DEVILDRIVER: THE FURY OF OUR SH*TTY SOUND
Wow. I honestly can’t remember the last time that what seemed like an otherwise perfectly good show was ruined by such incredibly awful sound – and yet there Vince and I were last night at the Highline Ballroom in NYC, struggling to enjoy a headlining gig by DevilDriver while their sound dude apparently decided to filter their instruments through a thick wall of diarrhea.
In all fairness, doing an indoor headlining show that, by the band’s own admission, was basically tossed together in a number of days to capitalize on the group’s downtime is a different thing entirely from the abbreviated, outdoor sets DD has playing all summer on Ozzfest. But still, this was completely recockulous: initially drummer John Boecklin’s drums were wwwaaaayyy too high in the mix while frontman Dez Fafara, guitarists Mike Spreitzer and Jeff Kendrick, and bassist John Miller struggled just to be heard; then Fafara and Kendrick seemed to be the only ones playing; then it was Fafara and Spreitzer’s turn to be comically overpowering; then Boecklin took over again. In any case, you couldn’t hear Miller at all the entire set, and mostly, things just sounded muddy anyway (I couldn’t even identify the opening number, The Fury of Our Maker’s Hand‘s “End of the Line,” until after the intro had passed as the first verse kicked in; the sound seriously sucked that bad).
Add to that the numerous lighting snafus (at one point, all the stage lights died for a good twenty seconds, leaving the band to play in darkness and the audience to watch their barely defined silhouettes) and the fact that about halfway through the show the fire alarm went off – and was allowed to remain on for the remainder of the fucking gig, and well, this was the most disappointing concert we’ve been in to in ages.
At least the band looked like they were having fun. Playing for a room full of a few dozen Roadrunner interns and their friends and barely anyone else, the band either didn’t know or didn’t care that the audience pretty much couldn’t hear them – judging by the ten dudes up front who made a circle pit anyway, I guess it didn’t matter – and, much to their credit, they rocked out like they were doing a sold-gig at Madison Square Garden. Windmill-style headbanging, jumping all over the stage, and rock god posturing all proved that this band certainly has the heart of a great live act. And when you could hear them, Kendrick and Spreitzer both sounded pretty killer, and Fafara can certainly scream his fuckin’ balls off (Although, whether it’s because his throat hurt or it’s something that he actively does now, Fafara would occasionally just speak a line in his regular voice rather than growl it like a true death metaller, and the effect was annoyingly close to rapping; that’s a pretty ill advised move for a dude constantly struggling to crawl out from beneath the shadow of his former life in a bad nu metal band). Fafara isn’t exactly the most charismatic frontman – in-between song banter was mostly limited to variations on “thank you for coming” – but he does know how to get the crowd riled up.
As a matter of fact, crappy sound aside (and that’s a HUGE “aside”), my only real complaint about the show was the fact that the setlist included a mere two songs from the band’s excellent recent release, The Last Kind Words. Given that even the metal intelligentsia* have heaped praise upon this album, playing more songs from it would seem like a good move at this point.
It would seem that DevilDriver are capable of putting on an awesome live show – we’ve certainly seen them kill in the past – but they need to get someone much better versed in the ways of a soundboard, pronto.
*For the sake of argument, let’s assume for now that there a) is a metal intelligentsia and b) they don’t write for this website.