It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a good sized show, away from a small club with mostly local openers. There’s nothing at all wrong with those kinds of shows, but it takes a bigger show to realize that I kind of feel like I’ve been missing out on some other angle of my favorite bands. Houston gets the shaft on lots of good tours, so when a really good one hits, it’s kind of rare.
Friday night 30 October, All Hallow’s Eve Eve, I broke out of that rut and attended Mastodon with Clutch and Corrosion of Conformity at Houston’s large-sized (but not arena sized) venue called Revention Music Center. It’s the last step we have before a band plays either the basketball arena or the outdoor pavilion way out in the suburbs, and has changed names at least three times in the last seven or eight years. I do my best to avoid the heavily commercial venues who feature $10 parking and overpriced, watered-down beer, but it’s been forever since COC has toured as a four-piece, and frankly I needed a night out anyway to shed the weeks of overworking.
Corrosion of Conformity has long been one of my favorites ever since the 12 year old me saw the video for “Dance of the Dead” on Beavis and Butthead. However, due to my various geographic locations and the sporadic touring COC has done over the years, I’ve only seen them live one other time. It was back in 2005 when they hit the road with Crowbar in support of “In the Arms of God.” They were awesome then and they were awesome now. Their setlist was killer and did their catalog justice, considering that they had the opening slot and pretty much had time for just the strong stuff. Still, I wasn’t at all disappointed to hear such tracks as “Wiseblood,” “Heaven’s Not Overflowing,” and “Albatross” among the mix from their Pepper-era albums only. It was great to see them again, and I’m going to hold them to their promise of a “killer new album.”
Clutch and I have always had a love/hate relationship. Mostly album by album I either really like it or really don’t. That being the case, the times I’ve caught them live had been up and down with whatever it is they are playing. This time around, I’m sorry to say they just didn’t get me given their song list. But the big props I will give to them will be that they were far more energized this time around than in previous times I had seen them live. Singer Neil Fallon was certainly filling in his role as the frontman, working the crowd from all angles and getting fully invested. Despite not really hearing what it was I wanted to hear, it was a pleasure to at least have an entertaining performance.
It has been quite a while since Mastodon were the best kept secret that underground music possessed. My first live experience with them dates back to the “Leviathan” tour when I ventured up to Denver, Colorado in April of 2005 and saw them play to a packed club of 250 people. I had been a fan since the release of “Remission,” but my geographic setting in the Texas Panhandle kept me from witnessing them live for a few years. In the ten years of various live Mastodon shows, I’ve seen them get to bigger and bigger venues with a much larger crowd draw. Coincidentally, each time they almost always concentrate their setlist on the latest release, and on this night, we were treated to a healthy dose of “Once More ‘Round the Sun” with double shots of songs from their previous albums. My hope for hearing some of the gems from the first few albums is pretty much nonexistent, but it was still great to get to hear “Aqua Dementia,” “Mother Puncher,” and “Blood and Thunder” live, mixed with the stronger parts of their new album. They were definitely on their A-game this time, and everyone seemed (*ahem*) sober and ready to deliver a flawless performance while doing what they obviously love. Mastodon are certainly long gone from the small club days, but they worked for it, earned it, and absolutely deserve it.
Great crowd, great performances, and just a great night all around.
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