Killswitch and Serendipity
Last weekend I had a London jaunt. They're something I try to indulge in as often as possible since I'm one of those creatures that feels just as comfortable in countryside mud as in city rain... Maybe it's a movement thing. An fear of standing still, in case I sink into the ground. Amongst other things, I met up with a new friend - a fascinating man, a genius (I know this because he is humble and truthful about his achievements). His mind is much sharper than mine. I am only the Little Knife, but he has something of the Ronin swordsman about him; capable of cutting through strings of obfuscation, and honourable up to the hilt. Perhaps it's no surprise then, that he works in the legal profession, and is interested in justice (and miscarriages of it). Legal terminology and semantics are his thing. I'd take this kind of company forever, over boozing and silliness. It's the intensity of these kind of exchanges that force me to carefully consider what I say; to be more concise - thoughtful - clearer. I slip into absurdity and obscenity, sometimes.
This weekend I also went to what was arguably the best UK metalcore show of the year, at Brixton Academy. Two heavyweights, Trivium, and Killswitch Engage, on the same, massive, black lacquered stage. They're both bands that are capable of pulling huge crowds independently, so with support from Battlecross and Miss May I the gig turned out to be not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.
This gig will have been a memorable one for all of the bands on the bill, not least Killswitch Engage and Trivium. A double headline tour like this is an absurdly complex operation to engineer, and yet the proportion of top-notch people involved is impressive. The fact that the team operated so seamlessly (from my point of view) was also a really pleasing thing to see. Working in events myself, I get a certain satisfied buzz when I witness something that's amazingly produced and executed perfectly. Brixton Academy is also a Holy Grail of sorts; and a massive venue. To put this into perspective, the last Killswitch Engage London gig I went to was last year at The Garage in Islington - a venue compromise after the cancellation of Hevy Fest. It's only a 600 capacity venue, much smaller than Brixton (which caters for a whopping 5000) and boasts virtually non-existent air conditioning - a serious issue when there is any kind of mosh pit involved because (in case you don't go to this kind of gig very often, and don't know) the room tends to get very hot very quickly. This particular gig left my skin pruney from all the sweat. Everyone, without exception, was forced to either remove most of their clothing, or leave the building in a state of severe dehydration. Despite various problems at The Garage, I remembered the band delivering a characteristically punchy juggernaut of a set. It was obvious that their energy was far too potent for such a small venue... And the Brixton show proved my point.
The Brixton Academy gig was clearly the perfect culmination, performance-wise, for a band who have been going from strength to strength since they resumed collaborations with the inimitable Jesse Leach. Their recently released (Grammy nominated) album, Disarm the Descent, has evidently made a deep impact on more than one generation of metalcore fans. If this Brixton set was an indication of things to come, I can't wait to see what the future holds for what, I have to say, are a group of talented, lovely guys, with an exceptionally professional (and equally talented team) behind them. Watching them perform from backstage was like watching something pseudo-spiritual taking place - their absolute focus was mesmerising. They are beautifully cohesive on stage, take what they do incredibly seriously and clearly love doing it. Here's their latest single, Always. It's tough watching, but beautiful in its own way. My mum likes it.
Here are a few things I learned about live music from this particular gig, and some things that I kind of knew already:
- World famous metal musicians, much like normal people, generally speaking, do not exclusively like metal music. That should really go without saying, despite metal as a genre being a little difficult to get into. However, I've found that most people are pretty tribal in their music tastes, and are hideously ashamed that they love a good pop song if their usual preserve is something more hardcore. This kind of attitude, (I think) makes for boring intolerant, uncreative people. Most good musicians I know have very eclectic taste.
- 'Dung beetles' exist in every walk of life. Lurkers, likewise. It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between people operating in their own self interest, and those who are genuinely interested in what they are experiencing/good company. No one likes a social climber. Remember this.
- For the love of all that is holy, put your phone away, enjoy the music, and make some memories. Don't get hammered to the extent that you need a visual aid to recall it. It's self-evidently ridiculous. And lazy. And disrespectful. (Caveat: A few photos are probably fine, but videos? No. You are likely to be ruining the show for everyone behind you. Don't be a dickhead.)
- Watching a very tall man in denim hotpants and a headscarf randomly running around the set whilst playing guitar is a wonderful sight to behold.
- The empty auditorium and stage at Brixton Academy viewed through the open full height back doors is an amazing thing to see. Likewise, watching the team packing a whole set into a lorry is impressive. Roadies are Tetris Masters.
- Appreciate the work of the lighting technician. He is a mixed metaphor. A pianist that paints with light. Fascinating to watch.
- Meeting people never gets boring. I found some downright hilarious ones this weekend, invented the "Ass Dance" and had debates as to who the best dancer was in the world (I'm 6th, apparently, despite my lack of coordination). I also encountered people I aspire to be like in terms of attitude, some people whose mere presence in the room made me smiley, even when recalling it days later, and people who were generous and friendly when they had no need to be.
- Fake snow is glorious. So are smoke cannons. They make all arguments win-able: - "You are talking complete nonse-" *POFFFFFF!!!* - "I win. "
- Indulging in silly-dancing never gets old. Especially if it's to Ska music. For me, this isn't nearly as frequent an occurrence as it should be...
- Guinness is all that is right with the world.
- Someone saying "I just got the shit snogged out of me" will never not be funny.
- Stupendous beards are all that are good with the world.
In short, if you have the chance to see Killswitch Engage, live - do it. Support live music, because it is worth your while, and it doesn't pay the artists as well as you think it does. If you have the chance to go to London - do it, and leave yourself open to doing stuff that you haven't planned. Glorious things happen in these situations. If you have the chance to talk to people - do it. Wonderful events spring from serendipitous meetings; but serendipity occasionally needs a nudge in the right direction, and saying 'hello' is sometimes all it takes.