While supporters of gay marriage were holding impromptu celebrations in the streets around the Bay Area last night, fans of heavy music were having their own celebration of sorts — inside Slim’s, where a lucky group of fans packed inside to see a dream lineup: Quicksand, Mastodon, High on Fire, Saviours, and Hot Lunch. The show was part of a free, five-day concert series put on by Converse (the shoe company) to promote the opening of its San Francisco store. Each night of “Converse Represent” featured its own theme: electronic (Hot Chip), indie-rock (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, DIIV), hip-hop (Blackalicious, Deltron 3030), and punk (Suicidal Tendencies).
Last night’s show was the metal lineup, and it didn’t disappoint. Like the other nights, the show was free, but entrance was only obtained by entering a lottery system. Apparently the odds were good because the place was jam-packed when I got there, which was close to 8 p.m. (it apparently started at 6 p.m., but who can get to a show that early?), just as Oakland’s Saviours were ending their set with a rousing version of “Crete’n,” the ode to motorcycles off the band’s last album, 2011’s Death’s Procession.
There was a definite Oakland/family vibe to the whole affair, as Saviours, High on Fire, and Hot Lunch are all East Bay-based, and Mastodon is good friends with High on Fire and Saviours. The backstage area seemed as packed as the front of the stage with friends and hangers-on.
By the time High on Fire went on, the place was reaching sauna-like conditions. The trio launched into a thunderous version of “Frost Hammer,” and drummer Des Kensel’s double-bass whipped the crowd into a sweaty frenzy. Frontman Matt Pike was as Pike-esque as ever — shirt off, pants riding low, drenched in sweat. An extended version of “Snakes for the Divine” followed, but then it was over before you knew it — perhaps to give fans enough reason to see its headlining show the following night (i.e., tonight) at the Uptown. It was a major tease, but a really great one.
Mastodon came on next, and the Atlanta band seemed to draw out the knuckleheads. Even though the band didn’t play any of the harder songs off its first two albums, which was kind of a bummer, and played some of the most mellow music of the night, the pit got uncomfortably rowdy, and I spent much of the set bracing myself from getting clobbered. A bracelet got sacrificed in the process, but the fact that my teeth remained seemed like a decent compromise. This set was much longer compared to High on Fire’s, and highlights included “Oblivion,” “Spectrelight,” and “Octopus Has No Friends.”
Yet, maybe it was the fact that the drummer’s vocals were barely audible on the couple songs he sang, or the fact that I was in constant fear of getting knocked down, or the fact that the guy behind me kept yelling “Iron Tusk!” in my ear, but after a while I kind of wanted Mastodon to stop playing. (You can see them this Sunday at Shoreline, btw.)
Sure enough, when Quicksand came on, around 10:15 p.m., the knuckleheads had largely cleared the room. Those who remained were noticeably older, so the pit was friendlier, too — though no less enthusiastic. If you had any notions that the legendary NYC post-hardcore band was a little out of place in this all-metal lineup, you were quickly disabused of that. The band sounded in top form, and played many hits, including “Fazer” and “Thorn in My Side,” as well as “Omission,” “Brown Gargantuan,” “Delusional,” and “Landmine Spring.” The aggressive, driving, and crunchy songs may have been written twenty (20!) years ago, but they sounded far from stale. Similarly, frontman Walter Schreifels appeared as youthful as ever. Donning a tank top, showing off his lithe body (yoga much?), and swaying to the grooves, he might’ve been mistaken as the frontman of a reggae band.
BTW, some people have lamented the fact that corporations have gotten into the music-promotion scene (see Scion A/V Metal, Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, and, most recently, Chipotle Cultivate Festival), but personally, I think there could be worse things than providing paying gigs for musicians you like and want to support. The corporate-ness of last night’s show was kept at a minimum; besides a wall of video screens that reminded you of the event’s organizers, which was interspersed with live-time images of the bands performing, and a wall that encouraged people to note which neighborhood they “represented,” there was little in the way of force-fed advertising or shwag. Besides, if corporations recognize the value of bands to their business and support them, maybe others will take note.
Top Three Moments:
1) Running into Torche’s Steve Brooks (such a nice guy!) in the crowd and learning that he just moved here.
2) High on Fire playing “Frost Hammer,” one of the band’s heaviest and yet sweetest songs, considering Pike wrote it about Kensel’s then-newborn son.
3) Schreifels trying to get his band to join him in playing Sleep’s “Dragonaut” — alas, to no avail.