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OTEP - San Francisco, CA - 05.17.05 (Review & Setlist)

TOUR: Mouth of Madness
SUPPORT: Gizmachi, Devilinside, Days End
VENUE: The Pound -- San Francisco, CA (
DATE: Tuesday, May 17th, 2005
GEAR WORN: Mastodon tee
MERCH PURCHASED: None (due to poverty, not lack of interest)
REVIEWED: May 18th, 2005

I admit that I've been looking forward to this concert for months, which isn't much longer than I've been aware of Otep's existence. Metal is a new (or perhaps "renewed") scene for me, a current law student and ex-cop with not too much free time on my hands. But some months ago, and thanks to my boyfriend's insistence that this is a band I'd like, Otep* and I became acquainted - so acquainted, in fact, that I can sing the lyrics to almost all their songs. (Yes, dear, and as much as it pains me
to admit it, you were right.) So when tickets went on sale at the Pound (, I bought three.

[*Since the vocalist in Otep is also called "Otep," I will refer to the band as "Otep" and the vocalist as "Shamaya," since her name is "Otep Shamaya."]

Although I admit being sorely disappointed in Otep's support bands, I went to the center rail before Otep's set and waited to see what Otep was all about (and to hug the pig's head if possible).

Right away I noticed that Shamaya doesn't just sing; she performs. This is a show, not just a concert, and she is an actor extraordinaire. For expressing that transition from pain and suffering to rage, Otep plays the ideal combination of sound. Not only is the music perfectly aligned with the subject matter, the lyrical contrast in these songs from frightened little girl to raging wraith gives Otep its real power. The audience can't help but follow her down this path -- through her horror, past the ups and downs of healing and into her ranting, righteous rage. And back.

For most songs, Shamaya starts out slowly, ranting softly into her mic (as the band plays a soft crescendo), and when she's said what she needs to say, the guitars erupt in sync with Shamaya's screaming growl. The audience explodes, too - hands rise, screams rise, and everyone sings/screams along (and my friend has the blackmail pics to prove it!).

The tattoo outside Shamaya's left forearm reads, "hostile," and hostile she is. And aggressive and energetic and loud and opinionated --- things we usually admire in a male metal vocalist, but it's these qualities that earn this band, and Otep in particular, the derision of some (of the more sexist) reviewers. Yes; she hops. And yes; she sings about the things that most people don't wanna talk about - war, death, incest, terror, grief, anger, betrayal - things far too many have experienced but about which it just isn't PC to talk about in our whitewashed American culture.

Otep says they're destroying popular culture. Maybe they are. But I think what they're really doing is breaking down popular barriers. They make it okay to rage about rape and violence (public and private), and cry about the most intimate betrayals of trust. It's personal pain they exploit. In this way Otep is like My Dying Bride or Katatonia, even though I certainly wouldn't class Otep as Doom Metal. It's more Thrash-y, far more angry, and despite the pain, it's filled with hope. For one, Otep validates that despair that many struggle (usually in vain) to forget. But instead of painting on smiles, Shamaya wails. And screams. And growls. And only after re-experiencing all that suffering
does she sing about remaking herself and becoming free (see Self-Made and Menocide, for example).

Shamaya spends a lot of time at the edge of the stage. She sings about pain and proudly shows the (self-injurous) scars that cleft the inside of her left forearm, but she smiles when the audience touches her, and they touch her like she's a god, rubbing her socks, her pants, her shoes, and her hair. Every touch was tentative, careful, and soft ... no one - woman or man - tried to grab her, pull her or make any aggressive moves (much to my surprise). When, during one song, she tore some of her
hair out and flung it down, hands reached forth and kids jumped over each other to grab it. A treasure from the god. Perhaps it'll bring them luck.

In sum, I easily award Otep 9/10 Eddies, and I can't wait to see them again. They were powerful, energetic and enthusiastic. No one made any mistakes. They played well together and they treated the audience like they mattered. (I would have given them a 10, but I cannot, in good conscience, give a band a "10" when the vocalist was wearing a Nirvana shirt and the venue played rap between sets. Ugh.)

But this music ain't for wimps, bro. ;) This music is for survivors, those who love them, and for anybody who has ever felt the deep pain of loss, or who has been betrayed by someone who really shouldn't have.

SETLIST (obtained from Evil J after the show):
*Requiem (intro)
Battle ready
Blood Pigs
My Confession
Jonestown Tea
*Shattered Pieces (outro)

--Lauri Owen, Guest Writer

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