Sunshine. Birds singing. People smiling. The warmth of a season blooming.
These were the things being served all around Indianapolis on a Thursday, but when the time for darkness came the city was reminded that misery, hostility, self-loathing and eye-squint inducing feedback were truly what our wicked hearts desired and were lucky enough to receive. While Come to Grief, Fistula and Potslammer tested the survival rate of eardrums, Black Circle Brewing’s lemon tart, chocolate stout, double IPA and other powerhouse beers tested tastebuds and livers alike.
Upon noticing this stack of VCRs and tapes, it was clear this evening was going to be full of surprises, the first of which was just how truly fantastic local openers Potslammer were. Considering their name, tie-dyed merchandise and the initial images of bright blurry “sweet leafs” that came across the projector, it would be understandable for you to assume cheesy, over-the-top stoner jams would abound. Oh and they go by the names Joint Leif Chief Lammer (drums) and Holy Trichrome Conjurer Bud Pots (guitar, vocals)….so, yea. Luckily, their music is dead serious and far more enjoyable than the toked up silliness of their theme.
The absolutely crushing opening riff and the shifting imagery from bright hippy to black and white overlaid images of mutated faces, broken bodies and spiders making webs set the proper tone. While Chief Lammer didn’t play very quickly, he hit his kit harder than someone trying to knock the remnants out of their grinders. Mr. Bud Pots’ riffs switched from subtle groove to barbarian crushers to noise-riddled sludge over long songs backed by battering beats. The star of this set was unquestionably the vocals. Pots would seamlessly switch between cleans that one could confuse for Karl Simon of Gates of Slumber and bellows only topped by our caveman forefathers. His voice was brilliant and the care they took to create a more artistic visual element with the projector was even more so.
Side note: The best incidental visual of the evening was when the smoke machine created too large of a cloud in front of the kick drum, so when Lammer hit it, a huge smoke ring blew into the crowd. Kick, puff, pass.
Fistula took the stage and immediately shifted the atmosphere from one where lips curled up with joy for a blunt to those that preferred to wrap around the bitter taste of a metal barrel and await the lead chaser.
Fistula’s performance was the live music equivalent of a werewolf transformation. Each track became more muscular and a little wilder. No one epitomized this better than vocalist Dan Harrington. He began the set with beer in hand and despite seemingly putting no effort into it, delivered some absolutely vicious shrieks and howls. The clarity he achieved was remarkable. You could easily understand much of what he was screaming, which is a rare feat in the metal world even for recorded materials. As the performance went on, he began to sweat and pace turning into the ultimate wereVocalist and rending the flesh off the audience with his final piercing notes.
The rest of the band did their job too – creating a miasma of miserable feedback with slow droning riffs, but those lycanthropic instincts peeked through with speed and songs that carried enough testosterone anyone who heard them had the potential to grow a fur coat on the spot. What set them apart from many of their sludge peers was their willingness to hit almost thrash speeds without it ever getting to a fist-pumping party vibe. These guys stole the show.
Come to Grief built a cult following during their days as Grief and just in time for this tour, Decibel Magazine had recently done a Hall of Fame piece on their seminal release titled Come to Grief. Due to band frictions there were separations, but they have returned under their new moniker in the last few years to revive their ugliness for the masses.
Being unfamiliar with their discography, this writer was unsure what to expect and was honestly thinking “good luck following Fistula” as they took the stage. In one sense I was correct because Fistula outdid them, but barely so. Come to Grief brought old-school, no-fuss no-bullshit SLUDGE. Metal has always had a disturbing love affair with suicide. It’s in several band names, there are tons of songs about it and it is the penultimate manifestation of self-loathing with results that can be rather disgusting. As such, this obsession is a logical pairing. Come to Grief brought that sense of suicide, but where many bands romanticize and fetishize it, these dudes had the sonic depressive end that reminds you people shit themselves when they die. There was nothing pretty about what they were doing.
Vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Hebert’s voice was an unwavering shriek that was a shock to hear fly through his Cousin It style mane. This crew’s biggest strength came in the form of guitar leads. Guitarist Terry Savastano traded off with Hebert as each shredded away at their frets and the crowd’s ears resulting in wry smiles and joyous cheers from the audience. They also get credit as being the only band of the evening that actually got the whole crowd to start moving and headbanging during their closing track.
Oh by the way, did I mention drummer Chuck Conion played with a broken fucking leg? Yea, that’s how dedicated to pain these monsters are.