Friday, June 17, 2011

The American Carnage Tour (2010), Part I: VIP Meet-N-Greet with Megadeth!

Post # 146

The American Carnage Tour that took place in 2010 was perhaps the greatest gathering of thrash-metal veterans on one tour since 1992's Clash of the Titans. Testament, Megadeth, and Slayer had metal-head audiences at their mercy on this tour. Aside from the handful of festival appearances of The Big Four (Metallica-Slayer-Megadeth-Anthrax), shows on this tour have been the only ones to feature as many thrash metal pioneers on the same stage. And this tour hit several major cities across the North American continent as opposed to a few select appearances.
It took a lot of effort and persistence to pull this tour off. Already it was a follow-up to the Canadian Carnage Tour, which featured the same bands. However, shortly before the scheduled start of the tour, Slayer announced that their singer/bassist, Tom Araya, needed to have back surgery, and the tour was canceled. Much apology was issued to ticket-holders from all the bands involved, and a rescheduling was promised.

Several months passed, during which Megadeth and Testament scheduled their own co-headlining tour and added fellow Bay-area thrash veterans Exodus as an opening act. This was Megadeth's 20th anniversary tour for the Rust In Peace landmark album. In honor of RIP, they performed the entire album, plus a few more Megadeth classics. Testament took the opportunity to feature their complete The Legacy album in their set as well.

After Araya had recovered from back surgery, a rescheduled American Carnage tour was announced. I was lucky enough to be among those who had tickets for the original original tour, thanks to my beautiful wife and her mom, who went in together to get these tickets for me as a gift. The tour promoters were true to their word, and after refunding the old tickets, and reissuing new ones, I was all set for the show. But the most amazing thing that had me in total shock was the fact that they were VIP tickets with an opportunity to meet MEGADETH! For this opportunity, I will be forever indebted to my wife, for it is truely a once-in-a-lifetime type of opportunity!

For those of you who've been reading this blog from the beginning, you know how devoted I have been to Megadeth as a fan. I've reviewed all of their studio albums on this blog and intend to add some reviews of their live material soon. Megadeth, and Dave Mustaine in particular, have always been atop my list of heavy metal musicians I idolize. The chance to meet them in person was honestly like a dream come true for me. I couldn't wait for the show (though I had already been waiting for almost half a year!)

When the day of the show finally arrived, I made my way to the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, IL, and made sure I was plenty early. I got in line with the other die-hards who also had VIP tickets and were anxiously awaiting their chance to meet their heroes of heavy metal. Always excited to converse with other like-minded fans, I struck up conversations with everyone who was in line close to me. We all discussed our favorite Megadeth songs, albums, band members, etc, as we waited for them to open the doors to the Pavilion.

Having nearly an hour of time to kill, I got to be pretty good friends with several of these strangers who were waiting in line. I met people from other Chicago suburbs and downtown. Others had travelled great distances for this opportunity to meet the band; from places as exotic as Mexico, Peru, and (get this) Egypt! Whatever our cultural differences may have been, we were united on this day by our fanaticism for heavy metal in general, and for Megadeth in particular!

At last the doors opened and our event coordinator from 'I Love All Access' gathered us together, checked our tickets, and explained how the meet-&-greet was going to work. After the plan of events was drawn out, we proceded to the 2nd level private sky-boxes where drinks, snacks, and air-conditioned comfort awaited us. There was Megadeth music playing to set the mood, and we were minutes away from meeting the band!

The hostess handed out our merch bags (everybody got a special back-stage pass, a Megadeth dog-tag, Megadeth skull-cap, and long-sleeve Megadeth shirt). We were told to help ourselves to drinks and snacks, all on the house. After a few minutes of mingling, we were told to get ready, line up, and get out our chosen item for autographing. So I get in the back of the line, only to realize we were facing the wrong direction, and from behind me I hear the hostess say, 'Here they are! Megadeth!'

