Here’s a quick New York moment for you: I’m sitting in my car waiting for 7pm to roll around so I won’t have to pay for parking off 23rd St. in Manhattan. Bison B.C. go on at 7, so once I’m in the clear I’m going to head into the Gramercy Theatre to catch their set, but in the meantime, I’ve got a book with me, I’ve got the Yankees game on the radio and I’m basically good to go.
Then all of a sudden I look up and standing next to the car in front of mine, facing me, is a dude on his phone. Not uncommon. I do a double-take, though, because on second glance, he’s got his shwatz out and he’s pissing right there on the street. It’s not rush-hour or anything, but there are people walking by for sure, and I know damn well he saw me. It was one of those things that, if I was a tourist from the Midwest, I’d be talking about it for years. As it is, I was kind of like, “Eww, wiener,” and went back to reading. Surely I’d not just spent an hour and a half of my life getting to the city to see that.
I’d done it to see Bison B.C., Black Cobra and High on Fire, dammit, and when 7pm rolled around, I busted ass across the street to do that very thing. I didn’t know the show was sold out (dude at the door told me to watch my feet in my sandals), which was a daunting prospect. This was the biggest show I’d been to in a while — venue and people-wise — and to be honest, it’s more than I generally prefer. But that’s a killer mix of bands, and if humanity is the cost of bearing witness, I’ll tough it out.
Their set was short, but Bison B.C. played well to an enthusiastic crowd of supporters. Gramercy was hardly packed at that point, but the material off their new album, Dark Ages sounded good bouncing off the walls of the place, and the band had that something-to-prove energy that’s lost once anyone makes it big. They looked and sounded like a bunch of scruffy dudes touring in a van. Can’t replicate that.
It had been years since last I saw Black Cobra, but man, they killed. Can there be any question of their dominance in the live arena? With just two members, Jason Landrian and Rafa Martinez, they blew the still-to-come Priestess off the stage. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Chronomega, but even I knew those songs would rule live, and they did. If you’ve never seen Black Cobra, they’re one of the most devastating stage acts in metal today and it’s as simple as that. They should have the dude who used to come out before Tenacious D and say stuff like “Stick around if you want some cream in your jeans” traveling with them at all times, and not just because they’re also a duo.
And yes, Priestess played. Sure, fine, yeah, whatever, Priestess — in that order. Sorry, but even when the Canadian band seemed to be playing NYC every other weekend with Early Man back around 2005-2006, I couldn’t get interested, and I remain firmly in the “Not Into It” category. If it’s any consolation (because I’m sure that with their direct support slot for one of metal’s most up and coming bands and their successful new album, my opinion is what’s going to ruin their day), I was in the vast minority.
At last, High on Fire. It was bittersweet to watch Matt Pike, Des Kensel and Jeff Matz on stage — and not just because I could barely see them for all the people standing in front of me. In a way, it was like saying goodbye. I’m still a High on Fire fan, and I even thought that some of the material from their latest album, Snakes for the Divine, which maybe I didn’t dig so much in its studio incarnation sounded really good live, but there’s no question it’s different now. They’re a big-ass band, playing sold out shows. Hell, I saw that bus outside. It’s just not the same.
That’s the dilemma of the underground band, right? Not that it matters to them — a head in the crowd is a head in the crowd — but for the fans, once that line is crossed, that’s it. And they ruled, don’t get me wrong. Pike strutting around the stage with his guitar halfway up his torso, slamming down on it like he was chopping wood. Matz‘s backing vocals during set opener “Frost Hammer” (a wise choice), “Fury Whip,” “Bastard Samurai.” All good times. I even stayed to the end, which I didn’t anticipate doing. But you relate differently to big bands than you do to small bands. High on Fire has made that transition now, and yeah, that’s good for them.
I knew what I was getting going into the show and I went anyway, because It was simply too killer a lineup to miss. High on Fire was selling $3 souvenir party cups, so I grabbed one of those on my way out and made my way back to Jersey, parking ticket-free, stopping only for some Rt. 3 pizza which I’d soon regret — but that’s a different review altogether.
Tags: Bison B.C., Black Cobra, High on Fire, New York City