It seems like I’m always most interested in the opening bands. I flew to L.A. to see Amorphis open for Nightwish, I saw Epica because Insomnium was opening, and I bought tickets to see Lamb of God last summer because Gojira was on the bill. Then Randy Blythe spent the summer in Prague. I followed Blythe’s incarceration with bated breath, selfishly as concerned about my Gojira tickets as the Lamb of God front man’s future. In the process, I learned a lot more about Blythe, and by the time the show was cancelled I was a big fan of LoG, too. I got to see them in December, and it was a great show, even though a nanny bus fail made us miss the opening band, Sylosis, which was extremely disappointing.
Gojira played Seattle on January 20, now headlining a truly impressive bill. After a near disaster – yet another babysitter missed the bus, and The Daddy drove to pick her up rather than wait – we arrived before the opening band took the stage. We were still in line at the bar when they did, so we ended up watching half The Atlas Moth’s set on closed circuit TV. At least the sound was good.
With a line-up of this quality, I thought the openers deserved their own post.
When I first got back into metal, The Atlas Moth popped up on several year-end best-of lists. I gave their album a listen; even though I could tell they were doing good stuff I didn’t really enjoy it. The black metal elements were a turn-off, and the music was just so dense I couldn’t penetrate it. My tastes have evolved quite a lot since then, so I was looking forward to finding out how they would sound to me now.
Survey says – awesome!
Now that I can begin to penetrate the thicket into some of the myriad elements that make up their black-psychedelic-doom-sludge-post-everything awesomeness, the music is intriguing and captivating in a Neurosis/ Momentum/Hypno5e kind of way without actually sounding like any of those. But filtered through crowd noise standing in line at the bar is no way to delve into music this rich. I bought An Ache for the Distant the next morning, and expect to spend many hours of close listening to really wrap my head around it.
Another artist that I knew but not really. Metal bloggers go gooey over Townsend, so about a year ago I checked out one of his albums and thought, “Well, yes, obviously he’s a genius, but what he needs is four other guys with veto power; this is too self-indulgent.” Sometimes not having a sense of humor is such a handicap.
Townsend is indulgent, yes – but not of himself. I can’t recall the exact quote, but Townsend explained it himself, “I don’t care if you think I’m an idiot as long you have a good time tonight.”
Before the music even started, an animated video had the audience laughing out loud. I couldn’t see the screen at all, so I don’t know what the joke was. At one point the crowd parted and I caught a glimpse of an animated cow bobbing its head. Then some seriously heavy music started. And changed, and changed, and then it changed again.
Although the sound and genre are very different, Townsend’s music has the same WTF-ness as Apparat Organ Quartet. The stage show reminded me a little of an old local band called The Squirrels that paired Yankovic-inspired lyrics with almost random combinations of familiar music; and Cabbage Patch dolls.
Townsend announced that he had the smallest penis in the room. He was really adamant about it. He also warned the audience against eating Taco del Mar within hours of going on stage, which of course, locals already knew. As the music changed again, I made my way to the bench against the wall where women guarded by boyfriends were standing to see over the crowd. Pointing to the camera, I convinced a kind soul to give me a hand up so I could get a good look at the stage. I took a few shots and returned to my spot on the floor.
Townsend introduced some sampling with, “Cue the invisible choir,” and before the show was over he had everyone waving jazz hands (and a few stuffed animals) in the air. “If you don’t do this, it means you’re cool, and if you’re cool, you don’t belong here.”
Devin Townsend is more than just a consummate performer, he’s a performance artist; music is only a part of the show. Fortunately, it just happens to be complex, intelligent, sometimes thunderously heavy music that accompanies his interactive performance art. Next time, I will work harder to score a spot where I can see the stage.
Note: If you want to read about this show in fewer words with more information about the music (plus better photos) check out Islander’s write-up over at No Clean Singing.