March 14, 2011

Concert Review - United Hate Across America Tour

Thursday, March 10th, dawned bright, clear and crisp in Northeastern Louisiana. After leaving work at noon I picked up two good friends, and we headed an hour and a half down the road to Shreveport to see Beyond Terror, Beyond Grace; Havoc; The Absence; Full Blown Chaos; and Malevolent Creation. I have been a fan of The Absence for six years. In all those years, I haven't been able to see their live show. 

We arrived at Shreveport around 2 p.m., ate some lunch and then headed out to find the venue, The Riverfront Warehouse. When we found it, it was still early, around 4 p.m., and nobody was there. We walked around for a bit and then I, wanting to be first in line, sat out in front of the venue while my friends walked around for an hour. 

One might think this was kind of pathetic, but it afforded me some interesting experiences others might not have had. The bands, all of them, were wandering around outside, joking with each other and prepping for the show. On top of that, I got to meet one of my heroes, Jamie Stewart, vocalist for The Absence. I was standing outside, regretting my decision to be first, when he walks out of the front of the venue. He says, "Hey, who are you here to see with that shirt on?"

He could tell I was nervous, I'm sure, so he asked me my name and if I had pre-ordered their newest album. I answered I had and that I'd been a fan since their first album. He made me and my friends a deal: if we spent the money we were going to spend on tickets on merchandise, he'd get us into the concert free. No problem there, I was already planning to buy a shirt, at least. We all agreed and he left to set it up.

Finally, 7:30 came and we went into the venue. It was small compared to other concerts I've been to, maybe room for a hundred people on the floor and maybe another hundred around the bars and in the upstairs loft. It was very intimate, and I loved it instantly. This is the kind of club you go see metal shows in. Huge stadiums make me feel distant from the artists. I felt like I was connected here. 

We stood around for a bit, had a few beers, and then the local opener, Expletive, started playing. They sounded like blackened death metal – not a bad opening act. They were tight musically, playing some of their own songs and then a Divine Empire cover. 

After an hour of set up, Beyond Terror Beyond Grace came on. They are droning atmospheric black metal, which is not my cup of tea. Watching the vocalist strangle himself with the mic cord and beat himself in the head with the mic were slightly uncomfortable to watch. On top of that, their amps were so loud that their music basically turned to static in my ears. I know metal is supposed to be loud, but not so loud you can't hear it.

After they left the stage, it was Havoc's turn. I knew they were thrash, but I didn't quite know what to expect. I hadn't heard any of their music before. When the lights came up, the vocalist turned around and said "Shreveport! Let's party!" They then let loose some of the best thrash I've heard in a long time: blistering solos, great riffing, pounding blast beats, just amazingly great metal. It was a party on stage too. Many members of the other bands joined Havoc on the small stage to sing, head-bang and dance. Whether this was a nightly event or just happened tonight because it was the last day of the tour, I don't know. All I know is that it was awesome.

After Havoc finished, it was time for my band of the night, The Absence, and they were, of course, awesome. I had heard that their live shows were intense, and I'm here to say, that statement is completely correct. Even with a small audience of only 30 or so people, they didn't tone down the intensity of the set at all. They tore through fan favorites like Riders of the Plague, The Murder and Dead and Gone. It appeared, though, that I might have been the only person there to know the words to the songs or had really even heard of them. However, the people at the show were into it, and it appeared that The Absence had picked up a few more fans.

After talking with my friends, as it was now past midnight, we decided to split. They had to be to work the next day, and we had to drive an hour and a half back home. We stepped to the front room so they could buy merch, and we talked with Jamie a little. While talking, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around. It was Jeramie Kling, The Absence's drummer. He handed me one of his drumsticks and said, "I saved this for you. Not everybody appreciates these when you give them out, but you had to have this." I thanked him profusely and he stopped me and said, "No, thank you" and walked off. 

Jamie begged is to stay for two more songs from Full Blown Chaos, and we agreed. They are primarily a deathcore band. I didn't much care for them. I felt bad that I wouldn't get to see Malevolent Creation, but I had seen The Absence and had been converted to the Havoc camp, so I was happy. We left the venue, ears ringing and lighter of money, but better for the experience.

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