It’s hard to believe that it had been nearly eight years since the last time I saw Tool and almost equally hard to believe that 10,000 Days from 11 years ago was still their newest release. Due to so many concerts this year I almost didn’t go but as the date got closer the lineup just became too good to pass up. Unofficially dubbed “ToolFest,” the lineup boasted Tool’s friends and past touring mates Melvins, Fantomas, Clutch and Primus with The Crystal Method filling in the gaps between bands. It was supposed to be Bob and me but Bob bailed and Joe decided to fly down from Portland to go with me.
The Glen Helen Amphitheater is kind of out in the middle of nowhere so the nearest hotels are about 12 miles away in San Bernardino proper and San Bernardino is sketchy. At 1 pm we arrived at the ghetto fabulous Motel 6 to see an unfilled swimming pool, cheap banner wrapped around the official sign and an armed guard. Even that was a first for me but almost any accommodations are good for a night when you’ve been drinking. Anyways it was 1 pm but check in was not until 3 pm. This caused an issue because doors to the show were at 2 pm, for once we wanted to see every band playing and we were hoping to get a little pregame in to save some money on the $13.50 we knew each beer would be at the venue. Once we walked into the office to talk to the front desk guy who was behind bulletproof glass about checking in early we saw that there were two different couples who appeared to be trying to do the same thing. While one couple was at the window we started chatting with the other couple that had come all the way up from halfway down Baja in Mexico. What happened next was one of the strangest moments I have ever had. The couple at the window informed us nobody was going to be allowed to check in until three and walked out of the office. The other couple from Mexico then asked us if we wanted their room for free. Joe and I thought they meant we could hang out in their room but apparently they decided to stay somewhere else for the night and could not get a refund for this night and were only in the office to get a receipt of some kind. This solved all of our woes and saved us some money that we could then blow on beer. It is still hard to wrap my head around that moment even while writing this. That couple knew us for 60 seconds and decided that we could be trusted not to trash the place and charge any damages to their credit card. No complaints here.
After drinking some of the beer obtained from the padlocked coolers at the gas station across the street and a short Uber ride we were ready to take on the crisp 100 degrees without a cloud in the sky and rock. The venue holds 60k people so once we got settled we found a spot at the front of the lawn section to watch King Buzzo in a bizarro robe and the rest of the Melvins. It was a little ironic that I had not seen Melvins since I saw them back in 2004 with Joe in Portland. “Queen” put a smile on my face and my neck on notice. They also played a dissonantly heavy version of the Beatles “I Want To Hold Your Hand” that was cool.
I had never seen Fantomas so I was interested to see if their stage presence was as crazy as some of their music. Unfortunately Mike Patton’s microphone was fucked up for most of the set, which put a damper on some of the frenetic energy I was hoping for.
Next up was Clutch and they were the kick in the nuts that the crowd needed to waken them from their heat and beer induced slumber. My last time seeing Clutch was also with Joe at Aftershock a couple years back. I won the bet with him that Clutch would not play super old stuff but I was still plenty happy with newer rockers like “Firebirds!” and “X-Ray Visions.”
I had not seen Primus since the 3D tour almost five years before. They opened with one of my personal favorites “Those Damned Blue Collared Tweekers” and then pretty much stuck to the hits. “My Name is Mud” was Bad.Ass. At this point the sun had finally started to do down to give us some reprieve and for the first time in the day the video monitors fired up. Prior to this there were no visual effects or so much as a band backdrop for any band. Judging by the many Tool t-shirts in the crowd I do not think that bothered one person here, as that stood to enhance Tool’s world-class laser light production that much more.
The only taste of newness we got from Tool was “Descending,” a tune they have been playing live for awhile that is more like a teaser/movie trailer of the actual song according to Adam Jones. Although I do miss the early days when Maynard was not hiding in the back amongst the shadows seeing Tool never gets old. They played “Opiate” which I have only seen them play a few times and “Sweat” which I am not sure if I have ever seen them play. This was also a rare night they played “Third Eye.” A brief interlude followed “Forty-Six & 2” that Tool came back from by way of a Danny drum solo that was three minutes of pure fire and speaking of fire, there was a bonfire of trash in the lawn section; a fitting sight since the first time I ever saw a bonfire at a show was the only other time I came to this venue to see Slayer and Marilyn Manson. Stay classy San Bernardino.
Getting out of the venue was a shit show. The people who were parked at the venue could not get out which also meant Uber drivers could not get in to give us a ride back to the Motel 666. After admitting defeat and staring at the stars we sat up to see the original couple from the hotel that was denied check in. We decided walking a mile and splitting a surge priced Uber was a better option than just sitting there so that is exactly what we did.
SETLIST: The Grudge, Parabol, Parabola, Schism, Opiate, AEnema, Descending, Jambi, Third Eye, Forty-Six & 2, The Pot, Vicarious, Sweat, Stinkfist