Monday, April 16, 2012

Say Yes

Last Wednesday as I was walking to the train, my webmaster Christine shot me an IM asking if I wanted to go see Ghost, Opeth & Mastodon with her that night. It was a gimme of a question. Hell yes was the only response.

It was my last day in the office in between trips, with a Media Coalition meeting and a meeting with an out of town colleague on the books. I took a perverse pleasure in the knowledge that I would spend the afternoon talking about recent litigation trends and the evening swept in the turbulent majesty of these metal icons. We missed Ghost because of a misreading of the on-stage time, but Opeth and Mastodon more than delivered.

Opeth's set was an extraordinary display of technical prowess. They opened with "The Devil's Orchard," from Heritage, which is an album that behaves more as jazzy prog rock with death metal flourishes than as a straight-on metal album. Heritage-era work dominated the set, which gave the band an opportunity to show off their studied proficiency. I have to admit that during the show, I was nonplussed by how many slower numbers they played, snarking between songs that the set felt like a metal version of Say Anything, with Cusack in corpse paint holding up a boom box to his black heart beloved. My urge for the harder stuff was sated when they bolted out a punishing version of "The Black Conjuration" and "Demon of the Fall" at the end.

Even though I've spent hundreds of hours listening to Mastodon, I wasn't prepared for the savage intensity of their playing. I don't care for their most recent album "The Hunter" very much, but the muscular virtuosity of their performance made the tunes from that album as fun to hear as the rest of the show. Their visual kit was fun as well -- AJ Fosik's beast from the cover of "The Hunter" was the backdrop with LED eyes that would flash to accompany intense passages, giving the effect of a growling monster. Bassist Troy Sanders and guitarist Brent Hinds resembled growling monsters themselves as they took their turns on vocals. The real stand out for me was Brann Dailor's intense drum work. Listening to Mastodon is like looking at a Frazetta painting, and seeing them live is like inhabiting that master's work.

From the show it was off home for a short nap before getting up at dawn for a flight to Chicago. On the cab to the airport, with my ears still ringing from the show, I appreciated that I was now fully caught in the sweep of travel living. Travel brings a kind of magical thinking -- a worldview that requires flexibility of thinking and, when done right, encourages unexpected experiences, rare opportunities, and vast friendships. Although I was at home for the moment when Christine asked me to accompany her to the show, I was in that flux state of mind. I was in that place where connection is a state of being, and the best word of all is yes. Stepping into the JetBlue Terminal and looking at the departure board I was dazzled by how lucky I am to live in that mindspace. Then I stepped into the security line to move onto the next part of the adventure.

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