Houston Fans Greet Mastodon Like Metal's Conquering Heroes
Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Revention Music Center
October 30, 2015
“You know the difference between a good show and a great show?” Mastodon bassist and vocalist Troy Sanders screamed into his microphone at the hundreds of Houston fans pressed against the stage at Revention Music Center Friday night. “The crowd!”
He responded to his own question and then reiterated what every standing, screaming person in the audience already knew: “You guys are fucking amazing!”
Drummer and vocalist Brann Dailor, leaving his drum kit to address the crowd from the front of the stage, echoed Sanders. He commended Houston fans' devotion and showered them in drumsticks, while guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds added guitar picks to the precipitation of musical memorabilia.
Yes, the fans were amazing. No empty spaces were to be seen near the stage, and the fans remained shoulder to shoulder throughout the entire set. Mastodon played 15 songs to this wildly energetic crowd, whose support for the greatest American progressive metal act was more than apparent — with arms raised, fans who knew every word all cheered for a band that has single-handedly broken open the genre-trap of metal.
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Mastodon continue to defy definition by employing a sound so unique and original that there is simply no one label that encompasses their music. That sound remains static and nebulous, and for some fans, that’s been a turn-off; for others, it’s what makes Mastodon so amazing. This band continues to create some of the most uniquely original music in America, despite the enormous accolades the press gives. The band evolves outside of any praise and criticism; it's a remarkable thing to be unaffected by judgment, despite its connotations.
Many performers thrive on approval and are so affected by it, they can’t maintain their performance without positive feedback. Mastodon is beyond any psychological appetites or desire for attention. They simply make music that they love. Whatever formula motivates them, may it have tremendous longevity. While many fans of metal desire consistency in some kind of threadbare, uninspiring monotony of homogeneous albums, this band refuses to be categorically repetitious.
Thank the metal gods for Mastodon.
I felt no shock or surprise at the fans who had arrived at Revention Center after a long day’s work, stood 20 deep in line at the merch counter, claimed their spots center stage and now screamed their lungs out at the tour's headliners. All this energy for a band who was just here in June.
As Mastodon opened with “Tread Lightly,” from latest album Once More ‘Round the Sun, Sanders moved center stage and began his signature dancing and windmill-inspired bass playing. True to form, he moved all over the stage in all of his glorious weirdness. Is there a more visually arresting bass player/performance artist? Probably not.
Not to be undone by Sanders, guitarist Brent Hinds, looking positively Cro-Magnon in tattoos, red mop-top and leather pants, played his technically difficult solos with hands that literally blurred before my eyes. Dailor shredded his drum set on a raised platform and literally exhibited so much force that the Plexiglas sound barriers shook with every fill that emitted from his kit. As promised, Dailor delivered very spirited renditions of Mastodon’s greatest hits.
That included two songs from their much-loved Leviathan album, including “Iron Tusk." Any Mastodon fan surely was already expecting “Blood and Thunder” as the closer with Neil Fallon, front man for openers Clutch, who sang on the original track in 2004. Naturally, Mastodon obliged the obvious and met the expectation to a deafening audience response. If it’s any comfort that Judas Priest was not on this leg of the tour, Fallon’s presence onstage with Mastodon was certainly a close consolatory offering.
For their part, Clutch opened with a satisfying round of their best songs including “A Quick Death In Texas,” from their latest album, Psychic Warfare. It’s hard not to get behind a song about your own state that celebrates all of our beloved — yet completely unfounded, of course — stereotypes about our allegiances to things like “rifles and Bibles” and cheating spouses.
Truly, the crowd was in full expression, singing along to the chorus of "Beaumont, Amarillo, got a line on me/ Galveston, El Paso, Nacogdoches, Abilene…"
Fallon is an impressive presence onstage, stomping around, pointing into the crowd and aggressively whipping around the microphone cord. His deep and bluesy vocals are arousingly hypnotic, with a voice that coils around lyrics like “Segregate me from the local population because your love is, uh, incarceration.”
His presence can’t be appreciated enough, especially when Clutch employs the shiest guitarist ever to set foot on a stage. Poor Tim Sult looks passively uninterested and actively nervous beyond measure. Despite his stage presence — or lack thereof — his playing was superb.
Fallon announced he had a Halloween treat for the audience, and broke into “Sucker for the Witch." Clutch performed many tracks off their new album and several old favorites, including “The Mob Goes Wild,” “Gravel Road” and “The Regulator."
Halloween treat indeed. Clutch, second openers Corrosion of Conformity and Mastodon put on one of the best shows to come across a Houston stage all year. Correction: best show of the year. Yes, I realize the year’s not over.
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