Most times, say 9 out of 10, the band is Good. They come on, they’re in tune and on time, they play a song or two you like, and you’re glad you went.
You know what I mean– they were what you expected after you got to know their latest album. They didn’t throw you any curveballs, but were definitely worth seeing– your memory of their album, and their overall image in your mind, was not marred.
In the last few years (and overall since I started concert-going in 1983), I’ve seen a lot of “Good” bands: Zoroaster, Dark Castle, Eyehategod, haarp, Swans, Horseback, Enslaved, Alcest, and so on.
I don’t bother to write about them. What was the point, the need?
The concerts from my youth, those that I thought were Epic… I had started to think that those times, you know– great concerts… were the product of my being younger. That my current older, more mature, self wasn’t that reachable anymore.
Cough, bless/curse them, proved me so wrong.
The Green Lantern is a tiny bar that is literally smaller than some apartments I’ve had (and this is not a statement of how rich I am). The whole stage area was so small, the show was almost like a house party– it was that intimate.
Before their set, drummer Joe Arcaro and I talked for approximately 14 seconds about how expensive the Jack Daniel’s was. I rub noses with the stars, you know.
Then, at 12:30am, after three other bands (local rock/ metal acts) played, the members of Cough walked over to the side of the room where they would play.
They dragged over amps, unscrewed cymbals from cases, set up drum kits, whipped out Gibson guitars and Rickenbacker basses, tossed back (all four of them) what looked like a triple whiskey, turned off the stage lights (leaving the room in twilight-like darkness; see the above photos)–
–and then just lurched into “Killing Fields.”
No intro, no talking to the audience, just getting up there and jamming.
And it wasn’t just the lack of intros. It was the confidence, the charisma, there.
In 1990, the second time I saw Pantera, on the CFH tour, they had no introduction at all. Phil just walked on stage and said “We’re fucking Pantera and this is fucking ‘Domination’.” And then just launched right into it.
It was cool beyond words. It was, no shit, star power at work– something you don’t hear about much in metal.
This, and Frank Sinatra’s complete lack of an intro –just walking on stage and beginning to sing– are my favorite openers for bands.
Cough was right up there with them.
The audience, myself included, was so close to the band that, when the moshing happened, the guy next to me, who only moved a foot or so forward, kept knocking over Parker Chandler’s mike stand (and catching it simultaneously, which was pretty cool to watch).
Cough never acknowledged this in any way. In this age of information-overload, they managed to exude distance and mystery.
Even cooler– Cough brought such heavyweight amps with them (dual Ampeg bass cabinets and two Marshall Stacks) that they completely overwhelmed the house PA (for the vocals)– I could only hear the lyrics because I was right in front of the singers.
Unholy God, they were loud.
My goddamned fillings moved. It was like being butt-fucked by a locomotive. The sound seemed to surround everyone as a physical thing unto itself.
The amps Cough brought with them took up so much space on the tiny stage area that the band members could barely move as they played.
And before you (justifiably) wonder about chemical influences on my judgment, I wasn’t drunk: Cough were the last band to go on, and as I was driving myself home, I was sober when they went on at 12:30.
If you read me at all, you know I love Cough: I put Ritual Abuse at #4 for top albums last year, Sigilum Luciferi at #3 the year before, and I continuously proclaim their virtues.
Still– this was Special.
Maybe Cough isn’t normally like this, maybe it was a fluke or something.
All I know is, like all good religious ceremonies and all great concerts, Cough just summoned something– something that everyone in the room felt, and felt a part of. The hundred or so people present that night all felt the same thing, and we all just fucking rocked out as it rolled over us.