“I flew beyond the sun before it was time
Burning all the gold that held me inside my shell
Waiting for you to pull me back in
I almost had the world in my sight
Bright eyes fading
How can I tell you that I’ve failed?
Tell you I failed
Falling from grace cause I’ve been away too long
Leaving you behind with my lonesome song
Now I’m lost in oblivion.”
- Mastodon “Oblivion”
Sometimes it is not what you know, it is who you know. With that being said, if it weren’t for my concert buddy Tina Nosari, and Amos Rifkin, the drummer for an Atlanta band Death of Kings, I would have missed this once in a lifetime experience at the Earl. What was billed as a birthday and benefit concert for Steve McPeeks (a close friend of the band Mastodon and a member of Brent Hinds’ other band- Fiend Without a Face who suffered a severe work injury), turned into a one of the best nights ever for everyone who attended. Imagine being able to witness, firsthand, a performance from Mastodon in a venue the size of a small loft apartment. After you let that sink in, then imagine being up front and center. Madness.
MF’er, a female trio from Athens, Ga., kicked off the evening with their self-described sound of ‘punch-in-the-air rock noise y’all are sludge punk’ and took no prisoners. With what sounded like a mix between Sonic Youth, bits of Kyuss, and a little Sleater-Kinney, they melted minds at the Earl. Fast, loud, and in your face, these ladies knew how to open up the night right. If you have a chance, check them out sometime. Look them up on Facebook, or better yet, check out their tour dates for a venue close to you. You will not regret it.
Next up was Mastodon guitarist, Brent Hinds’, side band, Fiend Without a Face with Steve McPeeks on bass. If you are familiar with Brent and his humor, then witnessing three guys dressed in Shriner hats and masks, playing some good ole rockabilly/surf/honky-tonk will seem normal. If not, then looks will be deceiving. Brent has made a name for himself as a talented guitarist since the birth of Mastodon. With each side project he enters into, it is a new way to showcase his virtuoso guitar playing to the avid listener. If you are a fan of bands like The Meat Puppets, Social Distortion, early Queens of the Stone Age and Tom Waits, then give Brent’s side band, Fiend Without a Face, a listen.
Atlanta’s own ‘Original Cosplay band’, LUST, performed in the next spot. It included Brann Dailor’s wife, Susanne Gibboney (drummer for Mastodon) on lead guitar and vocals and Amos on drums (from Atlanta’s own Death of Kings). This four piece is very entertaining to say the least. Dressed as Pharaohs (Amos dressed in full Mummy mode), LUST took the stage with their mix of comedy and adult themed rock/punk as the last band before the mighty Mastodon would take the small stage at the Earl.
It wasn’t too long between sets when the guys from Mastodon came up on stage to get ready for their performance. The crowd erupted into a complete frenzy. Reality had set in and I was coming to terms that I was about to have my face melted off. The set list for the night was taped on stage in clear view and I could see that the mix of old and new tracks would give any fan of Mastodon a huge smile. The opening notes to “Tread Lightly” began to resonate throughout the Earl and the hometown boys were about to show Atlanta some love. I was set up on the right-center of the stage between Troy Sanders (Bass/Vocals) and Bill Kelliher (Rhythm guitar/backing vocals) for the night and was not moving an inch if I could help it. You could tell that the band was indeed having a blast playing for old and new friends alike in their hometown throughout the night. Mastodon played a strong 18 song set list which spanned over 2 hours of nonstop music to our ears.
The last show they played in Atlanta (also to a sold out crowd) was at the Tabernacle with French metal band Gojira and special guests all the way from Norway, Kvelertak (November 2014). The success of Mastodon comes from more than their ability to sell out venues, it comes from their ability to create and master the ‘concept album’. Since their first major release “Remission” (2002), to their current release “Once More ‘Round the Sun” (2014), the band has been successful in managing to not create the same album twice. Something the band takes much pride in when creating a new release in the studio. Even if you are not a fan of heavier music, the evolution of Mastodon transcends the typical notion that all metal bands play as heavy as possible. One of the reasons why I feel so close to their music is their ability to express pure emotions and reality through well-written songs, whether a ballad, or pushing the envelope to a little heavier track. Regardless, these four guys have placed a foothold in the music industry as one of the first and foremost rock/metal bands in the world.