Words By Jeb Gavin, photos by Farrah Skeiky
Whenever I see a show like Deafheaven played at the Rock and Roll Hotel this past Tuesday night, I find myself making up words. They’re more often than not portmanteaus, used to better and more accurately explain what I’ve seen and heard. I’m not saying English language is inadequate, but often I’m forced to resort to imagery that requires a caveat as if to explain, “no, I meant that in a good way,” or, “no, I meant that in a bad way,” or even, “take it however you read it.” With that in mind I will say, even having seen Frank Turner play barely a week ago, this is now the high bar for concerts this summer. Full stop.
Starting with the opener Wreck & Reference, the night was all about how much noise you could cram into a single room barreling down the canyon of the club’s small, downstairs concert hall. There were moments when I thought Wreck & Reference were unable to discern when to wash the audience with sound rather than just dump the bucket over their head, not that that’s a bad thing. All in all a more than adequate appetizer.
Middling that night was Pallebearer. They sounded a bit like if Rivers Cuomo decided -like Ryan Adams did with Werewolph– to get a metal record out of his system between Pinkerton and the Green album (and I most definitely mean that in a good way.) Especially if he likewise named it something off putting but hilarious, like Punt Cunisher. Not even major amp trouble slowed them down when they were left a guitarist short for more than half the set. They resorted to exploring their sound in a way that if they were a jam band people would’ve booed them off stage in a minute.
The headliner was Deafheaven. Rightly so. To pigeonhole them, shoehorn them into a genre, is aggravating. They are what metal should be right now and where it should be going in the future. Every time I’ve turned on DC 101 in the past 10 years and heard some mediocre pop rap metal combo I’ve wanted to hear Deafheaven, I just didn’t know it.
For many metal acts the rhythm section and the harmonies on opposite sides of the chasm, each one attempting to stomp around and cause a mudslide hoping to form a natural bridge between the two. Deafheaven requires no such stomping. Stephen Clark and Daniel Tracy sound like some sort of post metal drum machine born of a Steve Albini wet dream. And Kerry McCoy, despite or perhaps in addition to looking like Joe Lo Truglio in Wet Hot American Summer, plays like Tony Iommi’s zenned out little brother. My new favorite guitarist, hands down.
I’ve had a damn fine spring so far, show-wise. Swans, Ex Cult, the aforementioned Frank Turner show. But Deafheaven is now the high watermark for the upcoming summer. They make metal I want to fall asleep to- and I mean that in the best way possible.