A Very Metal Birthday
Last Saturday, FPH had the honor of interviewing a legend of American metal, Mr. Bobby Liebling – a songwriter and singer who is the core, soul, and frontman of the highly influential and long-enduring Pentagram.
If you aren’t familiar with Bobby Liebling, you can become aquainted with his life story by watching the intensely grounding and well-done documentary Last Days Here, which is available on Netflix. You can also, and should not hesitate to, check out Pentagram’s music. Some suggestions to the unacquainted would be to listen to a comprehensive compilation of the band’s early ’70s material entitled First Daze Here.
Bobby’s story is without a doubt the stuff of legend, but we’ll let the documentary tell that story. The reason we got the chance to speak with Bobby is its own story.
Sanctus Bellum, one of Houston’s most talented metal bands, is hosting the 2nd annual El Birthday Metal Fest, which celebrates the birthday of Jan Kimmel and Ben Yaker, the band’s bassist and resident metal fanatic.
The El Birthday Metal Fest will be a day-long festival at Houston metal heads’ favorite haunt, Rudyard’s Britsh Pub, on Saturday, December 22nd.
The line up on this thing is HUGE. We can’t even imagine how they are going to pack that much metal into that modest little pub without cracking the building’s foundation, but they plan to jam it in there in a big way.
Bands like Serpent Sun, Owl Witch, and Cauldron will start the show off, no doubt shaking the core of the British pub, paving the way for a special three-set performance by members of Sanctus Bellum.
First, Sanctus Bellum will take the stage and perform cuts from both their recently released album, The Shining Path, and cuts from their debut album Return to Dust.
Then, members of Sanctus Bellum will share the stage with the incredibly talented and super cool James Rivera, of the long-standing and ass-kicking Houston metal band Helstar, for a performance they are calling Sanctus Bellum Sanctus. Metal fans will be in for a real treat, as Sanctus Bellum Sanctus will perform some of the most revered and classic songs in the entire history of metal.
Now, even though the line up on this thing will no doubt be absolutely killer, the most surprising and exciting aspect of this event is the crown jewel of the evening: a once in a lifetime performance by Bobby Liebling fronting Sanctus Bellum, in a set they’ve entitled Sanctus Bellum Sanctuary.
Ben Yaker, who set up the festival and was responsible for getting in touch with Liebling said, “It’s a dream come true to get to do this. I basically get to be in my favorite band for a night. Pentagram is my all time, favorite band. Period. For Pentagram fans, this is a chance to hear Pentagram material that hasn’t been played in years, and some that hasn’t ever been played at all.”
“When I was going to put the festival together this year, we had our thing with James Rivera lined up, and I wanted to try a bunch of different headliners, but no one was getting back to me, or it was too close to Christmas for others. Anyway, Jan (guitarist in Sanctus Bellum) suggested we call up Bobby, because the worst that could happen was that he’d say no, but he said yes, and that was that.”
“Not only do I get to essentially be in my favorite band for the night, but I got to hand pick the set list. These are my favorite, unheralded Pentagram songs–songs that I always wish would have gotten more play. I would always go to Pentagram shows, hoping to get them to play some of these songs, knowing it would never happen, but now I can make it happen.”
Corey Cousins, Sanctus Bellum’s metronomic drummer, said, “The times I’ve seen Bobby live, he just owns the audience! He is a born front man. All we have to do is just play our notes, and he’ll take care of the rest.”
On Saturday, I travelled out to the home of Ben Yaker, where he revealed the set list for the evening, as well as showed me his mini- museum of Pentagram artifacts, of which included handwritten lyrics used during recordings of Pentagram classics, promotional photographs of almost every version of the band, flyers, advertisements, even contractual agreements signed by all the original members of the band. Afterwards, we sat down for a phone conference with Bobby, who is currently living in Pennsylvania with his wife, Hallie.
The Bobby Liebling Interview:
Tell us about your relationship with Ben Yaker and Sanctus Bellum.
I met Ben about five or six years ago. Ben’s a real Pentagram fanatic. He’s come to see us in many different places, and travelled all around to catch our shows.
Are you excited about the setlist and the show?
Yeah, I look forward to it. We’ll be doing songs I haven’t played in close to 40 years, most of ‘em. They decided to pick a lot of off the wall ones [laughs]. We come down there on my birthday, my wife and myself, and we play the day after my birthday. I’ll be turning 59. It’ll be Pentagram’s 42nd year! Long time, huh?
This is a really cool thing you are doing. I know that the boys in Sanctus Bellum are beside themselves about it.
You know, the bands I used to listen to, I would have given anything to have gotten to do a set with Mountain or Grand Funk or Cactus. I’m very happy to do this show with them.
Obviously metal fans will be in for something special this Saturday. You can find out more about the festival, including set times, and more at the event’s Facebook page. Don’t miss it!
by Rob McCarthy