Yeah, it’s that tour. The one the US had last year and we were all really jealous about. Oh well. We got it too. Mastodon and The Dillinger Escape Plan released the Thrash Hits Album of the Year of 2011 and 2010 respectively. Red Fang released an album last year but it went largely unnoticed. Shit happens. The good news is that we went to Brixton (and Manchester) to see this tour. Is that good news? It is. It definitely is.
Six things we learnt when we saw Mastodon/TDEP/Red Fang at Brixton
1) This was the perfect gig for Red Fang. They’ve got the balls to throw out a ten-minute stoner metal jam in front of thousands of people who have never heard of them. It’s sludgy, it’s groovy, it’s angry, it’s got melodies and song structure. They’ve got the balls to have bigger beards than every other band member on this tour. Red Fang not only have the music but they’ve just fit in. They’ve got the kind of balls that people in the audience look at and think, “I wish I had those kind of balls.” Red Fang were built for this support slot. Judging by all the banging heads in the audience, they’ve made a lot of friends tonight, no question.
2) There were some troubling times at Hevy Festival. We’d been building ourselves up to a Dillinger Escape Plan headline set for the whole weekend and when it came it was a bit of a damp squib. We couldn’t hear anything. At the start of their set tonight, the sound was so tinny, claggy and downright shitty that we feared the same thing was happening. Luckily we were smart enough to run down to the front ASAP where it sounded great. Other people down the front included Mastodon fans, Mastodon fans and… Mastodon fans. The only problem is that the audience is static. Almost 100 per cent stock still. You could make the argument that maybe they just weren’t warmed up yet, but they were moving for Red Fang alright. The fact of the matter is that while TDEP are an excellent band, they’re an acquired taste and despite definitely being in the prog metal category, they’re not in the stoner metaller category so this particualr metal venn diagram doesn’t quite merge.
3) Down at the front, issues of sound quality fall by the wayside as the sheer, terrifying, intensity of The Dillinger Escape Plan manifested itself on the Brixton stage. With DEP, it’s all too easy to focus solely on the fury of Weinman (who was quite literally spitting blood at one point after his antics resulted in him taking a hit to the gob) and the bug-eyed antics of Puciato when the band play live, but the other members of DEP still radiate more ferocity than most entire bands. If the Anti-Christ walks the Earth, then truly he is Jeff Tuttle – to stare up into his face when he slid along the front of the stage, and witness the energy with which he skidded back to his mic stand to roar out his backing vox, bordered on the supernatural. Liam Wilson manhandled his bass like it’d just insulted his significant other, and Billy Rymer’s quite frankly furious performance (both when bashing his skins and screaming in rage when his monitors seemingly packed up) cemented his place as a worthy successor to Chris Pennie and Gill Sharone as the other half of DEP’s rhythm section. That might read like a fuckton load of hyperbole, but a band that’s been at the high levels and for as long and as consistently as The Dillinger Escape Plan have, well, then it’s warranted.
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4) It almost seems prickish to find even the slightest fault with Mastodon’s Brixton show – but then again, Mastodon are almost that kind of band now, aren’t they? They’re now a band that’s so monolithically impressive, both in the eyes of critics and their ever-growing fanbase (with tonight’s 4,900 sold-out show being Mastodon’s biggest headline show ever to date, on their twenty-somethingth European tour), that criticism of them is buried under a barrage of “shut the fuck up” from their legion of supporters. But the dickhead in me kept feeling a tiny niggle in the back of my mind that the Mastodon I was watching tonight wasn’t really the same Mastodon as I’ve seen play over the last eight years. This isn’t some veiled and bitter “a band I like got too big and now other people like them!” whinge, or an elitist “I’m so over them now!” claim. Tonight really was among the best shows I’ve ever seen the band play.
5) What tonight saw was the end of “four guys who play together in a band called Mastodon” to being “MASTODON: THE GIANT THING THAT YOU CAN’T QUITE COMPREHEND ANYMORE” – an existence and experience so separate from “real” life that I don’t think it’s possible for anyone outside of it to truly explain it. I’m not entirely sure that’s even a negative thing (and I’m sure as shit not happy with how I’m articulating it), but it’s happened. Whatever that thing happens to be.
6) Oh, and as cheesy as fuck as it is to end a show with a mass sing-along to ‘The Creature Lives’ under a balloon shower was, it was also several different kinds of amazing. Only a total thundercunt could begrudge them that.
NB: Balloons aren’t metal