Comic-Con is currently going on around nine hours away in San Diego. We aren’t there. I was very passionate in our justification for not going to Comic-Con, but I still feel a small hole in my soul by not being there. Instead, on Thursday we saw The Mars Volta and SOUNDGARDEN at Bill Graham Civic.
Here’s the Facebook note I posted to justify why Comic-Con isn’t where I am right now:
“Real American Heroes-
I don’t go to San Diego Comic Con anymore mainly because all that ends up happening there is 100,000 people fight for spots in Hall H to see the cast of some movie that will end up being shitty. They sit through Twilight panels and worse and in the end everything they wanted to see shows up on YouTube minutes later. Last year some dude even got stabbed in the eye. Apparently Marvel and their parent company Disney feel the same way. They gave the finger to Hall H this year and are doing their big panels at Disney’s own D23. So, Marvel and Disney, you two real men of genius, I salute you.”
So far, I’ve missed out on several angry mobs of people, like the 7,000 people locked out of the Game of Thrones panel because they were dumb enough to put the most popular show on Pay-TV in Ballroom 20 and not Hall H and they scheduled it after Sarah Michelle Gellar’s panel, which also turned thousands away because Whedon fans have a weird sense of entitlement and probably camped there starting Monday.
I regret not being able to attend the following panels:
The TV Guide Fan Favorites panel included Zachary Levi (Chuck), Matt Smith (The Doctor), Jorge Garcia (Hurley), and a bunch of people from other shows. Would have been fun to be there for but I’m sure it will show up online.
I wouldn’t have attended the WWE/Mattel panel but there was a cool three minute “angle” between CM Punk and HHH that took place and was captured on video and posted to YouTube. Would have been cool to have been part of the small crowd for that three minutes, but not a huge deal.
I also wouldn’t have attended but would have enjoyed watching the Awake pilot as the premise seems pretty cool.
Where we would have been for Comic-Con Thursday:
Ballroom 20 Line: 7:30-10
Burn Notice/Covert Affairs/Psych panels we wouldn’t have really cared about, while camping in Ballroom 20: 10-2
Ringer Panel with Sarah Michelle Gellar (BUFFY) (Ballroom 20)
Game of Thrones Panel (Ballroom 20)
TV Guide Fan Favorites Panel (Ballroom 20)
Buffy and LGBT Comics Fandom (32AB) (second half if we could have gotten in)
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (6BCF) (if we could have gotten in)
What we did instead:
The Mars Volta/SOUNDGARDEN at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
We had fan club pre-sale tickets. My wife arrived at 4:30, got our tickets and had a nice shaded wall to sit next to. She was around 20-30 deep in the line, not far from the front. In contrast, the general ticketing line was in direct sun and started before noon. We were very fortunate to get the fan club pre-sale tickets and also got Soundgarden labeled venue wristbands for the show as a sort of keepsake.
I got there around 5:45, ate a quick Whopper sandwich and got ready to go inside. We were ushered in quickly. My wife ran up the stairs and got us front row center balcony seats. I got a bit lost but eventually caught up with her after calling to ask where she was when I was directly at the top of the stairs above her. She “saved” a bunch of seats for a friend and their friends but the friends sat somewhere else. Our friend had to make a choice between which group of friends to sit with and ultimately chose to sit with us.
I took a nice 30 minute nap during the majority of The Mars Volta’s set. It was incredibly boring. They seem to have a huge fan base and play 3+ hour shows to sell out crowds… but I didn’t see or hear anything to hold my interest. The lead singer writhed around and crawled across the stage a lot. They made lame comments about Full House, The Facts of Life and San Francisco in general. I enjoyed my nap.
SOUNDGARDEN came on around 8:45 and weren’t done until a little after 11. They opened with Searching With My Good Eye Closed, which is one of my favorites and played an awesome mix of fan favorites and tracks a bit deeper into their catalog. I didn’t remember Ugly Truth (which was on the album Louder than Love) and initially thought it might have been Black Rain… until they played Black Rain later in the set. Outside of those two somewhat unremarkable songs, the set was great. It was loud… and it was much better than I expected.
The show had visuals tied to each “era” of Soundgarden and a lot of the artwork from Live From I-5 and Telephantasm once they reached the middle of the set projected behind the band.
The lights were great. We remarked between sets that the stage setup was pretty spartan with just some amps, drums and monitors out there before the band came on. The lights and visuals made it MUCH more than the stage setup conveyed.
Hearing the monstrous sound of SOUNDGARDEN live was a really good experience and I’m very glad they reunited to bring this back to the fans. That said, you could tell throughout some of the songs that they were just going through the motions. On others, pretty much everywhere from Head Down through the end of the show, it seemed like they were really having fun. I kind of wish that “having fun” energy had been there the whole show, but SOUNDGARDEN has historically started off a bit rigid in their shows.
Chris mumbled the beginning of several of the songs. That may have been due to how he was holding the mic or just due to plain forgetting words here and there. The band debuted two songs they hadn’t played in 15 years in Drawing Flies and Head Down and they didn’t miss a beat on either track. Chris joked he had forgotten one word during Drawing Flies but I didn’t notice.
While the sound in the venue was a bit uneven, for example in our section it was extremely hard to hear Kim’s guitar part on many songs, based on Twitter comments it was hard to hear anything but bass in other areas, it wasn’t bad.
I was impressed that the band played for over two hours. Chris’ voice held out through plenty of screaming vocals. Neither Ben nor Kim self-destructed during the show and the whole band really showed that they love the songs.
Either that or it was an elaborate ruse to get people to buy posters and tee shirts, of which the band’s merch tables had plenty to choose from.
The highlight of the show for me was the ending, a giant climatic wall of sound delivered from vocal, bass and guitar feedback that kept rolling for what felt like ten minutes. Ben angled his amps to feedback off of each other and the bass and the boom and roll through my seated body was awesome.
Here’s the setlist for the night:
The Mars Volta:
2.The Whip Hands
5.Broken English Jam
1.Searching With My Good Eye Closed
3.Room a Thousand Years Wide
4.Jesus Christ Pose
5.Blow Up the Outside World
6.The Day I Tried to Live
9.Fell on Black Days
13.Nothing to Say
15.Black Hole Sun
17.Burden in My Hand
20.4th of July
21.Beyond the Wheel
24.Slaves & Bulldozers