Okay, he didn’t personally mess up my knee. But it is an absolute fact that I didn’t limp before the Amon Amarth concert last week, and I could barely hobble after it.
I think it is also safe to assert that if it were not for Johan Hegg et. al.’s absurdly convincing “true fucking Vikings” schtick I would have behaved in a manner more appropriate to my advanced age instead of letting myself be bounced around the mosh pit like a pinball.
I shouldn’t have even been at the show. El Corazon is my least favorite Seattle venue (except perhaps the Paramount with its prison-guard reject security team) and I have passed up the chance to see many bands because of the venue.
But Amon Amarth is a household favorite, a routine part of our weekly winter drive to Steven’s Pass, and known for putting on a good show. When tickets went on sale last spring, I figured we might be in need of a night out by late September (when the financial repercussions of quitting my day job would have fully manifested) so I decided to pay it forward.
For once we were going to arrive late on purpose; it was my turn to drive the carpool to soccer practice. I got home just in time to hand off the younger child to the babysitter. “Are you going to see Conor Oberst?” she asked. “You’re always going to a concert when you call me.”
After a lengthy search for parking, we had a lengthy walk to El Corazon, where Skeletonwitch had already taken the stage. The place was already packed, and even up on the “balcony” all I could see was a Suicidal Tendencies logo on the back of the guy in front me. So I can’t say anything about what kind of stage show Skeletonwitch puts on. Fortunately the sound was better than usual, and they sounded really good. I enjoyed the old school thrashiness of Serpents Unleashed. Their live show lost none of the album’s shredding sizzle, but was also beefier and deathier than the record.
We moved to the bar for some beer and some breathing room during Sabaton’s set. Screens mounted on the wall showed grainy, security camera video of the stage, so we had a much better view from our comfortable spot next door. Accurately, but disappointingly, it sounded like there was a band playing at the club next door. Beers imbibed and attitudes mellowed, we re-entered the main venue for the last few songs of their set. We leaned against a wall parallel to the stage, near the front door where the air was fresher and the crowd less dense. For the few songs we could properly hear, the band was a lot of fun.
Resigned to our relatively comfortable spot with no sight line towards the stage, we were surprised that a lot of people cleared out between bands. Unable to resist the pull of an empty space on a crowded floor, we soon found ourselves in the middle of the venue. You know, right where the pit was going to be.
As soon as Amon Amarth took the stage, we found ourselves in the pit, and before long we were separated. It was an old school Seattle pit where everyone was too packed in for much thrashing around (throw horns and you might have to leave your arm up there for lack of space to pull it back down).
I don’t really need to describe the show or the music too much. You know what to expect from Amon Amarth. They’ve got a product people like, and they deliver it, consistently. Everyone in the band is a pro, moving around throughout the set to be visible from different parts of the venue, interacting with the people up front. What is noteworthy is the way they make it seem fresh.
Hegg is like that friend in college – you know the one – who could make getting drunk on a Tuesday seem like a good idea. Even when you’ve been there before. I saw this Audrey Horne video a couple days later and it captured exactly what I mean.
When he calls the audience a bunch of “true fucking Vikings,” it doesn’t sound like stage banter recycled on stages across the glove. It sounds like he just thought of it. You’ve just joined the in crowd, the ones who really know how to party, and it’s something to celebrate.
Halfway through the show I found myself standing next to my husband. He found me in the pit! Now that’s my idea of romance. But a few minutes later, someone decided to barrel sideways through the crowd and I found myself ten feet away, moved like those desktop pendulum balls. I made the best of it and ended up in front of the stage, finally able to both hear and see the show.
The only disappointment was that there is no room for ships on stage at El Corazon. But for the encore, Hegg brought out a Mjölnir to swing around. Half of my mind expected him to break down the walls and make room for the ship; the other half couldn’t stop reciting, “Hewn into the living rock of Stonehenge.”
That line between camp and kick ass is narrow, but Amon Amarth balance it perfectly. And that is why I left El Corazon charged up like a Viking last week, only to limp like an old farmer this week.