The Omni

To kick things off for 2012, I’d like to share some words that I had the honor of contributing to a fascinating book: ‘Murder In The Front Row: Shots From The Bay Area Thrash Metal Epicenter’ (Bazillion Points).

A photographic collection by long time Bay Area metal photojournalists Brian Lew and Harold O, this just released book captures the commencement of the SF Bay Area metal scene. It is packed with never before seen shots of local bands including Exodus and Legacy (soon to be named Testament), along with frequent visitors from Southern California such as Slayer, Megadeth and that one band that relocated to the Bay just before taking over the world, Metallica.

In many cases, guys who’ve gone on to become household names are fresh-faced and barely recognizable (Kerry King-is that really you?). In others, guys who were an integral part of the scene but are no longer with us are immortalized, alive as ever (Cliff Burton, Paul Baloff and more).

For those who weren’t there, this book will be an entertaining and informative read. For those of us who were there, it is a vital document of a very different time. I was still in high school when most of the pics were shot.

Below is my take on legendary Bay Area venue The Omni. In the pic that accompanies the essay, Testament is finally on it’s way. I’m all of 19 yrs old.

For more information on the book (including samples and ordering info), click HERE.

28 Responses to The Omni

  1. Thats awesome alex! big fan of your work (in every form…my msn messenger and facebook are entitled 'skoldisciple' hahah still fighting with that practice what you preach solo!!! keep up the good work with testament and the skol trio! greetings from Mexico

    • Thanks. Here's a fun video of PWYP played by Chris Broderick and myself with one of our 'campers' on vocals. My cable came out in the middle of the solo (not sure what it is about that solo… there's an old vid of me playing it in the studio and my headphones fall off), but otherwise, went really well:

  2. Hit the nail on the head man! Going to The Omni was always an “event”. Whether it was a Thursday night with some local bands or national acts coming through because they didnt sell enough Tix at bigger places(WASP/Metal Church)  there was always a story to tell years later from any show ya hit. I miss that place and those days!

    • True, it was the one place where locals just barely off the ground could play one night, while any other night would see the likes of Montrose, Y&T, Merciful Fate, The Red Hot Chili Peppers (pre-Mother's Milk) and others coming through.

  3. The Omni was the place to be if you were under 21 or just looking to hang out!! When i went to BHS so many of us met there and enjoyed the shows. It wasnt really that bad, except that compared the the Berkeley Keystone it was too big! Your band was always playing, and working many times i missed it regretably, but thankfully you never gave up. The fun of the music scene back in the 80's was only matched by the comradery of the crowd. I think the Omni was the last frontier before everyone either got too big or broke up. While Marin Co. Had its own cool hidden spots, for music there was something really local and hard core about playing in Oakland, luckily for me i never met anything dicey. Your photo really put a perspective on the time, look how young and passionate you are. Congratulations are a formality, because it seems like JUSTICE to me. 🙂 IM SO GLAD you guys didnt give up, the music makes a difference; may you enjoy this time with your friends! 😀

    • Oakland was very central- it didn't have the parking issues of SF or the sense of being out-of-the-way like Marin County or the South Bay. It became the ideal place for the whole Bay to congregate, which was very fortunate for those of us that lived close by.

    • That guitar became the victim of an errant stage curtain, which knocked it off its stand and caused it to tumble behind the stage, snapping it's neck. It was my first and only (so far, knock on wood) guitar 'casualty.' I never really liked V's anyway so I took it as a sign. The neck was replaced and the guitar sold a few yrs later…

  4. This old pubs from 80´s have funny histories… Here also has some, in that nice bands passed, playing for 10 or 100 peoples, always with smoke, girls, hot beer and others, as I could say, dangerous. This pubs here, call : “Infierno” , or hell in english.  But i think that cool part is exactly this: they was underground and prohibited, as purgatory ! – This sensation to be a wrong place, at wrong moment, doing wrong things hahahahah… I enjoyed the part of my life going to this pubs, was interesting.

    I used Fv for some years, nice format, but to knoch on the edges.

    • It would be great to hear from the Cavalera guys and others in a project such as this. I'm sure there are some crazy stories from their early days in the clubs of Brazil.

  5. Hey Alex, I was privileged enough to finally be able to meet you at the Warfield a few months ago.  It was one of the best experiences of my life and I thank you for it from the bottom of my heart.  I will be trying to get tickets to see you again at Ace of Spades, my mom and I both.  She said she was literally crying during your set with Death Angel and Anthrax because it was so good.  

    But I must tell you, there is a guitarist that will be playing in one of your opening acts at Ace of Spades in February.  The band's name is White Minorities, and the guitarist's name is Brent.  I've seen him play a few times, and he reminds me of you when I see his fingers blurred on the fretboard.  He was also at the Warfield show, and I'd encourage you to at least check him out if yo happen to be at Ace of Spades when they come on.  He's extremely talented.

    Hope the new album is coming along smoothly, and I can't wait to hopefully see you again soon.

    m/  Sam

  6. Awesome!  I wish I could have been there during the nascence of a burgeoning scene and seen Testament at The Omni.

    • It was really special since it was such a new thing. But in many ways,
      it's better now. Higher quality amps, PA's & overall sound quality.

  7. I remember the ceiling dripping during shows…like it was raining….RAINING BREATH!! And my ” Eric Peterson Story” happened at the Omni. Miss that place. My friends band did the Pay-to-Play trip there a few times……good times….damn good times.

  8. Hi ! I have a concert at the Omni, filming of 1988, I think. Possible re-edited it to a professional quality? Thank You & I hope to see you for the first time in Bucharest/Romania !


    • Back when we were playing those shows, we could have never imagined that they'd be seen many years later in places as far away as… Romania. Cheers!

  9. Greetings from Mexico!!! I saw you last august about, you are amazing man, keep doing awesome music!!! TESTAMENT /,,/

  10. Haha… I still get a kick out of all the hair you guys had. Remarkable. For a young person like myself (18) that article makes ya feel like you're there… good piece… looks like I need to step it up a notch as a journalist lol. Thanks dude for all your work….music and well, your writing.

  11. Too Bad i couldn;t see this kind of thing going on in South Korea where i come from….. In My hometown, The Metal scene is dead… But i had a great blast when Testament came to Korea in 2007.

    • Anyang Hasseo.  I guess we're very lucky to have had such a music scene as we did at that time. I can imagine it must be tough to grow up in a place without that. But strictly as a visitor to South Korea, I'm a big fan of the region.

  12. As a guitarist from Testament, Have you met Cliff Burton in person? I heard that he was from San Francisco Bay Area. I also heard that he was a killer bass player.

  13. I'm ordering this book now, jeez, who knows, I might even be in an audience shot. After the growing up in the heyday of the Bay Metal Scene and going to BHS (even lived in the same neighborhood as the host of this site), it's been years since I've thought much about those times. Came across this site maybe a month ago and was happy to see Alex's progression through the years. Local metalhead does good! Still listen to much of the great classic metal and some thrash, but '82-'86 were nuts. A year younger than Alex, you can imagine the trials I went through just to go to shows between the ages of 13-16, with parents being the biggest problem and transportation and money following. Shows at Ruthie's, The Omni, The Kabuki, Mabuhay Gardens, Keystone, major acts at stadium and arenas, the works. After seeing Exodus at the Mabuhay, I exited the show to be promptly put in an SFPD paddy wagon for curfew. My dad loved that, picking me up in SF at 3 in the morning. Brings back some memories. RIP Baloff, Toby Rage and Heather C…

    Can't wait to see the book, thanks for the info Alex!

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