The older I get, the harder it is muster up the energy to go to a show on any night of the week, let alone a Monday Night. There are so many factors in life that keep the inertia aimed squarely at where the kitchen is stocked and the couch is one I’ve passed out on before, that I just don’t see myself doing this very often. But as someone with at least 10 Melvins shows under my belt, an undeniable love of Motorhead, and a stack of RABBITS albums I swear upon when I need to speak under oath, even the lightest wiff of a metal show gets me a little excited.
Clearly, I’m not the only one, because two touring bands from New Orleans I had never heard of – sandwiching an up and coming local act – was enough to get nearly all of the local die-hards out, and from the way were were all partying, none of us realized they had to go to work the next day.
Recluse (reclusenola.bandcamp.com) opened the gig, a truly athletic group that rode the fine line between hardcore and metal in a way that was both majestic and epic. Leaping around while singing, the rest of the group had to deliver their tunes at breakneck pace just to keep up with the riffs, and with a crowd that was as rowdy and ready as this, the beer was flying fairly soon after the first song. At most shows, I usually see a fairly decent crowd out smoking, listening to the band through the fog of night and booze of now. But the moment Recluse began, everyone stampeded in, and the crowd was incredibly thick and ready to party. It was hard to say who was putting out more effort, but Recluse managed to keep the sweat flying the the sounds LOUD, and impressed these locals, immediately.
Local bruisers Witch Breath (witchbreath.bandcamp.com) are, undisputedly, the local masters of doom and black metal, so much so that James performs clad in a black robe, tattoos and necklaces visible, as he croaks and screams along to the doomiest stuff you can imagine. This was a pretty intense performance that must be seen to be believed, and even then, I was shocked that something like this was happening in my back yard.
Witch Breath might be my new favorite thing, with music that is twisted and bent, delivered with both precision and defiance, as well and massive waves of guitar and force to pummel the audience relentlessly in a hypnotic and droning way. It’s hard to say enough nice things about them. Salem has always been a metal town, and the crowd this show drew is more than enough evidence of that. But Witch Breath is calculating, methodical, and perfect for the stoner that has been looking for something new this summer. (Not only do the quiet / loud meditations reek of a Sabbath influence, their self-titled album was released on April 20th, and is just as dank.) I probably don’t have to keep pumping up this band, because from the crowd on Monday, you were probably at the show, know all about them, and are ready to catch them at their next outing. But in case you aren’t: get with the program. These guys are the real deal.
Closing out the bill was Barghest (barghestsoulless.bandcamp.com), and while I was sure the crowd might evaporate with the lateness of the evening and the Mondayness of everything, the crowd actually seemed to double as the evening continued. With hair and double-kick pedals in full action, Barghest destroyed what was left of The Space, and the audience / band started to pour over into each other in that way that happens late at night, when everyone is just having a blast.
Beer & beards flew, heads were in motion, slabs of noise attacked everyone from every direction, and in spite of everything, Barghest had the gall to say we were the nicest crowd they’d played for so far. (Here? Nahhhhh.) With songs that are about mood and ferocity, Barghest makes up for anything that might be missing with the size of their performance, with music that seemed to fill the entire block, let alone the Space. (And let’s not forget the punk attack of some songs that mined hardcore sounds in a way that even DC bands have forgotten how to do.) When these guys turned off their amps and let the ringing in our ears come into focus, there just wasn’t anything left to rock. Everyone was breathless, smelly, and ready for another drink.
As if it weren’t enough to show off that metal crowds know how to do it up better than most, the party really got started after the bands were done. Someone put on KISS, everyone in the place sang along, and what was a small puddle on the floor became a huge, beer-soaked sing-a-long, with tattoos and t-shirts leading the charge to a joyous, raucous closure.
I’ve been to a lot of shows, and a lot of metal shows, to boot, so it wasn’t like I was shocked, or even surprised it could turn out like this. But growing up, Salem’s metal reputation was certainly mired in hair and butt rawk varieties, and shows like this were only happening in “the big city.” Not anymore. This might be the best show I’ve seen in town in quite some time, and in spite of my usual tiredness and sloth, I’m eager for another. But that’s my experience; for these kids, it was just another night out, looking for something that speaks to them, supporting good things when they come around, and finding your friends already there when you show up. And boy, did the crowd that show up.
Hot damn. If this is what I have to look forward to with local metal shows, then going out on a school night is clearly the new Friday Night.