Show Review: Down at Southport Hall

Another show, another excursion to the southeast’s most hedonistic city. Tonight’s festivities found us returning to Southport Hall for the first time since our nearly ill-fated trip to see EyeHateGod, a weekend that was plagued by personal problems and near catastrophic vehicle problems. Arriving what I thought was early, we found the parking lot in a rather different state of affairs than on our last trip. It was already packed to the gills with members of what is derogatorily known as the “bro” demographic. Many of these fellows looked horrendously out of place for a Sludge Metal show. Chalk this surprise up to stupidity on my part. I had forgotten that Down’s frontman, Philip Anselmo, was once the most famous purveyor of “groove metal,” a subgenre of Thrash tailor made for frat bros. I shall save the ranting for another time though, back on topic.

Attempting to enter the venue, we were greeted by something I had not yet encountered at a Heavy Metal show, pat down searches and metal detectors. Shayne was made to return her wallet chain to the car for fear that it may be used as a weapon. Something that I noted to her was kind of hypocritical, given the number of musicians on stage that night with wallet chains that were heavier and longer than hers. Do security personnel abnegate logic to such a degree that they believe musicians are incapable of using wallet chains as weapons? I believe Sid Vicious was semi-legendary for this practice. When we finally made it inside, we decided to push to the front early this time.

The first band of the night were a group from somewhere on the north shore (at least I think that is what the singer said) called Cretus. Their sound was fairy typical drop-tuned “groove metal.” It had all the tropes one looks for a in a good (read: bad) groove metal act: constant mid-paced tempos, chugging riffs, macho douche bag lyrics, and the stereotypical “I wanna be Phil Anselmo vocal delivery. They were bad. How bad? Well, I won’t use names, but a member of Down was standing next to me making fun of the the whole time. Their show was boring, and the crowd just seemed to not be into them at all. Their big anthem (which they dedicated to the ladies in the room, how nice of them) was a song called “F.T.A.” (which stands for, surprise, surprise, “fuck that ass”). Their set was short. In the future though, if I’m to be subjected to security checkpoints and other hassles on the way into a show, the least you can do is book a better opener than this. I know Louisiana has better Metal bands to offer.

What’s this now? Oh look, it’s a band with masks. Trick bag were what could best be described as some sort of attempt to meld Speed Metal and Psychedelic Rock. A cool idea in theory, but, unfortunately, poorly executed. As their set wore on, all but a very small section of the crowd seemed completely uninterested in what they were doing. THe only respite the band received from the deafening silence of apathy came during their final song, a cover of Megadeth’s “In My Darkest Hour.” When I was not fighting the ever shifting, amorphous organism that was the audience to maintain control of my spot, I was laughing at the onstage calamity that I was witnessing. You see, dear readers, Trick Bag didn’t wear latex Halloween masks like Slipknot, or some other hack “nu-metal band,” no. Instead they wore face obscuring hoods with eye and mouth holes cut out of the face shroud, coupled with cheap black cloaks. The cloaks would find their way over the front of the guitars, resulting in muted strings. What’s worse is that the singer spent more time fighting to keep the hood from blinding him and the shroud from blocking his mouth than he spent singing or playing his guitar. If I were more sympathetic to hack gimmick bands, I would have almost wanted to feel sorry for them.

After such lackluster openers, things could only get better from here. Right? Taking the stage next were King Parrot, a somewhat motley assortment of Australians. Their music was a loud, calamitous mess that sounded like a less technical, but more brutal version of the Dillinger Escape Plan. They hold the dubious distinction of being the only band that I have ever seen play a set in their underpants. I do not know what the climate is like in Australia, but perhaps it was an effort to stay comfortable in the heavy, oppressive Louisiana air. It is no secret to anyone that I find this particular style of Hardcore music less than appetizing, so in an effort to maintain some semblance of professionalism, I will leave the assessment of their music to the short description above. Their stage antics, however, were pretty entertaining. The vocalist would routinely crowd surf and leap off stage to instigate mosh pits. All the while, screaming at the top of his lungs and staying in perfect sync with the band. I think he actually did about half of their set while moshing.

Up next were, of course, Down. I went in with pretty low expectations, given some of Phil’s past incidents. I left impressed. They definitely command a room. Of course, this was a hometown crowd, so perhaps their was some bias. The band executed their parts flawlessly and they had the audience eating out of their hands the whole time. It was pretty impressive. I have no doubt that Phil could have probably commanded them all to turn on each other and they would have happily obliged. The set list included a couple of tracks from the newer EPs, but mostly stuck to the old classics like “Stone the Crow,””Ghosts Along the Mississippi,” etc. At the end of their set the band came back for a single song encore, an extended rendition of “Bury Me in Smoke.” Thankfully, Down were good enough to make me forget about the dreadful openers. Especially for a band whose frontman was complaining of horrendous back pain.

After the headaches surrounding the last couple of shows we’ve gone to, it was nice to have one go over without a hitch. Down definitely gets a spot on the list of bands I will be seeing again if the usual crap like egos and all the other drama that accompanies being a musician doesn’t tear them apart.

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