concert review

Nine consecutive weeks on tour with only two days off. For those doing the math, that adds up to sixty-one shows in sixty-three days. That’s the type of grueling tour schedule we’re talking about. It’s nearly unprecedented to put together a calendar like that, because who would believe it could be done? Even the most mundane of desk jobs requires more than two days off in a two-month span.

Driving to this show, I had a pretty good idea of what I hoped it would be. With the top of the dance card topped by such names as 3 Inches of Blood and Goatwhore, I earnestly pined for a show that would celebrate all the vast excesses of heavy metal as a play in two acts.

With “Earth Rocker” released to the world, it stood to reason that Clutch would blaze a trail across the United States bringing their blend of rock and roll and swamp blues to the masses nationwide. This tour was especially poignant given Clutch’s asserted desire to unequivocally return to their rock roots and re-establish themselves as the preeminent rock band in the U.S. With Neil Fallon’s admission that “Earth Rocker” and “Blast Tyrant” producer Machine was in attendance on this night, expectations were high. Along for this part of the ride were Orange Goblin and Lionize.

The word is out. Volbeat is far from a secret. Those not familiar with the Danish rock and metal powerhouse are officially behind in the count now. Playing the Best Buy Theater in the burning neon heart of Times Square, Volbeat had sold out the show weeks in advance. I had it on pretty damn good authority that industry people, journalists and an audience from all over Europe were flying into New York City to witness this show.

New York City has long been the proving ground for any number of musical acts in any number of musical genres. It is a place where dreams come true and can be shattered (as was painstakingly recorded and subsequently overplayed by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys.) Just as with their local sports teams (go Mets!) the New York music fan is well versed in his or her chosen paradigm, and impressing those individuals can go a long way toward making or breaking a career. So it was that a dutifully loyal crowd assembled at the Gramercy Theater to pass judgment on Turisas, Firewind and Stolen Babies.

What kind of a show was Graveyard? Allow me to set the scene. After driving two hours to Boston, my wife and I were greeted by temperatures hovering right around the zero mark, with a persistent wind that just wouldn’t let up. We were in the middle of the most rugged cold snap the Northeast had witnessed in at least two years, and the car whined much of the way about having to perform under duress. Simply walking to and from dinner was a chore, and we knew immediately that windburn had damaged the unprotected portions of our faces.

If you’ve never been to a show at Bridge Street Live in central Connecticut, you’re missing out. The place is essentially a massive ballroom with a corner stage, plenty of table seating, suitably dim lighting and perfect acoustics. The ambiance of the building is set wonderfully in a retro rock and roll motif; art deco and clean design lines run tastefully rampant through the corridors and over toward the bar. It was exactly the kind of place that The Reverend Horton Heat would be expected to play.

The Middle East in Cambridge, Massachusetts is a wonderful place to see a show, offering a fill menu of quality items upstairs and then…the basement. Going down those black, diamond plate steps into the din of the restaurant’s basement is enough of a sensation to make the concert patron feel like he or she is a part of something. You become a member of the privileged few, the crowd who is enough in the know to want to know more about the evening’s music to come.

Dark, cynical roadhouses lke Bogie’s in Albany, New York have been and continue to be the proving grounds or metal. It is here that the crowds deem bands worthy, encouraging their heroes with raised glasses of ale while passing judgment on inferior act with their austere silence. The lights are low, the die-hards are out, the Sword of Damocles dangles precariously over the musician’s necks.

It was, as Billy Joel famously sang, a pretty good crowd for a Saturday. Worcester, Massachusetts was enjoying the throes of the Rock and Shock Festival, a multi day event that had come down to this: Legacy of Disorder, Cancer Bats, DevilDriver and naturally, GWAR. Who else would be appropriate for such an occasion but those undisputed lords of shock and awe?