Sleep / Oxbow / Kowloon Walled City
The Fox Theatre, Oakland, California
June 5, 2012
Remember when Sleep opened for Hawkwind in San Francisco in 1994? Me too.
It's been 3 years since Sleep awakened like Cthulhu to perform on Earth again. However, part of me can't call the recent version of Sleep a "reunion" since Chris on drums isn't involved... but given the shared history Sleep and Neurosis have (they played so many shows together back in The Day..) Jason is still a great replacement and still validates this new era of Sleep. Although I will say that it's somewhat concerning how Jason now has a beard and long hair to display his inner Dopesmoker aura. Funny. What wasn't funny was over 2,000 people entering the Fox to witness a hometown Sleep show. Crazy.
It warmed my heart that tonight was an all local band bill. Kowloon Walled City sounded absolutely huge on the Fox stage... and Oxbow has a hypnotic and charismatic volume thing going on... but I was only focused on seeing Sleep tonight. As soon as Al, Matt, and Chris walked onstage the air suddenly filled with an astonishing amount of pot smoke. There was so much doobage that it gave a new meaning to "contact high"... and I was the recipient from the output of 3 pipes and a huge spliff all next to me. All least they offered to share... but Umlaut doesn't smoke. Thanks anyway, dude.
Quote of the Night: "None of it was good weed..." - Johnny
This was one of those rare shows where any kind of noise restrictions were thrown out and everything was on 12. As it should be for a Sleep show, the air was literally moving and my clothes were literally vibrating. The Fox is a beautiful old art deco venue and it became a Cathedral of Volume tonight.
I did something that I haven't done in awhile at a show: I closed my eyes and let the music mix with my contact high flying head and spin around in there. Sleep are that kind of transcendental band and tonight really reminded me of their shows back in 1993-94... when they were ahead of their time and most people didn't *get* them... but for us enlightened ones they were total fucking godhead... and they still are. All of these years later, it's fascinating to see the Yin and the Yang of Sleep onstage together again. The cerebral chess master Al who does his Yin with OM and the warbeast hammer of the godz Matt who does his Yang with High On Fire; put them together and they're absolutely crushing. Brothers of Tone.
I liked this Sleep performance more than the other 2 reunion shows I saw in 2010. After 2 years the 3 guys were just more in a collective groove as a single entity with Jason. This was symbolized in my contact high flying head by Matt only playing his iconic Sleep-era orange sunbust Les Paul the entire night instead of switching between that and his custom High On Fire 9-string. Matt and his Les Paul = Sleep. Al and his Rickenbacker = Sleep. Instruments matter.
This show made me feel all 1993 again and I wanted to stop everything and follow Sleep to R'lyeh or Mars. If you bought one of every Sleep merch item you would have paid around $150. It's not often that a band inspires me to buy merch these days... but I dropped a $20 tonight. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. I had seen Sleep crush their hometown and then early the next morning I found myself on a plane flying on no sleep. No rest for the wicked, man.
Sadly, only 2 days after this night it was announced that Matt had entered rehab and High On Fire had cancelled their Summer Tour. Matt is now 40 years old and I realized I’ve been a witness to his Rock Star odyssey since he was 19 years old. Godspeed Matt and we'll be waiting for the volume to continue when you return to the safety of the mothership. To quote Sleep:
"Gypsy casts a spell of frost.. Frozen solid our lives are paused.."
Anyway, just so I don't end on a downer note: The back of the Sleep tour jersey is what they're about in a nutshell:
Stoners.. Rockers... and above all.. Geeks! The Geeks shall inherit the Earth.