After getting back to Madison from North by Northeast Music and Interactive Festival in Toronto on Sunday, my level of exhaustion only meant one thing: I NEED METAL, of course. In all seriousness, I did not want to miss the band that put out one of my favorite albums from last year, so I made the trek out to East Washington that night to check it out, and got a lot more decibels than I accounted for.
By the time I got to the High Noon Saloon, a duo by the name of Wreck and Reference had already started playing, and they had quite the interesting setup. While they did have a live drummer, their screaming vocalist was also the source of their other musical sounds, including droning guitar chords or other ambient noises. They were all coming from an electronic machine that looked like a cross between an 808 and Henry (that old light up memory matching game with the sound bites?!). Some of their stuff created an interesting atmosphere, but it would be interesting to see where the two could go if they had a supporting band.
Next was Pallbearer, an apparent doom metal band that I dozed off to a couple of times during their set. Honestly, I thought their slower tempo and their arrangement of power chords gave off a post-metal vibe similar to that of Pelican, but the genre lines are paper thin in metal if you ask me. Minimal lyrics and solos may separate them slightly from others of their kind, but I wasn’t too impressed.
Now to the headliner, Deafheaven. I was immediately blown away by how clean the guitars sounded. Their live performance was just as good sonically if not better than the studio album. I was equally blown away by the speed and precision of drummer Daniel Tracy, as I expected to be. He was absolutely inhuman, and it was amazing. George Clarke’s vocals may have been slightly quieter due to him being, “a little under the weather” as he claimed, but I could still hear him and thought he was on the mark.
The band plowed right through the beginning of their 2013 album Sunbather, starting with “Dream House”, and moving on through “Irresistible” and the albums’ title track. I believe they then played a shortened bit of “Please Remember” and segued into “Vertigo”, but beyond that I became lost in identifying compositions. As you might imagine, listening to longer instrumental influenced-performances can get a little taxing, and despite the insane volume level in the venue, my eyes became heavy here and there during the set. I guess that’s what I get for sitting at a table upstairs alone during a black metal concert.
All in all, I was glad I had the opportunity to experience this group of musician’s work live in a more intimate venue. The fans were into it and headbanging, but they were civil as well, which is always good to see. As I had mentioned in my Jonk Music preview of the show, the transformation metal performers go through from off stage to on always has a form of mystique around it, and I think this applies to the fans in some respect as well. I would say a majority of non-metal listeners place a variety of negative connotations on metal and people that listen to it, but at the end of the day we’re all just normal, good-natured individuals, gathering to hear some quality live music. And there’s definitely nothing wrong with that.