Review / photos: Nasty Savage, Deicide, Obituary turn out for drummer's benefit gig at Crowbar
There are some shows that I review, and some shows that I feel a part of.
When I heard that Nasty Savage, above, was returning for a show at Crowbar on Feb. 11 I was knocked off my barstool. After looking into the specifics of the show, I learned of shocking news that fortunately had a positive end. Longtime Nasty Savage drummer Curtis Beeson was enduring a life-threatening medical battle and his future was uncertain. Curtis needed the Tampa metal fans to rally together, and without a doubt, they responded.
So why did this show hit so close to home for me?
I remember practicing my guitar skills as a teenager to riffs from Gladiator and Welcome Wagon. On occasion I would see guitarist Ben Meyer out at The Brass Mug, and he always took the time to talk to me. He knew I was a musician and he wanted to help musicians get on stage. He even talked to me on the phone one night, giving me advice on how to promote my music.
These guys were part of the original development of the Tampa metal scene. Nasty Savage had an intricate style that was before their time, with Meyer and Dave Austin just killing riffs back and forth, with tones the metal community just hadn’t heard before. The stage show was unique, with Nasty Ronnie (Ron Gelletti) using wrestling etiquette to smash televisions over his head, causing a bloody and dramatic show. And Ronnie’s vocals were a mix of high and low tones and clearly wasn’t the low growl that the Tampa death metal crowd was used to.
But Nasty Savage was not only respected by their peers and fans. To many they were iconic forces within Tampa that molded the scene, along with the likes of Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse and Obituary. After four albums from 1983 to 1989, they broke up, leaving Tampa to wonder what the future would hold.
In 2004 Psycho Psycho was released, which led to some excited news about their reunion, and more live shows being planned. Unfortunately it was short-lived, and once again Nasty Savage slowly left the music arena, leaving metal fans wondering about their future.
Last July, Beeson, 47, was diagnosed with cancer. When doctors discovered the tumor it was the size of a softball. After a 16-hour surgery, most of the cancer was removed, but radiation treatment was needed. Beeson went through several radiation treatments, and things seem to be leaning in a positive direction. Beeson knew one thing for certain, though: The medical bills he faces are just out of control.
This is where the rally comes into play.
Obituary lead vocalist John Tardy and Nasty Savage’s Meyer came up with the idea for the benefit show at Crowbar. If you grew up in Tampa, or have any knowledge of the Tampa metal scene, this was not only a show to attend, but it was obviously for a great cause. All money raised was to go directly to help Beeson and his huge pile of medical bills.
Guitars would be raffled. Merchandise not seen in two decades would be available for purchase. And the lineup? Obituary, Deicide, Voyage of Slaves, Ulcer, Must ... Not ... Kill, Destined to Ruin, Fester (Beeson’s next band), After Death ... and Nasty Savage. Like I said, it was a show not to be missed.
The crowd piled into Crowbar and quickly sold out. As I looked at the merch table, chills went down my spine. I sat there looking at a lot of cassettes that Nasty Savage released before I was out of seventh grade. As Voyage of Slaves began to play, Beeson worked behind the table selling raffle tickets and merchandise. Two Dean Guitars, donated by Dean, were on display. Some fans were buying $200 worth of tickets at a time. The support was huge. After I bought three shirts, a sticker and a few raffle tickets myself, I walked around and noticed so many faces that came out to support Beeson. It was the red carpet of the underground metal world.
As the show went on, it was time for heavy hitters Obituary to take the stage. They always put on a killer show, and although it was a short set, it was packed with all of the old favorites. John Tardy exploded his vocals and Trevor Peres, who I think has the longest hair in the metal scene, filled Crowbar with the heavy guitars that Obituary is known for. Fans were sardined at the front of the stage.
Like a tag-team wrestling match, Obituary left the stage, and on walked the guys from Deicide. This was just so awesome and unusual. No sets to tear down or additional sound checks. It was like a drunken jam session that was all about fun and giving. Glen Benton’s aggressive poise took the audience in hand and scrambled some brain cells. A variety of tunes were played, and Ben Glenton teased the crowd about new album To Hell With God. It was a short set, but it was well worth the surprise, and an unbelievable late add to the bill.
