you ever get the chance of seeing Truckfighters live, do so or forever regret missing out on them for this band carries the spirit of rock'n'roll.
I originally intended to play it safe that night, but seeing how powerful the Truckfighters were I knew I had to be right on the front-line for Fu Manchu. I also felt a sudden urge for some scotch. "Jack Daniels, on the rocks!" I tried to outscream the band. "Make it double!" Ah, you fool! But it was too late, this was it - I was on a maniac freight train and the fucker was going down, and it was going down hard. "You can't stop rock'n'roll," as Twisted Sister put it. When you hear these psychedelic sounds it unleashes all of your worst hormones at once and they're all screaming for vengeance on your body. The last thing I heard my liver say when I washed Jack down with some more beer was a fading "I will kill you!" I bet you will, Mr. Liver, I bet you will - but not today.
With the final chord of the Truckfighters still ringing in my ears I rushed down to the smoking lounge. While reinforcing my lungs with some more nicotine I quickly peeked at the ceiling. More precisely - the massive superstructure of vents hanging above our heads like an alien hive. I knew when these snakes came alive, I was fucked. But the hive remained motionless. I was safe - for now. With frantic speed I rushed downstairs to the restrooms and quickly up again only to find out I still had a lot of time till the highlight of the night would commence it's descent. As I sought to occupy a good position near the stage I spotted Ivor (sporting his ridiculously large camera) who managed to keep me entertained while I kept a watchful eye on the floor. Frankly I wish there had been more time between the bands to make the most out of all the wonderful possibilities for passing time Hollywood offered. Also the DJ had his set down pretty well. Queens of the Stone Age, The White Stripes, Foo Fighters - excellent. Beastie Boys and The Gossip - why the hell not? As we stood there, the atmosphere grew more and more restless...
And then it happened - with a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound came Fu Manchu. Let me explain you something - when you buy a ticket to Fu Manchu, you buy a key that opens all the groove, all the dirt, diesel and the desert to their full extent. Even though the crowd was still somewhat scarce, the Californians jump started the venue with their opener "Eatin' Dust." What came next is extremely hard to document - it was an intoxicating mix, a drug-like haze of everything that is good and true; a low sound straight in your face. Everything felt right - there weren't even security barriers or none of that star crap. It was Fu Manchu up close and personal. "Shake it Loose" and "Hung Out to Dry" from the latest record punched me right in the kisser with their subtle aggression and booming rhythms.
"These are the things, I need to know..." Everybody was in the moment, there is no other way of being "...been written in stone!" From the corner of my eye I saw a moshpit lose control. A photographer appeared right in the middle of the chaos. It was weird, usually they don't risk taking their toys to the front row - this wasn't Baghdad after all. What was going on? Were there really so few of us enjoying this show? But I didn't really care, none of us did. This was our night... "King of the road says you move too slow, king of the road says you move too slow..." Boogie Van, take me away! "As the day is long, they keep movin' on!" I was feeling it with every cell and nerve in my body. I don't know how much time had passed but I needed more and more. Oodles and oodles of fuzzy sounds, stripped and extended to the farthest corners of the universe. "King of the road says you move too slow!" This was it - nirvana at last! But what's this? No! Come back! You can't leave - Bring the hammer down!
After a small chant the giants returned. Can it be that it's time for the encores already? There were still so many songs I wanted to hear. We needed "Godzilla" at least. And after "California Crossing" it indeed came. There could not have been a better song to end the night than this classic. "He picks up a camero and he throws it back down as he wades through the buildings towards the centre of town!" A worthy tribute to the massive beast. "Ooooh no, there goes Tokyo, go go Godzilla!"
And unfortunately that was the end for Godzilla for this night. There was little further attempt to call the band back for the third time. Fu Manchu had grazed us with something amazing and now they were moving on. Truth be told, they did play a decent set of one and a half hours but surely that wasn't enough. And I'm sure many others agreed with me. Still, it was time to turn around and walk away with a fantastic experience - and that would actually be a sad moment for me. The scene in front of my eyes wasn't too satisfying. Normally it would be a problem to get away from the front row after a gig as it would simply be too packed, but on this particular occasion there was plenty of space to move around and photographers were able to instantly home in on the ground zero (as Ivor gracefully demonstrated). Don't get me wrong, the turn-out wasn't catastrophic, but a band like Fu Manchu deserved a much bigger crowd. Then again, perhaps most of the audience was too stoned to move. Couldn't blame them, really. Of course I needed to get out as quick as possible in order not to fall victim to Puff the Magic Dragon myself. Escape and evade - only to fall victim to a different set. Ivor refused my offer for a couple of drinks at the "Woodstock" and after forty minutes of chatting on the freezing street we parted ways, admitting that time could indeed have been spent indoors. I willingly took the road to perdition and a sure hangover, but that's another story.
Fu Manchu and Truckfighters were responsible for what may well have been the best gig of 2007 around here and I feel fortunate to have had a part of it. I was after all among the precious few who attended the gig. And with some luck perhaps one day the kings of stoner rock return to this desolate lump of ice and bless us with another meltdown. Should that happen, I urge everyone to climb aboard and gaze at the wide wonder that is Fu Manchu because Lord knows it's the only way to roll.
The final hand of Fu Manchu - read 'em and weep:
Shake it Loose
Written in Stone
Hung out to dry
Hell on Wheels
Over the Edge
Knew it All Along
King of the Road
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