Mastodon is Everything You've Heard and More w/ Kylesa, Intronaut @ Great American Music Hall, 4/19/09
I had a shitty week. I wrecked my car. I lost all of my concert footage from the last three years. I’ve had several interviews fall through. But tonight made me see the light, as metal was my medicine to get me through to tomorrow.
It was still light outside when I entered GAMH for the second time this weekend. I wanted to get my tour poster and safely put it back in my rental car so I didn’t have to deal with it during the show. Once that mission was complete, Intronaut was ready to come on. A four piece from LA, they delivered a slow and heavy warm up to the night. Not that it needed to get any warmer in there- an SF heat wave was in full effect. I thought their drummer was exceptional. Their logo lit up the light board at the rear of the stage- a first for me at GAMH. This show really could have been at The Fillmore, but I’m glad that it wasn’t.
Next up, with quite the extravagant setup, was Kylesa. A female fronted, two drummer, six piece from Savannah, they had GAMH vibrating like there was an earthquake. Watching the female guitarist totally made me want to start playing again. She thrashed around a good bit, like a rocker chick should. However, I was not too keen on the double drummers. I thought it was overkill- I would have preferred one really solid drummer. They describe their sound as psychedelic metal rock, which I think is pretty accurate. Judging by the crowd’s reaction, they walked away with some new fans.
I don’t think I’ve seen a crowd of metalheads this collectively excited for a set in a while. It’s very promising, especially knowing that they are getting a new album from front to back, with some extremely long songs in the mix. I absolutely love Crack the Skye- maybe I don’t fully grasp the concept, but I can feel it’s a journey.
From the moment they hit the stage, lit from behind by psychedelic visuals in tune with the album cover, it was pure intensity. There is something very Tool-like about this band live. Not a word is said to the crowd, there’s barely a break between songs. They are mostly a ‘put their heads down and play’ kind of band, but they remain animated at the same time. Especially the bassist, Troy Sanders, who really impressed me. Wow. What a super intense performer. He’s the type that looks around at everyone, straight in the eye, and makes you feel like he’s playing just to you. I may need to revise my favorite bassists list.
Lead singer Brent Hinds has such a unique voice. He totally didn’t seem like a guy who wanted to punch anyone in the face, even when a lot of feedback was interfering with one song and someone had to come out and fix things underneath him while he played.
Guitarist Bill Kelliher barely moved around at the beginning of the set, focused on executing every detail of every riff. He loosened up toward the end along with the older material. Brann Dailor, drummer, made me tired just looking at him- he mechanically provided the foundation for every song, dripping sweat along the way. He was both there and not there, supporting the music but not overpowering it.
There’s something interesting that happens at a show where you are hearing an entire album that you know- the pressure’s off on what comes next. It becomes an evening where I’m listening to the album I hear at home come to life in front of me. I think that, when done well, this makes the experience much more intense. Good choice on their part to undertake this growing trend for shows. While every song sounded as good as you’d want it to, ‘Divinations’, ‘The Czar’, and ‘Ghost of Karelia’ remain my favorites.
The crowd was a hot, sweaty, albeit slightly subdued mess. Excited, raising hands to grasp at the band, the heat and length of the set kept the pushy behavior to a minimum. There was an aura of respect hanging over the masses. In the encore, which delved into their back catalog for almost a second full length set, I spied some very famous attendees up in the balcony jamming out. No, not Jello, though sources say he was there as well. Metallica in the house- Lars and Robert at least. Mastodon will tour with them this summer. Pure awesome. And guess what?! Lars is one of those guys who talks through songs. And Robert is an air drummer.
The encore/second set just kept going. They would play a song with a certain amount of fervor, making you think “OK, they are laying it all out there, this is the last song”, but no, there were more. I was dying of thirst, but I just. could. not. stop. moving.
After unsuccessfully trying to obtain a setlist, I skated on the sea of broken plastic cups on my way to find some water, like Penny Lane in Almost Famous, high on the set. I must have looked really happy- a guy commented, “Liked the show, huh?”. Yes, yes I did.
They took down the Mastodon marquee before I made it outside for a picture. On the way back to my car, a passerby told me, “damn, girl, don’t take that belt off and hit me with it”. I’m in control again.
Oblivion (from Bad2b2)
Divinations (from BeeSting88, Coachella)
Mastodon performance: 9.75/10
Kylesa performance: 8.75/10
Intronaut performance: 7.5/10
venue (GAMH): 9.5/10
value ($25.00/ticket): 10/10