Agalloch – Return From Day Of The Equinox Festival
AGALLOCH guitarist Don Anderson has posted the following message in his blog regarding the recent Day Of The Equinox festival in Toronto:
“Immediately following work I left my apartment in Bellingham, WA and drove to Portland, Oregon. I rehearsed with the band that night and again that morning. We took a red-eye flight from Portland to Seattle to Newark to Toronto. Unfortunately, we couldn’t sit together on the longest part of the flight. Naturally I was morbidly uncomfortable while I sat between two strangers for 5 hours. I was also fighting a cold this whole time. If it wasn’t for my excessive vitamin consumption, I don’t know if I could have played the show.
Adrian Bromley and our label head Andreas Katsambas picked us up at the airport and took us to the hotel. We caught a quick nap and soon went out in search of sustenance. We found a very good Mediterranean diner, misleadingly titled “Mystic Muffin” right next to the hotel. The food was great, but the owner was crazy. He insisted that I appeared panicked and told me there was no reason for panic as there was enough food for everyone. I don’t know what gave away my sense of panic. I wasn’t concerned with the food or possible lack thereof. I naturally carry a feeling of panic with me no matter where I am, but I try to hide it. I guess it just came to the surface being in a different country where Lebanese cooks serving falafel can tell more about my personality than I would like them to know.
After eating Jason and I went back to our room and restrung our guitars and spent some time rewriting AGALLOCH songs so they sounded like a combination of WINGER and POISON (one must stretch their strings out before the show somehow).
We arrived at the Opera House at 4:30 to begin sound check. I met Brennan who runs the AGALLOCH MySpace site. He was outfitted in a classic HELLHAMMER shirt. This made him immediately more fashionable than we had originally anticipated. As we entered the club, GREEN CARNATION was finishing their sound check. The club was smaller than the website had lead on. However, this was fine as I prefer smaller clubs for their intimacy. Our soundcheck was quick and dirty and therefore only added to my anxiety.
I hung out for the rest of the show going back and forth watching the bands and sitting backstage trying to calm my nerves. I suffer from incredible anxiety before a show. I tend to become too self-conscious about my playing. Then the realization sets in that people have spent money to see me play, some have traveled for ten hours on top of paying to see me play. I begin to reduce what is a simple performance into a capitalistic nightmare where each note is somehow equivalent to the money spent to hear it. Therefore, for each wrong note, or poorly phrased note, I feel the urge to pay them back. This anxiety generally disappears after a couple of songs into the set. But until then, I am a fucking wreck.
WOODS OF YPRES were incredible. I am a huge fan of their work. I was especially taken with their wonderful cover of KATATONIA‘s “Deadhouse.” David added his own variation on the vocals and the band contributed a doomier middle part and added double bass. It was a fantastic rendition. They also performed new material that carried a subtle classic Goth-rock sound to it and was even reminiscent of mid-period Sentenced. I only had two songs stuck in my head on the way home and they were the cover of “Deadhouse” and the new WOODS song “Your Ontario Town is a Burial Ground.” I am confident that we will see only good things in this band’s future.
I had never heard UNEXPECT until this show. They were phenomenal. People compare them to ATHEIST, which is close. They sound like ATHEIST pushed to their limits with added touches of avant-garde classical music in the style of Penderecki and Xenakis. They were incredibly theatrical and the music was complex and quite heavy.
NOVEMBERS DOOM was really good. I’ve seen them many times and they are great guys to tour with. They sounded particularly heavy that night and the crowd was very into them. I was backstage warming up on the guitar through most of their set. However, I could hear them quite well from the back.
DECEASED did a blistering set that caused a huge pit to break out. Agalloch never gets a pit going, so I was slightly jealous. Do we need to add more blast beats? Must I “chunk” more on my top E string? I don’t know what to do. I want to see people slamming to Agalloch like they did to DECEASED. The guys in DECEASED were very cool. King Fowley had a GOBLIN shirt on, so we talked about GOBLIN a little bit. And it is true what people say about them?these guys exude Metal. John also talked VOIVOD with Fowley. Speaking of Fowley, the man is a fucking metal encyclopedia. For every obscure band mentioned, he knew a song title or lyric from said band.
