Sleep has been doing a few select tour dates this year with direct support from Virginia’s new doom legends, Windhand. I had the privilege of attending the sold out show at Mr. Small’s Theatre in Millvale, Pennsylvania. There were no locals on the show as Windhand and Sleep together had sets long enough to fill the 3 hour show time. Attendees had packed in early as not to miss a moment of either band.
By the time Windhand went on, I had secured a spot at the very back of the venue in the bar area. Even all the way in the back, Windhand managed to mystify every member of the audience and spellbind them in place in complete silence, frenzied (often blood-red) eyes fixed to the figures on stage. Vocalist Dorthia Cottrell’s soft wails and moans soared out from the stage like she was crying out to us from another plane of existence: a ghostly dimension pushing through ghostly premonitions of woe. The guitar, bass, and drums were all air tight, and blended together as one great beast, punishing the crowd with tones as thick and sweet as hot molasses. Windhand was performing as a four piece for the show, which unfortunately made them sound hollow when the guitarist would solo or switch his effects as the bass was not loud enough to carry the rhythm on its own. This was the only issue I took with an otherwise stellar set featuring favorites from Soma and from last year’s Grief’s Infernal Flower. Windhand has proven that they can deliver, in small and mid-sized venues alike. With the final song, the members of Windhand simply laid down their instruments and quietly left the stage: leaving the entranced audience stunned to silence until eventually realizing the set was over and erupted in a roar gratitude for the glory that had been revealed to them.
With the first band over, the audience split: running to the bar or outside to smoke (and SMOKE). I managed to move closer to the stage at this point to wait for the stoner god headliners. As instruments were tuned by stagehands, giant clouds of smoke completely covered the stage and pushed out into the audience while sound clips from the moon landing were played through the PA. The crowd filtered back into the venue, bringing with them the smells of alcohol, marijuana, and sweat. The entire venue was packed so tight that no one could really move. Everyone just stood eyes forward in silence. After 15 minutes of this, the audio from the moon landing announced that “they have landed successfully,” and Matt Pike (guitar) emerged from the smoke and began playing the opening riff to Dragonaut. The crowd lost their minds in inebriated celebration and then almost instantly fell silent. It was every member in attendance went under a trance of smoke and sweat.
The entire crowd thrashed together as one as waves of marijuana clouds in audio form washed over us. Matt Pike, with his glorious shirtless form, was glistening with sweat from the very first song. Front man Al Cisneros, with his iconic spacey cries, looked like a forgotten character from House of 1000 Corpses. Drummer Jason Roeder hammered away, fully emboldened with passion with every stroke. Each member individually and the band as a whole made it completely obvious in every way that they have been together (mostly) for a quarter century. The set list included portions of Dopesmoker, tracks from Holy Mountain, and the 2014 Adult Swim Single “The Clarity”. They expanded on each riff: fleshing them out and hammering them into the minds of us all. There were times when they would jam on a riff for 10 minutes before the vocals would start again, and only then would I realize that vocals were missing before they had started up again.
Crust punks, stoners, old heavy metal fans, new “hipster” fans, hardcore kids, and true black metal elitists alike all left feeling fulfilled and completely satisfied with their set. I will guarantee that every show at Mr. Small’s for the next week will be reeling from the contact high of this show.
– Josh Thieler