On your kitchen counter sits a cookie, a doughnut and a brownie. Do you grab just one, or take a plate from the cabinet and serve yourself all three? That was the decision I faced this week when I had three different concerts on the horizon (two were back-to-back), all of which were for artists that I like an awful lot. Since the stars aligned in my favor this week, I checked out all three. Here’s what I have to report.
Venue: Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
Opening act: Jillette Johnson
In a few words: Crazy genre mashup of folk, blues, gospel, country and operatic rock
I feel like I should disclose that I kind of know at least one of the members of Delta Rae. I mean, he’s more my older brother’s pal than mine but we are Facebook friends, so, yeah…disclosure. With that out of the way, I’ll say that DR embodies the solution to the conundrum I opened with better than most. I am not even the slightest bit comfortable trying to describe these guys and gals with one word. They’re part bluesy, part folksy, kind of gospely and maybe even countryish. But they play with an infectious energy that isn’t found in any of those genres.
DR is loud, bold and intensely theatrical. If you aren’t a gospel or folk sort of person, toss aside your misgivings and check them out anyways. Hell, I wouldn’t even know they existed if not for my brother knowing some of them and that worked out just fine. I sometimes try to broaden my musical horizons beyond the aggressive, heavy stuff (see the band below) that dominates my playlists and DR is just what I needed. That being said, “Bethlehem Steel” is a banger of a track. Crank that shit up.
Venue: Ace of Spades, Sacramento (Yes, ground zero of this tumultuous life event.)
Opening act: Intronaut
In a few words: Bombastic and moshtastic rocking’n’rolling heavy metal mayhem
After seeing them a second time on Sunday, I’m pretty sure that it’s impossible to not have fun at a Mastodon show. I mean, sure, maybe in theory it’s possible. Like if some guy in the mosh pit pulled a machete out of his ass halfway through “Bladecatcher” and hacked your arm off with it. But even then, your reaction would be less “AAAGGGHHH! MY ARM!” and more “DUDE, HOW THE HELL DID YOU FIT THAT MACHETE UP YOUR ASS!? THAT IS SO METAL!” In which case you would buy a shirt from the merch stand to use as a tourniquet, grab another drink at the bar and throw yourself back in the mosh pit to give your assailant an affectionate headbutt, because grievous bodily harm aside, that’s a hell of a party trick.
So, I’m not actually sure where I was going with the above hypothetical anecdote. But I’m pretty sure it was along the lines of “Mastodon live is an awesome experience and only the most extreme of circumstances would make it suck.” Atlanta’s finest sludge/progressive metal rockers are currently out on tour supporting Judas muthafuckin’ Priest but are squeezing in a few headlining sets here and there. They are definitely worth checking out; with or without Priest. But let’s be real: you should see them with Priest.
Venue: Greek Theatre, Berkeley
Opening act: The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger
In a few words: Magical and full of fairy dust
Here’s an act you’ve probably heard of. I was super proud of myself for attending this one. I mean, I like Florence Welch and her accompanying Machine very much. I’m just as surprised as you are that I think they’re awesome. And once again, an opportunity presented itself and I took advantage of it. There’s not much I can say about Florence’s music; you either like it or you don’t. Her shows are something else entirely.
Florence Welch reminds me of those little fairies that follow Link around in the Zelda games. Except that she is a person and she also isn’t annoying, but most certainly magical. She is constantly in motion and spinning around and trying her best to be this bouncing ball of joy that it’s impossible for her positive vibes to not rub off on you. No shit: her’s was the first show where I didn’t mind sitting way up in the grass. She really does bring the show to you. I neither know nor care where she ranks on the pop mega star scale in terms of big flashy concerts. In fact, I don’t even know if she’s considered a pop artist. But go see Florence and the Machine. It’ll cost you a tad bit more than these other too acts, but totally worth it.
Also, for some reason people take off articles of clothing and throw them onstage to her. Nothing exciting though’ just sweatshirts and jackets. She also played the Greek two nights in a row, presumably so the half of Berkeley that wasn’t at the show I went to could attend.