By the time Deafheaven took the stage, the crowd at Holocene had taken a beating. Two pummeling, crushing riff-monsters, Lesbian and Usnea, had done their best to blow some eardrums out, and now it was time for the main attraction. Deafheaven in 2014 might be in a better place than they were even in 2013, when their album Sunbather was in the mouth of every metal fan and music critic, gaining the band a slew of followers and not a small amount of haters as well. What mattered on Tuesday, however, was that the band was still every bit as ferocious and energetic as ever, and even after 2 hours of a doom assault, their black metal attack still got the crowd moving.
While the music is an impressive aural experience, Tuesday night was all about George Clarke, with his voice mixed well above the din being produced behind him. His phantasmic screeches and screams were ear piercing as he frequently used hand signals to communicate with the crowd, urging them to move, to get closer. For all the opinions that many metal fans have about the band, on Tuesday night they did what they have done every time have seen them: put their hearts on their sleeves and played as hard and fast as they possibly could.
Lesbian was the middle band of the evening, and they surprised the audience with some newer material that was a little more upbeat than what might have been expected. Last year’s Forestelevision is a 40-something minute long, one track album. With a more limited amount of time, Lesbian chose an attack of shorter, less overtly psychedelic songs that were heavy on the groove. I will admit just a little disappointment in the lack of weed smoke rising up from the crowd, as Lesbian’s red-eyed riffs pretty much demanded some kind of vaporized homage. At least we all got a treat in the form of a buff, tall, white dude with an amazing bald/dread combination making his way through the crowd then going apeshit.
Usnea always represents Portland well, and this performance was no different, with a perfect, sludgy mix of doom which varied from funeral slowness to outbursts of blackened angst. The band with the most recent release, they made the most of the chance to show people what they were missing by sleeping on Random Cosmic Violence. I have a feeling they aren’t going to be opening shows like this very much longer, moving up in the billing as more people recognize their inherent quality.
Shout outs are also in order for the MC of the evening, Jason Rivera of Gaytheist, who took my noting the coincidence in his sharing the stage with a band named Lesbian in stride, and DJ Nate C (Nathan Carson of Witch Mountain) who somehow squeezed in an Opeth song that made me feel like I was 19 again with the Terminator theme and made sure the evening’s energy flowed along nicely.