Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death Metal

On August 31st, 2007 we played with a band from Athens, OH, called SKELETONWITCH. They had just been signed to Prosthetic Records at the time, and their first record, Beyond the Permafrost, had not come out yet; I believe it came out something like the following October.

(note: the artwork for that record was done by one John Baizley. Why does that matter? Well, John happens to sing and play guitar for the band BARONESS, who are coming to Missoula in July opening for the magnificent CLUTCH.)

Since then, these guys have literally been on the road virtually non-stop, except for about a month or so. They’ve crisscrossed the USA on various tours, been to Europe . . . just all over. They play an extremely fast, heavy form of metal usually outside my comfort zone; basically death metal. But they do it very well, and they are just great, great guys. It is one of those situations where one would easily make assumptions about the band members based on the imagery, but the reality is I don’t think I’ve spent time hanging out with a more enjoyable group of guys from any band we’ve played with.

Sid told me they were coming back to Missoula to play The Palace. Rather than get the ‘wolfs on board, though, I was able to get HELLIANA on the bill. I would have liked to do the show, but this was the first opportunity for Sid to have his band open for a band he really loves, and that is a Big Deal. He was pretty ecstatic. Last night is when it all went down, Sid & Co. went on first.

I hadn’t seen these guys play since . . . man, I don’t remember. But they flat brought the rock, and people really seemed to dig them. It is very gratifying to see them get better and better. I know they have some little internal gripes now and again, but that always happens when you are idle for a while. They impressed a lot of people with their energy and their material. I was quite pleased.

               

UNDUN, a local metal band that has been around a while but I had never seen before, were up next. I have to confess that I really didn’t catch their show, even though I was in the room. I was too busy catching up with the Skeletonwitch guys, telling road stories, talking about our formative years as rockers, etc. They thought Helliana were awesome, and thought it was cool that they got to open given that Sid is such a big fan. That led us to tell stories about our own experiences playing with bands we love, most of which have turned out positive. That is a great thing about this underground scene, is there is an instant comraderie based on shared experiences, venue comparisons in different cities, etc. I enjoy the hell out of that.

Undun did a skateboard giveaway, which I thought was pretty cool. Everyone who paid to get in got a raffle ticket, then they drew a number out of a cup before the ‘witch went on.

I’ve never met this girl before, but while she was clearly in the Undun “crew” she was equally enthusiastic and appreciative of all the bands. I like to see that. So many are standoff-ish in these types of events, so I like it when I see people giving credit where credit is due.

Skeletonwitch went on next, and they flat ripped . . . it . . . up. I planted myself at the front of the stage and did not budge, and that was a blast. A good metal show is so cathartic — it is very primal in the energy and the physical nature of people just hurling themselves against you. I loved it. It helps when you know a band’s material and they are ripping the roof off the place too. It was just a blast. I didn’t get many pictures because it was too wild, but here are a couple. What a great band!

     

After it was over, Sid and some of his friends wanted to do a group photo with the band. They were happy to oblige.

It was a great night, and while I only got a little sleep I still feel kind of renewed today. I was happy that the Skeletonwitch guys were so cool to Sid and his band, and even imparted some words of wisdom that, while no different than things I’ve told them, still carry more weight from someone unknown to them. It restored my faith that rock isn’t just a total bullshit scene, even though so often it seems to be.

When we were driving home, Sid commented, “Man, I don’t even see how anyone can get as good as a band like Skeletonwitch is.” I said, “Well, for one thing they did over 200 shows last year alone. Think of how good you got after just 6 or 7 in a row playing with Lazerwolfs last summer!” He definitely understood.

Julia and I talk about that quite a bit. It is the time one puts in that makes one great. Yeah, some people are just full of natural talent, which helps, but they still have to work at it. It usually doesn’t take that long to get competent at the mechanics of something, whether it is playing an instrument, wielding a paint brush, whatever. It is the hours you put in doing it over and over again where you get good, get creative, etc. Even that is no guarantee of traditional “success”, but it sure doesn’t hurt. It’s pretty simple, but it never hurts me to remind myself of that.

Skeletonwitch are headed to Seattle, where they are going to spend the next three weeks recording their new album with the mighty Jack Endino at the helm. I can’t wait to hear it when it’s wrapped up! I hope they get huge and filthy stinkin’ rich.

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