I know a lot’s been said about the Sleep shows at the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn (I only went to the second of the two), and honestly, apart from the obvious — “Sleep are gods” — there isn’t much to say. If forced, I’d probably pick the cover of Ozzy Osbourne‘s “Over the Mountain” as my personal highlight of the night, if only because after coming on following a projected still photo of Tony Iommi and a medley of Sabbath riffs and solos played over the P.A., I think everyone expected them to cover Black Sabbath, so doing Ozzy was a nice twist. Plus, there’s the whole “mountain” connection between the track and the classic Sleep’s Holy Mountain that was about as enjoyable as puns get.
You’ve probably heard already that they were fucking loud, and they were. I stood upstairs in the back, probably as far away from the stage (and, more to the point, the crowd) as I could get, and even still my earplugs felt futile. Even the rumbling of Al Cisneros‘ bass between the songs shook the half-wall on which I alternately leaned and sat for the two-hour show, and Matt Pike ran Marshall amps through Orange cabs that probably would have been enough on their own to blow out eardrums, never mind piping them through the Masonic Temple sound system. Had it not been so awesome, you might’ve been able to call it cruel.
They played all of Sleep’s Holy Mountain as they were reputed to be doing on this “Marijuanaut’s Return” tour, and peppered in sections of Dopesmoker, beginning the show with that album-long piece’s lumbering opening riff. Watching Cisneros and Pike play these songs was like watching B.B. King play the blues — you were seeing two people who were the absolute best at what they do doing what they were born to do. They may not like each other (Cisneros is all meditative contemplation on stage while Pike‘s energy is every bit as frenetic as it is in High on Fire even if the Sleep songs are slower), but there’s no denying the chemistry between the two players, and anyone who thinks Neurosis‘ Jason Roeder is anything less than a suitable fill-in for original drummer Chris Hakius is just wrong. In presence, hard-hitting and technique, he is easily a match for Hakius or anyone else, and the two groups’ shared Oakland roots puts Roeder probably the closest to an original member as Pike and Cisneros could come without getting someone who was actually in the band.
Brooklyn was Brooklyn, ever as was, ever shall be. I don’t even care anymore. I’d sit here and rip on flannel-clad hipsters, but who gives a shit? Sleep got back together and played shows. I’d go see that shit at a convention of Nazis with a Star of David tattooed on my forehead, I think I can put up with the Williamsburg trust-fund crowd. Plus, it was one of those gigs that brought out a whole group of friends I hadn’t seen in a while or don’t get to see all that often, so it was hardly me against the world. Once Sleep kicked into “Holy Mountain,” it was riffs, space and good times. Everything else be damned.
With the success of High on Fire and Cisneros‘ post-Sleep ritual drone outfit, Om, I can’t for the life of me imagine either of them actually wants to bring Sleep back on any kind of permanent basis, but they at least looked like they were enjoying the chance to revisit the material in front of the sold-out crowd, which is probably more than you could ask. Whether or not they continue to proceed the weedian toward Nazareth is really irrelevant at this point, I was just happy to see a killer band I never thought I would. Any other ranting about the importance of Sleep to stoner metal or the interaction between Pike, Cisneros and Roeder on stage is secondary to that, so I’ll spare it. Was a good night I look forward to remembering fondly.
Tags: California, Gods, Oakland, Sleep