What's that adage about "older and wiser?" Who would have thought those old axioms hold so much truth.
While all of the bands on this diverse representation of extreme music are far from wet behind the ears, it was still shocking to see exactly how placement on the bill and popularity affects one's overall performance.
Kicking up the initial blast of dust, 11-year-old apocalyptic stoner rock trio High On Fire pulled heavily from their Motörhead songbooks for an ephemeral, albeit upbeat, set. Having only their wits — or lack thereof — to pull them through the show, there was no reliance on fancy gear, backdrops or stage sets to ensure they won over the crowd, which they still did for the few who were paying attention.
Following up with what was easily the most engaging performance of the show, the gig's oldest outfit, hardcore heroes Converge (born in 1990), were vicious. Plugging their new album Axe to Fall while still delving into the old stuff, they might have been a touch too abrasive for both audience and sound system. Still, the endless running and kicking, screaming and head-banging was as awesome as their ability to forego massive production values and let the music do the talking.
A year younger than High On Fire but from the same camp, Georgian progressive stoners Mastodon were the first act to prove that youthful vigour combined with expedient success might not hinder the music but can severely affect the show. Suffice to say, they were seamless, but they also barely moved. Thank the massive screen behind them for dazzling for the crowd, because, onstage, mannequins could have provided the same enthusiasm.
Tweaking the odds slightly for death metal act Dethklok (nee: 2006) is a necessity. We're not really supposed to care about who's playing the music. It's all about that same LED screen previously mentioned, where the band's cartoon renditions perform and interact — this time with the character from new metal videogame Brutal Legend. In that sense, the Klok was perfect: impeccable sound, a tight performance and nothing to take away from the music and the on-screen characters. Still, it's strange when a band 16 years your senior can rock the fuck out while these scenester longhorns let some drawings take the lead.
Then again, maybe they're the ones with the right idea: lay back, play and let what one friend dubbed, "watching Pink Floyd's The Wall as performed by Beavis and Butt-head," unfold without breaking a sweat.