Review: Deafhaven blast Tampa's Crowbar with moody shoegaze and metal
Tampa Bay’s summer concert schedule this year ends with the inaugural Southern Darkness Fest on Aug. 23, bringing a variety of metal and hardcore acts to Ybor.
So it’s fitting that a few days before the first day of summer, a diverse bill of heavy music headlined by one of its biggest current success stories would make its way to town. That’s what happened Tuesday night, as San Francisco black metal shoegazers Deafheaven played Crowbar in Ybor City along with Pallbearer and Wreck and Reference.
The band's become a true crossover act, largely because of their shimmering shoegaze sound. Their record Sunbather earned some of the best reviews of last year and of any metal album in recent memory.
If there are still those arguing that Deafheaven isn’t metal or is treading ground already covered by acts like Alcest — or conversely, those who like the instrumentation but can't stand their shrieking vocals — it hasn’t slowed their roll. Their Tampa show came just four days after playing Bonnaroo in a timeslot competing with Skrillex and Die Antwoord.
Opening was California experimental two-piece Wreck and Reference. Consisting of just a Korg sampler and drums, the duo brought the noisiness of a much larger band, and vocalist Felix Skinner recalled Steve Albini a little with his lanky frame and musical machinery in hand.
Following them was Arkansas’ Pallbearer, who themselves just came off playing New York’s Northside Festival. Their set alternated between songs from their critically acclaimed 2012 record Sorrow and Extinction and material off their upcoming release Foundations of Burden — all extended doom metal dirges.
While both groups got a positive response from the crowd, the majority of the crowd was clearly there to see Deafheaven. If that weren't immediately apparent, it did when the mostly still crowd suddenly broke into a mosh pit midway through their first song, Sunbather opener Dream House.
Their set consisted almost entirely of material from the 2013 record, as they continue their ceaseless touring off it (they were just in Tampa in March opening for Between the Buried and Me.) Though it was only a handful of songs, not counting the interludes, they were all about 10-minute tracks like Dream House and The Pecan Tree.
Besides black metal and shoegaze, the post-rock influence of Mogwai could be heard in their instrumentation (regrettably, they didn't play their cover of that band's Punk Rock and Cody.) And in the vocals, one could hear similarities to groups like Envy or I Hate Myself.
Frontman George Clarke's stage presence was something like an emoting silent film actor, staring wide-eyed into the crowd and gesturing repeatedly with his hands. But of course, his howling vocals were anything but silent.
Their encore provided the only non-Sunbather material of the set, as they played Unrequited off their 2011 debut Roads to Judah. At the song’s close, a guitar was handed off to Mark Etherington of St. Pete metal post-rockers Set and Setting — literally and figuratively bringing the show from the national back to the local.
Deafheaven guitarist Kerry McCoy later praised the group on Twitter, then added, Tampa you turned way up tho and that was f---ing amazing. Bless u. Now the question is: will Tampa stay turned way up all the way through summer for Southern Darkness Fest?
-- Jimmy Geurts, tbt*