So there I was, unexpectedly first-in-line, with merely a few seconds to gather my thoughts and try to think of something un-stupid to say to the living legends I idolized standing right in front of me. First up was David Ellefson. What to say? "Hey Dave. How's it feel to be back?" (David Ellefson had only returned to the band prior to this rescheduled tour. In fact, if it had gone through when originally scheduled, I might not have met Ellefson, but James Lomenzo instead! Perhaps this is some manifestation of fate?) In response, he kinda smiled and nodded and said, "Feels good!" Okay, nothing too spectacular I admit, but I was there, and I got to shake his hand! Then I hand him my item to autograph: a limited, promo edition of Rust In Peace in a coffin-shaped box with a pop-up Vic Ratlhead inside. Dave says, "This is pretty cool!", signs it & passes it back.

Next: Shawn Drover, the drummer. Hand shake. Sign the little coffin. Pass it back. "Hey dude" is said back & forth between us. Then it's Chris Broderick, lead guitarist. Repeat formalities. Then I step back, feeling like I should say something more substantial to these guys. I say, "Shawn, Chris, I've been a fan for years, but I really like how you guys fit in the band. You keep things really tight." (This is true, you can see my old reviews of Megadeth on this blog & see how I've praised Megadeth's newer material.) They both respond with a smile and a 'thank-you'.

Now, I am merely inches from Dave Mustaine. I'm star-struck to silence, but force myself to get past it. "You're.... You're YOU!" I say, lamely. I pause a second to realize how that must have sounded, shake my head and look down at my hands, which are holding the aforementioned RIP-coffin-case, and in my other hand a brand-new copy of Dave's autobiography, 'Mustaine'. Within a second or two my mind debates trying to beg for him to sign 2 items, but the rules we were given specifically said only one item could be signed. So, making a split-second decision, I hand over the RIP-coffin, wanting to complete the set of the whole bands' signatures, and hope that I may get another chance for Dave to sign the book some other day.

Dave takes the little coffin, turns it over in his hands and looks me in the eye and says, "Wow. You know, these are really rare." Then he signs it. Hands it back. At this point Chris Broderick actually leans in and asks Dave what the coffin-shaped box actually is. Mustaine explains that it was a limited run that was distributed mainly to critics & promoters, and that there aren't that many around. How lucky I am to have such an item, and have it signed by the band, no less, does not escape me. I say thanks and shake his hand, and immediately thank him again for having the band do this whole 'meet-n-greet' in the first place.

Then I remember a clever question I had (or so I thought), and ask him if it's true that he named the Gigantour Tour after the anime entitled Gigantor. He says, "Yeah. Yeah, I did." Taking a shot in the dark, I asked him if by chance he still follows any anime (Japanese animation. I'm actually a big fan of it myself). He just looked back at me and said something to the effect that he's too old for that stuff now.

At this point I began to feel self-conscious of having been the first-in-line. I realized that everyone else was waiting impatiently for their chance to meet and converse with Megadeth, so I almost walked away without getting my photo taken with the band (included with the VIP packcage.) The event coordinator grabs my arm and says, "Hey, don't you want your picture?" Of course I did! So I walk back to the band, Dave Mustaine puts his arm around my shoulder, the other band members pose in a line, and 'CLICK!', the photo is snapped... right as one of the caterers walks right in front of the camera.

"Hey man, what the hell are you doing?" Dave shouts at the guy. So we repeat the photo. I guess I was lucky that they took the time to take a second photo. It would have sucked if my pic with Megadeth was just a guy in a catering uniform blurred while the band and I are obscured in the background. So, in the end, I got my photo just fine:
Then I hung around and watched the other fans file through the line, getting various memorabilia signed. Vinyl LPs, CDs, posters, T-shirts. One guy even had a VMNT guitar (Dave Mustaine's signature model from Dean Guitars)! My new friend from Egypt came over after he got through the line and we talked some more. Since we were both at this event by ourselves, we agreed to stick together throughout the show. (Mosh-pit buddy-system you know, have to have some one looking out for you, and someone to look out for.)

We're still in touch to this day. We had a great time at the concert. But those details I'll save for another post...

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