Sunday, February 10, 2013

Doom Night Out

Enslaved / Pallbearer / Royal Thunder / Ancient VVisdom 
Slim's, San Francisco
February 9, 2013

Originally I had planned to pull a doubleheader tonight and see Pallbearer and then jet across town to see OFF! / Negative Approach... but then OFF! cancelled their tour.   I decided not to make the effort to see just Negative Approach even though tickets were dropped to only $5.   I probably should have made the effort.. but oh well.

The Slim's Will Call line was unusually long and inexplicably split into 2; one for walk up sales and the other for Will Call pick ups.  However, the Slim's staff and a guy who I assume was Enslaved's tour manager did a nice job of moving things along.  I was very impressed by was how polite and chipper all of the Metal Kidz were while they waited; they were just happy to be at the show.  I believe that children are the future.. Teach them well and let them show the way.. in Metal.  Anyway...

This tour is certainly an odd combination of bands, with Enslaved seemingly the odd band out amongst the up and coming American bands... and the oddness of the bill was reflected in the Slim's dinner menu for the night: 

A couple of the Metal kids in the Will Call line were upset they were missing the start of Ancient VVisdom's set and I was about to let them cut in front of me so they could get in sooner.. but then the line started moving.  I saw Ancient VVisdom twice a year ago when they supported Ghost on their debut U.S. Tour.  They didn't leave a big impression on me and I swear they sound different now.  Am I crazy... or was I simply not paying attention last year?  Anyway, I liked them more this time around and will give the Texans more respect moving forward.  However, the best part was after their set and I was chatting with a couple of friends about the merch for sale and one of them said "I should buy the new Ancient VVisdom CD" just as their singer Nathan walked past us.  He stopped just long enough to chime in "Yes you should!"   Cue laughter.  Who said Metal doesn't have a sense of humor?  During the changeover the Metal Kidz down front sang along to 'Mother' by Danzig as it played over the PA.  Adorable.

Several people hyped Royal Thunder to me before the show so I was interested in checking them out.  The band are another product of the Southern Metal scene and are led by Mlny Parsonz on vocals / bass.  People throw out the Janis Joplin comparison about Mlny but I think it's only because it's easy to compare any female Rock vocalist who sings in a soulful way to that drug addict Hippie icon.  Royal Thunder were good but not an epiphany as others led me to believe they would be... Also, the guitarist bobs and bounces around while he plays way too much for a "Metal" band... That kind of stage presence is better suited for the Kings Of Leon.  Seriously, dude.

Oh yeah, Jello Biafra was in the house tonight. I had to put my hand on his shoulder to gently but firmly move him out of my way because he was blocking the walkway in front of the merch table.  Rock Stars... 

Tonight was Pallbearer's first show ever in San Francisco. I felt honored to be there since I'm sure it was a big moment for these boys from Arkansas.  Their much championed and hyped Sorrow And Extinction album has been in heavy, heavy rotation for me recently.  I hadn't been this anxious to see a new band since Ghost.  Yes, Ghost are still my favorite current band... and if that hurts my cred with you then there are, like, a hundred other blogs you could be reading right now.

I'm hard pressed to remember the last time I've been in an audience that spontaneously started to headbang in an almost emotional way to a band.  Pallbearer definitely locked into the heads of many of those in the room, mine included.  It reminded me of the early Sleep shows when they finally locked into their thing and people started to *get* them.  Appropriately, Brett Campbell was wearing an OM shirt.  The best live Doom bands are the ones who simply get down to business, get into a groove, and then see how deep they can dig that groove in their allotted set time.   Pallbearer did just that and it was as damn close to a spiritual experience that I've witnessed from a band in recent times.  The dynamics they have going with Brett's vocals and some searingly good duel guitars and crushingly great tone makes them special.  All of the previous sets paled into dust in comparison. 

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

The sound was not quite dialed in as Pallbearer started their set and it was obvious during the changeover that they probably hadn't gotten a soundcheck.  Brett's ethereal and haunted vocals didn't have quite the same impact in tonight's mix that it should have... but the best live bands rise above... or in Pallbearer's case they dug their groove deeper.  'Devoid Of Redemption' in all of its 10 minutes of brutal crushing glory completely blew my mind and is my favorite musical moment of 2013 so far... but it was the astounding 'Given To The Grave' with its progressive jam at the end that completely slammed the lid down on top of San Francisco.  For without darkness there cannot be light.

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

Pallbearer are the real fuckin' deal, man. 

Poor Enslaved. The room had been packed for Pallbearer but a good 1/4 of the crowd left right after they played and it continued to thin out as the Norwegians were onstage. Their mechanical Progressive Black Metal didn't hold up well for me against the earthy Southern Doom still ringing in my brain.  Even the perennially shirtless Arve on guitar at stage left couldn't compensate.  Sorry ladies... Compared to Pallbearer's thick volume hammer the Norwegians came off as coldly dated to my ears.  After 3 1/2 songs the thought of a late night bowl of cereal back at Casa de Umlaut won and I headed back out into the chilly San Francisco night and headed h-o-m-e.

If you bought one of every Pallbearer merch item you would have paid around $90... and they had the Sorrow And Extinction vinyl for only $20... which has been sold out online for awhile with people selling it for twice that.  Seeing bands live has many advantages, people.   On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  The next morning Pallbearer posted this: