8 x 8: Mastodon, BTBAM, High on Fire, Baroness, Priestess, Valient Thorr, Black Cobra, and Bison B.C. @ The Fox Theater Oakland, 5/8/10
8 bands. 8 hours.
Mastodon. Bison. Black Cobra. At the Fox Theater.
And one other thing that didn’t fit.
These are the kinds of connections my brain was making in the down time between sets at The Missing Link show. This one-off show, where two tours collided, was a monstrous metal affair that treated onlookers to some of the best up-and-coming bands as well as some of the kings of the genre. It was almost too much….but you know when you say ‘almost too much’ that means it was really quite satisfying.
On an evening where I saw an unusual amount of people pass out (4) and one get carried out on a stretcher, I found it an interesting place for me to compare bands that I saw on a lot of different tours at some really small venues last year. Some really shined on the big stage; others, not so much.
I arrived at the venue at 2pm (!), but this was because I interviewed Dan And, guitarist/vocalist for Bison B.C. It’s my first video interview, so go check it out! By 3:30, I was inside the venue with a drink in hand. At precisely 4pm, the metal began.
I don’t think the show could have been kicked off any better than with the charging ‘Slow Hand of Death’. It’s amazing how much better they’ve gotten since I saw them last year with Kylesa. This time, I felt much more of a Mastodon-esque vibe about them. I always appreciate when the band with the least ideal crowd plays as if they were headlining, and that’s exactly what these guys did. They owned the stage. The set ended with the epic ‘Stressed Elephant’. My only complaint- too many good riffs. If you watched the interview, you’ll get that.
I’ve seen the local metal rising stars Black Cobra so many times over the past year that I’ve lost track. This meant that I had a certain expectation for their set, but- wow- were they on fire tonight! There was concern that the two piece would look somewhat awkward on that big stage, but it was not an issue. It was also great to hear that their jet engine loud sound was still ear bleedingly deafening in that space. I had never seen singer/guitarist Jason Landrian like that; he seemed to be channeling an actual cobra with his moves. Between songs he was egging on the crowd- a type of interaction I’d never seen him do before. I expect a homecoming show at the end of a long tour probably really fueled their fire.
Valient Thorr may not be something I really listen to, but I really like them live. ‘Valient Himself’ is like the Dave Grohl of metal bands…that guy is just an entertainer…..”that’s what I’m talking about!” He’s one of those guys that makes you laugh at his belly that he refers to as ‘the burrito’, and then says something profound like “it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at”. And apparently I missed a double knee slide by the guitarists somewhere in there.
Priestess was the one band on the bill that I hadn’t seen before. Though I had heard mixed things, I rather enjoyed their set. The clean, higher pitched vocals were a welcome break from all the growling. The guitarist was really good about engaging the crowd near me on the left side of the venue. At this point, the venue was really starting to fill up, so the newcomers experienced what was probably the most mellow sounding band of the evening.
I feel like Baroness is this weirdly controversial band in the metal community. People either love or hate them. I am somewhere in the middle. I really enjoyed their set last year at Bottom of the Hill, but this time I was left a bit underwhelmed. Sometimes BOTH has a halo effect on bands that play there. The crowd reception was extremely positive though….like weirdly so.
For some reason, I hadn’t really thought about how I would be seeing High on Fire before Mastodon, just like I did four times on the Dethklok tour last year, until they hit the stage. Most of Mastodon were watching from the side of the stage, as well. It was great to see them play such a prestigious stage in their hometown. There were obviously a lot of career-spanning fans in the crowd. Matt Pike is such an endearing figure in the metal community. HoF is a very consistent band….if I stacked the 5 times I’ve seen them up I’d have a hard time distinguishing one performance from the other…which can be both a good and bad thing. The new record is great, though. At this point, my partner in crime, Mel, arrived, just in time to catch the end of this set.
I tried, I gave up…I just don’t get this band. Not only are they just not my style, but I thought they were a sonic mismatch to everything else on the bill. Perhaps it was because I got hit in the face last time I saw them.
Pretty much everyone who knows me knows that Mastodon is one of ‘my’ bands, and that’s mostly because of Crack the Skye. I saw them 6 times last year, meaning that I saw the album performed start to finish every one of those times. And I really never get sick of it. However, I was a bit shocked to find out that they are still performing the same set this year.
When they came out, it was nice to finally be able to go back into ‘the zone’ at a show…it’s been a while. Due to losing the filter in one of my earplugs, I was using one foam plug, but I ripped both out of my ears 30 seconds into ‘Oblivion’. I felt so naked! But it made all the difference. I know the album and their performances so well by now that I joke that I could be the fifth member of the band….even though there is that fifth member- the keyboardist- that I always forget about.
Even though Mastodon are one of ‘my’ bands…I’ll be real honest. They are always great, but I’ve really been chasing the dragon in terms of their performance when I first saw them at GAMH last year. That was mind blowing. But the album was new and the venue was small. I can’t even begin to think about how many times they’ve played this album now…it could probably be a Guinness World Record. It would be nearly impossible to bring the kind of fire I first saw in them to every performance. I really, really, like, really hope that when it comes times for my trek with the Alice in Chains, Deftones, and Mastodon tour later this year, things will be mixed up a bit. Pretty please?
I felt really lucky that Bill Kelliher was in better health and able to perform for this show. Over the course of the afternoon/evening, I spotted three Bill-inspired modern mullets in the crowd. AWWWWW.
While it was awesome to see one of my favorite bands in this amazing venue, they had Brann Dailor way too far back on the stage. I couldn’t see him at all during the show. Dislike.
Towards the end of CTS, Brent Hinds seemed to get angry about something. This was shortly after he had leaned into the mic and said, “I love you all.” Pause. “Not really”. Later on he would wipe out a mic stand and look like he was very close to smashing up that clear flying V. Probably too expensive.
What would the additional songs be? That’s the only point of anticipation in their set. After an unusually long break, they came back and did Crusher->Crystal Skull->and then Blood and Thunder as a three piece. During Crystal Skull, someone infiltrated the stage, tried to say something to Bill, and got apprehended by security from all angles. It took a lot to drag him off stage, though. Then, before Blood and Thunder, Brent walked off stage and never came back. Rumor has it there were other songs on the setlist….not sure what happened there.
At nearly midnight, it had been an insanely long day. But it felt really good to have been able to be at this show- finally the Bay Area gets the special show over LA! YES.