The Missing Link Tour: Central Park, NYC | By Morgan Y. Evans
I’m an old school Mastodon and Clutch fan (Swede’s Graveyard haven’t been around as long).I often boast of buying the last copy of Lifesblood directly from Troy Sanders at Relapse Contamination Fest in 2003. My old band Fuse from Woodstock, NY, when we had Ryan from TV’s Oddities in our band, once covered “12 Oz. Epilogue” with violinist/engineer Owen Swenson who runs the Turning Mill Studios (where Swans have been rehearsing recent years) at a Burton Snowboards party full of strippers opening for Orange 9mm. Heck, not to boast but I caught a version of this tour years back when Mastodon was opening the Clutch tour with additional support from The Hidden Hand.
The metal ascent of Mastodon as the most influential band of the last ten years in heavy music has been glorious to watch. Korn modernized nu groove, Killswitch brought the NWOAHM, but Mastodon more than any other band got the mainstream hip to sludge and psych again, arguably more than ever. Mastodon’s breaking led to a trickle down awareness that has also helped the careers of other unique yet compatible bands like Black Tusk, Kylesa, Giant Squid, Intronaut and Empress A.D. or numerous others find more fans on the hunt for brainy, proggy sludge music. Heck, they even willingly let themselves be a gateway band for people who somehow weren’t yet hip to Melvins, Clutch and Neurosis. Mastodon also deserve credit for making harsh music fans remember to care more about record art than anyone has since The Jesus Lizard’s Touch & Go Records days.
Arriving early to Central Park’s Summerstage, a killer location for a show where I’ve previously seen acts ranging from my childhood friends Coheed & Cambria to indie legends like Sonic Youth, Elvis Costello and They Might Be Giants all perform unforgettable concerts to raving mad fans, I was thrilled to hear Graveyard’s retro proto-metal soundcheck reverberating off buildings far away as joggers buzzed by, horses clomped and tourists stopped for pretzels. How awesome to have the legit metal bands grace Summer Stage, especially when the mainstream has snubbed metal at The Grammy’s with lazy, unthurough nominations in recent years.
Graveyard warmed up the eager crowd, a thrilling Zep-esque, creamy blend of early hard rock, thumping drums and psych-blues licks straight outta Nuggets if Deep Purple somehow played garage. The thrill was evident on the faces for real rock fans stoked to see a band just getting recognized on chops, songwriting and style. They were friendly to fans pre-show and helf their own admirably on a much envied support slot.
I was beyond stoked to see my favorite hard rock band Clutch bring their Bad Brains influenced boogie tyrades to Central Park, and it did not dissapoint. Being the 20th anniversary of the classic self-titled record didn’t hurt things either, as Neil Fallon roared right into startling opener “The House That Peterbilt” with a bellowed ,”When I Talk Talk On The C.B. Yeah I Scare Men.” Goosebump shit, ahhh!! Another highlight was the crowd pleaser “Cypress Grove” which had people jumping up and down. One dad had a young son on his shoulders. That kid is gonna grow up to be awesome if Clutch was one of his first concerts. In the crowd I saw Dava She Wolf of NY/NOLA’s Star & Dagger as well as Dave Brooks of diverse rockers Honor Among Thieves, who just opened for Sixx A.M. in Times Square.
Clutch were, in the words of Fallon, “100% committed to a good time.” From “A Shogun Named Marcus” to “Mice and Gods” and electric closer “One Eyed Dollar”, the jam room Maryland vets owned the stage. It was super validating as a fan of real, working class rock to see the band dominate a stage they’ve more than earned.
Mastodon’s albums all have various advocates, from Remission fanatics to the quite rare kids who only like post-The Hunter stuff. I don’t mind their more hi-fi records as the band always use great gear, which makes each record sound amazing, but it was especially awesome to hear newer songs take on a more raw yet alive tone in a live setting. I’ve been reading the teachings of his holiness The 17th Karmapa, and thus my metal has been more on a psych and psychological bent than towards angry stuff that ISN’T about social issues lately. Crack The Skye is currently my favorite Mastodon record, but I deeply dig the new trippy stuff like “Tread Lightly” or the title track from Once More ‘Round The Son. Live it is especially like no one else’s music on the planet.
Mastodon hit the stage with the same intensity that I wish Sansa Stark’s love life would improve already, that is…quite a lot.Enough with the sadists, George R.R. Martin.
The crowd of people gathered roared as “High Road”, an especially mercurial and liquid version of “The Czar” and other underground anthems stirred the blood, throats heartilly singing along. The cosmic power of riff and intent was as passionate as Quasar expert Jedidah Isler’s astro physicist Ted Talk (which is super massive, haha). Powerful particle streams of riffs and Dailor patented drum rolls blazed through body and mind of the gathered loyal metalheads. Dailor recently said how Metallica made the American Dream seem possible for younger metal bands and I think that certainly goes for how fans feel about Mastodon themselves. If nothing else, it’s an excuse to work hard at kicking ass and to at least want to help build up your own city or town scene. You can make your mark.
As Neil Fallon returned to close out the triumphant night on stage with Mastodon for the brontosaurus boner (or perhaps Moby Dick, haha) of all stoner rock anthems “Blood And Thunder” from Leviathan, this truth was thunderously obvious.
Photos by Nicole Terpening