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BTBAM, JFAC, Cephalic Carnage, The Ocean @ The Glass House

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Story by Julia Neuman
Photos by Peter Leininger

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I knew there would come a day when I felt old at a metal show. I just didn’t think it would happen in my early 20s. This was the youngest crowd I’ve seen yet – likely due to the unfortunate circumstance of an alcohol-free show happening on one of the most alcohol-centered days of the year: Cinco de Mayo. Not everyone was willing to forgo 12 tequila shots and a hangover like I was.

It didn’t help that the Glass House in Pomona feels more like a high school gymnasium than a live music venue. There’s a giant floor, a set of elevated platforms reminiscent of bleachers, and a vending area in the back that’s stocked with chips and candy. This place could never exist in Hollywood.

Post-metal openers The Ocean came over from Germany with a purpose. They weren’t about to be mistaken for just another band from Europe. In every movement, every note, every beat, they bled passion. The vocalist repeatedly dove into the crowd, with just enough delicacy to avoid interfering with his vocals. Every band has their own way of involving the audience, and this was The Ocean’s way. They played a mix of songs from their last three records to a backdrop of abstract visuals and film clips. The sound was vibrant but calculated, just as it is on their albums. I want to see The Ocean again a few years down the road, in a more intimate venue, when they are focused less on gaining exposure and more on pure artistry. They have the potential to give life-changing performances.

We quickly transitioned from The Ocean’s introspective warmth to Cephalic Carnage’s weed-laden humor. I’ve seen Cephalic Carnage several times before, and the most memorable thing about their performance has always been frontman Lenzig Leal’s joke about porn and Cheetos. This time, road warrior Leal delivered the joke to high school kids. Bursts of deathgrind were interspersed with pleas for weed and post-show smokeouts. On paper, this sounds obnoxious. Cephalic Carnage make it entertaining.

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I ducked outside just before Job for a Cowboy and re-entered during their first song. The place had transformed into a swamp-like pit. Smoke billowed out from the stage like fog. A strobe light’s incessant flicker diffused a red glow through the haze. The vocalist channeled a death metal version of Tarzan, switching between highs and lows with urgency in his eyes. From where I was standing by the mixing board, the sound was muddy and thick. Higher frequencies were nearly absent, leaving behind the low-end coated with muffled vocals. It sounded like a mix of death, grind, and sludge. I’m almost certain Job for a Cowboy didn’t intend to sound this cool, but I was the lucky one standing in just the right place. As I moved toward center stage, things sounded crisper, and consequently more generic. The kick drum was clicky and the guitar tone much thinner. Job for a Cowboy sound better as a sludge band.

Between the Buried and Me took the stage to a very different crowd. Job for a Cowboy diehards had left the building, or at least made their way to the back. In came a wave of prog fanatics and theory geeks. I overheard lots of guitar talk, and appropriately so. Between the Buried and Me are outstanding musicians. The problem is that their impressive songwriting on record doesn’t always translate well live. The band opened with a run-through of their new EP, which is chock full of riffs that do work live. After that high energy beginning, the audience lacked the attention span to get through the interludes in the band’s earlier material. People zoned out, and some seemed more bored than subdued. Other parts of the show felt like lengthy sing-alongs. Unless you’re a nerd for the band, those weren’t much fun. I was ready to put my whole body into some riffs that night, but few moments made me want to do it.

The show had one brilliant moment, the kind that would make any performing musician envious. It was during the last couple minutes of “Selkies: The Endless Obsession”. Paul Waggoner’s solo and arpeggios were breathtaking. He nailed five-string sweeps amidst deafening cheers and hundreds of outstretched hands mimicking his fingers.

The audience was young, but it was at the show for the right reasons. Between the Buried and Me inspire the younger generation to pick up instruments. The band is already a force on record, and they have a loyal audience. Perhaps a change of setlist would help make their live show more consistently engaging – less Colors, more Alaska.

— Julia Neuman

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