Mastodon‘s new album Once More ‘Round the Sun doesn’t actually come out until the end of next month, but that didn’t stop them from teaming up with Norway’s Kvelertak and France’s Gojira for a relatively quick 17 stop nationwide tour before Mastodon jets off to tour Europe for two months. More about that album later.
The night’s show was at the venerable Nightclub 9:30, located in downtown Washington DC just a few blocks from historic Howard University. In its 34th year of operation, 9:30 packs them in despite a near complete lack of parking. Maybe its the fresh baked brownies sold on site? In fact, 9:30 won honors from Billboard from 2007-2012 as the top club in America (no award was presented in 2008). Tonight was no different, this show was sold out online and at the door. As hundreds lined up before the 6:30 doors, many hopeful fans were working their way up and down the line hoping to find extra tickets for sale (Which were a fairly cheap $30 face value).
So, when Kvelertak took to the stage shrouded in darkness a little after 7:00 the place was already full to the brim and erupted at the sight of lead vocalist Erlend Hjelvik’s illuminated owl mask (Just go look at the picture if you don’t know). It seemed like only seconds into the show before the first wave of crowd surfers found their way to the front with the horns held high. This was a band committed to setting a mood. For almost the entirety of their all front illumination of the stage was turned off and they were lit just by dim red from behind. Even when Erlend took his mask off, he flipped his hair over his face and remained shrouded.
By the way, Kvelertak means strangle hold, and by all accounts that’s what they hand on the audience. Not bad for an opening band that just charted outside of Norway for the first time last year.
Obviously Mastodon was the headlining act Tuesday evening, but a fair number of fans were there to see Gojira, if the assortment of merchandise spotted in line was any indication. While the group is in its 18th year, they’ve only recently started to have chart success outside of France. But that’s not to say that they’ve been unknown exactly, after all before the chart success came they had toured with Cannibal Corpse, Children of Bodom, Lamb of God, and others.
Their eight song set ramped up the intensity with some particularly enjoyable bass heavy drum work from Mario Duplantier. With 1,200 people jammed into the two level, standing room only, venue there wasn’t really room for moshing…but when has that ever stopped a true fan of the pit? The center of the floor did their best to open up room to throw down.
To be totally honest, the two opening bands ramped up the crowd enough that they could have probably been the whole show and everyone would be happy. But wait, there’s more. Mastodon took stage without irony at about 9:30 bathed in blue LED lighting and wasted very little time beginning the set with Hearts Alive, the group’s 13 and a half minute epic from their 2004 concept album Leviathan. This made a fairly good opening track for the group, which is often much more plodding and progressive themed then its in-your-face opening acts.
Often after the first song a band has something to say, but after a very brief pause the instantly recognizable opening guitar lick of Divinations was played and the audience raised their hands in approval. The band didn’t stop after that song, or the next, or the next, or the 13 songs that followed. The only breaks in the set were 15 seconds here and there where a guitar change was needed for a particular song, they were strapped in, took a chug of water and got right back in there. Being a Tuesday night, I doubt anyone took any issue with this. This way they jammed 17 songs into an hour and a half and everyone got home at a reasonable hour. They also skipped the cheesy dramatics of a scripted curtain call.
Given the breakneck pace of their set, everything went surprisingly smooth. There’s a certain genius to a band that features all four members on vocals. Even if someone has an off night, there’s still three other guys who are going to get to sing and one vocalist doesn’t have to contend with singing nearly two albums of material straight through, facilitating this breakneck pace. That said, no one had an issue on this evening.
So about that album that isn’t out yet even though the tour is named after it. Perhaps the only issue anyone would take with this show is they only played a couple new songs. Drummer Brann Dailor finally did address the crowd after singing the final song, The Sparrow, informing the crowd that they would be coming back to DC shortly to play the new material. He then yelled “Who wants some pieces of wood?!” and peppered the crowd with drumsticks before walking off with the rest of the band. The house lights immediately came up as did Die Antwoord on the PAs. Which, is how you know your metal show is over for the evening.
To Sirius, The Heaviest Matter of the Universe, L’Enfant Sauvage, Backbone,Toxic Garbage Island, Flying Whales, In the Forest, Oroborus
Hearts Alive, Divinations, Crusher Destroyer, Capillarian Crest, Black Tongue ,Bladecatcher, Crystal Skull, Siberian Divide, Naked Burn, Megalodon, Oblivion, Blasteroid, Chimes at Midnight, High Road, Bedazzled Fingernails, Aqua Dementia, The Sparrow
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