SoCal Tool fans became the luckiest bastards on the planet this year when the Los Angeles-based art-metal veterans announced a headlining festival of their own, happening this Saturday, June 24, at San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino.
For the last show of their current tour, the band—consisting of singer Maynard James Keenan, Guitarist Adam Jones, Bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey—called on some of its best friends and greatest influences for a massive blowout that is sure to draw from across Southern California, Nevada, Arizona and far beyond.
Because the band is set to release a new album at “some year” in the future, Tool bassist Chancellor said, finding the right venue gets tricky in L.A. because they’re trying to save the obvious ones for the new material.
“When (San Manuel) came up as an option, at first it was a little overwhelming to think about doing such a big venue,” he said of the amphitheater that fits more than 60,000. “We started inviting people that would embellish the whole day and it just started taking on a life of its own, really.”
Filling out the lineup is a cast of characters related to Tool and tours past: the elastic, funky Primus—who the band toured with in its beginnings, and for the better part of 2016; East Coast hard-rock favorite Clutch; the first set since 2014 from Mike Patton/Buzz Osborne/Dave Lombardo supergroup Fantomas; Osborne’s original, influential metal band the Melvins; and big beat icon The Crystal Method, which will act as the musical segue between sets.
“My fourth gig I ever did with Tool was at the Oakland Coliseum. We supported Primus,” Chancellor said. “I was like 25 and it was all very overwhelming. To come full circle and be touring with them last year, and actually not be quite so intimidated and shy, and be able to strike up some relationships with these people has been really fantastic.”
"With the Melvins you get a proper, heavy rock show,” Chancellor continued. “As weird as it can be. It can really experimental at times, but it’s a beautiful sound. Just power.”
It’ll be Tool’s second time at the storied venue—home to the epic US Festival in 1982 & 1983, several seminal KROQ events, Knotfest, Ozzfest and more. Chancellor remembers watching a skywriter advertise Tool’s new album as they played what was then Blockbuster Pavillon in 1997, with a prime slot on Lollapalooza having just released the crushing “Aenima.”
“I couldn’t be more excited about it to be honest, that those bands said yes to this,” Chancellor said. “It’s some of my personal favorite bands and I think it’s going to be a really entertaining run of music through the whole afternoon. I’ve heard they’ve done the place up. There’s grass now, since we had the rain in the spring.”
Tool hasn’t released new music since 2006’s “10,000 Days.” Fans online are quick to complain about the wait, but it hasn’t kept them away from watching the band play variations of the same setlist for the last 11 years. Chancellor said Tool stays fresh by constantly updating the stage show between tours, both musically and visually.
Chancellor calls Tool a “proper live rock band,” one that doesn’t play to clicks or with presets. He acknowledges the band is older, but that they’re “capable of much greater things.”
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“We’re playing the songs you heard before, at a different level. A next level. We also like to mess them around,” he said. The band is playing variations of “Stinkfist” and “Opiate” on this tour, and hopefully the snippet of new song “Descending” (or even more) will end up in their San Bernardino set list.
Just as important as the band themselves are the crew embers who brings Tool’s music to life with a dizzying display of visual overload. Where’s Tool’s performance has largely stayed the same, its longtime effects crew continually update and evolve the live show.
This tour finds Tool playing against larger screens, trippier visuals and more lasers than ever before. The vast lawn and gorgeous surroundings of San Manuel Amphitheater will prove the perfect setting for the curtain to fall on this iteration of the band’s live show.
“It’s a living thing, each time we do this. There’s a whole bunch of new lights and tricks. They’re always playing live with us,” Chancellor said. “In San Bernardino it’ll be full on. It’ll be the biggest show of the whole tour.”