Review of Isis gig at 9:30 Club

Well, last night, Wednesday 16 June 2010, I headed over to the 9:30 Club in Washington DC to check out the Melvins and Isis. I was a bit torn as a band some of my friends are in, the Chance, were playing the Rock & Roll Hotel the same night, but since this was the farewell tour for Isis, I figured I’d better see them while I had um, the chance. They announced on their blog (here) in May that after this tour the band was going to break up. They didn’t really give a real answer as to why they are breaking up, sticking to the standard “artistic integrity” statement. I’d imagine there’s more to it than that though, probably starting to have families and don’t like touring, or maybe they feel their music is starting to get stagnant and they’re out of new ideas and feel it’s getting boring. Regardless, I have a feeling they’ll be back for a reunion tour in 5-15 years, after they realize real jobs suck and/or their new musical projects aren’t making near the amount of money they did in Isis. Who knows though, and for now this show will be known as their last in Washington DC.

I got off of work and headed straight to the venue, but since I work late the Melvins were starting their set when I walked in. That means I totally missed the Totimoshi band, but I don’t really know who they are anyways so I wasn’t that upset. Plus everyone I talked to said they had a shitty mix and that the venue didn’t really do them justice because of it. Anyways, the Melvins came on and played a long set. This was their first DC show since October 2007 at the Black Cat, though they’ve played Baltimore a few times more recently. I’d never seen the Melvins live before so I wasn’t sure what to expect, and it was an interesting show. They had two drummers on stage, which I’m not sure if that was really necessary or just more of a gimmick. They didn’t do anything that was too crazy that it really needed two drummers, though they did some cool little seamless switch offs where they’d both suddenly switch and start playing the other drummer’s part and if you weren’t watching them you probably wouldn’t even notice. There were some parts that were very percussion heavy that sorta reminded me of that old Sepultura song Kaiowas. Their songs went through a variety of paces, from very slow to more rocking mid tempo stuff. There were some moments of dissonance and the distortion on the guitars added a rough, unpolished feel to the mix. They of course had some strange and even abrupt time changes, and a few tricks for the audience, like suddenly switching to a strange Caribbean sounding beat to throw off the people in the mosh pit. Buzz Osbourne was waving his famous mop of hair around, and Jared Warren was wearing some goofy fake armor outfit with a sparkling cape. Sort of looked like a kid who dressed himself up in some sort of half assed gladiator costume or something. It was a fun set to watch but seemed to drag on after a bit. I noticed they played longer than was expected, though I think this was because they were originally intended to be the headliners on this tour, before Isis made their aforementioned announcement that this was their final set of shows.

When the lights came on after their set I could see the place wasn’t totally full, which is nice. The last few shows I’ve been to at the 9:30 Club have been sell outs and that is not really fun seeing a band like that. It’s hard to find a good view in those situations and if you do get a good spot you better not want to smoke, drink or go to the restroom at any point cause it’ll be gone in seconds. The 9:30 Club isn’t really a venue I enjoy too much in general, but I do find myself there fairly often to see bands with larger followings than most of what I enjoy. Their beer is very overpriced so I don’t even bother drinking there any more, and they are totally nazis about camera policies, which change from concert to concert. It is nice that they have 3 levels to view the show from, helps to find a spot with a decent view. I think I’ll be back again in early August to catch Boris and Russian Circles. You can find more info on that on my upcoming concerts page. Anyways, after talking to some friends during the set up for Isis, the lights dimmed and the headliner was on.

Isis came out and didn’t say a word. Atfter a short intro, they just started into their first song, I think it was Threshold Of Transformation. I shot a few pics during this song, but they must have said something to the lighting guy after that song, because it was DARK in there for the rest of the set. This resulted in me not getting any great pics since flash photography had been banned by “artist request”. Of course nobody said anything to the guys in the Melvins who I saw shooting pics with their flashes on during Isis’ set from the backstage balcony. The video I shot of Holy Tears at the concert (see below) is pretty damn dark too. Not the end of the world, as I had to really hide that I was shooting a video since they’re always hard core about that there so it’s not centered that well on the band anyways. The audio is decent in it though. Isis didn’t really address the audience at all, I suppose just letting their music do the talking. They did say a few words before the final song of the regular set (aka before the encore) and dedicated a song to the Melvins as well as thanking the opening act. They were a lot of fun to watch, though I’ve got to say the second half of their show was the most exciting to me. They seemed to really be on and you could see the crowd was reacting more too. Well, half the audience at least. Looking down at the people on the floor you could see that those standing on the right side of the stage were having a blast, moshing, clapping their hands over their heads and even occasionally crowd surfing. The people to the left of the stage down there seemed like the typical DC zombie audience stereotype. It was really weird seeing such a division of the audience like this, right down the middle. At some points in the set, keyboard player Bryant Clifford Meyer played a 3rd guitar, which wasn’t something I expected. After playing So Did We, Isis left the stage briefly for the pre-planned encore that I always find so tacky, but the songs they came back to play were a lot of fun to watch. They seemed to have more intensity and energy, even in the slower parts, than the rest of the show. By the end of the final song, The Beginning And The End, the bass player, Jeff Caxide, was laying on the floor and singer/guitarist, Aaron Turner, was playing on his knees. They got up and Aaron said goodbye into the microphone and they all left the stage for the final time of the night. The crowd seemed pretty thin by the end of their set, maybe more people were there to see the Melvins and left? Sucks for them cause the best part was the second half! It was a good show and I’m glad I decided to go, especially since this was likely the final Isis show in DC.