Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Show review: Down/The Melvins/Weedeater, Webster Theater - Hartford CT

I don't have a job. There's currently about 8 dollars to my name. I have a bruised calf muscle and the blood is pooling in my foot like a zombie; standing for too long makes it hard to walk, and most likely won't help my recovery time. However, there are some things that supersede such shitty situations. This show, for one.

This show took care of some issues for me; namely, the fact that bad luck has prevented me from catching both The Melvins and Down live multiple times. It seemed fate had intervened again when the morning after I bought the ticket I took a spill at work and screwed up my leg pretty good (sorry for the confusing medical jargon). There was no way I was going to let some petty nuisance like being broke or a leg injury get in the way of sludge salvation.

This gig was supposed to include Evil Army as openers, but for whatever reason they weren't there. Bummer. I was definitely looking forward to checking them out live, as I've been enjoying the hell out of their self-titled debut. (They're also signed to Down frontman Philip Anselmo's label Housecore Records).

Weedeater is a southern sludge powerhouse. I don't know if it was just the sound or where I was standing, but the guitar and bass tones were just short of indistinguishable from each other. Somehow, that was a good thing. Dixie Dave Collins was stomping and kicking throughout the set, having a pretty damn good time from the looks of it. Their cover of Skynyrd's "Gimme Back My Bullets" was nothing short of fucking stellar. To be honest, I didn't think much of this band until recently. Their newest album, God Luck And Good Speed, started to convert me but this performance sealed the deal. I'm a fan.

What can one say that hasn't been said about The Melvins? Well, I have to say I haven't been too impressed with their recent output. Others have agreed with me but, upon hearing that I had yet to see them live, were unanimous in telling me "Dude, you have to see them on stage!". Reflecting on it now, that's an understatement. They came out to the theme from The A-Team, so they were already winners in my book. This band is larger than life, in both sound and presence. They had Jared and Coady from Big Business in tow, which meant two drummers. Not many bands can get away with that, which is why few even try. The Melvins not only get away with it, they fucking move to a tropical island and declare their own country with it.
I'm pretty sure Buzz Osborne was wearing a skirt, and Jared Warren is the biggest hippie I've ever seen, Seriously, the guy is about seven feet tall.

Then, it was time. Not to get all cliche and sentimental, but sometimes there are those certain bands that you just instantly connect with, music that means more than just what's coming out of the speakers. Every riff, every song, you just...get it. Down is that band for me. At first glance, it doesn't make much sense. I'm a born-and-bred Connecticut Yankee that has never smoked weed. How could I be so into a band from New Orleans whose lyrics, nine times out of ten, are about getting or being high? Well, it's quite simple: the power of the riff compels me.

Bassist Rex Brown is MIA due to surgery, and it kinda sucked not having him there, but the dude filling in (name slip my mind now) was a fellow NOLA bro and did an excellent job. The band opened with "Hail The Leaf", and proceeded to tear through their three-album catalog with fire and brimstone. Most of the set was comprised of songs from NOLA and II, which was to be expected. The newest album has some great songs, but wouldn't pack quite the punch in a live setting. After being screwed out of seeing Down so many times before, every song just hit me with a wave of euphoria. "Lifer", "Ghosts Along The Mississippi" and "Eyes Of The South" were particular stand-outs.

There's about eighty years of collective experience between all the members of this band, and they know how to put on a show. Say what you will about Philip H., but there's just something un-fuck-with-able about this guy when he takes the stage. At 41 he's still in fighting shape and commands the stage like few people in music today, never mind metal. Kirk and Pepper are the K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton of sludge metal; if you know who I'm talking about, then you understand. This became even more apparent at the beginning of the encore, when after a badass version of "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" (yes, Van Halen) Kirk began jamming "Grinder" (yes, Judas Priest) and Phil replaced "meat" with "weed". I am Jack's total lack of surprise.

Oh, the encore? "Temptation's Wings" into "Stone The Crow" into the most head-banging, horns-throwing, invisible-oranges-having song ever, "Bury Me In Smoke". I honestly could not ask for more from a show, a band, or anybody, really. I forgot about life for a few hours and walked in the light of the path.

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