Heavy Issues – How Has Seeing A Band Live Changed Your Opinion Of Them?

We here at Heavy Blog like to ponder the big questions: Who are we? Why are we here? Y’all wanna single? You know, the big stuff. In order to better address such pressing matters, we bring you Heavy Issues: a bi-weekly column by which we plan to get to the bottom of things. But we can’t just do it on our own, we want to know what you think as well. Read our responses below and weigh in with your own opinions in the comments

This week’s question is: How has seeing a band live changed your opinion of them?

Karlo: The Ocean

I’m generally not a fan of punk or doom, so it follows that sludge isn’t a genre I often turn to. Post-metal is arguably even lower on my list of preferred genres, so on paper The Ocean aren’t really a band I would usually seek out. Back in 2015 their Pelagial (2013) tour took them to Australia’s shores with Caligula’s Horse, one of my favourite bands, billed as main support. The show was very reasonably priced so I decided to go, mainly to see Caligula’s Horse, while a cursory listen or two of Pelagial convinced me it was decent enough to stick around the whole night. What a decision that ended up being

To this day that show ranks as the best I’ve seen. The performances were top notch. The setlist was flawless as they played through the record in full – a record which has gone on to become one of my favourites of all time – with each song perfectly melding into the next. It’s dynamic, knowing precisely when the listener wants a pummelling and when they need some respite. A video accompaniment to the music was projected behind the band, adding an extra dimension to the show that one doesn’t often come across. The crowd was fervent, lapping up every moment amid furious moshing and frequent crowd-surfing. This only fuelled the band’s efforts, each member crowd-surfing mid-song at one point or another, with Loic (vocals) climbing the room’s railings to frequently hang from the ceiling. He almost certainly spent more time on the crowd, or above them, than on stage. It really is something to hold someone above you, watching as they pour their emotions into one roar after another aimed straight at your face. It was glorious.

That night converted me into a lifelong fan of the Ocean and they’ve steadily become one of my favourite bands. Pelagial and Phanerozoic I: Paleozoic (2018) were both comfortably my album of the year (the former, retrospectively) in their respective years and I’ve seen them live at every opportunity since. Were it not for this performance I probably never would’ve given Pelagial much more of a chance, forever pegging the Ocean as an OK band in a genre that I don’t really listen to

Further Considerations: Hadal Maw’s recordings simply don’t do them justice. They sound positively monstrous live, with Sam Dillon as entertaining a vocalist as you could conjure for extreme metal – a true showman. Japanese outfit Crossfaith also didn’t seem anything special on record, but are a ton of fun to see live – super energetic and interactive


 

Pete: Cake

When I was younger, I wasn’t really allowed to go to concerts. Mostly because concerts I wanted to go to were in Atlanta, and my parents didn’t trust a bunch of teenage boys to drive on the highway for over an hour in each direction and also not somehow drink while underage. It seemed unfair at the time but now I get it. Regardless, one of the few times I was allowed to head down for a show was when one of my absolute all-time favorite bands, Cake, played. I was particularly stoked for the show since Cake isn’t exactly a group of road warriors. They mostly did, and still do, a show here and there but no massively organized tours. Pressure Chief (2004) had also just come out with some solid reviews, so I was particularly enthused for it

I had no idea what would happen during the show, but I was still incredibly pleased by what happened. As you can imagine, Cake doesn’t get a pit started or anything like that. It’s also not what you’d call dancing music either, so there wasn’t even much of that kind of excitement to be had. What they do so well is include and address the audience. There was a lot of commentary from vocalist John McCrae, a man who already gives interesting opinions in his music so imagine how he can be when he’s a bit off the cuff. Among his many asides, he asked us to “give it up for running water.” Unfortunately the context has been lost to the fog of time in my mind, but it seemed appropriate at the time.

