Tales From The Stage – Sevendust and Machine Head, 1999

One thing I want to start doing more is to look back at concerts and shows I’ve been too. It’s nice to remember them – as the time and distance gets longer from when I saw the show the details start to get fuzzy. And also in the pandemic age where I’ve been to one whole live show since late 2019, it’s nice to remember the concert era.

The show I’m going to look back on today took place in October of 1999. It was a strange time, as nu-metal and boy bands ruled the roost. A lot of newer bands who would shape the new millennium were coming on to the scene. More established acts were also getting in on the nu-metal thing, as was the case with the bill I was going to see that night.

The concert line-up was Sevendust, Machine Head, Orange 9MM and Chevelle. I was going for Machine Head, and also for something fun to do on what was Halloween weekend, I think this show was on the 29th. This was a bit of a mini-tour – this group played St. Louis and then our town, then joined up with Slipknot and others for two shows further south over Halloween weekend.

The venue for this show was a bit different than the typical metal bar. This was a large bar that could easily hold over 1,000 people. There was a bar in each corner of the building and a large dance floor for people to make fools of themselves. When holding shows a stage to one side was used as opposed to the dance floor in the middle.

The bar was mostly known for Thursday nights when people could pay a $5 cover and then enjoy $1 drinks. There was a “power hour” during the night where beers were free. The custom was to get a beer at one bar then wait in line in the next corner, drinking one beer then getting another. It was a dirt cheap night out. The place wound up closing years later due in part to several booze-fueled incidents, to the shock of no one.

But none of this was the case for the concert. I don’t recall the crowd size exactly – it by no means filled the huge building but plenty of people did come out for the show. Sevendust were getting a name for themselves by this point and Machine Head was a draw for fans of heavier fare. Chevelle were just getting out in the world and it’d be a couple of years before they garnered widespread interest. Orange 9MM were a known name but not someone I was radically familiar with.

Chevelle were interesting. They reminded us of Tool to some degree and had maybe a bit different sound than what they’d become known for a few years later. I never really “got into” the group much but it was kind of cool to see them go from opening a Midwest honkytonk to multi-platinum success.

Orange 9MM had a bit of headway going into 1999. I guess it wasn’t enough because the band broke up a year later. But they had their name out a bit in the mid-90’s as the alt-metal and nu-metal thing was picking up steam. I thought the group was interesting but their set didn’t move me to further exploring them.

The reason for the season, or at least for my attendance at this show, was Machine Head. The band had come up with two pretty heavy albums in the earlier part of the decade and were now touring on a controversial third record. The Burning Red saw a stylistic shift toward “rap metal” that was the in sound at the time. Limp Bizkit had exploded in popularity in 1999 and it seemed like Machine Head was along for the ride.

Of course the band stuck with plenty of their older material. Davidian, Take My Scars and Ten Ton Hammer were given prominent space in the set, alongside the rap-metal single From This Day. That song had even caught a bit of radio play and we wondered if Machine Head wouldn’t catch more fire in the nu-metal scene. For a lot of reasons, that didn’t happen.

For that night in 1999 though the setlist was fine and Machine Head put on a nice show. The crowd were really into it and very active through the show. One friend of ours who wasn’t into metal but wanted to hang out lost one of his shoes in the moshing fray. It was a lot of fun to actually get into something for a bit.

Sevendust came out to close out the show. They were really building a name for themselves around this time and were on the cusp of breaking out big. They were already on the way with that, the song Denial was getting a lot of airplay around the time of this tour. Their set was well-executed and enjoyed by the crowd. Machine Head did a nice job setting the table and Sevendust took the momentum and ran with it. I chilled out in the back for their set, having expended my energy on Machine Head.

We tried finding our friend’s shoe after the concert but had no luck. One of the perils of heavy metal, I guess. It was a good time and looking back it’s interesting to note the trajectories of the bands involved. Sevendust and Chevelle would go on to quite a bit of success in the new millennium. Orange 9MM would not join them, not lasting another year after this show. Machine Head had an ugly controversy around the September 11th attacks that nearly ended the band. The group would retool and enjoy a new golden era with a more straightforward metal approach than the nu-metal they were offering in 1999. They’d have other twists and turns later on as well.

A lot is gone from that time. One of the bands is gone, that venue is gone, and that peer group I hung out with at that time is scattered to the four winds. But this show was a great way to ring in Halloween 1999 and a perfect bill to sum up what music was and where it was going as the calendar changed.

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