Children of Bodom - September 21, 2008 - The Warfield, San Francisco, CA
By: Jacob Richardson
Everything about the build up to this concert was unnerving. It was definitely the right night for the Children of Bodom show, the sign outside confirmed that, but it was eerily quiet outside of the venue - capacity 2100 - 10 minutes before the show was set to begin. The line looked more like a smoke break between sets at a loft party. It took all of two minutes to walk up to Will Call, get patted down, and stake a good chunk of real estate on the main floor.
To make the things even more disturbing the show started at seven o’ clock on the dot. When was the last time a metal show stuck to a schedule to the minute? Delays are the norm these days. No one seemed ready when the first band, Between The Buried and Me, sauntered on stage. With an unassuming presence they leapt into their first number. It didn’t take long to get the crowd’s attention after that. Hailing from North Carolina, BTBM is a quirky band that throws all sorts of components into one song. A fluid transition from one bridge to the next is essentially non-existent and often they parts don’t fit together, but that didn’t seem to matter. The soft psychedelic keyboard interludes elicited as much of a positive reaction as when the quintet was going berserk and thrashing maniacally on their instruments.
Pairing them with Children of Bodom seemed like an interesting choice prone to backfiring. But it didn’t. In fact, their set went over quite well, especially considering that they were first to bat and highly vulnerable to the taunts of impatient Hatecrew members.
During the set break, when the lights came up, it was immediately apparent that there were a lot of young, young kids at the show. Young as in, “I think I might fail geometry” young. Young as in “Deep Purple? That’s one of my favorite colors” young. Then, projected above the stage, in big letters, was the name of the sponsor. Hot Topic. The bad haircuts, the pimples, suddenly it all made sense.
It took all of three songs for Black Dahlia Murder vocalist Trevor Strnad to take off his shirt and reveal the “Heartburn” tattoo on his jiggling midsection. That’s sounds like a pretty long time, but considering that BDM were racing through their songs with barely a breath in between, he was still topless in under 10 minutes.
The longest break between their songs were when Strnad would bark some foul demand such as “I wanna see you tear shit up” or “Let’s get this fucking pit moving on this one.” If the parents didn’t love that I can’t imagine they were too won over by the guy in the demonic monkey costume thrusting his pelvis across the stage during “Statutory Ape.” The rest of the crowd ate it up.
During their set, both the crowd size and sense of danger grew larger. A bonus on both fronts since Children of Bodom didn’t come all the way over from Finland to a half-filled venue of sober, law-abiding fans. After BDM left everyone panting from the exertion of such non-stop headbanging, the lights came up giving 20 minutes for everyone to dig out their chiropractor’s business card. During this time the Children of Bodom banner was lowered and it became abundantly clear who the favorites were. The balcony still wasn’t even close to being filled. Seemed like quality over quantity would have to suffice for the Bodom boys.
The quality seemed to be overflowing when they hit the stage to the seminal hit “America, Fuck Yeah!” from Team America: World Police and scorched through their first song, “Follow The Reaper.” The stage flashed from brilliant red, green, blue, and white lights randomly strewn among the drum kit and speaker rig. Vocalist and lead guitarist, Alexi Laiho, stood proud, right on the edge of the stage delivering solo after solo with his well-renowned proficiency.
Oddly enough, the new material, (aka the reason for the tour), got a relatively lukewarm reception compared to the response given to songs off of Hatebreeder and Hate Crew Deathroll. This was mystifying since a good amount of the crowd was still teething when these albums came out. Nevertheless, their newest singles went over flat. To add to what was becoming a waning sense of enthusiasm Bodom took a very un-Black Dahlia approach and rested for drawn out water breaks after almost every song. Any mounting momentum built up over a song receded during these periods of silence.
By the end it seemed like the relationship was going the way of an amicable breakup. The crowd and the band didn’t seem to be a good fit for each other. Perhaps the vim and vigor of CoB was lower than normal because the previous night’s show was a Saturday gig in Las Vegas that might’ve kept them up into the wee hours of the morning. Perhaps the hoots and hollers of fans died down because the show was going past their bedtime. This is all merely speculation, but what’s certain is that before CoB’s last song it seemed firmly established that neither side was impressed. Some relationships are just not meant to be. C’est la vie.