Venue: The Grog Shop
Source: Yours Truly
So originally I was thinking about going to Shittsburgh to see this tour on 11/11/11, because when the tour was first announced, the Clevetown show was scheduled on a night which my wife would normally be working, and I didn't think it would be a wise move to ask her if I should get a babysitter for the kids just so I could go to a show where I had other options. Plus, the PA show had Young Widows
on the bill, and even though I'm a little perplexed by their most recent album, I have seen them in the past (opening for Russian Circles, as a matter of fact), and I liked them a great deal. Their 2008 release Old Wounds
kicks all kinds of ass. Plus, the bonus of seeing a show in Dah Burg is that there's always a stop at the poker tables afterward.
Anyway, I found out a few weeks ago that my wife actually had the night off on 11/18 - and not long thereafter, I found out Akron, Ohio's own If These Trees Could Talk
would be opening this show. That was all it took. Done deal. I was there.
When we first got there, we happened upon the unofficial frontman and one of several guitarists (there are three, not including the bassist) for Trees
, namely Mike Socrates. He was just as gracious as the other two times I've met him, and if anything more so. This time around, he shared with me some tidbits about a new album that they're trying to have finished by the end of 2011 for a Spring 2012 release, and a tour in April that is said to include Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia (are you reading this, br00tle dissent?).
Anyhow, Trees took the stage at around 9:30, and for the duration of their relatively short set (about thirty minutes or so), they mesmerized every mother fucker in the Grog Shop that night (most of whom were presumably there to see Circles
). They played a song and a half, if you will, from their new album, and judging by what we heard, the new release is going to be every bit as awesome as their previous two. Mike said it's going to be the heaviest album of theirs yet - something he really pushed for, according to him - and I would say that the samples we got tend to bear out this claim. The first new song was the opener for their set (which Mike said is also set to be the opener for the album), and it was tremendous. The second new one was actually an intro for another song on the album - a song which isn't yet finished. Neither track has a name yet.
If These Trees Could Talk
What's In the Ground Belongs to You
Above the Earth
Below the Sky
[Intro to New Song]
From Roots to Needles
Before the above set, I also had occasion to speak to two other individuals. I'll get to the third in a moment, but for now I'll mention that the second guy I talked to was the insanely emotive screamer from deafheaven
, George Clark. I'll tell you what - this guy was not what I expected at all. He had a really short haircut (a lot like mine, truthfully), was neatly dressed and very well spoken, and was thin and very tall (I'm 6'-4", and I think he may have been slightly taller than I am). For a screaming black metal vocalist, I wasn't expecting this dude at all - but we had a nice chat about the album, the tour, and of all topics, somehow we ended up talking about file sharing, which George seemed to be totally in favor of with respect to the band he's in, because it gets their name out there one way or another (an opinion which I find to be surprisingly common among small-ish bands who are still trying to make a name for themselves). Anyway, this smiling and polite gent from San Fran proceeded to transform into a demon possessed about an hour later when he and his mates took the stage. Rocking back and forth while gripping the mic stand like it was his last handhold on life and grimacing at the crowd like a caged animal, he proceeded to scare the living shit out of nearly everyone in the place. deafheaven
played only three songs that night (the first two of which I'm fairly sure about and the third I am certain), but those three songs were (a) thirty minutes long in total, and (b) packed full of more emotion that many sets twice that length that I've stood through before.
This band is really something. The only suggestion I would make is that if you're thinking about going to see this tour (and by all means, I strongly suggest you do so), you might want to familiarize yourself a bit with the songs on this monster of an album, because it's a little difficult to pick out all of the nuances of the songs unless you've already heard them before. deafheaven's
music is dense and complex, and quite frankly the acoustics are probably going to be set up for Russian Circles
, who have a completely different sound altogether. Still, if nothing else, the sheer intensity of deafheaven's
set should knock your fucking socks off one way or the other.
...and then there was the main event.
