Last Night: Mastodon At Fitzgerald's

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Mastodon and Wild Flag filled the room at Fitz. Check out our pics.

Mastodon, Black Tusk, Venomous Maximus Fitzgerald's October 27, 2011

Mastodon on the stage upstairs at Fitzgerald's is like a bull in a china closet, an anaconda in a cage full of mice, or at least John Travolta in a room full of handsome men. In the weeks leading up to the sold-out Mastodon gig, the metal community in Houston shook their collective heads and bearding in wonder. How would such a titanic band fit inside a venue more suited for groups like The Drums, St. Vincent, and Iron & Wine. Who would survive and what would be left of them?

The band played an hour and a half set, centering on their new album, The Hunter, which is either one of the band's best or a lame mainstream metal effort. We love the album but - here comes the metal snob voice - it ain't no Blood Mountain. Still the tracks on The Hunter were bound to kill live, and they did.

Homie openers Venomous Maximus made some new fans as the sole local support. We've compared to them to what a Alejandro Jodorowsky film would sound like it if it was a metal band. VM is now on an at least weekly playing schedule in some form too, and you have to love the fact they sell those creepy-awesome religious candles at their merch table. We don't always buy shirts, but we will by candles.

Georgia metal trio Black Tusk was the middle relief of the night, and more than warmed up the rushing crowd. At this point people were staking out spots on the Fitz floor for Mastodon. Black Tusk gears more toward thrash and hardcore than true metal, but they temper their punkier elements with the evil metal varnish.

Fitz is said to hold 750 people at max capacity upstairs, and the venue sold under that before calling it a sell-out for safety reasons. Merch was being sold on the balcony to save precious floor space. We can all agree that 700 Mastodon fans are equal the size of 1,400 of your typical indie show fans. Most metal folks are not economy-sized, this guy included.

Mastodon opened "Dry Bone Valley" from The Hunter, and the first two songs we had to get acclimated to seeing a band of this size in such a small room. Blah, blah, none of that matters to non-Mastodon fans, but rabid fans who may have only seem them in places like Verizon Wireless Theater or festivals were freaking out.

The band would blast through seven Hunter cuts over their set, stopping off to play tracks from the rest of their canon, even reaching back to "March Of The Fire Ants" from Remission. One song bled into the other, the pit in front of the band seethed from outright metal mayhem to guys - and few girls - swaying into each others sweat. The view from the balcony was great that is, when we weren't in the pit ourselves. Yeah, we were "that guy" last night and we and our spinal cord paid for it with Tylenol, a heating pad and Floyd on vinyl when we got home.

Mastodon is truly one of the great metal bands of the last 25 years. It's no wonder they can open for Soundgarden as near equals as they did this week. They aren't too dorky, and have just the right amount of prog in them to sate older fans, but enough grit and gristle to keep kids just crawling out of less refined metal enthralled.

Personal Bias: Loud noises! Clear guitars! Beards! Blue lights! Orbs!

The Crowd: Beards! Trucker hats! Like, ten chicks! And sweat.

Overheard in the Crowd: Lots of growls, singing - well, bellowing.

Random Notebook Dump: Really wish touring bands would stop telling us during a great set that "Houston, we don't have a problem," because we know we don't have problems. This is Houston, we're the shit.


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