Date: Saturday, September 26, 2015
Venue: Lost Well, Austin TX
Bands: Nosferion, Hexlust, Skan, Secrets She Kept, Plutonian Shore
After eight years of playing drums onstage, I still get a decent dose of stage fright before gigs, and still get apprehensive the day of a show.
"Maybe everyone associated with the venue will spontaneously combust," I'll fantasize as I try to will myself out of bed that afternoon, "and I can just stay home and not have to do stuff."
Don't get me wrong, I love playing live. I love seeing my metal friends, both musicians and supporters. I love setting up my drums and taking a proud second to admire how pretty they are before I smash the unholy fuck out of them. Among all this joy, though, there remains my little checklist - places to go, tasks to complete, things to keep an eye on - that never stops cycling through my noggin. Completed items are crossed out, tasks still to be done are highlighted in an ever-boldening shade of red. On gig days, I'm often withdrawn, distracted, even a little grumpy, depending on how bold any of those red items are.
Not this day, though! Somehow I just woke up knowing this was going to be a great gig. I had used our full-band practice the week before to troubleshoot my drum kit, so all my gimcracks and doodads were in working order, broken down, and ready for load-up. I knew exactly where the Lost Well was and how loading in worked, having performed there with Morgengrau back in December. Load-in wasn't until 21:00, so I spent most of the day relaxing and lightly warming up on my practice pad. Everything in my brain's to-do list was looking to be easily crossed off at a casual rate, practically taking care of themselves.
Of course, I had Jake to do all my worrying for me. When the person who was actually in charge of the show wasn't able to make it, Mr. Holmes stepped into the role of promoter as well as stage manager - charged with communicating with all the musicians and making sure everybody was aware of their stage times - while also performing in one of the bands! I knew he was feeling the pressure, but I had zero doubts as to whether he'd pull it off. He's well known in the central Texas metal scene and has great rapport with many musicians, plus he just plain gives a shit.
The good vibes continued as Hexlust took the stage. We had a numerous, energetic crowd, which was really saying something considering there had been some higher-profile, well-hyped shows going on in the Austin/San Antonio area since Thursday. Our playing was smooth and confident, and once again Tony displayed amazing presence and crowd control, although he did have one minor issue I'll get to in a minute. Our stage sound was fantastic, provided by a soundman who was actually on his first night employed at the Lost Well. He scared me a bit when we were setting up, telling me that this was his first night as he clipped a mic onto my floor tom. I must have given him a look, because he quickly followed up, "As in, here! I used to work at Red 7, but I recently left." Can't do that to me, dude.
Without the frustration and stress we had at our last show, we weren't playing with the same fire and fury this evening, but we were a well-practiced, finely-tuned thrashing machine nonetheless. Well, there were a few moments of mild concern:
-Right before the set JT thought he wasn't getting a signal to his amp, and had to futz around with some newly-purchased cables he had just then unpacked. He managed to resolve both issues, but still. That's a paddling for bad pre-show prep, Mr Avakuma.
-My hi-hat clutch slipped just a bit (I might have hit it once or twice while playing), to where the cymbals had a fist-sized gap between them and sloshed horribly no matter how hard I mashed the pedal. Annoying, as well as distracting, but the show must go on. Then, despite all the prepwork I did on my kit before our set, my double pedal managed to become discombobulated and revert to a single pedal during "Baphomet Dawn," WHICH, by the way, we weren't even going to play this evening! We had planned on skipping it entirely to save on time, but I was so distracted by my sloshy-ass hats I counted it off out of reflex.Those concerns certainly didn't detract from the evening's merriment! This was actually a very social show for us, chatting it up with regular metal-scene friends as well as some longtime cronies who came to see us. There was Eric B (we know a lot of Erics, so it's important to make the distinction), an old friend who barista'd with JT for a while, jammed with us on occasion, and even came to our shows, who I haven't seen since the Immolation show in San Antonio back in 2011. Christ, time flies too quickly! Also there were Russell and Amber; Russell used to head I Misery, one of the very very few legitimate death metal bands to come out of the Killeen/Cove area, as well as Special Guest Satan, which also featured our very own Tony on guitar for a while. Adding a slightly surreal touch to the revelry was the presence of Mr. Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, who was related to somebody associated with this show and is actually an ardent supporter of underground metal. I neglected to get a picture with him, but did have the privelege of carrying on a pleasant conversation for a good while!
-After Baphomet, I had to call a break to get myself situated, leaving Tony to entertain the crowd in the interum. Here, we rediscovered one of his biggest weaknesses in his otherwise stellar stage presence: improvisation. After all the leaps and bounds he's made in his charisma and confidence, Tony still can not work a crowd on the fly, and I heard some instances of "uh" and "like" slipping into his word-vomit. He even admits that his confidence dips when he has to improvise, which can probably be alleviated if he were to keep a skeleton of a speech tucked away in the back of his mind that he can fill in with details on the moment.
Of course, I don't mean to imply that the evening's entertainment was uninteresting, and I did manage to catch at least a little bit of most of the performances. Nosferion employed a soundscape-y approach to bleak black metal which I enjoyed as much as Tarzan assured me I would. Can't wait to see what they sound like with both their guitarists! The Wolves of Skan presented a confident, intimidating stage presence and featured atmospheric segues between blackly esoteric meditations on death and a Slayer cover with Jake's vocal assistance. I missed out on Secrets She Kept, a black metal act on a national tour who were added to this bill after another show they were attached to got cancelled, but from what I saw they got a decent crowd.
Tony, Tarzan, and I were carrying on with Jeff A.D. when I heard Plutonian Shore start up. Of course, I actually wanted to watch their set, after I missed a good 90% of their performance at our last show in Dallas, and Tony wanted to head home, so we started our goodbyes... and they kind of lasted for a while, as our goodbyes tend to... basically I missed a little more than half of Plutonian's set. Whoopsies. I got right up front and added as much falsetto might as my range would allow for their "Highland Tyrant Attack" cover, and headbanged with Eric B for the rest of the songs. There are still a few months left of 2015, so there's room for surprises, but their Sphere of Geburah album is shaping up to be album of the year in my humble opinion, and it's still a blast seeing those songs in the live environment. In fact, I have a Morgengrau gig in December with Plutonian on the bill, so this time, this time, I'll catch their whole set.
I don't have the brightest opinion of band promo pictures, which is largely why the majority of the photos you find online of Hexlust are live shots. We haven't even attempted a photoshoot since 2008, and we used live shots in the booklet for our album. Those turned out great, so I don't see us changing that policy anytime soon.
However, an even compromise does exist in the concept of pro-shot live pics, and after this show, I think we know who we'll be using. In fact, the footage taken by Mr. Erik Bredthauer of NecroBlanca Photography this very evening was close to perfect; some killer angles, a tasteful use of black and white, and the best postures and facial expressions captured by his finely-calibrated shutter finger. I'm including four of my favorite examples from his business Facebook page, but if you visit his website, you can see the shots he got of all this evening's acts! That link should take you directly to this evening's folder.