Russian Circles -- Cleveland, OH -- December 10th, 2009
Venue: The Grog Shop
Source: Me + video
So, I had been eagerly anticipating this show for quite some time. This was my "second-and-a-half" time seeing Russian Circles...I saw them open for Clutch about a year ago, and I saw most of their set opening for Dub Trio a few years back, just before their second album "Station" was released. I was really looking forward to seeing these three post-metal jedi masters blow the roof off a small venue like the Grog Shop, and I wasn't disappointed. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. First, the opening acts.
A local band named This Is Antarctica opened. They sound a lot like Jesu, in my opinion, which made me curious to see them - but it wasn't meant to be. I got to the Grog a little too late and missed them. I did see the beginning of Phantom Family Halo's set, and they were all right. I left during the set, though, because I had to go get more quarters and finish feeding the parking meter. No big loss. They weren't bad, but they really didn't command my attention much.
Next up was Young Widows. The first time I listened to these guys, their only album was 2006's "Settle Down City", and I was somewhat unimpressed. Again, I didn't hate them, but I wasn't exactly compelled to hear more, either. However, in the last few weeks I have been spinning their 2008 release "Old Wounds", and it really caught on. They are somewhat like a cross between Torche and a band like Keelhaul. The Torche part of the reference is the sometimes-punky sound and the shouted (and sometimes harmonized) vocals. The Keelhaul part of the reference comes from the odd time signatures which are used from time to time, and definitely the heaviness. Young Widows have a really thick, crunchy bottom end, and that makes me like them more today than I did at first.
Anyway, they pretty much rocked balls. I recognized quite a few tracks from the "Old Wounds" album - in fact, they may have played stuff exclusively from that record for all I know. Here is my best guess at the set list:
Swamped and Agitated
Delay Your Pressure
Lucky and Hardhearted
21st Century Invention
Took a Turn
Next up were the post-metal jedi masters. I had talked to their merch guy before the set, who was cool enough to ask the band for me if it was OK to take video of their set, which they approved, on the basis that I told them it was for me and not for YouTube (sorry, guys ). They agreed - schwing! So I scored me a prime spot right at the edge of the stage, in front of Mike. The set list was the same as they have been playing for this whole tour as far as I know, so let me go ahead and end the suspense on that part right now - here it is:
Death Rides a Horse
As far as how they played, do I really have to say it? OK, fine. They fucking rocked. What else would Russian fucking Circles do? Seriously, though - it was a truly great set, which basically consists of two of the best songs from each of their three full-length albums, with the beautiful "Philos" thrown in there for a bit of a rest in the middle before rocking the audience's gonads off with three of their heaviest hitters of all time.
They used feedback in between songs - as they typically do on their albums - to link every song from one to the next. So, technically, they played for an hour straight without stopping (although the feedback portions between songs did allow them to pause for a minute or so here and there to catch their breath). They were LOUD AS FUCK (as they always are). They were spot-on with the album versions of their songs (which they always are). They were intense (as they always are). One thing about these guys is that they are so focused when they are playing, that they rarely crack a smile or make eye contact with the audience at all, which might lead some to believe that maybe they are a bit pretentious. However, my read is that they are really just humble and maybe even a bit reclusive, and that onstage antics just aren't their thing. Regardless, the music speaks HUGE FUCKING VOLUMES for itself, so as I've said before, "Russian Circles doesn't say a word. They don't have to."
If you've never heard these humble behemoths live, you are really missing out on a treat. Just listen to any song from any one of their albums - they are all basically awesome and interchangeable - and what you hear is what you will get live (but LOUDER!). How could you not love it? I don't think I've ever had someone listen to them after I advised them to, and heard them say, "meh". Even the hardcore Clutch fans at the Newport Music Hall last December had to pick up their lower jaws off the ground after they heard these guys. I overheard at least three different people say something to the effect of, "who the hell are THOSE guys?!?" I love it when that happens.
Anyway, do yourself a favor and listen to these guys, and better yet, go see them if you have a chance. You won't regret it.
8/10 Boris / Atlas Moth / SubRosa
9/8 Man or Astro-Man?
Last edited by Natrlhi; 12-12-2009 at 06:59 AM.
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