June 22nd, 2011
New York, NY
A Russian Vodka Room preshow. Baltika Blue no. 3, infused vodka (cranberry; peach and apricot; horseradish; ginger; garlic, pepper and dill) and handfuls of bread to soak it up. The pretty barkeep getting sick of us grubbing free bread.
Can we have more of that, please?
Street tacos, pizza and a last-minute earplug run on the way to the extreme west side of Manhattan.
Terminal 5, aptly named. Looks like the depressed wino cousin of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Inside, a spacious concrete box. Booming sound, cerulean blue light. Heavy with the cannabis smog. Three levels, bars at every turn. A license to print money.
We’re served something light and watery in a plastic cup.
Is that Tecate?
No. You can change it if you didn’t touch the other one.
We take the beer with the lime. It always helps.
Young metalers. Beards & Fedoras. Too young for Sleep’s first go around. But they tuned in, turned on and got hip to the San Jose sound.
Once again, too late for the t-shirts. Sold out. Good for the band.
The stage stacked with stacks. Multiple black amps, black cabinets. A total blackness. There is a low-decibel rumble of anticipation. It sounds like a bass was left on to fend for itself. This may be louder than High On Fire, if that is sonically possible.
And it is.
The first song, the epic Dopesmoker, performed almost in its entirety. Long, brooding, expansive.
Did 25 minutes just go by? Jesus…
Images of space exploration, again. Carl Sagan’s face hovers over the band. As good a mascot as any. The billion stars in the endless black night.
Up the stairs to another level, another space. Some jackass is throwing plastic cups, limes, wet napkins on the crowd below. It’s guys like this that give the honest metal fan a bad name and an urge to do something stupid, or surreal. I was hoping the big dude in the Motorhead shirt would jack him over the edge for an Irving Plaza-style upper deck stage dive. I saw it once at a Slayer show. Scary shit. But the ass-jacking never happens. Dude just keeps impressing his lady friend with schoolboy antics. What a guy.
More NASA imagery. Then down the ocean floor. Sharks colliding with outer space. Planets shifting slowly. The merging of the heavens. Global immensity.
Not one word of stage banter. A full two-hour set, without stops. Commitment to the work, the chord. The Essential Riff.
There is no irony to the final sequence of images—Stonehenge during the solstice, druids passing through time. It was, after all, the first night of the first full day of summer.
Overheard after the final washes of feedback cleared the air:
Is that a new space-time continuum?
I think so.
Photographs by the Concert Club for the Rock File