Review: Light Yourself on Fire light the Brass Mug on fire
I'm not a wine guy, and I'm not a metal guy. However, I have adopted foolproof methods for choosing both my vinos and my metal bands:
WINE: Always go with the bottle whose label features the fiercest animal. Some good examples: Smoking Loon, Pink Cougar, Little Lion, Drowsy Tiger, Snarling Peacock and Crotchety Old Goat. Half of these wine names are not made up.
METAL BANDS: Always go with the band that has the most illegible logo. For example:
If you can't read that, you're not metal*.
The logo for Tampa thinking-man's metal outfit Light Yourself on Fire is a bit of a letdown, but that wasn't going to keep me from driving to the Brass Mug, "Tampa Bay's Music Core," Wednesday night to give the band a look-see.
(Fair warning: This rest of this review exceeds the FDA's recommended daily allowance for use of the word "intense.")
A dark, bare-bones black box of a bar, the Brass Mug is the sort of place where you might find a tooth in the toilet, then wonder aloud if it's yours. The legends of of Green Day and No Doubt once performing at the Mug are apocryphal elements of Tampa music lore, but these days, the bar is more of a hangout for local metal acts. At the bar, you can buy T-shirts that read "SUPPORT LOCAL MUSIC" and "BRASS F---IN' MUG" for $12.
For this show, I wore the only black T-shirt I own. It says "Interpol" on it, which isn't very metal, but "Interpol" is also written in black, so I guess it kind of works. I paid $30 at a concert for this T-shirt. I am an idiot.
I'm 26 shows into this summer project of mine -- more than halfway! -- and this was the first show to which I'd brought earplugs. I know, bringing earplugs to the Brass Mug doesn't sound very metal, either. But the minute I put them in, I was like: Why on earth didn't I do this sooner?
To wit: The first band I saw Wednesday was Lord Mantis, a Chicago group that was so intensely loud that not only could I not make out any of their lyrics, I couldn't even make out a single syllable. They were, like, dragon's-roar loud. Straight-up kick-you-in-the-nuts loud. I swear, at one point during their set, the ceiling started to shake.
But when I popped in my earplugs, the noise decreased to such a manageable level that I could saunter right up to the stage like Jimmy Olsen, Boy Reporter, and scribble notes from the pit, even as my $30 shirt rippled from the sound waves blasting from the speakers. For me, from now on, this will be the only way to enjoy music so loud and intense.
I know I wouldn't have enjoyed Light Yourself on Fire nearly as much if I'd watched the show from the back of the bar, whimpering like a kitten in the corner. But with my plugs, I could hang out right in front of the stage -- so close I could actually smell the band -- and it was fantastic.
I would say "intense" probably isn't an intense enough word to describe LYOF frontman Matt Coplon. He rarely made eye contact with the audience, instead bowing monastically to the stage floor, or kneeling in front of the drum kit between songs with his back to the crowd. But during the songs, Coplon stood splay-legged, a vein bursting from his forehead, and howled into the mic as though his vocal cords were ablaze, like some unholy combination of Trent Reznor, Filter's Richard Patrick and my personal favorite frontperson, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O.
The band's tight, eight-song set was visceral and musically complex, interspersed with occasional Latin touches and soundbites like train whistles, an old Marlboro commercial and lines from the Sean Penn film The Indian Runner. It was art metal, a bit Mars Volta and a whole lot of fun. I can't recommend 'em highly enough.
As long as I live, I will regret missing the first band, I'm An Intestine, which is a name so metal it would probably rust if you left it outdoors. But I'll tell you what: the other band I saw, New York City's Wetnurse, was un-freaking-believable.
I'm not very good with comparisons within the metal genre, but Avenged Sevenfold seems like a good place to start. Jorts-clad, Angus Young-like guitarist Garett Bussanick was just out of control, riffing like a maniac and making guitar faces so intense that his face might someday stay that way. Like Coplon, singer Gene Fowler didn't make a lot of eye contact with the fans, but he still managed to win them over with insane energy and an incendiary, scorched-earth shriek. Dude: Why is this band not ripping the Warped Tour a new one as we speak?
Thanks to my earplugs, my night of metal at the Mug was terrific, even though my Interpol T-shirt will probably smell like cigarettes for the rest of its life.
At least I now know where I can find another good metal T-shirt for $12.
Next up in The 50-50 Club: A doubleheader! A-Trak at Crowbar, and Rick Ross at Temple Lounge, July 5, Ybor City.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*
* It says "Horde Casket." Obviously.