Now mind you, this was my fourth time seeing the inimitable RUSSIAN CIRCLES
crush some fucking heads, and I knew when I bought the ticket that this night was going to be one for the record books. Before the first band played, as I described above, I got to meet Mike from Trees
and George from deafheaven
, and both conversations were great. However, as I was finishing up talking with George, I looked over at the merch table for the headliner and who do I fucking see standing there selling gear but the band's rhythmic phenom Dave Turncrantz? Now this was a surprise in and of itself, because of al the times I've seen these cats, I've never seen a single one of them when they weren't on the stage. I've always read that they're pretty private guys who prefer to let the music speak for itself and not have their performances be about over-the-top personalities or something like that (hence the almost complete lack of vocals in their music). I've always joked that Russian Circles
is the Daft Punk
of post metal (Manks might get that one, amongst a few others).
So anyway, I never thought I'd get a chance to talk with any of these guys in person, and that was fine with me. To each his own. Even though I'd love to shake their hands and tell them I think they're one of the best post-metal bands to have ever played, I just figured you gotta respect them for wanting it to be all about the music. So the last thing I expected when I approached Dave was for him to be as genuinely outgoing as he actually was. I told him my name and said I was a big fan of their work, and he smiled graciously, looked me in the eye, shook my hand and said, "right on - thanks, man!". I was stoked. Not only was this guy not the shy, hermit type I thought he might be, but he was actually downright friendly and talkative.
We chatted for a bit about the new album - which I told him was more of a grower than any of the previous ones, but that I was really starting to think it might be some of their best work yet - and about other stuff like the fact that Dave really likes playing the Grog Shop and has really fond memories of their shows in Clevetown.
We talked about the other tours they've been on, and I told him that I've seen them on tour for all four of their albums, including their show with Clutch back in 2008. He laughed about that one and said that they got heckled on the first show of that tour by some rabid Clutch fans, but after that, the rest of the tour was fantastic for them. I told him about how that was one of my favorite shows of theirs not only because of the sound in the Newport being incredible, but also because of all the Clutch fans I saw with their jaws on the ground saying "who the fuck are these guys?!? They are totally fucking awesome!" You're got damn right, you knuckle-dragging scumbags.
Anyway, the Chi-town trio commenced to take the stage at around 11:30 and of course, they completely blew the fucking doors and roof off that fucking popsicle stand. The sound was so awesome, and it filled that relatively small little joint to the rafters. The volume was incredible, yet the clarity of the music was top notch. That, and the stage at the Grog is about two feet off the ground, giving folks such as myself a place to park their fat asses while taking bootleg videos of the whole affair (don't worry, I asked the band like I always do if it was OK with them
). I think it's some of the best video I've ever taken, but I haven't reviewed it all yet. The one thing that sucks for taping these guys is that the lighting is really low, so you have to get creative on how you're gonna film. Anyway, I digress.
Before they started playing, I asked a guy who was standing near me if he'd ever seen Russian Circles
live, and he said no. I told him he was in for a real treat, and his friend next to him smiled and said "hell yeah, he is!". I looked over at him during the second or third song, and he was grinning like he was getting a hummer from the porn star of his dreams, so I figured I had advised him correctly. The set was just over an hour long, and as per usual, did not include an encore (but they almost never do). The lights went down between every track, but the sound never stopped. There was a continuous hum of feedback and noise the entire time, and in the darkness while Mike Sullivan set up his dizzying array of pedals for the next track, the excitement in the air was palpable. The buzz was both literal and figurative at the same time. Speaking of the lights being down, this was also the case for almost all of the epic track Philos
, which is not too shabby on album but which is an absolute crusher when played live at full volume in the fucking dark.
Anyway, I'm running out of things to say, and it's time for me to go upstairs and watch some TV with my five-year-old before sending him off to bed. I know there's some stuff I forgot to mention, but this feels like a pretty thorough account. Let's put it this way - not only was this probably the best show I've seen this year (top three, at least), but it's probably one of my personal favorites of all time. It wasn't huge, it wasn't in an arena, there were no pyrotechnics or other such trickery, but simply put, this show gave me just about the highest value for my entertainment dollar I've ever received.
Three bands - all awesome in their own way - one of which is one of my personal favorites of all time - and I got to meet a member of each band and have a great conversation with him...and I got to tape the headliner from six feet away in high def. All for the low low price of twelve fucking damn dollars. That's right, bitches. You so fucking jelly it says "Smuckers" across your fucking forehead.