This past Friday, I ventured to one of my favorite venues in the city of Chicago, Bottom Lounge, to check out San Franciscan black metal outfit Deafheaven. I had seen Deafheaven play once before; a sold out show at Subterranean, another Chicago venue who hasn't seemed to grasp the positive impact of air conditioning. Thus, seeing Deafheaven play at SubT in the middle of summer when the place was packed to the gills was not very conducive to a pleasant concert experience. However, Bottom Lounge had never steered me wrong before so I was convinced that my ideal live Deafheaven experience would be fulfilled. It surely was and then some. The band played all of their latest album, Sunbather, in its entirety and even threw in a brand new song that was pretty solid. Along with George Clarke's piercing screams, the guitars and drums were thunderous. The band couldn't have performed any better, IMHO. However, there was something amiss, which had nothing to do with band. Rather, all the ire I eventually accrued over the course of the evening was aimed towards my fellow concert-goers.
|The best shot I could muster from the soundbooth with my phone.
You see, this was not just another show Deafheaven was playing as a part of the nationwide tour they were on. The reason Deafheaven was even in Chicago this past weekend was because they were on the bill for the Pitchfork music festival. The show they were playing at Bottom Lounge was a Pitchfork aftershow so, logically, the crowd was mainly comprised of Pitchfork-goers (take that as you will). That being said, it's certainly an odd feeling to be at a black metal concert where metal shirt-wearing attendees are in a staggeringly small minority. While being afloat in a sea of PBR, plaid shirts, thick glasses, and skinny jorts & jeans, me and my Death Leprosy shirt definitely stood out like a sore thumb; or more ironically, a leper.
Quite frankly though, concerts (especially metal concerts) have never been about comparing and/or scoffing at other's choices in clothing. It's all about the music! If anything, the more varieties of people that are in attendance should build a strengthened sense of community. Something that makes you think "it's really cool that so many different walks of life enjoy the same music I do and that it means something to them in their own unique ways." However, in typical fashion, my optimistic faith in humanity was once again shattered. I never try to eavesdrop at concerts, but countless statements were so blatantly absurd that they pierced my eardrums, which were content minding their own damn business.
What follows are real things that real people said Friday night at Deafheaven's show:
- I heard "Deafheaven" and "Radiohead" mentioned in the same breath as some kind of comparison was being made. The following sentence also contained the phrase "very avant-garde".
- "Yeah, you wont see many metal shirts around here because their (Deafheaven's) last album had a pink cover. Metal fans just couldn't stand it."
- After the show: "Too many guitar solos for my taste."
- Immediately after hearing, and reeling, from the above statement: "Music sucks....that's why they're playing Pitchfork."
- "That frontman (George Clarke) was sick" <--- A line I could get behind. "He seriously puts Jacob Bannon (singer of Converge) to shame." <---- A line that made me want to jump in front of the train I was waiting for.
What baffles me about this whole night is why I loved and hated the experience almost equally. On one hand, I had just seen a band play an amazing set at probably unsafe volumes for my ears. On the other hand, I was surrounded by a crowd that gave off a "Pitchfork told me to like it, so I bought tickets to this show" kinda vibe.
I've been to many, many metal shows. While I'm sure everyone passes their judgements on whoever is playing, the most I can every remember hearing verbally that was negative was something along the lines of "Eh, not my cup of tea". This is fine. I can accept that not every band is going to convert every single concert-goer into a fan. But if you're going to a show where you may anticipate not liking a band...do everyone else around you a favor and STFU (looking at you Pitchforkians).