sleepblur.jpg
artist's rendition of what Sleep look like from the back of the room...on WEED
Sleep

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Neumos

I don't really like being

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Do You Have to Be Stoned to Like Stoner Metal? Or: Sober(-ish) Guy Walks Into a Sleep Concert...

sleepblur.jpg
artist's rendition of what Sleep look like from the back of the room...on WEED
Sleep

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Neumos

I don't really like being stoned. Drunk? High? Heavily sedated? Sure. But weed these days gives me the straight heebie-jeebies about 50% of the time--which are not really great odds. So it was that I went to see newly reunited stoner-metal gods Sleep at Neumos last night (touring behind the Southern Lord reissue of their legendary Dopesmoker) hopped up on nothing stronger than beer. The question was: would I still enjoy it? Could I? You ever listen to Sleep...on BEER? Etc. Turns out, yes, of course you can enjoy Sleep's bowel-quaking bass drones, heavy slow-mo metal drum fills, and alternately sludgy and flaring guitar riffs without being stoned. But it probably helps.

Even if they didn't sing explicitly about pot smoking as a religious pilgrimage on Dopesmoker ("Drop out of life with bong in hand/follow the smoke toward the riff-filled land"), there would still be good reason to dub this stuff stoner metal. The way weed unpredictably compresses and then elongates your perception of time, heightens physical sensations, and makes even simple sounds or ideas circle around your head hypnotically all make it ideal for Sleep's music. Sleep massively messes with time, slowing metal riffs down until one song can reasonably last an epic 63 minutes; they repeat riffs until they turn into monoliths, brick by brick; and they amplify their sound until, even in the back of the room, it's a powerfully physical experience. Also: this is the easiest metal in the world to headbang to = stoners are lazy!

About that back corner of the room: Neumos was fucking packed last night, and the far rear corner was not only the easiest place to find room but also had the advantage of being in front of a large fan. (It takes a powerful band, by the way--and their audience--to make all of Neumos smell like weed despite there being doors open and fans blowing all night.) Also, I think it might have been the ideal place from which to hear the concert without being totally demolished. I'd been working on my hyperboles and metaphors all day to describe what was sure to be a crushing sonic experience--"like having your solid organs hydrolically fracked out by bass and then your remaining 2/3s of bodily tap water lit on fire by guitar?"--but back in the rear of the room is was downright bearable--with or without earplugs. Don't get me wrong, it was still immersive and impressive, and if you leaned your head against the wall your skull vibrated like a Babeland fire sale, it just wasn't lethal.

Honestly, if I'd been stoned, maybe I would have had the endurance to stay for the whole show--more likely, though, I would've been too freaked out after five minutes of it to hang around at all--as it was, I left sometime after the first hour, and after they'd played "Dragonaut" to raucous cheers (poseur alert: it is the only Sleep song I immediately recognize by its opening riff). I'd somehow gotten the impression they were going to be playing "Dopesmoker" in its entirety, but it looks like they were playing sections of it and interspersing it with their other songs, which is also awesome, and maybe a more manageable approach, really. I don't know how much longer they played after I left, but I get the impression that, given an infinite amount of weed, Sleep and their audience could have gone on forever.

 
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