With Deafheaven’s critically acclaimed 2013 release “Sunbather”, the metal community watched the band blow up in popularity and receive a tremendous applause for their unique take on post-black metal. In support of their second full-length, Deafheaven have toured what seems to be non-stop for quite a while. Currently, Deafheaven are in the midst of a headlining USA tour with support from Pallbearer and Wreck and Reference. I was fortunate enough to experience the show in person on June 17th in Tampa, Florida at The Crowbar. Does Deafheaven and the supporting acts live up to their quickly growing names in terms of live performance?
(Editor’s Note: Deafheaven and Wreck and Reference are two absolute must-see-again bands for me. The effect Deafheaven on the crowd was awe-inspiring, and Wreck and Reference were captivating for entirely different reasons. Pallbearer was good, too. – Brad)
With no local acts playing the show, Wreck and Reference opened. I was not familiar with the group and had briefly checked them out before the show. This mistake made me not prepared for what I was about to witness. Wreck and Reference is a group consisting of two – one who performs the majority of the vocals along with utilizing electronic and ambient samples while the other plays drums and also has his own take on vocals. The sight of no guitarists or bassists was quite bizarre. However, within the first minute of Wreck and Reference’s setlist, I was already fascinated with the most unique metal act by far I have seen executed to date. Within the first thirty seconds of the first song, I already had chills throughout my entire body. Wreck and Reference employed a captivating atmosphere that even lingered within the crowd after their setlist.
After a quick tear-down and set-up, Pallbearer was the center of attention. Pallbearer is a modern take on classic doom metal but is also atmospheric enough to not seem like the odd one out on this highly atmospheric music related bill. Pallbearer’s performance consisted of a good range of material from songs fans would be familiar from debut release “Sorrow and Extinction” while also playing a good portion of new songs that will appear on their next release. Unfortunately, Pallbearer’s sound could have been better in my opinion. The guitars overpowered other instruments so far to the point that I could not hear any aspect of the vocals. While I personally did not enjoy Pallbearer’s set (I’m not much of a doom fan in the first place and the lack of better sound didn’t help), it was clear this band had a following in the crowd who highly enjoyed Pallbearer’s set while they also recruited new fans who may have not been familiar with them prior to the show.
Finally, the last band to play was California’s Deafheaven. This was the second occasion I have been able to see Deafheaven live and I don’t plan on it being my last. Fans of Deafheaven’s 2013 release “Sunbather” are in for a treat for this tour (WARNING: SPOILER ALERT) to witness each major song performed (the songs that aren’t interludes) due to their ability of having a lengthy hour and a half setlist. Deafheaven definitely puts on a show live and this is especially seen through Deafheaven’s frontman George Clarke. Clarke knows how to control a crowd while playing even during the softer and instrumental moments throughout Deafheaven’s material. Clarke also likes to have fun himself by being off stage right in the middle of the audience and even crowd-surfing towards the end of their set while delivering his vocal performance. The only complaint I have of Deafheaven’s set was again the lack of quality sound. Once again, the vocals weren’t easily heard (but were slightly more distinguishable compared to Pallbearer’s set). With the end of “The Pecan Tree” and Deafheaven’s members leaving the stage, fans did not want to call it a night and demanded one more song. Deafheaven reappeared to play one final song from “Roads to Judah” titled “Unrequited”.
Overall, Deafheaven’s headlining tour is something you should check out if you are a fan of any of these bands. The lineup is filled with a great night of atmospheric performances that are both highly entertaining while at the same time being very refreshing and something a little different from the norm. Each of the bands deserve your support so make sure to attend one of the remaining dates (see remaining tour dates below). Head out and support the tour and bands and make sure you grab some merch!
Remaining tour dates:
June 20 St. Louis, MO @ Firebird
June 21 Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick
June 22 Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
June 23 Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock
June 24 Lawrence, KS @ Granada
June 26 Houston, TX @ FItzgerald’s
June 27 Austin, TX @ Red 7
June 28 Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
June 30 Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom*
July 1 San Diego, CA @ Casbah*
July 2 San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall**
**Deafheaven with only Wreck and Reference