Friday night was Valient Thorr show number two, the first being their set at the Corrosion Of Conformity tour stop in March. That first encounter made me a Thorrior, but it’s safe to say I was giddy with anticipation for my first chance to see them in a headliner’s role. It was also my first visit to The Double Wide, a great bar with an intimate performance space and frozen alcoholic Yoohoo (No, I didn’t try one – I told my wife I’d wait until we went together. I did have a couple of Shiner’s though).
One of the pluses of seeing a band in a small venue is the chance to interact with them, and before The Kickass took to the stage I was able to introduce myself, bemoan their kickstarter’s failure (shame on all of you), and wish them the best. Within a few bars of their opening song I knew they needed none of my wishes. I had only heard a few tracks prior to the show, but was intrigued by their very technical, experimental heavy music. This is an easy style to get horribly wrong; a missed change, a botched chord or the smallest of tempo slips and it devolves into unconnected noise and pointless wankery. The Kickass — despite a sadly mangled thumb on their drummer Ben, and a guitar strap letting go from Erick’s bass at a rather inopportune time (thanks be to Valient Himself for some quick thinking roadie help from the audience) — didn’t botch a note. As the set went on it became easier for me to hold the beat internally as the band played around it, diagonally cutting across it with a quick run, or bisecting it with a switch of tempo, or sitting behind it for a few measures before reasserting the beat and restating the theme. Is it heavy classical composition with a determination to swing (for they do swing)? Experimental technical metal with an active aversion to pyrotechnic wankery? It’s The Kickass, and I can’t wait to hear how their next recording sessions work out.
Up next was Holy Grail. I hadn’t heard a note from these guys before the show (I was remiss in not checking them out), but their 80s influenced power metal style brought back lots of memories. I have to say it seemed a bit of a weird fit on The Double Wide’s stage. With lots of unison headbanging, over the top posing and gestures from the singer (he did a few long, slow, sweeps with his off hand, and lots of studded wrist fist raising in front of his face), Holy Grail were playing to a stadium in a club that held 75. The crowd seemed to enjoy it though, and that’s the important part. I think if I saw them on a festival bill in a larger venue their big rock convictions would have worked better for me. They have the chops, and a few real keepers in their set that’ll make great crowd sing alongs.
But I was here for Valient Thorr.
Once again, Valient Thorr didn’t warm up; they exploded on the audience, all hair, sweat and denim. I was more prepared for the fury and the fervency this time, and though converted to them at the prior show I hadn’t been among their flock. A Valient Thorr headlining show makes them as openers seem a poor facsimile. The energy feeding back to the band was palpable, men and women singing and dancing and running, bobbing and headbanging in place. The crowd may have been easy to count in dozens (4, 5 or maybe 6), but when they’re all singing along to “Double Crossed” it seems like a multitude.
A further note about the crowd: Valient Thorr fans, at least here in Dallas, are some of the most friendly and gregarious ones I’ve ever encountered. High fives and fist bumps, hugs from strangers, grins from ear to ear, singing along at the top of their lungs, and when a small pit formed the bigger guys like myself whom were not participating looked after the smaller people, especially all the women. And there were plenty of women. I would guess at least 30% of the crowd, and they were singing and headbanging like the rest. After the sweat had stopped flying, a woman I didn’t know came up to me and gave me a hug, saying she had seen me at the last show at Trees and was so happy I’d come to this one, too. I promised her it wouldn’t be my last and she said she’d hold me to that, though I had a long way to catch up to the dozens of shows she’s seen since 2006.
If this keeps up I’m going to need a denim vest.