Last Friday, I found myself double-booked. I had bought a ticket for Deafheaven weeks before, and, thinking the show was on Thursday, reserved a camping spot at Carpinteria State Beach (the opposite direction from home) Friday night. Cut to two days before the show and I realize it’s actually on Friday. Cue decision-making time. Almost sold my ticket on StubHub. Counted miles and time, figured I could make it if I left at the right time.
Man, I’m glad I made that drive.
The show sold out just before the doors opened at 8pm. I made it before the first band, Marriages, took the stage. I hadn’t heard their stuff before, but apparently they’re composed of ex-members of Red Sparowes, an LA-based post-rock outfit. They certainly fit the show well – their deliberate, almost sludgy heaviness was layered beneath soft-spoken vocal melodies and punctuated by violent outbursts. It was off to a good start, and it amped me up for the next two bands.
Next came Earth, Seattle-based drone/doom act. I really didn’t know what to expect. Would they stick to their more melodic stuff from later releases? Or would I disintegrate from the wall-rattling vibrations let off from the debut Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version? Fortunately for my atoms (somewhat), they played a lot of new songs off their forthcoming release (which I can’t remember/can’t find the title for), and improvised over some tracks off 2008’s The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull, especially Omens and Portents II. I had no idea what to expect (can you pit to drone/doom?), but my apprehension was assuaged by the near trance-like state I entered after slowly nodding my head (and later my upper torso as well) along to the slow, methodical plodding of a band who’s been doing this for decades.
Finally, at 11:05pm, it was time for the headliner. This was another one that I didn’t know how to prepare for. Deafheaven, as I’m sure a lot of you know, is – through no fault of their own – one of those bands that causes an online shitstorm among trve metalheads and black metal kvltists. Are they black metal? Are they shoegaze? Post-metal? Do genres even exist? Regardless, their sound was one I had no experience with in a live setting. I assume the pitting happens a lot during blast beats and when it’s intense, but what about the quieter, prettier moments?
Really though, I guess the answer is “who cares?” – there was, like at every show, plentyof everything. I watched from just behind the pit for the first half of the set, soaking in the sound as the band put on a ridiculously high-energy show. Walls of tremolo-picked guitar leads and washed over the crowd. Blast beats pummeled the crowd, pit or not. Frontman George Clarke’s wails bled through like his life depended on everything he screamed. They played through all of Sunbather, 100%, then came back on to play Unrequited off of the 2011 debut Roads to Judah as an encore. I don’t think I could have asked for a better setlist, really (not that their prior stuff isn’t great as well). Sunbather stands just two seconds shy of a full hour, and every second of it was given to the crowd with gusto. On its own, the album is a modern masterpiece of “extreme metal,” or whatever other genre buzzwords you’d like to include. Live, though, it was even more massive, the sound tearing through the entirety of the sold-out theater.