Ok, let me start off by saying that 1) Deftones are an AMAZING band with incredible output, stage presence, and longevity and 2) The Contortionist are also a sick group of diverse musical influences and provided a good fit to open up the show. Great lineup, with a few nit-picky smatterings of 1st person truth. Good, Bad, and Ugly style… Go!
Deftones hit the stage a bit after 9pm, and they wasted zero time getting the crowd moving. Opener “(Be Quiet) and Drive Far Away” may be one of the best set intros I’ve seen all year, and the crowd ate it right up. Chino Moreno’s soothing singing voice is equally matched with his spastic yells and tormented screams… Definitely a front man for the ages. His near constant movement (save for when he’s playing guitar) offered a captivating visual to complement his high vocal range and emotive response during the set.
Guitarist Stephan Carpenter’s insanely loud stage output unquestionably ran the sonic sphere this evening, providing both high end squeals and low end thump to the point where certain songs, especially “Rocket Skates,” were difficult to decipher until everyone kicked in together.
Sergio Vega (Quicksand) on bass has been, quite possibly, the smoothest transition into an established act in the history of mankind. When comparing earlier Deftones work, it is very clear that Sergio’s unique approach to writing and performance was allowed to shine bright in the studio on Koi No Yokan. NO ONE could fill Chi’s position better, especially given the terrible circumstances around his absence… I certain he’d be proud. ONE LOVE FOR CHI!
Frank Delgado’s tasteful electronic presence provids an excellent atmospheric background to the full-on thrust of Deftones’ catalogue. I’d be hard pressed to think their work would be as emotionally charged were it not for his presence. Though he may not be needed during tracks like “7 Words,” I’ll be damned if his dark, depressive additions to “(Change) In the House of the Flies” don’t make the song complete.
Last but certainly not least, Abe Cunningham’s sadistic approach and clear abuse of his drum kit is always a pleasure to watch. After 17 years and 20 Deftones performances under my belt, Abe continues to go off as hard as the first time I saw the group in 1995. At times, his aggression pushed the songs a few clicks too fast (or slow, as was the case with “Rosemary,”) but on the whole, his attack and energy provides a fitting rhythm and texture to the band. And for real… This dude hits HARD! His cymbal rep and drum tech must cringe after his shows, knowing there’ll undoubtedly be an order to place and a head to change.
In addition to performing some deep cuts off of Koi No Yokan, including “Rosemary,” “Swerve City,” and “Tempest,” Deftones ravaged the stage and kept the energy super high and powerful all evening long. And for all of us old school fans in the place, the 4-punch knockout finish of “Engine #9,” “Nosebleed,” “Root,” and “7 Words” gave us all we needed to recall why we got into the band in the first place.
The Contortionist, a sextet from Indianapolis on Good Fight Entertainment, brought their tech/progressive metal sound to the stage and got a warm reaction from the crowd overall. Singer/keyboard player Jonathan Carpenter’s interplay between subtle keystrokes and guttural metal growling clearly threw some of the audience for a loop, but he fits the project perfectly. The remainder of the band, highly proficient at their instruments, whipped up a whirlwind of odd metered complexity that rivals even the best progressive extreme bands of the day. I wouldn’t call them the next Meshuggah, but they would be a fitting opener for those overlords of extreme!
Now, allow me to discuss how awful the show was.
First and foremost, Main Street Armory in Rochester, NY has never been the best venue sonically and, though last night’s performance sounded better than most of the others I’ve seen there (Judas Priest, Dream Theater, Deftones in 2000, etc.) it still sounds like complete shit. Chalk it up to the extremely high vaulted ceiling, expansive floor plan, or just the fact that the venue was never intended to be a musical venue in the first place, both bands sounded rough the entire evening.
Second, the layout and functionality of the venue is very poor. On the one hand, at least they let you go outside to smoke during the performance, but the fact that the only access to fresh air in the place (filled with smokers) is a small exit at the far, top right of the venue, making for a very crowded, uncomfortable experience.
Thirdly, there were more security personnel in the venue this day than fans. I swear on everything I hold dear, I couldn’t turn my head 90 degrees without seeing multi-colored shirts strewn with the word ‘Security,’ mall-cop badges, and an overbearing feeling of Big Brother watching everyone’s every move. But, the folks in Rochester obviously know something I do not because their presence was justified.
The first person I saw carted out of the venue (for drunken fighting) occurred at 6:20pm. Mind you, doors were at 6. I personally feel that Deftones and their music have grown to much more inspired heights since their beginnings in the mid-90’s, but the mentality of much of the crowd has seemingly stopped altogether (in some instances.) Or, maybe popular heavy music just gives many people a reason to regress to Neanderthal status. Couple this initial patron toss with a slew of others being escorted, pushed, or literally carried out of the venue en mass, and congratulations… We’ve officially turned an otherwise noteworthy performance into a fucking circus.
Fourthly, for us early arrivers who expected the show to begin at 7pm, The Contortionist didn’t take the stage until shortly after 8pm, giving patrons all the reason they needed to fill their belly with $5 beers and $10 Long Island Iced T’s (which clearly contributed to most of the nonsense taking place on the floor all evening. It’s a Monday night, folks… How about trying to enjoy the show?)
Lastly, as an unpaid writer, editor, and photographer providing coverage for this site, I’ll generally shoot 2 songs (of the 3 typically allotted; no flash,) and let those with the heavy-duty gear do their thing… It’s called being polite. That being said, having a “professional” photographer push you and say ‘Get the fuck out of my way’ when you are yourself trying to, you know, get a picture, just goes to show that ‘Size Does Matter’ in the world of high-tech visual art. I guessing his sense of entitlement and shitty attitude most likely make up for his insignificant genitalia. Sorry about that, chief… Next time, I’ll bring a shotgun.
And to make everything even better, a random flailing crowd surfer knocked my camera for a mighty loop, most likely ensuring I’ll need a replacement. But hey, I can’t blame a kid for wanting to go off at a show. I just wish there had been a bit more space between where I was in front of the gate and where the bouncers were positioned.
Needless to say, after dodging crowd surfers and dealing with Lord Baron Von Douche, I wasn’t able to get a shot worthy of posting here. I’m sure I’ll hear about it at some point (cringe).
So, there you have it. 2 incredible bands, 1 terrible sounding venue, some technical difficulties, a multitude of security, and hundreds of drunken patrons getting rowdy to DEFTONES… A Monday night in Rochester, NY. It should have been better, but it wasn’t because of the bands.
PS: For the record, I’d pay twice as much ($60) to see this show at Water Street Music Hall next time. It’d be a clear sell out, there would be more room to drink/smoke/breathe, and it’ll sound a million times better.