Brooklyn Masonic Temple
Wednesday, September 8
Better than: Sticking your head in a jet engine. Also, louder.
It’s only when I’m a half-block from the Loudest Venue in New York on the third night of what has to be the loudest three-night stand in its history, the opening band already clearly audible, when I realize I do not have earplugs. And then I am unhappy, so very unhappy. Later, as Sleep commence their pummeling nuclear-power-trio swagger and dirge, I contemplate tearing up little sections from pages of the New Yorker and stuffing them in my ears, which is probably the greatest metaphor of all time.
So the power-outage-causing Sunn O)))/Boris fete was Tuesday night; sandwiching that show on either side were two blowouts by California ultimate-stoner-metal gods Sleep, the toast of this past weekend’s All Tomorrow’s Parties bacchanal and, once they get in a groove and you figure out what part of your brain you need to turn off, the architects of an oddly pleasant mind-erasing two hours, every thundering power chord and canyon-carving bassline simultaneously thrilling and soothing you. And though singer/bassist Al Cisneros and more recently deputized drummer Jason Roeder can shred flamboyantly when so inclined, the undeniable focal point is one Matt Pike, shirtless and generously tattooed and generally immensely pleased with himself, his pants tightly cinched and in constant danger of ejecting him entirely, one foot on the monitor, looming over the crowd triumphantly, soaking in the love. A capital-letters Rock Star in a genre oversaturated with sullen brooders. The sort of guy who could call his other band High on Fire and not look ridiculous, or rather look ridiculous enough.
Your primary document tonight is 1993’s Sleep’s Holy Mountain, a churning monolith wherein tunes like “Aquarian” change tempo and velocity in a real casual, nonchalant way, a nice balance of dirge and thrash, narcotics and histrionics. “Traveling toward the atomic sky!” Cisneros growls on “Inside the Sun,” and verily you soon feel like you’re standing in it yourself. (The Brooklyn Masonic Temple remains a fantastic place to hear these bands, your Sunn O)))s and Mastadons and Neuroses, thanks to the high ceilings, the grimy feel, the liberal approach to volume, the conservative approach to stage lighting, the words “Masonic” and “Temple.”) The miniseries-length “From Beyond” is like a portable natural disaster, ebbing and flowing, a super-brooding trudge that powers down to a soft, almost gentle interlude (Roeder tapping cymbals with his bare hands) and then inevitably supernovas into an extinction-level event, with Pike’s wildest and most eruptive solo of the night as punctuation. The cops didn’t even bother showing up to gawk at this one, most likely because they were completely terrified. Their loss, your hearing loss.
Personal Bias: Neurosis at Brooklyn Masonic remains one of my favorite shows in NYC; these guys (Pike especially) appear to be having a lot more fun.
The Crowd: All black everything.
Random Notebook Dump: Sleep’s merch table only had T-shirts in a women’s medium first time I checked; half an hour later they didn’t have any at all.