If you’re like me, then Christmas came early in the month of October. A mega-bill of “music festival” proportions had descended upon the Ritz this past Tuesday. Mastodon along with Eagles of Death Metal and Russian Circles brought all the rock, groove, and thunder that Raleigh could handle.
Chicago’s Russian Circles opened the night with their intoxicating brand of instrumental post-metal heaviness, touring in support of last year’s excellent full-length, Guidance. I managed to get two $20 gin drinks in me (thanks, Live Nation…) as the venue slowly filled up. By the time RC hit the stage, the Ritz crowd was in full effect, ready to be mystified.
I love the no-nonsense approach taken by instrumental bands. No need for banter. No point in even rigging the mics. Let’s just kick right into some expertly-crafted rise and fall. Bassist Brian Cook, dressed as dapper as ever, sports an impressive pedigree of previous Pacific Northwest musical projects including mathcore legends, Botch, and post-hardcore noise merchants, These Arms are Snakes. [TAAS’s Steve Snere accidentally hit me in the face with his mic in the back of a dive bar in Lawrence, KS sometime around the release of 2004’s Oxeneers. It was magical. -Ed.] Both of those outfits were short-lived compared to his 10-year run with Russian Circles. He really found his niche playing alongside guitar wizard Mike Sullivan, whom I last saw join Sargeant House labelmate Chelsea Wolfe onstage at the Lincoln for Hopscotch 2016. At one point in the set, Mike effortlessly looped a riff into finger tapping into another riff, layering more into one song than most guitarists can cram into an entire album. Drummer Dave Turncrantz knocked his drums around with such authority that I didn’t mind his “solo” as Mike re-tuned. (And I hate drum solos.) Russian Circles was an excellent way to kick off a diverse bill at the Ritz. [Negadave]
Eagles of Death Metal
At first glance at the bill, I was a tad shocked to see EODM on the poster. While I am a huge fan, I wasn’t entirely sure how the band would take to a crowd that was predominantly metalheads. EODM proved that a quality performance matched with the same energy can make believers out of anyone. RDUMusic’s own photographer extraordinaire, Lan, who was not the biggest fan could not deny how much fun their set was. EODM started with their hit, “I Only Want You” which definitely got the crowd into a frenzy. It took a minute for me to notice Brett from Mastodon playing guitar alongside them for that song. This was my first time seeing EODM, and let me tell you, frontman Jesse Hughes has charisma for days. It appeared as though staying still would result in immediate death as he would constantly be dancing in place even if he was not singing or playing guitar. It was clear to see that they were having a blast on stage, and the crowd picked up on that enthusiasm. In between songs “Complexity” and “Whorehoppin,” Jesse Hughes would constantly survey the crowd to see if the women or the men were having a better time (all in a southern preacher delivery). Spoiler Alert: the ladies won! The set was disappointingly short, only spanning eight songs, however, a near-perfect rendition of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” and the concluding “Speaking In Tongues” more than made up for the short set. I look forward to seeing a show in the future that will feature Eagles of Death Metal in a headlining spot, as there were so many more songs I wanted to hear from them.
If you know me personally, you won’t be surprised to know how much I love Mastodon. I guess owning 10 shirts of the same band might be a dead giveaway. Mastodon was supporting their latest album, Emperor of Sand, an album that personally took some getting used to. So I was not expecting the “mega-hits” set that I had seen the past few times I’ve seen Mastodon. If you were a fan of the earlier albums such as Remission and Leviathan, then you were in for a bit of disappointment as only one song from each album was performed, none of which included hits like “Blood and Thunder” or “Crusher Destroyer.” While it was strange to see Mastodon not play those songs, it certainly wasn’t a negative since they have such a rich catalog. I also had to make peace that only one song from 2011’s The Hunter was played, though “Black Tongue” is one of my favorite songs so it was hardly a concession. Most songs were dedicated to Emperor of Sand, though a number of songs from Crack the Sky, Blood Mountain, and Once More ‘Round the Sun made their way into the rotation: “Divinations”, “Bloodcatcher”, and “Oblivion” to name a few. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of their latest album upon first listen, but like most concept albums from Mastodon, it would take repeated listens to finally appreciate the next step in their evolution. Even if I had remained tepid on Emperor of Sand, that opinion would’ve surely changed after seeing those songs performed with ferocity and volume that comes with a Mastodon show. As expected, Brann Dailor (who I think is one of the most underrated drummers in the world) banged the skins like the machine that he is. Brett Hinds and Troy Sanders still remain one rock’s best vocal tandems. Bill Kelliher continues to have the best mustaches in the history of facial hair. Put them together and you get an ever-evolving rock band that transcends labels and genre. If you haven’t had the luxury of seeing Mastodon live, I highly recommend doing so the next time they swing through your town. You certainly won’t regret it.