Live: Metal at The Mink

THE MINK — 3/5/11: Okay, so I thought the reason I was looking unshaven and scruffy when I rolled into The Mink on a Saturday night about a month ago was because I’d gotten rushed that week and just didn’t have time to mess with the beard.

Apparently I was wrong. It turns out, instead, that I was just gearing up for the night’s show. Seriously, I hadn’t felt that in sync with a crowd at a show, at least appearance-wise, since grunge was king. Baseball caps, scruffy beards, and hoodies were the predominant uniform, and the only way I could fit better would be if my hoodie were black or had some spidery metal logo.

Why? Well, because it was a full night of heavy, heavy, loud-ass music at The Mink, a lineup pulled together by Mink booking hero Brandon and Jaron of Fight Pretty; the overarching theme, with a few exceptions, seemed to be bands that were heavy, raw, and ear-destroyingly loud while not looking like they could destroy the room with a single power chord.

And yeah, that’s pretty much what they did. The night was a fun, earache-inducing grab-bag of heaviness of all creeds and colors, and while not all of it was necessarily the best and greatest thing I’ve ever heard, it was still insanely entertaining overall.

I honestly wasn’t sure who these guys were when I walked in — they were loud and math-y, crunching along the edge of a big, sharp-ass knife, and I had no real clue who I was watching. The band was almost at the end of their set, and while the schedule said “Defending the Kingdom,” I’d swear they looked different last time I saw em. Weren’t there four guys in the band, not three?

As it turns out, there were. The band I saw back at the Lost In Space Festival in 2009 is somewhat different from the one blazing away on the Mink’s teeny-tiny stage. When they finished playing, I ended up chatting with guitarist Greg (I think?), who said the band had gone through some serious personnel changes since then and was reworking its sound in the process — which also explains why they sounded less metalcore and more doom-metal than what I’d heard previously. The new direction will apparently show up in recorded time sometime later this year; the DtK guys have got a whole new full-length already written and ready to record.

Headed downstairs briefly to check out Big Fiction, who were already bashing away. It was pretty damn impressive, in an aural-assault kind of way — the band was heavy as fuck and so loud they rattled the floor above their heads, hammering together a post-rock-ish Jesus Lizard-meets-Mastodon slab of noise. To make things more surreal, lead singer Jesse looked like my college roommate but thrashed and howled like a tattooed, long-haired nutcase. They were pretty damn good, but I couldn’t stick around for their whole set; I was too nervous I’d miss the next band…

Back upstairs for my personal highlight of the night, the band I’d come to see, Co-Pilot. They were most definitely the oddballs of the night, at least to some of the more “orthodox” metalheads in attendance — after their first song, one guy behind me asked his friend, “is this the metal band?”

Which is a fair question, really, considering that the Co-Pilot guys ride the line between awesome, atmospheric, spacey/shoegazer-y rock and dirge-like, ISIS-esque heavy rock. These guys are less about heavy for heavy’s sake and more about tightly controlled, almost orchestral movements that shift from heavy to soft, and with their most recent EP, The Course of Empire, they step up and punch sky-gazing instro-metal dudes like Pelican right in the face.

The band cranked through all of the new EP, as well as a couple of their “lighter,” more head-nodding tracks from their first EP, and while they scarcely moved — by comparison to the previous two bands, anyway — by the end of the set, they’d won most (if not all) of the crowd over and left yours truly grinning like an idiot.

I needed a bit of a break, so I made my way up to the Mink’s front bar to try to catch Cavernous; I’d liked what I’d heard from the band previously, so I’d been looking forward to seeing the band live. Even then, I would up pretty bowled-over — these guys ended up being the surprise heroes of the night, at least to me. The band plays awesomely proggy, spiraling, almost jazz-y (if it werent so damn heavy) instro-metal that’s simultaneously crushing and smart as hell, and even in the non-venue confines of the bar, it worked amazingly well.

Drummer Marshall Black was the surprise of the surprise, to boot. He looked like he should’ve been teaching high-school band or something, but my god, he was a freaking monster — listening to his double-bass footwork was mind-blowing. I had to keep standing up on the rungs of my chair and peering over at him to see if my ears were playing tricks on me.

(Okay, and I have to say that watching the band kick in just as the MetroRail speeds past 10 feet outside the window is pretty badass, too.)

Wow. I was warned beforehand by sound guy Jeoaf that The Roller were pin-you-to-the-back-wall loud, but even that didn’t really prepare me for just how fucking loud they were; they sounded massive. Looked it, too, actually — the band was hands-down the most “metal”-looking of the lineup, all big, scary-ass dudes with beards of nearly ZZ Top caliber, tons of tattoos, leather vests, and long hair to their waists.

Music-wise, they played slow, stomping, sludgy metal that sounded like the trudging gait of some horrific movie monster. Unfortunately, it didn’t do a whole heck of a lot for me, but judging by the reaction of the crowd, I was definitely in the minority. The volume was what did it, in the end — after a while, my head just hurt too damn much to really enjoy anything.

I think Odessa is who I caught a little bit of when I fled downstairs to spare my eardrums a painful, ignominious death at the hands of The Roller; I only witnessed a couple of songs, though, before maybe-Odessa’s own insanely high volume got to me. The band played hypnotic, almost trance-inducing pseudo-metallic instrumentals that owed more to ultra-bassy duo Earth than anything else, and they were definitely intriguing. I’ve never seen an instro-metal drummer ride the cymbals like that before — it was pretty neat, really, but the volume, the crush of people, and the heat made me start to feel woozy and nauseous, so I had to get out of there.

Back to the front bar… Because they were playing in the bar, Ghost Town Electric suffered some in terms of sound, especially during the first song. It had improved quite a bit, however, by the time “Feelin’ Strange” rolled around — it came off as sweet and rootsy and desperate, all of which is why I freaking love the damn song.

In contrast to the rest of the night, GTE kept things relatively light, thankfully, playing raw, countrified, rootsy rock with a seriously Southern influence floating around in it and then up-shifting into a thundering, early-Priestess gallop. Best part of the night? When, in response to one hyper-enthusiastic fan, guitarist Harrison Jacob grinned, shrugged, and declared to the audience: “Per that guy’s request, we’re gonna keep it going.”

Arkansans Rwake finished out the night, and while I was somewhat skeptical after The Roller, I found myself won over pretty severely by the sextet of unassuming, hillbilly-looking dudes (and dudette). Hell, I’d apparently been hanging out over by the band’s Lemmy-looking frontman and frontwoman, who were selling merch during the previous couple of bands. They seemed like very cool, down-to-earth people…until, naturally, they got on the stage and cut loose with those unearthly howls.

The guy/girl vocal dynamic is probably the most interesting thing about their sound, actually; B. and C.T. (no clue which is which, sorry) play off one another ridiculously well, not doing a rough-pretty thing but instead both mining different styles of metal vocals and combining the two. Musically, I kept thinking of High on Fire, which is no bad thing — hell, the only thing I dislike about that band is the vocals, so Rwake’s take on the same kind of sound was a welcome thing.

When I left, partway through Rwake’s set, The Mink was still jam-packed with people, all boozy smiles and headbanging friendliness; hopefully that means Brandon and Jaron won’t make this festival their last. END

(Photos: Defending the Kingdom; Big Fiction; Co-Pilot; Cavernous; The Roller; Rwake. All photos by J. Hart. Full set up here.)

Live review by . Live review posted Thursday, April 7th, 2011. Filed under Features, Live Reviews.

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4 Responses to “Live: Metal at The Mink”

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Omotai + Fox Derby + Meatmen + The Energy + Hope Benefit + Jessica Lea Mayfield + More on April 22nd, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    […] and with jaw-droppingly good (mostly) instro-metallers Cavernous, who blew me away at the recent “Metal at the Mink” thing. Really, really good, far better than I’d suspected they might be, honest. (And sorry, […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Summerfest 2011 Rundown, Pt. 1: American Fangs + Romulus Ate + Sour Notes + LIMB + + Black Congress + Grass Skirts + More on May 31st, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    […] dudes The Roller not too long ago at the epic “Metal at The Mink” show I reviewed on over here, and they were by far the loudest, heaviest thing I heard that night; it was bassy beyond belief, […]

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » Summerfest 2011 Rundown, Pt. 2: Giant Princess + Finnegan + Free Rads + Neon Indian + Nosaprise + Outer Heaven + More on June 8th, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    […] along — I liked ‘em at the Lost In Space Festival, liked a different incarnation at the “Metal at The Mink” mini-fest thing, and dug their side of the split they did with Ghost Town Electric. Heavy, sludgy, […]

  4. SPACE CITY ROCK » Coming Up: Co-Pilot Leads an Atmospheric, Heavy Blowout, This Saturday on August 3rd, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    […] one of these kinds of shows Lemons threw at his little home-away-from home in Midtown; yours truly went and had a complete blast, so I’ve got pretty high hopes for this go-round, […]

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