We all people-watch at concerts; it makes them more interesting, plain and simple. And I know I've thought about how "the same" certain audiences are, but metal takes the cake. An example? Last night's Mastodon show at Toad's Place.
I've always noticed, but never really thought about just how homogeneous a metal audience is, how it's so much more the same than any other genre. Mastodon is actually a different kind of metal band, one that transcends just metal fans and can include many indie-rock snobs within its fan base. But that doesn't mean that 99 percent of the band's audience isn't white males.
Country music counts mostly white people as its fans, but that genre transcends gender. And while rap and hip hop might be made predominantly by black artists, audiences are still filled with white people. In fact, it might be the most heterogeneous genre of them all. Even Lilith Fair-like folkies bring in some males. Indie rock is definitely a mostly white audience, but it too brings in its share of women. Metal, not so much. It's all dudes. White ones.
Maybe suburban, middle-class white guys need to vent their frustrations through something, and that means pounding drums and machine-gun riffs. And there were enough of them last night pushing, shoving, crowd surfing and generally beating each other up for no reason. I'll never understand how moshing enhances the enjoyment of any music. I just won't. I just think it gives kids an excuse to take out their frustrations. Anyway ...
Clearly the music is filled with testosterone, but why doesn't it cross racial lines? I have no idea. Maybe it's only white kids that can get into fantastical lyrics. With rap and hip hop, you get realistic music, rooted in life. While with metal, everything is over the top; none of it is real-world music. It's like "Lord of the Rings" set to ridiculously over-the-top musical compositions. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I don't know. What I do know is how astounding it is to see. I did not see one minority last night, not one. And the amount of women could have been counted on two hands. And how many were dragged along by their boyfriends? I saw only woman visibly enjoying the music. To be fair, this one might have been a little too into it.
What's it say about a genre that guys can't even convince their girlfriends to come see? Who knows?
What I will say about last night's almost sold-out show is that Mastodon kicked butt. With a no-nonsense set that lasted about 70 minutes, the band ripped through many songs off its recent "Blood Mountain" and a few favorites from "Leviathon."
Mastodon is like a baseball closer. Think of it this way: A starting pitcher needs to mix up his repertoire, throwing various pitches and keeping the hitters off balance. Not Mastodon.
The quartet came out firing. A great comparison would be Mariano Rivera in his prime, rearing back and throwing 96 mph cut fastballs over and over. Here it is, take it.
Without even acknowledging the crowd until about 60 minutes in, Mastodon came out beating the audience up with complicated and fierce metal song after metal song, barely stopping for even a second.
Forget nuance, this was pure power. This was no Maddux-like concert, no thinking about subtle maneuvers, or any thinking in general for that matter. This was pure heat.
It was hard to leave not shell-shocked after, from the relentless kick drum to the searing solos. Metal at is best is what you'd call the show when it was over, if you're head didn't hurt too much to talk.