I found myself on the internet this afternoon searching for a ticket for this show in the Facebook event page discussion section. After scrolling past loads of bots and scammers I was lucky enough to find one for 15 bucks from a kid in the suburbs. Big ups to David for that one, you’re a star. It’s an exciting thing to catch a Sunday show. It’s one last weekend high before Monday rolls around and we’re back at our jobs slogging away for paychecks we spend on bills, student loans, and other shows. We should be so lucky that on this particular Sunday, our church and place of rest would be the Riviera Theatre and at the pulpit are Zeal and Ardor, Deafheaven, and Baroness.
I went in blind to the experience that is Zeal and Ardor. Watching them I was toiling about what they reminded me of and how I could write or explain what I was witnessing. At times they reminded me wildly of a run-of-the-mill southern metal band while at others they heavily channeled Liturgy.
After Zeal and Ardor as the guitar techs were clearing the stage, Deafheaven’s guitar tech began smudging the stage with sage between the sets. As Deafheaven’s cosmic banner unfurled and the drape was pulled off the flower-adorned drum kit it became clear the audience were hungry for what was next. As I watched the band open their set and move through the first few songs I thought about how special of a thing it is to witness Deafheaven. Objectively speaking I can’t imagine another guitar band that occupies the modern metal genre that pulls so much emotion out of the crowd and the genre base itself. There is something magical about watching singer George Clarke reach out to the crowd and grab the hands of fans; or dive into the audience as he screams out into a sea of eyes and fingers and smiling teeth. When was the last time a metal band effortlessly crafted something heavy with something beautiful, something tender with something unknowable, something emotional with something cryptic and took that unknowable thing, made it insanely palatable and gave it to a crowd without asking for anything but their ears and attention? I could write thousands of words on Deafheaven, but for the sake of your attention I will pull back and wait for a better moment. I still have to tell you about Baroness.
Baroness have been a staple of the metal genre for some time. They’re a great example of a band that knows how to do every part of what they do right. Baroness are a unit. From percussion, to guitar, to vocals, to visuals this band exist to be as sonically palatable and confrontational as possible. When I say confrontational, I do not mean it in terms of an agenda or a message, but rather in the sense that Baroness command an audience’s attention and don’t give you a chance to pull away after they’ve started pummeling you and your eardrums. They’re crushing experience that everyone around me was drooling for the entire evening. I couldn’t turn my ear without hearing how excited someone was to see Baroness tour again. As Baroness closed out their set I was left smiling. Weirdly invigorated. But mostly smiling.
We exist in an interesting time with regard to the metal genre because so much of the dominating music of modern times is electronic or rap or hip hop or whatever. Guitars and metal are on their way out and I’ve got no chip on my shoulder one way or the other about that. I found myself feeling lucky that bands like Deafheaven and Baroness are out here innovating and riffing away on Sunday nights to massive crowds in sage smoke-filled rooms. If I had one sentiment to share with you about this show it’s that you should go see a metal show sometime. Metal shows aren’t going to disappear and neither will the crowds, but scratch the itch, let some band yell in your face for a few hours over insane riffs and blasting drums. Headbang with some guy who looks like a Viking. It’ll be sick.