Of course I have mixed feelings regarding our set. Things started off calm and eventually get more intense. This is because I am slowly getting over my stage anxiety. The sound on stage was pretty terrible which lead to some musically uncomfortable moments that hopefully the audience either didn’t notice, or forgot about, or have since forgiven us. I was very happy with the first four songs as we played them back to back. We don’t like giving the audience time to breath.
Our live philosophy with AGALLOCH is simple: we already know it is impossible to completely reproduce the music on the albums with only two guitars, bass, and one vocal. So, we like to think of AGALLOCH live as a new band?one that is more rock based, even dare I say “punk.” We rewrite a lot of parts in order to make them more effective live. For example, the middle part of “In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion” was rewritten with extreme vocals and uptempo distorted guitar. I can’t imagine playing the middle part as it is on the record?it would totally kill the momentum of a live performance. We like the idea that when people see us live, they won’t simply hear the record performed.
We closed with “The Lodge DisMantled” which is a fun song to play because it allows us to be loser and more improvisatory. People wonder why I smash my guitar; is it because it’s a rock cliché? Do I just have a lot of guitars available for smashing? Yes, of course it’s a rock cliché. But I also think that destroying an instrument is the inevitable and logical conclusion to an emotional performance. I mean, aren’t we all rehearsing for total destruction? Why stop at the very limit? For me, smashing an instrument is perfectly logical in this way. It’s the obvious end point of a performance that climaxes in the way that the live version of “The Lodge” does. One simply cannot go further than destroying the instrument. The perfect performance requires one to destroy everything. We then “technically” closed with Sol Invictus’ song “Kneel to the Cross” which was a bit dicey, I’ll admit. The acoustic guitar was lost in the mix and a monstrous hum was audible for the first 30sec of the song. Besides, I think the song is too plodding, which is why we’ve avoided playing it live. But, fans ask for it all the time, so we wanted to try it. But, we’ll never do it again. It just doesn’t translate well into a live setting.
GREEN CARNATION was fantastic. They ended their set by playing all of Light of Day, Day of Darkness which was an album I really loved. They are all excellent and accomplished musicians. They used a Theremin which is a difficult instrument to play, especially if you wish to avoid making it sound like a sci-fi film.
The show ended at 3am and Jason, John, and I all went back to the hotel for sleep. Our drummer on the other hand had not had enough abuse as he proceeded to party and drink the rest of the evening/morning. He paid for it in the morning by throwing up all day. We were taking photos by a church and he threw up on the church. This reminds me of that MORBID ANGEL song “Unholy Blasphemies” where the lyrics read “vomit upon the cross, and burn the book of lies!” So there, we are blasphemous and demonic black metallers! Or at least our hung-over drummer is one.
Andreas is the greatest label guy anyone could possibly work with. He took us out to breakfast where I demanded that I experience the most genuine Canadian breakfast possible. I had real Canadian bacon, which is significantly tastier than what we yanks call “Canadian bacon.” I also had real maple syrup which I simply poured on anything close to my plate. One thing I love most about being in a Metal band is that people really stare at you when you are in a large group of long-haired people dressed in black. It was Saturday morning when all 18 of us went into this restaurant for breakfast. The place was packed with little old ladies eating with napkins, sipping tea and coffee, and giving us the most disgusted looks I’ve ever received. I don’t know what they think we will do. We might sit next to them and disrupt their breakfast or we may pillage their plates and spill their tea all over the place. Instead, we all had a very quaint and relaxed breakfast.
Mark Coatsworth then took AGALLOCH out for photos which is when Chris committed his unforgivable act of blasphemy. Coatsworth’s photography is really incredible. He makes us look more attractive than we are. For that I am indebted to him.
During the more comfortable plane ride home, Jason and I spent the entire five hours talking about ATHEIST, DEATH, CYNIC and EMBRYONIC DEATH. It was a lovely finish to a very exhausting and amazing weekend.
I want to thank Noel and Inertia Ent., Adrian Bromley, Chris Bruni, Mark Coatsworth, Andreas Katsambas, Brennan Pepper, and John’s girlfriend Valeda who helped us get ready for the show, took pictures, and recorded our performance. All of the above people made this a well-organized and fantastic experience for all the bands. Thanks to everyone who came out to the show and especially to those people who traveled from afar to see us play. It is very satisfying to know our music means that much to all of you”