Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Community of Metal

Last week I went to see a metal triple bill. I have been seriously looking forward to this show for some time now. First off it was my maiden trip to The Fillmore in Silver Spring. Secondly and more importantly it was to see three killer bands: Ghost, Mastodon and Opeth and their Heritage/Hunter Tour.

The Fillmore is one of these nice new and clean clubs. About the same size as the 930 Club. It has a couple fancy bars, big screen TVs with the stage on them behind the bar and is less of a death trap if the place starts to burn down. It has an upstairs balcony and it has a downstairs bar if you want to get away from the noise. It reminded me of the Rams Head Live place up in downtown Baltimore. So, cool venue.

Now on to the important part. First up were Ghost. Here's a picture I snapped:

These "guys" are from Sweden. I have guys in quotes because nobody appears to know who they are. The band wears long black robes with hoods and their faces are wrapped up so all you can see are their eyes and their hands. The singer wears a skeleton mask and is dressed like a psychotic Cardinal. Oh, and they sing songs about the devil. Seriously about the devil, like "We really dig you, Devil." Normally I don't go for that kind of stuff, but the music is sooooo good. Very melodic, very anthemic, very well put together songs. And the whole stage antics is very tongue-in-cheek. The singer came out with an incense burner like you see a priest swinging around at mass. They had incense sticks burning on their amps so the show had a very pleasant aroma. They played about 30 minutes and rocked the joint.

Here's a clip of the first song from the show I was at. There's about 1:45 of intro stuff as the band comes to the stage, but it gives you a great idea of their schtick. I am somewhere on the left. I am one of the guys going "woooooooo!"

Next up was Mastodon. Here's another picture I snapped. And check out that awesome double neck Brent Hinds has. Sweet!

Mastodon are from Georgia and do the heavy stoner metal kind of thing. Lots of their songs are about whales and the Elephant Man and about avenging one's wronged goat. Noble things all.  Live, they bring it. They don't say much. In fact I don't think they said one word to the crowd the whole show. They just did their thing for about an hour, which in this case is kicking serious ass, then waved and left. The drummer had a few things to say about how f-ing awesome we were, but that's a given.

Here's a video of their set opener, "Black Tongue". Thank you Internet!

Last and certainly not least was another band from Sweden: Opeth.

Opeth used to be do the whole death metal thing but now they are pretty much a killer progressive rock band. Because of that I like their newer records better than the old ones. That said, they sounded kind of out of place on this show. Mastodon really brought it hard and loud. Opeth's set dialed it down a couple notches, so it honestly felt like a bit of a let down. Which is a shame because the music is great.

Here's them doing "Windowpane" at the show.

See, sort of mellow-ish compared to the last couple. I could have linked "Slither" which is a wonderful Dio rip-off of a song (I mean that as a compliment) or a couple of their older songs with the cookie monster vocals but I wanted something that better captured the overall vibe of their set and this song does.  They played an hour as well. No encore, which was OK because I was beat.

I told a friend at work about the show and she asked what the crowd was like. That got me thinking about metal shows and their crowds compared to indie rock shows and their crowds. At indie rock shows you'll see people (some, not all) just hanging out not really paying attention to the music. It appears they are more interested in being seen than seeing the show. There will be people talking and having conversations while the show is going on. At a metal show, you will rarely if ever have that happen. The crowd looks kind of scary because they all have on black tee shirts for Slayer, Sepultera, Meshuggah, and Naplam Death and they'll have lots of piercings and tattoos. One girl in front of me had her nose and lip pierced along with a blue mohawk. But I guarantee you that you won't find a friendlier crowd. I have seen more fights at a single Shins show than at any five metal shows.

I think it's mainly because a metal crowd is a kind of community in of itself. A lot of these folks are outsiders, the not cool kids who sat by themselves drawing "Zoso" on the covers of their notebooks in high school. The music is something that got them through that and it has become a part of their identity. The scary looking tee shirts are their badges to identify one to another (as if the blue hair didn't do it at first). Sure you will have crowd surfing and mosh pits and slam dancing, but it's all done in the spirit of the music. I saw a different Mastodon show where the slam dance circle had formed and people were flinging themselves and each other into, colliding like neutrinos in a particle accelerator. One skinny kid was flung in there and was tossed around like a rag doll. When he went ass-over-elbows two big dudes picked him off the ground, set him on his feet, dusted him off and with a pat on the head sent him back happily into the circle. Nobody is looking to start shit or hurt people. Everybody is just having a good time in the metal way. Sure there are dicks but it is a great crowd and a great way to see a show. Just don't be surprised if you are jostled some or crashed into at some point or feel inspired to flash the devil horns at some nut in a Cardinal outfit singing about human sacrifice.

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