Summer Slaughter Tour feat. Dillinger Escape Plan, Animals as Leaders, Periphery, Cattle Decapitation, etc. House of Blues July 27, 2013
There's something incongruous about raw, dirty metal and hardcore punk taking place at a venue like House of Blues, a corporate, suit-and-tie restaurant/bar that boasts doctor's-office wallpaper, faux brass banisters, and a dining area in its middle as a selling point. Nevertheless, The Dillinger Escape Plan and the other half a million bands that played on Saturday tore the house down.
I mean that literally in the case of Dillinger, whose set was so wild it featured destruction, injury, and cops stationed in the pit to try to keep things under control. You read that right. A cop was sent in to try to stop some of the chaos going on and the numerous fights and knock-outs that were occurring, but even he decided to leave once flailing arms and legs started flying around him.
But that was at the end of the night and the Summer Slaughter Tour, which began at 3 p.m. sharp and ran a tight schedule after, had more than just that up its sleeve.
Things kicked off with short sets by local bands An Oath of Misdirection and Mara, who play Houston's usual flavor of death metal. Next up were Thy Art is Murder and Rings of Saturn, who played for the same amount of time as the locals and turned in fairly enjoyable, if forgettable, sets of solid breakdowns and circle pits.
These bands were aided in the fact that if you arrived at House of Blues right on time for the beginning of the show, you were stuck. Presumably so you have to buy the overpriced beer ($6 for Lone Star, $11 for PBR), food ($9 for a small portion of chicken strips and fries), and water ($5 for a 12-oz. Dasani), House of Blues offered no re-entry for the duration of the eight-plus hour show.
Not only that, but no one rested if he or she hadn't paid for balcony seating, with security running around the venue doing mostly nothing but waving flashlights at kids who were sitting, telling them they'd be kicked out if they didn't stand up. Ironically, anyone could sit down in the balcony without a bit of proof of their ticket.
This all made it a particularly exhausting show, especially in light of the type of music and the people who were dedicated to the pits the whole night. Maybe the under-18 crowd has it in them, but I was just thankful House of Blues at least features decent air conditioning.
Starting with Swedish death-metal band Aeon, the set times increased to 25 minutes each. The show ran rigorously on schedule, which was impressive for a metal show. Revocation and The Ocean breezed through their sets dutifully, amping up the audience and hoping to impress enough to sell some merch. Judging by the audience's reaction, they definitely more than achieved that. Either that, or the kids just want to mosh regardless of who's playing.
Death-metal legends Cattle Decapitation also took on a 25-minute set, which felt brief for their stature, but their punishing style may have made that timing just right so as not to overwhelm the audience. Front man and perennial member Travis Ryan thrilled with his impressive vocal abilities, effortlessly switching from pig squeals to grindcore shrieks and death-metal growls.
Norma Jean, a much more punk-based metalcore band, was an odd choice to follow Cattle Decap but kept the energy going with a greatest-hits set that ran through two songs off their classic debut Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child, including set-closer "Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste." They were given 30 minutes, and made excellent use of it. Even new single "If You Got It At Five, You Got It At Fifty," their only new song, went over well.
Periphery, metal's latest technical/progressive golden children, deftly played their compositions, but singer Spencer Sotelo struggled through his vocal range. At times it was obvious that effects were covering up his inability to pull off some of the wails he put on record, and while he delivered as a stage performer and even matched himself at times, it was apparent that his voice was worn out from touring.
It left their set a bit lackluster and dissatisfying, even though starting with them the time was upped to 40 minutes a band, and their best moment was when they played "Zyglrox" off of their first self-titled album, which allowed Sotelo to scream the whole way through rather than trying to pull off singing acrobatics.
The strangest choice of the night was placing Animals as Leaders, an instrumental metal band that verges on jazz fusion, second to last and following the high-octane bands that had preceded them. While I felt like it took a bit of the wind out of the show's sails, most around me were mesmerized enough by guitarist Tosin Abasi's guitar mastery to care that the vibe was so much more chilled out than every other band. Maybe it was a welcome break for those in the pit. I must admit that Animals as Leaders are considerably impressive at what they do, and they didn't disappoint on Saturday.
Finally, though, it was time for the true headliner of the night, The Dillinger Escape Plan. They were given a full hour to work with, which meant a lot of time to do damage. Opening with "Prancer," the lead single from their latest album One of Us Is the Killer, they exploded onstage with disturbing screen projections, epilepsy torturing lighting, and more energy than even the audience was exuding.
Guitarist Ben Weinman, who broke his wrist two months ago and threatened the band's summer touring schedule, was in fine form, jumping off of amps and playing with the same energy and precision he's always been known for. Aside from the surgical scar, you'd be hard pressed to find any evidence the injury ever happened.
At first the pit was a bit more subdued than I had seen it in the past for Dillinger, but they began to blow up once the band played "Milk Lizard" from 2007's Ire Works. Suddenly, everyone seemed to wake up and the whole place was moving. No area of the crowd was safe, with small pits breaking out even at the very front of the stage.
After two people had been dragged out of the pit completely knocked out, which is of course when police decided to involve themselves. Apparently not even that was enough to dissuade Dillinger and their fans, who kept on moshing until the cops gave up and went back outside.
This wasn't the only obstacle Dillinger faced. Vocalist Greg Puciato put on a flawless performance, but his microphones broke repeatedly. Though he was clearly frustrated after going through the first three of them, it started to get comical after a while. Luckily, he ran backstage and got another one, coming back on just in time for an earth shattering scream in the middle of "Hero of the Soviet Union."
As they typically do, Dillinger utterly destroyed everything in their wake at the end of their set. Having played usual set-closer "43% Burnt" early in the set, they ended on "Sunshine the Werewolf," finishing up with Puciato and Weinman doing a double amp dive, Puciato ripping his shirt off during the breakdown, and drummer Billy Rymer trashing his kit. By the time they walked off stage, they had nothing left to play an encore with, so they tossed the remains of drumsticks and guitar picks to the appreciative audience, at least those still left standing, and left.
One would think that House of Blues would have a problem with this sort of destruction and chaos, but hey, it sells tickets. Kids filled the venue almost to capacity to get their faces rocked off by what was a hefty lineup of metal heavy hitters.
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One thing was for sure: no matter who you came for, everyone left satisfied, if completely exhausted, by the end of Dillinger Escape Plan's set. This year's Summer Slaughter Tour was a resounding success, but hopefully next year it will be in a more appropriate venue that doesn't feature such prohibitive rules.