Photo by Michael Alan Goldberg
Planes Mistaken for Stars, Cursive, Against Me!, Mastodon. There is no artful way to describe it. These bands all played together, and I was there.
It’s a different kinda show that happens at the Fenix in Seattle, WA. Located in the heart of the, I don’t know, let’s call it the mostly-abandoned south industrial district, the Fenix used to be a dance club in the center of the 2 am stabbing district. It’s basically a large auditorium-esque space for people with blacklight stamps on their wrists to drink heavily. There is also a large space for people to do their slam dancing and what-have-you dancing in front of the stage, but I placed myself towards the back of the beer-drinking crowd, eager to investigate the people associated with a show like this.
Arriving too late for Planes, I ordered a 24 oz Fosters (a steal at 6 bucks!) and studied the crowd in a geeky, reporter-ish manner. Instead of jotting things down, like I would have done in my geeky student journalism days, I opted to make mental notes, notes like: “of wearing black, having tattoos, sporting unrealistic colored hair or suffering from multiple facial piercings, every person in the crowd averages three of these things” and “weird, that dude has a Teagan and Sara shirt on. Even I want to beat him up for that”, and so on. The plan was to fire these notes in the kiln of my memory, using alcohol as the flame. The plan “worked”.
Of the four bands on the roster, the crowd was the least Cursive-y by a long-shot. The shirts and ties that Cursive wore helped me to visualize the gulf between this particular band and this particular crowd….this was not the type of crowd that would, for example, wear shirts and ties. Not that the crowd outright rejected the band (though I maliciously imagined this very scenario), the growing audience nodded their heads appropriately, and even downright enjoyed a few angular rockin’ tunes. Me, I like Cursive, and I especially liked that little brass ensemble they played with. If Conor Oberst were passionately trying to sell you a used vehicle, is what I’d say a Cursive song was like.
Pure abstract reason told me that I must drink a 6 dollar, 24 oz Fosters during each set: the idea was so simple it had to be true. So I grabbed another frosty cold can (“about 2 dollars a beer!” my friend – bless his heart – exclaimed) and watched as the young skinny demographic poured towards the stage. Against Me! was a punk band that baffled its hardcore fans by moving to a major label: this I knew. What I did not know, however, was just how much Dasani the bouncers were about to spray on the first few rows of the crowd.
You see the thing is, Against Me! is punk band, and the way it goes with punk bands (this is coming from my post-punk rock friend, as in he is post-punk rock, not the music….) is that the thing about punk music is that if you feel some emotional connection to the songs it’s like Party Time o’clock. It didn’t take me long to realize that I had missed my transfer and was about 45 minutes late for Party Time. Luckily the ‘Getting Drunk’ bus was right on time.
The Against Me! crowd was significantly bigger than the Cursive crowd (was there a Cursive crowd? I don’t even know), but things were about to get a whole lot more significant as the stage cleared for Mastodon. I went to grab my third beer, noticing herds of punks leaving the building. For every person displaced, three more filled the smelly void. There must have been like 400 people outside smoking, because all of a sudden the place was packed.
The thing you need to know about Mastodon is that they have a studded drumkit. Like with studded leather, yes. As the pre-performance smoke machine pumped out its lazy shield I watched Mastodon assemble. The drumkit, like 10 feet high, was the same height as the Marshall stacks on either side. The double-stacked Marshall stacks. It dawned on me that Mastodon was some serious shit.
Mastodon was what happens when you close your eyes and imagine ten by twenty feet of oppressively loud noise making devices. The double-bass kick drum pounded so fast that it was either a really fast double kick drum or one continuous and agonizing beat being stretched out by a medieval torture device. Four, maybe five songs later I was in my Honda Civic, trudging up the series of hills back to my apartment (with the radio off). There was a lot of aggression being doled out up on stage, but as for me, I had a 7 am next-day shift to contend with. And that’s a special kind of aggression that doesn’t really have much to do with late-night metal, as it turns out.