The best part was during the song “Nugget”. During the second chorus, McCrae put the band on a repeat of the chorus section while he instructed the audience to sing the chorus together. The entire crowd is shouting “Shut the fuck!/Shut the fuck up!”, but it was apparently not good enough for him. He announced that he was only slightly disappointed by the participation and that he wouldn’t continue the song until all of us were shouting in unison. He walked off stage for what seemed like a good 10 minutes when he returned to finish the song. He congratulated us and rewarded our efforts with a few deeps cuts like “Stickshifts and Safety Belts”.

It was a wonderful show that I still compare concerts to to this day: “Yeah, I loved the show, but I saw Cake this one time and it was amazing.” I saw Cake again a few months after that, and the only reason the second show wasn’t as good as the first is because the first show’s set was longer. It was a lot of fun and was more of an experience than a concert. I still try to go out of my way to see Cake on the rare occasion they play near me just to see if they’re still creating experiences like that

Further Consideration: Everybody here knows I’m the resident jam band fan, but moe. was absolutely the worst band I’ve ever seen. I was attending the University of Georgia in 2009 when they came through town for a short spring tour and playing smaller venues. I’ll grant that frat boys tends to ruin everyone’s good time now and then, but moe. didn’t handle the crowd well at all. They became visibly angry and played that anger out in their music which ended up sounding like distracted and half-hearted attempts at jam band improvisations. This only encouraged the frat boys in the front rows to throw more objects at the band, which caused them to become more and more enraged. At some point, someone pulled the fire alarm and forced the show to end early. I remain unconvinced to this day that the alarm wasn’t the band’s doing.

 

Eden: Korn

The year was 2009 and the place was the Graspop Metal Meeting, a large-ish festival in Belgium with an unfortunate name but an amazing lineup. My friends and I were fresh out of Hellfest (a better named festival with an even more amazing lineup that year) and we were ready to see some more bands but also pretty tired. In spite of that, we dragged ourselves to see Korn; don’t get me wrong, I liked the band but more as a band to have a drink and some fun to rather than as a musical endeavor that I might go out of my way to see. Boy, was I surprised by what unfolded on the stage that day.

The band, and especially Jonathan Davis, erupted onto the stage with incredibly energy. They moved from riff to riff like men possessed, giving it their all in spite of their, even back then, well established prestige and standing within the industry. By the time they played two of my favorite tracks back to back, “Falling Away From Me” and “Coming Undone”, I was already deeply feeling the vibe, jumping around in the heat of the brutal sun that was to be the staple of the entire festival. Their energy was infections, taking these tracks that I was used to hearing dimly in poorly lit bars and using them to electrify the entire crowd

However, the trip was far from over. After alighting on the mandatory “Freak On a Leash” (still one of the best nu-metal tracks ever made), Korn covered Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”. Yes, all of it. And they added “Goodbye Cruel World” as their last track, Davis’s heartbreaking rendition cutting through the heat of the day and stinging my eyes with tears. It was an incredibly moving and earnest performance from which it was obvious that they actually loved the band and the music, much more than just a curio or a funny story.

That was the day that I decided to re-listen to Korn’s discography with new eyes and re-discovered one of the bands which shaped my earliest musical tastes. It moved Korn from just another band with a few good bops to one of the most underrated bands the 90’s and early 00’s made (with all their fame, they still are underrated). Nowadays, all thanks to that show, Korn’s early and mid-career still hold a special place in my heart, even if latter material didn’t quite stand up to par. I’ll never forget that hot, humid day and the power the band wielded on that stage.

 

Josh: The Fever333

While I’d still prefer to see letlive. reuinte, I feel like I’ve been more receptive toward Jason Butler’s new outfit,The Fever333, than most. I was intrigued by the promise shown by last year’s Made in America EP (2018) and, although it feels a bit tamer than I was expecting and has a few weaker moments, Strength in Numb333rs (2019) – the band’s debut long-player – contains some outstanding moments. Between the two releases I’d say they have about an album’s worth of seriously impressive material. However, after catching them at Download last week, I’m going to be a lot more skeptical about their future output.

