Earlier this week, I went to The Cool Tour at The Tabernacle in Atlanta with two of my nephews, RJ, 17, and Jackson, 14. It was the first concert for either of them, and they needed a chaperone who wouldn’t mind bleeding from the ears a little bit.
The Tabernacle is a gorgeous venue where I’d seen Bob Dylan, The Strokes, Death Cab For Cutie and Brandi Carlile. But the line-up tonight was straight-up metalcore. This meant that all six of the eight bands that we saw were had a lead screamer. Some had “clean singers,” too, usually hidden off in the corner. The exception was RJ’s favorite band, Bless the Fall, led by charismatic clean singer Beau Boken with screamer/bassist Jared Warth off the side. Half the acts were Christian metalcore, the other half just plain ol’ metalcore, which made for some comical contrasts in their on-stage banter (from “We love Jesus” to “Jesus f—ing Christ”) and the snatches of lyrics I could understand (from “It seems our problems solve themselves, when we look beyond our suffering” to “Every single one of you will die alone”).
My first impression watching bands like Between the Buried and Me and Underoath was the level of musicianship. I could see the appeal for my nephews, a budding bassist and a budding guitarist. Every musician on stage had impressive skills, and the songs were as much a showcase of their ability to shred as an outlet for aggression, frustration and angst. Of all styles of music I typically listen to, only bluegrass musicians take as much pride in their skills as these hardcore metal-heads.
My second impression was that, man, I’ve gotten old.
At 38, I was fairly certain I was the oldest person at the show until I finally made it up to the balcony and realized that there were plenty of adults in attendance—they were just smarter than me and sitting down. But I lasted as long as I could on the floor during the six-hour mini-festival. RJ kept going down into the photo pit (see his photos below), and I figured the kids needed to be near the stage during their first concert. I was just thankful they showed no interest in the mosh pit.
I’ve done my share of moshing, crowd-surfing and even stage-diving (I remember in particular doing a flip off the stage into the crowd at the Follow For Now show in the early ‘90s, arms locked with now-Paste publisher Nick Purdy). But like everything, the mosh pit has evolved (or devolved, depending on your perspective). Instead of just shoving, arms were flailing with clenched fists, which explained the guy I saw later with his head bandaged. Instead of climbing up atop the crowd, fans were catapulted high into the air by their friends, so high that RJ thought one of them must have jumped off the balcony. And I was also introduced to my first Wall of Death.
At the end of As I Lay Dying’s closing set (by the way, weirdest Faulkner reference ever?), lead screamer Tim Lambesis let us know that instead of just stopping there, he wanted to do one more song in honor of the drum tech’s birthday. He wanted to give him a “Wall of Death.” My nephews jumped out of their seats and headed to the railing to look down at the crowd. Clueless, I followed them and saw that down on the floor, the entire audience had parted leaving a giant hole in the middle as if they were watching an invisible school-yard fight. When Lambesis gave the command, both sides of the crowd ran and slammed into each other like some anarchic game of Red Rover.
But the best part of the night was simply the ride home, hearing my nephews relive their first concert experience. They got pictures with all the Bless the Fall guys, bought t-shirts and got one of their shoes signed. They checked off three of their must-see bands. They saw a real-live Wall of Death. I just felt lucky to get to be a part of that experience.
Enjoy this Wall of Death montage, along with RJ’s photos, below: