I'll try to keep this one a little quick. But then again, I always say that and then write you a novel. But really, don't let me go on tangents, okay?
Goatwhore opened the night. The band is a four-piece metal powerhouse from New Orleans. For over twenty years, these musical polyglots have blended every extreme (and not so extreme) metal genre to create something that can only be called metal for metalheads. I've come to understand that creating music that unifies the scene rather than playing into its niches is one of the act's tenets. I like my niches more than most, but Goatwhore are on to something there. They’re also a shockingly friendly crew despite the spiked arm gauntlets. Singer Ben Falgoust is a high-fiving machine who reached out to every fan that packed against the stage. During the breaks he tried to talk sports with the crowd. Not in a performative, "If I mention the local team, I can get applause way," but out of sincere interest. Boos rang from a portion of the audience too extreme for sports. Guitarist Sammy Duet and bassist Robert “Trans Am” Coleman weren’t as touchy-feely, but they consciously switched sides, propping their boots on monitors all over the stage for the benefit of their fans. Duet has a hot mic for backing vocals and occasional banter. "You are all very polite. Let's change that," he said between songs. A small Midwestern voice shouted back "Noooooo!" My people. Zack Simmons stayed behind his kit, working his two kick drums, and maybe listening to true crime podcasts. At least I assume that what he was doing, as I couldn't discern any backing tracks in the mix that would require those earbuds or computer. That mystery aside, the band's performance was wonderfully balanced – just enough theatrics to make it a show, and just enough workingman's metal to remain connected with the audience. Are you curious about Falgoust's timbre, Duet's fingerings, Colman's tone, or Simmons' stroke style? Sorry, this is the recap version, but rest assured that the band's 55-minute set gave its fans the full treatment, including something for every metalhead fetishist. And afterwards, the band not only packed up their own gear, but helped carry up the headlining act's gear too. That's blue-collar metal right there.
A half hour later, NOLA compatriots Eyehategod started their set with three solid minutes of feedback. I first saw the band thirty years ago. Hold on for a second while I let that sink in. Since then, beards have gotten longer, wrinkles gotten deeper, members have died, multiple heroin addictions have been kicked, and at least one member of the band received a new liver after drinking his first one to failure, but the band's sound has not changed. It's based around the slow bluesy riffing of founding guitarist Jimmy Bower. In fact, that may be all the band is. Riffs. Constant riffs. Sludgy Sabbath-esque riffs that hypnotize. And he has a million of them. Bassist Gary Mader partners with Bower. Neither have pedals. Their tones are consistent, pervasive, and all encompassing. Reverberating feedback frequently bridges songs together. Drummer Aaron Hill is the newest member of the band, but he's been around for ten years already. The left-hander may pick up the pace for moments of hardcore punk, but he soon regresses to the languid pot resin that is the band's norm. The fact that he looks like a youth crew kid entertains me. Mike Williams is the band's vocalist. He's a wiry man who has flirted with death his whole life. I never saw the band at Williams' worst, but I've now seen Williams at his best. Williams' voice sounded strong whether he was offering forceful screams, gruff grunts, or shredded gargles. He was focused and witty between songs, rather than simply retreating into his misanthropic shell as he did during past performances. He thanked the audience between songs, and frequently joked with the crowd. During the first break he recalled that the band used to play The Riot Room in Kansas City, and then noted that "This place [RecordBar] is a little cleaner." The scumbags in the audience booed that fact. Later he quipped to Bower, "This is the song that made us filthy rich. Remember that?" Of course, the band never had a hit. If it did, the money might have killed the band. Literally killed them.
For the final song, "Kill Your Boss" from 1993's Take as Needed for Pain, Williams delivered the iconic (and histrionic) shredded vocals flawlessly while rare moments of crunching riffs crashed around him. As Williams hung on his microphone stand in the center of the stage, the audience shouted and convulsed in unison. While short-lived pits occasionally developed during the set, most of the audience was content to nod and headbang with each crushing downbeat. Williams indecipherable and ever-changing lyrics made it hard to sing along, but that didn't stop some fans. They may not have been singing the same words as Williams, but they were the ones that they've shouted on road trips for twenty years and that makes them correct in my book.