by Scott Colvin
There’s something to be said for ritual. Oftentimes ritual becomes an “obligation,” like holidays with family or school reunions. There are some rituals that are not only sacred, but necessary. For me and two of my friends, our ritual is an annual Mastodon concert. While we see each other often during the year based on our respective jobs, we know there is one day of the year* (see post script) where we hang out, drink, beer and sometimes good tequila, and throw up the horns for the best metal band going today.
Mastodon returned to Baltimore, MD (this time at the recently-named MECU Pavilion (formerly Pier 6 Pavilion) on Saturday June 2nd for a crushing metal performance that no act could truly follow. The poor souls that had to follow Mastodon on this occasion were Primus. To be perfectly honest I’ve never liked Primus and this performance 20-some years after I first saw them didn’t change my mind. Good for Primus though, they’ve probably made more money off South Park royalties than I’ll ever see. Thankfully, 30 minutes into Primus’ set, our one friend who actually wanted to see them was either really bored by the slow-moving, meandering jams that sounded the same, or was agitated that the venue stopped alcohol sales. Probably a bit from Column A and a bit from Column B. Regardless, I was happy to bail early as I had to wake up at 6:30 for work the next day.
Onto the awesomeness that is Mastodon.
Coming off the heels of two Grammy noms (one win) for 2017’s epic Emperor of Sand (my personal 2017 album of the year), the Georgia-based band focused on the new, while satiating old fans with a splattering of sick songs from their vast catalog. FTM side-note, Robert Dean wrote one of my favorite articles of 2017 about not “getting” Mastodon and having old fans try to explain the cosmic appeal to him upon every release. While I disagreed with him, it was the most brilliant article I read all year and he deserved an online Pulitzer for Music Writing, if such a silly thing exists (if it did, I’m sure it’d be as meaningful as a CMT Award). And speaking of old fans and only slightly more off topic than my last rambling tangent, I’ve been one of those old fans Robert talked about in his article (seriously, read it). What I failed to realize before my first Mastodon show five years ago was drummer/vocalist Bran Dailor went to my high school (a year younger than me). Like, I had no idea until a mutual friend mentioned it to me.
Anyway, off Emperor, the band opened with the relentlessly punishing “Sultan’s Curse” and closed with the mythic and at times psychedelic “Steambreather.” In between they played “Ancient Kingdom,” “Roots Remain,” the pulsating “Precious Stones,” and the head bangin’, head bobber, “Show Yourself.”
Definitely a nostalgic moment for Baltimore Mastodon fans was the bands’ performance of “Ember City” which they dedicated to the dozens of fans who would see them regularly play at the legendary Ottobar back in the day (those shows must’ve been crazy bonkers to see in such a small venue).
As for their older stuff, they played a solid mix from their decade-plus career, including “Divinations,” “Crystal Skull,” Bladecatcher,” “Black Tongue,” “Megalodon,” “Andromeda,” “Toe to Toes,” “Sleeping Giant,” “Ghost of Karelia,” and “Mother Puncher,” all of which were equally powerful and divine and solidified Mastodon’s place in metal’s pantheon of greatness.
*P.S. Three days after this show, Mastodon announced an upcoming show in Silver Spring, MD with 80s, 90s, 00s indie rock Gods -- Dinosaur Jr. Looks like there is a new Mastodon ritual for my crew in 2018.
Here's like... 30 minutes of the show... if you wanna watch it: