Thursday, September 30, 2010

All Killer No Filler

High On Fire / Torche / Kylesa
Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
September 29, 2010

We got kind of a late start and I was stressing that I'd miss Kylesa because, to be honest, they were the band I most wanted to see tonight. However, The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways and I scored a docking station for the Prius only a block away from the venue. After that it was a quick walk to Will Call... my pass was waiting as promised.. and we walked inside literally at the same time as Kylesa were coming onstage. Brilliant.

KYLESA: This show marked the 4th time I've seen these Southern Rockers and I like them more and more every time. Yeah, they've got a good bit of the "Mastodon thing" going on but they are one of those bands who utilize 2 drummers in an effective way that taps into a tribal vibe rather than a self-indulgent pose. Their use of percussion echos the primal tribal energy that Neurosis perfected and passed down. It's all about dynamics and Kylesa hook me every time with their combo of tribal meets Prog Rock... and 'Unknown Awareness' was particularly epic during the set. It was also cool to see the Great American nicely crowded and enthusiastic for their opening set. I was expecting to pick up the new Kylesa CD at the merch table but... it's not out for another MONTH. Rookie mistake... Kylesa are one of the few bands who make me want to buy a shirt after their set... but I didn't...'cause I have too many band tees already... but I bought one in spirit.

TORCHE: I've haven't paid very much attention to Torche before tonight despite the band's Florida connection to Black Cobra (For the newbies: A former member of Torche was in the band Cavity with Jason Black Cobra..). I liked their set... and I liked it more as they ran through it. However, I am confused why they're called "Metal" because they have more Punk going on in their sound than Metal; there was more melody than heaviness in play most of the time. Yeah, alot of Hipsters seem to dig Torche... but I bought their new CD at the merch table anyway. They were solid and that's all that really matters to me. Trivia: Torche are one of James Hetfield's favorite new bands. True.

HIGH ON FIRE: Only around 2 weeks ago Matt was reunited onstage with Sleep just down the street at The Regency. Now that his Summer of Nostalgia is over it was back to his day job with High On Fire. Tonight was the 3rd time in 3 cities in 2 states in 6 months that I'd seen High On Fire since the release of their latest and greatest album Snakes For The Divine... and it's always interesting to follow a band through their new album and tour cycle as the new songs go from fresh new statements to seasoned war hammers. After thundering onto the sweaty stage with 'Turk' the next 20 minutes or so was like standing in front of a herd of muskoxen on the tundra as they trampled me into human spaghetti... High On Fire's hooves of volume flattened me under the massive weight of 'Frost Hammer' > 'Blessed Black Wings' (!) > 'Waste Of Tiamat' played back to back to back... Thunder rumble destroy... The band sounded so HUGE and the next day I learned they have a new sound guy on this tour who obviously knows how to dial in the band's sound to terrifying effect. That opening sequence was so crushing and only 'Bastard Samurai' a bit later in the set matched it for me.

I've seen High On Fire so many times (well into double digits) that I always assume I know what to expect when I see them now. However, I usually leave their shows feeling like I've just seen them again for the first time in some way. Matt and his First Act 9-string is the obvious focal point of the band... and in Jeff the band finally found a bass player who fit their steamroller action perfectly... but tonight I found myself focusing on how Des on drums is the dominant supernatural force in High On Fire. It's now 10 years gone since High On Fire first became part of my record collection, and tonight Des' old school pounding behind the other guys was the aspect of High On Fire that I appreciated as if for the first time... an epiphany all over again. Having a band still being able to engage me on that level is reassuring... like a warm blanket of volume.

This was a rare all killer, no filler bill for Umlaut and was the first show of this tour... On top of it being sold out sweaty packed, the night had the local vibe given the hometown headliners and with members of Saviours and Black Cobra in the house for me to chat with... During Kylesa's set I was down front and noticed Jello Biafra was standing next to me wearing a leather trench coat... even though it was almost 70 degrees outside and even warmer where we were standing. Is that Punk Rock?? If so, I just thought it was silly...

Trivia: High On Fire's current All Access tour laminate has the Big Top Pee Wee art on it.. HAHA!

I didn't do a merch audit... but it's always nice seeing bands selling their shirts for a reasonable $15. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. Upon my return to Casa de Umlaut I realized I didn't have shit for food.....