When the guys from Fester came on stage, it seemed metal fans were wondering what to expect. I had not heard any of their music in such a long time. I think my German shepard, Reese, ate the only Fester cassette tape I had in 1994. And Fester has not played together for two decades.
When they started their set with Culture in Shambles, I was just thrown into a mental state of holy s---ness. You’d think they would be sloppy or rusty, but I was pretty amazed at how well Fester performed on such short notice. Their music has always been intricate with rhythm changes and precise drumming. Beeson did an awesome job killing the fast double bass. They even played Return of The Savage, which Beeson wrote for the 2004 Nasty Savage album Psycho Psycho. It’s was amazing to see him performing so well. It was hard to comprehend that months earlier, he was going through radiation treatments. According to lead vocalist John O’Brien, Fester plans on getting back together in the near future with all of their original members, including Beeson.
After a quick break, After Death took the stage. This was an awesome performance from drummer/vocalist Mike Browning, who was previously with Nocturnus and Morbid Angel. It’s rare in the death metal arena to have a drummer perform vocals. Browning is known for it, and he had no problems demonstrating his talents Friday. They performed songs from the old Nocturnus days, and even two songs from Morbid Angel. Browning’s vocals on Morbid Angels’ Immortal Rites was like listening to the Altars of Madness CD from my radio. The sound was awesome and set After Death apart from the other bands of the evening.
Now, for the finale. The items onstage foreshadowed the performance to come: Two televisions laying a short distance from Beeson’s drum kit.
Nasty Ronnie’s large frame took the stage, his eyes were covered in thick black sunglasses, and he demanded attention. They wasted no time starting the music, opening with No Sympathy. It was the usual Nasty Savage lineup onstage — Meyer, guitarist Dave Austin, Beeson and original bassist Fred Dregischan on bass (later bassist Richard Bateman was a no-show).
Soon into the set, Nasty Ronnie explained how he was not too happy with Metal Blade Records. After hearing of Curtis Beeson’s cancer battle, Ronnie tells the crowd that a gift package was sent to Dave Austin’s residence in Tennessee. A hat, a CD and a T-Shirt of an unknown band were donated for the merchandise table. This wasn’t the support Nasty Savage was looking for. So, in metal fashion, Nasty Ronnie coordinated a nice “F--- you metal blade!” chant for a good minute. That’s one way to get a message across.
As Nasty Ronnie continued the set, he hinted at the TVs, twirling the electrical cords in his hands, and lifting the televisions up on occasion. I wondered if he had it in him, to smash a TV over his head at this age. (I also wondered if Crowbar manager Tom DeGeorge was biting his nails about the destruction these televisions were going to cause to his stage.) But without fail, Nasty Ronnie lifted a large television up over his head, and let it go. It rolled from his head, tumbling down his body, and smashed to the wooden stage. Fans cheers the destruction. Moments later again, the same action. The music raging, Dungeon of Pleasure, Austin and Meyer trading riffs, the television was eventually a shell, and shattered glass was everywhere. Nasty Ronnie displayed the shell by sticking his head through the TV, showing the blood dripping from his forehead. This was the really Nasty Savage we all know and love.
The show ended after a nine-song set with XXX. It was very clean, minus a few mishaps in the guitar timing. Again, these guys haven’t played in a while, so I can’t tear them up for a couple of rusty moments. Everyone was on their game, and it was definitely a show that served its purpose.
On Feb. 16, Beeson had an MRI to detect any cancer that may have been left after hsi surgery. The verdict: A thumbs up. No cancer found!
This was awesome news to hear, and everyone that knows Curtis and his devotion and dedication to the music scene has to be thrilled. We’ll look forward to future projects from Beeson, and will keep an eye open for his future work with Fester.
-- Review / photos by Andrew Carlton, tbt*