High on Fire - Bowery Ballroom & Music Hall of Williamsburg - 11/30 & 12/1
Better Than: Actually being high on fire.
High on Fire's show at the Bowery on Friday was glorious. How glorious? It inspired us to see them again Saturday night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
Suffice it to say, our ears were thoroughly metalled into submission over the weekend.
On Friday night, when stoner/groove band Lo-Pan, from Columbus, OH, opened the show, the Bowery was barely sprinkled with onlookers. This was unfortunate: latecomers missed seeing one of the more stylistically interesting metal groups who've come to town this year. (We caught their set at SXSW 2011 and were eager to see them again.) Lo-Pan plays with so much heart -- much of it rooted in Skot Thompson's deft bass grooves and Jeff Martin's passionate tenor vocals -- that they easily won the slowly growing crowd.
Up next was Primate, an alleged supergroup from Atlanta who boasts Bill Kellhier of Mastodon and Kevin Sharp of Brutal Truth among their ranks. Sharp's performance marks the first time we've seen a vocalist perform barefoot in a wilted cowboy hat. But their music was unremarkable: run-of-the-mill hardcore -- with perhaps the exception of drummer Shayne Huff, who pulled off ridiculously fast fills.
Goatwhore followed, their New Orleans "blackened death metal" as heavy as blackened Cajun chicken is spicy (by which we mean, really fuckin' heavy). So brutal were Primate and Goatwhore that they made the headliners seem downright melodic.
High on Fire recorded both Friday and Saturday's sets, to be released as a live album, so the performances were clean, and the sound was excellent. Friday, however, did include the distraction of a fussy guitar tech (or sound engineer?) running onstage intermittently to fiddle with pedals, cables, and knobs on guitarist Matt Pike's rig, while a posse of five stood just offstage, drinking beer, fist-pumping, and/or being seemingly invested in the recording process. Apparently, it takes a small village to properly record a show.
Another notable visual throughout Friday night was the prominent display of Pike's ass crack. (See photo below.)
Musically, the band's uptempo stoner metal couldn't have been more on point (though the Saturday show was arguably a bit tighter). The set list comprised songs mostly from 2012's De Vermis Mysteriis as well as older tunes, such as "10,000 Years" from their debut (reissued for the second time over the summer). Without a doubt, the crowd favorite on both nights was the final encore, "Snakes for the Divine," with its memorable intro guitar licks, which bassist Jeff Matz later adroitly plays under one of Pike's fuzzy solos. When Pike and Matz finally play that riff in unison, it's a powerhouse moment.
Pike, newly sober, seemed in good spirits. And as hippy-dippy as this may sound, he gave off a positive energy that the audience absorbed and returned. We so enjoyed this vibe Friday night that we had to see whether it would happen again on Saturday. It did.
Overheard: Older audience member, standing up front by the stage, shouting after Lo-Pan's third song: "Fuckin' guy is good!"
Critical Bias: Someday maybe I'll have to write something about the tragic absence of melody in too much of today's metal.
Random Notebook Dump: Brooklyn mosh pit more violent than Manhattan's.
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