Tone-Questing at the Witches’ Sabbath
The 777 Tour Comes to the Casbah
Keith Boyd 7.3.7
I read the lineup of this night and immediately started to drool. Southern Lord had put together a wet dream come true tour with representative acts from several of today’s heavy music varieties. There would be Wolves in the Throne Room, with their smeared black metal scree. Also, the ganja and booze-fueled riffage of Weedeater. Rounding out the night were the mirror twin, yet black and white opposite, outfits of Earth and SunnO))). What else could your modern day metalhead ask for. My only fear was that the Casbah might suffer some irreparable structural damage and never hold a concert again.
I got to the Casbah and commenced to do the usual Casbah thing; wait and wait and wait and wait for the door to open. While this was a bit annoying, it did give me a chance to indulge in my perennial guilty pleasure of people watching. The crowd was an interesting mix. There were indie punk rock kids, a few old-school metal hesher types, and an annoying pack of self-righteous modern metal kids. You’ve probably seen the type; greasy angular haircuts, prison cell bland clothing, painfully obvious piercings, and a preponderance of anachronistic facial hair. Hey, far be it for me to belittle someone else’s subculture. But this crew was near the front of the line, and as they stood there, no less than twenty (I counted) of their fellow refugees from the emo-moshpit-dungeons and dragons tournament came up and were “cut” into the line. OK, I guess it might be a minor complaint but it was plenty irritating to me.
I have to say, I love the Casbah. Its funky charms include two bars, an open air courtyard, and the decadent, stripped down decor of the grand rock-house it is. After securing a giant Steinlager and earplugs (hey, I’m 40 OK!) I went to check out the vaseline intensity of Wolves in the Throne Room. These guys do black metal right. The riffing and rhythms were supercharged and packed a furious punch. What was even more compelling were the sound collages being generated by a Korg in between songs. These rainy and mournful sounds were somehow in tune with, but in stark contrast to, the dynamics of their songs.
Next up was Weedeater, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of them. As a brutal three-piece, they seem to embody an over-the-top, Southern rock by way of Kyuss vibe. I loved the intensity. The bass player/ singer was some sort of Tourette’s addled, inbred trucker zombie who literally quaked as he played. Their sound is built on fat muscular riffs, furious drumming, and growled Cookie Monster vocals. However, while this was great for, say, three to four songs, after a bit it became a little repetitive. I will say, though, that with their committed attack, Weedeater are maximal exemplars of the “Stoner Rock” sound.
Earth played next, and while the story of guitarist, Dylan Carlson’s, rebirth is truly inspirational, and their records are great, I hate to admit I was left a little flat by their performance. I admire the restraint they embody and I also find their tone-questing to be nearly flawless. It’s probably a case of just not enough drama in the visual department. I think that Earth’s set might be improved by adding a visual component such as slides, in the vein of their album’s artwork. That way you’d experience their beautiful music in all of its cinematic glory.
From Tone-Questing to the Witches’ Sabbath, we ended the night with SunnO))). To me, these guys are untouchable. Whenever I see them I am reminded of the old Dead bumper sticker that said, “They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.” SunnO))) creates a singular overwhelming blast of sound that cuts through the very atomic structure of your body and gets your nervous system humming. Close your eyes and you’re transported to some pre linguistic sensory realm. It’s all synesthesia; sound is color, touch is music. Open your eyes and you’re invited to a misty occult ritual in which frequency and sound pressure are the sacraments. Although it’s hard to say who was on stage, I believe the vocals were handled by Black metal legend Atila Csihar. His extended introductory interlude in Latin and Glossalalia was both scary and inspiring. SunnO))) really outdid themselves at the Casbah. They took the most pedestrian and mundane materials, a rock club on a Monday night, and through auditory alchemy, transformed them into sensory gold.