Keep Austin Weird: Dethklok, Mastodon, Converge, High on Fire @ Austin City Music Hall, 11/13/09

Friday the 13th. Normally, I like this day- but this day was far from normal.

My reason for being in Texas was mostly for family. So on my trek from Houston to Austin, I visited my grandfather in a nursing home for what would probably be the last time. Then I visited my grandmother’s grave for the first time since she passed away two years ago. It goes without saying it was an emotional day. Then I got to my hotel, and hotels.com had screwed up my reservation. And then, my high school friend who was supposed to attend the show with me canceled at the last minute. Well…at least I have my health.

I almost didn’t go, but this show was sort of symbolic to me. It would be my first concert in Austin since I moved away 4 years ago. Also, the venue- Austin City Music Hall- had been closed for renovations for a while before I left, so this would be my first show there since 2003.

I walked into the venue a bit late, as High on Fire was finishing their set. I’m flooded with memories from this venue- my first time there was sneaking into a rave in the mid nineties at fifteen years old. Then I was back a year or so later for a show that I can’t even remember who it was- someone local- but I have this epic picture of me and my girlfriend by the entry in patent leather pants…..jailbait. Total jailbait. Then, in 2001 I saw a pretty epic show there: Outkast with Ludacris as the opener before many people knew who he was. These are back in the days when I went to shows with large groups, stood in the back, and partied to the point of not remembering much.

I walk straight up to the front and take a spot at the extreme right side of the stage. This happened to be an interesting landing spot for me because a) I could see the VIP area very well, and b) I was right in front of what apparently was the only door to the backstage area.

Converge time: it’s the same set as the day before, only I can hear it better. From my angle, I can see how crazy the drummer, Ben Koller, is. All four limbs move in a frenzy, and the way he sits behind the drums has his knees coming up higher than normal. I could also see all of the spit these guys sling around- as Bannon made one of his leaps and turns across the stage, he became a saliva helicopter. Also, I particularly remember at the very end of the set, guitarist Kurt Ballou just had a stream of saliva pour out of him. I guess it’s just a sign of the energy they put into their set.

During setup for Mastodon, I notice something on the screen- even though it’s halfway obstructed for me: the entire center panel has gone black. Ruh-roh. Guys with flashlights are working from behind, and then in front of the screen. They take a panel out and turn it around- I’m reminded of trying to get a string of Christmas lights to work as a kid. Then everything goes out…..and then back on except for one panel. The show must go on.

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As soon as Mastodon come out I can tell that things will be better then last night. Their energy all throughout CTS was better, and I could hear and was not getting kicked in the head the entire night. CTS was good medicine for my day for sure- so I geeked out on the album along with a smattering of other people around me. Many were jonesing for the old stuff- and I could tell this was a Dethklok crowd. There were only a few crowdsurfers….Austin, like SF, is always a pretty mellow, stoner crowd. However, I did see one guy get pulled out that looked like he was having a seizure- yikes. The band were even more on fire for the second part of their set- Bill kept coming out on a stack and playing, at one point teasing the crowd’s outstretched fingers with his guitar…which reminded me of the kid from the day before. I’m glad I blend well into a crowd, because at this point, I’ve seen them five times in the past six months…and I don’t think many girls follow Mastodon around. Otherwise I might be labeled a weird groupie stalker chick…who knows, maybe I am. But- they are one of my favorites. And this is what I do.

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After Mastodon, lots of backstage door action occurred. First, Gene Hoglan walked in with his mini entourage…man is he big. He practically had to bend down to go through the door. At first I thought it might be The Undertaker– who lives nearby (go ahead, laugh at that reference). Then some guy tried to talk his way backstage: ‘It’s my 21st birthday and I’m a real big fan of Mastodon…how do I get back there?!’ I laughed as the security guard explained the system while several bodacious women walked backstage. Then Bill came out to escort some friends back there, and then Brann. I kept thinking I would see some of the guys from The Sword, and I thought I spied one up in VIP, but that will go unconfirmed. What I did see in VIP was the Lizard Man! I had forgotten about him….until I scanned VIP and was like….’is that guy GREEN?!’ Oh yeah!

Posted by the backstage door

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The best thing about the Dethklok setup is the rather beastly dude who goes from mic to mic growling ‘yeah’ repeatedly. He looks like a cartoon character. All the while, people are still fiddling with the screen to fix that one panel, and they succeed and the crowd cheers.

Then, this girl comes up behind me and starts petting me- my back, my hair…..maybe she could sense I had been having a bad day. I was thrown off guard so much I didn’t exactly say stop- then she started asking questions about how I was feeling- and then as quickly as she came up she was gone again. It was weird.

When Dethklok came out, I decided I was only going to stay up front for a bit since I couldn’t see the screen well. I watched the crowd go nuts- heads down headbanging- including a pair of 13 year old or so girls. Chicks dig the Dethklok, man. One new thing I noticed about the set was that when they go offstage during a sketch, Hoglan plops down on a chair, aims a personal fan at himself, and chugs water while watching the sketch. He is a big dude.

Can you spot The Lizard Man?

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I decided to go to the back of the room to watch the encore…but only lasted a song before I started looking around at the people back there thinking about how it can be possible for anyone to enjoy a show from so far away. But then I remembered- I used to be like that, right there. Things change.

I left early. It’s been a long time since I have left a show early…but it was just that kind of day. I took a stroll down 6th Street- my old stomping grounds- for old time’s sake. Things have changed there as well.

When I got to my parents’ house the next day, I realized that my room had an item in it that was symbolic of the trip- an artifact my grandfather found when he worked as a geologist on oil wells: a Mastodon tusk.

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I will catch the final show of the tour next Saturday night in San Jose, where I will be photographing and hopefully witnessing some of the final show antics that make catching the last show of a tour great.

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1 Comment

  1. BroadwayJoeFYVM

    11.16.2009

    Reply

    Hearing you mention Lizard Man made me wonder if Mr. Lifto was at the show as well – He lives in Austin, tends bar at Casino El Camino. I grew up with that maniac up on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.

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