Catching three bands in three different cities is something that I will never do again. Losing my phone in Detroit, losing myself in Pittsburgh, and losing my lunch in Columbus was enough to take all of my energy. Purely for pleasure, I ventured to uncharted territory to Pittsburgh and witnessed Graveyard.
Hailing from the beautiful lands of Gothenburg, Sweden, it initially wasn’t love at first sight for me and Graveyard. Like any functional relationship, it took work. Our first meeting was only okay. The sun shined on the four piece as their beautiful hair blustered in the wind, but while their talent was evident in Pittsburgh, my like of Graveyard grew into a full crush in Detroit. On their 37th performance on this tour, I’m not sure what it was that made my heart a-flutter during their set. It’s possible that it was the perfect venue that is Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, the crowd that was more than into the band, or maybe it was as simple as closing my eyes and letting them take the lead. I traveled back to a time where love was rampant and Graveyard was the soundtrack. Their 70s era soft psychedelic-blues-rock formula was the right mixture for our one-sided love to grow. Joakim Nilsson’s voice is reminiscent of a classic rock band from the 1970s, but with a relentless intensity and hunger behind it. If attendees at The Missing Link Tour were unaware of who Graveyard was before the show, they definitely knew who they were after.
Consistency is another word that describes a stable relationship. My first Clutch show was in Columbus in 2013 and my knowledge of the band was that a guy I was dating was really into them, so that obviously meant that I was into them as well. During the show, I became intrigued. Clutch is so much more than “Careful with That Mic”. Neil Fallon’s testosterone-filled voice always reminded me of my father and his friends, breath smelling of Jack Daniels and cheap beer talking about what seemed like nothing but was always something. Before Clutch’s performance in Detroit, I had the opportunity to sit down with Fallon (video interview to be posted soon) and he mentioned that he was ready to go home to resume some normalcy as a husband and father before inevitably leaving for another tour. With this part of our conversation in mind, I witnessed Clutch perform at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre to a packed audience. I didn’t see an empty seat and Fallon delivered, song after song, sipping on what looked like bourbon or whiskey and water, with his well-groomed beard shaking with every syllable, whether it was “The Burning Beard” or “Profits of Doom” or “Spacegrass”, Fallon easily commanded attention with only the boom of his voice. Filling in on bass for Dan Maines, since his wife is about to give birth, Fu Manchu bassist Brad Davis played both Sterling Heights and Columbus dates, from what I could tell flawlessly. Slated for release in September, Clutch’s “Psychic Warfare” will most likely be supported with another tour in 2016.
My motivation to go on my itty bitty min-tour was Mastodon. The Atlanta-based outfit got ahold of me when I was still a minor. Sitting in my grandparents’ living room watching MTV, “Colony of Birchmen” appeared on my screen and I was changed forever. Unlike my growing love of Graveyard, I fell for Mastodon instantly. While naysayers criticized the band for their latest release “Once More Round the Sun” for being “not metal enough”, or even “pop”, it is one of their strongest.
Brent Hinds, the band’s most animated and charismatic guitar player, performed “DC Sound Attack” with Clutch in Sterling Heights and also played guitar with Graveyard in Columbus. I unfortunately missed a performance of “Blood and Thunder” in Red Rocks, Colorado where Neil Fallon took the stage with Mastodon and sounded like a blood thirsty Viking after successfully pillaging a small town.
Hinds’ antics such as kicking amps and rapidly flicking his tongue kept my eyes on him, but in each city I did notice that his vocals were muffled. In Pittsburgh, I couldn’t find the proper words to describe the bass god that is Troy Sanders but in Detroit the haze became slightly clearer. In Columbus, the smoke finally waned; watching Sanders is as if he is possessed and the “normal” man inside is fighting the possessed part of him and losing. Swaying and hell bent on bending his back as close to 90 degrees as possible, talking and pointing to the audience, and occasionally bulging his eyes, Sanders took Hinds’ spot as my favorite member of the band. With that said, Bill Kelliher and Hinds effortlessly shred the hardest but make it look so easy. I overheard a man at the show in Columbus mention something about how the men of Mastodon somehow haven’t developed carpel tunnel.
Both “Megaladon” and “Oblivion” were crowd favorites, but hearing one of my favorite tracks from “Once More Round the Sun”, “High Road”, was enough to seal in my Mastodon fandom. Although The Missing Link tour is over, both Clutch and Graveyard are planning new material to be released in September of this year. This tour made me feel as if I am capable of love. Tour continues for Mastodon at Free Press Summer Fest in Houston, Texas, and then to Europe.