SnoCore brings big rock acts to a little local stage
It’s not every day that a music festival comes through town. Not in Vail. Not in January.One has to wonder where the five enormous tour buses and 50-plus-foot trailer are going to go. But, if 8150 in Vail Village can find room for five heavy rock bands, most of which are MTV regulars and have appeared on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night with David Letterman,” then the entourage will pack in somehow.Most of the musicians coming on the 10th annual MTV2 SnoCore tour don’t seem to realize that the tour’s first-ever kickoff in Vail Saturday coincides with one of the biggest freeskiing events in the world.But they’re not here to ski.
Chevelle, Helmet, Crossfade, Future Leaders of the World and Strata will all rock the walls – and the floor – of 8150 Saturday. The hard melodies will inadvertently serve as an unheard soundtrack to dozens of the world’s best freeskiers who will simultaneously be hucking the best tricks in their hats off of the big air jump on Vail Mountain.Anyone who thinks they haven’t heard Chevelle, they probably have. You’ve almost definitely heard one of their latest hits – “The Clincher” or “Breach Birth” – on the radio, seen the band on Letterman, Leno, or any other one of the frequently watched musical-guest-oriented shows. You might have heard Chevelle’s songs on video games, or just stumbled across something from one of their last two albums on Epic, both of which have gone gold and sold well over a million copies.A spin in the ol’ ChevyChevelle, a trio of brothers from Chicago that started playing as a band in 1995 and released its first album (Point #1, produced by Steve Albini) in 1999, has never been to Vail. But, when the boys go on touring stints that last 17 months at a time, often they don’t know where they are. Even in such a daze, Chevelle drummer Sam Loeffler, who, at 30, is the oldest brother, said some of his most euphoric moments on tour have arrived in unknown places.”Those moments, they’re not necessarily what you’d think they’d be,” he said from his brand new home in Chicago earlier this week between studio time and packing for the tour. Between tours, Loeffler has only spent a few nights in the house he just purchased.
“We did this show in this tiny town in the middle of nowhere,” he recalled. “We pre-sold 450 tickets, which wasn’t very good, but then we were like, ‘Well, it’s a tiny little town.’ Then it sold close to 2,000 tickets the night of the show, like everyone in the town came out. It was just so incredible. I have a tour book, so I remember that show. But, every night, I go to bed at like 2 or 3 in the morning. I get in my bunk, and I wake up eight hours later in another town. A lot of the time, our days off are long drives.”The Chevelle brothers make a point of not drinking and playing. They learned this lesson the hard way. They also don’t snowboard while on tour, but are looking forward to the inaugural date in Vail.”I can’t really play the next day if I snowboard,” Loeffler admitted. “I think it’s cool it starts in Vail. I’m not going to throw up on this tour. I don’t drink on stage. In Cincinnati one time, one of our friends came into town at like 5 o’clock. We had to play at 9 o’clock. It was like, ‘Let’s go have a beer.’ That seemed OK. But we just got wasted. We went out on stage and I couldn’t find anything. We asked our crew guys what it sounded like. I don’t even want to know.”Although Chevelle has been lopped into multiple musical genres – heavy metal, hard rock, screamo, muzo, etc. – Loeffler said his band’s sound generally appeals to a basic rock-radio audience.”The whole audience thing is a strange one,” he said. “A lot of indie kids won’t listen to us because we’re on a major label. There’s a lot of die-hard muzo fans that won’t listen to us because we’re not complicated enough. But, we’re one of the heaviest bands on the radio. I think our fans are into heavy music. I was with one of these bands – I don’t want to tell you who – and they were like, ‘Our fans are idiots. They come in there, they’re like mullet-haired, beer-drinking morons.’ I’ve never heard people talk about their fans that way. Our audience, to me, largely is a pretty intelligent one. Our fans are cool. They’re respectful.”Chevelle has been surprised by some of its audiences. Like when it appeared on “Letterman” and Jim Carrey was the guest. He told the Loefflers (guitarist/vocalist Pete and bassist Joe) that he heard Chevelle all the time on the radio.
