Proof that Ground-Breaking Music always takes a Back Seat

Posted September 5, 2005 in
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Mastodon (courtesy of

Mastodon, Pelican, Red Sparowes, Union of the Snake – Live at In The Venue, Tuesday August 16, 2005.

Metal shows are often questionable territory: a sea of long-hairs and Nordic looking individuals beating the ever living shit out of each other, with no consideration for the smaller guys with haircuts, i.e., me. Entering The Venue Tuesday evening was quite a shock, when the crowd was thick with not metal dudes, but hardcore kids. Well, not exactly hardcore kids, I mean the same people that have been going to hardcore shows since before you got your MySpace account and found out what hardcore was. Comfortable in my surroundings, I immediately turn my attention to the stage as local openers, Union of the Snake, begin their onslaught. Somewhere between an early 90s hardcore act like Usurp Synapse or Reversal of Man and newer metal like Converge or Neurosis, their sound was surprisingly thick for the bare bones setup–-one guitar, one bass, drums and vocals. Too screechy and missing the straightedge breakdowns, most of the hardcore kids just stared, looking confused and unsure.

Next, the band I came to see, Red Sparowes takes the stage. Red Sparowes is comprised of Bryant Clifford Meyer on guitar (Isis), Josh Graham on guitar (Neurosis visuals and acclaimed video director), Greg Burns on bass and pedal steel (also of Temporary Residence dark chamber folk sextet Halifax Pier), Andy Arahood on bass/guitar (Angel Hair) and David Clifford on drums (The VSS, Pleasure Forever). Holy shit. That is a fucking impressive line-up. This band apparently came out of nowhere, Dave happened to be at my house a couple of weeks ago with his other band, The Starvations, and mentioned his upcoming return to Salt Lake.

Having been very into bands, Dave has been involved in the past, I made an effort to come out. And 10, I was fucking blown away. An instrumental symphony that is more reminiscent of Glenn Branca than metal fills the room, accompanied by a synchronized film strip of cleverly edited stock footage and vintage film strips. Don’t get me wrong though, the sound was definitely heavy. I could see the Isis influence–a lot of soundscape style writing–creating that lost-in-a-desert sort of feeling. All I can say is it was fucking incredible.

Completely drained, I wait for a ridiculous amount of time for the next band, Pelican, to set up. A more straightforward attempt at soundscape-core, Pelican’s use of chugga-chugga bar chords came off a little cheesy in my book. The songs were well orchestrated, and perhaps it is just the fact they had to follow the Red Sparowes, but I just didn’t feel any sort of originality was present. After an inappropriately long set, leaving me nearly asleep on the stairs in the back of the venue, Pelican ends their apparent “jam session” and Mastodon takes the stage.

Not bad enough to be ironic, and not good enough be listenable, Mastodon’s 1985 metal hard rock (think Metallica) was fucking awful. I was super bummed out. All of the hardcore kids were so into it, as well as the few scattered metalheads and longhairs. I don’t understand why anyone thinks that Ride the Lightning has any place at all in today’s music scene. Seriously, quit ruining my fucking life. It wasn’t very hard, or heavy. It wasn’t well orchestrated or technical. It wasn’t catchy, experimental, original, or interesting in any way, shape or form. Long live Nu-metal? What? After enduring about half of their set, I peaced the fuck out and went to sleep.

Mastodon (courtesy of