So Friday the 8th of January 2010 I went to Jaxx in West Springfield, Virginia, to see the Polish blackened death metal band Behemoth play. Well, this was actually the first time I’d been to Jaxx since I saw God Dethroned play there back in October. A lot has changed with the look of the club since then, but I’ll get into that later, this is a review of the Behemoth concert after all.
I got there kind of late and didn’t get a chance to see any of the openers, Septic Flesh had just finished their set as I walked in the door. I’d have watched them play but really I’d have liked to see Shining, who was originally on the tour as well only to drop off due to visa complications. The parking lot was completely full and even the lot in front of the Giant across Old Keene Mill had a lot of cars parked in it for the show. Although it sucked parking so far away (the temp was in the lower 20s) it was good to see such a turn out for the show. The last few metal shows I’d been to at Jaxx didn’t have really big crowds. This night the entire club was pretty crowded, which made it kind of stuffy and hot with my coat on, but it was bearable and nowhere near as bad as that sold out Morbid Angel/Behemoth show in 2006 when the air conditioner didn’t work. After what seemed like a very long drum kit set up and sound check, the lights finally went down a few minutes after 11pm as Behemoth took the stage.
They came out onstage and the crowd was ready. People were excited as the band ripped through songs from Evangelion and Demigod. The last time I saw Behemoth play they were opening for Dimmu Borgir at the 9:30 Club and they didn’t play many songs from older albums, which is of course what I wanted to see. Not that I don’t enjoy their newer material, but I certainly prefer some of their older less polished sounding songs. Now I knew they wouldn’t play anything like Lazy Pomorza, but I was glad to hear them play 3 songs from the Satanica album (instead of just the staple Chant For Eschaton 2000). They only played 1 song from Thelema.6 though, Christians To The Lions. Regardless, the show was a pretty decent mix. Certainly more focused on more recent material but not completely forgetting their older songs either. One thing I wasn’t expecting was a killer (but short) drum solo by their drummer, Inferno. It only lasted about a minute but it was pretty impressive. They did do the generic encore thing, which was kind of weird since the back stage area is much more open now. Behemoth’s main man Nergal came out with some sort of Roman centurion looking wooden or metal (hard to tell in the lighting) mask as they played their final song of the night, Lucifer. Kind of strange I suppose but better than that weird ‘evil teddy bear’ mask he put on for the final song last time I saw them. The show ended about 15 minutes after midnight and people started filing out into the cold right after, though the merch stand was really busy for a while.
After the show I hung out a few minutes because I didn’t want to deal with the herd of people all heading out to the door at once. It gave me a good chance to check out some of the changes to the club’s interior. The walls have all been painted orange, though the ceiling is still black. They got rid of the bar on the side by the merch stand which opens up some more room for the under 21 people. The big black drapes that hid the backstage area from the audience have been completely removed, which really makes the room seem bigger. The raised bar area around the dance floor has had new railing put in that looks much nicer, though you can’t really notice it when it’s darker. It looks like the lighting rig has had an update too. There were some new lights that looked sort of like LEDs or something, as well as a couple things that looked like rotating balls of laser pointers (not too impressed with those, hope they didn’t cost much). The club certainly does not look like a hive of scum and villainy, and comes across much more welcoming, organized and professional looking. This change certainly helps the club move past being just a ‘metal club’ to a venue that can host concerts in several genres. A part of me wonders if they’re trying to phase out the metal all together, but I think if they get more head counts like this they won’t be phasing out the metal any time soon. The place has sure come a long way since the owner posted on their website about possibly trying to sell the place in January 2008.
Not everything was an improvement though. I don’t know if it had to do with changing the shape of the interior space or maybe just a bad ear during the sound check, but the audio mix during Behemoth’s set was terrible. The vocals kind of mushed into the midrange guitar parts and the high end tones were getting drowned out by the kick drums. It didn’t seem to me that any of the audio equipment had really changed, though I really don’t know for sure. Hopefully it was just a fluke as I’ll be back to Jaxx this Friday to see Pentagram and The Gates Of Slumber. Also, though the lighting seemed to be upgraded, it’s almost all backlighting. This makes it hard to see any of the band members (besides the drummer in the back) when the spotlight isn’t on them. As you can see in the video below, most of the time they just appear as silhouettes. The stage sure is lit up, but the band members aren’t (at least not on the side facing the crowd). Combined with the fog machine, it was starting to look like just a big blur of stage lights. I’ll be interested to see what the place looks like for Kreator in March as they bring some great stage lighting with them. Overall the changes aren’t bad at all, though I’m sure some of the more die hard metal heads who have been going there for a while will take some time getting used to it.