Sometimes I wish I didn’t live in such a fabulous city. On any given day, there is not only some kind of art event going on, but usually a painful choice between events. When I was a child I never wanted to go to bed because I was afraid to miss something. I haven’t gotten any better as an adult. In the middle of Iceland Writers Retreat I completely lost my voice and had to communicate by handwritten note. And yet I found myself at Showbox SoDo on Monday night, only two days after covering the sixth anniversary of Seattle Living Room Shows for Three Imaginary Girls, and still medicated for a cold that I’ve had for roughly six weeks. But… Mastodon! And Gojira!
I did make a few concessions to my weakened state. After security disapproved of my camera, I abandoned any attempt at photography, and found a table in the bar, literally against the back wall of the building. I was rewarded for my prudence with a clear sightline and a plate of nachos when Kvelertak took the stage.
I wasn’t very familiar with Kvelertak but they were instantly appealing. Who could resist songs composed almost entirely of hooks with lengthy ‘80s-style solos that also contain hooks? It was old school sex, drugs, and heavy metal fun; except that in the old days they never would have used up so many great riffs in one song. Kvelertak are fun, but they aren’t cheesy. Lots of changes keep things interesting and with three guitars and a bass they are plenty heavy.
It only took seconds of Gojira’s set to realize that I wouldn’t be able to hear anything where I was sitting. Reluctantly, I resigned myself to the age-old adage that you can either see the band or hear the band, and headed down to the main floor, where the sound quality was marginally better and all I could see was people’s armpits. (Seriously, I don’t know where metal fans hide in the daytime, but the average height at a metal show is outrageous. At one point my six foot tall husband stood next to a man a head taller than him – whose companion was yet another head taller!)
Apparently, this was Mario’s night to shine, because the drums dominated the sound. For the first half the set I couldn’t tell if I actually heard the vocals, or only remembered where they should be. Eventually things seemed to even out, but it never did sound as clear as it did at Studio Seven last year.* In fact, I didn’t even recognize the last two songs, and wondered if they had broken out new music for this tour. But no, setlist.com informed me that both songs were off Terra Incognita, the only Gojira album I don’t own yet.
Mastodon was one of the first bands I saw when I started going to shows again after having kids, and I saw them at Showbox SoDo. At that time, I wasn’t very familiar with their music; a problem I have since remedied. This show wasn’t very different, but knowing the music makes a lot of difference. This time I could really hear the folk influence, even mistaking one guitar part for banjo. Vocals are still obviously no one’s favorite part of playing, but the instrumental parts were so much more enjoyable. Tired of looking at the zombie on the back of the sweatshirt in front of me, I closed my eyes and could almost see the guitar leads like traveling like fireflies behind my eyes.
Mastodon is one of the loudest bands I’ve ever seen live, and although the music is not exactly Cannibal Corpse, it’s still a surprise when the show is over and they talk to the audience. Each of them is so relaxed and laid back, it’s almost as if they have just opened the screen door, beer in hand, and invited you in. After listening to them thank the audience for coming out to the first show of the tour, it was no surprise to discover they went backstage and cuddled homeless kitties.
— angela (@sic_et_non) April 30, 2014
As for me, I was lucky the show ran on a tight schedule with short breaks between bands. I was home and in bed by midnight. I learned the valuable lesson that it is hard to enjoy even an excellent show when you haven’t been taking care of yourself. Staying home is not just what you do when nothing is going on (which never happens in this town), it is a valid choice in its own right. So now I am going to take a step back and get some rest – after finishing up the opera season with Tales of Hoffmann on Saturday.
*I’m complaining about the sound a lot, but in defense of the sound guy, I am on antibiotics for a sinus infection, and even with earplugs my ears hurt at the show. Others may have heard the show much more clearly.