Words Anthony Moore.
Photos Matt Allan Photos.
Two points were brought up pre gig. The first I think I read on the Facebook event page, that punters that were going to the gig needed to wear earplugs for Conan or we wouldn’t be able to hear Weedeater after them, purely from going deaf due to Conan’s ridiculously loud set. The second from someone as I walked down the stairs into Max Watt’s, and this was going off the feedback from how the other gigs on the tour had already gone, that this could very well be the gig of the year! Calling it before the first band had even started!
If it was any other night of the week and we didn’t know who was headlining, the set from Weedy Gonzalez would’ve been enough. We could’ve gone home and been done with it. All boxes ticked. I don’t know what it is exactly about them, there are a lot of bands that play similar music, but Weedy just know how to write fuckin good songs! Easily the best set I’ve seen them play yet. And a massive shout out needs to go to the legend that is Dav Byrne on sound for the night; perfect start.
You know when Clint ‘Hand Of Doom Radio’ rushes to the front throwing the horns at the ceiling with both hands at the sound of the first strum, you just gotta pay attention! Merchant took to the stage as the room started to really fill up. They have such a strong following and it’s continuing to grow, all due to solid live shows and a kick arse debut full length release Suzerain. Some heavier doom / sludgier bands these days stick to all low end, I really dig how Merchant have some contrasting high end solos over the dirty low bass and drum grooves, very cool.
The first thing really noticeable with Conan, besides the sheer volume of course, was that the floorboards immediately felt like they were crumbling under foot. It was pretty disconcerting to start with but their power is just so awesome you can’t help but admire it. Under genre on their Facebook page, it says “Caveman Battle Doom”, which is pretty damn accurate. I’m not familiar with their back catalogue and all of the songs they played, but I think it was ‘Throne Of Fire’ that was the face melter of the night. The crowd swayed in unison like seaweed underwater. The riffs were huge, or loud, actually both. If I had a second set of earplugs I could’ve used them as a battering ram against the first but even full body armor wouldn’t protect you from this much awesome. Conan totally held the room to attention, it was pretty overwhelming at times; even when it dropped quiet to just a single cymbal hit with white noise screaming from the speakers, mouths were agape.
The stage setup for Weedeater is pretty cool; drummer Travis Owen sets his kit up front of stage and facing to the side toward guitarist Dave Shepherd. Not only is that a little different to the usual, the big space it leaves at the back between the amps also seems a little strange. But after seeing only a few moments of Weedeater you realise not only are they a fuckin kick arse sounding band, their stage show is just as impressive and the drums should be as far up front as possible. Owen’s hi-hat’s are up a little higher yet he still manages to raise his leg up in time every now and then and kick them instead. The set was full of stick tricks and spitting water on the snare at the end of each song after a well-earned drink, to watch it spray up again as he belts into the next one. Usually this sort of stuff would be seen on some ‘80s metal stage, but this isn’t just about showmanship, it’s about some primordial instinct to just go hard and beat the hell out of the drums and for everyone there to have an awesome time. It was hard to take your eyes of Owen even for one second, but then bassist “Dixie” Dave Collins steps up to the mic. If gravel was a chain smoker, made of pure evil and could sing, it’d sound just like Dixie. The music is solid, so thick and heavy, but those vocals (as well as the live antics) just sets Weedeater so far apart from anyone else.
The biggest crowd fav was when they played ‘Monkey Junction’ from 2000’s …And Justice For Y’All album. The bass intro is so chunky a chainsaw couldn’t cut through it. For me it’s the epitome of stoner / sludge; it just keeps steadily going and going, subtly building and fills you like an addiction. As the full body sway takes you over, Dixie informs us “It ain’t over yet”, then the song then finishes. But he’s right, it ain’t over, it’s too far ingrained in us to escape. It’s so disgustingly good.
Point one was quickly proven, the person who commented on Facebook was definitely right. Conan are up there as the loudest band for me along with Acid King and old school Ministry. Anyone without earplugs was definitely still hearing a screaming banshee for the next few days.
Point two was also very quickly proven, from the outset it was a definite that, although it’s hard to say if it was the gig of the year, Weedeater’s unbelievably jaw dropping set along with Conan, Merchant and how much Weedy Gonzalez slayed it, made it easily one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. Props again to sound guru Dav Byrne as well as to Life Is Noise for always bringing the goods!