By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Alex Distefano
By Darryl Smyers
By Jon Solomon
By Britt Chester
Because of a ticket snafu, a representative of Universal Concerts led me through the bowels of McNichols Arena just before the start of the Family Values show on October 6. While she searched the box office for my passes, I was left for a few minutes in the trauma-care room, where five stretchers were laid out on the floor, just in case. Clearly, the medical staffers at McNichols were ready for mayhem, and as it turned out, there was plenty of it. The arena was not even close to full (the half-house setup was used due to advance sales of around 7,000 tickets), but the floor area was jammed--and because no chairs were placed upon it, swirling mosh pits bubbled up throughout the concert. Most of these seemed no more dangerous than your average Oktoberfest celebration, but there was at least one notable exception: A refugee from The Hill Has Eyes and a blond-haired, bare-chested, storm-trooper-sized killing machine turned one area into a war zone. Fortunately for me, I was a few rows above the action--meaning that what was seriously dangerous for some of the more slightly built pit participants was wonderfully entertaining for me.
So it went with the gig as a whole. The acts on the Family Values tour--Korn, Rammstein, Ice Cube, Limp Bizkit and Orgy--didn't pump out consistently interesting music. Most of it, in fact, was loud but predictable. However, the sheer spectacle of the event helped compensate for such weaknesses. Hardly any of the songs played during the festival are likely to stand the test of time; by next week, even fans may have forgotten them. But if you were a sixteen-year-old boy with no girlfriend and too much airplane glue (or if you remembered what it was like to be one), a lot of them sounded just fine.
The first clever notion hatched by Family Value's organizers was the hiring of DeeJay Punk-Roc to spin before and between sets. Punk-Roc isn't the most innovative turntable jockey to rise to prominence of late, but he's ultra-accessible and consistently diverting--and if his mixing and scratching were often better than the acts that followed it, that was okay, too. While watching Orgy, a brainless Nine Inch Nails ripoff whose clunky cover of New Order's "Blue Monday" was only marginally more tolerable than its own crummy material, the knowledge that Punk-Roc would be up next was practically the only thing that kept me going.
Limp Bizkit, which followed Orgy to the stage, was another matter entirely. To put it simply, the band is less original than what's emitted by a photocopier. Musically, the performers' touchstones are the Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine; lyrically, they're primarily inspired by anti-intellectualism and misogyny. The title of Bizkit's best-known song, "Counterfeit" (which its record company, Interscope, turned into a hit via a Nineties variation on payola), is an apt description of these guys. But--and it pains me greatly to admit this--the energetic way they put across other people's sounds occasionally worked in this context. Their Mars Attacks set (a nod to Parliament) was eye-catching, and the performances by guest breakdancers provided a nice change of pace from lead singer Fred Durst, who's the asshole that all the other assholes in the world aspire to be. At one point Durst asked for women who wanted to get "freaky" to join him on the stage. Within minutes, several victims of low self-esteem were brought to him as if they were virgin sacrifices, but after the women danced through a song, Durst expressed his thanks by calling them "ugly," "stupid" and "trailer trash."
Ice Cube didn't have a lot of nice things to say about females, either; he uses the word "bitch" about as frequently as most of us say "the." But what stood out most during his time in the spotlight wasn't his proclivity for gender-bashing but his capitulation to live hip-hop cliches. In "Father Cube," a profile that ran in our October 1 edition, he claimed, "I'm not a person who's going to repeat himself over and over again," but his show was essentially the same one I've seen twice since 1991. All the old chestnuts were there, including his angry departure during the second song, his return a few minutes later in response to a "Fuck you, Ice Cube" chant by the easily led crowd, the my-side-of-the-arena-is-louder-than-your-side gambit, and so on. The only real surprise was his delivery of "Ghetto Vet" from a wheelchair--but the track's incisive lyric, which concerns the aftermath of paralysis, left the attendees mystified. They didn't want to think; they wanted to holler, pump their fists and run into each other. Repeatedly.
Rammstein gave them a chance to do just that during one of the most enjoyably moronic displays I've seen in ages. Think of the band, led by Till Lindemann (who bears a striking resemblance to Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List) as the Deutsch Kiss--a group that's more about Teutonic imagery and stage gimmickry than music. As the other bandmembers (clad in leather-bar gear) churned out Kraftwerkian metal that ran out of ideas after about a song and a half, Lindemann abused himself for our pleasure. He wore a flaming overcoat during the first number, which initially seemed like a miscalculation: He's not likely to top that, I thought. But the hardworking Till managed it by pounding himself in the forehead with his microphone until he started bleeding, repeatedly slugging himself in the thighs, tromping around in spark-throwing boots and more. The most charming moment involved a plastic penis attached to a high-pressure hose; Lindemann removed the phallus from the stuffed crotch of his trousers and used it to simulate anal sex with his synthesizer player. When his faux johnson wasn't spraying jets of fluid onto his bandmate's caboose or the fans below him, it was squirting into his own mouth. That I found the entire stunt hilarious is proof that I haven't been seeing my psychiatrist as often as I should.