For the most part, I can’t listen to a song longer than two minutes. Years of listening to punk and grindcore have made me impatient. But when I’m in the right mood, I’ll put on a doom or post-metal album and zone out. And on Wednesday, August 20th, I was in the perfect mood for the long, droning songs permeating from Corona Theatre.
All the way from Brazil, three-piece Deaf Kids shocked the scene with their eclectic experimentation of sound. Drummer Mariano Sarine propelled the act with unrelenting traditional Brazilian beats (though my only frame of reference is Roots by Sepultura), while guitarist Douglas Leal played with a number of loop pedals, stretching each of his echo-heavy moans for as long as possible through the use of his technology. Above them, lights flashed along with every beat in a seizure-inducing visual bombardment.
As Bell Witch was setting up, the blaring sound of the fire alarm went off. At first, I thought it was part of the act. Then I thought, “Why is no one reacting to the alarm? Do we evacuate the building in a calm manner, or are we all going to burn up in the fire trap?” Even when the alarm stopped, firefighters in full gear were walking around backstage, looking for the source. When nothing was found, the firefighters just hung around: “Hey, we just got backstage access to this show for free! Let’s stick around for the next band.”
After some delay, the lights went up and Seattle duo Bell Witch started to play the opening notes of their hour-and-a-half opus “Mirror Reaper.” Dylan Desmond effortlessly hammered on the fretboard of his six-string bass like a keyboard, his long hair hiding his face. Across from him, Jesse Shreibman would raise his arms high above his head then come crashing down on the drums, occasionally growling into the condenser mic next to him. The first 20 minutes of the song felt as though they were building to an epic climax. I found myself lost in thought listening to ambient music, contemplating life’s deepest questions. And it seemed that everyone around me was also dropping into a meditative state, locked into the amended version of the single song that lasted an hour long.
With our minds tuned to the same frequency, the time was ripe for Oakland innovators Neurosis, beginning with the peculiar whistle of “A Sun That Never Sets.” After each song, the lights went down and an ominous hum came on to fill the silence as members switched guitars and tuned up for their next ten-minute song. Although grey and beardy, Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till showcased their guitar and growling vocal skills, knowing they had the full attention of the audience in the palm of their hands. Noah Landis rocked his keyboard stand back and forth, so much that I was scared he would lose control and drop it into the front row. But everything was under control and methodically thought-out. The band threw back to twenty years ago with their song “End of the Harvest,” but a third of their setlist was pulled off their 2016 album Fires Within Fires, a release I was more familiar with, but die-hard fans probably didn’t recognize as much. Regardless, no encore was needed; we were all satisfied, our bodies still tingling with the vibrations that passed up from our feet, all the way to our third eye.
Written by Chris Aitkens
Photography by Mihaela Petrescu
*edited by Mike Milito