The first sign that things would go awry came before the band even took the stage. During the soundcheck they played the chorus of “The Innocent” through the speakers, which makes sense, since the song is backed by a choir. Yet, even that rubbed me the wrong way, given that there was a tent full of people there waiting to fill the role. Bands (over)using backing tracks has really been bugging me of late, but I’ll accept that it’s par for the course at this point. What was unusual was that Butler’s voice was included in the sample as well – not just his harmonies but the full chorus itself. It struck me as odd at the time, but I put it down to just being a test.

I was lucky enough to catch letlive. on a couple of occasions before they broke up, and have no problem calling Butler one of the most talented and charismatic frontmen in modern music. However, the results were rough from the get-go. His opening screams were muffled beyond recognition – by an over-cupped microphone as much as the overdriven PA system and terrible tent acoustics, which I was willing to let go, but when he hit the chorus of the opening number (“Burn It”, probably my favourite song of theirs) a track of his singing could be heard drowning out his live vocals. I felt cheated, and when it happened on the second chorus as well I moved to the back of the crowd and considered making an exit.

The second song, “We’re Coming In”, saw Butler jump into the crowd, where he quickly lost his microphone. He then ran through the crowd to the soundbooth – which I was standing next to at this point – and climbed the scaffolding behind it. Once he reached the top he turned around and flailed about for a second, before immediately climbing back down and returning to the stage, just as the song was finishing and without having sung any of it. Bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan have made their name through such stunts. Hell, I’ve seen Fever333 guitarist Stephen Harrison climb the support scaffolding all the way to the very top of that very tent when he played here with The Chariot. However, then it felt like part of the performance, not a departure from it and, when Greg Puciato’s singing while hanging upside down off of something, the point is that he’s still singing. A bass could be heard, even though there was none on stage, and when Butler threw the mic out to the crowd on the third song “Made an America” and his voice could still be heard through the speakers I finally walked off.

Backing tracks are nothing new. I’ve seen Periphery play a set that was at least 40% tracks and still be blown away but, again, then they were used to accentuate not supplement the performance. I’d maybe be more forgiving of The Fever333 if they hadn’t built themselves around a DIY aesthetic. This is the band who first announced themselves by showing up in the back of a truck and playing a show in a doughnut-store car park and who insist on adding 3s to everything in an attempt to sell themselves as a bare-bones power trio. Maybe the whole DIY shtick went out the door when they showed up with Travis Barkeron Last Call with Carson Daly and I’m just deluding myself. Either way, the whole thing felt completely disingenuous and, while I still enjoy listening to their songs on record, I can’t say I care anymore about The Fever333.

Further Considerations: Upon leaving the tent I headed over to the main stage where Airbourne were playing. Although they’ve never done that much for me on record they’re a great festival band. Last time I saw them, frontman Joel O’Keeffe climb all the way to the top of the main stage rigging which he hung off by one leg WHILE STILL PLAYING HIS GUITAR! and, later in the set, they introduced one of their songs by bringing out AN ACTUAL AIR RAID SIREN! and winding it up on stage. So I’d say they were the perfect remedy to my disappointment.

Further Considerations: Upon leaving the tent I headed over to the main stage where Airbourne were playing. Although they’ve never done that much for me on record they’re a great festival band. Last time I saw them, frontman Joel O’Keeffe climb all the way to the top of the main stage rigging which he hung off by one leg WHILE STILL PLAYING HIS GUITAR! and, later in the set, they introduced one of their songs by bringing out AN ACTUAL AIR RAID SIREN! and winding it up on stage. So I’d say they were the perfect remedy to my disappointment.

. . .

That’s it for us, but we want to know: How has seeing a band live changed your opinion of them? Let us know in the comments, and if you have any questions or topics you’d like the Heavy Blog crew to cover, suggest away and we may use them in a future installment!

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