Real Live Action


with Sumac and Balance
December 4 @ The Rickshaw Theatre

Real Live Review by Sam Hawkins

Before the dregs had settled, the fog had faded, and the last of the footsteps had clicked quietly out through the double doors and into the rain, the Rickshaw Theatre and all those who had attended were treated to something formidable on what seemed like just another Thursday night.

As far as metal shows go, the proceedings began like most do.

Local opener Balance initiated the night with a blend of metal and hardcore, and saw only a fraction of the audience that would eventually collect. Playing songs off their new EP, New Band Old Problems such as “Good Intentions,” and “Rain City Sorrow,” those present were given a chance to warm up to a louder, more discordant experience than the remainder of the night would prove to be.

Along with newly formed metal contingent, SUMAC — who are in the midst of releasing their first album, The Deal — the opening acts seemed somewhat out of place. While both groups were enjoyable, their sound couldn’t match the scope or the skill of what would soon take the stage.

As time went on, cans of beer and other bits of garbage were being thrown into the pit, in what I can only assume were instances of unrest.

So when the lights finally dimmed, and out came the members of San Francisco-based Deafheaven, the crowd went into an expected fervor.

Opening the set with a succession of tracks off their acclaimed sophomore album, Sunbather, the band played through “Dream House,” “Irresistible,” and the album’s title track, in an almost immediate sequence.

Coming into the concert, I feared the group’s ambient form of black metal/shoegaze/post-rock, might be lost in the audio that often compromises live events of this nature. Fortunately — whether it is to the credit of the sound engineers that evening or thanks to the band themselves in consciously playing at a lower level than other groups might — the sound was impeccable and everything came through just like their studio recordings.

With intricate guitar progressions, astounding drum patters, and painfully hoarse vocals, the band held nothing back on what was their last show of the year.

Transitioning into their newest song, “From the Kettle Onto the Coil,” the bizarre beauty that is Deafheaven’s music continued to shine. Frontman George Clarke, foreboding as he is on stage, with his harsh tongue and raspy throat, was backed by the near motionless accompaniment of his apparently more shoegaze-inspired band. Regardless of their inactivity, it all seemed so suitable, and it was obvious that their passion came through in their performance.

With spittle flying from this mouth, and his sharp glare felt on every face, Clarke finished off with a track from their debut album: “Unrequited,” with no intention of returning for an encore.

After all was said and done, and those who waited had chanted for a final song that would never come, I was happily aware of the show’s conclusion, and already back out into the night.