I am still getting used to the fact that technically I am no longer a New York City resident and in fact reside in New Jersey. Hoboken is right across the river from Manhattan, so I like to think that I live in one of Manhattan's boroughs and not in the Garden State. That being said, one advantage of living in Hoboken is that I have easier access to clubs in Northern NJ that host some good if not great shows (being able to skip the traffic getting out of Manhattan can literally shave hours off your travel time). So, Wednesday night when I was offered a ride to Sayerville (or "Slayer"ville as metalheads like to call it) to see the Mastodon, Between The Buried And Me, Baroness and Valient Thorr tour, I gladly accepted and got myself a ticket.
I LOVED Valient Thorr's first album Total Universe Man, but found the follow-up to be a bit dull and haven't paid attention to them since. I would have liked to have caught their set at this show because my understanding is that their live show is where it's at, but alas we arrived to late to see them. Oh well. Fortunately we did not arrive too late to catch the bulk of Baroness' set. I sort of saw Baroness once at a big festival, but was too far away from the stage to really appreciate what was going on. In this more intimate setting I was finally able to see and hear why people rave about their live performance. I like their 2009 release the Blue Record a lot, but thought that the production was a bit flat and took a lot of the punch out of the songs. This became even more apparent after hearing the songs played live. They are so much fuller and exciting in the live setting than on the album. The band is really tight and I was happy to see that the venue was almost fully packed for their set. I will definitely not be skipping them the next time they come through town. One weird thing about their set happened at the end when singer John Baizley was thanking the crowd. He was doing the usual stage banter of "thanks for coming out", giving props to the headliner, etc. and then he said (this is not verbatim, but a close approximation and I'm not taking any creative liberties with it): "If you see us walking around, then please stop and say hello. We're not rock stars. We'll hang out. Say hi to us. We're not rapists. We're not weirdos." Not rapists?!?!?! I've heard some strange things from the stage over the years, but that is up there. Why would he feel the need to mention that they aren't rapists? Total head scratcher, but not the last bizarre thing a band would say into the microphone before the evening was out.
Next up was Between The Buried And Me. I love BTBAM's albums, but this is the third time I have seen them live and the third time I have been bored to tears. Don't get me wrong, the band are more than competent players and pull off their complex prog metal meets death metal meets metalcore songs perfectly live....it is just a total snooze fest to sit through. And apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way as the band was jeered during their final song by at least one audience member that I'm aware of. When the band announced that they were going to play their final song of the evening (it was the 4th or 5th song of their set...keep in mind their songs all tend to be 10+ minutes) I scooted off to the bathroom and then was checking out the merch booth. While looking at Mastodon t-shirts I could still hear the band well and suddenly I heard the singer getting into it with a heckler (keep in mind he is doing this during one of their death metal breakdown sections): "Whoa, whoa, whoa, who said that? Who said "You suck dick."? Who said that? What's your problem man? What did I do to you?" Really dude? One audience member yells something at you and you are going to slow down your entire band to chastise them? And he didn't even give him a verbal beatdown; it was more of a peaceful lecture about how it is OK to not like a band's music, but very mean to yell hurtful words at them. So weak. Just ignore the guy and finish your song and if you aren't going to ignore him, then at least take advantage of the fact that you have a microphone and can totally defeat the guy with one good wise crack at his expense....you know, like a stand-up comic would do. Absolute final nail in the coffin for me and BTBAM live. Will never see them again by choice.
Mastodon (I lose count after I've seen a band at least 4 times), but definitely my favorite so far. Like Baroness, I've always seen them in larger venues and while I have enjoyed them and know they are a great live band, I have never really gotten the full impact of what they can do. Some people I know are a little annoyed that the band is still playing their last album Crack The Skye in its entirety at every show, but I don't mind as I love that album. The band also has an interesting and engaging light/movie screen show to accompany the music which is a nice touch. My friend and I pushed our way to the middle of the crowd to get a better vantage point, but I eventually grew weary of the less experienced metal show attendees who did not quite understand the etiquette of the mosh pit and how to treat those around you who were not in the mood to mosh (yes, I'm getting old and cranky) and found myself a much better vantage point off to the side. The band was cruising along through Crack The Skye's tracklist when during the last song, "The Last Baron", singer/guitarist Brett Hinds walked over to the drum kit and made Brann Dailor stop drumming which subsequently brought the entire proceedings to a halt. Considering he made Brann who is one of the best, if not the best, metal drummers going today stop mid-song, I figured we were in for a rant about the sound. He then went to his microphone and began berating the house sound man because he couldn't hear his guitar on the stage. This was met with a few jeers, but mostly the crowd seemed sympathetic. As Brett explained, he simply wanted to play the song perfectly for the audience. The band started up again and then had to stop again a few minutes later so Brett could berate the sound man again for the problem continuing and then they started up again and wouldn't you know it, a few minutes later they had to stop again for further berating of the sound man. Third time always being the charm, the band played through to the end of the song and walked off the stage for a brief interlude before their encore. Having heard more than one story about how Hinds is a bit of a loose cannon, I was worried they might not come back out because he was so angry, but they did come back out and leveled the crowd with some choice cuts from their first three albums before closing with "Blood And Thunder".
With the exception of the bizarre rants from the stage from all three bands, it was a great night. And even though I didn't like BTBAM's performance at all, at least I now know to avoid them in the future, so I came away from their performance with something!
And as it relates to my rant that I posted earlier this week about the rule about not wearing a t-shirt of the band whose concert you are attending, I was happy to see at least 8 people wearing Mastodon shirts at this show.
Baroness "A Horse Called Golgotha"
Mastodon "Oblivion/Blood And Thunder"