Concert Review

Monster Mash Festival Was a Tale of Two Maynards

If Tool fans were upset by some of the statements Maynard James Keenan made in our cover story this week, they didn't show it last weekend. 

Somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 people packed into Tempe Beach Park Saturday night to hear Tool play its only concert of 2015. The fans ate up every second, pumping fists in time to songs that were mostly more than a decade old. The only acknowledgement of the mini-controversy (Keenan called some of band's fans "insufferable") came perhaps during "Ænema," when instead of "followed by millions of dumbfounded dipshits" Keenan simply said "sorry."

People seemed to laugh it off, and at the end of the night, no one seemed to care. All they wanted was to hear their favorite band deliver a tight live performance. And though the band certainly sounded a little rusty — missed entrances, tempo issues, etc. — the band for the most part delivered an excellent set. 
Maynard James Keenan entered the stage Saturday night dressed up as "Rupert Plant of Fred Zepplin," complete with curly blond wig, a vest with no undershirt, and blue jeans. At 10:05 p.m., the band launched into the opening riffs of "No Quarter," a Led Zeppelin cover originally released on the 2000 box set Salival. 

It's a cover, but it's a deep cut. According to the Internet, the band hasn't performed the song live since 1998. "Does anyone remember Napster?" Keenan cackled at the end, a reference to the Zeppelin track "Stairway to Heaven." 

Keenan's voice sounded strong throughout the entire 10-minute version of "No Quarter," after which he proclaimed the band was "not Led Zeppelin" before the band transitioned into "The Grudge."

Went as Rupert Plant of Fred Zepplin last night.

A photo posted by Puscifer & Caduceus (@puscifer) on

The band went on to play 10 originals in addition to the cover. To answer the most common question posed by Tool fans, the set did include songs that Tool hadn't played on its tours in recent years — "The Grudge" and "Parabol/Parabola," which followed one another. It did seem the band reached deep into its catalog for the tour. Following "Parabola" was "Opiate," the anti-religion song from the band's debut EP. An extended version of "Schism" came next, followed by "Ænema," "Jambi," "Forty-Six & 2," "Vicarious," "(-) Ions" (for 15 seconds, perhaps), and "Stinkfist." 

That was it. "We haven't rehearsed this in a million years," Keenan said before "Opiate" started, asking bassist Justin Chancellor if he had a different bass intro he was going to use. The song also included a new bridge, which was nice. They tweaked the ending, too, shifting from the song into a whole new jam section before the song ended. The song is only five minutes long on the EP, but it was at least twice that here. The band messed with one of the guitar breaks in "Schism." As mentioned earlier, Keenan changed the lyrics to "Ænema." The band played an extended jam introduction to "Jambi." The finale, "Stinkfist," seemed to stretch eternally beyond its five-minute recorded version.

Sadly, annotating the differences between the live versions and the studio ones is what constitutes Tool fandom these days. Until the long-delayed new Tool album surfaces, paragraphs like the previous one are literally going to be the most important developments in the band's world. The band sounded pretty good live, and the crowd response was overwhelmingly positive. That didn't stop massive loads of people from leaving after "Forty-Six & 2," however.

And though there was an earthquake after Tool played "Ænema," Southern California did not sink into the ocean, and there still is no Arizona Bay. 
The Puscifer show the following day really served to highlight how Keenan doesn't shirk from the spotlight at all while performing. For Puscifer, which is unambiguously his project and artistic vision, he's right up front and center, unlike Tool and a Perfect Circle. It was November 1 when Puscifer played Tempe, but the band performed in full costume. Keenan appeared dressed as a sexy pregnant redneck Captain America, while the other band members wore various lucha libre masks and costumes. Keenan's and singer Carina Round's voices meshed beautifully through opener "Grand Canyon" and "Toma."

"Monster mashers of Tempe, are you in search of metal?" Keenan shouted at the crowd. "Well, you've come to the wrong place. We are a country band, and this country just happens to be America. So happy Arizonaween, Arizona."

He joked with the crowd throughout the night and introduced some of his bandmates, including Paul Barker of Ministry, who will play bass on the upcoming Puscifer tour. It was a striking contrast — he played the elusive, opaque frontman for Tool, and the ridiculous redneck frontman for Puscifer. Just goes to show what a difference a band can make. 
Critic's Notebook

Last Weekend:
Tool, Puscifer, Rob Zombie, Linkin Park, Deftones, Primus, and more at Monster Mash festival at Tempe Beach Park.

The Crowd: Fewer Halloween costumes than expected, but it looked like maybe half the crowd dressed up. The occasional Tool fanatic with lyrics tattooed on their legs who drove thousands of miles by themselves to get to the show. 

The Venue: The more people you stuff into Tempe Beach Park, the worse the concert experience becomes. Tempe Beach Park just isn't a good place to see a show. There is no elevation to the park at all, so if you're not at the front of the stage, it's almost impossible to see. The park opens very wide out from the stage, so there were plenty of places to get a really low-angle view of the stage from the flanks. The only problem was, the sound wasn't nearly as good from the sides as it was from the front. I felt bad for the shrimpy music fans, because it would have been impossible to see the stage if you weren't on someone's shoulders. I waited in line for 45 minutes to get a wristband for the privilege of buying $9 beers. A huge, seemingly endless line of people wrapped around Mill Avenue on Saturday; I wouldn't be surprised if it took an hour or even two just to get into the park to catch Primus. Add on another 45 minutes to get the wristband, and that's an awful lot of waiting. 

Smokescreen: I'm sick and tired of cigarette smoke at festivals. This isn't a problem unique to Monster Mash. I attended all three days of McDowell Mountain Music Festival this spring, and I had smoker's cough for a week afterwards, and I don't even smoke. The smoke wasn't that thick at Monster Mash, but it was unavoidable. It's pretty sad that music festivals in this state now require a gas mask just to breathe properly. 

Primus Sucks: The band put on a great show, as always, but it was nothing compared to the full Primus and the Chocolate Factory experience that came to Orpheum Theatre last year.

Deftones: The band's version of "My Own Summer (Shove It)" sounded so bad I had to leave and get a beer. I love that song. Thankfully the rest of the set wasn't nearly as awful. 

Set list:
No Quarter (Led Zeppelin cover)
The Grudge
Forty-Six & 2
Danny Carey extended drum/synth solo
(-) Ions/Stinkfist

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David Accomazzo is a music wrangler, award-winning reporter, critic, and editor with more than a decade in the business.
Contact: David Accomazzo