Monday, October 19, 2009

Dethklok, Mastodon, Converge and High on Fire, October 4, Orpheum Theatre

Not that you could tell by reading this blog, but October's been an action-packed month for me. Jenn and I spent the first weekend in Calgary, taking in the Noctis III Metal Fest and Conference. It was spectacular, and, provided the organizers (Scarab Metal Productions) didn't take a bath on the thing, I'd like to go back next year. You can read my conference report here.

We went to Portland the weekend after that to staff the Anvil Press table at Wordstock 2009. Portland was great—what I saw of it anyway. We were down in the convention center 8 hours a day, talking to people who visited our table and trying to sell some books. The latter task didn't go so well. Jenn sold a couple copies of Sugar Bush and the one Jen Currin fan we met bought a copy of The Sleep of Four Cities. Then you'd get the people who'd stand there and read Heroines or I Cut My Finger start to finish, then put down the book and walk away. Being polite Canadians, we could only smile at these tools and thank them for stopping by. We need some passive- aggressive tactics next time, like matching "We are not the Bookmobile" t-shirts or something.

Portland had some awesome record stores, two of which I found during the couple hours that Jenn let me loose on Sunday. Anthem Records was a cool hole-in-the-wall with a ton of obscure avant CD-R and cassette releases and a buttload of black metal. They had YOB t-shirts as well, which I passed on, having loaded up on metal tees in Calgary. I bought an issue of Oaken Throne—Anthem was the only place I'd ever seen it.

The nice kid at Anthem directed me to Everyday Music, which I found up past Powell's Books. Awesome place. I could have dropped a ton of money there, but I restricted myself to a few finds from the vinyl bins: Eagle Twin, The Unkindness of Crows; Web, I Spider; and Lone Star, Firing on All Six.

Between Calgary and Portland we also saw Dethklok, Mastodon, Converge and High On Fire at the grand ole Orpheum. I wouldn't put the show in my top 5 for 2009, but it was pretty good. The crowd was a little more colorful than your average metal audience: lots of young kids, parents, people in costume, and “regular” people. Despite expecting Converge to be lowest on the bill, High On Fire were first on, but they rocked as I expected. I’m sure they had a couple new songs in there. Converge were great, though a little perplexed to be playing a seated venue like this. Jacob Bannon had some sweet mic-swinging moves and probably covered a few kilometers running back and forth across the stage. The new album is out tomorrow and will blow all of us away, believe me.

Mastodon played nearly the same set as their Commodore show in the summer. They had the visuals to accompany the Crack the Skye recital, then rounded out the set with one song each from the previous three albums. We had a much better view than we had at the Commodore, which was the reason I went to this show. None of the bands used a drum riser, I suspect because the edge of the back-stage video screen was so low, and the kit would have obscured the view. I noticed Troy Sanders did some Tom Araya-style half-assed playing during his singing parts on CtS, but he came into his own on the older numbers. Their vocal mix for the first few tunes was very bad, too, like the sound guy didn’t realize there were four singers in the band. You could hear Brann OK, Troy and Brett not at all, and Bill (who sang least) was by far the loudest. Puzzling.

Dethklok put on a very slick show, consisting of animation up on the big screen with live musical accompaniment from the deliberately anonymous band (which included Mike Keneally of Beer for Dolphins, Dethklok creator Brendon Small, and Gene Hoglan). The way everything was synced up was impressive, and Small is clearly a crack musician. I'd hate to think what would happen if their click track failed, though. More than at any other metal show, improv was not an option! They played an encore with no visuals behind them, after which Small finally addressed the audience and introduced the “real” band. Gene got a big cheer from the crowd, naturally. The set lasted an hour, which was just right. I don’t feel like I have to wait six months before I’ll want to watch my Metalocalypse DVDs again.

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