All the hoo-ha surrounding Dave Mustaine last week (p.s. – you really surprised a Santorum-boosting birther thinks Obama staged Aurora?) reminded me the first legit live music experience I ever had was Megadeth in 1995. My first non-legit experience, or concert absolute zero, happened two years earlier when three upperclassmen at my high school convinced the administration to let their band play a set of Stone Temple Pilots covers onstage in the empty auditorium during a lunch period. I heckled those bozos pretty hard, mostly because I was jealous it wasn’t me up there in pleated khakis and Raybans tearing out “Plush” on some dime store Fender.
But I digress. I don’t recall Dave Mustaine saying anything particularly offensive when I saw Megadeth at the UCF Arena on August 25, 1995, but I do remember clear as the Liberty Bell how goddamn heart-stopping it was to be ten feet away (give or take) from these speed metal legends as they recreated selections from Peace Sells, Rust in Peace, and Youthanasia at deafening volumes. Just having the opportunity to watch Marty Friedman…the guy’s technique is flawless. Or at least it was that night. The whole concert was pretty amazing, except for the opening set by Korn. In Korn’s defense, they were having severe equipment problems. In the crowd’s defense, I don’t think any of us really wanted to hear Brian “Head” Welch play the “Beavis & Butt-head” theme for twelve minutes while Fieldy searched fruitlessly for a working bass guitar.
Fear Factory was also on the bill, and during their set I remember thinking, “This is band is pretty friggin’ cool, I bet they’ll never cover that dippy Gary Numan song ‘Cars.'”
I curdled on Megadeth in the years following this concert for a variety of reasons; they tried to push their luck writing pop songs, Friedman left the band, I discovered the more immediate thrill of punk, I grew tired of kids asking me if I was into other “cheese metal” like Iron Maiden and Poison as well, etc. I’ve come back around now, though, and I listen to a smattering of ‘Deth classics with major regularity. They all hold up, even So Far, So Good…So What? (save that brutally bad “Anarchy in the U.K.” cover). I’m very glad I got to see Megadeth when the joy was still pure, back when they had their most ballyhooed line-up, back when Dave Mustaine was more concerned with alien abduction and black magic than gun rights and birth certificates.
And yes, I will finally admit that I briefly fell asleep on the drive home from this concert, which resulted in the accidental veering of my mother’s 1987 Mercury Grand Marquis into the borders of a construction site. One of those harmless-looking road blocks with the blinking orange lights winged Mom’s passenger side mirror right off its base with a loud whomp. This instantly woke me up and paralyzed me with fear. Luckily, I regained control of the car and there was no further damage (unless you count my friend David, who was in the passenger seat at the time, and who never agreed to get into a car with me again).
I’m sorry, Mom, but I’ve been lying to all these years. I did not meet Dave Mustaine in the parking lot of the UCF Arena, and he did not tear off your passenger side mirror to prove how “metal” he was. I am a bad son.
Hot shot producer Johnny K (previous clients: Machine Head, Mushroomhead, Disturbed) is all up in Megadeth’s Kool-Aid on Thirteen, going so far as to co-write roughly fifty percent of the album. The results are a surprising improvement over the last Megadeth effort, 2009’s perfectly enjoyable Endgame; tighter mixing plays to the veteran thrash band’s strengths while head ‘Dether Dave Mustaine thankfully avoids overextending himself on the vocals. Some credit should also be doled out to founding bassist Dave Ellefson—his return after a decade(ish) of exile probably provided some much-needed comfort for King of Pain Mustaine. Thirteen doesn’t boast any riffing as jaw-dropping as what the world heard on Rust in Peace or Peace Sells, but is that really a surprise? Most bands don’t even have half of a “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” in them (plus, Megadeth’s currently pushing into the AARP zone). There’s no excuse for giving us another song about driving too fast, though. We get it, Dave. You got goddamn speeding tickets.
FINAL SCORE: Three Backwards Vic Rattleheads (out of four).