Callwood at the Cooler #19

By Brett Callwood By | May 15, 2017 at 5:00 PM
Vive la France…

The name Le Pen has been synonymous with far right politics in Europe since 1972, when the French National Front Party was formed and led by Jean-Marie Le Pen. His extreme views on immigration and homosexuality, among many other things, made him the enemy of decency while incredibly attractive to neo-nazi and ultra-conservative groups. Jean-Marie led the National Front until 2011, and was roundly thrashed every time he attempted to stand in an election. He was and is a monster.

His daughter Marine expelled him from the party because his comment about the Holocaust being a “detail of history” apparently crossed a line.

Pur-lease. The man’s whole life is an abomination. But whatever—Marine made a statement through that action, and some people were led to believe that under her leadership the French National Front would be a far more reasonable party. The National Front in Britain (and the British National Party), UKIP, and the KKK, have all tried similar publicity moves. It worked for UKIP and Brexit, and it sort of worked in France.

Make no mistake—Marine Le Pen is a monster too. She just carries herself in a more “politician”-y manner than her wing-nut dad. She’s smarter—a lawyer, so more cunning. But her views on immigration, particularly on Islam, are equally horrifying.

On May 7, Emmanuel Macron beat Marine Le Pen to the French presidency with a percentage of 66.1 compared to her 33.9. Critics are pointing out that Macron is far from perfect, he ran as an independent and his connections to investment banks are disconcerting. But let’s not make a false equivalency here. Macron is a social liberal. He knows what decency is. He’s flawed, but he’s a flawed good guy. If that sounds familiar, it should. Thankfully, the French didn’t make the same mistake America did.

It’s worth noting that 33.9 percent is the best return the National Front has ever achieved, and that’s scary. However, it’s also worth noting that, if any country had a reason to give in to fear-mongering and rabble-rousing this year, it’s France. From Charlie Hebdo to the Eagles of Death Metal concert shootings, the country has suffered at the hands of terrorists.

The French could have been forgiven for conceding to fear. But they didn’t. In large numbers, the people stood up and said, “We will not be beaten into xenophobic and Islamophobic sentiments.” Rather, they flipped the Islamic terrorists, and every other terrorist, the bird. They proved their strength in the face of adversity, choosing love and acceptance and, in the process, winning.

The aim of a terrorist is to spread terror. When no terror is spread, the terrorists lose. Al Qaeda, Isis, all of them, wanted Le Pen to win, because then they could say, “Look, the French hate us.” Then it’s easy to go after them, and get others to do the same. They were delighted that Trump won, for that matter.

So this week, I say “Vive La France.” The people did something impressive: They stood up to the terrorists using the only methods that work.

Saigon Kick and Soulfly…

Miami hard rock band Saigon Kick is a group that doesn’t play out very much anymore, so the opportunity to catch them at the Viper Room was one not to be missed. 1992’s The Lizard album is a gem of the sleaze genre, and it thrust them into the mainstream thanks to ballad “Love Is on the Way.” The lineup has shifted a little over the years, but the men on stage at the Viper were more or less the classic lineup. Matt Kramer may be one of the most underrated singers in rock, a man capable of crooning and wailing with equal passion. Jason Bieler, who has an impressive display of facial hair nowadays, has always been an amazing guitarist too. The band was beautifully on-point on the Sunset Strip, with songs like “Suzy” from the debut, self-titled album, and “Hostile Youth,” “Peppermint Tribe,” and of course, “Love Is on the Way” from The Lizard, hitting home. This gig was totally worth the wait.

Soulfly, led by former Sepultura mainman Max Cavalera, is a band that has played out a lot over the past couple of decades. Cavalera, a Brazilian dude, is based in Phoenix with his wife/manager Gloria and their kids, and Soulfly, as remarkable as it seems to me, is 20 years old. Remarkable, because it feels like yesterday that Sepultura split into two camps and then, in 1998, the debut Soulfly album was released. That first record still sounds great today, although it’s hampered slightly by being tied into the then-popular nu-metal scene. The band matured organically as it grew and, as it stands now in 2017, Soulfly is a far more brutal and uncompromising proposition. There were some excellent opening bands when Soulfly hit the Echoplex last week, including LA trad-thrashers Thrown Into Exile, and Lody Kong, the latter featuring Max’s sons Zyon and Igor Cavalera.

Gruesome provided main support, and it’s a gloriously odd band. Part-cover band of the death metal group called Death, part-originals band, Gruesome is a kind of twisted tribute which, as unconventional as it sounds, works really well. Gruesome inspired some old-school violent circle pits with some horror-themed fun. Gruesome is a throwback to the good old days of death metal, something that is most welcome.

There are few nicer people in metal than Max Cavalera, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that when he’s on stage. Sharp-eyed attendees might have noticed him cast a proud, guiding eye over the drummer and son Zyon, also of Lody Kong, during the set. Cavalera nodded to the beat to help his boy out, even though, honestly, Zyon did an amazing job. Sepultura songs “Slave New World” and “Refuse/Resist” get the biggest crowd reaction, but every Soulfly tune, including the newies from 2015’s Archangel, go down well. The band pulled out “Red War,” the song Max sang with Dave Grohl’s Probot project, and “Wasting Away” from his Nailbomb album. Fear Factory’s Dino Cazares guested on “Eye For an Eye” as he did on the first album, and then members of all the opening bands got up on stage for a cover of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.” The whole thing was a party, for those lucky enough to have been there.

“Callwood at the Cooler” is a new bi-weekly column which will see me waxing lyrical about events in the news, pop culture and the etc. Sometimes it’ll be light, other times not-so when the rant/monolog demands. The subject matter will vary dramatically so expect anything and keep coming back.