Neurosis Hypnotizes Their First Houston Crowd in Forever

Neurosis, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Pinkish Black, krvshr
Warehouse Live
August 16, 2015

Opportunities to catch Oakland post-metal icons Neurosis have been few and far between in Houston. Never much given to massive North American tours, it had been at least a decade and probably more since the band had performed here, best as I could figure. Accordingly, it was a thick and happy crowd that turned up to see them Sunday night at Warehouse Live, beyond ready to bask in the tunes that have so influenced the past 20 years’ worth of underground stoner and sludge music.

Hey, it was to be the last night of Neurosis’s most extensive tour since the ‘90s. Miss this one, and there was no guarantee you’d get another shot at them any time soon, if ever.

Fans continued to file in throughout heavy sets by local openers krvshr and North Texas duo Pinkish Black, nodding along to the great slabs of distorted noise and clapping politely. The scene was just as lively outside on the smoking patio, where old friends reconnected over shared musical memories and maybe a toke or two. Inside and out, everyone was buzzing. The headliners promised nothing short of a heavy metal journey to the center of the soul, and anticipation was running feverishly high.

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, a tight and interesting Seattle psych-doom outfit fronted by TAD’s Tad Doyle, would set the stage beautifully for Neurosis. They deployed some viciously heavy grooves, led by Doyle’s surprisingly dynamic bleatings. The reverb on the vocals was completely off the charts all night, but the Brothers’ singer had the most impressive range of the evening. At their best, the band seemed to be setting off toward a deep-space journey on the back of a belching Harley. The crowd was into it.

It felt like a tortuously long time getting the stage set up for the headliners. It had been so long since seeing and hearing Neurosis between the bayous was a possibility that 20 minutes seemed painfully generous. If the show wasn’t a sellout, it was certainly getting cramped and intimate in Warehouse’s studio room as more and more fans cashed their pipes and headed inside.

Arriving at last, the band took the stage to loud and respectful cheers and applause. Neurosis has ditched their trademark visuals for this tour, leaving their projection screens at home. That should have been a disappointment, especially considering Warehouse’s fairly lackluster stage lights at that end of the building. But as soon as Neurosis sliced into the stuttering intro to “A Sun That Never Sets” — possibly the most appropriate song ever for a Houston summer — at least one blogger forgot that the band had ever heard of projection screens.

I mean, good lord, that sound. When the guitars cranked up, it became physically overwhelming. The set-opener began relatively softly, but soon the group opened up a firehose of distortion that had some fans headbanging from the waist and others simply staring, glassy-eyed. I thought the poor guy next to me might cry. It was great.

The energy swelled to a tremendous peak next for the grand “Locust Star,” which may have received the biggest and most enthusiastic response of the night. It was a nice mix of music from throughout the band’s post-metal career to come, but the anticipatory energy expelled from the audience during those first two songs would be hard to match. Guitarist Scott Kelly wore a chilling thousand-yard stare as he bashed away, possibly worn down by his most grueling tour in recent memory. Ostensible front man Steve Von Till banged his head majestically to the layered riffage, while keyboardist Noah Landis rained down hammer-fists upon his hapless MIDI controller.

As devastating as their heaviness can be, Neurosis was just as proud to show off their supreme gentleness. Their soft-heavy dynamic was illustrated very nicely on “The Tide,” another good one from A Sun That Never Sets. Folks in the crowd could easily be heard chatting it up during the quiet parts, only to be flattened by a sudden tempo change. The waves of distortion had a peculiar hypnotic effect, carrying each of us insistently further inward.

One group of bros in the crowd appeared to be engaged in a full-on group hug as the crucial strains of set-closer “Through Silver in Blood” slithered and struck. How long had they waited to share this moment? Long enough to outgrow an old hoodie or two, it certainly seemed. The band, for their part, made a quick and gracious exit, disappearing back into the darkness. Will we see them again? Hard to say. But for all those in attendance last night — especially us first-timers — Neurosis’s legend was happily confirmed. That ought to be more than enough to sustain them in the hearts of the city’s art-metal freaks for many years to come.

Personal Bias: Saw a lot of smiling, familiar faces at this one.

The Crowd: The quiet metalhead from your community college, with all of his friends.

Overheard In the Crowd: “Where would you put a 40 of piss inside your body?”

Random Notebook Dump: I wouldn’t have figured Neurosis to turn into a fashion show, but this was a see-and-be-seen occasion for several ladies in the crowd. I counted at least two distinct pairs of patent-leather thigh-high boots, among many other fascinating sartorial choices. 
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Nathan Smith
Contact: Nathan Smith