SXSW Review: Mastodon, March 17, Empire Garage

Mastodon

Wikipedia states:

“a Mastodon (Greek: “breast” and “tooth”) is any species of extinct mammutid proboscideans in the genus Mammut, distantly related to elephants, that inhabited North and Central America during the late Miocene or late Pliocene up to its extinction at the end of the Pleistocene 10,000 to 11,000 years ago.”

So why was I taking their pictures while standing waves formed in my jello brain? The answer is that I had obviously followed the “wrong” teacher and deposited myself into Metal-land. Before this point in time, my interaction with the concept of metal (if you discount the periodic table and solid mechanics textbooks) had been limited to the hoarse screams issuing from mediocre metalcore bands on 6th/Red-River, and “Girls Girls Girls.” Even that was courtesy of Futurama. I wasn’t even aware that Mötley Crüe is spelled with so many umlauts, which seem more reminiscent of gowned socialites around a glistening plaster Moët & Chandon fountain than sweaty mamas plastered salaciously to glistening leather-clad outlaws.

No. I know nothing about metal.

That’s never stopped us. In fact, we specialize in the “know-nothing approach” to reviews. Mastodon is probably the only certified heavy progressive metal band I have ever seen live in concert.

I’ve always had a knack for finding the worst spots in a concert, stuck behind some tall guy whose shoulders I can’t even reach. That’s normally OK, since they tend to be tombstones and wouldn’t block my camera. I think it speaks to the energy of this crowd that it wasn’t possible here. 6’5″ men were headbanging while jumping up and down, trying to dislodge their brains through some orifice, and may well have succeeded if they didn’t also need eyes to see Troy Sanders and Brent Hinds. I had to move away fearing that my lens would either break on someone’s jaw, or a dread-lock would entangle my camera and send it stage-side like a trebuchet. But, you the reader likely don’t give 2 somethings and just want to shout at the top of your lungs, millimeters from my ears. What can I say, I’m analytical about everything.

Mastodon is out promoting their upcoming album, Emperor of Sand. To me they are actually more amenable than the pure screaming that I am accustomed to reject. I certainly enjoyed picking out the guitar riffs during “The Wolf Is Loose” and “Bladecatcher”, and even that weird country-like twist in “Megalodon.” “Andromeda,” a new song from the album, may have even broken my stereotype of metal music. Just think – the screaming is so restrained that I can actually hear the machine-gun-paced guitar speak for itself! Nowadays, even a one-man-show can have good lighting, and I readily submit that classical, indie rock, and folk songs have never been conducive to glamour, but I quite enjoyed the spectacle of this show. With well-choreographed and dazzling laser lights synchronized to the music, this was a few firecrackers and roman candles short of being one of the more visually memorable concerts. So there, my indie-rock-eye-view of a heavy metal show. As to the sonic department, I won’t lie – I’m still no convert. But perhaps now I have more vocabulary to debate on that subject.

Oxymoronically, academics never learn (to shut up). Not even from extinction of large elephants.

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Posted on by Gary in South By Southwest

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