The Vernon Club, just off the interstate in Louisville, Kentucky, is about the space of a really spacious apartment. It’s under a bowling alley. A double Jack Daniel’s costs $12 (£ 7.5). Not much compared to Boston or New York, but still….
(Maybe) interestingly, this whole endeavor became, at least while wading through the opening bands, a sort of amateur sociological study:
At a casual glance, band members and audience members tended to look like metal fans tend to look– i.e., homeless and probably suffering from at least several personality disorders: old black clothes, dreads, very long hair and beards, et cetera.
What might not be as obvious is how much money they spent to look this way– by my estimation, there were thousands of dollars’ worth of tats (full color sleeves, back tats, everything) and musical equipment ($2000 Hamer, Paul Reed Smith, Fender and Gibson guitars –and two or so of these per musician), not to mention the amps and electronics through which they played them.
It’s the John Cougar Mellancamp haircut issue: an hour on your hair, spent to look like you just got out of bed.
The dress code, too, was even more narrow than the first time I went to a metal concert– I was wearing, comically literally, the only white t-shirt and white shoes in the whole venue (and after noticing this after about an hour, I consciously scanned the place to see if I was being paranoid– nope).
And I am not giving up my Hanes v-necks. Fuck you.
Of all people, I would argue Billy Joel summarizes this phenomenon the most succinctly:
Where have you been hidin’ out lately, honey?
You can’t dress trashy till you spend a lot of money.
Ah, metal– 25 years after my first concert, still a fashion show. (Not that other genres aren’t.)
I drove two hours to see Goatwhore and have been standing this whole time because chairs are apparently not metal. Don’t get me wrong– I’m in good shape and I work out five days a week– but I’m essentially middle-aged and after five hours of just standing, watching bands, my goddamned feet hurt.
They still do, as I write this.
And so after five (fucking five!) local opening bands, one of whom I’ll write about later, New Orleans’ Satanic-blackened-death-thrash-metal outfit Goatwhore go on at 11:15 pm.
At this point there was so much smoke from the smoke/fog/haze machine my sinuses are still nearly completely blocked– but Goddamn…
it looked cool.
Black (ened) metal needs theatrics… it needs features that highlight and exaggerate the ceremonial aspects of the performance… just ask Watain and their blood-fests. They set the stage.
I would argue, anthropologically-speaking, that they play up an essential human need to connect to the Divine, and are accoutrements we find psychologically necessary to facilitate that process.
But that’s just me.
You know… it’s whatevs, as the kids say today. (So I hear.)
So with no curtain, Goatwhore walked onto the stage and started talking, via the PA, with the sound engineer: they were particularly (in my experience, anyway) specific and demanding about their “wedges” (i.e., stage sound monitors)– noticeably the specific combination of what they wanted to hear as they played: guitarist Sammy Duet, in a rather intimidating tone, I venture to say, needed snare and bass in his; singer Ben Falgoust wanted the vocals way down in the mix, but wanted the guitars way up; and bassist James Harvey, all six foot four of him, never said a word– he just kept gesturing up and down until he nodded approval with whatever he was hearing.
Once this was settled, Ben Falgoust looked at the other members of Goatwhore, a few seconds passed…
…and shit EXPLODED.
I mean, surprisingly so, considering the band members were discussing trivialities for about a full five minutes in front of the audience.
But once they started playing… they became– Something Else.
In all seriousness… irony aside: fucking… wow.
This is why you see bands in person.
Maybe the openers were there only to reinforce the star power, for lack of a better word, of Goatwhore.
The other bands were fine, very technically and musically competent– but there was always that seeming hesitation, that subverbal lack of confidence: and after five bands’ worth of this, you start to think maybe it’s just you.
And then Ben Falgoust starts singing, and his sheer stage presence is comically obvious compared to the previous five other bands.
Metal doesn’t use the term “star power” or “stage presence” that much (thank God), but here, it’s genuinely deserved– once Goatwhore started playing, it was obvious they had that certain something (particularly Falgoust): you wanted to watch him; you wanted to hear whatever he had to say, you wanted to do what he told you to do (generally involving screaming HEY and fist pumping)–
What’d they play, you might’ve asked, droolingly…?
Let’s see: “Collapse in Eternal Worth” and “When Steel and Bone Meet,” from the upcoming Blood For the Master; what I think was “Into a Darker Sun,” from The Eclipse of Ages into Black; “Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult” from A Haunting Curse; “Blood Guilt Eucharist,” from Funeral Dirge for the Rotting Sun; “The All-Destroying,” “Carving out the Eyes of God,” [see below] and “Provoking the Ritual of Death,” from Carving Out the Eyes of God.
Falgoust’s stage banter between numbers was funny and/ or hilarious: a bit about Blood For the Master being released on Valentine’s Day –“Maybe it’s a reference to your significant other’s time of the month,” got a lot of laughs; and when he asked if anyone had pre-ordered the upcoming album, one guy screamed something– after this Falgoust said, “Hey listen, I don’t care if you buy it, I don’t care if you steal it, I’m not here to accuse you, I just want you to rock the album… I got an idea: everyone [here], just borrow that guy’s copy, and in a couple of months, when we come back, everyone’ll be on the same page.”
AND they played the intro to Sab’s “Into the Void,” causing an embarrassing amount of THRILL on my part.
“Who needs a god, when you’ve got Satan?!”
Which EVERYONE, from the bouncers, to the kids up front, to the bartenders, knew–
it was practically liturgical– (perhaps ironically)… but the thrill was still there in screaming the line, with both hands making the HORNS.
All in all, there were about 100 people there at the end (about 25 of whom, no exaggeration, were in opening bands)– not bad for a cold Monday night with no other major bands playing.
I recorded about 30 seconds of “Carving Out the Eyes of God,” which you can see below (I would’ve recorded more, but I’m not a fucking documentarian– I came to rock out, baby).