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Live Report: Pallbearer, Weedeater, Heavy Temple, and Solace Rain Doom Upon Philly

This show was to celebrate the seventh anniversary of Tired Hands Brewing Company, a local brewery whose Only Void stout in 2013 was inspired by Pallbearer’s song “Devoid of Redemption.” The variety of doom brought together last Friday in Philadelphia was as diverse as the brewery’s lineup of ales, IPAs, saisons, and stouts — between the annual Decibel Metal & Beer Fest (our coverage) and this event, this city is earning a reputation as a metal town with a drinking problem.

It was a shame that Solace only got 20 minutes to open the show. Fortunately, the band has been around for over two decades, so they knew how to make the most of the limited time — churning out a handful of tracks that broke any theoretical stoner rock speed limits by several levels of magnitude. At the end of the set, vocalist Justin Goins toasted Roky Erickson who passed away earlier that day, which was a classy move.

Heavy Temple doesn’t play by the usual rules. It’s probably not about corroding conformity as much as simply having never read the rulebook to begin with. Band leader High Priestess Nighthawk will likely concede as much: she is the only holdover from a complete roster upheaval less than four months prior. In that time, the current trio debuted in front of their biggest crowd at the Decibel Metal & Beer Fest (no pressure), which is not how these things are usually done.

This unorthodoxy continued this evening as they went into full jam mode right off the bat. It didn’t matter this wasn’t a headlining show; if half the set was going to be Sabbath if they played Woodstock and the rest was her thrashing her star-shaped bass while belting out vocals like Janis Joplin fronting Blue Cheer, well, that’s just what Heavy Temple does. Despite getting the same 20 minutes as Solace, it seemed way longer.

And then, “We’re Weedeater and we fucking suck,” Dave “Dixie” Collins said, his bass hanging from one hand and a partially depleted fifth of Jim Beam in the other. “Get your money back; you’ve been hornswoggled!”

Ah, that genteel Southern modesty.

Weedeater has unwittingly been giving evidence that potheads are lackadaisical by going four years and counting since their last album Goliathan. While that oversight still needs to be corrected, the band hasn’t forgotten that when on stage, their only jobs are to kick ass and drink bourbon, and they’re all out of Beam. The psychedelic swirls on the backdrop were in black and white, in homage to their stark souls devoid of clichéd kaleidoscopic colors. The trucker hats were not worn without a shred of irony but as blue collar badges of valor.

New drummer Ramzi Ateya, who took over when Carlos Denogean tragically died last year, has a solid, compact style which allows the other two members play to their strengths: Collins spits venom through a voice box scarred from gargling acid for kicks while Dave “Shep” Shepherd lets his filthy riffs do the croaking. Weedeater is one of the few Stonehenge bands that actually can entice a formidable pit of slammers. It’s not because they’re fast, because they’re not; it’s because they are heavy as gravity and, more importantly, have spent two decades learning how to righteously wield that heaviness to maximum effect.

It’s kind of amazing that Pallbearer is accused of being in the same doomy fiefdom as the preceding band. In almost every way, they were the diametric opposite of Weedeater. The Arkansan foursome are methodical method actors operating at a deliberate, depressive pace, that doesn’t stray very far from the classic (dare I call it) trad doom-print pioneered by hirsute men who played on ten while not exceeding ten miles per hour.

There was one similarity, though: the crushing heaviness. This kind didn’t elicit moshing; the audience swayed in place with an old-school reverence in tune with the band. They should give out Pallbearer-brand lighters at the door so the crowd can rhythmically thrust them into the air. That would be way cooler than the pale glow from smartphone screens, but with a matching authenticity.

At one point Brett Campbell said that the band hadn’t played a show in eight months. Such inactivity didn’t dampen Pallbearer’s resolve: if mistakes were made, they were scarcely worth mentioning. The entirety of the set was made up of the band’s ground-shaking debut Sorrow and Extinction in its entirety. Although they have played all five songs with varying frequency since 2012, this was the first time since around when it came out that they were all played at once, according to the vocalist.

In most cases bands doing the classic-album-in-full deal will tack on other songs at the end. Not so for Pallbearer on this go-around. It might have been cool to see them amble out and do “I Saw the End,” “Worlds Apart,” or maybe one of their cover songs, but after watching them amble off the stage as the final melodies of “Given to the Grave” decayed, it was hard to imagine it ending any other way.

During the extended solo in the conclusion of album and set closer, the lights were radiating over the band in waves. It was mesmerizing, as if time stopped for a few crucial moments, and during that gap the entire venue went on a journey into the cosmos. How do you encore after something as mind-altering as that? You can’t. So they didn’t.

And it was perfect.

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