Clear Seeing achieved with YOB at The Camden Underworld

Unfortunately I missed support acts Pallbearer and Bast, so I took a deep breath and counted to ten. Looking around the audience in the Camden Underworld, there’s lots of longhair, beards and dreadlocks, yet still a diverse group here to see YOB. I am pleased.

I only knew a handful of YOB songs before the show (I rectified this by buying the last copy of Elaborations of Carbon from the merch table just before the show started), and I’ve been to a few shows, by big bands, without knowing more than a couple of songs, and taking other factors into allowance, it has sometimes been an underwhelming experience. Not this time, punk.

YOB walk on, and disappointingly, vocalist and guitarist Mike Scheidt is not wearing a poncho. But as the feedback starts, he does that hand gesture with his palms connected over his head, and righteousness is restored to the world.

Like I said, I was not a well–informed participant in this (sold–out) show, but I thoroughly enjoyed 90%(ish) of it. Scheidt’s alternation between Ozzy–esque singing and roaring of new world–inflected lyrics brought a sense of imperative to their expansive, transcendental sound whilst inspiring plenty of headbanging. I identified a few songs, consisting of Ball of Molten Lead, Quantum Mystic and closing track Clear The Path To Ascend.

The other 10% was where the intensity got to me, and I began to quail in heart and mind. It was fearsomely loud, intense as a hypothetical stare–down between Mike Tyson and Chris Eubank, but this is self–criticism rather than that of YOB; it’s not called doom metal for fun. At times, with open strings droning, Scheidt held his arms held out to form a V–shape, fists grasped, looking positively demented with eyes like tea saucers and his teeth bared. But I rallied, grasping the reins of the dragon, and thoroughly enjoyed the set. It was a long set at nearly two hours, and there were many times when I closed my eyes and rolled away in the waves, as I suspect the dude smoking a fat one also did (I saw you). Towards the end someone shouted ‘Three more songs!’, to which Scheidt replied ‘Three more songs? That’s like, half an hour’. He came across as a popular dude, with a guru–like quality, and had an excellent rhythm section in Aaron Rieseberg on bass and Travis Foster on drums, who in their combined swinging were as solid and heavy as a brick wall.

I came out of the Camden Underworld, the Church of YOB, a little dazed but much wiser.

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Sun on Brass: Hot 8’s Tombstone

There is something great, almost symphonic, about several brass instruments playing together. Coming from New Orleans, there is an instinctive feel to the Hot 8 Brass Band, who play based on a improvised–but–tight approach, replete with background whoops and ah–yeahs. Tombstone sounds like a gang of friends on an energetic jazz and funk jam, yet clearly it was written and performed by a well–schooled ensemble and musicians. In particular, their sousaphone player, Bennie Pete, must have lungs like bellows.

Tombstone is not a varied album; Hot 8 have found a formula, derived from New Orleans’ parading traditions, and have expanded upon it – adding singing, rapping and embedded covers (That’s The Way I Like It and Let’s Talk About Sex make an appearance) – in order to create fun music. I like to work to this album, but I also like to kick back to it in the sunshine, with its upbeat energy and soulful approach.

But having said fuck art let’s dance, besides upholding local traditions through their modus operandi, almost inevitably (given their background) Tombstone does contain some social commentary, most directly in the intermittent rapping. Homies addresses the loss of friends and family, Shotgun Joe is about a former band member shot by the police, Take It To The House about the murder of a former band member and halfway through We Gonna Make It there is a verse of rap addressing the restructuring and gentrification of New Orleans. This all resonates with Hurricane Katrina in the not–distant–enough past. Although these sound like gloomy subjects, especially given the well–known images of Hurricane Katrina, opening track Tombstone Intro sums it up with its finishing line ‘Through the music we keep you alive’. Ultimately optimistic, Tombstone is an act of defiance through joyous creation.