Venue: The Crystal Ballroom
City: Portland, OR
Set length: About an hour and 40 minutes
No Win 7:30 PM (from Downey, CA)
Swervedriver 8:00 PM (from Downey, CA)
Failure 9:00 PM
Extremely excited for this gig! I have been a massive fan since that first time Failure and my band shared the stage back in 1992, on their Comfort tour, and have seen them 10’s of times since then throughout the years. We didn’t see Kellii in the band until the following year on the Magnified tour. Melodi and I purchased our second set of “Goya” t-shirts (the Francisco de Goya Chicken-Foetus-Man looking creature design***see the origins of this design HERE) from Kellii at The Huntridge Theatre in Las Vegas. This time it was on a white t-shirt, which I still have. I also still have the original one from the previous tour on black – quick story…
Many years later, when Failure did their first reunion gig at The El Rey in Los Angeles in 2014, Melodi and I were there and I decided I would “Party-Foul” at this gig and wear that original shirt. Yes, yes, I know… wearing the band shirt of the group you were going to see is a lame move but this gig was different. Long-term Failure fans don’t play by the same rules and we are all fanatical (hence the term Fan) about all things Failure so there is an appreciation for moves like these – at least in my head there is. Anyway, I received a number of “hey man, great shirt!” comments and was even offered $100 for the shirt by another fanatical, but I just couldn’t do it. Also, to the ding-dong near us who kept yelling out “where’s Troy?” Dude, if you were any kind of Troy fan then you would know that 1) he was now in Queens of the Stone Age, 2) Failure was really a 3-piece until the Fantastic Planet tour, and 3) so goddamn annoying hearing you yell that out in between every other song. Although, I do believe he did do some work with Failure on The Heart is a Monster album and tour, so there’s that. In my mind though, Failure will always be a 3-piece.
The above images shot in 2014 at the reunion show with an iPhone
And now, back to 1994 at The Huntridge Theatre in Las Vegas…
Kellii took the time to chat with us at the merch booth, which was essentially behind the counter next to the popcorn machine in the lobby, and even invited us to go hang with the band that evening – we missed the van though. I think it was because of how cool Kellii was with every fan that approached him that we became even bigger fans of the band. After this gig, we saw them many times either headlining small clubs like The Whiskey A Go-Go or opening for Tool in various cities. Failure was not typically well received by the masses of Tool fans back in the day, especially not by the meatheads who just wanted to slam around and be part of the stereotypical 1990’s trend of slamming to any sound. The ones who “got” failure loved every minute of them being onstage with Tool because we understood why they were there. I remember one gig in particular – it was Tool at the Glass House in Pomona – and Melodi and I were in line waiting to get in. Nobody knew who the opener was but we were surrounded by people wearing Failure shirts just hoping that it would be them. I believe this was a warm-up show for Tool before their arena tour kicked off so nobody knew what to expect. Anyway, we were now inside, the lights went down, and sure enough… Failure steps out onto the stage! You could hear a tiny roar from the few dozen fans that had their fingers crossed. Their set that night was a little off (Ken’s voice during songs like Smoking Umbrellas wasn’t quite in-tune) but it didn’t matter to us – it was great to see them. The meatheads in the crowd were booing a little, but overall it was mostly a quiet reception that the band received. Here’s the best part… When Tool hit the stage, Maynard James Keenan gave a little intro speech about how Failure was one of his favorite bands and basically gave a little bit of a “Fuck Off!” message to the ones who were not so kind to Failure. Again, the dozens of Failure fans up front cheered and applauded Maynard’s stance.
Another great moment came when Failure played They Whisky a Go-Go (or was it The Roxy??) Maynard (from Tool) came out and sang Macaque with the band towards the end of the set.
So, after many years of following the band around, collecting set-lists, shirts, music, and great memories, the one thing I have not done is to take photos of the band. Well, there was that one time that I managed to get a disposable film camera into one of the Hollywood venues (I think it may have been The Whisky). I’ll post those photos at some point. Anyway, tonight’s gig at The Crystal Ballroom will be my first time actually getting my camera in front of one of my all-time favorite bands. A few of the results are below.
My gear for the night was:
- Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
- Flash: None
- Lenses: Canon’s 70-200mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.2, and the 16-35mm f/2.8.
This was my first time at The Crystal Ballroom. Very nice staff and a beautiful hall. The only odd part of it was the walk-way to the stage that cuts the audience in half, which is kinda strange, but overall it is no biggie. The sound right up front, in the shooting well, is a little muddy but once you back up a little then the details of the music can be heard. Great place – go support this historic building that has been supporting live music for over 100 years.
1332 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209
Reviews, comments, and possible putdowns for Failure…
What a great gig! The evening started off with a lot of fog and very little front lighting but opened up as the show progressed. Tonight was the opposite of watching a well crafted film – let me explain… When a film comes together just right, meaning the performance, lighting, and editing end up being spot on, it can still be ruined by the wrong score/soundtrack. Or, if the audio is just right, that film now becomes a masterpiece. Tonight’s show at the Crystal Ballroom was a Failure masterpiece in that they added amazing visuals to enhance their performance. The lighting choices really set the mood for every song, and it did not go unnoticed. Most music shows go through a repetition of lighting scenarios, but Failure took great care and precision to align the audio with the visual. The lighting for this tour was provided by Gigi Lighting Designer, who also works with the likes of Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age, and Run the Jewels, to name just a few. It is nice to see these two artists together to deliver such quality.
Regarding the attendance, I really expected there to be more people at this gig. It sort of reminded me of the 90’s when Failure would sell enough tickets to make the show happen but not quite enough to sell it out. I really thought Portland would be all over the likes of Failure. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the shows were packed (especially in LA) but there were quite a few that we went to where we had lots of elbow room, so-to-speak. It always made me a little sad for the band, but at the same time it was like we were getting a private and intimate performance when this would happen.
The setlist for the evening was:
- Segue 11
- Solar Eyes
- Distorted Fields
- Heavy and Blind
- Another Space Song
- Stuck on You
- A.M. Amnesia
- Counterfeit Sky
- Dark Speed
- No One Left
- The Pineal Electorate
- Screen Man
Highlights for me (in order) were: Macaque, Screen Man, Counterfeit Sky, Pillowhead, Dark Speed, & Undone.
Songs I really missed having on the setlist:
- Hot Traveler
- A quick note about this video… Failure did a very cool thing here and added in a portion of them playing the song live in the break-down portion. Check it out to see if you can hear it.
- Dirty Blue Balloons
- Let it Drip
- Pro-Catastrophe (I can’t remember the last time I heard this song live – perhaps their first tour?)
Please go support this band as they are truly one of the greatest bands out there that still plays live music. Most bands out there today have a lot of backing tracks and extra little time-keepers thrown in to match the show but Failure is one of the few exceptions out there. I hope you end up loving this terrific band as much as I do!
Check out their YouTube page here
And their main site
Also, check them out on KEXP
- Autolux: see my previous post
- Replicants: A side project With Greg and Ken
- ON: Ken Andrews’ project that was extremely underrated
- Year of the Rabbit: Another great Ken project (I was at this show)
- Lusk: A Greg Edwards project
- Enemy (the U.S. version): A band with Kellii and Troy
- Blinker the Star: a Ken Andrews production with Kellii on drums
Also, if you would like some drum lessons, go see Kellii!