As you can see from my last post ("And then it happened", December 6th) Slipknot have recently exposed me to the most exquisite visual/aural spectacle that metal can offer. I really thought I'd struggle to find something comparable in terms of sheer experience. Whoever the next gig was, it was going to be a tough one...
I got tickets for Trivium's intimate gig at London's Borderline ("I Stand Corrected...", November 23rd) and have been looking forward to it a fair ol' bit. Unfortunately Hot Chick couldn't make it to the show with me, which is kinda like Page without Plant, or an XL cheeseburger without bacon. So, with teary resolve, I found a surrogate gig buddy in KillerLeah, a sound Kiwi mate of mine. She's not in to metal in any way, shape or form but is interested in music, likes the Foos, Chilis; that kinda rock ting. A couple of beers, quick Guinness in Crobar (baptism of fire for a girl not used to the metal vibe) and in we went.
Happily there was a merch stand - don't tend to get those in the intimate settings. The thing that surprised me the most was how small and pretty empty The Borderline was. It has an official capacity of 275 but you could easily shoehorn another couple of hundred in there. This is metal, after all; we're used to the taste of each other's sweat. Chugged a few Tuborgs and on the Florida thrashers came to a pretty loud reception, considering the size of the crowd.
First song was "Kirisute Gomen" off "Shogun" and if I'm 100% honest, at this point I thought it was just going to be an A-Z "Shogun" run through. Which would be fine but a bit, well, predictable. Yet again, keeping to form, I was fucking miles off.
Bearing in mind the last gig in this size of venue was the dire Staind affair at the Hard Rock ("Um, hello???", September 23rd), I was apprehensive that we'd get some diva behaviour from these boys but once they'd blown "Kirisute" out, the banter started. Matt Heafy, fucking massive hair and all, was more than up for a bit of chat. Refreshing, considering he's often portrayed as a bit sullen and "frontman" in the music press. However, the biggest surprise for me was that only a few minutes in, they introduced "Like Light To Flies" from "Ascendancy". This is the song that got them their major airtime and as far as I'm concerned, one of their greatest achievements. Heafy dutifully caned himself for the laughable hair he has in the video before fucking shredding the shit out of this tune. I chucked my (well, Hot Chick's) camera at KillerLeah and got my white ass right into the shit. Now, I say "into the shit" but a pit of about 5 people doesn't really count. However, being about 5 feet from the stage whilst they were hammering through this tune was something else.
As the night continued, a few more beers were consumed by crowd and band alike and the banter increased. Trivium were having an absolute blast and subsequently, so were we. Travis Smith, Paolo Gregoletto and Corey Beaulieu ripped the piss out of each other, had some "in" jokes, and at one point, indulged in a Dave Chappelle "Lil' Jon" exchange of "Whaaaat??? Yeeeeaaaah!" That might make no sense to anyone reading this but YouTube it - funny as fuck.
The set list was virtually non-existent and 90% of the gig seemed to come about after a quick exchange between the lads on stage. For example, the first verse and chorus of Maiden's "The Trooper" ended because Heafy couldn't remember any more lyrics and Metallica's "Cyanide" from "Death Magnetic" opened when he said "apparently we sound like them so we may as well play one", a sentiment greeted with roars of appreciation from an increasingly lubed crowd. Heafy did play one comedy mainstream song but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. Something by The Darkness, perhaps?
Trivium managed to make two guys' nights at The Borderline. One lank haired, sweaty looking metaller was offered the opportunity to get on Travis's kit and play along with one song and to be fair, he did a good job (the over-the-top double-pedal solo when he sat down is EXACTLY what I would have done). A chubby dude with glasses then got hauled up to play rhythm guitar with Matt for an entire song and his elation was obvious. Lucky c*nts.
However, when the boys started coming in to the crowd, that's when my night was made. I held Matt Heafy's arm aloft as he was roaring into the mic, and now officially think he considers me his best mate...perhaps... KillerLeah had her arm around Corey Beaulieu as he shredded his way through the crowd and the whole place was more like a sweaty garage in Florida, where a load of mates were watching a few more of their mates play some tunes, not a few super fans watching a 3,000-room band.
At not one point over the whole evening did Trivium make me feel anything other than respect for them. They know they have their critics - a lot of critics - but they played up to this. Heafy finished one song and began chanting "Slayer! Slayer!", which is what was happening on their recent Unholy Alliance tour with the thrash gods. They had a drink with us, let us play their instruments, and made my mate KillerLeah think seriously about her choice of gigs for the coming months. They got in the crowd, they sweated with us, they let one of their guitar techs use the stage to propose to his girlfriend (very sweet moment). They were a group of four lads having a fucking top time on their last show of 2008 in the smallest venue since they played Barfly in 2005.
I never thought Trivium would top Slipknot. But they just might have done it.