Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Baroness at The Bowery Ballroom

Saturday night was my first conscious experience of the phenomenon of indie metal and - to my memory - my first experience with the unexpected comforts of the Bowery Ballroom, a venue whose Lower East Side location and suggestion of significant age (I don't think they build ballrooms anymore) had always conjured images of a far scuzzier building to my mind. Maybe they cleaned the place up recently, but I didn't fear the acquisition of infectious diseases on contact with the air and the acoustics were really quite impressive.

I mentioned indie metal above; I think the most interesting part of the whole night was the idea of a bunch of fairly unevil (if slightly crazed) looking dudes playing loud music that only people who weren't metalheads would identify as metal. That's no knock against Baroness or opening act Coliseum, but merely an observation of the oddity of seeing one's subgenre coopted in ways that - for all of metal's versatility - only barely fit within the confines of the genre. Did I bang my head, pump my fist, and jump around a bit? Sure. Could these guys acquire the label of post-punk just as easily as that of metal? Definitely. There was some riffage and technical skill on display, but it - and most of the people watching it - were light years away from the old school uglies I saw this summer in New Jersey or the kids beating the crap out of each other a month ago at the Hammerstein.

Perhaps the biggest evidence of a stranger in a strange land mentality was the clothing of choice. I was with two of my bandmates (both big Baroness fans who'd convinced me, a virgin to their sound, to go); we were wearing t-shirts from Opeth, Darkthrone, and Celtic Frost. We spent most of the night playing a mental game of counting the shirts of bands like Mastodon and High on Fire all around us. At one point, Seth came back from the bar and said he'd seen some evidence of true metal: a kid wearing a Children of Bodom shirt. Later on, I wondered about the possible results of an ethnomusicological study of the indie metal community.

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