I Bet the Sound Carried for Miles: Railyard 9/15
There are times in one’s life when one feels a lack of direction. I understand it’s a common condition. Life winds down into a mindless, chaotic mess, with no clear path out into order and sanity. In times like this, some people turn to religion, others to philanthropy or volunteering. I turn to my Facebook feed to guide me through the dark times when I have no plans for the weekend and it helps me through the dark times…seems I’m always invited to some shindig, and that works for me. This time, I had an invite for a concert down at the Railyard the night of September 15th. It was a Sunday night, which isn’t my favorite night to spend in a bar listening to loud music, but I’ll take it in a pinch.
The evening started well; the weather all but defined “Montana early-fall perfection.” I showed up at the Railyard in time for the first band’s sound checks. It was nice to appear before the place filled up; it’s much easier to order drinks when you don’t have to shout over the music or, in the case of these bands blasting through the Railyard’s legendarily loud sound system, miming to the bartender that you want a drink and playing a quick game of Charades to request the specific brand of drink you want. I ordered a pint of Coors (classy, I know), found a table with a good view of the stage, and got ready for the show. I was promised the rarest of all shows: one featuring at least one real-deal doom metal band. Combine that with the fact that there was no cover and that there’s an opportunity too good to pass up.
Ground Into Dust was up first. This is a fairly new band here in the Billings area, with only a few shows under their collective belt. Their set was the opening salvo in a night of doom metal. Ground Into Dust has a good grasp of the doom metal sound, a soot-blackened melange of low-tuned instruments, guttural vocals, and Lovecraftian Elder Gods worship. This is an excellent combination of factors, as it combines three of the eleven things I like in music into one convenient package. Let’s say I hope to see that band again. Doom metal is the most expeditious way to pay tribute to H.P. Lovecraft’s dark pantheon, and that’s something everybody should do from time to time.
Shangri-La was up next. I’ve seen this local band a couple times so far, and though I’m not a huge fan, its place on the roster made sense. Plenty of grunt and grind, befitting a good metal show. Not a bad performance, but at least one song required the lead singer to read the song lyrics off a crumpled piece of paper he held in his free hand. I can’t be too upset–Shangri-La’s starting to sound good, even if reading lyrics during the song is a bit of an amateur move.
Greater Apes took the stage next. I saw this band for the first time recently, and I can say they still rock. Their fast-and-loud punk rock was a bit of a departure from the slow, sludgy metal preceding them, but it made for a nice interlude between metal bands. Greater Apes’ tight, sprinting tunes not only were enjoyable in and of themselves, but they added a bit of savor to the other acts. Man cannot live on bread alone, and the ear likes to be challenged. I dig Greater Apes, and I was happy to see them in this venue.
After Greater Apes played, the bar PA started playing songs from Tom Waits’ “Rain Dogs” album, which I love. Not so much a comment on the music as it is something cool that happened.
Windhand was the last to play. The Virginia band’s presence was announced by the smell of incense (always burning in the band’s presence, it seems) and detuned, down-low doom metal sound. Picture Black Sabbath cranked to maximum volume and played inside a trash compactor, only with one more guitar and a woman doing vocals. That may sound unappealing to some people, but I was more than happy to be front and center for the wall of sound that is Windhand. Heavy on the feedback, counterbalanced with high, clear vocals. Seriously, during the show, I could feel my eyeballs vibrating and scalp rippling in the punishing waves of feedback. This was the band people seemed most excited to see. It furthers the idea that nobody does good, slogging doom metal like the South. I’d never seen this band before, but I’m now a fan.
Metal music is a driving force in my life (as is clear to anybody who’s read these blogs before) and it’s always been there to make me feel better about being me. I don’t love leaving the house on Sunday nights, what with work the next day, but this trip was worth it. I’d do it again. Everybody should. If you’ve never been to a scalp-rippling, eardrum-bursting rock and roll show, you could do a lot worse than these bands. Look to metal music for guidance and you’ll be happy where you end up. I guarantee it.*
*Results not guaranteed.
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