Contributor: Sean Frasier
When I first heard Eyehategod‘s sludge landmark Take as Needed for Pain at age 14, I was enamored by their filthy groove and the way they weaponized feedback. Along with Iron Monkey’s “Big Loader” on the Earache Records Earplugged compilation, Eyehategod were the start of my infatuation with Sabbathian riffs dragged through pitch-black misanthropic murk. It was grime personified.
Recently I saw Eyehategod for the tenth time at the Voltage Lounge in Philadelphia. A lot has changed over the years: Guitarist Brian Patton no longer tours with the band, and Joe LaCaze (RIP) is no longer pounding out diseased rhythms behind the kit. But their performance still had everything I’ve come to relish from an EHG show: Mike X Williams inviting doting antagonism from the crowd; shouts of “Bower Power” as guitarist Jimmy Bower salutes with a beer can; Gary Mader banging out the opening bass line of “Sister Fucker” like he’s possessed by each note.
Looking back to my history of seeing Eyehategod, I recall a series of performances in the since-closed Polish nightclub and occasional metal venue Europa in Brooklyn. Over a year removed from Hurricane Sandy flooding the subways and leaving Manhattan’s East side eerily unlit, a heckler still unabashedly shouted at the Nawlins natives, “Stop complaining, now we’ve had a hurricane too!” The members grinned, welcoming the roast from the crowd and stirring up the aggression with “Blood Money.” While the best lines from that night remain years later (“Play your other song about drugs!”), their set was a two-hour ear drum endurance test. I limped away from the show with a slice across my leg that has since faded to a light scar. Undeterred, I added a new scar when they brutalized Baltimore’s Soundstage at this year’s Maryland Deathfest. But the spirited pits aren’t what define EHG’s shows for me. It’s the sweaty push of the crowd towards the stage like a crust punk tide. The shaved heads and dyed dreads and trucker caps banging to “30$ Bag.” Maybe the idea that the crowd is a family is overused, and I’m just sentimental from the contact-high with the cloud of ganja smoke looming over the spectators. But I never feel as connected to the audience as I do when Williams is gripping the mic with the cord wrapped around his knuckles in front of us. Sure, sometimes the night feels like it’s one more drink away from falling apart when they’re on stage. But that casual-cool in the face of chaos remains the band’s most prominent sense of charm.
Contributor: Dan Lake
Artist: Devin Townsend
Devin Townsend. He’s the most self-consciously entertaining dude I think I’ve ever seen. He plays up the rock star decadence and his absurd command of the audience while making it clear that he knows he’s full of shit. The combination only makes him more endearing to his listeners, and I’m sure he knows that, too. It seems like every time he releases a record, my initial reaction is tepid noddery until I experience those songs in their full frightening glory from the stage. Every note lights up like a carnival on Saturday night, and every emotion breathes itself into four-dimensional life. “Kingdom” and “Pixellate” and “The Greys” and “Grace” and “Bad Devil”—all of which are enjoyable on record—take on a towering brilliance in person. And nothing beats the Python-esque pseudo-idiotic magnificence of a crowd of hopping nerds shouting “WE ARE ALL PUPPETS!” in perfect unison. I’ve been chasing that ridiculous moment ever since. (Full disclosure: I’ve probably also seen Tombs and, astoundingly, Neurosis just as often as Devin.)
Contributor: Nick Green
Artist: Sha Na Na
If you were paying attention, I actually addressed this question on the commentary track for the Decibel 100th Issue Show DVD, when I explained to a speechless Tony Foresta that I had seen Converge more times than any other band except Sha Na Na. This is still true. Part of the reason is that I don’t really enjoy seeing the same bands over and over again; when I witness a really compelling performance, I prefer to keep that memory frozen like a fly encased in amber and not risk the disappointment that follows when your favorite band has an off-night. Or the sound in the venue sucks. Or the asswipe in front of you is blocking your view with his shitty iPhone video recording. The other part of it is that Sha Na Na had a variety show that aired in syndication between 1977-1981 and it was one of the most sublimely weird things on TV, like a warped 1950s greaser version of Hee-Haw crossed with Laugh-In. The show was campy and corny, but in this completely wry and self-aware way, and I LOVED every minute of it. I don’t know if Sha Na Na were straight up uncool or so completely uncool that they were cool, but I’m gonna go with the latter because they gave equal airtime to the greatest acts of the ’50s like Chuck Berry and recognized kindred spirits in the Ramones. Even though the were already a revival act when they premiered at Woodstock, they were still relevant as a touring act in the ’80s (probably because the ’80s were just the ’50s with cocaine) and I coerced my parents into taking me to see the Na four years in a row when I was barely out of diapers. And then I randomly saw them again performing on a street corner in Boston when I was a sullen teenager and probably wished I was experiencing it on ‘shrooms. Which, in hindsight, would’ve been totally amazing.
Contributor: Chris Dick
Artists: Opeth and Cannibal Corpse
One is incidental. The other is bathed in moonlapse vertigo. And Mike [Åkerfeldt]’s mustache.
Editor’s Note: “Opeth is yet another band that I’ve suffered a scar-inducing injury while watching. At the Nokia Theater in New York I was head-butted so hard on the outskirts of the pit they had to glue my eyebrow back together after an ambulance ride to the hospital.” – Sean Frasier
Contributor: J Andrew Zalucky
Artist: Lamb of God
The band I’ve seen the most is Lamb of God, six times: Ozzfest 2004; Gigantour 2006; 2007 with Killswitch Engage; 2012 with In Flames; 2013 with KSE and Testament; and 2018 with Slayer. The mid-2000s were a great time to get into metal, as bands like Lamb of God were getting big enough to expose blastbeats, legit metal riffs and screaming vocals to a wider audience. I first saw them at Ozzfest ’04 and was won over enough to purchase Ashes of the Wake when it first came out. The other times have been a mix of getting together with some friends to see them and happening to catch them on the bill of another band. I last saw them opening for Slayer, and they did such a great job that I’d be stoked to rage once again to a headlining LOG set! Randy has a great sense of humor on stage and you can always rely on the band totally nailing every note. It’s not the most underground or cultish band to brag about. But hey, if a big/famous restaurant makes good food, you’re going back there. You might as well just admit it.
Contributor: James Lewis
If Shane Mehling’s retrospective on nü-metal (They Did It All for the Nookie: Decibel Explores the Rise and Fall of Nu-Metal) wasn’t a clear indication, this particular publication and associated website don’t spend a whole of time mixing downtuned guitars and double-kick drumming with rapping and turntables. While corpsepaint is no problem, masks (outside of GWAR) don’t make a ton of appearances either, so admitting that attending at least a couple dozen Mushroomhead shows (including more than one in a single weekend) is going to make for some interesting conversations at Metal and Beer Fest. And my vehement disagreement with Decibot’s not-so-stellar review on the last record (I listened to this three times as much as any other 2014 album) probably isn’t going to see print any time soon either.
Whatever, that’s fine, because no other entries in this list ever had a giant moving scarecrow, water drums, dismembered dolls hung from the ceiling, pumpkin baskets filled with candy, covers of White Stripes and Enya, or someone in the stage lineup that could be classified as “juggler” or “dancer”. Do they make MRH-crew-4-life t-shirts? I should look into that.
Second most would be Slayer, if that redeems my standing at all. Probably not, as I would guess the damage is already done. (See, that’s punny, because “Damage Done” is a Mushroomhead song).