That Big Metal Show Bayou Music Center March 23, 2012
Early in his band's set on Friday night, Downfall 2012 front man Danny Gil told the crowd to expect something special.
"Get ready for a metal show like you've never seen," he said.
Gill wasn't exaggerating -- Downfall 2012 delivered a dense spectacle that featured sexy stilt-walkers, a chainsaw artist, frenetic bucket drumming and even a didgeridoo.
The show had already taken on a special and unique flavor long before Gil and his bandmates hit the stage, however. The first thing that stood out about That Big Metal Show, the CD release party for Downfall 2012's latest album, Everyman for Himself (Issue 1), was the venue. If there's ever been a showcase of local metal bands presented inside Bayou Music Center (formerly Verizon Wireless Theater) before, I don't recall hearing about it.
The five groups that performed Friday didn't exactly fill the cavernous theater, but the crowd was mighty impressive nonetheless. There was a crackling energy in the audience derived not only from anticipation for the headliners, but from the novel experience of enjoying live, local metal inside the city's biggest venue.
Opening acts Adamantium and Machinatx got things off to a fun, bouncy start. Both groups employ a sound that owes more to bands like Papa Roach, Chevelle and Ill Niño that emerged from nu-metal's second wave than darker godfathers like Sabbath or Slayer.
There's no doubt that neither Adamantium of Machinatx had ever played on a stage as large as Bayou Music Center's, and their excitement radiated into the audience. There were a lot of smiles on stage as Machinatx's seven members tore through percussive numbers reminiscent of Slipknot, instigating spirited moshing from the mostly young fans.
"This is a special night for all of us," said Machinatx frontman Rob Cisneros, and his sincerity was plain.
The next two bands on the bill sped things up considerably. Decimation Theory broke out the first grimaces of the evening, whipping the crowd into a furious circle pit with thrashing originals like "Wolves" and a spot-on cover of Metallica's "Battery." Carry the Storm displayed some nifty shredding from guitarist Kelly FitzSimons and brought the house down with the band's version of Pantera's "A New Level."
Both groups displayed the chops that could land them their own headlining showcase gigs someday soon. But Downfall 2012 proved with its set that the other bands on the bill have a long way to go to match its theatrical stage presence.
The buzz for the headliner's performance began rippling through the crowd as soon as two huge ice blocks were unveiled to the left of the stage. Clearly, the band had come up with some special plans for this show.
Despite their name, Downfall 2012 are no newcomers. The group has been perfecting a potent blend of metal, industrial, modern rock and even a little hip-hop for the past 15 years. Still, it actually is 2012 now, and the band clearly had every intention of making the occasion of its new album release a career highlight.
More than a few bright red "The End is Near" T-shirt's from Downfall's merch table edged their way to the front of the audience as vivid portraits were set up on stage of Mr. Everyman, a character from the comic that accompanies the band's new album who bears more than a passing resemblance to Batman's nemesis Two-Face.
Everyman himself would make an appearance onstage during the set, warning the crowd through a bullhorn that "there will be violence." Well, maybe someday soon, Everyman, but not on this night. Instead, the crowd was all smiles, with guys and girls alike jumping into the mosh pit for some good-natured jostling.
In addition to a string of originals from the new record that alternately recalled Pantera, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and occasionally even Nickelback, the band busted out some plastic bins, barrels and trash cans from a Stomp-style drum-circle session that had the audience spellbound.
Stilt-walkers writhed to the music. "2012" was carved from ice using a chainsaw. CDs were sent whizzing into the crowd. It was a lot to take in.
As an added treat, Downfall tossed in raucous, heavy cover versions of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" and Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." If the former had some of the metalheads in attendance slightly dumbstruck, they were definitely fully on board with the latter, which closed the band's set.
The performance capped an audacious, inventive night of music downtown. Downfall 2012 has been around long enough to hear every possible reason why a diverse metal showcase of local bands in Bayou Music Center could never work, yet from every indication, the night was a real success. Ticketholders went home well past midnight, still wanting for more.
"We want to thank Live Nation for taking a chance on local music," Gil said.
If Friday night was any indication, they may do it again soon.
Personal Bias: Metal rules.
The Crowd: Mostly young whites and Hispanics, with a few parents mixed in. Very nice girl-to-guy ratio for a metal show.
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Overheard in the Crowd: "I took a couple of pills earlier, and I don't know what it is that's creeping into my eye sockets right now, but it's happening."
Random Notebook Dump: Twinge of nostalgia when host Outlaw Dave asks if anyone is old enough to remember Z-Rock.