Sludge Factory: Weedeater, Black Tusk, The Gates of Slumber, Struck By Lightning @ Elbo Room, 3/27/10
On Friday night, I was supposed to be in Oakland seeing Air, a French duo who makes electronic pop/rock music. Instead, I sat at home nursing the end of a week long flu-like illness and a bruised ego.
In the last 7 days, I’ve been called “bat shit crazy“, “sexist”, and told to “get my own talent and then speak” on some public forums. Any one of those would be ok, but altogether it just got to be a bit much. I don’t like feeling like I’ve upset someone with something I wrote, even though they are taking it the wrong way. The sexist thing in particular really bothers me. Growing up with my family’s business- a gun company, working in videogames, and writing about rock and metal music means that I’ve been in male-dominated environments my entire life, and I’ve seen sexism a lot. I think that because I prefer male vocals to a lot of the female vocals in metal that I’ve experienced (Epica, Lacuna Coil, etc…) is just a personal preference and not sexist.
That’s why this is my journal where I document my experiences and opinions, not a review site where I say a bunch of negative things about bands. If I don’t like something, I just say that it’s ‘not for me’. But the fact of the matter is that when you write really personal stuff on the internet, you are going to find some people who connect with it, and others who will use it to personally attack you. I also know that this is especially pronounced because I’m not part of any scene- and I’ve come to realize that when I write about a metal show, the people in that scene either tend to love or hate my outsider opinion. It’s unfortunate that even though it shouldn’t, the behavior of some of the fans of metal bands I’ve written about have made me never want to see that band again.
Before this show on Saturday night, I felt myself just not wanting to go. But I was always taught that when you fall off the horse, you need to get right back up on it. So off to the Mission I went.
The only other time I’d seen a show at the Elbo Room was not a metal show, so I was curious how the venue would handle the sound. This tour was part of a showcase I went to for my last show at SXSW, but I skipped these bands since I knew I’d see them here.
It was nice to see a familiar face right away in front of the venue (Hi Amy!). When I walked upstairs, I stood in the back against a wall to acclimate myself. The song that Struck By Lightning was playing when I entered the room sounded…and felt….a lot like Black Cobra. This is going to sound really unladylike, but when you have a chest cold and a really loud sound takes over your body, it was kind of like someone was choking me from the inside. Luckily that feeling went away. The set progressed and showed the band’s Mastodon influences. For being fourth on the bill, I thought they sounded really good, and were a great way to kick off the evening.
The Gates of Slumber were a lot of fun. They sounded very classic and their look reminded me of all the ’80s barbarian fantasy movies I was into as a kid. While I enjoyed the music, vocals in that range are just ‘not for me’. If I’m hard on vocalists in that range, does that make me an octavist? I dunno.
I had a feeling I was going to really like Black Tusk. I moved up to the front for this set and sat down next to what ended up being the drunkest guy in the room. (Slurred) “Where are these guys from?”. Savannah, Georgia. (Slurred shout at band) “Wooohooo GEORGIA!!!!” Oh dear. Then two minutes later, also slurred, “I realized I ended that with a preposition.” What? “My mother was an English teacher, and I try not to end sentences with a preposition”. Ha!
Black Tusk’s set began with extremely high energy that never subsided. The guitarist, Andrew, jumps up and down so much that I’m not sure how he keeps playing. Bassist, Athon, has a pencil tattooed behind his ear on one side and a six shooter pointed up at his head on the the other. Drummer, James, has tattoos all over….just when I was thinking that it was all in the same style as the Saviours guys, the band gave them a shout out for coming to meet them and being “on time”. While I had picked up on the shared vocal duties- as in all three of them- in my cursory listen, seeing them live really reinforced how they are three equal pieces. They play as much to each other as they do to the crowd, if not more. Apparently their van is breaking, or has broken down, as there was a joint effort over the course of the night to find a willing donor of one amongst the crowd. Hope they worked that out. I really enjoyed their set and will definitely see them next time they come through.
Between sets, I moved to the back again, where I was immediately fed a pick up line by a guy who apparently thought there was a round of speed dating going on between sets. He went up to every girl in there who looked to be by herself (every girl = 4). Funny. I was glad they turned on some Willie Nelson before Weedeater.
Weedeater is one of those bands that has the drummer play up at the front of the stage. He seemed to be quite a character, taking shots between songs by raising his glass to the crowd, clinking it on a cymbal, and then downing it. As soon as they began, people around me took that as a cue to light up. As soon as the vocals kicked in, I was reminded of my favorite B horror film when I was a kid:
at about 1:20
Gravelly, raspy vocals over dirty, omnipresent riffs and systematic drum beats filled the room along with the smoke. “Black Tusk needs a van, if you have one to spare we’ve got some Percocet”. Slow waves of vibrations hit the crowd…boom…..boom…boom. “This is a song about a sandwich”. Boom…….boom………..boom.
It was 1am, and while normally I’m all about the late night shows, I ducked out a little early. On my way home, I saw a Ford Explorer Yellow Cab and a cyclist collide in an intersection, and then the cab wrecked into a fence. I pulled over to make sure everyone was ok- there were several passengers in the cab that were tending to the cyclist who seemed to be more in shock than anything. After seeing someone else’s life flash before my eyes, I realized that I was really wasting my time worrying about what other people think about what I write.