“He just said, ‘I know you guys are doing really well,'” Loeffler said. “Jim Carrey was just one of the most gracious guys, very appreciative of his success. It’s cool he knew who we were. I wouldn’t have guessed him to be a rock fan.”Look who’s wearing a HelmetRock fans come in all shapes and sizes, as Page Hamilton, the founder of Helmet, knows all too well. Helmet has nearly as devout (albeit not as numerous) a fanbase as the likes of Nirvana and have riveted the world of hard rock since 1988, when Hamilton first started writing songs in his New York apartment. On one of many of the Helmet chatroom sites, there is an intense rant presently under way as to why Helmet should be the headliners of this year’s SnoCore Tour.
Hamilton, who put Helmet into its grave in 1997 but then resurrected it last year with the release of “Size Matters” on Interscope, had formed a new lineup featuring former Helmet (Bush, Orange 9mm) guitarist Chris Traynor, drummer John Tempesta from Rob Zombie and Testament, and Anthrax bass player Frank Bello.Hamilton is happy with the way “Size Matters,” turned out, but said he is already tired of the way Helmet fans and critics are sizing it up to previous Helmet releases.”I don’t know what the idea is; there’s so much of this kind of mediocre, nutless music being put out that’s just regurgitated,” Hamilton said. “I think some guys, when they think of Helmet, there’s a certain thing they think of. They want a rearrangement of that. For me, as a writer, that’s never been anything I’ve been into. I get tired of defending myself. I’m not going to make ‘Betty’ (1994) again. This happens with every … album.”The big difference in “Size Matters” compared with the five Helmet albums that preceded it (beginning with “Strap it On” in 1991), is that Hamilton has had seven years of non-Helmet time to refine his material.”In the past, I was just winging it, I was learning as I went,” he said. “There was no time to f$#! around with it too much. There are some people open-minded and intelligent enough to know it’s good. I think some people think, once you lose that initial inspiration – whatever they think that is – it’s all over. For me (‘Size Matters’) is interesting and exciting.”Hamilton said he isn’t very familiar with Chevelle or the other bands on the SnoCore tour. Chevelle are long-running fans of Helmet and asked Hamilton to be a part of the tour. Hamilton hopes the experience isn’t a repeat of Helmet’s opening role in a Marilyn Manson tour years ago.
“I’m always wary of opening for bands,” he said. “Marilyn Manson, he’s a really nice guy. He’s a bigger band and not as in touch with his crew. The crew treated us like S%*t. We have to travel with people we like. We came from a different time than these bands (on SnoCore) – from The Jesus Lizard and Nirvana, where there was no headliner and you are the steaming pile of s*%t.”Hamilton is also leery of those who site Helmet’s influences. Different analyses in Helmet’s lifetime have claimed the band was originally influenced by the likes of Tool and Korn. The front man wants to set the record straight.”I’m like a 110 years old,” said Hamilton, who’s 44. “I got into music listening to Led Zeppelin and ACDC. Before Korn asked us to go on tour, I had heard that band name and had a cassette tape of them somewhere. Tool opened for us their second show they ever played. People send me stuff and I like a lot of it. Bands that don’t give a f*%k what people think are always more interesting to me. We were on an indie label because a major label wouldn’t touch us. That’s where music to me should be. There needs to be a little bit of f*%k you to the music industry. Because, the industry has never been into the music itself. It’s into making as much money as possible. If you cater to that and say, ‘I’m going to wear my stocking hat and wallet chain,’ well … Frankly, I’m more into geeking out. I love the electric guitar. I love playing rock.”The biggest shock about Hamilton is that he grew up ski racing in Oregon. Who would have guessed? In August, he broke his collarbone when he hit a tree mountain biking and recently sprained a finger while simultaneously trying to talk on his cell phone and throw a football. Thus, he probably won’t be doing any skiing while in Vail this weekend.”I don’t think people would be very happy about me tearing all the screws out of my shoulder,” he said. “I think I’ll just stick to playing.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or firstname.lastname@example.org.