Mastodon/Dillinger Escape Plan @ Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow, UK – 8th February 2012
Barrowlands Market is where you buy your sh!t back on a Sunday, after your gaff has been broken into during the week. Barrowlands Ballroom sits above the stolen goods hotspot. Located in the east of the Glasgow city centre, the trendy bars and restaurants of Merchant City lay to the west, the extensive parklands of Glasgow Green to the south and to the east we have junkie-inhabited council estates.
Barrowlands Ballroom is a sight from the outside. Neon signage indicates that you may be in for a night of roller disco rather than sweaty metal. On the inside it looks like, well, a ballroom.
Noise Road tried to push through the big crowd towards the end of Red Fang’s opening set. Unable to penetrate past the side bar, we invested in a couple cans of £2.50 Carlsbergs and enjoyed the last 3 fuzzy tracks.
At the crowd exodus for a drink, for a smoke, for a t-shirt, for a sh!t, for whatever… NR pushed forward for Dillinger’s set.
Flick through the Noise Road previous posts and you’ll find nothing documented more than a Dillinger show. I prefer Dillinger’s manic energy to be bouncing of the walls of a tiny venue – but in 2012, you are never going to catch a Mastodon/Dillinger bill in anything smaller than a theatre. It’s great that Dillinger can play to a sympathetic crowd this size. It’s amazing that previously underground behemoths, Mastodon, are now just behemoths. There is still hope for the world.
I first caught Dillinger on the Miss Machine tour of Australia. In Fowler’s, you were unable to escape the reach of Weinman and Puciato as they entered the floor and physically demanded that you engage. They are never going to be able to physically threaten that casual listener chilling at the bar tonight.
Without a record to pimp, and with a shorter opening slot and potential new fans to win over, Dillinger delivered somewhat of a best-of set. The classic heavy tracks bookended the night – with the traditional opener Panasonic Youth and traditional closers, Sunshine the Werewolf and 43% Burnt. In between there was plenty of sing-along numbers with Black Bubblegum, Milk Lizard, Chinese Whispers and Gold Teeth on a Bum.
Standing on the outside of the violence, I grooved and I sang along. Outside the mosh, I also noticed the nuances of the set. A Room Full of Eyes demonstrates how Dillinger can convey energy and even catchiness from something quite odd in riff and structure.
For a band that throws themselves around and often forsakes notes or words for crowd interaction, Dillinger are tight. When one or two members are ad-libbing the remainder of the band lock-in. Drummer Rymer and bassist Wilson hold tight all night. Tuttle locks in the riff while Weinman misses the odd note on top of the crowd. Tuttle and Weinman sing the melodic hook while the Puciato rasp is lost is somewhere on the floor.
At one point, Puciato took a running leap into the crowd, hitting the punters feet first in a still upright position. The energy that Dillinger deliver in is undeniable. I doubt anyone leaves without a strong opinion either way on them.
A cheeky couple of pints between sets and we shuffled back into the ballroom just before Mastodon stepped on stage.
You can get a distorted view of the world reading blogs. On the internet it seems to be a case of when you got off the Mastodon train. There are many scathing sell-out reviews for Mastodon’s latest, The Hunter. Others left Mastodon on Crack the Skye, accusing the band of pretentiousness. Some even left on Blood Mountain. Blood Mountain!
The internet is not the real world. The internet would lead you to believe that these kids are only here for the more melodic or less heavy works from The Hunter and Crack the Skye - but at the close of the set, the crowd roared along the old crusher, Blood and Thunder, louder than any other track of the night. Split your lungs with blood and thunder, When you see the white whale!
To be honest, I was pretty unsure about Mastodon’s latest, The Hunter, when I first picked it up. Curl of the Burl is instantly catchy stoner rock that opens with the line “I killed a man cos he killed my goat” What’s not to like? But the rest of the album initially left me flat. If this was a sell out album, it was not a good sell out album.
It took 3 or 4 listens to catch the hooks and the intricacies of the simpler structured songs. The thing that came to mind was a Metal Injection interview with Converge’s Kurt Ballou. When asked about Converge’s new album, Ballou stated that he no longer wanted to make a best-of style album. He cited the the Melvins‘ career. Melvins did not try to re-make their major label classic, Houdini, over and over. Through the Melvins’ 30 year career, they have maintained their integrity, creativity and still managed to make a living off music.
Melvins release a noise record and might follow that 3 months later with an almost radio friendly stoner rock record. 6 months later they might release a drone record.
What did we expect Mastodon to release? Did we want them to bang out sludgy Remission clones for the remainder of their careers? How limiting is that? Do we really want them to release Crack the Skye epics every two years? Isn’t that likely to get boring? Mastodon felt a bunch of hooky riffs and they banged them out. Its not their best album, but it is a good album. A necessary album
I caught Mastodon in Manchester on their last UK cycle. They played the epic Crack the Skye album in its entirety. Perhaps fatigued by a year of playing 10-minute prog freak-outs, tonight featured only two tracks off that album. In fact Mastodon played twice as many tracks tonight. A significant chunk of The Hunter was played but it did not dominate amongst large slabs of both the albums Leviathan and Blood Mountain.
A sense of fun replaced the weight of the previous tour. The big rock of The Hunter tracks contrasted with the heavier noodle-fests of the older material. The Hunter shows the growth in Mastodon’s vocals. The band were brave enough to switch from straight out growling to melodic singing over the course of the last two albums. In some circles they were criticised. However tonight the vocals are strong from all members, and the simpler song structures rely on this new element.
Its fun to sing a long and rock out to the new material. Its fun to bang your head to old riff fests of Colony of Birchmen and Aqua Dementia… and nothing brings a greater smile to my face than the robot mic of Circle of Cysquatch.
This is my second big theatre/stadium show in a couple of months and I’ve enjoyed the shared experience both times.
After roaring Blood and Thunder, Mastodon momentarily left the stage. They returned with Red Fang and Dillinger in tow for a group sing of the sad tale of the swamp monster, the melancholic melody of the Creature Lives.
Big rock. Big fun.