Mastodon
Music Hall of Williamsburg; Brooklyn, NY

When it was announced that Mastodon would play the Music Hall of Williamsburg, one thing came to mind: this show would sell out fast. MHW seemed way too small to house an act as popular as the ’Don. Well, my initial fears turned out to be correct, as I sat online for about four hours, constantly refreshing Ticketmaster’s web page to try to purchase tickets, only to be blocked out each time until the damning words "Sold Out" finally appeared. Needless to say, I was crushed, as the Atlanta metal group was at the top of my live wishlist for some time. A month of deep sadness and despondence set in, but it was finally the good folks at Warner Bros. who hooked me up with a ticket to the show and, subsequently, a ticket to my salvation.

The show fell on Mother’s Day, and as I spent the obligatory time with the family out on Long Island, I kept thinking about how I would finally get to see my favorite metal band, in all their fleshy glory. As I helped pick up the dishes from lunch, I couldn’t help but thrust one foot upon the dishwasher, strapping on my air guitar and gesticulating wildly a medley of Crack the Skye tunes, even going so far as to croon the words of album closer "The Last Baron" to my mother. "I guess they would say, we could set this world ablaze" I sang whilst inviting her to jump into the wormhole with me, only to be met with a confused and semi-saddened “What did I do wrong that my son wound up like this” look on her face.

I arrived back from the Island too late to catch openers Intronaut and Kylesa, though word was that the double drum stoner stylings of Kylesa were something to behold. I walked into the antechamber of MHW as Kylesa played their last note and decided to check out the mightily stocked merch table. On the table was a tip jar that invited all to drop any “Tips or Drugs or Tips for Drugs.” I perused the t-shirt collection, and my eyes fell on one particularly appealing design: a crackled prog-looking design that you would think was an authentic shirt from Rush’s 1974 tour if it didn’t say Mastodon. In addition to the shirt, I procured a handsome tour poster depicting a group of extraterrestrial mind’s eye psychonauts wading in a sea of consciousness. A quick depletion of my wallet later, I stuffed the shirt in my pocket, rolled up the poster, and headed inside.

The room inside was definitely packed, not oversold though, and the steady stream of A/C pumped into the Hall made things crisp and cozy. I ambled onto the elevated platform to the left of the stage, staked out a safe spot with a good view, and planted my feet firmly. Mastodon soon took the stage and immediately belted out the first transcendent notes of Crack the Skye’s lead track "Oblivion." They proceeded to play the entirety of Crack the Skye from start to finish, without missing a note. Enlisting the help of a keyboard player, tracks like "Quintessence" broke the terrestrial boundaries that once held Mastodon in check. The synths bubbled and churned as superimposed videos of exploding nebulae and drifting stargates meshed with stern faces and martial scenarios from filmed depictions of Tsarist Russia.

After the 13-minute epic "The Last Baron" closed out their first set, the band left the stage, leaving the keyboardist alone to provide some otherworldly sonic soundscapes to match the trippy animation sequence on the video screen. Within minutes, the group was back on stage and the keyboard player had left. With a booming note, the video screen changed to the tri-headed forest beast from Blood Mountain, and they raged into
"Bladecatcher," as Brent Hinds whistled and shredded his Flying V through the track.

They played four more songs off Blood Mountain, which provided a stark contrast to the songs off Crack the Skye, since the latter album primarily features bassist Troy Sanders on vocals rather than Brent Hinds. Ripping through "Colony of Birchmen," "The Wolf is Loose," "Crystal Skull," and "Capillarian Crest," the group hardly missed a beat, and as they went further into their back catalog, the songs became increasingly intense along with the crowd. The animation switched once again to a gigantic ocean sea with an enormous white whale cresting the top of the water. They played "Seabeast," "Megalodon," and "Iron Tusk," all from 2004’s Leviathan, which drove the crowd into a mosh-heavy frenzy. Finally, they closed out their set with one of the breakout tracks from 2002’s Remission, "March of the Fire Ants." Its pummeling lead riff capped a near-perfect performance, as the group raised their guitars in triumph and exited the stage.

Mastodon had played an hour and a half of pure metal mayhem, shredding solos, and intricate interplay. The performance confirmed Mastodon as true workhorses who don’t skimp on the live energy, giving their fans every penny’s worth.

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