Image, Growing Up, and a Show Review

This past Friday, I went to a concert – my first in awhile. The bill featured IntronautDeafheaven, and Between the Buried and Me, two bands I love and one I enjoy (Deafheaven). The show, as a whole, was fantastic. The sound was great (which I have been concerned about ever since seeing Cynic at The Opera House a few years back), the crowd large and diverse, and the performances on point…for the most part.

Intronaut aren’t ones for showmanship and thrashing around on stage. Their music doesn’t demand it. It’s their musicality, their skill and precision at their respective instruments and their composition that make them a treat to listen to on record or see live. They have really become one of the few true progressive metal bands around, while maintaining a sound that is distinctively theirs. My love for them reignited at this show.

Deafheaven was up next. The crowd got bigger, a lot of people falling in love with them since the release of their highly-praised Sunbather (which is a great record). Their set felt long, as their emotive hipster’d-out black metal blasted consistently for (at least) 40 minutes. Admittedly, they put on a show, one contrived and trying way too hard to be something – which is what I really want to talk about.

Vocalist George Clarke came out in all black, including his gloves. He constantly moved his hands in a theatrical manor, “conducting” the music. His vocals live were different than on record, often trying to make everything have that raw, higher pitched black metal cry. It was contrived, trying hard to be trve black metal. Instead of letting the music speak for itself, he tried to make himself and the performance into some statement: we are not some hipster band, we are true black metal. But that is why they are considered a hipster band. Personally, I don’t give a shit if they are true or not. I have enjoyed their music on record. It sounds good to me. That’s why I was excited to see them live. Ten minutes into their set, I was done. Absolutely turned off from this band because of the singer. Their (his) performance reeked of needing validation.

I have been going to concerts for a long time now, although the frequency has dropped off over the last year or two. Prior to that, I tried to go to every local hardcore punk show, and any big heavy band show that came around. What I liked about all these shows was that no one tried. The performances were unhinged, singers wore dress shoes and shirts if they wanted, and the crowd included all ages. At least it seemed that way. Looking back, there was still an image required to be true. We appreciated the music and the artists because there was struggle and honesty in the music.

Between the Buried and Me were the headliners on Friday. Their first two records were true. They were honest, full of emotion and struggle. Alaska was mind-blowingly technical and still had emotion, even if the emotion didn’t feel as raw and true as it used to. Colors was an adventurous, best-album-ever type of experience for awhile, but that faded with time. The Great Misdirect continued where Colors left off, but had zero emotive quality. It was impressive technically (the band always has been), but that was it.

Since then, BTBAM has released parts I and II of The Parallax, a crazy space-themed story about two people across galaxies (or something) that meet (or something). It’s lyrically, and musically, the opposite of the band’s first record. And I absolutely love it. It’s a technical masterpiece. It doesn’t have try-hard emotional sections that the last few records did. It’s not raw, but that’s okay – it’s not supposed to be. And Part II is what the band performed in full on Friday.

I have seen BTBAM perform a few times over the last 7 years. Never have I seen them happier or more in love with what they are doing than this past Friday. They were flawless technically, but what impressed me was their passion. They cared. They believed in what they were playing, in what they were saying. This crazy space story was real to them. They wore things that were comfortable, not that it mattered to them. Their music wasn’t about how it looked, it was about how it sounded. It was a performance, one of very few I have ever seen. They told the crowd “it was an honour to play for you” and it seemed like it.

BTBAM were my favourite band for a long time. And then they weren’t. I hated that they weren’t what I wanted them to be and that they weren’t true to my pre-set vision of what metal was supposed to be. Now, I’d like to think that I have grown up. I don’t care about any of that anymore. I just want to be in love with my music and my art like Paul Waggoner is at 35. Sure, The Parallax has segments of hilarious stupidity (“Bloom”) that I will still skip on record, but live, the laughs and stupidity were a part of the experience, the performance.

The show was great, but the message I left with greater: Fuck image. Fuck what a genre of music is supposed to look and sound like. Fuck genres. It’s music – it can be full of honesty and struggle, or not. Not all music has to be made in the same way, for the same purpose. That’s why music is awesome, and I – like so many – love it.

And hey, me from four years ago, fuck you for being so dumb.



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