Now, I’ve seen some pretty big bands play in some pretty intimate settings. I’ve seen Iron Maiden play a nowhere near sold out concert at at parking lot in Horsens, Denmark, I’ve seen Volbeat play for 700 people a few times, and I’ve seen some pretty large scale Danish bands play in front of 40 odd people back in the Student House days. I also knew that the night’s concert with Five Finger Death Punch (5FDP) would be a bit of an intimate ordeal..
Yet, I somehow wasn’t really prepared for the sight that met us when we eventually found our way to the venue of the night’s show. The venue was a small, intimate place called Voxhall which fits about 500 people on a good day. Ridiculously small considering that 5FDP had just recently toured summer festival circuit in Europe, playing the main stages in front of crowds of upwards of 50,000 people. Well, at least I thought it would be ridiculously small coz when Tina and I arrived about fifteen minutes before doors would open and expected to find a huge line, we found a huge line of.. Well, a total of three teenagers.. Plus a group of three people around our age who arrived at exactly the same time than we did.
The sight was both a little comic and a little tragic and disheartening at the same time. Especially if you consider the fact that the first person in line had been there since 9 AM. What a great time he must’ve had. But hey, the weather was bad, so we figured people just didn’t want to stand in line and would eventually show up later. And at least we now had something to joke about while whiling away time waiting in line. Doors eventually opened at 8 PM and the massive line, now counting some 25 people or so poured in, nearly knocking over the security personnel which were completely unprepared for the situation.. Well, no, we just sorta trotted in slowly in a single file, showed our tickets, got our hand stamps, checked our coats, and (in the case of Tina and I) naturally headed straight for the bar where I ordered us a pint of beer each. You grow thirsty and weary from waiting after all.
Though small, the venue was actually really cool, consisting of a main bar, a large open room with a stage on one end, a small cafe like area where fans, warmup band members, roadies, groupies and what have you buzzed around, talked and drank beer, and an upstairs balcony kinda thing with another smaller bar and a great areal view of the main room and stage. A view that Tina and I would soon come to enjoy, along with a few chilled jäger shots.
See, the thing about the warmup bands booked for the evening is that they were both death metal acts and the thing about death metal is.. That.. Well, to most people it’s just not a very interesting genre.. Which is to say that death metal, like most metal, has pretty groovy rhythm and interesting details, in the case of death metal, it’s just a matter of spotting it amidst all the noise, murkiness and growling.. So rather than pushing up front and banging our heads with the rest of the crowd, Tina and I sorta just hung back near the bar where we felt we belonged. As one warmup band gave way to another, and the genre changed from melodic death metal to death/groove metal (in this case mainly noticeable by the lack of keyboards and clean vocals in the second act), Tina and I decided to check out the upstairs balcony area which turned out to be a pretty swell idea because apparently the prices in the bar upstairs were far better than the ones in the bar downstairs.. And they chilled their spirits upstairs, so we could get jäger shots cheaper AND colder than on the floor, simply by traversing a few stairs.. An offer we abused to the fullest.. After all, nothing goes better together than metal and hard liquor, right?
After struggling through two warm up bands and a shot of jäger or three.. or four.. It was time for the main event of the evening, a double feature of two new school American metal bands, Shadows Fall and Five FInger Death Punch. Shadows Fall were up first, and granted, we were mostly there for 5FDP, but people were starting to move towards the stage now and who were we to miss being in front row for a performance for a Grammy Award nominated metal band? Or the subsequent performance by 5FDP for that matter.. So as the stage crew scrambled to set up for Shadows Fall, we scrambled downstairs and pushed our way into the front row.
We ended up finding a spot in the front row at stage left, right in front of the lead guitarist’s spot which seemed as good a spot as any – at least in theory, and so we settled in and chatted for a while, waiting for the show to start – which it did pretty quickly with Steel Panther’s beautiful “(Fuck All Night And) Party All Day” blaring over the PA (much to my amusement), followed by Shadow Fall’s own instrumental “The Path To Imminent Ruin” as the band hit stage to a surprisingly loud reaction from the crowd of 50 or so people.. And then things got a little crazy and confusing.. Shadows Fall tore into their set with great enthusiasm, spirit and energy, the crowd went crazy and started jumping and moshing.. And Tina and I found ourselves in the middle not really understanding half of what was going on because the lead guitarist had his monitors (the speakers that reflect his own sound towards him) turned up so loud that pretty much all we were able to pick up was the guitar and drums which kinda drowned out the vocals.. Which was a fucking shame coz I’m pretty damn certain that the boys delivered one hell of a show.
At any rate, they gave it their all and rocked their hearts out in front of a ridiculously small crowd for a band of their stature, which I found both pleasing and impressive. I just wish I could’ve heard more of it. The only songs that I did manage to recognize were “Still I rise” and “A Public Execution” both of which included a fair bit of crowd participation, the former in the shape of Brian Fair, the lead singer, letting the crowd sing parts of the chorus and the latter with the entire house, all 50-100 people strong, screaming along on the “FUCK IT ALL” parts.. Good times, hot times.. Had the vocals gotten an extra boost and the guitars been lower, it would’ve probably been a fucking awesome show!
