I was starting to think it was a curse. To use Randy Blythe’s own words, “I guess some of you have heard that I had an interesting summer.” The show we originally bought tickets for was cancelled. When the tour was rescheduled, Seattle came at the end instead of the beginning. Our regular babysitter was out of town. So was our backup, and the highly recommended friend of a friend. Finally, two days before the show, we confirmed with a sitter from an online referral service. The plan was to leave early and have dinner at the Elysian and get to Showbox Sodo as the doors opened at 6:00. We are not those Seattle people who skip the openers. In fact, we’re usually more excited about the opening band than the headliner. For this lineup of four bands, the two I cared most about were Lamb of God and Sylosis.
Then the sitter called. She was running late. We ate dinner at home and finally headed south on Aurora, which went down to one lane, and our exit was closed. By the time we got back to downtown, the parking lot behind Showbox was half full. The other half was flooded. We drove around for another 15 minutes before finding street parking two blocks south of the venue. It was after 7:00 when we finally got to the Showbox, but the line to get in still stretched past the neighboring building and a parking lot. Waiting in line was a bit of a culture shock; this was not the metal crowd we were used to. It felt like I was trying to get in to a football game. When we finally got to the front of the line, only one of the people working the door was a woman.
Note to venues: I appreciate your having a woman on security to do pat downs for the women. But please make it optional. I am so much less concerned that your security guards might cop a feel than I am about missing the fucking opening band while I stand in the rain waiting to get my pockets checked.
Which is exactly what happened. By the time I got inside, Sylosis was long gone and HellYeah had already taken the stage. We checked our coats and headed for the bar – about as close to the stage as we were likely to get anyway, since the place was packed. It’s a big secret that most metalheads are actually nerds. It’s complicated, brainy music that just happens to be intense – like Bach.
But the Neanderthal headbanger stereotype didn’t condense out of thin air, and it only takes one hit of HellYeah to get stoopid. They played tight, chunky, heavy, fist in the air, neck-breaking music with an irresistible groove – when they played. I mean, I get the Southern predilection for long-windedness, but homeboy needed to shorten the speechifying and get on with the music.
In Flames was a little chatty, too, so maybe it had something to do with being the last show of the tour – you know how everyone is suddenly best friends on the last day of school. I wasn’t listening to metal during In Flames’ heyday, but when I started listening again, I spent a couple weeks gorging on the Gothenburg sound to find out what I missed, and I was interested in hearing their set, if only for historical purposes. So it was a little bit of a shock when they opened with a song that was – danceable. Actually, I didn’t hear anything in the set that sounded like classic Gothenburg, so maybe they didn’t dig that far back in their catalogue. But after the first song they did bring the heavy; it’s always a good sign when you can feel a concrete floor shake. And there was some excellent guitar noodling. All in all, their set was a lot more interesting and the music felt much fresher than I expected. Apparently their bass player was home having a baby, so Sylosis’ bass player was filling in. Anders Friden looked the part of a logging truck driver (I wonder if that was to put the HellYeah/LoG demographic at ease, or if he normally looks like that?) but the sound was still a distinctly European contrast to the two Southern bands.
And oh my [Lamb of] God! What pros! Where to even begin? These guys put on a show; tight and loud with clean sound. The pit spread all the way back to the bar, and never stopped. I know this for certain because Blythe even commented when the crowdsurfing continued in between songs. Blythe was just the epitome of a front man. I never did get a clear photo. Blythe would jump so high I could see his feet; he’d land on the far end of the stage. He never slowed down, never stopped moving, and somehow kept an eye on everything going on in the pit. The only time he paused during the whole show was to make sure a guy was okay before dedicating the next song to him; the “crazy motherfucker in a wheelchair who just went over the rail.” There was just enough banter to keep the audience engaged without breaking the energy or flow of the music, and the stuff he said was actually funny and interesting. And of course they had smoke machines erupting like geysers, videos, lasers and strobe lights – but these were all completely extraneous. I’ve always been intrigued by the line between brainy music and redneck aesthetic that LoG walk, and this show proved what a brilliant thing that is.
You know, there are all these stock phrases that people use, and then sometimes you have an experience that reminds you where the cliché came from. When that happens, you kind of hate to use the cliché because you know it sounds silly, but at the same time no other words will do. So I’m left no choice but to say, when they came back out for the encore, they turned it up to 11.
With ears bleeding, frontal lobe and lizard brain both exploding, I did my best remember Randy’s words:
I know not everybody here is from Seattle. Probably a few of you are from Tacoma. I lived with a meth-head from Bainbridge once. True story – you can ask him. Bellingham. I have an ex-wife from Bellingham, I’m kinda sensitive about that but I love you guys anyway. It doesn’t matter where you’re from though, even if it’s inbred fucking Aberdeen. It doesn’t matter what your politics are, how crunchy a hippie you are or how much of a metrosexual. When you’re at a Lamb of God show, you’re all just a bunch of motherfucking rednecks.”
And I say, “Hell yeah.”
I just found this in a review on CultureMob:
And it was a good thing I managed not to get tossed out. Otherwise I’d have missed the band’s road crew taking over the instruments to finish the song.
Really? I had no idea that happened! This is why it sucks to be short. It’s like the old “If you’re not the lead dog,” cliche – if you’re short, and you’re not up against the rail, the scenery never changes.