A wedding band that starts off its set with AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” and Billy Idol’s shotgun song “White Wedding” might not be the sentiment most newlyweds would pick, but there was no bride and groom at this party. The Wedding Band is the side project of Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo, Ugly Kid Joe singer Whitfield Crane, ex Queens of the Stone Age/Danzig drummer Joey Castillo and guitarist Doc Coyle of Bad Wolves (ex God Forbid).
Their hour-long set Friday night (July 26) at musical instrument and supply superstore Cosmo Music in Richmond Hill, Ontario — a suburb of the Greater Toronto Area — was in the small on-site Cosmopolitan Music Hall for just 240 people. A hundred paid $300 (CAD) to meet Hammett and for a seat for the concert; the other hundred shelled out $200 just for the show, worth every penny. The remaining seats were for guests, media and contest winners.
“You wanna tell them a little bit about your monster thing?” Crane asked Hammett.
“Monsters are cool, if you guys didn’t know,” said Hammett, who was wearing an Exorcist T-shirt. “I’m having a little shindig down at the Royal Ontario Museum, courtesy of Cosmo Music and a bunch of other people. Check it out. I’m sure you guys already have. Maybe you haven’t, but maybe you will. Check it out a few times.”
Cosmo Music is the presenting sponsor of It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art From the Kirk Hammett Collection, which runs until Jan. 5 at Toronto’s ROM.
The “monster thing,” as Crane calls it, includes more than a hundred pieces, mainly consisting of 20th-century graphic posters —Dracula, Frankenstein, Barbarella, Bride of Frankenstein, Creature From the Black Lagoon, Invasion of the Saucer-Men, King Kong, Notre Dame De Paris and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein — but also costumes, toys, props and decorated guitars.
So why not pair his time in Toronto promoting the exhibit with a covers set featuring some monsters of metal, punk and funk?
Metallica, which is still on its WorldWired Tour, has covered everyone from Stone Roses to Prince over the years and released an entire covers album 20 years ago called Garage Inc.; Crane has been performing Black Sabbath and solo Ozzy Osbourne covers with a full symphony called Orchestra of Doom.
“This band — it’ s a weird band,” Crane explained after the opening two songs. “We played a wedding in Hawaii under a year ago, then we played another show at a Pipeline Masters thing [a surfing competition, also in Hawaii]. So now, somehow, we’ve become a band, which is just really fun-based. Fun is good. We love that. But it’s an eclectic bunch of songs with an eclectic bunch of men, playing a bunch of eclectic musical notes.”
By way of example, he introduced the next song, “Freddie’s Dead.” (“It’s true,” whispered Hammett, meaning he’s dead), the funky number written by the late soul singer Curtis Mayfield for the 1972 Super Fly soundtrack in which the character is killed.
Crane, who said he would be sticking around Toronto for five days because he was last here in 1993, jokingly asked who wanted to be his guide, then spotted a young boy of about 8 or 9 and asked his name. “Hey, Benny. You’re pretty rad dude. This is an old Judas Priest song called ‘Breaking The Law.’ For you, Benny. Feel the metal.”
“Don’t do it,” quipped Hammett, again commenting on the song title.
“Do it. Do it,” said Crane.
When they were done, Hammett held up the devil horns salute and Trujillo started getting chatty. “It’s like being in high school again. We used to play these songs at parties back in the day, especially this next one and it’s so bad ass.” The dirgy opening signaled Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” and the crowd sang along to the opening: “Generals gathered in their masses/ Just like witches at black masses.”
While people might have been seated, that didn’t stop the hoots, woos and yelling and the odd request for a Metallica song.
“By the way,” said Trujillo, “the rule tonight for this party is we’re only playing covers, so we’re not taking any requests [suddenly adopts a British accent] of any of the bands that we’re currently in. So if you’re into Black Sabbath, a bit of Judas Priest or some old funky jams from 1972… So please limit yourself.”
The funky jam this time was from 1973, actually, Kool and the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie,” and Crane made a point to let us know “a lot of this is improvisation and jamming” — perhaps code for ‘We didn’t have a lot of time to rehearse because Metallica has been on tour throughout July in northern Europe and the U.K.’ Then the drums kicked in for another Sabbath tune, “Iron Man.”
Then began the most humorous part of the night, Crane encouraging Trujillo to put on his medieval British accent again. “Robert, Robert, Robert, I like it when you talk in that voice. Do some more.”
“Ozzy taught me that,” Trujillo joked. “Alas it is I, warlord of darkness,” he said, explaining next in his natural voice, “When we were in high school, we thought Ozzy actually talked that way. We had imagined what his voice was like because we didn’t know him.”
Crane then got in to the fun too, and the pair started a nonsensical chat, featuring such glorious phrases as “Where is the chalice?”, “The wombat flies,” “Over the widow’s peak” and “Whiskey warlord of darkness” (Trujillo’s nickname when he was in Ozzy’s band), and a couple of “alas.”
“That’s called ‘chalice talk,’” they concluded, before returning to the task at hand: playing the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” which Hammett introduced by letting us know “Joey Ramone was a big poster collector. May he rest in peace.”
For another Judas Priest song, “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Prong Crown),” Crane prompted Hammett to tell the story of the guitar he was using. “This guitar is responsible for the next song that we play. It was written on this guitar back in 1969,” Hammett revealed.
Afterwards, instead of leaving the stage for the encore, the Wedding Band coudn’t be bothered, so they just stayed put and pondered if they should sing Canada’s national anthem, “O Canada.” Crane asked his new little buddy, Benny.
“I don’t really know it. But that little dude, do you know how to sing ‘O Canada’? Do you know the song, little dude? Do you know it? Are you scared to sing it? Do you want to sing it? It’s up to you.” Up gets Benny.
“This guy is awesome. I would not have done this,” Crane said, telling him to introduce himself. “He is going to sing an incredible rendition of ‘O Canada.’ Good luck.”
“I can’t sing the whole thing,” Benny said.
“You guys will help him, right?”
As Hammett played conductor, Benny got through just the first two words (O Canada), and that was it. Crane hugged him and the band launched into Chic’s “Le Freak.”
“I’m sure you’ve surmised, I’m sure you’ve put it together, that we’re just playing covers that we love, things that have affected us in our lives, as this song has. This is to our good friend who is no longer here. This is called ‘Ace of Spades,’” Crane said of the Motorhead classic.
He then, finally, gave implicit instructions for everybody to stand up. “It’s time for the rock show. I expect your metal powers. Your rock ‘n’ roll powers. Basically, your music powers. Let’s connect now,” ending with the band they had started with, AC/DC, and “Live Wire.”
When they came out for the encore, it was to play something unexpected, and yet expected.
“We’ve never tried this before in our lives,” said Crane, holding a cheat sheet. “Kirk wanted to do it and it’s a classic song. So give us a break. We’ll see how we do here.”
“And I know you guys know the words. Fuckin’ sing along,” Hammett commanded.
With the paper in his hands, Crane joked, “If I was elected…” before putting on the Dracula-esque voice for “Monster Mash,” Bobby (Boris) Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers’ novelty song that hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1962.
Still in character, he added, while the band continued playing, “Feel free to make some noise for all the monsters in the world,” as they played faster and faster to a speed metal end and Crane repeated “monster mash” over and over with a chilling scream. “Never forget the chalice.”