A Deafheaven/Tribulation tour? At The Fine Line Music Café? I’ve been to The Fine Line all of 2 times. The first was years ago for a band called Boogie Wonderland (70s & 80s covers). Normally, these are details that would have left my mind long ago, but I ended that particular evening with a hickey on each side of my neck. It’s not as cool as it sounds, and at the same time, probably even more absurd than it sounds. It was our friend’s 21st birthday. She looked a lot like Wynona Ryder, except better, and she was studying to become a nurse (think scrubs). At one point we were secretly into each other, but the stars just never aligned (she always had a boyfriend; I was always a loser). Regardless, that evening, in her voyage through 21st birthday drunkenness, she decided, while we all stood in a group talking, to shop-vac my neck and give me a massive hickey. As if that wasn’t awkward enough, my friend’s to-be wife, truly one of the best humans I’ve ever met, who may have been just as drunk, followed suit and put an equally large hickey on the opposing side of my neck. The real icing on the cake was that I headed to Duluth the next morning to do the whole visit-family-while-at-college thing. With my mom and her family being devout Roman Catholics of Polish decent, my 21-year-0ld self was expected to join in the Sunday church ritual, but this time, against my will (think Mommy Dearest), I strolled into church with a striking pair of Band-Aids on each side of my neck, and not the flesh colored band-aids of today, these things could be seen from 100 yards. If this sounds like the most ridiculous thing ever, you’re right. Sadly, I can probably top it…for another day though.
My last time at The Fine Line though, with some false hope of turning the tone of this post around, was to see Mastodon. It was their Crack the Skye tour. They played the album in it’s entirety, at which point, I was beyond amazed as well as thinking it was time to call it a night. They came back out for what I thought would be your typical 2-4 song encore, but instead they played 14 more songs. Brutally crushing and ridiculously amazing. My body physically hurt in so many ways… and it was beautiful. I didn’t even mind the guy with the abnormally large head swaying back and for the entire evening… at least I had a clear view for half the time.
Back to my initial statement, the self-described complexity of this event was something I couldn’t wrap my mind around. Why would Deafeaven be touring with Tribulation? I’m certain I had a pained look on my face every time I asked myself. And because Tribulation had to cancel, I actually struggled with the concept until the day after the show…but why? The reality is, I thought Tribulation was actually Inquisition. Have you ever done that? Does anyone really care? Upon pulling my head out of my ass, Tribulation seemed like a much better partner of a road companion.
So, Deafheaven. From what I hear and read, most people either love or hate this band. I see the term “hipster band” used a lot, which may or may not be true, but hopefully most people don’t put too much weight in disliking bands because of other’s tastes, especially in this scene. I’ve been a Deafheaven fan since Roads to Judah appeared on Brandon Stosuy’s year end list for 2011. I’ve always been a sucker for USBM and the various takes and re-interpretations of it as well as a sucker for solid melody. I had missed a few opportunities to see Deafheaven in previous months and years, at a more fitting venues, but I was actually pretty stoked to finally be seeing them live tonight.
I was flying solo tonight for the first time in a long while. Once I got in, I grabbed a beer and claimed a spot on the floor. It was great to look around and see about 9 of myself: short hair, dark glasses, black t-shirt, jeans, bearded and constantly staring at an iPhone. Individuality…yeah. Not yet knowing that Tribulation had fully cancelled when I arrived (initially it was reported that the bands were switching spots because of Tribulation’s van issues), I spent the next 90 minutes enjoying a few beers and taking in the crowd. Cool haircuts, cool glasses, big watches, ugly sweaters, and poor posture…basically an H&M fall catalog photoshoot. What I was really doing in that 90 minute span was trying not to bum a cigarette. I accidentally parked myself next to the smoker’s door. I was 7 days into not smoking for the 500th time and the doppelganger to my right had a cigarette behind his left ear just screaming my name. I pretty much become the Jason Bourne equivalent of the nicotine underground when my mind has nothing to focus on except repeated waves of tobacco indulgence.
Deafheaven sounded exactly how I anticipated…intensely amazing. The fact that someone in the crowd had the most refreshing scent made it nearly impossible for me to do anything but completely enjoy the show. Seeing a security staff who looked more like members of a wedding party only added to the magic. They were so professional about breaking up the slightest shred of any mosh-like activity. Deafheaven predictably started their set by with the opening track off of New Bermuda, “Brought to the Water” followed by the second track, “Luna.” Continuing mostly with tracks off the new album, it was near the middle-end when they played “From the Kettle Onto the Coil,” an unfamiliar song to me, but clearly a worthy member of their catalog. They spent the latter portion of the set on Sunbather tracks, with their 2-song encore consisting of “Sunbather” and “Dream House.” While New Bermuda is a pleasantly welcomed, edgier Deafheaven, their overall sound still navigates between avant-gardish USBM and blackened shoegaze. My only criticism of their actual sound is that they almost sound “too good” at times, if that makes any sense. There are moments where I hear shimmers of The Smashing Pumpkins piercing through. I love the Pumpkins, but not necessarily looking for that here. During their set, they would have brief, ambient interludes between each song, which I assumed were meant to lead into the next song, but I started to noticed they would abruptly stop before each song stated, just enough to make it sound awkward. Regardless, it was finally worth the wait to finally see Deafheaven live, even if a sequel of matching hickeys wasn’t in the cards.