It’s weird how going to shows changes as you advance in age. In my late teens, I would walk two miles each way to Hairy Mary’s (RIP) for all ages matinee shows, so excited that bands like Vader, Spirit Caravan and Today is the Day were playing anywhere near me. My lame broke ass didn’t have a car or any friends that were into underground metal (being shy and awkward and going to Catholic school for the entirety of your pre-college education will do that to you) so I hoofed it, and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I would watch every single band, no matter how many were on the bill and my enthusiasm never wavered for the shows, even when the bands didn’t start on time, or when the bands sounded like complete shit, or when the bands didn’t show up.
Fast forward to my mid thirties. I now live in a town where there’s basically no such thing as all ages shows, let alone matinee shows. Shows in Sacramento don’t start until what would typically be my bedtime and I often find myself struggling to get my ass off the couch and go, no matter how badly I might want to see the bands playing and support the scene. The only reason I arrive at shows early is so I can get a decent parking spot which requires me to walk as little as possible. I have to sit down between sets to rest my back and feet, sometimes even having to skip a band’s set all together in order to save my energy and my spine for whichever band I’m the most interested in seeing.
Granted, I don’t exercise, have shitty posture and my piss poor diet would probably kill lesser men, so I’m sure that combined with my advancing age doesn’t help matters. I still love metal as much as I did back then, but for whatever reason my will to support live music has wavered significantly; I have to really, REALLY want to see a band in order to make myself go.
The other part of the equation is that the older I get, the less I want to be around other people and every show I go to, there’s always at least one obnoxious piece of crap that I’d like to stomp into the floor of the venue until they’re nothing but a giant grease spot (I’m actually a cream puff and could never do this, but a man can dream). Usually it’s the one motherfucker who thinks its 2002 and he’s at a metalcore show and wants to pull that kung fu bullshit (I actually saw someone doing this at a doom/sludge show recently; how in the actual fuck are you gonna kung fu at a doom show?), or the one motherfucker that got completely wasted well before anyone else and flails around like an idiot with no motor skills, with no regard for anyone around him (this guy was in attendance on Thursday night), or the one motherfucker that keeps trying to start a pit even though no one else wants to mosh because they’re there to watch the fucking band (what a concept).
But as creaky, cranky and curmudgeonly as I’ve become, every once in a while a band comes along and makes me feel that same rush that I felt in my late teens. The UK’s Dragged Into Sunlight did exactly that on Thursday night, delivering one of the best sets I’ve seen since moving to Sacramento two years ago.
To be quite honest, I wasn’t at all familiar with DIS; I seem to recall checking out a promo of their 2009 full length Hatred For Mankind, but for whatever reason it didn’t grab me at the time… I have no idea why. But, the internet has been buzzing about the band’s recent live outings, with many folks I trust and respect stating that they were the best band at this year’s edition of Maryland Death Fest. As a student of metal and knowing that they’d be touring my way soon, I decided that I owed it to myself to check them them out when they came to Sacramento.
For all the hype that I’d been hearing about the band, they did not disappoint. Dragged Into Sunlight’s performance was devastating, a crushing combination of doom, black metal and noise (these are a few of my favorite things) that engulfed the tiny Starlite Lounge. The band’s attack is a dynamic one, moving from corrosive tremolo riffs to pummeling, sludgy downshifts in tempo to ear-destroying electronics; the diverse sounds Dragged Into Sunlight conjured complimented and bled into one another seamlessly, yet maintained their distinctive tones and nuances. How I managed to go so long without fully checking out a band who’s sound feels like it’s tailor made for my tastes shall forever remain a mystery.
Indeed, Dragged Into Sunlight’s music was impressively heavy, but their stage presentation helped push things to the next sub level of metal Hell. Smoke billowed from the stage, which was lit only by a large wrought iron candelabra with a deer skull affixed to it, some sort of red LED panels that were positioned in front of the two guitarists’ amps and a blinding strobe light that appeared to be synced up with the kick drum. The band played with their backs to the audience, conjuring images of the only scary moment in The Blair Witch Project when they find the creepy house and that dude is standing in the corner and then they all die. This made for an all-out assault on the senses that was quite unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced in a live setting.
By the time Dragged Into Sunlight’s set was over, I was covered in sweat, having managed to stand near the front of the stage for the duration of the performance, totally entranced by what was unfolding before me; the only other bands I can think of in recent memory that have had a similar effect were Dispirit, Sunn O))) and Ufomammut (pretty damn good company to be in). All that aforementioned cantankerousness had poured out of my pores as I gave myself over completely to the music; I left the venue feeling completely drained yet completely satisfied.
That’s the great thing about metal though. There are periods where you might feel old and jaded, but all it takes is the right band at the right place at the right time to restore your faith.