It has been an absolutely insane first quarter of 2019, specifically the last month or so, and I’m only just sitting down to revisit the half dozen or so shows I photographed the first week of April. It’s also been a minute since I actually put pen to paper (finger to keyboard?) and shared written words about any show, so stay with me while I dust off the cobwebs a bit. The absolute sprint that has been the past month really started with the Elizabeth Colour Wheel show on March 23rd, and the subsequent battle with food poisoning that made a video shoot the next day VERY awkward… but that’s a story for another day. Instead, let’s focus these specific words on the incredibly massive Evoken show at Geno’s the following week — a New England exclusive performance, if you couldn’t tell from the poster. Shall we?
Actually, wait. Let’s pause here. About that Elizabeth Colour Wheel show. What better time to reflect on that than the present, right? So, it’s a Sunday morning and I’m casually gearing up for a day-long video shoot down in Boston on Monday. I know ECW is cruising through the area that night, and I made a point to be there. But I was also planning on going the responsible route. You know what I mean; avoid drinking, be home early… all that shit you’re supposed to do when you know you need to be up at 4:00 the next morning. And I actually executed that plan! …but it didn’t matter. Before we get into that, some quick thoughts on the actual show.
The show was at this awesome DIY/BYOB venue called Sue’s Space. It’s in Rollinsford, NH, which I understand means nothing to pretty much anyone. For reference however, it’s less than half an hour from Portsmouth, but you need to drive through Maine (kinda) to get there. Understood? I pull up to this old mill building that feels maybe 25% occupied with… any form of life whatsoever and enter this incredibly unassuming entrance to the venue. I use that term casually. This is a local music fan’s hangout, brilliantly executed. There’s art and music and pretty much anything else you can imagine on display everywhere, and the whole place feels like a collection of randomness in material form. It’s awesome. Totally a team effort in putting together one of the most unique places you could ever hope to catch a gig. What a gem.
There were a couple openers, both of which were super local, but both of which offered differing and engaging sets. The hardcore vibe of The Doldrums (I believe) was followed by a more emotionally jarring blend of sound from Lightsleeper, whose genre I really can’t describe in hindsight. I’m writing this under the assumption that we’re all familiar with ECW at this point, and I touch on the local openers only to note how tremendous the combination of sound was this evening. Eventually Elizabeth Colour Wheel takes the stage and is every bit as enjoyable live as you would hope. The grittiness and intimacy of this venue suited them perfectly. It truly felt like they were playing a house show, but with way better acoustics. I went into the show intrigued enough to catch them live, but after seeing them play that set in that setting, I completely get it now. A full photo gallery from the set can be seen here.
The show was great, but the following 24 hours not so much. Those that have dealt with food poisoning know what’s up. I made the bathroom floor my spot of residence that evening, yet still managed to muscle out the shoot the next day… despite some very close calls. Did I mention it was awkward? It was awkward. Let’s move on to Evoken at Geno’s now, please and thanks.
The first (and last) time I saw Evoken was at Maryland Deathfest in, shit… 2013? 2014? Either way, it had been awhile. I distinctly remember going into that show with some awareness of Evoken, but not really being into the doom metal “scene” at that point. Oh how things have changed. And that’s basically the show that did it. Churchburn, on the other hand, has been a more recent discovery. An opening set for Primitive Man at the Middle East Upstairs down in Boston pretty much turned me onto them immediately. Needless to say, seeing both these names on the same bill at a venue such as Geno’s was like Christmas morning. A really heavy, depressing, punishing Christmas morning. At this point, Geno’s has basically replaced the Middle East Upstairs in terms of my frequency at an establishment. Similar sized venue, but an easier drive, a better layout, and (recently at least) better shows. Plus, any excuse for a trip to Portland is fine by me.
Four bands on the bill this particular evening, with Fed Ash leading the way. Sadly, we rolled into the venue towards the end of the set and only caught the last song or so. But a bloody microphone/vocalist and an empty floor in front of the stage was enough for me to assume it was one monster of an opening. From there, I finally caught Shabti in the flesh. The death metallers have certainly been active recently, with their newly released Trembling and Shorn and plenty of shows in the relative area, so I was happy to catch their set. They were given a healthy amount of time to deliver their fairly technical take on death metal, and they made strong work of it. Fed by the crowd in their hometown, they did their thing with plenty of energy. The genre isn’t necessarily my preference, but I don’t anticipate missing many of their shows in the area going forward.
The highlight of this evening for me, however, was not Evoken. It was Churchburn. I love Evoken, but for some reason on this night this Churchburn set just left me staggered in all the right ways. Churchburn may not bring the same sheer immensity as, say, Primitive Man. But their sound leaves an impact in a very similar way. It is loud. It is powerful. And it is dark. There’s a technical element to it that I very much appreciate and even after a solid 40 minutes of getting the shit kicked out of me by amps, I still wasn’t ready for the set to end. This crew caught my eye a year or two ago, and since then have become one of my favorite doom bands going. And their live show has a lot to do with that.
The late night set was, of course, delivered by Evoken. And honestly, what more can I say about the funeral doom titans? I felt honored just seeing them play a headlining set so close to home. As expected, they sounded every bit as good as they did a handful of years back, but this setting was far more appropriate. The tents of the Sonar Compound (holy shit I think it was 2013) were awesome enough, but seeing them in a small, dimly lit room playing on a stage set up like a friggin TV screen just felt right. The setting truly does impact a band’s overall live delivery, and this was an example of that. Of course, the set included some highlights from last year’s release as well as some classics, but does that really matter? Evoken could probably pick any collection of tracks from their history and deliver the same sense of despair and pain from a stage, which is exactly what we ask for. The silent fixation from the audience was evidence enough that they were delivering as intended. They truly are the pinnacle of the funeral doom scene, and despite the years that have passed and all the new players in the game, that fact hasn’t changed in the slightest.
These two shows served as the prequel to an insane stretch of time. As rewarding and enjoyable as both of these shows were, for very different reasons, they also only served as the tip of the iceberg of what was to come. And if you’re looking for a full gallery of these sets, here is the link from my personal page. On that note, let’s wrap this particular collection of words up, knowing that a couple more are coming in the very near future.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”