Venue: Ace of Cups
Source: Yours truly
The evening started with a 2 1/2 hour drive from where I work, which wasn't much fun to do alone, but fuck it, because it's Royal Fucking Thunder and Pallbearer, right? So on the way to Columbus, I had to fill up - both the gas tank and my belly - so of course I had to stop at:
Now properly fueled, it was time to complete the drive and get down to business. When I got to the venue, which is a little hole-in-the-wall bar on High Street (where all the OSU bars are), who is walking out the door straight towards me but MLiny Parsons. She hurried by, and I was tempted to stop her, but she looked like she was on a mission so I held off.
Next stop, door guy. Ten bucks. Fucking win. He asked me for my ID. I didn't have it. I told him "I'm 41, and I don't drink." He laughed and told me it would save me two bucks if I showed it to him. He was nice about it, so I went back and got it.
Next stop, merch tables. Met Royal Thunder's rhythm guitarist Josh Coleman, who was running their table. Super nice guy. Chatted about how the tour was going, what it was like playing with Pallbearer, how he has been wearing their album out lately (fuck yes), and other such stuff. I bought a black tee with a geometric design in white on the front that included some equilateral triangles and an eyeball. It's not the most awesome shirt in my collection, but it was fifteen bucks, and I wanted to buy something from the band, so yeah.
The first act was a local power trio named Before the Eyewall
, who played an impressive mix of instrumental post-doom that was both well-executed and a fitting opening to the show. I liked them. I don't have a set list for them, though, because after their set I went back to Pallbearer's merch table to hit them up for a copy of their CD.
After a few ticks, it was time for Royal Thunder to take the stage. They started playing a slow, plucky intro which sounded like the first (intro) track from their self-titled EP (I confirmed later that this was correct), and from there they slid into a majorly slowed-down version of "Sleeping Witch". It was hypnotic. At first, I wondered why they were playing so slowly, but then it occurred to me who the headliner was, and I thought to myself that they must be playing a bit of the old "when in Rome..." card.
All I can say is, I love LOVE LOVE
their new album, and as good as the songs on it are, many of them are even better live, and the reason is primarily...MLiny. She just might be my new favorite frontwoman. Simply put, she OWNS THE FUCKING STAGE. Period. The other three musicians are fantastic - no doubt about it - but what transforms Royal Thunder from merely good to simply exceptional is the way she very unassumingly (and most of the time, without even having her eyes open) rules the roost with her cooing, crooning and bellowing. Girlfriend leaves it all on the stage, every time, and holds nothing back. Mark of a true performer, to be sure.
Here is the set they played:
Sleeping Witch (with intro from the S/T EP)
Black Water Vision
The first two songs were fantastic. The third isn't one of my favorites from CVI
, but it's damn decent. They made it fucking rock, though. Then came "No Good". Fantastic on album, even more fun live. Next two songs were somewhat less rockin' and slower, but again, in keeping with the "when in Rome" theory I had going, I figured they made sense. Plus, again, the band executed well and the songs still rocked.
Then came "Blue". Holy shit.
Now I'll just go ahead and admit now that I think it's the best song I've heard so far this year in any genre, hands down. Fanboydom acknowledged. But still. OMFFFG. Seriously. You just had to be there.
First of all, they started it with a slow, noodling intro that eventually evolved into a thick, crunchy rolling bass line that you can't even hear on the album, but it was front and center last night, and it was glorious. MLiny didn't chime in with any vocals for several minutes, and I was just fine with that - her bass line was just so good (check out the video when it's posted and you'll see what I mean). By the time she actually started singing, I was already grinning from ear to ear. For just over ten minutes they played, and by the time they were done, I was completely convinced that the long drive had been worth it (and the mighty Pallbearer hadn't even played yet).
After their set, I gave the Royal Thunder guys a chance to pack up their gear and such before going over to their merch table to tell them how much I enoyed their set. I talked to Josh again, and told him that the entire set was ridiculously good. He smiled and thanked me for the compliment. I asked him about the pace of the set, and whether it was somewhat intentional, and he shrugged and said, "kinda makes sense, doesn't it?" Then I told him that the way they played "Blue" had completely knocked my fucking socksoff, and again he smiled and said that that was his favorite part of the set every night. After some more fun banter, I thanked him again and went to grab a spot from which to watch Pallbearer.
They started off with a song that I wasn't sure I recognized, so I started recording a video of it so I could be sure to identify it properly later. Turns out it was new. I didn't record the whole thing, but I have a few minutes of it. It was very good. Typical Pallbearer sound, but I'm at a loss to describe it further, since it was somewhat tough to discern all the various parts within the cacophony of sound they create when they play live. Don't get me wrong - they weren't having sound problems. It's just that their sound becomes a massive ball of energy filling the room and your ears and head (and heart), and it just envelops you like a tornado.
Anyhow, here is the complete set list.
Devoid of Redemption
Gloomy Sunday (Billie Holiday cover)
Given to the Grave
An Offering of Grief
I admit, I didn't recognize the cover song when they played it, but their merch guy confirmed it for me later. It was interesting, but short. Four or five minutes, max. When they played "Given to the Grave", I figured their set was coming to a close (plus, it was a few minutes past midnight at that point, so I figured the venue might tell them to wrap it up). However, after finishing that tune, Brett looked at he crowd, then at the back of the room, and said, "got time for one more?" I knew (or at least hoped) what was coming next, and I almost did a back flip (although, admittedly, it would have been both the happiest and saddest back flip I've ever done
) when I realized we were getting "An Offering of Grief". Fucking love that song.
After they finished, I went back to their merch booth and shook a few hands and thanked Brett and the boys. After that, I kept talking to their merch guy, who told me that the new song they played last night was not the only new thing they were working on. In fact, he said, they have enough ideas for at least a whole new album right now, and he also told me that Billy Anderson is supposed to produce it. Sweet. I also got him to tell me that before the new album is recorded, Pallbearer is supposed to be back late this year or early next. He didn't know the routing yet, but he told me the headliner. However, he swore me to secrecy on it. Let's just say it's a band who will be touring the new album that was either recently released or will be soon, so it wouldn't be that hard to make some educated guesses. Suffice to say that they are stoked about it, and so will a lot of folks around here be.
Well, that's about all I've got. Suffice to say it was one of the best shows I have been to in a while - and I've recently seen the likes of Gojira, Nile, Origin, and Meshuggah with Baroness in the same fucking night. There are only a few dates remaining, but if you live in Chicago, St. Louis or Lawrence and you decide to skip this, you deserve to be beat about the head and shoulders until you are a bloody mess. This tour is a fucking phenomenal one-two punch of awesomeness that you should not miss (or should not have missed, as the case may be). Royal Thunder rocks out with everything they've got, and Pallbearer is just so ridiculously loud and heavy and downright melancholy that you can't help but be moved - even if doom isn't your thing.
Oh, and Scion is handing a shitload of free swag, too, so yeah.
I'll update this post with links to videos when they're uploaded. Thanks for reading.