After about a 45 minute show which included a surprising amount of songs, a fair bit of crowd interaction and even some eye candy for Tina as Brian apparently got so hot that he decided to throw off his t-shirt, wring the sweat out of it and dispose of it, the boys said thank you to the crowd, throw a few goodies, including a guitar pick to yours truly, and left the stage. Leaving us behind quite hot, dehydrated and shaken up.. Which, I suppose, is why we felt like we needed more jäger shots to cool us down. After much debating, arguing and eventually a round of rock, paper and scissors, it was decided that I’d keep our spot in the front row while Tina pranced upstairs and got us a few shots.. Ah sweet victory!
So while more roadies scrambled around more on stage, Tina took off upstairs and I grabbed a chance as the crowd thinned out a little and moved a few meters to the left in front of the stage to center stage where i had a reasonable idea that Ivan Moody, front man of 5FDP, would be during the show. In this new spot I ended up standing next to a couple of really intoxicated young men who kept trying to strike up random conversation. I talked with them a little until I saw Tina on her way back and turned around to greet her. Needless to say, my very beautiful and quite out of place companion did not go unnoticed by new new front row “friends”, neither did the fact that she smilingly and dutifully walked up to me, handed me a shot, toasted with me and waited for me to finish mine, then grabbed both empty glasses and headed back to the bar, leaving the male portion of the front row staring at me in a combination of shock, awe and jealousy. I of course merely smiled, shrugged and made some clever comment along the lines of “I’m bringing her to every show I go to from now on.”
Having played her role of drink getter, Tina soon returned and found her spot in front of me in the front row.. See, the good thing about having a tiny best friend is that you can both fit into the front row at a show on account of me being able to look well over her head while at the same time being able to keep most of the moshers at bay.. Now, all we had to do was wait which we did, along with a couple of our newfound drunk friends who were pretty good at sharing anecdotes and beer, so the wait actually went pretty smoothly even of anticipation was starting to grow.. A lot!
Eventually the lights dimmed, the crowd buzzed and the guests of honor of the evening took the stage.. To the sound of a roar so loud I had trouble understanding that it was coming from such a small crowd.. Evidently what the crowed lacked in size, it made up for in dedication. 5FDP opened with a super heavy version of “Burn It Down” which had the crowd screaming, singing, moshing and jumping along.. And once again had me questioning the size of the crowd, because, honestly, I’ve felt less pressure in the back at major stages on the European festival circuit.
Up next was “Salvation”, a song with a chorus which goes something along the lines of “Monkey see, monkey do, you’re always doing what they tell you to”. Ivan illustrated this beautifully by jumping around and acting like a monkey on stage which was not only hilarious to look at, but went to show that he was thoroughly enjoying himself. As was the rest of the band. And I dare say it was a pleasure to watch because quite honestly you’d expect them to be a little bummed out with the turnout. But rather than being pissed, they were visually pleased that such a small crowd could created such an intense feeling, show such dedication and be such a “fucking loud bunch” as Ivan put it after having hushed down one of several “FIVE FINGER – DEATH PUNCH!!” chants I started that evening.
The rest of the show was a tour de force of the two albums worth of material that the band has. “The Way Of The Fist”, “Bulletproof”, the new single “Hard To See” and of course “White Knuckles” which ended in a shout-off with Ivan hollering “I’m taking back control..” and the crowd dutifully replying “WITH MY KNUCKLES!” – through it all the band got more and more energetic, the crowd got more and more crazy and we went from a situation where I could pretty easily throw both hands in the air and spend my time taking pictures and rocking out to one where I actually had to get a pretty firm grip on the rail around Tina to not only protect her a bit better but also keep my own footing as various elbows, arms, heads and people started crashing in to me.. This tactic worked pretty well until the very end of the concert where people had gotten so worked up that I pretty much had to just place both arms on either side of her little head to at least ward off the stray arms and elbows from hitting her all while wondering what the hell had gotten into this crowd.. Good show, though!
The show ended in a bit of a shouting contest at Ivan asked the crowd whether they wanted to hear an old song or a new song, after a lot of senseless screaming and debating back and forth, they eventually “decided” to do both and kicked into “Dying Breed”, probably their most brutal song to date, which in an anticipated, but welcome move was followed by “The Bleeding” – Their largest single hit and a kick-ass hardcore ballad to boot.. Which, I’m reasonably sure, is the moment that most of us had been waiting for.. So at that very moment I did something very uncommon for me and let Tina fend for herself (’twas but a slow song after all) while I grabbed my camera and shot this video to capture the mood and setting.. I’m reasonably sure she forgives me for getting bumped a little:
.. And with that it was pretty much over. After 45 intense minutes, the band said thanks, took a bow, threw a few collectibles (including a pick that Tina caught) and left the stage.. And so there we stood, banged up, slightly bruised and sweaty, weary from the experience.. And, once again, very thirsty.. Which is why our first move after the show had ended was to rush off to the upstairs bar and have me buy us a round if jäger shots.. Only then could we even start worrying about how the hell to get home..