Crowbar at Fitzgerald's, 10/10/2014

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Crowbar, Revocation, Havok, Fit For an Autopsy, Armed for Apocalypse Fitzgerald's October 10, 2014

The last night of a long tour can be a tough gig. Oftentimes, the musicians arrive in town broken down and tired, their eyes already glazing over with visions of home. Maybe the men of Crowbar were feeling their age a tad when they rolled into Fitzgerald's on Friday, but when you've got to headline a stacked bill in front of a blackened horde expecting the burliest mosh of the year, there ain't much choice but to deliver the goods.

And deliver they did, with plenty of help from their friends. California sludge troupe Armed for Apocalypse warmed up the early birds, and by the time New Jersey deathcore upstarts Fit for an Autopsy blasted their last beat, the floor at Fitz was pretty well full of large metalheads ready to tear into each other for real. They wouldn't have to wait long for the chance. Denver's thrashing maniacs Havok hit the stage next with a whipping set of speed metal tailor-made for aggressive moshing.

It'd been a tough tour for Havok. The band's drummer, Pete Webber, had to skip most of the trek due to a family emergency, and guitarist/vocalist David Sanchez turned up at Fitz with his wrist in a bright green cast. On Friday, at least, Havok didn't miss a beat, tearing through an inspired set that generated furious headbanging and cyclone pitting. Maybe the purest and most fun of the latest bumper crop of thrash throwbacks, Havok radiated energy onstage, especially bassist Mike Leon, who evidently studied hard at the Steve Harris School of Mugging.

"Life is very short," Sanchez reminded the whooping headbangers guzzling beer in the dark. "Live it up!"

That advice seemed to be taken to heart by the mosh-pit warriors who risked life and limb during the next furious set by Boston's technical death-metal mutants Revocation. Drummer Phil Dubois' mighty kicks rattled the floor hard upstairs as the group roared through its dense material. They quickly proved to be the most polished act on the bill, with guitarist/vocalist Dave Davidson unleashing some eye-popping fretboard tapping skills that he presumably perfected during his time spent studying at Berklee College of Music.

As Davidson called for the crowd to do its worst, the swirling mass of bodies took on a mean edge, picking up speed and threatening to spin out of control. Large men clashed in front of the stage like big-horn sheep, spurred on by Revocation's whip-crack snare. It was the last chance to thrash for the speed-freaks in attendance, and they did their best to make the most of it.

Revocation, for their part, seemed pleasantly surprised by the Houston crowd's hoary enthusiasm.

"Thanks for making this one of the best shows of the tour," Davidson told his people, and it was obvious the appreciation was mutual.

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Despite the evening's already impressive metallic salvo, though, fans were still itching for the headliners. People who plunk down money for a Crowbar show expect to show up and hear some of the heaviest riffs in the world, and once the anticipation sets in, nothing else will do.

The group's main man Kirk Windstein, who spent the better part of the last decade touring with Nola supergroup Down, drew a hale and hearty welcome as he nonchalantly soundchecked in front of a full house.

"I've got good news and bad news," he told us as the band cranked up at last. "The good news is, we're Crowbar from New Orleans. The bad news is, we're going to kick your fucking ass!"

The stench of outrageously dank weed began to fill the old club as Crowbar lit into their first stomach-churning breakdown. Dear Lord. The thundering crunch of the group's slow-motion power grooves was damn near oppressive. Their performance was peppered with snatches of bellicose thrash, with the band's guitars moaning as if forced to harmonize against their will. But slow and low remains Crowbar's base and best setting. The shoving in the pit grew fierce during the pummeling new crusher "Symmetry in White."

As their set wore on, Crowbar was joined by tourmate after tourmate, jumping in for gang vocals and the odd stab at a verse or two. The camraderie was palpable. After all, iron sharpens iron, and none of the acts on Friday seemed overly eager to put this particular tour behind them.

"In case you couldn't tell, we're having a lot of fun," Windstein told the audience. "It's a free-for-all...not in the Ted Nugent sense."

The atmosphere onstage might have been relaxed and loose, but the riffs were not. Crowbar can lay claim to being one of the heaviest bands on the planet, and they swing power chords like sledgehammers. Methodically, they ground their fans to dust with half-time dirges like "Sever the Wicked Hand." It was head-banging, ear-punishing stuff from start to finish.

There was a long list of thank yous delivered before the encore, and as Crowbar wrapped up, maybe they were secretly glad to see the back of a grueling, month-long haul. But from the looks of the smiles onstage, they weren't the only band of the evening wouldn't mind just one more trip around the circuit before the year is through -- especially if they could play to a juiced-up Texas crowd every night.

Personal Bias: Like many of a certain age, I was introduced to Crowbar by Beavis and Butt-head.

The Crowd: Big, in every sense.

Overhead in the Crowd: "I been waitin' to see these guys for, like, 10 fuckin' years, man."

Random Notebook Dump: Kirk Windstein's impressive beard makes him look like a Satanic dwarf from Peter Jackson's Middle Earth.


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