My daughter’s been singing two songs as of late, which is to say I’ve had two songs stuck in my head as of late. Have you ever seen a whale with a polka-dot tail? That’s one of them. You know you know that song, and you’re welcome. Needless to say, I craved some good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll to cleanse my palate.
I was probably 18 when I experienced First Avenue initially, and I was certain I would die that night. I remember being in the men’s room and noticing the stainless steel toilets, realizing the only other place I saw them was in movies that take place in prisons. The other thing I remember was the utter darkness. I couldn’t even see my hand in front of me. It was a venue I grew to love over the years. First Avenue has changed a lot since then. It’s not that dark, ominous place I remember. Then there’s The Entry. 7th Street Entry, essentially the basement of First Avenue, is indeed the same place I remember, and I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s as big as my living room and as dark as a black hole. You literally share sweat and stage with anyone performing. Perfect for metal.
Blue Ox opened the night, and how embarrassed am I that I knew nothing of this Minneapolis-based (local) thrash/sludge/doom band up until now? I went back and listened to their 2011 release Stray Dogs on Pity Party Island, an album that seemingly encompassed a range of sounds touching sludge, doom, thrash, hardcore, etc. Their live set though, felt more doom/sludge-esque, and they hit it good…real good. They literally knocked my cousin’s beer off the ledge with the massive depth of their chords. It was an all around solid sound and solid set. Now that my head’s out of my ass, I look forward to seeing them around town, accompanied by more beer spillage.
When a drummer sings, I listen. When drummer sings and looks like a young Magnum P.I., we as a species further evolve along the evolutionary chart. Granted, drummer Tyler Coburn only sang a few lines in Yautja’s opening song, but it was the splash of introduction that set the tone for a brutal sludge/grind soiree. Leading up to the show, I pondered just how one pronounces Yautja. If you can gather something from reading anything on this blog, it would be that I’m clueless. I knew, because the year is 2015, that I could have easily Googled the word, but I wanted to let them band themselves end the suspense for me. This did not happen. When they mentioned they were “Yaujta from Tennessee” I completely missed the pronunciation. Therefore, I Googled. Yautja, or e•wat•ya, are the alien species in the Predator movies. No shit. I realized there was no better explanation for this band. Their sound was indeed wickedly agile and well structured, yet punishing and brutal. I needed an ice pack before they were done, but who’s got time to bleed?
Inter Arma is commonly referred to as blackened sludge metal, with a bit of southern flavor via their Richmond roots. I don’t necessarily dispute that definition, but it really only scratches the surface of a band whose sonic brutality has charted the furthest edges and pushed the boundaries of what we know as sludge. Their set started with a sonic jam-like build and finished 45 minutes later with drummer T.J. Childers symbolically ending the set chiming a cymbal with a giant Gandalf-esque staff (but maybe bigger). I wondered if they might play The Cavern, which they didn’t, but it took me a minute to realize this because their set had no pause, a continuous opus if you will. Their set actually was made up of mostly Sky Burial tracks. It played out with the complexity of prog but was as dirty and brutal as your typical sludge. They had the atmosphere and blast of USBM contrasted with hints of doom, and splashes of blues. What fixated me the most was the gentleman playing with band to the right of the stage. He reminded me of a young Pai Mei via Kill Bill (I couldn’t mean that as more of a compliment) and I had no idea what the hell he was playing. Fortunately, my cousin, who literally knows everything, informed me that the instrument in question was a theremin. “Playing” isn’t really an accurate term as Wikipedia defines it as such: “The instrument’s controlling section usually consists of two metal antennas that sense the relative position of the thereminist’s hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand, and amplitude (volume) with the other. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker.” This guy was a thereminist playing a theremin and if you’ve never seen one, it will somewhat blow your mind. The dude pretty much manipulates sound, and does so with the skill and grace of the martial artist he resembles. The way he greeted the band members while setting up led me to believe he hadn’t been a part of the entire tour, and may not have continued on with them after this show. Maybe this guy is just someone from the MPLS, and if so, I will seek him out for spiritual guidance. Either way, I was elated at the fact that I could witness what transpired, blowing my mind in the process.